Fad diets for the thoughtful 5: Conclusion and how to spot a deficiency

[Wellness] Fad Diets for the Thoughtful 5: Series Conclusion

Does anyone have a definitive answer: Can raw vegans or other raw foodists drink hot drinks such as coffee, herbal tea or regular tea?  This would be the dealbreaker for me.
Does anyone have a definitive answer: Can raw vegans or other raw foodists drink hot drinks such as coffee, herbal tea or regular tea? This would be the dealbreaker for me.

New to this series? Start here:

Raw Veganism:Part 1
Fruitarianism and Juicearianism: Part 2
Sproutarianism: Part 3
Breatharianism: Part 4

My table of comparisons between the diets discussed in this series, using vegetarianism and macrobiotic as baselines for comparisons, click to enlarge:

Table of comparison of vegan diets
I’ve included the first three for comparison – I’m not actually going to talk about macrobiotic, ovovegetarianism or regular veganism.


In this series, I examined raw veganism, fruitarianism, sproutarianism, juicearianism and breatharianism to find out what they were, what the advantages and disadvantages were, and, as per my table above, whether they were nutritionally sound.  I also produced this handy infographic:

The colours show how healthy each one is if you ate 100% like this permanently.
The colours show how healthy each one is if you ate 100% like this permanently.

In conclusion, there are a lot of restrictive diets out there, many of which are founded on religious or philosophical concepts. Whilst researching this article I found out about The Creationist Diet, which I will discuss in a future post – Creationist vs Paleo diets. Of the diets discussed, I would strongly suggest that anything below a raw vegan diet is not fulfilling all of the basic nutritional requirements of a person. Raw veganism sounds really interesting as a concept (I actually think the concepts behind sproutarianism and fruitarianism are also pretty interesting) but obviously you would have to spend a lot of time researching and finding out about how to get the exact nutritional requirements from these foods without eating too much “filler” (fruit sugars, chlorophyll etc) in the process.

The 75% concept is a good idea – I would like to see more people in all these different sects of veganism advocating following 75% (their diet) and 25% (to take it up with nutrients). I would be particularly intrigued to follow a 50-50 diet between fruitarianism and sproutarianism to see what the effects were like, because their nutritional deficiencies do complement each other although I would only want to do this for a short while due to it being extremely difficult to get enough protein from fruit and sprouted seeds by volume (and I have had a protein deficiency in the past, I don’t want to go through that again). I have future plans to road-test raw veganism, fruitarianism, sproutarianism and 50-50 fruit-sprout-arianism, to be able to give a full and detailed review (and just to have experienced these things; in case you hadn’t noticed I’m all about getting the experiences). I will not be including juicearian and breatharianism/ineida, however, because they are just bloody stupid, and I can live without the experiences of abdominal pain, diabetes or death.

I also found out that some people use the term aquatarian to describe a water-only diet (and some people use it to describe pescetarians, presumably because they want it to sound nicer). Personally, I would like to see a water-organisms-only diet (fish, sea vegetables, seafood and water) and I would describe that as aquatarian. Presumably that would have too many nutrients for anyone to actually sell it to people. I would guess the water-only drinkers don’t live long enough to design or make a website, as none of them have one, just commentary hints about how “only water is pure” and how water has all the vitamins you need (which is absolute rubbish).

I’m going to offend someone with this; this entire paragraph is specifically talking about breatharianism: The breatharians with websites are obviously lying. If you can’t see that we need to eat and drink to live, you are either extremely gullible (possibly raised within a strict dogmatic faith), or you’re a spoilt middle class or upper class idiot with too much money and not enough sense, because anyone who has genuinely gone hungry or been surrounded by hunger in a situation beyond their control knows they need food to live. Find a real religion or spiritual system (or devise your own that works just for you) which will give you a sense of fulfilment and personal destiny, a spirituality or sense of purpose. Steve Pavlina has some great ideas about the mysteries of the cosmos – check him out: http://www.stevepavlina.com

