A recent study busted the commonly held belief that vegetarians are healthier and happier than meat-eaters. Turns out, it’s quite the opposite.
Of course, I’m not at all surprised by these findings. Just take a look at how pale, gaunt, and weak Bill Clinton looks since giving up meat and dairy.
I’ve always advocated following a balanced diet. And this study shows that cutting out entire categories of foods — such as meat and dairy — can increase your risk of serious nutritional deficiencies, cardiovascular disease, and depression. It can even increase your mortality risk!
So, now, let’s dig right into this eye-opening research…
A laundry list of problems
For the recent study, researchers at the Medical University of Graz, in Austria, analyzed dietary and health information for more than 1,300 subjects ages 15 and older.
Based on the participants’ dietary habits, researchers placed each into one of four categories:
- a vegetarian diet
- a carnivorous diet rich in fruits and vegetables
- a carnivorous diet less rich in meat
- and a carnivorous diet rich in meat
Then, the researchers asked the participants to assess their overall self-perceived health. They were also asked whether or not they suffered from 18 specific diseases.
Turns out, vegetarians had more chronic medical conditions, took more medications, experienced a lower quality of life, and had poorer health outcomes.
Specifically, compared to those who ate the most meat, vegetarians had:
- Almost twice the rate of allergies
- More than twice the rates of anxiety, depression, and cancer
- More than twice the rate of cataracts (which I would attribute to the lack of important fat-soluble vitamins in the diet — like A, D, and E)
- More than twice the rate of heart attacks (consistent with the PURE study I reported on earlier this month)
- Much higher rates of osteoporosis, gastric or intestinal ulcers, and migraine headaches (which I would attribute to getting fewer important minerals from the diet — such as calcium, magnesium, and trace elements)
With that laundry list of problems, it’s no surprise the vegetarians in this study also reported receiving more medical treatment than meat-eaters.
Vegetarianism isn’t nearly as healthy as it’s cracked up to be
Granted, the vegetarians in the study did have lower cholesterol than the meat-eaters. But that’s probably because plants are very poor sources of essential fats, which the body needs to make cholesterol. So it’s not surprising they’d have lower levels of it in the blood.
But remember — low cholesterol isn’t the be-all, end-all of health status. In fact, research shows most men and women who die from heart attacks have normal —not high — cholesterol.
The vegetarians in the study also had higher socio-economic status (SES). But — again — this finding makes sense, as you have to make more money to afford the higher-priced, non-meat foods found at places like Whole Foods. (Ironically, though, these pricy plant foods are much less nutritionally dense per pound than dairy, fish, and meat.)
On average, the vegetarians also drank less alcohol and had a lower body mass index than the meat-eaters in this study.
But as I’ve reported many times, ongoing research shows that moderate body weight is better than being underweight, moderate exercise is better than excessive exercise, and moderate alcohol consumption is better than abstention.
(And despite the strong data on the benefits of moderate alcohol consumption, neo-prohibitionists continue to argue for ever increasingly stringent restrictions. I’ll talk more about this in the November issue of my Insiders’ Cures newsletter. Just click here to subscribe!)
When I look at the science, it’s clear to me that a plant-only diet lacks sufficient levels of fat-soluble vitamins like D and E, as well as bioavailable minerals like calcium, magnesium, and selenium. In addition, vegetarians seem to go on to develop serious health issues due to their strict elimination diets.
There’s just one more important point I’d like to make today…
When eating meat is an ethical dilemma…
I certainly understand the viewpoint of those who believe eating meat and dairy violates animal rights and welfare. And this issue poses a real dilemma — as there are many abhorrent examples of useless medical experiments and consumer product testing on animals.
As a matter of fact, one summer, I volunteered my time and expertise with an animal rights group (Physicians for Responsible Medicine) to help fight against these kinds of useless experiments.
Indeed, we should be very concerned about the proper, respectful treatment of all living creatures. We should treat all animals with respect and reverence, as part of the miracle of all creation.
But we still need to eat foods that provide optimal health. That is, indeed, a challenge for our times.
In the end, my dietary advice is applicable to all dietary preferences:
- Eat a balanced diet with at least five portions of fruits and vegetables every day
- Avoid sugar and refined grains
- If you absolutely must eat grains, choose whole grains (see my upcoming Daily Dispatch and December 2018 Insiders’ Cures newsletter)
- Supplement with 10,000 IU daily of vitamin D — a critical fat-soluble nutrient (you can now find it in convenient, liquid form together with the potent marine carotenoid astaxanthin)
- You should also incorporate healthy fats into your diet such as extra virgin olive oil, nuts, and avocados
If you follow a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, you can find more nutrition tips in the May 2014 issue of my monthly Insiders’ Cures newsletter (“REVEALED! The biggest health scam in the history of nutritional science.”) Not yet a subscriber? You’re just one click away from the vital knowledge and insights the government, mainstream health, big food, and big pharma don’t want you to uncover.
“Nutrition and health – the association between eating behavior and various health parameters: a matched sample study,” PLoS One. 2014 Feb 7;9(2):e88278