The shape-shifting morals of every society evolve with the behavior of its individual members. Through the choice of action and non-action, we cast votes in a twisted sort of election to nominate the variable truths and virtues we submit to. But however honest our intentions might be, humans are not without bias and this shoddy conventionalism surrenders poignant examples of skewed principles and taboo points of fact.
One such example of this occurred in May of 2016 when an unsupervised child climbed into a gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo where a western lowland gorilla, known as Harambe, was being held captive. Upon seeing the young child and hairy beast together, a wild frenzy swept through the crowd as delirious visions of King Kong reeled through their impressionable minds. The public noise and wide-eyed excitement unsettled Harambe at first, then made him nervous, then inflamed his agitation. Compelled by natural instinct, the gorilla dragged the child around his enclosure to intimidate his verbal tormentors.
Fearing for the child’s life, a "crack shot" zookeeper gunned down the animal to the dismay of animal rights activists around the world who were all quick to voice harsh criticism. They attacked the both the zoo, for killing a caged animal, and the mother, for her parental negligence. But the most interesting facet was how Harambe had become a martyr for the fight against our politically correct culture. His Facebook page quickly gained over a million likes and countless memes were created in Harambe's honor. The British comedian, Ricky Gervais, had even joined the festivities by tweeting, “It seems that some gorillas make better parents than some people.” And yes, there’s probably some truth in Ricky’s quip of dissent, but why such fury over a dead animal?
Well, human babies are easy to make. Gorilla babies are not. Yet, we outnumber their declining existence by a staggering 76,000 to 1. This inequality, accentuated by the inward vision of Man, only seems to underscore the imbalanced weight between a small, insipid child and a critically endangered species.
You can judge a man's true character by the way he treats his fellow animals.Paul McCartney, former bass guitarist for the Beatles
Harambe’s death was not the first, nor the last, example of the atrocities found in our comparisons between human and animal life. Also in 2016, a rather bizarre incident took place at the Metropolitan Zoo in Santiago, Chile where a 20-year old had forced his way into a lion enclosure, stripped naked, and then taunted the lions into charging him. As they began to bite and “play” with this deranged lunatic, a zookeeper was once again compelled to open fire on the caged beasts. In spite of Africa’s lion population decreasing 90% in the past 75 years, two of these majestic big cats were valued less than even one suicidal young man.
So what do these actions tell us about society?
Many quite remarkable things, but for sake of brevity let’s just say the polls have closed. Modern society has elected its own members as the most cherished, the most prized, and the most revered form of living tissue this pale blue dot has ever seen. Mother Nature cannot put a damper on human self-importance with the population declines in any of her furry little friends. Human beings are the apex of Evolution and nothing will stand in the way of our progress. Nothing!
This is why the loss of human life is such a heartfelt tragedy, to lose something so pure and beautiful. Tenfold is the pain and agony when a member of our community passes away too soon, before their time, before they’ve had a chance to live a full life. As Nature’s greatest attempt at biological perfection, we have a privileged right for not having to put up with such misery. What we have in front of us is the greatest moral imperative the human race has ever seen. No matter what the cost, we must evaluate humanity’s leading source of premature death and correct it, posthaste!
The Maraca-Shaking Elephant In The Room
Health and longevity have always been hot topics of discussion throughout the history of mankind. Ideally, these discussions would progress forward in straight lines towards some Adonis-like end goal, but this is rarely ever the case — just take a look at those dumbass fat-jiggling machines of our recent past or the fact that it took 7,100 published studies before the medical community finally conceded, “Mmm… yea, I guess there’s a causal relationship between smoking and lung cancer.” The continued advancement of health studies is critically important because we have deemed it our privileged right to live as long as humanly possible.
Moreover, we have demonstrated a strong contempt for death, particularly when it calls too soon. Premature death, that bastard of a thing, is defined as an unplanned death occurring before the individual has reached the average expected age of his, or her, representative population.
Every nation has its own life expectancies. These can range anywhere from 50 in Chad, a landlocked country in central Africa, up to 84 in Japan. Whatever the case, if we investigate the leading cause of premature death in the world today we find cardiovascular diseases (CVD), such as heart attack and stroke, are far and away the largest threats to human longevity.
Cardiovascular disease kills more people in the United States every year than war, terrorism, global warming, religion and gun violence combined, even if we were to homogenize the data by accounting for the numbers of years lost. In a country so predisposed to hysteria, you would think the panic over CVD would be much more substantial considering worldwide deaths are quickly approaching 20 million per annum.
To help us better understand the world’s number one killer, we can look to an expanding field of research called metabolomics. Within this realm of microbiological study, scientists examine the small-molecular metabolites found in our blood, urine, saliva, tissues, and breath. Metabolites are produced from the trillions of bacteria cells in our guts breaking down the kilograms of food and drink we consume every day.
Computers and modern analytical instruments help process the more than 25,000 metabolites with detail and precision. From these biomarkers, comprehensive analyses can be made between those people with severe coronary artery disease and those with angiographically, healthy arteries.
