Monday, July 6, 2009

Counter-point: Vegetarian diets associated with health benefits

A friend of mine sent me this study and asked me to comment on it. Thank you Eric.

The position paper, put out by the American Dietetic Association, reports that Vegetarian Diets can prevent chronic diseases, including cancer.

Eating more plants will definitely protect you against cancer and other diseases. We should be mostly vegetarian. A little bit of meat once or twice a week will not undo this reported health benefit. 6-12 ounces with most meals definitely will.

Dietary studies are a zero-sum equation and we never know what is causing the impact. "Give up meat and see health benefits", but what are you replacing the meat with? Probably you are eating more fruits and vegetables and grains. So is the health benefit the result of the decreased meat or the increased plants? Probably both. If you give up meat and replace it with Oreo's, I doubt you'd see the same effect. Too much meat is not good, too little plant material is not good.

Chinese dietary knowledge (and The Asian Diet) recommends that we eat 2 ounces, twice a week of specifically mammal meat. Not always the same animal, not always the same cut, not always the same preparation. Sometimes these sparce-meat-eaters are called flexitarians, and they have no higher risk of any chronic disease than 100% vegetarians or vegans. In fact, they are more healthy over the long term. The China Study by T. Colin Campbell Ph.D points out that a little bit of meat showed no ill effects, but he is a vegan and downplayed this finding in his book.

Chicken is not better than beef, white meat is not better than dark, egg whites are not better than yolks. We should eat a little of most foods and not too much of any one. However you change your diet, you s hould do so slowly and gently. To do otherwise sets us up to fail and shocks our system. We did not get out of balance overnight; we will not get back in balance overnight. We just need to adjust our heading a little bit, so that over time, we get back to where we should be. And where we should be is mostly vegetarian.

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