Q&A with Michael Furci
I received quite a few
letters in response to my last Q&A regarding a teenager who told
me he was a vegetarian. Most of the e-mails were basic inquiries. There
were some, however, written out of emotion and ignorance. The following
are some of the best with my responses. I think you will find them
entertaining as well as educational.
Q: Your Mike Furci is displaying high levels of ignorance as well as insensitivity by advising that a vegetarian diet will compromise his health. This has no foundation in truth and in fact studies have shown no difference in the ability to build muscle from an intake of equivalent levels of vegetable protein such as soya compared to meat. He should also be made aware that a vegetarian diet is healthier and vastly reduces incidence of all types of cancer as well as reducing risks of heart disease.
If Mike Furci wishes to promote a carnivorous diet out of a lack of respect for vegetarians or out of a clear sense of prejudice than that is his choice. I do object to him presenting his prejudices as scientific reasoning when there is in fact none to support him.
Granola boy, before you open your pie hole, why don't you do a little research? There are countless studies to support my views.
First of all, I never said a vegetarian diet was bad for one’s health. I said there are no benefits as opposed to an omnivores diet.
Secondly, as far as your opinions on the quality of plant source protein (SOYA) go, you couldn't be more wrong.
You and many others, thanks to our billion-dollar food industry and irresponsible media, have swallowed a large load of shit concerning soy. The ability of soy protein to decrease testosterone levels is well demonstrated. One study displayed a 76% decrease in testosterone production in men, after ingestion of soy protein over a brief period of time. (Zhong, et al. "Effects of dietary supplement of soy protein isolate and lowfat diet on prostate cancer." FASEB J 2000; 14(4):a531.11)
In another study, using healthy adult males, a diet containing soy was compared to a diet consisting of meat protein in terms of sex hormone concentrations. After evaluation, testosterone levels were significantly lower in the soy diet. Not only this but the estimated amount of free testosterone (the type that produces most of the effects males are looking for) was 7% lower after the soy diet as well. (Habito RC, et al. "effects of replacing red meat with soyabean in the diet on sex hormone concentrations in healthy adult males." Br J Nutr 2000 Oct;84(4):14-8.)
The list goes on and on.
As a matter of fact, many scientists, including those from the Department of Health and Human Services Public Health Service Food and Drug Administration National Center for Toxicological Research, are very concerned with the negative effects soy has on humans of all ages. Here is an excerpt from a letter concerning the health claims of soy protein:
“We are writing in reference to Docket # 98P-0683; Food Labeling: Health Claims; Soy Protein and Coronary Heart Disease. We oppose this health claim because there is abundant evidence that some of the isoflavones found in soy, including genistein and equol, a metabolite of daidzen, demonstrate toxicity in estrogen sensitive tissues and in the thyroid. This is true for a number of species including humans. The health labeling of soy protein isolate for foods needs to be considered just as would the addition of any estrogen or goitrogen to foods, which are bad ideas.”
To read this letter in its entirety go to: www.t-mag.com/articles/185soy2.html.
I don't mean to sound offensive, but I get very tired of hearing nonsense. Like yours.
Because of its length, I’ll answer the next message, from Chilton, point-by-point within his letter.
Q: Hi Mike,
In your article, you said..."I have but one question for you; why in the hell are you a vegetarian? But before you answer that, are you a true ‘vegan’ or an
ovo-lacto vegetarian?" That's how you see vegetarians? If he'd been a Vegan, he would have said he was a Vegan. It's not a choice people accidentally make. You're coming down pretty hard on someone who probably did a lot more research into this than you did, as evidenced by the rest of your article. Yes, you were accurate about a lot of it, for example...
Vegetarian is a broad term that encompasses a few different dietary guidelines. A vegetarian by definition is one that doesn’t eat meat, fish or poultry. Vegans are vegetarians who abstain from eating or using all animal products including leather, silk, wool and other dairy items. I would assume many vegans are also wacko PETA members. There are also vegetarians who describe themselves as “ovo-lacto vegetarians.” These people eat milk and egg products. I asked what type of vegetarian he was because he did not specify, and I do not want to make assumptions. He may not even know there are different types of vegees. But I’m glad you could read his mind Chilton, and clarified that for me.
"And as far as the health benefits of being a vegan go, there are none for the average healthy person." I completely agree. No advantages. I can't say there are any disadvantages, as one of the triathletes I train with (a woman) is a vegan, and is just as fierce a competitor as anyone else I've met, despite her being almost twice my age.
