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Food ironies abound - grain and the environment vs. meat and human health (a 100% biofuel-free post)

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GliderGuider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-28-07 10:18 AM
Original message
Food ironies abound - grain and the environment vs. meat and human health (a 100% biofuel-free post)
Edited on Wed Nov-28-07 10:22 AM by GliderGuider
I'm reading Gary Taubes' recent book "Good Calories, Bad Calories". In it he reviews all the scientific evidence supporting our wholesale adoption of a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet for the prevention of heart disease and overall optimum health. He finds the underlying science that drove that shift to be flimsy to nonexistent, driven much more by ideology than evidence. Worse than that, he finds that the science invariably supports the likes of Dr. Atkins and Barry Sears, who maintain that animal proteins and fats are essentially innocuous in the human diet while refined carbohydrates (the "white death" of sugar, white flour, white rice, potatoes, pasta, HFCS etc.) are fattening us, sickening us, and ultimately killing us.

For someone who is very concerned about the higher energy cost of raising animals compared to grains in the era of Peak Oil, as well as the moral and ethical horrors of the beef and pork feedlot industries, this poses a deliciously ironic conundrum. Do I go vegetarian and boost the amount of carbohydrate in my diet, going easier on the planet but raising the risk to my personal health from insulin disorders, or do I cut down the grains and eat more meat, thereby safeguarding my physical health but raising the risk to the planet and my own karma?

"If a person who indulges in gluttony is a glutton, and a person who commits a felony is a felon, then God is an iron." - Spider Robinson.
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Jackpine Radical Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-28-07 10:24 AM
Response to Original message
1. The solution is simple.
Hunt. Eat venison.

You will not only be converting grass & twigs into food, you will be helping to reduce crop damage in the cornfields.
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GliderGuider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-28-07 10:26 AM
Response to Reply #1
3. Hmm. I'm an urban kind of guy.
Maybe I should start off small in my move to being a hunter-gatherer. Perhaps I could set up a trapline for free-range neighborhood cats...
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demnan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-28-07 10:35 AM
Response to Reply #3
6. Be careful in my neighborhood
I have giant traps set to hunt cat eaters. My three little babies love fresh raw meat! :crazy:
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GliderGuider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-28-07 10:45 AM
Response to Reply #6
10. No worries, I only eat free-range cats
The domesticated ones that are kept indoors unless supervised by their owners are at no risk whatsoever.
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Jackpine Radical Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-28-07 12:06 PM
Response to Reply #10
18. Free range cats are better for you anyway.
Less cholesterol and leaner than the apartment-raised kind, I hear.
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LeftyMom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-28-07 10:25 AM
Response to Original message
2. False premise
There's much more evidence for the positive health benefits of a plant-based diet than for meat-based ones. Try reading The China Study for better info on that.

Moreover, anybody who presents a false dichotomy (either a meat-heavy diet or one of refined starches) is selling you a bill of goods, because the suggestion to stick with unrefined or minimally starches has been near-universal for two decades or so.
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Gormy Cuss Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-28-07 10:32 AM
Response to Reply #2
4. It does seem a bit simplistic.
In addition to your points, even an omnivorous diet can be achieved without being meat or dairy heavy and without relying on products from industrial-size feedlots and poultry farms. Plant-based diets don't need to be strictly vegetarian to be an improvement for ourselves and our planet.
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GliderGuider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-28-07 11:02 AM
Response to Reply #2
11. The truth as always is more moderate
The distinction between refined and unrefined carbs is analogous to the difference between a nice roast of grass-fed beef and a can of Spam. The message of Taubes' book is two-fold: Don't fear meat, and don't assume that all starches are equivalent no matter what the food industry says.

One problem North America has is that the food industry seized on the early AHA recommendations as carte blanch to bulk up their profits by pouring on the white flour and HFCS. Another is that the majority of eaters these days view fat as the Devil Incarnate while accepting (or even welcoming) a diet filled to the brim with sugars.

The very last thing the feeding corporations want us to do is to go back to preparing our own food from raw ingredients. Where's the profit in that?
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LeftyMom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-28-07 11:08 AM
Response to Reply #11
12. Nobody sensible is suggesting that all starches are equivalent or that all fat is bad.
But Americans eat waaaaaaaaay too much fat generally, and particularly too much fat from meats and dairy. It's a major (likely primary) contributor to the incidence of overweight, diabetes, heart disease and cancer in this country.
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GliderGuider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-28-07 11:18 AM
Response to Reply #12
13. You really should read Taubes' book
Edited on Wed Nov-28-07 11:19 AM by GliderGuider
The scientific evidence basically blows the fat myth out of the water. Yes, even saturated fats from meat and dairy. They are most emphatically not a primary contributor to overweight, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. That honour is laid squarely at the feet of refined carbohydrates.

