The McDougall Newsletter

 November 2003

Vol. 2     No. 11  

Subscribe to this newsletter at www.drmcdougall.com  


How to Help a Meathead

Meat is ideal nutrition for my body, I once thought – after all, my own body is made of meat – like muscles, liver, kidneys, brain, and associated, more-or-less, edible substances, like fat, blood vessels, lymph nodes, tendons, nerves, bone, skin, etc.  Most of my friends still believe meat is essential for vigorous health and they don’t hesitate to tell me so.  I hear too often, “McDougall, if you ate a few more Tri-tips (a popular cut of beef) you’d be stronger, and be able to windsurf longer.”  I answer, “For these benefits, do I have to eat the blood vessels, too?”  They’re left speechless.

Everyone Knows Meat is a Serious Health Hazard
With very few exceptions, everyone clearly understands that eating meat is damaging to our health.  Notice the reaction when you order a vegetarian meal.  People will say, “I know, I should have ordered that” and “I usually eat vegetarian.”  Or  worse, they become defensive, explaining, “I could never live without my meat.  Life would be so boring.”  And I freely admit, life on a meat-based diet is pretty exciting – you never know what new pain or failed body part will turn up next.

The hazards of meat are so well known they make the material for jokes:

This Bizarro cartoon would not be funny if these important issues were not widely recognized and understood.  Yet knowledge in this case fails to result in a call to action for most people.   

Possibly having better knowledge of the damaging details would make a difference for some people.  The following chart provides a summary of the problems with meat, and at the end of this article I have expanded the discussion on each of these points for you.

 


Summary of Nutritional Problems with Meat
 

 

Quality

 

Health Problems

 
 

 

 

 

 
 

High calorie

=

obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer

 
 

High fat

=

obesity, cancer, and diabetes

 
 

High in saturated fat

=

heart attacks and strokes

 
 

Deficient in essential fats

=

degenerative diseases, multiple sclerosis

 
 

High protein

=

osteoporosis, kidney damage and stones

 
 

High in acid

=

osteoporosis, kidney stones

 
 

High cholesterol

=

atherosclerosis (strokes, heart attacks)

 
 

High in iron

=

atherosclerosis (strokes, heart attacks)

 
 

No dietary fiber

=

constipation, hemorrhoids, IBS

 
 

No carbohydrate     

=

fatigue, poor endurance

 
 

No vitamin C 

=

poor tissue healing (scurvy)

 
 

No calcium    

=

poor tissues, but needs are very small

 
 

Environmental contaminants

=

cancer, Parkinson’s disease, brain damage

 
 

Carcinogens from cooking

=

cancer

 
 

Multiple microbe infections

=

infectious disease (E. coli to mad cow)

 


Additional Human Costs:
Harmful to environment with deforestation, destruction of natural resources, pollution; inhumane treatment of animals - both when they are alive and when they are slaughtered - and it is expensive for everyone, with dramatic increases in food and medical bills.
1
 

Three (False) Reasons People Eat Meat

Nutrition
Meat is supposed to be good nutrition.  Undoubtedly, it is a source of concentrated calories, primarily of fat and protein.  Once, during times of scarcity, that quality may have been valuable, but in our obesity-plagued society, few people need more calories.  Meat has been touted as a good source of iron, zinc, and B12 – but I have never seen anyone with deficiencies of these nutrients due to eating too little meat – have you? On the other hand, everywhere I look I see problems from too much meat.

Plants are loaded with minerals, including iron and zinc, which they obtain from the ground (earth).2  Vitamin B12 deficiency is very rare and this vitamin can be obtained from bacteria which synthesize it, and from supplements (purchased in a natural foods store).3

Taste
Meat tastes good. Really?  If it tastes so good then why don’t people salivate over plain boiled chicken?  Why don’t you find, featured on the menu of the finest restaurants “baked beef with no added sauce or salt?”  The truth is meat is flavorless, at best; either bland in taste – or at worst, repulsive to the human tongue and nose.  The only way most people can stomach the taste of meat is to cover the natural flavors up with sauces made of sugar, salt, and spices – like ketchup, barbecue sauce, steak sauce, sweet and sour sauce, and marinara sauce.  The tips of our tongue have taste buds that respond to salt and sugar.4  Our noses savor the aromas of plant-derived spices.  So much for meat tasting good – it is the toppings we like.

