The Risks of a Meat-Based Diet

By Tilly Abraham

As a vegetarian, many people ask me what my reasons are for my choice to not eat meat. Although they are mainly ethical, another strong factor is for the good of my health. After revelations about what meat and other animal products do to your body, the sobering truth about eating meat made my vegetarianism even more justified.

  1. Stay out of my arteries

  The meat industry continually promotes the positives of consuming their products. ‘Meat=protein’ is usually the main benefit boasted. But red meat also amounts to a whole lot of cholesterol. High cholesterol can be life-threatening and the main things that contribute towards bad cholesterol (other than what your body naturally makes) are animal products, especially red meat. Therefore, a Vegan diet will usually mean an astonishing lack of cholesterol. This is not to say that all big meat-eaters have high cholesterol: for example, fish and chicken are much healthier alternatives.

High cholesterol, however, could lead and is linked to a bounty of other health issues such as: coronary heart disease, strokes, diabetes and peripheral arterial disease.

 2.The C Word

Perhaps the most shocking discovery I have made is that high consumption of animal products can actually cause cancer (sources below).

 My first thought upon learning this was ‘Why did no one tell me?’ – it is well documented and factually correct. The World Health Organisation has even gone as far as to classify processed meat – that is, ham, sausages, bacon and salami- as being a ‘Group 1 Carcinogen’, meaning there is strong evidence that processed animal products cause cancer. In fact, eating 50g of processed meat a day increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18% and veggies are about 40% less likely to develop cancer compared to meat-eaters!

But why would we be sold food that has the potential to kill us? Well, the meat industry is incomprehensibly huge, and in the same way that we are sold alcohol and sweets, from which an immense profit is made, it is no wonder that they conceal the effects of their produce.

Note however, that many food products are said to cause cancer and the like, so moderation in everything is most important.

 3. The long and short of it

Fact time. Our intestines are around 7-13 times the length of our torso. Contrasting this, the length of carnivores/omnivores is around 3-6 times the length of their torso.

The shorter intestinal length means that rotting meat, animal proteins, cholesterol, trans fats, and saturated fats pass through the intestines quickly, thus it is nearly impossible for carnivores to clog their arteries. Consequently, with the longer intestinal length, almost 52% of meat-eaters suffer from or are killed from clogged arteries.

Moreover, we humans and other herbivores have carbohydrate digestive enzymes in our saliva – which is a massive nod to the fact we are supposed to eat fruit and veg! Even the way we eat is indicative of this: we grind our food with our teeth (which are broad, blunt and spade-shaped) the same way other herbivores eat. Carnivores, on the other hand, possess sharp, fanged teeth, which are used to rip and swallow flesh (contrasting our grind and chew motion) – hinting to their biological intention for meat-eating.

 4.Got Milk?

Besides meat – the by-products of animals can also have their health risks. As a vegetarian it is true that I drink milk. However, the startling facts of what is actually in milk have left me reaching for the nut-based alternatives… Human breast milk is deemed the most nutritious thing for a newborn baby. This is because it is intended to aid the growth and development of a child. Therefore, cows’ milk is intended to aid the development of a calf – not a person.

But what’s worth further considering is the chemical cocktail that makes up cows’ milk: growth hormones, steroids, hypothalamic and thyroid hormones to name a few.

It is also estimated that there are around 350 million cell-counts of pus per litre of milk– yum. This comes from infected udders on the cow, often caused by excessive milking, and the consumption of this pus is well linked to Crohn’s disease.

Cows’ blood is also mixed in and any antibiotic medication cows are subjected to due to their mistreatment at dairy farms; however, you can still drink cows’ milk and avoid this by purchasing organic milk which may be more expensive but much better for you.

 Believe it or not you don’t just have to eat grass, the alternatives to animal products are endless! Now that supermarkets offer meat-free and ‘free-from’ ranges: try swapping your cows’ milk with the healthier almond milk. Maybe change your beef mince for Quorn or a bean burger. BONUS POINT: a meatless diet is generally the cheaper option for students!

 Though there are many negative health issues attributed to us from meat – it is not only the meat industry that conceals things about their products. Even soy products – which tend to be marketed at vegetarians – have been found to have protease inhibitors which affect digestion and have excess amounts of oestrogen, putting you at an imbalance. Perhaps the need to be more food savvy is more important now than ever.

Sources:

World Health Organisation – http://www.who.int/features/qa/cancer-red-meat/en/
Gallagher, James. BBC – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-34615621
NHS http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Cholesterol/Pages/Introduction.aspx
BHF https://www.bhf.org.uk/heart-health/risk-factors/high-cholesterol
‘Dairy’ link: http://www.adaptt.org/veganism.html#
‘Humans and Herbivores’ link http://www.adaptt.org/veganism.html#
Groop, Edward. Global Health Centre http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/dangers-of-cows-milk/
‘The dangers of soy’ – http://paleoleap.com/dangers-soy/

Image from Unsplash, by Isidor Emanuel

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