According to Dr. Deepak Bhatt, a Harvard Medical School professor and Editor-in-Chief of the Harvard Heart Letter:
“When it comes to getting protein in your diet, meat isn’t the only option. Mounting evidence shows that reducing meat and increasing plant-based protein is a healthier way to go. A diet with any type of meat raises the risk of heart disease and cancer, when compared with a vegetarian diet.” (source)
There’s a big trend happening on our planet right now, and it has to do with our diet. On a mass scale, a lot of people are starting to change the way they eat for multiple reasons. Every single year, it seems that more and more people switch from a meat-eating to a vegetarian or vegan diet. Be it for ethical reasons (animal rights), environmental reasons, or health reasons, it’s a trend that continues to grow.
As a result, more awareness has been created, especially within the past few years, regarding multiple misconceptions when it comes to the vegetarian/vegan diet, and one of them is protein. It’s not uncommon for someone who doesn’t eat meat to be asked, “where do you get your protein?”
There are a lot of misconceptions about not eating meat, and the main one was is probably that it’s necessary to be healthy and to survive. The science actually shows otherwise, “Studies are confirming the health benefits of meat-free eating. Nowadays, plant-based eating is recognized as not only nutritionally sufficient but also as a way to reduce the risk for many chronic illnesses.” – Harvard Medical School (source)
It’s not only nutrition science, but anthropology. Many of our supposed ancestors who roamed the planet before us have long been thought to be heavy meat eaters, but this isn’t true. Although analysis has shown that many were indeed heavy meat eaters, it has also shown that many weren’t meat eaters, that some were completely vegetarian, and some were predominately vegetarian. This suggests, according to some, that the human gut is not designed to digest meat, or, that it’s not necessary to do so.
This theory has also been emphasized due to the fact that modern day meat eating has been linked to a variety of diseases. For example, a recent study published by a team of archaeologists in Europe found that Neanderthals from Spain actually ate no meat at all. So, basing our current behaviour on the notion that “things have always been this way” could actually be completely misguided, despite the fact that this is the general accepted consensus from the masses. But things are changing. You can read more about that in the article linked below, it goes into greater depth about that conversation:
“It’s difficult to comment on ‘the best diet’ for modern humans because there have been and are so many different yet successful diets in our species. Because some hunter-gatherer society obtained most of their dietary energy from wild animal fat and protein does not imply that this is the ideal diet for modern humans, nor does it imply that modern humans have genetic adaptations to such diets.” – Katherine Milton, anthropologist at the University of California, Berkeley (source)
Below is information gathered by Sofia Pineda Ochoa, MD. She’s a practicing physician in Houston, Texas who is certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. She was a biochemistry professor at the University of Guadalajara’s School of Medicine in Mexico, and is also the co-founder of Meat Your Future, an educational non-profit that provides fact-based information about the health, environmental, and ethical implications of consuming animal products.
You can view her article “7 Ways Animal Protein is Damaging Your Health,” here.
Animal Protein & IGF-1 (Increased Cancer Risk)
The IGF-1 levels (the hormone insulin-like growth factor) increases when animal protein intake increases. These levels drop when we are fasting, and that’s one of the reason fasting has been shown to destroy cancer cells, reverse age related diseases, re-generate the immune system and more.
When we take in proteins from animal sources, they have a much higher proportion of the essential amino aids, which in turn produces higher levels of IGF-1.
“This hormone stimulates cell division and growth in both healthy and cancer cells and, for this reason, having higher circulating levels of IGF-1 has been consistently associated with increased cancer risk, proliferation, and malignancy.”
Animal Protein, Heme Iron, and Free Radicals
Iron, for a human, can be consumed in two forms. One is heme iron, found in animal foods like fish, meat and poultry, and the other is non-heme iron which is found predominantly in plant-based foods.
“One of the problems with heme iron is that it can convert less reactive oxidants into highly reactive free radicals. And free radicals can damage different cell structures like proteins, membranes, and DNA….Heme iron can also catalyze the formation of N-Nitroso compounds in our bodies, which are potent carcinogens. So, not surprisingly, high intake of heme iron has been associated with many kinds of gastrointestinal cancers as well as other pathologies.”
The absorption and bioavailability of iron from a well-rounded plant-based diet is adequate for our needs, “and we can avoid the problems associated with heme iron and other negative health attributes of animal foods.”
Higher Sulfur-Containing Amino Acids and Bone Health Problems
Higher concentrations of amino acids that contain sulfur are also found within animal proteins, and this can create a state of acidosis when metabolized.
Metabolic acidosis happens when the body produces too much acid and becomes very acidic. This isn’t good, especially when you think about the fact that many experts warn against an acidic body, and believe that an alkaline diet can actually successfully treat cancer.
