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

6 01 2011

Welcome to 2011! (Why don’t we have flying cars yet?) My new year’s blogolutions are to 1) write here more often and 2) actually answer emails. So far, I’m failing at both, but I’ve got 359 days left to clean up my act.

Sometimes, when I feel like I don’t have enough stress in my life and start craving a blood-pressure boost, I go to my old vegan haunts to read gems like these:

The only way meat can be digested is by putrefaction, our stomach acid is only 5% of that of a carnivore or omnivore so instead of being digested it basicly [sic] rots in your intestines which leaves toxic gases and waste to be absorbed into the blood. (From here.)

we know what’s happening. we’ve known for decades. however, we also have found that when we talk about the health detriments associated with eating the products of the corpse industries, people don’t believe us. (From here.)

[T]here is a single, sole cause to heart disease: cholesterol. If your total cholesterol is below 150 and LDL is below 70, you are essentially heart attack proof. What is the cause of high cholesterol? Saturated fat and animal products. (From here.)

Don’t you love this stuff? But I digress. What I want to talk about right now is one of the most oft-cited perks of being a vegetarian: an apparently lower risk of heart disease compared to omnivores. A recent paper called Chemistry Behind Vegetarianism sums it up by saying “Omnivores have a significantly higher cluster of cardiovascular risk factors compared with vegetarians, including increased body mass index, waist to hip ratio, blood pressure, plasma total cholesterol (TC), triacylglycerol and LDL-C levels, serum lipoprotein(a) concentration, plasma factor VII activity, ratios of TC/HDL-C, LDL-C/HDL-C and TAG/HDL-C, and serum ferritin levels.”

This is a trend that some folks translate as “meat causes heart disease”—a sentiment I saw plastered all over the veggie message boards during my most recent lurking spree. I assume this belief is bolstered by all the perfectly-preserved chunks bacon found in meat eaters’ arteries during heart biopsies.

Studies on vegetarians are inherently tricky. Although some folks dump animal foods strictly for ethical reasons, many of the meatless 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.

*I’m excluding Seventh-day Adventists from the list because their diet and lifestyle recommendations involve much more than meat avoidance.

So where am I going with this? Right here. 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 in the progression of heart disease, and meditation/centering practices associated with Buddhism could help improve both. 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.

The original numbers are below. I highlighted the comparisons that weren’t so happy for the vegetarians. (Click to make it big, unless you’ve got really great vision.)

Interestingly, the researchers note that one of their earlier studies 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 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.

Why vegetarian studies don’t study vegetarians

Much to the disgust of “real” vegetarians, a surprising number of folks who call themselves vegetarian are still feasting on flesh foods. The AJCN study “What to vegetarians in the United States eat?” gives a great rundown of this phenomenon. The paper starts out with an important observation about the state of vegetarian nutritional studies at the time it was written (2003), and these comments still apply to much of the literature we have today:

During the past 2 decades, studies have documented eating patterns and nutrient intakes of vegetarians in the United States. The studies, however, were conducted in volunteers and convenience samples recruited from relatively narrow geographic areas or from individuals belonging to a particular vegetarian orientation. Little is known about the eating patterns of a nationally representative sample of individuals who consider themselves to be vegetarians.

To tackle this problem, the researchers nabbed a bunch of nationally-representative data from a USDA food survey project, which documented the results of two 24-hour diet recalls as well as answers to the question “Do you consider yourself to be a vegetarian?” Then they looked in detail at what the vegetarians versus nonvegetarians were putting in their mouths. Out of the 13,000+ folks in the study, 334—or about 2.5 percent—identified themselves as vegetarian. That figure jibes with the numbers offered by the Vegetarian Resource Group and other polls that peg the percent at 2.5 to 2.8 or so.

But here’s the kicker. Out of those 334 so-called vegetarians, almost two thirds were still guzzling meat on their diet recall days. And we’re not just talking pesco-vegetarians eating fish, either: The fake vegetarians averaged 80 grams of red meat per day, not terribly far from the 137 grams reported by the omnivores with the highest meat intake.

Unfortunately, a lot of studies enrolling vegetarians take their subjects’ word about their diet habits, not realizing that fish, chicken, and Philly cheese steaks qualify as vegetables to some. That means that the vegetarian research we have—especially studies that recruit self-defined vegetarians for blood tests and other measurements—might not be examining the effects of a meat-free diet so much as a wishful-thinking diet. In this sense, studies looking at religious vegetarians (who have God to answer to) and ethical vegans (who have an ideology to answer to) are probably more legitimate than studies recruiting average Joe-Schmoes off the street who think being vegetarian means eating a salad on weekends.

But there’s more. This particular paper found some important differences between self-defined vegetarians and self-defined omnivores, regardless of whether the vegetarians ate meat or not—suggesting that the vegetarian label (and the lifestyle patterns it accompanies) is more important than the avoidance of meat:

  • Both the vegetarians and the meat-eaters who thought they were vegetarians had lower BMIs than the self-defined omnivores.
  • All of the self-defined vegetarians (meat-free or not) ate more total vegetables, more “other” vegetables, more total fruit, and more citrus than the omnivores.
  • The self-defined vegetarians ate fewer white potatoes and fried potatoes than the most carnivorous omnivores. (My guess is the omnis were racking up some meat credits at McDonald’s, and did get fries with that.)

Of course, there are also some studies showing that, regardless of whether someone’s an omnivore in denial or embraces their flesh lust, eating more meat seems to correlate with certain cancers and heart disease. Does this “what do vegetarians eat” paper offer any insight into that? It sure does. If we compare the true vegetarians in this study (the ones who ate no meat on their recall days) with the true omnivores (the ones who ate plenty of meat on their recall days), we can see that the folks who limited their meat also consumed:

  • More dark leafy greens, deep yellow vegetables, “other” vegetables, and total vegetables
  • More whole-grain bread and brown rice (opposed to refined)
  • More total fruit, citrus fruit, dried fruit, and “other” fruit
  • More walnuts, almonds, and pecans
  • More total legumes, lentils, garbanzo beans, and hummus
  • Fewer beverages
  • Fewer “sugars and candies”
  • Fewer table fats
  • More wine
  • More carotene, vitamin E, vitamin C, thiamine, calcium, magnesium, copper, and dietary fiber

There’s nothing about eating meat that requires someone to inhale sugar and eat less fresh produce—but because meat (with all that awful saturated fat and cholesterol) has been so vilified in the nutrition world, the folks who eat more of it are likely to be less health-conscious than those who opt for the tofu slab. That’s why patterns like these emerge: Eating less meat goes hand-in-hand with other health-promoting choices, so we often see vegetarians trumping omnivorous control groups in terms of health markers.

Of course, with the paleo movement gaining force and more studies emerging on health-conscious meat eaters, it’s becoming obvious that not all omnivorous diets are created equal. The existing literature we have on paleo diets shows that folks can slash their risk factors for heart disease while still eating plenty of meat.

The B12/homocysteine/heart disease connection

If you’ll notice from some of the studies above, higher homocysteine (linked to B12 deficiency) is a common theme with vegetarians. Chronically elevated homocysteine may damage the lining of arteries and probably contribute to atherosclerosis—making this a major issue for vegetarians who either absorb B12 poorly or skimp on their supplements.

Unfortunately, not all veggie proponents got the memo. Dr. John McDougall, staunch believer in a meat-disease link, doesn’t seem to think B12 deficiency (and the ensuing elevated homocysteine) is anything to worry about:

…an otherwise healthy strict vegetarian’s risk of developing a disease from B12 deficiency by following a sensible diet is extremely rare—less than one chance in a million.

Take a moment to compare the possible consequences of your dietary decisions. You could choose to eat lots of B12-rich animal foods and avoid the one-in-a-million chance of developing a reversible anemia and/or even less common, damage to your nervous system.  However, this decision puts you at a one-in-two chance of dying prematurely from a heart attack or stroke; a one-in-seven chance of breast cancer or a one-in-six chance of prostate cancer.

How many vegans have you met with B12 deficiency anemia or nervous system damage? I bet not one!  Furthermore, you have never even heard of such a problem unless you have read the attention-seeking headlines of newspapers or medical journals.

That’s from a 2007 newsletter of his (probably my favorite blood-pressure-booster of all time). Did you catch his drift? B12 deficiency is just media hype. High homocysteine isn’t a problem compared to the artery-clogging havoc animal foods stir up. That wily New England Journal of Medicine is trying to compete with Cosmo and the National Enquirer by smearing the reputation of the meatless.

But just for kicks, let’s see what those sensationalist medical journals are trying to scare us with:

Quit with the fear mongering, medical journals!

Really though, I find it alarming that any educated vegan doctor is still sweeping the B12 issue under the (man-made-material) rug. Thanks to wonky claims about B12-associated problems being nearly impossible, some vegetarians and vegans are under the impression that high homocysteine isn’t anything to be concerned about, or that meat eaters are the ones who’ll succumb to its problems. In reality, this is probably one of the biggest threats to their animal-loving hearts.

Anyway, here’s the gist of this post:

Since so many vegetarian-versus-omnivore studies are comparing a complete lifestyle overhaul (health-savvy vegetarianism) with health indifference (standard “eat-whatever’s-there” omnivorism), it’s pretty hard to find a vegetarian study that can actually isolate the effects of meat. When a vegetarian’s main diet change is avoiding animal flesh rather than emphasizing fresh produce and moving away from refined foods, the health outcomes aren’t much different than those of standard omnivores (except for the added burden of higher homocysteine).

The end.

Just kidding. Three more things:

  1. Jimmy Moore kindly invited me back on his show for encore week. The interview is here, but he’s been having server problems and I’m not sure when that link will be working again. If it’s broken, just pretend I said something clever and carry on with your day.
  2. For any raw foodists in the house, I recently wrote an article for Frugivore Magazine about how to not ruin your teeth on a raw food diet. It’s a more up-to-date version of the dental posts I wrote last year on this blog.
  3. In case the grapevine didn’t reach your ears, January is gluten-free month. If you eat gluten-containing foods and are curious how you’d fare without them, now’s a good time for a little self-experimenting.

The real end. (Or is it?)

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185 responses

6 01 2011
Sam Knox

An aside: Have you gotten a chance to look at Gary Taubes’s new book, “Why We Get Fat”?

My opinion is that anyone who reads it and still believes that calorie restriction is the only way to lose weight, or that fat is more “fattening” than carbyhydrate, is simply impervious to logic and evidence.

6 01 2011
Auggiedoggy

I haven’t read the book but I can tell you that the only time I lose weight is through calorie control, either by diet, exercise or a combination of the two. Usually the latter. Its isn’t very sexy and doesn’t sell many books but there you have it.

6 01 2011
Sam Knox

I encourage you to read it.

It’s possible to lose weight by restricting calories and exercising. People do it all the time.

It appears to be virtually impossible to maintain that weight loss, however.

Every study for the past 50 years has concluded that the percentage of dieters who lose weight through some combination of calorie restriction, exercise, and behavioral therapy and maintain that weight loss for five years is in the low single digits. A 95% failure rate is the figure most often mentioned, although we only have data going out 6 years, so it’s possible that no one maintains that weight loss permanently.

Again, I encourage you to read the book. The electronic version is available for about ten bucks.

7 01 2011
M.

So…does anybody diet without some combination of calorie restriction/reduction, exercise, and behavioral therapy, and what does the six-year studies look like for them?

7 01 2011
Sam Knox

Low-carb diets, like Atkins for example, aren’t calorie restricted.

The evidence suggests that, in the absence of excess carbohydrate, the appetite for protein and fat is self-regulating.

7 01 2011
M.

Not to go to far off-topic, but if you look at the Atkins website at the link below, #3 talks about calorie restriction with daily quotas. (#6 says industrial seed oils are all healthy, but that’s another issue.)

http://www.atkins.com/Program/ProgramOverview/HowtoMaximizeYourChancesofSuccess.aspx

7 01 2011
Sam Knox

To tell you the truth, I’m not that familiar with Atkins or any other low-carb diet plan.

I know that in studies that compare the results between low-carb and low-fat diets, for example, or just low-carb diets, the low-carb diets are typically unrestricted calorically.

7 01 2011
Sam Knox

Actually, here’s the entire paragraph from the Atkins site:

“There’s no need to count calories on Atkins, but we do ask that you use a little common sense. You probably could guess that too many calories will slow down your weight loss, but here’s a surprise—too few will slow down your metabolism and slow weight loss. You only need worry about calories if, despite following Atkins to the letter, you cannot lose weight. Then a calorie reality check may be in order. Depending upon your height, age and metabolism, you may need to play with the following calorie ranges to lose weight:
Women: 1,500–1,800 calories a day.
Men: 1,800–2,200 calories per day.”

It appears that, at least for the Atkins program, calorie restriction isn’t normally a part of the plan.

7 01 2011
M.

You forgot the opening words in bold: “BE SENSIBLE, NOT OBSESSIVE, ABOUT PORTIONS.” Portion control is not calorie counting, but it is still calorie restriction.

Lower carb diets tend to be more satiating, so many people naturally eat less without worrying about it, but at the end of the day you still have to reduce calories one way or another (or burn more). I think low carb diets will have the same long-term failure statistics as the other diets that Taubes derides.

I believe Taubes entire premise is that the obesity epidemic originated because we were eating too many carbs, but I think this is way too simplistic so any solution he proposes will be way too simplistic. Taubes would likely argue that guzzling industrial seed oils is healthier than eating yams for example.

8 01 2011
Sam Knox

Instead of splitting semantic hairs and responding to what you “believe” to be Gary Taubes’s premise, you should read his book and find out for sure.

Like I said, it’s available for ten bucks in electronic form.

8 01 2011
M.

Hey Sam,

I don’t know. If I was looking to lose weight I might be more inclined to look to Martin Berkhan of Leangains, who says he doesn’t agree with a single thing that Taubes says.

And if I was just looking for overall health, I’m not sure I would listen to someone who said sweet potatoes are evil and guzzling industrial seed oils is good (as Taubes does.)

So I think I will pass on paying for the book until someone convinces me there is something worthwhile in there that great free bloggers like Minger, Harris , and Guyenet are missing.

