Vegan / Vegetarian vs. Paleo | Brothers-in-spirit..

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This article published today at Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET)

Apparently, vegans and paleos /”cavemen” are completely at odds, and may even hate each other, according to numerous articles you can look up yourself..

[ If true, then how, – and to which extent am I wondering.., – does this apply to Transhumanists.. ]

Vegan-or-PaleoThis (far from) objective truth, however, could do with some healthy myth-busting if you ask me.., which is not to deny certain tensions exist.., – on the basis of which vegan marathoner and author of  ‘No Meat Athlete’, Matt Frazier, wrote an article in the Huffington Post, tittled Why Vegans and Paleos Should Stop Hating Each Other

Matt Frazier is of the opinion that “we’re far more alike than we are different“, and personally I tend to agree with this assesment, except I’d probably exclude the “far”.., but let’s take a look at some of the reasons why we are alike /think alike:

  • Fast (and processed) food is awful.
    ( e.g. the generation of Okinawans born since the arrival of the US airbase and its accompanying fast-food outlets have demonstrably declining health. )
  • Whole foods are crucial.
    ( i.e. we should eat food as close to its natural state as possible. )
  • Dairy products are bad, – for humans..
    ( e.g. it isn’t natural or healthy for humans to drink milk meant for baby cows..)
  • Vegetables are good, – and organic vegetables are better.
  • Fruits are good. – (with some (Paleo) qualifications).
  • Nuts are good.

In conclusion, Vegans and Paleos are..

“the weirdos who avoid fast food, – pass on milk, and choose whole foods, – in a world of processed food and rapidly expanding waistlines…

Add to that a passion about suffering / animal welfare,  –e.g. both  “camps” agree that factory farming is disgusting. (Paleos like grassfed free range food or wild food). – But I am deliberately ignoring any futile one-upmanship about which part is the greater ethicist, – as compared to health-“freak”..)

Ok, – so I can’t avoid touching upon our differences any longer.., and perhaps I should tell you also that I am a “veg’an” myself, – (currently a pesco-veg’an, who occasionally eat a bit of cheese also.)

Enter: MEAT..

Caveman - Carnivore

As I understand it, the main argument in support of the Paleo-diet is an assertion to the effect that we humans are genetically disposed for being carnivores.., – thus: If the cavemen didn’t eat it, you shouldn’t eat it…

Now, I find it somewhat futile to bicker about this “carnivore versus starchivore” issue, so suffice to say it  is debatable, – read, for instance, this highly informative article: Even Our Ancestors Never Really Ate the Paleo Diet, – or this: Human Ancestors Were Nearly All Vegetarians

Let us presume, however, that the Paleo-pushers – (no offense) – are right.. – Then, – and here I am asking from the perspective of being a Transhumanist, –  with an emphasis on TRANS.., – what about it ? – I mean, if , – IF, that is, – it was / is “human” to eat flesh, – should that require us not to change our ways, – not to make progress, not to evolve, biologically, morally, etc. ?
If so, there’s something about TRANS-“humanism” that I have thoroughly misunderstood..

[ My personal story is this: Already as a teenager I began having scruples about surviving – in part – on the flesh of my fellow creatures. Then, in the early 70’ies, while staying in a kibbutz in Israel, I decided to take advantage of this great opportunity to become a vegetarian, which is to say I stopped eating any kind of meat, but continued to eat / drink dairy products.

Years later, – and now it was no longer just a matter of ethics but one of health also, – I became strictly vegan. Ten years later or so, I began eating some fish, and in principle I have stayed pesco-veg’an since. Against my best intentions, however, I do eat a little cheese now and then, but.. I am contemplating going back to being strictly vegan again…

I should add that never at any point, – (including the initial change from a typical meat and dairy-heavy Danish diet, to vegetarianism), – have I experienced any health-issues, sudden changes in energy-levels, moods, etc.  – In terms of energy, sleep, memory, etc., I’m just the average person, but I do enjoy normal blood-pressure, blood sugar level, blood count / haemaglobin percentage, cholesterol-levels and what can I tell you.., – oh yes, – suffer from no allergies whatsoever, never take / took any kind of pills, – (psst.. apart from.. in my young days..), – and.. well, I am basically doing quite ok..

