How Your Body Transforms on a Vegan Diet

Posted Jan 5th, 2018 by Mic the Vegan

What actually happens to your body when you go vegan? To answer that question we are going to look at 8 clinical trials and several other studies to map out what changes happen and when. There is no perfect timeline and everyone is different, but this will give us the best sense of what you can expect from the research currently available. I want to quickly mentioned that you can go vegan and starve yourself on 300 calories a day or you can eat 5,000 calories a day of potato chips and beer, but we are going to look mainly at the vegan diet that the main vegan doctors, like Esselstyn, Barnard, McDougall, Campbell, Gregor, and many more all recommend, which is not centered around french-fries. 

1-3 days:

The first day you go vegan, you will lose 10 lbs. Kidding! There aren’t really any clinical trials that last 1 day, but there are some obvious things that will no longer happen when first going vegan. If you normally consumed cow’s milk your hormones will no longer be manipulated by its mammalian hormones. A study from the journal Pediatrics International stated that research participants exhibited a statistically significant 25% rising of blood estrone, a type of estrogen. As well, a 20% lowering of testosterone after drinking an amount that is less than the USDA’s recommended daily intake. So you don’t have to worry about that anymore. (1

Another thing that will stop is animal product related inflammation. In this study from Diabetes Care journal they found a boost in inflammation after eating egg and sausage muffins. You can kiss that goodbye, perhaps this phenomenon is responsible for the general “I feel lighter” that many new vegans proclaim. (2)

Now to be completely fair, there are complaints about an increase in gas when first going vegan like from this blogger who ‘ate Beyoncé’s vegan diet for 4 days and all she got was gas!’ (3I don’t doubt that it’s possible; your fiber intake is going from the 15g average to 30-100 grams but let’s look closer. If you are going vegan, you are likely eating more beans and you may have heard the children’s rhyme “Beans, beans, the magical fruit, the more you eat the more you toot.” But in reality, its “Beans, beans, 3% of you might fart more for a couple days, but it will pass and life will be better.” Yeah, that’s not going to make it onto the playground anytime soon. As this study from the Winham and Hutchins Journal of Nutrition mentions, only the small amount of people, the green bar, noticed any increase – the red bar, that’s no symptoms at all. (4)

Another study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition mentioned that any increases were observed to stop at 24-48 hours. (5So then you can reap a lifetime of benefits and a potentially longer life. Just like in this study from the Asian Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, legumes were the one food MOST associated with survival in elderly populations around the world. (6I also want to mention that this is not simply your stomach “getting used” to the higher fiber vegan food; this is a shift in enterotype. The Open Access Nutrition Journal highlights in their description of the vegan gut that this is a shift from a from a more flesh digesting, potentially pathogenic population of gut flora, to a higher fiber eating, more protective population. (7) 

Specifically from a more bacteroides dominated gut that feeds on animal products (like what you are made out of) and is associated with more colon cancer, to a prevotella dominated gut that is protective and feeds on plant material. “Enterotypes were strongly associated with long-term diets, particularly protein and animal fat (Bacteroides) versus carbohydrates (Prevotella).” (8By this point we are getting to our first clinical trial where a group is put on a diet and then changes are measured. The following is one that demonstrates a vegan gut shift.

7 days – Vegan Gut:

In this clinical trial from the journal appropriately named Gut, people who were put on a vegan diet and adhered to it, had higher levels of short chain fatty acids. These are highly protective, and those who didn’t adhere had higher levels of TMAO, trimethylamine oxide, which is a result of animal products breaking down. As the study mentioned: “Eggs, beef, pork and fish are the major sources of carnitine and choline that are converted by the gut microbiota to trimethylamine, then oxidized in the liver and released into circulation as TMAO….TMAO [Trimethylamine oxide] is linked to risk of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disorders.” (9)

Week 2 – Pooping Anecdotes:

I want to say right off the bat vegans are more regular poopers and it’s fair to say that by week 2 most people are experiencing that. This is a myth that you will poop a trillion times on a vegan diet, with people exaggerating and saying they pooped 7 times a day when they tried a vegan diet. But from studies like this massive Oxford study from the Journal of Public Health Nutrition, vegans only poop about 7% more often than vegetarians (and 20% more often than omnivores, and you can bet they are still saving time). It also found that vegans were 3 time more likely to be regular than omnivores. (10)

Week 3 – Arteries: 

Another clinical trial from the web site of Dr. Essylstyn that I talk about a lot looked at about 200 people. If you have cardiovascular disease, you may experience artery clearing at this time. Using a radioactive tracer, the article shows a before shot with blood flow in red, this is largely blocked blood flow in one of the patients. And at 3 weeks the article showed a shot with much higher blood flow. (11)

1 Month – Protein: 

You die of a protein deficiency. NOT! No really, but it is worth noting that vegans have higher blood levels of protein than omnivores, possibly due to lower inflammation. This is according to the journal Advances in Clinical Chemistry which also states, “Plasma albumin was significantly higher (P < 0.05) in vegans than the non-vegetarians studied; mean (SD) plasma albumin of the vegans was 49.3 (2.9) g/l and that of the non-vegetarians was 46.9 (3.8) g/l." (12Moving on, let’s whip through a few more clinical trials…