Metabolic acidosis forces the body to compensate by leaching calcium from the bones to help neutralize the increased acidity. Over time, all of this can have severe and detrimental effects on bone health, and studies have shown this. Science tells us that nations with high instances of hip fracture and osteoporosis also have a very high calcium intake. Given this correlation, and the fact that animal protein causes metabolic acidosis, sucking the calcium out of the bones — in direct contrast to what the dairy industry would have us believe — it’s easy to see that we have been misled.
This is thought to be one of the reasons why some studies have found that populations with higher dairy consumption, as well as higher consumption of animal protein in general, also have a higher incidence of bone fractures.
Animal Protein & Phosphorus
“Animal protein contains high levels of phosphorus. And when we consume high amounts of phosphorus, one of the ways our bodies normalize the level of phosphorus is with a hormone called fibroblast growth factor 23 (FGF23).
FGF23 has been found to be harmful to our blood vessels. It can also lead to hypertrophy of the cardiac ventricle (abnormal enlargement of our cardiac muscle) and is associated with heart attacks, sudden death, and heart failure. So eating animal protein with its high concentration of phosphorus can result in increased levels of this hormone in our bodies, which in turn is highly problematic for our health.”
Animal Protein & TMAO
Animal protein has higher levels of trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO). TMAO wreaks havoc on our body by creating inflammation, injuring the lining of our vessels, and facilitating “the formation of cholesterol plaques in our blood vessels. And that, of course, is highly problematic for cadiovascuar health.”
“So, consuming animal foods result in higher TMAO levels, which is damaging to our vessels. Even without all of the other problematic aspects of animal foods, this one issue involving TMAO, according to the recent president of the American College of Cardiology Dr. Kim A. Williams, sufficient by itself for people to vigorously avoid animal foods.”
One of the most comprehensive studies ever performed on this subject is “The China Study” conducted by Drs. T. Colin Campbell and Thomas Campbell. Their findings showed direct correlations between nutrition and heart-disease, diabetes, and cancer, proving that cultures that eat primarily plant-based diets have lower to no instances of these diseases and that switching to a plant-based diet can successfully reverse diseases already established in the body. The China Studyis recognized as the most comprehensive nutritional study ever conducted on the relationship between diet and disease. I highly recommend watching the documentary Forks Over Knives (available on Netflix), which delves into this in more detail.
More On Animal Protein Compared To Plant-Based Protein
While underconsumption of protein is harmful to the body, overconsumption comes with risks as well. In the United States, the average omnivore gets more than 1.5 times the optimal amount of protein, and most of that protein is from animal sources. This is bad news, because excess protein is turned into waste or turned into fat. This stored animal protein contributes to weight gain, heart disease, diabetes, inflammation and cancer.
On the other hand, the protein contained in whole plant foods is connected to disease prevention. According to Michelle McMacken, MD, a board-certified internal medicine physician and an assistant professor of medicine at NYU School of Medicine:
“[T]he protein found in whole plant foods protects us from many chronic diseases. There is no need to track protein intake or use protein supplements with plant-based diets; if you are meeting your daily calorie needs, you will get plenty of protein. The longest-lived people on Earth, those living in the “Blue Zones,” get about 10% of their calories from protein, compared with the U.S. average of 15-20%.”
There are many comparisons between plant-based protein compared to protein from meat. You can read more about that in the article linked below which goes into more detail.
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Boy or Girl – Baby Gender Selection Issues
Some parents have the possibility to opt for gender selection; however, being able to decide whether to have a baby boy or girl is a controversial issue.
Many couples expecting a baby do not think it’s a big issue whether they have a boy or a girl; however there are several medical, social, and personal reasons that could influence parents to recur to some form of gender selection.
Like many other controversial practices, the legality of gender selection, also known as sex selection, varies from country to country.
The Legality of Baby Gender Selection
The United States has perhaps some of the most relaxed laws regarding baby gender selection in the world. Most European countries and Australia, on the other hand, have bans on sex selection and only allow it for medical reasons. For example, if a parent is a carrier of a mutation or gene with more chances of manifesting itself in a certain gender, baby gender selection is valid. However, if parents simply wish to balance the ratio of boys and girls in their family, they are not allowed to recur to sex selection.
This has generated a form of medical tourism in which couples from countries where gender selection is illegal, like the UK, travel to the US in order to be able to choose whether to have a baby boy or girl.
On the other hand, sex selection is illegal in the two most populated countries on Earth, China and India. In these countries, baby gender selection has been performed clandestinely for many years and for reasons other than family balancing or avoiding genetic diseases. In these societies, having a baby boy is preferred mainly for cultural and economic reasons. Parents believe that boys have better chances of earning income and eventually support them when they reach an old age.