Taubes even traces the "fat is bad" myth back to its roots in the counterculture days of the '60s and '70s. Animal fat was seen as the dietary emblem of excessive consumption, as well as evidence of our inhumanity to other creatures. The anti-fat movement was strongly fuelled by a moral disapproval that no objective evidence could overcome. He notes just how much objective evidence was ignored in the push to get Americans to feel that eating meat was A Bad Thing that only Bad People did. It's astonishing.

This is a very uncomfortable idea for someone who has been raised on the authority of the AHA, but they were wrong. Their mistakes and willful blindness to the evidence has damaged the health of two generations of Americans.
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LeftyMom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-28-07 11:27 AM
Response to Reply #13
14. Uh, I'm up to my armpits in nutrition books. I have three good friends with nutrition training
(two BSs and a certificate between them) and a few more acquaintances who work in nutrition and related fields. Not a one of them eats *any* meat.

Trust me. The guy is telling you what you really want to hear, and it isn't true, and if you follow his advice your health will likely suffer for it. Go read the China Study.
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GliderGuider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-28-07 11:33 AM
Response to Reply #14
15. He actually doesn't make any recommendations.
Edited on Wed Nov-28-07 11:59 AM by GliderGuider
He reviews the science. He does so critically and thoroughly. This is not a "nutrition book" per se, it's a piece of science journalism. The conclusions waiting there for the readers to draw are going to make a lot of people deservedly uncomfortable.

The problem with trained nutritionists is, who trained them? They are as much victims of the prevailing paradigms and pronouncements of authority as any of us. My father is a research biochemist with a PhD from a very major American university, whose whole career was spent looking at energy metabolism at the cellular level. He's also the most skeptical and evidence-driven person I know. He's been eating low-carb and low-glycemic-index for the last 30 years, on the basis of his own research.

I'll look into the China Study, thanks.
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GliderGuider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-28-07 11:57 AM
Response to Reply #2
16. The China Study - oh dear.
Edited on Wed Nov-28-07 11:59 AM by GliderGuider
I just went and looked for preliminary information on the net. What I found is not encouraging.

First off, Campbell appears to be a committed vegan. While there's nothing wrong with that as a lifestyle choice, there is a problem if you allow your convictions to interfere with your interpretation of the scientific results. That is exactly the trap that Ancel Keys fell into in his work starting with the cherry-picking of the "Seven Countries Study".

Here is a comment I found in one review:

What is most shocking about the China Study is not what it found, but the contrast between Campbells representation of its findings in The China Study, and the data contained within the original monograph. Campbell summarizes the 8,000 statistically significant correlations found in the China Study in the following statement: "people who ate the most animal-based foods got the most chronic disease." He also claims that, although it is "somewhat difficult" to "show that animal-based food intake relates to overall cancer rates," that nevertheless, "animal protein intake was convincingly associated in the China Study with the prevalence of cancer in families."

But the actual data from the original publication paints a different picture. Figure 1 shows selected correlations between macronutrients and cancer mortality. Most of them are not statistically significant, which means that the probability the correlation is due to chance is greater than five percent. It is interesting to see, however, the general picture that emerges. Sugar, soluble carbohydrates, and fiber all have correlations with cancer mortality about seven times the magnitude of that of animal protein, and total fat and fat as a percentage of calories were both negatively correlated with cancer mortality. The only statistically significant association between intake of a macronutrient and cancer mortality was a large protective effect of total oil and fat intake as measured on the questionnaire. As an interesting aside, there was a highly significant negative correlation between cancer mortality and home-made cigarettes!

...

The China Study contains many excellent points in its criticism of the health care system, the overemphasis on reductionism in nutritional research, the influence of industry on research, and the necessity of obtaining nutrients from foods. But its bias against animal products and in favor of veganism permeates every chapter and every page. Less than a page of comments are spent in total discussing the harms of refined carbohydrate products. Campbell exercises caution when generalizing from casein to plant proteins, but freely generalizes from casein to animal protein. He entirely ignores the role of wheat gluten, a plant product, in autoimmune diseases, so he can emphasize the role of milk protein, an animal product. The book, while not entirely without value, is not about the China Study, nor is it a comprehensive look at the current state of health research. It would be more aptly titled, A Comprehensive Case for the Vegan Diet, and the reader should be cautioned that the evidence is selected, presented, and interpreted with the goal of making that case in mind.

