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Health

Protein | Meat | Milk | Fish | Vegan malnutrition

 

PROTEIN

 

1. Where do you get your protein from?

A simpler question would be: where don’t you get your protein from? All foods contain protein. In your supermarket, try finding food labels that show nil protein.

You’ve asked the most common question fielded by vegetarians over the years. Promotion of meat protein has been very successful in establishing the beliefs that only protein gives energy and protein equals meat. Both are myths. We need protein, but not for energy, and ample protein is available from a multitude of sources besides meat. It’s plentiful in wholemeal bread, beans, corn, lentils, peas, chick peas, oatmeal, broccoli, tofu and nuts.

Vegetarians who excelled in demanding activities, achieving status that would be unlikely if protein were the only provider of energy and they were protein deficient, include six times world ironman champion Dave Scott, running great Edwin Moses, Death Valley ultra-marathon champion Scott Jurek and Nicky Cole, the first woman to walk to the north pole.

Let’s improve your question. Where do we find protein that both promotes health and reduces heart disease, cancer, food poisoning and other risk? The world’s largest, most comprehensive study of nutrition found that protein from animal sources, even at low intake levels, is associated with disease. The safe proteins, at all levels, are from plants.

 

2. Vegans don’t get enough protein.

Vegans generally get too much protein. The average American meat eater’s intake is double the recommended protein, which means a lot of fat, increased cancer risk and urinary system stress. In Australia, more than half the adult population and nearly a third of children are overweight or obese. If vegans get less protein than the general population, that’s good news.

Obesity isn’t just inconvenience. It robs you of seven to 13 years. A huge study of 900,000 people over 16 found that obese men were 52 per cent and obese women 62 per cent more likely to die from cancer. Overweight is a ‘significant trigger of arthritis.’ Vegans weigh 15 per cent less than meat-eaters, fish-eaters and vegetarians; ‘especially vegans [have] lower BMI [body mass index] than meat-eaters.

High protein diets contribute to progressive kidney damage and rob the body of calcium. Cornell University’s study demonstrated that ‘the greatest single influence on ... heart disease, cancer and diabetes was the amount of animal fat and protein eaten.

If vegan protein deficiency still concerns you, most soy milks have 3-3.5g of protein per 100ml, compared with dairy milk at 3.3 (Coles’ Farmland) and 4.8 (Dairy Farmers’ Shape). Dried soy beans have 50 per cent more protein than your steak.

The largest study reports that vegans get ‘plenty of protein.’ Vegans Martina Navratilova (oldest tennis grand slam winner at a month short of her 50th birthday) and Lucy Stephens (24-hour triathlon world record) eliminate protein concern.

 

MEAT Back to top

 

3. It’s natural for humans to eat meat.

What does ‘natural’ mean? When did you last enjoy ‘the warm, tasty contents of a freshly slaughtered sheep ripped apart with your bare teeth? We don’t eat any “natural” meat products. We cook them, spice them, put them on bread and in pies. Neither is there anything natural about drugs injected into animals to make them grow larger [and] produce eggs and milk more often.’ In any case, a new anthropologist generation found our hominid ancestors to be originally vegetarian.

Carnivores have sharp pointed front teeth and no flat back grinding teeth; herbivores have no sharp pointed front teeth and have flat back grinding teeth. A carnivore’s intestinal tract is only three times its body length to allow decaying flesh to pass quickly; a herbivore’s and our intestinal tracts are up to 12 times body length to allow vegetable nutrient absorption.

There are other physiological differences between carnivores and herbivores where, again, we are copies of the latter:

Carnivores

 

Herbivore

Make own vitamin C   Vitamin C: fruit,vegetables
Perspire through tongues   Perspire through skin
Born with teeth   Born without teeth
Move jaws vertically   Jaws have grinding motion
Rip and swallow food   Chew food
Suffer atherosclerosis   Spared atherosclerosis
Have dense tooth-bone to   Have many times less
crunch bones of prey   Dense tooth-bone.
     

The animals with which we are most closely aligned are chimpanzees and bonobos, whose diet is 95 per cent meat-free, and gorillas and orang-utans, who are vegetarian. Even if they were carnivores, I’d still side with the herbivores as I don't want to cause suffering to any other creatures.

 

4. You have to eat meat for strength and energy.

What do tennis stars eat between games: burgers or bananas?

What precede marathon races: beef barbecues or pasta parties?

