In the last seven years alone, the United States has witnessed more than a 600% increase in veganism. Touted for its health benefits, it would be expected that with veganism on the increase so would the general health of the population, but that hasn’t been the case.
For years, animal products have been villainized as the source of major health issues; consequently, the consumption of animal products has decreased drastically – yet overall chronic health issues have been on a steady increase. Today, 51% of adults are struggling with chronic illness, and 1 in 7 couples trying to conceive will experience infertility. It’s suspected that the villainization of animal products could be a likely contributor.
The Villainization of Animal Products
Since the beginning of time, animal products have been a major part of the human diet, but in recent years, there has been a trending villainization of animal products. Since the food pyramid, which placed grains as the foundation of the diet and emphasized the minimization of animal products, was created in 1992, obesity has nearly tripled. Today, the majority of people have replaced healthy animal fats with vegetable oils, reduced their meat intake, and more recently have begun replacing cow’s milk with plant-based “milk” alternatives. As of 2018, an estimated 73% of American adults are overweight, with childhood obesity rates also tripling in the past three decades. Although these numbers continue to increase, despite the consumption of animal products decreasing, many nutrition “experts” continue to claim that animal products are a major source of health issues.
Animal product consumption has drastically decreased, yet overall chronic health issues have steadily increased.
The people who make these claims, however, don’t take into account the types of animal products they’re consuming and changing environmental factors. For example, during the time of the well-known “China Study,” which claimed that meat was a major source of health issues, the nuances such as mold contamination in meat due to lack of refrigeration, toxins in meat due to being cooked in high temperatures, and meat that was produced from sick animals raised in dirty environments pumped with antibiotics and hormones were not taken into account. It should also be noted that experiments that “prove” meat is bad for you are often done on vegetarian animals that are not built to digest meat to begin with.
Additionally, many of the mainstream proponents of veganism have been found to have conflicts of interest. For example, the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the vegetarian Seventh-Day Adventists. Vegans and vegetarians have succeeded in convincing a large chunk of people that animal products are bad and are changing the way the modern American eats. Today, the American diet consists mainly of corn, wheat, and soy, yet Americans are sicker than they’ve ever been.
Pasteurized Milk Is Less Nutritious
With veganism on the rise, so is the villainization of dairy. Organizations like PETA claim that milk is a harmful addition to the diet partially due to the fact that many people today have “milk sensitivities” and can’t properly digest lactose. Though it is the case that many people today are lactose intolerant, these same organizations forget to mention the countless people who have been able to consume raw milk without any lactose issues – the reason being that, unlike pasteurized milk, raw milk facilitates the production of lactase in the intestinal tract. Lactase is the enzyme responsible for breaking down lactose into a digestible form, making raw milk more easily digestible.
There was a time when drinking raw milk was normal, however, this changed when Louis Pasteur invented pasteurization in 1864. But many people have been able to consume well-sourced raw milk without issues for hundreds of years before it was made illegal in the 1900s. Not only is raw milk more easily digestible, but it’s also more nutritious. One experiment, known as “Pottenger’s Cats,” was conducted to observe the differences in raw food versus cooked food. Dr. Francis Pottenger observed 900 cats for 10 years. During this time, it was found that the cats fed a raw diet, including raw milk, displayed exuberant health and strong skeletal structure, whereas the cats fed a cooked diet, including pasteurized milk, displayed poor health and weak skeletal structure. In addition, the cats fed the cooked diet were in such poor condition that they quickly died off within three generations.
Raw milk facilitates the production of lactase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose, making it more easily digestible.
However, although pasteurized milk has been found to cause GI disturbances, it’s important to note that not all pasteurized milk is the same. There are different levels of pasteurization (low temperature, high temperature, and ultra-high temperature) and different types of pasteurized milk (A1, A2). There have been numerous reports of lactose-intolerant people being able to drink A2 milk without any GI disturbances, despite being pasteurized, due the fact it more closely resembles human breast milk and is thus more digestible for humans.
The temperature at which milk is pasteurized is also important because different temperatures affect the integrity of dairy differently. Low-temperature pasteurization only slightly denatures milk, whereas high-temperature pasteurization significantly denatures milk, with ultra-high-temperature pasteurization being the most damaging. According to The Weston A. Price Foundation, ultra-pasteurized milk changes the molecular structure of milk so that it initiates an immune response, possibly contributing to leaky gut.
How Veganism and Vegetarianism Can Contribute to Infertility
As the mainstream media continues to villainize animal products, veganism and vegetarianism continue to rise in popularity. This has led to countless testimonies of ex-vegans and ex-vegetarians who experienced malnutrition and deteriorating health while following their vegan diet. One study found that vegetarian men have lower sperm counts and poorer sperm mobility than omnivorous men. Another study found that low-fat diets, especially vegetarian low-fat diets, significantly reduced men’s testosterone levels. It’s no surprise that a diet lacking in key nutrients could lead to hormonal issues that cause infertility and low sperm counts in men.
Obtaining all of the nutrients a person needs from a strictly plant-based diet is extremely difficult. One problem with depending on only plants for nutrients is the likelihood of poor absorption. Plant-based diets have been shown to cause zinc deficiency due to the fact that the zinc consumed from grains, beans, soy, and legumes is bound to phytates, anti-nutrients that prevent the normal assimilation of many minerals. Zinc is essential, especially for male fertility, and when deficient, it has been shown to reduce sperm counts, impair sperm health, and lower blood testosterone levels.
One study showed that 58% of the vegetarian men and women observed suffered from vitamin B6 deficiencies, despite having seemingly adequate intakes. This is because the vitamin B6 (pyridoxine glucoside) found in plant foods is poorly absorbed. B6 deficiency has been shown to lead to fertility loss. In addition, the supplements people take to make up for these deficiencies are often not bioavailable and are poorly absorbed. The vitamin A (beta-carotene) sourced from plant foods has also been shown to not be easily absorbed, compared to the highly absorbable vitamin A (retinol) from animal foods.
The food we eat today is about 30% less nutritious than the food we ate in the 1940s.
Besides poor absorption, plant-based eaters typically don’t get enough nutrients in general. A 2003 study on 95 vegetarians revealed that 77% of lacto/ovo vegetarians were deficient in vitamin B12 and 92% of the vegans maintained a B12 deficiency. B12 deficiencies raise homocysteine levels and have been shown to lead to infertility and fetal loss. A number of studies have also shown that vegetarian and vegan diets increase the risk for iodine deficiency. One study showed that 80% of vegans and 25% of lacto/ovo vegetarians suffered from iodine deficiency. Iodine is essential for a properly functioning thyroid and deficiency is associated with infertility.
Additionally, plant-based dieters typically consume low-fat foods and don’t consume adequate amounts of omega 3s and cholesterol. Omega 3s and cholesterol are both essential for hormonal health, particularly reproductive hormones. One study found that women who ate low-fat dairy were more than twice as likely to experience ovulatory disorders compared to women who ate full-fat dairy.
As if obtaining all of your nutrients from plants alone isn’t difficult enough, many people are not aware that plants today are significantly less nutrient-dense than before due to soil depletion. The food we eat today is about 30% less nutritious than the food we ate in the 1940s! Even the seeds of today have been shown to be less nutritious than seeds just 60 years ago. A lack of proper nutrition is one of the leading causes of infertility.
In light of the infertility crisis we’re currently facing, including animal products in the diet shouldn’t be overlooked. Animal products are denser in nutrients which are more easily absorbable by humans. Considering the state of our nutrient-depleted soil today and the prevalence of poor health and absorption, turning to veganism and plant-based eating is not likely to be ideal for flourishing health and fertility.
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