Veggie Health for Kids
Every nutrient a child needs and
how to get it.
A guide for parents showing why vegetarian/vegan diets are the healthiest
option for children.
World turned upside
down! / What You Need and Where You
Get It / How Animal Products Affect
Children / How Animal Products Affect
Adults / Conclusions
How Animal Products
Little people inevitably become big people so it’s important to
look at how animal products can affect adult health. Children who learn
healthy eating habits tend to eat healthily when they grow up so a plant-based
diet has long-term importance for them - but also for you parents.
In this study, the 40 per cent reduction in cancer mortality in non-meat
eaters compared with meat eaters could not be explained by differences
in smoking habits, obesity and socio-economic status...The fact that
total mortality was about 20 per cent lower in the non-meat eating group
the meat eaters is perhaps of greatest clinical importance.”
BRITISH MEDICAL JOURNAL, 1994.
Translated, this research found that vegetarians get a 40 per cent less
risk of dying from cancer and live longer than meat eaters. Cancer experts
worldwide now believe that over a third of cancer deaths - and possibly
many more - could be linked to diet. Leading cancer expert, Professor Sir
Richard Doll, estimates that 20-60 per cent of cancers might be avoided
Over a quarter of a million people are diagnosed with cancer every year
in the UK and a staggering one-in-four of the population in the UK will
die from it. Cancer is second only to heart disease as the major killer
in the Western world, despite the knowledge that vegetables, fruit and
plant foods considerably reduce the risk.
It’s also known that the process of cooking meat, particularly at
high temperatures for long periods, produces cancer-causing chemicals (carcinogens)
called heterocyclic amines. It happens with all meats but the level in
chicken is 15 times higher than in beef - which rather destroys the image
of chicken as a healthy option. Heating plant proteins such as soya doesn’t
produce these killer chemicals.
Fats - and particularly animal fats - produce bile acids in the digestive
system that appear to promote cancer of the colon. Diets rich in fibre
can reduce bile acids and low-fat diets seem to produce more ‘natural
killer’ cells than high-fat diets. They seek and destroy abnormal
cells that may turn cancerous.
Some 40,000 cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in the UK every
year. Asian countries traditionally have much lower rates of breast cancer
but when Japanese girls are raised on Western diets their rate of breast
cancer increases dramatically.
The Women’s Health study looked at 41,836 women over a long period
of time and found that the risk of breast cancer rose when well-done to
very-well-done meat was eaten.
Cow’s milk also carries a possible risk of breast cancer and one
particular ingredient is suspected. It’s a hormone called Insulin-Like
Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1). The same hormone occurs naturally in humans and
stimulates growth in children but declines as a child ages. It’s
known that the IGF-1 in cow’s milk encourages breast cancer cells
to multiply. It’s also known that when pre-menopausal women have
even small increases of IGF-1 in their blood, their risk of breast cancer
increases seven times.
One theory is that drinking cow’s milk after weaning may cause breast
cells to keep on multiplying.
Over 27,000 people each year in the UK develop cancer of the colon
and rectum. Women who eat the most animal fat are at greater risk
- and it’s much the same for men.
Large numbers of people have given up red meat in favour of ‘healthier’ white
meat - fish and poultry - and yet both red and white meat increase the
risk of colon cancer. People who eat only white meat less than once a week
have a 55 per cent higher risk than those who don’t eat any meat
at all. When they eat it at least once a week, the risk increases three-fold.
On the other hand, eating beans, peas or lentils at least twice a week
drops the risk of colon cancer by 50 per cent.
The risk of colon cancer seems to depend on the overall healthiness of
your diet. Fruits, vegetables and fibre reduce your risk while following
the official health advice, and swapping high-fat dairy products for low-fat
ones, butter for margarine, red meat for poultry and refined grains for
wholegrains, also reduces your risk - but only slightly.
The evidence is beginning to stack up that there is a link between eating
meat and processed meat products and colon cancer. This risk is described
as ‘moderate’ but significant and it’s been shown that
frequent consumption of beef, veal, pork and lamb can increase your chances
of colon cancer by 20-40 per cent.
