Tony Cenicola/The New York Times
From An Unconventional Thought
I’ve gotten this question so many times it’s truly unbelievable. “Aren’t we meant to eat meat?” There are a few different responses that I give to people and they are always shocked. None of my responses should be in anyway controversial, in reality, they are all facts, but people continue to look at me like I have three heads. I suppose this reaction is normal since I’m mentioning an idea that people have never heard of—kind of when we were told the truth about Santa and the Tooth fairy. At any rate, I hope this post will show you another side to this question.
To get to the answer of this question, dwelling on the past is not the answer. Many people bring up our ancestry, but since we are not living in caves, it is not relevant. While our ancestors needed to use meat for their survival, we by no means have to, in fact, quite the opposite is true. They walked places, we drive cars. They hunted, we factory farm. The times are totally different so let’s get to the point.
Currently, there are two main types of diets—animal based and vegetarian. When we look at the hard numbers of these diets, the consensus is clear as to which one is better for our health. I could go on and on with statistics, and I will mention a few, but if you are truly interested, I encourage you to search the internet, read the china study, or talk with a dietitian– they will all confirm that there is a strong link between the consumption of meat and diseases.
As mentioned above, I will cover one or two studies just to put everything into perspective. The first covers heart disease. Heart disease is the number one cause of death in America according to the American Heart Association. One study found that people who eat meat have a 50% higher risk of developing heart disease compared to vegetarians.[i] Next, cancer rates, found in numerous studies, are also affected by the consumption of meat. One 11-year-long German study (with 800 vegetarian men), found their cancer rates were less than half those of the general public. Another study shows vegetarians having 40% the cancer rates of meat-eaters.[ii] And just to bring everything together, according to the American Dietetic Association, vegetarians have “lower rates of death from ischemic heart disease; … lower blood cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and lower rates of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and prostate and colon cancer.[iii]” To think we thought smoking in front of our kids is bad, maybe it’s time we stop killing them with the food we give them—eating meat is the new cigarette.( and better yet, we have to note that these studies came out before our meat is genetically modified.)
When we get back to the question above, “Aren’t we meant to eat meat?” the previous studies and nearly all mainstream nutritional science are important to note. If we are meant to eat meat, why are the health problems mentioned above drastically lower in vegetarians? The answer is clear—we aren’t meant to eat meat.
There has also been some study of our anatomy by a Stanford University-trained physician specializing in nutrition named Dr. Milton R. Mills. In his paper, The Comparative Anatomy of Eating, Dr. Mills breaks down our body organ by organ and shows why the body of humans is better equipped for a vegetarian diet. He compares our organs to Carnivores, Herbivores, and Omnivores and shows us which we are most like. For those who are scientifically inclined, I encourage you to take a quick look at it (below).
In the paper he talks about a number of troubling facts if you still maintain that we are meant to eat meat. For one, he talks about the common misconception of our teeth. Many people talk about our canine teeth as a reason for why we are meant to eat meat. Comparing our canine teeth to a true carnivore such as a cat’s teeth is laughable. When we eat foods, we use the molars in the back to chew, like herbivores, not our canine teeth. Take note of this next time you eat. If we were to remove our canines, we wouldn’t even notice the difference. We also must chew our food in order for proper digestion. Carnivores can swallow their food whole (think of a lion or tiger after a kill).
The next organ he talks about is the size of our intestines. In summary, carnivore’s intestines are very short while herbivores are long. Ours, as I’m sure many already know, are quite long. This is one of the reasons we hear so much about fiber; while carnivores don’t need fiber because of their relatively short intestines, herbivores and humans do for proper digestion. This is another area where our ’natural’ diets of meat have failed us. For those who have ever been constipated, you already know why meat-based diets are inadequate.
Lastly, though not mentioned in the paper, there is the issue of cholesterol. While true carnivores can have literally unlimited amounts of cholesterol and not have any effect on their heart and artery walls, we hear about how high cholesterol is such a problem in humans every day. We are not meant to have diets with high cholesterol, which is only found in animal products. This is one of the reasons for such high rates of Heart Disease.
The paper discusses 16 other attributes throughout our body which show why we are not ‘meant’ to eat meat. As discussed in the paper, we are traditionally though of as omnivores, however an overwhelming amount of our anatomy proves otherwise. Similar to the disease rates mentioned above, I encourage everyone to read elsewhere to learn about our anatomy to assure you that I am not exaggerating or fabricating any information.
The last point I would like to bring up is the point of nutrition since this is brought up nearly every dinner conversation. The idea that plants don’t have protein, vitamins and minerals is ludicrous. In a NYTimes article, Mark Bittman brings up the point that, “Plants have protein, too; in fact, per calorie, many plants have more protein than meat.”[iv] I suppose the next time someone asks where I get my protein, I should say, “Vegetables, but you eat meat, are you sure you’re getting enough protein?” The other side to the wacky argument deals with not having enough vitamins and minerals. Why do you think dietitians stress eating more fruits and vegetables? Could it be that vegetables have a variety of vitamins, minerals, and fiber which meat doesn’t have? Yes.(and if people were truly worried, I don’t see anything wrong with taking a multi-vitamin which some meat-eaters are already do. Also, before this comes up, by eating a variety, you can get all of the essential amino acids.)
Science, nutrition, and epidemiology have shown us that we are not meant to eat meat and if anything, to avoid it completely. Society continues to have this crazy misconception that we are somehow meant to eat meat. This cannot be farther from the truth. People do not salivate when they see road kill, which carnivores do. People cannot kill pray with our nails or teeth like carnivores do. And most importantly, if humans were meant to be carnivores, we certainly would not have the crazy health problems that we see in meat eaters. Until all of these change, I am convinced we are not meant to eat meat and I hope you are too. The idea that we would rather kill animals for the taste which will result in an increase in disease as opposed to switch our diet to a humane one is nonsensical and outrageous. It’s time we look at our diet and do what is the right thing. It’s time we stopped eating meat.
[i] Elizabeth Somer, “Eating Meat: A Little Doesn’t Hurt,” WebMD, 1999.
[ii] Neal Barnard, M.D., The Power of Your Plate, Book Publishing Co.: Summertown, Tenn., 1990, p. 26.
[iii] Ann Mangels, Virginia Messina, and Vesanto Melina, “Position of the American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada: Vegetarian Diets,” Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Jun. 2003, pp. 748-65.
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