Kurma, do you think it's healthier to be a vegetarian than a meat
I am doing a school project and have chosen this subject. Please
send me some facts!
Karl Francis, Wagga, NSW Australia
Here are a few facts and figures about the health advantages of
a vegetarian diet. Hope it helps.
- After reviewing 4,500 scientific studies and papers on the relationship
between cancer and lifestyle, a team of 15 scientists sponsored
by two leading cancer research institutions advised that those
interested in reducing their risk of many types of cancer consume
a diet that is mostly fruits, vegetables, cereals and legumes.
They declared that up to 40 percent of cancers are preventable,
with diet, physical activity and body weight appearing to have
a measurable bearing on risk. In 1996 the American Cancer Society
released similar guidelines, including the recommendation that
red meat be excluded entirely from the diet.
- Eating a plant-based diet guards against disease, first
in an active way, with complex carbohydrates, phytochemicals,
antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fibre; then by default: The
more plant foods you eat the less room you have for the animal
foods that clog arteries with cholesterol, strain kidneys with
excess protein and burden the heart with saturated fat. The
American Dietetic Association acknowledges a relationship
between a vegetarian diet and reduced risk of coronary-artery
disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity and certain types of
- An English study that compared the diets of 6,115 vegetarians
and 5,015 meat eaters for 12 years found that the meatless
diet yielded a 40 percent lower risk of cancer and a 20 percent
lower risk of dying from any cause. According to William Castelli,
M.D., director of the famed Framingham Heart Study, vegetarians
outlive meat eaters by 3 to 6 years.
- Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are highly toxic
chemicals once used widely in a number of industrial applications.
Though they are now banned in the United States and other Western
countries, their residues have tended to accumulate in the fatty
tissue of fish. In autumn 1998, a study showed that prenatal exposure
to PCBs, even relatively small amounts, can impair intellectual
development in children. Aside from fish, PCBs can be found in
other high-fat foods such as cheese, butter, beef and pork. Women
who plan to become pregnant were also advised by the study to
avoid foods containing PCBs because the chemicals can remain in
their bodies for years.
- Adult-onset diabetes is irrefutably linked to fat in the
diet. Researchers have found that when diabetics adhere
to a low-fat, high-fiber, complex-carbohydrate (vegetarian) diet
they are often able to reduce or even eliminate their insulin
dosages. Tragically, as people around the world increasingly
adopt meat-based diets, their incidences of this disease - which
leads to aggressive atherosclerosis, gangrene, blindness and kidney
failure - rise dramatically.
- Though osteoporosis is a disease of calcium deficiency,
it is not one of low calcium intake. One cause of the bone
disorder is too much protein in the diet. Excess protein can
leach calcium from the bones. Famed diet innovator Nathan Pritikin
has noted that African Bantu women on low-protein diets take in
a third of US-recommended daily allowances of calcium. "They
bear nine children during their lifetime and breast-feed them
for two years. They never have calcium deficiency [and] never
break a bone." The typical meat-eating Australian is eating
about five times as much protein as needed.
- The iron in animal foods is more readily absorbed than
the iron in plant foods. Once this was thought to be an advantage
of meat, but researchers have found that just as with protein
you can get too much of a good thing. Excess iron can be a
catalyst in the formation of free radicals - unstable molecules
that attack other molecules, setting off a chain reaction of cellular
destruction. Overloading on it can lead to increased risk for
cancer and cirrhosis of the liver, heart disease, arthritis, diabetes
and infertility. A vegetarian is likely to have safer levels
of stored iron.
- Animal foods are high in sodium, which causes the blood
to retain water. They also cause plaque to build up in the arteries,
narrowing the flow area for blood. Combine these phenomena and
you have a recipe for a disease that afflicts about 50 million
Americans: high blood pressure. You can take calcium channel blockers
and diuretics to control it, but you risk losing intellectual
function if you do, studies warn.
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