Principal Proposed Uses
The vegan diet can also be called "strict" vegetarianism, in that it excludes not only meat and fish but also eggs, honey and milk products. Many practitioners of the vegan diet additionally avoid the use of animal products in other forms, such as clothing (wool, leather, silk), jewelry (pearls) and cosmetics (lanolin). People who adopt veganism may do so for health reasons, ethical considerations or both. There are several forms of veganism, and these may disagree on various major and minor points. For example, the raw-food diet and the macrobiotics diet are both vegan, but while macrobiotic practitioners believe that raw food is unhealthy raw-foodists believe that cooked food is the source of many health problems.
The word "vegan" was created in 1944 by Elsie Shrigley and Donald Watson, "pure vegetarians" annoyed by the fact that many people who called themselves vegetarian ate dairy products and even fish. They combined first three and last two letters of vegetarian to form "vegan", thereby intending to indicate that veganism was "the beginning and end of vegetarian."
Some proponents of veganism claim that a vegan diet can cure many health conditions. However, in attempting to actually scientifically verify such claims one runs into a significant problem: it is difficult, if not impossible, to design a scientifically reliable study of diet.
For the results of a study to be trustworthy, participants and researchers must be kept in the dark ("blind") regarding who received the treatment under study (the "active group") and who received a placebo treatment (the "control group"). If practitioners and/or researchers know who is in which group, numerous confounding factors will take over and produce misleading results. These factors include observer bias, reporting bias and the placebo effect. The many ways in which these confounders skew the results of unblinded studies are discussed in detail in Why Does This Database Rely on Double-blind Studies? To briefly summarize this complex issue: unblinded studies usually mean little to nothing. Unfortunately, it's difficult to keep study participants in the dark regarding whether the are on a vegan diet!
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- Reviewer: EBSCO CAM Review Board
- Review Date: 07/2012 -
- Update Date: 07/25/2012 -