Archive for the “The Food Evangelists” Category

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.

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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 a slightly lower rate of 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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Here’s part of what I wrote in a recent post titled Body Types and Brains:

I remember one of my roommates in college looking at the single spiral notebook I took to all my classes and saying, “That’s all the notes you take? How the heck are you getting A’s in everything? You hardly write anything down!”

“Uh, well,” I mumbled, “if the professor says something and it makes sense, I just remember it. I don’t really have to write much of it down.”

That particular roommate was a party animal. I partied right along with him, but only on Thursdays (dollar pitcher night), Fridays (quarter beer night) and Saturdays (student parties all over campus and near-campus).

I had another roommate for half of my senior year who was a studying machine. He not only took copious notes in class, he’d rewrite them all in neat penmanship later.  The notes he took in class were “too messy,” you see.  He attended the occasional party, but never drank much. We graduated with identical grade-point averages: just a fraction under a perfect 4.0/4.0, which means we both got a B in a class at some point. I remember him once asking me, “Why is it that you can party like [the first roommate] and then get the same grades I do?”

“Uh … I don’t know,” I said. “I channel both of you?”

Actually, I explained why I got those grades in the Body Types and Brains post:

I got those grades largely because I’m a “brain mesomorph,” so to speak. Brain mesomorphs can pick pretty much any method of studying and still do well, as long as they don’t do something to screw up that genetic gift – like, say, don’t study at all.

Well, I’ve changed my mind. I now believe I got (almost) straight A’s because I had the discipline to take a few notes in class, study a bit to master the material, turn in my papers on time, and limit my heavy beer-drinking to three nights per week. In fact, I think everyone could pull straight A’s in college if they were just willing to do the same.

To prove my theory, I’m going to re-enroll in college as a one-man experiment. This time around, I’ll drink copious amounts of beer six nights per week, skip the note-taking entirely, not bother studying, and turn in half-assed first drafts of my papers a week late. I suspect this will lead to no better than a C average, perhaps even worse.

If that’s the result, I’ll announce that I’ve proved my theory: anyone who doesn’t do extremely well in college simply isn’t willing to take a few notes, study a bit, and limit the partying to no more than three nights per week. Those B and C students have no one to blame but themselves.

Say what? You think my theory is bogus and my experiment is stupid?

Yes, of course it is. Academic achievement was easy for me, and screwing up on purpose to get average grades proves absolutely nothing about why other people get average grades.

As part of an extra-credit program in high school, I tutored another student who was struggling with freshman algebra. (I was a junior, which means I was taking trigonometry at the time.) This kid certainly put out the effort – more than I ever had to – but had a difficult time wrapping his brain around mathematical concepts. I felt sorry for him … because even at age 17, I had enough common sense not to blame people for being less than genetically gifted.

Unlike this nincompoop:

A woman who intentionally gained 50 pounds wants to demonstrate a point she believes about overweight people: They have only themselves to blame for being heavy.

“People have always said to me, all of my life, ‘You’re lucky to be skinny,’ and what I wanted to prove was that there are no excuses for being overweight,” British reality star Katie Hopkins told TODAY.

Ahh, I see. You’ve always been skinny, so of course you know all about what causes obesity. Are you by any chance related to MeMe Roth?  Your “before” picture suggests as much:

Hmmm, maybe you should get in touch with Heath Squier of Julian Bakery and ask him how to puff out your belly to look a teensy bit fat, then claim you were 35 pounds heavier.  Anyway …

Known across the pond for her acerbic, outspoken comments, Hopkins created a Twitter frenzy when she declared on a British talk show: “I don’t believe you can be fat and happy. I think that’s just a cop out.”

Critics immediately accused Hopkins of “fat shaming” and failing to understand the psychological, as well as physical, factors behind weight gain.

Hopkins then fought back against those who called her ignorant and wrong by eating. A lot. She consumed 6,500 calories every day by stuffing herself with calorie-rich burgers, fries, pasta and cupcakes, recording everything in a food journal. At times, she brought herself to tears because of how much she ate.

