Adventism is a faith known for health reform. A particular way which this is exhibited is in the vegetarian diet that is practiced. This is not an arbitrary decision; rather a conscious and informed practice based on results of scientific research, daily evidence, and a desire to best maintain the most amazing and efficient machines God created, our bodies.
“Beef; it’s what’s for dinner!” Every American has heard this line. And most Americans salivate at the thought. Yet, at the same time we see headlines like, “Meat Consumption Linked to Cancer,” “Mad Cow Killer,” and “Is your Steak at Stake?” proclaiming the dangers of meat-eating. Headlines such as these have been seen everywhere from the New York Times to Science Daily to the Health Journal, and first began appearing in the New York Times in the mid-1800s. In contrast, if you were to Google “vegetables and cancer” the results speak only of the preventative properties of vegetables toward cancer and other health issues, and of the healthfulness of vegetarianism. What is it about these two different classes of diet that makes one potentially deadly and the other a possible agent in reversing the effects of the former?
The make-up of our bodies is primarily protein; hair skin, blood, muscle, and organs are all protein. The protein in our bodies is made up of 20 different amino acids which are essential to the maintenance of our systems. Of these 20, we naturally produce only 9, the rest of which must be obtained through adequate nutrition. When we partake of one serving of animal protein, we are getting more than seven times the amount of protein we need; whereas, in plant protein the concentration in a serving is the recommended amount for the needs of the human body to be fulfilled. What does the body do with the excess protein? It is processed through the kidneys and returned to the body in stored energy that we know as “fat.” It is quite understandable, then, why America is the obese capital of the world!
Obesity carries with it serious health problems. The first and foremost issue is the likelihood of an obese person to develop diabetes. Someone with such a surplus of weight is three times more likely to develop this disease, which also raises the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD), strokes, osteoarthritis, gallstones, and sleep apnea.
When we eat protein, our bodies break down the protein and convert it into a form that is constructive: amino acids. These amino acids then are specialized and sent to the different parts of the body where they are needed. Yet, when there is an excess of amino acids, the body is forced to excrete the extra through the kidneys. Each amino acid strain must be neutralized before the kidneys can do this. The neutralization is done by calcium. Once the calcium is processed through the kidneys, our bodies get rid of both the extra amino acids and the calcium through urination. The calcium for this process comes from the bloodstream forcing the body to then tap into the bone’s stores of calcium, thus depleting the bone density. This is especially dangerous for women. It has been found that women who partake regularly of meat have lost 35% of their bone density by the age of 65.
In addition to the issue of high protein concentration, the meat the average American consumes in a day contains over 75% of the daily caloric recommendation, most of which are calories from fat! Meat also consists of high levels of saturated fat and low-density lipoproteins (LDL), also known as “bad cholesterol”. Saturated fat by itself contains cholesterol, but there is additional cholesterol in meat that is not a part of the strains of saturated fat. Our bodies naturally produce cholesterol in the very limited quantities that we need. Additional amounts, however, are responsible for the clogging and hardening of the arteries. This often leads to issues with heart disease, obesity, strokes, heart attacks, cancer, diabetes, and more. A diet consisting of raw vegetation lacks the necessary properties to induce these physiological issues. Cholesterol is found only in animal products. The Journal for the American Medical Association (JAMA) has stated that a vegetarian diet can prevent 97% of coronary occlusions, or blocked arteries.
In the book The China Study, T. Colin Campbell compares the diet, health statistics (i.e. cholesterol level, blood pressure, mortality rate, etc.), and diseases of China and the United States. The results of this study were astounding! Blood cholesterol levels have been thought by traditional medicine to be dangerously low at 150mg/dl. This was being proclaimed in a country ranked as one of the highest in cancer and heart disease mortality rates. China, on the other hand has an average cholesterol level of 127 mg/dl (America’s average is 215!), and the mortality rate due to the “western diseases” dropped by nearly 70%. What made these findings far more provocative was another study conducted by W. Haenszel and M. Kurihara that tracked the Japanese immigrants to America. This study found that those immigrants who adopted the dietary patterns of the Americans also assumed the health risks of their new geographical area. The implication here is quite strong that these diseases are not caused primarily by genetics, which the western world likes to think, but rather a result of diet and lifestyle. Congress summarized a compilation of these studies and found that only 2–3% of these diseases, particularly cancer, are attributed to genes.
There are ample studies that have proven over and over again that meat consumption is linked with heart disease and cancer. Some of these “studies” have been unintentional. During World War I, Denmark’s supply of meat was cut off. In seeing that one pound of meat is equal to 15 pounds of grain, the government decided to open their grain stores to the people. Not only did the people survive just fine on this diet, they thrived! The death rate dropped 34% from all causes. These results have been repeated throughout history. Whenever there has been a shortage of meat supply, the health of those affected has increased and the disease rate has fallen dramatically. And to drive the point home a little harder, the rate of death and disease rose once again once the supply of meat was restored.
