When the Los Angeles City Council approved a resolution this week endorsing the international nonprofit campaign that says skipping meat once a week improves people’s health and the environment, two Times editorial board members found themselves on opposite sides of the dinner table.

The nonprofit initiative, started in 2003, is associated with Johns Hopkins University’s public health school.

Councilwoman Jan Perry, who introduced the motion with Councilman Ed Reyes, noted the environmental impacts of meat production, and she emphasized that a high-meat diet has been linked to health problems such as colon, prostate, kidney and breast cancers, as well as heart disease.

It’s not a mandate, not a law, rather a statement asking people to protect their health, animals and the environment by eating what the resolution calls “a more varied, plant-based diet.”

“It’s just about baby steps,” said Peggy Neu, president of Monday Campaigns, a public health initiative that started the Meatless Mondays movement nine years ago. “It’s one day a week. I think it’s just a suggestion for one way that people can be healthy.”

Every day, people tell Dr. Sarfraz Zaidi they’re going to cut down on meat. Every day, he advises them to reconsider. He lays blame for the trend on a fat-in-food phobia that can brand animal meat as bad.

“I don’t see where cutting down meat is going to make us healthier,” said Zaidi, a Thousand Oaks endocrinologist who treats conditions including diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol disorders. “If anything, it’s going to make us more sick.”

He is concerned people will lose balance in their diet. They give up or cut back on meat and fill themselves with pasta, bread, rice and other foods clotted with carbohydrates. Their blood sugar levels go through the roof.

He advocates framing a diet with meat, vegetables, a limited amount of carbohydrates and, because they are a good source of fat, nuts.

“Health should not be a political matter,” he said. “It should be a discussion between a doctor and his patients.”

The goal behind Meatless Mondays isn’t to tell people what to do or force the hand. Instead, the idea is to get them to think and make their own conclusions.
Gumbumpers, what do you think…could you do a meatless Monday?

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