“Broccoli has more protein than steak”—and other crap

Of all the asinine things that I read about nutrition—and let me tell you, I read a lot of them—this one has got to be the asininniest: Broccoli has more protein than steak.

I’ve seen this idiotic meme repeated many times, but the primary source of this stupid—see also: delusional, ludicrous, and absurd—notion seems to be Dr. Joel Furhman. My mom—bless her little osteoporotic soul—keeps his books down at the beach cottage. I don’t think she does it to taunt me, but you never know. I was a bad kid, and payback may be in order. My family has forbidden me to read Dr. Furhman’s books, to pick them up, or to even glance at the covers because the resulting full-on nutrition-rant kills everybody’s beach buzz.

However, as of last week, I have officially maxed out my tolerance for just ignoring this nonsense. So, note to my family: Read no further, it will kill your beach buzz.

According the Dr. Furhman’s book, Eat to Live, a 100-calorie portion of sirloin steak has 5.4 grams of protein, and a 100-calorie portion of broccoli has 11.2 grams of protein. This is rubbish. According to the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service’s Nutrient Data Laboratory database, 100 calories of broiled beef, top sirloin steak has exactly 11.08 grams of protein and 100 calories of chopped, raw broccoli has exactly 8.29. I’m not sure what universe Dr. Furhman lives in, but in my universe, 8.29 is less than 11.08.

I can explain the discrepancy in numbers by the simple fact that Dr. Furhman and I used different sources for our information. Dr. Furham wrote his book—the one that contains the piece of drivel under consideration—in 2005, but he chose to reference a nutrition book written in 1986 (Adams, C. 1986. Handbook of the Nutritional Value of Foods in Common Units, New York: Dover Publications). Just to put things in perspective, in 1986, the internet and DVDs had not yet been invented, no one knew who Bart Simpson was, and it would be another couple of years before Taylor Swift even draws her first ex-boyfriend-bashing breath.

Here’s what I can’t explain: Why, oh why did he dig up a reference nearly two decades old and not just use the USDA internet database, which is—and has been since the 1990s—available to anyone with a library card and a half a brain? While I do not wish to speculate on exactly which of these tools Dr. Furhman might be lacking, suffice it to say that it would take less than 10 minutes for any blogger interested in the truth of the matter to find a more recent source of information—assuming of course that bloggers who perpetuate this particular fiction are interested in the truth.

But wait—before you foam at the mouth too much, Adele—8.29 grams of protein is fair bit of protein.  There is only a difference of a couple of grams of protein between broccoli and steak.  Yes, I would agree, those numbers are a lot closer than you might expect, and this might actually be nutritionally important, if—Big If—all protein were created equal. Which it isn’t.

While I am a big fan of coming at nutrition from an individualized perspective, and I am aware that nutrition scientists don’t have any monopoly on truth, we have managed to nail down a few essential things that human must acquire from the food that they eat. In terms of essentiality, after calories and fluid comes protein—or more specifically, essential amino acids (there are more essentials, but they are not the topic of this particular rant). Because these amino acid requirements are so important (a particular form of starvation, kwashiorkor, involves not overall calorie deprivation, but protein deficit in the context of adequate or near-adequate calories), the World Health Organization has established specific daily requirements of the essential amino acids that are necessary for health.

Let’s see how similar caloric intakes of steak and broccoli stack up when comparing how these two foods provide for essential amino acid requirements. A 275-calorie portion of steak (4 ounces) has 30.5 grams of protein and comes very close to meeting all the daily essential amino acid requirements for a 70 kg adult. A 277-calorie portion of broccoli is not only way more food—you’ll be chewing for a long time as you try to make it through 9 ¼ cups of broccoli—exactly NONE of the daily essential amino acid requirements for an adult are met:

EssentialAmino acids (g) Daily requirement 70 kg adult (g) Essential amino acids (g) in 275 calories of steak (4 oz or 113.33 g) Essential amino acids (g) in 277 calories of chopped, raw broccoli (9.25 cups)
histidine 0.70 0.975 ( +0.275) 0.48 (-0.22)
isoleucine 1.400 1.391 (-0.009) 0.643 (-0.757)
leucine 2.730 2.431 (-0.299) 1.05 (-1.68)
lysine 2.100 2.583 (+0.483) 1.099 (-1.001)
methionine 0.70 0.796 (+0.096) 0.309 (-0.391)
cysteine 0.28 0.394 (+ 0.114) 0.228 (-0.052)
threonine 1.050 1.221 (+0.171) 0.716 (-0.334)
tryptophan 0.280 0.201 (-0.079) 0.269 (-0.011)
valine 1.82 1.516 (-0.304) 1.018 (-0.802)

In reality, it takes twice that much broccoli, or over 18 cups, containing nearly twice as many calories, in order to get anywhere near meeting all essential amino acid requirements.  While I’m willing to concede that individual amino acid requirements may vary considerably, I am not willing to concede that similar caloric amounts of steak and broccoli provide a similar supply of those requirements.  I’m no broccoli basher (it’s sooo yummy baked with cheese & a little bacon on top), but as a protein source, even a lot leaves a lot to be desired.

Oh yeah? Well then, “how on earth do animals like elephants, gorillas and oxen get so big and strong eating only plants? A diverse plant-based diet can obviously support a big, powerful body.” Sure it can. If you’re an elephant or a gorilla or an ox.

In general, human bodies don’t work very efficiently without a regular dietary supply of all essential amino acids: “It would be difficult to find a protein that did not have at least one residue of each of the common 20 amino acids. Half of these amino acids are essential, and if the diet is lacking or low in even one of these essential amino acids, then protein synthesis is not possible” [Emphasis mine; reference: Campbell & Farrell’s Biochemistry, 6th edition]. Protein synthesis allows us to grow, heal, reproduce, and function in general. One of the specific outcomes of protein deficiency in humans is stunting, i.e. where humans who would otherwise grow bigger, don’t.

Dr. Furhman seems to think that those of us who “believe” that food from animals provides a more biologically complete source of protein than food from plants “never thought too much about how a rhinoceros, hippopotamus, gorilla, giraffe, or elephant became so big eating only vegetables.” Hmmm. I have to say, I’m thinking the same thing about Dr. Furhman. Maybe he is unaware that humans aren’t really all that much like rhinoceroses, hippos, gorillas, giraffes, or elephants. But then maybe he just hangs out with a different crowd than I do.

Once again, armed with a library card and half a brain, it is not too difficult to figure out—assuming you did think about how those animals got so big eating only plants and didn’t just mindlessly parrot Dr. Furham’s poorly-researched blather—that, as Gomer Pyle would say, surprise! surprise! Humans and other large mammals ARE different.

While non-ruminants (like humans) must get their essential amino acids from their diet, ruminants (like giraffes) “may also acquire substantial amounts of these amino acids through the digestion of microbial protein synthesized in the rumen” (see: Amino Acids in Animal Nutrition, edited by J.P. Felix D’Mello). This may come as a bit of a shock to Dr. Furhman and his readership, but humans don’t actually have rumens and utilizing this particular approach to the acquisition of essential amino acids from plant matter ain’t gonna work for us.

You can get plenty of protein from a plants-only diet by eating like a hippo.

Other non-ruminant grazers—see elephants, rhinos, and hippos—have a different eating strategy. They “eat for volume and low extraction.” In other words, the relatively low availability of protein in the food is overcome by the high volume consumed. In that regard—assuming you aspire to an elephant-like, rhino-like, or hippo-like bod—it may be possible to get sufficient protein from a strictly plant-based diet. If you don’t mind eating all the time. And pooping. Less than half of what is consumed by the high-volume grazers is utilized by the body; the rest—like a handsome stranger—is just passin’ through (see: Nutritional Ecology of the Ruminant, by Peter J. van Soest). If the idea of literally flushing over half of what you eat down the toilet doesn’t bother you, then this strategy actually might work.

ooooh! Can we? Please?

So what about gorillas? This particular primate-to-primate comparison has been tossed all around the internet. Why can’t we just eat plants like gorillas do? Gorillas, although not so good at Jeopardy, are big and strong and they’re vegans, so we should all be vegans too, right? Aside from the fact that we don’t really know exactly what gorillas are eating much of the time, it does seem that they eat a lot of bugs along with their plants. So unless you have a particularly fastidious gorilla, some dietary protein won’t be vegan. Compared to humans, gorillas also have a much larger proportion of the gut devoted to fermentation—again, another source for microbes to contribute to the nutritional completeness of a plants-only diet. And, again, a high volume of food is consumed to compensate for the low nutritional value of it. You won’t have to worry about half your food going down the toilet, though. Those who want to live like gorillas can just eat that poop instead of flushing it. This provides the body with another opportunity to extract nutrition from the substance formerly known as food and may also help explain the willingness of Dr. Furhman’s readers to swallow what he’s shoveling.

I have nothing against a plants-only diet—in whatever form it takes—if that’s what a person want to do and it makes him/her happy. I have no more interest in converting a vegan to omnivory than I do in having a vegan attempt to convert me to swearing off bacon. I am also aware that there is more—much more—to food choices than the nutritional content of the food chosen.

But I’m afraid this is just one of those situations where ideology has been sent to do the work of science. Ideology has its place, and science has its flaws. Truth, facts, and beliefs can be hard to define and harder still to separate. I get all that. But – to quote Neil deGrasse Tyson – “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.” Unfortunately, for all those gorilla-wannabees out there, the reverse also applies: Believing in something doesn’t make it true. You can believe all you want that broccoli is a better source of protein than steak, but your ribosomes don’t have access to a keyboard and they might vote differently.

Now, dear readers, if you ever run across some library-card-challenged blogger out there perpetuating Dr. Furhman’s little myth, you have a link to help spill some sunshine on the matter.


272 thoughts on ““Broccoli has more protein than steak”—and other crap

  1. Pingback: Quora
  2. You’re full of crap and your junk science isn’t interesting to anyone but yourself. You want excuses to keep eating a fatty, carcinogenic, diabetic meat diet? Just do it; just be lazy and ignorant. Don’t bother with all the lies and nonsense. Junk science is embarrassing.

      1. Charles, I believe that is DOCTOR lagirl5559. See this article and lagirl5559’s quote: http://www.furinsider.com/animal-rights-goes-wrong-things-that-make-you-go-hmmm/

        “You will do what you’re going to do – we all realize that. But be forewarned, if you pursue this path – you will have the wrath of the animal protection world – on your doorstop. Every single aspect of your business will be affected.”

        Sigh. I believe Bawdy Wench is right. Time to close comments. I can’t deal with crazy right now. Charles, I appreciate your civil approach to matters upon which we disagree. Those kind of comments are always welcome.

  3. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1520-037X.2002.01231.x/full

    The Effect of High-, Moderate-, and Low-Fat Diets on Weight Loss and Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors

    “One hundred men and women followed one of four dietary programs for 1 year: a moderate-fat (MF) program without calorie restriction (28 patients); a low-fat (LF) diet (phase I) (16 patients); a MF, calorie-controlled (phase II) diet (38 patients); and a high-fat (HF) diet (38 subjects). Weight, total cholesterol (TC), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), triglycerides (TG), homocysteine (Ho), and lipoprotein(a) [Lp(a)], were measured every 4th month. The TC/HDL-C ratio was calculated and fibrinogen levels were measured at baseline and after one year.

    Dietary Regimens

    High-Fat (HF) Diet This diet is defined as one in which patients consume 55%-65% of their daily caloric intake in the form of fat calories. Less than 100 g of carbohydrates (RCHO) were consumed daily and protein intake constituted 25%-30% of the total caloric intake. Patients ate until satiated.

    Moderate-Fat (MF) Diet Patients following this dietary program consumed 20%-30% of their calories in the form of fat. Approximately 60% of their calories were from carbohydrate sources and the remaining calories were derived from protein. Patients consumed 10–12 calories per pound per day on this diet.

    MF, Calorie-Controlled (Phase II) Diet Patients following this program were asked to consume 350–500 fewer kilocalories per day than required15,20 to maintain body weight. This was determined by multiplying their current weight in pounds by 10 kcal/lb to determine the required kcal intake per day; 350–500 was subtracted from this figure to determine the desired daily intake of calories. Of these calories, 15% were protein and 70% were carbohydrate, with an emphasis on complex carbohydrates vs. simple sugars. The remaining 15% of the calories could be consumed as fat in a 2:1 ratio of nonsaturated (polyunsaturated and monosaturated) to saturated fat, with no more than 5 g of saturated fat intake per day.

    Low-Fat (LF) (Phase I) Diet The LF diet consisted of fruits, vegetables, a limited amount of grain/cereals for breakfast and a multiple vitamin that included 100% of the US Department of Agriculture recommended daily intake of vitamins and minerals. Patients ate until satiated. Of the caloric intake, 10% was fat, 15% was protein, and 75% was carbohydrate, with an emphasis on complex vs. simple carbohydrates as shown in Table I.

    Exercise Regimen

    Each individual was instructed to exercise an average of 3–5 times per week, beginning with stretching for 15 minutes, followed by walking for 30 minutes, and then relaxing and stretching for an additional 15 minutes.

    Patients returned on a monthly basis to review their progress, answer any questions regarding dietary habits, and determine if they were having any medical problems, which would require removal from the study. Weights were recorded at the beginning of the study and at the end of months 4, 8, and 12. Fasting venous blood was drawn at the beginning of the study and at the end of months 4, 8, and 12. The tests included total cholesterol (TC), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDLC), triglycerides (TG), homocysteine, and Lp(a). The TC/HDL-C ratio was calculated for each of these intervals. Fibrinogen levels were measured at the beginning and end of the year.

    Reductions in TC, LDL-C, TGs, and TC/HDL ratios were significant only in patients either following a LF diet or a MF, calorically reduced diet. Only patients following HF diets showed a worsening of each cardiovascular disease risk factor (LDL-C, TG, TC, HDL-C, TC/HDL ratio, Ho, Lp(a), and fibrinogen), despite achieving statistically significant weight loss.

    1. Seriously? I know way more about this study than I probably should & some stuff I can’t–unfortunately–share with my readers. Please do me a favor & find out what you can about one of the sponsors of the study: The Camelot Foundation at The Fleming Heart & Health Institute. Maybe do a little googling on Richard Fleming himself. Then perhaps ask yourself how it is that every other study you read that is a year-long feeding trial with 100 people needs a team of researchers, but this one could be conducted & analysed by JUST ONE PERSON. No dropouts? No non-compliance issues? BTW, how was dietary compliance measured anyway?

      I appreciate your effort here. You know, there are probably other studies out there that could make your point; nutrition science is all over the map. But, by golly, you sure picked the wrong one.

      1. I assume you mean because of this


        “In the PBS interview, Ornish claimed that research has shown diets like Atkins to worsen blood flow to the heart. His source for this frightening allegation? None other than Nebraska’s Dr. Richard Fleming, the same Dr. Richard Fleming who came under attack earlier this year after he obtained the late Dr. Atkins’ confidential death report under dubious circumstances and then passed it onto to his publicity-hungry associates at the PCRM. Like Ornish, Fleming is an outspoken critic of high-protein diets. ”

        If you ” know way more about this study than I probably should & some stuff I can’t–unfortunately–share with my readers.” then why is your criticism valid?

        Either post what you know – so we may be educated – or steer us in the direction where we might obtain this info.

        1. Yeah, you’re on the right track. Keep digging. And see if you figure out what the Camelot Institute is and how that study got conducted. While you are at it, see if you can figure out just how many states Dr. Fleming can no longer practice medicine in, although granted that may take you a while.

          I also challenge you to find another 100 participant feeding study with just one author. And can you explain the fact that there is no attrition/dropout/noncompliance? And, how is compliance measured anyway? There’s that.

          I’m afraid I’ll have to save the rest of it for when I write a book & can afford to have a lawyer make sure we are not compromising anyone’s privacy (and I don’t mean Fleming’s). Sadly the heartwire cage match between low-carb/low-fat (search “Eckel” and “Westman” and “heartwire”) seems have removed the comments section–but maybe you can find it in the way back machine?–there was lots of good stuff there & comments from Fleming himself.

  4. PLEASE, Adele, can we PLEASE move on? I believe everything that needs to be said has already been side on both sides of this debate. Why beat a dead horse/plant?

    I, for one, would much rather see another original blog post from you than to keep rehashing this same old argument over and over again.

    Maybe you should simply close comments on this one and move on.

    1. Aw shucks. And take all the fun out of it? Sometimes I have term papers to write & it is helpful to have real world examples of people insisting that their particular nutrition ideology is the only one that can possibly apply, to the extent that they are willing to deny the embodied reality of others. Wonderful critical culture studies stuff!

  5. Someones probably already pointed this out but broccoli has all eight amino acids that can build the twenty essential amino acids. It just isn’t a complete protein because it doesn’t contain the exact ratio to create all of the essential amino acids that the human body needs. But lots of nutritionally good food isn’t a complete protein source… so it’s not exactly a flaw

  6. Someones probably already pointed this out but broccoli has all eight amino acids that can build the twenty essential amino acids. It just isn’t a complete protein because it doesn’t contain the exact ratio to create all of the essential amino acids that the human body needs. But lots of nutritionally good food isn’t a complete protein source… so it’s not exactly a flaw.

    1. I luvs broccoli. No one is saying (I don’t think) to not eat broccoli. But the comparison to steak is misleading and erroneous.

  7. Anybody who knows anything about nutrition does not consider kwashiorker to be an issue in anything but the most impoverished and malnourished of people. Show me a person who suffers from kwashiorker who is eating adequate calories of anything and I will show you a unicorn. Protein is in damn near everything. The foam on your beer is made of protein for goodness sake. So yes, the numbers on the steak vs. broccoli thing are wrong, granted, but the bigger picture here is that eating a decently balanced plant-based diet is healthy for all phases of life, but eating a dead animal is never healthy for the dead animal.

    1. Unlike roses, protein is not protein is not protein. The fact that we use the generic term protein to refer to such a vastly diverse range of molecules is part of why the whole protein issue is so easily misunderstood. Like many diseases, protein-energy malnutrition takes many forms. It is interesting to me that you believe you can “know” without a doubt that subclinical forms of this type of deficiency is non-existent. I am assuming you’ve had a great deal of clinical experience in this regard?
      A “decently-balanced plant-based diet” may be healthy for you, but it was not for me–and is never healthy for the dead plant.

      1. I have every confidence that your version of a plant-based diet was not a decently balanced one. You are a self-admitted diet coke drinker, so anything you say about being healthy is null and void right there. I suppose you are also one of those quacks who thinks plants have feelings?

        1. Well, I didn’t actually start drinking diet soda until I quit being a vegetarian; I thought fat was bad not sugar. I didn’t even drink soda at the time because during most of my vegetarian days I was either a student (too poor) or a mom (setting a good example). Most of my vegetarian eating was done at home for the same reasons. I have many excellent vegetarian cookbooks and I am an excellent cook (minus one hapless whole wheat pasticcio that will go down in family infamy); I cooked & ate at home most of the time, counting and measuring as I went. That was my reality. It didn’t work out for me.
          Do plants have feelings? Who knows? Are they alive? Yes, they do all the right things to be considered as such.

  8. Adele Hite, MPH RD says:
    January 5, 2014 at 5:41 pm

    Only oxidized LDL might possibly be construed as “sticking” to arteries, and then one must ask oneself, “how does the LDL become oxidized?” Furthermore, there must be some arterial damage in order for it to “stick,” and thus one must ask oneself, “what causes this sort of arterial damage?” The most likely culprits at this time are things are pro-inflammatory factors like: glucose, insulin, and PUFAs.

    According to this 99 year old scientist it’s trans fats tha cause all of the damage.

    A 98-year-old researcher argues that, contrary to decades of clinical assumptions and advice to patients, dietary cholesterol is good for your heart — unless that cholesterol is unnaturally oxidized (by frying foods in reused oil, eating lots of polyunsaturated fats, or smoking).

    The researcher, Fred Kummerow, an emeritus professor of comparative biosciences at the University of Illinois, has spent more than six decades studying the dietary factors that contribute to heart disease. In a new paper in the American Journal of Cardiovascular Disease, he reviews the research on lipid metabolism and heart disease with a focus on the consumption of oxidized cholesterol — in his view a primary contributor to heart disease.

