Vegan diets are all the rage. Not only is going vegan considered to be one of the healthiest options out there, but if you can stick with it, you can wear it as a badge of honour, as it is arguably the hardest diet to stick with long-term. A vegan diet involves zero animal products. No meat, no eggs, no dairy. It’s not easy to stop eating all animal products forever. After awhile, you may find yourself craving cheese and hamburgers again.
Some health professionals argue that a vegan diet is more of a fast, and can be beneficial as a way to cleanse the body over the short term, but may not be the best option long term. For many individuals, going vegan is not simply a dietary choice. There are numerous ethical implications that take veganism far outside the realm of nutrition. When you’re concerned about minimizing your environmental footprint, or championing animal rights, going vegan can feel like the only option.
I embraced a vegan diet for this reason. I couldn’t stomach the treatment of animals in factory farms, and I didn’t want to consume animal products that were laced with hormones and antibiotics. However, I quickly experienced a cascade of health problems that made it impossible for me to continue avoiding meat and dairy. Now I support local farmers, and source meat and dairy products from local farming operations that allow their livestock to graze on pasture. I have come to realize that modern agriculture will not “save the planet”.
There is no one diet for everyone. Many women do well when they transition to a vegan diet, but many do not. When you’re planning ahead for pregnancy, you’ll want to opt for a diet rich in the nutrients that support optimal fetal development. What the research tells us is that certain key nutrients are only found in animal foods. When choosing to consume a vegan diet during pregnancy and lactation, carefully consider where you’ll obtain these nutrients and how you’ll ensure your levels remain adequate.
Below are the top 6 reasons why a vegan diet may harm your fertility:
1. Vegan Diets Lack Vitamin B-12
B-12 deficiency is common in omnivores, but vegans and vegetarians are at a greater risk. Your risk of developing a B-12 deficiency is higher during pregnancy and lactation, because pregnant and lactating mothers have a greater requirement for vitamin B-12. Vitamin B-12 deficiency is dangerous during pregnancy, and is associated with impaired cognitive development (and other fetal abnormalities).
Vitamin B-12 is not found in plant foods. Vegetarians can obtain vitamin B-12 from dairy foods or eggs, but a vegan diet contains no natural food sources of this key nutrient. Vitamin B-12 must therefore be obtained through fortified foods and careful supplementation. Your liver stores enough vitamin B-12 to last several years, so you may get away with it for quite some time, but pregnancy and lactation are two seasons of life when your body requires significantly more nutrition (1).
Signs of vitamin B-12 deficiency include fatigue, poor cognition, poor digestion, and failure to thrive in small children. When it comes to vitamin B-12, not all food sources are made equal. Liver contains the highest concentration of vitamin B-12, followed by meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products.
2. Vegan Diets Lack Vitamin A (Retinol)
Vitamin A (retinol) plays an essential role in maintaining a healthy immune system, good eyesight, healthy skin, and fertility. Vitamin A is important in both male and female reproduction. In men, vitamin A helps the body to produce healthy sperm by aiding in spermatogenesis. In women, vitamin A is not only integral to the production of a healthy ovum, facilitating implantation and sustaining the pregnancy, but it is also integral in fetal development throughout pregnancy. Vitamin A plays a vital role in the development of fetal organs specifically the heart, the central nervous system, the circulatory system, and the skeletal system. Vitamin A deficiency in pregnancy can lead to either a malformation of any of these organs or systems or miscarriage if the fetus fails to develop normally. Vitamin A has also been implicated in the production of peak cervical mucus which is essential in ensuring the sperm survive long enough to reach the fallopian tubes for implantation.
You may have heard that you can get your vitamin A from carrots, but that’s only partially true. Plant foods contain beta carotene—a precursor to vitamin A that our bodies have to convert into retinol before we can fully utilize it. Beta carotene does not significantly increase your serum levels of vitamin A (2). Not to mention that 45% of adults aren’t capable of converting beta carotene to retinol at all (2).
When following a strict vegan diet, obtaining sufficient levels of vitamin A to support fertility and pregnancy is not possible without the consumption of fortified foods, and careful supplementation. Unfortunately, synthetic vitamin A is associated with an increased risk of birth defects, where as food based sources are not. The richest food sources of vitamin A include cod liver oil, liver, seafood, beef, poultry, eggs and dairy products.
3. Plant Foods Do Not Contain DHA and EPA (Omega 3 Fatty Acids)
Plant foods contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), whereas animal foods contain eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The vast majority of the incredible health benefits associated with omega-3 fatty acids come from DHA and EPA — two fatty acids found in fish and seafood (and in smaller quantities in other animal foods) (3). When you get your omega-3s from plant foods (in the form of ALA), your body converts less than one percent of it into EPA and DHA (4). Microalgae oil is the only plant based source of DHA and EPA, however with numerous studies outlining the benefits associated with consuming fish during pregnancy, it’s unclear as to whether microalgae oil is equivalent.
One study found that women who consume 12 oz of seafood per week improved neurodevelopment in their children. Women who regularly ate seafood had children with better verbal and communication skills, better fine and gross motor skills, and less social and behavioural issues. In comparison, the children of women who ate very little (or no) seafood were more likely to suffer from developmental and behavioural issues (5). Given that plant foods do not contain DHA and EPA, careful consideration is required to ensure you are getting enough when planning for pregnancy.