I think I'll keep my money in my pocket, thanks. Or maybe spend it on another copy of Taubes to loan out.
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LeftyMom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-28-07 12:06 PM
Response to Reply #16
17. He went into the research expecting it to show health benefits for animal protein.
Edited on Wed Nov-28-07 12:07 PM by LeftyMom
My understanding is that he does not regularly eat meat, but is not a vegan, but in any case he certainly wasn't one prior to the onset of the study, nor did he expect the strong correlations between animal protein and disease (particularly the strong carcinogenic effect of casein) that he discovered.

edit: Can't imagine the library doesn't have it.
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Locrian Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-28-07 10:34 AM
Response to Original message
5. Im in the same boat as you
I can state w/o question that the Taubes book is spot on for me. Everyone who thinks they really **know ** that he's wrong need to read the book AND the studies he references. It's as much about "information cascade" and accepted myths as about food.

And I agree it raises serious issues regarding how we live.

For me it almost makes me feel like a vampire - but it does make sense: we are not really that far removed as "animals" who kill to survive. We can fool ourselves into thinking humans are all "concerned" and "civilized" but we really are not.

The ugly, unwashed truth that NOBODY wants to recognize is that we have breed (humans) beyond the capacity of the planet. We require a LOT of resources to live the way we have for the last 2 million years (agriculture has only been around for the blink of an eye).


It all DOES seem to make sense to me as the cosmic "joke" - the "joke" is on us that we are so "superior" or morally "special" in regards to what we do to live.
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unpossibles Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-28-07 10:39 AM
Response to Original message
7. the answer is good carbs and plant matter
I know from first hand experience that my health vastly improved when I went vegetarian 15 years ago. I also cut way back on refined sugar and white flour, and started using more natural sweeteners if any, whole grains, vegetables and legumes in general.

My weight, my cholesterol, my blood pressure, blood sugar, and a number of other factors all improved dramatically. At the time I also became more active, and while my activity level has gone down a bit, I am still fairly active. I love to walk, and ride my bike, etc., and all of those things help as well.

Meanwhile, my friends on Atkins have all gained their weight back and have had other issues, including one whose diabetes got worse. So maybe the science backs it, but I question the science then, or rather the people funding the science. Is it any coincidence that these studies became more popular when the meat industries started losing money as people became more conscious of what they eat? Maybe I am wrong, but I don't know.

And if you must eat meat, eating feedlot meat is the worst way to go about it. Ever visit one? The smell alone is horrible, not to mention the waste in water and grains, and the ecological damage. I'm fine with the idea of small, free range farms, and frankly the meat consumption in this country is way out of hand as far as portions and frequency go.

Eat less and eat smarter seems to be the way to go.
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Emillereid Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-28-07 01:29 PM
Response to Reply #7
22. Just goes to show there are different metabolic types - I tried the diet you
describe and gained fat very fast and have never been so unhealthy in my life. I was just starting my nutrition training and I knew I wasn't eating too many calories either. I also exercised. To know avail, the fat just kept coming. All the lipid numbers went in the wrong direction - and though I don't hold much stock in the science behind cholesterol, etc., their dramatic increase did tell me that the diet was not good FOR ME. Upon more bad news in my doctor's office, I burst into tears exclaiming I couldn't eat any healthier (as defined by the AHA and Ornish). He offered to put me on meds. I said no thanks - changing my diet put me into fix - diet was going to get me out.

I turned the pyramid on its head - and voila, lost lots of weight, the lipids went in the 'healthier' direction, etc. My energy level sky-rocketed. I'd say about 3/4 of the people I've worked with do better on a lower-carb diet while others do better on a higher carb diet. There are some rumblings in the literature about genetic differences in how we utilize food - heat or atp. Mercola also found in his practice that there were distinct metabolic types.

I do best on a low-carb diet -- lots of meat, eggs, dairy, real fats and low starch veggies. And though people claim on low carb diets one doesn't get enough veggies - nonsense. I eat more of the nutrient dense low starch veggies and fruits than ever.

One man's food is another man's poison.
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unpossibles Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-28-07 02:00 PM
Response to Reply #22
24. well, keep in mind that I was exercising a lot at the time
and also that as a vegetarian I eat an extremely varied diet (probably more than most meat eaters I know) that includes plenty of protein and a decent amount of fats (olive oil, nuts, etc). It did make me eat less greasy junk food, and also made me look more closely at what I eat in general.

I think a some folks who try veggie diets fail because they sometimes still eat a lot of processed food or junk food. Cooking from simple & basic ingredients seems to be the key for me. Every now and then I will eat something less healthy, but its a treat instead of a way of life.

And I also agree that not everyone metabolizes things the same way. I know people who get sleepy from coffee, wired from pot, and mint upsets their stomachs, all things that are the opposite of what they 'normally' do.

And as far as exercising, I was riding a bike maybe 15+ miles a day (I had gotten rid of my car because it was too expensive), so while that can change things, I was able to eat a pound of pasta in one sitting with no problem. In fact, for about a year or so, it took some effort for me to not lose weight - I miss those days. lol.
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Emillereid Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-28-07 04:16 PM
Response to Reply #24
25. During my vegetarian stint I ate only complex, whole carbs (some fish) -- nary
a refined particle passed these lips - no sugar, white flour, etc. None! I did not eat nor do I eat processed or junk food. A saturated fat molecule was rare. I exercised -- at least five times a week for 45 minutes on an elliptical machine jacked up to a very high setting and also did weights. I was stubborn and hard core. And yet, my body gained weight and my lipids went nuts. And you know what -- the nutrition literature is filled with studies that bear this out -- it is not rare. Food is not simply calories -- it is information and interacts in so many ways with the hormonal system. One study gave subjects either a 10% or 45% fat isocaloric diet -- and low and beyond the low fat group made oodles of new fat-- and the kind of fat they made? Saturated - the fat mammals make from carbohydrates! They didn't gain weight during the experiment -- but their body composition contained more fat at the end. The high fat group didn't change!

Cholesterol as it turns out participates in the immune system -- who would have thought.

If I ate a pound of pasta I would gain five pounds overnight and would have to run for days to get it off. As it is I wear a pedometer and do at least 10,000 steps a day.
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phantom power Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-28-07 10:40 AM
Response to Original message
8. Jellyfish.
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GliderGuider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-28-07 10:42 AM
Response to Reply #8
9. I wonder if we could genetically engineer a fluorescent, maple-flavoured jellyfish
That would be kind of cool.
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phantom power Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-28-07 12:54 PM
Response to Reply #9
19. Hopefully we can also engineer one that can be ground up for flour.
Seeing as how it's getting harder and harder to grow grain on the land and all.
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Nihil Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-29-07 03:58 AM
Response to Reply #19
26. Feed them a suitable emulsifier and pow ...
... instant tofu!

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Emillereid Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-28-07 01:11 PM
Response to Original message
20. As much as possible buy meat and dairy products from organic, diversified
farms - you know the old fashioned kind of farming that corporate farming displaced. The kind of farm my parents grew up on. This farming method creates an ecological harmony between the livestock and plant vegetation. Probably the best is Polyface farms in Virginia. http://www.polyfacefarms.com /

Buy grass-fed meat if available.

Read about sustainable agricultural methods at www.westonaprice.org

Personally I can't live on a vegetarian diet -- I tried for 3 1/2 years and it made me into a fat making machine even though my caloric intake was fairly low - and everything was 'complex and healthy, ' no white stuff for me. I not only gained weight but all my lipid numbers went crazily up- except of course the so-called good one - HDL - which fell dramatically. There are studies that document my experience. I am an omnivore and do best on no grains.

Grains are not good for cattle either -- but like me it makes them fat. Their natural food is grass. I have a dream of allowing the prairie lands of the midwest to convert to grass and allow the animals to graze til their hearts content. In other words - cut out the middle men farmers. Corn is OK in small quantities but Americans have become virtual "tortilla chips on legs' from its ubiquitous presence in our food supply. It's cheap though and heavily subsidized.
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GliderGuider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-28-07 01:27 PM
Response to Reply #20
21. "Rebuilding the bridges between farmers and eaters is a revolutionary act"
That's how my partner summarized the three-day national convention of the Canadian National Farmers' Union we attended last weekend. They are all about family farms, sustainability, bio-diversity, low-impact farming and especially bringing eaters back into contact with their food and the people who grow it.

I am in complete agreement with you, point for point.
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Emillereid Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-28-07 01:42 PM
Response to Reply #21
23. Wow, that's exciting to hear.
Edited on Wed Nov-28-07 01:43 PM by Emillereid
The kind of farm my parents grew up on and that my uncle recently retired from were ecologically sound. My parents' farm didn't even create any waste -- there was no garbage pick-up! No plastic or cardboard boxes. Store bought food was either wrapped in paper or came in canvas bags that were recycled or burned. The animals ate grass or leftovers while they fertilized the land. It hasn't been that long ago -- if we stay very still and listen, I think we can remember.

I told my uncle about the doings of Monsanto and its terminator seeds and patents such that it's illegal to save seed. His shock was palpable - he kept saying "that can't be: Farmers are the savers of seed. That's what farming is all about." He and my aunt had seed that dated back decades and more.l
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hunter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-29-07 10:38 AM
Response to Original message
27. Tilapia in a backyard pond, grab it, gut it, throw it in the deep fryer.
There's your meat & fat.

I suppose you could do a similar thing with rabbits, and get nice skins too, but rabbits are too cute.
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GliderGuider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-29-07 11:13 AM
Response to Reply #27
28. My partner's daughter built a koi pond in our backyard. That might work
Edited on Thu Nov-29-07 11:14 AM by GliderGuider
Once you got past the bones and the hysterics, of course...
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