Why Go Vegan? A Complete Guide for the “Vegan-Curious”

why go vegan

Have you been seriously contemplating your dietary decisions and how they impact your health? Do you have questions about how the eating habits of humans contribute environmental degradation? Are you concerned that dairy consumption is not good for you and your loved ones? Are you thinking of going vegan? In this article, we shall explore the many of the myriad health and environmental risks associated with consuming animal products in the attempt to defintelivly answer these questions. 

Eggs

Circulatory Problems and Heart Disease

In addition, choline, a compound found in eggs, is converted into a toxin called trimethylamine by bacteria existing in meat-eaters’ guts. The toxin was found to increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, and premature death.

LDL cholesterol levels should be less than 100 mg/dL. Levels of 100 to 129 mg/dL are acceptable for people with no health issues but may be of more concern for those with heart disease or heart disease risk factors. A reading of 130 to 159 mg/dL is borderline high and 160 to 189 mg/dL is highEggs are the single largest source of cholesterol in the American diet. One egg has as much cholesterol as a Hardee’s Thickburger. And although it’s true that dietary cholesterol doesn’t have much of an effect on blood cholesterol levels (only about a 10% increase), that’s not the reason why we should be avoiding dietary cholesterol.

The problem is the pro-inflammatory and oxidative effects dietary cholesterol has been shown to have on your LDL. This in turn can damage the endothelium (the lining inside our arteries) and increase cardiovascular effects. Another recent study found that frequent egg consumption might be as bad as smoking when it comes to carotid artery plaque build-up.

Some people want to keep animal protein in their diet and think eggs are a much healthier option, so let’s compare those. Eggs have about 186 mg of cholesterol, and it’s all in the yolk. There are about 93 mg in half of a chicken breast and about 78 mg in a 3 oz broiled top sirloin steak.

A study in Atherosclerosis speaks to the damage the cholesterol in egg yolks can do in the body. This Canadian study compared the arterial damage related to consumption of eggs (with yolks) versus smoking cigarettes in a total of 1262 patients.

The amounts of plaque along the patients’ arteries who had high levels of egg yolk consumption (at least three egg yolks per week) were two-thirds that of the patients who had smoked at least 40 pack-years (pack-years are a measurement of how much a person has smoked. The formula is number of packs smoked per day x years as a smoker).

That suggests regular egg consumption isn’t that much healthier than smoking two packs of cigarettes per day for 20 years!

A study in Circulation suggested a decrease in egg consumption due to a heightened risk of heart failure in people who had more than one egg per day.

Another study, this time in The Journal of the American Medical Association, also found risks associated with the consumption of more than one egg per day. In this case, there’s a higher risk for coronary heart disease in diabetics when they eat more than one egg per day.

So if you do want to have eggs, have no more than one per day. Keep in mind that the studies that say you’re less likely to experience serious health issues when you consume even this small amount of eggs only say that about people who are already healthy. If you have a heart condition, high cholesterol, or diabetes, the claims may not apply to you.

Bacterial Contamination

Salmonella bacteria in eggs can survive most cooking methods, including scrambled, omelettes, sunny-side-up, and boiled.

This particular bacteria is a leading cause of food poisoning-related hospitalizations, and the top cause of food poisoning-related death, says Dr. Greger.For instance, more than half a billion eggs were recalled due to Salmonella outbreaks in 2010.And in more recent news, 700,000 contaminated Dutch eggs were distributed to the UK this summer. The eggs contained the pesticide fipronil, which can harm people’s kidneys, liver, and thyroid glands. Salmonella is the leading cause of food-borne illness related death in the United States. More than 100,000 Americans are poisoned by salmonella-tainted eggs per year. So whatever you do, make sure you stay away from conventional eggs at all costs. Even if you don’t die from salmonella, the symptoms even from just getting sick are quite unpleasant. That being said, the risk lies mainly with conventional eggs.

Dietary Toxins

Researchj most recent findings on Dioxins in eggs : Eggs contribute for about 4% to the daily dioxin intake of humans. Research among layer farms in the Netherlands and other EU countries has shown that organic eggs contain more dioxin than conventional ones and that a significant number of organic farms produce eggs with a dioxin content that exceeds the EU standard. The hens’ intake of dioxins from various sources leads to an increase in the dioxin content of organic eggs. These sources include plants, feed, soil, worms and insects, and compared with hens on conventional and free-range farms, organic hens make more use of these sources due to better access to the outdoor run. Plants appear to be relatively unimportant as a source of dioxins. Also commercial organic feed generally has very low dioxin contents, but not much is known about non-commercial feed. Consumption of worms and insects and particularly ingestion of soil are important causes of high dioxin levels in eggs. Management interventions, like a reduction of the time the hens spend outside, may decrease the dioxin levels in organic eggs but at the same time may interfere with the image of the organic production system.