Status
Throughout history, meat at the dinner table has been considered a sign of success.5  The strongest and bravest members of a society captured the most game. (This was almost exclusively a male venture). Hunting serves as a test of manhood, after all, chasing and killing animals is much more difficult and dangerous than picking raspberries or pulling up potatoes.  Successful hunters obtain status (and as a prize, more women and more desirable ones).  Even today people refer to the accomplishments of a successful breadwinner in the family as “bringing home the bacon.”  Fortunately, today, in 21st century society, bringing home meat has lost all status.  In fact, more intelligent people view this activity as a sign of stupidity – akin to cigarette smoking and the two-martini lunch – two offensive behaviors not too long ago considered status symbols. 

My parents lived through the Great Depression of the 1930s.  My mother told stories of her family’s only foods being beans, corn, cabbage, parsnips, peas, rutabagas, carrots, onions, turnips, potatoes and bread for 5 cents a loaf – a little hamburger was their only meat.  During my childhood she often reminded me of their poverty, and the promise to herself that her children would never have to suffer as she had, without an easy supply of meat and milk.  Her need to provide this bountiful table caused far more suffering for my immediate family in the form of constipation, stomach aches, eczema, a stroke, and heart disease than she ever experienced.  The influence of family values on my life and eating habits also came from my grandparents and great-grandparents.

Grandparents Are the Ultimate Justification for Meat-Eating
So why does almost everyone continue to eat meat when scientific research solidly condemns this behavior and predicts a shorter, more miserable life for those who make meat the center of their diets?  The reason is feelings of invincibility that are hard wired into our brains.  Naturally, even in the face of overwhelming facts to the contrary, we know these terrible consequences will never happen to us. And as proof we have grandparents.   You’ve heard people defending their diet with, “My grandparents lived on a farm, ate meat their whole life, and they lived to be ninety.”  Of course, never mentioned are the vast majority of grandparents who die of heart disease, strokes, diabetes, and cancer long before they hit their mid-seventies.   Thus, those few hearty grandparents, too stubborn to die, serve as the justification for our belief that we will beat the odds and are the reason we are slow to change destructive behaviors in the face of overwhelming facts. 

I have two grandparent examples from my own life that could have served nicely as justification for my not changing my diet.  My grandfather lived to be 88 and my great-grandmother was mentally sharp at 106 years old, and they both ate meat every day.  Why should I pay any attention to the health hazards of meat with the genes that I had?

“Old Pop” Was a Survivor
My grandfather lived to 88 years old.  As long as I can remember he ate eggs for breakfast, and meatballs and onions for dinner.  All his adult life he wore his potbelly with pride, claiming it was due to a swayback and not abundant fat, and  suffered from a multitude of problems.  In his sixties he underwent a bowel resection after almost dying from infected diverticular disease of his colon (diverticulitis) – all due to his years of eating a very low-fiber diet.  During his later years he lived with intermittent claudication – meaning the arteries in his legs were severely closed by atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).  The blood flow to his legs was restricted so much that he could walk no more than 15 feet before excruciating calf pain stopped him dead in his tracks. 

Yes, my grandfather lived to 88, eating lots of meat, but he lived in pain.  He, like so many people, was deceived by the remarkable resilience of the human body.  It survives two packages of cigarettes inhaled, ½ bottle of whiskey drunk, physical activity restricted to TV channel-changing, and a diet of grease and sugar in the form of Krispy Kreme donuts – and it lives! – but in pain and with disability. 

Moderation Saved “Old Mom”
I have an even better grandparent story – it is about my great-grandmother who lived to be 106 years old and ate meat every day.  When I was a youngster she admonished me for eating too much meat – and I did eat a lot of meat back then.  In my late 20s I became a strict vegetarian.  On one of my visits to her home (she was about 103) she asked me to go out to the neighborhood McDonald’s and buy her a regular hamburger – you know, a simple burger with a paper thin slice of ground beef between two halves of a white bread bun, 2 pickle slices and a blob of mustard and ketchup.  She proceeded to cut the hamburger into quarters.  She raised one quarter to my face and told me, “If you ate a little more meat you would be healthier.”  Then she ate 2 quarters and put the rest away for later.  She was a very moderate person – far different from my personality.  Moderate people – those who eat small amounts of rich food, drink ¼ cup of diluted coffee, have a glass of wine on holidays – survive well – simply because of their reserved behavior. 

