To The Vegetarian Evangelists (Updated)

Surprise, surprise … my critique of Dr. Ornish’s recent “meat kills!” nonsense drew the ire of a vegetrollian.  These people show up and now and then, always singing from the same hymnal.  More than four years ago, I wrote a long post to answer them so I don’t have to waste time writing the same replies over and over in comments.  I decided it’s time for an updated version.  I’ll be busy this week, so this is probably my last post until Monday.


Dear Vegetarian Evangelists:

Since you keep showing up on my blog and trying to convert me to the Church of the Holy Plant-Based Diet, I’ve decided it’s time once again to explain, in this new and improved post, why you’re wasting your time. You seem like nice people and all, but really, this is getting tiresome.  Every time I answer the doorbell, you stand on my porch and repeat the same old sermons by the same old preachers:  Joel Fuhrman, Neal Barnard, John McDougall, Dean Ornish, T. Colin Campbell, etc.  This may surprise you, but I don’t find those sermons any more convincing on the 100th repetition than I did on the 10th.

Perhaps I’d pay attention if I actually heard a new sermon now and then, but sadly that’s never the case.  So in the future, when you ring the bell, I’m going to simply refer you to this post and bid you good-day.

I know some of you will label this as closed-minded.  That’s because to an evangelist, the definition of “closed-minded” is “does not agree with me.”  The truth is, I’m being polite.  Even though I believe your religion is based on a mixture of emotions and faulty reasoning, I don’t show up on your doorstep and try to talk you out of it.  Unlike you, I don’t get emotionally involved in other people’s dietary choices.  If you believe it’s better for humans to shun animal foods, please do so.  I don’t really care.

But you obviously care very much that I eat meat, since you keep trying to convince me I shouldn’t.  Sometimes it seems as if you all got together and said, “There’s a meat-eater who lives in that blog over there!  We must take turns showing up on his doorstep and preaching to him until he sees the light!”  I give you credit, by the way, for attempting to cloak your arguments in something resembling science.  You apparently noticed the “Meat is Murder!” tactic just makes me laugh, so you’ve taken to presenting the same sentiment as a health issue.

Nice try, but it isn’t going work, and I’m going to explain why.  I’m not foolish enough to think I’ll change your minds — evangelists aren’t swayed by evidence, as Eric Hoffer explained brilliantly in his book The True Believer – but I figure there’s an outside chance you’ll finally realize I don’t find your arguments the least bit persuasive, in which case you actually might give up and go away.


I’ll start with the reason that’s the least valid scientifically, but frankly the only one that ultimately matters to me:  my own experience.  I was a vegetarian for several years (yes, I’m a fallen-away believer) yet somehow never experienced all the magic health benefits promised to me by your preachers.  I did, however, experience arthritis, asthma, psoriasis, gastric reflux, restless legs, lower back pain, irritable bowel, fatigue, slow but consistent weight gain, listlessness, depression, frequent colds, canker sores, cavities, and receding gums that required grafts.

None of those ailments was caused by sugar consumption, because I already knew sugar was a sin and didn’t indulge except on very rare occasions.  I’ve since learned that some of those ailments were likely caused by a lack of fat and cholesterol in my diet, while others were likely caused by the gluten and lectins found in grains.

Now that I’ve gone over to the dark side of low-carb/paleo eating, I don’t suffer from those ailments anymore — not one.  It’s also no longer a battle to keep my weight down.  I’m 56 years old, but look and feel better than when I was 36.  I’m almost never sick and, unlike most people my age, I don’t take any prescription drugs. My only appointments with doctors in the past five years have been for regular checkups or to treat an injury.

Given my personal history, I don’t really care how much cherry-picked evidence bean-eaters like Ornish and McDougall can cite, because my body told me they’re wrong.  I listen to my body.  If I whack myself in the head with a rubber mallet and my body says, “You know, that gave me a headache and made me dizzy,” I’m not going to do it again –  even if you cite a Fuhrman study concluding that head-whacking improves mood and prevents sexual dysfunction.

I also have to consider the experiences of my friends and acquaintances.  I’ve known plenty of vegetarians over the years, and as far as health status goes, I wouldn’t trade places with any of them.  They’re all on prescription drugs.  I’ve seen them suffer from arthritis, auto-immune diseases, bone degeneration and cancer, to name just a few.  One vegan friend in Los Angeles had to undergo extensive dental surgery because she lost half the bone mass in her jaw.

But of course, those are mere anecdotes and therefore aren’t scientifically valid.  Now, you and I both know you’re only interested in the so-called “science” that supports your religion, but since you insist on pretending otherwise, I’ll deal with your science (ahem, ahem) as well.

Let’s start by pointing out what should be blindingly obvious to anyone with at least half a working brain: if you want to make conclusions about human health, you study humans.  For some reason, vegetarian zealots confuse humans with apes:  Look at gorillas!  They’re big and strong enough to tear you apart, and they only eat plants!

Okay, let’s look at gorillas.  More specifically, let’s look at the gut of a gorilla.  Have you ever noticed that healthy gorillas (unlike healthy humans) have big ol’ round bellies?  That’s because it takes a huge digestive system to convert all those fibrous plants into usable protein and fatty acids.  Because of that huge digestive system, gorillas can digest cellulose.  Humans can’t.  If you don’t believe me, go eat a pound of grass and tree leaves, then see how you feel an hour later.

But you’d better set aside an entire day to try that gorilla diet for yourself, because gorillas spend most of their waking hours chewing that fibrous plant matter or resting from the effort.  You may also want to go to a gym and exercise your jaw muscles for a few months before adopting the gorilla diet, because chewing all that fibrous plant matter requires a gorilla’s huge, powerful jaws.

Humans don’t have the huge jaws or the huge digestive system.  Humans developed much smaller guts as the tradeoff for developing a much larger brain.  Both of those developments were largely the result of adding meat to their diets.  If ancient humans hadn’t started eating meat, you wouldn’t have the brain size required to engage in debates about what ancient humans ate and whether eating meat is immoral.

So I’m not interested in what gorillas, spider monkeys or orangutans eat.  I’m interested in what my human ancestors ate.  And despite what your preachers have told you, there’s no guesswork involved.  Scientists can determine what ancient humans ate through isotope analysis of their bones and teeth.  The isotopes prove that yes, early humans ate some plants — as part of a diet dominated by animal protein.  There’s a reason all the “primitive” peoples discovered in modern times were hunter-gatherers, not just gatherers.

Stop — I already know what you’re going to say next:  But humans don’t have big teeth and fangs like carnivores!  We have small teeth like plant-eating monkeys!

We don’t have a gorilla’s big jaws and teeth either, but that doesn’t stop you from trying to tell me a gorilla’s diet is somehow relevant to a human diet.  And in case you haven’t noticed, gorillas have impressive fangs, which they put to good use in a fight.  But to answer the point, yes, it’s true, we don’t have the big fangs of a lion or tiger or bear.

