Around the Web, Evil Vegan Plot Edition

(My apologies: I have been busy with work and the post on constipation I had planned for Thursday will appear Monday.)

Here are items that caught my eye this week:

[1] Interesting posts this week: Dr. Steve Parker offers a history of the Mediterranean Diet. Did you know that Ancel Keys invented it? Frank Hagan of Low Carb Age reminds us of the dangers of giving too much protein to children – a topic I expect to blog about again soon. The New York Times explains what video of slipping birds teaches us about running form. Mary Shomon lists the 10 Mistakes of Thyroid Doctors. Kevin Brown of Liberation Wellness argues that doctors may be the leading cause of death. Andrew Badenoch of evolvify assembles evidence that gluten is harmful to non-celiacs. J. Stanton of explains why snacking makes you weak.

[2] Low-Carb for Fatty Liver Disease: An oldie but goodie from Michael Eades: Four patients with extremely high triglycerides due to fatty liver were cured in days on a low-carb diet. Yet another condition that is impossible to cure by drugs, trivial to cure by diet.

[3] Is Fruit Paleo?: Melissa McEwen notes what wasn’t on the Paleolithic menu:  fruit.

I might add that it’s not clear that fruit was ever a major part of our ancestors’ diet. The ancestors of chimpanzees and gorillas may have been begun eating fruit after their divergence from the “chuman” human-chimp-gorilla common ancestor. Human ancestors may never have lived in the forests, where fruit is available.

What might Paleolithic Europeans have eaten instead? Melissa casts a vote for raw liver.

[4] What happens if you skip the liver?: On Tuesday morning, Shou-Ching asked me to highlight the story about the French vegans whose breast-fed baby died of pneumonia caused by malnourishment. The baby was severely deficient in vitamins A and B12.

A few hours later Richard Nikoley blogged the story. Vegans, head over there for some sense.

It is possible to be a healthy vegetarian – our book has an appendix explaining how to do it – but it helps immensely to include eggs, dairy, and nutritional supplements. To exclude all animal-related foods, and not to supplement key animal-derived nutrients, is slow suicide – sometimes, as the French story shows, quick infanticide.

[5] 30 Bananas a Day not immediately fatal: Thanks to Richard’s post I looked at a video of a 30 Bananas a Day retreat. I was pleased to see them drinking coconut milk (healthy saturated fats) and, on sandwiches, replacing bread with melon slices. A zero-grain saturated-fat-rich diet – it might be malnourishing, but at least it’s low-toxicity:

You know it can’t be all bad if Stephan has converted!

[6] The French resistance lives: The Guardian:

[I]t is not easy being vegetarian in France, the land of steak-frites, foie gras and other solidly carnivorous fare…. A non-scientific survey of Facebook reveals that the British-based Vegan society has 60,978 fans, while the French Vegetarian Association has 1,518 and the Vegetarian and Vegan page 1,173. (By comparison the French “Slap a Vegetarian with an Escalope” page has 168,294 fans.)

Maybe we should take a trip to Paris, to check out the food. It sounds good!

[7] Insulin Wars!: O Primitivo gives this name to the dust-up that started with CarbSane assailing Gary Taubes and picked up recently at Peter’s blog. He offers an amusing cartoon:

As it happens Shou-Ching and I went to hear Gary Taubes talk on “Why We Get Fat” last Wednesday, and I may review it this week. Those who would like to hear a nearly identical talk can go to Gary’s site and view the “IMS Online Lecture” on YouTube.

[8] Good News From Japan: A dog was rescued:

[9] Bad News From Alabama and Malaysia: From an Alabama teacher:

I am a 6th grade school teacher, and I am appalled at what we are feeding our children every day in the lunchroom.  Yesterday our students had pizza, corn, wheat bread, and rice krispie treats.  They could also buy slushies full of sugar and food coloring.  Also available was tea sweetened with splenda.  It is unbelievable that people with degrees in nutrition are planning these meals!  It is no wonder that we have such a problem with childhood obesity and that our schools are full of students that have ADHD, behavior problems, and learning problems.

