William Harris, The Scientific Basis of Vegetarianism

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William Harris, M.D., an E.R. physician, hang glider, sailplane pilot, parachute jumper, and former Big Ten Trampoline Champion, says his toughest challenges come from battling the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other dominant forces working against America’s good health. In 1998, he wrote The Scientific Basis of Vegetarianism and sent it to every member of the U.S. Congress to “educate them about the adverse effect of animal agriculture subsidies.”

TRANSCRIPTION:

CARYN HARTGLASS: Hello! This is Caryn Hartglass and you’re listening to It’s All About Food. I’m your host, and it’s all we talk about is food and how food is so strongly related to our personal health, the health of the planet, and all life on Earth. What we try and do here is really inspire people to get to a better place – to do things that we deserve to do for ourselves, which is treat ourselves in the best way that we possibly can by feeding ourselves healthy, nutritious food that’s going to make us feel good, improve the quality of our life, increase our longevity, and make life really wonderful and joyful. And at the same time, we have a gentle footprint on the planet instead of a big, giant stomp by consuming foods that take a devastating toll on the environment. Factory farming agriculture uses so much energy and is so polluting and is so destructive to the environment, and when we eat the products from that industry (I don’t even like to call them food), but the meat and the fish and the dairy and the eggs, we put them inside ourselves and the result is chronic diseases, and as you can see there’s just epic proportions of all kinds of heart disease and diabetes and obesity and cancer, etc etc etc.

Okay, so today we’re going to talk about primarily the health aspect. Today I’ve got a wonderful guest, William Harris. He’s a vegan for over 45 years; he’s the founding and current director of the Vegetarian Society of Hawaii; prior to his retirement he was an emergency physician and the director of the Kaiser Permanente Vegetarian Lifestyle Clinic; He received his medical degree from the University of California San Francisco and is the author of “The Scientific Basis of Vegetarianism.” He swims and does other aerobic exercise daily and continues to maintain his trampoline skills; he’s been a pilot for many years and a current skydiver with more than 1,100 jumps. That’s really inspiring. And please welcome Doctor William Harris. Hello!

BILL HARRIS: Yes, I’m here!

CARYN HARTGLASS: I can’t get over technology because here I am in New York, a rainy, cloudy, sunless day, and you’re out there in Hawai’i!

BILL HARRIS: Well there’s hardly a cloud in the sky.

CARYN HARTGLASS: What are we doing here in New York?

BILL HARRIS: Actually, you could send me some rain. We’re having a dry spell out here and I miss the thunderstorms that I used to get living in the Middle West. That’s the only thing about the Middle West that I do miss, but I sure like to hear some rain on the roof once in a while.

CARYN HARTGLASS: There’s actually something kind of romantic about thunderstorms and rain sometimes.

BILL HARRIS: Yeah, there is. That climate is great, just as long as you don’t stick around in the winter so you don’t have to shovel snow off of sidewalks. Then it gets less enchanting.

CARYN HARTGLASS: Yeah. So I’m just so inspired by the little biography that I read about you – you’ve been a vegan for more than 45 years! How did that get started? What made you decide to become a vegan? That’s a long time ago when it wasn’t really trendy.

BILL HARRIS: Well it certainly wasn’t. Actually I went vegetarian in 1950 while I was at the State University of Iowa. Then it took me about fourteen years to finally figure out that you can’t get milk out of a cow unless you keep it pregnant, and then I started learning about all the animal abuse problems that are involved in both dairy and egg production, so I went vegan. It was just after I finished my internship at San Diego County Hospital. At that time, the word “vegan” implied that you came in from a solar system about forty light years from here.

CARYN HARTGLASS: Right – the planet Vega!

BILL HARRIS: The planet Vega, right! But I was there–I don’t know if you know that the founders of the American Vegan Society were Jay and Freya Dinshah, and they were living in San Diego at the same time I was, so I hooked up with them and I was right there when they started the American Vegan Society.

CARYN HARTGLASS: I didn’t realize that. You were really ahead of your time. And what’s really impressive is that you made that connection with the dairy cows, which is something a lot of us really miss. Some of us get it that animals are slaughtered; some of us get it that the treatment of factory farms of meat animals is really horrifically cruel. But it’s really hard for people to make that connection with the dairy cows.

BILL HARRIS: I’m kind of embarrassed, though… I didn’t figure it out until I’d gotten all the way through medical school and through my internship. Here I’d been studying physiology all of those years, and it just didn’t catch on to me that there was a [6:37] problem involved, too.

