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Vegetarianism is the practice of eating animal-free diet including fruits, vegetables, cereal grains, nuts, and seeds, with or without dairy products and eggs. According to Vorvick (2009) , Zieve (2009) and an article from Well Sphere, there are a number of categories of vegetarians, namely lacto-ovo vegetarian, ovo vegetarian, vegans, Su vegetarians, pescetarians and Pollo vegetarians. Lacto-ovo vegetarians consume eggs and dairy products and lacto vegetarians exclude eggs but consume dairy products. Ovo vegetarians eliminate dairy products but include eggs in their meal. Su vegetarians exclude animal products and vegetables that have onion and garlic smell whereas Pollo vegetarians are called as half-vegetarians as they consume chicken and fish. Vegans, the subject of this investigation, are the strictest vegetarians. They omit all animal-based products in their diet and do not use any animal products.
These people choose to be a vegetarian due to several reasons such as for environment, compassion for animals and belief in non-violence. Early ideas in vegetarianism come from certain religions such as Brahmanism, Buddhism and Zoroastrianism.
Even though vegetarian diet is always claimed to be healthy, vegetarians are actually omit essentials nutrients as they eliminate some products in their meals. Therefore, they take other sources as substitute of the eliminated products. As a consequence, the consumption of too much of the substitution agent will lead to severe effects. In this case, they vegetarians consumed too much soy as protein substitute. Saturated fats which are essential are also excluded. As more research are conducted, the issue that arose is whether the claim that says that being a vegan is a great way of becoming healthy is fact or fake.
The issue of the real health effect of vegetarian diet has lead to the research question:
To What Extent Vegetarians Are Healthy?
1.1 History of Vegetarianism
Some of the early people in vegetarianism are Plato, Plotinus and Socrates. However, it is said that the first renowned modern vegetarian is Pythagoras. From Veg World.com, the other prominent personnel in vegetarianism history are Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin and Hitler.
Based on Toronto Vegetarian Association, it is stated that during Renaissance in Europe, eating meat is seen to be a reflection of wealth and vegetarians during that time were mostly Christians. In the 17th century, the idea of not eating meat slowly begins to influence England. In the 18th century, health consciousness increase and more people fight for the animals' right and in the 19th century, more people opted to become vegetarians and has bloomed the number of vegetarian societies' members all over the globe. Today, vegetarians have become a significant part of the society. From Foods Standards Agency's Public Attitudes to Food Survey 2009, it is recorded that from 3219 respondents in United Kingdom, 3% of them are vegans and an additional 5% are semi-vegetarians (The Vegetarian Society, 2009).
2.0 CASE FOR
2.0.1 Lower Risks of Heart Diseases
Vegetarians are found to suffer fewer deaths due to cardiac problems compared to non-vegetarians as they remove animal-based food which is known to be high in cholesterol and saturated fats (Key at al, 1999).Saturated fats will make the blood fat levels increase exponentially, initiating artherosclerosis: the building of 'plaque' along the artery wall thus blocking the blood flow and constrict the arteries. This will prevent blood flow in the heart , causing 'ischemia'. According to a study that was published in American Journal of Epidemiology, 60% of children and teenagers have early atherosclerotic damage and they are the meat-eaters.
It is recorded that people who keep with a plant-based diet result in 2.5 times fewer cardiac events such as heart attack, bypass surgery and angioplasty. As plant-based diet supply no saturated fats, blood cholesterol level will fall. A research conducted by Martin G. in 1986 shows that 10% decrement in blood cholesterol may be associated with a 30% reduction of coronary heart diseases.
Evaluation: It can be seen that the factor that lower down the risk of heart diseases is the elimination of saturated fats. However, saturated fats cannot be 100% eradicated because it is essential to the body in cell communication and signalling and stabilizing process.
2.0.2 Lower risks of various cancer
The Oxford Vegetarian Society found that death caused by cancer is less among vegetarians by 39% compared to meat-eaters (Thorogood, 1994) and Professor Nick Day of University of Cambridge and the European Prospective Study into Cancer declared that vegetarians suffer smaller number of cancer by 40% compared to general population.
The roughage which is rich in vegetarian diet adds bulk to the intestines thus decrease the amount of time needed by the carcinogenic waste products to travel along the colon. When the roughage is hydrolysed by bacteria, the growth tumour inhibitor will form in the colon, resulting in colon cancer (Avivi-Green, Polak-Charcon, Madar, 2000). Roughage also modify circulating sex hormone levels. High oestrogen levels may cause breast cancer but as fibre attached to them, the liver will filter the oestrogen out of the blood into the digestive tract (Katz, Taille, Vacherotet, et al, 2001).In short, the probably unsafe surplus oestrogen removed as fibre consumption is increased.
Evaluation: The uptake of dietary fibre among vegetarians is the primary aspect that contributes to the cut off risk. Nevertheless, it is not a necessity for someone to become a vegetarian to reduce the risks. As long as one consumes sufficient vegetables and fruits, the chance will always be low.
2.0.3 Lower rates of obesity and diabetes
According to The British Medical Association, it is found that obesity rate is lower in vegetarians due to the greater consumption of dietary fibre and reduced saturated fats intake. In significance of the reduced proportion of fats in vegetarian diet, The British Diabetic Association has recommended diabetic patients with meals that are almost like a normal vegetarian meal.
