I’ve been to a lot of Vegetarian Society of Hawai’i lectures. I’ve seen lifelong cattle rancher Howard Lyman denounce meat eating. I’ve seen 73-year-old medical doctor William Harris attack the famed Atkins Diet for saying “good things about bad foods.” I’ve even seen actress Alicia Silverstone talk about her vegan conversion and the absurdity of drinking cow’s milk.
On May 12, I saw health consultant Kerrie Saunders speak at the Cameron Center as part of the latest Vegetarian Society lecture. Though not a medical doctor, she does hold a doctorate in natural health. She works as a food and fitness consultant at the McIntyre Health Center in Port Huron, Michigan.
“One of the biggest myths out there about disease is that Americans are living much longer,” Saunders, wearing a purple blouse and pants, told the 30 or so attendees. “At our clinic, when we say ‘Let’s lay off the pop,’ we literally have people say, ‘What else is there to drink?’”
Though interesting, Saunders’ message that a plant-based diet is far healthier than one based on beef, dairy and those tacos they sell at Jack-in-the-Box that are really tasty but made of some indeterminate meat was virtually identical to past Vegetarian Society of Hawai’i lecturers. In fact, Saunders actually poked fun at the notion that no vegetarian speaker will ever give an audience new information by talking about a 1927 experiment by a Dr. S. Sweeney that showed test subjects’ blood “spiked into the diabetic range” after a couple days on a high-fat diet.
Still, the idea that eating meat exposes people to fats and cholesterol which don’t exist in plants is old news. Won’t people tune out after hearing the same message month after month?
“I worry more that the experts will give differing advice,” Laurelee Blanchard, the Farm Sanctuary campaign coordinator who hosts each monthly lecture, told me after last week’s meeting. “The redundancy is probably a good thing. People need to be reminded to eat their vegetables.”
Saunders did provide some new information. She sarcastically noted that the American Heart Association continues to serve chicken, meat and eggs at its annual dinners and fundraisers. “In a way,” she said, “this is like job security.”
She also spoke of the disease Kwashiorkor, which is caused by eating too little protein. “No one knows anyone in the United States who has Kwashiorkor,” Saunders said.
Yes, we Americans are well acquainted with protein—fruits and vegetables, not so much.
“There are 13,000 types of legumes,” she said. “It’s hard to get bored.”
Saunders also listed the reasons people get osteoporosis, one of which was “animal protein intake.” She also said, amazingly enough, that the six nations sporting the highest osteoporosis rates—the U.S. is among them—are also the top six consumers of cow’s milk.
“You never hear about that in the media,” she said.
At times her talk became technical, focusing on “high LDL,” “calcium absorption rates” and the “Omega 6/Omega 3” balance. But at other times she was quite earthy—especially when she gave what she called “the poop talk.”
Rather than go into detail about such matters, I’ll just quote her as saying that for vegetarians, “the days of reading a novel in the bathroom should be over.” MTW