Many vegans choose to eat a plant-source only diet for reasons other than personal health, but the reality is long-term success on a plant-based diet requires meeting certain basic nutritional needs, just like long-term success on any diet does. In my 40 years experience as a leading holistic health practitioner and medical doctor, I have seen people with all body types do very, very well with a plant-based diet, but only one that incorporates supplementation. Here, I discuss the ways in which we’re all deficient without supplementation, as well as the specific ways Vegan Mainstream readers can benefit from incorporating certain supplements into their diets, and how to live a long, healthy, plant-fueled ethical life.
Many meat eaters claim that a vegan diet is insufficient without supplementation. While this is true, a meat-centered diet is also insufficient without supplementation. Meat-eaters require supplementation just as much as vegans.
Studies continue to emerge linking meat-centered diets and chronic disease. If plant-source-only eaters have less chronic diseases than meat-eaters, why don’t they live significantly longer? One of main reasons for this is carnosine deficiency. What is carnosine? Carnosine is two amino acids, L-histadine and alanine, linked. It is a dipeptide that acts as a very powerful antioxidant. Most importantly, it prevents glycoselation. Glycoselation, as one of the main factors in aging, creates cross-linkages, inflammation, free radicals, destroys protein function, and inhibits enzymes. It pertains to diabetes, since glucose reacts with proteins.
It naturally links with them—that’s why the A1C test will tell you the rate of glycoselation and the aging process. Carnosine positively affects arteries, cataracts, and cross-linkages for wrinkling of skin. The brain has very high levels of carnosine, which protects it against inflammation, amyloidal deposits, and Alzheimer’s disease. Carnosine is very important in protecting us from brain degeneration. It also protects arteries, specifically the arteries in the brain, from glycoselation, or atherosclerosis of the brain.
Vegans are low in carnosine. Actually, they don’t have any, because it comes from meat. However, meat eaters don’t get enough carnosine either! A recent study showed that when people ate 7 oz of meat, (a big steak), it raised carnosine levels 448 units, but after 5 ½ hours there was no carnosine detectable. This depletion occurs because there is an enzyme the body uses to break down carnosine. This enzyme operates in a way that would require you to eat 7 ounces of steak three times daily in order to get adequate carnosine from a meat source. So, meat eaters are also deficient in carnosine, but not as deficient as vegans. Research is suggesting that we need at least 1000 mg of carnosine daily to overcome this enzymatic reaction and to reach carnosine levels that are adequate to protect the body against glycoselation, aging, and to protect the brain and body against diabetes.
When proteins are glycoselated, they give off 50 times more free radicals. Free radicals are one of the driving forces behind aging, because they oxidize the system. You could try eating three steaks a day, but that’s not so healthy, and dramatically increases your potential for chronic disease. The solution is simple. There is a readily available, eat-to-use source of vegan carnosine—just ¼ teaspoon per day will give you 1000 mg. We recommend this for meat-eaters, too, since everyone needs it.
Many people have heard that vegans are low in B-12. That’s absolutely true. Meat-eaters are deficient, too. There is a minimum level of B-12 you need to survive and a maximum level that is optimal for long-term health. At the minimum level, (180-200 nano-grams of B-12), 80% of vegans are deficient, but 40% of meat eaters are deficient at these levels as well. When you look at optimal intake of B-12, (400 units in your blood), meat eaters are equally deficient. It is likely that 90% of meat eaters and vegans are deficient at optimal levels. The best thing for everyone is to take a B-12 supplement. When I was at Columbia Medical School in the 1960’s, they did a study that found that 30% of people judged to have adequate B-12 levels (mostly meat-eaters), had dramatically positive responses to getting B-12 shots. Depression went away, and sense of wellbeing was reported in many study participants. Even in 1960’s they knew that on average people are low in B-12. I just want to emphasize the point that everybody is low in B-12. It is a big problem.
Why is this a big deal? People who are B-12 deficient have more brain shrinkage. With age, your brain begins to shrink. We can protect against a lot of shrinkage through simple B-12 supplementation.
Vitamin D helps protect you from 50-70% of cancers, diabetes and helps mothers who are pregnant have 50% less premature babies, which is significant since premature babies are not going to be as healthy. We know that 100% of kids under one year old are vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D provides protection against flu. It protects against 50-70% cancers, diabetes, helps mothers have normal deliveries, and also facilitates healthy brain function and cognition. Research suggests meat eaters and vegetarians—somewhere between 50-85% —are deficient in vitamin D. Everybody needs to take a vitamin D supplement, whether you’re a meat eater or vegan. Along with vitamin D, vitamin A helps vitamin D work better. Vitamin A, Vitamin D, and Vitamin K work together in concert. Vegans and meat eaters tend to be low in vitamin K. Let’s look at Vitamin A as an example. Between 27 and 46% of people in the population have very poor conversion of beta-carotene to retinol (the pro-vitamin A). That means that individuals supplementing with beta-carotene are only getting a 9% conversion into its essential, useable components. If you’re part of the approximately 40% who don’t convert, you won’t get enough vitamin A, and we all need vitamin A to survive. Fifty per cent of people are meat eaters and vegans are deficient in vitamin A. We need it for a variety of things—immune system, intestinal immune system and so forth, so you can see vitamin A supplementation is crucial.
At this time, we don’t have a really good vegan source of vitamin A, but we’re in the process of developing one. What’s missing is a particular enzyme that converts beta-carotene into retinol. Roughly 40% of the population is low in that enzyme. A synthetic retinol is available, and studies aren’t all that clear in terms of long-term health benefits. Synthetics are generally not ideal sources of nutrients. We are currently figuring out a non-synthetic, vegan supplement that will be available in the future.
