There are many reasons to be vegetarian purely to improve your health and to diminish the risk of contracting the diseases that kill most people in the Western world.
Research shows that in many ways a vegetarian diet is healthier than that of a typical meat-eater.
The vegetarian diet falls closely into line with the recommendations issued in two UK government-commissioned reports by the National Committee on Medical Aspects of Food Policy.
And, for food poisoning and diseases spread from farm animals, should vegetarians be concerned about BSE? As far as we know, there are no cases of cow pus, blood or prions being observed in rice, oat or soya milk.
So, I've collected here some authoritative sources on the subject.
* British Medical Association: "A vegetarian diet confers a wide range of health benefits. Research has proven that vegetarians suffer less from many of the diseases linked to a modern Western diet: obesity, coronary heart disease, hypertension, type II diabetes, diet-related cancers, diverticular disease, constipation and gall stones."
* The American Dietetic Association: "Scientific data suggest positive relationships between a vegetarian diet and reduced risk for several chronic degenerative diseases and conditions, including obesity, coronary artery disease, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and some types of cancer. Vegetarian diets, like all diets, need to be planned appropriately to be nutritionally adequate.
"It is the position of The American Dietetic Association (ADA) that appropriately planned vegetarian diets are healthful, are nutritionally adequate, and provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases."
* A major report by the World Cancer Research Fund in association with the American Institute for Cancer Research published in 1997 provides the most comprehensive world-wide review of diet and cancer research, presenting dietary guidelines for prevention, public policy recommendations and a thorough review of the scientific evidence.
Here are the report's main findings:
- High intakes of animal protein might increase the risk of a number of colorectal, breast and endometrial cancers
- An increase in animal fat consumption may increase the risk of lung, colon, rectum, breast, endometrium and prostate cancers
- Diets high in milk and dairy products may increase the risk of prostate and kidney cancer
- Protein of plant origin from cereals and pulses is as good as protein of animal origin
- The typical Western-style diet was condemned with these words: "...within the last 50 years, the trend has been to invest in the very resource-intensive rearing of animals. The consumption of fatty meats and of meat, milk and other dairy products has also been promoted with the incorrect message that such foods are especially healthy. Increasing consumption of meat and fatty foods will lead to a massive increase in incidence of a large number of diseases that are expensive to treat. It reflects the impact of widespread perceptions of a cultural link between affluence and Western lifestyles. Traditional diets, when adequate and varied, are likely to be generally more healthy."
From "Food, Nutrition and the Prevention of Cancer: a global perspective". World Cancer Research Fund, 105 Park St, London W1Y 3FB. Tel: +44 (0)20 7343 4200. American Institute for Cancer Research, 1759 R St NW, Washington, DC 20009. Tel 001 709 329 7744. Fax 001 202 328 7226
* From Encyclopædia Britannica:
"Medical and nutrition professionals around the world continued to examine the health benefits of low-fat, high-fibre diets. One style of eating that was receiving a major share of attention was the diet of the Mediterranean region, where the population had traditionally enjoyed low rates of heart disease and some cancers. In 1994 an international group of experts interested in traditional eating patterns developed the Mediterranean diet pyramid as a model for healthful eating. The Mediterranean pyramid called for a largely plant-based diet. Cheese, yogurt, and olive oil were included with fruits, vegetables, and grains as foods that could be eaten daily, while red meat was to be consumed only a few times a month... Meanwhile, in France investigators from the Lyon Heart Study demonstrated that a Mediterranean-style diet was effective in reducing the risk of further heart problems in individuals who had already experienced a heart attack. Some 300 patients were encouraged to increase their consumption of grains, fruits, and vegetables and to eat less red meat and more poultry. The butter in their diet was replaced by a spread rich in alpha-linolenic acid, which some experts believed to have cardioprotective effects. During a follow-up, which averaged 27 months, there were three coronary deaths and five nonfatal heart attacks among those on the diet, compared with corresponding figures of 16 and 17 in a similar group that received no dietary advice.
"The health benefits of a vegetarian diet were substantiated by the results of a 12-year survey conducted by nutritionists in London and Oxford, England. Comparing the fates of more than 5,000 British meat eaters with those of some 6,000 who were not meat eaters, the investigators reported a 40% lower rate of death from cancer among the vegetarians. Those who did not eat meat also had a markedly lower rate of atherosclerotic heart disease, though this was at least partly attributable to their much larger proportion of nonsmokers."
* From Baby and Child Care (1998 edition) by Benjamin Spock, M.D., considered the greatest authority on baby and child care:
“If a mother drinks cow’s milk, which I do not recommend, some of the cow’s proteins will actually pass into the breast milk and actually irritate the baby’s stomach. … The nursing mother’s daily diet should include the following nutrients: (1) plenty of vegetables, (2) fresh fruit, (3) beans, peas, and lentils, and (4) whole grains. Another good reason to get your nutrition from plant sources is that animals tend to concentrate pesticides and other chemicals in their meat and milk. … Traces of these chemicals can easily end up in a mother’s breast milk if she eats these products. Plant foods have much less contamination, even if they are not organically grown.” (pp. 113-114).
* Cornell University's nutritional biochemist Dr. T. Colin Campbell, director of the renowned "China Project" (a long-term study of the relationship between diet and health):
"The vast majority, perhaps 80 percent to 90 percent, of all cancers, cardiovascular diseases, and other forms of degenerative illness can be prevented, at least until very old age, simply by adopting a plant-based diet."
Dr. Campbell has also shown that excess animal protein actually promotes the growth of tumors; and most people on a meat-based diet consume 3 to 10 times more protein than their bodies need.
A vegetarian diet not only helps prevent heart disease, it can also reverse it without drugs and their side effects.
* A study of patients with advanced heart disease was published in the British Lancet, the most prestigious medical journal in the world, in 1990, by Dr. Dean Ornish, S.E. Brown, L.W. Scherwitz, et al., "Can Lifestyle Changes Reverse Coronary Heart Disease?".
Dr. Ornish put a group of patients on a completely vegetarian diet, which was less than 10 percent fat. They were also asked to begin a moderate exercise program, walking a half hour every day, and were taught relaxation techniques. Patients in this group found that their chest pain disappeared and their cholesterol levels dropped at a rate comparable to that of cholesterol-lowering drugs, without the side effects. Because the patients felt so much better, they were motivated to stick with this program. The plaques that had been growing in their hearts for decades actually started to dissolve within one year.
Prostate cancer has been strongly linked to meat consumption. In a study of nearly 48,000 men aged between 40 and 75, those eating red meat five or more times a week were 2.6 times more likely to suffer from prostate cancer than those who ate it once a week or less (Giovannucci, 1993b). Mills (1989b) also noted a link between meat consumption and prostate cancer risk.
Some of the world's leading sporting champions are vegetarian, so veggie food is certainly good for muscles. People who follow a varied, well-balanced vegetarian diet are eating in line with current nutritional recommendations for healthy eating, as most vegetarian meals tend to be low in fat and high in fibre.