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Why You Should Think Twice about Removing Animal Products from Your Diet

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Reviewed by Christina Graham, MSN, APRN, AGPCNP-BC

Vegetarian and vegan diets can’t offer the same nutrients as this grilled meat.
Are vegetarian and vegan diets healthy? If you’re not eating meat, you’re missing out on key nutrients animal products provide.

This is an update of an article I published in 2011. I affirm that animal products are among the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat and that vegetarians and vegans are at risk for multiple nutrient deficiencies. I have included up-to-date research and expanded the list of nutrients that are often lacking in vegetarian and vegan diets.

Maybe you have considered going vegetarian or vegan for the health benefits. Or maybe you know someone who feels strongly about it as an ethical choice, and you wonder if they can really follow the diet in a healthy way. I respect these reasons and appreciate anyone who thinks deeply about the social and spiritual impact of their food choices—even if my own exploration of these questions has led me to a different answer.

But many choose a vegetarian diet because they’re under the impression that it’s a healthier choice from a nutritional perspective. It is this last reason that I’d like to address in this article. For the last 50-plus years, we’ve been told that meat, eggs, and animal fats are bad for us and that we’ll live longer and enjoy superior health if we minimize or avoid them. This idea has been so thoroughly drilled into our heads that few people even question it anymore. In fact, if you asked the average person on the street whether a vegetarian or vegan diet is healthier than an omnivorous diet, they’d probably say yes. But is this really true?

If You Want Nutrient-Dense Foods, You Need to Eat Animal Products

Plant-based diets emphasize vegetables, which are quite nutrient dense, and fruits, which are somewhat nutrient dense. They also typically include large amounts of cereal grains (refined and unrefined) and legumes, both of which are low in bioavailable nutrients and high in anti-nutrients like phytate. Most importantly, vegetarian and vegan diets eschew organ meats, other meats, and fish and shellfish, which are among the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat. (1)

Followers of vegetarian and vegan diets, beware: You could be missing out on B12, iron, calcium, and other key nutrients. Is it time to rethink your diet plan and add meat back to your plate? Find out. #nutrientdensefoods #paleocure.

Vegan diets, in particular, are almost completely devoid of certain nutrients that are crucial for physiological function. Deficiencies can take months or years to develop, and many are easily missed because they are not routinely tested for in primary care settings. Several studies have shown that both vegetarians and vegans are prone to deficiencies in:

  • Vitamin B12
  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Zinc
  • Long-chain fatty acids EPA and DHA
  • Fat-soluble vitamins like A and D

Let’s take a closer look at each of these nutrients.

Vegetarian and Vegan Diets Don’t Provide Enough Vitamin B12

B12 deficiency is especially common in vegetarians and vegans. To properly evaluate B12 status, total serum vitamin B12 isn’t enough. A better marker for vitamin B12 is holotranscobalamin II, the biologically active fragment, which should be measured along with total homocysteine and methylmalonic acid. Low B12 is correlated with low holotranscobalamin II, while homocysteine and methylmalonic acid are usually increased in later stages of vitamin B12 deficiency. (2) The most recent studies using more sensitive techniques for detecting B12 deficiency have found that up to 77 percent of vegetarians and 92 percent of vegans are B12 deficient, compared to just 11 percent of omnivores. (3, 4, 5)

Vitamin B12 works together with folate in the synthesis of DNA and red blood cells. It’s also involved in the production of the myelin sheath around the nerves and the conduction of nerve impulses. B12 deficiency can cause numerous symptoms, including:

  • Fatigue
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Memory loss
  • Neurological and psychiatric problems
  • Anemia
  • And much more …

It’s a common myth among vegetarians and vegans that it’s possible to get B12 from plant sources like:

  • Seaweed
  • Fermented soy
  • Spirulina
  • Brewer’s yeast

These plant foods don’t contain B12. They contain B12 analogs, called cobamides, that block the intake of—and increase the need for—true B12. (6) Researchers have identified purple laver nori (seaweed) as a plant source of bioavailable B12; however, it could contain high levels of cadmium and arsenic. (7, 8, 9, 10) More studies are needed, but there is a potentially serious problem with relying on purple laver nori for adequate B12.

If You’re Vegan, You Might Be Missing out on Calcium

You know that calcium is important for bone health, but did you know it’s essential for muscle and nerve function and that it’s involved in blood clotting? On paper, calcium intake is similar in vegetarians and omnivores (probably because both eat dairy products). Vegans, however, are often deficient. (11, 12, 13)

Calcium bioavailability from plant foods is affected by their levels of oxalate and phytate, which are inhibitors of calcium absorption and thus decrease the amount of calcium the body can extract from plant foods. (10) So while leafy greens like spinach and kale have a relatively high calcium content, the calcium is not efficiently absorbed during digestion.

One study suggests that it would take 16 servings of spinach to get the same amount of absorbable calcium as an eight-ounce glass of milk. (14) That would be 33 cups of baby spinach or around five or six cups of cooked spinach. There are a few vegetables listed in this paper that have higher levels of bioavailable calcium, but it’s important to note that all of the vegetables tested required multiple servings to achieve the same amount of usable calcium as one single serving of milk, cheese, or yogurt.

This suggests that trying to meet your daily calcium needs from plant foods alone might not be a great strategy. For those who don’t tolerate dairy well, fish with edible bones like sardines are great sources of calcium on a Paleo diet.

You’re Also More Likely to Be Iron-Deficient on a Plant-Based Diet

Vegetarians and omnivores often have similar levels of serum iron, but levels of ferritin—the long-term storage form of iron—are lower in vegetarians than in omnivores. (15, 16) This is significant, because ferritin depletion is the first stage of iron deficiency.

Moreover, although vegetarians often have similar iron intakes to omnivores on paper, it is more common for vegetarians (and particularly vegans) to be iron deficient.

For example, this study of 75 vegan women in Germany found that 40 percent of them were iron deficient, despite average iron intakes that were above the recommended daily allowance. (17) Among Australian men, iron intake among vegetarians and vegans was 29 to 49 percent higher than omnivores, but their serum ferritin concentrations were barely half that of omnivores. (18) Despite similar iron intakes, another study published this year showed vegans and female vegetarians having low ferritin levels. (19)

Why would this be? As with calcium, the bioavailability of the iron in plant foods (nonheme iron) is much lower than in animal foods (heme iron). Plant-based forms of iron are also inhibited by other commonly consumed substances, such as:

This explains why vegetarian diets have been shown to reduce nonheme iron absorption by 70 percent and total iron absorption by 85 percent. (20, 21)

Red Meat, Fish, and Poultry Are Your Best Sources for Zinc

Zinc is important for the immune system, cell growth, and wound healing. You won’t usually see overt zinc deficiency in Western vegetarians, but their intake often falls below recommendations, probably because red meat, poultry, and fish are the best sources.

This is another case where bioavailability is important; many plant foods that contain zinc also contain phytate, which inhibits zinc absorption. Vegetarian diets tend to reduce zinc absorption by about 35 percent compared with an omnivorous diet. (22) Thus, even when the diet meets or exceeds the RDA for zinc, deficiency may still occur. (23) One study suggested that vegetarians may require up to 50 percent more zinc than omnivores for this reason. (24) A meta-analysis of 34 studies found that both zinc intakes and serum zinc concentrations were lower in vegetarians than non-vegetarians. (25)

You Might Be Missing out on the Benefits of Essential Fatty Acids

Plant foods do contain linoleic acid (omega-6) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA, omega-3), both of which are considered essential fatty acids. In this context, an essential fatty acid is one that can’t be synthesized by the body and must be obtained in the diet. However, an increasing body of research has highlighted the benefits of the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. These fatty acids play a protective and therapeutic role in a wide range of diseases: (26, 27)

While it is possible for some ALA from plant foods to be converted into EPA and DHA, that conversion is poor in humans: between 5 and 10 percent for EPA and 2 and 5 percent for DHA. (28)

Although no official recommendation exists, the daily suggested intake of combined DHA and EPA is around 250 to 500 mg. In theory, this means vegans and vegetarians would need to consume between five and 12.5 grams of ALA per day to obtain 250 mg of DHA. In reality, vegetarians and vegans consume merely 0.97 g/day and 0.86 g/day of ALA, respectively, according to a study of over 14,000 Americans. (29)

Vegetarians have 30 percent lower levels of EPA and DHA than omnivores, while vegans have 50 percent lower EPA and nearly 60 percent lower DHA. (30, 31) Moreover, the conversion of ALA to DHA depends on zinc, iron, selenium, and pyridoxine—nutrients that vegetarians and vegans are less likely than omnivores to get enough of. (32333435) Eating 12 to 16 ounces of cold-water fatty fish per week remains the best way to get adequate EPA and DHA. The fish will also provide bioavailable protein and selenium.

Vitamins A and D: What You’re Missing

Perhaps the biggest problem with vegetarian and vegan diets, however, is their near total lack of two fat-soluble vitamins: A and D.

