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The Meat Mob Muscles In
By: Merritt Clifton
From ANIMAL PEOPLE June 1997 edition
Reprinted by Permission - 24 April 2003
Poorly educated women, often of ethnic minorities, many of them immigrants, do the hardest, dirtiest, most dangerous work--until their bodies fail them.
Pushers on almost every busy street corner stoke the addictions that already kill more Americans than any other cause, and have created the world's deadliest drug problem.
Their suppliers rank among the global leaders in dumping toxic waste.
Kingpins of this mob, some already convicted of political corruption reaching clear to the White House, are now muscling into position to siphon off the hard-won economic gains of the developing world.
Yet legally speaking, anyway, we're not talking about Organized Crime.
They're the Meat Mob. They're big on family, as in family restaurants. But they also devour their own.
Wendy's International restaurant chain founder Dave Thomas, for instance, in December 1996 underwent a coronary bypass operation for repair of cholesterol-clogged arteries. Thomas was 64. Public and media enjoyed the irony that the Wendy's signature menu item is a bacon cheeseburger, possibly the most cholesterol-loaded regular menu item in the cholesterol-heavy fast food market.
But there was nothing unusual in Thomas' plight.
The National Center for Health Statistics recorded the deaths of 2.3 million Americans in 1995. Heart disease killed 32%; cancers killed 23%; stroke killed 6.8%. These were the top three killers. They are degenerative conditions, increasing in frequency with age, and would probably be the top killers even if every American ate a healthy balanced diet, got plenty of exercise, and did not smoke.
But victims would be much older. Heart disease, cancer, and stroke tend to strike decades prematurely, with improper diet a causal factor. To be specific, Americans ingest far too much of a particular type of fat, cholesterol, found only in animal products and byproducts. Physicians have known for decades that cholesterol build-ups cause clogged arteries that contribute to the onset of heart attacks and stroke, and amplify the consequences. Cholesterol build-up, exacerbating direct harm done to the cardiovascular system by the nicotine in tobacco smoke, even increases the likelihood that a smoker will be among the estimated 170,000 Americans per year who die from cancers and other diseases associated with smoking.
More than 300 studies published in recent editions of medical journals have already documented the association between meat and chronic disease.
"We now know that cigarette smoking, alcohol, and ordinary foods together are associated with almost all of excess cancer," Philip H. Abelson editorialized in the January 10, 1992 edition of Science. Five years later, his statement has only been reinforced. "The contribution from foods is about as great as that from smoking," Abelson continued. "Two examples of causative agents in foods are excessive amounts of fats and salt," both associated with eating meat. "Western populations that derive 40 to 45% of their food calories from fats experience comparatively high mortality from cancers of the postmenopausal breast, distal colon, ovary, endometrium, pancreas, and prostate."
Fairly typical of subsequent scientific findings was a study of 35,000 women under 69 years of age, done by James Cerhan and team at the University of Iowa--an institution heavily endowed by the feed grain and hog industries, and not exactly a bastion of radical vegetarians. Cerhan et al reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association of May 1, 1996 that women who ate more than four servings of red meat per month had twice the risk of getting non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph system, than those who ate less.
Four servings of red meat per month is the equivalent of just one hamburger per week.
Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma has increased 73% since 1975, especially among older people. Demographic data suggests good reason to isolate red meat consumption as a critical variable in searching for the causal factors--especially among women. Since 1975, U.S. red meat consumption per capita has declined 12%, despite a 13% per capita rise overall in consumption of animal-based foods. Consumption, according to U.S. Bureau of the Census and Department of Agriculture data from fiscal year 1994, is closely age-related:
Age of householder Persons per household M/F $ meat per person/year $ red meat per person/year
includes eggs, dairy products, and fish
Under 25 1.8 1/1 $238 $132 25-34 2.8 1/1 $232 $121 35-44 3.4 1/1 $270 $142 45-54 2.9 9/10 $323 $167 55-64 2.3 9/10 $336 $176 65-plus 1.5 7/10 $370 $117
The older the householder, the greater the spending on red meat--until the gender ratio slips abruptly above 65 years of age. In the oldest age bracket, spending on red meat plummets, directly reflective of lower female consumption, which shows in every age bracket. The older female who eats a lot of red meat stands out.
Also evident is the association of red meat eating with mortality. Younger people, more likely to be single and to eat out, consume slightly more red meat than young families, predominant in the next age bracket. Thereafter, red meat consumption rises steadily with age and income, up to the oldest bracket, where the survivors are those who eat less.
Almost the same trend shows in relation to consumption of all types of animal-based food. The case for a general relationship between animal-based food consumption and mortality is thrown off, however, by the highest spending on animal-based food appearing in the upper age range, even after red meat consumption plummets.
But because deaths from chronic conditions are far more prevalent than deaths from acute illness, demographics alone don't show the deadly effects of meat contamination. Rather, demographics tend to suggest only what "safe" meat does to people of average overall health. The growing weight of studies like Cerhan's provide the confirmation.
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