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No, Veganism is not a Cure-all Diet

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Guest Essay by April-Tui Buckley


I’m not the first person to raise this issue, but a recent altercation I had with a fairly prominent vegan recipe blogger made me realise what a problem this was. Veganism is about animal rights, first and foremost. It’s not a diet, as much as that seems to be the main focus on social media, and it’s important I stress that before I delve into this topic. I don’t want to contribute to the diet obsession we have within vegan circles, it is about so much more than that. However, when it comes to diet and nutrition I see a recurring theme that serves no purpose, either to animals or to people.

Health-shaming has become a serious problem in our community. Anyone who is not a super healthy, super-skinny vegan is accused of either cheating, secretly eating animals, or of not eating the right vegan diet. I see this most amongst the ‘McDougaller’s,’ those that follow the Dr. McDougall diet plan, a starch based, no-oil diet. It’s actually a diet I personally like. Plenty of people have transformed their health following it, or close versions of it. That is excellent, who wouldn’t want that? The problem is that a lot of vegans believe their particular way of eating makes them immune to illness, and that any vegan who does get sick has only themselves to blame because they are ‘not being honest.’ Unfortunately this kind of attitude comes from Dr. McDougall himself, he has created a community that thinks this way too. Indeed, in this brief but alarming online discussion I had, where I tried to explain the complexities of thyroid disease and that simply popping pills and following a McDougall diet would not necessarily control it, this person said that most people were not honest and had to realise that continuing to ‘eat chocolate cupcakes and forget your medication’ was the reason for their weight and illness struggles. This is a common and unfair perception of thyroid patients. That it is the fault of the person suffering it. They are lazy and greedy. We are actually incredibly careful about our life-saving medication and just as careful about diet and lifestyle, almost too much if I’m honest.

This kind of ill-informed and ableist attitude is not just reserved for thyroid patients. I have seen what can only be described as seriously disturbing conversations amongst McDougaller’s and raw foodies about autism; that it is caused by poor diet. These people think it is a curable ‘disease’ or ‘disorder.’They are almost hysterical at the idea that we are seeing more and more ‘autistics’ as they refer to them, and that it is reaching ‘crisis point.’ When will someone do something to stop it. One person even shared an ‘article’ that suggested obese people who also had diabetes had a significant increased risk of having a child on the autistic spectrum. The conversation that followed actually discussed whether or not ‘these people’ should be allowed to have children, so great was the risk (the article was poor and unscientific, there is no science that autism is caused by either obesity or diabetes, or both). I don’t know what shocked me more, the idea that people were so ignorant to what autism actually is, the idea they wanted to prevent it, or that they discussed who could or could not have children based on a perceived increased risk of birthing a child on the spectrum. Many times I have seen discussions about how dairy and other animal products are a contributing factor to autism. I know I am not the only one amazed that people think this way. My husband and daughter are on the spectrum, as are many of my friends. I cannot understand anyone wanting to prevent their existence or the existence of what is essentially just a different way of perceiving the world. What shocks me still is how prevalent this attitude is in the vegan community. It is dangerous, it is discriminatory and it has no place in our community.

Part of the reason we see so much health-shaming is that a lot of vegans think they are health experts now. You know, they follow Nutrition Facts, they buy loads of plant based nutrition books, they may have even been to a few of Dr. McDougall’s ‘intensive weekends.’ Great. Wonderful. Take control of your health. Awesome. But stay the fuck out of my body, please. You don’t know enough to advise other people about their health. You don’t know enough about medicine to understand diseases, even obesity. You really don’t. Stop blaming other people for having a human experience, we are not immune to it just because we are vegan. Stop seeing people who think differently to you as something that should be prevented, a disease we must stop by eating a restrictive diet. The world is full of people who have extra challenges, who have imperfect health, who have bodies that work differently to yours. Just because your sister pops a pill and controls her thyroid, doesn’t mean it’s that easy for everyone else. Just because someone at your daughters school has autism, doesn’t mean you understand it or get to speak about it on their behalf. We are different. We are human. We get sick. We maybe don’t live on potatoes and beans like McDougall says we should. That does not mean you get to lecture us about how our completely unrelated illness is caused by our secret late-night binges on oil that don’t actually happen. You don’t get to tell people their child is a mistake that needs to be erased by eating more potatoes, okay. You hurt people when you talk like that and you also make yourself look bloody ignorant. 

