“Real Men Eat Lettuce”: Why A Religion Based Argument For A Vegetarian Diet Could Be Wrong.

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Tim, from the Real Men Eat Lettuce blog had a fascinating response to my interview with Reverend George Malkmus about Hallelujah Acres and the vegetarian diet…

“After being diagnosed with colon cancer George decided that rather than undergo chemotherapy he would try a natural method of healing, adopting an 85% raw food vegan diet advised to him by a friend Lester Rolloff.

Having been able to reduce his symptoms he began to research around the simple diet he had adopted, and found what he had hoped for in Genesis 1:29, which forms the backbone of  the Hallelujah Acres philosophy on the link between nutrition and health.

For those not familiar with the verse it reads as follows “And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for [food]”.

Personally I can find a number of flaws in the argument he presents and will try to supply the evidence and explanation to debunk his claims in the rest of this post.

Firstly i'll take this from a nutritional science perspective. When humans evolved from primates there was a shrinking of the gut as a larger sized gut was metabolically expensive, and an increase in the size of the brain which was more advantageous – this is The Expensive Tissue Hypothesis. George argues that we have the digestive tract of a herbivore, and that true carnivores have a straight digestive tract to help them expel animal waste easily and efficiently.

The problem with this idea, and another of his points that we can easily obtain all of the amino acids from a vegan diet is the sheer volume of food required to supply the full spectrum of amino acids. If we take the example from The Paleo Diet for Athletes of a 150lb athlete consuming 135g of protein from animal sources they would need to eat…

…4 ounces of cod, 6 ounces of turkey breast and 4 ounces of chicken. Then compare this to the same athlete eating a vegan diet who would have to consume 1 cup of tofu, 1 cup of kidney beans, 6 slices of wholemeal bread, 1 cup of navy beans 1.5 cups of corn, 1 cup of red beans, 1 cup of brown rice, 2 bagels and 2 tablespoons of peanut butter to get only 108g of protein (also remember that the Genesis 1:29 diet excludes soy products, so the tofu would be out there too – one thing that I do agree with).

The aforementioned athlete would have to consume an extra 2300kcal worth of food to the omnivorous athlete.

A second argument from George Malkmus was “if a person gets enough carbohydrates then they will have enough protein”. Really?

Vegetarians are notorious for being deficient in certain amino acids, leucine and isoleucine which, for vegetarians can be supplied only through spirulina (a form of seaweed) nuts and snap peas, lentils, pulses and chick peas. Of these the latter half have properties which make them less than optimal, containing anti nutrients which make digestion of them inefficient and are once again higher in carbohydrate than the more common sources.

“Meat, along with certain species of fish and seafood, is a rich source of taurine, an important amino acid whose concentration in eggs, milk, and plant foods ranges from negligible to none (Laidlow SA, Pasantes-Morales H). Taurine is found in high concentrations in the heart, brain, and central nervous system, where it helps stabilize the cellular response to nervous stimulation. Taurine possesses antioxidant capabilities and has been shown in double-blind clinical trials to improve cardiac function in patients with congestive heart failure (Schaffer SW, Azuma J, Azuma J)”.

According to Vegetarian Resource Group meeting amino acid needs is not difficult, after all you only need to eat 6 and a half potatoes, or 15 and half cups of brown rice to meet your needs…better start peeling!

As shown above the amount of food required to meet protein requirements is huge, not only that but the carbohydrate load from the foods consumed is notably higher than any meat source which contains carbohydrate in negligible amounts at most.

The third point raised in the interview was as follows “when we violate that law of 100% raw vegan, as we did when Adam and Eve left the garden of Eden, that is when sickness began”. George argues that the raw vegan diet should be used to cure illness and disease, and there is even a ‘recovery diet' over at his site, but there also stands a huge body of evidence behind the effectiveness of a ketogenic diet (65% fat, 30% protein, 5% carbohydrate) on a number of diseases including kidney disease, Alzheimer's, autism, cancerous tumor growth and it is already the default nutritional therapy for epilepsy sufferers.

Take the following case study, published in  Nutrition and Metabolism April 2010, in which a patient was given a ketogenic diet for treatment of a tumor.

