by Bert L. Fairbanks
Salt Lake City, Utah
Copyright 1978 by Bookcraft, Inc.
All rights reserved. This book or any part thereof may not be reproduced in any form whatsoever, whether by graphic, visual, electronic, filming, microfilming, tape recording or any other means, without the prior written permission of Bookcraft, Inc., except in the case of brief passages embodied in critical reviews and articles.
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 78-55416
First Printing, 1978
Lithographed in the United States of America
Salt Lake City, Utah
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1 A Law Anyone Can Live…………………………………………………………………….. 1
I Eating Intelligently
2 Something Is Very Wrong………………………………………………………………… 13
3 The Grain, the Whole Grain, and Nothing but the Grain………………………… 18
4 Over-Meating……………………………………………………………………………….. 26
5 What Sugar Does to You Isn’t So Sweet………………………………………………. 39
6 Fat People Are Starving in America……………………………………………………. 48
7 What You Don’t Eat Can Make You Sick………………………………………………. 56
II Exercising Intelligently
8 Who Has Time to Exercise?………………………………………………………………. 63
9 The Saw That Sharpens Itself the More You Cut…………………………………… 68
10 It Isn’t All in Your Head…………………………………………………………………… 77
11 Good Sense on the Playing Field……………………………………………………… 82
III Getting It Together
12 You Won’t Find Health at the Doctor’s Office……………………………………… 89
Ever since the Prophet Joseph Smith received the Word of Wisdom (D&C 89), the world’s science has been catching up. Latter-day Saints are familiar with the many findings of scientists concerning the harmful effects of tobacco, alcohol, and coffee and tea. But what many Saints aren’t aware of is the fact that research in the fields of medicine and nutrition has also supported the rest of the Word of Wisdom — the suggestions about grains, about “every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof,” about using meat “sparingly, . . . only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.” (D&C 89:11-13.)
These aspects of the Word of Wisdom are not viewed as commandments by the Church — but they are still the Lord’s advice as to how we should take care of the bodies he has given us. By many standards, Latter-day Saints are the, healthiest of all Americans. If we have received that blessing simply because we abstain from tobacco, alcohol, coffee, and tea, how much healthier we could be if we obeyed the entire Word of Wisdom!
Nutritional science is still in its infancy. Many things remain to be learned. But it is hardly surprising that as more is discovered about the body’s requirements for food and exercise, the Word of Wisdom is continually found to be leading the way. Latter-day Saints can, today, keep their bodies in perfect condition by following the nutritional counsel which the Lord revealed for “the temporal salvation of all saints in the last days.” (D&C 89:2.)
A Law Anyone Can Live
The Word of Wisdom is one of the best-known aspects of the gospel. Ask a nonmember of the Church what he knows about the Mormons, and chances are pretty good that if he knows anything at all, he knows that Mormons don’t drink alcohol, coffee, or tea, and that Mormons don’t smoke.
But it’s important for Saints to realize that the Word of Wisdom is more than a list of don’ts. It’s like the law of the Sabbath: if you concentrate things that aren’t allowed on the Sabbath, you can easily begin to feel very deprived, and the day can be one that you dread. But the Lord would rather we concentrate on the positive that day — “Remember the sabbath day,” he said, “to keep it holy.” And when we think of all the good things that can and should be done on the Sabbath, things that we can’t do during the week because we simply don’t have time, then the day becomes one to be longed for, a day of rejoicing.
The Word of Wisdom is also a positive commandment, not a negative one. The Lord has not just hemmed us about with restrictions. Instead, he has pointed out the right way for us to treat our bodies. His guidelines are broad, and easily followed. In fact, he said that the Word of Wisdom was “adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints, who are or can be called saints.” (D&C 89:3.)
Imagine! A nutritional law adapted to the weakest among us! The Lord gave us an easy law to follow; and yet how many of us even know what the rest of the Word of Wisdom says, let alone follow it?
“The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life,” said Paul to the Corinthians — and to us, nearly two thousand years later. (2 Cor. 3:6.) Right now, the Church only requires that its members abstain from tobacco, alcohol, tea, and coffee — the rest of the Word of Wisdom is voluntary. But just because the Church has not strictly required that the Saints follow that law to the letter does not mean that they should not try to follow the spirit of the Word of Wisdom. He that doeth not anything until he is commanded, and receiveth a commandment with doubtful heart, and keepeth it with slothfulness, the same is damned. . . For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant.” (D&C 58:26,29.)
