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New research questions the evidence for health benefits of eating less red meat (nytimes.com)
183 points by jonas21 23 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 297 comments

The first three grey Q&A boxes on the Harvard response are a pretty devastating rebuttal to the paper.

To summarize:

- 3 of the 5 meta-analyses reviewed support the consensus on red meat's health dangers

- The other 2 are irrelevant and shouldn't have been considered at all

- The paper handwaves away the conclusions of the 3 by raising reliability issues that could be applied to any meta-analysis of nutrition, since it's impossible to perform nutritional research as rigorously as drug research

Don't all 3 of those conflate red and processed meat? Not very sciency...

And there's a big difference too! We know nitrites aren't good for us, and can make meat red. But not all meat contains nitrites.

That's one of my personal pet peeves.

Isn't the most red meat consumed also processed? Don't know. Just asking. If so it would make sense to use it in research.

Maybe? Probably most food consumed is processed... but the advice should then be, eat unprocessed food (salad, steak, fruit not fruit juice, ...) In addition, some ways of processing food are likely less harmful... e.g. pickling vegetables and drying meat (without using nitrites, such as certain traditional EU PDO meats like Prosciutto di Parma).

> but the advice should then be, eat unprocessed food

I think it was not so much to give advice as to answer the question.

Is that one thing that we are eating bad for us?

> Among the five published systematic reviews, three meta-analyses basically confirmed previous findings on red meat and negative health effects.

The sheer chutzpah of handwaving away the only paper that matters - the one meta-analyzing the randomized experiments - by counting a bunch of different confounded correlational approaches as each equal in value to it.

Here is the only sentence you need to read:


'Of 12 eligible trials, a single trial enrolling 48 835 women provided the most credible, though still low-certainty, evidence that diets lower in red meat may have little or no effect on all-cause mortality (hazard ratio [HR], 0.99 [95% CI, 0.95 to 1.03]'

Experiments have problems too. Let's say you successfuly blind people in a nutrition study (is this possible?). Randomized. How do you ensure they're following protocol? For how long? And who is adhering? How do you know you're manipulating what you think?

Experiments introduce control at the expense of generalizability, and some types of experiments more so than others.

Observational studies aren't perfect but they do have advantages, and in nutrition I wouldnt trust experiments more (maybe not less either to be fair).

We have plenty of experiments in animals for example and those arent much more interpretable, at least in nutrition.

Nothing is simple.

> Let's say you successfuly blind people in a nutrition study (is this possible?)

What blinding do you need for all-cause mortality? Do you think people are lying on the form where the coroner says they are dead?

> How do you ensure they're following protocol? For how long? And who is adhering? How do you know you're manipulating what you think?

Every single problem here is far, far, far worse for all those observational studies you cite.

> Observational studies aren't perfect but they do have advantages

Their only advantages are that they make it cheap and easy to get the wrong answer precisely and churn out lots of papers and meta-analyses. Fortunately, here we have the more expensive, hard, but correct results. Guess what the second set of results say?

> We have plenty of experiments in animals for example and those arent much more interpretable, at least in nutrition.

Indeed. Because most nutrition research, especially the ones based on correlational results, are wrong. That's why the randomized experiments aren't 'interpretable': because the theories are wrong. You will indeed have trouble "interpreting" the results which keep showing all the theories are wrong. This is a feature, not a bug.

Note, all of these studies use a low standard of evidence (food questionnaires and the like), and they generate low signal (barely registering positive/negative). Read John Ioannidis @ Stanford for why these methods should banned, and why nutritional research currently produces mostly irrelevant data.

Harvard, unfortunately, has doubled-down on this style of science.

It's not helpful that the press supports these methods, without skeptical commentary.

I see this as an epistemological failure in nutrition that plagues other fields as well. We have all this knowledge of human physiology and metabolism, and make very little use of it in nutrition, acting as though we can't draw logical conclusions from what we know about those things, or trust those conclusions, or at least use them to apply serious skepticism to the apparent implications of low-quality data.

For myself, until you can tell me by what means a particular food produces the claimed outcome, I dismiss your epidemiological nutrition study.

Although I think that's reasonable at some level, I think there's dangers in it as well, in that I don't think we really know that much about metabolism or physiology in the grand scheme of things. Physiological and microbiological studies are plagued by confounds and unreplicability problems, for example, and even where it's not, our understanding is more meager than many think. Trying to tie population-level findings to physiology is great if it's possible, but I don't see it as necessary on either end, at least for awhile.

It wasn't that long ago that the role of microbiome was recognized, for example, and even now it's contentious. Conversely, scores of epidemiological findings have had nice physiological explanations that turned out to be much more complicated, like those involving saturated fat, cholesterol, and carbohydrates. DHA, omega fatty acids, etc. are similar. Physiology is complex enough that you can accommodate just about any finding.

To carry this a bit further, it can be problematic going in the other direction too, from physiology to populations. Some of the anti-sugar advocacy, for example, was rooted in lab studies that neglected the effect of fiber in digestion of fruit, so you had people advocating that whole fruit consumption be avoided based on incomplete understanding. It's hard to argue that unprocessed whole fruit is undesirable on the basis of observational nutrition studies. Someone looking at the wet lab data and advocating abandonment of whole fruits might have done well to look at those observational studies to see why different trends were occurring.

I'm not saying that tying one level to the other at some point isn't necessary. I just think one or the other level can't be dismissed out of hand just because things don't map onto each other initially. It's possible that one level provides clues that the other is missing; it's also possible to come up with plausible but wrong bridges between the two levels.

We have all this knowledge of human physiology and metabolism

I think the depth of knowledge is very uneven. We're not sure how Tylenol works. (Disclaimer: I work in software, not bioscience)

There will never be explanations on "how paracetamol (the principal substance of tylenol) works" because.. it doesn't work. It doesn't fare better than placebo. https://www.evidentlycochrane.net/paracetamol-widely-used-in...

At least, placebos don't harm the user. There's evidence paracetamol is harmful. https://ard.bmj.com/content/75/3/552

And dosages higher than 4g/day are known to destroy the liver. Paracetamol overdose is one of the most painful way to kill yourself. Its abuse being freely sold over the counter makes it the number one cause of liver failure in the US and UK. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1403265/

>Paracetamol’s toxicity is also the single biggest cause of acute liver failure in the United States. Cases have been rising for six years, according to a study published in December (Hepatology 2005;42:1364-72). By 2003, the drug accounted for just over half the cases of acute liver failure, and about half of these cases were the result of unintentional overdose.

It boggles the mind the substance has not been put under harsher control yet.

Looks to me like you're over-generalizing. From skimming that article it appears that paracetamol is ineffective against chronic page, not the headache/hangover that most people use it for

That's medicine, where the use of much better techniques are feasible and appropriate than in nutrition. What I'm saying isn't true of all fields. I'd put nutrition and economics near the top of the list, and medicine much further down.

> Note, all of these studies use a low standard of evidence (food questionnaires and the like)

Sounds like someone is optimizing for the number of papers written per grant dollar, as opposed to generating quality science.

Why do expensive research when you can just print a few questionnaires, get a few underpaid grad students to administer them, then trawl the data for acceptable p-values for publication?

I have a lot of respect for Ioannadis but also find it reprehensible to talk about banning or otherwise forbidding large classes of research. Science only progresses when unfettered; prohibitions never help. If a study is flawed, address the flaws. More information might not help, but it never hurts. These flawed studies exist for a reason -- ideal studies are usually the stuff of fantasy.

The current system is absolutely prohibiting good science from being done, through incentive structures on the faculty tenure/review process weighing heavily towards frequency/quantity of published material. faculty review processes are mostly new to the last 10-20 years ("accountability" suddenly became a thing in academia), as the quantity of published material has gone up by orders of magnitude more than the number of researchers.

Got a reference for ioannidis on this topic specifically?

Sure, start with these. Good references, too.

Perspective: Limiting Dependence on Nonrandomized Studies and Improving Randomized Trials in Human Nutrition Research: Why and How https://academic.oup.com/advances/article/9/4/367/5055939

Implausible results in human nutrition research https://www.bmj.com/content/347/bmj.f6698

His most famous paper, Why Most Published Research Findings Are False https://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/jo...

Here's a talk on nutrition science methods, along with a specific audience moment with Walter Willet, former head of Harvard Nutrition dept, and advocate for his questionnaires. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KTAbx4i8Dyg -- https://youtu.be/KTAbx4i8Dyg?t=23m40s

After reading the BMJ piece I wondered if any study strategy would satisfy Ioannidis, to be honest. I came away from it feeling like his calls to eliminate observational studies and smaller randomized trials are misleading in that he seems to believe that all realistic studies should be eliminated.

He seems to be in favor of large randomized-controlled comprehensive diet protocols, for example, where many aspects of diets are manipulated simultaneously. He dismisses them too, though, for very good reasons. Given that there were additional reasons to be skeptical of such studies he didn't mention, I was left wondering if his pleas for study designs should be heeded very much (as opposed to his criticism of specific flaws). I love his work, but am wondering if it's best approached as worst-case criticism rather than an inspiration for what to do.

That's interesting. I read him (in total) as being quite optimistic about the way forward, if intertia and self-interest can be overcome.

He's listed as an author in a number of nutritional and other studies. One might see those as leaning in his direction, if he's willing to be mentioned.

You might contact him if you have additional doubts.

The Harvard response undercuts itself by bringing up "environmental sustainability"

It isn't wrong, but it seriously calls into question whether the aim of the recommendation against red meat purely accurate nutrition science or a broader agenda.

That was my first thought too. Unless they’ve done research on the future health impacts of climate change, including it weakens their argument.

I think this is an important distinction. If something should be unhealthy for consumption then it has to be because of ingesting it and not because of how it will impact the market or environment.

Its absolutely ridiculous that people are down voting you. I'm not eating bugs.

Harvard Response: "The panel declared “considerations of environmental impact” out of the scope of their recommendations. This is a missed opportunity because climate change and environmental degradation have serious effects on human health, and thus is important to consider when making recommendations on diet, even if this is addressed separately from direct effects on individual health."

My response: should we apply this to other topics as well? Pimp the efficiency of renewables compared with carbon-based? Up the effectivity of hydrogen-based energy distribution? Lift the results of a study promoting working from home?

Two words come to mind: Occam's razor.

