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Mid-Hudson Vegetarian Society, Inc.
38 East Market Street, Rhinebeck, New York 12572 USA -  845-876-2626
Vegetarian - Vegan - Animal Rights - Health - Nutrition - Environment

The mission of the Mid-Hudson Vegetarian Society, Inc. is to promote the vegetarian ethic in the Mid-Hudson (New York) region, educate the community and aid anyone in the pursuit of a totally vegetarian (vegan) cruelty-free and healthful lifestyle.

Newsletters - Winter 2007 Issue

The Health/Vegetarian/Vegan-Connection Goes Mainstream [Almost]
By Constance Young

The vegetarian and vegan diet and lifestyle have been on the upsurge, resulting in books and a slew of articles in major news outlets. Leading the list is the December 15, 2006 report
in the prestigious British Medical Journal about a study of some 8,200 men and women with a startling conclusion: Kids with the highest IQs were more likely to become vegetarians as adults, also possibly lowering their risk of cardiovascular disease. “Brighter people tend to have healthier dietary habits,” said the researcher and author Catherine Gale, PhD.

Dr. Gales' team gathered data on a group of 30-year olds whose IQs had been tested when they were 10-years old. According to Dr. Gale, “children who scored higher on IQ tests at age 10 were more likely than those who got lower scores to report that they were vegetarian at age 30.” [Let's not say, “We could have told you so.]

Also recently, the New York Times ran several vegan-friendly articles. In the January 11, 2007 article in the Style section called “Uncruel Beauty,” they write extensively about vegan
fashions, also including favorable mentions of "cruelty-free" diets and stores like “Whole Foods,” and eco-minded labels like Novacas [no cows]. A week later, on January 24th, the
Times ran a long and flattering article with vegan recipes in the Dining and Wine Section, called “Strict Vegan Ethics, Frosted With Hedonism.” In it, they interview vegan chef, Isa
Chandra Mowkowitz.

Also in January 2007, the venerable New Yorker and trendy Internet magazine Salon wrote long and extensive reviews of Tristram Stuart’s recent book, “The Bloodless Revolution: A
Cultural History of Vegetarianism from 1600 to Modern Times.” The New Yorker reviewer wrote, “Stuart is of the opinion that vegetarians have long had the best intellectual
arguments.” And, there’s much more. In my regular column in the trade publication, Nurse Practitioners Word News, I wrote about several recent medical reports of health benefits from a plant-based diet. Among these was a study of middle-aged vegetarians on a diet relatively low in protein and calories.

The researchers reported in December 2006 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that the low-protein group had lower blood levels of several hormones and other substances tied to certain cancers than people eating the typical meat-based American diet. [Here’s your answer to the proverbial, "Where do you get your protein?]

In another cancer study in the November 2006 issue of American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Washington University researchers reported that those staples of the vegetarian diet, onions and garlic, have a lower cancer risk. The researchers analyzed eight Swiss and Italian studies and concluded that older people with the highest onion and garlic intakes had the lowest risks of certain cancers [particularly colon, ovarian and throat cancer].

Other research also found that garlic and tomatoes may have “synergistic” cancer-fighting effects when taken together. Vegetables also fared well against a common eye disease that can lead to blindness called age-related macular degeneration. A study in the Archives of Ophthalmology (August 2006) looked at 1,787 women and found that this disease may be prevented with a diet high in lutein plus zeaxanthin, which are plant pigments [called carotenoids] that are found in leafy green vegetables, corn, squash, broccoli, and peas.

While there have been many studies showing positive health benefits from vegetarian foods, a great many studies show an opposite, negative effect, from animal foods. Most recently, researchers at Harvard Medical School found that in a long-running study of 90,659 women, those women who were premenopausal and ate more red meat had a higher risk of getting hormone receptor-positive breast cancers. The impetus for all of these and other studies and for the growing press coverage is undoubtedly influenced by the fact that vegetarianism and veganism appears to be inching up statistically in the U.S.

The 2006 Statistical Abstract of the United States found that during the 20 years between 1980 and 2003, the per capita consumption of red meat fell from 126.4 pounds to 111.9 pounds. In contrast, fresh vegetable consumption rose from 338.4 to 416.6 pounds and fresh fruits from 105.1 to 126.7 pounds. [Certain disease rates are also down, and statisticians have yet to make the connections.]

How many vegetarians are there? Polling data differ. In a 1994 Roper Poll of 1,978 men and women 18 years and older, 6 % said they never eat meat (compared with 75% who said they eat everything). An earlier Gallup Poll in 1991 conducted for the National Restaurant Association found that about 20 % of the population looks for a restaurant with vegetarian items when they eat out. Compare this to a 2000 report by the market research firm Opinion Research for the leading producer of refrigerated foods called Lightlife, which conducted a random sampling of 1,000 American adults. They found that 44 % of Americans now eat vegetarian foods as part of a daily diet “because they know how healthy vegetarian food is for them.”

Among teens and college students. The market research series “The U.S. Market for Wellness Foods and Beverages” published in August 2003 by Packaged Facts, claimed that a growing percentage of teens are calling themselves vegetarian or are open to it. Among college students, a 2004 survey conducted by a company specializing in food services for schools found that nearly 25% of students said that finding vegan meals on campus was important to them. Compare all of the above to a 1977 U.S. Department of Agriculture Nationwide Food Consumption Survey of 37,135 people in which only 1.2 % answered "yes" to the question “Are you a vegetarian?” The Vegetarian Resource Group (www.vrg.org), in the previously mentioned Jan. 11th New York Times article claims there are an estimated 4.8 million vegetarians in the U.S., one-third to one-half of whom are vegan. “That number has nearly doubled since 1997,” they report.

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