From another reader:

In Malaysia (Sarawak), I was served a local dessert made with Sago and coconut milk and sugar.  Wonderful!  I asked about the sago and was told it was a starch made from trees!  The next day for lunch I had the sago (in hardened form) with some type of local fish marinated in spicy oil.  I asked if they eat the sago often and sadly I heard this story:  Sago is a local food that they have made and eaten for centuries BUT now everyone in Malaysia realizes that coconut oil and coconut milk have saturated fat so they should not eat it very often and because the sago is primarily associated with these ‘fattening’ and ‘bad for you’ foods, that the sago is going out of style. Truly sad.

Sago is, of course, one of the safe starches recommended in our book; and you know we like coconut oil and coconut milk.

C.H. Spurgeon said that a lie can get around the world before the truth gets its boots on. A lie has conquered Alabama schools and reached Malaysia. Does the truth have its boots on yet?

[10] Candy eating good?: Epidemiology is hard to interpret, but this was interesting. Compared to adults who ate no candy, candy-eaters had lower body weight, 5% slimmer waists, lower blood pressure, and higher HDL – despite eating more total calories and more saturated fat.

I doubt this is supporting evidence for 30 bananas a day. Two more plausible explanations:

  • Adults who eat candy pay no attention to the health advice propagated by authorities, and follow their taste buds (which evolved to help them) toward meats and fats and away from grains.
  • When adults develop poor health, they start avoiding candy.

Nevertheless, if I do review Gary Taubes this week, this paper might deserve a mention. It counts against both the “carbs make you fat” and the “gluttony makes you fat” theories!

Source: O’Neil CE et al. Candy consumption was not associated with body weight measures, risk factors for cardiovascular disease, or metabolic syndrome in US adults: NHANES 1999-2004. Nutr Res. 2011 Feb;31(2):122-30.

(Via John J. Ray, Food & Health Skeptic.)

[11] Addendum to last week: Speaking of John J. Ray, he has a nice cartoon that I wish I’d used in last Saturday’s #11 on increasing morbidity among the elderly:

[12] Second addendum to last week: I noted last Saturday (#8) a study claiming that “displays of power” led to increased testosterone with positive health effects.

But can displaying a “We Rule” t-shirt transform milquetoast economists into dominant athletes? They actually studied this question at Stanford:

(Via John B Taylor)

[13] Aerobic Exercise Not as Healthy as Candy: Fight Aging! notes that while lower metabolic rates extend lifespan, aerobic exercise doesn’t lower metabolic rate (despite lowering pulse rates). Moreover, higher 24-hour energy expenditure shortens lifespan – so “chronic cardio” may shorten lifespan! It may not be a coincidence that centenarians rarely exercise intensely. They are active but rarely fitness freaks.

One topic I’ve gotten a bit interested in is the effect of obesity on lifespan, which is not large. If obesity induces a lifelong reduction in metabolic rate, it may tend to extend lifespan even as it impairs health. Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that obesity rates are rising and lifespan is lengthening even as morbidity is increasing.

[14] Evil Plot Uncovered: For weeks Richard Nikoley has been claiming to have evil plots underway. I love an evil plot, so I investigated. I haven’t felt as cheated since I flew business class to Tokyo booked as a vegan, and had to eat seaweed while everyone else got filet mignon.

Turns out his evil plots were to inspire vigorous discussion in his comment section and improve the health of young children.

At first I thought I had been duped: Clark Kent was pretending to be Lex Luthor, and I got suckered. But then I realized it was rather like the Cretan Paradox. If only the evil lie, and he had lied, then he must be evil. And evildoers plot. So he really must have an evil plot – even though he said he did, which would make him honest – unless he had lied about the nature of his plot. But what could his real evil plot be?

