Every Friday, I answer a question or two from readers. Starting today, a special guest will be joining me. His name is Stabby, and he’s a raccoon. Stabby is the pen name of an unnamed nutrition science expert (who’s apparently also a raccoon). Stabby’s written a lot about the science of binge drinking and the science of preventing hangovers. Confused? Me too. But trust me, this will all make sense in time.

Today’s question is so important that the other questions I received will have to wait until next week. You see, today’s question is…

“I am vegan. I feel fine. Numbers seem fine. Will I die? Will my future baby die of malnutrition from my malnourished breast? Please answer.”

S.C., Cambridge MA

 

Kamal’s answer: You will die, like all other mortals, but in the meantime it might be fruitful to analyze your diet

 

To some, this question may seem like a joke, but it’s actually a critical issue for millions of people who avoid or limit animal products. On the continuum from an all-meat diet to a no-meat diet are a variety of healthy combinations. The oldest humans on record have had diverse diets and habits that included varying amounts of meat, chocolate, smoking, and activity. So it’s definitely possible to live to an old age and eat varying amounts of animal products. While none of the world’s oldest people have been vegan, that doesn’t mean much, since there have been relatively few life-long vegans compared to life-long omnivores living on Earth. But to my knowledge, no vegans or life-long vegetarians have cracked the list of the 20 oldest humans. So that might hint that avoiding animal products is not a certain pathway to a superhuman lifespan.

So on to the question. S.C. states that her numbers are fine. That is both good and bad. It’s good because a “fine” blood panel means that she isn’t in kidney or liver failure, isn’t an uncontrolled diabetic, and probably won’t die this week. Except…doctors aren’t usually so good at interpreting blood panels for health, but rather for acute sickness. What do I mean by that? Well, a doctor will tell you if your vitamin D is within range, but not always if it’s sub-optimal.  They might know that you have depression issues, but typically won’t order tests that can link it to nutrient deficiencies or other biomarkers. They definitely won’t order omega-3 / omega-6 measurements because it’s not covered by insurance. And so on, and so on.

vegan-helloOkay, so we’ve suggested that lab tests might not be enough to prove that everything’s fine and dandy. What about S.C.’s second question…”Will I die?” Well, nobody wants to die early if they can help it. And while there have been case reports of malnutrition-related deaths caused by inappropriately used vegan diets, such as in infants, this is moreso a game of probabilities. Are there nutrients a vegan is missing in their diet that could impact the probability of having a long lifespan? Or more importantly, sickness and quality of life? Julia Taylor, a New Zealand based nutritionist, showed that even a fruitarian (meaning someone who eats pretty much only fruit) can attain high levels of major nutrients, but that  some important deficiencies and imbalances can occur .

Stabby will get more into these nutrients in just a second, and you can track your own nutrients using a tool like Cronometer. For now, let’s set a baseline scenario. Vegans are not evil and they are not harming you. If they choose to not eat animals due to ethical reasons or health reasons, don’t be a douche and act all superior to them. But if they are willing to discuss nutrition science, then it’s going to get interesting. Avoid the protein issue, because any vegan worth their salt tries hard to get enough protein. Other issues are probably more important. And P.S.– we won’t talk about the effect of the mother’s vegan diet on her baby during this post. It’s already hella long. Let me turn the mic over to MC Stabby, who will fill in all the nutrient details.

 

Hi there, I’m Stabby and I’ll be giving my best short-notice answer to the above question.

The determinants of health are anything but a simple topic. I can’t pretend to have a definitive answer and there will invariably be something that I have overlooked, but I’ll give it my best shot! Hang on tight (to your head maybe?)…this will be a bumpy ride.

If you fully accept the health beliefs of many vegan diet advocates, then here’s your outlook:   you’re doing the most important thing you could possibly do to be healthy and live a long life  and there aren’t any downsides worth mentioning. If you listen to many advocates of meat-containing diets you’ll get  the exact opposite story :  they will say that you are indeed going to die. Imminently. And your baby has no hope for tomorrow!

I don’t really agree with either of these positions. I can’t look inside your body and tell what’s going on and I can’t tell what you’re going to do in your life, so how can I know what your life-long prognosis will be? So let’s ask some questions.

Are vegans dropping like flies?

