Dr. Terry Wahls reversed the symptoms of multiple sclerosis in herself and, through a clinical study, in others. Her Wahls Protocol includes a ketogenic diet with nutrient-dense animal foods, but it also requires massive loads of vegetables. Yet those on the carnivore diet, typically which also means ketosis (if dairy is restricted), others have also experienced similar improvements of multiple sclerosis symptoms, either reversal or stabilization.
Maybe all those vegetables have been irrelevant. The other two main factors would either be the ketosis or all the animal-based nutrition. There would be an easy way to test this. Do a study with multiple groups: 1) ketogenic omnivores (Wahls Protocol), ketogenic vegans, ketogenic carnivores, and non-ketogenic carnivores (add in enough dairy to remain out of ketosis). Control for all other main factors. Find out the results.
My suspicion is that it’s the combination of both ketosis (ketosis promoting metabolic healing and autophagy) and animal-based nutrition (both nutrient-dense and nutrient-bioavailable), quite likely combined with elimination of oxidative and mutagenic seed oils, food additives and farm chemicals (glutamate, propionate, glyphosate, etc). Any of these alone might show some benefits. Right now, mostly all we have to go by are the many people experimenting. The studies Wahls is doing are useful (she is on her second study), but that research is only preliminary.
As further evidence of the anecdotal variety, Mikhaila Peterson has successfully treated her own autoimmune disorder. It’s not multiple sclerosis, but all autoimmune disorders have some similarities. In going ketogenic, inflammation is being eliminated. And in going carnivore, plant anti-nutrients are being eliminated. These two factors also promote other things as well, but simply what they eliminate might be most key. Inflammation, in particular, is understood in its connection to autoimmune disorders.
All the plant foods Dr. Wahls recommends, by the way, increases the antinutrients that would block absorption of nutrients and potentially cause other problems. Maybe her diet is effective as a treatment of serious disease in spite of, not because of, plant foods. The nutritious animal foods are simply at a high enough level to get beyond this obstacle. But if it is not contributing to the healing, why not eliminate them? Or is she right that all of those non-starchy veggies are helping? Until better research is done, this remains speculation on both sides of the debate.
* * *
2/15/20 – I came across a discussion between Dr. Terry Wahls and the carnivore advocate Dr. Paul Saladino. It’s now added as the first video below.
3/2/20 -Here is a Reddit discussion thread about the Wahls and Saladino’s talk:
YES. I’ve been wanting these 2 worlds to collide for quite awhile now. I have immense respect for Terry Wahls but I got so much worse following her protocol and trying to eat 9 servings of vegetables a day… Even when I eventually gave up on that much veg I still kept coming back to pushing plants, thinking they were incredibly important to eat because of her story.
As a long time (30+yrs,) often debilitating MS’er I followed Dr Wahls protocol for years in the US and did not get significantly better, even after moving to rural France (for the great vegetables and meat as much as the facts that I have citizenship and family here. As soon as I discovered the total carnivore diet some years ago here, taking advantage of all the cheap-ish (pun) local lamb and beef w/no supplements, I GOT BETTER! (100% Remission.) Plants really are poison for me, even the best organic plants on earth from the gardens of lush Provence. Thank you for this interview and to Dr Terry Wahls for accepting this simple WOE for the terrible, misunderstood, and ever fickle “illness” that is MS.
“Partial replacement of animal protein foods with plant protein foods led to marked decreases in the intake and status of vitamin B-12 and iodine.”
~Tiina Pellinen et al, Replacing dietary animal-source proteins with plant-source proteins changes dietary intake and status of vitamins and minerals in healthy adults: a 12-week randomized trial
Nutrition studies has been plagued with problems. Most of the research in the past was extremely low quality. Few other fields would allow such weak research to be published in peer-reviewed journals. Yet for generations, epidemiological (observational and correlational) studies were the norm for nutrition studies. This kind of research is fine for preliminary exploration in formulating new hypotheses to test, but it is entirely useless for proving or disproving any given hypothesis. Shockingly, almost all of medical advice and government recommendations on diet and nutrition are based on this superficial and misleading level of results.
The main problem is there has been little, if any, control of confounding factors. Also, the comparisons used were pathetically weak. It turns out that, in studies, almost any dietary protocol or change improves health compared to a standard American diet (SAD) or other varieties of standard industrialized diets based on processed foods of refined carbs (particularly wheat), added sugar (particularly high fructose corn syrup), omega-6 seed oils (inflammatory, oxidative, and mutagenic), food additives (from glutamate to propionate), and nutrient-deficient, chemical-drenched agricultural crops (glyphosate among the worst). Assuming the dog got decent food, even eating dog shit would be better for your health than SAD.
Stating that veganism or the Mediterranean diet is healthier than what most people eat (SAD: standard American diet) really tells us nothing at all. That is even more true when the healthy user effect is not controlled for, as typically is the case with most studies. When comparing people on these diets to typical meat eaters, the ‘carnivores’ also are eating tons of plant-based carbs, sugar, and seed oils with their meat (buns, french fries, pop, etc; and, for cooking and in sauces, seed oils; not to mention snacking all day on chips, crackers, cookies, and candy). The average meat-eater consumes far more non-animal foods than animal foods, and most processed junk food is made mostly or entirely with vegan ingredients. So why do the animal foods get all the blame? And why does saturated fat get blamed when, starting back in the 1930s, seed oils replaced animal fats as the main source of fatty acids?
