The research community is starting to identify all the ways in which outside influences (like the food we eat, the amount we exercise, and the chemicals we encounter) can affect our genes in both positive and negative ways. This field of study is called epigenetics. And it’s emerging as a vital aspect of health.
I’ve discussed epigenetics here in the Reality Health Check a few times. And I’ve lectured extensively on the topic all over the world.
I’ve also discussed vegetarian- and veganism quite a bit. Usually to debunk the absurd claims that ditching animal products is the healthiest way to eat. But unfortunately, this misconception continues to plague popular diet advice to this day.
So when I came across a new report that rolled both of these topics into one incredibly vindicating study, I wanted to share it with you right away.
This new study shows that vegetarians in populations who have been meatless for generations carry genetic mutations that increase inflammation. And as you know, inflammation is the root cause of most diseases — including heart disease and cancer.
Don’t say I never told you so.
Cornell researchers compared genomes from a vegetarian population in India with those of traditional meat-eaters in Kansas. And they found a particular mutation among the longstanding vegetarians that they believed makes it easier to derive essential fatty acids from plant foods.
The problem? When paired with high intake of vegetable oils (pretty much a given among vegetarians) the same mutation also ratchets up the production of arachidonic acid (AA). And AA is a smoking gun behind numerous inflammatory conditions, including cancer.
To make things worse, the mutation also blocks production of omega-3 fatty acids. (Which, as you already know, prevent disease by combatting inflammation.) Factor in the widening imbalance between omega-3 and omega-6 fats — the latter of which are particularly abundant in vegetable oils — and you’ve got a surefire recipe for chronic disease.
The researchers believe this finding may explain previous research linking vegetarianism to a 40 percent higher risk of colorectal cancer. (This was a real head scratcher for mainstream doctors, who have always thought that red meat was riskier. Hint: It’s not.)
But the really scary takeaway here is the fact that this genetic mutation (like many others discovered in the study of epigenetics) seems to be passed down through generations. Which means that your vegetarianism could harm your children and grandchildren, too.
Not to mention what it could be doing to you. Many vegetarians simply don’t get enough protein, iron, vitamin D, vitamin B12, and calcium — all of which are essential for good health.
So it’s no surprise that one study found that vegetarians had lower bone density than non-vegetarians. Or that another study showed that vegans may have significantly lower vitamin D concentrations — as well as lower concentrations of beta-carotene, selenium, iodine, and EPA/DHA.
None of this is healthy for you. And, in fact, all of it could shave years off your life. Which is particularly troubling when you think about how many people jump on this bandwagon thinking that going vegan is actually good for them.
If you choose to abstain from eating animal products for ethical reasons, I fully support that decision — and I’m not trying to change your mind. But I do want you to know that being a healthy vegetarian or vegan is hard, if not impossible, to do. Most people don’t even know where to start. So if you’re committed to this lifestyle, the first thing I urge you to do is to consult my book, Thin For Good, where I address this subject in detail.
The other thing I urge you to do, based on this latest finding in particular, it to use only healthy, non-vegetable oils every time you cook. Olive oil and avocado are good choices. But as always, macadamia nut oil is the best.