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12: The Fallacy Of Vegan/Vegetarian Diets | Denise Minger

12: The Fallacy Of Vegan/Vegetarian Diets | Denise Minger

AIR DATE: April 5, 2012 at 7PM ET
FEATURED TOPIC: “The Fallacy Of Vegan/Vegetarian Diets”


Who within the Paleo/low-carb health blogosphere doesn’t love the work that Denise Minger has done over the past few years? Little did she know when she created her “Raw Food SOS” blog that it would gain such a strong following thanks to a series of posts critically examining the claims made in the infamous T. Colin Campbell book The China Study touted by vegans and vegetarians as irrefutable evidence that a plant-based diet is optimal for human health. As a former vegan herself, Denise has a lot of compassion for the struggles they go through attempting to reconcile their personal convictions about not eating meat and the reality of what that is doing to their health. She’s shared her story with me previously on “The Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb Show” podcast in Episode 405 and Episode 430.

Now her debut book release entitled Death by Food Pyramid is set for late 2012 and if you haven’t already read her China Study blog posts then they are an absolute MUST-READ! Denise knows all the arguments that vegans and vegetarians make for eating the way they do. But she also is abundantly aware of the flaws in logic that people who adhere to plant-based diets tend to succumb to. That’s why she’s here to help address the fallacy of the vegan/vegetarian way of eating and what might be a better option for them to improve their health. She will also be sharing more about this topic in her lecture on the upcoming 5th Annual Low-Carb Cruise in May 2012.

If you haven’t seen Denise’s new “For Vegans” page on her blog where she outlines some simple ways for strict vegans to optimize their ability to be healthy (which was discussed at the beginning of this episode), then check this out:


NOTICE OF DISCLOSURE: http://cmp.ly/3

Here are some of the questions we addressed in this podcast:

What in your opinion are the top three myths vegans and vegetarians hold on to like a religion and what is the easiest way to show them they’re flawed?

Could you refute the vegan/vegetarian claim that their diet and lifestyle is more sustainable, better for the environment, and more likely to be able to “feed the world”?

Apparently protein combining for vegetarians has been retracted by Frances Moore Lappe. Can you comment on this? Also can you please comment on the content of protein vs. it’s bio-availability/digestibility in vegan/vegetarian diets?”

What about the depletion of Vitamin B12 on a vegetarian diet and the possibility of irreversible nerve damage? I have a friend who is vegetarian and has tinnitus – a constant noise in his head and facial pain (another nerve-related thing). It can be caused by a B12 deficiency. I guess the easiest would be to supplement with B12 but that’s a big negative for vegetarian diets. Plus a deficiency of B12 is implicated in Alzheimer’s – apparently such a deficiency can look identical to Alzheimer’s disease.

Most vegetarians are fairly skinny…why is that?

What do you think about the protein from vegetables/bean/carb vegetarian diet vs. protein from meat argument. Vegans feel it’s equivalent to meat protein.

Now that soy dangers have come to light, what protein source do vegans use? What kind of fat do they eat?

I have attempted to eat vegan, vegetarian, raw every January when I completed The Master Cleanse. On that cleanse, (after the third day of pure misery) I felt the best I ever had. It wasn’t to lose weight, but to cleanse thoroughly. Dr. Glickman would suggest to keep the great feeling ongoing, gradually add in fruit and vegetables and remain raw as long as possible. That would last about 2 months then I would creep back to old way of eating.

I am now faithful with low-carb and have been diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, pre-diabetes, insulin resistance, etc. my carb level to lose is about 10 per day but sometime have to have more for energy. I only eat vegetables and macadamia nuts for those carbs. I occasionally get dizzy and light headed.

So my question, I felt awesome eating raw vegan, but I just didn’t lose weight. I am losing weight eating low carb but have tummy aches occasionally and dizzy. What could be the issue?

I’ve seen lots of anti-sugar, anti-oil, anti-grains studies out there, but are there any pro-meat studies where they definitively show that a whole-food, meat-inclusive diet is better than one that doesn’t include meat?

