Making Existential Threat Real

I watched the docudrama VICE about Dick Cheney’s life and rise to power. It presents him as being behind promoting ‘climate change’ rhetoric over ‘global warming’ because, in research using a focus group, people perceived it as less threatening. This is probably because it feels more abstract and neutral, not quite real. Everything changes, as the climate deniers spin it, warming and cooling over the millennia. Putting the state of emergency in those terms elicits no profound human response and opens up the field to manipulation by reactionaries, authoritarians, and social dominators.

To fight this, we need to be very concrete and viscerally emotional in our language. Maybe even ‘climate crisis’ doesn’t quite capture it. Better yet ‘climate emergency’, ‘climate catastrophe’, and ‘climate disaster’. We need to speak directly of increasing ‘death rates’, ‘property destruction’, and ‘national threats’ from ‘violent weather extremes’, ‘heat attacks’, etc. And we need to make sure the imagery of the damage and deaths gets regularly shown in the media like war footage during the Vietnam War every single time a major weather event happens and simultaneously repeat ad nauseum that extreme weather events are increasing and worsening with ‘global heating’. Burn those images and words in the public mind.

The right-wing partly won the battle of ideology by framing the rhetoric of public debate. Even though people do think that climate change is happening, it isn’t quite real to most of them and they can’t fully connect it to human causes, at least in the US. Most Americans still don’t see ‘climate change’ as man-made, even as they think the government should do something about it — still, the urgency is not there. Maybe we need to go so far as to talk about ‘humanity-wide self-destruction’ and ‘human species suicide’. And we need to be specific about who is our enemy. Corporations with records of environmental harm and externalized costs should be labeled ‘ecological terrorists’ and ‘enemies of the state’. Whatever specific language, we need to develop the structure of ideological rhetoric where a few key phrases are repeatedly drilled into the public psyche. We can’t be subtle and timid in our language.

The right-wing will always go to extremes to win. But the political left, especially the liberal class, has gotten into the bad habit of pulling their punches. This is partly because much of the liberal class (e.g., the Clinton Democrats) are essentially right-wingers themselves in terms of being neoliberal corporatists and neocon war hawks. They have been pushing the Overton window right for decades. Those of us genuinely on the left with a beating heart for justice and compassion need to fight this battle as if it mattered, as if our lives and the lives of our loved ones depended on it because they do depend on it. We have to be blunt and combative in speaking truth to power. We need to inspire respect by demonstrating strength of character and courage.

Our words need to match the horrific dangers we are facing but also give expression to the sense of what can be done about it. We should speak of those powerful interests and ruthless psychopaths who are attacking us, destroying our homes, threatening our children. It should be portrayed as a war because it is a war, a struggle for lives and survival. Our language needs to be radical and revolutionary, a fight for freedom and democracy and liberty, for a better society and a hopeful future. We can’t be afraid to use the language of religion, patriotism, community, family, or anything else. No tool should be left unused. We must hit them with everything we got and do so with utter passion.

Imagine how Martin Luther King Jr. would speak about worldwide environmental destruction and life-threatening corporate power if he were still alive now. Use the exact same kind of language. He would not back down from a fight, would not hold back from using the harshest and most damning words to evoke an emotional response from the public, to hold the ruling elite accountable. And he would make sure to stage confrontations that could be seen on the news to make it viscerally real. He had a flair for the dramatic.

We need to relearn that skill. We need to remember how to dream big, big enough to meet the challenges before us. But if we are to get others to feel the urgency, we first have to feel the urgency ourselves. We will be able to fight with all our strength when we finally feel in our own hearts what is at risk, that the threat is real and immediate, that this is literally a life and death struggle, that there is no later on — this is it, now or never. When there are leaders who talk the talk and walk the walk, then and only then will the public follow, then and only then will there be political will to take needed action.

* * *

Climate Catastrophe In Slow Motion

Why the Guardian is changing the language it uses about the environment
by Damian Carrington

The Guardian Paves The Way For Canadian Media To Be More Blunt About The Climate Crisis
by Audrey Carleton

2020 Dietary Guidelines: Fight Over Low-Carb

The HHS and USDA put out new U.S. dietary guidelines every 5 years. They are having discussions now. There recently was allowed for various interests to speak. Several of the speakers were were promoting low-carb diets.

I doubt low-carb advocates will get a fair hearing after a half century of political suppression. But at least they are no longer being silenced. Being part of the conversation is the first step. They are at least being acknowledged now.

Too many Americans are changing their lives with low-carb. It can’t be ignored any more.

