Vegan Health

"The average age (longevity) of a meat eater is 63. I am on the verge of 85 and still work as hard as ever. I have lived quite long enough and am trying to die; but I simply cannot do it. A single beef-steak would finish me; but I cannot bring myself to swallow it. I am oppressed with a dread of living forever. That is the only disadvantage of vegetarianism." George Bernard Shaw, 1856-1950

Many studies in the major medical journals have demonstrated the health benefits of vegetarian diets. For example, a study done by the conservative American Dietetic Association in 1988 concluded that people who do not eat meat are at lower risk for colon cancer, heart disease, obesity, adult-onset diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, kidney stones, gallstones, diverticulosis, breast cancer and lung cancer.

 In 1991 William C. Roberts, M.D., the editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Cardiology, wrote in an editorial, "When we kill animals to eat them they end up killing us because their flesh...was never intended for human beings, who are naturally herbivores." *

Regarding Dairy Foods, consider this quote from Dr. Frank A. Oski, former Director of Pediatrics, John Hopkins University:

"There's no reason to drink cow's milk at any time in your life. It was designed for calves, not humans, and we should all stop drinking it today."

Many leading athletes are vegan, including 9 time Olympic Gold Medallist Carl Lewis, and and six time Iron Man Triathlon winner Dave Scott.

Here is nice paragraph from the Calgary Herald (April 18, 2002)  about marathon runner, Don Repta:

"He's an ultra-marathon racer, running 160 kilometres in 19 hours and 50 minutes in his last race. In 2003, he plans to run across the Sahara Desert in six days. This in addition to studying for a master's degree in environmental science and working at a Forerunners running store in Kitsilano. Oh, and did we mention he's not just a vegetarian? He's been vegan for the past seven years and bans all animal products from his diet. Repta, 28, is one of the growing number of vegetarians who are proving a meatless diet doesn't sap energy."

GOOD FOR CHILDREN?

 The chapter on nutrition in the last edition, published by the icon Dr Benjamin Spock, of "Dr Spock's Baby and Child Care" (see Recommended Reading) clearly advocates a vegan diet:

"A vegetable-based diet for children is generally more healthful than a diet containing the cholesterol, animal fat, and excessive protein found in meat and dairy products....Children and adolescents will get plenty of protein as long as they eat a variety of whole-grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits and nuts. If you are a strict vegetarian (vegan) you can still get plenty of calcium. Non-dairy calcium sources include green leafy vegetables, beans, and calcium fortified soymilk and orange juice. " p342.

He examines the emerging links between meat, dairy, and numerous health issues. He recommends a change to soy-milk and soy products to families who are still using cow's milk.

WHAT ABOUT PROTEIN AND CALCIUM?

We ask the question above because the material on nutrition we read in school taught us to; and it taught us that meat and dairy products were the answer. Those materials were, and still are, distributed by the USDA and the Dairy Council, whose job it is to promote their products. In "May All Be Fed - Diet For a New World" John Robbins (see Recommended Reading for his latest book) cites countless studies that all lead to the same conclusion, "Osteoporosis is a condition caused by a number of factors, the most important of which is excess dietary protein." (p58). 

Plenty of calcium can be consumed without the counterproductive consumption of excess protein one receives when eating dairy products. Other foods, such as leafy green vegetables, are high in calcium; A cup of broccoli contains 178 milligrams; a cup of tofu contains a whopping 500, about half of the recommended daily allowance!

Results from a study released in early 2005 showed that raw food vegans had lighter bones than people eating a conventional diet -- that was attributed to the vegans being generally of lower weight. According to the April 4, 2005, LA Times report, raw food vegans "show normal levels of two markers for bone turnover."

IS LACTOSE INTOLERANCE AN ISSUE?

A significant percentage of white Anglo-Saxon Americans are lactose intolerant --about 8%. Lactose intolerance amongst African Americans is the norm (78%) as it is for American Jews. 

WHAT ABOUT B12?

Vitamin B12 comes from bacteria. We humans are the only animals not capable of producing our own. Before the the advent of modern farming methods, which have effected both the bacteria in the soil, and the amount left on vegetables by the time we consume them, we received the tiny amount of B12 we needed from the skins of vegetables. With modern vegan diets B12 supplementation is necessary. You will find that most soy milks and many cereals are fortified with B12 (check cartons.) However many nutritionist recommend taking a B12 vitamin tablet or multivitamin with B12. You'll find plenty of information about B12 needs at http://veganoutreach.org/health/b12letter.html  

FISH?

Fish, particularly its oil, is often lauded for its abundance of Omega-3 acids. However flaxseed oil is also rich in these acids. Unlike fish consumption, flaxseed poses no danger from mercury and other pollutants to which fish are exposed. On Apr. 24, 2000, the CT Council on Environmental Quality issued its annual report, stating that fish in all the state's rivers and lakes are contaminated with mercury. 

 

FOOD POISONING

Besides the inherent dangers posed by a high protein, high saturated fat diet, animal consumption also poses a huge threat to our health in the form of food-borne disease. Campylobacter is the leading cause of food borne illness in the USA (Los Angeles Times 9/20/99). A U.S. Department of Agriculture Study recently showed 88% of poultry sampled from supermarkets tested positive for campylobacter. Additionally, half of all chickens sold in the United States are infected with salmonella, according to the New York Times. Up to 4 million Americans are believed to contract Salmonella poisoning every year.

Approximately 30% of all pork products are contaminated with toxoplasmosis, a disease caused by parasites that can be passed on to consumers.

We get the occasional "alfalfa scare" (from animal contamination) but overall, the incidence and severity of food-borne illness due to the consumption of plant foods is minute when compared to that caused by consuming animal products.

MORE INFORMATION

A great source of information on all of the issues broached above is the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a group founded by health professionals, who are concerned for animal welfare but base their recommendations on sound science. Check out the website www.PCRM.org 

http://www.veganhealth.org/  from "Vegan Outreach" is also terrific. 

*(Diet for a New World, p87.)

Cartoon by Bizarro