A friend’s 14-year old daughter has expressed to her parents that she’s thinking about becoming vegan. I’m not sure of her reasoning–maybe because she wants to stay skinny, maybe because a lot of celebrities are vegan, maybe for animal rights…I’m not sure at this point. Any advice on how to talk with a young person who probably isn’t into science and medical studies? I made the decision to go veggie when I was 16 years old. Seventeen years later, I found myself 40 pounds overweight with pre-diabetes and cholesterol through the roof. It was only turning to a Paleo diet that changed things for me.

I started my obsession (um, interest) in nutrition last year after reading Joel Furhman’s Eat to Live. While I was never an adherent and didn’t see how I could make those food choices work for me, I was fascinated. I’ve read countless vegan books and somehow eventually found myself in the low carb/Paleo camps where–lo and behold!–they were proclaiming virtually the same health improvements as the vegans. Mystified as to how this could possibly be, I eventually came to the conclusion that avoiding sugar and processed foods was common to both and that perhaps the low-fat vegans were benefiting, like a primal adherent would, from inadvertently cutting out vegetable oils while they eschewed most fat.

Would you say this is basically a correct assessment? It seems like I and many listeners have known someone who’s gone vegan, sang from the rooftops about how much their health has improved, and wondered, “Huh? How can we BOTH be right?” I’d love to hear any thoughts you have on this.

How do vegans/vegetarians reconcile the research that shows that a very high carbohydrate, low-fat and tons of fiber diet isn’t healthy?

I’ve observed over the years that people committed to a strictly vegan way of eating seem to be very rigid/controlling about life in general, and positively adamant about the importance/vital necessity/moral obligation of following a vegan diet. So my question is kind of a chicken-and–an-egg one: Are people who are already somewhat rigid attracted to the challenge of following a strict vegan diet, or does the lack of good quality protein and fats tend to make people rigid in their thinking and expression? Or both?

Ok, whenever I have discussions about the optimal diet with vegans, I mention that at least during the Ice Age, we had no vegetable matter to eat, and therefore had to depend on animals. I’m told that we couldn’t have evolved on a meat diet because the animals we would depend on wouldn’t have any food to eat and, therefore, would all be dead, thus no food for us. I’m sure the reasoning is fallacious, but I’m always stumped over that question. Denise, can you help me out here?

I got brain cancer right after I ate low-carb consuming meat for years. I’ve been vegan and Paleo each five years at a time. I was most healthy as a vegan I have to admit. When I eat low-carb, I get migraines and all kinds of issues, yet I lose more weight that way. It’s frustrating. I ended up in the hospital many times eating low-carb. It doesn’t do well for everyone just as veganism doesn’t.

If a person wants to eat mostly vegan, what is the least amount of animal product a person can eat and stay healthy? Why do people seem to hold water (gain weight) on the vegan diet EVEN when avoiding wheat and junk? For example, if I eat vegan, I retain water, but when I eat meat, it goes away. I know a lot of vegans say that meat dehydrates us, but eating vegan seems to make me hold on to water. Is that proof that meat is needed on a metabolic level?

Also, so many sources say that meat makes cancer grow faster, so what is the response to that? Does meat affect cancer at all? Can raw vegans get cancer?

  • On the question about why vegans tend to retain water so easily, I think the main reason is that they are always “carbed up.” While a “protein deficiency” is probably not a major concern on the vegan diet since we don’t really need large amounts of protein to re-build and repair our tissues on a daily basis, a low-protein, low-fat diet ensures that you’re getting most of your calories from carbs. Most people I know who go on vegan diets for a few weeks in order to “cleanse” are drinking fruit and veggie juice or eating fruit or veggies every 1 – 2 hours a day. Their glycogen stores never get depleted, so they’ve always got carb face and bloated looking muscles.

  • Jillm

    Thank you Denise and Jimmy. Frances Moore Lappe was born in Oregan. She wrote Diet for a Small Planet. Regarding research on meat diets, Vilhjalmur Stefansson and Karsen Anderson undertook diet experiments at Bellevue Hospital. Fascinating.