Fat-soluble vitamins play numerous and critical roles in human health. Vitamin A promotes healthy immune function, fertility, eyesight, and skin. Vitamin D regulates calcium metabolism, regulates immune function, reduces inflammation, and protects against some forms of cancer.

These important fat-soluble vitamins are concentrated, and in some cases found almost exclusively, in animal foods like:

  • Seafood
  • Organ meats
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products

Some obscure species of mushrooms can provide large amounts of vitamin D, but these mushrooms are rarely consumed and often difficult to obtain. This explains why vitamin D levels are often low in vegetarians and even lower in vegans. (36, 37, 38, 39)

The idea that plant foods contain vitamin A is a common misconception. Plants contain beta-carotene, the precursor to active vitamin A (retinol). While beta-carotene is converted into vitamin A in humans, the conversion is inefficient. (40, 41) For example, a single serving of liver per week would meet the RDA of 3,000 IU. To get the same amount from plant foods, you’d have to eat two cups of carrots, one cup of sweet potatoes, or two cups of kale every day.

Moreover, traditional cultures consumed up to 10 times the current RDA for vitamin A. It would be nearly impossible to get this amount of vitamin A from plant foods without juicing or taking supplements. And if supplements aren’t consumed with a fatty meal, the actual absorption will be low. (42)

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Vegans and Vegetarians, You Could Be Missing These Key Nutrients

If you don’t eat meat or other animal products, you could also be missing out on:

  • Choline
  • Creatine
  • Taurine
  • Methionine
  • Glycine
  • Selenium

Choline

Vegetarian and vegan diets, along with the Standard American Diet, pose risks of choline deficiency. (43) Choline is required for:

  • Healthy cell membrane function
  • Methylation
  • Cognitive development in children

It’s so important that the FDA recently set a daily recommended intake of 550 mg for men and 425 mg for women, which should increase to 450 mg during pregnancy and 550 mg during breastfeeding. Recent research suggests that only 8.5 percent of women meet the daily choline requirement. (44) With egg yolks and organ meats as the most potent sources of choline, it’s not surprising that even omnivores are not getting enough. This is another reason I encourage giving organ meat dishes another try.

Creatine

Creatine plasma and muscle levels are usually lower in vegetarians than in omnivores, as meat provides the richest source of creatine. (45) Creatine may play an important role in cognitive function. A randomized controlled trial found that six weeks of oral creatine supplementation significantly improved vegetarians’ performance on tests of fluid intelligence and working memory. The difference in scores between groups was enormous. (46)

Another study found that creatine supplementation in vegetarians improved memory, while having no effect on fluid intelligence or working memory in meat-eaters. (47) These results suggest that vegetarians’ baseline scores may have been impaired due to low creatine intake.

Taurine

Taurine has a central role as a neurotransmitter, promotes the development of the central nervous system, and upholds the structure of cell membranes. Although the body can synthesize small amounts of taurine, vegetarians and vegans often still have low plasma and urinary taurine levels because taurine is found primarily in animal products. (48, 49) Low plasma taurine in newborns is associated with lower scores on mental development and arithmetic tests at age seven, suggesting that dietary taurine aids in neural development. (50)

Methionine

Methionine is another amino acid that is restricted on a plant-based diet. Low methionine intake has been linked to longevity in scientific research. However, methionine is still an essential amino acid, and too little methionine may impair detoxification and reduce fertility. (51, 52) After being activated using ATP, methionine becomes the universal methyl donor.

On the flip side, too much methionine can also pose problems. After methyl donation, methionine becomes homocysteine and must be recycled back to methionine by B12, folate, or betaine (derived from choline). Because meat is high in methionine, diets heavy in muscle meats but low in connective tissues can result in increased homocysteine levels, a risk factor for CVD.

That said, studies have shown that vegetarians and vegans have significantly higher homocysteine levels on average than omnivores. (53) In one study, the average homocysteine level among vegetarians was 13.9 nmol/L and among vegans, 16.4 nmol/L, compared to 11.3 nmol/L for omnivores. (54) This puts most vegetarians and vegans in a range that carries significant risk of CVD. In fact, according to one study, the prevalence of hyperhomocysteinemia among vegetarians may actually be higher than that among non-vegetarians already diagnosed with heart disease. (55)

Glycine

Vegetarians and vegans don’t consume as much glycine as meat-eaters, as the richest sources are the “odd bits” of animal foods, like: (56)

  • Skin
  • Bones
  • Collagen
  • Gelatin

Glycine is one of the building blocks of collagen, found in our connective tissues. In addition to its structural role, glycine can also act as a neurotransmitter, plays a role in blood sugar regulation, and stimulates the production of glutathione, the body’s master antioxidant. (5758, 59, 60)

Some Paleo dieters can be susceptible to low glycine intake, too, if they are eating tons of muscle meat and ignoring the “nose-to-tail” philosophy. Glycine helps balance out methionine levels, in part by acting as a buffer for excess methyl groups. Low choline and glycine intake, common in vegetarians and vegans, can further contribute to high homocysteine levels and increased risk of CVD. Eating bone broth regularly can help balance glycine/methionine levels.

Selenium

While a few studies show no difference in selenium status among diet types, most research shows lower intake and/or levels in vegetarians and vegans compared to omnivores, including one study that measured glutathione peroxidase, a selenium-dependent enzyme and an excellent marker of active selenium status. (61, 62, 63, 64) Selenium has a role in immune function, supports thyroid hormone synthesis, and protects the thyroid from excess iodine damage. (65, 66) Selenium also helps prevent mercury toxicity. (67)

Selenium deficiency is also common in those with digestive health issues like Crohn’s disease or celiac disease. (6869) The best sources of selenium include:

  • Brazil nuts
  • Crimini mushrooms
  • Some sea foods
  • Chicken
  • Eggs
  • Lamb
  • Turkey
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Eating Animal Products Could Also Help Your Thyroid Health

Thyroid hormone synthesis requires iodine, a nutrient that can be lacking from omnivore and plant-based diets alike. Most iodine comes from the sea; the soil—and therefore vegetables grown in soil—usually contains very little. In a typical mixed diet, the highest sources of iodine are iodized salt and animal products like:

  • Dairy products
  • Eggs
  • Seafood

Vegetarians and vegans are at risk for low iodine intake. (70)

In the Boston area, urinary iodine levels in vegans were barely half that of vegetarians, and vegans were at high risk of iodine deficiency. (71) Several studies of Scandinavian populations confirm that vegans finished last in iodine intake and/or urinary iodine levels. (72, 73, 74) To make matters worse, isoflavones found in soy products, which are sometimes consumed in large quantities in vegan and vegetarian diets, may exacerbate iodine deficiency and hypothyroidism. (75)

But even those following a Paleo template can be at risk for iodine deficiency if they are not regularly consuming seafood. (76) Sea vegetables, especially kelp, are the highest sources of iodine ounce for ounce.

Your Kids Need Nutrient-Dense Foods to Thrive

Because of the prevailing idea in our culture that vegetarian and vegan diets are healthy, more and more children are being raised from birth (and even from conception!) on meat-free diets. Both the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) and USDA have said that vegetarian and vegan diets are safe during pregnancy, but critical analyses by several researchers have questioned whether these recommendations are based on sufficient evidence. One review remarked that “the evidence on vegan–vegetarian diets in pregnancy is heterogeneous and scant,” suggesting that more research is needed to answer the question of whether they are, in fact, safe during pregnancy. (77)

Vegetarian and vegan diets for children carry significant risks of nutrient deficiencies that can have dire health consequences. (78, 79, 80)

Studies have shown that kids raised until age six on a vegan diet are still B12 deficient years after adding at least some animal products to their diet. One study found an association between B12 status and measures of intelligence and memory, with formerly vegan kids scoring lower than omnivorous kids. (81) Devastating case studies have reported B12 deficiency in young vegan children that have led to neurological damage and developmental delays. (82, 83)

Low nutrient intake extends beyond vitamin B12. Other case studies have attributed hypothyroidism in young children to a maternal and/or childhood vegan diet. (84, 85) Compared to omnivores, breast milk from vegan mothers had lower levels of DHA and EPA, which are vital for brain development, especially in the first year of life, when a baby’s brain literally doubles in size. (83) In short, just like adults, children on vegetarian and vegan diets often have lower intakes of iron, iodine, vitamin A, zinc, and more.

Childhood is the critical time for proper nutrition. Kids can be notoriously “picky eaters,” so we should be sure that each bite counts by providing the nutrients they need to thrive.

Your Best Choice for Optimal Nutrition Isn’t a Vegetarian or Vegan Diet, but a Paleo Template

With care and attention, I think it’s possible to meet most of your nutrient needs with a vegetarian diet that includes liberal amounts of pasture-raised, full-fat dairy and eggs, with one exception: EPA and DHA. These long-chain omega fats are found exclusively in marine algae and fish and shellfish, so the only way to get them on a vegetarian diet would be to take a microalgae supplement or bend the rules and take fish oil or cod liver oil as a supplement. (86) Still, while it may be possible to obtain adequate nutrition on a vegetarian diet, it is not optimal—as the research above indicates.