In other words, my personal dietary journey /story is of little use as testimony for one way of eating over another, except.. I must be doing somethin’ right.. ]

Anyway, instead of trying to follow in the footsteps of what cave-men may or may not have eaten ages ago, why not – disregarding if you will the ethical aspects – base our diet on what is healthy according to modern science.., – not that there’s any real consensus, – far from it, – but still..

Depending on your preferences, e.g. if you favour the paleo lifestyle, you may argue there is not a large body of evidence supporting claims about the superiority of a veg’an (vegetarian / vegan) diet, and personally I think the highly popular site, “wiseGeek” – (futurist Michael Anissimov among its contributors..), – is stretching it a little when they give the following, categorical, answer to this question: Has it been Proven that a Vegetarian Diet is Really Healthier?

“The short answer is a resounding yes; it has been conclusively proven through extensive worldwide studies by independent, highly respected international health advisory boards that a vegetarian diet is significantly healthier than one which includes meat and animal products”.

However, just for starters, read up yourself about Seventh-day Adventist vegetarians, who live four to seven years longer than other Californians, and /or the low calorie diet of long-living Okinawans, – high in tofu and fresh vegetables, plus fish several times a week, but minimal dairy products and meat intake.

Consider also, – provided it is true what I’ve read somewhere.., – that health insurance companies in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands offer discounted rates for vegetarians..

Longevity  is also associated with:

  •  little processed food
  • moderate to low calorie intake
  • limited consumption of refined sugar
  • being lean, i.e. low /”normal”  Body Mass Index (BMI)

Veg’ans: Check ! – Paleos: Check !

As Matt Frazier, – the vegan marathoner.. points out in his Huffington Post article, –
the biggest misconception about the Paleo diet is that it’s all about eating meat. Not true! – Paleo is about eating whole, real food that hasn’t been processed a thousand times and packed with tons of sugar.

There’s a lot to suggest then, that he is right in asserting that “when you set ethics aside and talk about health, the distinction between Paleo and vegan is completely insignificant“.

Repeating myself, I tend to agree, except I’d exclude the “completely”, as, apart from the meat / no meat controversy, there are disagreements about legumes and grains.., but.. we can discuss that another time, as this article is already long enough, and, I should think, plenty for you to.. ahem.. stomach in one go..

Also related: My strategies for longevity

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16 responses to “Vegan / Vegetarian vs. Paleo | Brothers-in-spirit..

  1. The menu is too rich but I will add my two or three cents anyway.

    I have actually read the book about the paleo diet.
    I don’t remember that it says we are predisposed to be carnivores. I think it says we are predisposed to not be vegetarians or vegans. Big difference!

    The book is very well supported as diet books go. The author gives a general rationale that makes sense; he also does a good job of supporting individual affirmations with real scientific evidence. (See below.) The general rationale: Humans having been eating large quantities of grain for only 8 or 9 thousand years (3 or 4 thousand at most if you are Scandinavian). Same thing for dairy products. This is a span of years probably insufficient to modify our genetic heritage with respect to how our bodies transform food. Note that this is falsifiable assertion, the hallmark of real science.

    The book makes no ethical claims that I recall. I doubt that there are many people who would argue that eating our fellow creatures (including fish) is ethically superior to not eating them. That’s on the one hand. On the other hand, the common claim of “sustainability” is a multifaceted fallacy and often used dishonestly.

    I have stopped checking the health claims of vegetarians because I never find them to be based on scientific studies. I mean double-blind refereed studies published in respectable scientific journals. My perception may be a function of the kind of vegetarians I know. They are almost all neo-puritan cultists. Perhaps, if I knew intellectually serious vegetarians, they would guide me to better quality references. Yet, I live in Santa Cruz, California where I am almost the only conventional and normal person. If there was good evidence, I suspect it would have come to my attention, like it or not. Perhaps someone will instruct me in a response to this comment.
    (If you do, please, read over my criteria of quality above.)

