Text 11 Vegetarian Society Analysis Essay

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This article is about the deliberate diet for human beings. For types of vegetarian foods, see vegetarian cuisine. For anatomically and physiologically plant-only diets in non-human animals, see herbivore. For the novel, see The Vegetarian. For the film, see Vegetarian (film).

DescriptionA vegetarian diet is derived from plants, with or without eggs or dairy, but without meat
VarietiesOvo, Lacto, Ovo-lacto, Veganism, Raw veganism, Fruitarianism, Hindu vegetarianism, Buddhist vegetarianism, Jain vegetarianism

Vegetarianism is the practice of abstaining from the consumption of meat (red meat, poultry, seafood, and the flesh of any other animal), and may also include abstention from by-products of animal slaughter.[1][2][3][4]

Vegetarianism may be adopted for various reasons. Many people object to eating meat out of respect for sentient life. Such ethical motivations have been codified under various religious beliefs, as well as animal rights advocacy. Other motivations for vegetarianism are health-related, political, environmental, cultural, aesthetic, economic, or personal preference. There are variations of the diet as well: an ovo-lacto vegetarian diet includes both eggs and dairy products, an ovo-vegetarian diet includes eggs but not dairy products, and a lacto-vegetarian diet includes dairy products but not eggs. A vegan diet excludes all animal products, including eggs and dairy. Some vegans also avoid other animal products such as beeswax, leather or silk clothing, and goose-fat shoe polish.

Packaged and processed foods, such as cakes, cookies, candies, chocolate, yogurt, and marshmallows, often contain unfamiliar animal ingredients, so may be a special concern for vegetarians due to the likelihood of such additions.[3][5] Often, prior to purchase or consumption, vegetarians will scrutinize products for animal-derived ingredients.[5] Vegetarians' feelings vary with regard to these ingredients. For example, while some vegetarians may be unaware of animal-derived rennet's role in the production of cheese, and may therefore unknowingly consume the product,[3][6][7] other vegetarians may not take issue with its consumption.[3][4]

Semi-vegetarian diets consist largely of vegetarian foods but may include fish or poultry, or sometimes other meats, on an infrequent basis. Those with diets containing fish or poultry may define meat only as mammalian flesh and may identify with vegetarianism.[8][9] A pescetarian diet has been described as "fish but no other meat".[10] The common use association between such diets and vegetarianism has led vegetarian groups such as the Vegetarian Society to state that diets containing these ingredients are not vegetarian, because fish and birds are also animals.[11]


The term 'vegetarian' has been in use since 1839 to refer to what was previously described as a "vegetable diet". The word is commonly believed to be a compound of vegetable and the suffix -arian (as in agrarian). (John Davis shows that it was probably not derived from the Latin word vegetus.[12]) The term was popularized with the foundation of the Vegetarian Society in Manchester, UK in 1847.[13][14] The earliest occurrences of the term seem to be related to Alcott House, a school on the north side of Ham Common, London, opened in July 1838 by James Pierrepont Greaves. From 1841, it was known as A Concordium, or Industry Harmony College, from which time the institution began to publish its own pamphlet, "The Healthian", which provides some of the earliest appearances of the term "vegetarian".[15][16]


Main article: History of vegetarianism

The earliest record of vegetarianism comes from Indus Valley Civilization as early as the 7th century BCE,[17] inculcating tolerance towards all living beings.[18][19] Vegetarianism was also practiced in ancient Greece and the earliest reliable evidence for vegetarian theory and practice in Greece dates from the 6th century BC. The Orphics, a religious movement spreading in Greece at that time.[20] It is unclear whether the Greek religious teacher Pythagoras actually advocated vegetarianism,[21] but later writers presented him as doing so.[21] A fictionalized portrayal of Pythagoras appears in Book XV of Ovid's Metamorphoses,[22] in which he advocates a form of strict vegetarianism.[22] It was through this portrayal that Pythagoras was best known to English-speakers throughout the early modern period[22] and, prior to the coinage of the word "vegetarianism", vegetarians were referred to in English as "Pythagoreans".[22]

