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“A vegan diet is not for everyone—it made me sick.”“a vegan diet is not for everyone—it made me sick.”“a vegan diet is not for everyone—it made me sick.”all-objections health-objections objections [toc label="talking points"]occasionally we hear of someone who says they got sick, didn't feel well, or lacked energy on a vegan diet. while this is the opposite of what most new vegans experience, it's heard enough to warrant a response.more often than not, these kinds of assertions are made without a professional diagnosis. and without a diagnosis, it's hard to say the cause of this for any one individual.nevertheless, we examine some possibilities and try to shed a little light on the topic, offering the following points gleaned from firsthand reports, personal experience, and those qualified to weigh in.
keep in mind that we know of no nutrients that must come from animal products.when the academy of nutrition and dietetics, mayo clinic, harvard public health, cleveland clinic, and others say that plant-based diets are adequate and even advantageous,((citations for each of the organizations mentioned are provided at http://justiceforanimals.org/objections/quote-we-need-animal-products-to-be-healthy/ )) they do not say "except that certain people must have meat, dairy, or eggs." nor do they qualify their statements by pointing out nutrients that are difficult to obtain unless you eat animal products.science knows of no nutrient that cannot be obtained—and obtained in sufficient quantities for good health—outside the animal kingdom.
realize that your malady may be caused by something other than your diet in general or your vegan diet in particular.when you combine the fact that people get sick or feel bad for a multitude of reasons with the fact that self-diagnosis is often wrong, it seems at least possible that your troubles may not be caused by a vegan diet—or even by any diet at all. people get sick all the time and attribute that to various reasons, often without adequate justification.
bio-individuality does not confer a need for animal products.sometimes the claim is made that because we are all different a vegan diet is not for everyone. it's true that bio-individuality may justifiably cause you to restrict or supplement your diet, but such restrictions have no connection to a vegan diet.for example, if you have an allergy, you should avoid foods that trigger that allergy. if you are prone to kidney stones, you may decide to restrict oxalates and sodium.((“kidney stones | health topics | nutritionfacts.org.” accessed august 9, 2018. https://nutritionfacts.org/topics/kidney-stones/ )) if you have absorption problems with any particular nutrient, you may want to supplement for that nutrient. people with diabetes will want to minimize fatty foods and added sugars.((barnard, neal. “does sugar cause diabetes?” text. the physicians committee, august 7, 2017. https://www.pcrm.org/nbblog/does-sugar-cause-diabetes ))but there is no scientific basis for saying that any given individual should not eat vegan because that individual is unique. the color of our hair and eyes, our height, and our body proportions, for instance, do not dictate which foods to eat. some attempts to link physical or physiological traits to an optimum diet (attempts such as the blood-type diet), are regarded by the scientific community as lacking credibility.((“the blood type diet: an evidence-based review.” healthline, june 4, 2017. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/the-blood-type-diet-review ))
your body may need more time to acclimate.your body may need more time to adjust to the new way of eating. some feel sickly and weak when they first start on a vegan diet. then, as their body adjusts, these feelings go away and the nutritional advantages of a plant-based diet start to be realized.
you may be eating too much vegan junk food.the science is clear that leaving animal products off the plate reduces your risks for chronic disease,((citations for several prominent health organizations are provided at http://justiceforanimals.org/objections/quote-we-need-animal-products-to-be-healthy/ )) but that alone does not guarantee a healthy diet. you might not be getting enough nutrients because you are consuming too much vegan junk food, such as oreos, potato chips, and cola.
you may not be getting enough calories.animal products and vegetable oils are calorie dense, while fruits and vegetables are nutrient dense.it takes about 500 calories to fill a stomach with fruits and vegetables but about 1,000 calories to fill a stomach with meat.((novick, ms, rd, jeff. “calorie density approach to nutrition & weight management.” forks over knives (blog), june 19, 2012. https://www.forksoverknives.com/the-calorie-density-approach-to-nutrition-and-lifelong-weight-management/ ))so if you are eating the same volume of plant foods as you previously ate of animal foods, it's possible you are not getting enough calories.
you may have introduced a food that causes a mild allergic reaction.when you adopt a vegan, plant-based diet, it's likely you will be eating a number of foods you didn't previously consume. it's possible that one of those foods will contain an allergen.
