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Advantages and Disadvantages of Vegetarians Diets

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    This paper analyzes advantages and disadvantages of vegetarian diets for Asians based on three typical health issues associated with Asian vegetarians. As the number of Asian vegetarians is expanding, more and more scholars focus on to find correlations between vegetarian diets and breast cancer incidence, bone health, and Vitamin B12 intake of Asians. This paper illustrated positive and negative impacts on Asians of vegetarian diets based on studies on these three health issues. Based on the conclusions of research papers mentioned in this paper, it is argued that there is no perfect dietary pattern that suits every Asian well. Furthermore, it hopes Asians will make a sensible choice based on their personal health status. This paper concludes by suggesting that more studies on Asian vegetarians are required to be conducted.


    Albert Einstein said, “Nothing will benefit health and increase the chances of survival of earth as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.” Einstein’s words revealed his approval opinion about the vegetarian diet. Just like Einstein, more and more people in the world have also decided to support vegetarianism in recent years. However, vegetarian diet is a controversial option because it has different impacts on different people. In other words, vegetarian diet may be suitable for some people, but unsuitable for other people.

    The number of vegetarians in the world is considerable. As researchers Eimear Leathy et al. (2010) estimated, “There are one and half billion vegetarians [in the world]” (p. 2). This estimate indicated that a large proportion of global population adheres to vegetarian principles. Since the number of vegetarians covers nearly 1/7 of the world population, it is necessary to figure out whether vegetarian dietary pattern is suitable for different groups of people, especially for people from different areas of the world.

    Vegetarian diet and its positive and negative impacts on health has been studied thoroughly in western countries, but most research focused on Caucasians’ vegetarian diet. Fewer studies focused on the nutritional status of Asian vegetarians. In fact, the dietary patterns of Asians and Caucasians have significant differences. In a research paper on this subject, scholars Yujin Lee and Michael Krawinkel (2009) believed that there are similarities between the vegetarian diet and “the typical Asian diet” (p. 265). Thus, compared with studies on the prominent differences between the vegetarian diet and “the typical western diet”, studies on minor differences between the vegetarian diet and “the typical Asian diet” might show different results (Lee & Krawinkel, 2009, p. 265). Their viewpoint revealed that studies on Caucasians’ and Asians’ vegetarian dietary patterns are required to be separated to get results with more specificities.

    The goal of this paper is to illustrate advantages and disadvantages of vegetarian diet of Asians and analyze the impacts of vegetarian diet on different groups of Asian people. A general introduction of the present situation of Asian vegetarians will be provided, then studies on merits and demerits of vegetarian diet of Asians among different age groups, genders, and types of careers will be given. Finally, this paper will propose suggestions on diets for Asians who hope to be vegetarians or transform their original eating habits.

    Present Situation of Asian Vegetarians

    To discuss merits and demerits of vegetarian diet for Asians, it is necessary to discuss the present situation of Asian Asians so that further analysis can be more effective.

    Among the vegetarian population around the world, the number of Asian vegetarians covers a high proportion. China, the the most populated country, has a large number of vegetarians. As a journalist of Public Radio International Mary Magistad (2013) suggested, the number of vegetarians accounts for 4% to 5% of Chinese people. That is to say, the ratio is not very high, but given that the population of China is nearly 1.4 billion, more than 50 million of Chinese people are vegetarians. The total number of Chinese vegetarians contributed to the large vegetarian population of Asia. Meanwhile, vegetarianism has been growing more popular with Asians in recent years. According to a research on the increase of vegetarian population over 2016 and 2017 conducted by Euromonitor International in 2018, among the top ten countries with the biggest vegetarian increase, three Asian countries are in the list, including Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand. Therefore, more and more Asians are willing to accept vegetarianism. Vegetarianism has become a new trend in Asia, but it is still a controversial issue that has not been supported by everyone. Both merits and demerits of vegetarian diet are discussed extensively, but whether vegetarianism has more benefits or not for Asians does not have a clear answer.

