Why I Am Not A Vegetarian: The China Study

I am not now, and have never been, a vegetarian.

OK, that’s not entirely true, I flirted with vegetarianism briefly a few decades ago, right around the time I was also experimenting with sideburns and dashikis. But for most of my adult life- and certainly for all the time I’ve been a nutritionist- I’ve been an unrepentant consumer of animal products.

It’s not that I’m not sympathetic to the animal welfare folks- in fact, I count myself among them (it’s a big tent, folks!) I belong to just about every animal activist group on the planet and care deeply about animal welfare. But while I share with my vegan friends a deep concern for all sentient beings, I happen to believe that we humans do better with some animal products in our diet.

Of course, God is in the details, so let me be a little more specific.

Despite arguments to the contrary, the fact remains that we humans are omnivores. We can eat- and thrive- on most anything edible. And for all of the 2.4 million years the human genus has been on the planet, we have eaten from what I call the “Jonny Bowden Four Food Groups”—food we could have hunted, fished, gathered or plucked. The exact proportions of animal vs. vegetable food that we consumed varied widely depending on where we lived. The Inuit, for example, thrived on a diet largely consisting of seal meat and whale blubber (very few vegetables grow in the freezing cold) while the Bantu of South Africa thrived on a diet very high in carbohydrates and the Masai did quite well on a diet rich with cow’s blood.

But it’s almost impossible to point to a society or a culture that has thrived and prospered without eating any animal products. (The only group I can think of that does it successfully is Tibetian monks, and they don’t reproduce.) When Dan Buettner did his landmark research on the areas of the globe where there are the greatest numbers of healthy centenarians (areas known as “The Blue Zones”) he found that three of the four societies studied did indeed eat meat (albeit not that much of it). The only exception was the Seventh Day Adventists in Loma Linda.

Despite vegan and vegetarian wishful thinking, some nutrients are simply not adequately represented in a vegetarian or vegan diet. Although the vegans will tell you otherwise, you simply can’t absorb any reasonable amount of bioavailable B12 from plant foods. Sorry. (And this is not just my opinion. The Encyclopedia of Dietary Supplements, put together by a blue ribbon committee of scholars from the National Institutes of Health says “Because vitamin B12 is found only in animal source foods, strict vegetarianism has long been associated with a greater risk of deficiency of this vitamin”.) Heme iron, the most absorbable form of iron, is found only in animal foods.  And while vegetarians love to point to plant based sources of omega-3 fats like flax, the truth is that the overwhelming majority of studies on the health benefits of omega-3’s have been done on the two omega-3’s found in fish- EPA and DHA. The benefits of the omega-3 in flax, ALA, are far less clear.

So what about all those studies showing horrible things happen to meat eaters?

Well, this is a blog, not a book, so to go into depth about all the problems that “link” meat eating to bad things would take dozens and dozens of pages. Certainly, when you investigate dietary patterns you find that heavy meat eating is associated with a higher risk of certain bad outcomes, for example, prostate cancer. But in virtually every epidemiologic study ever done that links meat eating to bad outcomes, what’s missing is the fact that the “meat eaters” are

  1. getting their meat from factory farmed sources, meat that is loaded with hormones, steroids and antibiotics
  2. usually not eating very many vegetables or fruits
  3. usually eating very low amounts of fiber
  4. living very high stress lives with multiple risk factors

There has yet to be a study showing that reasonable amounts of grass-fed meat, wild fish, free-range eggs and other non-contaminated animal protein sources consumed as part of a diet high in fiber, vegetables, fruits and omega-3 fats, is associated with any bad outcomes at all. Quite the contrary.

And before you bring it up, let me address “The China Study”.

The “China Study” refers to a popular book that came out in 2005 by Professor T. Colin Campbell. Campbell was a researcher on a massive project called “The China Project” (also known as the China Study). Campbell’s book is not “The China Study” despite having the same name as the original. Rather, his book contains his conclusions about the research. Those conclusions can be summed up as this: protein is really bad for you, animal protein is the worst of all, a vegan diet is the healthiest diet on earth, and every nutrient you need you can get from plants.

The book is frequently used by vegans and vegetarians to “prove” that a vegetarian diet is healthier than any on the planet, and that protein- especially animal protein- is bad for you. They consider the book “conclusive proof” of that position.

To repeat: Colin Campbell’s book “The China Study” is not the actual China Study (also known as the China Project). The “real”, full-length study is titled “Diet, life-style, and mortality in China: A study of the characteristics of 65 Chinese counties [Chen J].”; it’s an enormously thick and difficult book that gathered data on 367 variables across 65 countries involving 6500 adults and yielding over 8,000 statistically significant associations. The popular book “China Study” by Campbell represents, as mentioned, his conclusions about this data – conclusions which have been fiercely debated, by the way. He uses hand selected, cherry picked data from the study to support his rabid pro-vegan position and leaves out everything that contradicts it.

(Campbell is associated with Physicians for Responsible Medicine, a vegan animal rights group masquerading as a responsible medical organization.)

It’s interesting that no one with a research background takes Campbell’s work very seriously. It’s too easy to spot the biases, the methodological problems, the cherry-picking and the spinning. And some statements are so patently ridiculous that all you can do is roll your eyes. (Example: “Eating foods that contain any cholesterol above 0 mg is unhealthy”.) But this is not the place to take Campbell’s book apart. For those who are interested in hearing “the other side” to Campbell’s propaganda—excuse me, I mean arguments—I suggest the excellent article by Chris Masterjohn on the Weston A. Price Foundation website, or you can find a version of it here:

There is also the stunning debate between Professor Loren Cordain, PhD and Campbell which you can find all over the internet by googling “The Protein Debate: Loren Cordain and T. Colin Campbell”. Highly worth reading. As is the comments by my good friend Michael Eades, MD, on the debate.

I have a personal story about Campbell which I think is pretty amusing. Campbell- who is a very charming and sincere man, by the way- came to speak at the Boulderfest Conference in Nutritional Medicine, a group not known for it’s affinity for veganism and high carb diets. (It was actually quite brave of him to come and speak to this group.) At the end of the day, there was a panel discussion in which all the speakers of the day sat at a dais on the stage and participated in a Q and A with the audience, including Campbell.

At one point, defending his “anti-animal protein” position, Campbell quoted a study done at Harvard University which, he said, had reached the exact same conclusion that he, Campbell, had reached. Even Harvard researchers agreed with him, was the implication.

A man sitting at the other end of the dais got up and introduced himself. “Excuse me, Dr. Campbell”, said the man.”I happened to be the lead researcher on that study you mentioned. And we made no such conclusions” It was David Ludwig, MD, of Harvard University.

So yes, I continue to struggle with the issue of how animals that are raised for food are treated. And no, I can never recommend factory-farmed feedlot meat to anyone. But I still believe that there is nothing inherently more healthy about a vegetarian diet, which, after all, could still qualify as vegetarian even if it consisted exclusively of pasta and Captain Crunch.

And I do believe that a diet with reasonable amounts of grass fed meat, plenty of wild fish, whole eggs from free-range chickens, raw organic milk, lots of omega-3’s, tons of vegetables, some low-sugar fruits, nuts, avocados, berries, real fermented foods like sauerkraut, miso and yogurt, olives and the occasional slice of truly whole-grain bread is a hard diet to beat for overall vitality.

At least it is for me.

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  • cheryl

    I live in the country and although I’m not up to raising my own milk yet (I have a puny goat herd), but I can get raw milk from the farmer down the road. I whip up pastured eggs in the raw milk in the morning with a little almond extract and a shake of cinnamon. No sugar. It is delicious and will keep you going until about 2:00 in the afternoon.

    It is great to raise chickens. They are easy, cheap to raise. Goats are fun. In the summer they both only need a bit of cracked corn, and in the winter hay and oats and the corn and a salt lick.

    Now if I can just get my property taxes paid so I can stay here!

  • I think there is a place for being a part time vegetarian for a number of reasons including health and conservation.
    It has never made any sense to me to be 100% vegetarian or even vegan.
    Each to their own I suppose.

  • dave

    Hi Johnny,

    What I find interesting about the “China Study” is that it also compltely contradicts everything that my Chinese friends tell me about what they eat “back home”. Fish, eggs, chickens, and pork, PORK! They love all of these things, they’d love more beef too when they can afford it. China is one of the least vegetarian countries on Earth.

    A minor aside- Tibetean monks eat meat, and dairy. They live in high, high mountians, and it’s hard to live on vegetables up there, as some of my Tibetean Buddhist friends liked to chide me while I was a vegan. Buddhist monks in other Asian countries often practice vegetarianism, but in Tibet they eat meat.

    Great article thanks!

    • Alex

      And, China has gotten more obese. The China Study isn’t “how Chinese people eat plants,” it’s “Chinese people in the past ate traditional diets which varied strongly, so we looked at how certain diets correlated with health.”

    • Mike

      No one is claiming that everyone in China is a vegetarian. What Campbell et al. are proposing is a gradient where more animal products associate with more disease. On one end of the spectrum, you have the wealthy urban Chinese who eat lots of animal products, and on the other end of the spectrum, who have the rural Chinese who eat mostly rice and vegetables, and treat meat and dairy like a condiment. Whether or not more animal products really do associate with more disease in the China Study monograph is up for debate. But the bottom line is that you simply don’t understand the study.