How I Saved My Life in a Meat-Eating World
I am an enthusiastic (lustful) person.  In my hamburger-eating-days I would down two double cheeseburgers, fries and a milk shake for a single meal, and still be looking for more to fill my bottomless stomach.  My childhood was plagued by stomachaches and chronic constipation; as a teenager my face was full of pimples and I had the energy of a sloth.  I was shocked into the reality of my vulnerability when I was felled by a massive stroke at age 18 that caused the entire left side of my body to be completely paralyzed.  In my early twenties I carried an extra fifty pounds of fat. My likely destiny would be to suffer a fatal heart attack before 35.  Fortunately, in my late twenties I learned the importance of a diet based on starches, vegetables, and fruits – and to leave meat alone.  I may have great genes, but you’re not going to find me testing them any more. 

I can’t change my personality – my exuberance for life – my uncontrollable enthusiasm for everything – so I have learned to focus all of this energy upon healthy behaviors.  Since my late twenties, I have occupied myself with activities that best support my appearance, feelings of well-being, functioning, and longevity.  Saving my own life is one more reason why you find me an unrestrained proponent of healthy eating.

Do Feed Your Cat Meat

A vegetarian diet fails to supply adequate amounts of protein, taurine, arachidonic acid, and retinol (vitamin A) for a cat.

Even if you are a purist vegetarian who wants to convert all of those around you, stop short of your cat.  Cats are designed to eat meat – they are carnivores.  Cats may enjoy a few fruits and vegetables, but too much fiber and polyunsaturated plant fats may be detrimental to your cat's health. High fiber foods can fill the cat's digestive system without providing the necessary nutrients in sufficient concentrations. Excess polyunsaturated fatty acids in vegetable oils can lead to vitamin E deficiency related illnesses.6 

Consider that the tongue of a cat has taste buds that respond to proteins (amino acids), but none for enjoying sugars (carbohydrates).7  This would be expected because their natural diet is meat.  I have never been able to get my cat to purr for a slice of banana.  I have no doubt that if I wrapped a thin slice of beef around that sweet nugget of fruit it would be gone in one gulp. 

Cats require large amounts of protein and this can be a problem on a vegetarian diet. Cats, unlike humans, cannot synthesize an amino acid called taurine – for a cat this is an essential amino acid.8  Inadequate amounts in a cat’s diet can cause eye damage, even blindness, and heart damage (cardiomyopathy).  The only rich source of taurine is meat.  Arachidonic acid is an essential fatty acid for cats – it must be in their diet, because they lack the essential enzymes to synthesize it.  Meat is the only major source of this fat. Humans can synthesize arachidonic acid from linoleic acid, found abundantly in plant foods.

Unlike humans, cats cannot utilize beta carotene, the provitamin A, found abundantly in plant foods.  Humans readily convert this provitamin A to preformed vitamin A (retinol).  Retinol is abundant in animal foods and the richest source is liver.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Detailed Qualities of Meat

Meat is High in Calories
Compare the calorie content of various foods:
Calories in 3 ½ ounces (100 grams):

Beef 291
Chicken 239
Fish (Cod) 104
Cheddar Cheese 403
   
Potoato 105
Peas 118
Wheat Flour 339
Banana 92
Apples 59
Spinach 23
Tomatoes 21

Calories consumed above those utilized are often stored, especially when those calories are from fat.  Fat is almost effortlessly moved from your fork and spoon to your body fat.9  To make matters worse there is no carbohydrate or fiber in meat.  Carbohydrate is the primary substance for satisfying your hunger drive.10  Fiber provides no calories; therein helping with weight loss.  All things considered removing meat from your diet is a giant step to losing excess body fat and staying trim without ever being hungry. 

Consuming calories in excess of need promotes the growth of cancer.11  Compounding matters, body fat makes estrogen which stimulates the growth of breast and uterine cancer.12  Excess estrogen also causes precocious puberty, fibrocystic breast disease, PMS, ovarian cysts, heavy menstrual bleeding, and fibroids of the uterus.  Overweight people have generally poorer health and shorter lives.13

Meat is High in Fat
Compare the fat content of various foods:
(% Calories from fat)

Beef 60
Chicken 51
Fish (Cod) 7
Cheddar Cheese 74
   
Potato 1
Peas 1
Wheat Flour 5
Banana 4
Apples 6
Spinach 9
Tomatoes 10

Fat is very high in energy.  Fat contains 9 Calories per gram compared to pure protein and carbohydrate, each containing 4 Calories per gram.  Energy in excess of need promotes obesity.  To make matters worse our hunger drive is insensitive to the fat we eat; therefore fatty foods are very easy to over-consume.14  In addition to providing excess calories, fat itself directly promotes cancer growth.15  The predominant kind of fat in beef and chicken is saturated, which raises blood cholesterol and easily becomes oxidized fat, which damages the arteries.16 

