Too good to be true? Water cures ulcers, high blood pressure and asthma

The story of how one man discovered the healing properties of water sounds like the makings of a medical thriller. It even has a mysterious hero – Dr. Batman, MD.


As he relates in his last interview with Mike Adams of Natural News, the late Fereydoon Batmanghelidj was a well-respected doctor in his native Iran, when the Iranian Revolution broke out in 1979. Dr. Batman was jailed at the infamous Evin prison for three years, along with other intellectuals and professionals who were considered a threat to the new regime. Conditions were barbaric and supplies were slim to nonexistent. At one point, he had to treat a man crippled from the pain of a peptic ulcer. Having no medication to treat him with, he gave the patient two glasses of water. After a few minutes, the man uncurled from the fetal position and stopped screaming. Doctor Batman was surprised, and prescribed him two more glasses of water at three-hour intervals. The man was pain free for the duration of his four-month stay at the prison. He continued testing his water treatment on over 3000 patients during his stay, and even refused early release in order to continue studying the effects of water on peptic ulcers and other stress related conditions.


After he was released from prison and sought refuge in the US, Dr. Batman applied his medical training to discover the scientific underpinnings of his findings. He found that most so-called diseases of the modern era are actually symptoms of chronic dehydration. When an area of the body becomes dehydrated, the body sends a warning signal in the form of pain. It also takes measures to preserve the remaining water resources. After years of substituting juice, tea, coffee, soda and alcohol for water, many people are chronically dehydrated and don’t even know it. According to Dr. Batman, one of the effects of chronic dehydration is that you gradually lose your thirst sensation.


Dr. Batman points out that modern medicine attempts to treat the symptoms of dehydration without understanding the cause. As a result, the condition steadily worsens, and most people find themselves on medication for the remainder of their life. Consider Dr. Batman’s explanations of a few modern epidemics:


High Blood Pressure


Conventional medicine


Cause: Cause of High Blood Pressure is unknown in 90-95% of cases


Treatment: Angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors, angiotensin receptor blocking drugs, beta-blockers and diuretics are used to target the chemicals in your body that constrict blood vessels, and to decrease the volume of water in the blood.


Possible side effects: diarrhea, slow heart rate, rash, impotence, high cholesterol, dizziness, depression, suicide


Dr. Batman


Cause: When the body is dehydrated, the blood vessels constrict in order to pump water from the bloodstream into drought areas of the body.


Treatment: 2 quarts of water day, a half hour before meals and 2 and a half hours after.


Possible side effects: none


Asthma


Conventional medicine


Cause: unknown


Treatment: Long term control and quick relief medications such as fluticasone, budesonide mometasone, triamcinolone, flunisolide, beclomethasone, montelukast, zafirlukast, and zileuton that target the chemicals that cause bronchial constriction.


Possible side effects: agitation, aggression, hallucinations, depression, suicidal thinking and increased risk of a severe asthma attack.


Dr. Batman


Cause: Every day, a quart of water is lost through respiration. When water resources are low, the body automatically constricts the alveoli in the lungs to prevent further water loss.


Treatment: 2 quarts of water day, a half hour before meals and 2 and a half hours after.


Possible side effects: none


The implications of Dr. Batmanghelidj’s studies are far-reaching, and maybe for some, far-fetched. But the beauty of his water cure is that anyone can test it. You don’t need a medical degree; you don’t need a prescription. Unlike most experimental treatments, it won’t put you in debt. It has no negative side effects, and accidental overdoses are not common.


Could it really be that simple? There’s an old principle of logic called Occam’s Razor which states, “the simplest answer is usually the right one.” Unfortunately, it is usually overriden by another principle called Corporate Interest, which states, “the simplest answer makes the least money.”


For more information, visit Dr. Batmangheldij's site.

BPA in canned foods

Ahhh...the occasional can of creamed corn. Maybe a French green bean eaten right out of the can cold for a snack. Sound too gross for you? How about using canned chopped tomatoes or tomato paste? Canned soup anyone? I think most folks use these in their cooking.


