A Fun Experiment

I’ve written a lot about diet lately, but let me get personal about it. I’ve had lifelong issues with diet, not that I thought about it that way when younger. I ate a crappy diet and it was the only diet I knew, as everyone else around me was likewise eating the same basic crappy diet. Even my childhood sugar addiction didn’t stand out as all that unique. Though I didn’t know it at the time, looking back at it now, I’m sure an unhealthy diet with nutrient-deficiencies and food additives (maybe along with environmental toxins or other external factors) was likely contributing factors to my learning disability and word finding difficulties (WFD) — see previous posts: Aspergers and Chunking; and Specific Language Impairment. As early as elementary school, there were also signs of what would later be diagnosed as depression. I knew something was wrong with me, but felt at a loss in that there was no way to explain it. I was just broken, inferior and inadequate. I didn’t even understand that I was depressed during my youth, although my high school art teacher once asked me if I was depressed and, in my ignorance, I said I wasn’t. Being depressed was all I knew and so it just felt normal.

I didn’t have the insight to connect my neurocognitive and psychological struggles to physical health. The crappiness of my diet only became apparent to me in adulthood, although I’m not sure when I started thinking about it. I grew up in churches where people were more health-conscious and my mother tried to do what she thought was healthy, even as good info was lacking back then. Still, a basic mentality of healthfulness was instilled in me, not that it initially did me much good. It took a while for it to lead to anything more concrete than doing what was the height of “healthy eating” in those day, which was skim milk poured over bran cereal and an occasional salad with low-fat dressing. That simply would’ve made my depression and learning disabilities worse as it surely was fucking up my neurocognition precisely as my brain was developing, but mainstream advice asserted that this USDA-approved way of eating would cure all that ails you. Fat was the enemy and fiber was a health tonic. Few at the time realized that fat-soluble vitamins were key to health nor that a high-fiber diet can block nutrient absorption.

Everything fell apart after high school. I despised life and wanted to escape the world. I dropped out of college and seriously considered becoming a hermit, but the prospect was too lonely and after moving out to Arizona I felt homesick. Then in going back to college, I attempted suicide. I failed at that as well and earned myself a vacation in a psychiatric ward. I was bad off, but having been raised in New Thought Christianity I was always looking for answers in self-help books and similar things. It would’ve been maybe in my early to mid 20s when I first read books that were explicitly about diet, nutrition, and health. I do recall, for instance, a book I picked up on low-carb diets and it wasn’t about the Atkins diet — it might have been an old copy of Vilhjalmur Stefansson’s Not By Bread Alone or it could have been something else entirely. Around that time, there was a minor incident that comes to mind. I told my friend that fast food was unhealthy and he didn’t believe me. It sounds odd now, but this was back in the 1990s. His mother was a nurse and regularly bought him fast food as a child. So how could it be bad? Many people at the time didn’t have much sense of what made food healthy or not, but obviously something had got me thinking about it. I knew that some foods were not healthy, even as what a healthy diet should look like was a bit hazy in my mind, beyond the nostrum of eating more fruits and veggies.

I lacked knowledge and there weren’t many sources of knowledge prior to my getting internet. Still, based on what limited info I could glean, I did start experimenting during that period. I began trying supplements to deal with my depression with the related low energy and low motivation, as therapy and medications had failed to put a dent in it. Around 1998, four years after graduating high school and a couple years after the suicide attempt, I tried vegetarianism for a time, maybe for a year or so, but it mainly involved eating as a regular meal a mix of Ramen noodles, eggs, and frozen vegetables cooked in the microwave — it was a poverty diet as I was living in poverty. I probably also was eating plenty of junk food as well, considering most cheap processed foods are vegetarian. Avoiding meat certainly doesn’t guarantee health — it didn’t fill me with joy and vitality. A bit later on I did finally try a low-carb diet, but it mainly consisted of eating processed meat because I was too depressed to cook. Even then, I might not have been getting many fat-soluble vitamins, as I didn’t understand nutrient-density. I wasn’t procuring pasture-raised meat, much less emphasizing organ meats, bone broth, wild-caught fish, etc.

My experiments weren’t well-informed and so weren’t done under optimal conditions. There was no one around to offer me guidance and so it didn’t work out all that well. I don’t give up easy, though. I went looking for guidance from dozens of psychiatrists, therapists, energy healers, body workers, and even a shaman. In my desperation, I’d try anything. Then I went to massage school where I learned Shiatsu massage and traditional Chinese theory, along with some other modalities. Even that didn’t change anything. My massage teachers were alternative health practitioners, one being a naturopath, but it seemed like no one understood what was wrong with me and so nothing could make a difference. My depression was an incomprehensible mystery. Rather than something being wrong with me, I was the problem in being inherently defective, so it seemed in my lingering dark mood.

The only thing that made much of a difference was exercise. I found that I could keep the worst symptoms of depression at bay through jogging, if only temporarily. At some point, I learned to jog before eating anything in the morning and I found that my hunger and cravings were less for the rest of the day. I had accidentally discovered ketosis and didn’t know what it was. It didn’t make sense that physical exertion minus food would lead to such results — rather counterintuitive. I was also occasionally fasting around then which also would’ve contributed to ketosis. That isn’t to say ketosis while in nutrient deficiency is a good thing. I’d have been better off in having avoided ketosis entirely and, instead, having filled up on nutrient-dense fatty animal foods. I needed healing and only high dosage of nutrition was going to accomplish that. I had been too malnourished for far too long at that point. Ketosis would’ve been great after a period of deep nourishment, but I didn’t understand either the significance of key nutrients nor how to implement ketosis in a more beneficial way.

At some point, I read Sally Fallon Morrell’s Nourishing Traditions (1995) where I was introduced to nutrient-density and fat-soluble viatmins along with traditional food preparation, but I was too depressed and too isolated to fully and successfully implement what I was learning. Depression is a real kick in the ass. Still, I was slowly accruing basic knowledge and making small changes when and where I felt able. I was limiting some of the worst problematic foods. In particular, I began cutting back on junk food, especially candy. And I replaced sugar with such things as stevia. Simultaneously, I increased healthier foods like probiotics and Ezekiel bread, although I’m not sure that the latter really is all that healthy (it has vital gluten added to it and it mostly starchy carbs). I tried to limit my sugar intake to foods that were relatively better, such as yogurt and kefir. I still was experimenting a bit with supplements, but wasn’t getting any clear results. My depression persisted and I see now that, even with these changes, I continued to lack nutrient-density. It just wasn’t clicking together for me. Maybe my depression had moderated ever so slightly, to the degree that I was a functional depressive and not in the total gloom and doom of my late teens to early twenties. I figured that was as good as it was going to get. I had survived that far and figured I’d be depressed for the rest of my life. Let me put this in perspective. This slightly lessened depression was, nonetheless, chronic and severe. For example, suicidal ideation persisted — maybe more as a background noise to my thoughts, but there, always there. I had this suspicion that eventually depression would catch up with me and then that would be the end of me. Suicide remained a real possibility in my mind, a persistent thought. It was hard for me imagine myself surviving into old age.

I carried on like this. I managed my life at a bare minimal level. I held down a job, I sort of kept my apartment clean, I fed my cats and sometimes changed their litter, and I more or less paid my bills on time. But depression had kept me working minimal hours and barely staying above poverty. There wasn’t only the depression for, over the decades, a crippling sense of shame had accumulated. I felt worthless, a failure. I wasn’t taking care of myself or at least wasn’t doing it well. Everything felt like a struggle while nothing I did seemed to make a difference. It was shitty and I knew life was just going to get worse as I aged and thinking about that made me feel more hopeless. To add to that general anxiety and despair, as I drifted through my thirties, I began gaining weight. I had always thought of myself as athletic. I played soccer from 1st grade to 11th grade and was always slim and trim, although I remember at one point after high school having been so inactive for a number of years that I felt winded just by walking up a hill — that was a strange experience for me because I had never been out of shape before that time. That was why I came to focus so much on exercise. Yet with age, mere exercise wouldn’t stop the weight gain, much less help with weight loss… nor any of the other symptoms of declining health. I was jogging multiple times a week for long periods, sometimes while wearing a heavy backpack as I hoofed it out to my parent’s place on the far edge of town. Still, the excess fat remained. That was rather dispiriting. Yet from a conventional viewpoint, my diet was balanced and my lifestyle was generally healthy, at least by American standards. I was doing everything right, as I understood it. Just the expected results of aging, most doctors would likely have told me.

I realize now that insulin resistance probably had set in quite a while back. I was probably prediabetic at that point, maybe even in the early stages of diabetes (I sweated a lot, in the way my grandmother did before her diabetes was managed with insulin shots). I know that I no longer handled sugar well, which helped keep my sugar addiction in check. About a decade ago, my friend and I visited a nearby donut shop and I got several fine specimens. Upon eating them, I felt sick with a slight headache. No more donuts for me. Sugar or not, my diet was still fairly high-carb, but I wasn’t yet fully aware of how starches and sugars sneak into everything. Then last year I randomly came across the paleo documentary The Magic Pill and watched it without any expectation. I suppose it was just basic curiosity, as is my habit. Something about it resonated with me. I showed it to my parents and they too found it inspiring. So, we all set about changing our diets — having mutual support from family was surely an important factor for motivation. The diet portrayed is standard paleo with a combination of low-carb and nutrient-density. What made the documentary compelling was how a wide variety of people were followed as they tried the paleo diet: a woman living alone with various health problems, a family with a young daughter with severe autism, and an Australian Aboriginal community that had lost their traditional way of life. It demonstrated the significant changes that could occur through diet. The transformation of the autistic girl was particularly impressive. The entire documentary was motivational. After that, I looked for some other documentaries to watch with my parents: The Perfect Human Diet, Carb Loaded, etc. Learning more reinforced this new view and brought together all that I had learned over the decades. I finally had a broader framework of understanding.

It was this low-carb paleo diet that was the starting point for me, although my mother never was quite on board with it. After looking online, she was drawn to the FODMAP diet in hoping it could help with her gut issues, specifically GERD and belching, but also osteoporosis (and indeed it did seem to work for her, as her former high-fiber diet apparently was the source of her problems), although her diet had some overlap with paleo. Going into my typical obsessive-compulsive mode, I gathered dozens of books on the subject, voraciously took in all the info I could find online, and began following various people on social media. I quickly figured out the basics and what was most essential while determining the points of disagreement and uncertainty. What I liked about the paleo and low-carb community was the attitude of curiosity, of exploration and experimentation. Try something and see what happens. And if it doesn’t work, try something else. There was no failure, a much more positive attitude about health. Within three months of implementing the paleo diet, I had lost 60 pounds of fat and I did it without starving myself. I simply figured out how to tap into the body’s natural mechanisms for fat-burning and hunger signalling. As I switched from general low-carb to ketogenic, my experience improved even further. It finally dawned on me that my depression had gone away, simply and utterly disappeared, decades of depression along with a lifetime of sugar addiction no longer an issue. I didn’t need to struggle against it. I wasn’t even trying to cure my depression, not that I realized this even was a possibility. It was a complete surprise.

It’s been a little over a year now. I’m still coming to terms with this new state of being. It’s strange. Depression had become part of my identity, as had sugar addiction and the roller coaster hangriness of insulin resistance. I now simply wake up in the morning feeling perfectly fine. It’s not that I go around feeling ecstatic, but the extreme low moods and funks no longer happen. I feel more balanced and relaxed. I used to fall into long periods of apathy and despair where all I could do was isolate myself until it passed, sometimes requiring days or weeks before I could rejoin humanity. How I functioned at all in such a state is kind of amazing, but not nearly as amazing as the miracle of its drama-free disappearance. Depression was there and then it wasn’t. I didn’t really notice it going away, until after it was gone. This leaves me in a strange position, as the decades of depressive thought and behavioral patterns remain. It’s hard for me to know how to not be a depressed person. I can’t quite wrap my mind around it. I don’t remember the last time I had any suicidal tendencies or fantasies. Yet the decades of damage to my body also remains as a reminder.

That hasn’t stopped me from getting back in shape and beyond. In fact, I’m in better shape now as I move toward middle age than ever before in my life. It’s not simply that I’ve been working out but that I enjoy working out. It feels good to me and I enjoy doing physical activity, pushing myself to the point of exhaustion. Unsurprisingly, I’m looking better. People notice and tell me. This sometimes makes me uncomfortable, as I’m not used to getting compliments. Just today I went to a picnic with a large crowd, some people I knew and some I didn’t. I met a friendly young woman and she was obviously flirting with me as we talked. It was a nice day and, having been out in a kayak, I had my shirt off. She told me that I looked “gorgeous” — the exact word she chose.* I’ll be blunt about this. No one has ever said anything like that to me in my entire life. I had never been a buff guy before and now I actually have muscles. It changes how I carry myself, how I feel.

It makes me realize why some fat people, after losing a bunch of weight, will sometimes gain their weight back just to feel normal again. The person I am now is not the person I’ve known myself for as long as I can remember. And I don’t know what to do with people relating to me differently. I’m sure people treat me differently not only because I look different but probably because I’m putting off a different vibe. I’m less sullen and dissociated than I used to be. An easygoing friendliness comes more naturally to me now. I don’t feel so crappy in no longer being on a crappy diet, but I’m not sure what it might mean to be healthy and happy. That is an odd concept to my mind. What if I could really be different? I take this seriously. In the past, I didn’t feel capable of being different, but all of that has changed. I don’t feel so irritable, frustrated, and angry. In place of that, I find myself wanting to be kinder and more forgiving. I want to be a good person. I realize that, in the past, how I could be an asshole and I was often open in admitting this basic fact of my former state, sometimes apologizing for my antagonistic moods. My life didn’t always feel like a net gain for the world and I’m sure some people might have agreed with that assessment. I could be harshly critical at times and that doesn’t make others feel better — I seriously harmed a number of relationships.

Now here I am. It’s a bit late in my life, but I have a second chance to try to do things differently. It will take some further experimentation beyond diet to find better ways of relating to others and to myself. That said, I’ll go on tinkering with my diet and lifestyle. It’s an ongoing experiment, all of it. Most importantly, it’s a fun experiment. The idea that I can try various things and discover what works is new to me. I’m more used to failure, but now I’m starting to see ‘failure’ as simply part of the experiment. There is no failure. Life doesn’t have to be hard. And I’m realizing that I’m not alone in this, as I’ve come across hundreds of stories just like mine. Sometimes simple changes can have profound effects.

* I must admit that it was a disconcerting experience. A young beautiful woman telling me in no uncertain words that I’m attractive. That is not the kind of thing I’ve grown accustomed to. I handled the situation as well as I could. It was kind of an amusing scenario. She was with her family. Along with her parents, she was visiting from Tunisia in order to see her sister who now works at the local university.

So, this young woman wasn’t going to be around long. Developing a romantic relationship didn’t seem to be in the cards, even if I had wanted it, but I feel ambivalent about romantic relationships these days. I’ve become comfortable in my bachelorhood with its lack of complications. Even so, I played along with the flirtation. As I sat near her with her family at the picnic table, she kept wanting to feed me. And how I could I decline food offered by a beautiful woman, even when she offered me carbs. That is my new plan for carb cycling — I’ll eat carbs every time a beautiful woman feeds them directly to me.

Anyway, combined with introversion and shyness, the lifetime of depression has made me reticent. I’m not confident around the opposite sex, but I’ve had long years of training in hiding any anxieties. Still, I didn’t know what purpose there was in flirting with this nice-looking person who would soon be gone. She said she might be back to visit again in a few years and that seems like a long time when you just met someone. I convinced myself there was no point and didn’t give her my contact info or ask for hers. But now I feel some regret.

I was acting according to my old self, the one who was ruled by his depression. Maybe it was irrelevant that I might not see her again. I should have left the door open for the possibility. These are the kinds of habits I need to learn.

49 thoughts on “A Fun Experiment

  1. Oh, you’ll sort out romantic stuff over time. I know it’s hard to give you advice like this, but let it go and don’t overthink stuff, and learn to get used to lots and lots of mistakes, some fun, and then anything from great pain to great joy, often intermixed. And it’s not overthinking it to read books the way you do about it all; that’s a very good thing, just like it is with politics and diet. I mean that in the moment, during actual events and immediately after, don’t pretend like you should know what’s going on, or that there is a correct way to be, or that you have any hope of doing it right. You, we, have time to make many mistakes.

    I’m very happy you took the time to share your own story this way- thanks. I’ve been using ketogenic principles and intermittent fasting for 6 years, along with lots of activity, and have some well-formed opinions, though they feel quite specific and personal. Maybe I shouldn’t feel that way, but I have to do so much preaching in my regular life that I limit my advice-giving to a couple of people.

    Before we saw each other last, I left a relationship that was a poor fit, and last year found a lovely local person who continually surprises and delights me. She has a young son, which is an interesting dynamic to have in my life again. I’m not very good romantically, wasn’t looking, but have always tried to be informed and educated on the subject, and encourage others to do the same. I got into homelessness activism as a volunteer, which has entailed a ton of county and city-level political and legal work. We just settled a long and bitter federal suit at very favorable terms with Sonoma county here in California, though we are at risk of Trump’s supremes reversing key portions in the future through throwing out a foundational precedent. I recently set up a nonprofit with some fine friends on the board that is doing low-income villages. Last Thursday, we received a $450k grant to do various villages and “safe parking” (safe from cops, mostly), which will open a lot of doors for us. The money is less important than the official county support, which has been strongly resisted politically. I am the acting director, though I’m calling myself ‘Project Manager’; less a leftist avoidance of hierarchical titles, and more a rightist assertion of fairly absolute hierarchical authority until someone tells me I can’t do that anymore. I will be paid a modest salary after the paperwork, which feels very strange; I’ve become used to survival on part-time whatnot and skinny living while fighting the man. In an early meeting after approvals, I continued my loud, obstreperous attack of my new homelessness masters at the county (as a new grantee), so I suppose some of us don’t quite flip into sellouts. At least not quickly. My board is concerned already, but they can fire me, that’d be fine, no hard feelings; after all, one isn’t cut out for every role in life, and this operational emphasis on construction, permits, case management, and service contract setup might well be served better with someone else. I had the vision and created the plan, but it might best be done by someone else. I don’t think I can stay far from the battlements; there are so many of them to stand at, and so few who show up, and who stay.

    I take great comfort and inspiration from your example and your way of deep examination. Thanks for being there for me. Congratulations on the turn your life has taken of late, though I must say you were always worthy of being chased by young, attractive women; the rest is mostly publicity.

    • I had no clue you were into keto or fasting. I guess it never came up in conversation.

      Maybe, with those who are open to it, you could more often bring up your own experience about diet and health. That’s always a more easygoing approach, as opposed to advice. I would’ve been glad if someone had shared some of this info with me years ago. There are many people out there similarly hungry for useful info. But it’s hard because all of us are swamped in bad info and some outright disinfo.

      Overthinking things — that has been a defining feature of my depression. It’s one of those habits I developed early. But it also seems to have been at least partly diet-related. Over the past year, my brooding also has receded. My emotional response this last incident of flirting was entirely different from that of the past. In decades past, I would either have been paralyzed with anxiety or emotionally disconnected. Now I feel more relaxed and balanced.

      We’ll see how it goes. As I said, I’m maintaining an attitude of experimentation. If I could give only a single piece of advice, it would be to do trial-and-error and hold the results lightly. In my experience and observations, it can sometimes require many ‘failures’ before ‘success’, and even then it’s temporary. What worked in one situation might not work in another. Life is always changing.

    • I’m generally not a fan of giving advice or necessarily giving my opinions, at least not in life in general. Now, on my own blog, I say all kinds of things. But I don’t feel a need to tell people what to do. That is even more true in everyday life. I’ve known some of my coworkers for more than a couple of decades and few of them know my views on almost anything. After all, I’m an introvert.

      About diet-related stuff, as you can tell, my opinions have become quite fully formed at this point. And my assessment, although informed by the personal, has gone far beyond that. I feel confident that, ignoring disagreements over details, the preponderance of evidence shows that everyone will do worse on a diet that is high enough carbs for long enough and everyone will do better on a diet far lower carb than Americans have been eating in recent generations. Here is an example of the growing evidence:

      By the way, I’m glad you’ve found meaningful work. My job simply pays the bills, but my reading and writing offsets that. You seem to have a healthy attitude about your present situation. And life seems to be decent for you at the moment. If you end up leaving that position, do you have other plans? Or are you just taking life as it comes?

    • I briefly mentioned my learning disability in the above post. But I didn’t really get into it. I maybe should have explained it more. I decided to throw in a few links to previous posts, in case someone wants to know what I’m talking about.

      I suspect social issues, shyness, introversion, delayed reading, learning disability, word finding difficulties, depression, thought disorder, and possibly autism spectrum are all related in my own early developmental conditions. And the research I’ve done indicates much of this directly connects to diet and nutrition, lifestyle and environment, especially in utero and childhood but also likely coming from epigenetics. Plenty of research shows we can inherit dietary preferences, obesity, trauma, etc over multiple generations. It’s fascinating stuff.

      What your parents and grandparents ate probably has shaped and, in some cases, maybe predetermined aspects of your physical and mental health. But on a positive note, what individuals choose to do in improving their own health will be passed on down the generations as well. Your children and grandchildren might benefit more from your healthy choices than you ever will. That puts into new context what it means to inherit the sins (or else blessings) of one’s father (and mother, grandfather, grandmother, etc; in rodent studies, some epigenetic effects are inherited across 7 generations or so).

      The age of hyper-individualism is coming to an end. The scientific evidence simply doesn’t support the idea of human organisms being isolated entities that are disconnected not only from the world around them but from other human organisms as well. So, in talking about all these personal problems, it’s my odd way of offering a hopeful vision for humanity. It’s never merely personal. We are literally in it together.

      • If you end up leaving that position, do you have other plans? Or are you just taking life as it comes?
        I’d like to make money for awhile, and continue to have quality time with family. It seems hard for me to not do local activism, and while I’m probably best suited to do regional or state or national things, I can’t get my head out of the particulars. I travel less than I used to; heading to NYC for a week in a bit, but that’s rare for me now, and I haven’t been to Europe in 4 years. This is a paid gig; I set my salary to modest levels, but it’s a lot to me. I started working very parttime in 2009 to write the Liberal’s Guide to Conservatives, and then did activism full time until now, but I’m 60 and need to think about basics when I won’t be able to work later. No thoughts yet on whether to return to tech or stay in nonprofit. I’d like to help facilitate the popularity of low-income villages in America; that seems doable from where I sit. If I could be the village king, get that on my tombstone, I’d be happy, as long as I can have some fun along the way.

        As usual, you are pretty far ahead of me on nutrition research. I’m vegetarian, and concerned about environmental aspects of food, so that overlay makes for a bit of difficulty here and there, but I’m very active physically, so I get waivers. I never had noticeable psychic aspects of diet; I’m just trying to stay alive longer, improve capability of physical life, and not screw with my mind and memory later. I like to play tag and throw around grandkids. I swim, lift heavy/low reps (Martin Berkhan leangains.com), and do some modern dance and balance work. I get depressed without a six-pack, even though only one person ever sees it. At the moment, I do no drugs or added sugar, vary carb intake with exertion, and fast 36-54 hours occasionally (whenever I eat a lot gluttonously, or after holiday feasts). I do intermittent fasting about half the time now, after almost 5 years of doing it pretty religiously. Ketosis seems to come easily for me now. This sounds more disciplined than it feels, and I do go in and out with it all, depending on pressure at work. I find that high psychic stress reduces my ability to be physical and eat well, all at once.

        • I understand what you mean by it sounding more disciplined than it feels. That speaks directly to my own experience. How you’re diet has developed over the years is basically what I’ve come to over the past year and a half. I do intermittent fasting a few days a week, sometimes with a day of total fasting which would come out to be around 36 hours, and then an occasional extended fast whenever I’m in the mood and have built up some fat reserves to burn. I do a combination of resistance training and aerobics, but nothing extreme and it doesn’t involve going to a gym. As with you, my purpose is more general health. The neurological angle was simply an added bonus, never intended, but it does help motivate me to stay on track. Why wouldn’t I want to continue this diet when I feel better in all ways? Losing 60 pounds was great, if seemingly small in comparison to the rest.