If scientists in this field were genuinely curious, intellectually humble, not ideologically blinded, and unbiased by big food and big farm funding, they would make honest and fair comparisons to a wide variety of optimally-designed diets. Nutritionists have known about low-carb, keto, and carnivore diets for about a century. The desire to research these diets, however, has been slim to none. The first ever study of the carnivore diet, including fully meat-based, is happening right now. To give some credit, research has slowly been improving. I came across a 2013 study that compared four diets: “vegetarian, carnivorous diet rich in fruits and vegetables, carnivorous diet less rich in meat, and carnivorous diet rich in meat” (Nathalie T. Burkert et al, Nutrition and Health – The Association between Eating Behavior and Various Health Parameters: A Matched Sample Study).
It’s still kind of amusing that the researchers called carnivorous a “diet rich in fruits and vegetables” and a “diet less rich in meat.” If people are mostly eating plant foods or otherwise not eating much meat, how exactly is that carnivorous in any meaningful and practical sense? Only one in four of the diets were carnivorous in the sense the average person would understand it, as a diet largely based on animal foods. Even then, it doesn’t include a carnivorous diet entirely based on animal foods. Those carnivores eating a “diet rich in meat” might still be eating plenty of processed junk food, their meat might still be cooked or slathered in harmful seed oils and come with a bun, and they might still be washing it down with sugary drinks. A McDonald’s Big Mac meal could be considered as part of a diet rich in meat, just because meat represents the greatest portion of weight and calories. Even if their diet was only 5-10% unhealthy plant foods, it could still be doing severe damage to their health. One can fit in a fairly large amount of carbs, seed oils, etc in a relatively small portion of the diet.
I’m reminded of research that defines a “low-carb diet” as any carb intake that is 40% or below, but other studies show that 40% is the absolute highest point of carb intake for most hunter-gatherers (discussed here with links to references). As high and low are relative concepts in defining carb intake, what is considered a meat-rich diet would be relative as well. I doubt these studied carnivorous “diets rich in meat” are including as high amount of animal foods as found in the diets of Inuit, Masai, early Americans, and Paleolithic humans. So what is actually being compared and tested? It’s not clear. This was further confounded in how vegans, vegetarians, and pescetarians (fish-eaters) were combined into a single group mislabeled as ‘vegetarian’, considering that vegetarians and pescetarians technically could eat a diet primarily animal-based if they so chose (dairy, eggs, and/or fish) and I know plenty of vegetarians who eat more cheese than they do fruits and vegetables. Nonetheless, at least these researchers were making a better comparison than most studies. They did try to control for other confounders such as pairing each person on a plant-based diet with “a subject of the same sex, age, and SES [socioeconomic status]” from each of the other three diets.
What were the results? Vegetarians, compared to the most meat-based of the diets, had worse outcomes for numerous health conditions: asthma, allergies, diabetes, cataracts, tinnitus, cardiac infarction, bronchitis, sacrospinal complaints, osteoporosis, gastric or intestinal ulcer, cancer, migraine, mental illness (anxiety disorder or depression), and “other chronic conditions.” There were only a few health conditions where the plant-based dieters fared better. For example, the so-called ‘vegetarians’ had lower rates of hypertension compared to carnivores rich in meat and less rich in meat, although higher rates than those carnivores rich in fruits and vegetables (i.e., more typical omnivores).
This is interesting evidence about the diets, though. If the carnivorous diets were low enough in starchy and sugary plant foods and low enough in dairy, they would be ketogenic which in studies is known to lower blood pressure and so would show a lesser rate of hypertension. This indicates that none of these diets are low-carb, much less very low-carb (ketogenic). The plant-based dieters in this study also had lower rates of stroke and arthritis, these being other health benefits seen on a ketogenic diet, and so this further demonstrates that this study wasn’t comparing high-carb vs low-carb as one might expect from how the diets were described in the paper. That is to say the researchers didn’t include a category for a ketogenic carnivore diet or even a ketogenic omnivore diet, much less a ketogenic ‘vegetarian’ diet as a control. Keep in mind that keto-carnivore is one of the most common forms of those intentionally following a carnivore diet. And keep in mind that plant-based keto is probably more popular right now than keto-carnivore. So, the point is that these unexpected results are examples of the complications with confounding factors.
The only other result that showed an advantage to the ‘vegetarians’ was less urinary incontinence, which simply means they didn’t have to pee as often. I haven’t a clue what that might mean. If we were talking about low-carb and keto, I’d suspect that the increased urination for the ‘carnivorous’ diets was related to decreased water retention (i.e., bloating) and hence the water loss that happens as metabolism shifts toward fat-burning. But since we are confident that such a diet wasn’t included in the study, these results remain anomalous. Of all the things that meat gets blamed for, I’ve never heard of anyone suggesting that it causes most people to urinate incessantly. That is odd. Anyway, it’s not exactly a life-threatening condition, even if it were caused by carnivory. It might have something to do with higher-fat combined with higher-carb, in the way that this combination also contributes to obesity, whereas high-fat/low-carb and low-fat/high-carb does not predispose one to fat gain. The ‘vegetarianism’ in this study was being conflated with a low-fat diet, but all of the four categories apparently were varying degrees of higher carb.