But it is not just a question of obedience. Intelligent self-interest should also lead the Lord’s children to heed his advice to them. The Lord called the Word of Wisdom “a principle with promise,” and told his prophet that “all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings . . . shall receive health in their navel and marrow in their bones.”
Do you feel sluggish, torpid, unable to think well because- – your body is weary or hovering on the edge of illness? If you obey the complete Word of Wisdom, the Lord has promised that you “shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures.”
Do you avoid climbing stairs or running to catch a bus because you know it will wear you out too quickly? Do you find yourself panting after the slightest unusual exertion? If you “keep and do these sayings,” the Lord has said that you “shall run and not be weary.”
And when you have to carry on even a mild exercise for a long time, do you find that you simply haven’t the endurance to walk just a few miles without stopping frequently to rest? Even carrying a bulky package, do you find that you have to keep changing positions because your arms haven’t the endurance to hold it for very long? The Lord has promised that if you walk “in obedience to the commandments,” you “shall walk and not faint.”
And in perhaps the greatest promise of all, the Lord says that even beyond all these earthly rewards, obedience can lead you to the greatest reward of all. “And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them.” (D&C 89:18-21.)
Americans — and citizens of other industrialized countries — have more food available to them than any other people in the history of the world. And yet we still manage to be undernourished; we still manage to take harmful sub-stances into our bodies with practically every mouthful; we still mistreat our marvelous bodies, keeping them from working at their greatest potential.
Up to the time of the Word of Wisdom in 1833, people didn’t have the ability to alter nature’s foods that we have today. Your bread was baked from wheat you grew yourself — or purchased from a neighbor. You could see, if you wanted, the chicken that laid the eggs you ate, the cow that gave the milk you made into butter and cheese, the field where your beans and turnips grew, the tree from which your apples and peaches were picked.
But as people moved from the farm into the city and its suburbs, mass preparation and marketing of foods came into being. It was impossible for many years to bring fresh foods the required distances from field to table — and so canning, drying, salting, and other methods of preserving food were developed.
“And then we began to find ways to refine foods, making them smoother, milder, sweeter — and, far too often, less nutritional. Our tastes changed, and instead of wanting better, healthier foods, we began to want faster foods — faster to prepare, faster to eat — and sweeter foods, piling on sugar until the original flavor of the ingredients was lost.
For centuries, meat had been a luxury of the rich. Turkey, ham, or goose became traditional at Christmas because that was often the only time of the year when a poor or even middle-class family might have that much meat. But as modern people became more prosperous, they began to buy more of the meat that had so long been kept from them. And from deprivation we turned to glut: today there are fewer families than ever before who feel that a meal without meat is adequate.
Why do we eat meat today as if we were starved for it? Why do we insist on highly refined, oversweetened food at every meal — and between? Why do we rely on instant, ready-to-eat, just-add-water meals in our homes; and why do we frequent fast-food restaurants where we can get a meal, from the grill to the table in five minutes, without regard to nutrition?
“Behold, verily, thus saith the Lord unto you: In con-sequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days, I have warned you, and forewarn you, by giving unto you this word of wisdom by revelation.” (D&C 89:4.)
I seriously doubt that very many company executives sit down together and say, “Well, let’s see — how can we best malnourish the American public this year?” But unfortunately, they have found that overrefined, improper foods often sell much better than health-promoting foods. And because their first obligation is to their stockholders, and not to the purchasing public, they produce food products that will sell better, often with little regard to nutritional value.
What they don’t realize is that their stockholders eat, too!
We all eat. But what we eat makes a great deal of difference in our lives. Improper foods can keep us alive for years, just as smoking doesn’t cause lung cancer the first week a person
smokes. But improper foods don’t allow us to be truly healthy.
After all, health isn’t just the state of not being ill. Health is the ability to use the body to perform all needful activities; health is strength, vigor, endurance, and a robust appearance; health is lack of fatigue, the ability to think and make decisions quickly, unhampered by physical lethargy; health is bringing the body to the same level of perfection to which the Lord admonishes us to bring our spirits. “The spirit and the body are the soul of man,” said the Lord, and it is our resurrected soul that we will keep through eternity — a good reason for using both body and spirit wisely and well. (D&C 88:15-16)
Health isn’t to be found in a doctor’s office. Physicians freely admit that people only come to them when their bodies have begun malfunctioning so badly that they can no longer carry out their normal activity. But before body malfunctions reach that point, a steady, long-range pattern of deterioration can continue, virtually unnoticed, for years.
