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Is Vegetarianism/Veganism a Science?

 An agricultural scientist might ask whether any content concerning a topic such as ‘Vegetarianism’ should be included on a platform called Agropedia, dedicated as, it is to the field of agriculture. In my opinion though, an agricultural scientist is the ideal person to transform the food habits of people as much as a dietician or a nutrition expert is. By virtue of his academic training and occupational requirements he is entitled to raise question marks on the nutritional needs and habits of people. It has been seen throughout human history that food and diet has been subject to cultural conditioning more than anything else. Cultural conditioning in turn is based on geographical factors such as topography, soil and climate. Hence diet choices through the cultural route are not entirely unscientific,  but  scientific only in a rudimentary sense.

What do we mean by ‘vegetarianism’.  In a purely conversational sense it means abstention from meat and by-products of animal slaughter or even animal derived products without slaughter.  This definition in recent decades has widened up in scope to include dietary practices which permit the consumption of eggs, dairy products and even occasionally fish. Vegetarianism of a restrictive kind that ritually rules out animal flesh, bones or products in any form has been rechristened as veganism. Veganism accords sanctimony to all plant life and is supposed to convey the message of beauty and harmony ingrained in nature. The practice of veganism has since times immemorial been associated with religion and spirituality. Hindus(Brahmins), Jains and Buddhists in the Mahayana sect as well as Seventh Day Adventists among Christians have been staunch adherents of vegetarianism as part of their monastic ideals. Certain neo-cults based on esoteric teachings and enunciated by spiritually enlightened masters have held vegetarianism in great esteem and as a manifested form of self denial and temperance.

Man is a rational being endowed with an innate ability to think and bring some of the most bizarre dogmas and doctrines before the judgement seat of reason. Scientific thought is a natural consequence of human sentience and rational temperament. Can the practice of vegetarianism or more appropriately veganism be subjected to the test of scientific scrutiny. It might help deepen our conviction and relieve us from the captivity of mindless and invasive dogmas and doctrines professed by religious scriptures of doubtful antiquity or disdainful spiritual masters of uncertain credibility and integrity. The challenge before modern science is to establish a credible foundation for veganism and recent scientific research has helped us understand better, the power and potency of plant based nutrition.  The mythical notions which were prevalent more in the Western world and East Asia about the superiority of meat and flesh have thankfully been dispelled.

A scientific argument in favour of a vegan diet can begin with the kind of nutrient intake and the kinds of diseases that can be avoided. A meaty diet will invariably involve the ingestion of animal protein, cholesterol and saturated fat all of which are harmful to health. Vegan diet will contain complex carbohydrates, Vitamin C & E, folic acid, dietary fibre, magnesium and carotenoids. Since a vegetarian/vegan diet is divergent in nature, the optimal intake of nutrients can only be done with proper meal planning. Numerous studies have concluded that pure vegan diets are appropriate for all stages of the life-cycle. Children, adolescents, pregnant and lactating women, old people and even athletes. It is also well known in scientific circles that many life-threatening and disabling diseases such as cardio-vascular ailment, kidney disease, hypertension, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes mellitus can be prevented. The presence of anti-oxidants and anti-carcinogenic are contributory factors.


Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition(Sept, 2003 vol 78 no 3)

In the above diagram it can be explicitly seen that both the risk of deficiency and excess are much lower in a vegetarian diet

References and Acknowledgements:

1. The Scientific Basis of Vegetarianism by Dr William Harris(

2. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition(

3. National Center for Biotechnology Information(




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Please note that this is the opinion of the author and is Not Certified by ICAR or any of its authorised agents.