      • I understand the study very well. Rather than explain it here, i humbly suggest you check out my lengthy chapter in the new edition of “Living Low Carb” which has a new chapter in it called “What About The China Study?”


        • Breanna T

          It seems so very “low in thinking” to live low carb when you can eat literally all you want as much as you want when you go vegan. We don’t just jump on our food and start eating it we have to cook it in order for our bodies to be some what okay with it. I’m not a vegetarian, although I do believe that we are not supposed to eat meat(don’t even get me started on milk) but I have thought this for years and it’s not just a thought but a feel as well. Also I don’t understand how someone can call them selves an animal lover of ALL SENTIENT BEINGS and then not give a shit while eating their “nutritious” meat and then care again afterwards???

  • Dr. Bowden,

    In your last paragraph, you make it seem so easy to eat properly and healthy. However, confusion reigns.

    By way of example, you state to eat grass fed meat. In theory, that’s great. In the real world, we know 99% of our meat is raised on factory farms. So, grass fed meat is not readily available and it is much more expensive. Possibly, a better alternative is to eat less meat.

    Then you go on to say eat plenty of wild fish. Yep, everyone says that. So, I was told the only truly wild salmon is Sockeye. Well, after a little investigation, I was told that Sockeye, can in fact be farm raised. Of course, most salmon is farm raised and much comes from Norway. And with some investigation, it appears that the Norway connection is one of ruining our salmon supply and environment.

    Next, it’s on to free-range eggs. What’s the definition of free-range? Are they truly in the wild and allowed to be outdoors? Or can the eggs state free-range, but be factory farmed? I’ve also been told by the experts to pay about a dollar or so for these delicious eggs. Wow, that’s a lot of money for an egg. Personally, I have not found free-range eggs to be any more delicious than the standard egg sold in my highly-processed supermarket. As a side note, I do have a friend who raises hens that produce free-range eggs. Fortunately, I get them for free.

    So, while I’ve done thousands of hours of research into the American food system, I don’t expect the average person to do so. Thus, eating in America is a crap-shoot at every level.

    Bottom line, eat lots of fruits and veggies…protein and fiber…to create satiety, and while the government won’t say it, I will: “Eat less meat.”

    As always, thank you for your thoughtful information.

    Ken Leebow
    Feed Your Head

    • DH

      Wow, you have done thousands of hours of research and only ‘heard’ that the only wild salmon is the Sokeye? Where did all the farmed salmon come from? The wild. And they are still in the wild, and commercially fished every year. In fact, farmed Pink Salmon for example does not lend itself to canning, the meat of the farmed Pink Salmon falls apart during the canning process, so that one is usually wild. Quick look at the label will tell you, should tell you. If it does not, do something. Contact the manufacturer and demand proper labelling. Like dolphin safe or not for tuna. Free range farm eggs around here cost about $4 a dozen, organic eggs at the supermarket close to $6, regular eggs just over $3 a dozen. This bit of research would have only required a supermarket visit. Ken, with your statements, how can anyone trust what you say. If anything, you are the biggest support for Jonny’s article above.

      While I live in an area where free range, hormone and antibiotic free meats of any kind are readily available, I have had problems finding the same during my travels. These types of meat are not (yet) easily available to the masses, especially where high volumes of food are needed. With more knowledge about good quality meat sources hopefully that too will change.

    • Bernadette


      First, I want to say I agree with you that eating right takes some work. But the more you learn, the more you look around, the easier it gets. And it’s all GOOD. Your well-being is the pay-off 🙂

      I found out the salmon in most seafood cases in most grocery stores are farm-raised, but after rummaging around in the frozen seafood, reading labels, I find “wild caught” in small print on the back of the package.

      And I recommend you google around for farmer’s markets in your area. That has lead me to some great local finds. If you ask people, and tell them you are willing to buy these things, they can be willing to bring it to market. I now get fresh, hand churned butter that’s never seen any machinery (YUM!) produced by an Amish community in my area. And I buy local eggs. They even tell me what day the hens laid the eggs 🙂 Heh. Imagine that.

      And yeah, I’ve had days that I’ve prepared a delicious. healthy lunch to take with me to work, and forgot it! Or just too busy to put something together. And trying to find something healthful in a short amount of time, can really be a disaster some days, but just think of it as a speedbump in your healthful eating path. No one is perfect.

      Good luck!

    • Simon


      Very good points! I used to spend a fortune on organic produce, until I lost my job! Now I have to do what I can to eat healthy as possible! For the average person we can’t afford to eat grass fed meat, top quality eggs etc etc. I actually am about 90% vegetarian not by choice but because I can’t afford “Jonny’s Diet”!!!

    • Nkb

      It’s actually fairly easy to find grass fed beef and dairy, as well as free range eggs and chicken if you live near any major city. Whole Foods sells several varieties of each. You’re correct that it’s more expensive, but most Americans are eating 10x more meat than they should, so buying a lot less of something a little more expensive (& a lot healthier) isn’t as far out as you make it seem. Farmers markets are another place to find excellent quality eggs and animal protein. I don’t think you’ve actually done the extensive research you claim to have done.

  • savvas s

    what do you mean by vegetariansim? veganism or vegetarianism? i eat meat, and i dont see that big a difference between being “vegetarian” (eating eggs, dairy, etc.) and eating all animal products. Being vegan however, seems WAY different

  • Brenda

    Great Post Jonny!!!! I have heard about a book called The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability (Paperback) that came out last year is a good book on this subject. I have not read it but want to. I agree this Jonny on this subject!!!

  • That is pretty interesting… but I never understood way people were so adamant about being a vegetarian. Just like you did, you look at other cultures (even from the past) to see what they ate. Well just look at our teeth. If we were meant to be vegetarians from our ancestory then I don’t think we would have the selection of sharp cutting teeth that we have.

    That would be interesting to look around at different cultures and compare their teeth to see if it reflects their diets.

    Interesting post though.

    • Iliana

      Have you ever thought that maybe our teeth evolved and became sharper as we started eating more meat?

    • Tony Cazorla

      Ok, that is not a valid comment, your wrong, we have big and flattened incisors, (carnivores and omnivores have short and pointed incisors) and we have flattened molars (carnv and omnv have blade shaped and cruishing molars).
      We got Alkaline urine and saliva, we walk upright, prehensile hands, small mouth opening, no shear, big salivary glands, not secrete uricase, weak hydrochloric acid, we require fibra to stimulate peristalsis, sweat glands in the body to control temperature, intestine 9 times body length, complete digestion from 12 to 18hrs, NOT EVEN A SINGLE SIMILITUDE WITH CARNIVORES OR OMNIVORES.
      We can talk all day about the differences between omnivores and human being, we are more like herbivores and frugivorous, ITS A FACT. And yes, Im Vegan, I know that you dont like that word guys, but I cant stand animal suffering, just because the taste of their dead corpses. Get SOME INFORMATION PEOPLE !! And YES, you can get B12 from natural water and natural veggies and fruits, dont spread wrong information. Do you guys think that the animals we are used to eat, do you think that they magically get B12 ? No… Sorry for my bad english.

      • erik

        @ tony- These are great FACTS- everyone else here doesnt seem to get the facts- we ARE NOT MEANT TO INTAKE ANY ANIMAL PRODUCTS! -Just because our ancestors have in the past, doesnt mean squat! They lived shorter lives and died mostly to unrelated reasons- BUT! it doesnt mean that they didnt have disease, it just means that they were living with slower ailing process which was undetected and most likely died way before the slow moving problems could take a toll- We dont live in those days anymore and to say that we can live like that is just stupid. So many variables have changed! how do they think this is possible! I dunno- …peace-

  • Jon Styre

    Jonny – thanks for some insite into the “The China Study” by T. Collin Campbell – the book has certainly used and quoted by many to convince others that meat protein is the worst substance you can put into your body – even Whey protein is considered by many to be posion to your system. I appreciate your over balance on diet.

  • YES! Great article. I especially agree with the “pasta and Captain Crunch” bit. I’ve known too many self-proclaimed vegetarians who pat themselves on the back when they order grilled cheese and fries at a restaurant instead vegetables and fruit. Feelings about the treatment of animals and meat production aside, I’m of the opinion that any change you make to your diet should be done with the intention of optimizing your own health *first*. It should never be an afterthought.
    .-= Tamara´s last blog ..Break-Schmreak. =-.

    • Vanessa

      While I do know some poorly educated vegetarians who eat plenty of cheese pizza and jalapeño poppers, I have to say that restaurant settings are a bitch for vegetarians and impossible for vegans. Oftentimes the only thing we can order is a horrible salad or French fries. I once went to a place that couldn’t change any of their menu items because they all came pre-packaged and were just popped in the oven.

  • Thank you, Dr. Jonny.

    Once again you’ve provided me with a great resource and verified my natural beliefs. It’s not all or nothing with meat – it’s in what form and how much that is important. I don’t believe in mistreating animals for any reason.

    The website that I’ve included is a great source of grass-fed beef products (and a lot of information about healthier eating). Two pounds of ground beef, for example, costs just $5.08 right now. That’s a great price. You can select any cut you want, but you just pay shipping (so ordering in bulk spreads out that shipping cost – plus you get big discounts). They ship to every state. Maybe some like-minded people can come together to form a meat co-op and really save?!