It so happened I recently installed a Firefox add-on that displays site meta tags. What do you think is high on Richard’s list? Not the first tag – his reachout to the porn community (“food porn”). This: “vegan / vegetarian.”

This can only mean one thing. Richard Nikoley is attempting a hostile takeover of the vegan community. He’s trying to replace T. Colin Campbell as their leader. His upcoming book? The New Evolutionary Vegan Diet Solution.  Its premise: vegans are so brain-addled from lack of B12, they won’t notice their new diet is 90% beef.

Yes, I know he won’t admit it. No evil plotter ever admits his plans. Just remember – when it happens, you heard it here first.

[15] Hot pinup girl!: Yes, inspired by Richard’s “porn” tag I’m trolling for Google hits:

(via Rantburg)

[16] Video of the week: Hike the Appalachian Trail in 4 minutes:

Green Tunnel from Kevin Gallagher on Vimeo.

(Via Craig Newmark.)

Leave a comment ?


  1. (I apologize if this is a repost…it didn’t show up the first time.)

    Your site has the best link dumps! (And I’m not just saying that because you linked one of my articles again 🙂

    As far as Richard’s vegetarian/vegan tags, any post that riles up vegans is basically guaranteed to get a bunch of hits, and maybe even a comment flamewar. There are still a lot more vegans than paleo dieters, even though roughly 50% of paleo dieters start a blog about it. I can see the paper now:

    “Saturated fat is associated with an increase in blogging in healthy adults with post-secondary education”

    I’m surprised that the snacking/catabolism connection in my article you linked isn’t more well-known by now…I feel like either someone should have picked that up already, or there’s an obvious explanation why I’m wrong. Please feel free to tear it apart!

    JS –

  2. I’m not saying early paleolithic humans didn’t eat fruit, the main thing we can gather is that cooked tubers couldn’t have been a major part of their diet.

    Also, how human these humans were is up for debate

    I think candy eaters vs. other junk eaters are healthier because we ( haha) treat junk as a treat. I eat candy for fun, like the Swedes and Finns. I don’t pretend it’s healthy and it’s not a major part of my diet.

  3. Hi JS,

    The whole partitioning of resources between muscle and fat is an extremely important issue. But I have never really considered the effect of snacking, and the composition of snacks (whether they include protein). Thanks for bringing these issues to my attention. Might get a chance to investigate this week.

    Hi Melissa,

    I know I was exaggerating … but as you say fruit wasn’t a major part of the diet. I think this is true in Africa as well as in Europe. Even if you’re reluctant, I’m willing to say it: Pleistocene humans didn’t eat a lot of fruit.

    Heidelbergensis was pretty human I think! Some consider them to actually have been Sapien Neanderthalis.

    I agree, people who eat small amounts of candy probably have a healthier attitude toward food. No orthorexia there!

  4. Those vegans in that video look awfully weak, as if they are severely malnourished or literally starving. They should show this video to anyone considering a vegan diet.

  5. The muscle wasting in the vegan video is striking. I’m used to seeing that in cancer patients, or people with end stage emphysema who have to be on chronic steroids.

  6. Paul reading your book at the moment. I like how you talk about the omnivore, herbivores and carnivore strategy to achieve the same goals.

  7. Hi Sue,

    Thanks. We like that part too! Hat tip to Barry Groves for giving us that idea.

  8. If I ate nothing but apple skins and chicory root and supplemented with nutrients, do you think it would work out as a herbivore strategy? You do say that too much fiber is inflammatory, but then again some early humans ate over a hundred grams of fiber per day, according to Dr. Robert Lustig anyway. Eh, probably not a good idea to try. A better question would be how much fiber should we be aim for so as to stay in the goldilocks zone?

