Being vegan isn't any healthier than a normal diet
Statistics don't lie, but they don't tell the whole truth either. I don't know the exact numbers, but the average vegan is healthier than a non vegan and can be expected to live longer. However, this doesn't take into consideration that vegans eat specific foods that are mostly healthy, while the average non-vegan diet could consist of a multitude of foods. The non-vegans who eat healthy and avoid junk food will be just as healthy as a vegan.
Rachel, I appreciate your posting because this is something that is widely believed, and I think your post could help people. And, you are right, statistics can be confusing and are often manipulated to make a point. To some extent, I agree with what you are saying-- non-vegans who eat healthy foods and avoid junk food will quitely likely be healthier than the general population.
However, through abundant research I've found that many foods that non-vegans eat are not only not necessary for good health, but often add no nutritional value, and can even take away from our health.
As one example, there was an interesting study done that many people read about in The China Study which covered this exact premise. Harvard University did a study of 80,000 female nurses, women who presumably knew quite a bit about nutrition and tried to eat as healthily as possible. As those nurses tried to lower their fat intake for the study, they ended up eating more "lowfat" products like skim milk, yogurt, lowfat cheese, and actually ate more animal products in the process. Not only did the study find that drinking milk did not lower the risk of hip fractures and osteoporosis, but drinking more milk added no more protection against bones breaking. Countries with the highest amounts of milk consumption are also those with the worst bone health.
Dr. Campbell has found that the animal protein (in milk it's called casein) makes our blood more acidic, so in order to balance the acidity, the body takes calcium out of our bones and makes the blood more alkaline. Milk is packed with casein, so drinking milk actually steals calcium from our bones rather than adding it.
So, that's just one example, but when I read that, I was blown away. I spent more whole life believing that drinking 3 glasses of milk would make me healthier, and it did not. In fact, I used to believe I needed milk and cheese to be healthy, and I thought my diet was extremely healthy. Now, as a vegan, I've never been healthier.
If you want to read more about calcium, check this out this page on vegan calcium.