Overstating the benefits of veganism as it relates to diet, is not helping animals. Please, let’s refrain from saying eating only plants is going to make you disease-proof. It’s not. It’s going to give you a much better chance at avoiding certain diseases, but not all. We might alleviate some of the severity of symptoms, we might reduce some of our medication even, but please don’t fool yourself or others into thinking vegan’s are immune to illness. If you want to follow a health guru, and you really love potatoes (I do too) then go for it! But the one thing you don’t want to follow is adopting ableist attitudes towards sick people, those on the autistic spectrum, those with mental illness and anyone who isn’t thin. It has nothing to do with veganism. It is very easy to talk about things from the privileged position of someone who has never had a health challenge to overcome, or as someone who could afford the medical care many others are not so fortunate to have. None of that makes you a health expert, a better vegan or a better representative for animals. Please stop.

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  • vadiazinhagenteboa

    Vegans are reaping the rewards from their diet.

    • jnthn

      Did you even read the article? This has nothing to do with veganism, but simple irresponsibility.

      “The issue here is not one of a plant-based diet being inadequate or inappropriate, but rather the absence of formula and/or breast milk in this infant’s diet,” Las Vegas-based dietitian Andy Bellatti, unaffiliated with the Spanish case study, wrote in an email. He noted that cow milk also lacks vitamin C.

      The Spanish case study authors write that if fruits, which contain vitamin C, formula or breast milk had supplemented this baby’s diet, he would have had his vitamin C needs met.”

      • vadiazinhagenteboa

        I have read all the articles. It has everything to do with veganism. These as well:

        • jnthn

          Keep it simple. The first article you yourself posted **explicitly** states that the question is “NOT one of a plant-based diet being inadequate or inappropriate” and that if the parents had fed their child a suitable diet (vegan or nonvegan) “he would have had his vitamin C needs met.” Case closed.

          That story has everything to do with education and responsibility and nothing to do with veganism or nonveganism. If I cited an article about a nonvegan who died after consuming a diet solely consisting of dairy cheese and pig flesh, and added “Nonvegans are reaping the rewards from their diet”, how would your respond? My guess is you’d say that I’m ridiculous and his problem wasn’t his nonveganism but rather his lack of personal responsibility. Right?

          There is NO difference here.

          • vadiazinhagenteboa

            A vegan diet is inappropriate because it doesn’t provide all the essentials humans need (B12 for example) without supplementation. Even with supplementation it’s guaranteed that vegans will need to take IV B12 to bring their levels to an acceptable level in the long run. Vegan mothers tend to have nutritional deficiencies and produce nutritionally poor milk, and breastfeeding their babies will result in severe developmental issues (brain atrophy, growth impairment). Not only that, some vegans believe a vegan diet is adequate for babies from day 1, and instead of breastfeeding their babies they feed this fad of a diet to their offspring. Toddlers need foods from animal sources as well to develop properly. I’m keeping it simple, being a vegan is the irresponsibility here, which you fail to grasp.

          • jnthn

            1. “A vegan diet is inappropriate because it doesn’t provide all the
            essentials humans need (B12 for example) without supplementation.” This is simply untrue (nor would it make it “inappropriate” even if it were). Regarding B12, deficiency is an issue for ALL people, and for a number of reasons, not only vegans.

            2. All the claims about the health of vegan mothers is untrue and/or pure speculation

            3. I have no idea why vegan mothers would not breastfeed their infants, as it is not contradictory to veganism in the slightest. Please direct me to the “some vegans” you speak of, or else it is another imaginary assertion.

            4. “Toddlers need foods from animal sources as well to develop properly.” This is patently false, as indicated by pretty much every major health organization, including the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

            5. “I’m keeping it simple, being a vegan is the irresponsibility here, which you fail to grasp.” Once again, the same major health organizations have admitted the viability if not preferability of a well-balanced vegan diet to other diets. Please step out of the 1960s.

