According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (2016), “appropriately planned vegetarian, including vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate… [and] are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including… adolescence.” In addition to benefiting the environment and sparing the lives of animals through following a diet that aligns with one's ethics, a vegan diet is renowned for exhibiting numerous health benefits (see Figure 6 and 7). These include improving physical health and reversing the effects of diet related diseases such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol and diabetes. (Plant Based Diets: A Physician's Guide, 2016).
Disease Prevention/Treatment Benefits
A vegan diet is associated with multiple health benefits due to its high content of fibre, folic acid, vitamins C and E, potassium, magnesium, phytochemicals and a higher unsaturated fat instead of saturated fat content. In comparison to the standard Australian diet, one of the world’s foremost pediatricians, Dr Benjamin Spock, states that “a vegan diet is more than safe for children and even healthier than what is currently available” (2017), since processed foods account for 90% of calories consumed. (Sport's Journal of Nutrition, 2016)
As a result of consuming less processed foods, saturated fat and cholesterol, vegans generally have lower cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure and a 29% reduced risk of developing CVD than non-vegetarians. The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (2010) also states “plant based diets are associated with reduced risk of mortality compared with non-plant based diets", primarily due to the abstinence of red meat, which is linked to cardiovascular disease- the foremost cause of death in Australia.
Furthermore, 87 separate studies published in Nutrition Reviews all concluded that “vegan diets are highly effective for weight loss” and have “lower rates of obesity than non-vegans” (2016). Whilst the average BMI for vegan men is 22.49kg/m2 and women 21.98kg/m2, the average BMI for non-vegans is significantly higher at 24.41kg/m2 for men and 23.52kg/m2 for women. In addition to this, “vegetarian children and teens are at lower risks than their non-vegetarian peers for overweight and obesity”. (Nutrition Reviews, 2016)
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