Bananas offer quick energy for tennis players; pasta stores it for a marathon’s demanding 42 kilometres. Both are excellent for carbohydrates, the best energy source, which meat lacks.

Public knowledge lags behind modern nutrition. Runner’s World’s Hal Higdon, who ran six marathons in six weeks, said: ‘My 1963 training diary is particularly frightening. The pre-race meal [included] a 6-ounce steak! ... Today, just about any runner knows that spaghetti is a better pre-marathon meal than, say, scrambled eggs or steak.’ [emphasis his]

The Australian Institute of Sport’s list for pre-event meals omitted meat. And it added that ‘a well-chosen vegetarian diet contains adequate energy and protein, is high in carbohydrate and low in fat - making it ideal for athletes striving to meet the dietary guidelines encouraged for sport.

Further, Brussels University found that vegetarians performed endurance tests two to three times longer than meat-eaters and took one fifth the time of meat-eaters to recover.
These top athletes didn’t need meat for strength and energy:

• Percy Cerutty, runner of four marathons in 24 hours
• Cliff Young, winner of a 1000km ultra-marathon at age 61
• Dave Scott, world’s greatest triathlete
• Alan Jones, 17,003 consecutive pushups record holder
• Andreas Cahling, body-building champion
• Sixto Linares, 24-hour triathlon world record holder
• Chris Campbell, world and Olympic champion wrestler
• Scott Jurek, twice Death Valley ultra-marathon champion
• Tim McCartney-Snape, the only person to climb Mt Everest from sea to summit, and this was without oxygen. The world’s strongest creatures, elephants, are vegetarian. Most dinosaurs were. Buffalos, bulls, gorillas, hippos, horses, oxen and rhinos don’t need meat for their enormous strength.

 

5. Meat is the best source of iron.

The Australian Consumers’ Association reported that ‘liver, oysters and mussels are the best sources of iron, followed by beef and lamb, pork and chicken. Soy beans, green veggies, eggs and almonds are also quite high in iron but it’s not absorbed as well. Vegetarians should choose from a variety of legumes (beans and pulses), green vegetables, nuts and seeds to get their iron. Wholegrain and wholemeal cereals are good sources of iron and zinc.’ You can check the labels of your favourite breakfast cereals, as many are vitamin fortified. Iron is best absorbed when combined with a vitamin C source such as orange juice.

Is meat the best overall for iron? If your iron intake is a little better from meat but worse in other areas, such as cancer and heart attack risk, is it worth the increased threat to you and the suffering and death of animals?

The ACA article, on ‘healthy eating guidelines’, advised ‘plenty of fruit and veggies’. When it recommended meat in the diet it added ‘or alternatives’, such as legumes and nuts.
Per kilojoule, broccoli, lentils and soy beans have three times as much iron as meat. A concern with meat is excess iron, not just deficiency. ‘Iron overload promotes fatigue, arthritis, weakness, impotence, diabetes, shortness of breath, loss of menstrual periods and neurological problems. It can also contribute to heart attacks ... No matter how many iron-rich vegetables you eat, your body handles it easily, absorbing only what is needed.

The American Dietetic Association confirms that vegetarians don’t have a higher incidence of iron deficiency than non-vegetarians.

Yes, meat is a source of iron, but also of illness with its muck, pus, urine and blood.

 

6. You might be able to go without meat for a while, but if you don’t start eating properly again you’ll get anaemic and won’t live very long.

The National Geographic reported that the world’s three longest-lived tribes were ‘vegetarian centenarians’. Tibet’s Hunzas are well known; the others are the Caucasus Azerbai-janis and the Villcabamba of Ecuador. The world’s oldest person in 2004, Hamida Musulmani, still working on her farm at 126, said that she ‘stopped eating meat many years ago’.2 The Guinness World Records’ oldest in 2006 was China’s 120-year-old Du Pinhua, vegetarian all her life. So were the oldest in 2008, Portugal’s Maria de Jesus,3 and 1998, Canada’s Marie-Louise Meilleur4. Vegetarian Fauja Singh set the world marathon record for age 100+ in 2011.

Was it not just abstaining from meat that so benefited these long-lived people? Maybe there were other factors, such as pure air and life free of city pressures? Shouldn’t we ensure that variables are eliminated before drawing conclusions?

We should, we can and we will, but first, let’s note that irrespective of whatever else was going for them, they showed how well and how long you can live without meat.

