Best Mercola Articles of 2010Today, on the first day of 2011, all of us at Mercola.com wish you a Healthy, Happy New Year. 2010 was a year full of surprises and drama. I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you who have gotten involved in all these health related causes and successfully helped steer public consciousness into a healthier direction.

Please share these important articles with your closest friends and family so they can have a Healthy 2011
  1. Sugar May Be Bad, But This Sweetener is Far More Deadly
    Research shows this sweetener can cause much more damage than table sugar to human metabolism, trigger early signs of diabetes and heart disease, and cause dangerous growth of fat cells around vital organs.

  2. The Major Exercise Mistake I Made for Over 30 Years…
    This is the exercise mistake most everyone makes – including me, for 30 years. Then I discovered the secret to getting a better workout while saving 2 or 3 hours every week. So how much of a workout can you get in just 20 quick minutes?

  3. The Chicken Which Should be Banned
    This chicken contains an anti-foaming agent made of silicone and a chemical preservative so deadly that just five grams can kill you. In fact, Time Magazine even reported this prominent Judge questioning whether customers understand the risks of eating it…

  4. This Cooking Oil is a Powerful Virus-Destroyer and Antibiotic.
    Although blasphemed for 60 years by the medical press, this amazing oil is now gaining fame for its health-promoting benefits – heart health, antibiotic, anti-viral, anti-diabetic, plus it is slimming. It’s even so nutritious it’s included in baby formulas. What’s not to like.?

  5. Why did the Russians Ban an Appliance Found in 90% of American Homes?
    Why didn’t the industry issue a gag order when scientists suggested this appliance could wreck your health? It’s said to cause ‘electrical whiplash’ and much more. So should you really use it for yourself and your family?

  6. Want a Good Night’s Sleep? Then Never Do These Things Before Bed
    These common mistakes disrupt your brain waves and cause you to toss and turn, preventing you from falling asleep quickly. What’s more, you may wake up and be unable to fall back asleep. If you have difficulty sleeping, this is critical information you must have.

  7. New Warning About Olive Oil
    It may be well known for its health benefits, but you’re probably making this mistake with your olive oil which accelerates the oxidation of the unsaturated fats – causing it to do more harm than good. Here’s how to protect the oil and a little trick which tells you when it should be tossed…

  8. This “Miracle Health Food” Has Been Linked to Brain Damage and Breast Cancer
    The odds are good this “miracle health food of the 21st Century” is in your diet. Stop falling for the misleading propaganda and read this now because hard evidence has linked it to digestive problems, cognitive decline, heart disease and more…

  9. This Supermarket “Health Food” Killed These Baby Rats in Three Weeks
    Despite the fact more than half the baby rats in this experiment died within 3 weeks, you may be eating this health food on a daily basis. Yet the scientist was attacked and the study has not been repeated – even though it would only cost a few thousand dollars. More scary “cover ups” revealed inside…

  10. Flood Your Body With This “Youth Hormone” in Just 20 Minutes
    And it will stay in your body for two hours, going after those excess pounds like a heat seeking missile. This breakthrough program is so powerful that if you were to do it today and monitor your blood, it would look like you injected it into your body …

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beauty sleepMany people assume that “beauty sleep” is a myth used to convince children to go to sleep. But a new study suggests there may be something to it.

The study looked at the effect that sleep deprivation has on the way other people perceive your attractiveness.  Study participants were asked to sit for photographs. The photos were identical, except for one thing — some of the participants had had a full night’s sleep the night before, while others had been awake for 31 hours straight.

According to Time Magazine:

“The photos were then shown to a group of 65 different people, who, knowing nothing about how tired the people in the photos were, rated their attractiveness. The observers rated the sleep-deprived as less healthy looking, less fetching and, obviously, more tired-looking.”