I don’t think it’s possible to meet nutrient needs on a vegan diet without supplements—and quite a few of them. Vegan diets are low in:

  • B12
  • Bioavailable iron and zinc
  • Choline
  • Vitamins A and D
  • Calcium
  • EPA and DHA
If you’re intent on following a vegan diet, make sure you’re supplementing.

It’s worth pointing out that there are genetic differences that affect the conversion of certain nutrient precursors (like beta-carotene and alpha-linolenic acid) into the active forms of those nutrients (like retinol and EPA and DHA, respectively), and these differences may affect how long someone will be able to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet before they develop nutrient deficiencies. This explains why some people seem to do well for years on these diets, while others develop problems very quickly.

Is It Time to Rethink Your Diet?

From an evolutionary perspective, is difficult to justify a diet with low levels of several nutrients critical to human function. While it may be possible to address these shortcomings through targeted supplementation (an issue that is still debated), it makes far more sense to meet your nutritional needs from food.

This is especially important for children, who are still developing and are even more sensitive to suboptimal intake of the nutrients discussed in this article. Like all parents, vegetarians and vegans want the best for their children. Unfortunately, many are not aware of the potential for nutrient deficiencies posed by their dietary choices.

I hope this article can serve as a resource for anyone on a plant-based diet, whether they choose to start eating meat (or animal products, in the case of vegans) again or not.

1,873 Comments

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  1. I think we are just obligated to move towards awareness and compassion, away from defensiveness and self-involvement. To become more and more aware of the whole. I don’t know why we’re so separated from the natural world – the only beings that move in disharmony. Kind of makes me feel Adam and the apple came from someplace… To come up with a 360 degree understanding of what we choose and why. It doesn’t matter if the world is over or if it makes a difference or if it’s too late.

    While we are alive we have to figure out what our purpose is and how we are going to play our cards. Most people who experience suffering or the suffering of others have an experience of awakening that changes their behavior towards compassion. The only thing anyone can ask of anyone else is to be open to exposing themselves to new information and to become mindful of their daily choices.

    For me – although I’d been a pescatarian for many years once, recently I’d been happily eating a little meat for over 25 years, not thinking anything about it. I recently completed health coach certification at The Institute for Integrative Nutrition, which was a great intro. Broccoli, good, kale, good… beef. hmmm.. There was only one lecture during the whole year on factory farming, by an ex-rancher, but it stayed with me. Then I met a man sitting in Central Park who owns a company that provides alot of beef to Whole Foods and he said to me “I’d never eat that stuff.” Just another piece of the puzzle that stayed in my mind. Then I got on Facebook for the first time a few months ago and started following dog rescues and somehow the cows and pigs and chickens got in there as well, and I began to be offered the opportunity to see things I had never seen – dogs boiled alive, dogs baked alive into flat pancakes, cows hacked apart while still not quite dead, baby chicks being dumped into a macerator by the thousands, thousands of livestock dieing on these boats of hell from Australia to the Middle East for what I call fetish slaughter…. I thought it might challenge my sanity, but I also thought I could not make believe it didn’t exist. So then what? I don’t grow my own chickens in the backyard, I don’t have a cow to milk. I don’t want anyone doing that violence in my name. Frankly I feel the people who are forced to do that in order to make a living are experiencing not much less violence than the animals they kill and it makes them brutal. That’s where I am now. I take everything into account and I try to make each decision mindfully and in the present moment.. I struggle but more often than not I am making them to come out on the side of all and not only my own interest.

    • First paragraph of this blog post…

      “There are many reasons why people choose to go vegetarian or vegan. Some are compelled by the environmental impact of confinement animal feeding operations (CAFO). Others are guided by ethical concerns or religious reasons. I respect these reasons and appreciate anyone who thinks deeply about the social and spiritual impact of their food choices—even if my own exploration of these questions has led me to a different answer.”

      I agree with Chris… my own exploration of these questions has led me to a different answer.

      We are each of us allowed to choose what we eat, where it comes from and how we get it, just forget the sanctimonious, holier-than-thou, preachy stuff, guilt trips, pseudo-science etc.. to try and convince others that your way is the only way.

      • Preachy stuff? You mean like the suffering and death of billions of animals? That’s not preachy stuff that’s compassion. Try to get over all of this other b.s.

        • Preachy stuff like you trying to force your world-view down my throat… I’m not the one bothered by your personal choices or what you eat and yet you seem overly bothered about mine

          I respect your choices to do as you please but please don’t dress it up as anything else in order to rationalise your choices.

        • It’s preachy because you try to persuade by emotion rather than by science, and you fail to acknowledge that
          a) all living things have to die, and
          b) in the wild, many animals eat each other, often killing in very brutal ways.

  2. To those that disagree with this article, would you please get a blood test for B12, calcium, iron, zinc, EPA & DHA, vitamin A & D, and post your results here? And repeat yearly, since for some it takes years for deficiencies to develop. Would you be willing to do that?

    • David makes a point that I forgot to include in my earlier post.
      Nutrients deficiencies are not a daily, weekly, or even monthly concern. Fasting regimens of up to 40 days where NO nutrients are consumed are routinely administered to patients without deficiency symptoms occurring because the body stores nutrients. Therefore a personal nutritional strategy should have a long term horizon. That is why nutrient testing is so valuable. It confirms what past absorption has been for whatever diet the individual has actually consumed for an extended period. Everyone who is concerned about nutritional adequacy should adopt the motto: Test, don’t guess.” Test results will eliminate the uncertainty by disclosing the truth in a clear easily understood form that can be the solid basis for future nutrition goals.

  3. It’s an objectively correct article, but it’s also biased and full of generalizations. It’s very easy to write a blog post which ignores facts that do not support your argument. If I were to make as many generalizations regarding people with omnivorous diets as this acupuncturist has about people with vegan diets, I could write a lengthy and objectively correct article about why people with those unhealthy eating habits are more likely to suffer from afflictions such as Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, hypertension, etc…

  4. I can’t speak for anyone but myself but after 32 years of being a strict low fat vegetarian I found myself with a B12 and B1 deficiency and osteoporosis. For over 4 years I have reversed all of these problems (plus a lot of digestive problems) by eating a diet of pastured, organic, grass finished and wild caught sources of animal protein, a LOT more vegetables and a lot of unprocessed fats (ghee, coconut and animal fats). I also don’t worry about gaining weight anymore. I found the change hard and a little heartbreaking at first but as long as I am careful to find local, humane sources of meat, I’m now okay with this. I don’t consume mass quantities, just high quality and I know I was meant to be an omnivore.

  5. We get most of our information about nutrition from the latest popular books, which often make their writers successful, and speak to different audiences depending on who the author feels is his target market. The Paleo Code written by Rob Wolf was one of those, sort of a modern Atkins, South Beach. Considering they barely teach nutrition at Harvard medical school it’s sort of a “new” science for most people. If you are eating burgers and donuts, Paleo would be an extension of your knowledge and your capacity to handle your own choices about your health. However, everything is on a continuum, and Paleo was an idea, not an answer, which is something Chris Kresser addressed in his book The Paleo Code, which said you should use the information as a tool for yourself, not as dogma.
    It’s moved us further down the line in terms of understanding and self-care. Someone here pointed out that paleo in 2014 is not paleo in 2008.

    Two things though – I observe that people love to argue about this stuff on the internet, however I have no doubt that many people who can quote chapter and verse on taurine, choline and other nutritional minutiae are also sitting behind their screens eating donuts. Internet research is not the same as spending alot of time calibrating what you actually eat. Two, there is a continuum – what I see meat eaters talking about here is themselves – optimizing their own enjoyment, and down the continuum – their own health. What I hear vegetarians and vegans talking about is the “whole” which includes animal welfare and the earth. In this gap there seems to be no communication.

    Vegans are saying “put on the lens that shows you that our entire lives are deeply entwined with the violence that is done to animals” in the same way that early abolitionists were committed to rejiggering reality until all people saw through the lens that slavery was not just this or that but was incompatible with and central to living a just life on any level. You can imagine the conversations then – when slavery was something everyone had grown up with and took for granted as the way things were, even most slaves. So this is the palette that vegans are working with.

    I suggest if you want to eat meat you at least get on Facebook or the internet and take a look at the violence inflicted on cows, pigs and chickens. I don’t think you can necessarily get it all at once. I myself refuse to expose myself to much of it, especially the videos, and the honorable alternative, I decided, was that if I could not watch, I should not eat it. I’m not a vegan, yet. I’m making changes every day, because it involves my clothing and feeding my dog, as well as adjusting those things that have supported me through stressful times, like half and half in coffee. My thought about this is not to replace them with vegan alternatives, like soymilk in coffee, or veggie burgers and fake bacon, but to take a completely new look at what’s out there. Maybe I’ll try espresso instead and of coffee with half and half….much of the world chooses it. I’ll look into Indian food, Thai food, raw food, etc. etc. It’s the beginning of paying close attention, and if I need to take a supplement or two, I’ll figure it out. In these arguments remember that much of the world is starving and and Albert Schweitzer said “Give a thought to the suffering from which you so carefully protect yourself.” (slight misquote from memory).

