Tuesday, 22 January 2008

The veggies win again

Hooray for a vegan diet! I've just found more reinforcement for eating plants, plants and more plants. It's a study from the USDA Agricultural Research Service. They decided to do some research into the hypothesis that animal proteins lead to osteoporosis, a claim espoused by many nutrition experts and touted by vegans everywhere. As they put it,

When we eat beef, pork, lamb, chicken, or other foods from animals, our bodies take in proteins that may be rich in sulfur. That's unlike the proteins in plant foods—fruits, veggies, nuts, grains, or legumes like peas or dry beans. As we digest animal proteins, the sulfur in them forms acid. A slight, temporary acid overload—called acidosis—may result.

To regain our natural balance of acidity to alkalinity, or pH, in the bloodstream, our bodies must buffer the influx of acid. One possible buffer is calcium phosphate, which the body can
borrow from our bones—the body's main storage depot for this essential mineral.

Though calcium phosphate is an effective buffer and neutralizer, taking it from bones might increase our risk of osteoporosis. This unhealthy increase in the porosity of bones, and resultant thinning, leaves those afflicted with this disease especially vulnerable to fractures of the spine, hips, and wrists.

Researchers decided to study the bone density of young, healthy, nonsmoking American women with similar lifestyles. The only difference was some are omnivorous and some vegan. They found one expected result and two unexpected results:

Expected--The vegan volunteers excreted less calcium in their urine than their meat-eating counterparts. (This happens because the sulfur in meat turns acidic during digestion, and the body must alkalize it in order to process it. The only way to alkalize anything in the body is with calcium, and this calcium is leached from the bones and then excreted in the urine. Because the vegan diet is more alkaline to begin with, less calcium is lost.)


1) Bone resorption was the same in both carnivorous and vegan subjects. The model predicted that bone resorption would be higher in meat-eaters. (Bone resorption is the process by which old bone is broken down and removed by special cells called osteoclasts. If meat causes acid in the body, one would expect bone to deteriorate faster in meat-eaters, but this was not the case. The rates were equal).

2) Bone formation was significantly less in meat-eating subjects than in the vegan subjects. Vegans had a higher level of bone formation even when the meat-eating subjects had a higher overall intake of calcium.

SO, while your bones may not break down faster than a vegan, if you eat animal products, they are definitely NOT forming as fast. What are the implications of this? As the researcher put it,

"If you have less bone formation, the result is the same as if you had an increase in bone resorption. So, even though bone resorption was the same in both groups of volunteers, the lower amount of bone formation in the omnivore women could lead to a decrease in their bone density."

Bottom line: high amounts of animal protein results in lower bone density. (And yes, yes, a thousand times yes, that includes DAIRY PRODUCTS. Do not believe the lies the dairy industry feeds you!)

Here's a link to the study: Boning up on osteoporosis

Now go eat some broccoli!

May all beings be at ease.

1 comment:

Derek said...

Ok, we can eat some 'broc' tomorrow!

Seriously though, the more I find out about health, nutrition, food etc, and as I often say to you, I wish we had become 'strict vegetarian' a lot earlier in our lives! I feel very sad when I think about the rubbish I used to eat all the time, such as cheap burgers from a van. Ugh, I have a nasty feeling I've eaten BSE spinal column. arrghhh!!! But as you show here, even so-called 'good meat' can ultimately be bad for your overall health.