Saturday, May 26, 2018

Vegan Diet Update - Blood Test Results

Just got results from my physical after having eaten as a vegan for 3 months.  In that time I've been soaking up nutritional information as best I can.  I found a great resource right here.  It's one man's effort to make people aware of what the science has to say about nutrition.  Not for profit, no supplements or nutrition products for sale.  Having watched a lot of his videos and having read and watched other material I kind of expected the results you see below.  And my prior numbers were me making my best effort.  I get financial incentives from work to hit certain health targets, so I was exercising hard and trying to eat what I thought was healthy in the weeks leading up to that measurement.  In fact in the past I've had results that were quite a bit worse that what you see for my November 2016 numbers.

This time I was not really exercising.  I mentioned in my prior post that I had been doing some intermittent fasting, but I stopped soon after making that statement, so over 2 months ago.  I do think that's a good thing to do, I just haven't been doing it.  Despite that I have a very substantial reduction in overall cholesterol.  Similarly for LDL, or "bad" cholesterol.

When I was eating a higher protein diet I became convinced that the problem of high cholesterol was overblown.  I no longer think that.  Though the official recommendation from your doctor will be that you should shoot for an LDL cholesterol level below 100, the evidence tells us in fact we want to be between 50 and 70.  The experts think it would be asking too much of patients to target that level, but as that video shows vegans may reach this level without even trying.  As you can see I'm a bit short of the target, but do expect I will continue to improve with time.

Apparently cholesterol lowering drugs only provide about a 3% improvement in mortality.  A whole food plant based diet on the other hand looks to be about 20 times better.  Better than drugs, no side effects, reduces animal suffering, reduces ones contribution to environmental destruction.  It's looking to be about the biggest win-win-win I've come across.  I am convinced that if it weren't for the $186 billion meat industry and $1 trillion pharmaceutical industry many more people would be eating in this way, and our leading killers (heart disease and cancer) would affect drastically fewer people.

This is what happens when you structure an economy for profit maximization rather than meeting people's needs.  In fact on capitalism a population that lacks needs is catastrophic.  In America hundreds of millions of people are taking prescription drugs.  I believe a huge chunk of that if not a majority could be eliminated if the entire population adopted the right whole food plant based diet.  Based on what I've learned from nutritionfacts.org and other sources I believe that the scientific evidence has supported this conclusion for decades.  The only reason it isn't common knowledge is that it is a conclusion that undermines profits for certain powerful corporate sectors.  Industry studies attempt to create confusion as the tobacco industry did long ago.  It is profit over people.  It needs to end.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Trying a Vegan Diet

Anybody that is concerned with global warming and general environmental problems should probably prefer a vegan diet.  Apparently animal agriculture is responsible for a greater share of greenhouse gases generated than all transportation combined.  In addition the rain forest, one of our major carbon sinks, is being cleared to create pasture for feeding livestock.  This is major havoc.  It's like we're burning the candle at both ends.

The other side of it is the animal suffering.  One of the recommendations I keep seeing on Netflix is called "Earthlings".  Apparently it's a movie that depicts the horrors of the slaughterhouse and humanity's general treatment of animals to produce food.  I can't bring myself to watch it.  I have to admit that if I can't even bring myself to watch the actions that are taken to meet the demand I create when I purchase meat and dairy I need to make an effort to not make these purchases.

Maybe what has held me back to this point is my belief that you need it for good health.  I used to do a quasi hi-protein diet called The Zone.  Not as high as Atkins, but perhaps higher than what a typical American would eat.  Information related to this diet helped develop in me a sufficient fear of diabetes.  Diabetes comes about from the consumption of sugar.  Or so I thought.

Ultimately I abandoned the diet because though I did lose some weight it caused me to feel physically weak.  I upped my carbs and my strength returned.  Since then I haven't really had a consistent diet plan, except a general struggle to avoid junk food.

My sister recently recommended a movie called "What the Health" which is also on Netflix.  I took a look at it.  I realized once I started watching it that I had started it before.  But when I saw the claim that sugar does not cause diabetes I turned it off.  It seemed too outlandish.  But this time since my sister had asked for my opinion on it I watched it all the way through.  It claimed that diabetes is not just prevented with a vegan diet, it can be reversed.  I had always thought once you have diabetes you are stuck with it.  You just have to manage it.  The movie made all kinds of claims about people improving their health with a vegan diet.

I did what I often do when I encounter information like this.  I started looking for criticism.  I looked into the controversial claims.  Links like this one seem to admit that it really isn't sugar that causes diabetes, but general obesity.  If eating sugar leads to weight gain (maybe your sugar comes in the form of donuts) you can get diabetes that way, but you don't really get it from apples and oranges.  Here's a critic of the film in the NY Times.  They argue that being vegan doesn't guarantee a better result because it's possible to eat very unhealthy vegan food (duh).  They point out that any amount of reduction in consumption of animal products is beneficial, so you don't have to go all the way as this film advises.  This is portrayed like it's evidence the movie is mistaken.  Doesn't that in fact support the thesis of the movie?  Very strange.

I'm not pretending I know what the truth is based on my limited research, but my thinking is I'll give it a shot.  If it works for me, then great.  I'm reducing animal suffering and environmental damage.  If it doesn't work I'll have to adjust.

I've been doing it for a week and a half now.  I notice a couple of bonuses already.  My resting heart rate has dropped, from high 60's to now high 50's.  And I haven't been doing any cardio.  I have also lost a few pounds.  This is also at least partly if not mostly due to intermittent fasting.  That's another diet method that I'm convinced is good for you that I started about 3 weeks ago.  The other bonus is I'm usually quite sore when I do certain physical activities that involve muscles I haven't used in a while.  I've had a couple of instances where I was sure I would be extremely sore the next day, but I wasn't.

I do have a physical coming up in a couple of months so I'll continue to monitor.  Honestly I hadn't been expecting massive improvement as I had already been functioning as quasi-vegetarian.  Generally I was eating meat when I was involved in an event where food was prepared for a group, but I wasn't preparing or ordering meat when it was just me.  So I was eating meat only lightly, but also consuming dairy regularly.  Now I'm all in, so we'll see if this produces health benefits.  Benefits are not even required.  As long as I feel no worse off this is the way to go for me.