42:10 Priyanka Wali, MD – (Commenter 13)
1:25:20 Nina Teicholz (Commenter 28)
2:53:25 Georgia Ede, MD (Commenter 54)
3:16:26 Sarah Hallberg, MD (Commenter 64)

The 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans:
Ensuring that Science is the Main Ingredient
from Union of Concerned Scientists

The Snack Food and Corn Syrup Lobbyist Shaping Trump’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans
by Laura Peterson

Food Companies at the Table in Trump Administration’s Dietary Guidelines Committee
by Derrick Z. Jackson

Diets are not one-size-fits-all. So why do we treat dietary guidelines that way?
by Nina Teicholz

Dietary Guidelines 2020: The low-carb debate
by Helena Bottemiller Evich

Dietary guidelines advisory panel to tackle carbs in 2020-2025 recommendations
by Steve Davies (Google cache)

Low-Carb Diets On The Rise
American Diabetes Association Changes Its Tune
Slow, Quiet, and Reluctant Changes to Official Dietary Guidelines
Official Guidelines For Low-Carb Diet
Obese Military?
The Creed of Ancel Keys
Cold War Silencing of Science
Eliminating Dietary Dissent
Dietary Dictocrats of EAT-Lancet
Highly Profitable Conflicts of Interest

Diaphaneity and the Projections

“Now, these psychic irritants fester in the Shadow as “bad conscience”, or a vague sense of guilt, paranoia, or a kind of generalised Angst. In fact, his word “paranoia” (or “two-minds” as in the sense of being “beside oneself”) attests to the tension that exists between the ego-identity (or self-image) and its Shadow counterpart which makes for problems of “21st century schizoid man”, “cognitive dissonance” or “symbolic belief” or “duplicity” and so on. It is the irruption of the Shadow that, in fact, makes for the New Normal at all — in the sense of its problems of Double-Talk, Double-Think, Double-Standard, and Double-Bind. These are pretty much the symptoms of our failure to deal effectively with the return of the repressed as “the Shadow” and the problem of projection.”

The Chrysalis

If you understand how psychic projection operates (and why) you’ll certainly realise that there’s a hell of a lot of it around these days. This is something that concerned Jean Gebser quite a bit so we should spend some time on this because, essentially, the work that Gebser thought we needed to do with ourselves is a matter of dealing with the projections. Insight into the projections (and subsequently retracting the projections) also belongs to diaphaneity or “the transparency of the world” and is a contribution to the development of the new more integral consciousness structure.


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What causes health?

What causes health? It’s such a simple question, but it’s complex. The causes are many and the direction of causality not always clear. There has been a particular challenge to dietary ideology that shifts our way of thinking. It has to do with energy and motivation.

The calorie-in/calorie-out (CICO) theory is obviously false (Caloric Confusion; & Fung, The Evidence for Caloric Restriction). Dr. Jason Fung calls it the CRaP theory (Caloric Reduction as Primary). Studies show there is a metabolic advantage to low-carb diets (Cara B. Ebbeling, Effects of a low carbohydrate diet on energy expenditure during weight loss maintenance: randomized trial), especially ketogenic diets. It alters your entire metabolism and endocrine system. Remember that insulin is a hormone that has much to do with hunger signaling. Many other hormones are involved as well. This also alters how calories are processed and used in the body. More exercise won’t necessarily do any good as long nothing else is changed. The standard American diet is fattening and the standard American lifestyle makes it hard to lose that fat. Even starving yourself won’t help. The body seeks to limit energy use and maintain energy stores, especially when it is under stress (NYU Langone, Researchers Identify Mechanism that May Drive Obesity Epidemic). All that caloric restriction does is to slow down metabolism, the opposite of what happens on carbohydrate restriction.

We associate obesity with disease and rightly so, but that isn’t to say that obesity is the primary cause. It too is a symptom or, in some cases, even a protective measure (Coping Mechanisms of Health). The body isn’t stupid. Everything the body does serves a purpose, even if that purpose is making the best out of a bad situation. Consider depression. One theory proposes that when there is something wrong we seek seclusion in order to avoid further risks and stressors and to figure out the cause of distress — hence the isolation and rumination of depression. It’s similar to why we lay in bed when sick, to let the body heal. And it should be noted that depression is a symptom of numerous health conditions and often indicates inflammation in the brain (an immune response). Insulin resistance related to obesity also can involve inflammation. When the cause of the problem is permanent, the symptoms (depression, obesity, etc) become permanent. The symptoms then become problems in their own right.

