Your feedback on ‘Vegan/Vegetarian – Is it healthier?’

Recently I wrote about whether following a vegan/vegetarian lifestyle was a healthier option. And I didn’t play the middle of the road on this one. It was pretty clear that I advocate eating real food, in proper proportions, to obtain the essential nutrients needed for life. I signed off on the article asking you what you thought. Was I missing something? Is there a healthier way? Here is what you told me.

This from Dr. J McMillan, MD Calgary, AB

I think it is very important to focus on what the goal of any diet is. The current evidence-based medicine is that for veg diets, the hard, clinical outcomes are: reduced incidence of cancer, high BP (stroke, peripheral vascular disease, ischemic heart disease), type 2 diabetes, ischemic heart disease (heart attack), and lower overall BMI. These are significant clinical outcomes that cannot easily be ignored simply because a veg diet may (or may not) require extra planning. On the otherhand, iron-deficiency anemia and fracture risk (which are not elevated in lacto-ovo vegetarians, and may or may not be in vegans) are less significant clinical outcomes. They are morbidities, but do not directly lead to increased or hastened mortality.

Current evidence supports decreasing overall cholesterol and saturated fat. There may be speculation that this is not the entire picture as you seem to be implying, however, the evidence currently is not there.

I am not familiar enough with soy, and the ratio of omega 3:6 issues, so I can’t comment on those two points. However, if soy is not a preferred choice, 2 meals a week of salmon would suffice.

It is true that heme iron is better absorbed, however studies have shown that the blood biochemistry of vegetarians is no more iron deficient than meat-eaters, the body compensates by increasing absorption and decreasing losses. It is not as though the body begins to leach from iron stores, as is the case in calcium-deficiency in which the body leaches from bony stores of calcium.

I hope that you don’t mind me playing devil’s advocate for vegetarian diet. I am not saying that there is no healthy alternative, but I think that we must acknowledge the proven health benefits of decreased meat intake in favour of a diet with more fruit, veg, grain and legumes. I think that a meat eater who replaces a few meals a week with salmon, beans, and more fruits and veg would do very well and have very similar improvement in the hard, clinical outcomes.

Just some thoughts. You are a source of information for a lot of very trusting customers and I think to be fair to both sides, credit should be given to healthful benefits of this diet alternative.

And the following is from G.K. Kelowna, BC

I did not hear your response yesterday but I do look forward to hearing it. This is an interesting topic and is as complex as you want to make it. In simple terms, I am an omnivore. Perhaps in some geographic locations humans can survive on plants, however in areas with defined seasons, eating a variety of animals and plants is a survival mechanism. Perhaps it is as simple as being able to eat anything that is available so if the plants are frozen under the snow, eating something that is running on top of the snow means living through the season. I realize this may offend people who think we have evolved beyond this idea, but my question then becomes…how do you think you got here? Maybe it’s just my Scandinavian heritage.

Fun topic!

And lastly from Douglas Fir (love the name haha)

Chris … the whole idea of eating meat because our gut has changed is really stretching it … people need to eat what is “right” for them … we are all different and there are no absolutes … in other words eat what works for you and this changes as we change. Darwins Theory of Evolution is just that … a theory and nothing more, the more I study , the less I see this as truth … we evolve YES … without a doubt … but remember … to be wary of hypothesis and theories as these are like polls – you can make the outcome fit whatever suits you.
I grew up eating farm meat, have been a vegan, a vegetarian, an now I eat bison. I see athletes eating “stuff” that there is NO way I would ever put in my body … chemicals that are poisons in the periodic table and yet we eat these chemicals (but only in small amounts) Hello … a poison is still a poison even if the “Inferior” Health Authority says this is OK .
Each of us needs to do what is right for us and I have faith that we are all doing this …
Altzimers can be traced back to aluminium in the brain … environment? flue shots?? Alum used for pickling is really aluminium … why on earth would anyone intentionally put this chemical in our body???
All the preservatives that people eat and the “shots” that we give our children are much more harmful than being a vegan … If you have never been a vegan … please do not think this is bad … right now our “Canadian Guide for children from birth to 12 months” is written by two men … they have never had babies and no matter how much studying they have CANNOT KNOW … unless you have had a baby and become a Grandma … and then we know

Have Fun … Be Happy as this is still the Best … and be wary of all processed foods and anything that does not come out of my garden 🙂

Excellent feedback. Here is how I would summarize my position.

* balanced nutrition of the essential nutrients
* real foods in preference of supplements/fortified/processed foods

I do believe increased intake of fruits and vegetables is definitely valuable and necessary. One thing to clarify however is that eating animal products does not preclude you from eating fruits and vegetables. If I eat salmon, bison and the occasional steak this does not prevent me from eating lots of yams, spinach, kale, chard, bok choy, tomatoes, broccoli, collard greens, onions and cucumbers. Nor does it prevent me from eating various types of berries, apples, oranges, bananas, pineapples, grapefruits and kiwis.

My concern would be if individuals exclude certain essential nutrients b/c they are animal based. At that same time many of these individuals will opt for junk food as ‘healthier’ b/c it is v/v.

For someone eating 5 meals a day, red meat once a week (less than 3% of the time) would probably do them more good than harm. The quality of this choice can be enhanced by selecting locally sourced, grass-fed, lean cuts of meat and pork prepared without extra creams and sauces.

For me healthy eating is a function of providing my body what it needs, when it needs it, in the appropriate dose. Many meat eaters are guilty of excluding fruits, vegetables, fibre, certain minerals and vitamins. Many v/v are guilty of lacking essential nutrients and then believing a supplement/fortified/processed food is an adequate substitution.

We can learn a little bit from each other. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

Thanks for your feedback,

Chris ‘always moving forward’



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