One in 12 men will develop prostate cancer at some point in their
lives. The number dying from the disease has almost tripled in the past
30 years to 9,500 in 1998. By 2015, it is expected to overtake lung cancer
and become the most common male cancer. Professor Jonathan Waxman, who
founded the Prostate Cancer Charity, believes that diet plays a big part
- particularly red meat and dairy products.
The reason why dairy products are in the frame is again believed to be
the hormone IGF-1 - the same as in breast cancer. It’s known that
vegan men have less IGF-1 than meat eaters, which might reduce their risk
of prostate cancer. Calcium from dairy products might also play a part
because it can reduce concentrations of vitamin D, which is thought to
provide protection. Men who eat two-and-a-half or more servings of dairy
products a day increase their risk by almost a third compared with those
who eat less than half a serving per day. Switching to low-fat milk won’t
help much as skimmed milk was found in one study to be the food most closely
linked with prostate cancer.
The Very Best Anti-Cancer Diet.
Well it certainly isn’t meat and dairy. As people move towards a
plant-based diet so the risks of developing cancer reduces. In the words
of Professor Jane Plant: “Undoubtedly, the best anti-cancer diet
would be completely vegan.” Cancer specialist Doctor Rosy Daniel
thinks similarly: “The best move...is to become completely vegan
and eliminate animal products from the diet altogether.”
How does a plant diet protect against cancer? Fibre helps to sweep toxins
out of the body and the rich supply of protective antioxidants protect
body cells against damage. Some foods, such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts,
cabbage and cauliflower, almost certainly help to prevent cancer. That’s
why we’re recommended to eat at least five portions of fruits and
vegetables every day and to eat more starchy carbohydrates.
One portion is equivalent to one medium-sized fruit like an apple, banana
or orange, two smaller fruits such as kiwis or plums, a cupful of berry
fruits, a large bowlful of green salad or two serving spoonfuls of most
cooked vegetables and pulses like beans and lentils.
Plant foods also contain protective ‘plant hormones’ (phytoestrogens)
and soya products contain the most. There is a bit of confusion because
whilst most research point to soya having cancer-preventing properties,
some show the opposite. On balance, the evidence seems to be that soya
foods are beneficial. Meat and dairy products contain no antioxidant vitamins,
no fibre and no protective phytoestrogens. Is it really surprising, then,
that all-veggie diets are the best anti-cancer diets around?
Vegetarians have lower rates of obesity, coronary heart disease,
high blood pressure, large bowel disorders and cancers and gall
stones. Cholesterol levels tend to be lower and vegetarian diets have
to lower blood cholesterol. The vegetarian diet is adequate for
the nutritional needs of infants.”
BRITISH MEDICAL ASSOCIATION.
Coronary Heart Disease (CHD)
CHD is the UK’s number one health problem with one-in-four men and
one-in-six women dying from it. World-renowned heart transplant surgeon,
Christiaan Barnard, believes that most heart attacks are unnecessary -
we have the power to prevent them. Not surprisingly he advocates a diet
where fruits and vegetables, not meat, are the mainstay.
Vegetarians are less at risk of heart disease and have 25 per cent less
chance of dying from it. If everyone in the UK went vegetarian, about 30,000
lives a year would be saved - a veggie diet should be available on prescription!
Recent research came to just this conclusion:
“... dietary intervention with a vegetarian diet seems to be
a cheap, physiological and safe approach for the prevention, and possibly
management of modern lifestyle diseases.”
FLINDERS UNIVERSITY, AUSTRALIA.
Apart from having lower body weights, lower cholesterol levels and lower
blood pressure levels, new research adds another clue as to why vegetarians
get less heart disease. Salicylic acid in the blood of vegetarians is up
to one-and-a-half times higher than in meat eaters - some had levels 12-times
higher! Salicylic acid is the main ingredient in aspirin, prescribed to
reduce the risk of heart attacks by fighting the inflammation that causes
it. Salicylic acid, it seems, is also present in fruit and vegetables!
The same research came up with evidence that salicylic acid may protect
against bowel, breast and lung cancer as well as Alzheimer’s disease.
Cholesterol and Saturated Fat
Cholesterol is not the only risk factor in heart disease but it is
a major player. It’s found only in foods of animal origin - there’s
none in plant foods. As our liver makes all the cholesterol we need,
we can cut it out of our diet entirely.
