'Pass the telescope, Horatio...' | Viva! - The Vegan Charity

'Pass the telescope, Horatio...'

'Pass the telescope, Horatio...'

See only that which you wish to see (and doesn't lose you votes) has become a lodestone for our political 'leaders,' says Tony Wardle. Problem is, it's killing us.

My sister has Alzheimer’s disease and is probably on the last furlong of her lonely downhill journey. She also has a heart condition. She first started exhibiting symptoms of AD about nine years ago. At about the same time, and unaware of her developing disease, I was reviewing a newly-published book which rubbished the idea that dementia was a natural part of growing old or a product of increasing longevity. The principal author of Dying for a Hamburger (Piatkus) is Dr Murray Waldman, Toronto’s coroner and head of Canada’s busiest emergency department. He estimated there were 15 million people globally with AD at that time. The figure today is thought to be in excess of 30 million but with only one-in-four sufferers having been diagnosed, which amounts to 120 million cases.

What on Earth lies at the heart of this explosive growth in a devastating disease that was only first diagnosed at the start of the twentieth century and to which there is no historical reference in religious, medical or secular literature? Its physical cause is a build-up of protein fragments called plaques and tangles which kill off nerve cells and synapses in the brain. But how does it start? Is it infectious or is there something else responsible for its development?

Dr Waldman establishes that AD is not evenly spread across the globe and first appeared at different times in different places. The number of people who develop AD is also very different from country to country. In India, for example, the incidence is extremely low and, of course, canny traders have latched on to this. Ten years ago, Waldman said that if you did a Google search by entering curry alzheimers, hundreds of pages would come up offering curry powder as a palliative for AD – and it’s still true. But there’s something else about India that might hold a clue – they eat very little meat and even less beef! And it is this association that Waldman has identified globally.

The growth of AD, he establishes, almost exactly mirrors the growth of modern, industrialised meat production and processing and Waldman believes the culprit might be a prion in meat – an extraordinary, misfolded protein that infects other proteins, whose growth is almost exponential and which is virtually indestructible. The first person to isolate a prion was Prof Stanley Prusiner, and it won him a Nobel Prize in 1997. Prions are, of course, the cause of mad cow disease (BSE) and its human form, Creutzfeltd-Jacob disease (CJD), both of which are also caused by plaques in the brain, albeit a different part of the brain to AD.

Even if Waldman is wrong about prions, he’s certainly right about the relationship between AD and meat consumption, although you’d be forgiven for being ignorant of it. The factors that contribute to AD are listed as smoking, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. The observant will have registered that these are precisely the same factors that produce heart disease, a condition that is almost entirely preventable. The picture is confused with talk of genetic susceptibility, the result of an ageing population and other diversionary claims to a point where we’re almost encouraged to believe that heart disease is unavoidable. Okay, a bit of exercise is good and stopping smoking but…

The World Health Organisation is much less equivocal. It says that although it has looked at many dietary factors, those associated with heart disease (and many other degenerative diseases for that matter) are the “…high consumption of energy-dense foods of animal origin and foods prepared with added fat, sugar and salt.” As an example, it quotes Mauritius and its rapid adoption of a Western diet high in animal products: “In the early 1940s, cardiovascular disease amounted to only two per cent of deaths. By 1980, the figure had jumped to 45 per cent.” It also noted that breast cancer had trebled.

AD and heart disease don’t simply share some of the same characteristics but are essentially one and the same disease

Despite an endless outpouring of scientific research over the years that confirms this, neither the Government nor the charities representing AD sufferers, ever spell it out. Yes, AD and heart disease do share some of the same risk factors, they will say, and chuck in the occasional off-hand reference about the importance of ‘healthy eating,’ ‘balanced diets’ and other meaningless phrases, but nowhere will you see an unequivocal recommendation to avoid eating meat, dairy and other animal products if you wish to avoid AD.

It takes the latest piece of research to do the job for them. Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association last December, it establishes that the correct balance of good (HDL) and bad (LDL) cholesterol levels in the blood is essential – get the balance wrong and harmful protein deposits called beta amyloid plaques can build up in the brain. Study leader, Prof Bruce Reed, said: “Our study shows that unhealthy patterns of cholesterol could be directly causing the higher levels of amyloid known to contribute to Alzheimer’s in the same way that such patterns promote heart disease.”

If this peer-reviewed research is correct, it shows that AD and heart disease don’t simply share some of the same characteristics but are essentially one and the same disease. It also follows that if heart disease is almost entirely preventable then so is AD.

In reporting this study, the Daily Mail laid the blame squarely on “butter, cake and fast food,” and you’ll notice that again there is no direct mention of meat. The implication is that only fat is to blame. So let’s jump to another study, the massive China Study, which established that animal protein was every bit as damaging to health as saturated fat and is one of the main triggers for cancer. And hey presto, on page 16 is confirmation of this – a massive study from 87 countries confirming the link between meat and other animal products and cancer.

Knowledge of the damaging effects of animal products has been building for over half a century, and has largely been ignored by all governments

Knowledge of the damaging effects of animal products has been building for over half a century, and has largely been ignored by all governments. Rather than encouraging a reduction in meat and dairy consumption they’ve done the opposite, insisting they are essential to health, promoting them and subsidising their production. Their answer to heart disease is to put seven million people on statins and have just lowered the threshold so a further seven million will likely pop the pills, effectively masking one disease whilst encouraging others.

They have ignored the link between animal products and cancer, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis and a string of other degenerative diseases; they have paid sheep farmers to deforest and plunder the uplands and then wring their hands when the lowlands flood; they talk about global warming and do nothing to reduce its likelihood, least of all cutting the number of livestock. Farmers are the new Queen Mother – utterly beyond criticism.

Apart from the fact that many of the present Government are landowning farmers and benefit from this largesse, what other reason do they have to abdicate their responsibility almost in its entirety? The policies necessary to reverse these catastrophic influences on society, they believe, will not get them elected. And so self-interest triumphs! When Nelson chose not to see the signals, it cost him his life. The present refusal to see the signals is costing millions of lives.