There have been recent articles on the internet that state that cholesterol is no longer believed to be the cause of heart and vascular disease and that stopping meat is dangerous for your health. As usual, the meat industry has taken a page out of the tobacco industry handbook, and put their marketing campaigns in overdrive to fund the creation of a few articles to be released to the press in an attempt to stop the rising tide of plant-based eating.
To understand why the reduction (or elimination) of animal products is so beneficial to your health, it is necessary to understand chronic disease, and the root cause of most chronic illness. That cause is inflammation, and the foods that we put into our bodies can either PROMOTE inflammation, or REDUCE and eliminate inflammation. Logic would dictate that the goal would be to eat as few inflammatory foods as possible, and eat as many anti-inflammatory foods as possible. Science agrees.
The main problem with meat is that it is INFLAMMATORY, and this is why consumption of animal products (including dairy) is strongly associated with diabetes, heart disease, strokes, cancers, and autoimmune disease.
So here is the top 6 science-backed explanations why animal products promote disease and poor health. You’re welcome. 😉
- IGF-1. Probably the most detrimental effect animal products have on the body is the elevated IGF-1 levels it causes. IGF-1 (or Insulin-Like Growth Factor 1) is one of the body’s important growth promoters present in the womb and throughout childhood. It is produced in the liver and is a key contributor to bone and muscle growth, as well as sexual maturation. The highest levels of IGF-1 are found in puberty. So although IGF-1 is critical for growth and development during childhood, if those levels remain high in adulthood, it speeds up the aging process, reduces immune function and promotes cancer. The connection between IGF-1 and cancer has been recognized for many years. In fact, cancer drugs that target the IGF-1 pathway began being developed in the 1990s, and decreasing IGF-1 levels through diet is considered to be an effective method of cancer prevention. Poultry and other animal proteins increase IGF-1 levels while Whole Plant-Based Diets high in unrefined phytonutrients lower those IGF-1 levels.
- Arachidonic Acid is a compound found in very high levels in meat, eggs, and dairy products. Arachidonic acid has a pro-inflammatory effect in the body, including damaging the blood vessels in the heart and promoting platelet adhesion leading to heart attacks and strokes.
- AGEs (advanced glycation end-products), also known as glycotoxins. Dietary AGEs are known to cause oxidative stress and inflammation that contribute to chronic disease, like diabetes and cardiovascular complications. Animal-derived foods that are high in protein and fat, are AGE-rich. And then, cooking them results in new AGEs that were not present in the uncooked meat. Avoiding dietary AGEs is scientifically and medically recognized as an effective means to prevent premature aging, degenerative chronic illness and oxidative stress.
- Heme iron found in meat products promotes oxidative stress, inflammation, and insulin resistance. All these things lead to vascular disease, including strokes and heart attacks, as well as Type 2 Diabetes.
- Unhealthy gut microbiome and TMAO. Over seventy percent of your immune system is located in your gut, and most importantly, what we eat determines what species of bacteria grow and thrive there. When you consume animal flesh, you promote the over-abundance of bacteria that convert certain substances in meat (like carnitine and choline) into a compound called TMAO (trimethylamine-N-oxide). TMAO has been strongly linked to cardiovascular disease and arteriosclerosis. Of note, fiber-rich plant foods promote a gut microbiome that INHIBITS the production of TMAO, and therefore reduce arteriosclerosis and heart disease.
- Saturated Fat and Diabetes. Most people have been taught that sugar causes Type 2 diabetes. And it does. But it is not the ONLY thing that is responsible for Type 2 diabetes. The saturated fat in meat is also a culprit. Remember that the problem with Type 2 Diabetes is not a lack of insulin. The body has plenty of insulin, it just cannot utilize it properly. There is a “gate” in the muscles that must be opened in order for the “outside” blood glucose circulating in the blood, to get “inside” the muscles and therefore lower blood sugar. The “key” to this gate is insulin. But there are things that block up the lock to the gate so the key doesn’t work. This something is fat. Fat in the bloodstream builds up inside the muscle cells, creating an inflammatory process that results in toxic fatty breakdown products and free radicals that block the insulin signaling process. So no matter how much insulin we have in our blood, it’s not able to open the glucose gates, and blood sugar levels build up in the blood. Yes, processed sugars also create an inflammatory environment with the same results, but so does the saturated fat in animal products, EVEN GRASS-FED MEAT.
The above SCIENCE-backed reasons are why FoodTherapyMD recommends that IF you must consume animal products (and there is no medical reason why you have to), adopt a 90/10 way of eating: 90 percent whole plant foods, and 10 percent or less of animal foods. Or if 90/10 is too much of a change, try 80/20. Or just make a conscious effort to replace a portion of the meat on your plate with unprocessed plant foods. You just may be able to ditch a few of your prescription drugs in the process, and the planet and the environment will thank you for it.