Thank you very much for for having me. I have been very eager to discuss these things about kids because, as I wrote to you, I am one of six admins in a Facebook group for Greek people who are mostly parents with kids — and they want to be vegans; that’s the underlying theme. What we do in this group is that we try to empower them to follow the whole food diet as a facilitating element of adopting a vegan lifestyle. We usually say to them that if you think that you have an obligation –a moral obligation– towards animals, it’s the same towards your kids. You have a moral obligation towards your kids to adopt a whole food diet, the healthiest vegan diet you can do. So I would like to have your thoughts about that, about raising kids on this kind of diet versus *not* raising them on this kind of diet. [TCC] Yes. Actually, I’m sure your thoughts and my thoughts are identical, I think. First off, you know I’m not a pediatrician, obviously, as you know. So I speak from, you know, colleagues, from a professional point of view, also from the science, and thirdly from the fact that we have watched our own children and grandchildren. My wife has really looked over this matter and I must tell you that the whole food plant based diet is perfect for children. The only thing that… the only exception is, of course, when they’re nursing. And nursing clearly… mother’s milk is the perfect food at that time of their lives and that’s it. And so the children should be put on to the whole food plant based diet as early as… you know, you put them on whole food. So it’s just perfect. I don’t think that you and I disagree one bit. On one other matter: I should say (and I think you made some reference to this), is that actually I don’t particularly care for the word “vegan”. I have been writing about that recently. In fact, as you may know, I did my work over several decades without ever using those words. That was *not* my reason for doing this; it was based on science. Later in my career I learned about vegetarianism and veganism –especially veganism– and I respect those motivations. That’s not the issue; I fully respect those motivations on one hand. On the other hand, though, that’s not the only motivation for telling other people about this dietary lifestyle. That’s why I’m the one that came up with that “whole food plant based diet” terminology. And the reason I did was because I did not want to talk to my colleagues in science about having a motivation strictly based on veganism or vegetarianism because that is not… that just not sell people in the profession. And so I actually tried to avoid those words by just making myself clear and I actually spoke to now a couple of vegetarian groups in big conventions and I told them exactly this. I said “You know, I’m not a vegetarian”. And of course they looked very puzzled and wanted to know what am I saying. And so I explained to them what I just explained to you. And what I’m finding is that, surprisingly, many of them totally agree with me, as I think you do, because when we talk about ethical reasoning, or moral responsibility, it seems to me, we’ve said… my wife and I have said this for years: we have a moral responsibility towards children. And it’s fine to have some ethical ideas about other animals but let’s not forget our children. That’s where I started my career in the Philippines, you know, working with children. Starving, malnourished children. And I will never forget that responsibility. So I think using whole food plant based is based on science; but at the same time I honor the motivations of others who might wish to join this movement because of that, because of ethical considerations. So that’s the whole story. [AP] Yes, thank you. The next question is: Since the scientific basis is strong, why pediatricians do not seem to promote this kind of food, of diet? There are so many pediatricians that give instructions to parents when they start solid foods after 6-7 months, they give instructions that essentially –one could say– create the patients of the future; they create the habits of later day patients. So why do pediatricians seem *not* to do that? What is your opinion and how could change that as simple people? [TCC] Well, first off, and I think your husband probably will know this, too –I’m sure you do, too– pediatricians and other medical professionals are not trained in nutrition. That’s the main thing. But even if they *are* trained in nutrition, most of them still are reluctant because they’re not… the kind of nutrition that we teach (and I did this for many years — I’m a Professor of nutritional biochemistry) and I know that what is generally taught in the profession of nutrition is not right. In nutrition and general discussion about nutrition we are trying to, unfortunately, defend the Western diet, so to speak, and we almost defend without thinking, we defend the consumption of dairy products. And that is a very interesting question because you can ask “Why do we do that?” Even Professors of nutrition, for example. Why did they follow this standard Western diet nonsense? And the reason is, because it has a very deep cultural and scientific history. You know, when we’re breaking paradigms (I like that word: “paradigm”), when we’re breaking paradigms it’s not easy. Because we have to confront all the misunderstanding and confusion of what we already know, supposedly. It’s not easy but we have to be, it seems to me, to be… to start out with, in the case of pediatricians: First learn nutrition and then, secondly, begin to question, you know, what is it we’re learning. And I’m writing some papers on this by the way right now; I’ve got a paper that I submitted for publication in a professional journal, that I think will be published soon and I just mentioned to you briefly. We study nutrition, we understand nutrition primarily in terms of individual nutrients and nutrient activities. That’s unfortunate. That’s useful information but it’s not complete information. Nutrition, to me, means talking about all the nutrients working together, in a wholistic way, in the body. And so that’s what I wrote about in the book “Whole”. Also I’m now writing more about it because that’s the way nutrition works. If you just use individual nutrients like nutrient supplements, for example, they don’t work, mostly. And if they do work, there’s only for a short term. And, actually, some of them, they actually cause the opposite effect. So that’s the concept of the whole food. That’s why so when babies are beginning to eat our food, the adult food, they need to eat the whole food. And pediatricians, unfortunately, they’re not trained in even the traditional nutrition, let alone this new kind of nutrition. So that’s the answer. I’m sorry for such a long answer, but that’s the way it is. [AP] It’s a perfect answer. I would like to tell you that lately we had them… we seem to be getting stronger, this group. We have a good name in the market that we are doing a good job and we’re evidence-based. We’re strong. So we had some pediatricians which are not plant-based come in [out Group] and in fact terrorize us by saying that “you know… it is very important for you to understand that what you do is dangerous for your kids”. We replied; we didn’t get any more replies. But we said: “whoever wants to discuss with us we can give them all the material we have and then we can discuss”. So somehow we have opened up and we are calling openly all pediatricians to come to our group to discuss. Do you think this is a good way of action? Because we are here; we live here; our kids live now; we cannot wait for pediatricians to start changing; we have to change them . So that’s why we did that. Lately, the last two months. Would you agree with that? [TCC] Yes I do. Of course, I do agree. I mean to have conversation, you know, open conversation, as long as it’s civil, obviously. To have open conversation about this issue is really the best way. I actually have been invited four times already to debate you know for example in the public –on big radio stations– to debate those who disagree with me. They don’t want to debate anymore because they don’t have… their arguments are very weak and they don’t have enough knowledge of nutrition to know what they’re talking about — to be honest about it. So… And I’ve offered to… I will debate anyone, anyplace, at any time. And I will listen to them; maybe they have some good points; I am open to that. But, as you know, in science we have to listen to all points of view and then you have a reasonable discussion about what do the facts show. And I’m really now confident that those who want to disagree or who want to say that we’re crazy or something like that: they’re wrong, they’re just simply wrong. And I can easily –when I get together with them– show them some information that they cannot refute and so the question I think that you’re asking to some extent is: “Why are these people so reluctant to agree to something like this?” Well, we’re human and we like to defend what we do and what we believe and some people have a hard time changing their minds, regardless. So, you know, what do you do? I mean, you just have to tell them: “you are just not staying up to date”. [AP] Yes. Even if they understand that they have been doing it wrong up to now, it is very difficult to accept and to change, practically change. [TCC: Right].
Maybe they prefer to go on like that, instead of accepting failure to get to the facts earlier– I don’t know. But we’re trying this: Could we consider you as a patron of our group in case we want to have a discussion with any Greek pediatricians? [TCC] Yes, actually, you, what you could do… I’m reluctant to make too many commitments but if you want to have a Skype with your group, where we can have some questions and answers, ΟΚ. Τhat’s one way to do it. [AP] Excellent. That is great and thank you very much. Now– how would you compare the “SAD” (the Standard American Diet) with the average plant-based diet (the average, not the whole food, the average).
[TCC] Yes. For example, vegan sausage instead of
sausage; plant milks instead of milk; plant cheese instead of cow’s milk cheese.
How would you compare these two diets? [TCC] Well, the first thing: I should tell you about some new science; it’s only one year old. I think that is the best science so far comparing vegan, vegetarian, and meat eating diets. This was the study that was published out of England, as part of the so called EPIC (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition study. You may already know that study. And a friend of mine actually was the lead author. And they compared the nutrient content of vegans, vegetarians, and meat eaters. Very interesting: the total dietary fat of those three diets are the same. The total refined carbohydrates are the same. Vegans and vegetarians consume a lot more vegetables (yes, they did that) and fruit; but the fat content and the refined carbohydrate and sugar, the fat and the sugar contents of those three diets were almost exactly the same. And the reason for that is that vegetarians, –90 percent of vegetarians more or less– they’re still using dairy. So they’re using just a protein from milk instead of from meat, for example. The vegans, they’re not using animal foods but they are using a lot of junk foods high in fat and high in sugar. So… And it’s the nutrient composition of the diet that best estimates their effect. So if the nutrient composition of those three diets is virtually the same, therefore we’re not going to see any big differences in health outcomes. A little bit better for vegans and vegetarians but not not really big differences. The big differences occur when we go to the whole food plant based diet. That’s very different, you know. So, that’s one thing that we need to keep in mind about comparing these three diets and our comparing, for example, the whole food plant based diet with the Standard American Diet as you said. You know, as far as some of these –what should I say– manipulated foods or other kinds of foods, fake meats and so forth; vegan meats: I’d think, to some extent, they’re sort of OK… maybe… if you have nothing else. They also might be OK a little bit when people are making the transition. You know, going from the standard American diet over to their diet. But the sooner they are able to go to a whole food plant based diet and allow their taste preference to change… Because it tends to change after a month or two or three as you probably know. And if you’re not using added fat, especially, you know cutting down on added fat (that’s a very important addiction) and so when we stay away from that then our preferences for food actually change –quite substantially– in a month or two. And so, during that period… I don’t like the idea of using the fake stuff but, maybe some people find it easier, I don’t know, it’s probably OK for a short while. But it’s not… That should not be the norm, you know, after the change has been made. [AP] Yes, I understand that, but I’m not sure that I know one is preferable against the other. So, if you have two people: one eating a standard American diet and another one eating a diet based on substitutes. Is there any benefit at all from having the second diet? the standard junk –let’s say– plant based diet? [TCC] Right. I don’t know of any evidence, but I think, my guess is yes, there is some advantage. [AP] Which is arising from what? [TCC] Well, for one, I think it is arising from a different kind of protein. That’s probably the biggest thing. Number one. Number two: it’s also these… what kind of diet did you call them? [AP] Junk vegan. [TCC] Junk food whatever. I mean, if those kinds of foods, if they’re low in fat and they’re low in sugar and also they have a different kind of protein, yeah, I mean then “sure”, they will be better, yes. [AP] That’s very helpful to know. [TCC] I would say one thing that isn’t very well known. We all think that saturated fat is the worst kind of fat. That’s not quite true. The polyunsaturated fats of plants are probably worse. Especially when the total fat intake is high. That’s what the data show. When the total fat in the diet is maybe 30% or 35%, at that level, at least in the United States, and I think in other European countries too, a lot of that oil comes from plant oils; and so those plant oils are mostly omega 6 fats. And omega 6 fats are pro- inflammatory. In contrast, the opposite kind of fats, omega 3, they are anti-inflammatory. So when we have, like the vegan diet, I just told you that before, that the vegan diet is 30% fat or something, and a lot of that is added oil… and so it means that the ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 is much higher than it should be. Now, on the other hand, … and polyunsaturated oils, under those
circumstances you’re also more susceptible to oxidation produced by a free radical type of products. On the other hand if you drop the total fat in that comparison you drop it down to maybe 10%, 15% –eating just whole food– the ratio of the omega-6 to omega-3 doesn’t make any difference. So this is a… And much of that early research on saturated fats, that started many many years ago, well is really better described as an effect of animal protein. Because people on high saturated fat diets were consuming more animal food. That’s where they got the saturated fat from. They were also using lard and butter and so forth like that and so the total fat intake was high; and also animal protein was high. Now in more recent years people want to use polyunsaturated fats because they’re supposedly better you know they lower blood cholesterol for example and so forth. But those polyunsaturated fats, as I said, are… they have a very high ratio of omega-6 to omega-3, so it makes them pro-inflammatory. That’s one of the main reasons not to have added oil, I should say. [AP] So, the take-home message is this. This is another reason why you should not use added oils in cooking and in your food. [TCC] Right. Exactly. Yes. This is a point that’s not very well known, I think, but it’s an important point in my view. [AP] OK. Could you please compare the paleo diet and the whole food plant based diet? [TCC] Yes, that’s very interesting; two of my former debates were to the leader of the paleo movement and I know what that’s about. Those people are simply wanting to protect the consumption of a lot of animal food. And so they’re trying to make the argument that in ancient times we were mostly hunters not gatherers. I’ve looked at that information, that data. That’s not convincing. In reality I think that we were very very clearly, as other data are showing, that we were probably mostly gatherers, not hunters I mean women, for the most part, were the ones who often got the food –for one thing– in those ancient times and I think the argument (about the paleo diet being based on animals) I think it’s, to be honest about it, I think it’s kind of a masculine macho argument, you know, that it’s supposedly men were the ones who were doing all the hunting, and so forth and so on. The data doesn’t show that. People making the paleo diet are just… They’re talking about “low-carb” for example. You know carbohydrates are only produced in plants. So what they’re really saying –they don’t say it out loud, but what they’re really saying– is “cut down on the consumption of carbohydrates”. That means cutting down on plants, so you can eat more animal food. That’s what they’re saying. If they restricted their argument just to the refined carbohydrates, OK, we can have an agreement. But they too often talk about total carbohydrate and so the Paleo diet is really another name for low carb diet. It’s very simple. [AP] So what is wrong with having a low-carb diet? [TCC] That means you were consuming a high protein high fat diet. That’s what it means. And we don’t want to
have a high protein, high fat, that’s very dangerous. [AP] Yep, very clear. OK, let’s go to the whole food diet for athletes. In my mind there are two kinds of athletes: recreational ones which have normal requirements for whatever nutrients and the professional athletes. Do you feel that a whole food diet without supplemented –let’s say– protein or whatever could be perfect for both kinds of athletes? [TCC] Yes, absolutely. And as a matter of fact, in the last 10 years there are several world-class athletes who have approached me. I’ve gotten to know several. In other words, when they change to the whole food plant-based diet, their performance actually improves; it gets better. I can name some names. You may not know these names, but… Gary Player, one of the world’s greatest golfers, was a big supporter of this. He contacted me immediately when the book came out and he spoke on American television to 70 million people. Also, the number one football… the most famous football player in the United States, a guy named Tom Brady they wanted to change. The quarterback, he also changed. Because his chefs had taken our course and had him to change. Wrestlers, strength guys… the guy that holds the world record for the strongest man in the world [they are] totally whole food plant-based.
