pollution

Why Veganism won’t save the planet

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If you’re influenced by the left to save the planet, a plant-based diet strategy has been suggested as a factor in saving us from ecological ruin. From the right, the blind faith in technological advances that may or may not come but as long as we make as much cash in the mean-time who cares. From an environmental standpoint the concept of a plant-based diet has many factors that on paper appear useful but under scrutiny don’t add up. One of the reasons, in my opinion is that methane, is not as significant factor in global emissions compared to the effects of pollution and health and switching to a plant-based diet will not improve health or ecological interaction by any significant means.

Global methane emissions and mitigation opportunities suggest that global methane emissions will rise 15% from approximately 6875 million metric tons of CO2 to the equivalent of 8904 MMTCO2 by 2020. Their chart above (although almost a decade old is open to revision and critique) highlights the sources and notes that the most prominent source (29%) is derived from enteric fermentation, or cows’ farts to you and me.

Global methane emissions and mitigation opportunities suggest that global methane emissions will rise 15% from approximately 6875 million metric tons of CO2 to the equivalent of 8904 MMTCO2 by 2020. Their chart above (although almost a decade old is open to revision and critique) highlights the sources and notes that the most prominent source (29%) is derived from enteric fermentation, or cows’ farts to you and me.

If you take a look at the combined total of other sources of methane such as rice farming (10%) landfills (11%) and other agricultural sources (7%) , that makes a total combined total of 28%, if cow farts decrease because we all go vegan, you can rest assured that a) landfill will continue to increase and b) vegetables, rice, beans  and other sources of agricultural methane levels will keep increasing  as replacement meat and dairy food sources are needed.  Land fill from both food and other consumer waste is bound to increase as us humans are still not adjusted for life beyond consumerism and waste. A factor hammered home with each new phone, beauty or unnecessary hygiene product.

It’s not a trivial point suggesting that the requirements of meeting nutritional needs by increasing plant-based nutrition, will increase both CO2 and methane levels. But hey less cows fart must mean less methane. I’ve rarely seen anyone who recommends the decreasing meat/increased plant-based approach discuss the devastating ecological effects that is a side effect of growing vast amounts of crops in monoculture. Palm Oil is a useful description of what happens globally when crops are grown in monoculture, designed for industrial profits. This philosophy decimates indigenous wildlife, often increases pesticide use (and accumulation in human tissue) reshapes land and does nothing to address the over farming phenomena that depletes soil of essential nutrients.

The transfer and haulage of a predominantly plant-based diet still requires the standard means of transport of all food stuffs. Clearly industrial pollution, combustion engines and fuels are the real elephant in the room? Contributing to an increase in disease globally through airborne pollution, which runs into many millions each year. Poly cyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and other fine particulate matter are contributing to increased emissions and pollutants that are doing more to the environment and health, yet the focus is still predominantly on cow’s farts.

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The Prolongation of Life.

Elie. Metchnikoff whose work on digestion earned hime the Noble science prize showed that exclusive diets such as purely plant based or meat had increased intestinal putrefaction and disease compared to species that ate a varied diet. Most animals that rely on plants and grasses fail to achieve longevity of other species (However outliers are elephants - 60 years or so and giant tortoises 150 years or so but known to eat fruit.


If these decisions were philosophical, I can understand the vegan’s plight to a degree. Industrialised farming is a problem, animal welfare in prison like  cow sheds are problematic. Animals that aren’t raised in normal habitats is an issue. Raising stressed animals creates less nutritious meats. So shouldn’t we be considering devolving industrialised farming practices that are designed to line large corporations’ pockets with no disregard to animal welfare or quality of the nutrition that is provided. There are many factors that influence meat quality and health (3). Surely if we integrated farming practices in line with aspects of permaculture, waste is decreased, local community needs are met and the need for transporting large distances reduces environmental impact is also reduced.  