    Also I know that most people think that lower metabolic rate is the better way to go with regards to longevity, but I’m having a hard time accepting that it is necessarily the case. I certainly don’t want a lower metabolic rate. Being cold and whatnot looks dreadful. I definitely agree that more free radical generation means a shorter life, but I don’t agree that a higher metabolic rate necessarily begets more reactive oxygen species. Check out this news article I read a while ago

    Looks like they need less oxygen to do the same work. Efficient mitochondria and heat-producing uncoupling proteins. I don’t know what to make of it, but I suspect that you might.

    I enjoyed that last video by the way. Cheers!

  9. Infanticide presumes an ethical and economic decision. What happened with the French vegans may be better characterized as negligence.

  10. Hi Stabby,

    I think the body adjusts to fiber to keep a preferred quantity of bacteria in the gut. So at some point, more fiber just equals more immune activity, more antimicrobial peptides in the gut, and more stool.

    But fiber is a good way to make sure your gut is not leaky!

    I think the range of healthy fiber intakes is very broad. Zero fiber is bad, but I would say that any diet with a pound or more of natural plant foods per day is probably adequate, and any diet that requires defecating multiple times per day may have a little too much.

    I agree that being cold would be dreadful and life-shortening. However, I don’t think that’s necessary to lower metabolic rate. Growing teenagers have a very high metabolic rate and the elderly have a very low metabolic rate — we all remember being able to eat a ton as children, and know elderly who barely nibble for meals and get enough calories — but they may all have normal temperature. It’s invoking that efficiency program that is life-extending, if you can do it without damaging yourself in the process.

    Thanks for the nature link. I’m meaning to do some research into longevity and blog about it later this year. That’ll go into the pile. All I can say right now is that there is conflicting evidence on almost every major point. In fact there is some evidence that higher reactive oxygen species are life-extending, if they upregulate natural antioxidant programs in mitochondria.

    Still early days for longevity science is my sense!

  11. Hi js290,

    Yes, or idiocy.

    Just to be clear, I wasn’t trying to make a legal assessment of the culpability of the French vegans. Whether they should be prosecuted, and if so for what, is beyond my ken.

  12. Hello Paul,

    Just wanted to say I have just received your book and am extremely impressed thus far. I have been reading your blog for a while and have decided to give your diet a go. The more I read, the more sense it makes.

    I am trying to overcome some odd neurological symptoms that have bothered me for about 5 years. I have had numerous tests in the past but nothing was found.

    I am a strong believer that it is diet related as I am coming from a terrible background of eating like the typical American (I am in fact from the UK).

    I have tried and failed numerous times over the past 2 years to adhere to a VLC diet but always found it difficult for some reason.

    I have maybe 20 lbs to lose too, but my goal is not weight loss, it is health.

    Best regards,

    Mark G – 32 years old.

  13. Hi Mark,


    Neurological symptoms are our specialty – not that we know how to cure them necessarily, but I had them for many years and developed the diet to fix mine.

    I think you have just the right attitude. Seek health first, and normal weight will come in time. Seek weight first, and health may not come.

    Feel free to email me with more specifics of your condition if you have any questions.

    Best, Paul

  14. Thanks Paul.

    I’m sure the following question will be answered as I read further, but how strictly do the macronutrient ratios have to be adhered to?

    I would imagine initially there is a requirement to log food on a site like Fitday to ensure compliance, but that is not something I would want to be doing on a regular, long term basis as it seems pretty impractical (especially for a lazy person like me).

  15. I have to agree with JS.
    You always have the best links, Paul!

  16. Hi Mark,

    We give ranges for the macronutrients, but most of them are fairly broad. Carbs 200 calories/day up to 600 + 100/hr of intense exercise per day. Protein 200 to 600 calories/day. Carb+protein 600 to 1200 calories/day.

    I think it’s educational to use something like Fitday for ~3 days so that you get an idea how many calories are in your favorite foods. You might be surprised by how much plant foods you have to eat to get 400 calories, once you exclude foods like wheat and sugar. Many people go too low carb because they don’t realize that many plant foods have very few calories per pound.

