More and more people are eating vegan, often for the sake of their own health. However, an expert warns against certain meatless alternatives, because they are by no means healthier.
Update from May 31, 2023, at 12:45 p.m.: In March 2023, internist and nutritionist Dr. Matthias Riedl judged some vegan alternative products to be "unhealthy to deadly" in an interview with RTL. A short time later, however, the "nutrition doc" posted a video statement on his Instagram channel in which he wants to clear up some "misconceptions" that have arisen as a result of the conversation, according to Riedl.
"I have to clear up a misunderstanding right away," the doctor begins the video and continues: "Of course, a vegan diet – done correctly – is also healthy. I eat a lot of vegan dishes and try to eat as vegetarian as possible." Meat consumption is simply harmful from a certain amount, as it is carried out in Germany, explains the nutritionist. He also mentioned in the RTL report that tofu was "mega healthy".
Nutritionist Riedl in conversation: Not all vegan products are unhealthy
In addition, organic products are often made from real vegetables and many supermarket chains have their own brands for which they produce vegan meatballs, for example. "But that's real vegetables, it's on the back, you have to look at it," says Riedl. However, this is not limited to the "ultra highly processed product". There are products that belong to the Nova class four, which is the "extremely processed". These, in turn, are suspected of "damaging our intestinal flora" through additives, a lot of salt and artificial flavors.
The nutritionist concludes his video on Instagram by saying that everyone can decide for themselves "whether they want chemicals in their food or not" and whether they want to eat "empty products". "Because if I take the protein from the pea and insert it into an ultra-highly processed product, then only the protein from the pea is in there; not the minerals, not the vitamins, not the trace elements. And when I make such products, they are as empty of content as a potato chip." These ultra-highly processed products are the "killers" he spoke of in the original post.
First reported on March 20, 2023: Berlin – Vegan or vegetarian diets continue to be in vogue. Vegan means abstaining from animal products. Not only meat and fish, but also dairy products, eggs and honey are banning more and more Germans from their diet. According to a survey conducted as part of the Allensbach Market and Advertising Media Analysis, around 2022.1 million people in Germany were vegan in 58, almost twice as many as six years ago.
There are many reasons for the change in diet. Most vegans do without animal products for animal welfare and the environment. For the sake of their own health, more and more people are eating vegan. After all, a purely plant-based diet is often considered to be particularly healthy - rightly so?
Vegan substitutes - "unhealthy to deadly" according to nutritionists
In fact, you can't equate a vegan diet with a healthy diet. Internist and nutritionist Dr. Matthias Riedl is skeptical about most meatless alternative products. "Most vegan substitutes are purely chemical and nothing more than ultra-highly processed finished products," he says rtl.de: "This hype for substitute products is unhealthy to deadly, has nothing to do with healthy eating - and is then sold totally overpriced."
According to Dr. Riedl, products with one gram of salt per 100 grams or more should be avoided. This increases the risk of stroke. Phosphates, which can be found in schnitzel substitutes, for example, are also problematic, as they not only cause skin and muscles to age faster, but also increase the risk of heart attack, stroke and osteoporosis.
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Studies show: Eliminate highly processed foods from the diet
According to rtl.de, the nutritionist bases his thesis on two studies in particular. One is the 2021 Framingham-Offspring study "Ready Meals and Heart Disease" and the other is the cohort study "Processed Foods and Crohn's Disease", also from 2021.
When it comes to a vegan diet, internist Dr. Matthias Riedl advises avoiding processed foods. (Symbolic image) © IMAGO/Addictive Stock/Liliya Solopova
The Framingham-Offspring study is one of the most important epidemiological studies in the United States. Since 1948, she has been analyzing the population of the city of Framingham in Massachusetts, USA. In the course of the study, 3,000 participants with an average age of 54 years will be examined every four years. It turned out that highly processed foods are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases such as circulatory disorders, stroke or heart attack and a higher mortality rate.
The cohort study "Processed Foods and Crohn's Disease" examined employees of the U.S. health care system. The focus of this study was to find out whether there is a link between the consumption of highly processed foods and the risk of the chronic inflammatory bowel diseases Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. The study with 245,112 participants found that the consumption of the highly processed foods actually leads to an increased risk of Crohn's disease, but not ulcerative colitis.
Riedl is particularly critical of many of the vegan substitute products, as they are also extremely processed and particularly chemical compared to other finished products.
Vegan diet: healthy or unhealthy?
However, it is not possible to say in general terms whether a vegan diet is healthy or unhealthy. "It really depends on the entirety of the food composition," says Andreas Hahn, Professor of Food Science and Human Nutrition at Leibniz University Hannover, as reported ndr.de. The key to a purely plant-based diet and all other forms of nutrition lies in a balanced diet. It is important to include legumes, nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruit and whole grains in the diet.
Nevertheless, vegans should not completely do without supplementary products. "In any case, a vegan should be strongly advised to use a vitamin B12 supplement," says the nutritionist. Otherwise, there is a risk of anemia and damage to the nerves, including dementia. (rrm)