          By the way, I would distinguish between vegetarianism and veganism. I’m highly doubtful that anyone (or at least not many) can be optimally healthy while vegan. Animal foods in some form, even if only dairy and/or eggs, seem so important because of DHA/EPA, fat-soluble vitamins, choline, etc. The nutrient-density and bioavailability of these simply cannot be found in the plant kingdom. Vegetarianism is different with the inclusion of non-meat animal foods. Because of that, I don’t doubt vegetarians can be healthy, if done properly. A great book is Will Cole’s Ketotarian, a book (along with Dena Harris’ The Paleo Vegetarian Diet) that I got for my vegetarian brothers. Have you read either? I hope more people, including those on plant-based diets, turn to keto or even moderate low-carb, as I think it could transform our society if enough people did so.

          Sadly, I know too many vegetarians who eat crap food. In my own vegetarian experiment back in the day, I probably wasn’t doing it all that well, if not bad for a poverty diet. Without the satiety of fatty meat, it is much easier to fill up on carby foods — that is what I found in my own experience and in the observation of others. One has to be very intentional in developing good eating habits, which is true on any diet, of course, but more true for particular diets (somehow eating healthier comes more naturally while in ketosis because all of the endless hunger and dysfunctional cravings go away). If I was living with vegetarians, I’d probably go vegetarian for sake of simplicity, though I’ve come to question how well I handle dairy and so that would be a constraint. I’d certainly go your route and maintain low-carb with regular fasting and ketosis. I’d also be more careful about certain supplements, such as including algae-based DHA/EPA, a micronutrient that is otherwise not found in high levels outside of fatty fish.

          As you might know, I’m rather environmental-minded. I’ve never seen this as an issue of plant-based vs meat-based. The problem is industrial agriculture and factory farming. Interestingly, the vegan diet is the most dependent on industrial agriculture of any other non-SAD diet. A meat-based diet independent of all that (i.e., local, organic, and pasture-raised) is far less destructive than a plant-based diet dependent on it. In fact, ruminants for hundreds of millions of years have been key to healthy ecosystems. There are no more ruminants nor ruminant-produced pollution today in North America than there was prior to European settlement. These nuances tend to get left out of the debate.

          On my present omnivory, I mostly (though not entirely) buy local, in season, organic, and pasture-raised; and it doesn’t matter the time of year as there are always local animal foods available even in winter, as would have been true for the Native Americans who once lived here — something that would be impossible for veganism, especially this far north of the equator. Despite surrounded by industrial agriculture and factory farming, I’m fortunate to have a farmer’s market where local farmers sell their products and this includes a winter market (but even without such markets, many of these farmers are near where I live as I’m literally surrounded by farmland in every direction).

          My favorite local source is a guy who has a farm just outside of town, a few minutes drive from here. He raises both cows and chickens on pasture, which has been proven to be regenerative to the soil and creates habitat for wildlife. He moves the cows to a new field and then a few days later moves the chickens to the field the cows were on (the chickens then peck through the fly-covered manure and scatter it into the soil). He does this by having converted a bus into a chicken coop. I get much of both my meat and my eggs from him. It is healthy for me, the environment, and the local economy — a win-win-win scenario for everyone involved, well everyone other than transnational corporations and plutocrats.

          Combined with not owning a car and living in a small apartment, my environmental footprint is small compared to most Americans no matter what diet they’re on. That is important to me. I’ve been concerned about the environment for about as long as I can remember. In a high school English class, I wrote reports on pollution and overpopulation. But I must admit that I’m highly critical of the capitalist realism solution of environmentalism through consumerism, even as I try my best to make moral choices in my purchases. In the end, these are systemic problems that can only be solved through collective action which is to say through government. Most of the pollution comes from such things as transportation, including the transportation of plant foods. Large numbers of ruminants have been farting for millions of years. That isn’t the cause of climate change.

          As for suffering, I’ve argued that a diet based on pasture-raised animal foods also leads to far fewer deaths, especially compared to chemical-drenched monoculture, although even organic farming leads to mass kill-offs during harvesting, not to mention the ecosystems destroyed and wildlife displacement/starvation necessary to create the farm field in the first place. This is an even greater advantage with free-range, since domesticated ruminants can co-exist with wild ruminants and, if we are tolerant, apex predators as well. This is no small point considering that around 95% of the earth’s land is usable for grazing but not for farming. Traditional methods of grazing animals, based on millions of years of ecosystem co-evolution, is winning all around.

          I’m not being contrarian. I’m serious in finding a way for us humans to continue living without destroying the world around us. But I don’t thinking blaming individuals is the answer, not even blaming individual vegans. We are all responding to conditions that were created before us, conditions that we have little control over, unless we’re willing to start a revolution to overthrow the powers that be that are profiteering from our suffering and gambling with our future. Most importantly in the present moment, what I think individuals can do is to focus on their own health. If we are going to turn this Titanic around before hitting the iceberg, we’re going to need the full capacity of human potential. All hands on deck! Instead, right now we have a population that is severely crippled, physically and mentally and emotionally, and much of that crippling has come from a malnourished high-carb diet. Let’s deal with this basic level first (whether using vegetarianism, omnivory, or carnivory) and, after that, we can debate the rest.

          I suppose you’ve seen my posts on this topic, such as about the agricultural mind or diets and systems. As I see it, we have created not only a food system but an entire society built on and dependent on an addictive state of mind that is inseparable from hyper-individualism and capitalist realism (and other forms of ideological realism). This is inseparable from issues of environmental destruction, vast inequalities, violent oppression, and on and on. But diets enforced through government recommendations and corporate drugged-up “healthcare” isn’t only about social control for it also involves mind control. The kind of diet we eat creates very specific mentalities and worldviews, something understood during the Middle Ages and based on Galenic theory of humors, which still informs much dietary debate to this day (Galenic-style arguments remain standard among plant-based advocates). I suspect that our entire civilization would be transformed if enough of the citizenry and leadership were on a keto diet. Food really is that powerful in its impact.

          My focus might be a bit different than yours. I’m incapable of separating the personal from the political, even for seemingly minor things like ‘diets’. I see these as the battlefields where, as a species, we will either triumph or go down in defeat. If we can’t understand something so simple and yet powerful as diet, we have little hope of understanding anything else, much less saving the biosphere from climate catastrophe and mass extinction. So, yeah, it’s a fun experiment on a personal level, but on a collective level the stakes are immense, as you understand perfectly well.

          • I had to laugh when I read about the farmer who converted a bus into a chicken coop. I thought my family was the only family who did this. (That was years ago.)

          • Sadly, that farmer is retiring. None of his children want to take over the business. There are other local pasture-raised farmers. But I think he might be the only one with pasture-raised eggs. I’m going to have to look around for other options.

            I wish I could get everything local and pasture-raised. It’s hard, not only availability but cost. I try to get a few main items that are high quality, such as eggs, bacon, and dairy. Pasture-raise matters the most for fatty animal foods, as it’s in the fat that nutrients are concentrated.

            I’m hoping all of this catches on among more people. That farmer says there are many others getting into the pasture-raised business. But the problem, as he explained, is there is an immense learning curve for those who didn’t grow up in multi-generational farming families.

            Nonetheless, the market does seem to be rapidly growing, if not fast enough to keep up with demand in all cases, specifically at the local level. If one doesn’t prioritize local sources, there have been numerous businesses popping up that will deliver pasture-raised animal foods.

            Cost is still a major hurdle, though. There isn’t any particular reason pasture-raised should be more expensive. For the over all economy and environment, pasture-raised farming is a net gain. But that is the problem with our economy that allows most costs to be externalized.

            Living in a farm state, I realize how much government goes into subsidizing industrial agriculture, particularly corn and soy. The ironic part is that, despite raising so many farm animals in Iowa, most of those farm crops mostly go to human uses, not only food but ethanol.

            Now we know that ethanol isn’t even good for the environment. But big ag has become dependent on the government money flowing into the ethanol market. If natural markets were allowed to operate, we could more easily transition to more pasture-raised (and regenerative, organic, etc) farming.

            That is what really irritates me about plant-based greenwashing coming out of the likes of the EAT-Lancet report. It’s pushing an industrial diet and the funding sources behind it are big ag, big food, big oil, and big pharma. The animal food industry doesn’t make comparable profits to fund an opposition to such propaganda campaigns.


        • One doctor I enjoy following is Catherine Shanahan. She has some background in biochemistry and genetics. She talks about industrial diet and nutrition with a focus on industrial vegetable oils. She isn’t opposed to any specific food or category of food. It’s just she doesn’t consider industrial vegetable oils as foods. Instead, they are toxic industrial byproducts.

          She points to the role of oxidative stress in terms of epigenetics and de novo genetic mutations. This is involved in conditions such as autism, but she talks about much else. Her approach is more that of traditional foods, by way of Weston A. Price and Sally Fallon Morrell, although she has some emphasis on lower carb.

          She goes into great detail in her book, Deep Nutrition. You can also find many videos and podcasts of her talks and interviews. I highly recommend it. She isn’t advocating vegetarianism, but she is of the more plant-based variety. Much of her advice would apply to vegetarians.

          Here is a tweet from Peter Ballerstedt, an forage agronomist / ruminant nutritionist. He makes an interesting point. Ignoring the vegan vs carnivore angle, anyone who improves metabolic syndrome with a low-carb diet could decrease the costs to both their bank account and to society at large, including costs externalized onto the environment. Disease is never merely an individual condition. We all pay for it.

          “So, if the average diabetes patient eliminated all diabetes medications they would reduce their CO2e “footprint” by 29% MORE than changing from a “high meat” to “vegan” diet. If only there were some way for diabetics to reverse diabetes w/ lifestyle & species-appropriate diet…”

  2. Thanks for your thoughts.

    While I appreciate and respect your insights, and I have taken some notes. I have to caution you a little. You seem to have quickly developed a great deal of judgement around certain styles of eating, in a world where, at least from where I sit, there are a lot of poorly-formed and non-formed opinions and where universally there are implicit, often poor assumptions about biology, nutrition, and the environment that we’re all basing our thoughts on. I’m particularly troubled by the long, defensive effort to depose veganism as the king of environmental responsibility, and install loca-omnivore there instead. My first reaction is, who gives a shit who the king is, who is 29% better at whatever. My second is a sense that you are running with an awful lot of data very quickly, when my whole experience in the world of nutrition is being fooled by everyone around me, if less and less, and the best and brightest still spewing a lot of horseshit.

    I loved the response of a vegan friend of mine, very dedicated, who recently had to bare her claws at her vegan friends as they damned the new beyond meat and impossible burger options (“They’re not for you! Fucking be happy! They’re for omnivores, and they’re a huge improvement over industrial abuse meat!”) There’s a little of that feeling I’m having here, reading this by you- not as bad, mind you- a certain inflexibility around people who are 1) varied, 2) informed roughy as well as you, and 3) being very careful. In a world where 98% of the world are sheep. Locaomnivores are heroes in their own way, as are vegetarian numbskulls like me, and vegans, and I think even the fruitarians dragging fruits in from Bora-bora, and the people living off of vacuum packed whatnot in Whole Foods, because at least they’re in the game, they’re taking a shot at health. I don’t want to go over your arguments one by one, but I guess I’m asking you to see how heavily you’re LEEEEEEaning into a world view with a combination of relatively coarse statistics and reasonable-seeming speculations on the way to – your way of eating! Surprise!

    In other words, it’s not a generous discussion, your penultimate one; more to the point, it’s sweeping, in a context where sweeping is basically mostly wrong. People’s bodies are aMAZingly different, with not only different capabilities but different sensitivities to variations or denigration of their diets. Every diet type I’ve ever studied has cured cancer, depression, and great sickness. I have a rare condition that makes coffee put me to sleep; I’m odd, but I’m normal in my oddness. Statistical whatnot, which I’m sure you mostly have right, is often quite useless on the ground, especially, as you say, the game is political and environmental and biological all rolled into one.

    Please don’t be defensive. Just take my general input that the less important part is a little smells like teen spirit. The main point you were making regarding respecting the damage of an industrial approach to food/everythying I’m all with you. And, as usual, I have some homework to go do now. Thanks!

    • As you know, I never come to my opinions lightly. If I have strong opinions, it’s because there is strong evidence. Low-carb, especially keto, is not like other diets. Besides keto, there is no diet or even medication, for example, that has reversed the symptoms of multiple sclerosis and advanced Alzheimer’s (see the clinical studies of Dr. Terry Wahls and Dr. Dale Bredesen). Other diets have benefits and I have never doubted, much less denied, that fact. Even veganism is beneficial for some people, if usually only in the short term as a cleansing diet. Whatever one thinks of the rest, keto is unique biologically. There is immense amount of scientific evidence explaining why this is the case and we are beginning to understand why this capacity evolved in humans.

      Still, I’d point out that my views aren’t particularly sweeping. I argue that numerous variations of diets can be healthy: vegetarian, omnivory, and carnivory; plant-based and animal-based; higher and lower protein; higher and lower fat; moderate low-carb and keto; differing periods of eating and fasting; et cetera. I always recommend that people research the evidence for themselves (all evidence: nutrition studies, anthropology, history, anecdotes) and I always recommend that people use self-experimentation to find what works. But that isn’t to say anything goes. We remain constrained by a biology shaped through evolution.

      There are only two basic principles I hold most strongly to: First, a very high-carb diet is not healthy because it did not exist until recent history and so we were never evolved for it. And, second, some kind of animal foods (dairy, eggs, meat, fish, etc; even grubs and insects) are necessary for the nutrient-density and bioavailability of certain required micronutrients (DHA/EPA, fat-soluble vitamins, choline, etc). Taken together, even traditional societies that had higher levels of carbs didn’t get the high levels of refined starches and added sugars, and besides they always combined these with large amounts of pasture-raised and wild-caught fatty animal foods. Still, what goes for low-carb for much scientific research (40% of calories and below) is the highest end of carb intake typically seen among hunter-gatherers.

      In the end, I welcome differing views (disagreement even) and discussion (not so much ‘debate’, though). I’m always open to new evidence. Even over this past year, I’ve changed my mind on numerous issues as I came across different info. That has been my practice throughout my life. If you have an evidence-based argument in defense of veganism, either for health or environment, then articulate your position and we can talk about it. But I don’t find compelling any vague complaints about my own evidence-based arguments. As my last point, many of the idiosyncrasies that individuals have isn’t merely genetic determinism and biological essentialism. With de novo mutations and epigenetics, the modern diet has altered our bodies and minds, a main point in the arguments I’m making. We each face a variety of health conditions, not because all diets are equal, but because we haven’t been equally harmed by modern society (not only diet for it also involves economic conditions, social stress, toxins, parasite load, healthcare access, etc).

      If you’re curious to know why I have some strong opinions, then look at my detailed surveys of the evidence. Of course, you have no obligation to do so. This is simply my blog where I explain my views as best as I can. Feel free to read what I write, but then again feel free not to read any of it — as the spirit moves you. They are just my views, no matter how much effort I go to make them informed views. And no doubt, over time my views will continue to change. Who knows… maybe you’ll persuade me about something. Have a crack at defending veganism or the claim that all diets are equal… and I promise that I’ll listen. But if you want to hold my interest, know that the way to my heart is through evidence, that is to say through knowledge, through truth-seeking. I always respect truth-seeking, whether or not I agree with any given position.


    • I certainly don’t criticize you for, in your own mind, holding me to account. I’m a highly demanding and critical person, as much to myself as to others. If you find a point of weakness, wrongness or whatever in one of my views, there is nothing in the world I’d take more seriously. I’d probably feel compelled to publicly acknowledge my failure, as I’ve done before. I don’t like admitting that I’m wrong — I’m human, after all — but what I hate even more is being wrong and not admitting to it. So, if I’ve been unfair to vegans or anyone else, I’d want to know. I want to hear the best evidence-based arguments possible in defense of any and all positions.

      That is why I read so much, including studying the views of those I disagree with (I spent more time than I’d prefer arguing with race realist HBDers just to ensure I was being fair to them). I’ve known many vegans and vegetarians. I’ve heard the arguments. I’ve looked at both sides. Then, after decades of thought on the matter, I’ve slowly come to my present conclusions. Still, in the back of my mind, I always hold out the possibility of changing my mind. Every statement I make is to some degree tentative. I have a hard time not doubting myself, a deeply entrenched habit from depression. But I must say, at least for the time being, I’m not seeing a strong case in favor of veganism. That isn’t to say I think vegans are bad people. We are all trying to do the best we can within severe constraints and deficient knowledge.

      Let me say this. I understand your push back. And I don’t hold it against you. I feel no need to be defensive or dismissive. You are perfectly right to speak the truth as you understand it. You should criticize me when you think it’s justified. I want you to be critical. In fact, I demand that you be critical. LOL You are completely justified in your own doubts, as I’m justified in my doubts. As long as they’re well intentioned and informed, doubts are always a good thing. I realize that I come across stronger in my views than I sometimes intend. It’s something about my communication style. I actually go to great effort to not make sweeping statements. When I do so, consider my reasons. If I overstep the bounds of rational discourse, I’ll quickly step back.

      Maybe I’m partly wrong or too biased in my love of keto. I’m not pretending to be a neutral party. On the other hand, the scientific evidence is extremely impressive. So, my views are far from being unjustified, whether or not my conclusions go too far or are less certain than I portray them. Part of the purpose of this blog is informed speculation. Posts like that about the agricultural mind is my way of bringing together evidence in a way, as far as I know, no one else has done before. As with someone like Julian Jaynes, either my views are brilliant or totally off the mark. Another example of this where I bring diet in, although only as one small part, is an even more massive post where I try to explain the strange developments in identity over the past centuries, mostly focused on the 1800s but also looking back to the colonial era:


      Is my analysis and conclusions correct? Is a high-carb diet a key piece to the puzzle? I don’t know. But for damn sure, I bring together a fuck-load of evidence in making my case. Not many people would be capable of writing a piece like that. You have to at least give me credit, an A for effort.

    • As the keto diet stands out as unique, so does the vegan diet. Until quite recent history, there were no vegans because such a diet wasn’t possible prior to modern agriculture and international trade systems. Even hunter-gatherers near the equator with more fresh plant foods available year-round will eat large amounts of animal foods (along with insects and grubs) when available. The Piraha, for example, live in the lush Amazon and yet their diet consists almost entirely of fish. Until industrial production of supplements, a vegan couldn’t have survived for long.

      Vegetarianism is a very different kind of diet. It’s true that no vegetarian hunter-gatherers have ever existed (n fact, after traveling the world, Weston A. Price could find no healthy traditional population anywhere that was vegetarian; by healthy, he was primarily measuring health of teeth and bone structure). This diet is a relatively recent invention. Like veganism, it is also dependent on agriculture. But there is a difference that makes a difference. Vegetarianism, unlike veganism, isn’t dependent on modern agriculture.

      Vegetarians in places like India have probably existed for thousands of years, although one should point out that Indians are among the unhealthiest people on the planet. Yet modern agriculture and industrial supplementation, for those with the wealth to afford it, has made strict vegetarianism more viable as a healthy diet. The point remains that, whatever might have been true in the past, a modern vegetarian diet can be healthy and arguably could be compliant with environmental sustainability. It would be much easier to return to traditional farming with vegetarianism but would be impossible with veganism. That is no small and insignificant difference.

      I might add that ancient vegetarians weren’t exactly vegetarian in a strict sense. That is because premodern agriculture was ridden with insects, insect eggs, worms, and grubs; and it all went into the food supply. This was seen in India when modern agriculture was introduced that eliminated most pests and so eliminated a major source of nutrition. The result was a decrease of health for vegetarians living on modern agricultural goods, as they were no longer getting the nutrient-density and bioavabailability from the non-plant parts of their supposedly plant-limited diet.

      This is also not a minor detail. That is seen even with other primate species that, as it has been observed, will intentionally throw fruit away if it doesn’t contain enough bugs and worms. Primates (as with deer, rabbits, squirrels, etc) will also eat meat when it is available (I’ve seen videos of deer eating baby birds that can’t fly). Pure herbivory is far less common in nature than often assumed. But in some ways, that is neither here nor there. We are living in civilization, not nature. How evolution has shaped us informs our present understanding, even as the world has drastically changed.

      There is one strong argument for veganism, to be fair. The only way forward for vegans is to embrace their entanglement with modern agriculture. There sole hope is for technological innovation and progress, what others might dismiss as techno-utopia. There might be a powerful reason why so many vegans, along with vegetarians who side with their vision, turn to technocracy — for example, EAT-Lancet:
      Rather than being limited to arguments based on historical and evolutionary evidence, vegans can simply say it doesn’t matter because modern agriculture will make it all moot — technology will save us. Rather than going down a different path, veganism requires us to continue further on the path we’re already on and hope that societal revolution/transformation will allow the possibility of an entirely new kind of food system.

      I was raised in optimistic idealism and Whiggish narratives of progress. I understand the attraction. And to be honest, I can’t prove that it won’t happen. I’ve lost confidence in this beautiful dream. But cynicism portrayed as realism is not exactly a better option. Maybe techno-utopian and technocratic vegans will prove right. Only time will tell. But for vegans unwilling to embrace their complicity in modern agriculture (along with its enmeshment in neoliberal trade systems), they are in an impossible situation, so it seems to me. We should, at the very least, acknowledge our present situation and our complicity in it. A diet based on a false ideology of innocence and purity (as inherited from Christian theology) isn’t going to help us.

      By the way, my comment there wasn’t flippant, as Christianity has played an interesting role in the coming to power of plant-based diets in the field of nutritional studies. The church I grew up in is Unity which back in the late 1800s into early 1900s was a major proponent of vegetarianism and helped spread it. I came across info about this in an essay from “Food and Faith in Christian Culture” edited by Ken Albala and Trudy Eden, a book from which I share a passage in the following post (in a comment there, I briefly mentioned the Unity Church). That book also has other fascinating pieces, such as about the role Galenic theory of humors heavily influenced dietary thought in the Middle Ages and played a major role in systems of social control.

      Besides the Unity Church, the Seventh Day Adventists have been even more powerful players in shaping modern dietary ideology in conventional nutritional thought. Dr. John Harvey Kellogg grew up as an Adventist, but Adventists were involved in promoting dietary theology long before Kellogg’s obsession with fiber and masturbation. It has become a gospel of medical evangelism that has been hidden behind secular language of nutrition science. This has been researched and written about by Belinda Fettke. As always, you have to give me credit for knowing what I’m talking about. No doubt I’m biased, like everyone else, but in many of my strongest opinions you can never accuse me of being uninformed. To put it in colloquial terms, I know my shit. 🙂


    • I’d go back to the point that the scientific evidence doesn’t point to all diets being equal. But epidemiology has been too limited and biased to tell us much. Healthy meat-based diets have rarely, if ever, been studied. What gets described as meat-based diets are simply the standard American diet that is mostly refined starches, added sugar, and industrial vegetable oils.

      For example, the fat intake hasn’t changed much over the past century, except in the specific kinds of fats. Americans used to eat more saturated fats, mostly lard, but now mostly eat those industrial vegetable oils which are around 40-60% of calories in the modern diet. Catherine Shanahan and many others discusses the dangers of these oxidized and inflammatory PUFAs.

      Consider one recent study as pointing in a new direction, even as corporate news reporting muddles the actual science:

    • I thought my views on plant-based diets were rather cautious and nuanced. I’ve been reading and thinking about vegetarianism and veganism for decades now. And besides my own early experiments, I’ve known many people on these diets. It is through intimate familiarity and personal experience that I speak and offer my opinions.

      I really have nothing against plant-based diets on a personal level. I’ve cooked vegetarian and vegan foods off and on over the years, even when I wasn’t on the diet. It doesn’t bother me to eat vegetarian when visiting my brothers or cook vegetarian for them when they and their families visit. I don’t sit around the dinner table with them complaining about plant-based diets. My complaints, rather than directed at individuals on specific diets, are more about the food system itself that is inseparable from the suffering and harm to all species and the biosphere.

