TRULY ADOPTING AND STICKING WITH a vegetarian diet is no easy feat. For many people, the lifestyle change is worth it for health reasons — or at least moral ones. Some recent research took a look at what happens if you follow a vegetarian diet over the long-term, and they came up with some interesting results.
Can you trace your lineage through a bunch of vegetarians? Turns out that if you can, your DNA probably has a bunch of genetic mutations as a result of your ancestors skipping all that dinosaur meat. The body basically tries to adapt to the meatless diet by creating the opportunity to convert plant nutrients into the fatty acids that we would normally get from an animal source.
People can’t get by without the omega-3 — and at least some of the omega-6 — fatty acids needed to help protect the brain and grow muscle. Generally, those fatty acids are easy to come by, as meat, eggs, fish, and dairy have plenty of them.
In theory, the genetic mutation is a brilliant example of organisms adapting to their environments. Well done, human body! However, it forgot to take into account the changing landscape of food production in modern society. These days, there are more foods that contain the omegas than ever before, such as oils that even a vegetarian might be cooking with. Any processed foods that are cooked in vegetable oil, for example, will be high in omega-6 acids.
If you’re body is producing its own omegas, and you’re also getting them through your diet, things start to get a little excessive. There is such a thing as too much of a good, well, thing; consuming too many omega-6 fatty acids can raise your blood pressure, increase the risk of experiencing blood clots, increase your risk of developing heart disease, and cause water retention.
While reducing the omega-6 fatty acids in your diet and increasing the antioxidant-friendly omega-3s is a smart general move to make when it comes to your health, too many omega-3s aren’t necessarily good for the body, either. Too much of the good thing might even lower the effectiveness of the immune system, which is why it’s best to get omega-3s through your diet as opposed to supplements like flaxseed oil, whenever possible.
The good news is that this genetic mutation takes generations to occur, so if you just switched to a vegetarian diet and Granny is a fan of the pot roast, it’s not something for you to worry about. But it is a good reminder that going vegetarian alone will not magically grant you instant health. No, choosing foods that are “clean” and unprocessed as often as possible is really the right way to go.