Archive for the “The Food Evangelists” Category

In our last episode, we heard from a BBC reporter (and member of The Anointed) who believes governments should use information campaigns and “price reform” to discourage people from eating meat … all because of a cockamamie theory that forcing her preferences on the rest of us will somehow reduce global warmi—er, climate change.

Soon after that post, a reader sent me a link to a site promoting a discount on life insurance for vegetarians. The name of the page suggests it’s a lead generator, so I don’t know if any insurers are actually offering such a discount. Could just be a way to get your name on a marketing list.

If insurers really and truly do offer discounts for vegetarians, however, it raises some interesting possibilities … such as, how do they know people won’t just lie on the form? The only qualifying question on the page is How long have you been a vegetarian? What’s to stop people from entering 25 years and then going out for a ribeye? Would insurers check on people?

There have been plenty of cases where sandbaggers filed workers’ comp insurance claims, insisting they couldn’t work because of on-the-job injuries, then were caught on videotape playing basketball, hiking, building an addition on the house, etc. If insurers start offering cheaper rates for vegetarians, will they hire camera-wielding spies to follow policyholders to restaurants?

If so, I sense a business opportunity. There are all kinds of meatless foods out there designed to look and taste like meat: soyburgers, veggie hotdogs, tofurkeys, etc. Imagine the insurance-discount demand for foods that look like tofu and beans, but are actually made from chicken, beef and pork.

“Yes, waiter, I’ll have the (ahem) veggie chili.” (wink, wink)

“So that’s the— oh, you mean the veggie chili, not the real vegetarian chili.”

“Yes, but please keep your voice down. They may have the place bugged.”

Anyway, that’s not the topic of the post. This is:

Some months back, I wrote a tongue-in-cheek post titled A Vegetarian Diet Will Make You Sick And Crazy. I took the kind of weak-ass observational study that vegetarian zealots like to wave in our faces and (like them) assumed the study actually proved something. But in this case, the study didn’t exactly support the notion that going meatless is the key to a superior life:

A new study from the Medical University of Graz in Austria finds that vegetarians are more physically active, drink less alcohol and smoke less tobacco than those who consume meat in their diets. Vegetarians also have a higher socioeconomic status and a lower body mass index. But the vegetarian diet — characterized by a low consumption of saturated fats and cholesterol that includes increased intake of fruits, vegetables and whole-grain products — carries elevated risks of cancer, allergies and mental health disorders.

A reader recently sent me a link to an article from Women’s Health online that offers similar warnings on the mental-health front:

More and more women are vegging out…of their minds. New research suggests that along with shedding pounds, slashing cancer risk, and boosting life expectancy, vegetarianism could come with lesser-known side effects: Panic attacks. OCD. Depression.

Notice the assumption that vegetarian diets really and truly do slash cancer risk and increase life expectancy. Sure, that’s what some observational studies show – because (as the University of Graz study noted) vegetarians on average are more physically active, drink less alcohol, smoke less, etc. Other observational studies, however, don’t show any difference in life expectancy at all.

But to continue with the article …

Drew Ramsey’s 35-year-old patient had always been fit and active, but her energy had flatlined. When she did manage to drag herself to the gym, it didn’t help. She felt anxious and was often on the verge of tears for no reason, even when she was with friends. Worst of all were her panic attacks, a rare occurrence in the past but now so common that she was afraid of losing her job because she had trouble getting out of bed, and she’d become terrified of taking the New York City subway.

It may sound like an episode of House, but Ramsey had a hunch. He’d seen a dramatic link between mood and food before (he even researched it for his forthcoming book Eat Complete), and guessed that his patient’s well-intentioned meat-free diet was the very thing causing her mental deterioration. Sure enough, six weeks after adding animal protein back onto her plate, her energy rebounded and her panic attacks dropped by 75 percent.

But she’ll be slashing her cancer risk and extending her life expectancy while lying in bed and feeling anxious.

It’s tough to argue with the science—and with a movement that’s been endorsed by everyone from Gandhi to Beyonce.

Say what? I argue with the science all the time – because most of it is crap.

And it’s natural to assume that peak mental health and a perpetually blissed-out attitude are just two more side effects of the glowing vegetarian lifestyle.

No, what’s natural is eating meat. Humans have been doing it forever. Chimpanzees (our nearest genetic relatives) not only hunt, they do it in organized packs with assigned roles.

So it was startling last year when Australian researchers revealed that vegetarians reported being less optimistic about the future than meat eaters. What’s more, they were 18 percent more likely to report depression and 28 percent more likely to suffer panic attacks and anxiety. A separate German study backs this up, finding that vegetarians were 15 percent more prone to depressive conditions and twice as likely to suffer anxiety disorders.

I’m not startled. I was a vegetarian.

“We don’t know if a vegetarian diet causes depression and anxiety, or if people who are predisposed to those mental conditions gravitate toward vegetarianism,” says Emily Deans, M.D., a Boston psychiatrist who studies the link between food and mood.

True, we don’t want to confuse correlation with causation. But let’s recall what happened with Dr. Ramsey’s patient:

Sure enough, six weeks after adding animal protein back onto her plate, her energy rebounded and her panic attacks dropped by 75 percent.

If she was just a person who happened to have a mental condition and gravitated towards vegetarianism, then it’s quite a coincidence that after adding meat to her diet, her energy rebounded and her panic attacks dropped by 75 percent.  But whichever way the arrow of causality points — going vegetarian causes mental problems in some people, or people with mental problems are more likely to go vegetarian — it’s not a flattering correlation.

Name some “brain foods.” Well, there’s avocado. Olive oil. Nuts. Red meat? Not so much. Yet anthropological evidence shows that, long before we could choose to subsist on cashew cheese and tofu, animal flesh provided the energy-dense calories necessary to fuel evolving cerebellums. Without meat, we’d never have matured beyond the mental capacity of herbivores like gorillas.

Which is one of the many reasons I don’t believe meat causes the diseases it’s sometimes “linked” to in observational studies. Mother Nature isn’t stupid … and it would be stupid to design us so that the food that increased our brain size and made us human also ruined our health.

Just like Drew Ramsey’s patient, Isabel Smith was active and energetic and thought a vegetarian diet was the perfect complement to her health-conscious lifestyle. But after a few weeks sans meat, she found herself uncharacteristically weepy. “I was tired and frustrated and got upset more easily, especially over things that wouldn’t normally bother me,” she says.

Like a blog that promotes a diet that includes meat? I’m pretty sure I’ve heard from some of those easily-upset people. I usually tell them to go eat a steak and get back to me, but they rarely do.

Shortly after she started eating meat again, she noticed an uptick in her mood.

So much for that whole eating meat makes you angry and aggressive nonsense.

The twist? Smith is a registered dietitian. One who now understands personally what she studies professionally: Not everyone is cut out for a life without meat.

Yes, but you see, we need to discourage people from eating meat to save the planet. The Anointed have spoken.  And if a lot of people who give up meat because of “price reform” end up feeling depressed and having panic attacks … well, too bad.  That’s the price they have to pay.

Besides, they may get a discount on life insurance.

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Decades ago, The Older Brother opined that when the loony lefties want to violate someone’s constitutional rights, they just claim it’s to save the children. Then if you oppose the loony lefties, they claim you don’t care about children.

Apparently that strategy was limited in its usefulness, because eventually the loony lefties replaced “it’s to save the children!” with “it’s to save the planet!” That’s why Dr. Patrick Moore, a co-founder of Greenpeace, eventually quit the organization. He saw environmentalism being hijacked (as he put it) by the political and social causes of the left.  Science took a back seat to politics.  As Dr. Moore put it in an essay he wrote back in March:

There is a powerful convergence of interests among key elites that support the climate “narrative.” Environmentalists spread fear and raise donations; politicians appear to be saving the Earth from doom; the media has a field day with sensation and conflict; science institutions raise billions in grants, create whole new departments, and stoke a feeding frenzy of scary scenarios; business wants to look green, and get huge public subsidies for projects that would otherwise be economic losers, such as wind farms and solar arrays. Fourth, the Left sees climate change as a perfect means to redistribute wealth from industrial countries to the developing world and the UN bureaucracy.