    “Oxidized lipids contribute to heart disease both by increasing deposition of calcium on the arterial wall, a major hallmark of atherosclerosis, and by interrupting blood flow, a major contributor to heart attack and sudden death,” Kummerow wrote in the review.

    In 1957, a fledgling nutrition scientist at the University of Illinois persuaded a hospital to give him samples of arteries from patients who had died of heart attacks.

    When he analyzed them, he made a startling discovery. Not surprisingly, the diseased arteries were filled with fat — but it was a specific kind of fat. The artificial fatty acids called trans fats, which come from the hydrogen-treated oils used in processed foods like margarine, had crowded out other types of fatty acids.

    The scientist, Fred Kummerow, followed up with a study that found troubling amounts of artery-clogging plaque in pigs given a diet heavy in artificial fats. He became a pioneer of trans-fat research, one of the first scientists to assert a link between heart disease and processed foods.

    It would be more than three decades before those findings were widely accepted — and five decades before the Food and Drug Administration decided that trans fats should be eliminated from the food supply, as it proposed in a rule issued last month

    The problem, he says, is not LDL, the “bad cholesterol” widely considered to be the major cause of heart disease. What matters is whether the cholesterol and fat residing in those LDL particles have been oxidized. (Technically, LDL is not cholesterol, but particles containing cholesterol, along with fatty acids and protein.)

    “Cholesterol has nothing to do with heart disease, except if it’s oxidized,” Dr. Kummerow said. Oxidation is a chemical process that happens widely in the body, contributing to aging and the development of degenerative and chronic diseases. Dr. Kummerow contends that the high temperatures used in commercial frying cause inherently unstable polyunsaturated oils to oxidize, and that these oxidized fatty acids become a destructive part of LDL particles. Even when not oxidized by frying, soybean and corn oils can oxidize inside the body.

    If true, the hypothesis might explain why studies have found that half of all heart disease patients have normal or low levels of LDL.

    “You can have fine levels of LDL and still be in trouble if a lot of that LDL is oxidized,” Dr. Kummerow said.

    This leads him to a controversial conclusion: that the saturated fat in butter, cheese and meats does not contribute to the clogging of arteries — and in fact is beneficial in moderate amounts in the context of a healthy diet (lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and other fresh, unprocessed foods).

    His own diet attests to that. Along with fruits, vegetables and whole grains, he eats red meat several times a week and drinks whole milk daily.

    He cannot remember the last time he ate anything deep-fried. He has never used margarine, and instead scrambles eggs in butter every morning. He calls eggs one of nature’s most perfect foods, something he has been preaching since the 1970s, when the consumption of cholesterol-laden eggs was thought to be a one-way ticket to heart disease.

    “Eggs have all of the nine amino acids you need to build cells, plus important vitamins and minerals,” he said. “It’s crazy to just eat egg whites. Not a good practice at all.

    “Oxidized lipids contribute to heart disease both by increasing deposition of calcium on the arterial wall, a major hallmark of atherosclerosis, and by interrupting blood flow, a major contributor to heart attack and sudden death,” Kummerow wrote in the review.

    Interaction between sphingomyelin and oxysterols contributes to atherosclerosis and sudden death

    Levels of oxysterols and OxLDL increase primarily as a result of three diet or lifestyle factors: the consumption of oxysterols from commercially fried foods such as fried chicken, fish, and french fries; oxidation of cholesterol in vivo driven by consumption of excess polyunsaturated fatty acids from vegetable oils; and cigarette smoking. Along with the consumption of trans fatty acids from partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, these diet and lifestyle factors likely underlie the persistent national burden of heart disease.

  9. lunabee, I don’t know where the disconnect is but here we go again:

    1. Animals cannot make B12.

    2. Plants cannot make B12.

    Remember when I wrote this for you? “uanabee, B12 is not produced by animals or by plants. B12 is produced by a bacteria that lives in the soil. You wrote. “B12 is produced only by animals that have eaten and digested plants.”

    National Institutes of Health:
    Only bacteria and archaea have the enzymes required for its synthesis, although many foods are a natural source of B12 because of bacterial symbiosis. The vitamin is the largest and most structurally complicated vitamin and can be produced industrially only through bacterial fermentation-synthesis.

    I am not vegan or vegetarian—plenty of grass fed protein sources around here. However, I do not support factory farming. I see ex-vegan/ex-vegetarians sport such desperate excuses for having reverted to supporting the systematic torture of factory farmed animals—and “miraculously” they try to rid themselves of their cognitive dissonance with the most absurd excuses ever. No surprise there.

    1. B12 is also produced by bacteria that live elsewhere, not just in the soil. If bacteria can produce B12 industrially, as you suggested, that wouldn’t exactly be “in the soil” now would it? It is my understanding that a variety of media can be used to grow the microorganisms that make B12, some of which are organic and some of which are synthetic.

      1. Wow Adele, I don’t think you understand how ridiculous you sound. I have better things to do than wonder what the heck happened to you. I do hope you find inner peace someday.

        1. I thought that was a valid bit about how b12 can be made on Adele’s behalf, but in the words of Anchorman Ron Burgundy, that escalated quickly.

        2. Ah yes. Inner peace. I do hope we all find a bit of that as we travel through life, me included. Best wishes for good health on your journey, Carol, it’s been a pleasure having you stop by.

  10. Thank you for this fascinating discussion, I’m still digesting everything. 😉

    What are your thoughts on:

    “In fact, it is possible that eating more protein, especially vegetable protein, while cutting back on easily digested carbohydrates may benefit the heart. A 20-year prospective study of 82,802 women found that those who ate low-carbohydrate diets that were high in vegetable sources of fat or protein had a 30 percent lower risk of heart disease, compared to women who ate high-carbohydrate, low-fat diets. (8) But women who ate low-carbohydrate diets that were high in animal fats or proteins did not have a reduced risk of heart disease.”

    Source: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/protein-full-story/#protein_alike

    1. Weeelll, I’m in the holiday spirit so I won’t just trash ref #8 just because it is (yet) another long-term observational study using Food Fantasy Questionnaires and questionable methodological assumptions to draw conclusions regarding a population that is likely not to be generalizable to many other populations. Adequate protein is crucial to good health; to get adequate protein from vegetable sources you have to consume more. Saturated fat has no associations with heart disease that we have ever been able to detect from studies that are not otherwise highly flawed in terms of methodology.

      Basically this is the same old same old. If you follow the diet Harvard-recommended “prudent diet” (low in animal products, high in veggies) AND you manage to do it while also acquiring adequate protein and fewer carbohydrates, you MIGHT be better off. Or you might not. You might just be benefiting from caring about your health more than someone else.

  11. I read all the fights between veggies and meats it reminds of republicans and democrats. Neither one has the whole answer, and most of the time are not even identifying the real problems.They both just like to cry about the symptoms.

    I believe that if you rid your life of cans, boxes, and bags and go back to eating whole, natural foods of all types, your body’s compass would reset itself to its true magnetic north again and point YOU towards the foods that are right for YOUR health.

    Wham bam thank you ma’am….health care would be a much easier problem to solve.

  12. Hi, I have a 10 page paper due in less than a week for health psych class regarding the animal protein vs. plant protein controversy. I really love the quotes about B12 you provided from your nutritional textbook. I think this could really help me balance out the controversy. Would you be willing to find the source in the back of your book that I could refer to in my research? I am to reference only peer reviewed scholarly articles.. or any other pro meat sources you can think of if you are up to it. Thanks so much!!!

    1. I would love to give you a detailed bibliography, but I have 4 term papers of my own I’m in the middle of! I’ve included a few from Wardlaw below, but a quick Pub Med search of B12 deficiencies should give you all the refs you need. You can also find a free download of Wardlaw’s Perspective’s in Nutrition (8th edition) and look up the section on B12. In addition, some of the material from the textbook is not footnoted with PubMed cites because it is considered to be common knowledge, uncontested, and non-controversial.

      Just to be clear, I would never deny a vegan the right to proclaim his/her good health is maintainable with B12 supplemented from wherever. I simply wish to show that the evidence we have to that effect is not terribly straightforward. Maybe one of these days, I will get around to writing an actual post on the matter.

      Albert CM, Cook NR, Gaziano JM, Zaharris E, MacFadyen J, Danielson E, Buring JE, Manson JE. Effect of folic acid and B vitamins on risk of cardiovascular events and total mortality among women at high risk for cardiovascular disease: a randomized trial. JAMA. 2008 May 7;299(17):2027-36

      Antony, A. Vegetarianism and vitamin B12 (cobalamin) deficiency. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003; 78:3.

      Balk EM, Raman G, Tatsioni A, Chung M, Lau J, Rosenberg IH. Vitamin B6, B12, and folic acid supplementation and cognitive function: a systematic review of randomized trials. Arch Intern Med. 2007 Jan 8;167(1):21-30.

      Lonn E, Yusuf S, Arnold MJ, Sheridan P, Pogue J, et al. Homocysteine lowering with folic acid and B vitamins in vascular disease. N Engl J Med. 2006 Apr 13;354(15):1567-77

      Payinda G, Hansen T. Vitamin B(12) deficiency manifested as psychosis without anemia. Am J Psychiatry. 2000 Apr;157(4):660-1.

      Sato Y, Honda Y, Iwamoto J, Kanoko T, Satoh K. Effect of folate and mecobalamin on hip fractures in patients with stroke: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 2005 Mar 2;293(9):1082-8.

      Ting RZ, Szeto CC, Chan MH, Ma KK, Chow KM. Risk factors of vitamin B(12) deficiency in patients receiving metformin. Arch Intern Med. 2006 Oct 9;166(18):1975-9.

    2. The U.S.D.A mandates that factory farmed animals be injected with B12. Ninety-eight percent of meat in the United States comes from factory farming, so almost everyone is acquiring B12 from unnatural sources.

      1. Hmmm. Just because the USDA mandates B12 injections does not mean that the meat from these animals contains nothing but “unnatural” sources of B12. With appropriate precursors, B12 is manufactured in the rumen by microorganisms.

      2. National Institutes of Health:

        Neither fungi, plants, nor animals are capable of producing vitamin B12. Only bacteria and archaea have the enzymes required for its synthesis, although many foods are a natural source of B12 because of bacterial symbiosis. The vitamin is the largest and most structurally complicated vitamin and can be produced industrially only through bacterial fermentation-synthesis.

        It’s obvious something bothers you about the fact that you are getting B12 via supplementing—You sound just like my youngest sister, (an ex-vegetarian), who has quite a complex ever since my niece went vegan.

        1. Bacteria = microorganisms. So this bacteria/microorganism stuff is what is making the B12 in the rumen of the ruminant.

          There are synthetically produced B12 analogs that are very similar to, but not identical to, B12 acquired from food. Or maybe my professors were just joking about that stuff.

          Oh, I have a complex of complex complexes. Just not about B12, vegan, or vegetarianism. I don’t really care what other people eat, if they feel well and happy. My concern, in this particular piece, is with sloppy science. Factory-farming is real problem in many ways. I hope that work that I do in the future will help to change that system to the benefit of all concerned. At the same time, I saw people able to reverse their diabetes–and the ugly complications that come with it–consuming factory-farmed meat. Best option? Probably not. The one that they could manage? Yes. I will admit to being an avowed speciest.

      3. Neither fungi, plants, nor animals are capable of producing vitamin B12. Only bacteria and archaea have the enzymes required for its synthesis, although many foods are a natural source of B12 because of bacterial symbiosis. The vitamin is the largest and most structurally complicated vitamin and can be produced industrially only through bacterial fermentation-synthesis.

  13. Humans are omnivores this isn’t saying that we need to eat ONLY meat but not just vegetables either because we can’t naturally ferment our foods. Meat is also to be supplemented in a balance of exercise and diet

    1. I thought meat was to be supplemented in a balance of red wine and napping . . . dang, I’ve been doing it all wrong 🙂

  14. Thanks for the post, Adele! Just like you, I get set off by fad diets posing as science, which end up being more of a religion by those who follow them. I blame the diet book authors looking to profit from some crazy new made-up “facts” about their “revolutionary” new diet that cures all disease.

    One of my recent favorites is this Fuhrmann guy. He recommends little (and preferably no) meats or starches, and then tells his followers that the hunger pangs they feel aren’t real, so no snacks! That takes some slick marketing and a gullible public who’s lost trust in their bodies because they want to believe this guy’s going to help them live forever.

    Like you, I went vegetarian for over a decade. The deterioration in my health crept up slowly over time so I didn’t realize it was related to my diet. One of the most serious side effects was that I could not stay awake. At all. This was particularly hazardous behind the wheel of a car–It’s a miracle I survived the narcolepsy. I was in denial, because all the slick new diet books couldn’t be wrong, could they? Instead of exploring, I kept trying to “fix” the symptoms with artificial vitamins and trendy new freak foods. Tofu? Never again!

    I didn’t wake up (literally!) until I started a new balanced weight-loss diet that included small portions of meat, fruit, and starches throughout the day, along with plenty of veggies. Boy, was I pissed when all my symptoms subsided and I realized we are all being lied to! I have veg friends who have kept insisting their diet is so healthy and eco-friendly. They’re already exhibiting the symptoms of protein deficiency and can’t admit it. They’ve learned not to even bring it up around me anymore. They get a mouthful from me when they spout the most idiotic B.S. about their “superior” diets. That’s why I seek out websites like this one for some sanity.

    Thanks again for being a voice of reason!

    1. Thanks for the kind words & for sharing your story.

      One of the MOST frustrating things about any dietary regime (and I’ve seen this in “just eat food” and “paleo” places, as well as in vegetarian/vegan communities) is when the rule-makers (or the people who play them on facebook or on blogs or in books) tell people that they are not experiencing what they say they are experiencing (and even go on to tell them what they are “really” experiencing). I’m pretty sure that there is little in this crazy world of food/diet nonsense that pisses me off more–and that’s saying something. Remarks like “you are not really _______ [hungry, exhausted, bored of exercise, sensitive to wheat, etc.]” signify all that has gone wrong with the world of eating since I was a child.

      One of the things that the Dietary Guidelines have done since their appearance is to reinforce the notion that the experts know more/better than we do what foods make us feel healthy and happy. It is a message that has filled many of us with guilt and confusion that often takes years to overcome. Sigh.

      I don’t know how much sanity you’ll find here–I may be on my way to crazy trying to jump this system–but I’m glad you’re along for the ride.

      1. I also was a vegetarian and then vegan for more than a decade. It didn’t work for me as well as many of my friends. What really is annoying is the dishonesty in much on the information out there on vegan and vegetarians diets it’s full of distortion everything is blame on animals as food as the cause of all diseases. Very few present a balanced view that is not distorted by ideology. Here is a vegan doctor at least with an open mind to explore the limitations of the vegan diet.

        1. I’ve been following one of the latest high-profile converts to vegetarianism/veganism, Bill Clinton. Everybody’s gushing about how great he looks now that he’s skinny, mistakenly assuming that also means he’s so much more healthy. I’ve thought he looks emaciated, and sure enough: check out the opening lines of an interview he did with Letterman a few months back, where he complains about the loss of muscle mass …

          If anybody has the means to get the best health care and do the diet right, it’s Bill. And yet …

        2. Thanks for sharing these. Here’s another from Christopher Gardner.

          I would be happy if we could quit fussing at each other about what we are/are not eating (eyes on your own plate, please), and focus on our own bodies and results and not the expectation we have from a particular diet ideology (any diet ideology). Not all weight loss is necessarily a health benefit & focus on appearances & numbers on a scale can be really distracting from what is going on in the body.

          If we could keep our opinions off each other’s plates perhaps we could then work together on the systemic issues behind some of the complaints that vegatarians have regarding how animals are raised and brought to market in the U.S. Improvements in those areas may serve to benefit us all in the long run.

  15. I read some claim like this earlier and it just sounded like bullshit. I’m a D1 wrestler and am always looking for alternative nutritional sources, so when I saw that ‘broccoli has more protein than steak’ I felt that there were definite flaws to that claim. Thanks for clearing it up.

    1. YAY! That makes my day. If only clearing up the rest of the nutritional bullshit were that easy 🙂

      1. Per calorie, broccoli actually DOES have more protein than steak, therefore if you are trying to lose weight, you can eat a lot without feeding yourself as many calories. Per gram, steak has more protein than broccoli.
        If you were a Native American living out on the plains in the 1400s, you would have to eat a lot of meat and other foods that are protein-rich per gram, simply to keep from starving. Nowadays, we have fresh fruits and vegetables so readily available that we don’t need to eat such high amounts of animal products. The problem is, large amounts of the animal products are available, too, and people think that they need to stuff their faces full of meat to get their protein. I wonder why obesity is the norm now. Maybe people have been eating too many vegetables…. Ha. That made me laugh out loud. 🙂


        Also, I saw another reply to your post where somebody said that Dr. Fuhrman tells people that the hunger pangs they feel aren’t real. Not true. In fact, just the other day, I drank about 6 or 7 cups of green smoothie (spinach, romaine, pineapple, orange, apple, banana, and ice all blended up together– delicious!) for lunch. I was stuffed. About a half hour later, I found myself in the kitchen looking for chocolate because I felt “hungry.” But I was full. Ah, cravings…. 🙂

        1. Per calorie, broccoli only has more protein than steak if you use Dr. Furham’s outdated source–or the source you linked here which is a proprietary software system closed to the public. If you’d like to buy me a copy for $500, I’d be happy to go through that system and tell you why they came up with numbers that are different from those used by the USDA.

          Apparently you skipped over the blog part where I explain that not all protein is created equal. A lot of the time, I’m not even sure if people have a good idea what a protein actually is, or looks like. Here’s some pretty pictures of them. They are beautiful and beautifully complex molecules. And they differ in their ability to provide essential amino acids to the body (that what all that boring stuff in the middle of the blog post was about).

          I’m glad that your desire to eat after drinking 6-7 cups of green smoothie was just “cravings”–for you. For someone else, that may have been a real and valid search for a complete set of amino acids needed to prevent compromised metabolic function or scavenging from muscle tissue.

          Finally, I would point out that we consume approximately the same amount of protein now as we have been consuming since 1909, when we first started keeping track of these numbers. 70-100 grams of protein is a pretty standard intake over time and across/within populations. Using language like “people think that they need to stuff their faces full of meat to get their protein” [emphasis mine] says a lot more about how you feel about meat-eaters than it does about the reality of protein consumption. It would justified from your response for me to say that you “stuffed your face full of 6-7 cups of green smoothie to get your “plant protein”–and then still went looking for more food soon afterwards–as if the green smoothie did not really satisfy your body’s real needs” but I would never actually refer to a fellow human being in such dehumanizing terms, nor would I contradict your assessment that the food-seeking behavior was related to cravings rather than physiological needs.

          I’m glad you enjoyed your green smoothie–it contains many tasty ingredients that can contribute to a diet that promotes health, although I am not fully convinced that complete protein is one of those. I am happy you’ve found a way of eating that works for you, cravings or not.

        2. …and do you understand the metabolic process happening in your body that causes that immediate hunger and craving? It’s all that vegetable matter NOT providing you with the protein and fat you need to keep you satisfied. Meat and fat can do that for you – vegetables and fruit, not so much….

          Try eating three eggs, four pieces of bacon, and a whole avocado for breakfast at seven a.m. That’s what I do, and I’ll be goll-danged if I don’t have to eat again, and don’t even have a twinge of hunger OR cravings, until about five p.m. – conveniently about the time we eat dinner. The only way I would know I was hungry is that I start to get a little cranky right before dinner.

          Can you say “Food that really ‘sticks to your ribs'” ???

          1. Of course, the smoothie was light, but don’t you think it was still quite nutritional? If they just had some almonds and a tablespoon of coconut oil blended into the smoothie (almonds might be good just on the side, too), there’s a great substitute of fat and protein. There’s lots of others, but there’s just some examples. Eating an avocado on the side would be good too.