That’s because evolution doesn’t select for traits that provide no survival advantage. Unlike lions and tigers and bears (oh my!), we humans don’t kill prey with our mouths and eat the flesh raw.  Hundreds of thousands of years ago, humans learned to make weapons and cook their foods.  That made big ol’ fangs obsolete.  But if you’d like to tell all those hunter-gatherer tribesmen they shouldn’t hunt because they don’t have fangs, be my guest.  You might just see those weapons in action.

Ahh, yes, I can hear the response coming already:  Okay, maybe ancient humans ate a lot of meat, but studies show that eating meat is bad for modern humans! Preacher Barnard said so!

So, you wanna talk about the studies?  Okay, fine by me.

First, let’s look at some basic principles of science.  In real science, we control for confounding variables when testing a hypothesis.  The studies you cite when you show up to preach at me are almost always observational studies, which are notoriously awful when it comes to controlling variables.

In real science, we also have to start with reliable data. Those observational studies are  almost always based on food questionnaires that are sent out once per year, or once every five years, or even once every 10 years.  The accuracy of those questionnaires is laughable.  Some people report eating so little, they’d be walking skeletons.

Here’s what a food questionnaire looks like, by the way:

Over the last 12 months, how often did you eat the following foods? (Ignore any recent changes.)

Whole milk (4%), NOT in coffee, NOT on cereal: Never | 1-6 per year | 7-11 per year | 1 per month | 2-3 per month | 1-2 per week | 3-4 per week | 5-6 per week | 1 per day | 2-3 per day | 4-5 per day | 6+ per day. Portion size: less than ½ cup | ½ to 1 cup | more than 1 cup.

Breads or dinner rolls, NOT INCLUDING ON SANDWICHES: Never | 1-6 per year | 7-11 per year | 1 per month | 2-3 per month | 1-2 per week | 3-4 per week | 5-6 per week | 1 per day | 2-3 per day | 4-5 per day | 6+ per day. Portion size: less than 1 slice or roll | 1 or 2 slices or rolls | more than 2 slices or rolls.

Ground beef in mixtures such as tacos, burritos, meatballs, casseroles, chili, meatloaf: Never | 1-6 per year | 7-11 per year | 1 per month | 2-3 per month | 1-2 per week | 3-4 per week | 5-6 per week | 1 per day | 2-3 per day | 4-5 per day | 6+ per day. Portion size: less than 3 ounces | 3 to 7 ounces | more than 7 ounces.

You can get a sense of the accuracy of food questionnaires without even seeing one:  just take out a piece of paper now and write down how many portions of asparagus you ate in the previous year.  What, you can’t do it?  Well then, let’s make it easier.  How many ounces of whole grains did you consume in the past month?

You don’t know, do you? And if you do know, you’re a diet freak who tabulates everything you eat, which means you in no way represent people in the general population.

If you’re not a diet freak and you were filling out the questionnaire, you’d do like most people — take a wild guess.  I once worked at a company where we were required to fill out a food questionnaire as part of a survey.  My co-workers and I laughed about the stupidity of anyone believing we could accurately recall detailed dietary information.  We took our wild guesses, filled in the form, and got back to our real jobs.

So Ornish and McDougall can cherry-pick a few studies that link saturated fat to heart disease and cancer … so what?  I’m sure that’s true to an extent, at least in America.  But some of the biggest sources of saturated fat in the American diet are grain-based desserts (sugar and refined flour), dairy desserts (sugar), pizza (refined flour) and Mexican dishes (refined flour).  Do you see any possible confounding variables there?

Most people who become vegetarians do so because they believe (mistakenly) that giving up meat will make them healthier.  That makes them a self-selected group of health-conscious people.  Health-conscious people are different from the rest of the population.  They’re less likely to smoke, drink to excess, take drugs, consume candy and sodas, or eat highly processed foods.  They’re more likely to exercise, take vitamins, etc.  So of course they’re healthier on average than the general population, which includes a lot of people who don’t give a @#$% about their health and have lousy health habits.  That makes direct comparisons between vegetarians and the non-vegetarian population as a whole meaningless.

For example, when one of you rings my doorbell, I know it’s only a matter of time before you start yammering on about an observational study of Seventh-Day Adventists.  Yes, they’re vegetarians.  Yes, they have better health and longer lifespans than the population as a whole.  That’s because they’re exactly like the people I described above:  they don’t smoke, drink, do drugs, eat candy, drink sodas, etc.  I have a Mormon friend who also doesn’t smoke, drink, do drugs, drinks sodas, etc., because her religion prohibits those behaviors.  And guess what?  Mormons, like Seventh-Day Adventists, are much healthier and live much longer than the population as a whole.  But they do eat meat.

If the only difference between Seventh-Day Adventists and the rest of the population was meat vs. no meat, you might have a point.  But that’s not the only difference.  Not by a long shot.  That’s why observational studies are lousy as evidence.

How lousy?  According to Dr. John Ioannidis, a Harvard M.D. and mathematician who has spent decades studying old studies, 80 percent of the conclusions drawn from observational studies have turned out to be wrong.  Got that?  Eighty percent.  So when you ring my doorbell to warn me that New Study Links Meat To Blindness! or whatever, what I hear is:  New Study That Is Far More Likely To Be Wrong Than Right Links Meat To Blah-Blah-Blah.

But let’s suppose for the sake of argument that observational studies actually tell us something.  Here’s another basic principle of science:  a hypothesis isn’t considered valid unless the evidence supporting it is consistent and repeatable.  The evidence has to hold up across time and geography.  Your Meat Kills! evidence doesn’t.

There have been native peoples all over the world who lived primarily on animal flesh and animal fat — the Masai tribes, our own buffalo-hunting tribes, the Inuits, etc. — but heart disease was nearly non-existent among those people.  Doctors who visited them were stunned at how healthy they were.   The buffalo-hunting tribes didn’t become fat, diabetic, and plagued with heart disease until they stopped hunting and started living on sugar and flour.

A century ago, Americans consumed four times as much butter and lard as we do now, but again, heart disease was quite rare.  We didn’t see a surge in heart disease until we began eating a lot more sugar and substituting processed vegetable oils for animal fats.   Even today, the French and Swiss consume far more cream, butter, cheese and pork than Americans, but have a much lower rate of heart disease.  (They do, however, consume far less sugar, soda, processed vegetable oils, and white flour.)

Those are general observations.  Let’s get more specific.  After all, I’m sure you’ve been indoctrinated by the Church of the Holy Plant-Based Diet to cite a few specific observational studies linking meat to heart disease, cancer, early death, etc.  So here are some specific studies that prove those results aren’t consistent and repeatable.

Meat and Mortality

From a large observational study titled Mortality Among British Vegetarians:

Within the study, mortality from circulatory diseases and all causes is not significantly different between vegetarians and meat eaters.

That means meat-eaters didn’t have higher rates of heart disease and didn’t die any younger.

From an Australian study titled Vegetarian diet and all-cause mortality, which included more than 250,000 people aged 45 and older:

We found no evidence that following a vegetarian diet, semi-vegetarian diet or a pesco-vegetarian diet has an independent protective effect on all-cause mortality.

No difference in the lifespans of vegetarians and meat-eaters.

