vegan dietTag Archives

Critiques of the science behind plant-based diets

I’ve been reading a lot of blogs about dietary studies. A blog of particular interest is Raw Food SOS by Denise Minger. One of her posts tore apart Ancel Keys’ 22 country data. That data is often cited as proof that dietary fat causes heart disease. By the time Denise Minger got done with it, the data from the 22 countries more likely proved only that richer countries that could afford better medical care were better able to determine cause of death. In other words, the Keys study and data were rendered meaningless.

And another post dissects the movie Forks over Knives and critiques the science in that movie. So far, it isn’t looking good for the movie. Forks over Knives promotes a plant-based or vegan diet. I tried a vegan diet for about three months not so long ago. I ran into problems with it. I began developing a physical form of depression. Fortunately, my mood was still generally good. I had my blood checked, and my cholesterol had dropped too low. The total was 147. My psychiatrist was concerned. He wants to see the total be at least 160. Low cholesterol is associated with depression and other mental disorders. So I stopped being vegan and eventually recovered. As you can tell, I am not a fan of veganism. For me, at least, veganism is a dangerous diet. Generally, though, depression is more common among vegans, so it isn’t just me. One of my lowest total cholesterol readings, 125, coincided with my first round of NutriSystem back in 1990 or so. It also coincided with my diagnosis of bipolar disorder. And that, folks, is why I have adjusted my diet. I’m trying to keep my cholesterol levels from falling. I’ll have blood drawn to test cholesterol on Thursday to see if my strategy is working. I’m optimistic. My mood has been good so far this round.

Denise Minger. The Truth About Ancel Keys: We’ve All Got It Wrong, Raw Food SOS.
Denise Minger. “Forks Over Knives”: Is the Science Legit? (A Review and Critique), Raw Food SOS.
Chris Masterjohn. My Experience With Vegetarianism,
Shin JY, Suls J, Martin R. Are cholesterol and depression inversely related? A meta-analysis of the association between two cardiac risk factors. Ann Behav Med. 2008 Aug;36(1):33-43. Epub 2008 Sep 12.
Michael Pekker. Could Eating A Vegan Diet Cause Depression? Clinical Depression: Symptoms and Treatment.

Adjusting my diet to avoid potential health issues

It’s important to do the best we can with the plan we’ve invested in. That’s certainly my goal. My big issue with the NutriSystem plan is making sure that my cholesterol level doesn’t tank, and I’m not entirely sure how to do that or even if it can be done. One of my lowest cholesterol readings ever was 125. This was measured following a round of NutriSystem back around 1990, and this also happened to be when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I was suffering with major depression at the time. Somehow, I still managed to function. It’s critical that I don’t let my cholesterol get that low again this time because low cholesterol is a risk factor, and I’ve already seen that my mood dips with my cholesterol readings. My cholesterol readings went down when I was vegan, and I was also beginning to develop depression, so there’s a hint. My intake was very high in fiber while I was vegan, and I know that can lower cholesterol. My guess for this round is that I need to lean my intake toward more fat while, of course, staying in calorie range. I will have blood tests done to make sure that my cholesterol levels stay where they need to be. My mood is good at present at least, so that’s a good sign.

Given the unexpected challenges I have had with my own health, I would advise anyone contemplating making a major dietary change to do so with the assistance of their physician, no matter what your age or how good you think your health is.  At minimum, get a lipid panel done before the change and again a month or two into it.

Veganism is not for me

I have decided that veganism is not for me.  I followed what should have been a good diet with lots of vegetables, legumes, and some sprouted grain bread.  I was eating whole, natural foods.  I was having problems with lethargy and generally low mood.  My primary medical issue is a mood disorder.  It is vitally important that I do what is necessary to protect a stable mood.  Apparently, that includes eating meat.  My total cholesterol was 147.  That is too low.  Low total cholesterol below 160 is linked to depression and other mental disorders; so I must keep my cholesterol levels up, and eating meat helps do that.

