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Friday, December 30, 2011

A meat-free diet improves arthritis.

English: http://rheumatoidarthritis-symptoms.c...Image via Wikipedia
Rheumatoid Arthritis of the hands.
Recent literature has shown that diet can improve the symptoms of painful and inflamed joints suffered by millions of arthritis patients.  Certain foods such as meat and dairy may trigger arthritic symptoms, and a meat-free diet can give relief to arthritis sufferers.  

There are several types of arthritis, all of which cause swollen joints and painful movement.  Recent studies have shown that diets that restrict meat and dairy give symptom relief for all types of arthritis:

Osteoarthritis: This is the most prevalent form of arthritis, caused by wear and tear of the joints.  Most sufferers of this type of arthritis are in the >50 age group.  However, this condition is rare in Asian and African countries whose populations follow a plant-based diet and few animal products.

Rheumatoid Arthritis: Thought to be an autoimmune disease, this is a more aggressive type of arthritis caused by damage to the synovium that lines the joints, resulting in pain and inflammation. A study published in the Am. Journal for Clinical Nutrition showed patients in vegetarian diet groups improved significantly compared to patients who followed their usual omnivorous diet throughout the study period.  (More info here.)

Gouty Arthritis: Gout is caused by a build-up of uric acid in the joints.  It is triggered by a diet high in purines to include meat and fish.  The purines in vegetables, however, do not increase gout symptoms.

Inflammatory Polyarthritis:   This type of arthritis occurs when there is inflammation in more than four joints, and is often a precursor to rheumatoid arthritis.   A 2004 study found that “subjects with the highest level of consumption of red meat, meat and meat products combined were at an increased risk for inflammatory polyarthritis.” See abstract here.
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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Meat is a choking hazard.

Heimlich Maureen Oleskiewicz, a 28-year-old teacher , recently choked to death on a hot dog at Wrigley Field.  Meat products, especially hot dogs, are a common choking hazard.  Healthy adults are just as likely to choke on hot dogs or other meat products as young children or seniors.

It is not unusual to see an ambulance parked in front of a steakhouse to help a diner who is choking on a large chunk of meat. In fact, they have coined the term “cafĂ© coronary” to describe these choking incidents.  The symptoms are similar to a heart attack when in fact the diner is actually choking to death, usually on meat or fish.  Choking incidents in steakhouses are so common, that until recently some states made it mandatory for restaurants to display posters with instructions on what to do when someone chokes.

In the U.S., close to 3800 people die every year from choking as reported by the American Heart Association.  Choking usually occurs during eating and the most common specified food objects that victims choked on were meat products. In fact, meat accounts for 35% of choking incidents.  According to the Journal of Forensic Science, death from choking is the fourth most common cause of unintentional-injury mortality.

Children are especially prone to airway obstruction. Choking on food causes the death of approximately 1 child every 5 days in the United States. Hot dogs are the most common food choking hazard for children. Hot dogs accounted for the largest percentage of food-related asphyxiations among children younger than 10 years of age in a 41-state study published in JAMA (Harris et al.).  Children who choke on hot dogs are 2 to 3 times more likely to be hospitalized than children who choke on candy or other food items.

Most of the medical literature on airway obstruction is related to children, however, people of all ages are susceptible to choking incidents. A study in the UK showed that the 45 to 55 age group nearly doubled the choking emergencies of other age groups. In the UK, the most common cause of choking was fish, followed by meat and poultry.

For more information:
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Monday, December 5, 2011

Eating meat increases chances of developing cataracts.

If you eat meat, you have a higher chance of eventually developing cataracts.  Cataracts affect about 60% of people over the age of 60. Cataract surgeries are performed over 1.5 million times each year in the United States alone.   

Cataracts are thought to be a normal sign of aging, but now scientists believe that diet can largely prevent this common eye disorder.    Cataract symptoms are a gradual clouding of the lens, causing impaired vision.
My eye
A 2011 study from Oxford University compared different dietary groups with the incidence of cataracts.  The dietary groups included high meat eaters, low meat eaters, fish eaters (participants who ate fish but not meat), vegetarians (those that included dairy in their diet), and vegans (participants that consumed no animal fat or protein). 

The incidence of cataracts corresponded to the amount of animal protein and fat consumed by each diet group with the high meat eaters having the highest incidence of cataracts, and vegans the lowest, and the other groups correspondingly in the middle.  Click here for study details.

It has long been known that eye health is linked to the consumption of fruits and vegetables.  Many nutrients found in a vegetarian diet have been shown to ward off cataract development.  The most important are:

Beta-Carotene.  In particular, the darker colored fruits and vegetables (apricots, carrots, sweet potatoes, collard greens, kale, spinach, papaya, red bell pepper, cantaloupe, etc.) have the most amounts of beta-carotene and carotenoids which are considered important eye-protecting nutrients.

