Why Do People Choose Vegetarianism & Downsides of Vegetarian Diets?

Vegetarianism is the practice of consumption of meat-free food items. Vegans also abstain from the consumption of by-products of animals and animal slaughter. All vegans intake a plant-based diet i.e. fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and seeds, etc. by avoiding animal-derived products like meat, eggs, and honey and put those animals for entertainment in the environment.[1]

A survey in the USA states that nearly 30 million people are vegetarian due to their ethical sentiments about animal cruelty and killing and religious beliefs. While others follow this diet because they feel better, energetic, and active by a meat-free, plant-based diet.[2]

In this article, we will study different types of vegetarianism in society, the basic elements of the diet, and a note relating to the vegetarian diet in research studies. In the latter half of this article, we will highlight why people choose vegetarianism and the negative effects or downsides of a meat-free diet.

Different Types of Vegetarianism:

Depending upon individual eating pattern, different forms of vegetarianism exists which are:

  1. Ovo-vegetarians: Those individuals who reject meat, fish, dairy products but do eat eggs.
  2. Lacto-vegetarians: Those individuals who abstain from meat, fish, and eggs, but take dairy products.
  3. Ovo-Lacto vegetarians: Those individuals who do not eat meat and fish, but eggs and dairy products are allowed.
  4. Pescetarians: Those individuals who reject meat and meat products, but eat fish.
  5. Vegans: Those individuals who eat exclusively herbal foods.[3]

The Basic Elements Of The Diet:

To ensure a balanced diet, both vegetarian as well meat-eaters should be careful about an adequate supply of nutrients and vital substances.

  1. Proteins: Meat is a rich source of proteins. But vegetarians can also meet the daily requirement of 50-60gm of protein by taking a protein-rich diet which includes pulses, nuts, soy products, and cheese, etc.
  2. Iodine: Iodine is significant for thyroid and metabolism. One can take it by consuming iodized salt and seaweed etc.
  3. Omega-3: omega-3 fatty acids are good fatty acids and belong to polyunsaturated fatty acids. It can not be produced by the human body itself. Fishes like salmon and mackerel are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Vegetarians meet this need by from vegetable oils like linseed and walnut oils.
  4. Iron: The human body requires iron for oxygen transport in the blood. The daily requirement of iron 10-15mg can be obtained by the intake of cereal products, broccoli, spinach, pulse with vegetables, and fruits.
  5. Zinc: It activates hormones and enzymes thus help in wound healing. It is a trace element thus absorbed by taking nuts, legumes, and seeds i.e. pumpkin and cashew nut
  6. Vitamin B12: It helps in blood formation and metabolism. It is only present in animal products and fortified food items. The recommended daily requirement is 3 micrograms. Those individuals who consume eggs and dairy products usually get sufficient vitamin B12.[3]

Note From Research Studies:

Several research studies quote the health benefits of vegetarianism:

A study published in the issue of JAMA Internal Medicine suggests on 9 march, 2015 stated that a meat-free diet reduces the risk of colon cancer.

A study published in Cancer Epidemiology on Feb. 22, 2013, stated that vegetarian diet intake reduced the overall risk of all kinds of cancers compared with a non-vegetarian diet.

A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine on June 3, 2013, found that vegetarian diets were linked with a 12% lower risk of death from all-cause and not just with cancer. The strong benefits were observed for men.

At the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Scientists tested supermarket chickens’ flesh where they found that 96% of Tyson chicken packages were contaminated with campylobacter, a harmful bacterium.[2][4]

Why Do People Choose Vegetarianism?

People choose vegetarianism due to several reasons which facilitate the decision making are listed below:

Ethical Reasons:

Animals are forced to live in overcrowded, inhumane conditions and then killed mercilessly. People who are thus animal lovers prefer to be vegetarian.

Religious Reasons:

Religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jain who hold their religious beliefs prefer a vegetarian lifestyle thus advocate non-violence and spiritual fulfillment.

Environmental Reasons:

It is a fact that farmers use 2,500 gallons of water and 12 pounds of grain to produce one pound of beef. People out of concern for the environment and poor lives feel that this grain can help to feed thousands of people. Livestock production requires 30% of the world’s freshwater supply.