What the hell does being a fierce competitor have to do with your dietary habits, Chilton?
"Despite what you have probably read, and have been told, protein has NO, that's NO, negative effects on the liver or kidneys in a healthy person." Most vegetarians don't believe this. I don't think I've heard anything like this since the ‘60s, actually. If anything, protein is something vegetarians spend more time thinking and learning about than you apparently think they do. Certainly more time than the 'average' person spends.
Were you even alive in the ‘60s, Chilton? The fact that there are some vegetarians who believe there are no health advantages as opposed to being a meat eater, is relatively new. Visit a few of the vegee Websites and you’ll see that the majority still make unsubstantiated health claims.
Here's where you're getting into questionable territory..."I'll tell you a few things science has discovered about men who are vegans. They have up to 10 percent less muscle mass than the average man and lower than average testosterone levels. If this is what you’re shooting for, keep eating the rabbit food and I'll eat the rabbit." Since you're willing to make this claim on behalf of 'science,’ I'd like you to back up that claim. As in, please let me know what medical journal you read this research in. Who did the study? What other factors were involved? Is this among body builders, or just the general population? What country? Most importantly, when?
Chew on these Chilton:
Nagata C (2000). Inverse association of soy product intake with serum androgen and estrogen concentrations in Japanese men. Nutr Cancer; 36 (1): 14-8
Weber KS (2001). Dietary soy phytoestrogens decrease testosterone levels and prostate weight without altering LH, prostate 5alpha-reductase or testicular steroidogenic acute regulatory peptide levels in adult male Sprague-Dawley rats. J Endocrinol Sep; 170 (3): 591-9
Straus L, et al. “Genistein exerts estrogen-like effects in male mouse reproductive tract.” Mol Cell Endocrinol 1998 Sep 25;144(1-2):83-93
Zhong, et al. "Effects of dietary supplement of soy protein isolate and lowfat diet on prostate cancer." FASEB J 2000; 14(4):a531.11
Habito RC, et al. "effects of replacing red meat with soyabean in the diet on sex hormone concentrations in healthy adult males." Br J Nutr 2000 Oct;84(4):14-8
"You say you have no fat to lose? You have no muscle to lose either. Now don't get me wrong, Chris -- even though I am a meat eater, when I started my senior year in high school I was 149 pounds at 5'10". Many teenage boys are very thin at your age. But, in the winter of that same year I started to eat more eggs, milk and meat because I wanted to be a bodybuilder (and of course impress the girls). I also started to lift weights at that same time and graduated at 185 pounds with abs. I gained almost 10 pounds a month." So was it the weights or the eggs, milk and meat? As I recall, he said he was a vegetarian, not a vegan.
Chris never stated what type he was.
"Chris, do yourself a favor and start to read more about protein. Educate yourself. Look into both sides of the story. After that, if you still absolutely refuse to eat meat or fish, than at least look into protein supplements like Beverly International and MetRx products. Products like these are milk based." So by your definition are they vegan, vegetarian, or neither?
Not my definition…Webster’s.
"This, I promise you, will be the best thing you can do for your body. Protein repairs and maintains every tissue and cell in our bodies. A true vegetarian diet yields pathetic sources of protein."... I ask because here you're making idiotic claims about vegetarian diets. Seriously, if you're going to preach at this kid, and tell him to go read more about protein, then the same could be asked of you. Educate yourself. Find out what the difference is between a vegan and a vegetarian. Find out how vegetarians think of protein TODAY, and discard your outdated views about vegetarians. But most importantly, don't make claims on behalf of 'what science has discovered' unless you have the PROOF to back it up. Because that's what's asked of the actual scientists who do the work.
Idiotic claims about vegetarian diets? A vegetarian diet is, in and of itself, idiotic. Many vegetarians have changed their views about proteins because science is slapping them in the face.
You didn't answer that guy's question, and instead launched into a half-informed missive on why not to be a vegan/vegetarian. You claimed that Paleolithic man ate meat and fish, though that theory has widely been considered outdated since the late-70s. Crack a book.
Outdated since the ‘70s? Chilton, you really need to get to a library.
FWIW, I'm not a vegetarian. I get most of my protein from protein drinks, though, as do most of the body builders and professional athletes I've known. And a lot of them are vegetarians.
