The Truth About Vegan Health Problems

Someone recently commented on one of my YouTube videos saying that vegan diets were inherently less healthy than a diet that includes animal products. This isn’t true. While there are legitimate concerns regarding vegan nutrient deficiencies, they can be easily addressed by eating a balanced plant-based diet and supplementing where needed.

The comment

Here’s some facts about vegan diet health issues.

EPA and DHA long chain omega-3 fats, can only be found in fish, unless you want to eat buckets of flaxseed oil or algae.

Vitamin K2, important for bone health and cardiovascular health, makes sure calcium gets to where it needs to go and keeps it out of our arteries which would increase the risk of a heart attack. Vegans cannot get vitamin K2.

There are no sources of B12 in a vegan diet, so you have to take supplements. Studies show 83% of vegans and 68% of vegetarians are deficient in B12 compared to only 5% of omnivores.

The most nutrient dense source of food for humans are organ meats and shellfish, that’s just fact.

We’re not all the same. Some people can live healthy lives on a vegan diet with no health issues. If you happen to be one lucky for you, but I’d say most people can’t.

My reply

I’ll reply point by point.

EPA and DHA long chain omega-3 fats, can only be found in fish

This is true. However, our bodies can convert omega-3 to DHA and EPA. Even then, the conversion rate isn’t great for some people so you can consume flaxseed oil or an algae-based omega-3 supplement. This is by far the safest and cheapest way to get DHA and EPA, given that fish are contaminated with heavy metals, like Mercury, and PCBs. These contaminants counteract the positive benefits fish-based DHA and EPA give you. This is why pregnant women are advised to take an algae-based supplement.

Vegans cannot get vitamin K2.

This is also true. But our bodies have no need for vitamin K2 as we can convert K1 to K2 easily. In fact, vegetarians and vegans tend to get more vitamin K in general than meat-eaters: “Healthy vegetarian diets tend to contain more of several protective nutrients, including magnesium, potassium, vitamin K, and antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients.”

There are no sources of B12 in a vegan diet, so you have to take supplements.

Agreed. I even said in the video that every vegan needs a B12 supplement or to eat fortified foods. This is still the safest, healthiest and most ethical way to consume B12.

The most nutrient dense source of food for humans are organ meats and shellfish.

So what? A food being “nutrient-dense” doesn’t make it healthy. You need to look at what nutrients the food is dense with, and evaluate the pros and cons as a whole. For example, chocolate cake is “nutrient-dense” (note that there isn’t a legal definition of the term, which is why the egg industry can get away with branding their products using this term). Does that mean we should all eat tons of chocolate cake? No, because it is dense in the wrong nutrients. Meat, dairy and eggs are nutrient-dense in some good nutrients, but very nutrient-dense in saturated fat, cholesterol and animal hormones.

Some people can live healthy lives on a vegan diet with no health issues. If you happen to be one lucky for you, but I’d say most people can’t.

This is just your personal opinion and isn’t backed by science. It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the largest nutrition organisation in the world, that appropriately planned vegan diets are healthful for all stages of life:

“It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that appropriately planned vegetarian, including vegan, diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate and may provide health benefits for the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. These diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, older adulthood and for athletes. Plant-based diets are more environmentally sustainable than diets rich in animal products because they use fewer natural resources and are associated with much less environmental damage. Vegetarians and vegans are at reduced risk of certain health conditions, including ischemic heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, certain types of cancer, and obesity.”

Also, the largest study ever done on vegan and vegetarian dietary patterns, says the following:

“In strict vegetarians low dietary intakes of vitamin B12 and D, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acids, in addition to iron and zinc, have often been of concern. In the present study, mean intakes of these nutrients were above minimum requirements in strict vegetarians.”

I’d love to hear your opinion. Do you think vegan diets have more health problems than non-vegan diets? Even if this was true, does it justify abusing animals when taking a simple B12 supplement would solve the issue? Leave a comment below!

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