Without feeling the least bit ill, the human body, com-posed as it is of millions of body cells performing many different functions, can still be in poor health. But by following in detail the general guidelines in the Word of Wisdom, people can keep all their body cells, every tissue, every organ, functioning properly. In the final analysis, the health of human beings depends to a great extent upon the farmers who grow our food, the middlemen who prepare it and package it and market it, and the cooks who finally bring it to our tables.
However, health can’t be divided into neat little packages. Though the body is made of many separate elements, they cannot be nourished and cared for separately. Individual cells are “alive” in the sense that they can reproduce and absorb and use up energy — but without the rest of the body to sustain them, cells cannot survive. We can’t possibly nourish one portion of our body without some effect on all the other parts. And when we malnourish one part of our body, the rest of our being suffers, too.
Poor health, then, can’t be remedied by one small change here and there, though indeed there are some changes that can make a dramatic difference. Total health comes from a totally healthy way of life, including the way we eat, the way we use our bodies, and the way we deal with the Lord and our fellowmen.
A complete different lifestyle? But how can a person change, when he has to live in the world?
Admittedly, it would be much easier if we could all travel to some city, a Zion where only pure foods were available to eat, where every person would be encouraged by the social system to get plenty of exercise, where the Spirit of God permeated every activity, every word, every thought. But remember — such a Zion has existed several times on the earth. And each time, it was made by ordinary people who lived in the world, but who were converted to the gospel and who completely changed their lives to fit the Lord’s pattern.
What was the result for them? Happiness, health, strength, peace — and while many things in the world seem out of our control, surely one thing we can each control is what we take into our bodies and how we treat our bodies!
Because of the Word of Wisdom, there are several common misconceptions that Latter-day Saints should not have:
- The complete Word of Wisdom is nearly impossible to live. Actually, it has never been easier to follow the Word of Wisdom than it is today. Centuries ago, people could only eat foods grown nearby, and while that food was healthful, they couldn’t have much variety in their diets. Today, however, fresh, wholesome food can be purchased that was grown far from our supermarkets. All we have to do is be careful, not necessarily choosing the fastest and easiest way to eat, but instead choosing the most nutritive. After all, the Lord said the Word of Wisdom was adapted to the capacity of the weakest of the Saints!
- You can trust a brand-name that advertises heavily. Too often we buy food because we have seen it advertised. ‘When we do, we are forgetting the Lord’s warning about “evil and conspiring men.” Though some advertised foods may indeed be all they claim, many are not; and many are downright harmful.
- As long as it isn’t alcohol, tobacco, coffee, or tea, it’s all right. Cyanide isn’t mentioned in the Word of Wisdom, either, but there are few Latter-day Saints rushing out to get a good dose— and yet we unwittingly (or wittingly!) take many poisons into our bodies in everyday foods. Colas aren’t the only soft drinks that contain caffeine. And other substances in com-mon preservatives or supplements added to processed foods can, over the years, have definite debilitating effects.
- There’s a pill for every ill. About fifteen tons of aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) are consumed every day in the United States. People take aspirin so often that one might suppose a headache is the result of not having enough aspirin in the system! What many people don’t realize is that most medicines are less effective the more we use them. If we take aspirin often, then when a really severe pain comes along, a much more powerful pain reliever must be used to contain it.
Likewise, many cold remedies, sleeping pills, and tranquilizers have side effects that we simply don’t want! And most home remedy drugs relieve only the symptoms — they cure nothing at all. So while we go blissfully along with a nasal decongestant, two aspirin, and a mild tranquilizer calming our nerves, we can be seriously unhealthy, with nothing being done about it at all!
- Protein comes from meat. Protein comes from wheat, too, and beans, and eggs and milk, and in small amounts from many other foods. The proteins in meat can be obtained elsewhere, and though we are counseled that meat is a proper food for man, the Lord has said, “It is pleasing unto me that [meat] should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.” (D&C 89:13.) Latter-day Saints should be aware that when Joseph Smith recorded this revelation, the word only was used the way we use the word except today. Reading the scripture with that in mind removes any possible confusion about the Lord’s intended meaning.
- Energy comes from sugar. Actually, energy can also come from starches, fats, and proteins. Anyone who has ever compared the number of calories in a steak and the number in a bowl of spaghetti can testify that there is plenty of energy in unsugared foods, since a calorie is a unit for measuring energy. The true statement about sugar is that it provides nothing but energy. While the human body needs several thousand calories of energy a day to stay alive, it also needs dozens of other nutrients; if a person’s energy needs were met with nothing but pure sugar, it contains so little else that he would die of malnutrition — starving to death on thousands of calories a day! And foods that rely heavily on sugar, like candy, cakes, and many quick snack foods, provide little more than pure sugar.
