Vegetarian Diet: Is It Good For You?

October 13, 2019




You have been overloaded with information from everywhere on the benefits of plant based or vegetarian diet.


Is it true? Let's look at some of the latest research.


Consumption of plant based diet is associated with a decrease in blood pressure up to -6.9 systolic, and -4.7 diastolic, similar to some prescription medications.  (1).


Vegetarian diets effectively lower blood concentrations of total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, and non–high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, with a rise in triglycerides.  (2).


So be careful if you encounter health problems associated with low HDL and high triglycerides.


It was also associated with improved blood sugar control in Type 2 diabetics, a significant reduction in HbA1c (-0.39 percentage points), and a non-significant reduction in fasting blood glucose. (3).


What about weight loss?


 Individuals who have followed vegetarian diet lost significantly more weight than those assigned to the non-vegetarian diet groups (weighted mean difference −2.02 kg).  Subgroup analysis detected significant weight reduction in subjects consuming a vegan diet (−2.52 kg) and, to a lesser extent, in those given lacto-ovo-vegetarian diets (−1.48 kg).  Studies on subjects consuming vegetarian diets with energy restriction (ER) revealed a significantly greater weight reduction (−2.21 kg) than those without ER (−1.66 kg). 

Unfortunately, the effect on weight loss started to diminish after 1 year, with subjects regaining 1/2 of the weight they had lost, and longer follow up was not provided.  (4).


What about cancer?


  Multiple studies showed no benefits for breast, colorectal or prostate cancers.  (5).


How does a vegetarian diet affect your chances of living longer?


  In men, following any type of vegetarian diet was associated with a lower risk of dying from ischemic heart disease.

  However, in women this type of diet was not linked with significant lowered risk of these outcomes.

 Men who were vegetarians had an insignificantly lower risk of dying from stroke, but among women, this type of diet appeared to increase the odds of dying from stroke.  (6).

Is it safe to stay on vegetarian diet?


Vegans are deficient in some nutrients:

  • essential amino acids are needed as a structural material to maintain our cells, which the human body is not able to synthesize and typically receives from animal/fish protein

  • creatine helps to form an energy reservoir in cells and its’ deficiency causes harmful effects on muscle and brain function

  • carnosine protects against various degenerative processes in the body and may protect against aging

  • Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) is the most active form of Omega-3 fatty acids and is necessary for brain function, memory and mood disorders

  • cholesterol is a crucial molecule in the body, is part of every cell membrane, and is also used to make steroid hormones like testosterone

  • vitamin B12, that is necessary for almost any function of our body

  • taurine, that function as a neurotransmitter, essential to the development of the central nervous system, and upholds the structure of cell membranes

  • methionine, that is still an essential amino acid, and involved in detoxification and fertility

  • choline, essential for brain function

  • iodine, essential in thyroid hormone synthesis.

And by the way an interesting factoid:  An Italian law-maker thinks putting a child on a vegan or vegetarian diet is a form of child abuse and should be punishable by jail time.  The proposed law provides for a one-year jail sentence for parents or guardians who place children under 16 on a diet “lacking in essential elements for growth,” la Repubblica reported.on August 7, 2016.


At the end of the day, the optimal diet for any individual depends on age, gender, activity levels, current metabolic health, food culture and personal preference.


Vegan diets may be appropriate for some people, but not others. If you want to eat a vegan or vegetarian diet, please be prudent about your food choices. Take necessary supplements and schedule regular follow-ups with your doctor to monitor your nutritional status.


Everything in moderation is the way to go!


For a more balanced approach to your diet and health, please schedule an appointment with Dr. Koganski at 215-750-7000, or online



1.Yokoyama Y, et al. Vegetarian diets and blood pressure: A meta-analysis. JAMA Internal Medicine, 02/27/2014

2. Wang F, et al. Effects of Vegetarian Diets on Blood Lipids: A Systematic Review and Meta‐Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Journal of the American Heart Association, 10/30/2015

3. Yokoyama Y, et al. Vegetarian diets and glycemic control in diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Cardiovascular Diagnosis and Therapy, 02/15/2015

4. Huang RY, et al. Vegetarian diets and weight reduction: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 07/08/2015

5. Godos J, et al. Vegetarianism and breast, colorectal and prostate cancer risk: An overview and meta-analysis of cohort studies. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, 10/07/2016

6. Orlich MJ, et al. Vegetarian dietary patterns and mortality in Adventist Health Study 2. JAMA Intern Med: OI:10.1001 / jamainternmed.2013.6473

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