Magazine 2015
International Peer-Reviewed Journal  
Shama Chavan  
Vegetarianism - A vegetarian diet is the one that does not include meat, sea food or their products. It  
prevailed in the olden days for religious reasons or for health reasons. Our country followed the practice of  
vegetarianism as Ahimsa or Non –violence was practiced by many.It was followed as a ritual or a purification  
process in the past. Past and present studies clearly indicate the benefits of vegetarian diets in our lives.  
The intake of vegetarian diet reduces mean body weight, suggesting potential value for prevention and  
management of weight related conditions ( al,2015). It is a known fact that a vegetarian diet  
follower has lower LDL, low Blood pressure, lower incidence of type 2 Diabetes, therefore, lower death risk  
from these diseases .Data from many observational studies indicate that there is a major benefit from a  
vegetarian diet on Cardio vascular diseases or other life style diseases ( al,2010).Vegetarianism  
has become a way oflife in today’s world. Overall impact of vegetarianism on our body is very impressive  
which not only keeps our diseases at bay but also increases our life expectancy. Well planned vegetarian  
diets are nutritionally adequate and may provide benefits in prevention of certain diseases. It is important to  
educate vegetarians about sources of specific nutrients, food purchase and preparation, along with dietary  
modifications to meet their everyday needs ( al, 2009).  
Key Words : Vegetarianism, life style diseases, Vegan  
The word ‘Vegetarianism’ is derived from the Latin word ‘vegetus’ meaning lively or vigorous. The word  
Vegetarian came into practice afterthe formation of vegetarian society at Rams gate in 1847. The pre  
valence of vegetarianism is not influenced by age, gender or education, but by their individual values  
( al, 2010). Vegetarianism is a way of life for many. It symbolizes the specific choice of a person  
to eat food.The idea of vegetarian diet started in ancient India and also at the same time in ancient  
Greece in 5 century BC. In our country it was closely associated with ‘Non-violence’ (Ahimsa).Among  
others in the world this was popular for medical and ritual purification purposes. Emperor Asoka banned  
the killing of many birds and animals in his state. In Europe due to Christianization of Roman Empire,  
vegetarianism disappeared .Many banned or restricted meat consumption for aesthetic reasons. A  
vegetarian society was founded in Manchester U.K in 1847. For centuries together some have been  
eating vegetarian foods for ethnic reasons others eat as they cannot afford to consume meat  
(Mann,2009).An analysis shows that vegans have appreciably lower mortality from Ischemic heart disease  
of around 24 % than their non-vegetarian counter parts..  
Types of Vegetarianism :  
Ovo vegetarianism- They include eggs but not dairy products and all vegetables along with fruits.  
Lacto vegetarianism- They include dairy products but not eggs.  
Lacto ovo –vegetarianism- They include animal products like eggs, milk or honey as well.  
Veganism- They exclude all animal flesh and products as milk, honey, eggs.  
Raw veganism-It includes only fresh and uncooked fruits, nuts, seeds and vegetables.  
Fruitarianism-It only permits fruit, nuts, seeds that can be gathered without harming the plant.  
Sattvic (Yogic diet)-This diet is plant based but excludes roots and tubers, also fermented products,  
along with stimulants like tea, coffee, nutmeg, chocolate are avoided.  
Buddhist vegetarianism- In some countries like Taiwan vegetarianism excludes vegetables from  
alliums family like onion, garlic leeks etc.  
Jain vegetarianism-Includes all dark green leafy vegetables but not curds, yoghurt, roots, tubers.  
