Reaching the 95% who still eat meat. Since beginning my blog nine months ago, I have often referred to the estimated 95% of the American public who still “believe” that they must eat animal protein to be healthy. That is based on my informal poll of “mainstream” non-vegetarian audiences in twelve months of speaking engagements since completing my book.
Clearly, we have not successfully delivered our message to the masses. One of my readers posted this comment on one of my blogs last week; summing up our problem perfectly, Stephen writes:
The statistic of existing 95% carnivorous public you have stated several times tells me one thing about the healthy lifestyle movement – it is not promoting the idea of a healthy diet effectively.
For example, there is now a library of books on healthy diets, several of which are on the best seller list. But, since it is common knowledge that less than 10% of the public read books; then over 90% of the public are not getting the message. Further, the vast majority of readers are not compliant. Clearly, writing yet another health book will not make a dent in this problem.
You are going to need innovative approaches to be heard over the ongoing cacophony of food industry hype. A careful study of how the tobacco industry was tamed in the USA may offer some clues. Stephen.
I immediately wrote him back with this simple message, “You are so right Stephen, hitting the nail squarely on the head.” But what I didn’t tell him was that we had come to that same conclusion long ago and were in fact working on a “special project” to get our message to hundreds of millions of people around the world — maybe even one billion people.
Although we know that “science” is on our side, that doesn’t mean that the scientific community is on our side. In truth, it’s a very small group that is willing to speak freely about the dirty little nutritional secrets regarding the plethora of animal products in our Western diet.
We also have a large amount of clinical evidence supporting the superiority of plant-based eating; but once again, there are far more M.D.’s out there eating animal protein themselves than there are physicians committed to a plant-based diet-style — and advising their patients thusly. Notable exceptions are Dr. Dean Ornish and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, both of whom influenced President Clinton to adopt plant-based.
Further, the American Dietetic Association released a position paper that supported “vegetarian” diets in July of 2009. The press release can still be found on the ADA website, entitled:
Appropriate Planned Vegetarian Diets Are Healthful, May Help in Disease Prevention and Treatment, Says American Dietetic Association
CHICAGO – The American Dietetic Association has released an updated position paper on vegetarian diets that concludes such diets, if well-planned, are healthful and nutritious for adults, infants, children and adolescents and can help prevent and treat chronic diseases including heart disease, cancer, obesity and diabetes.
ADA’s position, published in the July issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, represents the Association’s official stance on vegetarian diets:
It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life-cycle including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood and adolescence and for athletes…
…The revised position paper incorporates new topics and additional information on key nutrients for vegetarians, vegetarian diets in the life cycle and the use of vegetarian diets in prevention and treatment of chronic diseases. “Vegetarian diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle,” according to ADA’s position. “There are many reasons for the rising interest in vegetarian diets. The number of vegetarians in the United States is expected to increase over the next decade.”
Vegetarian diets are often associated with health advantages including lower blood cholesterol levels, lower risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure levels and lower risk of hypertension and type 2 diabetes, according to ADA’s position. “Vegetarians tend to have a lower body mass index and lower overall cancer rates. Vegetarian diets tend to be lower in saturated fat and cholesterol and have higher levels of dietary fiber, magnesium and potassium, vitamins C and E, folate, carotenoids, flavonoids and other phytochemicals. These nutritional differences may explain some of the health advantages of those following a varied, balanced vegetarian diet.” (Link provided at end of this post)
Good news, bad news. The good news is that the ADA has published a powerful position statement that outlines many health benefits of eating plant-based. The bad news is that only a tiny percentage of the American public is aware of this powerful message. Why is that?
It’s simply not the kind of news that our meat-eating public wants to hear, so the media doesn’t “waste” time telling us about it. Oh, I’m sure there were a few news articles in a handful of states back in 2009, but there was never any serious dissemination of this information by the national media. Even now, you won’t find this “position” very easily on the ADA site unless you know what you’re looking for.
Conclusion. Even with scientific, clinical and ADA support for plant-based eating, this message is not getting to the masses; therefore, the percentage of vegetarians in the United States remains at less than 4%. The movie Forks Over Knives is the most effective effort so far in distributing the powerful message regarding a whole-foods, plant-based diet-style. But, one has to actually go to the movie in order to hear the message; and meat eaters are not very interested in hearing bad news about the food that they like to eat.
As Stephen mentioned, books aren’t getting the job done either. Like the movie, most of our books on plant-based eating are being purchased by the “already converted.” For the most part, we’re still “preaching to the choir” and simply must develop a plan to get this planet-saving message to the masses — without them having to read a book or watch a movie to receive it.
Several of us are meeting in Ithaca, New York with Dr. T. Colin Campbell next week to begin to devise such a plan. Some of the ideas on the table are mentioned in these two blogs: “Thinking differently” and changing the world…and Clinton Foundation seeks ideas to change the world…
The Bottom Line. Until we dispel the “protein myth,” we will not see much movement in the direction of plant-based eating. And until that happens, we will not begin to enjoy the world-changing environmental benefits that will result from a return to the natural diet for our species. And we will not be able to restore harmony with Nature on our planet. FYI, the code-name for our project is HARMONY. Stay tuned.
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—J. Morris Hicks…blogging daily at HealthyEatingHealthyWorld.com
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