- If I eat right and exercise, I’ll be healthy. You’ll be healthier than those who don’t, of course, but the Word of Wisdom has left nothing to chance. The promises from the Lord are extended to “all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments.” (D&C 89:18; emphasis added.) You can’t be healthy if you’re in turmoil because of arguments with people close to you. You can’t be healthy if you work such a frenetic schedule that you don’t get enough good sleep. You can’t be healthy if you are so worried about worldly problems that you are constantly tense.
To be completely healthy, your whole life must be tuned the Lord’s pattern, both temporally and spiritually.
In a revelation received only two months before the Word of Wisdom, Joseph Smith recorded the Lord’s instructions to the Saints: “Cease to be idle; cease to be unclean; cease to find fault one with another; cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated.
“And above all things, clothe yourselves with the bond of charity, as with a mantle, which is the bond of perfectness and peace.” (D&C 88:124-25.)
The gospel does not teach us to be exclusively spiritual, neglecting our bodies. It teaches us to prepare our whole soul, body and spirit, to dwell with the Lord.
Often people go through life seeing nothing good or enjoyable in their physical make-up, finding themselves too short, too tall, their nose too large, their eyes too close together. And while they mourn the things about their body that they can’t change, they neglect those aspects that they can change, letting themselves become weak, fatigued, obese, undernourished and overfed. They are dissatisfied with their bodies because they have never learned to treat them and use them properly. They have never experienced the harmonious relationship of mind arid body striving to-ward a common goal.
To enjoy the full benefits of the Word of Wisdom, we must incorporate into our lives the pure. love of Christ; we must clothe ourselves “with the bond of charity, as with a mantle.” Nobody can be healthy alone. The peace and happiness that allow complete health to reign can only come when we have deep and harmonious relationships with other children of our Father. The gospel relieves the insecurity of the lonely soul by linking us tightly to family, forever; it eases the anxiety of the searching soul by answering the profoundest questions of life; it eliminates idleness by providing constant opportunity to serve our fellowmen, both within the Church and outside it; and it cancels fear, by letting us come to know God, love the Savior, and become constant companions with the Holy Spirit.
“Meat is the best source of protein,” say many experts, and they’re right. But that doesn’t make meat the perfect food. If you knew that a juicy slice of ham, besides being full of protein, was also loaded down with trichina cysts ready to infest you with worms, how tempted would you be to eat it?
It’s not enough just to know that meat is full of protein. In (order to understand the role it should play in our diet, we need to know everything, good and bad, that meat provides.
Sometimes it seems there are only two positions on the use of meat. One is that meat is essential in the daily diet of every healthy person — and that the more meat you eat, the better off you are. The other is that meat is absolutely harmful, and shouldn’t be eaten at all.
However, there is a middle ground — and that middle ground is where the Lord’s word on the question stands. “And whoso forbiddeth to abstain from meats, that man should not eat the same, is not ordained of God,” says the Lord, “for, behold, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which cometh of the earth, is ordained for the use of man for food and for raiment, and that he might have in abundance.” (D&C 49:18-19.)
So vegetarianism isn’t part of the Lord’s program. But neither is overuse of meat. “And wo be unto man that sheddeth blood or that wasteth flesh and hath no need.” (D&C 49:21.) And when do we have a need? In the Word of Wisdom, the Lord urges, “Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly;
“And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.” (D&C 89:12- 13.)
Furthermore, meat animals “hath God made for the use of man only in times of famine and excess of hunger.” (D&C 89:15.)
It sounds like the Lord intends us to use meat only as an emergency food — a supplement when other, more proper foods are scarce or beyond our means to obtain them. Why? Why doesn’t the Lord want us to take advantage of the abundance of meat and eat it constantly?
One reason may simply be disease. There are some one hundred diseases transmissible from animals to man. Often animals suffering from some of these diseases are consigned to a meat market, to be devoured as the entree on our supper tables. A1969 U.S. Agriculture Department report said, “Today, based on the most recent incidence figures, between 80,000 and 90,000 trichina-infested hogs are marketed yearly.” (Quoted in Owen S. Parrett, “Diseases of Food Animals, Washington, D.C.: 1974.)
Doesn’t exactly make you want to reach for the bacon, does it?
Perhaps we should feel like Daniel, who refused to eat the king’s meat. Test us for ten days, he asked the king, “and let them give us pulse [a porridge made of grains and legumes, like peas and beans], and water to drink. . . .
“And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat.” (Dan. 1:12, 15.)
