Maybe it’s time to think twice about that morning glass of milk, or that afternoon snack of cheese, or the burger on the menu for supper.
It turns out that what we choose to eat can either poison our bodies and eventually lead to our own premature deaths, or allow us to live longer and healthier.
Aside from what we eat, how we interact with our environments can come back full-circle in the way of pollutants ending up in our own bodies and destroying us slowly.
What foods turn out to act like poison within the human body?
It may be no surprise for some that the culprits are animal foods (all types of meat, eggs and dairy), alcohol, processed foods with their excess sodium and artificial sweeteners, and pollutants (which can be found in the rain, soil, animal products, cosmetics, and other household products).
What’s going on with animal products?
There are naturally occurring compounds in animal products that can poison the body, releasing toxins, causing inflammation, promoting cancer cell growth, and blocking necessary functions, such as the process of insulin.
Cholesterol and arachidonic acid naturally occur in animal products, but the human body already produces cholesterol and arachidonic acid in sufficient amounts. Adding more through the diet causes an imbalance.
Cholesterol has been shown to lead to atherosclerosis, the buildup of plaques in the arteries; leading to heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, diabetic neuropathy, Alzheimer’s disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, chronic kidney disease, and the progression of breast cancer (cholesterol feeds cancer cells).
Arachidonic acid, an inflammatory compound that has been shown to impair mood and cause inflammation in the brain. The top five sources of arachidonic acid, in order of highest concentration: 1. Chicken 2. Eggs 3. Beef 4. Pork 5. Fish. Adding arachidonic acid has been associated with the development of depression.
Saturated fat from animals impairs insulin reaction and secretion, is toxic to the beta cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, leads to the accumulation of toxic breakdown products, free radicals, causes inflammation, and mitochondrial dysfunction. Saturated fat is linked to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, kidney failure, liver disease, high blood pressure, diabetic neuropathy, acid reflux, etc. Not to mention that chemical pollutants can be stored within animal fat, and then once humans consume that animal fat, those chemicals bioaccumulate and our own fat stores retain them for years.
Trans fats have been linked to causing an inflammatory response within the body leading to the pain of diabetic neuropathy.
Meat is highly acidic, and causes an imbalance with the high amounts of uric acid present. Too much uric acid in the body results in an overproduction of ammonia in the kidneys to attempt to bring balance, and the development of kidney stones and gout. Too little uric acid, on the other hand, can lead to neurodegenerative diseases. Luckily, a whole food, plant-based diet allows for the right amount of uric acid.
Sex steroid hormones occur naturally in animal products, especially in the milk of dairy cows. These have been associated with acne, diminished male reproductive potential, premature puberty, and twin births.
Growth hormones have been found to stimulate the growth of hormone-sensitive tumors in the human body. They can turn precancerous lesions and mutated cells into invasive cancer.
Animal products also seem to activate our own growth hormone, IGF-1. When we are adults and do not need to grow anymore, we should ideally create only as many new cells as the cells that die, to keep in balance. There is a binding protein for IGF-1, that help to control it. Animal products seem to activate our IGF-1, and decrease the activity of the binding protein.
(A note here for vegetarians and vegans: isolated soy protein products that are usually found in processed foods such as soy burgers can also raise the levels of IGF-1 in the body. It is best to opt for whole foods.)
Galactose in milk has been shown to accelerate aging, causing neurodegeneration, mental retardation, cognitive dysfunction, diminished immune response, and diminished reproductive ability.
The choline in eggs oxidizes in the liver, and increases the risk of death from prostate cancer.
Animal protein has also been found to turn cancer cell growth on. When animal protein is removed from the diet, the cancer cell growth is turned off.
Animal muscle, when cooked at high temperature (roasting, pan-frying, grilling, etc), create carcinogens not only in the meat itself, but in fumes released from the cooking. Animal fat and vegetable oils also release toxic fumes that can lead to lung cancer. Exposure to such fumes can also have an effect on an unborn fetus, leading to smaller birth weight, smaller head size, and diminished mental capacity.
Animal products create toxic breakdown products in the digestive system, whether in the mouth, stomach, liver or intestines. Animal products putrefy in the gut because they take so long to be digested. This can lead to more toxic products being absorbed into the body. Animal products have been linked to constipation, which can lead to digestive cancers.
Cancer-causing viruses in animals have been linked to higher rates of certain cancers in humans. Hepatitis Virus E, which has come from pigs, is able to infect humans, and be deadly to pregnant women in their third trimester.
Infectious bacteria harbour in animal products. Most are fecal contaminants. Many are now resistant to some of the most powerful antibiotics. And contaminated food is not banned from being sold.
E. coli from poultry has been definitively linked to Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs).
Animal products are high in sodium, and have been injected with sodium to increase water weight and salt content. Excess sodium is linked with high blood pressure.
Phosphates occur naturally in animals, and are more readily absorbed into our own bloodstreams, compared to the phytate from plant foods. Phosphates are also added to meats for color, to limit seepage from decomposition, and producers are not required to label it on meat products. Too much phosphate in the blood can lead to kidney failure, heart failure, heart attacks, premature death, damage blood vessels, accelerate aging and bone loss, impair arterial function, and promote the growth of Campylobacter in poultry up to 1,000,000x.
Nitrites in animal products combine with amines and amides within the meat itself or in our stomachs to form nitrosamines and nitrosamides, two carcinogens.
“Obesogenic” chemical pollutants are exposed to humans through the consumption of animal fat. These chemicals can lead to type 2 diabetes.
Most of us, about 99-100% have toxic pollutants in our bodies, such as heavy metals, toxic solvents, endocrine-disrupting chemicals, fire retardants, chemicals from plastics, PCBs and banned pesticides (as well as those not banned). Pregnant women have been shown to have up to 55 different toxic chemicals in their bodies, and 95% of umbilical cord samples have shown DDT residues. Toxic chemicals can pass from one generation to the next, as mothers will detox by passing those chemicals onto the placenta, umbilical cord, and breast milk.
Children exceed the safety levels of exposure to toxic chemicals, increasing their risk of cancer and other neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, multiple sclerosis, and Alzheimer’s.
Exposure to arsenic has come from poultry and tuna; lead from dairy; and mercury from seafood. Cheese has a neurotoxic chemical (tetrahydroisoquinoline) which can induce Parkinson’s. Fish not only has mercury, but DDT and PCBs. Hexachlorobenzene (banned pesticide) is in dairy, meat and fish. Perfluorochemicals (PFCs) are in fish and other meats. Dioxins, industrial by-products, are in butter, eggs and processed meats in high amounts.
Parkinson’s patients have been shown to have high levels of an organochlorine pesticide in their blood; high levels of pesticides in brain tissue; and high levels of PCBs in the brain, which can lead to brain damage in the part of brain associated with Parkinson’s.
Pesticides can cause DNA mutations and misfolded proteins that are difficult for the body to break down, leading to the death of brain cells. Misfolded proteins are associated with Alzheimer’s (beta- amyloid), Mad Cow (prion), Huntington’s, and Parkinson’s (alpha synuclein).
Endotoxins from meat are also not destroyed by cooking and cause inflammation in the arteries.
Salmon is the most tainted overall with around 2 dozen pesticides in salmon fillets. Farmed salmon is the worst, with 10x more PCBs.
(A side note: cosmetic products, soaps, shampoos, conditioners, toothpastes, mouthwashes, hair dyes, hair sprays, bug sprays, cleaning products, detergents, laundry sheets, perfumes, colognes, toxic clothing material and more also expose us and those we live with to toxins.)
Since our own bodies can store these toxic chemical pollutants in our fat, without sufficient weight loss for people who are overweight, it can take 50-75 years for the chemicals to be detoxed from the body. By then, it may be too late.
Processed foods, including fast food, are loaded with saturated fat, cholesterol, salt, added phosphates, and sugar, including artificial sweeteners. Not only are these foods detrimental to our physical health, they are also detrimental to our mental health. Artificial sweeteners have been linked to an increase in depression, irritability, and a decrease in brain functioning. Artificial sweeteners are in 6,000+ products, including breath mints, cereals, chewing gum, preserves, juice drinks, puddings, nutritional bars and yogurts. Eating a fast food meal can stiffen arteries within hours.
Alcohol can lead to fatty liver disease, and is a “definitive breast carcinogen” according the the World Health Organization, and “no amount of alcohol is safe,” especially if you want to avoid breast cancer. Alcohol converts to acetaldehyde, even in the mouth after the first sip. Scarily enough, a woman can have breast cancer even in the womb, based on her mother’s diet, and as many as 39% of women in their forties have breast cancer that may be too small for testing to detect.
Many of these chronic diseases begin to develop early on in life, even before birth. If your mother ate a Standard American Diet, and was exposed to chemical pollutants, chances are that you can more easily develop the chronic diseases associated with diet and the environment. Much like heart disease, you could have developed fatty streaks in your arteries while in the womb, or as a child, depending on diet. At this point in time, it isn’t so much preventing getting a chronic disease, as it is preventing its progression, and possibly reversing it.
We may already be full of chemical pollutants, due to the pollution added to the environment over past generations. It seems unavoidable to be contaminated by toxins from our polluted environment, and we may be harbouring our own stores that could wreak havoc on our bodies if we don’t feed ourselves foods that provide beneficial antioxidants and boost our immune system.
Once the knowledge is gained, it comes down to choice. Many studies over the years have shown that a whole food, plant-based diet based on whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes, has beneficial impacts on the human body. Nutrient-dense, low in calories, plant foods seem to provide what our bodies and minds need to function optimally. Funnily enough,if everyone ate a WFPB diet, we could grow more grains, produce and legumes; we could avoid the infectious diseases from animal foods; we could avoid the cancer-causing viruses from animals; we could avoid promoting the chronic diseases caused by animal foods and processed foods; we could avoid the environmental pollution caused by industrial farming and agriculture. It is possible. Health and well-being over profit. Consideration of our own lives, future lives, our shared environment, and the creatures we share it with can lead to positive actions that sustain and nurture life.
What kind of life do we want to live? One that embraces poisoning ourselves and those around us, and causing shorter lifespans for future generations? That is the current path.
We can all make a difference, every day, in what we choose to put into our bodies.
RESOURCES: How Not to Die by Dr. Michael Greger
The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell
Healing with Whole Foods by Paul Pritchard
Drmcdougall.com is an excellent resource for all nutritional information as well. Check out many of his amazing talks on his YouTube Channel, John McDougall.