Methods of Baby Gender Selection
There are two major types of gender selection methods: the first one is called sperm sorting, and involves separating X-chromosome sperm from Y-chromosome sperm by flow cytometry, a purification technique in which chromosomes are suspended in a stream of sperm and identified by an electronic detector before being separated. Intra-uterine insemination or in-vitro fertilization can then be performed with the enriched sperm. The success rates for this method vary from 80% to 93%.
The other method, called pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, consists in generating several embryos through in-vitro fertilization, which are then genetically tested to determine a baby’s gender. The chosen embryos can then be implanted. This method has a success rate of almost 100%; however, it can be quite expensive, costing up to $15,000.
Issues Regarding Baby Gender Selection
While there are few objections against baby gender selection when it is performed for medical reasons, it has become a highly controversial issue when it is used for balancing the number of boys or girls in families. Some people raise the obvious ethical question of whether people who opt for gender selection are “playing God” by manipulating whether to have a baby boy or girl. Others believe that new parents will raise a baby more appropriately if he or she belongs to their preferred gender.
Gender Imbalance Caused by Baby Gender Selection
Gender selection has caused demographic concern in China and India since it has contributed to generate a gender imbalance in the populations of those countries. In some regions of China, for example, the sex ratio for newborns is 118:100, boys to girls. This phenomenon has in turn been associated with social problems such as an increase in violence and prostitution.
It seems like a logical solution for governments around the globe to legalize baby gender selection but to analyze the personal reasons why each couple intends to select a baby boy or girl. Gender selection for medical reasons should even be encouraged, since it could prevent serious genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis, Huntington’s disease, and Haemophilia A. Balancing the gender ratio of a family should be accepted if by doing this, a healthy family environment is created. On the other hand, China and India have shown that baby gender selection as a result of a bias towards a particular gender can not only create a gender imbalance in the population, but contribute to social problems as well.
Organic Certification: What the USDA Organic Label Means
- The Facts:
Organic and natural labels mean different things, and various types of labels tells you what percentage of ingredients are actually organic. We'll explore what to look for.
- Reflect On:
Do you sometimes buy products thinking they are organic or fully natural based on their wording? Have you later found out that those products aren't natural or organic at all? Read labels more closely at grocery stores to be aware.
Don’t get conned by fraudulent claims of “natural” or “organic.” Learn what to look for, and why it’s important, to ensure you’re getting the quality you are paying for.
The industrial age of the 20th century brought about changing agricultural practices that have generated increasing alarm about the effects of these practices on the environment and health. The use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, irradiated and genetically altered food and fiber products has created a groundswell of rightful concern. It has led to the growing demand for non-toxic, organic products that many are willing to pay a higher price for to ensure the healthful purity of food and clothing provided for their families.
With such profit opportunities, it’s little wonder that the lucrative organic product market has suffered abuse with so-called “organic” labels being fraudulently placed on products that have not earned the right. As a result of pressure from farming and consumer groups, legislation for the standardization of organic certification was introduced in the 1980s. It has been updated to include more vigorous enforcement and control methods since, with the current standards established in 2002 by the USDA.
The Standards of USDA Organic Certification
Specific standards must be met in order to legally claim a product as USDA certified organic. Organic producers must utilize methods that conserve water, maximize soil health, and reduce air pollution. The specific standards to earn USDA organic certification include:
• Free of synthetic chemicals such as insecticides, herbicides, fertilizers, hormones, antibiotics, and additives
• Free from irradiation and genetically modified organisms
• Agricultural products grown on land that has been free of prohibited substances for a period of three years
• Animals used for meat, eggs, milk or other animal products must be exclusively fed foods that are organically grown, may not be given antibiotics or hormones, and must have access to outdoors.
• Clean and sanitized harvesting and processing equipment throughout the process from harvest to finished, packaged product
• Detailed chain-of-handling records from the field through final sales
• Physical separation of certified organic products from non-organic products throughout the process of production
• Regular on-site inspections from USDA-approved inspectors to ensure compliance
Understanding the Certified Organic Label
Once the rigorous process of certification has been completed, organic producers may place the USDA certified organic seal on their products. Currently, there are four levels of certified organic products, with a specific definition of the percentage of organic ingredients the final products contains. They are as follows:
• 100% organic: all production methods and ingredients are USDA certified organic.
• Organic: at least 95% of the production methods and ingredients are USDA certified organic with remaining ingredients included on the National List of allowed ingredients.
• Made With Organic Ingredients: at least 70% of the ingredients are USDA certified organic with remaining ingredients included on the National List of allowed ingredients.
• No organic wording or seal: less than 70% of the ingredients are USDA certified organic and no claims may be made on the front or back of the product.
Manufacturers or producers who knowingly label a product “organic” when it does not meet the USDA standards are subject to fines up to $11,000 per violation.
