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Is Being a Flexitarian the Best Diet?

Cutting through the myths

The Lempert Report

A new article on BBC.com calls into question whether becoming a vegan or a vegetarian and eliminating meat from one’s diet is the best diet.

According to the latest statistics, there are about 375 million vegetarians on the planet. Veganism is one of the fastest-growing millennial trends; in the United States, it grew by 600% between 2014 and 2017. And companies are rushing to market with more plant-based offerings as retailers, such as Kroger, are experimenting with plant-based sections.

In 2016, the German Nutrition Society categorically stated that for children, pregnant or nursing women and adolescents, vegan diets are not recommended, which has been backed by a 2018 review of the research.

There have been alarming headlines, including a warning that going meat-free can stunt brain development and cause irreversible damage to a person’s nervous system. But unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any science that backs these claims up.

The BBC article says that to test the effect of the vegan diet on the brain, you would take a randomly selected group of people, ask half to stop eating animal products and then see what happens. But there isn’t a single study like this.

The reality is that meat does contain some nutrients that plants do not, hence the trend that we see being much more lasting: flexitarianism—cutting down on meat but not eliminating it and adding more plant-based foods to our diets.

There are several important brain nutrients that simply do not exist in plants or fungi. Creatine, carnosine, taurine, EPA and DHA omega-3, plus iron and vitamins B12 and D3, generally only occur naturally in foods derived from animal products. Food technology has allowed for B12 and D3 to be synthesized in the lab or extracted from nonanimal sources such as algae, bacteria or lichen and added to supplements.

Just another instance of moderation being the best diet for our bodies and our brains.

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