We all know a shit diet can lead to poor health and early death, but which component of a shit diet is the most harmful?
Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic published a study in 2013 after they had followed 4,000 patients over a 3-year period who were undergoing elective coronary angiography. Their metabolomic results identified a single compound called trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO) as the most common denominator among patients who had experienced major adverse cardiovascular events. This single metabolite, TMAO, showed up more frequently for things like death, myocardial infarction, and stroke, regardless of more traditional CVD markers such as cholesterol and high blood pressure. These results have since been replicated numerous times.
A random sampling of 1,280 Canadian subjects in 2015 also found the TMAO metabolite and CVD correlation. People had up to 9-times the risk for heart problems for those with elevated TMAO levels than those without.
The Kidney International journal published a paper in 2016 pertaining to 2,500 patients with chronic kidney disease. Their results also showed a strong relationship between those with higher baseline levels of TMAO and cardiovascular risk.
In 2017, the Journal of the American Heart Association published a study which conducted a meta-analysis review of 16 previous papers containing nearly 20,000 individuals. And they too found higher TMAO levels, as well as its precursors, were associated with increased risks for adverse cardiac events and all-cause mortality. The obvious question is Where the bloody hell does TMAO come from?
Well, our liver oxidizes trimethylamine (TMA) into TMAO. TMA happens to be a byproduct of our gut’s bacteria digesting Choline and Carnitine. Excess carnitine and choline enter our bodies through what nutritionists call the “Western Diet”, or more aptly put: meat, diary, and eggs.
The World’s Hardest Gut Problem
From the exhaustive analyses of metabolite research, we have discovered an undeniable connection between the food we eat and the leading cause of death for our species. Obviously, this presents us with a problem that requires immediate attention. But how to solve it? If elevated levels of TMAO in our bloodstream increase our risk for adverse cardiovascular events then all we should have to do is figure out how to reduce TMAO. Sounds simple enough. Ready? Let’s think this through.
Choline and carnitine-rich foods like meat, dairy, and eggs are converted to trimethylamine (TMA) by our gut flora, which can then be turned into TMAO in our liver, increasing TMAO in our blood and increasing our risk for cardiovascular disease and early death. If our gut flora turns meat, dairy, and eggs into TMA, maybe the trick is to destroy our gut bacteria with whiskey-glass shots of antibiotics every other week. This would completely decimate our gut bacteria and prevent the byproduct, TMA, from being created in the first place. Err… but wait! Wouldn’t antibiotics also kill off all the good bacteria in our guts while at the same time facilitating the production of antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains? Maybe antibiotics are not such a great idea. Hmm…
Heart disease is a food-borne illness.Caldwell Esselstyn, M.D., director of the cardiovascular prevention and reversal program at The Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute
Okay. So how about probiotic supplements? Maybe if we ingest enough probiotics the good bacteria will somehow crowd out the bad bacteria? Well, in patients suffering from metabolic syndrome, researchers at Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner Research Institute tried adding more “good bacteria” to their patients’ diets. Unfortunately, good bacteria didn’t appear to have any impact on reducing the bad. Aw, shucks!
Well, if getting rid of bad bacteria isn’t possible, how about we administer a new strain of bacteria that can siphon off the TMA before it gets turned into TMAO? And as luck would have it, there actually is a specific type of bacteria called Methanosarcina barkeri residing in the digestive system of cows and sheep that will turn TMA into methane before the liver converts it into TMAO. A cow fecal transplant could be the cure for our tummy woes! Uh… actually, I don’t want to have to take shots of cow shit and I’m pretty sure no one else does either. Damn, this is challenging!
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 Barnard, M.D., president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
I need to rub my temples for a moment and rethink this again. Diets full of meat, dairy, and eggs are abundant in carnitine and choline, which are converted by gut flora into TMA, which is turned into TMAO by the liver…!
Maybe the solution is we cut down on our liver function! I mean, isn’t this the same pharmacological ploy we use to reduce high cholesterol? The same companies synthesizing cholesterol-lowering drugs could just as well manufacture a new drug to inhibit our liver enzymes from creating TMAO in the first place. Another daily pill would be a sure ticket for reducing CVD risk but the side effect here is that by blocking TMAO, you build up TMA. High levels of TMA in our body cause blood, sweat, saliva, and vaginal secretions to smell like rotten, dead fish. The same thing happens to patients suffering from trymenthylaminuria. I guess that’s not an attractive answer either unless we take more and more pills to account for the compounding side effects of more and more drugs.
We should all be eating fruits and vegetables as if our lives depend on it — because they do.Michael Greger, M.D., physician, author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues
If only there were some way to mitigate our risk for cardiovascular disease. There’s gotta be a straightforward answer for lowering TMAO levels in our bloodstream, an answer so elementary, so common sense, that we’ve simply overlooked it in pursuit of more sophisticated band-aids. I hate to think decades, or another 7,000 research papers, will be needed before such a blatant epiphany strikes.