How following this “healthy” diet is a surefire way to starve yourself to death
For the last half century, the government has force-fed the public misinformation that animal fats, eggs, and meat are somehow unhealthy. These myths have been drilled into our heads so relentlessly that you may think a strictly vegetarian or vegan diet must be a healthier alternative.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
In fact, in my opinion, vegetarianism is the biggest “health” scam in the history of nutritional science. And following one of these “healthy” lifestyles is a surefire way to starve yourself to death. But not in the way you might expect.
I’ll explain more in a moment. But first, let’s take a closer look at the motives behind these potentially deadly movements.
The “healthy” choice with disastrous consequences
Of course, some vegetarians and vegans are driven by the environmental impacts of producing various foods. Others are motivated by religious tenets or ethical concerns.
Thinking deeply about food choices and their environmental, social, and spiritual impacts is to be respected, appreciated, and commended. It is what I encourage you to do every day.
But choosing vegetarianism or veganism for health reasons is a huge mistake. One that, as I said above, could very well starve you to death.
Not in a caloric sense, mind you. You can certainly take in enough food, quantity-wise, to survive on one of these diets. But make no mistake…vegetarian and vegan diets are almost completely devoid of many critical nutrients. Nutrients required for human nutrition and metabolism. These deficiencies are not arcane biochemicals you have never heard of—but common vitamins and minerals.
In other words, vegetarian and vegan diets starve your body of essential nutrients it needs to operate at peak performance. Which chips away at your health, little by little.
The effects may be so incremental you won’t even realize what’s happening. Why you’re constantly cold. And tired. And sick. But the long-term effects of living this way can be downright devastating—even deadly.
Why fruits and vegetables—and even supplements—aren’t enough
Sure, you can get some of these “missing” nutrients from supplements. But remember, dietary supplements are meant only to supplement a good, balanced diet. Supplements may not be able to fully replace key nutrients and foods, let alone entire food groups.
Of course, plant-based diets emphasize fruits and vegetables, which are unarguably very good for your health.
But plant-based diets also typically include large amounts of grains and beans, as well as certain nuts and seeds. Not only are many of these foods low in readily absorbed nutrients, but they’re actually high in “antinutrients” like gluten, phytates, and antitryptic factors. These antinutrients interfere with digestion and make it difficult for your body to get nutrients from whatever foods you do eat.
Consider that a cow needs several stomachs to digest and obtain all of the required nutrients from a purely plant-based diet. Human vegetarians must do this with only one stomach. So it’s no wonder archaeological studies show that human health declined and growth became stunted about 10,000 years ago. Precisely when our ancestors first began switching from a hunting-and-gathering-based diet to an agricultural, grain-based diet.i
Four key nutrients vegetarians and vegans are missing out on
Vegetarians and vegans risk some very serious nutritional deficiencies. Specifically, they come up short on the following nutrients:
1.) Fat-soluble vitamins. Probably the most obvious problem with vegetarian and vegan diets is their almost complete lack of two critical fat-soluble nutrients: vitamins A and D. In fact, one study found that vitamin D levels are 58 percent lower in vegetarians and 74 percent lower in vegans.ii
Vitamin D is critical for calcium metabolism and immune system regulation. It also reduces inflammation and lowers the risk of certain cancers, heart disease, mental illness, multiple sclerosis, and other diseases. And vitamin A promotes healthy eyesight, immune function, reproductive function, and skin health.
Vitamins A and D are found almost exclusively in animal-based foods, especially eggs, dairy, organ meats, and seafood. Some species of mushrooms can provide sufficient amounts of D, but you’ll rarely find them in grocery produce sections.
There is a common myth that plants can be high in vitamin A. It is true that plants are rich in powerful antioxidants called carotenoids, as my colleagues and I demonstrated 30 years ago. But among the many carotenoids, there are only two—alpha- and beta-carotene—that are sources of vitamin A.
The human body can convert alpha- and beta-carotene into vitamin A, but the conversion is very inefficient. And many people can not carry out this conversion at all
Plus, as you know, the health benefits of beta-carotene proved problematic at best in that infamous study conducted by the National Cancer Institute. (See my report Classified Cancer Answers for more on this story. If you don’t still have the copy you received for free when you subscribed to Insiders’ Cures, you can download and view it for free by logging on to the Subscriber section of my website, www.drmicozzi.com.)
2.) Essential fatty acids.Heart and brain health are among the many benefits of the essential omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. And the best sources of these essential fatty acids are fish and fish oil.
Plants also have some essential fatty acids—linoleic acid (omega-6) and alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA (omega-3). But these compounds have to be converted into EPA and DHA in the body, and the conversion rate is poor in humans. Only 5 to 10 percent of ALA is converted into EPA, and 2 to 3 percent into DHA.iii
Furthermore, vitamin B6 and zinc are necessary to change ALA to DHA and EPA, and both of these minerals are lacking in plant-based diets.
The result is that vegetarians have up to 37 percent lower levels of DHA and 52 percent lower levels of EPA compared to meat eaters who follow a balanced diet. It’s even worse for vegans—up to 65 percent lower EPA and DHA.iv
3.) Minerals. Intake of calcium, which comes primarily from dairy, eggs, and meat, can theoretically be similar between omnivores and vegetarians because both eat dairy. However, it is much lower in vegans, who don’t eat any animal products.
