Is Veganuary Bad For You?

Whilst a lot of people decide to go vegan for January, it seems that the majority of participants aren’t actually prepared for what it means to get a balanced diet as a vegan. A recent study conducted by the University of Nottingham in the UK found that people participating in Veganuary may have seen a reduction in cholesterol, but were quite unaware of the micronutrients that they’d need to supplement for. [1]

This doesn’t necessarily mean that Veganuary is bad for you, but it does mean that if you don’t take care to actually supplement for the relevant deficiencies it could be. The researchers wanted to highlight the need to understand micronutrients properly before committing to a meat free diet for any period of time.

What does it mean to do Veganuary?

Vegan diets are characterized by the absence of animal products and are predominantly plant based. This was of particular interest for the UK based research team as more than 2m people in the UK are vegan as of 2022.

Then there is the recent trend of short term vegan diets. These have gained popularity due to their flexible nature and the growing interest in campaigns promoting temporary removal of animal products from the diet.

The two most well known globally being "Meat-free Mondays" or "Veganuary." In 2021, over 500,000 people worldwide signed up for the "Veganuary" campaign, pledging to follow a vegan diet for one month.

With the exception of the various religious holidays such as Lent.

Most notably vitamin B12, Iodine and Omega Fatty Acids.

How Risky Are Veganuary Deficiencies

Iodine is mostly found in dairy products, eggs, fish, and seafood, poses a challenge for vegans who exclude these foods from their diet. Although iodine deficiency is unlikely in the general UK population, women of child-bearing age, who are more likely to adopt vegan diets, should pay particular attention to their iodine intake. Adequate iodine levels are critical for the developing brain of unborn children.

Whereas in the case of Vitamin B12 deficiency can have severe consequences, including neurological symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and even psychosis. It’s actually added to a lot of vegan foods and is even in energy drinks.

Omega 3 is of course essential for brain, joint and gut health, and vegan sources (with the exception of algae) are woefully inadequate as the body has to convert it into the usable forms wasting 85% of it in the process.

The Role of Supplements in a Vegan Diet

Supplements play a crucial role in meeting the nutritional needs of vegans. Vitamin B12 supplements are particularly important, as obtaining adequate levels solely from plant-based sources is challenging. Additionally, omega-3 fatty acid supplements, derived from algae, can help vegans meet their requirements without relying on fish or seafood.

It is worth noting that supplements should not be seen as a substitute for a well-balanced diet. They act as a safety net, ensuring that any potential gaps in nutrient intake are adequately addressed.

Is Veganuary Bad For You?

Short term vegan diets such as Veganuary, can have a negative impact on nutrient intake particularly when it comes to b12, iodine, calcium and omega fats. Vegetarians have an easier time of this, and generally we’d recommend going veggie for January if you’re unsure about how to manage these potential deficiencies.

References

1 - https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/15/23/4967


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