By Bill Sardi
The debate over the "Bible diet," appearing at www.mercola.com, needs an addendum. It certainly requires rebuttal since it's obvious conclusion is that "God had a bad idea there." The Book of Genesis did originally prescribe a plant food diet for humankind. The wisdom of this kind of diet has caused its adoption in the Hallelujah Diet, the Macrobiotic diet and by vegetarians worldwide. Due to concerns over animal mistreatment, the vegetarian diet is even more popular today than ever.
There is little question that nutritional deficiencies are observed among vegetarians. But nutritional deficiencies are found among meat, egg and dairy consumers as well, but no one condemns their diets. The problem is in finding good data that compares omnivores and herbivores. Yes, some studies show vegetarians lacking in certain minerals, such as zinc, magnesium, selenium and iron. But these deficiencies involve local mineral levels in soil more so than plant foods per se.
For example, a study conducted in the European Slovak Republic showed that vegetarians were deficient in the trace mineral selenium as indicated by low levels of an antioxidant enzyme (glutathione peroxidase) within the body. [Biol Trace Element Research 50: 13-24, 1995] But that report cannot be used universally since selenium levels vary throughout the world.
Are vegetarians anemic?
Vegetarians obtain iron from plant foods, which is far more difficult to absorb than iron from meats, particularly red meat. So are vegetarians anemic? One study shows that 44% of female vegetarians, age 14-19 years, who consumed a semi-vegetarian diet were iron-anemic versus only 17% of omnivores (meat + plant food diet). [J Am College Nutrition 14: 463, 1995] About a third of East Indian immigrant females, who consumed a plant-food diet, were found to be anemic. [Am J Clinical Nutrition 59: 123S, 1994]
While it is known that vegetarians absorb far less iron from plant foods than from meat, a plant-food diet usually provides more vitamin C, which boosts iron absorption. About 75 mg. of vitamin C increases iron absorption by 300-400 percent. Long-term lacto-ovo vegetarian diets do not lead to significant mineral deficiencies. [Israel J Medical Science 22: 105, 1986]
The over-consumption of meat, combined with the lack of phytic acid (IP6) in whole grains and seeds and bioflavonoids from citrus, grapes and berries, which are natural mineral-binders and guard against mineral overload, leads to a population that exhibits effects of iron overload -- -- the hardening of cholesterol within arteries, increased rates of heart disease, diabetes and cancer, calcifications (kidney stones, mitral heart valve, cataracts), and the early demise of males who have no outlet for iron as do females (menstruation).
B vitamin deficiencies and vegetarian diets
There is concern that vegetarians risk B vitamin deficiencies, particularly riboflavin and vitamin B12. Breast-fed infants of vegetarian mothers have been reported to experience nervous-system disorders due to vitamin B12 deficiency. [Muscle Nerve 22: 252-4, 1999] In New Zealand, even though the dietary vitamin B12 intake was significantly lower in vegetarians, both vegetarians and non-vegetarians recorded similar serum vitamin B12 levels. [N Z Med J 111: 91-4, 1998] So other factors are obviously involved.
Essential omega-3 fats and vegetarian diets
Vegetarian diets are known to be deficient in essential omega-3 fats compared to meat eaters. This may lead to a tendency toward blood clots. The inclusion of flaxseed oil into the diet of male vegetarians has been shown to reduce the tendency for blood platelets to aggregrate. [Am J Clin Nutr 69: 872-82, 1999] Supplementation with omega-3 fats in the diet of vegetarians has been shown to lower total cholesterol levels and induce favorable HDL-to-LDL cholesterol ratios. [J Nutr 1996 126: 3032-9, 1996] In Tanzania, a vegetarian diet plus omega-3 rich fish has been shown to lower
blood pressure, total cholesterol, triglycerides and lipoprotein(a) compared to the vegetarian-only diet. [Lipids 31l: S309-12, 1996]
It should be noted that, in our modern world, nerve disorders (multiple sclerosis, retinal disorders, mental depression, etc.) are more common in inland areas that have less access to omega-3 fatty acids, which are an essential component of the myelin sheath that lines all nerve cells. But God provided flaxseed, perilla seed and purslane, which are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids that are often ignored in the modern processed-food diet. In the 8th Century, Charlemagne, the Roman emperor, decreed that all Roman citizens should consume flaxseed daily to maintain their health. This was an early sort of food fortification program. Today there is no recommendation for daily intake of essential fats and about 8 in 10 Americans are deficient in omega-3s, regardless of whether they are omnivores or herbivores.