Now a new study by the Center for Health, Environment & Justice in New York City recommends forgoing canned food altogether due to their findings that 92% of canned foods tested contain BPA leached from the inner can lining: health.usnews.com/health-news/diet-fitness/diet/articles/2010/05/18/bpa-in-cans-poses-health-threat-report-claims.html . The study calls for a Federal ban on Bisphenol A (BPA), a common chemical used in the metal linings of some canned foods and ubiquitous in plastic products, including baby bottles and sippy cups.


BPA has come under scrutiny lately, with studies linking it to a host of health and developmental problems. One linked BPA to diabetes and heart disease: health.usnews.com/health-news/family-health/heart/articles/2008/09/16/heart-disease-diabetes-linked-to-chemical-in-plastics.html.


Dr. Sarah Jannsen, a staff scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council in San Franciso, said that "in animal studies, exposure to BPA is associated with reproductive harm, alterations in behavior and brain development, increased risk of prostate and breast cancer, and an earlier onset of puberty."


And, she added, "The fact that BPA causes such a side range of effects at low doses is really very concerning." [1]


Laura N. Vandenberg, a postdoctoral fellow at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, said BPA is an estrogen-like hormone that can cause reproductive problems.


"BPA has been linked to so many different diseases and dysfunctions that it's not safe," she said. "It's not safe in any aspect of that word."


Foods tested included fruits, vegetables, fish, beans, soups and tomatoes. "Potential exposure to BPA, not just from one can, but from meals you prepare over the course of a day with canned food, can actually expose consumers to potentially harmful levels of BPA," said report co-author Mike Shade.


Of course the canned food industry took issue with the report, saying no alternative safe technology exists to protect consumers against the food-borne illnesses the BPA is supposed to inhibit. However, Eden Foods has been offering food in BPA-free cans for more than 10 years, and Muir Glen, a subsidiary of General Mills, is planning to take BPA out of its canned tomato cans, Shade added.


The goal of the report's writers is to get the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ban BPA in food packaging and drink containers. U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), is proposing just such an amendment to the Food Safety Act currently being considered in Congress.


Shade noted that the ban is needed because BPA is in so many products that consumers are bound to buy products that contain the chemical. "Unfortunately, we can't shop our way out of this problem, because BPA is widespread in many different consumer products and that's why we need Congress to take action to ban BPA," he said.


The FDA has decided to take another look at BPA, which it has continually maintained is safe for human consumption. In January 2010, the FDA and other U.S. health agencies pledged $30 million toward short- and long-term research aimed at clarifying the health effects of the chemical.


So what can you do to lower your exposure to BPA? Choose other packaging options, including glass and non-toxic plastics. Consumers can also switch from canned foods to fresh and frozen foods. Reach out to the manufacturers of the products you like and tell them that you want your cans to be free of BPA.


The Environmental Working Group last year conducted an analysis of BPA in various canned foods and found the amount varies widely depending on the food: health.usnews.com/health-news/diet-fitness/heart/articles/2008/09/17/5-ways-to-keep-bisphenol-a-or-bpa-out-of-your-food.html. Condensed milk, for instance, has relatively little BPA, while infant formula has a lot more--about one fifth the safe dose limit set by the Food and Drug Administration. Of course, the potential risk also depends on how much you consume.


Here are some good rules of thumb for reducing your intake of BPA.


  1. Buy your tomato sauce in glass jars. Canned tomato sauce is likely to have higher levels of BPA because the high acidity of the tomatoes causes more of the chemical to leach from the lining of the can. Think beyond plain tomato sauce to any canned pasta -- like ravioli and those fun-looking kids' meals.
  2. Consume frozen or fresh fruits and vegetables instead of canned. In addition to their BPA-free benefit, fresh and frozen produce usually have more nutrients, which often get lost in the process of canning. Eden Foods offers canned beans that are BPA-free.
  3. Purchase beverages in plastic or glass bottles. Canned soda and jice often contain some BPA. As far as BPA, you don't need to worry about disposable plastic water bottles. Most don't contain it, and those that do are usually marked on the bottom with a number 7 recycling code.
  4. Use powdered infant formula instead of ready-to-serve liquid. A separate assessment from the Environmental Working Group found that liquid formulas contain more BPA than powdered brands. We all know breast is best, when possible.)
  5. Think in terms of moderation. You don't need to avoid all canned foods. Just consult the chart in the EWG's full report on canned foods and follow a sensible approach, eating less of those foods that are high in BPA.

