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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.

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

Vegan is the ‘new green’ for Earth Day

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By Heather Moore

Earth Day, April 22, falls on a Meatless Monday this year, so people will have a double incentive to eat vegan meals. Vegan is the “new green.” You can do more for the planet by going vegan than you can by recycling, using cloth bags, taking short showers and walking to work. These actions are important and worthwhile, of course—but if you’re serious about saving the environment, you should opt for vegan foods instead of animal flesh.

Meat just has no place on an Earth Day menu. According to the United Nations (U.N.), meat and dairy products require more resources and generate more greenhouse gasses than do plant-based foods. Fortunately, a recently released U.S. Department of Agriculture report suggests that meat consumption is on a steady decline in the United States. Per capita meat consumption has fallen for four straight years, according to the most recent statistics. The 6 percent drop between 2006 and 2010—the largest decline since recordkeeping began in 1970—indicates that many Americans are fed up with meat.

Several U.S. cities, including Aspen, Colo.; Durham, N.C.; Los Angeles; San Francisco; and Washington, D.C., have even issued proclamations about eating less meat. And for good reason. Meat contributes to major health problems, including cancer, heart disease, strokes, diabetes and obesity, as well as serious environmental issues, including climate change, pollution and deforestation. Researchers from the University of California–Riverside claim that cooking just one charbroiled burger causes as much pollution as driving an 18-wheeler for 143 miles.

A new Gallup poll shows that 58 percent of Americans “personally worry” about climate change. Worrying, though, really won’t do much good—but going vegan will. According to Loma Linda University researchers, vegans have the smallest carbon footprint, generating 41 percent fewer greenhouse gasses than meat-eaters and 13 percent fewer than vegetarians.

A NationalGeographic.com report shows that vegans use less water, too. The average vegan indirectly consumes nearly 600 gallons of water a day less than the average meat-eater. U.N. officials have urged everyone to go vegan to conserve resources and combat climate change. Some scientists even predict that people will have to go vegetarian by 2050 in order to counteract ever-burgeoning environmental problems.

Let’s not wait until the planet is parched and extreme weather is a daily occurrence before we change our eating habits. Let’s continue eating less meat—or preferably, none at all. Great-tasting vegan foods are widely available. The National Restaurant Association says that vegetarian entrées are a “top 10” hot trend, and many ballparks, including Safeco Field in Seattle and Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, are offering new vegetarian and vegan options this year.

Bill Gates and Biz Stone, the cofounder of Twitter, are investing in innovative new vegan companies, including Beyond Meat and Hampton Creek Foods, which makes Beyond Eggs. These and other companies are creating vegan meat, egg and dairy-product options that are animal- and eco-friendly, cheaper than the “real thing” and just as tasty.

Vegan foods are also cholesterol-free and generally low in saturated fat and calories, and each vegan saves more than 100 animals every year. Plus, if everyone goes vegan now—in commemoration of Earth Day—we’ll all be in good company.

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

America the meatless—we’re one step closer

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By Heather Moore

America just got a little bit greener. Earlier this month, Aspen, Colo.—John Denver’s “sweet Rocky Mountain paradise”—became the first city in the U.S. to launch a comprehensive Meatless Monday campaign. Local restaurants, schools, hospitals, charities and businesses, including the Aspen Valley Hospital, the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Aspen Elementary School, have signed on to promote plant-based meals on Mondays.

For our own health and the health of the planet, the rest of us should go meat-free as well—at least for one day a week.

According to Dawn Shepard, who is heading Aspen’s Meatless Monday campaign, Aspen is a very health-conscious community, and residents are also concerned about the environmental costs of meat production. A 2010 United Nations report revealed that meat and dairy products require more resources and cause higher greenhouse-gas emissions than do plant-based foods.

Shepard says that if everyone stopped eating meat one day each week, it would reduce carbon emissions as much as would taking 25 million cars off the road for a year. Chris Weber, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Pennsylvania’s Carnegie Melon University, has pointed out that not eating meat and dairy products for one day a week has an even bigger impact on the environment than buying local foods every single day of the year.

In an effort to save the environment and animals, a growing number of people—not just in Aspen but across the country—are swearing off meat, at least on Mondays. A May 23 FGI Research study shows that 50 percent of Americans have heard of the nationwide Meatless Monday movement, which was started in 2003 by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. That’s up from 30 percent just six months ago. At least 27 percent of consumers who know about the campaign have opted to eat less meat as a result, and a significant percentage of people would like to see Meatless Mondays promoted in restaurants, fast-food chains, supermarkets and cafeterias.