Lunch Identification:
If you’re getting angry because I’ve criticized your diet, learn what’s making you so angry here: http://www.beyondveg.com/billings-t/lunch-att/lunch-attitudes-1a.shtml Please note that this article explains the pathologies behind lunch identification but it falsely assumes that only vegans and raw vegans are capable of such a thing – failing to understand that the militant attitude of some plant eaters was directly caused by the same lunch identification (and worse) from omnivores – in other words, the meat eaters have spent the last 150 years disparaging vegetarian and subsequent diets, so of course vegans have grown to learn a logical set of reasoning to explain their choices to the next ignoramus who asks. I am not a vegan (I was not a vegan when I wrote this all as one long article before I published part 1 in December – I’m vegan now, and still totally comfortable with what I eat), but have been an omnivore, a vegetarian and a vegan (and all sorts of other things) in the past, and I am comfortable in my eating habits, so am able to make this observation. Also bear in mind there are a hell of a lot more omnivores so they each have to be less negative to wear a vegan down to the point where they reciprocate. Not that it stops the omnivores from going too far consistently (have I now pissed off every dietary group???).

This is important, because a lot of the anti-vegan propaganda focusses on the fact that veganism has a coherent rationale and that every vegan will tell you similar reasons for eating vegan. That rationale was developed as a response to what the article calls “dietary bigotry” – and in the first place, the bigotry was travelling from omnivores towards vegetarians and this fixation on trying to change other people’s diets and “convert them to meat eating” arises out of a chronic insecurity, which caused a reciprocal problem in the vegan community and downwards. Additionally, if the reasons are appealing to the vast majority of vegans and play a part in the decision making process, then it stands to reason that people will cite similar reasons for going vegan.

However, the pathologies described in the article are good and accurate and worth being aware of if you find yourself becoming obsessed with diet. The real question then would be what to do about it, but I think that your approach to that would be highly personal and utterly depend on your circumstances, such as what you were currently eating and how far gone you were. There is a fine line between conscious eating and silly eating, and only you can judge where that line falls. Unless you end up ill, in which case leave it to a qualified doctor.

Here are some signs you should not ignore in any vegan diet:

1. Constant tiredness – this is a symptom of many nutritional deficiencies, including protein, vitamin D, iron, zinc, magnesium and calcium. It’s also a symptom of excessive tryptophan, one of the amino acids that is plentiful in the vegan diet. Excessive tryptophan causes “serotonin syndrome” which can be deadly.
2. Constant difficulty doing “brain-intensive” work, e.g. reading – this is another symptom linked to the above, and implies a deficiency of protein, iron, vitamin B12, zinc, magnesium and calcium.
3. Constipation/diarrhea for more than 3 days – this is a big sign that something is wrong in your digestive system. Once you’ve solved the short term symptoms (with either a laxative or an anti-diarrhea pill) you need to start going through what you are eating and how you are preparing it to find out the cause of the problem – this can be caused by contaminated foods, such as lentils, which haven’t been heated quite enough to kill all the bacteria, also food intolerances, fibre intolerance, dehydration and excessive iron intake.
4. Hair loss (excessive) – Protein makes hair. If you don’t have enough protein, your hair falls out. It shuts down non-essential systems, and hair is one of these. Zinc and magnesium deficiencies also cause hair loss.
5. Irritability – This is another sign of protein deficiency, as well as vitamin D, vitamin B12, and a host of other things. If you have periods, do check that it’s not just the week before your period – PMS and PMDD both come with irritability as standard.
6. Pica – the need to eat things that are considered “non food” e.g. coal, glass, ice. You have a food deficiency. To identify what the deficiency is, find out what the “non-food” item you’re craving is made of, and see if any of its composition is a mineral (or other nutrient, but it’s most commonly minerals such as iron). Try supplementing with that mineral and see if the pica goes away.
7. Hallucinations and delusions – You have a severe B12 deficiency, get thee to a doctor and get some supplements as well.
8. Inability to “get going” – This is an extension of tiredness/fatigue/concentration problems, and is down to lack of energy – i.e. carbohydrates. Try a piece of fruit, try checking if you have any other symptoms, and if it’s still a mystery, go to the doctor.
9. Constant hunger – You’re hungry, even though you’re eating loads. It’s because you’re not getting the right stuff inside you. Try mixing it up and eating something really random that you wouldn’t usually try, such as nuts, goji berries, mushrooms or couscous.
10. Unexplained bruising and bruising far too easily, with the bruises not fading after the usual time – this is a vitamin K and iron deficiency. Usually accompanied by some other symptoms such as fatigue. Supplement with vitamin K and iron.
11. Your period has stopped – This is a big sign of malnutrition which I mentioned before with the video in Part 1.  If you usually have a period (and there are a host of reasons you might not, e.g. not having the right equipment, being on long term contraception, pregnancy, medical problems etc) and your period suddenly stops happening, check you’re not pregnant.  If you’re definitely not pregnant, you need to get more food into your diet.  Amenhorrea is never something to ignore as it is a sign that something fundamental is wrong with your body, even if you feel well.  I would consult a doctor if you absolutely will not change what you eat, but I don’t know what else they would say.