As always, fresh is better. Ready to start that summer garden yet? I bought more seeds today to add to my ongoing collection of self-harvested seeds. ;-]

Footnotes: 

1. As reported in Health Buzz by Megan Johnson of U.S. News and World Report.

Minding weight at the movies and in the sky


As an aid to keeping you healthy, movie theaters and airplanes, among others, will soon be posting calorie counts of their food offerings.

I noted here on September 6, 2010 about coming calorie counts on restaurant menus and in vending machines (http://www.downtoearth.org/blogs/2010-09/industry-legislation/meatless-m...), required by new federal guidelines. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reports, "The expansion stems from provisions in the health-care overhaul enacted in March (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405274870432370457546202147561006...). The government wants calorie listings posted to make it easier for consumers to select healthier options."

In preliminary guidelines released last month, the FDA said the scope of the law stretches beyond restaurants to encompass airlines, trains, grocery-store food courts, movie theaters and convenience stores that qualify as chains. Within grocery stores, the agency said, it is considering including salad bars, store bakeries, pizza bars and delicatessens for chains with 20 or more stores.

Health advocates say the change could be a powerful tool in fighting the obesity epidemic, which is a top initiative in Washington since first lady Michelle Obama made childhood obesity her signature cause in February. As expected, those chains affected aren't embracing it as positively.

"People don't go to movie theaters for the primary purpose of eating," said Gary Klein, a vice president for a group representing theater owners. "Why aren't ballparks covered? You think the food served at ballparks is healthy?" reported the WSJ. Stadiums aren't covered as they aren't chains.

The FDA plans to make official who is covered, and how, in December.

Perhaps greater awareness will lead to people making healthier food choices. We shall see.

Pop Quiz: For Breast Cancer Prevention, Collards, Carrots, or KFC?

Over the last month, while the Breast Cancer Awareness campaign was in full swing, some have questioned the effectiveness of what they call “pink washing,” or slapping everything from lipstick to a Ford Mustang with a pink ribbon and selling it in the name of breast cancer advocacy.

We might be hesitant to criticize companies for what appear to be well-intentioned efforts to raise awareness about a disease that will affect 1 in 8 women in America. However, when KFC starts selling pink “Buckets for the Cure,” we have to ask whether these companies really have the best interests of women at heart. Many ingredients in cosmetics have been linked to breast cancer, as have pollutants found in car exhaust. And the link between buckets of fried, tumor-ridden, estrogen-pumped chicken breasts and breast cancer should be obvious. Even the National Cancer Institute warns on its website that many studies, "have shown that an increased risk of developing colorectal, pancreatic, and breast cancer is associated with high intakes of well-done, fried or barbecued meats."

Meanwhile, the American Institute for Cancer Research reports that 60 to 70 percent of all cancers can be prevented with lifestyle changes. Their number one dietary recommendation is to: "Choose predominantly plant-based diets rich in a variety of vegetables and fruits, legumes and minimally processed starchy staple foods."

Three recent and reassuring studies released in the past month support the finding that lifestyle changes centered on healthy diet and exercise are the best way to prevent breast cancer. Here’s a roundup:

A team of Harvard scientists reviewed data from over 95,000 women gathered over a 20 year period and found that women who regularly take brisk walks are 15% less likely to get breast cancer than women who walk less than one hour a week. The study’s author, Dr. A. Heather Elliassen, noted that while there is a growing body of evidence that women who are highly physically active are at a lower risk of developing breast cancer, this study was encouraging because it suggested that women do not have to engage in vigorous work outs. It is enough to simply walk roughly three to four miles an hour, at a pace where it is harder to hold a conversation than when casually strolling.

