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Would you give your right arm (or leg) for a steak?

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By William M. Mullins, C.P.

The man sitting in my office had just undergone his third amputation in as many years. First, doctors amputated his right foot after a blister refused to heal and gangrene set in. Then, they cut off the leg just below the knee. Now, he had graduated to “AK” (above the knee). He was losing his leg, inch by inch, to “Big Mac attacks.”

As someone who makes prosthetic limbs for a living, I see a lot of tragedy: children who have lost limbs to cancer, motorcycle accident victims, farmers who’ve lost arms in agricultural machinery. But perhaps the most tragic cases of all are the diabetics who’ve essentially cut off their own legs with a knife and fork.

Diabetes has become an epidemic. More than 25 million Americans have diabetes, and more than 230,000 of them die each year from causes related to the disease. It is now the seventh-leading cause of death in the U.S. This November, National Diabetes Month, is the perfect time to do something about it.

Most of my patients have spent a lifetime eating diets rich in animal products loaded with saturated fat and cholesterol, which has left them overweight and suffering from the type-2 or “adult-onset” diabetes that afflicts 90 to 95 percent of diabetics. This form of diabetes usually appears after age 40—think Paula Deen and Aretha Franklin—although it is increasingly being found in younger adults (e.g., Ruben Studdard) and even teens and young children. It is often linked to obesity and inactivity, but even seemingly fit people, such as Tom Hanks, can develop it.

Diabetes can cause heart disease, strokes, blindness, kidney failure and pneumonia. It also leads to nerve damage and poor circulation in the feet and legs, which is where I come in. Limited blood flow makes it hard for sores and infections to heal and can ultimately lead to amputation of a toe, foot or leg. More than 65,000 people have diabetes-related leg and foot amputations each year. Sixty percent of all lower-limb amputations not resulting from trauma occur in people with diabetes. Most diabetic amputees don’t live long—the majority of my patients are dead within nine years of their first amputation.

So how can you stay on your feet and out of my office? Easy: Eat a low-fat, high-fiber, plant-based diet. Recent studies indicate that fat impairs insulin’s ability to function and that blood-sugar levels are under better control when people eat diets that are high in fiber and low in fat.

A study led by Dr. Neal Barnard, author of Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes: The Scientifically Proven System for Reversing Diabetes Without Drugs, showed that 43 percent of diabetics on a low-fat vegan diet were able to cut back on their medications, compared to only 26 percent of those who followed the diet recommended by the American Diabetes Association. A Harvard School of Public Health study suggests that eating red meat and processed meats can increase a person’s risk for type-2 diabetes by as much as 50 percent.

Dr. Barnard encourages diabetics to eat low-fat plant-based foods with a low glycemic index, such as beans, peas, lentils, sweet potatoes, spinach, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, carrots, brown rice, barley, quinoa, whole-grain pasta, bananas, apples, peaches, berries and citrus fruits. He also advises people to avoid added vegetable oils and other high-fat foods as well as refined sugar and flour.

Dietary changes alone can help cut back on the amount of insulin needed—or eliminate it altogether in some cases—and minimize complications. I’ve seen the “complications” of diabetes firsthand, and I want to keep my legs—which is why I’m a vegetarian.

William M. Mullins is a certified prosthetist who lives in Knoxville, Tenn., with his wife and a rescued dog and cat. He wrote this op-ed for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org.

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Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

November 13, 2013 at 5:24 pm

News flash: Vegetarians live longer than meat-eaters

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By Heather Moore

Health news can be so depressing. Virtually every day, we see discouraging reports about heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. We’re warned that certain drugs can be nearly as harmful as the conditions that they’re meant to treat. We’re reminded that antibiotic-resistant superbugs are spreading like wildfire, and we’re cautioned that childhood obesity rates have tripled in the past 30 years. Obesity now kills three times as many people worldwide as malnutrition. There is real cause for concern. But there is also a good reason to be optimistic. In a study published recently, researchers from Loma Linda University in California shared some encouraging news: Vegetarians live longer than meat-eaters.

The findings from the large-scale study—which was funded by the National Institutes of Health—should remind us that we aren’t powerless victims of chronic disease. We can all be healthier just by bypassing the meat counter and opting for plant-based meals.

