Myths of Vegetarianism
Stephen Byrnes, ND, RNCP
unflinching determination to take the whole evidence into account
is the only method of preservation against the fluctuating extremes
of fashionable opinion." -- Alfred North Whitehead
and Tanya sat before me in my office in a somber mood: they had just
lost their first baby in the second month of pregnancy. Tanya was
particularly upset. "Why did this happen to me? Why did I miscarry
my baby?" The young couple had come to see me mostly because
of Tanya's recurrent respiratory infections, but also wanted some
advice as to how they could avoid the heartache of another failed
questioning Tanya about her diet, I quickly saw the cause of her infections,
as well as her miscarriage: she had virtually no fat in her diet and
was also mostly a vegetarian. Because of the plentiful media rhetoric
about the supposed dangers of animal product consumption, as opposed
to the alleged health benefits of the vegetarian lifestyle, Tanya
had deliberately removed such things as cream, butter, meats and fish
from her diet. Although she liked liver, she avoided it due to worries
and Bill left with a bottle of vitamin A, other supplements and a
dietary prescription that included plentiful amounts of animal fats
and meat. Just before leaving my office, Tanya looked at me and said
ruefully: "I just don't know what to believe sometimes. Everywhere
I look there is all this low-fat, vegetarian stuff recommended. I
followed it, and look what happened." I assured her that if she
and her husband changed their diets and allowed sufficient time for
her weakened uterus to heal, they would be happy parents in due time.
In November 1999, Bill and Tanya happily gave birth to their first
child, a girl.
EVOLUTION OF A MYTH
with the unjustified and unscientific saturated fat and cholesterol
scares of the past several decades has come the notion that vegetarianism
is a healthier dietary option for people. It seems as if every health
expert and government health agency is urging people to eat fewer
animal products and consume more vegetables, grains, fruits and legumes.
Along with these exhortations have come assertions and studies supposedly
proving that vegetarianism is healthier for people and that meat consumption
is associated with sickness and death. Several authorities, however,
have questioned these data, but their objections have been largely
we shall see, many of the vegetarian claims cannot be substantiated
and some are simply false and dangerous. There are benefits to vegetarian
diets for certain health conditions, and some people function better
on less fat and protein, but, as a practitioner who has dealt with
several former vegetarians and vegans (total vegetarians), I know
full well the dangerous effects of a diet devoid of healthful animal
products. It is my hope that all readers will more carefully evaluate
their position on vegetarianism after reading this paper.
#1: Meat consumption contributes to famine and depletes the Earth's
vegetarians have claimed that livestock require pasturage that could
be used to farm grains to feed starving people in Third World countries.
It is also claimed that feeding animals contributes to world hunger
because livestock are eating foods that could go to feed humans. The
solution to world hunger, therefore, is for people to become vegetarians.
These arguments are illogical and simplistic.
first argument ignores the fact that about 2/3 of our Earth's dry
land is unsuitable for farming. It is primarily the open range, desert
and mountainous areas that provide food to grazing animals and that
land is currently being put to good use (1).
second argument is faulty as well because it ignores the vital contributions
that livestock animals make to humanity’s well-being. It is also misleading
to think that the foods grown and given to feed livestock could be
diverted to feed humans:
animals have always made a major contribution to the welfare of human
societies by providing food, shelter, fuel, fertilizer and other products
and services. They are a renewable resource, and utilize another renewable
resource, plants, to produce these products and services. In addition,
the manure produced by the animals helps improve soil fertility and,
thus, aids the plants. In some developing countries the manure cannot
be utilized as a fertilizer but is dried as a source of fuel.
are many who feel that because the world population is growing at
a faster rate than is the food supply, we are becoming less and less
able to afford animal foods because feeding plant products to animals
is an inefficient use of potential human food. It is true that it
is more efficient for humans to eat plant products directly rather
than to allow animals to convert them to human food. At best, animals
only produce one pound or less of human food for each three pounds
of plants eaten. However, this inefficiency only applies to those
plants and plant products that the human can utilize. The fact is
that over two-thirds of the feed fed to animals consists of substances
that are either undesirable or completely unsuited for human food.
Thus, by their ability to convert inedible plant materials to human
food, animals not only do not compete with the human rather they aid
greatly in improving both the quantity and the quality of the diets
of human societies. (2)
at the present time, there is more than enough food grown in the world
to feed all people on the planet. The problem is widespread poverty
making it impossible for the starving poor to afford it. In a comprehensive
report, the Population Reference Bureau attributed the world hunger
problem to poverty, not meat-eating (3). It also did not consider
mass vegetarianism to be a solution for world hunger.
would actually happen, however, if animal husbandry were abandoned
in favor of mass agriculture, brought about by humanity turning towards
a large number of people switched to vegetarianism, the demand for
meat in the United States and Europe would fall, the supply of grain
would dramatically increase, but the buying power of poor [starving]
people in Africa and Asia wouldn't change at all.
result would be very predictable -- there would be a mass exodus from
farming. Whereas today the total amount of grains produced could feed
10 billion people, the total amount of grain grown in this post-meat
world would likely fall back to about 7 or 8 billion. The trend of
farmers selling their land to developers and others would accelerate
other words, there would be less food available for the world
to eat. Furthermore, the monoculture of grains and legumes, which
is what would happen if animal husbandry were abandoned and the world
relied exclusively on plant foods for its food, would rapidly deplete
the soil and require the heavy use of artificial fertilizers, one
ton of which requires ten tons of crude oil to produce (5).
far as the impact to our environment, a closer look reveals the great
damage that exclusive and mass farming would do. British organic dairy
farmer and researcher Mark Purdey wisely points out that if “veganic
agricultural systems were to gain a foothold on the soil, then agrochemical
use, soil erosion, cash cropping, prairie-scapes and ill health would
Neanderthin author Ray Audette concurs with this view:
ancient times, the most destructive factor in the degradation of the
environment has been monoculture agriculture. The production of wheat
in ancient Sumeria transformed once-fertile plains into salt flats
that remain sterile 5,000 years later. As well as depleting both the
soil and water sources, monoculture agriculture also produces environmental
damage by altering the delicate balance of natural ecosystems. World
rice production in 1993, for instance, caused 155 million cases of
malaria by providing breeding grounds for mosquitoes in the paddies.
Human contact with ducks in the same rice paddies resulted in 500
million cases of influenza during the same year.(7)
is little doubt, though, that commercial farming methods, whether
of plants or animals produce harm to the environment. With the heavy
use of agrochemicals, pesticides, artificial fertilizers, hormones,
steroids, and antibiotics common in modern agriculture, a better way
of integrating animal husbandry with agriculture needs to be found.
A possible solution might be a return to “mixed farming,” described
educated consumer and the enlightened farmer together can bring about
a return of the mixed farm, where cultivation of fruits, vegetables
and grains is combined with the raising of livestock and fowl in a
manner that is efficient, economical and environmentally friendly.