From a study of the Japanese elderly:

  • Nutrient intakes in 94 Japanese centenarians investigated between 1972 and 1973 showed a higher proportion of animal protein to total proteins than in contemporary average Japanese.
  • High intakes of milk and fats and oils had favorable effects on 10-year (1976-1986) survivorship in 422 urban residents aged 69-71.
  • The survivors revealed a longitudinal increase in intakes of animal foods such as eggs, milk, fish and meat over the 10 years.

The Japanese elderly who lived the longest ate the most meat and animal protein.

Meat and Disease

From a summary of red meat/cancer studies:

Colinearity between red meat intake and other dietary factors (e.g. Western lifestyle, high intake of refined sugars and alcohol, low intake of fruits, vegetables and fibre) and behavioural factors (e.g. low physical activity, high smoking prevalence, high body mass index) limit the ability to analytically isolate the independent effects of red meat consumption. Because of these factors, the currently available epidemiologic evidence is not sufficient to support an independent positive association between red meat consumption and colorectal cancer.

In other words, when they try wading through the confounding variables, they can’t come up with a significant link between red meat and colorectal cancer.

From The Fukuoka Colorectal Cancer Study:

Our findings do not support the hypothesis that consumption of red meat increases colorectal cancer risk but do suggest that high intake of fish may decrease the risk, particularly of distal colon cancer.

Red meat isn’t linked to a higher rate of colon cancer, but fish is linked to a lower rate.  I don’t think you vegan zealots will care much for that result.  Fish are animals, right?

From a meta-analysis of observational studies conducted in Asia:

Our pooled analysis found no association between intake of total meat (red meat, poultry, and fish/seafood) and risks of all-cause, CVD, or cancer mortality among men and women. Red meat intake was inversely associated with CVD mortality in men and with cancer mortality in women in Asian countries.

Let me explain “inversely associated” in case you’re a total illiterate when it comes to science:  that means men who ate more red meat were less likely to die of heart disease, and women who ate more red meat were less likely to die of cancer.

From an Oxford observational study titled Cancer Risk In Vegetarians:

Within the study, the incidence of all cancers combined was lower among vegetarians than among meat eaters, but the incidence of colorectal cancer was higher in vegetarians than in meat eaters.

Hey, there you go!  A result all you disciples of the Church of the Holy Plant-Based Diet can use to spread The Word.  The vegetarians had lower overall cancer rates, so let’s cherry-pick this one study and start ringing more doorbells!

Oh, but wait … the vegetarians also had higher rates of colorectal cancer.  That’s the type of cancer you vegan zealots are always warning me I’ll get as the result of eating meat.  Hmmm …

As any decent scientist will tell you, correlation doesn’t prove causation.  But a lack of a correlation is pretty danged strong evidence that there’s no causation … because if one thing causes another, they will be correlated — consistently.  We not only don’t see consistent correlations between meat and higher rates of heart disease or cancer, we can find studies like the one above in which more meat was correlated with lower rates of those diseases.

I could go on and on, but I hope you’ve grasped the point by now:   the observational evidence delivered from the pulpit by Ornish, Fuhrman, McDougall and your other high priests is cherry-picked.  Those observations don’t hold up across time or geography.  They don’t even hold up in modern Western countries if you look at all the studies instead of just the ones your priests selected for you.  Not consistent and not repeatable means the hypothesis isn’t valid.

Clearly something other than animal fat causes heart disease — my guess is sugar and refined carbohydrates, because that result does hold up.  Go around the world, look at different cultures throughout time, and you’ll see that heart disease, cancer, and other “diseases of civilization” show up shortly after sugar and white flour become dietary staples.

Many of you have preached to me that the Fuhrman-McDougall-Ornish diet is superior because it lowers cholesterol.  I’ve got news for you:  That’s one of the least convincing arguments you can make, because I don’t want my cholesterol lowered.  Have you ever checked the data on cholesterol levels vs. mortality?  I have.  The graphic below shows total cholesterol plotted against all-cause mortality using data from 164 countries.

I apologize for the teensy type, but check the blue line.  That’s all-cause mortality.  Notice how it reaches the lowest point at a cholesterol level of around 220?  Your high priests brag about how their diets lower cholesterol, but the data shows that people with low cholesterol have shorter lifespans.  They’re more likely to die of cancer, stroke, infections and suicide.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I can sense you reaching for that chapter from the prayer book already:  “No, you see, cancer CAUSES low cholesterol!”  Uh-huh.  If high cholesterol is linked to heart disease, it must mean cholesterol is causing the disease.  But if cancer is linked to low cholesterol, by gosh, it must be the other way around — because preacher Fuhrman says so.  Since the low cholesterol often shows up years before the cancer, that’s quite a trick.  And good luck explaining how strokes and suicide cause low cholesterol.

But about that link between high cholesterol and heart disease:  it doesn’t actually exist, except in males below the age of 65 living in a few countries.  It certainly doesn’t hold up around the world.  Some of you have quoted McDougall as saying he’s never seen a heart attack in anyone with cholesterol below 150.  (Notice he didn’t say he’s never seen cancer or a stroke.)  Well, if that’s true, it merely means McDougall has never visited Australia.  Aborigines have one of the lowest average cholesterol levels in the world.  They also have one of the highest heart-disease rates.  Autopsies have shown plaque-filled arteries in heart-attack victims whose total cholesterol was as low as 115.   If high cholesterol causes heart disease and low cholesterol cures it, how is that possible?

Some years ago, I dug up the WHO data on average cholesterol levels and heart-disease rates around the world.  If high cholesterol causes heart disease, then plotting those figures against each other would produce a nice, recognizable trend-line.  And as it happens, I did plot them against each other.  You can see the result below:

Do you see a trend-line there?  I certainly don’t.  When I ran the CORR function in Excel, it showed a very slight negative association between cholesterol and heart disease — in other words, higher cholesterol was correlated with slightly lower mortality from heart disease.

I found a similar result when I ran an analysis on the American Heart Association’s own data:  people with LDL over 130 actually have a slightly lower rate of heart disease than people with LDL below 130.

So once again, the observations your preachers made that you keep quoting don’t hold up.  They’re not consistent, and they’re not repeatable.  Therefore, they’re not scientifically valid.

Many of you have offered yourselves as evidence that the Fuhrman-McDougall-Ornish diet works.  Some of you have even sent me pictures of your now-skeletal bodies, apparently thinking I’d be impressed.  I wasn’t.  I have no desire to look like I take my meals in a concentration camp.

If your health improved, I’m happy for you.  But you might want to ask yourself which aspect of the diet improved your health.  Your preachers insist you give up animal foods, but also sugar and refined carbohydrates.  Then when your health improves, they offer it as proof that animal foods were the problem and only the Holy Plant-Based Diet can lead to eternal health and happiness.

But I also gave up sugar and refined carbohydrates, and my health also improved, despite adding more animal fat to my diet.  Hey, ya know … perhaps it’s the sugar and refined flour that are the real problem here.

