Vegetarians or omnivores?
Many people today are wondering whether to follow a diet for omnivores or vegetarians. There are also some who strongly feel the moral choice to stop eating animal origin foods.
But most people choose a vegetarian diet because they regard it as a healthier choice. For the past 50 years, it has become increasingly rumoured that meat, eggs and animal fats are harmful. This idea has spread so well that few people now dispute it.
What do the surveys say?
The problem with dietary surveys is that most of them are based on large population studies and eating habits, which are obtained mainly through diet or 24-hour diet questionnaires.
The first study linking saturated fats to heart disease by Ancel Keys (and based on 50 years of dietary policy for low fat intake) looked at about 30 men from Crete and their diet the day before and was linked to the fact that those who ate vegetables had fewer heart conditions as opposed to those who ate more saturated fat.
Another study, for example, suggests that Asians moving from Asia to the US eat more meat and have higher percentage of heart disease and cancer, but also consume much more sugar. Is it meat or is it sugar? These types of population studies can not prove cause and effect, they only show correlation.
Many experimental studies on the vegan or paleo diet, which should give more immediate indications of cause and effect, often have only a few people in the study, making it difficult to draw firm conclusions. Worse still, the diets they use for comparison (the control group) are not ideal alternative diets.
Vegetarians or omnivores?
Research has suggested that vegetarian deficiencies in many essential nutrients include iodine, iron, zinc, taurine, vitamins A, D and B12, selenium, protein, calcium and omega-3 fatty acids. Vegetarians also tend to consume increased amounts of carbohydrates and processed foods to meet their needs for protein and vitamins.
What does evolution say?
There is a view that humans are not planned to eat meat. They report the lack of canines and claws for eating prey. It is certain that humans are not carnivores, although they can thrive on a raw meat diet. Humans are not herbivores either: they do not have the long intestinal system and multiple stomachs of herbivores like cows. Cows are planned to eat 100% plant food. People are not.
So humans are not carnivores or herbivores, but omnivores. Evolution has equipped humans to thrive in a wide variety of foods. Man’s ability to eat whatever food was available enabled him to survive in very different environments.
The fact that humans can be vegetarian or omnivorous and maintain good health is also evidenced by the fact that different genetics, biochemistry and immunity determine the different biological requirements for the maintenance of the body.
Ideology can be convincing, but harsh reality often destroys an attractive idea. People can die from imaginary dietary beliefs.
A change in diet means a change in philosophy. Dr. Terry Walsh, who has been a vegetarian for years, said: “I spent some time exploring life in nature. We all eventually consume each other. Our atoms and molecules are constantly being recycled. Every living thing that does not benefit from photosynthesis must consume other beings – plants, fungi, bacteria and animals. And finally, they will consume me. I prayed and meditated on these ideas. People have been eating all these things for thousands of generations, so I decided not to commit a crime against nature if I ate meat. “Maybe I was even closer to nature.”
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- Cole, Matthew (2014). “‘The greatest cause on earth’: The historical formation of veganism as an ethical practice”. In Taylor, Nik; Twine, Richard (eds.). The Rise of Critical Animal Studies: From the Margins to the Centre. Routledge. pp. 203–224. ISBN 978-1-135-10087-2.
Dr. Nikoleta Koini, M.D.
Doctor of Functional, Preventive, Anti-ageing and Restorative Medicine.
Diplomate and Board Certified in Anti-aging, Preventive, Functional and Regenerative Medicine from A4M (American Academy in Antiaging Medicine).