Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Why I'm not a vegetarian diet's biggest fan

How much is that tattoo-removal laser?
 I sell healthy food and half of it is raw and vegan. That's because some of those foods are healthy, but there's a whole other side to healthy nutrition - the kind that makes a person thrive - and thrive for a lifetime. I've been asked to explain why I'm not a "veggie." So here are the top reasons why I've made my choice and why I'd like you to consider staying (or becoming) an omnivore.

1.  I found the difference between a "cleanse" and a life-long decision
Vegetables and other healthy-for-us plants are detoxifiers. They help our bodies cleanse and release toxins. They make us feel lighter and are part of a balanced and healthy diet. Has anyone out there ever done a cleanse? My longest cleanse was for four weeks. I lost weight, felt good in some ways, but was counting the days until it was over. The way I was eating on the cleanse wasn't sustainable. I had to eat every hour or my blood sugar and energy level dropped because it was low in fat. I also got really tired of the same limited foods to choose from. I knew it was temporary and that in a short time I was able to go back to eating my regular diet (which was pretty healthy already). That being said, I can imagine what doing that four week cleanse would of felt like I had come from a diet full of (or that even included a few of the following): caffeine, soda, prescription drugs, fast food, non-organic produce, factory-raised animals, pasteurized/homogenized dairy products and heavy grains and sugars. This "red meat/dairy-free/low-sugar" cleanse may have seemed like a whole new energy-filled, lighter and all around better diet. And yes, maybe it was something to be adopted long-term, possibly for a lifetime. But would that be the right decision for my health? When I eat "vegan" my body cries out for more sustenance.

2. Detoxifying and rebuilding - I (all of us) need both
A healthy body needs detoxifying foods (or foods that help it detox itself) to be healthy, but that's just part of a very important equation. We also need to rebuild and repair. Veggies are the "hoses" of detox while animal proteins and fats are the "bricks" that put us back together. You can cleanse away junk all you want but if you don't have the proper materials to rebuild your body day to day then a physical breakdown is going to occur - and it will show itself in one way or another. If I'm going to build a new home I want to use the best materials available - animal proteins are just what the human body has ordered because of their complete amino acid profile and nutrient density.  For example, kale is nutrient dense when compared to Iceburg lettuce but not compared to grass-fed beef or eggs from pastured chickens. To get the same amount of complete protein that is in eggs or pastured beef by eating a combo of vegetarian foods you'd have to eat a lot - and I'm talking, for example, a few pounds of beans and corn a day. I love Mexican food- but not that much. So I'm stickin' with animal protein.

"The film that can save your life??"

3. Forks Over Knives - nobody talks bad about my cheese
I couldn't wait to see this movie. I had seen other documentaries promoting healthy eating and I was a health-knowledge sponge waiting for another soak. The film ended and I found myself full of anxiety at the thought of cutting-out all dairy and severely cutting-back on meat consumption. After all, the evidence in the movie 'proved': meat and dairy cause disease - to be healthy and to avoid disease a plant-based diet was essential. I knew that I would never be vegetarian but figured I could cut out dairy with rare exception and only eat meat once a week. That seemed like an okay compromise, but my gut said, "that ain't right." Biblical Proverb: "The first to present his case seems right, until another comes forth to question him." Enter Denise Minger. The witty, independent researcher (and ex-vegan) with a little too much time on her statistic-lovin' hands. I found her blog, Raw Food SOS, when my guts led me to a Google search for "China Study criticisms." I wanted to double-check a few things I had heard in the film and ended up with a goldmine of info to read. Her analysis of Forks Over Knives is really long - as is her critique of the China Study itself. Both are must-reads, especially if you (or your loved-ones) are considering a veggie lifestyle. I've broken down some key points for those that don't want to read her critique right now but please make some time for both in the future.

Here is Denise's critique a la cart (or as short as I can get it ...if you don't want to read this now skip to number four below, next to the picture of pills):

·    Her background: 8 yrs. as a vegetarian, 1 year as vegan, 1 year as raw vegan ...until: her hair started falling out, she had no muscle mass, and after a lifetime of perfect dental health found out she had 16 cavities (malnutrition ??)

