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Paul_Christiano comments on How a lazy eater went vegan - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: Greg_Colbourn 09 October 2014 10:30:16AM 5 points [-]

Creatine is cheap and readily available as a supplement. Ultimately, foods are made up of chemical building blocks, and it seems arbitrary to consider the division "animal/non-animal" as especially nutritionally salient.

Also, "caring about lesser minds" is a good meme to promote, especially considering FAI, CEV etc.

Comment author: Paul_Christiano 09 October 2014 03:25:27PM 2 points [-]

I agree that creatine is easy to get, but given that I object to a description of how to be a vegetarian that says "if it's too much trouble don't bother."

Animals and non-animals are quite different nutritionally, and it seems quite likely that there are some things you need to supplement as a vegan, or at least that you need to be quite careful about.

The question of whether you can get by without meat at all then seems quite similar to the question of whether you can get by without any fruits or vegetables if you take all of the relevant nutrients via supplementation, for which the consensus appears to be "maybe, but don't count on it given our limited understanding of nutrition." Do you see a relevant disanalogy (other than scope, which may be somewhat larger for veggies than meat)?

Comment author: DanielFilan  (EA Profile) 12 October 2014 12:38:22PM 2 points [-]

The question of whether you can get by without meat at all then seems quite similar to the question of whether you can get by without any fruits or vegetables... Do you see a relevant disanalogy?

According to Wikipedia, the national dietitians' associations of the USA, Canada, and Australia claim that well-planned vegan diets are nutritionally adequate for everyone, while the German Society for Nutrition warns against it, especially for children, the elderly, and the pregnant. On balance, this is much more positive than I imagine their opinions would be on a carnivorous + supplementation diet.

Comment author: Ben_West  (EA Profile) 13 October 2014 12:07:19AM 1 point [-]

There are surveys about this – for example U.S. News & World Report's's annual survey of dietitians. Vegan diets are always rated as much more healthful than meat heavy diets like Paleo, and presumably paleo in turn is better than "meat + supplements".

So transitively, it seems like experts do perceive a relevant disanalogy.

Comment author: Greg_Colbourn 09 October 2014 04:26:54PM *  1 point [-]

I'd say B12 is the only really critical supplement needed as a vegan (and even then, lots of plant milks are fortified with it, so it's quite hard to avoid). To be on the safe side, you can take a 1 a day supplement tailored for vegans, like: https://www.vegansociety.com/shop/supplements/veg1-orange-90s Although I've recently noticed that I've gone nearly a year without this (was going to try a soylent recipe instead, and didn't, and forgot to restock!), and have not suffered any ill effects. In actual fact, I've had a pretty rubbish diet for large parts of the last year (marmite sandwiches, crisps, cereal) and have been fine. Maybe I'm pushing my luck though!

If you look at all the foods eaten in the world, the vast majority are of plant origin, so meat is narrow in scope from that view (it just seems central from a modern-day Western perspective); perhaps the scope is large enough for the analogy not to hold with fruits and vegetables together, but either fruits or vegetables might make a comparable analogy to meat.

My point was mainly that it's possible to synthesise very close analogues of animal products from plants and it's not much trouble to get them (Beyond Meat and Hampton Creek Foods are state of the art, but stuff like Fry's vegetarian is widespread and easy to get). More data is needed for things like Soylent and Power Smoothies, although people have been living for months on them now I guess.

Comment author: RyanCarey 09 October 2014 06:40:28PM *  0 points [-]

I've recently noticed that I've gone nearly a year without this (was going to try a soylent recipe instead, and didn't, and forgot to restock!), and have not suffered any ill effects.

Well, I would say you haven't suffered any noticeable ill effects. You don't actually know how healthy you would feel if you were an omnivore so it's hard to say that you have not suffered any adverse health effect.

Comment author: Greg_Colbourn 09 October 2014 09:38:55PM 0 points [-]

I don't remember feeling or being any more (or less) healthy when I was an omnivore (I was one up until age 2004 (age 23)). But note that I've never reached an optimal level of physical fitness as an adult - maybe one of these years I'll stick to an exercise regime for long enough!