Vitamin C.  All citrus fruits contain a high amount of Vitamin C, as well as other produce such as guava,  bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, mango, strawberries, raspberries, etc. 

Vitamin E. This powerful antioxidant is a preventative of cataracts and macular degenerative disease. Some of the best sources are wheat germ oil, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, almonds, wheat germ, papaya, and peanut butter.

Zinc.  This trace mineral has a protective effect for eyes, especially the retina. Vegetarian sources of zinc include wheat germ, garbanzo beans, black-eyed peas, almonds, tofu, and brown rice.
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Friday, December 2, 2011

Vegetarian diets save on grocery, energy and medical bills.

A good way to save money at the grocery store is to replace meat products with fruits and vegetables. Eliminating meat reduces the average grocery bill by about a third.  For the cost of a single steak, one could have a vegetarian feast for a family of four.

Comparing the cost of animal protein to vegetable protein, the savings are significant.  In the U.S., relatively inexpensive beef, such as ground round, averages approximately $3 per pound, boneless chicken breasts cost $3.40 a pound, and canned tuna is about $2 per pound.  Vegetarian protein such as dried beans and lentils costs less than $1 per pound, and rice, the vegetarian staple, can be found for sixty to seventy cents per pound.

Consumers would also be surprised to know how much of their monthly electric bill and/or gas bill is used to refrigerate and cook meat.  Meat has to be cooked in order to be safe and palatable. Fruits and vegetables for the most part can be eaten raw, but when they are used in baked recipes, they take a fraction of cooking time compared to meat. 

In many homes, refrigerators are the greatest user of electricity. The average family could use a substantially smaller regrigerator/freezer if they did not need it for meat products.  Over 80% of the space in a typical refrigerator is used for meat and dairy products. Although some fruits and vegetables have a longer shelf life when refrigerated, many veggies/fruits will keep for several days, if not weeks, without refrigeration. On the other hand, it is mandatory to refrigerate or freeze meat and dairy from the time it comes home from the market until it is cooked—a large drain on the monthly electric bills.  If there happens to be a power outage for more than a day, all the meat and dairy products in the refrigerator and/or freezer will probably spoil—at a potential cost of several hundred dollars.

The major cost savings of a vegetarian diet, however, is in the long term health benefits. Switching to a healthy vegetarian diet will potentially save you thousands of dollars in future medical costs to include prescriptions, medical treatment, insurance and loss of income. 

Lastly, tax dollars in the U.S. are being diverted to support the meat industry. Although you can get a fast food hamburger for only a dollar, tax payer dollars contribute billions to the meat and dairy industries annually.  Tax money that comes out of your paycheck is used to support the meat/dairy industries by subsidizing feed grain, water, insurance, grazing land, and environmental clean-up for the benefit of a handful of corporations that control the nation's meat supply. 
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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Vegetarians live longer, healthier lives!

Compared to people who eat meat daily, vegetarians can look forward to a longer and healthier life.  In fact, vegetarians live about 7 years longer, and and those on a strict vegan diet with no animal products live about 15 years longer than meat eaters according to a study from Loma Linda University.

Red and processed meat intakes are associated with an increase in risk of cancer mortality, cardiovascular disease mortality, and an overall increase in total mortality in both men and women, according to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine

Important factors that are linked to a longer life expectancy are elimination of “bad” fats and the inclusion of a multitude of antioxidants to the diet. Vegetarians also tend to have lower BMI values (body mass index) which add years to life expectancy.  It is important to note that a healthy vegetarian diet would include more than 60% whole fruits and vegetables.

The leading cause of premature death in the U.S. is heart disease. This is associated with the consumption of animal fats, particularly from red meat. In reality, heart disease would be more aptly named “artery” disease, because it is the buildup of plaque in the arteries that ultimately leads to the demise of the heart. This is a condition that can actually be reversed or cured with adherence to a strict vegan diet. (Read more on the link between animal fat and heart disease.)

Another leading cause of premature death is cancer of all types, to include prostate cancer, colon cancer, breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, and blood cancers. Numerous clinical studies have shown that vegetarians are far less likely to develop cancer of any type, but especially the types mentioned above.  You can find more info on the cancer-diet connection here.

Finally, obesity has become an epidemic and contributes substantially to a shortened lifespan. A healthy diet that consists mostly of vegetables and fruits will fill you up with substantially fewer calories than a diet high in animal fats and protein. Fewer calories translate to less or no weight gain and longer life expectancy.  The connection between meat consumption and obesity has been highlighted in numerous studies.

