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Outline:Notes on the assertion that we need animal products to be healthy

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  • Context
    • Why This Topic Is Important
      • 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.
    • The health benefits of a whole-food, plant-based diet should not be exaggerated.
      • Vegans are not altogether free of health problems. But the evidence is strong that the plant-based eating pattern promotes good health and lowers your risk for many ailments.
    • Extra
      • What if it is discovered that we need animal products to be healthy?
        • Veganism would still be relevant because we would be ethically obliged to consume only those animal products needed—and only in the smallest amounts needed and in the least harmful manner. Some vegans would choose to suffer the health consequences.
  • Prominent health organizations embrace a vegan diet.
    • Harvard Medical School
      • Quote: "Nowadays, plant-based eating is recognized as not only nutritionally sufficient but also as a way to reduce the risk for many chronic illnesses."[1]
      • HMS has a faculty of over eleven thousand [2] and are consistently ranked the number one research medical school in the United States.[3]
    • Mayo Clinic
      • Quote: "A well-planned vegetarian diet [defined to include a vegan diet] is a healthy way to meet your nutritional needs."[4]
      • Mayo Clinic is the "largest integrated, not-for-profit medical group practice in the world"[5] with over four thousand five hundred physicians and scientists.[6]
    • Cleveland Clinic
      • Quote: "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."[7]
      • Cleveland Clinic is a highly regarded medical system with one thousand seven hundred staff physicians representing one hundred twenty medical specialties, and it helps patients from all over the world.[8]
    • Kaiser Permanente
      • Quote: "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."
      • Quote: "Physicians should consider recommending a plant-based diet to all their patients, especially those with high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or obesity. Research shows that plant-based diets are cost-effective, low-risk interventions that may lower body mass index, blood pressure, HbA1C, and cholesterol levels. They may also reduce the number of medications needed to treat chronic diseases and lower ischemic heart disease mortality rates."
      • Source[9]
      • Kaiser Permanente is one the United States' largest nonprofit health plans, with over eleven million members.[10]
    • NewYork-Presbyterian (health-care delivery system)
      • Quote: "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."
      • The author of the article quoted above, although not named in the article, states that he or she is a vegan and defines a plant-based diet as "a diet that’s completely free of animal products and byproducts—no meat, seafood, poultry, dairy, or eggs."
      • Source[11]
  • Nutrition-focused dietetic associations endorse a vegan diet.
    • Context
      • The endorsement of totally vegan diets by dietetic associations is more authoritative because human nutrition is their primary concern and the focus of their research and training.
      • This is in contrast with medical doctors, who typically receive little training in nutrition.
        • "Most US medical schools (86/121, 71%) fail to provide the recommended minimum 25 hours of nutrition education; 43 (36%) provide less than half that much."[12]
        • In one study, doctors averaged receiving a failing grade on a test on nutrition.[13]
        • U.S. News provides a good overview of medical doctors' training in nutrition.[14]
    • The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND)
      • Formal position statement:
        • Quote: "It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that appropriately planned vegetarian, including vegan, diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate and may provide health benefits for the prevention and treatment of certain diseases."
        • Quote: "These diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, older adulthood and for athletes."
        • Quote: "Plant-based diets are more environmentally sustainable than diets rich in animal products because they use fewer natural resources and are associated with much less environmental damage."
        • Quote: "Vegetarians and vegans are at reduced risk of certain health conditions, including ischemic heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, certain types of cancer, and obesity."
        • Source[15]
      • Formerly known as the American Dietetic Association (ADA), the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is the "world's largest organization of food and nutrition professionals" with "over 100,000 credentialed practitioners."[16]
    • Dietitians of Canada (DC)
      • Quote: "A healthy vegan diet has many health benefits including lower rates of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer."[17]
    • The British Dietetic Association (BDA)
      • Quote: "Well planned vegetarian diets [defined to include a vegan diet] can be nutritious and healthy. They are associated with lower risks of heart disease, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, obesity, certain cancers and lower cholesterol levels."[18]
      • The BDA and the Vegan Society formed an alliance to "work together to show that it is possible to follow a well-planned, plant-based, vegan-friendly diet that supports healthy living in people of all ages, and during pregnancy and breastfeeding.”[19]
    • Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA)
      • Quote: "With good planning, those following a vegan diet can cover all their nutrient bases, but there are some extra things to consider."[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:
      • Of the $246 billion in subsidies to agriculture between 1995 and 2009, 63% supported crops directly grown for livestock feed while only 20% supported grains for human consumption.
      • Fresh fruits and vegetables—called "specialty crops" by the USDA—do not receive subsidies.
      • Subsidies for dairy producers amounted to $4.8 billion from 1995 through 2009.