            1. The problem with that “substituting nuts and coconut oil” theory of protein substitution is that not all proteins are created equal. They are not an optimal substitute for animal protein. I think those nutrition labels are deceptive in that when people see that a plant food has, say, 8 grams of protein, they don’t understand that’s not the same complete protein as you can find in meat.

            2. This conversation is a lovely example of a reasonable and civil exchange of people sharing their ideas and approaches to finding a diet that works well for them. Makes my heart fill with joy! That is all.

              Lunabee is right that the “protein” represented food packages or even nutrition databases does not reflect the “completeness” of the protein, and the science behind “combining” proteins to make complete proteins is pretty minimal; we simply do not know much about the process at all. We do know that populations whose primary source of protein is combined protein from plants tend to be “stunted” (a word that sounds more derogatory than I think it should); when given adequate sources of complete protein, a greater adult height is achieved. Whether this is a good thing or not is not something I wish to pass judgment upon.

          2. Sure it’s nutritional, but not enough to hold a person for any length of time. I get frustrated with people who seem to think it’s necessary, or even “Okay” to eat “small meals every few hours”. First of all, that approach NEVER gives your digestive system time to rest. We are not supposed to have food going in and being processed at all hours of the day. Anyone who needs to eat every few hours is either not getting what they need from their food, or they are eating too many foods that stimulate an insulin response, pushing down their blood sugar and keeping them hungry. Nutritious food is food that is so nutritionally complete and dense that you don’t need to eat again for hours, and in between those meals you have enough energy to maintain all bodily functions.

            I probably go too long between meals, and that’s something I’m working on. You know how I’m doing that? By eating even more fat at breakfast, not by snacking before dinner.

            Along with nutrient density, food shouldn’t stimulate the appetite. In other words, it’s not enough to just eat food that is nutritionally dense. One should also strive to eat foods that do not cause blood sugar spikes. High insulin is VERY damaging to all of our organs, and insulin resistance, or pre-diabetes, is something that folks acquire when they constantly eat foods that raise blood sugar, i.e. high carb diets. Contrary to popular dogma, there are many, many vegan diabetics, which, unfortunately, the big vegan doctors (Ornish, and friends..) are negligent to mention.

            1. I’m one of those people who do better with 3 meals and a midmorning and midafternoon snack. It’s not that I’m hungry then, it’s that I eat a few small bites in between meals so I don’t GET hungry. The added benefits are that regular small bites speeds up my metabolism, levels my insulin, boosts my energy, and improves my mood.

              When I came off my disastrous vegetarian decade, I started this diet, where I ate a strict low-fat BALANCED diet that included lots of veggies, a little fruit, and regular small portions of low-fat animal protein and starches. I later found out it’s pretty much the same low-glycemic diet as the one my mother’s on for her diabetes; she’s able to control her blood sugar levels completely by eating this way.

              The diet I was on didn’t allow salt, sugar, dairy, oils, fatty meat, or processed foods. Though I still cook from scratch (little processed food), I’ve added back all the other stuff in moderation, including a much wider variety of meats. I look at the transition as my journey back from vegetarianism to normal, healthy eating. Now I’m not randomly falling asleep, my hair and nails have grown back, and I’ve regained some muscle mass.

            2. I’m a vegetarian (except during the holidays XD) and I’m only tired when I get 5 hours of sleep, my hair is almost 3 feet long, and I have to trim my nails very frequently because they grow so fast. I’m also very muscular.

      2. I suppose I should have mentioned that I only had the cravings for the first couple days that I’ve been drinking them. They keep me full until dinner time. My family has always eaten the way you say to eat, and my dad was recently told by his doctor that he has pre-diabetes and we need to go completely off of all animal products. Our whole (close) family went vegetarian and started doing the Dr. Fuhrman plan. We’ve been doing it for a couple months now, and cholesterol and weight has been going down. Many of our relatives eat the way you say, too, and recently my uncle (my dad’s youngest brother; early 40’s) died from lifestyle (food in particular) related issues. My great-uncle, as well as other family members, also died from this.
        You don’t need to eat animal products to get the necessary vitamins and minerals. B12 is found in dirt; that’s why it’s in the animals. If you eat a carrot out of the garden, it’s probably going to have some dirt on it, even if you clean it. Not that everyone should run outside and eat dirt for their B12. I’m just saying. It’s also in things like nutritional yeast, which we use frequently (multiple times a week).
        One of the main reasons a lot of vegetarians are unhealthy is because they ignore the “veg” in “vegetarian,” meaning they eat meat substitutes full of weird chemicals.
        Also, tofu isn’t a weird food; most people of Asian descent are lactose intolerant, so they use soy as kind of a substitute. Tofu is simply soy cheese. I’m not a big fan of the taste or texture of it, but I know some people who love it covered in soy sauce and baked in the oven (or grilled).
        You don’t need to eat animal products to get complete proteins, either. If you eat, say, kidney beans (or Christmas beans, as my mom calls them) and quinoa, you actually get more of the essential amino acids and whatever than you would by eating meat.
        And I say that using language like “asinine,” “idiotic,” “stupid,” “delusional,” “ludicrous,” “absurd” and “bull****” says a lot more about how you feel about vegetarians, Dr. Fuhrman, and other people like me.

        Thanks for taking the time to reply, and have a nice day. 🙂

        1. Nope, “asinine” “idiotic” “stupid” “delusional” “ludicrous” “absurd” and “bullshit” all refer–not to people themselves–but to use of science.
          I was a vegetarian for many years. I am neither embarrassed nor proud of that fact. It worked, then it didn’t work, for me.
          I am so happy that your family is finding a way to eat that makes them feel well and happy, but it would be a sad mistake to blame anyone’s early death on lifestyle related choices, unless you are talking about diseases such as small cell lung carcinoma or cirrhosis of the liver or other disease where there is a clear mechanism between exposure and disease. We simply to not have that level of methodological precision, accuracy, or a clear mechanism relating foods and chronic disease.

        1. Only oxidized LDL might possibly be construed as “sticking” to arteries, and then one must ask oneself, “how does the LDL become oxidized?” Furthermore, there must be some arterial damage in order for it to “stick,” and thus one must ask oneself, “what causes this sort of arterial damage?” The most likely culprits at this time are things are pro-inflammatory factors like: glucose, insulin, and PUFAs.

      3. Look, the way I see it, high amounts of animal products are unhealthful. This has been proved time and time again, and sorry if this seems a bit insulting, but some people just can’t see it. I understand where you’re coming from when you write things like this, even if I don’t agree with it. To me, this post/blog is full of half-truths and I don’t like it; but that’s probably how you see everything I’m saying. But isn’t that how it is with most debates?
        I think I’ve given you more than my two cents, so I guess I’ll stop wasting your time.

        1. Alas, I’m afraid I must. You see, the thing I love about science (specifically, scientific claims) it that it CAN be wrong. You pile up some evidence on one side & you pile some up on the other & you evaluate it & weigh it & think about it. And when one pile starts to clearly outweigh the other in terms of quality & quantity, you can say to yourself, “Self, you thought that claim of fact was right, but it now appears you were mistaken.” Beliefs don’t really work that way. If you feel like believing in something, you can. That’s it. No one can prove your belief wrong or even really challenge it with contrary evidence (although evidence can be marshaled in favor of or against a belief, just as for a scientific claim). I believe I am the funniest person I know. I have lots of evidence to prove myself right, but that hardly matters because there is really no way to approach objectivity about my funniness to myself. So we can believe whatever we feel like about science or a scientific claim; it just doesn’t make it true. To quote Neil deGrasse Tyson: “The good thing about science is that it is true whether or not you believe in it.” As methods, techniques, equipment, and understanding change, we get closer to establishing claims of facts as facts, but the pursuit never stops.

      4. I shall now quote one of the most reliable sources of all…. The Merriam-Webster online dictionary. (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/belief)

        noun \bə-ˈlēf\

        : a feeling of being sure that someone or something exists or that something is true

        : a feeling that something is good, right, or valuable

        : a feeling of trust in the worth or ability of someone

        Full Definition of BELIEF

        1 : a state or habit of mind in which trust or confidence is placed in some person or thing

        2 : something believed; especially: a tenet or body of tenets held by a group

        3 : conviction of the truth of some statement or the reality of some being or phenomenon especially when based on examination of evidence

        See number 3. We both believe that we’re right. We could both be right. Or we could both be wrong. Or neither of us could be right. Probably the latter.

        1. “Conviction of the truth of some statement of the reality of some being or phenomenon” is not the same as science or fact (or even claim of fact). A person can be convinced that the world is flat and amass much evidence that this is so, but such a conviction will not alter the reality. Now, with that said, aside from some basic information regarding essential nutrients that must be acquired from food (exactly how much of these essentials and how they might best be acquired is likely to differ at least in some degree from person to person), we know very little about the relationship between food, food components, dietary patterns, and chronic disease; these relationships may, in fact, be so complex as to be unknowable. I do take issue with those who would over-simplify these relationships and propose that they are established as “fact.”

        1. Nor, with the methods, understanding, and technology that we currently have, is it likely to be. 🙂

      5. princess4pet/twig4sanctafranx says: “I’m a vegetarian (except during the holidays XD) and I’m only tired when I get 5 hours of sleep, my hair is almost 3 feet long, and I have to trim my nails very frequently because they grow so fast. I’m also very muscular.”

        Yes, I’m sure that’s the way you look and feel right now. I notice you’ve only stopped eating meat for a few months. As I’ve mentioned, the health problems start to come on slowly over time (a few years), so you wouldn’t necessarily associate them with your diet unless you know what to look for. Hopefully, it will work out for you long-term, but you will want to pay close attention to things like tiredness, weakness, muscle/hair loss, foggy thinking, etc. Here’s how it might go:

        You sound like I (and probably every other vegetarian) did when I first stopped eating meat. This was the miracle diet that all the “experts” were starting to recommend. (Like Fuhrman, who’s trying to tell you it cures all illness. It doesn’t.) When something went wrong, it must be our fault, and we scoured the health food stores for remedies for what ailed us and doubled down on Not Eating Meat.

        Over time, we long-term vegetarians were so attached to our identity as People Who Don’t Eat Meat that we wouldn’t listen to friends and family who said that adding some meat to our diet might make us healthier. At some point for ex-vegetarians/vegans, we started eating meat for one reason or another. For me, it was a weight-loss diet that included regular portions of animal protein with every meal. Not only did I lose weight, but all my health problems disappeared–especially the crippling tiredness.

        After preaching the superiority of our vegetarian diet to our friends and family for so long (a decade), it was a pretty humbling experience to figure out it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Let’s just say I’ve been eating some crow along with the other meats I’ve added back into my meal plans.

        1. Yeah, I went down that “my diet is holier than thou” road. Little embarrassing now & my family is not likely to ever let me forget it. A well-designed vegetarian diet can be successful for some folks indefinitely, but I think lunabee’s wisdom is well-heeded: Attachment to a food identity–whether vegatarian or low-carb or whatever–can override clear and reasonable signals from your own body that there’s a mismatch between what you think “works” and what your body needs. A lesson for us all.

      6. Like I said before, I’m not a vegetarian all year round. But I have a friend and she and her family have been vegetarians for their entire lives, and as far as I know they have never experienced any of those symptoms.

        1. Thus suggesting that different approaches work differently for different people. Who would have thought? : )

  16. Veganism isn’t just about staying healthy.
    Healthy = Diet + Exercise!!
    There’s no such thing as a healthy heavy/overweight/obese individual.

    DO NOT compare yourselves to hunters and gatherers. They didn’t “grow” animals behind concrete walls, put them in gestation crates, engaged in electrified mobilization, or contribute to green house gases through factory farming!
    If everyone had to kill their own chicken each time they ate her flesh – would consumption stay at the same level??
    If we’re meant to eat animals then why can’t we consume raw flesh and why can’t we rip open an animal with our INCISORS?? Our incisors are for biting down – that includes RAW fruits and vegetables.

    We also have long intestines like herbivores. Flesh takes longer to digest and often has trouble breaking down which leads to it being lodged in our colon..Cancer much?

    Our ancestors ate animals because they didn’t have a CHOICE.
    Now, we are just slaves to our palates and continue to kill because we relish the flesh.
    I haven’t consumed any animals in 11 years and I’m still “kicking like nobody’s business.”
    I don’t agree with killing insects/crawling animals either. I always catch and release.

    I’m a compassionate and earth loving vegan. I do not support taking life to eat a meal. Who am I to take the life of one animal (chicken) and keep another animal as a family member (dog)? Who made the decision that this was a feasible method of living? Humans need to learn how to live cruelty-free!

    1. “Humans need to learn how to live cruelty-free!” You might mention that to fellow vegans who are hoping that me and “my kind” (whatever that means) “die off.”

      I’m glad that you’ve found a way of living that works for you. Congratulations & I hope that you live a long, healthy, and happy life. Best wishes.

      1. “In fact, just the other day, I drank about 6 or 7 cups of green smoothie (spinach, romaine, pineapple, orange, apple, banana, and ice all blended up together– delicious!) for lunch. I was stuffed. About a half hour later, I found myself in the kitchen looking for chocolate because I felt “hungry.” But I was full. Ah, cravings.”

        If you found yourself looking for chocolate 30 minutes AFTER drinking 6-7 cups of a green smoothie then what you consumed didn’t meet your dietary needs

        1. I do read all the comments & I appreciate them, even the ones that suggest that I should die badly. I’ve only seen 2 from “princess4pet” though, so I’m not quite sure what the antecedent to the pronoun “them” would be. Maybe you have secret identity 🙂

      2. XD I was talking to Charles, and although I DO have a secret identity, I had just changed my name from “twig4sanctafranx” to “princess4pet.” I thought it was time for a change, but apparently my other replies didn’t think so. 😉

        1. princess4pet, glad you mentioned your name change, that was a bit confusing. It’s always good to announce name changes in the middle of a discussion so you’re not mistaken for a troll.

          1. I second that. I have a tough enough time with the whole interwebz thingy anyway 🙂

  17. I personally feel that we need people like you to die off for humanity to progress. The idea that we have to murder other beings to stay alive is holding us back.

    1. Well, wait around long enough, I for sure will “die off”–as will you–although I’m not sure about “people like me” because I’m both like and not like a lot of other people, so there’s a possibility that “people like me” won’t die off at all. In fact, it is even possible that, on some level and in some way, you are “people like me.”

      Interesting that the term “murder” is frequently applied to, as I am assuming you are applying it here, large creatures that we identify with on some level, and not–say–to cockroaches or bacteria, which are “other beings” as well. Perhaps you are just as conscientious about those beings as any other, but I have to say, I just hardly ever hear complaints about people like me (who ever they are) “murdering” roaches or “murdering” the ebola virus or vibrio bacteria.

      Language is a fascinating thing, no?

      1. r.e.killing ebola virus or vibrio bacteria…I think there is a difference between killing for survival vs. killing for luxury, no?

      2. For many of us who have actually tried a vegetarian/vegan diet, eating meat is not a simple matter of “killing for luxury.”

      3. General cleanliness is directly related to staying well. How very odd of you to feel that factory farming is the same as protecting oneself from bacteria and viruses that have no central nervous system. Do you treat your dog or cat like a bacteria or virus? Really?

        I get my protein from a non-factory farmed source—If supporting the systematic torture of animals in factory farming prompts you to make such ridiculous excuses for yourself, why don’t you get your meat from backyard farmers? You sound petty and hung up. How long ago did you make the switch, and why the chip on your shoulder?

        1. I’m just not ever sure where/how that line gets drawn w/r/t “because it’s alive, we must help it live a long & happy life.”

          I get the vast majority of my protein from a local farm. Not everyone has that luxury, and I don’t think that switching to plant protein is the answer for everyone who doesn’t–nor should it be. Before we hurl unpleasant adjectives at each other, wouldn’t it make sense to think about how we all might work together to change a system that not only results in poor animal husbandry practices, but a lot of labor practices that are pretty cruel to humans, monopolies that create a price differential that makes choosing factory-farmed meat the only option for many of those who do eat meat, and environmental issues that affect the health of everyone?

    2. Sadly for you, Jaryd, if you’re a vegan or vegetarian, you may be shocked when you die off first of natural causes–after a long progression of dementia caused by B12 deficiency. You may literally not know what hit you.

      1. actually soy milk and tofu are one of the top ten foods with b12, as well with the advancement of vegans becoming more and more popular, especially throughout the younger generation, there are many vitamin b12 supplements out there and probably will be more to choose from as they can be found and extracted from foods other than meats.

        1. Absolutely not true that tofu and those other gross meat substitutes have as much B12 as animal products. B12 is produced only by animals that have eaten and digested plants. And supplements do no replace real food. Their quality is unregulated and of inconsistent quality.

          There are other issues with tofu as well, including the fact that it messes with your hormones. I sure wish we had better education here in the U.S. about real food and the value of a balanced diet. There are many nutrients in food from animals that you can’t get from plants.

        2. The B12 in soy milk-like beverage and tofu is added as fortification. And yes, there are plenty of B12 supplements. But, as there frequently is, there’s a bit of a rub.

          One of the things we have to understand is the difference between determinations of “risk” as determined by observational studies that find associations and essential dietary needs. Vegetarians diets may (for some populations that might have other behaviors associated with healthfulness) reduce risk; B12 deficiency does produce abnormal physiological and mental changes.

          (Quoted material is all from my nutrition textbook)

          When vitamin B-12 stores are gone or almost gone, “megaloblastic, macrocytic anemia results.” When you run out of B-12, this is what happens. Not might happen, not “associated with” happening. Happens. Symptoms include: diarrhea, fatigue, loss of appetite, numbness and tingling of hands and feet, pallor, shortness of breath, weakness, and confusion or change in mental status. This is the same anemia associated with a folate deficiency. So ample amounts of folic acid may help you avoid this type of anemia, but may also mask a true vitamin B-12 deficiency.

          “Vitamin B12 deficiency produces nerve degeneration, which can be fatal . . . Many mental problems exist as well. . . The neurological complications often precede the development of anemia.” It is unclear at what levels of deficiency these neurological complications appear. Serum levels of B12 can be maintained, while tissue levels (where the nerve damage is going to occur) may be depleted.

          “In later years, folate and vitamins B6 and B12 are especially important because they are required to clear homocysteine from the bloodstream; elevated blood concentrations of homocysteine are associated with increased risk of the cardiovascular disease, stroke, bone fracture, and neurological decline seen in some elderly people.”

          Supplementing with B12 doesn’t always change these outcomes: “. . . B-vitamin supplements [including B12] have not been shown to decrease the risk of heart disease or improve cognition. . .” [emphasis mine]. Supplements lower homocysteine levels (see above), but they do not prevent heart disease or dementia. Is it possible that the synthetic B12 supplement cannot adequately re-create the effect of the actual nutrient from actual food? That’s what it sounds like. In fact, the two concerns that are not helped by vitamin B12 supplements, neurological degeneration and elevated risk of heart disease, are symptomatic of a true B12 deficiency—as opposed to a folate deficiency. B12 is the most chemically complex of all vitamins, and its synthetic form is not perfectly identical to its natural forms. Let me finish the above sentence for you: “. . . ample B-vitamin intakes are vital for normal physiological function and good health” [emphasis mine].

          I have no problems with veganism. Go for it. But in order to get B12, you will have to take a vitamin B12 supplement (either in foods that have been processed to include that fortification or in pill form) that doesn’t actually prevent some of the outcomes of a vitamin B12 deficiency, namely heart disease and dementia. It’s just worth thinking about how risk assessment works: Any attempt to follow an animal product-free diet is always going to result in having to eat processed/fortified food or take a supplement in order to maybe prevent a B12 deficiency that always leads to anemia, neurological disorders and elevated homocysteine levels, which are associated with heart disease, stroke, bone fracture, and dementia and which B12 supplements seem to be ineffective against.

          Just sayin.

          1. I read this in an article from my food co-op’s newsletter a few years ago:

            “It was once thought that certain sea vegetables, miso and micro algae contained B12. While B12 is listed as a nutrient on the labels of some of these products, the ‘B12’ they contain is an analogue; it looks like B12, but our bodies can’t use it. Sadly, the analogue will register as B12 in a blood test, so the test doesn’t provide an accurate reading. Still worse, these analogues inhibit uptake of real B12, making the deficiency more intense.”