Sources:

Dr. Mercola’s Comments:

Taking the time each and every night to get your “beauty sleep” may in fact make you more attractive. And this isn’t surprising when you consider that optimal health and beauty are side effects of an overall healthy lifestyle, which must include adequate, high-quality sleep.

How Much Does Lack of Sleep Impact Your Appearance?

A good night’s sleep may be one of the best-kept beauty secrets out there.

This reality was recently proven by John Axelsson of the Karolinska Institute, who took identically staged photos of 23 people. All of the participants had natural hairstyles, relaxed facial expressions and no makeup. The lighting for the sessions were the same, as was the subject’s distance from the camera.

The only difference was the amount of sleep the people had received the night before; one group got a full night’s sleep, the other slept just five hours after being awake for 31 hours straight.

When the photos were shown to a separate group of people, wouldn’t you know it . they rated the sleep-deprived group as less healthy, less attractive and more tired.

Chances are you have noticed this phenomenon yourself on more than a few occasions just by looking in the mirror. After a night of not enough or poor sleep you’re likely to wake up with dark circles under your eyes, sallow skin and a general look of being worn out and unrested.

Sleep is Essential for Your Body to Function

It’s no wonder that your appearance suffers when you lose sleep, as it’s an indicator of what is going on within your body as well.

Everybody loses sleep here and there, and your body can adjust for temporary shortcomings. But if you develop a chronic pattern of sleeping too little, then you’re increasing your risk of a number of health conditions, including:

  • Heart disease
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Arthritis
  • Neurodegenerative diseases
  • Cancer

Sleep deprivation also ages you. Lack of sleep interferes with metabolism and hormone production in a way that is similar to the effects of aging and the early stages of diabetes. Chronic sleep loss may speed the onset or increase the severity of age-related conditions such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and memory loss.

Too little sleep can even wreak havoc on your weight. Losing sleep raises levels of two hormones linked with appetite and eating behavior. Sleep deprivation reduces leptin, a hormone that tells your brain you’re satiated, and increases ghrelin, a hormone that triggers hunger.

No doubt about it, a sleep deficit can have serious, far-reaching effects on your health – and bags under your eyes are the least of it. Other effects include:

  • A single night of sleeping only four to six hours can impact your ability to think clearly the next day.
  • Good sleepers and poor sleepers experience about the same number of daily minor stressful events, but good sleepers are less disturbed by them. Poor sleepers experience life events as being more negative than do those who sleep well.
  • Sleep deprivation can cause changes in your brain activity similar to those experienced by people with psychiatric disorders.
  • Sleep deprivation puts your body into a pre-diabetic state, and makes you feel hungry, even if you’ve already eaten.
  • Interrupted sleep can dramatically weaken your immune system
  • Tumors grow two to three times faster in laboratory animals with severe sleep dysfunctions.

If you are having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or otherwise getting a restful night’s sleep, be sure to read through my top 33 tips for optimal sleep.

Beauty is More Than Skin Deep

Your outward appearance typically reflects your health on the inside on both a physical and emotional level.

For instance, research shows that people who have been through the stress of a divorce look nearly two years older than their married, single or even widowed twin. Those who use antidepressants also appear significantly older. The researchers attributed this to the drugs causing continued relaxation of the facial muscles, which led to sagging, but it could also be that those taking antidepressants were under some type of psychological stress.

This is why releasing negative emotions with the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), which balances your energy and improves your body and mind’s stress response, can actually improve your outward beauty along with your emotional health.

Likewise, eating a largely unhealthy diet of processed foods causes an accumulation of free radicals, or cell-damaging substances, in your body. Naturally, this type of cellular damage is most visible on your face, in the form of wrinkles, bags, droopy eyelids and loss of skin elasticity and glow.

So along with getting your beauty sleep, one way to decrease the speed at which signs of your real age show up is by consuming large amounts of whole, unprocessed, healthy raw foods that are loaded with antioxidants. If you’re still young, you will be less likely to develop wrinkles and other signs of age in the first place if you take a proactive, healthy approach now.