Studies removing variables favour meat-free diets. One of meat-eating Mormons and vegetarian Adventists showed that the latter lived seven more years. Both avoid alcohol, tobacco, tea and coffee. The only difference that could affect physical and psychological well-being is that Mormons eat meat. Five large U.S., England and German studies showed vegetarians have 25 per cent lower risk of dying from heart disease.

Regarding your anaemia concern, this can result from an iron deficiency, but there’s no need for vegetarians to lack iron if they consume soy beans, green vegetables, nuts and cereals.

 

7. My grandmother lived to 98. She ate meat every day all her life. That proves meat is good for you.

What your grandmother proved is that it’s possible to eat meat every day and live to 98. She didn’t prove that meat is good for you, just as the death of a young meat-eater doesn’t prove that meat is bad for you. You can also find someone who has lived to 98 and smoked every day. Centenarians, or near-centenarians, in India (including a prime minister), used to drink their urine every day. None of those proves that eating meat, smoking, or drinking urine is conducive to good health.

Exceptions don’t prove rules; most rules have exceptions. We need large samples before making conclusions. Large samples of meat-eaters and smokers show that both practices are injurious to health. Whilst there’s no guarantee either way, your chances of good health and longevity are improved, and improved significantly, by refraining from both.

I’m unaware of any study of the benefits of drinking urine, and am not motivated to commence one.

While we are discussing one body waste matter, we can analyse what comes out the other side. An American study in 1996 concluded that ‘78.6 per cent of the ground beef contained microbes that are spread primarily by fecal material ... [There is] a simple explanation for why eating a hamburger can now make you seriously ill: there is shit in the meat.

Grandma was spared what’s now in meat. Although feeding of dead cats and dogs to American cattle was stopped in 1997, dead pigs, horses and poultry are rendered into cattle feed. Not only are cattle fed dead poultry, but poultry are fed dead cattle. United States cattle eat about 1.3 million kilograms of chicken manure a year. The cattle also dine on sawdust and old newspapers. If you relish reading more about what Grandma missed out on, there’s plenty to satisfy you.

 

8. Elderly people develop deficiencies on a vegetarian diet.

Some elderly vegetarians do, just as some young vegetarians do. And some elderly non-vegetarians develop deficiencies. We can simplify all that to saying some people don’t follow an adequate diet. An adequate diet has a large variety of foods with all essential vitamins.

Deficiencies in iodine and vitamins D and B12 are more common in elderly people. Vitamin tablets are one solution, but seniors sometimes over-compensate and are then worse off. Vegans as well as other vegetarians have adequate sources for iodine and vitamins D and B12:

• Iodine

Only trace amounts of iodine are required (150 micrograms daily for adults), but it may be found in iodised salt, kelp, some breads and plants grown in soil rich with iodine.

• Vitamin D

Vitamin D is absorbed from the sun. Just 15 minutes in midday sun might be sufficient for you. Vitashine D3 spray is vegan; most D3 capsules are vegetarian but none vegan. Some D2 tablets such as Deva are vegan. Your health professional can check your status.

• Vitamin B12

Besides vitamin tablets, vegan sources for B12 include fortified soy milk and meat analogues. Cliff Young had been vegetarian for decades when he won the inaugural Sydney to Melbourne ultra-marathon at 61. Whole tribes have shown that they can be healthy into their 90s and past their century as vegetarians.

Rather than being disadvantaged, vegetarian seniors have a lower death rate and use less medication than meat-eating seniors. Most importantly, the later years of vegetarians and especially vegans are less likely to have bone weaknesses, heart defects, dementia, kidney failure and poor eyesight.

 

9. Tests cast doubt about the benefits of a vegan diet.

Concerns about a vegan diet, as opposed to a lacto-vegetarian diet, centre on its absence of dairy products.The consumer magazine Choice used to recommend full-cream milk for children up to age five. Later, ‘due to the increasing number of obese children, but also to research showing that a diet high in saturated fat, even early in life, can lead to heart disease’ it was reduced to apply only to age two.

