Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Vegetarianism Won't Kill You

Recently I found a round of news articles proclaiming that being vegetarian will kill you by increasing the risk of heart disease and cancer, along with the prerequisite fatalistic garbage saying that disease can't be prevented/"we're all going to die anyway". Once again, this is yet more sensationalised nonsense. I have already covered why coffee has health benefits, fermented soy and dairy can be beneficial, and why meat won't kill you either when cooked in a certain way, so now it is time to defend the vegetarian diet, which has benefitted many, just like the Paleo diet.

What this study was actually about was the presence of a genetic variation that has evolved in cultures that have eaten a plant-based diet over hundreds of generations. This includes members of East Asia, India and Africa; a different adaptation allowing for a seafood diet has been found in Greenland. The gene in question allows those who carry it to more efficiently process omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids into their downstream substances, which are involved in processes such as brain development and inflammation control. How is this involved in heart disease and cancer risk? While omega-3 fatty acids can be transformed into anti-inflammatory substances, omega-6 fatty acids can be turned into pro-inflammatory products. As I describe in my book, inflammation has been found to be a key driver in the development of heart disease and cancer.

Vegetarian meal from Telugu cuisine
Vegetarian meal from Telugu cuisine. Source: PriyaBooks
The good news is that people with this gene can lower their risk of these diseases by increasing their dietary ratio of omega-3 fatty acids to omega-6 fats. The bad news is that in most people's diets, the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats is too low, often ten or more times lower than it should be. A healthy ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats is 1:2-3. Red meat is high in omega-6 fats, while fish is higher in omega-3 fats; hemp seed, flax and to a lesser extent, soy, are higher in omega-3 fats, while corn and sunflower oil are much higher in omega-6 fats. Staying closer to your ethnicity's traditional diet, as opposed to the "Western" corporate, cultureless garbage (that's you McDonalds) is also recommended. Of course, it's great to eat foods from other cultures (particularly the anti-inflammatory, nutrient-dense ones), but respect your genetics: I wouldn't recommend eating mostly Krishna or Jainism-approved food if you are Inuit, and dairy is off-limits for some other ethnicities, for example. My German genes allow me to eat grains (gluten free only for me) and cheese, as the Swiss children documented by Weston Price did, but it isn't right for everyone.

Overall, this research only vindicates the work of Weston A. Price, but without the vegetarian-bashing. So is the vegetarian diet incompatible with antiaging and longevity? No, the "perfect diet" is individual and varied, not for mainstream media outlets or a government to decide.

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