13 11 2011
Phayah

For years I tried to lose weight through calorie restriction and exercise and it never worked. I then read The China Study and followed his guidelines. With diet and exercise I lost maybe 20 lbs over 5 months. I was constantly famished on both a low calorie and vegan diet. It seemed my stomach rumbled 24/7.

About 6 months ago I ran across Taubes’ book. I decided to give it a try. I lost 55 lbs with no exercise. I wasn’t even as strict as I was when following The China Study. It was a huge appetite suppressant. I often forgot to eat. It was nothing short of miraculous.

I’ve never felt awesome on any diet or non-diet. So, I’m now going to try out Paleo. I think the more important issue for me might be to eliminate dairy, gluten, and other suspicious culprits of blah feeling. =D

4 11 2014
Brock Leham

How is it splitting hairs?

Portion control IS calorie restriction. There’s nothing to debate there.

What debunks low carb diets is the fact that the human body more readily stores dietary fat as body fat, about 10-15% more than carbs or protein.

8 01 2011
Richard Tamesis, M.D.

I read both of Taubes’ books and nowhere did I see him say that “guzzling industrial seed oils is healthier than eating yams.” Would you care to support your statement for all of us by pointing out the exact location and quote in his books where he does advocate what you claim?

8 01 2011
M.

Busted!…your right though, he didn’t say those exact words. But that is his entire sentiment. His “fat is good” message ignores omega-6, and he does say starchy food like polished white rice is bad. Yams are not much different from rice in Taubes’s simple macronutrient-obessed worldview.

21 12 2012
daniel

Gary Taubes is nothing more than a carnival barking charlatan.

Taubes is trying to preach that sugar causes heart-disease rather than the obvious culprit…lipids.

No real researcher has even considered sugar to be a plausible enough suspect to subject it to a controlled trial.

11 01 2011
Suzanne

I’ve read Taubes book, twice now. He does NOT say that industrial seed oils are healthy. What he does say, backed up by historical records as well as modern science, is that guzzling starch and sugar is unhealthy. He points out that these simple, usually highly refined, carbohydrates, are extremely lipogenic, and describes how and why they produce obesity and western diseases.
Surely it’s better to read the book before condemning it??

11 01 2011
M.

Suzanne,

Again, he might not use those exact words “industrial seed oils” but that is what you end up with when you are fixated on macronutrients. (And I think the “he did not use those exact words” argument is pretty lame when you know very well that he admits to never looking at the omega-6 issue…just sayin’)

Also, according to the Fat Head blog, the low carb diet that Taubes includes in his new book comes from people that wrote that latest Atkins book. From the Atkins website (see the link in my comment above):

“All fats except manufactured trans fats (hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils) are healthy fats.”

Again, this is Atkins’ website, not Taubes, but it is the same type of diet advice his book recommends.

As far as the Carbohydrate Hypothesis and starch causing the diseases of civilization, I think the fixation on macronutrients is misguided. Counting carb grams is just like the people who count fat grams. There is a lot more interesting stuff to be looking at for the causes of diseases of civilization than starch (e.g. wheat vs rice.)

It all comes back to here and now in 2011 (as Taubes puts out a new diet book) that he is not that useful of a contributor for people interested in the paleo principle, ancestral diets, and evolutionary nutrition type of stuff (especially considering bloggers like Minger, Harris, Guyenet, Masterjohn, etc).

The fixation on macronutrients is actually a distraction.

It is an interesting phenomenon though how people are so reverential to him.

2 02 2011
David M Brooks

M– you are way OT on Denise’s very interesting post but it is quite silly for you to put effectively put words into Taubes’s mouth by saying: “Taubes would likely argue that guzzling industrial seed oils is healthier than eating yams for example.”
See his GCBC http://books.google.com/books?id=XPJdM9POXGAC&pg=PA44&dq=taubes+oils&hl=en&ei=sKRITdvNJIeglAerhJCdBA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=3&ved=0CC4Q6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=oils&f=false , including page 455: “Did we evolve to eat olive oil, for example, or linseed oil?”

Trashing Taubes is silly, he has brought to our attentional decades of science that has been ignored and suppressed; we can interpret it as we will but attributing arguments to him that he never made does nothing except perhaps feed your own ego.

2 02 2011
M.

David,

The point is that, at best, he has no opinion on omega-6s, but he fears carbs, which isn’t very enlightened paleo/WAPF/whole foods here in 2011.

Taube’s #1 “inescapable conclusion” from GCBC: “Dietary fat, whether saturated or not, is not a cause of obesity, heart disease, or any other chronic disease of civilization. “

Maybe he elaborates more on this, but “Dietary fat, whether saturated or not…” would seem to include PUFAs to me. Otherwise it seems like he could have been clearer in the most important, “#1 inescapable conclusion” and just said “saturated or monounsaturated” instead of “saturated or not.” Maybe Taubes really is a big opponent to omega-6s, and I have just missed this somehow.

In his Jimmy Moore interview he said that even the carbs in green leafy vegetables can be problematic. Maybe this is just me, but that sounds like someone who would be concerned about the carbs in yams.

Maybe the way I phrased the point about “guzzling vegetable oil” is extreme, but the underlying argument concerning omega-6 vs starch holds. If you are in denial about this, then you are probably pretty entrenched in the guru-ism. (Tom Naughton of Fat Head for example said I was mentally deranged for questioning Taubes stance on omega-6s and compared me to a vegan troll before deleting my comments. Talk about Taubes Taliban…)

I’m not really trashing Taubes as much as questioning the whole guru thing he has spawned. Many people pat themselves on the back about how scientific and rationale they are, then hold Taubes up as some messiah that can’t be questioned (so maybe not so OT on a vegan post afterall…)

I don’t think anybody scientifically-minded buys his Carb/Insulin Theory (even many prominent low carbers would question the whole “be careful of carbs in green leafy vegetables” stuff), but a lot of people still heap praise upon Why We Get Fat where he mainly talks about his Carb/Insulin Theory.

2 02 2011
Suzanne

M, you’re at such a terrible disadvantage! You haven’t read any of Taubes’ books, you haven’t read the New Atkins book, you hop around from blog to blog picking stuff out of context, and you hammer on industrial seed oils… Had you READ the source material, you would know that Taubes does indeed endorse the New Atkins diet, which has AS ITS FOUNDATION, even in the Induction phase, six cups of raw leafy green veggies per day plus two cups of cooked green leafy veg per day. After the first two weeks, other veggies, fruits, and even whole grains are gradually added, with the eater constantly evaluating health and weight, until a finely-tuned personalized ideal diet has been worked out. As for the industrial seed oils, the New Atkins strongly recommends using only cold-pressed or expeller oils.
You can’t argue in any meaningful sense because you have no facts to support any of your contentions. When it’s only personal opinion, that’s quarrelling, not arguing.

27 04 2011
M.

Suzanne,

He may endorse the New Atkins Diet, but Taubes himself did in fact say during the Jimmy Moore interview that some people must beware the carbs in green leafy vegetables. Carbs are effing evil! (I paraphrased that last sentence).

Cold pressing or expelling does not make the omega-6s go away…

So you are saying that Taubes endorses New Atkins, and New Atkins endorses industrial seed oils as long as they are cold-pressed, therefore Taubes endorses cold-pressed industrial seed oils…okay…

It is kind of funny how you say I am at a disadvantage for not reading Taubes’ books, but you respond to my direct quotes of Taubes’, including his #1 “inescapable conclusion” from GCBC, by quoting the New Atkins program…

12 07 2011
Michael Farinha

The problem with carbs is that they trigger an “I’m still hungry” response due to the constant and sharp rise and fall of blood sugars they cause. This life-long use of carbs cause many people to lose the ability to tell when they are full. Too many carbohydrates causes havoc on our hormones, like insulin, which causes them to stress and then wear out (aka diabeties).

The premis behind Atkins and Taubes is that once you reduce carbs your hormones will start to level out and tell you when you’re full. This is why Atkins tells you not to count your calories because the dieter is now trying to relearn how to listen to his body’s signals.

However Atkins never said that calories didn’t play a role. I have his Diet Revolution book 1973 printing and on page 275 he responds to the question of if calories play a role by saying “There’s no question-of course they do.”

12 07 2011
M.

Hi Michael,

I don’t believe the idea that insulin spikes cause metabolic syndrome and diabetes is that well supported. I believe Stephan at Whole Health Source has said recently that the whole argument against insulin spikes seems to be only popular among certain bloggers and certain elements of the press. But not among ANY of the scientists that study this sort of thing.

It seems more likely to me personally that anything that can cause fatty liver (excess calories, excess fructose, excess industrial seed oils, etc…) are more likely factors for diabetes, and even then there are probably other factors, such as genetics.

I do think low carb or reduced carb diets can be beneficial for certain people, but I don’t really see any useful contribution from Taubes in this regard. Atkins, Westman, and others seem to have a better grasp on the practical application.

Taubes just has wacky theories that leads to wacky advice like “calories don’t matter” and “watch out for the carbs in green leafy vegetables.” As has been pointed out, this is in direct contrast to Atkins, Westman, and everybody else who has not drank the Taubes kool-aid.

Which leads back to the point, if Taubes’ wacky theores are in such conflict with other low-carb programs, with science, with scientists, with scientific bloggers, with scientific paleo bloggers, with rational people, etc…, why do so many paleo/ancestral diet bloggers insist on promoting his book “Why We Get Fat”?

Maybe it is because he is some kind of guru like T. Colin Campbell.

11 03 2012
greg

carbs should not be all lumped together,just like fats,they vary nutritionally;eg,stoneground organic wheatflour,made into bread using sourdough ferment,has a much lower insulin response than white,yeasted bread;for years my lunch has been homemade sourdough bread and I don’t get hungry until dinnertime…

11 03 2012
Padraig

Beautifully said M. I have that Atkins book too. The reason I bought it is for an example of good fiction and good persuasive writing!!! (really, I have Vita-nutrient Solution also which is surprisingly excellent and actually real).

“The problem with carbs is that they trigger an “I’m still hungry” response due to the constant and sharp rise and fall of blood sugars they cause. “====>

This is just such absolute NONSENSE. I don’t know how brainwashed someone would have to be to believe something like that.

Everything I have ever observed about diet leads me to believe that in fact carbohydrates are the ONLY thing that EVER makes any different to any appetite I have. In my honest experience, protein and fats do absolutely NOTHING AT ALL for appetite, except for the glucose that is hastily and dirtily created on the fly from protein or fat.

When it comes to what might work for others, particularly those with horrible insulin resistance built up over the years, I don’t know what to believe anymore. But I do know that some people are blind, deaf sheep and their word and “experiences” are worth much less than nothing, since they drown out the reality. D-e-r-a-n-g-e-d people, deranged by years of abuse of (mostly) refined carbohydrates.

19 02 2011
Nigel Kinbrum

For those that experience low-carb “magic”, there is spontaneous calorie restriction.

For those that don’t experience low-carb “magic”, there has to be concious calorie restriction.

11 03 2012
Padraig

“For those that experience low-carb “magic”, there is spontaneous calorie restriction.

For those that don’t experience low-carb “magic”, there has to be concious calorie restriction.”

This is nonsense because the more meat/fish/nuts I eat, the fatter I become. Fruitarians are always extremely skinny, the same other raw whole fooders (in fact Denise herself IIRC went really skinny when she cut out meats and ate almost all fruit).

7 01 2011
Sam Knox

If there are long-term results for low-carb diets, I am unaware of them.

All of the studies I’ve seen looked at calorie-restricted diets.

7 01 2011
Jared

“virtually impossible to MAINTAIN that weight loss”

EXACTLY. That’s the key. Any schmuck can starve themselves into losing some weight. But the metabolic derangement that follows causes all sorts of long term damage; cortisol issues, etc.

If you don’t have even an elementary understanding of how insulin and leptin function in our bodies and how they are influenced by different macronutrients, you really need to read Taubes’ work. If not, you are just another ostrich, head in the sand, and (depending on whether you are in starvation or binging mode) a large soft fanny up in the air.

Sorry to be so snarky, but it’s Friday.

7 01 2011
M.

@Jared – Snarky would be pointing out a chiropractic endorsing someones scientific work…and a chiropractic calling other people ostriches…just sayin’…

Seriously though, I prefer Guyenet, Harris, and Minger over Taubes.

8 01 2011
js290

Martin Berkhan seems like the one tall tree sticking out over the rest of the forest…

When you mention “Harris,” I assume you mean Dr. Kurt Harris:

http://www.paleonu.com/about-me/

“After hearing Gary Taubes on the radio, I had an epiphany and ever since I’ve been exploring the field of nutrition through the lenses of medicine and evolutionary biology.”

8 01 2011
M.

Yep, that’s the same Dr. Harris – the one that recently said this:

“Like many, I did indeed start by believing that macronutrient ratios (high fractions of starch) could per se cause metabolic derangement.

However I no longer believe this as it quickly became apparent to me that the anthropological and ethological records simply do not support this assumption, nor does it fit with what we know about insulin function, pathological insulin resistance and what we are learning about leptin.

Discussion of “carbohydrate” as a class of foods is as uninformative as discussing the merits of ‘fat’.”

http://freetheanimal.com/2010/12/weekend-links-quick-hits-gary-taubes-art-de-vany-denise-minger-the-china-study-chris-masterjohn-and-real-results.html#comment-53991

Really, I don’t see why the paleosphere is so enamored with Taubes. It was funny that the first comment on this blog post about crazy vegetarians is somebody trumpeting Taubes and low-carb. Taubes seems to be the T. Colin Campbell of the low carb movement, but I thought paleo was better than that.

Taubes is just some guy fixated on macronutrient ratios while ignoring all the interesting stuff like omega-6, rice vs wheat, etc… From the paleo perspective, he is so 10 years ago.

PS – Martin Berkhan, the tall tree, says he doesn’t agree with anything Taubes says.

8 01 2011
Sam Knox

You talk a lot about what Gary Taubes writes without, apparently, ever having read it.

Your posts would be easier to take seriously if they were more well-informed.

You have, although inadvertantly, provided a textbook example of the “confirmation bias”, so I guess we should thank you for that.

