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Veganism is the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products, particularly in diet, and an associated philosophy that rejects the commodity status of animals. A follower of the diet or philosophy is known as a vegan. Distinctions may be made between several categories of veganism. Dietary vegans (also known as “strict vegetarians”) refrain from consuming meat, eggs, dairy products, and any other animal-derived substances. An ethical vegan (also known as a “moral vegetarian”) is someone who not only follows a vegan diet but extends the philosophy into other areas of their lives and opposes the use of animals for any purpose. Another term is “environmental veganism”, which refers to the avoidance of animal products on the premise that the industrial farming of animals is environmentally damaging and unsustainable. Well-planned vegan diets are regarded as appropriate for all stages of life, including infancy and pregnancy, by the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council, New Zealand Ministry of Health, Harvard Medical School, and the British Dietetic Association. The German Society for Nutrition does not recommend vegan diets for children or adolescents or during pregnancy and breastfeeding. In preliminary clinical research, vegan diets lowered the risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and ischemic heart disease. Vegan diets tend to be higher in dietary fiber, magnesium, folic acid, vitamin C, vitamin E, iron, and phytochemicals; and lower in dietary energy, saturated fat, cholesterol, long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, calcium, zinc, and vitamin B12. As with a poorly-planned diet of any other variation, an unbalanced vegan diet may lead to nutritional deficiencies that nullify any beneficial effects and may cause serious health issues. Some of these deficiencies can only be prevented through the choice of fortified foods or the regular intake of dietary supplements. Vitamin B12 supplementation is especially important because its deficiency causes blood disorders and potentially irreversible neurological damage. Donald Watson coined the term “vegan” in 1944 when he co-founded the Vegan Society in England. At first, he used it to mean “non-dairy vegetarian”, and by May 1945 vegans explicitly abstained from “eggs, honey; and animals’ milk, butter, and cheese”. From 1951 the Society defined it as “the doctrine that man should live without exploiting animals”. Interest in veganism increased in the 2010s, especially in the latter half. More vegan stores opened and vegan options became increasingly available in supermarkets and restaurants worldwide.
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