Are you aware of the television commercials from Meat and Livestock Australia spruiking the supposed nutritional benefits of eating red meat? They featured actor Sam Neill and an orangutan named Dennis (surname unknown).

Sam

There’s no doubt he’s handsome, charismatic and intelligent.

I just wish I could say the same about Sam.

If I was wanting information on the health and nutritional benefits of red meat,  I’d rather rely on more objective sources than the industry that sells it.

The following authors and organisations have highlighted serious health concerns involving animal food products or commented on the benefits of the plant-based alternative:

Dr T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell II, “The China Study” [1]

  • Dr. Campbell is the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University.
  • The China Study website says, “The research project culminated in a 20-year partnership of Cornell University, Oxford University, and the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine, a survey of diseases and lifestyle factors in rural China and Taiwan. More commonly known as the China Study, ‘this project eventually produced more than 8,000 statistically significant associations between various dietary factors and disease.’”
  • Dr Campbell says, “People who ate the most animal-based foods got the most chronic disease … People who ate the most plant-based foods were the healthiest and tended to avoid chronic disease. These results could not be ignored.”

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine [2]

  • “Scientific research shows that health benefits increase as the amount of food from animal sources in the diet decreases, so vegan diets are the healthiest overall.”
  • “The 9 essential amino acids, which cannot be produced by the body, must be obtained from the diet. A variety of grains, legumes, and vegetables can also provide all of the essential amino acids our bodies require.  It was once thought that various plant foods had to be eaten together to get their full protein value, otherwise known as protein combining or protein complementing. We now know that intentional combining is not necessary to obtain all of the essential amino acids. As long as the diet contains a variety of grains, legumes, and vegetables, protein needs are easily met.”
  • “With the traditional Western diet, the average American consumes about double the protein her or his body needs. Additionally, the main sources of protein consumed tend to be animal products, which are also high in fat and saturated fat.”
  • And on calcium [3]Get your protein from plants, not animal products. Animal protein – in fish, poultry, red meat, eggs, and dairy products – tends to leach calcium from the bones and encourages its passage into the urine. Plant protein – in beans, grains, and vegetables – does not appear to have this effect.”

World Cancer Research Fund [4]

  • “There is strong evidence that red and processed meats are causes of bowel cancer, and that there is no amount of processed meat that can be confidently shown not to increase risk.”
  • “Aim to limit intake of red meat to less than 500g cooked weight (about 700-750g raw weight) a week. Try to avoid processed meats such as bacon, ham, salami, corned beef and some sausages.”

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Harvard University [5]

  • “Eating red meat is associated with a sharply increased risk of death from cancer and heart disease, according to a new study, and the more of it you eat, the greater the risk. The analysis, published online Monday in Archives of Internal Medicine, used data from two studies that involved 121,342 men and women who filled out questionnaires about health and diet from 1980 through 2006.”
  • “Previous studies have linked red meat consumption and mortality, but the new results suggest a surprisingly strong link.”
  • “‘When you have these numbers in front of you, it’s pretty staggering,’ said the study’s lead author, Dr. Frank B. Hu, a professor of medicine at Harvard.”

Geoff Russell, “CSIRO Perfidy”  [6]

  • CSIRO is the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.
  • The “plot” from the book:
  • Researchers in the 1990s discovered the similarities between damage to lung DNA from cigarettes and damage to bowel DNA caused by red meat:  . . . red meat induced . . . [a reaction in the bowel] similar to . . . cigarette smoke.” UK medical researchers, 1996
  • CSIRO research scientists, early 2006: “Earlier reports suggested that high intake of red or processed meats could be a risk factor [for bowel cancer]. Three large population studies have recently confirmed those earlier reports.”
  • Documents obtained under Freedom of Information legislation show that CSIRO researchers informed the CSIRO Board “Recent findings from [CSIRO] scientists have established that diets high in red meat, processed meats and the dairy protein casein can significantly increase the risk of bowel cancer.” CSIRO scientists inform the CSIRO Board, April 2006
  • Despite the above, CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet, Book 2, October 2006: “Studies have shown that fresh red meat (beef and lamb) is not a significant risk factor for colorectal cancer.”

American Dietetic Association [7]

  • “It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes. A vegetarian diet is defined as one that does not include meat (including fowl) or seafood, or products containing those foods.”

Dr Caldwell Esselstyn  [8]

  • Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn has served as President of the American Association of Endocrine Surgeons and was the first recipient of the Benjamin Spock Award for Compassion in Medicine. He is a former Olympic gold medal rower, and received the Bronze Star while serving as an army surgeon in the Vietnam war. He is a former member of the Board of Governors at the Cleveland Clinic, and has been credited by former President Bill Clinton as a key person responsible for his transition to a vegan diet. (Dr T. Colin Campbell, referred to above, was another. They have both been featured in the documentary film “Forks Over Knives“.)
  • “If the truth be known coronary artery disease is a toothless paper tiger that need never, ever exist and if it does exist it need never, ever progress.”
  • The cause of heart disease “is the typical western diet of processed oils, dairy, and meat which destroys the life jacket of our blood vessels known as our endothelial cells. This cell layer is a one cell thick lining of all of our blood vessels. Endothelial cells manufacture a magical protective molecule of gas called nitric oxide, which protects our blood vessels. It keeps our blood flowing smoothly, it is the strongest dilator (widener), of our blood vessels, it inhibits the formation of blockages (plaques), and it inhibits inflammation.”
  • Dr Esselstyn argues that most of the medical profession’s focus in relation to heart disease is on treating symptoms, rather than curing or preventing the underlying disease. [9]
  • He recommends a diet comprising vegetables, legumes, whole grains and fruit.
  • Something that may surprise some is that he recommends against consuming avocado, nuts and oils, including olive oils. (More on that in a future post.)

