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Are Plant-Based Diets Healthier? Know From A Doctor’s Perspective

by | January 8, 2019

Are vegan diets healthier? We’ve been hearing so much about veganism lately. Even though veganism is perceived as a diet, it is actually a way of life which refuses all kinds of animal exploitation (food, cloth, amusement, animal testing) and defends that every animal has an equal right to live. “Plant-based” refers to the dietary aspect of veganism, without everything else. Usually, people eat this way for health reasons. But are plant-based diets any healthier? Let’s look at the facts.

are vegan diets healthier?
Credits: pathdoc/ Shutterstock

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Are Plant-Based Diets Healthier?

Even today there are still those who believe intelligence is linked to meat-heavy diets. For those who know that important historical geniuses such as Albert Einstein, Nicola Tesla, Mahatma Gandhi, Thomas Edison, Mark Twain, Leonardo Da Vinci, Vincent Van Gogh, Pythagoras, Leo Tolstoy, and many more were vegans, that comment left a little smile on their faces.

So, are there any differences between people who only consume plants and people who consume animal byproducts in terms of brain function? Or is a plant-based diet healthy? I asked the most asked questions to an internal medicine specialist Dr. Oğuzcan Kınıkoğlu. He is a vegan animal rights activist who lives in Turkey and has been a part of seminars as a speaker about animal tests and veganism. His biggest goal is to end animal testing and promote a healthy plant-based lifestyle.

I’d like to thank him for making time for us, and share his answers to some of today’s most pressing questions.

‘Are Plant-Based Diets Healthier?’ continues below.

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Do you think there are any differences between a person who eats meat and one who doesn’t in terms of brain function?

Of course, plant-based diets affect our metabolism as well as our brain function. We know that vegans secrete serotonin, which we call the happiness hormone, much more than others. Of course, there won’t be a problem like cerebrovascular stenosis because of the low intake of cholesterol and fat. Low numbers of blood pressure and diabetes are protecting effects for brain function. According to newly released research, vegans and vegetarians are good at empathizing with others’ pain. I really liked this information; being fair and developing empathy are meritable character attributes.

Do people need animal protein for living a healthy and long life?

Unfortunately, “necessity of animal protein” is an imposition of the industry. Nobody asks you where you get your vitamins, minerals, fiber. But, we constantly face the question “where do you get your protein from?”. Thus, in research published in 2018, the amount of carbohydrate consumption was analyzed and it was found out that people who consume low carbohydrate and high protein and fat are more likely to die at a younger age. The other common assertion that “you can’t do sports and build muscle without animal protein” is debunked by the growing number of professional bodybuilders who have adopted a plant-based diet; Novak Djokovic who is the world’s number one tennis player that this time, F1 race driver Lewis Hamilton, Patrik Baboumian who is known as the strongest person in the world, are all vegan sportsmen.

Are people carnivorous or herbivorous?

The first thing that comes to people’s minds when they hear this question is our canine teeth. We have canine teeth so we must be carnivorous. First of all, I want to clarify this: gorillas have huge canine teeth, however, they have a plant-based diet. So our little canine teeth don’t make us carnivorous. Second of all, let’s put a 2-year-old child in a room with a rabbit and an apple. Which one do you think she/he will eat? I am sure that she/he won’t eat the rabbit. On the other hand, some scientists say that “75% of the ancient civilizations’ calories consisted of meat” when others say “95% of the calories consisted of gathering and bugs”. We should look at chimpanzees and bonobos, with which we share 99% of the same genes. They get their calories from fruit. We can say that we have herbivorous features when we look at human anatomy. Waggling our lower jaw is an herbivorous feature. The way we drink water, the way we sweat, the opening angle of our jaw, having thousands of enzymes in our saliva to digest starch are just a couple of examples that comes to mind, but the list goes on and on.

We know that plants also contain protein. What kind of differences are there between animal protein and vegetable protein? (or are there any?)

Basically, proteins are composed of amino acids. Proteins that are obtained from both animal products and plants are reduced to amino acids by biodegrading in the stomach. There are 22 amino acids in total, nine of them are essential amino acids. We cannot synthesize them internally in our body. Therefore, we have to supply them from food. Supplied proteins will turn into 22 amino acids whether you get them from animals or plants. “There are no essential amino acids in plants” is a misconception. Actually, like people, animals can’t synthesize these amino acids as well. They supply them from plants. Because plants can process the nitrogen and synthesize amino acids, you can obtain all of the amino acids exceedingly from plants. Essentially, we have to worry about L-carnitine which is found in high levels in animal products. L-carnitine transforms into a substance that we call trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) and causes heart attack and rectum cancer. Because vegans don’t consume animal products, the level of carnitine in their diets are low. Moreover, they don’t have the bacteria that turns this substance toxic.

Is eating animal meat suitable for the human digestive system?

From mouth to bowel, our entire digestive system differs from that of carnivorous species. Our teeth, opening angle of our chin, lack of gastric acid compared to carnivorous species are but a few major differences. The stomach of carnivores (protein digestive area) composes 60-70% of their digestive system; this ratio is 20% for humans. Carnivorous animals have short intestinal tracts. We have herbivorous traits from the length of our colon to our chin shape.

Do we have to drink cow milk in order to have a healthy bone structure like most of us think?

We have been misled for years about cow milk. It is the opposite: drinking milk increases bone brittleness. There are major studies on this topic. The more milk you drink, the more likely you are to have bone fractures. After all, the world’s top milk drinking nation is also top for having bone fractures. The country with the second highest rate of milk consumption also comes second on fractures. The list goes on like this. Researchers say that lactose increases organ oxidation and decreases the lifespan of living cells. While humans have lactose enzymes that allow us to digest breastmilk until the age of four, most people no soon lose this enzyme. This ratio changes from society to society. That is why people suffer from indigestion and bloating after drinking milk. Of course, some in the food industry have come up with a solution to this by removing lactose from the cow milk that is unsuitable for human physiology so that many more people can drink so-called “healthy” milk. Furthermore, milk does not only cause bone fractures but also increases the risk of breast cance.

We have been hearing a lot of things about egg consumption. Do you think the egg is an important food for our diet?  

The egg has been brought to the forefront of these conversations because of its high amount of protein. Our obsession with protein prevents us to see the high cholesterol and fat that it contains. We all know that high cholesterol causes atherosclerosis and increases the risk of heart attack. According to a meta-analysis, egg consumption and diabetes have a positive correlation. Also, eggs are a source of an infectious disease called salmonella.

Is it healthy for vegans to take B12 supplements?

First of all, vitamin B12 that we get from animal products cannot be synthesized by animals. Intestinal bacteria synthesizes vitamin B12. We all synthesize vitamin B12 in our intestines but we eliminate it from the body before we can benefit from it, because the absorption part is above the synthesis part of our bodies. Vitamin B12 can be found in soil. People get vitamin B12 that is obtained from the soil by animals. Coincidentally, animals get B12 shots and people think that they have vitamin B12 naturally. There are studies about B12 deficiency among vegans, for example, in a study, Indians who live in England and India were examined. They found out that the those who live in England have lower levels of B12 than those who live in India. Why is that? Too much hygiene. In today’s society, we can’t be without hand in glove with the soil and we can’t consume our food without washing it too much. It’s better to take B12 supplements for vegans. However, I know some people who haven’t had any problems with B12 levels without taking any supplements.

This brings us to the conclusion of the inevitable question, “Are plant-based diets healthier?” With utmost certainty, yes they are.


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Zuhal Sengul

Freelance Journalist | New York, USA | Contactable via [email protected]

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