CARYN HARTGLASS: Well I wouldn’t be embarrassed. I think you were ahead of your time and, even for your age, I think you were doing pretty good. What I don’t understand is there’s got to be something, some kind of survival mechanisms or something, that gives us this ability not to see things or really have this denial factor about what’s really going on.

BILL HARRIS: I think it’s called addiction.

CARYN HARTGLASS: Addiction, mhmm.

BILL HARRIS: There isn’t any reason to use animals as food. There was never a time in human evolution in which the consumption of animal food was absolutely essential because all of the essential nutrients that are required of the human diet are synthesized only by plants and microorganisms. A lot of people don’t realize that. Generally, if you let somebody know that you’re vegan, they’ll say, “Well where do you get your protein?” right?

CARYN HARTGLASS: How many times have you heard that in 45 years?

BILL HARRIS: Well, I tell you, the correct answer to that question is another question: you ask them “What is protein?” And I guarantee you that 90% of them won’t know what protein is. Protein is, in fact, a copolymer of amino acids that are strung together by the carboxyl group on one amino linking to the amine group on another. And all of the essential amino acids, which are the ones that you cannot make, are synthesized only by plants and other microorganisms. Now, if we were cats, I wouldn’t be able to say that because cats require arachidonic acid, carnitine, taurine, and retinol, which are all essential metabolites for us. We have to have those things in our body; we don’t have to have them in our diet because we can put them together ourselves. But cats are obligate carnivores – they have to have meat, and so if you decide to turn your kitty-cat into a vegan, you’ll have to buy some specially made cat chow in order to keep him healthy.

CARYN HARTGLASS: You bring up some interesting points because number one: it’s obvious from your bio that you’re very physically active and you’ve done lots of different sports (skydiving and trampoline skills) and a lot of athletes seem to think that they need animal protein, and—

BILL HARRIS: Yeah, I know… unfortunately that’s true. Well the fact of the matter is that vegans do pretty well in endurance sports but if you want to turn yourself into a minor planet, you’re going to have to do an awful lot of weight-lifting and you’ll probably have to find an additional source of protein. And if you really want to become Mr. Beef Cake, you’re going to probably wind up taking steroids because that’s the shortest track to really piling muscle. But then of course, I don’t see too many vegans playing on national football team sports. So we don’t do all that great, and it takes a lot of physical mass and the ability to move people around on a football field. And I think that’s mostly due to the fact that there’s so much fiber in a vegan diet that it probably interferes a little bit with protein absorption. However, you don’t need all that much protein, unless you’re planning to become a nightclub bouncer or a professional wrestler.

CARYN HARTGLASS: I don’t know why anyone would want to look that muscle-y anyway. But there’s a small group that do.

BILL HARRIS: Your last program, I was listening to and they were talking about the environment. And I suppose that’s one really good reason to be a vegan. I’m looking at a graph right now that I made that shows the conversion efficiency from plant to animal food. And if you’re raising eggs, you’ll lose about 85% of the calories that you put into the chicken and you’ll lose about 75% of the protein. And if you go down to milk, chicken, pork and beef, the losses get even greater. And finally, when you get down to lamb, you’re losing over 95% of both of the calories in the protein. And that is why animal agriculture is so enormously inefficient. And why it takes so much lamb, and so much in the way of natural resources, to eat an animal-based diet. You’re losing huge amounts of calories in protein, and you make up for it by charging more for the product. However, there are people who don’t charge more because they’re getting bailed out by the United States Department of Agriculture and its Commodities Credit Corporation, which goes to elaborate lengths to keep the meat and dairy lobby from going belly-up. They wouldn’t be able to make it on the free market.

CARYN HARTGLASS: Well it’s interesting how you broke that down with how inefficient producing different types of meat are, and as you probably know, more and more people are saying that they’re not eating as much red meat or they’re not eating red meat, but they’re eating a lot of chicken and fish. And people seem to have gotten some message out there that chicken is the healthy meat.

BILL HARRIS: I know. Chicken and fish, chicken and fish, chicken and fish.

CARYN HARTGLASS: Sometimes I call them the “Scaly vegetable” and the “Feathered Vegetable.”

BILL HARRIS: Haha, yep! Some people think chickens grow on trees…

CARYN HARTGLASS: Yeah.