      My own knowledge of plant-based diets is rather wide-ranging. This includes not only vegetarianism and veganism but also former vegetarians turned plant-based low-carb/paleoists like Dr. Terry Wahls, strictly vegetarian paleoists like Dena Harris, and vegan/vegetarian keto practitioners such as Dr. Will Cole. Paleo, in general, tends to be more plant-based than meat-based. Despite my mistrust of the moral righteousness of vegans that so often dominates debates and shuts down meaningful discussion about the real issues and dangers we’re facing. that still leaves the plant-based options wide open in numerous directions and preferences.

      I’ve tried carnivore as an experiment, no different than I’ve tried other diets, including vegetarianism. I like to experiment to find out for myself, instead of trusting the opinions of others. This has led me to not be extreme in any particular direction. I don’t consider a basic lower-carb diet that is informed by the best evidence available (from research on nutrition, traditional societies, evolution, etc) as being a radical proposal pushing sweeping generalizations. It seems pretty middle-of-the-road to me. If the broad spectrum of lower carb dietary patterns that most humans ate for hundreds of thousands of years and most hominids ate for millions of years is judged as ‘extreme’, then that seems like a conversation stopper.

      What is extreme, to my mind, is the modern industrial diet dependent on modern industrial agriculture and food system. But when this extreme ideology has come to dominate society and was enforced through the shutting down of scientific debate (read Gary Taubes, Nina Teicholz, and Tim Noakes), what has become normalized is severely dysfunctional and disconnected from reality. That is problematic and it’s the nub of everything I say about diets.

    • Here is the part that is speculative. But I consider it the most powerful and key piece that brings it all together.

      There is a theme running through much of my writing: Franz Boaz’s cultural anthropology, Edward Sapir and Benjamin Lee Whorf’s linguistic relativity, Julian Jaynes’ metaphorical mind, Lewis Hyde’s metonymic embodiment, Daniel Everett’s dark matter of the mind, etc; and, of course, my own theory of symbolic conflation. It’s the idea that mind and culture are at the heart of societies. Ideologies as worldviews are built on superstructures, master narratives, and complex systems. This applies to diets, as the original meaning was that of lifestyle. Diet has always been a defining feature of cultures. This is no accident. The food we eat doesn’t merely act as an outward sign of identity. The macronutrient and micronutrient profile profoundly alters neurocognitive functioning and creates the conditions that shape not only our sense of identity but also our sense of reality.

      It’s unsurprising to my mind that, among vegans, a utopian and dystopian duality is so often present. Veganism was originally a religious diet for monks. Maybe it isn’t merely that veganism and near-vegan vegetarianism maintains a religious sensibility for the diet itself might be contributing to that mentality. I’ve noted that the kind of doom and despair, the shadow of idealism and optimism, is so common among (typically high-carb) vegans while being so uncommon low-carbers (whether the emphasis is on more meat or more plants). Instead, with low-carbers, carnivore advocates most of all, there is a strong push toward independent-minded paleo-libertarianism or even homesteading, a desire to be free from both centralized big gov and centralized big biz. I can’t help wondering if diet is somehow feeding into this mentality. The Mongols, on their almost entirely meat/milk/blood diet of ketosis and fasting, were fiercely independent. So were the low-carb OMAD Spartans. Maybe there is something about ketosis that creates a vitality.

      I’m basically taking Galenic theory of humors seriously. The theory itself is scientifically wrong, but the observations it was based on might be correct. In Ken Albala and Trudy Eden’s book on diet and religion, there is a fascinating discussion about the belief in earlier Christianity that diet shaped thought, emotion, and behavior. They would ban certain foods at specific times for the very reason of social control. An example of this was how meat, especially red meat, would be taken out of the diet prior to potentially rowdy social events such as Carnival, during which revolts could erupt. A feudal society couldn’t be maintained full of peasants who were as wild and powerful as Mongols (or as egalitarian as Piraha).

      Many vegans and vegetarians seem to be highly attuned to this understanding. That is because plant-based diets originated from this Galenic ideology. The idea that meat, especially red meat, increases hot-bloodedness and libido is an ancient insight. Monks and ordinary people during religious periods would avoid these foods because the affect it was observed they had on human physiology and psychology. This was carried forward into American society. The Adventists, as with earlier Christians and ancient Greeks, saw diet as a way of shaping a particular kind of society. In particular, grains were believed to decrease libido which was key for Dr. Kellogg in his fear that masturbation led to bad outcomes and needed to be controlled.

      It may sound silly to the secular rational mind. But I see great explanatory power in this dietary view. Diet isn’t merely food, merely atoms arranged in a particular way that our bodies incorporate, one food basically as good as the next, all diets essentially equivalent other than quibbling details people like to argue about for political reasons and groupthink identitarianism. No, these debates we’re having really do matter. It’s not simply people being argumentative and polarized for no good reason. It’s a competition of reality tunnels. Some diets can overlap to varying degrees and so potentially allow for compatible worldviews, but that isn’t true in all cases. The food system, as well as the ideological worldview, of high-carb/low-fat plant-based diets and of low-carb/high-fat animal-based diets are simply in opposition at a fundamental level.

      A diet potentially contains an entire worldview or at least the broad constraints that predispose us to ways of thinking and feeling, perceiving and acting. To embrace a diet is to engage with a powerful force, as if invoking a god or being caught up in an archetype. It’s similar to how a society based on psychedelic use is profoundly different from a society based on highly addictive dopamine agonists (e.g., cocaine) and opiates (e.g., heroin) — a great discussion of diet in this context is given by Robert H. Lustig in his book “The Hacking of the American Mind”. The ‘nutrients’ in food are chemicals as powerful as drugs. That is why there has been so much social, scientific, and political force used to promote the standard American diet — for damn sure, our present diet didn’t develop organically. And we see how massively the human psyche and human health has been transformed as the traditional diet was turned on its head.

      We should choose with careful intent and whatever wisdom we can muster. The choices we make in diet, choices as individuals and as society, will literally shape the world that following generations will inherit. Anyway, such is the argument I’m making. I’ve made a strong case in numerous extensive posts about the agricultural mind, crisis of identity, and much else. I’ve looked at a massively wide range and depth of evidence. That doesn’t mean I’m right, of course. But what if I am right? Just consider it. What is at stake is immense. Entire civilizations have risen and fallen based on these kinds of factors. Consider how the Mongols swept through Europe and would’ve taken over the whole continent, if not for Genghis Khan’s death. Their way of social organizing, their way of relating, communicating, and fighting was inseparable from their cultural diet. The weakly peasant population was no match. We are presently creating the equivalent of that weakly peasant class in our own society with one of the most sickly populations ever before seen in history. I’m not so worried about Mongol hordes invading as I’m concerned about collapse coming from within, as mental health in particular declines and the social order gets ever more screwy.

      My advocacy for a low-carb diet, keto most of all, is a vision of a particular kind of society and world I’d like to live in. But it’s not the society and world the ruling elite want because it would be a population not so easily controlled, more akin to Mongol warriors than feudal peasants. Maybe modern civilization simply can’t abide my preferred dietary worldview. I don’t know. I wouldn’t mind trying to move in that direction, if only for the profound health and happiness that would be made possible. Just look at the scientific evidence. Nothing impacts physical and mental health to the degree that does ketosis. Absolutely nothing! And that is no exaggeration. It really is that amazing. That said, theoretically, vegans as with vegetarians could embrace a ketogenic approach and that would be a large step in the right direction, as far as I’m concerned. I bet there would be a lot less sense of judgment and doom among vegans, if more of them were in ketosis. The thing about ketosis is it simply makes you feel good. That is what ketones do to the brain. They are powerful drugs produced by our own bodies. They are superfuels that put the brain in overdrive.

      Imagine an entire society operating at the highest levels possible. I can imagine it and it gives me a sense of hope for humanity, not utopian hope but plain grounded compassion toward my fellow humans, in wanting what is best within human potential for each and every one of us, and magnified by the billions in the global population.

    • You maybe can sense why I’m so into self-experimentation, in so many ways. I try different diets. But I’ve also taken psychedelics and tried a few other drugs. I’ve engaged in ideological groups to try to enter into ideological worldviews. And I’ve explored what it means to be in far different societies, by studying history and anthropology. I’ve even played around with language, such as speaking to myself in second person, sometimes singular and sometimes plural, just to see how it feels.

      If we always do the same things in the same way, then in our mindlessness we’ll never know the power they have over us. I’m always trying to transform my mind to enter other states, even simple things such as meditation, mantras, yoga, or aerobics (i.e., runner’s high) — now meditating while running for hours can really mind-altering (I find a mantra helpful for centering). It’s not just a bunch of experiments. It’s an attitude about life, a way of being in the world. It’s a full engagement with one’s own potential and with the possibility around one. And indeed, it can be a fun experiment.

      I pose my speculations not as mental masturbation. They are thought experiments, considerations of possibilities. Then to the extent possible, I try them out in my own life and experience. That is what I’ve been doing by shifting various parameters in my diet and lifestyle: more or less or specific kinds of plant foods; OMAD, intermittent fasting, and extended fasting; weightlifting or resistance training, long distance running or high-intensive interval training (what in soccer we called wind sprints and what others call suicides).

      So far, ketosis has been one of the most interesting of experiments. Like thousands of others, ketosis has transformed my body and mind. There have been such a wide variety of people reversing or even seemingly curing disease conditions that were crippling or even deadly. I’m not only talking about minor miracles such as my decades of depression disappearing. Keto diets have not only stopped epileptic seizures but reversed Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis. Medications aren’t this successful nor has any other diet been able to achieve what some considered impossible. Keto really is a miracle diet.

      Back when I did psychedelics, I remember a common thought that would occur to people while tripping. It is such a profoundly transformative experience that people can’t help imagining the possibility of sharing the experience with others. Such thoughts come to the tripping mind as, what if LSD was put into the water supply? There is a reason the government so feared psychedelics, literally thought it would so powerfully change people that they no longer would submit to authoritarian control and the beating of war drums. And maybe the government was right in their fears. Maybe a psychedelic-using society never could operate in the way our society does. Maybe the ruling elite would lose their power.

      Similar thoughts come to me in being in ketosis, especially combined with the nourishment of nutrient-dense-and-bioavailable animal foods. What if everyone experienced such deep healing as I have? What if everyone felt depression and anxiety melt away? We live in a society of isolation and hyper-individualism, of addiction and reaction. What if diet is involved in maintaining this state of oppression and dysfunction? Maybe it’s worth experimenting on a collective level to see if we could create a radically different society. Just as individuals can experiment, we need to embrace experimentation as an entire people. Try something and find out. Let’s all try ketosis together and see what happens. If we don’t like it, we are always free to go back to eating crappy high-carb SAD.

      I’m still in experimental mode. I’m not finished yet and probably never will be. Even great as ketosis is, my healing journey continues. My health was so fucked up that there is no lack of further healing available to me. It’s not only the toxins of sugar and seed oils nor even the toxins of heavy metals (my generation was heavily poisoned with lead) but also societal and psychological toxins that have seeped deep into my soul or maybe more like a burrowing parasite. I’m using what tools I have to do a psychological and spiritual cleansing. It’s all part of the experiment. It’s going well so far. I feel so much better that I don’t even feel consumed with bitterness over all the damage done and time lost — that alone is impressive.

    • Here is the basic point of disagreement between us. You consider ketosis mostly in terms of a diet, as one diet equal among other diets, but otherwise nothing special. It works for some and maybe not for others. So, there is no reason to get excited about it, to perceive it as interesting and unique. It’s just an option that might be worth trying or not. Basically, it’s not necessary for optimal human health, even if it is helpful to some individuals.

      My viewpoint, however, is that ketosis is the normal state of human functioning. It isn’t merely a diet. Ketosis is what we are born into as babies and maintain with breastfeeding. We easily go into ketosis with a traditional hunter-gatherer diet, especially with feasting and fasting as is common. Also, we easily remain in ketosis, far more easily than other species. Studies show that so much about human health seems to improve with ketosis, as if we were designed to function most optimally in that condition.

      Humanity most likely has spent most of the past few hundred thousand years in various degrees of ketosis. Based on our large brains’ need for fat, ketosis might have been a necessary development to grow those larger brains. One thing that has been noted on vegan diets is that the brain shrinks, partly because of a lack of saturated fat but also a lack of cholesterol and vitamin B12 (all found in animal foods). I hope we can agree brain shrinkage is not normal, much less desirable.


    • I am curious about one thing in particular. I always get the sense that maybe you don’t like my long speculative posts, such as “The Agricultural Mind” and “The Crisis of Identity” or any of the massive explorations of Jaynesian thought. It’s not a matter of evidence or not, as those long posts are my most evidence-based arguments. It just doesn’t seem to interest you or make sense to you or maybe even irritates you.

      A couple of years ago on my Favorite Posts page, you asked me, “Would you be so kind as to list some of your posts that are most important to you?” I listed the posts that I enjoyed writing and gave me a sense of accomplishment. But you never responded back, which made me wonder if the posts I saw as of personal value simply didn’t particularly excite you. Many of those posts were the big-ass diatribes I occasionally put out.

      The idea that diets (as with much else) might be part of entire worldviews, of totalizing senses of identity and reality, this seems contrary to your own way of thinking about the world. You seem to be a more standard liberal in having inherited basic Enlightenment views of human nature, more in focusing on individuality rather than collectivity. Whether or not any given speculation of mine turns out to be true, this basic understanding that humans aren’t mere individuals is the crux upon which all of my thought revolves. If this isn’t taken as a given, nothing that follows makes any sense.

      You’re motivated by the desire to promote people to freely choose what diet or whatever else they want. This is a vision of a society of individuals, separate in their actions and results. But that requires taking diets as superficial constructs that have no consequences other than basic health (e.g., heart disease). It’s not that I’m against personal freedom, of course, even as I see humans as inherently social in every way. I think of individuality as an illusion (bundle theory of self), not that such illusions are wrong as in a sense all of culture is an illusion in being socially constructed.

      No matter who is right, this makes dialogue difficult because we don’t share basic premises about human reality itself. Interestingly, this causes us to exist in separate and mutually exclusive ideological worldviews. Our basic sense of meaning doesn’t always quite mesh together, not that it necessarily clashes either… just existing separately. I can’t prove to you my worldview is right, any more than you can prove to me. Our worldviews aren’t the resulting conclusions of our respective arguments. Rather, our arguments are driven by and built upon our worldviews.

      It creates an odd dilemma for two people who otherwise enjoy thoughtful dialogue. We apparently run into a brick wall with you on one side and me on the other. Yet neither of us holds bad feelings toward the other. For certain, it doesn’t bother me that you disagree with me. But it does get me thinking even more about what it means to be human.

      Beyond the differences of opinion and viewpoint, I sometimes also sense my personality and communication style severely annoys you or puts you on edge. My long rambling posts and comments is simply not your style. Most of the time you leave a single comment, I respond, and you never return. I think this is the first time in years that you stopped by to leave more than one comment at a post. I probably drove you away again with all of my above comments. I noticed that I just lost a blog follower and you aren’t on the list of people who follow.

      Oh well… I guess my writings aren’t for everyone.

    • I don’t know that you will ever return to respond again at this post. But just in case you do, I would be curious what you think about the observations I bring forth. If not my interpretations, then what interpretation would you give instead? The observations I’m thinking of are those from the historical record and anthropological literature. We see how diet is so closely aligned to culture, religion, and worldview. This is to such an extent that it is inseparable from the sense of identity and reality. People become strongly attached to diets, as true in traditional societies as modern societies, an extremely old psychological and social pattern.

      The Piraha have such a foreign mentality to us moderns. They are as foreign to us as the Mongol warriors were to the feudal Europeans. Both societies would spend much of their time in ketosis, as we know both ate animal-based diets combined with regular fasting, intermittent and extended. It’s the same thing when comparing carnivores and vegans (or at least high-carb vegans, as there are too few low-carb vegans to speak of). Why do most carnivores and other low-carbers seem so full of energy and optimism while so many vegans seem critical, dour, angry, righteous, and full of doom (that is when vegans aren’t being utopian about socially engineering society through technocratic means)? What do you think of such evidence? If I am wrong or simply biased in some way, how would you go about explaining these kinds of patterns seen across such diverse and numerous societies and sub-populations within societies. The patterns have certain consistencies. Why?

      It doesn’t mean that carnivores are good people and vegans bad. I actually disagree with much of the paleo-libertarianism that is so common among carnivores, seen far more than among non-carnivore low-carbers. But I find it fascinating that this pattern exists. What explanation is there for why veganism, as with vegetarianism, has so often been the preferred diet of monks who are seeking to intentionally create specific mental states and communities, seeking to intentionally support specific ways of behaving and relating? And why are secular vegans so enmeshed in moral crusades and evangelism similar to their religious counterparts? Why for so much of history did the ruling elite see dietary control as of central importance to social control? Why is the entire field of nutrition studies to this very day still dominated by religious interests and funding from the Seventh Day Adventists?

      The thing is, for much of my life, my own mentality probably was closer to that of vegans than carnivores. And indeed, beyond my own plant-based experiments over the decades, my many years of a poverty diet was very much plant-based, albeit not healthy (cheap junk food and other highly processed foods are almost always vegan). Anyway, I know that plant-based mindset intimately, the sense of endless moral outrage, the thought that maybe the human species would be better off extinct. These are the kinds of attitudes I’ve seen over and over again from vegans, as many of them are quite open about their opinions. Veganism and related vegetarianism is the only dietary ideology around that is famous or infamous for its zealous advocacy among large numbers of organized activists. And in listening to what vegans say about humanity and the world, it’s not hard to understand why they can be so angry and gloomy.

      I’m still not sure that this vegan-style of thinking is entirely wrong. I do have strong suspicions that humans are a dangerous and cruel species. But I’ve noticed this way of thinking has decreased in my own mind as I further and further decreased carbs (now to the point of ketosis) while having increased animal foods. I’ve seen how diet changed not only my own thoughts but more broadly transformed how I feel and perceive the world. And at this point, it sometimes seems like I’ve seen the accounts of thousands of other people who have made similar comments about their own dietary experience. It is really strange. Something is going on here. If my interpretation is too far off to be useful, then what other alternative conclusion can one draw from it all? Why do diets seem to lead people in certain directions? If it isn’t the diet itself causing it, then what is? And why do these tendencies seem to parallel each other across societies and historical periods? Those aren’t, by the way, rhetorical questions. I’m honestly curious. Unexplained observations stick in my craw.

      • Benjamin, I am working 18 hour days and it’s not enough. Reading you and thinking about what you’re saying has been it for me besides work and family responsibilities. I’m sorry I can’t keep up.

        I agree with you that keto or rather low-carb eating isn’t just diet, in a sense similar to how you articulate it. And I also agree re individualism. I don’t believe in I’s, strictlly speaking, in the individualist sense; that is to say, I believe I’s can and should be constructed in a social context, not dissimilar to how ants do, with individual whatnot useful, but not nearly paramount. Most people believe this unconsciously, but act against it in unhealthy ways. So I disagree about what we disagree about.

        I tried to write a response and am unhappy with it, but perhaps it will be useful to you anyway, so I’ll send it on. I do so with trepidation, as I often worry that I send you off into the jungle with careless or misapplied or mischaracterized lesson material. It is a little overwhelming that you respond wiht so much thought and care, but I shall trust you to do your thing, and will try to be libertarian enough in spirit to not be too upset if you get upset over a misunderstanding or a poor input from me.

        • I didn’t realize you worked such long hours. I’m sorry about that. This would be one of my criticisms about capitalism and modern civilization that it forces people into endless work, not only for survival but to fight back against all the harm being done. It’s an onslaught, an endless uphill battle with diminishing returns. Hopefully, the value of the work you do offsets this because it can’t be good for your health. It’s an immense sacrifice you’re making.

          I’m glad to hear that you don’t favor the individualism of the ego-mind. That is a sticking point for me. It’s why my views would make so little sense to most people in this society. I’m trying to pick at the scab of our collective identity to see what is beneath and it’s not always a pleasant process, as the pus oozes out. We need some cleansing of this wound in our collective psyche. My point is how this goes to the heart of the issue.

          (And it is why I can be so harsh about industrial agriculture and factory farming, both in terms of SAD and veganism. I just don’t see how we are going to reform this catastrophe into sustainability. It seems irrelevant if a vegan saves a few animals here while killing thousands there and destroying the biosphere in the process, which is exactly how I see it as that is what veganism is fully dependent upon.)

          I’m trying to figure out not how to simply act differently or make different choices (vote for that candidate or this, work one job or another, try a diet and then try another, and on and on). I’m trying to get off the merry-go-round of dysfunction. I’m trying to understand how to be different, not just to think about it but to find the concrete factors that make possible different ways of being. I’m looking for the ingredients that would make revolution possible.

    • I’m not sure how much you’ve looked into the research on ketosis. It’s fascinating stuff. Ketones and ketone-like BHB isn’t merely a different variety of fuel, to be occasionally used in place of glucose. It completely transforms biological functioning with a particular profound impact on the hormonal system and neurocognition. Here is a somewhat random recent article by one of the experts in this field:

      Up to this point, the medical community has maintained a fatalistic attitude about neurocognitive degeneration, as an inevitable and irreversible fate for many as they grow older. Studies into ketosis have undermined this fundamental assumption. Diseases that once were considered death sentences (e.g., Alzheimer’s) are now known to be reversible and the only thing capable of this is ketosis. There is no other diet that can achieve this miracle (cure?). Absolutely none! Zero! For these people, it’s either ketosis or slowly die from a horrible disease. And if they had been on a keto diet in the first place, they likely never would have gotten these diseases.

      Many brain diseases are now being associated with a high-carb diet, although carbs aren’t the only factor. Carbs will cause insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome, what is behind Alzheimer’s as type 3 diabetes. But other factors are how a high-carb diet contributes to inflammation, something found with a surprisingly wide variety of diseases: arthritis, autoimmune disorders, depression, etc. Besides carbohydrates, industrial seed oils cause inflammation in multiple ways, as omega-6s are inherently pro-inflammatory and because the oxidization causes oxidative stress (while the industrial processing destroys the antioxidants).

      Veganism and vegetarianism have been linked to greater neurocognitive problems. Why is that? Is it really the plant-based component? Or it that the foods most vegans and vegetarians eat are problematic? Maybe a plant-based diet without all the carbs and seed oils would be wonderfully healthy. That is what is argued by those like Catherine Shanahan, Will Cole, Dena Harris, and Terry Wahls. Yet many vegans and vegetarians, in feeling in opposition to animal-based low-carb diets, have become polarized in embracing a high-carb diet with seed oils. The most well known plant-based diets, wrongly or rightly, become linked to sugar, starches, and fiber (smoothies, in particular, are a high-carb disaster to health).

      Even ignoring the proven problems with a diet high in carbs and seed oils, the lack of nutrient-density and nutrient-bioavailability so typical among vegans and vegetarians is throwing gas on the fire. Not only is harm being done, but what is needed for healing is being disrupted. We need tons of nutrients for healthy functioning and rebuilding. This also requires autophagy and that never fully happens on a high-carb diet. Some vegans try to get around this by occasional fasting that, whether or not they realize it, elicits ketosis and autophagy. Still, this might not always be able to keep up with the damage being done.

      As I said, vegetarianism can be done in a healthy way. But it requires being extremely intentional and careful. It is so easy to become malnourished on a vegetarian diet, as easy as with SAD and for similar reasons. Also, I mentioned how this is partly because of the loss of traditional farming that earlier unintentionally put a lot of insects, eggs, etc into the plant food supply. Without that added bonus food source, artificial supplementation becomes even more necessary. If this isn’t done, many on these kinds of diets have major health problems, something I’ve seen with pretty much every vegan and vegetarian I’ve ever met (admittedly, you’re the first vegetarian I’ve known doing keto).

      My vegetarian brothers and their vegetarian families are on a high-carb diet. And none of them is too concerned about supplementation, other than a basic multivitamin. Beyond that, they are unaware of nutrient-density and nutrient-bioavailability with zero understanding about how the body absorbs, assimilates, and uses nutrients or doesn’t. It is extremely hard and inefficient for many plant precursors to vitamins to be processed by the human body and turned into their animal equivalent, the form in which they are found in animal foods. The rate of this process for plant precursors can be so low that malnourishment is inevitable without supplements; the omega-3s DHA, EPA, and DPA are an example of this as the human body struggles to produce these from plant oils.

      My brothers and their families are plagued with physical and mental health problems. This is extremely common among vegans and vegetarians, including the aforementioned brain shrinkage. It’s partly the lack of certain essential nutrients such as cholesterol because so many people wrongly avoid cholesterol. This relates to why statins, in lowering cholesterol levels, cause neurocognitive degeneration. Then again, there is nothing stopping vegetarians from getting cholesterol, along with such things as choline, from animal foods such as eggs. That isn’t an option for vegans, though. Unless a vegan happens to luck out with being born with great genes, epigenetics, and spent their formative years with awesome pre-vegan nutrition, they are likely doomed to being royally fucked up in their adult diet of total exclusion of animal foods.

      It’s not a happy fate. I look back on my own mental health issues from a surplus of carbs and a deficiency of animal nutrients. And I see the exact same problems with my brothers and their families suffering from various combinations of depression, anxiety, autism, learning disabilities, personality disorders, alcoholism, etc; and that is on top of their constant sickliness, along with being overweight (one brother also has joint problems while the other is losing his night vision). Yet my brothers don’t eat worse than the average American, admittedly a low standard. The only difference is they don’t eat any meat nor do they prioritize non-meat animal foods — such as instead of dairy, one of the few sources of fat-soluble vitamins for a vegetarian, at least one of my brothers prefers drinking non-dairy ‘milk’.

      Both of my brothers apparently would never consider not being vegetarian. The sickest of the two has even stated he would rather die than eat meat. My sister-in-law has admitted that she thinks he’d rather their daughter die as well than to allow dead animal flesh to ever touch her lips. This isn’t unusual. I’ve been shocked by how many vegans and vegetarians who I’ve come across who think that sacrifice of their health is worth it in exchange for what they consider a moral outcome for other animals, putting aside the issue that the evidence doesn’t support this conclusion anyway. I see this kind of attitude even more often among vegans than vegetarians, the latter tending to be more motivated by health than pure moral righteousness. That is bizarre. There is no other diet on the planet that demonstrates such self-denying and self-sacrificing devotion.

      The moral righteousness seems to go along with an acute psychological or, more important I’d argue, neurological sensitivity. I lived with a vegan, a guy I knew for years. He was a kindhearted person, but extremely sensitive to the point of being neurotic. He was constantly going to therapists and meditating. We would be sitting in what I thought was silence and he’d say, “Can you hear that?” He wasn’t quite sure what he was hearing, but he thought it might’ve been vibrations from a road that was a block away — so, not even audible ‘sound’ but a subtle vibration that no one else could perceive. Maybe that has something to do with why so many monks and serious religious adherents/aspirants/devotees have turned to veganism or at least vegetarianism — as such diets do seem to cause this extreme sensitive hyper-awareness which might serve a purpose in these religious traditions, in the attempt to achieve altered states of mind or ‘higher’ modes of being.

      Whatever we are to make of this, it seems clear to me that the differences between various diets is not merely dietary in any superficial sense. There is clearly more going on here. According to the etymological origins of ‘diet’, it refers to a complete lifestyle, a way of life.

    • It just occurred to me how I’m sort of pulled between two worldviews. There is the side of me that is a pansy liberal and leftist tree-hugger who loves animals and is sensitive to all suffering. Then there is other side of me attracted to something like the paleo-libertarian sense of the world, the part of me that made me want to seek out the wilderness and become a hermit.

      I mentioned that my childhood church, Unity, was at the forefront of promoting vegetarianism back when the Adventists began their dietary evangelism. Even though I wasn’t raised vegetarian, I was raised in a church that had been home to the early vegetarian movement. I was surrounded by many vegetarians. That church also was extremely idealistic. I doubt that was accidental. In childhood, I stopped eating chicken when I found out that actual chickens were killed. Also, in my early life, I was influenced by watching shows like “Big Ben” and “Grizzly Adams”. That is probably the fantasy planted in my psyche that later, in severe depression, made me want to escape civilization. Later on, it was articulated as a philosophy with reading Henry David Thoreau, Edward Abbey, Tom Brown Jr, Paul Shepard, and Derrick Jensen.

      The New Thought Christianity aspect lends me toward utopianism or something akin to it — very idealist, anyway. But in this theology, there is also a kind of disconnect from the natural world in its spiritual totalism, no place for the natural cycles of life but an impulse to be free from this lower world, although that isn’t the kind of language used in Unity Church. Still, there is almost something Gnostic about it, maybe not unlike the fundamentalist desire for Salvation and a Second Coming. As for the paleo-libertarian tendency, I see that disconnection as dangerous and harmful. The more we attempt to deny death the more death we cause. That is what I worry about in veganism, in how it is the diet that is most entangled and complicit in modern industrial agriculture that is destroying the world. I love the beautiful dream that is being advocated, the idea that the world could be free from suffering, but ironically the real world consequences is a net increase of suffering. That is the point I make in my post “Carnivore is Vegan”.

      I want less suffering, but not as a mere ideal. Veganism, at present, doesn’t offer that. Yet if possible, I’d love to live in a world where no animals were harmed and ecosystems destroyed for industrial agriculture or factory farming. The closest we come to that, in the world we live in, would be an animal-based or even carnivore diet from pasture-raised animals — the diet that counterintuitively kills the fewest animals in feeding the same number of people, as a single cow can feed a person for a year versus harvest a small field a single time might kill thousands of creatures and displace many more.

      That isn’t to say we shouldn’t strive for another kind of world. Maybe we could create an agricultural system that caused less harm and suffering. Maybe. But for now, such an agriculture does not exist. That is where techno-utopianism and technocracy comes in. It’s why many vegans and vegetarians are hoping to use government to force less death by taxing meat. This misses the point since it isn’t meat-eating that is the primary cause of animal death in the modern agricultural system — rather it is all the chemicals and harvesting, not to mention the destruction of the ecosystem to create the farm field in the first place, something entirely avoidable with grazing animals. Being disconnected from the suffering caused by big ag doing the killing on behalf of vegans is not to really decrease suffering.

      Still, that isn’t to say the motivation behind veganism is wrong. Possibly, one day we could find a way to produce enough nutritious food that is as healthy as animal-based while also not causing mass suffering from either industrial agriculture or factory farming, not even the suffering of any kind. The dream of freedom from suffering might be fulfilled and we could entirely close humanity off from the cycles of death, in no longer participating in the natural world. I could see that happening if we ever created a moon colony or something where all food was grown in perfectly controlled conditions and we knew out to produce every needed nutrient in its most bioavailable form without any need for the intervention of herbivores to do it for us and then procuring it from their eggs, dairy, meat, and fat. It’s an interesting thought experiment, but it simply isn’t the world I live in and doesn’t portray the choices before me.

      If I believed that vegans were right about decreasing suffering, I’d be a vegan. But I see no evidence that their beliefs are grounded in reality. In talking about diets, it’s never only about food. As I keep repeating, it’s about entire worldviews. My sense is that, if humanity has any hope, it will be by reconnecting with nature and not through disconnection. Our choices in diet aren’t merely personal. What we do affects others in the world and across the generations. Yes, it is a fun experiment. But we must embrace the act of play with the intensity of a child, to fully engage with the world.

      For those who want to escape the cycle of death, their only choice is their own death. I’ve seriously considered that option, as someone who once attempted suicide. For now, I’m choosing life in all of its apparent imperfections and difficulties. Certain diets are more life-affirming than others. Veganism, as with SAD, does not feel life-affirming to me. Instead, what that kind of diet invokes and evokes is tragic, so it seems to me. I’ve had enough of the tragic for one lifetime.

    • I know the more I comment the less likely you are to respond. But these comments aren’t really about your comment. I’m just using your comment as a jumping off point to articulate the jumble of thoughts in my head. Here is an interesting piece of info. Humans can survive and thrive entirely without any starchy carbs or sugar. All macronutrients and micronutrients that a human needs for life and health can be found in animal foods. That is not true with plant foods, especially not high-carb plant foods. Even collagen and such serve the same purpose in feeding gut microbes as does fiber.

      Protein and fat are essential nutrients. Your body can turn protein into glucose and the fact of the matter is your body needs very little glucose. But the body demands significant amounts of protein and fat. Unlike herbivores, humans can’t easily produce protein from plant matter (not fat as easily either, not with fibrous wild plants; this has to do with the expensive tissue theory of why the human gut shrank simultaneously as the human brain grew). Also, unlike how the body turns protein into glucose, the body cannot turn carbs into protein at all. Sure, you can turn carbs into fat, but eating a high-carb diet is damaging to the body. Anyway, the protein is the big part, considering that in an evolutionary context the only reliable and bioavailable source of protein is animal foods.

      It appears that our bodies evolved to be able to go long periods without carbs but not go long periods without protein and fat, especially not protein. And even though carbs can be turned into fat, that still leaves out the fat-soluble vitamins that can’t naturally be obtained without animal fat (agriculture alters this, but doesn’t change the basis of health). The evidence points to ketosis not simply being part of one diet, as an option among many diets. Ketosis is a normal state of human functioning and arguably the default state. We are born into ketosis while breastfeeding. We go into ketosis when we are calorie restricted, when we limit carbs, when we skip a meal, when we skip a meal, when we sleep, when we exercise for extended periods, etc. Humans go into and remain in ketosis more easily than other species. And the human brain uses ketones preferentially. Ketosis is not just a diet.

      Ketosis is the most powerful and efficient state of the human brain and many other biological functions, not to mention related to health and healing (e.g., how full autophagy follows after being in ketosis long enough). Numerous severe health conditions are improved, reversed, or cured by ketosis. No other diet has this track record. This indicates that ketosis, whether or not as a constant state, is a necessary part of optimal health. I’m not arguing that we should never eat carbs. But we know that during most of evolution, humans were eating few carbs. And considering all the diseases of civilization caused by a high-carb diet, maybe we need to rethink our priorities. But maybe it isn’t only typical health problems (obesity, diabetes, heart disease, etc) but also psychological, neurocognitive, and social problems that are also linked to the standard American diet.

      Take it as a thought experiment and also as a personal experiment. What if we moved society in a direction away from highly addictive starchy carbs and sugar (manipulating hormones like insulin and neurotransmitters like serotonin), caffeine and nicotine, opiates (e.g., heroin) and dopamine agonists (e.g., cocaine), dopamine-boosting media tech manipulation? What if it turns out our entire modern civilization is built on an unsustainable state of constant addiction? Maybe all or most of our problems, one way or another, are mired in an addictive state of mind. And then consider that ketosis, along with altered states of psychedelics, is one of the most anti-addictive states of mind that humans are capable of. We should take addiction far more seriously than we do, not merely as an individual problem but as a collective problem. In fact, seeing it as an individual problem is part of the problem since, as Johann Hari argues, the addict is the ultimate individual. Our collective hyper-individualism seems to be dependent on addiction.

      Coming to terms with this stark reality, acknowledging it and dealing with it might determine the future of our civilization and species, whether we collapse or not. I do see it as that dire. The study of such things as ketosis is helping us to unravel what it means to be human and what it might mean to return humanity to a more beneficially functional state, as humans evolved within natural environments and as connected rather than disconnected from the natural world.

      • You swiped at and missed my point entirely, well-meaning soul that you are. But you are a nerdnick and need a dose with more molasses, along with an apology for part of it.

        Part of what I was trying to say is that you pay obeisance to the notion that the real fight is responsible eating, for the planet and individuals. What irritated me about that particular essay is that you had an almost tired way of expressing that position, an opinion and mode of delivery shared by almost everyone I meet. While you spent an enORmous amount of time twiddling around speculating and inferring and fact-grinding about basically how veganism isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. It was like listening to someone who has a hobby grinding away at minutae on an important subject. Which, ok, you are that guy. I just wanted more about what was more important, and less of watching you adjust the chairs on the dietary deck based on assumptions that sort of shimmied a little here and there. I mean, are there pressure points out there that can yield results, locally or nationally or globally? What characteristics are changing that might yield fruit in contrast to our old, unsuccessful battles against SAD? You have discussed the poverty abuse that’s built in elsewhere, but not in a way I can use practically.

        So: I missed more tangible talk about how changes might be made. That’s more my problem than yours, so I apologize for that. I am an activist, after all. I just hate people trailing off and mumbling about the great world battle, when they just said that it was the single greatest project since the wheel, and otherwise pecked at the edges of it, often at other well-meaning people. Part of me just has to go to, ‘so why are we talking about veganism instead of thinking better about what we might do to alter this catastrophe?” I realize you’re a nerdnick, and busy about the business of transforming the world one person at a time. I just got irritated over what seemed to me to be after a while an angels on the head of a pin approach to diet. I was projecting; if I was you, and had had my diet turn me into a happy Mr. Universe from depressed, I’d do something. You, instead, become more of an expert at it than most of the experts you read. To each his own.

        That’s not the main thing, though, and that one is mostly just me, so PLEASE don’t respond defensively to the above… I think you need to look back at how GRINDING you seem while you talk down, so scientifically, about veganism. I didn’t see you mention how freaking kind it is to animals to neither eat their bodies nor enslave them, that the philosophy of it is arguably superior in a utilitarian sense with regard to cruelty. wtf? That’s just as important, to many of us, as how good it is for us, or how good it is for the “environment.” (cruelty gets left out of environment talk.) Why do you and almost everyone else think in terms of optimal nutrition, typically without discussing that cost. Instead, the locavore-is-the-awsomest thing arises, which is self-serving, simplistic, and fundamentally untrue from the very important standpoint of some milk cows, some chickens, some humans, and all animals, who, if they could vote, would punish you for the very nice versions of slavery and slaughter practiced near Iowa City. And the yarn that assumed magically that vegans are always flying things in from Bora-Bora, as the highest abusers of industrial farming, so they aren’t really nearly as useful in life as locavores like me, and then breezily moved on, having slapped that one down- what the fuck, dude? I don’t know ANY vegans here that don’t obsessively emphasize local in their eating. And your whole scientific argument about how vegans drop dead without certain stuff is useless because a, they don’t drop dead, many don’t even feel bad, and because b, you can be 99.99% vegan and fix that shit completely, so it isn’t an argument on the ground, it’s a fecking theoretical argument. Which NObody should care about. Never mind that there are interesting circus-level weird things like long-term, incredibly happy fruitarians, and people who do fine solely on PB&J until they’re 106 because of dimensions to diet we don’t understand, or that keto has this whole either-or mindset that doesn’t play out at all for many people with carbs, or all kinds of pertinent arguments which are important but are lost in a world where we are focused on averages, tendencies, and single studies we hope will be replicated soon. We have to spend a LOT of time talking about the subtle but masterful advantages of my locavore keto diet over these, the former, now seen to be shabby, masters of spiritual optimization.

        • Here is what I’m talking about: The inherent nature of humanity. And the foundation of civilization. Why we are in this situation, not merely how do we get out of it. Because if we can’t imagine the beginning point differently, we will never be able to imagine an alternative path. About the animals, why do you blame me for a few animals that die on the behalf of my diet while rationalizing the thousands of animals that die for the vegan’s diet? I’m serious. That is the whole point. Our addictive society is also a destructive society.

          As for health, there hasn’t been many studies done on vegans because they are such a miniscule part of the population. Vegetarians are far more common. But some of the studies we have do show that veganism leads to worst health results. Take that as you may. My argument is that we aren’t going to progress as a society without ensuring the most optimal diet possible. My argument isn’t really a single argument. It’s a collage of separate but overlapping arguments involving numerous factors: addiction, mental illness, historical analysis, anthropological comparison, low-carb, keto, paleo, traditional foods, insulin resistance, inflammation, industrial vegetable oils, etc.

          Any part might be a leverage point that could help us understand or even transform our society. I’m not interested in tinkering minor changes because the catastrophe we’re facing is beyond that. We either transform or we collapse. Not all of my arguments will pan out. But any worthy argument will be forced to deal with the same evidence I’m discussing. That is the problem, in that present public debates almost entirely ignore the most important issues. We are twiddling our thumbs as a society. My argument is a challenge to not only the positions being debated but the entire framing of debate. I expect that people will respond negatively and defensively to what I write for how else would I know if I’m getting at those important issues.

        • The animal death disagreement is no small point of contention. I genuinely believe that a vegan diet, as inseparable from the mass death of industrial agriculture — from harvesting but also from displacement, ecosystem destruction, toxic chemical use, etc.

          “I’ve watched enough harvests to know that cutting a wheat field amounts to more decapitated bunnies under the combine than you would believe.”
          ~ Barbara Kingsolver

          “As I was thinking about the vegan conclusion, I remembered my childhood on the farm and where our food comes from and how it is produced. Specifically, I remembered riding on farm equipment and seeing mice, gophers, and pheasants in the field that were injured or killed every time we worked the fields. Therefore, I realized that animals of the field are killed in large numbers annually to produce food for humans.”
          ~ Stephen L. Davis

          “When I inquired about the lives lost on a mechanized farm, I realized what costs we pay at the supermarket. One Oregon farmer told me that half of the cottontail rabbits went into his combine when he cut a wheat field, that virtually all of the small mammals, ground birds, and reptiles were killed when he harvested his crops. Because most of these animals have been seen as expendable, or not seen at all, few scientific studies have been done measuring agriculture’s effects on their populations.”
          ~ Ted Kerasote

          The situation of vegans not acknowledging the deaths they cause is part of the problem. That is modern civilization in a nutshell: vast death and suffering that is not quite real because it is not personally seen and experienced. But it is real to those animals who are the victims of it. The fact that my diet harms fewer animals does matter. No diet escapes harm entirely, but at the very least we can reduce that harm. That is the moral impetus of veganism and I take it seriously.

          Still, that leaves us with some concrete options. If we return to traditional or traditional-like farming methods, especially grazing, we will reduce our harm immensely. But even with small-scale traditional farming, veganism will be near impossible to sustain, except maybe in a few places near the equator although even there it would be difficult. There is a reason no traditional society has every been vegan.

          The more viable option for veganism is embracing a completely technological approach, something I don’t dismiss out of hand. If we eliminated industrial agriculture as we know it and replaced it with growing all food in highly controlled environments that didn’t cause soil erosion, ecosystem destruction and such, then veganism could finally live up to its promises of not causing vast harm. I’d support this. One possibility is hydroponics where growing non-animal foods could be done in smaller spaces and done at a local level, even within cities using multi-floor structures.

          This is techno-utopianism, but I’ve never been an opponent of dreaming big. The problem is this would first require vegans to admit to their present dependence on and complicity in a highly destructive and death-causing agricultural system. Veganism as virtue-signaling is the ultimate enemy of any actual veganism as real moral results. So, I’m supporting vegans to actually take seriously their own arguments about doing less harm. If we do less harm by locavore grazing or by hydroponics or whatever else, I’m all for it.

          No matter which we choose, it doesn’t change my argument about no diet or food system will be healthy overall if it precludes regular ketosis for the population. That doesn’t mean everyone has to be on a keto diet all the time or even in ketosis all the time. But humans appear to be designed to need regular ketosis to be optimally healthy. Still, that could be done on veganism and, with industrial-produced supplements, it could be healthy in terms of nutrient-density-and-bioavailability as well. It could be done in theory, but my point is that the evidence I speak of would have to be taken seriously.

        • I get the sense that you think I’m picking on vegans for reasons of personal bias, that I just don’t like them or see them as an enemy to be defeated or whatever. I’m sorry if I come across that way. No, I don’t see vegans as worse than most other Americans, but my point is that their moral position is not necessarily better than most other Americans. I do feel like knocking down their moral argument a notch or two — not to demean them but to bring them down to the same level as the rest of us, here in this world of harm and suffering despite good intentions.

          It’s not that vegans cause more harm than the average American. Still, simply based on diet, they aren’t clearly doing less harm. The vast death, suffering, displacement, soil erosion, pollution, and environmental destruction caused by industrial agriculture and neoliberal trade, upon which veganism is dependent as is SAD, is not small and insignificant. Even in organic farming, a single harvest of a small patch of land will kill at least thousands of animals and even more insects, spiders, worms, etc. Getting everyone to become veganism would not end this harm that is ultimately unsustainable, as it is built into this suicidally destructive system.

          Like most other people, vegans in the modern world live disconnected from the harm they are complicit in, the harm that is caused as a direct result of their lifestyle. This disconnect is dangerous and, in a sense, I’d argue it is psychotic in how it separates us (all of us) from reality. Yet that isn’t to say vegans are worse. They are simply humans like the rest of us in a less than optimal situation. My irritation comes from how so many vegans believe that the sins that fall upon the rest of us don’t fall upon them, that they are pure and innocent. I call bull shit. That isn’t to say I’m perfect either, that I’m not part of the problem as well. Simply being born into this society makes our hands bloody.

          That is the point. I’m seeking the least harm possible under present conditions, not as a theoretical speculation or mere self-righteousness. I pay more for my food, despite not being wealthy, because I know based on the best data we have that a locavore and pasture-raised diet is the least problematic of any diet presently available on the planet. If the technologically-advanced veganism I talked of was an option right now and I could be guaranteed to get optimal nutrition without any animal foods, I’d happily embrace veganism as our salvation. But that is not the reality I’m facing. Instead, the actual functioning veganism is part of this system I oppose.

          Even so, my larger fear is about the disconnection that goes far beyond veganism. That became central to my thinking back when I was reading Paul Shepard, Derrick Jensen, etc in the 1990s. Those authors discuss in immense detail how the destructive nature of our civilization is built on such disconnections. I see that as key, far beyond any debates about any particular diet, even keto.

          Nonetheless, I offer as a suggestion that we might look to dietary and lifestyle advice from those traditional societies that have proven themselves non-destructive and sustainable for millennia, and one must note that the individuals in these societies would have spent much of their time in ketosis, not to mention eating a lot of nutritious animal foods. What if their diet was part of how they maintained their extremely stable lifestyle, culture, and mindset? And what if the loss of that diet has been a major contribution to our societal decline? Isn’t that worth exploring?

          If so, how can I do so without being critical of the diets that are most invested in our present system that I’m challenging? I’m trying not to be mean-spirited. But it is hard to be critical without someone taking offense. You dislike my ‘attacks’ on veganism. Someone else dislikes my diatribes about capitalism. Still others dislike my bad attitude about modern agriculture. Considering all the things I’ve criticized in my blog at one point or another (right-wingers, reactionaries, libertarians, liberals, Democrats, etc), I’m bound to make a lot of people unhappy. If I were to constantly worrying about being perceived as nice to all possible parties, I’d remain silent or never say anything meaningful.

          As I honestly believe based on the data I’ve seen that actual functioning veganism is part of the system that I most fear, how do I inoffensively point this out. Telling vegans that their diet kills a lot of animals, even as it is true, can’t exactly be stated in a neutral manner or else in eliciting a neutral response. But if that death count is central to what I consider most important about the problems we face, I’d fail my own moral principles in ignoring it. The same goes for vegans. I don’t hold them wrong for criticizing non-vegans for eating meat (or sometimes even for criticizing vegetarians for eating non-meat animal foods), since they are being true to their moral principles. I disagree over the facts, not over the moral passion and righteousness itself.

          I don’t think you’re wrong to look for biases in my thinking. I do the same in my introspections and self-analysis. But I doubt I’m any more biased than anyone else, although to be fair my intellectuality leads to greater talent in convincing myself of my own rationalizations. I try to keep that in mind and so I try to hold my speculations lightly. Still, my arguments should stand or fall on their own merits. I don’t have fully formed arguments here. I’m simply throwing everything out to play around with ideas and to make sense of my lifetime of experience. I’m trying to articulate the background of my thoughts as they’ve developed over the decades. That is what all my blogging is about. It’s a messy process because these aren’t entirely predigested thoughts.

          I’m struggling, as always, to make my thoughts coherent to others… as my thoughts tend to go off in so many directions. I sense the connections but to spell them out requires immense effort. Here is another example of a partly-articulated conjecture, bringing an old line of thought and trying to weave it in. I’ve sometimes criticized libertarianism as one of those belief systems that can proclaim ideological purity because it has never been tested and so remains an abstraction. But there is also a religious impulse within it, as I’ve noted how many right-wing libertarians are former fundamentalists who transferred their faith from eternal life of heavenly salvation to techno-utopian fantasies about space colonization, cryogenics, etc. I sense a similar cultural motivation or inheritance behind veganism.

          I say this not to be dismissive but in seeking understanding. I have a familiarity and sympathy for ideologies of purity. That is the worldview I was raised in, coming out of the Unity Church which as I mentioned also was an early advocate of suffering-free plant-based diet. I totally get it. I’m as sensitive of a soul as they come. I despise suffering and this is why I can across as so harsh, sometimes outright judgmental and unforgiving. I’m not zen-like about it at all. I’m not one who simply accepts suffering, dukkha, at least not easily. It’s why I take vegans so seriously. There moral argument is so important and I would never (NEVER!) undermine the moral righteousness of their cause. When I say carnivore is vegan, I’m sort of being humorous but I’m also being deadly serious.

          Much of my criticisms here possess an element of self-criticism (and maybe that is what you’re sensing). The religious impulse (especially evangelical Christianity), purity politics, moral righteousness, etc — this is out of which American veganism was born and out of which my own life was shaped. I don’t mock vegans, as many paleo-libertarians do in the low-carb crowd. My problem, if anything, is that I take it all too seriously. It irritates me when low-carbers fall into idiotic right-wing rhetoric such as climate change denialism. On environmentalism, I often find myself more on the side of the vegans and vegetarians, which is maybe what chafes so much.

          To get back to an earlier point, I’m making a double argument. Our diets, based on our food system, is disconnected from natural environments and from human evolution. But more importantly, it is our diets that might be psychologically disconnecting us in altering our neurocognitive development and functioning. If I’m right (but I could be wrong), we are only going to find sustainability by returning or somehow mimicking the diet and lifestyle that most closely conforms to human nature and the conditions under which human nature evolved. That some diets have shown anecdotal evidence of undoing some of the damage simply by removing the unhealthiest components of SAD doesn’t necessarily tell us anything helpful. I agree that anyone is better off by doing anything that moves away from the worst aspects of SAD. Go for it! I support that.

          But this can tell us nothing about why disconnection has been developing in our society for so long, at least for centuries now. That is where my high-carb argument comes in, as increasing carbs in the diet is one of the few consistent trends seen in every place where the diseases of civilization spread. And the diseases of civilization include severe psychological and neurocognitive problems that appear directly linked to the sense of disconnection that is pervasive in our society. It’s all of one piece and requires a theory to make sense of it.

        • Let me return to this. It’s so important. You wrote that, “And your whole scientific argument about how vegans drop dead without certain stuff is useless because a, they don’t drop dead, many don’t even feel bad, and because b, you can be 99.99% vegan and fix that shit completely, so it isn’t an argument on the ground, it’s a fecking theoretical argument.” It’s not theoretical. It’s called scientific research.

          It’s the same reason, in the book you wrote about personality theory and politics, you cited scientific research in defense of your claims. Those claims, by the way, included criticisms in your making demeaning or condescending accusations about why others were wrong. But the point is you defended your criticisms with scientific evidence and explained your reasons. I’m doing the same thing. If you read my posts on this subject matter you’d know that there is plenty of evidence from nutritional studies that vegans have higher rates of infertility, mental illness, etc. Here are a couple of examples, although I could share many more.

          Nutrition and Health – The Association between Eating Behavior and Various Health Parameters: A Matched Sample Study
          Nathalie T. Burkert, Johanna Muckenhuber, Franziska Großscha¨dl, E´va Ra´ sky, Wolfgang Freidl

          A maternal vegetarian diet in pregnancy is associated with hypospadias
          K. North J. Golding

          There are a lot of confounding factors and very little research controls for the complications. Most of the time, plant-based diets are being compared against an unhealthy standard American diet or some other version of standard industrial diet of processed foods, refined carbs, added sugars, seed oils, food additives like glutamate (e.g. MSG) and propionate, chemical-drenched GMOs, etc. But in the few studies that compare plant-based diets to other healthy diets, including animal-based, the conclusions are less positive for overall health. This is supported by the many recent cases of infants and children becoming hospitalized or even dying while on a vegan diet.

          If you care about science and about human health, this is not something to ignore. But if you see diets as an ideological battleground, then the evidence becomes moot. I’m in the former camp. That is why I made a qualified assessment of the vegan diet: “Even veganism is beneficial for some people, if usually only in the short term as a cleansing diet.” The evidence does show it is healthier than SAD. So, if you’re choice is between eating total crappy processed food or a bunch of vegetables, then hands down go with veganism. Fortunately, those aren’t our only choices.

          Still, veganism can be useful as a kind of temporary elimination diet that could be used for similar purposes as fasting. And like fasting, it can be dangerous long term. There are morbidly obese people who have fasted for longer than a year and improved their health during that time, while taking supplements, but I wouldn’t recommend that for most people. Similarly, a vegan diet might be healing for a period of time and strict veganism, in being caloric restricted, might even tend toward the ketogenic and autophagic which might be where some of the benefits come from. That is all good, but of course one can gain ketosis and autophagy just as easily on omnivore or carnivore.

          I wasn’t interested in an ideological debate, as I was interested primarily in what the scientific evidence shows. And I never denied veganism could be healthier compared to a severely unhealthy diet. Nor that veganism could even actively promote health, at least over relatively short periods of time. How long can one remain healthy on veganism? That would differ according to individual factors. Most people who try veganism give up on it after a few months. The majority who remain on it after that point quit it in the first few years. Those who stay on it for long periods, including decades, are a rare minority who probably started off with extremely high levels of health with a beneficial inheritance of nutrition, genetics, and epigenetics probably along with socioeconomic class advantages such as a generally healthy lifestyle, environment, and access to high quality healthcare.

          We are mostly only looking at the first generation of vegans and so we are in the middle of an experiment. We know the health benefits of those on carnivore diets (Inuit, Masai, etc), but we have no equivalent traditional vegan population, as such a diet is a recent invention of industrial agriculture. We’ll find out what happens to the children born to vegans and, in some cases, so far it has not ended well. Still, maybe some people will do well long term. That is why we do science and all the more reason we shouldn’t ignore the high quality research that is presently available, limited as it is.

          By the way, that first study I shared above is beginning to move in the direction of improved research. It wasn’t only comparing a healthy plant-based diet against an unhealthy industrial-produced omnivore diet. The researchers were comparing against those on diets of varying degrees of animal foods, although they still didn’t control for many important confounders. Still, the fact that they even went this far goes a thousand times above the typical nutritional study. It’s a good start. As for a cavnivore diet, even though it’s been known about in nutritional studies for about a century, no one has had even basic intellectual curiosity and humility to do a study about it.

      • Which leads me to the main thing. Again, I have experienced and had many friends experienced great transformations through weird diets of many kinds, along with moderate diets that have little or nothing to do with keto. In a way, I’m disagreeing with your later point about the transformative power of keto, because I don’t believe it’s for everyone or even nearly most people, even in a beautiful world of perfect information and unerring respect for selection. In technical terms, you are making the extremely common mistake of yammering and then grinding about averages and often rather studiously ignoring variance- it’s mystery, the breadth it offers the picture, and the uninituitive commonalities. You make these subtle and well-researched arguments that show the superiority of what you do, but you hardly ever say a good thing about any other option without swiping it immediately after with dirt. The arguments FEEL GRINDY. Work hard to leave the dirt off! That’s what I was trying to say. You are being scientific, but that begs the question; you re creating the trail of facts that you use a little too enthusiastically to go somewhere you keep heading back to. I wish you would go fewer places; another way of saying that is, I wish you found more interesting counterpoints to your main assertions, or mysteries in them, or were just confused more. And just took a different tack. I mean, getting somewhere with facts is the most dangerous thing in the world; while you recognize that danger to a large degree, you also seem to eventually get to where you allow yourself to forget that it’s the question asking that is pertinent, not the answers. I truly believe that’s what Fox news generally misses, too (along with me); most of what they say are perfectly true answers to perfectly legitimate questions. Depressives are the most correct slice of mankind. What good does it do to say something true? (ignoring, for now, that many of our references are single study, in a world where few can replicate anything, and where most metaanalysis sucks, and where people lean into outcomes.) “If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim; If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two impostors just the same.”

        It’s the tidy bow about the Great Cause at the end, and the followup flurry of references that scared me. There’s not enough breadth to it. If you’re quick-pacing through veganism, hop-scotching back to home base, what else is being used for fodder as well on the way to wherever you’re going, and what useful fodder is being misinterpreted or neglected? How can everything you say be right, and still be the wrong thing to say? That’s why I said it smells like teen spirit. In my book, I used the metaphor of a cameraman behind a camera as our consciousness, gathering and nerdifying and gaining perspective and confidence that they know exACTly what’s going on; catching perspective after perspecitve that tells the story that, seemingly without realizing it, we’ve decided to tell, while I don’t get the sense that we’re necessarily filming the right event, or in the right room…tie a little of my frustration around a dearth of practicality to this point, I suppose, as well, in the sense of interesting questions to ask.

        I wish this didn’t sound so zenlike. But it is a zen point, mostly, a beginner’s mind point. That’s all. Sure took me a long time to get there. If you provide me a reference or call for references in response again, I will personally come overwhelm your newly Adonis ass with my size and core muscle superiority until you see the light.

        I do look forward to your questions, you think about good questions.

        • I’m not against anecdotal evidence. This post, after all, is largely about exactly that. But anecdotal data doesn’t simply override the century of scientific research. Many diets can be healthy in the short term, as they eliminate what is unhealthy. That much anecdotal evidence can tell us. But only the best scientific understanding can clarify what is healthy long term, for both individuals and society.

          How can I treat veganism like a normal diet when it obviously is not? Such a diet didn’t even exist until modern agriculture and industrial supplements. It is the only diet entirely dependent on complex modern civilization. Whether that is a good or bad thing depends on one’s views on that larger context. But it is what it is. There is no way of getting around it.

          My assessment of civilization is idiosyncratic to some extent. For those who think that the only solution is to go further down the same path in the hope that we will transform through progress, my argument won’t be compelling. I can’t disprove that such a miracle of transformation won’t happen. I just don’t see that as the most likely or practical option available in the present moment.

          I can criticize vegan as part of the problem even as I don’t judge vegans or their intentions, no different than I can criticize capitalism (or rather capitalist realism or neoliberalism) even as I can be forgiving of those caught up in it. Veganism, as with capitalism, offers a beautiful dream. I don’t doubt that and I understand why it is appealing. But I see no future in it. And I explain why. Such is my prerogative.

        • Maybe a small minority of people can be healthy on veganism long-term. Maybe or maybe not. If so, good for them. Still, it’s obviously not healthy for most people nor is it healthy for the planet. There is no reason to advocate as a diet for the general population, that is for sure. But what we do know about the vast majority is they are unable to sustain veganism long-term, giving it up within the first few months or years. It’s only a fraction of those who stick with it for decades and among them health decline is common. Of the long term studies we do have, vegans are the most malnourished compared to all other diets. If we dismiss science, then all we’re doing is lobbing ideological beliefs at one another.

          Vegetarians are also nutritionally deficient compared to those on other diets. Still, it’s not to the degree seen in vegans.The studies on vegetarians vary quite a bit, probably because vegetarianism is not a single diet. Some vegetarians eat a lot of dairy and eggs while other vegetarians are near-vegan. Some vegetarians eat organic foods, fermented vegetables, and carefully supplement while others don’t. It’s the same way that all meat-eaters get lumped together, whether they’re eating junk food or traditional foods, whether they’re high-carb or low-carb. The most interesting study to show stark differences would be to compare vegans and carnivores, but as far as I know no such study has ever been done. That is kind of shocking, the lack of basic human curiosity.

          I do find it amusing and frustrating that certain experts unscientifically use epidemiological studies, some of the lowest quality research around, upon which to base absolute conclusions. Why do these people constantly tell people to eat more plant foods to increase nutrition when it’s the very people, vegans, who eat the most plant foods who also are the most malnourished according to at least hundreds of scientific studies? Obviously, simply eating more fruits and veggies doesn’t solve the problem. Over the half century or so, Americans did increase their intake of fruits and veggies, along with grains and fiber. This was as Americans mostly replaced animal fats with industrial seed oils. Yet during that time, health declined in the US population. Meanwhile, the populations in the world that eat the most meat such as Hong Kong have the longest lifespans. Even the older Blue Zone populations that were studied ate lots of meat and animal fat prior to WWII, which the researchers didn’t realize when studying those people following the war that devastated local food systems.

          We’ve gotten so much wrong. Yet the data is staring us in the face. It’s nice to see the mainstream slowly coming around on these issues. The ADA and AHA have shifted their views on carbs and fats in recent years. The Cold War oppression really hit nutrition studies hard, back when nearly all alternative voices were silenced though various means. We are only now beginning to recover from the damage and slowly gaining some ground in making up for lost time. About some of the evidence, see a recent post of mine, Are ‘vegetarians’ or ‘carnivores’ healthier?, and check out these two BBC articles:

          Why vegan junk food may be even worse for your health
          by William Clark, BBC

          There’s also the concern that the health risks associated with these kinds of nutrient deficiencies might not show up immediately. It could take years to associate foggy thoughts and tiredness with low B12 levels, infertility with low iron, and osteoporosis brought on by calcium deficiency does not show up until late 40s and 50s in most people, says Rossi.

          “People will think about their health now and not their future health,” she says.

          How a vegan diet could affect your intelligence
          by Zaria Gorvett, BBC

          In fact, there are several important brain nutrients that simply do not exist in plants or fungi. Creatine, carnosine, taurine, EPA and DHA omega-3 (the third kind can be found in plants), haem iron and vitamins B12 and D3 generally only occur naturally in foods derived from animal products, though they can be synthesised in the lab or extracted from non-animal sources such as algae, bacteria or lichen, and added to supplements.

          Others are found in vegan foods, but only in meagre amounts; to get the minimum amount of vitamin B6 required each day (1.3 mg) from one of the richest plant sources, potatoes, you’d have to eat about five cups’ worth (equivalent to roughly 750g or 1.6lb). Delicious, but not particularly practical. […

          There are small amounts of choline in lots of vegan staples, but among the richest sources are eggs, beef and seafood. In fact, even with a normal diet, 90% of Americans don’t consume enough. According to unpublished research by Wallace, vegetarians have the lowest intakes of any demographic. “They have extremely low levels of choline, to the point where it might be concerning,” he says.

          For vegans, the picture is likely to be bleaker still, since people who eat eggs tend to have almost double the choline levels of those who don’t. And though the US authorities have set suggested intakes, they might be way off.

  3. Let me set a new comment apart from the long thread above. I’ll leave out all speculation. Here is the evidence itself that needs to be explained in one way or another.

    Over the generations, centuries and millennia, there has been simultaneous changes in culture, social order, psychology, diet, nutrition and health. The biggest trends, in terms of diet and such, is that for most humans there has been a been an overall increase of plant foods, starchy carbs, sugar, and plant oils while there has been overall decrease of nutrient-dense-and-bioavailable fatty animal foods. Hominids, for millions of years, ate lots of meat and fat, until the megafauna die-off that happened shortly before the agricultural revolution. Humans were forced to turn to leaner ruminants and more plant foods which is probably why humans turned to agriculture at all. Health immediately declined, as the archaeological record shows. Agriculture made populations boom because a high-grain diet apparently causes precocious puberty and hence early pregnancy, but it did not improve health.

    Skip forward to the Roman Empire. A large population became dependent on agriculture and most of the population began eating more carbs that fatty animal foods. Health declined. After the Roman Empire collapsed, the poor returned to a rural lifestyle and diet of the complete opposite diet with far more hunting, trapping, and foraging. Health improved again. But as the feudal system grew along with the population, agriculture increasingly took back it’s central role in the diet. Health returned to worsening. Also, there was increasing mention in the literature of melancholy that was associated with the wealthy, at a time when only the wealthy could afford wheat, fruit, and sugary deserts.

    Let’s move into the modern era. Colonial trade brought corn, potatoes, pasta, and sugar into the Western diet for the first time. In the centuries that immediately followed, there was more medical interest in diabetes. By the late 1700s, there was already discussion of treating diabetes with a low-carb diet. But interestingly, Westerners in the colonies were eating tremendous amounts of meat with few vegetables and their health was better than their counterparts who remained in the homeland. Americans, for example, ate a mostly meat and fat diet until the 20th century. But in places like England, Ireland, etc the populations were increasingly becoming dependent on carbs as modern agriculture took hold more quickly. The first dependable grain surpluses began in the early 1800s, and that was the first time wheat crops finally became cheap. Sugar, wheat, and white bread became common foods in the 1800s, something never before seen.

    Following this change, the literature became obsessed with obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, nerves/sensibility, nostalgia, neurasthenia, mental health, fertility, etc. Many doctors, missionaries, and explorers noticed the differences between populations still on traditional diets and those that had been modernized with the new agricultural goods. There was some industrialization, but not much until later in the 1800s. Such things as improved grain refining was changing the diet. And the increased amount of grains being fed to cattle was increasing omega-6s while decreasing fat-soluble vitamins. Neurasthenia particularly became a focus in late 19th century America and interest in it spread to Europe.

    That was the period of increasing industrialization, both in agriculture and food processing. There weren’t many chemicals being used yet in the 19th century, but carbs and sugar were already on the rise in the diet. This became magnified as time went on. Seed oils were originally an industrial byproduct that by the turn of that century had become high-selling food product. Seed oils and margarine would replace animal fats by around the 1930s and, even though fat/oil intake has remained at the same level all this time, our fat/oil intake remains mostly seed oils to this day. Animal fat, along with red meat, declined in the American diet after Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle about the meatpacking industry — and because of this animal fat and red meat have never returned as big of a part of the American diet.

    Over a few generations, Americans went from mostly fatty animal foods to few fatty animal foods, from few fruits and vegetables and limited grains to lots of these. Americans have mostly been following the USDA recommendations, including more foods with fiber and more fresh produce, like never before. But already by the 1930s, when the processed diet was taking over, the early stages of the obesity epidemic. European immigrants observed how chubby American kids were. Having seen the decline of dental health and jaw structure of his patients over his career, it was also in the 1930s that the American dentist Weston A. Price decided to travel in visiting traditional communities where he measured health and fat-soluble vitamin intake and what he found was dramatic. During this time of declining saturated fat and increasing carbs, it was also when heart disease began skyrocketing. Ancel Keys oddly blamed heart disease on saturated fat, but later analysis of his diet shows that sugar was a far stronger correlation.

    As carbs and seed oils kept increasing in the diet, so did all the diseases of civilization. It wasn’t limited to the main diseases of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Autoimmune conditions were also on the rise, along with all kinds of neurocognitive disorders, much of it seemingly related to insulin resistance and inflammation (high-carbs cause the former, both high-carbs and seed oil cause the latter). Psychiatric disorders also increased, especially depression and brain inflammation is also seen in this condition. As for such things as autism, it is associated with a processed food diet in so many ways, but wheat appears to stand out as one of the main factors for many autistics. Interestingly, as low-carb diets have gained popularity, there was a drop in recent years in diabetes not seen in a long time. On top of this, the keto diet has been proven to improve, reverse, or even cure many of these conditions in a way never before seen with any other diet.

    That is a straightforward description of the facts that we know. I left out all speculation. That evidence remains to be explained. I see an obvious possible explanation, but I accept I might be biased and so I’m open to alternatives. In any case, it’s not overly my concern how others interpret the evidence, as long as they acknowledge the facts that need to be explained. In simply agreeing about these basic facts and working from there, that itself would be a miracle in progress for humanity. Yet if someone takes that above info and decides for themselves that despite veganism never existing for millions of years of hominid evolution or the many millennia of human history nonetheless it is veganism that humanity has been waiting for all this time and this is the moment for veganism to shine, then I support them in taking up that diet and seeing how it works. The problem is most people who try veganism give up on it in a short period of time. Few people seem to be able to maintain health on it. But if some manage to remain healthy on it, even if not optimal, and they decide the self-sacrifice is worth lessening suffering and they really believe that harm will be reduced, then who am I to stand in the way?

    I’m all for self-experimentation. Take the information that is available and use it to inform those experiments. Still, I find it telling that, as another key fact, that most people who experiment with veganism don’t find it optimal or desirable. So, I’m for more people experimenting with veganism and finding this out for themselves. Before anyone tries to push the EAT-Lancet diet onto the world or enforce a meat tax on Americans, they should first have to eat vegan for 10 years. I triple dog dare anyone to this challenge. Experiment. Do it! After that, try some healthy variety of low-carb and compare. If you genuinely feel better after years of high-carb veganism than after years of low-carb especially with nutritious animal foods (from vegetarian keto to moderate-carb paleo to carnivore), then tell us all about it.

    Experimentation has to be done with an open mind for it to work, though. I doubt there are many people in the world who have seriously tried both a high-carb plant-based diet and a low-carb animal-based diet and then decided to stick with the former. The low-carb community is full of people who have tried numerous other diets, quite a few former vegans and vegetarians. They came to their present diet through wide and lengthy experimentation. The opposite pattern is far more rare, from what I can tell. It often takes some years for people to fully experience the malnourishment typical of veganism, as the body can store up years worth of certain nutrients and epigenetic effects can help maintain health for longer periods, but malnourishment catches up with most people, unless they have truly awesome genetics. So, I strongly support experimentation as there is no greater way to prove to oneself the power of a diet.

    My speculations are irrelevant compared to the firsthand experience of those who experiment with an open mind and find out for themselves. But no matter the experiment, let’s begin with a basic starting point of informed understanding.

    • Good overview, thanks. It is very convincing, and parallels my own experience.

      I would note that besides the poor, conservative people have personalities that make them particularly susceptibel to SAD diet maintenance and abuse- trusting marketing, herd instinct, maintaining rituals like pancakes with syrup or biscuits and butter, the exaggerated modern removal from the body as part of us, and a herd acceptance of downsides as inevitable (the shit happens shrug.) The usual odd connection between conservative personality and the support of toxic overall human behavior.

      You are either unable to get my points, or are just uninterested in them, or are so confused you don’t even know whether or what to ask about it. It has nothing to do with veganism, or low carb being great. It’s not something I could give you a reference link to, that you could say, “Oh, I’ll correct my thinking.” It has to do with questions, the initiation and inertia of them, the danger of conclusions, and the uses of information for action. And it has nothing to do with mouthing an appreciation of experimentation in the vein you are constantly mining now.

      Wtih regard to veganism, you haven’t even acknowledged my point that part of almost all of their personal protocols is overall environmental care. The endless hammering on the point of industrialized wheat is lost on me for that reason, and sshould be. And yes, you do have an obvious need to knock them down a peg or two, which has me very frustrated. Doesn’t some kind of scientific neutrality bell go off in your brain when you see yourself doing that? Do you have any sense how such seemingly casual pressures tilt you toward types of inquiry and emphases that you are unaware of? The intent and often the outcome of veganism is often healthy and heroic, and we have this giant battle to fight (not making everyone low carb, but making food responsible broadly), and you are often very busy shitting on these people in a thosand ways, seemingly because their philosophy is, on the surface here and there, somewhat contrary to the usual emphases of a low carb diet. You acknowledge the possibility of a technocratic vegan solution, acknowledge a vegan or near-vegan can be healthy and low carb, reject every vegan I know as a person who kills “thousands of rabbits” because being vegan is like eating at Biscuit World, and spend enormous energy ASSUMING their vast leveraging of the indusctrial food business. Again- wtf, dude? Would you just freaking stop? Do you know any vegans? Why can’t you either shut up, or be generous, or do both? Who do you think you are pwning a healthy approach to eating becaise you know how Rome fucked it up? Light disclaimers afterwards about your prerogative and how they’re no doubt well-meaning or possibly alright ring tinny after wading through you going on and on about them to the exclusion of other potentially deleterious and far more popular diets- and more interesting subjects.

