How the ethical argument fails veganism

Jeff Nelson, | 08/08/12

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Read More: ethical, health, matt ball, messina, vegan, vegan outreach

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Okay, please excuse the incendiary title of this article.  Someone recently sent me links to a couple of articles from vegan websites with titles like "How the Health Argument Fails Veganism."

These articles come from animal activists like Ginny Messina and Matt Ball at Vegan Outreach, and go something like this:  It's hard enough to go vegan because you have to restrict foods you eat, if you follow a program like Dr. McDougall or the Engine 2 Diet, you have to give up even more foods, the programs don't really work like they claim, and it's just too much to expect anyone to do.  And so it will lead to people not sticking with it!  So the health argument is bad. That's an argument that Messina makes.

Under an article entitled “Why Jack's Book Matters,” Matt Ball argues that it is “unrealistic” to think many people will give up animal foods just to benefit their long-term health, and that when asked why they quit being vegan, the main reason people give most is because of health.  Thus, reasons Ball, the “health argument” is defective, makes people quit being vegan, and “has created much, much more [animal] suffering.”

To try to prove his point, Ball cites a review published in Psychology Today which tried to look at the reasons why people give up being vegetarian and go back to meat-eating.  I read the article Ball cites – and found, surprisingly, it seems to prove the opposite of his point. 

Survey: Why some ethical vegans go back to meat-eating

The Psychology Today article is by Hal Herzog, PhD., a psychology professor from Western Carolina University.  Herzog wanted to examine why some people go vegetarian but end up going back to meat-eating.  So with the help of a friend, he set up a website to recruit people who had stopped being vegetarians.  He ended up getting 77 people who described themselves as former vegetarians, and had them take a survey.

Of the reasons participants gave for going back to meat-eating, Herzog reports the following from his survey:

  • 35%   stopped because felt they were becoming less healthy
  • 25%   stopped because of the hassles or social stigmas of being vegetarian
  • 20%   stopped because they felt “irresistible urges” for animal products
  • 15%   stopped because they felt it took a toll on their “social life”

If the largest percentage group – 35% – stopped being vegetarian due to “declining health,” then they clearly were not eating a healthy vegan diet.  

Too often people switch from the Standard American Diet to a vegan diet with a lot of junk foods in it.  They substitute unhealthy alternative products for the unhealthy meat and dairy products, and end up concluding that the vegan diet isn't all that healthy.  But of course in reality, they were simply eating the same SAD diet using unhealthy vegan foods instead.

Herzog notes that the majority of the respondents in his survey were women, and the average age was 28.  They were moved to become vegetarian by reasons around animal suffering.  Perhaps they read a book, heard a talk or saw a video, or were handed a leaflet showing animal cruelty.  They understandably were repulsed and decided they should go vegan so as to not be part of the barbaric and cruel farming system.

Herzog cites a 2005 CBS News survey that found 3 out of 4 people who go vegetarian end up going back to meat-eating.  That means a very high failure rate in terms of converting people to the idea of veganism, if that is your objective – as it is for Vegan Outreach and Messina.

Herzog reports in the article that, “In fact, most of the former vegetarians were still concerned with animal protection and the ethical issues associated with eating animals.”

Thus, we might conclude, if the surveys Herzog writes about are correct, that 3 out of 4 people who go veg for ethical reasons – will go back to meat-eating.  They will still believe in the ethical reasons that motivated them to become vegetarian, but that reason was not enough to stop them from going back and killing animals again.

Health vegans seek out info to stay healthy – and thus plant-based

Interestingly, on VegSource and with the many medical doctors and programs we have seen and helped promote since 1996, the average age of people going tends to be in their 30s to 50s, and are people concerned about being overweight or having health problems they want to deal with.  So this is an older crowd than the ones involved in Herzog's survey. 

These health vegans we see usually adopted a plant-based diet to get well, and so they realized they needed to educate themselves about what a healthy vegan diet is.  They sought out community and information about how to eat so that their health would improve, so that they could learn to make healthy meals quickly and easily, how to eat when they travel or go out, how to make sure they're satisfied with the food.  They may attend a program or watch videos, read books, and hang out at websites with information and experts in order to make the diet and lifestyle work for them, and achieve their objectives.

This is probably why the many thousands of people over the years going veg for health we've personally seen or heard from – do not generally fail, but thrive.  It also could explain why so many of the 20-something ethical vegans in Herzog's survey failed; they probably got little or no good health information from the source that encouraged them to go vegan.

I have seen it again and again when someone has been vegan for a long time and wasn't eating healthfully, if they one day decide to learn how to get exceptional health from a plant-based diet, they become supercharged as vegans, rather than failing and feeling bad about it.

The SAD diet is 35% fat and too high in saturated fat, added sugars and salt. Well the vegan recipes from AR dietitians are generally also 35% fat (just substituting junky soy replacements for meat) and still too high in saturated fat, added sugars and salt.  There isn't going to be much in the way of health improvement on a vegan diet like that, compared to the SAD diet.

Bill Clinton adopted Dr. Esselstyn's recommended whole food plant-based diet proven to reverse heart disease.  Clinton seems to be quite happy since the diet has reversed his disease.  He's sticking with it. He says he eats a little fish now and then, which I don't have a problem with.

Like Clinton, the wonderful Alicia Silverstone, who went vegan for ethical reasons, eats a little non-vegan food having gone back to occasionally eating cheese, which is also fine by me.  And I don't care in any way if she or anyone else is eating cheese, anymore than I care if Clinton may eat a little fish sometimes.

Now looking at this sample recipe from Alicia's book The Kind Diet for Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups, it starts with ½ cup Earth Balance butter substitute, sugar and lots and lots of sounds wonderful, but it's around 61% fat and 14% sugar.  There's a place for desserts like this at times, but you are not getting a good picture of a healthy vegan diet, if the books you focus your diet on contains recipes like this.  (But hey, I want to try that – and I endorse Alicia's efforts!!)

AR dietitians aren't credible sources of health info

AR dietitian Ginny Messina has written, "The science of nutrition holds just as many questions as answers and we have no idea what the 'ideal' diet is."  She says elsewhere that "the health benefits of veganism are overstated."

Contrast her opinion with someone who has actual clinical experience, who actually treats patients, publishes peer-reviewed studies, and has a long track record for creating great health using a plant-based diet -- someone like Drs. Fuhrman, Esselstyn or McDougall, who have shown again and again how to reverse serious diseases and create health using a plant-based diet.

To understand why Messina may not be convinced a plant-based diet is healthy (other than she may not read the studies), you need only look at the recipes she is promoting on her Pinterest:

  • Crispy Fried Tofu
  • Whipped coconut milk cream
  • Tomato Soup Chocolate Cake
  • Baked Almond Feta Cheese with Dill Oil

If you click through and see the recipes themselves, it's fairly horrifying. 

These are oil-laden, salt-stuffed, sugar-infused, highly processed – and absolutely delicious, fantastic-looking, yummy – wait, stop!  I could gain 5 pounds just drooling at her page.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is not health food, this is party food, this is put-you-in-an-early-grave food.  Very occasionally I'm going to eat something like these because they taste good.  But this is ethical vegan food, because as Messina believes, it's “too hard to follow a program” like McDougall, Fuhrman, Esselstyn, Novick, Engine 2, Ornish or Pritikin (i.e., the programs whose results and research are touted by many when enumerating the health benefits of the plant-based diet).

Let me say – I don't have a problem with anyone eating this way!

But if someone is eating this particular vegan diet and saying “the health benefits of the vegan diet are overstated,” this is someone who is only speaking about THEIR vegan diet.

They're basically saying you can save animals AND continue to eat vegan versions of all the junk food you've always loved!  That may suit an agenda to get you to help save animals, but it is not someone helping you achieve optimal health, and it's not someone I would rely on for health information.

The Pleasure Trap

Part of the problem with the SAD diet is what Doug Lisle PhD calls “the pleasure trap” – high fat, high sugar and high salt foods create drive to eat more bad foods, and it's a trap you need to recognize and escape if your goal is to be healthy.  Even mainstream leaders like former FDA Commissioner David Kessler talk about fat, salt and sugar altering brain chemistry and making people eat more and more junk food, see this article on   Kessler takes it a step further and exposes how food companies use this knowledge to intentionally manipulate foods to keep sales high (which, Kessler notes, destroys the public's health).

Yet the few AR dietitians who are out there aren't really health-aware, which is why they end up selling a veganized version of the SAD diet.  3 out of 4 new ethical vegans fail to remain veg – maybe because they don't feel that great eating a lot of pale, animal product substitutes, and other oily, sugary, salty foods.

Perhaps it is harder to target the younger crowd with health arguments if you're trying to convert people to veganism.  This is, I think, the main audience that outfits like Vegan Outreach and Ginny Messina are looking to appeal to.  Perhaps being so young, people in this group feel invincible and therefore not interested in the health argument.

On the other hand, I see many healthy vegan groups and even raw groups with lots and lots of young people participating, learning how to be healthy, wanting to be strong and avoid the obesity and diseases that come with the SAD diet, whether veganized or not.

Health is the future

The health argument for vegetarianism has been exploding in recent years, getting a lot of mainstream attention.  More and more people are discovering they can insure good health all their lives through healthy whole food plant-based nutrition.  Forward-thinking companies like Whole Foods Market have been educating their sickest employees about healthy whole food plant-based eating, see this video  and the result is Whole Foods is saving millions of dollars a year on employee health costs – at a time when most other companies are spending more and more on employee health care.

The bottom line from what we've learned on VegSource is this:  just getting people to "go vegetarian" is not enough to help them become healthy, and it's clearly not enough for the animals – when only 1 out of 4 people doing it just for ethical reasons ends up sticking with it, according to Herzog's Psychology Today article that Ball of Vegan Outreach cites.

Adopting a healthy vegan diet, is the key to making a lifelong change; it helps the animals, the environment – and you!



