There is now enormous evidence from a large number of studies that show that vegan diets provide significant health benefits1,2 that can prevent certain diseases, such as cancer3-16, diabetes17-28, and heart disease29-30. People following vegan diets typically also have lower cholesterol levels31-33, lower blood pressure34-37 and lower levels of obesity.38-40
Vegan diets contain abundant amounts of plant protein41, vitamins, minerals42-44, fibre45 and cancer-fighting phytochemicals46-60, without the harmful effects of animal fat61 and animal protein63-66. Scientific research shows that health benefits increase as the amount of food from animal sources in the diet decreases, making vegan diets the healthiest overall67. In fact a balanced vegan diet is safe and healthy for any stage of life, including infancy, childhood, adolescence, and during pregnancy. 68-70
Plant sources of calcium such as leafy green vegetables such as broccoli and kale, white beans, fortified soymilks and juices, and a variety of fruits and vegetables, easily provide all your calcium requirements. 71-75
The most nutritious sources of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are plant-based foods, including green leafy vegetables, legumes, wheat germ, soybeans, chia seeds and ground flaxseeds. 76-78 The advantage of these plant-based sources of essential fatty acids is that they do not contain the high levels of heavy metals such as mercury as well as the high levels of PCBs and dioxins found in fish. 79-81
The only supplementation that is suggested when following a vegan diet is taking a plant-based source of Vitamin B12. Small amounts of B12 may be found in plant products due to bacterial contamination82,83, but larger amounts can easily be obtained through a common daily multiple vitamin or fortified foods, such as vitamin B12-fortified breakfast cereals, soymilk, meat analogues, and nutritional yeast. 84
Present day vegan athletes such as Ultra marathon runner Scott Jurek, Ironman triathlete Brendan Brazier, European power lifting champion Patrik Baboumian, bodybuilders Billy Simmons, Jim Morris, Kenneth Williams V85 and the winner of the most Olympic medals ever, Carl Lewis (10 medals, 9 of them gold) 86,87 provide evidence that the highest level of athletic performance can be achieved without consuming any animal products.
Despite the popularity of high protein, low carbohydrate diets, the scientific literature shows that the most sustainable way to lose weight and also maintain a healthy weight is by following a healthy whole foods vegan diet. 88-90
In summary the vegan diet not only provides significant health benefits for preventing3-30 and reversing disease,91-93 but it contains all of the nutrients necessary to help achieve and maintain good health.1,2
By Mark Doneddu from Vegetarian Victoria
Why not try the 30 day Vegan Easy Challenge!
1. Craig WJ. “Health effects of vegan diets”. Am J Clin Nutr May 2009 vol. 89 no. 5 1627S-1633S
2. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 May; 89(5): 1607S–1612S.
3. Thorogood M, Mann J, Appleby P, McPherson K. Risk of death from cancer and ischaemic heart disease in meat and non-meat eaters. Br Med J. 1994;308:1667-1670.
4. Chang-Claude J, Frentzel-Beyme R, Eilber U. Mortality patterns of German vegetarians after 11 years of follow-up. Epidemiology. 1992;3:395-401.
5. Chang-Claude J, Frentzel-Beyme R. Dietary and lifestyle determinants of mortality among German vegetarians. Int J Epidemiol. 1993;22:228-236.
6. Phillips RL. Role of lifestyle and dietary habits in risk of cancer among Seventh-Day Adventists. Cancer Res. (Suppl) 1975;35:3513-3522.
7. Barnard ND, Nicholson A, Howard JL. The medical costs attributable to meat consumption. Prev Med. 1995; 24:646-655.
8. Campbell, TC, Chen J. Diet and chronic degenerative diseases: Perspectives from China. Am J Clin Nutr. 1994;59:1153S–1161S.
9. Trichopoulos D, Yen S, Brown J, Cole P, MacMahon B. The effect of westernization on urine estrogens, frequency of ovulation, and breast cancer risks: a study in ethnic Chinese women in the Orient and in the U.S.A. Cancer. 1984;53:187-192.
10. Giovannucci E, Rimm EB, Stampfer MJ, Colditz GA, Ascherio A, Willett WC. Intake of fat, meat, and fiber in relation to risk of colon cancer in men. Cancer Res. 1994;54:2390-2397.
11. Willett WC, Stampfer MJ, Colditz GA, Rosner BA, Speizer FE. Relation of meat, fat, and fiber intake to the risk of colon cancer in a prospective study among women. N Engl J Med. 1990;323:1664-1672.
12. Cho E, Speigelman D, Hunter DJ, Chen WY, Stampfer MJ, Colditz GA, Willett WC. Premenopausal fat intake and risk of breast cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2003;95:1079-1085.
