TITLE: Vegetarian or Omnivore?
One of the most controversial aspects of the BTD from the point of view of a 'healthy diet' is the fact that eating meat is recommended for some blood groups, and just about compulsory for blood group O. This emotive subject has already been discussed in depth on www.dadamo.com , but still remains an issue for many people.
Although it is possible to eat only raw vegetable foods and remain perfectly healthy, the fallacy that naturopathy is based on an exclusively vegetarian or vegan diet is put forward by those looking to ban meat eating completely. Many naturopathic pioneers commented that indigenous people remained vigorously healthy on their local diets, whether it consisted mainly of meats, fish or vegetables, and some would starve without meat (1).
An acupuncturist colleague commented: "Of the patients I see in my clinic the most difficult to help are O group former vegetarians". She sees that their vitality has been worn down by what is considered an organ deficiency in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and may take a long time to build up again. One could add that current O vegetarians are sometimes even harder to help - those who know they should be eating meat, but refuse to do so. It has certainly been the case that amongst those seen in my practice who have had the greatest benefit from dietary changes alone are the blood group O vegetarians who have started eating meat and stopped eating large amounts of starch.
Can an O follow the BTD and remain healthy without eating meat, just concentrating on vegetable proteins, nuts and seeds? It has been suggested that there are some supplements and herbs that can help, but these may not always be a complete substitute for eating animal flesh. Some O vegetarians appear to remain perfectly healthy, and that's fine. We are all born with a certain level of vitality depending on how fit and well nourished our family was, and our exposure to food and environmental factors in childhood will further determine how well we cope with the stresses of life. But some just don't do well without eating meat.
The real key to this seems to be why that person is vegetarian. It seems obvious enough to say that if it is for health reasons and they are blood group O for example, then they are simply mistaken that eating meat is unhealthy for them, there is plenty of evidence to support this. If it is because they do not like the taste, then it is just a case of gradually getting used to it. But if it is for reasons of compassion for the animal, this often needs to be explored in greater depth on an individual level.
A decision to include or exclude meat from the diet should take blood group, Rhesus factor and secretor status into account as well as health. Practitioners need to be supportive of the inevitable moral and ethical issues faced by people who may be under pressure of their genetic inheritance to change their habits of a lifetime.
My favourite observation on this subject is by Daverick Leggett, a highly respected Qi Gong, nutrition and TCM teacher (and ex-smallholder) in the UK. Daverick comments that from the oriental point of view, which is based on thousands of years of observation, meat and dairy are both highly respected as powerful nutritious foods, and are therefore generally eaten in small quantities. Excess meat can result in the accumulation of dampness, and often heat (characteristics found in the body that are used in oriental diagnosis).
"For many people, opening their awareness to receive the pain of the animal reared for meat is unbearable and they turn to vegetarianism. Others continue to eat meat in the spirit of reverence and thanks. Many rarely give it a thought and yet remain relatively healthy. My own view is that meat eaten with awareness, from a place of informed choice, is a perfectly healthy practice and for some people a very necessary one...
"For those who choose vegetarianism as their dietary path I would like to add one or two words of advice: without the quick fix of meat it is important to give more attention to balancing the diet and including good quality vegetable protein. The system will also be more clean on a good vegetarian diet. This means that imbalance will be registered more easily. Vegetarians are therefore advised to be especially careful with sugar and caffeine which meat eaters will tolerate more easily. In fact, there is often a tendency to binge on sugar and starch to compensate for the lack of animal fats and protein...
"Lastly, vegetarianism is best supported by spiritual belief, a trust that all necessary nourishment is available through our relationship with the divine. When we investigate our beliefs as vegetarians, we often find places of denial, places in the psyche that crave meat, that repress meat-eating as part of a more deep suppression of the life force. I encourage the exploration of these places so that ultimately one might embrace a more full and life-affirming vegetarian practice. It is my experience that those whose vegetarianism is supported by positive life-affirming beliefs rather than guilt and denial, or even the retreat from pain, generally maintain full vitality. When vegetarianism is ensnared in righteous anger or suppression of instinct, it is rarely supportive of full vitality. A healthy vegetarianism is rooted in the practice of listening to the body and mediating with the realities of today's world" (2). After many years of vegetarianism, Daverick eventually came round to the idea that he needed to eat some meat.
