This seems to be a question that I’m asked a lot recently, and I can't answer that for you. A recent film on Netflix “The Gamechanger” has raised the profile of the benefits of Veganism and rolled it together with how bad meat is for you as well as blackmailing you on climate change and produced a lot of hype!!
I watched and I thought it was a very well put together piece of entertainment, and that’s all it was.
I was going to give you a lot of science behind the discussion but actually I’m not because I’m giving you this link to a very good review which has all the references you could want.
What I’m going to do is pare down to the nitty gritty and tell you what I’m going to do. Does that sound fair?
So, let’s start off with the down sides of eating meat. Well there aren’t any that are proved by research. All the research that is supposed to prove that saturated fats cause heart disease DO NOT. A lot of the research has what we call confounding factors which basically means that there are other factors that influence the measured outcomes such as other lifestyle choices and the biggest one with work on nutrition is reporting error. People often have to say what they eaten, and they forget or try to make it look better because they are embarrassed.
The Penis experiment in the Gamechanger links better erections in men on a plant based diet compared to men on meat diets and is misleading. They claim that fat in a meal inhibits blood flow and so men get less/ worse erections after eating meat. You would expect the fat in the plasma to increase after a meal, that’s what it’s supposed to do so that the fat can move from your digestive system to your blood and into your cells. As for the results well again, there are lots of confounding reasons that he showed more erections after plant based meals, not least that you’ve got a bit of equipment strapped to your bits and one set of measurements is not conclusive.
So, keeping this short the downside of eating meat is not conclusive.
There was a lot of anecdotal evidence about the athletes who had enhanced performances on vegan diets, but a lot of this information is misleading. In these other two reviews you will see that they got to the top of their game on meat eating and then swapped to vegan diet and often then saw a slump in performance. The other thing that is interesting is that the American football team had a chef cooking their meals (and I bet a lot of the others did too or at least advising them). Despite this at least one athlete reports drinking extra protein shakes to increase protein to build muscle. If it’s so easy to get all the protein you need why do you need to supplement? It’s very easy, there is a lot of protein in plants but you must eat a LOT of it to get all that you need and frankly a lot of vegans don’t eat enough. So, they are protein deficient. At least they acknowledged that they need B12 supplements because the biggest source of B12 is meat. We should take as few supplements as possible because our food is always the best source because it’s in the best form for utilisation.
This will be my last point about this film because I really feel that it’s important. Many of the people involved in the making have a conflict of interest which was not declared. James Cameron has a business of producing vegan protein powder and many of the others have something similar. This means that basically the whole film is slewed to show what they want from the research and the anecdotes. It’s also designed to be emotive and worrying. Interestingly the author of one of the other reviews Shawn Baker is the author of “The Carnivore Diet” so that’s another conflict of interest as well. You can watch his review here I could also do a whole piece on American intensive farming, but I won’t.
This is already turning into a long blog and I’m not going to carry on apart from giving you a couple of points which influence my decision about what I eat.
I eat a diet which is high in vegetables and fruit. I do eat fish and dairy. I probably eat meat once or twice a week.
This is my choice, so I won’t be emotionally blackmailed by film makers who produce a film- it shouldn’t be called a documentary as it doesn’t give an impartial view of both sides.
As Arnie says in the film “Who the F*** are you to tell me how to eat?" It is your choice.
For me I eat good quality meat and that doesn’t mean steak every time but good quality in terms of how the animals are raised and killed- grass fed, organic.
I know nutrition can feel confusing but please be aware that social media and the media in general is always about emotion and can often be misleading. Do some research and ask for advice.
And by the way I’m declaring that I have an interest in this topic because I’d really like to help everyone eat a balanced diet whatever your ethical, religious and moral reasons.
Here's to your health!
You can be aspirational, successful and enjoy your life. But it is tricky to do alone, I act as a guide to help others find balance in all aspects of their live - Jane.