AP: Who is this? TCC: He’s actually Iranian; he lived
in Germany some time. Now he is in Canada. AP: Baboumian?
TCC: Yes, right. He held that record. Also just last week I was with the man who is an ultra marathoner; he ran the race in Greece — 150 miles. Scott Jurek. I was with him, I spoke in New Mexico and I had met him before but he came up and wanted me to sign his book and everything. He is totally… He just did an amazing run in this country over a trail that is about 2,000 miles long He is a hundred percent this way [on a whole foods plant based diet]. Basketball players, baseball, soccer (you call it football in Europe), the big stars, Jaroslav Jágr (is that name familiar to you?) They are all doing that. Some of them, they want to… Some of those athletes, a lot of those athletes, they think they should have protein supplements when they’re training. That’s not true. They don’t need that and some of the extra muscle that they havef rom that, it’s muscle mixed with fat. It’s not healthy. And so they actually die earlier. It makes bigger muscle but it’s not as good a muscle, it’s not strong; it’s not the really good kind of muscle. AP: That would be my next question, a related question. What happens in the long run? With athletes who supplement a lot? They are not on a whole food plant based diet, and I have the feeling that it is detrimental to their health: both to be on an animal-based diet and to supplement as well. TCC: Right. I am just learning from my friends in the professional athlete world that they get better I mean the same as everybody else. And also they live longer. Because many of them use high animal protein during the years when they’re performing but then they die younger, because of that. It’s dangerous.
AP: OK. One more question then. In our group we are following the guidelines of the Dietetic Association of America and dietitians that support a vegan diet. They say to supplement with b12 vitamin since six months old i.e. since other foods come into the diet. That’s what we do in our group. Many people do not feel comfortable with that, like supplementing in such an early age with vitamin b12. Could you say something that would help parents? What is your opinion, is this extreme? TCC: I think it’s useful to have some vitamin b12 supplement, yes. That probably is okay. But if I look at the science critically I really don’t see any really strong argument for that. But I’m willing to say “okay, b12”, because the level in the blood is a little bit lower when you eat all plants. That’s probably because we’re scrubbing, keeping plants clean, and so forth and so on. So: b12? yes. But no other vitamins; it’s not necessary. I have never taken vitamin supplements and I know vitamin supplements cause harm sometimes and unfortunately people take vitamin supplements and they think they take it instead of the whole food. They think they’re doing good — and it’s not true. So, I don’t accept other vitamin supplements. AP: But about b12 you don’t see a problem in supplementing since six months old. TCC: No.
AP: These are the guidelines of professional dietitians who are dealing with plant-based diets.
TCC: Yeah. I would tend to argue with them I’d say “your results, your findings, are not as convincing as you think they are”, but we actually need to do more research on that so I’m not going to be dogmatic. And so… and b12 is fairly safe. So taking some b12 supplements is OK, at this time. AP: OK. So, to pack it up: do you think it is safe overall for families to raise children on a whole food plant based diet? TCC: Yes.
We actually have 10 grandchildren. The five oldest now already finished University and they were outstanding athletes, really. They were some of the best athletes in their class, and they played sport, and they ate this way from the time they were born. And they were better athletes than their classmates. Two of them, three of them actually, were the captains of their soccer teams and all three [teams] were sort of at the state level in North Carolina. Very good, strong soccer teams. So they were really outstanding athletes. One of them just was recently in Nepal and was climbing Mount Everest and then he was swimming in a very deep… in the coast off of Thailand, down where the big whale sharks were.
AP: One of your grandsons did that? TCC: Yeah. He… They are really outstanding athletes. And they only ate a whole food plant based diet. I mean, I would challenge anybody. AP: Thank you very very much, once more.
TCC: Well, thank you for spreading the good word in your country, you and your husband. It’s really good. TCC: Okay, I also… I should tell you I also can see your beautiful little girls on my email. Yeah, somehow I missed that before and the reason I say that is because I know you gave me some questions — what did I do with them? — about children, [is it] safe, and so on… And the best answer — my wife saw your girls, too — the best answer is simply looking at your own girls. They look very very healthy… I mean, perfect.