Vegans don’t eat any animal products at all: no meat, no dairy, no eggs and no fish. In general, vegetarians (those who simply don’t eat meat but aren’t vegans in that they might consume dairy and eggs) are somewhat healthier than those who do eat meat. They live a little bit longer on paper and have lower rates of cardiovascular diseases and some cancers from the studies that have actually evaluated this. Occasional meat eaters and people who eat fish live just as long. However  vegans do not live longer than the average every-day omnivore  and are more likely than lacto-ovo vegetarians and fish-eaters to die of all causes over the same period of time. They are even a little more likely to die of a heart attack.

That’s certainly a concern, but we have to interpret these facts correctly and not start claiming things such as that you need to eat eggs or you’ll die. These are just facts about who lives longer, not about which foods cause or prevent diseases. For example I don’t think that the fact that meat-eaters have higher rates of certain diseases means that meat necessarily increases the risk of developing them. There could be other factors at play that bias the association. Plus you can sometimes attain the advantages of a food through supplementation, or reduce the disadvantages of a food through proper preparation. All I can do is give you the  pros and cons of a vegan diet, give you possible solutions to the cons, and let you decide for yourself what to do. 

Possible pro of vegan diets: Eliminating harshly cooked meat.

Not eating meat means that you’re not eating overly cooked meat. High heat cooking techniques like grilling, broiling and cooking meat until it’s well-done form carcinogens and reactive molecules which harm the body when consumed, and potentially contribute to disease. However, moderate cooking techniques don’t appear to be much to fret about. If vegans don’t eat any meat that is cooked harshly, and they don’t live longer than people who do, does that mean that a vegan could live longer by eating moderately cooked meat which poses a minimal risk? Just a thought, not necessarily an assertion that they would. Just as a side note, meat isn’t the only food that becomes detrimental when cooked excessively, but it appears to be a major source of food carcinogens. I’m no raw foodist, but it appears to be an important issue.

Possible pro of vegan diets: No processed meat.

bacon catVegans also don’t eat processed meat. Bacon and sausage, that sort of thing. Cured, smoked, filled with additives…delicious. PROCESSED meats seem to be consistently associated with disease risk, whereas scientists are very hesitant to say that UNPROCESSED meat contributes to diseases like cardiovascular disease and diabetes without strong data. Correlation isn’t the same as causation, but processed meats tend to be overcooked and are especially likely to form large amounts of harmful reactive compounds. So does that mean if meat-eaters cut way down on the processed meat, that they’d live longer than vegans?  Is non-processed-meat-atarianism the way to go?  Just another thought.

Possible pro of vegan diets: Healthier lifestyle (not actually a pro, but then again the previous two weren’t necessarily pros either)

Vegans are far less likely to eat at fast food restaurants with their trans fats, thermally oxidized frier oils, and literally hundreds of unpronounceable ingredients. Vegans are overwhelmingly more health-conscious than omnivores on average, and often have an aversion to such restaurants. Many become vegans because they’re so interested in being healthy. Some don’t care about their health at all and smoke, drink, use illicit drugs, eat junk food, and do a myriad of other unhealthy things, but  on average vegans love their vegetables and fruits, like to do things like meditate or go to yoga classes  (practitioners often explicitly promote veganism) which have been demonstrated to have great health benefits, and simply try a lot harder to be healthy than the average omnivore. While being an “advantage” associated with vegan lifestyles, this isn’t actually related to avoiding animal products, and could be a benefit obtained by a health-conscious omnivore.

Simply telling people to go on a vegetarian and vegan diet causes them to spontaneously increase many plant nutrients that most people are lacking. So if nutrients from animal foods weren’t at all important, vegans should be blowing the average junk-food-and-grilled-burger-with-crispy-bacon-eating-omnivore out of the water with their amazing longevity. Yet they‘re not less likely to die of disease in any given period of their lives.

