Becoming vegan is often based on two beliefs: consuming animals isn’t necessary for survival and a plant-based diet is healthier. Contrary to popular belief, consuming a vegan diet can be detrimental to your well-being if not done correctly. As animal products are removed from the diet, many essential vitamins and minerals are lost.
Consumption versus conversion
Plant-based foods contain no Vitamin A, an essential vitamin for healthy vision, immune health, and reproduction4. What they do contain are carotenoids that have to be converted into vitamin A (retinol). Converting carotenoids is 12 to 14 times more difficult for the body 1. Vitamin D3 is important for brain growth and development, brain cell antioxidation, and memory support. Plants only contain vitamin D2 that can be converted into D3 in the body. The levels obtained are short-lived and hard to store in body fat1.
Diet effects mental health
A vegan diet has almost non-existent levels of two important components. Vitamin B12 deficiency can often result in psychiatric issues. Such issues include depression, psychosis, mania, and memory problems1. Vitamin B12 is only found meat, milk, and eggs. Pregnant women who don’t consume adequate amounts of B12 are at risk of deficiency. With a deficiency in vitamin B12, the chance of premature birth increases by 21%3. Severe and prolonged vitamin B12 deficiency is fatal1.
In 2017, a Swiss study found that 47% of vegans had inadequate levels of zinc1. Along with vitamin B12, zinc is necessary for brain and mental health. Zinc can improve treatment outcomes if combined with antidepressants1.
Vegan diet can reduce fertility
Zinc works in relation to vitamin B12 to ensure healthy fetal development. A woman’s egg development is susceptible to damage. Fertilization of the egg is impossible. Poor growth and cell division can persist for months even after supplementation has been initiated. An estimated 10 percent of couples in the United States struggle with infertility1.
The World Health Organization estimates that 17 percent of the global population is vulnerable to zinc deficiency3. As more people turn to vegan diets, that number is expected to grow. Individuals with irritable bowel syndrome, Chron’s disease, gastrointestinal disorders, and liver disease are at an increased risk of zinc deficiency3.
Conquer the challenge
The decision to transition to a vegan diet is a personal one. A vegan diet needs to promote balance within the body. It needs to be recognized that some animal products produce vitamins and minerals that are essential to our well-being. Without proper education and use of supplements, a diet of good faith becomes fatal.