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I have to admit, I’ll kind of miss The Guy From CSPI. It’s rare that someone pretending to promote science is such a goofball that he becomes a parody of himself. Life will be a little less entertaining without him declaring that fettucine alfredo is a Heart Attack on Plate! and a Hardee’s Thickburger is a Heart Attack on a Bun! (I’ve eaten both without so much as a chest pain afterwards.)

But alas, he’s apparently strapping on his Birkenstocks, putting a carrot in his mouth, and walking off into the sunset, according to a fawning NPR article online. Let’s take a look.

If you are the kind of person who picks up a box of food in the store and studies the label to see how much sugar or salt is in it, you can thank a man named Michael Jacobson.

Those labels with nutritional facts are a part of Jacobson’s legacy, one of his many victories in a four-decade-long battle against “junk food.” He has also had a hand in halting the marketing of many sugar-filled foods to children, reducing salt levels in packaged foods, and banning transfats. Next week, he’s stepping down, after 46 years, as president of the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington, D.C.

Hmmm, perhaps the reporter should do a little research before crediting The Guy From CSPI with banning trans fats. Dr. Mary Enig was warning about trans fats back when CSPI was actively promoting them as a safe alternative to “dangerous” animal fats. For her efforts, CSPI attempted to trash her reputation. In fact, it’s largely because of The Guy From CSPI that trans fats become so ubiquitous in the food supply.

And it wasn’t just fried foods that became laden with trans fats thanks to The Guy From CSPI. If you’re my age or older, you may remember the big scare over tropical oils – coconut oil being one of them. Here’s how that played out.

As for salt … ugh. Take a look at the CSPI-provided picture that accompanies the article:

Yup, The Guy From CSPI thinks the physiological need for salt is just 200 mg. per day, so he spent decades trying to harass food companies into selling low-salt foods.

Trouble is, a ton of research has demonstrated that 1) restricting salt doesn’t prevent high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease, and 2) going too low on salt might actually be dangerous for many people. So once again, The Guy From CSPI is kind of like a well-meaning but incompetent paramedic who rushes in to save people, but believes poking holes in their hearts is a good idea.

Anyway, back to the fawning article:

Jacobson is a paradoxical character. When he’s quoted in a news story, he typically sounds ferocious.… He is a food activist who doesn’t really love food.

And I think that has rather a lot to do with it. If you don’t like food, it probably seems like no big deal to remove all the flavor – the fats, the salt, etc. And hey, if it’s no big deal for you, then it shouldn’t be a big deal for anyone.  So why not leverage the coercive power of government to try to make people eat (ahem) “better” … for their own good, of course. Why not take the pleasure of ordering a restaurant meal by forcing people to look at calorie-counts on menus, whether they want to see them or not?

Of course, that didn’t work out so well. Exactly as I predicted at the time, forcing customers to be confronted with calorie counts didn’t prompt them to eat less in restaurants – because when people buy a double-whopper-whatever and big order of fries, they already know it’s a high-calorie meal.

The Guy From CSPI eventually had to admit that people’s eating habits aren’t going to change because of government-mandated finger-wagging, as the article notes:

After 40 years of trying to change America’s food habits, Jacobson has come to terms with the fact that those habits change very slowly, if at all. Nutrition labels, for instance, “haven’t generated as much change as we hoped.”

That’s because people have this crazy habit of eating foods they like.

“One of the saddest things is fruits and vegetables. Despite all the free publicity that fruits and vegetables get, requirements in school food programs, farmers markets everywhere, fruit and vegetable consumption has not increased in 20 years.”

That’s because people have this crazy habit of eating foods they like.

Despite all that, he’s optimistic. “When I think back to supermarkets when I got into the food biz in the early 1970s, you couldn’t find whole wheat bread, you couldn’t find brown rice, you couldn’t find yogurt,” he says. “There have been such huge changes! I think our culture clearly is moving in a much healthier direction. And industry will follow. Industry is following.”

Yes, industry is responding to consumer demand for healthier foods. Our local grocery store is stocking more full-fat dairy products and now sells potato chips cooked in coconut oil – which of course would give The Guy From CSPI fits.

