• Plant Based Diets

last modified November 19, 2019 by strypey

Uncontested Facts about Plant Based Diets

  • Proteins are essential to human health.
  • Milk production requires animals to get pregnant on a regular basis, to keep their milk flowing.

Claims and Counterclaims about Plant Based Diets


 1. It's difficult to get enough proteins eating only plants.

 1a. Human bodies use protein to build and repair themselves, so the more you an eat, the stronger and healthier you get.

 1b. Almost no plant food is a complete protein, containing a full range of the amino acids human bodies need and can't produce).

 1c. Animal proteins are easier for human bodies to utilize than plant proteins.

 1d. Cooking makes no difference to the nutritional value of proteins.

 1. Humans don't need as much protein per day as many people seem to think.

 1a. Too much protein can be as bad for human health as too litte.

 1b. All plants have the full range of amino acids, even iceberg lettuce.

 1c. Plant proteins are easier for humans to absorb than animal proteins, because they don't have to be disassembled before being absorbed.

 1d. Raw proteins are better than cooked proteins, because cooking breaks down some of the amino acids into unusable slush.

 2. Dairy products are a health food for humans.

 2a. Dairy products are a good source of dietary calcium for humans.

 2. Most adult humans experience negative health affects if they eat dairy products, because only minority populations who have a long genetic history of dairy consumption can digest lactose and milk proteins successfully after childhood.

 2a. dairy is a poor source of calcium for humans

 3. Animal products supply more calories of energy more easily than plant-based foods

 3a. Recent studies have debunked the received wisdom that saturated fat is unhealthy

 3b. Saturated fat is just as healthy as unsaturated fat

 3. Human bodies digest carbohydrate and plant oils more quickly, more easily, and more efficiently than animal protein and fats, supplying more calories for less digestive effort.

 3a. While a handful of recent studies have not shown significant differences, “countless studies show that if you replace saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat, you do get a reduction in heart disease risk”, according to Alice Lichtenstein, professor of nutrition science and policy at Tufts University in Boston.

 3b. The weight of evidence indicates that some saturated fats are harmful, while the evidence on others is weaker or absent, but that both unsaturated fats and complex carbohydrates from grains are less harmful sources of energy than saturated fats.

2015: Yanping et al, 'Saturated Fats Compared With Unsaturated Fats and Sources of Carbohydrates in Relation to Risk of Coronary Heart Disease'

 4. Solely plant based diets are deficient in a number of essential nutrients.
 4. Suitably diverse plant based diets can provide all the essential nutrients needed for human health.

 5. Vegan diets put people in danger of serious health problems.

 5a. While vegetarian and vegan diets may be sufficient for health with suitable supplements, a diet containing animal products is healthier for humans.

 5. While unusually poor vegan diets can lead to health problems, normal non-vegan diets cause health problems as bad or worse.

 5a. Plant based diets are healthier for humans than diets containing animal products.

 6. Most of the conditions blamed on oxalates are also found in people who consume animals products and people whose bodies are sensitive to oxalates can take a range of steps to reduce their consumption or reduce their absorbtion while eating a plant based diet.
 6. Eating only plant foods results in a diet with too much oxalates, leading to a range of health problems.

 Anatomy and Evolutionary History

 1. Human anatomy is more similar to carnivores than herbivores.

 1a. Humans have been eating mostly meat for as long as we've been humans, or longer, so it makes sense that human physiology is omnivorous.

 1c. As omnivores, human physiology is best suited to an even mix of animal and plant foods.

 1. Human anatomy is more similar to herbivores than carnivores

 1a. That may be so, but like all the great apes, humans are non-specialized frugivores, a subset of herbivores that lives best on a diet high in fruit, nuts, and seeds.

2006: Stanford, Craig B., 'The behavioral ecology of sympatric African apes: implications for understanding fossil hominoid ecology'

 2002: Hladik et al, 'The human adaptations to meat eating: a reappraisal'

 2. Plant based diets are a modern fad, made possible by farming, and our hunter-gathered ancestors ate more meat than plants.
 2. Most modern hunter-gathers studied by anthropologists eat mostly plant food, with animal food like meat and eggs as occasional supplements. Notable exceptions include the Inuit, Mongolians, and some Pacific Islanders, who live in extreme conditions where few plants foods are available.
 3. Researchers into paleolithic diets have found that human need very high levels of protein, and meat is the best source.
 4. Boyd Eaton, one of the foremost scholars in this field, now believes the diet of highly active humans who lived about 40 years may not be suitable for less active modern humans who often live 60-100 years, and that plants are the best protein source.
 4. Humans can indeed digest raw meat, examples include sushi and steak tartare, but there are common plant foods like potatoes that humans can't safely eat raw.
 4. Humans can't digest raw meat, it has to be cooked first, suggesting it's not really a natural part of our diet.


 1. Only the secretions of a mammal can correctly be called "milk".

 1a. Even if coconut milk can be accepted due to a long history of common usage, recent manufactured products like "almond milk" don't qualify.

 1. The word "milk" has been used to describe "milk-like plant juices or saps" since 1200 AD, and both the Merriam-Webster and Oxford English dictionaries includes white plant juices in their definitions.

 1a. The Oxford English Dictionary included a mention of the "mylke of almaundes" in the early 15th century.

 2. Animal abuse  only happens in a minority of milk production operations.
 2. The production of milk of a large scale inevitably involves the normalized abuse of non-human animals.

 Points of Interest

  • Organisations that promote plant based diets include: PETA, and in Aotearoa, SAFE.
  • Debate about veganism vs. carnism at the Troll Lounge (off-topic board at the Trisquel forums)
  • A video asking "What's the 'natural' human diet" at NutritionFacts.org, the website of 'How Not to Die' author Dr. Michael Greger, resulted in a lengthy debate on vegan nutrition, with a number of references linked.
  • A post on the VeganBiologist blog provoked a lengthy debate on animal diets and vegan nutrition with a number of references shared.
  • IT professional Anders Aarberg engages in a typical anti-"anti-science" attempt to debunk an article with appeals to authority and argumentum ad hominem, without making even the most elementary attempt to engage with the article's contents. Some interesting links and comments though.
  • BeyondVeg.com publishes critical articles on vegan, vegetarian, and other alternative diets by authors from a range of perspectives. For example, this article focuses on comparative anatomy claims often used by vegans and vegetarians to support the idea that these are natural human diets.
  • RadioNZ did a series in 2017 called 'Healthy or Hoax' that investigated health fads, including an episode on plant milks called 'Getting milk out of an almond'
  • H Bomberguy did a 30min video on the "soy boy" meme that references a number of studies debunking the claim that soy consumption affects human testosterone levels.
  • At Healthfest 2017 in Texas, Dr Garth Davis gave a talk defending whole food, plant based diets as the best diet for maintaining a healthy body weight and overall health.
  • Veganhealth.org claims to offer "evidence-based nutrient recommendations" for vegans are others on a plant based diet.

 Primary Sources

 News Coverage

Improvement Notes

2018-04-02: OK, that's done, need to go carefully through the anti-vegan diet claims in the Troll Lounge debate, make sure they're all included here, and research evidence for and against them.

2018-04-01: Just started this page today, need to finish priming the pump. No, it's not an April Fools Joke.