The Scientific Basis of Vegetarianism
By Dr. Kalyan Gangwal
The human body is protected continuously by millions of "fighter cells". Central Controls" can order out billions of new "fighters" when disease invades the body During times of "peace", the numbers are reduced and the "fighters" become "Patrol Units". This operation is known as the Body's immune system. Scientists probing secrets of the immune system are finding that healthful diet, physical fitness and a positive emotional state of mind stimulate and strengthen the body's immune system, while illness, drugs, improper diet and excessive stress can depress and weaken it.
Health is a precious possession and our daily diet plays a significant role in promoting physical, mental and spiritual health in a person. In any diet-availability of the required amount of energy, protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins and minerals is essential.
Energy: Meeting energy requirements is not usually a problem in a vegetarian diet (Iacto - vegetarian's diet) because of the high energy content of dairy products. In India almost all vegetarians take dairy products along with vegetable products.
Proteins: Body's protein needs can be provided by either animal or plant sources. All proteins, both plant and animal is made up of basic building blocks called Amino Acids. There are essential amino acids which must be obtained from the diet and other amino acids which can be manufactured in the body (from Carbohydrates.)
The difference between animal and plant protein lies in the proportions of essential amino acids in the protein. In animal protein, the essential amino acids are generally available in the appropriate proportions for human needs. In plant proteins, however, there is often an insufficiency of one or more essential amino acid(s), if a single source is used. Hence in order to obtain all the essential amino acids, mixing of proteins from different plant sources is necessary. This has been the pattern of diet in India for all vegetarians.
Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are mainly found in plant foods; like cereals, grains, fresh and dry fruits, legumes, vegetables, greens, nuts etc. Plant Carbohydrates include large amounts of starches, sugar and fibres. Starches and sugars provide energy or fuel for the body and fibres are important for gut functions. The body is better suited to a high carbohydrate diet than a low carbohydrate diet. In fact 55% of the food intake should be carbohydrate. Remember all Animal products do not contain carbohydrates which are so much essential for body.
Fat: Plant fats differ from animal fats in two different ways (1) They are cholesterol free (2) They generally contain more Polyunsaturated fat and low saturated fats. Plant fats usually have a higher polyunsaturated fat value than animal fats.
A diet which is low in cholesterol and which contains fat of a high PIS value is associated with a lower instance of coronary heart disease.
Vitamins and Minerals: Plant foods are rich in many vitamins and minerals.
Vitamin D : Vitamin D is obtained by exposure of skin to sun light and this is not a problem in India.
Calcium : The Vegetarians can meet their needs for calcium from dairy products.
Riboflavin : (Vitamin B 12) Dark green vegetables are good source of Riboflavin as are also legumes and whole rain cereals.
Iron : The problem of Iron deficiency is relatively common but Vitamin C significantly enhances absorption of Iron and hence it is advisable for vegetarians to include with each meal a food high in Vitamin C such as Lime, Citrus Fruits or Juices.
Zinc: Zinc is found in fairly large number of plant foods.
Fibre : Fibre is found only in Veg. foods like whole grain cereals, legumes, greens, fruits, vegetables etc.
Thus in Vegetarian foods all requirement of nutrition for body growth and maintenance is fulfilled. One can have a Complete and Balanced diet provided we take enough food as close to nature as possible to help maintaining good and disease free body. It is also equally helpful in curing many diseases.
Non Vegetarian Food : The production of meat involves brutality, cruelty and killing of animals, birds, fish etc. which is revolting to the finger sense of human nature.
Nutritional Value of Meat & Other Scientific Data : Meat is a poor source of Minerals, Sugars, Starch i.e. (Carbohydrate) Roughage. Vitamins and minerals, and contains considerable amount of saturated fat or cholesterol and uric acid, which are very harmful to health.
There are toxins in all flesh, and in eating the flesh or other animals, man is simply adding other toxins to those which his own body engenders. This causes heavy burden to many important organs like Heart, Kidney, Liver, Lungs etc.
Considerable amount of pesticides residue including, DDT and antibiotics are contained in meat. This is very harmful and against the interest of meat consumers.
Just because meat has complete protein it does not become a good or healthy food for man. Meat has more minus points than good. Studies show that meat eating is linked to many diseases such as cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, gallstones, osterioporosis, diabetes, asthma and several others.
Human Anatomy: A study of human anatomy and physiology also reveals that the human being is basically a vegetarian animal.
1. Like Vegetarian Animal our large and small intestines measure four times the length of our body whereas in case of Carnivores it is almost the same size of the animal.
