Ex-vegan whose hair started falling out in chunks claims quitting diet ‘saved her life’

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Kai-Lee Worsley said following a vegan diet gave her symptoms that were so intense that she made the switch back to meat

A woman whose hair started to fall out in chunks claims that following a vegan diet almost killed her.

Kai-Lee Worsley decided to become vegan after learning about factory farming. The 25-year-old stopped eating all products derived from animals and instead started eating protein-rich vegetables, alongside supplements to ensure she met nutritional requirements.

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But after following the diet for six months, Ms Worsley started to feel unwell and suffered a variety of health problems.

Kai-Lee Worsley claims returning to eating meat ‘saved her life’ (Photo: Kai-Lee Worsley / SWNS)Kai-Lee Worsley claims returning to eating meat ‘saved her life’ (Photo: Kai-Lee Worsley / SWNS)
Kai-Lee Worsley claims returning to eating meat ‘saved her life’ (Photo: Kai-Lee Worsley / SWNS) | Kai-Lee Worsley / SWNS

Her hair started falling out in chunks, her fingernails became brittle and would break, and she felt so dizzy that she found it difficult to stand up.

She also said her skin began to break out and she suffered a bad bout of acne - something she had never experienced before.

She explained: “I was extremely tired all the time. I couldn’t form coherent thoughts. I would just lie in bed multiple times a week and I would spend all day in bed if I could. My nails were breaking all the time. My hair was falling out. I have thin hair anyway but my hair was just coming out in chunks.”

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Now, less than a year after turning vegan, Ms Worsley has switched back to eating meat - a move she credits with saving her life.

Kai-Lee Worsley says a vegan diet caused her hair to fall out and acne to break out on her skin (Photo: Kai-Lee Worsley / SWNS)Kai-Lee Worsley says a vegan diet caused her hair to fall out and acne to break out on her skin (Photo: Kai-Lee Worsley / SWNS)
Kai-Lee Worsley says a vegan diet caused her hair to fall out and acne to break out on her skin (Photo: Kai-Lee Worsley / SWNS) | Kai-Lee Worsley / SWNS

She still eats protein-rich vegetables in her diet, but this is now complemented with eating steak three times a week.

She said: “Now I eat basically the same thing as when I was a vegan except I have steak three times a week. I’ve swapped meat substitutes for meat. It has literally saved my life.”

Is veganism healthy?

The NHS says you can get the nutrients you need from eating a varied and balanced vegan diet, including fortified foods and supplements

It advises to:

  • eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day
  • base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates (choose wholegrain where possible)
  • have some fortified dairy alternatives, such as soya drinks and yoghurts (choose lower-fat and lower-sugar options)
  • eat some beans, pulses and other proteins
  • eat nuts and seeds rich in omega-3 fatty acids (such as walnuts) every day
  • choose unsaturated oils and spreads, and eat in small amounts
  • have fortified foods or supplements containing nutrients that are more difficult to get through a vegan diet, including vitamin D, vitamin B12, iodine, selenium, calcium and iron
  • drink plenty of fluids (the government recommends 6 to 8 cups or glasses a day)
  • if you choose to include foods and drinks that are high in fat, salt or sugar, have them less often and in small amounts

The 25-year-old author and entrepreneur went vegan after moving to Santa Ana, California, in the US, in August 2018. The decision came after she moved in with a group of vegans who taught her about factory farming and the abuse faced by animals - a revelation she describes as a turning point in choosing to become vegan.

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She explained: “What convinced me is the way animals were treated. I didn’t know how animals were treated in factory farms. I didn’t know factory farms existed.” She quickly ditched all animal-based products for a diet rich in protein-packed vegetables, such as beans and legumes, and used supplements to counter the lack of proteins found in meat.

But after eating strictly vegan food left her battling a string of symptoms, she decided to quit the diet in June 2019.

Kai-Lee abandoned her vegan diet after less than a year after feeling unwell (Photo: Kai-Lee Worsley / SWNS)Kai-Lee abandoned her vegan diet after less than a year after feeling unwell (Photo: Kai-Lee Worsley / SWNS)
Kai-Lee abandoned her vegan diet after less than a year after feeling unwell (Photo: Kai-Lee Worsley / SWNS) | Kai-Lee Worsley / SWNS

She had just moved to Toronto, Canada, when she started to feel so dizzy that she could see stars. Ms Worsley recalled: “I was sitting in my kitchen feeling so lightheaded that I was seeing stars. I remember thinking, ‘if I die right now no one would know’.”

By then she had been vegan for just 10 months, but she felt she had no choice but to abandon her convictions for the sake of her own wellbeing, and since eating meat again she has felt her energy levels return.

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She added: “I went to a butcher in Greek Town and bought a single steak and brought it home. I didn’t even know how to cook meat anymore, so it was horrible. As soon as I took a couple of bites I felt better. I could feel myself having more energy.”

But while she is feeling the physical benefits of eating meat, Ms Worsley admits she has struggled morally to abandon her vegan diet and feels like a “fraud”.

She said: “I really thought veganism was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I even saw myself as an activist. After I ate meat, I saw myself as a fraud. I even had a V tattoo in my ear, which stood for vegan. I was at that point when I was so indoctrinated that it was really hard to go back.

“I didn’t tell anyone at the beginning. I was worried what they would think about me. I think when you’re so indoctrinated in something it’s really hard to back away, but I’m glad that I was able to do it in time.”

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