Friday, January 7, 2011

Red Pills for Vegans

On the piece I did regarding veganism, I tried to point out that the history of veganism in the US was largely the efforts of Kellogs, the man who invented breakfast cereal. He was a seventh day adventist and his veganism was based on his faith...not the scientific facts of which diet is best suited for the human physiology.

Seems like in the vegan community, the faith is still pretty strong...even when there is scientific evidence that demonstrates just how mistaken certain vegans may be when it comes to the health effects of their chosen belief system.

The problem for many vegans, is that the most convincing arguments against veganism are now coming from ex-vegans, many of whom were dedicated vegans, until health problems associated with their diets made them reach the point of re-evaluation. Once they give up their vegan principles and begin to eat meat and other animal products, many experience a resurgence in good health.

People like Lierre Kieth, Rhys Southan and Melissa McEwen have put forth their personal stories and have been ridiculed, dismissed and even physically attacked by their former vegan compatriots. (Lierre Kieth was once assaulted by malicious vegans throwing hot pepper-laced pies into her face).

But the latest ex-vegan that has literally been destroying vegan arguments on the interwebs in 2010, is one, Denise Minger.

She's got the true believers utterly flummoxed..and for good reason.

She gained notoriety in the paleo/ex-vegan blogosphere when she turned her meticulous researcher's eye onto the research that has been considered the holy grail of veganism: Dr. Colin Campbell's The China Study.

While many others have pointed out that Campbell's conclusions were flawed because they were based on cherry picking the data from 7 countries -- when the stats were gathered from more than 20 -- to reach his subjective and pre-determined conclusion that veganism was the healthiest diet for humans, Denise actually waded through the research and went on to painstakingly show that Campbells support for veganism as the healthiest diet was based on far more deceptions and misrepresentations than simply just cherry picking his data.

You can see for yourself just how thoroughly she debunked Campbell's claims here.

Her initial case was so compelling, Campbell himself actually deigned to respond to her. She responded, and essentially cleaned his clock, causing he and his followers to cease trying to debate with her.

But her latest blog post goes even further, by taking on one of the biggest shibboleths promoted in our mainstream mass media culture today: the idea that meat and saturated fats clog the arteries and cause heart disease.

From Will Ditching Meat Save Your Arteries?

Sometimes, when I feel like I don’t have enough stress in my life and start craving a blood-pressure boost, I go to my old vegan haunts to read gems like these:

The only way meat can be digested is by putrefaction, our stomach acid is only 5% of that of a carnivore or omnivore so instead of being digested it basicly [sic] rots in your intestines which leaves toxic gases and waste to be absorbed into the blood.

we know what’s happening. we’ve known for decades. however, we also have found that when we talk about the health detriments associated with eating the products of the corpse industries, people don’t believe us.

[T]here is a single, sole cause to heart disease: cholesterol. If your total cholesterol is below 150 and LDL is below 70, you are essentially heart attack proof. What is the cause of high cholesterol? Saturated fat and animal products.

Don’t you love this stuff? But I digress. What I want to talk about right now is one of the most oft-cited perks of being a vegetarian: an apparently lower risk of heart disease compared to omnivores.

I remember when I used to believe all of those things steadfastly...and I wasn't even a vegan. I was more accurately a guilt-consumed meat eater that would go on vegetarian binges. I'd abstain from meat and dairy for days on end, because I believed those lies. And it certainly didn't make my health better for it.

Denise goes on:

A recent paper called Chemistry Behind Vegetarianism sums it up by saying “Omnivores have a significantly higher cluster of cardiovascular risk factors compared with vegetarians, including increased body mass index, waist to hip ratio, blood pressure, plasma total cholesterol (TC), triacylglycerol and LDL-C levels, serum lipoprotein(a) concentration, plasma factor VII activity, ratios of TC/HDL-C, LDL-C/HDL-C and TAG/HDL-C, and serum ferritin levels.”