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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Meat Production and Commercial Fishing Cause Animal Extinction

Livestock grazing is the number one cause of threatened and extinct species both in the United States and in other parts of the world. 

 In the U.S., livestock grazing accounts for 26% of the species on the federal endangered/threatened list. "The impact of countless hooves and mouths over the years has done more to alter the type of vegetation and land forms of the West than all the water projects, strip mines, power plants, freeways, and subdivision developments combined," states Philip Fradkin of the National Audubon Society. 

Worldwide, especially in the fragile rain forests, it’s estimated that each hamburger made from rain forest beef causes the demise of approximately 25 different plant species, 100 different insect species, and many more bird, mammals, and reptile species.

To satisfy the increasing demand for meat by the world population, enormous tracts of land are used to grow crops to feed the billions of animals raised for food each year. Smithsonian Institute scientists have estimated that the equivalent of seven football fields of land is bulldozed every minute, the majority of which is used to create grazing for farmed animals. About 80% of all agricultural land in the U.S is used in some way for livestock production—that's roughly 50% of the total land mass of the U.S.  It is generally thought that deforestation for the purpose of livestock only happens in third world countries; however, more than 260 million acres of forests in the United States have been clear cut to create crops to grow feed grain for the livestock production industry. 

Also at fault, the commercial fishing industry is causing species extinction in the world’s oceans. In fact, marine ecosystems are on the brink of collapse. The fishing industries have been indiscriminately pulling vast amounts of fish out of the sea, destroying the ecological balance, resulting in the demise of habitat and vast amounts of marine life. Fishing methods that include bottom trawling and long-lining devastate millions of miles of ocean and push many marine species close to extinction.

For more information:
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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Meat and dairy are contaminated with toxic chemicals.

Did you know that by eating one large steak, you could exceed the daily dioxin limit proposed by the EPA.
sunnyside up-SpiegeleiImage by alles-schlumpf via Flickr

Dioxins are some of the most toxic chemicals known to man.  In fact, the EPA has determined there is no “safe” level of exposure.   Dioxins are the byproduct of many industrial processes, yet humans are exposed mainly through their diet of meat and dairy.  The EPA designed the chart below to show how the North American diet is contaminated by dioxins, as presented in the EPA Dioxin Reassessment Summary 4/94 - Vol. 1, p. 37.

Dioxin exposure has been linked to cancer, birth defects, miscarriage, infertility, endometriosis, diabetes, learning disabilities, immune system suppression, lung problems, skin disorders, lowered testosterone levels and much more.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Studies link meat diets to male infertility.

Causes of infertility, data compiled in the Un...Image via Wikipedia

Recent studies have concluded that vegetarian diets play an important role in the production of healthy sperm, whereas diets high in animal fat contribute to male infertility:
  • A diet of red meat had a negative impact on the sperm implantation rate according to a study published by Brazilian scientists  in Fertility and Sterility, November 2011. This study also concluded consumers of red meat had a diminished chance of pregnancy.
  • A 2011 study by the Harvard School of Public Health links a diet that includes high intakes of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, to healthier sperm.  Conversely, diets heavy in red meats and processed grains had a detrimental effect on sperm motility (the ability to swim towards the egg). 
  • A 2005 study from the University of Rochester concluded that infertile men were twice as likely to have low intake of fruits and vegetables compared to fertile men.
  • Researchers in Spain have also noted a relationship between food intake and male infertility in a 2009 study. They noted that frequent intake of animal fat such as milk and red meat has a negative effect on sperm quality, whereas high consumption of fruits and vegetables maintain and improve sperm quality.
The causal relationship is unknown, however, scientists suspect the beneficial effects of natural antioxidants found in whole fruits, vegetables and grains may help to keep sperm healthy.

Men who regularly consume meat also have higher levels of PBDE, a substance used in flame retardants, and known to cause infertility.  Studies in Canada have found significant PBDE contamination in red meat, poultry, butter, cheese and salmon.

For more information:
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Sunday, November 13, 2011

The cure for heart disease is a plant-based diet.

Bill Clinton - yes, I took this photoImage by Creativity+ Timothy K Hamilton via Flickr
Can heart disease be cured by a vegetarian diet?  Bill Clinton decided to switch to a vegan diet in order to stay healthy and to reverse his heart disease and he has gone public with his lifestyle choice in an effort to alert the public to the fact that heart attacks are completely preventable through a plant-based diet. There is substantial evidence to indicate that heart disease is not a fate of bad genes or age, but is largely the result of unhealthy food choices.  In particular, a sustained consumption of animal protein over many years is probably the main culprit that triggers plaque in the arteries, the precursor to heart attacks and strokes.  Even thin, active people who do not smoke are not immune from heart disease if they include animal protein in their diets.  