4. Vegan Diets Do Not Contain Any Cholesterol
Vegan diets are cholesterol free. Cholesterol is only found food in animal foods, and even though decades of advertising has convinced many of us cholesterol is dangerous, cholesterol is essential for optimal hormone production (6). Your reproductive hormones, such as estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone are synthesized directly from cholesterol. Cholesterol forms a significant portion of your cell membranes, and you’ll find it in every cell in your body. 20 percent of your total cholesterol is found in your brain (the largest concentration in your body), and your brain is comprised of 60 percent fat (7). One study found that women who ate low-fat dairy were more than twice as likely to experience ovulatory disorders compared to women who ate full-fat dairy — speaking to the important role that animal fat plays in fertility (8).
Processed vegetable oils including canola, corn oil, soybean oil, etc are highly inflammatory, and are primarily comprised of omega 6 fatty acids. Optimal health is dependent on you having a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Vegetable oils (for the most part) have already been damaged during the manufacturing process. The consumption of these damaged oils contribute to inflammatory conditions such as endometriosis and dysmenorrhea. Avoiding inflammatory vegetable oils in favour of coconut oil, or animal fats (particularly for cooking) will help you to avoid the problems associated with over-consumption of omega 6 fats. As will consuming adequate sources of omega 3s to establish a balance between these 2 essential fats.
5. Soy Products Are Often A Significant Protein Source
Soy is often a go-to protein source in vegan diets, however soy products are known to disrupt the normal balance of your reproductive hormones, The problem with processed soy products is that they contain high levels of phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens are natural molecules in plants that have an estrogenic effect in the body (similar to xenoestrogens). In the past, Asian soy preparations included long periods of soaking and simmering that removed much of the soy isoflavones and phytoestrogens from traditional soy foods. Modern day soy processing does not utilize traditional methods of preparation, and this leaves much higher levels of phytoestrogens in processed soy products such as soy milk, tempeh, tofu, and soy based baby formula. Studies have found that soy consumption disrupts the menstrual cycle by delaying ovulation (9). When considering soy products as a protein source, caution should be used. Monitoring your menstrual cycle can help you to determine if regular consumption of soy is altering your normal cycle.
6. A Vegan Diet Increases Your Risk Of Developing Micronutrient Deficiencies
In addition to vitamin A (retinol) and vitamin B12, by eliminating all animal foods, you increase your risk of becoming deficient in certain nutrients including iron, zinc, and iodine. Increasing iodine intake is fairly strait forward. Regularly incorporating seaweed is helpful to ensure you obtain adequate dietary iodine. However, obtaining adequate iron and zinc may not be as simple.
Plant foods (such as spinach or other leafy green vegetables) are a source of non-heme iron. When you eat meat (particularly liver, and/or red meat), you’re getting heme iron. Heme iron is more readily absorbed than the non-heme iron found in plant foods (10). Maintaining sufficient iron stores is critical for maintaining menstrual cycle health and fertility. Iron deficiency can contribute to menorrhagia (heavy menstrual bleeding), iron deficiency anemia, and a variety of other health issues. Maintaining sufficient iron stores is especially crucial when you’re trying to conceive, as your requirements for iron significantly increase during pregnancy (11).
Zinc plays a critical role in normal ovulatory function and fertility (12). Similar to iron, animal sources of zinc (such as red meat and/or seafood) are more readily absorbed compared to plant sources (13). Zinc and iron are two nutrients known to be lower in individuals who adopt a vegan diet. This is of particular importance when planning for pregnancy, as your requirement for these and virtually all other nutrients increases dramatically.
When optimizing fertility and planning for pregnancy, you may wish to consider if a vegan diet is optimal. Without the addition of animal foods, you must be intentional in structuring your dietary choices to ensure you’re meeting your nutritional needs. Over the course of your adult life, pregnancy and lactation are the most intensive from a nutritional standpoint. Your requirements for all nutrients dramatically increase. When you opt for a diet known to be deficient in certain nutrients, you must be vigilant. Incorporating specific foods high in these key nutrients will help you maximize your intake (i.e. liver, organ meats, eggs, fish, full-fat dairy, etc.). If you find yourself facing fertility challenges, or menstrual cycle issues, you may have to consider if your diet is a contributing factor. Many women do well on a vegan diet, however many do not. The question is, where do you fall on that spectrum?
When you’re ready to optimize your diet for fertility and pregnancy, grab a copy of The Fifth Vital Sign: Master Your Cycles & Optimize Your Fertility! Chapter 17 lays out evidence-based practices for preparing your body for pregnancy including optimizing sperm and egg health during the preconception period.
Just from experience. B12 deficiency is equally high in both omnivores and vegans/vegetarians. I for example was so low I started getting neurological symptoms such as schizophrenia. I had almost none in my system and had to get shots for my deficiency. This occurred while I was eating 5-8 servings of red meat and 3 of poultry due to a severe iron deficiency and this was advice from 6 doctors. 4 years later and no answer as to why my levels were so low in b12 and iron I took matters into my own hands and within 6 months of a vegan diet my iron is now stabilizing and slowly climbing and my B12 is perfectly normal as well. After consulting a naturopath it turns out I had a digestive disorder and all the meat eggs and dairy (found I was casein intolerant as well) was slowing the absorption of nutrients in my intestines. So B12 deficiency is NOT a problem for just vegans and vegetarians. It’s a huge problem as well for omnivores. Sorry for the long rant but I had to explain.
Thanks for sharing your experience! B12 deficiency is so much more common than most people realize and it is definitely not just an issue for vegetarians and vegans. Glad to hear that you have found a way to get your levels up to where they need to be.
Thanks for this. I have recently started to to reduce dairy products and meat and am trying To conceive. I read this article and my hopes slipped. You have given me some hope that veganism isn’t all bad. I really don’t want to consume animal products and hopefully will conceive on a vegan diet.