Vegetarianism was also practiced about six centuries later in another instance (between 30 BCE–50 CE) in northern Thracian region, the Moesi tribe who inhabited present day Serbia and Bulgaria, feeding themselves on honey, milk and cheese.[23]

In the Indian culture, the diet was closely connected with the attitude of nonviolence towards animals (called ahimsa in India) and was promoted by religious groups and philosophers.[24] The ancient Indian work of Tirukkural explicitly and unambiguously emphasizes vegetarianism and non-killing.[25] Chapter 26 of the Tirukkural, through couplets 251 to 260, deals exclusively on vegetarianism or veganism.[25] Among the Hellenes, Egyptians and others, it had medical or ritual purification purposes.

Following the Christianization of the Roman Empire in late antiquity, vegetarianism practically disappeared from Europe, as it did on other continents, except India.[27] Several orders of monks in medieval Europe restricted or banned the consumption of meat for ascetic reasons, but none of them eschewed fish.[28] (The medieval definition of "fish" included such animals as seals, porpoises, dolphins, barnacle geese, puffins, and beavers.)[29] It re-emerged during the Renaissance,[30] becoming more widespread in the 19th and 20th centuries. In 1847, the first Vegetarian Society was founded in the United Kingdom;[31] Germany, the Netherlands, and other countries followed. In 1886, the vegetarian colony Nueva Germania was founded in Paraguay, though its vegetarian aspect would prove short-lived.[32]:345–358 The International Vegetarian Union, an association of the national societies, was founded in 1908. In the Western world, the popularity of vegetarianism grew during the twentieth century as a result of nutritional, ethical, and more recently, environmental and economic concerns.


See also: Semi-vegetarianism § Comparison of vegetarian and semi-vegetarian diets

There are a number of vegetarian diets that exclude or include various foods:

  • Buddhist vegetarianism. Different Buddhist traditions have differing teachings on diet, which may also vary for ordained monks and nuns compared to others. Many interpret the precept 'not to kill' to require abstinence from meat, but not all. In Taiwan, su vegetarianism excludes not only all animal products but also vegetables in the allium family (which have the characteristic aroma of onion and garlic): onion, garlic, scallions, leeks, chives, or shallots.
  • Fruitarianism and Jain vegetarianism permit only fruit, nuts, seeds, and other plant matter that can be gathered without harming the plant.[33] Jain Vegetarianism also includes dairy but excludes eggs and honey, as well as root vegetables.
  • Macrobiotic diets consist mostly of whole grains and beans.
  • Lacto vegetarianism includes dairy products but not eggs.
  • Ovo vegetarianism includes eggs but not dairy products.
  • Ovo-lacto vegetarianism (or lacto-ovo vegetarianism) includes animal/dairy products such as eggs, milk, and honey.
  • Sattvic diet (also known as yogic diet), a plant based diet which may also include dairy (not eggs) and honey, but excludes anything from the onion or leek family, red lentils, durian fruit, mushrooms, blue cheeses, fermented foods or sauces, alcoholic drinks and often also excludes coffee, black or green tea, chocolate, nutmeg or any other type of stimulant such as excess sharp spices.
  • Veganism excludes all animal flesh and by-products, such as milk, honey (not always), and eggs, as well as items refined or manufactured through any such product, such as bone-char refined white sugar or animal-tested baking soda.
    • Raw veganism includes only fresh and uncooked fruit, nuts, seeds, and vegetables. Vegetables can only be cooked up to a certain temperature, for instance using a dehydrator.[34]

Within the "ovo-" groups, there are many who refuse to consume fertilized eggs (with balut being an extreme example); however, such distinction is typically not specifically addressed.

