Although the vegan diet is often touted as being good for heart health, eliminating the consumption of animal products can lead to nutritional deficiencies and lead to negative consequences, according to a comprehensive review published in the medical journal Advances in Cardiovascular Disease.
Noting the lack of data from randomized controlled trials showing the long-term safety or effectiveness of its restrictive eating habits, the researchers conducted a scientific review of the published literature on the vegan diet, as well as on the evolution of human food.
“As fundamental as diet is to health, you have to keep in mind the diet we’ve been genetically adapted to,” said James O’Keefe, MD, lead study author and director of cardiology. prevention at Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart. Institute. “Foods of animal origin have been an important part of the human diet for at least three million years. Eliminating all animal foods would be like deciding you’re going to feed tiger tofu and expecting it to be healthy. If you want an organism to thrive, you must feed it the diet it has been genetically adapted for through evolution through the ages.
Compared to the standard American diet of highly processed, low-fiber, high-calorie, and sugary foods, vegan diets have some health benefits. However, researchers have found that avoiding all animal foods can lead to nutritional deficiencies in vitamin B12, omega-3s, calcium, zinc, iron, magnesium, and high-quality protein.
These deficiencies may be associated with an increased risk of certain types of cancer, stroke, bone fractures, premature labor and growth retardation. Avoiding animal foods may also be linked to higher rates of depression and anxiety. Hair loss, weak bones, muscle wasting, skin rashes, hypothyroidism, and anemia are other problems that have been observed in those who strictly follow a vegan diet.
On the other hand, excessive consumption of processed meats and/or burnt fatty meats can also be detrimental to a person’s health. The researchers noted that it is important to be selective about the foods of animal origin consumed.
Instead of eliminating all animal foods, the researchers concluded that a whole-food omnivorous diet may be a more effective dietary approach to improving lifespan.
A plant-based omnivorous whole food diet consists of natural, unprocessed foods rich in vegetables, nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oil, berries, and other fruits, as well as whole grains and legumes. Animal-based foods such as wild seafood, pasture-raised meats, eggs, and unsweetened dairy products are also essential to the diet.
“If you follow a strict vegan diet, it’s very difficult to get enough of all the nutrients and high-quality protein you need to be strong and healthy,” O’Keefe said. “If you’re doing it for your health, there’s no substitute for eating natural whole foods. You’re better off eating healthy animal foods that aren’t overcooked and/or highly processed. understanding this is vitally important to your health.
The researchers noted that future prospective studies are needed to assess the cardiovascular effects of a plant-based omnivorous whole food diet to support the observational findings.
Read the entire article”Debunking the Vegan Myth: The Case for a Plant-Based Omnivorous Whole Foods Diet” in Advances in Cardiovascular Disease.
About Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute
Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute, part of Saint Luke’s Health System and a teaching affiliate of the University of Missouri-Kansas City, is one of the nation’s largest cardiovascular programs. Its legacy of innovation began over 35 years ago when it opened as the nation’s first heart hospital. Since then, the Heart Institute has earned a worldwide reputation for excellence in the treatment of heart disease, including interventional cardiology, cardiovascular surgery, imaging, heart failure, transplantation, prevention of heart disease, female heart disease, electrophysiology, outcome research and health economics. With more than 65 full-time board-certified cardiovascular specialists on staff, the Heart Institute offers one of the largest heart failure and heart transplant programs in the country, has the most experience with transcatheter aortic valve replacement in the Midwest, and is a global teaching site for new approaches to opening difficult blocked arteries using minimally invasive techniques.