What Is The Leading Cause Of Death For Vegans?

There is a historical perception of vegans as a wholly unhealthy bunch. Pale, frail and lacking energy might be common assumptions from yesteryear but the mountain of evidence pointing to the contrary is now incontrovertible. So what is the leading cause of death for vegans? Can you die of an avocado overdose? The answer may surprise you …

What Is The Leading Cause Of Death For Vegans?

 Believe it or not, heart disease is the leading cause of death for vegans. This may surprise you since you’ve been reading everywhere that a plant based diet is a miraculous cure for heart disease as well as diabetes and even cancer! Let me explain … 


Watch: Dr Greger – Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death


Before the meteoric rise of the plant based diet, vegans were quietly getting on with it. Avoiding meat and dairy without enjoying the luxury of all the replacement products which now adorn our supermarket shelves.

Back then vegan supplements were rare and it was easy to be unhealthy if you didn’t pay very close attention to the nutritional profile of your weekly feed. Maybe this is why the vegan lifestyle conjured up visions of emaciated weaklings and an assumption that vegans die young!


Heart Disease: The Biggest Killer Of Everyone

Newsflash … vegans die of heart disease too.

Just not as often as those who follow the SAD (standard American diet) and quite a bit later in life as well, on average. It’s pretty difficult to find many studies online specifically dealing with the leading cause of death in vegans. Believe me, I’ve tried!

There’s endless studies on the links between meat eating and all-cause mortality. The results generally point to a strong link between eating red meat and suffering with heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other ‘diseases of affluence’.

Here’s another study linking whole foods, plant based diets with a lower risk of cardiovascular, respiratory, and all-cause mortality among Chinese adults. There’s many more links to similar studies on that page too.

Coincidence? I think not.

However, it is not helpful to suggest that veganism is a panacea for human health. From all the reams of medical information I sifted through in researching this article, I could not find anything definitive showing vegans die of different ailments than everyone else.

What did become very clear is vegans tend to live quite a bit longer than meat eaters in general. Some studies suggest a 10 year differential. That’s pretty huge.

But vegans still die from all the same causes as non-vegans it seems … just later on! So we have to assume, with real-world data lacking, that heart disease is up there in the rankings.


Diabetes: Vegan Diet Proven To Be Beneficial

In all the data I trawled through, diabetes consistently makes the top 10 for leading causes of death among the affluent nations.


A surprising number of studies have been conducted looking at the vegan diet and its effect on incidence, prevalence and risk of diabetes diagnosis. Nearly every study finds a significant link between a vegan diet and a lower risk of suffering with this debilitating disease.

15 highly relevant studies were reviewed in this meta-analysis [1] and the conclusion was … well let me quote directly from the horse’s mouth:

a vegan diet is associated with lower T2D (type 2 diabetes) prevalence or incidence and in T2D patients decreases high glucose values and improves glucose homeostasis

Many doctors and nutritionists now firmly believe type 2 diabetes can be reversed through changes in diet. Specifically, moving away from meat and dairy consumption to a more plant-based diet.

Anecdotally, I have first hand experience of this. My brother in law was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in early 2020 and he was mortified. He studied the medical journals and research papers online and concluded a dietary change was the right tack (he’s the sort of guy who investigates deeply before making a decision about making a decision!).

Fast-forward to 2022 and his doctor has now declared him free of the disease. I’m not making this up.

He switched to plant-based and his diabetes is gone.

… and he’s not alone. Thousands of people all over the world are reporting similar results.

Kind of makes you wonder whether you’ve been lied to about dietary recommendations from the ‘professionals’ … hmmmm.


When Vegans Get Sick

Poorly looking woman hanging over the side of a chair.

If you’ve been around the vegan communities online for any length of time at all then you will be aware of a general narrative espousing plant based diets as a cure for all ills.

Sometimes, when you’re out buying your beans and pulses, you might glance at the shopping trolley next to you. Noting the cheese, lamb chops and litres of milk, along with all those products you know have ‘hidden’ dairy, you may feel healthily superior to that person.

You know your diet of mostly whole food, plant based is likely to ensure you live longer than people who consume all that stuff you too used to munch on!

So when vegans get sick it can seem unfair and maybe you begin to question just how healthy your diet actually was. Furthermore, your friends and family who were, maybe, not so accepting of your choices, now feel vindicated!

It really starts with accepting we’re going to die and there may be periods of sickness along the way. Vegans are susceptible to all the same diseases as non-vegans. Yes, I believe the diet plays a huge part in mitigating sickness but vegans get cancer too.