Yeah that's a terrible response. Of course it's out-of-scope, just like someone's pro-vegetarian paper should have "considerations of the impact to American cattle farmers" out-of-scope. It's just not what the paper's about, and trying to use that as a rebuttal speaks to the weakness of Harvard's response.

"climate change and environmental degradation have serious effects on human health" - can you elaborate? Do you mean mental health?

These are not my words. All I am arguing is that we should expect the simplest possible connection between nutrition and health. Although I do agree we should also understand the systematic effects of certain choices, we cannot make decisions if all these effects are aggregated haphazardly.

It would make sense if another study would combine the nutritional long-term effects, the societal costs, the availability of alternative sources of amino acids and other factors. Nevertheless, the conclusion: "Red meat consumption is unhealthy for individuals" should (imho) not consider the environmental effects. Principle of least astonishment.

I guess this study gives credence to the relatively old idea that modern bad health (chronic inflammation, cardiovascular diseases, dental problems, etc.) is driven by the high levels of carbohydrate and linoleic acid (omega 6, found in large quantities in sunflower and other seed oils) in our diets and not the traditionally "bad" foodstuffs like red meat and foods containing high cholesterol and saturated fat.

I'm looking forward to the next few years in this field, because it seems like scientists are slowly working out what's wrong with our diets, and it seems like it's not (solely) the meat and dairy we're eating.

As someone trying to lose weight, all the conflicting advice out there is so frustrating. Should I eat ‘n’ times a day or just once? Is fasting good, or will it put me in ‘starvation mode’? Why is it that when I was young I didn’t even need to think about my food intake and stayed really, really lean? Do we have a set-point and if so, has mine gone up and am I going to be forever hungry if I want to get back to a sensible weight? Do antidepressants cause weight gain, or don’t they? Is there a way we can measure actual calories-in with a device?

Sorry, just needed to vent.

One piece of advice that won't change: maintaining a calorie deficit causes weight loss. It's a basic property of physics that the extra energy used has to come from somewhere if don't eat enough to cover it.

Tracking your calorie deficit/surplus isn't the easiest method, but unlike fad diets, it's guaranteed to work (provided, of course, that you stick with it and count accurately).

Maintaining a calorie deficit causes weight loss, but the question is whether it causes sustainable weight loss. If you lose weight, but are constantly hungry, irritable, suffer from headaches and lightheadedness, will you really succeed at keeping the weight off?

I'd argue that most people are more interested in sustainable weight loss (some exceptions, e.g. losing weight to fit into an outfit for a professionally photographed lifecycle event).

There is caloric deficit and there is starvation. If you're getting headaches and lightheadedness you're short too many calories, or have some serious blood sugar issues.


I am currently in the process of loosing weight and the only thing I've bothered with is calories. No foods are off limits. I allow my self to eat more in accordance to the amount of exercise I do (which naturally incentivises me to exercise, but doesn't depend on it).

I wrote up some formulas to estimate my weight loss before committing to the diet. It's been three months and so far it has been accurate to the pound (accounting for natural dailyvfluxuations in weight).

I'm sure there is some value in monitoring carbs, starch, fats, sugars, and other things, but I can confirm that the simple calorie diet works very well. If all you're interested in is weight loss, I strongly recommend it.

IANANutritionist, but here's some extra tips I've found very useful:

- !ntx searches nutritionix.com for nutrition data on Duck Duck Go.

- Drinking a lot of zero calorie beverages helps aleviate hunger (I like Propel, Sprite Zero, and Dr. Zevia).

- Don't frett over being super accurate with your counting. Just don't cheat yourself and it will even out over time.

- If you're like me, a big portion of your diet is covered by a relatively small selection of meals. If you figure out the calories in those, it becomes much easier to plan meals and alter plans on the fly.

- If you breakdown a meal, it's often possible to make a small modification that significantly reduces its calorie count.

- Don't focus on eating traditional diet foods (eg salads and "superfoods"). If you focus on having a perfect diet, you might burn yourself out.

“Calorie counting doesn’t work for you because you’re not good enough at counting calories” frames the problem in a way impossible to disprove. Maybe people aren’t arguing that they’re breaking the laws of physics, but that they’re having trouble with estimating the caloric surplus in the first place.

I've used calorie counting before, and I don't think it's hard to do - just a bit inconvenient. Having a little digital scale helps a lot. Measuring out the calories in a recipe can be a pain, but people tend to repeat the same recipes. It's inconvenient in the beginning, but gets better once you've already calculated most of your standard recipes. There are apps that will help you track it. Pack a lunch or buy something with a known number of calories.

If you only rarely go out to restaurants, just give the meal your best estimate and don't worry about it too much. If you eat out every day, it'll be hard to estimate. Fast food chains are often (ironically?) helpful here because many of them list the calories in their meals.

You don't really need to estimate your calorie expenditure. Just keep your activity level roughly even, count calorie intake, and track your weight. If your weight doesn't decrease after a couple weeks, subtract a couple hundred calories from your intake. Eventually, you'll get a deficit and your weight will decrease.

Maybe, but that’s more of an excuse than a true reason. It means their methodology for determining caloric content is flawed and they aren’t turning the right knobs to find accuracy. At which point they should work with a nutritionist.

Unfortunately the most compelling evidence I've seen seems to confirm the weight set-point (or set-interval) theory. A good book that summarizes main results is Sandra Aamodt's "Why diets don't work".

That's not to say weight loss is impossible. If you're overeating as a habit you may be keeping your weight above your set-point. Learning to "listen" to hunger cues may then bring your weight down. It happened to me 2 years ago and I managed to keep the weight down, and I'm not feeling hungry. There are other ways of lowering the set-point, but not very recommendable in general.

I think focusing on hunger cues and eating a balanced diet is good advice, together with exercise and avoiding drinking and smoking. These will (statistically) reduce morbidity risks to normal-weight levels.

Note that I am not a doctor, though, so take this information with the proper grain of salt.

> Note that I am not a doctor, though, so take this information with the proper grain of salt.

In moderation though, too much sodium is bad for you

Evidence does not appear to bear that out. "... a meta-analysis of seven studies involving a total of 6,250 subjects in the American Journal of Hypertension found no strong evidence that cutting salt intake reduces the risk for heart attacks, strokes or death in people with normal or high blood pressure." [1]

[1] https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/its-time-to-end-t...

The relative amounts of sodium and potassium in blood regulate blood pressure. Too much sodium can increase blood pressure and high blood pressure is a major cause of cardiovascular disease.

This is a well-understood process with much data to back it up and it will take a lot more than one meta-analysis of 6k people to provide evidence against it.

Note also a common mistake of studies that test correlations between a factor such as salt and a health outcome like CVD or death: often, the people at most high risk are already cutting down on the substance.

For example (I can't find the reference now, sorry) a study that reported that moderate drinking had better health outcomes than not drinking at all included in its study population individuals who had cut alcohol consumption completely because of pre-existing (at the time of the study) disease. So obviously those people had worse health outcomes than the ones that drank moderately.

This can skew results something bad. If you're testing whether cutting down on salt correlates with a reduction to CVD and some of your study population have cut down on salt because they already have CVD, the association between cutting down on salt and good outcomes will appear reduced in your data. In the first study reported in Scientific American in the link you provide it's hard to know whether this is the case because they don't link to the study (typical). The next study reported by SA, where the amount of sodium in urine was measured, seems to have suffered from this error: it found that cutting down on salt increased risk of dying from heart disease. Not benefitting from reducing salt intake is one thing, but dying more of it? That takes hellalot of explaining!

The point is that just because a study found one result doesn't mean everything changes overnight.

It is important to understand that when there is a large body of evidence supporting one hypothesis ("too much salt is not good for you") it takes an equally large body of evidence to reject that hypothesis. A single study, even a meta-analysis, doesn't cut it. It will take many years and a lot of work before the evidence SA presents is credible enough to change our understanding. And this is as it should be.

Thanks for your helpful framework for evaluating these kinds of things! Any thoughts on this meta-analysis that covered dose-response relationships over 16 studies and 205,000 people and found basically that too little salt leads to cardiac death risk, and too much salt leads to potential increased stroke mortality. [1]

[1] https://bmccardiovascdisord.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.11...

Thanks for the link, that's a very thorough meta-analysis. My thoughts are: what the hell do I know? :)

The meta-analysis results are very confusing: low salt intake is associated with a relative risk of cardiac death, but moderate and high salt intake is associated with a relative risk of stroke death. Now what?

Some of the studies analysed controlled for various groups, e.g. with high BMI, or, indeed, with previous CVD. Some followed patients up for 10 or more years, some had 10,000 or more subjects, some had more or less than 60% male subjects- and all these factors seem to have afffected outcomes.

So perhaps a tentative conclusion should be that salt intake doesn't have a significant effect on healthy individuals, but it does seem to affect those with underlying conditions.

The question is- how do you know what underlying conditions you have, given that our interest in the study is probably to decide how much we should cut back on our salt consumption as individuals, according to dietary advice from basically all major health bodies, etc.

Well, I have a single data point on this. A relative of mine recently found out she has kidney disease. The news came out of the blue. She had a blood test for something unrelated and there was a worying signal. She was referred to a nephrologist, had an ultrasound to check the state of her kidney and discovered that she's missing one kidney from birth. It turns out that people with a single kidney from birth have an increased risk to develop kidney disease, higher than people who lose a kidney later in life, who in turn have a higher risk than the general population. It seems also that my relative's liberal salt consumption (until now) has played a role in her developing kidney disease, because the most likely course of events is that her blood pressure was elevated, which damaged her kidney, which raised her blood pressure, which further damaged her kidney, etc.

Like I say, this came out of the blue. Kidney disease is like that: it sneaks up on you, when you don't expect it. My relative was lucky to find out before she found herself on a hospital bed, strapped to a dialysis machine, but others have not been so lucky.

This whole affair made me realise I have no idea what might be going on in my body, that may affect me very suddendly a few years down the line. Perhaps I have some underlying condition I don't know of, myself. Maybe I'll find, when I'm older, that I have a high blood pressure and that I need to take medication, and cut back on salt, to control it.

Current guidelines are to limit salt intake and those are based on numerous studies carried out over many years, and, I think, clinical experience. Perhaps there were confounding factors not controlled for, in those studies- like high BMI, previous CVD, smoking (!) etc etc. But, if those confounding factors caused a significant jump in the relative risk for things that can easily kill anyone, then maybe the message is that there are many things that can increase the risk from high salt intake- and that many people are affected by those things. In which case the wise thing is to not assume that you can eat as much salt as you want, and that you have to be a little bit careful with it, now, so you that don't have to make huge, very difficult changes, later.

