The following article should be digested with a bucket of salt in order to improve its taste. We are afraid to say that this piece contains crude, largely unscientific, but ultimately thought-provoking information that some readers may find distasteful.
Over the last decade or so, the number of people opting for a meat-free existence, or at least committing to reducing their consumption of meat, has risen dramatically. The most recent national survey, assessing the diets of those in the UK between 2008 and 2012, revealed that 2% of the UK’s population were vegetarians. Today, less formal estimates claim this figure has risen to around 9%, while in Ireland roughly 6% of the population claim to be vegetarian. Indeed, a 2016 report from the Department for Environmental Food and Rural Affairs revealed that between 1999 and 2016 the market value of meat-free substitutes in the UK rose by 500%.
The benefits of vegetarianism have long been debated, with proponents highlighting environmental, ethical, and health reasons, while critics often cite nutritional deficiencies, increased difficulty in ordering at restaurants, and reduced meat consumption as the obvious drawbacks. While both sides of this argument have been liable to biases, given the recent rise of vegetarianism, surely some objective benefits must exist? Based on the most recently available data on vegetarianism, our research team has endeavoured to compile a list of the indisputable benefits associated with the lifestyle.
Proportionately, meat is one of the most expensive food items available in the average supermarket. Therefore, the cost benefits of omitting it from one’s diet should be obvious. A 2012 study published by the Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition estimated that following a vegetarian diet could save an individual at least $750 per annum. Such results are hardly a stretch of the imagination given that the average cost of 1kg of beef in the UK clocks in at a staggering £7.80. To put this into perspective, the average cost for the same quantity of onions, arguably the most orthodox of vegetables, comes to a mere £0.90.
Despite such empirical evidence, there are still some who would argue that a vegetarian lifestyle comes with a higher cost of living, given the price of health foods, meat substitutes, and ‘luxury’ items such as avocados or flax seeds. However, data retrieved from the website of supermarket giant Tesco has since refuted such claims. The cost of the highly popular ‘Ready To Eat Medium Avocado’ currently stands at €0.49 per unit. In comparison, a single ‘Loose Courgette’ costs €0.63. Considering the recent criticism avocados have endured for being perceived as an expensive and indulgent food item, most notably by Tim Gurner, why then has the comparatively humble courgette received no such backlash? In accordance with the will of the microeconomic god that is supply and demand, it would seem that even the most luxurious of items in a vegetarian’s diet have now become as accessible as the average Cadbury Freddo.
While becoming vegetarian does carry with it the potential risk of deficiencies in nutrients such as protein, iron, and vitamin B12, most experts state that a balanced vegetarian diet is perfectly sufficient to meet an individual’s needs. Moreover, vegetarianism has been associated with substantially reducing the chances of developing a range of diseases and ailments, such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers. However, a 2013 study conducted at Loma Linda University in California, widely considered to be the ‘Harvard of Seventh Day Adventist Coeducational Health Sciences Universities’, has suggested that the health benefits may go beyond simply preventing diseases.
The study, which assessed more than 73,000 Seventh Day Adventists over the course of 6 years, found that those following a vegetarian diet had a 12% lower risk of death. What is so significant about this study is that its results do not simply refer to dietary-related death, but death in general. According to Dr Michael J. Orlich, one of the study’s authors, the results provide quantifiable proof that, “Vegetarian diets are associated with lower all-cause mortality and with some reductions in cause-specific mortality”. With mortality of all causes being reduced by a switch to vegetarianism, those willing to make the change would not only have a lower risk of contracting a range of diseases, but would also be far less likely to experience fatal traffic collisions, shootings, and potentially even stabbings.
In recent years the scholarship regarding the impact of vegetarianism on an individual’s romantic prospects has achieved a new respectability. In light of this recent development, new research has strengthened claims that vegetarianism can actually increase one’s allure.
In a 2017 study conducted by the online dating service Zoosk, vegetarians were shown to receive up to 52% more messages than their omnivore counterparts in an assessment of over 4 million profiles. The study also revealed that including words heavily associated with vegetarianism, such as ‘guacamole’, and ‘potato’ in one’s profile bio resulted in a substantial increase in messages, while words generally associated with meat-eaters, such as ‘fried chicken’, yielded a reduction in messages of up to 15%.
Other evidence has suggested that swapping to vegetarianism would grant access to a large demographic of people who refuse to date meat-eaters based on ethical or environmental reasons. According to one survey, a staggering 56% of vegetarians and vegans would be put off dating someone who ate meat. With reportedly 5% of the world’s population classified as vegetarian, this equates to around 213 million individuals who are, in a romantic sense, exclusively accessible to vegetarians. To put this in perspective, this is roughly the equivalent of the combined populations of both Brazil and Puerto Rico. Unfortunately, due to our impartial source for this study, Vegan Nomad Life, failing to provide any source whatsoever for this survey, this significant finding must be taken with a pinch of salt.
That said, through our own research, it was possible to obtain similar findings. By analysing a popular forum on Reddit entitled ‘Does anyone here only try to date other vegans/vegetarians?’, it was possible to determine that 41% of the 22 respondents indicated that they would exclusively date vegans and vegetarians, while a further 32% highlighted it as a preference. Some of the more insightful responses helped shed light on the rationale behind such choices. One individual, going by the username Madame_mayhem, revealed that they, “couldn’t date someone who ate a lot of hamburgers or steaks”. Another user, Kafkacat elaborated further, stating
"I think I would find it too hard to date anyone that wasn’t veggie/vegan…No matter how nice or understanding they were about it, they wouldn’t get it properly. I am currently single…"
With such a large, and growing, demographic of people preferring to take on exclusively vegetarian or vegan partners, it thus seems reasonable to posit that an individual’s chance of entering into a long-term relationship increases dramatically under vegetarianism.
Though many vegetarians claim they have more energy and are more active since changing their diet, by utilising the existing research available, it is now possible to conclusively link vegetarian diets to productivity, and by extension, income. In a 2001 Canadian study, it was found that 38.6% of the average person’s bowel movements (BM) qualified as being ‘constipated’ on an annual basis. More recent studies have shown that vegetarians experience around 30% less incidents of constipation than omnivores, which, in conjunction with the results of the 2001 study, suggests that only 27.3% of a vegetarian’s BMs are afflicted by constipation throughout the course of a year. Utilising online databases, such as Number Two Guide, and taking the global average lifespan of 71.5 years, it was possible to estimate the total number of complete BMs experienced in a lifetime to be around 33,817.
According to Dr Gregory Thorkelson of the Department of Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh, spending longer than 15 to 20 minutes defecating is most likely a sign of constipation. By taking the average time of a constipated BM to be 20 minutes, using these statistics it is possible to calculate that vegetarians spend roughly 58,320 minutes and 10 seconds less defecating than meat-eaters, or the equivalent of 40.5 days. While this may seem like a trivial amount of time over the course of seven decades, to put this in perspective, given the average daily wage in Ireland (based off its current GDP per capita), vegetarians earn around €6567.39 more than meat-eaters over the course of their lives. To put this even more into perspective, this is comparable to being able to purchase 188 avocados from Tesco every single year. For 71 years.
While much has been written on the benefits of a meat-free lifestyle, the evidence supporting such claims has often been found wanting. Yet, in fitting parity with the increasing number of people choosing to go vegetarian, so too does quantity of reliable research on the lifestyle increase. With more and more people able to make an informed choice on the potential benefits of such a lifestyle, whether they be environmental or health related, perhaps one day the label of vegetarian will cease to exist in favour of a more inclusive term; human.