On a related note, when you are trying to conceive it is a good idea to gain an understanding of your menstrual cycle and what are the healthy parameters of a healthy cycle. Reading articles is one thing, but your menstrual cycle will literally tell you whether or not your diet/lifestyle factors are affecting your cycle in a positive way. This podcast episode outlines what a healthy menstrual cycle looks like in detail: http://fertilityfriday.com/colleen/
If you have an Instagram you should check out Loni Jane, newearth.mama, and ellenfisher she also has a amazing YouTube called MangoIslandMamma too. All vegan moms with gorgeous vegan babies!
Humans are naturally herbivores. Frugivores to be specific. Everything about our bodies say so. I find it interesting your rocommending woman to eat animals and animal byproducts to achieve optimum fertility when that kind of diet is what cause so many deaths from preventable diseases each year. Our bodies are design to eat fruits and vegetables only and thrive doing so.
Thanks for your comment! Keep in mind that this recommendation is specific to the period of time in a woman’s life when she is having babies! There are certain nutrients that are required in significant amounts, the fat soluble vitamins and B vitamins that you can’t get from veggies alone. But outside of that baby making window anything goes as long as you are feeling healthy with the diet you have chosen.
Through the vegan community I have came across dozens of women who have had fertility issues and once switching to a vegan diet have had success at conceiving/successful pregnancies without the common pregnancy symptoms or other health complications we now call a normal part of pregnancy and labor. I’m not sure what exactly you were eating when you were vegan (only you know that) but a vegan diet is natural to humans (our anatomy say so). So unlike what you said a vegan diet is attainable long term and in ALL STAGES OF LIFE (and with out the need for supplements although you might find that impossible to believe, its true). Articles like this only continue the stigma we put on vegans. By saying veganism = malnutrition which is the FAREST thing from the truth. Its important to remember doctors do not study nutrition they study medicine and surgery. (Doctors only take 3.2 hrs of nutritional studies and not even completed all at once. 10 mins here 10 mins there..kind of deal). I suggest expending your knowledge on the human body and the effects veganism has on it before warning people against it. The information here is misleading and incorrect. A great resource I find to be helpful is Youtube ( Yes, youtube.) You can find dozens of experts on vegans (plant based doctors and such) and information on all aspects of achieving optimal health through a plant based diet. And evens some non-experts people on there as well who just want to share their experiences. NOTHING IS UNHEALTHY OR EXTEME ABOUT DOING EXACTLY WHAT OUR BODIES ARE DESIGNED TO DO. EVERYONE NEEDS TO STOP FILTERING THEIR FOOD!
P.S. I would also suggest watch some documentaries on the meat, dairy, egg industry. We all know about the ethical and environmental side to veganism but it might be beneficial for you to look more in to the nutritional side to it as well. And what exactly meat, dairy, and eggs do to the human body. You’ll never look at it the same again. Crazy what they do just for money and the million of lives lost and ruin because of it.
That’s bang on correct – if dairy causes digestive problems (which it does in most people as we are not designed to suckle on cows, but not everyone is in tune with how bad they feel) then it’s totally counterproductive to take it for nutrients because you won’t be able to absorb them! Time to stop believing the dairy propaganda and see how you FEEL when having/not having dairy – if I feel amazing (both body and mind) when vegan, then surely that would also translate to having good fertility as it’s all linked?
Huge difference between raw dairy and pasteurized. It’s not even the same food. So make sure when you say “dairy” you are specifying which type!
Ralph Graham says
B12 must be supplemented. Meat eaters get it from cows who get it from injections or in their feed. Many meat eaters are B12 deficient. Modern methods mean it is no longer sufficient in food. Running short of B12 can do permanent damage. B12 supplies in our bodies can mean it will last us for years but why take risks?
George Henderson (@puddleg) says
B12 is made by bacteria in the cow’s rumen, supplemented with insects eaten with the grass.
Cows should not need B12 supplements, as they are naturally adapted to a plant diet, unlike humans. Otherwise herbivorous species would never have evolved.
Failure to absorb B12 is due to a number to reasons, including insufficient stomach acid, gluten intolerance, and over-medication.
Yup Ive recently watched the programmes such as conspiracy and programmes about the dairy and meat industry.We really should not eat baby calf growth food! Dairy is for calfs. They are taken away from their mother. It’s such a cruel industry Isn’t it?
The RDA roughly for b12 for example is 2.8 for breastfeeding females. Babies requires 0.4. Almond milk per cup has 3.00 and yes meat has the most b12 in it by far, like clams per 3 ounce has 84.00 BUT the body doesnt need that per day so personally id rather avoid all mercury/ fat/ wondering where from /how produced/and how planet healthy my food is and have a cup of almonds everyday! Thats also not the only thing vegans eat. i eat A TONNE of other veggies/nuts/seeds etc etc that keeps me lean, energetic, healthy and not an ounce of bad fat on my body! I also dont even watch how much i eat i eat everything and more and i still have no extra fat on me.
Fertility Friday says
When you’re planning to get pregnant you need more. This article is referring to the added nutrition required to build a human being, not just the regular day to day.
Hi, with regard to your article I could easily google many other just-as-convincing articles stating that veganism is the best diet for fertility – so who am to believe in this world of conflicting views (with evidence to back up both sides!)? Even if you say that we should be eating meat only when trying to become pregnant, well that could be years for some people and then they are at risk of the other plethora of problems meat causes..furthermore, does it really make sense to be relying on different species of animals in order to reproduce our own human species? Just food for thought….(also B12 is easily supplemented in a spray form, I get a real boost when I use it). Plus I feel amazing as a vegan – so if my body and mind feel good (much better than when eating meat/dairy), then surely this will translate to good fertility as well as it is all connected?