  • Kelly Mahoney


    Do you eat a low carb diet? If so, what’s your daily carb limit? I’m wondering because I think I heard you say that you are not aware of any studies showing that a meat-containing diet is superior to a non-meat containing diet, and I think you also said that all the low-fat plant based diets (ie Esselstyn) show good health results? So why eat meat? What concerns me about a meat based diet is high cholesterol. I don’t agree that cholesterol is meaningless in regards to heart health. There are too many observations that show the opposite. I believe that total cholesterol around 150 mg/dL or less is optimal for heart health.


    • LLVLCBlog

      Denise does NOT eat low-carb and probably doesn’t have to. The cholesterol issue is a non-starter and your assessment of the numbers is not based on the latest research. Dr. Jeff Volek, a former guest on this podcast, has found the best indicators of heart health risks are triglycerides and HDL cholesterol…not LDL or total cholesterol. Feel free to ask your questions directly to low-carb diet practitioner and researcher from Duke University Dr. Eric Westman in a couple of weeks when he will be on to address the low-carb myths.

  • Christina Beymer

    Yeah for Denise! I have not kept on her work for about a year since my mother’s DX with brain cancer. She’s brilliant.

  • jerryfriedman

    Oysters are sentient. They have nerves to sense (sentient literally means “able to sense”) and a central nervous system – two ganglia. Because they do not have a central nervous system — like humans — is irrelevant. They seek food demonstrating that they feel hunger, and (as babies) flee predators. They evolved a shell to protect their lives. Animals who do not feel pain would have no reason to evolve a shell or flee predators. Advising vegans to eat oysters is awkward at best. I would think humans with a central nervous system would know better.

    • the word ‘feeling’ is not accurate to describe how oysters experience the world, especially as it and other words you used such as ‘hunger’ and ‘flee’ misrepresent oyster feelings as comparable with humans. Oysters and other animals of similar complexity are essentially unconscious. They act out of instinct to stimuli but lack the cognitive faculties to understand, or comprehend, or simply think about whatever it may be that is happening to them, which makes their experience (or lack thereof) fundamentally different to humans. Also I find it particularly heinous that you worded evolution of snail-shells in such a way as to suggest it was some sort of decision on their part. That is wrong. They are at the mercy of natural-selection just like every other species (with the exception of humans). You then go on to say that an animal that evolves a shell or other protective organ must feel pain. This is fundamentally untrue and demonstrates a lack of understanding on your part concerning what actually happens during natural selection.

  • Also, Sauerkraut was mentioned in podcast, and I stopped (and even DrG) stopped
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8yp3-5UuLU4 due to prostate/breast cancer risk

  • I eat steak & liver at times but…A study was recently released that HDL cholesterol may not be as protective as once believed if the LDL is High or something to that effect(look it up it was released in 2012 It seems HDL is protective when connected to other factors,hence the context. As Scientists & medics overwhelmingly conclude,LDL is a prime suspect in heart disease.The reason why there are cholesterol deniers is because they abuse the jay hook curve graph on cholesterol & heart disease or claim a study of eating meat/saturated fat doesn^t raise cholesterol(meanwhile the same study excludes asking if people are on statins) or claims eating dietary cholesterol doesn^t raise blood cholesterol(it won^t if u have high blood cholesterol to begin with). Eggs it seems have gotten a pass now because theres very little saturated fat in eggs & there^s choline in the yolk that keeps cholesterol down when egg is consumed.Whats the solution if u like meat.Easy Fruits,vegetables,oatmeal,beans—-they absorb a lot of LDL in the intestinal tract & it gets eliminated in your waste. The glory & beauty of carbs,the way they help.Just picked up some anti-heart disease,anti-ageing carbs recently-plums,apples,fresh figs.They keep serotonim levels up. Thank You Carbs for your Flavonoids too !

  • HEALTHY vegan

    Taurine, really? Check out where it is source before stating something so stupid for vegans.

  • itsme

    Aaaaaaaand this is why I’m never hopping off the meat train.