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November 09, 2007

Saturated Fat

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Saturated fat is to be avoided whenever possible, right? It's the ultimate dietary no-no: Clogged arteries ... Heart disease ... Avoid saturated fats and you'll live forever.

Although the conviction that saturated fat is evil must be one of the most basic beliefs in the modern educated American's mental toolkit, there's in fact nothing at all behind it. "Study after study has failed to provide definitive evidence that saturated-fat intake leads to heart disease," writes Nina Teicholz, whose article reads like a much-condensed version of Gary Taubes' "Good Calories, Bad Calories."

Taubes' book, which I've now finished going through, really is startling. He details convincingly -- at enormous length and in devastating detail -- how today's health-tips industry took shape, how unhelpful its advice has proven, and how unsound the science the whole edifice is based on is. His judgment: It's "an enterprise ... that purports to be a science and yet functions like a religion."

Pass the pork chops, please.

Here's a good Frontline interview with Taubes.

Best,

Michael

posted by Michael at November 9, 2007




Comments

"an enterprise ... that purports to be a science and yet functions like a religion."

Ah. Kinda like global warming, or evolution.

Posted by: Will S. on November 9, 2007 3:03 AM



People around here (Minnesota, the Dakotas, maybe Iowa) are about the longest-lived in the U.S., but there are few vegetarians here and lots of big meat eaters. (Specifically, poor white people around here are more long-lived than any other white group in the U.S.)

Posted by: John Emerson on November 9, 2007 7:41 AM



So now that the health industry has dug itself a grave. Even more exciting, if we ever find some sound dietary advice, it'll have one hard time clawing its way out of the dirt.

It'll be years before anyone realizes it's not just another zombie out for their brains.

Posted by: Alan on November 9, 2007 8:43 AM



I hope my response is on subject, Michael, because I've been wondering about this.

I take Lipitor. A very close friend handed me an article a couple of months ago that contained some very disturbing information about statins. Statins are now prescribed automatically based on cholesterol counts.

Cholesterol, according this article, plays a very important role in brain function, lubricating the synapses between cells. Reducing cholesterol levels, especially for those with a family history of Alzheimer's, could be a very bad idea. My father went through a seven year bout with Alzheimer's. Reduced cholesterol levels and Alzheimer's seem to go hand in hand.

My family doesn't have a history of the problems that high cholesterol purportedly causes. Heart disease is not a common cause of illness and death in my family. My doctor didn't even take a family history before he prescribed a statin. I'm beginning to re-consider using Lipitor. I face a much greater risk of Alzheimer's than heart disease.

This blog has been writing a lot about the ills of the American medical system, but I don't think you've addressed one of the primary ones that concern me. Every ten years or so, it seems, some symptom that can be quantified numerically becomes the explanation for everthing. For the past decade, cholesterol levels have been this super symptom.

I don't know if your readers have any information on this. I've been considering dumping the Lipitor for over a year... maybe even seeing a new doctor for another opinion.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on November 9, 2007 8:56 AM



Did you read the one about how "overweight"ness might not be so bad anymore?

"As a consequence, the group from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Cancer Institute reports, there were more than 100,000 fewer deaths among the overweight in 2004, the most recent year for which data were available, than would have expected if those people had been of normal weight."

Posted by: i, squub on November 9, 2007 9:10 AM



There was a book published a few years ago that pointed out that our notions of good food and bad food had changed in recent decades. Before, bad food was recognized by its appearance, taste, smell; its badness was determined by the senses. The author argued that this was merely a survival into modern times of an evolved reflex in which our ancestors would recognize poisonous or rotten food and refuse to eat it, or spit it out in disgust if accidentally ingested.

But now our senses have been systematically trashed as guides to eating. Now the dangers are invisible, odourless and tasteless. They're things like chemicals, additives, and yes, various kinds of fats. Or the absence of good but insensible things like vitamins, trace minerals, and whatnot. Science has replaced experience as the guide to eating.

The problem is the science is hooey! The author goes so far as to recommend a return to the old ways. Let your senses and your experience be your guide. Let the taste, look, and feel of food draw you in or repel you. Let custom, tradition and pleasure be the supreme principles of good eating, not that farrago of quantum cabalistic mumbo-jumbo called nutrition science (sic).

Posted by: PatrickH on November 9, 2007 9:33 AM



Perhaps, but this (supposedly new) study seems to suggest that saturated fat leads to higher LDL levels and greater inflammation.

