Millions of people swear every January they’re going to improve their health. I’ve assumed for years that achieving that goal requires paying careful attention to what we eat.
Apparently I was wrong about that. Turns out countless processed foods are actually good for you. I learned that glancing at a bunch of labels and packages recently in the cafeteria at the building where I work.
I usually bring lunch from home or skip eating lunch entirely, so it’s been years since I took a good look at what’s on the shelves. Imagine my surprise when I saw healthy offerings like this:
Whodathunkit? Swiss Miss hot chocolate is actually good for you! After all, it provides as much calcium as an 8-ounce glass milk! And if we turn that package over …
… we see the calcium comes with sugar, corn syrup (in case the sugar isn’t sweet enough), and hydrogenated coconut oil. Small price to pay for the health benefits of all that calcium.
Moving along, I found chips that contain 30% Less Fat or even 65% Less Fat than the leading Potato Chips – and as we know, anything lower in fat will make you healthy.
Here are the healthy ingredients in those Oven-Baked Lays:
Awesome. Corn oil, corn starch, sugar and soybean oil. Good thing they contain 65% less fat than regular potato chips, or I’d almost wonder if they’re good for us after all.
Of course, as the overlords at the USDA have been reminding us for years, one of the keys to better health is to eat more whole grains. I found several foods that fit that bill, such as these Veggie Wheat Thins that provide 100% WHOLE GRAIN WHEAT.
And here are the ingredients:
Wheat flour, canola oil, sugar and cornstarch. So they’re not just low in fat; the bit of fat they do contain comes from heart-healthy canola oil! Man, if we all could develop the discipline to live on foods like this, the nation’s health bill would plummet.
If you prefer breakfast foods while eating more whole grains to improve your health, Raisin Bran is a Good Source of FIBER & Made with WHOLE GRAIN.
Best of all, there are only 68 carbs in that little serving of whole-grain goodness.
Froot Loops are also good for you because, as you can see, they provide WHOLE GRAIN 14 g or more per serving.
With all that whole-grain goodness, it probably doesn’t matter that the primary ingredient is sugar. Grab the skim milk, pour it on that whole-grain cereal, and let’s get healthy!
But wait .. what if we don’t have any skim milk? No problem. Kellogg’s makes a healthy cereal bar. I know it’s healthy because Nutri and Grain are both in the name.
And as you can see, there are only 12 grams of sugar and a whopping two grams of protein in one of these nutrition-packed powerhouses.
There’s also a wee bit of fruit. And since fruit in any form is good for us, I was totally jazzed to find these Fruit Medleys, which are Made With REAL FRUIT JUICE and have Colors From Natural Sources. Boy, that’s got to be good for you.
I even found the REAL FRUIT JUICE in the list of ingredients, right after corn syrup and sugar.
Fruit juice is great, but if you want to get really healthy, you need some whole fruit. Luckily, I found these Pop-Tarts, which are Baked with Real Fruit!
Along with the real fruit that’s baked in, you can power up with some wheat flour, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, soybean oil, sugar, and modified food starch. The real fruit that’s baked in is listed down there in the contains less than 10% or less section … but it’s real fruit, so it’s got to be good for you.
So there you have it. Accomplishing your New Year’s goal of becoming healthier has never been easier. Just grab some Froot Loops or Pop-Tarts for breakfast, and you’ll put some real fruit or those all-important whole grains into your body. If you feel like a snack a few hours later (a near-certainty if you eat cereal or pasty for breakfast), you can grab some Wheat Thins for a dose of 100% Whole Grain Wheat. Then wash ‘em down with a yummy cup of Swiss Miss hot chocolate, and you’ll strengthen your bones with as much calcium as an 8-ouce glass of milk.
With all these healthy choices sitting on the shelves in grocery stores and cafeterias all over America, I predict the nation’s diabetes crisis will soon be nothing but a bad memory.
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Yup, it’s that time again. I went to the gym on Wednesday for the first time in three weeks, and it was swamped. The treadmills are especially popular in January, as people attempt to walk their way towards whatever weight-loss number they chose as a New Year’s resolution. It happens every January, then by around April or so, the gym population is back to normal.
I’ve also noticed the usual shift in lunch choices around the office. Several women have been dutifully putting their Weight Watchers Smart Ones into the microwaves, then dutifully pretending to enjoy the pasta with fat-free sauce. I saw one woman eat a Smart Ones meal, then chase it with a small bag of fat-free popcorn. Good luck with that.
For the first time in years, I’ll be joining the ranks of people starting the new year with a determination to lose weight. As to why, I’ll give the short version first: I gained 12 pounds in three weeks.
