WHO’s Afraid Of Meat? … And Other Stuff

Yes, I know … I’ve been a bit of an absent landlord lately when it comes to the blog. As someone who’s written a film, speeches, roasts, a few stage shows back in the day, etc., I know that you have to commit to a deadline at some point, or the project will never be finished.

So I set a deadline for a complete first draft of the book project: my birthday, which is a mere 16 days away. We’d like to have this thing available by May, and Chareva needs plenty of lead time to produce a ton of drawings and lay out the pages. The way holiday seasons seem to zip past, I also know that if I don’t have a draft finished by my birthday, it won’t be finished until the new year.

Trying to explain how diet affects health in a fun and kid-friendly way turned out to be a bigger challenge than I expected – and I expected it to be challenge. I rewrote the toughest chapter (on why the calories-in/calories-out theory is true but also useless) a dozen times last winter.  I finally came up with an analogy that worked, and presented that chapter as a speech on the cruise last May.

But when I began writing subsequent chapters, I decided I didn’t like that analogy so much after all. It worked well as a solo act, but when I moved on to related subjects, I found myself jumping from one analogy to another to explain the concepts. Yee-uck.  I like casseroles as food, but not as a writing style.

I shared my writer’s woes with Chareva, and she offered an idea. That took my brain to a another idea and BANG! – I had the AHA! moment writers live for.  We spent an hour or so kicking it around, talking about she could illustrate it, how we could use it to explain every topic we want to cover. It all made sense.

That’s the good news. The not-so-good news is that I had to re-imagine everything I’d already written and start again. A whole shootload of Chareva’s drawings will go out the window as well. Totally worth it, mind you. Once we knew this was it, the big idea, the right way to tell the story, the words started flowing. But it’s a lot of words, and I have plenty more to write.

So that’s what I’ve been doing instead of blogging.

I’ve been reading comments, of course, and answering emails. A few days ago, I let myself get dragged into an email debate with an ignoramus who thinks I don’t understand calories, then realized I was violating my rule about not arguing with idiots – especially illogical idiots who seem to love endless arguments. So I invited him to go away and blocked his email address.

Several of you have written to ask if I read Denise Minger’s book-length post on high-carb, very-low-fat diets that successfully treated obesity and diabetes. Yes, I did, and it’s fascinating. If you haven’t read her outstanding book Death by Food Pyramid, she floated some similar ideas there. Ancel Keys insisted fat does the damage, John Yudkin insisted sugar does the damage, they sniped at each other for years. But as Minger wrote in the book, it could be that they were both right and both wrong … perhaps it’s the combination of fat and sugar that does the real damage. Cut either to an extreme, and the damage doesn’t occur. A 15-year-old book I recently read about diet and hormones makes similar points.

Anyway, I’ll probably write more about her post soon … if after my birthday qualifies as “soon.”

Several people also wrote to ask for a reaction to the World Health Organization’s announcement that meat causes cancer. So here’s my reaction:

Head. Bang. On. Desk.

Actually, we shouldn’t be surprised. This wasn’t a scientific decision. It was a political decision. WHO is an idiot step-child of the U.N. – a political organization run by political hacks for the purpose of promoting political agendas. The (ahem) “climate experts” at the U.N. have also declared that raising livestock contributes to global warming – er, “climate change,” now that record-cold winters have put the kibosh on “warming.” They don’t want us to eat meat, period. I certainly don’t put it past the political hacks to cherry-pick observational studies that link meat to cancer as a scare tactic.

As part of the scare campaign, one of the WHO hacks apparently declared that when it comes to cancer risk, sausage is in the same category as plutonium. The always-brilliant Dr. Malcolm Kendrick replied, “OK, I’ll eat the sausages, you eat the plutonium, let’s see who lives longest.”

Zoe Harcombe wrote a nice post about the WHO announcement, complete with analysis of the numbers.

I don’t plan to write a full post about it, because it’s the same old garbage based on the same crappy observational studies, and I’ve already written about those studies here, here, here and here.

