A review of a number of reports published on the biochemistry of vegetarianism in the past thirty years concludes that strict vegetarians who adhere to a vegan lifestyle, and who don’t consume meat or animal products of any type, could increase the risk of atherosclerosis and blood clots, which are conditions which could result in heart attacks and stroke.
Meat eaters are noted for having considerably increased combined cardiovascular risk factors compared to vegetarians. However, lower-risk vegans might not be immune. Their diets are generally missing a number of key nutrients, such as vitamin B12, zinc, iron and omega-3 fatty acids. Although a nutritious vegetarian diet could very well supply sufficient protein, this isn’t always true in the case of fat and fatty acids.
Because of this, vegans generally have increased blood levels of homocysteine as well as reduced levels of HDL cholesterol, which are both heart disease risk factors.
The review concludes that there’s a strong scientific basis for vegans and vegetarians to increase vitamin B12 and dietary omega-3 fatty acids to help deal with those risks. Ideal sources of omega-3s are salmon along with other oily fish, walnuts and a number of other nuts. Excellent sources of vitamin B12 are eggs, seafood and fortified milk. These nutrients can also be provided by way of dietary supplements.
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