13. Bingham SA, Luben R, Welch A, Wareham N, Khaw KT, Day N. Are imprecise methods obscuring a relation between fat and breast cancer? Lancet. 2003;362:212-214.
14. Cramer DW, Harlow BL, Willett WC. Galactose consumption and metabolism in relation to the risk of ovarian cancer. Lancet. 1989;2:66-71.
15. Araki H, Watanabe H, Mishina T, Nakao M. High-risk group for benign prostatic hypertrophy. Prostate. 1983;4:253-264.
16. Malter M, Schriever G, Eilber U. Natural killer cells, vitamins, and other blood components of vegetarian and omnivorous men. Nutr Cancer. 1989;12:271-278.
17. Rajpathak S et al. “Iron Intake and the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes in Women: A prospective cohort study.” Diabetes Care 29 (June 2006): 1370-6.
18. Naik RG, and Palmer jP. “Preservation of beta-cell function in Type 1 diabetes.” Diabetes Rev. 7 (1999) : 154-182.
19. Hammond-McKibben D, and Dosch H-M. “Cow’s milk, bovine serum albumin, and IODM: can we settle the controversies?” Diabetes Care 20 (1997) : 897-901.
20. Akerblom HK, Vaarala 0, Hyoty H, et al. “Environmental factors in the etiology of Type 1 diabetes.” Am. Med. Genet. (Semin. Med. Genet.) 115 (2002): 18-29.
21. Virtanen SM, Laara E, Hypponen E, et al. “Cow’s milk consumption, HLA-DQB1 genotype, and Type 1 diabetes.” Diabetes 49 (2000): 912-917.
22. Red Meat Consumption and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: 3 Cohorts of U.S. Adults and an Updated Meta-Analysis,” An Pan, Qi Sun, Adam M. Bernstein, Matthias B. Schulze,. JoAnn E. Manson, Walter C. Willett, and Frank B. Hu, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, online August 10, 2011.
23. Bernstein AM et al. “Major dietary protein sources and risk of coronary heart disease in women.” Circulation 122 (2010): 876-83.
24. Song Y et al. “A prospective study of red meat consumption and Type 2 diabetes in middle-aged and elderly women: the Women’s Health Study.” Diabetes Care Vol 27 No 9 (2004): 2108-15
25. Pounis GD et al., Diabetes & Metabolism, Volume 36, Issue 6, Part 1, December 2010, Pages 484-490
26. Houston MC, Basile J, Bestermann WH, Egan B, Lackland D, Hawkins RG, Moore MA, Reed J, Rogers P, Wise D, Ferrario CM. Addressing the global cardiovascular risk of hypertension, dyslipidemia, and insulin resistance in the southeastern United States. Am J Med Sci. 2005 Jun;329(6):276-91.
27. West KM, and Kalbfleisch JM. “Glucose tolerance, nutrition, and diabetes in Uruguay, Venezuela, Malaya, and East Pakistan.” Diabetes 15 (1966): 9-18.
28. Meyer KA , Kushi LH,Jacobs DR, Jr., et al. “Carbohydrates, dietary fiber, and incident Type 2 diabetes in older women.” Am.]. Gin. Nutri. 71 (2000): 921-930.
29. Esselstyn Jr MD. “Updating a 12-year Experience with Arrest and Reversal Therapy for Coronary Heart Disease.” American journal of Cardiology 84 (1999): 339-41)
30. Am J of Cardiology 84 (1999): 339-41
31. Sacks FM, Castelli WP, Donner A, Kass EH. Plasma lipids and lipoproteins in vegetarians and controls. N Engl J Med. 1975;292:1148-1152.
32. Barnard RJ, Inkeles SB. Effects of an intensive diet and exercise program on lipids in postmenopausal women. Women’s Health Issues. 1999;9:155-161.
33. Barnard ND, Scialli AR, Bertron P, Hurlock D, Edmonds K, Talev L. Effectiveness of a low-fat vegetarian diet in altering serum lipids in healthy premenopausal women. Am J Cardiol. 2000;85:969-972.
34. Rouse IL, Beilin LJ. Editorial review: vegetarian diet and blood pressure. J Hypertension. 1984;2:231-240.
35. Lindahl O, Lindwall L, Spangberg A, Stenram A, Ockerman PA. A vegan regimen with reduced medication in the treatment of hypertension. Br J Nutr. 1984;52:11-20.
36. Appleby PN, Davey GK, Key TJ. Hypertension and blood pressure among meat eaters, fish eaters, vegetarians and vegans in EPIC-Oxford. Public Health Nutr. 2002;5:645-654.
37. Ernst E, Pietsch L, Matrai A, Eisenberg J. Blood rheology in vegetarians. Br J Nutr. 1986;56:555-560.
38. Ellis FR, and Montegriffo VME. “Veganism, clinical findings and investigations.” Am.]. Clin. Nutr. 23 (1970): 249-255.
