2.51 WFPB – Why No Meat, Seafood or Dairy?
The health benefits of a whole food plant based diet are well established. Prevent and/or reverse heart disease, stroke, diabetes, many cancers and autoimmune disease as well. Why is a WFPB diet so powerful? Perhaps it is the nutrient dense, low calorie nature of plant foods that provide large amounts of health promoting fiber and way more vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients (more than 25,000 to be exact that occur ONLY in plants) that most Americans do not get enough of in their diet. Maybe it is simply the fact that eating animal based foods such as meat and dairy are just so harmful to our health that eliminating them completely gives the body the chance to finally begin to heal itself. Whatever the reason, likely a combination of the two, eliminating animal based foods promotes good health.
There are a number of reasons why animal based protein sources are not good for overall health and specifically for heart health. These include the following:
- Saturated fat
- Animal protein
- Heme iron
- TMAO (trimethylamine oxide)
Cholesterol is not an essential nutrient as our liver produces enough for our body’s needs. We do not need to eat any cholesterol to survive…there is no such thing as a cholesterol deficiency. Any cholesterol that we eat simply contributes to the development of cholesterol plaque build-up leading to heart disease, stroke, aneurysms and vascular disease. So why eat any at all? We shouldn’t, especially if heart disease is already present. Cholesterol only comes in animal based foods and is completely absent in plant based foods. Chicken ends up being the #1 source of cholesterol in the American diet simply because of the large volume of chicken that American’s eat. Eggs are the number two source containing 200-240 mg in each egg. Even seafood such as shrimp and fish contain high amounts of cholesterol. Fatty dairy products like butter, milk and cheese will have high amounts of cholesterol.
Actually dropping the cholesterol intake in your diet to zero has a significant effect on blood cholesterol levels, while simply reducing cholesterol in the diet is not anywhere near as good. This has to do with a number of factors, but mostly the dietary cholesterol absorption variability from person to person and how our “hepatobiliary re-circulation” or “enterohepatic circulation” of cholesterol works. If you did not start the HeartStrong.com program from the beginning, learn more about cholesterol here.
A good comparison to use while thinking of dietary cholesterol absorption is smoking tobacco products. We know that smoking tobacco is bad for you leading to heart disease, lung disease, cancer and other health problems. Does the USDA or American Heart Association say it is OK to smoke 10 cigarettes per day? How about 5 cigarettes? Two or 1 cigarettes? No…they say do not smoke ANY at all. You do not need to smoke cigarettes to live…you do not need to eat cholesterol to live. Smoking just causes harm…cholesterol in your diet just causes harm…so why eat any cholesterol at all? We shouldn’t…so eat only plants!
Saturated fats have a significant negative impact on heart health and should be limited or avoided completely. You do not need to eat ANY saturated fat to live as they are not “essential” in our diet like other nutrients may be. Saturated fat intake leads to higher blood cholesterol levels and thus increases heart disease risk. Saturated fats are found in high amounts almost exclusively in animal based foods with few exceptions.
Research clearly shows that animal protein promotes cancer cell growth and has been associated with heart disease, stroke and an overall increased risk of death. Animal protein itself, regardless of cholesterol has been implicated strongly in the development of heart disease, stroke and cancer. This is well discussed in the book “The China Study” and “Proteinaholic”. The published data clearly support this notion.
Insulin Like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1)
IGF-1 is strongly linked to the development of multiple cancers. High levels of IGF-1 promote cancer grown. Animal based foods such as meat and dairy clearly increase the levels of IGF-11.
Heme iron is the type of iron, bound to a molecule called “heme”, that is found in animal based foods while non-heme iron is found in plants. The problem is that heme iron results in the production of harmful “free radicals” which cause significant damage leading to disease2.
TMAO (trimethylamine oxide)
TMAO is a substance that is very “atherogenic” meaning it significantly contributes to the development of atherosclerosis and cholesterol plaque build-up. TMAO is made by microorganisms found in our gut, however it is only made in large amounts with animal based foods such as meat are consumed. When eating a plant based diet, TMAO levels are very low protected your arteries from being damaged by this molecule.
High intake of dietary phosphorus leads to increased FGF23 (Fibroblast growth factor 23) which can damage the endothelium leading to cholesterol plaque build-up. Animal products are high in phosphorus while most plant based foods are not.
Toxins made by bacteria survive the cooking process and can cause harmful effects on your overall health.
I Thought Humans Were Suppose to Eat Meat
This is not the case at all. While humans have been eating animal based foods for 2.5 million years according to historical records, we are still anatomically and physiologically designed to be herbivores. While it is clear that humans are indeed omnivores since we CAN eat meat, that does not mean that we should be or that eating meat is good for us as you have learned. Lets briefly examine human anatomy and physiology.
Anatomically humans have herbivore:
- Teeth – rounded canines, not sharp
- Jaws – side to side motion
- Nails – short and soft. Not well adapted to eating meat and hunting
- Intestines that are long to digest plant food while short intestines are present in carnivores to expel animal waste quickly
- Diets high in animal products cause a myriad of diseases
- Stomach acid that is weak compared to carnivores. Strong acid is required to kill bacteria in meat
- Lack of ability to make vitamin C (humans need to get it from plants) while carnivores make their own vitamin C
- Psychology against eating animals (no pleasure obtained killing animals, being repulsed by the site of blood instead of excited like carnivores)
- Excess protein which is high in animal foods also contribute to many diseases
- Humans require fiber (only found in plants) to stimulate bowel movements
- Essentially all food poisoning is from animal foods or from the excrement of animals onto plant based foods
The notion that since humans have been eating animal based foods for 2.5 million years means that current humans should do so does not make sense. Historically, humans ate what was available for survival purposes and life expectancy was very short. Even the “hunter gatherers” did not eat meat every day and had a large amount of plant foods in their diet.
In current times, now that antibiotics and vaccines have rid us of most infectious diseases and humans are living longer, we are clearly seeing the negative health effects and chronic diseases that consuming an animal heavy diet clearly cause.
- Allen NE, Appleby PN, Davey GK, Kaaks R, Rinaldi S, Key TJ. The associations of diet with serum insulin-like growth factor I and its main binding proteins in 292 women meat-eaters, vegetarians, and vegans. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2002; 1(11):1441-1448
- Atamna H. Heme, iron, and the mitochondrial decay of ageing. Ageing Res Rev. 2004;3(3):303-318