That’s the lesson he never learned: we don’t eat foods he thinks are bad because the evil corporations produce them. Corporations produce those foods because we buy them. It’s consumers who control the market, not the manufacturers.

Yup, I’ll kind of miss seeing The Guy From CSPI flail around and attack food companies and fail to grasp basic economics … along with several principles of basic science.

See you, CSPI Guy.

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I decided to post this here instead of in the Fat Head group on Facebook. The subject of the post is in response to conversations in the group, but I think it’s relevant to the blog as well.

One of the many doctors whose lectures I’ve enjoyed (it may have been Dr. Eric Westman) told a story about his first day in medical school: a professor told the students, “Over the next twenty years or so, we’ll learn that half of what we’re teaching you today is wrong. Trouble is, we don’t know which half.”

Yup. Twenty years ago, I still thought saturated fats clog our arteries and Grape-Nuts with skim milk was a healthy breakfast. Heck, back in the 1980s, I was writing for a small magazine and telling people to avoid saturated fats and eat their grains.  Bad advice straight from the USDA, repeated under my byline.  Shudder.

I know better now because people disputed what I thought I knew. They asked questions. They posed challenges. They provided evidence that what I believed was wrong. Thank goodness I didn’t just close my ears and cling to my beliefs. If I’d insisted on maintaining my beliefs because changing them would remove me from my comfort zone, I wouldn’t be as healthy or happy today.

I’m pointing that out because of two equal-but-opposite forces that seem to pop up regularly in the Facebook group — and probably pop up in all kinds of online discussion venues:

1. Trolls who deserve to be banned.
2. A tendency by some to label anyone who debates a point as a troll who deserves to be banned.

I’ve said it in comments on the blog, I’ve said it in the Facebook group, and I’ll say it again now: debate and discussion are good.  Disagreements and challenges and counter-challenges aren’t always pretty, but they enable the Wisdom of Crowds effect to work its magic.

We’ve had a few people in the group announce that they’re leaving because they don’t like seeing comments or links to articles that dispute the benefits of low-carb or ketogenic diets. They want a supportive atmosphere, dangit, not never-ending debates.

Well, sorry. I’m not a fan of the “safe space” mentality. That’s the kind of nonsense that’s ruining American universities – our supposed centers of learning. The teachers and administrators who create “safe spaces” for students are doing them a huge disservice. They’re discouraging critical thinking. They’re encouraging group-think.

That doesn’t prepare students for the real world. In the real world, people are going to disagree with you. They’re going to challenge you. If you’re convinced your beliefs are legitimate, you’d best be prepared to defend them … and a namby-pamby “supportive” environment doesn’t prepare you for anything except being an intellectual lightweight.

Facebook groups and blogs aren’t universities, but if you visit them because you want to learn, then you’ll be doing yourself a favor by adopting the attitude that should exist in universities – i.e., the attitude expressed by that medical-school professor: much of what you think you know today will turn out to be wrong. If it’s wrong, you’re better off finding out that it’s wrong – and the sooner, the better. People who pose challenges to your beliefs are doing you a favor, because they might just lead you to discover something you believe is wrong.

But what about when people challenge our beliefs and we’re not wrong? Well, in that case, there are two likely outcomes, and they’re both good: 1) you develop a strong argument to support your belief, and 2) that strong argument supporting your belief is convincing to someone who wasn’t previously convinced.

Someone expressed concern about a hypothetical newbie who isn’t well informed and might be swayed by an article warning about the dangers of eating meat. Surely we must act to protect that newbie by banning such articles from the group.

Uh, no. As I replied to that comment, would you rather the newbie be exposed to a “meat kills!” article in the Fat Head group, or by receiving it in an email from a well-meaning relative or co-worker? I’d rather the newbie see it in the Fat Head group … because we have hundreds of intelligent, well-informed members who can (and will) explain why the article is nonsense – complete with links to evidence that it’s nonsense.