BILL HARRIS: Well, what can I say – it’s totally unnecessary and it’s not healthy food. You can get all the protein you need from plant foods. Actually, if you sort through the protein-to-calorie ratio (rather than on a protein-to-weight ratio), it turns out that things like kale and spinach have more protein than chicken and fish… maybe not fish; it might actually have more. But the proper way to sort foods is not by nutrient-weight ratio because there’s no recommended dietary allowance for weight in a diet. You don’t have to eat x number of pound to be healthy; what you do have to eat is enough nutrients—

CARYN HARTGLASS:—and enough calories.

BILL HARRIS: Yeah, you do have to get enough calories, you do have to get enough calories. And each calorie should be matched by enough of all of the essential nutrients so that the calories will be able to be properly metabolized in your body.

CARYN HARTGLASS: So let’s talk about some of the specific nutrients that are getting a lot of press these days. And before we do… I have mixed feelings about focusing on individual nutrients because I believe the body is really complex, and there’s so much that we don’t understand. So many different nutrients work with others together to give us total health, and so when we focus on one thing in this reductionist fashion it almost is dangerous. But, let’s talk about a couple that have been getting a lot of attention. Omega-3 fatty acids

BILL HARRIS: Okay. Well first of all, I have a couple bits of very impractical but ideal bits of advice. The first bit of advice is that “If man made it, don’t eat it.”

CARYN HARTGLASS: I say that all the time! Jack LaLanne.

BILL HARRIS: I guess he did say that, didn’t he?

CARYN HARTGLASS: I love that – it’s my favorite expression.

BILL HARRIS: Is Jack still around?

CARYN HARTGLASS: Yes, he is.

BILL HARRIS: He’s still selling juicers, right?

CARYN HARTGLASS: Yes, he is.

BILL HARRIS: He’s an amazing guy. Yeah, so that’s one. And the other recommendation is: “If it has no fiber, don’t eat it.” Because if it has no fiber it’s either animal food, which has no fiber because fiber is basically cellulose, and animals lack the enzymes necessary to metabolize cellulose. Cellulose is just a long-chain polymer of glucose, but you can’t break it down. We don’t have the enzymes to do it. So it’s either animal food, which is going to be full of saturated fat and cholesterol (stuff you don’t want); or it’ll be highly processed plant food like refined sugar or vegetable oil. And I think that’s the question you’re about to bring up, if I’m not mistaken.

CARYN HARTGLASS: Okay, so we’ve been talking a lot about people needing omega-3 fatty acid, and there’s talk about omega-6 fatty acids and where we should be getting them, and that leads to the recommendation that people need to eat more salmon. And the question is: Is there a deficiency with omega-3 fats, and what do we do about it?

BILL HARRIS: It’s alleged that vegans have difficulty getting enough of the longer chain omega-3s. Now there’s really only one essential omega-3 fatty acid, and that is alpha-linolenic acid, which I will refer to as ALA for the purposes of brevity. The first of the omega-6 fatty acids is linolenic acid, which I will call LA. Those are the only two essential fatty acids in the diet – there’s LA and there’s ALA. The question is whether vegans are not getting enough ALA. And that’s an important question because ALA is then elongated to EPA, which is eicosapentaenoic acid, and that is a famous ingredient in fish that is thought to ward off heart attacks because it thins out the blood and prevents coronary artery disease. Unfortunately, at the same time it’s preventing heart disease it’s increasing the risk of stroke, so it may not be such a great idea to get too much of that stuff. Well eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) then metabolizes to DHA, which is docosahexaenoic acid—that’s a 22-carbon omega-3 fatty acid with six double primes. And that’s probably the most important one, if indeed we do have problems getting enough DHA. The question is: How come? Why do we? Humans became the dominant species on this planet because of their superior intellectual ability and their ability to figure out the environment and what to do with other animals, and so forth. And DHA is an essential player in the nervous system and the retina, so it’s very important to get enough of this. Obviously, we were getting enough because we did become the dominant species. So, what happened between prehistoric times, when we were getting enough ALA—excuse me, I’m going to have to drink a little water here…

CARYN HARTGLASS: I know, you have a drought over there, so there’s a big water shortage!

BILL HARRIS: Yeah. There’s water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink. I actually am looking out of my window right now at an ocean I’m going to go swim in when I get off the show, here.

CARYN HARTGLASS: Very nice.