2. We do not have fangs as the Carnivores have to bite the flesh.
3. Human Saliva is Alkaline containing Ptyalin to digest carbohydrates whereas in Carnivores it is Acidic.
4. For Carnivores to digest highly proteinous flesh diet gastric secretion is highly acidic, whereas the human secretion is of low acidity.
5. Human do not have claws - like Carnivores to tear flesh.
6. Humans perspire through body pores whereas flesh eating animals through their tongue.
7. Meat eating animals see in darkness while Vegetarian Animals and men fine it extremely difficult to see in darkness.
8. The vegetarian Animals and men sip water and liquids whereas Carnivores lick liquids.
The Western scientists and medical profession after similar studies, spread over decades have now realised all these facts and hence they have considerably made changes in diets and are advising all their patients to change over to a vegetarian diet - for better health. They have started using many herbs for preparation of drugs. They have also introduced compulsory nutrition courses in medical education.
Your diet is 75% responsible for your ailments and therefore it is very essential that every Doctor must have a deep knowledge of nutrition which is very much lacking in todays Medical education.
Alone with Medication: Diet control is essential and if this is not done, quite often medication does not help.
There is a myth amongst people that consumption of meat would make them strong. It is also commonly believed that nonvegetarian food has more nutritive value. It is significant to note that while in U.S.A. nearly 20 to 30 million people have adopted vegetarianism in last decade and more and more understanding and intellectual people, in U. K., U. S. S. R., West Germany, Japan, Switzerland, Italy, Israel, Mexico etc. are gradually turning to vegetarian diet not only on humanitarian ground, more so for health.
The Bombay Hospital in its research publication "Vegetarian diet in health and diseases "they have said that the vegetarians can live long without suffering from any crippling disease.
Here are their comments on some of the important
1. On Coronary Heart Diseases: It seems evident that vegetarianism offers definite protection from Coronary heart diseases.
2. The Gastro Intestinal Tract: It appears that vegetarian food is beneficial in prevention as well as in the management of most of the gastrointestinal diseases.
3. Diabetes: A vegetarian diet is eminently suitable for all noninsul in dependent and insulin dependent diabetics.
4. Kidney: The Nephrologist, like the diabetologist, uses diet as a major part of his therapeutics armamentarium most effectively. Each patient will be given a different diet prescription but the one universal advice that will apply to ail will be- "It is better for you to become a Vegetarian".
5. Liver: It is very obvious that a vegetarian diet is more useful in the treatment of all liver disorders including the last stage of liver failure.
6. Cancer: Dietary intake of fat to be reduces. A solution offered by simple vegetable food.
7. The Nervous System: (Brain & Nerves)
Vegetarian diet plays a good supportive role in the treatment of many chronic, progressive neurological diseases.
8. The Mind and its Health: It will not come as a surprise if, in the future, research reveals that vegetarian food has a superior effect on the mind and the intellect.
9. High Blood Pressure: It seems clear that vegetarians tend to have lower blood pressure than omnivores and that a shift in dietary pattern towards a vegetarian diet would result in reduced incidence of hypertension, strokes and cardiovascular disease in the community.
10. Bones & Joints: Analysis of the available data shows that vegetarian diets by virtue of their - a) High fibre content b) Low acid content c) High Vitamin and mineral content. are helpful in preventing and, to a certain extent, relieving the pain and progression of arthritis and bone demineralisation.
Scientific evidence confirms that to reduce chronic diseases Western diet must shift from a predominance of animal foods to plant foods Governments of the World do not acknowledge this data as they dare not risk upsetting the powerful meat, poultry and egg industries. The health of the people is compromised because we do not hear the true facts about diet and health.
Numerous studies show that as you reduce your intake of animal protein, and increase fibre and protective nutrients from vegetables, the risk of getting cancer goes down. A galaxy of eminent scientists, doctors, nutritionists, economists, agriculturists, environmentalists and persons interested in animal welfare from various parts of the world including India, Numbering over 500 who had assembled in the Conference at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, on the occasion of the 30th World Vegetarian Congress held on 2nd and 3rd January 1993, were of the considered view that vegetarian diet is most suited and desirable for human beings from the point of view of health, hygiene, nutrition, ecology, economics, animal welfare and our Mother Earth.
In short, science today is in full agreement with out Indian Culture of Vegetarianism and Ahinsa based on thousands of years of experience, supported by ethics and religions.
Author : Dr. Kalyan Gangwal , M. D., Hon. Consultant