Eggs originating from cage farming or deep litter indoor housing generally should not raise

a concern as regards dioxins and other chemical contaminants. Buying organic or free-range

eggs does not mean automatically a significant increase in exposure to dioxins and related

health risks, especially when other sources of dioxins in our diet are considered. But, keeping

hens outdoors, almost inevitably causes a higher dioxin intake of the hens (via their soil

intake) leading to an increased level in eggs. Therefore, in order to minimize exposure to these

compounds, it is recommended to choose eggs originating from known, recognized farms.

A separate problem will be eggs originating from small flocks of hens kept for own use. Due

to the bad practice of burning household wastes often seen in the rural and suburban areas,

the risk that such eggs will be contaminated with dioxins and furans is much higher than for

commercially obtained eggs. Thus ‘healthy’ eggs purchased from a local farmer, even when

living away from industrialized areas, may be not necessarily healthy.

On the other hand, unconscious or conscious use of contaminated feed on commercial farms

may lead to the marketing of contaminated eggs. So the only way to bring eggs of a proper

quality, in terms of level of contaminants, on the market is to reduce industrial and local

emission of pollutants into the environment and to ensure the quality of feed throughout

the entire production chain

Dioxins, PCBs and – to a lesser ex tent – ectoparas iticides, organochl orine pestic ides, veter inary

drugs and coccidiostats, heavy metals as well as polybrominated organic substances are

undesirable contaminants in food, and there are justified public health reasons for reducing

dietary exposure to them, especially among highly exposed and vulnerable populations.

Although such chemicals in food are present at trace level, their bioaccumulation in the

(human) body, and biological activity, long-term consequences of their actions, which may

manifest even in subsequent generations, should be taken into account. Due to continued

release of these pollutants into the environment, their impact on the human health and

wildlife still exist including effects on the developing stages of life. Due to globalization,

cases of serious contamination may have severe international repercussions. 

Contaminants in eggs: dioxins/PCBs and other toxic substances and their possible health implications

Chapter (PDF Available) · January 2019 with 212 Reads 

In book: Food safety assurance and veterinary public health Volume 7, Publisher: Wageningen Academic Publishers, pp.415-441”

Cancer Risks and All-Cause Mortality

Compared with men who rarely eat eggs, men eating even less than one egg a day appear to have twice the risk of prostate cancer progression, according to plant-based physician Dr. Greger.

 The Harvard Physicians Health study, which followed 20,000 doctors for over twenty years found that those doctors consuming at least one egg a day had a significantly higher all-cause mortality risk, which essentially suggests that consuming even just one egg a day is significantly associated with a shorter lifespan. Not great news for those who like their omelets in the morning.

Dairy

Bones 

Research shows that dairy products have little or no benefit for bone health. According to an analysis published in the British Medical Journal, most studies fail to show any link between dairy intake and broken bones, or fractures. In one study, researchers tracked the diets, exercise, and stress fracture rates of adolescent girls and concluded that dairy products and calcium do not prevent stress fractures. Another study of more than 96,000 people found that the more milk men consumed as teenagers, the more bone fractures they experienced as adults. Learn about how to build strong bones on a plant-based diet. Despite the hype, cow’s milk actually robs our bones of calcium. Animal proteins produce acid when they’re broken down, and calcium is an excellent acid neutralizer, so … you can see where this is going. In order to neutralize and flush out the acids, our bodies have to use the calcium that the milk contains—as well as some from our own stores. So every glass of milk we drink leaches calcium from our bones. That’s why medical study after medical study has found that people who consume the most cow’s milk have significantly higher fracture rates than those who drink little to no milk. And if you’re eating large amounts of cheese? Throw in a heaping helping of saturated fat, sodium, and cholesterol on top of that

Saturated Fat

Milk and other dairy products are the top sources of artery-clogging saturated fat in the American diet. Milk products also contain cholesterol. Diets high in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol increase the risk of heart disease, which remains America’s top killer. Cheese is especially dangerous. Typical cheeses are 70 percent fat.

