Everything in moderation is a near unanimous response by health professional, health support organisations and media commentators to solving our health crisis.
The same argument was used in in the 1950s and 1960s to convince people to reduce smoking. After all, you would not want to deprive people of the “solace, relaxation and enjoyment to mankind” that smoking has provided for more than 300 years. These days, doctors do not suggest that people reduce smoking but to stop.1
One problem is that moderation cannot be defined. One person may consider a hamburger or packet of cigarettes a week as being moderate. This can easily become two hamburgers a week or just one more cigarette. Doing things in moderation does not change a habit. To change a habit requires consistency and commitment over a period of several weeks or months.
The China-Cornell-Oxford project (The China Study) involved 6,500 people in 65 different counties over a period of 20 years. As the counties reduced the percentage of animal-sourced foods from 47% to 0%, the health outcomes improved. In the US, 70% of food is sourced from animals.2
A Taiwanese Buddhist study 3 with 4,384 participants compared type 2 diabetes outcomes for lacto-ovo-vegetarians compared with those who avoided meat. The meat-eating group ate only a very small amount of meat.
- Meat intake for females: 50% consumed less than 10 g/day; 25% consumed less than 2 g/day.
- Meat intake for males: 50% consumed less than 20 g/day; 25% consumed less than 7 g/day.
- Fish and meat intake for females: 50% consumed less than 17 g/day; 25% consumed less than 3 g/day
- Fish and meat intake for males: 50% consumed less than 37 g/day; 25% consumed less than 11 g/day.
One Big Mac, with 2 meat patties, contains 90 g of meat—so the participants were consuming only a very small amount of meat. Three garden peas weigh a gram.That tiny amount of meat increased the risk of diabetes 4 times for females and 2 times for males. Not an endorsement for moderation.
A strong commitment to health has been a part of Seventh-day Adventist’s philosophy since its founding in the 1840s. They have been studied extensively since the 1950s. Once again, as the diet becomes more vegetarian, so does their health outcomes. Seventh-day Adventists eating no meat have better health outcomes than those eating meat less than once a week – something that most would consider less than a moderate amount of meat.4
The following table compares the BMI and diabetes Odds Ratio for five levels of vegetarian diets for Californian Seventh-day Adventists. Note that the comparisons are with non-vegetarian Seventh-day Adventists who are much healthier than the average American.5
|Category||%||BMI||Type 2 diabetes
Odds ratio (*)
No red meat, fish, poultry, dairy, eggs
Vegan with eggs and milk
Vegan with fish, milk and eggs
Red meat, poultry less than once a week plus fish, milk, and eggs
Red meat, poultry more than once a week plus fish, milk, and eggs
(*) After adjustment for age, sex, ethnicity, education, income, physical activity, television watching, sleep habits and alcohol use.
Much publicity is given to the longevity of the people of Japan and Okinawa (an archipelago that stretches from southern Japan to Taiwan). However, the population with the longest lifespan and the highest levels of health on the planet is the vegan Californian Seventh-day Adventists.
As Professor William Roberts, a pathologist, cardiologist, long-time editor to the American Journal of Cardiology and a real expert in heart disease wrote:6
Our closest relatives, gorillas, orangutans, bonobos and chimpanzees are all primarily plant-eating animals. Chimpanzees eat by far the most animal-source foods (approximately 5%) which is mostly termites.
Our stomachs, intestines, jaws and hands have evolved to gather and eat plants. Try wrestling a pig to the ground with your bare hands and making a meal out of it.
Given that even moderate or minimal eating of meat is detrimental, there is no benefit in eating meat. Changing any habit can be difficult – and breaking a habit by reducing its consumption is impossible. As Plutarch pointed out, we had to learn to eat the gore and flesh of a dead creature.
A life of moderation is devoid of passion and commitment. As Oscar Wilde wrote, “Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.”7
Fortunately, whole-food, plant-based diets that are optimal for our health and are also the best for the environment and for the animals we share the earth with.
- Tobacco Industry Research Committee (1954) A Frank Statement to Cigarette Smokers.
- Harding, R. (2017) Low-Carbohydrate Mania: The Fantasies, Delusions, and Myths. Balboa Press.
- Chiu, T. H. T. et al. (2014) Taiwanese Vegetarians and Omnivores: Dietary Composition, Prevalence of Diabetes and IFG Marià Alemany (ed.). PLoS ONE. 9 (2), e88547.
- Fraser, G. E. & Shavlik, D. J. (2001) Ten Years of Life – Is It a Matter of Choice? Archives of Internal Medicine. 161 (13), 1645–1652.
- Tonstad, S. et al. (2009) Type of vegetarian diet, body weight, and prevalence of type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care. 32 (5), 791–796.
- Roberts, W. C. (1991) We think we are one, we act as if we are one, but we are not one. American Journal of Cardiology. 66 (10), 896.
- Wilde, O. (1893) A Woman of No Importance.