Another Ex-Vegan Story

I seem to run about an average of 6 months behind on these ex-vegan stories.

A reader sent me a blog post from Heather of “Run, Hike, Live, Love” and (had a blog?) “Vegans on the Run.” Her post is titled, 10/1/10–4/17/13, and it is about how she gave up a vegan diet to eat fish again due to iron deficiency.

It starts off with Heather running a race, struggling to run 8 minute miles, going to the doctor and finding out she has iron deficiency anemia. That’s no fun. 🙁

After a year of supplementing with iron, Heather was still struggling with her running. She got tested and her serum ferritin was “24 out of a possible 200.” Well, 24 is low, but it’s not really out of a possible 200 – 24 isn’t even considered iron deficient, though it’s close. 50 would be well out of the danger zone. It would be more important to find out what her hemoglobin was.

She then tells a story about how when she was a kid she caught a fish and was horrified at its suffering and went vegetarian. I sympathize because I also started towards vegetarianism after a day of fishing.

Moving along, Heather decides to buy some fish. At this point, she still has my sympathy.

She takes it home with great anxiety but sees her 8 bottles of supplements on her shelf and realizes that “Real nourishment comes from whole foods, not from bottles.” Now she’s losing me.

Heather cooks the fish and in her words, “The first bite was not what I anticipated. It was delicious. I whispered thankful prayers for the life that I was about to consume to maintain my own and let the tears flow….My stomach was raging for over an hour at the unexpected substance….Eventually the nausea subsided and was replaced within a few hours by a strange sensation: Energy. The fog of fatigue I’d been stumbling around in all day subsided as though I’d been hooked up to a caffeine IV. I was soon bustling around the house doing 10 things at once like I used to.”

And in her final paragraph, Heather says, “The one thing I know is that my body and blood do not lie.”

Hmm. Could Heather have absorbed the iron from one serving of fish and within hours produced enough hemoglobin to have a profound increase in energy?

This sort of thing could happen from blood doping. It happens from cocaine. But a serving of fish?

Apparently, taking the hormone erythropoietin, also known as EPO, takes a full week to increase hemoglobin one point.

Either her body does lie or she had something else going on besides iron deficiency as her story is not physiologically plausible if due to iron deficiency.

I wonder if oysters would provide the same amazing burst of energy?

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47 Responses to “Another Ex-Vegan Story”

  1. andy barrow Says:

    It’s hilarious. Really. I commute on a bike 2 x 20 kegs x 5. The route takes through some pretty hilly terrain from Sydney’s northern beaches to its centre. I surf most mornings in winter for 1 hour and in summer longer due to the early morning light. I’m not a big v vegan, but have a predominantly whole foods, plant based diet with minimal added oil, so it’s pretty close 99 pct of the time. Ive been wfpb for 2 years in November. I weigh 75 kegs with a 31 inch waist band. I drink alcohol ( for the calories 😉 ). I don’t lack energy. I have no deficiencies at all. I have no health issues at really. I have very young skin, even on my bald head, despite the hours I spend in the sun waiting for waves. I grew up in Perth in West Oz when sun cream didn’t exist. And I burned constantly as a kid. I use very little suncream and rarely burn. When I made the change I dropped 6 kilos in 3 months with no change to any other variables above. I had high blood pressure (runs in family) which dropped to what it was in high school in just 3 weeks. I had skin growths on my eyes from sun damage that went away over 3 months. I’m better than I was immediately before I changed from what was a vegequarium (work it out) to 99% plant based. Everything about me is better with one exception… I have developed an overwhelming impatience for former vegans that want to tell the world why they went back to meat, based on faux science. Please leave clogging up the Internet to pictures of cats. I am also completely over hearing from ignorant slovenly “self-harmers” (hello, it’s heart INJURY it’s not a disease! ) hate on vegans for being pale and lacking energy. Jump on your bikes and boards for 3 hours each day with me and see who’s stamina gives up first.

  2. Eric Says:

    Holy placebo Batman!

    She ate halibut… not sure how much of it, but let’s assume 3 pounds worth (which would be an Epic Meal Time serving size…)

    2.7mg of iron… a cup of cooked lentils has 6.6mg.

    Wow. Just wowl

  3. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Eric,

    One thing to be aware of is that the iron from fish is going to be a lot easier absorbed than from lentils, especially without a healthy does of vitamin C. I’m surprised Halibut is so low in iron, I thought fish was higher than that. Assuming the NIH is correct, fish has about 1 mg of heme iron per serving (which should be 3 oz): http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iron-HealthProfessional/

  4. Tyler Says:

    “2.7mg of iron… a cup of cooked lentils has 6.6mg”

    3 pounds of halibut would be around 15 mg of iron. Lentils look good on paper, but the iron in legumes is absorbed at fairly low rates.

    In any case, these ex-vegan stories are always so flaky. Why in the world would she need 8 bottles of supplements?

    As someone that is fairly active, I’ve noticed that low protein intake (just a bit above the recommended intake) results in fatigue and I have to consume around 80 grams of protein or so to feel best. And when the fatigue sets in, it usually goes away within 6~12 hours of eating higher protein foods (beans, tofu, etc). Of course….this could all be in my head but a quick search, I keep forgetting to research it more, leads me to believe its plausible.

  5. Eric Says:

    Hi Jack,

    I’m well aware of the heme to non-heme absorption issues as I’ve had anemia due to chronic bleeding (Crohn’s disease) and I’ve had to research ways to improve my hemoglobin levels.

    According to the link you posted from the NIH, here is what they give a serving of halibut:

    Halibut, cooked, dry heat, 3 ounces 0.2mg

    Assuming 100% absorption, it’s still low compared with lentils plus a Vitamin c rich food or added garlic or onions (which boost Iron and zinc absorption considerably). There are so many ways to increase Iron intake naturally on a plant-based diet.

    I think if she was feeling better after her single meal of fish, it was not the iron.

  6. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Eric,

    I see, I hadn’t even remembered that halibut was the fish she chose. If it’s not obvious, I agree with your conclusion.