My relative has had to cut back entirely on the salt that she eats: no cheese, no cured meats, no eating out unless she can be entirely sure the food she eats is unsalted (which means steak and fries pretty much every time, because there's nothing else that most restaurants can guarantee is salt-free). That is a big pain in the ass, and she might have been able to avoid it if she had been more careful earlier on.

For the record- I'm suggesting everyone should do as I say, not as I do. I salt my food liberally, still. Incorrigible :)

Edit: On the other hand, you can always monitor your blood pressure. If you're eating "too much salt" that's how you'd find out. But, who monitors their blood pressure when without a good reason?

Again I appreciate your thoughtful analysis, this is why I come here ^_^

Some people do have a sensitivity to salt. I am one of those people. Excessive salt does weird things to my body. My grandmother is the same way.

Some people have a sensitivity to basically anything you can point to, I was hoping to provide some general advice that salt isn’t nearly as harmful as we’ve been led to believe.

Right, so like all things in life. Use the advice as a guideline and experiment to validate.

I did it through calorie counting. I wasn't surprised that I lost weight, but I was surprised by something else: it made me re-examine everything I ate.

One of the key insights was that I was eating a lot of foods that were fattening but weren't filling. It turns out that the ratio of "how full does this make me feel" to "how many calories does this contain" is not a constant across foods. Sugar has probably the worst ratio. Protein and fiber probably have the best, at least in my experience. Fat is a little trickier, but probably also decent if consumed in moderation.

Anyway, as a result, I eat a LOT of vegetables and lean meat. For dinner (my large meal), I often have 1/2 to 3/4 pound (225-340g) of something like chicken breast and 3/4 to 1 pound (340-450g) of steamed veggies. Sometimes I feel like I can barely finish it all.

The other part of the equation was I really did have to change a lot of long-time habits. I was accustomed to just eating whatever and whenever I wanted. That had to end, and the adjustment was painful.

It probably also helps to stay physically active, but I was active before undertaking the weight loss, so I can't comment on the effect of changing that.

The closest thing to device that measures actual calories in is a scale (or measuring cup) and a nutrition label. Yes, this is limiting and tedious. Your favorite local restaurant probably doesn't have any nutrition info available at all. To some extent, you can get around this by looking up equivalents. When you're at your local burrito place, just look up the closest Chipotle menu item. If you only need to that occasionally (not every other meal), your overall totals will be pretty close.

All the fad diets, trendy diet suggestions, are bullshit. Cogent science has delineated what we should be eating: lots of vegetables(3-5 cups of carrots, peas, green beans, spinach), complex carbohydrates(think fiber, whole wheat), lean meats(fish and chicken), and unsaturated oils (olive oil). It doesn't matter if you eat them all at once, what matters is that you go after vegetables first then go after the rest. Sugar is the worst thing in the world and I'm waiting for the water shed moment where we realize that strong insulin responses are terrible for the body.

I could go on and on, but Hardvard my plate is the definite guide for what you should be eating. This is the non lobbyist, highly educated PhD take on what current science says we should eat.


Not eating bread, cereal, or sugar had a big impact for me. I haven’t gone full keto but I’ve found just doing that is sufficiently challenging and effective for long term weight loss. Especially once you hit 30 it’s should be something you start drilling into your head and simply stop buying it.

Replacing sugar with Erythritol and monk fruit has been more than sufficient replacement for things like coffee and small treats. It’s hard to find commercial products with Erythritol which is a shame but that seems to be slowly changing.

Sadly most “sugar free” products have Maltodextrin or Xylitol which is awful for me as I have colitis and I’ve read they aren’t keto friendly. If every product that contained those two switched to the former two my life shopping for groceries would be so much easier.

I also don’t go hard at restaurants (nothing worse than having to be picky at a restaurant) mostly for practicality reasons but that would be the 2nd area I'd focus on next if I started to care more.

Starting small and simple (ie just no bread) at the beginning is the best way. Abrupt changes usually have A abrupt endings as you significantly increase the workload.

Agreed, it's pretty ridiculous. At the same time, you need to look at yourself and make sure you don't fall into the analysis paralysis trap: it's not as complicated as it seems, despite the fountain of garbage information about edge cases and insignificant tweaks. Eat real food (processed food is bad), not too much (caloric deficit = weight loss), mostly plants (but not only plants, humans are omnivores for a reason). Basically everything else doesn't matter at all: it's not worth tracking your prai alkalinity because it might give you an extra 1% rate of weight loss or whatever the current fad is.

I was really frustrated for a few years asking the same questions. It comes down to this: most health outcomes are achieved by eating less and getting slim if you're overweight (cancer, type 2 diabetes, fatty liver risks decrease). Eat significantly less. Like about 1/2 to 1/3 of what you're eating now. The food that you consume then becomes largely irrelevant (just avoid fried stuff, red meat, and processed meat as much as possible -- the things that have shown conclusively to be carcinogenic).

If you're worried about nutrition, take a dive on PubMed and you'll see that many research studies show, for some reason, less risk of cancer for people with nutrient deficiencies.

> Is fasting good, or will it put me in ‘starvation mode’?

Starvation mode is what you want if you're overweight. Many diets urge you to exercise or to eat often to keep a fast metabolism. But if you want to live longer, you WANT your metabolism to be slow, not fast. That will require you to keep a low-calorie intake for the rest of your life. Fortunately, your hunger pangs will go away after about 5-10 weeks and undereating will actually become a problem.

You know you have to eat less. Counting your calories with a food journal is a very successful way to keep yourself accountable for how much you’re eating. Any special diet or strategy is making it more complicated than it is.

Some of us find it incredibly hard, almost impossible, to just eat less.

Also some would argue that keeping a food journal and measuring every calorie you eat is far more complicated than special diets like "don't eat carbs" which are successful for some people without measuring or recording anything.

I wholeheartedly agree. Eating less for some people with strong hunger pains can be almost impossible. I was one of them. Skipping breakfast would make me irrationally angry, and the pain of having an empty stomach was too much to bear. I could not concentrate even if I had mild hunger.

I'm going to plug in a program that changed my life, even though I have never done that, and I don't really agree with their business model, but their methodology for training yourself to eat less is top-notch and incredibly simple. The program is called Naturally Slim, and many insurance companies cover it.

I think their $50/month fee for non-insured people is a bit outrageous because the principles are simple:

* Eat really slowly and stop eating when you're not hungry anymore (not full, just not hungry). Throw away the rest of the food or store it for later.

* Only eat when you're really hungry.

* Drink diluted orange juice at a 1:8 ratio throughout the day to maintain a steady glucose level and prevent hunger.

* Your meals should consist of about 1/3 vegetable or animal protein to keep hunger away.

* Instead of having breakfast, drink plenty of water or the diluted orange juice. Most people aren't really hungry in the morning.

The beauty is that as your body weight drops, your caloric requirements drop, and if you're following the first rule, you're eating less every week.

Probably that's how anorexia sufferers get to eat so little without feeling devastating hunger.

Not sure why you are getting downvoted. Counting calories is fairly simple if you are eating fast food or out of packages. I found it to be a huge pain in the ass when eating whole foods.

That's an unfortunate alignment, because those foods that are packaged and marked with calorie counts are the very ones that are more likely to leave you wanting to eat more calories than you need.

Whole foods are harder to get an accurate count for, but seem to leave me feeling full after consuming a more reasonable number of calories.

Seconded. When I used to cut weight for HS and college wrestling it was considerably easier to plan around fast food and pre-packaged options. Those aren't always awesome choices, but they're highly consistent and I can get accurate counts as to how much calories/protein/fiber/fat/carbs I've had.

Doesn't mean I was eating it 3 meals a day, mind you; still mostly brown rice, broc, and chicken breasts. But I could plan around a lunch at Wendy's, while the local steak house was a crapshoot.

You don’t need extreme precision when counting calories. The trick is to A develop a reasonable baseline for breaking even at your weight and activity level. Then B make a significant reduction sufficient to lose weight in a reasonable timeframe. You can call them calories or magic beans, as long as the energy ratio is about right that’s plenty.

Really, the difference between say 2,500 calories a day and 1,800 is about the magnitude you want and not that hard to differentiate.

As an alternative, check out a whole-food plant based diet. Many foods in the standard American diet (junk food like chips and sweets, meat, dairy, eggs, oils, even fish) are generally very calorie-dense -- you don't have to eat much of them to be over-eating calories, and eating an appropriate amount doesn't fill you up.

If you switch to getting your calories from whole grains, beans and legumes, potatoes, rice (ideally brown rice), fruit, etc, and don't add fat or oil when you cook, you can eat until you're full and still not gain weight. Nuts and seeds are the only whole plant food you may have to watch out for a bit -- the oil in them makes them relatively high-calorie.

The downside to this diet is that you'll probably have to do a lot of the cooking yourself at home, because virtually all the prepared food you can buy has had oil of some sort added to it. You can buy some things like pasta sauce, but you have to pay close attention to the nutrition label and try to get ones with minimal added oil. It takes a little while to get used to it, but it soon becomes pretty intuitive.

And of course, cutting out dairy and meat means that you'll want to supplement B12.

The upside is that this diet has health benefits (based on research, not just anecdotes) that go way beyond weight loss, though. Reduced risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes, reduced fatigue, less pain from inflammatory conditions, less anxiety, better digestion, etc.

Although, the anecdotes are generally impressive and fun to read, so if you want those: https://www.forksoverknives.com/success-stories/#gs.6onygn

If I don't make a conscious effort to reduce my intake I can easily eat 5k calories a day of beans, potatoes, or rice.

The challenge is that diets that rely on how your body metabolizes certain foods inherently depend on a lot of details about your digestive and metabolic processes. Some of those things probably are very generalizable, but many of them will vary widely in how well they work depending on genetic factors, gut flora, and lifestyle.

By contrast, calorie counting requires only that you obey the laws of thermodynamics. At some level of reduced intake it will produce weight loss for literally anyone.

Having said that, if not eating carbs gets you there that's great-- I don't want to diminish anyone else's experience with weight loss. I just think more people should be up-front when talking about their new diet that any surprisingly easy way to lose weight is surprising because things don't normally work that way.

One could spin it around and argue that what that maintenance level is depends heavily upon the individual's metabolic processes, which depend upon gut flora, diet, weight, exercise levels, timing of consumption...