You might not be a vegetarian but you are a twit. Most bodybuilders and pro athletes, by the way, eat plenty of meat and fish, especially the successful ones.
Normally I find your articles well-informed.
That’s because they are.
Q: I don't even want to waste my time arguing with you about your latest column; I just want to tell you ridiculously stupid and biased it was. Where the hell does a "fitness advisor" get off saying that a vegan diet has no rewards and that being a vegetarian will only "hamper your muscular development?" Did you know that there are hundreds of award-winning body builders that are vegans and train just the same as meat-eaters? And why would you stress the fact that protein is not bad for a person? Whoever said it was? Whoever said meat is the only source of protein (and told the truth at the same time)? There are plenty of sources of high protein for a vegetarian/vegan to divulge in.
You say you've heard the bullshit, while all you're doing is speaking bullshit. Man has been eating meat since the Paleolithic ages. So what? What point does that make? 90% of Southeast Asia does not eat any meat (or fish for idiots who consider fish a plant). They've somehow been surviving for multiple millenia. Are you simply saying that those people are purely magical or something?
No health benefits for an average healthy person, eh? How about reduced risk of a heart attack, or reduced risk of heart disease, or reduced risk of high cholesterol? Risk doesn't come purely from genetics -- what you eat can have a factor, too, if you don't eat healthy.
I think you need to educate yourself more. If so many people are vegetarian or vegan and leading healthy lives (and even having a muscular body), then how can it be so wrong? You're obviously just against the idea of not eating meat. It's one thing to say you're not vegetarian. It's another thing to completely discourage people from doing by saying that it is harmful.
I'm 19, I don't eat meat, I bet I'm more educated on the topics of vegetarianism and vegan lifestyles than you.
Oh yeah, I'm 6'3" and 180 pounds and I have perfectly fit, toned and strong abs. The Chris boy that sent you a question was given crappy advice from you and it's a shame.
A: Hundreds of award-winning vegan bodybuilders? What fucking planet are you on? There are none! I repeat, none! Now, by award-winning, do you mean local contests with fewer than 10 competitors, all of whom are over 80 years of age? Udo Erasmus, who is a leading expert on macro nutrition, was asked recently in an interview if a vegetarian could be a good bodybuilder? He responded, “The body adapts effectively to different diets. There are vegetarians who do well in bodybuilding. I know a few, but they all eat some animal products – usually eggs and dairy.” When asked if a vegan could do well with athletic and strength performance? He responded, “That would be a lot more difficult. I haven’t met one, and it would be rare to find one, but there may be a few.”
If you want to look like the typical Asian, be my guest. Nothing against them as people, but I don't want their body type. And I don't want to just survive. I am looking to gain the most muscle and strength as fast as possible. A vegetarian diet will not yield close to the gains of a typical bodybuilding diet unless supplements (animal proteins) are used. This is irrefutable.
Not only do vegetarians have difficulty in getting enough quality proteins, they also can experience deficiencies in calcium and iron. Bodybuilders have more demanding nutritional needs than the average person. These needs cannot be met sufficiently with a typical vegetarian diet. Meat supplies not only protein but creatine, which vegetarians also lack in their diets and is critical for muscle
contraction. (Sports Med, : 615-631, 2003)
It is well known in the scientific world that diseases like the ones you mention correlate more with a person’s sugar intake than anything else. The higher a society’s sugar intake, the higher the risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, etc. Fat and animal proteins have almost no link.
Our nation’s largest long-term epidemiological study, sited below, is finding that the higher a person’s blood sugar and insulin levels, the higher the risk of hypertension, elevated triglyserides and other risk factors of heart disease.
(Liu, s., et al. “Aprospective Study of dietary Glycemic load, Carbohydrate intake, and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in U.S. Women,” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 71, 2000, pp.173-178)
Again, nobody said the vegetarian diet was harmful.
And for the record, 6'3" and 180 pounds does not mean fit and strong, but it is definitely skinny. Keep eating the rabbit food and I'll eat the rabbit. By the way, the tone of muscle has nothing to do with the way it looks. Tone is the amount of tension a muscle exerts in a relaxed state.
Get an education and get a life.
He writes back:
Q: Fuck off.
Way to respond like an asshole to someone who criticized you.
A: I responded accordingly. To an immature, uneducated, biased child who had nothing of substance to say.
Got a question for Mike? Send it to email@example.com.