The vegan diet can also be called "strict" vegetarianism, in that it excludes not only meat and fish but also eggs, honey and milk products. Many practitioners of the vegan diet additionally avoid the use of animal products in other forms, such as clothing (wool, leather, silk), jewelry (pearls) and cosmetics (lanolin). People who adopt veganism may do so for health reasons, ethical considerations or both. There are several forms of veganism, and these may disagree on various major and minor points. For example, the raw-food diet and the macrobiotics diet are both vegan, but while macrobiotic practitioners believe that raw food is unhealthy raw-foodists believe that cooked food is the source of many health problems.
The word "vegan" was created in 1944 by Elsie Shrigley and Donald Watson, "pure vegetarians" annoyed by the fact that many people who called themselves vegetarian ate dairy products and even fish. They combined first three and last two letters of vegetarian to form "vegan", thereby intending to indicate that veganism was "the beginning and end of vegetarian."
Some proponents of veganism claim that a vegan diet can cure many health conditions. However, in attempting to actually scientifically verify such claims one runs into a significant problem: it is difficult, if not impossible, to design a scientifically reliable study of diet.
For the results of a study to be trustworthy, participants and researchers must be kept in the dark ("blind") regarding who received the treatment under study (the "active group") and who received a placebo treatment (the "control group"). If practitioners and/or researchers know who is in which group, numerous confounding factors will take over and produce misleading results. These factors include observer bias, reporting bias and the placebo effect. The many ways in which these confounders skew the results of unblinded studies are discussed in detail in Why Does This Database Rely on Double-blind Studies?
A small study of similarly inadequate design weakly hints that vegan diet might be helpful for
With the exception of vitamin B 12 a vegan diet can in principle provide all necessary nutrients. However, in practice, vegans are frequently deficient in calcium
presents a special issue. This vitamin is not provided to any meaningful extent by non-plant foods. (The algae
There is an additional potential issue for athletes to consider: A vegan diet is very low in the non-essential nutrient
10. Turner-McGrievy GM, Barnard ND, Scialli AR et al. Effects of a low-fat vegan diet and a Step II diet on macro- and micronutrient intakes in overweight postmenopausal women. Nutrition. 2004;20:738-46.
Last reviewed August 2010 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Copyright © 2007 EBSCO Publishing All rights reserved.