Calorie Counter

You are currently viewing the message boards in:

How a vegan diet could affect your intelligence

BeGrandLikeBeGrandLike Posts: 187Member Member Posts: 187Member Member
I'm really curious as to what you all think of this article on vegetarianism/veganism, essential nutrients and deficiencies.


My view on it: It seems to me that it is a far, far more balanced take on the issue than the title implies. It's an in-depth look into the nutrients that are either unavailable or less available in plant based foods, and the kinds of supplementations that may be needed for people who eat plant based (or lacto-ovo vegetarian, in some cases) diets to be optimally healthy.

It also points out that right now, most people simply don't know about most of that- most people know about things like iron and B & D vitamins in terms of supplementation or paying close attention to getting enough, but most of the others are things I'd never heard of. The article DOES point out that you can supplement pretty much all of them, but also that this takes specific research and is less about popping a multivitamin than specifically taking each individual one.

And it also does point out that vegans tend to have better heart health than meat-eaters, so it's not as one-sided as it seems either.

I think it's really interesting? Despite my own complicated history with veg*nism and my personal health (tl;dr: tried many times, every time I got sick and then sicker, it sucks and also that is about MY PERSONAL INSIDES and is not a reflection on other people's experiences), I do think that making eating-more-plants-and-less-animals as accessible and healthy a thing for as many people as possible is a really good idea, and I think it's important that we are willing to leave our own ethical standpoints re eating animals to the side when it comes to looking very clearly at the ways in which eating this way affects us, and how we can move forward in a way which lets us make those choices without making compromises with our health.

I like that- and I'm really interested to see what people's takes on it are here, since it seems like there's generally a positive attitude here towards evidence-based approaches to our bodies!

Replies

  • kshama2001kshama2001 Posts: 21,625Member Member Posts: 21,625Member Member
  • lemurcat2lemurcat2 Posts: 4,956Member Member Posts: 4,956Member Member
    kshama2001 wrote: »
    However, I don't think it's fair to compare impoverished Kenyan schoolchildren with vegans/vegetarians who have the resources to get the nutrients they need.

    This was my immediate thought. It's similar to that study a while back that suggested that people on high carb diets worldwide had negative health consequences, but when you delved down even a little, the people in these categories were getting not only the majority of their carbs from white rice, but also most of their protein and fat from white rice -- in other words, the health issues seemed likely related to malnutrition, a lack of any kind of diet diversity, and -- most likely -- inadequate cals). Absolutely a child eating mostly rice or some other monodiet and likely struggling to get sufficient cals and protein and fat will benefit from added meat (and it's interesting there were similar results from just adding fat to the diet). It's also akin to how impoverished US kids tend to perform better when given a healthy breakfast and/or lunch.

    As you note, I don't think it says much about people in the US on average, who tend to get way more protein than is necessary for health (not that I think there's anything wrong with eating extra protein).
  • jm_1234jm_1234 Posts: 156Member Member Posts: 156Member Member
  • AnnPT77AnnPT77 Posts: 14,252Member Member Posts: 14,252Member Member
    jm_1234 wrote: »

    Maybe it's just me, but on a quick read, that plantbasednews article seems relatively worse to me than the BBC one. She's skimming over some bioavailabity or nutrient subtype issues, for example. I agree that the BBC one was on the alarmist side, and not well reasoned, if its intent is to discourage plant-based eating vs. simply encourage more research. Maybe it's just me, but this one reads more like an offended rant than a well-rounded counter-argument.

    (Note: I'm 45 years a vegetarian, not a shill for Big Meat.)
  • janejellyrolljanejellyroll Posts: 22,160Member Member Posts: 22,160Member Member
    AnnPT77 wrote: »
    jm_1234 wrote: »

    Maybe it's just me, but on a quick read, that plantbasednews article seems relatively worse to me than the BBC one. She's skimming over some bioavailabity or nutrient subtype issues, for example. I agree that the BBC one was on the alarmist side, and not well reasoned, if its intent is to discourage plant-based eating vs. simply encourage more research. Maybe it's just me, but this one reads more like an offended rant than a well-rounded counter-argument.

    (Note: I'm 45 years a vegetarian, not a shill for Big Meat.)

