Scientists Say Plant-Based COVID-19 Vaccines Are Faster, Cheaper, And Safer: But Are They Vegan?

Emily Baker wrote . . . . . . . . .

While many people around the world rejoiced as vaccines began testing to fight the deadly COVID-19 virus, there were some who remained critical. One of the reasons for this is because some of them – including the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine – are tested on animals. However, plant-based vaccines made from rice, corn, potatoes or lettuce may be the answer, with some entering the clinical trial phase.

But are they vegan?

Plant-based COVID-19 vaccine

Dubbed a ‘natural alternative’, plant-based vaccines are faster to make, cheaper, and safer, according to scientists. Reports indicate they’re also more effective on the immune system, presenting more antigens.

One of the plant-based COVID-19 vaccines currently under production is by the biopharmaceutical company Medicago, which claims to be a world leader in plant-based vaccine development. It’s currently in phase three of clinical trials, with more than 30,000 people taking part.

Additionally, it’s attracted many vegans and vegetarians in the trial in Argentina, one of the world’s largest meat consumers per capita.

Is the plant-based vaccine vegan?

Global news service, DW News, ran an interview with Zacharie LeBlanc, of Queensland University of Technology.

Leblanc confirmed animal cells are usually used in the development of most vaccines. Even though plant-based vaccines do not come from animal cells, all vaccines still go through a process of being tested on animal further down the lines, meaning even plant-based vaccines are not vegan.

‘I wouldn’t say animals are being harmed in the process’, he said however, and added he doesn’t think scientists can eliminate animals completely from the process of vaccine development in the near future.

Benefits of plant-based vaccine

The advantage of plants is that their ‘scalability’, LeBlanc adds.

They said: “It’s cheaper because of the scalability if you think about the inputs of growing a plant…it’s visibly a lot cheaper.”

LeBlanc added that it’s also safer. The ‘hurdle’, however, is getting through clinical trials – though a plant-based vaccine could be available ‘in the near future’.

Should vegans accept vaccines tested on animals?

Utilizing plants to cure disease certainly makes sense, but if it still tests on animals, what can vegans do?

The Vegan Society released a statement regarding this last year.

It reads: “The definition of veganism recognizes that it is not always possible or practicable for vegans to avoid participating in animal use, which is particularly relevant to medical situations.

“In the case of COVID-19, vaccination will play a fundamental role in tackling the pandemic and saving lives.

“As there is currently a legal requirement that all vaccines are tested on animals, at this point in time it is impossible to have a vaccine that has been created without animal use.”

Source: Plant Based News

Customized Drinks Have Gone Viral – and May be a Recipe for Disaster

Will Pry wrote . . . . . . . . .

When TikTok trendsetters went viral sharing their off-the-menu, customized drink recipes to try at the coffee shop, each one more over the top than the last, baristas took to social media and started posting the most outlandish customizations, calling out their customers and sharing war stories.

One order, for example – which already featured syrupy caramel blended with coffee and topped with caramel sugar – had a laundry list of add-ons that included extra caramel drizzle, whipped and heavy cream, cinnamon syrup and seven pumps of dark caramel.

Now, nutrition experts are hoping to have their say about the consequences of this syrup-pumping, cream-swapping fad: “It makes me cringe,” said Marie-Pierre St-Onge, an associate professor of nutritional medicine at Columbia University in New York. “It’s a bad habit to start, that’s for sure.”

For starters, St-Onge said, customers should use caution when they order coffee drinks, tea or other popular, sugary beverages straight from the menu at their favorite establishments because they already may contain empty calories. The ingredient substitutions and add-ons can only make matters worse.

“We’re talking about drinking calories, and liquid calories are often not very well compensated for at subsequent meals,” she said. “They tend to be calories that are tacked on above and beyond your general energy requirement, so they are often those that lead to weight gain.”

On its own – without added sugars or heavy creams – coffee is an excellent source of antioxidants, and regular consumption is associated with a host of health benefits, including a lower risk of Type 2 diabetes and Parkinson’s disease. Many of the recipes that have gone viral, however, suggest adding heavy cream and sometimes more than a dozen pumps of flavored syrups.

“Of course, we know that this isn’t healthy, and I don’t know if that’s also the intent, if that’s what’s making these drinks trendy,” said Maya Vadiveloo, an assistant professor in the department of nutrition and food sciences at the University of Rhode Island in Kingston. “Is it people who are trying to say, ‘This is just a delicious thing that I enjoy having when I’m feeling really, really decadent?’ Or is it something that they think, ‘This is my go-to drink of choice?'”