SPECIAL NOTE: At VegSource we support all of the many good reasons for going vegan, or shifting toward a plant-based diet. This article is intended as a little long-overdue response to the potshots taken by certain vegans against the work of people like Esselstyn, McDougall, Fuhrman, Engine 2 and so forth. I am pleased by and support all who work to save animals. What I object to is how people in some quarters feel they need to knock the health vegans who are succeeding. It seems the more successful the health vegans are, the more resentment they get from certain vocal, so-called ethical vegans. That is unfortunate, and it is the reason I felt this article was needed.



48 Comments | Leave a comment


It's rare that I get in an argument about veganism these days.

But when I do, I find that each vegan support - health, environment, and ethics - is debatable on its own.

If you're well educated in all three areas, you are on firm ground.

How sad we have "health" vegans and "ethics" vegans fighting each other. Truly, united we stand.


It seems that evidence that consuming organic eggs for breakfast, twice a week, and wild-caught salmon, once a week, continues to strike me as persuasive. I've eaten a vegetarian diet for many years, then recently experimented with poultry, which I've rejected, even, once, trying grass-fed beef, and I rejected it. I'm back eating a couple of egg-based breakfasts a couple of times a week and a serving of wild caught salmon once a week. I remain convinced that this limited consumption of fish and eggs is, on balance, justified. I remain open to old and new evidence for and against my diet.


Quote: 'It seems the more successful the health vegans are, the more resentment they get from certain vocal, so-called ethical vegans.'

Exactly! And for this reason, this article, naming names as it does, was long overdo!


I see this so often in the mainstream health news. They focus so much on human failings as a reason for dietary failings. It is not the diet that failed but in reality the human that failed to be sucessful in following it. It would be like me saying that cars cannot successfully run on gas when every day I pour water into my gastank. I come to the point where I am sick of defending this nonsense. We do not need confirmation from psychologists to know that we are sometimes weak. Sometimes this is not completly our fault as the food industry loves to use addictive ingredients like caffeine to help us fail. But to focus on this occasional weekness and draw any lasting conclusions is bad science. Ginny Messina is just another example of someone using shortcuts (lack of real research)to foster some type of health agenda. I really am not that concerned with what these health pundits say except that it really hurts those who are seeking some clear heath direction and are being confused by all of the misinformation. People need to look carefully at who they are following. Read their articles and see if they really make common sense. I think if you step back a little you can clearly see that neither Messina or Ball really pass the common sense test.


This is America and everyone has a right to choose within the law. That stated: I agree with what Jeff has said. I made three easy decisions in my life. One, was to marry my then girlfriend and have a wife and baby daughter [1970]. The second was when my wife and I went forward to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior [1974], and the third was becoming vegans after we watched "Forks Over Knives" [2012] We did it for health reasons, but we certainly are sympathetic to the cause of animals being treated humanely. Sincerely - Tom


Aside from the actual act of killing, assuming animals that are eaten have been badly treated is a massive presupposition. The argument against raising animals in poor conditions prior to slaughter should be kept separate to the arguments for and against vegetarianism and veganism. It is entirely feasible to be both pro animal welfare and eat meat.

If you are a vegetarian who eats eggs, you are directly responsibly for the death of animals. The mainstream egg production industry involves the killing of most male chicks, and most hens at around 1 year of age (when the rate of egg laying declines).

If you are a vegan, you may also be responsible for both the death and displacement of animals to protect the crops you are eating.

Regardless of what you eat, simply by existing on the planet: you are occupying a space and consuming resources that reduce space/resources for others. You therefore lower the population of other animals.

The question that rarely gets asked is: is it better never to have been born at all than to live a life that is foreshortened? If you don't eat meat, the animals you didn't eat were not reared in the first place.



Well done. The article is concise, complete and insightful. RDs are people too. And when you read articles by vegan RDs like Jack Norris, Ginny Messina, Jeff Novick, Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina as with all things people differ.

While I like much of the information in Vegan for Life and still use it as a primer, I won't recommend it to friends because it encourages oreos as vegan during transition if you can believe it.

Ginny's Becoming Vegan is still a great resource in my house. And I respect and use her suggestions daily. But I also read other vegan RDs and MDs and cannot agree with much of the Norris/Melina thread that some processed foods are ok. Note that some is not well limited. Ginny sited an Australian study showing that people who eat upto 49 percent of their starches as processed starches did just as well as those consuming a whole food plant based diet. I don't believe it. Neither did Joel Fuhrman when I cited the study to him on the board.

I still read and value Ginny Messina's perspective and Jack's also. What Jack has done with Vegan Outreach is truly remarkable. I hope Jack keeps his independent perspective as I think Ginny is a little more pro vegan junk food than Jack is.



I will say upfront I am biased. I went vegetarian in 1980 and vegan about 10 years later. I have never craved animal flesh for a single moment. That said, I think more people would be attracted to a veg lifestyle if those already in it presented a more attractive picture. No in-fighting based on motivation for the choice, no in-fighting for those who occasionally do eat animal-based food. Vegans are stereotyped as angry and hostile. I see potential for opposite. We are creating peace on the planet with our food choices. I'd like to see that energy extended to word choices and attitudes. Teaching by example is the best way. I'm 52 and wear the same size 3 I wore at 22 years old That makes a bigger impact on most people than videos about factory farms.


There Must Be a Moral or an Ethical Basis for One’s Vegetarianism, Otherwise One is Likely to Backslide, and Return to Flesh-Eating.

The health arguments aren't enough to keep one committed to vegetarianism. The nutritional data keeps changing, which causes opponents of animal liberation to react with amusement.

Opponents of animal liberation liken it to a scene in Woody Allen’s 1973 movie, Sleeper, in which a natural food faddist, unwittingly placed in suspended animation, wakes up two hundred years into the future, to find that what he’d thought would be the wave of the future, didn’t happen…

…the foods that were thought to be unhealthy in the 20th century were found to be health-supporting in the 22nd century.

In the ’70s, Dr. Tarnower’s Scarsdale Diet had a vegetarian option which was practically vegan, as dairy products were excluded. But Dr. Tarnower permitted diet sodas without restriction, which nutritionalists now are saying should be consumed less frequently.

In The MacDougall Plan (1983), Dr. John MacDougall advocated a plant-based diet, high in fiber and complex carbohydrates, with no animal products, oil or salt. And no intoxication, either, which meant no caffeine.

Keith Akers in A Vegetarian Sourcebook (1983), similarly said:

"It becomes a question of your money or your life. We may eventually acquire, through sheer technological prowess, the ability to cure or at least cope with these (degenerative) diseases, but we'll have to pay for it, and pay dearly (health care costs).

"And it is all so unnecessary. For the most part, we know what causes heart disease; we know what causes cancer. Through dietary reform we could probably cut the incidents of heart disease and cancer by 60% to 80%...

"Meat in particular, and animal products in general, have three nutritional disadvantages: they contain too much fat, they contain too much protein, and they contain no fiber at all... Carbohydrates, which are the primary constituent of most whole plant foods, are almost entirely absent in most animal products... only milk has significant amounts of carbohydrate.

"And the carbohydrate of milk is in a form -- lactose -- which is unusable by much of the world's population, which cannot digest it after infancy. Lactose provides no fiber and is nutritionally equivalent to table sugar...

"Some vegetarians may be somewhat offended to find that dairy products and eggs are... part of the nutritional problem. Eggs, milk, cheese, meat, fish, and fowl, all have about the same high quantities of fat and protein and about the same dearth of fiber.

“Almost any vegetarian diet is an improvement over the typical Western diet, but the best diet of all would also eliminate refined and processed foods, as well as most (if not all) animal products — in short, a total vegetarian (vegan), whole foods diet. This is a fairly radical claim, and one which should not be accepted uncritically…

"Actually, none of these is a'minor' disease. All are widespread and cause a lot of physical suffering. Broken bones, arthritis, kidney stones, gallstones -- many accept these things as inevitable parts of getting old. They need not do so. These afflictions are all largely brought about by a diet too high in fat and protein, and too low in fiber.

"A vegetarian diet -- especially a total vegetarian (vegan) whole foods diet -- is low in fat and protein, and high in fiber, and would greatly reduce the incidence of all these diseases."

John Robbins’ Pulitzer Prize nominated Diet for a New America (1987) makes veganism seem as reasonable and mainstream as recycling.

John Robbins shows in easy-to-read language, with charts and graphs, that most of the degenerative diseases plaguing the affluent West are self-inflicted wounds, and are virtually unknown in other parts of the world…

…and migration studies show that when persons immigrate to the United States and begin eating animal products in excess, they’re plagued by the same diseases as everyone else. Genetics and heredity are not a discernible factor.

John Robbins spoke in Solana Beach, CA in July 1989, where he said he’d recently appeared on the television talk show Geraldo… indirectly indicating just how mainstream his vegan views in Diet for a New America really are!

John Robbins said the evidence continues to mount: autopsies on heart patients show saturated fat and cholesterol as the problem — not spinach and tofu!

And that a diet high in fiber and complex carbohydrates, moderate in protein, and low in cholesterol is health supporting.

The Atkins diet (popular in the early '00s) went against the mounting evidence, although the real intent of the Atkins diet was not good health but quick weight loss.

When Dr. Atkins passed away, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) said his death was indicative of the dangers posed by the Atkins diet.

Peter Singer (author, Animal Liberation) himself admits his Introduction to Keith Akers’ A Vegetarian Sourcebook:

“Despite all the books on vegetarianism, there is a need for a thoroughly reliable sourcebook covering all the main arguments for being a vegetarian of one sort or another. There cannot be a definitive book that will do this for all time, for new medical evidence keeps coming in, and the ecological situation and the treatment of farm animals are gradually changing.”

At the World Vegetarian Day festival at Fort Mason in San Francisco, CA, in September 2000, Elliot Gang, a writer for the now-defunct Animals’ Agenda said advocating vegetarianism for health reasons is comparable to saying, “Rape is wrong, because you might catch venereal disease.”

No. In each case the moral reason is the real reason to abstain. Because we live in such a narcissistic society, it’s not surprising people are won over by the health arguments first.