You’ve got to hand it to the loons; they know a useful weapon when they see it. I mean, heck, it’s one thing not to care about children, but who wants to be accused of not caring about THE ENTIRE PLANET?!

Want to achieve your lifelong goal of transferring wealth from rich countries to poor countries? No problem. Just claim the rich countries are damaging the poor countries by warming the planet, then demand compensation. The U.N. will happily back you on the idea. Want to use the power of government to discourage people from eating meat? Again, no problem. Just claim that the meat-eaters are causing global warmi—er, climate change.

If you’ve read any of my posts about The Anointed, you’ve likely already spotted the pattern. But as a refresher, here’s how The Anointed go about their business (as described by Thomas Sowell in his terrific book The Vision of the Anointed):

  • The Anointed identify a problem. This is now THE BAD.
  • The Anointed propose a Grand Plan to fix the problem. This is now automatically THE GOOD. (By sheer coincidence, the Grand Plan almost always involves restricting other people’s freedoms and/or confiscating more of their money.)
  • Because they are so supremely confident in their own theories, The Anointed don’t believe they should be required to provide evidence that the Grand Plan will work.  In fact, The Anointed are always so sure the Grand Plan will work, they will happily impose it on other people — for their own good, of course.
  • Because the Grand Plan is THE GOOD, The Anointed are sure anyone who opposes it is either evil or stupid.
  • When the Grand Plan fails, it can’t possibly mean The Anointed were wrong, because The Anointed are never wrong. Failure can only mean the Grand Plan didn’t go far enough — so we need to do the same thing again, only bigger.

So with that in mind, let’s take a peek at an article on the BBC News site titled Can eating less meat help reduce climate change?

As the Paris Conference of the Parties (COP21) draws near, the international spotlight is more focused on climate change than at any time since the Copenhagen talks of 2009.

But amid all the talk of decarbonising energy and transport systems, one crucial area remains in the shadows. The livestock sector produces about 15% of global greenhouse gases, roughly equivalent to all the exhaust emissions of every car, train, ship and aircraft on the planet.

Wait a second … that would mean every car, train, ship and aircraft on the planet combined produce just 15% of greenhouses gases, right? And yet you people expect me to believe if you force me to buy fluorescent bulbs for my house, we’ll stop global warmi— er, climate change?

Who is eating all this meat?

Bad people, no doubt.

The US has one of the highest levels of meat consumption in the world at about 250g per person per day, almost four times the amount deemed healthy by experts.

That would explain why Native Americans who lived primarily on buffalo meat were always dropping dead of heart disease and cancer.

At the other end of the scale, Indians average less than 10g of meat per day.

They also have one of the highest rates of heart disease in the world. Somebody should inform those health experts of yours.

Left unchecked, shifting diets, coupled with a growing population, would see global consumption increase by more than 75% by 2050. What is being done about it? Very little.

Mean consumption is unchecked?!  You mean nobody is applying force to stop it?!  Oh, nooooooo! Please, tell me somebody in government is going to do something!!

Why not? Governments fear a backlash from voters over interference in such a personal choice as diet.

Naww, they shouldn’t fear a backlash if they try to take away our meat. Armed revolution, maybe, but not a simple backlash.  But what would be really cool is if governments left this whole thing “unchecked” not out of fear, but because they decided it’s none of their business how much meat we eat.

And because public awareness of the link between diet and climate change is so low, there is very little pressure on governments to do anything about it.

Boy, I just don’t know what’s wrong with the voters these days. You’d think they’d stop worrying about high unemployment, runaway government debts, runaway college costs, insurance premiums being doubled because of the “Affordable” Care Act, terrorism, etc., etc., and put that whole meat-causes-global-warmi-er-climate-change issue at the top of their “government needs to do something!!” list.

Are there any grounds for optimism? Yes.

You mean governments are going to finally admit they’re generally incompetent and stop mucking around in our lives?

Even though COP21 is highlighting the need for climate action and, though a deal seems likely, the pledges made in advance of the summit would put us on a path to warming of about 3C by the end of the century, leaving much work to be done if we are to get to 2C.

Riiiiiiiight. Because those models that predict worldwide temperatures decades into the future have turned out to be so darned accurate.

But reining in excessive meat consumption could close the gap by as much as a quarter and will represent an attractive strategy for governments in need of credible and affordable solutions.

I’m sorry, but for a second there, I thought you put the words credible and affordable in the same sentence with governments – you know, like the government that gave us the Food Pyramid and the “Affordable” Care Act.  Surely I was mistaken.

But reining in excessive meat consumption could close the gap by as much as a quarter and will represent an attractive strategy for governments in need of credible and affordable solutions.

Head. Bang. On. Desk.

Governments should seize this opportunity.

If seizing the opportunity means seizing more taxpayer money, you’ll have no problem selling them on the idea.

The first priority is to increase public awareness – both to allow people to make informed choices about what they eat and to build support for further action.

Ah, I see.  So you’re not advocating for the use of force.  You’re all about allowing us to make our own choices. Well, no problem, then.

But it is clear that information campaigns alone will not suffice.

Uh … meaning?

Governments should use the full range of policy levers available to them.

Doncha just love the Orwellian rhetoric of the loony left? We need information campaigns so people can make informed choices – and then we need to force them to make the decisions we know are best.

Changing the food served in public organisations – to offer a greater share of vegetarian and vegan options – would provide a boost to sustainable suppliers and issue a powerful signal to the millions of people who eat in public offices, schools, the armed forces, hospitals and prisons.

And when the “powerful signal” doesn’t do the trick …

Price reform will also be needed to reflect environmental costs and incentivise behaviour change at the scale needed.

In other words: @#$% FREE CHOICE! WE NEED TO TAX THE @#$% OUT OF MEAT SO PEOPLE WILL EAT LESS OF IT.

Will the public accept government intervention in our food choices? Focus groups carried out by Chatham House in four countries suggested that as long as the public could see a strong rationale for change, they would come to accept government intervention on diets.

Great. Fabulous. Awesome. Individual rights? Naww, who the heck needs those? Ya see, if we can convince most people that taxing the @#$% out of meat is a good idea, then it’s okay … even if it means people who don’t want to eat less meat have to cut back because they can’t afford it anymore. Remember, folks, when The Anointed impose their will on you, it’s for your own good – and the good of the planet, of course.

What’s more, the public appears to expect that governments will take action in the public good.

Excuse me while I go laugh my ass off at that one ….

HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA!!!

… Okay, I’m back.

With a strong enough signal from governments and the media about why we need to change our eating habits, the public is likely to come to accept initially unpopular policies.

Riiiiiiight. Once The Anointed in government and The Anointed in the media convince enough people that eating meat is bad, they’ll want you to use force to make them eat less of it. I mean, it’s not as if they’d just make that informed decision for themselves.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to make an informed decision and choose to eat a burger for dinner.

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When I wrote a recent post disputing Dr. Dean Ornish’s cherry-picked evidence that meat will kill you, I ignored his closing paragraph.  That’s because I wanted to focus on the Meat Kills! nonsense.

Here’s how Ornish finished his essay:

In addition, what’s good for you is good for our planet. Livestock production causes more disruption of the climate than all forms of transportation combined. And because it takes as much as 10 times more grain to produce the same amount of calories through livestock as through direct grain consumption, eating a plant-based diet could free up resources for the hungry.

This has become the latest weapon in the arsenal of The Church of the Holy Plant-Based Diet.  They’ve tried convincing us that meat causes heart disease and cancer, but fewer and fewer people are buying that line — because it’s nonsense.  So the thinking seems to be Well, that didn’t work.  Let’s scare them away from meat by insisting that livestock are ruining the planet.  I give it maybe five years before The Anointed float the idea of requiring meatless days in school lunches.

