Objectives: The growing popularity of diets that restrict the consumption of animal-based foods is an important new challenge for the public healthcare system in Czechia. While the environmental and health-related benefits of plant-based diets are widely discussed in the media, people who follow these diets may lack professional support in terms of nutritional advice and even access to healthcare. The present study aims to map the nutritional practices and experiences with the healthcare system of people in Czechia who follow vegan diets.
Methods: In a qualitative study we conducted semi-structured interviews with twenty-one self-reported adult vegans (14 women and 7 men; 18 with university education) who were on a vegan diet for at least a year. We were specifically interested in their motivation for why and how they became vegans; their everyday diet and eating routines; their use of health care and experiences with medical professionals; their nutritional knowledge and use of supplementation; and their perception of their health and embodiment.
Results: The primary motivations for going vegan are ethical, environmental and health-related. Vegans see themselves and their diet as generally healthier, but for this to be true they must spend a considerable amount of time researching nutritional requirements and what dietary supplements they need. To this end, they tend to rely mainly on non-medical sources of information. Because of the lack of acceptance of veganism among primary-care physicians, vegans tend not to seek out medical advice or tell their doctor about their eating habits in order to avoid conflicts and negative experiences.
Conclusions: We identified a perceived lack of accessible educational materials and potentially limited access to primary healthcare recommendations for people who eliminate the consumption of animal-based foods. These findings deserve further research and public health risk-mitigation strategies.