Make sure to look up the Weston Price website! Also listen to episode 9 of my podcast with Sally Fallon! It’s important not just to focus on any one perspective especially when it comes to fertility and the health of your children! http://fertilityfriday.com/sallyfallon/
Fertilityfriday your “facts” are incorrect and the sources chosen “unreliable”. Think again. Or read again, inform yourself anew. All those mentioned vitamins are well found in a vegan diet, because it is, for a fact, natural to a human.
Sheila Wilson says
Weston A. Price is nothing more than a mouthpiece for the meat and dairy industry – they design slaughterhouses! Jeez, do you think they would publish neutral facts about non-meat proteins? If you think so you are very naive and are misleading readers. I suggest you do some further research and look for some real science instead of from the meat industry.
Fertility Friday says
I can tell by your comment that you have never actually read Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston Price. Read it and then share your opinions about the Weston Price Foundation.
???? and where did You get that from Andrea? A holistic coach… ? Let me guess
There are actually numerous things that prove that we are in fact herbivores and not carnivores or true omnivores. If you do a little research, I’m sure you can find the information. Our teeth, jaw, hands, feet, nails, speed, agility, strength, intestines, muscles and so many other things are nothing like an omnivore and everything like an herbivore. We have been culturally conditioned to eat animal products but just because we can doesn’t mean we should be or are meant to be. There are also humans who practice cannibalism but obviously that doesn’t mean that all humans are cannibals. There are humans that commit murder. That surely doesn’t mean we are ALL meant to murder. When you drive down the road and see roadkill, you don’t automatically think “dinner.” And that’s good because you’d more than likely get pretty sick if you consumed it. Its because you arent an omnivore. Humans thrive on a plant based diet. Not only that but it really is a very easy easy way to live. Easier than it ever has been actually.
The vegan diet is not a hard diet. It is an easy, healthy and enlightening lifestyle. Maybe you were doing it wrong? Let me also be clear in expressing that Being Vegan IS in fact a lifestyle. It is not a diet. If you decided to go on a plant based DIET….then that is different but the two are very different. Have you looked up what Veganism is? My advice is for you to stop giving advice unless you have done extensive research first. Getting B12, iron, protein, omega 3s or any other necessary nutrients and vitamins are extremely easy to obtain as long as you eat a balanced diet. You are really giving out horrible and inaccurate information. There are plenty of completely healthy pregnant vegans. The correct advice isn’t to “eat ethically raised” animals. There is no such thing as ethical slaughter.
There are plenty of vegan supplements. There are tons of amazing foods that offer the right nutrients we need as humans and eating dead flesh is in no way necessary in order to increase fertility or to have a healthy pregnancy.
Sad that this is one of the main articles that comes up when searching fertility for Vegans.
I appreciate your perspective. Although knowing what I do now I couldn’t chance it when trying to conceive. B12, Iron, preformed vitamin A, omega 3. I’d rather get these nutrients from food than pills! It’s a tiny human your body is growing after all. Also, take a look at this article: http://chriskresser.com/why-you-should-think-twice-about-vegetarian-and-vegan-diets/
Pills are not necessary in order to get all nutrients. I just feel that instead of pushing for a nonvegan diet. Maybe you could have let people know what vegan foods to eat that are high in specific nutrients and that any prenatal vitamin will ensure adequate b12. If you are really worried about that tiny baby growing inside of you, I would think that youd be concerned about osteoporosis, high blood pressure, cancer, crohns disease, clotted arteries and all of the other diseases that are associated with eating meat and dairy. You should also be concerned about the world that your baby will be being raised in. Maybe the fact that 91% of rain forests that are destroyed are because of factory farms, 1/3rd of our earth is being consumed with animal agriculture that is contributing more greenhouse gas emissions than all the cars, trucks, boats and planes combined. You do not need to eat meat in order to be fertile. It actually decreases chances which you would know if you researched by this topic thouroughly. Giving people advice to support animal agriculture in order to increase fertility while downing the vegan lifestyle is not only horrible but completely false information.
Just because the vegan lifestyle didn’t work for you, doesn’t mean that it’s not the right way, more humane, sustainable, healthy or compassionate way.
Everyone must make the choices that are best for them. Many ex-vegans report having fertility issues because they are not getting enough saturated fat in their diet among other nutrient deficiencies. Human beings require sufficient saturated fat to produce the hormones needed for fertility and pregnancy. Many ex-vegans report dreaming of meat because their body is craving nutrients! If it works for you great! But for women who are trying to get pregnant and having trouble they need sufficient amounts of saturated fat, Omega 3 Fatty Acids, preformed vitamin A (retinol), iron, B12, folate and so much more. These nutrients are not available in sufficient quantities if you’re on a vegan diet without supplementation. Period.
Hey there — I completely understand your concern here. However, there are plenty of plant based sources that do offer optimal levels of b12, Vitamin A, Folate, Omega 3’s, DHA/EPA. Vegan pregnancies can be healthy IF you have done your research (which I’ve been studying for years).
This comment so awesome. This article is very annoying. The B12 comment was clearly ridiculous. She didn’t even mention the supplement and she also said that it is naturally found in animals…REALLY? thank you. I am on a “Plant Based diet” and you are so right about Veganism. There is a difference.
A vegan midwife says
Thanks for your concern with helping people find supplements or food-sources of nutrients that they may be lacking during these precious years of reproductive age. While anecdotal, the families I work with who enjoy nourishing plant-based diets tend to have the easiest times getting pregnant, so be cautious with your assumptions about what a diet includes or doesn’t and how that relates to actual fertility. There is so much we don’t know and that won’t likely be funded to be studied any time soon.
