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Do You Have the Guts to be a Vegetarian?

By Steve Kochersperger

You know, our bodies are a lot like cars. They both look and work better when they’re new, they both tend to emit noxious fumes, and they’re both expensive to keep on the road. Another area of commonality is that both require the proper fuel to run their best.

I remember one occasion when my car abruptly sputtered, coughed and died. I thought it surely had reached the end of its lifespan. The mechanic asked a few probing questions, such as, “When did this start?”

“Right after I filled up at Sheetz,” I answered.

“And when you were pumping the fuel, was there an attractive female also fueling her car nearby?” he probed farther.

“Why yes there was, do you think she had something to do with it?” was my perplexed response.

“I tell you in a minute,” he said as he removed the air filter and sniffed the inside of the carburetor. “Yup, get a whiff of that,” he gestured me under the upraised hood.

I sniffed the exposed metal, but lacking the highly trained nose of a me­chanic, I smelled only the petroleum-like odor one would expect from a car.

“I don’t get it,” I told the mechanic.

“That’s diesel fuel you smell, not gasoline.”

“Oh, so you think, somehow that woman put diesel fuel in my car?”

“No! You put diesel in your car, only you were so busy watching her butt, you didn’t notice which pump you were using. I’ve seen it a lot; only men ever do it and there’s always a woman nearby.

I was dumbfounded, but I got off easy. He drained my fuel tank, flushed the fuel line and I was on my way…back to Sheetz for gas.

I learned a couple valuable lessons from that incident. One was to pay atten­tion to which nozzle you stick in your tank, the other was that gas engines don’t run well on diesel. Both lessons hold true for the human body. Of course people won’t run on diesel—kids don’t even like the taste.

My point here is that the human car has a specific fuel that its designed to run on, and that burning the wrong fuel can stop you dead in your tracks. Maybe not as abruptly as diesel fuel, but just as deadly. So what is the optimal fuel for the humanmobile? Is there a little label above the filler hole that says “UNLEADED FUEL ONLY”?

Of course there’s no warning label on our lips, but there are teeth in our mouths, at least in most of our mouths. Those teeth should give us a pretty good clue as to what type of food we should be putting down our throats.

“AHA!,” my carnivorous friends respond, “Those big canine teeth prove that we are naturally designed to eat meat.”

Not so. Unless they are Vampiro-Americans, I’m afraid they’ve been watching too many Dracula movies again. Our canine teeth are vestigial at best, and they pale when compared to those of a true carnivore. True carnivores need to be able to bite through hide, flesh and bone. For this purpose long, pointed teeth are ideal, since they can concentrated bone-crush­ing pressure on a small area. The muscles of a carnivore’s jaw are designed for maximum closing force; they are incapable of side-to-side movement. They tend to “wolf” down their food without thoroughly chewing.

Plant-eating animals generally have flatter teeth which are useful in grind­ing leaves and seeds. Sharp but flat incisors are useful in biting through fruit skins and husks. Herbivores also have a well-developed lateral jaw motion to facilitate the grinding of plant material.

Even the saliva gives us an indication of the preferred fuel. Herbivore’s saliva contains and enzyme called ptyalin that converts starches to sugar. This en­zyme is absent in the carnivore’s spit.

So how does the humanmobile come equipped? Our teeth, jaw motion and saliva are all standard equipment for the plant-eating model. In fact those features are nearly identical with our closest anatomical relatives, the apes. Gorillas and chimps are almost exclusively fruit eaters.

I should also mention how the fuel gets to the mouth is also indicative of which fuel is appropriate. Carnivores generally have sharp claws that are useful in ripping the flesh, especially opening the abdomens, of their prey. Herbivores tend to have hard nails or hooves. I have met some people with painfully sharp finger­nails, but when it came time to carve the turkey they all fell back on knives or cleavers. Primate hands are rather unique in the animal kingdom, and as sharp as the nails may be, they’re not designed to shred flesh.

Even if we didn’t know whether a car was gasoline or diesel powered, a quick look under the hood would make it clear.

No spark plugs? It’s a diesel.

High pressure lines? It’s a diesel.

Carburetor instead of fuel injection? It’s a gas engine.

Just as the guts of the car can reveal its function, your guts can tell us a lot about their function.

Carnivores have a relatively high concentration of hydrochloric acid in the stomach, strong enough to dissolve bone. Plant-eaters have a relatively weak stom­ach acid.

The length and shape of the intestines is also important in differentiating be­tween carnivorous and herbivorous anatomy. Plant material, because of its thick cell wall is more difficult to digest than animal flesh. The intestinal tracts of plant eaters are longer and more convoluted than those of carnivores. This affords the vegetable matter a longer period of time in the digestive tract where beneficial bacte­ria can act upon it, transforming otherwise undigestible materials into food.

The carnivore’s intestines, which are short and smooth, are designed to al­low for rapid passage and elimination of volatile foodstuffs. Unlike the bacteria found in vegetable food, which are fermentative, flesh-borne bacteria are putrefac­tive and emit toxins. It is in the carnivore’s best interest that the rotting flesh be di­gested and excreted before these noxious bacteria can proliferate.

The carnivore’s digestive tract is only three to five times longer that its torso. Herbivore’s are often twelve to sixteen times torso length, and may include several “stomachs”. In humans the small intestine alone may be over twenty feet. Add an­other ten feet for the bowels and rectum, and a couple more feet for the stomach and esophagus and we have well over ten meters of digestive tract. Clearly not designed to handle putrefying flesh.

What kinds of problems can we expect if we run the wrong fuel through our digestive system? The malefic effects of eating meat are dual. For one thing we’ve got the wrong stuff in there–putrefying flesh with its toxic by-products. And we have a lack of the right stuff–plant material. This undigestible plant material, what we call fiber, plays an important role. Fiber can absorb toxins in the bowel and contain them until excreted. Fiber is also important in toning and regulating the movement of the bowels. A lack of fiber will increase the fecal transit time, causing constipa­tion. The result is that the products of putrefaction will remain in the gut even longer than normal.

The effects of a low fiber/high fat diet on intestinal disease is dramatic. Colitis and diverticulitis are common ailments among meat eaters. Cancer of the colon and rectum is another common disease where meat is eaten in any quantity. Constipation is rampant in areas that are on a low-fiber meat diet. While not fatal, it can be painful and distressing.

Compounds found in cruciferous vegetables like cabbage and broccoli, along with antioxidants like vitamins A, C, D and E are known to inhibit the formation of tumors in the intestinal tract. People who eat a lot of meat also tend to eat very little of these beneficial vegetables.

The human gut is an incredibly adaptable system. It has evolved over millions of years by maximizing whatever meager food sources were available to our ancestors. Unlike our automobile, one tankful of the wrong fuel will not usually put you in “the shop”. If, however, we continue, over twenty, thirty or forty years, to place into our bodies foods that it clearly is not designed to burn, then there will be serious, and sadly, fatal consequences.