Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Risks of Being Vegan

In today’s world we are seeing more and more people a risk of heart disease, obesity, and cancer, especially in the United States where the leading cause of death is heart disease with about 611,105 deaths each year. The Obama Administration has acknowledged the terrible fate of our nation’s health problem, and has helped alleviate some concerns by tackling the issue of child obesity in America. Many people believe that our poor health is a result of the amount of meat the average American consumes, and/or the quality of our food in general. Recent developments have now given us reason to believe that strict vegetarian diets are changing the human genome, individually increasing the risk of heart disease and colon cancer (Oxford University Press).

The belief that vegetarian diets are a healthier alternative is a common misconception among Americans. Using data from the 1000 Genomes Project, researchers have found a mutation associated with vegetarian diets all around the world, but higher frequencies of this deleterious mutation “rs66698963” was found in the Indian population. This likely because the traditional Indian diet primarily consists of legumes such as beans and lentils, dairy products, as well as other fruits and vegetables. This mutation is believed to be making insertions and/or deletions in genes that are responsible for making long chain polyunsaturated fats.

 This mutation is favored in populations that are heavily vegetarian based and don’t have access to healthy dietary fats such as the ones found in fish. Without the essential fatty acids in their diet, their bodies have no choice but to produce these polyunsaturated fats themselves from the plants they consume, giving rise to more arachidonic acid. Pharmaceuticals commonly associate heart disease, colon cancer, and other inflammation related diseases with this acid. Further research of the “rs66698963” mutation may help develop medicine specific for patients depending on how many insertions or deletions there are in the particular genes of interest.


Molecular Biology and Evolution (Oxford University Press). "Are we what we eat? Evidence of vegetarian diet permanently shaping human genome to change individual risk of cancer, heart disease." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 March 2016. 

-Mahder Haile


  1. Mahder,

    This is a very interesting post! I agree with you that vegetarian diets can be dangerous if not monitored. Some people do not eat enough monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Although, legumes and vegetables are not the cause of the diseases you mention, but it is the lack of specific fats. There is a way to avoid this while still being vegetarian such as supplements. Overall, I think this is a very interesting post.

    Cara Murphy (3)

  2. I believe that our plate should include all portions present in "MyPlate" from fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins and diary. One should eat variety of food to get all nutrients and body needs.If you only eat meat without vegetables, or vegetables without meat, then you are not getting all nutrients reuired for healthy body.

    Mohammed Saleh

  3. I'm not sure, based on the title, if you're talking about vegans or vegetarians but I was under the impression a vegan diet is one of, if not, the most healthy diet there is. That's obviously assuming you're meeting all of your nutritional needs as well. This is very interesting though because I'm sure a lot of people who are vegan or vegetarian are lacking in healthy fats and most probably have no idea that there's any health risks associated with it.

    Cole DiStasio (group 1)

  4. I think that being a vegetarian is a great thing but not if it could harm your body. If one chooses to be a vegetarian they need to make sure they are supplementing the food groups they are leaving out. Protein is a very important part of a diet and if supplements are being taken you could really harm your body.

    Caitlyn Cordaro (1)

  5. I agree that becoming a vegetarian or vegan can be very harmful to the body. The body needs the necessary food groups in order to remain healthy. Not eating meats or dairy can be very harmful. Protein is very important in preventing diseases or becoming unhealthy.

    Rebecca Thomas