Not everyone can be vegan or vegetarian

Vegans and vegetarians choose not to eat meat. However, veganism is stricter and also prohibits dairy, eggs, honey, and any other products which are derived from animal products, such as leather and silk. Both veganism and vegetarianism are growing in popularity. However, some people may find the differences between these two diets a little confusing, particularly as there are several variations of vegetarianism.

Veganism and Vegetarians: the difference

According to the Vegetarian Society, vegetarians are people who do not eat the products or byproducts of animal slaughter.

Vegetarians do not consume:

  • meat, such as beef, pork, and game
  • poultry, such as chicken, turkey, and duck
  • fish and shellfish
  • insects
  • rennet, gelatin, and other types of animal protein
  • stock or fats that derive from animal slaughter

However, many vegetarians do consume byproducts that do not involve the slaughter of animals. These include:

  • eggs
  • dairy products, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt
  • honey

Vegetarians typically consume a range of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, and pulses, as well as “meat substitutes” that derive from these food types.

Vegetarianism is generally less strict than veganism, as such, there are several well-known variations of the vegetarian diet. These include:

  • Lacto-ovo-vegetarian. People who follow this diet avoid all types of meat and fish but do consume dairy products and eggs.
  • Lacto-vegetarian. People on this diet do not eat any meat, fish, or eggs but do consume dairy products.
  • Ovo-vegetarian. Individuals following this diet do not eat any meat, fish, or dairy products but do consume eggs.
  • Pescatarian. Those who follow this diet avoid all meats except fish and other types of seafood. However, this does not meet the traditional definition of vegetarianism, and many people refer to the pescatarian diet as being semi-vegetarian or flexitarian.

On Veganism, the Vegan Society defines veganism as a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promoting the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of animals, humans and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.

Vegans strictly avoid consuming any foods or beverages that contain:

  • meat
  • poultry
  • fish and shellfish
  • eggs
  • dairy products
  • honey
  • insects
  • rennet, gelatin, and other types of animal protein
  • stock or fats that derive from animals

Strict vegans also extend these principles beyond their diet and will try, where possible, to avoid any product that directly or indirectly involves the human use of animals. These products can include:

  • leather goods
  • wool
  • silk
  • beeswax
  • soaps, candles, and other products that contain animal fats, such as tallow
  • latex products that contain casein, which comes from milk proteins
  • cosmetics or other products that manufacturers test on animals

Many vegetarians also apply some of these principles to their lifestyle, for example, by avoiding leather goods and products that involve animal testing.

Scientific Benefits

A 2017 study by Wright et al., examined the effectiveness of a plant-based diet in 49 adults who were overweight or had obesity and also had at least one of the following conditions:

At the 6-month and 12-month follow-ups, participants in the diet group had significant reductions in body mass index (BMI) and cholesterol levels compared with those in the control group.

A similar 2017 systematic review by Yokoma et al., found plant based diets to lower levels of total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.

Another 2016 study by Jaacks et al. revealed that vegetarians living in South Asia and America were less likely to develop obesity than nonvegetarians.

A recent 2019 review by Barnard et al. proved that plant-based diets may offer a number of cardiovascular health benefits for endurance athletes. These benefits include:

A similar 2019 study by Kim et al. also  found a link between a healthful plant based diet and a lower risk of developing chronic kidney disease.

Challenges of Vegan Diets

Vegans also have their health challenges. The Independent UK Newspaper, (2018),in the article:“a surge in the number of vegans is storing up health problems”, revealed the many health challenges on being on the vegan diets.  For instance, poorly-managed diets can leave some open to fractures and nutrient deficiencies with potentially severe consequences, even though eating a plant-based diet may lower the risk of chronic disease and is good for the environment. Poorly planned vegan diets, that do not replace the critical nutrients found in meat, can lead to serious micronutrient deficiencies.

The article asserts that; bone health is a concern for long-term vegans. Vegans are consistently reported to have lower intakes of calcium and vitamin D, with resultant lower blood levels of vitamin D and lower bone mineral density reported worldwide.  One study by Appleby et al., (2007) found that fracture rates are nearly a third higher among vegans compared with the general population.

Vegans also have problems with Vitamin B12.Vitamin B12 is most often obtained from animal foods, and higher rates of deficiency have been found in vegans compared with other vegetarians and meat eaters

Veganism and Naturopathy

There are many misconceptions about the practice of Naturopathic Medicine. Some people are of the assumption that once you toe the lane of Naturopathy, your ultimate aim is to be vegan. This notion has led to some proponents of Naturopathy who are vegan advice their client to also be vegan. The truth is that veganism is not for everyone.Dr. Raphael NyarkoteyObu, for instance, is a Naturopath and a researcher in this field, but he is not vegan.

We recallan encounter with a strong Jewish Conservative Vegan Naturopath, who always had problem with Dr.NyarkoteyObu’s diet.She talked and acted weirdly anytime she saw meat on his meal.  We do understand her, as conservative Naturopaths have a different mind-set about him. They have no knowledge and do not want to do anything with proponents of modern Naturopathic Medicine. 

Biblical Perspective on Veganism and Vegetarianism

Spirituality has been established as part of Naturopathic Medicine and with Dr.NyarkoteyObu being a Theologian, we decided to look at the biblical perspective of veganism and what we found was very astonishing.