  7. Eric Brooks Says:

    I sympathize with being frustrated with former vegans and the pseudo-religious meat epiphany stories. But shouldn’t we be working harder and spending more of our time on -preventing- vegans from becoming former vegans?

    For example, I felt exhausted as a vegan for the first two years until I learned that copper toxicity could be a problem and that I should take the daily RDA of zinc. As soon as I started taking zinc the exhaustion went away.

    Now when I advise people about going vegan I always start with some simple basics. 1) take zinc (but not too much), 2) eat a very healthy whole grain organic diet (and check to see if there are grains you are allergic to), 3) eat loads of kale and collards, 4) take B-12 to make sure you get enough (NOT yeast), 5) take veggie vitamin D, 6) get enough flax or other omega-3 oils 7) transition slowly if you need to, 8) give your body time to adjust, 9) eat foods that are fun!, and 10) buy the New Laurel’s Kitchen…

  8. Matt Says:

    German Fernandez famously became anemic after stopping eating meat:
    http://www.runnersworld.com/elite-runners/unbridled-talent?page=single

    One of Ellen’s XC and track teammates — who went on to be recruited by a DI school — became anemic when running in HS as a vegetarian.

    But yeah, the whole “as soon as the flesh hit my mouth….” bits are just absurd.

  9. M.Grey Says:

    These ex-vegan stories are making me despondent. Of course, they usually sound the same – a single bite of meat suddenly has them flowing with energy? I try not to assume that I know more than an individual than their personal health, but it does come across as a little… made for TV?

    I note that Veganhealth.org does not include recommendations for supplementing with iron (other than to eat more Vit C and avoid coffee/tea at meals). I’m a female runner and in the past I’ve been diagnosed with anemia – for iron deficient or anemic vegan who may need to supplement with iron, what’s the daily recommendation?

  10. Natasha Says:

    Eric, but surely recommending 4 different supplements is worse? / a reason for becoming former vegan in the first place?

    A good green smoothie every morning as part of a balanced breakfast is probably better. I have Banana + Blackberries + Kale + Water (sieved to remove the blackberry seeds) and a bowl of oatmeal- milled flax + dessicated coconut + seeds + oats + raisins + Dates.

    Encourage them to eat more nuts and seeds for zinc (Pumpkin, Squash and watermelon seeds + Peanuts,cashews and almonds are all goo sources of zinc). I always have a stash in my bag for snacking.

    Grains-wise, apparently most people are at least slightly intolerant to Gluten, which can make you bloated and fatigued, so i always recommend going gluten free (I dont eat anything with wheat in). This limits the baked goods you can buy, but its so easy to sub in recipes, and vegan baking is mostly healthy too. I use lots of cocoa powder for antioxidants+protein+zinc. (I recommend chocolatecoveredkatie.com for recipes)

    For B12, I read that it is produced by bacteria not animals etc and if you have a healthy gut flora you dont need to supplement. Eating fortified foods is also a good source.

    For Vitamin D, apparently white button mushroom contains high levels, plus some foods are fortified, but general sun exposure (just encourage them to go outside, without lotion, but not at midday) is usually enough.

    I generally say, eat as naturally as possible, green smoothies and a balanced diet, and bake treats like there’s no tomorrow. (oils/fats can be subbed for mashed banana or apple sauce, and sugar can be subbed for maple syrup/agave nectar/xylitol/dates etc)

  11. Ariann Says:

    Almost all multivitamins designed for premenopausal women contain the RDA for iron. If you’re not anemic according to blood tests, that seems like it should be adequate supplementation for someone eating a normal healthy vegan diet (even if vegan women need more iron than non vegan women/the RDA because of absorption issues, it’s not like you are eating no iron). If you are anemic according to blood tests, that seems like the kind of thing your doctor should advise you on and then monitor. I took a high dose iron supplement after giving birth for several months (lost a lot of blood), but as soon as my blood tests were normal again I went back to a normal multi.

    I usually find that people who are tired on a vegan diet are not eating enough protein, especially athletes and women who are eating low calorie diets. I am a big proponent for a higher protein vegan diet (I feel good eating 70grams or more). A little dose of protein can go a long way to making someone feel good in the short term. That seems much simpler than magically curing their anemia from a single serving of meat.

  12. Andreas Says:

    Jack,

    Your right, fish does contain erythropoietin and other animal proteins. We could say that the point is that she wasn’t producing enough of these proteins.

    Omega 6 deficiency?
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6434592
    https://www.google.com/search?q=erythropoietin+pge2

    Vitamin A deficiency?
    https://www.google.com/search?q=erythropoietin+retinoic+acid

    Vitamin A deficiency crossed my mind because her skin looks burnt red in the photos on her blog. Vitamin A2(produced in the skin by UVA/B light from retinoic acid) and beta-carotene protect the skin.

    Did overtraining and not eating the right foods cross your mind as a reason for her health problems? Did lack of rest not give her the required time needed to produce those important proteins?
    http://runhikelivelove.blogspot.it/2013/04/training.html
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overtraining

    Tim Van Orden from runningraw.com is all about eating a lot of high quality tender leafy greens in their raw state and I agree with his view about leafy greens containing nutrients that help the body which can’t be found in any other food. We could say the same thing about nuts and seeds. – So far, it seems that a vegan diet isn’t only about getting enough protein.

    Eric Brooks,

    Did you know that Omega 3’s are 100 times more prone to lipid peroxidation than Omega 6’s? Especially in oils.

  13. Sheryl Says:

    That’s why I dislike so many social media blogs out there. And no doubt about it. That gal wanted (and got) attention.

    What a great post Jack. Mark Twain used to say, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” I’d say this falls into the damned lies category.

  14. Sheryl Says:

    P.S. I love the ex-vegan stories. Please find some more! They help remove any excuse I may ever come up with to leave this lifestyle.