And quite frankly lacto-ovo vegetarians should be living longer in the majority of the studies done on their longevity. Their only advantage comes from studies on the religious group the Seventh Day Adventists. These people are in love with vegetarianism and believe that it’s the healthiest thing in the world, so the most devout and most health-conscious of them are vegetarians and have higher intakes of many nutrients from generally better diets. Plus they experience the mental health benefits of being devoutly religious as opposed to being dispassionate. I’m not so sure that it’s necessarily the lack of meat in their diets as much as the dramatic differences in other aspects of their diets and lifestyle that are the true cause of their superior health.  They definitely smoke less, drink less and exercise more than their omnivore counterparts , so don’t be so quick to attribute their better health to the lack of meat in their diets. What was I on about again? Oh yeah, I hope all of this justifies the hypothesis that maybe…just maybe…there might be some nutrients in meat that improve health. The data on vegan health already justifies the hypothesis that eggs and dairy might have important nutrients that aren’t found in significant amounts in plants.

Interlude: Stabby’s personal vegan experience

Now let me share a personal story. I once believed that a vegan diet would be the best diet for my health, and tried it due to hearing so many health claims from vegan diet advocates. I was doing well, not in the throes of death or withering away. But I didn’t notice any of the amazing health benefits that I was supposed to see from my vegan diet. Then again I was already eating a nutritious diet based on whole food at the time. Maybe because of that, I didn’t experience any of the benefits that some vegans do when they  drastically change every part of their diet and lifestyle …and then say that it was the elimination of animal foods that primarily produces their health benefits.

vegan-lolcatThen months later I discovered a grass-fed bison company and figured that I might as well give their meat a try. I cooked and ate at least a pound and a half of it, and enjoyed it immensely. Feeling full, I retired to my room and began to read a book quietly. Hours later I noticed that something strange was going on, I was feeling great, abnormally good; it was like a wave of euphoria was washing over me and my thoughts quickened in a good way; I was filled with new strength and vitality. I was the Highlander! Have you seen that movie? Anyone who has knows what I mean. Anyway, it could only have been the bison. Since that day I have yet to return to a vegan diet and don’t plan on doing so any time soon.

I began searching for the reason why I might have experienced the health benefits that I did from eating meat. Was it protein? No I was getting quite a bit of plant protein; there are no doubt differences in the composition of amino acids between meat and plants, but it wasn’t the amount of protein that made the difference. Was it vitamin B12? No I was supplementing with methylcobalamine, the better form, and my levels were high. Iron levels were good and I was eating a moderate fat diet at the time so it couldn’t have been that either. I was taking zinc too, since that can be low on vegan diets, and you have to eat a literal crapload of chickpeas and pumpkin seeds to get enough without animal foods.  None of those nutrients can explain what I felt . I have since identified some possible unique benefits of eating meat that might explain this phenomenon. Some of them might even explain the discrepancies between the health of lacto-ovo vegetarians and vegans. Let’s run through them…

Possible pro of meat: Creatine

Creatine is a molecule with great utility in our bodies. It helps us generate ATP very quickly and plays an important role in brain energetics. It has been shown to improve some aspects of athletic performance, but also  short-term memory and mood . The only dietary source is from meat and vegetarians have lower levels of creatine. Although we produce some of it ourselves, we obviously don’t produce optimal amounts ourselves or else supplementation wouldn’t be beneficial and vegetarians wouldn’t benefit from taking creatine.

Possible pro of meat: Carnosine

Carnosine is a functional peptide that has numerous potential protective properties and is seen to be anti-aging. While its importance in the diet is still speculative, it’s another nutrient that we synthesize ourselves, but not in optimal amounts, because vegetarians have lower levels of it and supplementation is beneficial. Maybe some plant nutrients could help compensate for the lack of it in vegan and vegetarian diets, but it’s definitely beneficial and desirable in its own right.

Possible pro of meat: Carnitine

Carnitine is another compound based on amino acids and has numerous metabolic health benefits. The main dietary source is meat and vegetarians do have lower levels; supplementation is definitely beneficial in many cases. Synthesis can be improved by consuming various nutrients in high quantities, particularly vitamin c, however it still might be the case that dietary carnitine is beneficial for the muscles and brain.

Possible pro of meat: Taurine (yay, one that doesn’t start with ‘C’)

Yet another non-essential nutrient that we benefit from getting in the diet. It’s very susceptible to heat and cooking so we don’t get very much of it from eating meat, but we do get some and vegetarians have lower levels than omnivores. Taurine protects lipids from damage and thus protects tissues from damaged lipids, relaxes the nerves, improves hormone and bile synthesis, and is another potential candidate to explain my improved health from eating meat.