            The article stirred up quite a protest from self-righteous vegans, who DEMANDED that it be pulled because it didn’t concur with their myths about their diet. The issues with B12 and other deficiencies caused by not eating meat make me really concerned about the health of our society, especially when people feed their kids this way. The other day in this same co-op, I browsed a book about child nutrition, which promotes a diet like the one from that fraud Fuhrman. Very near the narrow top of the pyramid, there’s half a section that’s protein. Only fish and tofu are pictured there.

            1. B12 considerations aside, even the group of nutritionists hand-picked by the USDA to rubber-stamp the 2010 Dietary Guidelines expressed concern about recommendations regarding vegetarian and vegan diets.

              “I feel uneasy about a “vegetarian” diet being championed here as embodying the DGs in the sense that many people equate “vegan” with “vegetarian”, and it is not possible to meet requirements for many nutrients from vegan (or many lacto-ovo vegetarian) diets unless fortified foods or supplements are used and ONLY the most nutrient dense foods are selected (as per the USDA analysis in the DGAC report which confirms this fact). “Vegetarians” simply do not recognize this fact – so either delete the reference to vegetarians here or expand somewhat on the term “adaptations” to make it clear in this important summary what adhering to such a dietary pattern requires. e.g. “vegetarian adaptations of these to ensure they are nutritionally adequate”………… My goal here is to discourage vegans, in particular, from using the current statement to defend this dietary pattern as being safe – and they will, I assure you – potentially jeopardizing pregnancy outcomes and young children in particular.”

              However, the USDA/HHS felt that, despite these concerns, they should go ahead and recommend, with few qualifications, both vegetarian and vegan diets. This, if nothing else, should give vegatarians pause. With friends like the USDA/HHS on your side, you may want to reconsider your position 😉

            2. Thanks for that link! I searched “veg” there and throughout the document they ring the alarms about vegetarian (and especially vegan) diets, especially for children. There’s an interesting “nutrient density” debate, where they acknowledge that the term is not commonly understood:

              “Early in this paragraph ‘nutrient dense’ needs to be defined as ‘nutrients per calorie?’ rather than nutrients/100g or per serving. This is important, not only to increase public understanding of this concept (i.e. it is important to get all your nutrients while consuming less calories) but because vegetables and fruits, which you have defined on line 42 as ‘nutrient-dense’, actually have a low density of most nutrients per gram or portion consumed. See note above. The term ‘nutrient dense’ is defined initially in chapter 1 and further described in subsequent chapters.”

              One of my pet peeves is diet book authors claiming their vegan diets are “nutrient dense,” because they ignore all the important nutrients found in animal protein.

            3. The usage of “nutrient-dense” in recent nutrition guidance has an interesting history. It does not show up in the USDA/HHS Dietary Guidelines until recently. I think it became popularized by the Weston A. Price Foundation materials and then became co-opted (with a very different meaning) by mainstream nutrition. As it is used by WAPF it includes meat, eggs, and whole milk, but USDA/HHS do not consider these foods to be “nutrient dense” because the nutrition has been “diluted” by the presence of saturated fat (which is calorically dense and btw, EVIL).

              Ironically enough, this is what happened to “plant-based” too. “Plant-based nutrition” was a term used in vegatarian guidance (as a way to avoid, especially, using the term “vegan,” which tends to create a lot of negative knee-jerk reactions), but also got co-opted by mainstream nutrition. In vegatarian usage, it referred to a nutritional plan based on minimally-processed vegetative matter: kale, lentils, brown rice. In USDA/HHS usage, it refers to those things, plus Triscuits.

            4. “B12 considerations aside, even the group of nutritionists hand-picked by the USDA to rubber-stamp the 2010 Dietary Guidelines expressed concern about recommendations regarding vegetarian and vegan diets.”

              –Which I find curious, since most governmental agencies these days seem to claim that vegetarian, and even vegan, diets can be perfectly healthy. What a strange creature our government is…

            5. I wouldn’t be sure about hardly any thing the gubbernment says because it’s always got its hands in someone else’s pockets. Lovely how powerful a thing like subsidies are in deciding what pharmaceuticals, foods, and products are ‘safe.’

            6. Well, the people reviewing the Dietary Guidelines protested, but the USDA/HHS staff simply ignored their concerns. They were able to do this because the responsibility for actually writing the DGs was shifted further away from the scientists after the 2000 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Report, when scientists suggested that recommendations for a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet may be implicated in the rising rates of obesity. Kinda makes you wonder, huh?

        1. Ah, Joanne Slavin is one of my heroes. I’ve corresponded with her and heard her speak at a conference. She’s the real deal.

      2. Let’s also add spirulina and nutritional yeast, which are completely natural, unfortified sources of b12. You only need a small amount of each, may I add, to get a good boost of b12 from those sources. Tablespoons, basically. Nutritional yeast, more popular because of its nutty and full flavor that works well with ‘mock dairy’ dishes as well as soups, dips, and side dishes, is a great source a lot of vegans and vegetarians add regularly like a seasoning in food. Easy peasy.

      3. Also, lunabee – I’m well aware of the fact that protein is a word that addresses any type of amino acid – and you need the full variety of them to ‘complete your protein,’ you might say.

        It isn’t very hard to do when you make sure you add different types of protein into your diet. Besides, you can get the full spectrum from (ah, I am repeating myself to another person, but that’s ok) fermented (healthier) soy and quinoa (cooked or sprouted).

        As far as the study about stunted growth, I am quite interested to know more about it and will keep it in mind.

      4. luanabee, B12 is not produced by animals or by plants. B12 is produced by a bacteria that lives in the soil. You wrote. “B12 is produced only by animals that have eaten and digested plants.” luanabee, Humans are animals, i.e. if animals that have eaten and digested plants produced B12, we humans would also be producing it. If you are not eating grass-fed animals, they can not get anywhere near the soil that produces B12. This is why the U.S.D.A. mandates that factory farmed animals be injected with B12—so luanabee, unless you have some cows in your back yard, (or darn close), you are getting your B12 via supplementation.

        @Adele, Why didn’t you clear this up for luanabee?—it is right on the U.S.D.A.’s own website.

        1. From Harvard Medical School:

          “There are many causes for vitamin B12 deficiency. Surprisingly, two of them are practices often undertaken to improve health: a vegetarian diet and weight-loss surgery. Plants don’t make vitamin B12. The only foods that deliver it are meat, eggs, poultry, dairy products, and other foods from animals. Strict vegetarians and vegans are at high risk for developing a B12 deficiency if they don’t eat grains that have been fortified with the vitamin or take a vitamin supplement.”

          Some people do opt for synthetic B12 supplements. I prefer getting my B12 from high-quality meat sources these days, after my vegetarian diet failed me so miserably.

        2. Given the appropriate precursors, B12 is produced in the rumen (of the appropriately-named ruminants) by microorganisms. Humans don’t have rumens. Ha – that rhymes!

      5. Carol says: “luanabee, Humans are animals, i.e. if animals that have eaten and digested plants produced B12, we humans would also be producing it. If you are not eating grass-fed animals, they can not get anywhere near the soil that produces B12.”

        Carol, even if we were a ruminant that could produce B12 (we’re not), by your logic we humans could accomplish this by munching on fresh grass. Do you do that, or do you know anybody who does?

      6. B12 is not produced by animals. It’s a bacteria that’s found in dirt, and when the animals eat plants they get the dirt and the B12. B12 is also found in things like nutritional yeast.

    1. Thanks so much for joining me on this journey & the kind words. I feel like science the way I do about my kids: I love it too much to let it go around in the world doing really dumb stuff–without me at least pointing it out 🙂

    1. From his site: “I like to call myself a flexitarian. In other words, I eat whatever I need to stay healthy. It’s a diet that shifts and adapts to allow me to perform at my peak as an athlete. Of course, it took me a while to figure this out. For years, I ate a purely vegan diet. Then my body started telling me that it needed more protein. I fought the need briefly but eventually went with the flow, introducing the occasional high-quality animal product — free-range chicken, wild-caught Alaskan salmon, things like that. My body loved the shift — and my performance skyrocketed.”

      Hard to argue with that. Dude’s eating what works for him without letting ideology get in the way. Mad props to him for being–oddly enough–reasonable.

  18. Maybe true, but thousands of vegans seem to be thriving just fine on plants only…wonder why we’re not dropping dead? Perhaps because the human body is more adapted to a plant based diet than one of dead flesh? Regardless of what you think…right or wrong, it’s a better and much more responsible lifestyle than what you are doing and promoting. To kill when nit is not necessary is unethical, humans have the capabilities to produce and live without killing…there is no argument you can provide that justifies it. Be well…nature will kick your ass with cancer or some other disease that is clearly linked to that diet.

    1. Oh, I suspect–vegan and omnivore alike–we will all drop dead one day anyway. If not, it’s gonna get mighty crowded.

      I’m not really interested in a “the one who stays alive the longest wins” game anyway. My older, and only, sister died when she was 43. I’m 50 now. I don’t feel like I “won” and she “lost.” Nature will for sure kick my ass one day. I’m hoping that in the meantime I’ll be busy laughing much of it off, so Nature will have quite the easy job of it when the time comes.

      I’m not quite convinced that we have the capabilities to “produce and live without killing.” There’s a little bit of death everywhere you look, and where one person chooses to draw the line at what is “acceptable” may be different from someone else. Rock on, it’s a big world.

      I have a great deal of respect for those who choose ethical veganism; it isn’t an easy path. But ethics play one role in our culture; science plays another. They overlap and intertwine, but they have different jobs and one should not be sent to do the work of the other. For my part, I have a much higher tolerance for fuzzy ethical arguments as compared to fuzzy scientific ones. I like my science like I like my cheese–fuzz-free.

      1. Dear Adele, thank you so much for your article – I’m still wiping tears of mirth from my eyes. I’m going to repost your blog on my FB page as I love the content and your witty style of writing. Dr Furhman’s got so many facts wrong I don’t even know where to start. I work as a naturopath and while I totally respect people’s choice to become vegan for ethical reason, some of the unhealthiest, sickest patients I’ve treated where long term vegans who begin to thrive again once they switch to a Weston Price approach over time. Thanks again for the chuckle.

        1. Alessandra – I’ve heard this repeated by two separate naturopaths and one functional nutritionist over the years – Vegans have been far and away the least healthy of their patients with the worst health and the most healing to do. However, if they see the light, they add a little (or a lot) of quality animal protein to their diets, and seemingly overnight and with very little effort they are bouncing back and enjoying great health and a renewed quality of life. I just don’t think many of them realize how badly they are feeling until they are desperate enough to take that first bite and begin regaining their health. And from what I’ve been told by these professionals, these folks were not the typical vegan flunkies who just decided one day to “become vegan”. They were supplementing and doing the best they could with the current information that is available to all of us. Sadly for them, however, those efforts are just never going to be enough.

          One common opinion that seemed to be shared by all three individuals, which I found interesting, is that their vegan patients all reported that in the beginning of their quests to be on a completely vegan diet, they all felt the best they ever had. They agreed that it’s something that hooks so many would-be vegans initially -that the cleansing effects of cutting out so many foods are empowering, and that they all feel wonderful in the beginning – for a very short time! I get the impression that these uber-healthy feelings never last, but the decline must be slow enough that at first it’s scarcely noticed.

          1. Ann, this is one of those issues that I lay squarely at the feet of public health nutrition professionals. If people were “allowed” to eat eggs, meat, and cheese (along with plant matter) with the focus being on acquiring essential nutrition, if people were directed to focus on their own reactions to food rather than an external metric for “good eating” or “bad eating,” and if food manufacturers were not allowed to sell nutritionally-poor food as “healthy,” I think that the tendency to consume foods to the point of pathology or toxicity (whatever kinds of foods, “good” or “bad”) would be greatly reduced.

            That, in turn, would reduce the need to “detox” with any sort of diet. In the long run, we have to figure out how to help people understand how to feed themselves in a way that doesn’t lead to the need to “diet” later. In the past 35 years, we’ve failed miserably at this.

        2. Thanks so much for the kind words. The more I learn about nutrition, the more I think sharing a laugh is at least as useful as sharing dietary information–if not more so. It is tricky to balance personal ethics against personal health. I’m really glad you’ve found a way to help people struggling in that context.

          I feel that I must add in Dr. Fuhrman’s defense (!?) that, although he frequently seems (to me) to be advocating for a vegan diet, he never does come out and say eliminate animal products from your diet completely. On the other hand, a lot of people use the information–and I use that term loosely–that he provides to take that stance themselves.

    2. Well Robert, clearly you haven’t been following along. There have actually been NO diseases that have ever been “clearly” linked to this diet. If that were the case, humans would have all died out long ago, back during those periods in history when meat was all we had to eat. What plants do you think were growing during the ice age?? Few to none, and yet we survived and thrived. Huh – imagine that!

      I so wish people who post stupid comments like this would at least ATTEMPT a go at using reasoning and logic BEFORE they say such STUPID things.

      I think the bigger danger here is that embarrassment and mortification will come back to kick the vegans’ asses when none of their claims about meat eating come true…

      1. Click to access 39.full.pdf




        Cross-sectional surveys in Minnesota on young men – no relationship between dietary cholesterol and the total serum cholesterol concentration

        Two surveys on Island of Sardinia – failed to show any difference in the serum cholesterol concentrations of men of the same age, physical activity, relative body weight, and dietary pattern, but differing markedly in cholesterol intake

        Carefulstudy during 4 years with 33 men whose diets consistently very low in cholesterol – serum cholesterol values did not differ from 35 men on very high cholesterol diet

        Comparisons made of 23 men before and after they doubled their cholesterol intake and of 41 men who halved their intake – failed to show any response in serum cholesterol level in 4-12 months

        Detailed study of the complete dietary intakes of 119 Minnesota businessman – failed to show any significant increase in serum cholesterol with increasing dietary cholesterol intake

        4 completely controlled experiments on men – addition or removal of 500-600mg of cholesterol a day had no effect on serum cholesterol

        Completely controlled experiment on 5 physically active men –
        changing from a diet of 500 mg cholesterol to 0 mg of cholesterol had no effect on serum cholesterol

        In completely controlled experiment in 13 men – no significant effect in changing cholesterol from 374 mg/day to 1369 mg/day, or from 1369mg/day to 374 mg/day on serum cholesterol.


        The foregoing evidence is definitive, we think, in showing that variations in the intake of cholesterol over the whole range of natural diets do not influence the serum level of physically normal adult men so long as other elements in the diet are constant.

        They conclude that “in adult men, the serum cholesterol is essentially independent of the cholesterol intake.”

        1. Thanks so much for that reference! I have been looking for it forever and could never put my fingers on it.

          The irony is that Keys relinquished his “dietary cholesterol = serum cholesterol” back in the 1950s and the USDA/HHS Dietary Guidelines continue to cling to it.

      2. 1. Ann, Why are you so angry?

        2. You forgot to ask yourself, what were the animals that humans ate during the last ice age eating? You do know that herbivores also survived the ice ages of the Pleistocene period?

        1. I have no feelings of anger. I’m just very saddened by the obvious lack of critical thinking that leads people to believe the hype that leads them down a road to poor health. Clearly meat eating is something man has been doing for at least two million years. Pretty long-standing proof to me.

          That’s a very good question, and one I cannot answer. I would suspect that ice-age hunters followed herds great distances during that time, and were probably somewhat nomadic. I highly doubt, however, that they were traveling all that distance in frozen conditions eating much besides meat and fat. The caloric load of plant matter would, simply put, be insufficient. Consider the Inuit. They would never survive their sub freezing environments without copious amounts of fat.

          I also doubt that ice-age man was digging through snow and ice to reach meager amounts of buried and frozen plant matter in the same way a mammoth or other large hoofed mammal would. Ever watch winter Bison try to eat in the national parks? They usually have to be fed in winter, and many starve.

      3. Not to mention our very evolution from the apes. Plenty of recent studies have shown that we could not possibly have had the caloric intake to make that leap without meat-eating, and eating meat aided early humans’ survival and development in many ways.

    3. I think that you would have had more success advocating for veganism, Robert, if you didn’t come off as harshly. Maybe you weren’t? I guess you can’t tell on the internet.

      That being said, the body produces cholesterol from saturated fats – so you don’t need a direct source from meat. Since we all know cholesterol levels vary depending on genetic factors and your intake of direct cholesterol sources/ saturated fats, it’s still possible to have even high cholesterol as a vegan. (think low fiber, high saturated/trans fats)

      With that being said as well, I think you can thrive on just about any diet if you do it right. I do, however, choose one that excludes animal products and filled aplenty with good grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. . . 😉

      1. Thanks for joining the conversation! Cholesterol synthesis is a complex process that actually begins with acetyl-CoA and acetoacetyl-CoA–not saturated fatty acids. In reality, your body can make cholesterol from carbohydrate, fat, or protein molecules. Increased serum cholesterol levels are “associated” with increased intakes of saturated fat, but then increased intakes of saturated fats are typically “associated” with increased intakes of food in general, including carbohydrate foods.

        It is true that since your body makes cholesterol, you don’t need to get it from dietary sources. This is also true of glucose. These types of arguments are typically not very useful for figuring out whether or not any particular individual would benefit from dietary sources of cholesterol or glucose.

        I’m glad you’ve found a way of eating that works for you.

      2. http://jn.nutrition.org/content/141/10/1791.full
        Cholesterol-Absorber Status Modifies the LDL Cholesterol–Lowering Effect of a Mediterranean-Type Diet in Adults with Moderate Cardiovascular Risk Factors

        Cholesterol synthesis/absorption status was not markedly altered by diet, but the decrease in plasma LDL-C due to the Mediterranean-type diet occurred only in low absorbers of cholesterol. This should be considered during further dietary interventions.

        The present study provided 2 main findings. First, we showed that the cholesterol absorption status or the synthesis/absorption status based on serum surrogate markers, as observed with an habitual WD, remained unchanged after 3 mo of consuming the LFCMD. Second, cholesterol absorption status in combination with dietary regimen altered the plasma concentrations of cholesterol and LDL-C in the 2 sexes.

        In conclusion, the present study of 125 men and women at moderate cardiovascular risk provides 2 important pieces of information. First, the synthesis/absorption balance for cholesterol, the key for cholesterol homeostasis, is likely an intrinsic trait of the participants that is not noticeably altered by changing the diet. This applies to both men and women; thus, there is no apparent sex specificity. Second, we showed that the cholesterol absorption status of both men and women is a clear determinant of responsiveness to a healthy dietary challenge by predicting a significant lowering of LDL-C in participants with a low-cholesterol absorption status. If this observation is confirmed by other studies, it may be possible to measure the serum surrogate markers in men and women at CVD risk to determine the cholesterol absorption status and thus to predict whether a given individual may be able to lower LDL-C with dietary modification. Finally, the observed correlations between insulinemia or insulin resistance status (HOMA-IR) and cholesterol synthesis:absorption ratios (Supplemental Table 1) were stronger in women than men.

        Alterations in cholesterol absorption/synthesis markers characterize Framingham Offspring Study participants with CHD

        Cholesterol absorption markers were significantly higher (229 ± 7 vs. 196 ± 4, 169 ± 6 vs. 149 ± 3 and 144 ± 5 vs. 135 ± 3 for campesterol, sitosterol, and cholestanol, respectively), whereas cholesterol synthesis markers were significantly lower (116 ± 4 vs. 138 ± 3, 73 ± 3 vs. 75 ± 2 for lathosterol and desmosterol, respectively) in cases compared with controls, irrespective of sex. After controlling for standard risk factors, campesterol (2.47 [1.71-3.56]; P < 0.0001), sitosterol (1.86 [1.38-2.50]; P < 0.0001), cholestanol (1.57 [1.09-2.27]; P = 0.02), desmosterol (0.59 [0.42-0.84]; P = 0.003), and lathosterol (0.58 [0.43-0.77]; P = 0.0002) were significantly associated with CVD (odds ratio [95% confidence interval]).

