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 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.


HispanicPundit said...

It ain't the marketing, it's the taste: meat just tastes sooo good. Even children know from an esrleage that "greens" isn't the tastiest option. Add that personal choice of many and the drug industry is built around lessoning the impact of a meat eating culture.

With that said, im suspicious of your results long term. There was alot of weight loss in those results, ive seen the same gains when people follow a simple meat inclusive diet w exercise. Seems the change in lifestyle is what drives most of the numbers... maintaining a constant weight and good health numbers is much harder.

Jon said...

I'm not trying to prove anything with my numbers. Just saying that at least to this point it's not worse, so for me that's reason enough to stick with it with the lower carbon footprint and reduced animal suffering.

That being said if you're interested in the long term effects I can point you to good video summaries of studies. Long story short the blue zones, that is the regions of the world that have populations with really long life expectancies and lower incidences of common debilitating diseases, they are very heavy on plant fooods and minimally consume animal products, in some cases eating no animal products at all. I think the science is squarely behind it, but as with tobacco industry sources will try to throw sand in the air and confuse the issue.

As far as marketing, it's just my opionion. In my interactions with people that work in markeing, their view of the effectiveness of their abilities is quite different. I read recently a guy that was very cynical after his experience. He sees humans as just stupid apes, very easy to control. I agree meat tastes good. But what tastes good to you is also a matter of conditioning. There are population groups where the majority are quite grossed out by meat and cheese. So they have tastes that lead them to have healthier bodies. Your tastes make you a much more profitable person for the meat industry and pharmaceutical industry. So these things are not written in stone. In my case I feel that my craving for meat and dairy is diminishing. I won't say it's gone. But the people I know that have been vegan long term do not want meat. In fact there are really impressive meat substitutes like "Beyond Burgers". To me they are very tasty, but I've seen vegans try them and have a hard time with them. They don't like meat any more.

Jonathan said...

Hey Jon! Looks like you (and your blog) are still alive and kicking. I recently read and have decided to get a bit more intentional in my eating habits. I'd be curious your thoughts on this guy's claims. I'm totally with you on milk - wish I could completely wipe it off my diet as well as my kids, but milk and cereal etc hard to break as far as a habit is concerned. Regarding meat - I might have a passing mild interest into meat v. not meat arguments from a health standpoint. The book above kinda moved the needle for me away from shying away from meat from a health standpoint to actually eating more - or at least focusing on a high protein diet. My current rational would go something along the lines of "eating processed food and crap is the worst thing I've got going, so a salad with avacado and high protein content i.e. eggs or meat will put me light years ahead of some packaged crap". I've been buying packages of jerky and nuts, and have them stashed at home, work, and the car so when travelling or hungry for a snack, I'm at least going for something less processed. That seems to be working for me now.

Jon said...

Hi Jonathan. Sorry I only noticed this comment now.

I'm definitely convinced that this guy has the wrong idea if he's telling you to eat meat. I saw him somewhere on Youtube debating a vegan or something along those lines. Are you able to give kind of a break down of his argument for meat?

To me the vegans make the stronger case. I mentioned the Blue Zones in my comment above. I can show you general mortality studies, studies that look at the effects of people switching to plant based in terms of their immune system's ability to fight cancer, reverse the clogging of arteries, etc.

I do think that if you go with your approach of getting rid of the processed foods, that's going to go a long way and probably push you to a better spot than a typical American. Particularly if you're getting a lot of fiber I think your body can manage better all the cholesterol you would be ingesting with meat. But definitely this is not optimal.

If you have the bandwidth go to and just browse whatever topic that might occur to you that you think would be interesting. Diabetes, cholesterol, mortality, cancer. These are generally shorter videos. On the order of 5 minutes typically. Check out oatmeal (I see your link at amazon has you author being down on oatmeal, I don't think that is right). See if you find anything interesting.

Jonathan said...

Thanks - I'll check out those links. Here's some of his key talking points in summaries he created. Would be interested in your thoughts.

I'm curious your take on blood sugar and it's relative importance (or lack thereof?). Both this guy, and another diet I'm familiar with called the slow carb diet point to blood sugar spikes as important parameter to keep in mind when considering caloric intake. The idea being if your blood sugar spikes, among other things, this results in increased conversion of calories to fat I believe.

Thus eating starch in the morning i.e. oatmeal leads to a blood sugar spike, which is then leads to a cascade of unhealthy reactions in your body. It's not that the oatmeal itself is devoid of nutrient, it's how the body consumes it.

In the same vain, fruit juice is way worse for you than eating the actual fruit because the fiber of actual fruit will help diminish the blood sugar spike. Likewise, eating your meals slowly, and ingesting cinnamon also help mitigate this.

Jon said...

Blood sugar is a big deal.  Here's the info that really blew my mind when I watched the movie I mentioned in the previous blog post.  Sugar does not cause diabetes.  That went against everything I thought I knew.  In fact the first time I started watching this movie this is where I shut it off.  Seemed too outlandish.  But I'm now convinced it's true.  Here's a great video explaining it.

This is one of my all time favorite videos from Dr Greger, one that I've probably shared with friends more than any other.

This is where it's easy to go off the rails.  Sure, if your cells are insulin resistant and you eat sugar you're going to have a terrible blood sugar spike.  People want to blame the sugar.  But if your cells are able to process sugar effectively then taking sugar in isn't a problem.  So if you take a meat eater and have them eat a banana their blood sugar spikes and stays high.  Take a vegan and he can eat 5 bananas and his blood sugar comes back to normal quickly.

To take it to an extreme, there's a guy that eats strictly meat.  He was challenged by Joe Rogan to have his blood checked and he finally did.  A vegan I follow discusses the results.  He's got freaking diabetic blood sugar levels.

How do you become diabetic when you don't eat carbs?  Animal fat destroys your insulin sensitivity.  The problem isn't the carbs but the animal products.

Jonathan said...

Jon - interesting. Seems like a testable hypothesis, right? Eat a bowl of oatmeal after being a plant eater for some period of time and see how long your blood sugar spikes. Ever thought of testing this on yourself? You might find Tim Ferriss's empirical approach he took testing his own body on a whole slew of parameters interesting. His book "4 Hour Body" is pretty fascinating. He did a series of tests on himself using among other things a continuous glucose monitor.