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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

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.

Another reason to think twice about HRT

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By Bobbie Mullins

Ever since 2002, when the landmark Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) abruptly halted its study of combination hormone replacement therapy (HRT) after researchers found compelling evidence that women who take estrogen plus progestin are at increased risk of breast cancer, heart attacks and strokes, HRT has come under increased scrutiny.

Now, a follow-up study has revealed a new and even more alarming twist: Not only is HRT linked to breast cancer, it is also linked to more advanced forms of the disease that result in even more deaths. Data from the WHI study have also revealed that HRT is linked to ovarian and lung cancer.

Like many women, I stopped hormone replacement therapy—after taking Premarin for years—because of the health risks (although I’d read about the cancer link long before the WHI study came out). But then I learned that there’s another reason to think twice about HRT. Premarin and Prempro, two of the most widely prescribed estrogen replacement drugs, contain a surprising secret ingredient: animal suffering.

It sounds ridiculous—especially with so many options available to drug manufacturers—but Wyeth’s Premarin and Prempro are made from the estrogen-rich urine of pregnant horses. Every year, thousands of pregnant mares are confined to PMU (pregnant mares’ urine) farms in the U.S. and Canada. They are kept in stalls that are so small, the animals are unable to take more than a step or two in any direction. The cumbersome rubber urine-collection bags that mares must wear at all times chafe their legs and prevent them from lying down comfortably. Some farmers tie up horses so tightly that they cannot lie down at all in their narrow stalls.

And although equine veterinarians say that horses need daily exercise, some mares are forced to stay in their cramped stalls for months at a time.

Farmers are also encouraged to limit horses’ access to water so that the estrogen in their urine will become more concentrated. This practice causes dehydrated mares to fight—and sometimes become injured—as they struggle to drink during water-distribution times. It also causes serious health problems. One veterinarian who worked on PMU farms told U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors that he’d seen mares suffering from renal and liver problems as a result of insufficient drinking water.

The thousands of foals who are born on PMU farms each year fare no better than their mothers. Some are used to replace exhausted mares, many of whom have been confined to PMU farms for up to 20 years. But most of the remaining foals, along with the worn-out mares, are sold at auction, where they are bought by “kill buyers” for slaughterhouses.

Horse rescue groups would gladly take some of these foals. But according to the founders of one such group in Arizona, Wyeth actually forbids farm owners from giving or selling PMU horses to rescue organizations for fear of the bad publicity that results when the horses’ plight is discussed in the media.

Not surprisingly, the use of Premarin and Prempro has plummeted since WHI’s findings were first publicized. But some doctors continue to prescribe these drugs out of habit—and some women continue to take them for the same reason.

Fortunately, a growing number of physicians are now recommending alternative therapies to manage the symptoms of menopause. HRT drugs made from plant sources or synthetics, for example, more closely mimic the estrogen found in human ovaries. As I can attest, adopting healthy habits also helps. I stopped drinking wine and coffee and incorporated soy foods into my diet and was rarely bothered by hot flashes. Women can also combat hot flashes by exercising regularly, quitting smoking and eating low-fat foods—which is smart advice for anyone.

They say that menopause makes women do strange things. It doesn’t get much stranger than taking a pill made from animal urine. But I’m willing to bet that most women, if they knew the truth about Premarin, would find it a bitter pill to swallow.

Bobbie Mullins lives in Norfolk, Va. She wrote this for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; http://www.PETA.org.