Human Locomotion

O’Keefe J, et al. Debunking the vegan myth: The case for a plant-forward omnivorous whole-foods diet.

Monthly Research Articles

I included this article because I just finished watching the Netflix documentary, “The Game Changers,” which pretty much says switching to a vegan diet will improve every aspect of your life: you will add lean muscle, improve athletic performance, and live longer. I was curious about the documentary’s accuracy, so I looked up everything I could find on the health benefits of veganism and this article stood out. The authors give a balanced view of the pros and cons of veganism/vegetarianism. They point out that vegans are more likely to have low levels of B12, which can contribute to carcinogenesis and inadvertently increase the risk of some types of malignancy. Epidemiological studies show that vegans need to supplement with omega-3 fatty acids, a wide range of minerals, and they provide references showing that vegans are more likely to consume significantly less protein and fewer essentially amino acids compared to other diet groups. In particular, low levels of taurine, which is discussed in the next article, can predispose to a myriad of health issues. While the authors acknowledge that curtailing the consumption of processed meat will likely improve longevity, and that “eating less red meat, processed meats, sugar and refined grains, while eating more nuts, fish and unprocessed whole plants were estimated to be the most effective dietary approach to improve life expectancy,” they also acknowledge that there are some serious drawbacks to vegan diets. The lead author, James O’Keefe, was one of the first researchers to point out the potential adverse cardiovascular effects from excessive exercise, and his articles are always worth reading.

Abstract: Vegan diets are widely promoted as protective against cardiovascular disease (CVD); however, removing all animal foods from a human’s diet usually causes unfavorable health consequences. Our hominin ancestors began consuming meat, fish, seafood, and eggs >2 million years ago. Consequently, humans are genetically adapted to procure nutrients from both plant and animal sources. In contrast, veganism is without evolutionary precedent in Homo sapiens species. Strict adherence to a vegan diet causes predictable deficiencies in nutrients including vitamins B12 ,B2, D, niacin, iron, iodine, zinc, high-quality proteins, omega-3, and calcium. Prolonged strict veganism increases risk for bone fractures, age-related muscle loss, anemia, and depression. A more logical diet is a plant-forward omnivorous eating pattern that emphasizes generous consumption of natural, unprocessed foods predominantly from plants. To balance this diet, modest amounts of wholesome animal foods, such wild-caught fish/seafood, pasture-raised meat and eggs, and fermented unsweetened dairy should be consumed regularly.