This is personal for me. I spent decades in severe depression. And during that time my health was worsening, despite struggling to do what was right. I went to therapists and took antidepressants. I tried to improve my diet and exercised. But it always felt like I was fighting against myself. I was gaining weight over time and my food cravings were persistent. Something was missing. All that changed once I got into ketosis. It’s not merely that I lost weight. More amazingly, my depression and food addictions went away, along with my tendencies toward brooding and compulsive thought (The Agricultural Mind). Also, everything felt easier and more natural. I didn’t have to force myself to exercise for it now felt good to exercise. Physical activity then was an expression of my greater health, in the way a child runs around simply for the joy of it, for no other reason than he has the energy to do so. Something fundamentally changed within my body and mind. Everything felt easier.

This touches on a central theory argued by some low-carb advocates. It’s not how many calories come in versus how many go out, at least not in a simple sense. The question is what is causing calories to be consumed and burned. One thing about ketosis is that it forces the body to burn its own energy (i.e., body fat) while reducing hunger, but it does this without any need of willpower, restraint, or moral superiority. It happens naturally. The body simply starts producing more energy and, even if someone eats a high-calorie diet, the extra energy creates the conditions where, unless some other health condition interferes, increased physical activity naturally follows.

It’s not merely that being in ketosis leads to changed activity that burns more energy. Rather, the increased energy comes first. And that is because ketosis allows better access to all that energy your body already has stored up. Most people feel too tired and drained to exercise, too addicted to food that trying to control it further stresses them. That is the typical experience on a high-carb diet, mood and energy levels go up and down with the inevitable crashes becoming worse over time. But in ketosis, mood and energy is more balanced and constant. Simply put, one feels better. And when one feels better, one is more likely to do other activities that are healthy. Ketosis creates a leverage point where health improvements can be made with far less effort.

In the public mind, diet is associated with struggle and failure. But in its original meaning, the word ‘diet’ referred to lifestyle. Diet shouldn’t be something you do so much as something that changes your way of being in and relating to the world. If you find making health changes hard, it might be because you’re doing it wrong. Obesity and tiredness is not a moral failing or character flaw. You aren’t a sinner to be punished and reformed. Your body doesn’t need to be denied and controlled. There is a natural state of health that we can learn to listen to. When your body hungers and craves, it is trying to tell you something. Feed it with the nutrition it needs. Eat to satiety those foods that contribute to health. Lose excess weight first and only later worry about exercise. Once you begin to feel better, you might find your habits improving of their own accord.

This is a challenge not only to dietary belief systems but an even more radical challenge to society itself. Take prisons as an example. Instead of using prisons to store away the victims of poverty and inequality, we could eliminate the causes and consequences of poverty and inequality. We used to treat the mentally ill in hospitals, but now we put them into prisons. This is seen in concrete ways, such that prisoners have higher rates of lead toxicity. As a society, it would be cheaper, more humane, and less sociopathic to reduce the heavy metal poisoning. Similarly, studies have shown the prison population tends to be extremely malnourished. Prisons that improve the diet of prisoners result in a drastic reduction in aggressive, violent, anti-social, and other problematic behaviors. A similar observation has been made in studies with low-carb diets and children, as behavior improves. That indicates that, if we had increased public health, many and maybe most of these people wouldn’t have ended up in prison in the first place (Physical Health, Mental Health).

We’ve had a half century of unscientific dietary advice. Most Americans have been doing what they’ve been told. Saturated fat, red meat, and salt consumption went down over the past century. In place of those, fruits and vegetables, fish and lean chicken became a larger part of the diet. What has been the results? An ever worsening epidemic of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, autoimmune disorders, mood disorders, and on and on. In fact, these kinds of health problems were seen quite early on, following the fear toward meat that followed Upton Sinclair’s 1906 muckraking journalism on the meatpacking industry in The Jungle. Saturated fat intake had been decreasing and seed oil intake had been increasing in the early 1900s, in the decades leading up to the health epidemic that began most clearly around the 1940s and 1950s. The other thing that had increased over that time period were grains, sugar, and carbs in general. Then the victims who followed this bad advice were blamed by the experts for being gluttonous and slothful, as if diet were a Christian morality play. We collectively took the hard path. And the more we failed, the more the experts doubled down in demanding more of the same.

Do we want better lives for ourselves and others? Or do we simply want to scapegoat individuals for our collective failures? If you think we can’t afford to do the right thing, then we really won’t be able to afford the consequences of trying to avoid responsibility. The increasing costs of sickness, far from being limited to healthcare, will eventually bankrupt our society or else cause so much dysfunction that civil society will break down. Why choose such a dark path when an easier choice is before us? Why is the government and major health institutions still pushing a high-carb diet? We have scientifically proven the health benefits of low-carb diets. The simplest first act would be to change our dietary guidelines and all else would follow from that, from the food system to medical practice. What are we waiting for? We can make life hard, if we choose. But why not make it easy?

