Note to Angela F. Braly, CEO, WellPoint, Inc.

Dear Ms. Braly:

I’m writing about the July 27, 2009 letter you received from Tracy Reiman, Executive Vice President of PETA.

I figured that in case embarrassing typos ("…denied every everything;" "…many have their throats are cut;" paragraph four; "Dieticians;" paragraph two) from an Executive VP of a major organization with 2 million members wasn’t enough to cause you to shake your head, chuckle, and round-file such letter, then I’d go ahead and point out a few other glaring problems in Reiman’s logic — not that one would necessarily expect logic to be the forte of one who engages in the sorts of antics Reiman does.

On behalf of PETA and our more than 2 million members and supporters worldwide, I am writing to urge you to offer lower health insurance premiums to vegetarians and raise the rates of your meat-eating customers. With the possibility of an increased number of public and private insurance providers entering the field and the mountain of evidence linking meat consumption to some of our nation’s deadliest diseases, this change could improve WellPoint’s bottom line — while also helping to ensure that your policyholders don’t flat line.

There is not a shred of evidence anywhere linking meat consumption as an independent causal factor of any disease. Most people eat meat, but they also eat all sorts of other foods, including modern foods. In direct observation of hunter-gatherers and other primitive, non-industrial peoples going back at least two centuries — all of whom consumed meat, and most in significant quantity — exactly zero of the "diseases of civilization" show up. There’s no cancer, diabetes, stroke, auto-immune, obesity…and the list goes on.

Moreover, as Michael Eades, MD, has recently blogged extensively about, we’re human because we began eating meat, not simply because we can. It was the high-value scavenging of meat, bone marrow and intracranial tissue millions of years ago by our primate ancestors that permitted our guts to shrink enough to allow our energy demanding brains to expand, all while remaining in energy balance.

It would be hard to believe that evolution would produce a being where the very thing that caused his most profound evolution is the thing responsible for killing him.

The American Dietetic Association and the Dieticians [sic] of Canada conducted perhaps the largest review ever of all studies on vegetarian diets and concluded that vegetarians are less prone to heart disease, certain types of cancer, diabetes, and obesity than meat-eaters are. Vegetarians can get all the protein, vitamins, and fiber that they need without the artery-clogging cholesterol and saturated fat found in animal flesh.

Well this is the most egregious — if not outright fraudulent — aspect of Reiman’s letter. Meat eaters essentially represent the population at large. Vegetarians and vegans are — while woefully ignorant of nutrition — in large measure concerned about their health. You can’t compare a group of health conscious with the general population and come away with any conclusion other than an expected one: being health conscious is generally beneficial, regardless of specific diet.

But I wish also to challenge the lie that vegetarianism represents the epitome of health. There is a country where the situation is almost reversed from here in America: India. Most are vegetarians. Well, in 1967 was published some research in the British Medical Journal Heart (Malhotra SL. Br Heart J 1967;29:895-905). Uffe Ravnskov, MD, summed it up:

For six years Indian researcher Malhotra registered how many died from a heart attack among the more than one million employees of the Indian railways.

According to Malhotra’s report employees who lived in Madras had the highest mortality. It was six to seven times higher than in Punjab, the district with the lowest mortality, and they died at a much younger age. But people in Punjab ate almost seventeen times more fat than people from Madras and most of it was animal fat. In addition they smoked much more.

Then there’s the recent Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology alarm over rapidly increasing rates of CAD in India.

The incidence of coronary artery disease (CAD) is increasing at an alarming rate, especially in developing countries, such as India. It is often advocated that a vegetarian lifestyle could reduce the burden of CAD. However, in spite of a majority of Indians being vegetarians, the incidence of CAD is highest in this population.

Unlike Reiman, however, I have a profoundly honest streak and so would not be so quick as to chalk that up independently to a vegetarian diet, especially when there’s a better culprit that holds for both vegetarians and meat eaters alike: modern processed foods, sugar, chemical and heat-extracted seed oils; all of them displacing the healthful food of the past that most people cooked at home.

By giving your policyholders a financial incentive to go vegetarian — and penalizing those whose meat-based diets fuel our nation’s worst health problems and rising health-care costs — WellPoint could save millions of dollars in the long run, ensuring your competitiveness in a broadened field of providers as your members begin to require fewer cholesterol-lowering medications, chemotherapy treatments, and diabetes drugs.