39. Am J Clin Nutr 2005;81:1267–74.
40. Key T, and Davey G. “Prevalence of obesity is low in people who do not eat meat.” Brit. Med. Joum. 313 (1996): 816-817.)
41. Havala, Susan. Being Vegetarian, The American Dietetic Association, Chronimed Publishing (1996):18
42. Vitamin Supplements: More Cost Than Value: Comment on “Dietary Supplements and Mortality…Redberg Arch Intern Med.2011; 171: 1634-1635. THE WORLD
43. Teo, Choon Chew, Dr.P.H., LOMA LINDA UNIVERSITY, 2011, 134 pages; 3434227
44. Nutritional Status of Flemish Vegetarians Compared with Non-Vegetarians: A Matched Samples Study, Nutrients 2010, 2(7), 770-780
45. Zimmer J, Lange B, Frick JS, et al. A vegan or vegetarian diet substantially alters the human colonic faecal microbiota. Eur J Clin Nutr 2011.
46. Michaud DS, Feskanich D, Rimm EB, et al. Intake of specific carotenoids and risk of lung cancer in two prospective U.S. cohorts. Am J Clin Nutr 2000;72:990-7.
47. Lewis S, Brennan P, Nyberg F, et al. Cruciferous vegetable intake, GSTM1 genotype and lung cancer risk in a non-smoking population. Abstract from the European Conference on Nutrition and Cancer, Lyon, France, June 21-24, 2001: 55
48. Borek C. Antioxidant health effects of aged garlic extract. J Nutr 2001;131:1010S-5S.
49. Thatte U, Bagadey S, Dahanukar S. Modulation of programmed cell death by medicinal plants. Cell Mol Biol (Noisy-le-grand) 2000;46:199-214.
50. Le Bon AM, Siess MH. Organosulfur compounds from allium and the chemoprevention of cancer. Drug Metabol Drug Interact 2000;17:51-79.
51. Maeda H, Kanazawa A. Peroxyl radical-scavenging activity of beverages, especially of tea, coffee and wine in vitro. Abstract from the European Conference on Nutrition and Cancer, Lyon, France, June 21-24, 2001: 77,
52. Eberhardt MV, Lee CY, Liu RH. Antioxidant activity of fresh apples. Nature 2000;405:903-4.
8. Chung LY, Cheung TC, Kong SK, et al. Induction of apoptosis by green tea catechins in human prostate cancer DU145 cells. Life Sci 2001;68:1207-14.
53. Hibasami H, Komiya T, Achiwa Y, et al. Induction of apoptosis in human stomach cancer cells by green tea catechins. Oncol Rep 1998;5:527-9.
54. Kimura Y, Okuda H. Resveratrol isolated from Polygonum cuspidatum root prevents tumor growth and metastasis to lung and tumor-induced neovascularization in Lewis lung carcinoma-bearing mice. J Nutr 2001;131:1844-9.
55. Mollerup S, Ovrebo S, Haugen A. Lung carcinogenesis: resveratrol modulates the expression of genes involved in the metabolism of PAH in human bronchial epithelial cells. Int J Cancer 2001;92:18-25.
56. Schneider Y, Vincent F, Duranton B, et al. Anti-proliferative effect of resveratrol, a natural component of grapes and wine, on human colonic cancer cells. Cancer Lett 2000;158:85-91.
57. Kozuki Y, Miura Y, Yagasaki K. Resveratrol suppresses hepatoma cell invasion independently of its anti-proliferative action. Cancer Lett 2001;167:151-6.
58. Nakagawa H, Kiyozuka Y, Uemura Y, et al. Resveratrol inhibits human breast cancer cell growth and may mitigate the effect of linoleic acid, a potent breast cancer cell stimulator. J Cancer Res Clin Oncol 2001;127:258-64.
59. Bernhard D, Tinhofer I, Tonko M, et al. Resveratrol causes arrest in the S-phase prior to Fas-independent apoptosis in CEM-C7H2 acute leukemia cells. Cell Death Differ 2000;7:834-42.
60. Jenab M, Thompson LU. Purified and endogenous phytic acid in wheat bran affects early biomarkers of colon cancer risk. Abstract from the European Conference on Nutrition and Cancer, Lyon, France, June 21-24, 2001: 75
61. Cho E, Speigelman D, Hunter DJ, Chen WY, Stampfer MJ, Colditz GA, Willett WC. Premenopausal fat intake and risk of breast cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2003;95:1079-1085.
62. Bernstein AM et al. “Major dietary protein sources and risk of coronary heart disease in women.” Circulation 122 (2010): 876-83.