For example, chickens running free in garden areas eat insect pests,
while providing high-quality eggs; sheep grazing in orchards obviate
the need for herbicides; and cows grazing in woodlands and other
marginal areas provide rich, pure milk, making these lands economically
viable for the farmer. It is not animal cultivation that leads
to hunger and famine, but unwise agricultural practices and monopolistic
"mixed farm" is also healthier for the soil, which will
yield more crops if managed according to traditional guidelines. Mark
Purdey has accurately pointed out that a crop field on a mixed farm
will yield up to five harvests a year, while a "mono-cropped"
one will only yield one or two (9). Which farm is producing more food
for the world's peoples? Purdey well sums up the ecological horrors
of “battery farming” and points to future solutions by saying:
Our agricultural establishments could do very well to outlaw the business-besotted
farmers running intensive livestock units, battery systems and beef-burger
bureaucracies; with all their wastages, deplorable cruelty, anti-ozone
slurry systems; drug/chemical induced immunotoxicity resulting in
B.S.E. [see myth # 13] and salmonella, rain forest eradication, etc.
Our future direction must strike the happy, healthy medium of mixed
farms, resurrecting the old traditional extensive system as a basic
framework, then bolstering up productivity to present day demands
by incorporating a more updated application of biological science
into farming systems. (10)
does not appear, then, that livestock farming, when properly practiced,
damages the environment. Nor does it appear that world vegetarianism
or exclusively relying on agriculture to supply the world with food
are feasible or ecologically wise ideas.
#2: Vitamin B12 can be obtained from plant sources.
all the myths, this is perhaps the most dangerous. While lacto and
lacto-ovo vegetarians have sources of vitamin B12 in their diets (from
dairy products and eggs), vegans (total vegetarians) do not. Vegans
who do not supplement their diet with vitamin B12 will eventually
get anemia (a fatal condition) as well as severe nervous and digestive
system damage; most, if not all, vegans have impaired B12 metabolism
and every study of vegan groups has demonstrated low vitamin B12 concentrations
in the majority of individuals (11). Several studies have been done
documenting B12 deficiencies in vegan children, often with dire consequences
(12). Additionally, claims are made in vegan and vegetarian literature
that B12 is present in certain algae, tempeh (a fermented soy product)
and Brewer's yeast. All of them are false as vitamin B12 is only found
in animal foods. Brewer's and nutritional yeasts do not contain B12
naturally; they are always fortified from an outside source.
is not real B12 in plant sources but B12 analogues--they are
similar to true B12, but not exactly the same and because of this
they are not bioavailable (13). It should be noted here that
these B12 analogues can impair absorption of true vitamin B12 in the
body due to competitive absorption, placing vegans and vegetarians
who consume lots of soy, algae, and yeast at a greater risk for a
vegetarian authorities claim that B12 is produced by certain fermenting
bacteria in the lower intestines. This may be true, but it is in a
form unusable by the body. B12 requires intrinsic factor from the
stomach for proper absorption in the ileum. Since the bacterial product
does not have intrinsic factor bound to it, it cannot be absorbed
is true that Hindu vegans living in certain parts of India do not
suffer from vitamin B12 deficiency. This has led some to conclude
that plant foods do provide this vitamin. This conclusion, however,
is erroneous as many small insects, their feces, eggs, larvae and/or
residue, are left on the plant foods these people consume, due to
non-use of pesticides and inefficient cleaning methods. This is how
these people obtain their vitamin B12. This contention is borne out
by the fact that when vegan Indian Hindus later migrated to England,
they came down with megaloblastic anaemia within a few years. In England,
the food supply is cleaner, and insect residues are completely removed
from plant foods (16).
only reliable and absorbable sources of vitamin B12 are animal products,
especially organ meats and eggs (17). Though present in lesser amounts
than meat and eggs, dairy products do contain B12. Vegans, therefore,
should consider adding dairy products into their diets. If dairy cannot
be tolerated, eggs, preferably from free-run hens, are a virtual necessity.
vitamin B12 can only be obtained from animal foods is one of the strongest
arguments against veganism being a "natural" way of human
eating. Today, vegans can avoid anemia by taking supplemental vitamins
or fortified foods. If those same people had lived just a few decades
ago, when these products were unavailable, they would have died.
#3: Our needs for vitamin D can be met by sunlight.
not really a vegetarian myth per se, it is widely believed
that one’s vitamin D needs can be met simply by exposing one’s skin
to the sun’s rays for 15-20 minutes a few times a week. Concerns about
vitamin D deficiencies in vegetarians and vegans always exist as this
nutrient, in its full-complex form, is only found in animal fats (18)
which vegans do not consume and more moderate vegetarians only consume
in limited quantities due to their meatless diets.
is true that a limited number of plant foods such as alfalfa, sunflower
seeds, and avocado, contain the plant form of vitamin D (ergocalciferol,
or vitamin D2). Although D2 can be used to prevent and treat the vitamin
D deficiency disease, rickets, in humans, it is questionable, though,
whether this form is as effective as animal-derived vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol).
Some studies have shown that D2 is not utilized as well as D3 in animals
(19) and clinicians have reported disappointing results using vitamin
D2 to treat vitamin D-related conditions (20).
vitamin D can be created by our bodies by the action of sunlight on
our skin, it is very difficult to obtain an optimal amount of vitamin
D by a brief foray into the sun. There are three ultraviolet bands
of radiation that come from sunlight named A, B, and C. Only the “B”
form is capable of catalyzing the conversion of cholesterol to vitamin
D in our bodies (21) and UV-B rays are only present at certain times
of day, at certain latitudes, and at certain times of the year (22).
Furthermore, depending on one’s skin color, obtaining 200-400 IUs
of vitamin D from the sun can take as long as two full hours of continual
sunning (23). A dark-skinned vegan, therefore, will find it impossible
to obtain optimal vitamin D intake by sunning himself for 20 minutes
a few times a week, even if sunning occurs during those limited times
of the day and year when UV-B rays are available.
current RDA for vitamin D is 400 IUs, but Dr. Weston Price’s seminal
research into healthy native adult people’s diets showed that their
daily intake of vitamin D (from animal foods) was about 10 times that
amount, or 4,000 IUs (24). Accordingly, Dr. Price placed a great emphasis
on vitamin D in the diet. Without vitamin D, for example, it is impossible
to utilize minerals like calcium, phosphorous, and magnesium. Recent
research has confirmed Dr. Price’s higher recommendations for vitamin
D for adults (24).
rickets and/or low vitamin D levels has been well-documented in many
vegetarians and vegans (26), since animal fats are either lacking
or deficient in vegetarian diets (as well as those of the general
Western public who routinely try to cut their animal fat intake),
since sunlight is only a source of vitamin D at certain times and
at certain latitudes, and since current dietary recommendations for
vitamin D are too low, this emphasizes the need to have reliable and
abundant sources of this nutrient in our daily diets. Good sources
include cod liver oil, lard from pigs that were exposed to sunlight,
shrimp, wild salmon, sardines, butter, full-fat dairy products, and
eggs from properly fed chickens.
#4: The body's needs for vitamin A can be entirely obtained from plant
vitamin A, or retinol and its associated esters, is only found in
animal fats and organs like liver (27). Plants do contain beta-carotene,
a substance that the body can convert into vitamin A if certain conditions
are present (see below). Beta-carotene, however, is not vitamin A.