Digestive Issues And Intolerances

Infants and children produce enzymes that break down lactose, the sugar found in breast milk and cow’s milk, but as we grow up, many of us lose this capacity. Lactose intolerance is common, affecting about 95 percent of Asian Americans, 74 percent of Native Americans, 70 percent of African Americans, 53 percent of Mexican Americans, and 15 percent of Caucasians. Symptoms include upset stomach, diarrhea, and gas.

In multiple studies, the consumption of all types of dairy “products” was linked to an increased prevalence and severity of acne in both boys and girls.

Cancer Risks

Regular consumption of dairy products has been linked to prostate cancer. Dairy is also associated with increased risk of lung cancer, breast cancer, and ovarian cancer in people with lactose intolerance.

A Swedish study showed that women who consumed four or more servings of dairy “products” each day were twice as likely to develop serous ovarian cancer.

Antibiotic Contamination

Cows are often pumped full of antibiotics to keep them alive and producing milk in filthy factory farm conditions. We can thank this rampant overuse of them for the surge in antibiotic-resistant bacteria. When humans are infected by these superbugs, antibiotics at best have decreased effectiveness and at worst are powerless.

Chicken and Poultry

Antibiotic Resistance

But from the earliest days of the antibiotic era, the drugs have had another, parallel use: in animals that are grown to become food.

Eighty percent of the antibiotics sold in the United States and more than half of those sold around the world are used in animals, not in humans. Animals destined to be meat routinely receive antibiotics in their feed and water, and most of those drugs are not given to treat diseases, which is how we use them in people.

Instead, antibiotics are given to make food animals put on weight more quickly than they would otherwise, or to protect food animals from illnesses that the crowded conditions of livestock production make them vulnerable to. And nearly two-thirds of the antibiotics that are used for those purposes are compounds that are also used against human illness – which means that when resistance against the farm use of those drugs arises, it undermines the drugs’ usefulness in human medicine as well

Food Borne Diseases

Campylobacter and Salmonella infections are among the most important food safety hazards. These bacteria account for more than 90 percent of all reported cases of bacteria-related food poisonings worldwide. Most of these cases are related to the consumption of poultry and poultry products, but all domestic livestock are potential reservoirs of infection. Reported cases of Campylobacter and Salmonella infections are believed to represent only a fraction of the true number of cases. Consuming raw or undercooked poultry or poultry products has been implicated as a potential risk factor for human cases of influenza H5N1 infection (HPAI). Poultry meat should be well cooked, with the core temperature reaching 70°C for at least one second during cooking. Data on food-borne diseases in low-income countries are scarce. There is no precise and consistent global information about the full extent of the occurrence of food poisoning and the costs related to unsafe food. Symptoms are often mild and cases are not reported, but their importance is thought to be substantial. http://www.fao.org/3/a-al741e.pdf

According to media reports, tests conducted on raw chicken purchased across the U.S. have found that 97 percent of tested chicken breast samples ‘harbored bacteria that could make you sick’.

The analysis discovered high rates of intestinal bacteria, including E. coli, Enterococcus, and Salmonella.

Arsenic Contamination

The Food and Drug Administration [FDA] has admitted that chicken meat is filled with arsenic, a highly poisonous chemical that is four times more toxic than mercury. 

The substance is given to chickens because it prompts quicker weight gain and less feeding, and it also enhances the pink coloring in raw meat. 

When ingested, arsenic can lead to invasive squamous carcinoma, Bowen illness, basal cell skin cancer carcinoma, and liver, kidney, lung, and bladder cancer.

And although the FDA is trying to convince the public that chicken meat is still safe for consumption – despite the amount arsenic found – experts have issued a warning about the responsibility of arsenic for fetus damage.

Cancer Risks

 Poultry intake was positively associated with risk for malignant melanoma (HR per 30 g/day increment in intake 1.20, 95% CI 1.00–1.44), prostate cancer (1.11, 1.02– 1.22) and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (1.26, 1.03–1.55). Chicken consumption was associated with an increased risk for malignant melanoma, prostate cancer and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the study published Thursday in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health said. Red meat and processed meat intake were associated with a higher risk of colorectal cancer, the study said.  The positive associations of poultry intake with prostate cancer and non-Hodgkin lymphoma require further investigation. https://jech.bmj.com/content/jech/73/Suppl_1/A15.2.full.pdf

Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

The researchers found a link between chicken consumption and increased risk for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, cancer that originates in the lymphatic system, the disease-fighting network of the body.

The tumors in non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma develop from a type of white blood cell called lymphocytes. The condition is characterized by painless, but swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpits or groin, persistent fatigue, abdominal pain or swelling, fever, night sweats, unexplained weight loss, as well as chest pain and breathing problems.

The study also found an association between eating white meat and an increased risk for malignant melanoma and prostate cancer in men.

Prostate Cancer And Melanoma

Prostate Cancer Affect the prostate gland that produces some of the fluid in semen and plays a role in urine control in men. It is the most prevalent cancer in men, albeit it is treatable if detected in the early stages.

Melanoma is the most serious among skin cancer types. It develops in the melanocytes, which produce melanin, the pigment that gives the skin its color. Exposure to ultraviolet radiation from sunlight or tanning beds is popularly associated with the disease. Initial signs of melanoma include changes in an existing mole and the development of a new pigment or odd-looking growth on the skin.

The researchers said that further studies can shed more light on the positive association between poultry intake and prostate cancer and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma

Environmental Degradation

Increased Cholesterol Levels?

Red meat

Increased Risk of Heart Disease

Drop the steak knife: Unprocessed red meat and processed meat consumption leads to a slightly higher risk of heart disease and premature death, according to a new study from researchers at Cornell and Northwestern University.

Their paper, Associations of Processed Meat, Unprocessed Red Meat, Poultry or Fish Intake With Incident Cardiovascular Disease and All-Cause Mortality, was published Feb. 3 in JAMA Internal Medicine. The lead author is Victor Zhong, assistant professor of nutritional sciences at Cornell.

The study found that eating two servings per week of unprocessed red meat, processed meat or poultry was linked to a 3% to 7% higher risk of cardiovascular disease. Eating two servings per week of unprocessed red meat or processed meat was associated with a 3% higher risk of all causes of death.

“Modifying intake of these animal protein foods may be an important dietary strategy to help reduce risk of cardiovascular disease and premature death at population level,” Zhong said.

“It’s a small difference, but it’s worth trying to reduce [consumption of] red meat and processed meat,” said senior author Norrina Allen, associate professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine. “Red meat consumption is also consistently linked to other health problems like cancer.”

Increased Risk of Colorectal Cancer

The latest meta-analysis from the World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research concluded that red meat was a probable cause and processed meat a convincing cause of colorectal cancer. However, evidence for associations between red and processed meat intake and other cancer sites is limited.

The main type of cancer that red meat is believed to cause is colorectal cancer, the fourth most commonly diagnosed cancer in the world.

Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the third most common cancer in men and the second in women worldwide. More than half of cases occur in more developed countries. The consumption of red meat (beef, pork, lamb, veal, mutton) is high in developed countries and accumulated evidence until today demonstrated a convincing association between the intake of red meat and especially processed meat and CRC risk. In this review, meta-analyses of prospective epidemiological studies addressed to this association, observed link of some subtypes of red meat with CRC risk, potential carcinogenic compounds, their mechanisms and actual recommendations of international guidelines are presented. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4698595/

The exact mechanisms underlying the association between CRC risk and high intake of red and processed meat are uncertain.12 There are several possible mechanisms and some mutagenic and/or carcinogenic compounds in animals to explain the relationship between red meat consumption and CRC. The possible mechanistic factors include N-nitroso compounds (NOCs), heterocyclic amines (HCAs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), Heme iron in red meat, PUFAs, bile acids, non-human sialic acid and infectious agents.

Incraesed Risk Of Prostate Cancer

PLoS One, researchers at the University of California, San Francisco 

“Higher consumption of any ground beef or processed meats were positively associated with aggressive prostate cancer, with ground beef showing the strongest association (OR = 2.30, 95% CI:1.39–3.81; P-trend = 0.002). This association primarily reflected intake of grilled or barbequed meat, with more well-done meat conferring a higher risk of aggressive prostate cancer. Comparing high and low consumptions of well/very well cooked ground beef to no consumption gave OR’s of 2.04 (95% CI:1.41–2.96) and 1.51 (95% CI:1.06–2.14), respectively. In contrast, consumption of rare/medium cooked ground beef was not associated with aggressive prostate cancer. Looking at meat mutagens produced by cooking at high temperatures, we detected an increased risk with 2-amino-3,8-Dimethylimidazo-[4,5-f]Quinolaxine (MelQx) and 2-amino-3,4,8-trimethylimidazo(4,5-f)qunioxaline (DiMelQx), when comparing the highest to lowest quartiles of intake: OR = 1.69 (95% CI:1.08–2.64;P-trend = 0.02) and OR = 1.53 (95% CI:1.00–2.35; P-trend = 0.005), respectively.”

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0027711

Higher intake of well-done grilled or barbequed red meat and ensuing carcinogens could increase the risk of aggressive prostate cancer.

Both red and processed meat intakes were positively associated with cancers of the colorectum and lung; furthermore, red meat intake was associated with an elevated risk for cancers of the esophagus and liver. https://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.0040325

All Cause Mortality

 A 2019 study While previous studies have evaluated increased risks of red meat consumption with increased mortality rates, the new study shed light on the possible increased risk between cancer rates and chicken consumption.

 whopper of a new study that tracked the health data of more than 80,000 people said there’s value in cutting down on red meat.

The study published Tuesday by the BMJ, a peer-reviewed medical journal, found eating more red meat — particularly processed red meat — is tied with an increased likelihood of death. And it said passing on red meat and replacing it with healthier options can drop people’s mortality risk.

Results 14 019 deaths occurred during 1.2 million person years of follow-up. Increases in red meat consumption over eight years were associated with a higher mortality risk in the subsequent eight years among women and men (both P for trend<0.05, P for heterogeneity=0.97). An increase in total red meat consumption of at least half a serving per day was associated with a 10% higher mortality risk (pooled hazard ratio 1.10, 95% confidence interval 1.04 to 1.17). For processed and unprocessed red meat consumption, an increase of at least half a serving per day was associated with a 13% higher mortality risk (1.13, 1.04 to 1.23) and a 9% higher mortality risk (1.09, 1.02 to 1.17), respectively. A decrease in consumption of processed or unprocessed red meat of at least half a serving per day was not associated with mortality risk. The association between increased red meat consumption and mortality risk was consistent across subgroups defined by age, physical activity, dietary quality, smoking status, or alcohol consumption.

Conclusion Increases in red meat consumption, especially processed meat, were associated with higher overall mortality rates.https://www.bmj.com/content/365/bmj.l2110

Seafood

PCBs 

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are highly toxic industrial chemicals that have been banned in the U.S. since 1977. They’re slow to break down, and they accumulate in the sediment at the bottom of lakes, rivers, and coastal areas and in the tissues of fish who live and eat there. The Environmental Protection Agency says that contaminated fish are a persistent source of PCBs in the human diet. These chemicals have been shown to damage the circulatory, nervous, immune, endocrine, and digestive systems.

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are synthetic chemicals known to cause cancer and affect neurological development—including short-term memory and learning—the endocrine system, the immune system, and reproduction. Despite being banned in much of the world, our oceans are polluted with PCBs, and they are concentrated in the flesh of fish. Be smart, and skip the salmon sandwich.

Heavy Metal Poisoning

Mercury, arsenic, lead: Actually, that’s three reasons, and those are just a few of the poisons found in sea animals (thanks to human pollution). Fish can have extremely high levels of chemical residues in their flesh and fat, thousands of times that of the water in which they live. Leave fish off your plate for their health and your own!

Dioxins

Pesticide Residue

Parasites and Food Poisoning

Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that a tapeworm known to infect salmon from the Asian Pacific is now present in fish from U.S. waters.

While the risk of getting a tapeworm from eating raw or undercooked fish is low, doctors warn it is possible.

Other pathogens, including the Salmonella bacteria and various parasitic worms, may also be present and can cause illness. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/sushi-lover-pulled-5-foot-tapeworm-from-intestines/

Marine Health

Overfishing, by catch, farming 

Commercial fishing vessels often rely on massive nets that trawl ocean floors to maximize daily catches.

Whenever these nets are used, many animals that were not meant to be caught end up trapped — a phenomenon known as “bycatch.”

The UN estimates that between 20-25% of all sea creatures that are caught are victims of bycatch and many of these creatures die.

Up to 300,000 small whales, dolphins, and porpoises get entangled and killed in this manner each year. The single biggest threat to sea turtles, according to the World Wildlife Fund, is bycatch.

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