Research On Meat And Health

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

Key points

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3.3. A scientific assessment should not overlook conflicting data

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

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

5. Meat avoidance leads to a loss of nutritional robustness

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

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

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

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

* * *

On the China Study:

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

Research on non-meat animal foods and saturated fat:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In defense of dairy fat
by Allison Aubrey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

Related posts:

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

“What is the most important thing in life?”

The answer, according to a hunter-gatherer: 

  • “Meat.”
  • “Honey.”
  • “Corn porridge.”

That is the order he gave them in. He paused between stating each. But the first answer came without any pause. And the last one would’ve been introduced during colonialism.

To emphasize his point, he later said, “If we have meat, honey, and water, then we are happy. Thank you, friend.” He didn’t bother to add the corn porridge in the second answer. Corn porridge is probably only what they eat when they have nothing else.

Then further on, the interviewer asked, “What is your biggest struggle?” Guess what the hunter-gatherer’s answer was. “Meat.” It really does all go back to meat, although they did explain the importance of water as well. Honey is a nice treat, but they kept coming back to meat.

This hunter-gatherer was really obsessed with the baboons they were going to hunt that night. He was quite excited about it. Those baboons on the rock in the distant meant meat.

Meat makes the world go around, including the fear of becoming meat. The first answer to their greatest fear was, “Lion.” Eat or be eaten. The hunter-gatherer’s whole live is obsessed over the next kill and avoiding being killed.

Honey is pleasurable and good quick energy. Plant foods can be eaten in a pinch or for variety. But, for humans, lack of meat in the wild means death.

Being “mostly vegan” is like being “a little pregnant.”

A large number of vegans and vegetarians, according to available data, occasionally cheat by eating various animal foods. I know a vegan who eats fish, which technically would make her pegan, but she is attached to identifying as vegan. The majority who try these “plant-based” diets, the data also shows, don’t maintain them beyond a short period of time. It’s a small minority that remain on such restrictive diets.

It’s yet to be demonstrated if veganism, strictly maintained with no instance of cheating, can even be maintained beyond a single generation. That infertility is so common among vegans (and also vegetarians) is an indicator that long-term survival is unlikely. That is similar to what Francis M. Pottenger Jr. discovered when cats were fed contrary to the diet they evolved eating. “By the third generation, they didn’t reach adulthood. There was no generation after that” (Health From Generation To Generation).

Another researcher from earlier last century, Weston A. Price studied healthy populations following traditional diets. In his search, he traveled to every continent and he specifically looked for those adhering to an entirely plant-based diet, but he could find no example anywhere in the world. He did find cannibals. Every healthy population ate large amounts of high quality animal foods, typically not long pig though.

* * *

Interpreting the Work of Dr. Weston A. Price
from Weston A. Price Foundation

One of the purposes of Price’s expedition to the South Seas was to find, if possible “plants or fruits which together, without the use of animal products, were capable of providing all of the requirements of the body for growth and for maintenance of good health and a high state of physical efficiency.” 12 What he found was a population that put great value on animal foods–wild pig and seafood–even groups living inland on some of the larger islands. Even the agricultural tribes in Africa consumed insects and small fish–and these groups were not as robust as the tribes that hunted, fished or kept herds.

“It is significant,” said Price, “that I have as yet found no group that was building and maintaining good bodies exclusively on plant foods. A number of groups are endeavoring to do so with marked evidence of failure.”13

12. Weston A. Price, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, PPNF, p 109.
13. Weston A. Price, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, PPNF, p 282.

Studies of Relationships Between Nutritional Deficiencies and (a) Facial and Dental Arch Deformities and (b) Loss of Immunity to Dental Caries Among South Sea Islanders and Florida Indians.
by Weston A. Price

The native foods in practically all the South Sea Islands consisted of a combination of two types; namely, plant foods and sea foods. The former included the roots and tops of several tubers and a variety of fruits. The sea foods consisted chiefly of small forms, both hard- and soft-shelled, and invertebrates, together with fish of various types.

One of the purposes of this trip was to find, if possible, native dietaries consisting entirely of plant foods which were competent for providing all the factors needed for complete and normal physical development without the use of any animal tissues or product.

A special effort was accordingly made to penetrate deeply into the interior of the two largest Islands where the inhabitants were living quite remote from the sea, with the hope that groups of individuals would be found living solely on a vegetarian diet. Not only were no individuals or groups found, even in the interior, who were not frequently receiving shell fish from the sea, but I was informed that they recognized that they could not live over three months in good health without getting something from the sea. A native interpreter informed me that this had been one of the principal causes of bitter warfare between the hill tribes and coast tribes of that and all of the Pacific Islands, since the hill people could not exist without some sea foods to supplement their abundant and rich vegetable diet of the mountain country.

He informed me also that even during the periods of bitter warfare the people from the mountain district would come down to the sea during the night and place in caches delicious plants which grew only at the higher altitudes. They would return the following night to obtain the sea foods that were placed in the same caches by the people from the sea. He stated that even during warfare these messengers would not be captured or disturbed.

This guide and many others explained to me that cannibalism had its origin in the recognition by the hill people that the livers and other organs of their enemies from the coast provided the much needed chemicals which were requisite to supplement the plant foods. Several highly informed sons of cannibals and a few who acknowledged that they had eaten “long pig” advised me that it was common knowledge that the people who had lived by the sea and who had been able to obtain lots of sea foods, particularly the fishermen, were especially sought for staying a famine. One native told me of having left an Island where he was engaged in fishing because of a tip that came to him that his life was in danger because of his occupation.

