Veganism is such a hot potato, we are reluctant to deal with it. However, there is so much deliberate misinformation being spread that we feel obliged.

You may gather from that remark we are not big advocates, especially with our numerous other posts suggesting that sugars and starches, whole grain or otherwise, ought to be avoided.

Let us try to separate two aspects of this topic that are frequently entangled and cause much confusion.   

One aspect is the ethical/political. Here one talks of efficient land usage, sparing animals, sustainability, religious beliefs, and considerations such as this. These are personal beliefs and we are not commenting except to say that if you are choosing to be a vegetarian, you are making a potentially significant personal health sacrifice. And if you are choosing to go on and become a vegan, you are making a dangerous one. Beyond the value issues there is little to support most of the sustainability claims; they are another in a long line of issues that commit what I call the “Malthusian Fallacy.”

However, if someone choses vegetarianism or veganism solely for nutritional reasons, they were very poorly informed. To claim it is better from a nutritional point of view is a big stretch, especially veganism. Unfortunately, this big stretch is often proffered, especially to garner support for the nutritionally unrelated aspects.

While a vegetarian may eat eggs or dairy product, veganism is a diet with animal product completely absent. It is very difficult to thrive on this diet. A variety of supplements are needed to avoid serious deficiencies and no one knows if the current list is sufficient.

Lets look at some supportable facts regarding all cause mortality and various lifestyle choices:

  • Health conscious vegetarians and health conscious non-vegetarians have about equal expected mortality rate.
  • Both groups have significantly lower mortality rate than the general population.
  • Vegans also have a lower mortality rate than the general population
  • This fact is frequently trumpeted as proof that a vegan lifestyle is better for you.
  • But here’s the rub, and it’s a big one, vegans have increased mortality compared to both health conscious vegetarian and non-vegetarian groups.

Here is some detail about the above assertions in a paper by Chang-Claude et al., which can be found here. The standard mortality ratio for the health conscious vegetarians and non-vegetarians was about 50%. This means that in a given period, only half as many died compared to the general population. (Health consciousness pays off.) For the vegans, the number was 60%. Better than the general population, but not as good as the two health conscious groups. Here are two possible headlines:

“Vegan Diet Reduces Mortality 40%.”

“Vegans have 20% Higher Mortality Rate Than Comparable Non-Vegan Groups.”

Both headlines are true. It is just a question of who gets compared to the vegans. The person writing the headline decides the spin.

dfsdafLikewise you will see claims of lower ischemia or lower colon cancer for vegans. Sorry, but if overall mortality is higher, it means people died of something else, and overall more died. That’s just how overall mortality works.

Finally, someone may throw the Book at us, the Book being the China Study, the so-called Vegan Bible. This book claims to prove once and for all that animal products are bad. We have obtained the data on which the book was based, and the data tells a completely opposite story. If you would like to see a post on that, complete with numbers and graphs, leave a comment below.

What is the reason for the higher mortality rate among vegans?. It is, in part, already known. There are certain things that we need that occur only in animal product. Particularly, most vegans know and supplement with:

  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin D
  • Omega-3 oils
  • Calcium

If vegans do not take these, they get in trouble. But there is a huge problem here. How do we know that the above four items are sufficient. Or 5, or 6? How do we know that a vegan doesn’t need to take any of the 5,000 other things found only in animal product?

Well the unfortunate answer is that we don’t, and we won’t, until enough vegans turn up with problems to cause some research to be launched.

In fact, the above supplement list wasn’t known at first either. If only became apparent when vegans started getting:

  • Osteoporosis at accelerated rates and serious dental problems, (from calcium deficiency).
  • Dementia issues and increased cancer (vitamin D deficiency).
  • Gastritis and anemia (vitamin B12 deficiency).
  • Depression and anxiety (omega 3 deficiency).

Animal products are attacked form other angles as well. Very often, the unpleasant symptoms noticed when starting a vegan lifestyle are said to be due to the body harboring ‘toxins’ from meat, and that a ‘cleansing’ period is needed. What a bit of Orwellian disinformation! The symptoms are directly due to a deficiency of the necessary nutrients found in meat. There are no toxins involved. It’s nutritional deficiency that is causing the problems.

Is meat toxic? Of course not. It can be though. So can vegetables. Vegetable or meat products raised in unclean environments, with copious use of antibiotics, preservatives, additives, or pesticides are indeed toxic. Vegans and omnivores alike need to choose their food from healthy sources.dsfsdaf

Food chosen from healthy sources is not toxic. We are designed to eat a broad variety, and will have deficiencies and problems if that breadth is insufficient. Vegetarians are right at the edge. To be healthy, substantial attention must be paid to the risks from what is essential a high carb, low protein diet. Nutritionally, vegans are beyond the edge and are taking a risk.

Vegans would be well advised to think it through. If there are concerns about the humane treatment of animals, then search for eggs and dairy products produced in humane environments. Don’t unnecessarily do harm.

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