What is a vegan diet, and is it a healthy thing to do? Can you do a vegan keto?
I have to say, I am not a teacher of a vegan diet, so I’m going to share with you, a credible source of information about what a vegan diet is:
“Veganism is the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products, particularly in the diet, and associated philosophy that rejects the commodity status of animals. An individual who follows the diet or philosophy is known as a vegan.”
“Distinctions may be made between several categories of veganism. Dietary vegans (I guess that’s what we’re talking about), also known as strict vegetarians, refrain from consuming meat, eggs, dairy products, and any other animal-derived substances. An ethical vegan is someone who not only excludes animal products from their diet but also tries to avoid using animal products and animal-tested products wherever practical. Another term is environmental veganism, which refers to the avoidance of animal products on the premise that the industrial farming of animals is environmentally damaging and unsustainable. Further motivations for vegan diets include concerns about animal welfare.”
Is a vegan diet healthy?
These are noble causes, but when I think of any dietary approach, I want to know, is it healthy? Does it provide all of the essential nutrients that humans need, and is it something that is doable and sustainable? Is it something you can stick to for a while, and is there anything missing in terms of nutrients or variety, things like that? I have had people come to me wanting to do a keto diet with the vegan principles, and my initial response is, sure, you can do a keto vegan diet. I am not going to be the one to teach you, though, because the method that I use includes animal products. I ask people to go to other sources of information in terms of teaching; there are other doctors who teach vegan keto diets.
Can a vegan diet be effective in weight loss or reversing type 2 diabetes?
I do have a few reservations among my patients, though. If you don’t want to take a lot of care about what you’re eating and avoiding, you will have to avoid animal products and you may find it difficult. They may be hidden in places you’re not aware of. You will have to take a vitamin B12 supplement because that’s one of the nutritional vulnerabilities if you don’t eat animal products. In the clinical trials that I reviewed, the researchers added a vitamin B12 supplement to the vegan diet protocols.
As a therapeutic diet, there are several studies, I think ranging from 7 to 12, depending on which meta-analysis you look at, and the duration of the studies were in one case had to be over 12 weeks, and then the other study, the average length was about 16 or 18 weeks. These are not long-term studies, but there are studies, and one of the meta-analyses concluded that the vegan diet when done properly could reverse diabetes and improve A1C. That’s the hemoglobin A1c, a measure of three months of your blood sugar which can lead to weight loss. The other meta-analysis, though, had more studies in it, and when you combined them all, it wasn’t statistically significant that the vegan diet was better than the control groups. That could be a function of who put the studies together and how they tallied them together.
Let’s assume you have results, and you are reversing your A1C and losing weight on a vegan diet, and you’re taking vitamin B12, and you enjoy the foods. I’m not going to tell you not to do it. The studies I think are sound enough to show, at least over the short run, that you can reverse these metabolic issues. If you are otherwise healthy, the studies that have been done in the meta-analyses on vegan or vegetarian diets are observational studies. They are not randomized trials or prospective clinical trials, and so I don’t think they count as much, some argue they don’t count at all. The reason for that is randomized controlled trials instill a level of observation and intervention, of teaching people. There’s much higher reliability of the information if it’s a randomized trial, a prospective study where you’re actually intervening and helping people learn how to do it. That’s the major limitation of nutritional epidemiology or observational studies of people saying what they do, and then you follow them over time because you’re not really teaching people in a formal way. I think there are these short-term randomized trials of the vegan diet which, with proper teaching, seems like a reasonable thing to do.
Supplementation on a vegan diet
A reservation among my patients is that many of them don’t want to be super strict about taking supplements. As a vegan, you have to be. In fact, in my limited experience, a colleague of mine became anemic from vitamin B12 deficiency because she didn’t perform the due diligence to learn how to do it properly, taking the B12 supplementation. She only learned about it because she was experiencing low energy when she ran, as she was a runner, a jogger. You need to be diligent in taking the vitamin B12 supplements if you are following a vegan diet. In one sense, I am a little less concerned about teaching a diet that has animal products in it just because there is greater certainty to me that someone is going to get all the nutrition they need. The necessary vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, and essential amino acids are contained in animal-sourced foods.
Studies on the vegan diet
There are few rigorous studies on the vegan diet. If you search low-carb or carbohydrate-restricted diets meta-analysis for overweight and type 2 diabetes, you’ll find that these studies have been done all over the world by dozens of investigators, not just one research team. That is important not only for the credibility of other people doing it but also the opportunity that other people can teach it and other people can carry it out in a manner that’s healthy and safe and effective. There was no vegan versus low-carb or carbohydrate-restricted or keto diet. No, that randomized trial has never been done, so one really can’t say that a vegan diet is better than a keto diet. I never say a keto diet is better than a vegan diet because that randomized trial hasn’t been done, so I think they’re both valid ways. If you are going to do an extreme diet where you cut out carbs or you cut out all animal products, you want to be sure that you learn from a trusted source of information that’s been teaching it for a long time so that you don’t make a misstep like the colleague of mine did.
The vegan diet is not my expertise
I am not the best teacher of a vegan approach for keto, but those resources are out there. Regarding ethical or environmental veganism, I am not quite sold on the fact that we are going to save the Earth or even improve the sustainability of the Earth by eliminating animals. I’m not happy with the way that animals are treated. You can use your dollar if you can to buy locally sourced animals that are maintained and raised ethically. Go to your local farmers market and scope out these places. They are pretty much everywhere. The idea of this was also outlined in a book called The Vegetarian Myth, which opened my eyes to these different kinds of vegetarians. But just be open to the fact that any diet you choose might not be the right match for you.
Protect your health above all
If your health is deteriorating after the time you change what you’re eating or what you’re doing, consider that the diet might be a factor, even if it’s a keto diet or if it’s a vegetarian diet. The reason I say that is I’ve seen people take almost a religious zeal of this diet – “It’s great for me, everyone says it is” – but their health declined. Some people have gained lots of weight on a vegetarian diet. It wasn’t healthy for them, but they never considered that it was a possible cause for their health being bad because, it’s healthy for everyone, right? I get to be a detective, and wherever that time was that you started either gaining weight or your health deteriorating, I get to ask, well, what happened at that time point? Consider that any kind of dietary approach that you may have made, any change could be the culprit if your health is declining, and you’re trying to find a way to improve it.
I think a vegan diet can be keto doc-approved as long as you take good care to educate yourself on how to do it. Is it any better than any other approach other than the typical American diet? Well, those studies haven’t been done. I’d love to be involved in a study that compared these extreme diets. These diets always do better than the standard American diet. I think that’s the one you want to stay away from. Watch the full video here.