The basic conclusion is that ‘vegetarians’, including vegans and pescetarians, have on average poorer health across the board, with a few possible exceptions. In particular, they suffer more from chronic diseases and report higher impairment from health disorders. Also, not only these ‘vegetarians’ but also meat-eaters who ate a largely plant-based diet (“rich in fruits and vegetables”) consult doctors more often, even as ‘vegetarians’ are inconsistent about preventative healthcare such as check-ups and vaccinations. Furthermore, “subjects with a lower animal fat intake demonstrate worse health care practices,” whatever that exactly means. Generally, ‘vegetarians’ “have a lower quality of life.”
These are interesting results since the researchers were controlling for such things as wealth and poverty, and so it wasn’t an issue of access to healthcare or the quality of one’s environment or level of education. The weakness is that no data was gathered on macronutrient ratios of the subjects’ diets, and no testing was done on micronutrient content in the food and potential deficiencies in the individuals. Based on these results, no conclusions can be made about causal direction and mechanisms, but it does agree with some other research that finds similar results, including with other health conditions such as vegans and vegetarians having greater infertility. Any single one of these results, especially something like infertility, points toward serious health concerns involving deeper systemic disease and disorder within the body.
But what really stands out is the high rate of mental illness among ‘vegetarians’ (about 10%), twice as high as the average meat-eater (about 5%) which is to say the average Westerner, and that is with the background of the Western world having experienced a drastic rise in mental illness over the past couple of centuries. And the only mental illnesses considered in this study were depression and anxiety. The percentage would be so much higher if including all other psychiatric conditions and neurocognitive disorders (personality disorders, psychosis, psychopathy, Alzheimer’s, ADHD, autism, learning disabilities, etc). Think about that, the large number of people on a plant-based diet who are struggling on the most basic level of functioning, something I personally understand from decades of chronic depression on the SAD diet. Would you willingly choose to go on a diet that guaranteed a high probability of causing mental health struggles and suffering, neurocognitive issues and decline?
To put this study in context, listen to what Dr. Paul Saladino, trained in psychiatry and internal medicine, has to say in the following video. Jump to around the 19 minute mark where he goes into the nutritional angle of a carnivore diet. And by carnivore he is talking about fully carnivore and so, if dairy is restricted as he does in his own eating, it would also mean ketogenic as well. A keto-carnivore diet has never been studied. Hopefully, that will change soon. Until then, we have brilliant minds like that of Dr. Saladino to dig into the best evidence that is presently available.
Here are a couple of articles that come from the BBC. As a mainstream news source, this demonstrates how this knowledge is finally getting acknowledged in conventional healthcare and public debate. That is heartening.
There’s also the concern that the health risks associated with these kinds of nutrient deficiencies might not show up immediately. It could take years to associate foggy thoughts and tiredness with low B12 levels, infertility with low iron, and osteoporosis brought on by calcium deficiency does not show up until late 40s and 50s in most people, says Rossi.
“People will think about their health now and not their future health,” she says.
In fact, there are several important brain nutrients that simply do not exist in plants or fungi. Creatine, carnosine, taurine, EPA and DHA omega-3 (the third kind can be found in plants), haem iron and vitamins B12 and D3 generally only occur naturally in foods derived from animal products, though they can be synthesised in the lab or extracted from non-animal sources such as algae, bacteria or lichen, and added to supplements.
Others are found in vegan foods, but only in meagre amounts; to get the minimum amount of vitamin B6 required each day (1.3 mg) from one of the richest plant sources, potatoes, you’d have to eat about five cups’ worth (equivalent to roughly 750g or 1.6lb). Delicious, but not particularly practical. […]
There are small amounts of choline in lots of vegan staples, but among the richest sources are eggs, beef and seafood. In fact, even with a normal diet, 90% of Americans don’t consume enough. According to unpublished research by Wallace, vegetarians have the lowest intakes of any demographic. “They have extremely low levels of choline, to the point where it might be concerning,” he says.
For vegans, the picture is likely to be bleaker still, since people who eat eggs tend to have almost double the choline levels of those who don’t. And though the US authorities have set suggested intakes, they might be way off.
Conclusion: 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.
Felice Jacka is an Australian professor of epidemiology. In her official capacity as an expert, she made a public health warning from her Twitter account: “If your/an MD is advocating an extreme diet of any type, please understand that they may NOT be the best person to listen to.” In her other tweets that followed, it was made clear that doctors had no right to recommend any diet other than whatever is officially declared healthy by the appropriate government and medical institutions.
She made this statement after watching a video of Dr. Shawn Baker informally discuss the carnivore diet, as if in doing so he was a public threat and an immoral actor who must be publicly called out and shamed. Her professional assessment was that he wasn’t being scientific enough. Fine. If she wanted a more scientific analysis of the evidence, she could have turned to talks given by Georgia Ede, Zoe Harcombe, Amber L. O’Hearn, and Paul Saladino. Her damning indictment of the carnivore diet was rather strong after watching a single Youtube video of a casual talk. That doesn’t seem like a scientific response.
Or she could have checked out the informal survey that Dr. Baker himself recently did in exploring people’s experience with the carnivore diet. Her complaint was that his experience was merely anecdotal. Sure. But he isn’t alone, which was the purpose of the survey he did. Look at the carnivore groups on social media, some of which have hundreds of thousands of members.