My take-away here is that rather than telling women what to eat or not eat, let’s focus on helping women find the resources for optimal wellness for healthy pre-conception, pregnancy, and breastfeeding. Thanks again to the author for tackling this issue (I admit to only skimming the original post, because it seemed to come from a strong anti-vegan bias that I simply do not see in the real world of healthy, fertile vegan people.)
Warm wishes for a healthy belly and baby!,
I agree with “A Vegan Midwife.” This is a very negative perspective and very biased. There are SO many nutrient deficient people who eat a “Standard American Diet” (S.A.D.) and they eat meat. I’m a nurse and have seen first-hand the numerous people who eat meat and consume dairy and have both vitamin B-12 deficiencies as well as anemia. I think you could also research how veganism helps people rather than this negative, biased view-point. Watch the movie, “Forks Over Knives” or read “The China Study” sometime and maybe you might be thinking vegan is pretty great, after all.
The key isn’t just “eating meat” within the context of the Standard American Diet. It’s funny that you would say that since that is not at all what my article is about. It isn’t about barely getting by with a nutrient deficient diet. It is about eating in a specific way to get those nutrients. And the foods that I suggest incorporating have nothing to do with just “eating meat”. I have watched many documentaries including Forks Over Knives, and I am familiar with the China Study and also the many many times it has been debunked. I mentioned in my article that I was vegan for awhile. I am not “anti-vegan” by any means. My message is simple. During the times in your life when you are trying to have children, a vegan diet is devoid of sufficient nutrients for some people. If someone out there is having fertility issues and they happen to be vegan they should be looking at their diet as it could be playing a role.
Hi, I would like to add that what you consume should also be about quantity and the effect on the body’s energy reserves. I find that if I eat meat and dairy, my organs are somewhat overloaded and I don’t have surplus energy in my body. Whereas if I go vegan, it’s generally always lighter food and frees up my body’s energy stores to then repair, maintain organ function etc – which would then have an impact on how well the fertility organs work. So even though according to this article I wouldn’t be getting the right nutrients, I have ‘freed-up’ energy in the body which works just as well if not better, as energy is the main thing we need to have a fully functioning system.
The China Study debunked? Yes, sure, by the minions of the beef, dairy and egg industry. But health aside, I’d like to invite all the readers to watch the documentary “Earthlings” and then come back and tell me if you still feel we have the right to mistreat and/or slaughter animals due to a mistaken belief that their meat/byproducts are healthier than the PLANTS they get their nutrients from.
And before anyone says that’s my “agenda”, I want to clarify that although I do love animals that was not my only reason for becoming a vegan. Since we’re all a bit selfish, my health was probably more pressing, and it took for it to take a turn for the worse (as it happens to a lot of people) to decide to give it a try.
However, the truth of the suffering of animals cannot be ignored if we’re to consider ourselves compassionate beings. AND the harm to the environment inflicted by the expanding meat, dairy and egg industry as the population of the world grows, which is causing deforestation of the Amazon, for example, due only to our misconceptions about nutrition and/or desire to satisfy the demands of our appetite cannot be ignored either if we are to consider ourselves responsible and not totally self-centered beings.
There is a huge difference between animals on a mass production feedlot who are treated horribly versus supporting local farmers who own small scale local operations where the animals live in a humane stress free environment. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. You can actually eat meat and support the humane ethical treatment of animals, all while supporting the local economy and attaining the highest nutrition from the food you are eating. Supporting local farmers does not destroy the environment.
I guess it’s really your right to defend what you believe in no matter what, which is sad because you and the others that agree with you will continue to numb their consciences and continue to contribute to a horrible cycle of violence, continue to hurt their own bodies (which usually shows in the long wrong) and not do the right thing for the planet (that we should be good stewards of). So you’ll be glad to know that I’m done with this, can’t invest any more of my time on a “losing battle”, however, I pray that one day your eyes will truly be open to the truth.
The china study has not been debunked. You obviously need to get your facts straight and stop relying on random google searches to support your crap statements. I’ll send your website and this article to Dr. T. Colin Campbell and see how you stand up in a debate with him.
Fertility Friday says
Feel free to listen to the latest episode of the Fertility Friday Podcast for more information on the overall effects a vegan diet can have on a person’s health and fertility: http://fertilityfriday.com/lierre-keith/
Very much enjoyed this article and the discussion that followed. Half of my family is happily vegan, while the other half, that includes me, live on a small organic farm producing all our own food, giving our animals a natural environment to grow in, then gratefully consuming their eggs and milk, etc, and yes, even their meat eventually. This is a natural cycle that nourished centuries upon centuries of human beings. It is modern factory farms and industrial feedlots that must be avoided at all costs, both from an ethical and nutrition standpoint.
I do have a question I have so far not found an answer to: . Are there any cultures or societies where veganism has been practised down through the ages? My research seems to suggest that true veganism needs the support of modern industrial practises, but for the sake of harmony in the family, I would like to know where it has flourished so I can say to my family, “Okay, I accept your argument: we can survive and thrive without the aid of manufactured foods. Here is a culture that has practised veganism successfully for all these generations.” Unfortunately, I have not found such a society. Can anyone help me?
To my knowledge, there is no traditional culture who embraced a vegan diet. There are cultures who thrived on vegetarian diets that incorporated dairy products, but 100% plant based diets are a relatively new phenomenon. All traditional cultures incorporated animal protein, fats and/or dairy products of some kind or another.
There are plenty of people who have lived healthy on a vegetarian diet. You have to keep in mind though. Most areas where food is scarce, people eat what is available. If you do a Google search, Im sure you could find the answer you are looking for.