    • Firstly I do NOT get my “information about nutrition from the latest popular books”, nor am I sitting here “eating donuts”.

      But most importantly I am getting more than a little sick of the sanctimonious preaching and attempts at guilt by those opposed to animal cruelty. Read my comments… I am ALSO against animal cruelty, factory-farming, mono-cultures and all the other ills of our modern food-supply chain. It is disrespectful, damaging to our health and that of our ecosystem… and it is NOT sustainable.

      I am not a hypocrite: I have before and would again, kill and prepare my own meat.. face to face. No hiding behind anonymous, boneless, skinless, shrink-wrapped protein patties. It is not something I relish, look forward to, or enjoy
      but it is something that can be done with dignity and respect for all life… including humans.

      Local, sustainable farms COULD feed the world, but if they can’t, it would be because we have already over-reached ourselves as a species, with our throw-away attitude to finite resources such as fossil fuels.

    • Hi Erica, if you have not read the following book yet, I think you might find it interesting: Why we Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows by Melanie Joy, PhD Ed.M. (Harvard-educated psychologist, professor of psychology and sociology at the University of Massachusetts Boston)

      “We don’t see meat eating as we do vegetarianism – as a choice, based on a set of assumptions about animals, our world and ourselves. Rather, we see it as a given, the “natural” thing to do. We eat animals without thinking about what we are doing and why, because the belief system that underlies this behavior is invisible.”

      • No “invisible belief system” here, it is a sane, rational, well-researched and well-thought out conviction about what is best for me, best for my family and best for the planet.

    • Well, I was a vegan for many years before I became deeply thoughtful about the reality of human life on earth. And I’ve seen all of those videos. I actually met my husband interning at Farm Sanctuary, in Ithaca, New York. And I found it very interesting that the same people who were criticizing meat eaters for not killing the animals themselves chose to feed their resident cat with industrially produced animal-based cat food! Yes, they did offer the cat a vegetarian option, (which the cat absolutely refused to eat). But they also decided that they had no choice but to offer the cat meat. They could have carefully killed the resident chickens on the cat’s behalf, and did it in the most humane way possible, but of course they chose not to. Ask almost any vegan cat owner what he/she feeds his/her cats. Passing the buck is not exclusive to omnivorous humans.

      By the way: Do you honestly believe that transporting your coffee thousands of miles from its source is a benign process? How many animals would you estimate are killed in the act of providing you with this little pleasure?

  6. I am a vegetarian though I will not go into the details of why I chose to do so. However I take all the supplements that you describe here and if one is concerned about nutrition they would know all of this information. I would like to add something…Even meat eaters today are deficient in B12 and other of the nutrients you suggest. Meat of any kind today is full of the fear of the animals as we slaughter them in disgustingly inhumane ways. Do you really want to eat that. Please our animals are not fed a healthy diet so even if eaten they do not give the nourishment they would have 100 or more years ago…..I think a better approach to telling people what we need to make sure is part of our diet is not to compare vegetarianism to meat eating cannibals but to understand that there is hardly any nutrition in any of the food we eat and that certain supplements must be taken….
    Peace for all beings….

  7. Thank you Rudy. I have seen some of those and later will look at more of what you posted. I have also watched some of the documentaries out about vegan eating. And I have read a few of the McDougall books.
    I have greatly reduced my animal product consumption, keep my portions small, stopped sugar and grains and greatly increased my vegetables.
    I have had low B12 before, so that is on my mind. It is fine now…even a little high by some reports.
    For now, I am ok with eating small portions of animal products now and again. There is a food writer by the last name if Pollan (I think that is the spelling) who has done a nice amount of research on this topic and this is what his final conclusion is about the subject. Eat food…mostly plants…or something very similar to this comment.
    I believe he recommends good quality animal products about twice a week, small portions, for their potential benefits. And making vegetables your mainstay.
    This is where I am leaning. I suppose it is a middle ground, but I notice I feel good eating this way and my tests are improving.
    But, I do read a lot on the subject; including vegetarian/vegan literature. I will continue to do this, personally monitor how I feel, and continue to have myself checked out thoroughly by doctors including traditional docs and functional physicians.

  8. You should think twice before posting misinformation:

    Where health is concerned, a plant-exclusive diet is viable for practically everyone.

    *Note* The term ‘vegetarian,’ as used by some of these organizations, does not distinct itself from a 100% plant-exclusive diet, lacto-ovo vegetarian, pescatarian, etc. It encompasses all plant-based diets.

    1) The Mayo Clinic: the first and largest integrated not-for-profit medical group practice in the world, employing more than 3,800 physicians and scientists and 50,900 allied health staff. It spends $500 million dollars on research a year.

    “A well-planned vegetarian diet can meet the needs of people of all ages, including children, teenagers, and pregnant or breast-feeding women. The key is to be aware of your nutritional needs so that you plan a diet that meets them.”

    http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/vegetarian-diet/HQ01596

    2) The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. The Academy is committed to improving the nation’s health and advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education and advocacy.

    “… [vegetarian diets] are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases…are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.”

    http://www.eatright.org/about/content.aspx?id=8357

    3) Dietitians of Canada (DC): is the national professional association for dietitians, representing almost 6000 members at the local, provincial and national levels. DC is one of the largest organizations of dietetic professionals in the world.

    “A vegan eating pattern has many potential health benefits. They include lower rates of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer. Other benefits include lower blood cholesterol levels and a lower risk for gallstones and intestinal problems.”

    http://www.dietitians.ca/Nutrition-Resources-A-Z/Factsheets/Vegetarian/Eating-Guidelines-for-Vegans.aspx

    4) The British National Health Service (NHS): is the largest and the oldest single-payer healthcare system in the world. It provides the majority of healthcare in England.

    “With good planning and an understanding of what makes up a healthy, balanced vegan diet, you can get all the nutrients your body needs.”

    http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Vegetarianhealth/Pages/Vegandiets.aspx

    5) The British Nutrition Foundation (BNF): team of nutrition scientists that conducts academic reviews of published research on issues of diet and public health. Aims to to advance the education of the public, and those involved in the training and education of others, in nutrition; and to advance the study of and research into nutrition for the public benefit, and to disseminate and publish the useful results of such research.

    “A well-planned, balanced vegetarian or vegan diet can be nutritionally adequate…”

    “Studies of UK vegetarian and vegan children have revealed that their growth and development are within the normal range.”

    http://www.nutrition.org.uk/publications/briefingpapers/vegetarian-nutrition

    6) The Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA): is the peak body of 5,100 dietetic and nutrition professionals providing strategic leadership in food and nutrition through empowerment, advocacy, education, accreditation and communication.

    “…with good planning it is still possible to obtain all the nutrients required for good health on a vegan diet.”

    http://daa.asn.au/for-the-public/smart-eating-for-you/nutrition-a-z/vegan-diets/

    7) The Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP): a branch of the USDA that aims to improve the nutrition and well-being of Americans by focusing on advancing and promoting dietary guidance for all Americans, and conducting applied research and analysis in nutrition and consumer economics.

    “Vegetarian diets can meet all the recommendations for nutrients.”

    http://www.choosemyplate.gov/healthy-eating-tips/tips-for-vegetarian.html

    8) The National Institutes of Health (NIH): comprised of 27 separate institutes and centers, and with an annual spending of around $26 billion, NIH is the is the primary agency of the United States government responsible for biomedical and health-related research.

    “There is no single type of vegetarian diet…People who follow vegetarian diets can get all the nutrients they need.”

    http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/vegetariandiet.html

    9) American Heart Association (AHA): with 22.5 million volunteers and 2,700 employees, AHA is the nation’s oldest, largest voluntary organization devoted to fighting cardiovascular diseases and stroke.

    “Many studies have shown that vegetarians seem to have a lower risk of obesity, coronary heart disease (which causes heart attack), high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus and some forms of cancer.”

    http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/Vegetarian-Diets_UCM_306032_Article.jsp

    10) Heart and Stroke Foundation (HSF): having invested over $1.35 billion in heart and stroke research, HSF is one of Canada’s largest and most effective health charities.

    “Vegetarian diets can provide all the nutrients you need at any age, as well as some additional health benefits. Vegetarian diets often have lower levels of total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol than many meat-based diets, and higher intakes of fibre, magnesium, potassium, folate and antioxidants such as vitamins C and E. Vegetarian diets may lead to lower blood pressure, improved cholesterol levels, healthier weight and less incidence of Type 2 diabetes, all of which can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.”

    http://www.heartandstroke.com/site/c.ikIQLcMWJtE/b.3484249/k.2F6C/Healthy_living__Vegetarian_diets.htm

    11) American Cancer Society (ACS): with over 3,400 local offices, and raising $934 million in 2012, this 100 year old society works to save lives and create a world with less cancer.

