Eating Outside our Kingdom

Eating Outside our Kingdom
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A higher rate of cancer deaths among those that handle and process meat is attributed to infection with viruses, and chronic exposure to animal proteins.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Although those with the most poultry exposure appear to suffer the greatest excess mortality, surplus cancer deaths are also found in other slaughterhouse workers, and this research goes back decades. Higher cancer rates in butchers, in slaughterhouse workers, meat cutters, and those working in processing plants. The bottom line is that it’s “clear from this large study and others reported in the literature that workers in the meat industry are at increased risk of developing and dying from cancer.”

“The increased risk may be due to [these animal-to-human] viruses, or antigenic stimulation through chronic exposure to animal protein.” And, in fact, cancer-causing virus exposure could help explain why those who eat meat have higher cancer rates. There’s even a retrovirus associated with cancerous fish tumors, which is speculated as a cause for increased cancer rates in American seafood workers.

Growing up on a livestock farm is associated with higher rates of blood-borne cancers—lymphomas, leukemias—but, growing up on a farm raising only crops was not.

Worst was growing up on a poultry farm, consistent with chicken consumption being most tied closely to these same cancers. A quarter of a daily chicken breast is associated with a doubling or tripling of lymphoma risk.

Researchers are finally able to start connecting the dots. High levels of antibodies to avian leucosis, sarcoma viruses, and reticuloendotheliosis viruses recently found in poultry workers, provides evidence of infectious exposure to these cancer-causing poultry viruses. And, some of the highest levels were found not in, like, the eviscerators (the gut-pullers), or those that hang the live birds, but just among the line workers that cut up the final product.

In an attempt to narrow down which diseases were associated with which meat, researchers tried separating out those in the pig slaughtering and pork processing. “One of the primary sources of concern is, in the use of pig organs and tissues as [transplants] in humans (which is widely practiced), is the fear of introducing zoonotic infections.” What they’re concerned about what’s called PERV transmission, the pig-to-human transmission of porcine endogenous retroviruses, raising theoretical concerns about cancer, immunological, and neurological disorders. But, you don’t need to get a pig valve to be exposed. It’s found in the blood of pigs, so people exposed to pig blood may be exposed to the virus.

The main findings unique to the pork study, not found in beef or sheep processing, was the significant excesses of deaths from senile conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease. It reminds me of those poor pork brain-extraction workers. You think your job is bad? How would you like to work at “the head-table?” Well, that doesn’t sound so bad, until you learn it’s where, “in the unbridled use of compressed air in the pursuit of maximum yield of soft tissue[s],” they blow the brains out of severed swine heads.

As the line speeds increased, the “workers reported being unable to place the skulls completely on the brain removal device before triggering the compressed air, causing greater splatter of brain material.” The aerosolized “mist of brain” is blamed for dozens of cases of inflammatory neurological disease in workers who started with symptoms as mild as pain, tingling, and difficulty walking, and ended up as bad as having to be put in a coma for six weeks, because of unrelenting seizures.

At first, they thought it was some brain parasite, but now, it’s known to be an autoimmune attack triggered by the exposure to aerosolized brain. A similar mechanism has been blamed for meat proteins triggering inflammatory arthritis in people eating meat. See, by eating fellow animals, we are exposed not only to fellow animal diseases, but to animal tissues that our body may mistake as our own.

This may be an advantage to eating a more plant-based diet. By eating outside of the animal kingdom—dipping into the plant kingdom or fungi, not only do we not have to worry about getting something like Dutch elm disease; never has an autoimmune polyradiculoneuropathy been blamed on a head—of lettuce.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Farm Sanctuary and USDAgov via flickr

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Although those with the most poultry exposure appear to suffer the greatest excess mortality, surplus cancer deaths are also found in other slaughterhouse workers, and this research goes back decades. Higher cancer rates in butchers, in slaughterhouse workers, meat cutters, and those working in processing plants. The bottom line is that it’s “clear from this large study and others reported in the literature that workers in the meat industry are at increased risk of developing and dying from cancer.”

