It’s All About The Energy


It looks like balance trumps granola.   Scientists have always claimed that a plant-based diet benefits the environment more than animal-based diet.  The problem is that no one has proven that.  The authors of a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition set out to do just that and the results of their study showed that:

  •  “highest-quality” diets in health terms – those high in fruit, vegetables and fish – were linked to about as much, if not more, greenhouse gas emissions as low-quality diets that were high in sweets and salts.
  • people who eat a plant-based diet need to eat more produce to get the amount of energy they’d have in a piece of meat
I had been a vegetarian for over twenty years.    Without going into detail, I decided to switch back to eating some meat products.  It has been a struggle (as far as taste and the mental part).   That being said, we always need to careful when we claim some moral superiority in how we eat.  This study proves just that.

Douglas Farrago MD

Douglas Farrago MD is a full-time practicing family doc in Forest, Va. He started Forest Direct Primary Care where he takes no insurance and bills patients a monthly fee. He is board certified in the specialty of Family Practice. He is the inventor of a product called the Knee Saver which is currently in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Knee Saver and its knock-offs are worn by many major league baseball catchers. He is also the inventor of the CryoHelmet used by athletes for head injuries as well as migraine sufferers. Dr. Farrago is the author of four books, two of which are the top two most popular DPC books. From 2001 – 2011, Dr. Farrago was the editor and creator of the Placebo Journal which ran for 10 full years. Described as the Mad Magazine for doctors, he and the Placebo Journal were featured in the Washington Post, US News and World Report, the AP, and the NY Times. Dr. Farrago is also the editor of the blog Authentic Medicine which was born out of concern about where the direction of healthcare is heading and the belief that the wrong people are in charge. This blog has been going daily for more than 15 years Article about Dr. Farrago in Doximity Email Dr. Farrago – [email protected] 

  9 comments for “It’s All About The Energy

  1. February 14, 2013 at 5:29 pm

    First of all, Pat you are hilarious and exactly right. Overpopulation is the underlying reason for the environmental problems with food production.

    Now that I have read the article, I can see that it is not even internally consistent. They state that meat (by which they must mean beef) produces 15 times as many greenhouse gases as fruits, vegetables and starches. They later say that meat causes three times as many greenhouse gas emissions as an equal amount of calories of fruits and vegetables. Three times greater is very significant and brings their conclusions into question. But why did they leave out the starches in that comparison?

    Rice has 111 calories per 100 grams. Beef has 145. With 15 times as many emissions PER GRAM, beef causes over 11.5 times as many emissions as rice per calorie. Compared to macadamia nuts beef causes 74 TIMES AS MANY EMISSIONS PER CALORIE.

    The truth is that vegetarians get most of their calories from starches like rice, potatoes (93 calories per 100 grams, about 10.5% emissions per calorie as beef) and beans and eat fewer calories overall than meat-eaters.

    This is a fundamentally deceptive and dishonest article and study. There is no need for a rebuttal study.

    • Pat
      February 14, 2013 at 8:35 pm

      Damn TN, you sure have your calorie-per-gram, planet-killing carbon gassing Kung Fu down! I’m impressed!

  2. Pat
    February 14, 2013 at 8:55 am

    I think valid concerns regarding increased food production leading to industrial runoff altering the water table, and algae overgrowth in down stream coastal areas can be made. And no, I’m not gonna holler “See, eating meat IS better for the planet!!” ( even though I really want to).

    But trying to associate food production with global warming via increased greenhouse gasses is comical, especially given the accelerating population growth. Wanna cut atmospheric carbon? Then produce less humans. It will probably have no effect on the climate, but it will allow everyone to feel better, while I hit the next all-u-can-eat BBQ so that I can feel better.

  3. Andy
    February 13, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    The fact that the author of this blog would state that this study “proves” anything astounds me. We should know that one study proves nothing until it has been replicated several times. I can’t wait for the rebuttal study in a few years. I get that the authentic medicine blog despises everything related to the “liberal agenda,” but at least get the science right. Besides, this study has nothing to do with medicine, so why even write about it?

    • Doug Farrago
      February 13, 2013 at 3:12 pm

      My name is Doug and not “the author”. And yes, “prove” is a big word so I could remove that. Let’s wait a few years for that rebuttal, though, shall we? Also, why does food have nothing to do with medicine? Lastly, why was this a “liberal agenda” attack? I told you that I was a vegetarian for over twenty years. I want the results to show that a plant-based diet is better for the environment. So, to summarize: 1. I am a doctor and my name is Douglas Farrago MD 2. Yes, I should not have said “prove” yet 3. Food is medicine 4. I don’t love the “liberal agenda” especially the fiscal policies but this blog entry had nothing to do with that 5. I can write whatever the fuck I want to write about because, well, it’s my fucking blog.

      • mjnick
        February 15, 2013 at 10:00 am

        I rarely comment…but have ‘read’ you for years. I’m LMAO! Love you, Doug!!!

        • Doug Farrago
          February 15, 2013 at 11:03 am


    • February 13, 2013 at 3:19 pm

      Dear Andy,

      Let thy food be thy medicine. Let thy medicine be thy food.

      Hippocrates (aka the father of medicine)

  4. February 13, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    This study doesn’t prove anything – at least not based on the two quotes provided. First, sweets come from plants and salts are relatively inconsequential, environmentally speaking. Nobody is suggesting that a junk food vegetarian diet has worse environmental consequences than a healthy vegetarian diet. They are probably very equivalent. But as soon as you add meat everything changes. It takes 2.6 pounds of grain to produce one pound of chicken and 7 pounds to produce one pound of beef. Therein lies the environmental problem.

    There is no other way to phrase it – the second statement is just completely dishonest. They intentionally use the word “produce” to have only certain types of plant foods come to mind. Here are the calorie counts per 100 grams for various foods. (And don’t trust me on this, go look it up yourself.)

    Milk – 60
    Beef – 145
    Chicken – 165
    Salmon – 206
    Cheese – 403
    Bacon – 541

    Bell peppers – 20
    Spinach – 23
    Squash – 40
    Apples – 52
    Grapes – 69
    Green peas – 84

    Hey, it looks like they might be right, doesn’t it? Not so fast! Check these out:

    Pinto beans – 143
    Avocado – 160
    Chickpeas – 164
    Corn – 365!
    Peanuts – 599!!
    Macadamia nuts – 718!!!

    Very few animal products even come close to the energy density of nuts. We don’t have to address the fact that we eat way too many calories in this country to begin with to completely refute this particular argument.

    Who sponsored this study? Undoubtedly some organization that benefits from consumers being less concerned about meat consumption. I haven’t read the article but do they discuss other environmental concerns like the effect of industrial farming on biodiversity and the degradation of topsoil? Global warming is only one aspect of the problem.

    I am not a vegetarian either Doug, but I would bet we both eat just a fraction of the animal products of most Americans.

    The US produces 4 times as much food per person as India. Don’t like India as a comparison? How about Italy? We produce twice as much as they do. This is because so much of our food production is used in animal feeds with that terrible stepdown ratio. That does not come without environmental consequences.

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