Certain fats must be present in the diet of humans – these are called essential fatty acids.   The two that are essential for humans are linoleic acid and linolenic acid.  Only plants can synthesize these two kinds of essential fats – however, once made, animals can store them in their body fat.  These essential fats are necessary for formation of most of our body tissues, and especially the nervous system.  A diet deficient in essential fats (a diet high in meat and dairy products and low in plant foods) early in life may cause the development of a weakened nervous system, which is highly susceptible to degenerative diseases, like multiple sclerosis.17

Meat is Excessively High in Protein
Compare the protein content of various foods:
(% of Calories from protein)

Beef 37
Chicken 46
Fish (Cod) 87
Cheddar Cheese 25
   
Potato 9
Peas 28
Wheat Flour 16
Banana 5
Apples 4
Spinach 37
Tomatoes 15

Small amounts of protein are necessary in the diet to provide the raw materials for the building blocks of body parts, such as hormones and muscle cells.  However, our need is very small – no more than 2 ½ % of the total number of calories consumed must be protein.18  Excess protein is not stored; it is eliminated from the body by the liver and kidneys.  The amount of protein consumed on the Western diet places a serious burden on these organs – overworking them and causing them to wear out prematurely.  For example, by age 70 one-third of a person’s kidney function has been lost due to the typical high-meat Western diet.18  Because of the organ-preserving effects of a low-protein diet, this is standard treatment for people with failing livers and kidneys.19  Animal protein is much more damaging to the body than is an equal amount of vegetable-derived protein.

Excess protein, and especially animal protein, causes the body to lose calcium, contributing to calcium-based kidney stones, and osteoporosis.20,21  Animal proteins can cause autoimmune diseases, especially those affecting the joints (inflammatory arthritis).22

Protein, and especially protein from meat and dairy products, increases the amount of a powerful growth stimulating hormone in the body, called Insulin-like Growth Factor – 1 (IGF-1).  This substance stimulates the growth of a large number of common cancers, like breast, prostate, colon and lung cancer.23

Meat is High in Acid
Compare the acid load of various foods:
(Renal Acid Load per 100 Calories)

Beef 6.3
Chicken 7.0
Fish (Cod) 9.3
Cheddar Cheese 10.0
   
Potato -5.0
Peas 1.0
Wheat Flour 1.0
Banana -6.0
Apples -5.0
Spinach -56.0
Tomatoes -18.0

(A positive value indicates acidic, whereas a negative value indicates alkaline.)

If you grind up various foods and then measure their pH (acid-alkaline balance) you will find meats to be very acidic – fruits and vegetables, on the other hand, are alkaline (grains and legumes are slightly acidic).24  The human body is slightly alkaline (pH of 7.35 to 7.45 – a pH of 7 is neutral).  The body protects its acid-alkaline balance very carefully, because all of the other chemical reactions in the body depend upon a proper pH level.  Dietary-derived acid, primarily from meats and cheeses, must be neutralized.25  The primary acid-neutralizing mechanism of the body depends on the bones; which dissolve to release alkaline materials to neutralize the acid.  The end result of slowly dissolving the bones for decades is osteoporosis.   Some of this dissolved bone solidifies in the kidney collecting system creating calcium-based kidney stones.  Over 90% of stones found in people on the Western diet are made primarily of calcium.

Meat is High in Cholesterol
Compare the cholesterol of various foods:
(Milligrams per 100 Calories)

Beef 32
Chicken 37
Fish (Cod) 53
Cheddar Cheese 26
   
Potato 0
Peas 0
Wheat Flour 0
Banana 0
Apples 0
Spinach 0
Tomatoes 0

People who switch from red meat to chicken do not reduce their cholesterol; nor do they reduce their risk of heart disease. Chicken muscle has the same amount of cholesterol as beef, and pork.  Most importantly, the blood cholesterol level – a very strong predictor of heart disease and stroke risk – stays the same when people switch among various muscle foods (including to fish muscle).26  Just remember, a muscle is a muscle is a muscle and switching from reddish-colored to yellowish-colored muscles makes virtually no difference at all.