    Once you have a good sense of food content, then you can come close just by eyeballing foods.

    From that point, adjust to your taste. We believe that your taste preferences evolved to help you, and that if you eat only natural foods and follow your innate taste preferences, you’ll do pretty well.

    Best, Paul

    PS – Thanks Mia!

  17. Thanks again Paul.

    I think it’s amazing how you find the time to reply to people’s questions in such detail.

    I tend to eat twice a day; would it be more optimal to spread the 400 calories of starch over the two meals or is it fine to consume it all at once?

    I am just trying to get an idea of how to plan my meals as one of my two meals per day will be consumed at work, in an office, so I will have to prepare in advance.

  18. Hi Mark,

    When starches are combined with fat and vegetables in a meal they don’t raise blood glucose to excessive levels, even if the rice content of the meal is very high. See e.g.

    However, if you have metabolic syndrome or are elderly then spreading starches around is probably beneficial.

    Distributing the carbs a bit might be a good practice generally, but if getting all the carbs in one meal works best for you, I wouldn’t worry about it.

  19. You see the same issues in India as Malaysia.

    People replacing coconut oil and ghee with vegetable oil — and very bad quality vegetable oil at that.

    Obesity and heart disease is very much at work in middle class India. I’d suggest it is as bad, if not worse, than the US.

    However, there are plenty of examples of people who did just eat coconut oil for years and getting triple bypasses in their 40s. I’m not a big fan of the diet-heart theory, but there is something to it. Ancel Keys, whatever you think of him, lived to 99.

    Yes, the Med diet is an artificial creation. Strangely, it became popular as vacationing in the Med also became popular.

    My sense of a lot of the traditional diets is they work well when people are in near starvation (Greece, southern Italy, spain in the 1940s). Amp it up, and it stops being healthy quickly.

  20. Paul wrote:

    “We give ranges for the macronutrients, but most of them are fairly broad. Carbs 200 calories/day up to 600 + 100/hr of intense exercise per day. Protein 200 to 600 calories/day. Carb+protein 600 to 1200 calories/day.

    I think it’s educational to use something like Fitday for ~3 days so that you get an idea how many calories are in your favorite foods. You might be surprised by how much plant foods you have to eat to get 400 calories, once you exclude foods like wheat and sugar. Many people go too low carb because they don’t realize that many plant foods have very few calories per pound.”


    I need to do this. Use FitDay or the like. I’ve been having coffee + cream for breakfast, then usually eating 2 more meals. I’m not at all confident that I’m eating enough calories, or eating enough variety of foods, thereby running the risk of being malnourished.

  21. What I absolutely do not understand is the relation between low metabolic rate and longevity. I have thought so far that research agreed on that lean body mass (much) is a factor that contributes to longevity. And especially grip strength in older indiviuduals seems to predict the chance to reach an old age. Grip strength is, from what I understand, related to lean body mass (=muscle). A lot of lean body mass, again, seems to be related to a higher metabolic rate…It is unclear to me how this fits…What do you think?

  22. Hi Iris,

    Definitely the longevity research literature has a lot of puzzles!

    Two considerations:

    “Longevity” sometimes has different meanings in different research papers. It may mean lifespan of the “oldest old” or maximum lifespan … in which case they ignore premature deaths due to accident or infection … muscle protects against accidental or infectious death … so muscle may raise average lifespan even if it shortens maximum lifespan.

    Most people will live longer if they add muscle, but athletes may not be the most long-lived.

    Another issue is that the relation between low metabolic rate and longevity appears to result from a benefit of metabolic efficiency. But exercise can increase efficiency, and lower metabolic rate. So someone can have more muscle and lower metabolic rate.

    I mean to dig into the longevity literature at some point and try to figure out the issues. When I do I’ll blog about it. Hopefully we can make sense of it!