Another key to maintaining a youthful appearance and brighter, clearer skin is regular exercise. And, if you shift away from regular aerobics and use Peak 8 exercises instead, you will have a powerful way to naturally increase your growth hormone and radically reduce your aging rate. This will also be enormously beneficial in helping you sleep better. Just make sure you don’t exercise right before you go to bed.

Interestingly, sleep deprivation prematurely ages you by interfering with your growth hormone production, which is normally released by your pituitary gland during deep sleep and also during certain types of exercise, such as the Peak Fitness Technique. Growth hormone helps you look and feel younger.

So good food, regular exercise, stress relief and, of course, beauty sleep all go hand-in-hand when it comes to giving you that youthful healthy glow you’re after.

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raw milkMilk may be a symbol of wholesomeness for most of us, but according to Time Magazine, it’s also a battleground between government regulators and natural health food proponents who want to drink whole, raw milk.

The war is a test of their freedom to choose to drink a rich-tasting beverage full of beneficial bacteria, enzymes, vitamins and amino acids, that are mostly destroyed through pasteurization, the proponents say.

But to the FDA, it’s a basic health issue: “Raw milk is an inherently dangerous product, and it really should not be consumed by anyone at any time for any reason,” a representative from the FDA tells TIME.

Unfortunately, if the FDA sergeants get their way, they’ll win the war with help from Congress and the proposed Food Safety Modernization Act.

Meanwhile, a federal court has struck down Ohio’s law banning labels on dairy products that say they’re made with milk that’s free of hormones.

As reported on NPR.org, that means companies that want to say their products are “rbGH free” and “rbST free” and “artificial hormone free” are now free to do so.

“But the bigger deal might be that the ruling challenges the FDA’s 17-year-old finding that there’s “no significant difference” between the milk of cows given growth hormone and those that aren’t,” NPR said.

“Just that sort of distinction, or lack of it actually, is part of the ongoing debate about how to label genetically engineered salmon.”

The Court of Appeals also listed the reasons why there is a difference between milk from cows given growth hormones and those that don’t get hormones – and one was that there is more pus in the hormone-treated cows’ milk than in hormone-free.

Other states have already given permission for special labels on milk, but NPR.org speculated that if the FDA approves genetically modified salmon (GM), consumer groups may use the court’s ruling to label non-genetically engineered salmon.

Sources:

Dr. Mercola’s Comments:

Time Magazine couldn’t be more correct when stating that “for some Americans, milk has become a test of their freedom. And they’re not paranoid kooks either; the government really is out to get them, authorizing seizures of bottles and jugs of unpasteurized milk and, in one recent case, a full-on, agents-brandishing-guns raid.”

There is indeed a war going on, and it’s threatening one of your most basic freedoms – the right to eat a wholly natural, healthful food!

The FDA has long banned the sale of raw milk across state lines, and in many states it’s illegal to sell raw milk entirely. (For more information about laws in various US states, please see this link. For information about raw milk in other countries go here.)

Why has a natural food source been banned for sale in so many areas?

Well, they claim raw milk is simply too dangerous to consume and by restricting its sale they are serving the public health and reducing the risk of illness….

Yet shockingly  there’s no evidence backing up this claim.

According to CDC data, from 1993 to 2006, only about 116 illnesses a year were linked to raw milk. That amounts to less than .000002 percent of the 76 million people who contract a food-borne illness in the United States each year!

Looking at the evidence, or rather lack thereof, it is quite clear that raw milk has been unfairly singled out and targeted by the FDA, the USDA, and even the FBI, despite the fact that it’s so low on the food-borne illness risk scale it’s hardly measurable.

The recent enforcement  efforts against raw milk sales is so disproportionate to the risk it poses to consumers that it defies all logic.

Is the Ban on Raw Milk Unconstitutional?

Raw milk enthusiasts and raw dairy suppliers began fighting back in early 2010, filing suit against the FDA, claiming that banning interstate sales is unconstitutional.

The rebuttal received from the FDA was shocking to say the least.

It contained the following outrageous statements, which make it very clear they believe you have no right to natural, unadulterated food:

“There is no absolute right to consume or feed children any particular food.”

“There is no ‘deeply rooted’ historical tradition of unfettered access to foods of all kinds.”

“Plaintiffs’ assertion of a ‘fundamental right to their own bodily and physical health, which includes what foods they do and do not choose to consume for themselves and their families’ is similarly unavailing because plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to obtain any food they wish.”

The FDA’s brief goes on to state that “even if such a right did exist, it would not render the FDA’s regulations unconstitutional because prohibiting the interstate sale and distribution of unpasteurized milk promotes bodily and physical health.”

“There is no fundamental right to freedom of contract.”

With these assertions, the FDA essentially claims to have the authority to prohibit any food of their choosing, and make it a crime for you to seek it out.

This is simply unacceptable.

Raw Milk Safety Standards – Actually HIGHER than Those for Pasteurized Milk

It’s essential to understand the reasons why most dairy is pasteurized in the first place.

The dairy cows used to produce much of the pasteurized dairy sold in the United States are raised in such unsanitary conditions that it affects the cows’ health and hence the quality of their milk.

Factory farming conditions are the reason why the milk has to be pasteurized in the first place. If it wasn’t, it simply would not be safe to drink. This fact is also what prevents the conventional dairy industry from competing with smaller organic farms.

In terms of quality and nutritional content of the milk, you simply cannot compare the milk produced by factory farms to that of organic farm that raise their cattle on grasses and let them out to pasture. These cows are healthy, and produce high quality, uncontaminated milk that does not require pasteurization to kill off dangerous pathogens.

Still, despite the fact that grass-fed organically-raised cows are at a distinct advantage, from the get-go when it comes to the quality of their milk, organic dairy farms in most states still must meet or exceed pasteurized milk standards, without pasteurizing.

California, specifically, (where raw milk is legal) has its own special set of standards for raw milk for human consumption.

So, if it’s not really about food safety, what’s all the hubbub about?

In a word: money.

The conventional dairy industry, realizing that consumers are flocking toward raw milk because of its health benefits, has redoubled their efforts to quench raw milk sales.

You might think that if raw dairy became attractive enough the dairy industry would simply follow suit and begin producing raw products to meet the demand. Alas… this is virtually impossible because of the way their overcrowded farms are run.

You simply CANNOT drink factory farmed milk raw. It would be extremely unsafe. Their business depends on pasteurization, and that is why their powerful lobbyists will stop at nothing to persuade government agencies to keep raw milk bans in full force.

Big Dairy simply cannot compete, so to maintain their market share, they’re employing dirty tactics to destroy the competition instead.

Still, There is Good News!

In the middle of all this fascist-like drama, a federal court has repealed Ohio’s law banning the use of ‘rBGH-free’ labels on dairy products, giving raw dairy producers and consumers new hope.

This ruling means that companies that want to clearly state that their products are “rBGH free,” “rBST free,” or “artificial hormone free” are now allowed to do so.

This is an important victory that may shape the future of other genetically modified (GM) foods, such as GM salmon – the approval of which is currently being debated by the FDA.

If the salmon is approved, the next question is whether or not it must be labeled as genetically modified.

For the past 17 years, the FDA’s has held on to their initial finding that there’s “no significant difference” between the milk of cows given genetically modified artificial growth hormone and those that aren’t.

By overturning the ban on “rBGH free” labels in Ohio, it reopens the debate, which is exactly what needs to happen. In worst case, if the FDA decides not to label GM salmon as such, consumer groups can use this court ruling to label natural, NON-GM salmon instead.