Carnivore is not a minor diet. She calls it “extreme”. It’s no more extreme than veganism and certainly far less extreme than the modern industrial standard American diet (SAD). I’d also go so far as to say, in terms of history and evolution, carnivore is also not nearly as extreme as the diet advocated by the AHA and USDA, the diet that the data shows Americans have been mostly following and that has led to a disease epidemic.
It’s not only the carnivore diet Jacka targets. In her book Brain Changer, she has a small section on the ketogenic diet in relationship to schizophrenia. She writes that, “Until we have the evidence from such studies, however, we would definitely not recommend such a diet, as it’s extremely strict and demanding and requires close medical supervision.” There she goes again: “extremely” — as if she were talking about potentially violent political activists. Her language is consistent in talking about any diet that dares to cross the line.
Let me set one thing straight. No, the ketogenic diet isn’t extremely strict or particularly demanding. Those who go on it often find it to be the easiest diet they ever tried, as hunger and cravings tend to decrease. It still allows for a wide variety of animal and plant foods. If ketosis is all you care about, you don’t even have to worry about the quality of the food, as long as it is low enough in carbs. Go out to fast food and eat the hamburger but without the bun. And if you want snack foods, have a bag of pork rinds instead of a bag of potato chips. Plus, there are all kinds of prepared products now marketed as keto, from protein bars to cauliflower pizzas, and nearly all stores carry them.
So, why all this fear-mongering about alternative dietary approaches? In response to Jacka, Dr. Ara Darakjian tweeted, “This seems overly restrictive on a physician’s freedoms. Why should there be a gag rule? If a physician believes differently they have to stick to the party line? I’ve never recommended carnivore but I don’t think it’s wrong for other MD’s to advocate based on anecdotal evidence” That is a good point. Why not allow doctors to use their best judgment based on their own professional experience?
A light went off in my head when I saw that mention of a “gag rule”. The specific doctor she is criticizing, Dr. Shawn Baker, was the target of a witch-hunt that involved a several year legal battle and resulted with the state board temporarily taking away his license to practice. So, it seems like no accident that he still is being targeted. It turns out he was vindicated and his license was reinstated. Still, he was forced out of work during that time and, along with severe disruption in his life and his family, because of legal costs he lost his house.
His sin in that earlier situation, however, wasn’t about the carnivore diet. He was simply recommending lifestyle changes as a prevention for surgery. By the way, he doesn’t only recommend a carnivore diet but also keto and moderate low-carb, even plant-based in some cases. He treats his patients as individuals and seeks the best treatment according to his knowledge. Sometimes that involves a particular dietary approach or another, but according to Felice Jacka that should not be allowed, a powerful message considering the doctor she chose to use as an example.
When I first saw her tweet, I didn’t know she was Australian. It occurred to me to see where she was from. I wondered this because I knew some other major cases of witch-hunts. The moment I saw that she is employed at an Australian university, another light bulb went off in my head. One of the worst witch-hunts against a low-carb advocate sought to destroy the career of the Australian doctor Gary Fettke. I don’t know if she was involved in that witch-hunt or supported it in any way, but it seems likely she wouldn’t been on the side defending Dr. Fettke’s rights.
I also left some tweets in that thread she started. I brought up some criticisms of the field of nutrition studies itself. She defended her field of expertise since, after all, her authority rests upon it. She said to me that, “I don’t agree that there is (largely) not consensus among nutrition professionals and researchers. But it’s not the point I’m making. MDs are charged with practising evidence-based medicine. Whether or not you or they dont agree with the evidence for whatever reason.”
Responding back to her, I wrote: “Consensus from evidence-based medicine in a field suffering from one of the worst replication crises in scientific history is precisely part of the problem.” That was a tougher criticism than it might seem, since the main replication failure of nutrition studies has been epidemiology, Jacka’s sole area of expertise. After that simple comment, she blocked me. There was nothing else I said that was mean or trollish. The closest I came to being antagonistic was in saying that I’d rather trust the expertise of those who are world-leading experts in keto and low-carb diets: Benjamin Bikman, Jason Fung, etc; also, Tim Noakes (another victim of a witch-hunt, as shown in the documentary The Magic Pill, in Daryl Ilbury’s book The Quiet Maverick, and in Noakes’ own book Lore of Nutrition). She obviously is not in favor of open scientific debate and inquiry.
There are powerful interests seeking to maintain the status quo. A simple tweet might not seem like anything to be concerned about. Then again, Tim Noakes troubles began with a single innocent tweet that was used as evidence. He fought back, but it also took years and immense amounts of money. If he wasn’t such a brilliant and determined guy, the powers that be might have been successful. Still, the attack did effectively make Noakes into an example. Few people could have stood up to that kind of organized and highly funded onslaught. When someone like Felice Jacka complains about someone like Dr. Shawn Baker, there is always an implied threat. Most doctors probably remain silent and keep their heads down. Otherwise, the consequences might mean the ending of one’s career.
There is a great discussion between Dr. Steven Gundry and Dr. Paul Saladino. It’s an uncommon dialogue. Even though Gundry is known for warning against the harmful substances in plant foods, he has shifted toward a plant-based diet in also warning against too much animal foods or at least too much protein. As for Saladino, he is a carnivore and so takes Gundry’s argument against plants to a whole other level. Saladino sees no problem with meat, of course. And this leads to one point of potential conflict. His view contradicts what Gundry writes about in his most recent book, The Longevity Paradox.
