[COLUMN] Vegan longevity

“Animals are my friends, and I don’t eat my friends.” – George Bernard Shaw
DIET plays a very important role in the development of cardiovascular diseases and some forms of cancer, especially of the gastrointestinal tract. One particular diet – high in saturated fat and cholesterol, and low in fiber – consisting mainly of red meats (pork, beef, non-skim dairy products, etc.) and eggs, has been linked to more than half a million deaths from heart attacks each year in the U.S. alone. This translates to one person dying from cardiovascular illness every 60 seconds. And this does not even include the mortality from cancer, etc.

Vegetables and fruits

Vegetables and fruits have phytochemicals that are good for our body. Twenty-three epidemiological studies have shown that a diet rich in grains and vegetables reduces the risk of colon cancer by 40%, and breast cancer by 25%. Some of the hundreds of phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables are lycophene, ellagic acid, lutein, flavanoids, saponins, monoterpenes, phthalides, phenols, ajoene, cassaicin, coumestrol, genistein, sulforaphane, zeanthin. Our mothers were right in cajoling us to eat vegetables and fruits while we were growing up. Too bad, most of us didn’t listen. But since we are now wiser and know better, let’s educate our own children and persuade them to eat more vegetables and fruits – and less animal meat – for better health. The incidence of cancers, heart and kidney diseases, diabetes, hypertension, and obesity among vegetarians is much lower than among meat-eaters. Veggies and fruits in capsules are most inadequate and expensive.

Types of vegetarians

Vegetarians come in three forms: (1) Lacto-ovo vegetarians, whose diet consists of vegetables, dairy products and eggs, no meat or flesh of any kind (pork, beef, lamb, poultry, fish and seafood); (2) Lacto-vegetarians who do not eat eggs, but eat vegetables, fruits and milk; and, (3) Vegans or pure vegetarians, who do not eat any food or food products of animal origin, including milk and eggs, and susbsist on vegetables, grains, nuts and fruits only. Most vegans also do not buy or use animal products, such as those made of leather, fur, feather, ivory, etc., all of which involves the killing of animals.

Imported from England

The Rev. William Metcalfe of England, together with his friend, Sylvester Graham, a young Presbyterian minister and 40 other English church members, brought the vegetarian way of life to the United States in 1817. For thousands of years, being a vegetarian was a part of socio-cultural-religious practice around the globe, most notably in the Far East. Many people around the world today choose to be vegetarians for health reasons.

Vegetarian Who’s Who

If you are a vegetarian, you’re in good company. Some of the famous vegetarians include Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato, Leonardo da Vinci, Buddha, Plutarch, John Milton, Sir Isaac Newton, Mahatma Gandhi, The Dalai Lama, Benjamin Franklin, Shakespeare, Vincent Van Gogh, Leo Tolstoy, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Voltaire, Albert Schweitzer, George Bernard Shaw, Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Rabindranath Tagore, Mark Twain, Robert Browning, Linda and Paul McCartney, John Denver, Richard Gere, Kim Bassinger, Steven Spielberg, Cameron Diaz and Josh Hartnett.

Was Jesus a vegetarian?

Knowledge as recorded in the Bible about how the Essenes, the Nazoreans and Ebionites lived suggests that Christ was probably a vegetarian. He was vehemently against animal sacrifices. Matthew and Peter were said to be vegetarians. The brother of Jesus, James the Just, the first head of the church in Jerusalem after the death of Christ, was raised as a vegetarian. If Jesus’s parents raised James as a vegetarian, then it would be likely that Jesus was also raised as one. The early Christian fathers adhered to a meatless regime.

Many early Christian groups supported the meatless way of life. In fact, the writings of the early Church indicate that meat-eating was not officially allowed until the 4th century, when the Emperor Constantine decreed that the practice of vegetarianism was heresy and punishable by death.

Man: A natural herbivore?

Was man supposed to be plant-eaters instead of meat-eaters? Yes, according to several investigations and books on the subject. A. D. Andrews, author of Fit Food For Man, made an anatomical and structural comparison between herbivores (plant-eating animals) and carnivores (meat-eating animals), and came to the conclusion that man’s teeth, salivary glands, quality of saliva, long intestinal tract, and absence of claws are all similar to those of herbivores, very much unlike those of carnivores. Thus, he argues that man is a natural herbivore, and must eat what herbivores eat: vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains, and not meat or flesh in order to stay healthy. Staying away from what herbivores should eat, and eating a lot of red meat, is unhealthy and is the cause of most, if not all, of man’s ailments. It is also a well-respected argument in the scientific community.

Strength, vigor and vitality

The belief that vegetarians are weak and sickly is a myth. Elephants, bulls, cows, carabaos, and some dinosaurs (plateosaurus, brachiosaurus, etc.) are a few of the strongest animals known to man – all are herbivores. Various studies comparing athletes who are carnivores and herbivores revealed astonishing findings: Vegetarian athletes fared 2 to 3 times better, with greater endurance and better recovery time, compared to their meat-eating counterparts in similar sports activities.

Vegetables with protein

Vegetarians get their protein from soybeans, lentils, kidney beans, lima and pinto beans, black beans, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, peanuts, almonds, cashew, sunflower seeds, and other nuts, broccoli and other vegetables, wheat, grains, brown rice, potato, and eggs and dairy products. These sources easily meet the daily requirement of between 60-80 grams of protein, even for vegans. So, animal meat is not really essential for health and life.

Rx for myself

A daily low-fat, low-cholesterol, high-fiber diet of fish and a lot of vegetables, fruits, nuts and grains (brown rice instead of white), with occasional red meat, if desired, coupled with abstinence from tobacco, doing daily exercises, maintaining proper weight, drinking a glass or two of red wine with dinner, taking a daily multivitamin-mineral supplement, taking time off with friends and/or family for rest and relaxation on weekends, visiting the doctor for check-up as advised, and adequately treating any existing medical condition (hypertension, diabetes, etc) is our prescription for health, peace, happiness, and better productivity.

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The main objective of this column is to educate and inspire people live a healthier lifestyle to prevent illnesses and disabilities and achieve a happier and more productive life. Any diagnosis, recommendation or treatment in our article are general medical information and not intended to be applicable or appropriate for anyone. This column is not a substitute for your physician, who knows your condition well and who is your best ally when it comes to your health.
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Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, a Cardiac Surgeon Emeritus based in Northwest Indiana and Las Vegas, Nevada, is an international medical lecturer/author, a Health Public Advocate, and Chairman of the Filipino United Network-USA, a 501(c)3 humanitarian and anti-graft foundation in the United States. Visit our websites: philipSchua.com and FUN8888.com; Email: scalpelpen@gmail.com.

Dr. Philip S. Chua

Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, Cardiac Surgeon Emeritus in Northwest Indiana and chairman of cardiac surgery from 1997 to 2010 at Cebu Doctors University Hospital, where he holds the title of Physician Emeritus in Surgery, is based in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, the Philippine College of Surgeons, and the Denton A. Cooley Cardiovascular Surgical Society. He is the chairman of the Filipino United Network – USA, a 501(c)(3) humanitarian foundation in the United States.

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