    In conclusion, given that the present situation of Asian vegetarians, advantages and disadvantages of vegetarian diet of Asians will be illustrated based on studies on correlations between vegetarian diets and three representative health issues have been associated with vegetarian diets by Asians, including impacts of vegetarian diets on Asians’ breast cancer incidence, bone health, and vitamin B12 intake.

    Advantages and Disadvantages of Vegetarian Diet of Asians

    A Positive Correlation Between a Reduced Breast Cancer Incidence and Vegetarian Diets

    It is known to all that breast cancer is common in Asia. As scholars Minglin Ho et al. (2013) claimed, “In Taiwan [Province], breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in females and the fourth leading cause of female cancer deaths since 2003” (p. 531). The situation of Taiwan Province is a mirror of this phenomenon in Asia.

    Recently, vegetarian diet has been found to relate to a lower incidence of breast cancer (Yaojen Chang et al., 2017; Isabel Silva et al.,2002; Seiichiro Yamamoto et al., 2002). A case-control study on the correlation between breast cancer and vegetarian diet was conducted at the Taipei Tzu Hospital from 2010 to 2013 (Jinghui Wu et al., 2013). Among 469 subjects , 233 of them were breast cancer patients, and the rest of them were age-matched controls (Chang et al., 2017). Five dietary patterns were provided for subjects (Chang et al., 2017). As Scholars Chang et al. (2017) found out, “Two out of five dietary patterns (meat and processed-meat) derived from factor analysis were significantly associated with breast cancer risk. Other dietary patterns (fruit/vegetable/soybean, dessert/sugar, and fermented foods) were not associated with breast cancer risk” (pp. 3-5). Their findings demonstrated that there is a correlation between vegetarian diets and a reduced incidence of breast cancer (Chang et al, 2017).

    Scholars Chang et al.’s findings proved that adherence to vegetarian diet could help reduce the risk of contracting breast cancer of people from Taiwan Province. Taiwan Province is a place where different ethnic groups of Asians inhabit, therefore, this finding can apply to Asians of different ethnic groups. To reduce the risk of suffering from breast cancer, it may be helpful for Asian females to take in more vegetables, fruits, and soy products. Meanwhile, Asian females would better avoid consuming excessive meat and processed-meat to reduce the risk.

    Positive and Negative Impacts of Vegetarian Diets on Bone Health of Asians

    Vegetarian diet is often regarded as a dietary pattern that relates to poor bone health status. Researcher Katherine Tucker (2014) argued that an insufficient intake of animal protein may have adverse effects on bone health.

    On the contrary, another research on this issue suggested that vegan diet does not have a negative association with bone loss and fracture (L. T. HO-Pham et al., 2012). This study, conducted by scholar LT and his fellows in Ho Chi Min city of Vietnam, involved 210 females, including 105 nuns from 286 temples who are vegans and 105 female age-matched controls from local households who are omnivores (HO-Pham et al., 2012). This “longitudinal investigation” from 2008 to 2010 measured the femoral neck bone mineral density of subjects, and the result was that there was no significant difference in bone density of two groups (HO-Pham et al., 2012, p. 75). As HO-Pham (2012) claimed, “Vegan diet did not have adverse effect on bone loss and fracture” (p. 75). This study indicated that vegetarian diet may have no negative impacts on Asians’ bone health status. Another recent study on the bone health status of young adult vegetarians in Shanghai also showed that vegetarian diet does not have adverse effects on Asians’ bone mineral density (Luyao Xie et al., 2019). Since subjects of the former study were mainly people over 50 years old and subjects of the latter one were young adults between 18 and 44 years old, and two group of subjects came from two different Asian countries, it can be proved that this conclusion may apply to most adult vegans of different age groups and ethnic backgrounds in Asia. However, this conclusion can not prove that vegetarian diet is flawless. In fact, the research focused on young adult vegetarians in Shanghai found that there is a difference between vegans and omnivores. They noticed that “the serum 25(OH)D concentration of vegans was lower than that of omnivores” (Xie et al., 2019, p. 386). This observation demonstrated that vegetarian diet is not a dietary pattern with no defects.