It is typical for vegans and vegetarians (as well as most popular
nutrition writers) to say that plant foods like carrots and spinach
contain vitamin A and that beta-carotene is just as good as vitamin
A. These things are not true even though beta-carotene is an important
nutritional factor for humans.
conversion from carotene to vitamin A in the intestines can only take
place in the presence of bile salts. This means that fat must be eaten
with the carotenes to stimulate bile secretion. Additionally, infants
and people with hypothyroidism, gall bladder problems or diabetes
(altogether, a significant portion of the population) either cannot
make the conversion, or do so very poorly. Lastly, the body's conversion
from carotene to vitamin A is not very efficient: it takes roughly
6 units of carotene to make one unit of vitamin A. What this means
is that a sweet potato (containing about 25,000 units of beta-carotene)
will only convert into about 4,000 units of vitamin A (assuming you
ate it with fat, are not diabetic, are not an infant, and do not have
a thyroid or gall bladder problem) .
on plant sources for vitamin A, then, is not a very wise idea. This
provides yet another reason to include animal foods and fats in our
diets. Butter and full-fat dairy foods, especially from pastured cows,
are good vitamin A sources, as is cod liver oil. Vitamin A is all-important
in our diets, for it enables the body to use proteins and minerals,
insures proper vision, enhances the immune system, enables reproduction,
and fights infections (29). As with vitamin D, Dr. Price found that
the diets of healthy primitive peoples supplied substantial amounts
of vitamin A, again emphasizing the great need humans have for this
nutrient in maintaining optimal health now and for future generations.
#5: Meat-eating causes osteoporosis, kidney disease, heart disease,
vegans and vegetarians will try to scare people into avoiding animal
foods and fats by claiming that vegetarian diets offer protection
from certain chronic diseases like the ones listed above. Such claims,
however, are hard to reconcile with historical and anthropological
facts. All of the diseases mentioned are primarily 20th century occurrences,
yet people have been eating meat and animal fat for many thousands
of years. Further, as Dr. Price’s research showed, there were/are
several native peoples around the world (the Innuit, Maasai, Swiss,
etc.) whose traditional diets were/are very rich in animal products,
but who nevertheless did/do not suffer from the above-mentioned maladies
(30). Dr. George Mann’s independent studies of the Maasai done many
years after Dr. Price, confirmed the fact that the Maasai, despite
being almost exclusive meat eaters, nevertheless, had little to no
incidence of heart disease, or other chronic ailments (31). This proves
that other factors beSeveral studies have supposedly shown that meat
consumption is the cause of various illnesses, but such studies, honestly
evaluated, show no such thing as the following discussion will show.
Herta Spencer's research on protein intake and bone loss clearly showed
that protein consumption in the form of real meat has no impact on
bone density. Studies that supposedly proved that excessive protein
consumption equaled more bone loss were not done with real meat but
with fractionated protein powders and isolated amino acids (32). Recent
studies have also shown that increased animal protein intake contributes
to stronger bone density in men and women (33). Some recent studies
on vegan and vegetarian diets, however, have shown them to predispose
women to osteoporosis (34).
protein-restricted diets are helpful for people with kidney disease,
there is no proof that eating meat causes it (35). Vegetarians will
also typically claim that animal protein causes overly acidic conditions
in the blood, resulting in calcium leaching from the bones and, hence,
a greater tendency to form kidney stones. This opinion is false, however.
Theoretically, the sulphur and phosphorous in meat can form an
acid when placed in water, but that does not mean that is what happens
in the body. Actually, meat contains complete proteins and vitamin
D (if the skin and fat are eaten), both of which help maintain pH
balance in the bloodstream. Furthermore, if one eats a diet that includes
enough magnesium and vitamin B6, and restricts refined sugars, one
has little to fear from kidney stones, whether one eats meat or not
(36). Animal foods like beef, pork, fish, and lamb are good sources
of magnesium and B6 as any food/nutrient table will show.
belief that animal protein contributes to heart disease is a popular
one that has no foundation in nutritional science. Outside of questionable
studies, there is little data to support the idea that meat-eating
leads to heart disease. For example, the French have one of the highest
per capita consumption of meat, yet have low rates of heart
disease. In Greece, meat consumption is higher than average but rates
of heart disease are low there as well. Finally, in Spain, an increase
in meat eating (in conjunction with a reduction in sugar and high
carbohydrate intake) led to a decrease in heart disease (37).
belief that meat, in particular red meat, contributes to cancer is,
like heart disease, a popular idea that is not supported by the facts.
Although it is true that some studies have shown a connection between
meat eating and some types of cancer (38), its important to look at
the studies carefully to determine what kind of meat is being discussed,
as well as the preparation methods used. Since we only have one word
for “meat” in English, it is often difficult to know which “meat”
is under discussion in a study unless the authors of the study specifically
study which began the meat=cancer theory was done by Dr. Ernst Wynder
in the 1970s. Wynder claimed that there was a direct, causal connection
between animal fat intake and incidence of colon cancer (39). Actually,
his data on “animal fats” were really on vegetable fats (40). In other
words, the meat=cancer theory is based on a phony study.
one looks closely at the research, however, one quickly sees that
it is processed meats like cold cuts and sausages that are usually
implicated in cancer causation (41) and not meat per se. Furthermore,
cooking methods seem to play a part in whether or not a meat becomes
carcinogenic (42). In other words, it is the added chemicals to the
meat and the chosen cooking method that are at fault and not the meat
the end, although sometimes a connection between meat and cancer is
found, the actual mechanism of how it happens has eluded scientists
(43). This means that it is likely that other factors besides meat
are playing roles in some cases of cancer. Remember: studies of meat-eating
traditional peoples show that they have very little incidence of cancer.
This demonstrates that other factors are at work when cancer appears
in a modern meat-eating person. It is not scientifically fair to single
out one dietary factor in placing blame, while ignoring other more
should be noted here that Seventh Day Adventists are often studied
in population analyses to prove that a vegetarian diet is healthier
and is associated with a lower risk for cancer (but see a later paragraph
in this section). While it is true that most members of this Christian
denomination do not eat meat, they also do not smoke or drink alcohol,
coffee or tea, all of which are likely factors in promoting cancer
Mormons are a religious group often overlooked in vegetarian studies.
Although their Church urges moderation, Mormons do not abstain from
meat. As with the Adventists, Mormons also avoid tobacco, alcohol,
and caffeine. Despite being meat eaters, a study of Utah Mormons showed
they had a 22% lower rate for cancer in general and a 34% lower mortality
for colon cancer than the US average (45). A study of Puerto Ricans,
who eat large amounts of fatty pork, nevertheless revealed very low
rates of colon and breast cancer (46). Similar results can be adduced
to demonstrate that meat and animal fat consumption do not correlate
with cancer (47). Obviously, other factors are at work.
is usually claimed that vegetarians have lower cancer rates than meat-eaters,
but a 1994 study of vegetarian California Seventh Day Adventists showed
that, while they did have lower rates for some cancers (e.g., breast
and lung), they had higher rates for several others (Hodgkin’s disease,
malignant melanoma, brain, skin, uterine, prostate, endometrial, cervical
and ovarian), some quite significantly. In that study the authors
actually admitted that:
consumption, however, was not associated with a higher [cancer] risk.
significant association between breast cancer and a high consumption
of animal fats or animal products in general was noted. (48)
it is usually claimed that a diet rich in plant foods like whole grains
and legumes will reduce one’s risks for cancer, but research going
back to the last century demonstrates that carbohydrate-based diets
are the prime dietary instigators of cancer, not diets based on minimally
processed animal foods (49).
mainstream health and vegetarian media have done such an effective
job of “beef bashing,” that most people think there is nothing healthful
about meat, especially red meat. In reality, however, animal flesh
foods like beef and lamb are excellent sources of a variety of nutrients
as any food/nutrient table will show. Nutrients like vitamins A, D,
several of the B-complex, essential fatty acids (in small amounts),
magnesium, zinc, phosphorous, potassium, iron, taurine, and selenium
are abundant in beef, lamb, pork, fish and shellfish, and poultry.
