Meatless Mondays are Good for Children's Health and the Environment... Right?

Think going plan-based is a healthy option for you and / or your child? Think again. Also, do you know how well they're able to hold your mind in theirs?

Meatless Mondays are Good for Children's Health and the Environment... Right?
Photo by Ella Olsson / Unsplash

What's New!

  • Wondering where the Thoughts to Ponder section went?  Check out the new Monday Meditation series; an Aurelius inspired reflection on some provoking and insightful thoughts and a review of what's been on my mind.  The most recent edition featured a few things I'm grateful for and quotes from Dr. Seuss and Freud.
  • Likewise, the former Trainer's Corner section has been replaced with Training Tuesdays.  In these posts I recap "news and research" relevant to sport performance and recovery as well as "locker room" reflections on my own coaching and training.  The 11/30 edition covered some thoughts on cryostimulation, personal safety, and some of my older climbing training articles.

Things I'm Reading:

Bone Health in School Age Children: Effects of Nutritional Intake on Outcomes
The maximum rate of bone mass accumulation is during early adolescence. As such, a focus on optimizing mineral nutrition in school age children, defined here as approximately 5 to 15 years of age, is crucial to minimize the risk of bone loss that occurs later in life leading to osteoporosis and frac…

"Optimizing bone mass in this age group (5-15) requires attention to an overall healthy diet including adequate calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and vitamin D. Special concerns may exist related to children who follow a restricted diet such as a vegan diet, those with intolerance or allergies to dairy, and those with chronic health conditions including young adolescents with eating disorders."  I'm glad this article points out the necessity for Vitamin D to (among many things) absorb calcium – meatless diets are likely to be deficient in both.  They're also likely to be deficient in (particularly bioavailable) protein which is also necessary for strong bones (not just calcium alone!).  If we look at the other end of the age spectrum we see that sarcopenia (muscle wasting) and osteoperosis very, very commonly co-occur.  This is worsened in childhood when the body is doing most of its (structural) growing.  If it is growing at all and not stunted, it is growing frail, or dependent on pharmaceutical supplements – under these identified conditions.  This doesn't even account for hormonal imbalances by such nutritional protocols during this time.

Replacing dietary animal-source proteins with plant-source proteins changes dietary intake and status of vitamins and minerals in healthy adults: a 12-week randomized controlled trial - European Journal of Nutrition
Purpose A shift towards more plant-based diets promotes both health and sustainability. However, controlled trials addressing the nutritional effects of replacing animal proteins with plant proteins are lacking. We examined the effects of partly replacing animal proteins with plant proteins on criti…

Speaking of plant-based diets for children and bioavailability of protein sources... "Partial replacement of animal protein foods with plant protein foods led to marked decreases in the intake and status of vitamin B-12 and iodine."  This was an isocaloric (meaning overall caloric intake did not change for participants throughout the study) study comparing people who ate only animal sources of protein, only plant sources of protein, or a mix of both.  While it was isocaloric, protein ratios did decline in the PLANT group to a pitiful 15% of calories – many recommendations are in the 20-40% range.  Additionally, bioavailability of nutrients is an issue; "...despite the higher iron and folate intakes in the PLANT group than in the ANIMAL group, no differences in the indicators of iron or folate status among the diet groups were observed."  So, intake (what goes in your mouth / gut) is not the same as "status" (what ends up in your blood) which is needed for the nutrients to get where they need to go to do what they need to do.  I'll note as well that this was a 12-week RCT, very high quality study being long term, controlled (not correlated), and isocaloric (no variance in calorie intake and nutrients not supplemented synthetically).

Animal protein intake is inversely associated with mortality in older adults: the InCHIANTI study
AbstractBackground. In general, plant protein intake was inversely associated with mortality in studies in middle-aged adults. Our aim was to evaluate the long-

While we're talking about different protein sources...  This is a 20-year epidemiology (correlation) study examining plant versus animal proteins and their relationship to all cause mortality and cardiovascular mortality.  Of course, epidemiology has it's limitations, and as I've recently argued, the "correlations" should be used to inform further RCTs (randomized control trials) and from those we get meta-analysis.  Just to note, this study also used food questionnaires, which I've been critical of in the past.  The point is that we can at least compare "apples-to-apples" here since so many plant-based proponents tout around epidemiology as gospel.

At any rate, surprise, "Animal protein intake was inversely associated with all-cause and cardiovascular mortality."  This means that not only does animal protein not cause death and heart disease but it appears to protect against it.  More animal protein being correlated with less overall death and cardiovascular (related) death.  Further, "Plant protein intake showed no association with any of the mortality outcomes..."  In other words, Meatless Mondays aren't helping you, your children (above), or the environment (below).

Worse Theory of Mind in Only-Children Compared to Children With Siblings and Its Intervention
The purpose of this study was to explore theory of mind (ToM) differences in children with different birth orders (only-children, first-born children, and second-born children), and further explore the effect of cognitive verb training for only-children’s ToM. Adopting the paradigm of false belief,…

This is a fascinating review that illustrates how important it is for children to socialize with, not only adults, but older and younger peers (typically siblings since the reference group is age 3 - 6 years old).  The first study reviewed showed a (statistically) significant difference in Theory of Mind (ToM = conceptualizing other people's mental states as different from your own) scores between first born children and only-children.

What was also reviewed, was that training can be effective to improve ToM scores.  This has extremely broad applications ranging from only children to schizophrenia, TBI, and while not mentioned in the review, I'd add autism as well.  The long and short here seems to be that by being able to observe a sibling (younger or older) gives a child a reference point out of themselves regarding what an adult may be describing about the world.  In other words, the child can observe something about me occurring in an other that is not me, but is more like me than an adult describing the thing to me.

Resources to Thrive:

  • Revero (formerly MeatRx) is a great hosting platform for nutrition coaching specific to carnivore(ish) ways of eating and has a wealth of information and resources as well.  I have several friends that coach through that platform, so I want to send some love to Gisel and William!  Check it out!
  • "The Global Food Justice Alliance is a group of concerned health professionals, academics, chefs, and others involved in the food system who are passionate about food equity and the impacts of malnutrition, obesity, other food-related conditions caused by nutrient-poor diets."   This is an incredible project by Diana Rogers (who co-authored Sacred Cow with Robb Wolf).  Shawn Baker (who founded Revero above) is also on the advisory circle, as are some other ancestral health OGs like: Chris Kresser, Chris Masterjohn, Gabrielle Lyon, Mark Sisson, Robb Wolf, and Anthony Gustin.  One of the most painful ironies, in my opinion, about a vegan diet is the huge humanitarian crisis that it causes on many geopolitical fronts – all allegedly in the name of compassion and fighting against biased privilege.  If you have any questions about this, please do some digging around the website, or feel free to shoot me a message!
  • Last week I reviewed some literature on psilocybin and also listened to Paul Saladino's podcast with Dan Engle about MDMA in psychotherapy and psychiatry.  This is something I'll be diving into more in the future, but I highly recommend the podcast if this interests you at all.  Yes, I've been meaning to reach out to Paul about his criticisms of caffeine (a psychoactive substance) and contradictory support of use of (synthetic) MDMA.  Clearly, most people (including myself) chronically abuse coffee, and the argument I've made elsewhere is the distinction between recreational and medicinal use.  I'm a huge fan of Paul's work, obviously, but I think there could be a little expansion here regarding "medicinal" plant use.  For now, listen to the podcast and I'll touch back on this in tomorrow's meditation!

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