As a graduate of Main Street Vegan Academy, I had the privilege of hearing Dr. Robert Ostfeld, a vegan cardiologist, explain the many health benefits of eating a vegan diet. He delivered the information with such confidence and clarity I knew he was speaking from a vast wealth of clinical experience. But at the same time, I wondered, if these health benefits are so clear, why is it so difficult to get definitive dietary recommendations from the rest of the scientific community?
When I asked Dr. Ostfeld to explain the disconnect, he politely suggested that the scientific community is not always motivated by improving public health. For example, some of you may remember last year the media frenzy that ensued after an article, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, came to the conclusion that eating less saturated fat doesn’t actually lower your risk for heart disease. You may ask yourself: How can that be? Doesn’t that come up against 3 decades of studies to the contrary?
Well, it turns out that, the dairy industry decided they needed to boost sales and approached Dr. Ronald M. Krauss, a researcher funded by the National Dairy Council, who combined studies that were previously determined to be flawed and put them all together in a “new” meta-analysis study to show that saturated fat has no correlation to heart disease. And bingo! Research now showed you can eat all the saturated fat you want.
Following the release of the new study based on Krauss’ “research”, the Chairman of Harvard’s Nutrition Department, Walter Willet, said, the conclusions were “seriously misleading and should be disregarded.” And he even called for its retraction! Instead, The New York Times food writer Mark Bittman exclaimed—Butter is Back! and The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet by Nina Teicholz became a New York Times bestseller. And we, the public, never got the truth.
But as vegans, should we care whether or not science supports our position that a vegan diet is the healthier choice? Even if science is on our side, is that the reason not to eat meat? I pose this question because just a week ago, after I had decided to write this article about vegan nutrition, a friend asked me to consider this: even if science determined that eating animals was good for you, would you do it? And the unequivocal answer is “no”.
To me, health is more than just an optimal balance of macro and micronutrients. True health includes living alignment with my values and reflecting those values in the choices I make every day. I choose to leave animals off my plate NOT because cholesterol and saturated fat may clog my arteries, but because eating animals is just plain wrong.
It’s nice to know that science supports my choice but it’s even better knowing that I do.
Lita Dwight, VLCE is the founder of Bryt Life Foods, a vegan food start-up that will be launching a vegan yogurt next spring. She is a graduate of Main Street Vegan Academy and the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and gives corporate wellness seminars in NYC. You can reach Lita by going to her website www.pureplantliving.com or emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Coming soon: check out the latest vegan food products at brytlifefoods.com.