      • The USDA provided $3.5 billion between 1995 and 2009 for the Livestock Compensation Program, livestock feed assistance, and livestock emergency assistance.
      • In 2009, the USDA spent $793 million for beef, pork, poultry, eggs, and fish.
      • In 2009, the USDA spent more than $623 million to buy dairy products—mostly cheese.
      • The USDA administers programs to help producers market their products, such as the Got Milk? campaign.
      • Source[22]
    • Extra
      • In its dietary guidelines, the USDA reinforced the idea that nutrition and health are closely related.[23]
      • Dr. Neal Barnard, founding president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), noted that "even with its flaws, the new Dietary Guidelines report is a major advance."[24]
  • It is impossible to name even one required nutrient 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 herein would not have endorsed and praised a vegan diet.
  • 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[25]  provides the most exhaustive treatment of vegan nutrition—and in the process provides answers to these objections, fallacies, and myths.
    • We provide summarized responses to the most frequently presented health-related objections, drawing on the expertise of Brenda Davis and others in the <a href="http://justiceforanimals.org/section/objections/">Objections Section</a> of this website.

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. Facts and Figures | HMS.” Harvard Medical School, 2017. https://hms.harvard.edu/about-hms/facts-figures
  3. “Best Medical Schools (Research) Ranked in 2017 | US News Rankings.” US News Education. Accessed August 1, 2017. https://www.usnews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-medical-schools/research-rankings
  4. “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
  5. “Mayo Clinic Facts and Highlights - MC2045 - Doc-20078949.” Accessed August 1, 2017. http://www.mayoclinic.org/documents/mc2045-pdf/doc-20078949
  6. About Us - Mayo Clinic Facts.” Mayo Clinic. Accessed August 2, 2017. http://www.mayoclinic.org/about-mayo-clinic/facts-statistics
  7. “Understanding Vegetarianism & Heart Health.” Cleveland Clinic, December 2013. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/understanding-vegetarianism-heart-health
  8. Stoller, James K. “The Cleveland Clinic: A Distinctive Model of American Medicine.” Annals of Translational Medicine 2, no. 4 (2014). doi:10.3978/j.issn.2305-5839.2013.12.02. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4200609/
  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. “Fast Facts About Kaiser Permanente.” Kaiser Permanente Share, 2017. https://share.kaiserpermanente.org/article/fast-facts-about-kaiser-permanente/
  11. Ask A Nutritionist: Plant-Based Diets.” NewYork-Presbyterian, March 30, 2017. https://healthmatters.nyp.org/plant-based-diet/
  12. Adams, Kelly M., W. Scott Butsch, and Martin Kohlmeier. “The State of Nutrition Education at US Medical Schools.” Research article. Journal of Biomedical Education, 2015. doi:10.1155/2015/357627
  13. Castillo, Marigold, Ronald Feinstein, James Tsang, and Martin Fisher. “Basic Nutrition Knowledge of Recent Medical Graduates Entering a Pediatric Residency Program.” International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health 28, no. 4 (November 1, 2016): 357–61. doi:10.1515/ijamh-2015-0019
  14. Stacey Colino. “How Much Do Doctors Learn About Nutrition?” US News & World Report, December 7, 2016. http://health.usnews.com/wellness/food/articles/2016-12-07/how-much-do-doctors-learn-about-nutrition
  15. “Vegetarian Diets.” Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. December 2016. http://www.eatrightpro.org/resource/practice/position-and-practice-papers/position-papers/vegetarian-diets
  16. “About Us.” Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Accessed August 2, 2017. http://www.eatrightpro.org/resources/about-us
  17. “Healthy Eating Guidelines for Vegans.” Dietitians of Canada, November 2017. https://www.dietitians.ca/Downloads/Factsheets/Guidlines-for-Vegans.aspx
  18. “Vegetarian Diets.” British Dietetic Association, March 2016. https://www.bda.uk.com/foodfacts/vegetarianfoodfacts.pdf
  19. “British Dietetic Association.” The Vegan Society. Accessed August 3, 2017. https://www.vegansociety.com/society/whos-involved/partners/british-dietetic-association
  20. “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/
  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. “Nutrition and Health Are Closely Related.” Dietary Guidelines for Americans, Eighth Edition. Accessed August 4, 2017. https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/introduction/nutrition-and-health-are-closely-related/
  24. D. Neal Barnard. “New Dietary Guidelines: The Good, the Bad, and the Downright Confusing.” The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, February 19, 2015. http://www.pcrm.org/nbBlog/index.php/new-dietary-guidelines-the-good-the-bad-and-the-downright-confusing
  25. Davis, Brenda, and Vesanto Melina. Becoming Vegan: The Complete Reference to Plant-Based Nutrition. Com edition. Summertown, Tennessee: Book Pub Co, 2014