* * *

I’ve long wondered why we humans make life unnecessarily hard. We artificially construct struggle and suffering out of fear of what would happen if people were genuinely free from threat, punishment, and social control. We think humans are inherently bad and must be controlled. This seeps into every aspect of life, far from being limited to demented dietary ideology.

We are even willing to punish others at great costs to ourselves, even to the point of being highly destructive to all of society. We’d rather harm, imprison, kill, etc millions of innocents in order to ensure one guilty person gets what we think they deserve. And we constantly need an endless parade of scapegoats to quench our vengeful natures. Innocence becomes irrelevant, as it ultimately is about control and not justice.

All of it is driven by fear. The authoritarians, social dominators, and reactionaries — they prey upon our fear. And in fear, people do horrific things or else submit to others doing them. Most importantly, it shuts down our ability to imagine and envision. We go to great effort to make our lives difficult. Struggle leads to ever more struggle. Suffering cascades onto suffering. Worse upon worse, ad infinitum. As such, dietary ideology or whatever else pushed by the ruling elite isn’t about public good. It’s social control, pure and simple.

But let all of that go. Let the fear go. We know from science itself that it doesn’t have to be this hard. There are proven ways to do things that are far simpler and far easier and with far better results. We aren’t bad people who need to be punished into doing the right thing. Our bodies aren’t fallen forms that will lead us into sin. What if, instead, we looked to the better angels of our nature, to what is inherently good within us?

Here is some of what I’ve written before about the easy versus the hard, about freedom versus social control:
Public Health, Public Good
Freedom From Want, Freedom to Imagine
Rationalizing the Rat Race, Imagining the Rat Park
Costs Must Be Paid: Social Darwinism As Public Good
Denying the Agency of the Subordinate Class
Capitalism as Social Control
Substance Control is Social Control
Reckoning With Violence
Morality-Punishment Link
Unspoken Connection: Fundamentalism and Punishment
What If Our Economic System Conflicts With Our Human Nature?
An Invisible Debt Made Visible

About imagining alternatives, I’ve been reading Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward. It’s a utopian novel, but in many ways it isn’t all that extreme. The future portrayed basically is a Nordic-style social democracy taken to the next level. That basic model of governance has already proven itself one of the best in the world, not only for public good but also wealth and innovation.

In reading about this fictionalized world, one thing stood out to me. The protagonist, Julian West, was put into trance to aid his sleep. He was in a sealed room underground and apparently the house burned down, leaving behind an empty lot. As a leap of imagination for both author and reader, this trance state put him into hibernation for more than a century. His underground bedchamber is discovered by the Leete family who, in the future world, lives on his old property although there house was built on a different location.

The father is Doctor Leete who takes particular interest in Julian. They have many conversations about the differences between the late 19th and early 21st centuries. Julian struggles to understand the enormous changes that have taken place. The world he fell asleep in is no longer recognizable by the world he woke up in. When he questions something that seems remarkable to him, Doctor Leete often responds that it’s more simple than it seems to Julian. The contrast shows how unnecessarily difficult, wasteful, and cruel was that earlier society.

The basic notion is that simple changes in social conditions can result in drastic changes in public good. The costs are miniscule in comparison to the gains. That is to say that this alternative future humanity chose the easy path, instead of continually enforcing costly punishment and social control. It’s quite amazing that the argument I make now was being made all the way back in 1888 when Bellamy began writing it. From the novel, one example of this other way of thinking is the description of the future education system in how it relates to health:

I shall not describe in detail what I saw in the schools that day. Having taken but slight interest in educational matters in my former life, I could offer few comparisons of interest. Next to the fact of the universality of the higher as well as the lower education, I was much struck with the prominence given to physical culture, and the fact that proficiency in athletic feats and games as well as in scholarship had a place in the rating of the youth.

“The faculty of education,” Dr. Leete explained, “is held to the same responsibility for the bodies as for the minds of its charges. The highest possible physical, as well as mental, development of everyone is the double object of a curriculum which lasts from the age of six to that of twenty- one.”

The magnificent health of the young people in the schools impressed me strongly. My previous observations, not only of the notable personal endowments of the family of my host, but of the people I had seen in my walks abroad, had already suggested the idea that there must have been something like a general improvement in the physical standard of the race since my day ; and now, as I compared these stalwart young men and fresh, vigorous maidens, with the young people I had seen in the schools of the nineteenth century, I was moved to impart my thought to Dr. Leete. He listened with great interest to what I said.