Some vegetarians also avoid products that may use animal ingredients not included in their labels or which use animal products in their manufacturing; for example, sugars that are whitened with bone char, cheeses that use animal rennet (enzymes from animal stomach lining), gelatin (derived from the collagen inside animals' skin, bones and connective tissue), some cane sugar (but not beet sugar) and apple juice/alcohol clarified with gelatin or crushed shellfish and sturgeon, while other vegetarians are unaware of or do not mind such ingredients.[3][4][5][6]

Individuals sometimes label themselves "vegetarian" while practicing a semi-vegetarian diet,[9][35][36] as some dictionary definitions describe vegetarianism as sometimes including the consumption of fish, or only include mammalian flesh as part of their definition of meat,[8][37] while other definitions exclude fish and all animal flesh.[11] In other cases, individuals may describe themselves as "flexitarian".[35][38] These diets may be followed by those who reduce animal flesh consumed as a way of transitioning to a complete vegetarian diet or for health, ethical, environmental, or other reasons. Semi-vegetarian diets include:

  • Macrobiotic diet consisting mostly of whole grains and beans, but may sometimes include fish.
  • Pescetarianism, which includes fish and possibly other forms of seafood;
  • "Pollo-pescetarian", which includes poultry and fish, or "white meat" only;
  • Pollotarianism, which includes chicken and possibly other poultry;

Semi-vegetarianism is contested by vegetarian groups, such as the Vegetarian Society, which states that vegetarianism excludes all animal flesh.[11]

Health effects[edit]

On average, vegetarians consume a lower proportion of calories from fat (particularly saturated fatty acids), fewer overall calories, more fiber, potassium, and vitamin C, than do non-vegetarians. Vegetarians generally have a lower body mass index. These characteristics and other lifestyle factors associated with a vegetarian diet may contribute to the positive health outcomes that have been identified among vegetarians.

Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 – A report issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services[39]

Studies on the health effects of vegetarian diets observe heterogeneous effects on mortality. One review found a decreased overall risk of all cause mortality, cancer (except breast) and cardiovascular disease;[40] however, a meta-analysis found lower risk for ischemic heart disease and cancer but no effect on overall mortality or cerebrovascular disease.[41] Possible limitations include varying definitions used of vegetarianism, and the observation of increased risk of lung cancer mortality in those on a vegetarian diet for less than five years.[41] An analysis pooling two large studies found vegetarians in the UK have similar all cause mortality as meat eaters.[42] An older meta analysis found similar results, only finding decreased mortality in vegetarians, pescatarians, and irregular meat eaters in ischemic heart disease, but not from any other cause.[43]

Vegetarian diets have been shown to prevent and treat gallstones, cardiovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis, dementia, diverticular disease, renal disease, hypertension, osteoporosis, cancer, and diabetes.[44]

A vegetarian diet which is poorly planned can lead to hyperhomocysteinemia and platelet disorders; this risk may be offset by ensuring sufficient consumption of vitamin B 12 and polyunsaturated fatty acids.[40]

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and Dietitians of Canada have stated that at all stages of life, a properly planned vegetarian diet is "healthful, nutritionally adequate, and provides health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases".[45] Large-scale studies have shown that mortality from ischemic heart disease was 30% lower among vegetarian men and 20% lower among vegetarian women than in non-vegetarians.[46][47] Vegetarian diets offer lower levels of saturated fat, cholesterol and animal protein, and higher levels of carbohydrates, fibre, magnesium, potassium, folate, and antioxidants such as vitamins C and E and phytochemicals.[48][49]

"Vegetarian diets can meet guidelines for the treatment of diabetes and some research suggests that diets that are more plant-based reduce risk of type-2 diabetes. Rates of self-reported Seventh-day Adventists (SDA) were less than half of those of the general population, and, among SDA, vegetarians had lower rates of diabetes than non-vegetarians. Among possible explanations for a protective effect of vegetarian diet are the Lower BMI of vegetarians and higher fiber intake, both of which improve insulin sensitivity."[50]

The relationship between vegetarian diet and bone health remains unclear. According to some studies, a vegetarian lifestyle can be associated with vitamin B 12 deficiency and low bone mineral density.[51] However, a study of vegetarian and non-vegetarian adults in Taiwan found no significant difference in bone mineral density between the two groups.[52] Other studies, exploring animal protein's negative effects on bone health, suggest that vegetarians may be less prone to osteoporosis than omnivores, as vegetarian subjects had greater bone mineral density[53] and more bone formation.[54]

