The following 3 points detail the likely reasons as to why Phillip Boucher-Hayes experienced negative health effects on his 28-day vegan diet. Again, specific nutritional details of what comprised his diet are not known, so several reasonable assumptions are made. In the interest of objectivity and transparency, these are explicitly stated and referenced to avoid confusion:
1. Failure to Differentiate Veganism from Plant-Based Eating
As discussed in a previous post, veganism and plant-based eating are two very different concepts
. Veganism denotes an ideology, whereas plant-based eating outlines specifics of an eating plan: i.e. a diet based on plants. In the dietary realm, veganism means the exclusion of all animal-derived products; this does not by default make it a healthy diet to follow. Vegan pizza, vegan ice cream, vegan burgers all omit animal derived ingredients - but they are still pizza, ice cream, and burgers. The true benefits of this style of eating lie in the elimination of harmful animal ingredients and the inclusion
of fresh whole fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes nuts and seeds as the majority of food consumed.
What Are You Eating did make a brief reference to this point, with the dietician Aveen Bannon sitting down with Phillip Boucher-Hayes
. She indirectly refers to choosing plants over processed vegan food, with the conversation repeatedly directed to the needless concern on protein
in the diet. However, the explicit vegan vs. plant based point was not made, either to stick with the narrative of the episode or sheer lack of awareness on the part of the subjects. In his opening monologue, Boucher Hayes asks if the popularity of veganism is due to the internet, environmental concerns or animal welfare. He frames the conversation around these and fails to even reference the massive body of evidence which promotes plant-based eating as the optimal human diet
2. Failure to consume Adequate Calories
The World Health Organisation, the Largest non-commercial health entity in existence, states that below a minimum daily intake of 2100 calories per day
for men (1800 for women), the body enters starvation mode. The body will break down its own muscle and bone mass
to supply nutrients to the organs via the bloodstream, as it is not obtaining adequate amounts from food intake. In What Are We Eating?
, Boucher Hayes discovers at the end of the episode that he was eating 600 calories less than usual, and has lost muscle and bone density. As no exact details were given, let us assume that Boucher-Hayes ate the Irish average of 2,300 calories per day
pre-vegan diet. Eating 600 calories less, so 1,700 calories, in this case, will result in the body entering starvation mode, where muscle & bone loss is expected. The only way to avoid this was if he was eating a minimum of 2,700 calories pre-vegan diet.
3. Refraining from Supplements & Nutritional deficiencies
There are a number of nutritional concerns on a plant-based diet, which must be addressed with supplements. Each possible deficiency is outlined and discussed extensively in a previous post
. To summarise: The standard western diet is nutritionally incomplete, to begin with: 97% of the US population is deficient in the nutrient fibre. 2% of Americans meet the minimum daily requirement for potassium, and 75% of US adults are also chronically dehydrated. It also recommended that all adults over 50 take a B12 supplement, regardless of diet. Those following a plant-based diet are recommended to supplement iodine, iron, B12, calcium, zinc and Omega 3's. This is due to the low nutritional content of plants farmed on an industrial scale, with a steadily depreciating soil nutrient content and a loss of biodiversity worldwide.
What are You Eating?
references Boucher-Hayes' nutritional deficiencies at the end of the episode, but fail to explicitly explore the reasons for this. His choice to avoid supplements on the diet is to either ignore the above information or simply highlight his lack of awareness of the complex subject of nutrition.