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Invited Commentary
July 8, 2013

Should We All Be Vegetarians?

Author Affiliations
  • 1Division of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California.

Copyright 2013 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.

JAMA Intern Med. 2013;173(13):1238-1239. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.6972

As a graduate student studying nutrition in the early 1970s, I became a vegetarian (a lacto-ovo vegetarian, to be exact). Early observational studies had already pointed to better health outcomes on meat-free diets. Similarly, early reports suggested that meat production was wasteful and had adverse environmental impacts. The mainstream nutrition community, though, strongly resisted the growing vegetarian movement, often raising concerns about nutritional deficiencies with the most extreme types of vegetarian diets. By the time I was a third-year medical student, I had returned to eating meat, given the lack of vegetarian options in hospital cafeterias. As my clinical training and experience increased, though, I became convinced that patients in any phase of life, and with virtually any medical condition, could safely follow a meat-free diet.