Between Vegans and Meat-Eaters, Which is the Healthier Lifestyle?
The other day my friend had his girlfriend over for the weekend. As a caring boyfriend, he decided to cook dinner. He called up the sister who is a great chef and got some recipe that will surely make people lick their plates clean.
After exchanging several photographs over WhatsApp, he finally pulled off the greatest cooking of his lifetime.
The girlfriend arrived with a friend. When it was time for to hit the table, the tag-along friend asked if the food was "vegan-friendly." Of course, it wasn't.
Vegetarians, vegans are not some hot topic in Nigeria. We have only a tiny population who practices it here.
If you are looking for a topic for a debate that lasts forever, look no further. It is guaranteed that to start a debate that never ends online; the surest way is to state the superiority of veganism over meat-eaters or vice versa. Sit back and relax for you, my friend, just put in motion a debate that will never end :)
Veganism is the practice of abstinence from consumption of animal or animal products: honey, milk, leather jackets & fur coat (ethical vegans), etc. through a philosophy that rejects the status of animals as food. A person that practices this philosophy is a vegan.
There is some distinction between vegans and vegetarians. Vegetarians sometimes eat egg and honey.
Vegan was a word coined by Donald Watson, an animal rights advocate in 1944.
According to this news report vegetarians in the UK did a 360 percent increase within the year 2006 to 2016. The numbers of vegetarians increased from 150,000 to 542,000.
Similarly, in the USA, 9.3% of the population in 2016 are vegetarians which comes to 30,290,000 people. The people who are vegans approximate 6% of the population in 2017 (325.7 million) which is 19,542,000 individuals.
This is an increase of 1900% from the mere 1 million plus who are vegetarian in 2008, which accounts for a 0.5% of the population as at then.
India currently holds the record for the most number of vegetarians, with about 29 to 40% of its population vegetarians. This translates to roughly 360,576,000 people with 27% on vegan diet.
Though India may hold the record for the highest number of vegetarians, Isreal holds the record for the highest percentage per capita of vegans on earth. The estimated percentage of vegans in Isreal is 5% (approx 300,000).
Veganism: A Ladies Affair?
According to an infographic from TOPRNTOBSN, in 2013, the percentage of females who are vegans in the USA are 78.51% which leaves a fraction of 21.07% male. That was a huge difference, but regarding vegetarians, the gender divide is not that wide. It was almost equally split between women at 59%, and men at 41%.
Vegan vs Meat Eaters
Vegans follow a strict dietary pattern similar to those seen in herbivores such as giraffes, goats, cows, the favourite Santa driver-the deer, etc.
Meat-eaters, as the name suggests, do not eat only meat. They are omnivores. Omni is derived from the two Latin words omni and vorare. Omni means all or everything while vorare means to devour. So literally it means all, everything devour. Got the picture now? The meat-eaters eat everything; plants, animals, etc.
Views from both camps
Humans are popularly thought as born omnivores, while this belief may not be popular with the veggie family who believe that optimal health is something following the herbivore path will bestow on one.
People often say the reason they turned to vegetarians is health benefits which are followed by ethical reasons.
For instance, the former President of the United States, Mr Bill Clinton, in 2011 told CNN's Dr Sanjay Gupta, about his switch to veganism with the hopes it will help his heart disease.
Former President Clinton now considers himself a vegan. He's dropped more than 20 pounds, and he says he's healthier than ever. His dramatic dietary transformation took almost two decades and came about only after a pair of heart procedures and some advice from a trusted doctor.CNN.
People practising veganism tend to be leaner than their fellow meat-eater.
A study carried out in 2003 by European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC-Oxford) of 37,875 healthy people within the age range of 20-97 showed that fish-eaters, vegetarians and most especially vegans have lower body mass index when compared to that of the meat eaters.
BMI is just a way of determining if someone is of the right weight as compared with their height.
BMI= weight in kg ÷ (height in meter)2
Some consider the following to be a measure of BMI.
less than 16.49 is severe underweight
16.5 to 18.49 to be underweight
18.5 to 24.99 is normal weight
25 to 29.99 is overweight
30 and above is obese
Some school of thought do not agree with the rating especially for the Asian body types where they believe it should be between 23 to 27.49 for the overweight category.
The EPIC-Oxford result shows the following result: meat eaters - 24.41 kg/m2 in men, and 23.52 kg/m2 in women. While that of vegans were: 22.49kg/m2 for men and 21.98kg/m2 for women.
Some Finnish researchers published a report which points to the role of vegan diet in improvement in rheumatoid arthritis patients.
Another study, A plant-based diet and hypertension looks at the apparent lower risk of blood pressure and hypertension due to their lifestyle. This invariably leads to a lower risk of a cardiovascular issue and lower risk of suffering a heart attack.
It Wasn't Meat
Over the years there has been this consistent linkage of consumption of red meat to increased coronary heart disease and diabetes. But studies such as this, Red and processed meat consumption and risk of incident coronary heart disease, stroke, and diabetes: A systematic review and meta-analysis, shows that the problem is not the red meat per se, but rather the process it undergoes.
Additives such as n-nitroso used in preserving the red/pink colour of meat, improve flavour through suppression of fat oxidation (rancidification) and prevention of growth of bacteria.
High level of it in processed meat leads to an increase in cardiovascular diseases, cancer, etc.
Sorry vegans, the next piece of news may not help your cause.
It is a study published in Nature which looks at the evolutionary journey of man.
The brain size we have now, and the evolved sophisticated man will not have been possible if humans were dependent on only leaves, fruits, and other diets exclusive to the vegans.
The Australopithecus, a member of the early human species that went extinct 2 million years ago. Some 2.6 million years ago, the meat was a significant part of the diet. It would have been easier for this human genus to be herbivores, since trees and plants don't run, but they opted for the hard work of running after an animal to get the dense calorie diet that was appropriate for their development.
So basically, the large brain that man has developed as a result of the high-protein diet that can easily be had through the consumption of meat. A hunter-gatherer may find it hard to survive on a veggie diet.
The American Dietetic Association (ADA) is of the opinion that people can meet the protein requirement needed daily from plant protein. Those who opted for the meat-eating lifestyle only get extra protein.
Apparently, there are health benefits to be gained as a vegan, but there seem to be common deficiencies in their diet. A typical example is a B12 deficiency.
Very low B12 intakes can cause anemia and nervous system damage. The only reliable vegan sources of B12 are foods fortified with B12 (including some plant milks, some soy products and some breakfast cereals) and B12 supplements. Vitamin B12, whether in supplements, fortified foods, or animal products, comes from micro-organisms. Most vegans consume enough B12 to avoid anemia and nervous system damage, but many do not get enough to minimize potential risk of heart disease or pregnancy complications.The Vegan Society.
There is also the issue of omega 3 deficiency. This is not an issue if one could get a supplement derived from microalgae.
Proponents of meat-eaters have it that veganism is unnatural since it depends on an external supplement to meet up with the dietary requirement, but no one could say it is an unhealthy practice.
But which of these two diet lifestyle will lead to a longer and healthier lifetime?
Conclusion: A Visit to the Blue Zone
Blue zone are regions of the world where people live the longest. You will see a lot of people in their 90s and 100s all looking healthy.
Such regions include Okinawa in Japan, Icaria in Greece, Nicoya in Costa Rica, Sardinia in Italy, and Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda, California.
A survey of over 150 diets in the region shows they use the 95/5 rule.
That is 95% plant-based and 5% animal-based.
So there you have it, folks. If you have a contrary view, please do let me know in the comment.
Disclaimer: I am not an advocate of any of the lifestyle, just a person with the avid interest to learn new things.