Wikipedia Has Been Tainted With Unscientific Vegan Propaganda

Woman Upset About Having to Eat VegetablesI love Wikipedia.

It is one of my all-time favorite site.

Barely a day goes by without me checking Wikipedia for some quick facts on a subject.

However… I have realized that it isn’t a very reliable source for nutrition information.

Many of the topics seem unbalanced… especially controversial nutrition topics.

It also seems that vegan proponents are influential on Wikipedia and many important pages are tainted with their propaganda.

I took screenshots of all the pages where I found false, unscientific claims that resemble propaganda more than anything else.

Just to be clear… this is the Merriam-Webster Dictionary’s definition of propaganda:

“Ideas or statements that are often false or exaggerated and that are spread in order to help a cause, a political leader, a government, etc.”

Western Pattern Diet

First of all, there is the page for the Western Pattern Diet (also called the Standard American Diet – SAD).

On this page, there is a paragraph under the sub-headline “Health Concerns”:

Screenshot of Western Pattern Diet From Wikipedia

Note the words “argue that” … they are citing the arguments of a few vegan scientists as proof.

This is called “appeal to authority” and is a logical fallacy when used in this way. It doesn’t prove anything.

They are saying that animal fat and animal protein are the reason the Western diet is so unhealthy and that a low-fat vegan diet can both prevent and reverse chronic, Western diseases.

I’ll get to the claims and references in a minute, but I agree that the Western diet is unhealthy… but it doesn’t have anything to do with unprocessed animal foods.

Low-Fat Diet

Now to the page for the low-fat diet:

Screenshot of Low-Fat Diet From Wikipedia

Again, note the word “claim that” – another appeal to authority.

The claims are the same as before, that animal protein and fat are the main causes of chronic, Western Disease… and that a vegan diet can reverse them.

The references they are citing are mostly the same.

Vegetarian and Vegan Nutrition

The pages for vegan nutrition and vegetarian nutrition also contain the same claims:

Screenshot of Vegetarian Nutrition From Wikipedia

Are you starting to notice a pattern here?

It is almost as if someone copied the same paragraphs and references (with minor changes) and put them on various different Wikipedia articles.

These are not scientific arguments but fallacious appeals to authority… and the references do NOT support the claims.

These articles also seem highly unbalanced. There are many other problems with vegetarian and vegan diets that are not mentioned, including reduced intake of Creatine, low testosterone, reduced muscle mass and others (1, 2, 3).


One of the food groups that have been demonized by vegans are dairy products.

On the Wikipedia pages for Dairy and Dairy products, you find the same claims:

Screenshot of The Dairy Page From Wikipedia

Placing these claims on dairy pages is a bold move, especially given that there is not a single controlled trial linking dairy products to these diseases.

Surprisingly… there is absolutely nothing about the possible benefits of dairy, the main one being improved bone health. This has been thoroughly studied, in real human experiments (4, 5, 6).

So… on the dairy page, there is a paragraph about some vegan docs making weird claims about animal fat and animal protein, but nothing about it being the best dietary source of calcium and highly beneficial for bone health.

That doesn’t seem right.

Red Meat

Raw Lamb Chops

The article on red meat is incredibly unbalanced.

It seems to be written with the purpose of convincing people that red meat is harmful.

There are mentions of two of the biggest observational studies on red meat, which showed that unprocessed red meat was harmless (7, 8).

However, the way they put it in words doesn’t make it clear what these studies concluded about red meat itself… that it does NOT raise the risk of death, cardiovascular disease or diabetes.

They also cite dozens of observational studies linking red meat to cancer, but fail to mention the meta-analyses that found this effect to be very weak for men and completely absent for women (9, 10).

There are also several points about how vegetarians are healthier than meat eaters, but no mention that this is probably due to health consciousness, a big confounder in these studies.

There is no reference to the study showing that vegetarians are no healthier than meat eaters who are also health conscious (11).

The truth is, that there really isn’t any actual evidence that (unprocessed) red meat contributes to any disease. Reading this Wikipedia article, you might think that it was a highly toxic substance.

A Look at The References and Claims


In the screenshots above, you will see that there are several references they are citing to support their points.

One book that is commonly referenced is called Veganist, a book written by a woman called Kathy Freston.