You’ve preached about how Ornish and Furhman have reversed heart disease in their patients.  Fine, I believe you.  But so have doctors like William Davis and Al Sears, and they don’t tell their patients to give up animal foods; they tell their patients to give up sugar and refined carbohydrates (as do Ornish and Furhman).  Rocky Angelucci, author of Don’t Diet Early, followed the program designed by Dr. Davis and reversed the plaque in his coronary arteries by 24 percent in six months.  A friend of mine went on the Atkins diet — no sugar, no refined carbohydrates — and his labs improved so much, his doctor took him off his statin and said, “Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it.”

Notice anything consistent about the diets that reverse heart disease?

If merely giving up animal fats and switching to all plant-based foods were the key to avoiding heart disease, that result would hold up around the world.  But it doesn’t.  Vegetarians in India have one of the highest rates of heart disease in the world — higher than the Indians who aren’t vegetarians.  They don’t eat meat, but they do consume sugar and flour.

Here’s a quote from an article about Bill Clinton’s vegan diet:

When Caldwell Esselstyn spotted a picture of him on the Internet, eating a dinner roll at a banquet, the renowned doctor dispatched a sharply worded email message: “I’ll remind you one more time, I’ve treated a lot of vegans for heart disease.”

So even a priest of the Church of the Holy Plant-Based Diet admits a lot of vegans develop heart disease — by eating white flour.

Since your religious tracts are full of cherry-picked observational evidence, I’m going to close by asking you to make an observation for me …  just one, and if your preachers are correct, this should be easy:  Name the cultures, now or in the past, where people subsisted on a diet high in animal foods and animal fats but consumed little or no sugar and flour, yet had high rates of heart disease and cancer.  If you can do that, I’ll answer the bell and listen to you preach the next time you feel like asking me to join the Church of the Holy Plant-Based Diet.

Until you can do that, go away.  You don’t stand a chance of converting me.


128 thoughts on “To The Vegetarian Evangelists (Updated)

  1. TJ the Grouch

    Thank you! Once in a while this needs to be said. Not that it will change the mind of the evangelists, but it needs to be said.
    Kudos from Columbia (just south of you).

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Naw, nothing will change their minds. But this way I can point to the post when they show up instead answering the same stupid arguments over and over.

  2. Lynda

    That post is a keeper Tom!! Where would we be without your clever analysis of these stats. I often think of (and refer others to) your “Wisdom of the Crowd” talk.

    I’m increasingly aware of zealots on both sides of the fence – vegan and paleo. I think I’m pretty much where you are, I’ve found my happy place of low carb/paleo but have no intention of door knocking at the vegan’s house to push my beliefs. What ever works for a person is what they should be doing. End of.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Yeah, I’m afraid some of the former vegan zealots are now paleo zealots. I believe in doing what works — most of the time. Perfection is the enemy of good.

  3. Dave Jaffe

    Tom, as always a well-reasoned, science-grounded position paper from he-who-does-his-homework. Well done, you!

    My only point of contention is your doubt that “head-whacking improves mood and prevents sexual dysfunction.” My wife insists that it does both, which is why she so often sneaks up behind and smacks me with a sock full of dried organic pinto beans and brown sugar. They’re not for eating, of course, just for smacking me.

    She insists that this procedure greatly improves my mood and enhances our sex life. I wouldn’t know. I can’t remember a lot of things.

    Thanks again for another great blog.


    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I think we conduct an observational study that asks men how many times in the previous year they’ve been whacked over the head with a sock full of organic pinto beans and brown sugar, then look for correlations with an active sex life. If you’ll write the grant, I’ll serve as lead investigator.

  4. BrianH

    A well-reasoned, logical post, which is why veg(etari)ans will not listen. I wish they would just stick to the morality argument. I don’t agree with it, and I think one can make a strong case against it, but it has at least *some* merit. The health claims are complete bunk.

    Thanks for the book recommendation for “Mistakes were Made”. That book is a mind-shift inducer, and I highly recommend others put that at the top of their to-read list. Next up is “…Anointed”.

    1. The Older Brother

      After you finish “…Annointed,” pick up “The Vegetarian Myth.”

      The morality argument is even more intellectually barren than the health angle. Some people’s health does improve (depending on their baseline) by going veg, but veg is always worse for the animal kingdom and environment at large.


  5. T33CH

    Great write up Tom!

    I also like to bring up the fact that American zoo gorillas were getting fat and dying of CVD on a vegan diet of biscuits made from sugar, starch, and seed oils! Those are the culprits, not animal products.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      True, although gorillas don’t eat meat either. They snarf up some bugs in the plants foods they consume.

  6. Sivudu

    India is an interesting case in point. There are still millions of people who cannot afford 2 square meals a day and do not have proper access to sanitation. In my observation, large sections of such people die of non-lifestyle diseases like diarrhea, malnutrition, or sometimes old age.

    Those who can afford 3 square meals a day, though, tended to die of complications from diabetes and CHDs/CVDs.

    As an Asian Indian and lacto-vegetarian, I can vouch for the fact that CADs/CVDs and Diabetes are rampant in our culture. I practically know no one over 50 who has their HbA1c under control (i.e., < 5.5). I suppose the primary reason was that we based our diets on white rice, vegetable oils (sunflower, peanut, and rarely sesame), and sugar while giving little importance to vegetables and dairy.

    As for me, I understand the risks of being vegetarian and try to stay as low-carb as possible with creamy dressings and sauces to help me with satiety. I do not subscribe to a dogma when it comes to diet. But, when the vegetarian dogma is inculcated from a very young age, it is very difficult to break free from it, even well into adulthood.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I have an Indian co-worker who eats a lot of rice and lentils. He’s a vegetarian and his diet appears to be pretty low in fat. He showed his lab report awhile back … low HDL and screamingly high triglycerides. When he asked for advice, I didn’t suggest eating meat because the no-meat thing is probably a religious thing for him. But I did urge him to eat more protein of some sort and cut way back on refined carbohydrates and white rice.

      1. Sivudu

        Roughly about 4-5% (probably less) of Indians are vegetarians. Chicken and goat meat are the primary sources of meat among the rest. People in South India and other coastal areas also eat fish, beef, and pork.

        And among those who eat meat, depending on the region and culture, there are days when they’re supposed to abstain from meat. This is perhaps ancient wisdom passed through generations in the form of religion either to rotate food types or to preserve the herd/flock for lean seasons by artificially limiting meat consumption or both.

        It is totally appropriate to ask an Indian, “Do you eat meat?” Your observation on low HDL and sky high triglycerides is spot on. Doctors start noticing triglycerides only after 200 because 150-200 is so common. Pretty much everyone in my extended family has high triglycerides. Though, I’ve managed to get triglycerides down to 55 by increasing coconut oil and butter and limiting carbs, my HDL wouldn’t go much beyond 40. I suppose I need to keep at it to undo the effects of decades of low fat vegetarian eating.

        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          Strange conversation I had over lunch with an Indian co-worker when I worked at Disney:

          “Is that a cheeseburger?”


          “You know that’s a cow, right?”


          “I thought you told me you’re a Hindu.”