What, you think I’m being paranoid?  Don’t forget who decides which foods can be served in schools.  And they’re apparently on board with the Meat Kills The Planet idea:

The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, a federally appointed panel of nutritionists created in 1983, decided for the first time this year to factor in environmental sustainability in its recommendations. They include a finding that a diet lower in animal-based foods is not only healthier, but has less of an environmental impact.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has said sustainability is an issue that falls outside the scope of the guidelines.  But members of the committee say they had free reign to discuss food supply in recommending what people should and shouldn’t be eating.
 
“The scope is ours to fully define,” said Barbara Millen, chairwoman of the advisory committee and a professor in the Department of Family Medicine at Boston University School of Medicine.

Translation:  We’re The Anointed.  We can tell you what to do even when it’s not our official mission.  After all, given the wild success of our dietary advice in making Americans leaner and healthier, it’s only natural we should expand our focus and save the worldwide environment too.

This is, of course, exactly the kind of theory The Anointed absolutely love.  The mission is HUGE — after all, what’s more important than saving the entire planet? – which means it will require a Grand Plan, which makes The Anointed feel So Very Important.  Given the opportunity, they will feel justified in imposing the Grand Plan on all of us – for our own sake, of course.  Remember, they’re trying to save the planet!  Just where the heck do you selfish meat-eaters think you’ll live after your livestock causes global warming – uh, I mean climate change – and renders the planet too hot … or too cold … or flooded because of the torrential rains … or barren because of the lack of rain?

Best of all, as with any Grand Plan, there’s no real way to prove The Anointed wrong.  They want us to give up meat so the planet doesn’t boil (or freeze) in 50 years or so.  If the planet isn’t boiling (or freezing) in 50 years, The Anointed who are still alive and remember the Grand Plan can claim it succeeded.  However, if the planet is boiling (or freezing), they can say we didn’t do enough to stop it.  The Grand Plan should have been bigger.

Lierre Keith dealt with the notion that a vegan diet will save the planet in her outstanding book The Vegetarian Myth.  Keep in mind she was a committed vegan for 20 years and used to believe all that stuff.  But then she educated herself.  Here’s an excerpt from my review of the book:

As Keith explains in section two, Political Vegetarians, eating soy burgers won’t save the planet, either.  All those goofy vegetarian arguments about how many more people we could feed per acre if we all ate the crops instead of the animals who eat the crops are based on a flawed idea: that the animals who provide our meat are supposed to eat corn.  They’re not.  They’re supposed to eat grass.  Keith recalculates the calories-per-acre figures assuming we were smart enough to raise our animals on their natural food, and not surprisingly, the disparity shrinks to nearly zero.

And feeding the masses is only part of the equation.  When you raise animals in a pasture, you create topsoil — you literally can’t create topsoil without animals.  But when you raise corn, you destroy topsoil.  It’s mono-crop agriculture that uses extraordinary amounts of water and creates soil runoff.  Then, of course, there’s all that fossil fuel required to keep the crops growing as the topsoil disappears.  (Imagine the fun of explaining to your wild-eyed vegan friends that their “sustainable lifestyle” is enriching the oil industry.)

Since vegans are pushing the idea that going meatless will somehow prevent global warm– er, climate change – I re-read portions of The Vegetarian Myth today.  Here are some quotes:

The vegetarians aren’t looking for truth about sustainability or justice.  They’re looking for the small slice of facts that will shore up their ideology, their identities.  This is where politics becomes religion, psychologically speaking, where the seeker is looking for reaffirmation of her beliefs rather than active knowledge of the world.  I was one such believer.

After quoting one of the vegan zealots who was yammering on (like Ornish) about how many more people we could feed if we didn’t waste grain on cattle, Keith writes:

Yes, it is a waste, but not for the reasons he thinks.  As we have seen in abundance, growing that grain will require the felling of forests, the plowing of prairies, the draining of wetlands and the destruction of topsoil.  In most places on earth, it will never be sustainable, and where it might just possibly be, it will require rotation with animals on pasture.  And it’s ridiculous to the point of insanity to take that world-destroying grain and feed it to a ruminant who could have happily subsisted on those now extinct forests, grasslands and wetlands of our planet, while building topsoil and species diversity.

I can vouch for animals creating topsoil.  The soil in our chicken yards is rich and alive, thanks to all that chicken poop.  For a couple of years now, Chareva has been scooping poop-laden straw from the hen-houses and adding it to her compost pile.  The compost has been going into the garden, because it’s great for growing plants.

Later in her book, Keith writes about the “green revolution” – a misnomer if there ever was one.  There’s nothing green about it, at least not if we’re using green to mean good for the environment:

Between 1963 and 1997, worldwide crop yields doubled.  This doubling came at a cost: fertilizer use increased by 645 percent … the practice of repeatedly plowing the fields, removing the covering of grasses and poisoning the bugs and the weeds robs the soil of its most life-giving characteristics.
 
We’ve already seen how these crops demand more water from dying rivers, sinking water tables, emptied aquifers, how irrigation creates a wasteland of salt-caked desert.  My point here is that this abundance of grain is no true abundance.  When the vegetarians claim, for instance, that Britain could support a population of 250 million on an all-vegetable diet, they are basing those numbers on the over-inflated production only made possible by fertilizer from fossil fuel.

Anyone who believes eating soybeans and whole grains will somehow save the planet is blissfully ignorant or deluded.  To quote Keith again:

To eat the supposedly earth-friendly diet Motavalli is suggesting would mean that everyone in a cold, hot, wet or dry climate would have to be dependent on the American Midwest, with its devastated prairies and its ever-shrinking soil, rivers and aquifers.  It also means dependence on coal or oil to ship that grain two thousand miles.  So you’re an environmentalist; why are you still eating outside your bioregion?

The logic of the land tells us to eat the animals that can eat the tough cellulose that survives there.  But the logic of vegans leads us away from the local, our only chance of being sustainable, back to the desperate Mississippi and her dying wetlands, her eroding delta.  Yes, eating grain directly is less water-intensive than eating grain-fed beef.  But why eat either?  Animals integrated into appropriate polyculture destroy nothing.
 
That is the point the political vegetarians need to understand.  In the end, all our calculations don’t matter.  Who cares if more food can be produced by farming when farming is destroying the world?

But .. but … it’s a plant-based diet!!

Keith argues in the book (and I agree) that none of this is sustainable long-term.  Barring some breakthrough in food production (one that doesn’t require even more pollutants), at some point we’ll probably blow through the resources we’re now using to feed 8 billion people.  If anything will destroy the planet, it’s overpopulation.  But I don’t see anyone – vegans included – offering to commit mass suicide to save the environment.

If you want to save the planet, buy grass-fed beef.  Better yet, raise a cow on grass.  Raise chickens in a pasture.  That soy-burger – grown with fossil-fuel fertilizer and shipped halfway across the country — won’t do diddly to help.

I’ve posted this before, but it’s worth seeing again.  Here’s how properly-raised livestock could perhaps save the planet:

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Surprise, surprise … my critique of Dr. Ornish’s recent “meat kills!” nonsense drew the ire of a vegetrollian.  These people show up and now and then, always singing from the same hymnal.  More than four years ago, I wrote a long post to answer them so I don’t have to waste time writing the same replies over and over in comments.  I decided it’s time for an updated version.  I’ll be busy this week, so this is probably my last post until Monday.

——————————————————————

Dear Vegetarian Evangelists:

Since you keep showing up on my blog and trying to convert me to the Church of the Holy Plant-Based Diet, I’ve decided it’s time once again to explain, in this new and improved post, why you’re wasting your time. You seem like nice people and all, but really, this is getting tiresome.  Every time I answer the doorbell, you stand on my porch and repeat the same old sermons by the same old preachers:  Joel Fuhrman, John McDougall, Dean Ornish, T. Colin Campbell, etc.  This may surprise you, but I don’t find those sermons any more convincing on the 100th repetition than I did on the 10th.