On the spiritual issue mentioned by Daverick, many find it helpful to pray over their food. This can be simply saying Grace, but a more specific prayer is to say: "thank you for giving your body", and after eating: "now my body is fit to help others". There is scientific evidence that prayer has a perceptible effect on the subject (3).
The scientist Rudolf Steiner, founder of the Biodynamic movement in agriculture, said that when the human being eats animal protein, "the 'cosmic images' revealed to him in this process are quite different to him when he eats plants. The information carried in the plant has been absorbed by the animal. We are confronted with information about the building up of a body suitable for the manifestation of the animal soul, as expressed in behaviour and instincts. Is this information of use to us in building up our own human bodies? In so far as out bodies are the instruments of instincts and inherited behaviour, yes, it can be, but if we wish to fine-tune this instrument to become sensitive for soul/spiritual work, requiring the most subtle configuration of nervous tissue, it may be a burden. So there is a question of how flesh-eating may affect the consciousness of the human being as well as his metabolism" (4). Steiner was himself a vegetarian (although suffered from health problems), but commented that "Not everyone can become a vegetarian in one lifetime".
Irrespective of blood group, if one decides to eat meat for whatever reason it is essential to get the best quality available. The way that this food is produced on an industrial scale to provide large amounts of protein at extremely low prices involves cruelty and exploitation on a massive scale, as well as practices potentially dangerous to humans. For example, the US Government Accountability Office examined scientific evidence on the transference of antibiotic resistance from animals to humans and extent of potential harm to human health.
"Scientific evidence has shown that certain bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics are transferred from animals to humans through the consumption or handling of meat that contains antibiotic-resistant bacteria. However, researchers disagree about the extent of harm to human health from this transference" (5).
The United States and Canada allow antibiotics important in human medicine to be used for growth promotion of meat stocks, but the European Union (EU) and New Zealand (NZ) do not. This means that these antibiotics are not routinely used in food production in the EU and NZ, although they may often be used specifically to treat animal infection (found extensively in factory farming). Inevitably this leads to human infection with superbugs resistant to all known antibiotics (MRSA).
The issue of animal cruelty was never so clear to me as during my visit to Arizona in 2003 when I passed a feedlot. The conditions under which those cows were kept in a compound feeding on fermenting silage are so different to the situation of the beef cattle I can see from my window grazing on a field of grass. Although it is not entirely natural to keep cows in an open field on a monoculture of one type of grass (they prefer a mixture of different types of grasses and herbs and need shelter from the weather), it is by far preferable to the situation of their relatives in the feedlot. Compassion has been replaced by greed in the search for cheap food, and the real cost of producing meat is hidden by farming subsidies. This article cannot fully explore the global environmental benefits of eating less meat: that issue has been covered extensively elsewhere (6).
The decision to be a vegetarian or omnivore today requires being faced with many choices, not least of which involve considering how one's genetic inheritance fits within the greater scheme of the interaction between humans and animals.
1. Greenfield, T. Blood grouping in naturopathic practice. BNJ, Vol. 20, No. 1, 2003, pp.12-16.
2. Daverick Leggett, 'Recipes for Self-Healing', Meridan Press, 1999. ISBN 0952464020. pp. 279-80.
3. The Power of Prayer Made Visible http://www.spiritofmaat.com/archive/aug1/consciouswater.html
4. Wendy E. Cook, 'Foodwise', Clairview Books, 2003. ISBN 1902636392. p. 137.
5. Antibiotic Use in Animals
6. Compassion in World Farming report
Nature-cure, or the healing power of Nature, is the guiding principle behind naturopathic medicine. It is present in every living thing as the ability to restore health and balance: it keeps us alive. As inherent healing forces are not easy to measure using scientific instruments, this idea tends to be dismissed by science as a vitalistic concept, and as a result many of us have become distanced from the natural world.