Nutritional factors like coenzyme Q10, carnitine, and alpha-lipoic
acid are also present. Some of these nutrients are only found
in animal foods--plants do not supply them.
#6: Saturated fats and dietary cholesterol cause heart disease, atherosclerosis,
and/or cancer, and low-fat, low-cholesterol diets are healthier for
too, is not a specific vegetarian myth. Nevertheless, people are often
urged to take up a vegetarian or vegan diet because it is believed
that such diets offer protection against heart disease and cancer
since they are lower or lacking in animal foods and fats.
it is commonly believed that saturated fats and dietary cholesterol
"clog arteries" and cause heart disease, such ideas have
been shown to be false by such scientists as Linus Pauling, Russell
Smith, George Mann, John Yudkin, Abram Hoffer, Mary Enig, Uffe Ravnskov
and other prominent researchers (50). On the contrary, studies have
shown that arterial plaque is primarily composed of unsaturated
fats, particularly polyunsaturated ones, and not the saturated
fat of animals, palm or coconut (51).
acids, as opposed to saturated fats, have been shown by researchers
such as Enig, Mann and Fred Kummerow to be causative factors in accelerated
atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease, cancer and other ailments
(52). Trans-fatty acids are found in such modern foods as margarine
and vegetable shortening and foods made with them. Enig and her colleagues
have also shown that excessive omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid
intake from refined vegetable oils is also a major culprit behind
cancer and heart disease, not animal fats.
recent study of thousands of Swedish women supported Enig’s conclusions
and data, and showed no correlation between saturated fat consumption
and increased risk for breast cancer. However, the study did show,as
did Enig’s work, a strong link between vegetable oil intake and higher
breast cancer rates (53).
major population studies that supposedly prove the theory that animal
fats and cholesterol cause heart disease actually do not upon closer
inspection. The Framingham Heart Study is often cited as proof that
dietary cholesterol and saturated fat intake cause heart disease and
ill health. Involving about 6,000 people, the study compared two groups
over several years at five-year intervals. One group consumed little
cholesterol and saturated fat, while the other consumed high amounts.
Surprisingly, Dr William Castelli, the study's director, said:
Framingham, Mass., the more saturated fat one ate, the more cholesterol
one ate, the more calories one ate, the lower the person's serum cholesterol
... we found that the people who ate the most cholesterol, ate the
most saturated fat, [and] ate the most calories, weighed the least
and were the most physically active. (54)
Framingham data did show that subjects who had higher cholesterol
levels and weighed more ran a slightly higher chance for coronary
heart disease. But weight gain and serum cholesterol levels had an
inverse correlation with dietary fat and cholesterol intake.
In other words, there was no correlation at all (55).
a similar vein, the US Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial, sponsored
by the National Heart and Lung Institute, compared mortality rates
and eating habits of 12,000+ men. Those who ate less saturated fat
and cholesterol showed a slightly reduced rate of heart disease,
but had an overall mortality rate much higher than the other
men in the study (56).
diets, therefore, are not healthier for people. Studies have shown
repeatedly that such diets are associated with depression, cancer,
psychological problems, fatigue, violence and suicide (57). Women
with lower serum cholesterol live shorter lives than women with higher
levels (58). Similar things have been found in men (59).
on low-fat and/or vegan diets can suffer from growth problems, failure
to thrive, and learning disabilities (60). Despite this, sources from
Dr Benjamin Spock to the American Heart Association recommend low-fat
diets for children! One can only lament the fate of those unfortunate
youngsters who will be raised by unknowing parents taken in by such
are many health benefits to saturated fats, depending on the fat in
question. Coconut oil, for example, is rich in lauric acid, a potent
antifungal and antimicrobial substance. Coconut also contains appreciable
amounts of caprylic acid, also an effective antifungal (61). Butter
from free-range cows is rich in trace minerals, especially selenium,
as well as all of the fat-soluble vitamins and beneficial fatty acids
that protect against cancer and fungal infections (62).
fact, the body needs saturated fats in order to properly utilize essential
fatty acids (63). Saturated fats also lower the blood levels of the
artery-damaging lipoprotein (a) (64); are needed for proper
calcium utilization in the bones (65); stimulate the immune system
(66); are the preferred food for the heart and other vital organs
(67); and, along with cholesterol, add structural stability to the
cell and intestinal wall (68). They are excellent for cooking, as
they are chemically stable and do not break down under heat, unlike
polyunsaturated vegetable oils. Omitting them from one's diet, then,
respect to atherosclerosis, it is always claimed that vegetarians
have much lower rates of this condition than meat eaters. The International
Atherosclerosis Project of 1968, however, which examined over 20,000
corpses from several countries, concluded that vegetarians had just
as much atherosclerosis as meat eaters (69). Other population studies
have revealed similar data. (70) This is because atherosclerosis is
largely unrelated to diet; it is a consequence of aging. There are
things which can accelerate the atherosclerotic process such
as excessive free radical damage to the arteries from antioxidant
depletion (caused by such things as smoking, poor diet, excess polyunsaturated
fatty acids in the diet, various nutritional deficiencies, drugs,
etc), but this is to be distinguished from the fatty-streaking and
hardening of arteries that occurs in all peoples over time.
also does not appear that vegetarian diets protect against heart disease.
A study on vegans in 1970 showed that female vegans had higher rates
of death from heart disease than non-vegan females (71). A recent
study showed that Indians, despite being vegetarians, have very high
rates of coronary artery disease (72). High-carbohydrate/low-fat diets
(which is what vegetarian diets are) can also place one at a greater
risk for heart disease, diabetes, and cancer due to their hyperinsulemic
effects on the body (73). Recent studies have also shown that vegetarians
have higher homocysteine levels in their blood (74). Homocysteine
is a known cause of heart disease. Lastly, low-fat/cholesterol diets,
generally favored to either prevent or treat heart disease, do neither
and may actually increase certain risk factors for this condition
which conclude that vegetarians are at a lower risk for heart disease
are typically based on the phony markers of lower saturated fat intake,
lower serum cholesterol levels and HDL/LDL ratios. Since vegetarians
tend to eat less saturated fat and usually have lower serum cholesterol
levels, it is concluded that they are at less risk for heart disease.