A major argument in Gundry’s book is that too much protein leads to elevated IGF-1. That has to do with the concern that it is unhealthy for the body to be permanently in growth mode. This partly misses the point that many people on animal-based diets tend toward fasting, ketosis, and autophagy, sometimes caloric restriction as well. This happens because, as starchy and sugary plant foods are eliminated, hunger and cravings lessen. It becomes easier for people to eat less or go for long periods without food, sometimes without intentionally trying to do so.
So, contrary to Gundry’s fear, one would actually expect a carnivore diet to be low in IGF-1. That is exactly what Saladino has found, in himself and in his patients. That goes against a key argument in The Longevity Paradox. The fact of the matter is that a plant-based diet is more likely to drive up IGF-1. “So most of the carnivores I test for IGF-1 are around 120,” said Saladino, “which is significantly lower than people on mixed diets who are not even carnivores. So I think this brings back the idea of context. And the context that I’m talking about here is that IGF-1 can be triggered by a lot of things. But I think that the response of the body to protein is very different when we are in ketosis, than it is on a mixed diet. And we see this with insulin as well.”
Also, they got onto the topic of TMAO. Saladino points out that fish has more fully formed TMAO than red meat produces in combination with grain-loving Prevotella. Even vegetables produce TMAO. So, why is beef being scapegoated? It’s pure ignorant idiocy. To further this point, Saladino explained that he has tested the microbiome of patients of his on the carnivore diet and it comes up low on the Prevotella bacteria. He doesn’t think TMAO is the danger people claim it is. But even if it were, the single safest diet might be the carnivore diet.
Gundry didn’t even disagree. He pointed out that he did testing on patients of his who are long-term vegans and now in their 70s. They had extremely high levels of TMAO. He sent their lab results to the Cleveland Clinic for an opinion. The experts there refused to believe that it was possible and so dismissed the evidence. That is the power of dietary ideology when it forms a self-enclosed reality tunnel. Red meat is bad and vegetables are good. The story changes over time. It’s the saturated fat. No, it’s the TMAO. Then it will be something else. Always looking for a rationalization to uphold the preferred dogma.
Related points are made about advanced glycation end products (AGEs). Gundry asked if Saladino was worried about these. He did say they were a concern, but not for carnivores more than for anyone else on other diets. Everything we cook is going to have AGEs, but we can we lessen them by how we cook (e.g., avoid cooking with olive oil). This problem is far from being limited to cooking meat. And no matter what one is eating, there are ways of avoiding AGEs, such as using a pressure cooker.
Point by point, Saladino knocked down all possible criticisms of eating meat. And, surprisingly, there seemed to be little push back from Gundry. They both understood the science and there really was no difference of opinion based on the facts themselves. It was more about what each preferred to emphasize and the strategies they advocated, but nonetheless both appeared to understand the scientific-based reasoning of the other. It was rather refreshing. In the end, Gundry seemed to be more in line with Saladino than I thought he would be from having read The Longevity Paradox. He even threw out some evidence for how animal or insect protein is important even for other primates. Here are Gundry’s concluding thoughts:
“And in fact, one of the things that got me interested in bugs is that a very famous observation was made at the Washington Zoo back in the 1920s. And I wrote about this in my first book, Dr. Gundry’s Diet Evolution. They brought a bunch of marmoset monkeys from South America who are obligate frugivorous, all they eat is fruit. And they fed them fruit and these monkeys did not do well. They didn’t reproduce. And a young zoologist at the zoo said, “You know, we’re going giving them fruit that basically we buy at the grocery store. And the fruit that these guys are eating out in the jungle is full of bugs.”
“In fact, chimpanzees have been observed by Jane Goodall to take a bite of fruit and look at it, and then throw it on the ground. And she found that the ones that were thrown on the ground didn’t have any bugs in it. And so they introduced 6% animal protein into the diet of the marmoset monkeys to make up for these insects that they weren’t getting in their diet. And lo and behold, they thrived, and they actually began to reproduce. And it was one of the things that really compelled my argument that we’re a great ape, and even great apes have to have some animal protein in their diet.
“So that’s a great question. And chimpanzees will take little sticks and go into termite mounds and get the termites. And believe it or not, even hummingbirds who all they do is drink sugar water will actually go after gnats and little bugs growing or crawling on leaves, because they have to have a source of animal protein.”
We are coming to realize how important are these kinds of foods. Primates don’t only eat insects for observations of hunting have also been made. Even many herbivores will eat some occasional meat when it’s available. There are hundreds of videos of deers, rabbits, etc eating meat, maybe usually what they find dead but sometimes another living animal. We can argue about the carnivore diet, but meat consumption sure is a lot more common than previously thought.
This is true among humans as well. When the so-called Blue Zones are looked at more closely, they include more animal foods than had been acknowledged. Some of the longest living populations are in Asia where research, opposite of that in the West, correlates meat with greater health and longer life. Saladino brought up the example of Hong Kong, the residents of which have a long lifespan averaging 85 years old while also on average eating a pound and a half of meat on a daily basis. Whether or not one wants to be on a carnivore diet, there is no scientific reason to live in fear of animal foods. As Saladino makes clear, humans have been eating large amounts of meat for hundreds of thousands of years. This is what we were evolved to eat.
