Vegan diets refer to those who strictly eat only a plant-based diet. Over the years, scientists have noted a fair number of vegan groups, specifically among wealthier communities who experience some kind of health deficiency. Health experts are calling this a ‘hidden hunger.’ Weird, because you wouldn’t think that those who can afford healthy food would not be showing signs of malnutrition. Yet, there are real nutrition deficit issues arising from vegan diets worldwide.
Why Go Vegan?
There is a rising demand for people to start vegan diets. Everybody has their own reasons for going vegan. For some, it’s (ironically) to improve their health, and for others, it’s ethical or even religious reasons. There is a growing number who are adopting veganism for environmental issues. Wealthy vegans are still doing their part to reduce unsustainable amounts of meat and dairy consumption around the globe.
Veganism is becoming increasingly more popular. The number of people switching to a vegan diet in the UK has risen more than fourfold in the last decade. Studies show that nearly 5% of the US population is vegetarian and about half of these are vegan. Indeed, wealthy vegan groups in higher-income communities are doing their best to eat plant-based food since it might also lower their risk of chronic disease. Watch out though, because vegan diets that do not replace the critical nutrients found in meat can lead to serious micronutrient deficiencies.
For if you don’t have adequate planning in place for eating wholesome vegan diets, then you can end up with some severe deficiencies.
Vegan Diets and the Hidden Hunger Ghost
First things first. What on earth does ‘hidden hunger’ mean? Whether you fall into the wealthy veganism bracket or not, hidden hunger is a concept that can affect anybody with a dietary imbalance.
According to nutrition research, ‘hidden hunger’ is a deficiency caused by eating food that is cheap and filling but deficient in essential vitamins and micronutrients. Our bodies need these essential nutrients to function optimally. The scary thing is that you can go a long time before the symptoms start becoming obvious. Often wealthier vegans and communities experiencing hidden hunger don’t notice these signs. Especially during the early stages of vegan diets. This is why we call it ‘hidden hunger.’
Wealthy vegans and communities alike are generally in a position to have access to an adequate supply of food that meets their caloric needs. Yet nutritional deficiencies exist in this community. You see, often trying vegan diets means restricting and cutting out massive food groups. If you don’t know how to supplement these crucial nutrients you’ve cut out, then you might end up damaging your health.
Know-How To Supplement After Cutting
It might sound ludicrous, but this issue affects more than two billion people globally. Originally only found in developing countries, ‘hidden hunger’ is now a growing public health concern in the wealthy world. There are many reasons why this is happening, but researchers believe vegan diets to be a major cause.
Although you may not notice the effects of hidden hunger from vegan diets immediately, the consequences can be severe. The lack of essential micronutrients in vegan diets includes lower resistance to disease, mental impairment, and even death.
There’s new evidence every day proving that developed countries are experiencing this phenomenon. For example, iodine deficiency is the most common cause of preventable mental impairment. In fact, the UK ranks seventh among the ten most iodine-deficient nations.
Research Vegan Diets
What Are The Symptoms?
Sometimes it can be tricky to identify some signs during the early stages. But when vegan diets are not-so-wholesome, and you eat them that way for long enough, your symptoms start to show and get more serious.
You might start experiencing extreme tiredness and weakness, poor digestion, and developmental delays in young children. If you don’t deal with this, you might cause irreversible nerve damage and may even increase your risk of heart disease. Ironically this deficiency is very common in less-developed countries and pregnant women. It makes sense since you’d probably be eating a diet with little variation because you cannot afford more. When you’re pregnant a lot of your nutrients go straight to the baby. So, in essence, many people who go on ‘vegan diets’ end up starving and depriving their bodies of important nutrients.
What About Supplementation?
Luckily, you can still eat vegan diets and maintain a very fit and healthy body. You can prevent micronutrient deficiency by consuming only fortified foods (food with added vitamins and minerals) and by taking supplements. However, on some vegan diets, certain supplements are often resisted by those on a plant-based diet because they’ve been reported to interfere with the absorption of other important nutrients.
Apparently, some plant-derived vegan supplements often have low biological activity in humans. For example, studies show that vegan-friendly vitamin D2 supplements are less effective at raising blood vitamin D levels than the more widely used vitamin D3 supplements. Other supplements, like vitamin B12, may be largely inactive in the body.
Companies worldwide are aware of ‘hidden hunger’ and have noticed that it’s not only prevalent in developing countries but in wealthy communities too. Huge bio-fortification programs are being created to help drive a focus on hidden hunger in the West and vegan diets.
What’s The Solution For Vegans?
If your heart is set on vegan diets then you’ll do yourself a favor by gradually going into it. Don’t take the plunge because your body needs to adjust. You must also be sure to supplement everything you cut out. Experts state that doing everything in one go is hard to make sustainable. Make slow changes, like choosing plant-based milk and switching to beans or lentils instead of meat in a Bolognese. This also makes you more likely to accept change.
Rather, allow your body time to absorb the changes you are making instead of going cold turkey. Perhaps instead of sticking to only vegan diets, try to avoid animal products on certain days throughout the week. That way you will still significantly reduce your consumption.
We think that caution needs to be taken with any major lifestyle change. Especially when there’s a fear that the change could cause you to be deficient in certain nutrients or in protein which is vital to your existence. So before you adopt a vegan diet and even a more plant-based diet, be sure you know what you’re doing, and you’ve got a plan.
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A Surge in the Number of Vegans is Storing Up Health Problems for the Wealthy West. The Independent. https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/veganism-health-problems-vitamins-diet-hunger-malnutrition-a8682906.html
Vegan Diets are Adding to Malnutrition in Wealthy Countries. The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/vegan-diets-are-adding-to-malnutrition-in-wealthy-countries-107555
Morning Hunger, Weird Fake Meat, Glowing Skin: 10 things I Learnt Doing Veganuary. The Telegraph UK. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/health-fitness/nutrition/diet/morning-hunger-weird-fake-meat-glowing-skin-10-things-learnt/
Vegan Booms by 350%. Vegan Life Mag. https://www.veganlifemag.com/veganism-booms/
Vegetarian Diets, Low-Meat Diets and Health: A Review. Cambridge Organisation. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/public-health-nutrition/article/vegetarian-diets-lowmeat-diets-and-health-a-review/CFE7D0A7ADA80651A3DC03892287BABA
Hidden hunger. Vikaspedia. http://vikaspedia.in/health/nutrition/malnutrition/hidden-hunger
Iodine Status of UK Schoolgirls: A Cross-Sectional Survey. Pub Med. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21640375