Once one realizes that these measurements are not accurate predictors
of proneness to heart disease, however, the supposed protection of
vegetarianism melts away (76).
should always be remembered that a number of things factor into a
person getting heart disease or cancer. Instead of focusing on the
phony issues of saturated fat, dietary cholesterol, and meat-eating,
people should pay more attention to other more likely factors.
would be trans-fatty acids, excessive polyunsaturated fat intake,
excessive sugar intake, excessive carbohydrate intake, smoking, certain
vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and obesity. These things were all
conspicuously absent in the healthy traditional peoples that Dr. Price
#7: Vegetarians live longer and have more energy and endurance than
vegetarian guidebook published in Great Britain made the following
and your children don't need to eat meat to stay healthy. In fact,
vegetarians claim they are among the healthiest people around, and
they can expect to live nine years longer than meat eaters (this is
often because heart and circulatory diseases are rarer). These days
almost half the population in Britain is trying to avoid meat, according
to a survey by the Food Research Association in January 1990. (77)
commenting on this claim of extended lifespan, author Craig Fitzroy
astutely points out that:
' nine-year advantage ' is an oft-repeated but invariably unsourced
piece of anecdotal evidence for vegetarianism. But anyone who believes
that by snubbing mum's Sunday roast they will be adding a decade to
their years on the planet is almost certainly indulging in a bit of
wishful thinking. (78)
that is what most of the claims for increased longevity in vegetarians
are: anecdotal. There is no proof that a healthy vegetarian diet when
compared to a healthy omnivorous diet will result in a longer
life. Additionally, people who choose a vegetarian lifestyle typically
also choose not to smoke, to exercise, in short, to live a healthier
lifestyle. These things also factor into one’s longevity.
the scientific literature, there are surprisingly few studies done
on vegetarian longevity. Russell Smith, PhD, in his massive review
study on heart disease, showed that as animal product consumption
increased among some study groups, death rates actually decreased!
(79) Such results were not obtained among vegetarian subjects. For
example, in a study published by Burr and Sweetnam in 1982, analysis
of mortality data revealed that, although vegetarians had a slightly
(.11%) lower rate of heart disease than non-vegetarians, the all-cause
death rate was much higher for vegetarians (80).
claims that studies have shown that meat consumption increased the
risk for heart disease and shortened lives, the authors of those studies
actually found the opposite. For example, in a 1984 analysis of a
1978 study of vegetarian Seventh Day Adventists, HA Kahn concluded,
our results add some substantial facts to the diet-disease question,
we recognize how remote they are from establishing, for example, that
men who frequently eat meat or women who rarely eat salad are thereby
shortening their lives. (81)
similar conclusion was reached by D.A. Snowden (82). Despite these
startling admissions, the studies nevertheless concluded the exact
opposite and urged people to reduce animal foods from their diets.
both of these studies threw out certain dietary data that clearly
showed no connection between eggs, cheese, whole milk, and fat attached
to meat (all high fat and cholesterol foods) and heart disease. Dr.
effect the Kahn [and Snowden] study is yet another example of negative
results which are massaged and misinterpreted to support the politically
correct assertions that vegetarians live longer lives. (83)
is usually claimed that meat-eating peoples have a short life span,
but the Aborigines of Australia, who traditionally eat a diet rich
in animal products, are known for their longevity (at least before
colonization by Europeans). Within Aboriginal society, there is a
special caste of the elderly (84). Obviously, if no old people existed,
no such group would have existed. In his book Nutrition and Physical
Degeneration, Dr. Price has numerous photographs of elderly native
peoples from around the world. Explorers such as Vilhjalmur Stefansson
reported great longevity among the Innuit (again, before colonization).
the Russians of the Caucasus mountains live to great ages on a diet
of fatty pork and whole raw milk products. The Hunzas, also known
for their robust health and longevity, eat substantial portions of
goat's milk which has a higher saturated fat content than cow's milk
(86). In contrast, the largely vegetarian Hindus of southern India
have the shortest life-spans in the world, partly because of a lack
of food, but also because of a distinct lack of animal protein in
their diets (87). H. Leon Abrams’ comments are instructive here:
often maintain that a diet of meat and animal fat leads to a pre-mature
death. Anthropological data from primitive societies do not support
such contentions. (88)
regards to endurance and energy levels, Dr Price traveled around the
world in the 1920s and 1930s, investigating native diets. Without
exception, he found a strong correlation between diets rich in animal
fats, robust health and athletic ability. Special foods for Swiss
athletes, for example, included bowls of fresh, raw cream. In Africa,
Dr Price discovered that groups whose diets were rich in fatty meats
and fish, and organ meats like liver, consistently carried off the
prizes in athletic contests, and that meat-eating tribes always dominated
tribes whose diets were largely vegetarian. (89)
is popular in sports nutrition to recommend "carb loading"
for athletes to increase their endurance levels. But recent studies
done in New York and South Africa show that the opposite is true:
athletes who "carb loaded" had significantly less endurance
than those who "fat loaded" before athletic events (90).
#8: The "cave man" diet was low-fat and/or vegetarian.
Humans evolved as vegetarians.
Paleolithic ancestors were hunter-gatherers, and three schools of
thought have developed as to what their diet was like. One group argues
for a high-fat and animal-based diet supplemented with seasonal fruits,
berries, nuts, root vegetables and wild grasses. The second argues
that primitive peoples consumed assorted lean meats and large amounts
of plant foods. The third argues that our human ancestors evolved
“lean” Paleolithic diet approach has been argued for quite voraciously
by Dr.’s Loren Cordain and Boyd Eaton in a number of popular and professional
publications (91). Cordain and Eaton are believers in the Lipid Hypothesis
of heart disease--the belief (debunked in myth number six, above)
that saturated fat and dietary cholesterol contribute to heart disease.
Because of this, and the fact that Paleolithic peoples or their modern
equivalents did/do not suffer from heart disease, Cordain and Eaton
espouse the theory that Paleolithic peoples consumed most of their
fat calories from monounsaturated and polyunsaturated sources and
not saturated fats. Believing that saturated fats are dangerous to
our arteries, Cordain and Eaton stay in step with current establishment
nutritional thought and encourage modern peoples to eat a diet like
our ancestors. This diet, they believe, was rich in lean meats and
a variety of vegetables, but was low in saturated fat. The evidence
they prFrom authoritative sources, we learn that prehistoric humans
of the North American continent ate such animals as mammoth, camel,
sloth, bison, mountain sheep, pronghorn antelope, beaver, elk, mule
deer, and llama (93). "Mammoth, sloth, mountain sheep, bison,
and beaver are fatty animals in the modern sense in that they have
a thick layer of subcutaneous fat, as do the many species of bear
and wild pig whose remains have been found at Paleolithic sites throughout
the world." (94) Analysis of many types of fat in game animals
like antelope, bison, caribou, dog, elk, moose, seal, and mountain
sheep shows that they are rich in saturates and monounsaturates, but
relatively low in polyunstaurates. (95)
while buffalo and game animals may have lean, non-marbled muscle meats,
it is a mistake to assume that only these parts were eaten by hunter-gatherer
groups like the Native Americans who often hunted animals selectively
for their fat and fatty organs as the following section will show.
such as Vilhjalmur Stefansson reported that the Innuit and North American
Indian tribes would worry when their catches of caribou were too lean:
they knew sickness would follow if they did not consume enough fat
(96). In other words, these primitive peoples did not like having
to eat lean meat.