Meat is Claimed to Be Essential for Iron
Compare the iron of various foods:
(Grams per 100 Calories)

Beef 0.9
Chicken 0.5
Fish (Cod) 0.5
Cheddar Cheese 0.0
   
Potato 1.2
Peas 1.1
Wheat Flour 1.1
Banana 0.3
Apples 0.3
Spinach 15.3
Tomatoes 2.1

One of the advertised benefits of meat is the iron.  Realize that the iron in all meats originated in the ground (earth).  To get into the animal, it first had to go through plants.  Iron, as well as all minerals, dissolves in watery solutions and is absorbed by the roots of plants and then is incorporated in the roots, stems, leaves, flowers, and fruits of plants.  Note above that plant foods are loaded with iron. The animals eat the plants in order to obtain these minerals.

The iron in meat is said to be more easily absorbed and utilized.  Actually, vitamin C found in plants makes the plant-form of iron readily absorbed and utilized, too.2  A healthy vegetarian diet supplies plenty of iron and is never the cause of iron deficiency.  Most cases of iron deficiency are due to diseases that cause blood loss, and from dairy products,27 which block the absorption of iron into the body.  A common end result from depleted iron stores is iron deficiency anemia.

You don’t want too much iron in your body.  Excess iron is associated with heart disease.28  This may be because iron can act as a powerful free radical donor (an oxidant) and damage the arteries.

Meat has No Dietary Fiber
Compare the fiber content of various foods:
(Grams per 100 Calories)

Beef 0
Chicken 0
Fish (Cod) 0
Cheddar Cheese 0
   
Potato 2.2
Peas 7.0
Wheat Flour 3.6
Banana 2.6
Apples 4.6
Spinach 10.4
Tomatoes 5.4

Dietary fiber is undigestible carbohydrate and is only found in plants.  Dietary fiber transits the entire small intestine without being digested, finally forming the bulk of the stool (feces).  Since meat of any kind has absolutely no dietary fiber, people on high meat diets are usually constipated with tiny rock-hard, infrequently-passed, stools.  Seventy percent of people following the nearly all-meat Atkins diet complain of constipation (see my November 2002 Newsletter).  Chronic constipation causes hemorrhoids, varicose veins, hiatal hernia, and prolapsed uterus (see my lead articles in the September and October 2002 newsletters). Dietary fiber also plays important roles in deactivating cancer-causing chemicals, preventing excess sex hormone levels from accumulating in the body, and slowing the entry of sugar into the bloodstream.29

Meat Contains No Carbohydrates
Compare the carbohydrate content of various foods:
(% Calories from Carbohydrate)

Beef 0
Chicken 0
Fish (Cod) 0
Cheddar Cheese 1
   
Potato 91
Peas 72
Wheat Flour 86
Banana 91
Apples 90
Spinach 64
Tomatoes 75

Carbohydrate (commonly known as sugar) is the body’s preferred fuel for energizing itself for daily activities.  Fatigue results when the body runs out of carbohydrates.30  The human brain and other nervous tissues use carbohydrates as fuel almost all the time, and only burn fat under duress, such as during starvation.  Red blood cells and cells of the kidney will only burn carbohydrates – if none are available, then the body will make carbohydrates out of protein (by gluconeogenesis).  Carbohydrate burns clean, leaving only carbon dioxide to be exhaled by the lungs and water eliminated by the kidneys. 

The human body seeks carbohydrate and derives great pleasure from consuming these sweet-tasting substances – remember the sweet-tasting taste buds on the tip of your tongue.  Consumed carbohydrates satisfy the hunger drive and regulate the body’s intake of food – keeping the body weight at the correct level, thereby preventing obesity.10  Carbohydrates are healthiest when consumed in an unrefined, unprocessed state, like in potatoes, rice, asparagus, oranges, etc.  As processed simple sugars, refined flours, and polished grains they can cause problems for the body.

Meat has No Vitamin C
Compare the vitamin C content of various foods:
(Milligrams per 100 Calories)

Beef 0
Chicken 0
Fish (Cod) 0
Cheddar Cheese 0
   
Potato 15
Peas 0
Wheat Flour 0
Banana 10
Apples 10
Spinach 42
Tomatoes 88

Meat-eating animals (carnivores and omnivores) can make ascorbic acid from the raw materials found in meat.  Animals that are basically vegetarian, like humans, must have preformed ascorbic acid in their food – this is called vitamin C.  Deficiency of this vitamin results in scurvy – a disease that affects all of the body’s tissues causing loose teeth, bleeding, fragility of the blood vessels, compromised immunity, and anemia.  (A diet centered around grains and/or legunes must have added fruits and vegetables to supply vitamins A and C.)

