For English readers who are confused about this blog, it’s a German blog fighting antiveganism, but occaisionally texts are published in English as well. This is one of them, for context it’s necessary that you read this first: http://blog.nutritiondata.com/ndblog/2010/01/veganism-not-for-everyone.html
Monica Reinagel is an antivegan nutritionist who writes the column blog called “Ask Monica” and answers questions on the very popular website nutritiondata.com. The questions she answers aren’t spontaneous or public ones from the commenters of the column, they’re from sources offsite, that is, someone sends her a question through a web form.
In the recent question regarding the vegan diet, the asker claims to have suffered from “brain fog”, constant sleepiness, depression and lack of energy despite being health conscious and making an effort to eat a nutritionally adequate vegan diet, and Monica Reinagel is happy to conclude that the vegan diet is not for everyone and is possibly (very) hard to maintain.
While the feel of her reply to the current “vegan question” is notably neutral, she actually uses a rhetorical trick to discredit the ADA paper on vegetarian and vegan diets so she can go on marking the vegan diet as dangerous, despite evidence to the contrary. It’s so well crafted that one could easily read over it, but I was slightly suspicious because of an earlier question on this column which was asked some time ago and demonstrated a blatant anti-vegan attitude. I’d actually like to add more adjectives to blatant to fully resemble the spectrum of wrongness and I’ll not link it here because it just does not deserve more energy to search engine ranking. That response that time cited an article of the New York Times as a source for nutritional inadequacy (!) of the vegan diet, an article for which the newspaper has practically apologized later on, that’s how unfair it was. I’m not sure whether Monica has apologized yet. The article in the NYT was of the “vegan diet kills your baby dead” type.
Basically the construct we have here is that a long term ex-vegan (!) who claims to have followed an adequate diet including B12 et al, links health problems that are dead sure linked to the vegan diet, is placed opposite to the scientific authority of the ADA paper which concludes that vegan diets are OK for ::gasp:: all ages. I’m sure there’s a fancy Latin name for this rhetorical construct, but you’ll just have to go by my description.
What struck me first was this odd “brain fog” index term. This descriptor has been used almost like a catch phrase many times by people who later were outed as anti-vegan trolls in forums and blogs. I don’t know why “brain fog” is so popular as a discrediting marker by anti-vegans. It’s almost like as if “brain fog” is for antivegans what “stingy misers” is for antisemites. What’s so striking is, above that, the odd phenomenon, and yes I’m being sarcastic here, that “brain fog” like conditions connected to the vegan diet seem to exist only where people speak English natively… BTW, antivegan trolls these days don’t only just hate vegans, it’s a job now and they receive money for it. I can’t quite say whether Monica was ridden by one, or whether she is one.
The tone and language used by the person we are made to believe is asking the question is also telling in that she speaks of vegans as if they’re that external group. It’s strange that someone who claims to have been vegan herself for 9 years (!), would speak of vegans as “this other people”. And the ADA paper has been a tough nut to crack for anti-vegans indeed, which the asker frames as something vegans use as a victory. I’m not sure if it is a victory, and frankly I didn’t know we’re at war with anyone. We just like people to stop using animals (for food and other stuff). Also, Monica is pretty much “burnt” as an antivegan in the vegan community, even if you’re ex-vegan, would you trust an antivegan to answer your question relating to the vegan diet neutrally? I wouldn’t.
So I can’t help but feeling there’s something fishy here. And even if there isn’t, given the previous bias of the blog, it leaves a bitter taste that some obvious things weren’t considered in the answer by Monica Reinagel, even if everything is genuine and I’m just having a neurotic fit of sorts.
Of course it could very well be that the asker was not vegan, but a vegan dieter, vegan dieters often forget to mention that they actually are not vegans, but vegan dieters. As such, they don’t socialize with vegans or consider themselves belonging to vegans as a social group, contrary to us who have a strong cultural identification with other vegans all over the world. This could explain why she referred to vegans as a social group that exists somewhere outside her cultural identity. Sort of the way some white middleclass Americans speak of “Latinos”, even if they’ve lived in Mexico for many years.
The first big mistake that Monica did was ignoring the possibility of the askers diet, rather the vegan diet in general being to blame for “brain fog”. However, without an analysis of THIS PERSONS vegan diet, which she also chose to generalize as “the” vegan diet (!), any attempt to figure out the adequacy of HER vegan diet is futile of course and on the other hand very practical if you’d wanted to sling some FUD. There is another rhetorical curiosity. The asker only confirms indirectly that her problems vanished after she stopped eating vegan, it’s never addressed directly. It’s left for the reader to fill the gap in our mind to conclude, that the problems actually vanished and went away after the she stopped being vegan. This creates a sort of de facto evidence in the readers mind that the vegan diet is the only possible link to the the conditions. And there’s another one yet again. The length of time the asker was vegan, 9 years nonetheless, suggests to the reader that there may be long term consequences if you’re vegan. But how probable or likely is someone who endures 9 years of health problems without getting to the source of it? The whole thing just doesn’t rhyme.
It’s also noted that Monica, who is suppose to be our nutrition expert here chose as well to accept the notion of one, mysterious vegan, uniform and standard “vegan diet” as a given fact, without even considering individual difference in real life. The very fact that she chose to believe the askers diet to be adequate without real analysis, is evidence of pseudoscience being conducted. Instead, she supports the thesis of the asker that the ominous general vegan diet is to blame, and even confirms, that “this experience is not unusual”. I’d really appreciate some sources for this claim. Because the type of vegans who go to nutritionists are those who are already having problems. To extrapolate people who have problems with food as “not unusual” onto the general vegan population is a sort of “experts cognitive dissonance”. It happens to doctors whose patients are vegan as well. They see sick people all day, but when they find out their patient is vegan, they have this “unexplainable” urge to link the sickness with the vegan diet.
I spent many hours giving support to vegans and vegan dieters in forums and by email, and time and time again, feelings of not doing well on the vegan diet, energy problems, were people with masked eating disorders who simply had not enough caloric intake. When I ask for a typical food of the day, I get answers like: Well today I had an apple, some soy yogurt and a salad.
If you have like 600 kcal in a day you’re bound to have energy problems… That’s not a problem of the vegan diet, this is a problem of anorexia nervosa or related eating disorder.
It all comes down to this: There’s simply no nutrient that’s missing from the vegan diet, that isn’t missing on a regular diet as well. Things like iodine, selenium in some parts of the world or Vitamin D, which is a global problem and can’t be fixed with food anyway. The only critical thing is Vitamin B12, and since this is produced by fermenting bacteria, it’s vegan to include it in the diet as a supplement. There’s a German fermentation expert, Prof. Bärwald who was able to ferment B12 inside vegan foods, however his method was never successful given the market dominance of the pure form regular production method.
After researching many claims of people doing bad on the vegan diet, I must be suspicious of such reports, because I’ve looked at, well maybe not dozens of cases but it was always another problem which got subsumed as “vegan diet”. Either it was undiagnosed eating disorder, undiagnosed food allergies or intolerances or people simply had a miserable concept of nutrition despite believing that they were doing fine. It takes some digging and patience to find out what the real problem is especially for the one affected. Blaming the vegan diet is so much more simple.
It’s striking that Monica did not conduct any of these reasonings, but rather chose to blindly support the negative notion of the asker… The conclusion for her in this matter is even more bleak if it’s not just antivegan conspiracy, because then it points to incompetence. Ouch.
And yes, of course. I’m one of those long term vegans who do wonderfully on the vegan diet, apart from my 15kg overweight, which is distributed nicely though.
I tried to comment on site but I got a message they can’t accept my data. Well Google and Bing can :-)