Weston Price Looked for Vegans But Found Only Cannibals
by Christopher Masterjohn

This experience is, in part, a testament to the extraordinary nutrition packed into shellfish.  Melissa McEwen recently wrote about this in her post “Being Shellfish,” where she noted that some shellfish are not only more nutritious than meat, but exhibit such a dearth of evidence for sentience and the capacity for suffering that some otherwise-vegans argue that eating shellfish is consistent with the basic ethics of veganism. […]

Ultimately, what this story makes especially clear is that there is an enormous difference between a small amount of animal products and no animal products.  Being “mostly vegan” is like being “a little pregnant.”  As I pointed out in my response to Dr. T. Colin Campbell and my review of Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s Eat to Live, animal products that constitute two percent or ten percent of a person’s diet may make or break the healthfulness of the diet, especially if that small percentage is something incredibly nutrient-dense like clams or oysters.

If someone achieves vibrant health on a vegan diet, I will be happy for them.  We should face the facts, however, that humans with limited access to animal products have often gone to great lengths to include at least some animal products in their diet.  And they’ve done that for a reason.

Vegetarianism is an Animal-Based Diet

“Some cultures like the Plains Indians, like the Lakota, they lived mostly on Buffalo,” stated Dr. Mark Hyman in a side comment while talking to Tom Bilyeu. “And they were the longest lived people in history. More centenarians per capita than any other population at the turn of the century” (about 27 minutes into the video Why Carnivore is the Ultimate Elimination Diet | Health Theory, 10/31/2019). This caught my attention for the obvious reason. The Lakota, on a carnivore diet as they were prior to reservation life, hold the world historical record for the longest lived population. Let’s give credit where it’s due. And the credit goes to those nutrient-dense buffalo that gave up their lives for the benefit of the Lakota. But the thing that surprised me is that such a fact was brought up at all in that discussion.

Dr. Hyman is not a carnivore advocate. In fact, he was advising against it. He isn’t even particularly paleo in his dietary views. Of the alternative health doctors, he is one of the more well known, mainstream, and respectable. I wouldn’t exactly say he is conventional, although he doesn’t tend to stray far into non-standard dietary regimens beyond established dietary ideologies and recommendations. His comment was a bit out of character. I looked it up and found where he spoke of it in one of his books: Eat Fat, Get Thin (at the beginning of chapter 7). That passage gives more context there for why he highlights that exemplary population. He brings up another long-lived population, the Seventh Day Adventists who are vegetarians. “What gives?” he asked. “Meat or veggies? Maybe we’re asking the wrong question. The answer seems to be that it is not the meat or the veggies, but the sugar and refined carbs that are part of the typical meat eater’s diet and our highly processed inflammatory diet that we should be concerned with.”

That makes more sense of why he was interested in the Lakota. He presents two diets that most people would take as extreme and then seeks a moderate position. Then he concludes that it isn’t what either diet includes but what they both exclude. That is a fair enough point (reminiscent of Catherine Shanahan’s assessment of industrial seed oils in Deep Nutrition; see Dr. Catherine Shanahan On Dietary Epigenetics and Mutations). The same basic argument comes up in an article on his official website, Is Meat Good or Bad for You?. He states that the “whole carnivore-vegan debate misses the real point”. Sure, it misses the point. But did you see the sleight-of-hand he did there. He switched the frame from a carnivore-vegetarian debate to a carnivore-vegan debate. That is problematic, since vegetarianism and veganism are extremely different. Vegetarianism is animal-based omnivorous diet. It allows animal foods such as eggs and dairy (some even include seafood). If a vegetarian so desired, they could eat almost entirely animal foods and remain vegetarian. That is not possible with veganism that entirely excludes animal foods of all varieties (ignoring vegans who likewise make exceptions).

In comparing long-lived carnivores and long-lived vegetarians, vegans aside, maybe there is more going on than the unhealthy processed foods that their diets lack. The early Lakota obviously were getting high-quality and highly nutritious animal foods. But the same could be true of the vegetarians among Seventh Day Adventists, as with the non-strict lacto-ovo-vegetarians among Hindus. All of these populations, meat or not meat, could be getting high levels of fat-soluble vitamins, along with other primarily or entirely animal-sourced essential, conditionally essential, and key non-essential micronutrients such as fat-soluble vitamins, B vitamins, EPA, DHA, DPA, ARA, CLA, phytanic acid, phospholipids, choline, biotin, nucleotides, creatine, taurine, carnitine, carnosine, anserine. beta-alanine, HLA, collagen, and much else. A vegan lacks all of these without artificial sources of non-food supplementation. Unlike plant foods, no essential nutrient is missing or deficient in animal foods. That isn’t a minor detail.

