The bone-thinning condition called osteoporosis can lead to small and not-so-small fractures. Although many people think of calcium in the diet as good protection for their bones, this is not at all the whole story. To protect your bones you do need calcium in your diet, but you also need to keep calcium in your bones – and consuming milk and other dairy products is not the way to put it there. In fact, in a 12-year Harvard study of 78,000 women, those who drank milk three times a day actually broke more bones than women who rarely drank milk. Similarly, an Australian study of elderly men and women showed that higher dairy product consumption was associated with increased fracture risk. Those with the highest dairy product consumption had approximately double the risk of hip fracture compared to those with the lowest consumption. Finally, the calcium in dairy products is accompanied by animal proteins, lactose sugar, animal growth factors, occasional drugs and contaminants, and a substantial amount of fat and cholesterol. Not to mention unspeakable cruelty and suffering to the animals whose milk, meant for their babies, is stolen from them.
How to Get Calcium into Your Bones
1. Get calcium from greens, beans, or fortified foods.
The most healthful calcium sources are not dairy products, but green leafy vegetables and legumes, or “greens and beans” for short. Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, collards, kale, mustard greens, Swiss chard, and other greens are loaded with highly absorbable calcium and a host of other healthful nutrients. The exception is spinach, which contains a large amount of calcium but tends to hold onto it very tenaciously, so that you will absorb less of it.
Beans are humble foods, and you might not know that they are loaded with calcium. There is more than 100 milligrams of calcium in a plate of baked beans. If you prefer chickpeas, tofu, or other bean or bean products, you will find plenty of calcium there, as well. These foods also contain magnesium, which your body uses along with calcium to build bones.
If you are looking for a very concentrated calcium source, calcium-fortified orange or apple juices contain 300 milligrams or more of calcium per cup in a highly absorbable form. Many people prefer calcium supplements, which are now widely available.
2. Exercise, so calcium has somewhere to go.
Exercise is important for many reasons, including keeping bones strong. Active people tend to keep calcium in their bones, while sedentary people lose calcium.
3. Get vitamin D from the sun, or supplements if you need them.
Vitamin D controls your body’s use of calcium. About 15 minutes of sunlight on your skin each day normally produces all the vitamin D you need. If you get little or no sun exposure, you can get vitamin D from any multiple vitamin. The Recommended Dietary Allowance is 600 IU (5 micrograms) per day.
How to Keep It There
It’s not enough to get calcium into your bones. What is really critical is keeping it there. Here’s how:
1. Reduce calcium losses by avoiding excess salt.
Calcium in bones tends to dissolve into the bloodstream, then pass through the kidneys into the urine. Sodium (salt) in the foods you eat can greatly increase calcium loss through the kidneys. If you reduce your sodium intake to one to two grams per day, you will hold onto calcium better. To do that, avoid salty snack foods and canned goods with added sodium, and keep salt use low on the stove and at the table.
2. Get your protein from plants, not animal products.
Animal protein – in fish, poultry, red meat, eggs, and dairy products – draws calcium from the bones and encourages its passage into the urine. Plant protein – in beans, grains, and vegetables – does not have this effect.
3. Don’t smoke.
Smokers lose calcium, too. A study of identical twins showed that, if one twin had been a long-term smoker and the other had not, the smoker had more than a 40 percent higher risk of a fracture.
American recommendations for calcium intake are high, partly because the meat, salt, tobacco, and physical inactivity of American life leads to overly rapid and unnatural loss of calcium through the kidneys. By controlling these basic factors, you can have an enormous influence on whether calcium stays in your bones or drains out of your body.
Hormone Supplements Have Serious Risks
Some doctors recommend estrogen supplements for women after menopause as a way to slow osteoporosis, although the effect is not very great over the long run, and they are rarely able to stop or reverse bone loss. What has many physicians worried is the fact that estrogens increase the risk of breast cancer. The Harvard Nurses’ Health Study found that women taking estrogens have 30 to 80 percent more breast cancer, compared to other women.
The most commonly prescribed estrogen supplement, Premarin, is made from the urine of pregnant horses, which brings us back to animal exploitation and doesn’t do much for my gag reflex, either. Moreover, Premarin may aggravate heart problems. In a study of 2,763 postmenopausal women with coronary disease followed for an average of four years, there were as many heart attacks and related deaths in women treated with the combined regimen of estrogens and a progesterone derivative, as with placebo, but the coronary problems occurred sooner in women taking hormones. Hormone-treated women were also more likely to develop dangerous blood clots and gallbladder disease. Controlling calcium losses is a much safer strategy.
If you already have osteoporosis, you will want to speak with your doctor about exercises and perhaps even medications that can reverse it.
Osteoporosis in Men
Osteoporosis is less common in men than in women, and its causes are somewhat different. In about half the cases, a specific cause can be identified and addressed:
Steroid medications, such as prednisone, are a common cause of bone loss and fractures. If you are receiving steroids, you will want to work with your doctor to minimize the dose and to explore other treatments.
Alcohol can weaken your bones, apparently by reducing the body’s ability to make new bone to replace normal losses. The effect is probably only significant if you have more than two drinks per day of spirits, beer, or wine.
A lower than normal amount of testosterone can encourage osteoporosis. About 40 percent of men over 70 years of age have decreased levels of testosterone.
In many of the remaining cases, the causes are excessive calcium losses and inadequate vitamin D. The first part of the solution is to avoid animal protein, excess salt and caffeine, and tobacco, and to stay physically active in order to reduce calcium losses. Second, take vitamin D supplements as prescribed by your physician. The usual amount is 600 IU (5 micrograms) per day, but it may be doubled if you get no sun exposure at all. If you have trouble absorbing calcium due to reduced stomach acid, your doctor can recommend hydrochloric acid supplements.