What about lacto-ovo vegetarianism versus veganism?

Lacto-ovo vegetarians may have a nutritional advantage over vegans because of a number of nutrients in eggs and dairy which compensate for the lack of meat in the diet. These are…

Vitamin B12:

Everyone should know this one, it’s important for the body because of its role in methylation. It’s needed for maintaining the myelin sheaths of neurons, energy production, and metabolizing homocysteine, a toxic byproduct of methionine metabolism which vegetarians and to a greater extent vegans have elevated levels of. This could possibly explain the higher risk for heart attack among vegans when contrasted with lacto-ovo vegetarians who have moderate sources of B12 from eggs and dairy. I recommend the methylcobalamin form for supplementation, it works and is likely to be superior to cyanocobalamin, the most commonly used form.

Choline:

Choline’s metabolites are important for a variety of signalling processes in the body and it is essential for a healthy pregnancy. Most women don’t obtain anywhere near as much as they need which could be remedied by consuming egg yolks. Soybeans are good vegan source and so is cauliflower, but it‘s not anywhere near as easy to obtain enough from plant sources as it is to eat eggs or take supplements.

Vitamin A:

Vitamin A is only found in animal foods, and can be formed from previtamin A carotenoids found in plants, but it appears that a large number of people simply can’t synthesize enough vitamin A from carotenoids. Dr. Chris Masterjohn has a good article on this phenomenon and why many people’s vitamin A needs will not be served by an unsupplemented vegan diet. Eggs and dairy are the next best sources to eating liver and this might also help to explain higher all-cause mortality among vegans in contrast to lacto-ovo vegetarians.

There’s more that has gone unmentioned and probably more that science hasn’t discovered yet, but I think that I have covered the basics. How important is all of this? I don’t know. I truly don’t. There are healthy unsupplemented vegans, and then there are many who swear that it’s the kiss of death. Different people have different nutritional needs and can subsist on different diets healthily, but I think that the wisest policy for anyone is to  maximize their intake of beneficial nutrients from food and supplements if they need to use them . Will you die from your vegan diet? That depends on you!

Am I overlooking the negative effects of meat and other animal products on health? I haven’t covered every possible issue, this post is already long enough! [note from Kamal: we’ll cover issues like hormones and dioxins from animal products in later weeks] But even if animal foods have disadvantages, there is a strong possibility that their nutrients are still important.

Maybe there will be a sequel where I talk more about this, maybe I’ll be shown to be off my rocker by critics and maybe a raccoon shouldn’t be using a computer in the first place! We’ll have to wait and see.

Sincerely,
Stabby T. Raccoon

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13 Comments

  1. I think this topic is fascinating. I am a health conscious person that has eaten everything from a vegan to a “perfect health diet”, and never really felt subjectively any different. All these nutrient differences between a vegan, vegetarian and omnivore diet are very interesting, but the fact remains that we have no reliable data about what this means in the long term. The epi data that we have is absolutely no good. To try and control for all the factors besides diet is almost impossible. Then to try and figure out how duration and faithfulness to a diet factors in over the long term is similarly impossible. For example, if chronic disease is something that develops over a long period of time, how can you compare two 50 year olds, one who has been vegan since they were 12 and the other who became vegan at 42? Or maybe one of them “cheats” once a month. Is that enough to counteract things and confound the data one way or another?

    I also wonder whether these nutrient deficiencies are easily reversible; if you start feeling crummy on a vegan diet and you eat some eggs, do you feel better immediately? Does this offset the potential issues caused by the deficiency or is there long term damage? How does your disease risk change if you are vegan for 30 years and then become omnivore later on (or any other diet permutations)? Can the placebo effect play a role in the effects of different diets on health??

    Certainly people have personal stories where they felt horrible on diet X and switched to diet Y and it worked for them. That’s great. But like Denise Minger said, it’s hard to convince people that feel fine now that they need to change their diet (and this includes people eating the SAD or any other diet), especially with such vague data.

    Not to mention the whole argument becomes moot when the main reason for a vegan diet is ethical (as it is for 90% of vegans I know). If you feel healthy, and also feel like you are upholding your moral values, it’s harder to be convinced to change your diet. Personally, having tried paleo and not felt any different than when I was eating vegan/vegetarian, it’s hard to work against my feelings of ethics on eating animals if there is no immediate benefit.