Anyway, even ignoring micronutrient availability, we have no comparable long-term strict vegan population that has been studied or about which we have historical data. Interestingly, veganism didn’t exist as a diet until a Seventh Day Adventist prophet received it as a message from God. Yet even to this day, there are no significant number of vegans among Seventh Day Adventists or any other population, much less vegans who have been on the diet for their entire life or even multiple generations. There is no such thing as a long-lived vegan population, since all that we know of veganism is from the study of individuals, not specific communities, much less multigenerational populations. In fact, few people who start a vegan diet remain on it for long and surveys indicate that it’s common for vegans, like vegetarians, to cheat by occasionally eating animal foods, such as when they’re drunk. So, we have no clue what would happen to an entire population maintained on strict veganism for their entire lives with absolutely no cheating. It’s a complete unknown. But what we do know is that populations that allow animal foods, from carnivore to vegetarian, can maintain good health and can produce centenarians.

Is animal-based vs plant-based determined by the majority of bulk in the diet, majority of calories, majority of macronutrients, or majority of micronutrients (more specifically, majority of essential micronutrients)? Of those possible ways of categorizing, if we used essential micronutrients as the primary measure of health (and a good argument can be made for doing so since, after all, such micronutrients are essential to survival), many and maybe most vegetarians would be opposite of vegans in being labeled animal-based. Those essential micronutrients, such as fat-soluble vitamins, are both important and mostly come from animal foods; as Weston A. Price determined a century ago with early lab analysis of the nutrition in healthy traditional populations. And, by the way, for his searches, he never was able to find a plant-exclusive population; as even Hindus traditionally eat eggs and dairy, not to mention allowing meat for the pregnant, young, old, and sick.

All of this gets overlooked in mainstream debate where vegetarianism and veganism are conflated as plant-based diets. That confusion is purposely promoted by vegans (e.g., the documentary The Game Changers) who don’t want a public discussion about animal foods, especially not nutrient-dense animal foods as part of regenerative farming, and so vegans want to dismiss all animal foods as factory-farmed ‘meat’ supposedly destroying the world. For some reason, many experts like Dr. Hyman have fallen into this framing, a framing by the way that corporate interests have likewise promoted (Corporate Veganism; & Dietary Dictocrats of EAT-Lancet).

If vegetarianism is to be lumped with veganism as plant-based — based on the majority of bulk, calories, or macronutrients; and not the majority of essential micronutrients — then we are forced to be honest in admitting that most modern diets are plant-based, including the Standard American diet and some versions of the Mediterranean diet and even the Paleo diet. Most people eat foods consisting primarily of plant-based ingredients. Just look at the wide variety of junk food and other prepackaged foods that are largely or entirely made from plants. Commercial candy, snack mixes, potato chips, crackers, cookies, breads — all typically vegan and the few that aren’t barely have any animal-based ingredients in them. Most Americans eat these foods all day long. Their cupboards at home and their desk drawer at work are filled with them, always ready at hand when those addictive cravings hit for the next hit of starchy carbs and sugar.

Also, the supposedly ‘healthy’ foods people start their day off with — breakfast, the so-called most important meal of the day — are mostly plant foods (toast, muffins, bran cereal, granola bars, oatmeal, fruit, etc), maybe with some dairy added but even plant fake milks and fake butter is putting a major dent in the dairy industry, having recently put some dairy companies out of business, despite the fact that research shows that they are less healthy than their dairy equivalents. Even the most meat-loving Americans eat massive loads of grains, potatoes, table sugar, high fructose corn syrup, seed oils, etc in a thousand different forms and all of them destructive to health. Think of all that goes with a hamburger at a fast food restaurant: bread, pickles, maybe onions, ketchup, mustard, french fries, soda pop, and maybe a desert item — and don’t forget, Supersize that!

Is that really animal-based? No one honestly could claim it is, in terms of where most of the food is coming from, if we exclude the consideration of essential micronutrients. This plant-based Standard American diet is one of the great successes of big ag and big food industrial complex. Yet there is still more propaganda for a “plant-based” diet in pushing people to eat more plant foods (Ethan Varian, It’s Called ‘Plant-Based,’ Look It Up). But that demonstrates how, other than describing veganism, the label of “plant-based” is next to meaningless or not particularly useful in distinguishing between common diets, much less distinguishing between which modern diets are supposedly health and which supposedly unhealthy. Still, it is useful in distinguishing between most modern diets and most traditional diets, since veganism is a modern invention that didn’t exist until the late 19th century. For example, studies show that the majority of hunter-gatherers, even those surrounded by plants, don’t adhere to a plant-based diet since they get most of their energy and nutrients from animal foods.

So, what are we pretending this fake debate is about? And what is it really about? I can’t answer that for others, but here is my simple point. Most of the essential nutrition people get from their diet comes from animal foods, not plant foods. For all the health issues of those on SAD and vegetarian diets, they’d be far unhealthier if they excluded all animal foods as do vegans. This is the reason that vegans are among the most malnourished groups, as shown in numerous studies, with high rates of nutritional deficiencies, mental illness, infertility, etc. Yet those on animal-heavy diets that exclude the industrially-produced plant foods tend to be in great health. What distinguishes a vegetarian from a vegan is precisely that one eats nutrient-dense and nutrient-bioavailable animal foods and the other doesn’t. That makes all the difference in the world. As such, one can and maybe should argue that vegetarianism is an animal-based diet. It is, at the very least, a reasonable argument to make.

* * *

To Be Fat And Have Bread

The obsession with body fat is an interesting story. It didn’t begin a few generations ago but goes back centuries. But maybe that shouldn’t be surprising.

