The Physicians' Committee for Responsible Medicine is a misnomer, not to mention a front group for PETA. While the desire to reduce animal suffering (it can never be fully eliminated any more than ours can) and to eliminate CAFO operations is noble, and I can get on board with those, hello? I'm an animal too. If it's animal abuse to feed corn and soybeans to a cow, for whom neither is a species-appropriate diet, it's surely animal abuse to tell people to eat a diet that isn't appropriate for them either.
You need saturated fat. It makes up a significant portion of your cell membranes and is a preferred fuel for the heart. (Source: Mary Enig, PhD, who's been studying this stuff her whole life and was sounding the alarm about trans fats in the *1950s*.) There are only a few plant sources of saturated fat which, while healthy, must be imported to most countries. You need cholesterol for everything from hormone production to vitamin D production to production of cardiotonic chemicals. You can't get the best bioavailable forms of vitamin K, vitamin B12, or iron from plant foods. While you *can* get enough protein from plants, you have to eat larger amounts of plant matter to get it and nearly all plant forms of protein are accompanied by starch, which is great if you aren't diabetic, but not so hot if you are.
You can't get vitamin A from plant foods at all. I don't care what it says on the nutritional label, there is not a single solitary plant out there that has vitamin A in it. Food packagers are permitted, and the USDA carries on the practice of, labeling plant foods with the amount of vitamin A you would get if you converted all the carotenes in that serving of food at an optimal level. Infants, children, most of the elderly, hypothyroid patients and diabetics can't make the conversion, among other groups, and healthy people's conversion of carotenes to A is notoriously inefficient.
On top of that, plants don't "like" to be eaten any more than animals do (and they are just as alive as animals are, thank you very much), but as they can't ambulate, they must defend themselves chemically. So, the vast majority of plant parts across all plant species contain some kind of toxin, enzyme inhibitor, or phytate that will make you sick immediately, make you sick in the long run, keep you from optimally digesting your food, or leach minerals out of your body. The field of paleopathology has shown that since the adoption of plant agriculture, every culture that's taken it up has seen its members be reduced in height and health status. Remains show greater numbers of bone lesions indicating disease states. The only skeletons from these cultures, in fact, that attain almost full height potential and are healthier are those of the elite, who would have had greater access to animal foods.
Also, a plant-based diet might be fine if there were only a couple million of us on earth and we were all hunter-gatherers (or just gatherers), but in order to sustain six billion people on plants alone, you would have to convert all the arable land to farmland and deplete it down to desert. Our world population is still growing, too. It's a misconception that land used for raising cattle could be used for soybeans--cattle can graze on lands that are completely unfit for farming. The same can be said of other animals raised for food purposes. Anyway, if we're that concerned about the use of arable land maybe it's time we started yelling at all the idiots building suburbs right on top of it. (Do you live in a burb that's on top of a former farm? Then don't yell at meat-eaters.)
I don't care what individual people want to eat; I'm not here to convert anyone. I'm here to provide a counterpoint to all this misinformation I see going around. See, I have personal experience with depending too heavily on plant foods and suffering the consequences. My diet has been grain-based for most of my life, and I made a foray into veganism five years ago. On top of that I have depended on beta-carotene for vitamin A for most of my life. Going on four years ago now I started having really heavy periods, so bad I had to stay home the first day or two and break out the rag bag. It finally ended early last year or so when I read something about the inefficiency of depending on the carotenes for A and decided to supplement with fish liver oil instead. Almost immediately my menstrual symptoms subsided. I can now tell when I haven't had enough vitamin A in a given month because I get extra-crampy the day before it starts. I wonder how many women have had to get hysterectomies because their doctors had no idea what was going on. Your average doctor knows near zero about nutrition--they barely get any education on the subject, which is why nutritionists and dieticians have jobs in the first place.
I've talked to someone who couldn't shake anemia without heme iron, which comes only from animal foods. I've experienced that I gain weight, not lose it, on a plant-based diet. I've known someone else who habitually runs low on B vitamins unless he eats beef on a regular basis. He suffered a meds injury last year causing occasional Parkinsons-like twitching, but since he started low-carbing this year, the symptoms have subsided.
You can't argue with personal experience. You *could* argue that the (temporary?) better health outcomes some people have experienced on vegan diets have arisen because those people dropped junk food. People who stubbornly retain a red meat-eating habit are more likely to eat junk out of apathy or spite than people who go vegetarian. I notice nobody ever really compares starch or sugar intake between the two groups. It might be interesting what they find.
Meanwhile... parting shot I guess... it is amazing that for all that vegans claim their lifestyle is about love of animals, funny how they are the group that is least in contact with said animals, out of fear of "exploiting" them. Something to ponder.
- 2/10/2010 2:58:54 AM