  15. Ian Says:

    Hi Jack,
    Thanks for your excellent blog. I’m not sure though that articles like this are useful. If a vegan quits veganism for a health issue that they have in good faith tried to resolve, or if a vegan/ex-vegan raises a health concern that they are struggling with and you can offer advice about, then an article might be valuable for all of us. But the great majority of ex-vegans stories are like this one and are ridiculous in their conclusion. I am not claiming that the writers do not experience some difficulties but their solution is, I believe, unnecessary and their “conversion accounts” impossible to take seriously. The story seems to be: I was vegan for x years and I just love the animals, then I didn’t feel so good, I tried various things (frequently self diagnosed problems with new age solutions) but they didn’t work, reluctantly and/or tearfully I tried some bacon/meat/fish/eggs/cheese and within seconds/minutes/hours I felt great! In some cases the transformation starts while the food is still in the persons mouth! Basic physiology is beyond them. A common thread however, seems to be narcissism.
    If you come across an ex-vegans story in which someone who was healthy and fit pre-veganism, becomes vegan, eats an apparently good diet, seeks proper advice for their problems when they arise, tries this advice without improvement, then changes their diet to a non-vegan diet and over the next few weeks to months finds that their health improves (and support from some kind of blood data would be great but not necessary) then this would be an interesting story to study. Ideally such a person would be willing to engage in discussion on the blog as well.
    I find it hard to imagine that there are variations in physiology such that a person committed to protecting animals from harm would not be able to find a vegan diet that would be both pleasurable and healthy for them.
    Such a person might also be willing to consider that craving and being tempted by a food does not mean that we need them and that sometimes we need to say “no” to some of our desires. I became vegetarian at 17 and have never craved meat or fish. The times that I have eaten them since then have been in familial situations or during one short period that I thought I believed that pastured meat might be ok. I became vegan much later and I have to say that cheese is a temptation. I say no to myself not as a self-hater, or to punish myself but because I am trying to put the interests of other animals ahead of a desire and pleasure that although real, is morally trivial. Unfortunately as “Just say no!” has failed as an anti-drug message, I imagine it would fail as an anti-cheese message! (joke).

  16. Ian Says:

    Natasha,
    Sorry but our gut flora, however healthy does not seems to produce B12, it just doesn’t.
    Vitamin D from mushrooms is unreliable also and I would rather take a supplement than try to calculate whether I am getting enough from food.
    There is no evidence that true grain intolerance (ie celiac disease) is common. Rates seem to have been rising recently but the reasons are not clear. Humanity has been eating grain for thousands of years, I doubt that we have suddenly become intolerant en masse. Gluten sensitivity may be more widespread and people with reactions that they feel may be due to gluten sensitivity can test this by eliminating gluten from their diet, and if they see an improvement, reintroducing gluten and seeing if the symptoms recur (I am talking about mild, though uncomfortable sensitivity reactions only of course) and if they do, then maybe they need to reduce or eliminate gluten. But a blanket advisory to eliminate gluten and maybe all grains is unnecessary.
    This is a comment, my opinion only that I raise in discussion on this blog, not as a “recommendation”; I am not a qualified nutritionist. You state that you “recommend” and “always recommend” certain things. I assume that you are qualified to do so?

  17. David Says:

    Jack, have you ever done a follow-up interview with one of these “ex-vegans”? I would be very interested to see their responses to your questions. Heather has or had another blog called “Vegans on the run” dedicated to “plant based fueling for ultra long distance running.” If athletes like Rich Roll can thrive on a plant-based diet, what do you think caused Heather’s sudden reversal after apparently being dedicated to a vegan diet? Obviously there are a lot of statements in her account that do not seem to correspond to the known science. I suspect that some of these blog posts are ghost written by PR people in the meat industry. The common fact patterns and similar descriptions of a meat based epiphany are too much to ignore. Has anyone ever done further investigation into one of these ex-vegan posts?

  18. Tyler Says:

    ” The common fact patterns and similar descriptions of a meat based epiphany are too much to ignore. Has anyone ever done further investigation into one of these ex-vegan posts?”

    Yeah, usually the stories are just so well aligned with meat industry marketing messages that it makes you wonder what is going on behind the scene.

  19. Heather Says:

    I am another Heather who, like this Heather, experienced a profound energy shift when I ate a couple of eggs after trying like hell (and failing) to thrive as a vegan. I had expected the eggs would make me sick. Instead, over the next few hours, I got the most remarkable burst of clear, alert energy. I was deeply shocked, but also very relieved. What Heather wrote in her blog post sounded pretty much exactly like what I experienced.

    And no, I am not a “PR person ghost writing for the meat industry.” (Seriously?). I am a real person.

    As committed vegans, it does not AT ALL serve the vegan community to dismiss and scoff at the accounts of ex-vegans – accusing these people of lying , exaggerating, or even being phantoms of the meat industry.

    Instead, it would be way more beneficial to listen to these people’s testimonials with an open mind, and then learn from them. Dismissing these testimonials as impossible or exaggerated is to admit that you don’t have the solution or answers, that these people’s accounts are testing the limits of your knowledge. Therefore, you just scoff at them and question their truthfulness, instead of doing the hard work of presenting real solutions so that others running into the same issues can possibly stay vegan.

    Nutrition as a science is still very much a work in progress. My opinion is that there are crucial nutrients in animal foods not yet uncovered, that explain how people like me and Heather (and many others) can have such profound and immediate shifts in energy and health after reintroducing animal foods. Pretending that we are at the finish line with nutritional science would be a deeply ignorant stance.

    Veganism is an experiment. Humans have always eaten animal foods. This does not mean that veganism is not possible. It certainly is. But, in order to grow as a possibility for more people, vegan nutritionists need to start taking seriously the accounts of ex-vegans, and using these testimonials as a way to troubleshoot possible pitfalls of the diet. Dismissing these accounts as impossible is fear-based thinking, and is intellectual laziness.

    The vegan community deserves better from its leaders.

  20. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Heather,

    I have received a lot of comments in response to what you wrote, (I accidentally approved one of them and then un-approved it, by Eric, so I’m not sure if you will have seen that one), but I haven’t put them through because I want to be the first person to respond to you.

