MagazineMarch 2008Are vegetarians healthier than meat eaters?

Are vegetarians healthier than meat eaters?

Are vegetarians healthier than meat eaters?


48% NO

52% YES

Just last month, the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta celebrated that the average cholesterol level in this country has fallen to 199, which is below (just barely) their stated target of 200. It’s too bad the CDC is happy with a 199 average in this country, since people are still dropping like flies from heart disease. Heart disease kills more people in North America than any other cause of death. Up until the 1980s, it was assumed that as people get older, their arteries inevitably become clogged. If you didn’t get hit by a bus or die of cancer or something else, your arteries would eventually close, causing either your brain or your heart to give out, and that would be it. Enter Doctors Dean Ornish and Caldwell Esselstyn, two doctors with 100 percent success in preventing and reversing heart disease, using a low-fat vegan diet. 

If you know someone who has had a heart attack or suffers from heart problems, please stop reading right now and buy them Dr. Esselstyn’s book, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, which details his work at the top heart clinic in the world, The Cleveland Clinic. He covers both the skepticism of his colleagues, and also his 100 percent success taking people with advanced stages of heart disease, people who were told by their cardiologists that they were going to die, and stopping the disease in its tracks and even, in most instances, reversing it. The book will change, and perhaps save, your life. The average vegan American’s cholesterol level is about 133, while the average vegetarian’s cholesterol level is 161. And the average meat-eater’s cholesterol level is now at 199. Although the medical establishment may say, “Well, you’ve done your best,” at 199, people are still dying in droves. As Dr. Charles Attwood pointed out, this is insane: If people were being run down by trucks at the same rate that they’re dying from heart attacks induced by meat, egg, and dairy products, drastic steps would be taken.

—Stewart David, Asheville, N.C.

I stopped eating meat about four years ago. I quit cold turkey (excuse the pun) and my only regret is that I didn’t stop sooner. I had suffered with sinus and ear infections (at least two a year) my whole life, and since giving up meat, I haven’t been sick. Best decision of my life.

—Carla Shorts, Clemson, S.C.

Just because vegetables are more nutritious doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be a healthier person. A balanced diet is necessary for a healthy lifestyle. You need your grains, fruits, and veggies, as well as meat. Meat is great for essential nutrients and vitamins such as protein and iron. Your body needs these things for rebuilding muscle tissue, which takes a beating during exercise, and a good iron level in your blood can help improve energy levels. I have logged many a week in training where I’ve run over 50 or 60 miles, and it really depletes my energy. But one of the little things I can take advantage of is the boost that I get from a good piece of meat. Even though you can get some of the same nutrients from other sources, I’d take a juicy steak over protein powder and iron supplements any day.

—Ethan Scott, Roanoke, Va. 

A healthy person is not necessarily a result of their dietary lifestyle. Overall lifestyle of a managed diet, regular physical and mental exercise, and rest are key to a healthy lifestyle. I know many people—vegetarian or not—who smoke, drink, and loaf around a lot.

—Jeff Salter, Iron Station, N.C. 

I’m a registered nurse. In my experience, the most toxic substance in the American food environment isn’t high fat meat; it’s high fructose corn syrup. Eat what you like. Then get up and move.

—Bryan James, Athens, Ga. 

Stick your tongue out at a 45-degree angle and bite down. Feel those sharp pointy teeth? Doesn’t that indicate that maybe we are supposed to eat meat? It tells me my body is designed for that type of fuel, and that if I wish for my body to perform the way it was intended, I should give my body the fuel it is designed to burn.

—Mike Hughes, Alpharetta, Ga. 

I know plenty of vegetarians who are overweight and have health problems. Eating meat in moderation, along with a good diet and exercise, are better ways to achieve good health than just being a vegetarian.

—Lisa Craven, Clifton, Va. 

As with any dietary choice, moderation and content are the key factors to healthy living. Given an option of a hot dog or a carrot, the carrot might be the healthier choice. On the same note, a properly prepared cut of lean meat could be healthier than a carrot. The true healthy meal occurs when the two are combined in balance. 

—William Tate, Danville, Va. 

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