“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
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.
Ira 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: https://www.ethicalomnivore.org/are-farm-animals-starving-the-planet-of-food-humans-cant-even-eat/
“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.”
I was on a low-carb paleo diet for about a year with a focus on intermittent fasting and ketosis. Influenced by Dr. Terry Wahls and Dr. Will Cole, both former vegetarians converted to paleo, this included large helpings of vegetables but without the starchy carbs. It was a game-changer for me, as my health improved on all fronts, from weight to mood. But every time my carbs and sugar intake would creep up, I could feel the addictive cravings coming back and I decided to limit my diet to a greater extent. Zero-carb had already been on my radar, but I then looked more into it. It seemed worth a try.
So, I went carnivore for the past couple of months, mostly as an experiment and not as an idea of it being permanent. It is the best elimination diet ever and it definitely takes low-carb to another level, but I wanted to be able to compare how I felt with plants in my diet. So, a couple weeks ago with spring in the air and wild berries on their way, I ended my zero-carb carnivory with a three-day fast and reintroduced some light soup and fermented vegetables. I felt fine. Even after the extended period of low-carb diet, this zero-carb experiment made me realize how much better I feel with severely restricting carbs and sugar. Now back on a paleo-keto diet, I’m going to keep my focus on animal foods and be more cautious about which plant foods I include and how often.
Dr. Anthony Gustin offers an approach similar to Siim Land, as discussed in the first four videos below. A low-carb diet, especially strict carnivore (no dairy, just meat), is an extremely effective way of healing digestive issues and reducing bodily inflammation. The carnivore diet is a low residue diet because meat and fat gets fully digested much earlier in the digestive tract, whereas lots of fiber can clog you up in causing constipation. A similar kind of benefit is seen with the ketogenic diet, as microbiome imbalance and overgrowth is improved by initially starving and decreasing the number of microbes, but after some months the microbiome recovers to its original numbers and with a healthier balance.
Still, as Gustin and Land argue, it’s good to maintain some variety in the diet for metabolic flexibility. But we must understand plants stress the system (Steven Gundry, The Plant Paradox), as they are inflammatory, unlike most animal foods (though dairy can be problematic for some), and plants contain anti-nutrients that can cause deficiencies. There are other problems as well, such as damage from oxalates that are explained by the oxalate expert Sally K. Norton in the fifth and sixth videos; she argues that plants traditionally were only eaten seasonally and not daily as she talks about in the seventh video (also, written up as an academic paper: Lost Seasonality and Overconsumption of Plants: Risking Oxalate Toxicity).
Even so, one might argue that small amounts of stress are good for what is called hormesis — in the way that working out stresses the body in order to build muscle, whereas constant exertion would harm the body; or in the way that being exposed to germs as a child helps the development of a stronger immune system — with a quick explanation by Siim Land in the second video below. Otherwise, by too strictly excluding foods for too long you might develop sensitivities, which the fourth video is about. As cookie monster said about cookies on the Colbert Show, vegetables are a sometimes food. Think of plant foods more as medicine in that dose is important.
Plant foods are beneficial in small portions on occasion, whereas constantly overloading your body with them never gives your system a rest. Fruits and veggies are good, in moderation. It turns out a “balanced diet” doesn’t mean massive piles of greens for every meal and snacks in between. Grains aren’t the only problematic plant food. Sure, on a healthy diet, you can have periods of time when you eat more plant foods and maybe be entirely vegan on certain days, but also make sure to fast from plant foods entirely every now and then or even for extended periods.
That said, I understand that we’ve been told our entire lives to eat more fruits and veggies. And I’m not interested in trying to prove zero-carbs is the best. If you’re afraid that you’ll be unhealthy without a massive load of plant nutritients, then make sure to take care of potential problems with gut health and inflammation. In the eighth video below, a former vegan explains how she unknowingly had been managing her plant-induced inflammation with CBD oil, something she didn’t realize until after stopping its use. She later turned to an animal-based diet and the inflammation was no longer an issue.
But for those who don’t want to go strictly low-carb, much less carnivore, there are many ways to manage one’s health, besides anti-inflammatory CBD oil. Be sure to include other anti-inflammatories such as turmeric (curcumin) combined with, for absorption, black pepper (bioperine). Also, intermittent and extended fasting will be all the more important to offset the plant intake, although everyone should do fasting as it is what the human body is designed for. A simple method is limited eating periods, even going so far as one meal a day (OMAD), but any restriction is better than none. Remember that even sleeping at night is a fast and so, skipping breakfast or eating later, will extend that fast with its benefits; or else skipping dinner will start the fasting period earlier.
Even on a vegan or vegetarian diet, one can also do a ketogenic diet, which is another way of reducing inflammation and healing the gut. For this approach, I’d suggest reading Dr. Will Cole’s book Ketotarian; also helpful might be some other books such as Dena Harris’ The Paleo Vegetarian Diet and Mark Hyman’s Food: What the Heck Should I Eat?. Anytime carbs are low enough, including during fasts, will put the body into ketosis and eventually autophagy, the latter being how the body heals itself. Carbs, more than anything else, will knock you out of this healthy state, not that you want to be permanently in this state.