The way to eat less is to reduce carbs and increase healthy fats. Carbs spike your blood sugar, which your body then works at removing, causing a sugar crash a couple of hours later where you are hungry, which is why people snack between meals. If you avoid carbs, you avoid the sugar spike and crash. Instead of carbs, eat healthy fats. Fats don't spike your sugar and they keep you satiated for hours on end. Keep your protein at a normal level. Protein increases blood sugar some but not enough to cause a sugar spike and crash and make you hungry.

The right drugs can kill your appetite and they're very effective and ensuring weight loss. For me, just caffeine can ensure I don't eat for the whole day and then I can still go climbing.

Throw in some Bronkaid and you have a proper EC stack. Be careful if you have family history of heart disease and especially if you have heart issues yourself. Also, like anything don't overdue it. And research the heck out of it first please.

I've done ec stack and I develop a tolerance to the appetite suppressive effects in a couple weeks, also I don't like how I feel on it. Two or cups of coffee per day is enough stim for me, more than that makes me feel awful.

This is a rabbit hole where any actual advice needs to be prefaced with pages worth of what else you are doing on the side.

There are countless of people who instead of eating less move to higher protein diets and exercice more, while doing many many more small adjustments that make it work for them.

Some can eat dramatically less while keeping roughly the same level of everyday activity, while for other it will become hell on earth and put so much stress on them that they will rebound very hard after losing only a small amounts.

I personaly think any advice that is summed up in a sentence or two should be seen as some proverbial saying and be considered applicable only after reaching the same conclusion by ourself.

People who say that you have to eat less must have never met someone on the keto diet. Your body just doesn’t store the fat when you’re not eating carbs.

While fats satiate you faster, and people tend to lose weight, I have absolutely gained plenty of weight on a keto diet. Please dont spread BS. Keto is awesome but it isnt magic.

That's because keto isn't really a weight loss diet. It can be, but it was designed to reduce seizures in people with epilepsy. It's a healthy diet with the side effect of reducing weight if calories are reduced. It is popular as a way to lose weight because the fats keep you satiated for hours, reducing hunger and the feeling of needing to eat. Also, the reduction of carbs reduces the blood sugar spike and the subsequent sugar crash later that makes you feel hungry.

It isn't BS as I've lost a considerable amount of weight in a very short time on it, eating nothing but vegetables and meat. Usually eating (far) over 1,000 calories per meal, dripping tons of butter on literally everything, 3x a day, going from 223lbs to 180lbs in 3 months.

I know nearly a dozen people at work who've lost as much or more weight than me, eating like I did. In fact you're the first person I've ever heard of gaining weight on keto, on or off the internet.

You don't have to eat less, if by less you mean by volume.

When I go 100% raw unprocessed vegetarian for weeks at a time, I'm eating so much plain lettuce and fruits/vegetables by volume my jaw has to adapt.

It's very effective at controlling weight in my experience FWIW, while still eating huge volumes of food.

I suspect that a lot of those answers depend on your genes and gut microbiota. Except that last one, because reliably measuring calories requires destroying the food.

Eat slowly until you feel satisfied. No single person has the same metabolism, and only processed food has exact measures of nutrition that can be measured.

I've known this for years, and own a restaurant that serves all of our fried food cooked in beef tallow rather than seed oils.

Everyone loves the taste of the food, I guess our fries ruin other chains for people.

The thing that really irks me about seed oils is that humans find it difficult to taste when it's rancid. I wonder how many of the long shelf life products filled with sunflower oil are actually rancid, or how many fast food restaurants use oil long past its normal life without anyone being able to tell.

As far as I understand, Rancid just means it doesn't taste as good as it should but generally doesn't otherwise result in less-healthy or less-nutritious food. Am I incorrect?

I'm not an expert, but I think rancid oil is oxidised oil and thus acts like any oxidised chemical: it tries to steal an electron from somewhere else, including inside our bodies - "free radicals" - which can damage things like our DNA. There's also some link to how it can change the behaviour of proton gradients in our cells (I read about it a while ago in "The Vital Question" by Nick Lane) but I'm sketchy on the exact details.

If it’s already oxidized it’s not trying to steal any electrons - the oxygen already has. Case in point - CO2 is the most oxidized form of carbon and is very low energy and nonreactive.

It depends on the chemical. CO2 is not electrophilic, but something like an aldehyde, typically biochemically formed by oxidation, is electrophilic and reactive. The body biochemically oxidizes ethanol to acetaldehyde, whose reactivity gives it carcinogenic properties. Toxic aldehydes formed when fats degrade include acrolein and malondialdehyde: "Malondialdehyde results from lipid peroxidation of polyunsaturated fatty acids."

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acetaldehyde 2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malondialdehyde

But that oxidation would occur anyway whether it's on a shelf over time or inside of our body... wouldn't it?

The high temperatures used to fry foods accelerates oxidation. Repeatedly using the same oil to fry foods at high temperatures (such as in factories and restaurants) leads to greater oxidation. Long shelf life food often has oil or was fried in oil that was heated to high temperatures. However, just leaving oil long enough exposed to air will also lead to oxidation, just at a slower rate (though I think highly refined oils, like those used not for cooking, have a slower or negligible oxidation rate "in air" but are usually not edible).

Might be one of those genetic things, or conditioned response. I'm extremely sensitive to the oxidized oil note. But my partner doesn't really notice it until it's gag-inducing to me. E.g. I can't eat mixed nuts if they have been opened more than a few days (regardless of how well re-sealed)

Interesting! Yes, possibly genes have some role here. Alternatively I've heard that your taste is affected by your body nutrient levels. A friend of mine found they could not taste zinc sulfate until they started supplementing it. Once they supplemented it, it tasted really bitter.

If you can’t tell, why does it matter whether it’s rancid or not?

McDonald's used to fry fries in beef tallow, but caved to the settled health science of the day in 1983.

Here's the recipe to fry your own. https://grannysvitalvittles.com/stovetop-beef-tallow-french-...

I don't know why that site thinks it happened in 1983, but McDonalds stopped using beef tallow for fries in 1990 (in the US) because a really rich guy decided they should and was willing to put millions of dollars into making that happen. Phil Sokolof obituary - https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2004-apr-16-me-sokol...

Yep, we tell people that all the time.

We do our fries like McDonalds did in the fifties.

Checkout Malcolm Gladwells podcast regarding how MickieDees abandoned the beef fat.


Is this an 'old' idea? In this context isn't the 'old' idea that saturated fat and cholesterol are bad for you?

How does this hypothesis deal with the fact that vegans and vegetarians have lower levels of cardiovascular disease, lower blood cholesterol, and lower risk of diabetes (honest question, I'd assume that vegans and vegetarians generally eat much more carbs)?

'Old' in the sense that low carbohydrate, high fat diets have been known about for a century or more as a way to treat autism, and in the sense that there are studies from the middle of last century which replaced saturated fat in peoples' diets with seed oils which showed no benefit or even increased mortality. Some of these studies were botched or cherry picked their data to support a conclusion that saturated fat is bad for our health, but upon re-analysis have shown no such effect. See for example the Sydney [1] or Minnesota [2] heart studies. The confusing aspect with these studies is that frequently they show a decrease in cholesterol when switching to seed oils, and conclude that seed oils must be healthier than saturated fats, but it turns out that cholesterol levels have very little to do with overall health (sorry for the unsubstantiated claim - I don't have a good reference to hand, but I can look it up if you ask - usual caveats apply: I am not a doctor etc. etc.).

[1] https://www.fasebj.org/doi/abs/10.1096/fasebj.27.1_supplemen...

[2] https://www.bmj.com/content/353/bmj.i1246

If being a vegan/vegetarian is highly correlated with "cares about health," the types of carbs they consume would likely be different, they may be more likely to exercise, and they may be more likely to eat in moderation.

Lots of people say this to me but I've never seen evidence that it's true. In my experience most vegans don't do it for health reasons.

That being said I do agree that there are huge differences in types of carbs consumed....but that only goes to say that the problem isn't simply 'carbs', it's processed sugars.

I have never seen a vegan who is what I would consider "fit" - and my standard is not necessarily an elite athlete, but, let's say, "able to handle themselves in a bar fight". Frankly a lot of them look rather sickly.

I have however met a lot of people who are Paleo or Carnivore who are in incredible shape.

I'm inclined to believe that at least some of this is cultural - Paleo/Carnivore folks tend to be more strict and disciplined about their fitness anyway, and do different workouts - and some of it is indeed due to diet.

It is tempting to think that your diet is what makes you fit, but that's just an excuse. I'm fit because I exercise intensely every day. Whether I'm eating beans or steak doesn't change that.

I've only heard this idea from people who aren't in shape obsessing over all the details of the body except for the one that matters: having the discipline to exercise.

It's like debating whether you should have celery or its close cousin, rhubarb, while skipping your daily run.

Sorry this just made me lol, lookup "gamechangers" and watch the trailer.

I’ll pass, thanks. I have enough evidence, anecdotal and from my physician and from experience, that a plant-only diet would be extremely unhealthy for me. I’ll stick to my steaks.

neat. good argument. anecdotal evidence is not evidence btw.

The body doesn't need carbohydrates to function. If you consume exclusively fats and protein (with very low levels of carbohydrates: less than 25g/day), the process of ketosis will kick in: your body will start converting fats to ketone bodies, specifically beta-hydroxy-butyrate, which as used as energy in the brain, heart, etc. instead of glucose.

Or that's a half-understood idea some push [1], mostly looking into first order effects, and unaware of the bigger picture (except from cherry-picking this or that pro-keto study, which are themselves a dime a dozen, like most nutrition studies are).

[1] Nutrition in general, is at this point scientifically half-understood. Science has tons of things it still tries to understand and needs to explain on nutrition...

One thing I think that people should be more aware of is that nutrition advice that has a small significance in large studies might be recommended for the general population by health officials, but could be something that is actually bad for you personally. It will be great if we can get a better understanding of nutrition for individual people based on their own genetics, body weight, lifestyle, etc.

The process of converting fats to ketone bodies, and the body using those ketones as energy, is a well-understood process.

>The process of converting fats to ketone bodies, and the body using those ketones as energy, is a well-understood process.

Only at the high level and first order effects.

The idea that this is OK as a diet, and the tradeoffs long term, is a not-well understood process with tons of pro and con papers, as is most of nutrition science.

