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Transcript of Malgorzata Desmond's Live Arzone Guest Chat

Transcript of Malgorzata Desmond’s Live ARZone Guest Chat

28 May 2011

6pm US Eastern Time

11pm UK Time and

29 May 2011

8am Australian Eastern Standard Time




Carolyn Bailey:

ARZone is pleased to welcome as this week’s Live Chat Guest, dietician/nutritionist Malgorzata Desmond.


Malgorzata, who specialises in research on plant-based vegan nutrition, is a graduate of the Course in Nutritional Epidemiology from the Imperial College London. She holds degrees in Nutritional Medicine from the University of West London and Masters in Dietetics from the Warsaw Medical University. Malgorzata works both at the Children’s Memorial Health Institute in Warsaw, and at the Carolina Medical Center in Warsaw, where she is setting up a Center of Nutritional Medicine.


Malgorzata welcomes the opportunity to engage ARZone members today on a range of topics in regard to vegan nutrition, plant based diets and related issues.


Because of the nature of the online chat, Malgorzata cannot offer any specific medical advice of any kind, and asks that you please generalize your questions.


Please join with me in welcoming Malgorzata to ARZone today.


Welcome Malgorzata!






Welcome Malgorzata.


Malgorzata Desmond:

Hi everybody. Pleasure to be here tonite!


Barbara De Grande:

Thank you for being here!


Jason Ward:

Hello Malgorzata



Hello there!


Tim Gier:

Hello Malgorzata!


Alastair Daly:




Hell and welcome Ms. Desmond! Good to have you here.


Mangus O’Shales:



Roger Yates:

Welcome to ARZone Malgorzata!


Milan Chuchra:



Malgorzata Desmond:



Carolyn Bailey:

Malgorzata will be responding to her pre-registered questions first, and then we’ll open the chat up for all members to engage Malgorzata.


Please refrain from interrupting Malgorzata during this first session, and feel free to send a private message to an admin at any time if you wish to ask a question of Malgorzata during the open session.


I’d now like to ask Nicola Smith to present Malgorzata with her first question, thanks, Nicola.



Hi Malgorzata, Thank you for taking the time to answer my question. I am vegan myself and have been for the last year having spent 26 years - most of my life - as a vegetarian. I have never felt better physically, mentally and emotionally and I only wish I had done it sooner. I wonder, could you give some advice on vegan pregnancy and also bringing up a vegan baby and child? It is not an issue for me just yet, but is something that will be in the future and I am really keen to know how to be a good vegan mum-to-be and bring up a healthy vegan baby and small child. In spite of the many silly scaremongering stories you hear in the press etc, I know this is perfectly achievable and would just like to know the best advice for when my time comes.


Malgorzata Desmond:

Hi Nicola,

Thanks for the question.


Yes, you are right, it is perfectly achievable; however you need to know how to do this. According to the American Dietetic Association, British Dietetic Association, American Academy of Pediatrics – all highly respected organizations dealing with human health and nutrition, well planned vegan diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle. However, it is very difficult if not impossible to give nutrition advice on an internet chat, and I highly recommend you go to see a nutritionist (specializing in vegan diets) so that your diet is well planned already before conception.


Nevertheless, I can point out some issues that need special attention. First of all vitamin B12. You need to make sure you take enough (through fortified foods like tofu, soy milk, fortified cereals, etc. or through supplements),

generally the supplementation should be between 25 – 100mcg a day.

Do not rely on any seaweed (e.g., algae, nori, spirulina), brewer's yeast, tempeh, or "living" vitamin supplement that uses plants as a source of B12, as these are only analogues and they will not work as vitamin B12 in your body.

You also need to make sure you get enough iodine. You should either use iodized salt  (slightly more than half a teaspoon of iodized salt meets iodine needs in pregnancy), or you can use a low-dose iodine supplement (check - iodine may already be in your prenatal supplement and discuss your needs with a nutritionist) or you can also use small amounts of sea vegetables.


Other nutrients that require special attention are iron, which you need to consume in much larger amounts than before pregnancy, and the main sources are legumes, grains, nuts and seeds. Yet again, you should discuss the proportions of those foods with a nutritionist.


Calcium – which requires special attention to your cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage), sesame seeds, almonds, oranges, dried figs, fortified tofu and plant milks; vitamin D – which you need to supplement (like the rest of the population regardless of the diet) according to your skin colour and your home country (as dosages may vary accordingly); and folic acid – which is usually not a problem on a vegan diet, however some vegans might have suboptimal intakes and therefore supplementation is recommended.


And lastly – DHA, which is the Omega 3 fatty acid. (called ALA, which can be found in flaxseeds, green leafy veg, walnuts, soy), however the rate of conversion of ALA to DHA is very limited, and some suggest that vegans,

especially pregnant vegans need to supplement about 200mg a day. Vegan sources of DHA are available in Poland, Ireland, US, UK. Not sure about other countries.


Well, we still do not know if supplementation is needed (at the moment there are no such guidelines) and if you would rather not supplement, you should choose foods with ALA regularly and avoid foods containing trans-fats (main sources: of those are processed foods) that can interfere with DHA production. Too much oils is not a good idea either, as they contain too much Omega 6 fatty acids (with the exception of flaxseed oil), which can also interfere with DHA production.



Wow, thanks Malgorzata, that is fantastic! And children as vegans, would it be similar advice?


