Junk journalism

| 5 November 2019
minute reading time

Dillon mentions cashew cheese and beetroot burgers – a bit upmarket for junk food! Cashews are highly nutritious, they are a great source of protein, energy, ‘good’ polyunsaturated fats, vitamin E and minerals, particularly magnesium and zinc. I’d bet the beetroot burgers are a lot healthier too compared to a beef burger!  

So what does Dillon mean by unnatural ingredients? Could she be talking about cancer-causing substances like N-nitroso-compounds, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and heterocyclic amines? Oh wait, they’re all found in meat products. The nitrites added to your pepperoni could be to blame for the link between processed meats and bowel cancer. Or it could be the haem iron. So many nasty substances to choose from!

How about trimethylamine-N-oxide? This one disrupts cholesterol metabolism and leads to the build-up of fatty plaques in the arteries. But again, the gut bacteria that produce it from carnitine in meat are only found in the guts of meat-eaters and not vegans. Then there’s the hormones and growth factors found in meat and dairy, at levels much higher than would naturally be present thanks to selective breeding and intensive farming methods.

Junk foods have been around for decades – burgers, hot dogs and fries… No one thinks they are healthy, vegan or otherwise! These types of junk food tend to contain unhealthy levels of saturated fat and salt. However, at least the vegan versions are not linked to cancer in the same way as the meaty ones!     

Dillon warns us to be be careful as the food industry tries to capitalise on the new vegan wave. The real danger come from the meat and dairy industry, clearly now on the back foot, as they follow closely in the footsteps of the tobacco industry, spending millions on ‘influencing’ journalists, health writers and politicians, challenging health reports and recruiting scientists to produce flawed research. Journalists like Dillion would better-serve their audiences by recognising the real villain, hiding in plain sight.

Healthy food versus junk food – find out how to get the balance right here.

About the author
Dr. Justine Butler
Justine joined Viva! in 2005 after graduating from Bristol University with a PhD in molecular biology. After working as a campaigner, then researcher and writer, she is now Viva!’s head of research and her work focuses on animals, the environment and health. Justine’s scientific training helps her research and write both in-depth scientific reports, such as White Lies and the Meat Report, as well as easy-to-read factsheets and myth-busting articles for consumer magazines and updates on the latest research. Justine also recently wrote the Vegan for the Planet guide for Viva!’s Vegan Now campaign.

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