Cholesterol is a wax-like substance produced by the liver that aids in building cell membranes and producing hormones. Our bodies produce enough cholesterol to meet our needs, so we don’t need to consume extra cholesterol through our diets. Too much cholesterol, in fact, can lead to atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. Atherosclerosis leads to strokes, heart attacks, and other serious health problems.
What is the ideal cholesterol level?
The ideal blood cholesterol level is below 150 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). At that level, heart disease is very unlikely. Unfortunately, nearly 107 million Americans have cholesterol levels that are greater than 200 mg/dL, which is dangerously close to 225 mg/dL—the average cholesterol level of coronary artery disease victims.
What is the difference between HDL and LDL cholesterol?
Cholesterol doesn’t dissolve in blood. To be transported in the bloodstream, cholesterol is packed into two types of carriers: low-density lipoproteins (LDL) or high-density lipoproteins (HDL). LDL cholesterol, which is sometimes known as “bad cholesterol,” is necessary in limited quantities (LDL delivers cholesterol to various parts of the body), but high LDL cholesterol levels can dramatically increase your risk of a heart attack. That’s because LDL particles can contribute to atherosclerosis—or clogged arteries. HDL cholesterol—sometimes called “good cholesterol”—helps clear LDL cholesterol from the arteries.
When doctors measure cholesterol levels, they first look at total cholesterol as a quick way to assess a person’s risk. For a more exact guide, they divide the total level by the HDL level. Heart attack risk is minimized by having a lower total cholesterol and a higher proportion of HDL cholesterol. The ratio of total cholesterol to HDL should be less than 4 to 1. Unfortunately, the average American has a ratio of 5 to 1. Vegans, on the other hand, average about 3 to 1. Smoking and obesity lower HDL; vigorous exercise and foods rich in vitamin C may increase it.
What diet is best for lowering cholesterol?
People can reduce their cholesterol levels dramatically by changing the foods they eat. Diets high in saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol—found in meat, dairy products, and eggs—raise cholesterol levels, which increases heart attack risk. Foods high in saturated fat are especially dangerous because they can trigger the body to produce extra cholesterol.
Plants do the opposite. They are very low in saturated fat and free of cholesterol. Plants are also rich in soluble fiber, which helps lower cholesterol. Soluble fiber slows the absorption of cholesterol and reduces the amount of cholesterol the liver produces. Oatmeal, barley, beans, and some fruits and vegetables are all good sources of soluble fiber.
Studies have found that plant-based diets lower cholesterol levels more effectively than other diets. In 2017, researchers reviewed 49 studies that compared plant-based diets with omnivorous diets to test their effects on cholesterol. Plant-based diets lowered total cholesterol, LDL, and HDL levels when compared to omnivorous diets. Low-fat, plant-based regimens typically reduce LDL levels by about 15 to 30 percent.
Some recommendations for lowering cholesterol still include consuming chicken and fish. However, a number of studies have shown that heart disease patients who continue to eat these foods still tend to get worse over time. Those who adopt a low-fat, plant-based diet, get daily exercise, avoid tobacco, and manage stress have the best chance of reversing heart disease.
Which foods have the best cholesterol-lowering effects?
One University of Toronto study found that eating a plant-based diet rich in special cholesterol-lowering foods can lower LDL cholesterol by nearly 30 percent in just four weeks. These foods include:
Oats, beans, barley, and other foods high in soluble fiber. Substituting oat milk for cows’ milk is a delicious way of lowering your cholesterol.
Did somebody say Peanuts? Nuts contain several compounds that help lower cholesterol.
Wheat germ, wheat bran, Brussels sprouts (I love them!), and other foods containing substances called phytosterols.
Millions of people suffer from painful and swollen joints associated with arthritis. In the past, many doctors told arthritis patients that dietary changes would not help them. However, this conclusion was based on older research with diets that included dairy products, oil, poultry, or meat. New research shows that foods may be a more frequent contributor to arthritis than is commonly recognized. It is clear that, at least for some people, a healthier menu is the answer.
Arthritis is actually a group of different diseases. Osteoarthritis is a gradual loss of cartilage and overgrowth of bone in the joints, especially the knees, hips, spine, and fingertips. At least 85 percent of the population above the age of 70 has osteoarthritis, which seems to be the result of accumulated wear and tear. Although it can cause painful episodes, it is characterized by only transient stiffness and does not cause major interference with the use of the hands.
Rheumatoid arthritis, which affects over 2 million people, is a more aggressive form of the disease. It causes painful, inflamed joints, which sometimes become damaged. Rheumatoid arthritis is one of medicine’s mysteries. There were no medical reports of the disease until the early 1800s. Some have suspected that a virus or bacterium may play a role, perhaps by setting off an autoimmune reaction. Genetics may also be a factor, in that it may influence susceptibility to the disease.
For years people have suspected that foods are an important factor in the development of rheumatoid arthritis. Many notice an improvement in their condition when they avoid dairy products, citrus fruits, tomatoes, eggplant and certain other foods. One survey of over one thousand arthritis patients revealed that the foods most commonly believed to worsen the condition were red meat, sugar, fats, salt, caffeine, and nightshade plants (e.g., tomatoes, eggplant). Once the offending food is eliminated completely, improvement usually comes within a few weeks. Dairy foods are probably the principle offender, and the problem is the dairy protein, rather than the fat, so skim products are as much a problem as whole milk.
An increasing volume of research shows that certain dietary changes do in fact help. For example, polyunsaturated oils and omega-3 supplements have a mild beneficial effect, and researchers have found that vegan diets are beneficial. Several studies have also shown that supervised fasting can be helpful.