Daniel’s experiment took place several thousand years ago — but a modern application of the same principle took place in Denmark during the First World War. Denmark imported most of its feed grain for cattle and hogs — and when the war blockades cut off the supply, four-fifths of the hogs and two-thirds of the dairy cattle were slaughtered. For a short time meat prices were ridiculously low, and the supply of meat was ample. But the situation quickly changed, and for several years the Danish diet consisted of “war bread” made from wheat and rye flour. Dr. Hindhede, the government’s supervisor of the national diet, was in charge of creating a healthy diet that would fit well with rationing needs.
The diet eliminated alcoholic beverages; tea and coffee weren’t available at all. Sugar was in short supply. Meat, butter, and milk were almost eliminated, and besides “war bread,” only vegetables and a few fruits were available.
What happened to the Danes?
During the year of the involuntary experiment, the Danish death rate fell nearly one-fifth, and became the lowest ever known in Europe. In October 1918, when the influenza epidemic slaughtered huge numbers of Europeans — more than the war, in some countries — Denmark was the only noncombatant nation in Europe with a death rate during and after the disease lower than the death rate had been before the war began!
Elder and Sister John A. Widtsoe, the apostle, and his wife, Leah, commented on the Danish experience in their book The Word of Wisdom: “Abstinence from alcohol, tea and coffee, no doubt was a prime factor in reducing the normal death rate and in giving the nation resistance against the influenza scourge. In like manner a good diet of natural food will protect the body against most diseases today.” (Deseret Book, 1950, p. 243.)
Meat is just not as necessary and helpful as many people have thought — and can cause definite harm. Even disease-free meat can be detrimental. Many products of meat digestion are distinctly acid, and can cause serious harm if excessive in quality. And since the waste products from meat are disposed of by the liver and kidneys, and not just by the intestines, excessive meat-eating can place undue strain on those organs. Also, excess of uric acid, a meat digestion by-product, and the putrefaction of proteins in the bowels often contribute to the development of such unpleasant conditions as gout, kidney stones, bladder stones, not to mention the much more common headaches, fatigue, and decreased resistance to disease that seem to be a constant plague in our modern society.
Pavlov, most famous for his experiments in conditioning” behavior, also experimented with diet. He performed a delicate operation on a dog, sending blood directly from the small intestine, where food was digested and passed into the blood, to the heart. Normally, the blood would pass through the liver first. However, Pavlov bypassed that organ.
As long as the dog was fed on vegetable food, it lived on. When it was fed meat products, however, it quickly suffered convulsions and died.
There are poisons in meat — substances which act against the well-being of our bodies. In carnivorous animals, of course, very large livers cope easily with the poisons. But man has a relatively small liver. It just can’t cope with the strain of a heavy meat diet.
Wait a minute — don’t we have to have meat to be “big and strong”?
No — your body breaks meat proteins down into amino acids. Amino acids look alike, whether they come from vegetable or meat sources — but the extra poisons that meat brings can make a big difference. In fact, any scientific grounds for believing meat has something to do with strength dis-appeared long ago. In experiments conducted by Sparks, Roth, and Lewis, it was found that swimmers who abstained from meat entirely showed general improvement and had more stamina and endurance. Milk, much milder and less harmful, provided what proteins they didn’t get from vegetables.
Much of the common belief that meat gives strength is (sheer superstition. Just as cannibals often believed that by eating an enemy’s brains they gained his wisdom, so we today believe that by eating the muscles of strong animals, we will gain their strength. However, they didn’t gain that strength from eating meat!
Another strong argument in favor of cutting way down on meat consumption is simply that meat isn’t a very economical way to eat. Cattle, hogs, and other meat animals have toeat grain to get their strength. But much of the caloric content of the vegetable feed they eat is used in keeping the animal alive — and that energy is never passed on to us. If we got the calories directly from vegetable products, instead of having them pass through meat animals first, we could get three to four times the nutrition — or, to put it another way, every time we eat a steak, we’re really eating a plateful of vegetables, with three-fourths of the nutrition gone!
Can a whole society really be based on a diet that doesn’t include much meat? There are many, today and in the past, that have done exactly that. For instance, the Hunzakuts, a people living near the northwest end of the Himalayas, have survived vigorously for centuries on a diet of grains, including wheat, barley, buckwheat, and small grains; leafy green vegetables; potatoes and other root vegetables; chick peas and other legumes (pulses — remember Daniel?); milk and buttermilk, clarified butter and cheese; fruit, particularly apricots and mulberries, both fresh and dried; and occasionally — very occasionally — meat.
