The Vegan Diet – a dangerously restricted diet or a key potential tool in combatting cardio-vascular disease?
According to the British Heart Foundation seven million people in the UK are living with cardio-vascular disease and every day 440 people will die of the condition. One of the key components of their strategy to prevent the disease is the reduction of cholesterol levels and obesity as key risk factors.1 The vegan diet has been promoted and used in order to both reduce cholesterol levels and encourage weight loss. This essay will consider whether or not it can be considered a key potential tool in the fight against cardio-vascular disease or if the health risks associated with its restrictive nature make it unsuitable for clinicians to recommend.
The definition of a vegan diet according to the Vegan Society UK is ‘a plant-based diet avoiding all animal foods such as meat, dairy, eggs and honey’.
There are a variety of reasons for following such diets and not all of them health related. Many people choose veganism for ethical reasons reflecting their concern for the environment and/or animal welfare. It may also reflect concern over modern farming practices and risks to humans associated with the wide use of pharmaceutical drugs to stimulate growth of animals and antibiotic therapies used. There are also the threats associated with animal borne diseases such as to treat them all of which can unpredictably influence human body as well, the threat of animal-borne diseases, such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD).2 This causes complications for medical research as the actual diet an individual follows and the strictness to which they adhere to it will be influenced by their motivation and other cultural factors.
As a result, some of the most important studies in this area have not looked at vegans per se, but monitored general diet and noted the impact of higher or lower intake of certain foods. There was an important recent study along these...