I’ve read posts from other failed vegans.  I did well to give it up after only three months.  The health problems could have gotten much worse.  They say the average vegan lasts about six months before they give it up due to health issues.  Given that the problems I was developing are hot-button issues for me that I consider to be potentially fatal, I did not delay my exit from veganism.

[Edit: This post was recovered from my old Exploring Veganism blog.]

B-12 shortage?

I ran into some difficulties that I believe were related to veganism. As I told my doctor, I had problems with physical depression. My mood was fine, but I did not feel like doing much of anything. I was sleeping too much. Also, the corners of my mouth were cracking. I knew that B-12 deficiency could create such problems. The most common vitamin B-12 deficiency symptoms include tiredness, being irritable, finding it hard to concentrate, difficulty remembering things, and in extreme cases, psychosis or depression. The mouth corner cracks are apparently a more obscure symptom. This puzzled me because I was taking a multivitamin that included B-12.

Someone on the Vegan Fitness and Nutrition team on SparkPeople mentioned that there are different forms of B-12. Cyanocobalamin is an artificial form made with cyanide. It is commonly used in supplements. That was the form used in my multivitamin tablets. Another form, methylcobalamin, is natural. It is more readily absorbed. It is the specific form needed for nervous system health, according to an article by Dr. Peter D’Adamo.

Jarrow Formulas Methyl B-12
Jarrow Formulas Methyl B-12

I bought a bottle of Jarrow Formulas Methyl B-12 1000. I felt better very quickly. I also noticed that I was having fewer problems with my eyes. I had noticed over the past couple previous months that my eyes were not adjusting quickly after reading. The speed of accommodation was much improved after starting to take the Methyl B-12. Since I saw such good improvement, I decided that perhaps I should change my multivitamin as well. I discovered that multivitamins produced by NSI are formulated with methylcobalamin. When I run out of my current multivitamin, I will be switching to NSI Synergy Basic Multi-Vitamin Version 3.

[Edit: This post was recovered from my old Exploring Veganism blog.]

Conflicting advice

I’m currently reading The Schwarzbein Principle: The Truth About Losing Weight, Being Healthy, and Feeling Younger by Diana Schwarzbein, M.D. It seems everybody has a different idea of what constitutes a good diet. In her book, she says that fats and cholesterol are important. She also likes to use hormone replacement therapy to keep estrogen levels up. She told stories about how clients on vegetarian diets had high blood cholesterol levels, and they were helped by adding eggs and meat to their diet. And yet, we’ve got The China Study, a massive epidemiological study, and other studies as well telling us that a plant based diet is superior for health. It’s difficult to know how to reconcile the information. To her credit, Dr. Schwarzbein does have a chapter on The Committed Vegetarian in her book in which she says the following:

Again, I never discourage anyone from eating a vegetarian diet. I discourage eating a bad vegetarian diet of cereals, pasta, breads, and sweets. A good vegetarian diet emphasizes tofu, seeds, legumes, nuts and whole grains, such as barley and quinoa, to get all the protein you need. A good vegetarian diet also provides essential fats from avocados, olives, and oils. You must mix and balance foods to get the needed nutritional balance at every meal. It is more work to eat a good vegetarian diet than it is to eat a meat-based diet, but it can be done.

My guess is that it’s only more work until one establishes the habits of a balanced diet. Then it becomes second nature. Right now, it’s still work for me to figure out how to do this right.

[Edit: This post was recovered from my old Exploring Veganism blog. Veganism ultimately proved to be an inappropriate approach for me.]

Sugar is not always vegan

It has come to my attention that white sugar from cane is not always vegan. According to PETA, some manufacturers filter their sugar through charred cattle bones. For any Jews reading this, I would think this would render the sugar non-pareve as well. Bone-char is not used in the refining of beet sugar.

The following brands of cane sugar DO NOT use bone-char: Florida Crystals, Jack Frost, Country Cane, 4# Flow-Sweet, Pillsbury, Supreme, Southern Bell, and Rouse’s Markets.

The following brands of cane sugar DO use bone-char: Domino, Savannah Foods, and C&H.

[Edit: This post was recovered from my old Exploring Veganism blog. Veganism ultimately proved to be an inappropriate approach for me.]