What has it done for the Hunzakuts? They aren’t a rich people, of course — except for that wealth that can’t be bought with money: health. Men of ninety have been known to father children; women of fifty have been known to conceive and bear children. They haven’t heard of the Word of Wisdom, of course, but as with all the Lord’s blessings, the rewards of obedience come even when the obedience is entirely unwitting.
Another group with remarkably good results from a low-meat diet is found in Eastern Europe. The Bulgarians, in the 1930 census, were found to have 1,600 persons over 100 years of age out of every million persons in the country. The rate in the United States at the time was only nine centenarians per million. Furthermore, while few American centenarians are particularly spry, these old people in Bulgaria were still vigorous, still active — more like sixty-year-olds in America than like people of similar age.
What was the diet of Bulgarians at that time? Mostly black bread from whole rye flour and sour milk, or yogurt, made from ordinary milk soured by a microbe called the “Bulgarian bacillus.” (Widtsoe, Word of Wisdom, p. 256.)
Immediately after World War II, thousands and thousands of Europeans were starving. Yet it was only after many weeks of deficient diet — deficient in everything, not just in meat — that a protein deficiency began to appear. And that protein deficiency was usually relieved just by giving them more of their normal diet: cereal grains and potatoes. “It is most unlikely,” said those who reported that finding, “that protein deficiency will develop in apparently healthy adults on a diet in which cereals and vegetables supply adequate calories.” (D. M. Hegsted, Journal of Laboratory and Clinical Medicine 31:261.)
One doctor discovered that when patients showed signs of kidney breakdown through the appearance of albumen and casts in the urine, the situation could be cleared up completely by putting them on a diet of fruits, vegetables, and salads, with all meat and even meat-based soups completely prohibited. And the kidney problems disappeared in only a week or two!
This is not to say, of course, that eating meat is going to you. The Lord is very clear on that point — meat is permissible, and at times desirable, for man. However, the Lord — and recent findings of science — make it clear that overuse of meat can and will do harm. Russell Henry Chittenden, a Yale physiological chemist, pointed out: ‘The smallest amount of food able to keep the body in a state of high efficiency is physiologically the most economical, and thus best adapted for the body’s needs. Too little food is bad, but so is too much. , The average American diet contains forty-five percent more protein than the National Academy of Sciences recommends: therefore, to that extent it is not ‘best adapted to the body’s needs.’ ” (Quoted in Raymond H. Woolsey, “Meat on the Menu: Who Needs It?” Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1974, p. 58.)
Perhaps it is not such a coincidence that as meat consumption in industrialized nations has increased dramatically, so has the incidence of cancer. The late Dr. William J. Mayo of the Mayo Clinic at Rochester, Minnesota, in an address before the American College of Surgeons, cited the remarkable figure that American meat consumption has increased 400 per-cent in the last hundred years! And he went on to link this with stomach cancer: “Cancer of the stomach forms nearly one-third of all cancers of the human body. So far as I know, this is not true of lower animals, nor of uncivilized man. It is not possible, therefore, that there is something in the habits of civilized man, in the cooking or other preparation of his food, which acts to produce the precancerous condition? Within the last one hundred years, four times as much meat is taken as before that time. If flesh foods are not fully broken up, decomposition results, and active poisons are thrown into an organ not intended for their reception, and which has not had time to adapt itself to the new condition.”
That’s serious business. Eating more meat than our bodies can handle can eventually kill us! But the truth is that we’ve been warned — for centuries. The Lord created human beings in such a way that we can’t cope with too large a quantity of in our diet — and then warned us all amply that meat should be avoided, except under certain conditions.
Nutritional science, while still in its infancy, has finally overcome the myth that of the essential amino acids, all had to be eaten in the right proportion in the same meal or the body would immediately have a protein deficiency. Actually, the body can go for some time without infusions of all the essential amino acids, by simply recycling those amino acids from dead cells, digestive secretions, and so forth. The body is not so fragile that a day without meat is a day of malnutrition. In fact, the body makes its own balance of amino acids.
But while that myth had force, many doctors and many athletic coaches insisted that the people they cared for eat meat at every meal. And yet even if those essential amino acids really did have to come from meat products, there would be better ways to get them than muscle meat itself!
For example, eggs are a much more valuable source of amino acids than muscle meat, largely because they are easier to digest fully and contain a higher percentage of available protein. They are also an excellent source of vitamin B-12, a nutrient that comes primarily from meat and meat products, though some current findings seem to indicate that B-12 can actually be synthesized by the human body when a good balance of fruits, vegetables, and legumes is eaten.
