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Eating Disorders

Social media is an effective method of communication when it comes to spreading of new ideas and messages. Among these ideas are trending diets such as vegetarian, vegan, fruitarian, etc. Popular celebrities such as Ariana Grande, Ellen DeGeneres, and Natalie Portman (to name a few) are advocates for a healthier life by changing their eating habits. Although most of these dieting programs may not have been recently invented, the increased popularity of varying diets has also caused an increased concern for the effectiveness and harmfulness of different eating styles.

The pros and cons of each diet can be confounding and yet predictable. Many researchers have discovered information that can help dieters stay safe and keep nutrient efficient while continuing with their chosen diet. The most popular diet among the world’s populous is vegetarian. A vegetarian is a person who abstains from eating meat in their daily menu. According to the Harvard Medical School, “Approximately six to eight million adults in the United States eat no meat, fish, or poultry”(Becoming). Vegetarianism can be adopted for many differing reasons.

Multiple groups of people switched to vegetarianism because of moral reasons. These groups maintain that being a carnivore is contradictory to their belief of animal rights. Another reason for people to become vegetarian derives from religion. Religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism follow a vegetarian diet due to their religious beliefs. The alternative reasoning for an anti-meat diet is to create a healthier lifestyle and refrain from eating by-products that can be produced from animal products. There are many positive effects from becoming a vegetarian.

A study published in the American Heart Association Meeting Report Abstract found people who mostly adhere to a pro-vegetarian diet were less likely to die from cardiovascular disease. And a slew of other research have associated this particular diet with reduced risk for certain types of cancer, high blood pressure, and early death”(Castillo). A proper vegetarian diet can be rich in fiber, omega-3s, and a low glycemic index that can protect the heart from disease. The high fiber diet can help to lower and stabilize blood sugar. The more stable blood sugar is the less of a risk you are at for heart attacks and diabetes.

Also when less meat is consumed in the diet, so does the high risk of cancer lessen. Becoming a vegetarian doesn’t completely prevent cancer but it does lower the risk. Vegetarians reduce these risks by staying within a very healthy range of food products. Most vegetarians prefer to follow a more organic diet than non-vegetarians which in turn, lowers the risk of health problems caused by a diet that contains higher amounts of processed foods. A common concern of vegetarianism is the worry of being deficient in different types of nutrients.

Nutrients that come from meat and protein. The most common deficiency in vegetarianism is in protein, vitamin D, vitamin K, and calcium. A lack of vitamin D and K may cause a risk of lower bone mineral density and osteoporosis. In the EPIC-Oxford Study, “75% of vegans [along with vegetarians] got less than the recommended daily amount of calcium, and vegans, in general, had a relatively high rate of fractures” (Publications). A vegetarian can eat certain vegetables such as bok choy and broccoli that can help supply needed calcium to their diets.

In order to obtain more vitamin D and vitamin K in a vegetarian diet they “ may also need to rely on fortified foods, including some types of soy milk, rice milk, organic orange juice, and breakfast cereals. They may also want to consider taking a vitamin D2 supplement” (Publications). There are many different forms of vegetarianism. Another popular type is called vegan. A vegan is someone who abstains from all animal products both in a diet and sometimes in products they purchase.

A survey conducted by TopRNtoBSN. om discovers that “the number of vegans had doubled since 2009, with a little more than 69 percent of the 8,000 Americans surveyed being vegan” (Castillo). The vegan diet is rising in popularity because of health, environmental, and ethical benefits. According to The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, “For many vegans, nutritional choices center around taking better care of the earth’s resources and the environment, ethical issues about animal care, the use of antibiotics and growth stimulants for the production of animals, the threat of animal-borne diseases, and the health advantages of a plant-based diet” (Craig).

It is a common thought that vegans are extremely deficient in the nutrients that are contained in animal products. Yes, that can be true because, without proper knowledge of the diet, one can become severely malnourished; however, with a proper diet, one can receive many benefits that are provided by a vegan diet. The diet can be, “ higher in dietary fiber, magnesium, folic acid, vitamins C and E, iron, and phytochemicals, and they tend to be lower in calories, saturated fat and cholesterol, long-chain n–3 (omega-3) fatty acids, vitamin D, calcium, zinc, and vitamin B-12” (Craig).

An increase in all of these nutrients cause a wonderful benefit towards the health of the individual. Similar to a vegetarian, a vegan is also less prone to cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer. Vegans consume substantially greater amounts of fruits and vegetables that are rich in fiber, folic acid, and antioxidants. The greater amounts of fruits and vegetables can correlate with lower blood cholesterol and lower risk of stroke. Along with a high consumption of fruits and vegetables, vegans also consume a greater amount of nuts, soy, and grains. Those foods “provide significant cardioprotective effects” (Craig).