Domesticated animals today are sent to the feeding pen a couple of weeks prior to slaughter and fattened with corn, which virtually eliminates the essential omega-3 fats from their meat. Eating fattened meat adds approximately 17 pounds of weight to the average American meat eater per year. In other countries that follow the Biblically-outlined practice of solely feeding their animals grass ("And I will send grass in thy fields for thy cattle, that thou mayest eat and be full." Deuteronomy 11:15), their
human populations are leaner and exhibit fewer essential fat deficiencies. To learn more go to www.eatwild.com
An important discovery is missed
In the meat vs. plant food debate we miss an important discovery. The addition of a wisely-chosen food supplement regimen to ANY diet can do more to promote health than the very best vegetarian diet or omnivorous diet. The use of food supplements has been suggested for vegetarians. [Br J Nutr 69:3-19, 1993] The same advice should be given to meat eaters.
Granted, vegetarians may or may not exhibit some of the symptoms (morbidity) listed by Chet Day, but the gold standard for evaluating a diet is mortality rates. A long-term study of 11,000 vegetarians in Britian revealed their mortality rates were much lower, by a third, compared to meat and dairy consumers. [British Medical Journal 313: 775, 1996] An 11-year study of 1904 vegetarians in Germany found mortality rates from cancer were cut in half, and by 60 percent for cardiovascular disease. [Epidemiology 3: 395, 1992] It is likely that the control of iron in vegetarian diets is the major reason why they exhibit greater longevity and less chronic disease. [Iron Time Bomb, 2000, Bill Sardi] God wasn't wrong.
Copyright 2001 Bill Sardi
Mortality "Gold Standard" Concludes Omnivorous Diet to be Best
By Chet Day
I appreciate Bill Sardi's commentary on my article, but to say my conclusion was that God had "a bad idea there" completely missed the point, which was that "it makes sense to eat a predominantly plant-based diet with lots of uncooked fruits and vegetables -- and juices if you can manage to schedule them into your routine. I also advocate that anywhere from 5-15% of the diet be composed of clean (organic) animal foods like eggs, fish, raw milk cheese and yogurt, and occasional meat."
Actually, I think God had a pretty good idea when He instructed us to eat from both plant and animal kingdoms, and science, as well as scripture, bears me out on this. I won't bother to match Mr. Sardi's deficiency studies one for one, but I will agree with him that the "gold standard" for a vegetarian or non-vegetarian diet is indeed mortality rates. I hope Mr. Sardi will review a more recent study than those he cites, one that
traced over 76,000 vegetarians and nonvegetarians.
Entitled "Mortality in vegetarians and nonvegetarians: detailed findings from a collaborative analysis of 5 prospective studies," the UK study published in Am J Clin Nutr 1999 Sep;70 reveals: "Mortality from ischemic heart disease was 24% lower in vegetarians than in nonvegetarians (death rate ratio: 0.76; 95% CI: 0.62, 0.94; P<0.01). The lower mortality from ischemic heart disease among vegetarians was greater at younger ages and was restricted to those who had followed their current diet for 5 y."
I know Mr. Sardi will appreciate what he just read. I also hope he appreciates the next conclusion of the study, which reveals: "Further categorization of diets showed that, in comparison with regular meat eaters, mortality from ischemic heart disease was 20% lower in occasional meat eaters, 34% lower in people who ate fish but not meat, 34% lower in lactoovovegetarians, and 26% lower in vegans."
Indicative of the point I tried to make in my article which promotes a balanced diet based on plants with moderate servings from the animal kingdom, those in the study who ate fish -- just as Jesus used fish to feed the multitudes -- had the best protection from ischemic heart disease.
But it's the final point of the study that deserves our keenest attention: "There were no significant differences between vegetarians and nonvegetarians in mortality from
cerebrovascular disease, stomach cancer, colorectal cancer, lung cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, or all other causes combined."
One can, of course, quote studies or the Bible until one's blue in the face, and I have no intention of doing either. Instead, rather than sniping at each other, those of us interested in natural health -- be it biblical or secular, scriptural or scientific -- should be helping each other to advance the truth about human diet. We need to sublimate our egos and honestly discuss problems with our favorite diet regimes as they are
reported and recognized.
Faulty Reasoning in the Biblical Nutrition Movement
Confessions of a Former Vegan
The Paleolithic Diet and Its Modern Implications
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