Animal Writes
8 April 2001 Issue
What's The Beef With Meat?

By Jessica Van Sack
from - Bruce Friedrich - [email protected]

Studies reveal plant diets prevent heart disease in coronary patients. Is it mad to eat meat?

Everyone knows animal advocacy groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and Farm Sanctuary think so.

But what is more surprising is that so do some doctors. In fact, the only two doctors in the United States whose documented studies have successfully reduced heart disease - the number one killer of American adults - advocate strict vegetarian diets.

According to the August 1999 issue of the American Journal of Cardiology, in studies done by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn of Cleveland, patients become "heart attack proof" after adhering to an exclusively vegetarian diet. Subjects experienced cholesterol levels below 150, which no one has ever documented doing before.

Frustrated with a de-emphasis on prevention in the medical community, Esselstyn said he sought to find a means to prevent heart attacks altogether rather than treat its symptoms.

"... It is clear that the goal of cardiology has become the relief of pain and unpleasant symptoms in the face of progressive disability and often death from disease," Esselstyn's study reads.

His studies found people who consume animal products are 40 percent more vulnerable to cancer. In addition, meat-eaters are also at increased risk for other ailments, including "stroke, obesity, appendicitis, osteoporosis, arthritis, diabetes and food poisoning."

The largest longitudinal study of its kind, Esselstyn tracked patients with severe coronary artery disease for 12 years after they gave up meat.

"These people had been told by prominent cardiologists to go home and die," Esselstyn said. Twelve years later, after adopting a plant-based diet, the patients experienced no further heart problems.

President of the American Association of Endocrine Surgeons in 1991 and a graduate of Yale University, Esselstyn is a staunch believer that the phrase, "this little bit can't hurt," with regard to fatty foods like meat, is deadly.

Every little bit does hurt, according to Esselstyn who likened eating small amounts of animal products occasionally to pouring small amounts of gasoline on a "raging brush fire."

Rates of heart disease in America are due almost solely to poor nutrition and a "hideous toxic food environment," Esselstyn said. Calling the food pyramid "ridiculous," Esselstyn maintained the only way to prevent heart disease is with a plant-based diet.

As research showing animal products cause disease continues to mount, animal rights groups are using those studies as ammunition to combat what they see as the unethical treatment of animals in slaughterhouses. Specifically, animal advocates point to mad cow disease as a reason to turn to

"Mad cow opens a window onto the complete and total disdain that farmers have for the natural lives of animals," said Bruce Friedrich, PETA's vegan campaign coordinator. "When people learn that cows are being fed to cows, they're horrified."

"Everyone is pretty sad in general that so many animals have been killed by not only mad cow disease, but by the suspicion that they have it," said Circulation Manager of the Vegetarian Resource Group Drew Nelson. Nelson, who has been a vegan since adolescence, said in addition, because of his lifestyle, he has a perfect bill of health. "Vegans actually have higher levels of iron in general than meat-eaters," Nelson said.

Mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, is best known for devastating the British cattle industry since the 1980s. Spread by feeding cow-parts to cows, Mad cow disease is a fatal brain disorder afflicting livestock. Its cause is unknown. An agent kills cow brain cells, forming sponge-like holes in the brain. The cow behaves strangely and eventually dies. In the early `90s, a brain disorder in humans, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, was linked to eating beef from cows infected with BSE.

One of the reasons mad cow is so alarming is the agent that causes mad cow cannot be killed with disinfectant or heat. Once it is ingested, it can lay dormant in a person for as many as 15 years before symptoms appear. After symptoms surface, those sickened will die in a year or less. Symptoms include paranoia, problems with hearing and vision and memory loss. Eventually, sufferers lapse into a coma and die.

This year, two patients died at a Colorado hospital from Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and doctors are concerned other patients may have been exposed because sterilization may not stave off the disease, according to a hospital spokeswoman.

Although officials are calling the disease "mad cow-like" rather than confirming that mad cow is probably the cause, animal rights activists claim the disease is the human variant of mad cow, caused by ingesting infected cattle tissue.

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