        These data suggest that impaired cholesterol homeostasis, reflected by lower synthesis and higher absorption marker concentrations, are highly significant independent predictors of prevalent CVD in this study population.

      3. Hi Adele – thanks for correcting me on that bit about how your body creates cholesterol. I was thinking about this response of yours, and there were two things I’ve come across in my research: you will be cholesterol deficient usually because your body is ill (there’s a variety of health problems that cause cholesterol deficiency), or you will be cholesterol deficient due to a genetic anomaly. With that being said, the first situation would require treating your body’s ailments, thereby solving the cholesterol problem. And if you have a genetic anomaly that causes it, well, then you will have to treat that by supplementing the body properly with cholesterol somehow. It seems that is the only situation where it’s truly necessary to supply your body with cholesterol.

        1. Clinically, we do not see many people who appear to be “cholesterol deficient,” so yes, I would agree that in that case there seems to be no need to supply the body with dietary cholesterol. But the exact same argument can be made for glucose. We don’t see people who are “glucose deficient,” thus there seems to be no need to supply the body with dietary starches and sugars (all of which ultimately becomes glucose in the body, if it is digested), right? And yet, supplying the body with dietary glucose is the cornerstone of current mainstream dietary guidance.

          The question is not whether or not the body is “deficient” in either cholesterol or glucose–the body can make both of those things under normal circumstances. The question is whether or not restricting dietary cholesterol or glucose forces the body to use resources to make those things that would be better utilized elsewhere, and conversely, whether supplying dietary cholesterol or glucose allows the body to “run” better because it doesn’t have to use other resources for making those molecules. My guess is that the answers to these questions vary across populations and probably within the same individual depending on environmental and life stage factors. This shit be complicated.

          1. I wasn’t sure what to call it, hence the phrase cholesterol deficiency being used – but I guess it’s a really long, awkward ‘hypocholesterolemia’ (as many medical names for these things are, I guess).

            Very good point. I don’t know. Maybe your body could be working harder to be making cholesterol than it has to. It does seem complicated. By then, the only thing that might make sense is to decide to supplement your body based on what you are craving. I have always decided to have something as an alternative to what non-veg foods I might think I’m craving – I believe I crave it mostly because I grew up with that food. It works, but I can’t say it would for everybody.

            1. In some cases, craving are probably as good an indicator as any, but with glucose, its a little more problematic as there are some known addictive qualities of glucose. I think people should feel happy and well and be able to go about their lives with minimal food obsessing (there must be more useful things to do with one’s time). There are–as you have indicated–many ways to go about doing that.

  19. Observational data is useful given time, large and diverse samples and repetitive study–which is why theories like Louis Pasteur’s theory of germs or the theory of black holes can be used and built upon until direct correlation is possible. If a thousand observational studies worldwide show a correlation between the consumption of large quantities of meat and heart disease or obesity, it is logical to conclude that the correlation is real, even if all the underlying causes are not fully understood. I don’t think anyone debates the correlation between excessive consumption of refined sugar and obesity, or the excessive consumption of alcohol and liver disease, nor did they before the actual mechanisms were understood. Lots of doctors doubted Pasteur’s theory and thought washing their hands before surgery was silly–they were wrong. Also, I’ve twice seen you argue that populations ingesting low animal protein diets are shorter–which is true, but is observational data. Is it more acceptable because it supports your nutritional theory?

    In the beginning of your post you go on for quite a bit about the asinine, delusional, idiotic, stupid and absurd notion under discussion, and you mention a loathing for Fuhrman’s books that is established to the point of beach buzz killing. The second half of your post is an argument against plant based diets that highlights the absurdities of trying to eat like a ruminant. I’m not sure where in the literature you gleaned the idea that Fuhrman advocates anything remotely resembling such a diet. I can only assume from reading this that you feel Fuhrman’s book is outrageous, even though at no point, anywhere, does he advocate a human trying to survive on gorilla food. Nor does he claim, anywhere, that a diet comprised only of green vegetable matter is healthy, or even possible. Because that WOULD be asinine. What he claims is that a diet with a wide base of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes and a smaller peak of fats, meat and dairy can effect weight loss and the correction of many dietary-linked ailments such as arteriosclerosis, type II diabetes, high LDL and high blood pressure. This data has been collected thousands upon thousands of times over decades, worldwide, from subjects on this type (and other types) of whole food diet. To suggest that this is perhaps coincidental is a bit of a reach–and why else dismiss the data as observational?

    If you truly felt that “Fuhrman’s diet might work for some people,” and your true objective is to allow for individuals to tailor their diets to their individual needs, why bother trying to debunk it, and so snarkily?

    Yes, nutrition is complex and incompletely understood, at best. Which is one reason why Fuhrman advocates eating the widest possible variety of whole foods and tailoring one’s dietary proportions to one’s own needs. But there are some things of which dietary science is pretty certain–diets high in processed sugars and starch, saturated fats and sodium cause health problems. Really, they do. And I know that you know that. So what, then, is the problem with Fuhrman’s book that makes you think your mother puts them there to punish you? Surely it isn’t a 3 gm difference in the stated and actual amount of protein in broccoli. And anyone who has read the book would know that no vegetable alone is supposed to provide total nutrition, any more than just meat can, or just dairy. That claim is in a section of the book discussing how the right dietary balance can provide all the amino acids, carbohydrates, fats and nutrients the body requires to keep itself functioning optimally.

    I can tell that you feel strongly about nutrition and how it is affected by economics, and it’s true that poorer people don’t often have access to healthy food. One of the things you should like about Fuhrman is that his diet is explicable and affordable to anyone who needs it, which is especially nice for people like me, who are low income and live in an area where healthy food is almost a dirty word.

    Ps–from a purely observational standpoint, when I contracted Lyme’s disease four years ago, it was a diet very similar to this one which allowed me to recover from six months of intensive antibiotic treatment and get to a point where I could walk, speak and sleep at night.

    1. I agree that observational data is useful given long-term studies and diverse populations that account for environmental differences and place those populations in an historical context. Unfortunately, that’s not what we have in nutrition epidemiology of chronic disease. The observations that lead to sanitation measures to get rid of the germs that were theorized to be there were very much context-specific (i.e. cadavers and pregnant women; untreated water supplies; etc.) otherwise they could not have been made. What was sought was one causal factor (which turned out to be microscopic germs) for one outcome (pueperal fever or dysentery), and although a general recommendation for hand-washing would solve one of the issues (pueperal fever) it wouldn’t solve the other, despite the fact that the “general” causes in both cases were microscopic germs. In other words, even germ theory is complicated; nutrition epidemiology of chronic disease much more so.

      We didn’t start “finding” that animal fat “causes” heart disease until public health advocacy that decided that we shouldn’t eat animal fats had been established (and really, not even then). Historically speaking, the two things you mention, sugar and alcohol, have been less debated because the data behind them is stronger, although not quite in the way you suggest. In 1977, the two things scientists agreed upon with regard to links between food and chronic disease were alcohol and liver damage and sugar and dental caries (not obesity). In addition, sugar and alcohol have long been recognized as “empty calories” that have essentially no nutritional contributions to make to the diet; this is not the case for animal fats.

      I’m trained in epidemiology. I don’t dismiss observational data at all. I think it is important for giving us clues about where to look for causal factors and how to understand the outcomes of biological mechanisms. Epidemiology has been a very important tool in public health. But–specifically–nutrition epidemiology of chronic disease, a very young field, is highly problematic. And you’ve highlighted one of the problems by lumping refined carbohydrates, animal fats, and salt all in the same pile. Yes, people worldwide have maintained good health on whole food diets. Those diets ranged from ones containing small amounts of animal products to being based largely on animal products (sodium levels are also quite variable), but you are right in that none of them included refined sugars and starches (nor did they included refined vegetable oils). Historically, as nutrition transitions take place, low SES populations eat more meat as standards of living improve (up to a point & then it levels off), which is exactly what happened in America during the 19th/early 20th centuries. But the current rapid rise in obesity and diabetes didn’t begin until after recommendations to reverse that trend and return to a more plant-based diet, much later in the 20th century. Why this happened then is–I hope–fodder for a dissertation, but it goes far beyond the actual recommendations themselves (in other words, I’m not blaming the plants!), which–as you pointed out–are not absurd and would, in fact, support health (although they may not for all people everywhere all the time).

      As I mentioned before, the snarky attitude is probably related more to my mom’s insistence on diet books at the beach cottage (really?!) than Furman’s oeuvre. I’m not trying to “debunk” his diet (you are clearly more well-versed in what that diet is than I am); I don’t think it’s unreasonable. Clearly, it works for you–but, as ever, that doesn’t make it the right diet for everyone everywhere. True, I am hating on that particular internet meme–which I run across all the time–about broccoli having more protein than steak–and which, as far as I can tell, originates with Furhman and yeah, it is about more than the 3g of protein. It has to do with a superficial assessment of food-health relationships (not Furham’s necessarily, but the attitudes embodied in the perpetuation of the meme). I appreciate your desire to defend Furhman from random internet loudmouths like me; his diet (or one very similar to it) brought you back to a health that you perhaps thought you’d never recover. Again, my congratulations to you for figuring it out.

        1. Thanks! And thanks to you for engaging. I appreciate the thoughtful remarks and civilized tone. I’m still working my way through this puzzle, and I appreciate your challenge to clarify my thinking.

  20. I think this is a great article. I am vegan and I must say that I, too, bought into this broccoli thing for a long time.

    I think that eating a lot of plant matter is great though! It is nutrient dense, but not necessarily calorie dense. I love eating and I don’t worry too much about eating too much because of my veggie-ful diet. One thing I would suggest, and like to follow, as a vegan is variety, variety, variety – I think this would ensure that you are getting what you need.

    If you watch What Fully Raw Kristina Eats in a Day, it’s so, so much more food than I eat on a currently mostly cooked vegan diet. It sounds like heaven though, really – to eat to your heart’s desire loads and loads of nutritious fruits, nuts, seeds, and vegetables. And as far as it all coming out, I just think, wouldn’t it be great to have more fiber rich stuff moving through ya constantly to keep everything clearer and free of toxins?

    1. Thanks for the kind words. I’m not trying to dump on anyone’s chosen way of eating–these days it’s like criticizing someone’s religious beliefs–but there is a lot of misunderstanding, half-truths, and just plain hype out there about food and health.

      For instance: “And as far as it all coming out, I just think, wouldn’t it be great to have more fiber rich stuff moving through ya constantly to keep everything clearer and free of toxins?” Fat is nearly 100% digested (if we test for fecal fat levels and we find that fat is not being fully digested, it means you have a medical problem–not a dietary one). Proteins (particularly animal-based ones, because these are literally the most accessible ones) are nearly fully digested in the stomach so that they can be absorbed in the small intestine. Plant matter consists mainly of both digestible carbohydrate and undigestable carbohydrate, with a little bit of plant protein thrown in. The digestible carbohydrate becomes glucose (a sugar); the undigestible carbohydrate get consumed by critters who aren’t you. Feeding your gut biota is fine, but sometimes overfeeding gut biota (which happens just like overfeeding humans) can cause a lot of problems. Having your gut full of undigested plant matter isn’t necessarily going to keep things “free of toxins”–frankly, I’m not sure what that means physiologically, although it sure sounds good. Undigested plant matter that would inhibit the absorption of toxins (whatever that does mean) would inhibit the absorption of necessary nutrients as well.

      If you think about what that means in terms of the physical and material sense of it, you have something (by definition) full of “fiber” (aka “roughage”) moving through a very sensitive, easily sloughed part of the body (think “inside of mouth” only much more so &b remember, your gut doesn’t have molars to help grind the stuff up further). This sort of exfoliation may be good for knees and elbows; I’m not fully convinced it’s good for the intestines.

      Not harshing on what you are FR Kristina choose to eat. Whatever works for you works if it keeps you happy and healthy and allows you turn your energies to something more important and useful than your own personal food choices. I’ve come to think that the worst part of these nutrition debates and ideologies is that they’ve taken from all of us–but from women especially–the time, energy, and attention that we could be spending addressing the injustices and outrages in our world and instead have spent niggling over what is on our plates (or how much we’ve exercised today). Ack.

      1. Oh, I have NEVER understood the rationale for doctor’s promoting the use of “plenty of fiber” for just about any stomach concern. Especially things like Crohn’s and IBS. You know, if you went to your doctor with extremely inflamed skin from something like third-degree burns, and your doctor told you he wanted you to immediately start scrubbing that skin every day with a brillo pad, you’d walk out of there thinking he was nuts, and start looking for a new doctor! How does any doctor think your digestive tract, already inflamed enough that at times a person might be passing blood, can benefit from the intense scrubbing that fibrous foods are going to give it? It’s just dumb, and I would never follow that advice. Vegetables are good for their nutrient contents, and tasty and enjoyable and all that, but the foods I find digest the easiest for me are meats and cooked vegetables, and little else. No breads, beans, grains or anything else. Just meat and veg and I stay happy and regular!

        1. Good for you for figuring out what works for you. I love veggies, but you can ask my kids about the effects that some of them have on my, um, digestion. On second thought, don’t ask.

      2. Thanks for your awesome reply :] you have a lot of great points in there. I think it’s great we are doing things that work for us and make us all the most happy with ourselves.

        I have heard various times in my personal research (I try to keep the most important pieces of information in the front of my mind, save some articles/bits of information here and there, and try to adopt new and better information as it comes along, to be perfectly honest) that fiber does work as sort of a catch all (or I guess you could say mild exfoliant?) in the gut and that it helps your body eliminate toxins. I am thinking that after it is chewed and broken down in the mouth, acid and enzymes work to help digest it in the stomach, and then, once it i introduced to the gut, it is probably in a softer state and better to ‘move through.’ But hey, I’ve also heard in more than one place this broccoli myth, so I think further investigation and keeping my mind open on the subject would be important (as always :] ). On another note, your food is pre-digested better in your stomach before the digestive acid and enzymes have to do their work if you eat it ‘raw’ or ‘alive.’ Supposedly, the natural enzymes in raw food can do up to 75% of the work. That could be a totally bogus stat right there; nonetheless, raw foods do have live and active enzymes that help you break them down and absorb the nutrients more effectively without the body having to work as hard, then the body finishes up the job.

        One thing I was thinking last night after posting this was how fruit/vegetables (especially raw) have more water content to make up for the fiber that has to move through.

        And yes, I so so agree with you – we should focus on being healthy and happy, but there is so much we need to realize about what’s going on in the world…

        Biggest joke in more informed spheres lately: Miley Cyrus twerked at the VMA’s! shame on her but not Robin Thicke for being 36, married, having a kid(s), and having a photo shot of himself grabbing a woman’s rear and crotch area after the event…
        (and oh by the way we are bombing Syria… and the Japanese gov’t just admitted fukushima is leaking 300 tons? – that amount could be disputable – of contaminated water into the sea) :p

        It’s a tough world to stay positive in, and yet be informed!

        1. Nicely stated re: there’s is other stuff going on in the world besides food. Seems like we need that reminder frequently.

      3. Question for you, Adele: I’ve seen some obsessions from vegans I know, where they want to make sure their food is racing through them as fast as possible, otherwise they’ll die of colon cancer. The “beef rotting in the colon” myth is all the rage in those circles.

        When food speeds through people’s systems so fast, isn’t there a hazard that the nutrients won’t be absorbed like they’re supposed to be?

        1. Yes. I really need to write the “beef rotting in my colon” post one day. That one really puzzles me. You’d only need about 30 minutes of instruction on how digestion works to understand how goofy that idea is. Most of what hangs out in our intestines is plant matter, which is much more difficult to digest than protein, and there are a number of ways in which plant matter can interfere with absorption of nutrients; “speeding” food through the digestive tract is one of them.

          1) What we know about poop is this: Consumed at normal-ish levels, most protein and fat are completely absorbed. If they aren’t, you are probably not well.

          2) I’m not really sure how it is that people “know” that what it in the toilet bowl is “all” of what was on the dinner plate anyway, unless they are having some absorption test done. So you have a giant poop after you eat brown rice and carrots? I’m just not sure what that is supposed to mean. This may indicate some Freudian issues I’m not qualified to address.

      4. It’s possible there’s a Freudian issue with the “beef rotting in my colon” thing. I’m pretty sure there’s also an element of eating disorder. I’ve read that’s highly correlated with veganism. The reason I asked is that a good friend (vegan on the Fuhrman diet) has this fixation with rushing food through her system multiple times a day–at the same time she’s trying to figure out why she has chronic diarrhea. Not. Kidding.

        1. That’s pretty funny–and a little sad. Kinda makes you wonder about that whole B12 issue, no?

          I find it interesting that we used to think that being a vegan (in America) was essentially the equivalent of an eating disorder, but now that social norms have shifted (although the biochemistry has remained the same), we don’t. Says something about the extent to which our concepts about food, diet, and health are based on science & how much are based on cultural/political/social constructs.

      5. Interesting discussion about facts and beliefs. Adele, I’d say you’re on pretty solid ground when you say that broccoli doesn’t carry more protein than steak, at least in amounts you could actually sit down and eat even if the protein was the same (which it isn’t).

        A person can BELIEVE Fuhrman if they want to but in real life, they’re not going to get the same health benefits from substituting steak with broccoli. That’s just one of those stubborn facts, and Fuhrman misleads by counting nutrients (but only certain ones) per calorie. Come to think of it, that’s pretty smart for a diet book guru, since most dieters are so closely focused on the calorie.

        I’ve seen Fuhrman’s recommendations on how much vegetables/fruits you should eat every day, measured in pounds. This is not a long-term sustainable diet for most people. Logistically, I wouldn’t even know how a whole family could do that for very long.

        1. I get a little geeked out on the whole philosophy of science stuff 🙂 It is important not to throw what facts we can–more or less-establish (i.e. nutrient adequacy requirements) out with the mythology (i.e. almost all of nutrition epidemiology of chronic disease), but when, where, and how to draw those lines is tricky.

          Alls I know is that, for me, my sincere & deeply held belief in a low-fat, vegetarian diet was not enough to maintain my health. When I learned about the importance of adequate protein, I configured my low-fat, vegetarian diet around that new knowledge; I really did NOT want to become the dreaded “meat-eater” again. But eventually, my reality had to be confronted. But that is not everyone’s reality.

          There are lots of reasons why Fuhrman’s recommendations might work/not work for any given individual or family. It does make sense to think of food/diet choices not just in terms of adequate nutrition (although this should be primary), but in terms of logistics, lifestyle, culture, taste, preferences, cost, etc. Food is more than just nutrition, after all.

  21. While I have no disagreement with your scientific analysis of the deficiency of protein in broccoli as opposed to steak, I find your argument lacking for a few reasons. Your post makes it sound as though Dr. Fuhrman advocates something as ridiculous as attempting to replace steak with broccoli. In reality, the diet he advocates is composed of ninety percent vegetable material and ten percent animal products. The vegetable material includes at least one cup of beans or legumes per day though preferably more, as well as whole grains, nuts and seeds. There is nothing unsound in a diet that limits processed fats, starches and sugars and reduces the intake of animal products from what are historically high (and very deadly) levels. The diet advocated by Dr. Fuhrman is an eat-anything diet, provided that everything is kept in a healthy proportion. It is not a low fat, low carb or low protein diet, and to represent it as such is misleading.

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comment. While I have no quibble with the first half of your thought here– “There is nothing unsound in a diet that limits processed fats, starches and sugars and reduces the intake of animal products from what are historically high (and very deadly) levels”–I do have some issue with the second half. Reducing the amount of animal-based food in your diet may be beneficial for some folks, but our current intake of animal products is neither at an “historically high” level nor is it, in and of itself, “deadly.” Looking at food availability data, while poultry consumption has gone up, red meat, eggs, and dairy consumption has gone down–our protein intake levels (which may include both plant and animal sources) have remained remarkably stable. There is nothing inherently “unhealthy” about animal-based products, although it is entirely possible that the way that animal products are brought to market does not result in a product that is a wholesome as it might be.

