Category Archives: Health

Bacteria found in meat

Ground beef

Ground meat is very versatile. We can shape it into burgers, meatballs, and meatloaf. It can be stirred into chili and pasta sauce or stuffed into peppers, lasagna, and tacos. Americans like it so much that in 2021 alone, we purchased more than $13 billion worth of ground beef, turkey, pork, and chicken. But there’s a problem.

While meat increases the risk of many diseases, meat, especially ground meat, also often carries bacteria that can make you sick – or worse!

To assess the current safety of the nation’s ground meat supply, Consumer Reports recently tested 351 packages of ground beef, pork, chicken, and turkey purchased at stores throughout the country. Almost a third of the ground chicken packages they tested contained salmonella. They also found salmonella in a few samples of ground beef, pork, and turkey. To make matters worse, every single strain of salmonella was resistant to at least one antibiotic. We’ve written about the problem of antibiotic resistance developing in farmed animals before. That problem doesn’t seem to have gone away.

They also found a strain of E. coli in a sample of ground beef that is so dangerous that they had to alert the Department of Agriculture to their findings, triggering a recall of more than 28,000 pounds of the meat from major grocery chains in seven Western states.  According to James E. Rogers, PhD, director of food safety research and testing at Consumer Reports, and a former official at the USDA, “That bacteria should not have been in the meat, period. There is a zero-tolerance policy for that bacteria, and for good reason: It’s hard to treat, and can kill.” The E. coli was in a package of Kroger-branded ground beef purchased at a grocery store in Seattle and it triggered a rapid recall of products sold at several chains across the West and Southwest.

Cattle feedlot

Now salmonella, E coli, plus the many other dangerous kinds of bacteria that Consumer Reports didn’t test for, come from animals, especially their intestinal tracts. They are produced by animals, so when we hear of some plant-food that has harmful bacteria, we should remember that the reason is that they were contaminated by animals, animal products, workers with animals, in the grocery store or in the kitchen.

On a national and global level, the only way to prevent harmful bacteria that come from farm animals is to not raise animals for food. This  means the widespread adoption of a plant-based diet, which would prevent millions of illnesses.

Live longer with plant-based diet

A young adult in the U.S. could add more than a decade to their life expectancy by changing their diet from a typical Western diet to an optimized diet that includes more legumes, vegetables, whole grains and nuts, and less red and processed meat, according to a new study.

Gains are predicted to be larger the earlier the dietary changes are initiated in life. For older people, the anticipated gains to life expectancy from such dietary changes would be smaller but still substantial. The message is clear. You’re never too young to start on a plant-based diet, and you’re never too old to benefit from it.

According to the study, young people starting out at age 20 could, on average, add 10 years to life expectancy for women and 13 years for men. Starting at age 60, it could add 8 years, on average, for women and 9 years, on average, for men. Even 80-year-old women and men could add 3 years, on average, to their life expectancy.

This should come as no surprise. The Journal of the American Medical Association says that diet is the number one risk factor for disease in the United States. Among the 10 leading causes of death (before COVID) are heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, and chronic kidney disease, all of which a plant-based diet can help prevent and treat.

According to the study, an optimal diet had substantially higher intake than a typical western diet of whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, and nuts.  Yet, many doctors treat nutrition as a side issue. Of course, they were offered little to no training in medical school.

Of course, we don’t say that nutrition is the only relevant factor in life expectancy. For instance cigarette smoking has a large impact, along with access to medical care. Nevertheless, the nutritional effect  on health is considerable and offers a wide ranging opportunity for increasing life expectancy.

Avoiding dementia – new research

Dementia is a scary disease, so we all want to do everything we can to avoid it. One recent study showed that vegetarians have a 38% lower risk of dementia. We already knew that part of the reason was that vegetarians have, on average, a much lower prevalence of risk factors such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol and lower levels of markers for inflammation such a C-reactive protein, but now new research shows there’s an additional reason.

Investigators found that individuals with the highest blood levels of lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-cryptoxanthin were less likely to have dementia, even decades later than their peers with lower levels of these phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are nutrients found in plant foods besides vitamins, minerals and fiber, that nourish our bodies and are the focus of a lot of medical research.

Read more

Vegans need a B12 supplement

Vitamin B12

We need to get serious for a moment. While vegetarians and vegans get other vitamins in adequate amounts, taking a vitamin B12 supplement is a must for vegans, since they don’t get any through their diet. And while vegetarians do get some B12 through either dairy or eggs, it may not be enough, especially if their intake is modest or only occasional.

Vitamin B12, like the other B vitamins, is important for metabolism. It helps in the formation of red blood cells, and in the maintenance of the central nervous system, among other important things. The good news is that the body can store it for years, protecting you if you miss taking some now and again. However, if your body runs out of its supplies, because it’s been missing from your diet for a long time or has only been taken occasionally, there’ll be very serious consequences.  Deficiency causes a type of anemia called megaloblastic anemia, damage to the spinal cord, brain and peripheral nerves, especially in the arms and legs. The nerve and brain damage can be permanent, and can cause dementia and psychiatric disorders. Low or marginal vitamin B12 status in pregnant women increases the risk for neural tube birth defects.

Read more

Asthma – the latest science

Childhood asthma is a major and growing public health problem worldwide. Adults get asthma too. The western, meat-centered diet may partly explain the “asthma epidemic” in the United States.

Asthma is the most common chronic disease of childhood. The prevalence has been increasing at an alarming rate and has more than doubled in the last decade. Over 9 million children in the United States have been diagnosed with asthma. That’s a lot of children. There are few things more upsetting than a sick child.

Read more

Raising vegan kids – what you need to know

There are many benefits to raising your kids on wholesome plant-based foods.  It sets up a child for a lifetime of healthy habits. Many people are surprised to learn that the disease process that causes so many chronic diseases in adults start in childhood. You can help your child prevent many diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and several forms of cancer. At the same time, you are teaching your child to care for the animals and the earth through their food choices.

Read more

Prostate Cancer – you can do something to help yourself!

Man eating salad 2OK, you guys, and the gals who care about them, we need to talk about a disease that’s all too common – prostate cancer! The good news is that there’s something you can do to prevent it, and even help treat it if it’s a mild case in its early stages. Let’s start with prevention first.

The risk of prostate cancer in vegetarians is less than half that of non-vegetarians. While plant-based foods have been shown to decrease the risk of prostate cancer, animal-derived foods increase the risk. Intake of saturated fat and cholesterol found in animal-derived foods are independent risk factors for prostate cancer, contributing further to the higher risk that non-vegetarians have. Read more

Saving Americans trillions!

Let’s save the country trillions of dollars! How you ask? By adopting a vegan diet. Here’s why.

Diet is the number one risk factor for the disease and disability burden in the United States, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. That’s number one! According to cardiologist Dean Ornish, “More than 75% …of the annual U.S. healthcare costs (mostly sick-care costs) are from chronic diseases, which can often be prevented and even reversed by eating a plant-based diet, at a fraction of the costs – and the only side-effects are good ones.”

Read more

Med school teaches vegan!

This is a first. A medical school now requires all of its med students to learn about the health value of a whole food vegan diet. Wayne State University School of Medicine is the first medical school we know of to acknowledge the many health benefits of a vegan diet to prevent and treat disease and then to act upon it. According to the med school, “this is the first exclusively mandatory plant-based nutritional intervention undertaken at a medical institution in the United States.” They go on to say, “The strategy presented here may serve as a model for similar initiatives at a variety of institutions and settings.” Let’s hope other med schools follow their lead.

This long overdue change makes total sense since diet is the number one risk factor for disease and disability in the United States. We’ve long been puzzled at the number of medical schools that say there’s no room in their curriculum for teaching med students how to prevent and treat a wide variety of diseases with a vegan diet.

Wayne State acknowledges that, “Advances in preventive medicine have demonstrated the crucial role of whole-food unprocessed plant-based nutrition in reducing disease burden.” The net result will be the prevention of much patient suffering and many lives lost and that is no small thing.

Here at Vegetarians of Washington, we’ve been playing our part in the effort to help doctors learn how to treat their patients with a plant based diet. We hold an annual medical seminar for doctors where they learn from other doctors how to treat their patients with a plant based diet, we’ve written 29 articles that have been published in mainstream medical journals and now we have even written a textbook for doctors.

We’re excited to see the growing interest in the health benefits of a vegan diet in the medical community.

« Older Entries