“I didn’t cry at childbirth. I didn’t cry at my wedding, but I cried over this because I was just so disgusting,” she said.

So to gain weight, you had to stuff yourself with 6,500 calories per day and eat until you were disgusted and in tears – in other words, waaaaay beyond what your appetite would dictate – just like all fat people do. Geez, and to think some critics actually doubted you understand the physical factors behind weight gain.

Hopkins admits the next step of her experiment has proved to be much more difficult. She’s committed to losing the 50 pounds she gained within three months. She has drastically changed her diet and upped her exercise level, all to prove that being thin is as simple as eating less and moving more.

So it’s a simple matter of eating less and moving more! Well, hell, why didn’t anyone ever tell me that during all those years I was making myself ravenous on low-calorie, low-fat diets and spending hours and hours on a treadmill? Clearly I didn’t try hard enough.

“I’ve learned a lot about how it feels to be big, how difficult it is to be big, how horrible it is to have fat sitting on the top of your thighs, and how much more challenging it is just to do everyday life when you’re bigger,” she said.

Hopkins said she still has 35 pounds left to lose in the next two months.

And I bet she’ll do it – because she’s been skinny her whole life and that’s the shape her body will want to resume.  (Simple math says she already lost 15 pounds in the first month; i.e., nearly four pounds per week.) To quote again from my Body Types and Brains post:

Mesomorphs look well built without setting foot in a gym … Yup. I’ve known people like that. In order to stay lean and muscular, all they really have to do is not screw up.

So this naturally-thin bubblehead screwed up on purpose by jamming 6,500 calories per day of junk food down her throat, thus overwhelming her body’s resistance to gaining weight, and by gosh, she got fat. So that means anyone who’s fat must be screwing up just like she did. Uh-huh … and if I go back to college and party away all my evenings instead of studying and then wind up with average grades as a result, that means anyone who gets C’s in college is a screw-up who parties too much. Same (ahem) logic.

Ms. Hopkins, you were born on the metabolic finish line and think you won a race. Not only that, you think you’re an expert on how the race is won – because you tied your ankles together and proved how difficult it is to run a race in that condition.

What you actually proved is that you’re a flippin’ moron.

Whoops … there I go, making judgments about someone born with a low I.Q.

Sorry about that.

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Hiya, Fatheads!

Bad news.

Tom is hard at work on that book/DVD project he’s been teasing us with for the last year or so, which is good. But it’s taking a bit more time and effort for this phase than he’d planned, so you all are stuck with me for another week or so. It should be worth it in the end, so let’s all, as Lone Watie said in the classic “The Outlaw Josey Wales” (played by Chief Dan George) –

“endeavor to persevere.”

BTW, if you’re too young to get that reference, you need to watch that movie. If you don’t have that kind of patience, or if Josey has ended up on the non-PC list, or if you’d just like a reminder of one of the great scenes in movies:

Okay, enough about the first Americans put on a government-run welfare program.

Back here in the present day, I’ve pointed out before the adage that “grandchildren are your reward for not strangling your children when they’re teenagers.” The Wife and I got an invitation to go to breakfast with The Oldest Reward (1st grader) yesterday at her school’s Grandparents Day. It was fun, and well attended.

Of course, you knew this had to be there:

You want to indoctrinate kids when they’re young. Otherwise, they may start thinking for themselves and we all know how messy that can get. Here’s something I never saw posted on the wall in the school cafeteria when I was a kid:

I never saw it, because hypoglycemia is associated with diabetes. Type I (juvenile) diabetes is rare and kids with it don’t need a poster to be aware of it. The other is Type II diabetes, but when we were kids, that didn’t exist. The condition did, of course, but it hadn’t been renamed to Type II diabetes. It was called “Adult Onset diabetes,” because almost no one got it until they were well past school age, usually mid-life and later.

It’s no puzzle to any Fatheads on how you create an unprecedented epidemic of insulin resistance in children. It’s simple. You just feed them breakfasts like this:

Didn’t manage to capture the other offerings in the picture, but you could balance your plate out with oatmeal and/or a plastic wrapped muffin, also. Not a drop of the fat kids need for their brains in sight, and the only protein available was a few grams in the milk. Fat Free!, of course. Ugh. The menu was missing one of last year’s offerings:

Thanks a lot, Michelle Obama.