So as I wrote in the group, let’s avoid the temptation to simply dismiss or (worse) heap scorn on anyone who asks challenging questions or dares to debate a point. If you’re sure they’re wrong, explain why they’re wrong. Prove them wrong. We’re not going to ban people for engaging in debates. As one member aptly put it, this isn’t about defending the tribe.

Now … having said all that, I don’t have any problem with banning genuine trolls, so let me define genuine troll. A genuine troll is someone who obviously joined the group (or who shows up in comments here) for the sole purpose of trashing low-carb diets. Often they post and post and post and post and post, apparently believing whoever argues the most automatically wins.

I don’t feel any obligation to indulge or tolerate those people, because frankly, they’re just jackasses who can’t stand it when other people don’t agree with their beliefs. They remind me of two quotes from Eric Hoffer’s terrific book The True Believer:

A man is likely to mind his own business when it is worth minding. When it is not, he takes his mind off his own meaningless affairs by minding other people’s business.

The uncompromising attitude is more indicative of an inner uncertainty than a deep conviction.  The implacable stand is directed more against the doubt within than the assailant without.

If you’re happy with yourself and confident in your own beliefs, you don’t feel driven to go find everyone who doesn’t agree with you and convert or belittle them.

I’m a fallen-away Catholic, but I would never join a Catholic discussion group for the sole purpose of trashing the church. I think many vegans have kooky beliefs about meat, but I would never join a vegan discussion group for the sole purpose of trashing vegans. I’m a libertarian, but I would never join a Democrats For A Bigger And More Activist Government discussion group for the sole purpose of trashing Democrats.

Why not? Because that’s jackass behavior. People who engage in that kind of nonsense aren’t interested in an actual discussion, because they don’t believe they have anything to learn from the group’s members … but by gosh, they believe they have plenty to teach the group’s members. So they feel compelled to join groups where the inferior or misguided minds have gathered and try to enlighten them – for their own good, of course.

As I mentioned in a post on Facebook, I don’t have time to read most of what’s posted in the group.  I could spend entire days just trying to catch up.  So I’m not always aware of when a genuine troll is polluting the group.

I do remember one, however.  In response to charges that he was trolling, the guy replied something like, Gosh no, I’m just curious and here to learn!  I ask all these challenging questions and post all these articles about the dangers of low-carb diets so people can tell me why those articles are wrong.  It’s all part of my learning process.

So I went searching for him online.  Turned out he runs some group promoting a low-fat diet, and he makes plenty of comments in that group about how low-carb diets will kill you and low-carb dieters are crazy.  Okay, now that’s a genuine troll.  I banned him.

(Next two paragraphs added Tuesday based on comments and emails from readers.)  Unfortunately, some people who don’t fit my definition of genuine troll also need to be given the boot because they’re incapable of engaging in debates and discussions without hurling insults and perhaps even threats.  It’s not about creating a “safe space” where ideas aren’t challenged; it’s about maintaining a tone that invites participation.  If I visited, say, a Facebook group on raising chickens out of curiosity, and the first thing I saw was members hurling insults and threats and four-letter words at each other, I’d leave.

I’ve only banned a few people personally, but one of them got the boot because when Chareva asked him politely to stop calling people c%@ts  and f#$@tards in our group, he came back at her with a nasty and aggressive reply.  (He likes to tell people he was banned for arguing in favor of eating potatoes, because that story makes him the Free-Thinkin’ Hero instead of the jackass who insisted on maintaining his “right” to yell F@#$TARDS! at other people in a group he doesn’t own.)

If you’re aware of genuine trolls in the Facebook group, let us know. If you’re aware of people who can’t discuss or debate an issue without engaging in personal attacks, let us know.  We’ll deal with them. But let’s not label anyone who expresses a doubt or a disagreement as a troll. We don’t learn with our eyes, ears, or minds closed. And we all still have plenty to learn.

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To our American readers, Happy Labor Day.

We’ve had several happy laboring days on the Fat Head farm lately, mostly because daytime temperatures have dropped from the 90s to the 70s. It’s one of the many reasons I look forward to this time of year. Football season kicks in, the days are cooler, and a string of holidays and special occasions are around the corner, starting with Chareva’s birthday in October.