Two studies in China have found that women with a higher intake of soy experience a lower risk of death or recurrence from breast cancer after menopause. These studies were conducted on women who had been eating soy for most of their lives. Doctors in the U.S. stressed that there was no evidence to suggest that women who have never eaten soy should begin after diagnosis. However, the China studies do suggest that women may experience a benefit from integrating soy into their diet as a preventative measure. Soy foods are rich in compounds called isoflavones, which affect estrogen metabolism. In the most current study, women with the highest soy intake consumed more than 42 milligrams of isoflavones per day, roughly equivalent to one and a half cups of soy milk.

Researchers at Boston University found that eating lots of carrots and cruciferous vegetables, which include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and collard greens, could lower risk of breast cancer. The study focused on an aggressive type of breast cancer called ER-negative that is resistant to estrogen therapy. The researchers found that women who ate at least two servings of vegetables a day had a 43 percent lower risk of ER-negative breast cancer compared with women who ate fewer than four servings of vegetables each week. The data was particularly significant for African American women, who are often diagnosed with this type of breast cancer. The author of the study, Dr. Deborah A. Boggs, noted that her earlier work showed that a diet high in whole grains, fruits and vegetables led to a lower risk of ER-negative breast cancer in African American women.

So, next year when October rolls around, let's start calling it Breast Cancer Prevention Month rather than Breast Cancer Awareness Month. KFC, Estee Lauder, L'oreal and Ford have all succeeded in making us very aware of the prevalence of breast cancer. Unintentionally, their efforts have also made more people aware of their contribution to breast cancer. But awareness is not enough. Prevention is what we need. We don't need pink buckets of fried chicken and pink-striped gas guzzlers. We have science on the side of health.

Do we really have to choose between health and a healthy economy?

You may have noticed an article floating around the web recently with the provocative headline <a data-cke-saved-href="http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101111/ap_on_he_me/eu_med_good_diet" href="/%3Ca%20href%3D"http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101111/ap_on_he_me/eu_med_good_diet">http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101111/ap_on_he_me/eu_med_good_diet" target"="">“Eat a Carrot, Hurt the Economy? Sometimes.”


Reporter Maria Cheng went on to describe a recent study apparently demonstrating that a global initiative to promote a healthy diet could result in dramatic losses for the economies of meat-exporting countries like Brazil. It was a typical attention-grabbing over-simplification for an author writing about a very thoughtful, technically involved research paper. If you dig a little deeper, the reality is more complex, and more interesting.


Six risk factors associated with nutrition account for 19% of all deaths worldwide. In descending order, these are: high blood pressure, high blood glucose, physical inactivity, overweight and obesity, high cholesterol and low fruit and vegetable intake. Researchers and doctors are beginning to make the connection that the majority of these risk factors are caused or exacerbated by a meat-based diet. The World Health Organization, which compiled the above statistics, has started a global health initiative to encourage people to reduce consumption of animal products and increase consumption of fruits and vegetables.


Some researchers have pointed out, however, that it’s not enough to simply recommend that people change their diet. You need to follow up with concrete policies that will address the root cause of the issue. Virtually no studies have been done about the impact of trade and agricultural policies on diet. To fill this gap, analysts at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine studied the economies of Brazil and the UK and modeled what might happen if people followed the WHO’s recommendation: www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2810%2961352-9/f... (Free registration required to access the full text of this article).


In fact, they did find that the Brazilian economy, which is heavily meat dependent, would take a hit. But that conclusion by itself isn’t very surprising – what the study authors are really after is a description of exactly how it would be affected, for the purpose of better designing trade and agricultural policies that support a healthy diet rather than work against it.


They set the stage in their introduction by explaining how market interests (read: profit), rather than health concerns, have dominated agricultural policies since the 1980’s. Barriers to international trade have been struck down and large transnational agribusiness corporations have secured a growing monopoly on the production and distribution of food.


The sudden rise in the global consumption of sugar and saturated fat is due to the increasing reach of these agribusiness corporations and the fast food outlets that feed off them. It is virtually impossible for small farmers to compete with multinational conglomerates on price, so organic food has become a specialty niche, a luxury in a market dominated by fertilizer-fed, pesticide-doused, nutrient-depleted, processed food, loaded with empty calories, fat and salt.


It’s not enough to tell people to stop eating food that’s not healthy for them, when that’s all they can afford, and when they’re making a living supplying the industrial food machine. You have to couple that recommendation with policies that support local agriculture and small farmers.


In her article, Cheng includes a quote from Richard Smith, a professor of Health System Economics at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine: "We are not suggesting people not eat a healthy diet. We're just trying to point out that healthier eating can have unintended consequences. In an ideal world, we would all have a perfect diet. But it's also desirable that everybody has a job."


By not giving context, Cheng makes it sound as though Smith is recommending that governments strike a balance between physical health and economic health, as though there were some perfect middle ground from which we could continue to grow the industrial food economy and halt the rise of chronic disease simultaneously.


From my reading, however, that’s not what the authors are saying at all. One of the bulleted key messages in the beginning of their paper states quite clearly, “The transition to diets high in saturated fat and sugar is causing global public health concern, and a major global health emphasis is needed to develop and implement policies to secure a healthy diet.” Their research helps to predict the obstacles that might arise if people try to follow these guidelines, which in turn helps us to address the root cause of the problem.


Unfortunately, just as we’ve become accustomed to a diet of cheap, fast food, we’ve also become accustomed to a media diet of frothy, insubstantial stories. Cheng missed an opportunity to highlight an important study. Hopefully, those in a position to change agricultural policy are attuned to better news sources.

FDA gains power to regulate Big Tobacco

In front page news today is a story about a landmark victory over the tobacco industry. The article “Senate grants FDA power to regulate Big Tobacco”, published by the Honolulu Advertiser, tells of how the federal government will likely soon have the power to regulate the manufacturing and marketing of cigarettes, and will gain the power to stop the addition of things like “cherry” flavoring to cigarettes, and the use of marketing targeted towards young people, such as the infamous Joe Camel. Quoting from the article:

WASHINGTON — Capping a half-century battle with the tobacco industry, the Senate overwhelmingly approved landmark legislation yesterday that would for the first time give the government far-reaching power to regulate the manufacturing and marketing of cigarettes and other tobacco products.

The legislation, which was approved by the Senate 79-17 and is expected to pass the House today, would allow the Food and Drug Administration to regulate ingredients in tobacco products and ban the marketing of "light" cigarettes.

In a bid to deter new smokers, the bill also imposes strict limits on full-color advertising for cigarettes, bans billboards close to schools and requires packages to carry larger warning labels.

"Joe Camel has been sentenced and put away forever," said Sen. Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., referring to a youth-oriented cartoon figure long used to promote Camel cigarettes.

The Obama administration and congress are seeking ways to extend health care coverage and to reduce the massive health care costs in the US that accounts for almost 10% of GDP, way more than in any other industrialized country. Controlling and reducing the smoking of tobacco products is one way to reduce health care costs and help people avoid crippling and unnecessary diseases and the consequent debilitating personal, family, and societal costs.

Actually, much of these huge health "care" costs are for the treatment of unnecessary and preventable diseases caused by the consumption of unhealthy meat based diets, the use of products such as tobacco and alcohol, and the living of unhealthy lifestyles.

At Down to Earth we promote the living of a healthy "down to earth" lifestyle consisting of a healthy vegetarian diet comprised of natural and organic foods, regular exercise, the drinking of clean water, breathing fresh clean air, and the avoidance of intoxicants. Please visit our stores and our website www.downtoearth.org for further information on how to adopt a healthier vegetarian diet.

Meat Linked to Increased Bladder Cancer Risk

In a recently concluded 12-year study, scientists found that people who eat meat regularly, especially meat that is well done or cooked at high temperatures, may have a higher chance of developing bladder cancer.


Surprised? I didn’t think so. The study, undertaken by scientists at the University of Texas, joins previous research linking meat with bowel, pancreatic and colon cancer. So while I’m glad these studies are making headlines and getting coverage, it’s worth pointing out that this “news” is not exactly new.


Many people I know, who profess to be concerned with their health and the health of the planet, are so jaded by the constant discovery of new carcinogens that they shrug them off, saying, “yeah well, these days what doesn’t cause cancer?”