I will, however, quote from one study. Remember that in good science, we don’t accept a hypothesis unless the evidence supporting it is consistent. WHO says red meat and processed meats cause bowel cancer. So we’d certainly expect vegetarians to have the lowest rates of bowel cancer, wouldn’t we?

Take a look at the conclusion from this observational study, which I’ve quoted before:

The overall cancer incidence rates of both the vegetarians and the nonvegetarians in this study are low compared with national rates. Within the study, the incidence of all cancers combined was lower among vegetarians than among meat eaters, but the incidence of colorectal cancer was higher in vegetarians than in meat eaters.

No consistency, no scientific validity. If meat causes bowel cancer, vegetarians would have lower rates of bowel cancer, period, no glaring exceptions. WHO doesn’t get to pick and choose. Well, they do, but we get to use our brains and refuse be swayed by cherry-picked garbage.

Another analysis of data from the same study included this conclusion:

Within the study, mortality from circulatory diseases and all causes is not significantly different between vegetarians and meat eaters

“All causes” would include cancer.

Go enjoy your sausage (hold the plutonium), and I’ll get back to working on the book.


108 thoughts on “WHO’s Afraid Of Meat? … And Other Stuff

  1. samc

    If I still owned a retail food establishment, which fortunately I don’t I’d probably feature a WHO burger special. WHO’s on first, I dunno know.

  2. Josh

    “now that record-cold winters have put the kibosh on “warming.”

    What record cold winter? It’s warmer that average out in my part of the world.

        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          We’re not talking about a cold city here and there. There were record-cold winters all over the planet in previous years. October snowfalls in London (an rarity), snowfalls in areas on the U.S. southwest that almost never get snow, late farm planting in northern states because of snow in May, etc.


          The Brits are being warned of another heavy winter coming:


          That’s why it’s called “climate change” now … because of course, the climate never changed before.

            1. Tom Naughton Post author

              What do you expect from a guy who flunked out of grad school and left law school with a “C” average?

            2. Firebird

              And bought a house on a California coast line that he said would have disappeared by now, and also said snow would be a thing of the past?

            3. Tom Naughton Post author

              Well, he was at least smart enough to start a company that sells carbon credits. Then when it was revealed that his house used 20x the national average for electricity, he explained that he made up for by buying carbon credits. He didn’t mention he bought them from himself.

            4. Wenchypoo

              Carbon credits = money makes EVERYTHING all better. It pays for the bigger rug in which to sweep all our sins under.

            5. Nowhereman10

              Oh, no, no, Tom. To call Al Gore stupid is to badly underestimate him and all other power hungry sociopaths like him. The guy has made a billion dollars off of fear mongering, and will likely keep making more so long as there are suckers out there willing to believe his spiel.

              Sadly I only wish the guy was, then he’d be some harmless kook annoying people on a street corner instead of where he is now.

          1. Cameron Hidalgo

            Tom, I really expect better of you. I won’t debate the climate change, but did you really just source a blogger, whose only sources are an out of context graph, and another blog?

            You then follow up with an article about heavier snowfalls. Any third grade science teacher can tell you that heavy snow happens when cold fronts meet warm fronts. Cold winters have nothing to do with snowfall.

            I come here because you are willing to call out those performing bad science, or those standing by bad research. You humourously critique those who report other’s flawed findings. These links weren’t science. They were sensationalism.

            1. Tom Naughton Post author

              Since this was in comments and not a post, I linked to a blogger who has dug up the data. You can follow his links as well.

              If you’re interested enough to watch a long speech by a scientist who has analyzed all this thoroughly (I’ve also read his book, which is chock-full of references), you can do so here:


              This whole global warmi– er, climate change poppycock is being promoted by governments whose cures (surprise!) largely revolve around giving more money to governments. It’s also being promoted by anti-market lefties whose main motivation is to find an excuse for more taxes and regulations.

              Surely you don’t think they’re disinterested parties in all this.

            2. Cameron Hidalgo

              As I said before. I don’t intend to debate the science. I’m just calling them as I see them.