    Thanks again for providing me evidence, research, expert advice, and other tools to defend my position about my diet. You are my favorite healthy living guru!


    • Thank you Rachel. I also would like to put in a plug for the company I like as well- US Wellness Meats which can be found through a link in my online store under “Healthy Foods”.


  • Zach

    Saying that humans have been eating meat for 2.4 million years and therefore we need to continue to do it is not a valid argument. Humans also used to wear nothing but loin cloths and use outhouses. Does that mean we should get rid of jeans and indoor plumbing? In today’s society, sacrificing an innocent animal’s life is no longer necessary in order to stay healthy.

    Meat is not the only source of vitamin B12, good multivitamins have plenty. As for iron, iron deficiency is rarely ever a risk for men and much more commonly, men will actually overconsume iron which can lead to a lot of negative health consequences. And women are always at a risk for iron deficiency, regardless if they are a vegetarian or not, and thus should be consuming iron-fortified multivitamins either way. Fish are not the only source of EPA/DHA, they actually get these omega-3’s from the algae that they eat. Vegetarian EPA/DHA supplements are available that are derived from this algae. Since consuming ample amounts of omega-3’s is virtually impossible in today’s society without taking some form of supplements, this aspect should be no different for vegetarians than it is for omnivores. Also, humanely raised chickens can also produce eggs that are high in DHA. You could also make an argument that vegetarians typically consume less creatine, beta-alanine, zinc, and acetyl-carnitine, but once again, all of these are available in supplement form and should often be supplemented in omnivores as well as vegetarians, making the distinction nonexistent. And needless to say, it is not difficult to consume enough complete protein without having to eat meat. I’m a vegetarian bodybuilder and I easily consume nearly 300 g of protein everyday from organic unpasteurized dairy from grass-fed cows, omega-3 enriched eggs, and occasionally some quinoa or tempeh. If you don’t believe it’s possible, tell that to guys like Bill Pearl or Mike Mahler.

    I will agree with you that Dr. Campbell’s arguments are severely flawed, and when animals are raised humanely in their natural environment, they can be very healthy to consume. However, healthy is NOT synonymous with ethical. I imagine if someone were to kill and eat your family, you would be fairly upset, even if eating your family was “healthy” for that person. Autistic or mentally impaired children don’t look or think the same way as we do, but we don’t kill and eat them, do we? Even if somebody is less mentally acute, they can still feel pain. Why should animals be treated any differently?

    • very thoughtful and reasonable arguments. Believe me i’m no fan of killing animals, but each person has to make their own personal decision about where to draw the line. For example I would never, ever wear a fur coat, but recognize that there is a certain inconsistency in that position if I’m still willing to eat beef occasionally. And it can go all the way down to would you kill a cockroach… i guess i’ve just made peace with the fact that this is an almost unsolvable, very difficult philosophical issue that doesn’t permit easy, black and white answers. At least not for me. Thank you for sharing your thoughtful opinions.


      • Tony Cazorla

        Excuse me but is stupid to say that every people has to make their own decisions, THAT IS NOT A RIGHT when there are animals dying every second. ITS UNFAIR !! More than 150 Billion animals slaughtered evry year !! THAT IS SICK, Im with Zach, thanks Zach.

      • Martin Andersson

        What about the other argument that Zach posts about supplements and there not really being any distinction between a vegetarian diet and a non-vegetarian diets since both rely on supplements? LCHF-dieters, for example, still rely on some supplements, like magnesoim, even though they still bash plant based diets for being nutritionally flawed?

  • Lynn

    How do you feel about whole milk dairy versus low fat?
    Thank you in advance for your thoughts.

    • I have zero affinity for no-fat anything (yogurt, milk, etc); SOME tolerance for reduced fat ONLY because of the calories not because of the fat. And i think the whole issue is minor compared to the one of “raw” vs “homogenized, pasteurized”. When it was still possible to buy raw milk in California supermarkets, i always bought the full fat kind.


      • Rob

        My father was told (back in the 60’s) to drink full fat milk for his stomach ulcer. Such great advice back then huh? He ate steak 3 times per week as well. Loved his eggs, bacon and buttered toast. By the time he was 60 he had a double-bypass procedure.

        My experience with LCHF was spent watching my cholesterol levels go up and up and angina pains that soon followed. I got smart and switched to a low fat, plant-based diet. The only dairy I’ll touch these days is the very same type that you revile – skim milk and 0.0% fat Greek yogurt.

        • When I was eating low carb the only thing that made my cholesterol go up (and it was the bad LDL stuff, too) was whole eggs. I could eat bacon, beef, and anything else and it wouldn’t do a thing to my cholesterol levels, but whole eggs, yep.

          Now I eat whole eggs very rarely and when I do eat them, I prefer to just stick to egg whites, though that’s mostly due to the calories since I’m not eat enough now to impact my cholesterol. I might throw in one yolk for color and flavor.

  • Maryann

    Hi Jonny,
    Always enjoy all of the information you give us.
    I am just wondering about your opinion on reversing heart disease.
    Seems like everything I see about it is mostly vegetarian or vegan, and very little fat. (Ornish, Fuhrman, Esselstyn,McDougall).
    Could you comment on this please.
    Thanks so much.

    • Certainly Ornish has good research to show just that- but remember his was a five part program that involved anger management, exercise, meditation, no smoking AND a low-fat diet…. Nevertheless that’s not to say that in a THERAPEUTIC way this might be an effective strategy for combating a situation that’s already progressed. Maybe. And for most of the people in these studies, they’re already eating so badly that any change is going to be for the better. I don’t mean in any way to disparage people from trying Ornish’s approach if they are sick… it does have the advantage of being highly ANTI inflammatory (from all those vegetables, etc)… But I stand by the fact that a healthy diet heavy on fruits and vegetables, with plenty of good fat and protein from non-contaminated sources is a perfectly good and wonderful diet for most people.


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  • Antonio Pietroniro

    To make any change by anyone for any reason takes an open mind. An especially open mind when it comes to diet, in particular animal food. I have been involved in the healing arts for almost 30 years and you can read and read and almost always still be confused. The only time knowledge becomes wisdom is when you stop reading about it AND DO IT.
    I have done many experiments in my life so far, from running a health center to working on my farm (fresh eggs, meat, and raw goat mink/cheese home made), to practicing Macrobiotics for 22 years (and teaching it), to raw (almost) for another 6. While doing all this, also running a health food store for 21 of those years. Omnivore – Vegetarian- Vegan – Raw food … you don’t know what you’re talking about untill you DO IT WITH AN OPEN MIND.
    I also do health consults with live blood microscopy and what I have noticed was, if a client THINKS he can’t live without animal foods, even if he tries, will never succeed in feeling the benefits because he doesn’t BELIEVE it is possible. (closed mind)
    The same is true for raw foods or any other change. Just because you read somewhere that it’s SUPPOSED to work doesn’t mean that it will.
    The point I’m trying to make here is to give something new a chance to work you have to abandon yourself to the change and GIVE IT TIME. A personal example I can give is related to my experience with Macrobiotics. I was a Macro counselor using yin and yang and many other complicated references from Traditional Chinese Medicine. Now, when I decided to give raw foods a whirl I had to completely TURN OFF my yin/yang, because if i didn’t I would have gone nuts because yin/yang didn’t make sense any more in the new world I was getting into. You have to DO IT, and do it well with honesty and integrity and an open mind. Give your 100% and if it doesn’t work after giving it ENOUGH TIME then respect yourself and move on. Study more and try something different.

    Hope this helps someone.


  • Tom Nikkola

    This was my favorite article of yours so far. I can certainly see how some people may choose to avoid animals from an emotional standpoint, but the theory of it being healthier or better for the environment just doesn’t have legs to stand on when you look at animal products that were raised and processed appropriately. Keep the great articles coming!

  • cheryl

    Johnny, you are in the forefront of a wave of public interest and understanding on nutrition. Do you have some advice for people who would like to get into such a career themselves, a way to get excellent training in nutrition without taking a lot of time and spending a lot of money? (hope this is not too off-topic?)

    I think you, more than any other nutrition expert “out there,” (except perhaps for Weston A Price Foundation and Sally Fallon) are right on the money in your analysis of good nutrition, which is why I ask this question.

    I just love your articles, and you are great in the videos, a living testimony, another Jack LaLane (sp?) type, with as much enthusiasm and even more persuasiveness, and top notch advice.

  • Michelle Malmberg

    Yes, I agree with cheryl; thank you for being the ballast in the tall ship, Dr J, when so many others are simply sailing on fad and fancy.

    To jump the Reply cue, only to repeat the good doctor’s own words from a previous post for nutritional study, Dr J might suggest:
    -University of Bridgeport, Masters in Human Nutrition;
    -Clayton College of Natural Health;
    -Institute of Integrative Nutrition.
    The latter two having a veggie-bent about them. Yes, doc?

    Also, the Weston A Price Foundation is offering courses through Hawthorn, and the Price-Pottenger Foundation is also offering courses. Hopefully the consciousness will shift to revere Mother Nature – soon!