I understand how overwhelming it can be to feel surrounded by toxins in our environment. We take comfort in food, and we want to imagine that our dinner, at least, won’t kill us. However, if we look around at the rising rates of morbid obesity, heart disease and cancer, we can see that our dinner, if it includes meat, is killing us. We can hide behind the fatalistic argument that we’re all going to die anyway, or we can make the basic changes to our diet that will alleviate the risk of cancer, and improve our quality of life.


The distinctions are not that difficult to make. Study after study confirms that meat is not good for our health. To date, I have yet to find a study saying sweet potatoes are not good for our health. Ditto on taro, papayas, bananas, pineapple, kale, collard greens, bell peppers, tomatoes or cucumbers - and that’s just what’s growing in my garden right now. Switching to a plant-based diet is the single most important thing a person can do for their health. You don’t have to be fatalistic or jaded about the risk of cancer. Just plant a seed.


The most recent study found that people who consumed the most red meat were 48% more likely to develop bladder cancer than those who consumed the least. The report further studied the effects of high temperatures on meat. They found that “medium” meat was linked to a 46% increased risk of cancer while “well done” meat was lined to a 94% increase in risk, compared to meat that was “rare.”


I found it odd that the study only compared people who ate lots of meat to people who ate less meat. What about people who ate no meat? It might be useful, for example, to know that a heavy smoker cuts eight years off his life expectancy compared to a light smoker, but wouldn’t it be more useful to know the life expectancy of someone who never smoked at all?


This particular study didn’t include any data from vegetarians, but there are plenty of other examples from previous studies. One 11 year long study from Germany found that people who eat no meat are less than half as likely as the mainstream population to develop any kind of cancer.


In the University of Texas study, the scientists looked at the way meat was cooked, and concluded that chemical reactions between amino acids (the building blocks of protein and creatine (a chemical found in muscles) react under high temperatures to form heterocyclic amines (HCA’s), which are carcinogenic. The authorities stopped short of recommending a vegetarian diet, however, issuing the following statement instead:


“The UK Food Standards Agency says people can reduce their risk from chemicals that may cause cancer by…cooking at lower temperatures for a longer time, but warns that undercooked meat can cause food poisoning.”


So, cooked meat gives you cancer and uncooked meat gives you food poisoning?


Pass the sweet potatoes, please.

Vegetarian Diet Can Reduce Chemicals in Your Body

A recent study suggests that even five days of vegetarian eating significantly reduces potentially harmful chemicals in the body. Yet another benefit of a plant-based diet!


In “Influence of a five-day vegetarian diet on urinary levels of antbiotics and phthalate metabolites: A pilot study with ‘Temple Stay’ participants”[1] in the May 2010 issue of Environmental Research [2], twenty-five adults stayed for five days in a Buddhist temple in Korea, living as the monks did, following a vegetarian diet. Before beginning, urine samples taken showed high levels of antibiotics and phthalates.


As reported in care2.com, presumably the antibiotic levels were due mainly to meat consumption. Phthalates can also be absorbed through meat consumption, however, they are also found in abundant supply in the manmade environment, mainly found in plastics, like food containers, shower curtains, floor tiles, personal care products, textiles, pharmaceuticals, and many other applications. (Research about the potential health effects of phthalates on humans is ongoing.)


The researchers found antibiotic and phthalate urinary levels dropped very much after the study participants completed their vegetarian retreat. One, because they were no longer consuming foods high in those chemicals, but also because the body apparently can release some of its ingested, accumulated chemical residues.


The results may come as little surprise for people already mindful of exposure to industrial chemicals through food and interacting with plastic products.


The study provides some hope in the fact the body can release unnatural chemicals to some degree, and also indicates a vegetarian diet limits exposure to potentially damaging chemicals from our environment. We already know that following a plant-based diet reduces ones risk for developing heart disease, diabetes, obesity, hypertension, prostate and colon cancer. Now it appears it can help us detoxify too, providing us a weapon against the daily environmental onslaught of modern life.


So eat your veggies!! (Preferably organic!)

