Warning – the consumption of meat is hazardous to your health! According to the American Dietetic Association, meat-eaters have an increased risk of heart disease, colon cancer, obesity, adult-onset diabetes, gout, osteoporosis, kidney stones, gallstones, diverticular disease, lung cancer and breast cancer.
Animal products, such as meat and eggs, are the only dietary sources of cholesterol and the chief source of saturated fat, the main causes of heart disease. Not eating these foods reduces the risk of heart attack by 90%. The fiber in vegetarian diets not only removes unneeded cholesterol and other cancer-causing agents, but helps in reversing atherosclerosis – hardening of the arteries. A 1990 study demonstrated reversal of even severe coronary disease through the combination of a low-fat vegetarian diet, stress management, moderate exercise and cessation of smoking. Vegetarians overall are 20% less likely to die from heart attack than meat-eaters.
A low fat vegetarian diet, combined with regular exercise, helps reduce blood pressure and can control, or even eliminate, non-insulin dependent diabetes. Many medications to control high blood pressure have a wide range of common and unpleasant side effects, e.g. beta blockers often make patients fatigued and listless, diuretics raise blood cholesterol levels and double the risk of fatal heart attacks, blood vessel dilators can cause impotence in males, and a loss of sexual interest in females.
When the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition put diabetics on a vegetarian diet, 45% of the patients were able to discontinue their use of insulin injections. In a 21-year study of over 27,000 Seventh Day Adventists (followers of a vegetarian diet), their death rate due to diabetes was found to be only 45% that of the general population. A vegan diet (no animal products whatsoever) can actually reverse mature-onset diabetes. When the diet recommended by the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and a vegan diet were compared over a 12 week period: The vegan group lost an average of 16 pounds, the ADA group 8 pounds; the ADA group needed as much medication as before, while the vegan group needed considerably less.
Diets high in protein, especially animal protein, can cause the body to excrete more calcium, oxalate and uric acids which form kidney and gallbladder stones. Vegetarian diets have been shown to reduce the chance of forming these stones. An ultrasound study found that 18% of meat-eating women had symptomless gallstones, compared to only 10% in vegetarians. Because a vegetarian diet does not force calcium out of the body, as meat does, vegetarians are at a lower risk for osteoporosis – the weakening of the bones, a major health concern for women.
Vegetarianism can also benefit asthmatics and victims of multiple sclerosis (MS). According to a 1985 year-long study conducted by the University Hospital in Linkoping, Sweden, over 90% of bronchial asthma patients had less severe and less frequent attacks while eating a vegetarian diet, and reduced their need for medication. According to Dr. William Castelli, a switch to a vegetarian diet could help more than 90% of all MS victims arrest the disease process and improve their condition.
Over two decades of research at the Loma Linda University in California reveals that men who eat meat are three times more likely to suffer from prostate cancer than vegetarians. According to a study done by Dr. Takeshi Hirayama of the National Cancer Research Institute of Tokyo, vegetarianism reduces the risk of breast cancer in women by 25%. Japanese women who followed a western style meat-based diet were eight times more likely to develop breast cancer than the women who followed a more traditional plant-based diet.
One other cancer where diet has recently been shown to play a role is Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL). In a study of over 35,000 American women, those who developed NHL had higher intakes of animal fat, especially from red meat.
Fiber intake is a critical factor in the prevention of cancer, especially of the colon. The Journal of the National Cancer Institute reported back in the 1970’s that there is not a single population in the world with a high meat intake which does not have a high rate of colon cancer.
Animal products are usually high in fat and always devoid of fiber. Vegetarians avoid animal fat, the consumption of which is linked to cancer, and get abundant fiber and vitamins that help prevent cancer. In a University of Hawaii study, vegetarians, on average, ate almost twice as much fiber as the meat eaters, especially cereal fiber. Vegetarians are therefore much less likely to suffer from constipation than meat-eaters. Blood analysis of vegetarians also reveals that they have higher levels of specialized white cells which attack and kill cancer cells. A UK study of over 6000 vegetarians found them 40% less likely to die of cancer than meat-eaters.
How much enhanced longevity can you expect as a vegetarian? The study of vegetarian Seventh Day Adventists found them to have significantly lower death rates than the general population. Men had lower death rates from coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, all cancers combined, and cancer of the colon, rectum and prostate in particular. Women had lower death rates from stroke, diabetes, all cancers combined, and cancer of the colon, rectum, breast and ovaries in particular. The study concluded that the more meat and eggs an individual ate, the more likely they were to die of those diseases. Dr. William Castelli found that vegetarians outlive meat-eaters by about 6 years. Populations that consume high amounts of animal flesh, such as the Greenlanders and Russian Kurgi have life expectancies of only 30 years. Populations such as the East Indian Todas and the Russian Caucasians, who consume little or no meat, have life expectancies of 90-100 years.
What does all this meat-induced disease cost? Researchers estimated that between $28.6 billion and $61.4 billion of USA health expenditure in 1992 could be attributed to meat consumption.
In summary, vegetarians are less likely to suffer from a host of crippling or fatal diseases. A low fat vegetarian diet can not only reduce the personal suffering involved in ill-health, but it can also save the larger community money by decreasing diet-related illnesses. Improving your health can be so simple! By eliminating meat from your diet and replacing it with interesting and tasty vegetarian foodstuffs, you can take a crucial step towards a long life of health and happiness.