Humanimal – A Long, Slow Death 5

Daily life of the vegetarian #14

AN ARTICLE IN the Weekend Herald tells us that a comprehensive study has proved what we already knew: that people are living longer lives, but that with the longevity comes debilitating, painful chronic diseases that spoil the quality of life.
Well, it didn’t say that last bit, but it’s self evident that if you’re disease-ridden, and merely coping with whatever poor health curve ball comes inching towards you, that you’re not going be a happy sucker.
“Nearly everywhere around the world, people are living longer,” the story states. “But increasingly, people are grappling with the diseases and disabilities of modern life, according to the most expansive global look so far on health threats.”
This ‘expansive global look’ comes from the Institute Of Health Metrics And Evaluation at the University Of Washington, and the research has been published in the online version of the Lancet medical journal. “More than 480 researchers in 50 countries gathered data up to 2010 from surveys, censuses and studies.”
The results were predictable, and mirrored exactly the contentions made by John Robbins in his groundbreaking book, Healthy At 100. Robbins’ 2006 book was also soundly researched, but it wasn’t blindly looking at figures. Instead, it found the communities and cultures around the world that had the most longevity and good health to old age, then looked at their lifestyles and diets, and made a radical but logical conclusion:
In every case, those societies with the most longevity and health to old age were those who were either entirely vegetarian, or who ate no more than two percent meat and fish. They always also had active lifestyles, and always ate mostly fresh, plant-based food or fermented plant-based food.
Contrast that with the diet and lifestyle of Western-oriented societies like New Zealand, where the incidence of diabetes and certain types of cancers (bowel cancer, especially, should be singled out) has reached epidemic proportions, and even middle-aged citizens are often like the walking wounded, full of geriatric aches and pains.
The ‘comprehensive’ study isn’t in the least bit surprising. While life-threatening conditions like heart disease are rife in New Zealand, it’s the slow killers like arthritis, and all the other avoidable degenerative diseases that are just as worrying.
There’s this rosy picture of retirement, where a happy couple head off on their dream holiday, elated that the kids have finally flown the nest, and knowing that they’ve got some great, fulfilling time ahead of them to really make the most of.
The reality is mostly quite different. The likelihood is that the husband will die of heart disease shortly after retirement, and the wife will suffer a slow decline as her bone mass is flushed down the toilet; and the chances are she’ll spend the last years of her life lonely and miserable and having to spend most of her time planning when to take which of the numerous pills and medications she’s got just to dull the arthritis and all those other conditions she suffers from.
And the sad fact is that most of these debilitating ‘age’ diseases are avoidable by simply avoiding all the foods that trigger the diseases, and yet mainstream society isn’t told the truth about the sort of foods that will enhance life and not just extend it.
It’s disturbing to know that the answer to so many of our real concerns is right in front of us, and, as Carrie Steele discussed here, it’s a relatively easy decision to change your diet – a lot easier than either having to face major operations that butcher your physique, or slow and painful, medicated declines.
As John Robbins says in Healthy At 100, there’s no reason a person can’t be healthy, and functioning properly, until the day they drop. New Zealand is facing financial ruin as my generation – the so-called baby boomers – reaches retirement and starts to need major medical fix-its. And yet the real fix-it is staring us in the face. Those degenerative diseases are already churning away inside most members of my generation, and although a change of diet will arrest the decline, it won’t totally fix those chronic conditions that are already underway. What’s really needed is to look really, really hard at every aspect of childhood health, and take a radical new approach to child nutrition and education.
Given the nutritional building blocks of a plant-based diet, we could be looking at a society in 70 or 80 years that’s almost devoid of those slow-death degenerative diseases. If we act now, that is. GARY STEEL

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5 thoughts on “Humanimal – A Long, Slow Death

  • Ashley Kramer

    A vegetarian diet can still be laden with animal protein and fat Catherine (the dairy and eggs are bad news). The key seems to be to cut out the lot. Get hold of a copy of Forks Over Knives – that’s what finally convinced me to go vegan instead of just vegetarian and I feel so much better for it.

  • Gary Steel Post author

    Catherine – I’m in the same boat as you. Not sure about you, but my vegetarianism wasn’t exactly health-based, and included (especially in the early days) a lot of saturated fat, refined sugar, gluten, wheat and processed stuff, as well as dairy products. What I’m talking about in the blog is the hypothesis that going vegan and avoiding sugars and processed foods has been seen to have a huge impact on arthritis. I’ve seen/heard many people vouch for big improvements with a change of diet. But, as I state in the blog, once a degenerative disease is underway, it’s next to impossible to entirely reverse, hence the pressing need to get our kids to eat the right stuff.

  • Ashley Kramer

    A friend of mine went from a typical meat eater to a raw vegan in a relatively short time frame and had major improvements in the state of the arthritis in his knees.

    He made a short film about his experiences, which I’m trying to get hold of for the site. As you say Gary, it’s hard to totally reverse degenerative damage but IMO the body can work wonders when it’s not being poisoned…