Embracing Veganism: Is It A Health or Sustainability Concern?

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In a world grappling with climate change, health concerns, and animal welfare, the Veganism lifestyle is gaining traction. In some countries changes in dietary patterns are only just emerging, while in others this trend is increasing rapidly.

Plant-based diets constitute a diverse range of dietary patterns that emphasize foods derived from plant sources coupled with lower consumption or exclusion of animal products.

Vegetarian diets form a subset of plant-based diets, which may exclude the consumption of some or all forms of animal foods. Overall, a diet that is predominantly plant-based and low in salt, saturated fats and added sugars is recommended as part of a healthy lifestyle.

Such diets are widely associated with a lower risk of premature mortality and offer protection against noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). This advice complements the overall evidence indicating that limiting consumption of red meat (beef, pork and lamb) and processed meat (such as sausages and cured, smoked and salted meats) could protect against various NCDs.

This article explores the ethical considerations, societal attitudes, and the growing movement towards a more compassionate lifestyle.

The Ethical Dilemma

The consumption of meat and animal products has long been associated with environmental degradation, health risks, and animal suffering.

While a small minority defends the meat industry, a growing number of people are recognizing the need for change. Educators believe that young people are key to changing the conditions in livestock farming.

By teaching children about the relationship between humans and animals, they are shaping future consumers who will choose the kind of society they want to live in.

Images of animals in distress deeply affect many, leading to a call for change. However, the taste of meat often overpowers the emotional response, creating a conflict within individuals.

Despite the shock and empathy, the power of habit often prevails. Many find it difficult to give up meat entirely, opting instead to reduce consumption. The challenge lies in bridging the gap between knowledge and action.

Non- Communicable Diseases Prevention and Plant-Based Diets

NCDs are responsible for 71% of all premature deaths (41 million deaths a year) globally. of these, 80% are due to the four most common NCDs: cardiovascular diseases account for 17.9 million deaths, followed by cancers (9 million), chronic respiratory diseases (3.9 million) and diabetes mellitus (1.6 million).

Of the six WHO regions, the European Region has the greatest burden of NCD-related morbidity and mortality, at almost 90% of all deaths.

Overweight and obesity are a major NCD risk factor and affect over 59% of adults and 29% of children in the European Region. Globally, one in every five deaths in adults is associated with an unhealthy diet.

Low fruit and vegetable consumption is linked to poor health and increased risk of NCDs. Recent studies have shown that high fruit and vegetable intake is associated with lower risks of heart disease and stroke.

WHO recommends consuming at least 400 g (five portions) of fruits and vegetables (excluding potatoes and other starchy tubers) per day.

Cardiovascular disease causes more than half of all deaths. Overall, evidence suggests that vegetarian and vegan diets have a protective effect against coronary heart disease  but increased risk of stroke has been reported in recent analyses.The strongest association found so far between diet and cancer risk is for bowel cancer (also known as colorectal cancer).

Frequent consumption (four or more portions per week) of processed meat and unprocessed red meat has been found to increase the risk of bowel cancer. However, calcium – mainly from dairy products – offers some protection against colorectal cancer. Vegans, vegetarians and pescatarians have been found to have a lower risk for all cancers compared to non-vegetarians.

According to the World Cancer Research Fund, diets that reduce the risk of cancer contain no more than modest amounts of red meat and little or no processed meat. Diabetes is inextricably linked to obesity rates since a high body mass index (BMI) is the most critical risk factor.

Various studies have found that vegetarians and vegans generally have a lower BMI than otherwise comparable non-vegetarians. Research suggests that low meat and non-meat eaters have a lower risk of diabetes, largely because of their lower BMI. However, it should be noted that non-meat eaters generally have healthier lifestyles than meat eaters.

Taken together, the beneficial effects of plant-based diets, including the protection they offer against premature mortality, provide strong evidence for public health guidelines recommending healthful plant-based diets as a means to prevent and control NCDs

Activism and Awareness

Animal rights activists like Cesar Chavez work tirelessly to raise public awareness about the abuses in industrial farming. Traditional animal welfare views about food have been largely restricted to direct and intentional harms to livestock in intensive animal agriculture settings.

However, many harms to animals arising from diverse food production practices in the world are exerted indirectly and unintentionally and often affect wildlife. The goal is not just to shut down individual slaughterhouses but to chip away at societal support for the industry.

The Business Perspective

The food industry is also recognizing the shift. At food trade fairs, vegan alternatives are becoming more prominent. Even traditional meat companies are exploring vegetarian and vegan products. A pragmatic approach recognizes that change will be gradual and may require compromises.

Rather than pushing for perfection, the focus is on millions of people making imperfect changes. This includes accepting imperfections and building a new system with money from the old system.

Veganism is more than a dietary choice; it’s a movement towards a more compassionate and sustainable future. While challenges remain, the growing awareness, technological advancements, and pragmatic approach are paving the way for a world where empathy, health, and environmental stewardship are at the forefront.

The journey towards a vegan future may be long and fraught with complexities, but the seeds of change have been sown. It’s a path that requires understanding, empathy, innovation, and the courage to break old habits.

The future of our planet and its inhabitants may very well depend on it.

Find more health insights here.

An accomplished editor with a fervent passion for journalism. Possessing a career in the field, she is renowned for her meticulous editing, analytical acumen, and powerful storytelling. As an editor, Mariam consistently maintains the integrity and credibility of her work through rigorous fact-checking and in-depth reporting. She contributes insightful articles that highlight societal issues, provoking thoughtful dialogue and inspiring change. Her commitment to fostering growth among emerging writers and her dedication to the journalistic craft as a catalyst for societal change make her a respected figure in contemporary journalism.

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