Another good source of animal protein is milk; and even the “organ meats” — liver, kidney, heart, and brain — are less harmful and more nutritive than muscle meats. And, of course, all the necessary proteins can just as easily be obtained from combinations of legumes (peas, beans, peanuts) and grain, or legumes and seeds, or grains and milk products.
As a matter of fact, it is much better to view meat the way the Lord wants us to — not as the basic food for which other foods are a substitute or a supplement, but rather as a substitute itself, to be eaten only when the more healthful combinations aren’t available or aren’t sufficient.
Eggs are a good protein source — but there are drawbacks. While they don’t putrefy in the intestines quite as badly as muscle meat, they do putrefy. And eggs contain cholesterol, a substance thoroughly linked to atherosclerosis, the build-up of deposits on the walls of arteries, which can lead to strokes and heart attacks. However, very recently researchers have discovered that the amount of cholesterol a person eats has almost nothing to do with how the cholesterol is used in the body. In the experiments, blood cholesterol levels were measured for people who had eaten a large number of eggs, and for people who had avoided eggs and other cholesterol sources. It was found that there was no correlation between cholesterol build-up and the amount of cholesterol eaten. In fact, it was a chemical imbalance in the body that decided whether the extra cholesterol would be taken into the body or whether it would simply be flushed out at the earliest .opportunity — and if that series of experiments is confirmed by more re-search, the days of fearing the cholesterol in eggs may be over!
Earlier tests seemed to point to this same result. Research on animals had already made it clear that egg yolks consumed in large quantities, all other things being equal, did not cause atherosclerosis. The real cause of atherosclerosis, it seems, is improper nutrition in the body cells — caused, in large measure, by the kind of general diet most Americans eat! Instead of cutting out eggs, victims of atherosclerosis should have kept the eggs — and got rid of the junk food, the empty calories, and the muscle meats!
Eggs are 74 percent water, with the other 26 percent fairly evenly divided between proteins and fats. Milk, too, is well-balanced, with 87 percent water, 3.5 percent protein, 3.9 percent fat, and 4.9 percent milk sugar. Also, 0.7 percent of milk is mineral matter, including calcium and phosphorus, greatly needed by the body for growth and repair. Milk also contains vitamins A, B-1, and B-2, and healthy doses of vita-min D. And the sugar in milk, lactose, is one of the few sugars that do not ferment, so that milk won’t cause the digestive disturbance often caused by refined sugars.
Milk, like eggs, has been blamed for atherosclerosis — but instead of the fats in milk causing lesions and atherosclerosis, research has recently indicated that it is the absence of fats in milk that causes those conditions! A research team headed by Denizen found that nonfat dry milk caused atherosclerosis in rats, while milk with the butterfat intact did not. We may be hurting ourselves by removing the butterfat from milk.
And grains and vegetables, as discussed already, do not have the same balance of amino acids as meat — but in the right combinations, they provide everything needed for life. And a diet based on a good mixture of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains, supplemented by some milk and eggs, will certainly provide everything needed. Meat just isn’t essential, and because it can cause harm, it should be avoided.
Rats aren’t people — but they live faster than we do, and so the long-term results of certain diet patterns can be more easily seen in rats than in human populations. Besides, rats eat what they’re fed! Dr. Mary Swartz Rose at Columbia University fed three groups of rats of the same age, size, and weight very different diets. Group A was allowed to eat as much as they wanted of pure whole wheat bread, whole milk, water, and a little salt. Group B was fed all they wanted of bread — and meat. And Group C got as much bread and eggs as they wanted.
Group A grew throughout forty-six generations with an ever-increasing degree of health, vigor, and power of re-production. The last generation of rats were far healthier than the original group — their umpty-third great-grandparents who began the experiment. Group B, however, never got to forty-six generations. In fact, there was never a second generation. They lasted only a few weeks, and all died. Group C, fed with eggs and bread, fared just about as well as Group A.
Want a thick, rich, juicy steak?
How long do you want to live?
But wait a minute — weren’t human beings meant to eat meat? Some writers have compared man’s digestive system with the digestive system of herbivores and carnivores, and have concluded that there are more similarities to carnivores than to herbivores. This is partly explainable to Latter-day Saints by the fact that the Lord has told us that we are meant to eat meat — as a supplement, something to fall back on in times of emergency. The Lord didn’t want his children to be tied to one kind of food, so that if it failed, mankind would die. Instead we are able to eat practically anything. But just because we can eat practically anything, doesn’t mean that we’re meant to eat practically everything.