          “I am a Hindu.”

          “Well, I thought Hindus don’t eat cows.”

          “We don’t. But this is not a Hindu cow. It’s an American cow.”

          So maybe he wasn’t the most sincere Hindu.

          1. Kelly

            I had a man who was Hindu tell me exactly that same thing! So I said, “It’s okay to possibly eat MY grandma who reincarnated as a cow, but not your own?” Apparently, that is the case.

        2. Josh

          Years ago I worked with an Indian fellow. One day while we were gathered around the table eating lunch he was lecturing us on the evils of eating meat, especially red meat. After finishing his lunch, he reached into his coat pocket, brought out his pack of cigarettes and lit one up (this was way before smoking became a NO-No in most places).

          You can imagine the comments he got from us. 🙂

          1. Tom Naughton Post author

            I had a similar experience. A friend lectured me about not ordering milk in a restaurant unless I knew the cow wasn’t treated with hormones. Then she stepped out for a smoke.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      One or two eggs once or twice per week?!! Not with all these chickens out back. A huge improvement over the standard garbage diet, however.

      1. Galina L.

        “Avoid or greatly reduce refined sugars, fats, and proteins” – ANY fats and proteins are lumped together with sugars – nice! Only the people who are on the same page with Dr.Ornish may like it. Unlimited tubers is the nice point for Mr. Tatertot, but sure not for everyone.

  7. Jim Anderson

    Terrific post, Tom! I wish commercial news organizations (TV, web, print) could analyze an observational study the way you do. Or would at least try. The confounding variables aren’t all that hard to spot. If you bother to look, they practically leap up and smack you in the head. But instead of looking, the news outlets settle for rewriting the study’s press release and adding a simplistic, usually alarmist headline.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Yup, but that’s the news biz. Alarming headlines are interesting. “New study tells us nothing new or interesting” doesn’t draw readers or viewers.

      1. Jim Anderson

        Right! But in the case of nothing new or interesting to report, the media does not even need to run an article, unless it is a critique pointing out the short-comings. No doubt the study would still be published somewhere as part of the academic paper chase, but not anywhere a normal person would be troubled by it. That’s my dream, anyway.

    2. Mark Bousquet

      They are just making their sponsors happy. If it is a stucy that cuts into their sponsors’ profits you can believe that they won’t do the correct (if any) analysis.

      This news segment was brought to you by… 😉

  8. David

    I have seen Dr. Fuhrman on PBS- besides the meat and dairy, even olive oil and coconut oil are discouraged. It seems to be more about calorie restriction, since even non-animal fats are discouraged.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      So he’s in the Ornish-style low-fat camp. Ugh, that would make for a very unsatisfying diet.

      1. Margaret

        Yeah, no kidding. Can you imagine just eating salads with lemon juice or beans, lentils and brown rice with no sauces? What else does he eat? Fruit salads? Steamed mixed veggies? I heard him on a podcast getting aggravated about a question about gluten. He said wheat isn’t a problem as long as you’re eating whole wheat berries. Holy heck, have you even SEEN a whole wheat berry at a grocery store?? What the heck is he talking about? Gluten is gluten whether you eat the wheat berry whole by boiling it or stick it in the food mill and pulverize it.

        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          Back in my low-fat days, I tried Pritikin fat-free salad dressing. It was nearly tasteless.

          1. Ed

            My favorite, tasty fat free dressing is made with bacon fat. I figure once I cook the bacon the fat is essentially free. 😉

        2. David

          You just summed up the diet- fruit, veggies, beans, soy and some limited carbs. (whole grains, brown rice, no white flour or refined carbs, etc) It would be very easy to be calorie restricted with this approach. I find it interesting how Dr. Perlmutter is not a big advocate of eating meat and dairy either yet he encourages all the good fats. (such as avocados and the healthy oils)

  9. Michael Cohen

    Bravo! A great summary.
    In One vegan/nonvegan “discussion group” one of the vegans asked “What are the main arguments against veganism?”
    I put it very simply “The main argument against the theory of veganism is simply the practice of veganism”
    Most people who attempt it sooner or later listen to the 911 calls that their bodies are sending them and abandon it. Others I feel, have a real need not to listen to these signals. They actually revel in the deprivation and bodily negation. This is why it is so difficult to reason with committed vegans. Another thing I said on the site is that veganism is actually a form of animal abuse. A vegan is abusing the animal most intimate to themselves, their bodies.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Most people who adopt vegan and vegetarian diets quit within 10 years. The number one reason cited is health issues.

      1. Walter Bushell

        All you need is *one* broken metabolic pathway for
        a critical animal nutrient and you can fall below even
        the SAD diet. Of course, you have to supplement with
        B-12, but many people cannot make any vitamin A
        from veg*n sources. And unless you eat natto, one is
        going to get no K2 from a vegan diet.

        And the people who do manage to remain vegan for
        extended periods, how many cheat or are misinformed.

        A vegan of my acquaintance was angry that a Mexican
        restaurant would not serve her refried beans without
        lard and stated an earlier waiter had been glad to
        accomodate her.

        Ethics question:

        Is it moral to sneak animal products into a vegan’s food?
        What about their children’s food?

        I’ve heard tell of a person who observed a vegan neighbor’s kid sneaking food from their fridge when the kid thought
        he was unobserved.

        Freedom means the right to go to hell in your own
        way or it means nothing.

        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          My sentiments exactly. That’s why I’m against Grand Plans designed by The Anointed to coerce people into eating less sugar or more vegetables. Just don’t subsidize the stuff — any stuff — and let people decide for themselves.

    2. Jean Bush

      Anyone who wants to know the real damage done, by veganism, to local wildlife and waterways, should read The Vegetarian Myth, a free PDF download. It’s so good I ordered the paperback from Amazon so I could scribble in it.

  10. Firebird

    I watched “Going Clear” on HBO the other night, the documentary that looks into Scientology. As I watched, I kept thinking to myself, “This reminds me of veganism.”

  11. George Wilson

    Veganism is a demand for genocide. If we do not use domesticated animals, we would have no need for them. I am prepared to accept arguments against industrial ranching but part of the “deal’ with domesticated animals is that we maintain the species in exchange for their products. No products, no need to keep them.

    Somehow, I think vegans feel that if we quit eating meat there would large herds and flocks just hanging around farms and ranches just enjoying life. In truth they would all just be headed to that mythical farm to which their parents dispatched the dog or cat when they were kids.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Bingo. We have chickens and pigs because we want the eggs and pork. They wouldn’t be roaming free without us; they just wouldn’t exist.

      Animals create topsoil. Crops deplete topsoil. To be sustainable and all that, you need both.

      1. Mogii

        Thank you. I was just about to point out the need for manure that creates topsoil and nutrition for plants 🙂

        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          We’re creating plenty of topsoil on the ol’ Fat Head farm. (Well, to be accurate, the animals are creating it.)