Not that the weather has been all pleasant. We were pounded with heavy rains shortly after Hurricane Harvey hit Texas. No real damage to speak of, but another widow-maker branch fell near the creek.  It will be added to the firewood collection after I cut it up it with a chainsaw.

The creek, which is normally not impressive, rose and flowed with enough force to dump a gazillion extra rocks along the banks. The end result is that the creek is narrower in some spots.

My bridge also tried to float away. I learned my lesson after the one and only time it did float away, so now it’s tethered to a big tree with a heavy chain. I don’t mind having to move it 10 or 15 feet as long as I don’t have to go find it downstream somewhere.

One of the annoying features of jungles is that after you cut them down, the derned things grow back. I use The Beast to keep them at bay, but The Beast was out of commission for most of the summer. That’s because last fall, something jammed in the recoil starter. When I pulled on the cord, it came out and stayed out.

As you may recall if you’re a long-time reader, I only recently became a Born-Again Tool Guy. The Older Brother has been tinkering with engines and such since he was a teenager, but for most of my adult life, my toolbox was virtually identical to my dad’s … that is, it consisted of a hammer, a wrench, a flathead screwdriver and a Phillips screwdriver stuffed into a drawer.

When we started doing weekend farm work, I decided I needed to drop the limiting belief that I don’t know nuthin’ ‘bout no tools. I am capable of learning new skills, after all. So now I own an impressive collection of tools and have managed to do some good work with them.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t figure out how to remove the top of The Beast’s engine to get to that pesky recoil starter. I unscrewed every bolt that looked like it had anything to do with keeping the engine covered. Thumbing through a book on small-engine repairs didn’t help, because the pictures and instructions were for common lawn mowers.

So some weeks back, I rolled The Beast up a ramp and into the back of the van to take it to a repair shop. I have to admit, I was a bit nervous while driving to the place. I imagined an embarrassing scenario:

“Help you, sir?”

“Uh, yeah, I’ve got a Swisher Predator brush-cutting mower, and the starting cord came out and stayed out. Can you take a look at that?”

“Certainly. Can I have a credit-card for the deposit?”

“Sure. Here you go.”

“And can I see your Man Card?”

“Uh, let’s see … here it is. Hey, what are you doing?! I just got that thing!”

“Sorry, Buddy. We have rules here in the South. If you can’t fix your own engines, we have to cut up your Man Card.”

But when I pulled up to the repair shop, I saw plenty of mowers, chainsaws, weed wackers and other man-stuff in various states of repair. I also saw customers driving banged-up pickup trucks, wearing baseball caps, and otherwise demonstrating that their Man Cards were intact.

Anyway, with The Beast repaired, I spent part of last weekend taking down my least-favorite jungle. It’s my least-favorite because it runs parallel to one of my disc-golf holes. If I sling a driver too hard and it drifts right, it can end up in the stuff you see below, which is full of nasty thorns and varies between knee-high and chest-high. Even if I find the disc, I’m usually bleeding from somewhere afterwards … and if I didn’t remember to spray my clothes, I’m also going to be scratching at chigger bites later in the day.

The Beast just chews up that jungle and spits it out. But perhaps to reassure me I can keep my Man Card, The Beast ran over a sharp stone I didn’t see in time, and the belt that turns the blades snapped. That gave me the opportunity to break out the tools and replace the belt. After beating my chest and chanting a bit, I finished taking down the jungle.

Chareva and I mostly finished constructing the new chicken yard a few weeks ago. But we still had to tie down the nets and figure out how to keep raccoons from digging their way in. She also decided it was time to combine flocks. We built the new coop for the nine chickens who survived Rocky Raccoon VI. Meanwhile, we had another flock coming along as part of a 4-H project. Alana selected five from that flock to auction off at the county fair, but we’re keeping the rest.

Up until this weekend, they were living in another coop. Chareva opened the chicken moat so they could wander near the other flock. Apparently chickens need time to get used to each other before sharing a coop and a yard.

