What Netflix has taught me about being a vegan.

I’m convinced Netflix is out to get me! My “suggested for you” listed Cowspiracy, which I assumed was about a ruminant, super hero, secret agent. So, I watched it (in about 15 minute stretches, to allow by blood pressure to return to a safe level) and now I know that if you will buy this crap, you can convince yourself of anything (which explains how someone becomes a vegan). Up till now, I’ve assumed that vegans are a harmless, if somewhat misguided group. But, if Cowspiracy is an accurate indication of vegan beliefs, then they are actively working to change our culture in a way that puts our environment and, indeed, our entire planet, at risk, not unlike a vegetarian Lex Luthor to our Super Cow. For background, feel free to check out Cowspiracy, but then follow that up immediately by watching the Ted Talk “How to fight deforestation and reverse climate change by Allan Savory”.

It’s no surprise that there are so many vegans in Hollywood- they are really good at making stories believable and the line between fact and fiction must get kinda blurred. They will convincingly tell you veganism is better for you and the planet. However… they aren’t telling you the full story. Vegan diets can work (we’ve all seen the one vegan athlete) and there is an ethical choice that they are free to make (even though I, personally don’t agree). But many vegan “scientists” are down-right misleading and stoop to fear mongering, which should be reserved for politicians and supply management critics. To set the record straight, here are some of the most common lies vegans tell themselves:

Lie #1. Health benefits of vegan diets come from avoiding meat, dairy and eggs – There are studies showing health benefits of vegan diets. Advocates will attribute these health benefits to the avoidance of animal foods, which, as well as being tragic, just isn’t quite accurate. There are many other factors to consider. A properly planned vegan diet consists primarily of whole foods- it doesn’t just eliminate animal foods… it also eliminates refined sugar and processed flour, vegetable oils and trans fats. On top of all of these things, most people in these trials swore off  processed foods which are low in nutrients and high in artificial chemicals. The truth is that health benefits of vegan diets are a result of eliminating Twinkies, toaster waffles and Cheetos and has nothing to do with avoiding meat.

Lie #2. Saturated fat and cholesterol are bad for you – The myth that animal and dairy fats cause heart disease still runs rampant among vegans, even though numerous recent studies have shown this to be false and experts all over the world are changing their minds (Thank God!) Saturated fat and cholesterol both raise  “good” cholesterol, which actually prevent  heart disease. Studies with eggs found no relationship between consumption and heart disease. The truth is that saturated fat and cholesterol absolutely do not increase your risk of heart disease.

Lie #3. Meat Causes Heart Disease, Diabetes and Cancer – Most chronic, western diseases got out of control only recently. Heart disease, 1930,  type 2 diabetes, in the late 20th century and cancer in the last 50 years. So, if meat is the cause of these health problems, why didn’t they show up earlier in history?  We’ve been eating meat since we figured out how to char it on fire – barbeque sauce came later. Again, numerous studies have shown no link between any of these diseases and meat. Even a mild link to increased cancer rates is more likely a result of carcinogens as a result of burning meat, which I think is proof steak is meant to be eaten rare. Now, these studies did find a significantly increased risk for people who consumed processed meat, so if anything should be avoided it is processed, chemical filled meat. Remember ham and cheese loaf? The truth is that eating unprocessed meat is not associated with heart disease, diabetes or cancer.

Lie #4. Animal Protein is bad for you – This vegan claim is based on studies in rats, using isolated proteins and refined diets, which, because of the highly unnatural diets aren’t really applicable to humans, not even politicians or economists. In fact, almost every human trial on protein, both animal and plant protein, shows it to be beneficial. Studies show that high protein diets increase fat burning, reduce appetite and lead to weight loss, while helping gain muscle, lower blood pressure and reduce various symptoms of diabetes. Evidence is mounting that most people should actually be eating more animal protein, not less. The truth is that animal protein leads to health benefits including weight loss, improved bone health, lower blood pressure and reduced symptoms of diabetes.

Lie #5.Humans Are Not “Designed” to Eat Animals – Some vegans claim that humans are naturally herbivores and that our bodies are not adapted to eating animals, which is odd, considering we have been eating meat for millions of years. Our bodies are well adapted to meat consumption and, in fact, our digestive systems don’t resemble those of herbivores at all – one stomach, not four.. duh. We have short colons, long small intestines and plenty of hydrochloric acid in the stomach which all help break down meat. Also, the lengths of different parts of our digestive tracts are in between the lengths typical for carnivores and herbivores, which show that we are naturally “designed” to be omnivores. The truth is that humans are naturally omnivores and function best eating a combination of animals and plants, which is why our digestive system is built the way it is.

