Here’s the Norwegian army’s plan to fight climate change: have everybody go meatless once a week.
Norwegian troops will be eating vegetarian meals on Mondays to cut their consumption of ecologically unfriendly foods whose production contributes heavily to global warming. Spokesman Eystein Kvarving says the plan is meant to be “a step to protect our climate” by serving food “that’s respectful of the environment.”
Norway’s 10,000 troops eat about 35,000 meals a day, so the army foregoing meat could put a bit of a dent in the country’s overall meat consumption. The army alone consumes about 150 tons of meat a year.
Meat is a staple of most Norwegians’ diet with the average Norwegian eating more than 1,200 animals over the course of their life including 1,147 chickens, 22 sheep, six cattle and 2.6 deer. A 2005 report found that only 1 percent to 2 percent of Norwegians are vegetarian.
The new culinary regimen already has been implemented on Norway’s main bases and will soon be introduced to all units, including those who are overseas; it's hoped that doing so will reduce meat consumption by 330,000 pounds a year. The first Meatless Monday was last week at the Rena military base 90 miles north of Oslo.
The response was positive, said Pal Stenberg, a nutritionist and navy commander in charge of the catering division. As he comments, the soldiers “seemed to eat a lot of it until journalists asked, ‘You know it’s not meat in there?’ And then they said, ‘What?’”
Stenberg knows he’s up against a formidable enemy, the belief that eating meat is necessary to develop strength and stamina.
“It seems that people don’t think it’s possible to be an iron man as a vegetarian, it seems like they don’t think a good soldier can be a vegetarian, but we have a lot of soldiers who are vegetarian, so I know it’s possible," he said. "We have to use a lot of effort in communicating both the environmental benefits and the health benefits.”
Stenberg acknowledges that the project could be a failure. For it to work, he says that soldiers must “understand why they should eat more environmentally friendly.”
The Future in Our Hands, which originated in Norway and seeks to safeguard “the environment for future generations and a fair distribution of wealth globally” welcomed the army’s announcement and praised the defense ministry for taking concrete actions to address environmental issues.
Norway’s military has already allotted 15 percent of its catering budget to organic food, in keeping with national standards. Serving vegetarian meals once a week is in many ways the next logical step. Karving emphasizes that the decision to have the army eat vegetarian once a week is strictly in the interest of fighting climate change—not to save money—and being “more ecologically friendly and also healthier.”
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that livestock supply chains account for nearly 15 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. Imagine if the armed forces of a few more nations emulated Norway’s experiment?
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Where Does the Deficiency Begin?<p>Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. The question of when a deficiency starts is correspondingly controversial. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular.Not only is the pseudo-scientific literature on the "sun vitamin" experiencing an upswing, but the number of published studies has also increased enormously in recent years. For example, in 2019 <a href="https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/40/4/1109/5126915" target="_blank">a study found that</a> Vitamin D is responsible for keeping the skeleton functional and is associated with cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. <br></p>
An All-Rounder<p>Vitamin D levels in the body rise and fall according to sun exposure. If sufficient UV rays reach the skin, the body is able to produce the vitamin itself. However, the human body only derives an estimated 10 to 20 percent of its daily requirement from food.</p><p>The vitamin D that we synthesize from sunlight or food is not biologically active at first. Before the kidneys can produce the biologically active form of the vitamin, known as calcitriol, and release it into the blood, some metabolic processes must take place beforehand.</p><p>In addition, many organs have receptors to which the precursor of calcitriol binds. Further, this substance is also present in blood.</p><p>From this precursor, the organs then produce calcitriol themselves, which the body then uses for countless other processes in the body. This form of vitamin D thus regulates insulin secretion, inhibits tumor growth, and promotes the formation of red blood cells as well as the survival and activity of macrophages, which are important for the <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/7/2502/htm" target="_blank">immune system.</a></p>
Low Vitamin D, Severe COVID-19 Disease?<p>A research study carried out <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352364620300067?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">at the University of Hohenheim</a> has now established a link between vitamin D deficiency, certain previous diseases, and severe cases of COVID-19.</p><p>According to the study, "there is a lot of evidence that several non-communicable diseases (high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome) are associated with low vitamin D plasma levels. These comorbidities, together with the often accompanying vitamin D deficiency, increase the risk of severe COVID-19 events."</p><p>"This statement is completely correct," said Martin Fassnacht, head of endocrinology at the University Hospital of Würzburg. However, he qualifies that it is a pure association, "i.e. a mere observation that these events occur together.</p><p>Dr. Fassnacht is very critical of the hype surrounding vitamin D, but not because he denies the vitamin serves important functions. However, studies on humans have not been able to show that vitamin D has the healing powers many often propagate.</p><p>Fassnacht says, "If you take a closer look, the hopes that the administration of vitamin D has a healing effect have not been confirmed so far."</p>
Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
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