Perhaps I’d pay attention if I actually heard a new sermon now and then, but sadly that’s never the case.  So in the future, when you ring the bell, I’m going to simply refer you to this post and bid you good-day.

I know some of you will label this as closed-minded.  That’s because to an evangelist, the definition of “closed-minded” is “does not agree with me.”  The truth is, I’m being polite.  Even though I believe your religion is based on a mixture of emotions and faulty reasoning, I don’t show up on your doorstep and try to talk you out of it.  Unlike you, I don’t get emotionally involved in other people’s dietary choices.  If you believe it’s better for humans to shun animal foods, please do so.  I don’t really care.

But you obviously care very much that I eat meat, since you keep trying to convince me I shouldn’t.  Sometimes it seems as if you all got together and said, “There’s a meat-eater who lives in that blog over there!  We must take turns showing up on his doorstep and preaching to him until he sees the light!”  I give you credit, by the way, for attempting to cloak your arguments in something resembling science.  You apparently noticed the “Meat is Murder!” tactic just makes me laugh, so you’ve taken to presenting the same sentiment as a health issue.

Nice try, but it isn’t going work, and I’m going to explain why.  I’m not foolish enough to think I’ll change your minds — evangelists aren’t swayed by evidence, as Eric Hoffer explained brilliantly in his book The True Believer – but I figure there’s an outside chance you’ll finally realize I don’t find your arguments the least bit persuasive, in which case you actually might give up and go away.

WHY I’M AN EX-VEGETARIAN … AND WHY I THINK VEGETARIAN EVANGELISTS ARE FULL OF BEANS.

I’ll start with the reason that’s the least valid scientifically, but frankly the only one that ultimately matters to me:  my own experience.  I was a vegetarian for several years (yes, I’m a fallen-away believer) yet somehow never experienced all the magic health benefits promised to me by your preachers.  I did, however, experience arthritis, asthma, psoriasis, gastric reflux, restless legs, lower back pain, irritable bowel, fatigue, slow but consistent weight gain, listlessness, depression, frequent colds, canker sores, cavities, and receding gums that required grafts.

None of those ailments was caused by sugar consumption, because I already knew sugar was a sin and didn’t indulge except on very rare occasions.  I’ve since learned that some of those ailments were likely caused by a lack of fat and cholesterol in my diet, while others were likely caused by the gluten and lectins found in grains.

Now that I’ve gone over to the dark side of low-carb/paleo eating, I don’t suffer from those ailments anymore — not one.  It’s also no longer a battle to keep my weight down.  I’m 56 years old, but look and feel better than when I was 36.  I’m almost never sick and, unlike most people my age, I don’t take any prescription drugs. My only appointments with doctors in the past five years have been for regular checkups or to treat an injury.

Given my personal history, I don’t really care how much cherry-picked evidence bean-eaters like Ornish and McDougall can cite, because my body told me they’re wrong.  I listen to my body.  If I whack myself in the head with a rubber mallet and my body says, “You know, that gave me a headache and made me dizzy,” I’m not going to do it again –  even if you cite a Fuhrman study concluding that head-whacking improves mood and prevents sexual dysfunction.

I also have to consider the experiences of my friends and acquaintances.  I’ve known plenty of vegetarians over the years, and as far as health status goes, I wouldn’t trade places with any of them.  They’re all on prescription drugs.  I’ve seen them suffer from arthritis, auto-immune diseases, bone degeneration and cancer, to name just a few.  One vegan friend in Los Angeles had to undergo extensive dental surgery because she lost half the bone mass in her jaw.

But of course, those are mere anecdotes and therefore aren’t scientifically valid.  Now, you and I both know you’re only interested in the so-called “science” that supports your religion, but since you insist on pretending otherwise, I’ll deal with your science (ahem, ahem) as well.

First, let’s look at some basic principles of science.  In real science, we control for confounding variables when testing a hypothesis.  The studies you cite when you show up to preach at me are almost always observational studies, which are notoriously awful when it comes to controlling variables.

In real science, we also have to start with reliable data. Those observational studies are  almost always based on food questionnaires that are sent out once per year, or once every five years, or even once every 10 years.  The accuracy of those questionnaires is laughable.  Some people report eating so little, they’d be walking skeletons.

Here’s what a food questionnaire looks like, by the way:

Over the last 12 months, how often did you eat the following foods? (Ignore any recent changes.)

Whole milk (4%), NOT in coffee, NOT on cereal: Never | 1-6 per year | 7-11 per year | 1 per month | 2-3 per month | 1-2 per week | 3-4 per week | 5-6 per week | 1 per day | 2-3 per day | 4-5 per day | 6+ per day. Portion size: less than ½ cup | ½ to 1 cup | more than 1 cup.

Breads or dinner rolls, NOT INCLUDING ON SANDWICHES: Never | 1-6 per year | 7-11 per year | 1 per month | 2-3 per month | 1-2 per week | 3-4 per week | 5-6 per week | 1 per day | 2-3 per day | 4-5 per day | 6+ per day. Portion size: less than 1 slice or roll | 1 or 2 slices or rolls | more than 2 slices or rolls.

Ground beef in mixtures such as tacos, burritos, meatballs, casseroles, chili, meatloaf: Never | 1-6 per year | 7-11 per year | 1 per month | 2-3 per month | 1-2 per week | 3-4 per week | 5-6 per week | 1 per day | 2-3 per day | 4-5 per day | 6+ per day. Portion size: less than 3 ounces | 3 to 7 ounces | more than 7 ounces.

You can get a sense of the accuracy of food questionnaires without even seeing one:  just take out a piece of paper now and write down how many portions of asparagus you ate in the previous year.  What, you can’t do it?  Well then, let’s make it easier.  How many ounces of whole grains did you consume in the past month?

You don’t know, do you? And if you do know, you’re a diet freak who tabulates everything you eat, which means you in no way represent people in the general population.

If you’re not a diet freak and you were filling out the questionnaire, you’d do like most people — take a wild guess.  I once worked at a company where we were required to fill out a food questionnaire as part of a survey.  My co-workers and I laughed about the stupidity of anyone believing we could accurately recall detailed dietary information.  We took our wild guesses, filled in the form, and got back to our real jobs.

So Ornish and McDougall can cherry-pick a few studies that link saturated fat to heart disease and cancer … so what?  I’m sure that’s true to an extent, at least in America.  But some of the biggest sources of saturated fat in the American diet are grain-based desserts (sugar and refined flour), dairy desserts (sugar), pizza (refined flour) and Mexican dishes (refined flour).  Do you see any possible confounding variables there?

Most people who become vegetarians do so because they believe (mistakenly) that giving up meat with make them healthier.  That makes them a self-selected group of health-conscious people.  Health-conscious people are different from the rest of the population.  They’re less likely to smoke, drink to excess, take drugs, consume candy and sodas, or eat highly processed foods.  They’re more likely to exercise, take vitamins, etc.  So of course they’re healthier on average than the general population, which includes a lot of people who don’t give a @#$% about their health and have lousy health habits.  That makes direct comparisons between vegetarians and the non-vegetarian population as a whole meaningless.

For example, when one of you rings my doorbell, I know it’s only a matter of time before you start yammering on about an observational study of Seventh-Day Adventists.  Yes, they’re vegetarians.  Yes, they have better health and longer lifespans than the population as a whole.  That’s because they’re exactly like the people I described above:  they don’t smoke, drink, do drugs, eat candy, drink sodas, etc.  I have a Mormon friend who also doesn’t smoke, drink, do drugs, drinks sodas, etc., because her religion prohibits those behaviors.  And guess what?  Mormons, like Seventh-Day Adventists, are much healthier and live much longer than the population as a whole.  But they do eat meat.