8 01 2011
js290

I encourage other readers to read Dr. Harris’ entire response. I don’t see how what he says there differs much from what Taubes has said or written.

BTW, did the tall tree get that way because of anything it did? Or, was it going to get tall regardless of what it did?

9 01 2011
M.

Dr. Harris -> “I did indeed start by believing that macronutrient ratios (high fractions of starch) could per se cause metabolic derangement. However I no longer believe this…”

JS290 -> “I don’t see how what he says there differs much from what Taubes has said or written.”

Well alrighty then…I hadn’t realized that Taubes had come out and said that the Carbohydrate Hypothesis is wrong. Sweet.

9 01 2011
gallier2

You’re in fact mistaken, Taubes has on several occasion made clear, that he might be wrong on the carb question. The supposedly “extreme anti-carb message” he supposedly carries, is the strawman his detractors put in place. His message could be better resumed as: how the f… could the research world have villified fat this bad and engaged in a wild goose chase when carbs made an ever better villain than fat.

9 01 2011
gallier2

Cannot edit my reply, here is the missing part.

His message could be better resumed as: how the f… could the research world have villified fat this bad and engaged in a wild goose chase when carbs made an ever better villain than fat, but that they couldn’t knwo because they didn’t even try that option.

9 01 2011
M.

Hi gallier2

He does have a new diet book out now though (Why We Get Fat and what to do about it), so he must be confident enough in his theories to give diet advice.

I am not saying that Taubes is an idiot or eats babies – I am just saying there seems to be some misplaced adulation in the paleosphere for a guy fixated on simplistic macronutrient ratios. The Carbohydrate Hypothesis that excess carbohydrates is the cause of diseases of civilization just isn’t that useful of a contribution from a paleo perspective. More enlightened paleo has a different focus on likely suspects (wheat, sugar, and industrial seed oils).

The Carbohydrate Hypothesis tends to elevate Taubes to some kind of guru status in the low-carb community like Campbell is elevated in the vegan community, but from a paleo perspective Taubes is just really behind the times (the omission of omega-6 also makes his lipid work outdated.) Also like Campbell, you have a guy putting out a new diet book telling people how to eat based upon suspect or outdated theories.

My criticism isn’t really much about Taubes but the way people in the paleosphere adulate him and go out of their way to avoid criticizing him. Everybody seems to re – in vision Taubes to their liking – i.e. saying the Carbohydrate Hypothesis is wrong is “not much different” than writing two books supporting it, and arguing Taubes did not use the exact words that “guzzling industrial seeds oils is healthier than eating yams.”

Taubes just put out a diet book though that might not exactly say that industrial seed oils are healthier than yams, but that is what you end up with (because he is fixated on macronutrients). Should the paleosphere be endorsing this?

10 01 2011
moksha

the tree got tall cause it had the genetic potential to do so and was fortunate to fall in soil that gave it the nutrients to maximize it’s potential.

what’s that got to do with the price of beans?

14 02 2011
Bob

Actually, she may want to read Good Calories, Bad Calories instead, since this is a much more detailed critique of the current state of “nutrition” research. Supposedly, the new book is a version of GCBC for the masses. Personally, I think GCBC should win a Pulitzer, if there’s a category for the book. I think the book is that good. I find his arguments intriguing, and they make absolute sense, whereas the vast majority of nutritional information does not.

8 01 2011
js290

Dr. Ron Rosedale: “[People] get fat by not being able to burn it. And, that is 100% controlled by hormones (leptin and insulin)…”

How do “calories” affect one’s hormone levels?

12 01 2011
Suzanne

M, I get it loud and clear! Your sticking point is industrial seed oils and, without a strongly worded denunciation of these from Taubes, you refuse to read his work for yourself…

12 01 2011
M.

Suzanne,

Well, I would argue that other people are the ones “stuck” about Taubes-related issues…

I do think most of the main points in GCBC and Why We Get Fat will be less advanced and sophisticated than the stuff I read for free (and it is not like GCBC hasn’t been discussed on the web.) Industrial seed oil is just an example where he is too simplistic/outdated (and in the comments here it is another example of his fanboys being reluctant to admit this.)

I think the Carbohydrate Hypothesis is too simplistic and outdated as well. (If you don’t believe me, then look at the quote from Dr. Harris above – there is just too much evidence against it.)

(And why should I read the books just because some commenters here like them? The endorsers here haven’t exactly bowled me over. According to one commenter here, the two books that Taubes wrote about the Carbohydrate Hypothesis are “not much different” than saying the Carbohydrate Hypothesis is wrong. If everybody thinks the Carbohydrate Hypothesis is wrong, then why do I need to read two books about it?)

Industrial seed oils are not my sticking point in reading Taubes, but I would think it would be a sticking point for many people endorsing the books here in 2011 and giving the books to all their friends. If industrial seed oil, wheat, and sugar are the three horsemen of the apocalypse as some would suggest, it seems pretty questionable to me to be giving your friends Why We Get Fat.

25 04 2011
E

M., Taubes won’t write about Paleo until there is enough research allowing him to do so. He’s a science writer, not a “hottest new diet” writer, or a “what’s happening on the blogosphere” writer. He has an obligation to base his writing on actual research, and he’s used existing research (including the gaps) to demonstrate that not only is low fat/high carb killing a lot of us, but low carb is a start, if not the answer, for many of us. Paleo is growing in popularity, yes, but there’s not a lot of peer-reviewed, controlled trial research out there testing the core points of the Paleo diet (that wheat and things like Omega 6 fats in particular are bad for us).

If you want to see Taubes incorporate the Paleo diet in his advice, start generating some data! I would suggest you generate data using an impeccable methodology that actually tests what it purports to test. Randomized control trials, or at least some level of statistical control, would be excellent.

Taubes can only report on what exists. Paleo is emergent (even if there are people who have been eating that way for a long time, or even a few people who have pushed it for a long time). Emergent does not mean better or worse; it means we don’t have enough information to make an informed decision.

27 04 2011
M.

The “Paleo Diet” may be new, but ancestral diets are not.

A big chunk of Taubes book was about why fats are really are not that bad. Omega-6 is a fat. He has had ample opportunity to research it and decided that it is insignificant in terms of diseases of civilization. Most people looking at paleo-style and ancestral diets would disagree.

Most of the scientific bloggers in the paleosphere (though not necessarily paleo dieters themselves) like Guyenet, Harris, and Masterjohn don’t buy Taubes’ Insulin\Carbohydrate thing. It has very little support among scientific types. (His Insulin\Carbohydrate theory is much more than “low carb diets are best for weight loss”).

Taubes’ very simplistic approach based upon “macronutrients” is very flawed and is not very scientifically sound.

26 04 2011
Suzanne

M, how will you ever know what Taubes’ work is worth seeing you won’t even read it? The book is available FREE through public libraries. It is, however, not an easy read, being both advanced and sophisticated. The text is dense and devoid of hyperbole and sensational claims of miracles. It’s also very thoroughly supported by references.

You keep inferring that I’m a Taubes adorer; it’s perfectly possible to read somebody’s work with critical appraisal without falling in love with either the author or his/her thesis. I’m interested in nutrition and health, so I read very widely. Taubes is a good researcher, but he’s not the only writer in the field, not by a long chalk! There are other authors with serious academic chops, whose work I also read, with a dictionary at hand. If something comes up that I really can’t get my head around, I email the author and ask – I usually get an answer.

I’m not a Paleo diet-er, not an Atkins diet-er, nor a China Study diet-er., nor a South Beach-er or a Dukan-er. I keep an eye on the research, and pay lots of attention to my body’s responses to what I eat.

Again, you put yourself at a very serious disadvantage through your refusal to actually read original material; sound bytes culled from the blogs of people who’re commenting on a book or study have already been run through somebody else’s set of biases, and you have not way of judging their level of either accuracy or prejudice. The blogger might have a very strong personal agenda, or may have simply completely misunderstood something, or have undergone a knee-jerk reaction to a hot word and be flying off on a baseless rant.

27 04 2011
M.

Well, I am not too sure of how good of a researcher Taubes is when a wrote a big section of his book about how we jumped the gun and started demonizing fats without adequate evidence, then he turns around and does this very thing himself in the next section of the book and starts demonizing carbs.

I have heard and read enough direct quotes from Taubes to get the picture – cheese and nuts are fattening because of their insulinogenic properties…watch out for the carbs in green leafy vegetables…if you stop losing weight on very low carb diet then that’s it, you were just not meant to lose any more…etc…

The whole idea of macronutrients is rather outdated and not compatible with the more progressive Paleo 2.0 and ancestral diet approaches to nutrition. The more progressive Paleo people do not see “carbs” as a Neolithic agent of disease, while Taubes believes that “carbs” are the only cause of the diseases of civilization. Most of the scientific bloggers don’t buy Taubes’ Insulin/Carb Theory.

Taubes Insulin/Carb theory is not very scientifically sound, and it is not compatible with a Paleo 2.0 or ancestral approach. Therefore, it seems that the only reason “Why We Get Fat” receives the praise that it does within the paleo community is because of Taubes guru status

6 01 2011
Sam Knox

Come to think of it, it wasn’t as much of an aside as I thought.

One of the things Taubes points out is that low HDL (especially in women) is a better indicator of heart disease risk than high LDL.

If so, lower LDL among vegetarians (with all the caveats that you mentioned in your post) doesn’t necessarily indicate a lower risk of heart disease.

6 01 2011
Paleo Velo

Terrific post, Denise, as usual! Thanks for the work you’ve put into synthesizing all this info.

6 01 2011
Arugula God

I am very disappointed in the Chinese. Their fate will be peppered with the pungent taste of my revenge… Take heed bystanders and do not stand idle, you still have time, for now.

6 01 2011
Peter Silverman

Some people have this weird definition of vegetarian: someone who eats lots of vegetables. Of course alcoholics don’t only drink alcohol, and smokers don’t completely live off of smoke, and carnivores don’t only eat meat.

6 01 2011
moksha

Wonderful post and a delight to read – you have yet again providing what could be pretty dry data and discussions in such an entertaining and **understandable** way!

The Tiawan study reminds me of a very dear Taiwanese friend who had an excellent diet (and figure…!) who is now living in Switzerland. She has succumbed to the “daily bread” i’m afraid and has grown into quite a “matronly” physique – i will do my best to get her your information as your posts will far exceed her English-reading capabilities…

Thanks Denise – (still looking forward to that wheat post… NO stress – you’ve got actually almost 2 years till midnight Dec 21, 2012…)

6 01 2011
Soposie

I just wanted to say thank you very much for sharing your work and synthesizing your analysis and thoughts. It’s really made a big difference in the quality of my life and heath and really helped me with strengthening my own understanding of the issues and research to discuss these subjects with friends and family.

Best regards.

6 01 2011
Vegetarian for life, vegetarian for love

[…] Vegetarians and Heart Disease: Will Ditching Meat Really Save Your Arteries […]

6 01 2011
js290

Mentioned Why We Get Fat by Taubes: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eREuZEdMAVo

Re: Taiwan… stinky tofu… fermented tofu fried in lard.

7 01 2011
Matt Lentzner

Denise,

Thanks for the plug. Once again, a great blog post.

Matt

7 01 2011
Amanda Tuttee

Mrs. Minger: I have a question for you. I am dating a very hot man named Leonard who is a both a raw vegan and a member of the clue clucks clan. Every so often he often he goes to the http://www.cspinet.org/ website and donates money . They have a donate button in the upper right hand corner. Then sometimes when he is feeling mad at black people and Oprah and President Obama in particular he goes to http://kkk.bz/?page_id=305 and makes a small contribution. I love Leonard but I really don’t approve of his politics and I want to counter act it by donating to you because you are down with meat and brothers. But where is your donate button? I looked all over your web site and even tried clicking on random places on your home page but I still can’t find it.

7 01 2011
Sam Knox

I can’t speak for “Ms. Minger”, but I think I can speak for the rest of us:

Piss off.

10 01 2011
M.

I think an Amazon portal would go nicely. Nobody is asked to make a donation or buy a particular product, but anytime somebody wants to buy something from Amazon then Mrs. (?!) Minger could get a 4-6% commission without taking anything extra out of the buyer’s pocket.

10 01 2011
Ray

The “clue clucks clan?” Is that like Duck Tales?

7 01 2011
anand srivastava

@Denise thanks for a great article on vegetarians. I wish there were more studies from India. Time to show this to my vegetarian friends.

@Amanda ROFL.

7 01 2011
kem johnson

Thank you very much for your posts. Your humour is infectious and your interview with the venerable Jimmy Moore has been downloading for thirty minutes… 48%… at least it hasn’t timed out. I thought it might have been due to living on an island at rhe bottom of the habitable world, but no, it’s just the bloody internet.

7 01 2011
Aslcepius

“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.

Nicely put. This is exactly the veg*n rationale.

7 01 2011
Jane

Denise,

‘The existing literature we have on paleo diets shows that folks can slash their risk factors for heart disease while still eating plenty of meat.’

A few months ago I had a look at Staffan Lindeberg’s work on the paleo diet, and I found something interesting. It can be argued that the apparent benefit of this diet comes from its total exclusion of refined foods. The subjects on the other diet were simply told to ‘eat more’ wholegrain bread, not to cut out white bread altogether.

I emailed Lindeberg about this, and he confirmed that they were not told to avoid refined food. They were eating refined oils, low-fat milk, and possibly, significant quantities of white flour/rice/sugar.

I suggested to him that the paleo diet could have been better because it was a ‘whole-food diet’, and he told me he wasn’t sure what ‘whole-food’ was. I explained, but I did not hear from him again.

10 01 2011
moksha

… sounds like Denise’s abrupt experience with Campbell – question these guys and you become invisible!…

12 01 2011
LeonRover

Lindeberg made his bones on his 1989 trip to Kitava and the numerous reports their blood markers, health status and diet. Their foods comprising daily about 85 gms fish, 110 gms coconut, 200 gms other veg, 100 gms yam and 400 gms fruit provide (by energy) 10% protein, 13.5% fruit sugar, 55.5% starch, 17% sat fat and 4% other fats. This is a wholefood diet.