your body might need a different mix of macronutrients.if your metabolism is high or you are an endurance athlete, you might benefit from a higher percentage of complex carbs.if you are a bodybuilder or you have a job that constantly rips muscle tissue that needs to be rebuilt, you may need more protein. but before you go wild with the protein, please read our answer to the objection that vegans struggle with that nutrient.((http://justiceforanimals.org/objections/quote-protein-is-a-problem-for-vegans/ ))
you may be deficient in vitamin b12.all vegans should take care to ensure that they are getting adequate b12. known symptoms of b12 deficiency include fatigue and weakness, but a deficiency can also lead to more serious disorders.((“don’t vegetarians have trouble getting enough vitamin b12?” the physicians committee, october 13, 2010. https://www.pcrm.org/health/diets/vegdiets/dont-vegetarians-have-trouble-getting-enough ))if you started a vegan diet recently, your chance of being deficient in b12 is probably small unless you started with a deficiency. this is because your body normally stores enough to last well over a year.((folate, institute of medicine (us) standing committee on the scientific evaluation of dietary reference intakes and its panel on. estimation of the period covered by vitamin b12 stores. national academies press (us), 1998. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/nbk114329 ))we cover this more fully in our response to the objection that “b12 is a problem for vegans, so a vegan diet is not natural,” which includes recommendations for supplementation. virtually all professionals familiar with the topic recommend that vegans supplement for b12.
you may be one of the few people who need to supplement with more than vitamin b12.dr. michael klaper believes that it's possible some people may not be able to adjust to a vegan diet without supplementation beyond b12.he provides a discussion of the physiological process that may be at work in these cases and suggests a regiment of supplementation that might address the problems. he also offers suggestions on what to do if, after 12 months of supplementation, your situation has not improved.((klaper, m.d., michael, and john allen mollenhaur. “the failure to thrive–speculations on the nutritional adequacy of 100% plant-based diets.” nutrient rich superfoods (blog), november 11, 2012. https://nutrientrich.com/premium/the-failure-to-thrive-speculations-on-the-nutritional-adequacy-of-100-plant-based-diets-by-michael-klaper-m-d.html)) ((klaper, michael. “vegan health study.” vegan health study by michael klaper, m.d., january 4, 2017.(https://veganhealthstudy.org/ )) ((plant based science london. why giving up meat makes you feel ill-carnitine! dr michael klaper, 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ps4rn9rezeq)) ((klaper, m.d., michael. “thriving on a plant-based diet.” michael klaper, m.d., nutrition-based medicine, november 2015. https://doctorklaper.com/webinars/thriving-on-a-plant-based-diet/ ))it's a good idea to get a professional diagnosis for any suspected nutrient deficiency, as some supplements can be harmful.((novick, ms, rd, ld, ln, jeff. “q & a’s.” jeff novick. accessed august 9, 2018. https://jeffnovick.com/rd/q_&_as/entries/2012/10/18_supplements.html ))
you may be using the vegan diet as an excuse, subconsciously or not.it's true that a small number of people have health-related issues that are triggered by the transition to a vegan diet. but it's also likely that in some cases, such issues are used as an excuse to give up on their vegan diet. and for some, this could be on a subconscious level.humans are experts at rationalization, as ben franklin realized when he said, "so convenient a thing is it to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for everything one has a mind to do."((franklin, benjamin. the autobiography of benjamin franklin. amazonclassics, 2017. 48-49))
some do well on the second attempt.some have reported that on the second attempt at eating vegan, they did not experience any problems and instead felt better, as most of us have experienced.given the benefits of veganism to the animals, the planet, the starving and impoverished, and your own health,((http://justiceforanimals.org/basics/an-introduction-to-veganism/ )) please consider trying again, taking into consideration the information presented above.
“We need animal products to be healthy.”“we need animal products to be healthy.”“we need animal products to be healthy.”all-objections health-objections objections [toc label="talking points"]the question of whether any nutrients necessary for good health can only be obtained from the animal kingdom is an important one. here's why: one of the main ideas of veganism is that it’s wrong to cause unnecessary harm to animals. if a certain nutrient necessary for good health could only be sourced from animals, some suffering might be deemed necessary, depending on the nature of the nutrient.for veganism to be valid, it is not necessary to show that a vegan diet is beneficial, only that it's adequate for good health. showing that a vegan diet has benefits does lend credence to the viability of a vegan diet, however, so we do a bit of that here.even if a future discovery, however unlikely, finds there is an animal product we need to be healthy, veganism would still be relevant because we would still be ethically obliged to consume only the animal product needed—and only in the smallest amount needed and in the least harmful manner.