            3. J

              People concerned about global warming..I mean climate change..why wait for the government? Just stop doing the following..

              Using electricity (fossil fuels)
              Being a modern consumer..do you really need that smart phone, laptop, tv, washing machine, etc.. (manufacturing requires tons of electricity)
              Using motor vehicles or anything gas powered
              Using wood or paper (deforestation)
              Eating anything thats not locally grown (emissions from shipping food) and that uses chemical fertilizers
              Eating beef (cow farts)
              …short list.



              So basically walk everywhere or start riding a bicycle, live in a mud house, and eat locally. See..you dont need regulation and taxation to make a difference.

              It all starts with you, right?

              PS. Despite some implied sarcasm above..theres some appeal to living in a quiet, solar powered cabin and eating locally grown meat and produce…as long as it’s free from overbearing institution of course..

            4. Thomas E.


              So here you are at this blog, and of course, one of the highlights of this blog is how well the government, and the medical community completely got the whole low fat diet thing wrong.

              Think it is possible they might have fark’d up on the AGW thing as well.

              Really, global warming is right up there with the low fat diet and the magic bullet theory from the Kennedy assassination?

  3. gollum

    Upon hearing WHO, the educated tin-foil-bearer thinks dubious vaccines, circumcision propaganda, anti-smoking nannyism.

    What do they think diabetics should eat?

    Anyway. Peter @hyperlipid had a post recently about carbosis. I sort of skimmed the technical details about electron chains etc. etc., the net result seems to be that extremly high carb improves things again. This would fit with your observation, and maybe Ray Peat’s anecdotes about sugar being a cure.

    But it just isn’t practical except maybe with “carb day – nothing day – fat day – fat day” Trennkost. Essential fatty acids are essential, some fats are everywhere, other nutritients you won’t be getting…
    And that’s not accounting for taste, and glycation endproducts!

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      That’s actually what the book I’m reading recommends: cycling LCHF (and high protein) days with low-fat, high-carb days. The theory is that we shouldn’t eat fats and carbs together.

      1. Joe

        I just think all this stuff is a little ridiculous. EAT.REAL.FOOD. From birth if possible. Limit carbs if you’re fat and have trouble losing weight. That’s about it. It’s pretty simple. Sure, there are other things to consider but this whole diseases of civilization occur with the introduction of large amounts of processed foods and sugars. I’m pretty confident that large groups of humans have been eating carbs and fats together for millennia. In fact, I remember reading an awesome book about a missionary that went to some native tribes in South America a few decades ago. He described how on most days, the women and children would go out and collect bugs, tubers,fish from their traps and a flour like substance called “sago” while the men would go hunt wild game. They would bring it back and eat it. That’s a lot of carbs and fats together. I can imagine cultures all over the world behaving similarly for years.

        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          Totally agree on the real food.

          A point Denise Minger made in comments on her post is that both extreme diets — keto and “carbosis” — are interventions for people with metabolic damage, not prescriptions for otherwise healthy people.

          1. Joe

            On this extreme low fat diet, what is the proposed mechanism for weight loss and health here? It tastes so crappy you’ll never eat?

        2. Galina L.

          I think you talk about something you don;t know enough about. Americans romanticize so called real food. I always roll my eyes when I hear something like “just eat real food” as a diet advice. I am from a fast-food-free society, and unfortunately a self-cooked food is not a remedy for modern deceases prevention and not a slimming regiment. I cook all my food all my life, it is way better than an industrial food, but only carbs limitations made a huge difference health-wise. Making-from-scratch is not a magic ritual when food is getting mixed with love, national traditions and a culture, and it somehow casts health protective properties. No, it is not ridiculously simple. Many of my family members didn’t live long on a real food. My father died at 51 at heart arrest, he was not fat, didn’t smoke and didn’t get drunk regularly.

          1. Joe

            Galina, you make a lot of assumptions about what “real food” means. Eating real food does not mean “home cooking”. It means consistently eating foods that are minimally processed and designed for human beings. Obviously, one can home cook food that is metabolically harmful. If you’re eating large amounts of grains and industrial fats as well as added sugars, home cooking is not going to help you a whole lot. But really, yes it is THAT simple from a broad perspective. If someone eats mostly real, whole foods from childhood onward, they will have almost zip chance of being grossly overweight or having major metabolic issues. Unfortunately, many of us have had too much metabolic damage done to us through years of eating bad food and a lack of activity. In that case, we may have to be more extreme in the dietary intervention we choose. Restricting carbs is one such (important) intervention.

            1. Galina L.

              Than a “real food” in your definition is the food which is recommended by a “Paleo diet”. Most traditional diets indeed contain a fair amount of grains prepared in a traditional way which limits harm, but for some individuals not enough.

          2. JillOz

            Health is not JUST about the food. It’s also about stress, genetics, sleep, medication etc.

            However one of the few things we can do is search for and put real food into our bodies.

            Many democracies ahev so much processed food and so little cooking knowledge that this is hard for some people, and others who eat healthy have trerrible stress issues which may necessitate medication or whatever.

            I have little patience for people who say: It’s simple, just do…”
            Not everyone knows this simplicity, others are not able to practice it and still others have issues that prevent them – however minutely, for doing so perfectly.

            Please don’t dismiss them, it’s not that easy for everyone.

            1. j

              Cooking knowledge?

              Here is my “cooking knowledge”:

              Take a piece of meat, maybe add some salt/seasoning, heat in a pan until cooked..
              Take some veggies, maybe add some salt/seasoning, heat in a pan with butter…or just steam them
              I like to eat rice and tubers too so:
              For rice- read bag, cook as instructed
              Tubers- boil in water

              Thats all..pretty much everything else (fruits; many veggie types) doesnt need cooking obviously..

              While this may not be a luxurious way of eating, it is healthy, practical, and very easy to do.. So I dont get when someone says they dont know how to “cook”. It’s so simple a caveman could do it. Now if they say I dont know how to cook perhaps the way a chef does, then I guess that would make sense. Even then, if you wanted to cook like a chef in order to not bore your palate, you could go online and find millions of recipes.

              On the issue of whether something is simple, I would say: the methodology for doing many things is usually simple. The “difficult” part is the execution, if not just finding the motivation to perform it. Most barriers are self-erected.
              So, better to have little patience for people who say: It’s not simple, I cant do…”
              In the famous words of Shia LaBeouf (or was it Nike?)..Just do it!

            2. Joe

              No one is dismissing anyone. We’re talking here about a GENERAL prescription for health and well-being…and it is very simple. Simple doesn’t mean easy or convenient. It may be very hard for some people. It means that its not particularly complicated to be healthy (assuming you have adopted healthy behaviors from a young age). Now, of course, there may be exceptions from time to time. If everyone on the planet ate Paleo from birth there would probably still be a few people that get fat and sick. Unfortunately, some people lose the genetic and environmental lottery. But this is true of almost anything. A small percentage of people may develop lung cancer despite not smoking. However, that doesn’t change that the general prescription for avoiding lung cancer is simple: don’t smoke.

        3. Walter Bushell

          Better to have you mother on a real food diet too during pregnancy and one can hope before. But that best practice is closed for those reading here.

  4. Artificialkid

    Welcome back, Tom!
    You’ve pointed out a lot of roads not generally taken over the years, thanks. I’m looking forward to the book. (I’m not ashamed to read below my grade level).
    Please, what’s the title of that 15 year old book on diet and hormones?

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      It’s called “Natural Hormone Enhancement.” It’s out of print, so only used copies are available.

  5. Devin

    Good luck with the book!

    I’m a middle school librarian and we regularly get “Healthy Eating Books” that are full of bologna. I’ve taken to writing covert sticky notes with real facts and sticking them inside.

    Can’t wait to buy your book for my library and get some real facts out to the kids!

