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Vegetarianism - An Offensive Stand

John McDougall, M.D. Box 14039, Santa Rosa, CA 95402

When right, take an offensive posture, not a defensive one.

Nutritional Myths Keep People from a Healthier Diet

Myth #1: Starches are fattening.

Starches are high-carbohydrate, low-fat.

Starches are calorie dilute.

Food       Calories/gram    Food       Calories/gram 
Corn Oil         9          Beans          1.2
Lard             9          Rice           1.2
Butter           7.2        Potato         0.6
Cheese           4          Oatmeal        0.6
Beef             4          Carrots        0.4
Sugar            4          Onions         0.4
Bread            2          Zucchini       0.2

Carbohydrates become glycogen---Fat becomes fat.

There are no fat Chinese---in China.

Myth #2: Meat is Necessary for Protein

Protein is in all unrefined plant foods in adequate quantities to build elephants.

Adult men require 20 grams per day, The WHO [World Health Organization] recommends 37 grams (with safety margin), Rice alone provides 64 grams per day.

No dietitian can design a diet (adequate in calories) based around unrefined starches and vegetables that fails to supply adequate protein for children and adults---Challenge One!

Myth #3: Meat/Dairy/Eggs are necessary to supply all the amino acids

All plant foods contain all the amino acids including all 8 essential ones.

Single sources of unrefined starches and vegetables are plentiful in all essential amino acids.

Amino Acid      Recommended    Rice    Potato 
Tryptophan          0.5        0.71     0.8
Phenylalanine       0.56       3.1      2.5
Leucine             2.2        5.5      4.1
Isoleucine          1.4        3.0      3.6
Lysine              1.6        2.5      4.4
Valine              1.6        4.5      4.4
Methionine          0.22       1.1      1.0
Threonine           1.0        2.5      3.4

(Amino acid values are in grams per day. Figures are based on an adult man consuming 3000 calories per day. Requirements for phenylalanine and methionine are adjusted for replacement by unessential amino acids tyrosine and cystine.)

No dietitian can design a diet (adequate in calories) based around any unrefined starches and vegetables that fails to supply adequate essential amino acids for children and adults---Challenge One!

Myth #4: Milk is necessary for Calcium

Calcium is a mineral found in the ground.

Our intestine is an active absorber of calcium, not passive.

Our requirements for calcium are as low as 150 to 200 mg/day even during pregnancy and lactation (Post Grad Med J 54:244, 1978).

Around the world people grow normal skeletons without milk or calcium supplements.

Calcium deficiency due to a low calcium diet has not been found among any people living on a variety of diets--"calcium deficiency disease" is not described in the medical--nutritional literature.

Protein excess is the major determinant of calcium balance and bone strenght. Exercise plays a secondary, important, role.

Myth #5: Vegetarian Diets Prevent Child Growth

Most of world's children have been raised on near-vegetarian diets.

This myth is founded in two studies:

"Zen Macrobiotic Dietary Problems in Infancy" Robson J. Pediatrics 53:25 1974

2 infants (7 & 13 mos).

Inadequate breast-feeding (5 & 4 mos).

Poor diet by any standards.

"Malnutrition in Infants Receiving Cult Diets: A Form of Child Abuse" (Roberts I, Br Med J 1:296, 1979)

too early weaning of children.

Common cause of failure to thrive is to replace breast milk with cow's milk at any age.

Myth #6: Vegetarian Diets Cause Rickets

Rickets is due to Vitamin-D deficiency.

Based on studies, "Risk of Nutritional Rickets Among Vegetarian Children" (Am J Dis Child 133:134,1979), and "Multiple Nutritional Deficiencies in Infants from a Strict Vegetarian Community" (Am J Dis Child 133:141, 1979).

Meat and milk are vitamin D deficient.

Vitamin D is from conversion of plant sterols by sunlight.

Abused Children--not allowed sun exposure.

Myth #7: Fat is Necessary to Prevent Essential Fat Deficiency

Less than 1% of diet must be from essential fat.

