Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) -- 5100 Wisconsin Ave NW,
Suite 404 --
Washington, D.C. 20016
A healthy person is a blessing
on animals. Most sicknesses in western society are cured with drugs made from
animals, and/or tested on animals, by the doctors who very likely have acquired
their skills by experimenting on lab-animals. Under the circumstances, a
compassionate vegetarian must learn how to remain healthy.
Two-Year-Old's Bones and Teeth
n I've heard that dairy
products contain growth hormones and pesticides that might be harmful, but I'm
worried about my two-year-old's bones and teeth. Doesn't he need milk to develop
Milk and other
dairy products are also loaded with saturated fat, cholesterol, and drug
residues. About 30 percent of American children are overweight, largely because
of their high fat intake. And there is evidence that milk consumption
contributes to heart disease, ovarian cancer, and even cataracts in later life,
and that colic in infants is caused by antibodies in milk.
Cow's milk is not "a natural,"
even for children. Greens, beans, nuts, and seeds will provide all the calcium
and protein your son needs.
Product Testing on Animals
n I don't like the idea of
hurting animals to test products, but I'm nervous about using face creams,
toothpastes, and things that could get in my eyes if they haven't been tested. How can I be sure the products I use are safe?
Product tests on
animal merely measure the damage substances inflict on animals' eyes,
skin, lungs, and other organs; they don't ensure safety to consumers, and they
aren't used to develop antidotes for harmful reactions. Emergency room
physicians, and attorneys, can testify that thousands of people each year are
injured by animal-tested products.
Many companies that don't use
animal tests do test their products, of course, using human skin patch
tests, cloned human skin, and new technologies that are more accurate than
animal tests. Or they simply use time tested ingredients that are known to be
Salmonella and Cantaloupe
n I recently read about a
number of people becoming sick with salmonella poisoning as a result of eating
cantaloupe. I knew that salmonella is a problem in foods like potato salad,
chicken and eggs. Is it true that fruit is a source of salmonella poisoning,
bacteria usually are found in animal products, they can also grow on other foods
if the food is contaminated with this bacteria. The outbreak of infection that
you are referring to occurred when people ate cantaloupe that was sitting out at
a salad bar. Presumably, the cantaloupe had been out for some time. The
cantaloupe at your grocer is not a source of concern.
This situation points to the
importance of safe handling of all foods -- that is using clean utensils and
cutting boards in preparation and keeping foods at an appropriate temperature.
Generally speaking, however, fruits that are kept refrigerated after they are
cut open should be safe. In terms of food poisoning, fruits and other
low-protein items are generally considered to be safe. Poultry, eggs,
cream-based dishes, and dairy products are the leading causes of salmonella
Protein for Athletes
n I have been a vegetarian
for three years and have always enjoyed good health. However, I began lifting
weights recently. My program is fairly rigorous at times, and I'm worried about
getting enough of the right kinds of protein now that my muscles are being
worked so strenuously and are bigger. Are there special recommendations for
foremost, exercising muscle requires extra calories. It takes about 2,500
additional calories to create one pound of muscle. Body builders also require
more protein than non-exercising individuals -- perhaps as much as 50 percent
more. However, meeting protein needs is easy -- even for athletes. As long as
you meet your increased calorie needs by eating more healthy foods such as whole
grains, legumes, and vegetables, you will automatically meet your increased
Since the average American
consumes twice as much protein as he or she needs, most non-exercising
individuals actually end up consuming more protein than even an athlete
requires! For athletes, as for all people, there is no need to follow special
rules for combining foods and no advantage to using amino acid supplements.
n I am a
sixteen-year-old who has been a lacto-ovo vegetarian for three years. Recently I
eliminated dairy foods and eggs from my diet. I am concerned about nuts and
seeds in my diet. I eat a fair amount of peanut butter and other nuts. But I've
read that they are high in fat. I also heard that peanuts can cause cancer.
Should I avoid peanuts and other nuts?
peanuts aren't even nuts. Because they grow in a pod, they are classified as
legumes. But because they are nutritionally similar to nuts -- especially in
their fat content -- they have earned an honorary position among that food
There has been some
concern about the fact that peanuts can be host to a mold called aflatoxin.
Aflatoxin, which causes liver cancer, is the most potent carcinogen known. In
the United States, peanuts are inspected for aflatoxin and small amounts are
frequently found in peanut butter. Since liver cancer is relatively rare in this
country, aflatoxin is apparently not a serious public health problem. In
countries where food inspection is poor and peanuts are central to the diet,
aflatoxin may be more of a concern.
Nuts and seeds are the only
groups of plant foods that are high in fat. Their fat is mostly poly- and mono-
unsaturated. (Coconut is the rare exception, being high in saturated fat.)
Regardless of the type of fat, high fat intakes are associated with risk of
colon cancer, breast cancer, and obesity. On the other hand, nuts and seeds are
powerhouses of nutrition.
They are rich in fiber, protein, B-vitamins, iron,
copper, zinc, and in some cases, calcium. So with nuts and seeds in the diet, it
is somewhat of a balancing act. Including one or two servings of these foods in
your diet every day will help you to meet the increased calorie and nutrient
needs of adolescence. But balance these foods with generous servings of whole
grains, vegetables, beans, and fruits. As long as you aren't loading up on fatty
snack foods like chips and sweets, your meat and dairy-free diet is probably low
in fat. That means that there is a place for small amounts of nutrient-rich nuts
and seeds in your meal planning.
Margarine and Butter
n I have elevated blood
cholesterol levels and have been making changes in my diet to lower my fat
intake. One of these changes includes using margarine on my food instead of
butter. However, now I have heard that margarine contains fats that may actually
raise blood cholesterol. Would it be a better idea to use butter after all?
best idea is to use neither, since both butter and margarine are equally high in
fat. Butter is predominantly made up of saturated fat, while margarine contains
a mix of polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, and saturated fats. Nutritionists
usually consider margarine to be a wise choice over butter since it helps to
lower intake of saturated fat, although it does not help to lower total fat
intake at all.
Margarine is made from liquid
vegetable oils that have been hydrogenated. The addition of hydrogen turns a
liquid oil into a solid fat -- and also increases the amount of saturated fat in
a product. Scientists have known for some time that hydrogenation also produces
fats known as "trans fatty acids." This means that the structure of the fat
molecule is rearranged slightly so that it looks a little different from
naturally occurring saturated fats. A Dutch study suggested that consumption of
these trans fatty acids may raise levels of LDL-cholesterol (that's the "bad"
cholesterol) and lower levels of HDL-cholesterol (or "good" cholesterol) in your
bloodstream. They concluded that there is no advantage to using margarine over
more saturated fats like butter. One problem with the study, however, was that
the subjects consumed diets that were much higher in trans-fatty acids than most
Americans consume. There are a number of margarines on the market that are lower
in trans-fatty acids than the product used in the study.
An important consideration is
that about 75 percent of the trans-fatty acids consumed by Americans come, not
from margarine, but from commercial baked goods, snack foods, and fast foods.
Eliminating these foods from your diet will make the most significant dent in
your intake of trans-fatty acids.
Finally, while vegetable fats are
a better choice in your diet than animal fats, the key to healthful eating is to
reduce all fats. Build your diet around whole grains, beans, vegetables, and
fruits. Try fruit spreads on breads instead of fats. And on the rare occasions
when you cook with added fats, use vegetable oils such as olive oil.