Ketosis is a terrible process that your brain and body hates.

The converse, too many carbs -- leads to diabetes, the number 1 preventible condition in western societies, which is probably a more terrible process that your body also hates.

This is a common source of confusion, but carbohydrate intolerance is a symptom of diabetes, not a cause. Diabetics that go on Keto diets are still diabetic. If you give them a piece of toast, their blood sugar goes through the roof. It's like that joke about going to the doctor and saying "It hurts when I do this" and the doctor says "Well, don't do that anymore".

On the other hand, eating a whole-food plant based diet can actually reverse type 2 diabetes. People stabilize their blood sugar even while eating things like whole wheat bread, potatoes, rice and fruit, and generally have to have their insulin reduced and then eliminated to avoid hypoglycemia.

There is a theory gaining traction that insulin resistance is caused by fat in our muscle cells that somehow blocks the activity of insulin. So eating a very low-fat diet allows this fat to clear out, allowing insulin to work again, so you can eat carbs without your blood sugar spiking.

The fat in muscle cells is called "intramyocellular lipids". We know that it's associated with insulin resistance, the only debate is whether it's the cause or the effect, or if something else is causing both. Based on what I've read, I subscribe to the theory that it's the cause.

Being overweight or obese is the cause of 90-95% of cases of Type 2 Diabetes. https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/diabetes-causes#1

Being overweight usually is tied to overconsumption of calories. Most people don't consume too much fat or protein: it's just difficult to eat a jar of crisco or an entire ham. However, in western cultures, overconsumption of calories is largely associated with highly processed, sugary foods. Chips, soda, snacks, etc.

I will concede that's not the reason for everyone who is overweight, but for many, it is the case. It's predominantly too many carbohydrates.

Why is it terrible? What evidence is there that your brain _hates_ it?

From what I understand, there is evidence that the brain may function better deriving energy from ketones, and ketosis may be neuroprotective: https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/mind-guest-blog/the-fat...

Well your brain only does it when you’re starved for glucose, for one. If your brain operated better off of ketones it’s hard to imagine why it would preferentially operate off of glucose when it’s available.

But also, have you done it? It feels awful.

That may have been your experience, but plenty of people have the opposite experience.

Over the years we have heard categorical statements of what food is beneficial and what is detrimental. Only problem is the beneficial and detrimental flip back and forth. I doubt any thing put forth after 50 years of really bad advice from the government, doctors, nutritionists, PBS fundraisers, and your crazy sister in law.

The HN comments section on any nutrition article sort-of seems to provide its own microcosm of the problem...

No one remotely agrees on the data found so far. A hundred different anecdotes all contradict one another about how to lose weight or eat healthy.

It's a pretty sad and frustrating state that nutrition research is in, honestly. Sugar is bad and then it's okay. Saturated fat is terrible but it's fine. All red meat is bad. No wait, just processed red meat. Too much sodium is dangerous, wait no it's fine for most people, even some with high BP. Counting calories always works, except when it doesn't. Low carb is magic except when it's not.


Well stated. It's political in many ways, and at least for me that makes it a turn off.

Just like how we know that pushups work, we know that eating moderate amounts of whole foods works. But arguments don't start over that so our attentions shift to the zany opinionated bullshit.

Kind of like how it's more fun to argue about min/max exercise equipment and routines than actually do the damn exercise.

Apart from sustainability the only downside of red meat that I have ever heard of is a slight increase to colon cancer and to excess iron in men. I think calling this bedrock advice is hyperbolic. The saturated fat demonization is much more widespread ime.

It's complicated. Telling people who have been abstaining from eating red meat that it's ok to eat it might also be a bad idea.

Humans lost the enzyme that converts Neu5Ac to Neu5Gc. Other animals have Neu5Gc, which can be incorporated into your own tissues and potentially be recognized as foreign. So if you haven't been exposed to animal products and you suddenly are, that could trigger auto-immunity. Oh and of course, the gut microbiota has a role in regulating all of this. (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41564-019-0564-9)

For those not clicking through on the paper (it came up in discussion in one of my metabolomics groups the other day) the paper you cited shows that (previously unknown) that there would be microbiome adaptations that could mitigate previously theorized issues with meat consumption: "We found that a Neu5Gc-rich diet induces changes in the gut microbiota, with Bacteroidales and Clostridiales responding the most. ... Additionally, we verified that mouse and human sialidases were able to release Neu5Gc from red meat. The release of Neu5Gc from red meat using bacterial sialidases could reduce the risk of inflammatory diseases associated with red meat consumption, including colorectal cancer and atherosclerosis."

The human microbiome is very diverse and adaptable. It seems to be good at processing just about any evolutionarily available (eg, non ultra-processed) foods you give it: https://www.nature.com/articles/ismej2011212

As an anecdote, my wife gave up vegetarianism after ten years and suffered no consequences coming back onto meat. She started with a tiny bit of pork and the next day was eating chicken, pork, etc. The fact is humans are omnivores.

My wife tried every diet known, when she started eating Keto style and even strict carnivorous all of her stomach issues went away. Just from observing her and the kids I think there are huge benefits to not eating carbohydrates.

Some of this benefit could be related to the chemicals in the foods but every time she eats any grains or grain products she gets stomach issues

I dont have any stomach issues except I gain weight when I eat carbs. No carbs and the weight goes off.

There is more to this issue than meat vs grains IMO

BTW... does anyone have a reference to a medical study showing why the US recommended diet is recommended ?

Anegdotal evidence are just that, anecdotal. Most of the studies show that all the unprocessed complex and fibrous carbohidrates are very good for health, but eating spoons of sugar is obviously bad. All the longevity experts that I listened to and read what they say also agree that in general protein should be at a very slight nitrogen positive balance (so less then 100g per day for most of people) and rest is carbs and some fats. And yes, not everyone i

Unfortunately the state of the science is such that finding what works best for you yourself is about the best we can do. I'm certain there are some folks that do best strict carnivore, and some others that do best strict vegan, and everywhere in between.

That makes sense - by starting with small amounts you're more likely to induce oral tolerance. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4603531/

It's my understanding that Neu5Gc can trigger a low-level inflammatory response, but generally not auto-immune disease as it is typically defined. It may be that the resulting inflammation is less damaging than inflammation caused by things like increased carbohydrate or omega-6 oil intake.

Diet science is the most pathetically politicized "science" next to economics. On one side you've got the industry groups promoting their food and giving out grants to scientists to get the right results. On another side you've got the rich radical environmental and animal rights activists wanting everyone to go Vegan and giving out grants to scientists to get their results. It's just a clusterfk of politics going back and forth. Eggs are bad, no they're good. Meat is bad, no it's good. Carbs are bad, no it's good. Fat is bad, no it's good. Protein is bad, no it's good. Or in the words of Bugs and Daffy: Duck Season! Rabbit Season!, etc.

While funding and conflicts of interest are an issue, a much bigger problem with nutrition research is that it is extremely difficult/expensive/unethical to study the outcomes people actually care about (living longer, losing weight, preventing disease), because that would require being able to control a large number of people's diet for decades (which in turn would require either paying/motivating them enough to comply, or doing so against their will).

... so instead, you end with a bunch of observational studies (which cannot show causation), or studies of placeholders assuming it maps to something people actually care about (eg. "cholesterol levels in the blood stream after X hours" for "Y years of life lost to heart disease per hundred thousand"), or bench studies (some chemical component in broccoli can kill cancer cells in a petri dish becomes "broccoli fights cancer" ignoring the fact that eg. fire kills cancer cells in a petri dish... that doesn't mean you should eat it).

... which are subject to all the usual difficulties for associated with subjects that are hard to study: small samples, inadequate surveys, bad statistics, HARKing, p-hacking.

... the resulting papers are then reported on uncritically, often generalizing the claims well beyond what the underlying science would support... because people read articles about things they actually do (eat meat) and outcomes they care about (live longer/avoid heart disease)... not about bench results.

I think a large part of it is that regardless of the politics behind it or who is funding it, doing a proper scientific experiment is impossible with our current tools due to the complexity of the human body, food, and issues with control groups and accurate data.

In this type of scenario, I would expect frequent changes in what is considered “true” and I would consider that a good sign assuming the proper procedures are resulting in iterative improvements to our field of knowledge.

Its religious also. Both traditional religion (vegetarianism = good, cow = holy) and modern religion (Holier than thou because more ascetic, and grilled beef steak is delicious, therefore he who posts the most about lettuce on social media is better than everyone else)

> On one side you've got the industry groups promoting their food and giving out grants to scientists to get the right results.

The worst part is, that's not really "one" side. Many of those groups are actively fighting each other, particularly now that organic foods, supplements, and superfood-of-the-week are big business.

It's more like David vs. Goliath. The food industry has MUCH more money than any animal rights advocacy group.

All higher life on this planet survives by eating another life form.

Animal rights groups tend to elevate my food to having similar rights as humans. I find this to be a minimum facetious at maximum a threat to my life.

> Animal rights groups tend to elevate my food to having similar rights as humans. I find this to be a minimum facetious at maximum a threat to my life.

It's certainly not facetious (not sure if you're looking for another word here?) and laughable that it's a threat to your life. AR activists look to people to grant non-humans rights based on their interests - the same as we do with humans, but not the same rights. And to be honest, almost every single person I've ever spoken to holds the exact same moral beliefs as any vegan, but are unwilling to consistently apply those beliefs to their actions.

>All higher life on this planet survives by eating another life form.

That's not relevant to this discussion unless you're talking to someone who thinks consuming any life is immoral. Sounds like you're arguing a straw man.

>All higher life on this planet survives by eating another life form.

>That's not relevant to this discussion unless you're talking to someone who thinks consuming any life is immoral. Sounds like you're arguing a straw man.

But it is relevant. You would elevate animals above plants.

If you want to give rights to things with life give it to everything.

> If you want to give rights to things with life give it to everything.

That's another straw man. I could reply in the exact same way to you wanting to give rights to humans. Your argument for granting rights to humans is not based on the fact that we're alive and neither is the Animal Rights argument. You understand that - right? There is literally no one arguing that we should grant rights to animals on the basis on them being alive.

Humans have rights, you dont grant them rights.

Animals and plants do not have rights. You dont have the power to grant them rights.

Animals and plants are food.

Granny was right when she said people have it too good. Folks look around for things to do instead of just enjoying what they have.