It’s comparable to the bumper sticker which reads:

“Don’t Drink and Drive. You Might Hit a Bump and Spill Your Drink.”

Again: there must be a moral basis for one’s abstaining from meat, fish, fowl, etc., just like abstaining from cannibalism, because otherwise it’s very easy to backslide and return to flesh-eating.

As an example, in the late ’80s, a woman volunteering with San Diego Animal Advocates, said when she first became a vegetarian, she was doing so for health reasons, and didn’t think a piece of turkey at Thanksgiving or Christmas would hurt her. But she said when she learned about factory farming, animal abuse, etc. she won’t touch meat, period!

Again, a moral or ethical basis must be at the heart of one’s vegetarianism. The nutritional data keeps changing…

…But as an ethic, vegetarianism (not harming animals), like pacifists or pro-lifers, has stood the test of time and has served as the basis for entire religious traditions. (Buddhism, Jainism, Pythagoreanism, and possibly early Christianity all immediately come to mind.)


Hi Vasu,

You have made some good points. I believe resoundingly as you do that the ethical argument is not only essential but the best argument for people to remain committed to a veg diet.

There will always be, as there always has been, studies in which can be shown that consuming some animal products can be healthy. On the other hand, there has never been and will never be a study or anything else for that matter in which it can be shown that animals exploited and killed for people's collective taste preference (non-essential killing) were not exploited and killed for that reason. I believe that without a doubt, most people put more importance on the taste of something rather than how ideally healthy it might turn out to be for them. That's why the health argument is not an effective or successful long term argument.



Where is the evidence that milk from a no-kill cow sanctuary is less ethical than your average glass of soy-milk ?

Where is the evidence that eggs from a no-kill chicken farm involve more suffering than your average block of tofu ?

You seem very confident in the ethical argument, and as a general rule so am I, but there are some situations where the ethical benefits of this diet get a bit blurry, so when we make the un-qualified claim that veganism is always the most ethical choice we are essentially stretching the truth.

However, milk and eggs contain significant amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol, wherever they come from, so in those cases the health argument would actually be stronger than the ethical one.


Hi Vasu: It sounds like you didn't actually read the article, or you would know that the psychology professor who took a look found that 3 out of 4 ethical vegans go back to eating meat. So much for your quotes from 30 years ago...

I think it's a little weird that Ginny Messina is an RD when her chief interest seems to be in animals, rather than health. Her promotion of junky vegan food is self-serving; her husband is a paid "soy expert" with the United Soybean Board, see:

This means when she is pushing all these processed junk foods, she has a financial interest. On her FB page she is posting links to and promoting what I think we can all agree is very unhealthy -- a vegan version of a Chick-fil-a sandwhich.

It's okay with me to have occasional junk food, but for a dietitian to come out and endorse this kind of stuff -- it's appalling. Whose interests are she serving? Not her readers.

If you read Messina's "The Health Argument Fails Veganism" article -- which is one of the things that motivated me to write this -- she says Clinton didn't get any benefit from Esselstyn's diet beyond losing weight. In other words, there's nothing special about Essy's diet that Atkins couldn't also provide. She also takes a swing at Rip Esselstyn because someone who went through his program and lost weight and lowered cholesterol has added some animal products back to her diet. This is a very cheap shot when 3 out of 4 ethical vegans fail, probably due to silly information they got from someone like Ginny.

People love to hear good news about their bad habits, as McDougall says. Ginny is one of those people who likes to pretend it's okay to eat a lot of junk food.

Ginny and Vegan Outreach seem to be quite upset that the health argument has become so compelling to so many, and that more people stay plant-based for health than for animals -- though in many cases, such as my own, it is for both reasons. Vegan Outreach and Messina seem desperately trying to keep some relevance as it's clear they are on the wrong side of the health argument.

Here is a perfect example of the dishonest approach taken by Ginny's partners at Vegan Outreach. At the end of this long and confused rant:

the vegan outreach guys conclude that:

"Update, September 2011

In the years since I've written this, the case against arguing health as a way to help the animals has gotten stronger, as pointed out in many of the links throughout this article. The bottom line is absolutely simple: The vast, vast, vast majority of people don't make food choices for optimal health. They make choices based on taste, familiarity, and convenience. They might choose chicken over steak for "health" (or a deep-fried corn dog over fried butter), but except for a tiny minority, they won't choose steamed tempeh and quinoa on a bed of arugala.

So let's help the animals by giving people what they want: familiar tasty veg meats!

**** end of quote

So they are admitting that yes, there's a healthy vegan diet, but we don't think people want to eat healthy, they like the taste of junk food, so let's forget about sharing health information because we just want as many people as possible to save animals. Of course, when people start feeling like crap eating the Ginny Messina/Vegan Outreach junk food-based diet, most end of giving it up and go back to eating animals, as shown by the Psychology Today article Vegan Outreach points to. But now at least they feel guilty about it.

Looking at the quote from the Vegan Outreach article, they even use words to describe a healthy diet as "steamed tempeh and quinoa on a bed of arguala." They are trying to make healthy eating sound weird and boring. They are disdainful, yet this is not the way most health vegans eat. We eat burgers and fries ala Jeff Novick, tasty lasagna from McDougall, or yummy Shepherd's Pie from Engine 2.

When you start teaching people about health and show they can eat lots of great satisfying foods that are healthy and delicious, they will more likely stick with it, like so many of the health vegans do. But that is not going to put money into the pocket of Ginny's husband -- who once described McDougall as an "asshole" to a friend of mine at a PCRM dinner.

These guys have an agenda. I don't take information about milk from the dairy industry; nor do I accept "health info" about refined soy products from someone who is part of the soy industry.

The ethical argument is not "better" than the health argument. Thanks to vegan outreach drawing attention to the Psychology Today article, we know that the ethical argument doesn't work as well as the health argument is working, in terms of reaching and bringing in the largest number of people, and keeping them on the diet. And Ginny's motives of promoting a no-health "ethical diet" is tainted by the fact that she and her husband earn income by promoting soy-based junk food.

VegSource promotes all the reasons for adopting or shifting toward a veg diet. I think it's very unhelpful that Messina and Vegan Outreach repeatedly attack and try to smear the people who are having success getting people healthy using a vegan diet. At some point we have to say enough is enough, these guys are full of it. They like to present themselves as being "above it all...we look at the science." Nonsense. They are junk food pushers for the animals, but in the end they are not really serving the animals or anyone, since so many of the people they reach quit.


I am always am suspicious of people who heavily promote things that they have financial ties to. I heavily promote eating green vegetables but I have no ties to the kale industry, I swear!!!

Thanks Jeff for posting a recipe with 3 cups of OIL!!! I can't decide if I should make it or use it in my car!!! :)


I thought that I posted a comment but don't see it, so I will write again. My apologies if I end up posting twice.

It saddens me to see factions in the vegan community. I am heavily immersed in both sides of this division and I do sometimes feel torn. I eat in the way recommended by Furhman, McDougall and Novick(I blend all of their advice) but I am also a huge fan of Vegan Outreach, Matt Ball, Jack Norris, and Ginny Messina.

Considering the immense suffering we inflict on those who are powerless - suffering hidden and so bad that it is beyond our ability to even grasp, I think that this is something we need to address. Talking only about health implies that the suffering of animals doesn't matter and that only human interests matter. Human society needs to confront our abuse of power and cruelty aginst animals. Please watch Farm to Fridge and Earthlings to really grasp this issue.Warning: They are brutal to watch.

But just as there is no need to choose between compassion for people and compassion for animals, there is no need to choose between eating healthy and caring about the suffering that farmed animals endure. I always talk about the suffering of animals to help people bridge the disconnect but I also explain thaqt the style of vegan that I eat is based on health concerns. I convey that eating animal products causes unnecesary suffering and that eating vegan doesn't automatically mean a healthy diet, etc. But I would never ignore the animal suffering.

When a person truly gets this in her or his heart, the veganism sticks for life.


I have been vegan for over 35 years and have never been able to get anyone to watch Earthlings (although it is amazing well done film). But I can get anyone to watch Forks Over Knives. I don't think the animals really care WHY we aren't eating them. I have seen too many of my junk food eating vegan friends succumb to heart disease, diabetes and even cancer. And some are now dead from these diseases which could have been prevented and reversed with an oil-free WHOLE FOOD plant based diet. You can't speak out and help the animals if you are sick or dead.

People are not designed to eat processed food period, whether it is vegan or not. When a junk food eating vegan gets fat or sick, and they all do eventually, they eventually go to a doctor who tells them they need to eat animal products. This could be avoided on a health prompting plant based diet.

If the animal suffering argument was truly effective we would have way more vegans.


Well written article. I am over 50 and became vegan after learning of Dr Esselstyn's work and Forks Over Knives, and the China Study. They all had a powerful effect on me. But it was my selfish motivation to avoid heart disease that caused me to make the change.

Avoiding the killing of animals was not my motivation but it has become an addtional benefit. It gives me a sense of calmness.

It has been a full year of veganism for me and my wife. It helps a lot to have a partner who sees identically on this. We have seen too many benefits to ever want to go back to the old way.

For us now it just makes common sense to eat vegan.


I became Vegan in 1980 and am today in 2012 still a vegan. My first reason is that is what I would have wanted me to be if I were God. Then in high school, I did extensive research through a Nutrition Almanac. While in transition I found my body feeling better than ever before in my life (not being constipated) and this was further proof I was on the right track.

To stick to a VEGAN DIET is really very easy:

How about a peanut butter sandwich with an apple for a quick meal?

1. One Carbohydrate or Bread (grains, rice, corn).
2. One complete protien or mixture of protien food (beans, nuts, seeds)
3. One fresh fruit or vegetable
Put each of those three in each meal and you will feel sated and stay healthy.



Mr. Nelson's argument here is interesting but I believe the conclusion is faulty. Let me explain.

