There are more and more people who deliberately refuse to eat meat every year. Some sources put the number of vegetarians in the world at 375 million, while others put the number of vegetarians at one billion. Most vegetarians do not eat meat so as not to harm animals, while others believe that such a diet makes them healthier. After all, it is believed that fried meat often causes problems with the work of the heart and also leads to cancer. However, by eating only vegetables and fruits, people are deprived of some useful substances, which can also harm their health. Scientists have long studied how a vegetarian diet affects the human body and in the course of research they have drawn some conclusions. So let’s find out what is more useful – discarding meat or using it?
Comparison between vegetarians and meat eaters
In 2021, scientists from the University of Glasgow (United Kingdom) conducted a study involving 177 thousand people aged 37 to 73 years. The volunteers were divided into two groups: the first was not restricted in food and the second did not eat fish, poultry and red meat. Each participant in the study passed 19 tests, based on which it is possible to identify problems with the functioning of the cardiovascular system, liver and kidneys, to assess the health of bones and joints and to identify the risks of developing cancer.
Health benefits of vegetarianism
The results of the analysis showed that many vegetarians are right – refusing meat improves health. Thus, among the followers of plant foods, the level of “bad” cholesterol was much lower than among omnivores. This means that vegetarians are less likely to suffer from damage to large blood vessels (atherosclerosis) and other dangerous diseases. And in general, the heart, blood vessels, liver, kidneys and other organs of vegetarians were much healthier.
Risks to the health of vegetarianism
However, not everything is so simple – rejecting meat-based foods also has its drawbacks. Tests have shown that many vegetarians are deficient in vitamin D, calcium and “good” cholesterol. At the same time, an increased amount of fat triglycerides was observed in their blood. Based on this, the researchers hypothesized that vegetarians have weaker bones and joints, while meat lovers are fine with that.
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The effect of vegetarianism on the soul
The effect of vegetarianism on physical health has been shown to be ambiguous. And what about the mental health effects of not eating meat?
In 2020, scientists analyzed the results of 18 scientific papers related to the relationship between mental health and nutrition. In total, they were able to study data on 8,584 vegetarians and 149,559 people on a meat-based diet. Research shows that vegetarians are more likely to be in a good mood, but that’s where the good effect of a plant-based diet on emotional well-being ends. It has been shown that in the long run, refusing meat often leads to feelings of constant stress and even depression.
Exactly how plant-based foods lead to a bad emotional state is not yet clear to scientists, so they intend to continue research in this direction. If they learn something interesting, we will definitely say it.
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What is better to eat, vegetables or meat?
As you can see, it’s impossible to say exactly which diet is best for human health. Vegetarians have much less “bad” cholesterol in their body, but they lack some vitamins and minerals. At the same time, meat lovers have almost all the important elements for health, but at the same time they have more “bad” cholesterol.
From this we can only conclude that everything should be in moderation: a person needs both vegetables with fruits and animal meat. A diet that provides a person with all this is called flexibility – it has a lot of plant foods, but at the same time is allowed to eat animal flesh. Interestingly, in 2003, the board of the American Dialectical Society chose the word “flexible” as the most popular and defined it as “a vegetarian who sometimes eats meat.”
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There are many articles on the subject of vegetarianism on our site. For example, my colleague Andrey Zhukov recently spoke about the most dangerous consequences of abandoning meat. Here is the link.