It will be interesting to see how the purveyor's of nutritional conventional wisdom respond to the challenge of Taubes et al. In the meantime I will continue to favor "good" fats over "bad".

Posted by: mark on November 9, 2007 9:53 AM



Anytime someone wants a really condensed version on Saturated Fat, I just give them 2 words: Coconut Oil.

Coconut Oil (and other Coconut products, like Coconut Milk and Shredded Coconut) have the highest Saturated Fat content, by far. Whereas things like Butter, Lard, Beef Tallow, Lamb Suet, Goose Fat, Duck Fat and Schmaltz all have between 40% and 55% Saturated Fat, Coconut Oil has 93% Saturated Fat.

Yet, just Google Coconut Oil and Health (or Heart, or Cancer) and most of the hits will be about it's health benefits.

Oh, one other product that is very high in Saturated Fat: Mother's Milk.

(It is also high in Cholesterol and it is full of Bacteria. Hopefully, one day, we will get around to Pasteurizing Breast Milk.)

Posted by: Ian Lewis on November 9, 2007 10:17 AM



Saturated fat is your body's fuel! What does your body do with excess calories--it stores them as fuel--saturated fat! Of course saturated fat is good for you, of course it is. How did we ever get so dumbed down as a people?

Posted by: btm on November 9, 2007 11:07 AM



"Whereas things like Butter, Lard, Beef Tallow, Lamb Suet, Goose Fat, Duck Fat and Schmaltz all have between 40% and 55% Saturated Fat, Coconut Oil has 93% Saturated Fat."

Butter, however, can be clarified over a low flame, transforming it into ghee, which is almost completely saturated fat. Excellent for cooking, doesn't spoil... great stuff.

Posted by: James M. on November 9, 2007 11:47 AM



Umm, we've got some chemistry confusion going on. "Saturated" and "Unsaturated" are terms of organic chemistry that indicate how many double (and triple) carbon-carbon bonds a compound has, relative to single bonds. Other things being equal, the carbon atoms in C-C single bonds have the most hydrogen atoms attached to them, meaning that they're "saturated" with hydrogen.

And that's where the term "hydrogenated" comes from on food labels. Many double- and triple-bonded compounds can be saturated back down to single bonds by reacting them with hydrogen gas and a catalyst.

It follows that you can't turn the fat contained in butter into anything more or less saturated by clarifying it into ghee. Butter, depending on its source, is largely saturated anyway, but it also has a good amount of monounsaturated fat. That will definitely spoil through oxidation, even after clarifying, if the product is exposed to enough air for a long enough time.

The spoilage you get with butter itself is certainly a lot more dramatic, but that's due to microbial action (yeast and bacteria), and these have a much harder time surviving in ghee - not enough water around, for one thing.

As for the whole fat-and-health question, having worked on some drug targets in the area, I can definitely speak to how complex it is. Just trying to figure out the effects of all the different lipids in the diet is a nightmare, and we don't even agree on what those effects mean for long-term health.

Posted by: Derek Lowe on November 9, 2007 1:25 PM



Last day of my past vacation (alas! alas!) I bought a collection of jars in Montreal boulangerie(sp?).
The best is 'confit' preserved with port and spices... all you could see thru the jar's glass is delicious duck' fat. Mmmm.

Posted by: Tatyana on November 9, 2007 1:32 PM



Derek, thanks for the... clarification.

Posted by: James M. on November 9, 2007 2:36 PM



Michael R. Eades comments on the study that Mark mentions above: Does the Atkins diet damage blood vessels?

Posted by: Dave Lull on November 9, 2007 2:38 PM



"Butter, however, can be clarified over a low flame, transforming it into ghee, which is almost completely saturated fat. Excellent for cooking, doesn't spoil... great stuff."

Right on!

"There was a book published a few years ago..."

Patrick, you don't happen to remember the name of the book, do you?

Posted by: Ian Lewis on November 9, 2007 3:17 PM



Shouting Thomas:

IMO you're wise to question whether you ought to be taking drugs to lower serum cholesterol, particularly if you're over 50.

Google "cholesterol myth."