    To answer another commenter’s question, I have offered in some cases to talk to high profile ex-vegans about their situation but none of them have done so. I think that once someone has made the commitment to leaving veganism behind and made a strong public statement about it, they tend not to want to look back. The sense I’ve gotten from most of them is that either they think they tried to do everything they could to stay with the vegan diet and I’m not sure they would be open to reconsidering that view, or that they don’t want to eat a diet that requires supplements because this is unnatural and indicative of not being healthy. I can understand this view, though I disagree with it obviously.

    I have corresponded with people who are or were ex-vegans, but who did not publicly write about quitting veganism. It’s only been a handful.

    While I think there are some things about nutrition that we have not yet learned, I’m very skeptical that we will be discovering any more essential nutrients. One thing to consider is that there have now been many people raised to adulthood as vegans their entire lives. So there is no missing nutrient that animal products contain, other than vitamin B12, that is required to grow a human body that can thrive.

    None of the committed vegan, animal advocates I know (and I know a lot of them) seem to be having such failure-to-thrive problems that have not been solved by either vitamin B12, vitamin D, or iron.

    When you combine this with the idea that so many of these ex-vegans made such a dramatic turnaround, it really makes one wonder how this could be possible. And these accounts really do sound alarmingly similar in many ways.

    That said, I am not discounting the fact that there is some molecule or combination of molecules in animal products that are, indeed, causing people like you to have such dramatic recoveries. The only thing I can think of would be cholesterol. If you read over my posts about ex-vegans and low cholesterol, you will see in the comments sections that many people who know a lot of the research on cholesterol think this could not be a possibility. But every other nutrient is either found in many plant foods (choline, protein, sulfur amino acids) or couldn’t possibly work so quickly and with such profound effects (or so it seems).

    I would be happy to talk with you off-line about your situation in order to try to figure out what was going on if you’d like. I hope you will be willing to.

    I’m going to wait awhile to put through the other responses to you because the way WordPress (the blogging software I use) works, you might not see mine first if I put them through and I don’t want you to get a deluge of less-than-sympathetic responses before you read mine.

  21. Andreas Says:

    Heather,

    Can you let us know a little bit about your past. What were your Vitamin D levels around the time you started eating eggs? Was your skin pale white and did you live a fairly domesticated life during the time of your departure from your plant diet? – Please note that hiking(walking) with your shirt on constitutes domestication since the majority of the Vitamin D is produced on the trunk of the body.

    Were you eating nuts and seeds in their whole state?

  22. Mary L. Says:

    I think it would be helpful to remind everyone that http://www.veganhealth.org is a great resource if you want to see all of Jack’s recommendations on vitamins and nutrients in one place.

    Jack, I think it would be helpful, especially with stories like this one about vegans that struggled with deficiencies, to post a link to veganhealth.org or to peacounter.com. Reading some of these comments, it seems some people might not be aware of your great resources.

  23. Tyler Says:

    “Nutrition as a science is still very much a work in progress. My opinion is that there are crucial nutrients in animal foods not yet uncovered, that explain how people like me and Heather (and many others) can have such profound and immediate shifts in energy and health after reintroducing animal foods. ”

    The placebo effect in humans is strong and well documented as such it provides the most plausible explanation for these stories. The fact that the authors of the stories insist that they *really* experienced a difference doesn’t change anything since that is precisely what the placebo effect is all about. On the other hand the explanation you want to posit is very implausible, it relies on the existence of unknown nutrients that are absorbed from unknown mechanisms.

    Also, if you look at past ex-vegan stories by Jack I think you’ll find that he takes most of them seriously and tries to find an explanation…..in my opinion he takes them far too seriously. But its good to see that he draws a line at stories that are scientifically implausible.

  24. Eric Brooks Says:

    Hi Heather,

    Please know that this very quick feeling of well being that you experienced on eating animal products, is based on deeply embedded genetic pleasure center triggers that were hardwired into humans hundreds of thousands of years ago, and does not mean that meat and eggs are better, or that veganism is somehow unhealthy.

    Before humans became really powerful and skilled hunters, finding foods that contained really easy energy and nutrient sources like honey, meat, and with high fat content (usually in meat), were very rare. Especially in times of drought, these rare food sources could mean the difference between survival and extinction. So early hominids developed really strong pleasure reactions to these foods. Modern humans have not lost this hard wiring, and this is why we love junk food so much.

    So when you eat eggs or meat after a -very- long period without them, it is no surprise at all that your body suddenly says “WOW! Give me more of THAT!”

    It is no different than the reaction you might have to chocolate or ice cream. But this does not mean it is good for you as a modern human, or your planet 😉

    These ancient pleasure reactions used to promote survival. But now that fat, sugar and good nutrients are all around us in abundance, these pleasure reactions are hurting us, by encouraging us to eat harmful constant megadoses of fat, sugar and animal products which our bodies were never meant to handle, leading to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc.

    So bear in mind that these ancient pleasure triggers are responsible for your egg epiphany, not the nutritional superiority of eggs or meat.

    If you are feeling bad as a vegan, it means you need to eat better, follow the guidelines on this site (and that I listed), do a good job of balancing legumes and nuts with grain/carb proteins in the same meal etc.

    Try really digging deeply into how to have a strong healthy vegan diet, and I think you will be fine.

    When I first got started the New Laurel’s Kitchen was my bible, and it helped immensely. (And don’t forget zinc.)

  25. Eric Brooks Says:

    @Natasha

    Most people that are just getting started on a vegan diet are not ready to go through complex meal preparation rituals that involve combining numerous new and esoteric foods that they have never experienced before. Your methods (except for your B-12 advice – which is not correct – see below) are of course nutritionally superior, but it takes a -long- time to get to that level of sophistication.

    To help new vegans stick with it, it’s important to make sure that the transition is not very complicated for them. The supplements work. After starting on them, new vegans can be encouraged to do their best to switch to natural sources and away from supplements where they can over time; but let’s not give them a massive new nutrition mountain to climb all at once.