If the only difference between Seventh-Day Adventists and the rest of the population was meat vs. no meat, you might have a point.  But that’s not the only difference.  Not by a long shot.  That’s why observational studies are lousy as evidence.

How lousy?  According to Dr. John Ioannidis, a Harvard M.D. and mathematician who has spent decades studying old studies, 80 percent of the conclusions drawn from observational studies have turned out to be wrong.  Got that?  Eighty percent.  So when you ring my doorbell to warn me that New Study Links Meat To Blindness! or whatever, what I hear is:  New Study That Is Far More Likely To Be Wrong Than Right Links Meat To Blah-Blah-Blah.

But let’s suppose for the sake of argument that observational studies actually tell us something.  Here’s another basic principle of science:  a hypothesis isn’t considered valid unless the evidence supporting it is consistent and repeatable.  The evidence has to hold up across time and geography.  Your Meat Kills! evidence doesn’t.

There have been native peoples all over the world who lived primarily on animal flesh and animal fat — the Masai tribes, our own buffalo-hunting tribes, the Inuits, etc. — but heart disease was nearly non-existent among those people.  Doctors who visited them were stunned at how healthy they were.   The buffalo-hunting tribes didn’t become fat, diabetic, and plagued with heart disease until they stopped hunting and started living on sugar and flour.

A century ago, Americans consumed four times as much butter and lard as we do now, but again, heart disease was quite rare.  We didn’t see a surge in heart disease until we began eating a lot more sugar and substituting processed vegetable oils for animal fats.   Even today, the French and Swiss consume far more cream, butter, cheese and pork than Americans, but have a much lower rate of heart disease.  (They do, however, consume far less sugar, soda, processed vegetable oils, and white flour.)

Those are general observations.  Let’s get more specific.  After all, I’m sure you’ve been indoctrinated by the Church of the Holy Plant-Based Diet to cite a few specific observational studies linking meat to heart disease, cancer, early death, etc.  So here are some specific studies that prove those results aren’t consistent and repeatable.

Meat and Mortality

From a large observational study titled Mortality Among British Vegetarians:

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

That means meat-eaters didn’t have higher rates of heart disease and didn’t die any younger.

From a study of the Japanese elderly:

  • Nutrient intakes in 94 Japanese centenarians investigated between 1972 and 1973 showed a higher proportion of animal protein to total proteins than in contemporary average Japanese.
  • High intakes of milk and fats and oils had favorable effects on 10-year (1976-1986) survivorship in 422 urban residents aged 69-71.
  • The survivors revealed a longitudinal increase in intakes of animal foods such as eggs, milk, fish and meat over the 10 years.

The Japanese elderly who lived the longest ate the most meat and animal protein.

Meat and Disease

From a summary of red meat/cancer studies:

Colinearity between red meat intake and other dietary factors (e.g. Western lifestyle, high intake of refined sugars and alcohol, low intake of fruits, vegetables and fibre) and behavioural factors (e.g. low physical activity, high smoking prevalence, high body mass index) limit the ability to analytically isolate the independent effects of red meat consumption. Because of these factors, the currently available epidemiologic evidence is not sufficient to support an independent positive association between red meat consumption and colorectal cancer.

In other words, when they try wading through the confounding variables, they can’t come up with a significant link between red meat and colorectal cancer.

From The Fukuoka Colorectal Cancer Study:

Our findings do not support the hypothesis that consumption of red meat increases colorectal cancer risk but do suggest that high intake of fish may decrease the risk, particularly of distal colon cancer.

Red meat isn’t linked to a higher rate of colon cancer, but fish is linked to a lower rate.  I don’t think you vegan zealots will care much for that result.  Fish are animals, right?

From a meta-analysis of observational studies conducted in Asia:

Our pooled analysis found no association between intake of total meat (red meat, poultry, and fish/seafood) and risks of all-cause, CVD, or cancer mortality among men and women. Red meat intake was inversely associated with CVD mortality in men and with cancer mortality in women in Asian countries.

Let me explain “inversely associated” in case you’re a total illiterate when it comes to science:  that means men who ate more red meat were less likely to die of heart disease, and women who ate more red meat were less likely to die of cancer.

From an Oxford observational study titled Cancer Risk In Vegetarians:

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.

Hey, there you go!  A result all you disciples of the Church of the Holy Plant-Based Diet can use to spread The Word.  The vegetarians had lower overall cancer rates, so let’s cherry-pick this one study and start ringing more doorbells!

Oh, but wait … the vegetarians also had higher rates of colorectal cancer.  That’s the type of cancer you vegan zealots are always warning me I’ll get as the result of eating meat.  Hmmm …

As any decent scientist will tell you, correlation doesn’t prove causation.  But a lack of a correlation is pretty danged strong evidence that there’s no causation … because if one thing causes another, they will be correlated — consistently.  We not only don’t see consistent correlations between meat and higher rates of heart disease or cancer, we can find studies like the one above in which more meat was correlated with lower rates of those diseases.

I could go on and on, but I hope you’ve grasped the point by now:   the observational evidence delivered from the pulpit by Ornish, Fuhrman, McDougall and your other high priests is cherry-picked.  Those observations don’t hold up across time or geography.  They don’t even hold up in modern Western countries if you look at all the studies instead of just the ones your priests selected for you.  Not consistent and not repeatable means the hypothesis isn’t valid.

Clearly something other than animal fat causes heart disease — my guess is sugar and refined carbohydrates, because that result does hold up.  Go around the world, look at different cultures throughout time, and you’ll see that heart disease, cancer, and other “diseases of civilization” show up shortly after sugar and white flour become dietary staples.

Many of you have preached to me that the Fuhrman-McDougall-Ornish diet is superior because it lowers cholesterol.  I’ve got news for you:  That’s one of the least convincing arguments you can make, because I don’t want my cholesterol lowered.  Have you ever checked the data on cholesterol levels vs. mortality?  I have.  The graphic below shows total cholesterol plotted against all-cause mortality using data from 164 countries.

I apologize for the teensy type, but check the blue line.  That’s all-cause mortality.  Notice how it reaches the lowest point at a cholesterol level of around 220?  Your high priests brag about how their diets lower cholesterol, but the data shows that people with low cholesterol have shorter lifespans.  They’re more likely to die of cancer, stroke, infections and suicide.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I can sense you reaching for that chapter from the prayer book already:  “No, you see, cancer CAUSES low cholesterol!”  Uh-huh.  If high cholesterol is linked to heart disease, it must mean cholesterol is causing the disease.  But if cancer is linked to low cholesterol, by gosh, it must be the other way around — because preacher Fuhrman says so.  Since the low cholesterol often shows up years before the cancer, that’s quite a trick.  And good luck explaining how strokes and suicide cause low cholesterol.

But about that link between high cholesterol and heart disease:  it doesn’t actually exist, except in males below the age of 65 living in a few countries.  It certainly doesn’t hold up around the world.  Some of you have quoted McDougall as saying he’s never seen a heart attack in anyone with cholesterol below 150.  (Notice he didn’t say he’s never seen cancer or a stroke.)  Well, if that’s true, it merely means McDougall has never visited Australia.  Aborigines have one of the lowest average cholesterol levels in the world.  They also have one of the highest heart-disease rates.  Autopsies have shown plaque-filled arteries in heart-attack victims whose total cholesterol was as low as 115.   If high cholesterol causes heart disease and low cholesterol cures it, how is that possible?

Some years ago, I dug up the WHO data on average cholesterol levels and heart-disease rates around the world.  If high cholesterol causes heart disease, then plotting those figures against each other would produce a nice, recognizable trend-line.  And as it happens, I did plot them against each other.  You can see the result below:

Do you see a trend-line there?  I certainly don’t.  When I ran the CORR function in Excel, it showed a very slight negative association between cholesterol and heart disease — in other words, higher cholesterol was correlated with slightly lower mortality from heart disease.