Canadian Indians would also deliberately hunt older male caribou and
elk, for these animals carried a 50-pound slab of back fat on them
which the Indians would eat with relish. This “back fat” is highly
saturated. Native Americans would also refrain from hunting bison
in the springtime (when the animals' fat stores were low, due to scarce
food supply during the winter), preferring to hunt, kill and consume
them in the fall when they were fattened up (97).
Samuel Hearne, writing in 1768, described how the Native American
tribes he came in contact with would selectively hunt caribou just
for the fatty parts:
the twenty-second of July, we met several strangers, whom we joined
in pursuit of the caribou, which were at this time so plentiful that
we got everyday a sufficient number for our support, and indeed too
frequently killed several merely for the tongues, marrow, and fat.
Cordain and Eaton are certainly correct in saying that our ancestors
ate meat, their contentions about fat intake, as well as the type
of fat consumed, are simply incorrect.
various vegetarian and vegan authorities like to think that we evolved
as a species on a vegan or vegetarian diet, there exists little from
the realm of nutritional anthropology to support these ideas.
begin with, in his journeys, Dr Price never once found a totally vegetarian
culture. It should be remembered that Dr. Price visited and investigated
several population groups who were, for all intents and purposes,
the 20th century equivalents of our hunter-gatherer ancestors.
Dr. Price was on the lookout for a vegetarian culture, but he came
up empty. Price stated:
yet I have not found a single group of primitive racial stock which
was building and maintaining excellent bodies by living entirely on
plant foods. (99)
data support this: throughout the globe, all societies show a preference
for animal foods and fats and our ancestors only turned to large scale
farming when they had to due to increased population pressures (100).
Abrams and other authorities have shown that prehistoric man's quest
for more animal foods was what spurred his expansion over the Earth,
and that he apparently hunted certain species to extinction. (101)
also found that those peoples who, out of necessity, consumed more
grains and legumes, had higher rates of dental decay than those who
consumed more animal products. In his papers on vegetarianism, Abrams
presents archaeological evidence that supports this finding: skulls
of ancient peoples who were largely vegetarian have teeth containing
caries and abscesses and show evidence of tuberculosis and other infectious
diseases (102). The appearance of farming and the increased dependence
on plant foods for our subsistence was clearly harmful to our health.
it is simply not possible for our prehistoric ancestors to have been
vegetarian because they would not have been able to get enough calories
or nutrients to survive on the plant foods that were available. The
reason for this is that humans did not know how to cook or control
fire at that time and the great majority of plant foods, especially
grains and legumes, must be cooked in order to render them edible
to humans (103). Most people do not know that many of the plant foods
we consume today are poisonous in their raw states (104).
on all of this evidence, it is certain that the diets of our ancestors,
the progenitors of humanity, ate a very non-vegetarian diet that was
rich in saturated fatty acids.
#9: Meat and saturated fat consumption have increased in the 20th
century, with a corresponding increase in heart disease and cancer.
do not bear out such fancies. Butter consumption has plummeted from
18 lb (8.165 kg) per person a year in 1900, to less than 5 lb (2.27
kg) per person a year today (105). Additionally, Westerners, urged
on by government health agencies, have reduced their intake of eggs,
cream, lard, and pork. Chicken consumption has risen in the past few
decades, but chicken is lower in saturated fat than either beef or
a survey of cookbooks published in America in the last century shows
that people of earlier times ate plenty of animal foods and saturated
fats. For example, in the Baptist Ladies Cook Book (Monmouth,
Illinois, 1895), virtually every recipe calls for butter, cream or
lard. Recipes for creamed vegetables are numerous as well. A scan
of the Searchlight Recipe Book (Capper Publications, 1931)
also has similar recipes: creamed liver, creamed cucumbers, hearts
braised in buttermilk, etc. British Jews, as shown by the Jewish
Housewives Cookbook (London, 1846), also had diets rich in cream,
butter, eggs, and lamb and beef tallows. One recipe for German waffles,
for example, calls for a dozen egg yolks and an entire pound of butter.
A recipe for Oyster Pie from the Baptist cookbook calls for a quart
of cream and a dozen eggs, and so forth and so on.
does not appear, then, that people ate leaner diets in the last century.
It is true that beef consumption has risen in the last few decades,
but what has also risen precipitously, however, is consumption of
margarine and other food products containing trans-fatty acids (106),
lifeless, packaged "foods", processed vegetable oils (107),
carbohydrates (108) and refined sugar (109). Since one does not see
chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease in beef-eating native
peoples like the Maasai and Samburu, it is not possible for beef to
be the culprit behind these modern epidemics. This, of course, points
the finger squarely at the other dietary factors as the most likely
#10: Soy products are adequate substitutes for meat and dairy products.
is typical for vegans and vegetarians in the Western world to rely
on various soy products for their protein needs. There is little doubt
that the billion-dollar soy industry has profited immensely from the
anti-cholesterol, anti-meat gospel of current nutritional thought.
Whereas, not so long ago, soy was an Asian food primarily used as
a condiment, now a variety of processed soy products proliferate in
the North American market. While the traditionally fermented soy foods
of miso, tamari, tempeh and natto are definitely healthful in measured
amounts, the hyper-processed soy "foods" that most vegetarians
consume are not.
soybeans and foods made with them are high in phytic acid (110), an
anti-nutrient that binds to minerals in the digestive tract and carries
them out of the body. Vegetarians are known for their tendencies to
mineral deficiencies, especially of zinc (111) and it is the high
phytate content of grain and legume based diets that is to blame (112).
Though several traditional food preparation techniques such as soaking,
sprouting, and fermenting can significantly reduce the phytate content
of grains and legumes (113), such methods are not commonly known about
or used by modern peoples, including vegetarians. This places them
(and others who eat a diet rich in whole grains) at a greater risk
for mineral deficiencies.
soy foods are also rich in trypsin inhibitors, which hinder protein
digestion. Textured vegetable protein (TVP), soy "milk"
and soy protein powders, popular vegetarian meat and milk substitutes,
are entirely fragmented foods made by treating soybeans with high
heat and various alkaline washes to extract the beans' fat content
or to neutralize their potent enzyme inhibitors (110). These practices
completely denature the beans' protein content, rendering it very
hard to digest. MSG, a neurotoxin, is routinely added to TVP to make
it taste like the various foods it imitates (114).
a purely nutritional level, soybeans, like all legumes, are deficient
in cysteine and methionine, vital sulphur-containing amino acids,
as well as tryptophan, another essential amino acid. Furthermore,
soybeans contain no vitamins A or D, required by the body to assimilate
and utilize the beans' proteins (115). It is probably for this reason
that Asian cultures that do consume soybeans usually combine them
with fish or fish broths (abundant in fat-soluble vitamins) or other
who feed their children soy-based formula should be aware of its extremely
high phytoestrogen content. Some scientists have estimated a child
being fed soy formula is ingesting the hormonal equivalent of five
birth control pills a day (116). Such a high intake could have disastrous
results. Soy formula also contains no cholesterol, vital for brain
and nervous system development.
research is still ongoing, some recent studies have indicated that
soy's phytoestrogens could be causative factors in some forms of breast
cancer (117), penile birth defects (118), and infantile leukemia (119).
