Is there a consensus among national and international health organisations about the health effects of a vegan diet? If so, what are their positions? Are there any disagreements?

  • Viva have an Endorsements page which may be of interest. – Zanna Aug 14 '17 at 9:07

There is general agreement amongst reputable health organisations that veg diets can be nutritionally adequate, and that they are often healthier in several dimensions. Here are some statements from some relevant respected organisations on the topic of veganism/vegetarianism:

  • Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association): “It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that appropriately planned vegetarian, including vegan, diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits for the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. These diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, older adulthood, and for athletes” (Source: "Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2016, Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Vegetarian Diets")

  • British Dietitians Association: “Well planned vegetarian [and strict-vegetarian] diets can be nutritious and healthy. They are associated with lower risks of heart disease, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, obesity, certain cancers and lower cholesterol levels. This could be because such diets are lower in saturated fat, contain fewer calories and more fibre and phytonutrients/phytochemicals (these can have protective properties) than non-vegetarian diets.” (source)

  • Dietitian’s Association of Australia: “Despite these restrictions [(a lack of animal products)], with good planning it is still possible to obtain all the nutrients required for good health on a vegan diet.” (source)

  • Dietitians of Canada: “A healthy vegan diet has many health benefits including lower rates of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer.” and “A healthy vegan diet can meet all your nutrient needs at any stage of life including when you are pregnant, breastfeeding or for older adults. (source)

  • John Hopkins School of Public Health: “A strong body of scientific evidence links excess meat consumption, particularly of red and processed meat, with heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, obesity, certain cancers, and earlier death. Diets high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans can help prevent these diseases and promote health in a variety of ways. […] The majority of the protein foods consumed in the U.S. are meat and animal products, which are often high in saturated fat and cholesterol, as opposed to the more nutrient-dense and health-promoting plant-based options (e.g., beans, peas, lentils, soy products, nuts and seeds).” (source)

  • American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “a very low meat intake was associated with a significant decrease in risk of death in 4 [of 6] studies,” and “Current prospective cohort data from adults in North America and Europe raise the possibility that a lifestyle pattern that includes a very low meat intake is associated with greater longevity.” (source)

  • Harvard Health Publications: “A meta-analysis of 29 studies of meat consumption and colon cancer concluded that a high consumption of red meat increases risk by 28%, and a high consumption of processed meat increases risk by 20%.” (source) and “It appears ‘healthy meat consumption’ has become an oxymoron […] People in the study who ate the most red meat tended to die younger, and to die more often from cardiovascular disease and cancer. […] even when the researchers compensated for the effects of unhealthy lifestyle, mortality and meat remained associated.” (source)

  • Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine: “Two themes consistently emerge from studies of cancer from many sites: vegetables and fruits help to reduce risk, while meat, animal products, and other fatty foods are frequently found to increase risk. […] Not surprisingly, vegetarians are at the lowest risk for cancer and have a significantly reduced risk compared to meat-eaters.” (source)

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    This is a good and mostly representative breakdown of the positions of relevant organizations. There is a slight bias, however, in that these organizations​ (as far as I have checked) also recommend to pay attention to specific nutrients, which isn't reflected in the answer. – henning Jun 7 '17 at 11:03
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    Great point! As well as summarising their common nutrient recommendations I'd like to get around to summarising any conflicting info, but I just don't have time at the moment – user116 Jun 8 '17 at 8:29
  • I have to add that some countries still do not officially consider a vegetalian regime as healthy. It is the case in France, but the corresponding organisation issued a letter confirming that they had to consider more recent studies and that a new statement was to be expected in the years to come – Edelk Jan 5 '18 at 11:34

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