By Lee Kurisko, MD
It is frequently cited that almost all human societies have consumed meat and that these societies did not suffer from the ravages of modern diseases such as heart disease, cancer, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity etc. This is in fact true, but the key fact is that their consumption of meat was miniscule at only about one ounce per day per person of total animal products. That is one ounce total of meat, fish, fowl, dairy, and eggs per day. Think of a quarter pound patty of meat. One ounce is only one quarter of that and that is what people have traditionally consumed prior to modern society.
According to Dr. John MacDougall, all large successful human civilizations have based most of their diet on starch! For example, in rural China, rice and vegetables are the staples of their diet. According to T. Colin Campbell, leader of the Cornell China Study, much of the traditional Chinese population consume no meat at all, and the Chinese are renowned for being extremely slim. China is opening up to Western eating habits and this is changing, but prior to the most recent times, obesity was virtually unheard of in China and the common diseases of Western civilization were extremely rare.
Until recently, the longest-lived population of earth were the Okinawans. They live on a plant-based diet, only consuming about three ounces of animal food per week, some of which was fish. Perhaps 50 or 100 years ago, fish was safe to consume, but now it is loaded with heavy metals like mercury and organic pollutants.
Okinawans have lost their coveted spot and the longest-lived people, having fallen under the influence of McDonald’s and other demons of modern diet. Currently, the longest-lived population on earth is the vegan Seventh Day Adventists in California.
Is there a safe threshold of animal food consumption that does not induce disease? Perhaps there is, but it is likely very low. According to Dr. Michael Gregor of nutritionfacts.org, studies have been demonstrating increased risk of diabetes with very low rates of animal food consumption. One longitudinal study compared Buddhist monks in China. One group were strict vegans never consuming animal products. The other consumed a few ounces per week. They were followed for four years. None of the vegan monks became diabetic during the duration of the study, whereas diabetes was common among the meat eaters. Many people may not be interested in eliminating all animal products from their diet. Although no animal products at all would be best, any move towards more plants and less animal products will be a step in the right direction for better health.
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