The researchers tracked more than 73,000 Seventh-day Adventists for nearly six years. They used questionnaires to find out what type of diet the participants ate (many, but not all, Seventh-day Adventists are vegetarian) and then followed up to find out how many of the participants had died and how.

Here’s what they discovered: The vegetarian (and mostly vegetarian) participants—people included in this group ranged from those who didn’t eat any animal-based foods at all to those who ate meat only once a week—were 12 percent less likely to die prematurely than those who ate meat regularly. Those in the vegetarian group were 19 percent less likely to die from heart disease, in particular, and were also less likely to die from diabetes and kidney failure. In addition, they tended to be thinner and have lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Although the researchers were quick to note that the vegetarians were more likely to exercise and less likely to smoke or drink in excess, they attributed their findings largely to the participants’ food choices. The researchers weren’t completely sure why a plant-based diet has such a protective effect, but they speculated that it’s because plant foods tend to be higher in fiber and lower in saturated fat.

And unlike meat, which contains high amounts of cholesterol, sodium, nitrates and other unhealthy ingredients, plant-based foods are cholesterol-free and contain phytochemicals and antioxidants that help combat carcinogens and other harmful substances in the body.

Other studies, including a previous one involving about 30,000 Seventh-day Adventists, have also suggested that people who eat wholesome plant-based foods live longer than meat-eaters. Because of these studies, many hospitals and healthcare facilities around the U.S., including Boston Medical Center and St. John’s Well Child & Family Center in Los Angeles, have initiated programs to encourage people to eat more plant-based foods. Medical providers at the L.A. facility, for example, have begun writing “prescriptions” for patients to buy organic fruits and vegetables. By promoting vegan foods, healthcare practitioners hope to help patients maintain a healthy weight and prevent—and sometimes even reverse—deadly diseases.

We can’t predict when or how we’ll die, but we can try to increase our life expectancy and quality of life. Choosing vegan foods rather than meat, eggs and dairy products is a simple way to help ensure that you’ll be with your loved ones—and not in an emergency room—for as long as possible.

Heather Moore is a staff writer for the PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org.

Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

July 24, 2013 at 10:02 pm

On Mother’s Day, don’t forget animal moms

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By Jeff Mackey

If you’re like most people, you’ll no doubt treat your mom to brunch or dinner on Mother’s Day. But this year, while you are saluting your own mom, please honor all mothers by celebrating with a meal that doesn’t include meat, eggs or dairy products. Some of the best mothers in the world are found in the animal kingdom, yet few animal moms on today’s farms are ever allowed to nurture their babies as nature intended.

For mother cows and their calves, for example, it’s love at first sight. The first minutes after birth are spent developing a bond that will last a lifetime. Their attachment and affection for each other is so deep that both mother and baby become extremely distressed if they are forced apart. Mother cows bellow in vain and their calves wail inconsolably; they cry out for each other for days. Some mother cows have even been known to escape their enclosures and travel for miles searching for their babies.

Sadly, such pitiful scenes are common on dairy farms. Mother cows are allowed to bond with and care for their calves for only a few hours before the babies are torn away so that we can have the milk that was meant to nourish them. Wide-eyed and terrified, the calves are desperate to suckle but instead are given a bottle of milk “replacer” and a short life in a veal crate (for males) or a life just like that of their sad mothers (for females). Meanwhile, the mother cows will soon be impregnated again, only to endure the same heartbreak nine months later.

If allowed, mother hens would turn their eggs as many as five times an hour and cluck softly to the chicks inside, who chirp back from within their shells. Once hatched, the chicks are shielded from predators by their protective mother’s wings.

Yet 90 percent of our eggs come from hens who are treated like virtual laying machines. They are crammed together in wire cages where they never see the light of day and don’t even have enough room to spread a single wing. The stench of ammonia and feces hangs heavy in the air. Female chicks will follow their mothers into a lifetime of intensive confinement and constant egg production. Male chicks are worthless to the egg industry and will be tossed into trash bags to suffocate or thrown into high-speed grinders while they are still alive.

Pigs are also devoted mothers, who, if allowed, would spend days preparing a nest of leaves or straw before giving birth. Newborn piglets learn to run to their mother’s voice, and mother pigs “sing” to their young while nursing. The piglets would stay with their doting mothers for about 15 weeks.

