Don’t fall for hoaxes: the plant-based meat science you need to know | Tori Asbury

If you really want to scare the wits out of meat eaters, all you have to do is point to the stories of people who are eating plant-based meats, who are now suffering problems…

If you really want to scare the wits out of meat eaters, all you have to do is point to the stories of people who are eating plant-based meats, who are now suffering problems or symptoms that were once seen only in vegetarians or vegans. There’s the family who became vegan due to problems related to lactose intolerance and then got ill from consuming coconut oil and soy protein. There’s a mother who went vegetarian after having child with autism, and then had an allergic reaction when eating meat. And of course there are those who still contend that vegan meat is not meat and, worse still, doesn’t contain the same essential nutrients.

In any case, the truth is, none of these are illnesses that are caused by meat eating, that are even known to have existed prior to plant-based meat, but rather are the by-products of consumption. The plant-based meat critics often quote a study that showed an increase in aspergillosis, a respiratory disease caused by many foodborne pathogens (primarily campylobacter and salmonella) along with some others. But these infections caused by modern meat consumption are extraordinarily uncommon, and, in a nutritionally adequate diet, don’t matter all that much. The most important thing that they do is to show that modern meat-eating is causing problems that never existed prior to it.

A case in point: last year a vegan-vegan teenager took his own life. According to reports in the Times and the Observer, the teenager had serious lung conditions after smoking on occasion, and he had turned vegetarian after being warned that his operation to remove diseased lung tissue was risky without complete abstinence from meat eating. (See also e.g. Food Safety Pages). Of course, the original claim was that the boy had not eaten meat in recent weeks, but instead had only smoked cannabis, and had been extremely careful about washing his hands, as well as showering frequently. But a few days later, his stepfather found him hanged in his bedroom, which was obviously the result of his pot use. Such dietary practices are not really those of a true vegan, and certainly not a true single-source vegetarian, as such. In any case, the dying young man was adamant that he was not a “vegan”, because he had to eat meat to survive.

Yes, there are problems associated with vegan meat, as there are with any food. But, as Harvard Public Health professor Dr. Barbara Greenberg, author of the book The Heart Truth, writes, “Inherent in veganism is the concept of moderation, of eating one’s ‘normal’ meals and being careful to avoid foods that cause distress and discomfort to one’s health. No matter how responsible one might be, different dietary practices do affect one’s health differently, and that needs to be taken into account.” In fact, one could argue that, if only those who follow vegan meat were given the benefits, the benefits could be widely enjoyed.

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