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Summary of 6.9 "Diet: Pork (Religious Aspects)"

We discussed five basic areas last week.  First of all we discussed some of the verses in the Quran which specify the prohibition of eating pork and we said that in Chapter six the impression is left that eating pork is not only prohibited for Muslims but that it has been a universal prohibition to all faiths.  This was confirmed when we found especially in Leviticus in chapter 11:7-8 and in the book of Isaiah 65:4 and 66:17 a very decisive prohibition of eating pork in the Old Testament.  We said that the Quran being the last revelation of God was revealed to Prophet Muhammad as these laws were revealed to Moses and Jesus (PBUT) and such it is simply confirms the universal prohibition of pork.

 

A question was raised a bout the New Testament and why some Christians justify eating pork.  We discussed this from the point of view of a Christian priest as we used his booklet The hog: should it be used for food.  As a Christian scholar he quotes and discusses these issues and covers the fact that there is no evidence in the New Testament that eating pork has been made permissible and as Jesus himself he came not to destroy the law or prophet but to fulfill.  We also discussed the dream of St. Peter and how this can not be taken to a legislative level in order to validate eating pork.

 

We then discussed the reasons behind the prohibition of pork.  First, we said that for a believer who truly believes in God the fact that God forbade eating pig in itself suffices as reason for not eating it.  But God does not want us to accept things dogmatically so there is no restriction from a Muslim’s point of view to research and find out the reasons behind this restriction provided that these reasons are not preconditions for following the command of God.

 

We also said that we get a hint form the Quran when it describes the pig as rijs, unclean or dirty.  We also said that things are not prohibited unless there is good reason because nothing is restricted in Islamic dietary laws unless there is very good reason.

Finally, we discussed if the pig is like other animals that may eat filth.  We said there is a big difference because the pig only has one stomach and there is not a lengthy process that the food goes through which limits the purification of the food.  In other animals like the chicken they have two stomachs the glandular and the gizzard and in other cud eating animals who have three stomachs so that the digestive process is much longer and purifies food a lot better.

 

6.10  Diet: Pork (Medical Aspects)

Host:  What if the food of the pig can be controlled?

Jamal Badawi:

One could possibly isolate the pig but one can not change its nature.  This reminds me of an interesting statement made by Reverend Vories that “the naturally filthy hog could be forced into the most sanitary conditions, nourished upon delicacies cake, pie and heavenly hash and still they would be unfit for food merely because God said they are unclean to you.”  Like I said whatever one does to a pig it won’t change their basic habits.  If it doesn’t find something filthy to eat it will eat its own refuse.  There is no reason for the farmer who raises pigs to avoid feeding them filth because economically speaking they are garbage eaters.  There is a scientific book called Modern Biology which is a commonly taught in high schools and universities that has a picture which depicts a man pouring the garbage contents of a barrel as the food that is given to pigs.

 

Host:  Could you explain the argument against pork from the biochemical view?

Jamal Badawi:

Before we go into that I would like to refer to a very useful booklet on the subject Pork: Possible Reasons for Its Prohibition by Dr. Ahmd Sakr who is a specialist in nutrition and food technology and served as a professor and chairman of the Department of Chemistry and Nutrition at the National Chiropractic University in Illinois.

 

Even though it is difficult to digest excessive amounts of fat of any animal we will see that to digest the fat of a pig is very harmful, difficult to digest and burn.  This is relates to the chemical structure of the fat molecules.

 

Our main concern when we address diet is with neutral lipids (lipids mean fats) which can take various forms known as monoglycerides (MG), diglycerides, triglycerides and free fatty acids.  Among all of these forms of lipids the one that is of particular interest to us are the triglycerides (TAG).  By looking into the chemical structure of the TAG which is a fat molecule a chemist can see how the fatty acids are distributed in a specific patter and how it relates to the process of digestion.  Each triglyceride fat molecule is composed of glycerol and three fatty acids.  It is called triglyceride because it has three combinations of fatty acids.  The fatty acids are divided into two basic groups: saturated fatty acids and unsaturated fatty acids.

 

There are eight different combinations of how fatty acids can be distributed within the triglyceride molecule.  In order to digest the fats that we eat the human system must be able to break down the triglycerides into simpler forms of monoglycerides, diglycerides, free fatty acids and glycerol.  This process is known as hydrolysis.  The process of hydrolysis is facilitated by a secretion that comes from the human pancreas called pancreatic lipase.  Scientists have discovered that pancreatic lipase can not easily break down the triglyceride molecule into simpler forms if the position two of the structure of the molecule has saturated fatty acids.

 

In other words if we have two different kinds of triglyceride molecules one has saturated fatty acids in position two and the other has unsaturated fatty acids in position two.  The one with unsaturated fatty acids in position two is easy to digest the one with saturated fatty acids in position two is very hard to digest.  The main problem is that experiments have shown that pig fat follows the structure where the saturated fatty acids are in position two and thus it is very difficult for pancreatic lipase to digest them.

 

Host:  Is this problem of digestion unique to the fat that comes from the pig?

Jamal Badawi:

To start with we can not say that this particular structure of the triglyceride with the saturated fatty acid in position two is absolutely unique to the pig.  In fact some studies were conducted on meat eating animals (carnivorous) and it was found that they have a high concentration of saturated fatty acids in position two.  The animals they used were cats, dogs, rats and pigs.  Other experiments were conducted on vegetarian (herbivorous) animals like sheep, cattle, camels, deer and goats.  Unlike the first group it was found that generally speaking there was a high concentration of unsaturated fats in these animals.  This means that these animals are much easier to digest.

 

Host:  What happens to lard when it is eaten if it is not digested properly?

Jamal Badawi:

What happens is that the human body absorbs it as it is.  When we take fat from our diet it goes through our blood stream and then it is deposited into our tissues.  In the case of plant eating animals the fat is taken and breaks down, digested, goes in the blood stream then it is re-synthesized in the form of human fat so it doesn’t accumulate as animal fat in a human.  However, when the fat is difficult to break down as in the case of pig fat and fat from other meat eating animals is absorbed as is and accumulates in the tissues which is deposited into the humans as animal fat.  What is more fascinating is that among the animals that are classified as easy to digest are poultry, beef, lamb and dear (this is not a comprehensive list).  The animals that are difficult to digest include dogs, cats, rats and pigs.  Pigs don’t really belong with the group of edible animals.  In this case we are not talking about scriptures whether it is the Old Testament, New Testament or the Quran but we are relying on pure scientific classification regarding digestion of fats.

 

Host:  Chemically speaking it is quite convincing that lard is very difficult to digest, but some people say that lard is better because it has a high percentage of unsaturated fats?

 

Jamal Badawi:

It seems like there is a big mix up as to whether the fat one consumes is saturated or unsaturated and the chemical structure of that fat molecule.  Pig fat follows the pattern in terms of molecular structure (USU = unsaturated+ saturated+ unsaturated) which shows that there is more concentration of unsaturated fats in the pig.  But where is the concentration of unsaturated fats?  They are in position one and three where as the crucial position for digestion is in position two.  It is the structure of the fats that matter rather than the quantity of unsaturated or saturated fats.

 

Host:  What are the possible harms that can come from eating pork from a medical perspective?

 

Jamal Badawi:

Generally speaking there are a number of germs bacteria and parasites which infest the pig and live in its flesh.  The most dangerous of these is the Trichinae or Trichinella which is a kind of round parasite.  The Trichinae are usually encapsulated in a tiny cyst.  When a person consumes infested meat, the juices the digest our food breaks down the cyst which contains the larva and as a result the larva is feed.  After the larva is released it develops into full adulthood and it mates then it produces microscopic larva (1500 larva per adult Trichinae).  It is then digested into the blood stream from the intestinal walls.  Once they are in the blood steam the move out of them into the human muscles where it finds permanent residency.  The muscle can be the heart, tongue and some say it could possibly move to the brain or nervous system which results in serious ailment.

 

 

http://www.britishwildboar.org.uk/trichinella.gif

 

According to a book called Human Hematology by Frost he says that the larva that is encapsulated can be viable for as long as six years.

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