First off, the Herzog "study" (Herzog himself states that it is really just a “survey” of 77 former vegetarians) written about in the Psych Today article leaves a lot of room for error and subjective impression. "Declining health" could be attributed to a poor veg diet but it could be attributed to other factors as well (like emotional challenges which may result in declining health). In fact, "declining health" is actually quite vague. After all, are we to believe that all participants were anemic only after going veg? Was there any blood work or specific tests done prior to or after the participants eating veg? What type specifically? Were conditions like hemochromatosis ruled out? Were participants tested for allergies at any point? What point? We don't even know what factors were accounted for in the phrase "declining health". I can recall as a teen that I had declining health and very shortly after my emotional state changed (due to moving away from a stressful situation), my health improved. I didn't change anything in my diet during that period. The point is, emotions affect health and the Herzog study doesn't rule out that "declining health" could have been a result in some or many cases of emotional changes by the participants.

In the very least, the Herzog “study” is vastly inconclusive, therefore it is not a good “study” to reference (even if initially mentioned by those Mr. Nelson argues against), especially for trying to make a conclusive case for why people have gone back to eating meat. Mr. Nelson accepting the Herzog "study" as evidence that most people who revert back to eating meat do so because the ethical arguments are weak (“not successful”) is quite troubling considering that the Herzog “study” is somewhat vague and therefore not very reliable as a source on such an important matter as is being brought up. That coupled with the anecdotal evidence that comprises virtually the rest of Mr. Nelson’s article does not make for a convincing case as to the why the reverting is taking place.

Additionally, I see it as haughty and unprofessional that Mr. Nelson knocks the nutritional advice from Ginny Messina, RD and Jack Norris, RD (which is where Matt Ball draws his nutritional references in his article “Why Jack’s Book Matters” from) particularly in light of the fact that Mr. Nelson lauds Whole Food’s collaboration with the McDougall diet plan, a plan which, among other things, suggests as a complete “meal choice” (dinner) McDougall’s own Teriyaki Noodle soup ( ) which at slightly under 2 oz. (56 gms) contains sodium at an amount of 10 mgs shy of 600! That’s a lot of sodium in less than 2 oz. of food. In comparison, according to the USDA, a medium sized apple alone weighs 182 gms (less than 6 ½ oz.). Do the math; 2 oz. is between ¼ and 1/3 of an apple….nearly 600 mgs of sodium in a portion of food that small. That seems to be a small meal of excessive sodium to me. Further, the McDougall diet advocates high amounts of carbs and while some carbs are important, there are real concerns noted by real professionals who have “actual clinical experience, who actually treat(s) patients” concerning the potential dangers of high carb diets. Does Mr. Nelson really have a leg to stand on in his condemnation of Ms. Messina and Mr. Norris nutritional advice?
So where does that put us. I am convinced that it is neither the health argument nor the ethical argument that is today responsible for the largest portion the trend of former vegans and vegetarians reverting back to eating meat - many reverting to ‘happy meat’ (including ‘happy’ eggs and dairy too) - but rather it is the wrong ethical argument that is largely to blame.
There have been many articles in a whole host of magazines, newspapers, and journals which allude to the conclusion that even ethical vegans/vegetarians have unfortunately been duped by the ‘happy meat’ hype. Some of those articles can be read at: Well exactly who is convincing these former vegans/ vegetarians and the public at large to believe such a thing? Of course the growing segment of the meat industry that profits from the “humane” meat ruse is doing their part as are several authors (like Pollan) and a host of publicly known chefs as well. But sadly, some national animal advocacy leaders are also helping to convince the public that consuming “humane” animal products is a morally responsible choice. Articles written, speeches given, and campaigns embarked on by orgs headed by these leaders clearly impart this message of the goodness of “humane” farming (breeding, exploitation, transport, killing, and everything else in between) and how a cage with a few more inches per hen is a victory for the animals!

I’m far from the only one who recognizes this terrible reality. In an interview conducted several years ago with MeatingPlace (a meat industry journal), renowned food expert Marion Nestle acknowledges that notable numbers of vegans and vegetarians are going back to eating meat because they believe that they can eat meat and still be doing the ethically right thing. Also, there’s a growing movement within the animal advocacy movement that is waking up to the fact that, by some of the leaders in the movement legitimizing the notion that eating animal products is a morally responsible choice, that this activity will invariably lead to former vegans/vegetarians reverting back to eating animal products. From a purely logical standpoint, how could it not? People who are supposed to hold the basic interests of the animals in protective regard are the one’s supporting and endorsing the exploitation and killing of animals under the rubric of ethical treatment and justice for the animals…surely if they condone (kinder-than-factory-farm-conditions of exploitation and killing) animal farming and the consequent products then this must be the right thing for the animals, the public is left understanding or grappling with.

A good example of this is the once praised and nationally heralded Ohioans For Humane Farming (OFHF) campaign. It was a broad, national coalition of a number of well known animal advocacy orgs, meat industry groups, and retailers of animal products created by the nation’s largest animal advocacy group. The goal of OFHF was to promote the virtues of “humane” farming. And this is only one example of numerous campaigns as part of several avenues in which some animal advocacy leaders have been abetting or promoting the notion that ‘happy meat’ is the fix to the problem that farmed animals face. Instead of consistently advocating creative ways that would help people to reduce or eschew eating animal products, “Eat animals who endured less suffering than on factory farms” is the message and the perfect slogan for this group of mis-leaders who trumpet that calamitous (for the animals) thinking.

With the sort of gross misdirection at the hands of animal advocacy leaders, is it really any mystery why many of the notable numbers of vegans/vegetarians reverting are convinced that going back to eating animal products is the right choice?


Hi Louie:

I am really glad that you brought all this up, because you underscore my points.

First, I didn't call the Herzog article a "study" anywhere in my piece. You did. In fact, you called it a "study" 6 times. I called it an article or a "survey."

The level of quality of the survey is highly suspect -- I agree with you. So you must agree with me that the level of "science" that Vegan Outreach and Messina rely on, as this Herzog Psychology Today article is an example, is very poor. They are trying to defend Messina and their junk food-based vegan diet they recommend using this Pyschology Today article. You go to great lengths to show that it really isn't a very useful survey, and I would agree it's really not much worth mentioning to prove point -- a bunch of speculation from someone who maybe wasn't even having actual vegetarians in his survey but people pretending to me. There's no way to find out.

So let me correct you that this is not a "study," and I agree.

Regarding knocking the nutritional advice of Messina and Norris -- yes. That is the point. I do find their advice of very poor quality and not much use from a health standpoint. They have no clinical experience, they have never treated patients or published studies, and they knock the diets of many of the most respected researchers, doctors and nutritionists, who actually do have clinical experience, and publish studies, and have done this for 3 or 4 decades.

Regarding the McDougall Right Foods, this is a company which Dr. McDougall doesn't control and hasn't for many years. I agree with you that the product you mention has too much sodium, and is starting to look like the foods Messina and Norris promote. But you are mistaken when you assert that those packaged foods are part of the "McDougall diet plan." You should read his book and learn what his diet is about before going off and making such statements.

Regarding McDougall advocating a high whole-carb, starch-based diet -- again, you are right. But again, you don't seem very familiar with Dr. McDougall's diet. You should really read his book before offering your opinion about the "potential dangers of high carb diets" and your scare-mongering based on nonsense.

Your comments regarding "happy meat" are not a part of my discussion.

My point is that Messina and Norris try to place themselves as somehow the arbiter of health and science concerning the vegan diet. The level of "evidence" they use to try to promote their positions is, as you observe about this Psychology Today piece they put forward, very poor. The diets they advise are terrible in terms of health. They should stick to animal rights and using the compassionate argument to spread the good word, that's great.

But unfortunately that's not all their doing. They are claiming that "we don't really know what a good diet is for health," and "Dr. Esselstyn's program that Clinton went on is not the reason Clinton got well" -- or any of the many other patients of Esselstyn. That it is somehow just a coincidence that he's been able to reverse heart disease of many hundreds of his patients over the past decades, and an update is going to be appearing in a peer-reviewed journal in the near future, documenting the experience of a few hundred more individuals who have been tracked eating his diet.

So go to Ginny and Jack to learn about the awful conditions of animals. That's great. But when they say "we don't know what a healthy diet really is" and use that to encourage people to eat an awful diet -- and then take potshots at doctors and dietitians actually showing over decades in a clinical setting what works -- that's when you know they are well out of their area of expertise, well out of their element. Where have Messina and Norris shown that McDougall, Esselstyn, Barnard, Fuhrman and Ornish are wrong? Where have they shown that the four decades of pretty good research which is all pointing in the same direction -- is somehow flawed or not true?


Hi Jeff,

I stand corrected that you did not call the Herzog survey a study but just to be clear, I only referred to it as "study" (in quotations) because I thought that I recalled you referring to it as a study.

We can agree that it is not a good source for making a case as to why veggie ppl revert.

Messina and Norris do not make claims that are different than some professionals who have clinical experience and have treated patients. It's a specious argument you are making and my intention is not to necessarily defend Messina or Norris, but rather to point out where I think you have not put forth a good argument. In other words, there are a whole host of opinions and positions made by people who have clinical experience and have treated patients; that doesn't mean that some of these professionals' arguments are necessarily more accurate than RD's who read the papers or articles of professionals who have the aforementioned experience. So you knocking Messina and Norris shows that you do not understand this. At the same time, if Messina and Norris knock the advice of other health professionals, it doesn't necessarily mean that they have a valid reason to do so.

Additionally, just because McDougall doesn't control Dr McDougall's Right Foods doesn't necessarily mean that he doesn't endorse those same exact products. In fact, on Dr McDougall's own website there's flat out endorsements of those very products: as well as other products that are not only high in sodium but perhaps downright not healthy. Therefore my point about you not having a leg to stand on (since you laud McDougall's work) when you condemn Messina and Norris for poor nutritional advice is a valid point. Take your own advice and look at some of the products that are endorsed on McDougall's own site. It seems clear to me that your advice on where to turn to for sound nutrition is no better than Messina's, Norris', or anyone else you may disagree with for that matter. Maybe it's time for you to come off your high horse Jeff.