Malgorzata Desmond:

Well, not exactly. Children for example have different needs of macronutrients. What I mean by that is that they need more fat than

adults do. They need to have much less bulky diets than adults, as their stomachs are smaller and you need to fill them with less food but the food has to have enough energy. One of the main mistakes that vegan parents make

is to give their kids the same food as they eat. Of course B12, vitamin D, supplementation applies to kids as well, although protein is not really an issue, you need to make sure you give your child legumes/tofu, etc every day.



Thanks so much, that's fantastic!


Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks for such a comprehensive reply, Malgorzata. Roger Yates is up next with a question, thanks, Roger.


Roger Yates:

Can you tell us something about the research you have conducted with regard to children’s nutrition?


Malgorzata Desmond:

It is actually still being conducted. We started in February 2010 in the Children’s Memorial Health Institute in Warsaw, Poland. It is an observational study of vegan, vegetarian and omnivore children (2-10-yrs old).

We are looking at many parameters (weight, height, intelligence, total blood count, cholesterol levels, detailed dietary analysis, and many, many, more).

So far we have data on 46 vegan children, 29 vegetarian and 61 omnivores. The preliminary results suggest that vegans have the most favourable cardiovascular risk profile (lowest levels of total, bad cholesterol, saturated fatty acid intake, cholesterol intake, more favourable total to good cholesterol ratio, higher intakes of fibre, they have lower body weights, etc.)


The preliminary results are so interesting that the University College London, Institute of Child Health is willing to continue the project with us and we want to recruit more children and investigate additional parameters. We are looking for funding at the moment. It is one of the first studies of its kind, as – to the best of my knowledge - there are no studies on vegan kids that investigate so many parameters in detail. It gave me a good insight into how vegan parents feed their kids in Poland, and I can confirm the results of many studies in this regard: macrobiotic diets are not appropriate for children.


The children I saw who were raised on diets that were centered around grains, with little nuts, seeds, fruit, and fresh produce – they were underweight, and had iron –deficiency anaemia.

The children who followed a balanced vegan diet were developing normally. I can also say that many parents believed they do not need to supplement their children’s diets in vitamin B12, and they relied on the ‘false’ sources of B12 –algae, etc. The other problem I saw – is that many vegans did not reach their optimal calcium intakes. It was mainly because of lack of knowledge how to plan the diet, and not because it is impossible. At the same time diets of children on omnivore diets had numerous shortcomings – too much saturated fat, cholesterol, not enough fibre, magnesium vitamin E, folic acid, etc.

Surprisingly enough, there were more shortcomings in omnivores’ diets than in those of vegans, but maybe because vegan mothers were careful about what they were giving their kids. That is why I stress that anybody, regardless of the diet they follow, should go to a nutritionist.


Roger Yates:

Great - thanks for that update. Best of luck with the funding for what looks like very important research.


Barbara DeGrande:

Next, Tim Gier will be asking a question on behalf of M Butterflies Katz, who could not be here.


Tim Gier:

What is your opinion on vegans and DHA (long-chain fatty acid)...can we make our own out of omega 3 or should we be supplementing, especially long-time vegans or children?


Malgorzata Desmond:

My honest answer is – I do not know. This is because – we still do not know. 


Let’s clarify first what is DHA. It is a fatty acid from the Omega 3 family.

There are 3 main fatty acids in this family: ALA - alpha-linolenic acid; found in some plant foods like flaxseed, green leafy veg, soy products, etc; EPA - eicosapentaenoic acid; found in fish; DHA - docosahexaenoic acid; found mainly in fish and microalgae.

ALA is called an essential fatty acid, as it is the one that we cannot synthesize. The body can convert ALA into EPA and DHA. ALA is efficiently converted to EPA, the conversion to DHA is very small and much less efficient. DHA is found in the brain, the retina, testis, sperm, and cell membranes. Low levels of DHA have been linked to depression, and high levels seem to protect from heart disease.


Lacto-ovo vegetarians and vegans have lower levels of EPA and DHA in their blood. It doesn't necessarily mean that they have lower levels of EPA or DHA in other tissues  (e.g. brain). At the same time we do not know the significance of those lower levels. Are they harmful? We have not found a definite answer to that.


In 2009, the conclusion of a scientific article in the journal Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids was:


"In the absence of convincing evidence for the deleterious effects resulting from the lack of DHA from the diet of vegetarians, it must be concluded that needs for omega-3 fatty acids can be met by dietary ALA.”


Some vegan dieticians suggest supplementing ca. 200mg of DHA daily or every other day, especially for pregnant women and the elderly.

The position of the American Dietetic Association is also not very clear on this issue; however they do suggest supplementation in pregnant and lactating women.


The vegan sources of DHA are microalgae-derived supplements, and you can get them in Poland, Ireland, UK, US, Canada, not sure about other countries.

Soy milk and breakfast bars, fortified with DHA, can be also bought in some countries. If you do not want to supplement, and even if you do supplement – you should watch your plant Omega 3 intake (ALA) and its ratio to another essential fat – Omega 6 – LA. If you eat not enough ALA and too much LA, then the conversion to DHA is compromised.