BILL HARRIS: It’s a beautiful day! Nice, sunny, tropical weather, which, as I said, we get plenty of. Okay, so the question is, how come we’re sure on DHA? Well, our ancestors weren’t, and there’s no evidence they were using huge amounts of fish, which are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids and that would be one explanation. But it doesn’t seem to me that there’s much evidence that fish eating was a major adaptation. People who lived near large bodies of water were probably eating fish… Incidentally, the fish don’t make the omega-3. The bottom rung in the food chain is algae, and algae synthesize all three of the important omega-3 fatty acids, so obviously fish will have a lot of it. But that’s probably not what we’re getting at. The best terrestrial source of alpha-linolenic acid, which is the first of the omega-3s, from which you can make the other two, is nuts and seeds, you can make a lot; leafy green vegetables – they’re also very good. But something happened, between a long time ago and now, so that people have to worry about their intake of the omega-3s. And, in my opinion, what happened was the food industry. The food industry, around 1907, started making huge amounts of vegetable oil, and vegetable oil is a disaster! It’s the equivalent to the disasters that are inherent in white sugar. It’s highly refined, it’s 100% fat, it’s the wrong kind of fat (it’s mostly LA). The ratios of LA to ALA in some of the common vegetable oils are as follows: Safflower oil: 746 times as much LA as ALA. And, let’s see, it looks like cottonseed oil is 181; Corn oil: 46; Olive oil: 12…

CARYN HARTGLASS: And we’re supposed to be around 4 times as much, or something like that?

BILL HARRIS: In my opinion, you ought to try to get down to 1:1, because 1:1 is the ratio in the human brain. You have the same amount of ALA as LA, and that’s probably how we got to be so smart. We have enough ALA to perform all of the neurological functions that go on in the brain. But now, we get down to olive oil, that’s 12; and finally, we get down to 2 with canola oil, and then with flax oil, .23, so four times as much ALA as LA, and that’s good. But the problem, once again, with flax oil is it’s all fat—100% fat, so I don’t really recommend that. (However, ground-up flax seeds are great). But the big problem, and the one that I need to emphasize here, is that since we’re smothered in all these vegetable oils, we’re unable to synthesize enough of the longer chain omega-3 fatty acids because LA and ALA compete for the same enzyme, which is called ∆6-desaturase, which enables the LA to turn into arachidonic acid (AA) and the ALA to turn into docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Now, the problem with that is that the LA is going to go directly to arachidonic acid. Arachidonic acid is the source of the arachidonic cascade, which is the process by which almost all of the inflammatory eicosanoids are synthesized; whereas ALA produces most of the anti-inflammatory eicosanoids. So here’s the deal—when LA is getting shut right out of the market by the enormous amount of LA, they’re both trying to use the same ∆6-desaturase, and they’re not able to do it. Let’s say the ALA is not going to be able to do it because the LA is taking all of the ∆6.

CARYN HARTGLASS: Wow, this is all really fascinating information. So the bottom line is: Oils really aren’t good, number one, because you told us before they don’t have fiber and we should only be eating food that has fiber. And number two, there’s this crazy imbalance with too much of what we don’t want, too much of what you call the LA, and not enough of the good stuff, ALA… Well, they’re both good but all in the right ration, and getting too much of one really knocks us out of balance and leads us to all kinds of inflammation that could lead to heart disease and cancer and all of those bad things.

BILL HARRIS: That’s very good – you got it! I think you’re listening! It’s really complicated stuff. It’s not easy to figure that out. Do you think your listeners got it?

CARYN HARTGLASS: I don’t know, but we’ll repeat it a few times because I want them to get it – it’s really important. We’re going to take a very short break and we’ll be back in a minute. What I want to tell the listeners is that this is a live call in show and you can call 1-888-473-4643, or during the break you can send me an email: info@realmeals.org, and we’ll answer them when we come back.

Caryn Hartglass: Okay we’re back and I’m Caryn Hartglass and you’re listening to It’s All About Food. And I’m here with a wonderful guest, Dr. William Harris. And, you know I wish all of our doctors today were half as good as you. Or at least had half of the knowledge you have, we’d be in a lot better place.

Dr. William Harris: Thank you. Are you able to…we’re separated by what, six thousand miles? So—

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah.

Dr. William Harris: The question is, are you getting the reception okay?

Caryn Hartglass: I am, yeah.

Dr. William Harris: Can you hear me?

Caryn Hartglass: We’re hearing you loud and clear.

Dr. William Harris: Okay all right so I don’t sound like Daffy Duck on national radio.

