Dietary habits in the so-called Western world have undergone a genuine revolution over the last decades: once rich in plant foods and low in animal products and derivatives, our diets are now marked by the ubiquitous presence of meat and refi ned grains, while fruits and vegetables play a marginal role. As a result, the risk of developing diseases such as diabetes, cancer or cardiovascular, neurodegenerative and autoimmune disorders has increased. Recent studies have shown that the typical features of a vegan diet - protein and calorie restriction, reduction of inflammation and a healthier gut microbiota - allow to prevent, improve and halt the progress of the most common chronic conditions in the developed world. This article describes the molecular mechanisms behind the protective potential that is nowadays associated to a 100% plant based diet, emphasizing that, as long as we supplement it with vitamin B12, a vegan diet is healthy and complete, and satisfies all physiological needs at all life stages.
Keywords: Vegan diet, protein restriction, inflammation, microbiota, micronutrients, vitamin B12.