Still figuring this out

I’ve been reading Food for Life: How the New Four Food Groups Can Save Your Life by Neal Barnard, M.D. The four food groups are whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes. His book includes 21 days of menus for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, plus a menu for holidays and another for barbeques. There are also plans for seven convenience dinners that can be used when time is tight.

From reading Food for Life, I think I’ve at least figured out why I am gaining weight so far. I am probably using too much fat. Nuts are not recommended in Dr. Barnard’s plan, and he also recommends against added fat. Going forward, I want to try Dr. Barnard’s plans and see if that helps with the weight issue.

[Edit: This post was recovered from my old Exploring Veganism blog. Veganism ultimately proved to be an inappropriate approach for me.]

Weight up, measurements same

I was a bit concerned the first few days of practicing vegetarianism when my weight was going up. My weight seems to have stabilized now and may even be starting to go down. Yesterday, I noticed as I was getting dressed that my pants seemed a bit looser. I took a set of measurements and found that overall they had remained the same in spite of the recent climb in weight. My abdomen measurement was down by 1″.

My portions were rather large the first few days. I have begun experimenting with smaller portions to see if I can be satisfied with less. So far, that is going well.

I have had some difficulty eating in a vegan way when going to restaurants. There really aren’t that many choices. Soups may have a meat broth or there may be egg and dairy in baked goods. Grains in restaurants tend not to be whole as well. Since I have taken up veganism for health more than philosophy, I have decided to choose my foods in restaurants according to what I perceive to be the most healthful with minimal animal products even if they may not be perfectly vegan. At home, though, I am choosing and preparing vegan foods for myself.

One thing I have discovered is that I do not have very many vegan options in my current recipe database. Since having a good cookbook was so instrumental when I did the HCG Diet, I decided to buy a couple of vegan cookbooks for myself. I ordered these: 500 Vegan Recipes: An Amazing Variety of Delicious Recipes, From Chilis and Casseroles to Crumbles, Crisps, and Cookies by Celine Steen and Joni Marie Newman and 1,000 Vegan Recipes by Robin Robertson. I also ordered a book held at the library: Food for Life: How the New Four Food Groups Can Save Your Life by Neal Barnard, M.D. My local branch should receive it today.

One of the reasons I chose to try veganism was because I felt sluggish when I was eating a diet high in animal foods. Already, I have seen improvements. I am beginning to wake up earlier, and I feel better generally.

[Edit: This post was recovered from my old Exploring Veganism blog. Veganism ultimately proved to be an inappropriate approach for me.]

Trying out veganism

I’ve been reading The China Study lately. Its main message is that we can control our health outcomes by adopting a mostly vegan diet. According to the authors, studies show that animal proteins cause the so-called Western diseases of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

During the animal studies, they noticed that rats fed a plant-based diet were more active than those on a diet including animal protein. They gave the rats metered exercise wheels and found out very quickly that the rats on the plant-based diet were twice as active!

During the last several days, I’ve felt very sluggish. During this time, I ate a lot of dairy and meat, since that sort of thing is encouraged when one follows a low carbohydrate diet. When I read about the vegan rats, it dawned on me that the low carbohydrate high animal protein diet could be the cause of that sluggishness. I decided to give veganism a try to see if I felt better.

Yesterday was my first day on a vegan diet. It’s probably too soon to tell if I’m feeling better. I’m not exactly sure what metric to use for that. Perhaps I could look at how many hours I sleep. Last week, I slept in a lot, often sleeping until 11:00 AM or noon. I used information from Low-cost vegan meal plans.: An article from: Vegetarian Journal as a model for how to plan the meals. I certainly did not lack for protein. According to Diet Pro, I got 82 g of protein, which is more than the 55 g or so that I need. I got 20.5 mg of iron, too, which is plenty, even for a woman. I was surprised that I got 75% of my B12 need as well. I might have gotten more, since I don’t have B12 amounts in my database for some of the foods I ate.

[Edit: This post was recovered from my old Exploring Veganism blog. Veganism ultimately proved to be an inappropriate approach for me.]