“Prior to initiation of the standard therapy, the patient conducted water-only therapeutic fasting and a restricted 4:1 (fat: carbohydrate + protein) ketogenic diet that delivered about 600 kcal/day. The patient also received the restricted ketogenic diet concomitantly during the standard treatment period. The diet was supplemented with vitamins and minerals. Steroid medication (dexamethasone) was removed during the course of the treatment. The patient was followed using MRI and positron emission tomography with fluoro-deoxy-glucose (FDG-PET).

After two months treatment, the patient's body weight was reduced by about 20% and no discernable brain tumor tissue was detected using either FDG-PET or MRI imaging. Biomarker changes showed reduced levels of blood glucose and elevated levels of urinary ketones. MRI evidence of tumor recurrence was found 10 weeks after suspension of strict diet therapy.”

Additionally, as mentioned previously, the glycemic load of the raw vegan diet for obtaining adequate protein has the additional negative of potential insulin related maladies. Alongside the obvious threat of developing type II diabetes, continued exposure to high insulin levels cause premature aging, Alzheimer's (type III diabetes), cancer and fertility problems to name but a few. Add to this the promotion of juicing vegetables and fruits which, due to the loss of all of the fibre, and the fact that the juice if devoid of any protein, now has a substantially higher glycemic index, initiating an even higher insulin response than the fruits or vegetables in their natural state.

Another quote from the interview which I have to take issue with is “If we eliminate animal sources from our diet we can eliminate almost any fear of a heart attack, stroke, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, CVD, osteoporosis, acid stomach, heartburn, allergies and asthma. Almost every single physical problem we go to the Doctor with is caused by consuming these animal products”.

The problems I have with this statement are as follows: as mentioned elsewhere in this post cancer growth is being increasingly linked to sugar consumption, not the consumption of meat. Diabetes is a disorder of glucose tolerance and insulin production, and whilst there is evidence that dairy products can be problematic in the autoimmune destruction of beta cells in the pancreas, it does not make scientific sense for the consumption of meat to be the driving factor behind the disease.

Arthirtis aside from the genetic component is an inflammatory disease. The consumption of large quantities of carbohydrate can be a cause of inflammation as the action of insulin causes a release of prostaglandins which cause inflammation.

There is also the effect of an unfavorable omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acid ratio which contributes to inflammation. The consumption of industrial seed oils, processed foods and overconsumption of nuts and other omega 6 containing foods contributes to arthritis as well as other inflammatory conditions.

Osteoporosis, the loss of bone density to a level that increases the risk of fractures is caused by the loss of calcium from the bones. A problem with the typical Western diet, and something not addressed by the Hallelujah Diet is the role of whole grains in reducing the amount if calcium we are able to absorb from sources such as dark green leafy vegetables.

There is evidence of the role of inflammation, gluten and carbohydrate consumption as well as other environmental factors in a number of diseases prevalent in the Western world, and even more so in autoimmune disorders. Again to go through each of these is outside the scope of this post.

The next criticism I have came up after browsing the Hallelujah Acres website. A question had been submitted asking about the place of fish in the diet. The response to this question was as follows “Fish are not only and usually contaminated with heavy metals like mercury, PCB’s, etc., but have all the other issues associated with animal flesh: no fiber, high in cholesterol, fat, and protein.”

First of all there is no problem with fish not containing fibre, not only should you be getting adequate fibre if you are consuming fresh fruit and vegetables but there is no evidence that a diet lacking in fibre (such as the Inuit population that eat large amounts of fat from whale blubber and protein from fish etc that they catch, without any real source of fibre) has any negative health effects.

Secondly, dietary cholesterol does not correlate with a poor blood cholesterol reading, and although overall cholesterol may be high this is not a problem if the HDL to LDL ratio is skewed in the favor of the high density lipoprotein. High carbohydrate consumption is linked to an increase in LDL and in triglycerides, which are a more accurate marker of metabolic disorder and poor health.