Many of the vegan docs gave their opinion in the book in a Q&A format, without citing any studies.

This book, written by a layperson, with NO references to studies, is being used to support the claims that animal fat and protein are detrimental to health.

They also commonly include references to other books that were written by these vegan doctors. These include books by Dr. Neal Barnard, Dr. T. Colin Campbell (The China Study), Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn and Dr. Dean Ornish.

Now, I’m sure these scientists and docs have done lots of good work, but citing their books really isn’t proof of anything.

There Are Also a Few Studies

Finally, they cite several studies and papers that are published in respected peer-reviewed journals.

One of them is The Lifestyle Heart Trial, conducted by Dr. Dean Ornish. It was an impressive study, which showed that Ornish’s program could partly reverse heart disease in men (12).

However, the intervention didn’t just use a low-fat vegetarian diet. The subjects also exercised, stopped smoking and meditated, along with a handful of other things.

Impressive results, but there were many confounders in the study. It is possible that something other than the diet (like the exercise) caused the beneficial effects.

Another paper often cited is by Dr. Caldwyn Esselstyn, where he says that cholesterol levels under 150 mg/dL can prevent heart disease. Then he makes a case why a plant-based diet could help people reach these low cholesterol levels (13).

But he forgets to mention that cholesterol levels that are too low are also associated with death, from other causes (like cancer and suicide):

MRFIT, blood cholesterol and heart disease

Photo Source.

Then they cite 2 other randomized controlled trials:

One was done by Dr. John McDougall, showing that a low-fat vegan diet reduced symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis and inflammatory markers. However, the study was only 4 weeks long and included only 24 subjects with no control group (14).

The other one was done by Dr. Neal Barnard, which showed that a low-fat vegan diet lead to better results for type II diabetics compared to a typical diabetes diet (15).

In this study, which went on for 22 weeks and included 99 participants, the vegan group had greater improvements in many health markers and lost more weight.

Overall, these references are very weak and definitely do NOT prove that a vegan diet can reverse anything.

What About Animal Fat and Animal Protein?

The claims that animal fat and protein cause disease are completely bogus and not supported by the best available evidence.

There are plenty of studies showing that animal fat does not have anything to do with cardiovascular disease (16, 17, 18).

The protein argument is just plan ridiculous… many studies show that animal protein has health benefits, for weight loss, diabetes, blood pressure, muscle mass, bone health, to name a few (19, 20, 21, 22).

Not to mention that humans have been eating animals throughout evolution and most of the chronic, Western diseases are relatively new.

Blaming new health problems on old foods simply doesn’t make sense.

Veganism is Mostly Based on Pseudoscience

Girl Disgusted by Vegetables

I’d like to point out that I believe that vegetarian and vegan diets can be healthy for some people… but it doesn’t have anything to do with the animal foods.

One thing that these diets recommend is avoidance of refined sugars, refined carbs and processed food in general.

This is the reason these diets have health benefits. I’m sure they would lead to even better results if they included at least a little bit of naturally fed, humanely raised animals.

The fact is that there are very few actual studies that support vegan diets… and there is literally zero evidence for the claims about harmful effects of animal foods.

There has even been a large controlled trial done comparing a low-fat vegetarian (Ornish) diet to 3 other diets (including a low-carb Atkins diet). After 1 year, it turned out that the low-fat vegetarian diet did much worse than Atkins (23).

This is the biggest and best study ever done on low-fat vegetarian diets, but it never gets mentioned because the results are unfavourable!

The truth is that the “health benefits” of vegan diets are based mostly on a few cherry-picked observational studies, combined with some animal studies that are taken out of context.

If some people think that avoiding animal foods is the right thing to do from an ethical perspective, then that’s all fine. I suppose there are some good ethical and environmental arguments to avoid meat, even though I don’t agree with them.

But I find it strange when people talk about “ethics” – then in the next sentence tell people blatant lies about the health effects of animal foods. That’s certainly not ethical.

If you’re getting good results on a vegan diet… then great. Do what works for you.

But don’t use lies and fear mongering to scare people from eating animal foods that are perfectly healthy.

The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, you must take all health information you find (online and elsewhere) with a grain of salt. Look for other opinions and weigh the arguments before making a decision.