Lie #6. The China Study – Get in an argument with a vegan and they will undoubtedly bring up a book written by biochemist and nutrition researcher T. Colin Campbell commonly called the China Study, which should offend people from China. He makes a case for animal foods being the main culprit of heart disease and cancer. The sketchy study is loosely supported with data from the massive China-Cornell-Oxford Project, as well as other observations and studies on rats. He pulled this data together using confusing terminology to make it seem like the rat studies using isolated proteins like casein have anything to do with diet and cancer in humans. The list of reputable scientists who have debunked The China Study is a long one. Most recently, a study from Asia with 112,310 men and 184,411 women showed that red meat consumption was associated with reduced risk of heart disease in men and reduced risk of cancer in women, which contradicts The China Study completely. The truth is The China Study is more science fiction than fact. Insert X-Files music here.

Lie #7. Animal agriculture is a leading cause of global warming – Movies like Cowspiracy pick and choose scientific studies and models to back up vegan claims that cow farts are a bigger contributor of greenhouse gases than those produced by all sources of burning fossil fuels. They blame deforestation and global hunger of overgrazing, when, in fact, scientists have discovered in the past decades that managed grazing is one the very best ways to sequester CO2 and could help get greenhouse gas levels down below pre-industrial levels. The truth is that grazing is one of the best hopes to feed a growing population on large tracts of land that are unsuitable for any other purpose – maybe cows really are super heroes.

Lie #8. There is a lot of evidence supporting a vegan diet – Vegans will tell you in their smug, smarter than you, way that the health benefits of vegan diet are obvious and well supported, however there is only one controlled trial (real science) where a vegan diet is the sole reason compared against another dietary intervention. This study was conducted, among others, by doctors Neal Barnard and David Jenkins (both vegans) and it compared a low-fat vegan diet to a typical diabetes diet. The participants all had type 2 diabetes. The results after a 74 week study showed that the vegan group lost 9.7 lbs and the diabetes diet group lost 6.6 lbs, which is not statistically significant. Only after some statistical manipulation were there small advantages for the vegan diet for cholesterol readings and there were no difference in weight, BMI, waist circumference, HDL cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure or blood sugar. Really… these are the “miraculous” benefits of the vegan diet in the most comprehensive study on a low-fat vegan diet to date? Not quite as impressive as vegans make it out to be in their documentaries… Keep in mind that the lead researchers were both vegans and they set up the study to maximizes the benefits of that diet. There was nothing ground breaking about this study and other diet studies, like Mediterranean, paleo or low-carb, have lead to similar and often better results. The truth is that the best controlled trial on vegan diets there’s very little difference to a typical diabetes diet that includes meat. Oops.

Lie #9. You can get all the nutrients you need from a vegan diet – Vegans claim you can get everything you need without meat, but that’s easier said than done and many vegans are having problems. Some nutrient deficiencies are much more common among vegans: Vitamin B12: 83% of vegans are deficient in B12, compared to 5% of omnivores. Iron: In one study, vegetarians had only a third of the iron of omnivores. Vitamin D: Levels of Vitamin D are 74% lower in vegans. Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Vegans have 53% lower levels of EPA and almost 59% lower levels of DHA, compared to meat eaters. The truth is that meat provides lots of essential nutrients you just can’t get from plants.

So the media and celebrities can use their star power to promote a vegan lifestyle make it the hip thing to do, but no amount of pretending and fictional movies will change the fact that it’s really a bad idea…. And that’s the truth.

 

Adverse metabolic effects of dietary fructose: results from the recent epidemiological, clinical, and mechanistic studies. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23594708

                                                                                                      

Glycemic index: overview of implications in health and disease http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/76/1/266S.short

Dietary n-6 and n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids: from biochemistry to clinical implications in cardiovascular prevention. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19022225

 

Health effects of trans fatty acids.  http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/66/4/1006S.short

 

A Prospective Study of Egg Consumption and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease in Men and Women http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=189529

 

 

Meat intake and cause-specific mortality: a pooled analysis of Asian prospective cohort studies http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/early/2013/07/31/ajcn.113.062638.short

 

Randomized trial on protein vs carbohydrate in ad libitum fat reduced diet for the treatment of obesity.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10375057

 

The Recommended Dietary Allowance for Protein May Not Be Adequate for Older People to Maintain Skeletal Muscle http://biomedgerontology.oxfordjournals.org/content/56/6/M373.short

 

Evidence for Meat-Eating by Early Humans  http://www.nature.com/scitable/knowledge/library/evidence-for-meat-eating-by-early-humans-103874273

 

Food and Agriculture: The future of sustainability http://www.un.org/esa/dsd/dsd_sd21st/21_pdf/agriculture_and_food_the_future_of_sustainability_web.pdf

 

Restoring the Climate Through Capture and Storage of Soil Carbon Through Holistic Planned Grazing http://savory.global/assets/docs/evidence-papers/restoring-the-climate.pdf

 

A low-fat vegan diet and a conventional diabetes diet in the treatment of type 2 diabetes: a randomized, controlled, 74-wk clinical trial http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/89/5/1588S.full.pdf+html

 

Why You Should Think Twice About Vegetarian and Vegan Diets http://chriskresser.com/why-you-should-think-twice-about-vegetarian-and-vegan-diets/

 

 

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