Still, there can be no real context when you pull some words out of an article that was written on a complicated subject as you have with these words, "we don't know what a healthy diet really is". In fact, there is no consensus among practicing health professionals who have clinical experience and who have treated patients as to whether a completely plant-based diet is healthier than any and all other diets. To claim the opposite is quite dishonest. As a point to this, there have been organizations like the National Geographic (NatGphc) that have taken a look at diet and longevity. NatGphc had spent considerable time and money on trying to learn about the cultures in our modern world in which people live the longest healthiest lives. NatGphc's findings were that of the top 3 cultures where people lived the longest, in 2 of those cultures, meat was regularly eaten (albeit, smaller portions that in the SAD).

Maybe you should just stop condemning others for not making a convincing argument on nutrition so long as you yourself have failed, Jeff.

Finally, contrary to your claim, your article certainly does in fact open the door for people exploring or understand the reasons why exactly have so many veg ppl reverted and so my contention as to why (in large part this is the case) is most definitely part of the discussion. How it's possible that you don't get this is beyond me.


Regarding the quality of the survey/article that Vegan Outreach used to try to show the health argument isn't good (i.e., the survey reported in Psychology Today), note that I wrote in my article: "Thus, we might conclude, if the surveys Herzog writes about are correct, that 3 out of 4 people who go veg for ethical reasons – will go back to meat-eating."

I didn't see any such qualifier in the Vegan Outreach article which was trying to present it to defend their position. But the survey may well be true, and is certainly one piece of evidence, not to be completely dismissed, as you would like to do since it doesn't fit your preconceptions, but also not to be completely relied on.

Regarding McDougall recommending any products which are "downright not healthy," I don't see any in that list you linked to

I don't think you could find any and are just shooting from the hip. And if you knew about Dr. McDougall's program you would know he recommends packaged soups only for when you are traveling or in a situation where it is hard to get a healthy meal, in which case these will do in a pinch. Since you don't know about his program, you assumed these are a cornerstone for his diet or program. They are not.

That you see an equivalency between one higher sodium Right Foods soup dish (which has 480 mg of sodium in 200 calories), and the vegan Chick-fil-a Sandwhich that Messina is recommending to readers on her Facebook page -- which calls for 3 cups of canola oil, or nearly 6,000 calories and 654 grams of fat, 13,953 mg of sodium, 373 calories from sugar, and that's without putting all the nasty ingredients into my Cronometer -- you can go ahead and tell me you agree with Messina that "we don't really know what's healthy and what isn't" -- but I do know what's healthy, and it is not the food that Messina is pushing.

The fact you believe or try to assert that the garbage food Messina recommends is somehow comparable to the largely-healthy packaged food McDougall recommends for people on his program, is truly grasping. It shows you don't have a clue about McDougall's program.

Regarding "pulling something out of context" -- how? I link to where I have taken Messina's words, anyone can check and see that I haven't changed them or their meaning, so that's a bogus charge.

In terms of some "consensus" among dietitians as to whether the vegan diet is healthiest or whatever, I could care less. The ADA is a trade group, not a scientific group. They are sponsored by McDonald's, Coke, Hershey, the dairy industry and the rest.

I'm talking about the vegan world. Messina and Norris are clueless when it comes to using a plant-based diet for health. They clearly don't know what healthy food is, but they are willing to go attack people who do, because they have an agenda to bring people to veganism by lowering the barriers.

I posted this earlier, but you may have missed it, from Vegan Outreach:

"Update, September 2011

The bottom line is absolutely simple: The vast, vast, vast majority of people don't make food choices for optimal health. They make choices based on taste, familiarity, and convenience... except for a tiny minority, they won't choose steamed tempeh and quinoa on a bed of arugala.

So let's help the animals by giving people what they want: familiar tasty veg meats!

**** end of quote

Stupid is as stupid does.

People going along with that are going along with something that isn't very smart. Vegan Outreach admits in that quote that a healthier diet than the one they promote is out there -- "steamed tempeh and quinoa on a bed of arugala" (according to them) -- but only a small amount of people are really interested in health, they say, so let's promote vegan junk food because we don't really care about the health of people, we're more concerned about animals.

This is why people like Norris and Messina shouldn't call themselves vegan RDs, but rather the vegan Animal Rights Activists. Because being an RD implies that you have learned about health, and that you want to help guide people toward health. But pushing a fat and salt-loaded vegan version of Chick-fil-a, or advocating your operatives not give people information about a healthy vegan diet because that's not in the interests of the animals -- doesn't cut it.

I think we have different understandings of nutrition, Louie, and different standards for how to act toward other people. I have seen Messina and Vegan Outreach for many years go after the vegan MDs and dietitians who promote health, and try to discredit them or pooh-pooh their sucess in the eyes of their readers. It's time to call what Messina and Ball/Norris are full of: nonsense.


On the question of why some people or many people revert from being veg or vegan and go back to eating meat, here are some thoughts:

1) Like the article says, some people feel they are not as healthy with the veg diet they end up eating. They may need support, but don't get it and give up. Or they may go to a doctor who advises they need meat.

2) They may find it too inconvenient or socially problematic -- again, like the survey in the article shows. Again, they may not be surrounded by other like-minded people, and eventually, though they would like to continue, it's just too much to do it more or less on their own.

3) They may try it all or nothing, and when they can't be 100%, they see a lot of "fundamentalist" vegans, the type who bash Clinton for having a little fish now and then, or bash someone for not living the vegan ethic completely, and so they are turned off by the fundamentalists who insist everyone be "pure." And the fundamentalists who claim they wish more people would become vegan actually cause the opposite due to their judgmentalism.

It is interesting to me, having watched and filmed many of the health vegans, how effective they are at keeping people on the plant-strong road.

For example, I went with Rip Essesltyn to Mercersburg PA, where they 100 people in this small town to do the 28 day challenge. A year later, nearly all of the people who did it are still eating plant-strong, and they have had several new waves of hundreds of people doing the program, so they are growing.

When I go to vegan get-togethers here in LA, I see a lot of the same people I've been seeing for 15 years since I started hanging out. It's not like there are always new people coming in and showing up and joining the ranks.

But these many immersions, the Healthy Lifestyle Expo we do each year -- there are hundreds and thousands of new faces, of people who never thought they would go vegan, and a year or a few years later, they're still doing it, they're committed and aren't going back because they're getting the benefits.

I think more animals are being saved by the work of people like McDougall and Rip Esselstyn than by the work of vegan outfits like Vegan Outreach. If VO is getting 500 people a year to go vegan due to their fliers, Rip Esselstyn has gotten 10 times that, based on his TV appearances, his bestselling book, and his immersion programs.

Now some will say, "But he's plant-strong and not all those people are 100% vegan! And most of them aren't giving up leather and saying the saying the secret vegan prayer to the vegan god!" Maybe so, but I think Rip is saving a lot more animals than Vegan Outreach or Ginny Messina.

When I look at the explosion of health vegans on the internet, I see huge groups of people as "Get Fit Vegan," "Raw Sexy Vegans," "Vegan Runners," "Skinny Vegans" and so forth -- a whole new universe of vegans around the health angle. I think the old school vegan outreach stuff is far less effective than they may have once been, and far more environmentally destructive, with all those booklets that get printed, the vast majority are tossed without a vegan being newly minted.

Look at the internet traffic, as one indicator, of who is reaching people. According to which ranks sites based on traffic inferences they can make using server data, is ranked 156,937 in the US, while (a relatively new site) is ranked 36,816 and is 22,843. That means the health vegans are reaching way more people than the ethical vegans. Messina's site of is ranked 264,565 in the US. So if we're going to talk about what's effective, obviously Messina and Norris/Ball know less than the health vegans, who are reaching much much bigger amounts of people.

So it would seem that if your objective is to save animals, and save the most animals possible, appealing to people about their health is the way to go. That attracts the most, and many more seem to stick than the ethical thing where too many people fail and don't stick it out.

If you want to do a sort of religious take on veganism, then you can go off and talk about it in those terms with a small number of people, but you're not going to get very many people, and you're not going to save very many animals. That becomes more about ego I guess.

The truth is all reasons for going vegan are valid, and all attempts in different ways are valid. When one group takes aim at another, like Messina/Vegan Outreach trying to make it like they know how to reach people better, they know more about health or whatever. No, they don't.



I strongly disagree with your beliefs as to the main reason today that notable numbers of vegans/vegetarians are reverting back to eating meat. Sure, for a certain percentage, that would be true, but your argument is not a convincing one and it doesn't jive with what I have been reading in article after article over the past several years and to which I have already noted previously.

But since there's no empirical evidence either way, we will have to agree to disagree.



(this is in response to your 5:03 PM message)


You are entitled to your own opinions but not to making up your own facts.

I don't dismiss the Herzog survey out of hand as you insinuate, rather I claim that it isn't a valuable resource for determining certain health claims because of what I previously stated. Please try not to put any more words in my mouth.

Next, who made you king? Please get out of your ivory tower and come all the way down to talk straight. For some reason you are presenting yourself as the know-it-all arbiter of what is and what isn't healthy. You knock Messina and Norris for advocating a "terrible" diet, “garbage foods”, and claim their evidence is "very poor" according to you. But you are acting creepy and you are quite dishonest in your crazy assertion that they use only the Psych Today article as the basis for their claims that the health argument often fails to keep people on a veg diet. You do the same thing insinuating that in spite of their entire wealth of nutritional knowledge or the conclusions they make based on years of studying nutrition and medical documentation, observation, and whatever else experiences they have in the field of nutrition, that somehow all of this makes them unqualified to give good nutritional advice and unworthy of your lofty stamp of approval. Otherwise, why would you even continue to reference ONLY that Psych Today article in the same breath that you condemn them as advocates of a terrible diet? That’s creepy what you are doing, Jeff.

