Can insects safe your heath and the planet?

The data set from the China Study II is such an amazing source of data. While there are plenty of limitations to the data set due to the nature of epidemic research tendency to use combined data points, the ability of this data set to debunk wild theories keeps on amazing me.

Before I will go on to demonstrate where Vegans are wrong regarding some of their health claims, let me start of with a word of admiration for Vegans. When it comes to the environment, vegans, with their aversion towards animal foods are spot on. If you care about the future of this planet we live on, than eating less or no animal based food is the best way to go. If you do the math, the energy production of human consumable calories through meat, fish, eggs and dairy is hopelessly inefficient in terms of energy. Terrible in terms of water usage, and than we aren’t even talking about global warming, dead-zones in the sea and a declining world fish populations yet.  Think CO2 from fossil fuels is our main environmental issue? Well, think again, the damage from animal based food production and (over) fishing is much much worse. Even when just looking at global warming, I know it sounds silly and ridiculous, but global warming is likely to have significantly stronger links with methane from animal based food production (cow-farts and the likes) than from all cars and airplanes combined.  I’m not a vegan myself, but these facts combined make that for me, vegans are my heroes.

If you are a vegan for these reasons: good for you, you are an amazing person. If however, like me, your personal health is something you think to be more important than that of the planet, and (unlike me) you have been convinced that being a vegan is actually the best thing you can do for your health, than you now have a choice: read on and be set for a fundamental and difficult choice between your health and that of the planet, or stop reading now and go read the book with the same name as the study I’ve been using the data set of. I won’t tell you to eat meat, but what I suggest may make you wish I had suggested it 😉

So here we go:

If we look at the all cause mortality numbers for woman in the age of 35 to 69, a gender and age group I focused on already in my previous post, and we correlate those numbers to the intake of a few animal food sources, a few things stand out:

  1. Significant negative correlations mostly across the board.
  2. Only dairy is positively correlated.
  3. The persistent V shape of the correlation heat-maps.
  4. The fact that for eggs there is no such V shape.

Red meat, -0.29. Fish, -0.43, percentage of calories from animal fat, -0.33, animal protein, -0.42. But that is before we examine the V shape of the heat map. Most animal-food/mortality-rate heat-maps show a clear V shape with a distinctive sweet-spot where the mortality rates for females in this age group are significantly lower than anywhere else. Below the sweet spot the correlation is very much negative, above the sweet spot it turns very much positive. This also goes for the one animal food with an overall positive correlation: dairy. So what does this mean? Very much that we are omnivores and not eating any animal food sources may be a bad idea, yet at the same time, eating a whole lot of animal based food may also not be that good an idea. So lets look at a few sweet spots. Please note that the correlations are between average gender and age independent food intake and gender and age dependent mortality, so the numbers will need some nuance before applying to your diet, but the general order of magnitude should be about right. A short indicative list:

  • Red meat: 50 grams/day
  • Fish: 30 grams/day
  • Dairy: 100 gram/day
  • Percentage of animal fat: 20%
  • Percentage of animal protein: 30%

And than there are the ones that is persistently negative: the number of days per year people eat eggs. If we assume there is a V shape in there somewhere just after the end of our heat-map, we could safely say:

  • Eggs: 1 egg/day
  • Poultry: 20 gram/day

Its quite possible that the upward arm of these two will not happen for much, much longer, but the data isn’t there, so its safe to be conservative here.

But lets not get caught in the details to much. The interesting numbers are these two:

  • Percentage of animal fat: 20%
  • Percentage of animal protein: 30%

Can we serve both our health by providing our bodies with these percentages, and serve the good of the planet by not partaking in the destruction of the planet ? Well, it seems there is a potential way out: Insects.


Turns out that potentially Insects can be produced both energy and water efficient, and what is more: insects don’t fart, so the global warming thing won’t be an issue either. There should absolutely be controlled and epidemiological studies investigating the health effects of replacing meat, fish, eggs and dairy with insects, but on paper things look pretty favorable. Could we safe both our own health and the planet at the same time by admitting that yes we do need animal foods for our health, but if we pick energy and water efficient animals, animals that can be produced without a significant ecological footprint  instead of the cows that may be the main thriving force behind global warming or fish species that may go extinct if we keep consuming them.


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