As a practical matter, of course we grant humans rights. If you're speaking philosophically, you would have to make the case that there is some morally relevant difference between humans and non-humans. I have yet to see anyone make a compelling case for that, but feel free to try.

You still haven't actually addressed anything I've said and declaring animals and plants are food is a descriptive statement, not a normative one.

And Granny was wrong.

>As a practical matter, of course we grant humans rights. If you're speaking philosophically, you would have to make the case that there is some morally relevant difference between humans and non-humans. I have yet to see anyone make a compelling case for that, but feel free to try.

Interesting how you assume you can dismiss thousands of years of human law / natural law in one sentence.

>You still haven't actually addressed anything I've said and declaring animals and plants are food is a descriptive statement, not a normative one.

Plants and animals are food for humans. This is a factual statement.

>And Granny was wrong.

The older I get the less I believe that. Would be an interesting experiment to put someone in an RV trailer with a cow, plenty of water and no food in an area they couldn't leave. Come back in a month and see what they thought about animal rights.

People are too separated from their food supplies aka have it too good.

> Interesting how you assume you can dismiss thousands of years of human law / natural law in one sentence.

Human law is relevant to the whether we grant humans rights, the idea that which you took issue with. "Natural law" isn't an argument for really anything. I'm not sure what you think I'm dismissing, but if you have an argument to make, make one. The pearl clutching really doesn't get us anywhere.

> Plants and animals are food for humans. This is a factual statement.

It is. I said exactly that. Humans are also food for humans. That's another factual statement. But you can't conflate descriptive and normative statements, which you seem bent on doing.

> Would be an interesting experiment to put someone in an RV trailer with a cow, plenty of water and no food in an area they couldn't leave. Come back in a month and see what they thought about animal rights.

You could perform the same experiment with two humans - or we could look at instances like the Donner party. What people do in extreme situations to prevent their deaths is interesting, but it's not an argument for what you should do on a daily basis outside of such a situation.

>"Natural law" isn't an argument for really anything. I'm not sure what you think I'm dismissing, but if you have an argument to make, make one.

Natural law is where humans get rights (they are born with them), also the foundation of modern civilization.

> What people do in extreme situations to prevent their deaths is interesting, but it's not an argument for what you should do on a daily basis outside of such a situation.

What people do to survive is eat. What they eat is the entire subject you are arguing.

Glad to see we agree humans eat everything. Now can you quit pretending animals have some right to not be eaten ?

Great posts in this thread, thanks.

> All higher life on this planet survives by eating another life form.

Does it? What about vegetarian and vegans animals? (including some humans)

> Animal rights groups tend to elevate my food to having similar rights as humans.

It's more accurate to say that animal rights groups believe that the lives of animals are more important than your taste buds.

Are you saying plant life isnt life ?


>It's more accurate to say that animal rights groups believe that the lives of animals are more important than your taste buds.

My belief is I am healthier eating animals. Burden is on you to prove me wrong.

There are 3 orders of living things: plants, funghi, and animals. Animal rights is concerned with all animals, not with all living things.

Every major dietician association says the same thing about veg diets, that they are healthy for all stages of life, including pregnancy, infancy (excepting breastmilk of course), and early childhood.

There's no burden on me to change your behavior, you can do whatever you want.

>excepting breastmilk of course

Seems to be a ... rather glaring exception.

how? vegans believe using animal products is wrong because there is no possible way to get consent from the animals. Breastmilk has 100% consent from the mother providing the milk.

Can you find a vegan who can show proof animals are capable of giving consent after giving the situation considerable thought ?

Survival instinct is not allowed since you wont allow humans survival instinct to eat everything and anything to be part of the situation.

I said the opposite, animals are _not_ able to give consent. If you misspoke I don't really know what to say, you think that it's possible for a cow to give a human consent to take their child and milk?

And stop kidding yourself about this being about some sort of primal "survival instinct". We live in a modern and comfortable society where a Canadian can buy cheap tropical fruits in January.

>We live in a modern and comfortable society

A good way to ensure that we never survive if this changes is to insist that animals are required to give "consent", whatever that means.

Eating meat if your survival depends on it (not that that's ever likely to happen) is fully acceptable in the defintion of veganism. See https://www.vegansociety.com/go-vegan/definition-veganism

Just wanted to make sure you realized its not possible for animals to not consent or consent. So this idea you can decide for them means I can too.

As a note :

A large solar storm taking out the grid would show you how close we are to losing the comfortable society, or one of many other similar events. There isnt a city in this country that would be able to handle the loss of electricity for a week let alone a month.

If an entire city lost power then the first food to spoil would be the meat. I suppose you could hunt squirrels and other small city-dwelling animals but they're not likely to last very long if millions of people suddenly turned to that.

What food doesn't require electricity to keep? Oats, wheat, beans, lentils, potatoes, rice, apples, pears, onions, etc. Notice a trend? It's all vegan food. Good luck :)

So tell me again how exactly eating meat is preparing you for survival in the (SUPER LIKELY) event of a mass power-outage and food shortage?

This is all a moot point anyways, because veganism is about not using animals "as far as is possible and practicable", so eating animals if your survival depends on it is actually fully acceptable in the definition on veganism (see https://www.vegansociety.com/go-vegan/definition-veganism)

Rabbits, raise rabbits and feed them the vegan food :)

Being in a city dooms most of the population in an event like this anyway. Combine the fact most city dwellers have never harvested food or cleaned an animal let alone takens its life.

When all that vegan food runs out where do you think you are going to grow more ? Rabbits eat grass and other vegetation that grows in cities. Not to mention they populate fast enough you would likely not even starve to death before production ramped up :)

Now...all that aside.

Can we just agree to not tell each other what to eat ?

> Can we just agree to not tell each other what to eat ?

Yep, I said from the start that I don't have any burden to change what you do. I never made any argument against meat-eating, why are you so obsessed with trying to prove vegans wrong?

>There's no burden on me to change your behavior, you can do whatever you want.


I will add that the food chain should remain natural. When I die I would get eaten except humans today pump their old body full of toxins and put it inside a coffin inside a concrete box.... This breaks the natural cycle.

Eat or be eaten ;)

The food chain is not a scientific concept, it's useful for teaching children and for Disney movies but it's probably time for you to evolve your reasoning.

Its also useful for communicating to people on the internet. You seem to grasp the concept so its a success.

I grasp the concept in the sense that I grasp that it is a fallacy put forward by someone who either hasn't fully thought through the concept, or is being intellectually dishonest.

The science is mostly fine, it's just a really difficult problem to solve. The fact that "Meat is bad, no it's good" is what enters the public consciousness is more a failure of the media than science.

I’m always skeptical when I see counter studies to businesses that have a strong financial foothold on certain industries.

Case in point, did the meat industry have any weight in this study? Generally I feel through certain lobbying efforts theses types of industries will produce a counter study that gets enough backing to be read on the nightly news and now people go back to the way things were or are confused.

Having read the China Study, I have all the convincing I need about the role of meat in our diets and I’m fine with that.

As if there are not other industries that benefit from meat being deemed unhealthy by science?

Non-expert perspective on this: I find it very difficult to believe that there is such a thing as too much meat (and easy to believe that too much bad quality meat is the root of the problem as commonly discussed), given that most preagricultural environments lacked sufficient carbohydrate density to support anything other than a ketogenic diet for most people most of the time.

@harimau777 and theferalrobot regarding evolutionary timelines:

It appears we've been eating meat for about 2.5 million years. 12,000 years seems like the blink of an eye, relatively. Epigenetic research has definitely changed my notion of how rapidly we can adapt, but idk enough to have an opinion on how much we've changed in 12,000 years, or how much vegetarian momentum we managed to conserve over the 2.5 million years of carnivory.

Source: https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2016/02/when-hum...

According to Wikipedia, agriculture started roughly 12 thousand years ago. I'm definitely not an expert, but it seems likely to me that our bodies have adapted in that time.

I wonder what the macro-nutrient ratios would be in societies relying on traditional agriculture.

> given that most preagricultural environments lacked sufficient carbohydrate density to support anything other than a ketogenic diet

Evolution takes a long time and most of the ancestors in human history were near vegetarian with a very low percentage of calories coming from non-vegetarian sources.


> most of the ancestors in human history were near vegetarian

An extremely disingenuous statement not backed in any manner in the article outside of paragraphs like these

>But the truth is, for most of the last twenty million years of the evolution of our bodies, through most of the big changes, we were eating fruit, nuts, leaves and the occasional bit of insect, frog, bird or mouse.

That goes beyond "human history" because monkeys/apes relatives are not humans. Last twenty million years? there was nothing recognizably human then. The australopithecus genus appeared 4 million years ago and even that isn't quite human in shape. Then mentions a diet of "fruit, nuts, leaves". Leaves? Humans can't process leaves efficiently enough to get more nutrition than energy expanded. Unless by leaves they mean leafy vegetables like lettuce which will fill up your stomach while not providing enough calories to get by.

An average fit, physically active human needs 2500 calories intake a day. 100 grams of lettuce is 15 calories. 100 grams of fruits like Apples is 52 calories. Of the three mentioned food sources, the only reasonable way of providing enough energy to a human body is nuts. Most nuts can get you where you need to be without having to eat yourself to an enlarged stomach.

When you account for seasons, primitive lifestyle that has no way of preserving food and lack of mobility because men relied on their own two legs for their own transportations (reducing the variety of foods available) you really have to brainwash yourself to believe that such a diet could be possible at all.

It's easy to be a vegetarian in a world with agriculture. Not so much before. We have human cultures that lived in harsh environments like Alaska for millenias and they didn't live on a diet of good vegan sentiments.

You provided only conjecture - I provided a source and here are more sources including a study explaining why the trendy paleo diatribes are not backed by scientific evidence:



I am stepping in it a bit here, but I feel you should not be basing your diet on the China Study. It is pretty thoroughly discredit IMO. https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/385/

Eat lots of vegetables and emulate blue zone diets and life style. It’s the best we got for a blue print of healthy living.

Unfortunately, the blue zones diet has also been discredited, since those places where people seemed to live longer turned out to mostly just be where records were inaccurate decades ago.

> Dr. Allison has received research funding from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, a lobbying group for meat producers.


That’s hugely misleading. Allison was not part of the research team and didn’t have anything to do with this work, he was just quoted in the article. The article says:

“ The investigators reported no conflicts of interest and did the studies without outside funding.”