·    Denise took three months to analyze the data in the published research of the entire China Study (called "Diet, Lifestyle and Mortality"). The actual book named, "The China Study," was just Dr. Campbell's findings - not the whole actual study itself
·    Her findings are richly based on the premise that "correlation does not mean causation" For example, just because people who eat more fish are more likely to drown - it doesn't mean that eating fish specifically causes people to drown. It could be from many variables such as "people that own boats like to drink more alcohol and tend to be more irresponsible on the water" ...or that "people who tend to eat fish also were not exposed to swimming lessons early in life." You get my drift.

Using Dr. Campbell's (the author of The China Study; main doctor featured in Forks Over Knives) own research she found that:

·    animal protein is not associated with higher rates of disease in the study because there are no direct links pointing to that conclusion
·    meat, egg and dairy protein had no statistically significant correlations - in fact they had a negative (or no) association with most cancers
·    fish was somewhat associated with some cancer, namely, liver - (and here's one example of where "correlation does not equal causation") – because these same people who ate more fish were also in regions that were more industrialized, had higher alcohol/tabacco consumption, more processed food consumption, less agriculture and had higher instances of aflatoxin (a mold that is a carcinogen that can lead to liver cancer)
·    plant protein had more positive correlations with cancer (namely, colon and leukemia)
·    Campbell tried to correlate animal fat and breast cancer but the women had a 50/50 ratio of animal fat to vegetable oil consumption - instead of acknowledging that either of the two or perhaps the latter could cause the higher breast cancer rates, Campbell solely blamed animal fat but ignored the impact from highly processed and inflammatory vegetable oils

Concerning heart disease:

·    non-fish animal protein (meat, eggs, dairy) had no correlation with HD (heart disease)
·    fish had a negative correlation with HD
·    plant protein had a positive correlation with HD (yet Dr. C never mentions that in the book)
·    wheat flour (which is high in inflammatory omega 6 fatty acids) had the strongest positive correlation with HD. After finding this in the data, Denise actually tested and re-tested her findings just to make sure this BIG piece of info was correct. She claims that this is the most interesting piece of data found in the whole China Study (makes me a little relieved to be gluten-free) ...yet Campbell didn't care to say anything about it. Hmm.
·    an earlier paper co-authored by Campbell found there to be no correlation between HD and cholesterol yet that's not what he claims in The China Study book. Hmm, again.
More findings ("Hmmms") :

·    the China Study book was never peer-reviewed
·    respected researcher Walter Willett said, concerning the China Study data, that there was no clear correlation between animal product consumption and the risk of HD or major cancers
·    another paper co-authored by Campbell found that China Study women that consumed dairy calcium had much stronger bones than those that ate plant-based calcium, yet he stated in the China Study book that dairy leaches the calcium out of your bones and that you shouldn't consume it - that is the opposite of what his paper's data showed
The rats
Dr. C. claimed that he could turn cancer "off and on" by raising and lowering the amount of casein (a form of milk protein) ingested by lab rats that had been exposed to a super-high dose aflatoxin (the mold that can cause liver cancer). The rats that consumed higher amounts of milk protein (20%) got liver lesions and the rats that ate less milk protein (5%) had very few lesions. Dr. C. concluded that it must be the higher consumption of animal protein that leads to cancer, based on these findings.

The issues according to Denise's research:

·    Campbell took one animal protein (isolated casein) and had it represent all animal protein in his conclusions (my note: notice the protein was in its isolated form - like those found in protein powders, not in their naturally occurring, whole food form, which is totally different and comes with its own synergistic system of vitamins, other forms of proteins, enzymes, etc. to help our bodies utilize it properly. Therefore if his research proved correct it would only be beneficial to those that consumed such isolated proteins)
·    he also tested plant-based protein (soy, gluten) in the same way and found that even at the higher (20%) consumption rate cancer could not be "turned on" - but when he replaced the missing amino acids in the proteins to make them complete (like in animal proteins) he found that the cancer lesions appeared (at this point it seems like they've got us carnivores- but just wait...). So, we can conclude "complete proteins" (as in, when a vegetarian eats beans and corn to get a complete protein or regular animal protein) seem to behave this way in the study
·    the aflatoxin dose was extremely high, as in, it would take you eating 80,000 jars of peanut butter, in one sitting, to be exposed to the dose that the rats received
So here it seems that if you make sure never to eat complete proteins (either through animal consumption or combining vegetarian foods) AND if you make sure never to eat 80,000 jars of peanut butter in one sitting, you won't "turn on" cancer.

We move on to monkeys.
Interestingly enough, Dr. Campbell did similar research with monkeys years ago but instead used a realistic dose of afflotoxin which would mimic a real-life situation. He found (but never cared to mention it in the China Study or Forks Over Knives) that:

·    the monkeys that were given the 20% casein dose retained their health for a long time
·    the monkeys that were given the 5% casein dose either died early or got cancer quickly

This is exactly the opposite result of the rat research findings but using a much more realistic scenario such as "I'm only going to eat one or two peanut butter sandwiches today." The studies show that the amount of complete protein consumed doesn't "turn on" cancer as described by Campbell, but the amount of aflatoxin exposure does. In fact, as the monkeys showed, higher rates of protein consumption actually kept the monkeys healthier than their low-protein counterparts. For further study you can check out this article by Chris Masterjohn as well. It shows how in early rat studies using the same protocols Campbell did in his own, most of the low protein rats also didn't get as many tumors as the higher protein rats - but instead actually died rather quickly Hmmm, hmm, hmmmmmmmm.

Denise's conclusions:

·    Dr. Campbell has cherry-picked data to find what he thought he saw in the Philippines (he saw higher animal protein-eating people getting more liver cancer and deduced it was the animal protein to blame
·    Campbell misrepresented his rat research
·    correlation does not always equal causation but is totally relied upon in both the book and the movie
·    other pro-vegan/vegetarian research papers don't take into account that people that choose those diets also tend to make better health choices in other areas besides not eating animals (ex: exercising more, not smoking, decreasing stress, yoga anyone?) and there is no study yet that simply compares making only the switch from meat to no-meat. Until there is, there is no way that one can say that a plant-based diet is healthier
If you think that was long you should read the actual articles - but they are worth it and she's funny so they go quick. Here they are:

My conclusions:
Question everything (including me). Just because someone makes a movie, or writes a book (or a blog post) doesn't mean it's correct. Do your own research and come up with your own conclusions. Above all, listen to your own body.

...and let's not forget conspiracy theorist's conclusions: Campbell is part of a group of people that wants to reduce the population of the earth by promoting diets that can lead to malnutrition and infertility. ...or he's part of The Vegan Mafia. ...both of these would make more sense than his findings ;)

Body no likey.
4. With so many supplements ...something smells fishy (or fish stick-shaped tofu-y, if you prefer).
There's something not quite right about a diet that needs such high supplementation in order for the human body to keep functioning right. Here is a breakdown of some of the diet supplementation you'll need (or will be missing out on) if you're going the veggie route. And you thought you'd save money not buying all that meat and fish?? **Keep in-mind that all these nutrients are found abundantly in animal foods and are readily available and used efficiently in our bodies in their natural forms **

iron - take note that the isolated kind found in enriched/fortified products can be toxic in our bodies.

vitamin D - unless you are in noon-day sun every day, we all need this one, but especially "veggies."
omega 3 Fatty Acids - unfortunately if you’re taking flax seed oil or relying on nuts as your veg-based sources of DHA and EPA only about 10% of those get converted and used correctly in the body. That's something to be concerned about since most vegans eat a lot of Omega 6-rich grains to fill up. Improper balance of omega 3 and omega 6 is a major cause of inflammation which can lead to modern diseases like cancer, diabetes and heart disease - as the data in The China Study research showed, but its author failed to mention in the namesake book).