    I have been on a small-time moderate cheating version of the Paleo diet for 14 months. Three comments:

    I almost never go hungry;

    I have lost weight without trying; I keep losing weight but so slowly it’s not worth bragging about;

    My diabetes Type II numbers that were slowly degrading year by year have been completely turned around. They are now frankly excellent. Of course, I don’t know if my arteries may not also, at the same time, have become 9/10 blocked. I am not claiming a miraculous CURE: I continue taking all the medicines I was taking before.

    PS I am a mean old guy and as I said, I live in Santa Cruz California and I have no patience with irrationality, religious fervor, cults, and personal testimonies that make absurdly generalizing claims. Other than this, I am a sweetheart!

    • transhumanisten

      Thanks very much for your reasonable comments mean old guy sweetheart :)

      Unlike you, I haven’t read THE book about the paleo diet, -- (I take it you are referring to The Paleo Diet by Loren Cordain), -- but notice I deliberately avoid discussing what we may (not) be predisposed to eat and instead focus on what keeps us healthy today. That is not because it’s irrelevant of course, but because it is debatable. I link to what I believe is a highly informative article, that references several papers I believe meet your criteria.. -- I also link to another good (Scientific American) article, not because I wish to prove anything, except that it is debatable, for which reason it is scientific dishonesty to state categorically that humans have been eating large quantities of grain for only 8 or 9 thousand years . As I write, the grain-controversy is for another post, and again, I choose to focus on what keeps us healthy today. -- Note there is no controversy about dairy products..

      Re: Perhaps, if I knew intellectually serious vegetarians..

      Well, -- you know ME, don’t you, damn’ it ! :)

      As for my references, -- the most convincing may well be the ongoing Adventist Health Study-2 that I also link to in my article. You might take a look at the Adventist Health Study-2 Publication Database and decide for yourself if -- and which -- papers are worth your time, but since you have a special interest in type 2 diabetes, I’ve picked this for you: Type of vegetarian diet, body weight, and prevalence of type 2 diabetes.

      All in all I see no reason worth bickering about why veg’ans and “paleos” should be at odds, except perhaps for being different personality-types.. -- I am convinced both diets / life-styles are healthy, -- (as witnessed by your story as well as mine), -- and as I clearly show, we have a lot in common. -- You may not like it, -- ha-ha, -- but it’s the surprising, and veritable truth !

  2. Jacques Delacroix again: There is a fairly full description of the Paleo diet in French on my blog:

  3. 1 The Scientific American author sounds a little as if he did not really understand evolutionary theory or, better, as if he forgot it in his enthusiasm: “As hominids and/or humans switched to eating more meat, their bodies might have evolved so to be able to better digest meat.” This is more than a little Lamarckian.

    2 He argues against a ghost. The book does not recommend anything close to exclusive meat eating. There is zero objection in it to eating most vegetable foods. That would include leaves, water plants, fruits, mushrooms (not plants, I know), nuts, etc
    The author is either misinformed or he is not completely honest.

    3 I think he is frankly in bad faith when comparing the lengths of time available to humans to adapt to grains (upper limit is 10,000 years) vs roughage, nuts, eggs, meat( a least hundreds of thousands of year.) His “adaptation” of gut bacteria instead of us sounds to me like a fashionable sleigh of hand. What seems unlikely is that the agricultural period had the massive physical elimination or the hugely differential reproduction human “adaptation” a massively grain-based diet would seem to require.

    4 Why does he write so cute? If this had not been an assignment (for the second time!) I would have stopped after the first page for that reason alone.

    I have not looked yet at the other sources. At this point, I think anyone who gives me an assignment in that area should post bond. The sun is shining here; before I spend my time reading your “best” article on vegetarianism, please, repeat to me that it fulfills my narrow criteria. That’s because “best” can logically be very bad, of course. (Reminds me of two of my old girlfriends!)

    • transhumanisten

      1. My knowledge of evolutionary theory is limited, so all I can say is that the Scientific American author, to me, comes across as an expert on evolutionary theory. As for Lamarck, I’ve read somewhere that epigenetics may force us to revise popular understanding of evolution and that lifestyle choices actually can alter heredity..

