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  • Hello, you're listening to CrowdScience from the BBC World Service, and this week

  • we're coming to you from a festival in London. A vegan festival. The Sun is out,

  • people are having a good time and feeling great. But is that because of

  • the lively atmosphere or because of their diet?

  • The WHO did find that red meats can put you at risk for cancer, but I just

  • find it a better kind of energy source for me personally for my body.

  • So from Bahrain, so we're an island and there's a lot of fish there, so usually

  • pescetarian is the choice for a lot of people, so it wasn't a hard transition

  • for me to cut out red meat and then all meats.

  • Do you think being vegan is a good thing?

  • Yes, it saves animals from being eaten. Do you think being vegan is healthier or not

  • Do you think being vegan is healthier or not healthier?

  • Healthier, cause you're not eating animals.

  • You can live a healthy life being vegan and actually if you look back

  • through history, a lot of cultures especially like you know African cultures,

  • they consumed a lot of vegan food because meat is quite expensive.

  • The reason why we have headed out to this plant-based party is because this week

  • we've come to meet our listener in person. Hello Sam, how are you?

  • Hello! Very hot.

  • Yeah it's a really sweltering day in London and you brought us to a festival, a vegan festival in

  • east London. The Sun is just going down there's lots of people drinking, having a

  • good time. Why have you brought us here?

  • Because I have a question for you: is being vegan better for your health?

  • So why do you want to know the answer to that question? Are you vegan?

  • No I'm not. I guess that's why I'm asking because I'm,

  • I've been moving towards a vegan diet but haven't quite got there. Answering this

  • question might help me decide.

  • Help you decide okay. So Sam wants to know whether

  • it's healthier to cut out all meat and animal products from her diet. The people

  • at the vegan festival would certainly say it is but what does the evidence say?

  • Does sticking to plants make you live longer? is it better for your heart or

  • your immune system? And are you less likely to get certain diseases? There's a

  • lot of information out there about the health impacts - good and bad - of a vegan

  • diet. So CrowdScience is here to trawl through the facts and figures for you.

  • To start things off with me here in the studio is producer Caroline, hello Caroline!

  • Hello I'm good how are you? I'm very well. So Caroline you are a vegan.

  • I am. Well I'd call myself plant-based. Okay, what's the difference?

  • well it basically gives me wiggle room when I mess up and eat cheese. I can be like, oh I'm only

  • plant-based, I'm not vegan! Okay so most of what you eat comes from plants but

  • occasionally you might eat dairy products or something like that.

  • Yeah, basically I'll eat dairy if i'm at someone's house and they've cooked for

  • me. I don't be annoying and be like, no I won't eat that.

  • Or it if you're a bit sad or happy... ... or I'm feeling a bit down, or want a reason to celebrate..

  • Or if I'm a bit hungry or a Tuesday (laughing). Okay cool and so are you mostly a vegan then for health reasons?

  • No not for health reasons for environmental reasons and animal welfare reasons.

  • Okay so how long have you been a vegan?

  • For years now, yeah for years. I've been veggie most of my life and basically...

  • So you've grown up as a vegetarian? So I wanted to be vegetarian pretty much as

  • soon as I realised that meat was animals, but my mum was really worried that I

  • wasn't going to get enough protein, so she used to hide meat in my food, so that

  • is how worried she was for my health. Okay and I mean does she still do that if you

  • go round for dinner? I mean I hope not who knows? But no she doesn't. She actually

  • doesn't know that I'm vegan because I know that she'll worry. So when I go

  • around for dinner I just kind of pick out the vegetables and look really rude

  • and like I don't eat much. But like surely your mum would understand now

  • because veganism is really common. I mean you only have to walk out of the office

  • and there's like about three new vegan food chains before we came to the studio.

  • I had a look online - so the number of vegans in America grew from 4 million in

  • 2014 to nearly 20 million in 2017. And here in the UK,

  • nearly half of vegans cite health as one of their reasons for their food choices.

  • So there are obviously lots of other reasons for deciding to be a vegan:

  • environmental reasons animal welfare considerations. We're not going to get

  • into that on this show. We are going to focus on the health impacts. Yes but if

  • any one listening does have questions about any of those other reasons, then do

  • send them in because maybe we can look into it in the future. So Anand - last time

  • we worked together we made a programme about motivation and I signed you up for

  • a 200 metre open water swim. Yeah proudest achievement probably so far

  • clocked up on CrowdScience. So what do you think your challenge is going to be this week?

  • I mean I'm gonna take a punt and say that I have to become vegan for

  • the rest of my life or something ridiculous like that.

  • Not quite the rest of your life, just two weeks. Will you do it? I guess, yeah, I

  • don't really have a choice! Okay so two weeks sounds manageable. I'm a little bit

  • wary because I do enjoy cheese and butter and eggs and honey - all the things

  • that you're not allowed to eat on a vegan diet. I suppose I would be a bit

  • worried about potentially getting enough of everything.

  • Okay well don't worry we're going to get all the information in this programme to

  • make sure you're doing it properly and to make it easy I've arranged for your

  • first meal to be a bit of a treat. So you're going to go for a burger at a

  • vegan restaurant around the corner called Eat By Chloe to meet CrowdScience

  • friend and nutrition expert Dr Giles Yeo who's going to give you some tips on how to adjust to the diet.

