Switching to a vegan diet? Beware of its 6 side effects

Every type of diet has its pros and cons, even a vegan diet. If you're planning to switch to a healthy diet like this, look out for these 6 side effects of a vegan diet.
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There are pros and cons of following a vegan diet! Image courtesy: Adobe Stock
Aayushi Gupta Published: 18 Feb 2024, 08:59 am IST
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Vegan diets have become so popular that people are even ditching meat and dairy. Following a vegan diet is known to promote overall health, including weight loss. However, like every other diet, a vegan diet also has both pros and cons. A vegan diet may lack certain essential nutrients, such as vitamin B12, iron, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in animal products. An inadequate supply of these nutrients in your body can lead to nutritional deficiencies, fatigue, and impaired immune function. So, before you decide to change your diet plan, know the side effects of a vegan diet.

What is a vegan diet?

A vegan diet is a plant-based eating pattern that excludes all animal-derived products, including meat, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs, and honey. Instead, it focuses on consuming fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and plant-based alternatives. Vegans choose this diet for ethical, environmental, and health reasons, aiming to minimise harm to animals, reduce environmental impact, and promote personal well-being through the consumption of plant-derived foods.

Health Shots reached out to Nutritionist Dr Rohini Patil says, “While there are numerous health benefits associated with a vegan diet, it may lead to a few side effects as well.”

6 side effects of a vegan diet

1. Lack of nutrients

If you are following a vegan diet, then there is a risk of nutritional deficiencies. Animal products such as fish, meat, and eggs are packed with essential nutrients such as vitamin B12, iron, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, and protein, which may be lacking in a plant-based diet. Due to this, the risk of nutrient deficiencies rises, which may lead to fatigue, weakness, constipation, and even unexpected weight loss.

2. Risk of protein deficiency

Protein is a crucial macronutrient that plays a vital role in building and repairing tissues, supporting immune function, and maintaining muscle mass. While you may get protein from plant-based sources such as beans, lentils, tofu, and quinoa, they contain many antinutrients like phytates and lectin that can increase intestinal permeability and cause a leaky gut. On the other hand, animal-based protein sources do not have antinutrients.

Animal sources contain a large amount of protein. Image courtesy: Adobe stock

3. Digestive problems

If you are new to a vegan diet, your digestive system may take time to adjust to it. Patil says, “A sudden shift to a vegan diet can sometimes lead to digestive issues, such as bloating, gas, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). This happens particularly if you increase your intake of fibre-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.” While fibre is essential for digestive health, overconsumption of it can suddenly cause abdominal discomfort.

4. Can lead to weight gain

While many people turn to a vegan diet for weight loss or weight management purposes, it is still possible to gain weight on a plant-based diet if food choices are not right. Vegan diets can include a wide variety of processed foods, such as vegan cheese, sugary snacks, and refined grains, which may be high in calories, sugar, and unhealthy fats. Overconsumption of these foods can contribute to weight gain.

5. Increased risk of eating disorders

Although adopting a vegan diet can be a healthy choice when done correctly, it may also increase the risk of developing an eating disorder, such as orthorexia nervosa or vegan orthorexia. Patil explains, “Orthorexia nervosa is characterised by an unhealthy obsession with eating only foods deemed pure or clean, while vegan orthorexia specifically focuses on restricting one’s diet to plant-based foods.”

eating disorder
A vegan diet can be a healthy option if you follow it the right way. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

6. Overconsumption of nutrients

While a plant-based diet is often praised for its abundance of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, there is also a risk of nutrient overload if certain supplements or fortified foods are consumed excessively. For example, excessive intake of fortified foods like plant-based milk alternatives may lead to an overconsumption of vitamins such as vitamin D or vitamin A, which can have adverse health effects.

Before you start any diet, make sure you know everything about it! Additionally, being aware of the potential side effects of a vegan diet doesn’t imply you should stop following it. We provide this information so you can adapt it correctly and meet your daily nutrient needs.

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About the Author

Aayushi Gupta is a health writer with a special interest in trends related to diet, fitness, beauty and intimate health. With around 2 years of experience in the wellness industry, she is connected to leading experts and doctors to provide our readers with factually correct information. ...Read More

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