Doctor’s Tip: Meat is heat
Physicians need to speak out about climate change, which is the biggest health threat of the 21st century. Heat causes illness and death — an estimated 40,000 people died as a result of the heat wave in Europe in 2003. And climate change is already contributing to respiratory disorders, spread of infectious diseases, human migration and mental health disorders.
It turns out that the best diet for the health of the planet is the same one that’s best for you — instead of animal-based:
• Animal agribusiness generates more greenhouse gases than all forms of transportation combined — animal production accounts for at least 18 percent, versus 13.5 percent for transportation.
• Farm animals produce 37 percent of the methane and 65 percent of the nitrous oxide in our atmosphere — both of which are even more powerful greenhouse gases than CO2.
• Meat and dairy provide 18 percent of all calories consumed on the planet, but account for 60 percent of the greenhouse gases.
• The number of kilograms of greenhouse gas resulting from production of 100 grams of various foods are: beef 50, poultry 5.7, tofu 2.
Although global warming is the most serious environmental problem facing the human race today, it’s important to be aware of the other environmental problems related to eating meat:
• Livestock uses about 30 percent of all land worldwide. If the entire world cut out meat and dairy, global farmland would decrease by 75 percent, and the equivalent of the land mass of the U.S., China, E.U., and Australia combined would potentially go from farmland back to its natural state.
• Land for meat production accounts for most of the deforestation in the world — for example 4/5ths of the deforestation in the Amazon is linked to raising cattle.
• Antibiotics and hormones used in factory and some conventional farming get into us directly by eating meat, and indirectly via contamination of our water supply.
• The water footprint of meat production is huge compared to that of plant production.
• Manure and urine from cattle and pig feedlots seep into our rivers, our aquifers and our water supplies.
• Pesticides and other environmental toxins are stored in the muscle and fat of farm animals. If you eat meat you get 15 times and dairy 5.5 times the amount of these toxins compared to eating plants.
The bottom line is this: “Meat is heat,” as Dr. Michael Greger says. Avoid it for your health and that of the planet. In the 1950s the population of our planet hadn’t reached 2 billion, now it’s 7 billion, and in 2050 it’s projected to be 10 billion. The most efficient and environmentally friendly way to feed people is to eat at the bottom of the food chain by eating plants, instead of seafood and meat at the top of the food chain.
Retired physician Greg Feinsinger, M.D., is author of new book “Enjoy Optimal Health, 98 Health Tips From a Family Doctor,” available on Amazon and in local bookstores. Profits go towards an endowment to the University of Colorado School of Medicine to add prevention and nutrition to the curriculum. He is available for free consultations about heart attack prevention, diabetes reversal, nutrition, and other health issues. Call 379-5718 for an appointment. For questions about his column, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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