This is a dangerous article as the information is totally inaccurate. Are you a doctor? Scientist? I am a vegan and have never been or felt healthier in my life. You must read “The China Study”. Hormones in animal products are a CAUSE of infertility, not treatment for it. The information presented in this article is horrifyingly false. Saying that the body needs cholesterol is ridiculously ignorant.
Wow. Amazing. Feel free to look into the Weston Price Foundation and listen to my podcast about Fertility Foods! Sometimes what you don’t know is more dangerous than what you think you do know.
Our body produces enough cholesterol on its own. We do not need to get ADDITIONAL cholesterol from food, because it is unhealthy for us. Why do you think everyone is so obsessed about reducing the amount of cholesterol? Because its all coming from food! – Animal products.
Are you a paid shill from the meat and dairy industry??? Because all the points you mentioned are not really valid and I don’t care how many “references” you’ve listed at the end. For starters, most vegans are very well informed, plus there is evidence (like a Harvard U. study) that vegans have BETTER fertility. And if you do a search you’ll find plenty of ex-meat eaters who were able to conceive for the first time after ditching animal products.
I’m going to clarify that I’m an older woman and I never had any fertility problems, but I also did not grow up in this country who worships meat and dairy and fast foods. I have also only recently become a “whole food” vegan. It makes me sick now to think how I bought all of the lies we’re told so we can continue to be “hooked” to foods that are actually killing us. It was in my nature even as a young child to eat the way I’m eating now but my elders kept pushing what they too had believed I needed to be healthy (which I wasn’t no matter what they tried). Then many years later I believed I could not become even a vegetarian because I’d been brainwashed about “needing” animal proteins. All I got from the “healthy omnivore” diet was to become addicted to dairy and meat while gradually losing my health and gaining 65 lbs. and being unable to lose no matter what I did.
I have already lost about 13 lbs. EFFORTLESSLY and have begun to feel the benefits of this change jn my health as well (like ZERO depression or anxiety from which I suffered most of my life). So, please, stop promoting the lies THEY want us all to believe, you will only regret it further down the line in the form of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, autoimmune diseases, liver and/or kidney problems, etc.
Lastly, eating animals is CRUEL, no person who considers themselves to be compassionate should support such a vile practice that is totally unnecessary. Plus it’s UNSUSTAINABLE because of the huge natural resources farmed animals consume and the pollution they create. It’s estimated by the U.N. that by the year 2050 we’re going to be in big trouble if we don’t stop eating animals, but of course, we don’t hear about that because of the $$$ interests involved.
Going vegan is the ONLY responsible choice, for the animals who are being so mercilessly abused to satisfy our gluttony, for the planet that our children and grandchildren must live in it, and for our own health and peace of mind, STOP fooling yourself and trying to fool others into believing lies that will only benefit the BIG meat and dairy industry, doctors and hospitals and BIG Pharma.
I’m sorry you’re getting slammed. As a former vegan of about 18 months, my personal experience was that it was not the right diet for me. I didn’t just have fertility issues, I had general health issues that resulted in pretty miserable digestive dysfunction for the better part of a year even after returning to some meat consumption. I lost my gallbladder in the process. It took eliminating the vegan protein staples (beans or legumes combined with a grain) for several months along with many other fruits and vegetables (nothing acidic, nothing too high in fructose or other difficult to digest short chain sugars) and making a jump back to fish, poultry, even some lactose-free dairy to reverse my symptoms. I’m now back to eating the occasional “beans and rice” meal, but I’m not surviving on them anymore.
Yes, I was doing it “right”. I didn’t consume a large amount of processed food. I took supplements. I had a variable diet. I home-cooked many meals. I wish some of the previous commenters would understand that even in the context of being the same species, we all function a little differently. Some people can tolerate and even thrive on a strict plant-based diet. Some people cannot.
My one critique involve some of your sources. Sites like Wellness Mama, Chris Kessler, and Weston Price are clearly biased in favor of paleo and ketogenic diets. If you could locate more blind studies, it would only benefit your posts.
I find the comments on this thread very interesting. I think veganism has its place, but if a woman is struggling with fertility issues and happens to be vegan, she may want to consider that her diet may be a contributing factor. If a person isn’t at least willing to consider that their diet may be at the root of their health issues, then that is truly terrifying. Not everyone thrives on a vegan diet, but it seems that no one is allowed to talk about that from within the vegan community. It’s also a bit concerning that a person would ignore information about fertility because it comes from the Weston Price Foundation given that the information they dispense is also rooted in scientific evidence-based research, and a huge part of their “mission” is to support families in having healthy babies and children. A vegan diet serves a much different purpose than a “fertility” diet.
Hello, I have a question: If a woman takes on a vegan diet (mainly soy) and has fertility problems, is it permanent?
Fertility Friday says
Our bodies are resilient. There are definitely ways to restore your health and fertility after coming off a vegan diet.
I agree! The vegan diet sometimes eliminates our cycle, from this perspective its real simple, menstruation is essential to fertility-procreation. Menstruation is often viewed as “dirty” but its what nourishes, and sports the possibility of creating life in the womb. Many vegans talk very negative about a diet that includes meat products but ANY food source can be contaminated, and “unethical”, including fruits, and vegetables, so there is a difference between sound food in its natural state, and food that is altered synthetically. And our “enlightenment” is not dependent on anything outside of ourselves. So ultimately knowing what fits best for each individual is essential, no one diet is the best, in my opinion that is B.S. and propaganda, and dualistic based thinking. This does not mean someone who is a vegan absolutely cannot have a baby, but what are the long term effects of such a strict diet? Fertility issues in it of itself have many factors, diet being one of them but not exclusively health is much more then food, it also includes our emotional, mental, and physical well being. The human instrument is quite complex, as is the soul.