His Paleolithic studies on diet interventions make NO REFERENCE to Kitavans’ mainly root starches comprising 55.5% of daily energy consumption – not to mention the coconut.

There is no insistence on non-industrial foods in his Paleo – strange.

7 01 2011
BigJeff

The quote by the cardiologist was absolutely mind blowing! In the discussion the “B” posts a few preceding paragraphs to C. Robert’s quote, and a quick Google check reveals that a.) B doesn’t bother to check any of his sources, he simply accepts anything he likes, b.) Dr. Roberts doesn’t know much about herbivores, and c.) Dr. Roberts doesn’t know much about humans either.

He actually made the following arguments:

a.)Carnivores have intestines that are about 3 times their body length, herbivores have intestines that are about 12 times their body length. Humans are herbivores, therefore the average intestine is about 60 feet long.

In fact, there are many herbivores that have short intestines. See any non-carnivorous primate for just a sample. Second, human intestines are about 25 feet long, so how he can be considered a competent doctor when he thinks the human intestine is 60 feet long is beyond me.

b.) Carnivore teeth are sharp, herbivores teeth are flat. Humans have some sharp teeth but most are flat.

I don’t know, last I checked my mouth was filled with more than half sharp teeth. On top of that, my “flat” teeth aren’t all that flat compared to a cow or horse’s teeth. My molars aren’t quite as sharp as a dog or a cat’s, but they have a similar basic shape. Strikingly similar to an omnivore’s teeth, actually (he states we are definitely not omnivores, though I don’t know why).

c.) Body cooling for carnivores is done through panting, herbivores sweat.

This statement is patently false. I found an article from the 1930’s that busted this myth!! In fact, cows (and any other animal that chews the cud) do not sweat, they pant. Therefore, according to Dr. Roberts, all cows are carnivores (because carnivores don’t sweat). The mechanism has absolutely nothing to do with carnivore or herbivore, yet it’s one of Dr. Roberts’s false criteria for “proving” that humans are herbivores.

d.) Drinking fluids is by lapping them for the carnivore; it is by sipping
them for the herbivore

This is similar to the sweat argument, except that it does seem to have some merit in determining if one is a carnivore or not. What he simply ignores for his own bias is that frugivores and omnivores do not lap either, basically everything but a carnivore sips.

(e) Vitamin C is made by the carnivore’s own body; herbivores obtain their
ascorbic acid only from their diet.

This one is just stupid. From Wikipedia: “The vast majority of animals and plants are able to synthesize their own vitamin C, through a sequence of four enzyme-driven steps, which convert glucose to vitamin … Among the animals that have lost the ability to synthesise vitamin C are simians and tarsiers … This group includes humans.”

f) the appendages are different: Carnivores have claws; herbivores have
hands or hooves.

Again, stupid. There are many herbivores that have claws (the sloth has better claws than any carnivore!), and while less common, there are a number of carnivores that do not have claws (all bats except fruit bats, for example). Also, while I would certainly call a cat’s nails claws, dog’s nails I would have a real hard time calling claws. I think you can technically call them such, but they clearly aren’t designed for rending flesh.

I was flabbergasted at how easy it was to find out that Dr. Roberts knows apparently very little about animals, including humans, and yet he is considered a “world renowned cardiologist”. If that’s true, it certainly isn’t for his medical knowledge!

Is it really so hard to find out for yourself if someone’s outrageous claims are actually true before you post them online for all the world to see?

11 03 2012
greg

WOW!!! wotta smackdown..

8 01 2011
PhilM

Not all Hindus are vegetarians. Only a small percentage of them are strict vegetarians. Since you seem to take pride in thorough research, you might want to be careful about ascribing or spreading these laughingly crude generalizations :)

8 01 2011
R. Goodfellow

Indeed! But I don’t think Ms. Minger was implying such a generalization, but yes, it should be corrected anyway for the sake of accuracy. Another thing to note about Hindus, especially those residing in India and most especially places like Orissa and Kerala, eat quite a bit of dairy products. This is actually another confounder as these products usually aren’t homogenized, pasteurized or chilled but fresh and cooked with a variety of spices not usually consumed regularly in the West. In addition, those strict Hindus who are vegetarian often also follow Vedic diet principles, which totally excludes onions and garlic — more confounders, especially given the apparently widely bio-active nature of garlic.

It may all come down to the old saying, though: you can’t eat your way into heaven. :)

8 01 2011
lj

i think a more relevant comparison would be vegan vs flesh, as most vegetarian diets allow for diary which is not exactly artery friendly.

8 01 2011
Emily Deans MD

Speaking as a doctor who measures a lot of serum B12 levels, deficiency and insufficiency is relatively common, and can present with vague neurologic signs (depression and anxiety, for example), prior to more specific neuropathies and hematologic signs.

8 01 2011
Amit

Hey Denise

Love your blog. I am celiac and recently went paleo and it has totally changed my life!

Regarding vegetarianism preventing heart disease, I have a story for you…

I am from a part of India that’s almost completely vegetarian (Gujarat), the rate of heart disease in Gujarat are SKY HIGH, as well as every major degenerative disease you can imagine (including cancer).

It’s not uncommon for someone on a gujarati diet to drop dead at the age of 50 of a heart attack. Diabetes, heart disease and cancer are ubiquitous in my family who are all strict vegetarian. My uncle had a quadruple bypass at the age of 34 – NO JOKE!

Sincerely
Amit

9 01 2011
neisy

Hi Amit,

That’s amazing about Gujarat (and extremely sad). Apart from avoiding meat, what does the diet there look like?

Glad to hear going paleo had such positive effect for you!

9 01 2011
Amit

Yes it is very sad! I’m working hard to get my mom off statin drugs that she’s taking for her high blood numbers.

Gujarat diet consistent of LOTS of refined sugar, lots of deep frying in vegetable oil (trans fats + omega 6-3 ratio that totally out of whack!).

Also they LOVE deep fried WHEAT.

They eat mostly grains and starchy vegetables such as potatoes, and what real vegetables they do eat are deep fried and buried in vegetable oil so there is very little nutrition left!

Are you attending the Ancestral Health Symposium in LA this year? I high recommend it. My wife and I are excited about attending.

Sincerely
Amit

12 01 2011
anand srivastava

That wasn’t their original diet.
They did eat a lot of ghee. But most of the oil came from seasame seeds.
They also used to eat a lot of dairy, Paneer and yogurt.
Unfortunately with modernization, the refined oils have become very cheap. And people moved away from the dairy.
If people eat adequate dairy, there will be no B12 deficiency. Dairy is not the best, but it is better than no animal fat.

Also I believe gujarati food was not high in wheat in old times and it actually came with the Muslims.

They do use a lot of bengal gram which is very high in zinc. They make a number of fermented dishes from the gram which would make the zinc highly absorbable.

Overall the problem is that they have forgotten their traditional methods and foods. Nowadays the Dhokla is made by using Eno, instead of fermentation.

Anyway can’t do much about the vegetarians today. We just don’t know enough how to sustain them.

13 01 2011
Amit

Hey Anand

You’re absolutely right. I’m trying to get my parents to eat grass fed ghee. Unfortunately, my dad refuses to eat ghee. He’s so inflamed now, he can’t sit down on the floor (no j/k).

Sincerely
Amit

13 01 2011
amitisamoron

Amit, you are a moron dude, seriously.

13 01 2011
Amit

Now Amit, you shoudn’t talk about yourself like that!

8 01 2011
Jorge Meza

Thanks for breaking this info down once again. The threads are never ending and I really can’t stop myself from pulling on them. Thanks for that!

8 01 2011
Kate

I learn very little reading Ms. Minger’s blog about vegetarianism here. She does love to spin a tale, thought.

But I DID learn a few interesting things about the Atkins diet here in the comments section – and I actually didn’t know that they advise ‘putting the brakes on’ when it comes to calories – if you need to. If you don’t need to, it’s because you’re already eating fewer calories. Duh.

Just because the Atkins people tell you you don’t need to count calories (they tell you to count carbs instead, big deal) doesn’t mean you don’t eat fewer calories. You do eat fewer calories. So test it yourself: lay on your couch for two weeks and stuff your face with roasted meat – make it the red kind to get down to the real ‘nitty gritty’ and demystify that whole issue. Eat until you puke, as many damned calories as you can shovel in (please, when you hit the 7,000 calorie mark, you’re just getting started!) At the end of two weeks, having rolled off the couch only to make it to the bathroom and back, weigh yourself and tell us all how the weight has just melted off your body. Remember, calories don’t count!

I’m telling you – calories don’t count. That’s the beauty of this diet! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Your new slim physique will be the walking proof of that. So get started – we’re all waiting in anxious anticipation!

12 01 2011
LeonRover

Implementing the Atkin’s Diet using fatty meat, with some green vegetable and a little fruit as wholefood ingredients should mean that satiation signals leaves one ‘feeling full’.

Focus on foods, not macronutrients.

28 01 2011
JeffreyD

The idea is that one doesn’t need to count calories with an Atkins diet, not that meat is magical. Meat produces a feeling of satiety, and the carbs aren’t high enough to drive unnatural hunger pangs.

It’s funny that macronutrients seem to be a dirty word on these forums, because I’m also on body building forums, and that’s the primary thing people care about. And everybody there (myself included) is gaining or losing weight/muscle with essentially no difficulty at all.

28 01 2011
Suzanne

I am always left with a sense of cognitive jarring when somebody who has not read a book or article, or bothered to do primary source investigation of anything, critiques it – often very harshly! I’ve just finished reading “A New Atkins for a New You”, and the base of the diet is six cups of raw veggies and two of cooked per day. This is just in the induction phase, after which seeds and nuts are added back in small increments until each person establishes his/her own optimal amount.. Protein and fat are tweaked in the same way. Whole grains and starchy veggies are also phased in for people who utilize them well. Hence, once goal weight is reached, it’s easy to maintain, because each person has literally designed a diet of optimum nutritional value for his/her own body.

“Atkins Diet” seems to hit a hot button for some- their immediate mental image is of a serial murderer snarling over hunks of dripping gory meat. Had they bothered to READ THE BOOK they would have known that there are ovolactovegetarian and vegan variants of Atkins as well as the meat one.

As you said, JeffreyD, it’s not that meat is magical – the simple fact is that restricting carbs, especially the lipogenic simple starches and sugars, leads to the body using its fat stores for energy. The Atkins Diet does not “demonize an entire class of macronutrients”, i.e. carbohydrates. Vegetable fiber is carbohydrate, and Atkins encourages copious intake of fibre-rich veggies.

8 01 2011
Garth Whelan

Kate, it is not possible to eat more than about 2000 calories of nothing but roasted meat. Also your body can only convert about 150 grams of protein to glucose(as evidenced by rabbit starvation), so past that only the fat would be absorbed. You WILL starve on such a diet.

12 01 2011
LeonRover

It has to be very lean roasted meat, or white fish or chicken breast – then you will surely get rabbit starvation.

Pure protein is DEADLY

25 01 2012
GC

No, you won’t. You will only starve if you do not also ingest the fats. You would need to get 50% to 80% of your calories from fat. If you eat it raw, you’ll even avoid the carcinogenic free radicals and get all of the vitamins you’ll need. Look up Lee Hooker.

You will “rabbit-starve” only if you skip the fat. Rabbit is an extremely lean meat.

8 01 2011
J. Stanton

Kate:

Try that sometime (sitting on the couch and eating nothing but red meat until you puke)…or if you’re veggie, find your most carnivorous friend and have them do it. You’ll find that intake is self-limiting even for an ardent carnivore.

Yes, I’ve tried it. I’ve never met anyone who can enjoy (not just choke down) more than about a pound and a half of steak at a time without also eating a big pile of carbohydrates in the form of mashed potatoes, tortillas, rice, or something. Even that’s a stretch for most people unless they’ve fasted all day first…usually people run out of steam at about 3/4 pound unless they’ve got some carbs to cushion it.

And due to all the fat, you’re going to remain full for a LONG time after eating that pound and a half of steak.

Total calories of that 1.5 pounds of cooked, fatty, boneless steak? About 1600. 3/4 pound is about 800 calories. (And that’s for a very fatty, well-marbled cut…choose a lean cut and calories drop to 1250/625.)

3 meals a day of 3/4 pound of fatty steak = 2490 calories. 3/4 pound of lean steak = 1875 calories.

Can you eat 3 3/4 pound steaks per day, including all the fat?

J. Stanton

http://www.gnolls.org

8 01 2011
J. Stanton

That study “What do vegetarians in the United States eat?” is fascinating…thanks, Denise, for referring to it.

I’m comparing what the meat-eating ‘vegetarians’ eat to what the admitted meat-eaters eat…and two of the biggest dietary changes are:

* 55% less beer
* 36% less fried potatoes (i.e. french fries)
(Some other changes are larger by percentage, but they comprise a very small part of the diet. Beer and french fries are significant.)

And though they eat 35% less poultry and 26% less red meat, they eat 72% more fish! (Apparently fish is a vegetable.)

So your thesis appears to be correct: “vegetarian” in the USA means “I’m making an effort to eat healthy, according to the standard ADA guidelines.” I’ll probably do a full-length post on this at some point.

JS

http://www.gnolls.org

9 01 2011
peterlepaysan

Waddya mean the end?

I love your posts.

Please do not stop.

9 01 2011
Monte Diaz

Proofiness: The Dark Arts of Mathematical Deception

“Publisher’s Note
The bestselling author of Zero shows how mathematical misinformation pervades-and shapes-our daily lives.

According to MSNBC, having a child makes you stupid. You actually lose IQ points. Good Morning America has announced that natural blondes will be extinct within two hundred years. Pundits estimated that there were more than a million demonstrators at a tea party rally in Washington, D.C., even though roughly sixty thousand were there. Numbers have peculiar powers-they can disarm skeptics, befuddle journalists, and hoodwink the public into believing almost anything.

“Proofiness,” as Charles Seife explains in this eye-opening book, is the art of using pure mathematics for impure ends, and he reminds readers that bad mathematics has a dark side. It is used to bring down beloved government officials and to appoint undeserving ones (both Democratic and Republican), to convict the innocent and acquit the guilty, to ruin our economy, and to fix the outcomes of future elections. This penetrating look at the intersection of math and society will appeal to readers of Freakonomics and the books of Malcolm Gladwell.”