    “Some studies have linked vegetarian diets to lower risk for heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and certain types of cancer, such as colon cancer. A strictly vegetarian diet must be properly planned to be sure it provides all the required nutrients.”

    http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/complementaryandalternativemedicine/dietandnutrition/vegetarianism

    12) Harvard School of Public Health: is one of the most selective and prestigious public health schools in the world with half of the students already holding a medical doctorate.

    “With a little planning, a balanced and varied vegetarian diet can meet the nutrient needs of nearly everyone.”

    http://www.dining.harvard.edu/vegvgn

    13) American Diabetes Association (ADA): with 90 local offices across the US, the ADA utilizes 73% of its $34.6 million in fund raising (2012) to support research and projects concerning diabetes.

    “A vegetarian diet is a healthy option, even if you have diabetes. Research supports that following this type of diet can help prevent and manage diabetes. In fact, research on vegan diets has found that carbohydrate and calorie restrictions were not necessary and still promoted weight loss and lowered participants’ A1C.”

    http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/planning-meals/meal-planning-for-vegetarians/

    14) The Perelman School of Medicine (Penn Med): a medical school ranked second for research in 2012.

    “A well-planned vegetarian diet can give you good nutrition. A vegetarian diet often helps you have better health. Eating a vegetarian diet can help you: [r]educe your chance of obesity; [r]educe your risk of heart disease; [l]ower your blood pressure; [l]ower your risk of type 2 diabetes.”

    http://www.pennmedicine.org/encyclopedia/em_DisplayArticle.aspx?gcid=002465&ptid=1

    15) Cleveland Clinic: is regarded as one of the top hospital in the United States. With around 1,700 staff physicians representing 120 medical specialties, this hospital helps patients not only from all 50 states, but from more than 100 other nations.

    “There really are no disadvantages to a herbivorous diet! A plant-based diet has many health benefits, including lowering the risk for heart disease, hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, and cancer. It can also help lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels, plus maintain weight and bone health.”

    http://my.clevelandclinic.org/heart/prevention/nutrition/food-choices/understanding-vegetarianism.aspx

    16) New York Presbyterian Hospital: is an esteemed university hospital system affiliated with two Ivy League medical schools. It is the largest not-for-profit hospital in the US.

    “People who follow a vegetarian diet are relatively healthier than those who don’t. Vegetarians tend to have a lower incidence of obesity and fewer chronic health problems, including some cancers, heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.”

    http://nyp.org/wellness/showDocument.php?contentTypeId=1&contentId=1876&heading=Vegetarian+Diets%3A+The+Myths+vs.+Facts

    17) University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC): with 4,200 licensed beds and 400 outpatient sites, UPMC is one of the largest medical centers in the world.

    “A well-planned vegetarian diet can give you good nutrition. A vegetarian diet often helps you have better health.”

    http://www.upmc.com/healthlibrary/Pages/ADAM.aspxGenContentId=002465&ProjectId=1&ProductId=1

    18) The Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center (UCLA): having research centers covering nearly all major specialties of medicine, UCLA is considered on of the top three hospitals in the US. This hospital has been ranked in the top twenty in 15 of the 16 medical specialties ranked in the US News ranking.

    “Some of the health benefits of a vegetarian diet may include: [d]ecreased blood cholesterol levels;
    and blood pressure; [l]ower incidence of heart disease, some forms of cancer, and digestive disorders like constipation and diverticula disease; [l]ower incidence of obesity and some forms of diabetes.”

    http://www.dining.ucla.edu/housing_site/dining/SNAC_pdf/Vegetarianism.pdf

    19) Kaiser Permanente: the largest managed care organization in the United States, published an article supporting the adoption of a plant-based diet earlier this spring.

    “Healthy eating may be best achieved with a plant-based diet, which we define as a regimen that encourages whole, plant-based foods and discourages meats, dairy products, and eggs as well as all refined and processed foods. Research shows that plant-based diets are cost-effective, low-risk interventions that may lower body mass index, blood pressure, HbA1C, and cholesterol levels. They may also reduce the number of medications needed to treat chronic diseases and lower ischemic heart disease mortality rates. Physicians should consider recommending a plant-based diet to all their patients, especially those with high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or obesity.”

    http://www.thepermanentejournal.org/issues/2013/spring/5117-nutrition.html

    *** A follow up written by Dr. John McDougall and his son, Dr. Craig McDougall concerning Kaiser Permanente’s warning about potential nutrient deficiencies:

    “In our experience of treating more than 5000 patients with a low-fat, whole foods, plant-based (vegan) diet, with follow-up lasting as long as 28 years, we have not seen any deficiencies of protein, iron, calcium, or essential fatty acids.”

    http://www.thepermanentejournal.org/…/fall/5552-diet.html

    —————————–

    Special thanks to Anders Branderuds:
    http://bloganders.blogspot.no/2013/08/humans-can-live-and-thrive-on-healthy.html

    Organization summaries provided by Wikipedia and said group’s website
    http://www.wikipedia.org/

    • “*Note* The term ‘vegetarian,’ as used by some of these organizations, does not distinct itself from a 100% plant-exclusive diet, lacto-ovo vegetarian, pescatarian, etc. It encompasses all plant-based diets.”

      Are you implying that when the research shows a lacto-ovo vegetarian or pescatarian diet can be healthful (to which I’d agree.. it can be, if carefully thought through) they might as well be saying the same for a vegan or 100% plant-exclusive diet?

      If that is your contention, then I strongly disagree.

      • FrankG,

        I encourage you to examine the sources. You will understand the highlight in question better. Before buttressing the viability of a plant-exclusive, or plant-based, diet, the organizations define exactly of what a “vegetarian” diet consists.

        As for your deduction, I agree. That would not be logical to expand a plant-exclusive diet beyond plants. To your assertion that a diet consisting of animal products can be healthful, I also agree. It, an omnivorous diet, however, is not moral. That is where the debate concerning veganism rests. These smoke-screens of articles only delay the inevitable.

        Back to nutrition. Here is a study that gauges healthfulness between dietary ranges of “vegetarianism:”

        http://www.chicagotribune.com/health/sns-201401210000–tms–premhnstr–k-k20140122-20140122,0,3834968.story

        • A vegan diet certainly falls into the set known as “vegetarian” but a vegetarian diet does not necessarily mean vegan… this is misleading at best and disingenuous at worst

          Speaking of which.. the PCRM… a vegan-promoting organization that pretends not to be.. why the need for deception? Why hide if they are confident in the truth? I don’t trust this kind of behaviour.

          • FrankG,

            It seems like you ran out of information as you have fallen back to slander and ad hominem.

            You could not logically deduce that some of the most prestigious medical facilities and organizations in the world, with a combined research budget of 30 billion+ mind you, would make the mistake of devoting a page to vegetarianism, mention “veganism” and not decipher between them when addressing their support. Secondly, you did not address the information provided by PCRM you instead tried to defame the non-profit.

            Sorry friend, but I do not debate with people who turn to such tactics. It is a waste of energy.

            • “Friend”??? I hardly think so… I don”t even know you, let alone have much trust or respect for you, based on just these few interchanges.

              “Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine”… what a moniker.. sounds like an upstanding group of MDs right?!? But they are a vegan front organisation who try to obscure that fact… why?

              Why not “Vegan Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine”???

              Is that important to know?

              Do you think they provide unbiased advice and research on diet related health issues?

              One may as well ask the Third Reich for unbiased advice on race-relations!

      • For starters, that quote from the Mayo Clinic article is disingenuous to say the least. If you bother to read the details you’ll find that it admits:
        “…because conversion of plant-based omega-3 to the types used by humans is inefficient, you may want to consider fortified products or supplements, or both.”

        And,
        “Vitamin B-12 deficiency may go undetected in people who eat a vegan diet. This is because the vegan diet is rich in a vitamin called folate, which may mask deficiency in vitamin B-12 until severe problems occur. For this reason, it’s important for vegans to consider vitamin supplements, vitamin-enriched cereals and fortified soy products.”

        As they say, the devil is in the details.

    • Rudy,

      The part about vegan diets being appropriate for those in lactation, infancy and childhood is the point where the organizations lose all credibility.

    • Rudy, That certainly is one impressive list! I’m wondering just how this fits with vegan … non-dairy; non-fish; likely non-sea-creatures like krill; lobsters; oysters, etc …. vs vegetarianism, fits as wholesome? Then there is the difficulty posed because of human breast milk/colostrum. Do you think this non-vegan food ethically can be fed to human newborns? Is a properly designed vegan diet ever a good choice for human children? {I wonder if any of these has considered such a stance for their own offspring} … or has anyone refuted the extra needs of a cold climate dwellers for things like vitamin D3, K2, omega-3 oil, and … . You will find people (and organizations) based-in/living-in California or Hawaii making silly pronouncements about the merits of veganism but I absolutely defy any plant to live long enough to be food-source for humans in cold climates. We sentient-beings starve/go-hungry while plants die.

      • John M.

        I appreciate your curiosity. As I was telling FrankG, the institutions / organizations put a plant-exclusive diet underneath the heading of ‘vegetarian diet.’ For efficiency purpose, I suppose, they wanted to encapsulate the full spectrum of plant-based with a single word.