    To sum up, vegetarian diet may do not have many severe adverse effects on Asian vegans, but it does have certain negative effect on Asian vegans. Although Asian vegans do not have to worry about their bone health, it is a good idea for them to take in adequate animal products, such as dairy products, eggs, and meat to reduce the slight negative impact on bone health brought by vegetarian diets. It may be difficult for vegans to accept animal products, they are encouraged to strike a balance between vegetarian diets and omnivorous diets.

    Vegetarian Diets and Inadequate Vitamin B12 Intake

    A lack of Vitamin B12 may put a threat to people’s health status. As scholar Duo Li (2013) claimed, “Reduced vitamin B12 … [is] also associated with increased serum levels of homocysteine and aggregation of platelets that contribute to cardiovascular disease” (p.169). Scholars Krithiga Shridhar et al. (2014) argued that vitamin B12 may lose its bio-availability in plants. Thus, vegetarians may be unable to take in adequate Vitamin B12, so their health may be affected by vegetarian diets.

    A study named Indian Migration Study focused on Indian people’s vitamin B12 intake was conducted from 2005 to 2007 (K. S. Reddy et al., 2006). Among 6,555 randomly selected parties, 2,148 (38%) of them were vegetarians and 4,407 (67.2%) of them were non-vegetarians (Shridhar et al., 2014). Researchers found that vegetarian participants were able to sustain their basic nutritional demands, but compared with omnivores, vegetarians took in less vitamin B12 (Shridhar et al., 2014). Therefore, Shridhar et al. (2014) suggested, “Vitamin B12 bio-availability remains a concern and should be addressed by exploring various dietary patterns associated with deficiency across various regions of India and identifying people who need supplementation” (p. 7). This conclusion showed that scholars are concerned about vegetarians’ vitamin B12 intake, and they hope vegetarians’ nutritional patterns can be improved.

    To conclude, given that there were enough randomly selected subjects in this study, it can be proved that vegetarian diet can satisfy Asians’ basic nutritional needs, but it may lead to their inadequate intake of vitamin B12 which plays a pivotal role in people’s health. To implement the defect of vegetarian diets, vegetarians can take in adequate vitamin B12 tonic.


    Many studies showed that the number of Asian vegetarians is expanding. At the same time, many surveys have proposed that vegetarian diet is a controversial issue because vegetarian diet has both merits and demerits for Asians, especially for Asians breast cancer incidence, bone health, and vitamin B12 intake. Based on this, this paper provided the main theories on the correlations between vegetarian diets and three representative health issues have been associated with vegetarian diets, including impacts of vegetarian diets on Asians’ breast cancer incidence, bone health, and vitamin B12 intake. Based on these theories and investigations, this paper analyzed the correlations between vegetarian diets and three typical health issues of Asians.

    According to these theories, vegetarian diets have both benefits and harms for Asians, but these impacts have different manifestations when it comes to different health issues. Under the guidance of these theories, this paper introduced the present situation of Asian vegetarians and the necessity to analyze impacts of vegetarian diets on Asians, illustrated the positive correlation between a reduced breast cancer incidence and vegetarian diets, showed positive and negative impacts of vegetarian diets on bone health of Asians, and demonstrated the correlation between inadequate vitamin B12 intake of Asians and vegetarian diets.

    Based on the information above, this paper proposed practical methods to give Asians suggestions on their choices of dietary patterns. In the future, more and more theoretical studies would be done to test and reveal shortcomings of these proposals. Government and society’s involvements would also help Asians to choose a dietary pattern that suits them well.

    The study has illustrated the correlations between vegetarian diets and three health issues that Asians are concerned about, and proposed suggestions to help Asians choose a beneficial dietary pattern. However, this study also encountered a number of limitations, which need to be considered. First, because of the lack of enough studies that focused on the impacts of vegetarian diets on all Asians, limited amount of research provided by this study may not apply to Asians of different descents from different countries. In addition, some studies provided by this paper are not recent studies, so some theories may not apply to the current situation of Asian vegetarians. Finally, this study on vegetarian diets was conducted by a college arts student lacks expertise in biology and nutrition. Thus, further studies on vegetarian diets are required to be conducted by specialists.