      Minor point: the below are not “facts”, they are assumptions based on decent evidence. I suspect you’re mostly right, but the problem is that “mostly right” is a dangerous state of being, because “a little wrong” contains worlds of usefulness often and, more to the point, worlds of freaking danger to either a thesis or your generally extremely strong inertial orientation.

      along with all kinds of neurocognitive disorders, much of it seemingly related to insulin resistance and inflammation
      “seemingly related” isn’t a fact, even if it’s so for experts.
      began eating more carbs that fatty animGal foods. Health declined.
      Correlative, not causation. Don’t do this! Humans need to insert boilerplate at every juncture of this kind, esp when we have claimed we’re spouting facts, because we are fantastically prejudiced and intertia-driven. It doesn’t matter if you’re obviously right. Say something explicit about why it’s not just correlation.
      Humans were forced to turn to leaner ruminants and more plant foods which is probably why humans turned to agriculture at all…Health declined…Health returned to worsening.
      probably is speculation, even if done by experts. And correlation again.
      and because of this animal fat and red meat have never returned as big of a part of the American diet.
      I don’t even think that’s right. It certainly is outright speculation.

      Give up on the “these are the overwhelming facts” posit in the first place. Facts aren’t that important sometimes. A good argument is more powerful, more useful, and less prone to make you feel like you know your shit when you only know part of it (your state.) You do that a lot, and it’s freaking dangerous, I don’t care how much you know abotu a subject. It’s a metadata point, goddammit. Trust yourself to be shitty with facts, and stay with the sjudge of not konwing shit as much as you can. You infer constantly that the goal is the opposite, when there’s a large part of that perspective that is deeply flawed (the unconscious-soaked part.)

      • I’ll respond more directly to what you wrote. But let me start off by saying that I smiled at your comment. If it makes you feel any better, I can get amused by how I can work myself up into a dither and get my panties in a wad. I’m not offended by your criticisms, not in the least. It helps that I don’t get stuck in depressive funks like I used to. I’m sure you’re right about much of what you say. I take your advice to heart. I’m specifically thinking about your comments about my approach. Yes, I can be antagonistic and forceful. I know this and you know this. It’s one of those bad habits that I developed from decades of depression that put me in a constant irritable mood. It’s a hard habit to break. I’ll try to do better, as always.

        On the other hand, my antagonism does represent a genuine challenge that I’m posing. I guess that is what I’m trying to convey in my imperfect way. The challenge is immense, to myself as well. I speak of these issues because they are personal. I connect many of my own issues to diet and it is an immense challenge to live up to the responsibility that this implies, the possibility that what we do really does matter, not only to us but to our affect on others and the world. This may not get communicated well. The point is we should all take this challenge seriously. Experimentation sounds simple in theory, but it’s harder to do than it seems like it should be. That is why I keep speaking in a language that constantly includes “maybe…” and “if…” and “but…” My speculations aren’t mere intellectual masturbation, not that I have anything against intellectual masturbation (a favorite hobby of mine). The underlying thought is what if everything we were taught growing up was wrong, not just somewhat wrong but completely and utterly wrong — all those collective beliefs, social norms, and cultural worldviews.

        Before we can experiment by exploring new experiences, we first have to be open and curious about new ideas, perspectives, and possibilities. The thing about veganism is that it is built on beliefs that almost everyone in our society simply ‘knows’ is true. Everyone ‘knows’ eating more plants, even if it is the chemicalized crap from industrial agriculture, is great for our health. Everyone ‘knows’ that vegans kill fewer animals and are less harmful to the environment. How do we all know this? Because we were told it was true. How many have questioned this conventional thought, this received wisdom, and looked at the evidence for themselves? Very few.

        Look at my posts on how we got into this quagmire, such as about Ancel Keys and the silencing of opponents. It wasn’t a fair and rational public debate, much less scientific method, that brought us here. Nutrition studies is in the middle of a replication crisis. Most of the research done in the past was of extremely low quality, as it was largely epidemiological/observational studies which are prone to biases and confounders. We have yet to learn our lesson. Look at the EAT-Lancet report. The sad part is that the evidence presented in the report, even cherry-picked as it is, actually contradicts the conclusions of the report. The authors of the report already knew what was true before they wrote the report and so their conclusion was predetermined.

        It’s frustrating. This is what we are up against. These are powerful interests. And it is truly bizarre the immense influence that the Adventists have had over a century of nutritional research and dietary recommendations. But it’s the whole shit show that has harmed so many. To be honest, it really does make me angry. And those who have tried to be a voice of reason in challenging the status quo, in speaking truth to power have so often been targeted and sometimes effectively silenced. Gary Taubes and Nina Teicholz, in their books, have gone into great detail about the history of this three quarters of a century propaganda campaign involving collusion between big science, big gov, big religion, big ag, big food, and big oil. See what happened to John Yudkin, Tim Noakes, Gary Fettke, and so many others (Noakes has a good book on his own experience).

        I’m sure you hear the frustration in my voice. This is not simply about disinterested speculation and neutral debate about ideas. Actual lives are on the line. Many people have suffered and had their lives shortened because of this. We’ve been under the oppression of generations of bad science and bad advice. It’s hard to respond to that with a light touch. We are confronted by authoritarian forces in every aspect of our lives, far from being limited to dietary demagogues who wield their power and authority to enforce their ideologies. We need passionate people willing to fight back. But our righteousness needs to be directed at the right targets. That is what I meant by pointing my criticisms at the specific dietary systems, food systems, economic systems, etc and not throwing judgment at the individuals caught up in these systems.

        How does one respond well to such dangerous forces that have done us great harm and will continue to do so, that pose a threat to civilization as we know it? I don’t know. I may fail in not always communicating effectively, but at least I try, for whatever that is worth. Then again, I’m sure MLK constantly failed as well, considering in his own lifetime most people dismissed him as an angry rabblerouser and radical. If not for the ideological war with the Soviets who loved to throw the moral failings back into the face of American society, the US government would have gladly have destroyed someone like MLK and they did at one point try to blackmail him into suicide. If MLK hadn’t been a loud asshole, as was Thomas Paine and many others, our society would never have progressed to the degree it has. I’m in a long tradition of loud assholes who make people upset by pointing out uncomfortable truths. The positive effect of such moral strivings are rarely seen in the short term, but we have to hold a vision long enough for it to finally break through the oppression and that requires strength of will and character. We can commit to this fight with as much compassion we can muster. Yet at the end of the day, we can’t avoid being effective without the risk of being offensive for, rather than constantly being on the defense, we have to take the fight to the other side.

        I just don’t know… I realize it isn’t only about facts. That is why I speak of experiments and personal experience. That is why I speak with moral force and moral vision. If facts were all I had, my blog would be so worthless and boring as to not attract any readers at all. Whatever interest my writing possesses comes from going so far beyond mere facts, even as I sometimes present such massive amounts of facts. The only purpose the facts serve is to ground what I’m offering, ground it in the real world. A low-carb diet is merely an abstraction, until one tries it. I’m speaking to an experience of those who have tried it, as seen both in the direct experience of anecdotal evidence and in the nutritional studies of scientific evidence, with the clinical studies such as that of Wahls and Bredesen covering both forms of evidence. Think of all the people suffering from conditions like multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s. Now consider that the nutrient-dense variety of the keto diet is the only diet that has ever reversed the symptoms of such conditions that in the past were death sentences. Those clinical studies aren’t abstractions. They involved real people who got their lives back after all conventional medicine failed them.

        That is as real as it gets. So, for God’s sake, experiment as if your life depended on it. Assume most of what you’ve been taught is total bullshit. Don’t accept anything as true simply because that is what you were told, including what I say. Read and research, study and learn, try and see what happens. That is the challenge I pose. If you think I’m wrong, then prove it by taking seriously what I suggest. Look at it all for yourself and try it for yourself. If ketosis (through diet, fasting, calorie restriction, etc) isn’t all that it is being made out to be, then enough individuals experimenting with it and enough scientists researching it will show that to be the case. But for the moment, it is the single most promising approach we have. There is good reason for why so many feel passionate about it.

        By the way, I’m fully capable of being righteously angry at harmful injustice and dangerous oppression while simultaneously being amused by myself. As with everyone else, I’m a complex creature.

      • “I would note that besides the poor, conservative people have personalities that…”

        I agree. But I see the same phenomenon to varying degrees and in varying ways all across our society in numerous demographics. It’s the authoritarian and reactionary tendencies seen everything that dominates our society, all across the political spectrum and in what the ‘mainstream’ gatekeepers exclude from it. I’d go so far as to argue it is built into the very fabric of our society from the start and so an old phenomenon.

        Then again, I would make that argument since that is basically what I’ve been saying above. The developments, dietary and otherwise, have shaped everything about our world. I’d go so far as to suggest that such a world would be highly improbable or even impossible without modern agriculture, highly processed food, colonial and then neoliberal food system, and a high-carb-and-seed-oil diet.

        “You are either unable to get my points, or are just uninterested in them, or are so confused…”

        Maybe so. I’ll try my best to listen to what you have to say and understand what you mean. Miscommunications are dime a dozen online. That I might have taken your words wrongly would be of not great surprise. Still, I apologize if you felt I was not being fair, generous, and respectful to you — no matter my intention (thinking about one’s intention is tricky business, anyhow).

        “It has to do with questions, the initiation and inertia of them, the danger of conclusions, and the uses of information for action. And it has nothing to do with mouthing an appreciation of experimentation in the vein you are constantly mining now.”

        If that is true, then it would appear your basic message (assuming that I understand you correctly) is exactly the same as my basic message throughout this entire discussion. Maybe we don’t really disagree at all, despite both of us making critical statements. That would be all the more reason for both of us to be generous in our responses, not something that always comes as a first response.

        “The endless hammering on the point of industrialized wheat is lost on me for that reason, and sshould be.”

        If that is true, then you I’m not sure to what degree you understand me (maybe our misunderstandings are mutual, whether or not they indicate any real disagreement). Not only industrial wheat but wheat itself is a rather recent phenomenon of the human diet. Until the 19th century, few Americans ate wheat at all. And prior to that, highly refined wheat flour was almost non-existent (almost all bread these days, even the dishonestly called “whole wheat”, is made with highly refined wheat flour).

        Industrial wheat has utterly transformed our society to such a degree that it is no longer recognizable by historical and evolutionary standards. That is no minor point, at least within the context of my argument. But if you don’t take my argument seriously nor trust the evidence I offer, then it makes sense why you don’t see industrial wheat as relevant or interesting, nor my views of it compelling or persuasive. I won’t try to convince you. It’s simply my perspective — take it or leave it.

        “And yes, you do have an obvious need to knock them down a peg or two, which has me very frustrated.”

        Some people probably feel frustrated by your wanting to knock conservatives down a peg or two. I’m thinking of your comment in your book about Trump supporters that you wrote before the election. Many conservatives would have taken it as extremely condescending, but as someone on the left I understood the intention you were expressing and, besides, it was your right to express that opinion (however it was taken by others).

        And now here you are trying to knock me down a peg or two. I don’t mind. Go for it. I’m not opposed to anyone being critical. I’m of the opinion that we all need to be more critical. It’s all fair game to me. And some of your knocks against me land correctly. You’ve reminded me that I can be jerk. I appreciate the reminder. I can’t say I won’t be a jerk again in the future, but I’ll try to pause before commenting and give a moment of thought to your reminder. Maybe it will do some good. Then again, I can be a slow learner.

        “Doesn’t some kind of scientific neutrality bell go off in your brain when you see yourself doing that? Do you have any sense how such seemingly casual pressures tilt you toward types of inquiry and emphases that you are unaware of?”

        Not to be an asshole, but I would throw the same questions back at you. I don’t see you as being more neutral. Attacking what you perceive as someone else’s bias doesn’t demonstrate your lack of bias. I see you as extremely biased in this discussion, but I have never pretended to not be biased as well. So, I fail to appreciate what you think is so important (Am I once again missing the point? If so, please explain).

        I look at my own biases and I look at the biases of others, and then I try to assess where the best evidence and insight stands. Do I fail at this aspiration? Probably. Yet I try. That is all I can ever do. If it isn’t good enough for you or anyone else, that is fine. I’m not seeking your approval. I understand your irritation about my way of communicating and I accept it. Some of it is surely a fair complaint against my attitude and behavior.

        “The intent and often the outcome of veganism is often healthy and heroic..”

        Sometimes it is, but I won’t generalize about it in either direction. Anyway, that was never the basis of my criticism and so, for the disagreement here, it seems (?) a moot point. Multiple times I’ve made clear (or tried to) that I’m not attacking vegans as individuals nor that I have ever questioned their moral intentions, moral character, and moral worth. Others might mock or dismiss vegans, but I would never do so.

        I take them completely seriously and it is precisely the moral crusade that is so common among them that wins my respect for them. I take them at their words and I hold them to account, as I’d expect others to do for me (the reason I accept your criticisms directed at me). That is my beginning point. My main issue, though, is to criticize the system or set of overlapping systems we are all caught in.

        It just so happens that veganism is a great example of how people, no matter their good intentions (and vegans often have far greater good intentions than most), can get caught up in bad systems. But over the many years of blogging, I’ve directed my ire at many targets, left and right. As I said, we are caught up in this system. I’ve constantly questioned myself in this regard. Don’t forget that I struggled most of my life within this dietary SNAFU and still am trying to find my way through. Surely, I get my fair share of the blame in my decades of complicity (my good intentions being irrelevant)

        “You acknowledge the possibility of a technocratic vegan solution, acknowledge a vegan or near-vegan can be healthy and low carb, reject every vegan I know as a person who kills “thousands of rabbits” because being vegan is like eating at Biscuit World, and spend enormous energy ASSUMING their vast leveraging of the indusctrial food business. Again- wtf, dude?”

        There is a difference between veganism in its potentially most optimal form and veganism as it is practiced by most vegans. It’s similar to comparing someone doing a meat-based version of SAD and someone doing a meat-based version of locavore, organic, and pasture-raised (e.g., paleo). My favoring a meat-based diet doesn’t stop me from criticizing those who eat an unhealthy or environmentally harmful meat-based diet. So, why would it stop me from criticizing those on a plant-based diet for the exact same reasons? In fact, I’ve often combined my criticisms of the two in the same breath.

        Consider paleo, the one low-carb diet probably more than any other than attracts the most former vegans and vegetarians. For many, it’s a gateway drug into the low-carb world. Paleo is sort of broad in many ways, but it is also very specific as a healthy diet. Even in its meat-based form (ignoring for the moment the more plant-based version; e.g., Wahls Protocol), it’s clearly distinguished from meat-based SAD. There doesn’t seem to be any similar distinction in common usage for veganism and vegetarianism.

        Maybe that is because veganism, in particular, has never been entirely or even primarily defined as a healthy diet. Instead, it’s justification has first and foremost been ethical. So, distinctions between healthy and unhealthy plant-based diets has never had the same kind of cache as seen among meat-based diets. For whatever reason, there has been no concerted effort in the vegan community to make such a distinction.

        When speaking of ‘vegans’, I’m speaking about most vegans. And most vegans, as far as I can tell, aren’t on even on an optimal vegan diet. That is something I’ve observed among vegans and vegetarians in general. Health seems like a secondary concern for most on this diet. Strangely, I’ve probably known (personally known, that is) dozens of people on various plant-based diets, but offhand I can’t say I know a single one that went on the diet because of health as their original motivation.

        “Would you just freaking stop?”

        Nope. I hear your request, but I decline to accept. I won’t stop being an equal opportunity critic of others, as I won’t stop being self-critical. This is who I am and what my blog has always been about. It’s nothing new.

        “Do you know any vegans?”

        Yep. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve personally known many vegans over the decades. And I’ve interacted with many other vegans online, including having followed a vegan blog for a number of years (because I liked their reporting of environmental news).

        That isn’t to say I can necessarily generalize about all vegans. I have my sense of vegans I’ve met that I combine with the scientific studies I’ve seen on veganism. It doesn’t form a perfect picture, even as it is informed to some degree. For whatever its worth, I’ve been reading about vegan and vegetarian arguments for decades now (I didn’t become vegetarian back in the day based on ignorance).

        I’m a leftist(-liberal) who grew up in a woo woo liberal church and have spent most of my life in a liberal college town — how could I not know vegans? I lived with a vegan at one point and he was an extremely nice guy, if a bit neurotic and sensitive. Plus, most of my immediate family is vegetarian and both of my brothers have considered veganism. I’ve heard the arguments for a long time at this point.

        “Why can’t you either shut up, or be generous, or do both?”

        I’m not as generous as I could be. But I am fair in my criticisms (I hope, maybe?), fair in that I’m no more critical of vegans than of many others. I simply don’t treat vegans with special privilege, simply because of good intentions. It’s similar to my often being as critical of liberals as of right-wingers. It’s my style. I realize it isn’t your style and you don’t like it. Once again, I’m not here to please you, even though I’m not here either to piss you off. I don’t know what else to say. I’m just here doing my thing, as best as I know how. Yet such qualifications don’t seem meaningful to you. My best apparently isn’t good enough for you, just as the best of many vegans isn’t good enough for me. Such is life.

        “…“seemingly related” isn’t a fact, even if it’s so for experts.”

        I was being generous and fair in not stating it more strongly. We actually do scientifically understand many of the mechanisms involved here. It is becoming strongly substantiated. I just wanted to not state it too assertively, as my point was to not imply beyond the known facts. My language indicated cautiousness. There is sometimes wiggle room within the domains of scientific facts, as science is always developing. The wiggle room is even greater in nutrition studies because of the problems in the field. Yet certain points of understanding are becoming more clear.

        “Correlative, not causation. Don’t do this!”

        That is my point. There is a correlation presented that potentially implies a causation, based on numerous parallel lines of evidence that show similar correlations and further substantiated by scientific theories for possible causal explanations for why that might be the case. Yet it still is just correlation. I never stated otherwise. That was the challenge I was offering. I was openly suggesting the correlation might be wrong or at least that I was open to someone explaining it otherwise. The point is, if wrong, another explanation is required. The evidence remains to be explained, not waved away. Or else better evidence needs to replace it.

        “I don’t even think that’s right. It certainly is outright speculation.”

        You might be critical of the data we have, but it is based on the known data. We have some idea of how much of which foods Americans were eating in the early 20th century as opposed to later in the same century, and even some evidence about the century before that based on various kinds of records (the evidence presented and case made can be found, among other places, in Nina Teicholz’s The Big Fat Surprise). It’s just data, just the facts as we presently know them, even as truth claims can always be challenged. Data as facts depends on what recorded info we have.

        Just because you disagree with those facts doesn’t make them any less factual. You are always free to contest them. That was part of my point in offering them. Contest them with better info, if you can, but I won’t accept their being ignored or dismissed out of hand. I was opening up an opportunity, a challenge I hope others will take. I want someone to prove me wrong on some point(s), as that would be a learning opportunity for me. So, have at it.

        Please take me at face value. One of my greatest ideals in life is sincerity. Whatever I say, whether criticisms of others or myself, I try to do it as honestly as possible. I’ve always sought to say what I mean and mean what I say. I put my soul out for public display and invite others to comment. Throw your strongest criticisms at me. Sometimes I’ll disagree with your criticisms and at other times I’ll admit you’re right. But know this. I want you to criticize me with the strongest criticisms you can make, that is while remaining fair and considerate (and hopefully kind) toward me.

        Still, I understand you’re only human, like me. I accept that you’re dealing with your own issues and probably have some lifetime bad habits that you’ve also developed. Perfection isn’t required from anyone on this blog (though certain lines such as racism I don’t tolerate being crossed). All I can do is take what you say and see what applies, what makes sense to me in my experience and understanding.

        • About decrease of red meat and saturated fat (and increase of fruit and vegetables) in the American diet, I mentioned that the case made and the evidence presented could be found in a particular book, although I’ve seen similar evidence-based arguments made elsewhere. Below is the passage in question and, if you go to Nina Teicholz’s book itself, you’ll find all the references for the data and other claims in the notes. This represents the best data we have at present. That doesn’t mean it is absolutely right and won’t change in the future. But it should be considered with intellectual humility and honesty.

          Let me make a comment about one part of what Teicholz states. She argues that the food disappearance data only included foods that were transported across state lines. But in the early 1900s, most food and most animal foods in particular would not have been transported far. Meat spoils without modern refrigeration and so most of it would have been sold and consumed in the same area it was produced by farmers. She overlooks one thing, though. It wasn’t only farm foods. My mother’s family in the 1950s, although living in an industrial city, was still getting most of their meat year round from local hunting, trapping, and fishing. They weren’t dirt poor as they all had high-paying factory and railroad jobs. But it was still their custom to eat wild meat which, depending on the hunting season, included fish, duck, squirrel, rabbit, possum, racoon, etc.

          So, we don’t need to go back to the 19th century to find Americans relying on wild-caught meat. Most of us today are utterly disconnected from the world of our ancestors, sometimes only a generation or two back in time. We don’t realize how recent is this shift toward a high-carb and highly processed industrial diet. Sure, changes were already seen much earlier. But it took a long time for it to fully take hold. The amount of nutrient-density-and-bioavailability that my mother got from her childhood diet in the 1950s was entirely lacking in my childhood diet from the 1970s. In only those two decades, a complete rupture in the traditional diet had become complete. That is mind-blowing!

          Here is the most irritating part. Much of this has been known for generations. If not for the cherry-picking of data, the purveyors of anti-fat dogma would have had to admit this long ago. Take Ancel Keys. When he went on his crusade against saturated fat, the data at the time pointed to the loss of animal fat in the diet and the increase of industrial vegetable oils and margarine. He knew that. In fact, Keys intentionally left out multiple sets of data from countries that disproved his belief about saturated fat. We know that he was familiar with this data he intentionally excluded from his infamous study. Yet even with this cherry-picked data, the stronger correlation was also between heart disease and sugar, not saturated fat. This kind of willfully ignorant bias has dominated nutritional studies and official dietary recommendations ever since.

          Without further ado, here is the text:

          The Big Fat Surprise
          by Nina Teicholz
          pp. 123-131

          Yet despite this shaky and often contradictory evidence, the idea that red meat is a principal dietary culprit has thoroughly pervaded our national conversation for decades. We have been led to believe that we’ve strayed from a more perfect, less meat-filled past. Most prominently, when Senator McGovern announced his Senate committee’s report, called Dietary Goals , at a press conference in 1977, he expressed a gloomy outlook about where the American diet was heading. “Our diets have changed radically within the past fifty years,” he explained, “with great and often harmful effects on our health.” Hegsted, standing at his side, criticized the current American diet as being excessively “rich in meat” and other sources of saturated fat and cholesterol, which were “linked to heart disease, certain forms of cancer, diabetes and obesity.” These were the “killer diseases,” said McGovern. The solution, he declared, was for Americans to return to the healthier, plant-based diet they once ate.

          The New York Times health columnist Jane Brody perfectly encapsulated this idea when she wrote, “Within this century, the diet of the average American has undergone a radical shift away from plant-based foods such as grains, beans and peas, nuts, potatoes, and other vegetables and fruits and toward foods derived from animals—meat, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy products.” It is a view that has been echoed in literally hundreds of official reports.

          The justification for this idea, that our ancestors lived mainly on fruits, vegetables, and grains, comes mainly from the USDA “food disappearance data.” The “disappearance” of food is an approximation of supply; most of it is probably being eaten, but much is wasted, too. Experts therefore acknowledge that the disappearance numbers are merely rough estimates of consumption. The data from the early 1900s, which is what Brody, McGovern, and others used, are known to be especially poor. Among other things, these data accounted only for the meat, dairy, and other fresh foods shipped across state lines in those early years, so anything produced and eaten locally, such as meat from a cow or eggs from chickens, would not have been included. And since farmers made up more than a quarter of all workers during these years, local foods must have amounted to quite a lot. Experts agree that this early availability data are not adequate for serious use, yet they cite the numbers anyway, because no other data are available. And for the years before 1900, there are no “scientific” data at all.