That was the colonial era when the diet was transformed by imperial trade of foreign foods. I might note that this included previously rare or never before seen varieties of fattening carbohydrates: sugar, potatoes, corn, rice, etc. The old feudal system was ending and entirely different forms of food production and diets were developing, especially for the then landless peasants. Hunting, gathering and grazing for the commoners definitely would have been on the decline for a while at that point, as the last of the commons had been privatized. The loss of access to wild game would take longer in the colonies, but eventually it happened everywhere.

The last stage of that shift overlapped with the beginnings of industrialization and agricultural improvements. In the 19th century, change in wheat surpluses and hence costs and prices. Agriculture boomed as fewer people were employed in it. There was also a sudden obsession with gender roles and social roles in general, such as the post-revolutionary expectation of the mother to make citizens out of her children. Bread-making, a once uncommon activity for Americans, became increasingly important to the normative identity of family life and the symbolic maintenance of the social order.

Regular consumption of wheat bread was once limited to the wealthy and that is how refined bread gained its moral association with the refined class. Only the wealthy could afford wheat prior to the 19th century, as prior to that the poor were forced to rely upon cheaper grains and grain substitutes at a time when bread was regularly adulterated with bark, sawdust, chalk, etc. Poverty breads, in the previous centuries, often were made with no grain at all.* For wheat and especially heavily refined white bread to become available to all walks of life meant an upsurge of the civilizing process. The obsession with middle class life took hold and so cookbooks were produced in large numbers.

In a growing reactionary impulse, there was a nostalgic tendency toward invented traditions. Bread took on new meanings that then were projected onto the past. It wasn’t acknowledged how radical was the industrial agriculture and industrial milling that made all of this possible. And the disconnection is demonstrated by the simultaneous promotion of the grain production of this industrial age and the complaint about how industrialized life was destroying all that was good. Bread, as a symbol, transcended these mere details.

With the aristocracy having been challenged during the Revolutionary Era the refinement of the refined class that once was admired had then become suspect. The ideology of whole foods began to emerge and had some strong proponents. But by the end of the 1800s, the ideal of refinement gained prominence again and prepared the way for the following century of ever greater industrialization of processed foods. Refinement represented progress. Only after more extensive refinement led to mass malnourishment, near the end of that century and heading into the next, did whole foods once again capture the public imagination.

Then we enter the true era of fat obsession, fat blaming, and dieting, endless dieting. Eat your whole grains, get your fiber, make sure you get enough servings of fruits, and veggies, and don’t forget to exercise. Calories in, calories out. Count your calories, count your carbs, count your steps. Count every last one of them. Still, the basic sides of the debate remain the same: fewer carbohydrates vs less meat, whole foods vs refined foods, barbaric lifestyle vs civilizing process, individual moral failure vs societal changes, etc. One theme that runs through dietary advice from the ancient world to the present is that there is a close link between physical health, mental health, and moral health — the latter erupting as moral panic and moral hygiene. But what stands about the modern era, beginning in the 1600s, is that it was observed that psychological problems were mostly seen among the well-to-do.

This was often blamed on luxury and sometimes on meat (a complaint often about animals raised unnaturally in confinement and probably fed grain, the early equivalent of concerns about factory farming; but also a complaint about the introduction of foreign spices and use of fancy sauces to make meat more appetizing), although there was beginning to be an awareness that a high-carb diet might be playing a role in that it was often noted that the morbidly obese ate lots of pastries, fruit pies, and such. The poor didn’t have much access to wheat and sugar before the 1800s, but the wealthy had plenty of such foods centuries earlier. Meat consumption didn’t change much during that era of colonial trade. What did change the most was availability of starchy and sugary foods, and the wealthy consumed them in great proportions. Meat had always been a desirable food going back to earliest hominid evolution. Modern agriculture and global trade, however, entirely transformed the human diet with the introduction of massive amounts of carbohydrates.

It’s strange that right from the beginning of the modern era there were those pushing for a vegetarian diet, not many but their voices were being heard for the first time. Or maybe it wasn’t so strange. Prior to the modern era, a vegetarian diet so far north in Europe would have been impossible. It was only the elite promoting vegetarianism as only they could afford a vegetarian diet year round, in buying expensive plant-based foods that were often shipped in from far away. Although plant foods were expensive at the time, they were available to those who had plenty of money. But during the Middle Ages and earlier, vegetarianism for the most part was not an option for anyone since the food items required of such a diet simply weren’t available enough to sustain life, certainly not in places like England or Germany.

There is another side to this bring us back to the obsession with fat. It was only with the gradual increase of grain production that cattle could be fed grain, not only as additional feed in the winter but year round. This is also what allowed the possibility of confining animals, rather than grazing them on fields. Grain surpluses weren’t consistent until the 19th century, but even before that grain production had been increasing. There were slow improvements in agriculture over the centuries. The rich could afford meat from grain-fed animals much earlier than the rest of the population and it was highly sought after. That is because such meat is extremely fatty creating those beautiful marbled steaks, pork chops, etc (such fattiness, by the way, is a sign of metabolic syndrome in both animals and humans). Fat couldn’t have been a focus of debate prior to grain-fattened animals became common.