Vegan diets dramatically reduce the overall amount of fat in the diet, and alter the composition of fats. This in turn can affect the immune processes that influence arthritis. The omega-3 fatty acids in vegetables may be a key factor, along with the near absence of saturated fat. The fact that patients also lose weight on a vegan diet contributes to the improvement.
In addition, vegetables are rich in antioxidants, which can neutralize free radicals. Oxygen free radicals attack many parts of the body and contribute to heart disease and cancer, and intensify the aging processes generally, including of the joints.
Iron acts as a catalyst, encouraging the production of these dangerous molecules. Vitamins C and E, which are plentiful in a diet made of vegetables and grains, help neutralize free radicals. Meats supply an overload of iron, no vitamin C, and very little vitamin E, whereas vegetables contain more controlled amounts of iron, and generous quantities of antioxidant vitamins.
As well as being helpful in preventing arthritis, antioxidants may also have a role in reducing its symptoms. Some arthritis treatments, including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, work at least in part by neutralizing free radicals. For the most part, however, vitamins and other antioxidants will be of more use in preventing damage before it occurs, rather than in treating an inflamed joint.
A vegan diet, drawn from fruits, vegetables, grains, and beans, can be helpful in preventing and, in come cases, ameliorating arthritis.
Peace to ALL the animals with whom we share the planet!
High blood pressure (hypertension) increases the risk of dangerous health problems, such as heart attacks and strokes. Doctors measure blood pressure using two numbers, such as 120/80. The first number shows the surge of pressure in the arteries with every heart beat, and the second number shows the pressure between beats. If either one of these numbers is too high, blood pressure can be dangerous.
Bringing blood pressure under control is very important, and treatment often involves taking medication. However, changing the way you eat can bring you blood pressure down and may help reduce the need for medication.
What can you do to control your blood pressure? For starters, reduce salt in your diet. Cutting down on salt helps reduce blood pressure. You can do this by:
Using less and less salt in cooking. Your taste will soon adjust.
Avoiding adding salt to foods at the table.
Avoiding salty snacks, such as potato chips.
Avoiding canned foods with added sodium (salt).
Choose low-sodium (low-salt) varieties of canned soups and vegetables, or fresh or frozen vegetables which are naturally low in sodium.
Limit foods that are packed in brine, such as pickles and olives, and high sodium condiments, such as soy sauce, ketchup, mustard, and barbecue sauce.
Read the “Nutrition Facts” label. The amount of sodium (salt) in a food product is listed on the nutrition facts label. The following label claims can be placed on a food package which will tell you if the product is low in salt:
Low Sodium—contains 140 mg or less sodium per serving
Very Low Sodium—contains 35 mg or less sodium per serving
Sodium Free—contains less than 5 mg of sodium per serving
Switch to a vegan diet. Cutting out meat, dairy products, and added fats reduces the blood’s viscosity (or “thickness”) which, in turn, brings down blood pressure. Plant-based foods are generally lower in fat and sodium and have no cholesterol at all. Vegetables and fruits are also rich in potassium, which helps lower blood pressure.
The following foods are naturally low in sodium:
Whole grains—brown rice, whole wheat bread or pasta, unsweetened hot or cold cereal, millet, barley, buckwheat groats, and quinoa
Beans/legumes—dried (not canned) black-eyed peas, kidney beans, pinto beans, lentils, navy beans, chickpeas, textured vegetable protein, and tofu
Vegetables—fresh or frozen varieties, such as broccoli, mustard greens, collard greens, kale, spinach, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, squash, and corn
Fruits—fresh or frozen varieties, such as bananas, oranges, apples, pears, grapefruit, strawberries, mango, papaya, guava, strawberries, and blueberries
Lower your weight. Avoiding fatty foods, such as animal products and fried foods, and increasing the use of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and beans helps reduce weight. In turn, this helps bring down blood pressure. As an added benefit, losing weight reduces your risk of diabetes, heart problems, joint problems, some cancers, and other conditions. If you have a significant weight problem, be sure to consult with your doctor about the best ways for you to lose weight.
Limit alcohol use. Alcohol can raise blood pressure and it helps to limit alcohol to no more than one to two drinks per day (beer and wine count as drinks).
Become more physically active. Exercise can help bring down your blood pressure. A typical healthy exercise schedule would include a brisk walk for a half-hour each day or one hour three times per week. Since exercise puts added strain on your heart, be sure to check with your doctor first about the best way for you to become more physically active.
Avoid tobacco. There are many good reasons to quit smoking, and healthier arteries is one of them.
Let your doctor know you are concerned about your blood pressure and want to use foods to help bring it under control. High blood pressure is dangerous, so, let your doctor guide you as to when and if your need for medication has changed.
Many people believe that to lose weight they have to go on a low-calorie diet. That often means starving oneself until the diet is no longer tolerable. Then the weight goes right back on—and then some. Happily, there is a much better way. It is easy and offers many other health benefits, too.
No More Diets
The first thing to realize is that changing eating habits must be more than a short-term means to an end. Changing eating habits is the cornerstone of permanent weight control. There is no way to “lose 20 pounds in two short weeks” and make it last. Very-low-calorie diets cause two major problems: they lower one’s metabolic rate, making it harder to slim down, and they lead to bingeing.
Fat Versus Complex Carbohydrates
The old myth was that pasta, bread, potatoes, and rice are fattening. Not true. In fact, carbohydrate-rich foods are perfect for permanent weight control. Carbohydrates contain less than half the calories of fat, which means that replacing fatty foods with complex carbohydrates automatically cuts calories. But calories are only part of the story. A recent study in China found that, on the average, Chinese people eat 20% more calories than Americans, but they are also slimmer. Part of this is due to the sedentary American lifestyle, but there is more to it than exercise alone. Earlier studies have shown that obese people do not consume more calories than non-obese people—in many cases, they consume less.