  12. Armando

    Well said Tom! I know vegans and vegeterians mean well and adopt this way of eating because they love animals. They way they try to spread their message does not help their cause. At one point I was considering becoming vegetarian, but I could not. I reckon they should try to find more humane ways to treat animals and more humane ways of killing them. There is this device where cows go to these machines to get milked. The machine massages them, then milks them and the cows do not mind. They come to the machine own their own to get milked. There is nothing evil about this and the cows love it. There was this doco that I was watching about the controversies of the death penalty. In this doco they had a pig come to this part of the barn that released CO2 gas. The pig was slowly dying but it was not aware it was dying and it kept eating. It died within minutes with no pain and no screams.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I’m all in favor of treating livestock humanely. It’s better for them, and it leads to better meat.

      1. Walter Bushell

        No doubt is helps us as animal cruelty coarsens our sensibilities, especially those of us who have to handle animals under current conditions.

      2. j


        Putting any morality issue aside…
        It’s really not about the humane treatment of animals that’s a concern. It all comes down to cost and supply. Would meat or eggs be affordable if most/all animals were handled humanely? And would producers be able to supply them quickly enough?

        Sure, eating organic or grass-fed and free range everything would be awesome, but how many can afford to pay 2-3 times more for it? Or how many have the resources to produce it on their own? Not many, I would think.

        Tying this in with grain production…
        Although not a fan of wheat or corn (and although I haven’t made up my mind as to whether or not GMOs are evil), I suspect many would starve without them..
        Unless maybe the needs could be met with more rice and potatoes..?

        So how would the world be fed were it not for current production measures?

        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          That was, in fact, the goal of the people who created today’s mutant wheat: preventing starvation. To that end, they succeeded. As I’ve said before, if it came down to eating the mutant wheat or starving, I’d take the wheat. But since I know wheat screws up my health and I have other options, I go with the other options.

          For the record, I don’t think corn-fed beef is bad for us. Just not as good for us.

  13. Wenchypoo

    Your attack by “Ornishettes” sounds like me and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Apparently today’s crop can’t read the big NO SOLICITATION sign I have on my front porch…come to think of it, the ADT man can’t read it, either. I’ve started answering the door wearing a (not loaded) gun.

    Soy is for losers, and even Silk stopped making soy milk.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      One suggestion: never use an unloaded gun as a deterrent. If it turns out to be a very bad person on the porch, you’ll want that baby loaded.

  14. Walter Bushell

    The cholesterol vs. mortality is available in a bigger size
    at “”

    Without the quotes cholesterol vs mortality as per

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      It’s fascinating to see how people with low cholesterol are WAY more prone to die from infections.

      1. Walter Bushell

        After I posted that enlarged chart, I noticed that too.

        Also note that the chart does not include suicide or being murdered. Low cholesterol raises your probability of both, because it makes you easily irritated and hence irritating.

        Is our current mania for reducing cholesterol causing increased crime rates? What about white collar crime, I would think being on statins would increase antisocial behavior and the top executives and other power figures are right in the age demographic to be routinely placed on statins.

  15. tony

    I’ve always heard that unless high cholesterol was at or above 350. it was not harmful. I’ve also read that the French, which have a longer longevity than the US, average 250-260 cholesterol levels.

    I noted that the 164 countries graph curves upward after the 220 cholesterol level.

    Does it ever flatten out? At what cholesterol level?

    If my cholesterol is greater than 220, how do I bring it down without using statins?

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Adopt a good diet that limits or eliminates grains, sugar and processed vegetable/seed oils. Then take what your body gives you.

      1. Firebird

        Mine was 338. I got it down to 300 in one month by using a lecithin supplement. That’s appx. a 10% reduction. Had that been a statin, the doc would have been tickled, but no because it was lecithin, he called it a slight drop and still recommended the statin.

        I’m in agreement with a friend of mine who suggests that there is no set rate for cholesterol. He believes it is an individual thing, and if I have levels at 300 and they are swimming harmlessly through my bloodstream then my body needs that amount for a reason, so leave it alone.

    2. Walter Bushell

      Remember that high cholesterol is a symptom of CVD and in fact a defense mechanism. Try to become more detached from your own personal problems.

      One defense and perhaps the most powerful is stress reduction, cultivating friendships, ones garden, relaxation exercises, tai chi, yoga, detachment from one’s personal problems, deep breathing and so on.

      Adventists and Mormons have very high social affiliation which is very protective, and the above mentioned methods form, IMAO the basis of the result Dr. Ornish brags about.

  16. Valerie

    Hi, I liked the post.

    However, you seem to mix mortality and incidence here and there. For instance, below your graph of CHD deaths vs. cholesterol, you write: “higher cholesterol was correlated with a slightly lower rate of heart disease.”

    See what I mean? Mortality in the graph, incidence in the wording. I haven’t checked your other references, but that kind of mistake tends to creep up everywhere unless you are really vigilant about it. (It doesn’t invalidate your main arguments, but it makes you look sloppy on the science.)

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Yeah, I see the point. I re-worded it a bit.

      I don’t have the data in front of me, but I believe it was heart-disease deaths per 100,000 men in that age group.

  17. June

    I did have a quick question about your girls. One thing vegans always claim is “You can eat meat only because you don’t know where it comes from. If you had to look an animal in the eyes before you killed it you’d never eat meat again.” Now that the girls are raising animals for their 4H projects are they having second thoughts about eating meat?

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      No, they accept that it’s part of nature. When I killed the second racoon that discovered our chickens, the girls didn’t have a problem eating the racoon stew.

      1. Craig Rich

        I always thought the whole “If you saw it slaughtered, you wouldn’t eat it” or whatever variation thereof, was so weird. I lived in Asia for 3 years. If you wanted chicken, it was most common to buy a live one at the market and watch them slaughter it right in front of everyone, kids and all (open street market). Nobody cared. Sure, today’s Americans are a bit sanitized when it comes to where our food comes from, but we’d get used to it rather quickly.

        Where do people think meat came from in the first place? Did people 100 years ago only have access to meat at the grocery store? Nope, they caught, killed and ate it themselves. It’s such a silly argument that I can’t see anyone with any sense taking it seriously.

        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          My mom remembers her grandmother walking out to the chicken yard, grabbing a chicken, and breaking its neck. That didn’t stop her from eating the chicken dinner … but it did convince her not to mess with Grandma.

          1. Kevin

            I always look my chickens and pigs in the eyes and thank them for their lives before slaughtering them…the way I see it, they only have one bad day (which really happens so fast, they don’t even realize it), compared to a hard life in the wild or no life at all. Here’s a great series of videos on pig slaughter/processing that tells the story and educates more eloquently than I ever could:


            1. Tom Naughton Post author

              Thanks for the link. When we kill a chicken, I’m sure it’s quicker and less traumatic than being ripped apart by a racoon.

              Our pigs will go to a local processor who treats the animals gently and then kills them quickly. Among other things, it makes for better meat.

            2. Jean Bush

              I looked at your link but was disappointed in it not showing the actual kill. If we’re going to do our own, we need to see everything.

    2. Margaret

      My 16-year old had no trouble “assassinating” a rabbit that was eating the produce in our community garden. She used a BB gun. She realized that when it comes to food, it’s them or us, and we’re bigger.

