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In recent years there has been an explosion of interest in the vegan diet, fueled above all by concern for health, animal welfare and the environment.
For non-connoisseurs of this option, vegans do not eat meat, fish, eggs or any other products derived from animals, such as dairy, gelatin or honey.
But does it have any health benefit to become vegan?
For the most recent season of the BBC television series “Trust me, I’m a doctor”, doctor Giles Yeo decided to follow a vegan diet for a month and see what effect it had on his health and lifestyle.
The two great challenges
As Yeo soon discovered, one of the most difficult aspects for vegans is that many products that do not seem to have an animal origin, actually contain animal derivatives.
It is clear that eggs, milk and meat are not suitable for vegans, but what about pasta or mayonnaise?
Well, both contain eggs.
And the wine…? Manufacturers of some alcoholic beverages use fish bones or animal proteins as part of the production process.
In addition to having to continually ensure that you do not accidentally consume animal products, another of the main challenges of becoming a vegan is to ensure that you do not leave behind nutrients that are key to your body.
Following a vegan diet puts you at risk of not taking enough vitamin D , necessary for bone strength.
To obtain this nutrient, vegans often rely on fortified foods, which usually include some types of soy milk, rice milk, orange juice and breakfast cereals.
In addition, it is recommended to assess if it would be worth taking vitamin D supplements.
It can also be common among vegans the lack of iodine , which is found naturally in dairy products and fish. So taking iodine supplements can also be an alternative.
Deficiency of vitamin B12 is another major concern of vegans.
It is not found in seeds, nuts or vegetables, so those who follow this diet must guarantee their intake through fortified products.
Is it a healthier diet?
According to an analysis conducted in November 2017 by the University of Florence, which examined the results of 10 previous studies, the answer is yes .
But there are nuances.
The academics of this center in Italy compared the health of vegetarians and vegans with that of omnivores and concluded that plant-based feeding significantly protects against the incidence of heart disease and cancer .
In the case of cancer incidence, academics found a reduction of 15% with the vegan diet and one of 8% with the vegetarian diet.
However, they found no difference in mortality rates.
This means that, according to this study, being vegetarian or vegan is associated with better health , but not necessarily having a longer life expectancy.
And I say “associate” because these studies did not have the “golden” standard of scientific methodology, by which the research has a control group and the participants are randomly assigned to one or another diet to see what happens.
What these researchers did was to look for differences between the vegan people and the people who eat meat.
It is more likely that vegans are more concerned about their health than the general population, so it is possible that the differences in health indicators have nothing to do with the diet itself , but with other factors.
And how was Dr. Yeo doing?
After following a vegan diet for a month, Dr. Yeo lost 4kg and buckled his belt a little further.
In addition to losing waist fat, your cholesterol level dropped by 12%
Will you keep that diet?
“I’ve taken a pleasant surprise,” he said.
“I do not plan on becoming totally vegan, but from now on I’ll try to do it at least a few days a month .”
“I must admit that at first it was a bit nerve-wracking to do vegan for a month, but after learning a few recipes, everything went well and I ended up enjoying it.” For me, the key was not to prepare vegan versions of dishes that I would normally eat with meat. but opt for recipes designed to be vegan. “
“What I missed the most in the diet were the eggs, but I expected to miss many more things,” he confessed.