While the chickens were getting acquainted, we expanded the new coop to accommodate the combined flock without overcrowding. After all, we don’t want them accusing us of being chicken slum-lords.

To keep raccoons from digging under fences in the past, we put chicken wire along the ground on the outside of the fence. But in the spirit of reduce, re-use, recycle, it occurred to me that we had another option.

The previous owner tried to extend the driveway with paving bricks. That might have seemed like a good idea, but she let pretty much everything on the property go, and poison ivy grew up among the bricks. It was such a nuisance, we eventually pulled up all the pavers, and I used the tiller to root out the poison ivy. The pavers have been sitting there ever since, waiting to be useful again.

I told Chareva that while raccoons are nimble and clever, I don’t see them lifting paving bricks, which are quite heavy. Why not just surround the new fences with a double-layer of paving bricks? Unlike the chicken wire, I won’t fail to spot the bricks and accidentally run over them with a mower.

She liked the idea. So we spent a good chunk of yesterday piling pavers into the back of the van, driving them up to the chicken yard, and surrounding the fences.

The chickens, meanwhile, decided it’s okay to share the new chicken yard, perhaps because the big ol’ rooster in the younger flock finally led the way in and the hens followed.

The pavers are in place and the nets are tied down. I’m not saying a raccoon couldn’t possibly find a way in, but he’d have to be quite determined.

The older chicken yards are of course empty now, thanks to the raccoons. Without chickens pecking at the ground, they’re already turning back into jungles. Looks like we’ll have plenty of happy laboring days ahead of us.

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Interesting items from my inbox and elsewhere …

Given all the arterycloggingsaturatedfat! headlines we’ve seen over the years, I have to admit this headline made me chuckle:

Low-fat diet could kill you, major study shows.

That’s from an article in The Telegraph, and I’d say it’s wee bit overblown. We are, as usual, talking about an observational study. Here are some quotes from the article:

Low-fat diets could raise the risk of early death by almost one quarter, a major study has found.

The Lancet study of 135,000 adults found those who cut back on fats had far shorter lives than those enjoying plenty of butter, cheese and meats.

Researchers said the study was at odds with repeated health advice to cut down on fats. Those doing so tended to eat far too much stodgy food like bread, pasta and rice, the experts said, while missing out on vital nutrients.

Yeah, yeah, okay. So the real risk (again, in an observational study) is consuming too many processed carbs.

An article in Science Daily provided less-dramatic quotes:

Contrary to popular belief, consuming a higher amount of fat (about 35 per cent of energy) is associated with a lower risk of death compared to lower intakes. However, a diet high in carbohydrates (of more than 60 per cent of energy) is related to higher mortality, although not with the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The data are from the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study which followed more than 135,000 people from 18 low-income, middle-income and high-income countries. The study asked people about their diet and followed them for an average of seven and half years.

The research on dietary fats found that they are not associated with major cardiovascular disease, but higher fat consumption was associated with lower mortality; this was seen for all major types of fats (saturated fats, polyunsaturated fats and mono unsaturated fats), with saturated fats being associated with lower stroke risk.

We’re talking about food questionnaires and all the usual problems with observational studies on diet and health. I wouldn’t make too much of this one. But since observational studies were the source of arterycloggingsaturatedfat! hysteria in the first place, I suppose it’s nice to have one to wave in the faces of the anti-fat warriors. Fair is fair.

A man-tax for vegans?

A vegan restaurant in Australia has started charging men extra for the same meals. An article in The Sun explains why:

A cafe is making waves after it began charging blokes more money in a bid to close the gender pay gap. The feminist vegan owner of Handsome Her eatery in Melbourne, Australia, is making them pay an 18 per cent “man tax” as well as giving women priority over seating.

A feminist vegan owner. Sounds like a fun person to be around. I’m thinking of a joke …

Q: How many feminist vegans does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Your aggressive humor is NOT FUNNY, you ciscentric ANIMAL MURDERER!!

Anyway …

Owner Alex O’Brien told Broadsheet website: “I do want people to think about it, because we’ve had this (pay discrepancy) for decades and decades and we’re bringing it to the forefront of people’s minds.