Footnotes: 
  1. http://www.care2.com/greenliving/vegetarian-diet-can-reduce-chemicals-in...
  2. Environmental Research: A Multidisciplinary Journal of Environmental Sciences, Ecology, and Public Health publishes original reports describing studies of the toxic effects of environmental agents on humans and animals. The principal aims of the journal are to define the etiology of environmentally induced illness and to increase understanding of the mechanisms by which environmental agents cause disease. http://www.elsevier.com/wps/find/journaldescription.cws_home/622821/desc...

Less Meat = Less Heat (lots) + other goodies

Photo: Fresh Fruit and Vegetables

Big news recently is that the United Nations is advocating a vegan diet for the world in order to combat climate change, dwindling fresh water supplies, hunger and land change leading to biodiversity loss.


The comprehensive report, “Assessing the Environmental Impacts of Consumption and Production,”  was released by the U.N. Environmental Program’s (UNEP) International Panel for Sustainable Resource Management,  to coincide with World Environmental Day on June 5th. While not specifically citing veganism, the report strongly recommends moving away from a meat and dairy-centered diet.


The U.N. report also suggests curbing fossil fuel use, which can again be achieved by going vegan.   Experts predict that there will be at least 9 billion people in the world by 2050, and global meat consumption is projected to double by that time.


The report says: "Impacts from agriculture are expected to increase substantially due to population growth increasing consumption of animal products. Unlike fossil fuels, it is difficult to look for alternatives: people have to eat. A substantial reduction of impacts would only be possible with a substantial worldwide diet change, away from animal products."


Professor Edgar Hertwich, the lead author of the report, said: "Animal products cause more damage than [producing] construction minerals such as sand or cement, plastics or metals. Biomass and crops for animals are as damaging as [burning] fossil fuels."


The recommendation follows advice last year from Lord Nicholas Stern, former adviser to the British government on the economics of climate change, that a vegetarian diet is better for the planet.  "Meat is a wasteful use of water and creates a lot of greenhouse gases. It puts enormous pressure on the world's resources. A vegetarian diet is better," Stern said.&


Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has also urged people to observe one meat-free day a week to curb carbon emissions.


“Agriculture, particularly meat and dairy products, accounts for 70% of global freshwater consumption, 38% of the total land use and 19% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions,” says the report. UN researchers also found that increased consumption of meat and dairy occurs as a result of economic growth, and the impact of this increase is at least as disastrous on the environment as increased fossil fuel use.


What I find very interesting is that the U.N.’s recommendations to forego meat are based on figures of the livestock industry contributing between 11% and 18% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This will seem radical for some people. I wonder if the report’s authors are becoming vegans?


But what’s even more radical is the April 2010 report by the WorldWatch Institute [1], “Livestock and Climate Change,”  that improves on the U.N.’s much quoted 2006 report, “Livestock’s Long Shadow." In their update, they show how the livestock sector actually accounts for a whopping 51% of worldwide GHGs – a share more than four-times larger than U.N.’s. They convincingly show how many factors have been overlooked – such as the respiration of livestock – and others have been wrongly assessed, underestimated or are out of date.


People are blogging excitedly about this, and two good summaries of the report are listed below:


For a perspective shift, they explain: “…livestock (like automobiles) are a human invention and convenience, not part of pre-human times, and a molecule of CO2 exhaled by livestock is no more natural than one from an auto tailpipe.”


Their recommendation is to promote “meat analogs”, which primarily come from soy. In fact the last two pages of the report outline a marketing strategy to convince the world to make the switch from flesh.


“…replacing livestock products with better alternatives would be the best strategy for reversing climate change. In fact, this approach would have far more rapid effects on GHG emissions…than actions to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy.” They assert that “Even if money and politics were up to the task, solutions involving renewable energy are expected to take more than a decade to implement fully, by which time the tipping point may long since have been passed for irreversible climate disruption.”


They aim for a 25% reduction in animal products by 2017, and call for change to be directed at industry, rather than governments, which can be slow to change. In fact, this presents an immense opportunity for business. A fast-food place with all meat analogs? Sounds fantastic. Instead of Burger King, you’d have Veggie Victory.


“By replacing livestock products with analogs, consumers can take a single powerful action collectively to mitigate most GHGs worldwide. Labeling analogs with certified claims of the amount of GHGs averted can give them a significant edge.”