          In the absence of scientific data, history can provide a picture of food consumption in the late eighteenth to nineteenth century in America. Although circumstantial, historical evidence can also be rigorous and, in this case, is certainly more far-reaching than the inchoate data from the USDA. Academic nutrition experts rarely consult historical texts, considering them to occupy a separate academic silo with little to offer the study of diet and health. Yet history can teach us a great deal about how humans used to eat in the thousands of years before heart disease, diabetes, and obesity became common. Of course we don’t remember now, but these diseases did not always rage as they do today. And looking at the food patterns of our relatively healthy early-American ancestors, it’s quite clear that they ate far more red meat and far fewer vegetables than we have commonly assumed.

          Early-American settlers were “indifferent” farmers, according to many accounts. They were fairly lazy in their efforts at both animal husbandry and agriculture, with “the grain fields, the meadows, the forests, the cattle, etc, treated with equal carelessness,” as one eighteenth-century Swedish visitor described. And there was little point in farming since meat was so readily available.

          The endless bounty of America in its early years is truly astonishing. Settlers recorded the extraordinary abundance of wild turkeys, ducks, grouse, pheasant, and more. Migrating flocks of birds would darken the skies for days . The tasty Eskimo curlew was apparently so fat that it would burst upon falling to the earth, covering the ground with a sort of fatty meat paste. (New Englanders called this now-extinct species the “doughbird.”)

          In the woods, there were bears (prized for their fat), raccoons, bobolinks, opossums, hares, and virtual thickets of deer—so much that the colonists didn’t even bother hunting elk, moose, or bison, since hauling and conserving so much meat was considered too great an effort. IX

          A European traveler describing his visit to a Southern plantation noted that the food included beef, veal, mutton, venison, turkeys, and geese, but he does not mention a single vegetable. Infants were fed beef even before their teeth had grown in. The English novelist Anthony Trollope reported, during a trip to the United States in 1861, that Americans ate twice as much beef as did Englishmen. Charles Dickens, when he visited, wrote that “no breakfast was breakfast” without a T-bone steak. Apparently, starting a day on puffed wheat and low-fat milk—our “Breakfast of Champions!”—would not have been considered adequate even for a servant.

          Indeed, for the first 250 years of American history, even the poor in the United States could afford meat or fish for every meal. The fact that the workers had so much access to meat was precisely why observers regarded the diet of the New World to be superior to that of the Old. “I hold a family to be in a desperate way when the mother can see the bottom of the pork barrel,” says a frontier housewife in James Fenimore Cooper’s novel The Chainbearer.

          Like the primitive tribes mentioned in Chapter 1, Americans also relished the viscera of the animal, according to the cookbooks of the time. They ate the heart, kidneys, tripe, calf sweetbreads (glands), pig’s liver, turtle lungs, the heads and feet of lamb and pigs, and lamb tongue. Beef tongue, too, was “highly esteemed.”

          And not just meat but saturated fats of every kind were consumed in great quantities. Americans in the nineteenth century ate four to five times more butter than we do today, and at least six times more lard. X

          In the book Putting Meat on the American Table , researcher Roger Horowitz scours the literature for data on how much meat Americans actually ate. A survey of eight thousand urban Americans in 1909 showed that the poorest among them ate 136 pounds a year, and the wealthiest more than 200 pounds. A food budget published in the New York Tribune in 1851 allots two pounds of meat per day for a family of five. Even slaves at the turn of the eighteenth century were allocated an average of 150 pounds of meat a year. As Horowitz concludes, “These sources do give us some confidence in suggesting an average annual consumption of 150–200 pounds of meat per person in the nineteenth century.”

          About 175 pounds of meat per person per year! Compare that to the roughly 100 pounds of meat per year that an average adult American eats today. And of that 100 pounds of meat, more than half is poultry—chicken and turkey—whereas until the mid-twentieth century, chicken was considered a luxury meat, on the menu only for special occasions (chickens were valued mainly for their eggs). Subtracting out the poultry factor, we are left with the conclusion that per capita consumption of red meat today is about 40 to 70 pounds per person, according to different sources of government data—in any case far less than what it was a couple of centuries ago.

          Yet this drop in red meat consumption is the exact opposite of the picture we get from public authorities. A recent USDA report says that our consumption of meat is at a “record high,” and this impression is repeated in the media. It implies that our health problems are associated with this rise in meat consumption, but these analyses are misleading because they lump together red meat and chicken into one category to show the growth of meat eating overall, when it’s just the chicken consumption that has gone up astronomically since the 1970s. The wider-lens picture is clearly that we eat far less red meat today than did our forefathers.

          Meanwhile, also contrary to our common impression, early Americans appeared to eat few vegetables. Leafy greens had short growing seasons and were ultimately considered not worth the effort. They “appeared to yield so little nutriment in proportion to labor spent in cultivation,” wrote one eighteenth-century observer, that “farmers preferred more hearty foods.” Indeed, a pioneering 1888 report for the US government written by the country’s top nutrition professor at the time concluded that Americans living wisely and economically would be best to “avoid leafy vegetables,” because they provided so little nutritional content. In New England, few farmers even had many fruit trees, because preserving fruits required equal amounts of sugar to fruit, which was far too costly. Apples were an exception, and even these, stored in barrels, lasted several months at most.

          It seems obvious, when one stops to think, that before large supermarket chains started importing kiwis from New Zealand and avocados from Israel, a regular supply of fruits and vegetables could hardly have been possible in America outside the growing season. In New England, that season runs from June through October or maybe, in a lucky year, November. Before refrigerated trucks and ships allowed the transport of fresh produce all over the world, most people could therefore eat fresh fruit and vegetables for less than half the year; farther north, winter lasted even longer. Even in the warmer months, fruit and salad were avoided, for fear of cholera. (Only with the Civil War did the canning industry flourish, and then only for a handful of vegetables, the most common of which were sweet corn, tomatoes, and peas.)

          Thus it would be “incorrect to describe Americans as great eaters of either [fruits or vegetables],” wrote the historians Waverly Root and Richard de Rochemont. Although a vegetarian movement did establish itself in the United States by 1870, the general mistrust of these fresh foods, which spoiled so easily and could carry disease, did not dissipate until after World War I, with the advent of the home refrigerator.

          So by these accounts, for the first two hundred and fifty years of American history, the entire nation would have earned a failing grade according to our modern mainstream nutritional advice.

          During all this time, however, heart disease was almost certainly rare. Reliable data from death certificates is not available, but other sources of information make a persuasive case against the widespread appearance of the disease before the early 1920s. Austin Flint, the most authoritative expert on heart disease in the United States, scoured the country for reports of heart abnormalities in the mid-1800s, yet reported that he had seen very few cases, despite running a busy practice in New York City. Nor did William Osler, one of the founding professors of Johns Hopkins Hospital, report any cases of heart disease during the 1870s and eighties when working at Montreal General Hospital. The first clinical description of coronary thrombosis came in 1912, and an authoritative textbook in 1915, Diseases of the Arteries including Angina Pectoris , makes no mention at all of coronary thrombosis. On the eve of World War I, the young Paul Dudley White, who later became President Eisenhower’s doctor, wrote that of his seven hundred male patients at Massachusetts General Hospital, only four reported chest pain, “even though there were plenty of them over 60 years of age then.” XI About one fifth of the US population was over fifty years old in 1900. This number would seem to refute the familiar argument that people formerly didn’t live long enough for heart disease to emerge as an observable problem. Simply put, there were some ten million Americans of a prime age for having a heart attack at the turn of the twentieth century, but heart attacks appeared not to have been a common problem.

          Was it possible that heart disease existed but was somehow overlooked? The medical historian Leon Michaels compared the record on chest pain with that of two other medical conditions, gout and migraine, which are also painful and episodic and therefore should have been observed by doctors to an equal degree. Michaels catalogs the detailed descriptions of migraines dating all the way back to antiquity; gout, too, was the subject of lengthy notes by doctors and patients alike. Yet chest pain is not mentioned. Michaels therefore finds it “particularly unlikely” that angina pectoris, with its severe, terrifying pain continuing episodically for many years, could have gone unnoticed by the medical community, “if indeed it had been anything but exceedingly rare before the mid-eighteenth century.” XII

          So it seems fair to say that at the height of the meat-and-butter-gorging eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, heart disease did not rage as it did by the 1930s. XIII

          Ironically—or perhaps tellingly—the heart disease “epidemic” began after a period of exceptionally reduced meat eating. The publication of The Jungle , Upton Sinclair’s fictionalized exposé of the meatpacking industry, caused meat sales in the United States to fall by half in 1906, and they did not revive for another twenty years. In other words, meat eating went down just before coronary disease took off. Fat intake did rise during those years, from 1909 to 1961, when heart attacks surged, but this 12 percent increase in fat consumption was not due to a rise in animal fat. It was instead owing to an increase in the supply of vegetable oils, which had recently been invented.

          Nevertheless, the idea that Americans once ate little meat and “mostly plants”—espoused by McGovern and a multitude of experts—continues to endure. And Americans have for decades now been instructed to go back to this earlier, “healthier” diet that seems, upon examination, never to have existed.


      • I was thinking about biases. I can’t say I have a bias in general against plant-based diets. I was taught the Food pyramid and was raised to eat lots of fresh produce and eat “balanced meals”. For most of my life, I regularly ate my veggies and would consume massive salads, not to mention all the high-fiber cereals and “whole wheat” breads. Fruits, of course, have long been a consistent part of my diet, a sugary food I would even allow myself when I was trying to cut back carbs over the past decade or two.

        Most of my family is vegetarian, my brothers their wives and kids. Also, I was vegetarian for a time and I can’t say my experience was bad, even though it didn’t improve my physical or mental health. Over the decades, I’ve eaten a lot of vegetarian food and much of it was vegan as well. I can’t say I dislike such plant-based fare. In the past when eating out, it wasn’t unusual for me to select a vegetarian meal such as with certain ethnic restaurants. I might add that my aunt is a vegan, though she is a ‘vegan’ who occasionally eats fish. I’ve been a vegetarian. My paternal grandmother, the one who raised my aunt (and introduced my parents to Unity, Science of Mind, ACIM, Adele Davis, etc), was always on diets and focused on nutrition, including later on being macrobiotic and drinking bucket-loads of carrot juice until her skin turned orange (she got cancer, refused chemotherapy, tried to cure it naturally, and died shortly later).

        More recently in my personal experience, the low-carb paleo diet I was on initially was mostly plant foods, including far more vegetables than eaten by the average vegetarian. I was heavily influenced by the likes of Dr. Terry Wahls, a former vegetarian who adapted nutrient-dense keto and paleo to reverse multiple sclerosis in herself and her patients. She recommends massive piles of dark green and colorful low-carb veggies with every meal. My studies and experimentation have made me doubt some of the conventional thought and received wisdom about plant foods, such as my early reading of Dr. Steven Gundry’s The Plant Paradox, although Dr. Gundry actually doesn’t advise against a plant-heavy diet. Quite the opposite, in fact, but with using more care with which plant foods eaten and how prepared.

        I did find that, in my carnivore experimentation, how much better I felt without all those hard-to-digest fibers and problematic anti-nutrients. I became more selective in my plant foods, but didn’t permanently eliminate them, as I found fermented veggies are more tolerable, as they are essentially predigested and lower in starches (the starches are part of what gets digested; and so a win/win). It also fit into my locavore standards since a local lady makes and sells fermented veggies. When eating with my parents, I also will cook a big pot of greens or whatever, also typically procured from the farmers market. I have nothing against including local, seasonal produce as would have been standard practice throughout hominid existence.

        So, I don’t exactly feel like I have an anti-plant agenda. I’ve been on good terms with plants my whole life. Besides family members, I’ve had friends, roommates, and coworkers on various plant-based diets. I’ve never argued with any of them about plant foods vs animal foods. You are special case, in that you’re commenting on my blog. But if we were simply chatting in person, I doubt any of this would have come up. My opinion probably comes across stronger than it is, and maybe we both are being slightly polarized, even if don’t consciously intend to be. Am I’m being unfairly critical to vegans for a simple reason of personal bias. Most of my family is vegetarian, not vegan. I’m much more sympathetic to vegetarianism for many reasons beyond that. Maybe if most of my family was vegan instead, I’d have a bias towards it instead. Maybe… I don’t know… I suspect not. I do see veganism as a far less healthy diet. I see that in the nutritional studies, although the data is skimpy with the smaller population size of vegans, but I’ve also seen it in the vegans I’ve known who often don’t even look healthy.

        Still, as I keep emphasizing, I’m not attacking individual vegans. It’s more of what veganism represents. As a diet, it is the ultimate endpoint and full culmination of all that I’m criticizing. Considering veganism is entirely dependent on industrialized agriculture (along with everything that goes with it such as neoliberal trade) and I’m opposed to industrialized agriculture, I find myself opposed to the very basis of veganism (most highly processed foods are vegan and it has become a great marketing ploy for offloading crap; e.g., Beyond Burger; veganism is the complete opposite of an organic locavore diet, as there is a reason no traditional human or hominid diet in millions of years has ever been vegan). I’m not sure how to get around that. I see industrialized agriculture and the industrialized diet as one of the greatest threats, as I don’t see evidence of it being reformed or transformed into something viable and sustainable.

        Does that make vegans my mortal enemy? No. I never suggested that. Individual vegans are no more my enemy than anyone else caught up in these destructive systems. It’s similar to how I can harshly criticize capitalism as a threat while maintaining a good relationship with my father who spent his career defending not just capitalism but neoliberalism and what I consider plutocracy. My father didn’t understand, but he is coming around to seeing the problems. There is no point in blaming individuals, although I make exceptions for those like Ancel Keys who personally led the way in causing so much harm. Even in Keys’ case, I’m forced to admit he was simply carrying on what others before him had already started. Even in pushing his dogmatic anti-scientific agenda, I have no doubt that he rationalized it somehow in his own mind. In the end, these systems pervert and parasitize the mind, sometimes even those with good intentions. To focus on individuals is not usually the most helpful approach. I’m not sure how I can more strongly emphasize that point.

        • Don’t you have anything similar?

          I know you are critical of various things, such as Trump supporters. But if you personally knew a Trump supporter and understood their motivation, would it mean that you couldn’t criticize Trump and what he represents simply because you knew someone who voted for Trump?

          Can’t you separate the two in your mind and your relationships? I use that as another personal example, as I have a cousin who supported Trump (maybe still does) and I never felt any bad feelings toward him.

        • I realize you have a personal sense of sympathy to vegans. I get that. But I’ve long been one to often be harshest in criticism toward those who are most similar to me in viewpoint and experience. It’s why I can be so scathing of liberals in my love-hate relationship with them, the one group I’m most familiar with (to such an extent I’ve identified as liberal for most of my life and still have a hard time not identifying as such). But I understand feeling a desire to defend a group that one sympathizes with and one feels is being treated unfairly.

          Still, step back for a moment. Imagine vegans weren’t a group that you saw as being the good guys, as being on your side. Take some entirely different group that you don’t identify with and empathize with. Go back to the example of Trump supporters. It’s easy for those of us on the left to just think they are bad people, stupid people, unworthy people, or simply clueless people (i.e., useful idiots). And so they deserve being attacked and put in their place. But imagine these people weren’t strangers. Instead, what if it was many of your family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers voted who for Trump?

          You’d probably have a different feeling toward them and you’d be irritated by people who attacked them and dismissed them, as you feel irritated in my criticizing vegans (or rather veganism, ignoring that distinction for the moment). To your mind, these might seem like incomparable groups. Vegans are obviously the good guys or at least their good intentions should be taken seriously, never to be doubted. But you probably don’t feel as generous, forgiving, and compassionate toward Trump supporters, even if in your liberal-mindedness you idealize being fair to everyone.

          From my perspective, I don’t see any reason to treat vegans differently, despite my familiarity with them and despite their being more in line with my own worldview. It is irrelevant that on average most vegans share my views on environmentalism, social issues, politics, etc. They are clearly “my people”. I’ve been surrounded by them my entire life. I know them. But that doesn’t stop me from being critical. It’s because I know them that the imperfections stand out, not unlike how I’m extremely aware and sensitive to my own flaws or those of my family members.

          Strangely, I’m more likely to be forgiving and compassionate toward a group like Trump supporters. That is because, in a sense, they are not my people — I don’t know them well enough for me to be fair to them and so I’m more cautious in my opinions. It is true that I can be critical of certain groups I don’t identify with when I consider them truly dangerous (once again, racism is a hot button issue for me because of the harm its done in this country; I have little sympathy for racists as a general rule, although with some exception given to older people who unconsciously internalized racial biases when younger). But for whatever reason, I save my strongest complaints about those with which I have the greatest familiarity. I can’t say this is necessarily fair to treat groups differently in this way rather than in the opposite way, but it feels more right to me.

          As someone who is somewhere between liberal and leftist, it simply feels more natural and comfortable to voice my opinions about those groups I personally know from a lifetime of experience. My criticism of right-wingers almost goes without saying. And it’s not as if I’ve been shy about my attitude toward right-wingers. But even with reactionaries, I find myself drawn to pointing out that liberals too are prone to a kind of reactionary slant and pointing out how the reactionary culture pervades everything in society and infiltrates the minds of the best of us, myself included (heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if the antagonistic feeling of the reactionary might be influencing the dynamic right here in this discussion — God forbid!). I find it hard to simply want to attack those who are different from me and so, if anything, I maybe am more likely to qualify my negative views.

          I could go on and on about certain idiotic views of paleo-libertarians among the low-carb crowd, specifically among carnivore dieters. I could, but I find I have less interest. Any criticisms I would offer would be obvious. On broad environmental issues, the fact of the matter is that I’m probably more in line with the average vegan than the average carnivore. My criticisms of right-wing climate change denialism have already been stated a thousand times in this blog. As I age, for some reason or another, I find myself more often being critical of those on my own side of the political spectrum. I’m not sure why that is. But I understand why that my upset some people on my side of the political spectrum. It doesn’t necessarily win me friends among likeminded folk.

          It’s the battles I’m choosing to pick, I guess. Maybe it’s simply that my blog is mostly read by those on the political left. It’s too easy to attack the political right in preaching to the choir. Too easy and too boring. But also it’s about where I can have the most impact. I’d rather have an interesting debate with someone like you about veganism than for both of us to gang up on those evil Trumpistas. Ignoring who is right or wrong, veganism offers a symbolic issue that points to much deeper and more important issues that are worthy of getting a bit irritated about. It’s fruitful irritation or at least potentially so. We can both get irritated because it matters.

          Still, maybe I ought to soften my approach to such things. It’s something that I try to keep in mind. For my purposes in this comment, I’m just trying to explain my odd bias against my own kind. As many conservatives and right-wingers complain, I’m one of those leftists who lack a strong sense of loyalty, not only to country but even to other leftists. It’s what makes me dangerous. And it is what makes me an asshole. It’s like Thomas Paine after the French Revolution. He felt betrayed and simply had a bad attitude. He wasn’t feeling kind toward even his former friends and allies, as he saw the reactionary and counter-revolutionary forces take over. He might have been wrong to attack Washington for abandoning him in his time of need. Yet I feel like I understand someone like Paine, what made him tick.

          You, however, are a different type of person. You rarely have a bad attitude. You rarely are an asshole. You are unlikely to attack your own kind. It doesn’t seem to be in your nature. We each are the way we are, mostly for reasons beyond our own comprehension. That isn’t to be fatalistic. But once set in our ways, it’s hard for any of us to change our basic personalities as it has developed over a lifetime. So, maybe we can try to be understanding with one another, specifically understanding where each is coming from. For someone like me, when I’m critical of those like vegans, put it in the context of what I just said above. I don’t know if that helps. If nothing else, maybe my behavior makes some sense. Maybe, yes? If not, oh well… I tried…

        • I was talking with my dad about this. I get some of my personality from him, specifically the analytical ability to be nitpicky, although much of my bad attitude comes from my mom in her ability to be infinitely critical in other kinds of ways (I learned how to obsessively analyze other people from her). I got my personality quirks honestly. And I realize that is what it comes down to, personality traits. As a reasonably intelligent guy with an intellectual bent, I can rationalize my bad attitude in all kinds of ways, but the fact of the matter is my critical impulse is pre-rational. The reasons come later.

          Go back to Thomas Paine. A typical complaint against him was that he was a disheveled drunkard. There is some doubt if this portrayal was fully accurate. It’s likely that his opponents were simply trying to make him look bad. On the other hand, the general sense of him might have been hitting upon a truth. Break that down — what does being a disheveled drunkard mean in terms of personality traits? Essentially, it is someone low on conscientiousness and low on agreeableness, that is to say a disruptive asshole and troublemaker who doesn’t cooperate well with others and won’t simply do what is told, doesn’t stay in his place and won’t go along to get along. That is what got him in trouble, such as his willingness to speak a contrary voice even when it was dangerous to do so, a habit that almost got him killed on more than one occasion.

          Maybe I’m becoming crankier in my old age. But my own psychological tendencies developed early in life. I played soccer from childhood. It’s not that I had anything against team sports and actually had lots of fun. It’s just that I honestly didn’t give a fuck about the team, whether we won or lost. I was always one of the best athletes and coaches tried to put me on offense. The problem is I didn’t have the mindset for it. Offense requires a team mentality. So, instead, I spent most of my soccer career on defense where individuality can more freely reign. The single most important strength of defense is not to promote the team but to disrupt the other team, and I excelled at that. I loved fucking up someone else’s play… oh, the glorious joy of it!

          My greatest moment was one time when I was a halfback, which sort of plays a defensive role much of the time but requires a lot of flexibility. The other team had this massive girl who had a powerful kick. I think she too might have been a halfback, but in this situation we played in opposite roles, her being on the offense and my being on the defense. In starting with the ball, they’d drop it back to her and she’d whack it all the way down the field. All my teammates would run back to our side of the field to get the ball and hopefully bring it back the other way again. In my blunt mentality of disruption, the simple solution was to stop her from kicking it down the field in the first place. So, I simply ran right at her and jumped in front of the flying ball. I never minded taking the full force of a kick to the head or most other body parts, as I have a high pain tolerance.

          That is essentially what I still do to this day. I’m a disruptor. And even though I’m fine with being on a team, it’s simply not my mindset to be a team player. I’m not a group-minded conformist. I can’t be made to care that liberals, vegans, or whoever the fuck else is supposedly on my liberal/leftist team and, therefore, I should just shut up and put my head down. It’s just not in me to do that. I don’t care if Democrats win the game. I don’t even care about the game itself. It holds little meaning or interest to me. All I concern myself with is getting into the fray to put myself between the ball and wherever it is going, especially when the ball is going in the wrong direction, in my humble opinion. Some might say let the ball get where its going first and then we’ll argue about the details. Movement in any direction is progress! Let’s first get the team spirit going and then we’ll be able to win the game. Meh.

          At least, I’m not alone in my bad attitude. It is what makes the American left unique. As some have described this phenomenon, it’s like trying to herd cats. American leftists aren’t always great team players, in that we are as likely to attack our own and fall into fractious debate. The political right is largely correct when they say the political left lacks loyalty, such as patriotism. Studies show that liberals are more likely to show empathic concern for an innocent foreigner killed by a US soldier than for a US soldier killed in battle in a foreign land. Conservatives and right-wingers, especially authoritarians, see this as a weakness, as a character defect and a moral failure, not to mention as an outright threat to American society and national security.