prominent health organizations embrace a vegan diet.harvard medical school((“becoming a vegetarian.” harvard health publications harvard medical school, march 18, 2016. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/becoming-a-vegetarian )), mayo clinic((“vegetarian diet: how to get the best nutrition.” mayo clinic. accessed august 2, 2017. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/vegetarian-diet/art-20046446 )), cleveland clinic((“understanding vegetarianism & heart health.” cleveland clinic, december 2013. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/understanding-vegetarianism-heart-health )), kaiser permanente((phillip j tuso, md, mohamed h ismail, md, benjamin p ha, md, and carole bartolotto, md, rd. “nutritional update for physicians: plant-based diets.” the permanente journal - the permanente press - kaiser permanente - permanente medical groups, 2013. http://www.thepermanentejournal.org/issues/2013/spring/5117-nutrition.html )), and newyork-presbyterian((ask a nutritionist: plant-based diets.” newyork-presbyterian, march 30, 2017. https://healthmatters.nyp.org/plant-based-diet/ )) all say that a 100 percent plant-based diet is healthy.these organizations also acknowledge the ability of a plant-based diet to fight health issues such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and high cholesterol.((“becoming a vegetarian.” harvard health publications harvard medical school, march 18, 2016. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/becoming-a-vegetarian )) ((“vegetarian diet: how to get the best nutrition.” mayo clinic. accessed august 2, 2017. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/vegetarian-diet/art-20046446 )) ((“understanding vegetarianism & heart health.” cleveland clinic, december 2013. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/understanding-vegetarianism-heart-health )) ((phillip j tuso, md, mohamed h ismail, md, benjamin p ha, md, and carole bartolotto, md, rd. “nutritional update for physicians: plant-based diets.” the permanente journal - the permanente press - kaiser permanente - permanente medical groups, 2013. http://www.thepermanentejournal.org/issues/2013/spring/5117-nutrition.html )) ((ask a nutritionist: plant-based diets.” newyork-presbyterian, march 30, 2017. https://healthmatters.nyp.org/plant-based-diet/ ))kaiser permanente even advises their doctors to recommend a plant-based diet to their patients, especially those with high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or obesity.((phillip j tuso, md, mohamed h ismail, md, benjamin p ha, md, and carole bartolotto, md, rd. “nutritional update for physicians: plant-based diets.” the permanente journal - the permanente press - kaiser permanente - permanente medical groups, 2013. http://www.thepermanentejournal.org/issues/2013/spring/5117-nutrition.html ))here are a few representative quotes from these organizations:
- "nowadays, plant-based eating is recognized as not only nutritionally sufficient but also as a way to reduce the risk for many chronic illnesses." —harvard medical school((“becoming a vegetarian.” harvard health publications harvard medical school, march 18, 2016. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/becoming-a-vegetarian ))
- "healthy eating may be best achieved with a plant-based diet, which we define as a regimen that encourages whole, plant-based foods and discourages meats, dairy products, and eggs as well as all refined and processed foods." —kaiser permanente((phillip j tuso, md, mohamed h ismail, md, benjamin p ha, md, and carole bartolotto, md, rd. “nutritional update for physicians: plant-based diets.” the permanente journal - the permanente press - kaiser permanente - permanente medical groups, 2013. http://www.thepermanentejournal.org/issues/2013/spring/5117-nutrition.html ))
- "there really are no disadvantages to a herbivorous diet! a plant-based diet has many health benefits, including lowering the risk for heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. it can also help lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels, plus maintain weight and bone health." —cleveland clinic((“understanding vegetarianism & heart health.” cleveland clinic, december 2013. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/understanding-vegetarianism-heart-health ))
- "plant-based diets are believed to be an effective means of treating chronic disease, including diabetes. they also combat obesity and lower blood pressure and the risk for cardiovascular disease." —newyork-presbyterian((ask a nutritionist: plant-based diets.” newyork-presbyterian, march 30, 2017. https://healthmatters.nyp.org/plant-based-diet/ ))
dietetic associations endorse a vegan diet.the endorsement of totally vegan diets by dietetic associations is authoritative because human nutrition is their primary concern and the focus of their research.the academy of nutrition and dietetics (operating in the united states)((“vegetarian diets.” academy of nutrition and dietetics. december 2016. http://www.eatrightpro.org/resource/practice/position-and-practice-papers/position-papers/vegetarian-diets )), the dietitians of canada((“healthy eating guidelines for vegans.” dietitians of canada, november 2017. https://www.dietitians.ca/downloads/factsheets/guidlines-for-vegans.aspx )), the british dietetic association((“british dietetic association.” the vegan society. accessed august 3, 2017. https://www.vegansociety.com/society/whos-involved/partners/british-dietetic-association )), and the dietitians association of australia((“vegan diets: everything you need to know – dietitians association of australia.” dietitians association of australia. accessed august 3, 2017. https://daa.asn.au/smart-eating-for-you/smart-eating-fast-facts/healthy-eating/vegan-diets-facts-tips-and-considerations/ )) have all made pronouncements on the viability of a vegan diet.the academy of nutrition and dietetics issued a formal position statement that a vegan diet is fine "for all stages of life, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, older adulthood, and for athletes."((“vegetarian diets.” academy of nutrition and dietetics. december 2016. http://www.eatrightpro.org/resource/practice/position-and-practice-papers/position-papers/vegetarian-diets ))
the us government says a vegan diet is healthy.in its dietary guidelines for 2015–2020, the united states department of agriculture (usda) acknowledged that a vegan diet is a healthy eating pattern.((“usda food patterns: healthy vegetarian eating pattern.” dietary guidelines for americans, eighth edition. accessed august 4, 2017. https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/appendix-5/ )) this is particularly telling since the usda is a strong supporter of animal agriculture.((“agriculture and health policies in conflict: how subsidies tax our health: government support for unhealthful foods.” text. the physicians committee for responsible medicine, april 13, 2011. http://www.pcrm.org/health/reports/agriculture-and-health-policies-unhealthful-foods ))
there are no nutrients that must come from animals.even though certain vested interests have insinuated that certain nutrients must come from the animal kingdom, there is no convincing evidence to support this. if such evidence existed, the prestigious organizations mentioned could not have endorsed and praised a vegan diet. it is impossible to name even one required nutrient that must come from animals.