Now research suggests that milk shouldn’t be consumed by those under two years of age either. This follows the trend away from dairy milk over the last decades. Fifty years ago it was promoted as essential and given free to schoolchildren. Since then, both dairy and meat have suffered demotion on the food pyramid. That’s no surprise, as vegans star disproportion-ately in extreme sports. Brendan Brazier twice won Canada’s ultra-marathon in record time. Dave Scott was world triathlon champion six times. Richard Roll, one of the world’s 25 fittest, did five triathlons in a week. After six years as a vegan, Scott Jurek twice won the world’s toughest endurance race (Death Valley’s 215 kilometres in temperatures above 50 degrees), is seven consecutive times winner of the Western States 160-kilometre run of steep climbs, snow, rivers and desert5 and ‘the top ultra-runner … maybe in the world, arguably of all time’.Studies of large numbers of people over long periods have shown that rather than eat more meat and drink more milk, the less you consume of both the healthier you’re likely to be. You can still find a test result that ‘casts doubt’ about a vegan diet. But the likelihood of a favourable verdict is proportional to the number, size, length and recency of the studies you check. These offer assurance, rather than doubt, for vegans.

 

10. You say to be cautious about a test result favouring meat or milk. Then why should I believe one favouring vegetarians?

Don’t believe one favouring vegetarians. Believe thousands.A panel of experts examined diet and cancer for the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute of Cancer Research, basing its findings on 4500 scientific studies. The most consistently protective dietary components appeared to be vegetables, fruits, fibre, whole grains, carotenoids in food and vitamin C in food. The most consistently harmful dietary components appeared to be alcohol, meat, saturated fat, grilling or barbecuing and dairy products. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported on a seven year study of over 4000 British vegetarians, finding a 60 per cent reduction in heart disease. A 27,000 person study found that eliminating animal products reduced cataract risk by 40 per cent.

Almost all advice regarding diet recommends less meat. Such recommendation carries considerable weight when derived from results of extensive testing and emanating from highly regarded organisations. The British Medical Association said that ‘vegetarians have lower rates of obesity, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, large bowel disorders, cancers and gall stones.’ To these, the World Health Organisation added diabetes, strokes, osteoporosis and kidney failure.

The most comprehensive large study of nutrition ever conducted, described by The New York Times as the ‘Grand Prix of epidemiology’, concludes that we shouldn’t consume meat or dairy products.

Let me put the subject the other way: how often do we see dietary advice to eat more meat? We are consistently told by nutritionists, whether vegetarian or not, to have less meat and dairy and more fruit and vegetables.

 

11. If there were any proof that animal products aren’t healthy, doctors, the government and the media would tell us. They haven’t, so there isn’t.

Let’s look at how and why your categories haven’t told us.

• Doctors

Do you visit your doctor when healthy or sick? Rather than advising you on nutrition when you’re healthy, your doctor’s role is prescribing when you’re not. The China Study has a comment from a medical researcher who knew that we should eat no animal products, but believed that people wouldn’t accept eliminating them. He said: ‘So we don’t tell them.

• Government

If government publicised such a finding, many jobs (i.e. votes) in the meat and dairy industries could be lost.

• Media

Easy options are open to those affected to discredit findings:

1. Major on minors

Detail any negative aspect. You can always find something, no matter how trivial. And although 99 per cent of the population might benefit, publicise the 1 per cent that doesn’t.

2. Use terms that can be claimed to apply to almost anything

It has ‘personal opinions’, ‘extreme views’, factual errors’.

3. Use the Yes Minister method

Release a statement, Bernard, saying that the findings have been questioned.’ ‘But they haven’t been, Sir Humphrey.’ ‘Well, question them Bernard, then they have been.’Yale University’s Kelly Brownell says tactics used to stifle information mirror what tobacco giants used as they fought regulation. They dismissed as ‘junk science’ peer-reviewed studies showing product and disease links; paying scientists for pro-industry studies; sowing doubt about the harm their products caused; marketing to children and adolescents; roll-ing out supposedly ‘safer’ products and vowing to regulate their industries; denying addictive nature of their products; and lobbying with massive resources to thwart regulatory action.

 

12. We are told not to eat too much meat. Eating it in sensible small amounts doesn’t harm us.

With most items that we put into our bodies, we consider that if they’re harmful in moderate amounts, they’re harmful in small amounts.

You accept that you should reduce your meat intake to lessen chances of major health problems. Why shouldn’t eliminating it lessen those chances further? Do you believe that smoking cigarettes is sensible if you restrict them to a few a day? Do you hold that it’s sensible to use whatever illegal drugs are in, as long as you limit your indulgence? Are small intakes of trans fats fine? Or isn’t it logical that if something is harmful in medium quantities, it might be harmful in any quantity?