The China-Cornell-Oxford Project,[55] a 20-year study conducted by Cornell University, the University of Oxford, and the government of China has established a correlation between the consumption of animal products and a variety of chronic illnesses, such as coronary heart disease, diabetes, and cancers of the breast, prostate and bowel (see The China Study).[56]

A British study of almost 10,000 men found that those who gave up meat were almost twice as likely to suffer from depression as people on a conventional balanced diet. The study found that the 350 committed vegetarians studied had a higher average depression score compared to others.[57]


Main articles: Vegetarian nutrition and vegan nutrition

Western vegetarian diets are typically high in carotenoids, but relatively low in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B12.[58] Vegans can have particularly low intake of vitamin B and calcium if they do not eat enough items such as collard greens, leafy greens, tempeh and tofu (soy).[59] High levels of dietary fiber, folic acid, vitamins C and E, and magnesium, and low consumption of saturated fat are all considered to be beneficial aspects of a vegetarian diet.[60] A well planned vegetarian diet will provide all nutrients in a meat-eater's diet to the same level for all stages of life.[61]


Protein intake in vegetarian diets is lower than in meat diets but can meet the daily requirements for most people.[62] Studies at Harvard University as well as other studies conducted in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and various European countries, confirmed vegetarian diets provide sufficient protein intake as long as a variety of plant sources are available and consumed.[63] Pumpkin seeds, peanut butter, hemp seed, almonds, pistachio nuts, flaxseed, tofu, oats, soybeans, walnuts, are great sources of protein for vegetarians. Proteins are composed of amino acids, and a common concern with protein acquired from vegetable sources is an adequate intake of the essential amino acids, which cannot be synthesised by the human body. While dairy and egg products provide complete sources for ovo-lacto vegetarian, several vegetable sources have significant amounts of all eight types of essential amino acids, including lupin beans, soy,[64]hempseed, chia seed,[65]amaranth,[66]buckwheat,[67]pumpkin seeds[68]spirulina,[69]pistachios,[70] and quinoa.[71] However, the essential amino acids can also be obtained by eating a variety of complementary plant sources that, in combination, provide all eight essential amino acids (e.g. brown rice and beans, or hummus and pita, though protein combining in the same meal is not necessary[citation needed]). A 1994 study found a varied intake of such sources can be adequate.[72]


Vegetarian diets typically contain similar levels of iron to non-vegetarian diets, but this has lower bioavailability than iron from meat sources, and its absorption can sometimes be inhibited by other dietary constituents.[73] According to the Vegetarian Resource Group, consuming food that contains vitamin C, such as citrus fruit or juices, tomatoes, or broccoli, is a good way to increase the amount of iron absorbed at a meal.[74] Vegetarian foods rich in iron include black beans, cashews, hempseed, kidney beans, broccoli, lentils, oatmeal, raisins, spinach, cabbage, lettuce, black-eyed peas, soybeans, many breakfast cereals, sunflower seeds, chickpeas, tomato juice, tempeh, molasses, thyme, and whole-wheat bread.[75] The related vegan diets can often be higher in iron than vegetarian diets, because dairy products are low in iron.[60] Iron stores often tend to be lower in vegetarians than non-vegetarians, and a few small studies report very high rates of iron deficiency (up to 40%,[76] and 58%[77] of the respective vegetarian or vegan groups). However, the American Dietetic Association states that iron deficiency is no more common in vegetarians than non-vegetarians (adult males are rarely iron deficient); iron deficiency anaemia is rare no matter the diet.[78]

Vitamin B12[edit]

According to the United States National Institutes of Health, vitamin B12 is not generally present in plants and is naturally found in foods of animal origin.[79]Lacto-ovo vegetarians can obtain B12 from dairy products and eggs, and vegans can obtain it from fortified foods (including some soy products and some breakfast cereals) and dietary supplements.[80][81][82][83][84] Vitamin B12 can also be obtained from fortified yeast extract products.[85]