So the Apostle Paul said:

“One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables or herb”. (Romans 14:2 NIV).

Did you hear that?This is plainly a vegetarian scruple that Paul was dealing with; and there is no evidence, as some fancy, that they had become so merely by the efforts to avoid eating meat sacrificed to idols; because, in many private situations, no such problem would have been involved. It goes without question that they were wrong in making such a dietary act a religious matter; but they had evidently done so.

Paul taught that “every creature of God is” good for food (1 Timothy 4:1-5), and Jesus himself had made “all meats clean” (Mark 7:19). The nature of the weakness of those brethren is thus inherent in the fact that, either through ignorance or prejudice, they had not received the teaching of Christ and his apostles on the matters in question. This was a serious weakness; but, in fairness, it must be noted that the apostles themselves had difficulty receiving the full light on this question. Peter, for example, long after Pentecost, still insisted that he had never eaten “anything common or unclean,” indicating that be still kept to the scruples of Judaism (Acts 10:14). It has always been an easy error for people to fall into the notion that they might attain heaven on the basis of a certain kind of diet.

It is expressly declared of Daniel when in Babylon, that he lived on pulse and water, that he might not “defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank;” Daniel 1:8-16.

 This is not dealing with nutrition, of course. This arises out of the background of the early church in which there was a real moral question about eating meat. Not only were there the Jewish restrictions against certain forms of meat; Jews did not eat pork, and even beef and lamb had to be kosher; but it had to be slain in a certain way. So, a Jew, or even one raised as a Jew, after he became a Christian, always had great emotional difficulty in eating meat.

Look down not on those who eat meat

So Paul said: “The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, (Romans 14:3a NIV)” That is the first thing. In other words, the strong must not reject the one who is still struggling, who is still weak. The word “looks” down here is really a word that means “push him out.” The strong must not push him out; they must not exclude him. That involves several things: First, it means that he must not think about him in a disdainful or contemptuous way. He must not let himself look down on these people.

With Regards to the Practice of Medicine

With regards to nature cure, it is time we do not look down on nature as well. It is time for us as a nation to pay much attention to our natural health remedies and promote them.  Those who believe in mainstream medicine should not look down on proponents of nature’s cure for God accept them; and this is the basis of biblical medicine.  There is also no need to argue about which system of healthcare is the best or supreme.

Paul says, “The strong must not reject the weak.” You must not think wrongly about him. You must not say wrong things about him. You must not ridicule him. India and others are making a lot of monies from their natural health industry so why do we ridicule ours as well?

The Role of the Church and Pastoral Medicine

We believe that pastors, and the church in entirety, should start preaching and advocating for Nature cure.  They should not look down on natural medicine. It is the deal now.We must not form little cliques within the healthcare industry that shut out people from accessing natural medicines or with people who have different viewpoints on healthcare.

We must not think of one group as being set free while this group over here is very narrow and we have nothing to do with them. This is wrong, and Paul clearly says so. In fact, he implies that if any of the so-called strong exclude weaker brothers, look down on them, treat them as though they are second-class Christians, they have simply proved that they are just as weak in the faith as the ones they have denied. Strength in the faith means more than understanding truth. It means living in a loving way with those who are weak: The truly strong in the faith will never put down those who are still struggling. On the other hand, the apostle goes on:

The man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. (Romans 14:3b NIV). Here is the other side of it. Those who believe in mainstream medicine must not look down on those who believe in natural medicine. Those who believe in Traditional Naturopathy or what others also refer to as original medicine should not be at loggerheads with proponent of modern Naturopathic Medicine which employs modern scientific methods in handling patient as described in the dictionary of occupational titles, USA.

Those who think it is morally wrong for a Christian to drink wine or beer must not look down on those who feel free to do so. They must not judge them. The word “condemn” means “to sit in judgment” on them and it involves several things. We absolutely love this quote:

One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord, and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. (Romans 14:5-8 NIV).

Take Home

Though vegan and vegetarian diets do have some scientific evidence supporting it, the truth is that veganism or vegetarianism is not for everyone as the Apostle Paul admonishes us in the bible. One must also not critique whoever decides to be a vegan or vegetarian. The vegan or vegetarian must also not look down on those who decide not be like that. Despite  past glory demonstrated by the vegan diet, one study by Mahase, (2019) published in the medical journal The BMJ, found plant-based diets could come with a previously unrecognized health risk. There are also emerging studies from the UK linking vegan diet to higher stroke increase.

Dr. Raphael NyarkoteyObu is an honorary Professor and a strong advocate of modern Naturopathic Medicine in Ghana. He also holds MBA and a chartered Management Consultant(ChMC), Chartered Institute of Management Consultant, Canada.  Nyarkotey is also a theologian with MA in theology whose thesis looks at the role of prayer as complementary medicine. He is the President, Nyarkotey College of Holistic Medicine and currently, final year LLB law student. Lawrencia Aggrey-Bluwey is a Clinical Nurse, Health Services Manager and an Assistant Lecturer with theDepartment of Health Administration and Education, University of Education, Winneba, and is currently a PhD student in Health Policy and Management at the University of Ghana Business School. E mail: collegeofholisticmedicine@gmail.com

Dr. Raphael NyarkoteyObu, PhD & Lawrencia Aggrey-Bluwey

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