“I like that it is making men stop and question their privilege a little bit.”

I don’t know the breakdown in Australia, but in the United States, 79 percent of vegans are women. So I wonder if the “man tax” might make a few men stop, question their privilege, then go order a hamburger at another restaurant.

This may ignite a new debate about the costs of obesity.

WCPO in Cincinnati reported on an unusual fire:

A “freak accident” started an unscheduled fire Wednesday night at the Hillside Chapel Crematory in Cincinnati, owner Don Catchen said.

“My operator was in the process of cremating remains and (the body) was overly obese and apparently it got a little hotter than the unit is supposed to get,” Catchen said. “One of the cremation containers that we had close got caught on fire and that’s what burnt.”

I’m not overly obese, but I like to think I could start a similar fire just because so much of my body mass began as sausage and bacon.

The danger of fires when cremating obese bodies isn’t an entirely unknown issue for the funeral service profession: “As you may realize, when a morbidly obese person is cremated, there’s a danger of what can only be called (in layman’s terms) a ‘grease fire,'” according to Caleb Wilde, a licensed professional who runs the blog Confessions of a Funeral Director.

In October 2014, a Virginia facility caught fire while cremating a 500-pound body. Fire investigators there said excessive heat ignited rubber roofing near the crematorium’s smoke stack. Another fire, two years earlier in Austria, left firefighters “covered with a layer of sooty grease.”

Good grief. If this keeps up, Meme Roth will be demanding higher funeral costs for obese people.

Global Warmi –er, Climate Change, part one.

Some perfesser I saw interviewed years ago explained the politics of how to get a study funded in today’s academic environment: if you title your proposed paper something like The Migratory Patterns of Squirrels, you probably won’t get funding. But if you title it something like How Gobal Warming Is Affecting The Migratory Patterns of Squirrels, you will get funding. Then you can study those migratory patterns.

I thought about that while reading this article in Science News:

A dinner plate piled high with food from plants might not deliver the same nutrition toward the end of this century as it does today. Climate change could shrink the mineral and protein content of wheat, rice and other staple crops, mounting evidence suggests.

Selenium, a trace element essential for human health, already falls short in diets of one in seven people worldwide. Studies link low selenium with such troubles as weak immune systems and cognitive decline. And in severely selenium-starved spots in China, children’s bones don’t grow to normal size or shape. This vital element could become sparser in soils of major agricultural regions as the climate changes, an international research group announced online February 21 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

That global warmi—er, climate-change thing sounds awful. If only we could identify the major causes.

Global Warmi –er, Climate Change, part two.

Thank goodness, an article in the U.K. Daily Mail tells us what’s driving climate change:

Feeding our beloved cats and dogs plays a ‘significant role in causing global warming’, a shocking study has revealed.

My, that is shocking … the shocking part being that anyone believes this hysterical nonsense.

Pets have heavily meat-based diets which requires more energy, land and water to produce.

Rascal, our family cat, is a sweet little dude. In fact, he’s lying at my feet as I write.  But I’m pretty sure if I stopped feeding him a meat-based diet, he’d sneak into the bedroom some night and rip chunks of flesh from my face.

Research from the University of California, Los Angeles, found pets are having a big impact on environmental issues such as climate change.

You mean there are other environmental issues pets are affecting? Are they causing acid rain too?

Feeding cats and dogs is creating the equivalent of 64 millions tons of carbon dioxide a year in the US alone, according to shocking new research.

That’s twice the reporter was shocked. She should probably find somewhere to calm down … say, in a vegan restaurant that charges men extra. She’ll get priority seating.

The paper found pets are responsible for 25 to 30 per cent of the environmental impact of meat consumption in the US.

So it’s not the pets themselves; it’s the MEAT that’s causing all that climate change. Maybe we should all become vegetarians to save the planet. But then we’d have to deal with …

Global Warmi –er, Climate Change, part three.

Perhaps ordering a salad instead of a burger won’t save the planet after all, according to an article in Scientific American:

Bacon lovers of the world, rejoice! Or at the least take solace that your beloved pork belly may be better for the environment in terms of greenhouse gas emissions than the lettuce that accompanies it on the classic BLT.