The controlled studies have come to the same conclusion. Caldwell B. Esselstyn M.D. conducted a study of 18 patients who had experienced 48 cardiac events collectively. He placed them on a vegetarian diet low in cholesterol and reviewed the results over a 12 year period. Among those who were placed on this diet, only one patient, who was non-cooperative with the diet, suffered another cardiac event. In those patients who followed the diet, Esselstyn found that the more closely a patient followed the prescribed program, the better off they were.
According to the JAMA, acidity levels in the body causes 97% of the health issues that we encounter, cancer being a leading disease. A meat based diet is a main cause for the high acidity level in the human body. One of the body’s highest priorities is to maintain a healthy pH balance in the blood. The pH range is very narrow; between 7.35 and 7.45. If the pH level in the body goes below 7.355, the body begins to lose its proper function. Cell production is slowed, energy production in the cells lessens, and the body’s ability to absorb nutrients and minerals is hindered. The effects of this may be somewhat subtle at first and easy to blame on other causes; however, left unattended, the consequences could turn severe. Fatigue, depression, headaches, sleep depravation, lack of energy, lack of concentration, achiness, and increased illness are just some of the short-term effects. If the body’s pH remains acidic over a period of time, Crohn’s Disease, colitis, arthritis, kidney stones, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, cancer, and a myriad of other diseases come into play.
Here is where we see the link between cancer and the consumption of flesh meat. Meat has a natural pH ranging from 4.0 to 5.0, although, to help tenderize the flesh, a lower pH is artificially induced, bringing the acidity level as low as 2.5. Dieticians recommend four parts alkali to one part acid in our diet. An appropriate acidic level for consumption is not below 6.0! When our bodies ingest this amount of acidity, the cell production is slowed down significantly and the new cells often are mutated. In addition to this, the reparation of cells is dangerously inhibited. Cancer occurs when there is an interruption in the cell’s natural process. If a newly developing cell splits before it has all the information required to function properly, these cells may not die when they are supposed to and duplicate when they should not. They also may not have received the information that dictates with what part of the body they belong, which allows them to travel to places where they are not needed and can be harmful. This is what forms tumors.
The fact of the matter is that cancerous cells are anaerobic, meaning that they survive without oxygen, and they are acidic, which means that they thrive in a low pH. This means that cancer cells cannot survive in an alkaline environment! Different parts of our body, out of necessity, vary in their pH balance. Yet, every part is affected by what we put into our bodies. The nutrients that we ingest, along with the toxins and acids, are transported through our bloodstream. So the entire body is fed through our blood. Whatever is in the bloodstream is carried to every portion of the body and distributed, toxins and all. If the blood is acidic, the entire body will be also. By maintaining a diet that is primarily alkaline, we can take our health into our own hands.
Through diet and a healthy life style we can take a responsible stance with our health and prevent the top five leading causes of death in our country: heart disease, cancer, medical care, stroke, and chronic lower respiratory diseases (in order from greatest to least). God has blessed us through His provision of the means to maintain the health of our bodies, and the necessary remedies to heal them. While we are just now figuring this out, Ellen White wrote on this very matter: “While He [Christ] did not give countenance to drug medication, He sanctioned the use of simple and natural remedies.” Counsels on Health, 30. “By the use of poisonous drugs, many bring upon themselves lifelong illness, and many lives are lost that might be saved by the use of natural methods of healing. The poisons contained in many so-called remedies create habits and appetites that mean ruin to both soul and body. … The use of natural remedies requires an amount of care and effort that many are not willing to give. Nature’s process of healing and upbuilding is gradual, and to the impatient it seems slow. The surrender of hurtful indulgences requires sacrifice. But in the end it will be found that nature, untrammeled, does her work wisely and well. Those who persevere in obedience to her laws will reap the reward in health of body and health of mind.” The Ministry of Healing, 127, 128. “Our Saviour is the restorer of the moral image of God in man. He has supplied in the natural world remedies for the ills of man, that His followers may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. We can with safety discard the concoctions which man has used in the past. The Lord has provided antidotes for disease in simple plants, and these can be used by faith, with no denial of faith; for by using the blessings provided by God for our benefit we are cooperating with Him. We can use water and sunshine and the herbs which He has caused to grow for healing maladies brought on by indiscretion or accident.” Selected Messages, Book 2, 289.
Alicia Freedman works at Steps to Life as a part of the LandMarks team. She can be reached by e-mail at: email@example.com.