It appears that vegan proponents are highly influential on Wikipedia, with unscientific propaganda spread over many key pages and potentially reaching thousands of people per day.

It is clear from looking at the science, that their claims are not only misleading, but blatantly false.

Pseudoscience and propaganda do not belong on a respectable website like Wikipedia.


  1. Thanks, Kris, for another fantastic blog post!

    Ah, McDougall and Barnard. No bias there, right?

    Personally, I feel it’s very difficult (impossible?) to meet nutrition needs on a vegan diet, although there are some vegan RDs who disagree with me on this.

    I was vegan for about a year more than a decade ago (this was before I became a dietitian), and I have to say it was one of the more miserable times of my life! Often hungry and irritable, tired, and definitely very restricted when dining out. Giving in to a craving for eggs is what led me back to animal foods, and I’m so glad it did! Now I eat some type of meat, fish, eggs, and dairy at each meal, and I feel 100% better than in my vegan days even though I’m almost 47.

    Thanks again, and keep up the great work!

    • Thanks Franziska. Amazing how many current low-carbers are former vegans.

    • Kay Ritson says:

      It is perfectly possible to be healthy and follow a vegan diet, not easy, but possible. The problem is that many vegans/vegetarians do not ensure that their diet includes all the vital nutrients. Even low carb is possible with the substitution of good non-animal saturated fats like coconut oil etc. BTW I am not a Vegan, but my daughter is a very healthy and fit vegan (on ethical grounds) and is well-versed in nutrition.

  2. You’ve hit one of my hot buttons today, Kris! The fact that Dr. Neal Barnard was frequently referenced in Wikipedia caught my attention.

    I have a bone to pick with him. He has a new book “Power Foods for the Brain” in which he promotes a vegan diet with NO added fat – he doesn’t even believe you should use olive oil! He says if you want olive oil, eat olives. Seriously! I analyzed his menu plans and the diet turns out to be 3-5% fat. This is dangerously low and just flat out terrible advice. (Remember the brain is 70% fat.) It makes me sad and mad that people are buying into this idea – they are not doing their brains any favor.

    He grew up in North Dakota in a family of cattle ranchers and physicians on what he calls a typical “Midwestern” diet of beef, potatoes, corn, and peas. Several of his family members — grandparents and parents — had memory problems which he attributes, wrongly or rightly, to their diets. He blames the beef. I would blame the corn (and corn-fed beef)! He became a vegan during college, not after he became a doctor.

    His book is extremely low on science and big on philosophy. He bends the truth to prove his philosophy, then tries to convince you that it’s science and that’s a big bowl of wrong.

    If you don’t mind me leaving a link, here’s the link to my review on his book.

    • Yes, it’s amazing how these guys can make pseudoscience look convincing, then when you look at the studies they’re talking about most of it is taken completely out of context.

    • I would contradict the statement that the memory problems were likely due to the corn-fed beef. Up until the early 70′s, beef cattle weren’t typically hormone implanted and corn was not the varieties used today. The varieties used today became popular in the ’90′s. His ancestors would likely be older than that.

    • Kay Ritson says:

      Oh great, promote a no fat diet for the brain that depends on fat to function, nice work Dr Neal Barnard, time for him to go back and study anatomy and physiology I think.

    • One could argue that the meat was important for his child development.

  3. Great post Kris!!!

    Guess a lot of people who are influential on Wikipedia are young nerds and Steve Jobs wannabees… let’s just hope they grow up and quit their vegan habits in time before they get cancer prematurely.

    • Hah, would should have guessed that.

      It’s worth pointing out that claims and pages on wikipedia can be challenged and edited. So all is not lost, we just need someone to stand up and make themselves heard. Someone who’s got more time than me, anyway.

      As always Kris, another great post, your efforts are hugely welcomed. Shared, again!


  4. About time someone wrote about this! Good job. Before starting grad school, I was working on the “healthy diet” page of Wikipedia. Suggestions have been made that it move from being a “definition” of “healthy diet” to an exploration of how that phrase has been socially and culturally determined, with different and contradictory conclusions about what constitutes a “healthy diet” at different points in time.

    I think it would be a great place to highlight the controversies in the current definition, but I have no bandwidth for that project anytime in the near future. I encourage your readers to go for it.