The report points out that analogs are less expensive, less wasteful, easier to cook, and healthier than slaughtered animal products. They assert how meat analogs will also help ease the global food crisis, alleviate the global water crisis, improve health and labor conditions. [2]


Now where does dairy fit into all this? Interestingly, the U.N. has completed an analysis of the dairy industry’s impact on climate change. “Greenhouse Gas Emissions from the Dairy Sector”, published on April 20, 2010, found that milk production contributes 2.7% of global GHG emissions. When they factored in the unfortunate slaughter of calves that accompanies virtually all dairy production, the amount rises to 4%.


The report is a follow-up to the organization's 2006 report, “Livestock's Long Shadow”. It assesses the global dairy industry's contribution specifically and covers the production of dairy products from the farm to the retailer. All things considered, the 4% contribution to GHG arising from dairy production is much smaller than the impact of the meat industry taken as a whole.


There’s a lot of information out there for those who want it, for who want to be part of the solution, for those who care.


So whether you go vegan, vegetarian, or decide to start by giving up meat just one day a week, you’re part of the solution. Be encouraged, and check in here for more updates. Share with me what you find. We can make a difference!

Footnotes: 
  1. The Worldwatch Institute is an independent research organization recognized by opinion leaders around the world for its accessible, fact-based analysis of critical global issues. The Institute's three main program areas include Climate & Energy, Food & Agriculture, and the Green Economy. http://www.worldwatch.org/mission
  2. Meat and dairy analog projects will not only slow climate change but also help ease the global food crisis, as it takes a much smaller quantity of crops to produce any given number of calories in the form of an analog than a livestock product. Analogs would also alleviate the global water crisis, as the huge amounts of water necessary for livestock production would be freed up. Health and nutritional outcomes among consumers would be better than from livestock products. Analog projects would be more labor intensive than livestock projects, so would create both more jobs and more skilled jobs. They would also avert the harmful labor practices found in the livestock sector (but not in analog production), including slave labor in some areas such as the Amazon forest region. Workers producing livestock products can easily be retrained to produce analogs.

Telling my parents what to do... Finally!

Fruits and Vegetables in the Shape of a Heart

by Cynthia Cruz

Reflecting on American Heart Month this February, the first thing that came to mind was my parents. They take pretty good care of themselves, but they could definitely do better. (Actually so could I!) We've talked in the past about what they could do food-wise to help prevent anything medically serious from happening. As much as they love me, I can see why it's difficult to heed their bossy daughter. I'm the one who gets told what to do, not the other way around. They've been relatively healthy all their lives without any serious hiccups so why should they listen to me? I used to send them dozens and dozens of links and recipes to see if just one more article could change their minds. As many people can probably attest to, there's only so far you can push others toward doing something that they're not familiar with or even mildly interested in. 

The last couple of years though, more and more family members or friends have unfortunately had to deal with a serious heart condition. The situation has increasingly become the norm rather than the exception. My parents started sending me texts here and there to ask me what the heck healthy fats are, and is avocado toast really a meal? Catching a whiff of interest in eating better for their health caused me to send an avalanche of health articles including this excellent one. As expected, they were a little put off by my... let's just call it "over enthusiasm" and gently told me to back off. Sensing a different approach was needed, especially when my mom told me I was overwhelming her with information, I started to ask them what they were interested in and slowly began to just talk with them, rather than talking at them. Then one day, they started sending me articles! Not to mention correcting me on a few facts -- it pays to read, not just skim apparently. Nowadays, we talk about doing some heart-health eating challenges together (still hasn't happen but I'm pretty sure it's going to happen soon), what kind of new nut mix they're snacking on, and more. 

Now that February is here, instead of me nagging my parents about this heart health situation, they are sharing the things they've learned with their friends, co-workers, and the rest of our family. Of course they don't give me my much-deserved credit for pushing them towards a healthier lifestyle! The injustice, I tell you. Now, when I tell them they should try to eat more spinach or try more smoothies, they finally listen to me! It might have taken a long time (years!) to get them more actively invested in their health but it was worth being a pain in their butts. Now if only I could get them to give me an allowance again. I know, I know, one life-changing problem at a time. 

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