      1. Thomas E.

        Hmmm, if Tim Ferris were to interview me in a year or 2, and ask what my most given book was, I suspect I will be answering Tom Naughton’s book on nutrition.

        But, let’s get real, I am not expect Tim Ferris to even know who I am, let alone interview me.

        *BUT* I would love it if Tim Ferris were to interview you!

    1. tess

      [joke font] Shame on you, Devin, for confounding bologna with baloney! Properly made, bologna is good food (especially the mortadella-like versions i’ve found). Those “healthy eating books” on the other hand are usually more like bovine excrement.

      1. Walter Bushell

        There is a use for bovine excrement. Polyface farm and allies use it to raise fly grubs which they feed to chickens, in the end everything is returned to the ground to feed the grass.

  6. Pamela

    “The overall cancer incidence rates of both the vegetarians and the nonvegetarians in this study are low compared with national rates. Within the study, the incidence of all cancers combined was lower among vegetarians than among meat eaters, but the incidence of colorectal cancer was higher in vegetarians than in meat eaters.”

    I’m on your side Tom, but a more recent study by the same website shows otherwise: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25751512

    My FB wall is rife with smug vegetarians quoting the WHO ‘revelations’ and I’ve chosen to ignore rather than engage; live and let live. (if only they would stop posting photos of their vegan meals though!)

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      My point exactly. The results of these observational studies are all over the place. No consistency, no validity.

    2. Fauna

      For what it’s worth, most Adventist studies, including the one in your link, was done by researchers at Loma Linda University, an Adventist institution whose stated goals are to promote and Adventist lifestyle including the adoption of a vegetarian diet.

  7. Bruce

    One of the MSM screaming headlines said that WHO says meat is as bad as smoking!!!!

    As an ex smoker can I go back to smoking and cut back on the red meat a little? I promise to smoke only all natural “lite” cigarettes.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      To borrow from Dr. Malcolm Kendrick, “You smoke the cigarettes, I’ll eat the meat. We’ll see who lives longer.”

      1. Bruce

        No thanks. I gave them up 25 years ago. I do not want to go back to them. I’ll take a medium rare steak instead.

  8. Firebird

    “Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.” ~ Mark Twain

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Someone needs to inform the vegetarians. The trolls who show up here seem to believer otherwise.

  9. Mike

    Those numbers could be consistent if non-red meat protected against colon cancer. In which case the Who should recommend that vegetarians start eating chicken.

  10. The Older Brother

    Love reading the MSM reporting on the “experts” of WHO. My first thought was “you mean the same experts who totally fubar-Ed the whole Ebola thing?”

    And that’s something they were supposed to be good at.


    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      As Dr. Sowell pointed out in “The Vision of the Anointed,” failure is somehow never taken as evidence that The Anointed are incompetent.

  11. Eric

    YES, what would a weekly or monthly cycle between carbosis and ketosis interspersed with bone broth fast do?

    Maybe somewhere people have been doing this?

    Switch from uber cheap rice one month to grass fed beef and butter and wild salmon the next?

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      That’s similar to what the book I just read recommends. HFLC five days per week, starchy carbs with very little fat the other two days.

  12. Gwen

    Does this report mean that, if I eat a pound of processed red meat, that I will suddenly explode into a body-wide mass of cancer? Maybe that’s what happened to Deadpool!

      1. Nowhereman10

        Speaking of the cherrypicking angle, I saw one article in a local paper that did a comparison of how much the alleged increase in cancer that processed meats are supposed to cause against cigarettes and other causes. The increase from meats was so low it was 29 times lower in new deaths each year than smoking, for instance. So the Great Meat Buggaboo, after all the cherrypicked studies, was still far lower than all the others by more than an order of magnitude!

        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          Yup, the comparisons to cigarettes were utter nonsense from the word go. You simply can’t look at the data — every cherry-picked observational data — and believe the risks are anywhere in the same league.

            1. Hugh Mannity

              That statistic on the number of diabetics projected (By 2050, one-third of all Americans could suffer from Type 2 diabetes.) came up at the annual meeting of the physician hospital organisation I run databases for.