For the innate therapeutic force to succeed, Nature should be free to work unhindered by the numerous barriers constructed by the human race. Depending on the vitality of the individual, Nature’s healing forces will be promoted by simple things that everyone should be able to take for granted: fresh air, pure water, sunlight, adequate exercise, rest and relaxation, correct thinking and a diet appropriate to the specific, environmental cultural and genetic needs of the individual.
These concepts sound simple enough at first, but to achieve them practically in today’s society may be virtually impossible: we breathe an atmosphere tainted by heavy metals and toxic chemicals; our water is polluted with dangerous contaminants either added by the water companies, by industrial processing or by consumers of cleaning materials, and then compressed in pipes until its vitality is destroyed; sunlight is dangerously high in radiation thanks to the destruction of the Earth’s protective ozone layer; exercise is a luxury when you have to subscribe to a gym or risk the polluted outdoor air and traffic in cities; most people’s idea of rest and relaxation is to slouch in front of a television or hunch by a computer games console. Even if our brains are not hampered by any of this, it is unusual to be able to think clearly in a materialistic Western society incessantly bombarded by media images of ‘normal’ and ‘desirable’ without being swallowed up by the tempo of the psyche of our times.
Nature has a lot to contend with these days: even from before birth, a deficiency in the diet of our grandmother during pregnancy may have influenced our nutritional makeup; the mercury in our mother’s teeth, along with the pesticides and PCBs accumulated in her body all become a part of us before we enter the world, and are accepted as normal; we may be bottle-fed from birth with pasteurised, denatured dried milk originally intended to supply the mucous production needed by calves; the multiple assaults on our immature immune systems by vaccination with toxic substances cultured on animal organs; the destruction of our sense of taste with sweet or salty foods and drinks in a culture of junk food; fruits and vegetables denatured by a forced growing environment; reliance on stimulant and relaxing drugs; the reductionistic overmedication of the population to suppress any symptoms that irritate or annoy us. There are numerous other travesties of humankind that deserve a mention here. Is it anything but a miracle that we are still alive in this jungle of modern society? I have often wondered how people maintain health in this environment without making it a full-time occupation.
If you have read this far without being distracted, disgusted or depressed, you are probably looking for the happy ending. Ultimately it is down to each individual to create his or her own future. Practitioners of natural medicine can help put people on the right path, but don’t expect a magic wand to be waved and suddenly everything will be all right. It is a full-time job keeping mind and body together in the face of all the barriers that humans encounter in daily life, and sometimes staying on the right track is not easy. Are you ready to share that journey?
Normally donors and recipients of blood transfusions need to be carefully matched to avoid a transfusion reaction - an immediate antibody-antigen reaction that can result in fever, low blood pressure, low back pain, a crushing sensation in the chest, nausea, vomiting and death. There are many different blood groups, but a transfusion reaction will only occur if an individual has acquired antibodies to a different blood group through exposure to the antigen that they don't have, and are then given blood with that antigen.
The best known blood group antigens are A, B and H (the O antigen). Exposure to these antigens occur through eating food that contains antigenic components identical to the blood group that the individual does not have. Antibodies to ABO blood groups are IgM, causing destruction of transfused red blood cells, which can then block the kidneys and cause acute tubular necrosis. In unsensitised individuals the reaction may develop over days or weeks as antibodies are produced, resulting in anaemia and jaundice. Reactions to white blood cells and platelets can occur, although the consequences are less serious.
Sensitisation to the Rhesus blood group, which includes the antigens C, c, D, d, E and e, can happen before or during birth, especially with Rhesus D, if the mother is Rhesus negative and her baby is Rhesus positive.
Individuals with blood group O Rhesus negative are considered universal donors, as their red cells do not carry antigens to A, B or D. Consequently O negative blood can generally be transfused to individuals of any blood group.
It is also possible to acquire antibodies to non-self blood groups following exposure to those antigens on some non-self tissue such as a graft or incompatible blood transfusion. Examples of other blood groups involved in transfusion reactions are Kell (K, k), Duffy (Fya, Fyb, Fy) and MN (M, N). Antibodies to Rhesus and other blood groups are IgG.