On factory farms, however, most sows are confined to metal crates in which they are unable to lie down comfortably, much less turn around to nurse their piglets naturally. Many sows develop raw, painful sores from the bars.

The piglets are torn from their distraught mothers after just a few weeks—months before weaning would naturally occur—and spend their entire lives in extremely crowded pens on slabs of filthy concrete. The mother pigs are impregnated again and again until their bodies wear out and they are sent to slaughter.

As parents, we are compelled to love, shelter, feed, nurture and protect our children from harm. Why, then, do we ignore the very same innate needs in animals? Every time we pour milk on our cereal or fry up an egg, we are paying a farmer to tear a mother animal away from her beloved baby. This Mother’s Day, please remember that all mothers love their babies, and enjoy the day with a humane vegan meal.

Jeff Mackey is a blog writer for the PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org.

Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

May 8, 2013 at 5:44 pm

Eat vegan to beat breast cancer—doctor’s orders

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By Heather Moore

Now that National Breast Cancer Awareness Month has begun, many doctors and nutritionists are dishing out dietary advice to help women ward off the deadly disease. After reviewing the latest research, responsible medical experts, including those with the American Cancer Society and New York’s Montefiore Einstein Center for Cancer Care, have come to a consensus: Women should eat a plant-based diet rich in phytochemicals, which fight inflammation and knock out carcinogens. This invaluable advice should shift our focus from wearing pink to eating green—in other words, to eating wholesome vegan foods.

While fruits, vegetables, beans, grains and soy foods contain cancer-fighting phytochemicals, all that animal-based foods have to offer are cholesterol and cancer-causing substances, including concentrated protein, hormones and saturated fat. As many as one-third of common types of cancer, including breast cancer, are linked to excess weight and inactivity, and it’s much easier to maintain a healthy weight if you eat vegan foods. They tend to be low in fat and calories, unlike fatty animal-based foods, such as hamburgers, chicken and cheese. Studies even show that vegans are nine times less likely to be obese than meat-eaters and that vegans are about 40 percent less likely to get cancer than nonvegans. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that October is also World Vegetarian Awareness Month.

A Washington State University professor recently identified more than 40 plant-based compounds that help slow the progression of cancer. His findings, which are published in the journal Cancer and Metastasis Reviews, support the claim that people who eat a plant-based diet are less likely to get cancer.

High-fat animal-based foods raise estrogen levels, accelerating the growth of cancer cells. In contrast, plant-based foods tend to keep estrogen at a safe level. Researchers with Boston University tracked more than 50,000 African-American women for 12 years—1,300 of them developed breast cancer, and 35 percent of the cases were estrogen receptor-negative, a highly aggressive form of the disease. The women who ate at least two servings of vegetables a day were 43 percent less likely to develop highly aggressive breast cancer than those who ate less than four servings of vegetables per week. Women who eat carrots and cruciferous vegetables, in particular, seem to have a reduced risk of breast cancer.

The lead researcher noted that high vegetable consumption offers significant health benefits, including protection against cancer. This conclusion is hardly an earth-shattering revelation, but it should give both men and women some food for thought. People who are concerned about cancer—or heart disease, diabetes and other health conditions—would be wise to choose vegan foods.

Another study, conducted by the University of Utah, found that women who eat healthy “native” Mexican foods, including beans, spices and tomato-based sauces, have a 32 percent lower risk of breast cancer than women who eat a typical Western-style diet, which is heavy in meat and cheese.

Dr. T. Colin Campbell, who stars in the acclaimed documentary Forks Over Knives, says that “no chemical carcinogen is nearly so important in causing human cancer as animal protein.” He urges people to eat vegan meals in order to prevent cancer and other common diseases. More doctors should follow his example. While many physicians can perform mastectomies, administer chemotherapy and offer other important medical services, the ones who give patients preventive dietary advice will ultimately be the real lifesavers.

Heather Moore is a staff writer for the PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org.

Don’t let the drought dry up your wallet–go vegan

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By Heather Moore

Dry enough for you? No one needs to be reminded that the nation is experiencing the worst drought in half a century, with nearly two-thirds of the continental U.S. suffering from drought conditions. The dry, hot weather is fueling wildfires, scorching lawns and sending food prices soaring—especially for people who eat meat, eggs and dairy products.