related objections are weak.whenever the subject of vegan nutrition is discussed, it's almost certain that related objections will be presented, bringing forth various fallacies and myths about certain aspects of a vegan diet. none of these objections can withstand scientific scrutiny.the comprehensive edition of brenda davis's book becoming vegan provides the most exhaustive treatment of vegan nutrition—and in the process provides answers to these objections, fallacies, and myths.((davis, brenda, and vesanto melina. becoming vegan the complete reference to plant-based nutrition. com edition. summertown, tennessee: book pub co, 2014.))we provide summarized responses to these frequently presented nutrition-related objections, drawing on the expertise of brenda davis and others in the objections section of this website.
“Protein is a problem for vegans.”“protein is a problem for vegans.”“protein is a problem for vegans.”all-objections health-objections objections [toc label="talking points"]perhaps the most frequently asked question to vegans is, "where do you get your protein?" the implication is that the plant proteins from a vegan diet lack quantity, quality, or completeness.we should be vigilant about all of our nutritional requirements, including protein. but the evidence does not justify the near-obsessive level of concern that we have regarding protein. below, we will show that plants can easily satisfy all our protein needs and then point out that in some ways plant protein is advantageous to animal protein.
plants readily supply abundant and complete protein.abundant protein can be found in such plant foods as beans, peas, broccoli, lentils, peanuts, quinoa, spinach, tofu, corn, and many others. a peanut butter and jelly sandwich contains more protein than a mcdonald's hamburger ((the calculation assumes two slices of whole wheat bread and two tablespoons of peanut butter)), and broccoli has twice as much protein per calorie as steak.((fuhrman, joel, and mehmet oz. eat to live: the revolutionary formula for fast and sustained weight loss. reprint edition. little, brown and company, 2005, 138))the quantity of protein is not the only concern—some feel that the quality of protein in plants is lacking. yet authorities agree that if you eat a variety of plant foods and consume sufficient calories, then you get sufficient and complete protein—all nine essential amino acids, in the proportions needed.the academy of nutrition and dietetics even says that "using the terms 'complete' and 'incomplete' to describe protein is misleading." they further state that "eating a variety of plant foods will supply all the protein you need."((melina, vesanto, winston craig, and susan levin. “position of the academy of nutrition and dietetics: vegetarian diets.” journal of the academy of nutrition and dietetics 116, no. 12 (december 2016): 1970–80. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2016.09.025 ))the british dietetic association agrees: "as long as you’re eating a mixture of different plant proteins you’ll be getting all the essential amino acids your body needs."((“food fact sheet | vegetarian diets.” british dietetic association, march 2016. https://www.bda.uk.com/foodfacts/vegetarianfoodfacts.pdf ))dr. andrew weil sums it up best: "research has discredited that notion, so you don’t have to worry that you won’t get enough usable protein if you don’t put together some magical combination of foods at each meal."((weil, md, dr. andrew. “vegetarians: pondering protein?” drweil.com. accessed october 4, 2017. https://www.drweil.com/diet-nutrition/nutrition/vegetarians-pondering-protein/ ))finally, harvard medical school, mayo clinic, cleveland clinic, kaiser permanente, newyork-presbyterian, the academy of nutrition and dietetics, the dietitians of canada, the british dietetic association, the dietitians association of australia, and others have declared a vegan diet to be not only sufficient but advantageous. they would not make this pronouncement if there were a problem with getting complete protein from plants.
