Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Vegetarianism Part II, Myths and Legends

Let's take a look at some of the studies done to prove whether vegetarianism is the healthier lifestyle.

In July of 1994, the British Medical Journal published a study which claimed that vegetarians experienced 40% fewer rates of cancer and coronary disease than meat eaters. The problem here is that the results of the study were obviously stacked before the study even began. Here's why.

-The vegetarians for the study were picked by the vegetarian society to be in obvious good health. Then The vegetarians also hand picked the meat eaters for the study as well. This was an obvious attempt to fix the results

-The vegetarian group was mostly comprised of women and the meat eaters were mostly comprised of older men. Younger people obviously have far fewer instances of death than older folks and in the age groups selected, the older men have about four times the amount of case of heart disease than younger healthier women.

For these reasons, the study was clearly biased and is therefore worthless.

Now lets take a look at the study which determined that meat eaters have higher instances of high blood cholesterol.....

For this study scientists used rabbits, which are obviously obligate vegetarians. They fed the rabbits pre- oxidized cholesterol. (As an aside note, is is not the amount of LDL in your blood that is harmful but the amount of oxidized cholesterol in your system that does the damage) Now imagine the amount of harm that would be caused by feeding an animal, that doesn't have the faculties to digest animal flesh, pre-oxidized cholesterol. Yet another obviously biased study, and therefore worthless.

Introducing Ancel Keys

In the 1950's, a scientist named Ancel Keys, became known as the father of the "Lipid Hypothesis". This states that eating high amounts of saturated fat will increase the amount of cholesterol in your blood and clog your arteries and cause heart disease.

He embarked on a journey to prove this hypothesis and to get his picture on the cover of time magazine. The problem here is that his studies would come to no definite conclusion. His results were literally scattered. He found countries where people ate relatively small amounts of dietary fat and have higher instances of heart disease. He also found countries where people ate high amounts of dietary fat and had lower amounts of heart disease (ie; France and Holland).

Unfortunately for Dr. Keys, his results were, quite literally, all over the map. This is no way to get your face on the cover of Time magazine, so Dr. Keys took the only logical action and threw out all the evidence which didn't support his claim. Thus earning him fame and fortune and kicking off the mass hysteria called the "Lipid Hypothesis". Therefore we have Dr. Keys to thank for the low in fat, high in processed carbohydrate and processed vegetable oil diet that has more than doubled the heart disease and obesity rate since 1950.

The French Paradox

For years, scientists have baffled over the fact that Europeans, particularly the french, eat approximately eight times the amount of dietary fat that Americans do yet suffer a fraction of the heart disease. At one point they even tried to say that it is because of the tannins in the red wine they drink.

It turns out that though the French eat a diet much higher in saturated fat, they also eat fraction of the sugar and processed carbohydrate that Americans do.

Now here's a little something to chew on with your cheese and wine


  1. Hi Joey all very interesting. However, you have to keep in mind a few things about meat - how it is produced and how it is processed. Meat and animal products are not in and of themselves negative things, it is the amount consumed and scale of production that is the primary problem. There is also the concern over bio-magnification which is a major issue in seafood but is also an issue in terrestrial food as well. Also the dietary quality of meat that is mass produced is lower in what we need from meat - omega oils etc. due to their profit driven diet.
    It really not that easy to dismiss the value of a vegetarian diet - there are the internal benefits -eg. gastrointestinal health and exposure to high levels of pesticides and the external benefits eg. lower carbon emissions and destruction of natural landscapes.
    Not to mention all the dietitians I know here at Acadia advocate for a low meat intake or no meat intake diet.

    Its really not "good" research to discredit something based on "poor" research - find some good rigorous studies to base your information on - I am sure there are just as many studies out there that have been done badly that advocate for an animal product heavy diet. Keep in mind that there were and continue to be whole societies that were primarily vegetarian. Many much older than our own.

    Thank you for bringing the subject to light and keep working on making people think about what they eat. Drop me a line if you want to talk about it.