The typical American diet represents today’s escalating global health and environmental crisis. Authors Shushana Castle and Amy-Lee Goodman offer a look inside the production, packaging and politics of the hazardous foods we gobble up in The Meaty Truth (Skyhorse Publishing, 2014). The following excerpt from “Seriously? You’re Still Sick?” looks at the link between animal protein-based diets and chronic diseases.
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Chronic Disease and Diet
“The doctor of the future will no longer treat the human frame with drugs, but rather will cure and prevent disease with nutrition.” ~ Thomas Edison
Today, 70 percent of deaths in this country are attributed to chronic diseases. These diseases were almost unheard of a mere one hundred years ago. The leading chronic conditions such as heart disease, cancer, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes used to be confined to an aging population, as evidenced by their definition as “degenerative” chronic diseases. Yet now we are seeing them in an increasing number of school-age children.
This generation of children has the highest rate of health problems, including obesity, diabetes, attention deficit disorders, and autism. One in three children are obese, and this is the first generation of children who will have shorter life spans than their parents. Today, one in two Americans die from heart disease, one in eight women are diagnosed with breast cancer, and the chance of being diabetic in America is now one in three. Although we turn to technology to “fix” our health problems, we are no further ahead in our quest for wellness.
So where are we going wrong? It is really quite simple. We are heavily consuming the wrong foods. In the 1900s, Americans got 70 percent of their protein from plant-based foods. Today we get 70 percent of our protein from animal-based foods. Americans consume more meat per person than anywhere else in the world.
As meat and dairy prices have fallen, we have moved to gorging on animal products and processed foods while fruits, vegetables, and whole grains have been largely relegated to the sidelines. We have essentially switched a diet filled with fiber and nutrients and low in cholesterol to one high in saturated and trans fats and cholesterol and devoid of fiber. It is not surprising then that as our meat consumption has nearly doubled and our dairy consumption (particularly of cheese) has quadrupled since the 1950s, so too have our waistlines, health problems, and health-care costs. We have twice the obesity rate, twice the rate of diabetes, and three times the cancer rate than the rest of the world. Although we love to blame our genetics or look to the “history of disease” in our families, it’s time we look at our All-American recipes.
We Aren’t Meat-Eaters!
Most people can agree that factory-farmed meat is bad for our health. Laden with genetically modified organisms, toxins, chemical fillers, growth hormones, ractopamine, arsenic, and antibiotics, this meat is a recipe for health problems. This growing knowledge has spurred nationwide campaigns for “local,” “grass-fed,” and “organic” beef. While these are nice sentiments, the problem is that meat by its very nature is a disaster for our health. The added toxins are just the icing on the cake. The reality is that we were never meant to subsist on meat.
We are led to believe that eating meat and dairy are the building blocks for good health. We think we are doing right for our bodies by filling up on lots of animal protein and drinking cow’s milk. The Paleo Diet is the newest fad that professes we are designed to be meat-eaters. Really? Where did they get that idea? Although the Paleo Diet does rightly state that we need to eat more natural and less processed foods, the fact is that meat is actually not natural for humans to consume.
Why are meat and dairy so bad for us? In short, meat and dairy are pro-inflammatory—meaning they produce inflammation. Inflammation is the genesis of every chronic disease. Just like we strive to keep a balance between work and play, our bodies need to maintain an optimal pH balance (slightly alkaline) to be healthy. Meat and dairy are highly acidic and disrupt this balance, creating an ideal environment for disease to thrive. Cancer loves the acidic environment created by a meat and dairy diet. Every bite of meat and dairy is akin to a drop of poison that our bloodstreams carry throughout our bodies—affecting each and every system, from our respiratory, immune, and endocrine to our musculoskeletal. Additives from factory farms such as growth hormones and antibiotics are just added abuse.
Let’s examine some important anatomical differences between us and carnivores that place us firmly in the herbivore category. If we compare carnivores, omnivores, and herbivores, our anatomy most closely resembles that of plant-eating apes and chimpanzees. Firstly, we have blunt teeth, not fangs for ripping meat. Most carnivores are capable of swallowing ripped chunks of raw meat whole. If we tried to do the same, we would end up choking. Secondly, we have long digestive tracts, whereas carnivores have very short digestive tracts. When we eat meat, it putrefies in our digestive systems, leading to disease. With a short digestive tract, natural carnivores avoid meat putrefying in their colon and digestive tract.
Finally, we aren’t meant to function on protein, especially animal protein. Despite marketing myths, protein is not the most efficient or effective energy source. In fact, protein often tires us. Many of us have experienced a “food coma” after a heavily animal-protein meal. What are our bodies most efficiently designed to process? Carbohydrates. That’s right. Unlike carnivores, our stomachs produce amylase, an acid used to break down carbohydrates found in plants. Marketing has pitted carbohydrates as the enemy, but the truth is that our bodies thrive on glucose from carbs. This is the energy that fuels our brains. This does not mean we can eat cake all day. The type of carbohydrate is important. We need complex carbohydrates like whole grains for energy.
For over fifteen years, it has been well established in medical literature that just one meal high in animal fat, such as a typical American breakfast of sausage, scrambled eggs, and cheese, can damage our arteries. When our arteries become inflamed, they are less flexible and become stiff. It takes about four to six hours for our body to combat this inflammation. By that time, it is already time for lunch. When we continue to eat meat and dairy products, we flood our body with acid, creating an acid overload. It is a vicious cycle that keeps our bodies in a perpetual state of chronic, low-grade inflammation that sets the stage for disease, one meal at a time.
Today, doctors, not just in the United States but from around the world, are confirming that our compounding health-care problems and escalating health-care costs are primarily linked to our consumption of meat and dairy products. Study after study and physician after physician (who aren’t paid by the meat and dairy corporations) are showing that dairy and meat products are disease-producing. Four out of the ten leading causes of illness and death in the United States are linked to our meat and dairy-based diets. A mere three-ounce steak can increase our risk of dying by 13 percent! Researchers at both Harvard and Cornell University issued statements saying that the optimal amount of meat in our diets is zero!
Our high rates of chronic conditions stem from our decision to directly go against our plant-eating roots. We can think of our bodies as cars. We can fill our tanks with soda, and the car will run for a while, but eventually it will malfunction. Similarly, we can feed our bodies the wrong fuel, but eventually they will break down.
This excerpt has been reprinted with permission from The Meaty Truth by Shushana Castle and Amy-Lee Goodman and published by Skyhorse Publishing, 2014. Purchase this book from our store: Meaty Truth.