  5. Travis Jensen says:

    So get your sources together and edit the pages. Link to this article in the discussion pages. I don’t have the references, so I’d be hard pressed to make it convincing. It needs to be changed, though. Religion masquerading as science does not belong on Wikipedia.

  6. GrannyMumantoog says:

    So glad someone has pointed this out! Anyone with a Wiki account can edit pages, I’ve done it myself but just small things. This sounds like a job for someone better than me & I nominate Kris Gunnars, you are very articulate and intelligent so it would be great if you corrected those pages. There you have it!

  7. Wow, great that you noticed and adressed this – thanks, and thanks for linking it all back to scientific studies – very useful.

  8. Thanks for the link about logical fallacies!

  9. I think this is one of the reasons I am so distrustful of folks like Neal Barnard — he has an ideology, something that he clearly believes in BUT he is not honest and open about it… what is with the masquerade? Why hide his agenda behind organizations like The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine? It all leaves a bad taste.

  10. As Travis and Granny said, Wikipedia is a user-input site — anything there that you disagree with CAN be contested. Go for it.

  11. Hey man, so if the benefits of a plant-based diet are based on propaganda, why is it the largest group of vegetarians in the world, the Seventh-Day Adventist, have better health outcomes than other populations? There are plenty of studies on this I’m sure you can find.

    Oh, and you say vegans have lower muscle mass and lower testosterone. Could you explain that to Patrik Baboumian, one of the worlds strongest men, and a vegan. He recently carried 550 kg (1223 lb) for 33 feet. You should check out his website.

    And I realize you promote consumption of organic or grass fed beef, but what most people have available to them is grain fed mass produced livestock, and very processed meats. Most people see no difference between the grain-fed meat and processed meats from the grass-fed organic, other than the higher price tag.

    And maybe you should look up the word propaganda again, being that you are just as guilty of spreading your own propaganda.

    “People love to hear good news about their bad habits.”

    • “And maybe you should look up the word propaganda again, being that you are just as guilty of spreading your own propaganda.”

      Nope, you are the one that just over exaggerated his “facts” for the purpose of helping your vegan cause.

    • I thoroughly enjoy all the benefits of my own plant-based* diet… it’s just that I find it better to let my “food” eat the plants for me :-P

      * actually if you go far enough back it is pretty much solar based but anyways…

    • @Brad:

      “…why is it the largest group of vegetarians in the world, the Seventh-Day Adventist, have better health outcomes than other populations? There are plenty of studies on this I’m sure you can find…”

      You mean the studies that show they have higher rates of all cancer, and MUCH higher rates of colo-rectal cancer than Mormons – who live a VERY similar lifestyle, but also eat meat?

      7th day adventists, like Mormons, enjoy great health and low cancer rates due to healthy living. Mormons enjoy better overall health because they’re not so radical as to eschew meat…

      As for Patrik – it’s well-documented (by Patrik, no-less) that he built his mass and strength on a diet of meat AND steroids. Not a vegan/vegetarian diet. He only recently claimed to become vegan.

      Thanks for playing.

      • Actually you are wrong. And since we are on the subject of Wikipedia, here is a link for Seventh Day Health Outcomes from Wikipedia:

        What the author fails to explain is that the diet most all of the doctors he mentions is not vegan but whole food plant based, there is a difference.

        I wonder who declared the author of this website an authority or even an expert in nutrition.

  12. Great article.

    Have you told wiki about this issue? I’m sure if propaganda is infiltrating their pages it will make them loose credibility. (Everyone is already starting to think anything that comes from wiki is a joke.)

  13. Brad,
    It is my understanding that Adventists can’t eat pork. When did they all become vegans?

  14. Raphael789 says:

    Thank you for writing that article Kris – it needs to be said: a fantastic ‘thing’ like Wikipedia should be recognized as such, but without – even for a second – pretending it isn’t fallible in many cases.

    Maybe it’d be worth making this into a ‘series’ where we can keep checking (weekly or monthly) how these Wikipedia pages are altered, probably bringing attention to them as through your (evermore) popular site!

  15. Etienne Juneau says:

    Well done!

    Gosh I like reading your stuff.

    So much bad science around.