Health Reasons:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that 2 million Americans get sick by antibiotic-resistant bacteria per year as these drugs are administered to livestock for weight gain and to prevent disease. A meat-based diet contributes to heart disease and other illnesses too.[5][6]

Downsides of Vegetarian Diets:

It is becoming popular nowadays to eat a meat-free diet at least part of the time. About 4% of Americans are full-time vegetarians, with half of those are vegan. News items have always focused on what could be worse or negative about vegetarian diets and with stringent vegan plans, So here are the downsides of meat-free nutrition listed below:

Stroke Risk:

If Vegetarians have a 13% lower risk of heart disease than meat-eaters then they also face a 20% higher rate of stroke than meat-eaters which is translated to three more strokes per 1,000 people over 10 years.

Brain Health:

It is said by an expert that the trend toward vegetarian diets may cause a “choline crisis.” Choline is a nutrient that’s vital for brain health and associated functions. Choline is present in meat and poultry, and the body can’t make the choline in the amount the human body needs.

Hair Loss:

This is a question that says giving up on meat leads to hair problems? A recent report showed that a lack of protein with other diet shortcomings can lead to it. Meat contains iron, zinc, and vitamin B which are all crucial for hair growth. Whereas iron present in foods like dried beans and dark green, leafy vegetables, seem harder to absorb by the human body from a purely vegetarian diet.

Depression and Anxiety:

In a study based on vegetable diets and mental health, it was found that vegetarians are 18% more likely to suffer from depression, 28% suffer from anxiety attacks and disorders, and 15 % likely to have depressive moods.

Perceived Social Awkwardness:

Vegans and vegetarians both feel threatened in social situations sooner or later than other types of dieters. Between people preferring meat and finding something on the menu which suits your vegetarian requirement with little jokes may bring social awkwardness within you.

Vitamin Deficiencies:

Iodine, zinc, and vitamin B12 deficiencies occur as these are found in meat, seafood, and dairy products. In the absence and deficiencies of these nutrients, a person might suffer from goiter, fatigue, diarrhea, and even neurological damage. Nutrients that are not obtained in a vegetarian diet include iron, vitamin B12, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, and zinc.

Heavy Gas:

Vegetarians may suffer from heavy gas problems as these plant-based diets contain high levels of fiber. Beans, cauliflower, broccoli, and wheat products cause this kind of problem.

Less Filling:

One of the Studies found that vegetarian diets contain fewer calories, fat, and protein than omnivore diets. Few carbohydrate-rich foods such as fruits or refined grains are digested quickly and hence leave you feeling hungry soon.

Less Convenient:

Vegetarians find difficulties and need to read listed ingredients especially when they choose to take processed foods. Some items contain animal by-products like gelatin, casein, and whey, etc.

Exposure to Chemicals:

Studies have shown that fruit, vegetables, and grains are often farmed using chemicals. So, vegetarians are likely to be more exposed to pesticide residues than the general population.

Lower Levels of Creatine:

Creatinine is an amino acid used by the muscles and thus benefits in exercise and weight lifting performed by athletes and taken as a supplement. Creatinine is present in meat and fish.

Recent research has shown that vegetarians and vegans have almost depleted pools of creatine by abstaining from creatine-rich food sources.[7][8][3][9][10]

Summary:

A vegetarian or meat-free diet is a diet that abstains from the consumption of meat, fish, and poultry. There are varieties of vegetarianism like Ovo-vegetarians, Ovo-Lacto vegetarians, Lacto-vegetarians, pescetarians, and vegans. We know that if vegetarian diets are not monitored properly it leads to nutrient and vitamin deficiency in the human body which causes serious illness. Vitamin B12, iodine, omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, and other minerals may not be supplied to fulfill the body requirements. Meat-based diets are a rich source of vitamins and minerals like zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids, etc. People choose vegetarianism out of concern for their health, environment, ethics, and religious beliefs. Vegetarianism has several health benefits but downsides and negative effects of plant-based diets are more prominent such as stroke risk, hair loss, depression and anxiety, and many others. One should always take care of their health and monitor the vitamins and nutrients intake regularly to avoid deficiencies and associated disorders.

References:

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