Caryn Hartglass: No *quacks like a duck* no *laughs*

Dr. William Harris: Good.

Caryn Hartglass: You sound pretty good, everybody can hear you.

Dr. William Harris: I should point out that all of the ratios in those fatty acids that I hit you with in the last segment, I got from the United States Department of Agriculture SR22 that’s their latest nutritional database and you can download that from my website which is www.vegsource.com/harris/foodcomposition. That’s about a 16 megabyte download and it’s the USDA data turned into a flat Excel spreadsheet. For some reason the USDA puts out their data for free but it’s in a relational database and you have to use Microsoft access to get at it and you know, it’s like they thought that nutrition was rocket science that you need to have a relational database. A flat spreadsheet works just fine and so that’s where the information came from.

Caryn Hartglass: Great. That’s really great. So, we were talking about fats and the problem of fats that came from earlier in history where industry started using a lot of vegetable oils in a lot of our foods, a lot of the packaged foods, fast foods, restaurant foods. And I like to simplify the information, it’s certainly great to understand the science but the bottom line is oils are not healthy. And I mean even olive oil which has been getting a lot of press as the healthy oil—might be better than some of the others but it’s still heavy in the omega 6 fatty acid LA. It’s not a good ratio of one to the other, three to six, and we really should limit our consumption of oil. Now the good—

Dr. William Harris: Yeah

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah and then the good fats, which I think is a lot of fun because they’re delicious, are raw nuts and seeds and avocado.

Dr. William Harris: Yup, yup.

Caryn Hartglass: And so I have a small amount of raw nuts and seeds in my—on my cereal or salads or for a snack. I love avocado and that’s where I get my fat.

Dr. William Harris: That’s where it ought to come from.

Caryn Hartglass: *laughter* Whole foods! And they have all kinds of other goodies: fiber and all kinds of other nutrients too, and I’m into cramming nutrients, personally.

Dr. William Harris: Yeah, raw nuts are a really good source of a protein as a matter of fact too so that’s another good reason to use them and they have enough fiber to slow down the absorption of the fat so as far as I know, nobody gets fat from eating raw nuts, raw nuts and seeds. Now, the ball game changes if you start roasting them in oil and then adding salt and then they become a nutritional disaster. So you don’t fool around with them.

Caryn Hartglass: Oh, gosh. And you know they don’t taste as good, they taste stale and old.

Dr. William Harris: Yeah, that’s true.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, I think they are stale.

Dr. William Harris: The food industry has three gimmicks to get people to keep buying their product. First thing you have to understand about the food industry is that it is profit-driven and outfits like…supposing you had an ethical CEO for one of the big fast food chains and he takes a look at what he’s serving and he realizes, hey this is a disaster, this is going to kill people. But if the company is doing well and he takes any of the three addictive substances that are making it do so well—mainly fat, sugar, and salt—takes any of it out of the food that they’ve been selling, the profits will go down and the next quarter after the next board meeting he will be out on the street looking for a new job. And that is the crux of the matter with the food industry and that’s the main reason why you should not…if man made it, don’t eat it, because they’re not interested in your health, they’re interested in making a profit. And it’s just unavoidable, there’s nothing you can do about it except to avoid processed foods because they will all have those three ingredients at the minimum, not to mention all the chemicals and the stuff that makes it look more like a formula that came out of an organic chemistry lab than food. So you stay away from the processed food as much as you can.

Caryn Hartglass: Right. Have you heard about the KFC’s pink bucket breast cancer campaign?

Dr. William Harris: Oh yes. That, yeah, John Robbins did a nice piece on that. KFC is sponsoring activities by the Komen Foundation and it seems to me that it is the ultimate hypocrisy, because if there is a nutritional cause of breast cancer, it certainly has something to do with the junk food that people are eating.

Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely.

Dr. William Harris: So anyway, the Komen’s getting money from KFC and KFC is getting the prestige of being associated with an outfit that is allegedly fighting breast cancer. I think it reflects very poorly on both of them but it’s entirely consistent with what goes on in American commerce.

Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely. Well there are a lot of organizations that are trying to fight diseases and when they have their fundraisers, their big gala fundraisers with a dinner they usually serve up some really unhealthy food.

Dr. William Harris: Yeah, right, I think the American Cancer Society had one of their big blowouts funded by the cattle association. That was many years ago, so, you know, what are you going to say.

