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Go Vegan - for your Health

Animal Products Don't Just Harm Other Animals

Meat, eggs and dairy products have been shown to contribute to a range of chronic disease.

By cutting out animal products from your diet you are also cutting out most of the saturated fat, and all of the cholesterol and replacing them with nutritious foods full of fibre, vitamins and minerals not to mention healther plant-based proteins. Check out the documents on vegan nutrition.

Overweight and Obesity

Vegetarian diets could be the answer to Australia's soaring obesity epidemic.

A major review of studies on vegetarian diets showed that in 95% of the 40 studies reviewed, vegetarians had a lower BMI than their meat eating counterparts with the two studies that found an increase in body weight or BMI among vegetarians having small sample sizes and the inclusion of ‘health-conscious’ volunteers.

One of the largest studies undertaken on vegetarian Vs meat-eater body weights, Diet and body mass index in 38,000 EPIC-Oxford meat-eaters, vegetarians, and vegan [1], found that less than 2% of vegans were obese, well below the 20% average for the study. In fact on average, vegetarians have a BMI of about 2 units lower than non-vegetarians. [2]

This is not to say that the vegetarian or vegan diet causes an unhealthy body weight; in fact the health benefits of vegetarian diets in reducing risk of chronic diseases may be mediated in part by lower body weight. [3]

The reason for healthier BMIs being more prevalent in vegetarians comes down to the benefits of the diet itself. The average vegetarian diet involves a higher consumption of fibre and complex carbohydrates and a lower intake of saturated fats. In fact, vegans eat half the saturated fat of meat-eaters (vegetarians two thirds) and no cholesterol. [4] Coupled with this, vegetarians consume more of the types of foods that actively improve blood lipid levels such as soy, soluble fibre and nuts.


Making links between dietary choice and cancer outcomes are very difficult for a number of reasons.

Firstly, the causes of cancer are multiple and attributing causation to single factors is always very challenging. Another key reason is that people’s dietary habits can change considerably and researchers have to follow large numbers of people for decades to make links between dietary consumption and subsequent cancer risk. Thus they have to assume that people’s diets stay relatively stable which may be inaccurate.

However, despite these difficulties the World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research, after undertaking the largest research review on the topic ever conducted, concluded that the evidence shows that meat consumption increases the risk of colorectal cancer.[5]

Other studies linking meat consumption with cancers have not been as consistent although recent studies, some of which were too late to be included in the ‘World Cancer’ report, have found a link between increased red meat consumption and breast cancer among American, Chinese and British women. [6-8]

Whatever the link between meat consumption and cancer, it is clear that a vegetarian diet is associated with a lower risk of cancer with studies undertaken on vegetarian communities showing a significantly lower cancer rate for vegetarians than that of the average population. [9-10] Much of this must again come down to the higher fibre and antioxidant intake incorporated with the vegetarian diet. Certainly epidemiological studies have shown that people who consume higher levels of fruit and vegetables have a decreased risk of many cancers, specifically, breast, lung, oral, pancreas, larynx, oesophagus bladder and stomach cancers. [11]


It is commonly assumed that drinking milk or consuming other dairy products gives strong bones and hence decreases the risk of osteoporosis.

However, those countries that have the highest consumption of dairy products also have the highest rates of osteoporosis and its consequences such as hip fractures. In fact, a study of elderly women carried out by the University of California showed that those with a larger meat consumption had a much greater loss of hip bone density and thus increase in amount of fractures than those who eat mostly plant protein. [12]

One possibility for this link is that large amounts of protein intake encourage organic acid production and this, in turn, causes the body to leach calcium, an alkaline mineral, is from the bones to maintain an acid-base equilibrium. Another reason may be that animal proteins, which are higher in sulphur than plant proteins cause a temporary spikes in blood acidity which the body makes up for by leaching bone calcium.  Hence this weakening of the bones through dietary habits may result in the increase rates of osteoporosis in western countries. A study by the ARS Western Human Nutrition Research Centre in Davis, California, showed, surprisingly, that while omnivores and vegans seem to have the same levels of bone calcium reabsorption, omnivores had a lower rates of bone formation than that of their vegan counterparts. [13]

Whatever the reasons behind osteoporosis, the science indicates at the very least that consuming dairy products has no benefit for preventing osteoporosis, the worst case scenario being that consuming dairy products actually increases your risk of the disease. [14-17]

Healthy Vegan Diets

Like all dietary options a vegan diet can be healthy or unhealthy depending on what choices are made.It is recommended to take B12 supplements or fortified foods when only consuming plant-based foods. B12 is an important vitamin in the human diet and deficiency can cause brain and nervous system damage, fatigue, memory loss and depression. B12 itself is created by bacteria and is found in animal products such as meat and eggs. It used to be thought that foods such as mushrooms, tempeh, miso and sea vegetables were high in B12 but it now appears that this is in a form our bodies can’t absorb. However, it is important to remember that our need for B12 has nothing to do with a biological requirement for meat. Indeed, our B12 requirements are shared with many other primates who get acquire the vitamin from the dirt, insects and faeces in their diet. The food we consume in a modern western diet is heavily sanitised which overall is a good thing, but while this means potentially harmful germs are removed from our food, so is the B12. Getting enough B12 in our diet is easy, fortified foods such as breakfast cereals, soy and other plant milks, fruit juices and meat replacement products are one good way of getting B12. Another is to take a simple B12 supplement everyday.

Vegetarian diets can also be low in omega 3 fatty acids and it is recommended that vegetarians look at how to supplement their diets to ensure adequate intake [18]. One of Omega 3’s greatest health benefits is decreasing the risk of coronary health problems of which vegetarians already have a lower risk of. However, Omega 3 has also been shown to decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, among other things. Vegan sources of Omega 3 include Flaxseed and Flaxseed Oil, Canola oil, walnuts and fortified foods such as soy milk. It is important to remember not to use flaxseed oil for cooking as heating of the oil will cause the Omega 3 benefits to be lost; it is better to use Flaxseed as a salad oil. Omega 6 (a fat widely available in the vegetarian diet) can interfere with Omega 3 absorption when consumed in large ratios, thus, limiting the amount of Omega 6 in the diet, for example by replacing sunflower and corn oils with canola, will also cause a higher absorption of Omega 3.

As long as recommendations like these are followed it has been concluded by the American and Canadian Dietetic Associations that a wholly plant based diet is appropriate for all life-stages. [19] While levels of iron and zinc have been shown to be lower among people consuming a vegetarian diet there is no research to suggest that this has any adverse health consequences and there are no differences in anaemia prevalence rates between vegetarians and non-vegetarians. [20] In fact, a recent model suggested that meat based diets may be at greater risk of nutritional deficiency, labeled ‘phytochemical deficiency’ through lack of plant-based foods in the diet. [21] The benefits of a plant based diet are clear; a vegan diet is not just beneficial to animals, society and the environment but will also help you to be a lighter, happier and healthier you.

This article originally appeared on the Animal Rights Advocates website. Animal Rights Advocates Inc. (ARA) is a volunteer-run not for profit animal rights organisation based in Perth, Western Australia that campaigns for the abolition of animal exploitation.


21. Sabate J. The contribution of vegetarian diets to health and disease: a paradigm shift? Am J Clin Nutr. 2003; 78(3 Suppl):502S-507S.

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