Now for the longer version: I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the food. Yeah, I enjoyed stuffing and potatoes and pumpkin pie on Christmas and the day after, but that’s par for the course. Same goes for the pizza on New Year’s.
The big difference this year was booze consumption. I just flat-out overdid it. After months of being in near-constant work mode (the programming job, the book, the blog, etc.), I gave myself permission to be a slug over the holidays. I binge-watched some Amazon and Netflix series I’ve wanted to see, often staying up until 2 or 3 AM to do so, and indulging in good beer, good wine, or good single-malt scotch for the entire viewing session.
Alcohol, of course, is remarkably efficient at shutting down fat-burning. The liver also turns the stuff into fat if it’s not burned away … and I’m pretty sure I didn’t burn it away while sitting in my easy chair and watching four episodes of Mr. Robot in a row.
So I knew I’d gain some weight, but waved the thought away with yeah-yeah-yeah, I’m going to enjoy this holiday break, then worry about that later. Even so, I have to admit I was a wee bit surprised when I stepped on the gym scale for the first time since mid-December.
Twelve pounds?! Seriously?!
Yes, seriously. It’s a reminder of how easily I can gain weight if I don’t watch what goes down the hatch.
But here’s the difference between my resolution now and the resolutions I made in my thirties and forties: I know what to do, I know it will work, and I know it won’t be unpleasant. No little bowls of Grape-Nuts with skim milk for breakfast, no Slim-Fast shakes instead of meals, no dry toast, no rice cakes, no Smart Ones low-fat meals, and no trying to ignore gnawing hunger while waiting for the next calorie-restricted, tasteless meal. I just have to get back to what I was doing before: regular workouts and high-protein, low-carb meals. Sausage and eggs, here I come.
I also know not to set an arbitrary goal, such as I’m going to lose 30 pounds by March! That’s how people set themselves up for failure. The way to lose weight is to stick to a diet that enables weight loss, then let the number on the scale take care of itself.
While I was binge-watching and scotch-drinking myself into needing to loosen my belt, Chareva was banging away on the book, trying to beat a Christmas deadline for finishing all the drawings and page layouts. She missed the deadline by a few days, and apologized for being tardy.
I told her I’d briefly considered filing for divorce, but thought better of it. We set the Christmas deadline as a motivator, and she was clearly motivated. We’ve gone over the book page-by-page several times, and I have to say, I’m delighted. Her drawings are the perfect complement to the text. Now we’ll get preview copies out to a few people and go from there.
There’s plenty more to do – such as the film version — but I’m expecting good things to come of this project, which means I’m already jazzed about 2017, even with the extra pounds to lose.
Happy New Year, everyone.
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Interesting items from my inbox and elsewhere …
Real food in the grocery store
I mentioned recently that Chareva found potato chips with just three ingredients: potatoes, avocado oil and sea salt. Turns out the same company makes a version with coconut oil as well.
So why am I writing about potato chips? Because this is Wisdom of Crowds stuff. According to The Anointed, we should avoid coconut oil. Those of you my age or older may remember when boxes of food proudly boasted a No Tropical Oils! label. That’s because the Center For Science in the Public Interest scared people into thinking the arterycloggingsaturatedfat! in coconut oil would kill them. Mainstream news outlets dutifully passed along the warnings, and coconut oil was replaced with soybean oil and other garbage in many, many products.
That was then, this is now. Kroger is selling this brand of chips because consumers want chips cooked in coconut oil. That means consumers have figured out, thanks to the Wisdom of Crowds effect, that coconut oil is a much better choice than the “heart healthy” vegetable oils The Anointed tell us to consume.
I’ve been asked many times in emails and during interviews how we can get the government to change its lousy advice. I always give the same answer: my goal isn’t to get the government “experts” to change their advice. My goal is to convince people to stop listening to them.
I believe the Wisdom of Crowds is accomplishing that goal.
CSPI wants meat cancer warnings
Speaking of The Guy From CSPI, look how he wants government to protect us against our own stupidity now:
A nine-page petition filed by the Center for Science in the Public Interest asks the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service to begin requiring colorectal cancer warning labels on certain meat and poultry products.
Michael F. Jacobson, CSPI president, and David Plunkett, senior staff attorney, signed the petition. They want USDA to require all meat and poultry products that “are preserved by smoking, curing, salting, and/or the addition of chemical preservatives” to bear the warning label.
The CSPI suggests the label should state: “USDA WARNING: Frequent consumption of processed meat products may increase your risk of developing cancer of the colon and rectum. To protect your health, limit consumption of such products.” The group also wants a similar warning on poultry products.