This is a trend that some folks translate as “meat causes heart disease”—a sentiment I saw plastered all over the veggie message boards during my most recent lurking spree. I assume this belief is bolstered by all the perfectly-preserved chunks bacon found in meat eaters’ arteries during heart biopsies.

Studies on vegetarians are inherently tricky. Although some folks dump animal foods strictly for ethical reasons, many of the meatless eat their veggies alongside other pro-health behaviors like exercising more, nixing tobacco, swapping refined grains for whole, limiting processed food (soy Frankenmeats notwithstanding), and avoiding the biggest of the baddies (trans fats, corn syrup, Cadbury Creme Eggs, and pretty much everything on this site)."

What does all of that equal? Confounderville for researchers. It’s impossible to adjust for every little diet and lifestyle tweak a vegetarian makes in the name of health, so in scientific studies, vegetarians almost always have an advantage over health-indifferent omnivores. But the reason can’t be pegged on their meatlessness: Vegetarianism is a marker for a comprehensive shift in behaviors that influence disease risk.

No kidding, especially when you consider that an obese Wal-Martian who eats fast food at every meal is lumped in with the health-fanatic, paleo-atheletes under the category of "Omnivore."

Denise goes on to breakdown the data, and come to the following conclusion:

The significance of this study is that it underscores the major issue with vegetarian research at large: The health-protective effects of vegetarianism are probably due to factors other than meat avoidance. When you study vegetarians that aren’t partaking in a bigger diet and lifestyle change, they no longer have a glowing health report.

There’s nothing about eating meat that requires someone to inhale sugar and eat less fresh produce—but because meat (with all that awful saturated fat and cholesterol) has been so vilified in the nutrition world, the folks who eat more of it are likely to be less health-conscious than those who opt for the tofu slab. That’s why patterns like these emerge: Eating less meat goes hand-in-hand with other health-promoting choices, so we often see vegetarians trumping omnivorous control groups in terms of health markers.

 This is just another example of how the supposed science used to promote lies and misconceptions like a plant-based diet is healthiest for humans.

I wonder if this latest post will attract more anonymous vegan commenters that deride me and my fellow Hawaiians for our love of Spam?


Elusive Wapiti said...

I used to be veggie, or an ovo-lacto vegetarian, who also ate meat if I had shot it and cleaned it myself. So I suppose I didn't make a great example for a vegetarian.

One thing that stood out in your post is how vegetarianism selects for lifestyle. If a fellow is going to go through the ass pain of vegetarianism, he's more likely to take better care of his body in the process. Ergo, he'll be healthier, in spite of all those phytoestrogens he's consuming.

I gave up vegetarianism when I left California. Too hard to sustain back home in Wyoming, where people look at ya funny (rightly so) after you ask for a veggie burger. It's like you're half a man or something. Anyways, I don't much miss it.

Hughman said...

Certainly in my med school we don't like vegans, they present with all manner rare deficiencies, mental disorders (many are anorexic, have anxiety syndromes etc)

Even veggies cause us some angst, you -can- be a healthy veggie, but even then, many are not (because of excessive card and soy consumption)

Will S. said...

Great, well-thought-out post, HL, with the added bonus of a beautiful new word coinage (at least, new to me), "Wal-Martian" - ha, priceless; love it!

Anonymous said...

"Studies on vegetarians are inherently tricky. Although some folks dump animal foods strictly for ethical reasons, many of the meatless eat their veggies alongside other pro-health behaviors like exercising more, nixing tobacco, swapping refined grains for whole, limiting processed food (soy Frankenmeats notwithstanding), and avoiding the biggest of the baddies (trans fats, corn syrup, Cadbury Creme Eggs, and pretty much everything on this site."

Well, if it is easier to make those changes combined with vegetarianism or veganism, I guess that is an argument for it. I only eat vegan at yoga retreats, but I would eat more vegan or vegetarian, if such food was more widely available in main stream restaurants. According to me, the best arguments for vegetarianism are resource consumption. Before cheap energy people in the West ate less meat as well, normally just on Sundays.

Anonymous said...

A Holiday Thought...

