NutritionFacts.org

vegetarians

The USDA has been accused of ignoring research that shows the harmful effects of meat eating in formulating its dietary guidelines. In Greece, the dietary guidelines are formulated by a health agency, and the daily diet recommendation is for a vegetarian diet. Doctors stateside, unfortunately, are often not taught enough about nutrition to properly advise their patients on a healthy diet.

A vegetarian diet may help reduce the risk of the following: cataracts, age related macular degeneration, allergies and chronic diseases (see also here), abdominal aortic aneurysms, heart disease (see also here), heart attacks, cancer (see also here, here, here), lymphoma, diabetes (see also here, here), obesity (see also here, here), Alzheimer’s disease, liver failure, blood cancers, cholesterol (especially with a whole foods vegan diet; see also here), gallstones, rheumatoid arthritis, prostate cancer, and arthritis.

Vegetarians appear to have higher levels of the following: creatine (when given a supplement), enzyme activity that may prevent aging, telomerase activity that may also slow aging, plasma protein levels, aspirin levels in the bloodstream, a higher metabolism, greater body odor attractiveness, higher IQs, larger, better-formed, and more frequent bowel movements (oh, and a longer life span).

Vegetarians may have lower levels of the following: industrial toxins (see also here, here) such as flame retardants, mercury, and xenoestrogens (which lower male sperm count); total mortality (including cancer and cardiovascular disease mortality); DNA damage; and lower trans-fat intake. Vegetarians seem to also generally experience better moods (less depression and anxiety), possibly due to lower consumption of the inflammatory omega-6 arachidonic acid found in animal products (predominantly in chicken and eggs).

On average, vegans have been found to be deficient in three nutrients (maybe zinc) whereas omnivores may be deficient on average in seven nutrients. DHA/EPA and Vitamin D supplements may be useful, but Vitamin B-12 supplements are the single most important consideration for vegetarians and vegans. A Vitamin B-12 test is recommended for pregnant vegetarians and vegans just to double check adequate B12 status since the results of deficiency can be so devastating.

Vegetarian sources of Vitamin B-12 include supplements and fortified foods (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here). Making sure the diet has enough iodine, which can be obtained through iodized sea salt or seaweed, is also important. In extreme cases in which genetic diseases result in a body’s inability to make certain compounds, meat or supplements may be necessary to counteract the deficiency.

Topic summary contributed by Denise.
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Watch videos about vegetarians

  • Is It the Diet, the Exercise, or Both?
    Is It the Diet, the Exercise, or Both?
    Whose blood is better at killing cancer cells? People who eat a standard diet and exercise strenuously or those who eat a plant-based diet and just exercise moderately?
  • Ex Vivo Cancer Proliferation Bioassay
    Ex Vivo Cancer Proliferation Bioassay
    Two weeks on a plant-based diet appears to significantly enhance cancer defenses against breast cancer and colon cancer cells. The blood of those eating a vegan diet for a year suppresses cancer cell...
  • Engineering a Cure
    Engineering a Cure
    Lifestyle medicine pioneer Nathan Pritikin, who reversed his own heart disease through diet and went on to help millions of others, wasn't a doctor or dietician but an engineer.
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    Slimming the Gecko
    A workplace dietary intervention study at GEICO corporate headquarters demonstrates the power of plant-based eating.
  • Diet Pills Do Fat a Lot of Good
    Diet Pills Do Fat a Lot of Good
    Common slimming supplements are found to be ineffective, whereas a diet centered on whole plant foods is described as perhaps the safest approach to weight control.
  • Biblical Daniel Fast Put to the Test
    Biblical Daniel Fast Put to the Test
    Within a matter of weeks, participants placed on the vegan diet outlined by the prophet Daniel experienced improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol and insulin levels, insulin resistance, and...
  • Tightening the Bible Belt
    Tightening the Bible Belt
    Researchers set out to replicate the "Daniel Fast," the biblical nutrition trial outlined in Daniel 1:8-16.
  • Meat and Weight Gain in the PANACEA Study
    Meat and Weight Gain in the PANACEA Study
    In one of the largest nutrition studies ever, total meat consumption was significantly associated with weight gain in men and women, and the link remained even after controlling for calories.
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