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Going Vegan

This is a blog of the video Coach Seán On: Going Vegan

On my last video: Coach Seán on: January Diets, I went into a tangent about wanting to look into a Vegan diet more. I had no intention of going into this tangent but it has been something in the back of mind. I do wonder, in 100-200 years time, are we all going to be vegan… well, not us, we’ll be dead.

What is Vegan? A vegan is a person, or definition of a food source that is meat, eggs and dairy free as well as all other animal derived ingredients.

This type of diet is becoming more popular as you can see in the graph below, nearly 8% of people in the UK are vegetarian.

vegan world population vegetarian diet usa

It only seems to be getting more popular with some famous people becoming vegan including Mike Tyson, Olympic Gold Medal winner Carl Lewis, 300lbs former defensive lineman David Carter, ultra runner Laura Klein  as well as countless others.  

I know this was an obvious picture to put it and you probably thought of it too when you heard Tyson was a vegan... but I went with it.

I know this was an obvious picture to put it and you probably thought of it too when you heard Tyson was a vegan... but I went with it.

The health benefits of becoming vegan:

If you were to go onto sites like PETA, you would wonder why you would eat meat at all. They will also tell you to go vegan, like Arnold Schwarzenegger. “Follow Arnold’s advice—go vegan for the planet, your health, and animals.” The Terminator is a vegan? The world’s most recognisable and main stream body builder is vegan? 

This man is a Vegan? Sign me up! Wait, that's not how this Vegan thing works

This man is a Vegan? Sign me up! Wait, that's not how this Vegan thing works

“How do you tell someone is a vegan? Just wait, they will tell you” is an age old joke. However that is not what Schwarzenegger told us. “I don't think I will ever become a total Vegan. I stress to eat less meat, but not no meat". Peta have also done the same with Tom Brady; claiming he is practically a vegan and yet 20% of his diet consists of lean meat. And it’s the Vegan community stretching the truth like this that is not beneficial to their cause, in my opinion. Arnold’s reasons for eating less meat seem to focus just as much on environmental reasons as health to “cut down” on meat. And that’s ok. That is his belief on that. But to say he has gone pure vegan and that you should “follow Arnold’s advice - go vegan”, is just not true and it hurts the cause when you stretch the truth, or lie, even if your intentions are good.

Which brings me to the Netflix documentary; ‘What The Health?”. I personally had heard nothing but negative things about this movie. But when I was talking to a friend over New Years, she had heard nothing but positive things and, unlike me, had actually watched it. Two things to note. One, it is crazy how our social media feeds can influence our opinion, depending on who we follow (you only have to look at the US Presidential Race for proof on that) and wow, my New Years party must have been pretty damn lame if I was talking about vegans and healthy eating!

So with that said, yesterday afternoon, I sat down with notebook and pen in hand to watch ‘What the Health?’ 

It was this or re-watching Friends... 

It was this or re-watching Friends... 

Full disclosure, once again, I had heard nothing but negative things before New Years on this. One of the main points being that everyone interviewed was a Vegan so they were biased. Well, if they all are convinced that meat and dairy are so bad for you then I would hope that they are vegan. That would be like me promoting exercise and health yet not exercising and just eating crap and watching TV all day. And if they are Vegan, promoting a Vegan lifestyle in the movie, maybe there are ulterior motives in promoting a vegan lifestyle, I don't know but I also have no problem… providing what they are saying in the movie is accurate. 

There were some stunning visuals in it. The dead pigs just rotting in the bin and how it affects the people of Duplin County in North Carolina was shocking.  Along with their constant reference to Health Organisations advice being equivalent to cigarettes. They even fry up cigarettes near the start of the movie to feed to children comparing eating hotdogs to smoking. They backed up a lot of their views with terrorism, 9/11 and multiple boeings crashing. It’s that kind of sensationalism that makes me want to take a step back. I can see their need for getting their information out due to the obvious obesity problems in America but it was too much like fear mongering for me. 

The meat and eggs comparison to cigarettes was constant in this movie. But is it justified?

The meat and eggs comparison to cigarettes was constant in this movie. But is it justified?

In fairness to the documentary, they do have a reference page on their site for all sources to their facts

One of the facts mentioned near the start of the movie was the World Health Organisation classifying processed meat as a Group 1, carcinogenic to humans. Along with cigarettes being on that category they draw a direct link between eating meat and smoking cigarettes. The only problem with that link is that the World Health Organisation does not agree with it stating: “processed meat has been classified in the same category as causes of cancer such as tobacco smoking and asbestos (IARC Group 1, carcinogenic to humans), but this does NOT mean that they are all equally dangerous. The IARC classifications describe the strength of the scientific evidence about an agent being a cause of cancer, rather than assessing the level of risk."