63. Scott FW. Cow milk and insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus: is there a relationship? Am J Clin Nutr. 1990;51:489-491.
64. Karjalainen J, Martin JM, Knip M, et al. A bovine albumin peptide as a possible trigger of insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. N Engl J Med. 1992;327:302-307.
65. Robertson WG, Peacock M, Heyburn PJ. Should recurrent calcium oxalate stone formers become vegetarians? Br J Urol. 1979;51:427-431.
66. Goldfarb DS, Coe FL. Prevention of Recurrent Nephrolithiasis. Am Fam Physician. 1999;60:2269–2276.
67. Campbell, T.C., & Campbell, T.M., 2006, The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-Term Human Health, Benbella Books.
68. Position of the American Dietetic Association: vegetarian diets. J Amer Diet Assoc. 2003;103(6):748-765.
69. Hergenrather J, Hlady G, Wallace B, Savage E. Pollutants in breast milk of vegetarians (letter). N Engl J Med. 1981;304:792.
70. Allergies in infants are linked to mother’s diets. New York Times, 30 August 1990.
71.Journal of the American Dietetic Association Volume 106, Issue 4 , Pages 590-593, April 2006
72. Veganism, bone mineral density, and body composition: a study in Buddhist nuns (2009) L. T. Ho-Pham, P. L. T. Nguyen, T. T. T. Le, T. A. T. Doan, N. T. Tran, T. A. Le and T. V. Nguyen
73. Osteoporos Int. 2004 Sep;15(9):679-88. Epub 2004 Jul 16.
74. Weaver CM, Plawcki KL. Dietary calcium: adequacy of a vegetarian diet. Am J Clin Nutr 1994;59:1238S-41S.
75. New SA, Robins SP, Campbell MK, et al. Dietary influences on bone mass and bone metabolism: further evidence of a positive link between fruit and vegetable consumption and bone health. Am J Clin Nutr 2000;71:142-51.
76. Pereira C et al, 2001. The Alpha-Linolenic Acid Content of Green Vegetables, Int J Vitam Nutr Res 71(4): 223-8
77. Hunter JE. n-3 Fatty acids from vegetable oils. Am J Clin Nutr 1990;51:809-14.
78. Mantzioris E, James MJ, Gibson RA, Cleland LG. Dietary substitution with an alpha-linolenic acid-rich vegetable oil increases eicosapentaenoic acid concentrations in tissues. Am J Clin Nutr 1994;59:1304-9
79. Huston MC. The role of mercury and cadmium heavy metals in vascular disease, hypertension, coronary heart disease, and myocardial infarction. Altern Ther Health Med. 2007 Mar-Apr;13(2):S128-33.
80. University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2007, “Mercury Contamination Of Fish Warrants Worldwide Public Warning.” ScienceDaily (March 2007).
81.Shecter, A., et al., 2001, “Intake of dioxins and related compounds from food in the U.S. population.”
82. Herbert V. Vitamin B-12: plant sources, requirements, and assay. Am J Clin Nutr. 1988;48:852-858.
83. Rauma A, Torronen R, Hanninen O, Mykkanen H. Vitamin B-12 status of long-term adherents of a strict uncooked vegan diet (“living food diet”) is compromised. J Nutr. 1995;125:2511-2515.
86. Associated Press (May 7, 1987). “William Lewis, Track Coach and Father of Olympic Star”. The New York Times.
88 Thompson R. “Nutrition: High animal protein intake linked to long-term weight gain.”
Nature Reviews Gastroenterology and Hepatology 8, 66 (February 2011)
89 Am J Clin Nutr 2005;81:1267–74
90 Rashmi Sinha, Ph.D., senior investigator, nutrition epidemiological branch, division of cancer epidemiology and genetics, U.S. National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Md.; Michael Thun, M.D., vice president emeritus, epidemiology and surveillance research, American Cancer Society, Atlanta; Jay Brooks, M.D., chairman, hematology/oncology, Ochsner Health System, Baton Rouge, La.; March 23, 2009, statement, American Meat Institute, Washington, D.C.; March 23, 2009, Archives of Internal Medicine
91.Ornish D, Brown SE, Scherwitz LW, et al. “Can lifestyle changes reverse coronary heart dis-ease?” Lancet 336 (1990): 129-133.
92.Esselstyn CB, Ellis SG, Medendorp Sv, et al. “A strategy to arrest and reverse coronary artery disease: a 5-year longitudinal study of a single physician’s practice.” J. Family Practice 41 (1995) : 560-568.
93.Esselstyn Jr MD. “Updating a 12-year Experience with Arrest and Reversal Therapy for Coronary Heart Disease.” American journal of Cardiology 84 (1999): 339-41)