    There will probably never be a longitudinal RCT of different diets so that we can end this debate once and for all. And even if there is there is so much individual diversity that a diet best for one person still may not be universally best for everyone. But I think we can all agree that a diet based on whole foods with lots of freggies is a good place to start, which is possible on all these diets.

    Reply
    • Hey DVK. You made so many good points, I don’t even know where to start. And Stabby will have a much better answer than me, FYI.

      In RCTs, they often say that complex dietary interventions have terrible adherence and that limits the applicability of trials. Well then…why don’t they make the same point for cohort or case control studies? I guess they do, but it applies even more here. Someone who’s a “sometimes vegan, sometimes vegetarian” can get lumped in to the wrong category quite easily unless the data collection is impeccable. That would tend to wash out effects.

      Another interesting issue is how long it takes to feel changes. Like you said, a “paleo” diet didn’t produce noticeable change in you. Unfortunately (or fortunately), a high wheat diet diet not only doesn’t make me feel worse, it makes my digestion feel better. And Stabby indicated that meat made him feel like The Highlander, where as it has no effect on me after periods of non-meat-eating. Everything is so individual that I wonder if there’s a huge unexplored research opportunity here. Anyway, I’ll notify Stabby to respond to some other points you made.

      Reply
    • Hey, good comment, those are a lot of good points and questions and I’ll try to address them. I think that I mostly covered what the aim of looking at data was and my philosophy, but I’ll run through it again quickly.

      Since it’s so prone to confounding, a statistical association in epidemiology is really only good for forming hypotheses, at least as it stands for the vast majority of nutritional epidemiology. That and it also supports experimental evidence, though you are right that it’s very difficult to say that X thing results in Y result from it.

      But luckily this isn’t actually what we need to be concerned about, it would be a great academic question, but all we need to know is what we should do to maximize our chances of being very healthy for a long time, for the purpose of living a good life. The main hypothesis I put forth was that nutrients that can only be supplied in significant amounts from animal foods or supplements may be important to health and make a big difference. This seems to be obviously true, especially when it comes to B12, and hard science coupled with statistics gives people a really good reason to get their B12 levels checked and supplement/eat accordingly.

      But what about the rest of those nutrients? We both agree that we don’t know how important they are, but it’s not how important any one factor is, it’s whether or not it is important and whether or not it opposes our values that determines what we ought to do about it. We want to maximize our lifelong prognosis within reason. We could do everything we possibly could to try to improve our health, but that would be too much to ask, we’re only human. And it would also be too much to ask someone who is against eating meat to eat it, even if it is health-improving. But I’m just going to come out and say that I think that everyone should do everything that they can that isn’t too much of a hassle for them, and they should be really honest about what’s actually a hassle (so many lazy junk-food eaters, sigh). I don’t always adhere to this and few people do! But I think I do leaps and bounds more than most people because it’s easy to do most things that I have determined to improve health. Many supplements are fairly inexpensive and easy to take, and so I don’t see why people shouldn’t supplement with nutrients that their diets don’t provide in significant quantities, unless the supplements don’t work or are the wrong forms, but I think that most of those nutrients are beneficial to supplement with if dietary intake is low.

      I guess one really has to go and look at all of the research on these nutrients, and every nutrient, food or health practice for that matter, and decide how beneficial they appear to be and how much of a hassle it is to obtain them, then make a personal value judgement. Is tangible cognitive benefits for vegetarians a reason for vegetarians to supplement with creatine, an inexpensive and easy to take supplement that has been shown to be safe in moderate doses? I certainly think so, because I have read my creatine links and various other ones and they’re crystal-clear. I love my brain and I love creatine!

      My main goal is to break healthy dieters out of their complacency and get them to play the hand that they’re dealt to its fullest, to get them to go above and beyond and look and see if they’re missing out on something important that they can easily do to improve their health, it all depends on the individual. In a perfect world we wouldn’t have to worry about health, and in an almost-perfect world everyone would be their own health expert and go and read health articles, like this one, and be empowered to look into everything further. This is pretty much the goal of every health author, except I differ from many (but not many others) in that I don’t believe in panaceas. Vegan diets are not panaceas, and neither are paleo or any diets based on the exclusion of foods, clearly. I have recognized nutrients and foods as a vast and powerful world of health-improving tools.