    On your B-12 point, this is simply not correct. Yes B-12 is created by bacteria, but -not- gut bacteria. We need an outside source. Nutritional yeast is -not- a good source, and modern agriculture has so devastated soil bacterial diversity that neither a plant based diet -nor- even a meat based diet guarantees adequate B-12 anymore. Everyone would be wise to take B-12 to make sure they get enough.

  26. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Eric and Natasha,

    > For B12, I read that it is produced by bacteria not animals etc and if you have a healthy gut flora you dont need to supplement. Eating fortified foods is also a good source.

    There are bacteria in the colon of humans that produce vitamin B12, but this production is past the point in the digestive tract in which vitamin B12 can be absorbed. One possible exception is for someone whose colon bacteria have populated their small intestine, though this is generally not a healthy situation and indicates too much bacterial overgrowth. Note that what I’m saying here is a general understanding I’ve read from people who have researched vitamin B12, I don’t know how rigorously it’s been tested.

  27. Eric Brooks Says:

    By the way, on iron, besides supplements, cooking of high acid foods like tomatoes frequently in cast iron pans can help.

  28. soki Says:

    I have been vegetarian for 21 years. My mom always double checked my iron bloodwork because of it but i have not had one problem there. I went vegan four years ago and have no problems. The benefit of meat to people who have trouble doing veg lifestyles is there eating habits. I know a guy who eats breakfast food all day. If he didnt eat meat he would suffer malnutrition because meat has processed vitamins and nutrients. His lack of dietary variety, though im sure is causing him health problems that arent obvious just yet is supplemented by meats already processed nutrition. However, meat does still contain nonsoluble nutrients that would require complimentary vitamins to process just like the veggie supplies. The point is variety and understanding. One interesting tidbit, b12 is produced by our bodies, but it happens in the large intestine. So how are we supposed to get that? Lol.

  29. sheryl Says:

    Jack, forgive me if this has already been mentioned, but do you think it could be the protein in the fish and not the iron/B12, whatever, that gave her a shot of energy?

    I know personally I don’t do well on a lower protein vegan diet. Several weeks ago I read a menu on T. Colin Campbell’s blog, and I remember thinking that I would be exhausted if I followed his low protein menu. I need a lot of protein for energy it seems, but I was delighted to find I don’t need animal protein. More beans, nuts, soy, tofu, nutritional food yeast, etc. really does the trick for me.

    Could it be the protein for that ex-vegan?

  30. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Sheryl,

    Yes, I do think it could be the protein.

  31. Eric Brooks Says:

    @Andreas,

    Yes, I know about oxidation with omega-3s. Flax/hemp oil should always be eaten raw (put it on food after cooking) and care should be taken to make sure they are not spoiling.

    A caution about raw greens. Key nutrients in dark leafy greens like collards, kale etc are actually more bioavailable after cooking, and also contain fewer thyroid interfering compounds after cooking. So raw greens are great, and I occasionally eat kale salad, but cook them most of the time.

  32. Louche Says:

    Another ignorant post by a vegangelist criticizing someone for breaking the faith. The Vegan Faith. As an ex-vegangelist myself, I have read ten thousand million posts about veganism, ex-vegans, etc. etc. Don’t bother trying to make a new argument with me because you’d fail. Even when I was still vegan, I was horrified at the vicious attacks made by the vegan community against ex-vegans. It’s one reason I choose not to be vegan anymore. “Excuses, excuses,” you say. Because according to the Vegan Credo/Bible/Pope/Police, any reason for not being vegan is not an argument, but an “excuse.” Self-doubt is not allowed in the vegan community. Those who doubt veganism will be told: You were never a real vegan. You were never a True Believer. Like Christian fundamentalism, the argument goes: just have faith in veganism. If you doubt veganism, you’re “not committed enough,” you’re a quitter, you’re a failure, you’re a sadistic carnist, you’re a fake, you’re a copout… see, vegans must continually tell non-vegans they must be vegan, for this is the song that never ends… end it, and it ceases to exist. End veganism, and your veganism never existed. But keep singing the song, and you can pretend to exist… you can pretend the song will never end… you will never REALLY die because there’s eternal life in heaven. It’s a religious sort of comfort. Vegans, who are mostly atheists, secretly find their GOD in veganism. See, vegans aren’t allowed to doubt veganism because that would unleash the vegan police on their arses. Admit that I might go back to eating meat? Never. Join the vegan police program a.k.a. Church/Cult or don’t hang out in the vegan community because you know what to expect. Police everyone by telling them they must be vegan no matter what – that is how to find acceptance here. Acceptance, a basic human need. If you tell others they must be vegan, you can slip a slice of cheese into your diet with no one the wiser, and who knows? Maybe 90% of those telling others that eating a slice of cheese makes you an EVIL OMNI MURDERER FAKE VEGAN TRAITOR, are secretly eating meat behind closed doors, telling themselves they just need a tad more discipline. Or secretly doubting veganism, but never admitting it, until the doubts overwhelm the shackles of the vegan faith and kick it to the curb. For one must not leave veganism till one is ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN, which according to the vegangelists, is never. The only absolute certainty is veganism: Vegan Truth. Vegan God. Vegan Ideal. Vegan, vegan, vegan. One must not leave veganism till one is ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN they’re willing to stand up and face the vegan police as I am doing now; until one is ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN they are willing to accept the embarrassment that comes with admitting one was once, in fact, a naive vegangelist rather than a rational atheist BEARER OF TRUTH, REASON, and MORALS. Yes, indeed, I am embarrassed. I’ve yet to announce my ex-veganness on Facebook. What will the righteous carnivores say? “Ha, that self-righteous biotch finally decided to stop telling me I need to be vegan. I win. She best not go and critique VEGANS now, when she used to be an aggressive recruiter for the Vegan Cult. Hypocrisy!” I even once had a carnivore tell me that he hoped I stayed vegan forever, because he thought it would suck to see all my passion go to waste. Oh, it went to waste all right. But not because I realized veganism is not Ultimate Truth. But maybe my fears are misplaced, for now it seems only the vegans are upset that I am no longer vegan. And ye see, with the endless cycle of new vegan recruits, the vegan community stays young, naive, and gullible. The old vegans are mostly not vegan anymore. So with each ex-vegan comes an endless onslaught of “Thou Wert Never Vegan” from newbs whose hearts are bleeding and minds are fixated on the mission. Vegan missionaries who have no clue that every ex-veganelical used to be them and have made every argument they have made and more and don’t need their advice because they’re heard and said it all a million times before.