So, there is a reason that both wheat bread and fatty meat gained immense symbolic potency at the same time. Similarly, it was during this same era that vegetables became more common and gardens likewise became symbols of wealth, abundance, and the good life. Only the rich could afford to maintain large gardens because of the difficulty involved and immense time-consuming work required (see The Jane Austen Diet by Bryan Kozlowski**; also about the American diet before the 20th century, see The Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz that I quote in Malnourished Americans). They represented the changed diet of modern civilization. They were either indicators of progress or decline, depending on one’s perspective. Prior to modernity, a diet had consisted to a much greater degree of foods that were gathered, hunted, trapped, and fished.

The shift from one source of food to another changed the diet and so changed the debate about diet. There suddenly were more options of foods available as choices to argue about. Diet as a concept was being more fully formulated. Rather than being something inherited according to the traditional constraints of local food systems and food customs, assuming one had the wealth, one could pick from a variety of possible diets. Even to this day, the obsession about dieting carries a taint of class privilege. It is, as they say, a first world problem. But what is fascinating is how this way of thinking took hold in the 1600s and 1700s. There was a modern revolution in dietary thought in the generations before modern political revolution. The old order was falling apart and sometimes actively being dismantled. This created much anxiety and it forced the individual into a state of uncertainty. Old wisdom no longer could be relied upon.

* * *

*Rather than bread, the food that was most associated with the laboring class was fish, a food the wealthy avoided. Think about how lobster and clams used to be poverty foods. In Galenic theory of humoral physiology, fish is considered cold and wet, hard to digest and weakening. This same humoral category of food also included fruits and vegetables. This might be why, even to this day, many vegetarians and vegans will make an exception for fish, in seeing it as different than ‘meat’. This is an old ideological bias because ‘meat’ was believed to have the complete opposite effect of being hot and dry, easy to digest and invigorating. This is the reason for why meat but not fish was often banned during religious fasts and festivals.

As an interesting side note, the supposed cooling effect of fish was a reason for not eating it during the cold times of the year. Fish is one of the highest sources of vitamin A. Another source is by way of the precursor of beta-carotene found in vegetables. That these two types of food are considered of the same variety according to Galenic thought is interesting. Cold weather is one of the factors that can disrupt the body’s ability to convert beta-carotene into usable vitamin A. The idea of humors mixes this up slightly, but it maybe points to understanding there was something important to be understood. Eating more meat, rather than vegetables, in winter is a wise practice in a traditional society that can’t supplement such nutrients. Vitamin A is key for maintaining a strong immune system and handling stress (True Vitamin A For Health And Happiness).

By the way, it was during the 19th century that a discussion finally arose about vegetarianism. The question was about whether life and health could be sustained with vegetables. Then again, those involved were probably still being influenced by Galenic thought. By vegetarianism, they likely meant a more general plant-based diet that excluded ‘meat’ but not necessarily fish. The context of the debate was the religious abstinence of Lent, during which fish was allowed. So, maybe the fundamental argument was more about the possibility of long-term survival solely on moist, cooling foods. Whatever the exact point of contention, it was the first time in the modern Western world where a plant-based diet (be it vegan, vegetarian, or pescetarian-style Mediterranean diet) was considered seriously.

These ideas have been inherited by us, even though the philosophical justifications no longer make sense to us. This is seen in the debate that continues over red meat in particular and meat in general, specifically in terms of the originally Galenic assertion of its heat and dryness building up the ‘blood’ (High vs Low Protein). It’s funny that dietary debates remain obsessed over red meat (along with the related issue of cows and their farts), even though actual consumption of red meat has declined over the past century. As with bread, the symbolic value of red meat has maybe even gained greater importance. Similarly, as I mentioned above, the uncertain categorization of fish remains hazy. I know a vegan who doesn’t eat ‘meat’ but does eat fish. When I noted how odd that was, a vegetarian I was talking to thought it made perfect sense. This is Galenic thought without the Galenic theory that at least made it a rational position, but the ideological bias remains in spite of those adhering to it being unable to explain why they hold that bias. It amuses me.

Ideologies are powerful systems. They are mind viruses that can survive and mutate across centuries and sometimes millennia. Most of the time, their origins are lost to history. But sometimes we are able to trace them and it makes for strange material to study.

See: “Fish in Renaissance Dietary Theory” by Ken Albala from Fish: Food from the Waters ed. by Harlan Walker, and Food and Faith in Christian Culture ed. by Ken Albala and Trudy Eden. Also, read text below, such as the discussion of vegetarianism.

* * *

(Both texts below are from collections that are freely available on Google Books and possibly elsewhere.)

The Fat of the Land: Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cooking 2002
ed. by Harlan Walker
“The Apparition of Fat in Western Nutritional Theory”
by Ken Albala

Naturally dietary systems of the past had different goals in mind when framing their recommendations. They had different conceptions of the good, and at some point in history that came to include not being fat. Body size then became an official concern for dietary writers. Whether the original impetus for this change was a matter of fashion, spirituality or has its roots in a different approach to science is impossible to say with any degree of precision. But this paper will argue that nutritional science itself as reformulated in the 17th century was largely to blame for the introduction of fat into the discourse about how health should be defined. […] Obesity is a pathological state according to modern nutritional science. But it was not always so.