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“The illusion of unlimited powers, nourished by astonishing scientific and technological achievements, has produced the concurrent illusion of having solved the problem of production. The latter illusion is based on the failure to distinguish between income and capital where this distinction matters most. Every economist and businessman is familiar with the distinction and applies it conscientiously and with considerable subtlety to all economic affairs – except where it really matters: namely, the irreplaceable capital which man has not made, but simply found, and without which he can do nothing.”

Is eating other organisms really an unhealthy practice? I see on a daily basis birds plucking dragonflies out the air, crows eating other birds remains, cat’s eating birds, geckos eating ants and a whole manner of carnivore behaviour. From an evolutionary perspective this practice in part played a role in our development as conscious beings. One theory of evolutionary enhancements might be the increased consumption of thyroid rich tissues.

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Thyroid hormone and increased central nervous system capacity?

For me the philosophical points of veganism have some merit, but the practice ignores millennia of evolution and nature as a whole, it’s just another reductionism that’s poorly thought through with limited outcomes. We should strive for better animal welfare and that means taking a more rounded view of what’s broken. This blog isn’t dealing with all of the exhaustive factors involved with what’s problematic (and even the larger concepts and theories at work such as the Vernadsky view of biosphere and self regulating processes), such as over-production and wastefulness but from a nutrition perspective, I’ve worked with and met too many people, who over years have decided that meat eating was advantageous, compared to the knee jerk reactions of short term nutritional interventions.

References:

  1. Rhythms of Life: Thyroid Hormone & The Origin of Species. By Susan J Crockford. Victoria (Canada): Trafford Publishing. 2006.

  2. Metchnikoff, E. (1907) The prolongation of life: Optimistic studies. G. P. Putnam & Sons, London.

  3. http://raypeat.com/articles/articles/meat-physiology-stress.shtml

  4. Schumacher, E. F. (Ernst Friedrich), 1911-1977. Small Is Beautiful; Economics as If People Mattered.

Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) - inheritance, environment and stress.

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Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome - inheritance, environment and stress. Recently I took on a client who was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a slightly wayward insulin profile and the ‘best practice’ of oral contraceptives and Glucophage (metformin- blood sugar regulating drug) were suggested. My client had started bleeding daily and was informed that this was normal for three months but would help out with PCOS and weight gain. However this seemed at odds with my current knowledge and experience of biology and endocrinology. There are plenty of studies highlighting the diabetes inducing effects of estrogen and oral contraceptives.

Glycemia constitutes a fundamental homeostatic variable, and hence its alteration can lead to a number of pathophysiological conditions affecting the internal milieu of the human being. Since the early 1960s, the intake of oral contraceptives has been associated with an increased risk of developing disorders of glucose metabolism.(Cortés & Alfaro, 2014)

Is best practice the efforts of a global network of doctors or simply a corporate led strategy? Don’t get me wrong; the world is full of competent, passionate and well-meaning doctors who signed up to help others. But the concept of both best practice and clinical governance seem a utopian ideal when those that are responsible for drug development are companies whose primary function is to make as much money as possible, without appropriate direction.

Joseph Dumitt in his book Drugs for Life (2012) highlights that there hasn’t been a scientist at the head of a pharmaceutical company for many years and their direction being driven by economists and marketers. As there are many examples of absolutist statements regarding drugs and their positive effects on health that lack congruence over time, you’ll forgive me for sounding like a conspiracy theorist. How about hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for better health despite its negative outcomes related to cardiovascular events or cancer? Or statin therapy for decreasing unnecessary risk factors based upon skewed data and early terminated trails with no public access to trial data (Lorgeril & Rabaeus, 2016)?

Back to PCOS. I have written previously about the effects of metformin and its use in gestational diabetes, and the problems it poses trans-generationally. It’s possible to suggest that the failure to act with appropriate biological interventions perpetuates the cycle of acquired traits from parents that are passed to offspring, treated ineffectively and generations of reproductive (and other tissues) tissue conditions continue without being resolved.

The biologist Jean Baptiste Lamarck's fourth law stated:

“ Everything which has been acquired..or changed in the organisation of an individual during its lifetime is preserved in the reproductive process and is transmitted to the next generation by those who experienced the alterations. “

It's worth pointing out that this is not isolated to the female of the species as the factors below have been shown to be instrumental in reproductive issues (testicular dysgenesis, hypospadias etc) in males.