National Cancer Institute and Loma Linda University [10]

  • Kathy Freston reported in Huffington Post in December 2012:
  • “A new study . . . reported that vegans have lower rates of cancer than both meat-eaters and vegetarians. Vegan women, for example, had 34 percent lower rates of female-specific cancers such as breast, cervical, and ovarian cancer. And this was compared to a group of healthy omnivores who ate substantially less meat than the general population (two servings a week or more), as well as after controlling for non-dietary factors such as smoking, alcohol, and a family history of cancer.”
  • Studies comparing levels of [cancer-promoting growth hormone] IGF-1 in meat-eaters vs. vegetarians vs. vegans suggest that we should lean toward eliminating animal products from our diets altogether. This is supported by the new study in which the thousands of American vegans studied not only had lower rates of obesity, diabetes, and hypertension, but significantly lower cancer risk as well.”
  • “This makes sense when you consider the research done by Drs. Dean Ornish and Nobel Prize winner Elizabeth Blackburn; they found that a vegan diet caused more than 500 genes to change in only three months, turning on genes that prevent disease and turning off genes that cause breast cancer, heart disease, prostate cancer, and other illnesses.”
  • “This is empowering news, given that most people think they are a victim of their genes, helpless to stave off some of the most dreaded diseases.”

Will Tuttle, “The World Peace Diet” [11]

  • In his 2005 book, “The World Peace Diet”, Will Tuttle referred extensively to the detrimental health impacts of eating animals, including comments on the growth hormone IGF-1, as referred to above.
  • Also included in his comments is material on the main protein in cow’s milk, casein, which has a molecular weight more than 16 times that of a human mother’s milk.
  • In respect of casein, he states: ” . . . because it is so durable and sticky, [it] is used as a binder in paint, and as the glue that holds plywood together and sticks labels to bottles. It is perfect for building a calf’s tissues but causes incalculable harm to humans.”
  • In addition to referring to various conditions linked with dairy products, he writes: “Can the sensitive human tissues that make up the young child’s mind-body system possibly be properly formed with the gluey and cumbersome casein and excess fat that are meant for growing young bovines?”. (Let’s remember that dairy cows can commonly weigh over 400 kilograms or 880 pounds.)
  • “To continue to eat dairy products into adolescence and adulthood compounds and reinforces the tragedy.”

Conclusion

It seems common sense that the food we eat will affect our health. Based on the evidence referred to here and elsewhere, a general move away from animal products seems essential if we are to meaningfully reduce the risk of experiencing chronic diseases that are reaching epidemic proportions. We need to consider the matter objectively, rather than acting on the basis of cultural, social and commercial conditioning. The power is in our hands.

Images:

“Sam Neill” | © Denis Makarenko | Dreamstime.com

“Orangutan | © Valariej | Dreamstime.com (This is not Dennis from the commercials)

“Medical team in operating room” | © Nyul | Dreamstime.com

References:

[1] Campbell, T.C. & Campbell, T.M. “The China Study”, Wakefield Press, 2007, http://www.thechinastudy.com/

[2] Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, http://www.pcrm.org/about/about/about-pcrm; http://www.pcrm.org/health/diets/vegdiets/how-can-i-get-enough-protein-the-protein-myth http://www.pcrm.org/health/diets/vegdiets/vegetarian-foods-powerful-for-health

[3] Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, “Calcium and Strong Bones” http://www.tcolincampbell.org/courses-resources/article/calcium-and-strong-bones/?tx_ttnews[backPid]=76&cHash=ecaa8da224c1dcd787275de3da8dcffd

[4] World Cancer Research Fund “Cancer prevention recommendations and videos”, http://www.wcrf.org/cancer_research/cup/recommendations.php

[5] Bakalar, N., “Risks: More Red Meat, More Mortality”, The New York Times, 12 March, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/13/health/research/red-meat-linked-to-cancer-and-heart-disease.html?_r=1&scp=2&sq=red%20meat%20harvard&st=cse#

[6] Russell, G., “CSIRO Perfidy”, Vivid Publishing, 2009, http://www.perfidy.com.au/

[7] Craig, W.J., Mangels, A.R., American Dietetic Association, “Position of the American Dietetic Association: vegetarian diets.”, J Am Diet Assoc. 2009 Jul;109(7):1266-82, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19562864

[8] Freston, K., “Heart Disease: A Toothless Paper Tiger That Need Never Exist”, Huffpost Healthy Living, 27 October 2009, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kathy-freston/heart-disease-a-toothless_b_334285.html

[9] Caldwell B Esselstyn Jr, MD “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease” http://www.heartattackproof.com/excerpt.htm

[10] Freston, K., “A Vegan Diet (Hugely) Helpful Against Cancer”, Huffpost Healthy Living, 9 December 2012, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kathy-freston/vegan-diet-cancer_b_2250052.html?ref=topbar&utm_hp_ref=fb&src=sp&comm_ref=false#sb=3513286,b=facebook

[11] Tuttle, W. “The World Peace Diet”, Lantern Books, 2005, pp. 114 & 124, http://www.theworldpeacediet.com/

Blog Author: Paul Mahony (Also on Twitter, Scribd and Slideshare)

Note: None of the information in this article is intended to represent health, medical, dietary, nutritional or similar advice.