Get Informed and Protect Your Food Freedom

I urge you to a take a stand to protect your freedom of food choice by joining the Raw Milk Campaign to make access to healthy raw milk a right for all Americans. You can find Local Chapters and Chapter Leaders by sending an email to: chapters@westonaprice.org.

For more information, I urge you to listen to my interview with Mark McAfee, the founder of Organic Pastures, one of the largest producers of raw milk in the United States, along with this video with health and business journalist David E. Gumpert.

You can also find lots of valuable information in Gumpert’s book, The Raw Milk Revolution, and on McAfee’s website.

Finally, if you’re interested in purchasing raw milk, RealMilk.com can help you find a high-quality source in your area.

Related Articles:

  The Despicable Reason Behind Raw Milk Bans

  Identifying High-Quality Sources of Raw Milk

  Why Raw Milk is Becoming More Popular

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baby bottleBisphenol A (BPA) is used in an enormous number of products. It’s in nearly everyone’s bloodstream. And now, Canada has declared BPA a toxic substance, both to the environment and to public health.

Canadian officials said that the declaration is the first step toward better BPA regulation. Now that the chemical is classified as toxic, it’s easier for the Canadian government to ban BPA in specific products. Canada has already banned BPA in baby bottles, and the new listing will likely bring an end to all food-related uses for BPA in the country.

Writing in Time Magazine, Bryan Walsh reports:

“The Canadian move was done in the face of intense opposition from the chemical industry, which was quick to respond to the decision …

What’s clear, however, is that there is a growing public concern about the possible impact of chemicals in the environment — especially on pregnant women and developing fetuses …

The science will never be fully certain, but the pendulum is moving in the direction of a greater emphasis on safety — and I think it’s time.”

Sources:

Dr. Mercola’s Comments:

Bisphenol-A (BPA) has already been detected in the urine of 95 percent of people tested, and with the outpouring of research showing it can trigger major changes in your body even at low-level exposure, Canada is doing what’s necessary . they’re getting the ball rolling to get BPA out of food packaging and other consumer products.

The country has added BPA to their list of toxic substances, noting:

“Concern for neurobehavioural effects in newborns and infants was suggested from the neurodevelopmental and behavioural dataset in rodents.

Given that available data indicate potential sensitivity to the pregnant woman/fetus and infant, and that animal studies suggest a trend towards heightened susceptibility during stages of development in rodents, it was considered appropriate to apply a precautionary approach when characterizing risk to human health.

Therefore, it was concluded that bisphenol A should be considered as a substance that may be entering the environment in a quantity or concentration or under conditions that constitute or may constitute a danger in Canada to human life or health.”

Notice the term “precautionary approach” . this is what is sorely lacking in so many areas in the United States,The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) frequently drops the ball when it comes to regulating  toxic chemicals like BPA and mercury.

BPA in baby bottles has been banned in Canada and several U.S. states. Other measures are being considered in 30 U.S. states and municipalities — but at a federal level, the FDA is treading water.

Why?

Why Isn’t the FDA Taking Action Against BPA?

According to the FDA, its regulatory framework limits its ability to regulate BPA production.

That’s right. Under its current construction, the FDA is unable to remove a toxic chemical that is leaching into canned goods and other common foods as we speak, because it was classified in 1963 as an indirect food additive and is listed among the 3,000 or so chemicals categorized as GRAS (“generally regarded as safe”).

This outdated GRAS designation is what exempts BPA from more careful scrutiny and analysis.

According to the FDA’s regulations, a substance granted GRAS status is not subject to FDA review. The Agency explains these limitations via an “update” on its website:

“Current BPA food contact uses were approved under food additive regulations issued more than 40 years ago. This regulatory structure limits the oversight and flexibility of the FDA.

Once a food additive is approved, any manufacturer of food or food packaging may use the food additive in accordance with the regulation. There is no requirement to notify the FDA of that use.

For example, today there exist hundreds of different formulations for BPA-containing epoxy linings, which have varying characteristics. As currently regulated, manufacturers are not required to disclose to FDA the existence or nature of these formulations.