      I don’t think I’ve represented Dr. Furham’s plan as low-fat, low-carb, or low-protein, although, as you have indicated it is low in animal-based protein, which–as I mentioned–may benefit some folks, but which may not be the right approach for everyone.

      If I sound cranky, you can blame my mother. That’s what I do 🙂

      1. Oh, you don’t sound cranky. I just don’t understand why there should be so much outrage over a diet that can’t hurt you…Fuhrman does not advocate any extreme dietary measures. He advocates a diet of whole, unprocessed foods, rich in fruits and vegetables, balanced with whole grains and vegetable protein and reasonable amounts of fats, meat and dairy. A typical day on that diet would be a cup of oatmeal with fruit salad for breakfast, a big raw salad with nuts and fruit for lunch with maybe some grilled veggies and beans or tofu (yuck, not for me!), enchiladas with beans and chicken for dinner with a side salad and a fruit sorbet for dessert. I fail to see how this is quack science or extreme in any way–sounds like it fits neatly with most dietary science, including that of the AMA, CDC and any dietician I’ve ever spoken to. The portions are big and satisfying and the diet is really cheap and easy to follow.

        As far as meat consumption goes: Americans have increased their consumption of meat drastically over the last century, from just over 100 pounds per capita per annum in 1909 to over 180 pounds in 2009, according to the USDA. Dont get me wrong, I love me some bacon. But the correlation between heavy meat consumption and heart disease, obesity and certain cancers has been confirmed repeatedly. This isnt to say that meat is bad for you! It is to say that the way we eat meat may be bad for us, and moderating its intake in favor of more nutrient-dense foods is neither laughable nor extreme in any way. Fuhrman may be a vegetarian, but his diet is not.

        As far as fiber goes, diets including 35 daily grams of fiber have been shown to reduce the risk of coronary artery disease by 40 to 50 percent, regulate blood sugar and aid in weight loss. As heart disease kills 600,000 annually (that would be the number of casualties in the Civil War) and diabetes and obesity are major epidemics, both linked heavily to nutrition, I think it’s reasonable to believe the myriad of studies that show that fiber can be a major benefit to one’s health. Obviously, if one has diverticulitis or IBS high fiber diets are not a good idea. Fuhrman’s diet works out to be between 35 and 40 grams of fiber per day, not extreme fiber consumption. High fiber diets have also been shown to reduce the risk of colon cancer. I’m not sure what you’re basing the idea that ruffage isn’t good for the digestive tract on, especially as comparing its action in the colon to pumice on an elbow isn’t exactly analogous. Is there a study I’m unaware of?

        I’m not trying to give you a hard time, just trying to understand why Fuhrman presses your buttons so hard when the trend for the past two decades has been toward diets like Atkins (which was called trout starvation in the 18th century, when fur trappers used to die from it, and they weren’t even trying to slim down). Like all MDs with a plan for making people healthy, he gets a little overenthusiastic, if not messianic. I do not believe, as he does, that his (or any) diet can make one disease proof. But considering the message is to eat a lot of clean whole foods, not smoke and exercise regularly to achieve good health, I just don’t see where the harm is.

        1. I am not remotely outraged over his dietary advice–it’s hard to get me outraged over anyone’s diet advice–just his use of science, and his use of science in this particular instance. I think all people giving out nutrition information have an obligation to present the most up-to-date and complete information to the public as possible, without any ideology (or messiah-like messaging). My diet advice is simple: ignore people who give out diet advice, especially of the one-size-fits-all variety, and figure out what works for you. If you need help figuring out what works for you, look for someone who will help you get from where you are to where you want to be without any preconceived notions of what the “right” diet for you is.

          An Atkins-type diet can be helpful for some folks, just as Dr. Furhman’s diet can be helpful for some folks. Not sure what the problem is with advocating that each person find what works best. Also not sure what “trout starvation” is. I googled it and came up only with starving trout (got a link for me?). I have heard of “rabbit starvation,” which is a condition caused by eating only lean forms of animal-protein, without adequate fat or carbohydrate to provide energy (protein is not good at providing energy). An Atkins-type diet would not apply in this case, as there is plenty of fat recommended as part of that diet.

          If you found Furhman’s plan to work for you—hooray. But your experience is not going to necessarily generalize to others or even through time. Few diets are “bad” in and of themselves (there are exceptions); people can get their nutritional needs met in many ways. But diet ideology is dangerous because it prevents people from hearing their own bodies and the needs expressed by those bodies, bodies that don’t give a hoot what brains believe to be true about food and health. As my husband likes to say, your pancreas usually doesn’t get a vote in what you choose to eat/not eat. That doesn’t mean that what you eat/don’t eat doesn’t matter to your pancreas. A diet based on the typical day you describe might be okay for some folk & not others, depending on host of factors.

          No, his diet does not diverge much from mainstream, which is why it is puzzling that you seem to think that nutrition is going the way of Atkins. In mainstream nutrition–and these are the folks that make the rules by which food labeling and manufacturing are governed, federal nutrition programs are run, research protocols are approved, and healthcare professionals trained—the trend has been heavily tilted towards plant-based diets, with vegetarian and even vegan diets being considered to be healthful eating patterns by the USDA/HHS, a situation that would have been unheard of 40 years ago. The rapid rise in disease that we’ve been witnessing for the past 35+ years began after recommendations urged Americans to switch to a more plant-based diet. The statistics you’ve named are culled from observational data, which give us associations not cause & effect, which can be problematically ungeneralizable (unless you happen to be a white, upper/middle class health professional born in the first half of the 20th century), and which are methodologically quite flawed. The notion that we know how to reduce risk of chronic disease through particular dietary strategies is a strange and pervasive myth that I find across diet ideologies. On the other hand, there is some good evidence that being white, upper/middle class, well-educated, and generally concerned about your health does indeed improve your long-term health outcomes.

          So according to USDA ERS food disappearance data (unadjusted), yes, our meat/poultry consumption has gone up, from 123.9 pound/person/year in 1909 to 190.8 pounds/person/year in 2010. Meanwhile, eggs have decreased from 284/person/year in 1909 to 242/person/year in 2010; milk/cream has decreased from 306.3 pounds/person/year in 1909 to 203.7 pounds/person/year in 2010 and other dairy products have decreased from 770 pounds/person/year in 1909 to 610 pounds/person/year in 2010. In other words, animal-based food consumption overall has not increased dramatically, if at all.

  22. Grrreat Post! LMAO
    I can’t wait to get in an argument with a vegetarian. Just kidding (not really though).
    I eat a high protein (Beef, Pork (MMmm), etc…), high fat diet.
    After years of eating this way my blood work came back with text book results. My doctor asked “What exactly is it that you are doing?”

    1. Thanks for laughing! There’s just so much goofy stuff out there (yeah, the meat/fat people provide plenty of comic relief too . . .).

      I am glad you’ve found a way of eating that works for you. That’s the idea. I try to play nice with vegans and vegetarians myself (I am a former vegetarian–16 years, longer than any other “way of eating” in my adult life), but nothing is more annoying to me than somebody abusing my beloved science. If you don’t want to eat meat, don’t eat it–but let’s not play make-believe with reality in order to justify it.

      1. I like your style: you seem like a tough cookie – and funny too.
        I was also a vegetarian for some time, not quite as long as you but long enough to know that it was not sustainable in the long run – at least for me. It’s also not one or the other: I enjoying eating plenty of vegetables as well.

        It’s always best to be nice because at the end of the day we are all trying our best to live a healthy life. It’s the boasters that claim their way is the only way that I have a problem, but that goes for all subjects – not just diets.

        Good luck Adele; keep up the good work.

        For your beloved science:

        “Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.” – Albert Einstein

      2. You have a masters in public health, and you congratulated someone for eating a high protein and high fat diet? Really? Also, what did you mean you “try to play nice” with vegans and vegetarians? I’m neither, but do you have an inferiority complex or something?

        1. The “high” in “high protein” and “high fat” is a relative term. In the past 30 years, the “high” carbohydrate, “low” fat diet of the USDA/HHS Guidelines has given us what is a relative new “normal.” I advocate adequate protein for everyone; energy from the source(s)–carbohydrate and/or fat–that suit you best.

          Weeeelll, only people who are self-declared vegatarians (I don’t know if they really are or not) have come to my blog to let me know that they hope that I die badly because I eat meat. But no hard feelings.

          Actually I do have an inferiority complex, but I hide it well by pretending that I think I’m smarter than everyone else 🙂

      3. You know, Carol, you might want to try vegetarianism or veganism before you advocate for it so angrily. It’s a lot of work to make sure you’re getting all the right nutrients and, as it turns out, it’s still easy to run short because the scientific community hasn’t been able to come to an agreement about our nutritional needs. New studies come out every day with contradictory advice about what new fake meat substitutes are good/bad for you.

        I actually ate vegetarian for over a decade, so I speak from experience. As part of a balanced diet, animal protein helps the body function in a lot of ways that the vegan movement refuses to recognize. For me, it’s easiest, more healthy, and less crazymaking than trying to cobble together a healthy vegetarian diet.

        1. Nicely (in all senses of the word) put. As an adult, I was a low-fat vegetarian eater (or near-vegetarian) for many more years than I was anything else, including the “adequate-protein-and-then-pretty-much-whatever-my-husband-puts-in-front-of-me-diet” that I follow these days. Animal protein works for me. YMMV.

  23. Wow! What did I stumble on. I was searching for just how much protein does broccoli have- assuming that Dr. Furhman, like almost all other books I’ve read, exaggerates. No one is taking my meat away, that said, I do think we eat WAY too much meat in this country- and look…we’re fat, unhealthy, and health care is going to do us in! We are 2nd in meat consumption- some nation in Europe in 1st. I don’t have to be a genius to figure out that is true- look how we process our meat, we produce so much meat that it’s unsanitary and they have to be given antibiotics. Hormones, and other crap is what we’re consuming! Add that to pesticides, chemical fertilizers- no wonder we’re in the health we’re in- gross, fat, unhealthy.

    You still won’t take my meat away, but I eat smaller quantities of healthy meat- period. I don’t trust the USDA, by the way, either. It seems everything is all about money- I question everything.

    As far as Furhman goes- he was a little excessive to me, not unlike many health books or videos I’m set my eyes on. Why did he reference from the 80s? Who knows- I will tell you though that if you think what you read on the internet is sound, you’re a fool. I can make a site in about 1/2 hr. that would fool most as ‘legit’ or ‘credible’. Cross reference, and even then don’t believe everything you read as everything you read is subjective- period.

    Such a lively discussion- Thanks!

    1. Thanks joining the conversation. The more I move in and around the food/nutrition world, the more I find that the food beliefs we’ve already established for ourselves are a very important part of how we seek and evaluate evidence. The smarter we are, the better we are at proving to ourselves that we are right. Which certainly makes the internet a dangerous place.

      To add to your excellent advice to be skeptical and cross-reference: If you have the bandwidth, read the primary source. The only way you can really tell if the science says what people say it says is to read it for yourself.

  24. I’m not sure why you hate Dr. Fuhrman to the point of which you call his argument “delusional, ludicrous, absurd, and stupid,” but clearly you have it in for HIM, not his argument. So what if he references a journal from 1986? Does it matter that we hadn’t heard of Bart Simpson or Taylor Swift? Perhaps that made us smarter in 1986 as far as I’m concerned. Your reference is USDA…wow…I wonder why their nutritional reference would be different? Was THEIR reference different in 1986? I wonder why beef would have higher protein in their reference…wouldn’t have anything to do with the FACT that the USDA was started as a marketing tool for the agricultural industry. Oh, I’m sure they’re less biased than a medical journal. But even if they are correct which is essentially your reference vs. his reference, it doesn’t discount the fact that that’s a hellofalotta protein for broccoli. And yes, you do have to eat A LOT of broccoli to get it, and yes, you will not get ALL of the amino acids as you will the steak (but, as Fuhrman puts it, you will if you eat some other fruits, veges, beans, and perhaps a grain or two). What your argument doesn’t take into account is the numerous references he cites that show those steaks, those high protein diets everyone loves so much so they can have their bacon and eat it too, contribute to the incidences of heart disease, cancer, kidney failure, constipation, gallstones, diverticulitis, and hemorrhoids. If you consider his entire book which is more documented than any other diet book I’ve ever read and not just one claim, you will see that the man is on to something.

    1. I can’t think of a single reason why anyone would quote science from 1986 except to make a point about an historical perspective on science, or if there was a ground-breaking discovery that has yet to be contradicted or expanded upon. Oh yeah, or if you wanted to make a point that had been contradicted or expanded upon with newer science and better technology, but you weren’t interested in those results, which is exactly what I think is happening here.

      I was in college in the 80s. I went back to school in 2006. There were many things–considered by the other students to be “basic” scientific knowledge–that were not taught when I was in college, because they simply had not gone from hypothesis to fact at that point (exons and introns come to mind). What allowed these hypothesized notions to become accepted fact were improvements in technology and advances in knowledge in other areas. Choline is now included in the food database. It was not considered to be an important nutrient back in 1986; now it is. Things change. I’ve yet to hear a good explanation as to why Fuhrman did not use the updated information that is readily available to all. (He has heard about that crazy new invention called the internet, right?)

      The USDA is a giant agency. Just because the people in the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion are about as wrong about most stuff as they can be does not indite the entire agency. Researchers all over the world use the USDA food database as a reference. I find it highly unlikely that the folks who put that database together are fudging the amino acid content of broccoli and steak in order to boost the sales of the Evil Beef Industry, because if they are, they are doing a lousy job of it as beef sales have been falling since the late 1970s. But then, I did forget to put on my tinfoil helmet this morning.

      Oh yeah, just an amusing little FYI: the reference from Catherine Adam’s book Handbook of the Nutritional Value of Foods in Common Units? Um, I’m just wondering where you think she got her information at the time. Oh, what the heck, let’s look it up. Oh, why it’s the USDA! Fancy that. (BTW, I looked for a 1986 edition of this book, but was unable to find one. It is possible that the reference that Fuhrman uses is even older than the citation given.)

      Yes, theoretically we can combine plant foods to create complete proteins that provide the necessary amount of essential amino acids. The science on this is very limited, and the truth is that we know very little about how this might actually work. We do know that populations that get most of their protein from plants tend to be shorter in stature; when these populations have access to better quality protein, average height increases. Not saying this is good or bad, just saying.

      I don’t have anything against Dr. Fuhrmam. Notice, careful reader, that I called the “notion” stupid, delusional, ludicrous, and absurd, not the man. I’m sure he’s a very nice man. But I am strongly opposed to science being twisted to fit the shape of ideology. Vegans and vegetarians are not the only people to do this, but this whole broccoli-steak thing is an egregious example of it. (Any simmering background hostility you sense is probably directed at my mother for planting those books in my favorite vacation spot.)

      If you actually look at the literature around “high protein” diets, you’ll see that there is little increase in absolute protein intake on these diets. The percentage of calories from protein changes, but that’s because percentage of calories from carbohydrates is significantly reduced. Averaging the increase in protein across 6 studies of “high protein” diets, absolute protein increased about 6 grams or 1/5 of an ounce (the range of increase was 0 grams to 17 grams, or nada to 1/2 an ounce).

      If the ability to cite scientific references is indeed what you feel gives credibility to an author (rather than, say, the author confirming a view that you already cherish in a way that frees you from the necessity of having to dig through those icky scientific references yourself), I suggest you read Gary Taubes’ doorstop of a book, Good Calories, Bad Calories. Taubes is the King Daddy of scientific references, so you should be even more impressed by what he has to say.

      1. Wowser…I hope you feel better. I definitely wouldn’t question your scientific stuff about Chlorine and that bit because science isn’t my thing. I think it is a fair question to ask Dr. Fuhrman why he referenced the ’86 book, and it’s also fair to offer USDA’s version of protein. What’s crazy or perhaps humorous at times is why you go off on him over a small reference. He doesn’t seem to me to be an ideologist. He doesn’t promote veganism or vegetarianism…he promotes eating a bunch of fruits and vegetables and not eating much meat based on research that shows eating a lot of meat can contribute to a whole lot of diseases, including cancer. This notion has been around since, well the Bible which says gluttony (eating too much meat) is bad. If you want to discount his whole book because of a single reference, that seems extreme, but then again, I don’t know how many pieces of broccoli your mom forced you to eat when you were young. I will, however, offer this cartoon which I think is funny and made me think of your mom. I hope you can smile about it: http://www.seattlepi.com/comics-and-games/fun/Mallard_Fillmore/2013-07-07/

        1. Thanks for the cartoon, Paulette. I love it! And I do feel better, but not because I unloaded on you. I went to yoga class, which I probably should have done BEFORE responding. My apologies for the snark. As a magnet on my fridge says: “Gardening, yoga, bubble baths, medication–and sometimes I still want to smack somebody.” I appreciate you being kind enough to reply with a funny.

          Again, my target is not Fuhrman himself, but the outdated science (which I can’t explain except as I did before), which then is repeated ad nauseum across the internet by those who are clearly ideologues. I just thought I’d bring a little balance to the conversation and raise the question about why he would use such an outdated source. It bothers me that this meme gets repeated and no one bothers to look up the original reference or anything else related to the topic, but then unlike me, they might have lives or something.

          It is interesting that you bring up a Biblical point regarding this matter. At a panel on food I attended at Duke this spring, there was a fascinating conversation regarding the Jewish notion of what foods are appropriate to eat vs. the Christian notion. I spoke to the professor who had raised this point and she was very funny. She said the real Jewish/Christian split occurred at the dinner table; Christians thought Jews were the world’s pickiest eaters, and Jews thought Christians would just eat ANYTHING. One day, I hope to learn more about this.

          My childhood nightmare food: a scoop of low-fat cottage cheese plopped on a leaf of wilted iceberg lettuce. I spent an evening staring at that on my plate, like a giant squishy eyeball, because my mom wouldn’t let me leave the table until I finished it. Despite this, I was a vegetarian for 16 years. Although I never liked cottage cheese.

          The problem with the idea that “eating a lot of meat can contribute to a whole lot of diseases” is that we really need a definition for “a lot of meat,” and we have to qualify and quantify what people are eating instead of the meat that they would otherwise be eating, and we have to separate those factors from other lifestyle habits that vegans, vegetarians, and near-vegetarians have that may have a positive impact on health. All of which is going to be colored by dietary recommendations that have been in place since 1977 encouraging people to eat more plant-based foods and fewer animal-based foods. People who care about their health follow prescriptions (nutrition and otherwise); people who are less concerned about their health, don’t. This matters when it comes to observational data, which is the primary sort of data Fuhrman refers to, because it could be that the folks who eat less meat just care more about their health than the people who don’t. This is fine, but it doesn’t prove that meat is the problem. I’m not convinced that we will ever have the quality of data needed to prove that there is one food, food component, or type of food that “causes” a chronic disease that is complicated and mysterious in origin. Maybe one day, but certainly not today.

          I will add that in the EPIC-Oxford study on vegetarians in the UK (which has all the inherent flaws of all other observational studies, so keep that in mind), all-cause mortality between vegetarians and non-vegetarians was about the same: 39 and 49 Standardized Mortality Ratio (SMR). This is a quote from the paper itself: “Vegetarians had higher mortality from all malignant neoplasms [cancer], cerebrovascular disease, and all other causes [i.e. causes that were not specifically identified in the study] and reduced mortality from all circulatory diseases. All-cause mortality [as I noted above] was not significantly different between vegetarians and non-vegetarians.”

      2. Paulette,

        Since when is the definition for “gluttony” the overeating of meat and meat alone?

        And, meat causes cancer? Uh, no, it doesn’t. I’m sure Adele can speak to this more clearly than I can, but those “studies” that “prove” eating meat causes cancer and all those other things are observational studies. Do you know what that means? It means the “results” cited are worth squat because there’s no scientific method involved. Here’s an observational study for you: People who get colorectal cancer have all used toilet paper on a daily basis throughout their lives. Does that prove that toilet paper causes cancer? Of course not.

        There’s a big difference between causation and association. Causation is when one thing inevitably leads to another, and can be proved (scientifically) time and time again. Association is when two things are seen together, but no direct link can be (scientifically) made to show that one thing inevitably, in every case, causes the other. Observational studies can only show association. They can never show causation.