If you’re concerned about your grocery bills—or your health—now would be a good time to start buying vegan foods instead of animal-based ones.

Farmed animals are fed more than 70 percent of the grains grown in the U.S. It takes 4.5 pounds of grain to make just 1 pound of chicken meat and 7.3 pounds of grain to produce a pound of pork. Now that many corn, wheat and soybean crops have been damaged or destroyed because of the drought, feed prices are soaring. It’s so bad that some meat companies, including Smithfield Foods, have even started importing corn from Brazil. Guess who’s going to foot the bill.

Meat-eaters can expect to see a spike in prices in the coming months. Consumers who eat cheese will probably also have to pick up the tab for all the calves who died from heat stress on Midwestern dairy farms in July.

Shoppers will likely see higher prices at the chicken counter first, though. The birds are fed mostly corn, and since chicken farmers engineer them to grow unnaturally fast, chicken flesh tends to reach the market quicker than beef or pork.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts that chicken and turkey prices will rise 3.5 to 4.5 percent and that egg prices will likely climb by as much as 4 percent. Beef prices are also expected to rise between 3.5 and 4.5 percent this year and then by 4 or 5 percent in 2013. Pork will cost more in the coming year as well.

It’s cheaper, not to mention healthier and kinder, to eat grains and soybeans—and all the foods that can be made from them—directly rather than funneling them through farmed animals to produce animal products. The amount of feed needed to produce one 8-ounce steak would fill 45 to 50 bowls with cooked cereal grains. And while shoppers will see a spike in milk and meat prices, they probably won’t see a significant increase in the cost of corn on the cob, cornflakes or other plant-based foods sold in supermarkets. The corn that consumers buy at the grocery store is grown differently from the corn that’s used to feed animals and isn’t as severely affected by drought conditions.

Whole grains, beans, vegetables and other wholesome plant-based foods are even more of a bargain when you factor in the medical bills that you might rack up if you eat lots of fatty, cholesterol-laden meats, eggs and dairy products.

Of course, choosing vegan foods isn’t just a good way to save animals or money at the supermarket. It’s also an easy way to help conserve water—you can save more water by not eating 1 pound of meat than you can by not showering for six months. Even a collaborative rain dance likely wouldn’t make that much of a difference!

Whether you’re watching your budget, your waistline or just the weather channel, it’ll pay to go vegan. But if you need some extra exercise, feel free to do a rain dance anyway.

Heather Moore is a staff writer for the PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org.

Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

September 5, 2012 at 8:38 pm

Fight cancer with food

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By Jonny Imerman

June 11-17 is Men’s Health Week—a good time for men of all ages to kick-start healthy habits. In my 20s, I survived two bouts of testicular cancer. Since that time, I’ve helped create a one-on-one cancer support organization, Imerman Angels, that connects someone fighting cancer with a person who’s been in the same shoes and survived. It gives me so much joy to give back. However, for years my own body didn’t feel its best. Last year, I went vegan, and I’ve never felt better.

I’m not here to lecture. I ate meat and dairy products for years, so who am I to judge? We cancer survivors should never judge regardless; we’re happy just to be here still. But I hope that by hearing about my experience, you’ll feel a little more empowered to take your health into your own hands.

One of the turning points that helped me decide to go vegan was listening to leukemia researcher Dr. Rosane Oliveira—herself a vegan—from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign speak about how dietary changes can help people lead healthier lives. I learned that research has linked the standard American diet—full of cholesterol and saturated fats—with serious illnesses, including cancer, while vegetarians have been shown to have a much lower cancer risk.

Animal proteins and saturated fats found in meat promote the growth of cancer cells and increase our risk for certain types of cancer. Cornell professor T. Colin Campbell’s China Study concluded that proteins from animal foods are the most cancer-causing substances ingested by humans. The study also found that casein, the primary protein in cow’s milk, “turns on” the growth of cancer cells. A link has even been discovered between dairy products and testicular cancer, which makes me even more confident in my decision to dump dairy.

Vegan foods, in contrast, help fight cancer. A study of men diagnosed with prostate cancer found that a diet rich in plant foods can slow or even halt the progression of the disease. Dark, leafy veggies like spinach and kale and fruits like blueberries are loaded with cancer-fighting antioxidants, and beans, whole grains, and other fiber-rich foods help rid your body of excess hormones that can contribute to cancer growth.