There are two main things two remember: firstly do not use oils like sunflower, corn, rice, sesame, safflower, soy and grapeseed oil; instead use oils that do not contain that much Omega 6 (olive oil, avocado, canola oil). But you need to minimize the use of those oils too, as too much fat in general compromises the conversion of ALA to DHA. Also, when you consume a lot of sunflower seeds or other nuts or other seeds, as most are high in Omega 6 (again, what is ‘a lot’ and which nuts and seeds needs to be determined with a nutritionist) – you might be consuming too much Omega 6 too. And secondly: consume foods that are rich in ALA daily, e.g. 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed, 1 ounce of walnuts, and lots of green leafy vegetables, etc. Flaxseeds are preferred to flaxseed oil, as oil has no nutritional value apart from its fat content. Flaxseeds have fibre, and lots of other micronutrients. Make sure you do not heat your flax or walnuts. ALA need to be consumed uncooked.


Roger Yates:

Many thanks. The next question comes from Staci Robinson who does not appear to be here - so wearing a nice frock, Tim Gier will ask the Q instead.... Tim...


Tim Gier:

I am considering a career change to nutrition and am wondering how feasible it is for a new graduate to be able to solely advocate a vegan diet for patients. Is this possible in a clinic setting?


Malgorzata Desmond:

Well, it depends on you. As a clinical nutritionist I apply only evidence–based nutrition protocols to my patients, and this is what I believe as ethical in a clinical setting. And unfortunately (or fortunately for some) we do not have the evidence saying that 100% vegan diet is best for every condition. In most cases I apply so–called plant-based diet that is 90-95% vegan, but it also varies depending on the condition.


In some cases I apply 100% vegan diet, and this is the case for example in our 13 week intensive therapeutic nutrition and lifestyle education programmes for heart disease and diabetes (that I conduct in Warsaw),

as we know that low fat whole-food vegan diet is more effective than any other diet in these conditions.

However I have a lot of rheumatologic patients, and not all of them require a 100% vegan plan, the same is with somebody that comes with e.g. just slightly elevated cholesterol levels, in this case mostly but not entirely whole-food plant based diet will be enough. What do I mean by enough? In most cases the patient would be able to thrive on a well–planned vegan diet, however some people do not want to go that far.


It is more important what the patient is actually eating than the fact if they are 100% or 98-95% vegan.


My job is to give them empirically based information and not to change their ethical principles. Having said that, I cannot call myself a vegan nutritionist (as advertised ;-)), but a plant–based nutritionist.


Although I am vegan myself, I cannot impose my personal views about the diet that, in my case, are not only shaped by the medical literature, on my patients.


Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Malgorzada!


Barbara DeGrande will now ask a question on behalf of Jean-Sebastien Zavallone, who was unable to be here. Thanks, Barb.


Barbara DeGrande:

Thanks Carolyn!


I'm wondering if there is any health problem that can occur if we are eating too much of the same source of protein, in my case, soja. I read about the oestrogene contained in the soja and the issue surrounding that and most of the literature is saying that there is no worry to have about our fertility or any feminisation. Do you agree with that and do you know anything that we vegans should be concern about eating too much soja?


Malgorzata Desmond:

Thank you, that is a great question. The estrogen – like substances in soy are called isoflavones. They are actually phytoestrogens (plant–estrogens) and they are different than human estrogens.


What they do that they act on some tissues as estrogens and in some tissues they oppose the effect of estrogens or have completely no effect. You are right; there is no evidence to say that regular soy consumption leads to infertility or feminization in men. This is when you consume moderate amounts 2-3 servings a day. The feminization story broke out when one journal noted that a man developed gynecomastia (feminine breasts) after consuming soy regularly. But this guy was a body builder and he consumed 12 cups of soy milk a day. Well, anything in excessive amounts is bad for you.


If you worry about your fertility, I always give the Chinese as an example – well I do not think they do have fertility problems, yet they have been consuming soy for millennia. The conclusion of the ‘critical examination of the clinical evidence’ in a journal Fertility and Sterility reads as follows: soybean isoflavone consumption does not have feminizing effects on men!


But let’s get the soy story straight. What are the soy health effects?

Firstly, the evidence is consistent that it lowers your bad cholesterol, it can also lower your blood pressure, and it can possibly improve arterial compliance, which all decreases your risk of cardiovascular disease like stroke and heart attack. In one study of almost 30 000 women in Japan, those who consumed 1.5 servings a day in comparison to those who consumed 0.5 servings/d had more than 60% reduced risk of heart attacks and strokes

 (the results were controlled for all the possible variables, like body weight, education, smoking, etc.) It seems like the isoflavones in soy choose the estrogen-like effects that are good for us. For example evidence suggests that it can improve bone mineral density and reduce fracture risk in postmenopausal women.


For breast cancer survivors it is safe to eat up to 2-3 servings of soy foods a day, and some evidence suggest that it can actually lessen the chances of recurrence, but it is too early to say this is the case. However, as a precaution, women receiving anti-estrogen treatments such as tamoxifen, should minimize soy foods and avoid isoflavone supplements. The only concern linked to soy food consumption is when you have hypothyroidism, then you need to make sure you eat enough iodine (although you need to make sure you eat enough iodine regardless if you have thyroid issues or not), and you might possibly want to adjust the levels of medications you take for hypothyroidism to the level of soy consumption.


The bottom line – for adults it is safe and maybe actually healthy to eat 2 -3 portions of soy foods a day (one portion – 8 oz. of soymilk, 4 oz. of tofu or tempeh, or half cup of edamame)


Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Malgorzata, Barbara DeGrande would like to ask a question of her own now, thanks, Barb.


