6 Science-Backed Reasons to go Meat-Free!
There have been recent articles on the internet stating that cholesterol is no longer believed to be the cause of heart and vascular disease. Those that continue to claim that animal products are good for you (paleo, keto, Joe Rogan, etc), have rejoiced and think that this validates their “pro-meat” stance. They could not be more wrong, and now I will attempt to explain the top reasons why animal products are detrimental to your health. Using SCIENCE, of course.
First, 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 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. Meat lovers will point to the presence of Omega-3 fatty acids in meat, and the fact that Omega-3s are anti-inflammatory. They would be correct…partially. Eating animals for Omega 3 would be like drinking soda for the water. The small amount of beneficial Omega 3s is offset by the predominance of inflammatory chemicals and hormones, so the net effect is PRO-INFLAMMATORY and DISEASE PROMOTING.
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 minimum 90/10 way of eating: 90 percent whole plant foods, and 10 percent or less of animal foods. And you just may be able to ditch a few of your prescription drugs in the process.
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