People talk of ‘good’ cholesterol and ‘bad’ cholesterol
and your body contains both main types. Bad cholesterol (low-density lipoproteins
or LDL) is dumped on the artery walls, reduces blood flow and causes heart
attacks and strokes. Good cholesterol (high-density lipoproteins or HDL)
is carried to the liver so the body can get rid of it. Most of your cholesterol
is made up of the baddies. Saturated fat encourages your body to produce
too much and a high level carries the risk of heart attack.
People who turn to lean red meat and white meat to reduce their cholesterol
levels are going to be disappointed because it’s largely ineffective
- about a five per cent reduction at best. Low-fat, vegetarian diets, devoid
of all meat, can bring cholesterol down by up to 32 per cent. When lean
meat was substituted for soya bean curd (tofu) again levels fell considerably.
There is increasing evidence that vegans have an even greater advantage.
Lifelong vegetarians have been shown to have cholesterol levels 24 per
cent lower than average and lifelong vegans 57 per cent lower. Just as
importantly, vegetarian and vegan diets can reverse the damage done by
CHD, even in severe cases.
“The Reversal Diet is a very low-fat vegetarian diet...This
is what the patients in our study consumed, whose coronary heart disease
to reverse. I am convinced that this is the world’s healthiest diet
for most adults, whether or not they have heart disease.”
DR DEAN ORNISH, SCHOOL OF MEDICINE, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA.
The adult form of diabetes (NIDDM) is much more common than the variety
which starts in childhood (IDDM). It affects about 150 million people
worldwide - 22.5 million in Europe and two million in the UK. About 80
per cent of those affected are overweight or obese. The WHO estimates
that by 2025 the problem will have doubled to at least 300 million worldwide.
The science again shows that vegetarians and vegans are considerably less
at risk. Research with 25,000 adult Americans put it at about 45 per cent
less. For those who already have diabetes, there’s strong evidence
that high-fibre, low-fat diets improve the situation and even without exercise,
vegan diets can bring down blood sugar levels.
A low-fat, high-fibre diet helps insulin to work better because it allows
sugar to pass into the bloodstream a little at a time rather than all at
once. Dietitians now recommend that wholegrain pasta, rice, bread and other
complex carbohydrates - along with pulses, beans and vegetables - form
the main part of any diabetic diet.
Diverticular disease is one of the most common disorders of the colon
among elderly people in Western societies but again vegetarians
suffer less. Small pouches form in the wall of the intestine and become
A study of 48,000 US men found that a diet high in fat and red
meat and low in fibre increased the risk.
Gallstones are made up mostly of cholesterol crystals and are formed
when bile (digestive fluid) becomes saturated with cholesterol.
High-fibre diets stop gallstones forming, which is why the WHO recommends
diet as protection. Meat-eaters stand twice the risk than do vegetarians.
The causes are the same old suspects - too little fibre, saturated
fat, cholesterol and obesity.
High blood pressure is caused by stress, alcohol, obesity and poor
diet and plays a part in heart disease and strokes (see Strokes, page
22). Many people don’t even realise they have it. In England, one
in 10 people between 45 to 54 have high blood pressure. Not only do vegetarians
suffer much less but a meat-free diet can help lower blood pressure.
When 29 patients, who had suffered from high blood pressure for eight
years, were put on a vegan diet for a year, so successful was it that almost
all medication was withdrawn or drastically reduced.
A well-planned vegetarian diet may be useful in the prevention
and treatment of renal [kidney] disease..."
AMERICAN DIETETIC ASSOCIATION.
For those with kidney disease, plant proteins may increase survival rates
and reduce kidney damage. According to Dr Neal Barnard of the Physicians
Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), animal protein is the worst
enemy of people with a tendency toward kidney stones, or any kidney disease
for that matter.
Animal protein tends to overwork the kidneys, making them less efficient
at filtering waste from the body in the urine. Animal protein is high in
sulphur which can leach calcium from the bones and form painful kidney
stones. Meat and eggs contain up to five times more of these sulphur compounds
than grains and beans. So, vegetarian diets tend to produce less wear and
tear on the kidneys. A Harvard University study found that animal protein
was directly linked to the risk of kidney stones and just small increases
in meat consumption pushed that risk up.