The body treats carbohydrates differently than fat calories. The difference comes with how the body stores the energy of different food types. It is very inefficient for the body to store the energy of carbohydrates as body fat—it burns 23% of the calories of the carbohydrate—but fat is converted easily into body fat. Only 3% of the calories in fat are burned in the process of conversion and storage. It is the type of food, not so much the quantity, that affects body fat the most.
Although protein and carbohydrates have almost the same number of calories per gram, foods that are high in protein—particularly animal products—are usually high in fat, too. Even “lean” cuts of meat have much more fat than a healthy body needs. And animal products always lack fiber. Fiber helps make foods more satisfying without adding many calories, and it is only found in foods from plants.
Still worried about protein? These foods are packed with protein: quinoa (8 grams per cup), chia (4 grams per 2 tablespoons), spinach (5 grams per one cup), seitan (36 grams per half cup), hummus (7 grams per 2 tablespoons), nuts (5 to 7 grams per ¼ cup serving), tofu (10 grams per ½ cup serving), edamame (17 grams per cup), chickpeas (6 grams per half cup serving), lentils: (18 grams per one cup serving).
Exercise is essential. Aerobic exercise speeds up the breakdown of fat in one’s body and makes sure that muscle is not lost. Toning exercises and weight-lifting help firm muscles and increase muscle mass. A combination of exercises will help one achieve a slimmer, firmer, healthier body in a shorter period of time. The trick is to find activities that one enjoys and that can fit one’s lifestyle. Walking is popular because it requires no special equipment and can be done anywhere at anytime.
The best weight control program is a high-complex-carbohydrate, low-fat, vegan diet complemented by regular exercise. This is the best choice for a healthier, longer, happier life.
Many Americans, including some vegetarians, still consume large amounts of dairy products; vegans, of course, do not consume any animal products, including dairy. The dairy industry is dependent upon the abuse and slaughter of cows and calves, but if that alone isn’t enough to make you switch to almond or oat milk, here are eight more reasons to eliminate dairy products from your diet.
Milk is touted for preventing osteoporosis, yet clinical research shows otherwise. The Harvard Nurses’ Health Study, which followed more than 75,000 women for 12 years, showed no protective effect of increased milk consumption on fracture risk. In fact, increased intake of calcium from dairy products was associated with a higher fracture risk. An Australian study showed the same results. Additionally, other studies have also found no protective effect of dairy calcium on bone. You can decrease your risk of osteoporosis by reducing sodium and animal protein intake in the diet, increasing intake of fruits and vegetables, exercising, and ensuring adequate calcium intake from plant foods such as leafy green vegetables and beans, as well as calcium-fortified products such as breakfast cereals and juices.
2. Cardiovascular Disease
Dairy products—including cheese, ice cream, milk, butter, and yogurt—contribute significant amounts of cholesterol and fat to the diet. Diets high in fat and saturated fat can increase the risk of several chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease. A low-fat vegetarian diet that eliminates dairy products, in combination with exercise, smoking cessation, and stress management, can not only prevent heart disease, but may also reverse it. Non-fat dairy products are available, however, they pose other health risks as noted below.
Several cancers, such as ovarian cancer, have been linked to the consumption of dairy products. The milk sugar lactose is broken down in the body into another sugar, galactose. In turn, galactose is broken down further by enzymes. According to a study by Daniel Cramer, M.D., and his colleagues at Harvard, when dairy product consumption exceeds the enzymes’ capacity to break down galactose, it can build up in the blood and may affect a woman’s ovaries. Some women have particularly low levels of these enzymes, and when they consume dairy products on a regular basis, their risk of ovarian cancer can be triple that of other women.
Breast and prostate cancers have also been linked to consumption of dairy products, presumably related, at least in part, to increases in a compound called insulin-like growth factor (IGF-I). IGF-I is found in cow’s milk and has been shown to occur in increased levels in the blood by individuals consuming dairy products on a regular basis. Other nutrients that increase IGF-I are also found in cow’s milk. A recent study showed that men who had the highest levels of IGF-I had more than four times the risk of prostate cancer compared with those who had the lowest levels.
Insulin-dependent diabetes (Type I or childhood-onset) is linked to consumption of dairy products. Epidemiological studies of various countries show a strong correlation between the use of dairy products and the incidence of insulin-dependent diabetes. Researchers in 1992 found that a specific dairy protein sparks an auto-immune reaction, which is believed to be what destroys the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas.
5. Lactose Intolerance
Lactose intolerance is common among many populations, affecting approximately 95 percent of Asian Americans, 74 percent of Native Americans, 70 percent of African Americans, 53 percent of Mexican Americans, and 15 percent of Caucasians. Symptoms, which include gastrointestinal distress, diarrhea, and flatulence, occur because these individuals do not have the enzymes that digest the milk sugar lactose. Additionally, along with unwanted symptoms, milk-drinkers are also putting themselves at risk for development of other chronic diseases and ailments.
6. Vitamin D Toxicity
Consumption of milk may not provide a consistent and reliable source of vitamin D in the diet. Samplings of milk have found significant variation in vitamin D content, with some samplings having had as much as 500 times the indicated level, while others had little or none at all. Too much vitamin D can be toxic and may result in excess calcium levels in the blood and urine, increased aluminum absorption in the body, and calcium deposits in soft tissue.
Synthetic hormones such as recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) are commonly used in dairy cows to increase the production of milk. Because the cows are producing quantities of milk nature never intended, the end result is mastitis, or inflammation of the mammary glands. The treatment requires the use of antibiotics, and traces of these and hormones have been found in samples of milk and other dairy products. Pesticides and other drugs are also frequent contaminants of dairy products.
