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Vegan, Vegetarian - The Pros And Cons Of Plant-Based Diets - Bioglan Vegan, Vegetarian - The Pros And Cons Of Plant-Based Diets - Bioglan

Vegan, Vegetarian – The Pros And Cons Of Plant-Based Diets

Vegetarian, pescatarian, flexitarian, vegan: all are no- or limited-meat diets and all are gaining in popularity around the world. At the very least, these diets are recommended as a way to decrease inflammation and cholesterol, and at the most they are touted as environment-saving, animal-loving choices in a world consumed by greed and pollution.

But are plant-based diets all they are cracked up to be? Is removing a level of the food pyramid (the one containing milk, meat, eggs and butter) the answer to our health concerns or do these diets result in nutrient deficiencies and long-term health problems? To find the answer, we need to look at the risks and benefits of plant-based eating.

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Research shows that a vegetarian or plant-based diet is associated with many health benefits due to its content of fibre, vitamins C and E, and levels of unsaturated fat. A high intake of fruits and vegetables provides essential insoluble fibre that binds to toxins and removes them from the body, leaving the body in a more alkaline and detoxified state, while naturally occurring antioxidants protect against free radicals and environmental pollution. Vegan and vegetarian diets also tend to contain lower serum cholesterol and plant-based dieters regularly display lower blood pressure and lower BMI measurements. In most cases, plant-based diets are beneficial in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, cancer, renal disease and dementia, as well as gallstones and rheumatoid arthritis. Based on clinical research, there is no evidence to suggest that appropriately planned vegetarian and vegan cause long-term damage to health. However, the term ‘appropriately planned’ should be the essential focus here.

Vegan and vegetarian diets are notoriously hard to balance effectively. Unless you follow strict guidelines, becoming vegetarian or vegan won’t necessarily be better for your health, and instead can have dire consequences. After all, a diet of soda, hot chips and candy is technically “vegetarian”, while plates of pasta and processed chemical-filled ‘fake meat’ remain vegan.

Poorly planned vegan and vegetarian diets may provide insufficient amounts of essential fatty acids, B12, iron, calcium, iodine and zinc. In the EPIC-Oxford study (an important clinical paper on the nutrient deficiencies commonly found in these diets), 75% of vegans got less than the recommended amount of calcium, which led to a relatively high rate of bone fractures and breaks. Furthermore, most recent studies found that up to 77% of vegetarians and 92% of vegans are vitamin B12 deficient, compared to just 11% of omnivores. Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin and deficiency can cause severe symptoms including extreme fatigue, psychiatric problems and dementia-like memory loss.

Relying solely on vegetables for essential nutrients like zinc and iodine can also be problematic. Many plant foods that contain zinc also contain phytates that inhibits zinc absorption. In fact, one study went as far as to suggest that vegetarians may require up to 50% more zinc than omnivores for this reason. In a similar way, studies show that urinary iodine levels in vegans and vegetarians are barley half that of omnivores. To make matters worse, isoflavones found in soy production, which can be consumed in large quantities in plant-based diets, may exacerbate iodine deficiency and hypothyroidism.

It appears plant-based diets display incredible health benefits, but only when they are carefully measured and appropriately planned. Vegan and vegetarian diets can be great for individual health and global interest, but come with many potential negatives, therefore discipline and knowledge is essential in crafting the perfect plant-based diet.



* Standardized curcumin as effective as NSAIDS in managing osteoarthritis symptoms, according to recent study

A study published in medical journal Trials shows that a standardized curcumin formulation was comparable to NSAIDS in managing osteoarthritis symptoms, with fewer adverse effects. In the study, 139 subjects with knee osteoarthritis were randomized to receive either 500mg of curcumin three times daily or 50mg of diclofenac, an NSAIDm twice daily for 28 days. Research showed results in pain reduction were similar in both groups, while the curcumin group reported less negative side effects.


D. Shep, et al. ‘Safety and efficacy of curcumin versus diclofenac in knee osteoarthritis: a randomized open-label parallel-arm study’, Trials, 2019, Vol 20: 214

* Inulin supplementation during cold season and antibiotic treatment aids beneficial gut microbiota in children aged 3-6

A study published in Nutritional Outlook showed that inulin positively impacted the composition of gut microbiota in children during the cold season. In the randomized, placebo-controlled trial, 258 healthy children between 3 and 6 years of age were given either 6 grams of prebiotic inulin fibre or maltodexrin every day for 24 weeks. Faecal samples taken during the study showed that those children taking prebiotic fibre had a significantly higher abundance of Bifidobacterium, which has significant benefits for immune function, making them less susceptible to illness over the period.


Soldi S et al, ‘Prebiotic supplementation over a cold season and during antibiotic treatment specifically modulates the gut microbiota composition of 3-6 year-old children’, Beneficial Microbes, 2019, Vol. 10; No. 3

* Amla supports endothelial function, inflammation, oxidative stress and immune health, says recent study

A study recently published in BCM Complementary and Alternative Medicine shows that a standardized extract of amla fruit (found in the Ayurvedic herbal blend known as Triphala), supports endothelial function, oxidative stress, immune response and lipid profile.
Specifically a 250mg dose increased nitric oxide, glutathione and lowered triglycerides and total cholesterol, making it an important heart health ingredient.


Usharani P et al. ‘Evaluation of the effects of a standardized aqueous extract of Phyllanthus emblica fruits on endothelial dysfunction, oxidative stress, systemic inflammation and lipid profile in subjects with metabolic syndrome: a randomized, double blind, placebo controlled clinical study’. BCM Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2019, Vol. 19: 97