Finally, George seems to have a fear of protein consumption. Protein is a nutrient that we cannot live without consuming (we have essential amino acids, essential fatty acids but no essential carbohydrates) and there is no evidence that a healthy individual cannot consume large amounts of protein without any negative effects (aside from a reduced bank balance), providing there is enough fat to prevent ‘rabbit starvation'.

This negative opinion of protein also seems to have skewed his opinion of the paleo diet. When questioned on this subject he claims the diet to be ‘too high protein' which in another misconception about the diet. The macronutrient ratios are completely down to individual preferences and needs based upon level of activity, goals and current metabolic condition. The paleo diet is a case of food quality, not macronutrient prescription. Although the diet tends to stray into the low carb area due to the absence of grains and processed foods it does not have to be this way if consumption of fruit and sweet potatoes is high, to fuel an intensive exercise regimen.

So, how has this diet helped people when there are so many fundamental flaws in it's design?

I would hypothesize that that the avoidance of carbonated drinks (a leading source of fructose, in the US especially due to the liberal use of HFCS) sugar and sugar containing products, hydrogenated oils and refined grain products is going to be an improvement to many people's diet. Nonetheless an improvement is not the same as an optimal approach, and I would liken it to coming off heroin and smoking tobacco instead.

The link between insulin and the growth of cancerous tumors is becoming more and more obvious, having being overlooked for many years. Diabetes, in which insulin production is compromised, is a known risk factor for developing pancreatic cancer. The studies linking the two are extensive, and it would need a whole new blog post to go into all of the evidence, suffice to say that reducing sugar consumption could have beneficial effects for the avoidance of cancer or further development in those already suffering from the illness.

The focus of fresh vegetables and fruits is another reason why the diet may have benefitted many people. Going from a diet low in the vitamins and minerals contained in fresh produce to one with a higher content is likely to be of benefit to a number of the conditions reported to have been cured by the Hallelujah Acres approach to nutrition. Although this is a positive aspect of the diet I fail to see what added benefit the exclusion of animal protein would have, a paleo diet is equally high in fresh fruit and vegetables but also makes it simple to meet the body's essential amino acid and vitamin B12 needs without having to combine different carbohydrate sources carefully to ensure the full spectrum is covered.

Now for the religious side to the argument, again containing a number of flaws.

The verse again, for those that've forgotten is as follows “And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for [food]”.

This was presented to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and according to George Malkmus when they left the garden sickness began. I would like to point out that when they left the garden sin also began. We see throughout the old testament that when Israel disobeys God the punishment is sent in the form of disease.

So the diet is based on the verse from Genesis the first book of the old Testament. From that point however there are numerous examples not only of of the consumption of meat, but also of it being God's will that we are to do so.

Genesis 9:1-3 says: “Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. The fear and dread of you will fall upon all of the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air, upon every creature that moves along the ground, and upon all the fish of the sea; they are given into your hands. Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, now I give you everything.” This shows a clear instruction and a change in the make-up of the diet. This is impossible to ignore and I fail to understand why the earlier instructions of the Bible are seen as more important, or as being a better guide than the latter verses.

Deuteronomy 14:4 – 6 says: “These are the animals you may eat: the ox, the sheep, the goat, the deer, the gazelle, the roe deer, the wild goat, the ibex, the antelope and the mountain sheep. You may eat any animal that has a divided hoof and that chews the cud.” And verse 9 “Of all the creatures living in the water, you may eat any that has fins and scales” and finally verse 11 “You may eat any clean bird”.

More evidence that God allows us to eat meat, and that it is not sinful to do so.

Moving on to the New Testament we have the following…

Romans 14:2-3 says: “One man's faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The mans who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him” and so not only is it not God's wish, nor a way of making oneself appear more obedient to eat a raw vegan diet but it is also wrong to attack those that do eat meat. At this point I should probably note that I am not judging nor condemning the Hallelujah Acres diet, merely presenting the evidence for why I believe it to be a flawed approach to health and wellbeing, and that using the bible to support the idea if also flawed as there are numerous examples of meat consumption and the instruction from God that it is acceptable to do so.

