Vegans often catch a lot of backlash for their dietary choice, and Maria Strydom has become the latest victim. Strydom announced she was determined to prove, concerns about protein and iron deficiencies aside, vegans were capable of high levels of physical activity.

How was she going to do this? Why, she was going to climb Mount Everest. To be clear, she was not inexperienced when it came to adventures. Strydom and her (also vegan) husband had already conquered Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, Aconcagua in Argentina, Denali in Alaska and Mount Ararat in Turkey.

vegan climber

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Yet, 15 minutes from the summit of Everest, she suffered from severe altitude sickness and had to turn back. Apparently she was having trouble speaking or walking before finally collapsing. Strydom died around an altitude of 8,000 meters. While her husband did reach the top alone, he also fell ill with altitude sickness and was airlifted to the nearest hospital.

But the question is, did their dietary restrictions actually have anything to do with their climbing troubles? Time magazine published a recent article addressing vegan diets where Loren Cordain, Professor Emeritus of Health and Human Sciences at Colorado State University, said, “In fact [vegan diets] may be less healthy than diets that include meat.”

Research has shown that it is difficult for people with vegan diets to get a healthy level of nourishment. Without eating animal products, your body misses out on significant levels of iron, zinc, calcium, and more. Not to mention you have to really monitor your nutrition or you’ll find yourself eating Oreos (which are vegan-friendly BTW) for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

vegan climber

Photo by Torey Walsh

However, an article published by online newspaper The Independent has fervently claimed that Strydom’s diet and her death are not linked. Because she did not die from a nutrient deficiency, there is no reason to draw the conclusion that being a vegan had anything to do with her failure to complete the trek. Altitude sickness does not discriminate, especially at 8,848 meters above sea level, which translates to about 29,028 feet.

So, while Strydom may have not been getting enough calcium every day, it seems to have had nothing to do with her not being able to climb Mount Everest. Unfortunately, the media has painted the picture that it did, deciding to focus on her death solely because of her diet. There are many pros and cons to being a vegan, so before being too quick to diss the diet choice, or deciding to completely cut animal products out of your life on a whim, do a little research first friends.