I've blogged on the topic myself. The bottom line: high cholesterol correlates with increased risk of heart disease for only one group: men under 50. For everyone else, high cholesterol is not only benign, but perhaps beneficial. Low cholesterol otoh is correlated not only with cognitive decline but with higher mortality rates. See this piece for example on Spiked Online http://www.spiked-online.com/Articles/0000000CAE78.htm

Posted by: Kirsten on November 9, 2007 3:29 PM



Ian,

I believe the book is "Revolution at the Table" by Harvey Levenstein. I first heard Levenstein's work referred to by Michael Pollan (much admired at this blog), in an essay for the NYT, available
here.

Posted by: PatrickH on November 9, 2007 6:40 PM



Meh, I find all this kinda back and forth pointless. My school of thought is eat good fresh delicious food in moderation, drink good drinks in moderation and be moderately active and that's all you need to be healthy. Stressing over what you put in yourself is probably the worse thing you can do. Maybe that will change as I get older.

Posted by: Spike Gomes on November 9, 2007 7:07 PM



Duck fat is excellent!

FWIW, Taubes confirms Kirsten's comment. According to him, the only people at serious risk from high cholesterol are guys over 50 with very high cholesterol who are also smokers and overweight. They'll benefit a lot from laying off the cigs, losing some poundage, and getting the cholesterol level down. For everyone else ...

Well, for guys over 50 with really high cholesterol but who aren't porky or smokers -- they might get a little benefit from bringing the cholesterol down from 270 to 220, but it won't be all that dramatic. Women? Guys over 70? High cholesterol doesn't seem to make a diff. There isn't much of a diff in mortality rates even where guys are concerned between 200 and 250.

And there's such a thing as cholesterol levels that are too low -- get down to 160, for instance, and cancer rates start to increase alarmingly.

Funny line from Taubes re the terror of saturated fats: "A man who might otherwise die at sixty-five could expect to live an extra month if he avoided saturated fat for his entire adult life ... [One major study] concluded that reducing saturated fat in the diet to 8 percent of all calories would result in an average increase in life expectancy of four days to two months." And, as Taubes points out, those couple of days or months aren't 20-year-old days, they're end-of-life days. Avoid saturated fats like the plague for decades, and your reward might -- might! -- be another week of semi-consciousness in your final nursing-home bed, in other words ...

Hey, I see that Michael Pollan has a new book about real food and the insanity of "nutritionism" coming out in a few months ...

Spike - I'm like you on that: good food, moderation, avoid smoking, prefer natural when possible ... Not complicated. But a big part of the fun of the food and obesity thang is the spectacle of Americans' bizarro relationship to food and their bodies. We're dazzled by choice, eager for advice ... We've lost track of our deeper appetites and feelings ... Many people blimped up over the last few decades in ways no one had ever seen before, even as more and more seemed to be learned about food and exercise. How'd that happen? Plus the curious fact that the conventional wisdom where nutrition is concerned parallels in interesting ways the conventional wisdom where such things as architecture and art are concerned -- ie., it's wrong, wrong, wrong. Yet all the official experts agree on it. How do destructive consenses of this kind come to be? In other words, the blimpiness, the food-obsession, the crazes, the demented and destructive elites -- they're all part of one of the most remarkable cultural phenomena of the last few decades. Fun to follow them and try to make a bit of sense of it all.

I wish someone would write a book like Taubes', except about architecture and the other arts ...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on November 9, 2007 7:42 PM



Pollan has another essay worth checking out. It covers exactly the same territory as Michael's post, and even comes to the same conclusion as Spike, except without the "meh".

Nutritionism

Posted by: PatrickH on November 9, 2007 8:12 PM



Surfin' around for a bit ...

Here's Gary Taubes' original NYTimes article on the kookiness of the high-carb/low-fat orthodoxy.

The Wikipedia entry on low-carb diets is well-done.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on November 9, 2007 8:12 PM



The problem is the natural occurrence of saturated fats used to difficult to eat in large enough quantities to outpaced our activity levels. Rising standards of living with decline in food costs and drop in activity made it easier to overeat saturated fats at more or less the same time they started looking at correlations with disease. Baby boomers went straight to pot as it were. It's simple gluttony in a large demographic that became cultural norm.

Posted by: TW on November 9, 2007 9:10 PM



Saw the title of your post, Michael, and had to toast a couple Cotswold cheese and sausages on sprouted bread before clicking through to Taubes' article.

Delicious.

Thanks to Derek for clarification on the meaning of saturated fats.

And I have to agree with Spike's take on eating. But I do exercise a fair amount because, at 66, I'm vain enough to want to look only 60. And the view at the gym is always inspiring. Plus it's nice being strong enough to move furniture around the apartment.