    I noticed at least one questionable thing in that article -- attempting to refute the study about actual iron levels in vegan women with a study about how much iron vegan women were consuming. But we know that iron isn't identically available in all forms, so that's comparing apples to oranges. Theoretically, a vegan woman could consume enough iron -- on paper -- and still have iron levels that weren't sufficient.

    I was hoping for something more robust when I clicked on that article. My hope is that the coverage of the article (I'm seeing it pretty widely discussed online amongst vegans) will lead to someone like Jack Norris (evidence-based vegan RD) to respond at some point, as he can usually be counted on for objectivity and not getting ahead of what studies actually demonstrate.

    (also not shilling for Big Meat!)
    edited January 30
  • lemurcat2lemurcat2 Posts: 4,956Member Member Posts: 4,956Member Member
    I think a fair thing to say is that while there may be no difference in terms of getting adequate nutrients (beyond something like B12, which needs supplementation) between a well-formulated vegan diet and a well-formulated omnivore diet that it does take more effort and education to make sure you have a well-formulated vegan diet, and that is especially true if you are eating at reduced calories. An omnivorous diet, especially one not at a deficit as with the majority of the population, is much more likely to be nutrient-sufficient without thought, although it could well be unhealthful in other ways (including ways that a vegan diet is less prone to). [I'm using vegan diet here to just mean 100% plant-based.] On the other hand, apparently the population as a whole is likely to get too little potassium and such.

    The first article did seem to be really reaching to make it seem more difficult than it is, however. A variety of the things mentioned did not have backup to explain why they (or supplementation) is needed, and they are not things normally supplemented, it is true. The evidence on iron seems to be disputed -- my own suspicion is that iron deficiencies are more complex than just about food choice, since many of those who do have them need to do more than just eat more iron (and are eating as much as people who are fine). I don't notice my iron being low on 100% plant based days, so it comes down to whether not having heme iron is a loss.

    Jane's point about B6 really struck me as correct too.

    On the other hand, I've noticed vegan sources like that linked above do try to dismiss the challenges too easily, including by claiming (incorrectly) that omnivores are just as likely to be low on B12. (It is true that they are now recommending that people over 50 supplement whatever one's diet.)
  • janejellyrolljanejellyroll Posts: 22,160Member Member Posts: 22,160Member Member
    lemurcat2 wrote: »
    I think a fair thing to say is that while there may be no difference in terms of getting adequate nutrients (beyond something like B12, which needs supplementation) between a well-formulated vegan diet and a well-formulated omnivore diet that it does take more effort and education to make sure you have a well-formulated vegan diet, and that is especially true if you are eating at reduced calories. An omnivorous diet, especially one not at a deficit as with the majority of the population, is much more likely to be nutrient-sufficient without thought, although it could well be unhealthful in other ways (including ways that a vegan diet is less prone to). [I'm using vegan diet here to just mean 100% plant-based.] On the other hand, apparently the population as a whole is likely to get too little potassium and such.

    The first article did seem to be really reaching to make it seem more difficult than it is, however. A variety of the things mentioned did not have backup to explain why they (or supplementation) is needed, and they are not things normally supplemented, it is true. The evidence on iron seems to be disputed -- my own suspicion is that iron deficiencies are more complex than just about food choice, since many of those who do have them need to do more than just eat more iron (and are eating as much as people who are fine). I don't notice my iron being low on 100% plant based days, so it comes down to whether not having heme iron is a loss.

    Jane's point about B6 really struck me as correct too.

    On the other hand, I've noticed vegan sources like that linked above do try to dismiss the challenges too easily, including by claiming (incorrectly) that omnivores are just as likely to be low on B12. (It is true that they are now recommending that people over 50 supplement whatever one's diet.)

    Yes, my n=1 experience is that everything that is potentially challenging on a vegan diet becomes even more challenging when one is attempting to eat at a deficit.

    And even if was true that non-vegans are at equal risk of B12 deficiency (to be clear: this is not supported by evidence), that doesn't mean that it isn't also of concern to vegans. I feel like there's sometimes this handwaving away of B12 because it's deeply uncomfortable to the subset of vegans who are arguing that our natural diet is plant-based (I don't attach any particular virtue to "natural," so I have no issues accepting that it's essential for vegans to supplement it or eat fortified foods).
  • Jennywren120Jennywren120 Posts: 3Member Member Posts: 3Member Member
    I was an avid follower of Dr. Fuhrman for years until my son was born. (A doctor that advocates for a plant centered diet and discourages meat and dairy.) He encourages those on a plant centered diet (which he believes is for optimal health) to supplement certain nutrients because they are NOT found in abundance in the diet. In that sense, it is a very healthy diet because you are void of nothing. But I always thought it was weird that in order to achieve optimal health you needed to supplement vitamins...didn't seem very natural to me. When my son was born with 5 million food allergies and my food choices for him were very limited I started discovering the wonderful world of meat. Meat is incredibly nutritious, despite my previous beliefs, and can supply an abundance of essential vitamins, amino acids and fats that children (and their brains!) need to grow. Do I believe that plants are also essential? Yes, absolutely. As many as you can get! But I realized that there is no "black and white" with food. Eat whole foods...meat, vegetables, beans, fruits, nuts, seeds...and be healthy! Everything supplies something essential. Don't eat fried foods, fast food, table sugar, high sodium, boxed food and processed crap because you won't be healthy...God gave us all of the food groups to eat for a reason.
    edited January 31
  • janejellyrolljanejellyroll Posts: 22,160Member Member Posts: 22,160Member Member
    jm_1234 wrote: »
    I believe the BBC article is fundamentally flawed and is click bait. The statement "Going [insert diet] could make you less intelligent" is true for any diet that has nutritional deficiencies. It's not a symptom of the diet but of the deficiency. The only way to compare a vegan diet to a non-vegan is for both diets to be equal in terms of nutrition and then compare the impact on the body. Anything else is apples to oranges.

    I think the challenge that the authors of the article (and those who agree with them) are making is that it may not be easy for the two diets (vegan and non-vegan) to be equal in terms of nutrition. There may be nutrients that vegans struggle to get consistently and there may be nutrients in animal products that we haven't yet identified or fully understand.

    I do believe it is meaningful to understand if the average vegan is going to struggle more to get certain nutrients than the average non-vegan (assuming such mythical creatures as the "average" anyone exists). This is information that we can use to better plan our diets, so to dismiss stuff like this doesn't really help.
  • SoHowLongIsThisGonnaTakeSoHowLongIsThisGonnaTake Posts: 210Member Member Posts: 210Member Member
    .

    edited January 31
  • kimny72kimny72 Posts: 14,924Member Member Posts: 14,924Member Member
    I was an avid follower of Dr. Fuhrman for years until my son was born. (A doctor that advocates for a plant centered diet and discourages meat and dairy.) He encourages those on a plant centered diet (which he believes is for optimal health) to supplement certain nutrients because they are NOT found in abundance in the diet. In that sense, it is a very healthy diet because you are void of nothing. But I always thought it was weird that in order to achieve optimal health you needed to supplement vitamins...didn't seem very natural to me. When my son was born with 5 million food allergies and my food choices for him were very limited I started discovering the wonderful world of meat. Meat is incredibly nutritious, despite my previous beliefs, and can supply an abundance of essential vitamins, amino acids and fats that children (and their brains!) need to grow. Do I believe that plants are also essential? Yes, absolutely. As many as you can get! But I realized that there is no "black and white" with food. Eat whole foods...meat, vegetables, beans, fruits, nuts, seeds...and be healthy! Everything supplies something essential. Don't eat fried foods, fast food, table sugar, high sodium, boxed food and processed crap because you won't be healthy...God gave us all of the food groups to eat for a reason.

    You contradicted yourself with the two bolded phrases. You are correct that there is no "black & white" with food. Which is why you can be healthy and eat some fried, fast, or processed food. I suspect it would be difficult to be optimally healthy eating just those foods, but even health isn't black & white. We make literally hundreds of choices in our day-to-day lives that move us slightly closer to, or slightly farther from, optimal health.

    *
    I suspect the same holds true on the decision of whether or not to eat animal products. IMHO it's possible to eat a healthy diet eating vegetarian or omnivore, and whether or not it's more or less difficult to optimize your health eating one way or the other might have as much to do with all those other decisions, like where in the world you live, what your financial means are, where you get your food from, how mindfully you choose your meals, and myriad other factors.
    edited January 31
  • janejellyrolljanejellyroll Posts: 22,160Member Member Posts: 22,160Member Member
    kimny72 wrote: »
    I was an avid follower of Dr. Fuhrman for years until my son was born. (A doctor that advocates for a plant centered diet and discourages meat and dairy.) He encourages those on a plant centered diet (which he believes is for optimal health) to supplement certain nutrients because they are NOT found in abundance in the diet. In that sense, it is a very healthy diet because you are void of nothing. But I always thought it was weird that in order to achieve optimal health you needed to supplement vitamins...didn't seem very natural to me. When my son was born with 5 million food allergies and my food choices for him were very limited I started discovering the wonderful world of meat. Meat is incredibly nutritious, despite my previous beliefs, and can supply an abundance of essential vitamins, amino acids and fats that children (and their brains!) need to grow. Do I believe that plants are also essential? Yes, absolutely. As many as you can get! But I realized that there is no "black and white" with food. Eat whole foods...meat, vegetables, beans, fruits, nuts, seeds...and be healthy! Everything supplies something essential. Don't eat fried foods, fast food, table sugar, high sodium, boxed food and processed crap because you won't be healthy...God gave us all of the food groups to eat for a reason.

    You contradicted yourself with the two bolded phrases. You are correct that there is no "black & white" with food. Which is why you can be healthy and eat some fried, fast, or processed food. I suspect it would be difficult to be optimally healthy eating just those foods, but even health isn't black & white. We make literally hundreds of choices in our day-to-day lives that move us slightly closer to, or slightly farther from, optimal health.

    *
    I suspect the same holds true on the decision of whether or not to eat animal products. IMHO it's possible to eat a healthy diet eating vegetarian or omnivore, and whether or not it's more or less difficult to optimize your health eating one way or the other might have as much to do with all those other decisions, like where in the world you live, what your financial means are, where you get your food from, how mindfully you choose your meals, and myriad other factors.

    And from what we know right now, brain health also involves a host of non-dietary factors, such as physical activity, quality of sleep, minimizing stress, and staying mentally active, things that are equally doable (and probably equally failed) by vegans and non-vegans.
  • ScottgriesserScottgriesser Posts: 172Member Member Posts: 172Member Member
    Plants make oxygen. Animals make co2. We breathe oxygen. co2 kills you. Eating plants reduces oxygen. Eating animals reduces co2.

    Save the planet, eat animals.
  • AnnPT77AnnPT77 Posts: 14,252Member Member Posts: 14,252Member Member
    jm_1234 wrote: »
    I believe the BBC article is fundamentally flawed and is click bait. The statement "Going [insert diet] could make you less intelligent" is true for any diet that has nutritional deficiencies. It's not a symptom of the diet but of the deficiency. The only way to compare a vegan diet to a non-vegan is for both diets to be equal in terms of nutrition and then compare the impact on the body. Anything else is apples to oranges.

    I agree that it's click-bait, and with most of your other contentions.

    At the same time, I think articles like this may be a useful counterbalance to the ridiculously misleading so-called "documentaries" recently about the primacy of veganism, buttressed by too many vegan advocacy sources that misrepresent nutritional science.

    I support people choosing fully plant-based diets, which I believe can be nutritionally adequate with no great investment of effort. I support people choosing a fully vegan way of living (plant-based plus other non-food avoidance of harm to animals). Those are admirable ethical positions, and they (IMO, as far as current nutritional science can demostrate) inherently require no nutritional deficiencies.

    Currently, there's a lot of pop-junk-"veganism"** that can lead people down a primrose path to under-nutrition, by not talking plainly about making it a point to get those nutrients that can require a little more explicit thought, when only eating plants. IMO, we see the effects of that here on MFP, the starry-eyed new converts believing that (for one example) as long as you eat all and only (any) plants, you'll have a nutritionally excellent diet. Click-bait of the BBC article's nature may be helpful as counterbalance, in catching the eye of those attracted to click-bait (or its video-"documentary" equivalent).

    Over many years of vegetarianism, I've seen friends - actual people I know in real life - decide to be vegetarian, not understand the nutritional implications, and have their health suffer as a consequence. That, I don't want for anyone.

    I wish we lived in a world where all information sources were balanced, careful, complete, etc. But we don't. I don't love the BBC article (already said so, already said why), but I think it has to be assessed in a broader context, to some extent.

    ** "veganism" in quotes because some seem to be talking about diet only, not actual veganism
Sign In or Register to comment.