  • Israel Mayer

    The Inuit and the Masai are extreme examples and are at the ends of the bell shaped curve when it comes to diets throughout history and are hardly good examples. Though tools for hunting can be documented vegetable or starch consumption is not easy to find archeologically. Seeds were consumed though. Diets throughout history have been all over the place but they lean more towards more majority plant based consumption than meat (email me for the references if you wish)

    The longest living people on earth don’t eat a lot of meat. Meat seems best as a side dish or on rare occasions or holidays only when one looks at epidemiological studies. Again majority plants!

    Many 7th Day Adventists thrive on an no animal diet, it is not hard to thrive on that sort of diet, if that is your thing, they are some of the healthiest people in the world. To not find a society that thrives on a vegetarian diet does not mean anything! It just points out that doing anything 100% is not something we have historically thought about because getting enough calories was always the number one factor. It is no way detracts from the vegetarian argument. We have choices of so many foods now, and so the debate is open.

    The point is there there are many examples of societies that thrive on a starch based, plant based diet, ok so they eat meat on occasion, the point is that the diet is MOSTLY plants and they thrive. Are you making the assessment that that they are thriving because they are eating a little meat? because one could make a counter argument that it is in spite of the meat that they are healthy and back that up by credible studies.

    I don’t know what vegetarians you are talking to, but b12 deficiency is known by most vegans/vegetarians that I know. This is not a defect in the diet, just a defect in the way we grow things now, dirt, insects in the veggies and even in wild soil would make up for it but we clean things too much and have depleted soil, so you take a b12 supplement.

    Heme iron – big deal, a plant based whole foods diet, eating lots of leafy greens, is going to provide you with plenty of iron. The absence of heme iron from the diet is in no way a defect!!
    True def more studies done on DHA but it is obvious if you look at the pathway that ALA gets processed through, which ends up in DHA which we make on our own if we have ALA. Admittedly, this can vary greatly from person to person. The point is that the overall ratio of 3:6 in someone eating a vegan plant based whole foods diet is great! DHA can be obtained from seaweed if you wish.

    Would you agree that the majority of your food should come from plant based sources?

    Campbell has an agenda, no doubt, but one arrived at through science. One can interpret that anyway one wishes to. He has also seen the corruption of the meat and dairy industry and its interaction with big government.

    As far as the PCRM. I have met many of the physicians for this group, one that as a physician I will likely join in the coming months (though I am not a complete vegetarian) I know from my experience as a physician that it is a vegan diet that reverses a wide variety of diseases, let me tell you it is the most dramatic thing I have seen treating patients since medical school!! When they even start to increase meat intake even slightly even non factory farmed, things like lupus, start coming right back, it is DRAMATIC. Did I say it was dramatic? Ok, so you mention that there is a difference in therapeutic diets and healthy diets. I agree partly, but, lets be clear about something, the majority of doctors in PCRM didn’t arrive there as animal rights espousing, vegans, they arrived there like myself, as a physician who has seen first hand, disease reversal when we have only been taught about disease modification. Vegan diets ALWAYS highly outperform any other diet in this case.

    In my opinion, I think you can acknowledge that vegan diets can be a legitimate choice? I have dozens of patients who are healthy today because of that diet. Those inclined to changing often come from the free range eggs, grass fed beef community with articles like this one in hand and they are still sick. When they come in, since they are into “healthy food” they know a little and then I can guide them to making these vegan choices.

    The other issue raised by my patients is that they feel so great that they don’t want to go back. So one can thrive and thrive amazingly well on a vegan diet. Ok so you take b12, perhaps some DHA if you don’t think you are converting enough yourself. Other than that, your protein needs are met, fat is even met fine, as long as it is a plant based whole foods diet.

    If I don’t lump factory farmed meat eaters and Mcdonald’s customers with the type of people who eat grass fed meat, then I think you could agree to please don’t mix vegetarians eating potato chips and captain crunch who eat a plant based whole foods diet.

    I would love to know what ratio of plants to animals is in your diet.

    Thanks for your articles!!


    • Antonio Pietroniro

      Hi Izzy,

      Thanks for taking the time to write. You make some good points. I am not a Medical Doctor, but I have seen many recoveries from illness with clients moving from a meat based diet to a vegan diet. I did not see any going the other way around. I have see clients that say they feel better when they eat animal foods, but the blood readings don’t show it. I suppose that if the animal foods could be reduced to the point of not creating congestion it could work. That I have seen. This includes animal foods from ALL sources. It’s not impossible for some people to really need some animal foods. I can and am living without it, and yes I am thriving, have no excess weight, great muscle mass (with little resistance exercise), and look younger that most men 10-15 years younger.

      The other concern I have with animal food consumption is the way heat denatures the protein and fat. I doesn’t seem to be as digestible when it has been heated. (It would be great if there were studies on this subject). We should also be aware that if fat oxidizes before it is absorbed by the cell it will go elsewhere. Heating fats don’t help.

      About the B12, this is not a Vegan exclusivity. According to Dr. Brian Clement there are 3 times more B12 deficient animal food consumers than Vegans. I have not read the studies, but he seemed pretty convinced when I heard him speak about it. I for one am vegan now (since 1982), and when I did my blood test I was not deficient in B12, however I know that the common lab test for B12 in not accurate, so I send my blood out to the people that do the SpectraCell test (in Texas I think), and I was borderline for B12. I took a special fermented form of B12 for 4 months and SpecrtaCell tested through the roof. Also my Live Blood Test showed a clear improvement in cell shape and size. I was jumping through the roof !!

      I know that you can always find ‘scientific’ support for something you want or not want to do in terms of diet. From my observation over the last 27 years it comes down to likes and dislikes. In the end however the truth will always float to the surface.

      There are omnivores, vegetarians, and vegans and in my practice I have seen unhealthy clients from all three disciplines. At the end of the day you have to know what you’re doing, and I’m still learning something new every day.


      • Izzy Mayer

        You say “I have seen many recoveries from illness with clients moving from a meat based diet to a vegan diet.” That is the point I was trying make.

  • J.R.

    Jonny, this article seems a little bias to me.
    I’ve been a vegetarian for 8 years, vegan for four years….and I love it!

  • Excellent blog post Jonny!

    As was stated by another reader, it is quite hard to choose healthy meat, fish and fowl in this day and age. It would be wonderful if we could go back to real farms, where the animals ate grass and roamed free, but with our greed for food and our excellent ability to dump into the environment, we’re running out of land to do this with.

    Yes, eating animal foods can be done safely and healthfully, but I do think the majority of our nation (especially the US) just eats too much meat/fish/fowl in general and would benefit from plant-based meals more often than not. But, I’m sure you do agree and I wasn’t trying to argue with you. Just stating my two cents. 🙂

    Thank you again for a great post!

  • Hi Dr Jonny! Great post!

    I recently had a 15 year old male patient present for a routine physical exam. Upon review of his lab data I noted a dangerously low folic acid and B 12 level, a very low HDL, and an extremely elevated triglyceride level (very common biochemical abnormalities I see in my vegetarian patients). When the patient presented for follow-up with his parents they were all ‘shocked’ at the results. The patient proudly proclaimed in front of his beaming parents that he was a vegetarian, then his parents stated they didn’t understand why the numbers were so bad as he ate ‘healthy.’

    Then I went into my ‘eating healthy’ does not, for most people, equate to ‘eating the correct way’ lecture. It has been my experience in nearly twenty years as a family doc that the sickest people in my practice are indeed my vegetarian patients. They also make the drug companies alot of money as they routinely require pharmaceutical agents to treat their disease processes. This is so sad because most medical diseases can be treated quite easily by lowering the carb intake, and eating more saturated fat, cholesterol and protein.

    Oftentimes, it is very difficult to get through people’s belief systems, for vegetarianism is a ‘belief’ about how one should be eating. Unfortunately, beliefs can be right or wrong; the facts just are. I read with amusement the section where Dr Ludwig addressed Dr Campbell’s ‘belief’ about the Harvard study. But this is so prevelent, that is, people ‘believing’ things about the correct way to eat, holding themselves out as a ‘nutritional expert’ (a combination of words which I believe have obtained oxymoron status), and then proselytizing to the masses incorrect dietary advice.

    As you well know, from Michele Obama, to the current Surgeon General, American Heart/Diabetes/Dietetic/Cancer Societies, NIH, NHLBI, AOA, AMA and even Dr. Oz (who I like, I just wish he would understand the facts about human nutrition and then discuss that on his show); all these people, societies and organizations still adhere tenaciously to the low fat/low cholesterol brainwashing mantra.

    As an interesting side note, one of the ‘critics’ of my book actually used Campbell’s ‘The China Study’ in an attempt to refute what I had written. I found that quite interesting. Since I am privileged to be a physician, and even more fortunate enough to understand the correct way to eat; I not only have thousands of ‘success’ stories of my patients doing phenomenoly well backing off on carbs, and eating more of the very stuff they’re told is bad for them; but I also understand ‘why’ we need to eat that way. I can guarantee you most nutritionists, dieticians and clinicians have forgotten (if they ever knew) the importance of Acetyl CoA and how this molecule is a pivotal biomolecule in the understanding of the correct way to eat.

    Bye for now,

    dr jim

    • just wanted to thank you for such an informative and fascinating post


      PS i’d love to see a copy of your book!