10. Macrobiotic Diets- It contains mainly of whole grains and beans (Wikipedia,2013).  
Studies have shown the remarkable health benefits of vegetarian diet. A vegetarian diet provides large  
amounts of cereals, pulses, nuts, fruits and vegetables. A study carried out on vegetarians and vegans  
has shown that on an average vegetarians have lower BMI and lower cholesterol concentrations (  
International Peer-Reviewed Journal  
al,2006). It is a known fact that, vegetarian diets are naturally low in saturated fatty acids, high in fiber and  
composed of very vital nutrients like Phytochemicals which primarily prevent diseases like cancer  
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, 2000). Vegetarian diets can be nutritionally adequate  
at every stage of life cycle. The American Dietetic Association has stated that if properly planned vegetarian  
diets are healthful and also nutritionally adequate. The best feature of this diet is that it may reduce the  
risk of chronic diseases while including lower intake of saturated fats, cholesterol and higher intake of  
fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts along with milk & milk products (Craig,2009).  
Migrant studies show that dietary factors may be important in the aietology of breast cancer. A prospective  
study carried out on British women to understand the role of vegan diet and Isoflavone intake on breast  
cancer risk showed that among 37,643 British women (age=20yrs) 585 were diagnosed with breast  
cancer during 5-7 years of follow up. Two major factors that affect breast cancer risk are high intake of  
animal products like meat and dairy products that may increase the risk while phytoestrogens particularly  
in vegetables lower its incidence. Some South -East Asian populations have shown lower risk as they are  
traditionally consuming more Soya products and less of animal products (Ruth,2008). Soya products  
contain Isoflavones which have a protective effect on cancer. A prospective study carried out on 63,550  
men and women in U.K shows that over all cancer incidence rates of both vegetarians and non-vegetarians  
were low. The incidence of cancer was much lower in vegetarians than among meat eaters. This may be  
due to the low fiber intake among meat eaters than their vegetarian counter parts (Key et .al., 2009) .  
Cancer is the 2 leading cause of death in the USA. In the Adventist Health study-2 among 69,120  
participants a total of 2,939 cancer cases were identified. An analysis on them showed that there is a  
strong association of specific vegetarian dietary patterns with cancer reduction, while vegan diets showed  
significant protection from overall cancers of GIT. Also, it was observed that the Lacto-ovo vegetarians  
appeared to have a lower incidence of female –specific cancers than other dietary patterns (Kate,2012  
There is a significant amount of research that demonstrates the health benefits of vegetarian and plant  
based diets which are associated with a reduced risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and some types  
of cancers as well as increase their longevity. These diets are not only high in unsaturated fats but it is  
high in fiber as well. They also contain whole grains, legumes, nuts and soy proteins along with the  
absence of meat, which may benefit in the prevention and treatment of many life style diseases like CVD,  
Diabetes and Obesity. A vegetarian diet provides a low intake of Saturated fats and cholesterol and high  
intake of dietary fiber and much health promoting photochemical. As a result, vegetarians have lower  
levels of BMI, serum total LDL cholesterol levels, Blood pressure, death rates from Ischemic heart disease,  
lower incidence of stroke, type 2 Diabetes and certain Cancers. The nutrients of concern in the vegetarian  
diets are vitamin B , vitamin D, n-3 fatty acids, Calcium, Iron and Zinc, but if planned properly these  
diets can be supplemented and fortified with the above nutrients. (Craig, 2010). The American Cancer  
Society recommends a vegetarian diet as they found that the risk of Prostrate and colon cancer was  
reduced with plant based diet. Along with vegetarianism the absence of alcohol and tobacco also helps  
to reduce the risk of cancer. In U.K, a 17 yearlong study among 11,000 vegetarians found that eating  
fresh fruit everyday was linked to a reduction in deaths from Ischemic heart disease, stroke, and combined  
causes of deaths. The overall health of the vegetarians improves as they follow a healthy lifestyle of  
exercise and no smoking etc.; these factors improve their health benefits. Combination of efforts like  
reduced smoking or alcohol intake more physical activity or exercise, intake of vegetarian diet and  
stress reduction can reduce the incidences of cancers. Here vegetarianism is one of the factors affecting  
reduction in risk of cancers (Saxe,2006). Some dietary changes have a preventive effect on many types  
of cancers. One reason for this may be that the persons immunity improves with higher intake of vegetables  
and fruits and helps to fight cancer cells. It is commonly said that to prevent cancer, one should avoid  
meat, dairy foods and fried foods. Improved intakes of whole grains in the diet along with fresh fruits and  
vegetables; helps to keep many types of cancers at bay. Studies carried among vegetarians show that  
death rates from cancer are only half or 3/4 of general population. Cohort studies have shown a moderate  
reduction in mortality from Ischemic Heart disease.  