Meat has Almost No calcium
Compare the calcium content of various foods:
(Milligrams per 100 Calories)

Beef 2  
Chicken 6  
Fish (Cod) 13

  (with bones)

Cheddar Cheese 51  
     
Potato 10  
Peas 11  
Wheat Flour 10  
Banana 7  
Apples 12  
Spinach 580  
Tomatoes 23  

Unless you eat the bones of the animal, eating meat of any kind results in almost no calcium intake.  Fortunately our requirement for calcium is very low – actually 150 to 200 mg of calcium per day is adequate.31   Obviously, recommendations to consume 800 to 1500 mg of calcium a day are far in excess of our needs (but promote the dairy and calcium supplement industries’ needs).  People get confused when they fail to realize bone loss is actually due to the excess protein and acid in the animal foods, rather than any deficiency of calcium.

Meat is Full of Environmental Contaminants
The animals that we slaughter for meat are high on the food chain and as a result environmental chemicals are concentrated in their bodies. The main sources of these toxic chemicals are the grasses they graze on, and the grains they eat.32,33   When cattle, poultry, or fish eat plants with even low levels of contaminants, those chemicals are stored and concentrated in their fatty tissues, where they can remain for many years. Those fatty tissues are the same tissues that eventually find their way onto your plate.  Estimates are 89% to 99% of the environmental chemicals in our body are from our food, and most of this is from foods high on the food chain – meat, poultry, fish, and dairy products.34,35   Growing plants do not absorb many of these contaminants, rather they are carried on their surfaces (therefore plant-foods can be largely freed of these chemicals by peeling or washing them).

But not all of the contaminants found in meats are from environmental pollution - some are deliberately fed to the animals by the farmers who raise them.   Hormones, stimulants, and antibiotics are routinely used by farmers to speed growth and combat infectious diseases in crowded conditions.36,37  If you eat beef or poultry raised under these types of conditions, you are consuming an assortment of powerful animal drugs as well.

Once they are deposited in your body fat they stay there indefinitely.  These chemicals can then affect you later in life, threatening the fetus developing in a woman’s uterus and the baby nursing from her breasts.   These chemicals damage the nervous system causing a decrease in mental function and neurologic diseases as life-threatening as Parkinson’s disease.38,39  Major cancers are started and promoted by these chemicals.40,41  With weight loss, these stored chemicals are released into the blood stream and eliminated from the body. 42,43 After elimination, by following a healthy diet with plant foods low on the food chain, you can prevent re-accumulation of these toxins in your body.  You will become cleaned out!

Cooking Meat Produces Carcinogens
Animal foods can create a whole other set of toxic chemicals during cooking. Studies have shown that meat cooked over high heat, like a charcoal fire, can produce a powerful carcinogen, called benzopyrene.44-46  In animal tests, benzopyrene causes lymphomas, thymomas, stomach cancer, and leukemia. But it’s not just charcoal cooking that causes the formation of cancer-causing chemicals of many kinds; any high-temperature cooking method of meat puts you at serious risk.

Meat Is Teeming with Microbes
Humans are physiologically similar to all other animals.  Therefore, we are susceptible to the wide range of bacteria, parasites, and viruses that infect the animals we eat. More than 200 diseases are transmitted through food.  The infectious microorganisms include salmonella, trichinella, toxoplasmosis, parasites, “mad cow,” hepatitis viruses, and cancer viruses.   Estimates are that each year in the United States there are approximately 76 million cases of food-borne illness.  Most of these illnesses are undiagnosed, but approximately 325,000 cases result in hospitalization, and 5,000 cases are fatal.47  To compound the problems, bacteria which cause infections are becoming ever more resistant to antibiotics because of the use of these drugs in animal farming.48

It’s true that plant foods are subjected to plenty of exposure to bacteria, parasites, and other infectious agents.  However, the biochemical makeup of plants is so different from ours, that the microorganisms that infect them rarely affect us.  You have no friends with Dutch elm disease or aphids.  If a plant food does contain an organism that threatens our health, then it is almost certainly a contaminant from an animal source, usually feces. Proper food handling and preparation will avoid animal waste contamination of healthy vegetable foods.

