Are Vegetarians Healthier than Omnivores? A Soho Forum Debate

Watch journalist Nina Teicholz face off against David L. Katz, MD, the founding director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, at an event in New York City.
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There is little or no rigorous evidence that vegetarian/vegan diets are healthier than diets that include meat, eggs, and dairy.

That was the topic of a public debated hosted by the Soho Forum in New York City on May 13, 2019. It featured Nina Teicholz, author of The Big Fat Surprise, and David Katz, the founding director of Yale University’s Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center. Soho Forum director Gene Epstein moderated.

It was an Oxford-style debate, in which the audience votes on the resolution at the beginning and end of the event, and the side that gains the most ground is victorious. Katz prevailed in the debate by convincing 13 percent of audience members to change their minds.

Arguing for the affirmative was Nina Teicholz, whose 2014 book, The Big Fat Surprise, challenged the conventional wisdom on dietary fat. Teicholz’s writing has also been published in The BMJ, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, The Independent, The New Yorker, and The Los Angeles Times among others. Teicholz is the Executive Director of The Nutrition Coalition, a non-profit group that promotes evidence-based nutrition policy.

Reason’s Alexis Garcia interviewed Teicholz in 2018.

David L. Katz, MD argued for the negative. He’s the founding director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, which practices community and alternative medicine, and is founder/president of the True Health Initiative, a non-profit organization established to promote a healthy diet and lifestyle. The holder of five U.S. patents, Katz has authored roughly 200 peer-reviewed publications and 16 books to date, including textbooks in both nutrition and preventive medicine.

The Soho Forum, which is sponsored by the Reason Foundation, is a monthly debate series at the SubCulture Theater in Manhattan’s East Village.

Music: “Modum” by Kai Engle is licensed under a CC-BY creative commons license.

Produced by Todd Krainin.


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Comment (0)

  1. What about all the the so called healthy processed vegan foods.. they are just as bad as processed foods and meats… the main point to ensure a healthy omnivorous diet is to eat pasture raised and grass fed meat. Anything processed is what causes cancer, heart diseases and diabetes.

  2. What an eye opening experience listening to these two very capable debaters. I am relatively new to this nutritional conflict between the vegetarian/vegan perspective and the animal sourced food consumption model. I was profoundly struck with the evidential based scholarship of Nina Teicholtz as compared with the snake-oil, slick, “slight of hand” difficult to follow, almost rambling responses of Dr. Katz. Also, all the sighted conflicts of interest with Dr, Katz with industry, as well as industry funded studies he’s performed, were significant to me. They very much left me pondering if his privately owned laboratory epidiomelogical studies haven’t, in fact, helped create the ongoing bias in favor of a plant based diet within sociey. Maybe, he’s the guy? He’s our contemporary Ancel Keyes?

  3. I have eaten vegetarian-Mediterranean for 6 years, it has dramatically worsened my chronic pathology bringing me almost to disability, thanks to keto the inflammation has halved, the disease has regressed and under control and my cholesterol and all the parameters have returned perfectly
    , drastically lowering my cardiovascular risk.
    I came back to live.

  4. I was a vegetarian for 20 years before starting to eat meat 9 months ago. I can say without a doubt that omnivores are MUCH healthier. I don't care what any studies claim.

  5. Dr Katz should talk to Dr. Michael Gregor (Plant based diet advocate)on the latest results of three major studies comparing meat eaters, vegetarians and vegans. Dr. Gregor was stunned at the unfavorable results across the board for vegetarians and vegans. Shorter life span, higher incidence of heart disease, cancer and diabetes; and vegans have a shocking 4 times greater incidence of neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s, dementia etc.

  6. When did eating become so complicated…here you go folks,eat fruits ,leaves ,some vegetables and some meat..STAY AWAY FROM PACKAGE FOOD STAY AWAY FROM PROCESSED FOOD…your body needs movement so excersise every day you will be healthy

  7. Hmmmmm, wfpb vegan diet is the only diet that has ever been proven to reverse the #1 killer of humans. Can't figure out what to eat. #1 reason for amazon deforestation and leading factor on climate change, animal agriculture. #1 Most suffering practice (rape,tourture,murder) to beings on this planet, animal agriculture. #1 reason we eat meat, steak tastes good #proteintho. Lol

  8. so she says that rcts are only form of rigorous evidence but the claims that none of the ones he referenced were rigorous enough evidence…so which is it? Make your mind up. And she criticizes the speed at which he had to go through all these peer-reviewed papers because there were so many and not enough time, while she vaguely references like 2?

  9. According to Dr. (Bruce) Ames’s team, every plant produces roughly a few dozen toxins, some of which (at a high enough dose) would be toxic to humans. Cabbage produces at least 49 known pesticides. Given the ubiquity of natural pesticides, Dr. Ames estimates that “Americans eat about 1.5 g of natural pesticides per person per day, which is about 10,000 times more than they eat of synthetic pesticide residues.”
    99.99% of the pesticides we eat are made by plants themselves.


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