Scientists at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York have now found a way to 'hide' the ABO and Rhesus antigens on the donor's red blood cells before transfusion to make their blood suitable for any recipient. Using polyethylene glycol (PEG), a polymer of the hydrocarbon ethylene oxide, stuck together with thiols to stick the PEG to the amino acid lysine on the surface of the red cell. The blood from individuals of any blood group will behave as if it is from a donor of blood group O negative. PEGylation has been used in other areas of medicine, such as PEGylated interferon, which remains in the body longer, prolonging its effectiveness. PEG has been found to be immunogenic and can induce antibodies that shorten survival of transfused PEG-RBCs in rabbits, so PEGylation may not be the best way to transfuse blood.
This is not the only way to alter red blood cells to create universal donor blood. Studies have been carried out on group B blood to remove the sugar galactose on the end of the B antigen with the enzyme galactosidase. The red blood cells from group B donors were found to be comparable to group O blood for safety and efficacy. This does not overcome the problem of Rhesus incompatibility, and also the researchers are still looking for a way to convert group A blood to group O.
The laboratory-manufactured universally compatible blood is still some way off. For now, it looks like it is best to get the closest match possible, and the best way to do that is to receive a transfusion of your own blood that you have stored prior to a scheduled operation.
Nacharaju P, Boctor FN, Manjula BN, and Acharya SA.
Surface decoration of red blood cells with maleimidophenyl-polyethylene glycol facilitated by thiolation with iminothiolane: an approach to mask A, B, and D antigens to generate universal red blood cells.
Transfusion, March 1, 2005; 45(3): 374-83.
Progress in modulating the RBC membrane to produce transfusable universal/stealth donor RBCs.
Transfus Med Rev. 2004 Oct;18(4):245-56.
Garratty G, Telen MJ, Petz LD.
Red cell antigens as functional molecules and obstacles to transfusion.
Hematology (Am Soc Hematol Educ Program). 2002;:445-62. Review.
Kruskall MS, AuBuchon JP, Anthony KY, Herschel L, Pickard C, Biehl R, Horowitz M, Brambilla DJ, Popovsky MA.
Transfusion to blood group A and O patients of group B RBCs that have been enzymatically converted to group O.
Transfusion. 2000 Nov;40(11):1290-8.
Milk is a bovine secretion that is intended to allow rapid growth to calves following immediate consumption from their mother. It is widely consumed by humans, generally after pasteurisation and chilled storage, but may also be sterilised or further processed by heat treatment.
Research shows that one of the growth-promoting actions of this substance may be caused by the action of leptin in the body.
Leptin is a hormone secreted by body fat cells that adjusts food intake relative to energy expenditure. Leptin also plays a general role in regulating many of the physiological responses that are observed with changes in nutritional state.
Discovered by Jeffrey Friedman in 1994, Leptin has been shown to travel to the brain and other body tissues, causing fat loss and decreased appetite. In the brain, leptin affects food intake by acting on distinct classes of neurons in the hypothalamus that express the leptin receptor.
Leptin decreases both the desire to eat, and the deposit of fat in the body by acting on two classes of neurons. Leptin suppresses the activity of neuropeptide Y (NPY) neurons and it enhances the activity of proopiomelanocortin (POMC) neurons. Conversely, the absence of leptin increases both the desire to eat and the deposit of fat by exciting NPY neurons and suppressing the activity of POMC neurons.
In humans, leptin concentration in the blood correlates with body fat content and is usually higher in obese subjects, suggesting that human obesity is generally associated with insensitivity to leptin. However, 5–10 percent of obese individuals have relatively low levels of leptin, indicating a reduced rate of leptin production. The fact that some obese individuals have low leptin levels suggests that decreased production can also lead to obesity. This suggests that in most cases the cause of leptin resistance and obesity is equivalent to insulin resistance in type II diabetes.
Diet-induced weight loss in humans results in a decrease in leptin concentration. This may explain the high failure rate of dieting, as low levels of leptin appears to be a strong stimulus to weight gain.
When fasting on water only, appetite is generally suppressed after the first one to two days, when liver stores of glucose are used up and the body moves into ketosis (fat-burning). After a prolonged fast when all body fat stores are used up, starvation occurs. Starvation is the breakdown of essential body organs.
