Vegan Diet (was Re: Practical Extropianism)

Perry E. Metzger (
Thu, 8 May 1997 12:25:43 -0400 (EDT)

> From: MikeRose <>
> On Tue, 6 May 1997, Perry E. Metzger wrote:
> > Life Extension is actually one of the easy places to attack -- simply
> > switching to a very low fat diet (vegan is easiest), quitting smoking,
> > and exercising will get you a long, long way.
> The hardest thing for me with a vegan diet is maintaining it whilst
> remaining sociable. Peer criticism was also harsher and harder to deal
> with than I ever imagined.

I'd suggest mentioning how excruciating the agony of heart attack is,
and how much fun hobbling around as a post-stroke paralytic patient
can be, and how much people usually enjoy chemotherapy and how
successful it often is.

I may have an advantage here -- living in New York, I have no trouble
eating anywhere I please, including the fanciest restaurants. Most
places other than steak houses will accomodate my eating preferences,
and there are lots of purely vegan restaurants, too. I imagine things
might be different in parts of Canada.

> The age old argument always surfaces; 'you are missing out on
> protein and vital nutrients'.

No, you're missing just about nothing.

> Is there anything that a vegan is in danger of missing? Do I need to
> suppliment my diet, or are there naturally occuring provdiders?

B12 might -- *might* -- be difficult for vegans to get naturally. It
is required in grotesquely small amounts -- micrograms per day -- and
the body stores it. Take a vitamin supplement (preferably without
iron) that has B12 in it and you are likely going to get more than
you'll ever need.

Beyond that, remember a couple of things: steer clear of sources of
added fat like oils (no point in being a vegan for health reasons and
frying every meal), and given all the research on sugar I'd try to
steer clear of refined sugars when possible (I do, at least, although
I'm not religious about it). Try to eat a balanced diet, and you
should be fine.

> From: Lee Daniel Crocker <>
> > Is there anything that a vegan is in danger of missing? Do I need to
> > suppliment my diet, or are there naturally occuring provdiders?
> B12 is probably the only thing you can't get from a vegan diet,
> but you don't need much--it's likely you'll get enough just from
> the things you don't check out carefully (the occasional baked
> good with egg or gelatin or milk).

True enough, but I supplement anyway.

> But, since there is actually no valid evidence that a vegan diet
> is better than a more well-rounded low-fat diet, I think it would
> be negligent to recommend it to anyone except for religious
> reasons.

There is a problem with this reasoning.

A) Most of the best research on low fat diets and heart disease
has involved low fat vegan diets. You are correct that no evidence
exists that an equally low fat non-vegan diet would not be just as
good, but then again, neither is there evidence that it would.

B) It is far, far harder to maintain very low fat intake levels on
anything but a fairly strict vegan diet. With a strict vegan diet,
simply avoiding a couple of obvious things (i.e. frying everything or
eating lots of avocados) keeps your fat intake levels insanely
low. With a non-vegan diet, you have to take enormous amounts of care,
estimate fat intake on everything you've eaten, etc. The effort is
almost unsustainable. You can probably get below 20% of calories from
fat by keeping close track on a non-vegan diet, but getting much lower
than that requires almost superhuman dedication, and 20% is still
probably far too high. Most vegans achieve substantially lower fat
intake levels than that without any real effort at all. Being able to
avoid thinking about what I'm eating is a real honest win.

> I am a lacto-veg myself, but I don't go out of my way to ask every
> restaurant if they use a little lard in their beans or gelatin in
> their desserts. It just isn't worth the effort for unproven gains.

As a "vegan for health reasons" I generally don't pay attention to
issues like "is honey vegan" (I don't care about the bees and happily
eat honey, although I usually avoid sweeteners to keep my glucose
levels from surging anyway) and if someone slips me an egg in some
baked good by accident I doubt it will kill me. However, I try my
best, largely so that the occassionaly unexpected surprise actually
will be noise in the food statistics rather than being "just one more
egg won't kill me", if you know what I mean.

Also, I don't do dairy products. Dairy is very high in fat -- a slab
of cheese is much higher in fat than a similar calorie content slab of
lean beef. I might as well be eating meat if I was going to eat cheese
or milk. Besides, at this point, I've become lactose intolerant after enough
years of not eating dairy. It appears most people do -- eating dairy
products isn't something we evolved to do.

So, I'll agree -- yes, in theory, a non-vegan diet can possibly be
just as healthy, and yes, there isn't much point in being insanely
anal retentive about veganism. On the other hand, its actually simpler
being a vegan than trying to watch your diet closely and evaluating
content with a calorie and fat percentage chart at every meal, and
generally speaking, it has very few negatives in my quality of life.

Also, I must say that although it made no obvious difference in my
health when I was younger, as I've gotten older I've noticed that I'm
not gaining weight the way my age peers are, and I seem to be
healthier than them. We'll know for sure in another ten or twenty
years, but I suspect that the experiment is already pretty