Are there people who benefit from some animal protein?

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Are there people who benefit from some animal protein?

Postby Adrienne » Mon Mar 17, 2008 9:25 pm

Hi Jeff

Are there people out there who benefit from some animal protein in their diet? Every so often I come across a former vegetarian or vegan who says they "feel better" with some animal protein.

Are there circumstances where some people with certain health issues would benefit from consuming some animal foods?

Have you come across healthy people who say they "feel better" eating meat or fish?

I am wondering if this "feeling better" is more psychological than physical or if they were eating too many refined carbs or processed foods while on vegetarian/vegan diets.

Thanks
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Postby Quiet Heather » Tue Mar 18, 2008 2:50 am

I'm so glad you asked this. Lately I've been coming across people who say they feel better, are healthier, lost weight, etc. since they started eating a lot (I mean around 100 grams a day) of fat, mostly saturated fat from butter and coconut oil. I was going to ask Jeff the same question only in regards to fat instead of protein.
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Postby JeffN » Tue Mar 18, 2008 7:14 am

Greetings,

There is no known physiological reason, why anyone would benefit from eating animal protein and/or saturated fat, if they were already consuming a well planned optimal plant food diet. I do not know how adding animal food (or saturated fat) can make it better.

However, IMHO, that is not the real question or problem. The real question or problem is why do some people say they do not feel good on a vegan or plant based diet. And, to me, the answer is simple. Look at the diets that most vegans/vegetarians consume.

While some of you may be the exception, most vegan diets I see are full of highly refined, highly processed (junk) foods, low in fiber, high in fat, high in sodium, high in refined sweeteners, low in essential fats, high in omega 6s, high in calorie density and low in nutrient density. The contain little fresh fruits, veggies, starchy veggies, intact whole grains and legumes. These are not ideal, nor are the optimal.

Being vegan (as in being raw) does not in anyway guarantee you a healthy diet. Regardless of whether or not someone is vegan (or raw), they still have to optimize their nutrient intake and limit the known harmful dietary components.

To me, veganism and raw foodism are not diets, they are philosophical ideas and/or belief systems. In and of themselves, they do not tell you how to eat, nor do they guarantee optimal health. If someone tells me they are a raw fooder or a vegan, I know absolutely nothing about what they do eat and/or how healthy their diet is, I only know what they dont eat (animal food and/or cooked food). You can easily follow an unhealthy vegan diet and/or a raw food diet.


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Postby groundhogg » Tue Mar 18, 2008 7:41 am

I'm struggling to figure all of this out right now too.

I've been reading, reading, reading all kinds of ideas and trying to know what I think, whether I understand my own feelings.

I was macrobiotic for about year, vegetarian for about 5 years, vegan for about 6 months, and then low-fat vegan for the next 11 years. I was excited and intellectually believing I was doing the ultimate as far as taking care of myself.

But my health was suffering... I dismissed symptoms as adjustments, etc., and then the years hurried on by and I was busy, preoccupied with many things, etc., and finally had to face up to the facts one day that my health had gotten so bad that it was interfering with my decisions and my whole life, really. Time to stop the denial of what my life was like.

I figured out, with about 5 years of on and off, wasted experimentation until finally really figuring it out, that gluten was a big problem for me. I believe now, looking back, that becoming vegan really triggered an outright celiac situation with me because I unthinkingly added my calories in mostly grains... either organic, freshly ground whole wheat products I would grind and make at home, or pastas, a certain amount of fake meats, etc.; I mean, wheat was really at least 50 % of my daily caloric intake.

After I got thoroughly de-glutened, the same thing happened to me that happens to a lot of healing celiacs... the other food intolerances started... soy, flax, other legumes, some gluten-free grains, etc. In my frustration (and hunger!!!) I did start eating wild fish, free-range eggs, and even eventually started including free range chickens...also began using some olive oil (Pam has soy and nonstick cookware and I do not get along) and coconut oil in cooking... just a little bit to glisten the surface of the cast-iron pans. Also...I got 3 B12 shots for three weeks in a row at a health food store... about a month ago. I feel better now than I can remember for a long, long time... mentally... I feel very hopeful and have begun scheduling and doing activities I was always previously way too anxious (and, although in denial of it, too unhealthy to think of doing) to ever commit to or attempt to do... I feel really well, physically... very energetic, active, keeping up with workouts... sleep better than I have for a long time. Now I'm trying to figure out... is all of this good stuff just healing from celiac, or did adding the animal protein make any difference with that? I've thought about it, read a lot of differing opinions and ideas, etc. And I honestly do not know.
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Postby JeffN » Tue Mar 18, 2008 8:08 am

Many people have spent their life trying to figure this out, so welcome to the club.

However, to me, if you step back and take a look at the big picture, the energy is really being focused on what may in fact, be a moot point.

In other words, as I have said here often, I may not be able to tell anyone what the ideal lifestyle and diet is 100%, but I can pretty much tell you what 95-98% of it should look like. This is well known and these are the common denominators we see in all long lived populations and in all the longevity studies on animals.

And, when we look around the world at long lived populations, we also have to understand the influence of the economics, culture, geography, climate, etc of the time, which may have influenced their choices (ie macrobiotic & Mediterranean, Okinawan diets). And recognize some of these issues for what they are/were, influences of the times (ie brown rice, olive oil, Fish) , and not dietary requirements

So, in regard to the main core issue, I think we have a pretty good idea to the "mystery."

Now, in regard to the remaining 2 to 5% (or maybe even 10%), some of it will depend on the individual and so there will never be a consensus on this part. Nor can there ever be.

For example, some may be gluten intolerant, so that will be an issue. But, it will not change the other 95-98% at all, it will only mean they make gluten free choices.

Some may have certain other food allergies (ie, citrus,), so again, they will have to make adjustments accordingly. But again, this is a minor issue and will not change the overriding guidelines.

Some may decide consuming only raw food is best, and do so. But again, this will not change the overriding guidelines.

Some may even decide they want to eat fish or yogurt, or chocolate or oilve oil, or cheese, but if so, this should be 2-5% and it will not change the principles of the other 95-98%.

IMH(P&P)0 and experience, figuring any of this out is not the real problem with most people I have worked with over the years/decades.

What I have seen as the main problem for many people is that they get so caught up in trying to define (and debate) the last 2-5% (which can never be done) that they ignore the other 95-98% of what is known.

Focus on the 95-98%, adjust accordingly to your personal, or medical/health issues, and enjoy the ride!

Even if you disagree with me, and say the reality is we only know about 75-80%, and 20-25% is a mystery, well then, my argument is the same. Why? That 75-80% is good enough to fuel the longest lived populations keeping many alive in good health into their 100s and 110s.

Isn't that good enough? :)


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Postby groundhogg » Tue Mar 18, 2008 9:56 am

Well thanks for the discussion.

But I can't help but wonder: IF, as you say ... And, when we look around the world at long lived populations, we also have to understand the influence of the economics, culture, geography, climate, etc of the time, which may have influenced their choices (ie macrobiotic & Mediterranean, Okinawan diets). And recognize some of these issues for what they are/were, influences of the times (ie brown rice, olive oil, Fish) , and not dietary requirements,

THEN, aren't we assuming we KNOW more than we really might about the mystery of dietary requirements and dietary patterns as a whole... I mean, is it possible at all that the foods chosen by these cultures because of circumstance only might have influenced the general public health of the population one way or another, not just sat there idly alongside influences that actually are KNOWN to have made a difference? I mean, can we safely assume we do know that much? I'm just asking, because I've come to wonder if we can...if it would be wiser to just model particular diets in their entirety than to assume we understand how the explainable operant portions of the diet functioned to overall, general public health and longevity in these cultures that were observed...possibly leaving something else out of the equation that somehow also played some unknown role.

And for me...For example, some may be gluten intolerant, so that will be an issue. But, it will not change the other 95-98% at all, it will only mean they make gluten free choices. ... unfortunately, it's been a lot more than just gluten free choices... I mean, I was hoping I'd be luckier than a lot of the celiacs I've communicated with... but it appears I'm of about average luck on this one, which I am thankful for after hearing stories of terribly bad luck happening to many people before, during, or even after dropping the gluten... average luck in that a bunch of new food tolerances began springing up just as I was rounding almost an entire first year of gluten free... this really affected ALL of my food choices... so it hasn't just been gluten free; it's been soy free, flax light (I can handle certain amounts), unexpected problems from other legumes (again, light amounts of certain ones seem okay... but I don't have a clear picture on which ones and how much it takes... and after what I've already been through am not much in the mood for further experimentation with my stomach right now), touchy with other grains, especially with rice in daily quantities or large amounts of one meal... can't drink any tea at all-- which I never could handle too much before anyway, etc., etc. etc. I mean, it's been complicated... and I did begin to feel much better as soon as I started out with wild fish... of various kinds... once I started feeling like I could swim, I added eggs, which tore me up... then finally figured out I CAN eat truly free range eggs... then the same story with chicken... I can eat free range chicken. When I found out how to go about it and began including these foods... I gradually got stronger, much better digestion, better sleep and just feeling better overall. I don't know if I feel better because I am healing from the gluten and also avoiding the other, new intolerances I've discovered, or if I'm picking up the animal foods as well... which I felt I had to do at the time to have enough safe stuff to eat...safe, meaning it won't backfire on my guts...easily digested in my own case. Whether it's contributing to my health, which has steadily improved during the past year, outside of an accidental glutening which took a whole month to clear up... or whether the animal foods happen to be innocent bystanders while my health improves... I have no way of knowing. Anyway... very often, from what I've seen, it's more than just dropping gluten.

I'm not sure where I stand or what to do next... I like leaving everything alone when you're feeling really good. But I don't know what to think... or if/when I'll get into the mood to start trying to add back any of the other things again, at which point, if all goes well, I might feel inclined to dropping the animal foods and starting from ground zero as a low-fat vegan again.

I can't help but wonder, also, as much as most people do not test as actual celiac by tests which measure extensive immune system or intestinal damage, I wonder if gluten is often absent from the equation in the whole diets of those populations who have been observed as the healthiest. I came across a study that seemed to imply a very strange statistical observation... one study... etc., I know it's not gospel or anything, but I couldn't help but add it to my list of things to wonder about, since I've been a little wary of gluten for the past couple of years... I don't remember where I saw the study or the exact details, but I do remember it was published in 2004, and the observation was that although celiacs remain susceptible to lymphomas even after becoming gluten free and healing from gluten damage, they are also observed, after the first gluten-free year passes, to have much lower overall cancer rates, especially of the common western cancers (breast, lung, etc.) than the general population. Before going through the first year gluten free, they have higher rates than ordinarily seen among the western population of both lymphomas AND these common western cancers.

So... as I said, it chalks up inside my ol' groundhog brain as yet another suspicion against gluten as being one of the factors missing in cultures who are healthy, along with milk proteins. From what I've seen, whether we believe it's right for various reasons to be vegan or not (and I do hold the belief, for lots of reasons, that vegan is the best way), it's near impossible, if not entirely so, to find a traditional culture that is vegan or even close to it. So... whatever the results of meat/fish, etc. in the diet... I sometimes wonder if gluten and casein are more important as far as health goes... I'm not saying I know... just factoring in stuff I've read along with stories from others and my own life experience. :P... and then wondering out loud.
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Postby JeffN » Tue Mar 18, 2008 10:32 am

Hi GH

groundhogg wrote:Well thanks for the discussion


Thank you.

groundhogg wrote: unfortunately, it's been a lot more than just gluten free choices...



My experience over the year has shown this to be true, but only because these other choices that had to be made, would not have been choices that I would have been recommending them to follow in the first place. My point is that if you were following my recommendations and still had some problems and we were to discover that you now needed to go gluten free, it would only be a minor change. You, and many others, may be coming at it differently.

It is actually a concern of mine in food labels. Many foods, even in the health food stores, are now being promotes as "gluten free" and many beleive this is a sign these foods are healthy. But, most of them are nothing more than unhealthy food, that just happens to be now made, gluten free.

groundhogg wrote: So... whatever the results of meat/fish, etc. in the diet... I sometimes wonder if gluten and casein are more important as far as health goes.


Yes, there are no vegan populations. Most all long lived populations live on a plant based diet and the animal products are more like a condiment, usually only a small % of total calories. No long lived population lives on an animal based diet.

But, I don't see the hang up with this though it seems to get much attention.

Clearly, a small amount of animal protein/products has not killed anyone. We know that. If someone includes it or not is not an issue in regard to long life and health. Maybe in regard to their "philosophy" but not in regard to what we known from science. I never argue against that or even see that as an issue or the issue. I even wrote a full newsletter on the topic which has been linked here in several threads.

But as I stated, veganism is a philosophy that includes some dietary restrictions but veganism is not a guide to dietary excellence. Veganism tells you what someone does not eat, not what they do eat. However, those who are trying to follow an optimal diet can choose to be vegans. To me, that is a philosophical choice.

While I can not speak directly for anyone else, Dr McDougall (and Dr Fuhrman, Dr Ornish, Pritikin, etc) do not promote a vegan diet, but variations of a plant based diet. I do not think any of them will tell you that being vegan (in regard to this above discussion) is more important that following their overall guidelines. Dr Mcd's promotes a starch based diet with the addition of colored vegetables and fruits.

But, that is not the question. The question is, do people "benefit" from animal products. Benefiting is different than just "including" or "getting away with". Clearly, people can include some small amount of animal products and not be hurt by it and/or get away with it, but that does not prove in anyway that they benefit from it.

I do agree with you in regard to casein and dairy products, but i would not separate out the casein. I would easily say dairy products are the one food I would eliminate from the food supply, if I could. The implications of dairy are far reaching and effect many if not most all people who consume it.

However, I do not see the same implication for intact whole grains, though clearly, for those who are gluten intolerant, it is an issue, but only for the gluten containing grains.

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Postby Birdy » Wed Mar 19, 2008 5:31 pm

Interesting thread. See also the websites of Michael Klaper, M.D. who is conducting a longterm investigation of the "failure to thrive" that's not infrequently seen in vegans, and the website of Michael Greger, M.D. who also addresses many of the issues related to vegan nutrition. A relatively new concern for vegans, as I understand it, is an amino acid, carnitine, which is found only in animal products (as you might guess from the word itself). Carnitine is important in slowing the aging process. I don't know much about this.
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Postby JeffN » Wed Mar 19, 2008 9:00 pm

Birdy wrote:Interesting thread. See also the websites of Michael Klaper, M.D. who is conducting a longterm investigation of the "failure to thrive" that's not infrequently seen in vegans, and the website of Michael Greger, M.D. who also addresses many of the issues related to vegan nutrition. A relatively new concern for vegans, as I understand it, is an amino acid, carnitine, which is found only in animal products (as you might guess from the word itself). Carnitine is important in slowing the aging process. I don't know much about this.


Thanks for the post.

Here are some excerpts from a review on carnitine...

While the highest concentrations of carnitine are found in red meat and dairy products they are not the only source.

Other natural sources of carnitine include nuts and seeds, legumes, vegetables, fruits, and cereals though the amount is much less than what is in animal products

Healthy individuals, including strict vegetarians, can synthesize enough L-carnitine to prevent deficiency, if they are on a healthy diet and following a healthy lifestyle.

(Again, however, this is not always the case with many vegans and vegetarians).

Healthy people, can maintain carnitine balance through internal synthesis of L-carnitine, absorption of carnitine from dietary sources, and elimination and reabsorption of carnitine by the kidney. Humans synthsize L-carnitine from the amino acids lysine and methionine.

The rate of L-carnitine synthesis has been studied in vegetarians and is estimated to be 1.2 micromol/kg of body weight/day.

Lombard KA, Olson AL, Nelson SE, Rebouche CJ. Carnitine status of lactoovovegetarians and strict vegetarian adults and children. Am J Clin Nutr. 1989;50(2):301-306.

The availability of L-carnitine can vary depending on dietary composition. Onne study reports that bioavailability of L-carnitine in individuals adapted to low-carnitine diets (i.e., vegetarians) is higher than those adapted to high-carnitine diets (i.e., regular red meat eaters; 66%-86% versus 54%-72%)

Rebouche CJ, Chenard CA. Metabolic fate of dietary carnitine in human adults: identification and quantification of urinary and fecal metabolites. J Nutr. 1991;121(4):539-546.

Renal reabsorption of L-carnitine is normally very efficient; in fact, an estimated 95% is thought to be reabsorbed by the kidneys. However, several conditions can decrease carnitine reabsorption efficiency and, correspondingly, increase carnitine excretion. Such conditions include high-fat (low-carbohydrate) diets, high-protein diets, pregnancy, and certain disease states

Even strict vegetarians (vegans) show no signs of carnitine deficiency, despite the fact that most dietary carnitine is derived from animal sources.

The normal rate of L-carnitine biosynthesis in humans ranges from 0.16 to 0.48 mg/kg of body weight/day. Thus, a 70 kg (154 1b) person would synthesize between 11 and 34 mg of carnitine per day. This rate of synthesis combined with efficient (95%) L-carnitine reabsorption by the kidneys is sufficient to prevent deficiency in generally healthy people, including strict vegetarians.

Rebouche CJ. Carnitine. In: Shils ME, Olson JA, Shike M, Ross AC, eds. Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease. 9th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins; 1999:505-512.

In addition to the above, there are a few studies on longevity and carnitine in rats, but these are short term studies using very high doses and there is no conclusive evidence in rats yet, let alone humans.

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