Investigation confirms that logic. Not only are animal foods strongly linked to degenerative diseases, including breast cancer, but significantly so ‘at unusually low intakes’. Eliminating meat, indeed all animal products, had an extraordinary result for Olympic rowing gold medalist and American Asso-ciation of Endocrine Surgeons President Dr Calwell Esselstyn, Jr, who says that ‘moderation kills’. His 18 trial patients, with a history of 49 heart incidents, had only one case in the next 11 years on a vegan diet, and that was from a non-conformer.

A reason that you so rarely see advice to eat no meat is that health authorities consider such advice to be impracticable, so patients wouldn’t follow it. They should also consider how practicable chemotherapy, heart surgery, cataract removal, dialysis and insulin are. Harvard Medical School’s Dr Dean Ornish, whose no-meat patients had a 91 per cent chest pain reduction compared with a 165 per cent rise for those on a standard low meat treatment plan, said: ‘The point of our study was to determine what is true, not what is practicable.

 

13. You should’ve been cops – vegetarians always want to tell everyone what to do and eat. Don’t tell me what to do and eat.

We want to make life more pleasant (or less unpleasant) for you and for animals. We want you to be healthy and we want animals to be spared the unimaginable suffering they endure to satisfy our taste preferences. Instead of telling you what to do and eat, we are telling you what you’re doing and eating.

When we suggest that you follow a vegetarian lifestyle, we’ve nothing to gain personally if you follow that advice. Yet as not only you, but also the animals, fish and birds you would have eaten, and the environment generally, have so much to gain, it follows that your dietary choices aren’t just your concern.

 

MILK Back to top

 

14. How do you get your calcium?

Advertising has convinced many that meat is the only source of protein and dairy milk likewise for calcium. But note that cows get the calcium from plants and that countries with the lowest dairy consumption have the lowest osteoporosis level.

The main milk substitute in Australia is So Good soy milk, with 120mg of calcium per 100ml (So Good Essential has 150mg). So Natural and some Vitasoy varieties also have 120mg. For comparison, the calcium content of Coles’ Farm-land milk is 114mg per 100ml and Dairy Farmers’ Shape 163mg. About 800mg1 of calcium per day is recommended, so you need less than 700ml to avoid deficiency.

The strongest and tallest animals, elephants and giraffes, whose bones show no deficiency, derive their calcium entirely and directly from plants; so do mountain gorillas, our largest primate cousins, and so can you. Vegans get more than enough calcium from a similar quantity of soy milk as others do from dairy milk. Yet it’s also derived from tofu, almond and brazil nuts, carob, dried fruit, cereals, sesame and sunflower seeds, parsley, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower and rhubarb. The claim that you can only get calcium from milk is a myth.

Having explained how vegans get their calcium, let’s look at how they keep it. The key to bone strength isn’t maximising calcium intake but minimising calcium loss. Excess protein, especially animal protein, reduces calcium retention. But if you get your protein from plant sources, the body has more calcium to use even with a lower intake. Vegans also tend to consume less salt, another offender in calcium loss.

The belief that we must drink milk for calcium is excusable, as dairy producers advertise more than broccoli producers.

 

15. Tests have proved that people who drink milk are healthier than those who don’t.

Tests have proved that calcium, found in milk, is essential for strong bones. Tests have also proved that milk contributes to obesity, heart disease and cancer.

The late Dr Benjamin Spock, America’s leading authority on child care, warned, in the last edition of his best-seller book, against feeding cow’s milk to children. He said it can ‘cause anaemia, allergies and insulin-dependent diabetes and, in the long term, will set kids up for obesity and heart disease.

To avoid breast or prostate cancer, Professor Jane Plant, best-seller scientist, says: ‘Don’t have any dairy products in any form.’ Other studies show links to Parkinson’s and dementia.

Those with allergies to milk, and there are many of them, aren’t healthier when they drink it. Milk can cause hay fever, asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, sinus infections and eczema.

A Loma Linda University study found that Californian Seventh-day Adventist men who drank soy milk more than once a day had a 70 per cent reduction in prostate cancer. Should we still drink dairy milk for the calcium benefit? Not according to a massive study of 75,000 women for 12 years, which found extra milk consumption doesn’t reduce, but rather increases, fracture risk. A 2006 review of 200 scientific studies found dairy closely linked to the above, plus acne, asthma, arthritis, kidney disease and weak bones.

