More food for thought


With regard to the discussion between Alicia M. Holland and Bernard G. Prusak about the need for humans to consume animal products and specifically meat (Letters, August 13), I noted in a previous letter that many nutrients essential for human health are not available in plant foods; I cited vitamin B12 and branched-chain amino acids (Letters, September 14, 2007).* These were simply illustrative, and not an exhaustive list. Certain trace minerals are also more likely to be obtained in adequate quantity from meat than from plant sources, and iron from red meat is much more available to the body than is iron from plant sources. For nutrient after nutrient, plant sources come up short when solely relied upon for human nutrition. It is not a matter of having the nutrients in the right ratio, whatever that might be. It is simply that there are many nutrients plants can’t provide at all, or not in the quantities humans need.

The fact that we now can provide through chemistry some of what plant foods lack is not very helpful. For many nutrients, there are no feasible supplemental sources. Nor would an individual supplementation strategy work for the poor and disadvantaged. Though doubtless well-intended, this approach, even if it worked, would be available to only a privileged...

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