. . . rallies Against Meat Dangers
By Lisa Wolverton
Ka Leo Copy Editor
A quart of whiskey, a pack of cigarettes and a cube of LSD is better for you than eating one piece of meat, a doctor once told Peter Burwash, former Hawai'i resident and Davis Cup champion turned tennis coach, author and motivational speaker.
"The trauma of the extra (meat-derived) chemicals in the body is horrendous," Burwash said, clarifying the analogy. "An athlete should have no meat, fish, poultry or eggs."
A professional tennis player for seven years, motivational speaker for 30 years and vegetarian for 34 years, Burwash spoke about nutrition and exercise to nearly 150 attendees last Wednesday in the Kuykendall Auditorium.
Burwash spends 150 days a year touring the world as a motivational speaker and has written 10 books on topics ranging from nutrition to leadership to teen suicide. The lecture was sponsored by the Vegetarian Society of Hawai'i.
America's weight-loss industry reaped a profit of $40 billion last year, said the 59-year-old. America's bookstores report the top-selling category of books to be cookbooks, while diet books are second. Out of 27,961 diet books registered in the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., none work, Burwash said.
The Atkins diet deprives the body of carbohydrates, forcing the body to go into starvation mode. Fat is burned for fuel, along with lean muscle and organs, Burwash said. Side effects include body odor and halitosis, he added.
"A carbohydrate-starved body thinks you're sick and zaps your appetite," he said.
Ron Estrada, a tennis specialist for Peter Burwash International, the world's largest tennis management company founded by Burwash, said he gave a tennis lesson to Dr. Atkins at a resort in the Caribbean three or four years ago. Estrada found himself picking up tennis balls for Atkins because he was not able to bend down to do it himself.
Burwash said Atkins was the "epitome of poor health."
The Atkins diet also requires a significant protein intake. But too much protein can be detrimental, Burwash said, because it makes the blood acidic, drains bones of calcium and causes tendons and ligaments to tear easily.
Better food choices, not the diet of the week, are the answer. Exercise, not meat, makes you strong, according to Burwash.
"You can't change a bad habit by just scratching the surface," Burwash said.
Although lower in fat, chicken and fish contain higher levels of cholesterol than red meat. Cholesterol can build up in arteries, causing restricted blood flow through the body and oxygen to the muscles.
"One hundred fifty is the magic cholesterol number," Burwash said. "The key is to keep those arteries wide open."
Karl Seff, a chemistry professor at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa, disagreed with Burwash's emphasis on monitoring cholesterol intake.
"Cholesterol is a very minor health issue; it's the animal fat and saturated fat [that we should be concerned with]," Seff said. "All animal products have saturated fat, especially flesh. The animal fat is bad, but dietary cholesterol is hardly worth fussing about."
In addition to cholesterol, chicken contains 15 times more carcinogens, a cancer-causing agent, than cooked beef, Burwash said.
Fish is faced with similar statistics. According to Consumers Union USA, 49 percent of fish sampled in the U.S. was contaminated with bacteria from human or animal feces, Burwash said. Fish from the Antarctic and Arctic Oceans have tested positive for dioxin, a primary toxic element of Agent Orange and DDT, an insecticide, he added.
In addition, eggs, "the refuse of the chicken's menstrual cycle," are especially vulnerable to bacterial infection once prepared due to the sterile environment they are created in, said Burwash. They slow the bloodstream by 14-15 percent for 24 hours after consumption, and increase chances of wrinkles and varicose veins.
The typical Western animal-based diet is largely responsible for poor health in the U.S., Burwash said. Fast food restaurants are popping up everywhere, including hospitals. 38 percent of hospitals have a McDonald's, he said. Hormones from animal products have caused girls to begin menstruating earlier, from 17.5 years of age in 1900 to 10.5 years of age today. The number of women reported to have had facial hair removed last year is 2.5 million, he said.
"Today there is no excuse" to not have a healthy diet, Burwash said, referring to the wide availability of natural food in our communities.
Burwash became a vegetarian during his pro tennis tour at age 25, he said, after making a bad frisbee throw on Waikiki Beach. He accidentally hit a doctor in the head and, after apologizing, their conversation turned to athlete nutrition and vegetarianism. The doctor invited Burwash to the nutrition seminar that changed his life. Burwash said his family and fellow athletes could not believe his decision to turn vegetarian.
"I took a lot of abuse during that time," Burwash said.
After only one year on a vegetarian diet, Burwash boasted the highest fitness index of any athlete in Canada. He won 19 singles and doubles titles during his pro tennis tour. He once told ESPN's Roy Firestone during an interview, "becoming a vegetarian was the greatest moment in my life."
According to William Castelli, former director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's Framingham Heart Study, vegetarians live longer by about 7 years, Burwash said.
Ka Leo O Hawaii 2004