So, if you’re involved on Twitter or any other networks online and you like to promote veganism and plant based diets as the healthy option, which they are, just keep in mind the challenging questions vegans may have to ask themselves when they do fall ill.


In Conclusion – WFPB For a Healthier You

Big bowl of fresh salad.

I chose veganism because it is an ethical decision based on minimising the harm done to the animals we share this planet with. It has nothing to do with health.

However, I’ve read enough material online, from academia to medical journals to anecdotal opinion pieces, to convince me a diet rich in whole food, plant based products is highly beneficial to human health.

That is not an opinion.

Following this kind of diet will, on average, ensure you live longer and enjoy more years where illness doesn’t restrict your quality of life. I certainly want to live to a ripe old age but I also want to be able to enjoy my later years.

We all have to face our own mortality and vegans will die of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and all those other diseases everyone else dies of. We’re not special.

I would love to see some stats on what the biggest killer is among vegans and if you know of any studies, please do post them in the comments below.

But, until there is definitive proof otherwise, we have to assume heart disease is the leading cause of death for vegans. Your diet can help stave off these diseases but they still happen.

I think it’s quite telling that the 3rd largest risk factor by number of deaths is air pollution and vegan or otherwise, that’s something you have little control over if you’re scraping by in a 1 bed flat just off the London North Circular!


I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I did writing it. Please comment and share below if you did … it keeps me in coffee 🙂

Thank you for reading and have a compassionate day!


[1] – Pollakova D, Andreadi A, Pacifici F, Della-Morte D, Lauro D, Tubili C. The Impact of Vegan Diet in the Prevention and Treatment of Type 2 Diabetes: A Systematic Review. Nutrients. 2021 Jun 21;13(6):2123. doi: 10.3390/nu13062123. PMID: 34205679; PMCID: PMC8235036. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13062123



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7 thoughts on “What Is The Leading Cause Of Death For Vegans?

  1. Eveline Kubbenga Reply

    Hello Rohan,

    Thank you so much for writing this article. I like to share an astonishing experience of our vegan whole foods diet.

    With the age of 60 years my husband had a duplex scan of his neck veins. The nurse didn’t believe the result of it, the veins were totally clean. My husband told her that we are vegans. Her answer: ‘now you know why you are having a vegan diet’.

    • Rohan McAvee Post authorReply

      Hey Eveline,

      I appreciate you taking the time to comment. It means a lot to me 🙂

      That’s an amazing scan result for your husband and more proof that a plant-based diet can work wonders for your health. As I mentioned in the article, I do have this sneaking suspicion that heart disease is probably not the leading cause of death for vegans. I will look again at the studies to see if I can find any evidence for that.

      What I do know is since going vegan and eating WFPB I’ve never felt better 🙂

      (by the way, I like your website … what are your plans for development?)

  2. Michelle Reply

    Any knowledgeable cardiologist and oncologist will tell you a plant based diet NOW AND to avoid carcinogenic effect of animal products. It’s proven. This is a big AG website. They don’t care about health only money. Don’t buy the lie. Vegan for Life

    • Rohan McAvee Post authorReply

      Hi Michelle, thank you for taking the time to comment. Firstly, I can assure you this is not a big AG website. If you read a few articles you will soon see that couldn’t be further from the truth. I run this website on my own. It’s a one man band. Do you see ads plastered all over the site? No. Money is not the driving motivation here.

      I run this website to spread the word about veganism and plant based living. I’ve been vegan for 8 years and vegetarian before that for 20 years 🙂

      I totally agree with you about the health benefits of a plant based diet and the question posed in this article is what is the leading cause of death for vegans? Do you know the answer to that?

      Because I had a tough time trying to find any studies detailing the answer to this specific question. In the absence of any data to the contrary, we have to go with the default which is heart disease.

      But I do have a hunch it could be some other ailment, which I actually made clear in the piece.

      Maybe you didn’t read the whole article?

  3. Bojana Reply

    Great write up and thanks for the tips. I honestly never thought that vegans could get sick from such diseases. I believed that their health was completely good precisely because of healthy and good nutrition. However, I know now that it is not so. You should be moderate in everything, including food, and I think that’s the point of everything.

    • Rohan McAvee Post authorReply

      Hey Bojana,

      Thank you for stopping by 🙂 There does seem to be scant information on the leading causes of mortality specifically for vegans. I have a sneaking suspicion heart disease might not be the number 1 killer but can’t prove it!

      Moderation indeed is what we need. The high density consumption we’re currently engaged in as a race is killing our planet, I honestly believe. Search up “Eating our way to Extinction” on YouTube … the situation is grim!

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