Tests haven’t proved that drinking milk improves health or that it’s essential for strong bones. It’s calcium that is essen-tial. Choose other sources to avoid the negatives.

 

16. Soy causes cancer, so I stick to dairy milk.

A Sydney newspaper ran a front-page headline ‘Soy Cancer Warning’. The sub-heading was ‘Doctors find link to breast and prostate tumours.’ That would suffice for rejection of soy for life for thousands who saw the large print but didn’t read the article. They missed two significant qualifications.Firstly, the statement referred solely to those who were already cancer patients, warning that soy could react with and minimise drug effect. Secondly, it noted that the problem wasn’t normal, but high, soy intake. These qualifications were in the second paragraph, but in print one-tenth the size.A pediatrics professor said that the evidence of soy causing tumours involved rats injected with phytoestrogens rather than humans eating soy’ and that ‘there is not a shred of evidence to show that eating soy causes cancer.’ Since then an American study found that women with breast cancer con-suming soy products have a 32 per cent lower risk of return and 29 per cent lower of death, compared with women who consume little or none. And Canadian research determined that ‘high dietary intake of soy isoflavones was associated with lower risk of recurrence among postmenopausal patients with breast cancer.’ The world’s largest study warned that the risk is the dairy milk that you ‘stick to’. It ‘promoted all stages of the cancer process … The safe proteins were from plants.’ Many other studies have shown that soy reduces prostate and breast cancer risk.7 If you’re still concerned, you have rice and oat milks as substitutes.

 

FISH Back to top

 

17. You need to eat fish regularly to stay healthy.

You need to stop eating fish to stay healthy. ‘Fish is not a boon for good health as consumers are often led to believe,’ according to Amy Lanou, assistant professor of health at the University of North Carolina. ‘Fish has a questionable role in heart-disease prevention and contains surprisingly high levels of mercury and other toxins, as well as fat and cholesterol, making it a poor dietary choice.’ A British study of more than 3000 men with stable angina found that ‘those given high amounts of oily fish were at a higher risk of heart attack and recorded an increased number of cardiac deaths.’ Men with higher levels of DHA, one of the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil, are at increased risk of developing prostate cancer. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that the omega-3 in vegetables, fruit and beans is more stable.

Omega-3 from plant sources instead of fish or fish-oil capsules removes negatives, just as protein from plants rather than meat does.

Mercury is a major concern, including increasing risk of Parkinson’s disease. A TV study found mercury levels in Australian fish ‘astonishing’. It’s not only injurious to adults but also risks danger to unborn children. A former NSW chief food inspector told the program that the ‘US Federation of Public Health has said that mercury is responsible for up to 60,000 neurological defects in babies in the United States.’Non-fish omega-3 sources include broccoli, walnuts, So Good Essential soy milk and flaxseed and hempseed oils.

 

VEGAN MALNUTRITION Back to top

 

18. Vegan babies have died from malnutrition.

Non-vegan babies have died from malnutrition too.

Vegan babies die of various causes, one of which is malnutrition. Vegan and non-vegan parents need qualified health prac-titioner advice to ensure baby’s good health. When any baby’s (but also any older child’s or adult’s) food intake is inadequate (or excessive), there’s a health risk.

The world’s largest association of nutritional professionals, the American Dietetic Association, says a vegan diet is appro-priate for infants. In the last edition of his famous book, child-care expert Dr Benjamin Spock wrote: ‘I no longer recommend dairy products,’ adding that ‘mother’s milk is better than cow’s.’ The former director of pediatrics at John Hopkins University agrees: ‘There’s no reason to drink cow’s milk at any time in your life. It was designed for calves, not humans, and we should all stop drinking it today.’ The American Aca-demy of Pediatrics says human milk is uniquely superior and details advantages of breast-feeding over cow’s milk.

Dietician and nutritionist Amanda Benham recommends:

• Breastfeed if possible (the only safe alternative to breast-feeding is commercial infant formula).
• Ensure adequate daily vitamin B12 when breastfeeding, as breastfed babies rely on its presence in their mother’s diet.
• Ensure plentiful intake of calcium, iron, zinc, vitamin A.
• Optimise fatty acid with flaxseed, olive and canola oils.5 We appreciate your interest in the welfare of vegan babies, but aren't you also interested in your child’s increased risk of cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes, cholesterol and heart problems in later life from consumption of meat and dairy?

