Once being a vegan was widely associated with animal activism and remained very much an alternative lifestyle. Now it’s the fastest growing food trend in the UK, as people are realising the health and environmental benefits of going vegan, as well as a growing awareness of some of the ugly realities of the meat and dairy industries.
Here’s a quick round up of some of the most important health benefits of going vegan…
When following a vegan diet, you typically eat more of the good stuff – your diet is filled with lots of lovely vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds, which are full of nutrients and minerals.1
One of the biggest killers in the West today is high cholesterol levels, which leads to heart disease2. But studies show that vegan diets can effectively lower people’s cholesterol levels. In the western world the average cholesterol level for a non-vegan is 25% higher than the average cholesterol level of a vegan2. This marked difference suggests that adopting a plant-based diet could lead to a significant reduction in the risk of heart disease.
Obesity is currently a very serious problem, with one in every four adults, in the UK, classed as obese3. A study in 2015 comparing different diets for weight loss found that “vegan diets may result in greater weight loss than more modest recommendations”4. In fact, studies have shown that, on average, vegans have a healthier Body Mass Index (23.6 BMI) compared to omnivores (28.8BMI) and vegetarians (25.7 BMI) 5.
Moving to a vegan diet can also help reduce migraine pain! Evidence shows that migraines are often tied to a person’s food intake. One of the main causes of migraines is chronically high levels of inflammation6 and meat products are known to contain inflammatory properties7.
In 2015 the World Health Organisation announced that red meat and processed meat can cause cancer8. So by eating a plant-based diet you’ll be avoiding a food that the WHO has classified as a carcinogen.
Many vegans report feeling lighter and happier compared to when they were omnivores. And they’re not just imagining it. A 2010 study showed that a vegan diet can help with stress and anxiety, with vegans “reporting significantly less negative emotion than omnivores”9.
Going vegan also means you avoid some of the negative side-effects of modern animal farming techniques, which, as it turns out, can dramatically impact your health. In modern agriculture animals are often overcrowded, meaning that infections spread more easily. For example, the majority of chickens in the UK are packed into overcrowded buildings which they can never leave, and they spend their whole lives standing in the filth from thousands of chickens10!
Campylobacter, a type of bacteria found in poultry and red meat, is the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK and it’s considered to be the cause of over 100 deaths each year9. According to a Food Standards Agency (FSA) survey, 61% of chickens on sale in 2015 were contaminated with campylobacter11.
In order to combat the rapid spread of infection in farms, animals are given lots of antibiotics, regardless of whether they are unhealthy or not12. This overuse of antibiotics is one of the major health concerns with animal agriculture, as it is contributing to the development of drug-resistant bacteria (or superbugs) that can cause hard-to-treat human disease13. In fact, in 2015 the UK Government released a statement that “antibiotic use in farm animals threatens human health”14. So by switching to a plant-based diet we can help to discourage this practice by not contributing to the demand for animal products.
Changing to a plant-based diet can clearly have a significant impact on our health. By focusing on the good stuff, such as nutrient-packed fruit and veg, we can reduce our risk of suffering from chronic diseases and avoid the negative side-effects of the unnatural, intensive conditions of modern day animal agriculture.
1) Veganuary.com. (2018). Health. [online] Available at: https://veganuary.com/why/health/ [Accessed 12 Jan. 2018].
2) Veganuary.com, (2018). [online] Available at: https://veganuary.com/why/health/cholesterol/ [Accessed 12 Jan. 2018].
3) Renew Bariatrics. (2018). United Kingdom Obesity Statistics, Figures in 2017 - Renew Bariatrics. [online] Available at: https://renewbariatrics.com/uk-obesity-statistics/ [Accessed 12 Jan. 2018].
4) Turner-McGrievy, G., Davidson, C., Wingard, E., Wilcox, S. and Frongillo, E. (2015). Comparative effectiveness of plant-based diets for weight loss: A randomized controlled trial of five different diets. Nutrition, 31(2), pp.350-358.
5) Tonstad, S., Butler, T., Yan, R. and Fraser, G. (2009). Type of Vegetarian Diet, Body Weight, and Prevalence of Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes Care, 32(5), pp.791-796.
6) Selfhacked. (2018). The 3 Main Biological Causes of Migraines (Vascular) - Selfhacked. [online] Available at: https://selfhacked.com/blog/migraines-and-headaches-causes-and-solutions/ [Accessed 23 Jan. 2018].
7) Anon, (2018). [online] Available at: 7) http://www.headaches.org/2015/01/22/plant-based-diet-shows-some-promise-for-migraineurs/ [Accessed 12 Jan. 2018].
8) World Health Organization. (2015). Q&A on the carcinogenicity of the consumption of red meat and processed meat. [online] Available at: http://www.who.int/features/qa/cancer-red-meat/en/ [Accessed 23 Jan. 2018].
9) Beezhold, B., Johnston, C. and Daigle, D. (2010). Vegetarian diets are associated with healthy mood states: a cross-sectional study in Seventh Day Adventist adults.
10) Veganuary.com. (2018). Campylobacter. [online] Available at: https://veganuary.com/why/health/campylobacter/ [Accessed 12 Jan. 2018].
11) Public Health England (2015). A microbiological survey of Campylobacter contamination in fresh whole UK-produced chilled chickens at retail sale. Crown Copyright.
12) Veganuary.com. (2018). Antibiotics in Modern Animal Farming. [online] Available at: https://veganuary.com/why/health/antibiotics-in-modern-animal-farming/ [Accessed 12 Jan. 2018].
13) DeNoon, D. (2018). FDA: Antibiotics in Livestock Affects Human Health. [online] WebMD. Available at: https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/news/20100628/fda-antibiotics-in-livestock-affects-human-health [Accessed 12 Jan. 2018].
14) nhs.uk. (2018). Antibiotic use in farm animals 'threatens human health'. [online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/news/medication/antibiotic-use-in-farm-animals-threatens-human-health/ [Accessed 12 Jan. 2018].