          • vadiazinhagenteboa

            1.100% of vegans are susceptible to B12 deficiency without supplements. People with a balanced omnivorous diet get adequate amounts of B12 – 4oz of salmon has 3.6mcg of B12, comfortably more than the daily value needed.

            2. See attached image and/or Google “Nutritional vitamin B12 deficiency in a breast-fed infant of a vegan-diet mother.”

            3. All the articles I’ve posted here, including the vegans that went to prison for child neglect & manslaughter. I have more and will post them when I get to my computer.

            4. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is not a government body and in no way defines the food guidelines for Americans. They are merely a paid-membership website that shills veganism because it’s trendy right now and they want to expand their paid user base, and because it lost sponsorship from McDonald’s and Coca Cola. Basically another “Nutrition Facts.” There’s a reason why the AND was forced to drop “American” from its name. 😉

            5. Precisely zero government bodies recommend a vegan diet. See #4. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/b745efb7f6e214d1ddfc106baa742b27bbeeabdc7bf5101bfbd99a681a6cd3ec.png

          • jnthn

            1. Everyone is susceptible to a deficiency of anything in the absence of a “balanced” diet. The fact that human agricultural practices (and animal exploitation practices) have made vegans more vulnerable to b12 deficiency than others does not somehow nullify the ethical imperative of veganism. Irrespective of that fact, the basic suggestion that we should kill animals rather than consume plant foods fortified with b12 is absurd.

            2. You mean the one study of one mother from thirty years ago? Or the articles that have nothing to do with veganism per se but simply b12 deficiency? Never have I doubted the need for b12. What I don’t see how that magically justifies nonveganism.

            3. I will repeat myself again. You are posting stories about people who are irresponsible in feeding their children. How about the scores of vegan mothers who raise perfectly healthy babies and children? If veganism was the culprit, how are these babies surviving and thriving?

            4. Once again, you say “”Toddlers need foods from animal sources as well to develop properly.” Besides the fact that there are many, many vegan toddlers somehow developing “properly” without “foods from animal sources,” I welcome any studies from major institutions/authorities that claim that a balanced vegan diet **categorically** cannot accomplish this task and “animal sources” are absolutely necessary.

            5. I also don’t know why “government bodies” should be regarded as the main authority in these matters, as if they are somehow immune from influence and bias. Be that as it may, even the USDA sanctions veganism under its “Other Healthy Eating Patterns” in its 2015-2020 Guidelines.

          • vadiazinhagenteboa

            1. Veganism is the absence of a balanced diet. Vegans can’t even digest most of their food and it requires using synthetic dietary pills to avoid illness, which are neither “natural” or “healthy,” but no, that goes right over a vegan’s head. Total protein from plants and legumes is harder the absorb than that from animal sources. Even B12 fortified foods is not enough because synthetic B12 is not well absorbed by humans – from 1000mcg only 1% makes it into your body. IV B12 is a must for vegans in the long run. Taurine, another essential for cardiovascular function and central nervous system, cannot be obtained from a vegan diet alone either. It’s absurd to think humanity can thrive solely on a vegan diet, especially children.

            2. Both studies are about strict vegetarians either breastfeeding or giving a vegan diet to their children. You don’t need to dance around the subject and pretend to overlook the details, but there are plenty of other recent studies showing how a vegan diet negatively affects the development of children and I’ve attached some more in case you still have difficulty understanding the relation of a vegan diet to retarded development in children.
            You can also google them:

            Cerebral Atrophy in a Vitamin B12-deficient Infant of a Vegetarian Mother, J Health Popul Nutr. 2014 Jun; 32(2): 367–371.
            Severe vitamin B12 deficiency in an exclusively breastfed 5-month-old Italian infant born to a mother receiving multivitamin supplementation during pregnancy, BMC PediatricsBMC series ¿ open, inclusive and trusted 2012 12:85 DOI: 10.1186/1471-2431-12-85
            Infants and children consuming atypical diets: Vegetarianism and macrobiotics, Paediatr Child Health. 2007 Mar; 12(3): 185–188.
            Persistence of neurological damage induced by dietary vitamin B-12 deficiency in infancy, Arch Dis Child 1997;77:137-139 doi:10.1136/adc.77.2.137

            3. I’m posting stories about people who are irresponsible in feeding their children a vegan diet, from which their children developed complications. A vegan diet is not suitable for the development of children. See #2 & #3.