8. Health Concerns of Infants and Children
Milk proteins, milk sugar, fat, and saturated fat in dairy products may pose health risks for children and lead to the development of chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and formation of athersclerotic plaques that can lead to heart disease.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants below one year of age not be given whole cow’s milk, as iron deficiency is more likely on a dairy-rich diet. Cow’s milk products are very low in iron. If they become a major part of one’s diet, iron deficiency is more likely. Colic is an additional concern with milk consumption. One out of every five babies suffers from colic. Pediatricians learned long ago that cows’ milk was often the reason. We now know that breastfeeding mothers can have colicky babies if the mothers are consuming cow’s milk. The cows’ antibodies can pass through the mother’s bloodstream into her breast milk and to the baby. Additionally, food allergies appear to be common results of milk consumption, particularly in children. A recent study also linked cow’s milk consumption to chronic constipation in children. Researchers suggest that milk consumption resulted in perianal sores and severe pain on defecation, leading to constipation.
Milk and dairy products are not necessary in the diet and can, in fact, be harmful to your health. Consume a healthful diet of grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and fortified foods including cereals and juices. These nutrient-dense foods can help you meet your calcium, potassium, riboflavin, and vitamin D requirements with ease—and without the health risks.
Medical research is at a crossroads. The major killer diseases are not solved by old experimental techniques. In order to win against the major diseases, researchers are looking to new technologies, and doctors are forced to learn new approaches.
Heart Disease, the Number One Killer
The greatest advance in the understanding of heart disease was the discovery that it can be virtually eliminated by controlling three factors—cholesterol, smoking, and blood pressure. This extraordinary advance came from sophisticated studies of human patients.
Over the past four decades, in Framingham, Massachusetts, thousands of individuals in two generations have been carefully studied to see which factors are responsible for heart disease. The Framingham Heart Study showed that if one’s cholesterol level stays below 150, a heart attack is extremely unlikely. Every 1 percent increase in cholesterol leads to approximately a 2 percent increase in risk. Other studies, such as the Lipid Research Clinic’s Trial and the Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial, have also demonstrated the importance of controlling cholesterol levels.
Dean Ornish, M.D., of the University of California at San Francisco, has shown that if people who have advanced heart disease adopt a vegan diet, stop smoking, reduce stress, and engage in mild daily exercise, the plaques in their arteries will actually start to disappear.
Coronary artery bypasses and heart transplants, while helpful for some patients, have not matched the potency of dietary and other lifestyle measures. Bypasses and transplants develop aggressive atherosclerosis unless strict dietary steps are taken. Clearly, medicine’s best strategy is to institute such steps while the patient is still healthy. More research is needed: what we need are human behavioral studies on how to help people change long-standing smoking and dietary habits. Economic and political studies on how to shift farm production away from tobacco and livestock and toward grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruits are also essential.
Cancer, the Number Two Killer
Almost 50 years after President Nixon declared the new, aggressive “War on Cancer,” cancer death rates continue to climb.
A standard technique in the search for new anticancer drugs has been to give test substances to laboratory mice, a technique that had yielded no results relevant to humans while consuming millions of dollars and killing more than one million animals each year.
A new method developed by Michael Boyd, Robert Shoemaker, and others at the National Cancer Institute tests potential drugs on actual human tumor cells. In an automated system, the effectiveness of a substance in killing cancer cells is checked and entered into a computer. Potential drugs which have been overlooked by the pointless mouse screening system may be found to work in the new human cell screen.
Instead of struggling—and often failing—to cure established cancer, a large body of data now shows that cancer can be prevented. The National Cancer Institute estimates that as much as 80 percent of cancer cases can be prevented.
Thirty percent of cancers are due to tobacco. Avoid smoking, and lung cancer becomes very unlikely. At least 35 percent of cancers are due to dietary factors.
The National Research Council has released a technical report, Diet, Nutrition, and Cancer, showing that diet was probably the greatest single factor in the epidemic of cancer. Since then, more evidence has implicated specific dietary factors in several types of cancer. Foods rich in fats and oils increase risk of cancer in organs related to digestion (e.g., colon, rectum) and organs that are sensitive to sex hormones (e.g., breast, prostate).
In addition, certain food constituents help protect against cancer. Dietary fiber, principally found in whole grain cereals and legumes, helps prevent cancer of the colon and rectum. It also appears to reduce risk of breast cancer, perhaps by lowering cholesterol and sex hormones. Several vitamins have shown anticancer activity: beta-carotene (the form of vitamin A found in dark green and yellow vegetables and fruits), vitamins C and E, and the mineral selenium may help prevent cancer.
Avoiding excessive exposure to sunlight is a critical step in the prevention of skin cancer. In addition, radon, a natural radioactive gas that seeps up from certain underground rocks into groundwater supplies, has been implicated in certain cancers. Improved ventilation stops radon from building up in enclosed areas.
Prevention is the light at the end of the tunnel for those looking for a way to reduce the cancer epidemic. By avoiding factors that lead to cancer and including foods that strengthen us against the disease, we can, to a great extent, control our own risk.
Stroke, the Number Three Killer
In stroke, a part of the brain is killed, leading to paralysis, loss of sensory function, and often death. Clinical and epidemiologic studies have shown how stroke is caused and how it can be prevented. It has become clear that the same factors that lead to heart disease—high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels, and smoking—can also cause stroke. Controlling these factors can prevent stroke. To reduce the incidence of stroke, more aggressive measures to help people change dietary and smoking behavior must be developed.
