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Does Sunlight Help Vegans?

You may be hearing about a new study that demonstrated how raw food vegans, thin as they are, have surprisingly strong bones, even though they avoid meat or dairy products. What's more interesting to me, however, is how vegans in this Washington University study used the natural power of the sun to get all the vitamin D they needed.

Scientists compared 18 patients, ages 33-85, who had maintained a strict raw food vegan diet for more than three years with people who ate an average diet. The body mass index (BMI) comparison is problematic and probably a bit unfair. The BMI of the "average" group was 25 -- considered to be in the overweight range -- while vegans had a BMI of 20.5. Vegans also had low levels of C-reactive protein (linked to diabetes and heart disease) and IGF-1 (connected to breast and prostate cancer).

Here's where the big curve in the study comes: The lead researcher expected his vegan patients to have low levels of vitamin D because they didn't eat dairy products or meat. Fact is, they had markedly higher levels of vitamin D, which he suspects comes from extra exposure to sunlight.

That makes perfect sense to me, considering most people can produce some 20,000 units of vitamin D after about 20 minutes of summer sun, or about 100 times more than the government says you need every day.

What's more, avoiding all animal protein isn't healthy for many people. For one, vitamin B12 isn't absorbed very well, if at all, from plant sources and, as a result, many extreme vegetarians and vegans frequently develop B12 deficiencies.

Moreover, all of us belong to a unique nutritional type that uses varying ratios of macronutrients (fats, proteins and carbohydrates) to help us feel great and avoid chronic degenerative diseases. Generally, when you eat a meal that is right for your nutritional type you will feel a marked and lasting improvement in your energy, mental capacities, emotional well being, and you will have feeling of being well-satisfied for several hours.

Only about one-third of us are carb nutritional types, meaning those who do quite well with very small amounts of protein and fat. However, they still require some animal proteins (not necessarily meat), such as small amounts of raw dairy, white chicken or turkey, fish or eggs. If they avoid these, or similar animal proteins, it is highly likely they will suffer future health complications.

Archives of Internal Medicine, Vol. 165, No. 6, March 28, 2005: 684-689

Yahoo News March 28, 2005

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