Still, I wouldn’t recommend extreme plant-based diets, in particular not the typically high-carb veganism. Even with the advantages of low-carb, I would still avoid it as this will force you to eat more unhealthy foods like soy and over-consume omega-6 fatty acids from nuts and seeds, one of the problems discussed in the fourth video. Some vegetarians and vegans will oddly make an exception for seafood; but if you don’t eat seafood at all, be sure to add an algal-source supplement of EPA and DHA, necessary omega-3 fatty acids that are also beneficial for inflammation and general health. If meat, including seafood, is entirely unacceptable, consider at least adding certain kinds animal foods in such as pasture-raised eggs and ghee.
If you still have health problems, consider the possibility of going zero-carb. Even a short meat fast might do wonders. As always, self-experimentation is the key. Put your health before dietary ideology. That is to say, don’t take my word for it nor the word of others. Try it for yourself. If you want to do a comparison, try strict veganism for a period and then follow it with carnivore. And if you really want to emphasize the difference, make the vegan part of the experiment high-carb and I don’t necessarily mean what are considered ‘unhealthy’ carbs — so, eat plenty of whole wheat bread, rice, corn, and beans, — that way you’ll also feel the difference that carbohydrates make. But if you don’t want to do carnivore for the other part of the experiment, at least try a ketogenic diet which can be done with more plant-based foods but consider reducing the most problematic plant foods, as Gundry explains.
Of course, you can simply jump right into carnivory and see what happens. Give it a few months or even a year, as it can take a while for your body to heal, not only in elimination of toxins. What do you have to lose?
* * *
I’ll add a personal note. I’ve long had an experimental attitude about life. But the last year, I’ve been quite intentional in my self-experimenting. Mainly, I try something and then observe the results, not that I’m always that systematic about it. Many of the changes I’ve experienced would be hard to miss, even when I’m not paying close attention.
That playing around with dietary parameters is what I’m still doing. My dietary experiments likely will go on for quite a while longer. After a few days of fermented vegetables, I felt fine and there were no symptoms. I decided to try a salad which is raw vegetables (lettuce, green onions, and radishes) and included fermented vegetables. Now I notice that the inflammation in my wrist has flared up. I’ll take that as my body giving me feedback.
One of the best benefits to zero-carb was how inflammation had gone away. My wrists weren’t bothering me at all and that is a big deal, as they’re has been irritation for years now with my job as a cashier and all the time I spend on the computer. Inflammation had gone down with low-carb, but it was still noticeable. There was further decrease with zero-carb and I’d hate to lose those gains.
As I said, I’m being cautious. The benefits I’ve seen are not slight and far from being limited to joint issues, with what is going on with my wrists probably being related to the crackling in my knees I experience earlier last decade before reducing sugar. A much bigger deal is the neurocognitive angle, since mental health has been such a struggle for decades. Possible inflammation in my brain is greater concern than inflammation in my wrists, not that the two can be separated as an inflammatory state can affect any and all parts of the body. I take depression extremely seriously and I’m hyper-aware to shifts in mood and related aspects.
I’ll limit myself to fermented vegetables for the time being and see how that goes.
Having written that, I remembered one other possible offending food. The day before the salad I had a slice of oat bread. I had asked someone to make me some almond bread, as I explained to them, because of the paleo diet and they misunderstood. They apparently thought the paleo diet was only about wheat and so they got it in their head that oats would be fine. Because they made it for me, I decided to have a slice as I’m not a dietary Puritan.
So maybe it wasn’t the salad, after all. Still, I think I’ll keep to the fermented veggies for a while. And I’ll keep away from those grains. That was the first time I had any oats in a long time. I’ll have to try oats again sometime in the future to see if I have a similar response. But for now, I’m keeping my diet simple by keeping animal foods at the center of of what I eat.
* * *
My own experience with diets makes me understand the attraction of carnivore diet. It isn’t only the most effective diet for healing from inflammation and gut problems. Also, it is so simple to do, it is highly satisfying with lots of fat and sat, and the results are dramatic and quick. You just eat until you’re no longer hungry.
Few other diets compare. The one exception being the ketogenic diet, which is unsurprising since zero-carb will obviously promote ketosis. Both of these diets have the advantage of simplicity. One quickly learns that all the struggle and suffering is unnecessary and undesirable. You eat until satiety and then stop. Overeating is almost impossible on carnivore, as the body returns to normal balance without all those carbs and sugar fucking up your metabolism and hormonal signaling for hunger.
We live in a dominator society that is drenched in moralistic religion and this impacts everyone, even atheists and new agers. This shapes the stories we tell, including dieting narratives of gluttony and sin (read Gary Taubes). We are told dieting must be hard, that it is something enforced, not something we do naturally as part of a lifestyle. We are taught to mistrust our bodies and, as if we are disembodied ego-minds, that we must control the body and resist temptation… and when we inevitably fail, one might argue by design, we must punish ourselves and double down on self-denial. If it feels good, it must be bad. What bullshit!
The addictive mentality of diets high in carbs and sugar are part of a particular social order built on oppressive social control. Rather than an internal sense of satisfaction, control must come from outside, such that we become disconnected even from our own bodies. It is a sense of scarcity where one is always hungry, always worried about where the next meal will come from. And in order to control this addictive state, we are told we have to fight against our own bodies, as if we are at war with ourselves. We lose an intuitive sense of what is healthy, as everything around us promotes imbalance and disease.
But what if there could be another way? What if you could feel even better with carnivory or in ketogenic fasting than you ever felt before?
