The Nation's Health + Nutrition

Nutrition: Are you more like a dog or a rabbit?

Dr. William Roberts, editor of the American Journal of Cardiology and cardiovascular pathologist, is a perennial source of clever ideas on heart disease.
In a recent editorial, Dr. Roberts comments:


"Because humans get atherosclerosis, and atherosclerosis is a disease only of herbivorers, humans also must be herbivores. Most humans, of course, eat flesh, but that act does not make us carnivores. Carnivores and herbivores have different characteristics. (1) The teeth of carnivores are sharp; those of herbivores, flat (humans have some sharp teeth but most are flat for grinding the fruits, vegetables, and grains we are built to eat). (2) The intestinal tract of carnivores is short (about 3 times body length); that of herbivores, long (about 12 times body length). (Since I am 6 feet tall my intestinal tract should be about 60 feet long. As a consequence, if I eat bovine muscle [steak], it could take 5 days to course through those 20 yards.) (3) Body cooling for carnivores is done by panting because they have no ability to seat; although herbivores also can pant, they cool their bodies mainly by sweating. (4) Drinking fluids is by lapping them for the carnivore; it is by sipping them for the herbivore. (5) Vitamin C is made by the carnivore's own body; herbivores obtain their ascorbic acid only from their diet. Thus, although most human beings think we are carnivores or at least conduct their lives as if we were, basically humans are herbivores. If we could decrease our flesh intake to as few as 5 to 7 meals a week our health would improve substantially."

You can always count on Dr. Bill Roberts to come up with some clever observations.

I think he's right. Some of the most unhealthy people I've known have been serious meat eaters. Most of the vegetarians have been among the healthiest. (I say most because if a vegetarian still indulges in plenty of junk foods like chips, crackers, breakfast cereals, breads, etc., then they can be every bit as unhealthy as a meat eater.)

Should you become a vegetarian to gain control over coronary plaque and other aspects of health? I don't believe you have to. However, modern livestock raising practices have substantially modified the composition of meats. A steak in 2006, for instance, is not the same thing as a steak in 1896. The saturated and monounsaturated fat content are different, the pattern of fat "marbling" is different, the lean protein content is different. Meat is less healthy today than 100 years ago.

Take a lesson from Dr. Roberts' tongue-in-cheek but nonetheless provocative thoughts. Pardon me while I chew on some carrots.

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