But even vegetarians may not get the full benefits of the calcium in the foods they eat. You see, some natural phytochemicals in calcium-rich vegetables like kale and spinach act as “antinutrients.” These antinutrient substances actually counteract some of the beneficial nutrients in foods. For instance, the antinutrients in kale and spinach inhibit the body’s ability to absorb the calcium naturally present in these vegetables. In fact, one study showed that it takes 5 to 6 cups of cooked spinach to equal the amount of available calcium in one 8-ounce glass of milk.v
This deficiency is particularly worrisome because calcium does so much more than build strong bones. This essential mineral also aids in heart health and weight management, and may protect against colorectal and prostate cancer.
Zinc intake for vegetarians and vegans often falls below recommendations as well. While plants contain some of this mineral, antinutrients can interfere with its absorption. As a result, vegetarians may be 50 percent lower in zinc than their meat-eating peers.vi A huge disadvantage when you consider this mineral is essential for immunity, wound healing, and preventing macular degeneration.
4.) Vitamin B12. I have saved this vitamin for last because deficiency is especially common in vegetarians and vegans.
Vitamin B12 is critical for the synthesis of DNA and red blood cells, and for development of the myelin sheath that protects sensitive nerves throughout the body. The many problems of vitamin B12 deficiency have been known for a long time—anemia, fatigue, weakness, memory loss, and neurological and psychiatric problems.
Unfortunately, there’s a pervasive myth in the vegetarian and vegan communities that it’s possible to obtain enough B12 from plant sources such as fermented soy, seaweed, and spirulina. But these plants only contain chemicals that masquerade as B12. These substances actually block B12 intake. And as a result, you need even more real B12.
Recent studies have found that 68 percent of vegetarians and 83 percent of vegans are deficient in vitamin B12. In stark contrast, only 5 percent of omnivores are deficient in this essential vitamin.vii
But the effects on children are even more alarming. One recent study showed that children raised on vegan diets until age 6 still remain deficient in B12 years after adding animal foods to their diets.viii
The researchers noted “a significant association between cobalamin [B12] status and performance on tests measuring fluid intelligence, spatial memory, and short-term memory” in formerly vegan children compared to kids who are raised eating animal foods.
The deficits in fluid intelligence are particularly troubling because, as the researchers put it, “it involves reasoning, the capacity to solve complex problems, abstract-thinking ability, and the ability to learn. Any defect in this area may have far-reaching consequences for individual functioning.”
So now we understand that some of the flawed arguments and thinking used to support vegan diets may simply be a result of nutritional deficiency!
But don’t vegetarians live longer?
You may still be thinking, “Well, everyone knows that vegetarians live longer.” In fact, early observational studies did seem to indicate that this was true. But these studies were invalidated by the “healthy-user effect.”
This is a well-known bias by which scientists observe that people who follow one behavior perceived to be healthy are also more likely to engage in other behaviors that really are healthy. For example, vegetarians and vegans tend to eat more healthy fruits and vegetables and are less likely to abuse alcohol, drugs, junk foods, or tobacco than the general population.
To counteract the “healthy-user effect,” scientists did a large study on omnivores and vegetarians who were all health conscious. The researchers recruited 11,000 health-food store shoppers and analyzed their overall health and mortality over a 17-year period.ix
They discovered that both the vegetarians and the meat eaters lived significantly longer than the general population. And there was no difference in death rates between the two groups. Nor was the vegetarian group less likely to suffer from heart or vascular disease or strokes than the omnivore group.
With everything we know about human biology and ecology, it is simply hard to scientifically justify a vegetarian or vegan diet from a health perspective. And now that the myths about natural animal fats, eggs, and meats have been debunked, there is really no health-related reason not to follow a balanced diet.
Call vegetarian and vegan diets what you will, but no one can call them truly balanced diets. And balance and moderation are the keys to almost everything in life and health.
Vegetarians ignore nature’s truly perfect foods
When subjected to the clear light of science, there is simply no evidence that saturated fats, eggs, or meat in moderation are unhealthy. In fact, their nutritional density and quality make them some of nature’s perfect foods.
If an egg can provide total nutrition to a growing chick, how can it not be a good food? Eggs are rich in protein, vitamin D, choline (important for brain development), and lutein and zeaxanthin (key nutrients for eye health).
And meat is packed with protein, vitamins, and essential minerals like calcium, copper, magnesium, selenium, and zinc.
It’s “what’s for dinner,” or at least it should be, in moderation.
I “The Food Crisis in Prehistory: Overpopulation and the Origins of Agriculture” Yale University Press, 1979
ii “Nutrition concerns and health effects of vegetarian diets.” Nutr Clin Pract. 2010 Dec;25(6):613-20.
iii “Achieving optimal essential fatty acid status in vegetarians: current knowledge and practical implications.” Am J Clin Nutr September 2003 vol. 78 no. 3
v “Choices for achieving adequate dietary calcium with a vegetarian diet.” Am J Clin Nutr. 1999 Sep;70(3 Suppl)
vi “Zinc.”National Institutes of Health. http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-HealthProfessional/. Accessed March 21, 2014.
vii “Vitamin B-12 status, particularly holotranscobalamin II and methylmalonic acid concentrations, and hyperhomocysteinemia in vegetarians”
Am J Clin Nutr. 2003 Jul;78(1):131-6.
viii “Signs of impaired cognitive function in adolescents with marginal cobalamin status.” Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 Sep;72(3):762-9.
ix “Dietary habits and mortality in 11,000 vegetarians and health conscious people: results of a 17 year follow up.” BMJ. 1996 Sep 28;313(7060):775-9.