* * *
I’ve written before about low-carb, fasting, ketosis, and related dietary topics such as paleo and nutrient-density:
This is the first post about the carnivore diet. Some of the other posts come close to it, though. In a couple of them, I discuss diets that were largely centered on animal foods, from the Mongols to the Spartans. It was specifically my reading about and experimenting with fasting and ketosis that opened my mind to considering the carnivore diet.
I bring this up because of another interesting historical example I just came across. Brad Lemley, a science journalist, is a LCHF practitioner and advocate. He writes that, “I’ve always been fascinated by Lewis and Clark’s expedition. What gave the 33 men and one dog the strength to traverse the wild nation? Nine pounds of meat per day per man”.
From the journal of Raymond Darwin Burroughs, there was a tally of the meat consumed on the expedition: “Deer (all species combined” 1,001; Elk 375; Bison 227; Antelope 62; Bighorn sheep 35; Bears, grizzly 43; Bears, black 23; Beaver (shot or trapped) 113; Otter 16; Geese and Brant 104; Grouse (all species) 46; Turkeys 9; Plovers 48; Wolves (only one eaten) 18; Indian dogs (purchased and consumed) 190; Horses 12″ (The Natural History of the Lewis and Clark Expedition).
“This list does not include the countless smaller or more exotic animals that were captured and eaten by the Corps, such as hawk, coyote, fox, crow, eagle, gopher, muskrat, seal, whale blubber, turtle, mussels, crab, salmon, and trout” (Hunting on the Lewis and Clark Trail). “Additionally, 193 pounds of “portable soup” were ordered as an emergency ration when stores ran out and game was scarce or unavailable. The soup was produced by boiling a broth down to a gelatinous consistency, then further drying it until it was rendered quite hard and desiccated. Not exactly a favorite with the men of the Corps, it nonetheless saved them from near starvation on a number of occasions.”
That would be a damn healthy diet. Almost entirely hunted and wild-caught meat. They would have been eating head-to-tail with nothing going to waste: brains, intestines, organ meats, etc. They also would’ve been getting the bone marrow and bone broth. This would have provided every nutrient needed for not just surviving but thriving at high levels of health and vitality. Yet they also would have gone through periods of privation and hunger.
“Despite the apparent bounty of the ever-changing landscape and the generosity of local tribes, many were the nights when the crew of the Corps went to sleep hungry. Many were the days when shots went awry and missed their mark, or game remained hidden from sight. Relentless rain ruined drying meat, punishing heat spoiled perishable provisions, and clothing rotted right off the backs of the men.”
That means they also spent good portions of time fasting. So, there was plenty of ketosis and autophagy involved, further factors that promote health and energy. Taken together, this dietary lifestyle follows the traditional hunter-gatherer pattern of feasting and fasting. Some ancient agricultural societies such as the Spartans intentionally mimicked this intermittent fasting through the practice of one-meal-a-day, at least for young boys training for the life of a soldier.
Nina Teicholz has pointed out that a meat-heavy diet was common to early Americans, not only to those on expeditions into the Western wilderness, and because of seasonal changes fasting and its results would also have been common. The modern industrial style of the standard American diet (SAD) doesn’t only diverge from traditional hunter-gatherer diets but also from the traditional American diet.
* * *
* * *
This one particularly fits my own experience with mental health. The guy interviewed offers a compelling conversion story, in going from the standard American diet (SAD) to carnivore after decades of everything getting worse. His example shows how, as long as you’re still alive, it is never too late to regain some of your health and sometimes with a complete reversal.
There hasn’t been many studies on carnivory. But one research paper concluded, “Our study has shown that Austrian adults who consume a vegetarian diet are less healthy (in terms of cancer, allergies, and mental health disorders), have a lower quality of life, and also require more medical treatment.” The researchers were comparing a ‘vegetarian’ diet with a ‘carnivore’ diet.
It’s a bit confusing, though. The carnivore category was divided into sub-categories that I didn’t quite understand. At least one of the sub-categories of carnivore might better be described as omnivore. It’s not clear that any of the subjects ate animal foods only. Also, the ‘vegetarian’ group included multiple diets. Part of them (“pure vegetarians”) apparently were vegans while others ate certain animal foods, the latter including not only dairy and eggs but in some cases fish as well. Basically, the comparison was more broadly between plant-based diets and meat-based diets.
Possibly problematic, it is unclear if the differences in health outcomes are dietary or environmental, as the authors discuss major differences in lifestyle. The ‘vegetarians’ sought out less preventative healthcare, presumably out of a mistrust of mainstream medicine. Even so, it’s interesting in how it demonstrates that it’s more complicated than simply eating more plants will make people healthy.
Vegetarians are less healthy than meat-eaters, a controversial study has concluded, despite drinking less, smoking less and being more physically active than their carnivorous counterparts.
A study conducted by the Medical University of Graz in Austria found that the vegetarian diet, as characterised by a low consumption of saturated fat and cholesterol, due to a higher intake of fruits, vegetables and whole-grain products, appeared to carry elevated risks of cancer, allergies and mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.
While 0.2% of the interviewees were pure vegetarians (57.7% female), 0.8% reported to be vegetarians consuming milk and eggs (77.3% female), and 1.2% to be vegetarians consuming fish and/ or eggs and milk (76.7% female).