Veganism has its pitfalls

Veganism has its pitfalls

29 Apr 2021

Vegans may score points in the righteous stakes but city doctors say their diet can cause skin and hair problems.

It’s tough being a vegan. No, we’re not talking about having to eat a restrictive diet but dealing with all the jokes and the endless whys and the memes of having to take your own food when you’re invited to a party.

And now the medical fraternity has more bad news for vegans. Doctors say that they have observed an increasing number of skin and hair issues in people following vegan diets. With vegan diets being low in vitamin B12 and some essential nutrients, a lot of vegans have reported skin, nail and hair problems.

Dr Girish C Panth, Senior Consultant Dermatologist, Apollo Hospitals Bannerghatta Road says he sees 50 to 60 cases of vegans with dermatology issues in a month.

“The patients are mainly adults in the age group of 30 to 50 years. Most of them come to me with hair and nail problems. A vegan diet lacks in vitamin B12 leading to issues such as split ends, dry hair and increased hair fall. We then have to prescribe Vitamin B12 supplements to them,” he says adding that in case it gets severe, it can lead to pain, weakness and low bone density.

Experts say that though some people are aware of eating the right vegan choices, some who follow a vegan diet as a fad don’t research enough on the dietary system and suffer the most. Dr Praveen Bharadwaj, Consultant Dermatologist, Manipal Hospitals Whitefield, says, “Many people do not consider that they need to supplement certain minerals and nutrients that they may be missing in a vegan diet. Hence, when they come to us, we not only treat them but also educate them. They can take lentils (dal) to compensate for proteins and fruits for vitamin B12 as a lack of these elements can lead to skin pigmentation, dry skin, hair fall and darkening of old and new scars.”

If you are a vegan and have removed all animal protein and dairy from your diet, you might develop a deficiency in certain nutrients, particularly zinc and iron, says Dr. Sravya C Tipirnenia, Consultant Dermatology and Cosmetology, Columbia Asia Hospital, Whitefield. “Animal proteins and dairy products are the best sources of B12, zinc, and iron and the deficiency of these vitamins and minerals can cause glossitis, a swollen and glassy-looking tongue, mouth sores, particularly, stomatitis, cracks in the corners of the mouth, hyperpigmentation of the skin and , a condition that causes pigmentation loss in areas of the skin,” she adds.

While for a majority of people, a vegan diet can lead to several skin problems, not consuming milk has a positive side to it. Dr Revanta Saha, Visiting Consultant, Dermatology, Narayana Multispeciality Hospital, Whitefield, says, “The milk that is currently available in the market is mostly produced by cows who are exposed to hormonal treatments. Hence the milk also has a hormone residue which in turn leads to an outbreak of acne even among grown-ups.”

She adds, however, that if a person includes legumes, leafy vegetables, fruits and tofu in their vegan diet, it can help to keep their skin healthy.

A restrictive vegan diet can also lead to dark circles and pale skin. Dr Rashmi Ravindra, Consultant Dermatologist & Cosmetologist, BGS Gleneagles Global Hospital, says, “With vegan patients, deficiencies in iron and B12 can lead to pale skin, dark circles and even hair loss. In such cases, we also recommend supplements like omega 3 fatty acids (which are typically found in eggs and fish) and vitamin B12 injections.”

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