What about magnesium? Eighty per cent of the population is low in magnesium. In 1936, the U.S. congress found that 99% of the U.S. population had some mineral deficiencies. Whether a meat eater or a vegan, it’s clear there is a need for general mineral supplementation. Simple things that are concentrated, like Ocean’s Alive marine phytoplankton, are great sources of magnesium and other essential nutrients.
Other important nutrients to consider are Omega 3 long-chain fatty acids. Research shows 90% of pregnant women are deficient in Omega 3. We see a high incidence of depression and post-partum depression in individuals who don’t get enough DHA. Babies who don’t get enough DHA have poorer brain development and poorer vision. Meat-eaters and vegans are deficient. Since 2.6% of the population is vegetarian and .05% is vegan, it’s safe to assume a population study that shows pregnant women are deficient includes predominantly meat-eaters. That’s a reasonable conclusion. Where should we get DHA? Two per cent of fish oil has DHA. Where do fish get it? Golden algae. There are several supplements, Omega Zen and V-pure, which have DHA and EPA, (another long-chain Omega 3 you need).
We find that individuals with manic depression need a lot more Omega 3. The problem with fish oil is that it’s only 2%, it gets rancid, and anything from fish is highly contaminated with pesticides and herbicides. The conversion with coconut oil will give you at least 5%, which is very good. You can easily get enough Omega 3’s with Omega Zen or V-pure. It’s great that we have really safe, adequate, non-oxidized versions that we get directly from algae.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that none of the diets are adequate without supplementation, given what’s going on in world. Everyone needs to take these basic things. The optimum diet is one that makes you a superconductor for the Divine. That means adhering to at least an 80% live food, plant-source-only diet. None of this matters, however, if being in alignment with the Divine is unimportant to you. Many meat-eaters admit they’re not interested in this. Many people on typical meat-centered diets, as well as the fad, live, feral, meat diets aren’t interested in morality or spirituality. They have admitted that they like being in the lust of the hunt and so forth.
From an evolutionary perspective not everyone is interested in upgrading his or her diet to promote spiritual growth. The optimum spiritual diet, outlined in Genesis 1:29, is mostly live, and plant-source-only. It is about not spilling blood, not creating misery and suffering, and that’s just on moral grounds. As the Torah implies, people may not be ready for this evolved spiritual diet. In the time of Noah (pre-flood era) people were cannibalistic. At that point in time, the teaching was that the Divine lowered the moral standard dictating that people wouldn’t be cannibals, but could eat meat, which was a step down from killing and eating other humans. It was implied that at some point people would become morally and ethically refined to see animals have souls and move into a more evolved diet.
Meat-centered diets are equally deficient as vegan diet and everybody needs supplements. Everyone needs B-12, carnosine, vitamin D, vitamin A, DHA and magnesium, including meat eaters. That discussion hasn’t been had because vegans are on the defensive! Everybody has to have a diet that works. Some people indeed need more protein, but they don’t need meat—they need the highest-quality plant protein, such as offered in spirulina and chlorella, blue-green algae, and E3 live. These are 60-70% protein with 40% absorbability. Meat, fish and chicken are only 14, 15, and 16% absorbable. It is quite easy for people who need more protein to thrive on a vegan diet. We’ve documented 98.99% success rates of people who are doing a vegan diet, no matter what their constitution, as long as diets are individualized.
Veganism can be problematic if it involves a high complex-carbohydrate, moderately low-fat diet. This is not the best diet, and deserves to be attacked. A high sugar diet is not the best for longevity, and certainly not the best for diabetes. The best diet is plant-based fat that hasn’t been cooked at high temperatures. Here is an example of how research findings get distorted: Meat-centered diet proponents argue that many studies showed Eskimos did well on meat. This is true, but the Eskimos ate raw meat. Once they started cooking meat, heart disease rates went up dramatically.
Evolutionary trends are showing that we are moving towards a global vegan diet. It’s meant to be that way. It’s a biblical prophecy, and part of preparing for the prophesized wide-scale moral refinement.
I recommend you determine your metabolic type. (Note: In my book Conscious Eating, I have an in-depth quiz to help you determine your metabolic type. You can also get testing done that shows you exactly how you assimilate different foods to a high degree of precision.) I recommend a diet of 50% plant-based fats, which is most protective, having little protein or complex carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables, adjusting these levels according to your specific constitution. Protein breaks down to 100% sugar.
The 1986 Diabetes Journal published research that indicated a quarter pound of meat will raise fasting insulin levels as much as quarter pound of white sugar. You may need more protein based on your constitution because there are other factors besides blood sugar. More or less complex carbohydrates may be necessary, which I recommend getting through greens. It is also important to get adequate pure water. There isn’t much ability to control organic meat, because toxins are concentrated in animal products. Therefore, there is no such thing as organic meat, only more or less toxic meat. The irony is that so-called free-range animals are probably more toxic because they’re outside being exposed to toxins. Choosing organic, mostly live, plant-based nutrition, knowing your constitution, taking supplements, not eating too much—remember, you can eat the best food in the world and if you eat it in excess that still isn’t good for the body—will provide you with the optimal diet for your health and spiritual evolution, as well as the ecological and spiritual wellbeing of the planet.
Dr. Gabriel Cousens M.D. (http://www.gabrielcousens.com) is one of the world’s foremost authorities on living food nutrition, holistic lifestyle and complementary medicine. He is Founder/director of the Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center in Patagonia, Arizona. He received his M.D. degree from Columbia Medical School in 1969 and completed his psychiatry residency in 1973. He uses the modalities of live-food nutrition, naturopathy, Ayurveda, homeopathy and acupuncture, blended with spiritual awareness, in the healing of body, mind and spirit. He is the best-selling author of Conscious Eating, Depression-Free for Life, Spiritual Nutrition and the Rainbow Diet, as well as several other books.