I wonder if this is also relevant in the health sciences….

12 01 2011
LeonRover

The other word is spin.

9 01 2011
Kate

Garth,

Actually, it is possible to eat more than 2,000 calories worth of nothing but roasted meat. Eat that every day – go ahead. If you can’t get your mouth to open and your jaws to chew, then I think you do have a problem.

However, the real beauty of low-carbing (go ahead, baste that roasted meat with some teriyaki sauce and live it up with that coating of ‘carbs’ if you are desperate…) is that you are able to eat thousands and thousands of calories and NOT gain weight because calories are not what determines weight gain. Carbs are what determine weight gain.

So, to prove that, load up – start with around 7,000 calories – and don’t exercise because you don’t want to confuse things with the paltry effects of moving your body – and just eat that every single day. Add more calories of roasted meat! Keep at it. You will be as slim as any magazine model in a few months – and if not, then you are surely doing something wrong.

So, get started – now. And of course it’s possible to eat WAY more than 2,000 calories of roasted meat. You must indeed do this to show that you are living proof of the low-carb ‘advantage’ – needless to say, your heart health will only get better, too.

What, you say that you can’t eat that much roasted meat because it will make you puke? Eat a ton of protein that is as pure as you can get – guzzle raw eggs. Pour olive oil all over everything. Aim for the upper reaches of the 10,000s of calories and it shouldn’t be too hard, dousing everything with fat. Don’t bother with the olive oil. Spread lard over everything if that tastes better to you (the olive oil is easier to drink down, though, and you need lots and lots of fat so load it on). Whatever you do, stay away from carbs. You do know that a vegetable is a carb – so treat it like kryptonite.

This, however, is to prove how very very slim you will become eating 10s of thousands of calories of pure meat and fat. And you WILL enjoy yourself while doing it. Otherwise, this diet won’t make you slim AND happy.

OK, skip the ‘happy.’ Just do it! And then put on your ‘skinny jeans’ and rejoice!

20 01 2011
E.

Kate, you’re ridiculing either fools or straw men, and neither is worth the effort.

What’s important is that (as shown by multiple studies) low-carb and low-fat diets produce similar weight loss, if (and only if!) the low-fat dieters *deliberately* restrict calories — that is to say, the low-fat dieters must go hungry, while the low-carbers are invited to eat all they want.

Practically speaking, differences in their actual caloric intakes are almost irrelevant. A calorie is a calorie, and a gram is a gram, but more important, an appetite is an appetite.

9 01 2011
Amit

Hi Kate and Garth

OH…I don’t smell roasted meat but I do smell ignorance. NO one is advocating eating nothing but meat, and you can’t because you will get satiated and won’t be able to eat anymore and that’s EXACTLY the point.

When you eat refined carbs and grains you keep craving more and more, it’s no different than a cocaine addition.

Eat lots of fruits, vegetables and meat. :)

Amit

PS Kate : sarcasm is a clever way to hide ignorance.

12 01 2011
LeonRover

Eat lots of meat and some fruit and vegetables.

13 01 2011
amitisamoron

I’d rather sarcasm than zero common sense.

9 01 2011
Chuck

Kate – your posts read like a torture fantasy and the length and tone indicates you may have some deep seated anger and a need to attack complacent low-carb eaters.

I would guess you are on the verge of giving it a try. I did and I think all the weight I lost is because I lost my hunger by controlling insulin by avoiding foods (carbs) that caused insulin release.

I can tell you this. I have never been less hungry than when I was strict lo-carb and losing weight. Conversely, I have never been more hungry than when I was gaining weight and eating cookies in the evening. (for 20 years).

I am off statins, my nmr panel showed undetectable levels of sdLDL and my endothelial function was the second highest they ever tested at my doc’s office.

10 01 2011
david

what kind of exercise regimen do you have? blood pressure?

12 01 2011
LeonRover

I’m curious, Chuck –

Did you have a fasting insulin test before and after, showing that insulin had been a problem before, and afterwards was not?

10 01 2011
david

all I got to say is, this wheat post better be good

10 01 2011
moksha

hey david – although i am sure the wheat post WILL be good, we’re all gettin’ a huge amount of super information on this site for *free* – perhaps a more polite encouragement for niesy?

11 01 2011
Matthew

Kate, it just so happens I decided to put your suggestion to the test (minus just sitting on the couch).

If you’re right, I’m on my weight to extreme obesity, high cholesterol, and McStatins.

I do have to admit that my intermittent fasting ketogenic diet is not for the faint of heart. Eating 3000 – 5000 calories every evening of mostly fat and protein has me craving cookies like the cookie monster in rehab!

I’ll be posting every meal I eat on http://www.geekbeast.com along with my bloodwork, once we head into summer and I start eating more carbs as they come in season.

11 01 2011
Suzanne

I don’t know how to make a direct reply; this is for M, who replied to my earlier post.
M, I never said anything like “Taubes didn’t use those exact words” about industrial seed oils. What I said is that Taubes has never said that these oils are healthy, and that what he has said is that simple, usually processed, carbohydrates – starch and sugar – are provably lipogenic, both from historical records and from laboratory work. Taubes is especially down on white sugar and white flour, which should be no threat at all to a paleonutritionist or anybody else with an interest in food and health! There’s an excellent presentation here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AVvZP2av5Mk.

As to your implication that I revere Taubes, where on earth did you get that idea?? I am an Anthropology major student with very strong interest in nutritional matters, including paleonutrition. This drives me to read a very wide range of material, books as well as blogs, and to check references.

I have reservations about paleodiet hypotheses, mostly because I don’t think humans have stopped evolving. We know that blue eyes only appeared some 7,500 years ago, and that probably is not an adaptive mutation. It’s probably a side-effect of a change in a chromosome, one that does have an adaptive effect but which is not directly visible. Interestingly, the blue eye and full lactose-tolerance in Europeans appeared at about the same time and the same place – central Europe. This doesn’t necessarily imply that all white people with blue eyes are lactose-tolerant, but it’s still interesting. Some African groups are lactose-tolerant, and this arose about 3,000 years ago, and involves a different set of genes. The genes involved in lactase persistence in India are again different. As only 30% of the world population is lactase-persistent, I would never advocate universal consumption of dairy produce. However, milk products not being paleolithic food does not, as I see it, mean that nobody on earth can or should eat them now. The same holds true for the ancient grains and even potatoes – some people are demonstrably able to thrive on them.

I have very strong reservations indeed about eating modern foods; modern breeding and genetic manipulation methods can, in very few years, produce, say, wheat with nearly twice as much gluten as its parent plants. Modern fruits contain far more sugar than their immediate ancestors. Modern vegetables may be very very different from those available even 25 years ago. This is something I don’t understand about some paleonutritionists; they reject milk or grain out of hand as Not Paleo, but devour enormous amounts of fruit and vegetables that are definitely Not Paleo!! Eating it raw does not make it Paleo. True Paleo foods are things like crab apples and mesquite pods, monkey oranges and pine nuts, squaw cabbage and pokeweed, fern frond tips and tree gums, as well as very many insects. I’d be interested to know of any Paleo folks who incorporate grubs into their diet. Also, given seasonality in the real world, it’s not Paleo to eat berries in winter, or melons in spring, or bison all year round. Our Paleolithic ancestors would not have had bounteous fruit or leaves or the same meat species all year round. This is one reason that hunter-gatherers need such large territories for such small groups – resources become available in different areas at different times, so the group has to be able to move around to exploit them.

Speaking of raw, by the way, I’m not entirely sold on this ideology. Richard Wrangham’s arguments are rather compelling, and the great age of some ancient hearths suggests that cooking started far enough back that our bodies are well able to handle cooked food.

The reason I hang out on a number of blogs of different mindsets is plain curiosity and a half-formed idea for an Honours project. Obviously some people do well on raw foods, except for dental problems, while others crash massively without at least some cooked food. I can’t help wondering whether the tooth and jaw degeneration reflects bone loss elsewhere in the body. Some people do well as vegans, others crash without animal source foods. Some ovolactopescovegetarians thrive, others crash without mammal meat. Some people are genuinely negatively impacted by eating beef, whether raw or cooked, just as some are genuinely allergic to peanuts and others to oranges. This is a testament to the fantastic generalization of the human gut as well as the very wide range of individual variation in biochemistry.

12 01 2011
LeonRover

Hear, hear Suzanne.

I am a lactase tolerant butter and beef eater – also potatoes cos I’m Irish, apples cos I used to pick ‘em off the tree as a kid, olive oil cos it makes a great aoili dressing.

I test my genetic and epi-genetic and cultural inheritances against my food environment with each mouthful I eat.

Luckily, there have been few poor reactions.

12 01 2011
M.

Suzanne,

I am not sure how to say it any clearer – Taubes has no problems with omega-6. His sentiment is pretty much the same as the Atkins website:

“SAVOR FOODS WITH NATURAL FATS. Fat makes food taste good and is good for you. It’s also filling so you eat less. In fact, dietary fat is key to the Atkins program, and to overall good health. All fats except manufactured trans fats (hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils) are healthy fats.”

His latest book contains low carb diet advice produced by the some of the same people.

It might not be reverence, but I am at a lost then why his supporters are so unwilling to concede this.

As far as being down on sugar and refined white flour, that pretty much describes everybody, even probably T. Colin Campbell. As I said though, blaming the diseases of civilization on macronutrient ratios and starch is a distraction. It is too simplistic and there is little value in it.

People that read Taubes though will come away with the idea that corn oil is healthier than polished-white rice. Many, many low-carbers in fact do believe this.

As far as “paleo”, I think the term has lost much of its Paleolithic meaning (and the paleosphere has always included many bloggers who weren’t even trying to be paleo). The Healthy Skeptic blog currently has a post up about it. For many now, Paleo just means “old”, and New-Paleo or Paleo-Plus or Paleo 2.0 or Paleo-Whatever is more about getting clues from pre-industrial diets than trying to imitate a Paleolithic diet.

A common theme though is that macronutrient ratios and starch are not the cause of diseases of civilization while industrial seed oils might be a factor. Like I said before in another comment, Taubes is just so 10 years ago in this regard, yet the first few comments on this blog post (about vegetarians) were about how people that disagreed with Taubes were “impervious to logic” and “ostriches” with their heads stuck in the sand.

11 01 2011
Gimme S’MORE!! « Zeroing in on Recovery

[…] Here, vegetarians are going to get heart disease(like how I jumped to that conclusion…keep hatin I love it. Denise of the RawFoodSOS blog recently did a post of heart disease and vegetarians. I recommend you read it, but I highlighted more than enough here :http://rawfoodsos.com/2011/01/06/vegetarians-and-heart-disease/ […]

12 01 2011
labrat

T]here is a single, sole cause to heart disease: cholesterol. If your total cholesterol is below 150 and LDL is below 70, you are essentially heart attack proof. What is the cause of high cholesterol? Saturated fat and animal products

This one drives me nuts! I see MI patients with low cholesterol EVERY day. I doubt anyone who makes statements like these treat real patients.

25 01 2012
GC

My chol was in the 120s when I had mine at age 36. My LDLs were in the 90s, my HDLs were about 20 or so.

My HDLs need to be up in the 60s. My cardiologist didn’t want to say it out loud – but I have to INCREASE my cholesterol if I was to avoid another. I had to say it for him and he would only nod.

I agree with labrat 1000%. Welcome to the media spin.

12 01 2011
Johnny Bourdeaux

labrat,

Are you sure that your patients have had low chol values prior to MI ? It is well known that soon after MI the chol levels drop.

12 01 2011
labrat

Positive. In 30 years of clinical lab work I’ve never noted a link between cholesterol levels and MI’s. It’s my main reason for being a THINC.

13 01 2011
Anonymouse

THin-client InterNet Computing?

14 01 2011
Quacky O'Quacker

I’m fascinated by this subculture, chasing unknowables around and around – from the outside, it looks a lot like Christians arguing about the early days, or Tea Party’rs yammering about the founding fathers…If you’re reading this, please ask yourself: why do you like Denise’s blog? Because her voice is the voice of a person with a life! And she panders to your meat-eating preferences (I believe she herself eats mostly raw fruit and vegetables). So follow her example and go do something other than obsess about which food-Christ to follow! Even if it’s writing blog posts making fun of nutty food charlatans, as she does.

Here’s what I hear: “Why do I eat meat? Because I tried to be vegan and I couldn’t figure it out,” or “my cultural preferences were too ingrained.” No shame in that; for most it’s a huge shift. I also hear: “Why do I obsess about nutritional rhetoric? Because I feel guilty, because I understand (unlike many) that cows, chickens, and pigs suffer like me, and yet I feel I have to eat them (unlike vegans). And so I’m trying to bury my heart with my brain.”

The whole truth about where meat and dairy come from is pretty shocking, if you grew up with Oscar Meyer wieners and mac-n-cheese. I assume you all have lost those innocent TV eyes. But just knowing this doesn’t grant you passage into happyland. And if you wind up doing vegan the SAD way, you’ll be primed for a bitter, soul-crushing experience. Then where do you turn, with your broken heart and your starving body? To the food-Christs, who manipulate a sea of statistics and one-off research studies to sell paperbacks and seminar tickets.

Common sense tells us – open your eyes and look around – that if people have okay genes, eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, take a multivitamin, keep stress low, have friends and some reason for living, and **exercise**, sure, they can also eat meat – or not eat meat – and most (but sadly, not all) will be healthy. Remember, we’re all mortal and “healthy” is a relative mental-physical state based largely on luck and your expectations!

Advice: If you feel unhealthy, reflect on your expectations and the cause of your long-term suffering. Experiment with diet and exercise, but take it slow. More importantly, realize that life is either short or really short – knowing your life will not last forever, is this how you want to spend it? Perhaps you could obsess about meeting the nutritional needs of Haitians instead. I hear they often eat cookies made of dirt.

25 04 2011
E

I cannot be a vegan. I cannot incorporate vegetable protein. On a mostly vegetable product diet I would likely die.