“The increased risk may be due to [these animal-to-human] viruses, or antigenic stimulation through chronic exposure to animal protein.” And, in fact, cancer-causing virus exposure could help explain why those who eat meat have higher cancer rates. There’s even a retrovirus associated with cancerous fish tumors, which is speculated as a cause for increased cancer rates in American seafood workers.

Growing up on a livestock farm is associated with higher rates of blood-borne cancers—lymphomas, leukemias—but, growing up on a farm raising only crops was not.

Worst was growing up on a poultry farm, consistent with chicken consumption being most tied closely to these same cancers. A quarter of a daily chicken breast is associated with a doubling or tripling of lymphoma risk.

Researchers are finally able to start connecting the dots. High levels of antibodies to avian leucosis, sarcoma viruses, and reticuloendotheliosis viruses recently found in poultry workers, provides evidence of infectious exposure to these cancer-causing poultry viruses. And, some of the highest levels were found not in, like, the eviscerators (the gut-pullers), or those that hang the live birds, but just among the line workers that cut up the final product.

In an attempt to narrow down which diseases were associated with which meat, researchers tried separating out those in the pig slaughtering and pork processing. “One of the primary sources of concern is, in the use of pig organs and tissues as [transplants] in humans (which is widely practiced), is the fear of introducing zoonotic infections.” What they’re concerned about what’s called PERV transmission, the pig-to-human transmission of porcine endogenous retroviruses, raising theoretical concerns about cancer, immunological, and neurological disorders. But, you don’t need to get a pig valve to be exposed. It’s found in the blood of pigs, so people exposed to pig blood may be exposed to the virus.

The main findings unique to the pork study, not found in beef or sheep processing, was the significant excesses of deaths from senile conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease. It reminds me of those poor pork brain-extraction workers. You think your job is bad? How would you like to work at “the head-table?” Well, that doesn’t sound so bad, until you learn it’s where, “in the unbridled use of compressed air in the pursuit of maximum yield of soft tissue[s],” they blow the brains out of severed swine heads.

As the line speeds increased, the “workers reported being unable to place the skulls completely on the brain removal device before triggering the compressed air, causing greater splatter of brain material.” The aerosolized “mist of brain” is blamed for dozens of cases of inflammatory neurological disease in workers who started with symptoms as mild as pain, tingling, and difficulty walking, and ended up as bad as having to be put in a coma for six weeks, because of unrelenting seizures.

At first, they thought it was some brain parasite, but now, it’s known to be an autoimmune attack triggered by the exposure to aerosolized brain. A similar mechanism has been blamed for meat proteins triggering inflammatory arthritis in people eating meat. See, by eating fellow animals, we are exposed not only to fellow animal diseases, but to animal tissues that our body may mistake as our own.

This may be an advantage to eating a more plant-based diet. By eating outside of the animal kingdom—dipping into the plant kingdom or fungi, not only do we not have to worry about getting something like Dutch elm disease; never has an autoimmune polyradiculoneuropathy been blamed on a head—of lettuce.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Farm Sanctuary and USDAgov via flickr

Doctor's Note

For the data on poultry exposure and cancer deaths, see Poultry Exposure Tied to Liver & Pancreatic Cancer.

Though exposure to farm animals growing up might be associated with cancer risk, what about growing up with dogs and cats? See Pets & Human Lymphoma, and Are Cats or Dogs More Protective for Children’s Health? You still probably shouldn’t eat them, though (see Foodborne Rabies).

For more on foodborne illnesses one can contract from fellow animals, see, for example:

Probably the strangest example of this whole concept is the Neu5Gc story; this 7-part video series is definitely worth checking out:

  1. Cancer as an Autoimmune Disease
  2. Clonal Selection Theory of Immunity
  3. Clonal Deletion Theory of Immunity
  4. The Inflammatory Meat Molecule Neu5Gc
  5. How Tumors Use Meat to Grow: Xeno-Autoantibodies
  6. Nonhuman Molecules Lining Our Arteries
  7. Meat May Exceed Daily Allowance of Irony

For further context, check out my associated blog posts: Handling Poultry Tied to Liver/Pancreatic Cancer and How Animal Proteins May Trigger Autoimmune Disease.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

50 responses to “Eating Outside our Kingdom

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  1. Thanks for making today’s video.