1 Timothy 4:1 – 3 states:  “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth.”

In addition to these specific verses there are numerous examples of fish being consumed by Jesus in the New Testament. Not only this but one of the most famous stories, that of feeding the 5000 was done so with fish, and as this was one of Jesus' greatest miracles it seems strange that it would use a food source that was against his Father's wishes.

The evidence given above is my reasoning behind thinking that the Hallelujah Diet is less than ideal for health and longevity, or for meeting nutritional needs and preventing disease.

The basis of the diet, Genesis 1:29 is also flawed in that there are several verses after this point which open up new sources of food to the population, beyond the plants outlined in the original verse.”

So what do you think of Tim's response to my interview  with Reverend George Malkmus about Hallelujah Acres and the vegetarian diet? Do you agree? Disagree? Leave your comments and questions below.the

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16 thoughts on ““Real Men Eat Lettuce”: Why A Religion Based Argument For A Vegetarian Diet Could Be Wrong.

  1. Friar Rodney Burnap says:

    How is it that we don’t get it…sin = death, I have been redeemed from sin and death, so why would I want to perpetuate death…of anything after Salvation. It’s a choice, but I have been Redeemed from the Law of Sin and Death… Hallelujah!

    What did Jesus say when the Pharisees questioned him about divorce, and they used the Mosaic law of divorcement against him…Jesus’s reply was, since the beginning it wasn’t so…death has only come upon mankind because of sin, I am redeemed…nothing else needs to die for me…death was ended for the Saint at the cross…I can now go back to the diet that was given to mankind before sin entered into the world, from the beginning death wasn’t so… Genesis 1:29

    I believe because of the hardening of man’s hearts, they did what was unnecessary for them to keep doing…Why do people in the church keep getting divorces, when Christ told the Pharisee from the beginning that’s referring to the Old Testament it wasn’t so?

    But is it okay to keep perpetuating death, when we as God’s Saints have been redeemed from the curse of sin and death…on the Cross of Calvary…?

  2. Mer says:

    I wonder what K.C. Craichey(?) of LivingFuel would say about this. I know he's an egg eater, but I think earlier in his career he had more of a religious (mormon?) basis for his company and has since moved more towards keeping his new book diet-related and not "how to live the right way" related. I'd like to see these two guys in a room!!

  3. Daniel says:

    Thanks Ben, I really like what you have written.

    A couple of books that open my eyes up to similar facts were:

    The vegetarian myth – by lierre keith
    The Perfect health diet – by paul jaminet

    Keep up the good work.

  4. armilegge says:

    This is another excellent example of how an irrational basis for though leads to problems that any reasonable person could see through. I have no problem with religion if it was used like a teddy bear or Binky, something to make you feel better when you're having a hard time.

    The problem arises when people being to make "fact" based decisions from things like holy scripture. Any rational person could see that there is not basis for the claims behind this man (or any other religion's) work.


    You're already a step ahead of the game by referencing the China Study. Most people don't give any citation when defending vegan/vegetarianism, but you are mistaken. The article Tim Provided as well as this one by Chris Masterjohn thoroughly point out the flaws behind Campbell's work. http://www.cholesterol-and-health.com/China-Study…

    You always have to be careful of observational studies. Correlation does not prove causation. If ten people in a room are wearing green, and none of them have cancer, that doesn't mean wearing green prevents cancer. There were numerous variables in the China Study, and I hope you read through that article by Denise Minger thoroughly.

    Thank you for not being afraid to broach a touchy subject and sticking to the facts!

    -Armi Legge

    1. Eric says:

      Armi when you said "I have no problem with religion if it was used like a teddy bear or Binky, something to make you feel better when you're having a hard time." thats fine and all, but it so much more than just some binky, its much much more than that, or else when face with certain death for their beliefs, people would abandon it, because it no longer warm and fuzzy. So for religious people, their wholle life is in the Christ, so I understand why they look to the bible for diet, but most are falace because it is trying to fit things into the bible, instead of what the bible says, as stated in the article, vegetarianism is not supported by the bible. but lets be clear, belief in God it not a binky, and I'm sure that all the people dying for his name sake would disagree too

  5. Tim says:

    Julia: There are a number of problems with the china study, best explained by this extensive blog post – http://rawfoodsos.com/2010/07/07/the-china-study-…

  6. Chef Todd Mohr says:

    You tell 'em Ben! You're right on the money. I'd put my hand on a bible and swear to it!