One of the chief similarities between human systems and those of carnivores is the length of the colon. Carnivores tend to have large, short, and comparatively smooth bowels. However, in most grazing animals the bowel is long and convoluted. The reason is simply that if the meat stayed in the bowel of the carnivore for any great length of time, the putrefaction would kill it, while the grazing animals need longer to get the full value of the grasses and grains they eat — and there’s no hurry to digest the grain before it kills them.
The human colon, at first glance, seems short, like that of the carnivore. “Aha!” say the meat advocates, “man was meant to eat meat!”
“Aha!” say those who look closer, “it just ain’t true!”
The human colon is actually rather long, after all. However, it is foreshortened by three ribbonlike muscle bands running the length of the organ. The human colon can — and does — stretch. And it is therefore an ideal organ for digesting fruits, nuts, grains, and vegetables. On the other hand, food takes a long time passing through the human bowel. Long enough for meat to cause harm.
Furthermore, the human intestine has all the convolutions of the herbivore’s bowel; and the closer you look, the more you realize that while humans are capable of eating practically anything, they were meant to eat vegetables.
If more comparisons are needed, man’s dental structure again points to our intended vegetable diet. We lack the grasping, tearing teeth of true carnivores — take a good look at the teeth of your dog or your cat to see what a meat-eater’s teeth look like. Instead, human beings have the sharp, flat, scissorlike incisors meant for biting off digestible pieces of fruits and vegetables. We have the flat, nodular molars that are best for grinding grains, nuts, and vegetables into pieces small enough to swallow.
Man is clearly designed to eat vegetables, points out W. S. Collens, but we have perverted our dietary habits with too, too much meat. “Herein may lie the basis for the high incidence of human atherosclerotic disease.” (Collens and G. B. Dobkin, “Phylogenetic Aspects of the Cause of Human Atherosclerotic Disease,” Circulation, Suppl. 2, 32:7, Oct. 1975.)
And when human beings eat meat, the stomach secretes much more of the peptic acid and other gastric juices than when vegetables are being digested. Those peptic acids, in high enough concentration, are the cause of stomach ulcers.
And just in case you’re still in the mood to take all the kids out for a hamburger whenever you’re in a hurry, remember a recent finding at the University of California, San Francisco. Pediatricians there have discovered that too much acidity in the body severely stunts the growth of young children. The children they were working with had a kidney disease that caused their violently excess acidity; the children were far undersize for their age. Because the disease was severe, they took stringent methods to reduce acidity — regular doses of baking soda.
The acidity of the human body rises as more meat is eaten. And while overuse of meat doesn’t cause the severe stunting of growth that these children’s kidney disease causes, it can still slow the early growth processes. And if the acidity isn’t reversed while the children are still quite young, the loss of growth can’t be made up.
The very young aren’t the only ones who suffer from the consequences of “over-meating.” People of middle age and beyond just don’t have digestive systems to handle much meat. Proteins in large quantities build up nitrogen in the blood, which has to be discharged by the kidneys. But the kidneys, long overworked, just can’t handle the load, and the nitrogen-containing waste builds up, causing high blood pressure, among other things.
Too much protein, too quickly ingested, can cause a negative calcium balance. (Too little protein, of course, causes the opposite problem — an inability to retain the calcium that is eaten.)
At the same time, meat is not utterly harmful — obviously not, since many meat-eaters live to a ripe old age. Meat does contain nutrients in large quantities; in times of cold, or when no other food is available, meat is certainly a viable alternative. But meat, in large quantities and over a long period of time, does have a debilitating effect on the human body.
When is meat most valuable to us? In cold weather, meat’s putrefying qualities are less harmful, and therefore meat is safer to eat. And in famine, when the body needs protein to keep tissues alive, meat certainly does that job.
But eating meat in other times just gives us excess protein, which has to be eliminated from the body, causing strain. And the Lord was pretty clear when he said, “Wo be unto man that sheddeth blood or that wasteth flesh and hath no I need.” (D&C 49:21.) When you eat 40 percent more protein than your body needs, that protein is wasted. When every meal includes animal flesh, when ample nutrients are available from other more healthful sources, someone had shed blood who “hath no need.”
The Word of Wisdom does not counsel vegetarianism. Animals are on the earth for the use of man — when man needs them. But when they aren’t needed — which is most of the time — the human diet should be based on grains, vegetables, and fruits, the diet of the Garden of Eden, and not on the flesh of animals.
Meat animals “hath God made for the use of man only in times of famine and excess of hunger.” (D&C 89:15.) Heard of any famines lately? And how long has it been since you were excessively hungry?