To come to an answer on whether or not humans need meat, we will need to look at many aspects. First we will need to analyze some studies that have determined certain nutrients vegetarians are deficient in. We will then perform our own study, but with a recruitment of vegetarians, in the U.S., who will be fed a healthy vegetarian diet. This will determine if there are truly any deficiencies because according to the ADA (American Dietetic Association);
It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes. (Position 1)
Then we will perform a longitudinal study on families, in the U.S., who raise their children on vegetarian and vegan diets versus a healthy omnivorous diet. These children will be assessed on their development every couple of years to determine if there are any significant differences between them and non-vegetarian children. The assessment of adult vegetarians for deficiencies and child vegetarians for developmental issues will be the main focus to determine how well humans can live without meats through all of the life cycle.
For the first study, we will use the ADA’s list of nutrients that were deemed important for vegetarians to be aware of. The listed nutrients are: protein, iron, calcium, n-3 fatty acids, zinc, vitamin D, vitamin B12, and iodine. These will be the nutrient deficiencies we will test for in our sample population. The sample population will be retrieved through national advertisements. Posters will be placed around or inside grocery stores, asking for participants in an extended study on vegetarianism. People who regularly shop for food are not children and they are psychologically sound enough to take care of themselves, but a preliminary survey or interview will be done on participants that respond to the posters to further qualify them for the study.
The posters will include information that some compensation of food costs will be awarded, so as to attract as many participants as possible. The participants do not have to be vegetarian before they start the study, but they will need to eat a vegetarian diet throughout the study. The people who were vegetarian and the people who were not vegetarian before the study will be two variables. Other variables to consider are weight, height, activity level, stress level, age, gender, smoking/drinking, prescription medications, and pre-existing medical conditions to eliminate some confounding variables.
The participants will then be given weekly checklists of what foods to consume within the week. This list will be designed by dietitians and based on each participant’s variables. For example: a female smoker, between 130-140lbs, and between 20-25 years of age, will be given a different list than a male diabetic non-smoker, between 170-180lbs, and between 40-45 years of age. These lists will contain foods that will create a healthy and balanced vegetarian diet. Participants will also have to note about how much and what kind of junk food they consumed during the week. To gather significant information, this study will be done over a time span of 1 year on 10,000 or more participants.
The longitudinal study on children will be performed from infancy to the age of 18, to include primary years that are most important to development. The sample population will be acquired by sending out fliers or e-mails to parents of newborns. It will ask how the parent will nourish the baby after breast feeding/formula, a vegetarian or non-vegetarian diet. It may take some time, but as each participant responds, they will be assessed and the study on that individual child can begin. About 100 or more subjects will be needed for statistically significant results. The parents will be sent guidelines for healthy eating on either an omnivorous or vegetarian diet. Children raised on vegetarian diets will have their development compared to that of children raised on healthy omnivorous diets. A healthy omnivorous diet consists of minimal junk foods and predominantly organic animal products.
These children will be given a physical examination once a year, which is recommended for every child that is in the study or not. This will include blood work, brain scans, a psychological assessment, and a general physical exam. The child’s school work will also be assessed. Compensation for all the exams will be provided to the families. Similar variables will be considered as in the previous study: age, height, weight, activity level, smoking/drinking, other drugs, other medical conditions, gender.
In each study, participants will be given the option to opt out of the study at any time. The greatest limitation to these studies is to go off of the assumption that all the participants will stick to a healthy and balanced vegetarian diet. It is not natural to assume that all the participants will eat perfectly, but if their diets are predominantly healthy, vegetarian or non-vegetarian, their results will still be usable.