Re: Vegan Diet

Perry E. Metzger (
Fri, 9 May 1997 13:03:56 -0400 (EDT)

> From: James Rogers <>
> At 12:25 PM 5/8/97 -0400, you wrote:
> >
> >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.
> It would be prudent to mention that small quantities of fat are required
> for the proper absorption of some minerals.

Sure, but its nearly impossible *not* to get enough fat from your
diet. The amount of needed fat is a tiny fraction of the fat most
people take in. Vegan diets do have fat in them -- plenty in fact --
they just don't have it in the concentrated amounts found in meat or
dairy products. This is not a bad thing, given how much fat most
people overconsume.

> Dairy fats are an example of this. Calcium is poorly absorbed when
> it is not mixed with small quantities of appropriate types of fat.
> Dairy fats are well-suited for this role (surprise!) which is one of
> the reasons it is often better to drink 1-2% lowfat milk than
> non-fat.

Calcium is an interesting specific case. It turns out that most vegan
diets contain much less calcium than non-vegan diets -- it also turns
out that most vegans have substantially lower rates of osteoporosis
than non-vegans. In fact, the highest levels of calcium intake in the
world are among the Innuit, who consume an almost pure animal based
diet -- and the Innuit are also notable for having the highest rates
of osteoporosis in the world. Many Subsaharan African peoples have
very low dietary calcium intake compared to westerners, and yet have
very low rates of osteoporosis. In both cases, leaving one's
traditional culture and consuming a different diet leads to a
different rate of osteoporosis than among one's fellows living on the
traditional ancestral diet. It therefore does not appear that this
discrepancy is genetic in origin, but rather dietary.

Why is this? The current best theory is that this is because
metabolism of excess dietary protein requires calcium and ends up
consuming it in the process. When you eat too much protein, it doesn't
do your body any good -- the body does not store it beyond a certain
point, and simply metabolizes it, turning into stored glycogen or
fat. This metabolic process, as I mentioned, results in the use and
excretion of calcium. Very high protein intake means a very high loss
of calcium.

> The "all fat is bad" meme is incorrect, or at least misleading.

True enough, but as I said, you have no risk of consuming no fat in
your diet -- you could not manage it without living on some
synthetically constructed dietary program. Eating any normal vegan
diet will cause you to encounter more than enough fat to live on. For
the vast bulk of our country, the issue is consuming far too much fat
-- not the almost unheard of case of consuming too little.