    • Liv

      Dr Jim,

      I am and always have been a vegetarian. I did have elevated triglycerides and low HDL as you mentioned your veg patients had. What I was doing wrong I discovered in hindsight was eating a high dairy & high processed food diet along with a sedentary lifestyle. I agree that one CAN damage your body eating bad veg diet …just like you can a bad carnivoire diet.
      I am VEGAN now and feel like I did at 20 … not JUST because of becoming vegan. I am focusing on eating WHOLE UNPROCESSED foods with minimal cooking if needed. I eat oats, berries, bananas, almond-milk, big salad, beans, peas, tomatoes, lima beans, potatoes, carrots, brocolli, walnuts, pecans, cherries, …you get the picture.
      BUT THE REAL SECRET TO MY GREAT BLOOD WORK AND HEALTH IS HARD WORK !! I got a job in a warehouse where I walk 9 hrs a day, lifting 5-30lb objects 40 times an hour. I was cursing the job the first 3 months. Then I got to blood work and kept quiet then I started cursing the job because I was working 50-60 hrs a week during holiday season and then I realized something. On my off days I was restless and wanted to get back to work. I am as active as I was in highschool and I love it !!

      Now if I ate junk, I would not be able to sustain my lifestyle…believe me I had days I ate junk and was ready to drop… so I can tell you my diet allows me to be this active !!

      So moral of my story… instead of steering your veggie patients away from being veg, have them go WHOLE FOODS VEGAN with each meal having carb, protein, veg, fat balance and HAVE THEM GET PHYSICAL !!!

      M. R.

  • No one seems to remember that we are all descendents of the Ice Age. What vegetables, fruits and grains/starches were we consuming than? I

  • I also think it’s worth noting since we are speaking about LONG-TERM health. Dr. David Getoff a Naturopath from the Price Pottenger Foundation once said that only true way to determine if a diet/lifestyle is working is to find a group or culture that has been free of disease and has been thriving on a particular way of eating for 3-4 generations. He stated that you would never see a Vegan society thriving for 3-4 generations because they would eventually run into major infertility issues. He also makes excellent points stating that most people feel so good switching to a vegetarian/vegan based diet not because it’s necessarily healthier but because of it’s detoxing effects. He goes on to say that if something makes you feel good/better or improves blood panels and than 30 yrs go by and you get sick or develop negative symptoms from that diet than it wasn

    • Liv

      Major infertility issues ?????!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA !!! Tell that to India that has a majority veg population !!

      • anonymous

        Liv, most of India is LACTO-vegetarian, not vegan. The fertility promoting factors are found in abundance in milk, butter, yogurt, ghee, etc. Likewise, the Seventh-Day Adventists in the California “blue zone” are mostly lacto-vegetarian — very, very few are pure vegan. Some go vegan as they get older, past reproductive age.

        On the other hand… one group of Indian “vegans”, moved to Britain and after a few years, came down with all sorts of illnesses that were eventually traced to veganism. They were perplexed — “But we’ve been vegan for centuries!” — however, upon investigation, it was discovered that the problem was the clean British grain supply. Back home in India, the grain was filled with weevils, mealworms, etc — sources of animal protein, B-12, and extended omega-3s — which were ground up into the bread and consumed unknowingly. So back in India, they only thought they were vegans… in Britain, they really were — and it was very bad for them.

        Veganism just cannot be sustained multi-generationally. Some people can coast on it for a long time on stored nutrients, perhaps a few outliers can go the rest of their lives. But most cannot. And yes, fertility and child-growth issues are a problem if you try to reproduce as vegans. This may be why there is not one healthy indigenous vegan culture, anywhere. (Weston Price looked hard for one — he evidently *wanted* to find a healthy primitive vegan culture, but to his sorrow he could not.)

  • […] Why I Am Not a Vegetarian: The China Study […]

  • […] and nutritionist Dr. Bowden offers up healthy living tips on this blog. Recommended Posts: "Why I Am Not A Vegetarian: The China Study" and "Top 10 Ways to Cut Back on […]

  • eggs'n'milk for brekkie

    I am vegetarian, one living in China, and one that totally agrees it takes a lot of brain power to get all the right stuff into you somehow.
    I don’t think it’s fair for people to make comments like maybe some of them [vegetarians] would come to their senses because it implies a lack of thought on our part. if you’ve ever been a healthy vegetarian for a sustained period then you’d understand it’s not something you can lightly flutter into. Temptations are all over the place, like that filthy greasy Big Mac that’s staring you right in the hangover or the roast leg of lamb on Christmas Eve that all your family’s tucking into. It’s hardly a matter of us being unaware of our choice, believe you me.

    Responsible vegetarians understand the basic complexities of nutrition fully. This in itself is beneficial, to anyone’s lifestyle, and anything that makes people think more about what they’re putting into their throats, or what they’re not, has got to have some sort of inherent value. Thus I support this post despite disagreeing with parts of it.

    Responsible vegetarians also understand why they’re giving up meat, and can explain it (hopefully) fluently and logically! For example, I include some fish in my diet because of the density of nutrients they carry, and the fact that they CAN be harvested sustainably. It is widely known that we are grossly over-fishing our seas and it is short-sighted to denounce the entire fish-farming industry because of this. I exclude red meats because if we used the land space that we currently use to raise beef, just beef, to farm vegetable crops then we could feed a population many times our current size. I exclude chicken because it is almost always unethically and unhygenically farmed.

    I think if I ever had a plot of land big enough to raise my own meats, thus knowing exactly how they’ve been raised, and could somehow commit to their humane slaughter, then I would again eat meat. If I ever have children this is the meat I’d want to be feeding them, simultaneously fostering in them an understanding of where their food comes from and where it doesn’t. Because this is another way a vegetarian lifestyle can benefit individuals and, more broadly, society: it questions how we source our food, and whether there are better ways to do it.

    I’ve recently watched that Jamie Oliver series that studied the canteen industry in American schools and was both fascinated and sickened when a tomato was held up before a Grade 3 class and not one student could name it, but when a sachet of tomato sauce was displayed the whole cohort jumped out of their seats and screamed ‘KETCHUP! YEAH!’ An extreme example of ignorance and disassociation, I know. But no-one in this forum can deny the severity of this issue with diet that societies of today are facing, and not just in America.

    For me at least, vegetarianism, in any form, is a viable solution.

  • Dr. Jonny, I loved this post. It seems like more often than not when people engage in the vegetarian vs meat argument they get over-heated and their arguments lose credibility; but kept an even keel; I appreciate that. That said, I’m a vegetarian, but mostly just because it helps me save money on grocery bills.

  • Paddy


    I am a South Indian Brahmin – and generations of us have survived/thrived on a lacto-vegetarian diet – lots of grains, pulses, fruits, vegetables AND milk/milk products but no eggs, fish or meat.

    Although I am open to eating eggs once in a while, I cannot/will not eat meat. How do I sustain a low-carb diet in these conditions?


    • Mahalaxmi

      Hi Paddy,

      Whew !! Thank God someone represented who I am in these comments !! I also am a SI Brahmin raised Tamilian. I am vegan now and just feel awesome. When I became vegan, it coincided with a heavily physical job that involved walking and lifting 30lbs of weight continuously for 9 hrs a day 4 days a week. My cholesterol went from 213 to 168 and all the other blood numbers were thru the roof positive !!

      This article and most of the comments are very arrogant and dismissive about the success of being veg (vegetarian or vegan). I was raised to respect ALL life.

      When one has to take a family of animals, split up mother and baby, slaughter them both and prior to slaughter, keep them in horrible conditions is super-horribly-psycho bad already !! Similar things were done to slaves during the time when blacks were commodities of an economy !
      Now these people here think they are very noble if they eat ‘grass-fed’, ‘humanely’ raised animal. What if I were to kidnap one of their babies, raise them nicely but keep abusing them sexually periodically but still they will have a beautiful home and food and playground for frolicing…does what I am doing make it more noble????

      KILLING IS STILL KILLING…especially animals that are JUST LIKE US with two eyes, ears, mouth, uterus, brains, feelings, loss….

      Why the hell are humans STILL arguing whether we should go vegan??? Vegans are healthy, reproduce, and thrive !! PLUS WE ARE NOT CAUSING TORTURE AND CRUELTY TO ANOTHER SENTIENT BEING !! PLAIN AND SIMPLE !! No more need to analyze and discuss !!

      Of course it is simple if you have a conscience…now if you don’t have a conscience then my only suggestion to those people is ‘PUT YOUR SELF IN THE ANIMALS SHOES’ DO THE ‘I FEEL YOU’ on the animal…’feel what they feel’ !!!

      Now Paddy, a low carb diet is easy peazy on a vegan diet. I eat oats, berries, bananas, nut-milk, lots of herb-greens salad, beans, peas. My protein is from beans(black, pinto, lima, Garbanzo, peas (try crowder, black eyed, purple hull peas). My starch is from potatoes, Oats. Ofcourse, die-hard low-carbers say legumes have high carb. But their fiber cancels the carb somewhat.

      Paddy, in any event, the idea is EAT WHOLE FOODS in it’s most original form possible, not juices, fried, extracted or processed. This way you don’t have to worry about low carb. I know some raw fooder who only eat whole fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds and they are super healthy.

