Study of 2,068 Vegans Helps Debunk Six of the Most Common Myths

Overall experience of vegan diet

Vegan From the Inside is a 2011 survey conducted by nutrition expert Janice Stanger Ph.D. that shatters six common myths about the vegan diet. In the survey, 2,068 vegans from the United States and around the world candidly share their joys, rewards, and challenges. The findings of this study will give vegans greater resolve for the lifestyle they have chosen and prospective vegans greater confidence in making that transition. Here are the six myths and the study findings that debunk them:

MYTH ONE: Vegans are pale, weak, and unhealthy because their diet lacks protein and other vital nutrients.

Survey Says:

  • 68.6% of respondents noted they got healthier after starting a 100% plant-based diet, yet only 1.6% said their health declined. Most of the other respondents had excellent health before beginning a plant-based eating plan, and answered that their health continued at that same desirable level.
  • 64.3% rate improving or maintaining health as a very important reason to remain vegan.
  • 55.2% said their energy level increased after going animal-free, as opposed to only 2.2%
  • who said their energy level decreased.
  • 44.2% enjoyed increased physical activity after adopting a vegan diet.

MYTH TWO. A vegan diet has too many “carbs” to be effective for weight loss.

Survey Says:

  • 42.1% of respondents lost weight they wanted to lose after going plant-based. Another 36.3% started at their ideal weight – and stayed there. Only 5.3% stated they gained weight after starting a vegan diet.
  • 73.4% enjoy cooking more since going animal-free. This is important for weight loss because dieters generally have better control over food ingredients and the amount they eat when they cook themselves.

MYTH THREE. A vegan diet is boring.

Survey Says:

  • 96.7% of respondents enjoy the food they eat on a vegan diet.
  • 94.4% intend to stay on a 100% plant-based diet for the rest of their life.

MYTH FOUR. A vegan diet is all about deprivation and lower quality of life.

Survey Says:

  • Again, just about every respondent enjoyed their food and virtually all intend to stay on their eating plan forever.
  • Plant-based eaters indicated other rewards of their diet, including enjoying cooking more (73.4%), making a difference for animals (90.8%) and the environment (86.3%), feeling closer to animals and nature (70.5%), helping others by being a good role model (69.6%), and feeling more spiritual (41.6%).

MYTH FIVE. A vegan diet requires a high level of discipline and is difficult to stick to in the long-run.

Survey Says:

  • According to 64.5% of respondents, transitioning to a plant-based diet required some effort. 10.3% said it took a lot of effort, while 24.9% noted the transition was effortless for them.
  • Over time, not much discipline is required to remain vegan; 61.2% observe staying on a vegan diet on an ongoing basis is effortless. Only 3.2% say it takes a lot of effort.
  • The percentage who find staying vegan effortless rises the longer people stay on a plant- based diet.

MYTH SIX. Vegans can’t enjoy eating out or other social get-togethers.

Survey Says:

    • While 60.2% indicate eating out is less convenient, many respondents wrote in the strategies they have developed to overcome this.
    • The most common reaction that vegans see when someone learns they are animal-free is curiosity, followed by surprise and willingness to accommodate. These responses can build social bonds.

Download the pdf of the full study report.

For help debunking nutrition myths about veganism, see Vegan Diets: Sorting Through the Nutritional Myths.

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  1. I wish that this study was meaningful, but it isn’t. The article neglected to say how the sample was taken, as did the PDF, so I wrote the author and asked her. She stated that “It was a convenience sample. I posted the link on Facebook and emailed about 50 people and asked them to forward the link to vegan friends. The survey went viral and I got respondents from all over the world.” So the sample is not random, but rather is heavily biased toward those who are currently vegan, presumably because it is working for them. We’re left with no way of knowing what percentage of people tried veganism and found that it did make them ‘pale, weak and unhealthy’, ‘bored’, etc. The author then went on to say, ” I doubt a random sample would have different findings.” The value of research is that if it’s design is sound (and step one is to take great pains to ensure that one’s sample is random), it enables us to factor OUT our own biases. This person didn’t even try to be unbiased, stacked the cards in favor of her hypothesis instead of against it (which is the goal), and doesn’t know what she doesn’t know about research. I hope someone does this study correctly in the future; it would be interesting to see meaningful, interpretable results.

    • Dear @paceveloce,

      what’s is wrong with asking Vegans how they feel about being vegan? what impact it had on their life that they become Vegans?

      If someone would had something to say about being Vegan they wont be a Meat Eaters surely??

      This “hypotheses” are very deeply life based experience and I cant understand what you are trying to challenge here? Wrights of Vegans to answer question about their lifestyle?

      P.S. Unbiased research doesnt exist, all is socially constructed.

      • The problem lies in self-reported data style research. Self-reported data can be skewed in a lot of ways. Typically, they can reflect the person’s current mood, or if they know how the research is to be used, they may change their answers to make the outcome more socially desirable, especially if they feel strongly about the issues raised. They may exaggerate or minimize things, or they may even forget relevant attitudes and behaviors they have held when answering the questions (rose-colored goggles, if you will).

        The other problem is if the author of the study forwarded out a request for people to answer this survey, the sample population is absolutely not random, and therefore statistically meaningless. It is quite possible the list of participants propagated through hardcore vegan friendship chains (especially if they’re looking to support veganism) while people who may have tried veganism and quit for whatever reason were less likely to be included.

        Unless all these vegan participants are doctors (or their health was systematically watched for the same amount of time, same conditions, etc by an actual researcher or a doctor), I am disinclined to believe their self-reported data of their own personal health or weight loss to be of significance. Were they doing blood tests? Were they being weighed on the same scale every day and compiling statistically significant data there? There are so many factors that were not logged here.

        Anyway, this article is mainly just a feel-good report for people who are already vegans, and the survey is unscientific. I would not expect anyone on the fence to be convinced of anything by this survey other than vegans like themselves and their choices. Which is fine.

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