By Paul Chek, HHP, NMT Founder, C.H.E.K Institute
People become vegetarians for many reasons. Some people do so for what they believe are sound health reasons. We are, for example, experiencing the greatest occurrence of cancer cases and other chronic diseases in history. Some people convert because of a growing concern over the health of our ecosystem. I decided to share my opinions on vegetarianism because in my career I have worked with many unhealthy vegetarians. Often my vegetarian patients were in need of animal nutrition yet, for the above reasons were initially resistant to my suggested inclusion of animal foods for regaining their health. While I can’t address all of the reasons why one might become a vegetarian here, I want to examine a few of the more common arguments that claim vegetarianism is better for your health. In the end, I hope this may clear up some of the dogmatic resistance to a diet that includes meat.
Is Red Meat Really Bad For You?
The most common argument that I hear is that eating red meat is bad for you. In fact, many vegetarians claim their lifestyle is better for your heart and your health in general. We often read and hear the same claim in the news — eating red meat is unhealthy. Consider Weston A. Price, who traveled the globe studying the diets of native societies in the 1930s while there were still natives untouched by white man and his processed foods (Nutrition & Physical Degeneration by W.A. Price). His primary result was to show that wherever natives were exposed to processed foods, such as white flour and sugar, degeneration and disease soon followed. But he also discovered that there were no healthy vegetarian societies or tribes. While he did find some vegetarians, there were always healthier tribes nearby eating meat or animal products. If you study cultural anthropology, you’ll find the amount of meat eaten by any society was determined not by religious beliefs or health fads, but rather by availability alone.
A clear example of this can be seen by looking at the diets of traditional Aboriginals in Australia. The inland Aboriginals eat a diet of approximately 75-90 percent vegetable and 10-25 percent animal foods. The coastal Aboriginals, who have access to fish and larger animals like kangaroo eat about 75 percent animal and 25 percent vegetable foods. (1) The conclusion that vegetarianism is safer for your heart is an unfounded scare tactic fostered by the processed food industry. The first reported case of a heart attack came only recently in 1921. (2)
Hydrogenation of vegetable oils began about 1908 and since that time, consumption of vegetable oils has risen some 400 percent, while saturated animal fat consumption has reduced on the whole. In short, we’ve had a reduction of animal fat consumption, an increase in hydrogenated vegetable oils and an increase in heart disease since 1908. It’s hard to see how consuming less animal fats has made for healthy hearts. Moreover, statistical analysis of chronic disease shows that we are far worse off with today’s dietary recommendations when looked at from a disease perspective. If viewed from a purely historical perspective, the current dogma over eating meat and heart health is suspect as well. Humans have been eating animal foods as a primary food staple in every part of the world with a winter. This includes the fish eaten in every region near lakes and oceans. If eating meat were as unhealthy as suggested, we’d never have lasted as long as we have.
Too Much Acid?
similar argument against eating meat: It makes people too acidic, disrupts the pH of their blood and thereby encourages disease. This argument is just as problematic as the last. In fact, the whole issue of pH balance and diet is very misleading and misrepresented by many who favor vegetarian diets. First of all, our environment has dramatically influenced our biochemistry, particularly over thousands of years due to the rate of genetic modification. For example, Eskimos maintain optimal pH balance on a diet of 90 percent animal foods, while some Hindus and inland Aboriginals maintain optimal pH balance of the converse of 90 percent plant foods! Many “experts” falsely blame high acidity levels on meat eating. This really is just a lot of bunk. pH is specific to body compartment and body fluid. Therefore, when making any reference to pH without making a clear statement as to where the measurement is taking place (urine, venous blood, arterial blood, saliva, and even specific organs) is meaningless. The stomach, small intestine, and large intestine for example, all have different optimal pH levels. It has also been argued by Rowkowski and others (including very possibly William Wolcott) that sprinting around the block once will produce a far greater shift in pH toward acidity than eating nothing but meat all day long. I have personally tested my own urine and saliva every hour for days on end and let me assure you, if you were to do the same, you would quickly find that what you do with exercise and how close you are to your needs for water consumption will influence your pH far more than what you eat. I’ve knocked my urine pH down from 7 to 5 in 10 minutes of squatting with sets of 10 on a one-minute rest in just a few sets! The long and short of pH is that different pH levels are appropriate for different people given their genetic heritage and is much more heavily dependent upon variables other than meat.
The Real Reason …
So what really produces the illusion that vegetarianism is better for you? In many cases, converted vegetarians are eating real food for the first time. They’re often cooking fresh food for the first time and eating much more raw food for the first time! Finally, they have stopped eating so much packaged crap. All this acts to increase one’s vitality and mental clarity just like using fresh water will clean your windows much better than dirty water. Vegetarian diets are also very effective detoxification diets across the board, greatly reducing body burden from lifestyles that included prolonged periods of consuming junk food. Finally, people going on vegan diets are often directed to do so by holistic health professionals who also encourage the use of organic foods. Since fat stores toxins and commercial farmers make their income by the pound, most farmers stand to benefit from feeding their livestock harmful foods. These harmful foods, in turn, produce livestock with much more fat. The benefit from going vegan was to avoid those toxic commercial meats and therefore nothing inherent to being a vegan per se. Those eating organic meats will not suffer from the harmful effects of eating commercial meats. This brief analysis certainly doesn’t address all of the reasons why one might go vegetarian, but I hope that it’s enough to help you understand the issue isn’t so straightforward as some would have you believe. Genuine, organic meat, as Price showed, has been an important component of all healthy societies, so we ought to think twice before giving up on meat.