Vegetarian nutrition: past, present, future.

Author(s): 

Leitzmann C

Journal: 

Am J Clin Nutr.

Year Published: 

2014

Category: 

Study Design: 

Abstract: 

Early human food cultures were plant-based. Major religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism have recommended a vegetarian way of life since their conception. The recorded history of vegetarian nutrition started in the sixth century bc by followers of the Orphic mysteries. The Greek philosopher Pythagoras is considered the father of ethical vegetarianism. The Pythagorean way of life was followed by a number of important personalities and influenced vegetarian nutrition until the 19th century. In Europe, vegetarian nutrition more or less disappeared during the Middle Ages. In the Renaissance era and in the Age of Enlightenment, various personalities practiced vegetarianism. The first vegetarian society was started in England in 1847. The International Vegetarian Society was founded in 1908 and the first vegan society began in 1944. Prominent vegetarians during this time included Sylvester Graham, John Harvey Kellogg, and Maximilian Bircher-Benner. A paradigm shift occurred at the turn of the 21st century. The former prejudices that vegetarianism leads to malnutrition were replaced by scientific evidence showing that vegetarian nutrition reduces the risk of most contemporary diseases. Today, vegetarian nutrition has a growing international following and is increasingly accepted. The main reasons for this trend are health concerns and ethical, ecologic, and social issues. The future of vegetarian nutrition is promising because sustainable nutrition is crucial for the well-being of humankind. An increasing number of people do not want animals to suffer nor do they want climate change; they want to avoid preventable diseases and to secure a livable future for generations to come.