Meat or Vegan

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This week a number of UK newspapers reported on a study of office workers that found vegans take twice as many sick days off work, due to colds, flu and minor ailments, and visit their doctor three times as much as their meat-eating co-workers.

I tried vegan around 20 years ago and at the time I genuinely believed it was the way to go. I’m pleased I gave it a really good trial, and vegetarian too. I didn’t become ill but I certainly lost my energy. Then, I read yet another book on nutrition, and this one suggested to me that animal products, including meat, were very beneficial to health… and so I gave that a try. I’ve not looked back since then simply because both the body I live in and the body of research about it are in absolute agreement.

If you are vegan or vegetarian, you may simply want to skip this blog. I’m not on a mission to convert people, and I know that eating meat isn’t for everybody for all kinds of reasons.

I write this mostly in response to news that filters through, and I’m sure will continue to filter through, that red meat is dangerous to our health. And there’s been an increase in news stories promoting veganism recently.

Food is serious; we ingest it, it becomes us, and has the most significant impact on our health. The most direct proof of is how immigrants change their risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and autoimmune disease when they adopt the food of their host nation. It’s often said, “genes load the gun but environment pulls the trigger”. Which refers to the environment surrounding our genes, with degrees of toxicity and inflammation influencing their expression.

THE NURSES

Much of the research supporting vegan and vegetarian eating comes from The Nurses’ Health Study, which tracked thousands of health professionals over many years. A great many research papers have been published about it, and it’s received widespread publicity in the media. It is, however, a flawed study for a number of reasons:

• Epidemiological studies can only indicate associations between the elements they study; they can never show that any one element directly causes another. For example, those nurses who ate more red meat also smoked and drank more, had a higher BMI and exercised less. Adjustments are made for such factors, but they can only be estimates and will skew the results.

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Comments

  1. Miriam

    Hi Gillian,

    I always feel I can trust you to be objective. I found this interesting and refreshing. You seem to be one of very few who is brave enough to voice your opinions based on devoted personal impartial research, and that is rare and valuable these days.

  2. Grainne

    I like the idea of not eating meat and I like a lot of the vegan meals that are around now. However, after reducing my intake dramatically for a while and then reintroducing meat (mostly chicken) more recently, I have to admit that I find chicken etc much more satiating than a diet without it. It seems to suit me better. I was never really full vegan anyway, since I always seemed to thrive with small amounts of dairy! Must be the Irish genes.

  3. Janet

    Fabulous analysis, as always – thank you Gillian.
    Wouldn’t it be great if the media were as zealous in their checking of the, so called ‘facts’ they publish.

  4. Sophie

    I too would be interested to see more research on grass fed meat compared to plant based diet. I think people can be healthy eating grass fed meats with the inclusion of lots of plant-based foods, but I think you can be healthy without eating any, and with the current state of animal abuse, there is no question for me, I will eat completely plant based. You did make some good points though, but I would like to comment on the ones I disagree with:

    – Yes there are some nutrients in meat that are higher compared to plants, but there is also some nutrients that are higher in plant foods compared to animal products, the question shouldn’t be, does the ideal diet have the most, but does it have enough.
    – Pepsin breaks down plant protein so it is used
    – There are fatty plant foods that raise good cholesterol too, also the body makes its own cholesterol, so its not required.

    • Good points, Sophie, and thank you. My understanding is that we need a very good supply of B12 and dietary cholesterol for brain health especially. I feel sure, though, that we all need to find our own way and choose what seems right for us.

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