Caryn Hartglass: Okay. So now I want to talk about Vitamin D, which is getting lots and lots of press lately as—they’re linked to lots of our major diseases today. Are people deficient in Vitamin D? Is this a problem?

Dr. William Harris: Say again?

Caryn Hartglass: Vitamin D.

Dr. William Harris: Well yeah, they’re…first of all, we ought to throw out the whole term “vitamin”. It’s a neologism, it sounds like something that came from Madison Avenue. It was coined by a Polish-American biochemist around 1904, his name was Casimir Funk. And it’s just not science to use a term like that. We should be talking about essential nutrients and distinguishing them from essential metabolites. Nutrients are the ones you have to have in your diet, the metabolites are the ones that you have in your body that you make from the nutrients. Well, there’s a particular problem with the term “Vitamin D” because it’s not really a vitamin. It is a hormone. And under normal circumstances and under the circumstances in which our ancestors evolved, it was not a vitamin, we got enough of it by being out in the sun. And we can still get enough of it by being out in the sun. The reaction that produces “Vitamin D” is your body takes molecules of cholesterol, which is something that your body makes itself, you don’t have to have any cholesterol in your diet because your body makes about 500 milligrams a day and that’s enough. But anyway you take a molecule of cholesterol and you knock a hydrogen atom off the number 7 position and the B ring and that makes the B ring quantum mechanically unstable so when you move it up to the surface of your skin and that molecule gets hit by a photon of light at I think about 490 nanometers, it opens up the B ring and turns it into the so-called Vitamin D. Now, so what? Does it matter? Does it matter whether we get our Vitamin D from the sunlight or from food? And it may because there is a condition known as ectopic calcification, which I see an awful lot of out here in Hawaii and it is—don’t know what causes it. One of the particularly bad manifestations of ectopic calcification is called Mönckeberg’s medial calcinosis in which calcium is deposited in the arteries. It shouldn’t be there. It’s not the calcium that really does you any damage but then the middle layer of the arterial wall, so it doesn’t actually cause any pathology but nevertheless, it shouldn’t be there and we don’t know what puts it there, except that we do know this, and that is that if you overdose rats on the so-called Vitamin D, they will get Mönckeberg’s medial calcinosis.

Caryn Hartglass: Now this is from some supplementing Vitamin D, and not too much from the sun?

Dr. William Harris: Yeah, the rats are fed the so-called Vitamin D, they’re not exposed to the sun, and they get Mönckeberg’s medial calcinosis. Now it seems to me very rash to be hyping Vitamin D to everybody when in fact it’s not a vitamin, but a hormone. You usually have to have a physician’s prescription to get a hormone and an excess amount, it will cause calcinosis. So I’m not in favor of loading everybody up with Vitamin D. I should point out, first of all, that the major reason for wanting to get enough of the so-called D, is that it prevents rickets. Rickets is a bone disease that’s seen in kids, and there was a very excellent article by William F. Loomis in a 1970 issue of the Scientific American that explained the series of historical errors that led to the error of calling this stuff a vitamin. Loomis concluded that it’s actually the first of the air pollution diseases. The illustration that he used came from the area in Manchester, England or around Manchester, England and it was during the 19th century during the Industrial Revolution when all of the industrial centers of England were covered by a thick pall of industrial smoke and when they got the kids with the rickets away from the cities and put them out in the sunlight, they got over their rickets. Their rickets did not progress any farther. So it’s really, it’s basically an air pollution disease. Now, how come we’re suddenly seeing an upsurge of Vitamin D, or an upsurge of Vitamin D deficiency in our present time? And the first thing I should say is that if you have any suspicion that you might be Vitamin D deficient, go to your doctor and ask for Vitamin D tests. Don’t start taking the stuff until you know that you need it. If you’re still up in the normal range, there’s not much point in taking Vitamin D because well, actually there’s a recent study that came out showing that black males who are given Vitamin D supplements actually turn out to have more calcium deposits in their arteries than the ones who don’t take the D.

Caryn Hartglass: Right, I had heard that recently. And so, once again the bottom line is nature knows best and we really should be getting a little bit of sun every day. And not at the peak time when the sun is out, but in the morning or late afternoon exposing our arms, legs, and being out there for 10-20 minutes. And we can make tons of Vitamin D and the more we make with the sun doesn’t matter, it’s only the supplementation that might be a problem.

Dr. William Harris: Yeah, that’s a good summary of my opinion. I surveyed the Hawaii Medical Journal back to the inaugural issue in 1856 and there has never been a case of rickets recorded in Hawaii. And, you know, guess why?