    As a Chef who has been teaching people to cook for years, I've heard some of the most ridiculous beliefs about food passed down from Grandmother to Mother, to Child.

    What diets like this do efficiently is sell books. The more drastic, the more dramatic, the more curious the public becomes. They think "this is so way out there, it just may work".

    The human body is a complex machine and diets based on what not-to-eat are unsustainable. The word "diet" is not what how you eat for a few weeks in an extreme fashion, it's how and what you eat every day for the rest of your life.

    With the correct amount of exercise and appropriate portioning, you really can eat any wholesome, natural food you want. There's no need for dieting if you practice a good diet.

    Chef Todd Mohr

  7. Julia says:

    Sorry guys Esselstyn (not Cambell) is @ the Clevland Clinic.

    Thanks for the link Tim— I’ll read that)

  8. Julia says:

    I am most impressed by the work of Dr Cambell (Cornell) and Dr Esselstyn, a top surgeon and head of the Breast Cancer Task Force at the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic who found that many of the diseases he routinely treated were virtually unknown in parts of the world where animal-based foods were rarely consumed.

    They are scientists and former carnivores who have studying the benefits of a vegetarian dietin depth. Take a look at the photos and videos of these gentleman and you will see they are very healthy and active 70 somethings. Dr Esselstyn’s son was a pro (vegan) triathlete for 10 years.
    Dr Cambell (Cornell University) and., a top surgeon and head of the Breast Cancer Task Force at the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic, found that many of the diseases he routinely treated were virtually unknown in parts of the world where animal-based foods were rarely consumed.

  9. gymaddict says:

    This whole concept just has me aghast. I guess something just don't cross the Atlantic very well. As a Brit, the concept of applying religion to nutrition is pretty much unthinkable.

  10. Julia says:

    I’m not sure the bible is the1st place to go for nutrition tips.

    As for the benefits of a vegan diet – the china study has made a pretty good arguement for it.
    Plenty of vegans under eat and that’s why many fail. Carl Lewis did pretty well on a vegan diet. As do plenty of endurance athletes.

  11. The Fat Kid says:

    Great article. I know several people who are "grocery store vegetarians", meaning they will only eat meat if they know where it comes from and how it was raised. I think our focus and what we should be "preaching" is Real Food; know what you are eating and how it was grown or raised. If you can't pronounce it, don't eat it. As a Christian, I think God put plants and animals on this earth for us to use to fuel and heal our bodies. Then man screwed it up by manipulating it with chemicals and such.

  12. Melanie says:

    I'm a Christian and I eat meat. I think the fact that Jesus ate fish is compelling enough. Unfortunately, yes, much of it in modern times is contaminated, so we do have to be careful. However, I know Ben and many of his guests suggest eating organic meat and wild caught fish and being careful about toxic meat.
    I like the Paleo type diets, but I disagree that you can eat just any meat/seafood that you want. From a Biblical perspective the verses from Deuteronomy suggest eating clean animals. Pigs, catfish, shrimp, and some others are considered scavengers that eat crap and thus we should avoid eating these. From a more science perspective, I don't believe (I could be wrong) that the nutritional benefits of pork, catfish, or shrimp outweigh the nutritional benefits of salmon, beef, or chicken. I'd rather have the more nutritious meats than simply trying to justify why it might be okay to eat pork ribs. I personally say no to pork both from a religious and health perspective. However, I don't think eating pork is going to send you to hell.
    Just my thoughts, Melanie

  13. Kate says:

    Really interesting article. Appreciate the Highlighting of many biblical examples that suggest exclusive vegan consumption is not required .my sentiments exactly. We don’t have stomachs like cows for a reason I guess :)

  14. Tim McCune says:

    Thanks Ben, appreciate the support of what i'm doing. The link to my blog doesnt actually work, think it's because it should be www.realmeneatlettuce.blogspot.com.

    thanks again

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