The recommended dietary allowance of B12 in the United States is, per day, 0.4 mcg (0–6 months), rising to 1.8 mcg (9–13 years), 2.4 mcg (14+ years), and 2.8 mcg (lactating female).[79] While the body's daily requirement for vitamin B12 is very small, deficiency of the vitamin is very serious leading to anemia and irreversible nerve damage.[86]

Fatty acids[edit]

Plant-based, or vegetarian, sources of Omega 3 fatty acids include soy, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, canola oil, kiwifruit, hempseed, algae, chia seed, flaxseed, echium seed and leafy vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, cabbage and purslane. Purslane contains more Omega 3 than any other known leafy green. Olives (and olive oil) are another important plant source of unsaturated fatty acids. Plant foods can provide alpha-linolenic acid which the human body uses to synthesize the long-chain n-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. EPA and DHA can be obtained directly in high amounts from oily fish or fish oils. Vegetarians, and particularly vegans, have lower levels of EPA and DHA than meat-eaters. While the health effects of low levels of EPA and DHA are unknown, it is unlikely that supplementation with alpha-linolenic acid will significantly increase levels.[87][clarification needed] Recently, some companies have begun to market vegetarian DHA supplements containing seaweed extracts. Similar supplements providing both DHA and EPA have also begun to appear.[88] Whole seaweeds are not suitable for supplementation because their high iodine content limits the amount that may be safely consumed. However, certain algae such as spirulina are good sources of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), linoleic acid (LA), stearidonic acid (SDA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and arachidonic acid (AA).[89][90]


Calcium intake in vegetarians and vegans can be similar to non-vegetarians, as long as the diet is properly planned.[91] Lacto-ovo vegetarians that include dairy products can still obtain calcium from dairy sources like milk, yogurt, and cheese.[92]

Non-dairy milks that are fortified with calcium, such as soymilk and almond milk can also contribute a significant amount of calcium in the diet.[93] The calcium found in broccoli, bok choy, and kale have also been found to have calcium that is well absorbed in the body.[91][92][94] Though the calcium content per serving is lower in these vegetables than a glass of milk, the absorption of the calcium into the body is higher.[92][94] Other foods that contain calcium include calcium-set tofu, blackstrap molasses, turnip greens, mustard greens, soybeans, tempeh, almonds, okra, dried figs, and tahini.[91][93] Though calcium can be found in Spinach, swiss chard, beans and beet greens, they are generally not considered to be a good source since the calcium binds to oxalic acid and is poorly absorbed into the body.[92] Phytic acid found in nuts, seeds, and beans may also impact calcium absorption rates.[92] See the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements for calcium needs for various ages,[92] the Vegetarian Resource Group[93] and the Vegetarian Nutrition Calcium Fact Sheet from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics[91] for more specifics on how to obtain adequate calcium intake on a vegetarian or vegan diet.

Vitamin D[edit]

Main article: Vitamin D

Vitamin D needs can be met via the human body's own generation upon sufficient and sensible exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light in sunlight.[95][96] Products including milk, soy milk and cereal grains may be fortified to provide a source of Vitamin D.[97] For those who do not get adequate sun exposure or food sources, Vitamin D supplementation may be necessary.

Vitamin D2[edit]

  • Plants
    • Alfalfa (Medicago sativa subsp. sativa), shoot: 4.8 μg (192 IU) vitamin D2, 0.1 μg (4 IU) vitamin D3[98]
  • Fungus, from USDA nutrient database:[99]
    • Mushrooms, portabella, exposed to ultraviolet light, raw: Vitamin D2: 11.2 μg (446 IU)
    • Mushrooms, portabella, exposed to ultraviolet light, grilled: Vitamin D2: 13.1 μg (524 IU)
    • Mushrooms, shiitake, dried: Vitamin D2: 3.9 μg (154 IU)
    • Mushrooms, shiitake, raw: Vitamin D2: 0.4 μg (18 IU)
    • Mushrooms, portabella, raw: Vitamin D2: 0.3 μg (10 IU)
    • Mushroom powder, any species, illuminated with sunlight or artificial ultraviolet light sources