Vegan eating has other benefits, too. Following my treatment, I felt so tired and beaten down—my immune system was rattled. Now, even though I regularly meet and shake the hands of many people, I haven’t been sick once (and for people with cancer, an immune system boost can make all the difference). I feel great, I’m strong in the gym and my energy levels are high.

I also love animals, and it feels good knowing that the food I’m eating doesn’t contribute to their suffering. Another turning point for me was watching the video that Sir Paul McCartney narrated for PETA, “Glass Walls,” which includes undercover video footage showing how animals are slaughtered, suffering and in pain. There seems to be a great synergy between cancer survivors, who value their lives and health so highly because they are lucky to be alive, and people who choose to eat compassionate and healthy vegan foods.

You don’t have to take my word for it about the advantages of eating vegan, though. Try it for yourself. Healthy vegan foods provide all the nutrients that we need, so there’s nothing to lose and plenty to gain.

Jonny Imerman is the founder of Imerman Angels, a nonprofit group that provides one-on-one support to people touched by cancer; http://www.ImermanAngels.org. He wrote this for People for the Ethical Ttreatment of Animals (PETA), 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org.

Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

June 14, 2012 at 9:34 pm

Season’s eatings: How to avoid the holiday spread

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By Paula Moore

If you’re like most people, the turkey probably wasn’t the only thing that got stuffed on Thanksgiving. The average person consumes an extra 600 calories per day between Thanksgiving and New Year’s and gains 1 pound during the holiday season. That doesn’t sound like much until you remember that most of us never lose that extra weight. The weight stays on throughout the winter and keeps adding up, year after year. For people who are already overweight, the news is even more depressing: Overweight people tend to gain 5 pounds or more during the holidays.

But you can help fend off the annual holiday spread with one simple strategy: Stick to festive meat- and dairy-free treats and avoid calorie-dense, artery-clogging animal-based foods.

Vegans—people who consume no meat, dairy products or eggs—tend to be slimmer than meat-eaters and more likely to stay slim even during the season of eating.

A British study published in the International Journal of Obesity found that vegans have a significantly lower body mass index than meat-eaters; vegetarians fall somewhere in between. When researchers at the nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine asked overweight patients to try a low-fat, vegan diet, not only did the patients lose weight without counting calories—they also kept the weight off during the holidays.

So how bad can some traditional holiday fare be? Let’s look at the numbers. Just one cheese straw contains a third of your daily limit for saturated fat—and who ever ate “just one”? One bite-sized cheese ball can contain more than 500 calories, more than half of your daily limit for cholesterol and almost a day’s worth of total fat. Shrimp cocktail may look harmless, but this perennial party favorite is a cholesterol bomb waiting to happen. A typical serving of shrimp contains two-thirds of the daily maximum for cholesterol.

One serving of prime rib contains 45 grams of fat—and that’s before you add seasonings or a sauce. Turkey is loaded with even more fat and cholesterol than many cuts of beef. A turkey leg contains more than 700 milligrams of cholesterol and more than 1,600 calories—40 percent of which are derived from fat.

And before you toast the season with a glass of eggnog, consider that one cup of this sugar, cream and egg concoction can contain 19 grams of fat and more than 20 grams of sugar. Factor in the risk of salmonella in raw eggs, and eggnog might not be such a good idea.

Eating plant-based foods has other benefits too. The American Dietetic Association, the nation’s largest group of nutrition professionals, found that vegetarians have a lower rate of heart disease, diabetes and cancer than meat-eaters, in addition to a lower rate of obesity. And vegans don’t just give their health a boost—they save more than 100 animals a year from immeasurable suffering.

With so many people trying vegan foods these days, you’re bound to find delectable vegan options—such as savory vegetable pot pie, baked acorn squash drizzled with maple syrup, wild mushroom pâté, roasted pumpkin soup, chocolate mousse tart and vegan eggnog—on the holiday buffet. By consciously choosing these good-for-you foods instead of mindlessly munching your way through the holidays, it is possible to survive the season without feeling deprived or packing on unwanted pounds.

And if you should happen to overindulge, it’s never too late to get back on track. Just make eating vegan your number one New Year’s resolution.

Paula Moore is a senior writer for The PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510. For vegan holiday recipes, visit http://www.PETA.org.