Crossectional studies have shown that vegetarians and vegans have low BMI and low plasma cholesterol  
concentrations (Key,2006). A research carried out among 70,000 seventh –day Adventist suggests  
that amongst them there is a 10% reduced risk of all cancers. Vegetarian diets definitely reduce the risk  
International Peer-Reviewed Journal  
of cancers of gastrointestinal tract, including oesophagus, stomach, colon and pancreas. The vegan  
diets showed protection for overall cancer incidence (Yessenia, 2013). Heart disease rates of all  
vegetarians were compared to all non-vegetarians from 1993-2009. The researchers believed the difference  
in heart disease rates was due to mainly lower LDL cholesterol levels and systolic blood pressure rates of  
the vegetarians.  
Health Effects of Vegetarian diets:- There are many health benefits of a vegetarian diets .. The major part  
of a vegetarian diet consists of foods from the vegetable sources which improves a person’s phytochemical  
intake. These are known to improve one’s antioxidant content (Craig, 2010). This diet has to be properly  
fortified to be nutritionally adequate. The main nutrients of concern are B12, vitamin D, omega 3 fatty  
acids, zinc, calcium and also Iron. The major concern zinc absorption are phytates from the dark green  
vegetables. They form complex compounds which make zinc absorption difficult (Foster and Samman,  
015). A systematic review and meta- analysis of changes in body weight among populations having  
vegetarian diets suggests that a vegetarian diet reduces mean body weight, which means it has a potential  
value for prevention and management of weight related conditions. The comparison among vegetarians  
and omnivores suggests that vegetarians have lower body weights as compared to their omnivore counter  
parts. The prescription of vegetarian diets in the study was associated with a mean weight change of 3.4  
kgs (Barnard; Levin; Yokoyama, 2015). This diet has lower intake of saturated fats and cholesterol and  
higher intakes of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and also soy products. The Oxford vegetarian study  
found that meat and cheese consumption was positively associated with cholesterol while there was an  
inverse relationship between dietary fiber and Total Cholesterol. This effect was same among both the  
genders. This study had 6000 subjects where the health of vegetarians was good than the non -vegetarian  
subjects. The use of supplements and fortified foods provide a useful shield against deficiency of many  
vital nutrients like zinc. The incidence of Stroke also is less among vegetarians. A study published in  
Lancet in 2014 suggests that dietary components present in vegetarian diets help in preventing type 2  
diabetes (Ley, 2014). Study investigating mood among vegetarians have conflicting results,  
demonstrated mental disorders or mood protection.  
The study measured mood with Depression Anxiety Stress scale. The results showed a lower anxiety level  
in males which was found to be related to vegan diets, also it was found that daily fruit and vegetable  
intake lowers stress in females, that was due to more sweet and vegan intake. A strict plant based diet  
does not appear to negatively impact mood, in fact reduction of animal food intake may have mood  
benefits (Beezhold et al., 2014). The seventh day Adventist diet which included 8 studies (n=183321)  
and data from observational studies indicates that there is modest Cardio Vascular benefit but no clear  
reduction in overall mortality associated with a vegetarian diet. Here the evidence of benefit is based on  
studies on Specific Dynamic Action of food (Kwok et al., 2010). Studies have shown that there is a  
relation between vegetarian diet and glycemic control as well. Results from 477 studies were identified.  