    But proclaim that everyone MUST be vegan. Keep proclaiming that. Keep trying to have faith. The Vegan Police insist. It’s the only way to save animals. The Vegan God is the Savior of Animals. Express a sliver of doubt and your veganism will shimmer and vanish, spontaneously combust… Express a sliver of doubt and you’ve not only betrayed the animals, but betrayed your very identity. Your entire political, ethical, and spiritual existence is that fragile: as fragile as taking a bite of one slice of animal flesh. Or even an egg. Or even as fragile as saying, “I might one day go back to eating animals.” With that statement, your entire identity, your entire vegan existence, is called into question. To question Veganism is to question your whole existence, for Vegan has become an identity. Your identity. It has fused itself to your very being, wed itself to you till death do you part. To be a vegangelist is to take a wedding vow: Forever. Divorce is illegal, immoral. Divorce implies the love was never real, you’ve always been morally bankrupt. Forever, or Never. Just as marriage is a religious institution, so, too, is veganism.

    And even if you are a doubter. even if you’ve BEEN in doubt of veganism from the beginning, it will take you YEARS to take those doubts seriously and extricate the insidious parasite of Vegangelism from your identity because you’re afraid to doubt. You’re a vegangelist, there’s no return, no going back. You hope there’s no going back because otherwise you’ve wasted all this passion and good intention and idealism and righteousness and anger and frustration and anxiety and heart bleeding and arguments against ex-vegans. You desperately hope you were/are right. You desperately keep trying to defend what you fear is wrong-headed. You desperately know there’s no one to talk to to help you sort out your doubts because vegans will just police you some more and never-been-vegans don’t have a clue what you’re talking about, and maybe both think you deserve to be publicly embarrassed for your wrongheaded ways past or present. So you fear.

    Fear. Like God-fearing Christians, you’re a Vegan Police-fearing vegan. Your righteousness will save you, you hope. Otherwise, the been-vegan-for-1.5-years vegans will verbally eat you alive and suggest that you go kill yourself. And they’ll be quiet when they, too, become ex-vegans, because like… that’s embarrassing. Plus, the wise ex-vegan knows that there are far better ways to spend one’s energy than to just keep talking to head-in-sand vegans, especially ones who can’t bear the thought of their ex-vegan existence.

    Okay, so to address the part where you criticize her for feeling better pretty much instantaneously upon eating fish… seen this shit a million times before, too. The question remains: why are you so insistent that this is impossible? What science are your thoughts based on? Show me a study that concludes “one may not feel the effects of food until 7 days later.” ’cause that sounds dumb to me. One cannot feel the effects of food till a week later when one’s hemoglobin is such-and-such whatever the Vegan Gods declare to be required to prove Veganism to be the Ultimate Truth? Dude, if you haven’t EATEN in a week, you’ll know it. That’s called starvation. Actually, you might NOT know it because you’d possibly be dead. And if it is recommended we eat small meals throughout the day for best absorption, like 6+ meals per day, that means it should take only a few hours at most to feel some effects of food.

    And if you’ve ever actually taken your diet seriously enough to experiment with how quickly you may feel the effects of certain nutrients, well… get off that vegan high horse. See you clearly don’t know much about nutrition and don’t know your own body much at all if you think it takes hours, let alone DAYS, to feel the effects of eating a slice of halibut.

    I recently started some really interesting experiments with nutritional supplements, prescription meds, variations in diet… and I can tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt that I can feel differences from eating food/supplements/drugs anywhere between immediately and 3 hours later. Some things do take weeks to feel, but many if not most things, take less than a quarter of a day. For example, taking an iron supplement of 100% to 200% Daily Value once every day or two: I did not notice any difference until exactly two weeks later. Then BAM, my energy, concentration, and motivation were like they were before I became vegan. B12: Never noticed any difference, though I have no doubt it’s important to my diet. I’ve never been B12 deficient, I guess. But other things? Protein? Carbs? Potassium? Calcium? etc? etc? Sometimes it amazes me how instantly I feel the effects.

    If you’ve ever taken any drugs whatsoever, you probably know they typically say that you should expect effects in 30 minutes, lasting 4 hours, or something like that? 30 minutes is super standard. 30 minutes for painkillers to kick in. 30 minutes for sleep pills to kick in. 30 minutes for melatonin – an all-natural sleep supplement, literally, straight-up melatonin – to kick in. 30 minutes for stimulant drugs like Adderall and Ritalin to kick in. Now, antibiotics might take a few days or have no effect at all, and antidepressants may take a couple weeks…. but the actual absorption of the drug takes 30 minutes to hit your system, with 4-20 hours to carry out its benefits. Protein takes about three hours to be fully absorbed, and calcium four hours to hit peak absorption… but the effects can be felt in 30 minutes or less. I’ve taken various stimulant drugs, and they typically kick into full force at about 30 minutes in, but I sometimes feel them in far less time… sometimes even in just a few seconds. The full force still will usually take 30 minutes to hit, but a small difference can sometimes be felt right away. That’s for a drug that dramatically impacts your system and targets neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine (responsible for concentration and motivation). Let alone, for dietary needs you’ve been missing for years? Guess what dopamine and norepinephrine are made of. Animo acids. What are amino acids? Protein. So if a drug that impacts dopamine can be felt in 30 minutes or less, why wouldn’t the same be true for protein? Because it would. I started taking a dietary supplement called L-Tyrosine to boost the effects of my medication targeting dopamine/norepinephrine. L-Tyrosine is an amino acid. So basically a protein supplement. That takes 30 minutes to feel and sometimes less. If you tell me it’s all placebo, I tell you get your head out of the sand and try it yourself instead of Vegan Policing me based on pseudoscientific speculation designed to protect your vEgo.