When and why fat became a medical issue has been a topic of concern among contemporary scholars. Some studies, such as Peter N. Sterns’ Fat History: Bodies and Beauty in the Modern West, place the origin of our modern obsession in the late 19th century when the rise of nutritional science and health movements lead by figures like John Harvey Kellogg, hand in hand with modern advertising and Gibson Girls, swept away the Victorian preference for fulsome figures. As a form of social protest, those who could afford to, much as in the 60s, idealized the slim androgynous figure we associate with flappers. Others push the origin further back into the early 19th century, in the age of Muscular Christianity and Sylvester Graham. But clearly the obsession is earlier than this. In the 18th century the 448 pound physician George Cheyne and his miracle dieting had people flocking to try out the latest ‘cures.’ It was at the same time that dissertations on the topic of obesity became popular, and clearly the medical profession had classified this as a treatable condition. And readers had already been trained to monitor and police their own bodies for signs of impending corpulence. The roots of this fear and guilt must lie somewhere in the previous century as nutritional science was still groping its way through a myriad of chemical and mechanical theories attempting to quantify health and nutrition with empirical research.

The 17th century is also the ideal place to look if only because the earlier system of humoral physiology is almost totally devoid of a concept of fat as a sickness. […]

For all authors in the Galenic tradition it appears that fat was seen as a natural consequence of a complexion tending to the cold and moist, something which could be corrected, but not considered an illness that demanded serious attention. And socially there does not seem to have been any specific stigma attached to fat if Rubens’ taste in flesh is any measure.

The issue of fat really only emerges among authors who have abandoned, in part or totally, the system of humoral physiology. This seems to have something to do with both the new attempts to quantify nutrition, first and most famously by Santorio Santorio9 and also among those who began to see digestion and nutrition as chemical reactions which when gone awry cast fatty deposits throughout the body. It was only then that fat came to be considered a kind of sickness to be treated with therapy.10

The earliest indications that fat was beginning to be seen as a medical problem are found in the work of the first dietary writer who systematically weighed himself. Although Santorio does not seem to have been anxious about being overweight himself, he did consistently define health as the maintenance of body weight. Expanding on the rather vague concept of insensible perspiration used by Galenic authors, Santorio sought to precisely measure the amount of food he consumed each day compared to the amount excreted in ‘sensible’ evacuations. […] Still, fat was not a matter of eating too much. ‘He who eats more than he can digest, is nourished less than he ought to be, and [becomes] consequently emaciated.’12 More importantly, fat was a sign of a system in disarray. […]

Food was not in fact the only factor Santorio or his followers took into account though. As before, the amount of exercise one gets, baths, air quality, even emotions could alter the metabolic rate. But now, the effect of all these could be precisely calculated. […]

At the same time that these mechanistic conceptions of nutrition became mainstream, a chemical understanding of how food is broken down by means of acids and alkalis also came to be accepted by the medical profession. These ideas ultimately harked back to Paracelsus writing in the 16th century but were elaborated upon by 17th century writers […] It is clear that by the early 18th century fat could be seen as a physiological defect that could be corrected by heating the body to facilitate digestive fermentation and the passage of insensible perspiration. […] Although the theories themselves are obviously nothing like our own, we are much closer to the idea of fat as a medical condition. […]

Where Cheyne departs from conventional medical opinion, is in his recommendation of a cooked vegetable diet to counter the affects of a disordered system, which he admits is rooted in his own ‘experience and observation on my own crazy carcase and the infirmities of others I have treated’ rather than on any theoretical foundation.

The controversy over whether vegetables could be considered a proper diet, not only for the sick or overgrown but for healthy individuals, was of great concern in the 18th century. Nicholas Andry in his Traité des alimens de caresme offered an extended diatribe against the very notion that vegetables could sustain life, a question of particular importance in Catholic France where Lenten restriction were still in force, at least officially. […] According to current medical theory, vegetables could not be suitable for weight loss, despite the successful results of the empirics. […]

It is clear that authors had a number of potentially conflicting theoretical models to draw from and both mechanical and chemical explanations could be used to explain why fat accumulates in the body. Yet with entirely different conceptual tools, these authors arrived at dietary goals surprisingly like our own, and equally as contentious. The ultimate goals now became avoiding disease and fat, and living a long life. While it would be difficult to prove that these dietary authors had any major impact beyond the wealthy elites and professionals who read their works, it is clear that a concern over fat was firmly in place by the mid 18th century, and appears to have its roots in a new conception of physiology which not only paid close attention to body weight as an index of health, but increasingly saw fat as a medical condition.

Food and Morality: Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery 2007
ed. by Susan R. Friedland
“Moral Fiber: Bread in Nineteenth-Century America”

by Mark McWilliams

From Sarah Josepha Hale, who claimed, ‘the more perfect the bread, the more perfect the lady’ to Sylvester Graham, who insisted, ‘the wife, the mother only’ has the ‘moral sensibility’ required to bake good bread for her family, bread often became a gendered moral marker in nineteenth-century American culture.1 Of course, what Hale and Graham considered ‘good’ bread differed dramatically, and exactly what constituted ‘good’ bread was much contested. Amidst technological change that made white flour more widely available and home cooking more predictable, bread, described in increasingly explicit moral terms, became the leading symbol of a housewife’s care for her family.