I am a vegetarian and I hate to say it, what the author has wrote is true. I’m not here for an argument, but from which food sources do Vegans/ Vegetarians get their preformed retinol (vitamin A), B12, K2, Taurine, Iron, Zinc, EPA & DHA from? Before anyone says supplements, these do not count as they synthetic . I admit I consume cheese and milk. In addition I do not agree just because an animal is raised in an ethical manner that this makes things better, because it doesn’t. Animals breathe, reproduce, excrete, urinate, talk with each other, socialise. They should be treated on par with humans because we are animals too. But please do not say that the above nutrients are available from vegan/sources because this is simply not true. I continue to research and hope to find vegetarian sources for these vital nutrients and if anyone here has come across any as suggested in some posts, please do let me know.
Apparently your research hasn’t taken you very far yet because most of those so-called deficiencies are more hype than anything, and certainly NOT exclusive to vegans or vegetarians, plus it’s not true that “supplements do not count because they’re synthetic”. You are implying that even good quality supplements don’t do anything, but please think of how doctors have successfully treated deficiencies for decades with even synthetic supplements. I agree that ideally we should get all our nutrients from our food, but in our modern world too many things have changed from the way they were “in the beginning” for that to be totally realistic in all cases, vegan, vegetarian or not.
This is the 1st time I read that we need “preformed retinol”. The body is very capable of converting beta carotene into Vit. A provided we get sufficient iodine in our diet too. When the person is not converting well their skin will take a yellowish or “golden” tone that is not really natural to them. Iodine is a mineral that may be absent or in low quantities in some inland soils or those who have been depleted my mono-crops but eating seaweed regularly or taking a kelp supplement can make up for that. Vit. A is definitely not a deficiency exclusive to vegans, when I was 12 a doctor had to prescribe 50,000 IU of Vit. A because I was deficient in it. In fact, when I was 7 I had to be given vitamin shots due to my poor appetite and having had parasites (which I had again at 11 as shown by a stool sample test). Parasites are something that most people here in the U.S. love to ignore the existence of although they are responsible for a great many deficiencies people have. Parasites don’t just happen “in 3rd world countries or tropical areas” anymore. That’s wishful thinking, we import foods from and also travel all over the world and people come here from everywhere and parasites come with them (plus most of Florida qualifies as a tropical zone anyway).
Most people past 40 can’t even absorb the B12 they get from meat due to lack of the “intrinsic factor”. I have friends and relatives who have to have B12 shots and I myself began taking sublingual B12 many years ago to help me sleep better (and ironically, the “synthetic” one, cyanocobalamin, works better for me).
Regarding Vit. K2, it can be synthesized by bacteria in the body in small amounts from another form of Vit. K, and there’s also a mechanism of “recycling” that makes a deficiency rather unlikely. But I’m not surprised about the “studies” that might show low levels of it, it’s, after, one of the nutrients “du jour”.
Taurine is not an essential amino acid, in fact, it’s not even considered a true amino acid, eating good sources of plant protein should insure that a person makes enough of it. Iron is very easily obtainable by taking one Tbsp/day of blackstrap molasses (which is also a great source of several other minerals and also B6) if the person is deficient or doesn’t favor the iron rich plant foods. But most healthy people will obtain enough from plant sources and any unusual deficiency in a person who eats a whole foods plant based diet should arise suspicion of (again) internal parasites, something I can’t emphasize enough because it’s not going to come up as a factor during any of those studies.
Another thing to consider is that the studies made use a standard amount of each nutrient that is considered optimal or necessary but that doesn’t take into account that each person’s needs are very individual, and do not take into account variables like different lifestyles, degree of health, levels of stress and routine eating habits that drive most people to eat the same foods over and over again during any given week.
At the age of 63 my article isn’t really relevant to you. I specify that these recommendations are for individuals who are struggling with fertility AND happen to be vegan! There are people out there who do not thrive on a vegan diet. There is no one diet that works for every human.
You are right about that, at my age it’s not relevant to me in that regard, but I didn’t end up here because of me but because of a dear nice who has had fertility problems and who asked me for advice regarding her diet (because I studied Holistic Nutrition) while she undergoes some type of treatment. So, when I saw all the worn out cliches about against the “vegan diet” I had to chime in.
I want to clarify that there’s no such thing as a “vegan diet” per se. Veganism is really about living in an ethical way for which reason not eating animals is part of it, but anyone who doesn’t animal foods just for health reasons is really referred to as eating a “plant based diet” . But each person can choose how they go about it and not everyone, especially young people, will tend to make the best choices (which would fall into what’s called a “whole foods plant based diet”) unless they have the foresight to get sufficiently educated in nutrition so they can determine which foods will give them more of the nutrients that fit their individual requirements as not everyone has the same activity or stress levels, just to name a couple of variables. So, in that regard you are right about there not being “one diet” for everyone.
Sometimes what seems logically “right” isnt what is best for us. I know we are all different and I wish people would be more compassionate about that. Your right way is not the only way. I was a vegetarian for 6 years & then started a transition to veganism…and within months I stopped menstruating. I was 25 at the time & I want to have kids so I was terrified. After tons of research & doctor visits I decided not only to not be vegan but to eat meat again. 4 months after I did my periods came back. I know it’s a sensitive subject for many but please remember when you are Internet arguing about your personal stances that there are real human beings out there whose bodies may be telling them something else & they should listen & not be ridiculed by it. I do care about the ethics of eating meat but I care about giving my body the nutrients it needs too.