      2. I’ll have to take your word for it, -- or maybe I ought to read the book..

      3. Have some reading up here too ! -- Can’t even begin to argue, but maybe that suits you fine.. :)

      4. That article was not meant as an assignment, but to make a point: Repeating myself: What humans did or did not eat is debatable

      I will not / cannot repeat to you that my “best article” fulfills your narrow criteria. It is up to you to decide, if you care to read it. -- What I can say is that I totally respect and understand your impatience with half-baked truths, biased research, etc., -- the ongoing Adventist Health Study-2 does not fall into those categories in my judgemnent, is all I can say..

  4. The book is respectable on two counts, the smallest of which is that it seems to hang together well as far as being in keeping with evolutionary theory is concerned. The second reason I think it’s respectable is the most important: The individual points the author makes are painstakingly tied to scientific (published) research. With all this, I don’t push the book on anyone. I am merely defending it against a cheap hatchet job. (Again, why does the author have to write so cute?)

    We may not know well what our pre-agricultural revolution ancestors ate, and it’s pretty sure that it depended on geography ( mountain top people probably did not rely on shellfish much). We do know however what they did not eat in large quantities: Cereals, beans, milk products.

    Transhumen: About my reading filter: You seem to be saying that what is or is not scientific depends on personal preferences. Please, please, tell me I am wrong!

    • transhumanisten

      Hi, -- I am a little absent-minded at this precise moment, as I am eagerly waiting to see violin star and foxy lady, Vanessa Mae, in the second leg of women’s giant slalom.. -- (see my newest post).

      Re: You seem to be saying that what is or is not scientific depends on personal preferences

      Well, yes and no.. -- I deeply resent social constructivism / postmodernism, -- yet there seems to be a lot of truth in Nietzsche’s statement, that : All things are subject to interpretation. Whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth.

      I’ll be really sneaky and mean here and suggest you actually agree with this.., -- dare I say.. Climate change..

      I’ll read you latest comment later..

  5. More: I read again the Scientific American piece. It seems to me to be a polemic using studies, some of which are probably good scientific studies. It does not take much for me to doubt the seriousness of a writer. (It’s a lot like judging virginity. Here I go, trying to write cute also!) The author of this piece accepts without raising a (typed ) eyebrow the results of a 1925 study to the effect that the average Russian colon is (was?) five feet longer than the colon of his Turkish neighbor. The study was conducted during the bloody Russian Civil War. Come on!

    Drowned in the middle of a long development to the effect that our guts are just like those of our primate cousins is this simple sentence:

    “This shortness appears to make us less able to obtain nutrients from the cellulose in plant material than are other primates though the data are far from clear-cut.”

    This is not a small thing if you want to be vegetarian. (I understand it does not close that door, it just narrows it.)

    Further down, we read, ” The majority of our food….is vegetarian.” This sentence means absolutely nothing. “Majority” measured as number of calories, volume, weight, other, what?

    If it meant something what would it prove, what argument would it support? Is there anyone who affirms, is there any book that reads: “Be sure that seeds, leaves, nuts, and fruits do not (NOT) together constitute a majority of you diet!” ? Reminder: a”majority” means more than half, whatever the unit intended. This is pretty much what is prettily called in French: “Enfoncer une porte ouverte.”

    I come back on an earlier judgment. I don’t know if the author of the article is deficient or rather, an expert in evolutionary theory. People who want to be right or simply, who want to seduce, often stray from what they know to be true.

    This article did introduce me to an idea that I find interesting although I am not able to pass on its soundness. It’s the idea that intestinal and stomach bacteria may be the subject of selection in relation to our diets rather than individual animals (human beings). To the extent that it is plausible, it weakens my argument to the effect that 10,000 years (6,000, or maybe only 4,000 for Scandinavians) is not long enough for our bodies to have adapted to a grain-based diet.

    Got to go now. I ate a thin slice of whole-grain bread along my thick steak. It’s given me a heavy stomach.

    • transhumanisten

      I very much appreciate you taking time to analyze / debunk.. that particular article, but again, I feel at a loss to give a qualified response, -- I am just not as well-informed as you when it comes to evolutionary theory. However, I will have to insist, again, that these controversies are debatable, and I have taken note of a massive amount of “debunking” from both camps..