Posted by: Fred Wickham on November 10, 2007 1:24 AM



Some people are unable to metabolize cholesterol. They don't need to have any other risk factors at all to have a cholesterol problem, because the body produces its own cholesterol, but they definitely should go on a very low cholesterol diet. I used to have a friend with this problem, and like the rest of his family, he didn't make it much past 50.

Posted by: John Emerson on November 10, 2007 7:18 AM



I wish someone would write a book like Taubes', except about architecture and the other arts ...

You write it! You write it!

:-)

Spike, I agree with you too. The only time I ever had a weight problem was when I was in my late teens/early 20s and got the idea I should diet. Imposing rules and punishing myself for transgressing opened a Pandora's Box of subconscious mischief and within a very short time I'd put on a good 30 pounds. I "cured" myself by deciding to relish good food and trust my body to regulate my weight naturally by letting me know if it was hungry or satiated. It does help, though, that I have always assumed that the closer food is to what it's like when it's first picked/slaughtered, the better it is nutritionally . . .

Posted by: Kirsten on November 10, 2007 9:04 AM



I particuarly like the sub-heading to the Michael Pollen article which seems the most logical and cogent advice to follow, "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

My wife and I follow a pretty basic set of guidelines in our daily diet. As Pollen suggests we eat almost exclusively things that our great-great grandmothers would recognize as food ... no Twinkies, breakfast-cereal bars or nondairy creamer. We avoid (to the greatest extent possible in our modern world) overly refined foods. We're admittedly somewhat less typical eaters in that The Wife Unit developed wheat, and to a lesser extent dairy, allergies about 20 years ago, so alternatives like spelt, quinoa, and rice 'milk' substitute for the more familiar items inour pantry.

Our hierarchy for selecting food to purchase goes (1) local organic (2) local conventional (3) commercial organic (4) conventional. We eat no red meat but do eat poultry and fish, although we average one serving about every ten days or so. We each weigh approximately what we did when we graduated high school nearly forty years ago.

The Pollen article contained one of the clearest explanations of how and why we get the type of food/health advice we do, "Henceforth, government dietary guidelines would shun plain talk about whole foods, each of which has its trade association on Capitol Hill, and would instead arrive clothed in scientific euphemism and speaking of nutrients, entities that few Americans really understood but that lack powerful lobbies in Washington."

Posted by: Chris White on November 10, 2007 9:46 AM



Michael,

You can hedge your bets by having your marbled beef with a glass or two of claret. French claret drinkers have fewer heart attacks than we do, for whatever reason.

John

Posted by: john on November 10, 2007 9:47 AM



"Ah. Kinda like global warming"? What planet do live on, Will S?

Why is global warming skepticism a conservative industry? Is it so WalMart and Exxon can make even more money?

Take a look here and here.

Here are a few quotes from a conservative blog run by Taki Theodoracopulos. The first is by another author:

And no, I’m not reassured by the four or five scientists whom the coal industry has rounded up to reassure us “Keep moving, folks, nothing to see here.” These climatologists are the 21st century equivalent of the doctors once hired by the Tobacco Institute to argue that smoking helped keep your lungs germ-free, and the doctors working for Big Pharma who argue that birth control pills are safe for schoolgirls. Real conservatives think about posterity—which is not defined as “our House candidates in the next election."

Then one from Taki:

It’s Easy Being Green Posted by Taki Theodoracopulos on February 01, 2007

So here at last is Taki’s way to save the planet without pain. But before we begin, a warning: don’t try doing it all at once. Melting glaciers, violent hurricanes, flash floods, terrible droughts, the threat to polar bears in the shrinking Arctic Sea ice, and the real possibility of fires in the Amazon rain forest cannot be reversed overnight. Certainly not by turning off your engine at a traffic light, the way the wise Swiss people do. (Mind you, it helps.) The trick lies in small domestic savings and not listening to neocons. The unmentionables want us to believe that climate change is liberal propaganda, but unlike WMD in Iraq, climate change is real and very scary. Although Miami and Palm Beach are places I wouldn’t visit even if I were sober, none of us would like to see them capsize under rising water. So here we go.

Taki frequently blames the neocons for many things, including being wrong about global warming.

