Dear Dr. Mercola,
Thank you for your excellent, thoughtful, and sensitive discussion on vegetarianism and the China study. I have been researching and exploring the benefits of a plant-source-only diet for over 38 years (since 1973). Given the length of my practice and the scope of my experience, I have come to some working conclusions on the interrelated topics of diet, health, and longevity. I am writing this for the people who have become confused by your subtle, but clear avocation for a meat-centered diet over a plant-source-only diet, as they are tentatively inspired to shift from one paradigm of health and consciousness to a new level. Although I appreciate most of your points, my main objection is that your implication that people with higher metabolic protein requirements need to eat meat. Based on my extensive, successful, clinical experience over the course of 38 years of helping people do exactly that, with a 99.99% success rate, your position is misleading and untrue. Even former U.S. President Bill Clinton, who used to eat McDonalds hamburgers in front of the press, has turned to a plant-based diet and now drinks almond milk smoothies!
In summary based on my extensive clinical experience in supporting thousands of people becoming successful on a plant source only diet, I have found:
1) We are unique individuals for whom a consistently successful plant-source-only approach requires a thoughtful application of a constitutional approach to organizing ones diet. This includes, contrary to your subtle implication, that if someone is a fast oxidizer (i.e., needs a higher protein diet) that they need to be a meat eater. There are plenty of high protein sources in a plant-source diet, (such as spirulina, chlorella, and Klamath Lake algae – which are 60-70% protein and 40% assimilable as compared to meat, chicken, and fish, which are 14-16% assimilable). In other words, it is no problem for a fast oxidizer (high protein ratio need) to be 100% successful on a plant-source-only, live-food diet. I have had only one person in 40 years who wanted to be a vegan, not be successful using this approach; and they grew up near the Arctic Circle.
2) General health, vitality and endurance increases on the physical plane in addition to an increased spiritual desire on a spiritual plane on a plant-source-only, 80% live-food diet. That is not to say, it is not possible to evolve spiritually on a meat-centered diet, but intense spiritual practices, such as the Tibetan monks utilize, are needed to overcome the negative impact of eating meat. As of 2005, the Dalai Lama has asked all Buddhists to return to a vegetarian way of life. Based on my clinical experience with thousands of meditators, a meat-centered diet suppresses the flow of the spiritual energy.
3) A plant-source-only, organic, at least 80% live-food, moderate fat and either low protein or carbohydrate intake, depending on constitution; low-glycemic, high-mineral, well hydrated and low caloric diet is best for general health, longevity, and spiritual life. Using these understandings and approaches 99.99% of the population can be successful, healthfully and spiritually, on a plant-source-only, organic, live-food diet.
4) Both a meat-centered and plant-source-only diet require supplementation for optimal health. It is a subliminal myth that a meat-centered diet does not require supplementation and therefore is better than a plant source only diet.
5) Eating higher on the food chain (meat, poultry, fish, and dairy) exposes one to significantly more environmental carcinogenic and neurotoxic substances which may strongly suggest that not only meat, but these toxins, increase inflammation and chronic disease associated with a flesh centered diet such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s (now seen as significantly related to environmental toxin exposure), diabetes, and heart disease, thus decreasing general health, wellbeing, and longevity in modern times. Unfortunately, to prove this with absolute scientific certainty may take thirty years or longer, as it did to prove smoking causes lung cancer. I suggest that the risk/benefit ratio encourages us to move to a safer and healthier diet now, as many may not make it another 30 years on the typical American meat-centered diet. Just like 40 years ago, I advised people to stop smoking before it was proven. As far back as 1990, in my book Conscious Eating, I site research suggesting that animal flesh (being at the top of the food chain) contained approximately 15 times more toxins than vegetables. Root vegetables had 4 times more than leafy vegetables. Milk had about 5-6 times more toxins than leafy vegetables. This information in our rapidly increasing polluted environment becomes particularly significant in choosing the best diet for health. For example when looking at the Chernobyl disaster of 1986, statistics showed a 900% increase in perinatal mortality in the Boston area for three months after the nuclear incident. This was traced to radioactive I-131 released from the Chernobyl accident. Breastfeeding mothers were drinking cow’s milk (organic or otherwise) tainted by the I-131 landing on the grass the cows grazed on throughout the Boston area, and were passing this on to their nursing infants. Unfortunately, there have been many such incidents, secretly impacting our health and wellbeing.
6) The “idyllic, pure, primal, feral, meat-centered, food dream” is an impossible reality except for an elite fraction of the population, and it still doesn’t solve the issue of concentrated environmental toxins and the environment destruction the meat industry reeks. (The 416-page report aptly titled Livestock’s Long Shadow published by the Livestock, Environment, and Development Initiative [LEAD] presents on this topic.) In short, a meat-centered diet is a certain threat to global ecology.
7) Finally, according to our consciousness, do we make our choices. This includes our desires for food. According to the Bhagavad Gita chapter 17, verses 7-8: “The way one eats, performs religious rituals, disciplines one’s self and gives charity depends on the predominance of a particular guna (mental, emotional, and spiritual tendency). Foods, which increase longevity, mental clarity, strength and health (in modern times – a plant-source-only diet) and are pleasing to taste and look at are loved by sattvic people (spiritual, peaceful people). Bitter, sour, salty, hot, pungent, astringent, and burning foods that give pain and regret and cause health problems are sought after by rajasic people (people with executive and warrior proclivities, but lacking in spiritual interests). Leftovers, putrid and inadequately cooked food from which the energy has gone and is unfit as an offering is preferred by tamasic people (people who have no interest in morals, ethics, or spirituality).” A specific quality of person is drawn toward spiritual life, and hence to spiritual food supporting that lifestyle. Likewise a specific quality of person is drawn toward mundane secular life, having no major interest in morals, ethics, or spirituality. Hence, they are drawn to certain foods supporting that particular lifestyle. What we eat is both the cause and result of our level of consciousness. It is important to recognize this issue as part of the discussion, and not have one’s ego insist that everyone needs to eat the same, as we see with those aggressively promoting the “feral diet”. This letter is to support those people who of spiritual inclination or those who now feel ready to embrace such an inclination. Although these people are a small minority, it is a growing minority, who are part of the eventual tidal wave of increasing consciousness to heal the planet and humanity and bring us to the next paradigm of peace on all levels on the planet. The real issue here is not meat-eating verses plant-source-only; it is an issue of acknowledging people right to accurate, intelligent information on food choices, and choosing a diet that best suits their life purpose. Both meat-centered and plant-source-only diets are applicable to individuals based on the orientation of their consciousness. Those who are drawn to the new paradigm should not be subject to misinformation that creates fear for those who may be on the edge of stepping into their evolutionary potential for themselves and the planet, through an organic, plant-source-only, 80% live-food diet.
Thank you for your thoughtful work in general, and in the future may you be more sensitive to these deeper issues.
Blessings to your health and spirit,
Gabriel Cousens, M.D. M.D.(H), Diplomat Ayurveda , Diplomat Board of American Holistic Health