    Best, Paul

  23. hi paul
    sorry this seems to be an old link but i thought id post this here. Your book is so fantastic and makes so much sense even vegetarians may be actually reconsidering their stance on meat.

  24. Hi Paul, based on a comment on this page that your book has an appendix on how to adapt PHD to a vegetarian diet. I bought the Kindle edition and read it almost cover to cover but couldn’t find the section. Have you omitted it from the second edition of your book? I was very disappointed not to have found it.

    I am Indian by birth and grew up in a vegetarian family. I do eat eggs and dairy though a blood test for IgG food sensitivities shows a reaction to both eggs and dairy. So I am a bit stumped as to how I should proceed on PHD. I buy sprouted buckwheat for my main ‘grain’ in addition to rice, just FYI. I was hoping the ‘Vegetarian’ section in the appendix would address protein sources (sprouting mung beans for example?).

    I’m prepared to do the work to adapt the diet. I sincerely hope you have a chance to see this note and respond as the thread hasn’t had activity for a few months now.


    • Hi Dipika,

      That was in the 2010 edition of our book. In the 2012 Scribner edition we reduced that to one paragraph. We’ll return an improved section to our cookbook, which is in progress.

  25. Thanks for the response. I’m trying to get a hold of the 2010 edition and I look forward to the cookbook where you will address how PHD can be best followed by vegetarians using your guidelines and advice. When will the cookbook be out? In the meantime if there is any advice you could share, especially considering my IgG test results showing sensitivity to eggs and dairy I’d appreciate it. I have already purchased the supplements you outline in your protocol as soon as I red your book.


    • I wouldn’t get the 2010 edition just for that. We weren’t satisfied with the vegetarian discussion which is one reason we pulled it. It would be better to get the updated edition, understand the principles, and then adjust your current vegetarian diet toward PHD.

  26. Thanks Paul.

  27. I also have a question as eating vegetarian. I do eat cheese (especially old, raw-milk, grass-feeded as parmiggiano, irish cheddar) and probiotic dairy as well as butter, but no fish, flesh or eggs.
    So I eat much more high quality cheese and much more raw cacao as the PHD plan.
    Are there any nutrition deficiencies I should look at?
    Also, there are – as I know – some studies suggesting casein might be bad for cancer, but I suppose it depends. My theory is, that there is no harm if the cows are grass-feed and the cheese is non-pasteurized and old, so the casein is predigested.
    Am I wrong with that?
    I am buddhist, so I don’t want to eat living animals. But health has priority for me.
    I am from Germany, have your 2018 book but didn’t find a chapter about vegetarian PHD concerns.

    Thank you!

    • Hi Johannes,

      I would highly recommend adding eggs to your dairy. Most commercial eggs were never fertilized and thus were not capable of developing into a chicken, so I would think they would be compatible with Buddhism. Eggs are tremendous nutritionally and would add a great deal of value.

      Dairy is an adequate substitute for muscle meats and has some other benefits. I wouldn’t be concerned about the casein-cancer risk – it is small. There is a lactose-neurodegeneration risk as well which is largely ameliorated by eating fermented dairy such as cheese and yogurt, or fatty dairy like butter. One glass of milk per day is a suitable amount of milk.

      For nutrients generally, the best thing would be to invest a few weeks in logging your food into a food tracking app, eg one of these: Two weeks would be enough to get a good idea of your average intake of the various nutrients. Then compare to PHD guidance to see which & how much it might make sense to supplement.

      There are some likely deficiencies which come to mind, such as vitamin A from liver and eggs, zinc from seafood, vitamin B12 is a perennial concern for vegetarians. But systematically assessing your likely deficiencies is better than any advice I can easily give.

      Best, Paul

  28. Johannes Baur

    Thank you Paul.

    This helps me, I will rethink about eating
    eggs and probably eat them again.

    I‘m sorry for my double post in the other thread – I overlooked your answer here.

    Have a good time and greetings from Germany.



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