  18. Justin

    I’m so glad there are people like you around to remind other people how science works (including me!). After watching Fat Head the first time, I remembered how into “making sure everything that I believe has truth behind it” I was. I now pride myself on being discerning about everything that I read, nutritional or otherwise. I think a lot of the issue is that “Believe me, because I’m right. Doesn’t this just sound right? You want this to be right.” makes most people more comfortable than “Don’t believe anything just because somebody said it, even if that somebody was me. Here are some facts. You decide”.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I write these posts for people like you. For some folks, it’s a matter of “if the USDA says it, I believe it.” Okay, that’s their choice. For the sake of readers who have what I consider a healthy degree of skepticism about experts (especially government-funded experts), I like pointing out the flaws in what the experts tell us.

    1. Arturo

      Lol, well now that you’re Vegan, it’s the Fruitarians and Breatharians that will call you a plant-killing monster. 😛

  19. Omri Cohen

    Tom, a great post.
    Found it very informative, surely will use those arguments next time a vegan tries to manipulate the data.
    Your movie opened my mind to Paleo.
    Thanks to you me and my wife are now Paleo – and loving every minute!

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      You can use those arguments, but don’t expect a vegan to be persuaded. Zealots are impervious to logic.

    2. Arturo

      Be sure to also check out ‘The Vegetarian Myth’ if you want additional health and moral arguments — it’s a good book written by a former vegan. But like Tom said, don’t expect to persuade the un-persuadable, this is only for personal “self-defense”. 🙂

  20. omri

    hi tom
    can you please give me a link to the source from which you took the graph that shows the total cholesterol plotted against all-cause mortality using data from 164 countries

  21. Cindy C

    As for Mormans, they will drink soda if it is free of caffeine, and candy and sugar are not considered taboo.

      1. Craig Rich

        I’m Mormon. Not eating sugar is not part of our doctrine. Soda is fine, though there are a lot of Mormons who won’t touch caffeinated soda, but it’s a personal decision and not the Church’s. The law of health we have, called the Word of Wisdom, is no coffee, no tea, no tobacco (except for healing external wounds as a poultice), no alcohol. All foods are fine and should be eaten with thanksgiving, and the spirit of the law is that our bodies are sacred, so take care of them. People who don’t eat candy, ingest caffeine, or other restrictions are self-imposed as their personal interpretation as the best way to treat their bodies as a holy gift. Which is perfectly fine, until they start believing that their interpretation is the only true interpretation, and then it’s a problem.

        1. Craig Rich

          Oh yeah, no illegal drugs, only doctor prescribed for medical reasons. You could take aspirin or OTC drugs like anybody else, but even some “legal” substances would still be taboo. Marijuana is legal in Colorado, but it’s still against the law of health. Just like there’s a substance called “Binlang” or Beetle Nut in parts of Asia that is legal, but it’s against the law of health because it’s a legal drug that leads to addiction and health problems.

          One more thing: tea refers to any drink made from tea leaves. Black, red, white, or green tea are taboo. But herbal infusions, like Jasmine tea, fruit tea, or other “teas” made from an infusion from an herb, fruit, flower, etc. are all fine.

        2. Tom Naughton Post author

          Thanks for the clarification. From what I’ve read, Mormons consume far less sugar and other junk than the general population, whether by following Church doctrine or personal doctrine.

        3. DJ

          Coffee has proven health benefits, however… same with tea. So I don’t understand why there’s no love for both.

          1. Craig Rich

            From a scientific standpoint, there’s evidence both ways about harmful effects of tea and coffee, and health promoting effects of tea and coffee. Doesn’t matter to us because it’s a faith-based decision. If every study says tea is the best thing for you, we still don’t drink it. I don’t believe there is evidence that pork is evil, but it was against the Law of Moses. If we believed that was still God’s law, then we wouldn’t eat pork.

            The difference between us and vegans is that most of us won’t tell you not to drink tea or coffee, despite the fact that I believe I receive health blessing from abstaining. If you aren’t Mormon, then what I believe does not affect you and should not be pushed on you.

  22. xvee

    As a strict vegetarian for the first 50 years of my life and now eating low-carb including fish and poultry, I am in 100% agreement with this post. Everything you say here is just too perfect! This is a keeper.

    Many of the comments on Indian food habits are particularly interesting. I have seen CHD and cancer in strict vegetarians as much as in meat eaters. Diabetes is rampant and the percentage of people who aren’t diabetic despite their high carb intake are miracles to me!

  23. Elenor

    Missing word: “lower or less” mortality
    Your para: “Do you see a trend-line there? … n other words, higher cholesterol was correlated with slightly mortality from heart disease.”

    (Great great entry — just as always! ’bout to send it on to my friend on statins and blood thinners and bp meds and and and….)

  24. Elenor

    Georg Wilson wrote:
    “Veganism is a demand for genocide. If we do not use domesticated animals, we would have no need for them.”

    This brings up my usual ‘whack’ at the global warming True Believers(TM) — specifically the ones agonizing over the poor polar bears… *IF* they were truly committed to saving the polar bears, then they *ought* {wink} to be willing to airlift hogs up there and drop ’em down near the bears. Polar bears can’t find enough seals and blubber? Let’s send them pork and lard! (Instead of NOT fixing the problem, let’s fix it!) (Sad for the hogs, but the True Believers(TM) care more about the polar bears! And if the polar bears are eatin’ the pigs, then the eeeeevil human carnivores aren’t, right? Win-win!)

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Professor Robert Carter gave a speech in which he explained that the polar bears are already extinct. The planet has, at several points in history, been much warmer than the temperature that will supposedly kill them off — so they must already be gone.

  25. Stephen Town

    Well written and beautifully logical.

    The saturated fat leads heart disease theory fell apart for me when I saw the World Health Organisation’s figures in one of Dr Kendrick’s talks here in England. The countries with the highest rates of saturated fat consumption had the lowest rates of heart disease. In any rational or properly scientific field, if you get the opposite result to that predicted by your theory, then you need to think again. Sadly, when someone has been taught something and then preached it for thirty years he or she simply can’t admit that their whole working life has been spent inadvertently harming people. It’s too big. So, mostly, they dig in their heels and continue to do harm.

    Unfortunately, many vegetarians are ‘believers’ and turned to this diet for moral reasons. I respect that, but it leads them to positively wanting other diets to be unhealthy. They hope this will bring converts that the moral case can’t reach, so they twist and torture the evidence with the impartiality of the Inquisition. It’s noticeable that the only people who now defend Ancel Keys and his diet-heart hypothesis are vegetarians. They so want it to be true. When this collapsing theory finally crumbles to dust, public health will benefit, yet vegetarians and statin manufacturers will regret its passing.

