In a world overwhelmed by irrelevant information, clarity is key
In the realm of opinion and anecdotes, there is much debate and divergence; often vociferous, often irrational. This is true of any important subject and especially those where personal or financial vested interests exist. Plant based diets draw such controversy. Until recently it was difficult to mention the subject in environmental or medical circles, as people thought of plant diets as anything from a fringe behaviour or a target ridicule or outrage.
But most people have little idea of the copious research that was already being generated over the past decades with regards to plant vs animal based foods.
During the past 10–15 years there has been a large and steady increase, with new papers published weekly regarding plant diets. In contrast to the world of anecdotes, this literature shows a steady and remarkable coherence. Of course, there is some legitimate variation as scientists continuously refine the body of knowledge in this complex and encompassing field. But still, there is acknowledgment of large, and even massive impacts of animal agriculture and products.
In a world of seemingly unlimited information, it is important to consider the hierarchy of evidence when understanding science. For medical science, the following hierarchy is generally true, though not always absolute (for example, a good cohort study may provide better information than a small or poorly designed randomized trial):
Despite the science, most people have little technical knowledge regarding the mechanisms by which animal or plant foods impact agriculture, health, food security, or pandemics. Even within plant based and environmental communities, there are many misconceptions. Scientist and health practitioners often lack knowledge outside of their field. Even worse, there is misinformation promoted by industry which has a profit motive, the most insidious of which involves research funded by industry, obviously designed in ways to show their product as harmless or beneficial. There are important examples where the animal agriculture industry has created such studies, where more recently they try to hide themselves as the funding source.
Enter PlantBasedData.org! Our team strives to amalgamate, organize, and summarize the most important science based information regarding plant and animal based foods as they impact health, environment, food security, and zoonotic diseases with pandemic potential. The database is continuously updated, and made available for free.
Whether you are a student, professor, activist, policy maker, or interested for any reason, this database will link you to the most important academic and institutional (i.e. United Nations Environmental Program) publications to learn from. Our team will also chime in to highlight important aspects of the literature, including strengths and limitations of various resources. The goal is to interpret any publication in context of other papers in the same field, and take take caution not to overstate or understate the findings.
Our aim is to help you save time as you learn and absorb the key points from important publications. As such we will publish summaries of important articles and publications in short form, proceeded by some contextual notes, and always linking to the original paper online. The papers will also be available on our database. We promote readers to access the full papers whenever possible. You can join us in being a plant based nerd!
Nicholas Carter, BComm MA
Tushar Mehta MD CCFP
*As originally posted August 18, 2020 on PlantBasedData.Medium.com
Help us do more
To bring about a better future, changemakers need high quality research and analysis from credible sources as the foundation for meaningful, evidence-based progress. That's why we created Plant Based Data and made it a free resource for all. We have stepwise expansion plans to curate and present the most important data regarding the benefits of plant based foods and their global impact. This initiative has been seeded by a small group of dedicated volunteers, but to get to the next level, we need funding to better and broaden our work. Please consider donating now as an investment in advancing our shared mission and methods. Donations are made through our partners at A Well-Fed World and securely processed by GiveDirect. A Well-Fed World is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit (EIN: 27-0865905), so your donation is fully tax-deductible as allowed by law. Questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.