In our last episode, we heard from a BBC reporter (and member of The Anointed) who believes governments should use information campaigns and “price reform” to discourage people from eating meat … all because of a cockamamie theory that forcing her preferences on the rest of us will somehow reduce global warmi—er, climate change.
Soon after that post, a reader sent me a link to a site promoting a discount on life insurance for vegetarians. The name of the page suggests it’s a lead generator, so I don’t know if any insurers are actually offering such a discount. Could just be a way to get your name on a marketing list.
If insurers really and truly do offer discounts for vegetarians, however, it raises some interesting possibilities … such as, how do they know people won’t just lie on the form? The only qualifying question on the page is How long have you been a vegetarian? What’s to stop people from entering 25 years and then going out for a ribeye? Would insurers check on people?
There have been plenty of cases where sandbaggers filed workers’ comp insurance claims, insisting they couldn’t work because of on-the-job injuries, then were caught on videotape playing basketball, hiking, building an addition on the house, etc. If insurers start offering cheaper rates for vegetarians, will they hire camera-wielding spies to follow policyholders to restaurants?
If so, I sense a business opportunity. There are all kinds of meatless foods out there designed to look and taste like meat: soyburgers, veggie hotdogs, tofurkeys, etc. Imagine the insurance-discount demand for foods that look like tofu and beans, but are actually made from chicken, beef and pork.
“Yes, waiter, I’ll have the (ahem) veggie chili.” (wink, wink)
“So that’s the— oh, you mean the veggie chili, not the real vegetarian chili.”
“Yes, but please keep your voice down. They may have the place bugged.”
Anyway, that’s not the topic of the post. This is:
Some months back, I wrote a tongue-in-cheek post titled A Vegetarian Diet Will Make You Sick And Crazy. I took the kind of weak-ass observational study that vegetarian zealots like to wave in our faces and (like them) assumed the study actually proved something. But in this case, the study didn’t exactly support the notion that going meatless is the key to a superior life:
A new study from the Medical University of Graz in Austria finds that vegetarians are more physically active, drink less alcohol and smoke less tobacco than those who consume meat in their diets. Vegetarians also have a higher socioeconomic status and a lower body mass index. But the vegetarian diet — characterized by a low consumption of saturated fats and cholesterol that includes increased intake of fruits, vegetables and whole-grain products — carries elevated risks of cancer, allergies and mental health disorders.
A reader recently sent me a link to an article from Women’s Health online that offers similar warnings on the mental-health front:
More and more women are vegging out…of their minds. New research suggests that along with shedding pounds, slashing cancer risk, and boosting life expectancy, vegetarianism could come with lesser-known side effects: Panic attacks. OCD. Depression.
Notice the assumption that vegetarian diets really and truly do slash cancer risk and increase life expectancy. Sure, that’s what some observational studies show – because (as the University of Graz study noted) vegetarians on average are more physically active, drink less alcohol, smoke less, etc. Other observational studies, however, don’t show any difference in life expectancy at all.
But to continue with the article …
Drew Ramsey’s 35-year-old patient had always been fit and active, but her energy had flatlined. When she did manage to drag herself to the gym, it didn’t help. She felt anxious and was often on the verge of tears for no reason, even when she was with friends. Worst of all were her panic attacks, a rare occurrence in the past but now so common that she was afraid of losing her job because she had trouble getting out of bed, and she’d become terrified of taking the New York City subway.
It may sound like an episode of House, but Ramsey had a hunch. He’d seen a dramatic link between mood and food before (he even researched it for his forthcoming book Eat Complete), and guessed that his patient’s well-intentioned meat-free diet was the very thing causing her mental deterioration. Sure enough, six weeks after adding animal protein back onto her plate, her energy rebounded and her panic attacks dropped by 75 percent.
But she’ll be slashing her cancer risk and extending her life expectancy while lying in bed and feeling anxious.
It’s tough to argue with the science—and with a movement that’s been endorsed by everyone from Gandhi to Beyonce.
Say what? I argue with the science all the time – because most of it is crap.
And it’s natural to assume that peak mental health and a perpetually blissed-out attitude are just two more side effects of the glowing vegetarian lifestyle.
No, what’s natural is eating meat. Humans have been doing it forever. Chimpanzees (our nearest genetic relatives) not only hunt, they do it in organized packs with assigned roles.
So it was startling last year when Australian researchers revealed that vegetarians reported being less optimistic about the future than meat eaters. What’s more, they were 18 percent more likely to report depression and 28 percent more likely to suffer panic attacks and anxiety. A separate German study backs this up, finding that vegetarians were 15 percent more prone to depressive conditions and twice as likely to suffer anxiety disorders.
I’m not startled. I was a vegetarian.
“We don’t know if a vegetarian diet causes depression and anxiety, or if people who are predisposed to those mental conditions gravitate toward vegetarianism,” says Emily Deans, M.D., a Boston psychiatrist who studies the link between food and mood.
True, we don’t want to confuse correlation with causation. But let’s recall what happened with Dr. Ramsey’s patient:
Sure enough, six weeks after adding animal protein back onto her plate, her energy rebounded and her panic attacks dropped by 75 percent.
If she was just a person who happened to have a mental condition and gravitated towards vegetarianism, then it’s quite a coincidence that after adding meat to her diet, her energy rebounded and her panic attacks dropped by 75 percent. But whichever way the arrow of causality points — going vegetarian causes mental problems in some people, or people with mental problems are more likely to go vegetarian — it’s not a flattering correlation.
Name some “brain foods.” Well, there’s avocado. Olive oil. Nuts. Red meat? Not so much. Yet anthropological evidence shows that, long before we could choose to subsist on cashew cheese and tofu, animal flesh provided the energy-dense calories necessary to fuel evolving cerebellums. Without meat, we’d never have matured beyond the mental capacity of herbivores like gorillas.
Which is one of the many reasons I don’t believe meat causes the diseases it’s sometimes “linked” to in observational studies. Mother Nature isn’t stupid … and it would be stupid to design us so that the food that increased our brain size and made us human also ruined our health.
Just like Drew Ramsey’s patient, Isabel Smith was active and energetic and thought a vegetarian diet was the perfect complement to her health-conscious lifestyle. But after a few weeks sans meat, she found herself uncharacteristically weepy. “I was tired and frustrated and got upset more easily, especially over things that wouldn’t normally bother me,” she says.
Like a blog that promotes a diet that includes meat? I’m pretty sure I’ve heard from some of those easily-upset people. I usually tell them to go eat a steak and get back to me, but they rarely do.
Shortly after she started eating meat again, she noticed an uptick in her mood.
So much for that whole eating meat makes you angry and aggressive nonsense.
The twist? Smith is a registered dietitian. One who now understands personally what she studies professionally: Not everyone is cut out for a life without meat.
Yes, but you see, we need to discourage people from eating meat to save the planet. The Anointed have spoken. And if a lot of people who give up meat because of “price reform” end up feeling depressed and having panic attacks … well, too bad. That’s the price they have to pay.
Besides, they may get a discount on life insurance.
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