It is continuously increasing the number of people who choose a vegetarian diet (no meat) or vegan, which excludes all animal foods such as meat, fish, milk and dairy products, eggs, honey and so on. In Italy it is estimated there are 8 vegetarian and vegan one per 100 inhabitants.
For some it is an ethical choice, but many opt for an exclusively vegetable diet for health reasons. It is well known, in fact, the importance of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables to reduce the risk of some of the major diseases of our century, such as hypertension, obesity, diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Yet experts are not unanimous in considering the vegetarian, let alone the vegan, among the healthiest diets. In the ranking made annually by a team of nutritionists, cardiologists, dieticians and diabetes specialists on behalf of the magazine US News, the vegetarian diet is about a third of the ranking and the vegan around two-thirds, respectively 11th and 18th position out of 31 schemes Dietary considered in the rankings last year. And among them are vegetarian-based diets prefer the Mediterranean, the Flexiteriana and Ornish; the vegan diet also the traditional and anti-inflammatory.
In addition, a study of the Austrian 2014, analyzing the latest census on public health, found, surprisingly, that vegetarians and vegans would be more exposed than omnivores to a range of physical and mental disorders, from depression to cancer, confirming reserves of nutritionists.
While a 2011 study, based on the review of dozens of research on vegetarianism, performed the last three decades, confirms the risk of stroke and heart disease and vascular disorders related to vegetarian diets.
If some advantages mainly vegetable diets are definite (weight control, cholesterol and triglyceride levels, plenty of fiber and antioxidants), a diet that completely excludes one or more classes of foods is likely, however, to be unbalanced and to expose serious deficiencies, especially if followed loosely and improvised.
Maintain a balanced diet regime in vegetarian, vegan and even more so, in fact, it is far from easy. Suffice it to say that the best protein, both for assimilability of both its composition, the so-called noble proteins, are those of animal origin.
Those who eat meat, eggs, milk does not need to make any effort to ensure the right amount of all essential amino acids (those that our body can not synthesize autonomously, but must take with food). Just a slice of meat and you’re done.
In contrast, those who follow a vegetarian diet must combine vegetable proteins of different sources, including those that are not part of our traditional food such as soy, quinoa, azuki red and green, cashew nuts, sesame seeds, coriander seeds, malt, rice, millet decorticated, rye, etc., to achieve the same result.
But the problems do not stop at proteins, also concern some vitamins, such as B group, found mainly in meat and, to a lesser extent, in milk and eggs, while those from plant sources, such as certain algae, fungi or plants contaminated, They are present in insufficient quantities or in a non-bioavailable. Risks of deficiency were also observed for some minerals, particularly calcium, iron and zinc, and essential fatty acids. All this, in the absence of a diet extremely careful and scrupulous or adding some elements may result in increased risk for various diseases.
One of the main pain points of nutrition-free foods of animal origin, or even of one flesh, is the lack of vitamin B12 and other B vitamins which, if not corrected through taking supplements can cause serious damage to health.
The B vitamins, B12 in the head, are in fact involved in the metabolism of homocysteine, a substance that if not metabolized remains in excess in the blood, and would seem to represent a risk factor for cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease. There is, for example, a type of brain stroke typical of vegetarians and vegans.
Also B12 deficiency, prolonged (our body is able to accantonarne enough supplies for a year or so) and associated with folate deficiency predisposes to megaloblastic anemia, while associated with a high number of folate can cause nerve damage, also irreversible.
Vitamin B12 is in fact necessary to the maturation of red blood cells in the bone marrow and the formation of myelin (coating of nerve fibers). When stocks run out you can meet, in addition to anemia, a deficiency of sensitivity and deficits of peripheral nerve function.
The lack of Omega 3 fatty acids and the imbalance between them and Omega 6 (fatty acids typical of vegetable oils) can lead to reduced levels of HDL, cholesterol “good”, which together with excess homocysteine predisposes to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and all cardiac and vascular related to this.
And we come to the iron, found in large amounts in foods of animal origin, in short supply in those plants. Not only that, in the latter in a condition far less assimilated and this exposes vegetarians and vegans to a shortage of this important micronutrient. The deficit of iron, essential for the transport of oxygen by red blood cells, can cause iron deficiency anemia, also called iron-. Finally, the possible deficiencies of calcium and vitamin D, can promote osteoporosis.
At this point it seems clear that a vegetarian or vegan diet, especially if followed in a superficial and improvised, can actually be bad for your health. And while remaining true that can avert the risk of certain diseases, he adds other equally serious.
Otherwise, a vegetarian diet scrupulously followed under medical supervision and with additional B12, and possibly iron and omega3, should not involve special risks, but even greater benefits than you would with a healthy diet such as the Mediterranean or already Flexiteriana, which provide, yes, abundant intake of vegetables, but without excluding any food.
Finally there remain unclear results of the Austrian study cited above, which reported an increased risk in vegetarians, vegans and raw foodists also for depression, anxiety, allergies and cancer.