Regardless, soy's phytoestrogens, or isoflavones, have been definitely
shown to depress thyroid function (120) and to cause infertility in
every animal species studied so far (121). Clearly, modern soy products
and isolated isoflavone supplements are not healthy foods for vegetarians,
vegans, or anyone else, yet these are the very ones that are most
#11: The human body is not designed for meat consumption.
vegetarian groups claim that since humans possess grinding teeth like
herbivorous animals and longer intestines than carnivorous animals,
this proves the human body is better suited for vegetarianism (122).
This argument fails to note several human physiological features which
clearly indicate a design for animal product consumption.
and foremost is our stomach's production of hydrochloric acid, something
not found in herbivores. HCL activates protein-splitting enzymes.
Further, the human pancreas manufactures a full range of digestive
enzymes to handle a wide variety of foods, both animal and vegetable.
Further, Dr. Walter Voegtlin's in-depth comparison of the human digestive
system with that of the dog, a carnivore, and a sheep, a herbivore,
clearly shows that we are closer in anatomy to the carnivorous dog
than the herbivorous sheep. (123)
humans may have longer intestines than animal carnivores, they are
not as long as herbivores; nor do we possess multiple stomachs like
many herbivores, nor do we chew cud. Our physiology definitely indicates
a mixed feeder, or an omnivore, much the same as our relatives, the
mountain gorilla and chimpanzee who all have been observed eating
small animals and, in some cases, other primates (124).
#12: Eating animal flesh causes violent, aggressive behavior in humans.
authorities on vegetarian diet, such as Dr Ralph Ballantine (125),
claim that the fear and terror (if any, see myth #15) an animal experiences
at death is somehow "transferred" into its flesh and organs
and "becomes" a part of the person who eats it.
addition to the fact that no scientific studies exist to support such
a theory, these thinkers would do well to remember the fact that a
tendency to irrational anger is a symptom of low vitamin B12 levels
which, as we have seen, are common in vegans and vegetarians. Furthermore,
in his travels, Dr Price always noted the extreme happiness and ingratiating
natures of the peoples he encountered, all of whom were meat-eaters.
#13: Animal products contain numerous, harmful toxins.
recent vegetarian newsletter claimed the following:
people don't realize that meat products are loaded with poisons and
toxins! Meat, fish and eggs all decompose and putrefy extremely rapidly.
As soon as an animal is killed, self-destruct enzymes are released,
causing the formation of denatured substances called ptyloamines,
which cause cancer. (126)
article then went on to mention "mad cow disease" (BSE),
parasites, salmonella, hormones, nitrates and pesticides as toxins
in animal products.
meat, fish and eggs do indeed generate cancerous "ptyloamines,"
it is very strange that people have not been dying in droves from
cancer for the past million years. Such sensationalistic and nonsensical
claims cannot be supported by historical facts.
nitrates and pesticides are present in commercially raised
animal products (as well as commercially raised fruits, grains
and vegetables) and are definitely things to be concerned about. However,
one can avoid these chemicals by taking care to consume range-fed,
organic meats, eggs and dairy products which do not contain harmful,
are easily avoided by taking normal precautions in food preparations.
Pickling or fermenting meats, as is custom in traditional societies,
always protects against parasites. In his travels, Dr Price always
found healthy, disease-free and parasite-free peoples eating raw meat
and dairy products as part of their diets.
Dr Francis Pottenger, in his experiments with cats, demonstrated that
the healthiest, happiest cats were the ones on the all-raw-food diet.
The cats eating cooked meats and pasteurized milk sickened and died
and had numerous parasites (127). Salmonella can be transmitted by
plant products as well as animal.
is often claimed by vegetarians that meat is harmful to our bodies
because ammonia is released from the breakdown of its proteins. Although
it is true that ammonia production does result from meat digestion,
our bodies quickly convert this substance into harmless urea. The
alleged toxicity of meat is greatly exaggerated by vegetarians.
Cow Disease,” or Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), is most likely
not caused by cows eating animal parts with their food, a feeding
practice that has been done for over 100 years. British organic farmer
Mark Purdey has argued convincingly that cows that get Mad Cow Disease
are the very ones that have had a particular organophosphate insecticide
applied to their backs or have grazed on soils that lack magnesium
but contain high levels of aluminum (128). Small outbreaks of "mad
cow disease" have also occurred among people who reside near
cement and chemical factories and in certain areas with volcanic soils
theorizes that the organophosphate pesticides got into the cows’ fat
through a spraying program, and then were ingested by the cows again
with the animal part feeding. Seen this way, it is the insecticides,
via the parts feeding (and not the parts themselves or their associated
“prions”), that has caused this outbreak. As noted before, cows have
been eating ground up animal parts in their feeds for over 100 years.
It was never a problem before the introduction of these particular
Purdey has gained support from Dr. Donald Brown, a British biochemist
who has also argued for a non-infectious cause of BSE. Brown attributes
BSE to environmental toxins, specifically manganese overload (130).
#14: Eating meat or animal products is less "spiritual"
than eating only plant foods.
is often claimed that those who eat meat or animal products are somehow
less "spiritually evolved" than those who do not. Though
this is not a nutritional or academic issue, those who do include
animal products in their diet are often made to feel inferior in some
way. This issue, therefore, is worth addressing.
world religions place no restrictions on animal consumption; and nor
did their founders. The Jews eat lamb at their most holy festival,
the Passover. Muslims also celebrate Ramadan with lamb before entering
into their fast. Jesus Christ, like other Jews, partook of meat at
the Last Supper (according to the canonical Gospels). It is true that
some forms of Buddhism do place strictures on meat consumption, but
dairy products are always allowed. Similar tenets are found in Hinduism.
As part of the Samhain celebration, Celtic pagans would slaughter
the weaker animals of the herds and cure their meat for the oncoming
winter. It is not true, therefore, that eating animal foods is always
connected with "spiritual inferiority".
it is often claimed that, since eating meat involves the taking of
a life, it is somehow tantamount to murder. Leaving aside the religious
philosophies that often permeate this issue, what appears to be at
hand is a misunderstanding of the life force and how it works. Modern
peoples (vegetarian and non-vegetarian) have lost touch with what
it takes to survive in our world--something native peoples never lose
sight of. We do not necessarily hunt or clean our meats: we purchase
steaks and chops at the supermarket. We do not necessarily toil in
rice paddies: we buy bags of brown rice; and so forth, and so on.
Native Americans killed a game animal for food, they would routinely
offer a prayer of thanks to the animal's spirit for giving its life
so that they could live. In our world, life feeds off life. Destruction
is always balanced with generation. This is a good thing: unchecked,
the life force becomes cancerous. If animal food consumption is viewed
in this manner, it is hardly murder, but sacrifice. Modern peoples
would do well to remember this.