      Good Luck,

  • Erik B

    I take issue with some of the Paleo reasoning. History shows early humans as opportunists/gathers and scavangers. Hunting took a while to become a part of our main stay, after all its your brain that enables hunting, you are not naturally equipped with things like claws or teeth suitable for combat, historically you were quite likely to get your ass kicked by buffalo. Tool development is what precipitated more hunting/fishing, and even then it was in minimal amounts supplementary to the gathering activities.

    Just take a look genetically at our closest animal matches in the wild Chimps/Gorrillas etc. Their diet is 95% fruit/nuts. 5% baby animals/eggs etc.

    The problem with a lot of this low carb stuff is that it gets interpreted just the same way as fail vegetarians eating mock meats, in that meat becomes 50%+ of peoples overall caloric source. This was never the case evolutionarily.

  • […] Why I Am Not A Vegetarian: The China StudyJun 10, 2004 … Now Meat Is Raising Red Flags in China. Many scoff, but vegetarianism is gaining ground among a populace increasingly open to new ideas … […]

  • KVD

    Ok, but did you ever wonder why you can get B12 only in animals? It’s because animals such as cows eat grass that’s full of insects, spiders, bugs etc. which equals B12. If cows are not fed with grass, forget about B12. Their meat doesn’t contain it. So if you are vegan or vegetarian and eat fruits and vegetables and here and there you swallow a bug, you get your B12. We need only micrograms of it and it’s not hard to obtain it through plant based diet. In fact, as a vegan you might get more of it than someone who eats toxic meat.

    • Mahalaxmi

      B12, I once heard at a raw foods lecture grows on any food left outside. Since we clean and refrigerate our foods so often, the b12 gets washed off. The guy suggested taking a bite of a fruit, laying it down and eating another bit a half hour later and so on.. also keep your fruits veggies outside, not refrigerated as much as possible.

    • John

      They’re not getting b12 from spiders.

      Animals have a flora in their gut that produce b12 from the mineral cobalt. The bacteria consume the cobalt, and the byproduct is b12.

      Leafy greens have the highest amounts of cobalt of any food.

      When vegans lie, and say animals don’t produce b12, they’re either google doctors or knowingly lying. Animals flora produce b12. Plain and simple. The same bacteria in the soil that consume the cobalt once again IN THE SOIL produce b12, the b12 can make its way onto unwashed root veggies etc. The same process happens with animals flora.

      Stop spreading your lies. If you get your info from google, stop acting like you’re an authority on nutrition.

  • Robert LaVeyra

    I am a fan, Dr. Bowden and I follow a healthy diet and lifestyle. The movie Forks over Knives promoted an exclusive plant based diet. The doctors involved followed the research, much of it in China, and thought they had it right but one of them had osteoporosis. I found myself wondering if some more protein would have helped reduce or prevent that condition.

  • Ingrid

    I’m not vegan because I think it’s so much healthier than being a meat-eater. I’m vegan because I know I can live healthy nevertheless, and I like the fact that no animal has to be killed just so that I can make sure I get those extra nutrients. Even grass-fed cows have to be killed before you eat them, and I believe that since we know we can make a choice (unlike a lion who neither will survive without meat nor have the moral understanding of what it means to kill another animal) we should be able to make a more moral decision here.

    Also, I get my DHA and EPA from the same source that fish get them from: algae. My two pills of algae oil per day provide me with the same amount of DHA & EPA as two servings of fish every week. It’s a nice alternative to contributing to overfishing. I’m Norwegian, and used to LOVE eating salmon. Although it was hard for me to stop eating fish, I feel that the life of these creatures are worth more than my minutes of enjoyment while eating them.

    As for B-12, I get that from an organic, raw, and live supplement from Garden of Life, a brand I also use for Iron, Calcium, and extra protein.

    The China study didn’t really convince me either, although I never took the time to actually read the results, nor the book that Dr. Campbell wrote on it. However, I do know that it was a correlational study, which is very different from an actual laboratory research experiment (which are the only ones that can make conclusions about causation).

    I do however know that I am healthier than ever, and when I went get my blood checked a couple of months ago, everything looked absolutely perfect, including my B-12 levels, my Iron levels, and my Omega 3 index.

    My boyfriend is not vegan, but vegetarian. I bought eggs for him last week, and at Whole Foods they did have eggs from a producer called Vital Farms. Free range eggs doesn’t mean anything, here’s an example of a free range farm: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jw8LOrrExZw I chose to add a link to a video uploaded by the producer itself, rather than from an animal rights organization in order to avoid arguments about how the video is not representative for the industry. I do however wonder how someone could be ok with hens living inside such a sad environment. Back to Vital Farms, they actually provide their chicken with pretty decent living conditions: http://vitalfarms.com So if you really feel that you have to eat eggs, and you’re not one of those who have friends who have their own chicken, I think that’s the best alternative out there. But let’s not be too naive. I’m sure the male chicks are still killed somehow and that the hens are also killed once they stop laying eggs, simply due to the fact that it would be very unprofitable to do not to this. The eggs were also $4 for a 6-pack, a bit pricey, but I don’t want to get too selfish with my money when I already know that purchasing eggs in the first place is a bit selfish.

    In the end, I appreciate the fact that you do not support the horrific factory farm industry. Choosing grass-fed, free range, and wild caught fish is definitely an improvement from the average American diet, both in terms of your health, animal welfare, and the environment.
    I’ve made my choice simply because I do not want to cause any suffering or unnecessary death. I’m not saying I’m healthier than you are, although I don’t believe that you’re that much healthier than me either.

      • Mahalaxmi

        Well Put !! You hit on ALL points of argument against veg-ism… And Dr. Bowden, you ‘respect’ her choices but DON’T RESPECT the choice of the animal to keep his/her life and to be living on this earth during his/her short life with his/her children and family….

        ANIMAL EATING IS NOT A CHOICE FOR THE ANIMAL !!! SO WHEN ONE SAYS RESPECT YOUR CHOICE…it is soooo thoughtless and lacks affect !!

        • Aruna

          Well said Mahalaxmi! I totally agree with you. I’m a South Indian Brahmin as well, raised as a lacto-vegetarian and working on becoming a vegan (by substituting dairy based products with soy / almond / coconut based products). I must say I feel very healthy, my doctors says my vitals are great and my family (including ancestors) have been lacto-vegetarians. We maintain a healthy work-life balance and watch our nutrition and regularly exercise. Of course there are supplements that are readily available over the counter if ever needed. I just don’t understand why many people are not able to see from an ethical perspective. It is very, very sad! This 2014 and most of us have easy access to healthy vegetarian / vegan food options PLUS supplements. Still, people choose to justify and consume meat. I just don’t understand why it is so hard to show empathy and compassion to other species. I am not making all these statements just because I was born and raised this way, many of my peers and friends who were raised on a meat based diet have switched to a vegetarian diet and feel better than ever!

  • B

    The author of the china study actually states in the book that he eats meat very occasionally…

  • Alex

    We’re not true omnivores. We process meat about as well, maybe slightly better than most herbivores, which occasionally will eat sources of meat if things get really scarce. Our australopithecine ancestors did really good surviving on plants. When we got smarter, we found more plants and we found more ways to make those plants (and insects) easier to obtain.

    If you want to eat a truly natural diet, eat the plant based diet and add insects to it. There’s your natural diet. If you want to eat like shit, eat meat constantly.

    Meat is physically addictive because it’s high fat by nature and has cholesterol in it. If you want to live longer, don’t eat much meat. Do you know who prospers? The Yuzurihara people of Japan, who live on rice, potatoes, beans and vegetables, with a very small amount of fish. Same with the village of Bama in China. On the Isle of Ikaria people live to a long age much more frequently. Oh, and meat is on the menu maybe twice a week for most people?

    Age slower with plants. Now, I stopped eating most forms of meat because they’re destructive to the environment and clearly not necessary for my health. It’s also unethical to raise animals in horrible conditions. I’ll eat fish rarely on occasion and I might eat some red meat when I get the opportunity kill a deer.

    You can have any junk that you want if you have it in TRUE moderation. That doesn’t mean have a little bit each day. That means, have something once every half week to two weeks in a small portion, eating healthy the rest of the time. Then, the junk tastes better, and you can feel better about having it because it won’t be a detriment to you.

  • Julia

    Hey all,
    very interesting. Firstly, all things that are edible for the human being to develop and grow, and that means body and consciousness, are there for us whether it is the grass, a flower, a tree, a pig, or anything that crawls and flies, unless it is poisonous to the human being, but we must accept these things as food with great respect and gratitude, that way we do not misuse it or become gluttonous over anything. Also, whether you be vegetarian or meat lover, everything needs to be consumed with a balance, otherwise it even affects our consciousness too greatly in an adverse way where we cannot evolve positively in our consciousness, but become degenerated. Also, we should never consume meat from tortured or pained animals as that can affect us greatly. This is likely what some animals raised in feed lots go thru their whole life, very sad. If we are vegetarian or vegan, we must be very careful in our research to make sure that we acquire all the different nutrients that meat gives us from other sources or eventually we will suffer in body or mind. So become knowledgeable in whatever you place in your body, acquiring all the different nutrients that are a necessity to you, as you only get one per lifetime. Eat healthy, be happy, be free, and be at peace, whether veg or meat lover. Most of all be true to yourself, do not base your decisions on someone else or because of someone else. Be responsible for your ownself.

