Monday, July 21, 2014

Taking the Plant Out of the Plant-Based Diet

I can't tell you how concerned this Washington Post story makes me. First it was Gardein and Beyond Meat engineering plant proteins (by a process of heating and cooling) to resemble animal proteins, then we hear of a project to do this with cheese, and now ta-da, we will have engineered plant-based cow's milk (Muufri, sounds like Moo-free). Yes, this saves animals; that is great. But I am deeply concerned that all of this bioengineering will take away the benefits of a plant-based diet. If you eat these products made out of plants that have been refashioned into analogs of the animal versions, I am willing to bet that you will take away any and all health effects. Will the plant version of casein (milk protein) have the same effect on growing cancer as the real version of casein? I don't know, but if it molecularly resembles the original, there is a strong chance it will have the same results in the body. A plant-based diet once offered hope, but that is starting to change. If a food is bioengineered to be like something else, the question stands whether it will have the same effect in the human body. I am speculating that, yes, it will. To me, these advances are similar to the more rudimentary form of bioengineering in which vegetable oil is hydrogenated. This process was supposed to make a healthier version of butter, but the reality is that it didn't. It created transfats, which are not exactly the same as saturated fats, but they have the same effect in the human body. All of the vegans who buy into these vegan analogs of the real deal will become human experiments, and we will find out after years and years of nutritional studies what happens in the human body as a result of this. What we are doing amounts to taking the plant out of the plant-based diet. Part of what concerns me if you look at the ingredients of a product like Gardein, they look great, but the label does not tell you the science behind how it is made. This takes processing foods to the next, heart-clogging, cancer-growing level. My hope is that scientists researching the health effects of a plant-based diet will quickly start studying this issue. In the future, we may have to differentiate between different kinds of plant-based diets.

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