    You mention in the video “a quarter of daily chicken breast consumption is associated with a doubling or tripling of lymphoma risk.” In numerical terms, what do doubling and tripling refer to here……for instance, if 2 out of 10,000 get lymphoma even if they do not eat chicken breast, if the 10,000 did eat chicken breast then 4 or even 6 people could be expected to have lymphoma in association with eating 1/4 pound of daily chicken breast?

    I’ve always had a difficult time understanding this sort of stuff in doing the conversions to hard numbers. I hear people say “if you eat that you’ll increase your change by cancer by 44%.” Does that mean that of, say, 100,000 people, and 212 of them, say, are expected to get cancer under normal conditions, if they consistently ate something bad, in this case causing the 44%, that 93 more people would get cancer,(.44 x 212)? Thanks for any help understanding this.




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  2. Very informative… but how do we get enough calories without animal or fish products? 1 famous doctor has also eliminated all oils to prevent heart disease… what to do, please…losing too much weight!




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    1. I’ve been a vegetarian since 1971, and vegan since 2011. Never had ANY problems losing too much weight. Eat more nuts, seeds and coconut. Good luck, it’s worth it to explore this new diet.




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      1. Confused… with high glucose that fruits cause, and fat from seeds and nuts which clog arteries, what amount of carbohydrates are healthy… And safe? Underweight is negative, too… and. no dairy, either… well, this is way too difficult to process…




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        1. fat from nuts and seeds does not clog arteries. Check out some vids about them, they are quite amazing.
          Anyway … live is deadly -> can’t really help that. But you can surely boost quality and quantity of it with the right nutrition :).




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          1. No dairy, no B12, no oils… from 122 to 101… 5’5.5″… hypothyroid… heart and primary care doctors said start eating… but I do, I just need more calories… that are not available as Toxins says below in greens veggies and fruits! And what about calcium, magnesium and potassium… can’t eat beans due to constant gas… potatoes are high glucose… still can’t figure this out… lettuce has no food value and how do we get Omega-3’s if not from fish that I’m now paranoid about because of fish tumors that I have never heard of before… and the high glucose and high blood pressure are scary… didn’t think that vegetarians could even have those… going to the grocery is like walking through a mine field… everyone wants the perfect fuel, but, with so much division in thinking, how can we ever be sure… and happy at the table, an important ingredient in life, at least to me…




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            1. B12 via supplement or fortified foods.

              You don’t need dairy – no other mammal consumes dairy as an adult why should we?

              Calories through fruit. Eat avocadoes, asparagus, brocolli, capsicum (peppers), spinach, sweet potato, pumpkin, carrots the list is almost endless.

              Flaxseed oil is high in Omega 3 as are Chia seeds.

              On the whole vegans have less health problems than meat/egg/dairy eaters.

              Beans may give you gas initially but if you keep eating them you may find you gut bacteria adapt to them and handles them with no gas.

              Eat mushrooms.

              Vegans foods are on the whole cheaper than animal based foods. Buy the local farmers markets not supermarkets.




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              1. Thanks, but, what about high glucose in fruit because of high readings? I love fruit, too!
                Will check out Flaxseed… mushrooms, well, I guess, but eating fungus does not ring my chimes… Yes, we do buy at farmers’ markets here… hope to overcome feeling so limited…




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                1. Don’t focus on what you can’t eat – focus on what you can. The whole vegie aisle!

                  Not sure about your glucose concerns? Very few vegans have diabetes. Drink water not soft drink or bottled juices. Fruit comes with fibre and all the nutrient not just glucose.

                  There are lots of milk alternatives. Not many cheese alternatives unfortunately.

                  I’d much rather eat a fungus that the flesh of a dead animal.




