A Nation’s Health in Decline

Singapore’s failing health.

Is it simply a question of nutrition?

This article is from the Vegetarian Society of Singapore (Original Article)

Nowadays, we hardly hear of anyone dying peacefully due to old age anymore. It is almost as if people have come to believe that diseases come naturally with aging. But that is far from being the truth. It is never a “natural” process that these diseases will hit us. We are almost totally responsible for them ourselves.

We are responsible for our own diseases

This is especially the case for heart disease and stroke. As for cancer, the National Cancer Institute (US) has estimated that up to 80% of cancers are due to factors already identified and can be control if we choose to. Though there are many contributive factors to the occurrence of these diseases, such as smoking, the most significant risk factors are still diet and nutrition. Neal Barnard, M.D., has put it aptly in his quote:

“The beef industry has contributed to more American deaths than all the wars of this century, all natural disasters, and all automobile accidents combined.”

– Neal D. Barnard, M.D., President Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

The following articles are categorised into:

  • Major Causes of Deaths in Singapore in Year 2000
  • % Total Deaths in Year 1957/1998
  • The National Health Survey
  • The Food Consumption Survey
  • A closer look at Cancer
  • A closer look at Heart disease and Stroke
  • The Protective Vegetarian Diet

Major Causes of Deaths in Singapore in Year 2000

Cancer, heart disease and stroke are the top three major killer of Singaporeans. Together, they account for more than 60% of our total deaths.

Causes of deathSadly, this is gloomy news for us. It seems that if we were to carry on the average lifestyle of a typical Singaporean, with all the fast-food burgers and chicken rice, we are very likely to be associated with expensive medical bills and painful medications and operations.

Choose the healthy way. Choose vegetarian.

Reference for statistics: Ministry of Health

Percentage Total Deaths (Singapore) 1957/1998

Let us compare the rates of these three top killers in Singapore between the year 1957 and 1998.

Reference for statistics: Ministry of Health

Percent deaths

It is shocking that all three have taken a remarkable increase from 1957.

In 1957, there were no fast-food chains in Singapore, and our consumption of meat and dairy products was so much lesser.

When a country becomes more affluent and consumption of meat and dairy products increases, so do the rates of cancer, heart disease and stroke. This trend can be observed all over the world.

But the good news is, if we can realise how health problems and diet are so closely linked, we can make the correct choice of diet. With that, not only can we live a longer life, but the whole quality of life will improve! Regardless of your age, you can sleep well, eat well,, see well, walk well. You don’t have to carry the burden of an overweight or obese body, and you don’t have to rely on drugs and injections. A vegan diet is definitely one of the most natural and powerful way to achieve that.

The National Health Survey

Disease/Risk Factor
Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)
High Total Cholesterol (>240 mg/dl)
Obesity (BMI>30)
Daily Cigarette Smoking
Physical Activity at least 3 times per week
Regular Alcohol Comsumption

Table: Comparison between 1992 and 1998 National Health Survey

Highlights and Conclusion of 1998 National Health Survey:

A quarter of adult Singaporeans were found to have hypertension

Almost a quarter of adult Singaporeans were found to have high blood cholesterol levels (>240 mg/dl)

Almost half of adult Singaporeans have cholesterol levels above the desirable range (>200 mg/dl)

Note: A person with a blood cholesterol level of 260 mg/dl is five times more likely to die from a heart attack than one with a level of 200 mg/dl

Although Singaporeans are exercising more and smoking less, levels of high blood cholesterol and blood pressure still continue to increase, while having no improvement in incidence of obesity and diabetes. This seems to suggest that a change of diet will be the best solution to our health problems.

The Food Consumption Survey

% Exceeding Daily Allowances
Fat > 60g
Cholesterol > 300mg
Sodium > 2000mg
% Not Meeting Daily Requirements

Table: Results of 1993 Food Consumption Survey of adult Singaporeans, published in “Understanding Food Labels” by Department of Nutrition MOH 1998

Discussion of results:

Singaporeans are taking in too much fats and cholesterol, which are found primarily in meat and dairy products

Note: The optimum intake of dietary cholesterol is zero! Our liver manufactures all the cholesterol that the body needs. Every 1% decrease in your blood cholesterol level lowers your risk of heart attack by 2 to 3%. Don’t just settle for a daily cholesterol intake of less than 300mg, or a blood cholesterol level of around 200mg/dl. With a vegan diet, your intake of cholesterol is absolutely zero, and your blood cholesterol level will be around 133 mg/dl. Statistics show that no one has ever suffer a heart attack with a blood cholesterol level of less than 150mg/dl.