Posted by: john on November 10, 2007 10:27 AM



What I'd like to know is how the new understanding that fat and cholesterol may not be so harmful after all, fits in with the proclamations of that small band of fanatics that advocates extreme low-calorie diets, based I think on plant food, as the best method of extending your life by many years. This latter approach, which is obviously not likely ever to be widely adopted, does seem to "work" for some people, though I don't think it's a sacrifice I'd be willing to make.

Posted by: alias clio on November 10, 2007 11:14 AM



Perhaps, but this (supposedly new) study seems to suggest that saturated fat leads to higher LDL levels and greater inflammation.

Essentially, the study (of a very small group of subjects) says that if use lose weight of one of the diets, you'll likely have moderately higher "bad" cholesterol on the Atkins diet. (The article you linked to says "up to" 40 percent without providing an average - an omission for which the writer should be tortured and shot, I think you'll agree.)

What they don't mention is that you're much more likely to succeed at losing weight (and maintaining weight loss) on Atkins or another low-carb diet, and that the positive effects of weight loss on blood chemistry outweigh the fairly small negative effects that they found. Very few people, for example, can maintain the ultra-low-fat Ornish diet (10 percent fat), despite its cardiovascular benefits.

Posted by: Intellectual Pariah on November 10, 2007 1:20 PM



It is my contention that the rule "All medical research is rubbish" is a better approximation to the truth than is almost all medical research.

Posted by: dearieme on November 10, 2007 1:25 PM



BTW, that Shangri-La/low-glycemic diet I've been following (partly on your suggestion): down 17 pounds since Sept 27.

Alias Clio: George Orwell wrote somewhere that even if a vegetarian diet added a few years to your life, it wouldn't be worth giving up sharing common meals with normal people.

Posted by: Intellectual Pariah on November 10, 2007 1:26 PM



PatrickH, Thanks for the Book link.

Clio, the Low-Calorie Life Extending diets do appear to work. So far, the only studies I know of involve rats, but those rats do live longer.

However, with the Low-Energy (i.e. Low-Calorie) Diets, the rats were quite sluggish and lethargic. And it appears that people who take on these diets show the same effects. Basically, they have enough energy to eat and sleep.

Chris, I know that you said you are trying to follow the idea of eating only what your Great-Grand parents would have recognized, but, cutting out Dairy and Red Meat does not coincide with that.

At least in America, we were famous for how much great Red Meat we were able to produce. Not just Beef, but also Mutton (which has been almost lost and forgotten since World War II). And, with that cattle came a great deal of All-Natural Dairy (read, RAW MILK!!!). Lots of Milk, Cheese, Butter, Cream, Clabber, etc.

Oh, and some how, some way, with all of that Raw Dairy they were getting, you never heard of Lactose Intolerance.

Please understand that I am not telling you how to eat, but, it is quite different from our American Ancestors.

Posted by: Ian Lewis on November 10, 2007 2:05 PM



Two datapoints, for what they're worth ... 1) I know someone who spent a little time with a couple that was on the hyper-restricted-calorie diet. He said the couple was off in another dimension, moving in slow motion, thinking slowly ... Wraithlike, was my impression. They might last for 120 years, this friend said, but it wouldn't be worth it for most people. 2) An interesting case (which Taubes does deal with) is Eskimos, er, Inuits. They apparently live on a diet of 99% fish and meat. They barely eat any vegetable foods of any kind (only roots, and then only in times of extreme shortage), and of course they don't even know fruits. And they do very well -- very little heart disease, very little cancer. Some Caucasions have done the same thing, inspired by Eskimos - a few who have lived for some years way up north, some eating an all-meat diet for a year or two just out of curiosity. And it has worked out fine for them. They tend to lose some weight, and their blood profile tends, if anything, to improve.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on November 10, 2007 4:15 PM



The one vegan I've known really well is a beautiful woman who is often ghostly-pale with anemia, has bluish-white lips as if recovering from an illness, and has dry, brittle hair that looks as if it were falling out. She isn't even on an ultra low-calorie diet, either. She may well be very healthy, but I don't think I'd want to follow her example. She doesn't do it for health reasons, though, but because she's a passionate lover of animals.

Posted by: alias clio on November 10, 2007 7:14 PM



I am amused by an underlying tone among the comments that seems to indicate how many posters are simultaneously searching for a dietary answer to being overweight or what-have-you, combined with great glee over whatever facts can be mustered that dispute any advice other than eat whatever you want to, the more the better.

