It's becoming more popular to eat meat-free at least part of the time.
While about 4% of Americans are full-time vegetarians, with about half of those also vegan, a recent poll by the Vegetarian Resource Group found that 46% of respondents say they always or sometimes eat vegetarian meals when dining out. The top reason? Health.
Although vegetarian eating does have a stellar health reputation, recent news has focused on what could be bad about vegetarian diets and more stringent vegan plans, including reports of stroke risk, harms to brain health, hair loss, and depression.
Stroke risk: British researchers followed more than 48,000 men and women with no history of heart disease or stroke for about 18 years. Vegetarians had a 13% lower risk of heart disease than meat eaters. But they also had a 20% higher rate of stroke than meat eaters. That translated to three more strokes for every 1,000 people over 10 years.
Brain health: Another expert wrote that the trend toward vegetarian diets may lead to a "choline crisis." Choline is a nutrient that's important for brain health and other functions. It's found in meat and poultry, and the body can't make all that humans need.
Hair loss: So, can giving up meat lead to hair loss? A recent report found that a severe lack of protein, among other diet shortcomings, can lead to it. That's because meat contains iron, vitamin B, and zinc, which are all important for hair growth.
Mood Problems: Can vegetarian and vegan diets sour your mood? Research on this is mixed. Some studies have found that going meatless improves mood, and others have found the opposite. In one study of 400 new mothers, 80 reported postpartum depression. A vegetarian diet was one factor that seemed to make it more likely to be depressed.