The debate between meat eaters and vegetarians has been raging for years. One side has often claimed that the human body never evolved to eat meat. The other side points out that some nutrients are nearly impossible to obtain without a meaty diet. Truth be told there can be health consequences for both diets, especially in the modern world where most meats are processed and loaded with preservatives.
However, the health issues associated with vegetarian diets doesn’t receive nearly enough attention. While it can lower blood pressure, as well as decrease your chances of having diabetes and some forms of cancers, there is definitely a trade-off. Aside from the fact that you’ll be more likely to be deficient in zinc, iron, vitamin D, vitamin B12, calcium, and protein, vegetarians are also known to have lower bone densities, lower sperm counts, and more mental health issues.
On top of that, there is an issue with vegetarian diets that has puzzled scientists for years. Even though past studies have linked excessive meat consumption with colorectal cancer, vegetarians are 40% more likely to have the disease. Recent research may be able to finally explain why this happens.
Researchers from Cornell University in the US compared hundreds of genomes from a primarily vegetarian population in Pune, India to traditional meat-eating people in Kansas and found there was a significant genetic difference.
“Those whose ancestry derives from vegetarians are more likely to carry genetics that more rapidly metabolise plant fatty acids,” said Tom Brenna, Professor of Human Nutrition at Cornell.
“In such individuals, vegetable oils will be converted to the more pro-inflammatory arachidonic acid, increasing the risk for chronic inflammation that is implicated in the development of heart disease, and exacerbates cancer.
“The mutation appeared in the human genome long ago, and has been passed down through the human family.”
Essentially, vegetarian diets have created a mutation in the human genome that becomes more prevalent with each generation of vegetarian eaters. The mutation helps digest plants, but it comes at a cost. Not only does it increase inflammation and cancer risks for vegetarians, but it also stifles the digestion of omega-3 fatty acids. The research points out that this could increase the risk of heart disease, but that’s not all. Omega-3 is responsible for preventing a host of health problems, such as depression, asthma, and Alzheimer’s.
The fact that this genetic mutation developed is very telling. It shows that being vegetarian isn’t the norm for our species. Our bodies had to adapt to it over many generations, and that adaptation is giving us health problems. Without this gene your body will have a harder time on a vegetarian diet, and with it you’ll be at risk for several diseases. This research proves that vegetarianism is not ideal for humans.
That’s not to say that a vegetarian diet is all bad, but it may not be a diet that you want to turn into a lifelong pursuit. Going on a vegetarian diet for a short period of time could probably help you sort out several health problems, but sticking to it is not going to be good for you, regardless of whether or not you carry this mutation.