B12 - contrary to popular vegan belief, you cannot get the right type of B12 from algae - you need methocobalamin, which is the only active form of B12. Long-term B12 deficiency is very hard to recover from and may leave lasting damages so be careful.

zinc - zinc and copper go together like peas and carrots. Vegans frequently have an abundance of copper not balanced by zinc.

calcium - when eating plant-based calcium, fat needs to be present - don't skimp on dressing when eating those greens.

vitamin A - another myth is that vegetables like carrots can supply all the vitamin A that we need - not so. Very little beta carotene (plant-based vit. A) is correctly converted in the body. Beta carotene is only the "pre-cursor" of real vitamin A. In animal sources whole vitamin A is pre-formed and absorbed normally, but in plant sources it needs a special enzyme (that not everyone can make) to be converted into usability.

amino acids like cystine, taurine, CoQ10, carnatine, methionine ...animal foods supply complete proteins (having a complete amino acid profile), plant sources do not so they must be combined at meals to make up what's missing - like eating beans and corn. Don't rely on soy protein to help you get your dose of cystine - it contains trypsin inhibitors that bind it up, making it useless in the body.

cholesterol - this could be its own long blog article but for time’s sake I'll just say this: cholesterol is not the cause of heart disease and does not collect and clog our arteries because you eat saturated fat. It is an essential substance that our bodies need to perform incredibly important tasks like hormone regulation and immune system functioning (among many, many more). High cholesterol is caused by inflammation - think of free radicals (from processed foods and other harmful ditties that make it into our body) swimming through your bloodstream armed with knives. They cause damage to the walls of our circulatory system. To buffer this damage the body sends in cholesterol – it’s the band-aid.  I think the perfect metaphor (and I believe I heard it from this filmed lecture (notes here)) is this: if every time you showed up to a burning house you found firemen, you may think that they were the ones causing the fires. BUT we know that the firemen are there to help and the real cause is something else. That's the bad wrap that industries (namely: medical, pharmaceutical, vegetable oil) have given cholesterol and unfortunately many people are very sick because of it. We should be looking for what is causing inflammation in our bodies - not trying to eliminate invaluable cholesterol which is just the bodies healing response to damage.

I'm not big on supplements although I know our modern world (with its depleted soils and high-stress lives) calls for a little help here and there. But concerning that list up there? That ain't right.

  5. A pesky little Canadian dentist and his quest for the perfect smile
I'd like to introduce you to Weston A. Price. A dentist (in the earlier part of the 1900's) that had a curiosity and deep concern about where all these new cavities and malformed teeth were coming from. He set out with a mission: go around the world studying people groups (that were untouched by modern diets) and find out the ultimate healthy diet for both body and teeth. He was actually hoping the winner would be a vegetarian-based diet. What he did find was that the most healthy, strong, robust, fertile, happy, well-behaved, disease-free (and disease-resistant) people all had a few things in common - and it wasn't kale. It was sticking to their traditional diets that were rich in animal foods like organ meats, fats, fermented grains and vegetables (and livers!), and raw (plus cultured) dairy from grass-fed cows and other ruminants. They all consumed cooked food in various forms and did NOT eat refined or denatured foods (like vegetable oil and isolated protein powders). This makes sense to me. I know not every single diet is perfect in all ways but this one has long-term evidence for being the good way to go for optimal health. I haven't heard of any vegan cultures that survived throughout generations AND had robust health, fertility, and strength. If you have, let me know and I'll study it further.

6. Bow Shikka Bown Bown (sp?)
The vegetarian movement was started by Sylvester Graham - not for health reasons - but for moral. Only he wasn't trying to save animals from being killed, he was trying to curb lust in humans by forming the low-fat/high fiber diet that is known to decrease libido. Another symptom of mal-nutrition that vegans often face sadly is infertility. I don't want to mess with either. If you are a veggie and are thinking about getting pregnant or are pregnant, please consider reading these suggestions here. Those little babies need good building blocks to grow strong and healthy.