At the rate things are going, they may soon get their wish. This month, the board of commissioners in Durham County, N.C., officially proclaimed Mondays as “Meatless Mondays.” Last year, officials in San Francisco and Washington, D.C., passed resolutions urging people in those cities to choose plant-based meals on Mondays. City schools in Baltimore have been observing “Meatless Mondays” since 2009, and in February 2010, Manhattan borough president Scott Stringer proposed that all New York City public schools follow suit. Several schools have followed his recommendation.

This January, Sodexo, a leading food-service provider, began offering a weekly plant-based entrée option to the 900 hospitals and 2,000 corporate and government clients that it serves in North America. Vegetarian Day observations and activities are also taking place in Israel, Australia, the U.K., Finland, Belgium and other parts of the world.

We’re off to a good start—especially in Aspen—but the Meatless Monday campaign needs to keep on snowballing throughout the country. Americans eat twice as much meat as the average person worldwide. Not surprisingly, we spend more money on health care than does any other nation. Unlike vegan foods, which are cholesterol-free and generally low in fat and calories, meat is high in saturated fat and cholesterol and contributes to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.

While going vegan is the best way to save the planet and to save lives—our own and those of animals—people who aren’t yet willing to stop eating meat entirely can still help by not eating meat for at least one day a week.

If you’re already observing Meatless Mondays, try extending your efforts to Tuesdays too. Or help Meatless Monday campaigners reach even more people by telling everyone you know about the initiative. It will help bring us all a bit closer to that “sweet Rocky Mountain paradise.”

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

Don’t get squeezed on your next flight

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If the thought of trying to squeeze into last year’s swimsuit isn’t incentive enough to slim down before your summer vacation, here’s another reason to drop those unwanted pounds: Airline passengers with “extra baggage” may have to pay more.

This spring, United Airlines announced that passengers who cannot fit into a single seat will be required to pay an additional fare. A handful of other carriers, including Southwest Airlines, have similar policies. So much for the “friendly skies.”

But there is a simple way for frequent flyers to lose weight and avoid paying extra airfare: Stop being a “frequent eater” of meat. Studies show that vegetarians are, on average, about 10 to 20 pounds lighter than meat-eaters are and that consuming animal products can make you pile on unhealthy weight.

While the size of airplane seats has remained basically the same over the years, our waistlines continue to expand. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, since 1960, the weight of the average American has increased by 24 pounds.

A study published last year in the journal Obesity found that if current trends continue, nearly 90 percent of adults will be overweight or obese by the year 2030 and the number of overweight children will double. What’s more, one out of every six health-care dollars will be spent on costs related to our growing girth.

Going meat-free can make a difference. In a study of nearly 22,000 people, Oxford University researchers found that men who switch to a vegetarian diet are less likely to experience the yearly weight gain that necessitates plus-size pants and can clog arteries in middle-aged meat-eaters.

A study published in The American Journal of Medicine found that people who eat a low-fat vegan diet (meaning no meat, no eggs and no dairy products) can lose about a pound per week—even without exercising or counting calories.

And don’t worry, athletes—vegetarians are shedding body fat, not muscle. Vegetarians tend to be just as strong as or stronger than meat-eaters—just ask any one of the growing number of elite sports figures, such as slugger Prince Fielder, NBA star Raja Bell, mixed martial arts fighters Mac Danzig and Dale Hart and NFL running back Ricky Williams, who have gone vegetarian.

The meat habit can keep frequent flyers grounded in other ways too. Because the consumption of meat and other animal products has been linked to heart disease, strokes, diabetes and several kinds of cancer, going vegetarian could save portly passengers money on everything from hospital bills to home defibrillators.

Research has shown that vegetarians are 50 percent less likely to develop heart disease, and they have 40 percent of the cancer rate of meat-eaters. Male meat-eaters might also be more prone to impotence because the cholesterol and saturated fats in animal foods can slow the flow of blood to all the body’s vital organs.

Says epidemiologist Dr. T. Colin Campbell of Cornell University, “Quite simply, the more you substitute plant foods for animal foods, the healthier you are likely to be.”

And, of course, eating a healthy vegetarian diet is the best thing that anyone can do to help stop the abuse of animals on factory farms, where chickens and turkeys are crammed by the thousands into filthy sheds for their entire lives and mother pigs are confined for years on end to metal crates that are so small they can’t even turn around.

In these tough economic times, having to pay for two seats would put a damper on anyone’s vacation plans, but cash-strapped airline passengers can both save and slim by going vegetarian. You might say that it’s the only way to fly.

Chris Holbein is the project manager of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ (PETA) Special Projects Division, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; http://www.PETA.org.

Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

June 11, 2009 at 5:13 pm