            4. If you insist, see attached screenshots from the United States Departament of Agriculture, and State Government of Victoria, Australia:

            The USDA’s 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines recommend vegetables, whole grains, meat and dairy. See attached screenshot. For moms-to-be, see “Making Healthy Choices in Each Food Group,” over at Choosemyplate gov, also see attached screenshot.
            The SGV Australia categorically states “Very young children and babies should not eat a strict vegetarian diet.” See attached screenshot.

            Also, alternative soy baby formula has amounts of animal products in it. Why? Because it’s a well-established fact that a vegan diet alone does not meet the developmental needs of babies.

            5. Absolutely not for babies and moms-to-be. See #4.

            In conclusion: A vegan diet is not suitable for babies and moms-to-be, but do let me know if the facts posted above are still unclear to you.

          • jnthn

            You began with “Vegans are reaping the rewards from their diets” yet now it has become “Some babies are reaping the consequences of some vegan parents not properly managing their B12 intake.”

            This only means that vegan parents (all parents actually) must seriously monitor what they and their children are being fed. It says nothing about the viability of a balanced vegan diet for most if not all humans. The sensitivity of B12 does not banish a vegan diet from the realm of “balanced” diets. This clearly ignores the millions upon millions of vegans who have lived, are living, and will live perfectly healthy lives.

            The fact that the modern agricultural and sanitizing practices have made B12 less available and hence a sensitive issue for vegans does not diminish the ethical imperative of veganism. Killing animals for B12 is simply not a necessity. Plant foods fortified with B12 and/or supplements fill this void, otherwise these millions of vegans would not be living as healthy as they are. The idea that we should kill animals when perfectly workable alternatives are available is nothing short of preposterous.

            Thank you for the civil discussion though I doubt we’ll see eye-to-eye anytime soon.

          • vadiazinhagenteboa

            You’re welcome. Arguing with vegans is a lot like arguing with creationists – they start off invoking pseudo-science and rationalisations, but once those are broken down, it always comes back to emotional appeals. Creationists just need to believe in Jesus, just like vegans need to believe that not eating animals is somehow saving them and the planet. Killing is a necessity and veganism doesn’t exclude vegans from it. Plants are living organisms with senses that are killed for food, too. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a76b9556e5992242f5ec9d53c518d51a84f09c467e53be85edd436c823b4c50a.png

          • jnthn

            Don’t misinterpret my response. It is an understatement to say I strongly disagree with your conclusions and find them terribly unsubstantiated. It is clear that you don’t understand the philosophy and ethics of veganism (saying veganism is about “saving them and the planet” and implying that plants are ethically equivalent to nonhuman animals shows this).

            All I said is thank you for being civil in your discourse.

          • jnthn

            That meme is nonsense. It says ‘Plants Are Also Sentient Beings!” when there are no peer-reviews scientific studies that prove this and the non-bold text itself calls plant sentience a “hypothetical possibility”. Nearly everything is hypothetically possible. So what?

            Not to mention the obvious point that more animals are killed to feed “food animals” (who are eventually killed themselves) than humans need to feed themselves. AND if someone truly cares about killing sentient beings she should start with the beings we know for fact are sentient. AND vegans never claim that some of their actions don’t contribute to harm to some sentient beings. You clearly miss the point.

          • vadiazinhagenteboa

            So what that it’s not a matter of ethics, but survival, and plants are biologically living organisms, too. However, since they are such a different kind of life form and skew so much from human and animal behavior, vegans believe plants are non-sentient, not alive. This contributes to the belief that vegans are morally and ethically superior, thus more entitled to killing living organisms for food than others, which is ultimately the necessity to kill for survival that you disapprove so much in your posts. Veganism is nothing short of hypocrisy.

          • jnthn

            Please do some research into animal rights.The basic vegan imperative that derives from animal rights does not involve all “living organisms” but rather sentient beings, that is, beings that (at the very minimum) have the capacity to suffer. You wrongly attribute to vegans an ethical concern for non-sentient “living organisms,” and use the word “killing” as if killing a sunflower and killing a dog are ethically equivalent. I seriously doubt you live your life in accordance with such an absurd view.