          We on the left aren’t to be trusted, for the same basic reason Paine wasn’t to be trusted all those centuries ago. Paine was as happy to play the disruptor in the British Empire as in the French Revolution. It’s not that he didn’t have wonderful ideals he was fighting for. But the fact of the matter is he lacked loyalty. It was no difficulty to go from being in the employ of the British government to inciting a revolution against the same British government. Even as a tax collector back in England, he had the balls to step out of line and hand deliver a petition to Parliament. It was his impulse to be a troublemaker and he couldn’t help himself, even if in his own mind he was simply doing what was morally right. It was all of one piece in the personality he had.

          Likewise, such a psychological predisposition is what rules me, for good or ill. Knowing this about myself, having the self-awareness of my way of being and relating makes possible to choose differently within constraints. I can ameliorate my tendencies to some extent, soften the blow of my harshness for the sake of others, maybe practice my ability toward agreeableness. But I’m not likely to change my spots nor would I want to. It’s my personality that allows me to write interesting posts. If not for a willingness and a drive toward disruption, I would not have a mind that pushes in so many directions, even when it encroaches on the turf of those seemingly on my side. It’s the freedom of my criticizing all parties that gives a moral force to my vision. My challenge is to the entire system, the entire paradigm, not to just one side of it. That freedom is what inspires me, excites me, the sense that there is something more than this particular group or that. The game I’m interested in is much larger.

          Yet I should try to be much lighter in my touch at times. I can too carelessly tread upon those who happen to be standing in the way of wherever my line of thought happens to be driving. So, maybe I should pause to let people get out of the way, instead of running them over, but I’m not going to restrict my mind to allowable thoughts and allowable criticisms for fear of backlash. This is the role I play and I believe it is an important role, an essential role. I’ll try to do it better and to cause less ill will in the process. I’m not trying to be an asshole simply for the sake of being an asshole but because it sometimes takes an asshole to do what needs to get done, to say what needs to be said. But maybe there is a way to be an asshole that ensures that those affected fully deserve the criticism they deserve, rather than lobbing criticisms in all directions and letting God sort them out. I’m not quite sure what I think of that. It’s impossible to be critical without someone, rightly or wrongly, getting upset.

        • Here is an odd part. I may have misread the situation or something. Or else it somehow didn’t register in my mind. Obviously, I wasn’t expecting your response to my views on veganism. I guess I should have. But it didn’t occur to me that vegans were a group I shouldn’t criticize, as opposed to other groups that it would be fine for me to criticize. It wasn’t the frame I was thinking within.

          I didn’t think about the fact that vegans are supposedly on my side because, on average, they share my views about so much else. I was simply making a very specific criticism about veganism as a diet, not about vegans as individual people and as a totality of the aspects of those individuals. Mine was an extremely narrowly and specifically directed criticism.

          Whether or not my assessment is correct, it’s honestly my opinion that veganism is healthy neither for the human body nor for the the environment. There are probably hundreds of other views, dietary and beyond, that I could similarly criticize for not being ‘healthy’ in some sense or another. If fact, various posts over the years have argued for these kinds of criticisms about what is not good for humans, as individuals and as a society, not to mention as part of the larger world.

          Some of the positions I’ve argued against are, more often than not, on the political right. But it’s not as if vegans are the only group, typically on the political left, that I have criticized (though, to be accurate, there is nothing stopping a vegan from being on the political right; e.g., Hitler is well known to have been a vegetarian). I wasn’t really even thinking about veganism in explicitly political terms, much less whose side they were on. All I was thinking about is what is most healthy, specifically in terms of what is most sustainable.

          I didn’t think of this as ‘shitting’ on anyone, this serious and sincere concern for health. I can disagree with others, even to a strong degree, without considering them bad people to be dealt with as enemies. I try not conflate people with ideologies and that includes dietary ideologies, and it is irrelevant if in their identities they conflate themselves with such ideologies. Maybe some vegans would take my commentary as a personal attack. I can’t control how others interpret what I say.

  4. I’ve been told before that I shouldn’t care what other people think. But that really isn’t my style. I’ve always been highly sensitive/attuned to other people on an emotional level, although it has sometimes gone along with an autistic-like social obliviousness, especially when younger. This affective empathy has driven me to highly develop my cognitive empathy to balance it out. I’m constantly feeling out people, sizing them up, and analyzing their behavior (of course, harder to do with disembodied online interactions, similar to attempting sex in the astral plane; in both cases, watch out for the viruses). It’s one of my obsessions and has become a useful talent. I’ve become a good judge of character because of it. Beneficial or not, I do care how others perceive me and respond to me. So, I’m not sure if it matters that, in my own mind, I’m not ‘shitting’ on vegans. It doesn’t mean that I’m indifferent and dismissive (much less aspire to be so) toward an online friend who thinks I’m ‘shitting’ on vegans. That isn’t how I think of myself and it isn’t how I want others to think of me. And for good or ill, it does concern me.

    I know I can come across harsh, often far beyond what I consciously intend. I sometimes have an abrasive edge. I don’t irritate most people, but I notice that certain people I irritate on a regular basis. For whatever reason, I’ve often irritated Scott Wagner, although apparently not enough to stop him from commenting on my blog after years of reading my posts. So, I must be doing something right, despite it all. I want to make clear that I’m not against vegans or really opposed to veganism itself, taken by itself. Veganism is better than the Standard American Diet (SAD). But as far as that goes, almost anything is better than SAD. So, if you are on SAD and go vegan, you probably will feel better and your health will improve. It is a great cleansing diet, at least in the short term. How long you can maintain good health as a vegan depends on your health, your parents health, your grandparents health, etc. That is to say it depends on all the factors that biologically shaped you prior to becoming vegan: genetics, epigenetics, in utero conditions, childhood development, etc.

    The body can store years worth of certain nutrients. Some people feel great on veganism for months, some years, and a tiny fraction can maintain it reasonably well over longer periods. But it is highly doubtful that someone will be optimally healthy, as compared to a highly nutrient-dense-and-bioavailable animal-based diet. Still, if you don’t want to eat animals and you want to be healthier than the average American, you might be able to pull off veganism for greater health, however long you are able to maintain it before nutrient deficiencies kick in. It will eventually catch up with you, though. Health is a relative state. Just realize that SAD is an extremely low standard by which to make a comparison. Being slightly better than most sickly Americans is not necessarily that great of an achievement. Still, if you insist on being vegan because of ethical reasons, even knowing it might harm your health in the long term, there are worse and better ways of doing it.

    Whether one prioritizes plant foods or animal foods, your health will almost always improve on low-carb, especially keto. There might be certain conditions where this is not the case, but those conditions are rare. Humans evolved for low-carb with regular periods of ketosis. But many humans are so metabolically damaged that what is evolutionarily normal and optimal might not work for them. For example, my father struggles a bit on low-carb because a lifetime of SAD caused fatty liver and loss of his gallblader, which means he doesn’t digest fat well. But if he had been eating low-carb since childhood, that would never have been a problem in the first place. Nonetheless, that is his present reality and so he must accommodate his present state by limiting fats, using plenty of supplements to digest and process fat, and sometimes adding in exogenous ketones. We are working in less than optimal conditions. And so few of us are in an optimal state. If anything, most of us are severely damaged. It requires immense experimentation to find out how to heal or else work around that damage. In some ways, it’s irrelevant at this point what should be healthiest for humans since most of us are so fucked up. But it’s good to keep an optimal diet in mind if you’re raising kids, in that you might be able to prevent so much suffering and struggle for them and epigenetically pass down the benefits to future generations.

    Some, if not all, benefits can be gained on a vegan diet. Generally speaking, no matter the diet, low-carb is better than high-carb, fat-burning is better than sugar-burning, nutrient-density is better than nutrient-deficient, bioavailability is better than not, low levels of plant anti-nutrients is better than high, etc (for the last point, read Dr. Steven Gundry’s The Plant Paradox or the work by Sally Fallon Morrell, both sharing the traditional methods of preparing plant foods to lessen plant anti-nutrients). All of this is extremely harder to do on vegan than on non-vegan, but it can be done to some extent, however imperfectly. It’s better than nothing. If you do some of this other stuff right, you’ll be offsetting much of the harm that otherwise would be caused by a vegan diet. Does that mean a vegan diet ever could be optimally healthy? No. But maybe you’ll be still coming out ahead compared to your previous crappy diet and compared to most other people in this society. So, that’s something.

    Don’t take my word for it. Experiment and find out. But as I keep saying, do it with an open mind. Don’t let dogma dictate your decisions. Be open to all dietary options, as open to carnivore as to vegan. Try the whole spectrum of possibilities. Take each experiment seriously. Don’t settle for moderate health. After trying a variety of diets for extended periods where you honestly can assess them, if you feel better on carnivore than vegan, then be honest with yourself. Are you willing to sacrifice your health for ethics? That is a decision everyone has to make for themselves. If you decide it is worth it, keep in mind that your views might change as your health changes. Most people who start veganism don’t stick with it for long. If and when you begin to see and feel health deterioration, keep in mind that you are always free to try something else, even if simply switching over to vegetarian by including some high quality dairy and eggs.

    I’m not going to ‘shit on anyone, not going to attack, mock, dismiss, or in any way be an asshole toward those who choose veganism or whatever. More power to you. Go for it! I support you all the way. If you can prove me wrong in remaining vegan with high levels of health for years or even decades, then I’ll be happy for you. I’m not going to rain on your parade. If you ask me, I suspect your health will always be better with animal foods. But if you don’t want my opinion, then don’t ask me and stay far away from my blog, as I have a habit of voicing my opinions in my own blog. Still, however opposed I am to veganism, I will offer you the best advice possible about how to it as well as possible. I want you to succeed, maybe even prove me wrong. I’m crazy like that. Even so, that doesn’t change my views of veganism, either in terms of health or environment.

    Nonetheless, it’s a fact that anyone doing a plant-based diet, with or without any animal foods, can do it better by following the advice of someone like Dr. Will Cole (Ketotarian) or Dr. Terry Wahls (Wahls Protocol), although the latter is merely plant-based and not strictly vegan or vegetarian (Wahls used to be vegetarian, but came to include some nutrient-dense animal foods such as liver to reverse her multiple sclerosis, the first doctor in history to accomplish this miraculous feat). I recommend both authors. Even for omnivores, they might learn good info from these experts. I have their books and have used the info they provide, specifically in practical application in what I eat. As another guide, you can check out Thomas Delauer who, as a carnivore, decided to do a vegan keto experiment to show how it could be done. Or if you prefer to merely keep it moderately low-carb, there are those who offer a paleo approach to vegan (or vegetarian or basic plant-based), such as Dena Harris (The Paleo Vegetarian). When experimenting, get the best info so that you know that you gave it a fair trial. They have experimented along these lines and have years of experience, in some cases professionally working with patients.

    Also, keep in mind, a large number of people in the low-carb, keto carnivore, paleo, and traditional foods communities are former vegetarians and vegans (e.g., Nina Teicholz, a former vegetarian who has written one of the most important and influential books on the American diet), some having been on those diets for years before health problems made them rethink, and some of them who are in the healthcare field are still open to working with those who are vegetarian or vegan. These people have tremendous knowledge and, like me, the medical doctors, nutritionists, functional medical practitioners, health coaches, chiropractors, etc among them want you to succeed on any diet you’re on. They might personally hold that another diet is healthier, but that won’t stop them from helping you wherever you’re at. Heck, they’d even help people eat better on SAD, as for many people the simplest of changes can mean vast improvements.

    Here is the advantage to listening to low-carbers (by which I also mean ketoists and carnivores, along with most paleoists) is the following: What makes a low-carb diet different is that, in the modern Western world, nearly everyone was raised on a high-carb diet. A fair number of people grew up vegetarian or vegan. But having known low-carb all one’s life is almost unheard of in this society. It requires an open mind to even try it. Vegan and vegetarian are well within conventional thought and received wisdom, as they are essentially just more extreme versions of the USDA and AHA dietary recommendations of eating more vegetables, fruits, fiber, grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils. It’s not a great leap of faith or imagination to consider a plant-based diet since that is the most politically correct diet within established/entrenched social norms. Even though vegans and vegetarians are tiny percentage of the population, they get outsized attention in mainstream media, political campaigning, and the corporate food system. It’s so normalized that almost all snack/junk/fast food is vegan and almost no one even acknowledges this fact.

    To become a low-carber means at some point you had to question everything, had to buck the system, had to overcome everything you ever learned, had to be willing to try something entirely new, and maybe had to take strong opposition and criticism from almost everyone around you. Until the past couple of years, to be a low-carber was practically to be a freak in this society. To go down this hard path, one either had to be very open-minded, curious, and skeptical or else feeling overwhelmingly desperate. It’s unsurprising that many people only turned to low-carb diets after trying and failing at many other diets, after struggling for years or decades with serious health conditions, or even worse having faced what was essentially a death sentence with some diagnosis (from autoimmune disorder to Alzheimer’s). The low-carb community is unique in the diet world. These are people, often in their middle ages, who have been around the block and can speak from immense personal insight.

    As Brad Lemley put it, “One thing that always impresses me about low-carb and carnivore communities is that virtually every person in them had to change their mind, as this info was essentially nowhere roughly 15 years ago. I like people with the curiosity and humility to change course when warranted.” And as Tim Noakes responded, “In part why we are such a cohesive force (not, by the way, a cult). We’ve all experienced a life-changing event that was denied us for decades because the science has been so corrupted. Once you experience that Damascene moment, you want to share the message.” Noakes, by the way, was once a worldwide expert that advocated a high-carb diet, until rather late in life he was changed by learning new info. His example is typical. Even when such experts are critical of certain diets that they see as less than optimal, it doesn’t come from a place of ignorance and unconcern. They are speaking from hard-earned experience and experimentation, personal and sometimes scientific (Noakes is a researcher).

    All that aside, I could share all kinds of links with you, but I’ll just share some videos of Thomas Delauer’s vegan keto experiment and vegan advice:

    • In response to Brad Lemley’s Tweet, someone made a good summary of a point made by Gary Taubes in his survey of the history of low-carb diets. A similar survey is found in Nina Teicholz’s book.

      Knowledge of the low-carb diet goes back pretty much to the point when the high-carb diet began to be a problem. No one thought of recommending a low-carb diet before that because suffering from too many carbs was a rare conditions prior to the 19th century grain surpluses.

      I’d bring it back even further. One doctor in the 1790s was already recommending a low-carb diet to treat diabetes. It was common knowledge, in that period when the then new grain surpluses were being used to fatten cows, that starchy carbs caused obesity.

      glen belbeck
      “The sad thing, according to “Good Calories, Bad Calories” is that the info was available: in 1825 (Brillat-Savarin); in 1863 (William Banting); in 1900 (Sir William Osler); in 1957 (Hilde Brunch) and others! Each generation apparently needs to relearn the lessons of the past?”

      Susan Şipal
      “And William Dufty’s Sugar Blues 1975.”

  5. The oldest vegetarian or rather semi-vegetarian society is that of India. I’d make a number of points.

    They did get animal foods from dairy and eggs, and traditionally it would have been local, organic, and pasture-raised, that is to say nutrient-dense-and-bioavailable and toxin free. Also, before industrial agriculture, they got other non-plant foods from insects, insect eggs, and such. As I said in another comment, when pesticides were introduced, the affected populations lost this nutritious food source and their health declined.

    Besides that, eating meat was allowed during the fertile times of life. This shows that they understood what Weston A. Price discovered again in the early 1900s. Nutrient-density is always prized in traditional societies for young couples and for pregnant and breastfeeding women. That is the only way to have a healthy plant-based diet without industrial agriculture and without industrial supplements.

    Equally important, as with most traditional diets, the total amount of carbs was far less and hence largely ketogenic. Carb intake was limited by smaller portions and calorie restriction (in this case, for many because of poverty diet) and limited by regular fasting (that was strictly followed for culture and religion). So, the most plant-based traditional diet ever to exist would have been, for millennia, ketogenic and never strictly vegetarian.

    American vegetarians and vegans can ignore modern low-carbers if they want. But at the very least, they should follow the example of the only society on the planet that has ever demonstrated how to do a sustainable plant-based diet while maintaining an advanced civilization, as the Indians have been. And they should take a lessen from the vast decline in Indian health as the modern food system took over.

    Here is a Twitter discussion about it:

    Shariq Shamim, MD, FACC
    “And historical Indian eating pattern was ketogenic (1.5 meal a day). Multiple fasts prescribed per week by religion would make sure you’d go into ketosis periodically. Excellent review by

    Somalaram Venkatesh
    “The concept of ritualistic ‘fasting’ as it happens is no patch on the traditional ancient ones. If advocated, needs a massive rethink about HOW!!”

    Manoshi Bhattacharya
    “‘Traditional ancient’ needs further elaboration. This style of FASTING i.e. nil orally, was followed until the 1800s by everyone. The last of the true followers lived until 1970 – 1980. Our generation is possibly the last eyewitness.”

    Manoshi Bhattacharya
    “Correct. Till the 1800s it was mostly a ketogenic vegetarian lifestyle for the 3 of 4 phases of life. The reproductive phase of life – grihast ashram, was again mostly ketogenic but permitted the eating of meats, sugar and alcohol during feasts. FASTING always preceded Feasting.”

    Manoshi Bhattacharya
    “Approximately 7 days of fasting in a month with less than 50 g Glucogenic Carbohydrates (GC) .. we are not counting fiber, intake in a day. By definition KETO diets offer less than 20 g GC in a day.”

  6. I realize that Scott Wagner, for various reasons, doesn’t share my passion for the low-carb diet. This is the case in spite of both of us doing keto and finding benefit from it. As he said, he has had no desire to promote the diet. I can think of a couple of differences to explain this. First, he apparently wasn’t dealing with a major health crisis. Many in the low-carb community, specifically among keto adherents, have had profound experiences of healing that no other diet could have accomplished. Other than keto, no diet has the track record of reversing epileptic seizures, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, etc.

    If you are one of those who have experienced it for yourself, it is hard to not to sing the praises for what saved your life. But if you’ve never experienced any such miraculous transformation of healing, it is a challenge to appreciate what gets people so revved up. It’s impossible for me to explain to Scott how crippling is chronic depression that made my existence a living hell and literally almost got me killed through suicide. To have decades of depression disappear, after failure of all other interventions, all other diets, that is simply something one has to experience for oneself for there is no other way to understand it.

    The other thing is Scott has never read much in the low-carb literature. But once you’ve read the work of Gary Taubes and Nina Teicholz, once you’ve seen the account of Tim Noakes’ trial in the documentary The Magic Pill and Gary Fettke’s trial in the documentary Fat, you can’t help but feel outraged assuming you have a soul and a beating heart. There was a concerted effort by every major organization in American society and elsewhere in the Western world to suppress other voices and viewpoints, to punish them and silence them and make examples out of them.

    It was a heavy-handed propaganda campaign that was highly effective. Ancel Keys was one of the most brilliant propagandists who has ever lived. And EAT-Lancet is attempting to revive that propaganda campaign for the present. The failure of the low-carb diet as a social project is that it has never had a brilliant propagandist to advocate it and so has never been formulated as persuasive propaganda. The message of the low-carb community, instead, is often the opposite of propaganda. It’s the libertarian message that each of us is responsible for our own health and powerful interests, including but not limited to big gov, should get out of our lives.

    I like that message. But it doesn’t compete well with highly effective propaganda. Low-carbers, unlike Keys and his ilk (and unlike the Adventist machine), don’t have a desire to take over the AHA, ADA, and USDA, don’t have the desire to control scientific conferences and play the games of politics and media. There just is no one in the low-carb community with such aspirations and, even if they did have the aspirations, they lack the talent to enforce an entire ideological worldview onto all of Western civilization. A charismatic figure (and sociopath) like Keys doesn’t come around that often and typically when they do come around it isn’t in service to the genuine public good. This is a conundrum for those of us who do care about the public good.

    As much as I love experimentation, it’s not clear that this can stand up to the forces set against us. In watching the Fat documentary that just came out, I noticed that it falls into a typical trap of liberal-style thought. It presents facts as if knowledge should change minds, as if truth will always win out in the end. But what it lacks is compelling narrative and a coherent message that is repeated and driven home. That is to say it fails miserably as rhetoric. Yet it is filled with knowledge everyone should have, even if knowledge alone isn’t good enough.

  7. Here I am visiting this post again. It’s been on my mind, as it is the last post to which Scott Wagner left a comment, after years of often friendly dialogue between us. I genuinely liked the guy, in many ways, even with our occasional disagreements. As such, I remain sad and disappointed by the interaction and by his responses or rather lack of response to the substance of what I was trying to communicate.

    He refused to take up the challenge I posed, since it was a challenge to a group he personally identified with and so, instead, he took it as a personal attack. My criticisms, however, weren’t personal; and so it’s frustrating that he made it into a personal conflict, in his own mind. He apparently was unwilling or unable to listen and hear what I was actually saying, even when I went to great effort to humbly explain and clarify.

    In taking a defensive stance, Scott took my views as dismissive of his views and, in response, he dismissed my views. My attempt to explain that my purpose wasn’t to be dismissive fell on deaf ears, as he had already given up on fair and open dialogue, as one would expect among friends. I didn’t know it at the time, but he had left the blog for good, never to return, and so ended our relationship. For what reason? It’s not clear. Was veganism, as an ethical ideology, that important to him?

    I made it clear that I was not attacking individual vegans or their own intentions, something I respect in a way I don’t respect the intentions of, for example, right-wing reactionaries. As I said, I consider vegans to be more on my side, if one is to have sides. Most vegans and vegetarians I’ve personally known (as family, friends, and roommates) have been, like me, some combination of liberals and leftists. I share their ethical concerns about both environmentalism and animal welfare.

    As I’m willing to listen to the arguments of vegetarians and vegans, why are so few vegetarians and vegans willing to listen to the arguments of the likes of me? It’s an honest question that I’ve wondered about, as most non-vegans and non-vegetarians I’ve come across tend to be less ideologically attached to their diets. For whatever the reason, that makes for difficult discussion of the evidence as it is, in seeking truth.

    Unfortunately, Scott preferred to end our friendship than to take me seriously and at face value, in my stated intentions. And, as the online world goes, our relationship was as close to friendship as it comes. Once while traveling across the country, he stopped by here in Iowa City and visited my home and my parents’ home where he spent time with us. One doesn’t do that for someone considered unworthy.

    No matter what one wants to believe, the fact remains veganism is unhealthy. I never stated otherwise, even as I stated that a vegan diet was healthier than the standard American diet (SAD), one of the least healthy diets around. But I was being rather generous in giving veganism the benefit of the doubt, as I was trying to be conciliatory, not that it was received well with a an equally conciliatory response by Scott.

    The fact of the matter is that, even compared to a typical meat-eating diet filled with carbs and seed oils, veganism and vegetarianism actually don’t fare well in many studies. Interestingly, not long after our ‘dialogue’ fizzled out in bad feelings, I wrote a post about one such study showing the many negative health outcomes of such plant-based diets. Then, a few months after that in the following year, I wrote about plant-based nutritional deficiencies, closely related to an earlier post about the hubris of nutritionism.

    Still, I’ve long maintained an important distinction, of which I also wrote about at the time. The main component of dietary health, across numerous diverse diets, is the nutrient-density from animal foods. This even applies to standard vegetarianism with its inclusion of eggs and dairy. And, hence, this is why I’ve argued that vegetarianism should more accurately be called an animal-based diet. But the complicating factor is that many vegetarians are near-vegans in eating animal foods rarely, which is why so many vegetarians are about as unhealthy as vegans.

    The point remains. There is no reason a vegetarian who does include plenty of non-meat animal foods couldn’t be reasonably healthy, particularly with careful supplementation of other nutrients only or primarily found in muscle meat, organ meats, connective tissue, etc. But that simply is not the case with veganism that would even more heavily require supplementation.

    The thing is a diet that is dependent on a large number of supplements to maintain minimal health is, pretty much by definition, not a healthy diet. One might as well not eat anything at all, a breatharian diet, and get all nutrients from supplements. Arguing that a vegan diet is genuinely healthy really is that nonsensical. Yet it’s near impossible to get those on extreme plant-based diets to admit to such damning and undeniable truths. That is why attempts at dialogue, such as above, rarely go anywhere.

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