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In reply to: We need animal products to be healthy

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Context

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.

Talking Points

Prominent health organizations embrace a vegan diet.

Harvard Medical School[1], Mayo Clinic[2], Cleveland Clinic[3], Kaiser Permanente[4], and NewYork-Presbyterian[5] 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.[6] [7] [8] [9] [10]

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.[11]

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[12]
  • "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[13]
  • "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[14]
  • "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[15]

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)[16], the Dietitians of Canada[17], the British Dietetic Association[18], and the Dietitians Association of Australia[19] 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."[20]

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.[21] This is particularly telling since the USDA is a strong supporter of animal agriculture.[22]

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.[23]

See Also

Footnotes

  1. “Becoming a Vegetarian.” Harvard Health Publications Harvard Medical School, March 18, 2016. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/becoming-a-vegetarian
  2. “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
  3. “Understanding Vegetarianism & Heart Health.” Cleveland Clinic, December 2013. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/understanding-vegetarianism-heart-health
  4. 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
  5. Ask A Nutritionist: Plant-Based Diets.” NewYork-Presbyterian, March 30, 2017. https://healthmatters.nyp.org/plant-based-diet/
  6. “Becoming a Vegetarian.” Harvard Health Publications Harvard Medical School, March 18, 2016. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/becoming-a-vegetarian
  7. “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
  8. “Understanding Vegetarianism & Heart Health.” Cleveland Clinic, December 2013. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/understanding-vegetarianism-heart-health
  9. 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
  10. Ask A Nutritionist: Plant-Based Diets.” NewYork-Presbyterian, March 30, 2017. https://healthmatters.nyp.org/plant-based-diet/
  11. 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
  12. “Becoming a Vegetarian.” Harvard Health Publications Harvard Medical School, March 18, 2016. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/becoming-a-vegetarian
  13. 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
  14. “Understanding Vegetarianism & Heart Health.” Cleveland Clinic, December 2013. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/understanding-vegetarianism-heart-health
  15. Ask A Nutritionist: Plant-Based Diets.” NewYork-Presbyterian, March 30, 2017. https://healthmatters.nyp.org/plant-based-diet/
  16. “Vegetarian Diets.” Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. December 2016. http://www.eatrightpro.org/resource/practice/position-and-practice-papers/position-papers/vegetarian-diets
  17. “Healthy Eating Guidelines for Vegans.” Dietitians of Canada, November 2017. https://www.dietitians.ca/Downloads/Factsheets/Guidlines-for-Vegans.aspx
  18. “British Dietetic Association.” The Vegan Society. Accessed August 3, 2017. https://www.vegansociety.com/society/whos-involved/partners/british-dietetic-association
  19. “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/
  20. “Vegetarian Diets.” Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. December 2016. http://www.eatrightpro.org/resource/practice/position-and-practice-papers/position-papers/vegetarian-diets
  21. “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/
  22. “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
  23. Davis, Brenda, and Vesanto Melina. Becoming Vegan The Complete Reference to Plant-Based Nutrition. Com edition. Summertown, Tennessee: Book Pub Co, 2014.

Meta

This article was originally authored by Greg Fuller and copyedited by Isaac Nickerson. The contents may have been edited since that time by others.