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                2. Hi Mercedes, do you have diabetes, and is that why you wish to avoid fruit? You may find this information from PCRM helpful.

                  http://www.pcrm.org/health/diabetes-resources/frequently-asked-questions-about-diabetes

                  Carbohydrates are fine, however lowering fat in the diet is necessary in order to improve (decrease) insulin resistance. Consuming sugar is not really the problem; consuming sugar and then having that sugar remain in the bloodstream, rather than being taken up by the cells, is the problem.

                  In fact if a type-2 diabetic currently taking insulin switches to a low-fat vegan diet, it is recommended that they do it under doctor supervision, since within only a couple days their current dosage can become too high and they may become hypoglycemic.




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                  1. High glucose readings, I have read, can be worsened with fruit… yes, this is helpful… a platelet lowering med may be causing insulin production problems… so grateful for this info… not in insulin… and hope to never be on it… grateful for this info… :-)




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                    1. Hi Mercedes, when I first went plant based I was overwhelmed with what I should and shouldn’t eat. Its new and confusing for everyone at some point so don’t worry. Some of the experts have good books with recipes – like Dr Fuhrman’s book Super Immunity, or Thrive Foods by Brendan Brazier.

                      In order to keep up the calories, I eat boiled potatoes, rice, whole grain oats, quinoa, millet, root vegetables, berries and other fruit – and I eat lots! These foods are more calorically dense. Lentils are easier on my system than beans, and really nice to cook with. I have enjoyed getting into indian cooking – things like potato and spinach sag aloo with rice is easy and delicious. Or a Tarka Dahl with red lentils and tomatoes. If blood sugar is a problem, avoid sweet fruits and monitor your levels, Many insulin sensitive people do great on fruit – and some do not – but if you eat right insulin sensitivity can resolve itself, so fruit becomes more of an option.

                      Good luck!




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            2. Don’t worry so much about the details of the diet, proper nutrition is easily had. This diet is quite simple to follow. Beans are only gassy because they are prebiotic, but you can expect this to dissipate after a while. Greens have plenty of calcium, potatoes are perfectly healthy foods. Getting enough omega 3 is easy if you include flax or walnutsi n your diet, even without walnuts or flax, you can still get enough omega 3 consuming veggies. Check out these links below to calm your nerves.
              https://www.facebook.com/notes/jeff-novick-ms-rd/potatoes-diabetes-dietary-trends-truths-about-taters/434650191818
              http://nutritionfacts.org/2011/12/05/beans-and-gas-clearing-the-air/
              http://www.drmcdougall.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=7828




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            3. Mercedes: Others have already given some great responses. I thought I would add one more bit of advice that I don’t think has been mentioned yet: the 21 Day Kickstart Program.

              http://www.pcrm.org/kickstartHome/

              This program is free on-line. It holds your hand through the whole process – from grocery lists to recipes to meal plans to inspirational articles and videos and even mini-cooking shows. It is a great resource for people who feel overwhelmed about how to change their diet. By doing the 21 Day Kickstart program, you will get very good feel for what a healthy diet looks like. It should remove all the confusion and angst.

              Best of luck to you.




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    2. Complex carbohydrate sources such as beans, brown rice, potatoes, whole grains, oats, etc. should make up the bulk of your diet. this will ensure proper caloric intake, as consuming purely greens, veggies and fruits is very difficult to maintain as you will be grazing all day. If you are consuming food when your hungry, till your full from whole plant foods, you will stabilize at a healthy weight.




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      1. Reading that some of us do not have proper digestive enzymes to effectively digest beans… what about that? I’ve tried for years and pay dearly every single time that I eat them! I don’t want it to be that way, but the bloating and discomfort are unacceptable… Thanks for your thoughtful concern…




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        1. I personally don’t have any problems digesting beans, but you are certainly not the only one who does! There are many traditional remedies which I personally haven’t tried, but that might help you:

          Traditional Indian medicine uses Asafetida to help with digestion of beans. Kombu (a seaweed) is sometimes used as well. There are also many other herbs (search for “carminative herbs”) that are said to help. These include common herbs you might already use like garlic, ginger, mint, thyme, cumin, coriander, oregano, and many others. Although if you are on any medications (you mentioned a platelet thinning medication), I would check these individually to make sure they would be safe for you.