  • Julia

    I forgot to say one small but big thing. It is the fact that we have a major overpopulation problem on this earth and that is why so many people are turned off of eating meat. No one wants to live on tortured animals from the disgusting feedlots and cubicles that they raise chickens in that cannot stand up on their feet. It’s awful, so let’s change it. DO NOT SUPPORT THIS KIND OF MEAT PRODUCTION, FIND HEALTHY AND RESPECTFUL SOURCES FOR YOUR MEAT. and become conscientious about the overpopulation problem and don’t have kids if you don’t need to, and if you do, only have one or two and take good care of them and teach them proper truths about the world.

  • Sifter

    I would be curious, Dr. Bowden, to get your take on inflammation being the chicken or the egg (so to speak) in terms of CVD. I recently bought your book ‘The Great Cholesterol Myth’ and found it extremely eye-opening. I know you believe inflammation, from sugar and other sources, is the primary cause of cardiovascular heart disease, and you list ways to cut it down via a revised diet. However, I am also aware of a landmark study by Brown and Goldstein (please google, I don’t have the link handy) stating that inflammation is a downstream BYPRODUCT of cholesterol / sat. fat infused scarred endothelium, rathen than the CAUSE of it as you and Dr. Sinatra contend. Your comments on this, please?

  • It’s the first time I’m visiting your blog, I actually came across it while looking for views on The China Study book views vs the Preston Price book and as I’ve read both, I was still confused, because for a layman (or woman, lol) like me, both sound scientific and have plenty of logical and well said stuff to back them up. But they are totally opposite in view and I feel that without further research from my side, I can go either way, because both are credible to a simple girl like me, who is trying to live healthier.

    A friend of mine is vegetarian (I think she’s actually vegan) and swears by the China Study and she pushed me to read it. But then so many things don’t really jibe with my nature. I do eat meat, I love meat (red meat even) and ever time I try to eat only fruits and veggies, I’m always hungry and feeling not quite well. So I guess I know which my direction is.

    My main problem is that in my parts of the world it is just so difficult to find all those healthy animal products. While I did find free range eggs, there’s noway I can find here raw milk, no matter how much I try, unless I got to the some far away village to buy from locals – by the time I get home, the milk will be spoiled in the heat. And these are just two small things…for most people who are busy with working just to make money to be able to put food on the table, it is just not so easy to go fully healthy, sometimes we do need to make a compromise. But still, we do as much as we can, I guess.

    I digressed, for which I’m sorry, I really just wanted to say that I loved your blog post and will be subscribing to your RSS feed to read more.

    • Mahalaxmi


      You are making things way too complicated. EAT WHOLE FOODS !!

      For each meal I balance carb, protein, veg/fruit, fat.

      Carb for me is potatoes, rice, quinoa, oats.

      For protein, beans, various peas (crowder and black eye and green my favorites).

      Veg is a green salad, tomatoes, bell pepper, and other things in season.

      Fruit is berries & bananas daily with other seasonal fruits.

      Fat is Flaxseed oil, nuts, tahini, sunflower seeds, etc.

      You may be hungry because you are not eating enough fat & fiber. Fat from Avocado, nuts, seeds and some cold pressed oils. Fiber from salad veggies.

  • I personally find my lacto ovo vegetarian diet to be adequate for me. I am a Seventh day Adventist and I believe that most of the Loma Linda residents are also lacto ovo vegetarians. I became a lacto ovo vegetarian more than ten years ago and i have never felt healthier. I encourage you to try some recipes on my Vegetarian and vegan recipes blog and I also encourage you to read my post on how to become a vegetarian http://vegetarianandveganrecipe.com/2013/04/how-to-become-a-vegetarian.html

  • Santa

    Eat plenty of veggies.
    Add quality fruits.
    Enjoy free range meat/fish.

    Steer away from anything processed.

    Think like an animal ;P

    P.s. If you can pop it straight in, it must be good!

  • Nicole Guyot

    is there a way to post this on Facebook?

  • Mike

    “Jonny Bowden Four Food Groups” That’s funny, lol.

    Go Johnny…

  • Sean Shimoda

    The total chemical/industrial synthesis of vitamin B12 was solved in 1972. I still don’t get why lack of vitamin B12 is still a valid argument against vegetarianism?

    Is it solely because it is “synthesized” and not “natural sourced” that is automatically bad?

    In the modern day and age I find it easier to be a “healthy” lacto-ovo vegetarian than at any other time in human history. In a big part due to the industrial scale availability of animal-only micronutrients, like vitamin B12.

    (For the record, I am a vegetarian for personal ethical reasons.)

  • Nimmi

    Brahmin communities in India have been traditionally vegetarian – milk products only, no eggs. They have been the keepers of the intellectual tradition in India. I guess it all depends on what you call a healthy person. I am vegetarian since 1997 ( a reaction to the meat and fish industry today) and feel no different to before. But I do tend to cook everything from scratch, eat bio, eat eggs and milk products (no fish or meat). I do tend to have a sedentary life, with a life spent as a programmer, and now in retirement, DIY, arts and cooking.

    I agree that it is difficult to be vegan without resorting to regular pills. I have just started us on a few pills as we got slack with our meals earlier this year – eating just bread and cheese with some salad. But until then, we had been pretty fit(enough to walk 14K without feeling tired) and hardly ever caught coughs and colds, which is my definition of healthy. But neither of us is athletic or into building the body beautiful.

  • Jacek

    What I have found about lupus and diet is that diet without preservatives almost totally reduces the quantity of symptoms. You could find out more here:


    Hope that helps someone.

  • MoreScratch

    Thanks for the post. I don’t necessarily agree with you on all points especially since your arguments are weak at best. Having said that I wouldn’t mind your opinion on veganism. Specifically, do you think that one could be healthy on a vegan diet? If so, why would one then move towards an omnivorous diet? I am just starting my journey towards veganism after about 2 years of doing my own research and I just can’t seem to find a single study that unequivocally state that a vegan diet is unhealthy. I am convinced that a vegan diet is healthy and that one can flourish by eating plant based foods – there is just too much evidence that corroborates this. BTW- B12 deficiency is almost as prevalent in omnivores as it is in vegans.

  • Joseph

    I just simply don’t understand how killing another living species in a lovely family owned organic farm, is any less degrading and vicious and negative than killing an animal in a factory farm. Human have this disgusting sense of superiority over everything else on the planet. You’re argument supports this notion and in no way challenged the vegan diet/lifestyle.

    Humans have biologically herbivore features, theres is nothing natural about stealing a baby calf’s milk from it;s mother… The things you write really disturb me and it’s an argument that has gone on for too long. EDUCATE YOURSELF

  • kalpesh

    May be author missed this statetistics.
    Number of vegetarians by some countries.
    india – 500 million
    china – 50 million
    usa – 16 million

    Meat is not required at all.

  • Hi Jonny, I’ve been following your advice for several years and have many of your books & DVDs. I am curious if you may have found any Restaurants that provide a menu based on your suggested diet. I’m sure we’d like to check out these Restaurants.
    “a diet with reasonable amounts of grass fed meat, plenty of wild fish, whole eggs from free-range chickens, raw organic milk, lots of omega-3’s, tons of vegetables, some low-sugar fruits, nuts, avocados, berries, real fermented foods like sauerkraut, miso and yogurt, olives and the occasional slice of truly whole-grain bread is a hard diet to beat for overall vitality.”
    Bernie D – San Diego, CA

  • John

    I realize this article is old and maybe the NIH information was different then, but in case anyone comes across this now, I think it important to point out that the National Institutes of Health’s Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet for B12 no longer states that B12 is only available from animal-based sources nor do they suggest that vegetarians would have trouble getting enough B12. You can read the latest information here: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB12-HealthProfessional/

    They basically say that fortified breakfast series are a good source of plant-based B12 for vegetarians and vegans.

    Reading this article, it really seems to list B12 as the only thing that you can’t get from non-animal sources. The rest is about what might be a “better” iron source — but not something that can’t be found in adequate non-animal sources. So, really, once the B12 problem is solved (which it already IS solved per the new NIH information), there is little argument about what vegetarians and/or vegans can or can’t find in non-animal sources.

    Also, while we’re on the topic. It seems very odd to me that this whole article is about why you aren’t a “vegetarian” — but then you go on to argue things that VEGANS can’t find. Most people consider the definition of “vegetarian” to INCLUDE lacto-ovo vegetarians (i.e. those that will eat milk and egg products). Those people already CAN get B12 from those sources. So, the whole argument about “why I am not a vegetarian” when you apparently mean “why I am not a vegan” seems slightly odd to me. You argue against being a vegetarian through most of the article — by using arguments that would only apply to VEGANS.

    Again, I think a person can be either a vegetarian or a vegan and be healthy — and I think science and the NIH (that this article relies on) support that just fine. Whether or not the NIH supplement guide said something different when this was written back in 2010, I can’t say for certain. But it does NOW include several references to indicate that B12 absolutely is readily available to vegetarians and vegans from plant-based sources.