People with kidney problems are usually put on a low-protein diet yet
it’s been shown that a vegan diet is extremely effective and has
the added advantage of being a healthier alternative.
With lactose intolerance, the body can’t digest the sugar in cow’s
milk called lactose. It’s found only in milk and has to be broken
down in the small intestine by an enzyme called lactase. No surprises,
then, that it is only babies who normally have this enzyme. Nature didn’t
provide adults with it as they wouldn’t need to drink milk after
Undigested lactose reaches the large intestine where bacteria act on it,
creating gas and drawing water into the digestive tract. The result - bloating,
stomach cramps and a lot of gas! Up to five million people in the UK are
lactose intolerant; in the US it affects about 50 million people and a
staggering 75 per cent of the world’s population is lactose intolerant!
This shows just how unnatural cow’s milk really is for adults and
why it plays a part in a host of diseases, including irritable bowel syndrome.
Currently, over half of women and about two thirds of men are overweight
or obese - a condition linked to heart disease, high blood pressure,
diabetes, arthritis, gallstones and some cancers. Fat around the stomach
area is thought to be particularly damaging. Knowing the problem is one
thing, doing something about it is quite another. Which is why all leading
health advisory bodies stress the importance of encouraging children
to eat a healthy diet. Quite simply, non-meat eaters are slimmer than
Osteoporosis - porous or brittle bones - is the major cause of bone
fractures in the elderly and is a result of thinning bones due to loss
of calcium. The number of hip fractures is reaching epidemic levels in
many affluent countries, affecting a staggering one-in-three women and
one-in-12 men in the UK over the age of 50. Despite our obsession with
drinking cow’s milk for calcium, supposedly to prevent osteoporosis,
it isn’t working. Countries with the highest calcium intake have
the highest risk of osteoporosis. Research with 77,000 women found that
those who got most of their calcium from cow’s milk had significantly
more fractures than those who drank little or no cow ’s milk.
Bone density increases until the mid mid-thirties and is dependent on
genetics, hormones and nutrition. Keeping active with weight-bearing activities
such walking and skipping is important. But the main cause of osteoporosis
in Western countries is not lack of calcium - it is loss of calcium. Vegetarians
have less than half the calcium losses than meat-eaters.
Animal protein produces acid in the body whilst most fruit, vegetables
and pulses form alkalines. Acids are neutralised by using calcium
from the bones, which is then excreted in urine. Elderly people who
eat a lot
of animal protein but little vegetable protein have a greater risk
of hip fractures. Cutting down on meat and dairy - or cutting it
out entirely - reduces the amount of calcium you need and there are
foods that can provide it. (See calcium
Rheumatism is any painful condition affecting bones, ligaments, joints,
tendons or muscles. Arthritis is a form of rheumatism where the joints
become inflamed. Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a disease where the immune
system attacks its own tissues - in this case cartilage and joint linings.
Meat, dairy produce and eggs can all be triggers for arthritis and can
also encourage hormone imbalances that can contribute to joint pain.
When RA sufferers were put on a vegetarian diet, they showed a significant
reduction in pain, stiffness and swollen joints after just four weeks.
Researchers have come to the conclusion that vegetarian diets might be
useful in the treatment of RA and that meat and offal may be a major factor
contributing to the inflammation in RA.
A stroke is sudden damage to the brain caused by lack of blood supply
or rupture of a blood vessel in the brain. The damaged cells die and
the parts of the body they control cease to function. A major cause is
furring up of the arteries - made worse by high blood pressure and diabetes.
Strokes are responsible for about 12 per cent of all deaths in England.
About 30 per cent of people who have a stroke die within a few weeks
and about one half of those who survive will have a lasting disability.
Since vegetarians suffer less from high blood pressure and coronary artery
disease than meat-eaters, a veggie diet is a sensible preventative.
Children’s Eating Habits
Why, when children are free to choose their own diet, do they choose
the foods they do? The three main reasons - they choose what their parent’s
eat, advertising and family income - all need to be tackled if kids are
to have a healthy future.