Ian Lewis - A careful reading of my comment shows that I did not say we were trying to eat the same type of diet our great, great grandmothers ate, but rather that they would recognize everything we do eat as "food" not a science experiment run amuck. Even so, my family, at least on my mother's side (living in coastal Maine) were far more likely to get their flesh protein from fish or fowl rather than cattle ... okay, maybe a bit of venison now and again.

Michael - did those Caucasians who went on the Inuit all meat diet and did so well do so (as you implied) while living in the north and essentially sharing the same lifestyle as the Inuit? If they moved to Tulsa and stuck to that diet while working as a telemarketing customer service rep do you think they'd have experienced the same beneficial results?

I repeat Michael Pollen's sage advice, "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." to that I would add, "Exercise and listen to your body."

Posted by: Chris White on November 10, 2007 8:03 PM



I repeat Michael Pollen's sage advice, "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." to that I would add, "Exercise and listen to your body."

You lost me at "listen to your body." Looking around, it seems clear that most people's bodies are saying, "Have another beer," "Eat more Haagen Dazs" and "Lie down, your working too hard."

Posted by: john on November 10, 2007 9:52 PM



You know those commercials for various "patent medicines", the ones where diner chili, pizza and the like cause heartburn? The promise and premise of the ad is that with Tums or Prilosec you can eat the food you like because all you need to do is take 1 (or 3 or 12) of them and they'll relieve the annoying feedback your body is giving you, telling you that certain of those foods aren't so good for you.

I've got a friend who perpetually gives in to his head (brain & taste buds) and eats all kinds of rich and exotic foods. Then the next day he complains about how terrible he feels. He even knows that it was the food that caused his distress. He kids me about not enjoying myself more when I choose the baked potato and steamed veggies, but I'm not the one up half the night with heartburn or the runs. Like I said, listen to your body.

Posted by: Chris White on November 10, 2007 10:31 PM



Chris -- Taubes cites a couple of cases. In one, some Arctic adventurer types lived with Eskimos for a year or two and ate like them, and did fine. In another, a couple of scientists back in the urban modern world (New York City? can't remember any longer) volunteered to subsist on nothing but meat/chicken/fish for a year, and also did fine.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on November 11, 2007 1:16 AM



An obvious point to make (esp. here) with respect to the Inuit and their diet is that they presumably evolved/adapted to it over many millenia. Those of us who did not might not necessarily expect to do as well on it. Just a thought.

Posted by: alias clio on November 11, 2007 1:19 AM



Michael - on this posting dedicated to how wrong scientists, researchers and nutritionists can be about the connections between diet, lifestyle, health and obesity are you really offering an vague memory of study in which a couple of urban scientists ate like the Inuit for a year with no (apparent) problems as an argument for eating a nearly all meat & fat diet?

And clio, don't go using logic and pointing out the obvious; it might dissuade someone from going on that all roast beast diet they've been thinking about trying.

As an aging scrawny ectomorph with a relatively sedentary lifestyle I don't expect my diet would work for a college age mesomorph who is on the football team and goes snowboarding on the weekends. Nor do I expect an endomorph that DOES eat like me to watch their excess pounds melt away. Genetic factors like body type and blood type along with age and lifestyle factors, even where you live, are all going to play into what foods will help an individual to thrive and what ones will simply build up their reservoir of fat-fuel for the long winter to come.

The nexus where nutritional science, politics and vested commercial interests meet that results in food pyramids, laws about nutritional labeling and books about the BRAND NEW, BREAKTHROUGH, ALL CANTALOPE DIET is always caught trying to make generalized claims, laws or enticements that fail to properly account for the complexity of the real issues involved.

Posted by: Chris White on November 11, 2007 9:02 AM



Clio, your anemic vegan friend is a habitual killer - of plants!
Just think: breaking alive, juicy stems of parsley and celery, crunching and munching, and pulverizing, with complete disregard to the pain and suffering inflicted to !
And they can't even cry in pain!
What cruelty.

Posted by: Tatyana on November 11, 2007 10:32 AM



Chris - I'm just passing along some info from an interesting book I recently finished. If people decide to eat all-meat or all-vegan, or ignore me and my blogpostings, that's their choice and it's OK by me.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on November 11, 2007 11:33 AM



I think Michael, in referring to "Arctic adventurer types" and "a couple of scientists back in the urban modern world," is referring to Vilhjalmur Stefansson, et al., in the first reference, and to Vilhjalmur Stefansson and Karsten Anderson in the second. For a report about this see:

Adventures in Diet, by Vilhjalmur Stefansson, Harper's Monthly Magazine, November 1935:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Posted by: Dave Lull on November 11, 2007 12:02 PM



"And a careful reading of my comment shows that I did not say..."