For diabetes, it is often related to raise blood cholesterol levels. A vegetarian diet excludes the sources of the cholesterol and high in complex carbohydrates and dietary fibre. This brings positive consequences on carbohydrate metabolism and reduces blood sugar levels. During 2006, in a study published in Diabetes Care journals, researchers contrasted the effects of following a low-fat vegan diet and the ADA diet in 99 adults with type 2 diabetes. The result is both diets aid in reducing cholesterol levels but the low-fat vegan diet shows remarkably greater improvements.
Evaluation: Vegetarian diet promotes healthy eating habits to the followers, especially the controlled intake of fats. Hence, fewer vegetarians suffer from obesity and diabetes compared to meat-eaters. Non-vegans should control their fat uptake without eliminating saturated fats.
2.1 CASE AGAINST
2.1.1 Disadvantages of Soy Beans as Meat Protein Substitute
Vegetarians eliminate meat from their meals and make protein one of the most concern nutrients among vegetarians. Vegetarians usually opt for soy as the primary source of protein. As a result, vegetarians consume too much soy, which supplies excess oestrogen in the body. According to Rutz (2006), it will bring about the decrease of testosterone in men and it is also feminizing. Sperms may be spoilt and based on studies, it is shown that sperm counts dropped by 50% between 1939-1990 and is decreasing 2% each year.
Another concern is the supplement of isoflavones (plant oestrogen) in human which indece several effects. In pregnant vegetarian mothers, isoflavones will flow right to the placenta which will cause hormonal imbalances. Male foetuses acquire sufficient testosterone but due to isoflavones, they are supplied with plants oestrogen which is risking them to born with crytochidism and/or hypospadias and it is proven to be true as vegetarian mothers are found to be 5 times more likely to have hypospadiac babies than meat-eaters mothers to based on a British study in 2000. Researchers from University of Illinois, after conducting a study, they concluded that soy isoflavones induce mammary tumours which promote breast cancer.
A research in 2000 also reflects that soy products trigger heart problems due to weak thyroid. Compared to 2005, the number of cases of childhood leukaemia increased significantly by 27%, supporting the claim that oestrogen in soy boosts the quickly increase incidence of leukaemia in children.
Evaluation: Soy beans supply proteins, as well as the bad isoflavones. All the bad effects of soy is because over consumption of soy products. Soy beans are the primary source of protein for vegetarians and therefore their health are highly possible to be severely affected due to over consumption of soy.
2.1.2 Importance of Saturated Fats
Saturated fats are fatty acids which the long hydrocarbon chain does not contain any C=C. Lipoprotein (a) consists of an Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL)-like molecule and the covalently bounded specific apolipoprotein(a) [apo(a)] to the apoB of the LDL like molecule. According to SixWise (2008) Lp(a) is the marker for proneness of heart disease and saturated fats decrease Lp(a), a marker for proneness to heart disease and important to our immunity. This is due to medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA) which strengthens the immune system. Evidence to this is the loss of myristic acid in meals will cause the immune system to dysfunction.
Saturated fats involve in inter-cellular communication and act as a protector towards cancer. They also aid the receptors on cell membranes, including insulin receptor, which protects us against diabetes. Saturated fats, such as 16-carbon palmitic acid, are also important in signalling and stabilizing process. In Canada, research shows that 25% of fat in daily diet should be saturated fats (Enig 2004).
Evaluation: Saturated fat plays an important role to maintain healthy immune system, intercellular communication and is essential to the body, even though it has a number of disadvantages. Hence the intake of saturated fats in milk cannot be omitted at all.
2.1.3 Importance of Dairy
Total outtake of dairy products among vegans will increase the risk of nutritional deficiencies as milk is enriched with all nutrients. In fact, it is the major source of calcium. If calcium is insufficient, it will lead to osteoporosis and low bone mass which cause the brittleness of bones. Based on research, it is found that vegetarians only take about 580 milligram per day which is far less than the daily requirement of calcium (1000mg/day). Vitamin D from food which is also essential for strong bones is also found to be lower in vegan compared to others.
Osteoporosis occurs when the bones are porous due to insufficient calcium and phosphorus. It can also occur when bone turnover, a process whereby aging bone break down quicker than it be restored. The bone will then weaken and is said to be diseased. The bones then need to be diagnose with a bone mineral density test. If bones are diseased, they will very difficult to function. A study on Norwegian women also showed milk can significantly reduce breast cancer's risks.
Evaluation: Dairy products are important as they supply almost all nutrients needed by the body. Calcium supplemented by milk is also very essential to the bones. This will leave vegetarians to suffer from calcium related diseases, which usually are difficult to be cured completely.
After considering all the advantages and disadvantages, it can be seen that becoming a vegetarian has beneficial and positive effects on one's health. However, it is still a few drawbacks in a vegan's diet as saturated fats and dairy products are totally excluded from the meal. Based on nourishment philosophy, vegetarianism may be a healthful option. However, neither vegetarians nor omnivores have a monopoly on healthful eating. Vegetarians are just as diverse in their health status as are non-vegetarians. Therefore, I firmly believe that veganism is not as healthy as it is claimed to be. Meat-eaters and vegetarians can obtain the same health benefits if they are health conscious.
From Vegetarians International Voice for Animals, it is claimed that meat eaters usually did not think much of what they eat, thus cause various chronic diseases.To become healthy, balanced diet is the best option. All nutrients should be consumed according to the daily requirement. In addition, every nutrients, be it is said to be healthy or less healthy, is essential to our bodies, even in a very small amount. Any components of nutrients should not be eliminated in order to be healthy. As a conclusion, to be healthy is to refer to the food pyramis, not by eliminating certain nutrients that is probable to harm us.