You’ve got to hand it to The Guy From CSPI. No matter how often he turns out to be wrong, his confidence in his Grand Plans is never shaken. He demanded calorie-count labels on food labels, fast-food packages, restaurant menus, etc. – because by gosh, that would cause people to eat less. Multiple studies then demonstrated that the labels have zero effect. But now he’s sure warning labels will lead to people cutting back on meat.
The meat causes cancer notion is, of course, complete hogwash. The observational studies are all over the place. The Guy From CSPI, as a committed (or should be committed) vegetarian, simply cherry-picks the ones he likes. We’ve dealt with that nonsense several times, including this post and this post.
In the age of social media and the Wisdom of Crowds, I predict people will listen to CSPI’s warnings about meat just as obediently as they’re listening to those warnings about coconut oil.
New Jersey legalizes raw milk
Okay, it shouldn’t have been outlawed in the first place. But let’s cheer progress where we see it. Here are some quotes from an article in NaturalBlaze:
On Monday, a New Jersey Assembly committee unanimously approved a bill that would legalize limited raw milk sales in the state, taking an important step toward effectively nullifying a federal prohibition scheme in effect.
Assemblymen John DiMiao (R-Dist. 23) introduced Assembly Bill 696 (A696) earlier this year. The legislation would allow holders of a raw milk permit “to sell, offer for sale or otherwise make available raw milk directly to consumers but only at the farm or property where the raw milk is produced.”
Current New Jersey law imposes a complete ban on the sale, transport and importation of raw milk or raw milk products.
I don’t have much more information to go on, but once again, I’ll bet pressure from consumers had a lot to do with the bill being passed. Heck, if this trend keeps up, government officials may decide to let whole milk back into schools.
Canadian doctors give an earful to the health authorities, eh?
Here’s more of that Wisdom of Crowds effect: a group of 200 Canadian physicians recently sent a letter to Health Canada and other health officials in the Great White North. The letter urges a change in national dietary guidelines. Here’s part of what they wrote:
The Canadian Dietary Guidelines should:
1. Clearly communicate to the public and health-care professionals that the low-fat diet is no longer supported, and can worsen heart-disease risk factors
2. Be created without influence from the food industry
3. Eliminate caps on saturated fats
4. Be nutritionally sufficient, and those nutrients should come from real foods, not from artificially fortified refined grains
5. Promote low-carb diets as at least one safe and effective intervention for people struggling with obesity, diabetes, and heart disease
6. Offer a true range of diets that respond to the diverse nutritional needs of our population
7. De-emphasize the role of aerobic exercise in controlling weight
8. Recognize the controversy on salt and cease the blanket “lower is better” recommendation
9. Stop using any language suggesting that sustainable weight control can simply be managed by creating a caloric deficit
10. Cease its advice to replace saturated fats with polyunsaturated vegetable oils to prevent cardiovascular disease
11. Stop steering people away from nutritious whole foods, such as whole-fat dairy and regular red meat
12. Include a cap on added sugar, in accordance with the updated WHO guidelines, ideally no greater than 5% of total calories
13. Be based on a complete, comprehensive review of the most rigorous (randomized, controlled clinical trial) data available; on subjects for which this more rigorous data is not available, the Guidelines should remain silent.
How awesome is that? Will Canadian authorities listen? Maybe, maybe not. But that letter is making its way around cyberspace and will be seen by lord-only-knows how many people. Authorities may not listen, but I bet plenty of other people will.
Heck, this might even hurt sales of Canola oil …
Happy Holidays – I’m outta here until 2017
Chareva and I gave ourselves a Christmas deadline to finish the book. I believe we’re going to make that deadline. She’s been putting in long days drawing and laying out pages. Meanwhile, I’ve been converting the book text into a film script for the film version. I hope to have the script done by Christmas as well.
I spend pretty much every Christmas-to-New Year’s break going through a ton of photos and videos to create the family DVD for the previous year, so I’ll be rather busy for the next couple of weeks. I’ll check comments, but don’t plan on writing any new posts until January.
I wish you all a fabulous holiday season. See you in 2017.
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In the previous three posts, we looked at why The Anointed aren’t big fans of free speech or the wide-open discussion and debate free speech enables:
1. They believe they are very, very smart.
2. They believe the rest of us aren’t very, very smart and are therefore easily fooled and led astray.
In comments, a reader posted a link to an excellent blog post by Charles Hugh Smith that makes the same point:
Perhaps what has failed here is the narrative that everything fails and falls apart if it isn’t centrally managed and curated, a narrative that inevitably leads to censorship under the guise of “protecting you, the easily confused sheep, from these nasty wolves.”
Censorship then enables another, much more well-organized and centralized pack of wolves (the ruling elites) to prey on the obedient sheep at their leisure, without fear of any disruptive dissenting narratives.