  16. It’s great to point out issues with Wikipedia pages, but the best place to bring them up is in the respective Talk: page for the article. At the top of each Wikipedia entry are two tabs: Article and Talk. Normally you only look at Article, but Talk where issues related to the page are discussed by the various people who’ve edited the page. I’d suggest creating a Wikipedia account and posting the above information on each of the associated Talk pages along with suggested changes. If nobody objects within a couple days, make the changes.

    Also note that the “Western pattern diet” article contains various warnings to users at the top of the page that are intended to warn about problems with the content of the page. The pages Kris found should probably have similar warnings until they’re fixed.

    Wikipedia is great but nobody should assume that the content is perfect, and everyone should help make it better by correcting problems that they find.

    • Yeah I’ve been looking into this stuff now. Seems pretty easy to make the edits yourself, will probably do it in a few days when I have the time.

      • Diets have become like religion, people embrace them with all the fevor and reverence that one finds in most religious cults.

        People squat on the wiki, delete edits that conflict with the message they have bought into and their inner need to sell it to others. The wiki has had major issues with the scientology page. Even had to block it off.

        Here is an example:

        Read the rational wiki on a recovery religion

        Then go to the wikipedia and read their page on AA, note what is missing. Look at the studies on effectiveness and see how they have taken it out context and how the data from one study became fudged to sell the idea that AA/religion recovery works.

        • AA has saved millions of lives and is free help for anyone who wants it. Most people can’t afford expensive treatment, AA is all over the world and literally anyone is welcome to any meeting.

          Haven’t looked into the studies, but I know many addicts who have recovered via 12-step programs.

          Not familiar with the RationalWiki site, but the article appears extremely biased and looks like it is written from an atheist perspective with the sole purpose of debunking AA, with no mentions of the positive aspects.

          An unbiased article would mention both the positive and negative aspects. In this regard, the Wikipedia article appears much more balanced than the article on RationalWiki.

  17. If I may add another observation, Canola Oil gets a VERY gentle treatment on Wikipedia.

    This is what it says about canola oil on 10/21/13 under “Health Information”: “Canola oil is low in saturated fat and contains both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in a ratio of 2:1. If consumed, it also reduces low-density lipoprotein and overall cholesterol levels, and as a significant source of the essential omega-3 fatty acid is associated with reduced all-cause and cardiovascular mortality.[30] It is recognized by many health professional organizations including the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and American Heart Association.[31][32][33][34] Canola oil has been given a qualified health claim from the United States Food and Drug Administration due to its high levels of cholesterol-lowering fats.”

    They did not mention that Omega 6 laden vegetable oil is a new and prominent suspect in the heart disease epidemic.

  18. LOL! Rrrright.

    Every commercial break I watch has animals being consumed, often animated in order to show how _happy_ they are to be killed. Every time I go out to eat, assuming it’s not a vegan restaurant, easily 95% of the menu has animals in it by default. Every time I go shopping, it’s astounding to me how many products have the result of animal death and suffering in them. Every time I make the mistake of not hiding that I don’t eat animals, there’s someone in the room willing to paint _me_ as the one who’s someone “extreme”. And the list goes on and on…

    … and yet, it’s _vegans_, and not omnivores, who have an “agenda”? It’s _vegans_, and not omnivores, who taint everything with an unreasonable bias? It’s _vegans_, and not omnivores, who are pumping wikipedia full of opinions in lieu of facts? It’s _vegans_, and not omnivores, who are taking the “extreme” position where it comes to animals?


    This article reminds me of that old adage about the two young fish who are swimming along, and are asked by a passing elder, “Hey boys – how’s the water?” The two swim on in silence for a while before one finally asks the other, “What’s ‘water’, anyway?!”

    • Sean, this is about Wikipedia, which is supposed to be a reliable site based on objective science, having unscientific claims cited with references that do NOT support the claims (a bunch of books – mostly anecdote, combined with a few small, flawed, cherry picked studies).

      Like I said in the article, you can argue the ethical part. But what they’re trying to do in these Wikipedia articles is to tell people that animal fat and protein are harmful and that a vegan diet has been shown by science to reverse chronic Western disease, both of which are incorrect.

