Virat Kohli, a (egg-eating) vegetarian

Virat Kohli has been in the news lately for sharing what he usually eats in an Instagram ‘ask me anything’ story. What came as a shocking surprise to many and splashed social media was a revelation that he eats eggs. The reason for that shock for many was that Kohli had been a proponent of a plant-based diet and appeared in the Game Changers movie whose message was (even though they played it safe) that “meat is bad and plants are good”. Throughout the movie, they blamed meat for chronic disease prevalence like cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes etc.

One of the disturbing observation about the movie was that they clearly vilified not only meat but all animal source foods and labelled them as unhealthy whether it is processed or unprocessed, conventional or organic, forget about regeneratively raised meat (which not only can produce the most nutritious food for humans but also cares about environment, soil and biodiversity). The movie made headlines, influenced millions of people, thanks to “legends” like Virat Kohli and many other athletes featured in the movie, in driving their perspective to see animal-source-foods as something bad and unhealthy, especially red meat. From a layman’s perspective, who doesn’t know how to differentiate between cherry-picked data and the nutritional science seen as a whole, it would seem that animal-source-foods are definitely unhealthy and the best way to eat is to become a vegan. This was actually the agenda of the movie even if they deny it by playing in murky waters while making false claims in the movie. “These films make a mockery of the scientific evidence on this topic. They were persuasive, and most people don’t have the background or scientific knowledge to be able to debunk the claims that are made.” – Chris Kresser The definition of plant-based depicted in the movie was vague to the point of being absurd and this is exactly the reason for all the splash on social media over Virat Kohli’s egg-eating-vegetarian revelation. Many athletes, as revealed after the movie, were pescatarians (include fish) and identified themselves as vegans, lacto-ovo-vegetarian (include eggs) and whatnot.

In my three years of professional career as a holistic health coach, I have seen number of people who have used Game Changers’ and Kohli’s reference to argue when I tell them meat is healthy. Many had been on the verge of giving up meat entirely, even though meat-eating was an occasional treat for them, but still believed that animal-source-foods was to blame for. Sadly, many have an incontrovertible belief reinforced by flippant and vague messages from propaganda documentaries. Coming back to Kohli’s egg-eating-revelation. He still claims to be (an egg-eating) vegetarian. While he can easily get away with his legend-like stature and loopholing in the vague definitions of vegetarian, it is for us and him to retrospect how honest and faithful his acts are. I have never met any person in my life who thinks vegetarian diet includes eggs. In a country like India where malnutrition, not only among low-income group people but also in affluent population who are well-fed yet malnourished, is widespread, number of patients with chronic illnesses is sky-rocketing and dragging us into poverty as health-care is very expensive. Eating eggs can provide much valuable nutrition and may keep their health at par, as eggs are easily available and affordable. Virat Kohli may have never claimed he was a vegan, but if he truly acts in the welfare of people and thinks eggs are healthy (which he obviously does as he has already revealed he eats them) then he should’ve never been a part of Game-Changers movie and would encourage people to eat more egg rather than sending a vague yet clear signal that influences millions to give up that little portion of meat and eggs that provided them much needed nourishment.

To give you a little background into science of red meat, here is an email by Chris Kresser, M.S., L.Ac., who is a renowned expert, leading clinician, and top educator in the fields of Functional Medicine, that I’d like to share with you.

“The idea that red meat and saturated fat are bad for us is deeply entrenched in the conventional medical paradigm and, thus, the mainstream media.

But study after study over the past two decades have contradicted this belief, and now we have two more to add to this growing body of evidence.

The first is a large new study that was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It examined the intake of both fresh and processed red meat among almost 135,000 participants from 21 different countries.

The study found no association between fresh red meat and the risk of early death, heart disease, cancer, or stroke. (They did find a small association between processed red meat and a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and death—more on that below.)

One strength of this study is that the researchers did a good job of matching the baseline characteristics (e.g., sex, age, body mass index, and behaviors like smoking and drinking) of the group that ate more red meat with the group that ate less red meat. This makes a more “apples to apples” comparison possible.

The second study was a meta-analysis of 59 systemic reviews published in the Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism examining the association between dietary fat intake and a variety of health outcomes.

The researchers found “no association of total fat, monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA), polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA), and saturated fatty acid (SFA) with risk of chronic diseases.”

I’m happy to see that many newer studies that look at the relationship between certain foods and health outcomes have at least taken some steps to ensure more accurate results. I think this is a major reason why most recent studies have failed to find any connection between red meat and saturated fat and chronic diseases.

But we could still do better.

We don’t eat foods in isolation—we eat them along with other foods in an overall diet pattern. When we eat red meat in the context of a diet high in processed and refined foods, it will not have the same effects as if we eat it in the context of a whole-foods diet.

In other words, when it comes to red meat and saturated fat, context is everything. For example:

Most studies, even the more recent ones, including the two I linked to above, do not take this into account. And that’s why I’m still somewhat suspicious when I see findings suggesting that processed meats increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, or other bad outcomes—although I’m definitely open to the possibility that they do. There are just too many potential confounding factors to adequately control for all of them.

So, my recommendation remains the same: eat a nutrient-dense, whole-foods diet with a broad variety of both animal and plant foods. This is what traditional wisdom, modern research, and clinical experience suggest is the best approach for the majority of people.”

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