There have been many people – YouTubers, bloggers and, most recently, Miley Cyrus – who have quit veganism and shared their stories regarding their experiences. The sharing of these experiences and their reasons for not being able to maintain this diet raises the question: if so many people are unable to continue eating this way, are plant-based diets sustainable?
Miley Cyrus recently shared her experience with veganism on a Joe Rogan podcast, saying that she decided to abandon the diet because her brain was no longer functioning properly. She then proceeded to state that she has since incorporated fish into her diet as a result. Fatty fish – such as salmon and sardines – are high in the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, which are essential for brain and heart health. If Miley was not getting these nutrients in her vegan diet or taking supplements, her reasoning for incorporating fish is understandable. However, many vegans stick to veganism for years without incorporating animal products and they live healthy lives. So, what does this say about the vegan diet?
While a healthy vegan diet has many health benefits such as lower cholesterol and blood pressure, aiding in type-2 diabetes management and a reduction in the risk of heart disease, there is an increase in the risk of developing certain nutrient deficiencies. Most vegan diets lack vitamin B12, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids and zinc, and unless vegans eat foods that are fortified with these micronutrients or supplement their diet with these nutrients they run the risk of being deficient in them. It is thus important to do research on specific foods that provide these nutrients and educate yourself before transitioning to a vegan diet.
People who let go of veganism usually do so because of the detrimental health effects such as anaemia (due to a deficiency in haem-iron), gut-related issues and, like Miley, problems that affect cognitive functioning. Many vegans have reported digestive issues such as leaky gut syndrome, an overgrowth of gut bacteria due to the excessive amount of fibre that is contained in this diet, and cognitive impairment – such as brain fog and memory loss. It is thus recommended that before going on a vegan diet people should consult their general health practitioner regarding any concerns that they have, to see what would work for their bodies.
With that said, a plant-based diet is generally healthier than the standard diet that most people eat. It contains more fibre and vitamins, and many people have reported a visible clearance in acne from not consuming dairy products. However, it is highly recommended that vegans should supplement to combat possible micronutrient deficiencies.
All bodies work in different ways. A vegan diet might not be effective for some, and it might be for others. Therefore, people must be conscious of their health (physical and mental) and listen to their bodies while on a plant-based diet, and any diet for that matter. And, if it is not sustainable for them, incorporate certain foods and supplements that provide the necessary nutrition they need. As an alternative to going all in and fully embarking on a strictly vegan lifestyle, people may consider decreasing their consumption of animal products while incorporating more plant-based foods, which would still be a healthier and more sustainable alternative that is also better for the environment.