The trendy recipes aren’t only based on coffee drinks; some of the most popular off-the-menu requests this summer are based on fruit drinks, which also can be deceptively unhealthy, Vadiveloo said.

“There’s more of a ‘health halo’ around juice because people associate juice and fruit,” she said. “But again, we don’t compensate for calories from juice in the same way that we do with whole fruit. And when we just have juice, it takes away the fiber and some of the water content that helps keep you fuller, so you’re more likely to over-consume juice and sugar at once.”

A study last year in the Journal of the American Heart Association found women who drank one or more sugary beverages a day had an 18% higher risk of cardiovascular disease. Another study, from the AHA’s journal Circulation, found sugary drinks are associated with an increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease and, to a lesser extent, cancer.

If you have been trying out some extra-sweet recipes you’ve seen online – and if you’ve developed a sugary habit – it is possible to retrain your taste buds to appreciate a healthier version of your favorite beverage.

“You can wean yourself off,” St-Onge said. “If you’re starting off enjoying those eight pumps or 10 pumps, then start cutting. Go from eight to six, and then six to four, and then four to three and see just how low you could go.

“You could train yourself to cut back, and if you do so gradually, it doesn’t seem so painful.”

Of all the unhealthy additions helping drink recipes go viral, perhaps the most dangerous ingredient is FOMO, the fear of missing out.

“Many of these drinks are things that people consume pretty frequently, on top of already not eating a heart-healthy diet, and then they sort of are made glamorous by the ‘secret menu’ and some of the other consumer psychology tricks that people use,” Vadiveloo said. “Like a fear of missing out: ‘If I don’t know about the secret menu, or if I don’t try this pink drink, I’m somehow less popular.’ But these are really not part of a healthy diet.

“If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.”

Source: American Heart Association

In Pictures: Vegan Donuts in the U.S.

‘Date Rape’ Drug Gets FDA Approval to Treat Rare Sleep Disorder

The drug Xywav has been approved for expanded use in adults with a rare sleep disorder called idiopathic hypersomnia, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Thursday.

The drug has a checkered history: In the 1960s, it was given to women during childbirth to dampen their consciousness, The New York Times reported, while an illicit version made headlines as a “date rape” drug in the 1990s.

It’s the first drug to be approved by the FDA for idiopathic hypersomnia, which causes excessive daytime sleepiness even after a good night’s sleep.

The oral drug was already approved for the treatment of excessive daytime sleepiness and sudden loss of muscle tone in patients aged 7 and older with narcolepsy.

“Idiopathic hypersomnia is a lifelong condition, and the approval of Xywav will be instrumental in providing treatment for symptoms such as excessive sleepiness and difficulty waking, and in effectively managing this debilitating disorder,” Dr. Eric Bastings, deputy director of the Office of Neuroscience in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in an agency news release.

The approval is based on a clinical trial that included 154 adult patients, aged 19 to 75. Those who were switched from Xywav to a placebo experienced worsening sleepiness and symptoms of idiopathic hypersomnia compared to those who continued taking the drug, according to the FDA.

The most common side effects of the drug were nausea (21.4%), headache (16.2%), dizziness (11.7%), anxiety (10.4%) and vomiting (10.4%).

Xywav has a boxed warning for central nervous system depression and abuse and misuse, which can cause serious side effects such as seizures, trouble breathing, changes in alertness, coma and death, the FDA said.

Due to the potential risks of the drug, it’s subject to strict prescribing and dispensing controls, and is not available in retail pharmacies.

Xywav can be prescribed only by a certified prescriber and dispensed only to an enrolled patient by a certified pharmacy that ships directly to patients, the FDA said.

Some experts said the evidence to support the new approval is weak. And they worry about the dangers of the medication, which acts so swiftly that its label advises users to take it while in bed, the Times reported.

The drug “has serious safety concerns, both in terms of its abuse liability and its addictive potential,” Dr. Lewis Nelson, director of medical toxicology at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, told the Times.

Source: HealthDay

Spinach with Raisins and Pine Nuts


3 tablespoons golden raisins (sultanas)
2 pounds spinach, tough stems removed
2 tablespoons pine nuts
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Soak the raisins in cold water for 15 minutes. Drain well.
  2. Cook the spinach in a little lightly salted water until wilted, 5-7 minutes. Drain and chop coarsely.
  3. Toast the pine nuts in a large frying pan over medium heat until golden, about 5 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  4. Add the oil to the same pan. Add the onion and garlic and saute over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the spinach and raisins. Season with salt and pepper and toss gently. Sprinkle with the pine nuts.
  6. Serve hot.

Makes 6 servings.

Source: Modern Mediterranean Cooking

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