      Vegans are at less of a nutritional disadvantage (as in nutrients with names like magnesium and vitamin A) compared with moderate meat eaters the more supplements they take. Meat-eaters are like this too, compared with their current selves, if in the future they take various supplements and introduce various foods that they aren’t taking or eating in significant quantities. This subject could easily be done with meat-eaters too, with regards to avoiding certain pitfalls. That one might be written some day too.

      So to summarize: ideally everyone would have optimal levels of every health-improving nutrient, but that’s unrealistic; the best way to decide which to focus on is to research them, data can be a powerful guide and hypothesis-maker, and this was an attempt to get people to analyze their diets more, like Kamal mentioned.

      Cheers :) if you drink alcohol be sure to read my drinking articles that Kamal posted too.

      Reply
  2. Happy to see an honest perspective on Paleo vs Vegan/Vegetarian with regards to nutrition, disease and longevity. I think that vegans are an easy target, but the average Paleo dieter shares much more in common with one than the average SAD person. It is short sighted to say that because one follows a vegan/vegetarian diet that they are on a fast track to death. A more nuanced conversation such as this one is much needed!

    Reply
    • Indeed, there is probably a MORE nuanced discussion than this one — Stabby wrote this up in like an hour or two, and each issue has an equal and opposite (and sometimes cogent) argument from the vegan side.

      Reply
  3. “Is My Vegan Diet Killing Me?”

    The short answer is, probably, if you’re not supplementing B12 and perhaps some other essential nutrients.

    The fact that B12 deficiency is common in vegans, and that B12 deficiency can lead to irreversible nerve and brain damage might be a useful additon to the B12 section of the article.

    Reply
    • I’m probably biased because of my vegan friends, they’re all pretty smart. The same might be true of Stabby. A supplement-free vegan diet can be scary shit for sure.

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  4. I asked Stabby over personal email. Responses here.

    Q) My vitamin A levels is good. I eat lots. It’s easy to get enough. What’s the deal

    1) That’s good, some people can convert carotenoids properly. But you should still get frequent tests, maybe yearly? Then again so should everyone.

    Q) Isn’t this pretty speculative?
    2. It’s speculation in the sense that we can’t really say that somebody should get X non-essential nutrient or else they will suffer Y horrible fate. But there are some benefits to some of them that are tangible, for example creatine and its effects on working memory. It’s a cheap supplement and easy to take and that’s one that people have a lot of rationale to take if they’re not getting any from their diet. For the others I guess we would have to look through the literature and try to be more accurate in determining what they would actually do, but I literally had a few hours to write the article, though I did link to some sciency articles, particularly the ones from Suppversity.

    Q) WHO IS STABBY
    3. I’m a friend of Kamal’s and a raccoon. What’s more important is what is writte and what’s in the articles though.

    Q) Everyone who isn’t a weirdo knows vegans should take B12. I take it all the time, plus it’s fortified in some foods.
    4. Excellent! I favor methylcobalamin, though a homocysteine and B12 test should be a good indicator of whether or not what you take is adequate.

    ——————————————-
    OK, so I still don’t get the deal with the vitamin A concerns.
    Is there a documented case of vitamin A deficiency from a vegan diet? Why have I never heard of this? I’m very suspicious.

    Re. getting bloodwork done, who is your doctor, that you can order these tests? No one will give me all these tests every year, much less ever. It’s expensive and I’m healthy. I can’t spend money on speculation, with no firm suggestions of actual health disadvantages. It’s impractical.

    Reply
    • Also, what are the implications of “sub-optimal” levels of X nutrient? It seems like nitpicking, when we aren’t sure of the actual optimal level for health. We know how to levels for deficiency and toxicity, but in between is guesswork.

      Reply
      • Hello there. As Kamal said, the premise of this article was to get people to analyze their diets so as to optimize their health through the consumption of beneficial nutrients. It was a rather short-notice post since Kamal had a deadline. And Kamal’s site is fairly quick and to the point in the first place so it wasn’t going to be longer than that, he actually cut parts out.