  • John

    I was a vegan, but then my blood tests were bad, so I took B12 pills. Then my TSH was high, MD wanted to give me pills, so I took powdered dry egg whites to get tyrosine, which cleared up that problem. My body needs some animal protein. Egg whites and low fat cheese, 1 oz for calcium , also take zinc and copper pills.

  • Bruce

    99% of Tibetan monks eat meat. Tibetan is a meat eating culture. I don’t know where you got your information or assumption about tibetan monks being vegan from. This is not true and you are spreading false information about diet and health on the internet.

  • Hi Dr Bowden,

    I just finished reading the China Study and I appreciate your insightful advice. I agree with many of your points including the importance of b12, fish, and looking at the source of the meat. I’d really appreciate it if you took the time to answer my question below.

    ** Please answer this question as If you are talking to your child who is living on the average American grocery budget of $4000 per year, which is $333 per month, or approximately $3.70 per meal. ( http://www.bls.gov/news.release/cesan.nr0.htm ) **

    If your child could not afford access to grass fed beef, free range chicken, wild fish, or “clean” meats, would you recommend they eat the hormone and antibiotic filled meats which are available and affordable to the layperson?

    Or would you recommend a whole foods diet consisting of mostly Greens, Beans, Onions, Mushrooms, Berries, and Seeds. Please assume they supplement with b12 and cod liver oil.

    Again, I agree with what you’ve written is optimal nutrition if you have few financial constraints. I’d really like the opportunity to read your thoughts on the healthiest way to eat given the financial constraints of the average layperson in America.

    I appreciate your help with this question.

  • Summer

    So many flaws in your writing to point out here…

    1. Most Tibet monks are not vegetarian. Tibetan monks living in Tibet cannot be vegetarian. Little vegetation other than barley grows in Tibet and the staples of their diets are barley and yak products. The Dalai Lama is not vegetarian, but has leanings and the Karmapa has requested that his monks (living outside of Tibet) follow a vegetarian diet. A vegetarian diet is seen as ideal, but not central to the practice.

    2. Since you say you are an animal activist, I assume you mean for companion animals. Or perhaps to improve the lives of farm animals before they are slaughtered? These are incompatible views to say that one is an animal activist and yet support the slaughter of animals for food. A good measure of whether something is humane is to ask yourself if you would want it done to you. Euthanasia for a suffering animal sounds merciful, while a knife to the throat does not.

    3. The Inuits are not a healthy population to aspire to. They live an average of 10-15 years less than the general Canadian population. Thriving? Not exactly. Some say its their genes…but that’s because looking at diet is a touchy subject.

    4. The vegetarian diet has existed for centuries in India practiced by orthodox hindus and jains. Studies of Seventh Day Adventists show that the average lifespan of this group is 7 years longer. You’re right that there has not been an exclusively vegan population, but this is because up until modern times people did not have grocery stores and could only eat the foods available to them.

    5. Dan Buettner did not do any research study. He just looked at the diets and lifestyles of the healthiest populations. Nothing ground-breaking or research oriented at all. Just anecdotal.

    6. It is just incorrect to say that the nutrients in plants are inferior to those in animal products. B12 is a bacteria found in soil. Animals eat lots of soil. We don’t. Plenty of meat eaters are b12 deficient. They can take supplements just like vegans. Iron and protein are both adequately met in a plant-based diet. B12 is the only nutrient that is not.

    7. Dr. Colin Campbell in his book “The China Study” never said protein is bad for you. He said that animal protein is bad for you. He is a nutritional biochemist with a PhD from Cornell and a research associate from MIT. His epidemiological study of 6500 people in 64 counties in rural China containing 365 variables were found to be reliable. He is a true researcher and the study that his book was based on was funded by The US National Cancer Institute (of NIH) and The American Institute for Cancer Research. It’s results are profound. But I guess it is easy to minimize the results of research when they are incompatible with our desires and instead point to people like Dan Buettner as an authority, who did no research at all. Campbell’s research has not been fiercely debated. If anything, it has been minimized by critics for being a ‘epidemiological study’ (with a huge population mind you) because there was no scientific manipulations taking place. Telling people what to eat and monitoring it is incredibly difficult and brings up ethical concerns. Should we conclude that smoking is not detrimental to health because there have not been any studies that took two equivalent groups of people and forced one group to smoke for 20 years while measuring rates of mortality over the long term? His study is an convincing as can be for a one looking at factors that cannot be easily assigned or manipulated.

    Campbell does not use the term vegan or vegetarian because of the animal rights connotations that come with it. He uses the term ‘plant-based’ instead and does not write about or discuss animals in any way or form. To say that he has an agenda by promoting a plant-based diet or working with PCRM is just false.

    I just want to add as well that the meat and dairy industries are huge, powerful industries with a lot of support. They are heavily subsidized. It is not in the best interest to go against or speak out against these industries (i.e. remember what happened to Oprah?) and this is why the USDA makes no real recommendations to follow a plant-based diet or to reduce meat consumption. Vegans are just ahead of the curve here. I suggest you watch documentaries “Cowspiracy” and “Plant Pure Nation” (when it’s released publically) to see how politics get in the way of our health.

  • natalie

    spirulina and other algae plants contain a large amount of Vitamin B12 and are perfectly natural sources

  • Dimitri

    Putting meat consumption in its historical perspective:

    Meat traditions: the co-evolution of humans and meat

  • JayGee

    What a lot of rubbish! The only reason you could have for spouting this drivel is to appeal to the mainstream whose stomach biome are addicted to animal protein and enable you to sell more books and whatever else you peddle.
    There are thousands and thousands of people who have reversed their disease from a no oil whole food plant based diet and who thrive on it. Many highly respected Drs, physicians, cardiologists and the like who have shown this to be true.
    You’re a Dr of Psychology! Yet you are preaching this rubbish knowing it will keep people sick and is destructive not only for us but also for animals and for the planet.
    Shame on you!!!
    Grow a backbone and stop bending to your bottom line.

  • Chris

    For those struggling with B12 deficiency, I recently heard about a new oral prescription alternative to the injections called Eligen B12. I recently read that it works even if you don’t have intrinsic factor (so even if you don’t have normal gut absorption). Apparently it came out a month or two ago. Has anyone heard of it or tried it?

  • Tabeamoon

    If the China Project does not provide enough evidence that a whole food plant-based diet is healthier and better for you, then I don’t know what would. It was a groundbreaking study and an incredible model for researchers. The plant-based rural Chinese diet gave researchers a chance to compare plant-based diets with animal-based diets, in a way that had not been previously possible. It was a rare opportunity to study the correlation between diets and disease. However, because it was an epidemiological study to study a human population, there were inherent limitations. Due to the large number of variables present in human populations, it is not possible to prove a definite, direct cause-and-effect relationship between a particular diet and a particular disease. However, when the weight of the evidence is viewed, and in conjunction with the other research findings on the subject, strong inferences can be made to support the benefits of a plant-based diet. Dr. Campbell’s study did confirm the research findings of large numbers of laboratory studies and nutrition studies which has been previously conducted on this topic. Since it has been the most comprehensive study ever conducted on diet and disease, it allowed researchers to examine large patterns of diet and disease, as well as individual factors such as blood cholesterol, estrogen levels, and fiber intake. These studies could then be used to produce thousands of statistically significant correlations.

    Other reasons that the China Project is convincing is that the study was conducted on a stationary population—the majority of subjects continued to live very close to their birthplaces. It was conducted on genetically very similar subjects, supporting the notion that differences in disease rates were attributable to environmental factors rather than genetics. They tested for 367 different types of variables and morality rates for over 48 different diseases, and had the data analyzed at multiple labs around the world to ensure accuracy. In other words, they could not have been more thorough or careful throughout, and used the best methods possible to reach their conclusions. Strong correlations were shown to exist between high cholesterol from consumption of animal foods and higher occurrence of strong degenerative diseases, a lower level of estrogen in Chinese women which has been proven to relate to breast cancer risk, and that higher fiber intake causes less incidence of rectal and colon cancers. These findings also concur with Dr. Campbell’s previous studies on the laboratory mice and tumor development. Therefore, for all of these reasons, I do not see how anyone could ignore or downplay the findings of this incredible study, and if they do, it can only be in the interest of promoting a contrary agenda propagating a animal-based diet over a plant-based one.

  • Conchita

    Thank you for your post but as you have not updated it I must say it’s incomplete by a long shot, unrealistic and based on mis-information. The first lie is regarding B12. ANIMALS ARE NOT A NATURAL SOURCE OF B12! People who eat meat have a higher probability of of being deficient than vegetarians or vegans. The B12 myth is a lot more complex than you imagine by the looks of things. I suggest you and others on here get acquainted with the real issue on B12.


    I would also like to add, “BRAVO” to the meat and dairy industries for cleverly convincing the general public that the fish is wild, the eggs are free range and organic and that the meat is organic and grassfed. Very soon no amount of clever marketing will keep the wool over naive customer’s eyes. Unfortunately this high price will be paid by our children if young enough or grandchildren

    To finish… your God comment… God made every animal and human herbivores including those now obligate carnivores Genesis 1:29-30. Only after “man” started ruining things did God “allow not mandate” the consumption of meat. For those who don’t believe in God this comment is irrelevant but for those who do… study your Scriptures and you will see that the only food mandated is that which comes from the soil, exactly where the B12 comes from, what a coincidence…or not!

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