I cannot eat grains, whole or otherwise. Not only do they make me fat, but they aggravate my gluten intolerance. I could, in theory, eat rice, but rice is disgusting and tasteless and provides almost no nutrients in return for the starch, which makes me fat.

Why would I eat sugar? It’s not a food, nor is it necessary for life. Even honey makes me sick, and that’s the most natural sugar around. Sure, it tastes nice, but it still makes me sick.

I can eat green leafy vegetables, nuts, and berries, so I do. I can eat eggs in great amounts. I can eat dairy as long as it isn’t straight-up milk; I can especially eat fermented or bacterially processed dairy like yogurt and cheese. I can eat meat. On all of these foods I feel great, lose weight, and get healthier, both by my own subjective measures and the objective measures of my doctor, who is well aware of what I eat and gives it his blessing.

I was raised on a farm, amidst both life and death, and I have raised animals in a way that was humane and very gratifying, even if I ate those same animals in the end. I have hunted and killed my own meat, handled everything from the killing to the butchering to the cooking and preparation, and of course the eating. None of these things have ever bothered me. I understand them as things I need to do to survive, as a person who cannot live on vegetables and fruit alone. I do what I can to make sure the meat I eat comes from the wild or from farmers who treat their animals well, or if I can’t access those meat sources, from vendors I trust.

14 01 2011
daiaravi

Hello Quacky,
(great name…very appropo)

I’d like to suggest that you have quite missed the point of Denises work and the discussion here – and your broad generalizations, invoking of (your version of) “common sense” and your “whole truth” about meats and the suffering of animals seems to be quite void of any good hard data or knowledge of humanely-raised animals, our evolutionary pre-dispositions and the multitude of nutrition-health issues drowning us in modern society. It also is preaching- albeit politely- the vegan/PETA line of reasoning about both the adequacy of a veg/vegan diet (but with supplemented for all the things you’ll miss from animal products) as well as the heartstrings-pulling “suffering” of the beasts.

Perhaps you can tell the readers here exactly how we can determine if we have these “OK genes”, how we will not do serious bodily harm by using your “common sense” approach, and how we can stack the tables to make sure we accurate determine just how much “luck” we have? Please document your responses with some kind of data beyond your personal feelings or opinion.

Also – the people attenuating to this blog happen to be passionate about discussing the substantive issues raised here that you seem to have missed the significance of. We have a “life” albeit one that you many not consider valid.

Finally, the “cookies” the Haitians eat are a very practical solution for an extremely impoverished people. They are often composed of butter or lard, salt and dirt to give them some substance. If you had any familiarity with Weston Price’s work, you would understand the immense value of butter or lard nutritionally. Additionally, the consumption of dirt may also aid in their ever-so-important immunity as studies are increasing showing that we in the “clean” western world increasingly suffer from allergies, eczema and more due to lack of exposure to common pathogens not training our immune system. Our farm kids, regularly exposed to “dirtier” surroundings, are statistically much less prone to these maladies than “clean” urban children.

Ravi
Discoveries for a Full Life

http://daiasolgaia.wordpress.com

14 01 2011
Quacky O'Quacker

Gentle Ravi – I apologize for my generalizations, based solely on the comments above. Perhaps many readers are not entirely inwardly focused – and I know they **all** have the potential to do great things in the world, be they large or small.

My point is that it’s healthier in the long run to focus 67.5% on alleviating other’s suffering. I don’t want to spend all my time worrying about my optimal health and find myself empty on my deathbed, or during the unknown number of days between now and then.

If I am a hardcore food-optimizer, my task is impossible: Study all that’s known generally, and apply it to myself specifically. Yet I can not know my ever-changing body or the ever-changing body of research except in vague ways. And to what end? But when I give a kid that’s expecting dirt cookies a square meal (food-pyramid-shaped meal?) and a chance to go to school, I see and feel the results immediately. Likewise when I eat beans instead of beef. I’m sorry, but I don’t have any data to back up this view. Okay, going outside to play now – continued good luck to you and all.

15 01 2011
Marco

@Quacky

I think you may be missing the target. Suppose everyone adopted your view. There wouldn’t be anything wrong with that, but there would be no rational basis for either your view or any other.

The hardcore folks that do all the study and debate to flesh out the variety of truths are what provide the rest of humanity with just enough insight to ask themselves some questions and make some decisions. Had you never been exposed to veganism, would you know to become a vegan? It’s a combination of behavioural and social constructs that give us the paradigms on life that we have to choose from. These paradigms are built by specialists and people who devote their life to it.

The focal point of Denise’s blog has nothing to do with following a particular agenda but instead focuses on pointing failures in the scientific process. A person’s rationale for exhibiting some behaviour does NOT have to be based on science! But if they TRY to base it on science and the science isn’t good, then they are only asking to be scrutinised. It’s not healthy to proselytise faith through misinformation.

I more or less agree with you though, except I eat everything. i’d rather die choking on wagyu than live a lifetime on a restrictive diet.

15 01 2011
Monte Diaz

The problem is decades upon decades of greed driven misinformation. Ambitions like ours must arise in direct response to that. And it is an uphill battle that will take the life long dedication of millions to correct. If you want to ‘go there’ this blog is the very essence of the meaning of life; to learn and to teach. We do both of those things inherently through observation and experience. Its impossible to die empty unless you refuse to acknowledge that these two things are inescapable laws of nature.

The proof is in front of you! Would Denise be here doing what she is doing, at this high of a level, if she was still suffering all of the ill health that food intolerances gave her? A better question is COULD she? No.

Given the above statements, I must ask, Quacky, could you not do both? Help others by helping yourself? Is this pursuit of health really ever completely selfish? Isolation isn’t a word in Nature’s dictionary. Pursuing health helps everyone. Just imagine if everyone in the industrialized nations was just a fraction more healthy. How much collective energy would that free? What is the burden of sickness on us all? Trillions of health debt, low energy, disease and general malaise effect all of us. Our creative output, productivity, ambitions, etc etc. You know, all the necessary things to really solve problems (dirt cookies).

Once we steer clear of the iceberg that will doom us all, we can focus an exponentially larger amount of energy toward making the cuisine of Haiti a lot more palatable.

16 01 2011
Dr. William Davis

Hi, Denise–

Thanks again for another impressively clear-thinking piece. You looked at the question in some ways I hadn’t considered.

20 01 2011
Tom

This should give your blood pressure a good boost. Wow.

“In Type 2 diabetes the reason why the insulin can no longer get to the cells is because they are soaked in fat due to a high-fat, animal-based diet. The cells cannot function optimally due to the gunk that has been built around the cells.”

http://dynamiteconditioning.tumblr.com/post/2784689214/just-thought-i-should-share-this-article-with

27 01 2011
Mystic

I am just waiting for the day that you write your first book. I’m sure you have a Michael Pollen or Gary Taubes in you somewhere. Thanks again for making us think.

27 01 2011
Darya

Just FYI I read a study about a year ago that CRP is not nearly as predictive in heart disease as it was made out to be. That would explain the high variability and confusing data.

Thx for the analysis!

28 01 2011
Katry

Thanks for the article! I am always looking for new reasons to dispute my vegatarian friends’ claims that it’s so great for us. I’ve been eating semi Paleo (no wheat & limited starches, high animal fat diet, still working on completely elimating sugar) for about 5 months now and feel much better than when I was eating whole grains, quinoa and a platefull of greens and freshly juiced fruits and veggies a year ago.

1 02 2011
David Wood

This is a REALLY good article (written, researched, etc)

I ate only RAW, living foods for 2 years, after which went through a phase where I was broke for a short time (couldn’t afford it for a while)

In any case – I felt AMAZING on raw, living foods – except that something felt like it was ‘missing’. Later, I surmised that I am probably better off with a tiny amount of animal food every couple to few days, and it solved the ‘what’s missing’ question by not being so religious about something I was really just doing to feel good.

That being said – a RAW, living diet is not the same thing as what a lot of vegetarians do all over the world – substitute mcdonald’s hamburgers for mcdonald’s ice cream cones.

lol.

I think that overall, people who are being completely vegan based on ‘biology’ aren’t being very sensical after my experience – I found that I don’t need meat, per se – but I have to have some kind of animal food or I need four million bananas to survive.

-dave

17 02 2011
Smoking and Meat–What a Vegan Said and What I Say | former vegetarian

[…] that have greater nutritional knowledge than I do. One version of the same thing can be found here (for the record, whether I agree with her or not, Denise Minger is a nutritional journalist in the […]

17 02 2011
Defining Your Box: Omnivore vs Vegetarian! » Richard's Health Musings

[…] week I was reading a post entitled, “Vegetarians and Heart Disease: Will Ditching Meat Really Save Your Arteries?” by Denise Minger about how difficult it is to compare meat eaters and vegetarians.  The heart […]

17 02 2011
GS

Thought I’d write in about your criticism of McDougall. Anyone following his program or reading his website knows you SHOULD take a B12 just in case. He doesn’t think it’s likely you’ll have a deficiency, but he absolutely advises people on his program to take a B12 supplement. Your research on this matter is sloppy.

This is from a 2007 newsletter… “If you follow the McDougall Diet for more than 3 years, or if you are pregnant or nursing, then take a minimum of 5 micrograms of supplemental vitamin B12 each day.”

http://www.drmcdougall.com/misc/2007nl/nov/b12.htm

18 02 2011
Suzanne

Hi GS, it looks as if McDougall’s research is a little sloppy. Many people deplete their B12 stores in less than 6 months, and the younger they are before they go vegan the faster the stores are depleted – they’ve had less time to accumulate a positive balance. Some of us simply don’t produce intrinsic factor, or inadequate intrinsic factor; some of us have poor B12 absorption from, say, gluten-sensitivity and caeliac disease. Some of us have biogenetic conditions that require inordinate amounts of B12; yes, people like me. I’m a chronic migraineur, and we have weird mitochondrial metabolism and neurological aberrations. Some migraineurs need as much as a full milligram of B12 per day, which is impossible to meet on even the best omnivorous diet. Diabetics taking metformin are at very high risk of B12 deficiency. When stomach acid levels drop too low, as often happens in people over 50, and those with low protein intake, it’s impossible to absorb sufficient B12. http://www.wellnessletter.com/html/ds/dsVitaminB12.php

Waiting 3 years before taking a supplement could be disastrous; the neurological damage done by B12 deficiencies can be irreversible. Unless McDougall performs a full work up on each and every person who wants to follow his advice – before said person starts! – he’s being irresponsible in his 3 year window.

For a good overview of the B12 situation: http://www.veganhealth.org/articles/everyvegan

18 02 2011
Razwell

The cholesterol hypothesis of coronary artery disease is not valid. Veins , even the tiniest, NEVER become atherosclerotic. They have just as much cholesterol going through them as arteries do. We also know athersclerosis only happens at damage sites, not uniformly.

We need to start looking beyond diet . Toxins, adenoviruses of a bacterial or viral nature, lack of sleep ( arterial repair time) , poor dental health ( bateria) etc.

Coronary artery disease is multi – factorial and has a very complex etiology. The cholesterol hypothesis has already been replaced among biologists , but the public does not know it yet.

18 02 2011
Razwell

Plants are nto a panacea. There are plant foods whcih speed atherosclerosis. Processed temperate zone polyunsaturated vegetable oils and refined wheat products.

And if you fry the crap out of vegetables to the point of charring that’s a carcinogen.

No scientists would ever point to a hunk of meat and say “that’s responsible for atherosclerosis.

The ancient Egyptians had CAD. They ate lots of grain, as well as some meat.

CAD is complex.

21 02 2011
Amber

I agree with you that if a vegetarian eats shitty otherwise, of course they will be unhealthy. And I agree that if I meat eater consumes less chili cheese dogs and eats more fruits and vegetables, they’ll still be pretty healthy. But I don’t understand why the big fuss. Let’s just be healthy and eat right and maybe stop eating meat because factory farming is awful to animals and the environment.

25 01 2012
GC

Yes, factory farming meat is harmful.

So is factory farming vegetables.

Ever wonder how much natural habitat for animals has been destroyed and/or repurposed to grow corn, wheat, and soy?

The fuss is over what “eating right” means in the first place.

4 03 2011
The religion of vegetarianism. What happens when you lose your faith?

[…] of course. Eat whole foods. Except dairy fat is bad for you. No, it’s not. Organic. Grass-fed. Eat meat. Red meat is acidifying. Acid will kill you. Cholesterol is bad. It will kill you. No…wait—it […]

7 04 2011
Taking charge of your health | The Men's Domain

[…] the tv news will still happily report that you have made a breakthrough discovery). Check out this page and see what happens in this case when the factors are taken into consideration – the outcome […]

11 04 2011
WP @ The Conscious Life

Some of my closed ones are vegetarians and they regularly patronize Chinese vegetarian food stalls that use industrial seed oil to stir fry or deep fry their foods. These foods are also heavily seasoned with sauces high in sugar, sodium and MSG to make them taste better. The older generation of Chinese are not used to eating raw, uncooked vegetables and buying organic foods is unheard of. So, it’s quite painful to watch them eating themselves to poor health, when they thought they’re actually doing something healthful.

25 04 2011
HeatherT

Some of the variant factors in heart disease make more sense if you look at it from an iron overload point of view. There is a pretty clear-cut connection between total iron load and heart disease … you can make your heart healthier just by donating blood. Beef iron tends to absorb more than fish iron, so there may indeed be a link between “red meat” and heart disease. But in the US, iron is added to most “carb” foods, so you might actually get more iron from carb foods. Whole grains tend to block iron though, so adding whole grains to your diet could make your heart healthier.

Anyway, over the past year or so I lowered the iron content of my diet, and also started giving blood again. My cholesterol counts dropped, and all the other markers, including my blood glucose. I’ve been wheat-free for over 10 years, so that isn’t a factor. Mostly I started eating iron-blocking foods whenever I ate something with lots of iron (like steak, or white potatoes), and avoiding Vit-C containing foods with meat. I’m eating about the same foods as I did before, although I am eating more fish and less beef. Plenty of fat, and sugary desserts when I feel like it.