    • Michael Wassil says:

      Sean, feel free to eat or not eat whatever you please for whatever reasons you please. This article is not about your right to do so or not. No one is shoving something in your face that you don’t like. You happen to be a member of a species that pretty much universally eats and uses animals and animal parts for lots of things. If you don’t like seeing the results all around you, you can always relocate to a desert island and live in peaceful harmony with nature as best you can.

      This article is about honesty and a set of wikipedia entries peddling nonsense as tested science. If vegans and vegetarians don’t want to eat animals, fine. Don’t eat them. Until there is actual evidence to support the health claims, however, don’t present your personal squeamishness or ethical sensibilities as anything else.


  19. Gunnar the Rational wiki was focusing on the science and research, on various studies done thru the years, not on personal testimontals. You will find personal testimonials in any religion as well as those who sell Amway.

    Note the Rational Wiki also made mention of other forms of self help groups who operate without the religious component that are equally as free.

    Anecdoctal evidience does not make for a good study or research. I would not use such evidence in choosing a diet or any form of medical treatment.

    More on the wiki:

    Look at how they banned edits from the church of Scientology.

    Then there is politics.

  20. Wikipedia is not a reliable source for controversial subjects. People can delete each others text. Whoever writes the last gets the attention.

    For controversial subjects, Amazon reviews are more reliable. No opinions can be removed by opponents. All opinions have votes.

  21. I agree absolutely that the pseudoscience around food has been and is absolute rubbish. I used to be a farmer and we killed a bullock every Sunday and we ate beef three meals a day.

    I always thought the no-fat vegan diet was weird. And you must have lots of protein. And now I have been a vegetarian for more than 40 years, but for spiritual and humanitarian reasons: my naturopath thinks I have a terrible diet because I eat lots of cheese, butter and milk and other vegetarian crap food.

    I’m 67 and everyone thinks I’m in my 50s. Not sure how that works, but it could be from keeping up the saturated fats (butter), very little sugar and low carbs with lots of protein powder (which tastes like s***!). And I haven’t had a drink for almost 30 yrs.

    You can have a great, varied vegetarian diet as long as you put in lots of flavour: vegetable stock cubes are magic and so is salt! Pay no attention to the bloody foodie faddists, eat what feels right for you.

    • Michael Wassil says:

      Frank, you’re describing a variation of LCHF! Protein and fat can come from whatever source you like. Some are just better (amino acid-wise) or more efficient than others.

      I’m 68, but no one thinks I’m 50-something any more. So congratulations about that! I suspect it has a lot more to do with genealogy than anything else, though. Old Finns like me look like old Finns. Sigh.


  22. Of course there can be low carb vegan diets, but it’s not going to be as easy, and what about vegan people who don’t like soy, then there is the issue of lacto-vegetarians.

    Will PCRM, PETA, and other advocates of a vegan diet, lash out at such lacto vegans, they don’t eat meat although they do eat dairy?

  23. It’s well known that there are cliques of ideologically tainted/paranoid/over sensitive editors and admins who protect certain topics from opposing/different views and that some of their editors/admins simply seem to enjoy the power and the prestige that their Wiki-cop badges gives them:

    One of the best example of Wiki-bias was this Green Party activist editor/admin who was policing thousands of articles on the topic of Anthropogenic Global Warming for years:

    and here you can read an article by a professor who’s an expert on a specific historical event who tried to correct the obvious mistakes of the wikipedia entry but was blocked by the Wikiditors * because * he had primary documents as a source instead of secondary ones:

    “Another editor cheerfully tutored me in what this means: “Wikipedia is not ‘truth,’ Wikipedia is ‘verifiability’ of reliable sources. Hence, if most secondary sources which are taken as reliable happen to repeat a flawed account or description of something, Wikipedia will echo that.”"

    So you shouldn’t look for the truth on Wikipedia it’s as simple as that. I don’t understand how they still have a positive reputation. Even if say 90% of the articles in there are factually correct it doesn’t matter because you don’t know which ones are part of the remaining 10%. I used to think it was only the political/historical topics that were problematic but nowadays I don’t care because I just don’t read Wikipedia period.

  24. Artonink says:

    NEVER trust a wiki article.

    ESPECIALLY if it’s blocked i.e. – there will be a lock pad symbol on the top left on no edit links on the page.

    I have to say Kris, this is the tip of the iceberg type of stuff, you just happen to know a lot about nutrition which is why you can spot it in this field.

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