Andrew Gelman's positive take on this article as a piece of scientific reporting, for those interested in a statistician's take: https://statmodeling.stat.columbia.edu/2019/09/30/that-study...

I’ll just stick to my own habit of eating everything but in moderation, cut sugar consumption to absolute minimal, and exercise 3 days a week.

I avoided all red meat for decades and ended up with extremely poor health with multiple problems.

Not too long ago I saw this insane article about some author's daughter who had severe lifelong immune diseases and after years of experimentation, found that eating absolutely nothing but steaks, water, and vodka, cured all her problems. There was also commentary by nutritionists and scientists saying she was wrong and her diet would ensure certain doom.

Anyhoo, I bought a nice grill and started eating steaks every day. Red meat. Rare, barely cooked, just singed a bit. Drinking, licking up that delicious red blood left over.

All my medical problems went away. Like almost instantly. It was crazy. Absolutely crazy. I would never have believed it.

My total diet's still a bit more varied than meat and vodka though. I do a lot of vegetables as I always have still.

Not sure why this is downvoted. There are many stories like this.

forcing people to eat in a way that doesnt suit their body is insanity. fuck the fads

You are probably referring to Mikala Peterson, Jordan Peterson's daughter.

Look up "joe rogan mikhaila peterson" on youtube for those who want to learn more about it. Joe Rogan also interviews Rhonda Patrick and she goes into far more detail about the good and bad of red meat than what you will find reading the comments here.

"Researcher funded by [fill in the specialist interest group] says you should [do thing that benefits special interest group]"

Perhaps I am too cynical, but much research and many studies are generated from that model.

Research sponsorized by the USBMA (US Beefsteak Makers Association) and the WRMA (World Red Meat Alliance).

Ten points for guessing which agri sector sponsored this study

What an odd headline/article.

Clearly, common food types are not going to be extremely harmful, so the magnitude of impact from dietary advice is never going to be extreme. Red Meat is still showing up as harmful in these studies, which is why it’s advice and not say a ban etc.

At best this reads like spin from the cattle industry. Unless I am missing something?

About half was through the article:

"Dr. Allison has received research funding from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, a lobbying group for meat producers."

Yea, that’s why I said cattle industry spin, but I don’t want to reject the idea based on the messenger.

I suspect a basic risk assessment in the context of other food advice would a good place to start. However, it also says the data is not that great to make such assertions.

And Allison had nothing to do with the paper and was quoted total of one time in the article.

I just figured out a weird trick to read the page on Firefox without the sign-in/register popover: open the page in reader mode and refresh. It seems the popover appears only after page loading has finished, before which the full article is available. Reader mode ignores JavaScript, so this works.

It's also possible to force reader mode, for sites where Firefox doesn't want to display the icon. Append this to the beginning of the url:


Wow - great tip! I'm always annoyed when sites disable it.

You are my hero.

Thanks for the tip. That worked for me using 69.0.1 (64-bit) on macOS Mojave (10.14.6).

Reader mode just works for me in Safari.

Wasn't there a Woody Allen movie about this? People in the future were cramming Twinkies into their mouths and living longer because everything we thought we knew about nutrition was wrong?

Sleeper. He wakes up hundreds of years in the future, and starts asking for health foods. From the early 70s.


I agree that dietary research needs to continue but I think the back and forth about what to eat (saturated vs non saturated, no salt vs salt ok etc) needs to slow down. I think the best advice is that by Michael Pollan "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants."

I think to the contrary, and agree with Amber Heard, "Eat meat. Not too little. Mostly fat."


But ultimately what we should all agree on is: eat less processed foods, less sugar, don't overeat, fasting is cool, exercise often.

I’d like to see lower carbon cost become an important goal of keto dieters. Eggs, fish, etc count for keto as I understand it. I don’t like the fetishisation of red meat.

Ruminant grass-fed meat is the best thing for the environment. It requires no pesticides, no herbicides, and the manure their bodies produce act as fertilizer and cause grasslands to expand and sequester carbon. Meanwhile, wildlife can actually live on a pasture. Rabbits, squirrels, birds, tons of insects, snakes, even coyotes. Wheat, corn and soy fields by contrast require artificial fertilization, insecticide application, rodent poison to protect crops, and harvesters also kill small mammals.

The best thing for the environment is not cutting down forests to replace them with grasslands. I just got back from Maui where this was standard practice for hundreds of years, and in fact one of the neighboring islands(Kaho'olawe) no longer catches rain because the ruminant grass-fed beef cattle that were ranched on that island ate all of the vegetation year after year resulting in massive erosion of the topsoil. What you would call "wildlife living on a pasture" is actually the invasion of endemic ecology with one that is alien to the area, and this has a significant impact on the endemic species.

So no, grass-fed beef is not particularly good for the environment.

That's in environments where forests exist. I would agree with you there. In the U.S. the Great Plains were not forests in any recent millenia. I'm comparing corn and soy fields to grasslands.

Consider though that most "grass-fed" beef is grown in places like Brazil or Argentina where the native forest is cut down to make space for it. Or as an alternative consider how many cows are grown in feedlots and would instead need grassland to roam on and you can see how everyone indulging in red meat at their current level but with grass-fed beef could result in another environmental disaster.

A better way to think about this is to consider how many acres of land and how much fuel input is required to grow 2000 calories of food with an appropriate mix of macronutrients. I don't have a complete picture of what this would look like for a traditional American diet with the huge amount of meat we consume here, so I can't make an argument from that.

I do know that if we focus on acres of land and fuel inputs needed to grow protein from various sources, that plant-based proteins are much more space and fuel efficient than taking those same proteins and growing cows or chickens from them. Arguments for not eating soybeans, for example, center around how much land is being cleared to grow soybeans. But those same arguments ignore how much of those soybeans are being fed to cattle.

The best solutions in my mind are to significantly reduce our intake from meat sources regardless of how those sources were raised. Eating meat at the level we are used to is not a tenable situation.

Very few soybeans are used for cattle. The meal from soybeans is used on chickens and pigs. Cattle cannot stomach very much soy at all. They are more likely to be fed some grain, but their diet is 90+% hay and grass even on feed lot cattle. Soy meal is the leftover part of the soy bean. About 20% of a soy bean is used to produce soy oil, which is the primary source of human nutrition in soy. That's what's used to make soy milk, soy protein, etc. The meal component of the bean is not useful for all these other byproducts that soy acts as an ingredient of. So it would be a waste of perfectly good food not to feed that to chickens and pigs.

Land use management in Brazil sounds like an incredibly nuanced topic that I know next to nothing about. I'm much more familiar with American agriculture. And we make most of our own food here, including our own beef.

Source: https://ncsoy.org/media-resources/uses-of-soybeans/

How much keto/carno red meat is raised in such an idyllic settings?

Most red meat is factory-raised and fed tons of those artificially fertilized/pest-controlled grains, belching massive amounts of methane before getting trucked around the country - toxic for the environment.

Environmentally friendly meat does exist, by some definitions, but those locally-raised antibiotic-free grass-fed pasture-raised free-range sustainable meats are expensive.

just buy an ethically raised cow/bison etc and freeze it. i've been living off the same 1/2 cow since probably 2014 or so.

This says that American beef production will be upwards of 27 billion pounds this year:


If American beef production went to 100% grass-fed beef, no feedlots, how much beef could be produced domestically? Do you have any sources handy?

Where I live, grass-fed beef is significantly more expensive than generic beef that presumably encountered a feedlot at some point in its lifecycle. If that is generally true, urging the public to consume grass-fed beef is also effectively urging the public to consume less beef. A universal switch to grass-fed beef would increase beef prices without increasing consumer buying power.

But it's possible that a pound of grass-fed beef is really no more costly to produce than average beef and it's just the niche status/labeling that commands higher prices. I haven't found an analysis addressing this question.

I asked a grass fed cattle rancher that question and he just said thats a hard question, but also grain fed will always be cheaper because they use a breed that can about grow twice as fast/large. I doubt those steers could get the same calorie intake from grass feeding. Which is a separate question from “if we used all land available for cattle grazing how much grass fed beef would we max out at”? I suspect not near the level of demand for beef unless we also took back huge areas of crops and forest.

Should we ignore the massive scale deforestation?


> Ruminant grass-fed meat is the best thing for the environment.

It's really not.

I agree that carbon footprint should be something that people keep in mind when they're eating. What's worth noting though is that regenerative agriculture (where the goal is to be sustainable and can be carbon net negative) requires ruminant grazing as part of the integrative crop production cycle.

A recently commissioned LCA study done by Quantis showed that for White Oak Pastures, estimated carbon footprint was -3.5kg CO2e/kg (vs 30+ for conventional beef): http://blog.whiteoakpastures.com/blog/carbon-negative-grassf...

This seems to jibe well with the research coming out of the Rodale Institute and peer review (I've written previously about this so instead of rewriting, I'll just link: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20652657).

WOP sells 1 lb of their ground beef for $10/lb (either a 90/10 or 80/20 blend), so it's about twice as expensive as conventional beef: https://www.bls.gov/regions/mid-atlantic/data/averageretailf... (you could probably match the price if you are able to buy and store in bulk from a local regenerative-practice farm), but I think for most people reading this comment, the price difference is still de minimis compared to their overall daily cost/expenditure.

Another thing to keep in mind is the latest and most detailed FAO put full LCA (this includes supply chain, etc) of CO2e of global livestock production at 14.5%: http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/197623/icode/

IMO the anti-beef climate story seems to be very overblown/disproportionate compared to its relative GHG impact (lets not distracted, switching off of fossil fuels is by far the priority).

I hope farmed fish has a low carbon cost because I'm not trying to poison myself with mercury.

Farmed salmon is often high in mercury[1].

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zsbtit20DLo

Sheesh, how does that even happen? Does Hg just spontaneously appear?

Sorry, can't watch video at work.

Farmed salmon usually has fish meal (sourced from wild-caught fish that has lower economic value) as a significant part of its diet. Those wild-caught fish concentrate organomercury compounds like other wild fish, and the compounds pass on to farmed salmon who eat them.

I haven't watched it in a few months, but salmon farming happens in net-enclosed partitions of natural bodies of water that are polluted with industrial waste. Pesticides are sprayed directly into the farms in order to combat disease. The pollution from the farms themselves makes the situation even worse as time goes on.

Here's a resource[1] for anyone who is curious but doesn't want to sit through a YouTube video.