    This paper illustrated correlations between vegetarian diets and three health issues and proposed suggestions to help Asians choose a dietary pattern that suits them well. This paper argued that there is no perfect dietary pattern that is suitable for everyone, and it encouraged Asians to make a choice based on their personal health status. With the guidance of further theoretical guidance, more studies on Asian vegetarians will be conducted, and more Asians will make a choice that suits them.

    Works Cited

    1. Chang, Y., Hou, Y., Chen, L., Wu, J., Wu, C., Chang, Y., & Chung, K. (2017, October 10). Is vegetarian diet associated with a lower risk of breast cancer in Taiwanese women? BMC Public Health, 17(1). doi:10.1186/s12889-017-4819-1
    2. Ho, M., Liaw, Y., Lai, C., Chen, Y., Tsai, H., Chou, M., & Hsiao, Y. (2013). Significantly Increased Medical Expenditure on Breast Cancer Failing to Bring Down Its Mortality and Incidence Rate. Journal of Cancer, 4(7), 531-535.
    3. Ho-Pham, L. T., Vu, B. Q., Lai, T. Q., Nguyen, N. D., & Nguyen, T. V. (2011). Vegetarianism, bone loss, fracture and vitamin D: A longitudinal study in Asian vegans and non-vegans. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 66(1), 75-82.
    4. Leahy, E., Lyons, S., & Tol, R. (2010, March 31). An Estimate of the Number of. Vegetarians in the World. Retrieved from
    5. Lee, Y. J., & Krawinkel, M. (2009). Body composition and nutrient intake of Buddhist vegetarians. Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 18(2), 265-271.
    6. Li, D. (2013). Effect of the vegetarian diet on non-communicable diseases. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 94(2), 169-173.
    7. Magistad, M. K. (2013, June 27). Vegan lunch: Going meatless in Beijing. Retrieved from
    8. Reddy, K. S., Prabhakaran, D., Chaturvedi, V., Jeemon, P., Thankappan, K. R., Ramakrishnan, L., . . . Jaison, T. M. (2006). Methods for establishing a surveillance system for cardiovascular diseases in Indian industrial populations. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 84(6), 461-469.
    9. Shridhar, K., Dhillon, P. K., Bowen, L., Kinra, S., Bharathi, A. V., Prabhakaran, D., . . . Ebrahim, S. (2014). Nutritional profile of Indian vegetarian diets – the Indian Migration Study (IMS). Nutrition Journal, 13(1). doi:10.1186/1475-2891-13-55
    10. Silva, I. D., Mangtani, P., Mccormack, V., Bhakta, D., Sevak, L., & Mcmichael, A. J. (2002). Lifelong vegetarianism and risk of breast cancer: A population-based case-control study among South Asian migrant women living in England. International Journal of Cancer, 99(2), 238-244.
    11. Surpriyadi, A. (2019, November 19). Are Southeast Asians Ready to Consume Less Meat? Retrieved from
    12. Tucker, K. L. (2014). Vegetarian diets and bone status. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 100(1). doi:10.3945/ajcn.113.071621
    13. Wu, J., Chang, Y., Hou, Y., Chiu, W., Chen, J., Chen, S., . . . Chang, Y. (2013). Meat-fat dietary pattern may increase the risk of breast cancer—A case–control study in Taiwan. Tzu Chi Medical Journal, 25(4), 233-238.
    14. Xie, L., Wang, B., Cui, X., Tang, Q., Cai, W., & Shen, X. (2019). Young adult vegetarians in Shanghai have comparable bone health to omnivores despite lower serum 25(OH) vitamin D in vegans: a cross-sectional study. Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 28(2), 383-388.
    15. Yamamoto, S., Sobue, T., Kobayashi, M., Sasaki, S., & Tsugane, S. (2003). Soy, isoflavones, and breast cancer risk in Japan. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 95(12), 906-913.

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