    Also, literally just eating protein like a bowl of scrambled tofu can be felt in minutes. I recently started eating too much protein resulting in muscle cramps… now I literally get muscle cramps within 5 minutes of eating anything with protein in it (I’m exaggerating a little, this doesn’t always happen, but see my point.). I totally need to stop eating so much protein, or start exercising a bunch to use it up, but it helps me concentrate, which is dope (literally). With my medication, combined with protein, I also can feel the effects of protein on my mind more dramatically than a normal person. It’s like taking another pill. Eat protein and my concentration soars. Eat carbs and I instantly can’t concentrate anymore. (And no my excess protein is not due to eating animal products – I started out with just this protein supplement plus scrambled tofu, peanut butter, beans, and Boca burgers.)

    Also this post is so long because I’m on my meds and can’t stop typing. There you go. You’re wrong. Figure it out. Let go. Move on. Preferably sooner rather than later, and before you destroy your own mental health by ignoring your dietary needs because you fool yourself into thinking your problems couldn’t be possibly caused by a need to eat animal products, or spend too much time hoping this is the case, and avoid experimenting.

    Don’t forget K2. You need K2. Take a supplement or eat some natto. Japanese live forever because of K2.

  33. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Louche,

    I’m not sure what your point is exactly, but I’m sorry to hear the emotional turmoil being vegan and other vegans have caused you.

    > Another ignorant post by a vegangelist criticizing someone for breaking the faith.

    I’m not afraid of someone calling me ignorant or a veganelist, but I have to tell you that I’m one of the few vegan advocates who takes these things seriously and I don’t fit the stereotype of someone who thinks the fault is always with the person who failed as a vegan. I’m not looking for reasons to dismiss these stories, it’s just that they always add a lot of scientifically questionable ideas to their stories. I honestly want to find what it is in animal products that are causing failure to thrive and then euhporia in ex-vegans.

    > Okay, so to address the part where you criticize her for feeling better pretty much instantaneously upon eating fish… seen this shit a million times before, too. The question remains: why are you so insistent that this is impossible?

    The amount of iron abosrbed from a piece of fish is miniscule compared to what would be required to produce enough of a rise in hemoglobin to achieve such a profound change. And it was questionable that she was anemic anyway. If she just needed more protein, there are plenty of plant foods that are high in protein so I would think she’d have experienced this same feeling from eating high-protein plant foods in the past.

    Assuming her story is even real, I am not convinced her response was only a placebo effect, though I think it could be.

    I’d be happy to discuss your situation with you if you’d like.

  34. Andreas Says:

    Eric Brooks,

    Lipid oxidation of fatty acids occurs when fatty acids are exposed to oxygen, light and heat. Not just heat.

    I can’t agree with you because from my personal experience of using a teaspoon of cold pressed flaxseed “oil” daily for a week is that it leads to macular degeneration. Ground flaxseed is the healthy choice since it also contains protein, vitamins and minerals.

    Extra virgin olive oil is the only oil I havent had problems with since it contains a lot of phenols which prevent oxidation.

    I said high quality “tender” leafy greens, the kind that are easy to chew and digest in their raw state, like baby lettuce. I agree with you about steaming the fibrous greens and vegetables.

  35. Eric Says:

    Andreas,

    You used flax oil for a WEEK and concluded that it causes macular degeneration? Apart from your anecdote, is there any research which backs that up?

  36. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Eric,

    I agree that I don’t see how Andreas can possibly determine he was getting macular degeneration from using flax for a week, but there is some evidence that links ALA with macular degeneration:

    http://veganhealth.org/articles/omega3#Eyesight

  37. Eric Says:

    Hi Jack,

    I’ve looked at the study which is linked on the page you posted “Prospective study of dietary fat and the risk of age-related macular degeneration.”, but perhaps you can clarify a few things.

    The study makes NO mention of flax oil and it seemed to focus on fish – which are also a high source of ALA, but increased fish intake seems to reduce macular degeneration (the study concludes).

    So is it ALA specifically from plants which are damaging (you seem to disagree in your article) or does fish contain some extra component which protects against the ALA-caused macular degeneration (i.e the dha)? If it IS the DHA which is protective, regardless of the high intake of ALA, then why not a DHA fortified flax oil, like udo’s oil?

    I’m not an “oil person”, but the research intrigues me.

  38. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Eric,

    > or does fish contain some extra component which protects against the ALA-caused macular degeneration (i.e the dha)?

    That’s what I would assume.

    > IS the DHA which is protective, regardless of the high intake of ALA, then why not a DHA fortified flax oil, like udo’s oil?

    Sure. Or just take a DHA supplement and add some ALA to your diet like I recommend. 🙂

  39. Andreas Says:

    Eric,

    You’d be surprised how fast oxidized omega 3’s and their products cause macular degeneration when a person like myself was Vitamin D deficient, since Vitamin D lowers and prevents oxidative stress. This was a year ago and by the end of the week, I couldn’t even focus on near objects, I couldn’t even sew and get the thread into the needle! Poor pants had to wait a couple weeks before I could fix them.

    I ended up throwing out the bottle of flaxseed oil because there was white streaks in it, a sign of oxidation.

    What Jack linked is good summary info. You can always search the net for fish oil and prostate cancer or flaxseed oil and prostate cancer if you are up to reading opinions of others on the subject.

  40. Andreas Says:

    Louche,

    Vegans that live with omnivores put up with more abuse from omni’s. Please get real because I’ve never seen the abuse from vegans you speak of other than maybe caring too much. Are you addicted to anything? Addictions cause dopamine dysregulation which leads to an unrealistic view of the world.