essential amino acids are manufactured only by plants.many people are surprised to learn that the essential amino acids, the building blocks of protein that we must get from food, are manufactured only by plants. when we eat animals, we are getting essential amino acids originally made by plants that were then eaten by animals.since all the essential amino acids are made only by plants, it's illogical to believe we must eat animals to get them.((davis, brenda, and vesanto melina. becoming vegan: the complete reference to plant-based nutrition. comprehensive edition. summertown, tennessee: book pub co, 2014, 83 ))
protein deficiency is rare.hospitals don't have kwashiorkor units. you will find cardiovascular, endocrinology, hematology, nephrology, oncology, pulmonary, and rheumatology units at your local hospital. you would be hard pressed to find a unit for treating kwashiorkor, the protein-deficiency disease. it is almost unheard of in the developed world, and when it happens, the underlying cause of the protein deficiency is a calorie deficit.((allowances, national research council (us) subcommittee on the tenth edition of the recommended dietary. protein and amino acids. national academies press (us), 1989. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/nbk234922/ ))it's difficult to design a protein-deficient vegan diet. dr. joel fuhrman "tried to compose a natural-foods diet deficient in any required amino acid" and declared, "it was impossible."((fuhrman, joel, and mehmet oz. eat to live: the revolutionary formula for fast and sustained weight loss. reprint edition. little, brown and company, 2005, 139 ))jeff novick, registered dietitian, tried as well: "any single whole natural plant food, or any combination of them, if eaten as one’s sole source of calories for a day, would provide all of the essential amino acids and not just the minimum requirements but far more than the recommended requirements."((novick, jeff. “the myth of complementary protein.” forks over knives, june 3, 2013. https://www.forksoverknives.com/the-myth-of-complementary-protein/ ))
animal protein carries health risks.animal protein promotes disease. according to dr. joel fuhrman (and others), animal protein promotes cancer, bone loss, and kidney disease. it also raises cholesterol and accelerates aging.((fuhrman, joel, and mehmet oz. eat to live: the revolutionary formula for fast and sustained weight loss. reprint edition. little, brown and company, 2005, 140 ))animal protein is associated with higher mortality risk. a study published in the jama internal medicine in august, 2016, the largest study yet to examine the effect of different sources of protein, found that animal protein is associated with higher mortality risk while plant protein is associated with lower mortality risk.((massachusetts general hospital. “high animal protein intake associated with higher, plant protein with lower mortality rate.” science daily, august 1, 2016. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/08/160801113654.htm ))animal protein is packaged without fiber. when you eat mostly animal protein, you may not be getting enough fiber in your diet. fiber is packaged with plant protein and does not exist in animals. while a protein deficiency is rare, fiber deficiency is rampant, with only 3 percent of americans meeting the daily requirements for fiber. most get less than half the requirement.((greger, dr. michael. “where do you get your fiber?” nutritionfacts.org, september 29, 2015. https://nutritionfacts.org/2015/09/29/where-do-you-get-your-fiber/ ))
you need less protein than you may think.the recommended daily allowance (rda) is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of ideal or healthy body weight. a safety factor of almost double is built into the recommended daily allowance. ideal body weight is used because extra fat tissue requires relatively little protein.((davis, brenda, and vesanto melina. becoming vegan: the complete reference to plant-based nutrition. comprehensive edition. summertown, tennessee: book pub co, 2014 ))for a 150-pound person (based on your ideal or healthy body weight), the rda for protein calculates to 54 grams—or 34 grams when you remove the built-in safety factor. the average american consumes 100 grams of protein per day, which is unhealthy.((fuhrman, joel, and mehmet oz. eat to live: the revolutionary formula for fast and sustained weight loss. reprint edition. little, brown and company, 2005, 139 ))
the strongest animals get their protein from plants.vegans get their protein from the same source that the strongest animals on the planet get their protein—plants. these animals include elephants, rhinoceroses, hippopotamuses, and horses. it's also noteworthy that almost all the land animals we eat, namely cows, pigs, and factory chickens, get their protein from plants.although these nonhuman examples don't prove anything specific to humans, they do suggest that since plants alone are capable of providing the protein needed by these animals, plants alone might also provide the protein that humans need.
some prominent bodybuilders rely on vegan protein.kendrick farris, the only american weight lifter to compete in the 2016 olympics, the gold-medal winner at the two pan american championships before that,((cave, james. “kendrick farris, the only male u.s. weightlifter in the olympics, is totally vegan | huffpost.” huffington post, august 10, 2016. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/kendrick-farris-olympics-vegan_us_57ab6be7e4b0db3be07ccc07 )) and whom men's fitness magazine called america's strongest weight lifter, is 100 percent vegan.((rodio, michael. “america’s strongest weightlifter, kendrick farris, is 100% vegan,” august 10, 2016. http://www.mensfitness.com/life/entertainment/americas-strongest-weightlifter-kendrick-farris-100-vegan )) he adopted a vegan diet for ethical reasons.((steele, lauren. “why america’s best olympic weightlifter is vegan.” men’s journal. accessed october 11, 2017. http://www.mensjournal.com/health-fitness/articles/why-americas-best-olympic-weightlifter-is-vegan-w434203 ))patrik baboumian, at the time of this writing, still holds the world dead-lift record five years after adopting a vegan diet. he claims that his meat-free diet gave him more energy and endurance in the gym than ever before.((english, nick. “the 5 strongest vegans on earth.” barbend, january 3, 2017. https://barbend.com/strongest-vegans-on-earth/ ))barny du plessis, the 2014 amateur mr. universe champion, stated that after he went vegan he "found himself in better shape than ever" and "had more energy and endurance than ever before."((kirkova, deni. “vegan mr. universe, 40, says meat-free diet has made him stronger than ever.” metro news uk, september 24, 2015. http://metro.co.uk/2015/09/24/vegan-bodybuilder-40-aims-for-mr-universe-title-as-he-says-meat-free-diet-has-made-him-stronger-than-ever-5351168/ ))you need only take a look at the bios page of a single vegan bodybuilding site (http://www.veganbodybuilding.com/?page=bios) to realize this is a robust segment of the bodybuilding community.((“bios page.” vegan bodybuilding & fitness. accessed october 11, 2017. http://www.veganbodybuilding.com/?page=bios ))although the preceding examples are from the sport of weight lifting because of its obvious connection to protein, endurance athletes need protein too. so we'll briefly mention that scott jurek, the world's most dominant ultramarathon runner, is also vegan.((finn, anna. “vegans in the rise of ultra running - one green planet.” one green planet, april 12, 2012. https://www.onegreenplanet.org/lifestyle/vegans-in-the-rise-of-ultra-running/ ))
“Humans are natural omnivores—we digest meat, have canine teeth, and have front-facing eyes.”“humans are natural omnivores—we digest meat, have canine teeth, and have front-facing eyes.”“humans are natural omnivores—we digest meat, have canine teeth, and have front-facing eyes.”all-objections anatomy-objections health-objections nature-objections objections [toc label="talking points"]those objecting to veganism often bring up one or more in a series of related complaints: that a vegan diet is not natural, that humans are omnivores and can digest meat, or that canine teeth and front-facing eyes are indications we are predators and not prey.these protests are adequately dismissed with the first point below, which explains why they are not pertinent to the validity of veganism and therefore cannot diminish the case for veganism.although no further exploration of these claims is necessary once their lack of pertinence is demonstrated, we expound on these claims in case you're interested. it turns out that even if the objections were pertinent, they'd be nevertheless weak.
