Meatless Monday gets nutritionist-dietitians’ nod

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Now, the experts have thrown their hats into the ring. A professional organization of nutritionist-dietitians has expressed its support to the Meatless Monday campaign in the Philippines.

A position paper by the Nutritionist-Dietitians’ Association of the Philippines signed by its president Celeste C. Tanchoco, RND, DrPH on July 26 stated the association’s support to the Meatless Monday Motivational Campaign, citing that “House Bill 6311, should it be passed into law, will aid in the campaign to control greenhouse gas emissions contributing to climate change and environmental degradation, as well as lessen the risks to noncommunicable diseases such as hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes mellitus, cancer and obesity.”

Planning day

The position paper added that Monday would serve as the “planning and anticipation day” and “help in habit formation.” It also cited “the nutrient adequacy of well-planned vegetarian diets,” which it said “can meet current recommendations for all nutrients. As evidence-based review showed that vegetarian diets can be nutritionally adequate for all stages of the lifecycle.”

Inquirer Science and Health was furnished a copy of the paper by Meatless Monday Philippines chair and founder Custer Deocaris, a neuroscientist and Department of Science and Technology Balik Scientist.

Citing a study in the Journal of American Dietetic Association in 2009, the paper said vegetarians also appear to have lower LDL cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure and lower rates of hypertension and type 2 diabetes compared to meat eaters. Furthermore, vegetarians tend to have lower body mass index and lower overall cancer rates.

The features of a vegetarian diet that may reduce chronic disease include lower intake of saturated fat and cholesterol and higher intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, soy products, fiber and phytochemicals.

Support

Before NDAP declared its support to Meatless Monday, Quezon City signed a memorandum of agreement to express support to the group. Pasig City held its soft launch of Meatless Monday, while San Juan, Mandaluyong and Makati expressed interest. Last year, the Sophia School in Bulacan and Tarlac State University signed a MOA with Meatless Monday Philippines. According to Deocaris, the Davao City National High School has also been observing Meatless Monday.

Meatless Monday, a public health and environmental awareness campaign, was jointly launched in Johns Hopkins and Columbia University Schools of Public Health in 2003, and has since grown into a global movement. An internationally recognized local chapter, called Luntiang Lunes, was launched on July 25, 2011 with the objective of encouraging Filipinos to seize control of their health by refraining from eating meat products at least one day a week, and consuming indigenous vegetables with brown rice.

This campaign operates within the context of addressing the national issues on public health, food security and poverty alleviation, animal welfare and the global issue on climate change and environmental degradation.

Cholesterol, heart woes

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, meanwhile, said that eating habits and other lifestyle factors play a large role in the risk of heart disease, and cited several studies that have shown the connection between cholesterol and heart problems. PCRM explained that since our bodies make plenty of cholesterol for our needs, we do not need to add any in our diet. Cholesterol is found in all foods that come from animals: red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, yogurt, and every other meat and dairy product.

According to PCRM, as published in the T. Colin Campbell Foundation website, “choosing lean cuts of meat is not enough; the cholesterol is mainly in the lean portion. Many people are surprised to learn that chicken contains as much cholesterol as beef. Every four-ounce serving of beef or chicken contains 100 milligrams of cholesterol. Also, most shellfish are very high in cholesterol. All animal products should be avoided for this reason. No foods from plants contain cholesterol.”

A study of Pennington JAT, Bowes and Church’s Food Values of Portions Commonly Used, New York: Harper and Row in 1989, showed that every 100 mg of cholesterol in the daily diet adds roughly 5 points to your cholesterol level, although this varies from person to person. In practical terms, 100 mg of cholesterol is contained in four ounces of beef or chicken, half an egg, or three cups of milk. Beef and chicken have the same amount of cholesterol, at 25 mg per ounce.

The Lipid Research Clinics Program, The Lipid Research Clinic’s Coronary Primary Prevention Trial Results, II, Journal of the American Medical Association 1984, pointed out that every time you reduce your cholesterol level by one percent, you reduce your risk of heart disease by two percent.

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