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        2. Beans are more easily digested if you first soak them overnight in water, then sprout for 12-24 hours, then cook in a crockpot on low until soft.




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  3. One advantage of plants is that they have fiber. It is often explained that meat doesn’t provide beneficial fiber into our diet. Do fungi give us beneficial fiber?




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  4. OMG this is one of the most shudder-producing videos you’ve done. I’m still shuddering at the notion of the head table. I am SO happy I’m a vegetarian of long standing.




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  5. Dr. Greger, what if anything is known about exposure to fish flesh in one’s own home? I’m thinking specifically of “human grade” canned pet food made from fish and the inevitable splash-ups of the wet kind–and our washing their dishes day in and day out and the cans the food came in (for recycling), in terms of something like mercury exposure (and other concerns I don’t presently know about). As people who eat a vegan diet, we’re all too aware of the bad that comes to ocean life and the environment, at large, from purchasing such foods; now I am wondering about human exposure to fish “essence”, even if those humans eat a vegan diet. Thank you for your time.




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  6. Very informative video and no one would have put this out but you! I am a vegan with a big problem and now I’m really concerned about it. I have hypothyroid and I take a Thyroid product that is made from porcine. I can’t go off my thyroid, so should I take a synthetic thyroid, what is that made from??? HELP.




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    1. Ask your doctor for synthroid instead. It’s identical to human thyroid hormone but made in the lab so it’s 100% pure. BTW, my friend cured her hypothyroidism by taking a tablespoon of coconut oil a day. I can’t figure out that one! Could be she was really suffering from an adrenal condition.




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  7. When i first became a vegetarian, I used to worry quite a bit about combining foods to get enough “complete” protein, but all that has fallen by the wayside, and I’m healthier than ever! Without processed foods or animal protein to mess up my system, I get all the protein I need from vegetable sources. Vitamins and fats, too. There’s no going back!




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  8. I am having a bit of trouble as a recently diagnosed celiac regarding what to eat to ensure adequate absorption, particularly while my damaged gut heals over the next 6 to 12 to 16 months, depending. It seems that any argument made regarding ease of absorption of foods may not apply in this case. When people have malabsorptive disorders, whether (hopefully) temporary (though some research shows that few adult celiacs entirely recover from the damage inflicted while undiagnosed) or chronic, what are good recommendations regarding eating as a vegan, regarding absorption of, let’s say, iron, for example, from plant sources while the gut heals? Will the vitamin C added to iron still work for us? Are we just supposed to deal with the fact that we are going to be that much less capable of absorbing things? Doctors elsewhere tell me to eat easily absorbed foods (i.e. animal-based) which bothers me, but plant-based people only seem to have advice for people with perfectly functioning villi. So what do we do? It seems eating meat (or even being exposed to it at all) is out of the question but how to cope with less absorbable nutrients when we already suck at absorbing things? In case it wasn’t obvious, I am so frustrated.




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    1. I found my digestive system was at its best after a 10 day juice fast – and I’ve read that juicing is easy on the digestive system and easily absorbed. Have you looked into juicing? I started in carrot and apple, lemon and ginger – and now do green juices of apple, spinach, kale and wheatgrass. One of the nicest recipes was a green juice that was then blended with half an avocado and ice – the avocado fat would help the absorption. Fermented and predigested foods might also be an option – but I guess high fibre and raw foods may be out for now.




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      1. Fiber is the best antidote for a digestive tract, as being able to easily absorb something does not equate to the healthfulness of the food. Oil is very easily absorbed but it does not improve digestive health and the same can be said for sugar water, which is what juice essentially is in terms of macronutrients.
        http://nutritionfacts.org/video/fruit-juice-fail/

        If you must have it in liquid form, smoothies retain the fiber.




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        1. Of course, fibre is essential for digestive health – but this is a specific case where perhaps digestive rest for a short time may be really good in the case of severe damage to the microvilli.