#15: Eating animal foods is inhumane.
question, some commercially raised livestock live in deplorable conditions
where sickness and suffering are common. In countries like Korea,
food animals such as dogs are sometimes killed in horrific ways, e.g.,
beaten to death with a club. Our recommendations for animal foods
consumption most definitely do not endorse such practices.
noted in our discussion of myth #1, commercial farming of livestock
results in an unhealthy food product, whether that product be meat,
milk, butter, cream or eggs. Our ancestors did not consume such substandard
foodstuffs, and neither should we.
is possible to raise animals humanely. This is why organic, preferably
Biodynamic, farming is to be encouraged: it is cleaner and more efficient,
and produces healthier animals and foodstuffs from those animals.
Each person should make every effort, then, to purchase organically
raised livestock (and plant foods). Not only does this better support
our bodies, as organic foods are more nutrient-dense (131) and are
free from hormone and pesticide residues, but this also supports smaller
farms and is therefore better for the economy (132).
many people have philosophical problems with eating animal flesh,
and these sentiments must be respected. Dairy products and eggs, though,
are not the result of an animal's death and are fine alternatives
for these people.
should also not be forgotten that agriculture, which involves both
the clearance of land to plant crops and the protection and maintenance
of those crops, results in many animal deaths (133). The belief, therefore,
that “becoming vegetarians” will somehow spare animals from dying
is one with no foundation in fact.
VALUE OF VEGETARIANISM
a cleansing diet, vegetarianism is sometimes a good choice. Several
health conditions (e.g., gout) can often be ameliorated by a temporary
reduction in animal products with an increase of plant foods. But
such measures must not be continuous throughout life: there are vital
nutrients found only in animal foods that we must ingest for optimal
health. Furthermore, there is no one diet that will work for every
person. Some vegetarians and vegans, in their zeal to get converts,
are blind to this biochemical fact.
individuality" is a subject worth clarifying. Coined by nutritional
biochemist Roger Williams, PhD, the term refers to the fact that different
people require different nutrients based on their unique genetic make-up.
Ethnic and racial background figure in this concept as well. A diet
that works for one may not work as well for someone else. As a practitioner,
I've seen several clients following a vegetarian diet with severe
health problems: obesity, candidiasis, hypothyroidism, cancer, diabetes,
leaky gut syndrome, anemia and chronic fatigue. Because of the widespread
rhetoric that a vegetarian diet is "always healthier" than
a diet that includes meat or animal products, these people saw no
reason to change their diet, even though that was the cause of their
problems. What these people actually needed for optimal health was
more animal foods and fats and fewer carbohydrates.
due to peculiarities in genetics and individual biochemistry, some
people simply cannot do a vegetarian diet because of such things as
lectin intolerance and desaturating enzyme deficiencies. Lectins present
in legumes, a prominent feature of vegetarian diets, are not tolerated
by many people. Others have grain sensitivities, especially to gluten,
or to grain proteins in general. Again, since grains are a major feature
of vegetarian diets, such people cannot thrive on them. (134)
enzyme deficiencies are usually present in those people of Innuit,
Scandinavian, Northern European, and sea coast ancestry. They lack
the ability to convert alpha-linolenic acid into EPA and DHA, two
omega-3 fatty acids intimately involved in the function of the immune
and nervous systems. The reason for this is because these people’s
ancestors got an abundance of EPA and DHA from the large amounts of
cold-water fish they ate. Over time, because of non-use, they lost
the ability to manufacture the necessary enzymes to create EPA and
DHA in their bodies. For these people, vegetarianism is simply not
possible. They MUST get their EPA and DHA from food and EPA is only
found in animal foods. DHA is present in some algae, but the amounts
are much lower than in fish oils. (135)
is also apparent that vegan diets are not suitable for all people
due to inadequate cholesterol production in the liver and cholesterol
is only found in animal foods. It is often said that the body makes
enough cholesterol to get by and that there is no reason to consume
foods that contain it (animal foods). Recent research, however, has
shown otherwise. Singer's work at the University of California, Berkeley,
has shown that the cholesterol in eggs improves memory in older people
(136). In other words, these elderly people's own cholesterol was
insufficient to improve their memory, but added dietary cholesterol
from eggs was.
it appears that some people do well on little or no meat and remain
healthy as lacto-vegetarians or lacto-ovo-vegetarians, the reason
for this is because these diets are healthier for those people, not
because they're healthier in general. However, a total absence of
animal products, whether meat, fish, insects, eggs, butter or dairy,
is to be avoided. Though it may take years, problems will eventually
ensue under such dietary regimes and they will certainly show in future
generations. Dr. Price’s seminal research unequivocally demonstrated
this. The reason for this is simple evolution: humanity evolved eating
animal foods and fats as part of its diet, and our bodies are suited
and accustomed to them. One cannot change evolution in a few years.
Abrams said it well when he wrote:
have always been meat-eaters. The fact that no human society is entirely
vegetarian, and those that are almost entirely vegetarian suffer from
debilitated conditions of health, seems unequivocally to prove that
a plant diet must be supplemented with at least a minimum amount of
animal protein to sustain health. Humans are meat-eaters and always
have been. Humans are also vegetable eaters and always have been,
but plant foods must be supplemented by an ample amount of animal
protein to maintain optimal health. (137)
author would like to thank Sally Fallon, MA; Lee Clifford, MS, CCN;
and Dr. H. Leon Abrams, Jr., for their gracious assistance in preparing
and reviewing this paper.
This paper was not sponsored or paid for by the meat or dairy industries.
About the Author:
late Stephen Byrnes, PhD, RNCP, is the author of Diet & Heart
Disease: Its NOT What You Think and Digestion Made Simple
(Whitman Books; 2001); and The Lazy Person’s Whole Foods Cookbook
(Ecclesia Life Mana; 2001).
Recommended Further Reading:
Weston A. Price Foundation
I am Not a Vegetarian
Paleolithic Diet Page
Great Fallacies of Vegetarianism
Animal Interest Alliance
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Publishing; Washington, D.C.), 2000, 5; (b) Breeds of Livestock. University
of Oklahoma, Department of Animal Science posted at http://www.ansi.okstate.edu/breeds.
Breeds of Livestock. University of Oklahoma, Department of Animal
Science posted at http://www.ansi.okstate.edu/breeds.
W Bender and M Smith. Population, Food, and Nutrition. Population
B Carnell. Could vegetarianism prevent world hunger? Posted at http://www.animalrights.net/faq/topics/diet/vegetarianism_world_hunger.html,
and accessed on January 3, 2002.
M Purdey. The Vegan Ecological Wasteland. Journal of the Price-Pottenger
Nutrition Foundation [hereafter referred to as Jnl of PPNF],
Winter 1998; also posted at http://www.westonaprice.org.
R Audette with T Gilchrist. Neanderthin. (St. Martins; NY),
S Fallon and M Enig, Nourishing Traditions, 6.
M Purdey, op cit.
(a) L Dunne. The Nutrition Almanac, 3rd ed. (McGraw
Hill; New York), 32-33; (b) AL Rauma and others. Vitamin B-12 status
of long-term adherents of a strict uncooked vegan diet (“living food
diet”) is compromised. J Nutr, 1995, 125:2511-5; c) MG Crane
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