Interestingly, the Inuit, who do get a lot of meat from whales, lack the “iron overload” genes totally. If heart disease comes from iron, then this would be protective:

http://pescetarianlife.com/faq.php#14

30 04 2011
Razwell

Non – NO ONE- has a complete understanding of the mechanisms behind the progression of atherosclerosis. To do so would require a complete understanding of human cellular metabolism. Science does not currently understand cellular metabolsim that well- only bits and fragments.

Genuine science ALWAYS admits to uncertainty and vast unknowns. Science is a work in progress. There are far too many Internet gurus out there claiming to understand coronary artery disease.

I suspect that if we examined Paleolithic human remains we would find some atherosclerosis too, just like in the Egyptians and Eskimos.

Atherosclerosis *MIGHT) a be a bit less related to diet than we previously thought.

Take care,

Raz

30 04 2011
Razwell

Heather

Despite what Colpo says the Iron Hypothesis has VERY little evidence supporting it

http://razwell.blogspot.com/2011/02/debunking-internet-crackpot-anthony.html

6 05 2011
Anna

I can only say how strange I find some of the comments by some of the people who act like they know everything when in fact they are expressing their personal opinion. The Taubes dilemma, for example: it’s pretty obvious that unless you have read at least one of his books you’re not gonna be able to tell what he’s talking about, especially that – as someone noticed – a lot is often taken out of the context (which I see in this case as well, and I can tell because, incidentally, I HAVE read his ‘Good calories, bad calories’). I don’t know what a person gets out of sending a post in which they are blabbering about books they HAVEN’T READ. If you think you know everything best and are an authority on the huge subject on nutrition then there are places out there for people like you with white rooms with padded walls. I appreciate what Denise says a lot, and I like her methodology as well but it’s plain wrong to put her on the pedestal and defend her views by means of ignorant comments as if your life depended on it, as if she’s the one who’s got everything right. The point of what’s going on here is to compare the available data, not worship one author or another. How come the most ignorant of those who comment here do not mention long-term effects of particular diets? The data available is often conflicting with one another, often for reasons that we all know, bias being one of them. But how come you who criticize Taubes’s book that you haven’t read won’t even look at the studies that he and other authors analyze? It’s not about Taubes and his ideas, go to the sources, read the damned studies! It would be a good idea to start with Framingham. Oh, and by the way, a calorie is not a calorie, as it takes less carbs than fat to make us fat. And the whole idea of having to count calories when you’re on a fat-based diet comes from the fact (as someone correctly noted) that fat makes you satisfied more quickly and for a longer time. When on carbs, on the other hand, you get hungry again very soon. And these are facts from personal experience, not from a book, because I just started eating less carbs and more fat (mostly in dairy) and the big change is: I used to eat 6 times a day and I was always hungry and now I eat 2-3 times a day, don’t feel hungry at all, and most of the time when I have a creamy coffee an egg suffices for a meal and that lasts me a few good hours before I’m hungry again. Surprise surprise (and I weigh 58 kg and I’m 1.73m tall, in case you’re thinking I must be fat). So please don’t talk about calorie restrictions in the low carb diets because that is irrelevant to the whole argument on the benefits of meat or fat (or lack thereof). The point is that if you eat foods that fill you up more and for a longer time you in general consume fewer calories than you normally would. And those who still need to gorge on food when on the high fat diet and then reduce calorie intake most probably (as it sounds from what has been said above about the Atkins diet) eat too many carbs with their fat and thus put on weight anyway and feel hungry enough to keep on shoving food down their throats – because that’s how our bodies work. I used to eat mostly carbs and I HAD to eat every 2-3 hours, otherwise I’d faint from hunger. Now I have a latte with whole milk and cream and an egg and I last 8 hours on that. Crazy? Magical? Of course, I’m not arguing that you can skip carbs and be healthy, I’m just saying that given the facts – that some of you are blind to – you CAN eat without having to count your calories. What kind of argument is it anyway, the Atkins diet is bad because you have to count calories? Helloooo? That’s a great way to refute his theories (I’m sure there’s plenty of material in this diet to criticize in a more scientific way) It’s like saying someone doesn’t know what they’re talking about because their hair is dark. Oh, before I forget: to those of you who think that veggies are good and meat is bad for your heart try to read something reliable first on atherosclerosis, cholesterol, stress and about how cholesterol has nothing to do with heart disease and heart disease has little to do (if anything) with atherosclerosis. And then about what meat and fat have to do with atherosclerosis (not so much, I assure you). And this does not come from Taubes’s book.
What got me interested in this blog was Denise’s analysis of the China Study. Anyone can write a book on nutrition and talk about what the studies revealed but once you read the actual data on any given subject for yourself (and see, like Denise did) that some conclusions aren’t as clear-cut as we may think. Too many variables at a time make it difficult to conclude what it is that causes disease and what eliminates it. And that’s the way to go. But some of you seem very much stuck on the ‘healthy’ veggies and a carb-based diet so religiously that you’re totally immune to any information that make shake your views. Please, read widely, go back to your basic biology and chemistry, and use this to analyze the data given. It’s silly to ostracize an author (Taubes or anybody else) without spending time to try to understand the other side of the argument. Why won’t you read about the other side of the argument and prefer to voice opinions based on speculation? Are you afraid to change your mind? I, for example, think that the Hippokrates diet is bollocks (as is the whole Hippokrates Institute and other similar spas meant at sucking you dry out of money) but I’m still reading more and if anyone can point me to information that can change my mind I’m always open to that. I wondered about the China study, I found this blog, read all the relevant info and I was convinced that Campbell didn’t tell us the whole truth. But I believed Denise not because she simply wrote something and said it was true, I believed her because she provided information that called for interpretation – information that was crucial to the understanding what may have happened during the course of that study.
And this is what I advise that all of us do: use the scientific approach, unbiased, do our research and when you haven’t done the research, spare us your limited insights. After all, Copernicus was also wrong – until he wasn’t.

6 05 2011
M.

You blathered on for a while, but I will take one of your points as an example:

“The point is that if you eat foods that fill you up more and for a longer time you in general consume fewer calories than you normally would.”

That is a pretty valid point and worth arguing. Taubes, though, says that it is total bullshit.

Taubes specifically said in the Jimmy Moore interview that low carb weight loss has nothing to do with satiety signals. He believes consumption of calories is not causal to weight gain. In his theory, carbs/insulin cause fat accumulation, and fat accumulation then causes you to eat more calories. He said for this reason that some people need to beware the carbs in green leafy vegetables. I don’t really need to read his book to parse his words from the interview do I? Or does he really suck at doing interviews?

An attack on Taubes is not an attack on low carb diets. He missed the boat on omega-6s, and very few people really believes his carb/insulin theory (you are obviously in disagreement, and apparently you “looked at the studies”.) That is not to say a low carb or lower carb diet does not have its benefits though.

The main point though was that Taubes is rather outdated for where Paleo/Ancestral diets are going, and it appears that guruism is the main reason that Paleo people are praising “Why We Get Fat”.

(A lot of his “key points” are not in line with other low carbers either, but he is still treated like some kind of messiah.)

20 05 2011
Z.

> Since so many vegetarian-versus-omnivore studies are comparing a complete lifestyle overhaul (health-savvy vegetarianism) with health indifference (standard “eat-whatever’s-there” omnivorism)

This is a constant problem. Inexplicit specification? When people leave things up to the imagination, we can’t agree on facts, and really, we can’t begin to find them.

We have to know what we’re comparing. Too many studies compare something specific to something nebulous. Low fat diets are bad? Oh yeah, compared to what? Compared to exactly what 3 meals?

I’d like to see some reference diets discussed and compared. I’d like to see some hard evidence that these 3 meals a day produce negative human outcomes compared to those 3 meals a day. Lets get a couple million bucks, a reference diet from several communities, and plug it into a hundred people for a decade. Lets get a move in.

3 06 2011
Julian

I live in Taiwan and often see what WP mentioned above (it’s a mostly Chinese food culture here). People generally avoid raw vegetables, “feels like being a rabbit”, and everything that looks healthy. Vegetarians especially just drown cooked vegetables and plain tofu in lots of fat and spices to make up for the lack of meat, garlic, onions and other stuff that Buddhism eschews.
On the other hand, the meat-eaters I know here tend to eat much more healthy fish and innards than my friends in Europe…but also lots of greasy stuff.
tl;dr I wouldn’t trust the Taiwanese study to be much more accurate than Western ones.

9 07 2011
13 08 2011
Boot

Ahem. Vegetarians ARE omnivores. They consume eggs and dairy. Which is why it’s so rare they have a low serum B12 due to intake issues.

There are other problems with this blog that I’ll tend to later.

22 08 2011
Will Ditching Meat Save You From Disease? « Be Healthy Now!

[…] Is it time for the PCRM to eat their words? I think so. Really, there isn’t a single study that I know of that has compared health-conscious meat eaters with health-conscious vegetarians and has found that the meat eaters were just dropping like flies from disease. I think the Taiwanese study is especially interesting because all the individuals involved ate a similar cultural diet. Over at Minger’s site Raw Food SOS, she has a lengthy article discussing heart disease and the evidence that shows that ditching meat won’t save your arteries. […]

22 08 2011
ethelouise

I have had Lp(a) and HDL -C and I cannot lose weight. I quit smoking in 1999
and rapidly gained fifty pounds and despite diet and exercise I could not lose weight. Until I found out quite by accident that my blood sugar was ‘elevated’ on days when I was ‘fasting’ and exercising. When I used otc methods to lower blood sugar I dropped 22 pounds in 40 days. Since then I have lost an additional 10. I have an ‘enlarged’ MCV but the doctors keep telling me that’s because I ‘drink a lot of alcohol.’ I do not drink but have heard that it could also mean I am deficient in B12 which makes more sense to me, but this is the first time I have read that B12 deficiency causes the elevation of Lp(a) and HDL-C and no, none of the idiot doctors I have to go to due to lame insurance will give me a B12 shot they ‘insist’ I can get it by eating foods high in B12 but not if my stomach is missing the enzyme. Which leads me to conclude that ALL DOCTORS ARE STUPID. They usually end up terminating me as a patient because I am a smart mouthed trouble maker…

30 09 2011
Chris Heppner

Ethelouise, there are lots of “under the tongue” B12 supplements that bypass the stomach route! Sounds as if you should drop in on the nearest good supplement store! Chris

2 10 2011
Padraig

“Which leads me to conclude that ALL DOCTORS ARE STUPID.”

The whole idea of going to a GP has been obsolete since mass literacy came about. A GP can’t do anything that you couldn’t get a much better picture of by searching online in 2 minutes. It’s farcical.

A GP can order tests, you can do that yourself. There is no legitimate reason why the middle man the GP or any doctor to do it for you.

The Writing is on the Wall. The assembly line workers were told to pack it up when automated machines came along. The family farm, REAL farmers who actually took care of their animals and crops unlike the factory farms nowadays, were done out of all their money and livelihoods. Now it’s time for the doctors to feel the pinch.

The vast majority of people that go to a GP are old people and they keep coming back with the same old problems week in, week out. The GP tells them to come back for more tests. And the old people bring the $50+ every time. But the young people growing up now are getting a lot more savvy, and they won’t be so eager and willing to fork over the cash as the older generation.

Someone should set up a campaign about an end to GPs world-wide. They prey on the elderly and the disadvantaged/vulnerable. I know what I’m talking about, I’ve had a lot of first-hand experience with this myself.

23 10 2011
Yale Hearts

http://livinlavidalowcarb.com/blog/nih-funded-yale-heart-study-looking-for-heart-attack-survivors/12026 May I interrupt the thread to ask that any members who have had heart attacks please take the anonymous 30-60 minutes to complete the NIH-sponsored Yale Heart Study survey. We’re looking at what factors influence people delaying in going to the hospital immediately when they suspect they’ve had a heart attack?

Our facebook page http://www.facebook.com/YaleHeartStudy is devoted to all forms of prevention, but our primary mission today is having 2000 heart attack survivors take the online survey by April and we need your help to help others. Also, we want to reach a national sample–not just the East Coast in and around Yale. Thank you so much for your consideration!

25 01 2012
GC

I’ll bite on that.

2 11 2011
>Food and Feet

[…] makes in one’s diet: eating more whole foods, less sugar, cutting soda, etc. Here’s the whole post. And here is her own summary: Since so many vegetarian-versus-omnivore studies are comparing a […]

8 11 2011
17 11 2011
Humans Are Meant To Be Plant Eaters

[…] a very unbiased source of information, from someone who actually shows evidence, then check out Vegetarians and Heart Disease: Will Ditching Meat Really Save Your Arteries? Raw Food SOS: Troublesh… __________________ PETA. something you wrap around meat. I'm not a skeptic. I just know for […]

19 12 2011
beforewisdom

Denis Minger, debunked?

http://tinyurl.com/3bkmf7y

19 12 2011
Padraig

beforewisdom, this was a long time ago that he wrote this. People are free to look back over the history of events if they choose, you put it there like it’s something that’s just happened which can be very annoying.

9 01 2012
Robert Edwards

In the cited newsletter McDougall says:

If you follow the McDougall Diet for more than 3 years, or if you are pregnant or nursing, then take a minimum of 5 micrograms of supplemental vitamin B12 each day.

http://www.drmcdougall.com/misc/2007nl/nov/b12.htm

1 04 2012
Meg

I did not see one mention of dairy products in your article. Couldn’t this be a reason for discrepancies among omnivores, vegans and vegetarians. Perhaps dairy, not meat, is the culprit behind heart disease.

4 07 2012
Flexitarianism: Meal Plans and Diet | CPR.COM

[…] is associated with weight gain, heart disease (including increasing your risk of heart attack), and cancer.  A long-running study by Harvard […]

30 07 2012
gabrielle maston

I love the part of this post describing self proclaimed vego’s in the USA, who still eat meat. I find a similar scenario with Paelo diet followers. Paelo during the week and binge eat on grains, chocolate and alcohol on the weekends. Blood tests don’t lie like you mentioned.
I am not a raw foodist, I am a dietitian and not a huge meat eater. I really respect your writing telling it how it is though science, and not brain washing readers. I always say diet is individual which ever way you like to take it, there are always multiple ways to eat healthy without putting black and white labels on things.
Your doing a great job, Thanks for the read :)

30 07 2012
heathertwist

Try reading “What I Eat”. It’s a pictoral essay of what people eat, all over the world … and what they look like. Oddly enough, most of the world doesn’t obsess over “protein” and “fat” and “carbs” and yet also oddly enough, most of them are healthier than the US. And what was weird to me … some of those “undeveloped” countries eat more calories than some of us in the US.