3 Months – Diabetes:

If you have diabetes, a randomized control trial highlighted in the journal Preventative Medicine shows that blood sugar was lowered by 28% after going vegan (13)

3.5 Months- Obesity:

If you are starting out obese, by 3.5 months we see a 13 lb. weight loss, 3% body fat loss, better glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity according to an article in The American Journal of Medicine, “a vegan diet was associated with significant weight reduction, along with improvements in measures of glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity.” (14)

4 Months- Migraines: 

A vegan study from The Journal of Headache and Pain found that 88% of migraine sufferers’ gone vegan noted improvement in their headache pain. As well, the number of people who needed medication for their headaches dropped by 1/3. Let’s not forget a potentially lifesaving 22 point lowering of total cholesterol. (15)

Also during the 4th month, from the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition a randomized control trail of 10 worksites looking at normal people that went vegan. This trial showed 3.84 kg or about 8.5 lb. weight loss and lowering of cholesterol among other blood improvements. (16)

5 Months- Larger Diabetes Trial:

43% of type 2 diabetics were able to lower their medication, and found about a 30% lowering in blood sugar. As well, they saw a massive lowering of their total and LDL or bad cholesterol levels, triglycerides, and as an added bonus, lost 13 lbs. “Body weight fell 5.8 kg in the vegan group” and a couple inches off their waist! This was according to a trial in the journal of Diabetes Care. (17)

Also around 5 months, a study that is especially relevant because it was on a normal snapshot of the population, not selecting for disease. The statistically significant findings from the Annals Of Nutrition and Metabolism stated that, “The vegan group reported improvements in general health (p = 0.002), physical functioning (p = 0.001), mental health (p = 0.03), vitality (p = 0.004), and overall diet satisfaction (p < 0.001) compared with the control group." Counter to the myth, “The vegan group also reported a decrease in food costs (p = 0.003), [though to be fair] and increased difficulty finding foods when eating out (p = 0.04) compared with the control group.” But most impressively,  “The vegan group reported a 40–46% decrease in health-related productivity impairments at work (p = 0.03)” (18)

That was based off how many days of work they missed for health and time they couldn’t be working in the office due to health. That means that if these numbers hold true, if there is anything you are trying to accomplish in your life, over your first few months on a vegan diet you will likely prevent health related things from stopping you from succeeding. Perfect example, if you watch my channel have you ever heard me lose my voice or have a stuffy nose? No. I have yet to postpone or cancel making a video due to health, though now that I am saying that I have probably jinxed myself.

6 months- Low Carbs:

Even a low carb vegan diet will lose you 12 lbs. and lower your LDL or bad cholesterol by 18 points if you had high cholesterol. So it doesn’t have to be your classic higher carb diet as long as it isn’t all processed foods. This from a study done by the Department of Nutritional Sciences in the University of Toronto. (19Let’s look a little further down the line to one of the longest vegan trial follow-ups.

12 Years- Esselstyn’s Heart Trial:

Back to Esselstyn’s study on cardiovascular disease, after 12 year on a whole food vegan diet they saw a 0.6% incidence of heart attack or stroke which is 100xs lower than those who didn’t follow the diet – at 60% heart attack and stroke. (11Now once you get past the time scale of the vast majority of dietary trials, your best option is to look at population studies, snapshots in time comparing different groups. 

Long Term Population Studies:

A good example would be vegan arteries. You can take an ultrasound of your arteries to look at artery thickness and see how clogged your arteries are, which is a major predictor of disease and death. In a study from an issue of Rejuvenation Research, the control group of normal omnivores was rated at 0.74, a group of marathon runners that average 48 miles a week for over 20 years were rated at 0.63, and some sedentary vegans at 0.56. Vegan arteries were clearer than marathon runners! (20)

I just want to give a final reminder that you can’t go around eating large amounts of processed vegan food and expect all of these results. But I do believe that if you take the equivalent healthiness of your omnivorous diet and shift over to a vegan diet with the same proportion of processed foods, you will see an improvement and that claim is based off the population studies of vegans who eat a standard vegan diet including processed foods and still see massive benefits such as 16% less cancer, 15% lower mortality, 63% lower incidence of hypertension, 62-78% less diabetes risk, 10% less heart disease, a normal BMI average, 10% less hypothyroidism and more. (21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26If you want to go all the way to ditching processed foods and need an introduction you can watch my video on the whole food vegan diet transitioning here.

In conclusion, though it’s impossible to know exactly when and what changes will happen for you, we can gauge from the clinical trials and other studies that you will lose likely lose weight if you are overweight, see a lowering of cholesterol, clearing of arteries, stabilization of blood sugar, more productivity, better mental health, a healthier gut biome, and none of that inflammation or hormonal manipulation that comes with eating animal products. And last but not least, a clearer conscience because you aren’t eating cute animals!

Works Cited