Furthermore, if the FDA were to decide to revoke one or more approved uses, the FDA would need to undertake what could be a lengthy process of rulemaking to accomplish this goal.”

The FDA’s Hands are Tied?

What this means is that the FDA can ask chemical companies to volunteer information about BPA, but this voluntary system does not have a history of working well when it comes to corporations who have billions of dollars at stake.

As it stands, BPA is one of the world’s highest production-volume chemicals and is widely used in the production of:

  • Plastic water bottles
  • Plastic gallon milk bottles
  • Plastic microwavable plates, ovenware, and utensils
  • Baby toys, bottles, pacifiers, and sippy cups
  • Canned foods and soda cans (most have plastic lining in the cans)
  •  Tooth sealants

The American Chemistry Council, a lobby group for the chemical industry that issued a statement in early 2010 denying the health hazards of BPA, clearly does not want to see this cash cow bite the dust … nor be held accountable for health problems related to its use. They will pull out all the stops to keep this chemical in your food packaging, baby bottles, and more for as long as possible.

Meanwhile, the FDA has admitted that they can basically do nothing to get BPA out of consumer goods without a formal change in the law, and this is despite the fact that they’ve acknowledged “concerns” related to its use:

” . [O]n the basis of results from recent studies using novel approaches to test for subtle effects, both the National Toxicology Program at the National Institutes of Health and FDA have some concern about the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and young children.”

Congress has introduced legislation intended to establish a federal ban on BPA in all food and beverage containers, but for now the chemical is still widely used.

What Does the Research Say About BPA?

Of 115 published animal studies, 81 percent found significant effects from even low-level exposure to BPA.

This toxic chemical, an endocrine disrupter, first caught researchers’ attention after normal mice began to display uncommon genetic abnormalities. The defects were linked to plastic cages and water bottles that had been cleaned with a harsh detergent, causing BPA to leach out of the plastic.

After determining how much BPA the mice had been exposed to, the researchers realized even an extremely small dose of 20 parts per billion daily, for just five to seven days, was enough to produce effects.

Some of the greatest concern surrounds early-life exposure to BPA, which can lead to chromosomal errors in the developing fetus, triggering spontaneous miscarriages and genetic damage. And being exposed to just 0.23 parts per billion of BPA is enough to disrupt the effect of estrogen in a baby’s developing brain.

For this reason, women of childbearing age and those who are pregnant should be especially diligent at avoiding BPA, but practically no one is immune. One recent study found the chemical can lead to heart disease, diabetes and liver problems in adults, and previous research has linked BPA to:

  • Structural damage to your brain
  • Hyperactivity, increased aggressiveness, and impaired learning
  • Increased fat formation and risk of obesity
  • Altered immune function
  • Early puberty, stimulation of mammary gland development, disrupted reproductive cycles, and ovarian dysfunction
  • Changes in gender-specific behavior, and abnormal sexual behavior
  • Stimulation of prostate cancer cells
  • Increased prostate size, and decreased sperm production
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Liver damage

Tips for Staying Away From BPA

The Environmental Working Group is keeping tabs on BPA legislation in the United States and globally, and you can view its timeline here. As of late summer 2010, BPA bills were pending in five state legislatures, and earlier this year numerous positive steps have been made to get this toxin out of U.S. food containers:

  • Vermont banned BPA in baby food, formula and bottles, and will restrict its use in metal food cans starting July 1, 2014
  • New York state banned BPA in bottles, sippy cups, pacifiers and drinking straws beginning December 2010
  • General Mills announced in April 2010 that it would use BPA-free cans for Muir Glen organic tomatoes starting with the next harvest

Hopefully this type of legislation will continue to snowball until a worldwide ban is placed on this toxin, making it one less that you’ll need to worry about. But in the meantime, the following tips will help you to steer clear of BPA as much as possible:

  1. Only use glass baby bottles and dishes for your baby.
  2. Get rid of your plastic dishes and cups, and replace them with glass varieties.
  3. Give your baby natural fabric toys instead of plastic ones, and only BPA-free pacifiers and teethers.
  4. Store your food and beverages in glass — NOT plastic — containers. Glass is the safest and most inert way to store your water and food, and is far better than ANY plastic (even BPA-free varieties).
  5. IF you choose to use a microwave, don’t microwave food in a plastic container.
  6. Use glass, ceramic, or stainless steel travel coffee mugs rather than plastic or Styrofoam coffee cups.
  7. Avoid using plastic wrap (and never microwave anything covered in it).
  8. If you opt to use plastic kitchenware, at least get rid of the older, scratched-up varieties, avoid putting them in the dishwasher, and don’t wash them with harsh detergents, as these things can cause more BPA to leach into your food.
  9. Avoid using bottled water; filter your own using a high-quality filter instead.
  10. Before allowing a dental sealant to be applied to your, or your children’s, teeth, ask your dentist to verify that it does not contain BPA.
  11. Avoid using canned foods (including soda cans) as the linings often contain BPA. If you do eat canned foods, choose only those that come in BPA-free cans

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Meat production is said to create a staggering 18 percent of the world’s carbon emissions. 

But in a new book being released in February 2011, Meat: A Benign Extravagance, Simon Fairlie claims that eating moderate amounts of meat could be greener than going vegan.

Fairlie argues that every agricultural system produces hard-to-use biomass that is best fed to livestock, and that animals kept on small farms also fend off predators and pests and fertilize the soil.

However, Fairlie tells Time magazine that:

 “… [O]f course, it is not what we eat individually — it is what we eat as a whole society that has the impact on the environment. Some vegans may continue their vegan ways. I’m arguing for meat in moderation, not to eradicate meat entirely, nor to overconsume it.”

Sources:

Dr. Mercola’s Comments:

One of the greatest arguments that vegetarians and vegans use to support a meat-free diet is its apparent toll on the environment. And in its current state, industrial animal farming is an atrocity to the planet.

Just 2 percent of U.S. livestock facilities produce 40 percent of farm animals, and when you raise thousands of animals in one small space, you’re left with a lot of waste. This is a form of animal rearing that is very unnatural, and as such leaves a devastating environmental footprint.

But when raised according to natural laws, Simon Fairlie, British farmer and author of Meat: A Benign Extravagance, argues that it can be quite healthful, even necessary, for the planet.

The Environmental Argument FOR Eating Meat

As Fairlie tells Time magazine, and explains in much greater detail in Meat, many of the statistics that make meat eating seem akin to using the Grand Canyon as a garbage dump do not reveal the whole picture.

The UN’s widely quoted statistic that meat produces 18 percent of the world’s carbon emissions contains “basic mistakes,” according to Fairlie, including attributing all deforestation to cattle, rather than logging and development. It’s also widely stated that the ratio between plant foods used to produce meat is about 5 to 1.

However, Fairlie points out that this takes into account only feeding animals foods that humans eat, which is common practice in the United States. But if you feed livestock such as cattle their intended diets — grass, which people do not eat — the real ratio is 1.4 to 1 — much more sustainable.

There are benefits, too, to small farming particularly, including fertilizing soil and eliminating pests and predators. Meanwhile, animals that can be fed off of food waste and whey, such as pigs, are incredibly easy on the environment. Likewise for cows that are fed grass, which Fairlie says are “on balance, benign” from an environmental perspective.

But there is a “catch” to Fairlie’s assertions that meat-eating is beneficial for the planet . we would need to switch over to organic farming, he says, as well as cut our meat consumption in half. In other words, in order for eating meat to become good for the environment, some major changes need to take place.

Factory Farming is an Environmental Disaster

The industrial farming practices used to raise the majority of meat in the United States right now are in no way healthy — for the animals, the environment or you.

In a small farm setting, animal waste is used to naturally fertilize the land, and in that way it becomes quite healthy. But in a factory farm setting there is no way you can use the millions of gallons of animal waste generated in a “beneficial” way. So, large “lagoons” are created to hold the waste or excessive amounts of the waste are sprayed onto crops in the area.

It is not at all unusual for this waste to leach into groundwater or run off into surface waters. At Farm Sanctuary, a farm animal protection organization, they explain what this means for the future of the environment:

“The quantity of waste produced by farm animals in the U.S. is more than 130 times greater than that produced by humans. Agricultural runoff has killed millions of fish, and is the main reason why 60% of America’s rivers and streams are “impaired.”

In states with concentrated animal agriculture, the waterways have become rife with pfiesteria bacteria. In addition to killing fish, pfiesteria causes open sores, nausea, memory loss, fatigue and disorientation in humans.”

There are other concerning issues too, like the fact that animals are raised in such filthy conditions and fed inferior-quality food so they must be given antibiotics to ward off illness. Agricultural antibiotic uses account for about 70 percent of all antibiotic use in the United States, so it’s a MAJOR source of human antibiotic consumption.

Animals receiving antibiotics in their feed also gain 4 percent to 5 percent more body weight than animals that do not receive antibiotics, but the price is high for you, the end consumer, because this practice also creates the perfect conditions for antibiotic resistance to flourish.

And, of course, it goes without saying that these factory farming operations are typically behind the largest and most deadly food recalls in the United States, including the 2008 recall of 143 million pounds of beef and the recall of half a billion eggs earlier this year.

Should Everyone Eat Meat?

There is no doubt that the farming methods currently being used as the primary model in the United States will end up sacrificing the environment and human health.

So, please, understand that any time I discuss meat consumption, it is with the explicit understanding that I only recommend humanely raised, organically farmed livestock that have roamed free, feeding on their natural food source, without any use of the antibiotics and other growth-promoting drugs typically used in conventional farming.

That said, I am not at all advocating everyone needs to eat meat, but it is my clinical observation that virtually everyone benefits from some animal protein.

In some cultures this may be very little and might just be the insects consumed in grains as in India. It is clear that meat is not necessary for most carb nutritional types, but they would benefit from other animal proteins like raw organic dairy and eggs.

From a dietary perspective, your nutritional type will determine what ratio of fats, carbohydrates and protein your body needs to thrive.

I believe it’s safe to say we all need some of each of these three categories, but our bodies require different ratios of each. This means that some people will thrive on very large amounts of vegetables and very little animal protein. For others, this ratio would spell disaster for their health, and they will need greater amounts of animal protein.

Of course, the quality of the meat and the way it is cooked will also impact its health benefits.

It’s Time to Stop Supporting Factory Farms

From an environmental perspective, in the United States most people get their meat from completely unsustainable factory farms, a practice that would need to change in order for meat to become “environmentally friendly.”

But once you become aware of the “rules” for healthy meat-eating, those that will protect not only your health but also the animals’ and the planet’s, this issue becomes a moot point because virtually no one should eat factory farmed meat.

The “rules” for healthful meat consumption:

  • The meat should be organic and grass-fed
  • It should ideally come from a local farmer (try finding a farmer’s market or community-supported agriculture program in your area to do this) who can verify that the products are raised on pasture, without antibiotics and pesticides
  • The animals should be allowed to live in their natural habitats, eating their natural diets
  • The farmer should be aware of the relationships between animals, plants, insects, soil, water and habitat — and how to use these relationships to create synergistic, self-supporting ecosystems

There is still a long way to go . organic food represents less than 2 percent of the food economy, and local food makes up well under 1 percent. I urge you to start supporting these economies in favor of the conventional model, for the sake of your health and the environment’s, as well as to take a stand for the humane treatment of farm animals.

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