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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Bourbon and potato chips are vegan!

My Web site and blog are about healthy food. I want people to know what science really says about how diet affects human health. For example, we know that eating animal-based foods raises the risk of a whole host of diseases, including heart disease, many cancers, and autoimmune diseases. The less animal-based food you eat, the safer you can be from those diseases. So the health-optimizing diet for human beings would be free from animal products. It could therefore be classified as vegan. Although all healthy foods are vegan, not all vegan foods are healthy. For example, no one would consider bourbon and potato chips to be the basis for a healthy diet.

The first vegetarians I met were vegetarian for religious reasons. They included some Hindu people who had been born in India and some Seventh-Day Adventists from the USA. I’ve also known observant Jews who would eat in vegetarian restaurants because everything that’s vegetarian is automatically Kosher. I also know a lot of people who refuse for moral reasons to eat any products that come from animals. All of the people I’ve just described can eat at my house without violating any of their dietary laws. Since I’m allergic to wheat, everything that I cook is even kosher for Passover. However, not everything that passes muster in their dietary laws is good for them.

To be truly health-optimizing for the average person, a diet also has to be low in fat (<10% of calories) and high in fiber. Some of the foods that contain no animal products are nevertheless high in fat or low in fiber. A high-fat, low-fiber vegan diet could promote atherosclerosis, even though it doesn’t contain any cholesterol. That’s why even vegans occasionally die of heart attacks.

When I was growing up, I was taught in school that the meat group (which includes eggs and fish) and the dairy group (which includes all milk products) are an essential part of a balanced diet for human beings. However, when I grew up and started reading nutrition and medical textbooks and scientific journals, I found strong evidence that those foods are dangerous and unnecessary. So far, I haven’t found any evidence that any human beings would really benefit from adding animal-based foods to an otherwise healthy plant-based diet. I found plenty of evidence that cats need certain nutrients that occur only in animals, and are not produced by plants or bacteria. However, I’ve seen no such evidence for human nutrition. If I find it, I will report it. Then, the decision of whether to eat those foods will be a moral decision, not a health decision.

2 comments:

  1. I like your blog. This column asked for some information to review. I would contend it is empirically proven that (excess) carbohydrate intake, triggers a biochemical process that makes humans store fat.. This usually doesn't change, with or without the intake of meat.. since it is a process exclusive of proteins or fats. Some will contend that grains and sugars are the large catalyst in this process, though all carbohydrates are saccharides. The hypothesis presented stands against a lot of organizations guidelines, purporting to be serving public health.

    gary taubes, has made his career writing about this.

    Also there is a film on netflix, called fat head.. which talks about the CSPI and some interesting things about that.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eREuZEdMAVo

    contrary to public opinion, human beings have no physiological need for carbohydrates, and can live solely on fats and proteins.. This may not be the optimum condition though..

    Thank you for all your great ideas.. keep researching.. and tell us what you find.

    Jeff

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  2. Hi Jeff:
    Here's a detailed discussion about sugar, fat, calories, and weight loss: http://www.gorillaprotein.com/calories_and_weight_loss.html

    Gary Taubes evidently makes a lot of money as a writer, but that means nothing to me. Genuine scientific texts seldom make much money, and lots of bestsellers are full of crap. Taubes has no real training in any of the life sciences, and his journalism has been harshly criticized. Some of the nutrition and obesity researchers he has interviewed have complained that he grossly misrepresented what they said to him, making them sound as if they are supporting something that they don't actually support. http://www.cspinet.org/nah/11_02/bigfatlies.pdf

    Human beings can live on a carbohydrate-free diet for an extended period of time. Otherwise, human beings would never have been able to settle in the Arctic. But it's not the optimum diet for human health. You are absolutely right about that!

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