      3. @BawdyWench, When did gluttony become eating too much meat? uh. Since Prov.23:20 says, “be not among riotous eaters of flesh.” I did not say that it was the ONLY form of gluttony. Further, I didn’t say Furhman says meat eating “causes” cancer. I said it CAN contribute to it and other diseases. Dr. Furhman’s book cites numerous examples of cancer rates among those who eat meat and those who do not. His examples cross worldwide geography and history. Observational studies are terrific at showing probability, not certainty, but quite frankly, when one considers the fact that there are virtually no rates of heart disease and significantly less rates of cancer in vegetarians, one might conclude that there is something to their diet. Just saying.

        1. “Observational studies are terrific at showing probability, not certainty, but quite frankly, when one considers the fact that there are virtually no rates of heart disease and significantly less rates of cancer in vegetarians, one might conclude that there is something to their diet. Just saying.”

          Wow – I SO disagree with this. Michio and Aveline Kushi are but two cancer examples right off the top of my head. They were the “leaders” of vegan Macrobiotics in the US. She died of ovarian cancer several years ago, and if he hasn’t died by now, is dying of colon cancer. Both life-long vegans.

          Steve Jobs is another.

          Davie Jones, a member of the band “The Monkeys”, was a long-time vegan and distance and marathon runner. He died of a massive heart attack a few years ago and was found to have coronary artery obstructions at well over 50%.

          Michael Clark Duncan, an actor famous for his role in “The Green Mile” died a couple of years ago from a mayocardial infarction that he never recovered from. He had been vegan for about three years.

          And these are only famous, well-publicized accounts.

          The fact of the matter is, when meat is taken from the diet, it’s most always carbohydrates that fill that absence. People have to eat something, and to say that a person gets most of their nutrition from vegetables is saying that they must eat a tremendous quantity of food to match the targeted, dense quality of calories that can be acquired from animal protein. There are just as many FAT vegans, and vegans with heart disease, diabetes, and cancer as there are with animal protein eaters.

          I would love to see you cite studies that actually SHOW where vegans have less cancer, heart disease, and diabetes – studies that are not done by biased sources like PCRM, or doctors named Esselstyn, Fuhrman, Campbell, or Ornish.

          I’m not sure if you are aware of this or not, but recent consensus about saturated fat is that it does virtually NOTHING to contribute to heart disease, and if you know anything about human metabolism you’ll realize that ANY protein, when eaten to excess, can raise blood sugar levels, whether it be plant-based or animal based, so again, diabetes cannot really be simply a matter of eating meat.

      4. “Dr. Furhman’s book cites numerous examples of cancer rates among those who eat meat and those who do not.”

        Again, observational studies = squat. What about confounding factors? What else in the diet of these two groups might be different? What about lifestyle differences, smoking habits, use of vitamins and supplements, socio-economic factors? There are a lot of differences here, not just the fact that these people eat meat and those people don’t.

        Oh, and you actually DID define gluttony as eating too much meat: “This notion has been around since, well the Bible which says gluttony (eating too much meat) is bad.” You didn’t say “eating too much meat AND other foods” now did you?

        Also, you said, “Observational studies are terrific at showing probability, not certainty, but quite frankly, when one considers the fact that there are virtually no rates of heart disease and significantly less rates of cancer in vegetarians, one might conclude that there is something to their diet.”

        First, observational studies are NOT terrific at showing probability. They show association, which is a far cry from probability. So, what you’re saying is that it’s PROBABLE that toilet paper causes colorectal cancer … but that’s silly, now, isn’t it. It’s only probable in your mind that eating meat contributes to cancer and other diseases because that’s your bias. How did humans evolve and thrive over the course of our long history while eating primarily meat? Oh, wait. Adam and Eve. That’s right.

        Also, I’d love to see the *scientific* data that PROVES “virtually no rates of heart disease and significantly less rates of cancer in vegetarians.” Please post the links so we can be enlightened.

        You can have the last word. Unless Adele or someone else has something to add. I have no interest in debating you on this because frankly I have better things to do with my time than attempting to discuss nutritional science with someone who gets her nutritional information from the bible. And don’t worry, it’s obvious that “science isn’t my thing.”

        Just saying.

      5. Too funny! I guess gluttony is like pornography: I just know it when I see it. I live in the South where we eat bacon with our bacon with our bacon. I often look around at church functions and feel like the little girl in the scene of Spirited Away when she sees her parents gorging themselves on meat and they start to turn into pigs. I really started questioning the meat thing after Food, Inc. I think people should at the very least know where their meat is coming from. Anyway–it’s interesting to note that the reason I found your blog is that I googled: protein content per calorie of broccoli. Yours came up first! I didn’t dare want to quote Fuhrman unless I had some documentation. It still amazes me that broccoli has protein at all. I’m like a lot of other people there who didn’t think there was any protein in any vegetables, so his book was eye opening, even if it isn’t 100% accurate. Good to question. Thank you for your blog. I wish more people could question others and do so with civility.

        1. I’m a Southern gal too and I know what you are talking about. My husband (who should know better because I preach the gospel that obesity is a complicated issue) still gets his knickers in a twist when he goes to a Golden Corral in eastern NC (my father has found that this is the most efficient way to feed a dozen grandkids most of whom are teenage males) and sees the amount of food being consumed by people dragging oxygen canisters back and forth to the buffet line. It is difficult not to assume the obvious conclusion that people are fat because they eat too much (rather than entertain the possibility that maybe they eat a lot because of a metabolic issue that causes their body to store food energy rather than allowing it to be available for their use–which is a lot more nuanced and conditional and, frankly, harder to say).

          My family loves Spirited Away & the kids tease that one day this is what will happen to us.

          Yes, there is a lot more to food than nutrition, and a lot more to meat production than how much protein it provides. The way we think about food needs an overhaul, along with the rest of the food-health system. Thanks for being a good sport–at least on my end. I’ll let you and BawdyWench duke it out on your own.

      6. And you, Mrs. or Mr. Bawdywench, are an idiot. You are the prime example of the type of person who is uncivil. That is my final word for you.

      7. Oh, dear! I was just composing a response to you, Paulette, when you posted again:

        “Paulette, thanks for your last comment. I’d like to apologize for the snarkiness in my comments aimed in your direction. I must say, though, that your voice changed drastically in this last comment as opposed to your first two comments.

        It’s very important to keep things civil. I apologize that I broke my own rule in responding to what I thought I read into your first comments.”

        Feel free to think of me as an idiot, and I’ll return the favor. (Sorry, couldn’t help myself.) Done now. Sorry, Adele, that this got out of line, though I don’t know what I wrote that is idiotic. I cited her statements and then questioned and countered them. If that makes me an idiot, so be it.

      8. Ann, thank you for your comments. These examples are definitely ones to ponder. I do not have time to cite the numerous examples Dr. Fuhrman cites in his book–the same reason probably you do not cite your saturated fat argument. I hope you will take the time to do so (read his book), as I feel he has brought up numerous studies. I am sending him an email to question his use of the 1986 citation as well as some of the points you have brought out. He does reference the China Study which has been referenced by other dietitians. If you find something objectionable in his literature, please, point it out. I am a chef who is concerned about my health and others.
        To BawdyWench, I am sorry I called you an idiot. Here’s what I will presume. Everyone on this blog is a person concerned about truth. We all desire to know what is helping us and hurting us. Some things, I hope, are obvious: for instance, my (17 year old) son (who, by the way appears to be in perfect health) brought these delicious cheetos home and I couldn’t help but nibble on one and they were, oh so good! But I knew they were probably not as good as say, the watermelon from the local market I bought which I would have to cut and have the appetite for. Do I fear I will soon have cancer? Well, I’m not sure. I have smoked a cigarette in my lifetime, but my aunt who is only 50 ish who smokes nearly 2 packs of cigs/ day and drinks nearly 2 bottles of wine a day is well, still alive. Her husband who quit drinking and smoking years ago died of pronounced lung cancer years afterwards. She has high blood pressure, and rheumatoid arthritis, but other than that, she’s good. Do we have good genes? I don’t know. I am trying to make sense why people where I live are dropping like flies of cancer, including little children. Forgive me if that makes ME an idiot.

        1. “Everyone on this blog is a person concerned about truth. We all desire to know what is helping us and hurting us.”

          Well said, and I like to think this is true of all here. Sadly, the “truth” around nutrition is very hard to lay bare, for many reasons. Observational studies–which are the vast majority of the studies done that are investigating links between food and chronic disease–are one of the most basic issues. They are done by researchers at reputable institutions like NIH and Harvard, the methodology is really difficult to explain or pick apart unless you are an epidemiologist, the results are often “spun” by the media into something that barely resembles reality, and all results from about 1975 or so on are confounded by dietary recommendations that defined what “healthy food” means to the public.

          Animal and cell studies are not much better because we can’t really extend those findings to humans with much accuracy.

          Clinical trials are best, but are usually short, highly controlled, and limited to specific populations. Ones that aren’t are few and far between because they are expensive as all get-out to run and thus they usually only “test” pharmaceuticals or status-quo dietary interventions because that’s what will get funded.

          Interpretation of findings, no matter where they come from, is still subject to the investigator’s own biases and desire for future funding. Peer review is an imperfect system and tends to favor mainstream points of view as well. In Fear of Food, Harvey Levenstein quotes a scientist who says, “to be a dissenter is to be unfunded because the peer-review system rewards conformity and excludes criticism.” I’ve spoken to researchers from the middle of the mainstream who have been criticized for publishing findings that others think undermine our current public health message.

          There has been an awful lot of influence from politics, ideology, industry, and academic/scientific circles brought to bear on what we think we know and what we are told about nutrition. It is really hard to pick that all apart–but by golly, I try.

          I know I said this in a snotty typeface before, but if you are truly curious, try Gary Taubes. Unless you are a glutton for punishment, I would read Why We Get Fat rather than Good Calories, Bad Calories–but either will be thought-provoking. He is not 100% right, I promise you, but it may give you some insight into why there seems to be so much polarization on this topic and will certainly give you another perspective on why it is that so many people are so sick these days. In any case, best of luck in your search for some kind of truth.

        2. You know Paulette, I second Adele’s suggestion to read Good Calories Bad Calories. It absolutely sheds light on how an idea becomes ideology, and then becomes the gospel that guidelines are written from, medical educations are based upon, and Corporate food and Big Pharma become rich on. The main theme in the book is, I believe, how we became a nation of guinea pigs for the USDA, and Corporate food, AND, although I don’t remember if Taubes touches on this in the book, how those dietary recommendations are making billions every year for the Pharmaceutical companies as well.

          I respect your search for truth, and yes, that is what we all seek. I would suggest to you that what we all REALLY eat, be we pro animal-flesh or not, is a “plant-based diet”. Meaning even the staunch non-vegans (like myself!) are still eating more vegetables than meat. They make up the majority of anyone’s diet who is concerned with health. Those on a Paleo/Primal diet, those on Mediterranean diets, etc, etc. All ways of eating should be more plant than anything else.

          I simply find it hard to believe that after two million plus years of eating animal flesh, it suddenly becomes *the* agent of disease. I find it much more likely that the smoking gun here are the preservatives, flavor enhancers, and the processing itself (not eating FRESH food) that are the culprits. This seems to be the ONE common thing that unites conscientious vegans with animal-protein-eaters – cut the crap out of the diet, and no matter what you eat you will be healthier.

          Once one spends any amount of time around vegans, one has to admit that there are just as many fat ones as thin ones, and every doctor and naturopath I’ve asked has said they suffer from the same health concerns as everyone else. My naturopath actually told me they are her LEAST healthy patients! What I’m inferring from this is not that one diet is necessarily healthier than the other, but there is the same room for poor eating in either group, and you will still have the vegan bullimics and anorexics, the vegan over eaters, and the vegan picky eaters. In other words, the same diet mistakes!

          Incidentally, speaking of Taubes, he has joined a very astute and maverick group of doctors in seek of true medical truths. They are very new, and entering territory that I believe will change medicine if Americans can just suspend their beliefs in traditional medical dogma long enough to hear the message. Their group is “The Eating Academy” and here is a link


          Also, I don’t know if you are familiar with the TED Talks lectures, but here is Dr. Peter Attia giving a Ted talk about how perhaps conventional medicine has the whole scope of diabetes and metabolic disorders wrong. He has had some very humbling experiences as a doctor, and I cried when I watched this presentation. It made me long for a world of doctors and medical professionals who were caring, compassionate, willing to listen and learn new things, and non-judgmental at the core of them. I don’t think there are many like that in this day and age, and I find this a problem for medicine.

          I hope you enjoy this Paulette!

      9. @BawdyWench, Truce! @ Ann and Adele, OK Ok I’ll read the links and check out the book. After all, it’s what I do–obsess over diet and exercise. I’m looking for the book that says drinking too much wine (way too much) and eating really good cheese makes me feel great, look good, and live forever. If you get a link to that, let me know. 🙂 So, I’m not sure everyone eats more veges and fresh fruits, but at the very least Dr. F’s book made me aspire (just aspire, btw) to eat 1# raw veges, 1# cooked Veges, 4 fruits/day with berries especially, mushrooms, beans, and nuts. Perhaps I was eating those all along, but not really. I prefer really naughty stuff like buffalo wings. Actually, what really revolutionized my foodie life was being invited to a Raw Food party last year. While I had virtually nothing in common with the majority of people there, other than being human, there was another pastry chef there who made raw, vegan tarts with an amazing mousse and nicoise olives. They were beautiful, and I was perplexed how good the filling was. I got a new book on Raw Food and I am amazed at what could be done! I had to buy an Excalibur dehydrator, and for me, it was like a new toy! Most of my male counterparts try to do something new with meat all the time, and would never think to do something zany with raw food, so I have an up on them…well, here is where my food revolution began. Thanks, everyone, for your perspective. I like to get all points of view. Have a great day!

        1. Oh gosh – don’t know about the wine, but I eat really good cheese and buffalo wings with no guilt. Maybe you’d be surprised at how truly nutritious both of them are? 🙂 (And yes, living where I do, I can find high-end, pasture-raised, buffalo wings.)

          But I’m interested in that all-you-can-drink-and-still-feel-great wine link too!

          Our community has a former raw food vegan, Denise Minger, whose stuff you might enjoy. And many in this corner of the alternative nutrition world consider themselves “vegan plus meat” – in other words, they are really concerned about quality of food, prefer minimally/not processed foods, and generally eat tons of raw plant matter.

          Fun how the whole tone of that conversation turned around, right?

  25. my dad is a biochemist and obviously knows more about how the human body works than most of you combined. this article is nonsense.

    1. Which article? The one stating that broccoli is higher in nutrients than meat? or the blogpost this blogger wrote in response?

      I’m unclear which side you are taking up for-

    2. Send your dad on over. I’d love to chat with him about it, but since you don’t exactly point out anything in particular that is “nonsense” that I can examine or retract, it makes your point of little practical value to anyone.

  26. like you put according to the USDA broccoli has little less protein then steak, thats good enough, because it says top sirloin steak and lots of ppl who continue to believe meat is so healthy continue to eat bad quality meat and not top sirloin so its not that much protein. I dont think we should eat only plants but there are many nutrients in vegetables, good fats and fish than in red meat

    1. Hmmm. Not sure where to start with this. Did you read the whole post? It can be taxing to do so, but there are additional ideas further down the page. Unlike kisses and roses, a protein is not a protein is not a protein. Proteins are amazing, beautiful, and very complicated molecules (try a google image search for “protein molecule”). A plant protein and a protein from an animal may be made up of a very different assortment of amino acids (which is what your body really cares about–not “protein”). Amino acids are like letters that make up sentences that we call proteins. When we try to assemble human proteins from plant amino acids, we end up missing some important letters, like the letters “e” and “o.” So instead of our bodies creating “people,” they can only make “ppl.” (PS. I think maybe your keyboard might be missing some important amino acids.)

      Also, “top” sirloin refers to the position of the cut of meat on the beef carcass, not its quality. “Top sirloin” is the opposite of “bottom sirloin.” It is not the opposite of “cheap sirloin.” Cheap meat and expensive meat are going to be very similar in their protein composition.

      Yes, there are many nutrients in vegetables, “good fats” (by which I can only assume you mean the whole fats from animals rather than the highly-processed and refined fats from soy, corn, canola, and the like) and fish. There are not “more” nutrients than in red meat, but there are differing levels of differing nutrients. If you are looking for iron and zinc, you’d do better with red meat. If you are looking for Vitamin C, you may do better with plants.

      1. OMG –I’m laughing my ASS off again! It’s hard to take ppl seriously sometimes based on what they write isn’t it? I often wonder if people truly understand what they’re reading, whatever it is they’re reading!

        1. Yeah, but I swear, every time I laugh my ass off, I wake up the next morning and–it’s baaaaaack! I hope you have better luck and comfy chairs.

          I do try to take people seriously. I also type very slowly and loudly sometimes. Just in case.

  27. Just recently a 98 year old woman spoke for the first time about being one of Adolf Hitler’s food tasters at his headquarters. The purpose was to find out if the food was poisoned before Hitler ate it. However an interesting comment she made was that in the three years she was there he never ate any meat, only vegetarian meals. Hitler was known as the “carpet-biter”, possibly because he often went into insane rages when things didn’t go his way, sometimes biting the carpet.. I wonder if there is a connection between getting protein exclusively from vegetation and mental instability. Also does anyone have any comment on whether the contents of this paper might apply to humans: http://www.journalofanimalscience.org/content/81/9/2199.full.pdf+html

    1. I can comment on that from a personal and clinical standpoint. In clinic, it was rather cool, and somewhat unexpected, to see people come off of anti-depressants after switching to a low-carb diet–and these were not necessarily folks who had been vegetarians before, but simply had limited their protein and animal fat intake.

      For me, returning to omnivory after 16 years as a vegetarian did wonders for mood stability and overall happiness. I don’t know whether to attribute that to some component of animal foods, or to the simple fact that I was no longer hungry 24/7– because that can surely make you a little crazy.

      1. maybe you should take your own advice of “having a library card and half a brain” and learn how to get sufficient calories before you say “the diet didn’t work for me”. hungry all the time? LMAO i can’t believe you went 16 years with this problem, this is such a newbie problem. basically you starved yourself by undereating.

        1. As a vegetarian who mostly cooked at home, I had always watched my calorie intake. I gained weight while eating the amount of calories that–according to my height and weight and activity levels–was appropriate for me. So, what was I supposed to do? Berate myself for under-reporting my own intake or over-estimating my own activity levels? (Oh yeah, nevermind, I did that.) The answer was, and still is in most weight loss guidance, to eat less and move more in order to achieve a recommended caloric deficit of 500 kcals per day. If weight loss doesn’t happen–for me it did and then it didn’t–then the only answer is to continue eating even less and/or moving even more. I wasn’t “starving” for the whole 16 years, but as time went on, I had to eat less/move more in order to maintain my weight and then when it came to trying to lose weight, I felt I had little choice but to do more of the same. So, yeah, hunger was unavoidable as far as I could tell.

          Hooray! I did take my own advice. After doing my best with the “eat less, move more” guidance which, yes and understandably so, might lead to under-eating nourishing foods while over-eating pointless foods, I gave up. At that point, I was trying to follow the Food Guide Pyramid with its broad base of grains and cereals, and it was multiple trips to my local health sciences library (timing my toddler’s naps so that he slept as I wheeled him through the stacks) that helped me to eventually figure out that this pattern of eating was contributing to the broadening of my own base. I did learn how to get “sufficient calories” (and I use that term loosely) while eating the foods my body needed. Been doing that ever since.

          As you can see from the post above, you have to consume much higher volumes of plant-based foods in order to acquire the same amounts of protein than you do if you choose animal-based foods. For some folks, that’s not a problem; for me it was. When I tried to reduce my calories in my primarily plant-based diet (which I was told was the way to lose weight), I reduced a lot of protein along the way. My body may or may not have been starving for “calories;” for sure, it was starving for protein. I may or may not have needed more “calories,” but I definitely needed different ones. You may have had a different experience with diet and activity, but that was mine. Was I a dumbass about it? You bet. I was so committed to the idea that my low-fat vegetarian diet was The Best Possible Diet Ever that I ignored all the signals my body was sending me that this was NOT the best possible diet for me. When you let ideology beat up on biology, that’s what happens.

