Is a vegetarian diet healthier than a diet that contains a small amount of animal products? We do not know for sure. The preponderance of evidence suggests that either a near-vegetarian diet or a vegetarian diet is the best, especially for patients with heart disease. In the massive China-Oxford-Cornell Project, reduction in heart disease and cancer rates continued to be observed as participants reduced their animal-food consumption all the way down to 1.7 small servings per week. Under this level, there is not enough data available.And, meat isn’t all bad. Vegans you might want to pay attention to this post, The Healthy Way to Integrate Meat Into Your Diet, it’ll help you figure out what supplements you need to ensure you’re probably nourished. Some points of interests:
- Plant foods do not contain B12 (all vegans should take B12).
- Some people have a need for more taurine, and may not get optimal amounts with a vegan diet. (Some vegans need to take a taurine supplement, or they could get a blood test to assure adequacy).
- Some vegans may not produce ideal levels of DHA fat (from the conversion of short-chain omega-3 fats) found in such foods as flax and walnuts, if they don't eat fish. I advocate that vegans and people who do not eat fish should supplement with DHA or get a blood test to assure adequacy.
Today, the average American consumes 100 to 120 grams of protein per day, mostly in the form of animal products. People who eat a completely vegetarian diet (vegan) have been found to consume sixty to eighty grams of protein a day, well above the minimum requirement.1 Vitamin B12, not protein, is the missing nutrient in a vegan diet.Now eating too much animal protein—or meat—can usher in a lot of serious health problems; most notably cancer and heart disease. Dr. Fuhrman briefly talks about the cancer-heart disease-meat connection here. Take a look:
In modern times, the plant foods we eat are well washed and contain little bacteria, bugs, or dirt, which would have supplied B12 in a more natural environment such as the jungle or forest. To assure optimal levels of B12 in our diet, we require some form of B12 supplementation when eating a diet with little or no animal products.
Plasma apolioprotein B is positively associated with animal-protein intake and inversely associated (lowered) with vegetable-protein intake (e.g., legumes and greens). Apolioprotein B levels correlate strongly with coronary heart disease.2Dr. Fuhrman isn’t the only one talking about the link between various cancers and consumption of animal products. Get a load of this new study, apparently meat raises lung cancer risk. Maggie Fox of Reuters reports:
A recent study from New Zealand that investigated heterocyclic amines in meat, fish, and chicken found the greatest contributor of HCAs to cancer risk was chicken.3
People who eat a lot of red meat and processed meats have a higher risk of several types of cancer, including lung cancer and colorectal cancer, U.S. researchers reported on Monday.Aren’t you happy you avoid red meat? In the end, I guess it’s important to remember, that while you don’t necessarily have to be vegan or vegetarian, according to Dr. Fuhrman, its best to limit how much meat you eat. One more quote:
The work is the first big study to show a link between meat and lung cancer. It also shows that people who eat a lot of meat have a higher risk of liver and esophageal cancer and that men raise their risk of pancreatic cancer by eating red meat.
"A decrease in the consumption of red and processed meat could reduce the incidence of cancer at multiple sites," Dr. Amanda Cross and colleagues at the U.S. National Cancer Institute wrote in their report, published in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS Medicine.
Today the link between animal products and many different diseases is as strongly supporting in the scientific literature as the link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer. For example, subjects who ate meat, including poultry and fish, were found to be twice as likely to develop dementia (loss of intellectual function with aging) than their vegetarian counterparts in a carefully designed study.4 The discrepancy was further widened when past meat consumption was taken into account. The same diet, loaded with animal products, that causes heart disease and cancer also causes most every other disease prevalent in America including kidney stones, renal insufficiency and renal failure, osteoporosis, uterine fibroids, hypertension, appendicitis, diverticulosis, and thrombosis.5So, when people ask you if you miss the proverbial standard American double-cheese burger, you shouldn’t have to fake a sigh and pretend that you do—I don’t!
1. Rose W. The amino acid requirements of adult man. Nutritional Abstracts and Reviews 1957;27:631.
2. Campbell, T.C., B. Parpia, and J. Chen. 1990. A plant-enriched diet and long-term health, particularly in reference to China. Hort. Science 25 (12): 1512-14.
3. Thomson, B. 1999. Heterocyclic amine levels in cooked meat and the implication for New Zealanders. Eur. J. Cancer Prev. 8 (3):201-06.
4. Glem, P., W. L. Beeson, and G.E. Faser. 1993. The incidence of dementia and intake of animal products: preliminary findings from Adventist Health Study. Neuroepidemiology 12: 28-36.
5. Fellstrom, B., B. G. Daneilson, B. Kerlstrom, et al. 1983. The influence of a high dietary intake of purine-rich animal protein on urinary excretion and supersaturation in renal stoen disease. Clinical Science 64: 399-405; Robertson, W.G., M. Peacock , and P. J. Heyburn. 1979. Should recurrent calcium oxalate stone formers become vegetarians? B.J. Urol. 51: 427-31; Bosch, L.P., A. Saccaggi, A. Lauer, et al. 1983. Renal functional reserve in humans, effect of protein intake on glomerula filtration rate. Am. J. Med. 75: 943-50; Effects of acute protein loads of different sources on glomerula filtration rate. 1987. Kidney International 32 (22): S25-28; Kerstetter, J. E., and L. H. Allen. 1989. Dietary protein increases urinary calcium. J. Nutr. 120: 134-136 Breslau, N.A., L. Brinkley, K.D. Hill, and C.Y.C. Pak. 1988. Relationship of animal protein-rich diet to kidney stone formation and calcium metabolism. J. Clin. Endocr. And Metab. 66: 140-46; Chiaffarino, op. cit., p. 395; Wiseman, M.J., R. Hunt. A. Goodwin, et al. 1987. Dietary composition and renal function in healthy subjects. Nephron. 46: 37-42; Appleby, P.N., M. Thorogood, J. I. Mann, T.J. Key. 1999. The Oxford Vegetarian Study: and overview. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 70 (3): 525-31S; Nordoy, A., and S.H. Goodnight. 1990. Dietary lipids and thrombosis: relationship to atherosclerosis. Arteriosclerosis 10 (2): 149-63.