the case for veganism does not depend on humans being natural herbivores or having specific physical traits.vegan diets are beyond sufficient for human health. even if humans were natural omnivores and our teeth and eye locations supported that assertion, the science is clear that a strictly herbivorous vegan diet is not only adequate but also beneficial to our health.this is confirmed by harvard medical school, mayo clinic, cleveland clinic, kaiser permanente, newyork-presbyterian, the academy of nutrition and dietetics operating in the united states, the dietitians of canada, the british dietetic association, the dietitians association of australia, and others.((see http://justiceforanimals.org/objections/quote-we-need-animal-products-to-be-healthy/ for statements and citations ))these prominent organizations and others could only have made statements declaring the adequacy and salubriousness of a vegan diet if science supported such statements. cleveland clinic even explicitly states, "there really are no disadvantages to a herbivorous diet!"((“understanding vegetarianism & heart health.” cleveland clinic, december 2013. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/understanding-vegetarianism-heart-health ))the case for veganism has nothing to do with this issue. simply put, the case for veganism is that it's ethically wrong to cause unnecessary harm to animals. because it's not necessary to eat animal products for nutrition, any claims that we are natural herbivores are rendered meaningless.
the evidence is strong that we lean toward being herbivorous.the fact that humans are behavioral omnivores and are able to get nutrition from both plants and animals says nothing about what is natural or optimum.our anatomy and physiology suggest that we are more herbivorous than omnivorous. a number of notable people have observed that anatomical and physiological traits of humans closely match herbivores'.dr. mills's the comparative anatomy of eating((mills, milton r. “the comparative anatomy of eating.” vegsource interactive inc 26 (1996). https://www.scribd.com/doc/94656/the-comparative-anatomy-of-eating )) shows we more closely match herbivores in eighteen traits, as summarized below.
- small intestine
- carnivore: 3–6 times body length
- omnivore: 4–6 times body length
- herbivore: 10–12+ times body length
- human: 10–11 times body length
- carnivore: simple, short, and smooth
- omnivore: simple, short, and smooth
- herbivore: long, complex; may be sacculated
- human: long, sacculated
- small intestine
- carnivore: short and pointed
- omnivore: short and pointed
- herbivore: broad, flat, and spade shaped
- human: broad, flat, and spade shaped
- carnivore: long, sharp, and curved
- omnivore: long, sharp, and curved
- herbivore: dull and short or long (for defense) or none
- human: short and blunted
- carnivore: sharp, jagged, and blade shaped
- omnivore: sharp blades or flattened
- herbivore: flat with cusps vs. complex surface
- human: flat with nodular cusps
- carnivore: no digestive enzymes
- omnivore: no digestive enzymes
- herbivore: carbohydrate-digesting enzymes
- human: carbohydrate-digesting enzymes
- stomach type
- carnivore: simple
- omnivore: simple
- herbivore: simple or with multiple chambers
- human: simple
- stomach acidity with food in stomach
- carnivore: ≤ ph 1
- omnivore: ≤ ph 1
- herbivore: ph 4–5
- human: ph 4–5
- stomach type
- carnivore: none; swallows food whole
- omnivore: swallows food whole or simple crushing
- herbivore: extensive chewing necessary
- human: extensive chewing necessary
- carnivore: sharp claws
- omnivore: sharp claws
- herbivore: flat nails or blunt hooves
- human: flat nails
- carnivore: angle not expanded
- omnivore: angle not expanded
- herbivore: expanded angle
- human: expanded angle
- joint location
- carnivore: on the same plane as molar teeth
- omnivore: on the same plane as molar teeth
- herbivore: above the plane of the molars
- human: above the plane of the molars
- carnivore: shearing; minimal side-to-side motion
- omnivore: shearing; minimal side-to-side motion
- herbivore: no shearing; good side-to-side, front-to-back motion
- human: no shearing; good side-to-side, front-to-back motion
- major muscles
- carnivore: temporalis
- omnivore: temporalis
- herbivore: masseter and pterygoids
- human: masseter and pterygoids
- mouth opening vs. head size
- carnivore: large
- omnivore: large
- herbivore: small
- human: small
- facial muscles
- carnivore: reduced to allow wide mouth gape
- omnivore: reduced
- herbivore: well developed
- human: well developed
- carnivore: can detoxify vitamin a
- omnivore: can detoxify vitamin a
- herbivore: cannot detoxify vitamin a
- human: cannot detoxify vitamin a
- carnivore: extremely concentrated urine
- omnivore: extremely concentrated urine
- herbivore: moderately concentrated urine
- human: moderately concentrated urine
