Writer’s Note: With respect to the Easter holiday, which often conjures up the thoughts of springtime, lush green grasses, eggs, dairy farms and the animals that live on them, I though it appropriate to increase the awareness the importance of organic and balanced environments to support the production of of food products delivered from these, what ought to be, “whole-y places.”
If you were not aware of these details before, they are guaranteed to be an eye-opener.
The excerpt below is from “Anti-Cancer – A New Way of Life”(2009) by David Servan-Schreiber, MD, PhD, a passage from a chapter titled “The Anti-Cancer Environment.”
Let’ s get hopping…
JUNK FOOD FOR COWS AND CHICKENS
In the natural cycle, cows give birth in spring, when the grass is most luxuriant, and produce milk for several months until summer’s end. Spring grass is an especially rich source of omega-3 fatty acids; these fatty acids are therefore concentrated in the milk from cows raised in pastures and in the milk derivatives – butter, cream, yogurt, and cheese. Omega-3s are likely found in beef from grass-fed cattle and in eggs from free range chickens fed with forage (rather than grains).
Starting in the [1950’s], the demand for milk products increased so much that farmers had to look for shortcuts in the natural cycle of milk production and reduce the grazing area needed to feed a 750-kilogram (1,600 pound) cow. Pastures were thus abandoned and replaced by battery farming. Corn, soy, and wheat, which have become the principal diet for cattle, contain practically no omega-3 fatty acids. To the contrary, these food sources are rich in omega-6s. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are called “essential” because the human body cannot make them. As a result, the quantity of omega-3s and omega-6s in our bodies stems directly from the content of the food we eat. In turn, the amounts of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in our food depend on what the cows and chickens we eat have consumed in their feed. If they eat grass, then the meat, milk, and eggs they provide are perfectly balanced in omega-3s and omega-6s (a balance close to 1/1). If they eat corn and soy, the resulting imbalance in our bodies is as much as 1/15, even 1/40.
The omega-3s and omega-6s present in our bodies constantly compete to control our body functions. Omega-6s help stock fats and promote rigidity in cells as well as coagulation and inflammation in response to outside aggression. They stimulate the production of fatty cells from birth onward. Omega-3s are involved in developing the nervous system, making cell membranes more flexible, and reducing inflammation. They also limit the production of adipose cells. Our physiological balance depends very much on the balance between omega-3s and omega-6s in our body, and therefore in our diet. It turns out that it is this dietary balance that has changed the most in the last fifty years.
Note: The imbalance between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in our diets increases inflammation, coagulation, and the growth of adipose and cancer cells.
Cows are not the only farm animals affected by this change. Chicken diets have changed radically as well. Eggs – the embodiment of a natural food – no longer contain the same essential fatty acids they did fifty years ago. Artemis Simopoulos, MD, is a prominent American nutritionist who ran the department of nutrition research at the National Institutes of Health. In an unusual study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, she shows that eggs from chickens raised on corn (a nearly universal practice today) contain twenty times more omega-6s than omega-3s. Eggs taken from the Greek farm she grew up on retain a balance of virtually 1/1.
While their diets have been radically overhauled, farm animals have sometimes been treated with hormones like estradiol and zeranol to fatten them even faster.* These hormones build up in fatty tissues and are excreted in milk. Recently a new hormone has been introduced on cattle farms to stimulate milk production: rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone, also called bovine somatotropin, or BST). It acts on the cow’s mammary glands and can boost milk production significantly. Widely used in the United States, fBGH is still banned in Europe and Canada. Because of trademark agreements however, this hormone is likely to find its way onto dinner plates anywhere in the world through imported ingredients derived from American milk. The effects of rBGH on humans are still unknown. But we do know it promotes IGF production in cows, that this IGF is found in milk, and that it is not destroyed by pasteurization. As we have seen, IGF is a major factor in the stimulation of growth of fatty cells and also accelerates growth in malignant tumors.
* A European law forbids this use in EU countries, but it may be repealed.
Finally, the switch from grass to the corn-soy combination has another inconvenient side effect. One of the very rare components of our diets that is from an animal source and that has possible anticancer benefits is a fatty acid called CLA (conjugated linoleic acid). Among the first to bring to light the role of CLA in fighting the growth of cancer cells was Philippe Bougnoux, MD, and his team at INRA (the National Institute for Agricultural Research in Tours, France). CLA is primarily found in cheese, but only if the cheese comes from grass-fed animals. Thus, by disrupting the diets of cows, goats, and sheep, we have eliminated the only anticancer benefit they may have provided.
Note: rBGH is the hormone injected into dairy cows in the United States to stimulate milk production. It is found in conventional (nonorganic) milk. It may stimulate the production of insulin growth factor and the growth of cancer cells in humans.
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Have a Healthy and Happy Easter!