Student’s senior project explores short-term mental effects of eating vegan diet for one week

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When Braxton Rose, ’12, started eating a vegan diet last year, he did so along with the rest of his family. Allegheny students interested in seeing what it’s like to go vegan have found a similar opportunity for support by participating in Rose’s senior project, which aims to evaluate the short-term psychological effects of a vegan diet.

Rose, who began conducting his senior project in Psychology this past Monday, believes that eating a vegan diet contributes to an overall feeling of healthiness, one that can’t be achieved by eating a diet comprised mainly of meat.

On Monday, Feb. 20, Rose gathered participants, tested them on their moods and instructed them on how to eat a vegan diet. After seven days, he will survey the moods of his participants once more. Students who already were or had been vegan in the past were not able to participate. Rose said he feels optimistic about the likelihood of participants feeling better after their week of eating on a vegan diet.

“When you eat a meal you’re not supposed to feel sluggish. Everyone comes [to Brooks] and eats four burgers and wonders why they go take a nap after lunch,” he said. “If you ate twice that amount of lettuce, you won’t get that feeling.”

Unlike many people who eliminate all animal products from their diet, Rose switched immediately from being a carnivore to a vegan, without making a stop in between at vegetarianism.

“I immediately felt good, happy and perky,” he said. “I lost a lot of weight and my skin cleared up.” He added that he recently tried a little bit of meat for the first time since going vegan and felt “awful, sick and gross” afterwards.

Rose said he and his parents thoroughly researched the idea of going vegan before trying it out on their own. “A lot of people don’t do a lot of research, and think they won’t feel full [if they go vegan],” he said.

Rose’s worry, that he wouldn’t be able to eat enough food to stay full, is one shared by many Allegheny students that have just embarked on the seven-day vegan experiment.

“I feel like I’m gonna get kinda tired from being malnourished,” said Michelina Campanella, ’12.

For this reason, Rose contacted Parkhurst before gathering participants to ensure that there would be vegan-friendly options available at Brooks and McKinley’s during the week of his experiment. He provided the staff with specific menus and asked them to mark each vegan station accordingly.

Rose added that for the most part, vegan food choices were already available at Allegheny’s dining centers before he contacted Parkhurst about his comp.

“Right now, you could eat vegan easily at Brooks,” he said.

Rose said he intended to provide all participants with specific instructions about what they can and cannot eat during their week as vegans. He included suggestions for late-night snacks after the bar, as well as a guideline for drinking alcohol.

“Vegans can’t drink Guinness beer, because it contains gelatin,” Rose said.

Although Rose scheduled 12 different time slots in which participants could sign up for the experiment and complete the initial survey, all the space he’d allotted filled up after just two hours.

“It was wicked cool to see so many people sign up,” said Rose, expressing his satisfaction with the large participant turnout. He added that he is especially pleased that many people who couldn’t sign up are still participating in his seven-day challenge.

Kasey Hinkle, ’14, said she was looking forward to trying something new.
“I’m very interested in health and fitness,” she said. “But I’m not actually gonna be vegan [after the study]. I like meat too much.”

Psychology major Veronica Quinlan, ’13, said she was intrigued about the psychological effects of eating a diet void of animal products.

“I’ve always eaten meat and thought of it positively, because it gives me the protein I need,” she said. “But now I know I can get protein from other sources.”

Campanella said that she participated in the experiment in hopes that it might help her feel healthier, since as of late she has been feeling “really gross.”

“I always feel exhausted…I’ve been having trouble sleeping…I’ve been eating McKins nacho chips and ‘mozz’ sticks at 11 p.m. I need to change my ways,” she said.

Less than a day after beginning the experiment, Campanella said she was already having trouble feeling full on a vegan diet. “I ate like 400 Brussels sprouts and a yam last night,” she said. “It felt really good, but I was still starving afterwards.”

She also attested to the financial difficulty of eating vegan. “If I had unlimited funds, it’d be fine,” she said. “But buying groceries is hard enough when shopping for normal food, let alone buying vegan food.”

She did add, however, that she felt cleansed, as well as an overall heightened sense of awareness.

“I feel as light as a feather,” she said.

Rose said that although he doesn’t necessarily advocate a 100% vegan diet for everybody, he does think everyone should eat a “mostly” vegan diet and eat meat sparingly.

“Every single person is different. If you try [a vegan diet] for awhile and you don’t like it, go back,” he said. “I do know I’m eating the right diet for me.”