        A good place to start might be to read some of the links and then decide for yourself what you want. One of my creatine links for example explains as follows :

        “Creatine supplementation is in widespread use to enhance sports-fitness
        performance, and has been trialled successfully in the treatment of
        neurological, neuromuscular and atherosclerotic disease. Creatine
        plays a pivotal role in brain energy homeostasis, being a temporal and
        spatial buffer for cytosolic and mitochondrial pools of the cellular
        energy currency, adenosine triphosphate and its regulator, adenosine
        diphosphate. In this work, we tested the hypothesis that oral creatine
        supplementation (5 g d(-1) for six weeks) would enhance intelligence
        test scores and working memory performance in 45 young adult, vegetarian subjects in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over design. Creatine
        supplementation had a significant positive effect (p < 0.0001) on
        both working memory (backward digit span) and intelligence (Raven's
        Advanced Progressive Matrices), both tasks that require speed of
        processing. These findings underline a dynamic and significant role of
        brain energy capacity in influencing brain performance."

        So generally better cognitive function is the result of vegetarians taking 5g of creatine. I think that the memory faculties max out at about 2g because I know from other studies that the average omnivore has enough for that, though even they could benefit for a little more with regards to things like reaction time (though it was young women and I don't know what they were eating). Is that something you're interested in? Only you can decide for yourself.

        As for vitamin A, some people definitely can't convert optimal amounts from carotenoids, the article from Chris Masterjohn that I linked to explains and he cites his sources. He has a lot of good articles on Vitamin A that are worth reading if you search for them.

        My philosophy is to analyze my diet and try to maximize nutritional of all kinds for better health and well-being, and all I can do is urge people to do the same. We can't get all of all of the nutrients that we need, we can only eat so much food and take so many supplements, but if we find a definite weak point that we can't remedy through food, supplementation might be appropriate. The post doesn't supply any definitive answers, partially because it was written quickly, but also because I want everyone to be their own expert. I realize that everyone has their commitments and can't spend hours every day reading nutrition and health articles and papers, but learning a bit here and there and making a refinement when it seems to be appropriate can add up to make a huge difference for many people.

        If you don't feel as if you need to do anything more than you're doing right now then I'm not going to argue, plenty of people live healthily enough simply doing the basics, though I usually write from the perspective of an optimizer, within reason. Everyone has their own definition of optimization within reason which makes outright advice difficult to give.

        Reply
  5. Processed meat has a low B6 to protein ratio compared to unprocessed meat; B6 is the co-enzyme (precursor) for most metabolism of amino acids…

    Reply
  6. I personally do not believe that vegan diets contribute to good health, I know of many vegetarians who are overweight or obese, particularly those of South Asian origin, there is an epidemic of heart disease and diabetes among South Asians in North America, many of whom adhere to strictly vegetarian diets that consist of no meat, eggs, or fish. I have noticed that in Indian vegetarian food, it seems to consist of rice, a starchy vegetable, fat, and sugar. I recently went to an Indian festival and had the food there noticed there were about 4 starches in the meal and one dish contained quite a bit of butter and cream, the sole protein source was a lentil stew.
    Some scientists believe South Asians have a natural tendency towards abdominal obesity, but I would disagree, as diet seems to play the key role over genetics. I believe the reason why obesity has increased in the US and other Western countries has to do with an increased over-emphasis on carbohydrate containing foods. Such diets are really for people who engage in intense cardiovascular aerobic exercise not the majority of people who live sedentary lives.
    I have met many vegetarians who do demonstrate good health but they have a strong foundation in fruits and vegetables, and protein. Many of them make up for the lack of meat in their diet with dairy products and supplements.
    I had a relative who went on a vegan diet and had a severe leg injury, the doctors believed it was due to the lack of protein in her diet which caused muscle and bone weakness.
    If there is any traditional diet that I would consider healthy, it would be that of East Asian countries, particularly Japan which is based upon fish, rice and vegetables. The Japanese are the world’s slimmest people, they also have the longest life expectancy of nation on Earth.

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  7. Hey Racoon! Nice pic!

    So an open minded person like you might want to take a look at an educated opposing view. Dr Gregor at nutritionfacts.org spends his life researching about nutrition or educating us about it. I find his work helpful, especially his longer annual speeches on subjects such as “How Not To Die”.

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