This is according to a new study by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University who found that if Americans were to switch their diets to fall in line with the Agriculture Department’s 2010 dietary recommendations, it would result in a 38 percent increase in energy use, 10 percent bump in water use and a 6 percent increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

And here I thought I was ignoring the USDA dietary guidelines because they’re full of @#$%. Turns out I was also saving the planet. Pass the bacon.

The reason for this is because on a per-calorie basis, many fruits, vegetables, dairy and seafood—the foods the USDA pushes in the guidelines over sugary processed food and fats—are relatively resource-intensive, the study finds. Lettuce, for example, produces three times more greenhouse gas emissions than bacon.

Chareva grew some lettuce this year. I didn’t think to go out to the garden with some equipment and measure the gases they were emitting. An opportunity lost.

“You cannot just jump and assume that any vegetarian diet is going to have a low impact on the environment,” said Paul Fischbeck, professor of social and decision sciences and engineering and public policy and one of the authors of the study. “There are many that do, but not all. You can’t treat all fruits and veggies as good for the environment.”

Fischbeck said that even though it seems counterintuitive, the best diet for the environment would be terrible for a person’s health. “If you totally forget health, which diet would have best impact on the environment?” Fischbeck asked. “You’d eat a lot more fats and sugars.”

Hmmm, in that case, here’s how I suggest we handle all this conflicting data: eat the diet that’s best for your health, period. If you feel guilty about including climate-damaging meat in your meals, do your part for the planet by getting rid of your meat-eating dog.

Or maybe not …

Global Warmi –er, Climate Change, part four.

Here are some quotes from a PBS article online:

If you’ve decided to go vegan because you think it’s better for the planet, that might be true—but only to an extent.

A group of researchers has published a study in the journal Elementa in which they describe various biophysical simulation models that compare 10 eating patterns: the vegan diet, two vegetarian diets (one that includes dairy, the other dairy and eggs), four omnivorous diets (with varying degrees of vegetarian influence), one low in fats and sugars, and one similar to modern American dietary patterns.

What they found was that the carrying capacity—the size of the population that can be supported indefinitely by the resources of an ecosystem—of the vegan diet is actually less substantial than two of the vegetarian diets and two out of the four omnivorous diets they studied.

Lower carrying capacity? Must be all that lettuce in the vegan diet …

If modern agriculture in the U.S. were adjusted to the vegan diet, according to the study in Elementa, we’d be able to feed 735 million people—and that’s from a purely land-use perspective. Compare that to the dairy-friendly vegetarian diet, which could feed 807 million people. Even partially omnivorous diets rank above veganism in terms of sustainability; incorporating about 20 to 40% meat in your diet is actually better for the long-term course of humanity than being completely meat-free.

Well, that is a relief. Especially in light of …

Americans eating more beef.

Here are some quotes from an article in USA Today:

As backyard grills fire up this summer, one thing is clear: Americans no longer have a beef with beef.

Thanks to lower prices, more disposable income and a guarded thumbs-up from the wellness community, the once-maligned meat is now seen by many shoppers and diners as an ingredient in a well-balanced and even trendy diet.

Americans ate an average 55.6 pounds of beef in 2016, up from 54 pounds in 2015, according to the Department of Agriculture. This comes after a decade during which U.S. beef consumption plummeted 15%.

The article attributes much of the rise in beef consumption to falling prices, but then adds this:

The increase of meat-intense diets, such as paleo and keto, has also jump-started America’s rekindled love affair with all things cow. Gone are the days of dismissing meat as a heart attack inducer or the unsophisticated grub of Middle America. Now, there’s a premium segment that’s lighting up diners, thanks to their increased demand for organic and grass-fed beef.

As an unsophisticated inhabitant of Middle America, I’m happy to include beef in my grub. But I may have Chareva start charging me a man-tax.

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My mom called on Saturday to tell me she’d found a digital picture frame I gave her 10 years ago.  You know, the kind that displays a slide show of pictures, dissolving from one to the next. She told me she both laughed and cried.