7. I saw my Dad suffer from my "vegan diet heals cancer" recommendation
I saw a ton of movies and read numerous books while I was trying to find the perfect diet that would heal my dad's cancer. A lot of them said that a "plant-based" diet was key. Sure, maybe for someone that had stage one "easy to beat" cancer that was in-need of a detox, but there is not "one diet that heals all" for disease as these films and books in my opinion mislead us to believe. I saw my dad waste away because 1. the cancer was stealing the nutrients he was eating and 2. he wasn't getting enough nutrients because his diet was 99% plant-based  - and plants don't give us enough nutrients to thrive on. If I had to do it all over again I would have my dad go vegan for maybe a few weeks - to starve his cancer of nutrients and detox, and then we would rebuild his body with nourishing foods like bone broths, cultured veggies and liver while throwing in some stronger alternative treatments. Speaking of liver, did you know the Gerson diet, the plant-based juicing protocol for healing cancer and other disease, originally included juiced raw liver as part of its diet protocol? Why don't we hear about that much?

8. I don't think my hamburger is bad for the environment
I admit that this is the part where my knowledge is second-hand. I haven't read these books (The Vegetarian Myth and Holistic Management) but have heard ample info from them. The long and short of it is that properly raised, pastured animals actually heal the planet and create the kind of ecosystem that makes beautiful pictures, happy animals and healthy people. Don't believe me? Read the books. I will too. (:

9. I make a prize-winning chili and it's just not the same with tofu
I simply like the taste of animal foods and if I can get them organic, sustainable, properly-raised and/or happy before they passed... I welcome you: bacon, cheese, honey, milkshakes, cheeseburgers, chicken soup, butter, cream, steak fajitas, give me a quiche, blackened chicken alfredo...

Compare to: raw kale salad, tofu (bad, bad), beet juice, something that sounds like Satan (seitan?), everything resembling cream having to be made with nuts or cauliflower, a lifetime of beans and rice (which are not bad when cooked in lard and broth), algae, lots o' vitamins, protein shakes...

I will stubbornly accept no rebuttals on that one. Bacon always wins. And for the Jews and Muslims: ice cream always wins.

10. God described the 'Promised Land' as a land flowing with "milk and honey" ...and I don't think God's a tease

Fish and chips anyone?
For those that believe that the bible is the inspired word of God (and for the skeptics I recommend starting with this dude), why would He describe the "Promised Land" as flowing with these two vegan "no nos" if they couldn't partake or make use of what was described? To me, this is at least a case against veganism from a biblical perspective. If it's good enough for the Creator - it's good enough for me.
...and Jesus loved fish (as in, serving a lot of them for dinner)

11. I do not worship animals as being higher than myself
If it were possible for human health to thrive without having to kill animals I'd probably join the "veggies" in a heartbeat, but I don't believe that that's the case. We messed up this crazy world and I don't know if God intended all of us to be vegetarian in the garden of Eden, but we don't live there and it doesn't exist anymore. Unfortunately, animals (and people) die. I make sure that the animals I eat had a healthy, happy and natural life and I do think factory farming is an abomination. If we were the only mammals on earth that kill other living things for food I would probably question being a carnivore - but the food chain is a part of the cycle of life - that chain is full of death so that others may live. So if "Bob, the cow" lived a great few years on green pastures and my body (and other's) need its nourishing meat - Bob's toast. Well, technically  ...steak. If I can responsibly collect honey from bees, I'm eating it. If a cow has healthy, nutrient-dense milk - I'm drinking it with an occasional Oreo (which in my opinion is one of the most unhealthy, yet mysteriously tasty creations on earth).

In being able to savor and be healthy from all of these animal foods I am extremely thankful.

A few statements just to save time:
·    I don't receive any money for eating meat and talking about it (that would be nice, though) - nor by the links to Amazon I included
·    I know that there are rare exceptions of long term healthy vegetarians (that eat eggs and dairy)  
I think Denise said it well when she wrote this to the 'veggie' crowd. It's a nice article. I promise.

To leave things on a fun note, here's a short article I thought was cute.

Here's to chili (:

-Katie B.