One Person's Meat Is Another Person's Poison

2127 words - 9 pages

Despite the daily deluge of health messages and warnings that Americans receive about their eating habits, a meal of hamburgers and French fries continues to rank as the top choice among diners. According to recent statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans "ate an average of 30 pounds per person of the crispy potato sticks in 1995" more than three times the amount ingested in 1965 ("Surprise," 1996, p. C3). Moreover, among patrons of restaurants and fast food eateries, "One out of five diners ordered a burger, for a total of 5.2 billion burgers" in 1995, claims the National Restaurant Association ("Surprise," 1996, p. C3). Americans might, therefore, find it difficult to ...view middle of the document...

But those factors that have sparked the most compelling rationale for becoming vegetarian are the dangers associated with a meat-based diet; according to the Yankelovich study, 48 percent of those surveyed listed a concern about their health as "the single most important reason for becoming vegetarian" (as cited in Krizmanic, 1992, p. 74). Most of these survey participants chose a meat-free diet as a means to lowering cholesterol and losing weight (Krizmanic, 1992). But a vegetarian diet offers even more significant health benefits: recent studies have demonstrated that a plant-based diet has the power to reverseand possibly to preventcoronary heart disease.Heart disease is the number one killer in industrialized nations. In fact, in 1996, 1,954,407 deaths occurred in this country due to cardiovascular diseases; more U.S. citizens died from heart disease than from cancer, accidents, and HIV combined ("Chronic Diseases," 2000). Twenty years ago, Dean Ornish, M.D., head of the Preventative Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, California, recognized that conventional approaches to heart disease were failing miserably because they tended to offer only temporary relief: the symptoms were treated, but the causes of the disease remained unaddressed (Ornish, 1993). "With only drugs and surgery," Ornish argues, "the best we can hope for is symptomatic relief, a truce, a forestalling of further disease and death" (Ornish, 1982, p. 10). As described in his revolutionary book, Stress, Diet, and Your Heart, Ornish created his "Life Choice Program"a regimen that prescribes a low-fat, vegetarian diet combined with moderate exercise and stress reduction techniquesto combat the causes of heart disease (Ornish, 1982).Dr. Ornish's was "the first randomized, controlled clinical study" that scientifically proved that even extreme cases of coronary heart disease can be reversed as a result of lifestyle changes exclusivelythat is, without the aid of cholesterol-lowering drugs or surgery (Ornish, 1993, p. 7). His study involved forty-six patients with documented cases of advanced heart disease. The patients were arbitrarily split into two groups: one followed Dr. Ornish's program for twenty-five days, and the other did not. According to Ornish (1993), "We demonstrated for the first time in 1977, and more conclusively in 1980, that these patients [who followed his program] experienced remarkable physical and emotional benefits in just a few weeks" (pp. 11-12). The patients who adhered to the program sustained a significant improvement in the performance of their hearts, an increase in their ability to exercise, and marked reductions in their weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, and susceptibility to emotional stress (Ornish, 1982). Even after six months, patients' incidence and severity of chest pains remained at a low level. These patients experienced secondary benefits as well: "In many patients, backaches, headaches, and other chronic pains also decreased. Many...

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