I’m not saying I know what is going on. It might be a genetic trigger, or iron accumulation. But when you look at diets around the world, it’s pretty clear that most of the current theories don’t wash. The diet that “works” the best, that I’ve found, is the Asian pattern, with rice/eggs/fish/poultry/vegies plus tea. It’s neither low-carb nor low-fat nor vegetarian, but healthwise, it seems to work.

30 07 2012
gabrielle maston

Thanks for the suggestion I will check it out now. I totally agree I try not to get my clients hooked up on the idea of proteins and carbs rather than looking at food as a whole, its nutritional density and how it fits into their cultural eating patterns. I think there is much more to learn about cultural eating and genetics. It seems the more dishes/ foods become global and get adapted into different cultures it causes more harm than good.
Anyway something to think about :)

2 08 2012
Thrand Godfrey

Thanks for letting me know I am hart attack proof. My diet consist of High Fat Low carb like 5 carbs or less a day.I eat mostly Fat ,Saturated to be exact my Cholesterol is 123 at any given test and blood pressure is perfect.I do get at least 178 grams of protein a day because I left weights and in joy gaining mass.To many Carbs or worse excessive fructose will cause metabolic syndrome and kill you I have tried all diets and researched them for years Vegan is an early death sentence.There is no non-observational studies that prove saturated fat nor Cholesterol in diet do any thing that the health community is pushing.If you do not believe me look for a clinical study that proves this?You can burn fats interchangeable with carbs HFLC Ja!!!

3 08 2012
cafemoi

Enjoyed the post. I like anything based on facts.

I’m very happy with my LCHF experiences.

http://cafemoi.wordpress.com/2012/07/26/wont-that-high-fat-diet-raise-your-cholesterol/

I participate in many diabetes forums. One thing we do not see is anybody reversing their condition by following veggie protocols. We see numerous people losing significant weight, reducing meds, improving metabolic measures, and feeling a hell of a lot better by eating LCHF. I don’t know for sure, but generally the successful vegan/fruitarian is a skinny, stick-person to begin with.

One confounding element may be gut flora. It seems that feeding high fat to a high carb eater produces inflammation, and any LCHFer knows that eating high carbs produces immediate, negative results — aka feeling like puking. It is possible that both extremes are healthier than the balanced SAD/omnivourous diet just based on gut flor responses.

6 08 2012
cwcs

Try using Extra Virgin Olive Oil- it helps raise the HDL’s and prevent heart disease. Oh whoops, forgot this is a ridiculous diet that restricts the use of HEART HEALTHY OILS. I’m not judging you- do whatever you want. Just don’t spread the word- you are harming people with this madness.

29 08 2012
Peabody, here!

The conclusion of this post is clear as mud. I gather that everybody is suppose to draw their own conclusions? Or, should I say misinterpret this post?

3 09 2012
Hutch

I have been both a meat eater and a vegetarian (for 10 years). I have to say, that I am healthy as a meat eater now as I was as a vegetarian. I am now more conscious of what I eat (that it was treated humanely). It’s not that easy, just as veganism isn’t easy. However, it’s what I choose. Why? Something Joseph Campbell said about vegetarianism affected me profoundly: “…lives feed on lives.” It’s something that my ex husband and I joked about often (he too was a vegetarian)…”when do we stop eating something that lives…that has a life? What do we do – become air-a-tarians?” We meant that honestly. There is a wheel of incarnation here. Campbell also spoke of what is lacking these days, and that is a spiritual, moral regard for the animals that we are the custodians of. Many prior and current cultures still honor the beings that are provided as food with various rituals and exchanges. Very few of us do that when we go to the grocer to buy a lump of flesh that was once alive. We are buffered. We Americans in general (in my opinion) do not honor acknowledge the sacrifice. It’s very obvious. We need to return to more of a true cycle of life that we have truly forgotten.

I’m nearly 50 and I am on no medications, and am still having a regular flow. I am trim (athletic), have good skin, lots of energy, have no perio-menopausal symptoms, have great vitals and lots of energy. Most people think I’m at least 10 years younger than I am. Now, most vegans and vegetarians I know have weight issues, bad skin or are constantly ill…I have to wonder. By the way, when I met my ex husband (he was the vegetarian who converted me for 10 years) he was a bag of bones with chronic IBS. While he got me to refrain from eating meat (I was happy to give it a whirl), I got him to open up his diet from being so strict (he wouldn’t touch any sweets.) I’m a believer of everything in moderation…he started to allow treats (not just sweets) into his life and his IBS eventually faded. And he gained some much needed weight…he looked and felt better! As for me, as a vegetarian, I did okay. Lost weight, interestingly but I was sick more – chronic sinusitis. When I began eating meat again, my body did not adversely react at all.

While I totally and absolutely advocate the proper treatment of animals – all animals – I have also come to understand our places in the maia and accept it with grace not with indignity (as I believe I did before). I bow to what I don’t know or understand. And I follow the guidance of my self and body (which knows more than we give it credit). And I follow, not try to get outside of, the cycle of life that has been here far longer than I have.

21 09 2012
Soybean

This is a really long post so this issue may have been raised. I was a little suspicious when the study used buddhist monks because I know that they are indeed allowed to have milk (and milk products) as this is not seen as killing the animal. The egg bit was surprising. The vegetarians in the study were ovo-lactovegetarians. There was no discussion of eating diary and eggs as possibly confounding this study. I know that vegetarians tend to eat more dairy products than many of my meat eating friends!

29 10 2012
Matt

Sounds like meat consumers picking at straws to try and justify their current consumption patterns to themselves. The evidence that meat, red and processed particularly, has negative health implications is overwhelming.

29 10 2012
Matt

Hutch – your reasoning for returning to meat consumption is illogical. There are clearly defined parameters as to what is better or worse to consume ethically speaking. Perhaps you should see some of Peter Singer’s work (from Princeton University).

21 12 2012
daniel

Denise Minger says the lipid hypothesis is invalid because of studies done on “cheating vegetarians”.

what an idiot

29 12 2012
Rob

Taubes is fat and Atkins is dead, died overweight with clogged arteries. In fact all the meat i good carbs are bad pushers are fat and out of shape. Take a look at real peer reviewed medical studies, none say meat and fat is good. Not one. The problem with the low carbers is they don’t see a difference between a piece of broccoli and a donut. Since I dropped meat, eggs and dairy my cholesterol levels are coming down, my bodyfat is coming down, my digestion and elimination is normalized. Get with the program people bacon and eggs is not ever going to make you healthy no matter how much you want it to be true.

29 12 2012
heathertwist

I think both sides on the argument are a bit one-sided. If you look at the diet of really healthy people in a real cultural context, you end up with people like the Chinese and Vietnamese and other Asians. They LOVE food and work hard to make it tasty. It often features pork, and loads of eggs, and fish. And also loads of high-carb rice. And somehow … they are thin and healthy and live long active lives. These are diets that have been tested for generations on real live people. And yes, the Europeans that eat Asian, seem to have the same good effects, and Asians don’t do well on European food. It’s not genetic.

My own experiments involve cookbooks. I’m cooking more and more in an “Asian” style, trying to stay as true to the original recipes as I can. And you know what? It works! I end up being healthier, skinnier, and feeling younger.

If you want an eye-opener, read “What I Eat”, a pictorial essay of what people really eat in one day, around the world. The carb-eaters aren’t fatter, the meat-eaters aren’t fatter either. I’ve been trying to tease out the factors that really make a difference. One big one seems to be eggs: egg-eaters tend to be skinnier.

29 12 2012
Padraig

heathertwist, that is all nonsense. It is not a good idea to eat lots of pork and lots of high carb rice, the Chinese people who eat those foods are fat and get heart disease and all the other diseases of the western world. Your idea of eggs being skinnier is superstitious nonsense.

9 01 2013
ik

Just watch this presentation by Gary Taubes and decide for yourself.

No comment.

3 02 2013
Marlena

I have met a lot of vegetarians that got B-12 deficiency. Don’t assume there are no people with anemia caused by going vegan just because you didn’t meet any. Other than that I enjoyed reading your stuff.

4 02 2013
johnny arc

no one is heart attack proof i stopped reading there , diet is 30 % of your sik factor genetics 60% , Wikipedia Lp(a) i have that and had a heart attack at 28 skinny , and cut in excellent shape , only risk factor was genes and a low hdl…….

21 03 2013
What to tell those who claim being vegan is "heart healthy"? - Page 2 | Mark's Daily Apple Health and Fitness Forum page 2

[…] of her life discuss vegetarians/vegans and heart disease. You can find some of her analysis here. Vegetarians and Heart Disease: Will Ditching Meat Really Save Your Arteries? | Raw Food SOS On the podcast with Sean Croxton of Underground Wellness during the Paleo Summit, Denise Minger […]

13 04 2013
What if meat was good for you?

[…] blog post and all the links therein you still think eating meat will kill you, you can always enjoy Denise Minger’s mind on the matter of meat and heart […]

11 09 2014
Coosey

“I’m excluding Seventh-day Adventists from the list because their diet and lifestyle recommendations involve much more than meat avoidance.”

Seems to me that the Adventist studies are perfect for your purpose because some avoid all meat and some don’t, but otherwise have similar lifestyle. There are studies that compare the Adventist meat eaters vs. vegetarians. What do they say? I think you know what they say and that’s why you left them out of this blog post…

11 09 2014
neisy

Non-vegetarian Adventists tend to be more lax about other elements of a healthy diet and lifestyle (see http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/70/3/532s.full — much more alcohol, donuts, coffee, refined-grain bread; less fruit, nuts, tomatoes for non-vegs) so there’s too much confounding to distinguish the effects of meat consumption alone.

12 09 2014
Coosey

If you look at the table “Consumption of selected foods according to vegetarian status” and the other consumption tables, the semi-vegetarian diet is similar to the vegetarian diet, except they eat meat and slightly less fruit. So, are the differences in risk related to slightly less fruit consumption, or slightly more meat? My money is on meat. According to her own site, Denise Minger herself doesn’t eat any animal muscle other than fish. I think animal products can be eaten healthfully, but not the way the “meat and fat” folks are chowing down on bacon and steaks.

12 09 2014
Coosey

I should have said Denise says she “rarely” eats the muscle of land animals, not that she flat out doesn’t.

26 09 2014
Coosey

The Journal of Family Practice published a new study of Dr. Esselstyn’s with more participants. I suggest everyone check it out. Of 177 cardiovascular disease patients on a plant-based diet, 1 person had an event (stroke) over an average 3.7 year followup. So yes, ditching meat may in fact save your arteries. But, you’ll have to give up oils and processed foods too.

28 09 2014
suzanneubick

Coosey, I read the Esselstyn et al. paper. http://www.jfponline.com/fileadmin/qhi/jfp/pdfs/6307/JFP_06307_Article1.pdf
To say that it has some glaring faults is an understatement. Let’s start with the sources cited. As has been shown by Ms. Minger, the Norwegians (Strom & Jensen, ref. #15) may have lost their livestock, but significantly increased their intake of fish and shellfish during WWII. Their diet was not vegan, and it was not particularly low in animal protein – fish and shellfish are animals. The China Study data fail to support Campbell’s interpretations, as shown by Ms. Minger, Chris Masterjohn, and Tom Billings (the last is a lacto-vegetarian). Even the Vegan Outreach Association is cautious about the interpretations of The China Study (http://www.veganoutreach.org/newsletter/vo2001mar.pdf
Move to Table 2, in which the authors present their data.
1. Sample sizes extremely unequal. For adherent group, N = 177, for non-adherent 21. The minimum sample size that will produce a normal distribution curve is 30 individuals. This second group is definitely skewed and its results cannot be extrapolated.
2. The second group is not omnivore. It’s a group that lapses from the vegan diet/no oils/no processed foods protocol.
3. Numbers of male and female participants extremely unequal. 93% of the adherent group is male, 76% of the nonadherent group is male. It’s well-accepted now that men and women are very different creatures when it comes to diet and medications. The higher incidence of negative events in the nonadherent group could possibly be due to the much higher representation of women.
4. No control groups.
5. Participants are self-selected.
6. Results are self-reported.
7. Too many variables that are definite confounders. Consumption of refined vegetable oils is itself a high risk factor, as is consumption of processed foods. Regular nutritional counseling is a positive factor that in itself reduces risk.
8. Extremely poor data quality control. What do they mean by “non-adherent”? Non-adherent could mean
a) Occasionally eats animal products but never oils or processed foods.
b) Occasionally eats animal products and oils, but never processed foods.
c) Occasionally eats animal products, oils, and processed foods.
Now replace each occasionally with often, very often, and regularly. How much is eaten at a time? At each level, how many times per week is any one of the naughty foods eaten? Which animal food is eaten – fish, red meat, poultry, eggs, dairy products? What kind of oil – soybean, corn, grapeseed…?
Non adherent could also mean
a. Never eats animal products, but occasionally eats oils and processed foods.
b. Never eats animal products or oils, but occasionally eats processed foods.
c. Never eats animal products or processed foods, but occasionally eats oils.
As above, what is meant by occasionally, and how much is eaten?

Note that this is not an experiment (no controls, no manipulation of only variable at a time).
The article exhibits strong confirmation bias from beginning to end. The authors start off by saying they believe the plant-based diet is the best for humans, gather ragbag data from adherent and lapsing vegans in a highly skewed study method, and then, to nobody’s surprise, conclude that a diet comprising plant-based foods but devoid of oils and processed foods is the best. The authors say it themselves: this is mere reportage. They note their own study limitations (all valid!), but go on to say that they believe there is strong enough “proof of concept” to push veganism onto the populace at large. Yet, by their own showing, there is just as much reason to select oils or processed foods as animal-source-foods as the major risk factor.

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