Take a Giant Step Forward
By now I hope I’ve convinced you that all types of meat - even fish (for more information see the February 2003 – “Fish is Not Health Food,” and the July 2003 – “Meat in the Human Diet,” Newsletters) – are not nutritionally necessary, and short and long-term consumption can result in a wide variety of diseases that commonly afflict people following Western diets. But I know that old habits are hard to break, and that pressures from family and friends can be very powerful. As a doctor I feel obliged to teach you the best.  When you tell me you don’t want lung cancer and ask me how many cigarettes you should smoke, I have only one answer for you – none.  If you have had a heart attack and don’t want another one, when you ask me how much meat (cholesterol and fat) you should eat, I have only one answer. However, this is not an all or nothing approach, so you can expect improvements even with a shift toward more starches, vegetables, and fruits.

You may be thinking, OK, I’ll cut back on meat and only eat it once in a while. That can’t hurt me too much, right?  Well, you may be lucky.  However, I truly believe that the easiest way to make the change to a healthier life is to do it all or nothing.  People respond better when they have clean breaks with old habits.  Have you ever met a smoker who quit by cutting down?  Or an alcoholic who switched to beer to dry out?  I haven’t.  And so it is with food.  Take the attitude that you want to permanently leave behind your poor health and portly appearance by making a serious decision. This way you can get all the old favorite foods out of the refrigerator.  You are then placed in the position of finding and learning to like new healthy foods.  The big improvements you will see in your health will keep you motivated to eat well and exercise.

References:
1)  Marcus E.  Vegan: The New Ethics of Eating.  McBooks Press.

2)  Hunt JR.  Bioavailability of iron, zinc, and other trace minerals from vegetarian diets. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003 Sep;78(3 Suppl):633S-639S.

3)  Sanders TA.  The nutritional adequacy of plant-based diets.  Proc Nutr Soc. 1999 May;58(2):265-9.

4)  Feinle C.  Carbohydrate and satiety.  Nutr Rev. 2002 Jun;60(6):155-69.

5)  Roos G.  Men, masculinity and food: interviews with Finnish carpenters and engineers.  Appetite. 2001 Aug;37(1):47-56.

6)  Hendriks WH.  Vitamin E requirement of adult cats increases slightly with high dietary intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids. J Nutr. 2002 Jun;132(6 Suppl 2):1613S-5S.

7)  Bradshaw JW.  Food selection by the domestic cat, an obligate carnivore.  Comp Biochem Physiol A Physiol. 1996 Jul;114(3):205-9.

8)  Stratton-Phelps M.  Dietary rice bran decreases plasma and whole-blood taurine in cats.  J Nutr. 2002 Jun;132(6 Suppl 2):1745S-7S.

9)  Diraison F. Differences in the regulation of adipose tissue and liver lipogenesis by carbohydrates in humans. J Lipid Res. 2003 Apr;44(4):846-53. Epub 2003 Feb 01.

10)  Anderson GH.  Consumption of sugars and the regulation of short-term satiety and food intake.  Am J Clin Nutr. 2003 Oct;78(4):843S-849S.

11)  Kritchevsky D.  The effect of over- and undernutrition on cancer.  Eur J Cancer Prev.1995 Dec;4(6):445-51.

12)  Key TJ.  Body mass index, serum sex hormones, and breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2003 Aug 20;95(16):1218-26.

13)  McDougall J.  The McDougall Program for Women.  Plume 2000.

14)  Blundell JE.  Control of human appetite: implications for the intake of dietary fat. Annu Rev Nutr. 1996;16:285-319.

15)  Ip C.  Review of the effects of trans fatty acids, oleic acid, n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, and conjugated linoleic acid on mammary carcinogenesis in animals.  Am J Clin Nutr. 1997 Dec;66(6 Suppl):1523S-1529S.

16)  Mann JI.  Diet and risk of coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes.  Lancet. 2002 Sep 7;360(9335):783-9.

17)  Mayer M.  Essential fatty acids and related molecular and cellular mechanisms in multiple sclerosis: new looks at old concepts. Folia Biol (Praha). 1999;45(4):133-41.

18)  McDougall J.  The McDougall Plan.  New Win. 1983.

19)  Cupisti A.  Vegetarian diet alternated with conventional low-protein diet for patients with chronic renal failure.  J Ren Nutr. 2002 Jan;12(1):32-7.

20)  Lemann J Jr.  Relationship between urinary calcium and net acid excretion as determined by dietary protein and potassium: a review.  Nephron. 1999;81 Suppl 1:18-25.

21)  Barzel US.  Excess dietary protein can adversely affect bone.  J Nutr. 1998 Jun;128(6):1051-3.

22)  Kjeldsen-Kragh J. Rheumatoid arthritis treated with vegetarian diets.  Am J Clin Nutr. 1999 Sep;70(3 Suppl):594S-600S.