        As many of the sources that I provide state, a plant-exclusive diet is viable for all stages of life. With this in mind, it becomes transparent that the consumption of animal products in all cases save self-defense / preservation is immoral.

        Vitamins D3 and K2 can be found in plant options (interestingly enough, the most abundant source of K2 is natto, a fermented soy dish).

        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10874601
        http://tinyurl.com/lmoepx2
        http://tinyurl.com/lb6qz9h

        Omega-3 is even easier: two tables spoons of ground flaxseed. I did the calculations one day, and I believe it costs 17 cents a day to reach the recommended dose without considering the other vasts amount of omega 3 that one derives from other whole plant foods.

        One may want to focus on certain nutrients during pregnancy and lactation, however, these nutrients can easily be derived from plant sources. The Physician Committee of Responsible Medicine (PCRM) has put out the following information:

        http://pcrm.org/health/diets/ffl/newsletter/q-is-it-safe-to-be-on-a-vegan-diet-while-pregnant
        http://www.pcrm.org/pdfs/health/Nutrition_for_Kids.pdf

        Concerning morality and cold weather individuals without access to a variety of vegetation year round- are we talking about Siberia? That is an interesting topic of debate for sure! However, it does not apply to a vast majority of the individuals who see the information that I share. To justify one’s eating habits on another one’s circumstance is intellectually dishonest.

  9. I pretty much agree with the earlier poster, Donna. I think that we are all individuals and likely need to figure out what is best for our bodies. Maybe through observation and testing. Years ago in the middle of a bad autoimmune flare, I read Fit for Life and the author promoted grain free and meat free living. I agreed with the grain free part, but had trouble with the meat free part. He also said it took approximately 24 hours to digest meat, this DID concern me. So, I started eating meat every other day. I stopped grain and sugar and greatly increased veggies. After this change in my diet, I was so healthy, my doctor couldn’t believe it. For some reason, I fell off the wagon and I’m paying for it dearly today. I noticed, generally speaking, we seem to be all or nothing thinkers. I know for me, it seems that eating lots of meat products might not be a good idea, but I do think they are a good part of a healthy diet. And I’ve cut way back on dairy, only using organic butter for example, on top of my veggies. I think, most of us realize that Americans in particular don’t seem to eat enough vegetables….which should be a very important part of a healthy diet. So very similar to Donna, for me it is about watching the needs of my body, and finding good quality foods, a little good quality animal products for their special benefits, lots of vegetables, some fruits, a tiny amount of organic dairy, no sugar, no grains, no junk food, maybe a very Occasional piece of dark chocolate….with the help of some good doctors, observation, testing, I’m creating a diet that I hope will optimize my health. It’s not all or nothing or doing exactly what someone else is doing.

  10. First, e leading source on why many different kinds of vegan diets are not just nutritionally adequate but optimal: Vegan Diets: Sorting Through the Nutritional Myths at http://freefromharm.org/vegan-diets-sorting-nutritional-myths/

    Second, this article is based on a lot of old and outdated nutrition information. See Catching Up With Science: Burying the “Humans Need Meat” Argument at http://freefromharm.org/health-nutrition/catching-up-with-science-burying-the-humans-need-meat-argument/#sthash.NfHOMTLg.dpuf

    Third, many of the nutrients the author claims are lacking in a vegan diet are actually being artificially supplemented to the feed of animals raised commercially for food, including B12, and yet we are told that relying on supplement and fortified foods is not a “natural” way to eat. If you really want to learn how unnatural and cruel animal exploitation is today, please do visit my organization’s website. In fact, forget about the worst case scenario for animals on large, industrialized farms and just take a closer look at the so-called “humane” and “sustainable” farming practices today at http://freefromharm.org/animal-products-and-ethics/a-comprehensive-analysis-of-the-humane-farming-myth/. Would this be acceptable to do to your neighbor’s dog? Of course not. So how can one have any integrity by paying someone else to abuse and violently kill animals at a fraction of their natural lifespan we have no biological need to eat?

  11. I think I will just continue my own “personal best” diet/lifestyle habits: Eating mainly veggies, fruits, nuts, and the occasional dairy/eggs/meat/fish (all as local as humanly possible).. as little processed crap as possible, NO fast food, lots and lots of water and green tea, a few good organic vitamin supplements…. exercise daily, get sunshine and fresh air… indulge once in awhile in a nice wine or beer, a decadent dessert or piece of yummy dark chocolate… and lots of laughter and love. It works for me 🙂

    • I think that’s amazing Donna! I’m a vegetarian myself, but I think that’s a much better lifestyle than most have – and the important thing is you lead one that makes you happy!

  12. “It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.”

    • As a dietitian, that statement really upsets me.

      Especially the part where they say a vegetarian diet is appropriate for pregnancy, infancy and childhood. While some people can be healthy on a vegetarian diet, I know of many people who have gotten quite ill on a vegetarian diet. To impose a plant-based diet on children (without supplemental nutrient dense animal foods) is really unfortunate, especially when they’re at a critical period for growth and development. Not everyone can get the nutrients they need from plants, as we all have genetic variations that affect our ability to absorb and metabolize nutrients.

      • I was raised vegan from birth and I consider myself to be very fortunate, quite the contrary to what you believe. My children will also be raised vegan and will receive every nutrient their body needs, as I do, and others I know who experience optimal health on a whole food plant based diet.

      • Of course it bothers you Laura. That is because you are completely indoctrinated by the meat, dairy, and egg industry propaganda. After all, they helped write the books for your education(indoctrination).

        If you truly understood nutrition, you would never generalize a diet of infinite possibilities as vegetarian or vegan. You can be vegan eating Oreos and potato chips. As a professional, I don’t tell people to go vegetarian or vegan. I tell them to eat a plant-based, whole-foods, mostly raw diet, because it provides the best protection against the most number of diseases. This is what Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn promotes, and he has a 99% success rate of curing has patients of heart disease. But he must somehow be wrong, because your text books say otherwise, eh?

        In addition, you force a child to eat meat. You don’t force them to eat plant foods. Put a small child in a crib with an apple and a bunny. If the child eats the bunny and plays with the apple, I’ll buy you a new car. Meat is unnatural to us. That is why we have to cook it or otherwise specially prepare it to prevent getting sick. Please show many omnivore in nature who cooks their meat before it is eaten.

        • Oh dear. Quite a bizarre experiment you’ve proposed there. I don’t know a single omnivore who would pick up a live animal and try to bite into it. Can’t imagine rabbit fur feels too good going down your throat!

          And I’d imagine that if you put a soft piece of slow-cooked, fatty lamb and a raw kale leaf in that same crib, that the child would most likely put the meat in its mouth. (But now we’re both just making suppositions.)

          • Humans are frugivores. Fruit is the preferred food. That is why I said an apple and not kale. Don’t they teach comparative anatomy to dietitians?

            And the mere fact that you said “cooked” shows how disconnected you are from a natural diet. Name me one other omnivore or carnivore that has to cook its food, or specially prepare it before consumption.

            And you are right, a mouth full of fur is not appetizing. Please find me another omnivore or carnivore that wouldn’t eat a rabbit because it was covered in fur.

            • So now humans are frugivores? This should be good.. references???

              In the meantime you might care to check out what out nearest genetic cousins the chimpanzees actually eat.. it ain’t just bananas Toto!

              As for raw meat and comparing humans other omnivores… you surely must be aware of the hypothesis that we developed our large brains (which sadly some seem intent on wasting away) by virtue of reducing digestive effort by cooking our food

              Or to put it in language which you may understand, “find me another omnivore or carnivore” where the brain uses over 20% of its resting energy?

            • I’m sorry but this is getting too ridiculous. First of all, humans are not “frugivores”, we have an omnivorous digestive tract. Here is a good comparative anatomy chart between the three types of digestive systems: http://highsteaks.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/carnivore-herbivore-omnnivore-comparison.jpg

              Second, there’s evidence that the reason humans are as advanced as we are is because we cook our food. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/29/cooked-food-diet-primates-brains_n_2033975.html

              I want to ensure that anyone reading these comments who is on the fence about a vegan diet will have plenty of information from both viewpoints to inform their decisions.

            • “Humans are frugivores”.

              And that’s why Steve Jobs is dead. Smart guy, but he should have starved his cancer instead of feeding it.

        • Put a grasshopper in there instead of the bunny, I bet you the kid will eat the bug instead of the apple. Nummy.

  13. The question about optimal diet is an important one because diet is an easy way to influence health. While the American Dietetic Association states that carefully designed Vegetarian Diets can meet all nutritional needs and there are many examples of successful vegetarian and vegan athletes, there is a broader question here that this article mentions: variable absorbency by different individuals.

    The solution to this problem is so simple: Everyone should just get tested periodically to confirm they are absorbing optimal levels of all nutrients of interest. Testing is widely available at reasonable cost and entirely takes the guesswork out of determining proper nutrition.

    A primary issue about animal products is not nutrition but avoiding a long list of bad things: saturated fat, cholesterol, protein, pollutants, antibiotics and hormones.