[1] https://livingoceans.org/initiatives/salmon-farming

I'd like people to stop pitching diets as a way to fix climate change. It makes people take global warming less seriously and it won't help enough to matter.

What would you like people to pitch as an alternative effective action?

It's something that most people can look at immediately. You eat every day so what you eat does have a relatively large impact on your personal carbon footprint. It's also something people can do that doesn't have to cost them a cent.

Change the way people talk about global warming.

It’s not about saving the rain forest, endangered species, pigs and cows. It’s about power and survival. That other stuff is just feel good moral values that won’t matter if we go extinct.

A technological innovation is the only way to get us out of this mess. Whoever figures it first and establishes control over the method is going to have a significant amount of global power. If you can control the worlds climate you’d basically be the most powerful person in the world. Everyone is at least a little intrigued by the quest for power.

I just am sick of how bad people are at selling the fight against global warming. We need everyone working on it and don’t have the luxury to divide ourselves into good and bad groups.

A person's carbon footprint is approximately proportional to the amount of stuff they consume, measured in dollars. Getting into the weeds on what's more or less carbon intensive and other details is just a way to evade living like someone much poorer than you are. Look around and see if there are people who live on half your income. If there are, then you could too, if you really cared.

If you can't help spending all you make, maybe you could start by getting a new job that pays much less than your old one...

That won't save the planet, but it is the way to do your part.

It can't be the only change, but diet is one of the biggest individual contributors to our C02 output. It should absolutely be part of the conversation.

There's nothing a single individual can do to stop global warming. We need radical technological innovation to get out of this mess. Everyone needs to be encouraged to participate. Dividing ourselves into good and bad group over diets and lifestyles is waste of everyone's time.

One incorrect purchase or vacation by a vegan washes away a life time of good choices. It's not enough to matter and you'll never get the entire world on board without an inquisition force.

> There's nothing a single individual can do to stop global warming. We need radical technological innovation to get out of this mess. Everyone needs to be encouraged to participate. Dividing ourselves into good and bad group over diets and lifestyles is waste of everyone's time.

I don't disagree with any of that except that encouraging diets amounts to "Dividing ourselves into good and bad group". It's also not an actual counterargument. I also happen to think economics and technology will be the drivers that push plant-based diets to the majority.

> One incorrect purchase or vacation by a vegan washes away a life time of good choices.

You're either minimizing the impact of diet or vacation like a Captain Planet villain.

> I don't disagree with any of that except that encouraging diets amounts to "Dividing ourselves into good and bad group". It's also not an actual counterargument. I also happen to think economics and technology will be the drivers that push plant-based diets to the majority.

Sure but it could also make meat intensive diets have less of a carbon footprint. Once you start preaching that certain lifestyles are better at stopping climate change than others, I feel you're effectively judging which life styles are good or bad for the world. You're right it's jumping to a conclusion that people are making moral judgments on others... but I don't think it's that big a stretch.

I really don't think it makes sense to address climate change at an individual level. Most people have little to no control over how they live their lives. Even if they did, it'd be an enormous ask to have everyone understand their carbon footprint due to supply chain complexity.

> Once you start preaching that certain lifestyles are better at stopping climate change than others, I feel you're effectively judging which life styles are good or bad for the world.

Certain lifestyles are better than others. You can argue that it's not effective to discuss individual contributions, but you can't pretend this isn't the case.

>I really don't think it makes sense to address climate change at an individual level. Most people have little to no control over how they live their lives. Even if they did, it'd be an enormous ask to have everyone understand their carbon footprint due to supply chain complexity.

This is _such_ a strange attitude that people apply selectively to issues. Poverty requires systematic solutions, but that doesn't mean we don't have a responsibility to help those in our communities. Diseases require systemic solutions, but that doesn't resolve us from doing what we can individually to prevent the spread of diseases. Violence, crime, education, pollution. Most big problems require big solutions, but that doesn't mean we should ignore individual contributions.

What would?

worldwide plague or nuclear war

Fewer children.

That's absolute nonsense. We don't have a population problem. We have a resource use problem where the wealthiest humans use incredibly disproportionate amounts of resources. Fewer children will not fix this problem.

Good thing I don't have to listen to you.

"Eat food, not too much, mostly plants."

Even this seemingly simple advice can change depending on metabolism and exercise habits. As someone with a fast metabolism who exercises a lot, it's difficult to impossible for me to each too much whole/non-processed food. The more I eat (including meat/proteins, vegetables/fruit, carbs, fat, and non-junk food calories in general), the better and stronger I feel, both physically and mentally. My challenge is the opposite: if I'm not fairly disciplined about eating nutritionally dense foods every few hours during the day, I won't be at my best.

So for me it's more like "Eat food, as much as you can, with as much nutritional density and variety as possible".

As long as we don't call corn syrup or bleached wheat flour plants, sounds good.

No sorry, you're thinking of the great American vegetable of ketchup.

Pickled tomato syrup?

Veggies, not grains.

USDA only updates their dietary guidelines every 5 years. Its simple, specific, and well researched advice. So I like to share it with people who are interested in living healthier.


Yes, the food pyramid is dead, and there are other changes that come and go through the years. The issue is that "eat your veggies" is so boring it won't make any news.


> A healthy eating pattern includes:[1]

> A variety of vegetables from all of the subgroups—dark green, red and orange, legumes (beans and peas), starchy, and other

> Fruits, especially whole fruits

> Grains, at least half of which are whole grains

> Fat-free or low-fat dairy, including milk, yogurt, cheese, and/or fortified soy beverages

> A variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), and nuts, seeds, and soy products

> Oils

> A healthy eating pattern limits:

> Saturated fats and trans fats, added sugars, and sodium

Dark Green is "Spinach / Kale", red/orange is carrots and tomatoes, starchy is corn or potatoes. There are also survey results in how well the US Population overall is doing. USA doesn't eat enough veggies, and eats too much refined grains (white bread). The typical American needs to reduce refined grains, increase whole-grains, increase veggies, and increase fruits in their diet.


EDIT: Can someone explain why I've gotten a lot of downvotes? I'm genuinely curious. I don't think I've said anything close to controversial here.

Anything that skirts near advocating anything other than vegetarianism tends to be unpopular.

Few things bring out such zealotry as food choices. In a world that is largely out of control, it is something that people can take control of, and they often twine that choice around their very identity.

Deciding what needs to be popular stinks of authortarianism. Price in the external costs and let people decide for themselves.

If you want to be fit, the best results I've had are to eat meat and vegetables, and not much else.

Going fully vegetarian is just too joyless.


Please don't take HN threads further into flamewar, especially on ultra-worn flamewar topics. We're trying to avoid those here, because the discussions they lead to are always predictable and get nastier as they go along.


I do realize I'm balancing a thin line by even touching the subject, but I have no intention of starting wars.

I find it highly questionable to derive happiness from killing animals, and I think most people do once they find the courage to look reality straight in the eyes.

If we can't even talk about it, how are we ever going make progress?

Flamewars on HN don't help make progress. Maybe talking to people in person would help.

If your ethics require it, fine. I've got no such hang ups.

It's vastly easier to have a balanced diet if you don't restrict yourself from high-quality sources of nutrition.

What is it about vegan sources that make them lower quality?

If anything, they're higher quality since they're closer to the source; whatever you get out of meat has already been used once. Which is also why raising animals to eat meat is so wasteful.

I get that there's too much back-and-forth on diet advice -- but I also don't see why we should throw out the scientific method and go all-in on a journalist's non-scitentific advice.

Besides, bread and sugar are made from plants and they'll make you fat. A lot of people would lose weight eating more animal products including eggs, milk, butter, cheese, and meat.

With his definition, things like bread and sugar wouldn't count as food so they would fail the first rule.

Meat is also very calorically dense. And I think the advice to eat plants means when they're still unprocessed. Vegetables in their unprocessed form have a good amount of nutrients with relatively few calories.

Dr. Allison has received research funding from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, a lobbying group for meat producers.

This is just meat industry damage control. The Harvard rebuttal lays out the issues pretty well. Just like big tobacco and big oil, they just need to sow enough confusion around the facts to make people give up and stop paying attention.

Hold on a sec. That person isn't an author of the study, presumably just someone the NYT asked to comment. The article says about this study: "The investigators reported no conflicts of interest and did the studies without outside funding."

I think it's fair to say that "This is just meat industry damage control" breaks the HN guideline: "Please don't post shallow dismissals, especially of other people's work. A good critical comment teaches us something."


Fair enough. I thought it was worth mentioning since the meat industry is engaged in an active disinformation campaign.

As others have said, the Harvard rebuttal itself gets into the details. I'll link it again here:


> the meat industry is engaged in an active disinformation campaign

Come on man: citations needed. From where I am sitting, the "meat industry" is about as threatened by vegetarians as the brussel sprouts industry is by mcdonalds. Keto diets are presently quite popular and don't seem to do people much harm at least.

Major fast food chains are rolling out plant based burgers, backed by massive marketing campaigns. You bet the meat industry is threatened by this. If you’re really interested in learning more about this read the book Meatanomics:


The typical keto diet is an improvement over the standard American diet loaded with junk but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other dietary options with better long term results and much smaller environmental impact.

That isn't really much of a citation; it's an assertion, and the thing you link me to is ... not a citation either: it's some kind of vegetarian propaganda.

I don't care about factory farming or the "personal dignity" of cows; I just want to know why you think there is a "meat industry" engaged in disinformation programs. From the looks of this link, you may be projecting.

FWIIW I barely eat red meat when I'm in America; mostly game meats. No horse in this race, but if you know something I don't about nefarious meat conspiracies, you should link people to it.

There are so many industry funded studies with conclusions contrary to mainstream wisdom I hardly know where to start. This article lists several, just as an example:


Also the statement that you don’t care about factory farming is a pretty appalling disregard for the suffering of intelligent animals.

It's an interesting article if true, though written by an anti-meat activist[1], which is even less useful than nutrition studies sponsored by the pork board.

Feel free to be appalled; most normal people don't care about the "suffering of cows" either.

[1] Marta Zaraska, author of Meathooked: The History and Science of Our 2.5-Million-Year Obsession with Meat.

Feel free to be appalled; most normal people don't care about the "suffering of cows" either.

It's sad but true - our species has a lot of evolving to do still.

One would expect a cattle lobbying group to support hopeful studies which support their worldview. I think it is premature to write this off merely for that fact, just like it would be to write off a study which came to the opposite conclusion if it was funded by a soy growers association.

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