    If Ancel Keys were alive I’d ask him to explain the following:

    • France has the highest rate of saturated fat consumption in the world and a heart disease rate one third of the UK’s. A number of other countries show similar results, including Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Holland and Germany. (WHO figures.)
    • Lithuania’s population consumes half France’s level of saturated fat, yet has a rate of heart disease nine times greater. This is one example of many.
    • In America of 137,000 people, in 541 hospitals, who’d had a heart attack, 78% had below average cholesterol. (American Heart Journal, 2009)
    • Japanese consumption of saturated fat increased by 200 – 300 % in the last fifty years. Cholesterol levels rose from 3.9 to 5.1 and heart disease fell by 60%. (Dr Kendrick.)
    • In Britain men in the lowest socio-economic group are almost three times more likely to die of heart disease than men in the highest socio-economic group, yet the poorer group has fewer people with high cholesterol. (Statin Nation.)
    • In Britain women in the lowest socio-economic group are five times more likely to die of CHD than women in the highest group, yet have a similar cholesterol level. (Statin Nation.)

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Kendrick’s book “The Great Cholesterol Con” was a major eye-opener for me. I knew by that point that the science behind arterycloggingsaturatedfat! was bad, but I didn’t grasp just how bad until Kendrick laid it out.

  26. treat

    i totally agree, i believe there is nothing better than personal experience to truly teach us something and once you experience for yourself nobody can stand a chance. personally, i went only through a couple of months without meat and i was hungry all the time, did not lose any weight, etc etc. (however, if it works for you, knock yourself out) today, i eat butter like crazy, beef ( i really need it for the iron), i feel full most of the time, i never get hunger pangs, i also eat my veggies, stay off the sugar as much as i can, but bottom line, i feel much better. i find not eating enough fat can actually mess with your emotional state, nowadays i think i am way more balanced than i ever was, stress does not take a toll on me like it used to and i think it is all the healthy fats i’m eating and the quality protein, from animals, and quality iron, from beef. i totally agree with sugar being the real problem we should really take a look at.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      And by the same token, if some people really and truly feel better without any animal foods in their diet, I say continue doing what works … but don’t insist that what works for you must also work for me.

    2. Galina L.

      It is, probably, the main point about against eating more “ancestral starches” – the more starches you consume, the more you have to cut on your fats.

  27. cherry vanilla

    When the “I’m right, you’re wrong,” mentality takes root in a religion, a political party, a lifestyle, or a diet, or even just an online group, it messes life up.

  28. Kurt Lass

    Nice article Tom. Veganism is a political and moral religion not a health system. When asked, vegans (and vegetarians…) will always claim first that they practice it because they do not want to exploit/kill animals. They only cherry pick health benefits as a form of confirmation bias to bolster their moral view. Of course there are also no examples of any vegan primitive or modern hunter gather groups anywhere in human history. Veganism is a modern phenomena practiced in wealthy advanced societies where industrial food like substances are abundant and people mostly have no idea what real food is and where it comes from.

    BTW – I noticed a small error. In your description of the cholesterol level v morality graph you state the the blue line show all cause mortality. It is actually the black line 🙂

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Yup, lots of vegans are moralists who believe eating meat OUGHT to be bad for your health because sin must be punished.

  29. Kurt Lass

    The total mortality line in the graph is actually blue!
    I wrote the previous reply in the evening while the flux program was active changing the color temperature of my screen… LoL!

  30. spirals

    I’ve been vegetarian (not vegan) for 5 years now. I never give health as my reason for making that decision. I don’t even cite morality. I fully admit I made a decision based on emotion and I am the first to tell people–after having seen Fathead and observing other people’s experiences–that the optimal human diet is that of an omnivore.
    As for veganism, it most definitely resembles a religion. I have no problem with people whose religion differs from my own., but I do have a problem with them trying to push it on others. I see it all over the internet and it’s tiresome. Those people give the rest of the veg*ns a bad name and it’s completely irritating to us.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I of course have no problem with vegans who make that choice and don’t preach to others. But considering how many of them are self-righteous zealots who loudly and publicly compare meat-eaters to mass murderers, it’s rather hypocritical to whine and scream and cry if someone dares poke fun at them.

  31. Phil Escott

    Absolutely stunningly brilliant! I recently made a video that is a shorter version of many of the things you say, and I’ve just edited it to include a link to this article below it. Roaring applause!! 🙂

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Nice. Someone brought your video to my attention a few days ago. Perhaps we’ll meet someday and spend our meat-industry bribes on a couple of drinks.

  32. Sheila Hanney

    I can’t be bothered to read all your long article …

    “I’ve known plenty of vegetarians over the years, and as far as health status goes, I wouldn’t trade places with any of them. They’re all on prescription drugs. I’ve seen them suffer from arthritis, auto-immune diseases, bone degeneration and cancer, to name just a few. ”

    Bullshit, incredibly unscientific bullshit.

    “Some animals, particularly ruminants and termites, can digest cellulose with the help of symbiotic micro-organisms that live in their guts, such as Trichonympha. In human nutrition, cellulose is a non-digestible constituent of insoluble dietary fiber, acting as a hydrophilic bulking agent for feces and potentially aiding in defecation.” Wiki

    I guess you don’t eat any plants then?

    And the animals you eat don’t cause catastrophic environmental problems.
    Not to even mention animal welfare issues.
    Your assumption that people don’t eat meat for only health reasons is incredibly short sighted.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Aww, it’s so cute when vegetrollians show up to provide examples of vegetarian-zealot ignorance. No, humans can’t digest cellulose. That’s what “non-digestible” means. So if we eat plants that are mostly cellulose — like the plants gorillas eat — we’re in for one heck of an uncomfortable experience afterwards. Unlike gorillas, we don’t ferment cellulose into fatty acids.

      If you don’t think monocrop farming those soybeans that go into your soybean burger causes environmental destruction, well, it just proves that ignorance is bliss. So you go on your happy way now, telling yourself your diet doesn’t damage the environment. And I’ll continue eating meat from cows raised on grass, which actually creates new topsoil.

  33. Stuart

    A major problem with vegans/vegetarians is that they fondly imagine that all animals are just like their pets, not just domesticated animals but wild animals also. They (and others) also inappropriately attribute human characteristics and emotions to both domesticated and wild animals. It just goes to show that they don’t understand the first thing about the “Mother Nature” they rhapsodise over. An animal will defend its young but only up to a point; no animal will intentionally fight to the death in their defence for the simple reason that without the parents the young won’t survive. Only the animals that didn’t fight to the death passed on their genes – that’s the remorseless logic of evolution. Similarly, a female bear has twin cubs which are dependent on her for the first two years of their lives. If one of the cubs dies in the first year the mother bear will abandon the remaining cub because that way she can mate and bear a further pair of cubs the second year. She isn’t cold and uncaring, those are human emotions, she’s operating on instinct. It’s simply that by doing so she has a greater chance of passing on her genes.

    And here’s the clincher – most young animals don’t survive long enough to breed, they die in their first year from predation or starvation. Even those who do manage to breed suffer periods of starvation and danger from near misses by predators. No wild animal dies peacefully of old age like your pet moggy, instead they die in agony in the jaws of a predator or slowly from starvation or disease and usually sooner rather than later. Their lives are “nasty, brutish and short” as Hobbes put it. By comparison domesticated animals live pampered existences of tranquility and ease even if they eventually wind up on the dining table.


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