Notes from VVCIII – Science is Awesome – Matt Rusigno

I wanted to share some of my notes from day one of Vida Vegan Con and some of the talks I attended. On day one – I went to Matt Rusigno’s talk Science is Awesome! – Why we don’t need to exaggerate health claims about veganism.

Science Is Awesome


Matt Rusigno started off by telling us that with everything he says he’s coming from an ethical vegan perspective, but has concerns about  concerns about the positioning of veganism and ridiculous health claims, and will tell us a few things we might not agree with, but things that are based on the current available scientific evidence.

  • Difficult truth: Reality is that there are people that have had great results from paleo.
    • Nutr Res. 2015 May 14. pii: S0271-5317(15)00097-4. doi: 10.1016/j.nutres.2015.05.002. [Epub ahead of print]
      Paleolithic nutrition improves plasma lipid concentrations of hypercholesterolemic adults to a greater extent than traditional heart-healthy dietary recommendations.

  • There is very little research comparing vegan athletes vs non-vegan athletes, and very difficult to design a study showing clear connections (how to define vegan vs non-vegan, starting point in fitness, etc)
  • Looks at The Potato Diet – 60 days of potatoes
    • Result was weight loss. Cholesterol, blood glucose all went down.
  • Other ridiculous diets – like twinkie diet, and more. (also had positive impacts on some basic bio measurements like cholesterol, blood glucose, etc)
  • Dangerous and ridiculous facebook page shares – energy frequency food vibration pyramid (whut?!)
  • We’re very influenced by our own experiences and often actively seek out evidence that supports existing belief systems.

What makes good research

  • Large groups to reduce the likelihood of chance and minimize interpersonal differences between participants.
    • Otherwise there can be luck, chance, coincidence, or happenstance.
  • Drunkard’s Walk
  • Points to mechanisms to explain results:
    • In terms of veganism some benefits that are supported by evidence: low instance of cardiovascular disease – possible mechanisms –> higher fiber diets, more phytochemicals.
  • Deciphers amongst a variety of influences.

Reading research:

  • Who are the participants? Age? Health? Labs?
  • Was the change statistically significant (re: may of the soy studies looked a lot people with high cholesterol, which could have potentially skewed the results – what happens to people with “normal” cholesterol.)
  • How long was the change sustained – long term solutions? Long term studies?
  • Mitigating factors? Other factors contribute?
  • Dr. Dean Ornish’s research, prevent heart disease, and reverse heart disease.
    • Low-fat vegan-ish diet BUT other factors in place as well. (including the consumption of fish)
  • Precision – Attempting to explain the concept of risk reduction – there is a lot of evidence that eating more plants reduces your risk, but not entirely.
    • There is evidence of lower instances of cancer in plant-based people, BUT sadly it doesn’t make you cancer-proof.
    • Example – Vegan 20 years – Scott Spitz – Vegan Athlete – marathoner, Still got a rare form of abdominal cancer.
  • We (vegans) are competing against people who will say ANYTHING to sell you a product. Plant Built angle is still focused on ethics. But the fitness industry is a billion dollar one.
  • Veganism should be above the yo yo nutraceutical industry.
  • Nutrition and health can be very confusing and complicated, and doesn’t always fit into easy talking points.

News articles about “How going vegan triggered this this instagram star’s orthorexia.” – negatively impacts us as a movement.

  • Veganism is a lifestyle.
  • One does not have to be vegan to be healthy – they are not interchangeable.
  • Individual foods offer beneficial components, but they alone won’t make the difference.
  • All about patterns: Eat more plant foods, long term.

Minutia Doesn’t Matter

  • Realize that ultimately, minutia doesn’t matter – what we do most often matters most.
  • Enjoying a donut once a week is not as important as looking at what every single day looks like
  • Can also make this argument about veganism and minutia – like shaming vegans for potentially eating bone char sugar or other relatively small things.

Discussing nutrition and veganism

  • Don’t exaggerate
  • Be Realistic
  • Be careful with using nutrition as the gateway to veganism
  • Keep in mind study of one (what works for jack doesn’t necessarily work for everyone)

A vegan diet is adequate and there’s research that shows eating more plant foods may reduce your risk for some chronic diseases. But beyond that, statements can start reaching. (p.s. eat more Red Cabbage, Leafy Greens, Berries, Quinoa Lentils and Kale 😉 )

Nutrition resources

Talk by Matt Ruscigno