If you bothered to be honest, you’d realize that instead of a “junk food-based vegan diet” (your words),
Messina in her book “Vegan For Life” actually advocates a healthy diet. For example, review the chapter titled “Vegan Food Guide” ( ). You even have the gall to denounce one of the high sodium packaged products put out by Dr. McDougall’s Right Foods as “starting to look like the foods Messina and Norris promote” in one instance and then in another instance you respond to my mention of “other products” endorsed on McDougall’s website as being “perhaps downright not healthy” foods in the hundreds of packaged items promoted on McDougall’s own website in this dismissive tone of yours, “I don't see any in that list you linked to”, a list which contains products that are either high in sodium and/or contain plenty of unnecessary sugars and fats. For example, with a tiny bit of mouse clicking, were you actually interesting in learning something helpful to you, you would have found that among the foods promoted on McDougall’s site is this lovely specimen: . Review the other products endorsed on McDougall’s site….still think that you don’t see any that may be downright unhealthy….really Jeff?

In your pugnacious attitude claiming that I don’t know a thing about the McDougall program as well as your assertion “And if you knew about Dr. McDougall's program you would know he recommends packaged soups only for when you are traveling or in a situation where it is hard to get a healthy meal, in which case these will do in a pinch.” you fail miserably at understanding that for the hundreds of packaged products including the sugary fatty ones like the one linked to above, here’s what the text reads for these packaged products: “This is an Updated Canned and Packaged Products List of items that can be used on the McDougall Program. Criteria for selection include, no animal products and limited soy protein and added oils. We also strive to keep refining and additives to a minimum. This list is far from complete and you are welcome to offer suggestions for products to be included. Check this list periodically for new additions.” Just so you are no longer in the dark about this Jeff, these packaged products are “items that can be used on the McDougall Program”. There’s no “in a pinch” or “only for when you are traveling” qualifiers, Jeff. Are you finally getting it now? Don’t you see how wrong you’ve been all this time? Read it again if you didn’t get it the first time around.

And just so you are aware that I won’t let you get away with your deceptive tactics, concerning some of the items in the entire list of McDougall endorsed products, I had written “perhaps downright not healthy” not “downright not healthy” as you had quoted me.…there is a difference and if you plan to quote people, quote them in context. You see, unlike you, I don’t pretend to be an authority on health and nutrition.

Jeff, you really are making some of the most ridiculous arguments I’ve ever seen. You are self-contradictory and all over the place with your claims.

You definitely have taken people’s words out of context; you are simply not honest enough to admit it.

Your assertion that only the vegan world nutrition people that you happen to agree with can be right is absurd Jeff. I won’t even argue this with you because to give that line of thinking a moment’s more time would be to acknowledge the utter nonsense that you concoct in your head.

Finally, Vegan Outreach doesn’t claim, as far as I know, that it is some kind of official authority on clinical nutrition. that’s your misperception perhaps, Jeff. Just because on one of their web pages is written what you have quoted does not mean that this is meant to be taken as professional nutritional counseling or advice. That’s just in your head, Jeff. There are probably tens of thousands of web pages that can be found on as many websites where things are written about food choices and diet and not a single one of these pages are meant to be taken as professional nutritional counseling or advice. But on a Dr. McDougall’s website, the same can not necessarily be said; after all, that’s Dr. McDougall’s professional life work.


Hey again, Lou:

I was hoping you would respond specifically to something I said, rather than just responding with the "creepy...dishonest" name calling.

You say I took a comment out of context, but you can't seem to say which one.

You wrote: "you are quite dishonest in your crazy assertion that they use only the Psych Today article as the basis for their claims."

What? Are you off your meds? Where in my article did I say that "they only use the Psych Today article as the basis for their claims."

Talk about putting words in other people's mouths. Show me where I said that. I put the link to their article, so anyone could read it and make their own assessment.

Regarding the products on Dr. McDougall's site, no I am not seeing any "perhaps downright unhealthy" products because I know a heck of a lot more about his diet than you do. If you did, you would know that the diet isn't a bunch of packaged products at all, although using some packaged products is allowed. They even have a unique label-reading program they teach to discover very quickly whether a food is healthy or how un-healthy it is, based on what you're using it for.

Just because you read something on a webpage, Lou, doesn't mean you know McDougall's program. Just because I read some articles by Messina or Vegan Outreach, doesn't make me an authority on their work either, but I am able to form an opinion when Messina asserts the McDougall diet is "outdated...and probably dangerous." She doesn't cite anything to back that up, of course.

I can infer that since she believes McDougall's very successful program is "probably dangerous," that she is "probably ignorant."

Her schtick is that "I read the studies and can tell you what's true and what's a myth." Oh yeah? Don't count on it.

Ever wonder why she so often writes about the "healthfulness" of processed soy products? That's because her husband gets paid to promote soy for a living. Since soy is 40% fat and thus should be eaten in moderation in a healthful diet, that kind of health advice from McDougall and the others can hit the Messinas right in the pocketbook. Coincidentally the Messinas' advice on soy corresponds to their financial interests -- eat lots, three times a day! Well be careful who you get your health advice from.

And this is the internet. Messina is quite welcome to post her attacks on the work of McDougall, Esselstyn, Pritikin and the rest. Those guys are too busy actually taking care of and curing people through a vegan diet, to bother with her little essays. She's beneath them. I've gotten sick of her at this point, so she shouldn't be shocked when someone responds to her publicly and calls her on her b.s.

Finally, I realize that Messina doesn't have any success stories of people she's helped get healthy. But those MDs do -- and I do, too. I went into a food bank with McDougall and a team of nutritional experts, we took 21 families low-fat vegan, got them off their meds, reversed diseases, a year and a half later most of them have stuck with it and are still going stronger and improving more. I know that Messina couldn't do that. Maybe I should be an RD. And yes, this was all tracked through blood tests and physicals, and may be published next year -- more evidence that Messina keeps saying doesn't exist.




You are definitely not paying attention or you have very serious reading comprehension issues.

I've already pointed out where you've quoted people out of context, stop playing a fool and address why you keep doing this. I've already pointed out several times where you have done this; if you are that much of a coward to address this behavior of yours, that's your deficit, not someone else's.

Of course you argue that the Psych Today article is the basis for their life's work conclusions...that's creepy that you have done that Jeff.

You can distort the truth all you want Jeff, it seems that you have perhaps a monetary interest in avoiding being honest about what is and what isn't allowed as part of the McDougall program. If you believe that Hip Whip and Cookies Rice Dream and a whole host of other sugar, sodium, and fat laden products isn't downright unhealthy then you have a radically dishonest appraisal of unhealthy foods and there's no point even discussing this issue with you. That would be like trying to discuss the issue of mistreatment of people with someone who believes slavery is acceptable. I won't engage with that person; I won't engage with you because there's no point.

Finally, in no way am I opposed to someone criticizing someone else BUT that criticism must be a qualified criticism and it must come from someone who doesn't take people's words out of context and doesn't make overly broad and sweeping dishonest generalizations. I actually have important things to do rather than waste my time arguing with someone who believes the crazy things you do, Jeff. Just because you went into a food bank and helped McDougall carry food or whatever it is you did to lend a hand doesn't in any way make you an authority on nutrition and doesn't make you professionally qualified to judge people who actually have taken the time and do the work to get legitimate nutrition degrees with your outlandish accusations. Obviously you don't even know the scope of Messina and Norris' studies and work in the field of nutrition. Why do you spew so much errant hatred at everyone you just happen to dislike for reasons unwarranted and misguided? There's something seriously wrong with you Jeff.

Good-bye, I'm done with your crap attitude.



Are you not able to point me to where I quoted someone out of context? If I had, I thought you would simply show me where when I asked you to, rather than saying, "I already showed you!!!" and evading answering the question.

I'm sorry for your anger, and your misstating so many things. As for knowing "the scope of Messina and Norris' studies" in the field of nutrition, as you say -- I don't think they exist, but that you are making this up. Where are their studies? Where are their study subjects? Where are their patients? And where are McDougall's damaged patients, since Messina claims his diet is "probably dangerous?"

Please feel free to post again if you can link to some "studies" that Messina and Norris have done. I would be very interested to see those, and to see which journals published them.

Please say hello to Jack and Ginny for me when you report back to them.

All best,


Love what you wrote, Jeff.

And just to give Louie an idea of how closely Jack Norris and Ginny Messina actually looks at the scientific literature, see Ginny Messina's article about recommended percentage fat in the vegan diet:

Having quoted the Harvard meta-analysis which only showed that SUBSTITUTING mono-unsaturated fat for saturated fat was better than NOT SUBSTITUTING (and proved nothing about ADDING oil to a NO-OIL diet), she then quotes the 4 WEEK Jenkins Eco-Atkins study as if it proves something against a low-fat VEGAN diet. If she'd bother to read the study she would've seen that the low-fat diet not only had less fiber than the Eco-Atkins vegan diet, it actually included animal protein and around 50 mg cholesterol per day in the form of low-fat dairy and egg whites. So it was an Eco Atkins vegan diet versus an ORNISH-style vegetarian diet. The same ORNISH-style diet that she has repeatedly admonished vegans for using to promote veganism because "IT WASN'T ACTUALLY A VEGAN DIET". And yet she quotes this 4 WEEK Eco-Atkins vs. ORNISH-diet study in 3 of her posts as evidence that a low-fat VEGAN diet has been superceded.

This is just one example of how she mis-reads or mis-represents the studies she's quoting from. Of course it's not easy to read the studies she's quoting from because she so seldom includes references in her posts. Probably not a coincidence.

And here's Jack Norris' incredibly modest take on the PCRM diabetes trial:

"The only statistically significant differences between diet groups for medical outcomes was that vegan dieters lost more weight than did the ADA diet group."

If he'd actually read the study he'd have seen that when you control for medication changes, the drop in HBA1c was (statistically) signifantly greater in the PCRM group compared to the ADA group.

He then makes some ill-founded and un-referenced comment about how low-fat diets MIGHT be unsafe, and how unsaturated fats help keep HDL at "healthy" levels. What's amazing is that Jack Norris (and Ginny Messina) can look at the Esselstyn trials, the PCRM trials, the Oxford/Cornell China Project, the various studies showing the effect of animal protein on age of menarche and serum IGF-1 levels, the clinical success of Dr McDougall, Jeff Novick and True North Centre and remain unconvinced that a vegan diet has health benefits. And yet they have somehow seen satisfactory evidence that low-fat wholefood vegan diets are unhealthy and that high HDL levels are important for good health.

I say what this movement needs is unity and honesty, not a bunch of jumped up animal rights dieticians trying to make a name for themselves by taking shots at the big guys.




Jeff, your comment: "Messina and Norris are clueless when it comes to using a plant-based diet for health" is a ridiculous thing to say and does you and Vegsource discredit. I would advise anyone interested in forming a balanced opinion of the work of Ginny Messina or Jack Norris to read their book (co-authored with Reed Mangels) "The Dietician's Guide to Vegetarian Diets". This book is the best researched and most comprehensive guide to vegetarian and vegan nutrition I have come across. Have you read that Jeff? I am guessing not. Your statement that they have never published studies is also inaccurate - Jack Norris is a well respected nutrition scientist despite his connections to the soy industry.

I am a health-motivated vegan and a fan of the work of Furhman and Esselstyn and the others you laud, but I also really admire Messina and Norris for their balanced, sensible appraisal of the research on diet. I would strongly recommend to anyone interested in this debate that you read some of the reviews of research on Norris's website before you take Jeff Nelson's word for it that Norris and Messina know nothing about health and nutrition. I would also recommend that you take a more in depth look at Ginny Messina's dietary recommendations which are not nearly as extreme as portrayed in Jeff's articles.

Louie Gedo - I agree with many of your points and you make an interesting observation about the influence of the "happy meat" movement.


Correction to my comment: Jack Norris is co-author with Ginny Messina on the book "Vegan For Life". Mark Messina is co-author with Ginny and Reed Mangels on "The Dietician's Guide to Vegetarian Diets". It is the latter I particularly recommend, plus Jack Norris's blog posts.


Ginny Messina's CV can be viewed on her website:



I'm sure you're a good person, but don't you think it's a bit of a stretch that an RD with absolutely no patients can assert that Esselstyn / Novick / McDougall / Barnard / Fuhrman / Goldhamer / Campbell have all got it wrong ?


Me being a good or bad person has nothing to do with a statement of fact. I didn't give an opinion about whether Ginny Messina has the credentials to give nutrition advice. I merely linked to her CV because there was speculation about her experience. Looking at her CV, she has indeed published and worked with patients, even if that's not her main focus currently.

If you do want my opinion, yes, I think she's qualified to offer nutrition advice. She has studied how to interpret nutrition studies. Her advice is that a plant-based diet can be very healthy, which is what the majority of registered dieticians say as well. Science works by consensus.


With respect, Mollyjade, I wasn't asking whether you think she's qualified to give nutrition advice. I was asking whether you think it's reasonable for an RD with no patients to assert (eg. with regard to olive oil) that Esselstyn / Novick / McDougall / Barnard / Fuhrman / Goldhamer / Campbell have all got it wrong ?

I'm aware that she admits to the health benefits of a largely plant-based diet. With regard to her stance against the health argument for veganism, the main crux of her argument seems to be that there's no evidence people have to go 100% vegan in order to reap the benefits.

As I mentioned above to another commenter, this argument seems kind of ridiculous because there's no evidence that a person smoking 2 or 3 cigarettes a week is at any greater risk of lung cancer than a non-smoker. And there's actually evidence that smokers who eat a large amount of green vegetables are at a reduced risk of lung cancer compared to non-smokers who eat only a small amount of green vegetables in their diet. So by Ginny's standards, any health professional who tells a person that they need to give up smoking 100% (or that quitting smoking is the only way to reduce lung cancer risk) is straying from the science.


I don't know where you're getting these smoking statistics from. I'm not extremely familiar with studies about cigarette smoke, but even a quick search on pubmed shows a lot of studies of social smoking or occasional smoking. And they all show that even limited smoking or second hand (or third hand)smoking is dangerous.

But that aside, smoking and eating meat are two different activities. A dangerous dose for one can't be compared to a dangerous dose for another.

I don't have a horse in this fight, but I think arguments for or against should be accurate and based on scientific consensus, not on the work of individuals.


Well there's definitely more "evidence" than there was when I last had this debate. But still only a couple of epidemiological studies, so not the sort of evidence that would convince someone like Ginny "Just The Facts" Messina. But for argument's sake, what if we were to play it safe and go for 2 cigarretes a MONTH ?

I can't say that I understand your point about comparing the risk of smoking to the risk of meat eating. The point I'm making is that there's a level of consumption below which the health consequences become negligible. At which point it becomes impossible to show the associated harm (in a RCT or even epidemiological setting). I'm sure you realise that such a level does exist even for smoking.

Regarding your point about opinions being based on scientific consensus and not on the work of individuals, I agree, but surely you don't think the above-mentioned doctors are just basing their opinions on the work of a few individuals.

Have you seen the number of references that Dr Campbell cites in his book The China Study ? That book includes Dr Campbell's review of hundreds of articles in the scientific literature as well as the China Project itself. I'm sure some people have been fooled by the seemingly persuasive and undeservedly well publicised criticisms of The China Study that are floating around. As well as criticisms from people like Jack and Ginny. Most if not all of which have fallen apart under closer scrutiny. And for the record, I don't think there's any scientific evidence on this planet that could withstand the scrutiny that that book has been subjected to. I'm sure that if you read it, you'll understand WHY it's been scrutinised so hard. Please also note that Dr Campbell has always been very clear about how far the evidence goes, as well as presenting a good case as to why people should go 100%.

As for olive oil, do you think these guys would recommend giving it up if they didn't think it was worth it ? Do you think they're just saying it because they think it'll make them more popular, or because they like destroying everyone's fun ? Do you think people such as Jeff Novick or Dr Barnard aren't reading all the same studies as Ginny Messina and Jack Norris ? I can guarantee you they are, and I can guarantee you that they're also evaluating the results of those articles carefully and seeing how that information fits in with what they've seen in their many years of clinical experience. And during those many years of clinical experience, I'm sure they've learned many things that aren't even IN the scientific literature (yet).

No doubt these docs sometimes resort to hyperbole-esque statements when trying to communicate their message to a brainwashed public, and maybe once in a while they might change their recommendations in line with new findings, and I know not all of them are ethical vegans, and some of them might say "plant-based" instead of vegan. But they still have a goldmine of information to offer you, and most of them risked their careers and professional circles to get that information to you. And not to have a dig, but I know a couple of ethical vegans who lament the use of the word "plant-based", and yet these same people haven't even plucked up the courage to tell their own mothers-in-law that they're vegan.

Vegan Outpreach and Ginny Messina drew a line in the sand many years ago when they said they don't think the health argument exists. And I think they made it quite clear that they wouldn't use it even if they thought it DID exist. And they don't want anyone else using it either. That indicates a strong bias in my view, and may well be clouding their judgement on these matters. And when you draw a line in the sand like that, it also means you're going to be less likely to admit you're wrong if/when that realisation comes.

You may be interested to know that Vegan Outpreach and Ginny Messina also think vegans should stop using the environmental argument:

They want this to be purely about the animals.
Although for some reason, they're happy to try and hook the public in with tasty fat-laidened food, which I find to be quite inconsistent with their values. Because that's really pandering to people's self-interest isn't it ? Just like the health argument. It's called the "taste argument". And there was me thinking it was supposed to be about the animals. And what are people going to do if they're stuck in some low-class hotel with no fancy vegan restaurant and no oven to make their vegan Pumpkin Streusel Coffee Cakes ? Might they give up on veganism if the food they're faced with isn't up to the standard they've been promised by all those taste-promoting vegans ? It's just setting them up for failure if you ask me.

Anyways, in light of the possible biases mentioned above, I'd encourage you to contact the above doctors / RD's next time you hear Jack or Ginny or anyone else criticise their work, because there may well be something that Jack and Ginny are over-looking or not wanting to face up to. And it's only fair to give these docs a chance to defend themselves.

I can tell you from first-hand experience that they're very accessible.

All the best

P.S. - I realise that I've responded to a couple of points that you didn't actually make.


Love this article, Jeff.

I've long wondered how it is that those animal rights RD's with no clinical experience have felt confident enough to over ride the advice of all the vegan MD's who've collectively cured 10's of thousands of people of various illnesses and diseases and documented their success in the very best peer-reviewed publications.

The USDA admits to the health benefits of vegetarian/vegan diets, the American Dietetic Assosiation admits to them, the American Diabetes Association admits to them and yet for some reason Jack Norris and Ginny Messina are not willing to admit to them.

Ginny Messina even goes as far as to use the ridiculous argument that there is no evidence that we have to give up meat 100% in order to be healthy. She'd do well to remember that there's no evidence that someone has to give up smoking 100% in order to be healthy. In fact there's evidence that smokers who eat a large amount of green vegetables are at less risk of lung cancer than a non-smoker. So what argument does Ms Messina use when persuading her patients to quit smoking ? The Fair-trade argument ? Oh I forgot, she doesn't have any patients, so this point will probably be lost on her.

Thanks again for speaking out, Jeff.


wow, I really didn't get that from Ginny Messina's article at all. Many, many, MANY people have attained genuine health for the first time after going on a paleo diet: able to lean down, quit most or all of their meds, and, in general, just feel really good. (and they LOVE to talk about all of the former vegheads who were sick on their diets.) Of course, there are many, many, MANY people who feel fantastic and have leaned down and gotten off meds on a vegetarian/vegan diet. When I get confused, I just think of the Blue Zones--tons of veggies and fruit with various combinations of grains, plus limited amounts of meat and fish. All Messina was saying is that although plant-based is the critical factor, there is no proof that you can't have vibrant health while also eating limited animal products.

Obviously McDougall/Furhman/Esselstyn have achieved amazing results with their patients: I'm not denying that veganism is a path to health...I'm just not sure it's the only path.

Thus, from a health perspective, a healthy vegan diet and a healthy diet that also includes meat/fish/dairy are a tie. BUT, there is no debating the ethics of choosing not to participate in factory farming. (by the way, I am a vegetarian "veganish" eater and I have no plans to change)

I was wondering what health credentials Jeff Novak has to be so condescending toward Ginny Messina and Jack Norris... he has none.


Evidently I need to put it another way.


Perhaps now, you see how ridiculous it is for Ginny Messina to argue against the health benefits of veganism or wholefood veganism on the grounds that there's no evidence it has to be 100%

With regard to your other point, as I said to Louie above, where is the evidence that milk from a no-kill cow sanctuary is less ethical than your average glass of soy-milk ?

Where is the evidence that eggs from a no-kill chicken farm involve more suffering than your average block of tofu ?

There are various situations where the ethical edge of this diet gets a bit blurry, so when we make the un-qualified claim that veganism is always the most ethical choice we are bending the truth.

However, milk and eggs contain significant amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol, wherever they come from, so in those cases the health argument would actually be stronger than the ethical one.


Jeff 'Novak' (--> Novick) ?? You mean Jeff Nelson, eh?


wow, I really didn't get that from Ginny Messina's article at all. Many, many, MANY people have attained genuine health for the first time after going on a paleo diet: able to lean down, quit most or all of their meds, and, in general, just feel really good. (and they LOVE to talk about all of the former vegheads who were sick on their diets.) Of course, there are many, many, MANY people who feel fantastic and have leaned down and gotten off meds on a vegetarian/vegan diet. When I get confused, I just think of the Blue Zones--tons of veggies and fruit with various combinations of grains, plus limited amounts of meat and fish. All Messina was saying is that although plant-based is the critical factor, there is no proof that you can't have vibrant health while also eating limited animal products.

Obviously McDougall/Furhman/Esselstyn have achieved amazing results with their patients: I'm not denying that veganism is a path to health...I'm just not sure it's the only path.

Thus, from a health perspective, a healthy vegan diet and a healthy diet that also includes meat/fish/dairy are a tie. BUT, there is no debating the ethics of choosing not to participate in factory farming. (by the way, I am a vegetarian "veganish" eater and I have no plans to change)

I was wondering what health credentials Jeff Novak has to be so condescending toward Ginny Messina and Jack Norris... he has none.


Jeff Novick has four degrees in health:


Evidently I need to put it another way.


Perhaps now, you see how ridiculous it is for Ginny Messina to argue against the health benefits of veganism or wholefood veganism on the grounds that there's no evidence it has to be 100%.


My results have been much different. In my vegan outreach over the past several years, I have consistently seen the ethical argument be more effectve than the health argument, both in the short and long term (in some cases, I do keep track). In part, this may be because:

- I am advocating to the general public, not patients with health problems.

- My personal story and my strongest convictions about veganism are ethical, and therefore I can probably speak more persuasively about the ethical factors. (I was healthy before going vegan, and my health neither improved nor got worse after going vegan.

- Many non-vegans are healthy already.

- Many people are not interested in optimum health, or are young and do not think that they'll get cancer or heart disease - it seems too far off.

I'd like people to feel that inflicting avoidable harm on others is wrong regardless of whether doing so makes them healthier. This message is applicable not only to eating but to clothing, entertainment, companion animals, and other facets of life in which animals may be unncessarily abused. I want to cultivate compassion for all beings.

But -- We really don't have to choose between advocating healthfulness and advocating compassion. When I table, I always try to not only get in the ethical angle, but to give people some tips for staying healthy. And I tailor the conversation to the person. Some people are very interested in health, so of course for those people that is my focus.

We want people to be morally motivated to be vegan, but we also don't want them to fall off the wagon. To help keep people vegan, we can give them healthy advice and resources and as well as support so they dn't feel ostracized or marginalized (e.g., let them know about area veg groups). But we need not forfeit the powerful ethical arguments. Just as we should not underestimate people's ability to transition to a healthy plant-based diet, neither should we underestimate their ability to act in accordance with their deepest values.


Taken from the comments section of Jack Norris' article "Of Oil And Ethics":

August 23rd, 2012 at 10:27 am

Ben Says:

Dear Jack,

May you please give a reference for your claim:

“Though it may be rare, or even extremely rare, some people who follow a very low-fat diet find that they lose their libido and regain it upon eating more fat.”

I find it disturbing, and a reliable source for that would be welcome.

Thank you.

August 23rd, 2012 at 10:39 am

Jack Norris RD Says:


I’m afraid I have no citation. I can recall this happening to two people. The wife, Eva, of the most recent person posted to my blog:

I followed up with her over email and she told me that after adding some fats back her husband had improved. The other person I remember was a guy who lost his libido and started eating plant saturated fats and it improved his libido and health significantly. He wanted me to really push the need for vegans to include saturated fats but I didn’t think there was enough evidence for that.


It's interesting to note the quality of evidence that Jack bases his recommendations on. The Esselstyn studies weren't enough for him, the PCRM studies weren't enough for him, the evidence in the China Study wasn't enough for him, the clinical success of Dr McDougall, Jeff Novick and True North Centre wasn't enough for him, but some guy posts a message on his blog and he's all ears.

Perhaps someone can explain to Jack Norris that AN EMAIL CONVERSATION IS NOT CAUSATION !!

Further down in the comments section, at the request of one of the commenters, Jack clarifies another statement in the article:

August 24th, 2012 at 11:37 am

Jack Norris RD Says:


> “…[In today’s world, getting the ratio down to this level without adding large amounts of ALA to the diet would likely mean a very low fat diet] which would be difficult to maintain, and possibly even harmful, for many people”

I meant: “which would be difficult to maintain for many people, and possibly even harmful (for some).”

I’ve changed it to:

“…which would be difficult to maintain for many people.”

It wasn’t one of my most scientific statements.


The funny thing is, I've actually read quite a bit of Jack's blog, and I think that WAS pretty much one of his most scientific statements !! And I'm sure it would've stayed in the article ad infinitum had the commenter not picked him up on it.



Thanks, Steve. I am not at all surprised. Jeff Novick often talks about the standard hierarchy of evidence established by WHO, NIH, and used in evidence-based medicine. If Jack and Ginny don't like the evidence out there for a low-fat, whole food plant based diet, that is fine. But to dispute it, they have to use better evidence not lesser evidence, and they have both been consistently unable to do that.

Ginny and Jack like to talk about "possible danger" of the McDougall and Esselstyn-type diets, but they have never come up with anything concrete to back up their opinions. The reality is these AR dietitians want people to switch from an unhealthy, fatty animal diet to an unhealthy, fatty vegan diet. That is a strategic decision they have made, and they state that strategy publicly in articles, like the article of Matt's at the start of this article.

I think they're wrong and they end up shooting themselves in the foot for what they want to do. Although they are dietitians, it seems they care most about animals rather than people, and they believe that since "healthy" food won't be appealing enough, they don't want to go there.

And this could help explain why a lot of ethical vegans end up going back to meat-eating; their main dietary sources are dietitians like Jack and Ginny, who provide poor advice -- like the advice you note Jack talks about, based on whacky sources, like a blog comment or email from a stranger on the internet.

At least Jack is more intellectually honest and admits, when pressed, that he was actually speaking out of his ass when he was criticizing the low-fat diet.

Messina and Jack have no real clinical experience, unlike the plant-based dietitians working to improve health. Jack should have known, for example, that low libido is a known side effect of anorexia or extreme calorie restriction, and has nothing to do with low fat, see:

"Sexual dysfunction is common across eating disorders subtypes. Low BMI is associated with loss of libido, sexual anxiety, and avoidance of sexual relationships."


"For men with eating disorders, levels of testosterone decrease along with sexual libido, which often go unreported or unnoticed."

Now I am not saying that these people who posted comments on Jack's blog had eating disorders, I have no way of knowing. But loss or lack of libido is a common sign in those who overly restrict their calories. And that can obviously happen if you're on an Atkins fat-/protein-heavy diet, so it's not the fat.

Jack doesn't say he had them provide a week's worth of food journal so he could evaluate their diets, calculate their calories and understand what might be going on. That may well have shown that if these people had simply added in more calories, they would have been fine, rather than it being anything to do with low-fat.

In any event, taking a couple of isolated anecdotal stories and using that to develop his diet and health recommendations . . . obviously that's worthless.

This is what happens when someone has a bias, an agenda champion a certain diet. Rather than trying to understand why Novick, McDougall, Esselstyn and son, Fuhrman, Pritikin, True North, Ornish and the rest are having such huge success and so many people are thriving, Jack doesn't want to consider low-fat and is focusing on blog comments from strangers on the internet to develop recommendations for his readers.

For all Jack knows, these comments or emails could be from anti-vegan trolls just messing with him. If this represents how recommendations are developed by AR dietitians... No wonder so many are giving up and going back to meat.

I think Matt actually does harm to animals, by trying to convince other activists NOT to give health information to people. He has this ridiculous article advancing his theory that telling people to go plant-based for health reasons causes more chickens to die. And for evidence of this, he offers...nothing but speculation. Matt helps sew the seeds of the destruction of his own work, by trying to convince activists to stay away from learning about and telling others about health info.

I'm sorry but the AR dietitians are completely out of their depth when it comes to plant-based diets and health.

Embracing both health and the animal suffering argument is a win-win for the animals AND people. As Dr. McDougall likes to say: by solving the 2-legged problem (people's health), we automatically solve the 4-legged problem (getting people off animals).


Ha ! True words, Jeff.

I think more and more people are getting sick of the non-stop health-bashing coming out of the Norris / Ball / Messina quarters.

At the end of the day, I think they're confused about what they stand for and derive most of their identity from the shots they take at others in the veg world. Others who are far too busy saving lives (human and animal) to retaliate.

I hope Norris / Ball / Messina find their true calling some day.



Thank you

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