    You can read up on how retinoids upregulate dopamine receptors instead of taking those useless synthetic man made drugs. The real science speaks for itself.
    Retinoids = Vitamin A
    Calcitriol = Vitamin D
    Here: https://www.google.com/#q=dopamine+retinoids
    Here: https://www.google.com/#q=serotonin+retinoids
    Here: https://www.google.com/#q=serotonin+calcitriol

    Your muscle cramps scream Vitamin D deficiency. Please post up your Vitamin D levels so we can see how valid what you just said is. I am asking this because when Vitamin D levels are sufficient, the positive effects such as mental focus and collagen synthesis occurs when Vitamin D is used by the cells(including neurons) with the nutrients from the leafy greens and these positive effects are felt the day after. The wonderful feeling of having a steel rod holding my back straight.

    Here is an interesting video on Vitamin D if you haven’t seen it. Really interesting at the 2:45 mark and onward when they talk about the VDR RXR heterodimer complex, which is basically a powerful Vitamin D plus Vitamin A mixed with protein complex that promotes growth.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?&v=onSPZ0aBUKM

    The richest source of Vitamin K(and Vitamin A) is leafy greens and we can convert it into K2 ourselves. Its another story if you’re addicted to something which takes you away from eating leafy greens on a regular basis.

  41. Eric Says:

    Here’s an interesting study…

    The process of exiting vegetarianism: an exploratory study.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23217442

    “Ex-vegetarians interpreted their vegetarianism as a transition to a new, healthier diet. Including a comparison group of continuing vegetarians revealed that the ex-vegetarians were more likely to have become vegetarians as a result of concern about the well-being of animals and the environment, not animal rights, a value more difficult to compromise.”

  42. Julie Says:

    I see a lot of stories about “I immediately felt better”. I also see a lot of people dismissing them, since it’s not possible for the body-chemistry to be occurring that quickly to make the change. But it makes me wonder if this could be a brain-chemistry thing occurring.

    Perhaps their stomach/brain remembers “fish” and as soon as it realizes that’s what’s been ingested it sends a reward signal/endorphines/something immediately making the person feel better?

    Related tangent: first, I remember reading some study (I can’t seem to refind it) regarding umami being a “taste”. They made some soup with umami, and had two groups of participants. All participants had their nostrils closed when testing (so smell wasn’t confused), but only half of them actually swallowed the soup. They were all later given the soup again, and the participants who had previously swallowed it reported liking it much better than those who hadn’t.

    Could it just be that their stomach/brains remember “hey I remember eating this before! it was loaded with stuff” so they are immediately rewarded with a release of something positive in the brain? Maybe that’s what happens when people eat meat again after a long time of not. Their brain just releases a flood of reward hormones/stimulants once the stomach realizes what it received.

    Sorry for this not being better written. It’s just complete speculation based on the idea of food rewards.

  43. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Julie,

    The one thing that makes me skeptical of your suggestion is that the people continue on having vibrant health (according to them). So there must be something that is happening physiologically over the long term.

    I’m starting to come around to the idea that in some of these cases, it might just be more protein.

  44. unethical_vegan Says:

    Jack,
    B12 producing bacteria do exist in the small intestine of healthy human beings (and primates).

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7354869
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8770581

    Microflora-produced B12 could be absorbed since intestinal epithelial cells and goblet cells express high-levels of R-binders (see Fig. 6):

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3552907

    Whether or not these bacteria produce bioavailable B12 in nutritionally/clinically relevant quantities is an open question.

  45. Jack Norris RD Says:

    unethical_vegan,

    I checked out the abstracts and I don’t see how they prove your point that all healthy humans have B12-producing bacteria in their small intestines. I cover the first abstract you list, the study by Albert, on this page:

    http://veganhealth.org/b12/int#small

    I would agree that it is possible that some people who are otherwise healthy might have B12-producing bacteria in their small intestines, and even that some people have enough of such bacteria that they never have to supplement and they will keep their B12 at optimal levels. But this would be very rare and not something I feel the need to mention when someone asks me about it.

  46. Anne Says:

    I’ve been following a journal on one of the vegan forums online. The writer suddenly develloped a nickel allergy from the food and couldn’t eat vegan anymore. It seems like the food a vegan needs to eat (beans, soy, lentils, nuts, seeds ,kale, whole grains and so on) are very high in nickel and it builds up in the body. After a while you can get terrible skin problems, fatigue, depression… I found more examples online:
    glutenfreeveganmom.com/2013/03/22
    ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2923958/
    medicalcenter.osu.edu/mediaroom/releases/Pages/Nickel-Food-Allergies.aspx
    Is there a(healthy) way to eat vegan in spite of this? How common is this? Have you heard of many vegans with this dilemma?

  47. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Anne,

    I read the articles you sent and I’m fairly skeptical that a nickel allergy is the cause of all these problems. Just one example, from Gluten-Free Vegan Mom:

    “My doctor, from experience, asserts that not all the foods listed as high nickel foods trigger his nickel allergy and that I will experience the same… Together we are working on determining which foods are safe and which are not. Apples, tomatoes, oranges, grapefruit, and other citrus fruits are low in nickel content but can exacerbate allergy symptoms (another explanation of why I look so hideous after drinking Greg’s green juice – also contained citrus).”

    It seems pretty likely to me that the reason all foods high in nickel don’t trigger the nickel allergy, while other foods low in nickel do trigger it, is that it’s not actually an allergy to nickel.

    And take 2 of the 3 case studies in that journal article by Zirwas — those people increased their intakes of a certain food that tends to be allergenic (soy or wheat) and developed symptoms, and then upon limiting that food their symptoms improved. It could be something in the food other than nickel.

    The Mayo Clinic doesn’t mention food as a cause of nickel dermatitis, so I would assume there isn’t a lot of evidence suggesting it other than these case reports.

    I have not seen any plethora of dermatitis outbreaks in long-term vegans and I’ve been in this business long enough to be pretty skeptical any time some issue like this comes into vogue. I will put it on my list of topics to investigate further, but in the meantime I do not plan to make any dietary changes based on concern about developing a nickel allergy.

    More research is needed. 🙂

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