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Detrimental Effects of Animal Foods - Scientific Perspective

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Originally posted on 2/4/2016


I eat a plant-based diet for health reasons first and foremost. Not because other reasons like animal suffering and overuse of resources aren't important, just that health is a more immediately relatable reason for me while the other reasons can become too abstract in the moment of decision-making. And I really care about health because Tex is 30 years my senior, and we want to keep him around as long as possible. Early last year I came across Dr. Michael Greger, who reads the latest nutrition research published every year and makes videos about the most significant ones. His videos, which are freely available on the Internet, are entirely about the nutrition research with very little interpretation. Before I came across him, I knew a few major reasons why consumption of animal foods is harmful and had planned on starting a list like this. Once I started watching his work, though, there were so many ways that animal foods harm the body that I couldn't keep up with my note-taking. But since this information is not widely known, I'm pulling this list together for the benefit of those interested. 
Healthy eating is not just about not eating meat, but also eating more whole fruits/vegetables/beans/grains, which is why eating vegan will not necessarily make you healthier if the diet includes too much processed food. But I'm only focusing on the harm done by meat eating here because people generally don't question that fruits and vegetables are good for them. Meat eating has also been a point of contention with some people about Troy's channeling on diet because he's a passionate vegetarian. I had doubts about it myself early on, when I was still eating meat on a daily basis. But the more research I did, the more consistency I found between Troy's channeling and the latest science. In fact, virtually all but the most esoteric parts of the diet channelings are consistent with the research. We've accept a lot more "whackadoodle" ideas around here with far less validation. Diet can be a touchy subject, so I understand the resistance. That doesn't mean I won't try to challenge it.
A valuable thing I learned from Dr. Greger is that the food industry funds research to put doubt in people's minds about the damaging effects of dietary cholesterol, salt, and saturated fat (which are mainly found in animal products and processed food). And because people can be desperate to justify the status quo, manipulated research gets popularized in the media and repeated as "truth" even though they contradict hundreds of other consistent, better-designed studies. Here are a couple articles explaining the ways that research can be manipulated:
In no particular order, these are some of the most significant reasons I've found to avoid meat and animal foods as much as possible. These were all I could compile last weekend after paring down a lot of material. I'll add more as I have time. I've included brief explanations and links to the extended explanations and sources cited. 
Animal foods have much higher concentrations of environmental toxins and heavy metals from being higher up in the food chain. These toxins are collected in the fat of the animals, so animal fat consumption provide the highest levels of toxins. Highest concentrations of environmental toxins are found in fish. It takes the body about a year to detox mercury from the body, while it takes about 100 years to detox certain dioxins and PCBs. PCBs and dioxins have an estrogenic effect on the body, among other things.
PCB levels in food: highest concentrations found in fish oil, fish, and eggs.
IGF-1 - Our body produces the growth hormone IGF-1 in response to animal protein consumption. IGF-1 levels are naturally high in children while they're growing and drops to lower levels in adults. Higher levels of IGF-1 boosts tumor growth in adults.
Bacterial endotoxins in animal foods (mainly saturated fat) can get into the blood stream and cause inflammation. Endotoxins are not destroyed by cooking, stomach acid, or digestive enzymes. The body produces cholesterol to cover up inflamed areas in the arteries, leading to atherosclerosis. Over time, if the chronic inflammation does not stop, arteries clog up to the point of blockage.
Dietary arachidonic acid - Arachidonic acid is a molecule that triggers the inflammation process. Our body produces all that we need, and dietary intake of arachidonic acid increases inflammation. Chicken and eggs are the highest dietary sources.
Heme-iron (iron from blood) - Iron is a pro-oxidant and over-absorption of iron can oxidize cholesterol and increase inflammation. The body can regulate intake of non-heme iron from plants but cannot regulate heme-iron from meat. Higher intake of heme-iron is associated with higher risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer.
Neu5Gc - molecule from meat and dairy is used by tumors to trigger inflammation and promote tumor growth.
Advanced glycation end products (AGEs) - thought to accelerate the aging process by cross-linking proteins together, causing tissue stiffness, oxidative stress, and inflammation; may play a role in cataract formation and macular degeneration, as well as damage tot he bones, heart, kidneys, and liver; may also accelerate the slow shrinkage of brain over time and contribute to cognitive decline. Highest levels found in meat cooked on high heat, such as roasted/fried chicken, fried bacon, broiled and pan-fried meats.
p.s. For those who are unclear about the the importance of reducing inflammation in the body, chronic inflammation is the primary agent behind the so-called "old-age" diseases like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, cognitive decline, and to a large extent, cancer, for which western medicine has lots of treatments but no effective cure. 
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For the last few years I've been experimenting and researching with what I can do to reduce chronic inflammation. This was never an issue until I hit my late 60's. As you said, it's the main ingredient behind the health problems that occur in seniors. I've mainly adopted the whole food, plant based diet. There have been occasional backslides, though only with fish or fowl. Our kitchen is stocked with organic, non gmo, fruits and veggies. The supermarket aisles are really minefields, with such a large part of the stock causing health issues. Learning about the food health connection is critical. 


I've found certain supplements such as organic turmeric powder, with organic black pepper to boost absorbtion, have had positive results. Also, boswellia extract and a few others. Thanks for sharing your research. This has been a lot of good stuff to follow up on. 



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