I want to share with you an absolutely wonderful and poignant plea to go vegan this New Year from FreeFromHarm.org, a non-profit charitable organization promoting farmed animal rescue, education and advocacy. Theirs is one of the best websites out there, and should be a go-to site for you and your friends to learn all about veganism. Try these mouthwatering vegan recipes and feel proud that you are saving the animals, the planet, and yourselves with every bite!
I wish you all a very Happy New Year; now let’s come together to make 2018 a Happy New Year for the animals of the earth as well. And as I always say, Peace for ALL the animals with whom we share this planet!
Except where otherwise noted, the following text and illustrations are copyrighted by Free from Harm. Please visit them online and on Facebook.
1. Animals Want to Live; They Love Life and Fear Death.
We’re taught to think of animals raised for food — if we think of them at all — as an abstract category: “farm animals”— the nameless, faceless herds and flocks whose generic characteristics are merely recycled through an endless stream of indistinct entities. But farmed animals are individuals with unique personalities and emotions, just like cats and dogs. They feel joy, affection, and pleasure, as well as fear, grief, and pain. Like us, they form deep friendships and emotional bonds and like us they seek to preserve their only lives, which they cherish.
2. The Egg and Dairy Industries Also Cause Immense Suffering and Death
In nature, wild hens lay only 12 to 20 eggs per year. But domesticated chickens have been genetically manipulated to produce between 250 and 300 eggs annually, leading to painful and often fatal reproductive disorders. More than 95% of chickens used for eggs are confined in cages so small they cannot even spread their wings, and the majority of “cage-free” and “free range” eggs come from miserable hens packed inside filthy warehouses by the thousands. Most hens used for eggs have a portion of their beaks painfully cut off to prevent nervous pecking in overcrowded conditions, and at the hatcheries where new hens are hatched to be sent to egg farms — including humane label farms, small farms, and backyard hen operations — 6 billion male chicks are destroyed every year by being suffocated or ground up alive.
3. Science Confirms: We Have No Need to Consume Animal Products
A well balanced vegan diet can easily provide all the nutrients we need to thrive. Government health experts worldwide are finally catching up with the large body of scientific evidence demonstrating that a vegan diet is not only a viable option for people of any age, but that eating plant foods instead of animal-based foods can confer significant health benefits, including reduction in incidence of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart attack, stroke, and some types of cancer.
In their official position paper on vegetarian and vegan diets, the American Dietetic Association— the U.S.’s oldest, largest and foremost authority on diet and nutrition— states that well-balanced vegan diets “are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases,” and that they are “appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.”
While many people are aware that more than 10 billion land animals are killed for food every year in the U.S., far fewer know that in the last decade alone, more than 30 million wildlife animals — many endangered — have been brutally killed by a secretive branch of the USDA that is primarily employed to destroy wildlife deemed a threat to animal agriculture.
The USDA’s Animal Damage Control (ADC) program was established in 1931 to police and destroy wildlife animals considered to be detrimental to the western livestock industry. The government later changed the program’s name to “Wildlife Services” on the advice of public relations strategists, and changed their motto to the benign sounding, “Living with Wildlife.”
In reality, Wildlife Services spends millions of tax-payer dollars each year to kill native carnivores and predators — coyotes, wolves, bears, mountain lions, and many others — on behalf of the livestock industry. These animals are destroyed by the most violent and gruesome methods imaginable: gunned down from helicopters; poisoned; gassed; torn apart by trained dogs; strangled to death in neck snares; and caught in torturous leg-hold traps in which they languish and slowly die.
Of the millions of animals destroyed by Wildlife Services each year, coyotes are perhaps the most viciously targeted. Every year, tens of thousands of coyotes die slow, agonizing deaths in traps simply because Wildlife Services is not required to check their traps, and personnel frequently do not return to traps for weeks.
Workers also “unintentionally” kill tens of thousands of “non-target” animals each year via indiscriminate and excessive trapping and poisoning. Collateral victims include federally protected golden and bald eagles (who frequently die in leg and neck snares), beavers, armadillos, badgers, great-horned owls, hog-nosed skunks, javelina, pronghorn antelope, porcupines, great blue herons, ruddy ducks, snapping turtles, turkey vultures, long-tailed weasels, marmots, mourning doves, red-tailed hawks, black bears, sandhill cranes and ringtails; as well as swift foxes, kit foxes and river otters, all the focus of conservation and restoration efforts. Thousands of domestic dogs and cats are also killed each year when they stumble upon traps or poisoned baits.
The millions of animals being targeted and destroyed by Wildlife Services eat other animals to survive. Humans have no biological need to consume animal products and most of us have access to plant-based foods. Killing animals for food when we have other options, and killing innocent wild animals who have no other options, are equally indefensible practices.
It should be noted that a shift away from factory farming to more so-called humane, pasture-based farming would only increase the targeting and destruction of wild animals. As John Robbins has noted, “The price that western lands and wildlife are paying for grazing cattle is hard to exaggerate… widespread production of grass-fed beef [and other animal products] would only multiply this already devastating toll.”
Of the planet’s nearly 7 billion humans, roughly 1 billion people are malnourished and 6 million children starve to death every year.
Farming animals is notoriously inefficient and wasteful when compared to growing plants to feed humans directly, with the end result that “livestock” animals take drastically more food from the global food supply than they provide.
This is because in order to eat farmed animals, we have to grow the crops necessary to feed them, which amounts to vastly more crops than it would take to feed humans directly. (We feed and slaughter 60 billion farmed animals every year; there are 7.3 billion humans on earth). To give one example, it takes thirteen pounds of grain to yield just one pound of beef (USDA) — while crops such as soy and lentils produce, pound for pound, as much protein as beef, and sometimes more.
Compounding this inefficiency is the fact that only a small percentage of the plant energy consumed by an animal is converted into edible protein. Most of the energy from crops fed to farmed animals is used to fuel their own metabolism, with only a fraction of those grains and other plants being turned into meat.
Feeding half the world’s edible grain crop to farmed animals is not only a grossly inefficient use of protein, it is also a staggering waste of natural resources, requiring far more land, water and energy than cultivating plant foods for direct human consumption. One acre of land can yield between twelve and twenty times more plant food than animal-based foods. Writes Richard Oppenlander, “We are essentially using twenty times the amount of land and crops, and hundreds of times the water, as well as polluting our waterways and air and destroying rainforests, to produce animals to kill and eat … which is unhealthier than eating the plant products we could have produced.”
In fact, analysis of global agricultural yields finds that better use of existing croplands could feed four billion more people simply by shifting away from growing crops for animal feed and fuel, and instead growing crops for direct human consumption. Reallocating croplands in this way could increase available global food calories by as much as 70 percent, according to researchers.
To learn more about the ways animal farming contributes to global food insecurity and hunger, visit A Well-Fed World.
6. Animal Agriculture’s Impact on Climate and Environment
Animal agriculture is the single greatest human-caused source of greenhouse gases, land use, and land degradation; the number one source of freshwater pollution, and the leading driver of rainforest destruction. It is also a major cause of air pollution, habitat loss, and species extinction, and is a highly inefficient use of limited natural resources. The United Nations has called for a global shift to a vegan diet wherever possible as the most effective way to combat climate change, world hunger, and ecological devastation.
Even with intensive confinement “factory farming” methods currently dominating global animal agriculture, farmed animals still use 30 per cent of the earth’s entire land surface. If we attempted to pasture all 100 million cows in the United States on grass, as humane/sustainable farming advocates suggest, cattle would require (using the conservative estimate of 10 acres per cow) almost half the country’s land — which doesn’t include all the land we would need to raise all of the pigs, chickens, sheep and goats free range.
It is also estimated that pasture-raised cows produce 4 times more greenhouse gases than cows raised in confinement. This is because cows eating grass, as nature intended, grow much slower than cows fed on grain, and thus require significantly more time to reach slaughter weight. The longer it takes cows to grow, the more methane and nitrous-oxide they emit. Farmed animals in the U.S., 98% of whom are factory farmed, already generate a billion tons of manure per year, contributing a whopping 65 percent of the planet’s total human-caused nitrous oxide emissions. (Nitrous oxide is an even more potent heat-trapper than methane.)
Environmental research organization Worldwatch Institute observes: “It has become apparent that the human appetite for animal flesh is a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening the human future—deforestation, erosion, fresh water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, social injustice, the destabilization of communities, and the spread of disease.”
7. A Vegan Diet Is Better for Your Heart
The leading cause of death of both men and women in the United States is heart disease. Every day, nearly 2,600 Americans die of some type of heart disease, the most common form being coronary heart disease, also known as coronary artery disease or atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis occurs when hard layers of plaque, usually cholesterol deposits, accumulate in major arteries and begin constricting flow of blood and oxygen to the heart. Arterial plaque is also a leading cause of stroke, the fourth greatest killer of Americans each year.
While other factors can affect cholesterol levels and heart disease (including smoking, exercise, blood pressure, and body weight) one of the single most significant causes of heart disease is dietary cholesterol. Our bodies make all the cholesterol we need, so consuming animal products contributes excessive levels. (There is no cholesterol in plant foods). Animal products are also loaded with saturated fats, which, unlike unsaturated fats, cause the liver to produce more cholesterol.
Fortunately, for most people, preventing coronary heart disease is as simple as eliminating animal products, eating a healthy plant-based diet, exercising, and avoiding cigarette smoking. But beyond prevention, a plant-based diet is the only treatment that has been scientifically proven to reverse heart disease.
Vegan diets have also repeatedly shown to reduce levels of LDL, or “bad” cholesterol. According to a study published in the American Journal of Cardiology, a low-fat vegetarian diet reduces LDL by 16 percent, but a high-nutrient vegan diet reduces LDL cholesterol by 33 percent. The high fiber content of plant-based foods also helps to slow the absorption of cholesterol. Animal products contain no fiber.
8. A Vegan Diet Can Prevent and Reverse Other Diseases, Too
In fact, a whole foods plant-based diet can prevent and in some cases even reverse many of the worst diseases. Dr. T. Colin Campbell is an American biochemist whose research focuses on the effects of human nutrition on long-term health. With his son, Dr. Campbell co-authored the international bestseller, The China Study, based on his findings from a 20 year research project conducted under the auspices of Cornell University, Oxford University and the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine, a study described by The New York Times as “the Grand Prix of epidemiology.”
The China Study examines the relationship between meat, egg and dairy consumption and chronic illnesses including heart disease, diabetes, breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colon cancer. Based on a meta-analysis of diet and disease rates in thousands of people in rural populations of Taiwan and China, Dr. Campbell concludes that people who eat a whole foods, plant-based diet—excluding all animal products—can avoid, reduce, and in many cases reverse the development of numerous illnesses, including most of the leading fatal Western diseases.
“What made this project especially remarkable is that, among the many associations that are relevant to diet and disease, so many pointed to the same finding: people who ate the most animal-based foods got the most chronic disease. Even relatively small intakes of animal-based food were associated with adverse effects. People who ate the most plant-based foods were the healthiest and tended to avoid chronic disease. These results could not be ignored. ”
Elsewhere, in 2013, leading U.S. health care provider Kaiser Permanente, with more than 9 million health insurance subscribers, published an article in its medical science journal recommending that physicians consider recommending a plant-based diet for all their patients. The article notes, “Healthy eating may be best achieved with a plant-based diet, which we define as a regimen that encourages whole, plant-based foods and discourages meats, dairy products, and eggs as well as all refined and processed foods … Physicians should consider recommending a plant-based diet to all their patients, especially those with high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or obesity.”