Barbara DeGrande:

Thank you Carolyn.


Could you comment on what you have observed regarding the correlation of cultural patterns of food consumption and degenerative disease? 


Malgorzata Desmond:

It is a very important question, but I could go on for ages discussing the topic.

The bottom line is that we have convincing evidence that diets based on unrefined plant foods reduce the risk of chronic disease like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, and probably many more.

This is why the organizations like the American Institute of Cancer Research, World Cancer Research Fund, World Health Organization, etc. all recommend a plant-based diet.


I think this is an interesting quote from the WHO that sums it up:

“Households should select predominantly plant-based diets rich in a variety of vegetables and fruits, pulses or legumes, and minimally processed starchy staple foods. The evidence that such diets will prevent or delay a significant proportion of non-communicable chronic diseases is consistent. A predominantly plant-based diet has a low energy density, which may protect against obesity."


It does not seem to matter if your food is mainly rice and curry vegetables (Asia), or if it is buckwheat and cabbage and peas (Central Europe) – what I mean by that is – if you meet your nutritional needs, you can enjoy a variety of whole –plant based foods from around the world and get the benefits, regardless of the culture you are from.


We do not have the evidence that 100% vegan diet is required to obtain the above-mentioned benefits. We cannot also say for definite at what percentage of animal product consumption the risks increase. These are questions that are very difficult to answer as we need a very well designed long-term epidemiological studies with several thousand vegans, and then semi vegans, vegetarians, omnivores, etc, for comparison. But here it gets more complicated – we need to distinguish between life–long vegans, and short-term vegans, vegans that consume junk food, and vegans that eat more whole-foods. There are endless requirements to get the definite answer. So far we have good studies on vegetarians, much less is known about vegans, as there are just not so many of them.


However we know that vegetarian diets confer significant benefits: lesser risk of cardiovascular (about 36%), lesser risk of obesity, diabetes, hypertension, greater longevity (6-9 years). In terms of cancers  - the evidence is conflicting.  The Adventists Study (a US study on vegetarians) showed something very interesting – that vegetarians who decided to include meat once a week into their diet, had higher risk of cancers, stroke and coronary heart disease after 17 yrs of analysis compared to those who remained 100% vegetarians.


What about vegans?


We know that vegans have lower body mass index than the omnivore and vegetarians, along with lower blood lipids, lower blood pressure, which might confer additional protection from cardiovascular disease. However, compared with lacto-ovo-vegetarians and omnivores, vegans typically have higher prevalence of vitamin B-12 deficiency, and –resulting - higher concentrations of plasma homocysteine, which can be a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. That is why B12 intake – through supplements or fortified foods is so important. To date, epidemiologic studies have not provided convincing evidence that a vegan diet provides significant protection against cancer, however we know that a plant –based diet does.


Vegans might also be at risk of osteoporotic fractures – if they do not consume enough calcium and vitamin D. The EPIC study (big European study) showed that vegans had lower intakes of calcium. Those with the lowest intakes (less than 525mg a day) had higher fracture risk (55% of vegans), however those who consumed more calcium – had the same fracture rates as the omnivores. Other studies suggest that vegans have lower intakes of vitamin D. That is why adequate Ca and vitamin D intake is crucial on a vegan diet.


Barbara DeGrande:

Thank you for such a thorough answer. Could I as a brief follow up?





Barbara DeGrande:

Could you please clarify between a plant-based diet and a vegan diet? Thank you.


Malgorzata Desmond:

Plant-based diet is not necessariy 100% vegan or vegetarian, it can include some meat/fish/dairy.


Barbara DeGrande:

Thank you!


Tim Gier:

Thanks Malgorzata, your answers are quite thorough and informative. Carolyn Bailey has the next question. Please go ahead Carolyn...


Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Tim!


What is then the ideal Ca intake for vegans? What about vitamin D?


Malgorzata Desmond:

Vegans should consume between 700-1000mg Ca a day, this is the same as the recommendation for omnivores in the UK and US respectively. It can be achieved, but you need to make sure you do it. This can be done by eating from 6-8 servings of calcium-rich plant foods daily, these are the foods and the servings:


green leafy veg (exception-spinach) (1cup); almonds (2 tsp); tahini (2 tsp); legumes (1cup); soy or other fortified plant milk (1cup); tofu calcium set  (1/2 cup); dried figs(5 large figs).


When it comes to vitamin D, I am copying the recommendations from the website:, which is btw – a very good resource for all vegans. ‘If you get exposed to the following amounts of midday sun (10 am to 2 pm), without sunscreen, on a day when sunburn is possible (i.e., not winter or cloudy), then you do not need any dietary vitamin D that day: light-skinned: 10 to 15 minutes, dark-skinned: 20 minutes, elderly: 30 minutes

If you do not get that amount, you need to supplement, and the recommended amount is between 600 – 1000 IU. Numerous scientists feel the lower limit (600IU) is not enough, and you should supplement with 800 or 1000IU. I think a good idea is to test your level of vitamin D (25(OH)D), which should be at least 20 ng/ml. Again, this needs to be discussed with your health professional, as it might depend on your condition.


Alastair Daly:

Are there any foods you would recommend eating with your leafy greens etc to increase calcium absorption?