  • So I think our food is here. That looks like a

  • burger and that definitely looks like a sub. Giles, can I get you any ketchup? Or aioli? Oh yes,

  • ketchup and aioli. It's terrible, oh my god, if my wife... actually she might

  • be listening. She thinks that I murder food because I like a little bit of food

  • with my ketchup. And aioli. This is a pesto meatball. I'm gonna - I'm gonna take

  • a bite all right. First impressions. Sorry? Haha

  • The thing is I went for the sub because meatballs, pretty much, it's meat that's

  • been completely blitzed up and it's actually quite suitable for for the

  • vegan treatment. It's easy, it is very, it's very easy to get a texture and then

  • when you put it in something like the meatball sub it's all about the sauce, you can cover it up.

  • It's very good! Okay, I'm gonna go in for my "bacon cheeseburger" so there

  • are some little bits of - where's the bacon? - I don't know it's... maybe these

  • little brown shavings? There's pickles which is good. Okay I

  • think for the purposes of radio, I'm gonna need to take another bite. For sure.

  • So in terms of the nutrients that you need to get in a diet and the things

  • that you might be wary of missing out on if you become vegan, you have to watch

  • out when you're being vegan and there are few things you have to replace, okay

  • So let's start with the things you gotta watch out. You have to make sure that you

  • get a full range of the type of protein that you're actually gonna need. The

  • proteins are put together by these things called amino acids and not all

  • proteins have all of the amino acids and so you need to make sure that you

  • actually cover this. Now this is actually relatively easy to do so if you eat

  • something like tofu, that's pretty that's pretty complete. The second thing you've

  • got to worry about probably is iron. Now once again it's... you are gonna be able to

  • do this completely and particularly tofu eaters, okay?

  • I think you're gonna quite a lot of iron in that but if

  • you're particularly a picky vegan, then you need to watch as well, your iron

  • intake and make sure that you actually have enough iron. And then calcium. So

  • obviously if you're going vegan and suddenly all the dairy products

  • disappear, then you're gonna want to make sure that you have enough calcium as

  • well. You're going to be able to get that from really quite a number of different

  • types of vegetables and also from the beans. But you just need to make sure

  • you watch it. Right so a vegan diet can become a bit

  • low on protein, iron and also calcium. But if I'm careful and watch what I eat I

  • should be able to get enough of everything.

  • Are there other nutrients though, that I might need to take supplements for? There

  • are certain things that you will need to replace, the first and most important of (these)

  • is actually vitamin B12. Now the interesting thing about B12 is, B12 tends

  • to come from animal-based products. It's critical for brain development for

  • example and finally iodine, or depending on which part of the world you

  • actually come from. Now why? So famously things like seafood are high in iodine.

  • It's important for our development and also our maintaining our metabolism and

  • so there we go. You've got things like protein, iron and calcium in which you

  • need to watch, but you easily get, as long as you're careful. B12 and iodine are

  • things if you've made the decision to go vegan, you really have to supplement in

  • order to maintain healthy. Okay Caroline so a vegan diet isn't healthy and can

  • actually become quite unhealthy unless you take supplements because you might

  • get deficiencies in B12 or in iodine? So doesn't that technically mean that a

  • vegan diet isn't healthier for you because it doesn't have everything built

  • into it that we need? Yeah I see what you're saying, so I take B12 and iodine

  • every day and that doesn't bother me. I guess some people might say that's not

  • natural but then vaccines and antibiotics aren't natural either and we

  • need them for our health. Yeah, no, okay, I see where you're coming from, yeah that's a

  • good point. Okay well the next step is to start the

  • diet for real. You're not going to be in it alone. You and listener Sam are both

  • going to be sticking to the diet and we're going to do this properly. You're

  • gonna meet a dietician, she's known as the London nutritionist, her name is

  • Jo Travers and she's just around the corner and she's going to help construct

  • a meal plan for both of you. Brilliant, bring on the veganism.

  • So the reason why we're here really Jo is because we are interested about

  • veganism. I mean do you get a lot of people that come to your kind of

  • practice asking about veganism? I do now yeah, so in the last couple of years it's

  • become very very common with the rise of sort of more proprietary products so

  • things that are alternatives. So when you go now into any kind of high street cafe

  • particularly in London where we are, you know, you can get any vegan products you

  • like. Whereas before, people used to have to

  • carry a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter around with them, just in

  • case. Okay so I think the idea is that we're gonna have to go on a vegan... well, we

  • want to go on a vegan diet, so I've been keeping a little meal plan, have you Sam?

  • yeah. Why don't you go first? What have you been eating? I was surprised that this week...

  • At this point Sam ran through what she'd eaten over the last week - lots

  • of whole grains and vegetables while my ears burned in shame as I recounted a

  • few late-night fast food trips. But Jo had some words of wisdom about how to

  • approach our new diet in the weeks ahead. Alot of cheese... I have seen people follow

  • a vegan diet and be completely unhealthy and miss all of the main nutrients, but

  • I've also seen people do it really well. So if you're just trying to get through

  • a couple of weeks without eating animal foods, that's one thing, but if you

  • want to do in a healthy way, we have to see where we can make a few changes, does

  • that make sense? Yeah yeah. Two weeks isn't