Monday, August 4, 2014

Carnivorous Wasps

Reason number 483 for going vegan: wasps don’t pester you when you’re eating a summer meal outdoors. Maureen and I were commenting the other evening on how the wasps never seem to stick around nowadays. They amble by, but as soon as you wave a hand vaguely in their direction, away they go. What a contrast to the meals we remember all too well from years gone by when the wasps just wouldn’t stay away from a plate filled with burgers and potato salad.

The reason? Social wasps (the kind that tend to want to socialize with humans at mealtimes) are omnivores, with a special fondness for animal products. Other than insects they don’t eat live flesh but they love to carry off little chunks of the dead flesh of a bird or a cow or a pig, cooked or uncooked. They will eat fruit too, but if our plate has nothing on it but veggies and legumes, they have virtually no interest.

(Human) Animal Health, Disease, and Diet

I’ve never paid as much attention as I probably should to the benefits to human health that going vegan offers; my partner Maureen is very largely responsible for keeping me up-to-date on the evidence. And—much as the meat and egg and dairy industries do everything they can to convince us otherwise—the evidence continues to grow that a plant-based, whole foods diet is the best choice for human health. (Note the “whole foods” part; it’s perfectly possible to eat very unhealthily if your plant-based diet is largely made up of processed sugars and starches.)

Most people are aware that there’s a correlation between eating animal products and high cholesterol. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that a plant-based, whole foods diet tends greatly to improve the condition of your heart and blood vessels. What may be more surprising is that there is now substantial evidence that such a diet can dramatically slow the progress of other diseases: diabetes, for example, Alzheimer’s, and even some cancers. In the case of diabetes and heart disease, such a diet can in many cases even begin to reverse the damage caused by disease.

If you’re interested and would like to check out some authorities that aren’t funded by the meat and egg and dairy industries, let me mention two great sources. T. Colin Campbell and Colin M. Campbell’s best-selling The China Study: Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, and Long-Term Health is one. The China Study, one of the largest epidemiological efforts ever undertaken, was sponsored by Cornell University and Oxford University as well as the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine. It collected a vast range of information connecting disease and diet and lifestyle in thousands of different ways. T. Colin Campbell describes himself as he was before he directed the study in this way: “I was a meat-loving dairy farmer in my personal life and an ‘establishment’ scientist in my professional life. I even used to lament the views of vegetarians as I taught nutritional biochemistry to pre-med students.” The evidence convinced him, though, of “the multiple health benefits of consuming plant-based foods, and the largely unappreciated health dangers of consuming animal-based foods.”

Let me also mention Michael Gregor’s—perhaps the best single source for ongoing updates on the latest research in all these areas. His August 1 video summary of information, is a good place to start.