Playing Chess with Pigeons and Why I’m Not Worried About Vegansby Garth Davis, MD on September 17, 2015
I have been getting the usual requests to counter this argument and that argument on various different websites claiming that a vegan diet is bad for you. Most I ignore. I really do not feel like commenting on a “Doctor’s” website where he is not really a doctor and where the article under the vegan article is about the benefits of steroids.
As much as I would like to counter the anti-vegan propaganda on pages like “T-Nation”, I would basically be arguing with people who have absolutely no understanding of science or treating patients. There is a saying, arguing with fools is like playing chess with a pigeon, no matter what you say they are going crap on the chess board and stomp around like they won.
On article did get under my skin though. It was an article by a nutritionist(not the same as a registered dietitian) on Mind Body Green. There are many article I love and many articles I disagree with on this website, but this article was just preposterous. So let’s go through it.
She begins with the statement, “I am a nutritionist, here is why I have concerns about a vegan diet.” Well, I am a medical doctor who specializes in diet and has study nutrition in depth and I am not the least bit worried by a vegan diet.
Her first “worry”: vegans are not getting enough protein. You gotta be kidding me. Seriously?! Well, as you may know, I have written a huge book on this. There is zero, AND I MEAN ZERO, evidence that vegans get less protein. In fact, if you are getting adequate calories I have never seen a case of protein deficiency.
The RDA established, after elaborate studies, that the “OPTIMAL” protein intake is 0.8 kg/LEAN body mass. So this would be an average of 44 gm for females and 54 for males. This is enough protein for 99% of the population.
Beans, nuts, grains, veggies have tons of protein and you could cover this amount easily. In addition, it is not the protein that we need, but rather the amino acids, and even fruits have amino acids. Even if you were starving, our body will recirculate amino acids in the beginning.
If vegans are not getting enough protein than why in the Adventist Health study and the EPIC Oxford study do vegans live longer? Why does the NIH-AARP study, the Nurses Health Study and the EPIC, to name just a few, show higher protein is associated with diabetes, heart disease, and cancer?
Then she says the vegans eat too many grains leading to more fat around the midsection. Well, she obviously has not read Professor Hegstead’s intensive metabolic studies which show that carbs really cannot turn to fat very easily. Pure carbs are either burned as fuel or stored as glycogen. It is very difficult for the body to turn carbs to fat, called de novo lipogenesis, and it is only done when all glycogen stores are full and the person is eating way excess calories.
Sources: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3165600, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1036598, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7598063.
Her next point I kind of agree with. Vegans do tend to choose some processed fake meats, which is not nearly as good as choosing whole foods. BUT, it is far better than choosing the actual meats. When you eat meat you are taking in heme iron which has been shin to be very oxidizing and has been blamed for diabetes and heart disease. You are also taking in nitrates and converting them to N Nitroso compounds, strongly implicated in colon cancer.
Meats when cooked release a substance called heterocyclic amines which is carcinogenic. Not to mention the fact that meat raises a hormone, IGF1, which is also implicated in cancer formation.
Animal proteins are rich in methionine, which literally feeds cancer cells, and also rich in leucine which activates mTOR and has thereby been associated with aging. Meat also is loaded with Advanced Glycation End products and with hormones, both of which have been implicated in disease.
Finally, meat has endotoxins from bacteria and causes immediate inflammation upon consumption.
So yes, I would rather vegans eat a potato and some beans than a Gardein chicken wing, but I would much rather them eat the Gardein wing than a regular chicken wing.
She then closes out saying that people should be eating foods that are lean like chicken and fish. Well, chicken and fish have fat. A 6oz chicken breast has 6 gm of fat and the wings can get up to 14 gm.
Worse yet, in the EPIC study, all meat consumption was associated with weight gain over time and chicken was the worst offender. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20592131
Chicken is also very associated with lymphoma and has high amounts of hormones including estrogen. Fish is loaded with PBC and dioxins and heavy metals due to our polluted waters, and if you are eating farmed fish then you are unlikely not getting the Omega 3 that usually makes fish healthy.
While we are at it, vegans do NOT have higher anemia http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12936958, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10479197.
- are NOT more likely to be hypothyroid http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24264226.
- do NOT have brittle bones. In fact, they may have even stronger bones, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1739864, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9174480
- are not weak: www.veganbodybuildingandfitness.com
In closing this rant let me say simply, if vegans are so bad off, then why do they seem to live longer? http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23836264, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24148709.
I mean just look at the Blue Zones of the world. Places where people are living longer and healthier. Are they eating high animal protein diet? Absolutely not. Look at the Mediterranean diet. It is not made up of chicken and meat. They do eat fish but it is not in large amounts. Their diet is very high in complex carbs and fruits and veggies. The Okinawans thrive on yams, rice, soy. The people of the Nicoyan Peninsula are eating beans and rice.
Having completed exhaustive studies of this topic let me say that I am a physician and I am worried about people who eat animal protein!