Healing Our World Commentary: Can I Supersize that Heart Attack for You?

By Jackie Alan Giuliano, Ph.D.

Can I Supersize that Heart Attack for You?

No time for your health today;
no health for your time tomorrow.

-- Irish Proverb

It is not human nature we should accuse but the despicable conventions that pervert it.
-- Denis Diderot

Dave Thomas, founder of the Wendy’s hamburger fast food chain, died on January 8 at age 69. His death is attributed to liver cancer. He had been undergoing kidney dialysis for a year and had quadruple heart bypass surgery in 1996. My heart goes out to his wife, five children, and 16 grandchildren. By all accounts, he was a kind and generous man who spent much time and money helping orphaned and adopted kids as well as many other causes.


Dave Thomas (right) serves a meal to a Wendy's customer. (Photo courtesy Edmonds Community College)
But his death calls attention once again to an industry that is wreaking much harm on people all over the world and creating more environmental degradation than virtually any other business.

Not surprisingly, fast food burger companies refuse to acknowledge the impact that their diet is having on children and adults around the world. That diet is killing us.

Every 33 seconds, an American dies of heart disease. That is more than 954,000 deaths annually, more than 42 percent of all deaths every year. In fact, since 1900 the number one killer in the United States has been cardiovascular disease in every year but 1918.

Counting deaths does not reveal the true severity of the problem. Of the current U.S. population, more than 62 million people have some form of the disease.

The American Heart association, in a recently released report, said that an estimated one in five deaths from cardiovascular diseases is the result of smoking. Most of the rest come from dietary choices.

A heart attack or stroke is caused when your artery walls thicken, reducing blood flow which increases the risk of a blood clot stopping the flow of blood to your heart or your brain. That thickening or atherosclerosis, is caused by overconsumption of LDL cholesterol, making the person more prone to heart attacks and strokes.


Meat on display (Photo courtesy Loren at Skivvies.com)
While some cholesterol is necessary to the body, excess LDL cholesterol results in atherosclerosis. Seventy percent of the cholesterol we need is manufactured in the liver and the rest is derived from our diet. Plants do not have the capability of manufacturing cholesterol, so all oils and foods of plant origin have no cholesterol.

When too much food of animal origin is consumed, a thickening of the arteries will result.

It has been proven that a high fat diet during childhood and adolescence increases the risk of heart disease. There is no question that promoting burgers and milkshakes as frequent meals for children increases their risk of life threatening illness in later life. By ceasing the intake of animal products and improving lifestyle factors, the degenerative effects of cardiovascular disease can be reversed.

The Surgeon General of the United States recently released a report saying that obesity is of grave concern in the U.S. Yet The National Institutes of Health spends less than one percent of its annual budget on obesity research, according to the American Obesity Association.

The environmental impacts of our meat centered diet are devastating. To raise a pound of wheat takes about 25 gallons of water. To raise a pound of meat takes about 2,500 gallons of water. The groundwater of the central United States, source of most of our underground drinking water supplies, is being depleted at an alarming rate, just to raise cattle.

It takes 20 times as much land to raise cattle as it does to farm vegetables, fruits, and grains.

It takes huge amounts of fossil fuels to raise animals and to turn them into meat. Fortunately, most of the world does not eat a meat centered diet. If everybody did, all the world’s known oil reserves would be used up in 13 years. If the world no longer ate meat, those same reserves would last another 260 years.


Cattle (Photo by Keith Weller courtesy USDA)
The economy of the United States is dramatically affected by meat consumption. This heavily subsidized industry must have taxpayer dollars in order to survive. If the water used by meat industry was not subsidized by U.S. taxpayers, hamburger meat would cost $35 pound. A pound of protein derived from wheat costs about $1.50.

Over 260 million acres of U.S. forests are cleared each year to create cropland to produce a meat centered diet.

Every 45 seconds in the United States, a diet related heart attack kills someone, and most of the time, that person is a meat eater. The risk of heart attack by the average American male is 50 percent. The risk from heart attack for a vegetarian male is 15 percent and the risk to a vegan male - one who eats no eggs, dairy, or other animal products - is only four percent.

Your risk of having a heart attack is decreased by 90 percent if you eliminate the consumption of meat, dairy products, and eggs from your diet.

Unfortunately, most doctors will be unable to discuss these issues with you. Out of the 125 medical schools in the United States, only 30 require their medical students to take a course in nutrition. In fact, the average U.S. doctor, during his or her four years of medical school, receives barely 2.5 hours of training in the effects of nutrition on the body.

But if you watch television regularly, you will receive hundreds of hours of propaganda about how great fast foods are for you during those same four years.

More and more, contaminated meat products are resulting in millions of illnesses each year and estimates are that 7,000 to 8,000 people in the U.S. alone die annually from eating contaminated meat. The slaughterhouses in the U.S. are hardly regulated at all, and the meat inspection system, managed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), is a failure. Only about one chicken per 22,000 and one beef carcass out every 300 each week is tested for the deadly E. coli 015H7 bacteria. Visual inspections are the only line of defense.


Slaughterhouse (Photo credit unknown)
Recently, the USDA approved irradiation for meat. The filth gets to stay on the meat, but it is sterilized by radiation.

Evidence abounds that animals are often butchered alive in slaughterhouses. Recent video footage exists that shows fully conscious cows being skinned alive and having their legs cut off while struggling for freedom.

The Associated Press reported in a story covering Dave Thomas’ death that “Though he was a multimillionaire, Thomas’ favorite meal never changed: a Wendy’s Single with cheese, mustard, pickles and onions; fries, a bowl of chili, a Frosty [milkshake] and a diet Coke.”

Thousands of people die each year, many thousands more suffer debilitating illnesses, and the Earth’s surface and her animals are ravaged due to meat consumption. Instead of accepting the pressure from a greedy industry representing itself as an American icon, take back your health and your diet from the advertisers.

You can have it your way – by passing by those burger stands.


1. Charities that Dave Thomas supported that his family has requested be given contributions in his honor can be found at: http://www.wendys.com

2. A number of “Healing Our World” commentaries have been written about the meat industry. Enter the word “meat” into the search engine at: http://www.healingourworld.com.

3. Check out some of the information by those against eating meat at: http://www.meatstinks.com

4. Keep track of these issues with the Organic Consumers Association at: http://www.purefood.org

5. Read about protein from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine at: http://www.pcrm.org/health/Info_on_Veg_Diets/protein.html

6. Many people erroneously believe that Kosher slaughter is somehow better. See the Healing Our World commentary called “Vegetarians Beware ...” on ENS at: http://www.ens.lycos.com/ens/may99/1999L-05-23g.html and learn otherwise.

7. Explore reducing the meat in your diet with the help of EarthSave at: http://www.earthsave.org

8. Learn about healthy eating from Dr. John McDougall at: http://www.drmcdougall.com/index.html

{Jackie Alan Giuliano, Ph.D. is a writer and teacher in Seattle. He has not eaten meat in 22 years and has had no animal products in his diet for 10 years. Please send your thoughts, comments, and visions to him at jackie@healingourworld.com and visit his website at: http://www.healingourworld.com}