She laughed at the pictures of my girls as toddlers – they were quite expressive back then. She cried because some of the pictures were of my dad with the girls. He was so tickled by them, even though his memory was already starting to fade. I know he’d enjoy them immensely today if he were alive and coherent.

Today would have been my dad’s 83rd birthday. I thought about that while looking at my favorite picture of him, the one I keep in my office at home. He’s 57 years old in the picture, and the traits that most defined his personality – the intelligence and the wit – are obvious in the eyes.

I’ll give you just one example of his sense of humor: many years ago, during a conversation about burial vs. cremation, Dad said, “When I die, dump my ashes in the water hazard on the 17th hole at Lincoln Greens. I’d like to spend eternity with my golf balls.”

Dang, what I wouldn’t give for one more conversation with the man.

When his birthday comes around each year, I take it as a reminder of This Is Why We Do What We Do. When I was born, Dad was only 24. He began fading noticeably around age 70, when I was 46. It was painful to witness, but I was approaching middle age or already in middle age, depending on how you define it.

By contrast, I turned 45 the week after my daughter Sara was born. I was 46 when Alana came along 18 months later. If I fade at age 70, they’ll only be in their twenties. I like to think they’re going to want my fatherly advice for many more years beyond that. And even if they don’t, it’s like I said in Fat Head: I want to dance at their weddings. I want to play with my grandkids.

Chareva’s dad turned 75 on Saturday – in a hospital. He was hobbled by a stroke more than a year ago, and a few weeks ago, he fell and broke his hip while attempting to limp to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Fixing the hip required surgery. He ended up with blood clots in his legs, so he needed another surgery to implant a mesh designed to keep the clots from reaching his brain. Not exactly a happy birthday for him.

My dad smoked until he was 58, he drank too much, he didn’t exercise, and he paid little attention to his diet. Chareva’s dad did exercise and was a lean-mean-dancin-machine well into his sixties, but he kept eating his bagels and chocolate candies even after being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.  I think it’s a fair bet the ever-worsening diabetes led to the stroke.

I’m not criticizing them; I’m just pointing out that the lifestyle decisions we make have consequences.

We’ve both seen our dads lose their quality of life by age 74. I’ll be that age in 15 years, and when I think about what our dads went through, I say to myself, No way in hell. In my nineties, maybe, but not in my seventies.

This Is Why We Do What We Do. It’s nice when people express genuine surprise that I’m pushing 60 (as happened at the office last week), it’s great to be able to do physical farm work on Sunday morning and still hit the gym for a workout on Sunday afternoon (as happened yesterday), and it’s satisfying to wear smaller pants now than I did 20 years ago.

But that’s not really what this is all about. It’s about feeling confident that if I avoid stepping in front of the proverbial bus, I’ll be dancing at my daughters’ weddings … and perhaps watching their daughters graduate from high school.

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Several people have emailed to ask if I’m going to watch and critique What The Health, the latest vegan-propaganda movie.

Uh … no.  I see no reason to torture myself.  I’m pretty sure I can guess what kind of “science” they quote throughout: the same cherry-picked observational studies they cite in all the other vegan-propaganda films and books.  I dealt with the topic long ago in a post titled To The Vegetarian Evangelists.

I did hear that the film claims eating one egg damages your health as much as smoking five cigarettes.  To any vegans who believe that, I’ll make you an offer: I’ll continue eating three eggs per day, and you start smoking 15 cigarettes per day.  Then we’ll compare health status 10 years from now.

Nina Teicholz, author of the terrific book The Big Fat Surprise, already shredded What The Health on the Diet Doctor blog.  ‘Nuff said.

But just for grins, I thought I’d post a speech given by Dr. Georgia Ede in which she goes through the (ahem) “evidence” that the World Health Organization (WHO) cited when it claimed meat is a carcinogen — a claim repeated in What The Health.  (If you think WHO’s stance on meat is anything other than political, you need to seriously rethink their motivation on this and almost every other issue.  Same goes for the United Nations, the parent organization of WHO.)

Anyway, here’s the speech.  Enjoy.

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