It was found that consumption of vegetarian diets were associated with reduction in the HbA 1c levels in  
the blood. This indicates that vegetarian diets improves glycemic control in type 2 Diabetes (Yokoyama, 2014). On comparison with omnivore diets, vegan diets have a district microflora. It was found in  
a study that a vegan gut has a microflora with abundance of protective species than that of pathobionts  
Bauer;Yeh, 2014). The Cardiovascular and other health benefits and potential harms of protein and  
micronutrient deficiency of vegetarian diets continue to be debatable. A study was carried out among  
urban migrants and their rural siblings of some cities in India (n=6555 men with average age 40.9years  
was carried .They found that overall ,Indian vegetarian diets were found to be adequate to sustain  
nutritional demands according to the RDI with less fat in them. Here vegetarians consumed greater  
amounts of legumes, vegetables, roots and tubers, dairy, sugar, also the striking feature was that the  
vegetarians had a higher socio economic status and were less likely to smoke, drink alcohol and engage  
in less physical activity(Shridhar,2014).  
The usual dietary sources of vitamin B 12 are animal source foods .The majority of algae and certain  
shellfish contain vitamin B . To prevent the deficiency of vitamin B among vegetarians it is necessary to  
identify the rich sources of foods that contain high levels of bioactive vitamin B , along with this it is also  
important to prepare vitamin B 12 fortified foods (Watanabe; Yabuta;Tanioka;Bito,2013). It is very important  
to set good food habits early as they help to influence one’s food choices in the long run.  
International Peer-Reviewed Journal  
The overall study on vegetarian subtypes and their health risks suggest that -  
There was an inverse association between vegetarian diets and growth of cancers.  
Vegetarians have low GI cancers especially among lacto –ovo vegetarians.  
Vegan women experienced fewer female –specific cancers.  
Peso-vegetarians had shown protection for cancers of the respiratory and urinary system. (Barry,2012)  
Craig W J,Mangles A R; “Vegetarian Diets Position of American Dietetic Association”; Journal of American  
Dietetic Association,2009:109(7):1266-82.  
Foster M,Samman S “Vegetarian Diets Across The Life Cycle:Impact On Zinc Intake And Status”;Advanced  
food Nutrition Research ; 2015;74:93-131.  
Arnard N D ,Levin SM,Yokoyama Y “A Systematic Review Of Meta Analysis Of Changes In Body Weight  
In Clinical Trials Of Vegetarian Diets”; Jr Academic Nutrition Diet; 2015;S2212-2672.  
Appleby P N,ThoregoodM,Mann J I,Key T J; “The Oxford Vegetarian Study: As An Overview”; American  
Journal of Clinical Nutrition; 1999;S525-531S.  
Dietz T et al,Values and vegetarianism: “An Exploratory Analysis”; Ruralsociology, vol (60), issue 3,pp533-  
Ley S H et al; “Prevention And Management Of Type 2 Diabetes: Dietary Components And Nutritional  
Components Along With The Nutritional Strategies”; Lancet; 383-394;2014.  
Beezhold B et al;“Vegans Report Less Stress And Anxiety Than Omnivores”; Nutrition and Nueroscience  
Yokoyama Y et al; “Vegetarian Diets And Glycemic Control In Diabetes: A Systemic Review And Meta –  
analysis”; Cardiovascualr Diagonastictheory; vol (4);373-82;2014.  
Bauer M andYeh M C “The Health Advantage Of A Vegan Diet: Exploring The Gut Microbiota Connection;  
Nutrients; 4822-38;2014.  
Shridhar K ,Dhillon PK,BowenL,Kinras,Bharathi A. V., Prabhakaran D,Reddey KS,Ebrahim S (2014),  
Nutritional Profile Of Indian Vegetarian Diets–The Indian Migration Study”, Journal of Nutrition ,  
Watanabe F,YabutaY,TaniokaY,Bito T 2013, “Biologically Active Vitamin B12 Compounds In Foods For  
Preventing Deficiency Among Vegetarians And Elderly Subjects”, Journal of Agricluture and Food Chemistry,  
vol 61(28):pp 6769-75.  
Ms. Shama Chavan, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Foods & Nutrition, Maniben Nanavati Women’s College,  
Those people who develop the ability to continuously acquire new and better  
forms of knowledge that they can apply to their work and to their lives will be  
the movers and shakers in our society for the indefinite future.  
Brian Tracy