Leah picked out what she thought looked good, and ate about half of it.

The Wife and I passed on the meal and just enjoyed being with her and her multitude of buddies. I was still fuming over the whole raw milk thing (or as the grandkids call it — “creamy milk!”) and took a look at the label on the fat-free chocolate milk:

Interesting that the FDA, USDA, CDC, and the Illinois State Medical Society are conducting a jihad against raw milk, but don’t seem to have anything but praise for the folks who bring our kids milk concocted with alkali, cornstarch, salt, artificial flavors, and carrageennan. Note also that the label does warn the consumer that this product “CONTAINS: MILK.” You know, just in case anyone was worried about there being milk in their milk.

It was fun being with the Oldest Grandkid, and we got to meet her teacher and see some of the school before she blasted off to the playground to squeeze in some playtime with her buddies before the bell started the school day. But the wife and I were a bit hungry so we stopped on the way to work and picked up a much higher quality breakfast to start our own workdays:

(Heh, heh. Just making sure Tom keeps getting those royalty checks from Ronald McDonald!)

Have a great weekend. Like it or not, I’ll have a few more things to say next week.

Cheers!

The Older Brother

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Here’s another callback for you longtime Fatheads. It’s from the end of a two-parter I wrote on the State of Illinois’ attempt last year to regulate raw milk producers out of business, “The Older Brother’s notes from the sausage factory floor…” At the end, after over a hundred people showed up to politely but loudly protest the state’s heavy-handed actions, I noted:

“I’ve heard from a couple of folks who think the regulators got an education on raw milk… Maybe the bureaucrats would change things up substantially.  Maybe even remove impediments to raw milk while setting a few common-sense protocols, as it fits in with the buy local/real foods programs the state and others talk up.”

Feeling I had a better understanding of bureaucratic sausage-making than those good, honest people, I ended with…

“I’m guessing they’ll lay low for a few months or more, and then pass pretty much all of those rules as is, maybe without the 100 gallon limit.  Or maybe they’ll bump the limit to 500 gallons.  But they didn’t learn anything, and they’re there to pass those rules.

It’s what they do.”

… Well. Sorry to be right again, but really, it was an easy call.

Apparently, in the last week or so, the FDA-funded lickspittles at the Illinois Department of Public Health went ahead and promulgated new rules concerning raw milk because… well, because there were no rules and how can you just let people mind their own business without someone writing rules to give them permission to do their own business and regulations detailing how that business is to be minded.

This go-round, they’ve posted for comment regulations that will require anyone selling raw milk to gather the name, address, and phone number of anyone they sell raw milk to and turn it over to the state on request. They will also be prohibited from milking a cow with any dirt on its udder or belly, and be required to only milk cows in a building with floors and walls that can be cleaned. In other words, you can’t milk a cow outdoors, and you’ll have to build a building for several tens of thousands of dollars to do it in.

These are, of course, only a start. Once they get some regulations on the books, they can keep expanding them and “re-interpreting” them until they’ve driven all raw milk producers out of the market.  Mission accomplished!

I wouldn’t have known about this as my local paper — the one in the state capital and the middle of ag country — didn’t actually mention any of this. It did, however, helpfully print a letter to the editor from one of the FDA’s useful idiots – the (prepare to be impressed) president of The Illinois State Medical Society. Here’s a few of what the medical establishment’s public mouthpiece seems to think are compelling arguments on why educated, intelligent, health-conscious people shouldn’t be allowed to choose to consume milk in the way it’s been consumed for the last 7,500 years or so…

 

As the Illinois Department of Public Health advances rules governing the sale of raw milk, the Illinois State Medical Society remains opposed to the sale and distribution of “raw” or unpasteurized milk in any form. Federal law prohibits dairies from distributing raw milk across state lines in final package form and about half of U.S. states prohibit the sale of raw milk completely.