Rice provides 2% as essential fat.

Essential fat is made by plants--not cows or pigs.

Essential fat deficiency is seen only experimental or with skim-milk infant feeding.

Myth #8: Fat is necessary for fat-soluble vitamin absorption

There is plenty of fat in plants to allow adequate absorption of fat-soluble vitamins.

Never been cases of fat soluble vitamin deficiency due to natural diets.

Myth #9: Fiber, Oxalates, Phytates will Prevent Mineral Absorption

Minerals are found in the ground.

Minerals enter animals through plants (or through other animals).

Plants are high in minerals--the more plants consumed the more mineral taken in.

Mineral absorption is active--not passive

Never been cases of mineral deficiency due to plant component inhibition--theoretical, except possible zinc--phytate one study

Myth #10: Meat is necessary for iron

Examples of iron content mg/100cal
broccoli       3.4
peas           2.3
beef           2.0
chicken        1.0
whole wheat    1.1
brown rice     0.5
banana         0.8
orange         0.8
milk           0.7
cheese         0.03

Intake of 1525 mg/day, absorption of 0.5 to 2 mg/day--active transport

Heme (organic) vs. non-heme (inorganic) iron

Ascorbic acid enhancement of inorganic iron absorption.

Dairy products inhibit absorption.

Increase blood loss from dietary origins--ulcers, hemorrhoids, colitis, nephritis, uterine bleeding.

Endurance athletes--blood loss

Myth #11: B12 Deficiency is Caused by Vegetarian Diets

Almost all cases of B12 deficiency are not a result of diet deficiency, rather malabsorption--deficiency develops in 2 years.

Rare--four actual cases reported that meet criteria of dietary cause.

Long storage-320 years

Recycled and reused--takes 2030 years for vegetarians to deplete B12.

Deficiency means a reversible anemia and neurological damage. Folate, high in a vegetarian's diet, protects against B12 deficiency diseases.

Bacteria and microalgae produced

Mouth and gut bacteria are sources of B12

Environmental bacterial sources

Recent articles worry vegetarians:

"Increased Urinary Methylmalonic Acid Excretion in Breast-fed Infants of Vegetarian Mothers and Identification of an Acceptable Source of B12" (Specker B. Am J Clin Nutr 47:89, 1988)

"Vitamin B12 and Seaweed" Van Den Berg H. Lancet 1:242, 1988)

Solution--Non animal sources of B12 after 3 years of vegan diet, pregnant or nursing.

What are good non-animal sources of B12? For now your best bet is a B12 supplement vitamin pill.

Blood levels do not mean deficiency but may relieve some worry--levels should be above 150 ng/dl.

ACNE                         DIABETES                              HYPERTENSION
ALLERGIC DISEASES              Childhood-Onset                     HYPOGLYCEMIA
ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE            Adult-Onset                         KIDNEY DISEASE
ANEMIA                       DIVERTICULAR DISEASE                    Kidney Failure
ARTHRITIS                      Diverticulosis                        Nephritis (Glomerulonephritis)
ATHEROSCLEROSIS                Diverticulitis                      KIDNEY STONES
CANCER                       GALLBLADDER DISEASE                     Calcium Stones
CHOLESTEROL (High)           HEADACHES                               Uric Acid Stones
COLITIS (Mild)               HEART DISEASE                         LIVER DISEASES
  Irritable Bowel Syndrome   HIATUS HERNIA                         MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS
    (Spastic Colon)          HORMONE DEPENDENT DISEASES            OBESITY
  Non Specific                 Abnormal Uterine Bleeding (AUB)     OSTEOPOROSIS
COLITIS (Severe)               Early Menarche                      ULCERS
  Crohn's Disease              Fibrocystic Breast Disease            Esophagitis
  Ulcerative Colitis           Fibroids of Uterus                    Gastritis
CONSTIPATION                   Late Menopause                        Indigestion
  Hemorrhoids                  Baldness (Male Pattern) 
  Varicose Veins               Prostate Disease
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