    I have myself tested annually to verify optimal nutrition absorption from my vegan diet. I supplement and tweak my vegan diet modestly. Further, it is easy to test for toxin build up that is a major concern from eating inorganics and animal products and make diet adjusts for that too.

    Everyone should stop guessing about nutrition by being tested and guided accordingly.

    • I second this. I occasionally have a metabolic analysis which lets me know how my carb, fat, protein metabolisms are doing as well as things like electrolyte levels, nervous system, vit c, alkaline/ acid balance etc and tweak my vegan diet accordingly.

  14. I’m very health conscious. I shop at farmers markets, co-ops, health food stores, and I grow my own. I am omnivorous in my eating habits, so I buy all my free range, grass fed meats, eggs, and raw dairy from local farmers directly. Big corporations make no money from me nor my family.
    That being said, I live a healthy and happy lifestyle with a moderate injury related paralysis challenge that is manageable.
    Quality of life is more important to me than quantity, so if the vegetarians outlive me, I couldn’t care less. I wouldn’t trade my quality of life for theirs, based on my observations, and despite my physical challenges. I think most health conscious omnivores have vegetarian friends, and I am no exception.
    My question is; is it me, my selection of vegetarian friends, or a common symptom of a vegetarian diet, that they are so often very crabby. They also struggle with stamina and seem to lack motivation. Healthy or not, I do not want this kind of life. Especially a long lived one.

    • For the reasons cited above in the opening paragraph, I too began to follow a vegan diet but in my research soon got scared off. A considerable number of the paleo community have been vegan and then due to resulting ill-health, began eating meat etc. Some of them are still recovering slowly from the ill-effects of the stated possible deficiencies.

      I suspect it’s all about genotypes whether some people thrive on vegan diets and others become very poorly. Also there may be come compensatory mechanisms for some individuals that other individuals can’t achieve e.g. conversion of flaxseed oil to EPA and DHA which would account for some people doing well on a vegan diet and others not so much.

      23andme can generate genomic data which third party sites such as mthfrsupport.com and genetic genie can analyse to help explain or guide people in their dietary choices. The heartfixer.com website can help explain things as well. Factors such as haemochromatosis have to be taken into account when making choices. At least we all agree that sugar’s not a good idea!

      • Yes I am aware that many paleos tried plant based diets. I’ve read all the “been there, done that, it doesn’t work” stories. I have found that in almost every single case it’s obvious they were approaching it wrong, and most of the time it’s because they did things like turn to soy and grains as staples to replace the flesh they were so used to eating. I was raised on a plant- based diet since birth and so I have never felt the need to “replace” anything. When I look at food I see the nutritional value- I’m not trying to replace the same feeling in my belly or on my tongue that something else used to give me. In this sense I cannot relate to meat- eaters trying to ‘go veg’, but I do have some perspective that helps me to understand why so many fail.

    • Sure let’s hold up muscle-bound freaks as paragons of health and wellness! Good grief!

      But seriously I wonder how little digging it would take to find our which of these are “true” vegans like Bill Clinton… who indulges in occasional salmon, eggs etc. .so as to avoid nutrient deficiencies?

      Or how many of these have been raised as vegans since conception? A fate I assume many of you are forcing on your innocent children and pets. Are you really so cock-sure that is the best thing for their future health and well-being?

      • I was raised vegan since birth, and I’m 30 years old. I’m alive and well- and consider myself incredibly fortunate that my parents used their common sense. My grandfather was vegan for the last 25 years of his life and thrived. In the end it was a car accident that killed him- not long after he gave up his pension because he wanted to grow his business at 80 years of age (so much energy). You can argue till the cows come home but as you can see it’s a waste of time.

        • Oh I can tell that trying to have reasoned discussion with you is a waste of my breath but despite what you claim here, just below you contradict yourself…

          “I occasionally have a metabolic analysis which lets me know how my carb, fat, protein metabolisms are doing as well as things like electrolyte levels, nervous system, vit c, alkaline/ acid balance etc and tweak my vegan diet accordingly.”

          Why would you need to tweak perfection? And what potential harm could this do to a growing child? Missing an essential nutrient at a crucial moment in their development? What if you identified this shortfall in your diet just as you were conceiving a child? And sure I recognise that could also happen with an omnivorous diet… it’s just that it is far less likely; as a steak (for one example) has such a huge list of nutrients, as compared to a cabbage.

          • Oh dear I can see you feel a bit defeated and are now trying to scrape the bottom of the barrel to find come- backs! I will waste no more time with you. Please go away- don’t you have some magnesium supplements to take? Goodbye

            • Yes, I’m sure you like that wouldn’t you.. if people like me would just go away.

              So awkward when you are unable to respond to issues raised against your fantasy world.

              Me go away? Not gonna happen…

            • Wow. You’re still commenting this far down the page and getting obviously upset. You need to calm down. Maybe debating diets with strangers on the internet is not healthy for you?

          • Animal products have at most around 27 nutrients. All plant-products have over 10,000 nutrients. Plants are packed fill of phyto-chemicals of which animals products have none.

            1/3rd of US Citizens will die of heart disease. Another 1/3 will die from cancer. Add on the number of people who will die from auto-immune disorders and you are looking at a most of the population. All of these diseases list animal products as a major cause. A whole-food, plant-based diet is not attributed to one single disease, and is actually proven to risk factors of all the previously mentioned conditions.

            In other words, enjoy your heart attack. While you are having it, think of the thousands of animals you killed, the poor you starved, and the environment you destroyed to give you the heart attack.

              • It is ironic that when people are completely brainwashed by advertising and cultural paradigms that they actually view the truth, based on scientific evidence, to be propaganda.

                • I could and do say the exact same thing about your own narrow-minded view of the world. You are brainwashed.

            • Wow, Cappy. I want you to think of the “the thousands of animals you killed, the poor you starved, and the environment you destroyed” just by existing. If you live in America and indulge in our consumerist culture in any way, you are contributing to those issues as much as any meat eater. It is delusional to think otherwise. Or are you a hermit who lives in a hut without electricity and only eats food you grew yourself? Well, you are on the internet so I doubt it.

            • I cannot believe the venom that comes out of the mouths of vegans. I thought veganism was to embrace compassion and empathy for all living creatures. For the love of God listen to yourself. Are you really moving toward a better world? Shame.

            • So Cappy, you are saying that if you eat vegan you won’t die?!?!! Cause that’s what it sound like.

  15. I just recently bought your book! I also have recently been through a lot health wise and am making changes. I’ve had pelvic pain and have been dx’d with an autoimmune disease. My doctors wanted me off grains and that seems to be helping me with my many uncomfortable symptoms, including the pelvic pain. But I had some concern about animal products too, so I’m eating them in smaller portions and looking for good quality. I don’t see where being a vegetarian and especially a vegan is ideal. I’ve had low B12 in the past and that is miserable. So, now I don’t eat grains or sugar and eat moderate amounts of meat and fruits and lots of vegetables and small portions of organic dairy. For example, sometimes I want a little butter on my veggies…and I see nothing wrong with that. Honestly, I’m very concerned about my health and know in my heart that a healthy diet is vital. Looking forward to reading your book…just got it!!!!

  16. While the paleo rationales make sense to me, and while I seem to need to eat meat to control depression, I have to wonder why the studies show no difference between health conscious meat eaters and non meat eaters if vegetarianism is as deficient as you claim. I mean, if this were all true, shouldn’t they show worse health?

    Also, I was reading P. Jaminet’s discussion about omega 3 toxicity levels and ease of rancidity, and it occurs to me that maybe we don’t want a “good” source of it. Maybe a poorly converted plant source is just what we need! (if omega 6’s are in check, of course)

    • Good point made. My grandfather was vegan for the last 25 years of his life (he became vegan after he was diagnosed with liver cancer and was given 4 months to live). He was so energetic, fit and healthy, he even gave up his pension because he was too restless. He worked 14 hour days, 7 days a week- at age 80. Everyone who didn’t know his diet wanted to know his secret, and we all joked that he would break a record for the longest living human. Unfortunately before his 81st birthday he was on his early morning walk just before the sun rose and was hit by a car and killed. I wish he was alive for many reasons, but one would be to show him this article. I bet it would have made him chuckle.

      • Anette my grandfather ate meat and vegetables and grew up in another country, went through war and famine and wow, lived to be about 84 and died peacefully in his bed. My brother-in-laws mom grew up in a polluted mining town, smoked all her life, ate meat and veg, got lung cancer, beat that and died in her 90s. What is your point?

        • Living a long life doesn’t necessarily mean it was a healthy thriving life. Flawed observation fallacy.

          • You mean to apply this pearl of wisdom to BOTH Mina’s AND Annette’s anecdote,,. of course???

            Such a negative person.. seeing only fallacies around her…

    • Actually, a poorly converted plant source might reduce your ability to use the biologically active form of omega-3 fats. I would say the ideal source of omega-3 is fresh, lightly cooked or raw fatty fish or pastured egg yolks that have not been exposed to oxidative damage and yet have high amounts of omega-3 fats, DHA in particular.