With all of the above symptoms, you need to take a step back, assess whether your diet is really giving you the nutrients you need. This can be really difficult to do when you’re still in the middle of it, so I would recommend trying supplements first, if you can find any that fit your diet rules, then have a think about whether there are any foods you could get that suit your vegan-subtype that would be a better long term solution to include in your diet.  Personally, if I was having problems with a diet, I would revert back to regular vegan or even ovo-vegetarian for a period of time, build up my nutrients so I’d got a good store of them, then try again.  I have a milk allergy so there is absolutely no way in hell I’d ever eat milk or milk derivatives, which is why I don’t discuss the role of milk in the diet.

In all of the places where I have mentioned a “doctor” I mean a medical professional who has spent many years training at a medical school and works in a medical setting with the ability to identify your ailment accurately and find a solution to it.  Retired doctors, pharmacists, nurses, holistic therapists, dentists, voodoo dancers, village shamans, hairdressers etc etc, all have good intentions and can have some good advice, but there are times when you just need to see an actual current qualified doctor who is up to date with latest developments in their field and has the power to prescribe you something that has been tested rigorously to make sure it actually works – and someone who you can hold accountable if it doesn’t work, because they have a vested interest in getting it right – or they can lose their licence to practise medicine.

[wellness] Fad Diets 4: Breatharianism

[Wellness] Fad Diets for the Thoughtful 4: Breatharianism

New to this series? Start here:
Part 1: Introduction and Raw Veganism
Part 2: Fruitarianism and Juicearianism
Part 3: Sproutarianism

I love this halo cloud

My table of comparisons between the diets discussed in this series, comparing how easy/doable it is to get your daily nutrients from each diet, using vegetarianism and macrobiotic as baselines for comparisons, click to enlarge:

Table of comparison of vegan diets
I’ve included the first three for comparison – I’m not actually going to talk about macrobiotic, ovovegetarianism or regular veganism.

This last diet isn’t really for the thoughtful, I just thought you might want to know, from a well-researched article, what this breatharianism and ineida thingy is, because the prevailing attitude in science is that the problems with this diet are obvious, but maybe they aren’t.

It’s what it sounds like. You breathe air. You don’t eat. You don’t drink. Some more liberal interpretations claim small sips of water are acceptable. The earliest reference (outside the hypothetical discussion by Viktoras Kulvinskas of what would later become known as breatharianism) I could find was a 1981 interview of Wiley Brooks on The Tomorrow Show with Tom Smith (video is linked in the references).


Pros: You save a lot of money on groceries during the brief period of time before you die.


Cons: As a response to criticisms from scientific communities, advocates now claim we live from some kind of invisible energy that sustains all life, called “prana” by Jasmuheen, lifted from a Hindu concept (because if it’s got Indian or Eastern religious roots, it sounds more legitimate to Westerners, because India is the seat of religious miracles) – but as you can see from the 1981 video, Wiley Brooks was claiming that the energy itself was in the air. Others claim it comes from staring at the sun, and that they photosynthesize from it… like plants (we don’t have any cells with chlorophyll or chloroplasts in, so we sadly can’t photosynthesize like plants do, even those of us with green eyes).  People get confused because of the myth that Vitamin D is synthesized in our bodies by the sun.  Read my article The Mystery of Vitamin D for more details about how we really get vitamin D (clue, it doesn’t come from magic sun energy).


As with juicearianism, the people advocating it blame the followers’ “lack of faith” if they fail, a logical fallacy that, during the research for this series, I’ve nicknamed the Vader Gambit (after the well-known Darth Vader quote: “I find your lack of faith disturbing”). Obviously it’s unprovable, and it also shows you how little these cult leaders care for their followers.


