Category Archives: Health

The Paleo Fantasy – update

Jane Goodall

Jane Goodall – Anthropologist

Scientists have recently discovered settlements of vegetarian Neanderthals in Europe. It seems that they lived on a plant-based diet and ate no meat at all. This should come as no surprise since everyone from Charles Darwin to Clifford Roberts, the editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Cardiology, to the famous anthropologist Jane Goodall, tells us that we are designed by anatomy and physiology to be vegetarians.

“The human species does not have the physical attributes of a carnivore.  If everyone knew and faced up to all the facts, most would either opt for drastically cutting their meat consumption or giving up meat altogether.“

– Jane Goodall, Author of Harvest for Hope

Paleo man didn’t eat as much meat as has been hyped and some ate none at all. Since the mistaken notions and thinking behind the Paleo Diet have continued since our last posting debunking it, we thought we would add a little more refutation to it.

Writing in her book, the Paleofantasy, anthropologist Professor Marlene Zuk, says that the claim that Paleo Man did not consume grains and grain-like plants has been disproven yet again. Analysis of the living sites and bodily remains of people living 30,000 years ago showed considerable use of starchy grains, and the cooking of a kind of pita bread. According to Professor Zuk, the assertion made in the Caveman Diet by Walter Voegtlin, that Paleo Man had a nearly all-meat diet, is untrue.

Furthermore, she explains that the claim that our entire anatomy and physiology changed in this relatively short time period, by evolutionary standards, and that we had any significant capability of obtaining meat, reflects a misunderstanding of evolutionary theory. Indeed, she explains that what we are able to eat and thrive on depends more on our 30 million plus years of primate history, than the recent, brief period of time.

Perhaps, most importantly, Professor Zuk points out that Paleo man wasn’t particularly healthy, and that the idea of following a high-meat diet should be judged in light of today’s nutritional knowledge.

The famous biology professor, and author of Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond, has also weighed in on the subject. He explains that Paleo man was a relatively poor hunter, even as recently as 100,000 years ago. Yet, in Robert Ardrey’s book, African Genesis, the author portrays paleo man as a successful big game hunter, and Hollywood has been only too willing to reinforce this mistaken notion. Diamond considers this so far off the mark that he terms it “pure fantasy!” Another erroneous notion is that meat somehow gave rise to our extraordinary intelligence. But Professor Diamond goes on to explain that by the time we attained even a modest amount of meat in the diet, our brains were already well evolved.

He discounts Eskimos as an example of paleo living because humanity only reached the arctic in the last few thousand years. Besides we now know, thanks to better data, that the Eskimos weren’t particularly healthy anyway. According to Diamond, even among most of today’s so called hunter gatherer societies, which are quite advanced compared to paleo societies, there’s much more gathering than hunting. In one group in New Guinea, though they talk a good talk, most of the hunters have only gotten two significant animals in their entire life!

Even though ancient man had the ability to consume larger amounts of meat, we now know that they didn’t always do so. New evidence shows some groups of Roman Gladiators ate a vegetarian diet, and so did the ancient Egyptian peasants. The fish and meat were apparently mostly reserved for the elite and the royal. Yet the Gladiators were known for their great strength and the Egyptians built the pyramids.

Strength and Endurance

Strength and Endurance – Scientists tell us what we already know

 

Scientists at the University of Arizona have just confirmed through a rigorous study what many vegetarian athletes already knew. Vegetarian athletes have just as much peak muscle strength, and even more endurance than their meat-eating counterparts. This is borne out by the many athletes who are choosing to be vegetarian or vegan these days, because they find that it improves their performance.

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David Carter, defensive lineman with Jacksonville Jaguars

Take football player David Carter, a defensive lineman with the Jacksonville Jaguars, and formerly with the Oakland and Dallas teams, for example.  He became enthusiastic about his vegan diet after seeing the results and learning about the effect of his food choices. Eating an entirely plant-based diet, David experienced more energy and his stamina went through the roof. All his numbers in the weight room actually went up. This is a guy who can bench 470 and squat 660. Amazingly, he found himself quicker, more agile and responsive than ever.  Another example is San Diego quarterback, Brandon Flowers. Everyone says he looks noticeably fitter recently. He says the big difference in his ability was his decision to go with a vegan diet.

Patrik Baboumian

Patrik Boboumian, vegan, World’s strongest man.

Weightlifters have also gained impressive results by following a vegan diet.  In 2011, shortly after being named Germany’s strongest man, Patrick Baboumian went completely vegan. The 38-year-old already holds world records for log lifts and overhead beer keg lifts, and in 2015 carried a yoke loaded with just over 560 kilograms (1234.59 pounds) 10 meters (32.8 feet), the heaviest load ever carried — equivalent to a large horse.

Looking for the best endurance?  Look no further than Scott Jurek, an ultramarthoner.  In 2010 he set the American record for most miles run in 24 hours at 165.7 miles, not to mention his seven consecutive victories from 1999-2005 in the Western States 100-mile Endurance Run. In 2015, Scott completed the 2,189 miles of the Appalachian trail in 46 days, 8 hours and 7 minutes – an all time record, and it was all done on a vegan diet.

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Wilson Chandler of the Denver Nuggets

Resilience is also improved by following a vegan diet.  Wilson Chandler of the Denver Nuggets went vegan in an effort to stay on the court, and out of the training room. “I’ve always had a pretty healthy diet, but after dealing with several injuries, I wanted to find a diet that would help with inflammation,” he says “My recovery time is faster, I’m in a better mood, I feel more explosive on the court and I’m leaner,” he says. Along with his better diet, we’re happy to report he’s scoring more points.

So whether you’re looking for strength, endurance, or resilience, it seems you can’t beat a vegan diet to keep you at peak performance.

Trouble in the Bathroom – Constipation

Let’s talk about constipation. It may be an embarrassing topic, but did you know that there’s a big vegetarian advantage when it comes to preventing and treating constipation, and some more serious colon health problems, that are so common in our meat-centered society? When it comes to constipation, the sales figures for laxatives tell the story as well as anything. No one should have to pay to poop, yet Americans spend over $1 billion dollars on laxatives every year to do just that. The culprit, as with so many other health problems, is the low-fiber, meat-centered, American diet. This is where, as with so many health issues, a healthy vegetarian diet can come to the rescue.

Problems caused by low-fiber diets have been brewing for some time now. Since the beginning of the twentieth century, Americans have eaten less and less fiber, as our diets have become more processed, and have included a higher proportion of foods made from animal products.  Fiber is present in abundance in plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes, but there is no fiber whatsoever in animal products such as meat, fish, dairy and eggs.  By consuming ever-increasing quantities of these foods, and by processing whole grains to remove all the nutrients and fiber to make the soft white flour, white bread and white rice that many Americans prefer, we’ve left the average American diet with only 5 to 14 grams of fiber, when we really need around 35 grams daily.

The result is constipation and host of other colon diseases such as painful hemorrhoids, diverticulosis (little pockets that form in the colon and become inflamed and infected) and even appendicitis. While you are probably already aware of just how common constipation and hemorrhoids have become, many people are surprised to learn that, by age 60, two thirds of Americans will have developed diverticulosis, and that 7% of the population will develop appendicitis in the course of their lifetimes. Both of these conditions are due to low-fiber diets.

Study after study has shown that people following a vegetarian diet, and in particular a vegan diet, have much lower rates of constipation, and therefore lower rates of hemorrhoids, appendicitis and diverticulitis.  By replacing the animal products in your diet with lots of healthy fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes, and by adding plenty of water, you’ll save yourself the money you may have spent on laxatives and visits to the doctor, the time you may have spent pushing and straining in the bathroom, and the pain you may have felt from suffering the consequences of a low-fiber diet. While we may not wish to talk about these issues in public, it’s good to know that you can do something about them in private, and save yourself money, time and pain.

Prescribe Vegetarian Campaign News

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Stewart Rose gives presentation to Resident Physicians at Tacoma General Hospital

The Prescribe Vegetarian Campaign encourages medical schools to include the health benefits of a plant-based diet in their curricula, and for practicing doctors to prescribe a plant-based diet to prevent and treat disease where appropriate.

We’re happy to tell you about our latest Campaign event. Last month, we gave a presentation on the “Prevention and Treatment of Disease with a Plant-Based Diet” to Family Medicine Resident Physicians at Tacoma General Hospital. The doctors all seemed very interested. When we asked them at the end if they thought that the prevention and treatment of disease with a plant-based diet should have been part of their formal education almost every hand went up.

In the upcoming months we’ll continue our campaign by providing a presentation open to doctors statewide and eligible for official continuing medical education credits required of all doctors. We’ll also provide separate classes for nurses. Then at Vegfest we’ll hold the second annual Vegfest Medical Seminar for doctors and medical students. After Vegfest, we’ll keep up the momentum with a presentation to doctors at Virginia Mason Hospital.

We’re not stopping with the doctors. We’ve contacted policy makers and medical journals to encourage them to include a plant-based diet as prevention and treatment of disease. Our latest effort has been to send a letter to the American College Of Endocrinology and a letter-to-editor-of-endocrine-practice-journal, encouraging them to consider the efficacy of a plant-based diet to prevent type II diabetes.

Crohn’s Disease – a veg diet can help

patient-with-crohnsGood news for those with this hard-to-treat disease. It turns out that a vegetarian diet is especially effective at both preventing and treating Crohn’s Disease.

Crohn’s disease affects as many as 780,000 Americans. It’s a chronic inflammatory disease of the gastrointestinal tract that usually affects the small and/or large intestine. The intestine becomes inflamed, sometimes resulting in dangerous blockages. It usually begins early in life. People with this disease experience periods of remission only to be followed by relapse. No-one knows what causes the disease, and currently there is no cure.

Crohn’s disease is an autoimmune disease which means the body’s own immune system malfunctions, resulting in inflamed tissue. Standard treatment usually involves medications, most of which have significant side effects and are usually only partially effective. For this reason, most patients will require surgery at least once. Clearly better treatments are needed. Even better would be to avoid getting the disease in the first place.

Now for the good news. A vegetarian diet reduces the risk of getting Crohn’s by 70% in young women and 80% in young men. For those already with the disease, a vegetarian diet has been shown to induce remission in 100% of cases after one year and 92% after two years. This is considered significantly more effective than medication.

Why does a vegetarian diet help so much? Scientists are actively researching the answer but some definite clues have already emerged. A vegetarian diet creates a bacterial profile in the intestine that is less inflammatory. Phytonutrients, special substances only found in plant foods, also seem to play a prominent role. Vegetarian diets are also higher in fiber which can also promote greater intestinal health.

So plant-based diets are turning out to be effective at both preventing and treating Crohn’s disease, as they are for other autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, and so many other diseases.

See professional level information on Crohn’s disease

Grass-Fed Beef – bad for us and for the planet

Recently, some people have been touting grass-fed beef as eliminating all the problems associated with meat, or as an equivalent alternative to going vegetarian. Don’t fall for it. Grass-fed beef is still bad for us, the environment and, of course, the cows.

Let’s take a look and see what some leading veg-authors have to say on the subject and then make a few observations of our own.

Environmentalist James E. McWilliams, author of Just Food, points out that grass-fed beef produces more methane, a global-warming gas more potent that carbon dioxide, than grain-fed cows do, and that large herds of grazing cattle cause enormous amounts of soil to be eroded, choking off the streams and wetlands. In choosing grass-fed beef, we trade some environmental problems in the switch and “no study I’ve seen convincingly shows that the exchange is worth it,” he says.  He further warns not to translate what is being done at the more responsible, small operator “boutique level,” to the national and international scene, where problems associated with overgrazing are so common. But perhaps most importantly for the world’s hungry, even grass-fed cows are still poor converters of plants into nutrients, and in most cases, the grasslands used for grazing could more efficiently and sustainably be used for producing various crops directly for human consumption.

Geophysiscist G. Eshel explains that “Since grazing animals eat mostly cellulose-rich roughage, while their feedlot counterparts eat mostly simple sugars whose digestion requires no rumination, the grazing animals emit two to four times as much methane, a greenhouse gas roughly 30 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. This, and the faster weight gain by feedlot animals, result in significantly higher greenhouse gas emissions per pound of meat by grass-fed animals than by feedlot ones.” And there’s plenty of damage that grazing cows produce besides increased greenhouse gas production. Prof Eshel goes on to explain “Grazing cattle also compromise river systems in the fragile arid and semi arid environments in which they are disproportionately ubiquitous, and accelerate soil erosion. Because they eat much more dry matter then feedlot animals, they also pressure dwindling local water supplies exactly where they are most vulnerable.”

Leading author and advocate John Robbins also takes issue with grass-fed beef. While Robbins broadly agrees McWilliams’ environmental assessment and notes that “cattle grazing in the West have polluted more water, eroded more topsoil, killed more fish, displaced more wildlife, and destroyed more vegetation than any other land use.” He also takes note of some other problems not resolved by grass-fed beef, and points out that “the lives of grass-fed livestock are more humane and natural than the lives of animals confined in factory farms and feedlots, but their deaths are often just as terrifying and cruel.” Finally Robbins warns that grass-fed beef still have nutritional drawbacks associated with them, saying “I wouldn’t get too carried away and think that as long as it’s grass-fed then it’s fine and dandy. Grass-fed products are still high in saturated fat (although not as high), still high in cholesterol, and are still devoid of fiber and many other essential nutrients.” Robbins also notes that it can take up to 4 times as long to raise a grass-fed cow compared to a grain-fed one which could result in very significant shortages of supply.

Dr. Richard Oppenlander, author of Comfortably Unaware, agrees with the problems associated with grass-fed beef pointed out by the others, but then goes on to point out that grazing the number of farm animals necessary to satisfy the American meat habit would require more land than the country has, and so really can’t be done anyway because it requires so much land per animal. For instance, he calculates that to raise the current number of just cows and pigs produced in the US every year would require 2.6 billion acres of land if grass-fed – an impossibility since the country only has 2.25 billion acres total land mass to begin with.

Some people ask if local grass-fed beef is any better? That still doesn’t help because most of the carbon footprint is from the production of beef not its transportation. In fact, in the average household, 83% of the footprint comes just from producing the food, while transportation is just 11%.

Christopher L. Weber and H. Scott Matthews of Carnegie Mellon University publishing the results of their research in Environmental Science and Technology say, “Shifting less than 1 day per week’s (i.e., 1/7 of total calories) consumption of red meat and/or dairy to a vegetable-based diet could have the same climate impact as buying all household food from local providers.”

Here’s the bottom line. Grass-fed beef is still bad for the environment. And of course, even grass-fed beef still contains unhealthy amounts of heart disease promoting saturated fat and cholesterol, and even organic beef still contains cancer-causing industrial toxins that bio-concentrate in the cow over its lifetime. Almost as bad, cooking grass-fed beef still produces cancer causing HCA’s (Hetero Cyclic Amines ) and diabetes-promoting AGE’s (Advanced Glycation End-products).  Plus, let’s not forget that though its raising is a little better, even grass-fed cattle still face the slaughterhouse. The best choice is still going vegetarian.

We show the UW the way

population-health-initiativeVegetarians of Washington has submitted a population-health-initiative-proposal to the University of Washington Population Health Initiative, which aims to bring together the research and resources of the UW and partners around the Puget Sound and beyond to improve the health and well-being of people around the world.

Funded by a gift from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Initiative will focus on three key areas: human health, environmental resiliency, and social and economic equity.

Our proposal outlines the benefits to human health, the environment, global hunger and other social justice aspects. We proposed that the Initiative look for ways to educate the medical profession, NGOs, policy makers, teachers, farmers and the general public about the importance of a plant-based diet, and how to go about making the necessary changes. Our key conclusion states:

The potential for improving health and saving human lives by encouraging the world to shift to a plant-based diet is enormous. The costs of this project are small, in comparison to the potential huge global savings in healthcare costs, not to mention the potential for saving the planet from climate change and many other environmental crises, and freeing up vast quantities of land and water for an ever-increasing population.

They will be considering all proposals in January 2017. We hope they step up to the plate!

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