A vegan diet also provides more of legumes, allium vegetables, and vitamin C than a regular diet. “Fruit and vegetables are described as protective against cancer of the lung, mouth, esophagus, and stomach and to a lesser degree some other sites, whereas the regular use of legumes provides a measure of protection against stomach and prostate cancer. In addition, fiber, vitamin C, carotenoids, flavonoids, and other phytochemicals in the diet are shown to exhibit protection against various cancers, whereas allium vegetables provide protection against stomach cancer and garlic against colorectal cancer.

Foods rich in lycopene, such as tomatoes, are known to protect against prostate cancer” (Craig). Vegan diets are more efficient in protecting against cancers then a regular diet does. Different studies show a different correlation between cancer and vegan diets. Data from the Adventist study showed that “consumption of soy milk by vegetarians protected them against prostate cancer” and in other studies show that “use of dairy was associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer” (Craig).

Further research still needs to be conducted on the relationship between a vegan, plant-based diet, and the cancerous risk. Without the proper nutrients that originate from a meat-based diet, nutrient shortfalls because common amongst the vegan populace. Both vegans and vegetarians alike experience calcium deficiencies. Vegans are more prone to bone fractures. There have been recent studies that show how “postmenopausal Asian women showed [that their] spine or hip BMD (bone mineral density) was significantly lower in long-term vegans.

Those Asian women, who were vegetarian for religious reasons, had low intakes of protein and calcium” (Craig). Although vegan diets cannot provide as much protein and calcium content, a vegan diet is efficient in providing other essential nutrients for bone health such as vitamin K, vitamin D, potassium, and magnesium. Because vegans also tend to consume more soy in products like tofu, “Soy isoflavones are suggested to have a beneficial effect on bone health in postmenopausal women” (Craig). Not only is a vegan or vegetarian diet beneficial to health, they also are beneficial to the environment.

Vegans do not emit as much greenhouse gasses as meat-based diets do. According to a University of Chicago study, “a lacto-ovo vegetarian emits far less greenhouse gas than a counterpart adhering to the standard, meat-rich American diet—the difference is equivalent to around 1. 5 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, assuming the same daily caloric intake” (Koerner). When that article compared a lacto-ovo vegetarian to a vegan who consumes zero percent animal products, the greenhouse gasses emitted are even further reduced.

It takes less fossil fuel to acquire grain than beef. Cows are also a huge emitter of methane gas. When cows are not being commercially raised for the products they provide, the methane gas released into the atmosphere will be significantly reduced. Fruitarian is also a diet that subsets from vegetarianism that is not as well known or used as vegan or vegetarian. A fruitarian is a person who has a raw fruit based diet. Fruitarians eat mainly fruit, but also include nuts and seeds into the diet.

Because fruits are naturally high in fiber, this diet leads to lower blood cholesterol and blood sugar. This diet is chalk full of vitamins A, C, E, and K which in turn provides essential nutrients to the body. Fruitarian diet practice can be very beneficial to the environment as well as vegans. Substantial farming is supported and killing the plants in order to harvest the fruits is not necessary. A person who follows a fruitarian diets also “ does not contribute to the cruelty that animals experience in the conventional farming system in meat, milk and egg production” (Jackson).

However, all of those beneficial nutrients and environmental factors cannot make up for the extreme loss in other nutrients. “Fruits do not contain vitamins D, B-12, thiamin or niacin. B-12 is only available in meat and is essential for nerve function and red blood cell production” (Jackson). It is nearly impossible to be able to intake all the necessary nutrients to live a healthy life. During the filming of one of his movies, Ashton Kutcher, an actor, took up the fruitarian diet in order to prepare for one of his roles. The diet ended up hospitalizing him because of the nutrient deficiencies. Saner).

Gaynor Brussell who is a spokesman for the British Dietetic Association says, “You would miss out on essential fatty acids. One of the big ones is B12, and you can get anemia if you don’t get enough. And deficiencies in calcium, protein, and iron would lead to tiredness and lethargy. You would be prone to osteoporosis. The immune function would probably be quite low” (Saner). The diet could not be upheld for a long amount of time. The dietary toll it would have on your body can be extremely harmful to your mental and physical health.

In summary, there are a variety of diets that have many beneficial yet harmful factors to someone’s well-being. Vegetarians seem to be the most nutritionally efficient because of the protein and calcium they can get from animal products while still abstaining from meat. Vegans also are benefited when it comes to both health and environmental factors. They tend to have lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Fruitarianism is a very extreme diet that causes many nutrient deficiencies. All of these diets can become dangerous to your health over time if not monitored and practiced correctly.

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