Chris, I was in no way criticizing what you eat. If it came off that way, I apologize.

I was just trying to point out that when Americans look to our past for nutritional guidance, we will see that we got a lot of Red Meat and Dairy in our diet.

Posted by: Ian Lewis on November 11, 2007 2:15 PM



BTW, that Arctic explorer was Vilhjalmur Stefansson

He wrote an article for Harper's Monthly Magazine in November 1935.

The article starts like this:
"In 1906 I went to the Arctic with the food tastes and beliefs of the average American. By 1918, after eleven years as an Eskimo among Eskimos, I had learned things which caused me to shed most of those beliefs. ..."

Posted by: Ian Lewis on November 11, 2007 2:20 PM



"I am amused by an underlying tone among the comments that seems to indicate how many posters are simultaneously searching for a dietary answer to being overweight or what-have-you, combined with great glee over whatever facts can be mustered that dispute any advice other than eat whatever you want to, the more the better."

Chris, I didnt see that underlying tone at all. The tone I get from the many times MB has posted on Diet and the way we have responded has been:
"Wow, all of that Scientifically Supported Low-Fat Dogma is BULLSHIT. Maybe there is something to reducing your fat intake, but the supposed science that THEY cite, is terrible."

But, along with that, we also talk about what has worked for us when it came to shedding body-fat.

So, the two get a little mixed in the comments. Personally, I have been following a diet that contains an immoderate amount of Saturated Fat and Cholesterol with lots of veggies and little starch and sugar and I feel great. Raw Milk, Raw and Cooked Beef (and Lamb), Raw and Cooked Fish, Raw and Cooked Egg Yolks, Lacto-Fermented Veggies that are loaded with micro-organisms, Young Unpasteurized Cheeses, Coconut Oil and lots of Raw Butter from Grass Fed Cows.

And it has had an effect on my outlook: Life is Good.

Wow, I think that I got a little off-subject.

Posted by: Ian Lewis on November 11, 2007 2:33 PM



Ian - We seem to be talking (posting?) past each other. My comments were in reference to Michael Pollen's injunction that your great, great grandmother should recognize what you're eating as "food". Red meat and raw dairy are certainly things she would recognize as food ... Lucky Charms or Captain Crunch probably not.

With that said, I'd need to see some data to back up the contention that "we got a lot of Red Meat and Dairy in our diet." Unless you are talking about the post WWII era of prosperity, refrigeration and supermarkets; my understanding is that most folks in the period before refrigeration and rural electrification had diets high in seasonal (or home canned) vegetables along with dry staples like grains, legumes, oatmeal and so on. Eggs were easy enough to come by which meant a chicken might hit the pot every week or two. Dairy would be reasonably plentiful, but red meat would be more "binge & bust" because you couldn't butcher a cow or bring down game all that often.

Your diet looks pretty good to me (even if it isn't one I'd adopt for myself) and if you're doing well on it, stick with it!

Posted by: Chris White on November 11, 2007 6:20 PM



That's not true. There was plenty of red meat-eating prior to WWII. People just ate from more local sources, and went grocery shopping most days instead of once or twice week. Many towns had stockyards and local butchers.

Posted by: btm on November 11, 2007 6:36 PM



Well, when I said "a lot", I meant relatively speaking. America was considered unique in that Beef was not considered a meal for the rich. So, "a lot", maybe not, but they certianly did not fear eating Red Meat.

Also, America was considered unique (at least in Europe) by having an Adult population that drank milk. Things like Cheese, Butter, Yogurt and other dairy products were common for Adults in Europe, but Milk was more of a drink for growing children.

Actually, one of the reasons why Raw Milk became so connected with disease was that many families continued to keep a "Family Cow" even after moving from the Farm to the City during the Industrial Revolution. Granted, keeping a Cow in a crowded slum was not the most sanitary way to get Dairy in your diet.

Well, either way, we got plenty of Dairy/Beef relative to our European Cousins. It was one of the reasons why Americans were noticeably bigger than our allies (and everyone else) during World War I.

Posted by: Ian Lewis on November 11, 2007 7:15 PM






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