What the ruling political elites and their mainstream media shills fear is a wide-open, chaotic and very Darwinian competition of concepts and ideas.
I’ve got to start reading his blog. Sounds like my kinda guy.
Whether The Anointed like it or not, that chaotic and very Darwinian competition of concepts and ideas is happening. Thanks to the internet and social media, the information gatekeepers have lost control of the gates. The rest of us are now communicating directly with each other. The results haven’t been good for The Anointed, as Nassim Nicholas Taleb pointed out in his essay The Intellectual Yet Idiot (his term for The Anointed):
What we have been seeing worldwide, from India to the UK to the US, is the rebellion against the inner circle of no-skin-in-the-game policymaking “clerks” and journalists-insiders, that class of paternalistic semi-intellectual experts with some Ivy league, Oxford-Cambridge, or similar label-driven education who are telling the rest of us 1) what to do, 2) what to eat, 3) how to speak, 4) how to think… and 5) who to vote for.
… With psychology papers replicating less than 40%, dietary advice reversing after 30 years of fatphobia, macroeconomic analysis working worse than astrology, the appointment of Bernanke who was less than clueless of the risks, and pharmaceutical trials replicating at best only 1/3 of the time, people are perfectly entitled to rely on their own ancestral instinct and listen to their grandmothers (or Montaigne and such filtered classical knowledge) with a better track record than these policymaking goons.
My, my, my … with the great unwashed masses rebelling and trusting their own instincts, or their grandmothers, or each other, or bloggers and podcasters whose ideas and advice they’ve found useful, how are The Anointed supposed to protect people against their own stupidity? (As you may recall, The Anointed believe anyone who defies them must be stupid, or evil, or perhaps both.)
One way or another, The Anointed believe they must coerce people who disagree with them into shutting the hell up. As we saw in our last post, demanding retractions of critiques and opinions they don’t like is one favorite tactic.
Another favorite tactic is to personally attack the messenger, as opposed to arguing against what the messenger has to say. That’s where the “anyone who disagrees with us must be evil” attitude shows itself. Yelling “racist!” over disagreements that have nothing to do with race is certainly near the top of The Official Anointed Playbook. So are comments like this, uttered by our ol’ buddy Dr. David Katz while responding to the Nina Teicholz critique of the U.S. Dietary Guidelines:
The report does take into account sustainability, something that the committee noted was not traditionally in their purview. “Ms. Teicholz seems inclined to ignore that altogether; perhaps she does not care whether there is anything for the next generation to eat or drink, but I suspect most of us do,” Katz noted.
Got that? If Teicholz argues that the guidelines aren’t based on good science, well then by gosh, it means she doesn’t care if our kids and grandkids end up starving and dying of thirst – a looming disaster the U.S. Dietary Guidelines would of course prevent. Gee, she must be a terrible, terrible person. Best not listen to anything she has to say.
When demands for retractions and personal attacks fail, there’s always the final option: bring the rebellious naysayer up on charges. Initiate some kind of prosecution, preferably one with the threat of real punishment attached.
As you probably recall, a state board threatened to prosecute blogger Steve Cooksey for promoting a low-carb, paleo diet for diabetics on his Diabetes Warrior blog. Here are some quotes from a Carolina Journal article about that incident:
The North Carolina Board of Dietetics/Nutrition is threatening to send a blogger to jail for recounting publicly his battle against diabetes and encouraging others to follow his lifestyle.
Chapter 90, Article 25 of the North Carolina General Statutes makes it a misdemeanor to “practice dietetics or nutrition” without a license. According to the law, “practicing” nutrition includes “assessing the nutritional needs of individuals and groups” and “providing nutrition counseling.”
Hmmm, certainly sounds like a case of The Anointed feeling threatened by a wide-open, chaotic and very Darwinian competition of concepts and ideas. After all, there are plenty of bloggers and health professionals in the world promoting the low-fat diet recommended by the American Diabetes Association. Are they afraid people will try Cooksey’s advice and discover it actually works? Yes, I think that’s part of it.
In South Africa, The Health Professions Council of SA brought Professor Tim Noakes up on charges for a tweet – that’s right, A TWEET! — in which he advised a young mother (in response to her question) to wean her baby onto high-fat, real foods. The sane response there would have been to send out tweets and press releases explaining why HPCSA disagrees with Noakes. But we can’t expect The Anointed to behave sanely when there’s a risk ordinary people might come to believe their advice is wrong.
Meanwhile, in the land down under, The Anointed initiated another prosecution. Here are some quotes from ABC in Australia:
Gary Fettke is an orthopaedic surgeon and an advocate of a low carbohydrate diet.