But they do recommend lowering your consumption of meat. Just like calling Schwarzenegger a Vegan, they’re taking one thing said and really jumping on it to validate everything. The evidence is still inconclusive on the links between meat and cancer. But there are some links, that needs to be noted. 34,000 deaths per year have been attributed to diets high in processed meat and that figure could rise to 50,000 according to the WHO if eating red meat is established as a cause of cancer. That’s a lot. But comparing it to cigarette smoking which has 1 million cancer deaths per year is not the same thing. It’s not the same f*cking ball park neither.

There were a few quotes in the documentary that I just could not wrap my head around

“One egg is as bad for you as five cigarettes.” 

Comparing eating an egg to 5 cigarettes? When you go into the links to back this up on the What The Health website, you'll come across Dr. Michael Gregor, the creator of and a vegan. I'm not a doctor but, to me, it just seems like a real lose comparison combined with other studies done to suggest that increased eggs consumption is not related to to coronary heart disease or stroke.  Eggs can be a great source for getting proteins, lipids, fats and minerals as well as playing a role in the prevention of chronic and infectious diseases. I’m not sure cigarettes have the same characteristics!

“Two thirds of meat consumers will gain weight”

Unlike the eggs quote where you could argue studies on both sides (even though I still don't buy into one egg being as bad as 5 cigarettes for your health), this quote is especially mind boggling and particularly misleading in my view. There's also other quotes suggesting eating carbohydrates not making you fat. This is without any information on calorie consumption, I just don’t see how this one is true at all. Surely there are way too may variables for this to be true. Meat eaters might not be as lean but then again, they might be. I mean if the ice cream diet can help you lose weight? You're not going to gain weight by eating meat... unless you eat a ton of meat and carbs and don't have an outlet for the extra calories you are consuming.

There’s a point in the movie where they zone in on cheese and dairy products even linking it with heroin, and then back tracking slightly in their claim. 

No, Mr. Stone Cold. If that is your real name. I don't want a glass of white heroin, cancer inducing, really tasty, especially when cold glass of beautiful milk... that went well.

No, Mr. Stone Cold. If that is your real name. I don't want a glass of white heroin, cancer inducing, really tasty, especially when cold glass of beautiful milk... that went well.

The movie also demonises milk claiming that one serving of milk can increase the chance of breast cancer in women by 49%! However, there’s inconclusive proof that dairy products may reduce the risk of post menopausal breast cancer.

The financial side, lobbying and big corporations that sponsor major health organisations does sound like a cause of concern and did not surprise me (and yet another comparison to American lung association being sponsored by Marlboro, or something similar to that). There seems to be major conflicts of interest and it is way too political for me to even try to comprehend on a blog about health and January diets. That’s a completely different rabbit hole than I am most definitely avoiding. Admittedly, it does give me cause of concern on what studies I have found that contradicts the What The Health documentary and who funded them. Less meat and dairy seems to be a good idea, maybe not for health reasons but for the bigger picture and that it is for the good of the planet. 

The meat industry has a huge impact on our environment. I can personally see that becoming more of a factor in years. Just look at people’s reactions to US President Donald Trump pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement and the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio talking about Climate Change in his Oscars winning speech, which probably carried a huge influence on a lot of people. More and more people are talking about how we need to do something about the environment and Global Warming now. And reducing meat consumption is potentially one outcome. But that leads back into the rabbit hole of the bottom line for all these big businesses mentioned in ‘What The Health’.

I do wonder if I’m on the wrong side of history here, continuing the consume meat and that 200 hundred years into the future, humans will look back and thing we were barbarians for eating meat, just like a lot us can’t understand why there are cultures in our society today that eat dog meat. … I wouldn’t recommend clicking on that link. I mean, and I'm probably very late to the party on this, but we're already having micro pigs as pets (I only heard of this very recently, someone tell me I'm not alone). If pigs are becoming pets, just like dogs, how are we justifying consumption of one over the other. Yet, I'm still going to eat bacon. 




In the book, Pediatric Obesity: Etiology, Pathogenesis and Treatment (Contemporary Endocrinology) by Michael S. Freemark, the author states “associations between increased physical activity and vegetarian diets among adults may exist but are most likely explained by the kind of lifestyle choices associated with adopting vegetarian diets, which generally include healthy behaviours such as regular exercise…”. Not all benefits convey the positives in a Vegan diet. A 2018 study on 9668 adult male partners of pregnant women, using multi linear and logistic regression showed that vegetarians have a higher depression scores than non vegetarians as well consuming animal based products having a positive affect on reversing carotid atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries).

My problem with ‘What The Health’ is that it turns everything into an absolute evil that is not on conjunction with a Vegan diet. While it may sway some on the fence into turning vegan, it will also turn a lot of people further away. There's always going to be studies and arguments on both sides. If you’re on a Vegan diet, the first question I ask is the exact same when anyone tells me they are on a particular diet. “Is it working for you?”

As always, one size does not fit all, especially when it comes to nutrition. The past two blogs can be summed up by one and only one way of thinking, in my opinion, DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOU AND YOUR HEALTH!