Why Organic Certification is Important
When you see the official USDA organic certification seal on food, clothing, and bedding products, you can be assured that these products have met the meticulous standards required and are free of chemicals, toxins, antibiotics, and hormones. When you see the USDA certified organic label, you will understand the value of the higher priced organic products as compared to non-organically produced products.
With the current stringent organic certification requirements enforced by regular inspections from USDA accredited agents, the USDA certified organic label has great meaning and importance to the consumer. Look for the label to know that you are getting the quality you are paying for.
WHO Finds Global Lack Of Inactivity Rising Especially In Wealthier Countries — What You Can Do
- The Facts:
Inactivity is on the rise and it's the cause of a wide range of health concerns. Our population is only becoming more inactive, not less, and it's time to change that.
- Reflect On:
There are many factors of our modern world that make us less active. Our jobs, driving rather than walking/biking, too much screen time. What can you do differently to bring more activity into your life? What story stops you from starting?
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than a quarter of the entire population on this planet are not getting enough physical exercise, this number has barely improved since 2001. There are many factors that contribute to this, but just how much damage are we doing by failing to be active?
The lack of physical exercise raises the risk of many health problems, such as heart disease, type-2 diabetes and various types of cancers.
Interestingly, according to their study published in The Lancet Global Health, higher income countries, such as the UK, were among the least active population. Women were also found to be more sedentary throughout the world, excluding two regions in Asia.
The study looked at self-reported data on activity levels from 358 population based surveys covering 168 countries and included 1.9 million people.
The populations of higher income countries, which include the UK and USA showed an increase in the proportion of inactive people and had actually risen from 32% in 2001 to 37% in 2016, in the lower income countries it remained at 16%.
Those who were classified as inactive did less than 150 minutes of moderate exercise and around 75 minutes of intense activity per week.
It was found that women were less active than men overall, except for in South and Central Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and higher-income Western countries. The authors believe that this was caused by a few different factors including extra childcare duties and cultural perspectives that may have made it more difficult for them to exercise.
Why More Inactivity In Wealthier Countries?
According to the researchers, in the wealthier countries, many of the jobs have transitioned to more office or desk jobs, meaning a more sedentary type of lifestyle. On top of that much of the population of these countries drive automobiles or take public transit to and from work which in many cases accounts for a lot of their time.
In the lower income countries, many of the jobs require the people to be more active, are physically demanding and people often have to walk to and from their jobs.
The WHO has had a goal to reduce the global levels of inactivity by 10% by 2025, the authors of the study feel that at the rate we are currently going, this target will be missed.
Lead author of the study, Dr. Regina Guthold said, “Unlike other major global health risks, levels of insufficient physical activity are not falling worldwide, on average, and over a quarter of all adults are not reaching the recommended levels of physical activity for good health.”
Regions with increasing levels of insufficient physical activity are a major concern for public health and the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases.”
Co-author, Dr. Fiona Bull added, “Addressing these inequalities in physical activity levels between men and women will be critical to achieving global activity targets and will require interventions to promote and improve women’s access to opportunities that are safe, affordable and culturally acceptable.”
According to the WHO,
Exercise guidelines for 19- to 64-year-olds
- at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity every week
- strength exercises on two or more days a week that work all the major muscles
- break up long periods of sitting with light activity
What is moderate aerobic activity?
- Walking fast, water aerobics, riding a bike on level ground or with a few hills, doubles tennis, pushing a lawn mower, hiking, skateboarding, rollerblading, volleyball, basketball
What counts as vigorous activity?
- Jogging or running, swimming fast, riding a bike fast or on hills, singles tennis, football, rugby, skipping rope, hockey, aerobics, gymnastics, martial arts
What activities strengthen muscles?
- lifting weights, working with resistance bands, doing exercises that use your own body weight, such as push-ups and sit-ups, heavy gardening, such as digging and shovelling, yoga
What activities are both aerobic and muscle-strengthening?
- circuit training, aerobics, running, football, rugby, netball, hockey
I was surprised to see that the WHO didn’t touch on inactivity due to too much screen time — watching television, Netflix, Facebook scrolling, messaging, texting, browsing etc. Certainly, the increase in screen time plays a roll with the amount of inactivity, especially in the higher income countries. If you are someone who spends too much time staring at a screen, then it is important to consider the above information. Can you limit your screen time and replace it with something active? Or would you consider jumping rope, or rebounding while watching the television? Our health is our greatest wealth and having awareness about an issue is the first way to create change and take responsibility for our lives.
Could you walk or bike to work instead of drive? What about trying a new sport? Could you commit to adding a few hours each week of physical activity? These small decisions could have a profound impact on your health, longevity and overall well-being.
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