Yes it can be true that going vegan can initially stop your menstruation….BUT it has been shown that once the body stabilises to this new diet then periods come back…it just needs a bit of time. Eating meat probably brought back the periods due to the extra fat and calories…because I’ve come to realise through experience that light diets such as veganism and fasting can affect menstrual cycles…however this doesn’t mean u have to get your fat and calories from meat. You can just increase the fats within your vegan diet and generally eat higher calorie foods…may I add here that eating fish helps me greatly for some reason.. Pescetarian diet is great for providing te protein needed during ovulation etc…I also find I crave eggs and fish during ovulation time! And although I am a vegan fan…I usually find other protein sources such as spirulina don’t cut it for me during ovulation…so I’m all for fish but not red meat…fish is lighter and has less health risks as long as it’s not the toxin-filled or farmed kind.
The reason eating fish might help you, if it’s ocean fish, is the iodine. Nowadays most people are not getting sufficient amounts, the RDA was established only to cover the needs of the thyroid which was believed many years ago to be the only organ that needed iodine but today it’s known that the breasts, the ovaries and other glands and even our stomach and eyes need iodine for their proper functioning and the lack of it can result in problems that if not treated could later on end up in cancer of the affected organ.
Vegans who are not getting sufficient iodine could most definitely have their fertility affected because soy as well as several raw vegetables and some nuts are “goitrogens”, which means they interfere with the absorption of iodine. Also, many pollutants of modern life cause iodine to be lost in the urine because iodine pairs up with them to cleanse them out of our bodies. So I would suggest to soy eating vegans, and actually every woman of child-bearing age regardless of whether they consume soy or not, to do their own research and in the meantime to at least include some seaweeds in their diet regularly.
This is a list of General infertility problems and causes. Many Vegan’s are very aware of there body and health unlike many meat eater’s. In my opinion the chance of having any of these reasons for infertility are higher in meat eaters than Vegans. Veganism done right will give you nothing but good health! for you and baby.
Fertility Friday says
From a Holistic Health standpoint, if your menstrual cycle is within normal parameters great, but the charts don’t lie. For women who are tying to conceive the best way to know their fertility status is to chart their cycles! If they are vegan and their cycles are healthy great. If the cycles aren’t healthy then you can’t just ignore diet as a possible factor.
This is an older post but I still feel compelled to comment. There is an entire community of vegan mothers who have conceived and birthed babies who are 100 percent healthy, including myself. I have been vegan for 12 years. 2 years ago I gave birth to 9lb 8oz baby boy who I continue to nurse. I think you should have done more research before posting this article. Even national health organizations have agreed that a vegan/vegetarian diet is fine for mothers and children. All diets require some level of planning. Also, the most recent research indicates that consumption of animal products is linked to cancer and other health problems.
Also, your comment about not being able to avoid processed foods while on a vegan diet is absolutely insane. As is the part about soy. There are plenty of vegans (including mothers) who eat a high raw vegan diet (with no processed food or oil) and they look like absolute goddesses.
I’m sorry. I just feel like you are not in a position to write this kind of post. I can understand if you don’t agree that veganism is right for you. But you are posting inaccurate info and that is just not ok.
Fertility Friday says
I use women’s menstrual cycle parameters to monitor their health in the work I do, and many women have extremely unhealthy cycles when vegan. Your cycles don’t lie, and many women stop menstruating regularly on vegan diets. To make a statement like “100% healthy” is interesting. Did any of these children need braces? Did they have colic? Did they have allergies or food sensitivities? Did they need glasses? It is dangerous to recommend a vegan diet to women who are planning to get pregnant. Too many nutrients are lacking. You can’t obtain sufficient nutrition from food alone as a vegan. You can barely get enough when you eat meat. You must supplement. When all is said and done, if you are vegan and your menstrual cycle is 100% healthy (and you understand what that means fully as far as cycle parameters go…not just your period) then fine, I’m all for it. If not, then it may not be the right diet for you. If you want to be vegan, I’d suggest to do it after you’ve already had your children.
I’m not an expert in fertility, veganism, or any diet at all. I do know for about 3 years I could get “pregnant” according to a test, but could not stay pregnant past 9-10 weeks. I was in my early 30s. I saw many doctors and they’ve never been able to explain the reason for this. I put the baby hopes on hold and decided to focus on me. I was healthy and active but becoming overweight with every miscarriage. I decided to become a vegan. I did this on my own for weight loss reasons. For 9 months I followed a strict diet eating zero animal products. At first it was really hard, but as time went on I felt really good and lost 25 lbs. Somewhere in my 9th month of being a vegan I became pregnant according to a home test. Here we go again, I had many doctor visits and blood tests and early ultrasounds. I refused any and all photographs offered to me. I had no reason to believe I would get past my 9-10 weeks., but I did. We actually got to the magical 12 weeks! I had hope, but I also had to decide if I would remain eating a Vegan diet or not. Like I said this was a weight loss tool for me, which worked, but what about my child? I didn’t know enough about it to say what kind of affect it would have on my child’s development. In the 13th or 14th week I started eating a regular diet including meat. We had a boy and I was 36 years old when he was born. Ive never gone back to vegan eating but I n hindsight I will always credit my vegan diet for my successful pregnancy, because was the only thing I did differently.
It’s amazing how many trolls are in here trying to invalidate the article. From 20 years of experimenting with nutrition i can say for certain that this article is 100 percent true.
Lis Carpenter says
Look at all the angry vegans… Thanks for writing this. I learned a lot about the different forms of vitamins. Didn’t know the details about Omega-3.