While the foregoing should be enough to give WellPoint or any health insurer pause when considering the future health risks of modern vegetarians — increasingly chowing down on highly processed junk "food" because it’s "vegetarian" — if not, then consider the words of Nora T. Gedgaudas, CNS, CNT, and author of Primal Body — Primal Mind: Empower Your Total Health The Way Evolution Intended (…And Didn’t).

Far and away, the most damaged and intractably dysregulated brains and nervous systems I have seen or dealt with in my practice have all essentially been vegans, with strict vegetarians a close second — hands down. I have numerous other colleagues who have made the same independent observation. A diet of starch, sugar, lectins, phytates and common allergens, or food-sensitivity-generating foods, coupled with chronic deficiencies: of numerous critical essential fats (EPA/DHA, healthy saturates), fat soluble nutrients (preformed A, D, E and K), amino-acid imbalances and/or deficiencies and other key animal source nutrients — not the least of which is utilizable B12 (and B12 analogs from seaweed don’t count) — lead to states of over-arousal, anxiety-related disorders, memory problems, cognitive dysfunction, sleep disturbances, brain degeneration, GI disorders and utter metabolic chaos. It is deeply problematic. These unnaturally restrictive diets, together with other carbohydrate-based diets dysregulate insulin and leptin function to the extreme.

Something to consider if WellPoint insures for psychological disorders.

In her recently published book The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability, ex-vegan of 20 years, Lierre Keith, devotes page after page to descriptions of her seriously deteriorating mental and physical health as a vegan, as well as similar issues with friends and acquaintances.

One comes away with the impression that these issues are well known but not talked about in strict vegetarian and vegan circles.

(HT to Keith for the heads up)

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More


  1. Alex and Derek King American Dietetic Assoc « Popular People on September 24, 2009 at 18:31

    […] Note to Angela F. Braly, CEO, WellPoint, Inc. | Free The Animal […]

  2. monicahughes on September 24, 2009 at 21:04

    Totally awesome. I would love, though, to see the Paleo Health Insurance Corporation. Let those insured by Wellpoint, should the CEO decide to act with the Petards, see their premiums go through the roof.

    • Richard Nikoley on September 24, 2009 at 21:11

      Well Monica, it's unlikely that a de jour health Insurance Co will carve out a special rate plan for us Wild Animals, so I guess we'll have to wait for some ultra rich paleos to figure out they can get rich[er] slowly on us.

      …But there's far more lucrative opportunities, and how can you blame 'em?

      • monicahughes on September 24, 2009 at 21:17

        I agree that it's unlikely, but I meant for catastrophic high deductible accident type insurance. really the only type worth having in a free market, eh? Geico is pretty profitable, I'm sure, and my premiums remain low. We need the same for health insurance, I think.

  3. Kurt G Harris MD on September 24, 2009 at 22:54

    Outstanding work, Richard. keep it up.

    Monica Hughes – if the new reform laws allow it (looks like they won't) I have been thinking of such an enterprise for well over a year now. I think premiums could easily be 40% lower than usual. All I need is about 10 million in start up capital.

  4. Why carbs and insulin makes you fat and ill! - Page 50 - Myprotein Forum on September 25, 2009 at 10:01

    […] at least, to show that it is just not obesity that may be connected. From Richard Nikoley's blog comes these observations: […]

  5. Mark on September 25, 2009 at 14:07

    Awesome post

  6. davern on September 25, 2009 at 14:57

    Those PETA people stun me. I know one. And hey, she's so healthy she had to have gastric bypass surgery to lose weight! And having an intelligent discussion with them on their diet choice is a battle of wits with an unarmed person. Why can't they all just admit that they are overly emotional people who fell for the “cute factor” of not eating animals?

  7. Paleo Newbie on September 29, 2009 at 21:28


    Do you think that India's CAD problem maybe the after effects of the “Green Revolution”(New wheat and Corn crops) for which Borlaug won a Nobel Prize, by stabilizing Southeast Asia from famine, and in turn,the spread of Communism? These new grain varieties, which India did not eat until then, provided cheap and easy calories that at the time, saved millions of lives. Complex problem….

    • Richard Nikoley on September 30, 2009 at 14:22

      Hey doc, a while since we've heard from you; in fact, so long that I don't think you're a “newbie,” anymore. 🙂

      Sure, I suppose it's possible. But I don't see how it could have gone any other way. I just can't bring myself to hold Borlaug in any way responsible.

      Here's an article I read about him back in 2000:

  8. Paleo Newbie on October 2, 2009 at 17:24

    Good to be back. As you know, I am a radiology resident, been studying hardcore the last few months for my Physics boards I just took. My workouts and paleo-ness has suffered. Excited to get back into it!

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