One of the hazards of achieving meaning through diet is that your legacy is heavily dependent on how long you live. If you say your diet is the best, and then you die young of a health failure, it messes up everything. Your opponents will quietly cheer your death as a validation of their nutritional and moral worldview and your followers will either abandon you or strain to explain why your death had nothing to do with what you ate.
Not all vegans claim that veganism is the healthiest diet, or that it makes you immune to chronic disease and early death. Yet most vegans can’t help but associate meat, dairy and eggs with heart attacks and cancer, so if a vegan does die early of one of those red meat diseases, it can’t be due to nutrition. A better explanation is that they were doomed from the start.
Leslie Cross, who founded the Plant Milk Society, was a great friend of mine. He died comparatively early, well, in his early 70s, I think, and, in a letter he sent me, shortly before he died, he mentioned that, as a child, he’d fallen heavily from a gate and the authorities thought he might not recover and, I think, if he had an early death for a vegan, it may have been the consequence of that.
Frey Ellis (1918 - 1978)
The [Vegan] Society was grateful to add to its membership Dr. Frey Ellis, who took a special interest in vegan health. He educated vegans about the health benefits of vegan diets, about the care necessary in bringing up children as vegans, and about B12, which had been discovered in 1949. … Dr. Ellis became a council member and vice president of the Vegan Society in 1961 and was its president from 1964 until he died in 1978 [at the age of 59 - pdf]. This gentle man worked to show the scientific world that a vegan diet could be nutritionally adequate.
[No explanation is given for the early death, but his obituary (linked to in the above pdf) says, “He bore his last illness with great courage and with unfailing courtesy.”]
— “Becoming Vegan”
H. Jay Dinshah (1933 - 2000)
H. Jay Dinshah, 66, who as the leader of the American Vegan Society was an advocate for life without violence toward animals or humans, died on June 8, apparently from a heart attack while working in his office in Malaga, New Jersey [after 43 years of veganism]. Both sides of his family had a history of congenital heart problems, relatives said. …
Mr. Dinshah was raised as lacto-vegetarian from birth by his parents, the late Dinshah P. Ghadiali and Irene Grace Hoger Dinshah. His diet in later years consisted of fruits, salads, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.
George Ohsawa (1893 - 1966)
Macrobiotics founder George Ohsawa died of a heart attack at the age of 73. Macrobiotics allows for the eating of fish occasionally but Ohsawa believed brown rice was the ideal food and that the best diet was one consisting entirely of grains.
According to macrobiotic advocate Kaare Bursell, the seeds for Ohsawa’s premature demise were planted ten years earlier in West Africa when Ohsawa demonstrated the dangers of consuming too much “yin” by drinking alcohol and excess water and walking around barefoot. This extreme behavior gave him a deadly blood condition (“African Sickness”), which he cured by abruptly turning his blood yang with a meal of brown rice, aduki beans and sea salt. Unfortunately, this merely sent the blood parasite into hiding — waiting until Ohsawa’s next dietary slip-up.
This dietary misstep occurred 10 years later when Ohsawa was attempting to create a macrobiotic beer. As some of you may know, beer is dangerously yin. Ohsawa hoped to correct this of course, but first he had to taste-test his experimental batches, which hadn’t yet arrived at the perfect yin/yang balance. These sips created the yin condition in Ohsawa’s blood that the dormant parasites had been waiting for. This killed one of the world’s foremost authorities on nutrition, and now beer is doomed to be yin forever.
— Paraphrased from “The Alchemycal Pages”
Michio and Avaline Kushi
[Michio and Aveline Kushi] wrote books on Japanese macrobiotics back in the 60’s and have been at the forefront of the macrobiotic movement. Aveline died after nine years of cervical cancer at the young age of only 78.
Japanese women have a very long lifespan generally. She got radiation and possibly other medical treatments. Michio now has colon cancer at 81. These two are not good inspirations for health and longevity, yet they held themselves up as role models for a diet and lifestyle in harmony with the universe. …
It is no secret Michio smoked cigarettes and drank coffee for decades. We don’t know what, if any, bad habits Aveline had because Japanese people are generally secretive and keep their affairs close to the chest. Chances are Avenline had her own bad habits she didn’t reveal.
We will never know if they were under heavy stress or had an unhappy marriage. Divorce is considered “bad form” in Japan, and it is far better to stay together in an unhappy marriage than get divorced. We will never know what really went on, or didn’t go on, in the Kushi household. Aveline is gone, and Michio isn’t talking. …
I am very thankful to the Ohsawas, Kushis and other traditionalists who brought macrobiotics to America decades ago.
Notice how I conveniently left out that Vegan Society founder Donald Watson lived to the age of 95 after 60 years of veganism, and “forgot” to mention all the meat eaters in the history of the world who died even earlier than Frey Ellis. Do I really think I can fool you guys so easily?