              Admittedly it was part of a presentation on other stuff, but not one word was said about taking on dealing with it.

              The breakfast: fruit salad, non-fat yogurt, bagels and lite cream cheese, muffins and donuts.

              The box lunch: wraps, chips, fruit, cookies.

              And the coffee was excrable, but it kept me going till I got back to my office, where I had homemade egg salad and chorizo waiting (locally made from pasture-raised pigs)

            2. Tom Naughton Post author

              Sounds like physicians will be joining the ranks of type 2 diabetics with those meals.

  13. Walter Bushell

    Don’t apologize for not posting. We have no contract and all I’ve done for you is buy a copy of the movie, put a few Amazon purchases through your site and I would like to think added some valuable content to the site.

    Hopefully the book will be simple and clear enough for doctors and
    to understand. One can hope, but what a man (or woman) can believe if their
    income and social status depends on it boggles my mind. Ah, we all know that
    superior intelligence is usually used to bolster ideas of negative merit.



    As an aside, anyone have an idea of how to deal with a good friend who has
    gone vegan?

    1. Galina L.

      May be it depends of your friend reasoning for becoming a vegan. If the reason is health than there are things to say (not many times, of course).

  14. Walter Bushell

    Hey, meat eating is a tradition in my family – a tradition for 2.5 million years BTW. Our emergence as an intelligent species was powered by a meat eating diet and for nearly all of our time as hominoids high technology was stone tools. Once our ancestors started working in stone our evolution speeded up greatly.


    And following a 7 part series; if you haven’t read gnolls.org then perchance the hiatus in
    this blog could be filled by reading gnolls.org as a source of edification.

    Returning bison to the great plains would merely be a reversion to the status quo ante; cattle in Europe would be the best substitute for aurochs, and so forth.


    1. Elenor

      My husband used to say: “Man without meat is monkey.”

      (No, he wasn’t an anthropologist, but he cooked one once at a Holiday, Innnnnnnn… err… never mind.)

        1. Woalter Bushell

          Quite. It’s evolutionary. But more like a typically 60 pound ape. Once we got stone tools and started butchering kills and cracking open the bones for marrow evolution speeded up,

  15. gallier2

    Parler à un con, c’est un peu comme se masturber avec une rape à fromage : beaucoup de souffrance pour peu de résultat.
    Pierre Desproges

    Talking to an idiot is like masturbating with a cheese grater : a lot of suffering for very few results.
    Pierre Desproges

    1. Firebird

      Killing animals is inhumane, but murder is permitted. I am convinced that there are mental health issues associated with a vegan diet.

      1. Woalter Bushell

        According to some vegans, humans are not animals. So it’s logically consistent, if you can buy the premise that humans are not animals which is ludicrous.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Heh-heh-heh … I wondered where this coming from, then finally noticed it’s a petition put out by PartSane.

      1. Tom Naughton Post author

        And if you want to follow the model popular on college campuses these days, people who don’t agree with you should be brought up on charges of “creating a hostile environment.”

    2. Tom Naughton Post author

      I noticed the petition now has 80 SUPPORTERS!! Wowzers, what a groundswell. The BMJ editors must be quaking in their boots.

      By comparison, the petition to pass a law to prevent models from becoming dangerously skinny has nearly 93,000 supporters, and the petition to stop taxing tampons has nearly 270,000 supporters.

  16. Colombo

    After many years of study, I’ve reached the conclusion that all political organizations and political institutions in history were created with the sole purpose of giving work to journalists. Peace, efficiency, progress and happiness are things society must give up so that these people don’t get bored and depressed.

    I have heard that being a busybody and a liar increases the risk of cancer. Therefore, everyone who searches for the cancer risk of some substance will probably be better off finding another job or hobby.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I have my doubts about being a busybody and a liar causing cancer. Most politicians would be dead already.

  17. Evin

    Until recently, WHO also listed coffee as a carcinogen. I think it’s safe to say that their advice should be taken with a grain of salt.


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