      I suggest you read this excellent article for more information:
      http://www.westonaprice.org/know-your-fats/precious-yet-perilous

      • Thanks for the link but no thanks- I’m a few steps ahead of you and I’ve been through these conversations before.

      • Well, as modern humans we can choose something optimal over evolutionary, but I did wonder what source of cold water fish we would have been eating in Africa, what fish we ate before nets were invented, and what eggs we ate most of the time as in the wild they are highly seasonal … I was just suggesting that maybe there is a reason our requirements are so low. The problem seems to come from gorging on the modern seed oils, I guess

  17. I recently suffered pelvic pain and was told to stop consuming grains. In fact, four of my doctors told me to stop consuming grains. I told one of my docs that the China Study and various documentaries I have seen had me concerned about eating meat. She had a good suggestion; to reduce my meat consumption and to eat the best quality meats I can find. My new diet is not easy…but in a short while, I feel Much better. I’m not eating grains, eating less meat, but good quality meat, very very little dairy (only organic and only lactose free), not eating sugar at all, lots of good water, no sodas at all, a max of one Truvia packet a day…a LOT of veggies a day, fruit daily, etc. For me, grains seem to be the big culprit and I also think we might eat too many animal products. I’ve had to listen to my doctors and listen to what my body was telling me and adjust accordingly. I pray I can keep this up. I know in my heart a good, healthy diet is imperative! Best wishes to all who seek to find good health.

    • I also beat pelvic pain with diet and reducing grains and sugars was primary in that success. Listening to your body is important — it will tell you when things are out-of-whack and nutritional imbalances leading to inflammation and pain are easy to overcome if you catch them early enough. If you can tolerate it, try eating some full-fat yogurt and other fermented foods as they will help heal your gut and ease discomfort that leads to muscle tension in your pelvis.

      Oh, and look into gentle stretches that activate the psoas muscle — the tension of which is a top cause of pelvic pain.

  18. This is a very one-sided argument. I have been vegan and omnivorous. I am much healthier as a vegan and my recent medical record (overcoming one autoimmune disease, several intolerances and getting off all prescription medicine) and my high endurance and energy are a testament to the diet. That said, it’s a choice, and I think people should choose a diet that makes them feel the best, not a diet that someone dictates to you. Life is short–enjoy the journey!

    • The experience of one person, though surely valuable to the person in question, is not a valid scientific defense of veganism and does not detract from the central argument of this article, which is that nutrient deficiencies are common in vegetarian and vegan diets.

      I do agree that people should choose the diet that makes them feel best, but the problem is that can be misleading. If someone is eating a “standard american” omnivorous diet with a lot of processed and refined food, and then they switch to a vegan diet, they will surely feel better. They went from eating crap to eating real food. But that does not mean a vegan diet is optimal, nor does it mean they won’t develop nutrient deficiencies over time with such an approach.

      • “The experience of one person, though surely valuable to the person in question, is not a valid scientific defense of veganism and does not detract from the central argument of this article, which is that nutrient deficiencies are common in vegetarian and vegan diets.”

        This is complete hyperbole. People who consume plant-based diets might have lower levels of some nutrients, and higher levels of other nutrients. A lower level of a nutrient does NOT make someone deficient. Deficiency means an insufficient amount, or a lack of, which means that symptoms must be present for it to be considered a deficiency. If no symptoms, then there is an adequate amount.

        The baseline for nutrient levels is obtained from a sample of the population. In Western cultures, especially the US, the norm of the population is an overweight person who eats a lot of animal products and processed foods, doesn’t work out, and has high cholesterol & blood pressure. Your norm is unhealthy, so comparing someone who eats a plant-based diet on blood levels alone is ludicrous.

        Let’s look at health.
        People who eat a plant-based diet are the only group, on average, to have a healthy BMI. http://www.nature.com/ijo/journal/v27/n6/full/0802300a.html

        Lower risk of heart disease.
        http://www.ox.ac.uk/media/news_stories/2013/130130.html

        Lower risk of cancer.
        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3048091/

        Lower risk of diabetes.
        http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/78/3/610S.full

        The list goes on and on, and yet not a single “deficiency” you mentioned is cited as a cause for any remotely common disease, let alone symptoms. Yet, eating animal products is cited as a contributor in every single major disease. How brainwashed do you have to be to find a 1 in 3 chance of dying from a heart attack to be less of a threat than an extremely rare vitamin deficiency.

        I suggest people research this info on their own and not simply listen to the propaganda repeated by the meat, dairy, and egg industry that have become irrational paradigms.

        • He didn’t say that. He said that n=1 doesn’t negate entire scientific arguments

    • I find this extremely ONE sided as well. I’ve also done both ( vegan/whole30) as well as a raw diet for a very short while. I recently started the whole30 and have extended it indefinately because of the results. My diet does include meat, it’s no more than a fifth of what is on my plate and is less meat than what I eat prior to the whole 30. Everything else is veggies with limited fruit. I’ve cut out all processed/refined/dairy/grains/legumes/potato/soy … anything that is not a meat, veggie, fruit or nut with the exception of unrefined coconut oil. I have had great results with this and credit it to the increased amount of veggies I eat. I try to buy the best quality food I can as well as support local farmers by joining a CSA.
      I believe whether you go whole 30/paleo or vegan/vegatarian, the key is to eat correctly, eliminate the processed crap, add lots of fresh fruits and veggies which are awesome for you ( I can’t believe I hear people making statements against veggies ) and for me, eliminating dairy, grains & sugar was the best thing i’ve ever done.

  19. This was at first appearances a well researched and referenced article. However, the first (and only) two references I clicked through to in no way supported the assertions being made in the article:

    1. the ‘myth’ that seaweed, brewer’s yeast and fermented soy provide real B12. The article referenced just listed the test results for a single specific supplement (spirulina). It made no claims about any naturally occurring sources of B12.

    2. the study showing that vegetarians don’t live any longer than omnivores when health consciousness is factored out. The study in question neither had this as a stated aim. nor was it a finding that it claimed to have made. It was just about whether eating fresh fruit and veg affected mortality.

    These quickly undermined any confidence I had in the writer, and I gave up on this article after that. If you want to make unsubstantiated claims, please have the good grace to present them as opinion and not to hide them behind false references and academic pretensions.

    • 1. You can find many additional references showing that B12 in plant foods is not a viable source here: http://www.beyondveg.com/billings-t/comp-anat/comp-anat-7c.shtml.

      2. You have to read the full-text of the study. Look at Table 3. After adjusting for age and smoking, vegetarians had a slightly higher risk of death from all causes than omnivores among the health-conscious group. It is not relevant that this wasn’t a stated aim of the study; the finding is in the data.

    • I have found the same thing with most of Chris’s references. The study on the omnivores vs vegetarians also found that a vegetarian diet was associated with a lower risk of death from ischaemic heart disease, and they also referenced other studies with the same finding. Of course, that detail was left out. Another study previously quoted by the author to support the omni vs veg having same lifespan was the EPIC study. Yet, this study found that red meat was associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer. Again, not mentioned.

      I also find it hard to believe that choline deficiency is a concern… the average person gets over 1,000 mg a day despite the RDA being only about 420mg. I use choline in my daily research and know it well. One recent study showed that men in the highest quintile of choline intake had a 70% increased risk of lethal prostate cancer.
      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22952174

      I could get into the other flaws in this article, but I have neither the patience nor the time.

      • “I also find it hard to believe that choline deficiency is a concern… the average person gets over 1,000 mg a day”

        Do you have some data for that? That statement directly contradicts the findings of this study: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1753-4887.2009.00246.x/abstract

        “Mean choline intakes for older children, men, women, and pregnant women are far below the adequate intake level established by the IOM. Given the importance of choline in a wide range of critical functions in the human body, coupled with less-than-optimal intakes among the population, dietary guidance should be developed to encourage the intake of choline-rich foods.”

        • My apologies, I could have sworn I saw that number somewhere, but you are right: it is inaccurate. Must have had a brain fart!

          I still don’t see potential choline deficiency as a reason to not eat a vegan diet. Studies in the literature looking at choline deficiency give their subjects less than 50 mg per day for several days to induce the deficiency. The only way to match this on a vegan diet is to eat mostly junk food, since plants contain adequate amounts of choline.

          Also, the study you referenced concluded that mean intakes were below that established by the IOM – which means these people were below the RDI even though they consumed meat. Doesn’t really make the case for eating meat.

          It also mentions that choline plasma levels are also dependent on folate. Given that the majority of our population is folate deficient, this may explain why most are exhibiting a secondary choline deficiency. Sure enough, when you give folate to people with a choline deficiency, they get better.
          http://jn.nutrition.org/content/129/3/712.long

          Perhaps, instead of advising people to eat meat, we should be advising them to eat leafy green vegetables and beans so that they have adequate folate and choline.

          There is no evidence to suggest that a vegan diet comprising of plenty of folate-rich green vegetables will result in a choline deficiency. If there is, I would love to see it. And given the association of high choline intake with prostate cancer, we should be wary of getting too much of it.

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