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  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
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
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!
 – 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