Malgorzata Desmond:

Thanks for the question. The Ca absorption rates vary and the leafy greens (apart from spinach, beet greens) have actually one of the highest absorption rates 50-60% cows milk and soy milk fortified in Ca - 32% nuts and seeds -20%, so by eating a mixture of all of them you get similar and adequate absorption rate, however what is also important is the fat/fibre ratio of your diet. If your diet is too low in fat the transit time might be faster, and that basically means you will go more often to the toilet and the calcium

will have less time to be absorbed. So very low fat diets may compromise calcium absorption. You cannot rely only on leafy greens for your calcium as you would have to eat tonnes of them. You need a balance between the vegan calcium sources.


Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Malgorzata. Tim Gier will now ask a question on behalf of Debbie Blundell. Thanks, Tim.


Tim Gier:

With all the different vitamins and minerals that are as important to us as say, protein, iron, b12, vitamin c, calcium, folate. Are there any that are not good together and should be eaten separately from each other?


Malgorzata Desmond:

The problems with nutrient interactions adversely affecting their absorption can mainly arise from consuming supplements. E.g. too much iron supplements can impair zinc absorption in the long term, calcium supplements impair iron absorption. In real foods the nutrients are in synergy with thousands of other substances which prevent imbalances. I do not recommend eating any supplements apart from those that I already mentioned before, which is vitamin B12, vitamin D (depending on the place you live and the time of the year), and possibly DHA, and iron in pregnancy. The need for other supplements can only be established in a clinical setting, depending on the patient’s condition. The above mentioned supplements, if taken as suggested, do not cause any nutrient imbalances.


Having said this, you might decrease your absorption of iron, if you eat bran, or drink tea or cocoa at the same time as eating iron-rich foods. I do not recommend bran for any vegans, especially vegan children. It might also decrease the absorption of zinc and calcium. Eating vitamin C rich foods (e.g. peppers, kiwi, oranges, etc) with a meal rich in iron, can increase iron absorption – so this is a very good idea for all vegans.


Iron and zinc are better absorbed from leavened grain products like bread than from unleavened products like crackers. Fermentation and grain germination increases the absorption of those minerals as well, so Zn and Fe are better absorbed from tempeh, miso, and sprouted grain or beans.


Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks again, Malgorzata. Brooke Cameron is up next with her question. Please go ahead, Brooke.


Brooke Cameron:

Thanks, Carolyn! Eating raw plant foods has become very popular. From a nutritional standpoint, is there any problem with going 100% raw? Is there any advantage to eating cooked foods?

Malgorzata Desmond:

It is possible to follow a vegan raw – food diet, but it requires more careful planning than a cooked vegan diet. The nutrients that can be deficient on these diets – are again the same as on the cooked vegan diet – B12, vitamin D, Omega 3 long-chain- fatty acids.


It is also possible to have marginal protein intakes on a raw diet (which is usually not a problem on a cooked vegan diet), along with zinc. It is also more challenging and –from the medical point of view – not entirely necessary to get all the benefits of a healthy well planned vegan diet that includes a lot of raw fruit and vegetables. At least – this is what is the stage of our knowledge now.


There are some common believes in the raw community, so called ‘raw myths’, that are not backed up by any evidence. For example the most common is that plant enzymes are necessary for human health and that one of the reasons cooked foods ‘are bad for you’ is because cooking destroys enzymes. The reality is that we, humans, do not utilize plant enzymes, which are broken down, as all proteins, in respective amino acids. The only exceptions are two enzyes: myrosinase (cruciferous vegetables)

and alinase (onion–family vegetables). Those enzymes convert the phytochemicals (anti–disease substances in foods) into their active form. So it is a good idea to eat some raw vegetables as well. However there is some truth in their claims as well. They do say that ‘cooked foods are toxic’.

Well, cooking does not turn a food into toxin, but we can produce some toxic by-products with some cooking methods and lose some nutrients. On the other hand, cooking can also increase the nutrient availability by breaking plant walls, but you can achieve the same with food processing or juicing.

The safest cooking methods are boiling and steaming – they retain nutrients and minimize toxic- by-products. Boiling reduces minerals by 30-40% (they leach into water), but if you retain the water, you are not losing anything. You do not destroy minerals, you can just lose them. Vitamins are more prone to losses – up to 50-80%, if you steam or brief cook – you lose up to 30%.

Cooking can reduce the phytochemical content of foods (except carotenoids, which are more available from cooked than from raw). The toxic by products that can be formed by cooking are e.g. heterocyclic amines. They are carcinogens formed when meat, fish, eggs, are subjected to high temperatures, they are not found in plant foods.


Other carcinogens – Polycylic Aromaticy Hydrocarbons (PAHs) – formed in any foods heated above 390 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degress Celsius), are found not only in meat and fish, but also in burnt toasts, anything fried in oil, so regular frying is not a good idea. Advanced Glycation End products (AGEs) – most concentrated in grilled and fried meats, but they also occur in any foods cooked by dry –heat cooking methods (chips, crisps, crackers, cookies).

They tend to impair immune system, accelerate ageing, contribute to the progression of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, etc. It does not mean you can never eat cookies, but you need to be aware of them.


And lastly, acrylamides - formed when high carbohydrate foods are subjected to high temperatures, it occurs in roasting, frying, baking, etc. So chips, crisps, etc are good sources. Acrylamides are probable carcinogens to humans.

Ok, I am not trying to say – you never fry, or grill, but it is definitely more healthful to eat foods that are boiled, steamed and raw – than fried, grilled, etc.