Americans were hardly the first to ascribe moral meaning to their daily bread. As Bernard Dupaigne writes, ‘since time immemorial [bread] has attended the great events of various human communities: monsoon or grape harvest bread, the blessed bread of Catholics or the unleavened bread of Passover, or the fasting-break bread of Ramadan. There is no bread that does not, somewhere in the world, celebrate an agricultural or religious holiday, enrich a family event, or commemorate the dead.’2 With such varied symbolic resonance, bread seems easily filled with new meanings.

In America (as later in France),3 bread became a revolutionary symbol. To the early English colonists’ dismay, European wheat did not adapt well to the North American climate; the shift to corn as the primary grain was perhaps the most important dietary adaptation made by the colonists. Wheat remained too expensive for common consumption well into the nineteenth century. […]

By the end of the Revolution, then, bread was already charged with moral meaning in the young United States. In the nineteenth century, this meaning shifted in response to agricultural improvements that made wheat more widely available, technological change that made bread easier to make consistently, and, perhaps most important, social change that made good bread the primary symbol of a housewife’s care for her family. In effect, bread suffered a kind of identity crisis that paralleled the national identity crisis of Jacksonian America. As Americans thought seriously about who they were in this new nation, about how they should act and even how they should eat, bread’s symbolic meaning – and bread itself– changed.

American agricultural production exploded, although the proportion of the population working on farms declined. James Trager notes that even before the McCormick reaper first sold in large numbers as farmers struggled to replace workers leaving for the 1849 Gold Rush, the average time required to produce a bushel of wheat declined 22 per cent from 1831 to 1840.7 Dramatic improvements in efficiency led to larger yields; for example, wheat production more than doubled between 1840 and 1860. Such increases in wheat production, combined with better milling procedures, made white flour finally available in quantities sufficient for white bread to become more than a luxury good.8

Even as wheat became easier to find for many Americans, bread remained notoriously difficult to make, or at least to make well. Lydia Maria Child, a baker’s daughter who became one of America’s leading writers, emphasizes what must have been the intensely frustrating difficulty of learning to cook in the era before predictable heat sources, standardized measurements, and consistent ingredients.9 […]

Unlike Hale, who implies that learning to bake better can be a kind of self improvement, this passage works more as dire warning to those not yet making the proper daily bread. Though bread becomes the main distinction between the civilized and the savage, Beecher turns quickly, and reassuringly, to the science of her day: ‘By lightness is meant simply that in order to facilitate digestion the particles are to be separated from each other by little holes or air-cells; and all the different methods of making light bread are neither more nor less than the formation of bread with these air cells’ (170). She then carefully describes how to produce the desired lightness in bread, instructions which must have been welcome to the young housewife now fully convinced of her bread’s moral importance.

The path for Beecher, Hale, and others had been prepared by Sylvester Graham, although he is little mentioned in their work.14 In his campaign to improve bread, Graham’s rhetoric ‘romanticized the life of the traditional household’ in ways that ‘unknowingly helped prepare women to find a new role as guardians of domestic virtue,’ as Stephen Nissenbaum notes.15 Bread was only one aspect of Graham’s program to educate Americans on what he called ‘the Science of Human Life.’ Believing on the one hand, unlike many at the time, that overstimulation caused debility and, on the other, that industrialization and commercialization were debasing modern life, Graham proposed a lifestyle based around a strict controls on diet and sexuality.16 While Graham promoted a range of activities from vegetarianism to temperance, his emphasis on good bread was most influential. […]

And yet modern conditions make such bread difficult to produce. Each stage of the process is corrupted, according to Graham. Rather than grow wheat in ‘a pure virgin soil’ required for the best grain, farmers employ fields ‘exhausted by tillage, and debauched by the means which man uses to enrich and stimulate it.’ As Nissenbaum notes, the ‘conscious sexual connotations’ of Graham’s language here is typical of his larger system, but the language also begins to point to the moral dimensions of good bread (6).

Similarly loaded language marks Graham’s condemnation of bakery bread. Graham echoed the common complaints about adulteration by commercial bakers. But he added a unique twist: even the best bakery bread was doubly flawed. The flour itself was inferior because it was over-processed, according to Graham: the ‘superfine flour’ required for white bread ‘is always far less wholesome, in any and every situation of life, than that which is made of wheaten meal which contains all the natural properties of the grain.’ […]

As Nissenbaum argues, pointing to this passage, Graham’s claims invoke ‘the vision of a domestic idyll, of a mother nursing her family with bread and affection’ (8). Such a vision clearly anticipates the emphasis on cookery as measure of a woman’s social worth in the domestic rhetoric that came so to characterize the mid-nineteenth century.

Such language increasingly linking cookery with morality emphasized the virtue not of the food itself but rather of the cooks preparing it. This linkage reached read ers not only through the explosion of cookbooks and domestic manuals but also through the growing numbers of sentimental novels. Indeed, this linkage provided a tremendously useful trope for authors seeking a shorthand to define their fictional characters. And that trope, in turn, helped expand the popularity of interpreting cookery in moral terms. […]

After the Civil War, domestic rhetoric evolved away from its roots in the wholesome foods of the nation’s past toward the ever-more refined cuisine of the Gilded Age. Graham’s refusal to evolve in this direction – his system was based entirely in a nostalgic struggle against modernity, against refinement – may well be a large part of why his work was quickly left behind even by those for whom it had paved the way.

* * *

Here is another text I came across. It’s not free, but it seems like a good survey worth buying.

