People often talk about three main reasons for going vegan, two of which are ethics and the environment. Today, however, I’m going to be discussing the other point on the ‘why go vegan’ triangle: health. We all know our physical health is extremely important, it is one of the top categories for resolutions in the new year (quitting smoking, losing weight, doing more exercise, eating better, drinking less…) and something a lot of us, including me, know we could do better at.
Most of us, even if we don’t follow them, know the basics of how to keep our bodies healthy. Or at least, we know what we’ve been told are the most impactful things we can do to live longer and healthier lives: drinking more water, exercising regularly and maintaining a balanced diet.
However, what I’d like to shine a light on today is the question of whether the authoritative idea of what a healthy balanced diet looks like, such as the NHS Eatwell Plate in the UK and the MyPlate diagram set out by the US Government, actually takes into account the impacts of consuming animal products on our health.
Originally, I was planning to précis a number of key health issues which can be related to diet, but I could see the post was going to turn out way too long, and I mean way waaay too long. Because of this, I thought I’d focus on one problem today, and perhaps do a follow-up post with a range of other issues if people are interested!
So the topic for today issss *drumrolllll* …obesity.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), in the European Region, over 50% of people are overweight or obese, and over 20% are obese, whilst a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey states that ‘more than 2 in 3 adults [in the USA] were considered to be overweight or have obesity’ in 2013-2014.
This is obviously an extremely prevalent issue in modern society, particularly as obesity is ‘a known risk factor for high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer (breast, endometrial and bowel), and other chronic conditions’ (Veganuary, 2017). That’s why I thought this would be an important topic to start with.
WHO notes that noncommunicable diseases (e.g. cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases) caused 70% of deaths globally in 2015 and that obesity is a ‘major risk factor for [these]’.
So what does that have to do with choosing to eat or not eat animal products?
Many studies have linked rates of obesity to diet:
- A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that ‘total meat consumption was positively associated with weight gain in men and women’ and that this link remained even after controlling for calories
- Diabetes Care (2009) measured the Body Mass Index of 60,000 individuals (a healthy BMI is 20-25, overweight is 25-30 and obese is 30+). It revealed the non-vegetarians had the highest average BMI (28.8) whilst vegans had the lowest (23.6) and vegetarians came in the middle
- A study in The Journal of Geriatric Cardiology found that ‘individuals consuming PBDs [plant-based diets] tend to have lower BMI than those consuming non-PBDs’ and even added, ‘the adoption of PBDs also appears effective for weight loss’
This seems to suggest that veganism can not only be associated with lower BMI, but also with successful weight loss. Other studies support this claim:
- A meta-analysis of randomised trials published by the Journal of General Internal Medicine in 2016 revealed those on vegan diets lost a significant amount of weight more than those on both vegetarian and omnivore diets
- A two-year controlled study by Obesity showed that vegans lost more weight than those on a low-fat diet
- A study by Nutrition concluded that ‘vegan diets may result in greater weight loss than more modest recommendations’
This evidence, plus much more available in other journals and on other websites, suggests that obesity can lead to a plethora of other health problems, that it is more prevalent in those who consume animal products and that it’s most effectively reduced through a plant-based diet.
This post barely scratches the surface of health issues that can be related to what we eat, but I hope it starts a couple of questions in people’s minds at least. If you’d like to find out more about this, I highly recommend a documentary called ‘What The Health’ which can be found on Netflix amongst a huge range of films looking into different ways a vegan lifestyle can help not only our own bodies but the health of the planet too.
If anyone has any questions or would like any help in considering a more plant-based diet, I’m always happy to help through the comments section or private messages on Twitter/Instagram (links below).
I hope this post has helped anyone out there thinking about how to positively move towards a healthier lifestyle, let me know if you’d like me to cover other topics similar to this. If you’d like advice on taking steps towards veganism, I’d recommend having a browse of the official page for Veganuary.
I hope you all have a healthy 2018!
If you enjoyed this post, you may like:
My Social Media Links: