Joel sent us a pretty long piece on the subject of meat and fish consumption and we broke it up into two parts. You can read his view on fish consumption here. Again, this is his view that we are presenting. Dr. Fuhrman often highlights how much we just don't know from a scientific standpoint about nutrition. But we like to present our Tip Of The Day subscribers with as broad an idea and toolset as possible. Here is his take on meat consumption:
"Ignoring the ethical and environmental benefits to a vegan diet, which undoubtedly are substantial; claiming that a vegan diet-style is healthier and will make one live longer than one that contains even a very small amount of animal products is not an argument that can be made with good scientific integrity.
We have substantial evidence from not only the China Study, but thousands of other studies to conclude that animal products when consumed in even moderate amounts such as 20 ounces a week can contribute to the development of chronic disease and are not health promoting. Many of these studies are referenced in my book Eat To Live and some can be reviewed elsewhere on this blog. However, these studies and the China Study cannot be used to validate the necessity of a strict vegan diet for optimal health as vegan populations were not studied in this enormous project. The lowest ranges of animal products consumed in the China Study were in the range of 1.7 servings per week or about 10 ounces per week.
Below that level of animal product consumption supplementation with B12 become critical for populations. If there were studies with large populations on vegan diets, a J-shaped* curve would likely be experienced, showing that as diets get lower than one serving of animal products per week, later life morbidity and mortality would start to be increased. The reason for this is that strict vegans who don’t take supplements will likely develop B12 deficiencies (rural villagers do not take supplements) leading to life shortening events, lessening the reduction in heart attack or cancer deaths achieved by the reduction of animal foods.
Besides B12, there are also nutritional advantages to a small amount of animal products for some individuals, as there are individual differences in the production of non-essential amino acids, and reduction in the absorption and metabolism of essential amino acids that makes the ingestion of additional amino acids beneficial for some individuals, such as those with digestive impairments. For others, the addition of pre-formed DHA from fish or fish oil may be beneficial because the enzymes converting short-chain omega 3 fatty acids (obtained from plant) to these longer chain fats (what is already present in fish) may not be as efficient in some individuals. It also may be possible that some people have heightened needs for DHA, taurine or other protein components as they age and digestion and conversion is decreased. I have counseled thousands of individuals on vegan and near vegan diets over the last 15 years and have found these recurring issues when investigating patients with health problems and health concerns after doing extensive evaluations to discern a cause of their complaints.
It is too frequent that writers on both sides, the vegan proponents and those advocating inclusion of substantial amounts of animal products as health supporting, have pre-formed biases and try to defend their views, rather than evaluating all the evidence with logic and clarity. Nevertheless, the reality is that for the majority of individuals, allowing under 10 -12 ounces of animal products per week does not appear to have disease risks as long as the animal products are low in saturated fat and not contaminated with parasites or toxic pollutants. Certainly, I have no desire to promote the consumption of animal products, and I am always willing to modify my recommendations if more science suggests that this guideline is not accurate in any way. However, we have to go with whatever data we have available today, and I suggest that for those who want to include animal products in their diet, we cannot with good science insist that this small amount is cancer or heart disease promoting.
I argue that either way of eating (vegan or non-vegan) can be made health-supporting (and should be supplemented appropriately to assure nutritional adequacy) and that debating which is better is not a valuable exercise. Therefore, I advocate a plant-based (vegetable-based) diet that is either vegan or one that is near vegan with a small amount of animal products, and my food pyramid designed for public guidance contains two to three servings of animal products permitted per week, assuming that the total ounces per week is under the 10 – 12 ounces range. Red meat and cheese are too high in saturated fat and should not be considered health supporting foods to be utilized on a regular basis in one’s diet. Plus those animal foods rich in fat are much higher in environmental pollutants."