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I have recently been asked by a friend this question. This was a loaded question, because I know he does not like the idea of being a vegetarian. He also mentioned that all MDs suggest a "balanced diet" that should include "everything".

Since the question was quite sudden I could not think about a proper answer and could only say something along the following lines:

  • being a vegetarian is also a lifestyle option and MDs typically refrain from suggesting such changes unless it is to prevent a disease from occurring or getting worse
  • science based nutrition is not a focus in medical training, AFAIK (might apply only when I live and several other countries).

I searched more and there seems to be no consensus about this, so I am asking here because the network format requires more fact based answers than other places.

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  • There could be many reasons including what you mentioned, but there is a scientific consensus on the viability of a plant based diet if we look at the positions of the largest scientific bodies around the world.
    – Monstar
    Sep 27, 2022 at 7:45
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    To my understanding doctors do not have a formal education on nutrition, food or diet. They may step into something only as a recommendation to a certain disease, recommending avoiding certain foods but (unfortunately) it would be rare to recommend entire food lifestyle change. Oct 2, 2022 at 19:33
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    @SashoAndrijeski your comment looks rather answery to me
    – Zanna
    Oct 8, 2022 at 14:17

2 Answers 2

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How Not to Die by Michael Greger mentions a couple of reasons and I have seen this issue addressed in several Netflix documentaries as well. Unfortunately, I can't properly quote all of them, so just a few examples out of memory:

  • as @SashoAndrijeski already mentioned doctors don't receive the proper education on nutrition, and there is active lobbying against changing this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ADlY8CYllhU
  • people want quick and easy solutions: pills instead of lifestyle changes
  • it's also easier for the MDs than educating the patients
  • patients are more likely to ignore "radical" suggestions such as a vegan diet completely, therefore it's more efficient to recommend a "balanced diet" (which will actually be followed by the patient and achieve at least partial success)
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Probably the main reason, as already mentioned, is that doctors themselves are unaware of just how detrimental animal products are to human health, since they have not received this training. I recall an interview given by Dr. Baxter Montgomery, who seemed surprised about discovering the importance of a plant based diet.

And many doctors themselves still eat meat. Add to that all the lobbying and influence from both the livestock and pharmaceutical industries to maintain the status quo, and it's no longer so surprising.

Fortunately, there are plenty of doctors who advocate a vegan diet, including the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. There are many health centers who still follow the advice of "Let Food Be Thy Medicine", credited to Hippocrates, by putting a plant based diet at the core of their treatments, with the one founded by Dr. Baxter Montgomery being an example. With some research, you could find others. The documentary "What The Health" is also filled with quotes from doctors.

By the way, in my opinion, a vegetarian or plant based diet, also used to be central to naturopathy, or natural medicine, based on old books I read. But in modern days, it also depends on the practitioner or institution.

Hopefully, the amount of evidence will soon be enough for all health professionals to make the vegan diet the official way to go. For now, I consider it progress that government bodies in many countries, such as the NHS, at least support the vegan diet as a healthy choice.

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  • Yes, there's a difference between "doctors don't specifically recommend it as better than other diets" (doctors other than specialist dieticians don't seem to have much training about diet at all and thus often don't seem to discuss the subject much at all) and "doctors recommend against it". (It sounds rather as if the OP's friend was aiming at "doctors recommend against it", which seems not to be true).
    – A. B.
    Oct 14, 2022 at 11:23

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