Plant-Based Diet

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    A Fallacious, Faulty and Foolish Discussion About Saturated Fat

A Fallacious, Faulty and Foolish Discussion About Saturated Fat

The New York Times has done it again, reporting on a summary of studies on the associations of various dietary and clinical risk factors with heart disease in a way that creates, in my opinion, more confusion than clarity.

The Mystique of Protein and Its Implications

There are three macronutrients in food: carbohydrates, fat and protein, ‘macro’ in the sense that they comprise almost all of the weight and calories of food. Vitamins and minerals are the micronutrients.

Protein, ever since its discovery in 1839, has been considered by many people to be an exceptionally important nutrient, often assuming that the more we consume the better. Its name comes from the Greek word, proteios, meaning ‘of prime importance’—an auspicious and almost mystical beginning for the future of this nutrient! Add to this importance the long standing impression by most people that protein is exclusive to animal source foods.

We now know, however, that this importance is exaggerated, to mythical proportions. For a starter, protein is not exclusive to animal-based foods. In the late 1800s protein was also found to be present in plant foods. Yet the myth of its being tightly or even exclusively linked to animal-based foods still lingers. Simply ask a non-meat eating vegan how many times they are asked, “But where do I get my protein?”

This bias implying that meat is the sole source of protein was encouraged over these many decades by ‘science’. Research findings, for example, were showing that animal-based proteins are utilized by the body more efficiently. This efficiency of utilization referred to increased body growth rate among other effects, with greater efficiency being described as greater ‘biological value’ or higher quality. But it was only animal-based proteins that have high quality.

Because most people obviously like high quality, animal-based protein became the protein of choice. In effect, this history evolved through the prism of linguistics to give a profound self-perpetuating paradigm.

The problem with this proposition is that high quality does not necessarily mean better health. Increasing [...]

Fat and Plant-Based Diets

Answer to a Reader’s Question:

I don’t argue for a 10% fat diet as the main starting point. Rather, I begin with the view that a plant-based diet is optimal and it just so happens that this diet, when done right (good quality WHOLE vegetables, legumes, fruits and cereals), is low in fat as well as in protein. It is a diet that, for most people, is 10-15% fat, and 8-12% protein. For those who demonstrate vulnerability to health disorders, the fat intake should favor the lower side. Dr. Esselstyn (in his heart disease reversal study) and Dr. John McDougall (thousands of patients) have demonstrated this very clearly. The difficulty that we, as individuals, all face is really how vulnerable are we.

On the protein evidence, I have spent my entire career working in this field and am appalled that so few people know the evidence, some of which is very old and most of which is heavily influenced by our personal reverence for this nutrient. But much more to the point, in my own work, our results propelled me to ask broader questions, even though the singular effects of animal based protein were alarming and convincing. I chose for the time being not to go down that path and agree with Dr. Katz that we need to ask broader questions–precisely as I did in the China Study.

My arguments, however, for a plant based diet are far more comprehensive, including the empirical findings that have been published by other researchers (some of which is relatively old), the work that we did in our own laboratory (some of which by traditional standards is very profound in its implications) and most importantly the concept of what nutrition really [...]

Continual Cleansing for Optimal Health and Vitality

Do you have difficulty waking up in the morning and find that you have low energy all day long? Are you unable to concentrate at work, feel sluggish and depressed? Do you suffer from poor digestion, bloating or constipation? If so, you could be a good candidate for a cleanse. Cleansing your body of accumulated toxins may help you gain energy and improve overall health. Many people report more clarity, greater alertness, over-whelming joy, and incredible insight after a cleanse.

A simple test you can do to determine whether you would benefit from a cleanse is to eat a few leaves of a dark leafy green vegetable such as kale or down a couple of shots of fresh wheat grass juice. If you can get it down without cringing, then chances are your system is already alkaline. If however, these foods taste horribly bitter and nearly cause a gag reflex, you will certainly benefit from a cleanse.

There are many excellent articles and books dedicated to cleansing so I won’t get too much into the details in this article. What is interesting to note, however, is that all of them prescribe complete abstinence from animal based foods and focus solely on plant-based nutrition during the cleansing process. My take on this is that if you feel so good after a cleanse, then why not adopt a continual cleansing type diet? That’s what I call The Thrive Diet, a common-sense, simple approach to eating that is based on plant-based whole foods.

Once you have completed the cleanse of your choice, you will likely feel much better and you won’t want that great feeling to go away. So how to you extend and expand upon these cleansing benefits for [...]

To Take Or Not To Take Fish Oil

Question:

I have been troubled recently by a number of articles claiming that DHA is nutritionally essential. The posters often promote the taking of fish oils. To their credit there do seem to be a number of papers suggesting clinical benefits for fish oils, and also that vegetarians have lower levels of DHA. There is also research linking these low levels to Alzheimers, and poorer performance in school children.

On the other side I am reminded that there are 3rd generation vegans who seem to be okay, and I also note that the founder of the vegan society is still alive and well after over 50 years as a vegan.

It is my belief that this topic is still controversial, but there is no RDA, so this nutrient must be considered non-essential. There seem to be certain cases, when ingesting excessive omega 6 oils, where DHA supplements are useful, but that is not a case for them being essential. What is your take on this?

Answer:

Your question is not only interesting for the question of DHA itself but also is an interesting in reference to the definition of nutrition in general.

The meaning of nutrients has tended to be reserved for those food chemicals that are required (or essential) for life because we, as mammals, cannot make them. Thus we have determined minimum intakes and recommended allowances (about 2 standard deviations above the minimum intakes) for these essential chemicals.

However, this meaning (history) was–and still is–a very superficial, narrowly focused view. It was based on choosing which endpoint is used to decide what is “essential”. It tended to be life itself, but not always. In my view, when a broader view is taken–as exemplified by Nature herself–we discover [...]

Minger Critique

Ms. Denise Minger has published a critique of our book, The China Study, as follows.

The China Study: Fact or Fallacy? « Raw Food SOS: Troubleshooting on the Raw Food Diet

It is both interesting and gratifying that there has been such a huge response, both on her blog and on those of others. This is a welcome development because it gives this topic an airing that has long been hidden in the halls and annals of science. It is time that this discussion begin to reach a much larger audience, including both supporters and skeptics.

I hope at some point to be able to read all of the discussions and the questions that have been raised, but present deadlines and long-standing commitments have forced me, for now, to focus on the most common concerns and questions, in order to respond in a timely manner here.

Kudos to Ms. Minger for having the interest, and taking the time, to do considerable analysis, and for describing her findings in readily accessible language. And kudos to her for being clear and admitting, right up front, that she is neither a statistician nor an epidemiologist, but an English major with a love for writing and an interest in nutrition. We need more people with this kind of interest.

I am the first to admit that background and academic credentials are certainly not everything, and many interesting discoveries and contributions have been made by “outsiders” or newcomers in various fields. On the other hand, background, time in the field, and especially peer review, all do give one a kind of perspective and insight that is, in my experience, not attainable in any other way. I [...]