the notion of a natural diet is problematic.the concept of a natural diet might make some sense in the context of gatherers and hunters. but since the invention of agriculture, with its selective breeding of both plant and animal species, the label loses its meaning.also, to make the claim that humans are natural omnivores, one needs to define what is meant by "natural" in this context. if by "natural" you are referring to the ability to obtain nutrients, then humans are omnivores, as we can digest both plants and meat. but, as shown earlier, that still cannot negate the case for veganism.if you mean it's natural because it's nutritionally the best diet for humans, then you are on shaky ground. there's an increasingly large body of research, as mentioned and cited above, supporting the contention that the closer we are to a varied herbivorous diet, the greater our general health and the lower our risk for a multitude of chronic diseases.finally, the claim that humans are natural omnivores can be thought of as an example of the naturalistic fallacy. that is to say, being natural doesn't make something ethically or nutritionally sound.
canine teeth are not indicators of dietary requirements.as elaborated on earlier, the argument for veganism does not depend on humans having any specific physical traits. but the part of the objection that pertains to canine teeth is discussed here only because it is frequently voiced.hippopotamuses, gorillas, camels, and saber-toothed deer all have sizable canines, and all are herbivorous. herbivores use canine teeth in various ways. sizable canines in herbivores are often for defense. the relatively short, blunted canines in humans can assist in biting into hard, crunchy plants (such as apples) and ripping vegetable matter, preparing the food for grinding by the other teeth. one thing seems obvious—human canines are not adequate to kill prey or tear raw flesh for eating.
front-facing eyes are not necessarily indicative of predator status.the claim is made that since many prey animals have eyes on the side of the head and many predator animals have eyes on the front of the head, it follows that humans, who have eyes on the front of the head, are designed to eat copious amounts of meat.the point is made moot, however, not only by the fact that the argument for veganism does not depend on physical traits but also by the fact that our closest relatives in the animal kingdom, the primates, have eyes in the front of the head.at least three advantages of frontal eyes for primates have been proposed.binocular vision is crucial for the manipulation of plant foods. a study titled "binocularity and brain evolution in primates," published by the national academy of sciences, concludes that "fine-grained stereopsis [binocular vision] is likely to be critical for the visually guided, delicate manipulation of plant foods."((barton, r. a. “binocularity and brain evolution in primates.” proceedings of the national academy of sciences of the united states of america 101, no. 27 (july 6, 2004): 10113–15. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0401955101 ))the ability to "see through" foliage is advantageous. theoretical neurobiologist mark changizi proposes in the journal of theoretical biology the "x-ray vision" hypothesis. according to changizi, front-facing eyes gave our ancestors the advantage of being able to "see through" the cluttered foliage in the forest. you can see this effect, he states, by placing a finger in front of your eyes and noting that the finger does not block the view of anything behind it.((changizi, mark a., and shinsuke shimojo. “‘x-ray vision’ and the evolution of forward-facing eyes.” journal of theoretical biology 254, no. 4 (october 21, 2008): 756–67. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jtbi.2008.07.011 ))arboreal locomotion requires accurate depth and distance perception. the depth and distance perception afforded by front-facing eyes was useful to our ancestors in jumping from branch to branch and tree to tree. this idea was proposed in 1922 by edward collins and has subsequently been expanded and refined.((goldman, jason g. “evolution: why do your eyes face forwards?” bbc, october 28, 2014. http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20141013-why-do-your-eyes-face-forwards ))
“B12 is a problem for vegans, so a vegan diet is not natural.”“b12 is a problem for vegans, so a vegan diet is not natural.”“b12 is a problem for vegans, so a vegan diet is not natural.”all-objections health-objections objections [toc label="talking points"]this objection seeks to invalidate veganism and animal rights by asserting that vitamin b12 is problematic for vegans and that the need for b12 supplementation proves that a vegan diet is not natural. we show that even though it is true that most nutritionists recommend vegans supplement for b12, that fact does not make a vegan diet unnatural, and neither does it invalidate veganism.b12 is produced by microorganisms in the soil and in the intestines of animals, including our own. the amount we produce is not sufficient to prevent deficiency.((campbell, t. colin, and thomas m campbell. the china study: the most comprehensive study of nutrition ever conducted and the startling implications for diet, weight loss and long-term health. 1 edition. dallas, tex: benbella books, 2004 ))b12 deficiency can be a serious issue and should not be taken lightly. while it's true that b12 can be obtained by eating animal flesh, getting adequate b12 through vegan sources is easy and inexpensive, as discussed below.