Caryn Hartglass: Right, there’s sun. So Dr. Harris, we have a caller and I want to welcome that caller on and find out what their question is. Hello?

Caller: Hi.

Caryn Hartglass: Hi, who am I speaking with?

Caller: This is William.

Caryn Hartglass: William, hi. Another William.

Caller: I came into the program a little late, I didn’t catch the name of the…is he a doctor?

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, Dr. William Harris.

Caller: Harris, okay. He talked about breast cancer and so I kind of, I read a lot of information on it and I guess he’s still learning or is…

Caryn Hartglass: Do you have a question?

Caller: Yeah, I wondered if he, well originally I was going to ask him if he knew the cause of cancer.

Caryn Hartglass: That’s a big question. But, do you want to comment on that, Dr. Harris? What causes cancer?

Dr. William Harris: Say again?

Caryn Hartglass: What causes cancer?

Dr. William Harris: Well I have an article on it at my website, let’s see. Basically cancer is a genetic disease that’s caused by a disturbance in the DNA and before you’re really at risk for cancer, you need to have approximately seven dings in your DNA and then it takes off. I don’t think anybody has a blanket explanation for what causes cancer, but among the seven dings that you can pick up from your DNA, a number of them can be brought on by your diet. Now I checked out, or at least tried to, make a—find out what I could find out about breast cancer, and let’s see, I’m looking at my…

Caryn Hartglass: Okay while you’re looking, I want to remind the listeners that you can go to Dr. Harris’ website, which is at www.vegsource.com/harris. Lots of really good information up there.

Dr. William Harris: Okay, well I did ecological studies on breast cancer and I found that the highest correlation with breast cancer was with animal calorie consumption. The more animal calories you’ve got, the higher the rate of breast cancer from country to country. And the major—doing a partial, I should say doing a reduction specific, I found that animal first calories were the, had the highest R value, the next highest was animal fats and third was total fat, fourth was animal protein, fifth was meat per capita per year. Animal source calcium, that would be milk, was about…was the next highest, it was 0.64, and so on down the line. And so my suspicion is that dairy is a tumor promoter and the reason why it would be involved here is that dairy has got a lot of insulin-like growth factor, ISGF. It’s in the dairy milk because the purpose of dairy milk is to feed baby cows and they need to grow fast. They have to double their weight within six months, so obviously they’ll have a lot of ISGF. Well ISGF not only stimulates the growth of the animal, but it stimulates tumors as well.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, that’s quite a bit of information on that insulin-like growth factor. And of course you’re familiar with Dr. Colin Campbell from The China Study, and he talks about how he was able to turn cancer on and off with casein which came from dairy.

Dr. William Harris: Right, right, casein is Colin Campbell’s number one risk factor. To put casein in its proper context: it’s good for one thing, it’s really good to make glue. Do you remember Elmer’s glue?

Caryn Hartglass: Right.

Dr. William Harris: Yeah well I—the first sail plane I had a parting interest in was held together by casein glue and I kept waiting for the thing to fall apart but it held together because casein is just the perfect stuff to put your wooden substances together with. Whether it’s a glider or furniture, casein glue works great. But I’m not sure that it belongs in the human diet.

Caller: Could I say one more thing?

Caryn Hartglass: Sure, William. What would you like to say?

Caller: Have either one of you heard of that website called Know the Cause?

Caryn Hartglass: Know the Cause…no, I’m not familiar with it.

Caller: It’s just knowthecause.com and the guy deals with a lot of cancers, not to mention diabetes and other things. Pretty much wanted to pass that on unless…just assuming your educations are, you know, continuing.

Caryn Hartglass: Okay, great. Is that—that’s K-N-O-W, I imagine? Know the Cause, right.

Caller: Right.

Caryn Hartglass: Okay great, we’ll definitely check that out.

Caller: They’ve been dealing with this for 40 years.

Caryn Hartglass: Okay, thank you.

Dr. William Harris: Is this Doug Kaufmann?

Caller: Yes, it is.

Dr. William Harris: Okay, I’ve got…I’m looking at his…I’m bringing up his website here. And let’s see, he says cruciferous vegetables and other vegetables and fruits fight lung cancer. I certainly agree with that.

Caryn Hartglass: Looks like he does promote some cheese, though. Huh.

