Research On Meat And Health

Below are mostly some scientific articles on meat-related research and meta-analyses. Mixed in are also some general articles discussing this area of scientific study and the implications of the evidence. A major focus is on the data that is available and lacking, but also the data that is in contradiction, specifically between Western and Asian sources. What some of the authors explain is how this is problematic in having led to unsubstantiated dietary recommendations and healthcare practices. Included further down is a section that explores a specific example, that of the so-called China Study.

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4/11/22 – As a revision, there was added new studies on meat-based diets. The most important is a recent Harvard research paper about the first carnivore diet study ever done. That has long been a criticisms, that there was no research on the carnivore diet. And it was as much, if not more, a criticism of nutrition studies than a criticism of the carnivore diet. It’s a diet that has been known about since earlier last century when an informal hospital study was done on a couple of individuals. Also, it’s long been known that some hunter-gatherer tribes follow a near-carnivore diet. Anyway, this is a game-changer.

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4/13/22 – All of this has still been on my mind, as I was noticing how much lively public debate is finally happening on these issues, after decades of suppression of public debate. It is quite refreshing. What has changed is a growing awareness of the replication crisis in nutrition studies. Researchers in the field knew about the replication crisis for a long time, but it took a while to filter out into the general public and begin to inform our critical attitude toward the older research. This was combined with improved standards for research that led to results and conclusions that challenged, contradicted, and in some cases disproved conventional wisdom, mainstream healthcare practice, and official dietary guidelines.

An example of this is the generations of fear-mongering over saturated fat. What is interesting about this is that, even though meat gets blamed, the main source of saturated fat is actually dairy. Indeed, following decades of decline of full-fat dairy, there was also a persistent takeover of plant-based fake ‘milk’. But, ironically, research shows the fake milks are worse than the real thing, for children most of all (Jen Christensen, Most young children shouldn’t drink plant-based milk, new health guidelines say). It is measurable in decreased height among children who partly or entirely drink plant milks, since they are getting less essential nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, and protein (not to mention plant proteins being less bioavailable).

There is a vast diversity of other essential and conditionally essential nutrients in dairy and other animal foods. The fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin D are particularly key, as they are hormones, hormone precursors, and hormone activators; including in determining how other nutrients (e.g., calcium) are used and where they are directed. Of course, fat-soluble vitamins are concentrated in the fat, and that fat can also have benefits. Dairy fat, much of it saturated, has been shown to prevent diabetes over the lifetime, but importantly proven effective in protecting children and adults from becoming overweight.

The mechanisms for this aren’t yet entirely known. Some suspect that the satiating effect of dairy fat, probably like any animal fat, will cause one to eat fewer carbohydrates and other calories. Indeed, there is evidence that when people imbibe low-fat dairy they compensate by increasing their carb intake. And carbs are much easier to overeat. But it’s also possible there is some molecule that upregulates fat utilization and metabolism. That is intriguing. Such dietary fats ensure the body doesn’t produce excess body fat. So, get more animal fat to stay trim! Drink the cow’s milk and eat the cow’s meat. That is the secret to a long, happy, and healthy life.

It’s not clear why animal fats got such a bad reputation. Lard has about the same ratio of monounsaturated fat (MUFAs) as olive oil, specifically oleic acid; and it is precisely because of oleic acid that olive oil is said to be so healthy. Red meat also has some MUFAs in them, if a relatively lesser percentage, but nonetheless ground beef has more MUFAs than saturated fat. Interestingly, dark chocolate has a balanced ratio of oleic acid and saturated fat stearic acid, the latter common in ruminant meat (tallow is also a concentrated source of the highly sought after conjugated linoleic acid or CLA that, like stearic acid, promotes a lean body). The major blame always goes to saturated fat, despite its intake not having increased, contrary to conventional claims; and dairy is a greater source than red meat — by the way, a new essential fat (EFA) was discovered (C15:0, pentadecylic acid, pentadecanoic acid, Fatty15, or FA15) that is most abundant in dairy fat and also higher in meat that is pasture-raised or wild-caught. Heck, coconut oil has more saturated fat than beef. Also, coconut oil and palm kernel oil are a significant source of a specific saturated fat called medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), along with dairy (particularly from goats (30-35%), sheep (10-25%), and cows (10-20%); not to mention in human breast milk (2-10%).

MCTs, although non-essential for adults, have proven to have immense benefit for energy metabolism (thermogenesis and fat oxidation) in the body in general and particularly in the brain. Combined with MCTs’ action as an appetite suppression, this might be the magical substance that limits weight gain with full fat dairy intake. They’ve gained public interest because they are the main ingredient in Bulletproof coffee, basically the one-two punch of MCTs plus caffeine (where the latter assists in fat burning). MCTs have also gained much fame in their benefiting serious neurocognitive issues such as Alzheimer’s where, because of insulin resistance in the brain, the neurons lose the capacity to use glucose and so MCTs offer an alternative source of fuel.

This is getting away from the issue of meat and even necessarily animal foods, as plant-based MCTs are popular these days; but let’s dig a bit more into these awesome saturated fats. One thing MCTs are known to do is help the body to produce ketones, even with moderate carb intake, despite ketones typically only produced at high levels (i.e., ketosis) with a consistently and strictly very low-carb diet (the kind of diet that is much easier and more satisfying to do with animal foods and animal fat). The thing is, even when carb levels are high enough to guarantee non-ketosis, MCTs still show neurocognitive benefit in studies demonstrating other pathways of action. It turns out the MCTs themselves can be used by the brain.

A related phenomenon is seen in general during early human life. From fetus to at least early teen years, it appears that all humans are continuously in a state of ketosis, according to various studies and the work of Angela A. Stanton. This might make sense for infants with their diet of MCTs from breast milk that, by the way, is loaded with sugar. Yet even older children on a high-carb diet remain in ketosis. That indicates ketones and ketosis is central to early development. Interestingly, even as all young people are presumably in ketosis, a keto diet (often including MCTs) has still benefited children with neurocognitive disorders (e.g., epileptic seizures) and serious diseases (e.g., type II diabetes).

Anyway, considering the neurocognitive advantages of MCTs, maybe it’s significant that the rise of the challenging complexities within civilization coincided with the widespread increased adult consumption of MCT-filled milk, butter, and other dairy foods. Genghis Khan and his Mongol army nearly conquered all of Eurasia on a diet consisting mostly of red meat, dairy, and blood — saturated fat galore! From butter and ghee to lard and tallow, animal fats have often been a way for farming communities, from feudal villages to pre-war Okinawa, to get an extremely concentrated source of calories and nutrients, sometimes MCTs as well, while on an otherwise limited agricultural diet.

That isn’t even to cover the hundreds of other fatty acids, saturated and otherwise, found in meat and other animal foods. A saturated fat already mentioned, the long chain stearic acid (SA), also helps the body burn fat as do MCTs. Some long chain saturated fats are odd-chained and, as has been argued, among them might be those that are essential. This is the problem as the components of animal foods have been understudied. It’s related to the problem of all the plant foods and plant-based supplements that research shows as beneficial, but when one looks deeper the same benefits often can be obtained through animal foods, a low-carb diet, fasting, exercise, etc.

Palmitic acid, palmitoleic acid, (Omega-7) mearic acid, conjugated linoleic acid (trans fat). Or consider butyrate, a short chain fatty acid (SFCA). It’s why there are official recommendations for a high-fiber diet because fermentation creates butyrate and other SFCAs. Yet butyrate is also found in dairy fat, if only at 4%. Then again, butyrate can form as well from the fermentation of animal connective tissues and collagen. Besides, on a low-carb diet, the body produces a similar molecule, beta-hydroxybutyrate. So, another plant-based talking point is shot down.

Then there is arachidonic acid (ARA) that, though an omega-6, is not inflammatory like the omega-6s in seed oils; and instead it actually regulates inflammation. It does compete for absorption and utilization with the omega-3 docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) that is more well known as an anti-inflammatory, but that probably just means the body doesn’t need both ARA and DHA in high amounts at the same time since they both have this same overlapping purpose. There might be a reason some animal foods are higher in ARA and lower in DHA (beef), while others are the reverse (cold water fatty fish). Then again, any pasture-raised or wild-caught animal food will be higher in these kinds of healthy fats.

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8/15/22 – One could add much more info about the affect of meat and animal-based nutrition on mental health. The more one looks for the scientific evidence the more one finds. Of course, studies are mixed and this is a field in the middle of a replication crisis. There are more badly designed than well designed studies, unfortunately. Nonetheless, there is growing evidence, as research improves, showing the importance of animal foods. The further evidence will be included below. But let us note two basic points. Much of the evidence indicates that an animal-based diet, particularly one including meat, is strongly associated to greater mental health; specifically lower rates of mood disorders. This is unsurprising as many animal-based nutrients, from carnitine and DHA to choline and B vitamins, have been specifically studied in their positive affect on neurocognitive functioning.

A basic nutrient many people, other than weightlifters, don’t know about is creatine that, besides promoting muscle-building, is necessary for brain health and can be used to treat psychiatric disorders (Patricia J. Allen, Creatine metabolism and psychiatric disorders: Does creatine supplementation have therapeutic value?). Another interesting example, the abovementioned EFA C15:0 has anti-anxiety effects (Eric Venn-Watson, A New Take on Comfort Food: Getting the Anxiety-Lowering Effects of Food without the Calories). Depression has often been studied in terms of animal fats, specifically those high in wild-caught fish (docosahexaenoic acid or DHA) and pasture-raised ruminants (conjugated linoleic acid or CLA) (Luisa Cigliano et al, Dietary Supplementation with Fish Oil or Conjugated Linoleic Acid Relieves Depression Markers in Mice by Modulation of the Nrf2 Pathway). One could go on and on with the immense research on various animal-based nutrients. Unsurprisingly, those on extreme plant-based diets show improvements with supplementation.

Interestingly, the comparison of animal-based and plant-based diets aside, at least one study showed no difference on mental health for those eating meat versus fish (Mary Hysing et al, Fatty Fish Intake and the Effect on Mental Health and Sleep in Preschool Children in FINS-KIDS, a Randomized Controlled Trial). It could be noted, though, that meat intake was neutral for dementia, whereas fish intake lowered risk (Pascale Barberger-Gateau et al, Fish, meat, and risk of dementia: cohort study); but this could merely be increased omega-3s intake balancing out the harm of excessive omega-6s from seed oils; and so possibly there would be no difference between meat and fish if that confounder was controlled for. Almost any kind of animal flesh will apparently be beneficial, if there might be some variance depending on specific nutritional profiles; with the possible exclusion of processed meats, as some research indicates, that contain a lot of non-animal additives, although the ingredients of processed meats vary greatly and studies of them are confounded with the unhealthy user effect.

Here is a takeaway point. It’s not only what benefit might be gained from animal-based nutrition but what harm might be caused by non-animal substances that either are added to agricultural goods (e.g., glyphosate) and processed foods (preservatives, artificial flavorings, etc), including processed meats, or that are naturally found in plant foods (antinutrients like lectins, oxalates, salicylates, goitrogens, phytoestrogens, phytates, and tannins; proteins such as gliadin/gluten and zein; hormone mimics in soy; etc). Avoiding plant foods, for many people, can be as important as adding animal foods. This is what so many have found when they’ve eliminated certain plant foods or gone strict carnivore. Disabling and sometimes deadly conditions, from cancer to autoimmune disorders, have been reversed and possibly cured; but we aren’t allowed to call them cured because these diets are considered medical treatments and not normal eating patterns consistent with millions of years of hominid evolution.

Beyond that, surely eggs and dairy would have some benefits as well (Aurora Perez-Cornago, Intake of High-Fat Yogurt, but Not of Low-Fat Yogurt or Prebiotics, Is Related to Lower Risk of Depression in Women of the SUN Cohort Study; Chen Du, Relationships between Dairy and Calcium Intake and Mental Health Measures of Higher Education Students in the United States: Outcomes from Moderation Analyses; Ester Solberg, The Effects of Powdered Fertilized Eggs on Depression; etc). But that isn’t our focus here; if it is important to note that animal foods are what distinguish lacto-ovo-vegetarianism from strict plant-exclusive veganism.

There is a helpful angle to take. In one study, even as the conclusion was questionable, the data was telling (Christopher J. Hopwood, The link between vegetarian diet and depression might be explained by depression among meat-reducers). The author found that depression was more associated with meat-reduction than with vegetarianism/veganism. This might seem strange, if one is unfamiliar with other data. When asked, most vegetarians admit to eating meat and fish while vegans admit to eating animal foods; not to mention many vegetarians getting much nutrition from dairy and eggs. In knowing many vegetarians and vegans over a lifetime, we have observed that most do eat significant amount of animal foods. As a case in point, we know a self-identified vegan who regularly eats fish and daily puts cream into her coffee. Many such people are more focused on eating a plant-based diet than in eliminating animal foods. This could be why there is a major distinction between meat-reducers and vegetarians/vegans, the two not necessarily being the same.

Consider the most vegetarian population on the planet, a population that once commonly sacrificed animals to their gods, a historically recent result of the meat and fish taxes enforced by the British Empire (Rohini Krishnamurthy, ‘Indian vegetarians do not eat vegetables’). In India, 39% identify as vegetarian (almost 4 in 10, about 400 million), “according to a new Pew Research Center survey. (While there are many ways to define “vegetarian” in India, the survey left the definition up to the respondent” (Manolo Corichi, Eight-in-ten Indians limit meat in their diets, and four-in-ten consider themselves vegetarian); although multiple Indian states have +98% non-vegetarians. Overall, 81% claim to reduce meat intake, but 70% still regularly eat dairy, eggs, and fish; and “42.8% Indian women and 48.9% of men consumed poultry and meat weekly” with “barely 6% of the population eats meat on a daily basis, and nearly 40% on a weekly basis,” however ‘meat’ is being defined.

Then again, there is a problem of underreporting where, in India, eating beef is socially condemned and beef bans are sometimes enforced. Nonetheless: “A reported 7% of the population eats beef. However, this figure is disputed by many researchers, who claim that the actual statistic is closer to 15% with people unwilling to admit to eating meat due to cultural and religious factors” (Roshni Ramesan, India Has 70%+ Non-Vegetarian Population But Is Considered Vegetarian; Why?). There was no data found on how many Indian vegetarians eat ‘meat’, what kind, how often, and under what circumstances. We can’t assume that vegetarianism always means never eating meat or even not eating meat regularly, and that goes doubly in speaking about other cultures. The main reason people all over the world eat less meat than they otherwise would is simply the costs of meat and the commonality of poverty. The main point is most people across all countries, maybe including most vegetarians, eat meat when it’s available.

Plus, based on an old cultural bias going back to the ancient world, many vegetarians and vegans don’t consider fish to be meat and others are also willing to make an exception for chicken. Combined with dairy and eggs, that can potentially be enough animal-based nutrition to avoid the worst deficiency-related health conditions and diseases. Anyway, most people on such diets aren’t doing so for dogmatic principles: “the majority (54%) of vegetarians were open to the possibility of eating meat. […] Despite the fact that eating meat fundamentally defies the definition of being a vegetarian, meat-eating vegetarians appear to comprise a substantial proportion of the vegetarian population: For example, a study by Kwan and Roth (2004) revealed that 40% of self-identified vegetarians actually eat meat” (Daniel L. Rosenfeld, What Does It Take to Get a Vegetarian to Eat Meat? Factors Predicting Dietary Adherence).

Other data shows it to be a much higher number: “A poll conducted by CNN surveyed 10,000 Americans about their eating habits, and roughly 6% of the respondents self-identified as vegetarians. The researchers then asked individuals to describe their eating habits, and 60% of the “vegetarians” reported having eaten meat within the last 24 hours. Okay, that could’ve have been a fluke (or just a really, really dumb sample group). Then the U.S. Department of Agriculture conducted a similar study. This time, they telephoned approximately 13,000 Americans, and 3% claimed to be vegetarians. When they followed up a week later, 66% of the self-proclaimed veggie-lovers had eaten meat the day before” (Erika Grant, SURVEY: 60% Of Self-Proclaimed Vegetarians Ate Meat Yesterday). If two-thirds of vegetarians eat meat on a daily basis, then what kind of ‘vegetarianism’ are we talking about. Talk about a confounding factor. This calls into question every scientific study and survey ever done in studying ‘vegetarianism’, specifically in comparing ‘vegetarianism’ with meat-inclusive diets.

There are many reasons meat-abstainers lapse, a common reason being drunkenness, but even without alcohol many regularly imbibe animal flesh: “34% said every time they drink, 26% said fairly often, 22% said rarely, and 18% said occasionally” (Mary Bowerman, Survey: 1 in 3 vegetarians admits to eating meat when drunk). For a significant number, they might not perceive it as a lapse at all: “Some vegetarians reported that they view their diets as flexible guidelines, rather than rigid rules they ought to follow without exception” (Daniel L.Rosenfeld & A. Janet Tomiyama, When vegetarians eat meat: Why vegetarians violate their diets and how they feel about doing so). Many vegans in particular and many vegetarians as well openly admit that their ideological position is not primarily about diet but more broadly about an ethical lifestyle, which is why any diet that adheres to the least harm principle can be reasonably and fairly labeled as ‘vegan’ (Carnivore Is Vegan).

Even then, most of these supposed plant-based meat-abstainers or merely meat-reducers go back to regularly eating meat (Faunalytics, A Summary Of Faunalytics’ Study Of Current And Former Vegetarians And Vegans). Most vegetarians and vegans couldn’t even last a year on the diet, a third not making it beyond three months, and most of the rest giving up within a few years (Colin Schultz, Most Vegetarians Lapse After Only a Year), “with 9 years being the average length of time of abstinence” (Sarah Pope, Most Vegetarians Return to Eating Meat due to Failing Health) and the average age being quite young at 28 years old, which means most of them spent their first couple of decades or so eating meat (Scritto da Redazione, Why do most vegetarians go back to eating meat?); such that “ex-vegetarians outnumber current vegetarians by a ratio of three to one, suggesting that 75% of vegetarians lapse” (Guy McCardle, Lapsed Vegetarians or, Return of the Meat-Eaters). The main reason given for ending their meatless experiment was declining health and persistent physical weakness, while others noted animal-based cravings and a general sense of constant hunger. Hunger for meat is built into our biology from evolution. For optimal health, we need animal-based nutrition and, no matter our personal ideology, our bodies know what we need.

Plant-based advocates can’t deny the failure of this ideological project — more from Sarah Pope: “Even the 2017 Netflix documentary What The Health was unable to name a single vegan population group that was successful long term! […] I submit that the results of this survey are not surprising and are in fact a testament to the research of Dr. Weston A. Price. Dr. Price traveled the world in the 1920s and 1930s visiting 14 isolated cultures in the process. During this adventure which he documented in great detail with amazing pictures in his masterpiece Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, Dr. Price concluded that while the diets of these natives varied widely, nutrient dense animal foods high in the fat soluble vitamin A, D, and K2 (also known as Activator X) were the common denominator. Consumption of these animal foods were revered in these communities as they bestowed vibrant health, easy fertility, healthy children, and high resistance to chronic and infectious disease.

“This discovery was a disappointment to Dr. Price who had expected to find the vegetarian cultures to be the healthiest cultures of all. But, the vegetarian cultures he examined displayed far more degeneration and tooth decay than the omnivore cultures. This surprised him given that these vegetarian cultures did indeed have superior health than the Americans of his day. However, he could not deny that the health of the indigenous omnivores exceeded that of the vegetarian cultures. Those consuming a wide variety of marine seafoods exhibited the most vibrancy of all.” One of Dr. Price’s expectations actually was of discovering a plant-exclusive traditional community, somewhere in the world, but he never did find such a mythical creature. Knowing what we now know, this is the opposite of surprising. By the way, as related to mental health, Dr. Price observed populations that had plentiful fatty animal foods (i.e., nutrient-density) in their diet exhibited greater ‘moral health’: happier, friendlier, kinder, and more helpful.

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Meat and mental health: a systematic review of meat abstention and depression, anxiety, and related phenomena
by Urska Dobersek, Gabrielle Wy, Joshua Adkins, Sydney Altmeyer, Kaitlin Krout, Carl J. Lavie, & Edward Archer

Studies examining the relation between the consumption or avoidance of meat and psychological health varied substantially in methodologic rigor, validity of interpretation, and confidence in results. The majority of studies, and especially the higher quality studies, showed that those who avoided meat consumption had significantly higher rates or risk of depression, anxiety, and/or self-harm behaviors. There was mixed evidence for temporal relations, but study designs and a lack of rigor precluded inferences of causal relations. Our study does not support meat avoidance as a strategy to benefit psychological health.

Red meat consumption and mood anxiety disorders
by Felice N. Jacka, Julie A. Pasco, Lana J. Williams, Neil Mann, Allison Hodge, Laima Brazionis, & Michael Berk

The fact that red meat was a prominent component of this protective dietary pattern was of some interest, as previous studies examining dietary patterns as predictors of illness have observed red meat to be a part of unhealthy dietary patterns (e.g. [9-11]). Moreover, there are published studies from Australia [12] and Scandinavia [13] reporting that vegetarians and/or low meat consumers have poorer mental health than those who habitually eat meat, although the direction of the relationship between vegetarian status and mental health is unclear. […]

For those women consuming less than the recommended intake of red meat per week, the odds for MDD/dysthymia were more than doubled compared to those consuming the recommended intakes. Similarly, those women with low red meat consumption were nearly twice as likely to have an anxiety disorder. Adjusting for ‘traditional’ dietary patern scores resulted in strengthening of the relationship between high meat intake and these variables (table 1).

Meat Consumption Associated with Less Anxiety and Depression
by Joseph E. Scherger

Twenty studies met the selection criteria, representing 171,802 participants (157,778 meat consumers and 13,259 meat abstainers). Most studies showed meat abstainers recorded higher rates of depression, anxiety, and self-harm, including suicide. Meat abstainers also were more likely to be prescribed medication for mental health problems. Conversely, the authors observed meat consumption was associated with significantly lower rates of depression ( P < 0.001) and anxiety ( P = 0.02). Their analysis showed the more rigorous the study, the more positive and consistent the relation between meat consumption and better mental health.

Evolutionary biologists have shown ancient Homo sapiens were omnivores who ate both animal and plant foods. 1,2 Our relatively large brains and narrow waistlines reflect this. […] People who were vegans for many years have reported a dramatic improvement in their well-being once they varied their diet to include healthy animal products.

Meat and mental health: A meta-analysis of meat consumption, depression, and anxiety
by Urska Dobersek, et al

In this meta-analysis, we examined the quantitative relation between meat consumption or avoidance, depression, and anxiety. In June 2020, we searched five online databases for primary studies examining differences in depression and anxiety between meat abstainers and meat consumers that offered a clear (dichotomous) distinction between these groups. Twenty studies met the selection criteria representing 171,802 participants with 157,778 meat consumers and 13,259 meat abstainers. We calculated the magnitude of the effect between meat consumers and meat abstainers with bias correction (Hedges’s g effect size) where higher and positive scores reflect better outcomes for meat consumers. Meat consumption was associated with lower depression (Hedges’s g = 0.216, 95% CI [0.14 to 0.30], p < .001) and lower anxiety (g = 0.17, 95% CI [0.03 to 0.31], p = .02) compared to meat abstention. Compared to vegans, meat consumers experienced both lower depression (g = 0.26, 95% CI [0.01 to 0.51], p = .041) and anxiety (g = 0.15, 95% CI [-0.40 to 0.69], p = .598). Sex did not modify these relations. Study quality explained 58% and 76% of between-studies heterogeneity in depression and anxiety, respectively. The analysis also showed that the more rigorous the study, the more positive and consistent the relation between meat consumption and better mental health. The current body of evidence precludes causal and temporal inferences.

The case for red meat
by George Henderson

Several observational studies have looked at the characteristics of meat-avoiding populations and found alarming increases in depression, anxiety and self-harm.

“The majority of studies, and especially the higher quality studies, showed that those who avoided meat consumption had significantly higher rates or risk of depression, anxiety, and/or self-harm behaviors. There was mixed evidence for temporal relations, but study designs and a lack of rigor precluded inferences of causal relations. Our study does not support meat avoidance as a strategy to benefit psychological health.”[3]

How can we explain these correlations? Why should we assume that they are causal?There are several lines of evidence to support a causal link:

1) several nutrients found in meat and animal foods are important factors in mood and cognition; vitamin B12, iron, carnitine, DHA, choline and tryptophan are some examples.[4]

2) the fatty acid mix in dairy and red meat has a similar composition to that of amniotic fluid and breast milk which has anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects in young animals.[5]

3) soy is a convenient and cheap replacement for animal protein; soy processing in Western diets results in a 10-fold higher level of the estrogenic contaminant isoflavone than that found in Asian diets.[6] Soy isoflavone causes anxiety behaviour in young female animals, and there is evidence supporting psychotropic and hormonal effects in humans.[7,8,9.10] Interestingly, while right-wing critiques of soy eating focus on effects it can have on young men, the scientific evidence for adverse effects in younger females, converting to HRT-like benefits after menopause, is stronger.[11]

4) other toxins found in plants, such as salicylates and oxalates, as well as problematic proteins such as gliadin/gluten and zein, may be present at higher levels in meat-free diets (but are not unique to them). A vegan mince sold in Countdown supermarkets is simply a coloured blend of soy protein and gluten, a protein linked to the risk of schizophrenia.[12]

In the New Zealand context it would be relatively easy to confirm or dispute some of these associations. Everyone admitted to hospital for longer than a day supplies their dietary preferences. The dietetic preference data from psychiatric admissions could be both linked to outcomes over time and compared with the population average distribution, or the distribution in a ward where diet is least likely to play a role in admissions.

Dietary Recommendations for Familial Hypercholesterolaemia: an Evidence-Free Zone
by David M Diamond, et al

Key points

  • Current dietary guidelines for management of coronary heart disease (CHD) risk in familial hypercholesterolaemia (FH) are based on the diet-heart hypothesis, which is outdated and unsupported.
  • There is no evidence to support the recommendation that FH individuals should consume a low saturated fat, low cholesterol diet.
  • A low carbohydrate diet (LCD) significantly improves cardiovascular disease biomarkers, compared with a low fat diet.
  • There is sufficient rationale for conducting clinical trials to assess the effects of an LCD on FH individuals with an insulin-resistant phenotype.
  • Extensive research has documented that hypercoagulation is a more important risk factor for CHD than low-density lipoprotein cholesterol in FH. Therefore, LCD trials should include FH subjects with an elevated risk of hypercoagulation.

Consumption of Unprocessed Red Meat Is Not a Risk to Health
from World Farmers’ Organisation (WFO) Scientific Council

A synopsis of five significant, recent and broad-scale scientific investigations on the health risks and health benefits of red meat consumption indicates that there is no convincing scientific evidence for assertions about harmful health effects of unprocessed red meat intake. If at all, the data very slightly lean toward an association of red meat consumption and protective health benefits. Overall, any of the statistical associations of up to 100 grams of red meat consumption per capita per day are so weak that they should be considered neutral. It is notable that less than 1% of the global population consumes more than 85 grams of red meat per day. From a global public health perspective, then, red meat consumption above the threshold of 85 grams is so negligible as to be irrelevant. National governments and supranational organizations such as the EU and UN, and their initiatives such as this year’s UN Food Systems Summit, as well as international business and consumer associations, would be wrong to assume that a scientific consensus exists to justify policies to reduce red meat consumption in the general population for health reasons.

Associations of unprocessed and processed meat intake with mortality and cardiovascular disease in 21 countries [Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) Study]: a prospective cohort study
by Romaina Iqbal, et al

In a large multinational prospective study, we did not find significant associations between unprocessed red meat and poultry intake and mortality or major CVD.

Controversy on the correlation of red and processed meat consumption with colorectal cancer risk: an Asian perspective (full paper)
by Sun Jin Hur, et al

We conducted an in-depth analysis of prospective, retrospective, case-control and cohort studies, systematic review articles, and IARC monograph reports, which revealed that the IARC/WHO report weighted the results of studies based in Western countries more and that the correlation between intake of processed meat products and colorectal cancer incidence in Asians is not clearly supported. Among 73 epidemiological studies, approximately 76% were conducted in Western countries, whereas only 15% of studies were conducted in Asia. Furthermore, most studies conducted in Asia showed that processed meat consumption is not related to the onset of cancer. Moreover, there have been no reports showing significant correlation between various factors that directly or indirectly affect colorectal cancer incidence, including processed meat products types, raw meat types, or cooking methods.

Red meat and colon cancer: A review of mechanistic evidence for heme in the context of risk assessment methodology
by Claire Kruger & Yuting Zhou

In conclusion, the methodologies employed in current studies of heme have not provided sufficient documentation that the mechanisms studied would contribute to an increased risk of promotion of preneoplasia or colon cancer at usual dietary intakes of red meat in the context of a normal diet.

Meat intake and cause-specific mortality: a pooled analysis of Asian prospective cohort studies
by Jung Eun Lee, et al

Ecological data indicate an increase in meat intake in Asian countries; however, our pooled analysis did not provide evidence of a higher risk of mortality for total meat intake and provided evidence of an inverse association with red meat, poultry, and fish/seafood. Red meat intake was inversely associated with CVD mortality in men and with cancer mortality in women in Asian countries.”

No association between meat intake and mortality in Asian countries
by Dominik D Alexander

After pooling data across the cohorts, Lee et al (3) observed no significant increases in risk of all-cause mortality comparing the highest with the lowest intake categories of total meat, red meat, poultry, or fish. In contrast, most associations were in the inverse direction with significant decreased risks for poultry (among men and women) and fish (women), with a nearly significant decreased risk with greater intakes of red meat in women (upper CI: 1.00). Similar patterns of associations (most indicating a decreased risk) were observed for cause-specific mortality; comparing the highest with the lowest intake categories, significant decreased risks of CVD mortality with red meat (men) and cancer mortality with red meat and poultry (women) were observed. The only significant positive association in the overall analyses was for the highest category of fish intake and cancer mortality. Little effect modification was apparent after stratification by educational level and by BMI.

Cancer link to red meat consumption may not exist for Asians: Study
by Pearly Neo

Researchers in Korea have discovered that the link between meat consumption and colorectal cancer may not apply to Asians. The meat-colorectal cancer correlation was first elucidated in a report by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in 2015. The Korean researchers carried out a thorough review of over 500 studies that had previously been conducted on meat consumption and cancer. These included cohort and case-control analyses, prospective and retrospective studies, other review articles, as well as IARC monograph reports. Of these, 73 human epidemiological studies were selected for more in-depth analysis.

“The aim was to investigate the relationship between meat intake and colorectal cancer risk from an Asian, particularly Korean, perspective,” ​said the authors. “[We found] that approximately 76% [of the studies] were conducted in Western countries, whereas only 15% of studies were conducted in Asia. Furthermore, most studies conducted in Asia showed that processed meat consumption is not related to the onset of cancer.”​ “[As such], the correlation between intake of processed meat products and colorectal cancer incidence in Asians is not clearly supported,” ​they concluded. The study also reported that there do not exist any conclusive reports proving a significant correlation between meat consumption and colorectal cancer, whether it involves processed meats, raw meats or the relevant cooking methods.

Unprocessed Red Meat and Processed Meat Consumption: Dietary Guideline Recommendations From the Nutritional Recommendations (NutriRECS) Consortium
by Bradley C. Johnston, et al

Recommendations: The panel suggests that adults continue current unprocessed red meat consumption (weak recommendation, low-certainty evidence). Similarly, the panel suggests adults continue current processed meat consumption (weak recommendation, low-certainty evidence). […]

Contemporary dietary guidelines recommend limiting consumption of unprocessed red meat and processed meat. For example, the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting red meat intake, including processed meat, to approximately 1 weekly serving (1). Similarly, United Kingdom dietary guidelines endorse limiting the intake of both red and processed meat to 70 g/d (2), and the World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research recommend limiting red meat consumption to moderate amounts and consuming very little processed meat (3). The World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer has indicated that consumption of red meat is “probably carcinogenic” to humans, whereas processed meat is considered “carcinogenic” to humans (4). “These recommendations are, however, primarily based on observational studies that are at high risk for confounding and thus are limited in establishing causal inferences, nor do they report the absolute magnitude of any possible effects. Furthermore, the organizations that produce guidelines did not conduct or access rigorous systematic reviews of the evidence, were limited in addressing conflicts of interest, and did not explicitly address population values and preferences, raising questions regarding adherence to guideline standards for trustworthiness (5–9). […]

In our assessment of causal inferences on unprocessed red meat and processed meat and adverse health outcomes, we found that the absolute effect estimates for red meat and processed meat intake (13, 16) were smaller than those from dietary pattern estimates (14), indicating that meat consumption is unlikely to be a causal factor of adverse health outcomes (Table 1).

Total Meat Intake is Associated with Life Expectancy: A Cross-Sectional Data Analysis of 175 Contemporary Populations
by Wenpeng You, et al

This ecological study examined the relationship between meat intake and life expectancy at birth e(0), at age 5 years e(5) and child mortality at a population level. Our statistical analysis results indicate that countries with the greater meat intake have greater life expectancy and lower child mortality. This relationship is independent of the effects of caloric intake, socioeconomic status (GDP PPP), obesity, urbanization (lifestyle) and education. Of course, nutritional variations among countries include many more variables than those included into this study. Diet composition, food preparation methods, cultural dietary constraints, availability of some nutrients and a number of other variables should have been considered to obtain a complete picture of meat’s importance in human diet. However, even with these possible analytical inadequacies, our statistical analyses indicate a significant role that meat plays in influencing variation of survival and mortality.

Meat has advantages over food of plant origin in containing complete protein with all essential amino acids, is rich in vitamins, in particular vitamin B12, and all essential minerals. It has a significant role not only for maintenance of health, development and proper growth59 but also has played an important evolutionary role in ancestral hominins for approximately 2.6 million years.60,61

Benefits of meat eating include better physical growth and development,62 optimal breastfeeding of neonates, and offspring growth.63 Human adaptation to meat eating and mechanism to digest and metabolise meat6,59,62,64–67 have been supported by studies in human dietary evolution. This may also be reflected in the importance of meat eating for human’s whole life span.5,60,68 Culturally, meat production and eating have also been integrated into human societies.62,69–72

A study of more than 218,000 adults from over 50 countries around the world suggests that consuming unprocessed meat regularly can reduce the risk of early death and can increase human longevity.73 A recent dietary advice published by Lancet Public Health advocates an increase of dietary meat in order to benefit our heart health and longevity.74 This study also highlights that saturated fat in meat may be cardio protective, as well as, that meat contains many vitamins and the essential amino acids for human health and well-being.73,74

Recent epidemiological literature highlights that increasing meat consumption, especially in its processed forms, may have adverse health effects, such as cancer,8 cardiovascular disease,75 obesity31,76–78 and diabetes.79 However, there has been no clinical trial evidence to consolidate the putative negative effects of processed meat consumption for human health.21 The aforementioned epidemiological literature is not reflected in the healthy food guidelines published by the government authorities for general public. These guidelines always include meat as a major human dietary component. One reason for their position could be a lack of evidence-based research that demonstrates negative aspects of meat consumption in the general human population.80–83 Statistically, the finding of this study unequivocally indicates that meat eating benefits life expectancy independently.

Meat contains high protein with all the essential amino acids, and is a good source of minerals (iron, phosphorus, selenium and zinc) and vitamins (B12, B6, K, choline, niacin, riboflavin). Simply put – a human animal consuming a body of another animal gets practically all constituent compounds of its own body.

Behavioral Characteristics and Self-Reported Health Status among 2029 Adults Consuming a “Carnivore Diet”
by Belinda S Lennerz, et al
(also see: Reply to R Kirwan, GS Mallett, L Ellis, and A Flanagan)

In this social media–based survey, a self-selected group of adults consuming a carnivore diet for ≥6 mo reported perceived good health status, perceived absence of symptoms of nutritional deficiencies, and high satisfaction with this eating pattern. To our knowledge, this is the first modern report on a large group of people habitually consuming few plant foods, a dietary pattern broadly considered incompatible with good health.

Weight loss and other health benefits were most frequently indicated as the motivation for adoption of a carnivore diet. In accordance with this possibility, respondents reported substantial BMI reduction and improvements in physical and mental well-being, overall health, and numerous chronic medical conditions. Respondents with diabetes reported special benefit, including greater weight loss than the overall group, and marked reductions in diabetes medication usage and HbA1c—notable findings in view of the generally low success of lifestyle interventions for obesity and diabetes (3738). Although we did not formally assess macronutrient intake, carbohydrate content in meat and other animal-based foods is minimal, and inherent limits to protein intake exist. Both ancestral data (39) and self-reported preference of fatty cuts of meat in our survey suggest high fat intake with the carnivore diet. As such, the macronutrient composition of a carnivore diet would likely correspond to other very-low-carbohydrate diets (e.g., ketogenic, Atkins). For this reason, studies of these diets may provide relevant comparisons. In meta-analyses of trials for T2DM, low- compared with high-carbohydrate diets produced greater weight loss (40–42), lower HbA1c (40–46), and reduction in usage of glucose-lowering medications (41434546), consistent with our observations. Although general dietary adherence and glycemic effects diminish over time (47), the findings of 1 recent nonrandomized trial suggest that a very-low-carbohydrate diet may be sustainable and efficacious when combined with high-intensity individual support (48).

Consistent with other low-carbohydrate diet studies (40–45), respondents reported a mixed blood lipid pattern: LDL-cholesterol, a major conventional cardiovascular disease risk factor, was markedly elevated whereas HDL-cholesterol and TG were favorable. However, LDL-cholesterol elevation, when associated with low TG, may reflect large, buoyant lipoprotein particles, possibly comprising a relatively low-risk subtype (49). Indeed, the low ratio of TG to HDL-cholesterol is suggestive of high insulin sensitivity and good cardiometabolic health (50). However, it is unclear whether this apparent benefit of the diet, together with the reported weight reduction and improved glycemic control (in the subset with diabetes), would counterbalance or outweigh any increased risk from LDL-cholesterol elevation. For individuals with a more extreme LDL-cholesterol response, drug treatment could be considered—an option that is generally more effective and better tolerated than drug treatment of insulin-resistance dyslipidemia.

Beyond macronutrient composition, elimination of allergenic, inflammatory, or other food components may provide potential health benefits to individuals following a carnivore diet. Food allergies and sensitivities are common, and predominantly related to plant foods (51). Some plant chemicals may produce adverse effects through other mechanisms, such as lecithin in beans, cyanogenic glycosides in certain seeds, and glycoalkaloids in potatoes. Indeed, >50% of survey participants started the carnivore diet to improve allergic, skin, or autoimmune conditions, or digestive health, and many reported improvements in inflammatory conditions and related symptoms. Conversely, dietary intake may be low for vitamins that are typically derived from plant foods (e.g., fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and grains) or from nutritional fortification of staple foods (e.g., milk, juices, cereals, pastas, and other grain products) (5253). In addition, often unquantified phytochemicals (e.g., polyphenols, alkylresorcinols, phytosterols) are largely absent from the diet. Although these phytochemicals do not have DRIs, they have been linked to cardiometabolic benefits (5455). In people who eat meat only with exclusion of dairy (∼30% in this survey), calcium intake might also be low, as illustrated by the low intake and negative calcium balance in 2 Arctic explorers (28). Although essential nutrients can presumably be derived in sufficient amounts from animal foods (34), they are present in less commonly consumed parts of the animal, such as fat and organ meats (vitamins A and D), or bone (calcium), or may be reduced during food preparation (vitamin C) (34). Vitamin C is of particular interest, because meats are not formally considered a good source of vitamin C (i.e., they contain <10% of the DRI per serving) (56). Typical symptoms of deficiencies in these vitamins would include dermatological, cognitive, or neurological symptoms, as listed in Supplemental Table 1. A worsening or new presentation of these symptoms was reported in <2% of survey participants, whereas the majority of participants reported improvements, resolution, or no change—regardless of intake of vitamins, organ meat, or dairy. Given the self-reported nature of these findings, it remains unclear whether clinical or subclinical symptoms of nutrient deficiency are present. Research is needed to clarify the absence of perceived symptoms of nutrient deficiencies and the underlying biochemical processes that govern nutrient needs with the long-term consumption of a carnivore diet. It is possible that requirements for some micronutrients may be lower than those established in DRIs for the general population (57), related to remodeling of the gut microbiome, whole-body metabolism, and nutrient utilization in the setting of a low-carbohydrate carnivore diet, analogous to observations with a vegan diet (58).

Respondents reported high levels of satisfaction, and little social impact, from following a carnivore diet. Notably, medical providers were perceived as supportive, neutral, or unsupportive at generally similar proportions despite the discrepancy of the carnivore diets from dietary guidelines. Whereas meat is more expensive than grains and starchy foods, it may be less expensive on a caloric basis, depending on location and specific comparisons, than fresh fruits and nonstarchy vegetables (59), and cost may be in addition offset by decreased expenditure for diabetes and other medications. Our respondents spanned low to high income classes, suggesting against major financial barriers to the diet.

Vegetarians and Heart Disease: Will Ditching Meat Really Save Your Arteries?
by Denise Minger

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

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

But that’s not always the case with all groups of vegetarians. Studies focusing on some religious vegetarians (namely Buddhist and Hindu*) are more likely to show the effects of going meat-free in isolation rather than as part of a health-boosting plan. Confounding can still be an issue (especially in terms of stress reduction from certain religious practices)—but unlike the vegetarians who make a cascade of changes when they ditch meat, some religious vegetarians eat diets pretty similar to their omnivorous counterparts, just without flesh. That makes it a bit easier to compare apples with apples: We can see how an average omni diet stacks up against a similar diet sans meat, instead of comparing an average omni diet with a multifaceted vegetarian lifestyle.

So where am I going with this? Right here [Chih-Wei Chen et al, Taiwanese Female Vegetarians Have Lower Lipoprotein-Associated Phospholipase A2 Compared with Omnivores]. That’s the full text for a recent study from Taiwan looking at inflammatory markers in mostly-Buddhist vegetarians versus omnivores. (And if access to that link disappears, as full-texts are wont to do, just shoot me an email and I’ll send it to you.)

This study has a few good things going for it. For starters, it excludes smokers and uses only women—which automatically eliminates problems associated with controlling for tobacco use or gender-related differences in inflammatory markers. As the researchers note, the health-consciousness gap between Taiwanese vegetarians and Taiwanese omnivores is probably much smaller than with Western vegetarians and Western omnivores:

Most western vegetarians include fresh vegetables and fruits as their main source of nutrition and energy, based on health benefits of the foods. In contrast, most Taiwanese vegetarians choose a vegetarian diet because of their Buddhist religion, which teaches a policy of “no killing.” Buddhists in Taiwan have a dietary pattern similar to that of most Taiwanese in terms of meal patterns and cooking methods, except that they do not include any meat, fish, or poultry in their meals.

Although the researchers don’t explore the subject at all, the difference in religious practices between the vegetarians (apparently Buddhist) and omnivores (whose religion(s) weren’t documented) could be significant. Stress and mental outlook may play a role [K Rees et al, Psychological interventions for coronary heart disease] in the progression of heart disease, and meditation/centering practices associated with Buddhism could help improve both [Erin L Olivo et al, Feasibility and effectiveness of a brief meditation-based stress management intervention for patients diagnosed with or at risk for coronary heart disease: a pilot study]. If any of that is confounding the results, we won’t be able to know from the data presented.

But other than that, the study was pretty thorough. It tracked BMI, blood pressure, heart rate, glucose levels, cholesterol (total, HDL, and LDL), white blood cell count, homocysteine, and two inflammatory markers: lipoprotein-associated phospholipase AS (Lp-PLA2) and C-reactive protein (CRP).

The good news for the vegetarians is that their Lp-PLA2—a marker specifically for vascular inflammation—was lower than in the control group. But that’s where the good news ends. The researchers seemed pretty surprised to report that the vegetarians had higher levels of CRP (borderline significant at p=0.05) than the omnivores, along with higher homocysteine and triglycerides. […]

Interestingly, the researchers note that one of their earlier studies [C-W Chen et al, Total cardiovascular risk profile of Taiwanese vegetarians] showed borderline lower CRP in vegetarians—but despite using it to claim vegetarians had a better risk profile than omnivores, that finding might not be very meaningful:

As we know, gender and smoking influenced the serum hs-CRP level significantly. In our previous study, there are more males and smokers in the omnivore group that can influence the statistical power of difference of hs-CRP between both groups. Actually, it failed to demonstrate a significant difference if male and female samples were analyzed separately.

In the current study, the researchers offer a few explanations as to why vegetarians might have higher CRP levels, even if their Lp-PLA2 levels were lower. One is that there were large variations in the CRP levels for all groups, which makes it harder to analyze statistically (translation: “maybe the correlation is a fluke”). They also mention that Taiwan vegetarians rely heavily on soy products as a substitute for meat, eat fewer fresh vegetables than western vegetarians, and typically cook vegetables in oil (presumably industrial seed oils).

The significance of this study is that it underscores the major issue with vegetarian research at large: The health-protective effects of vegetarianism are probably due to factors other than meat avoidance. When you study vegetarians that aren’t partaking in a bigger diet and lifestyle change, they no longer have a glowing health report. The lower Lp-PLA2 levels in this particular study are noteworthy, but higher CRP and triglycerides aren’t doing anyone any favors.

Of course, this isn’t the first study to poke holes the claim that meat-avoiders have special protection against heart disease. A 2005 study conducted in China [Timothy Kwok et al, Vascular Dysfunction in Chinese Vegetarians: An Apparent Paradox?] rounded up some long-term vegetarians (6 to 40 years of meatlessness)—including many religious vegetarians—and compared their heart disease markers against an omnivorous control group. Apart from eating less saturated fat, protein, and cholesterol, the vegetarians had nutrient intakes similar to those of their omni friends.

The surprising results? The vegetarians had significantly thicker arterial walls (p<0.0001), reduced flow-mediated dilation (a predictor of cardiovascular events) (p<0.0001), higher blood pressure (p<0.05), and higher triglycerides (p<0.05) than the omnivores. (According to the paper, the raised blood pressure might be related to some popular high-sodium vegetarian foods such as processed protein food substitutes, fake oyster sauce, and tomato paste.)

In the researchers’ multivariate statistical models, vegetarianism had the strongest association with both artery thickness and diminished flow-mediated dilation out of all the variables documented—including age, gender, and triglyceride levels.

As might be expected, the vegetarians also had lower B12 levels and higher homocysteine than the control group—but even after adjusting for these, vegetarianism remained strongly linked with less-healthy hearts. The researchers concluded with this:

In summary, contrary to common belief, vegetarians, at least in the Chinese, might have accelerated atherosclerosis and abnormal arterial endothelial function, compared with omnivore control subjects. The increased risk could only be partially explained by their higher blood pressure, triglyceride, homocysteine, and lower vitamin B12 concentrations.

A little alarming, no? My guess is that these vegetarians got such a lousy report card because they didn’t make all the positive health changes most Western vegetarians make when they forgo flesh—but rather, replaced meat with processed foods, ate more carbohydrates and polyunsaturated plant fats, and failed to get enough B12 (resulting in higher homocysteine). This is what happens when you simply pluck meat out of your diet and fill the void with plant-based substitutes: the Healthy Vegetarian image becomes a lot less rosy.

No doubt some vegetarians would dismiss this study because the participants “did vegetarianism wrong” by not supplementing B12, not eating enough fruit and vegetables, consuming too much salt, and failing to provide daily offerings to the Arugula God. But if that’s the case, one could argue that all the meat eaters in the studies supporting vegetarianism just “did omnivorism wrong” for similar reasons. This is a good study because neither the vegetarians nor the omnivores seemed particularly health conscious. It’s rare that we get a level playing field like that.

Should dietary guidelines recommend low red meat intake?
by Frédéric Leroy & Cofnas

3. Meat eating and chronic disease: evaluation of the evidence
3.1. Evidence from observational studies needs to be interpreted with care

As a first point of concern, the input data obtained from food frequency questionnaires should be interpreted prudently as they can be problematic for a variety of reasons (Schatzkin et al., 2003; Archer et al., 2018; Feinman, 2018). Social desirability bias in food reporting is just one example, as reported consumption can be affected by the perceived health status of certain foods. Not all self-defined vegetarians avoid meat, which is suggestive of a considerable risk for underreported intake in health-conscious groups (Haddad & Tanzman, 2003).

Secondly, diets are difficult to disentangle from other lifestyle factors. It has been shown that Western-style meat eating is closely associated with nutrient-poor diets, obesity, smoking, and limited physical activity (Alexander et al., 2015; Fogelholm et al., 2015; Grosso et al., 2017; Turner & Lloyd, 2017). Given the fact that health authorities have been intensely promoting the view that meat is unhealthy, health-conscious people may be inclined to reduce intake. Typically, the associations between meat eating and disease tend to be higher in North American than in European or Asian cohort studies, indicating the presence of lifestyle bias and the need for cross-cultural assessments (Wang et al., 2016; Grosso et al., 2017; Hur et al., 2018). A pooled analysis of prospective cohort studies in Asian countries even indicated that red meat intake was associated with lower cardiovascular mortality in men and cancer mortality in women (Lee et al., 2013). Likewise, when omitting Seventh-Day Adventist studies from meta-analyses, the beneficial associations with cardiovascular health for vegetarian diets are either less pronounced or absent indicating the specific effects of health-conscious lifestyle rather than low meat consumption as such (Kwok et al., 2014; FCN, 2018). This is important, as Seventh-Day Adventism has had considerable influence on dietary advice worldwide (Banta et al., 2018).

As a third point, the relative risks (RRs) obtained from observational studies are generally low, i.e., much below 2. In view of the profusion of false-positive findings and the large uncertainty and bias in the data due to the problems mentioned above (Boffetta et al., 2008; Young & Karr, 2011), such low RR levels in isolation would not be treated as strong evidence in most epidemiological research outside nutrition (Shapiro, 2004; Klurfeld, 2015). Relationships with RRs below 2, which are susceptible to confounding, can be indicative but should always be validated by other means, such as randomized controlled trials (RCTs) (Gerstein et al., 2019). The association between meat eating and colorectal cancer, for instance, leads to an RR estimate below 1.2, whereas for the association between visceral fat and colorectal neoplasia this value equals 5.9 (Yamamoto et al., 2010). The latter provides a robust case that is much more deserving of priority treatment in health policy development. […]

3.2. Intervention studies have not been able to indicate unambiguous detrimental effects

As stated by Abete et al. (2014), epidemiological findings on meat eating “should be interpreted with caution due to the high heterogeneity observed in most of the analyses as well as the possibility of residual confounding”. The interactions between meat, overall diet, human physiology (including the gut microbiome), and health outcomes are highly intricate. Within this web of complexity, and in contrast to what is commonly stated in the public domain (Leroy et al., 2018a), the current epidemiological and mechanistic data have not been able to demonstrate a consistent causal link between red meat intake and chronic diseases, such as colorectal cancer (Oostindjer et al., 2014; Turner & Lloyd, 2017).

RCTs can play an important role in establishing causal relationships, and generally provide much stronger evidence than that provided by observational data. However, even RCTs are not fail-safe and can also be prone to a range of serious flaws (Krauss, 2018). Intervention studies that overlook the normal dietary context or use non-robust biomarkers should be interpreted with caution, and do not justify claims that there is a clear link between meat and negative health outcomes (see Turner & Lloyd, 2017; Kruger & Zhou, 2018). The available evidence generally suggests that interventions with red meat do not lead to an elevation of in vivo oxidative stress and inflammation, which are usually cited as being part of the underlying mechanisms triggering chronic diseases (Mann et al., 1997; Hodgson et al., 2007; Turner et al., 2017). Even in an epidemiological cohort study that was suggestive of an inflammatory response based on an increased CRP level, this effect became non-significant upon adjustment for obesity (Montonen et al., 2013). Moreover, a meta-analysis of RCTs has shown that meat eating does not lead to deterioration of cardiovascular risk markers (O’Connor et al., 2017). The highest category of meat eating even paralleled a potentially beneficial increase in HDL-C level. Whereas plant-based diets indeed seem to lower total cholesterol and LDL-C in intervention studies, they also increase triglyceride levels and decrease HDL-C (Yokoyama et al., 2017), which are now often regarded as superior markers of cardiovascular risk (Jeppesen et al., 2001).

Based on the above, we conclude that there is a lack of robust evidence to confirm an unambiguous mechanistic link between meat eating as part of a healthy diet and the development of Western diseases. It is paramount that the available evidence is graded prior to developing policies and guidelines, making use of quality systems such as GRADE (Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation; Guyatt et al., 2008). One of the founders of the GRADE system has issued a public warning that the scientific case against red meat by the IARC panel of the WHO has been overstated, doing “the public a disservice” (Guyatt, 2015). The IARC’s (2015) claim that red meat is “probably carcinogenic” has never been substantiated. In fact, a risk assessment by Kruger and Zhou (2018) concluded that this is not the case. Such hazard classification systems have been heavily criticized, even by one of the members of the IARC working group on red meat and cancer (Klurfeld, 2018). They are accused of being outmoded and leading to avoidable health scares, public funding of unnecessary research and nutritional programs, loss of beneficial foods, and potentially increased health costs (Boyle et al., 2008; Anonymous, 2016; Boobis et al., 2016).

3.3. A scientific assessment should not overlook conflicting data

Dietary advice that identifies meat as an intrinsic cause of chronic diseases often seems to suffer from cherry-picking (Feinman, 2018). One example of a fact that is typically ignored is that hunter-gatherers are mostly free of cardiometabolic disease although animal products provide the dominant energy source (about two-thirds of caloric intake on average, with some hunter-gatherers obtaining more than 85% of their calories from animal products; Cordain et al., 2000, 2002). In comparison, contemporary Americans obtain only about 30% of calories from animal foods (Rehkamp, 2016).

Whereas per capita consumption of meat has been dropping over the last decades in the US, cardiometabolic diseases such as type-2 diabetes have been rapidly increasing. Although this observation does not resolve the question of causality one way or the other, it should generate some skepticism that meat is the culprit (Feinman, 2018). Moreover, several studies have found either that meat intake has no association with mortality/morbidity, or that meat restriction is association with various negative health outcomes (e.g., Key et al., 2009; Burkert et al., 2014; Kwok et al., 2014; Lippi et al., 2015; Hur et al., 2018; Iguacel et al., 2018; Yen et al., 2018). As another example of conflicting information, the epidemiological association pointing to a potential role of the meat nutrient L-carnitine in atherosclerosis via trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) formation (Koeth et al., 2013), is contradicted by intervention studies (Samulak et al., 2019) and epidemiological data showing that fish intake, being by orders of magnitude the largest supplier of TMAO (Zhang et al., 1999), improves triglycerides and HDL levels (Alhassan et al., 2017). […]

5. Meat avoidance leads to a loss of nutritional robustness

Diets poor in animal source foods can lead to various nutritional deficiencies, as already described more than a century ago for the case of pellagra (Morabia, 2008), a condition which remains relevant today for poorly planned vegan diets (Ng & Neff, 2018). Advocates of vegetarian/vegan diets usually admit that these diets must indeed be “well-planned” in order to be successful, which involves regular supplementation with nutrients such as B12. However, realistically, many people are not diligent about supplementation, and will often dip into deficient or borderline-deficient ranges if they do not obtain nutrients from their regular diet. In such cases, general malnutrition (Ingenbleek & McCully, 2012), poorer health (Burkert et al., 2014), and nutrient limitations (Kim et al., 2018) may be the result, as found in various countries, such as Denmark (Kristensen et al., 2015), Finland (Elorinne et al., 2016), Sweden (Larsson & Johansson, 2002), and Switzerland (Schüpbach et al., 2017). For example, a substantial number of vegetarians and vegans are in the deficient or borderline-deficient range for B12 (Herrmann & Geisel, 2002; Herrmann et al., 2003), despite the fact that the need for B12 supplementation is well-publicized (see also Herbert, 1994; Hokin & Butler, 1999; Donaldson, 2000; Elmadfa & Singer, 2009; Gilsing et al., 2010; Obersby et al., 2013; Pawlak et al. 2013, 2014; Pawlak, 2015; Woo et al., 2014; Naik et al., 2018). B12 deficiency is particularly dangerous during pregnancy (Specker et al., 1988, 1990; Bjørke Monsen et al., 2001; Koebnick et al., 2004), childhood (Rogers et al., 2003) and adolescence (van Dusseldorp et al., 1999; Louwman et al., 2000).

Other potentially challenging micronutrients for people on plant-based diets include (but are not limited to) iodine (Krajcovicová-Kudlácková et al., 2008; Leung et al., 2011; Brantsaeter et al., 2018), iron (Wilson & Ball, 1999; Wongprachum et al., 2012; Awidi et al., 2018), selenium (Schultz & Leklem, 1983; Kadrabová et al., 1995), and zinc (Foster et al., 2013). Even if plant-based diets contain alpha linolenic acid, this may not (as noted) prevent deficiencies in the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA (Rosell et al., 2005), which can pose serious risks in pregnancy and for growing children (Burdge et al., 2017; Cofnas, 2019).

Risks of nutritional deficiency are also documented by an extensive list of clinical case reports in the medical literature, with serious and sometimes irreversible pathological symptoms being reported for infants (e.g., Shinwell & Gorodisher, 1982; Zengin et al., 2009; Guez et al., 2012; Bravo et al., 2014; Kocaoglu et al., 2014; Goraya et al., 2015), children (e.g., Colev et al., 2004; Crawford & Say, 2013), adolescents (e.g., Chiron et al., 2001; Licht et al., 2001; O’Gorman et al., 2002), and adults (e.g., Milea et al., 2000; Brocadello et al., 2007; De Rosa et al., 2012; Førland & Lindberg, 2015). The latter reports commonly refer to failure to thrive, hyperparathyroidism, macrocytic anemia, optic and other neuropathies, lethargy, degeneration of the spinal cord, cerebral atrophy, and other serious conditions. Although the direction of causality is not clear, meat avoidance is statistically associated with eating disorders and depression (Zhang et al., 2017; Barthels et al., 2018; Hibbeln et al., 2018; Matta et al., 2018; Nezlek et al., 2018) and may mirror neurological problems (Kapoor et al., 2017).

Our main concern is that avoiding or minimizing meat consumption too strictly may compromise the delivery of nutrients, especially in children and other vulnerable populations. Evidently, health effects of plant-based approaches depend largely on the dietary composition (Satija et al., 2016). Yet, the more restricted the diet and the younger the age, the more this will be a point of attention (Van Winckel et al., 2011). According to Cofnas (2019), however, even realistic vegetarian diets that include diligent supplementation can put children at risk for deficiencies and thereby compromise health in both the short and long term. There is some direct and indirect evidence that the elevated phytoestrogen intake associated with low-meat diets may pose risks for the development of the brain and reproductive system (Cofnas, 2019). Moreover, attempts to introduce dietary modifications that are also compatible with vegan philosophy often pose a medicosocial challenge (Shinwell & Gorodischer, 1982). In our opinion, the official endorsement of diets that avoid animal products as healthy options is posing a risk that policy makers should not be taking. As stated by Giannini et al. (2006): “It is alarming in a developed country to find situations in which a child’s health is put at risk by malnutrition, not through economic problems but because of the ideological choices of the parents”.

* * *

On the China Study:

To explore a specific area of debate, consider Colin Campbell’s book The China Study. It was a correlative analysis of earlier data. And it’s focus on an Asian population is relevant. But some have pointed out that the correlations are mostly statistically non-significant while other statistically significant correlations were ignored. The best and most thorough critique was done by Denise Minger, in a series of articles she published at her website. One of her articles was specifically about the meat issue. Even one of the original researchers admitted that nothing meaningful was likely to be concluded from the data because there simply is too much noise of uncontrolled confounders. Anyway, in summarizing some of Minger’s findings, Harriet Hall wrote,

“The data do show that cholesterol is positively associated with various cancers, that cholesterol is positively associated with animal protein, and that cholesterol is negatively associated with plant protein. So by indirect deduction they assume that animal protein is associated with cancers and that reducing intake is protective. But if you compare animal protein intake directly with cancer, there are as many negative correlations as positive, and not one of those correlations reaches a level of statistical significance. Comparing dietary plant protein to various types of cancer, there are many more positive correlations and one of them does show strong statistical significance. The variable “death from all cancers” is four times as strongly associated with plant protein as with animal protein. And Campbell fails to mention an important confounder: cholesterol is higher in geographic areas with a higher incidence of schistosomiasis and hepatitis B infection, both risk factors for cancer.

“Campbell says breast cancer is associated with dietary fat (which is associated with animal protein intake). The data show a non-significant association with dietary fat, but stronger (still non-significant) associations with several other factors and a significant association with wine, alcohol, and blood glucose level. The (non-significant) association of breast cancer with legume intake is virtually identical to the (non-significant) association with dietary fat. Animal protein itself shows a weaker correlation with breast cancer than light-colored vegetables, legume intake, fruit, and a number of other purportedly healthy plant foods.)

“He indicts animal protein as being correlated with cardiovascular disease, but fails to mention that plant protein is more strongly correlated and wheat protein is far, far more strongly correlated. The China Study data show the opposite of what Campbell claims: animal protein doesn’t correspond with more disease, even in the highest animal food-eating counties” (The China Study Revisited: New Analysis of Raw Data Doesn’t Support Vegetarian Ideology).

Beyond Minger, others have also responded to The China Study that gets cited endlessly by vegans. Chris Kresser noted that, “Campbell conveniently fails to mention the county of Tuoli in China. The folks in Tuoli ate 45% of their diet as fat, 134 grams of animal protein each day (twice as much as the average American), and rarely ate vegetables or other plant foods. Yet, according to the China Study data, they were extremely healthy with low rates of cancer and heart disease; healthier, in fact, than many of the counties that were nearly vegan” (Rest in Peace, China Study). Another Chris, of the Masterjohn variety, discussed issues involving the roles of lysine and folate, with his giving credit to Minger for making the connection to lysine (Denise Minger’s Refutation of Campbell’s “China Study” Generates Continued Debate).

* * *

Research on non-meat animal foods and saturated fat:

Aren’t Saturated Fats Bad For You?
by Dr. Nicholas Norwitz

What Are The Functions of MCTs in Goat Milk?
from Aurora Health

The Health Benefits of Medium Chain Triglycerides in Goat Milk
by Sarah Holvik

Cow’s Milk and Dairy Consumption: Is There Now Consensus for Cardiometabolic Health?
by Sally D. Poppitt

Organic Whole Milk Is Better than Conventional Skim or Whole Milk, Studies Find
by Clarence Bass

In further support, Dr. Donald R. Davis, a co-author of the Benbrook study, pointed out that many now question the assumption that the saturated fat in whole milk increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. As this was being written a meta-analysis by Cambridge and Harvard Universities of 72 studies with 600,000 participants found no evidence that saturated fat is associated with a greater risk of heart disease (March 17, 2014, Annals of Internal Medicine). The new emphasis seems to be on eating a balanced diet of real foods, whole foods—and avoiding highly processed foods. (More about this next month.)

Do Not Give Young Children Plant-Based Milk, As It Lacks Important Nutrients, Pediatricians Warn
by Martha Garcia

Several childhood health organizations are warning that plant-based milk alternatives should not be consumed by children, as they lack key nutrients.

Young children under the age of five should only drink cows’ milk, water, and a minimal amount of juice each day, according to pediatric experts, who warn that children should avoid plant-based milk and other beverages that do not provide growing children with the nutrients they need for proper development.

These recommendations were made in the “Healthy Beverage Consumption in Early Childhood” September 2019 consensus statement, issued Wednesday as part of the Healthy Eating Research guidelines.

The statement was developed by a committee of leading health organizations, including a panel of experts with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Heart Association.

The recommendations also indicate infants should only drink breast milk or infant formula. At six months of age, they can have small amounts of water, and after one year, they should only drink cows milk daily and occasionally juice.

The key change in this year’s guidelines was the call for young children to avoid plant-based milk. This includes milk made from rice, coconut, oats, almonds, or other blends, with the exception of fortified soy milk. Plant-based milks do not have the proper nutrition for early development, like vitamin D and calcium the experts said.

The Full-Fat Paradox: Whole Milk May Keep Us Lean
by Allison Aubrey

Consider the findings of two recent studies that conclude the consumption of whole-fat dairy is linked to reduced body fat.

In one paper, published by Swedish researchers in the Scandinavian Journal of Primary Health Care, middle-aged men who consumed high-fat milk, butter and cream were significantly less likely to become obese over a period of 12 years compared with men who never or rarely ate high-fat dairy.

Yep, that’s right. The butter and whole-milk eaters did better at keeping the pounds off.

“I would say it’s counterintuitive,” says Greg Miller, executive vice president of the National Dairy Council.

The second study, published in the European Journal of Nutrition, is a meta-analysis of 16 observational studies. There has been a hypothesis that high-fat dairy foods contribute to obesity and heart disease risk, but the reviewers concluded that the evidence does not support this hypothesis. In fact, the reviewers found that in most of the studies, high-fat dairy was associated with a lower risk of obesity.

“We continue to see more and more data coming out [finding that] consumption of whole-milk dairy products is associated with reduced body fat,” Miller says.

It’s not clear what might explain this phenomenon. Lots of folks point to the satiety factor. The higher levels of fat in whole milk products may make us feel fuller, faster. And as a result, the thinking goes, we may end up eating less.

Or the explanation could be more complex. “There may be bioactive substances in the milk fat that may be altering our metabolism in a way that helps us utilize the fat and burn it for energy, rather than storing it in our bodies,” Miller says.

In defense of dairy fat
by Allison Aubrey

A new study finds the dairy fats found in milk, yogurt and cheese may help protect against Type 2 diabetes.

The research, published in the journal Circulation, included 3,333 adults. Beginning in the late 1980s, researchers took blood samples from the participants and measured circulating levels of biomarkers of dairy fat in their blood. Then, over the next two decades, the researchers tracked who among the participants developed diabetes. “People who had the most dairy fat in their diet had about a 50 percent lower risk of diabetes” compared with people who consumed the least dairy fat, says Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, who is also an author of the study. […]

“It appears that children who have a higher intake of whole milk or 2 percent milk gain less weight over time” compared with kids who consume skim or nonfat dairy products, explains DeBoer.

And there’s some evidence that dairy fat may help adults manage weight as well. As we’ve reported, researchers in Sweden found that middle-aged men who consumed high-fat milk, butter and cream were significantly less likely to become obese over a period of 12 years compared with men who never or rarely ate high-fat dairy. So, in other words, the butter and whole-milk eaters did better at keeping the pounds off. In addition, a meta-analysis – which included data from 16 observational studies — also found evidence that high-fat dairy was associated with a lower risk of obesity. […]

And there’s evidence that “when people consume more low-fat dairy, they eat more carbohydrates” as a way of compensating, says Mozaffarian.

Many high-carb foods such as cereals, breads and snacks that contain highly refined grains are less satiating and can prompt people to eat more calories.

Plant-Based Milk Beverages Affect Children’s Height
by Ross Tellam

The investigators concluded that for the average child, each cup of noncow’s milk consumed per day was associated with a height decrease of 0.4 cm [1]. The investigators also concluded that the effect of the noncow’s milk beverages on height was not just due to the removal of the positive benefits of cow’s milk from the diet, i.e. consumption noncow’s milk was associated with the height loss. The height reduction at three years of age for the average child drinking three cups per day of noncow’s milk compared with the average child drinking three cups of cow’s milk was 1.5 cm.

Maguire and colleagues speculated that many noncow’s milk beverages may have reduced protein content compared with cow’s milk, which could explain the height decrease in the group consuming noncow’s milk. Other studies additionally suggest that plant-based milk proteins, unlike animal proteins, often do not contain all the essential amino acids required for optimal human growth and development [12–14]. The investigators further suggested that consumption of noncow’s milk by children may not induce increased levels of a natural growth promotant (insulin-like growth factor 1) as happens with the consumption of cow’s milk.

1. Morency M.E., Birken C.S., Lebovic G., Chen Y., L’Abbé M., Lee G.J., et al. Association between noncow milk beverage consumption and childhood height. Am J Clin Nutr. 2017;106(2):597-602.

* * *

Related posts:

Dietary Risk Factors for Heart Disease and Cancer
Blue Zones Dietary Myth
Eat Beef and Bacon!
Like water fasts, meat fasts are good for health.
Dr. Saladino on Plant and Animal Foods
Gundry’s Plant Paradox and Saladino’s Carnivory
Fiber or Not: Short-Chain Fatty Acids and the Microbiome
Are ‘vegetarians’ or ‘carnivores’ healthier?
Vegetarianism is an Animal-Based Diet
Being “mostly vegan” is like being “a little pregnant.”
Plant-Based Nutritional Deficiencies
True Vitamin A For Health And Happiness
Hubris of Nutritionism
Ancient Greek View on Olive Oil as Part of the Healthy Mediterranean Diet
Wild-Caught Salmon and Metabolic Health
Early Research On the Industrial Diet
Amish Paradox
Moral Panic and Physical Degeneration
Health From Generation To Generation
Dietary Risk Factors for Heart Disease and Cancer
Ancient Atherosclerosis?
Multiple Sclerosis and Carnivore Diet

Plant-Based Nutritional Deficiencies

The purpose here is to highlight the nutritional deficiencies of plant-based diets but most specifically plant-exclusive diets such as veganism (important nutrients are listed below). Not all of these deficiencies involve essential nutrients, but our knowledge is limited on what is essential. There are deficiencies that will kill you quickly, others slowly, and still others that simply will cause deteriorating health or less than optimal functioning. Also, some of these nutrients or their precursors can be found in plant foods or otherwise produced by the body, but there can be several problems. The plant-based sources may be inadequate or not in the most bioavailable form, antinutrients in the plants may block the absorption of certain nutrients (e.g., phytates block mineral absorption), gut and microbiome problems related to a plant-based diet might interfere with absorption, and most people have severely limited capacity to turn certain precursors into the needed nutrients.

So, when eating a supposedly healthy diet, many vegans and vegetarians still have major deficiencies, even with nutrients that should be in their diet according to standard food intake calculations — in those cases, the nutrients are there in theory but for some reason not being absorbed or utilized. For example, raw spinach has a lot of calcium, but it is almost entirely unavailable to the body. Adding raw spinach to your smoothie or salad might be a net loss to your health, as the antinutrients will block the nutrients in other foods as well. Another factor is that, on a plant-based diet, nutrients can get out of ratio. Nutrients work together with some acting as precursors, others as catalysts, and still others like master hormones — such as vitamin K2 determining where calcium is transported to, preferably the bones as opposed to arteries, joints and the brain; or think about how the body can produce vitamin D3 but only if there is adequate cholesterol. As such, besides deficiencies, sometimes there can too much of a nutrient which interferes with another nutrient, as seen with copper in relation to zinc.

That is the advantage to an animal-based diet, which could even include a well-balanced vegetarian diet that emphasized dairy and eggs (Vegetarianism is an Animal-Based Diet), but unfortunately many vegetarians are near-vegan in limiting even those non-meat animal foods. Here is the reason why animal foods are so important. Other animals have similar nutritional needs as humans and so, when we eat animal foods, we are getting not only the nutrients our bodies need but in the required form and ratio for our own optimal functioning. Without animal foods, one has to study nutrition to understand all of this and then try to artificially re-create it through careful calculations in balancing what one eats and supplements, an almost impossible task that requires someone to have a scientific mindset. Even then, one is likely to get it wrong. Regular testing of nutritional levels would be absolutely necessary to ensure everything is going according to plan.

As for supplements and fortification, the nutrients aren’t always in the best form and so wouldn’t be as bioavailable nor would likely have all the needed cofactors in just the right amounts. Besides, a diet dependent on supplementation and fortification is not healthy by definition, in that the food itself in natural form lacksing those nutrients. The fact that most vegans in particular and vegetarians as well have to be extremely obsessive about nutrition just to maintain a basic level of health is not high praise to the health-giving benefits of such a plant-based diet — and hence the reason even vegetarians should emphasize the allowed animal foods (there are even vegans who will make exceptions for some animal foods, such as fish). This is probably why most people quit these diets after a short period of time and why most people who quit, including those who quit after years or decades, do so for health reasons. Among those who remain on these diets, their responses on surveys show that most of them cheat on occasion and so are getting some minimal level of animal-based nutrition, and that is a good thing for their health even as it calls into question the validity of health claims about plant-based diets (Being “mostly vegan” is like being “a little pregnant.”).

There has long been a bias against meat, especially red meat. It goes back to the ancient Greek thought of Galen and how it was adapted to Medieval society in being Christianized for purposes of maintaining social hierarchy and social control. This Galenic bias was carried forward in the Christian tradition and then modernized within nutrition studies through the surprisingly powerful influence of the Seventh Day Adventists who continue to fund a lot of nutritional studies to this day. This has had practical consequences. It has long been assumed, based on a theology of a sinful world, that eating animals would make us beastly. It’s similar to the ancient idea that eating the muscles or heart of a fallen warrior would make one strong or courageous. A similar logic was applied to plants, that they have inherent qualities that we can imbibe.

So, it has been long believed that plant foods are somehow healthier for both body and soul, somehow more spiritual and so would bring humans closer to God or else closer to their divine natural state before the Fall of Man. That has been the moral concern of many Christians, from Medieval Catholics to modern Seventh Day Adventists. And in secularized form, it became internalized by mainstream nutrition studies and dietary guidelines. Part of the purpose of eating plants, according to Christianized Galenism, was that a strong libido was considered bad and it was understood that a plant-based diet suppressed libido, which admittedly doesn’t sound like a sign of health but their idea of ‘health’ was very different. It was also worried that, along with firing up the libido, meat would heat up the entire body and would lead to a shorter lifespan. Pseudo-scientific explanations have been used to rationalize this theological doctrine, such as concerns about mTOR and IGF-1, although this requires contorting the science and dismissing other evidence.

The problem is this simply became built into mainstream nutritional ideology, to such an extent that few questioned it until recently. This has led to most researchers, nutritionists, dieticians, and other health experts to obsess over the nutrients in plants while overlooking the nutrients in animal foods. So, you’ll hear something along the lines of, “meat is not an important source of vitamin E and with the exception of liver, is not a particularly good source of fat-soluble vitamins” (Nutrients in Meat, from the Meat We Eat). Keep in mind that assertion comes from a project of the American Meat Science Association — not likely to be biased against meat. It’s sort of true, depending on how one defines meat. From Galenic thought, the notion of meat is still associated with red meat. It is true that muscle meat, particularly lean muscle meat, from beef, pork and veal doesn’t have much vitamin E compared to plant foods (M. Leonhardt et al, Vitamin E content of different animal products: influence of animal nutrition). This is why some vegetarians and even vegans see no contradiction or conflict, much less hypocrisy, in eating fish and fowl — culturally, these have for millennia been considered a separate category from meat.

Yet adequate amounts of vitamin E are found in many animal foods, whether or not we label them as ‘meat’: chicken, goose meat, fish, seafood, crayfish, butter, and cheese; and some vitamin E is also found in liver and eggs (Atli Anarson, 20 Foods That Are High in Vitamin E). We have to be clear what we mean by ‘meat’. On a meat-based diet, even to the degree of being carnivore, there are plentiful good sources of every essential nutrient, including vitamin E, and many that aren’t essential but highly conducive to optimal health. Besides animal foods, there is no other source of such immense nutrient-density and nutrient-biavailability. Plant foods don’t come close in comparison.

Also, as vitamin E is an antioxidant, it’s important to note that animal foods contain many other antioxidants that play a similar role in maintaining health, but animal-sourced antioxidants have been mostly ignored because they don’t fit the dominant plant-based paradigm. Plant foods lack these animal-sourced antioxidants. So why do so few talk about a deficiency in them for vegans and vegetarians? And why have researchers so rarely studied in depth the wide variety of nutrients in animal foods to determine their full health benefits? This is particularly odd when considering, as I already stated, every known essential nutrient can be found in animal foods but not in plant foods. Isn’t that an important detail? Why is there a collective silence among mainstream health experts?

Think about how plant antinutrients can block the absorption of nutrients, both in plant foods and animal foods, and so require even more nutrients to counteract this effect which might simply further increase the antinutrient intake, unless one is careful in following the food selection and preparation as advised by those like Steven Gundry (The Plant Paradox). Or think about how glucose competes with the antioxidant vitamin C causing an increase of scurvy if vitamin C is not increased, and yet a low-carb diet with far lower intake of vitamin C is not linked to scurvy — maybe the reason ancient Vikings and Polynesians could remain healthy at sea for months, but once a high-carb diet was introduced modern sailors were plagued by scurvy (Sailors’ Rations, a High-Carb Diet). Similarly, a plant-based diet in general might require greater amounts of vitamin E: “Plant-based foods have higher concentrations of vitamin E. And for good reason. A plant-based diet requires additional protection from oxidation of PUFA which Vitamin E helps provide through its antioxidant properties. It’s still found in adequate supply in meat” (Kevin Stock, Vitamins and Minerals – Plants vs Animals).

What is adequate depends on the diet. A diet low in carbs, seed oils, and other plant foods may require fewer plant-based antioxidants, especially if this is countered by an increase of animal-based antioxidants. It is reminiscent of the fiber debate. Yes, fiber adds bulk that supposedly will increase regularity, ignoring the fact that the research is divided on this topic. No doubt bulking up your poop makes you have larger poops and more often, but is that really a good thing? People on a low-residue carnivore diet more easily digest and absorb what the eat, and so they don’t have bulky poops — then again they don’t usually have constipation either, not if they’re getting enough dietary fat. The main cause of constipation is plant foods. So, why are people advised to eat more plant foods in the hope of resolving this issue caused by plant foods? It’s absurd! We keep looking at problems in isolation, as we look at nutrients in isolation (Hubris of Nutritionism). This has failed us, as demonstrated by our present public health crisis.

Let me throw in a last thought about antioxidants. It’s like the fiber issue. People on plant-based diets have contipation issues and so they eat more plant foods in the form of fiber in trying to solve the problem plant foods cause, not realizing that constipation generally resolves itself by eliminating or limiting plant foods. So, in relation to antioxidants, we have to ask ourselves what is it about our diet in the first place that is causing all the oxidative stress? Plant foods do have antioxidants, but some plant foods also cause oxidative stress (e.g., seed oils). If we eliminate these plant foods, our oxidative stress goes down and so our requirement of antioxidants to that degree also lessens. Our body already produces its own antioxidants and, combined with what comes from animal foods, we shouldn’t such excess amounts of antioxidants. Besides, it’s not clear from studies that plant antioxidants are always beneficial to health. It would be better to eliminate the need for them in the first place. Shawn Baker explained this in terms of vitamin C (interview with Shan Hussain, The Carnivore Diet with Dr. Shawn Baker MD):

“The Carnivore diet is deficient in carbohydrates and essential vitamins like Vitamin C, how do we make up for that? When I wanted to do this I was curious about this as well. You will see a number of potential deficiencies around this diet. There is no role of fibre in this diet. With Vitamin C we know there are some transporters across different cell membranes. In a higher glucose environment, Vitamin C is competitively inhibited and therefore we see less absorption of Vitamin C. We also see that interestingly human red blood cells do have the capacity to actually recycle Vitamin C which is something that not many people are aware of. One of the major function of Vitamin C is that it is an antioxidant. In low carbohydrate states our antioxidants systems particularly things like glutathione are regulated. We may obviate some of the need of antioxidants of the Vitamin C by regulating around systems in a low carb diet. Also, Vitamin C is very important in the function of carnitine which is part of the fat cycle. When we are ingesting carnitine we have actual transporters in the gut which can take up full carnosine. It is a misconception that we can only take amino acids, a number of di and tripeptide transporters that are contained within our gut. The other function of Vitamin C is when we don’t have sufficient Vitamin C relative to our needs, we start to develop symptoms of scurvy, bleeding gum problems, teeth falling out, sores and cuts won’t heal. This is all due to the collagen synthesis. If we look at Vitamin C’s role in collagen synthesis, it helps to take proline and lysine, hydroxyproline and hydroxylysine. In meat-based diet, we are getting that in ample amount. Even a steak has 3% of its content as collagen. There are all kinds of compensatory mechanisms.”

I’ll end on an amusing note. Chris Kresser wrote about the carnivore diet (Everything You Need to Know about the Carnivore Diet and How It Can Affect Your Health). Athough an advocate of low-carb diets and nutrient-dense animal foods, he is skeptical that carnivory will be healthy for most humans long-term. One worry is that there might be nutritional deficiencies, but the argument he makes is funny. He basically saying that if all one eats is muscle meat then key nutrients will get missed. Then he goes onto point out that these nutrients can be found in other animal foods, such as liver and dairy. So, his main concern about a carnivore diet is actually that people might not eat enough animal foods or rather not enough of certain animal foods. So, make sure you eat lots of a wide variety of animal foods if going full carnivore and apparently even critics like Kresser agree you’ll be fine, at least nutritionally. The problem isn’t too much animal foods but potentially too little. That made me smile.

Now to the whole point of this post. Below is a list of nutrients that are commonly deficient in those on plant-based diets, especially those on plant-exclusive diets (i.e., vegans). I won’t explain anything about these nutrients, as there is plenty of info online. But you can look to the linked articles below that cover the details.

  • Vitamin K2
  • Vitamin D3 (Cholecalciferol)
  • Vitamin A (Retinol)
  • Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)
  • Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
  • B3 (Niacin)
  • B2 (Riboflavin)
  • Calcium
  • Heme Iron
  • Zinc
  • Selenium
  • Iodine
  • Sulfur
  • DHA Omega-3 (Docosahexaenoic Acid)
  • EPA Omega-3 (Eicosapentaenoic Acid)
  • DPA Omega-3 (Docosapentaenoic Acid)
  • ARA Omega-6 (Arachidonic Acid)
  • SA Saturated Fat (Stearic Acid)
  • CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid)
  • Phytanic Acid
  • Phosphatidylserin, Phosphatidylcholine, and Other Phospholipids
  • Glutathione
  • SOD (Superoxide Dismutase)
  • CoQ10 (Coenzyme Q10)
  • Choline
  • Biotin
  • Cholesterol
  • Nucleotides (Nucleoproteins and Nucleic Acids)
  • Creatine
  • Taurine
  • Carnitine
  • Carnosine
  • Anserine (Derivative of Carnosine)
  • Beta-Alanine (Precursor to Carnosine)
  • HLA (Hyaluronic Acid)
  • Complete Proteins
  • Collagen
  • Other Essential Amino Acids (Creatine, Beta-Alanine, Glycine, Methionine, Tryptophan, Lysine, Leucine, Cysteine, Proline, Tyrosine, Phenylalanine, Serine, Alanine, Threonine, Isoleucine, and Valine)

[Please note in the comments any other essential or semi-essential nutrients not on the above list.]

“This list doesn’t even include things like peptides including BPC-157, Thymosin alpha-1, LEAP-2, spenlopentin, tuftsin, etc. which are known to occur naturally in animal foods and have beneficial effects in humans” (Paul Saladino). Other peptides, mainly found in animal foods, are not just important for optimal health but truly and entirely essential: aremethionine, threonine, tryptophan, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, valine, and phenylalanine.

Just for the sake of balance, I’ll also share a list of plant compounds that are problematic for many people — from Joe Cohen (20 Nutrients that Vegans & Vegetarians are Lacking):

  1. Lectins
  2. Amines
  3. Tannins
  4. Trypsin Inhibitors
  6. Salicylates
  7. Oxalates
  8. Sulfites, Benzoates, and MSG
  9. Non-protein amino acids
  10. Glycosides
  11. Alkaloids [includes solanine, chaconine]
  12. Triterpenes
  13. Lignins
  14. Saponins
  15. Phytic Acid [Also Called Phytate]
  16. Gluten
  17. Isoflavones

* * *

Are ‘vegetarians’ or ‘carnivores’ healthier?
Gundry’s Plant Paradox and Saladino’s Carnivory
Dr. Saladino on Plant and Animal Foods
True Vitamin A For Health And Happiness
Calcium: Nutrient Combination and Ratios
Vitamin D3 and Autophagy

The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability
by Lierre Keit

Vegan Betrayal: Love, Lies, and Hunger in a Plants-Only World
by Mara J. Kahn

The Meat Fix: How a lifetime of healthy eating nearly killed me!
by John Nicholson

The Fat of the Land/Not By Bread Alone
by Vilhjalmur Stefansson

Sacred Cow: The Case for (Better) Meat: Why Well-Raised Meat Is Good for You and Good for the Planet
by Diana Rodgers and Robb Wolf

The Carnivore Code: Unlocking the Secrets to Optimal Health by Returning to Our Ancestral Diet
by Paul Saladino

Primal Body, Primal Mind: Beyond Paleo for Total Health and a Longer Life
by Nora Gedgauda

Paleo Principles
by Sarah Ballantyn

The Queen of Fats: Why Omega-3s Were Removed from the Western Diet and What We Can Do to Replace Them
by Susan Allport

The Omega Principle: Seafood and the Quest for a Long Life and a Healthier Planet
by Paul Greenberg

The Omega-3 Effect: Everything You Need to Know About the Super Nutrient for Living Longer, Happier, and Healthier
by William Sears and James Sear

The Missing Wellness Factors: EPA and DHA: The Most Important Nutrients Since Vitamins?
by Jorn Dyerberg and Richard Passwater

Could It Be B12?: An Epidemic of Misdiagnoses
by Sally M. Pacholok and Jeffrey J. Stuar

What You Need to Know About Pernicious Anaemia and Vitamin B12 Deficiency
by Martyn Hooper

Living with Pernicious Anaemia and Vitamin B12 Deficiency
by Martyn Hoope

Pernicious Anaemia: The Forgotten Disease: The causes and consequences of vitamin B12 deficiency
by Martyn Hooper

Healing With Iodine: Your Missing Link To Better Health
by Mark Sircus

Iodine: Thyroid: The Hidden Chemical at the Center of Your Health and Well-being
by Jennifer Co

The Iodine Crisis: What You Don’t Know About Iodine Can Wreck Your Life
by Lynne Farrow

L-Carnitine and the Heart
by Stephen T. Sinatra and Jan Sinatra

Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health
by Marion Nestle

Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eat
by Marion Nestle

Formerly Known As Food: How the Industrial Food System Is Changing Our Minds, Bodies, and Culture
by Kristin Lawless

Death by Food Pyramid: How Shoddy Science, Sketchy Politics and Shady Special Interests Have Ruined Our Health
by Denise Minge

Nutrition in Crisis: Flawed Studies, Misleading Advice, and the Real Science of Human Metabolism
by Richard David Feinman

Nutritionism: The Science and Politics of Dietary Advice
by Gyorgy Scrinis

Measured Meals: Nutrition in America
by Jessica J. Mudry

(Although more about macronutrients, also see the work of Gary Taubes and Nina Teicholz. They add useful historical context about nutrition studies, dietary advice, and public health.)

20 Nutrients that Vegans & Vegetarians are Lacking
by Joe Cohen

8 Nutrients You May Be Missing If You’re Vegetarian or Vegan
by Tina Donvito

7 Nutrients That You Can’t Get from Plants
by Atli Anarson

7 Supplements You Need on a Vegan Diet
by Alina Petre

The Top 5 Nutrient Deficiencies on a Plant Based Diet
by Kate Barrington

5 Brain Nutrients That You Can’t Get From Plants
by Kris Gunnars

Vitamin Supplements for Vegetarians
by Jeff Takacs

Health effects of vegan diets
by Winston J Craig

Nutritional Deficiencies and Essential Considerations for Every Vegan (An Evidence-Based Nutritional Perspective)
from Dai Manuel

Why You Should Think Twice About Vegetarian and Vegan Diets
by Chris Kresser

Three Big Reasons Why You Don’t Want to be a Vegetarian
by Alan Sears

How to Avoid Common Nutrient Deficiencies if You’re a Vegan
by Joseph Mercola

What is Glutathione and How Do I Get More of It?
by Mark Hyman

Could THIS Be the Hidden Factor Behind Obesity, Heart Disease, and Chronic Fatigue?
by Joseph Mercola

Vegetarianism produces subclinical malnutrition, hyperhomocysteinemia and atherogenesis
by Y. Ingenbleek Y and K. S. McCully

Vegan Diet is Sulfur Deficient and Heart Unhealthy
by Larry H. Bern

Heart of the Matter : Sulfur Deficits in Plant-Based Diets
by Kaayla Daniel

Copper-Zinc Imbalance: Unrecognized Consequence of Plant-Based Diets and a Contributor to Chronic Fatigue
by Laurie Warner

Vegan diets ‘risk lowering intake of nutrient critical for unborn babies’ brains’
by Richard Hartley-Parkinson

The Effects of a Mother’s Vegan Diet on Fetal Development
by Marc Choi

Vegan–vegetarian diets in pregnancy: danger orpanacea? A systematic narrative review
by G. B. Piccoli

Is vegetarianism healthy for children?
by Nathan Cofnas

Clinical practice: vegetarian infant and child nutrition
by M. Van Winckel, S. Vande Velde, R. De Bruyne, and S. Van Biervliet

Dietary intake and nutritional status of vegetarian and omnivorous preschool children and their parents in Taiwan
C. E. Yen, C. H. Yen, M. C. Huang, C. H. Cheng, and Y. C. Huang

Persistence of neurological damage induced by dietary vitamin B-12 deficiency in infancy
by Ursula von Schenck, Christine Bender-Götze, and Berthold Koletzko

Severe vitamin B12 deficiency in an exclusively breastfed 5-month-old Italian infant born to a mother receiving multivitamin supplementation during pregnancy
by S. Guez et al

Long-chain n-3 PUFA in vegetarian women: a metabolic perspective
by G. C. Burdge, S. Y. Tan, and C. J. Henry

Signs of impaired cognitive function in adolescents with marginal cobalamin status
by M. W. Louwman et al

Transient neonatal hypothyroidism due to a maternal vegan diet
by M. G. Shaikh, J. M. Anderson, S. K. Hall, M. A. Jackson

Veganism as a cause of iodine deficient hypothyroidism
by O. Yeliosof and L. A. Silverman

Do plant based diets deprive the brain of an essential nutrient?
by Ana Sandoiu

Suggested move to plant-based diets risks worsening brain health nutrient deficiency
from BMJ

Could we be overlooking a potential choline crisis in the United Kingdom?
by Emma Derbyshire

How a vegan diet could affect your intelligence
by Zaria Gorvett

Vitamins and Minerals – Plants vs Animals
by Kevin Stock

Health effects of vegan diets
by Winston J Craig

Comparing Glutathione in the Plasma of Vegetarian and Omnivore Populations
by Rachel Christine Manley

Vegan diets are adding to malnutrition in wealthy countries
by Chris Elliott, Chen Situ, and Claire McEvoy

What beneficial compounds are primarily found in animal products?
by Kamal Patel

The Brain Needs Animal Fat
by Georgia Ede

The Vegan Brain
by Georgia Ede

Meat, Organs, Bones and Skin
by Christopher Masterjohn

Vegetarianism and Nutrient Deficiencies
by Christopher Masterjohn

Adding milk, meat to diet dramatically improves nutrition for poor in Zambia
from Science Daily

Red meat plays vital role in diets, claims expert in fightback against veganism
by James Tapper

Nutritional Composition of Meat
by Rabia Shabir Ahmad, Ali Imran and Muhammad Bilal Hussain

Meat and meat products as functional food
by Maciej Ostaszewski

Meat: It’s More than Protein
from Paleo Leap

Conjugated Linoleic Acid: the Weight Loss Fat?
from Paleo Leap

Nutritional composition of red meat
by P. G. Williams

How Red Meat Can ‘Beef Up’ Your Nutrition
by David Hu

Endogenous antioxidants in fish
by Margrét Bragadóttir

Astaxanthin Benefits Better than Vitamin C?
by Rachael Link

Astaxanthin: The Most Powerful Antioxidant You’ve Never Heard Of

Antioxidants Are Bullshit for the Same Reason Eggs Are Healthy
by Sam Westreich

We absolutely need fruits and vegetables to obtain optimal antioxidant status, right?
by Paul Saladino

Hen Egg as an Antioxidant Food Commodity: A Review
Chamila Nimalaratne and Jianping Wu

Eggs’ antioxidant properties may help prevent heart disease and cancer, study suggests
from Science Daily

The Ultimate Superfood? Milk Offers Up a Glass Full of Antioxidants
by Lauren Milligan Newmark

Antioxidant properties of Milk and dairy products: a comprehensive review of the current knowledge
by Imran Taj Khan et al

Antioxidants in cheese may offset blood vessel damage
from Farm and Dairy

Identification of New Peptides from Fermented Milk Showing Antioxidant Properties: Mechanism of Action
by Federica Tonolo

Bioavailability of iron, zinc, and other trace minerals from vegetarian diets
by Janet R Hunt

Dietary iron intake and iron status of German female vegans: results of the German vegan study.
by A. Waldmann, J. W. Koschizke, C. Leitzmann, and A. Hahn

Mechanisms of heme iron absorption: Current questions and controversies
by Adrian R. West and Phillip S. Oates

Association between Haem and Non-Haem Iron Intake and Serum Ferritin in Healthy Young Women
by Isabel Young et al

Pork meat increases iron absorption from a 5-day fully controlled diet when compared to a vegetarian diet with similar vitamin C and phytic acid content.
by M. Bach Kristensen, O. Hels, C. Morberg, J. Marving, S. Bügel, and I. Tetens

Do you need fiber?
by Kevin Stock

Dr. Saladino on Plant and Animal Foods

Dr. Paul Saladino, a former vegetarian and present carnivore advocate, has a Youtube channel with many videos and he has done talks with numerous others. Following on the heels of Dr. Shawn Baker’s book on the carnivore diet, Dr. Saladino has just released his own book, The Carnivore Code. He discusses basic topics like fiber and nutrients, including nutrients that get less attention (carnitine, creatine, choline, taurine, etc; even cholesterol, necessary for brain function), but also more complex science such as IFG1, MTOR, methionine, and much else.

A major emphasis in his work is the contrast between nutrients from animal foods and antinutrients from plant foods, the latter specifically in terms of plant defense chemicals. There are many videos where he talks about this, but I’ll point to only a few of them: Do PLANT MOLECULES have SIDE EFFECTS?, AMA#2: Acid/base balance, APOE4/FTO, omega-3s, the problem with broccoli and more!, Dr Paul Saladino, Benefits of Eating Meat on The Carnivore Diet, Dangers of Lectins in Food, Are curcumin and sulforaphane good for you?, and How Broccoli is Destroying Your Thyroid! with Elle Russ.

Sally Norton is also a font of info on this topic. She likewise has tons of videos, but here is a good one: AHS17 Lost Seasonality and Overconsumption of Plants: Risking Oxalate Toxicity – Sally Norton. By the way, oxalates are just one type of antinutrient. There are many others. Dr. Saladino also goes far beyond only the antinutrients to show the research on what other plant chemicals do.

About fiber, there are several videos you could look at: Is Fiber NECESSARY for a HEALTHY Microbiome?, Paul Saladino MD on Why We Don’t Need Fiber for a Healthy MicrobiomeCarnivore Diet, Fiber, & Health, Dr. Paul Saladino: Statins, Fibre, and Mental Health, and The Great Fiber Myth – Dr. Shawn Baker, Paul Saladino MD, and Mark Sisson. By the way, you might check out some videos by others about fiber: Myths about fibre – how fibre causes constipation and bloating. and Dr. Zoë Harcombe – ‘What about fiber?’.

Maybe most interesting are his growing number of talks with those who are or were pushing plant-heavy diets. He seems to have persuaded Dr. Mercola that plants aren’t always a good thing, but there are many other great dialogues he has been involved with, such as with Dr. Terry Wahls, another former vegetarian.

Here are some of those videos: “The Carnivore Code”- Interview with Paul Saladino, MD, Is autoimmune disease REVERSIBLE? With Terry Wahls, MD, Carnivore Diet: Crazy delicious, or just plain crazy? Ep47 – Paul Saladino Interview (Gundry transcript), How to slow down aging! A conversation with David Sinclair PhD, and Carnivore vs. Vegans! A friendly debate with Cyrus and Robby from Mastering Diabetes. The last video involves two fruitarians. That is a benefit in listening to Dr. Saladino; he isn’t dogmatic nor is he trapped in an echo chamber.

He was recently on a mainstream show, The Doctors, during which he was attacked and not allowed to talk but he handled it far better than most. Here is the original video and some responses to it — one by Saladino and another by the two sisters who also were guests on the show, along with videos made by others: Is It Healthy to Eat Only Meat?, Dr. Saladino on DoctorsTV… but it’s actually watchable, My RESPONSE to THE DOCTORS!, WE WERE ON THE DOCTORS TV SHOW, Carnivore vs the Doctors and vegan fan mail, Paul Saladino vs “The Doctors” Review – VERY strong language throughout…, Carnivore advocate is ambushed on The Doctors TV show, and Carnivore Advocate Goes on ‘The Doctors’ TV Show REACTION!.

It was mainstream authority defending the status quo, at a time when nutrition studies is in the middle of a replication crisis (Felice Jacka Defends Boundaries of Allowable Dietary Thought). On the positive side, when they attack you they are forced to acknowledge you. They only acknowledge opponents when the tactic of silencing has failed. This mainstream show made many Americans aware of the carnivore diet who had never heard of it before.

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I’ve previously discussed much of this kind of info and related topics. It can be found in the following posts, some of which bring in Dr. Saladino’s view:

The Agricultural Mind
Fiber or Not: Short-Chain Fatty Acids and the Microbiome
High vs Low Protein
Gundry’s Plant Paradox and Saladino’s Carnivory
Multiple Sclerosis and Carnivore Diet
Dietary Risk Factors for Heart Disease and Cancer
Hubris of Nutritionism
Sailors’ Rations, a High-Carb Diet
Are ‘vegetarians’ or ‘carnivores’ healthier?
Like water fasts, meat fasts are good for health.
Eat Beef and Bacon!
Vegetarianism is an Animal-Based Diet
Ancient Greek View on Olive Oil as Part of the Healthy Mediterranean Diet
Blue Zones Dietary Myth

Bonus video from another worthy expert: Georgia Ede: Brainwashed — The Mainstreaming of Nutritional Mythology.

Hubris of Nutritionism

There is a fundamental disagreement over diets. It is about one’s philosophical position on humanity and the world, about the kind of society one aspires to. Before getting to nutritionism, let me explain my present understanding that has developed from what I’ve learned. It’s all quite fascinating. There is a deeper reason why, for example, I see vegetarianism as potentially healthy but not veganism (see debate in comments section of my recent post A Fun Experiment), and that distinction will be central in my following argument. There have been some, not many, traditional societies that were vegetarian or rather semi-vegetarian for millennia (e.g., India; see specific comment in the above linked post), but veganism didn’t exist until the Seventh Day Adventists invented it in the late 19th century. Few people know this history. It’s not exactly something most vegan advocates, other than Adventists themselves, would want to mention.

Veganism was a modernization of ancient Greek Galenic theory of humors, having originally been incorporated into mainstream Christian thought during feudalism, especially within the monastic tradition of abstinence and self-denial but also applied to the population at large through food laws. A particular Galenic argument is that, by limiting red meat and increasing plant foods, there would be a suppression or weakening of libido/virility as hot-bloodedness that otherwise threatens to ‘burn’ up the individual. (The outline of this ideology remains within present dietary thought in the warning that too much animal protein will up-regulate mTOR and over-activate IGF-1 which, as it is asserted, will shorten lifespan. Many experts such as Dr. Steven Gundry in The Longevity Paradox, biological anthropologist Stephen Le in 100 Million Years of Food, etc have been parroting Galenic thought without any awareness of the origin of the ideas they espouse. See my posts High vs Low Protein and Low-Carb Diets On The Rise.) Also, it was believed this Galenic strategy would help control problematic behaviors like rowdiness, the reason in the Middle ages that red meat sometimes was banned prior to Carnival (about dietary systems as behavioral manipulation and social control, see Food and Faith in Christian Culture ed. by Ken Albala and Trudy Eden and some commentary about that book at my posts Western Individuality Before the Enlightenment Age and The Crisis of Identity; for similar discussion, also check out The Agricultural Mind, “Yes, tea banished the fairies.”, Autism and the Upper Crust, and Diets and Systems). For the purposes of Christian societies, this has been theologically reinterpreted and reframed. Consider the attempt to protect against the moral sin of masturbation as part of the Adventist moral reform, such that modern cereal was originally formulated specifically for an anti-masturbation campaign — the Breakfast of Champions!

High protein vs low protein is an old conflict, specifically in terms of animal meat and even more specifically as red meat. It’s more of a philosophical or theological disagreement than a scientific debate. The anti-meat argument would never hold such a central position in modern dietary thought if not for the influence of heavily Christianized American culture. It’s part of Christian theology in general. Gary Taubes discusses it in how dieting gets portrayed as the sins of gluttony and sloth: “Of all the dangerous ideas that health officials could have embraced while trying to understand why we get fat, they would have been hard-pressed to find one ultimately more damaging than calories-in/calories-out. That it reinforces what appears to be so obvious – obesity as the penalty for gluttony and sloth – is what makes it so alluring. But it’s misleading and misconceived on so many levels that it’s hard to imagine how it survived unscathed and virtually unchallenged for the last fifty years” (Why We Get Fat). Read mainstream dietary advice and you’ll quickly hear this morality-drenched worldview of fallen humanity and Adam’s sinful body. This goes along with the idea of “no pain, no gain” (an ideology I came to question in seeing how simple and easy are low-carb diets, specifically with how ketosis eliminates endless hunger and cravings while making fat melt away with little effort, not to mention how my decades of drug-resistant and suicidally-prone depression also disappeared, something many others have experienced; so it turns out that for many people great gain can be had with no pain at all). The belief has been that we must suffer and struggle to attain goodness (with physical goodness being an outward sign of moral goodness), such that the weak flesh of the mortal frame must be punished with bodily mortification (i.e., dieting and exercise) to rid it of its inborn sinful nature. Eating meat is a pleasurable temptation in nurturing the ‘fallen’ body and so it must be morally wrong. This Christian theology has become so buried in our collective psyche, even in science itself, that we no longer are able to recognize it for what it is. And because of historical amnesia, we are unaware of where these mind viruses come from.

It’s not only that veganism is a modern ideology in a temporal sense, as a product of post-Enlightenment fundamentalist theology and its secularization. More importantly, it is a broader expression of modern ways of thinking and perceiving, of being in and relating to the world, including but far from limited to how it modernizes and repurposes ancient philosophy (Galen wasn’t advocating veganism, religious or secularized, that is for sure). Besides the crappy Standard American Diet (SAD), veganism is the only other diet entirely dependent on industrialization by way of chemical-laden monoculture, high-tech food processing, and global trade networks — and hence enmeshed in the web of big ag, big food, big oil, and big gov (all of this, veganism and the industrialization that made it possible, surely was far beyond Galen’s imagination). To embrace veganism, no matter how well-intentioned, is to be fully complicit in modernity and all that goes with it — not that it makes individual vegans bad people, as to varying degrees all of us are complicit in this world we are born into. Still, veganism stands out for, within that ideological framework, there is no other choice outside of modern industrialization.

At the heart of veganism, is a techno-utopian vision and technocratic impulse. It’s part of the push for a plant-based diet that began with the Seventh Day Adventists, most infamously Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, who formed the foundation of modern American nutritional research and dietary recommendations (see the research of Bellinda Fettke who made this connection: Ellen G White and Medical EvangelismThou Shalt not discuss Nutrition ‘Science’ without understanding its driving force, and Lifestyle Medicine … where did the meat go?). I don’t say this to be mean or dismissive of vegans. If one insists on being a vegan, there are better ways to do it. But it will never be an optimal diet, neither for the individual nor for the environment (and, yes, industrial agriculture does kill large numbers of animals, whether or not the vegan has to see it in the grocery store or on their plate; see my post Carnivore Is Vegan: if veganism is defined by harming and killing the fewest lives, if veganism is dependent on industrialization that harms and kills large numbers of lives, and if potentially carnivore is the least dependent on said industrialization, then we are forced to come the conclusion that, by definition, “carnivore is vegan”). Still, if vegans insist, they should be informed and honest in embracing industrialization as a strength, rather than hiding it as a weakness, in overtly arguing for techno-utopian and technocratic solutions in the Enlightenment fashion of Whiggish progressivism. Otherwise, this unacknowledged shadow side of veganism remains an Achille’s heel that eventually will take down veganism as a movement when the truth is finally revealed and becomes public knowledge. I don’t care if veganism continues in its influence, but if vegans care about advocating their moral vision they better do some soul-searching about what exactly they are advocating and for what reason and to what end.

Veganism is not limited to being unique as the only specific diet that is fully industrialized (SAD isn’t comparable because it isn’t a specific diet, since one could argue that veganism as an industrialized diet is one variety of SAD). More importantly, what makes veganism unique is its ethical impetus. That is how it originated within the righteously moralizing theology of Adventism (to understand the moral panic of that era, read my post The Crisis of Identity). The Adventist Ellen G. White’s divine visions from God preceded the health arguments. And even those later health arguments within Adventism were predicated upon a moralistic hypothesis of human nature and reality, that is to say theology. Veganism has maintained the essence of that theology of moral health, even though the dietary ideology was quickly sanitized and secularized. Adventists like Dr. Kellogg realized that this new kind of plant-based diet would not spread unless it was made to seem natural and scientific, a common strategy of fundamentalist apologetics such as pseudo-scientific Creationism (I consider this theologically-oriented rhetoric to be a false framing; for damn sure, veganism is not more natural since it is one of the least natural diets humanity was ever attempted). So, although the theology lost its emphasis, one can still sense this religious-like motivation and righteous zeal that remains at the heart of veganism, more than a mere diet but an entire social movement and political force.

Let’s return to the health angle and finally bring in nutritionism. The only way a vegan diet is possible at all is through the industrial agriculture that eliminated the traditional farming practices, including an entire lifestyle as part of farming communities, that was heavily dependent on animal husbandry and pasturage (similar to how fundamentalist religion such as Adventism is also a product of modernity, an argument made by Karen Armstrong; modern fundamentalism is opposed to traditional religion in the way that, as Corey Robin explains, reactionary conservatism is opposed to the ancien regime it attacked and replaced). This is the industrial agriculture that mass produces plant foods through monoculture and chemicals (that, by the way, destroys ecosystems and kills the soil). And on top of that, vegans would quickly die of malnutrition if not for the industrial production of supplements and fortified foods to compensate for the immense deficiencies of their diet. This is based on an ideology of nutritionism, that as clever apes we can outsmart nature, that humanity is separate from and above nature — this is the main point I’m making here, that veganism is unnatural to the human condition formed under millions of years of hominid evolution. This isn’t necessarily a criticism from a Christian perspective since it is believed that the human soul ultimately isn’t at home in this world, but it is problematic when this theology is secularized and turned into pseudo-scientific dogma. This further disconnects us from the natural world and from our own human nature. Hence, veganism is very much a product of modernity and all of its schisms and dissociations, very much seen in American society of the past century or so. Of course, the Adventists want the human soul to be disconnected from the natural world and saved from the fallen nature of Adam’s sin. As for the rest of us who aren’t Adventists, we might have a different view on the matter. This is definitely something atheist or pagan vegans should seriously consider and deeply contemplate. We should all think about how the plant-based and anti-meat argument has come to dominate mainstream thought. Will veganism and industrialization save us? Is that what we want to put our faith in? Is that faith scientifically justified?

It’s not that I’m against plant-based diets in general. I’ve been vegetarian. And when I was doing a paleo diet, I ate more vegetables than I had ever done in my life, far more than most vegetarians. I’m not against plants themselves based on some strange principle. It’s specifically veganism that I’m concerned about. Unlike vegetarianism, there is no way to do veganism with traditional, sustainable, and restorative farming practices. Vegetarianism, omnivory, and carnivory are all fully compatible in the possibility of eliminating industrial agriculture, including factory farming. That is not the case with veganism, a diet that is unique in its place in the modern world. Not all plant-based diets are the same. Veganism is entirely different from plant-heavy diets such as vegetarianism and paleo that also allow animal foods (also, consider the fact that any diet other than carnivore is “plant-based”, a somewhat meaningless label). That is no small point since plant foods are limited in seasonality in all parts of the world, whereas most animal foods are not. If a vegetarian wanted, they could live fairly far north and avoid out-of-season plant foods shipped in from other countries simply by eating lots of eggs and dairy (maybe combined with very small amounts of what few locally-grown plant foods were traditionally and pre-industrially stored over winter: nuts, apples, fermented vegetables, etc; or maybe not even that since, technically, a ‘vegetarian’ diet could be ‘carnivore’ in only eating eggs and dairy). A vegetarian could be fully locavore. A vegan could not, at least not in any Western country, although a vegan near the equator might be able to pull off a locavore diet as long as they could rely upon local industrial agriculture, which at least would eliminate the harm from mass transportation, but it still would be an industrial-based diet with all the problems, including mass suffering and death, that entails.

Veganism in entirely excluding animal foods (and excluding insect foods such as honey) does not allow this option of a fully natural way of eating, both local and seasonal without any industrialization. Even in warmer climes amidst lush foliage, a vegan diet was never possible and never practiced prior to industrialization. Traditional communities, surrounded by plant foods or not, have always found it necessary to include animal and insect foods to survive and thrive. Hunter-gatherers living in the middle of dense jungles (e.g., Piraha) typically get most of their calories from animal foods, as long as they maintain access to their traditional hunting grounds and fishing waters, and as long as poaching and environmental destruction or else hunting laws haven’t disrupted their traditional foodways. The closest to a more fully plant-based diet among traditional people was found among Hindus in India, but even there they unintentionally (prior to chemical insecticides) included insects and insect eggs in their plant foods while intentionally allowing individuals during fertile phases of life to eat meat. So, even traditional (i.e., pre-industrial) Hindus weren’t entirely and strictly vegetarian, much less vegan (see my comment at my post A Fun Experiment), but still high quality eggs and dairy can go a long way toward nourishment, as many healthy traditional societies included such foods, especially dairy from pasture-raised animals (consider Weston A. Price’s early 20th century research of healthy traditional communities; see my post Health From Generation To Generation).

Anyway, one basic point is that plant-based diet is not necessarily and always identical to veganism, in that other plant-based diets exist with various forms of animal foods. This is a distinction many vegan advocates want to confound in muddying the water of public debate. In discussing the just released documentary The Game Changers, Paul Kita writes that it “repeatedly pits a vegan diet against a diet that includes meat. The film does this to such an extent that you slowly realize that “plant-based” is just a masquerade for “vegan.” Either you eat animal products and suffer the consequences or avoid animal products and thrive, the movie argues.” (This New Documentary Says Meat Will Kill You. Here’s Why It’s Wrong.). That is a false dichotomy, a forced choice driven by an ideological-driven agenda. Kita makes a simple point that challenges this entire frame: “Except that there’s another choice: Eat more vegetables” Or simply eat less industrial foods that have been industrially grown, industrially processed, and/or industrially transported — basically, don’t eat heavily processed crap, from either meat or plants (specifically refined starches, added sugar, and vegetable oils) but also don’t eat the unhealthy (toxic and nutrient-depleted) produce of industrial agriculture, that is to say make sure to eat locally and in season. But that advice also translates as: Don’t be vegan. That isn’t the message vegan advocates want you to hear.

Dietary ideologies embody social, political, and economic ideologies, sometimes as all-encompassing cultural worldviews. They can shape our sense of identity and reality, what we perceive as true, what we believe is desirable, and what we imagine is possible. It goes further than that, in fact. Diets can alter our neurocognitive development and so potentially alter the way we think and feel. This is one way mind viruses could quite literally parasitize our brains and come to dominate a society, which I’d argue is what has brought our own society to this point of mass self-harm through dietary dogma of pseudo-scientific “plant-based” claims of health (with possibly hundreds of millions of people who have been harmed and had their lives cut short). A diet is never merely a diet. And we are all prone to getting trapped in ideological systems. In my criticisms of veganism as a diet, that doesn’t make vegans as individuals bad people. And I don’t wish them any ill will, much less failure in their dietary health. But I entirely oppose the ideological worldview and social order that, with conscious intention or not, they are promoting. I have a strong suspicion that the world that vegans are helping to create is not a world I want to live in. It is not their beautiful liberal dream that I criticize and worry about. I’m just not so sure that the reality will turn out to be all that wonderful. So far, the plant-based agenda doesn’t seem to be working out all that well. Americans eat more whole grains and legumes, vegetables and fruits than ever before since data was kept and yet the health epidemic continues to worsen (see my post Malnourished Americans). It was never rational to blame public health concerns on meat and animal fat.

Maybe I’m wrong about veganism and the ultimate outcome of their helping to shape the modern world. Maybe technological innovation and progress will transform and revolutionize industrial agriculture and food processing, the neoliberal trade system and capitalist market in a beneficial way for all involved, for the health and healing of individuals and the whole world. Maybe… but I’m not feeling confident enough to bet the fate of future generations on what, to me, seems like a flimsy promise of vegan idealism borne out of divine visions and theological faith. More simply, veganism doesn’t seem all that healthy on the most basic of levels. No diet that doesn’t support health for the individual will support health for society, as society is built on the functioning of humans. That is the crux of the matter. To return to nutritionism, that is the foundation of veganism — the argument that, in spite of all of the deficiencies of veganism and other varieties of the modern industrial diet, we can simply supplement and fortify the needed nutrients and all will be well. To my mind, that seems like an immense leap of faith. Adding some nutrients back into a nutrient-depleted diet is better than nothing, but comes nowhere close to the nutrition of traditional whole foods. If we have to supplement the deficiencies of a diet, that diet remains deficient and we are merely covering up the worst aspects of it, what we are able to most obviously observe and measure. Still, even with those added vitamins, minerals, cofactors, etc, it doesn’t follow that the body is getting all that it needs for optimal health. In traditional whole foods, there are potentially hundreds or thousands of compounds, most of which have barely been researched or not researched at all. There are certain health conditions that require specific supplements. Sure, use them when necessary, as we are not living under optimal conditions of health in general. But when anyone and everyone on a particular diet is forced to supplement to avoid serious health decline as is the case with veganism, there is a serious problem with that diet.

It’s not exactly that I disagree with the possible solution vegans are offering to this problem, as I remain open to future innovative progress. I’m not a nostalgic reactionary and romantic revisionist seeking to turn back the clock to re-create a past that never existed. I’m not, as William F. Buckley jr. put it, “someone who stands athwart history, yelling Stop”. Change is great — I have nothing against it. And I’m all for experimenting. That’s not where I diverge from the “plant-based” vision of humanity’s salvation. Generally speaking, vegans simply ignore the problem I’ve detailed or pretend it doesn’t exist. They believe that such limitations don’t apply to them. That is a very modern attitude coming from a radically modern diet and the end result would be revolutionary in remaking humanity, a complete overturning of what came before. It’s not to be obsessed with the past, to believe we are limited to evolutionary conditions and historical precedence. But ignoring the past is folly. Our collective amnesia about the traditional world keeps getting us into trouble. We’ve nearly lost all traces of what health once meant, the basic level of health that used to be the birthright of all humans.

My purpose here is to create a new narrative. It isn’t vegans and vegetarians against meat-eaters. The fact of the matter is most Americans eat more plant foods than animal foods, in following this part of dietary advice from the AHA, ADA, and USDA (specifically eating more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes than ever before measured since data has been kept). When snacking, it is plant foods (crackers, potato chips, cookies, donuts, etc) that we gorge on, not animal foods. Following Upton Sinclair’s writing of The Jungle, the average intake of red meat went on a decline. And since the 1930s, Americans have consumed more industrial seed oils than animal fat. “American eats only about 2oz of red meat per day,” tweets Dr. Shawn Baker, “and consumes more calories from soybean oil than beef!” Even total fat hasn’t increased but remained steady with the only change in the ratio of what kinds of fats, that is to say more industrial seed oils. It’s true that most Americans aren’t vegan, but what they share with vegans is an industrialized diet that is “plant-based”. To push the American diet further in this direction would hardly be a good thing. And it would require ever greater dependence on the approach of nutritionism, of further supplementation and fortification as Americans increasingly become malnourished. That is no real solution to the problem we face.

Instead of scapegoating meat and animal fat, we should return to the traditional American diet or else some other variant of the traditional human diet. The fact of the matter is historically Americans ate massive amounts of meat and, at the time, they were known as the healthiest population around. Meat-eating Americans in past centuries towered over meat-deprived Europeans. And those Americans, even the poor, were far healthier than their demographic counterparts elsewhere in the civilized and increasingly industrialized world. The United States, one of the last Western countries to be fully industrialized and urbanized, was one of the last countries to see the beginning of a health epidemic. The British noticed the first signs of physical decline in the late 1800s, whereas Americans didn’t clearly see this pattern until World War II. With this in mind, it would be more meaningful to speak of animal-based diets, including vegetarianism that allows dairy and eggs. This would be far more meaningful than grouping together supposed “plant-based” diets. Veganism is worlds apart from vegetarianism. Nutritionally speaking, vegetarianism has more in common with the paleo diet or even carnivore diet than with veganism, the latter being depleted of essential nutrients from animal foods (fat-soluble vitamins, EPA, DHA, DPA, choline, cholesterol, etc; yes, we sicken and die without abundant cholesterol in our diet, the reason dementia and other forms of neurocognitive decline are a common symptom of statins in lowering cholesterol levels). To entirely exclude all animal foods is a category unto itself, a category that didn’t exist and was unimaginable until recent history.

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by Gyorgy Scrinin

In Defense of Food
by Michael Pollan

Vegan Betrayal
by Mara Kahn

The Vegetarian Myth
by Lierre Keith

Mike Mutzel:

On the opposite side of the spectrum, the vegans argue that now we have the technologies like B12, synthetic b12, we can get DHA from algae. So it’s a beautiful time to be be vegan because we don’t need to rely upon animals for these compounds. What would you say to that argument?

Paul Saladino:

I would say that that’s a vast oversimplification of the sum total of human nutrition to think that, if we can get synthetic B12 and synthetic DHA, we’re getting everything in an animal. It’s almost like this reductionist perspective, in my opinion.

I’ve heard some people say that it doesn’t matter what you eat. It’s all about calories in and calories out, and then you can just take a multivitamin for your minerals and vitamins. And I always bristle at that I think that is so reductionist. You really think you’ve got it all figured out that you can just take one multivitamin and your calories and that is the same as real food?

That to me is just a travesty of an intellectual hypothesis or intellectual position to take because that’s clearly not the case. We know that animal foods are much more than the reductionist vitamins and minerals that are in them. And they are the structure or they are the matrix they are the amino acids… they are the amino acid availability… they are the cofactors. And to imagine that you can substitute animal foods with B12 and DHA is just a very scary position for me.

I think this is an intellectual error that we make over and over as humans in our society and this is a broader context… I think that we are smart and because we have had some small victories in medicine and nutrition and health. We’ve made scanning electron microscopes and we’ve understood quarks. I think that we’ve gotten a little too prideful and we imagine that as humans we can outsmart natural the natural world, that we can outsmart nature. And that may sound woo-woo, but I think it’s pretty damn difficult to outsmart 3 million years of natural history and evolution. And any time we try to do that I get worried.

Whether it’s peptides, whether it’s the latest greatest drug, whether it’s the latest greatest hormone or hormone combination, I think you are messing with three million years of the natural world’s wisdom. You really think you’re smarter than that? Just wait just wait, just wait, you’ll see. And to reduce animal foods to B12 and DHA, that’s a really really bad idea.

And as we’ve been talking about all those plant foods that you’re eating on a vegan diet are gonna come with tons of plants toxins. So yes, I think that we are at a time in human history when you can actually eat all plants and not get nutritional deficiencies in the first year or two because you can supplement the heck out of it, right? You can get… but, but… I mean, the list goes on.

Where’s your zinc? Where’s your carnitine? Where’s your carnosine? Where’s your choline? It’s a huge list of things. How much protein are you getting? Are you actually a net positive nitrogen balance? Let’s check your labs. Are you getting enough iodine? Where are you getting iodine from on a vegan diet?

It doesn’t make sense. You have to supplement with probably 27 different things. You have to think about the availability of your protein, the net nitrogen uses of your protein.

And you know people may not know this about me. I was a vegan, I was a raw vegan for about 7 months about 14 years ago. And my problem — and one thing I’ve heard from a lot of other people, in fact my clients, are the same thing today — is that, even if you’re able to eat the foods and perfectly construct micronutrients, you’re going to have so much gas that nobody’s going to want to be around you in the first place.

And I don’t believe that, in any way, shape or form, a synthetic diet is the same as a real foods diet. You can eat plants and take 25 supplements. But then you think what’s in your supplements? And are they bioavailable in the same way? And do they have the cofactors like they do in the food? And to imagine — we’ve done so much in human nutrition — but to imagine that we really understand fully the way that humans eat and digest their food I think is just that’s just pride and that’s just a folly.

Mike Mutzel:

Well, I agree I mean I think there’s a lot more to food than we recognize: micro RNA, transfer RNA, like other molecules that are not quote-unquote macronutrients. Yeah, now I think that’s what you’re getting from plants and animals in a good or bad way that a lot of people don’t think about. For example, you know there’s animal studies that show stress on animals; for example, like pre-slaughter stress affects the transcription patches and various genes in the animal product.

So, I love how you’re bringing to this whole carnivore movement — like the grass-fed movement, eating more organic free-range, things like that — because one of the qualms that I had seeing this thing take off is a lot of people going to fast food were taking the bun off the burger saying that there’s really no difference between grass-fed or a grain-fed. Like meat’s meat, just get what you can afford. I understand that some people… I’ve been in that place financially before in my life where grass-fed was a luxury.

But the other constituents that could potentially be in lower quality foods, both plant and animal. And the other thing about that you, just to hit on one more thing… The supplements —  been in the supplement space since ’06 — they’re not free of iatrogenesis, right. So there is heavy metals, arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium in supplements; even vegan proteins, for example.

Paul Saladino:

Yeah, highly contaminated. Yeah, people don’t think about the metals in their supplements. And I see a lot of clients with high heavy metals and we think where are you getting this from. I saw a guy the other day with a really high tin and I think it’s in his supplements. And so anyway, that’s a whole other story

Carnivore Is Vegan

“I’m going to tell your audience something that not many farmers would ever admit. This happens on all farms. If you like eating avocados, for a farmer to grow avocados financially, especially biodynamically, where we’re enhancing the ecosystem and helping nature, we have to grow at least 20 to 40 acres of avocado, and we have to be able to sell those directly to our market, to our consumer.

“So here I am, farming 20 to 40 acres. That’s going to require me to kill at least 35 to 40,000 gophers to protect those trees. Humming birds, accidentally when I spray non-synthetically-derived organic spray, accidentally killing bees, accidentally killing ladybugs, and intentionally killing ground squirrels. So there are 50 to 100,000 deaths that happen just to grow avocados.

“And my point is that none of us are getting out of this without blood on our hands. It’s just at what point and how connected are you to the process, but that doesn’t excuse you from the reverence and the responsibility of life.”
~ Rich Roll, vegan farmer and influencer (clip & full video)

“A lot of animals are killed in all kinds of agriculture. I’ll never forget the first time I saw a combine harvester go through an organic soybean field and kill all the animals that had made that field their home. Among the many animals that died that day were baby bunnies that were skinned by the blades and were then eaten alive by hawks. The hawks followed the harvester through the field looking for an easy meal. I knew that the farmer had contracted his crop to an organic tofu company and that most of the people eating this food would be vegans and vegetarians. The irony of this situation was enough to stop me from going vegan for many years afterwards. I would frequently bring up this anecdote when I would argue with vegan friends. It still annoys me when my fellow vegans act as though their lifestyle is 100% cruelty free and that no animals die in the process of making their food. It speaks to an ignorance of the realities of rural life.”
 ~ Charlie Knoles, self-identified vegan, meditation teacher, B.S. in Environmental Biology

Which diet causes the most harm? And which the least? The least harm principle is central to veganism; as it is to some religions, from Seventh Day Adventism to Buddhism (ahimsa). Some vegans go so far as to suggest that this principle is more of a philosophy, worldview, and lifestyle than it is necessarily, primarily, and entirely a diet. Indeed, others go even further in treating it as a religion or as central to their religious or spiritual practice. For the sake of argument, we are going to use that definition. Veganism is about the consequences that the diet and everything else directly and indirectly causes or otherwise contributes to and is complicit in. So, we can’t know what is vegan merely by what kinds of foods a particular eating pattern includes or excludes. And hence we can’t know which diet is most ‘vegan’ in causing the least harm by isolating diet from all the rest.

The etymology of ‘diet’ connects the word back to the meaning of ‘lifestyle’ or ‘way of life’. For veganism, this implies empathy, compassion, loving-kindness, and moral concern; in relation to the larger living world. As a lifelong environmentalist, I take quite seriously the vegan ideal and critique. I’m a bleeding-heart liberal, an animal-loving and tree-hugging sensitive male, not to mention having a streak of radical leftism. The political views of many vegans overlap with my own. Yet I’ve never been a vegan, although I briefly was vegetarian when younger, as my brothers (and their families) still are vegetarian. For whatever reason, the fair number of self-identified vegans I’ve known over the decades never swayed me to eliminate all animal foods and products, much less aspire to the broader vegan identity. Let me explain why.

Even limiting ourselves to a dietary ideology alone, we have to consider the broader context. Diets are supported, promoted, and made possible by the entire network of food system, agriculture, land management, resource usage, environmental practices, ecosystems, petrochemicals, transportation, industry, processing, packaging, economics, trade, markets, sellers, monied interests, lobbyist organizations, public policies, official dietary recommendations, institutionalized ideologies, funding of scientific research, etc. The majority of harms along with other costs are indirect and hidden and externalized onto others, sometimes privatized (e.g., poor rural housing next to chemical-sprayed farm fields) and at other times socialized (e.g., chemicals getting into the water supply to be cleaned up by a public water plant).

I’ve long been obsessed with externalized costs and the moral hazard that follows. This is a particular problem when ideology and money are mixed. Diet has been enmeshed in ideology for millennia (e.g., religious food laws) and the food system has long been central to most major economies, such as how the United States became so wealthy and profitable primarily through agriculture. Veganism magnifies this confluence. There is no other dietary ideology that is more dogmatic or more dependent on agriculture. So, to assess veganism in its mainstream form is to analyze how modern food production is shaped by and conforms to modern ideology; and how in turn it bolsters the ancient ideological impulse within food systems. It’s not only what diet does or does not cause the most harm but also how we perceive and understand harm or fail to do so.

“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

If veganism means the overall avoidance or lessening of the death, suffering, and exploitation particularly of animals and other sentient life (including humans), then it is rationally and morally plausible that an animal-based diet, including carnivore and maybe even lacto-ovo-vegetarianism, is potentially the most vegan diet around; assuming it is organically-grown and locally-sourced, sustainably-managed and regeneratively-farmed, pasture-raised and wild-caught. Besides hunting and gathering, pastoralism as a food system and way of life kills the fewest animals, fewer than agriculture by far. For every life taken by a meat-eater (e.g., a single pasture-raised chicken or cow) or egg-and-dairy-eater, a vegan might kill hundreds or thousands (coyotes, foxes, deer, rodents, snakes, birds, insects, spiders, etc). That isn’t even to include the vast spectrum of species and entire ecosystems annihilated in the original creation of farmland.

Over an entire year, a single human can on a carnivore diet or a single small family on an omnivore diet could survive on the meat, organs, fat, marrow, bone broth, etc from a single cow: 570lb beef at 605,000 cals, 280lb fat and bone, 32lb offal/carcass shrink (Dr. Zoe Harcombe PhD, Should We Be Vegan). That would allow for around a couple pounds of fatty beef and organ meats per day every day, 365 days per year (on days that I do strict carnivore and beef only, I typically eat about 2-3 lbs). Or one could eat two pigs instead, each producing upwards of 270lb pork, bacon, and pork belly; not to mention a ton of lard to use for cooking, including for plant foods. But if one prefers chicken (3.3lb each but with less fat and calories), that would mean the death of 228 animals, according to Dr. Harcombe; not that many people are likely to eat a chicken-exclusive diet. Of course, those on animal-based diets could get much of their diet from eggs and dairy as well, neither of which necessarily requires killing any animals.

Furthermore, whatever one’s choice of animal foods, all of it could be locally, sustainably, and regeneratively raised; even on open land with wildlife habitat and wildlife grazing. Compare that to the ecological devastation of industrial agriculture (and all of the industrial system that goes with it) that is a major force behind our present ongoing mass extinction. Farming directly kills 7.3 billion wild animals globally or 114 per hectare of cropland farmed, excluding the deaths of insects and spiders (from honeybee population collapse caused by insecticides to monarch butterfly population collapse caused by fencerow-to-fencerow farming), not to mention the wiping out of microbial life in the soil. But that isn’t even to take into account the even larger indirect death count from the entire industrial food system that vegans and vegetarians are dependent on (The Farming Truth Project, Hypoxic Dead Zones and Agriculture). To put it in full context:

“18.04 animals die in the production of 10,000 grams of plant-based protein. This is in comparison to only 3.68 deaths for 10,000 grams of animal-based protein. […] 18.35 animals die to produce 1,000 servings of plant-based food. This is in comparison to only 8.31 deaths for 1,000 servings of animal-based foods. […] Plant products kill 2.96 times more animals per calorie, 4.9 times more per gram of protein, and 2.21 times more per serving than animal products. Plant foods are over twice as deadly as animal foods. […] 114 animals die per hectare of crop land farmed versus only 46 animals dying per hectare of pastureland for livestock. […] a vegan kills 1.16 times more animals with the amount of servings realistically consumed compared with an omnivore” (The Farming Truth Project, Vegans Kill More Animals – Here’s Proof; also see: Introduction: Ways that Animals are Killed in Crop Production; & How Many Die For Your Food: Calculating the Death Toll of Crop Production vs. Livestock Production).

For even further context, a cow only needs about an acre of land for pasture (there are approximately 2.5 acres per hectare); 25-35 pigs can also be kept on a mere acre; and 50 chickens could be raised on an acre, such as putting them on the pasture after the cows to eat the maggots from the cow manure. That is all the land required for someone on a carnivore diet. A vegan, on the other hand, depends on two acres, almost a hectare (William Swanson, How Much Land Does It Take To Feed One Person – Online Calculator). If we calculate from the above data, two acres would kill about 88 animals every year. Yet on two acres of carnivory, one could easily raise enough food for an entire family with a relatively small number of animal deaths, especially if one of those acres was used to raise a dairy cow and egg-laying hens. So, even if a carnivore or omnivore also eats some other meat and animal foods besides beef, they would be hard put to kill as many animals as is the case on the vegan diet.

All in all, someone on a fully carnivore diet would kill the least of all, particularly as a carnivore diet is typically low-carb and so tends toward less hunger/cravings and hence less snacking. That would be even more true for meat from animals raised on pasture. Whether meat-eating or meat-abstaining, the death count is at least partly known and so false claims of unintentionality is no justifiable rationalization. There is no avoidance of moral culpability. This is not about being clever but about what is genuinely least harmful and most environmentally sustainable, as human and non-human health are intertwined. Rather than a pose of moral righteousness, our concern should be with what brings the greater overall good.

It’s no small point that the people with nutrient-dense animal foods are overall healthier, whereas the vegans require additional nutritional fortification and supplementation which would contribute further to their land usage, environmental externalized costs, and harm to life. If veganism was the healthiest and most sustainable diet, why has there never been a vegan society in all of human existence? Even in equatorial regions plant foods have limited growing seasons. The hunter-gatherer Hadza, for example, only have fruit and honey available a few months of the year. As another example, the Piraha living in the lush and abundant Amazon forest depend for their diet 90% on fish.

I did do a carnivore diet for a couple of months as an experiment, although I wasn’t strict about it. For a while now, I’ve been back on a diet that tends toward ketogenic, paleo, and traditional foods. My food sourcing is important to me with an emphasis on locally produced, seasonally available, organic, and pasture-raised. This means I regularly shop at the nearby farmers market. So, despite not being carnivore at present, I am heavily biased toward animal foods with plenty of meat and eggs, along with some dairy. The plant foods I eat are also almost entirely from the farmers market, in particular the fermented veggies I enjoy. That translates as eating a greater proportion of plant foods when available in the warm time of the year and more animal foods in winter. Not only is this diet extremely healthy but also highly ethical and environmentally sustainable.

Raising animals on pasture avoids all of the problems associated with industrial agriculture and factory farming. It is actually a net gain for local ecosystems, the biosphere, and the human species. The health of the soil actually improves with pasture and atmospheric carbon is captured — indeed, grasslands draw down more carbon than do farm fields or forests. Run-off, erosion, and pollution are also eliminated. On top of that, pasture provides habitat for wildlife, as opposed to mass farming and monoculture that destroys habitat and displaces wildlife, not to mention poisons, starves and slaughters immense numbers of wildlife. If you’re pro-life in the broadest sense, the last thing in the world you’d want to be is vegan, as it is inherently and inevitably dependent on industrial agriculture and mass transportation.

Vegan arguments against harm to animals don’t apply to a pasture-raised and wild-caught carnivore diet or any local animal-based diet combined with locally and seasonally available plant foods. (By the way, today was the beginning of wild mulberry season — delicious! I was knocked right out of ketosis and was glad for it. That is the reason plants evolved the highly addictive drug called sugar, so that we would eat their fruit and spread their seeds, not so that one day agriculture would make possible industrially-produced and health-destroying high fructose corn syrup.)

Veganism creates a similar disconnect as seen with right-wing ‘pro-lifers’ who oppose abortion. As I’ve pointed out, countries that ban abortions don’t decrease the rate of abortions and sometimes increase them. The main change is whether abortions are legal and safe or illegal and unsafe. But anti-abortionists refuse to accept responsibility for the consequences of the policies they support. Similarly, vegans also refuse to accept responsibility for the deaths and destruction that their diet incurs. Whether one intentionally or unintentionally causes harm, the harm is equally real. This is how symbolic ideology that makes people feel good trumps practical concerns about what actually makes the world a better place.

“What do plants eat? They eat dead animals; that’s the problem. For me that was a horrifying realization. You want to be an organic gardener, of course, so you keep reading ‘Feed the soil, feed the soil, feed the soil…’

“All right. Well, what does the soil want to eat? Well, it wants manure, and it wants urine, and it wants blood meal and bone meal. And I…could not face that. I wanted my garden to be pure and death-free. It didn’t matter what I wanted: plants wanted those things; they needed those things to grow.”
~ Lierre Keith

“There is no place left for the buffalo to roam. There’s only corn, wheat, and soy. About the only animals that escaped the biotic cleansing of the agriculturalists are small animals like mice and rabbits, and billions of them are killed by the harvesting equipment every year. Unless you’re out there with a scythe, don’t forget to add them to the death toll of your vegetarian meal. They count, and they died for your dinner, along with all the animals that have dwindled past the point of genetic feasibility.”
~ Lierre Keith

There is no reason the world’s population couldn’t live according to the meat-based diet I and many others follow; or else some other version of an animal-based diet such as the Paleo diet or the traditional Mediterranean diet, but also lacto-ovo-vegetarianism. Plant-based advocates ask for evidence that eating meat and other animal foods is sustainable. Are these people utterly disconnected from reality? Ruminants have been around for 50 million years. Chickens and other fowl descended from dinosaurs. And fish can be traced back 530 million years. Animals eating other animals has been going on for over 800 million years. Humans began eating meat, animal fat, and marrow 2.6 million years ago. The overall biomass hasn’t changed much over time. Also, cows don’t increase total atmospheric methane because the grasslands they graze on capture methane. It’s a freaking natural cycle! It’s been going on for as long as life has existed. Isn’t that long enough to prove sustainability?

Besides, very little of the arable land available can be used for farming plant foods. But most of it can be used for grazing. Also, grazing animals for food can be done alongside keeping the land open for wild animals as well. Keep in mind that, in North America, there once were more buffalo roaming the continent than there are now cows and the vast herds of buffalo were what kept the prairies healthy. Even in countries that don’t have good farmland, animals can always be raised locally on pasture or open land, from mountains and valleys to grasslands and deserts. There is no country in the world that lacks land for grazing. If not cows, then chicken, ostriches, pigs, goats, sheep, camels, or whatever else; not to mention traditional ways of raising fish in ponds (a major resource of the ancient Romans and early medieval Europeans).

Let’s put this in perspective, 90% of usable land in North America can only be used for wildlife and livestock, not farming. In other places (Africa, India, Australia, etc), it’s even higher at 95% of the usable land. A point of confusion is that some major global organizations, like the United Nations, only speak of animal farming in terms of pastures and meadows that are only two-thirds of the land in use (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Sustainable Food and Agriculture) and, in the United States, a little over one-third of total land is pasture (Dave Merrill & Lauren Leatherby, Here’s How America Uses Its Land). But none of this includes savannahs, shrublands, tundra, forests, wetlands, mountains, rough foothills, rocky islands, arid areas, and deserts where one can sometimes graze cattle but certainly graze animals other than cows; such as chickens, goats, pigs, camels, alpacas, etc with much of it falling under the category of ‘rangeland’ that by itself is half the earth’s land surface (World Wildlife Fund, New Data Shows Rangelands Make Up Half the World’s Land Surface – and Present a Severely Underutilized Opportunity to Address the Climate and Biodiversity Crises); along with hunting, trapping, and fishing of wild game.

Yet even when only including agricultural lands and ignoring non-agricultural lands and waters that could potentially be used for immense and sustainable food production, one study still found that, “The vegan diet, surprisingly, fed fewer people than two of the omnivore diets and both of the other vegetarian diets, suggesting food choices that make use of grazing and forage land as well as cropland could feed more people than those that completely eliminate animal-based food from our diets” (Kristen Satre Meyer, Which Diet Makes the Best Use of Farmland? You Might Be Surprised.). So, all of the animal-based diets were proven more environmentally sustainable than the strictly plant-exclusive diet. The study’s analysis did conclude that reducing meat was more sustainable for agricultural lands, the few percentages of all land. It was designed to be biased against animal foods, and yet the animal-based diets still showed their merit. Now add in the animal foods from half the earth’s land surface and all of the earth’s water.

Oceans, seas, lakes, ponds and rivers aside, there are so many kinds of lands and so many ways they could be implemented for local and global food production. Conventional industrial farming of bathing GMO monocrops in chemicals, with its erosion and pollution, is not going to be the future. As an odd example, think of the traditional pig farming on Okinawa, a small rocky island, where the pig pen was traditionally underneath the house where human waste and excrement was fed to the pigs — how does one describe that kind of efficient and effective land use? Not that it’s being suggested that Americans should follow this specific example, although it does demonstrate how animal foods can be increased in ways that can’t be as easily done with plant foods. We are surrounded by lands unused and underutilized. The amount of wasted land in the average suburb could be used to raise a large part of the foods needed for those living there. We Americans have come to take for granted how much land we not only waste but use destructively, such as the chemical-drenched ecological deserts of suburban yards and greenspaces. Many suburbs are built on farmland. Why are we so insane as to build housing on arable land? We should be emphasizing and incentivizing residential concentration, not sprawl.

What plant-based environmentalists ignore is that deforestation is rarely done for cattle grazing, particularly not deforestation of rainforests that have poor soil for grazing. The cause of that deforestation is primarily for other reasons, from logging to mining, but half of it is for croplands to produce palm oil and soy. Cows are only put on such poor soil as an afterthought when there is nothing else to do with the land. In the US, it’s interesting to note how no one is talking about the deforestation of farmland: “As forests have been cleared from farmland, a long-term decline in grazed forestland of 186 million acres has taken place since the start of the MLU series” (Daniel Bigelow, A Primer on Land Use in the United States). We could replant a lot of trees on farmland, and that would healthier for the soil and provide habitat for wildlife, but then it could only be used for grazing.

