Is there a health interest in a flexible diet?

Flexitarianism, short for flexible and vegetarian, refers to non-strictly vegetarian eating practices that include the occasional consumption of meat or fish.

Flexitarian mode has been gaining traction in recent years and I have to say that I myself have been interested in this. For those who want to keep eating, having fun, but also conscientiously, I think this is a good compromise. I have significantly reduced my meat consumption, and above all, I prefer quality products that are animal-friendly.

It is difficult to decide on the health benefits of this practice because there is very little scientific research. This is still recent, but above all it is difficult to define precisely … Each has its own definition of flexitarianism.

Fields Analyzed and Research-Findings

As I said, it is still difficult to find clear reports: across 46 publications, 25 studies were found to meet the criteria set by the dietitian (clear definition of flexitarian, but she expanded her study with the terms semi-vegetarian or semi-vegetarian “).

4 health areas were specifically analyzed:

  • Effects on weight,
  • For metabolic health,
  • About reducing the risk of cancer
  • About the quality of the diet (food intake)

Weight loss

Of the 6 weight-related studies, all report a lower BMI in lean subjects, or more weight loss in overweight or obese people taking this diet.

Metabolic health

6 studies of metabolic markers of health or diabetes risk markers are also showing similar results. A Korean study reports improved blood markers (glycemia, insulinemia, leptinemia) in postmenopausal women who have followed this type of diet for over 20 years.

An Indian study and two American studies by the same team observe a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, while another American study concludes that there is a lower risk of metabolic syndrome. Finally, a Spanish study notes lower blood pressure in semi-vegetarian women during the vegetative period compared to those who regularly consume meat.

Cancer risk

The cancer risk data assessed in 4 studies are more nuanced: the risk of colon cancer was slightly reduced in semi-vegetarians, while in the case of prostate and breast cancer, only vegans had a lower risk.

Food intake

When it comes to research on nutritional quality, consumption or nutritional status of flexitarians, they have provided conflicting data. Compared to subjects consuming regular meat, semi-vegetarians had lower energy intake in a Canadian study, higher calcium intake and higher food density intake in a Belgian study.

Une An American study conducted on obese or overweight subjects showed that vegetarians had a balanced macronutrient intake profile and that the inflammatory index in their diet also dropped significantly after 2 months of this diet, but this was not more true after 6 months. Their omega-3 intake was better than vegans and vegetarians, especially EPA, DHA, and their omega-6 / omega-3 ratio, according to an Austrian study.

However, as reported in an Australian study, semi-vegetarian women were more likely to be iron deficient or even anemic (38.6%) than non-vegetarians.

Finally, two studies on subjects with chronic inflammatory conditions are providing preliminary but encouraging results. They point out that semi-vegetarian food may prevent relapse in Crohn’s disease patients due to the action of its fiber content.

Flexitarism not yet defined

If research shows that flexitarianism can have beneficial effects on health and weight loss, we still lack a clear definition of what flexitarianism is. 25 studies analyzed by Emma J. Derbyshire illustrate this well: only 6 have the same definition.

Likewise, according to the author, low-meat and Mediterranean diets can be viewed as flexitian diets.

Either way, flexitarianism will be According to the nutritionist, this is a good way to improve the health of subjects and reduce their meat consumption while adhering to their dietary preferences.

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