Dr. William Harris: Yeah, right. I don’t think that there’s any win in that. But the probiotics, if you can get non-cheese probiotics, that’s probably good

Caller: It’s kind of funny, it all depends on which expert you talk to, whether it’s Kaufmann, yourself, Gary Null. Some say meat’s okay. Not just any meat but you know, you have to read the details. Gary doesn’t eat any. But the bottom line is, anybody that can have—whatever the protocol is, if it gets results and it turns the person’s health around, there’s something about it. And I think there’s a common denominator between experts and that’s what I look for.

Dr. William Harris: What do you think the common denominator is?

Caller: Well, there really isn’t, I don’t think, one reason for cancer, but I think Doug Kaufmann has got a major piece of the puzzle. And his major research is under fungus, molds, and yeast, and the funny thing about it…even though he’s been studying this for 40 years, he didn’t even begin it, because he’s got books on the subject that go back to the 1940s. That’s what blows your mind. People have beaten cancer as far back as then.

Caryn Hartglass: Oh yeah, there’s been a lot of information back to the 1800s on cancer. We’ve had a lot of information and unfortunately there’s a lot of—

Caller: Well I don’t mean just cancer but I mean actually reverse it and beat it, have they—did they do that in the 1800s too?

Caryn Hartglass: Oh yeah yeah, there’s a lot of information and unfortunately most of it doesn’t get promoted unless you can profit from it. But I think the bottom line, I think the consensus between everyone is that we need a high percentage of plant—high fiber plant foods. We need to get all that nutrition from plants and the question of whether animal food is okay or not…there’s not enough evidence about it because we haven’t studied it enough, but it’s—

Caller: Well, according to Doug Kaufmann anyway, he does eat beef, but he eats only grass-fed beef. So in other words it doesn’t have all the hormones and stuff.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, so there isn’t concrete evidence about a small amount of animal food in a diet. There is some but not a lot, but then there’s evidence about what the production of animal foods do to the environment. And so we cannot possibly feed the entire world on grass-fed animals. There’s not enough land mass. And that’s why we have factory farms to cram all these animals through in a horrifically cruel way to feed everyone. And so in an ideal world, sure, maybe that would be okay. But it’s not physically possible to feed everyone on organic grass-fed beef, certainly not—

Caller: Well technically I don’t think people even need to eat meat, at least not cows anyway. According to Gary, he—he’s—I don’t know how old he is but he’s in pretty good shape. And he’s not the only—

Caryn Hartglass: Okay, well I really appreciate your question. We’re about out of time and thank you so much William. Dr. Harris, I wanted to just…we got a couple more minutes here and I just wanted to ask you one question: you’ve—you had a practice and you had patients and what did you do to get them to hear your message about how food could help them get well?

Dr. William Harris: Well that’s the most difficult part of the equation. It’s—

Caryn Hartglass: And just tell me that in about 30 seconds. *laughs*

Dr. William Harris: *laughs* Why don’t I just give you my final statement here. The quadruple whammy in animal foods. The first one is all the essential nutrients are secondhand, the animal didn’t make any of them. The unique ingredients like cholesterol, saturated fat, and auto-immunogenic proteins are harmful. The animal foods contain no protective phytonutrients. The animals eat plants that have protective phytonutrients but the phytonutrients are antioxidants and they use—the animals use them all up. And then the other thing that’s wrong with animal foods is they displace from the diet the plant foods that do have all of the essential nutrients and the protective phytonutrients.

Caryn Hartglass: Well, I think you’ve given us a lot of information. We really should have you back, because there’s a lot more that we can talk about, but we are out of time. So I think, Dr. Harris, it’s time for you to get out in that beautiful ocean.

Dr. William Harris: I think it’s about time, yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: And thank you so, so much for your time.

Dr. William Harris: My pleasure, nice talking to you Caryn.

Caryn Hartglass: And you’ve been listening to It’s All About Food and I’m Caryn Hartglass. Thanks for listening, join me again next week. Bye bye.

Transcribed by Caitlin Dougherty 3/5/2015 and Melala Bertocci 3/30/2015

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  1 comment for “William Harris, The Scientific Basis of Vegetarianism

  1. David
    September 7, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    Absolutely love the transcripts!!!!!

    I know they are a lot of work, but they do add immensely to the value of these posts.

    Bill Harris is among the greatest of all living Americans. He clearly is a hero of mine.

    I, and all of us, would appreciate and benefit from a transcript of this, and all of the podcasts.

    Thank you!!!!!

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