Correct answer: So what?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and other medical and health organizations, raw milk that is not pasteurized may contain a wide variety of harmful bacteria, including Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria and other bacteria, that can cause serious illness and, in extreme cases, death. And studies show that children, particularly, are most susceptible to illness due to consuming unpasteurized raw milk.

You mean, there might be germs in milk? Like just about any other food out there. Only as the statistics show, not so much. The nice thing about raw milk is that, unlike pasteurized milk, it also contains all kinds of good bacteria that, in addition to controlling the baddies mentioned, also brings both documented and anecdotal benefits. Probably in about another twenty years, the adherents to the type of medicine practiced by the Illinois State Medical Society will discover the wonders of the gut biome. (Don’t tell them now – you’ll ruin the surprise!)

Pasteurization, simply put, is heating milk to a high temperature and then rapidly cooling it to eliminate harmful bacteria, yet maintaining the milk’s freshness for an extended period of time. Even the Illinois Farm Bureau advocates that individuals drink pasteurized milk.

Wow. You mean, the industry group representing the commodity dairy producers who keep their livestock in confinement pens, inject them with hormones and antibiotics, then mix milk from thousands of cows from different producers, to be shipped hundreds of miles, think people should only drink pasteurized milk? The ones who also put artificial coloring and aspartame in their products?

Now, if you’re going to drink milk from one of these producers, you damned well better want it to be pasteurized. That has nothing to do with the environment of healthy dairy cows raised on pasture with sales going to people within driving distance, who can walk around those fields if they want to see what conditions their food is being produced in.

(Don’t worry about that aspartame thing though. The FDA of which the guardian of our health at the Illinois State Medical Society speaks is engaged in an effort, at the behest of these same producers, to allow aspartame to not be listed in the ingredients of your store-bought, “healthy” milk.)

And these commodity producers, having seen milk sales drop over 20% to the lowest levels in thirty years, are more than happy to advise the FDA, the USDA, the Medical Society, and any other economic illiterates, on how to best put small farmers — who are producing a healthy, ethical, vastly superior product at premium prices — out of business.

I’d say that if the good doctor’s medical expertise is in line with his depth of understanding exhibited in the areas of epidemiology and economics, it would explain why there are over 90,000 medical malpractice-related hospital deaths a year.

That’s an interesting number, because coincidentally, according to an excellent breakdown of the real numbers done by Chris Kesser here, that’s about the odds (1 in 94,000) of a person even getting ill from raw milk (not dead – just a reportable tummy ache). The odds of being hospitalized due to raw milk are around 1 in 6 million, or about three times less than dying in an airplane crash. As for dying, well that’s hard to calculate, since the last reportable deaths associated with raw milk were in the late 1990’s, and those were from homemade “bathtub” queso cheese, which was assuredly contaminated by the maker.

Now, back in 1985, both the worst case of food poisoning deaths (52) and the worst case of salmonella poisoning deaths (possibly up to 12) since the CDC began keeping records in 1970 resulted from consuming dairy products. However, both of those cases involved pasteurized milk. You know — the safe kind.

In fact, there has never been a death reported from just drinking raw milk. That’s according to the CDC. But it took a Freedom of Information Act request to get that out of them, cause it tends to mess with their mission, which is to produce press releases that say “Majority of dairy-related disease outbreaks linked to raw milk.”

Not that food can’t kill you. Since that last death associated with raw milk products, people have died from spinach, green onions, cantaloupe, peanuts, drinking water, apple juice, various types of meats, and again, pasteurized milk products, among others.

If the sundry State Medical Societies worked on “physician, heal thyself” and “first, do no harm” instead of acting as the PR wing for the FDA, CDC, USDA and other Big Ag-owned agencies, they could save countless lives. Up to 90,000 just for starts. That’s without even touching all the havoc and suffering they create helping out their other good buddies over at the pharmaceutical companies.

NOTE: If you live in Illinois, you’ve got until October 20th to let your elected representatives know that you’re not interested in less freedom, crappier food choices, and putting small farmers out of business. Remember, nothing gets a bureaucrat’s attention like a lawmaker who’s getting an earful from irritated (but polite, please) constituents two months before an election.

Cheers,

the Older Brother

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