            Your statement that “vegans believe plants are non-sentient, not alive” demonstrates your lack of understanding. Vegans accept that plants are “alive,”but that does not make them sentient. And even if they were, I repeat, more plants are used to feed the animals we eventually kill than are needed to feed humans directly. Veganism is still the proper response.

          • vadiazinhagenteboa

            Of course, conveniently, plants are regarded by vegans as lesser beings so they can be eaten. Basic human instinct, to kill weaker creatures to survive. Ethically, by killing a sunflower, you are preventing it from reproducing, cutting its life cycle short. It goes against your own vegan views, once plants have wants and needs – soil type, sun exposure, temperature and are very well alive with a nervous system, thus sentient.

            A grain is very much like an egg, an embryo, that could germinate and generate a beautiful plant, yet vegans feel no remorse in eating beans, but expect others to feel guilt for eating eggs.

            There’s really no difference here, animals and plants are living organisms at the bottom of the food chain in the grand biological scheme and there should be no shame attached to killing them for food, everybody is doing it, including vegans.

          • VeesaLee

            Omnivorous diets are heavily supplemented. For example … Milk does not prevent rickets because it has no significant amounts of Vitamin D naturally. By law, vitamin D (D2, the vegan version, btw) must be added to all milk because without that supplementation, rickets was common among omnivores because of Vitamin D deficiency. So, by your standards, based on that along, an omnivorous diet is inappropriate.

            I’ve been vegan for almost 10 years now. I’m healthier than I’ve ever been. I’m in my 50s now and look younger, feel better, and am fitter than when I was in my 30s. My labs (including B12 and protein but especially cholesterol) are flawless, which was not the case at all when I was an omnivore.

            A vegan diet for babies, btw, is human breast milk. Human breast milk is for baby humans. Just like cow breast milk is for baby cows.

        • vegan truth seeker

          you are clearly not a very educated person are you?

          if you only eat french fries, you’re eating a ‘vegan diet’ but obviously you’re going to have serious health problems!

          if you only eat steak you’re also going to get sick!!

          what’s your point?

          you’re distorting facts and ‘news’!

          a healthy vegan diet is a varied and balanced one…

          and by the way, contrary to what your nickname says you’re not ‘nice’ at all!!!

          • vadiazinhagenteboa

            You absolutely cannot get vitamin B12 from a vegan diet alone, no matter how “healthy” it is. And I’m very nice for doing this public service announcement. :^)

    • vegan truth seeker

      it’s interesting how anti-vegans trolls go above and beyond to discredit veganism!
      because eating meat, eggs and cow’s milk is soooo healthy!
      it’s the same as if a smoker would try to discredit people’s choice not to smoke!
      again, animal eaters are truly delusional people…

      face it, whether you like it or not you animal eaters are the past, you’re obsolete, we ethical vegans are the future, the next step in human evolution…

      if an evolved alien species would come to earth for the first time, witness how barbaric humans are and if they asked me to give them ONE good reason why they really shouldn’t wipe humans off the face of the planet I honestly wouldn’t be able to do it 🙁

      • vadiazinhagenteboa

        Veganism is already contributing to wiping out vegans off the face of the planet by producing weak retarded children.

  • stewart lands

    And please, unless you are willing to restrict your diet to such vegetable items for which production does not require huge amounts of energy, water, or land resources, then do not claim environmentalist motives, either.

    • vegan truth seeker

      as if raising animals to be slaughtered so you can eat their flesh is very sustainable… animal eaters are truly delusional people!

      • vadiazinhagenteboa

        Farmed salmon is delicious.

      • stewart lands

        I have not suggested that farmed animals are sustainable, either. In fact, the same criticisms that may be leveled against farmed meat may also be accurately directed toward many resource-intensive vegetable items–namely, that they are very destructive of life compared to our better options. Of course, most vegans shrug their shoulders in response, insisting that any vegetable item is fine, no matter how destructive it may be. Environmental motives are but an afterthought to many, and they will not give up almonds, cashews, papaya, banana, kiwi, asparagus, etc. simply because that is what suits their taste buds.

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