The environment has been shown to be instrumental in the development of reproductive tissue disorders, diabetes and cancer but more emphasis is placed on the individual and their food choices rather than acknowledgement of industrial responsibility. Positive associations between levels of polychlorinated bisphenyls (PCBs), pesticides, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (DDE) have been confirmed in multivariate data analysis (Yang et al., 2015). Relationships between increases of luteinising hormone (LH) PCO, hyperandrogenism, annovulation, insulin resistance and pollutants are significant and may add to issues of detection, due to the subtle long term perturbations that often affect endocrine function. Stress, other pollutants and medications contribute to further problems that burden not only reproductive tissue but also other organizational hormones such as thyroid hormone.

PCOS is defined medically by the following: One of the main problems of treating PCOS with contraception is the many studies that clearly show a relationship between estrogen and decreased insulin sensitivity (Godsland et al., 1992)(Cortés & Alfaro, 2014). Progestin’s, the synthetic version of progesterone, also pose many problems but this has not deterred the inclusion of estrogen and progestin contraceptives as another inappropriate form of treatment. The burden of estrogen induced by the sources suggested above comes at a cost and it’s well known that an excess of estrogen can suppress thyroid function (thyroid is necessary for detoxification of estrogen and another organisational hormone progesterone.

Both thyroid and progesterone are known to improve insulin sensitivity and can create beneficial changes to disorganised tissue induced by an excess of estrogen. Thyroid nodules and uterine fibroids appear to be intimately linked by an excess of estrogen (Kim et al., 2010) and suppression of thyroid tumours can be achieved by thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) suppression by thyroxin supplementation (Grussendorf, Reiners, Paschke, & Wegscheider, 2011). An old rambling on thyroid nodules and fibroids.


Breaking the cycle requires interventions that address inheritance, environment and individual stressors. Strategies that involve adequate nutrition that build biology not reduce it, use of protective compounds like progesterone, thyroid and adequate carbohydrate can be of great benefit. Although this stands in contrast to the best practice of contraception, blood sugar medication and poorly thought out nutritional advice of restricting carbohydrates. As the environment appears to drive most of the increasing numbers of issues like PCOS, it becomes important to increase robustness, restrict exposure to what we can control and become more adaptable to what we can’t.

To find out more about coaching for these issues.

References:

Burkhardt, R. W. (2013). Lamarck, evolution, and the inheritance of acquired characters. Genetics, 194(4), 793–805. http://doi.org/10.1534/genetics.113.151852

Cortés, M. E., & Alfaro, A. a. (2014). The effects of hormonal contraceptives on glycemic regulation. The Linacre Quarterly, 81(3), 209–218. http://doi.org/10.1179/2050854914Y.0000000023

Dumit, J. (2012). Drugs for Life. Duke University Press.

Godsland, I. F., Walton, C., Felton, C., Proudler, A., Patel, A., & Wynn, V. (1992). Insulin resistance, secretion, and metabolism in users of oral contraceptives. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 74(1), 64–70. http://doi.org/10.1210/jcem.74.1.1530790

Grussendorf, M., Reiners, C., Paschke, R., & Wegscheider, K. (2011). Reduction of thyroid nodule volume by levothyroxine and iodine alone and in combination: A randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 96(9), 2786–2795. http://doi.org/10.1210/jc.2011-0356

Kim, M.-H., Park, Y. R., Lim, D.-J., Yoon, K.-H., Kang, M.-I., Cha, B.-Y., … Son, H.-Y. (2010). The relationship between thyroid nodules and uterine fibroids. Endocrine Journal, 57(7), 615–21. http://doi.org/10.1507/endocrj.K10E-024

Lorgeril, M. De, & Rabaeus, M. (2016). Beyond confusion and controversy, can we evaluate the real efficacy and safety of cholesterol-lowering with statins? Journal of Controversies in Biomedical Research, 1(1), 67. http://doi.org/10.15586/jcbmr.2015.11