 

19. You can’t stay healthy for long if you’re a vegan.

Some who haven’t fared too badly ‘for long’ as vegans are Carl Lewis, Bryan Adams, Greg Chappell, Scott Jurek and Martina Navralitova.Peace Pilgrim walked across the United States eight times.Ruth Heidrich had cancer in 1982 at age 47. Both breasts were removed. At that time she decided to go vegan. Thirty years later, how’s she coping physically?

• Winner of hundreds of demanding races
• Named one of North America’s Top 10 Fittest Women
• Six times age winner of the Hawaii triathlon, the world’s hardest (4km swim, 180km cycle, 42km run)

You mightn’t stay healthy for long if you’re a vegan (or a meat-eater) who follows an unhealthy diet. Being a vegan of itself doesn’t make you healthy or unhealthy. As well as avoiding harmful products, such as meat and milk, you also need to consume the healthy ones. This means ensuring that all essential vitamins are covered. If you do this, not only can you ‘stay healthy for long if you’re a vegan’, but, to put it more accurately, you will most likely stay healthier and for longer.

The benefits of a vegan diet aren’t recent discoveries. It was well-known in ancient Greece that Olympic athletes performed best when they ate plant-based diets.3 A vegan diet not only helps during the competitive years but also later in reduced risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, dementia, gall and kidney stones and multiple sclerosis. The world’s most comprehensive survey ever of the connection between diet and disease found that we should adopt a plant-based diet to avoid 80 per cent of cancers, cardiovascular diseases and other forms of degenerative illnesses.

 

20. Vegans are sickly because the essential vitamin B12 only comes from animals.

Vitamin B12 is plentiful in meat and dairy products. It can also be found in kelp, beer and rotting garbage and, as a result of bacteria, in minute portions in some land vegetables. Of these, only meat and dairy provide useful B12, so vegans must obtain it from other foods or vitamin supplements.

A common source is soy milk. Lines that are fortified with B12 include the larger-selling varieties of Sanitarium’s So Good. So are some meat substitutes and cereals. Check their labels to see how much they contain.

There are two very favourable factors for vegans regarding B12: the body requires less of this vitamin than others and it’s kind in storing it for us.

In spite of that, to be safe, it’s important to ensure regular B12 intake. Nutritionists’ suggestions vary, but two to five micrograms three times a day (it’s best absorbed in small amounts) should be fine. The body uses what it needs; higher intake is considered harmless. Have B12 levels checked by your doctor or health practitioner because a B12 deficiency can have serious consequences, including neurological damage which may be irreversible. It’s more important still during pregnancy to follow these precautions in the interests of the baby’s health.

Symptoms of B12 deficiency are ‘numbness and tingling in the hands and legs, inability to maintain balance when walking, weakness and excessive fatigue, loss of vision and position sense, irregular menstrual cycles and a range of psychological disorders.

 

21. I’ve seen a very unhealthy vegan.

I’ve seen a very unhealthy meat-eater.

We can be unhealthy from causes other than diet. Some are accidents, heredity, smoking, excessive alcohol, radiation, disease transmission, mosquito bites, chemicals, too much sun and pollution. Vegans are vulnerable to these like anyone else. So, too, with diet-related causes, examples of which are overeating with under exercising, lack of or excessive vitamins, excessive processed food and insufficient variety.

Whilst vegans are usually health conscious, most choose their philosophy for other than health reasons. Those who are vegan solely because of animal cruelty concerns could have less interest in their health than the general population has.

They might smoke, not exercise, drink excessively, use drugs and overeat. They would likely be unhealthy, just as we would not be surprised if meat-eaters with those habits had less than radiant health. Even without such practices, people learning of animal cruelty may change immediately without being aware of nutrition needs (B12 and iodine supplements and a wide variety of fruit, vegetables and legumes). Deteriorating health is then not the fault of following an adequate vegan diet but the fault of not following it. The variety rule applies to vegetarians generally, not just vegans. As a meat-eating author states, ‘vegetarians who fail to remain healthy fail through lack of knowledge rather than vegetarianism.

Whether a diet is beneficial isn’t determined by surveying one person or a few people, but by a large number. We know how injurious tobacco smoking is, but we can find a heavy smoker in excellent health and a lifelong non-smoker in poor health. Rules love to have exceptions.

Extensive studies show that the chances of improving and maintaining your health are enhanced by avoiding meat and dairy. Or, as a newspaper’s Health and Science section concluded, ‘a vegan lifestyle is proved to be the healthiest.