I found a similar result when I ran an analysis on the American Heart Association’s own data:  people with LDL over 130 actually have a slightly lower rate of heart disease than people with LDL below 130.

So once again, the observations your preachers made that you keep quoting don’t hold up.  They’re not consistent, and they’re not repeatable.  Therefore, they’re not scientifically valid.

Many of you have offered yourselves as evidence that the Fuhrman-McDougall-Ornish diet works.  Some of you have even sent me pictures of your now-skeletal bodies, apparently thinking I’d be impressed.  I wasn’t.  I have no desire to look like I take my meals in a concentration camp.

If your health improved, I’m happy for you.  But you might want to ask yourself which aspect of the diet improved your health.  Your preachers insist you give up animal foods, but also sugar and refined carbohydrates.  Then when your health improves, they offer it as proof that animal foods were the problem and only the Holy Plant-Based Diet can lead to eternal health and happiness.

But I also gave up sugar and refined carbohydrates, and my health also improved, despite adding more animal fat to my diet.  Hey, ya know … perhaps it’s the sugar and refined flour that are the real problem here.

You’ve preached about how Ornish and Furhman have reversed heart disease in their patients.  Fine, I believe you.  But so have doctors like William Davis and Al Sears, and they don’t tell their patients to give up animal foods; they tell their patients to give up sugar and refined carbohydrates (as do Ornish and Furhman).  Rocky Angelucci, author of Don’t Diet Early, followed the program designed by Dr. Davis and reversed the plaque in his coronary arteries by 24 percent in six months.  A friend of mine went on the Atkins diet — no sugar, no refined carbohydrates — and his labs improved so much, his doctor took him off his statin and said, “Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it.”

Notice anything consistent about the diets that reverse heart disease?

If merely giving up animal fats and switching to all plant-based foods were the key to avoiding heart disease, that result would hold up around the world.  But it doesn’t.  Vegetarians in India have one of the highest rates of heart disease in the world — higher than the Indians who aren’t vegetarians.  They don’t eat meat, but they do consume sugar and flour.

Here’s a quote from an article about Bill Clinton’s vegan diet:

When Caldwell Esselstyn spotted a picture of him on the Internet, eating a dinner roll at a banquet, the renowned doctor dispatched a sharply worded email message: “I’ll remind you one more time, I’ve treated a lot of vegans for heart disease.”

So even a priest of the Church of the Holy Plant-Based Diet admits vegans can develop heart disease — by eating white flour.

Since your religious tracts are full of cherry-picked observational evidence, I’m going to close by asking you to make an observation for me …  just one, and if your preachers are correct, this should be easy:  Name the cultures, now or in the past, where people subsisted on a diet high in animal foods and animal fats but consumed little or no sugar and flour, yet had high rates of heart disease and cancer.  If you can do that, I’ll answer the bell and listen to you preach the next time you feel like asking me to join the Church of the Holy Plant-Based Diet.

Until you can do that, go away.  You don’t stand a chance of converting me.

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It must be tough to be Dr. Dean Ornish these days. The man desperately wants to convince everyone to live on a low-fat vegetarian diet, and yet the Wisdom of Crowds effect is turning the tide in the opposite direction. People previously frightened into giving up eggs and red meat have gone paleo, improved their health, and announced as much to the crowd. Books like The Big Fat Surprise are shining a very bright light on the shoddy science that led to anti-animal-fat hysteria in the first place. Researchers are revisiting the science and declaring the low-fat diet a mistake.

This can’t sit well at all with Dr. Ornish, for whom the plant-based diet is clearly akin to a religion. In fact, I suspect that like many vegetarians and vegans, the thought process that formed his beliefs went something like this:

  • Eating animals is a sin.
  • Therefore, animal foods must harm your health – a punishment for committing sin.
  • Giving up animal foods must improve your health – a reward for no longer being a sinner.

Ornish has spent his career warning of the health hazards of animal foods. The emerging evidence – the reliable kind, anyway – keeps contradicting him, so now he’s like a walking, talking example of the people described in the terrific book Mistake Were Made (but not by me): having staked out a very public position, he can’t possibly change his mind without committing career suicide. He must cling to that position to the bitter end.

And so Ornish pops up now and then to bang the Animal Foods Kill! drum yet again … by pointing to a lousy observational study here and a mouse study there. You never hear him quoting clinical studies on humans (i.e., the studies that actually matter) because those don’t support his beliefs.

Ornish’s latest attempt to bang the drum came in the form of an essay in the New York Times, which several readers called to my attention. Let’s take a look.

Many people have been making the case that Americans have grown fat because they eat too much starch and sugar, and not enough meat, fat and eggs. Recently, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee lifted recommendations that consumption of dietary cholesterol should be restricted, citing research that dietary cholesterol does not have a major effect on blood cholesterol levels. The predictable headlines followed: “Back to Eggs and Bacon?”

But, alas, bacon and egg yolks are not health foods.

And we know they’re not health foods because Dr. Ornish says so.

Although people have been told for decades to eat less meat and fat, Americans actually consumed 67 percent more added fat, 39 percent more sugar, and 41 percent more meat in 2000 than they had in 1950 and 24.5 percent more calories than they had in 1970, according to the Agriculture Department. Not surprisingly, we are fatter and unhealthier.

Notice how Ornish lumps added fat, sugar and meat together, attempting to paint them as members of the same murderous gang. It’s a bit like stating that the trio of Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy and Mother Teresa were responsible for more than 50 brutal murders. That’s technically true, but Mother Teresa’s share of the carnage was zero.

But what about that increase in added fat? Did we become fatter and unhealthier by consuming more butter and lard?

Dr. Mike Eades delved into Ornish’s creative uses of food-consumption statistics in a recent post. It’s worth reading the entire post, but here’s the bottom line:

The added fats are mostly vegetable oils – the exact type the vegetarian zealots insist are better for us than animal fats. Ornish reached way back to 1950 to grab figures on meat consumption so he could make a dramatic comparison with today and thus blame meat for obesity rates that began rising … wait for it … 30 years later. Let’s back up instead to 1970, when Americans were still lean on average and not suffering from record rates of diabetes.

Meat consumption rose by 13 percent from 1970 to 2005, but mainly because we eat a lot more chicken. During that same timespan, red meat consumption dropped by 22%, egg consumption dropped by 17%, and dairy consumption dropped a wee bit. Meanwhile, grain consumption increased by 45%.

Keep those figures in mind as we continue quoting Dr. Ornish.

The debate is not as simple as low-fat versus low-carb. Research shows that animal protein may significantly increase the risk of premature mortality from all causes, among them cardiovascular disease, cancer and Type 2 diabetes.

Dr. Ornish includes a link that goes to a study I already analyzed in this post. It’s another one of those number-crunching analyses of two lousy observational studies based on food questionnaires. Other analyses of the same parent studies (The Health Professionals Follow-up Study and the Nurses’ Health Study) have consistently shown that the participants who ate the most meat and eggs were also more likely to smoke, to drink, to be overweight, etc. In other words, we’re comparing adherers vs. non-adherers, not the effects of any one food.

But since Dr. Ornish apparently believes observational studies are rock-solid evidence, perhaps he can explain these results from a study of the Japanese elderly:

  • Nutrient intakes in 94 Japanese centenarians investigated between 1972 and 1973 showed a higher proportion of animal protein to total proteins than in contemporary average Japanese.
  • High intakes of milk and fats and oils had favorable effects on 10-year (1976-1986) survivorship in 422 urban residents aged 69-71.
  • The survivors revealed a longitudinal increase in intakes of animal foods such as eggs, milk, fish and meat over the 10 years.

I guess animal foods will kill you unless you’re Japanese, in which case they extend your life.