Vitamin D2, or ergocalciferol is found in fungus (except alfalfa which is a plantae) and created from viosterol, which in turn is created when ultraviolet light activates ergosterol (which is found in fungi and named as a sterol from ergot). Any UV-irradiated fungus including yeast form vitamin D2.[100] Human bioavailability of vitamin D2 from vitamin D2-enhanced button mushrooms via UV-B irradiation is effective in improving vitamin D status and not different from a vitamin D2 supplement according to study.[101] For example, Vitamin D2 from UV-irradiated yeast baked into bread is bioavailable.[102] By visual assessment or using a chromometer, no significant discoloration of irradiated mushrooms, as measured by the degree of "whiteness", was observed[103] making it hard to discover if they have been treated without labeling. Claims have been made that a normal serving (approx. 3 oz or 1/2 cup, or 60 grams) of mushrooms treated with ultraviolet light increase their vitamin D content to levels up to 80 micrograms,[104] or 2700 IU if exposed to just 5 minutes of UV light after being harvested.[105]


There have been many comparative and statistical studies of the relationship between diet and longevity, including vegetarianism and longevity.

A 1999 metastudy combined data from five studies from western countries.[106] The metastudy reported mortality ratios, where lower numbers indicated fewer deaths, for fish eaters to be 0.82, vegetarians to be 0.84, occasional meat eaters (eat meat less than once per week) to be 0.84. Regular meat eaters had the base mortality rate of 1.0, while the number for vegans was very uncertain (anywhere between 0.7 and 1.44) due to too few data points. The study reported the numbers of deaths in each category, and expected error ranges for each ratio, and adjustments made to the data. However, the "lower mortality was due largely to the relatively low prevalence of smoking in these [vegetarian] cohorts". Out of the major causes of death studied, only one difference in mortality rate was attributed to the difference in diet, as the conclusion states: "...vegetarians had a 24% lower mortality from ischaemic heart disease than non-vegetarians, but no associations of a vegetarian diet with other major causes of death were established".[106]

In Mortality in British vegetarians,[107] a similar conclusion is drawn:

British vegetarians have low mortality compared with the general population. Their death rates are similar to those of comparable non-vegetarians, suggesting that much of this benefit may be attributed to non-dietary lifestyle factors such as a low prevalence of smoking and a generally high socio-economic status, or to aspects of the diet other than the avoidance of meat and fish."[108]

The Adventist Health Studies is ongoing research that documents the life expectancy in Seventh-day Adventists. This is the only study among others with similar methodology which had favourable indication for vegetarianism. The researchers found that a combination of different lifestyle choices could influence life expectancy by as much as 10 years. Among the lifestyle choices investigated, a vegetarian diet was estimated to confer an extra 1–1/2 to 2 years of life. The researchers concluded that "the life expectancies of California Adventist men and women are higher than those of any other well-described natural population" at 78.5 years for men and 82.3 years for women. The life expectancy of California Adventists surviving to age 30 was 83.3 years for men and 85.7 years for women.[109]

The Adventist health study is again incorporated into a metastudy titled "Does low meat consumption increase life expectancy in humans?" published in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which concluded that low meat eating (less than once per week) and other lifestyle choices significantly increase life expectancy, relative to a group with high meat intake. The study concluded that "The findings from one cohort of healthy adults raises the possibility that long-term (≥ 2 decades) adherence to a vegetarian diet can further produce a significant 3.6-y increase in life expectancy." However, the study also concluded that "Some of the variation in the survival advantage in vegetarians may have been due to marked differences between studies in adjustment for confounders, the definition of vegetarian, measurement error, age distribution, the healthy volunteer effect, and intake of specific plant foods by the vegetarians." It further states that "This raises the possibility that a low-meat, high plant-food dietary pattern may be the true causal protective factor rather than simply elimination of meat from the diet." In a recent review of studies relating low-meat diet patterns to all-cause mortality, Singh noted that "5 out of 5 studies indicated that adults who followed a low meat, high plant-food diet pattern experienced significant or marginally significant decreases in mortality risk relative to other patterns of intake."[110]