      Again, I choose to concentrate on be a /the healthy(ist) diet in our time. To the best of my judgment, -- backed by what seems to me to be solid evidence, -- that diet is pesco-veganism, -- notice I say veganism, not vegetarianism, which normally includes dairy-products. I recognize the paleo-diet has a lot going for it as well, which is why, again, I suggest we should affront the shitty diets of “ordninary” folks, rather than vegans and “paleos” being at odds. -- By the way, I bought my first paleo-bread, ecological of course, only a couple of weeks ago, and I have to tell you it not only tasted fantastic, -- it also gave me a really good feeling, both mentally and gut-feeling.. -- Cost me 90 Danish kroner though, -- about $ 16 !

      This is NOT another reading assignment, but I thought it was interesting. It is from another Scientific American article:

      “Several examples of recent and relatively speedy human evolution underscore that our anatomy and genetics have not been set in stone since the stone age. Within a span of 7,000 years, for instance, people adapted to eating dairy by developing lactose tolerance. Usually, the gene encoding an enzyme named lactase—which breaks down lactose sugars in milk—shuts down after infancy; when dairy became prevalent, many people evolved a mutation that kept the gene turned on throughout life. Likewise, the genetic mutation responsible for blue eyes likely arose between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago. And in regions where malaria is common, natural selection has modified people’s immune systems and red blood cells in ways that help them resist the mosquito-borne disease; some of these genetic mutations appeared within the last 10,000 or even 5,000 years. The organisms with which we share our bodies have evolved even faster, particularly the billions of bacteria living in our intestines. Our gut bacteria interact with our food in many ways, helping us break down tough plant fibers, but also competing for calories. We do not have direct evidence of which bacterial species thrived in Paleolithic intestines, but we can be sure that their microbial communities do not exactly match our own”.

  6. Hi!
    Vegan is a person who refuses to exploit animals. It is practical ethics. Plant-based diet is only one part. You can’t be a vegan and occasionally eat fish or cheese. (Besides, cheese often isn’t even vegetarian, search for rennet.)
    Vegans are not people who eat plants, vegans are people who refuse to exploit animals. Therefore, a person who mostly eats plants and sometimes adds some animal product isn’t vegan.

    Also, I am vegan and I avoid starch in my diet. Another way to recognize that diet is secondary.

    • transhumanisten

      Thanks for your comment. I have to say though, that most of what you’re saying comes across to me as quibbling.., -- Words are not -- and should not -- always be taken literally. If we did, most vegetarians shouldn’t call themselves vegetarians, as most of them eat dairy-products, so we agree about that much. Some people, like you, focus on ethical aspects, others on health-issues, and my opinion is we should avoid any pointed fingers and moralizing.. -- Strictly speaking, you are right, up to a point, but I find it of little relevance to my article..

  7. Thank you for your response.

    I find it very relevant. Veganism is a social, not a health movement.

    If raping someone is healthy for a person who rapes, can we justify that? Paleos can. Vegans can’t.
    Vegans are vegans not because they are counting on *their* healthier life but because they want to protect lives of *others*. It is just a lucky accident that plant-based diet is healthier than certain other diets.

    Veganism is unwillingness to exploit others, even if it shows that exploitation might be healthy for us. We will just have to rely on technology and science that can find ways for us to be healthy without exploiting others.

    • transhumanisten

      I am pleased to know you are a vegan, -- after all it is what I advocate myself, -- and I totally respect your refusal to exploit our fellow beings, -- it’s just that I see no point in bickering about who is a real vegan and who is not, -- that is what I find irrelevant, but I have to say also, that I don’t like the sound of what you’re saying. It is unfortunate that a well-meaning person like yourself is so moralizing and condemning, if not arrogant.. -- It only serves to antagonize, and even if you don’t deserve it, (some) Paleos will hate you.. -- Sorry if I’m being hard on you, -- I RESPECT you as a vegan with a focus on the ethical aspects, but I also find your attitude counter-productive and unpleasant.

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