9 out of 10 Singaporeans are taking in too much sodium, 2 to 3 times higher than recommended intakes

9 out of 10 Singaporeans are NOT taking in enough carbohydrates and fibre, which can only be found in plant foods

A closer look at Cancer

The National Cancer Institute (US) has estimated that 80% of cancers are due to factors that have been identified and can be controlled, if we choose to.

They also estimated that tobacco accounts for about 30% of all cancers; while our diet accounts for 35 to 60% of all cancers. An unhealthy diet is easily the most significant risk factor for cancers.

According to statistics from the Singapore Cancer Registry, incidence of cancer in crude rate (per 100,000 per year) increased from 136.3 for male and 103.7 for female in 1968 – 72, to 209.8 and 208.8 respectively in 1993 – 97. Lung cancer is the most common cancer for Singaporean males, followed by colorectum and stomach cancer. For females, it is breast, colorectum and lung cancer, in the same order.

breast cancer_f

prostate cancer_m

Reference from Singapore Cancer Registry

The important point to note is that from 1970 to now, colorectum, breast and prostate cancer have all taken almost two to even three fold increase, while all the other cancers remained about the same or with decrease in some.

The culprits for increased incidence of cancer in Singapore are simply colorectum, breast and prostate cancer, all of which correlates strongly with meat and dairy consumption.

We have to single out these 3 cancers and take a closer look at them. Very importantly, these 3 cancers are exactly the ones that have been identified to correlate strongly with meat and dairy consumption due to their high content of fats and toxins. A high-fibre diet will protect against colon cancer, but all animal products contain absolutely zero fibre. Choose health. Choose Vegetarian.

A closer look at Heart disease and Stroke

Heart disease is the second top killer in Singapore, accounting for 25% of our total deaths in the year 2000. Stroke (or cerebrovascular) is the third killer, and the biggest cause of long term disability in Singapore. The National Stroke Association has estimated that each year, approximately 9000 Singaporeans suffer a stroke or one patient admitted to hospital every hour.

What exactly causes heart disease and stroke? And how can we reverse the rising trend in Singapore?

Heart disease and stroke are mainly the result of atherosclerosis, which is the “hardening” or “narrowing” of blood arteries due to the gradual accumulation of fatty and waxy deposits on their inner walls. With this gradual build-up, at some point, the fatty contents of the deposits will rupture into the artery and form a clot, thereby restricting the flow of blood. When the supply of blood to the heart is compromised, heart disease or heart attack will occur. When the supply of blood to the brain is compromised, stroke will occur. In fact, when our blood fail to reach any organ effectively, that organ will fail. And this is true for kidney failures, impotence, and many other health problems as well. Evidences have shown that atherosclerosis has its roots in dietary intake of saturated fats and cholesterol, which are found in high content in meat, eggs and dairy products. Undeniably, there are many other contributive factors for the occurrence of heart disease and stroke, like smoking, lack of exercise, stress, etc. But diet and nutrition are the MOST significant factors to our better health.

A vegan diet is one of the most natural and effective way to stay away from heart disease and stroke.

The Protective Vegetarian Diet

Plant foods are the only source of fibres and complex carbohydrates. You cannot them in any forms of animal products, be it meat, milk or eggs. Carbohydrates are our most important source of energy, and should make up 50 to 70% of our daily calories needs (according to WHO). Insoluble fibre, found in whole grains and other plants, is important in moving food quickly through the intestine and helps prevent digestive disorder. In particularly, they protect against colon cancer by shortening the time that waste materials stay in the colon. Soluble fibre, found in apples, oats, barley, etc, seems to lower the blood cholesterol and thus protects against heart disease. Besides that, many plant foods are rich in folate which protect against heart diseases by lowering the homocysteine in the blood. Plant foods also contain plenty of antioxidants, such as Vitamin C, vitamin E and selenium, which protects your body cells from damage by free radicals, which are responsible for the occurrence of cancers. In addition, plant foods are the only source of phytochemicals, which protect our health in many ways. As such, a vegan diet is a most natural and effective way to protect against many diseases such as cancer, heart diseases and stroke. What’s more, all plant foods contain absolutely zero cholesterol, and almost all contain insignificant amount of saturated fats.

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