Statistical studies, such as comparing life expectancy with regional areas and local diets in Europe also have found life expectancy considerably greater in southern France, where a low meat, high plant Mediterranean diet is common, than northern France, where a diet with high meat content is more common.[111]

A study by the Institute of Preventive and Clinical Medicine, and Institute of Physiological Chemistry looked at a group of 19 vegetarians (lacto-ovo) and used as a comparison a group of 19 omnivorous subjects recruited from the same region. The study found that this group of vegetarians (lacto-ovo) have a significantly higher amount of plasma carboxymethyllysine and advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs) compared to this group of non-vegetarians.[112] Carboxymethyllysine is a glycation product which represents "a general marker of oxidative stress and long-term damage of proteins in aging, atherosclerosis and diabetes" and "[a]dvanced glycation end products (AGEs) may play an important adverse role in process of atherosclerosis, diabetes, aging and chronic renal failure".[112]

Heart health[edit]

According to studies by the Permanente Journal and the National Institute for Health (NIH), vegetarian diets are affordable and can help reduce health risks like high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and cholesterol levels. A plant based diet has the potential to lower the risk of heart disease as well as reducing the amount of medications prescribed in instances of chronic illness. A change to a plant based diet, or vegetarianism, has had dramatic positive effects on the health of patients with chronic illnesses, significantly more than exercise alone [113]


Vegetarian diets have been studied to see whether they are of benefit in treating arthritis, but no good supporting evidence has been found.[114]

Alternative medicine[edit]

Certain alternative medicines, such as Ayurveda and Siddha, prescribe a vegetarian diet as a normal procedure. Maya Tiwari notes that Ayurveda recommends small portions of meat for some people, though "the rules of hunting and killing the animal, practiced by the native peoples, were very specific and detailed". Now that such methods of hunting and killing are not observed, she does not recommend the use of "any animal meat as food, not even for the Vata types".[115]


The human digestive system is omnivorous, capable of consuming a wide variety of plant and animal material.[116][117] Some nutritional experts believe that early hominids evolved into eating meat as a result of huge climatic changes that took place three to four million years ago, when forests and jungles dried up and became open grasslands and opened hunting and scavenging opportunities.[118][119][further explanation needed]

Mental disorders[edit]

The American Dietetic Association has presented evidence that vegetarian diets may be more common among adolescents with eating disorders. At the same time the association cautions however, that the adoption of a vegetarian diet may not necessarily lead to eating disorders, rather that "vegetarian diets may be selected to camouflage an existing eating disorder".[120] Other studies and statements by dietitians and counselors support this conclusion.[nb 1][122]

Vegetarianism is associated with increased risk of depression, anxiety, and somatoform disorder, although causality cannot be established.[123][124][125]

Ethics and diet[edit]


Main article: Ethics of eating meat

Various ethical reasons have been suggested for choosing vegetarianism, usually predicated on the interests of non-human animals. In many societies, controversy and debate have arisen over the ethics of eating animals. Some people, while not vegetarians, refuse to eat the flesh of certain animals due to cultural taboo, such as cats, dogs, horses or rabbits. Others support meat eating for scientific, nutritional and cultural reasons, including religious ones. Some meat eaters abstain from the meat of animals reared in particular ways, such as factory farms, or avoid certain meats, such as veal or foie gras. Some people follow vegetarian or vegan diets not because of moral concerns involving the raising or consumption of animals in general, but because of concerns about the specific treatment and practises involved in the raising and slaughter of animals, i.e. factory farming and the industrialisation of animal slaughter. Others still avoid meat because meat production is claimed to place a greater burden on the environment than production of an equivalent amount of plant protein.

Ethical objections based on consideration for animals are generally divided into opposition to the act of killing in general, and opposition to certain agricultural practices surrounding the production of meat.

