Dr. David Brownstein, M.D., is a board-certified family physician and one of the nation’s foremost practitioners of holistic medicine. He is editor of Dr. David Brownstein’s Natural Way to Health newsletter. Dr. Brownstein has lectured internationally to physicians and others about his success with natural hormones and nutritional therapies in his practice. His books include Drugs That Don’t Work and Natural Therapies That Do!; Iodine: Why You Need It, Why You Can’t Live Without It; Salt Your Way To Health; The Miracle of Natural Hormones; Overcoming Arthritis, Overcoming Thyroid Disorders; The Guide to a Gluten-Free Diet; and The Guide to Healthy Eating. He is the medical director of the Center for Holistic Medicine in West Bloomfield, Mich., where he lives with his wife, Allison, and their teenage daughters, Hailey and Jessica.

Dr. David Brownstein, M.D.

Pitfalls of Vegetarian Diets

Tuesday, 08 Jan 2013 09:15 AM

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Question: Are vegetarian diets really good for you?

Dr. Brownstein's Answer:

Can you eat a healthy vegetarian diet? Yes, just as you can eat a healthy diet with foods that come from animals. My patients have done well on both diets. However, a vegetarian one can be fraught with pitfalls.

Unfortunately, some people who go on vegetarian or vegan diets lose too much muscle and suffer from fatigue and muscle aches. In such cases, lab tests typically show that these patients are suffering from malnutrition from consuming too little protein and fat.

I once went to a prominent spa in Florida where they served a vegan diet of raw vegetables. I was there to lecture to the staff and residents about how they could improve their health. Blood profiles of three employees who lived and worked
there revealed the same problem: They were malnourished because they ate too little protein and fat. When I suggested they increase protein intake by eating eggs, wild fish, or organic animal products, they were appalled. I was literally ushered out and told not to come back.

A vegan or vegetarian diet can be healthy. However, it is important to get fat and protein from other sources. Otherwise, the body becomes deficient in fatty acids, fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K), and protein.

When deficient, the human body goes into a state of catabolism, in which it literally breaks down muscle and body fat to survive. Eventually, this leads to health problems.

If you are going to embark on a vegan or vegetarian diet, educate yourself about what fats and protein do for the body, and how you can ensure that you get enough of both.

When you begin such a diet, I recommend monitoring nutrients with regular blood tests. These will measure levels of protein, fat-soluble vitamins, and fatty acids.

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