Back to Dr. Ornish:

Heavy consumption of saturated fat and trans fats may double the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Once again, notice how he lumps trans fats and saturated fats together. The vegetarian and vegan zealots do that all the time – well, at least now that they’ve admitted trans fats are bad. Back in the 1980s, The Guy From CSPI was pushing trans fats as a safe alternative to animal fats.  Point is, trans fats and saturated fats have very different effects on your health – which Dr. Ornish chooses to ignore.

A study published last March found a 75 percent increase in premature deaths from all causes, and a 400 percent increase in deaths from cancer and Type 2 diabetes, among heavy consumers of animal protein under the age of 65 — those who got 20 percent or more of their calories from animal protein.

Dr. Ornish forgot to mention a couple a couple of facts about that study:

  • It’s yet another observational study based on food questionnaires and is therefore nearly worthless.
  • Data from the same study showed that heavy consumers of animal proteins over the age of 65 had lower mortality and lower rates of heart disease and cancer, not higher.

So if this observational study actually tells us something about the health effects of animal protein (which it doesn’t), we’d have to conclude that meat will kill you until you turn 65, but after age 65 it will save your life.

Back to the good doctor:

Low-carb, high-animal-protein diets promote heart disease via mechanisms other than just their effects on cholesterol levels. Arterial blockages may be caused by animal-protein-induced elevations in free fatty acids and insulin levels and decreased production of endothelial progenitor cells (which help keep arteries clean). Egg yolks and red meat appear to significantly increase the risk of coronary heart disease and cancer due to increased production of trimethylamine N-oxide, or TMAO, a metabolite of meat and egg yolks linked to the clogging of arteries. (Egg whites have neither cholesterol nor TMAO.)

Ornish linked to a study to support that paragraph, so I checked it out. Here’s the abstract:

Mice that were fed a high-fat, high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet were found to have atherosclerosis that was not associated with traditional cardiovascular risk factors.

So I’m going to suggest you avoid (especially if you’re a mouse) the “Atkins Diet” version of laboratory rodent chow, which is a mix of corn starch, sugar, casein, and various fats including soybean oil, corn oil and Crisco.

Animal protein increases IGF-1, an insulin-like growth hormone, and chronic inflammation, an underlying factor in many chronic diseases. Also, red meat is high in Neu5Gc, a tumor-forming sugar that is linked to chronic inflammation and an increased risk of cancer. A plant-based diet may prolong life by blocking the mTOR protein, which is linked to aging.

To support those claims, Ornish referred to another mouse study and the observational study that showed a statistical link between meat and higher mortality up to age 65, but lower mortality after age 65. Since most of us will live to be 65 anyway, I think we can stop worrying about the meat.  Eat it now, and after celebrating your 65th birthday, start eating even more of it.

Are you recognizing the Ornish method of persuasion by now? He’s like the Wizard of Oz, blowing a lot of smoke and bellowing loudly, but really hoping you don’t look behind that curtain. A quick reference to a mouse study (which he doesn’t identify as a mouse study), a quick reference to an observational study (citing one result but skipping the result he doesn’t want you to see), a quick conflation of trans fats and animal fats, and VOILA! – you’ve almost got an argument against eating animal foods.

Ornish continues:

An optimal diet for preventing disease is a whole-foods, plant-based diet that is naturally low in animal protein, harmful fats and refined carbohydrates. What that means in practice is little or no red meat; mostly vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes and soy products in their natural forms; very few simple and refined carbohydrates such as sugar and white flour; and sufficient “good fats” such as fish oil or flax oil, seeds and nuts. A healthful diet should be low in “bad fats,” meaning trans fats, saturated fats and hydrogenated fats. Finally, we need more quality and less quantity.

Hmmm … let’s rewrite that paragraph to reflect the actual evidence:

An optimal diet for preventing disease is a whole-foods diet that is naturally low in harmful fats and refined carbohydrates. What that means in practice is meat, eggs, vegetables, fruits and nuts, but little or no whole grains or soy products; very few simple and refined carbohydrates such as sugar and white flour; and sufficient “good fats” such as fish oil, natural animal fats, seeds and nuts. A healthful diet should be low in “bad fats,” meaning trans fats, processed vegetable oils, seed oils, and hydrogenated fats. Aim for quality, and you’ll probably find the quantity takes care of itself.

I didn’t bother to read all the comments on Ornish’s article, but I did come across this one:

So far, 331 comments posted. About 88% either disagree or have a different view than the author. I suppose if you agree with him, then you may not comment. But it is obvious the author is not connecting to his audience. I suspect he is not much different than other vegans I have met: for him, diet is a religion and he cherry picks the science.

Sorry, Dr. Ornish, but the jig is up. People aren’t buying these weak arguments of yours anymore. You can keep bellowing away about the hazards of animal foods, but it’s the information age now and the crowd knows better – and the crowd is loud.

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A couple of news items landed in my inbox recently that aren’t directly related, but they’re both examples of the Vision of The Anointed at work.

I gave a brief summary of The Vision of The Anointed (as described by economist Thomas Sowell in a book by that name) in a speech I called Diet, Health and the Wisdom of Crowds.  If you haven’t seen it, here’s a recap of how The Anointed (who are nearly always members of the intellectual class) operate:

  • The Anointed identify a problem in society
  • The Anointed propose a Grand Plan to fix the problem
  • Because they are so supremely confident in their ideas, The Anointed don’t bother with proof or evidence that the Grand Plan will actually work
  • If possible, The Anointed will impose the Grand Plan on other people (for their own good, of course)
  • The Anointed assume anyone who opposes the Grand Plan is either evil or stupid
  • If the Grand Plan fails, The Anointed will never, ever, ever admit the Grand Plan was wrong

The first news item that reminded me of The Anointed was about an (ahem) study that pinpoints the reason we have an obesity problem in modern America.  Here are some quotes:

A new report puts some of the blame for Americans’ expanding waistlines on the growth of new Wal-Mart supercenters in the US.

Big box retailers, and Wal-Mart in particular, have made cheap, bulk-size junk foods more readily available, and Americans are eating more as a result, argues the report, which was published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

“We live in an environment with increasingly cheap and readily available junk food,” Charles Courtemanche, an assistant professor of economics at Georgia State University and one of the report’s co-authors, told the Washington Post. “We buy in bulk. We tend to have more food around. It takes more and more discipline and self-control to not let that influence your weight.”

Well, there you have it.  People are fat because there’s more food around.  I remember asking my grandparents when I was a wee child, “Grandma, Grandpa … why aren’t you fat?”  And my grandpa plopped me on his knee and rubbed my head and said, “Well, we would be if we could.  But if you go look over there in the pantry, you’ll see we’re down to a few slices of bread and some carrots.  It happens all the time because there’s no Wal-Mart nearby and we can only afford to eat just as much as we should.”

The researchers found higher rates of obesity in areas dense with supercenters, which have a larger selection of food and also offer other services, such as auto repair. Just one additional supercenter per 100,000 residents increases average body mass index in the area by 0.24 units and the obesity rate by 2.3% points, they found.

Riiiight.  And since correlation proves causation, that means Wal-Mart is making people fat.  It couldn’t be, say, the fact that low-income people are more likely to be fat for all kinds of reasons, and that Wal-Mart super-centers are built where their most loyal customers live.

Notice how nobody who blames obesity on lower food prices can explain why the wealthiest Americans also have the lowest rates of obesity?  If it’s all about affordability, then wealthy people should be the fattest – they can eat whatever they want and as much as they want.  But no, it’s only if we’re talking about poor people that we blame affordability – and thus Wal-Mart.

“These estimates imply that the proliferation of Wal-Mart Supercenters explains 10.5% of the rise in obesity since the late 1980s,” researchers wrote.

Uh-huh.  And I’ll bet you all had no idea what to blame for obesity, then just stumbled across this data during a wide-open search for truth, then came to your astonishing conclusions.