Aren't humans amazing? They kill wildlife - birds, deer, all kinds of cats, coyotes, beavers, groundhogs, mice and foxes by the million in order to protect their domestic animals and their feed.

Then they kill domestic animals by the billion and eat them. This in turn kills people by the million, because eating all those animals leads to degenerative - and fatal - health conditions like heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and cancer.

So then humans spend billions of dollars torturing and killing millions more animals to look for cures for these diseases.

Elsewhere, millions of other human beings are being killed by hunger and malnutrition because food they could eat is being used to fatten domestic animals.

Meanwhile, few people recognize the absurdity of humans, who kill so easily and violently, and then call for Peace on Earth.

~Revised Preface to Old MacDonald's Factory Farm by C. David Coates~


Anyone can break this cycle of violence! Everyone has the power to choose compassion! Please visit these websites to align your core values with life affirming choices: &

Amateur Strategist said...

Whoa, I thought anon8:05 had a blue head, but it just turns out that blue pill was so large it's litterally engulfing him.

Anthony said...

Keoni, please contact me at your earliest convenience via e-mail regarding a speaking invitation to The 21 Convention 2011.


Thank you


Anonymous said...

I am a Vegetarian. For over 30 years.

Why? Because for me, food tastes different than for other people. For example, steak tastes like kidney to me .. it's similar for other meats. The only meats that I enjoyed the taste of are chicken and turkey. Fish flesh is soft and should be no problem, but I've found the cooked fish oils literally lock my throat shut.

I haven't been sick in 17 years. No, I'm not B.S'ing. Just observing how various ingested food products affect me, I've adjusted and fine tuned over time. Protein helped me gain more weight and seemed to make me more resistant to allegries ( my main weak point ).

Things that are beneficial and improve being Vegan -- Supplementary proteins you can buy in the health food stores. B-12 of course. Edible plant oils, cold pressed. Proper full spectrum multi-vitamin , mineral powder such as can be found linked on Roissys site.

Backing off on the sugars and dairy. I love cheese, especially the old aged stuff, but am lactose intolerant.

I would say more, but people would call bullsh*t. They wouldn't believe for example, that people tell me I'm mid 30's , and I date only 18 - 25 . ( I'm over 50 )

Ok, all this isn't to pump "what a great person I am " it's to say: vegans that Use Their F**king Brain, can be very healthy , and much healthier than 99% of the population.

Guys, there is SO much new tech and products out there that really work .. you have to experiment as an individual and find what works for YOU.

Definitely, for some that would meat and dairy.

People are just so damn lazy to take care of themselves.

Keoni Galt said...

Ok, all this isn't to pump "what a great person I am " it's to say: vegans that Use Their F**king Brain, can be very healthy , and much healthier than 99% of the population.

Thanks for your really are confirming the points Denise made - glad to see you recognize that abstaining from meat is not the sole reason for your good health.

As for myself...I'm not really looking to condemn or castigate vegans and vegetarians who are tolerant - I just seek to set the record straight when it comes to some of the rationalizations and justifications many vegans use to promote their dietary choices.

Many of them are based on lies and biased studies.

Anonymous said...

Keoni Galt: I think the best arguments for veg. is non-violence and limited resources. Veg. can be a healthier choice, but not necessarily.


Anonymous said...

Hey Dave! I eat chicken and pork only rarely, and mostly I eat eggs and vegetables such as beans and rice.
I had a question about the nutritional value of various beans! I know soy beans are suspected to cause problems for male health, so I rule out soy.

This means I eat a whole lot of beans and rice! Apparently if I overcook the rice, I can destroy the starch - is that really true? Also, can you give any advice on different ways to cook beans? Most of the time, I have to boil them, and I sometimes wonder if there is a better way.


sconzey said...

I'm really really surprised that studies into vegetarian vs. omnivorous diets didn't control for lifestyle effects. These statistical techniques are not difficult; the kind of stuff that first year students learn.

That's just bad science; especially if you then go onto conclude, not just correlation, but causality!