9. We Are Not Lions (or, A Lesson in Comparative Anatomy)
“Consider again the anatomy of the carnivore and the omnivore, including an enormous mouth opening, a jaw joint that operates as a hinge, dagger-like teeth, and sharp claws. Each of these traits enables the lion or bear to use her body to kill prey. Herbivorous animals, by contrast, have fleshy lips, a small mouth opening, a thick and muscular tongue, and a far less stable, mobile jaw joint that facilitates chewing, crushing, and grinding. Herbivores also generally lack sharp claws. (14) These qualities are well-adapted to the eating of plants, which provide nutrients when their cell walls are broken, a process that requires crushing food with side-to-side motion rather than simply swallowing it in large chunks the way that a carnivore or omnivore swallows flesh.
Herbivores have digestive systems in which the stomach is not nearly as spacious as the carnivore’s or omnivore’s, a feature that is suitable for the more regular eating of smaller portions permitted with a diet of plants (which stay in place and are therefore much easier to chase down), rather than the sporadic gorging of a predator on his prey. (15) The herbivore’s stomach also has a higher pH (which means that it is less acidic) than the carnivore’s or omnivore’s, perhaps in part because plants ordinarily do not carry the dangerous bacteria associated with rotting flesh.
The small intestines of herbivores are quite long and permit the time-consuming and complex breakdown of the carbohydrates present in plants. In virtually every respect, the human anatomy resembles that of herbivorous animals (such as the gorilla and the elephant) more than that of carnivorous and omnivorous species. (16) Our mouths’ openings are small; our teeth are not extremely sharp (even our “canines”); and our lips and tongues are muscular. Our jaws are not very stable (and would therefore be easy to dislocate in a battle with prey), but they are quite mobile and allow the side-to-side motion that facilitates the crushing and grinding of plants.” — Read the full excerpt on comparative anatomy by Sherry F. Colb, from her book, Mind if I Order the Cheeseburger? and Other Questions People Ask Vegans
Harold Brown is a former beef and dairy farmer. He was born on a cattle farm in Michigan and spent over half his life in agriculture. After a personal health crisis forced him to confront the incidence of heart disease in his family, he went vegan. Living in great health on a vegan diet led him to reexamine all of his previous assumptions about eating animals, and he soon experienced a profound conviction that needlessly exploiting and killing animals for food is immoral. Now a vegan activist, he is the founder of Farm Kind and one of the subjects of the documentary Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home.
“I have often heard the word “humane” used in relation to meat, dairy, eggs, and other products… I have always found this curious, because my understanding is that humane means to act with kindness, tenderness, and mercy. I can tell you as a former animal farmer that while it may be true that you can treat a farm animal kindly and show tenderness toward them, mercy is a different matter.
…I hardly thought twice about the things I had to do on the farm: driving cattle, castrations, dehorning, and I did my fair share of butchering too.
Nowadays I ask myself from both the perspective of the old me and the new me, what does humane mean in the way it is being used? The old me says, “That is an odd word to associate with meat, dairy, and eggs, but hey, if it sells more products, why not?” The new me asks, “Back in the day, I could, and did, raise animals with kindness and tenderness, but how did I show them mercy?” Mercy — a unique human trait of refraining from doing harm.”
Read more powerful testimonies from former meat and dairy farmers who went vegan, here.
11. There Is No Such Thing as Humane Animal Farming
The very existence of labels like “free range,” “cage-free,” and “humane certified” attests to society’s growing concern for the welfare of animals raised for food. But any time consumers of meat, eggs or dairy advocate for “humane” treatment of farm animals, they confront an unavoidable paradox: the movement to treat farm animals better is based on the idea that it is wrong to subject them to unnecessary harm; yet, killing animals we have no need to eat constitutes the ultimate act of unnecessary harm.
Unlike animals who kill other animals for food, we have a choice. They kill from necessity, whereas most humans do so for palate pleasure, custom or convenience. But there is a vast moral difference between killing from necessity and killing for pleasure. When we have a choice between sparing life or taking it, there is nothing remotely humane about inflicting violence and death on others just because we like the taste or the tradition, and because they cannot fight back. Might does not equal right.
Too, many of the worst cruelties inflicted on animals in factory farms are also routine practice on small, free-range farms, even on the best “humane certified” farms. These include: sexual violation and reproductive exploitation; the systematic destruction of motherhood; excruciating mutilations without anesthetic; and denial of instincts and preferences essential to animals’ basic well-being.
It has been estimated that 98% of our harm to animals comes from our food choices. Yet science has irrefutably demonstrated that humans do not need meat, dairy or eggs to thrive. Once we understand that eating animals is not a requirement for good health, and if we have access to nutritious plant-based foods, then the choice to continue consuming animal products anyway is a choice for animals to be harmed and killed for our pleasure — simply because we like the taste.
But harming animals for pleasure goes against core values we hold in common — which is why, for example, we oppose practices like dog fighting on principle. But it can’t be wrong to harm animals for pleasure in one instance, and not the other.
The only way for our values to mean anything — the only way for our values to actually be our values — is if they are reflected in the choices we freely make. And every day, we have the opportunity to live our values through our food choices. If we value kindness over violence, if we value being compassionate over causing unnecessary harm, and if we have access to plant-based alternatives, then veganism is the only consistent expression of our values.
A note from Free From Harm: It’s important to recognize that veganism isn’t just a diet. Our society is literally built on animal exploitation, from clothing and cosmetics to household cleaners, from cruel medical experiments to puppy mills. Living vegan thus entails an effort to avoid using animals in all areas of life, but the choices we make about the food we eat are an important and impactful place to start.