Raw fooders use a lot of sprouts, so some words on this one. Preparing foods by sprouting, fermenting and soaking can improve the nutritional value of numerous foods, by increasing nutrient availability. However, it is very important to be aware, that legume sprouts (bean, chickpea, lentil sprouts) contain so called anti- nutrients –like hemagglutinins and trypsin inhibitors, which can impair absorption of nutrients, like protein.


So you have to be really aware of them, especially if you do follow a raw food diet, that is usually marginal in protein content (most raw fooders get exactly the amount of protein that they need or even slightly less, omnivores but also vegans and vegetarians get on average more protein than they need) These anti-nutrients are completely destroyed by cooking. The health effects of raw vegan diets have not been investigated in great detail. So far we have direct evidence (7 studies) on the beneficial effects on rheumatoid arthritis (favourable changes of blood markers and the symptom reduction); 2 studies on fibromyalgia – with symptom reduction effects; several studies noted a significant weight loss on those diets. Some studies have also shown improved metabolic markers of cancer on raw diet; however it is too early to draw any conclusions.


A review on the link between vegetable consumption and cancer risk showed that consumption of raw vegetables offers greater protection than consumption of cooked vegetables. A couple of studies on raw fooders showed a beneficial profile of cardiovascular risk factors (lower blood lipids, lower BMI, blood pressure), however also higher homocysteine levels.


The bottom line - we do not know if a raw diet offers any additional health effects than a well–planned cooked vegan diet, however the raw-diet benefits might include its greater supply of antioxidants and phytochemicals,

elimination of gluten (which is often linked to some autoimmune diseases), lower intake of AGEs and acrylamides, and lower energy density, which basically means it is easier to lose weight on it, than on a cooked vegan diet.

At the same time you need to make sure you get all the nutrients that can be deficient on a vegan diet along with extra planning to get your protein and zinc.


Brooke Cameron:

Thanks, very much!


Carolyn Bailey:

Tim Gier will ask the next question, the last of the "formal session" questions next, on behalf of Jean-Sebastien Zavallone. Thanks, Tim.


Tim Gier:

Do you think for a person that suffers from anemia, eating meat is the only solution in order to have enough iron? What are the other deficiencies that could force oneself to eat animal products?


Malgorzata Desmond:

This is a great question.

No, eating meat is not the only or the best solution to fight anemia. I see numerous patients eating meat with iron deficiency anemia, who improve on a diet with less or zero meat. It is not a meat – non meat issue, but an issue to plan your plant –based diet in such a way, that


  1. you have enough iron (and the recommendation for vegans and  vegetarians is 1.8 times the amount of iron than it is recommended for omnivores) and
  2.  you consume foods that increase its absorption. I have already talked about this before – what foods increase and what foods decrease iron absorption.


The foods that are great sources of iron are beans, nuts, seeds, grains, green leafy veg, generally most whole –plant foods. Additionally, from my experience, although we do not have studies to back it up – smoothing green leafy vegetables is a great idea to boost your hemoglobin levels. If you do have a problem, apart from seeing a vegan nutritionist, you might want to try this one out:


150g of romaine lettuce, 1/4 bunch of parsley, 2 ripe bananas, 1/3 cup of raspberries, and some lemon juice – smooth it all in a blender and drink for 2 months, and then check your blood tests again.


In terms of other deficiencies that you are asking about - I think I have discussed all above. You can plan your vegan diet in a way that you do not need to eat any animal products. But you need to either read a lot about it ( is a great resource), or you consult a dietician that specializes in plant based nutrition.


Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks so very much, Malgorzata, for such thorough and informative responses to some really interesting questions.


ARZone sincerely appreciates your insight. We believe this transcript will become an excellent resource for all members in the future.

I’d like to open the chat up at this time to all members to engage Malgorzata, but ask that you please send a private chat message to an admin with your intent to ask a question.


I’d like, now, to ask Maynard S. Clark to ask the first question in this session. Thanks, Maynard.


Maynard S. Clark:

Thank you, Carolyn, and thank you Ms. Desmond for an informative and fast-paced evening of vegan information - all current and pretty much indisputable.

Ms. Desmond, you cited one case of an athlete who regularly consumed 12 glasses of soymilk daily and developed gynecomastia, and then you dismissed it as something like a fluke because of the high amount of soy consumed. But what about all that soy powder that athletes use. Well, if 12 cups of soymilk daily is a risk factor in one case for gynecomastia, it seems that we ought to note that.


Malgorzata Desmond:

I would not recommend consuming protein powders of any sources, the advice of safe soy consumption refers only to minimally processed soy foods - tofu, soy milk, tempeh, and as I said up to 2-3 servings a day is safe


Maynard S. Clark:

Fair enough; many vegan athletes don't have access to your sage advice.


Malgorzata Desmond:

Well, protein powders have numerous deleterious effects on your body,

even regardless of the isoflavone content. What might be good for short term performance is not necessarily good for long -term health, so no - protein powders are not a good idea ;-)


Maynard S. Clark:

And for ordinary people who use them?


Malgorzata Desmond:

Why would they do that? There is plenty of protein in whole, plant foods. Vegans get on average 1.2 g of protein per kg of body weight, the recommendation is 0.8. The omnivores -1.6, so even if you eat only raw fruit and veg and little nuts - you get as much protein as you need. Why would you add an ultimate processed food - like protein powder, with no nutritional value but for protein?


Roger Yates:

Next person with an open question is Sky. When you are ready Sky....



Hello - thanks for the great answers so far. Brilliant! My question is - do you think a lot of people suffer due to consuming dairy but they don't know that's the cause and neither do the doctors?


Malgorzata Desmond:

Well, some people are intolerant to lactose which is the dairy sugar and that can cause some digestive disturbances. Some evidence suggests that dairy protein is linked to autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, ulcerative colitis. There are studies showing symptom improvement of people with rheumatoid arthritis on a vegan, gluten free diet. Recent evidence links dairy with acne. Older evidence links high dairy consumption with greater risk of metastatic prostate cancer.



Thanks - that's so helpful. I heard that we have a gene that allows us to tolerate lactose and then it switches off.


Malgorzata Desmond:

The caucasian population is well adapted to tolerate lactose. It is the people of African decent and the Asians that have the problem. However you can partly solve it by consuming fermented products.


Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Malgorzata! I'd like to ask a question on behalf of a friend now.

I suffered from anorexia then bulimia, and went back to anorexia. Due to this I find it hard to eat a lot of foods, like vegetables, seeds, nuts. I have been living off salads since becoming a vegan. What advice, if any, can you give me to overcome my phobia of foods?


Malgorzata Desmond:

Well, that is -first of all -too specific question, and secondly - I do not think that I am qualified to deal with this issue, it is more a psychological problem and I think a psychologist should deal with it.


Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Malgorzata.


Mangus O'Shales would like to ask a question now, thanks, Mangus.


Mangus O’Shales:

Thank you for taking my question. The China Study guy says that eating any animal products at all is bad, healthwise. Do you think that's true?


Malgorzata Desmond:

I do not think that is what T. Colin Campbell actually says. I hear him say that we do not know if it is 100% or 95% plant based diet that is optimal and I do not personally think we can say that 100% vegan diet is the best. First of all we just do not have enough studies on vegans. Second of all -the longest lived and the healthiest -  formally described by well -designed studies - population -The Okinawans - they include up to 3-4%-% (of energy) of animal foods. We cannot however draw too many conclusions from the Okinawan study, as there were only about 10 000 people studied and we know they had some genetic advantage, although the scientists did conclude that their mostly plant based diet was part of their success


Mangus O’Shales:

Thank you!


Janete Geren:

What about taking chlorella and spirulena ones diet, which I have been doing for a long time.


Malgorzata Desmond:

I would not recommend it. There are some neurotoxins in blue-green algae, and you can get similar advantages by including leafy greens in your diet.


Janete Geren:



Roger Yates:

Next up is Professor Tim Gier - Prof...


Tim Gier:

Is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome affected at all by diet, and if so, does a plant-based diet offer any benefits?


Malgorzata Desmond:

Well, as I mentioned before, we have some studies suggesting that a raw vegan diet can improve symptoms. Too few studies to say anything in definite,

but -with the help of a nutritionist- it can be applied to see If it helps.


Carolyn Bailey:

I have a question from Tejas next …


Lately there has been a theory about the blood type and the kind of diet that fits to it. Did you read the research of Peter D'Adamo?

What is your nutritionist point of view that people with blood type O have more stomach acid that allows them to digest more easily meat and produce more IAP enzyme which help to digest the fat of meat.

It is also said that type O don't function as well to digest grains and starches.

Type A lack the stomach enzyme to eat meat. Therefore, a fruit & vegetable diet is indicated for them. He also believe that medical research are shown for decade that people who get heart disease are people of blood type A.

He also talks about lectins protein that can stick to the cells in you digestive track and result in problems that can lead to inflammation. Lectins attacks only some blood type because of their molecular properties.

Should we considerate his work? Did you hear about theories about the blood type and a good diet?


Malgorzata Desmond:

There is no trace of research in Peter D'Adamo’s work

His book is full of nonsense, not only from the nutritional, medical but also anthropoligal standpoint. His book is full of nonsense, not only from the nutritional, medical but also anthropoligal standpoint. It is one of the FAD DIETS, like Atkins, your Zodiac sign diet, or South Beach Diets. These guys make up a lot of interesting, and easy to listen -to ideas so that people buy their books and it works ;-)

If people were to eat according to their blood type then horses would have several types of diets, the same with gods and other mammals that have more than just 4 types of blood. We just do not see that in nature, and foremostly there is no trace of evidence that people with blood type 0 should eat meat and people with blood type A should not. He gives some absolutely ridiculous advice like for my blood type, I should not eat mangoes but I should drink beer!


Well done Dr D'Adamo


BTW, he is not a medical doctor, neither he is a nutritionist.


Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Malgorzata. We have one final question from Maynard, thanks, Maynard.


Maynard S. Clark:

Thanks, Malgozata. Seems like we see through a glass darkly, but then, scientists of all kind may hope, we will see much more clearly because of the epistemological research methods we have developed. Could you say something about the use of animal models in nutritional research. Also, what is the history of food groups outside the USA? The chat participants come from various continents, so we may not be treated to a global health overview of the sort you would study formally in nutrition. Two BIG questions, but hey! You've been marvellous thus far!


Malgorzata Desmond:

I do not think we can extrapolate a lot from research on animals to humans, but unfortunately some of the insights from the animal experiments have been helpful. It is not an area that I specialize in, so I cannot comment more, however I know that it is one of the weakest sorts of evidence - when we design recommendations it is called - only supporting evidence


Maynard S. Clark:



Malgorzata Desmond:

The most important evidence is evidence on humans


Maynard S. Clark:

But there is so much VETERINARY research on animals, including veterinary nutrition.


Malgorzata Desmond:

Well, I am not a veterinarian ;-)


Maynard S. Clark:

Campbell began that way.


Malgorzata Desmond:

I know


Maynard S. Clark:

2nd question - food groups


Malgorzata Desmond:

2nd question - food groups

Well, I can only comment about the food groups in European countries, especially my home country - Poland, and the UK, Ireland. In Poland, we copy very much what the Americans do and the food groups in Ireland and the UK are very similar too. However at the moment - I think

Internationally, the food groups are similar so we would have apples in pears in the fruit group in Poland, whereas in Australia - you would enjoy your lovely mangoes too ;-) The food groups need to be similar, it is just the content of those food groups that is different. As the international epidemiological research operates in the same terms. Fruit, veg, grains, dairy, meat, etc


Maynard S. Clark:

There should be SOME sort of international 'harmonization' as there are such efforts in most other scientific areas.  There were the basic 12, 7, 5, 4 - etc - then the new 4 food groups, etc.


Malgorzata Desmond:

Moreover, the US and Europe are globalizing their way of eating ;(


Maynard S. Clark:

This has a history that changes with evidence from research.


Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Malgorzata! Tim Gier would like to ask one more final question.

Thanks, Tim.


Tim Gier:

How much influence do you think large agricultural businesses, particularly those that use other animals, have on the research and the information we receive about what we eat? Thanks!

Malgorzata Desmond:

Well, we know that food industry has a huge influence on the dietary guidelines. This is not a secret, this is official


You should read Prof. Marion Nestle book - FOOD POLITICS

She was on the board of scientists who were designing the first food pyramid in 1990 at the US Department of Agriculture and she describes clearly what were the rules to write the dietary guidelines to Americans. They could name all the foods that people should eat more of like fruit, veg, whole grains but all the foods that people should eat less of (dairy, salt, meat), they could not use the exact names. But they had to operate in biochemical terms like saturated fat, sodium cholesterol. Well, the dietary guidelines are published every 5 years in 2000 or 2005, I am not sure which year PCRM sued the USDA and won! - they accused the guidelines of not being entirely evidence –based as most of the people on the board had financial links to the food industry. Since the gudelines improved however the last ones - 2010 ones are still far from perfect. There is an interesting commentary about this by Prof Walter Willet

from the Harvard School of Public Health - again the same thing, too much emphasis on animal based products.


Well, I will do some self promotion now, if anybody is interested.


Tim Gier:

Yes we are!


Maynard S. Cark:



Malgorzata Desmond:

I offer nutritional consultations in Warsaw, Poland; at the Carolina Medical Center, I am also Dublin – based, and can do a consultation over the internet and (video) Skype. But the internet consultations are only for people with no major health problems you can email me at Thanks for all the interesting questions. I hope some of them were helpful



This was the best ARZone chat for a long time. Thanks Malgorzata!


Malgorzata Desmond:



Alastair Daly:

Thanks! Where in Dublin are you based?  A specific clinic?


Malgorzata Desmond:

Email me ~


Tim Gier:

It appears as though Carolyn's computer is having trouble


Malgorzata Desmond:

I can see


Roger Yates:

We would like to thank Malgorzata for her answers. Please note that if you did not get time for your question, Malgorzata has agreed to take questions offline. Please email them to Carolyn and we'll post them later on.



Truly grateful Ms. Desmond! Thank you so ever much for an absolute brilliant and thoroughly informative course of dialogue. :-)


Malgorzata Desmond:



Barbara DeGrande:

Thank you for all the information!


Cyndi Rook:

Excellent chat. Thank you.


Tim Gier:

Thank you very much! This has been very informative


Mangus O’Shales:

Yup! Thanks :-)



Thanks again – byeeeee



ARZone exists to promote rational discussion about our relations with other animals and about issues within the animal advocacy movement. Please continue the debate after a chat by starting a forum discussion or by making a point under a transcript.

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Comment by Malgorzata on May 31, 2011 at 6:18

Dear Jane, 


You are asking a specific question, that cannot be answered on an internet blog. This qualifies for a medical/nutritional consultation.

All the best



Comment by Jane Summers on May 30, 2011 at 15:03
This is a question for Malgorzata.
My 19yr old daughter has been vegan since 6yoa. She has recently moved to the city to attend university and her previous tendency for sinusitis has excacerbated to a degree that this is interfering with her general wellbeing. she experiences regular headaches, has obvious nasal congestion & more frequent upper respiratory infections. The uni accommodation is providing her with a vegan diet. I would appreciate your advice on any dietary measures that may assist with her problem. Thank you.
Comment by Jane Summers on May 29, 2011 at 21:06
Thank you for this great post with such valuable and logical advice from Malgorzata. I have shared with my vegan family & friends.
Comment by Carolyn Bailey on May 29, 2011 at 20:18

As there were a number of questions we were unable to ask in this Live Guest Chat, Malgorzata has very kindly offered to reply to those questions personally. Please either leave any questions here, on the transcript, or email them to 

I will be sending any questions that were sent to me prior to the chat and were not included as well.



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