 

 

What Caused Rise In Bowel Cancer Rate?

Charlie Spedding
We are told red meat causes bowel cancer. Today @thetimes reports on surge in colon cancer among the young. But young people are eating less meat. How does  @WHO explain that?
Image
Image

Louise Stephen
Fake news – there is big money behind the drive to get people off red meat and onto replacement products such as Beyond Meat.
Image

Frédéric Leroy
🤔 Mmm.
Image

Tim Noakes
just possibly, cancer might have nutritional basis. Which seems at least an outside possibility since cancer is modern disease found rarely in peoples eating their traditional diets.

Guðmundur Jóhannsson
“Hyperinsulinemia appears to be a consistent marker of enhanced colon cancer risk.”
The Role of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disturbances in Cancers of the Colon, Prostate, and Pancreas
by Edward Giovannucci & Dominique Michaud

Guðmundur Jóhannsson
Hyperinsulinemia & colon cancer. Prospective cohort study of 14.275 women:
“For colon cancer alone (75 case subjects and 146 control subjects), ORs increased up to 3.96 (95% CI = 1.49-10.50; P:(trend) <.001) for the highest versus the lowest quintiles.”
Serum C-Peptide, Insulin-Like Growth Factor (IGF)-I, IGF-Binding Proteins, and Colorectal Cancer Risk in Women
by Rudolf Kaaks et al

Fat is our Friend
“Leading a Western lifestyle, being overweight, and being sedentary are associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer”… but I thought it was mostly down to red meat.😉

Guðmundur Jóhannsson
Yes, because it rots in your colon… obviously
Does Meat Rot In Your Colon? No. What Does? Beans, Grains, and Vegetables!
by J. Stanton

Guðmundur Jóhannsson
“A high-fiber diet and increased frequency of bowel movements are associated with greater, rather than lower, prevalence of diverticulosis.”
A High-Fiber Diet Does Not Protect Against Asymptomatic Diverticulosis
by Anne F. Peery et al

Tim Noakes
Is diverticulosis related in any way to bowel cancer? Recall that rise in colon cancer has occurred at same time that unproven Burkitt/Trowell hypothesis has been accepted as dogma. BT hypothesis holds that absence of dietary fibre causes colon cancer. So prevention = more fibre.

Guðmundur Jóhannsson
“There is no direct evidence of an effect of dietary fiber on colon cancer incidence… In a trial of ispaghula husk fiber, the intervention group actually had significantly more recurrent adenomas after 3 years”
Does a high-fiber diet prevent colon cancer in at-risk patients?
by Linda French, MD & Susan Kendall, PhD

Harold Quinn
If, as seems likely, colonic caracinoma is significantly pathogenically driven, then more “prebiotic” might be expected to be carcinogenic in the dysbiotic gut but potentially anti-cancer in a situation of eubiosis. Seeking some ubiquituous impact of fibre for all seems unwise

Dr. Ann
Interesting given bowel cancer may be highest in groups most likely to ingest plant fiber, at least if this study is to be believed
Vegetarians Have Fewer Cancers But Higher Risk Of Colorectal Cancer, Study
by Catharine Paddock PhD

Sydney
Did they study seed oils?

Joseph Emmanuel
‘’Elementary my dear Watson” … it’s a paradox ‘of course’ 😉 at least in nutrition epidemiology

Carnivore Is Vegan

“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

What diet causes the most harm? If veganism means the avoidance of death, suffering and exploitation of animals, then an animal-based diet, including carnivore and maybe even lacto-ovo-vegetarianism, is potentially the most vegan diet around; assuming it is is locally-sourced and regeneratively-farmed, pasture-raised and wild-caught. 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, deer, rodents, insects, etc). In both cases, the death count is known and so intentional. There is no avoidance of moral culpability. This is not about being clever but about what is genuinely least harmful and hence most environmentally sustainable. Rather than a pose of moral righteousness, our concern should be with what brings the greater overall good.

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 is 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. Very little of the land available can be used for farming. But most of it can be used for grazing. Also, grazing animals for food can be done alongside keeping grazing 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. There is no country in the world that lacks land for grazing. If not cows, then pigs, goats, camels, or whatever else.

Let me put this in perspective, 90% of 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 land. So, are we going to try to feed the global population with just 5-10% of the arable land and ignore the rest? In ever more intensively farming, we are destroying what is left of the arable land. 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.

What is ethical about 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

* * *

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.”

* * *

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

Field Deaths in Plant Agriculture
by Bob Fischer and Andy Lamey

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

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

Millennial veganism
by Joanna Blythman

But are you truly vegan?
by Matthew Evans

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

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

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

The Least-Harm Fallacy of Veganism
by Karin Lindquist

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

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

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

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

Lierre Keith & The Agripocalypse
by Lawrence Rosenberg

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

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

Why vegetarianism will not save the world
by Ian MacKenzie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t Blame Cows For Climate Change
by Sylvia Wright

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can Dietary Changes Limit Greenhouse Gas Emissions?
by Wyatt Bechtel

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

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

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

Effective Livestock Grazing And A Regenerative Future
by Allan Savory

Climate Change – Cause and Remedy
by Allan Savory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Climate, Food, Facts
from Animal Agriculture Alliance

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

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

Could Veganism Cause Extinctions?
by Patrice Ayme

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

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