b12 supplementation is very inexpensive.if concern over b12 is what's keeping you from becoming vegan, then the twelve cents a week that it costs to buy b12 supplements is a small price to pay to avoid harming animals—and to reap the health benefits and other positive consequences of veganism.the "twelve cents a week" figure is based on nature made brand b12, sold at walmart and other stores, in the biweekly dosage recommendation explained below.((“nature made vitamin b-12 dietary supplement timed release tablets, 1000mcg, 190 count.” walmart.com. accessed january 30, 2018. /ip/nature-made-vitamin-b-12-dietary-supplement-timed-release-tablets-1000mcg-190-count/36168191 ))
getting adequate b12 is easy.for daily supplementation, dietitian jack norris (among others) recommends 25–100 micrograms of b12 in the form of cyanocobalamin.((norris, jack. “daily needs.” vegan health. accessed january 30, 2018. https://veganhealth.org/daily-needs/ ))for biweekly supplementation, norris (among others) recommends 1,000 micrograms twice a week in the form of cyanocobalamin.((ibid.))according to dietitian brenda davis, you can also get adequate b12 through fortified foods by consuming three servings of b12-fortified foods daily, with each serving supplying at least two micrograms.((davis, brenda, and vesanto melina. becoming vegan: the complete reference to plant-based nutrition. com edition. book pub co, 2014. 221)) nondairy milk, breakfast cereals and bars, vegan meat substitutes, and nutritional yeast are commonly fortified with b12. this method requires more diligence and planning than supplementation.
the need for b12 supplements may be an artifact of modern living.countering the argument that our need for b12 supplementation proves that a vegan diet is not natural, dr. michael klaper,((klaper, dr. michael. “vitamin b12 basics.” michael klaper, m.d., nutrition-based medicine, january 27, 2017. https://doctorklaper.com/answers/answers27 )) t. colin campbell,((campbell, t. colin, and thomas m campbell. the china study: the most comprehensive study of nutrition ever conducted and the startling implications for diet, weight loss and long-term health. 1 edition. dallas, tex: benbella books, 2004 )) dr. alan goldhamer,((goldhamer, alan, and doug lisle. “vitamin b12 recommendations for vegans | truenorth health.” true north health center, may 26, 2010. http://www.healthpromoting.com/learning-center/articles/vitamin-b12-recommendations-vegans )) and others believe that before our modern way of life, we would have gotten adequate b12 from the soil. unlike previous times, during which one might say we lived a more natural life, our fruits, vegetables, and root crops are now grown in sterile soil and thoroughly washed, eliminating the b12 that would naturally be present in the food.
prudence is advisable for any dietary regimen.everyone should take care to ensure they are not nutrient deficient no matter what their eating pattern. b12 is not the only nutrient of concern: according to the us office of disease prevention and health promotion (odphp), americans are commonly deficient in seven nutrients: vitamin a, vitamin d, vitamin e, folate, vitamin c, calcium, and magnesium.((“scientific report of the 2015 dietary guidelines advisory committee, part d chapter 1.” health.gov odphp, 2015. https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015-scientific-report/06-chapter-1/d1-2.asp ))in order to overcome these deficiencies, the odphp recommendation is to adopt a usda healthy eating pattern,((ibid.)) such as a vegan diet.((“usda food patterns: healthy vegetarian eating pattern.” dietary guidelines for americans, eighth edition. accessed august 4, 2017. https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/appendix-5/ ))
the idea of a natural diet is problematic.if a vegan diet is unnatural because of a need for supplementation, then perhaps being over fifty years old is unnatural, because those over fifty are commonly deficient in b12 and supplementation is recommended for anyone over fifty.((institute of medicine, and food and nutrition board. dietary reference intakes for thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin b6, folate, vitamin b12, pantothenic acid, biotin, and choline. 1 edition. washington, d.c: national academies press, 2000. 306 ))following a similar line of reasoning, perhaps the proverbial standard american diet is unnatural because of the common deficiencies of the seven nutrients mentioned previously.this idea of a natural diet might make some sense in the context of gatherers and hunters, but since the invention of agriculture, with its selective breeding of both plant and animal species, the label loses its meaning.also, the claim that a vegan diet is not natural is an example of the naturalistic fallacy. that is to say, being natural doesn't make something ethically or nutritionally sound. hemlock is natural but not recommended for consumption.
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