  28. Since expertise has been brought up. And this is by no means a knock on professions built around nutrition, heck it’s a big part of my job… I just find it odd we need “experts” to tell us what to eat. Think about that for a moment.

    1. We don’t. Nutrition “experts” have created more food information pollution than industry ever could or would have without us. That said, we are at a point now, where we are going to have to clean up said pollution before the food environment becomes a safe place to play once again.

  29. oh, this is such a great post! I swear, one of my roommates eats nothing but vegetables, and it takes all of my willpower not to launch into a lecture about how she’s depriving her body of good nutrition. I’m a biology student; I’ve taken biochemistry. I know how things are digested and what their energy content is, and as a result I just can’t support the idea of some of these ridiculous diets.

    1. As someone who witnessed (and was–true confessions–part of) the cultural shift of vegatarianism from fringy-hippy food fad, to mainstream widely-accepted-as-healthy dietary pattern, there’s clearly a lot more to an all-plants diet than an understanding of the biochemistry of nutrition 😉

      This is what makes the study of nutrition so interesting to me–food is personal & emotional, yet we really want to try to seal up our food choices in the “evidence-based” (and therefore completely objective and justifiable) tupperware of science. To be fair, I hear paleo arguments that are not very well-thought out or researched, but–maybe it’s a nerdier crowd in general–none as bad as the meat/broccoli one.

  30. Elle Belle, I admire your ability to accurately and precisely diagnose the health status of someone based solely on height and weight without ever having met the person. How DO you do it?

    And on a more serious note, excellent post Adele.

  31. I’m not a nutritionist or scientist so am not equipped to interpret the studies everyone references here, nor am I able to provide any true scientific evaluation of various diets. This leaves me with needing to listen to my body, cravings and energy levels for guidance on what works and doesn’t for me. As an experiment, I followed Dr. Furhman’s diet faithfully last year and was able to stay on it for exactly 10 days before becoming so weak and spacey I couldn’t function. I was also left with some of the most wicked sugar and carb cravings ever – and it took me weeks to recover from that 10 day experiment. Needless to say, I agree that saying “broccoli has more protein than steak” is crap. I now eat mostly Paleo (some rice and dairy now and then), and have more energy than at any time in my life. I have autoimmune issues and am currently experimenting with the nutritional protocol created by Dr. Terry Wahls.

    Thank you Adele for your outspoken posts. I always enjoy your perspective.

    1. Thanks for joining the conversation. I think it is time the rest of the healthcare profession started helping their patients to do exactly what you are doing–listening to your body–and stop trying to make all of these individual bodies fit into a preconceived approach determined by science, as if science has a better answer than your body does! Unfortunately, ideology and misinformation gets in the way. I wish you the best on your path to better health. Keep us posted.

  32. Way to stay on topic, Elle Belle. Resort to cheap personal digs rather than debate the topic under discussion. Such class. Not.

  33. “Once again, armed with a library card and half a brain, it is not too difficult to figure out…” BEST. LINE. EVER. Fantastic post, as always, Adele.

    1. You’d think yoga would give me better anger management skills when confronted with evidence of sloppy research efforts–but no such luck. Thanks for tuning in!

  34. When you talk about an amount of food someone would be likely to eat at one sitting, the difference in protein between vegetables and meat is really pronounced. There’s 2g of protein in a cup of broccoli, and even that amount is probably pushing it.

    1. And I didn’t even get into digestibility issues. An optimistic estimate is that you can expect to be able to extract only about 2/3 of the available protein from plants, in which case you’d have to eat something more like 27 cups of broccoli in order to get the full supply of essential amino acids.

      1. It is easier to get the full spectrum of required amino acids from a variety of vegetables, if you are thinking of how much you might get from vegetables alone. Anyone attempting to eat a ton of broccoli would be silly – I think it makes more sense to think people would eat more colorful plates of vegetables as well as eat the complete proteins like quinoa/sprouted quinoa or some form of fermented soy.

  35. this post I enjoyed very much, proves we must do our own research and not just go by a book after all your right scientists and doctors don’t have a monopoly on accurate knowledge, tho everyone seems to love to pretend to be knowledgable doctors and scientists by writting books, I would like tocomment on studies and their conclusions, science is rarly settled and scientists rarely agree even if they are studying the same thing, as for studies that says if you eat this food your risk goes up for a particular disease, one must take such conclusions with a grain of salt, why? because a person doesn’t just eat one food all the time and nothing else, the problem with this approach is they say your risk goes up, not your actual you got the disease goes up but your risk, risk is a funny thing, it depends on how you determine risk, if you studied creatine intake and those who ate alot of it got heart disease in a disproportionate amounts compared to those who didn’t eat as much (and the rest of their diets were identical) then you might have it, but saying your risk goes up is a way of saying we don’t really know but to get you to change your ways because of my belief system I have to say it this way to give it a authrotive and conclusive way so you will follow what I believe you should or shoulnd’t be doing according ot my opinion(I mean could the researchers have been against meat eating or are vegetarians?) basically using fear to get you to change your ways, if the researchers are being paid to demonize meat eating, or demonizing low carb diets there you have it. by the way I don’t really care if brocullie was higher in protein and my body could use it quite well, there is no way I am going to sit down and eat several pounds of the stuff ( and forcing it down is how it would be) when I love a good steak and will readily eat it enjoy it and feel totally satiated, while a ton of brocullie would still leave me very hungry!!!

    1. One of the cool things I get to study in my new program is communication of risk, because you’re very right–how risk is communicated really matters. Very often, there is more rhetoric than science.

  36. There’s also this on choline


    The study shows that people who eat a diet containing a common nutrient found in animal products (such as eggs, liver and other meats, cheese and other dairy products, fish, shellfish) are not predisposed to cardiovascular disease solely on their genetic make-up, but rather, how the micro-organisms that live in our digestive tracts metabolize a specific lipid — phosphatidylcholine (a component of lecithin). Lecithin and its metabolite, choline, are also found in many commercial baked goods, dietary supplements, and even children’s vitamins.

    The study examined clinical data from 1,875 patients who were referred for cardiac evaluation, as well as plasma samples from mice. When fed to mice, lecithin and choline were converted to a heart disease-forming product by the intestinal microbes, which promoted fatty plaque deposits to form within arteries (atherosclerosis); in humans, higher blood levels of choline and the heart disease forming microorganism products are strongly associated with increased cardiovascular disease risk.
    “When two people both eat a similar diet but one gets heart disease and the other doesn’t, we currently think the cardiac disease develops because of their genetic differences; but our studies show that is only a part of the equation,” said Stanley Hazen, M.D., Ph.D., Staff in Lerner Research Institute’s Department of Cell Biology and the Heart and Vascular Institute’s Department of Cardiovascular Medicine and Section Head of Preventive Cardiology & Rehabilitation at Cleveland Clinic, and senior author of the study. “Actually, differences in gut flora metabolism of the diet from one person to another appear to have a big effect on whether one develops heart disease. Gut flora is a filter for our largest environmental exposure — what we eat.”

    Dr. Hazen added, “Another remarkable finding is that choline — a natural semi-essential vitamin — when taken in excess, promoted atherosclerotic heart disease. Over the past few years we have seen a huge increase in the addition of choline into multi-vitamins — even in those marketed to our children — yet it is this same substance that our study shows the gut flora can convert into something that has a direct, negative impact on heart disease risk by forming an atherosclerosis-causing by-product.”

    In studies of more than 2,000 subjects altogether, blood levels of three metabolites of the dietary lipid lecithin were shown to strongly predict risk for cardiovascular disease: choline (a B-complex vitamin), trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO, a product that requires gut flora to be produced and is derived from the choline group of the lipid) and betaine (a metabolite of choline).

    “The studies identify TMAO as a blood test that can be used in subjects to see who is especially at risk for cardiac disease, and in need of more strict dietary intervention to lower their cardiac risk,” Dr. Hazen said.


  37. What does your mother being osteoporotic have to do with it? Do you blame the osteoporosis on the Fuhrman eating style?

    1. My mom eats so little protein–except for ham, she loves ham, esp bathed in brown sugar syrup–that I’m afraid there’s nowhere for calcium–which she seems to get plenty of–to be deposited. But I don’t think that has anything to do with Furhman. Over the years, she just seems to consume less and less. We tease her that she needs to buy really nice shoes because at the rate her spinal curve is going, that’s all she’s going to be able to look at in a few years. That said, my mom is one of the most intrepid people I know and even with her bowed legs and curling spine, she still gets out in the ocean in 5-6 foot waves and jumps around.

      I’m not at all sure that she actually follows Furhman’s advice. As I mentioned, I have a sneaking suspicion that those books are simply there to push my buttons. Sadly, it works.

    2. I would. Not only do you need calcium and protein to save your bones but you also need at least two of the fat-soluble vitamins, D3 and K2. The K2 from animal fat/eggs/organs is much more available to us than the stuff from natto, which looks like snot-beans and has all the potential health issues that you’re going to have from eating soy. And you can only get D3 from sun exposure or from animal foods. Not to mention the other minerals involved in bone strengthening, which are more bioavailable–shocker of shockers–coming from actual bones. I doubt Joel Fuhrman is OK with consuming bone broth. Which in my view further discredits him.

      1. Thanks for all the info/comments. I should just let you moderate this . . .

      2. Don’t diss natto, piggy. Fermented foods have been proven time and time again to have a multitude of health benefits. Oh, sure, all the centenarians of Japan are just lucky that they’re not dead or demented. If you think so.

        1. “Piggy”? Really? Are we in middle school here?

          Criticizing non-normative nutrition perspectives requires a more erudite form of name-calling in these here parts. You may want to invoke a “lack of objectivity” cultivated by association with “fringe scientists” who are not “critical thinkers at the top of their fields” or something like that. Phrases such as “studies show . . . ” and “experts say . . . ” can be helpful as well.

      3. But you don’t actually need d3. Also, natto isn’t the only source of k2. Any fermented vegetables will do, really. You can pack a really strong nutritional punch if you use a high quality starter culture. If you’re worried about the health problems associated with soy, fermenting soy is supposed to remedy that.

  38. There’s a very big difference between association and causation. Every person diagnosed with colon cancer used a signficant amount of toilet paper throughout his or her lifetime. Does this mean that toilet paper CAUSES colon cancer, or is just associated with colon cancer?

    I can’t give you the exact citation on this, but I once read (in Dr. Mike Eades’ blog, I think) about a doctor who was involved in a hospital study of cardiovascular risk. The researchers looked at all kinds of things in the patients’ histories, including diet, exercise, smoking, etc. It was an observational study based on the patient’s own recollections. This one doctor decided to also look at the prevalence of facial hair in the male patients and found that those with some sort of facial hair had far less risk of developing cardiovascular disease. That’s how silly some of these observational studies can be.

    “Prior research has shown that a diet with frequent red meat consumption **IS ASSOCIATED WITH** increased cardiovascular disease risk, but that the cholesterol and saturated fat content in red meat does not appear to be enough to explain the increased cardiovascular risks. This discrepancy has been attributed to genetic differences, a high salt diet that is often associated with red meat consumption, and even possibly the cooking process, among other explanations. But Hazen says this new research **SUGGESTS** a new connection between red meat and cardiovascular disease.”

    “Is associated with” does not mean “causes.” And “suggests” does not mean “proves.”

    A high-salt diet is often associated with read meat consumption? Really? Perhaps this is referring to people who eat a lot of processed foods that are laden with sodium and who also happen to eat red meat. Most low-carb “carnivores” I know eat no processed foods. What about vegetarians and vegans who eat a lot of processed foods laden with sodium (I know quite a few personally). Is it the red meat or the sodium? Or a third component?

    What other factors might be at play here? This is interesting stuff, but it’s still just a hypothesis that would need to be proved or disproved.

    1. Believe it or not, you actually need sodium in your diet. If your body is working properly, your kidneys should be dumping any sodium you consume in excess. People with hyperinsulinism tend to have salt-responsive high blood pressure because insulin in excess signals the kidneys to hold on to sodium. The central problem is the high insulin, not the salt, and the insulin will do much more damage to your body than the salt will.

      If I’m in ketosis and don’t get enough sodium, my body complains loudly in the form of leg cramps, which go away soon after I eat salt straight out of the shaker. My BP is perfectly fine, and this at around 200 pounds, 5’6″ in height. According to the conventional wisdom I should be on BP meds by now.

      1. Last summer I had some “routine” blood work done and found out I was woefully low in sodium (not even close to the range for “normal”). I’d always read that when you eat a low-carb diet, you need more sodium, but never took it to heart. (High-carb diets make the kidneys retain salt, whereas low carb diets increase sodium excretion by the kidney, which is why we need to supplement with sodium [Volek & Phinney, Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living].) Once I started supplementing with good Celtic sea salt, my sodium levels came back into normal range and I no longer suffered with high(er) blood pressure, leg cramps, etc.

  39. @BawdyWench – your comment shows how stupid a lot of people are

    DO some RESEARCH


    The study shows that bacteria living in the human digestive tract metabolize the compound carnitine, turning it into trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO), a metabolite the researchers previously linked in a 2011 study to the promotion of atherosclerosis in humans. Further, the research finds that a diet high in carnitine promotes the growth of the bacteria that metabolize carnitine, compounding the problem by producing even more of the artery-clogging TMAO.
    The research team was led by Stanley Hazen, M.D., Ph.D., Vice Chair of Translational Research for the Lerner Research Institute and section head of Preventive Cardiology & Rehabilitation in the Miller Family Heart and Vascular Institute at Cleveland Clinic, and Robert Koeth, a medical student at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University

    The study tested the carnitine and TMAO levels of omnivores, vegans and vegetarians, and examined the clinical data of 2,595 patients undergoing elective cardiac evaluations. They also examined the cardiac effects of a carnitine-enhanced diet in normal mice compared to mice with suppressed levels of gut microbes, and discovered that TMAO alters cholesterol metabolism at multiple levels, explaining how it enhances atherosclerosis.
    The researchers found that increased carnitine levels in patients predicted increased risks for cardiovascular disease and major cardiac events like heart attack, stroke and death, but only in subjects with concurrently high TMAO levels. Additionally, they found specific gut microbe types in subjects associated with both plasma TMAO levels and dietary patterns, and that baseline TMAO levels were significantly lower among vegans and vegetarians than omnivores. Remarkably, vegans and vegetarians, even after consuming a large amount of carnitine, did not produce significant levels of the microbe product TMAO, whereas omnivores consuming the same amount of carnitine did.

    “The bacteria living in our digestive tracts are dictated by our long-term dietary patterns,” Hazen said. “A diet high in carnitine actually shifts our gut microbe composition to those that like carnitine, making meat eaters even more susceptible to forming TMAO and its artery-clogging effects. Meanwhile, vegans and vegetarians have a significantly reduced capacity to synthesize TMAO from carnitine, which may explain the cardiovascular health benefits of these diets.”
    Prior research has shown that a diet with frequent red meat consumption is associated with increased cardiovascular disease risk, but that the cholesterol and saturated fat content in red meat does not appear to be enough to explain the increased cardiovascular risks. This discrepancy has been attributed to genetic differences, a high salt diet that is often associated with red meat consumption, and even possibly the cooking process, among other explanations. But Hazen says this new research suggests a new connection between red meat and cardiovascular disease.

    1. @ Charles – I think the TMAO findings are intriguing, but there are many questions left. As one of the MDs in the NYT article put it, at this point the research is a “story.” Some folks may find it plausible; others may not. I certainly hope that folks who have found that their own personal choices regarding red meat are working for them don’t decide to change everything based on a small, preliminary study that is part of a much larger body of evidence as yet to be understood.

      @ Bawdy Wench – Red Bull made from cows! LOL

      I’m sure that these findings will make it through the low-carb/paleo/WAPF dissection machine in the next week or so. It will be interesting to see what comes of it.

      For me, I think the main cautionary point is that the relationships found between TMAO and heart disease are strictly observational. So we can show that red meat raises TMAO levels (experimental findings), and we can show that TMAO is associated with increased risk of heart disease (observational findings or experimental findings in mice). This sounds an awful lot like the same story that was woven together about eggs and cholesterol and heart disease, in much the same manner.

      Either way, it’s a little early in the game for mud-slinging. Plenty of time for that later.

      The real question to me is why Gina Kolata at the NYT goes to Frank Sacks and Robert Eckel for quotes regarding this topic at all. Eckel and Sacks are both long-time AHA Nutrition Board members; Eckel has actually stated that all research on low-carbohydrate diets should be stopped. Asking the folks at the AHA for guidance regarding heart disease is like asking the folks at Monsanto for guidance regarding GMO soybeans.

    2. Then why in THE HELL aren’t carnivores dropping dead from eating red meat everyday?

      Didn’t think you’d have an answer. Thanks anyway.

    3. You also make TMAO from choline. But try getting around without any choline in your diet and see how you turn out. Your liver won’t like you very much and you’ll be more susceptible to cancer.

      I’m not abandoning red meat. We’ve been eating it since we were on the African savannah and lo, we are still here.

      1. But still here as a 5′ 6″ 200 lb female, Dana, is hardly indicative of doing things right.
        Your sloth and dietary failures should hardly be used as anecdotes supporting the dietary dogma you dispense.

        1. You know EB, that’s one of the topics that I’m looking forward to taking a closer look at in my new program. How is dietary expertise/knowledge “embodied”? A friend and I were talking over the weekend (she is a Nutrition PhD) about how nutrition is one of the few fields where your expertise seem to literally reside in your body. If you are fat, it does seem that what you say may be undermined by the apparent “lack of success” you’ve had in achieving what many of us consider to be the “right” shape. But that leaves a whole host of other questions unanswered: What if their expertise lies in what they’ve learned on a journey they are still on? What if a “normal” body shape was never going to be theirs to begin with? What if their health is excellent despite the non-normative body?

          You raise another interesting point. How does one “fail” at dieting? Again, there seems to be some invisible “finish line” that we’re supposed to cross before we get the medal of social approval. Some people cross it more than once (Oprah?), some people run a 400-yard dash–slowly–(me) and get the same amount of social approval as people who succeed in what amounts to a cross-country marathon. I’m interested in seeing how we are willing to allot that approval.

          Personally, I’m a big fan of sloth (and sloths) 🙂 I HATE exercise. HATE HATE HATE HATE. HATE. So, mostly, I don’t do it. When for some reason, I do exercise (once every 3 or 4 months), I whine the entire time, slack off as much as I can get away with in front of whomever is coercing me, and generally collapse in a pathetic heap when it’s over and insist that someone administer a Diet Coke intravenously. Sloth might be my middle name, but I’m too lazy to look it up.

        2. Elle Belle – WOW. Have an axe to grind much? What does anyone’s status at any particular weight have to do with whether or not their comments have merit? Or has no one ever told you that it’s okay to be extremely healthy and still be heavy? Oh, I see. You only take the health advice of the very thin? How short-sighted and narrow-minded of you, especially since the rates of inflammatory diseases are still pretty high in MANY thin people. Grow up.

  40. I saw a “news” report this morning saying that red meat and Red Bull (the energy drink) both contain a substance that will “kill you.” I quipped to my husband that this story must have come from uninformed (ok, stupid) PETA people who think Red Bull is made from cows.

    Great post, by the way!

    1. They’re talking about carnitine. Ironically this situation is going to scare everyone away from carnitine, and guess what it does? It assists in fatty-acid metabolism. Way to go, vegans. I thought you said we had an obesity epidemic.

      Meanwhile sugar, which actually does both cause and feed cancer? Oh, that’s OK, as long as it’s not bleached. Especially agave. Never mind the fatty liver disease.

      1. Never mind the 200 lb female who has sat on internet forums for years with her crank advice, while she stays fat. But one day she will find the hidden scientific info that will lead her to a process to lose… 5 pounds. One day…

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