It is a common misconception that one’s blood cholesterol numbers are predictive of future heart problems.  In reality, that number is useless because that number does not tell you whether cholesterol is building up in the form of plaque on the arteries. Much more important is the amount and type of LDL, a component of cholesterol, that is circulating through the blood.  Large particles of LDL are not particularly dangerous; however, small particles of LDL can catch and build up on the lining of the arteries, and eventually occlude the blood flow to the heart.  Result:  heart attack.

Diets high in animal fat, such as red meat, eggs and dairy are known to increase the ratio of the bad cholesterol (LDL) to good cholesterol (HDL).  Switching to a plant-based diet, such as the Ornish diet, has proven to actually reverse plaque build-up.  This is a feat that statin drugs have never been proven to accomplish.  

According to the American Heart Association, in the US alone, over 50 billion dollars a year are spent on heart bypass procedures annually, and a heart attack occurs ever 30 seconds. All this  in spite of the fact that heart disease is completely preventable through a plant-based diet.  

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Friday, November 11, 2011

Processed meat doubles the risk of Type II Diabetes.

Bacon!Image by Dinner Series via FlickrDid you know that eating just two strips of bacon or one hot dog a day will DOUBLE your risk of developing type 2 diabetes mellitus? A study published in 2011 by the Harvard School of Public Health shows a very strong link between consumption of processed meats and type 2 diabetes.  This was a huge study, consisting of 442,101 participants—almost 30,000 of which went on to develop type 2 diabetes during the study.

Processed meats include items such as hot dogs, packaged lunch meat, deli meats such as pastrami and breakfast items such as sausage and bacon.  Only a single serving of one of these items a day will double-up your odds of eventually becoming diabetic.  Even if one avoids processed meats altogether, the consumption of a single 100 gram serving (3.5 oz.) of unprocessed red meat each day, such as a hamburger or steak, also increases diabetes risk by almost 20%. On the other end of the scale, the Harvard study shows that replacing red and processed meat with healthier proteins, such as nuts or whole grains, can significantly lower the risk.

What are the consequences of diabetes?  It is the leading cause of blindness, kidney failure, and amputations of legs or feet not due to accidental cause.  

Here’s a scary fact:  According to the CDC, if current trends hold, 1 out of 3 people will have type 2 diabetes by 2050.  Just last year, almost 2 million new cases were diagnosed.  If these trends are not reversed by shifting the world to a healthier plant-based diet, the current health care systems will be overwhelmed.

Type 2 is the most common type of diabetes accounting for 90-95% of all cases. It is caused when the body loses its ability to produce and use insulin, which is the hormone that converts sugars into energy. When this happens, glucose and fats remain in the blood, and over time will cause the body to degenerate.

It is suspected that the nitrates used to preserve processed meats as well as the higher amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol in both processed and unprocessed red meat are responsible for triggering type 2 diabetes. 
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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Meat production costs taxpayers billions of dollars.

cattle_feedlot_04Image by NDSU Ag Comm via Flickr
It is impossible to calculate the extraordinary monetary costs when taking into account the huge environmental and medical impacts that are produced by the ever increasing demand for meat.   What is the cost of a rain forest?  What is the cost of a fatal heart attack?  What is the cost of a polluted water supply?  Obviously, these are things that cannot be measured to any degree of accuracy in monetary terms.

There are, however, costs to eating meat that can be calculated, and American taxpayers would be surprised and shocked to know that billions of their tax dollars are used to coddle and subsidize the industrial livestock corporations.  The US subsidizes land use, water use, insurance, environmental clean-up and feed grain for the multi-billion dollar conglomerates that monopolize livestock operations today. 

The US started subsidizing grain during the depression in order to help the farming community made up mostly of small family farms.  However, in this day and age, the main beneficiaries of these subsidies are large agribusiness corporations who buy over half of subsidized feed grains.  US subsidies significantly depress the price of agriculture commodities, which serves little benefit to the local farmers, but gives huge economic advantage to the transnational livestock industry.  The price they pay for feed grain is below the farmer’s cost of production.

The US state and federal governments also subsidize the ridiculously high amount of water it takes to produce livestock. It is estimated that 2500 gallons of water are used to produce just one pound of beef, and yet livestock producers pay pennies on the dollar of what urban taxpayers pay for their tap water. 

The US taxpayers also subsidize the livestock industry by charging them a token grazing fee of only $1.35 per month for one cow and her calf to graze on federal lands.  Sadly, the Obama administration recently rejected a proposal to increase those fees, leaving the taxpayers to pay the costs of maintaining the land and mollifying the environmental impacts of compromised wildlife habitat, water quality, scenic views, and native vegetation.

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