Switching to a vegetarian diet for five days a week significantly reduces the body's amount of antibiotics and phthalates — a common chemical added to plastics — according to new research.
A team in Korea asked participants to stay at a Buddhist temple for five days, during which time they ate a vegetarian diet. The researchers analyzed urine samples before and after the stay, and found that levels of the chemicals dropped dramatically by the end of the experiment.
The researchers also measured the participants' diets before the study and found that what they ate 48 hours prior to the study was related to the amount of the chemicals found in their urine.
"A significant correlation was found between food consumption and the urinary levels of several antibiotics and phthalates," they said. "Although the exposure to target compounds might be influenced by other behavioral patterns, these results suggest that even short-term changes in dietary behavior may significantly decrease inadvertent exposure to antibiotics and phthalates and hence may reduce oxidative stress levels."
Their paper was published in the journal Environmental Research.
Antibiotics are widely used in industrial farming to maintain production levels. Phthalates are even more common. They're used as solvents, additives and plasticizers in everything from nail polish and shampoo to raincoats and garden hoses. Scientists and governments are questioning the effects these and other chemicals have on the reproductive system.
Eating less meat can be better for the planet, too. Fewer animals means less damage from grazing and less release of the greenhouse gas methane, among other benefits.
Image from Flickr.