Ethics of killing for food[edit]

Main article: Bioethics

Princeton University professor and animal rights activist Peter Singer believes that if alternative means of survival exist, one ought to choose the option that does not cause unnecessary harm to animals. Most ethical vegetarians argue that the same reasons exist against killing animals in the flesh to eat as against killing humans to eat. Singer, in his book Animal Liberation, listed possible qualities of sentience in non-human creatures that gave such creatures the scope to be considered under utilitarian ethics, and this has been widely referenced by animal rights campaigners and vegetarians. Ethical vegetarians also believe that killing an animal, like killing a human, can only be justified in extreme circumstances and that consuming a living creature for its enjoyable taste, convenience, or nutrition value is not a sufficient cause. Another common view is that humans are morally conscious of their behaviour in a way other animals are not, and therefore subject to higher standards.[126]

Opponents of ethical vegetarianism argue that animals are not moral equals to humans and so consider the comparison of eating livestock with killing people to be fallacious. This view does not excuse cruelty, but maintains that animals do not possess the rights a human has.[127]

Dairy and eggs[edit]

One of the main differences between a vegan and a typical vegetarian diet is the avoidance of both eggs and dairy products such as milk, cheese, butter and yogurt. Ethical vegans do not consume dairy or eggs because they state that their production causes the animal suffering or a premature death.[128]

To produce milk from dairy cattle, calves are separated from their mothers soon after birth and slaughtered or fed milk replacer in order to retain the cows milk for human consumption.[129] Vegans state that this breaks the natural mother and calf bond.[129] Unwanted male calves are either slaughtered at birth or sent for veal production.[129] To prolong lactation, dairy cows are almost permanently kept pregnant through artificial insemination.[129] After about five years, once the cows milk production has dropped, they are considered "spent" and sent to slaughter for beef and their hides. A dairy cow's natural life expectancy is about twenty years.[128]

In battery cage and free-range egg production, unwanted male chicks are culled or discarded at birth during the process of securing a further generation of egg-laying hens.[130]

Treatment of animals[edit]

Main article: Animal rights

Ethical vegetarianism has become popular in developed countries particularly because of the spread of factory farming, faster communications, and environmental consciousness. Some believe that the current mass demand for meat cannot be satisfied without a mass-production system that disregards the welfare of animals, while others believe that practices like well-managed free-ranging and consumption of game, particularly from species whose natural predators have been significantly eliminated, could substantially alleviate the demand for mass-produced meat.[citation needed]

Classical Greek and Roman philosophy[edit]

Ancient Greek philosophy has a long tradition of vegetarianism. Pythagoras was reportedly vegetarian (and studied at Mt. Carmel, where some historians say there was a vegetarian community), as his followers were expected to be.

Roman writer Ovid concluded his magnum opus Metamorphoses, in part, with the impassioned argument (uttered by the character of Pythagoras) that in order for humanity to change, or metamorphose, into a better, more harmonious species, it must strive towards more humane tendencies. He cited vegetarianism as the crucial decision in this metamorphosis, explaining his belief that human life and animal life are so entwined that to kill an animal is virtually the same as killing a fellow human.

Everything changes; nothing dies; the soul roams to and fro, now here, now there, and takes what frame it will, passing from beast to man, from our own form to beast and never dies...Therefore lest appetite and greed destroy the bonds of love and duty, heed my message! Abstain! Never by slaughter dispossess souls that are kin and nourish blood with blood![131]

Religion and diet[edit]

Main article: Vegetarianism and religion

Jainism teaches vegetarianism as moral conduct as do some major[132] sects of Hinduism. Buddhism in general does not prohibit meat eating, while Mahayana Buddhism encourages vegetarianism as beneficial for developing compassion.[133] Other denominations that advocate a vegetarian diet include the Seventh-day Adventists, the Rastafari movement, the Ananda Marga

Vegetarian Lunch at Mysore, India
Labeling is mandatory in India[26] to distinguish vegetarian products (green) from non-vegetarian products (red).
Roadside café near Kullu, India
Pythagoras advocating vegetarianism, painting by Rubens
Indian cuisine offers a wide range of vegetarian delicacies because the two main sects of Hinduism, practised by the majority of India's population, encourage a vegetarian diet. Shown here is a vegetarian thali.
Taiwanese Buddhist cuisine
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