He said he became passionate about nutrition after amputating limbs of diabetic patients whose diets were a big part of the problem.
“What I’ve been advocating for some years is cutting sugar down, particularly all the refined sugars in the diet,” he said.
“Over time that’s evolved, and it’s evolved to what I call low carb, healthy fat.
“It’s just eating lots of vegetables, pasture-fed meat and the right amount of oil in the form of things like nuts, avocado, cheese, olive oil and fish.”
Geez, that sounds really, really dangerous. Humans never would have survived and evolved on a wacky diet like that.
According to Dr Fettke, an anonymous complaint from a dietician at the hospital sparked an investigation by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).
Two and a half years later the watchdog found he was working outside his scope of practise and was not qualified to give specific nutritional advice, and he was ordered to stop speaking about the low carbohydrate, high fat diet.
“The committee does not accept that your medicine studies of themselves provide sufficient education or training to justify you providing specific advice or recommendations to patients or the public about nutrition and diet, such as the LCHF lifestyle concept,” it read.
Now, stop and wrap your head around that last statement. Dr. Fettke isn’t qualified to give nutrition advice because he’s just a doctor? Have you EVER heard of a doctor who recommends a low-fat diet with lots of healthywholegrains! being prosecuted anywhere in the world? Of course not. Dr. Fettke summed it up nicely himself:
“You go to your cardiologist and he tells you what to eat, you go to a neurosurgeon and he tells you what to eat, gastroenterologist and all of them, by definition, don’t have a major training in nutrition and yet they’re all giving advice. You cannot push a way of eating onto a person. All I’ve ever done is told patients that there is a choice, that there is an option that’s out there.”
Ahh, but The Anointed don’t want the great unwashed masses to know about options. That could lead to a wide-open, chaotic and very Darwinian competition of concepts and ideas – which would of course be very, very bad. No, The Anointed much prefer something like this:
AHPRA has released a statement reaffirming that it expects medical practitioners to provide appropriate dietary advice to patients.
And “appropriate” means whatever The Anointed say it is.
That’s why we can never stop fighting these arrogant morons.
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In part one, we looked at why The Anointed don’t like wide-open discussion and debate:
1. They believe they are very, very smart.
2. They believe the rest of us aren’t very, very smart and are therefore easily fooled and led astray.
In part two, we quoted from an essay by Dr. David Katz that proves the points made in part one. Social media is endangering our health by allowing everyone to shout health advice into an echo chamber, ya see — and once the inferior brains of ordinary folks are filled with bad information, there’s no room left for good information.
Okay, that’s not exactly how Katz put it, but pretty close. Here’s the exact quote:
Misinformation is far more pernicious than ignorance. Ignorance is that proverbial empty vessel; a knowledgeable health professional can fill it. But it’s hard to fill a cup that already runneth over- and that’s the scenario that misinformation creates.
If I’d begged The Anointed to please provide an example of how they believe they’re very, very smart and the rest of us aren’t, they couldn’t have provided a better one. I’m guessing Katz doesn’t limit his reading for fear his big ol’ brain will reach full capacity and become incapable of absorbing and evaluating new information. No, that’s only a risk for the rest of us.
He’s an egomaniac, but at least Katz plans to battle what he considers bad information with what he considers good information — provided by the usual gang of goofs who’ve been trying for decades to convince everyone that animal foods will kill us, while grains and soy will save us. He calls his gang of goofs The True Health Initiative, and apparently their mission is to rush out and fill inferior brains with advice Katz likes before advice he doesn’t like occupies all the available space.
Other members of The Anointed aren’t willing to risk having their advice bounce off a brain that already runneth over with advice they don’t like. The only way to prevent that disaster, of course, is to shut down people who argue that The Anointed are wrong. Let’s look at a recent example.
Back in September 2015, the British Medical Journal published a report titled The scientific report guiding the US dietary guidelines: is it scientific? The report was written by Nina Teicholz, author of The Big Fat Surprise. The upshot of the article: uh, no, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines aren’t based on good science. You can read the BMJ piece online, but here are some quotes from a Newsweek article on the report:
A new report published in BMJ on Wednesday suggests the latest U.S. dietary guidelines up for review are not based on sufficient and up-to-date scientific research of crucial topics, such as saturated fats and low-carbohydrate diets, and may even be fraught with industry biases.
The last time the committee members drew up guidelines—in 2010—they used the Nutrition Evidence Library that was established by the USDA, which provides systematic analyses of research on various nutrition subjects, such as sodium and sugar intake. But the committee that worked on the 2015 guidelines didn’t use that system for more than 70 percent of the topics, including some of the most controversial, according to Nina Teicholz, a New York City–based journalist and author of The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat & Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet, who wrote the BMJ report.
In the report, the committee states that there is a “strong” association between saturated fat consumption and heart disease. However, Teicholz says, the review of the science behind saturated fat consumption didn’t include research from the last five years, including several notable papers that don’t demonstrate a link between high saturated fat consumption and increased risk for heart attack and stroke.
She says the committee’s review of different kinds of diets—including low-carbohydrate, Mediterranean-style, healthy vegetarian—is also deeply flawed. In the BMJ report, Teicholz says that in some instances, the committee based their conclusions on limited research or poorly designed studies, such as a single clinical trial of 180 people with metabolic syndrome, which found the Mediterranean diet was most effective for weight loss.
Okay, you get the idea. Teicholz pointed out what she considers several flaws how the Dietary Guidelines Committee came up with their recommendations. And since her report was published in the BMJ, it carries some weight. After all, doctors read the thing.
Naturally, The Anointed weren’t happy. Here’s what our buddy Dr. David Katz had to say, as quoted in MedPageToday online:
“The DGAC report is excellent, and represents both the weight of evidence, and global consensus among experts,” Katz wrote.
“The notion that the opinion of one journalist with a book to sell is any way a suitable counterpoint to the conclusions of a diverse, multidisciplinary, independent group of scientists who reviewed evidence for the better part of 2 years and relied upon knowledge and judgment cultivated over decades is nearly surreal,” Katz added. “It is a disservice to the readership in both cases.”
I’m almost starting to like Katz. Whenever I need an example of how The Anointed think, he delivers. Notice what his (ahem) “argument” boils down to: THE LITTLE PEOPLE AREN’T QUALIFIED TO QUESTION US, SO NOBODY SHOULD BE LISTENING TO THEM!
The BMJ report is just the “opinion” of one journalist, ya see. Weird thing is, I could have sworn Teicholz cited a whole lot of facts in her critique of the dietary guidelines, not just opinions. That’s why BMJ was persuaded to publish the report. And while The Anointed would love for us all to be swayed by impressive-sounding credentials (conferred by The Anointed themselves, of course), the truth of a statement does not depend on who utters it. Facts are facts – and that’s a fact.
But when facts – or even opinions – are embarrassing to The Anointed, some of them just can’t resist the urge to stifle the opposing voices. Enter the Center for Science in the Public Interest. (Those of you who’ve seen Fat Head are free to yell “This is a job for THE GUY FROM CSPI!”)
Soon after the Teicholz report appeared, CSPI demanded that BMJ retract it. Now, stop and think about that. Katz insisted Teicholz was expressing her opinion in the BMJ article. If that’s true, it means The Guy From CSPI was demanding the BMJ stifle an opinion. Well, that’s just awesome. We The Anointed hereby declare a ban on opinions we don’t like.
But if it’s not an opinion piece, then any dispute comes down to facts. If The Guy From CSPI believes the dietary guidelines are correct, he is of course free to argue in favor of them. If he believes Teicholz doesn’t have facts and logic behind her arguments, the proper response is to reply with facts and logic to dispute her arguments.
But then, we’re talking about CSPI here – the organization that threatened to boycott a nutrition conference unless Teicholz was disinvited. So obviously The Guy From CSPI isn’t a fan of defending his arguments in a debate. He’d rather just prevent people who disagree with him from being heard. So he demanded a retraction of the BMJ report, and attempted to apply pressure by having 100 members of The Anointed sign a petition.
Now for the good news, in case you haven’t already heard: After weighing the evidence (including reports by two independent reviewers), BMJ announced that it stands by the Teicholz report and will not retract it. Here’s part of the announcement by the editor of BMJ:
We stand by Teicholz’s article with its important critique of the advisory committee’s processes for reviewing the evidence, and we echo her conclusion: ‘Given the ever increasing toll of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, and the failure of existing strategies to make inroads in fighting these diseases, there is an urgent need to provide nutritional advice based on sound science.’
Neither Teicholz nor The BMJ are new to criticism. Healthcare is rife with controversy and the field of nutrition more so than many, characterised as it is by much weak science, polarised opinion, and powerful commercial interests.
Weak science? You betcha. Polarized opinion? Of course. When so-called experts promote nonsense based on weak science, opinions should become polarized. That’s why The Anointed are so big on creating consensus: if opinions are polarized, it means people are daring to question them and (egads!) perhaps even insisting they’re wrong. They want those people to shut up.
More on that in the next post.
A reader pointed out that Dr. David Katz was among the 180 anti-fat warriors (not 100) who signed the CSPI demand for a retraction, which means he’s an even bigger jackass than I thought — and that’s saying something. Remember, he described the Teicholz report in BMJ as “the opinion of one journalist with a book to sell.” That means he, along with The Guy From CSPI and the other anti-fat warriors, was demanding BMJ retract an opinion.
So here’s what this boils down to: Teicholz wrote a report saying U.S. dietary guidelines — which still promote anti-saturated-fat hysteria — aren’t based on rigorous science. Then the same group of goofs who’ve been pushing anti-saturated-fat hysteria decades demanded BMJ pull her critique. This isn’t about protecting public health. It’s about protecting their own reputations and interests.
And speaking of having something to sell, Dr. Katz has written several books promoting a low-fat diet (I don’t if he compared his writing in those books to Dickens or Milton), and of course he has a financial interest in NuVal, a system for ranking the healthiness of foods according to his own opinions. So the Teicholz piece was a threat to his own bottom line.
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In our previous episode, we looked at why The Anointed aren’t big fans of freedom of speech or of concepts like The Marketplace of Ideas or The Wisdom of Crowds. Two of their most dearly-held beliefs are:
1. They are very, very smart.
2. The rest of us aren’t very, very smart and are often quite stupid.
Consequently, The Anointed don’t view wide-open debate and discussion as opportunities for the best ideas to be discovered and bubble up to the top. They view them as opportunities for the great unwashed masses with their inferior intellects to be fooled and led astray.
Let’s look at a perfect example of what I’m talking about: a recent Huffington Post essay by Dr. David Katz, the guy who developed the NuVal system for ranking the healthiness of foods – a system recently dropped by some big grocery-store chains. Here are some quotes from Katz:
Misinformation is very much in season. Disclosures since the presidential election about massively disseminated misinformation, some of it inadvertent, some of it willfully manipulative, have come fast and furious. In fact, in the aftermath of the recent revelations about fake news, we are being invited to add “post-truth” to our lexicon.
So Dr. Katz is very upset about fake news. That’s pretty danged funny, considering he was caught writing reviews of his own novel under a fake name and comparing himself to John Milton and Charles Dickens. Apparently his definition of fake news is limited to “post-truth” he doesn’t like.
For the record, I think we can all agree we’d prefer not to be exposed to fake news. But of course, fake news isn’t new. In the years that I’ve been paying attention, “news” stories that turned out to be largely or completely fabricated have been printed or aired by The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Rolling Stone, CBS and NBC. The Washington Post even ran a piece recently titled Fake News? That’s A Very Old Story, which recounts how fake news has been around since the founding of the country.
But since the Katz essay is about health advice, I wondered why he opened with a complaint about fake news in the recent election cycle. Then it hit me: he’s trying to draw a parallel between health advice he doesn’t like and wacko stories claiming the Clintons were involved in child-sex rings. If one is bad, the other must be equally bad, ya see. Nice try, Doc.
I’ve written several posts and given a speech about how the internet enabled the Wisdom of Crowds to turn the tide against the arterycloggingsaturatedfat! and healthywholegrains! nonsense coming from the Axis of Incompetence: the USDA, the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association, etc. It’s a topic near and dear to my heart, partly because I remember the bad old days.
In the 1980s, I was a staff writer and editor for a small magazine called Family Safety & Health. Researching a health article was a process I called “round up the usual suspects.” Something about heart health? Get in touch with the American Heart Association. Diabetes? The American Diabetes Association is your go-to source. Cancer? Call the American Cancer Society. Anything else, start with government health agencies and go from there.
Information flowed from The Anointed at the top, through a handful of gatekeepers, then down to the rest of us. So I, like every other health writer in those days, wrote articles about the wonders of whole grains and the dangers of saturated fats and cholesterol. I didn’t know any better because I didn’t have access to contrary evidence and opinions. For The Anointed, those were the good old days.
Now the gatekeepers have been swept aside. I consider that a net positive. Dr. Katz, as a member of The Anointed, of course disagrees:
The social media that served as the currents in which false and misleading election-related news were swept far and wide pose three particular threats to health related information.
The first is that very problem, the unfettered promulgation of information that is just plain wrong. The second is that misinformation is far more pernicious than ignorance. Ignorance is that proverbial empty vessel; a knowledgeable health professional can fill it. But it’s hard to fill a cup that already runneth over- and that’s the scenario that misinformation creates.
And lastly, the third is the very problem we’ve had since the radio was first invented: static. At some level of background noise, the worthiest signal is indiscernible as such. Our ability to deliver a message, any message, depends now, as ever, on the signal to noise ratio.
Let me interpret that: @#$%!! All those @#$%ing bloggers and podcasters are somehow drawing big audiences and convincing millions of people that saturated fat isn’t bad and grains aren’t good! People no longer just accept what The Anointed tell them! This is very, very bad!
Cyberspace is the ultimate, ecumenical echo chamber. Everyone can shout into it, and every shout has the same chance to echo from the megaphones of the sympathetic.
Well, that’s true to an extent. Social media has created a vastly wider and more diverse Marketplace of Ideas. Are some of those ideas garbage? You bet. For all I know, there may be more lousy dietary advice pinging around cyberspace than good advice.
That’s not the point. The point is that good advice – advice that actually works — is now accessible to people who never would have seen it in the pre-internet days. That’s where The Anointed and fans of the Marketplace of Ideas disagree. The Anointed believe if everyone can shout into an echo chamber, everyone will have equal influence. That’s nonsense. It’s like believing everyone who produces a product will have an equal share of the market. Despite what The Anointed think, people aren’t stupid. They gravitate to the products and the advice that prove beneficial.
You may recall the story of my co-worker whose wife suffered from migraines for years. Doctor after doctor failed to prescribe the magic-pill cure. But then a friend-of-a-friend suggested she try giving up grains – because he’d read on the internet that grains can trigger migraines. So she tried giving up grains and voila! – no more migraines. She found relief because of knowledge shared on the internet.
Now, given what the internet is, I suppose someone else might have suggested she rub her eyeballs with orange caterpillars. That would have been junk advice. But here’s the thing: she would have recognized it as junk advice based on the results. That is, after all, largely what the Wisdom of Crowds is about: knowledge gained from experience and then shared with that big ol’ crowd.
The Anointed, by contrast, put far more faith in little groups of experts – with expertise defined by them, of course, and largely consisting of earning degrees by attending classes taught by other members of The Anointed. This is nothing new, by the way. Eric Hoffer, author of the terrific book The True Believer, wrote this in the 1950s:
The explosive component in the contemporary scene is not the clamor of the masses but the self-righteous claims of a multitude of graduates from schools and universities. This army of scribes is clamoring for a society in which planning, regulation, and supervision are paramount and the prerogative of the educated.
Back to Katz on people shouting into that darned echo chamber:
This is an enemy not only to medicine, but to everything in any way related to science, for science demands the filter of genuine understanding, actual expertise, and evidence.
Once again, that’s pretty danged funny, considering it’s coming from a guy whose NuVal system ranks sugar-laden chocolate soy milk as a far healthier option than a turkey breast. I’d like to see the evidence supporting that ranking. Unfortunately, NuVal refuses to explain its scoring system because the information is “proprietary.” In other words, we just made this @#$% up because it’s what we believe.
Having defined the problem – too darned many voices yelling health advice into that social-media echo chamber – Katz then lays out his solution:
In my particular purview- lifestyle medicine- I have felt compelled to develop a new method to confront this New Age challenge. If the noise is irrevocably greater than ever before, so, too, must be the signal. The True Health Initiative pools the voices, currently, of well over 300 leading experts from over 30 countries to make the case that we are not clueless about the basic care and feeding of Homo sapiens; that the fundamentals of a health-promoting diet and lifestyle are the stuff of decisive evidence, and global consensus.
Sorry, Doc, but I’m going to have to disagree. When you tell people eggs will kill them and sugar-laden soy milk is a healthier option than a turkey breast, I’m pretty sure you are clueless about the basic care and feeding of Home sapiens – none of whom enjoyed a nice, sweet glass of chocolate-flavored Silk Soy Milk until modern industry made such garbage possible.
I looked up the members of those (ahem) “experts” Katz is putting together to combat the social-media echo chamber. I didn’t recognize most of them, but here are some we all know:
Keith Thomas Ayoob … whom I’ve referred to as “Ayoob the Boob” because he thinks the saturated fat in coconut oil will kill people.
Dr. Neil Barnard … yup, the vegan nut-job whose group Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine puts up billboards warning people that consuming animal products will kill them.
T. Colin Campbell … author of The China Study, which attempted to prove (through cherry-picked associations) that eating meat is the main driver of disease.
You get the idea. Katz is assembling a team of the same old anti-fat, anti-cholesterol, anti-meat goofs who have been part of the problem for decades. Talk about an echo chamber.
To his credit, Katz is at least trying to combat what he considers bad information with what he considers good information. The members of The True Health Initiative will be shouting into the very echo chamber Katz dislikes. Since I believe the Marketplace of Ideas works, I predict the market won’t be kind to them. No amount of shouting from the usual suspects will convince people who’ve seen their health improve after going low-carb, gluten-free or paleo to take a giant step backwards.
Other members of The Anointed aren’t satisfied with shouting into the echo chamber. They’d rather prevent people who disagree with them from shouting in the first place … or writing, or tweeting, or whatever. We’ll pick up that subject in the next post.
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