Adrian's Writing Blog

news, articles and reviews

Processed red meat - WHO report

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This week, the World Health Organisation (WHO) released a report in which they stated a link between preserved red meats and cancer. The report got a lot of media coverage, including articles in most of the popular UK newspapers. I thought I'd mentioned it here as it links to a few articles I've written in the past about this subject and it might be worth talking about them again.

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Firstly, I do recommend anyone who's interested in this issue to watch the Forks over Knives documentary. It is engaging, thorough, accessible and clear and it shows the strong epidemiological and scientific links between a diet high in animal proteins (such as meat and dairy) and serious health problems. Many people nowadays think that they must consume milk for calcium and meat for protein. In fact, both these key nutritional elements can be found in vegetables. Also, as far as I know, an adult only needs about a golf-ball-sized amount of protein per day to keep him or her healthy, far less than the servings many people see as the minimum to eat. The Forks over Knives documentary (as far as I can remember) talks intelligently about these matters. I reviewed the film in this older blog entry and I heartily recommend it.

Secondly, the problems with preserved meats, discussed in the WHO report, aren't just about the meat itself, or the fat and salt added to it. As the WHO report states, certain organic molecules are created during the high temperature cooking process. In particular, aromatic amines are created. This doesn't sound too scary but I found out, several years ago, that the amines present in preserved meats, such as histamine, cadaverine and putrescence (you can guess why they're called that) can actually alter the mood of a person eating them if that person's digestive system is low on certain key enzymes known as Mono-amine Oxidase Inhibitors or MAO's. If a person is low on these MAO's, the amines in the preserved meats can make that person moody, aggressive, tearful and generally a mess if they eat such meats on a regular basis. To read the full description, check out this earlier blog entry.

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I've also found that animal proteins, meat, dairy and preserved meats are connected to a large range of health issues. For example, a meat-free diet can make your cells younger, a diet heavy in meat changes the bacteria populations in your gut, potentially leading to bowel cancer and a study warning of the health dangers of a diet high in milk.

There's another problem with foods cooked to a high temperature. They often end up containing significant levels of acrylamides (chemically related to the amines discussed above). Many years ago, a research team in Scandinavia investigated the strange problem of a herd of cows that were showing signs of mental injury. The researchers eventually tracked down the cause of the cows' distress. The cows were drinking from water contaminated by acrylamides leaking from a nearby factory. The researchers followed up on this discovery and discovered that acrylamides can be toxic to the body and brain. Unfortunately, the danger from acrylamides for us doesn't come from living next to a factory. Any food that is browned or turned golden by heating will contain acrylamides. At the high temperates created by roasting and toasting, organic molecules in the food are chemically transformed into acrylamides. Their negative effect on our bodies is multifaceted. As this cancer.gov report states, acrylamides are linked to higher incidents of breast cancer, ovarian cancer and possibly renal cell cancer. In other words, our chips and toast are toxic.

All in all, there's no sense in religiously avoiding everything that might produce acrylamides; a fish and chip supper once a month isn't a death sentence, but the negative effects will accumulate. It's probably a lot like sugar and diabetes. We have to keep the consumption down and make these unhealthy foods a small minority of our diet, or we will eventually suffer the consequences. Greens for breakfast, anyone?

Fever: a magical cancer cure

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This week, I've been reading 'Farmer Buckley's Exploding Trousers and other odd events on the way to scientific discovery'. It's a popular science book from the people at New Scientist magazine and is a series of short stories (each a few pages long) about weird and wonderful and often very important scientific and technological inventions and discoveries. I'm enjoying the book, although reading a long string of disconnected stories can feel a bit laborious sometimes, but there some absolute gems amongst the collection.

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One story really jumped out. On page 21 of the book, the author describes the fascinating story of Dr William Coley, an American doctor living and working in New York in the 1870's. During his work, Dr Coley stumbled upon a fascinating pattern. He treated many patients with tumours. The standard medical treatment for these tumours was to cut them out, but they invariably grew back. Coley found that patients who had tumours, but then suffered an infection that sent them into a high fever, very often were entirely cured of their tumours. For example:

The man's medical records were quite clear. His case was hopeless. In the space of three years, he had had five operations to remove a tumour from his neck. The last was a failure: it was impossible to remove the whole tumour. He would die soon. As if that wasn't bad enough, the poor man then suffered two attacks of erysipelas, a skin infection that produced a lurid red rash and a high fever. But when the fever broke and the man recovered, his tumour had vanished. Seven years later, he was still alive and well. There could be only one explanation: whatever had caused the fever had also destroyed the cancer.

Read More...

Animal protein in diet

In recent posts, I've been talking about evidence that diets high in animal protein can give rise to a much higher risk of cancer. The scientific evidence for this has been shown in several paper for many years, but it was the excellent documentary 'Forks over Knives' that drew my attention to the issue, along with many other people. Since then, there have been more articles in the mainstream press about meat, diet and cancer, including the fascinating report that a meat-free diet can make your cells younger.

This post is about an article in today's Guardian newspaper that reinforces the idea put forward in those previous articles. The guardian article states that a US study of six-thousand people, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), concluded that:

High levels of dietary animal protein in people under 65 years of age was linked to a fourfold increase in their risk of death from cancer or diabetes, and almost double the risk of dying from any cause over an 18-year period.


This conclusion matches the scientific evidence quoted in the Forks over Knives documentary that a diet that contains more than 5% animal proteins significantly increases the risk of cancer. According to that scientific research, reverting to a diet low in animal protein can reverse the problems caused by the high-animal-protein exposure; the damage can be undone.

I'm hoping very much that Britain's heart disease and cancer charities respond to this mounting evidence and push forward campaigns to encourage people to reduce their animal protein consumption. As the NHANES study reported, a high animal protein diet can be as dangerous to a person's health as smoking.

Diet changes, gut flora and bowel cancer

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A few months ago, I wrote a blog article about the excellent Forks over Knives documentary. The documentary made a fascinating and convincing case for the connection between major illnesses and a diet high in animal proteins. As a follow-on from that entry, I thought I’d mention a new article in this week’s New Scientist magazine. It reports on some very interesting new research. To quote:

Switching to a diet based exclusively on animals or plants triggers rapid changes to the microbes that rule your gut. This knowledge could help fine-tune diets to improve health, as well as reduce the risk of illnesses like inflammatory bowel disease.

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Meat-free diet can make your cells younger

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This is a follow-on article from my earlier blog post this month about the ‘Forks over Knives’ documentary, a film that I’d strongly recommend people seeing, as it puts forward a fascinating health case for following a diet low in animal proteins.

The New Scientist magazine last week reported on a study by the Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, California to see if diet and lifestyle could reduce or revert cell-ageing in 10 men in their early sixties with prostate cancer. They were ‘asked to follow a strict healthy-living regime rather than take a course of drugs. They ate a meat-free diet, did exercise and yoga daily and went to weekly group therapies. After five years, the telomeres on a type of white blood cell were 10% longer on average in these men. In contrast, 25 men with the same condition who kept to their usual lifestyles saw the telomeres on these cells shrink by an average of 3% over the same period.’ Read More...

Forks over Knives documentary

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Forks over Knives’ is an American documentary that explores the effect of reducing the animal protein in a person’s diet and the health benefits that can give. On the face of it, you might think it would be a polemic pushing an ethical eating agenda but, in fact, it has a very different message. Although the contributors to the documentary do discuss animal welfare, the message they impart is about human health. The documentary explains that there is extensive scientific research that shows that a diet that contains more than 10% animal protein carries a large increased risk in cancer. I checked for supporting scientific evidence for such a bold claim and found that there is a lot of evidence supporting that view. Here’s a useful link at the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Read More...