Research in the journal Diabetes shows that fat-containing milk, and of which fats are 98% triglycerides, immediately inhibits leptin transport across the blood-brain barrier. Fat-free milk does not have this effect. In this study both starvation and diet-induced obesity elevated triglycerides in the blood and decreased the transport of leptin across the BBB, whereas short-term fasting decreased triglycerides and increased leptin transport.
Triglyceride-mediated leptin resistance may have evolved as a mechanism to restore this fasting loss of appetite at the onset of starvation. Decreasing triglycerides may potentiate the effect of leptin to reduce appetite by enhancing leptin transport across the blood-brain barrier (BB.
The Complete Blood Type Encyclopedia outlines natural approaches to reducing triglycerides. ------------ References:
W.A. Banks et al., “Triglycerides induce leptin resistance at the blood–brain barrier,” Diabetes, 53:1253-1260, 2004.
A.J. Kastin, V. Akerstrom, “Fasting, but not adrenalectomy, reduces transport of leptin into the brain,” Peptides, 21:679–682, May 2000.
A paper published in the Journal 'Blood' entitled "HIV-1 incorporates ABO histo-blood group antigens that sensitise virions to complement-mediated inactivation"  suggests that transmission of HIV-1 is modified by both ABO blood group and the immune system enzyme complement. The premise is based on research showing how the ABO antigen (blood group marker) of the infected person is incorporated into the HIV virus that is replicated in their cells. Because the virus is coated in the person's blood group antigen, it then acts in the same way a red blood cell would when someone with an incompatible blood group becomes exposed to it, and the part of the immune system that would normally cause an incompatible blood transfusion reaction is activated against the virus, helping to protect the recipient against infection. This would mean that it would be harder for an individual of blood group O (the 'universal donor') to contract HIV infection from people of any other blood group apart from blood group O, as the recipient will have both anti-A and anti-B antigens in their blood. Conversely those with blood group AB (the 'universal recipient') who have no opposing blood group antibodies would contract HIV infection more easily from people of any blood group.
This paper follows previous research  on how complement is activated by anti-B IgM (the immune complex involved in incompatible transfusion reactions where the donor is blood group B or AB and the recipient is blood group A or O) and other factors, in blood from HIV-negative donors. In the research by Saarloos et. al. complement was however more easily activated against HIV by antibodies to HIV itself as a result of HIV infection than by IgM.
Later research  suggests that the immune system of some people with AIDS (PWA) who are blood group A or AB may form anti-A IgA, IgG and IgM (antibodies against their own blood group).
The HIV virus made in cells of an HIV-infected person will show their blood group antigen only when the originating cell expresses ABO antigens or is a lymphocyte (white blood cell). As ABH non-secretors have fewer cells expressing their blood group, it follows that they may produce more HIV viruses without blood group antigens than would ABH secretors. This could mean that it is as easy to become infected with HIV-1 from non-secretors of any blood group as it is from secretors of transfusion-compatible blood groups.
ABH non-secretors would be at some disadvantage in protection against HIV infection transmitted via mucous membranes, as they secrete lower levels of immune-protective substances .
HIV positive individuals and PWA should always take steps to avoid transmission of the HIV virus, whatever their blood group or secretor status. Neil and colleagues have however demonstrated a key concept in the relationship between blood groups and immunity, which is mirrored in numerous other blood group-disease connections. It also gives new meaning to the idea of universality in terms of blood group transfusion with relation to infection susceptibility.
1. Neil SJ, McKnight A , Gustafsson K, Weiss RA
HIV-1 incorporates ABO histo-blood group antigens that sensitise virions to complement-mediated inactivation.
2. Saarloos MN, Lint TF, Spear GT
Efficacy of HIV-specific and 'antibody-independent' mechanisms for complement activation by HIV-infected cells.
Clin Exp Immunol. 1995 Feb;99(2):189-95.
3. Friedli F, Rieben R, Wegmuller E et. al.
Normal levels of allo- but increased levels of potentially autoreactive antibodies against ABO histo-blood group antigens in AIDS patients.
Clin Immunol Immunopathol. 1996 Jul;80(1):96-100.
4. D'Adamo PJ.
Eat Right 4 Your Type Complete Blood Type Encyclopedia. p.320.
Pub. Penguin, 2002.