Don’t listen to the nonsense

| 12 January 2021
minute reading time

Well here’s a new one to start the year with: could going vegan could make you lose your hearing in one ear?

That’s the warning journalist Kate Mulvey issued, writing in the Telegraph this week. Her story begins with her search for a cure for her crippling migraines. A friend suggested a plant-based diet, so she went to Google and of course found all manner of articles saying how a vegan diet could help. Google will tell you anything you want to hear if you look hard enough. I would have expected a seasoned journalist to know how to do proper research!

A half-hearted attempt

From her story, it’s obvious her heart was never in it. Describing herself as a confirmed meat-eater, Mulvey said ‘sitting down to a plate of grass is more like a prison sentence than a pleasurable experience’ and admits how her mood imploded ‘like an egg-free soufflé’.

Talking rissoles

It’s a shame she couldn’t embrace the positive experience and really feel the benefits. She talked about nut rissoles (I don’t think anyone has eaten them since the 1970s) and birch juice – whatever that is! She says she was the awkward guest at dinner parties – where was she eating, the 1980s? Vegan food is now commonplace and most people know how to cater for vegans. Supermarkets are packed with vegan food: falafels, hummus, soya mince for spaghetti Bolognaise and chilli, vegan curries, noodles, tofu sausages, burgers, tempeh, hot dogs, pesto, vegan cheeses and so on. Many dishes, such as Moroccan tagines, curries, stir-fries etc can easily be made vegan. Chefs are experimenting and creating amazing, tasty vegan food – better for us and the planet.

After five months, Mulvey said she lost loads of weight and nearly fainted on the bus so went for a blood test and was found to be low in iron – hardly surprising if she was living on birch juice and grass! Low iron is easy to remedy on a healthy vegan diet – just look at the millions of people globally who don’t eat meat, they are not all anaemic! Plant foods (such as lentils, tofu, dried fruit, peas and kale) are packed with iron. As is usually the case with these silly sensational stories, she just wasn’t eating properly.

A few weeks later, she lost hearing in one ear. Her doctor said the cause was unlikely to be a lack of nutrients and described it as idiopathic (unknown cause). A previous infection with the Epstein Barr virus, that can stay in the body, may have caused it but Mulvey preferred to blame her poor dietary choices. A vegan diet is not a silver bullet for all ailments, but neither should it be blamed for anything that happens to you while you are a vegan! It certainly sounds like Mulvey was malnourished, but not because what she was eating happened to be vegan, rather because she wasn’t eating enough nutritious vegan food. I get the feeling if she’d had a skiing accident it would have been blamed on tofu.


Over half a million people have signed up for Veganuary this year, but an article saying how extreme and dangerous vegan diets are is bound to get more attention than one describing how healthy a vegan diet is. The article opens with Mulvey describing how the Health and Food Supplements Information Service, funded by companies that make vitamin supplements, suggesting that people adopting a plant-based diet will miss out on vitamins, minerals and omega-3 fats – go figure!

At the foot of the article it says “Have you tried a vegan diet and struggled? Tell us in the comments section below”. It’s heartening to see vegans commenting how they have had good health for years without meat and dairy. All major health bodies agree, a well-planned vegan diet can provide all the nutrients you need at all stages of life and protects you against all the big killers; heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers. This is just another sorry attempt at taking a swipe at a much healthier way of eating – if you are trying vegan this January don’t be put off!

Sign up to our daily emails to receive mouth-watering meal plans, nutritional advice and health information here.

About the author
Dr. Justine Butler
Justine joined Viva! in 2005 after graduating from Bristol University with a PhD in molecular biology. After working as a campaigner, then researcher and writer, she is now Viva!’s head of research and her work focuses on animals, the environment and health. Justine’s scientific training helps her research and write both in-depth scientific reports, such as White Lies and the Meat Report, as well as easy-to-read factsheets and myth-busting articles for consumer magazines and updates on the latest research. Justine also recently wrote the Vegan for the Planet guide for Viva!’s Vegan Now campaign.

View author page | View staff profile

Scroll up