23)  Yu H. Role of the insulin-like growth factor family in cancer development and progression.  J Natl Cancer Inst. 2000 Sep 20;92(18):1472-89.

24)  Remer T. Potential renal acid load of foods and its influence on urine pH.  J Am Diet Assoc. 1995 Jul;95(7):791-7.

25)  Maurer M.  Neutralization of Western diet inhibits bone resorption independently of K intake and reduces cortisol secretion in humans.  Am J Physiol Renal Physiol. 2003 Jan;284(1):F32-40.

26)  Davidson MH.  Comparison of the effects of lean red meat vs lean white meat on serum lipid levels among free‑living persons with hypercholesterolemia: a long‑term, randomized clinical trial.  Arch Intern Med. 1999;159:1331‑8.

27)  Halliday HL.  Cow's milk and anemia in preterm infants.  Arch Dis Child. 1985 Jan;60(1):69-70.

28)  de Valk B.  Iron, atherosclerosis, and ischemic heart disease.  Arch Intern Med. 1999 Jul 26;159(14):1542-8.

29)  Weisburger JH.  Dietary fat and risk of chronic disease: mechanistic insights from experimental studies.  J Am Diet Assoc. 1997 Jul;97(7 Suppl):S16-23.

30)  Fogelholm M.  Dairy products, meat and sports performance. Sports Med. 2003;33(8):615-31.

31)  Paterson C. Calcium requirements in man: a critical review.  Postgrad Med J 54:244-8, 1978.

32)  Fries G. Transport of organic environmental contaminants to animal products.  Rev Environ Contam Toxicol. 1995;141:71-109.

33)  Tsutsumi T.  Update of daily intake of PCDDs, PCDFs, and dioxin-like PCBs from food in Japan.  Chemosphere. 2001 Dec;45(8):1129-37.

34)  Duarte-Davidson R.  Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in the UK population: estimated intake, exposure and body burden.  Sci Total Environ. 1994 Jul 11;151(2):131-52.

35)  Liem AK.  Exposure of populations to dioxins and related compounds.  Food Addit Contam. 2000 Apr;17(4):241-59.

36)  Epstein S.  The chemical jungle: today's beef industry.  Int J Health Serv. 1990;20(2):277-80.

37)  Balter M.  Scientific cross-claims fly in continuing beef war.  Science. 1999 May 28;284(5419):1453, 1455.

38)  Obata T.  Environmental estrogen-like chemicals and hydroxyl radicals induced by MPTP in the striatum: a review.  Neurochem Res. 2002 May;27(5):423-31.

39)  Overstreet DH.  Organophosphate pesticides, cholinergic function and cognitive performance in advanced age.  Neurotoxicology. 2000 Feb-Apr;21(1-2):75-81.

40)  Pollack N.  Environmental persistence of chemicals and their carcinogenic risks to humans.  Mutat Res. 2003 Jul 25;528(1-2):81-91.

41)  Richter ED.  Ames, pesticides, and cancer revisited.  Int J Occup Environ Health. 2002 Jan-Mar;8(1):63-72.

42)  Chevrier J.  Body weight loss increases plasma and adipose tissue concentrations of potentially toxic pollutants in obese individuals. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2000 Oct;24(10):1272-8.

43)  Imbeault P.  Increase in plasma pollutant levels in response to weight loss in humans is related to in vitro subcutaneous adipocyte basal lipolysis.  Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2001 Nov;25(11):1585-91.

44)  Kazerouni N.  Analysis of 200 food items for benzo[a]pyrene and estimation of its intake in an epidemiologic study.  Food Chem Toxicol. 2001 May;39(5):423-36.

45)  Knize MG.  Food heating and the formation of heterocyclic aromatic amine and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon mutagens/carcinogens.
Adv Exp Med Biol. 1999;459:179-93.

46)  Weisburger JH.  Comments on the history and importance of aromatic and heterocyclic amines in public health.  Mutat Res. 2002 Sep 30;506-507:9-20.

47)  Mead P. Food-related illness and death in the united states reply to dr. hedberg  Emerg Infect Dis. 1999 Nov;5(6):841-2.

48)  White D.  Models of antimicrobial resistance and foodborne illness: examining assumptions and practical applications.  J Food Prot. 2003 Apr;66(4):700-9.

Email this page to a friend or coworker

 

 

 

  You may subscribe to this free
McDougall Newsletter at http://www.drmcdougall.com
Newsletter archive

2003 John McDougall All Rights Reserved