Can humans live without meat?

There are contradictory opinions on vegetarianism. This has to do with the lack of accurate knowledge about this unusual diet. However, vegetarianism is more than just a diet and is rather a lifestyle and a certain philosophy. Scientists have their own opinion about this. Below are the latest scientific arguments and views of European and American nutritionists about vegetarianism.
Types of vegetarianism:

Flexitarianism - a soft version of a vegetarian diet that allows meat and seafood, but only once a month. According to leading experts, this is the best diet at the moment. There is also pescetarianism that allows fish.

Lacto-vegetarianism is the standard type that involves consumption of dairy products and eggs.

Vegan is a strict option. No animal products or food is allowed.

Vegetarianism - perversion of nature

Fruitarianism - consuming only those plants that do not need to be destroyed - berries, fruits, nuts, grains and seeds. It is considered a subtype of raw eating.

Other types of vegetarianism are various combinations of the basic types. Vegetarians often have questions about certain "disputable" foods like honey, mushrooms, fish, which provokes new types of vegetarianism.

Benefits of vegetarianism

General advantages. A vegetarian diet provides a low intake of saturated fats and foods with "bad" cholesterol. Vegetarians consume a lot of fiber and various phytochemicals that promote health. This is achieved by increased consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and various soy products. As a result, vegetarians tend to have lower body mass index, low-density lipoprotein and blood pressure. Vegetarians are less likely to suffer from coronary heart disease, hypertension, stroke, type 2 diabetes and some cancers. (Nutrition in Clinical Practice, № 6, 2010).

Vegetarianism and weight loss. Vegetarians are on average 5-15 pounds lighter than meat eaters. This is due to the fact that they are more carefully in their diets and consume less saturated fat. American nutritionists believe that a vegetarian diet is rich in nutrients and can be recommended to reduce weight without sacrificing nutrition. Incidentally, the director of "Supersize Me" who, for the sake of experiment, ate only food from McDonald's, gained 20 pounds and then dropped them in 14 months on a vegetarian diet. (The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, № 6, 2011).

Vegetarianism cures diabetes. A vegetarian diet improves insulin resistance and oxidative stress, and allows one to safely lose weight. It is very important for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. (Diabetic Medicine, № 5, 2011; Current Diabetes Reports, № 2, 2010).

Downsides of vegetarianism

Lack of vitamin B12. As many as five clinical studies claim that vegetarians suffer from the lack of vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is important for cell growth and formation of blood cells. Lack of this vitamin is threatening with neurological disorders, including irreversible loss of nerve cells. Babies who are nursed by vegetarian mothers can develop anemia due to the lack of vitamin B12. (Nutrition, 2011; Ugeskrift for Læger, 2009; Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine, 2009).

Insanity of vegetarianism has no limits

Weak bones. Vitamin B12 deficiency affects bones and fractures are common among vegetarians. Inadequate calcium and vitamin D intake may reduce the growth of bone tissue and cause a decrease in bone mineral density among vegans. (Pediatric Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism, № 3, 2010.)

Vegetarianism and children

We decided to place this item on the list of disadvantages of vegetarianism despite the fact that there is no single opinion on the subject from the experts. In general, reputable medical organizations in many countries (U.S., Canada, Germany, and UK) approve of a thoughtful lacto-vegetarianism diet. Children- vegetarians of school-age have lower body weight and suffer less from obesity related diseases. However, they may suffer from lack of protein, essential fatty acids, iron, zinc, calcium and vitamins B and D.

Medics are dissatisfied with extreme forms of vegetarianism - veganism and fruitarianism. Nutritionist Lydia Ionova believes that vegetarianism is not acceptable for people under 25 years of age. There are known cases of death from malnutrition in children who were fed by their vegan parents. Vegetarianism should not be imposed on children as they should be allowed to make their choice independently. (The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, №5, 2010; Paediatrics & Child Health, №5, 2010).

Kirill Matveev

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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov