Eating meat causes life-threatening diseases

Three of India’s most common diseases, blood pressure, arthritis and diabetes Type-2 have been linked to meat eating. Let us discuss why.


High blood pressure or hypertension is the amount of force exerted against the walls of the arteries as blood flows through them. If a person has high BP, it means that the walls of the arteries are getting too much pressure. Smoking, being overweight, lack of exercise, stress, genetics and bad eating habits can lead to high BP. If left unchecked, it can lead to stroke (it accounts for 62% of strokes), heart attacks, and damage to the organs. A healthy blood pressure measurement should be 120/80 or lower.


With all the advertisements in the media it is easy to believe that the easy way to lower your blood pressure is with medication. This is not true. High blood pressure is a serious health problem but it can be combated by eating the right foods.


In research conducted by the Oxford University on more than 10,000 people in 2002, the prevalence of hypertension showed to be significantly different between meat eating and vegan diet groups, ranging from 15.0% in male meat eaters to 5.8% in male vegans, and from 12.1% in female meat eaters to 7.7% in female vegans.


Red meat is a calorie-dense, saturated fat-rich food which promotes inflammation, weight gain and increased cholesterol levels, leading to formation of plaque in the arteries. As the plaque builds up in the arteries it makes them narrower which means higher blood pressure. 


High BP is closely related to weight. Studies show that the fat content in meat causes more weight gain in people than vegetable and fruit consumption.


Processed meats are high in salt, which also contributes to elevated blood pressure; Women who consumed 3.5 servings of red meat per week were found to have a 24% increase in risk of hypertension over a 10-year period. A 7-year study of middle-aged men similarly found that meat intake was associated with larger increases in blood pressure, while vegetable and fruit intake were associated with smaller increases in blood pressure over time.


Heme iron, present only in meat, is another factor. The heme iron in red meat accumulates and causes damage to the cells contributing to the clogging of arteries. Non-heme iron found in plant foods has no impact on blood pressure.


Vegetarians have much lower cholesterol levels than meat-eaters. Vegetarian meals - and I mean those without milk as well - are typically low in saturated fat, and plants do not have any cholesterol . It is found only in animal products such as meat, dairy, and eggs,


For optimal blood pressure levels, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (USA) recommends a low-fat diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables. A study published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association shows that glutamic acid, found in vegetable protein, can help lower blood pressure. 


Certain fruits and vegetables are especially beneficial for BP patients. Potatoes contain kukoamines, which combat hypertension. Citrus fruits such as grapes, limes and oranges contain phytonutrients and bioflavonoids. These prevent blood clot formations in blood vessels. Tomato contains the antioxidant lycopene, which prevents high blood pressure. Flower vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage have glutamic acid which benefits the neurological brain function. Melons contain magnesium, potassium and carotenoids which help prevent blood vessels from hardening and narrowing. Carrots are rich in beta carotene and potassium, which are excellent for lowering blood pressure.


If you want to keep your BP in check, switch to plant based foods. When patients with high BP begin a vegetarian diet, many are able to eliminate the need for medication.


Arthritis literally means inflammation of the joints.  This starts with stiff joints and as it develops it could stop you from walking, leading to obesity, high cholesterol or heart disease. People who cannot move because of arthritis often suffer depression.


There is no cure for arthritis; only medicines to make it more bearable.


Earlier, arthritis was considered an old people's disease. Now more and more young people are getting it. There are over 180 million arthritis patients in India.

Arthritis is caused by acidity in the body. Where does this come from and how does it affect the bones?


Meat contains four times more amino acids than any vegetable-based protein. The body neutralises the acids from meat by using calcium. This calcium is drawn from the bones and used to offset these acids. Through this process the bones are weakened, resulting in osteoarthritis and osteoporosis.

Research conducted in the UK has discovered that eating red meat increases your chances of developing arthritis. The study was based on food diaries kept by 260 participants who kept detailed food journals for seven days. It was found that participants who ate the most red meat were more than twice as likely to have inflammatory arthritis.


Again, heme iron, which is absorbed easier and quicker than non-heme iron in plant foods, can cause excess iron in the rheumatoid synovial membrane, leading to arthritis.


A Swedish study has found that a vegan diet can fight compounds in the body that are responsible for arthritis. As part of the study, 30 patients with rheumatoid arthritis were fed a vegan diet and 28 were fed a non-vegan diet for three months.


The result showed an increase in levels of protective antibodies and a reduction in the percentage of fat in the body amongst the vegan diet group.


People with rheumatoid arthritis have experienced improvements after switching from a meat-rich diet to a plant-based one.  People who rarely eat fruit and have low levels of vitamin C are up to three times more likely to develop inflammatory arthritis. Antioxidants, found in some of the vegetables, protect against tissue damage around the joints. One study found that people who ate a vegetarian or vegan diet reported an improvement in arthritis symptoms including pain, morning stiffness, and grip strength.


Diabetes is a condition in which the body is not able to make enough insulin in the pancreas, or the body cells are unable to use the insulin being produced. Without insulin, glucose builds up in the blood, resulting in high blood sugar. Currently, there are 67 million diabetes patients in India. Type-2 diabetes is connected to body weight, fitness and lifestyle.


Scientists from the Harvard School of Public Health have analysed data from studies of people followed for 14 to 28 years to observe their diet and the effect it had on their blood sugar levels. It was found that a daily serving of red meat increased the risk of adult-onset diabetes by 19%. A daily serving of processed red meat increased the risk by 51%.


Three components of red meat were indicted—sodium, nitrites, and iron. Sodium increases BP, and it also causes insulin resistance (when body cells are unable to use the insulin being produced). Nitrites and nitrates also increase insulin resistance and damage pancreatic beta cells (which store and release insulin). Heme iron is easily absorbed and in some people this can cause excess iron. Too much iron can lead to higher levels of inflammation, which is a precursor to diabetes. The Harvard study found that replacing meat with whole grains, nuts and low-fat dairy, lowered diabetes risk.


According to another study published by the American Diabetes Association researchers studied 99 subjects divided into two groups. One group was fed a vegan diet for 22 weeks, while the other group was fed a diet with meat for the same duration. At the end of the 22 weeks, it was found that more people from the vegan group had lowered their medicine dosage in comparison to the group on the meat diet. Participants who followed the vegan diet also experienced greater reduction in cholesterol levels and weight loss.  


These three are lifestyle diseases. That means you decide if whether you want them or not. If you are a habitual meat eater, why not try mock meat? It is made of soya and is rich in proteins. It tastes exactly like meat but will not cause harm.


Maneka Sanjay Gandhi


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