Government agencies in the United States (EPA, USDA, etc), fortunately, do categorize the other kinds of grazing lands: grassland pasture and range, including shrub and brushland; and forest land grazed (EPA, Definitions of Land Use Categories). For whatever reason, these vast tracts of non-agricultural lands never come up in terms of animal production within mainstream environmentalist arguments, critiques, and debates. Many of the present farmland in places like California couldn’t be used for agriculture at all, if not for the massive redistribution of water from elsewhere. Yet this otherwise dry landscape is perfectly fine for grazing that requires no irrigation.

Critics of an animal-based diet like to blame cattle for using excessive water, but the reality is 94% of the water used is from greenwater; i.e., rain that falls on the land where the cattle are kept; and that is factoring in factory-farmed animals that spend 80% of their lives on pasture (M. M. Mekonnen & A. Y. Hoekstra, The Green, Blue and Grey Water Footprint of Farm Animals and Animal Products). The point being that cattle are not the reason rivers and aquifers are being drained. If one wants to complain about water-intensive farming, the target of one’s ire should be favorite crops like cotton, rice, potatoes, onion, garlic, sugarcane, sugar beets, almonds, walnuts, avocados, olives, raisins, grapes, applies, apricots, cherries, peaches, nectarines, pears, plums, prunes, figs, kiwis, bananas, grapefruit, lemons, oranges, dates, jojoba, etc. Imagine a vegan environmentalist trying to avoid those environmentally unsustainable crops, along with other problematic crops such as soy, corn, and spinach (Quynh Nguyen, 5 Least Sustainable Vegan (Plant-Based) Foods).

The amount of land unused or underutilized for animal food production and procurement is immense. That is not the case for agricultural land that is already being pushed to its most extreme capacity. So, considering only 3% of land is permanent crops (Hannah Ritchie & Max Roser, Land Use), are we going to try to feed the global population with just a few percentages of the available land and ignore the rest? And are we going to ignore the 71% of the earth’s surface that is water and that produces fish and seafood? In ever more intensively farming, we are destroying what is left of the arable land and polluting the water. We’ve already lost most of the earth’s top soil, mostly over the past century; whereas regenerative pasture can actually increase top soil.

“Roughly sixty percent of insects in plant agricultural areas, in China, Europe, and North America, have disappeared. This includes all insects, not just insects that eat crops. Tilling, harvesting, and chemicals kill. Mono-crops, fields with a single kind of plant, don’t provide habitat to animals that need a variety of plant species to survive.

“Of the top five crops raised in the US for human uses, corn, soybeans, rice, wheat, and cotton… all are protected by destroying animal species endemic to the areas they grow in. Of these crops, 75% of corn is grown for either ethanol fuel, corn oils, and corn syrups. Human uses. 95% plus of soybeans are processed to extract oils for human uses, and the waste product after the oils are extracted is fed to livestock. Rice is almost exclusively human use. Most wheat is ground for flour. Cotton is grown for fibers to make cloth.

“Of crops grown exclusively for animal feeds, natural or improved pasture is actually one of the few crops that provide habitat for wild species. Alfalfa is a perennial crop so land is tilled far less often, and has such long roots that it needs very little supplemental watering.

“Can farmers grow crops without killing animals? With the present world population, the necessity for industrial scale agriculture, I don’t see how. But it is easy to see that plant agriculture kills far more animals per pound of nutrition than raising animals.”
 ~ Todd Elliot, former rancher, B.S. in Animal Science from Utah State University

Farmland, in the first place, is created by killing numerous species and destroying ecosystems and replacing them with an ecological desert; not to mention the need for constant killing of any wildlife that attempts to return to the land. “Land conversion from natural ecosystems to agriculture has historically been the largest cause of greenhouse gas emissions), linked to loss of biomass and carbon in biomass above and below ground. Today, land conversion to agriculture continues to be a major driver of biodiversity loss and land degradation” (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Sustainable Food and Agriculture). That is insanity! Industrial agriculture and factory farming makes no sense, except from a capitalist model of private profit and externalized/socialized costs. A local animal-based diet — if not carnivore or omnivore, then ovo-lacto-vegetarian — is the only way to feed the world’s population, maintain optimal health, avoid the greatest harm to animals, and ensure environmental sustainability.

Veganism didn’t exist prior to modern agriculture, industrialization, and mass transport. Grazing animals, on the other hand, has been the mainstay of the human diet for millions of years. There is no traditional diet that wasn’t centered on animal foods, the source of the most energy-dense and nutrient-dense foods, guaranteeing every essential and conditionally essential nutrient, many of which are missing or insufficient on a plant-exclusive diet. And when done low-carb as was typical of traditional societies, ketosis allows people to eat less food and go for longer periods of time without eating. Many people on animal-based diets do regular fasting (OMAD, intermittent, and extended). In ketosis, I easily skip meals or go several days without food and it doesn’t bother me. Since ketosis allows for smaller intake of food, that is an additional decreased impact on the environment.

The standard American diet (SAD) that is plant-based is neither healthy for the individual nor healthy for the environment. Keep in mind that almost all junk foods are vegan: potato chips, crackers, cookies, candy, pop, etc (the main ingredients being potatoes, wheat, corn, rice, sugar, and seed oils). This vegan junk food is mass farmed, mass produced, and mass shipped, not to mention mass subsidized. Even most healthier plant-based foods, including whole foods, that vegans rely upon are shipped from distant regions and countries with very little regulation for the health of environment and workers — think about the environmentally-unsustainable and water-wasting Californian agriculture that provides much of the produce for plant-based diets, particularly in winter. Veganism contributes to pollution and the need for heavily-subsidized infrastructure.

The human health aspect, though, is no small issue. Someone on an animal-based diet requires no supplements or fortified foods to avoid nutritional deficiencies. Vegans, on the other hand, have to carefully supplement to avoid serious health problems. All of those supplements and fortified foods are industrially-produced and that contributes to pollution and environmental degradation. On top of that, those who don’t include sufficient animal foods in their diet, even when they supplement, still tend to have metabolic diseases. Keep in mind that metabolic diseases are the single greatest healthcare cost. And the industrial production of medical supplies and pharmaceuticals is one of the largest sources of pollution and trash. Healthcare alone has a higher carbon footprint than animal farming.

What is ethical about any of this? Good intentions are not good enough. We can’t separate ourselves from the world we live in. It’s a fantasy that we can live apart from the natural cycle of life and death. Trying to force that fantasy upon the world, some might call that a nightmare. A diet is part of an ecosystem, all contained within a living biosphere. In pretending to be separate, we cause even more death and suffering. Mass extinction was always inherent to agriculture. “The end,” as Lierre Keith said, “was written into the beginning.” There is no avoiding this, as long as we continue down this path of exploitative civilization. We can embrace that ending, though, and seek a new beginning.

“Agriculture is the biggest mistake in human history,” as put by George Armelagos. And on the same note, Jared Diamond wrote that, “Archaeologists studying the rise of farming have reconstructed a crucial stage at which we made the worst mistake in human history. Forced to choose between limiting population or trying to increase food production, we chose the latter and ended up with starvation, warfare, and tyranny.” So, are we doomed? Only if we choose to be. Agriculture as we know it can’t continue. Can it be done differently? Others have offered more optimistic answers.

If we hope to find another way before it’s too late, we must look for inspiration in the traditional food systems that still survive. And there most definitely is hope. We already know of ways to reverse the damage and rehabilitate the land. No doubt further understandings will be gained over time that will allow even greater results. But the key is that more animals, wild and domestic, will be needed to make possible this course of action. That is to say, in place of ecological deserts of monocultural farming, we need to return to the environmental norm of biodiversity within thriving ecosystems.

“The persistence of human life on this planet depends on soil ecosystems. Ultimately, I don’t care what diet you eat as long as it leads to the enrichment of organic matter in the earth and mycorrhizal networks. Show me the plant-based diet that does this. Without ruminants ecosystems will collapse. Tilling of the soil for mono-crop agriculture is the enemy (and releases massive amounts of carbon) not cows, Bison and other animals.”
~Dr. Paul Saladino

“If we took 75% of the world’s trashed rangeland, we could restore it from agriculture back to functioning prairies — with their animal cohorts — in under fifteen years. We could further sequester all of the carbon that has been released since the beginning of the industrial age. So I find that a hopeful thing because, frankly, we just have to get out of the way. Nature will do the work for us. This planet wants to be grassland and forest. It does not want to be an agricultural mono-crop.”
~ Lierre Keith

“Viewing this global scene, as I have been doing for many years, I will stake my life on it that humanity’s best hope lies in one simple idea that no scientist can sensibly argue against – that management in this 21st century should be holistic and no longer reductionist. And Holistic Management of course includes recognizing that only livestock with Holistic Planned Grazing (or better process when developed) can address global desertification, annual burning of billions of hectares of grasslands and savannas, and regenerate the world’s dying soils and soil life essential to addressing climate change. […]

“Reductionist management, without using livestock managed on the land in a way that addresses global desertification and climate change, will inevitably lead to the doomsday predictions of Wallace-Wells. Billions of people dead and hundreds of cities destroyed and worse in the relatively near future no matter how many hopeful measures we might take.”
~ Allan Savory

* * *

Are animals killed in the process of farming vegan foods? Is it possible for a vegan to ensure that no animals were harmed in the production of their food without growing it themselves?
from Quora

Dan Eady: “Intensive farming practices such as wheat cropping introduced to natural environments kills far more than just animals it destroys entire ecosystems. Many species of plant and animal life are wiped out or displaced as the cropping practice begins. This new environment is then usually favourable to a much smaller number and less diverse number of species. So animals such as rodents attempt to colonise the changed environment but are then killed through human control methods or inadvertently through the growth and harvest practices employed through human activity upon the crop.”

Tariq Hossenbux: “As many of the other answers state, billions of insects and animals are killed when crops are conventionally grown. Millions of snakes, groundhogs and other small creatures. Wheat farmers routinely poison mice, and pesticides kill countless insects.

“What is really interesting though is that using a field for cattle pasture land may actually result in less total animal deaths and also preserve the native plant life. Many migrating insects depends on particular weeds to eat, and crop farmers often use excessive amounts of herbicide wiping them out. This one of the reasons for the decline of Monarch Butterfly populations in North America.”

Dan Hunter: “Yes, animals get killed when you grow crops. Other answers have mentioned running animals over when plowing and mowing, but if you just think about the fact you are converting a natural environment into cropland you soon realize that a lot of animals just lost their homes. So not only does crop production kill animals, it often kills all the succeeding generations of animals on that land.

“To illustrate the idea think about american bison and barbed wire. Before the farmers got to the prairies there were herds of buffalo so large they could take days to pass through a location. Wherever they went they ate the grass and trampled what they didn’t eat. As soon as the first plow made it through the Cumberland gap and onto the prairies the buffalo was doomed. If the market hunters had not shot the buffalo into near extinction the farmers with their plows and wire fencing would have sealed their fate because the fencing to protect the crops would have meant no migration of the buffalo to fresh pasture and certain starvation for them.

‘You can also look up the fate of the prairie chicken and the black footed ferret. These were also destroyed by wheat farming. Many farms were created by draining wetlands. This means loss of habitat for animals like beaver, muskrats, ducks, geese, frogs, etc. It does not really matter if the farmers are large agribusiness or if the are small farm holders. The result is the same.”

Kamia Taylor: “All of the previous answers talk about what gets killed by tilling before that ground can be planted. But if we got back even further, massive amounts of native prairies, wetlands and forests are still being destroyed, along with every living thing that called that area home, from birds, amphibians, mammals, insects and more — all so that more corn, SOY (a vegan’s favorite go-to food) and grains can be planted there — not to mention rainforests being torn apart ruthlessly for the production of palm kernel and other oils, coffee, cacao.

“In addition, massive numbers of animals are being killed off (over 200 Tule Elk died just recently) so that water they would have had access to is diverted to support, as an example, almond farming for vegan almond milk. Most people have have never planted anything have no idea just how much water vegetables and fruits use to come to maturity.

“So not matter what you do, whether you are vegetarian or omnivorous, you ARE going to impact the rest of the planet negatively to feed yourself. The good new is that when you die, you can be cremated and become compost to feed the next generation.”

Belinda Mellor: “Besides the small animals, of which there are millions killed, there is also deforestation in order to grow crops such as coffee, tea, palm oil, bananas, sugar, coconuts… some of these have been devastating. For instance, as a family we considered spending a year on an island that had a fairly sizeable coconut industry, and were advised that we would need vitamin tablets, as getting fresh fruit and vegetables was difficult – everywhere had been stripped. That was historical destruction, but just today I read about the rescue of an orang-utan stranded in a tiny ‘island’ of forest cut off by palm oil planting. She was lucky, many of her kind have perished, killed by logging machinery. And don’t forget all the birds that are not just accidentally killed, but are culled for fear of them eating crops: in Australia it’s all-out war on some parrot species for that reason.”

* * *

Here is another argument comes up, but usually only shows up in brief comments. The following is a good response in explaining why the argument makes no sense: “No, the majority of this agriculture is for human consumption, not to feed livestock” (from the comments section of Karen Lindquist’s The Least-Harm Fallacy of Veganism). I’ll first share the comment to which the second comment is a response.

September 27, 2019 at 1:40 am

“Yeah, I agree. Agriculture is very destructive, and we should localize. However:

“Is not the majority of this agriculture to feed livestock? And how could we feed pigs and chickens without it? They aren’t ruminants.

“Think about what would happen if we kept our meat consumption the same, but released the 70.4% of cows, 98.3% of pigs, and 99.9% of chickens in the US that live on factory farms to open grasslands? How could we possibly do this without bulldozing every last tree?”

Karin Lindquist
October 8, 2019 at 2:15 pm

“No, the majority of this agriculture is for human consumption, not to feed livestock. Livestock get the left-overs, the crop failures, and the stuff that didn’t grade to top-quality grade for use in every part of the term “human consumption” from being made into biofuel to vegetable oil to clothing. Animals also get the by-products that come from the conversion of these crops to various products for humans because the landfills would be overflowing if animals couldn’t take them, making that an environmental disaster in and of itself (as if landfills aren’t already an environmental disaster already), and because those animals turn those waste products into nutritional edible food. More here:

“Why would anyone be dumb enough to release a large number of animals that aren’t even adapted to live in such an environment? They’d die out very quickly, either from starvation because they don’t know how to forage on their own for food or they just can’t live in such an environment, or by predation. (It seems that you’ve never been on open grasslands before; trees on open grasslands are very rare. You only find trees in forests or savannahs.) The better solution to that problem you propose is via gradual phasing out of such systems and moving towards regenerative, well-managed pastured-based systems that produce and maintain the breeds and types of animals that are adapted to such a system. No “bulldozing every last tree” required. If you want a good example of what that kind of system looks like, look at operations like Polyface Farms and Brown Ranch in North Dakota. Great examples of stacked enterprises with a pasture-based system that is most certainly replicable, and FAR more efficient than any degenerative, monoculture CAFO operation.

“Think outside the box!!!! All isn’t as it appears.”

Also see:
What Livestock Eat
The Farming Truth Project

* * *

Carnivore Is Vegan:
Bad Vegan Logic: Accidental Deaths vs Intentional Deaths – Carnivore is Vegan
A Carnivore Diet is More Vegan than a Vegan Diet – Carnivore is Vegan
Vegans Use Slave Cows to Make Fertilizer
Dairy is 2000 X’s More Ethical Than Almond Milk
Stir-Fry Genocide: Mushrooms Are Not Vegan

Field Deaths in Plant Agriculture
by Bob Fischer and Andy Lamey

There’s no such thing as a green vegan
by Mary Harrington

There’s no such thing as vegan food
by Claire Taylor

Millennial veganism
by Joanna Blythman

But are you truly vegan?
by Matthew Evans

Australia’s vegan lie revealed: How plant-based diets still result in hundreds of thousands of animal deaths a year
by Lauren Ferri

Ordering the vegetarian meal? There’s more animal blood on your hands
by Mike Archer

The Least Harm Principle May Require that Humans Consume a Diet Containing Large Herbivores, Not a Vegan Diet
by Stephen L. Davis

The Least-Harm Fallacy of Veganism
by Karin Lindquist

Are Farm Animals Starving the Planet of Food… Humans Can’t Even Eat?
by Karin Lindquist

Want an ethical diet? It’s not as simple as going vegan, says farmer Matthew Evans
from ABC News

The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice and Sustainability
Chapter 1: Why This Book?
by Lierre Keith

The Hidden Cost of Veganism – Lierre Keith #143
from ReWild Yourself

Lierre Keith & The Agripocalypse
by Lawrence Rosenberg

Any ‘planetary diet’ must also work for the poorest and most vulnerable
by Andrew Salter

Eating Local Meat is Actually More Sustainable than Veganism
from Heartland Fresh Family Farm

Why vegetarianism will not save the world
by Ian MacKenzie

If you care about the planet, eat more beef
by Danielle Smith

Ruminants are more important to the world than you might have thought!
by Troy Downing

Report: Cut red-meat eating by 80 percent to save the planet?
by Anne Mullens and Bret Scher

Can vegetarians save the planet? Why campaigns to ban meat send the wrong message on climate change
by Erin Biba

EAT-Lancet report’s recommendations are at odds with sustainable food production
by Sustainable Food Trust

Report urging less meat in global diet ‘lacks agricultural understanding’
from FarmingUK

War on burgers continues with false environmental impact claims
by Amanda Radke

Testimony before the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry U.S. Senate
by Frank Mitloehner

Sorry, But Giving Up on Meat Is Not Going to Save The Planet
by Frank M. Mitloehner

Don’t Blame Cows For Climate Change
by Sylvia Wright

Cattle and methane: More complicated than first meets the (rib) eye
by Stephan Lewandowsky and Asa Wahlquist

Beef’s ‘Sustainability’ Involves More Than Greenhouse Gases
by Jesse Bussard

Is Agriculture Feeding the World or Destroying It? Dr. Frank Mitloehner Discusses Ag, Climate Change

Environmental Hoofprint Matters — Frank Mitloehner, UC Davis
from Farm To Table Talk

Sustainable Dish Episode 83: The Truth About Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Livestock Production with Frank Mitloehner
with Diana Rodgers

UN admits flaw in report on meat and climate change
by Alastair Jamieson

Can Dietary Changes Limit Greenhouse Gas Emissions?
by Wyatt Bechtel

Scientist: Don’t blame cows for climate change
by Paul Armstrong

Climate change policy must distinguish (long-lived) carbon dioxide from (short-lived) methane–Oxford study
by Susan MacMillan

Alan Savory @ PV1 – The role of livestock in a new agriculture that can save city-based civilization
by Julia Winter

Effective Livestock Grazing And A Regenerative Future
by Allan Savory

Climate Change – Cause and Remedy
by Allan Savory

Climate Change Best Addressed Planting Trees, Or Regenerating Grasslands?
by Allan Savory

Fate Of City-Based Civilization In The Hands Of Farmers
by Allan Savory

How We Can Offer Hope For Our Grandchildren In A Floundering, Leaderless World
by Allan Savory

Hope For The Future – First Real Hope In Centuries.
by Allan Savory

Response To “Goodbye – And Good Riddance – To Livestock Farming”
by Daniela Ibarra-Howell

Why Homo Sapiens Are A Keystone Predator In Rewilding Projects
by Caroline Grindrod

Red meat bounds down the carbon neutral path
by Shan GoodwinShan Goodwin

Can cows cause more climate change than cars?
by Frédéric Leroy

Climate, Food, Facts
from Animal Agriculture Alliance

The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race
by Jared Diamond

Was agriculture the greatest blunder in human history?
by Darren Curnoe

Could Veganism Cause Extinctions?
by Patrice Ayme

It takes 21 litres of water to produce a small chocolate bar. How water-wise is your diet?
by Brad Ridoutt

Dietary Dictocrats of EAT-Lancet
Like water fasts, meat fasts are good for health.
Fasting, Calorie Restriction, and Ketosis
Ketogenic Diet and Neurocognitive Health
The Agricultural Mind

Last Edit and Revision: 8/19/22