          Maybe it would -maybe it wouldn’t – but I was merely stating my opinion that juice fasting did wonders for my digestive system – and I stand by that.

          You know, food is also essential – but water fasting is miraculous for short periods in certain situations.

          And to compare juicing to water or oil, based on macro nutrients completely misses the point of juicing, because it is all about the micro nutrients!

          Juicing gives the digestive system a break, whilst at the same time supplying nutrition. Sometimes this can be a useful tool.




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  9. Okay, does this mean that people who work in meat departments of grocery stores are also at risk? My partner, also vegan, works at one: he packages meat, and will at some point be trained to cut it as well. Jobs are hard to come by around here (the other option is seasonal work at a fish processing plant)… He wears gloves, and is very hygienic, but in your opinion is he still going to be at risk working there? We were under the impression that this would be a relatively safe job.




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  10. This is very disturbing – but in truth, we get what we deserve. I am only sorry that the first line of people affected are the marginalized folks who have no choice but to perform these jobs. As we eat misery, so shall we enjoy.




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  11. Hi Dr. Grieger. This is facinating, could you please post the references for the papers you cited here, I would really like to read them, this research provides valuable evidence for my current Post Doc in environmental education and a case for prioritising plant-based education. Sincerely. Dylan




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  12. I have done some terrible jobs in my life, but fortunately blowing the brains out of pigs heads wasn’t among them. Rates right up there with diving in sewage treatment ponds (not making that up – it’s a real job). Fortunately being vegan, and not a commercial diver allows me to avoid both.

    Since we first began to hear about swine flu and various strains of bird flu, I’ve held the opinion that there is a strong connection between non-human animal viruses and human health. Evolutionary theory holds that all change in organisms is the result of mutation in a species – be it a virus or a more complex multi-cellular organism.

    The exchange of genetic information in one form or another is one means by which interspecies transmission is possible of materials needed for mutation to occur. Somewhere in the midst of all this, viruses learn to adapt to and overcome our normal defences and we are presented with a new health threat.

    While the studies you have mentioned do not specifically deal the mutation of viruses, it does point to the potential for damage simply from exposure to materials from other species. In the greater scheme of things, this alone should raise a red flag with regard to what we are doing to ourselves by ingesting things we were never designed to actually to process.




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  13. Brain material is by nature conserved among species and uses compounds to communicate that are polar around an axis. The only thing that can dissolve brain is a likewise polar substance. Breathing brain material is a major cause of brain deterioration and a cause of something resembling zombism. Serotin and Dopamine are bad for the brain if breathed, as are compounds that are non-polar mirrors, like acidic fats found in brain. Maybe pig workers have brain problems because they’re brains are dissolving from compounds that attack the highly sensitive receptors in the brain of these very mirrored polar compounds. Smelling varnish or paint or gas fuel, which is mostly non-polar with some polar additives, can break down the brain. Some people do this to unlock memories when old. Sometimes when memories die in the brain we can see them. What is strange is the memories can be reborn or recreated, perhaps through the mirror pathways of the electro chemical mind. The brain is mostly made of fat, and nothing helps this as much as familiar tastes like berries, beans, nuts, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and dark chocolate. I hope there is a solution for the brain melting in pig workers and those with alzheimers. Perhaps their brains are attacking themselves. Perhaps this could be solved with reality, not despair. Perhaps mad cow disease is a kind of protein or particle that can get in the blood and dissolve the polar mirror surfaces. Perhaps drinking juices or tea can lessen the spread of this killer.




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  14. I am wondering if there have been any studies done on the relationship between a plant-based diet and sarcoma cancer. I have only encountered information about Kaposi’s sarcoma on this website, but Kaposi’s is not a true sarcoma. Is there any research on cancers such as osteosarcoma, fibrosarcoma, or angiosarcoma? My doctor does not believe a plant-based diet can influence this cancer and that I should continue to include animal products as part of my diet, and I have nothing to prove him otherwise. Thank you.




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