Of course that’s not what happened.  These bozos with PhDs went looking for a reason to blame Wal-Mart and – ta-da! – they found it.  Intellectuals blaming Wal-Mart for the ills of society … now that is a shock.

In case you haven’t noticed, The Anointed are contemptuous of Wal-Mart and the people who shop there.  This article in the Atlantic, written by a Brit, describes the snobbery rather nicely:

As a young man I aspired to live and work in the US because I wanted to be part of a thriving classless society. Of course that was naive. America is not a classless society. I’m not talking about the 1% and the 99%, and I’m not talking about mainstream America and the underclass (shocking though that gulf is). I’m talking about elite disdain for a much larger segment of the country. It’s a cultural thing: American snobbery.

Many of my American friends have an irrationally intense loathing of Wal-Mart, as though delivering bargains to the masses isn’t quite proper.

In America elite and demotic cultures aren’t merging, they are moving farther apart. The elite is ever more confident of its cultural superiority, and the demos, being American, refuses to be condescended to. I don’t think it’s economic pressure that causes much of the country to cling bitterly to guns and their religion, as Obama put it so memorably. It’s a quintessentially American refusal to be looked down on.

[The elite] may use a self-conscious rhetoric of non-judgmentalism – words like ‘inappropriate’ and ‘challenging’, or phrases such as ‘people in need of support’ and ‘people with issues’ – but they have no inhibitions about instructing others about what food they should eat, how they should bring up their children, or what forms of behaviour are healthy.

Well said, my British friend.  You just described The Anointed.

Here are some similar thoughts from an essay in The National Review:

A few weeks ago, I was very much amused by the sight of anti-Wal-Mart protests in Manhattan — where there is no Wal-Mart, and where, if Bill de Blasio et al. have their way, there never will be. Why? Because we’re too enlightened to let our poor neighbors pay lower prices. The head-clutchingly expensive shops up on Fifth and Madison avenues? No protests.

Ironically, the anti-Wal-Mart crusaders want to make life worse for people who are literally counting pennies as they shop for necessities. Study after study has shown that Wal-Mart has meaningfully reduced prices: 3.1 percent overall, by one estimate — with a whopping 9.1 percent cut to the price of groceries. That comes to about $2,300 a year per household, savings that accrue overwhelmingly to people of modest incomes, not to celebrity activists and Ivy League social-justice crusaders.

And here’s a quote from Member of The Anointed Bill Maher explaining how Wal-Mart shoppers choose to vote:

Republicans need to stop saying Barack Obama is an elitist, or looks down on rural people, and just admit you don’t like him because of something he can’t help, something that’s a result of the way he was born. Admit it, you’re not voting for him because he’s smarter than you.

Uh, no, Bill, that’s not quite it.  It’s more along the lines of something Milton Friedman once said:  it’s not intelligent people who are the problem.  The problem is people who are so impressed with their own intelligence, they feel qualified to tell others how to live.

Barack Obama can’t help it if he’s a magna cum laude Harvard grad and you’re a Wal-Mart shopper who resurfaces driveways with your brother-in-law.

Ahh, Bill, so that’s the reason.  Wal-Mart shoppers resent smart people with Ivy League degrees.  Strangely, many of those Wal-Mart shoppers later voted for Mitt Romney, who earned both a law degree and an MBA from Harvard.

Brilliant argument.  Maher chides Republicans for saying Obama is an elitist who looks down on rural people, then makes it perfectly obvious that he, an Obama enthusiast, is an elitist who looks down on rural people.  (I’m pretty sure he didn’t mean Wal-Mart shopper as a compliment.)

Gee, Bill, I would think someone with your towering intellect would recognize how thoroughly you just undermined your own argument.   Of course The Anointed look down on rural people and Wal-Mart shoppers.  And despite what you and your fellow left-wing snots think, the rural Wal-Mart shoppers are smart enough to know it.

That sneering attitude towards “Wal-Mart shoppers” is the reason I can’t stand Bill Maher.  He’s a left-wing snot, and his live audience is full of left-wing snots who whoop and cheer at his snotty comments as a form of congratulating themselves for what they see as their superiority to people who shop at Wal-Mart and resurface driveways.

Even though I spent a chunk of my life as a comedian, I’ll be the first to say that if all the comedians disappeared, life would be less entertaining, but we’d be fine.  If all the magna cum laude graduates from Harvard Law School disappeared, we’d also be fine, if not better off.  But if all the people who know how to resurface driveways or otherwise build and repair stuff disappeared, we’d be screwed.

Anyway, you get the point.  The Anointed view Wal-Mart shoppers as idiots.  And since they’re idiots, the Wal-Mart shoppers are stuffing themselves and getting fat because – thanks to the low prices offered by the evil Wal-Mart – they can now afford to stuff themselves.  I mean, it’s not as if any of them have actually tried to lose weight or anything.

So The Anointed see all these stupid Wal-Mart shoppers getting fat, which means The Anointed must come up with a Grand Plan to fix the problem – and of course, as The Anointed, they aren’t expected to provide any evidence that the plan would work.

The plan that came out in the media recently was proposed in 2010 by none other than Jonathan Gruber.  If the name isn’t familiar, it should be.  Gruber was once called “the architect” of ObamaCare by Democrats … until he embarrassed himself and the party by getting himself caught on video telling the truth about what it took to pass ObamaCare:

Yup, “the architect” was justifying lying to the public about what ObamaCare would actually do.  The voters are stupid, ya see — one of the only two reasons anyone resists a Grand Plan proposed by The Anointed — so you have to lie to them to get a bill passed that’s really for their own good.

Gruber’s statements so perfectly captured the attitude of The Anointed, The Anointed in the Obama administration immediately tried to disown him.

Meanwhile, Bill Maher renewed his credentials as a member of The Anointed by agreeing with Gruber:

On Friday, Bill Maher, host of HBO’s Real Time, brought up Jonathan Gruber, the economist who was an advisor and main architect on Obamacare and got caught crediting the “stupidity” of Americans to get the bill passed. Maher joked they were “soulmates” and likened his fellow Americans to dogs, and didn’t understand why anything Gruber said about the average American’s stupidity was considered controversial.

Maher’s audience applauded wildly, as they always do for their hero.

By the way, the subtitle of Sowell’s book is Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy.  When Bill Maher agrees that you have to lie to the stupid voters to do what’s best for them and his audience of left-wing snots hoots and cheers in response, that’s a fine example of self-congratulation.  They were probably high-fiving each other for not being stupid voters … you know, the kind who shop at Wal-Mart and resurface driveways and don’t understand that we need The Anointed to make important decisions for us … such as what kind of health insurance we’ll be allowed to buy.

That’s the attitude.  Now here’s the kind of Grand Plan the attitude produces:

Jonathan Gruber, long credited as the architect of ObamaCare, once discussed the necessity of taxing fat people by body weight in order to fight obesity.

“Ultimately, what may be needed to address the obesity problem are direct taxes on body weight,” Gruber wrote in an essay for the National Institute for Health Care Management in April 2010, just months after helping design ObamaCare with the president in the Oval Office and during the period in which he was under contract as an Obama administration consultant.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it at least twice:  whenever The Anointed come up with a Grand Plan to fix a problem, it somehow always requires confiscating other people’s money or limiting their freedom to make their own decisions — or both, for a REALLY Grand Plan.

So there’s the mind of The Anointed at work:  people are fat because Wal-Mart has made food too cheap.  All those people who resurface driveways with their brother-in-law are overeating because they can afford to … and because they’re stupid and have no discipline.  But if The Anointed impose direct taxes on bodyweight, the stupid driveway resurfacers will say to themselves, “Well, heck, I can’t afford those taxes!  I’d better stop eating so much of this cheap Wal-Mart food and lose some weight.”

And then once again, The Anointed will have fixed society’s problems.  All hail The Anointed.

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