Proponents of breatharianism such as Jasmuheen, Wiley Brooks, Hira Ratan Manek etc, have never been proven by any kind of unbiased source to be living without food or drink. There’s a significant overlap between breatharianism and juicearianism – with both groups claiming that we don’t need solid food to live. Clearly, our digestive systems are some sort of red herring, installed in our bodies to test us. As a side note, the Breatharian Institute of California’s council resigned when Wiley Brooks was shown to be eating at McDonalds – something he now advocates as part of his breatharianism, although Brooks says breatharians can only eat the Double Quarter Pounder meal with Diet Coke (this is directly from his website).


The trouble is, I can see how they snare people, when people read enough about breatharianism. On one hand, I clearly know it’s too stupid to remotely work, but on the other hand, I can see exactly how it has gained any kind of following: They get you in through the door with claims of spiritual one-ness and transformation into a higher being, which is clearly better than the simple weight loss and undefinable “detox” offered by juicearians, then by the time you might actually realise you’ve been duped, malnutrition and dehydration effects are doing the work for them by clouding your mind to the scientific fact that you need to drink and eat to live.


A lot of people in various forums are confused as to why the deaths from breatharianism are not malnutrition-related, rather they are all from dehydration. I refer you to middle school science lessons – a person can survive for 4-5 days without water, 4-5 weeks without food. When you don’t drink anything, you dehydrate. We are 70% water, it’s used to make all our cells function properly, we really really need water, that’s why so many people die in deserts. The nutrients we get from food take much longer to become deficient – that’s why people on the juicearian diet can claim to manage over a month without solid food. There was one breatharian who managed 47 days, but bear in mind she was drinking water and you can see she was slowly starving to death from the before and after pictures, and even the tiny muscles that kept her eyes in the same direction had atrophied. I wondered if she managed a world record, so I did some digging – she was close, but no cigar.
The longest anyone has survived without food (while still drinking water) was 68 days, and that was the UK Animal Rights Activist Barry Horne, who went on hunger strike for 68 days whilst in prison, the result of his strike was that vivisection was banned in the UK. The repeated strikes he undertook didn’t exactly make him healthy, and he died in 2001 whilst on his final hunger strike, from liver failure as a complication of so many extended hunger strikes. Some breatharians claim people like Horne want to die. I disagree – he had found a tool of manipulation which made people do what he wanted for a cause he believed in, and I think he just didn’t know it would eventually kill him.


When you don’t eat for long enough, the body starts to burn muscle. The heart is a muscle, which is why the primary cause of death in anorexia is heart failure. Then the organs start shutting down, so liver failure is a second top cause of death in anorexia. A lot of websites mention that there are four confirmed deaths from breatharianism, but most only talk about Verity Linn and the unnamed Swiss woman who died in 2012. After some heavy digging, I found that the other two were called Timo Degen, a kindergarten teacher from Germany who died in 1997, and Lani Marcia Roslyn Morris, who was ensnared by some breatharians (Jim and Eugenia Pensak, who will be out of jail by now) while she was in a vulnerable state, and they convinced her that breatharianism was the answer to her problems. After 7 days without food or water, she became paralysed down one side, vomiting a black tarry substance before dying. Jim claimed he didn’t call a doctor because he thought it was side effects of the healing process. Lani Morris died in 1998, the Pensaks were convicted of manslaughter in 1999, and they have probably changed their names to something else now they’re out of jail and free to do the same thing again. I wonder if they ate food in jail, I bet they did, because only a complete phoney would pass up such a perfect opportunity to prove once and for all to the world that their diet was real, in a place where outsiders such as prison wardens could actually confirm if they were eating or not.

The long term consequences of chronic malnutrition and chronic dehydration caused by only sipping water are varied and depend on your health when you started. Bones will soften due to lack of calcium, loss of nerve function, sanity loss and depression will all be due to B vitamins. The hair will fall out, nails will become brittle and skin will become dry and flaky due to lack of protein, Vitamin E, D and K. Major organ function will be impaired due to lack of water and glucose (3 litres of water a day are needed for optimum function, not a few sips). And while its happening, it is well documented that people see things or have “religious” experiences due to dehydration and starvation – think of the amount of people who see mirages when they’re lost in the desert, and the mirages are always false, and based on what they want to see, leading to self doubt and desolation when they get to the mirage and find it to only be sand.


If you’ve got a large amount of money and want to lose weight, instead of buying a $100 juicemaker or going to a $500 breatharian conference, try hiring a personal trainer, eating a balanced diet, and getting plenty of exercise and sleep.


Here’s the poor people who died carrying out ineida/breatharianism: