All this talk about food. More fruits and vegetables. Less Meat. Is it an ongoing rant by myself?
I do not claim to come to subjects without bias. I have an ingrained dietary bias both personal and religious. From, the moment I walked into the Bilmar Turkey Slaughter House in Southern Michigan, as a fourth grader I was biased. Something spoke to me in my gut, this was not right. My little mind processed it as "gross" and "wrong." More recently, my study of LDS church history and the Word of Wisdom, and several other books, have biased me to extreme moderation for my entire family in animal product consumption.
This is exactly what it looked like in the "kill-room." The turkeys came in upside down, squawking their heads off. From there they entered a shock chamber to stun, and stop their hearts. The belt continued to move, their throats were slit by line workers. The turkey then entered another chock chamber to restart their heart so the blood would pump out of their systems.
Becoming more committed to this belief system, I had a good opportunity to add some balance. My friend Jessica brought to my attention a few books offering an alternative view point. It provided great quest for me.
I tried to set aside my bias and be objective. Frankly, I have many family members, friends, and nearly all Americans for that matter, who disagree with our dietary practices and interpretations. My objective was to try to see diet from a different perspective, and then evaluate and modify my current beliefs if necessary. And so I researched. Scoured the internet. Read. Read. And read some more. Reread a bunch of books (or portions of them). I chose one particular book to read and study in-depth.
The Cholesterol Myths
The book I chose to expand my horizons was one I researched and felt it may have truth in it, The Cholesterol Myths is by Uffe Ravnskov. Dr. Ravnskov is a Swedish Family Practitioner and PhD. He has spent a copious amount of time researching and analyzing the research, past and current, related to the premise that saturated fat/cholesterol are causes for heart disease.
It was fascinating to read Dr. Ravnskov's book side by side with Dr. Campbell's book The China Study. Their backgrounds differ. Dr. C is a researcher and not a medical practitioner. Most of his conclusions are built on his own laboratory and field-based studies. While Dr. R's conclusions stem from detailed analysis of a vast breadth of research.
I expected the two book to be in opposition on most fronts. What I discovered was surprising.
My Discoveries in a Nut Shell...
- Selective Interpretation: The majority of researchers selectively interpret and publish results to cater to their bias. A portion of this is natural. In fact many of the graphs I thought could legitimately be interpreted more than one way.
- Disease's are Multifactorial: The authors agree that diseases are not caused by a single factor. In fact, their is a multitude of probable causes. Trying to "cure" one risk factor like lowering cholesterol to prevent heart disease, for example is ineffective.
- Lifestyle Makes a Difference: How we live our lives directly correlates to our tendency toward degenerative disease. Smoking, exercise and stress all become factors. It is great how Dr. Stephen Brynes in his Myths of Vegetarianism, uses "The Mormons" as an example of how you can be free of many debilitating health concerns by abstaining from drugs, alcohol and caffeine. Oh yes, the religion also advocates "meat sparingly in times of winter and famine." It also prescribes early to bed, early to rise, fruits and herbs, wheat and grains, and fosters peace and contentment by following its tenants. But none of this is mentioned. Only that it is proof you can eat as much meat as you want.
- Diet Makes a Difference: Dr. R may disagree with my interpretation of his book on this one! He vehemently opposed the diet-heart connection. But I felt as he tried to disprove the connection he made a strong case for it. Let me explain. Dr. R aptly and concisely exposes the gross misinformation of the diet-heart movement. The movement preaching to Americans to eat low fat has been disastrous. Think margarine, and transfat laden lowfat goodies and processed foods. More recently think of the cereals, yogurts, crackers, anything you can dream up which are now "high fiber." One word, ridiculous. Americans choose to get vitamins, minerals and fiber from processed breakfast cereal instead of whole fruits, grains and vegetables. Single nutrients, (like chicory root extract for fiber) added to food are not the same as consuming them in their natural state.
It is unethical and deceptive to market this product as "zero guilt." The artificial coloring aspartame, and extremely processed dairy will wreak havoc on anyone. Adults and children alike.
- Medication is Not the Answer: Both authors agree that medicating for risk factors is not making a difference in our fight against disease. Cholesterol medications do in fact reduce cholesterol but do not prevent heart disease.
- Saturated Fat isn't the Big Culprit: The research clearly shows simply reducing saturated fat intake make no difference in disease prevention. Olive oil consumption appears to do the same thing. I thought Dr. C did not do a good job of presenting this in his book, but he brought it out strongly in the lecture I attended. Do not add additional fat to your diet, except in very small amounts. I loved the example Dr. R gave of how saturated fat couldn't be to blame for heart disease and high cholesterol. He used the islanders and coconut oil (a saturated fat)! This was perfect. He described their excellent ability to withstand disease and how it can be attributed to their high consumption of saturated fat in the form of coconut oil. Clearly all my coconut oils in the food storage are keepers.
- Indigenous Cultures are Difficult to Draw Conclusions From: I have come to believe differently than both Dr. C and Dr. R about the value of drawing conclusions from indigenous cultures. Dr. R's favorite example was the Masai people. Their main diet consists of milk, blood and meat. Their days are spent running across the country chasing cattle. They are extremely fit. They also have the shortest life span of any other people. They don't have heart disease.
Some difficulties with drawing conclusions on the benefits of eating a high meat diet from this society are many. First, they eat the bones, and organ meats and of the animals. All raw. Thereby attain vitamins and minerals not a part of the standard American meat diet. Secondly, they spend their days exercising. Third, the use medicinal herbs extensively. Fourth, they consume no processed or sugar laden foods.
Dr. C of course prefers the Chinese as the example of health. Again they are not pillars of health, and do not have enviable lifespans. They do not have heart disease, cancer etc. Dr. C does not address the severe vitamin and mineral deficiencies in the rural Chinese diet. Things aren't all roses. I believe we can learn lessons, but must exercise extreme caution in using a single society to base lifestyle on. Especially when that society differs so dramatically from our own.
My next post about this book (and all of my research into this topic) I will detail my main hang ups, and what I changed about our diet because of reading about the meat-lovers perspective :)
I will also tell you about the Weston Price Foundation. The organization publishes most of the books and articles pushing meat, and decrying the evils of vegetarianism. They also mounted the only real attack against The China Study. But wait....they actually aren't all that bad. I know everyone will be on pins and needles until then.
By-the-way, I love to read your comments. What are your opinions? Am I off the deep end? How have you been guided to nourish your family? What makes you cling to building each dinner around meat? And don't be afraid to descent! That is how I learn. I love to hear different ideas.