“Your testimony on this point,” he declared, “is invaluable. We believe that there has been such an improvement as you speak of, but of course it could only be a matter of theory with us. It is an incident of your unique position that you alone in the world of to-day can speak with authority on this point. Your opinion, when you state it publicly, will, I assure you, make a profound sensation. For the rest it would be strange, certainly, if the race did not show an improvement. In your day, riches debauched one class with idleness of mind and body, while poverty sapped the vitality of the masses by overwork, bad food, and pestilent homes. The labour required of children, and the burdens laid on women, enfeebled the very springs of life. Instead of the these maleficent circumstances, all now enjoy the most favourable conditions of physical life ; the young are care fully nurtured and studiously cared for ; the labour which is required.of all is limited to the period of greatest bodily vigour, and is never excessive ; care for one’s self and one’s family, anxiety as to livelihood, the strain of a ceaseless battle of life, all these influences, which once did so much to wreck the minds and bodies of men and women, are known no more. Certainly, an improvement of the species ought to follow such a change, In certain specific respects we know, indeed, that the improvement has taken place. Insanity, for instance, which in the nineteenth century was so terribly common a product of your insane mode of life, has almost dis appeared, with its alternative, suicide.”

* * *

Bonus Article:
Here’s What Weight-Loss Advice Looked Like Nearly 100 Years Ago
by Morgan Cutolo, Reader’s Digest

I’m throwing this in for a number of reasons. It is showing how low-carb views are basically the same as dietary advice from earlier last century. Heck, one can find advice like that going back to the 1800s and even 1700s. Low-carb diets were well known and mainstream until the changes at the AHA and FDA over the past 50 years or so.

The return of low-carb popularity is what inspires such articles from the corporate media. Reader’s Digest would’t likely have published something like that 10, 20, or 30 years ago. Attitudes are changing, even if institutions are resistant. Profits are also changing as low-carb products become big biz. Corporate media, if nothing else, will follow the profits.

Here is what really stood out to me. In the article, two major dietary experts are quoted: Dr. Jason Fung and Dr. Robert Lustig. Both of them are leading advocates of low-carb diets with Dr. Lustig being the most influential critic of sugar. But neither of them is presented as such. They are simply used as authorities on the topic, which they are. That means that low-carb has become so acceptable as, in some cases, to go without saying. They aren’t labeled as low-carb gurus, much less dismissed as food faddists. No qualifications or warnings are given about low-carb. The article simply quotes these experts about what the science shows.

This is a major advance in news reporting. It’s a positive sign of changes being embraced. Maybe we are finally turning off the hard path and trying out the easier path instead. Some early signs are indicating this. The growing incidence of diabetes might be finally leveling out and even reversing for the first time in generations.

Diabetic Confusion
Low-Carb Diets On The Rise
American Diabetes Association Changes Its Tune
Slow, Quiet, and Reluctant Changes to Official Dietary Guidelines
Official Guidelines For Low-Carb Diet
Obese Military?
Weight Watchers’ Paleo Diet

“Is keto safe for kids?”

“How come no one ever asks if sugary breakfast cereal, grape juice, and white bread w/ margarine is “safe for kids?” We have entered bizarro world when we’re asking if it’s safe for kids to not eat sugar.”
~ Amy Berger

How come no one ever asks if sugary breakfast cereal, grape juice, and white bread with margarine is “safe for kids?” We have entered bizarro world when we’re asking if it’s safe for kids to not eat sugar or carb-load like they’re about to run a marathon. As I explain here, there is nothing — no vitamin, mineral, or other essential nutrient — that you can get from high-carb foods that you cannot get from LOW-carb foods.

This reminds me of the case brought against Tim Noakes. He recommended a low-carb diet to a pregnant woman. Public officials considered it to be a crime against humanity that must be harshly punished. After the first attack on him failed, he was forced to endure a second trial. The government spent millions of dollars persecuting him and he not only proved his innocence but proved that the low-carb diet was scientifically valid. It was the greatest boost for the low-carb diet since Ancel Keys led his crusade against it.

Tweet that landed Noakes in hot water ‘scientifically correct’ – lawyer
by Alex Mitchley

Tim Noakes Found Not Guilty Of Misconduct Over Advising Mother To Get Her Baby Onto The Banting Diet
from Huffington Post

Professor Noakes Found Innocent (Again)!
from Nutrition Coalition

Lore of Nutrition
by Tim Noakes & Marika Sboros
pp. 32-34, Introduction by Marika Sboros
(see more at: The Creed of Ancel Keys)

This is the story of a remarkable scientific journey. Just as remarkable is the genesis of that journey: a single, innocuous tweet.

In February 2014 , a Twitter user asked a distinguished and world-renowned scientist a simple question: ‘Is LCHF eating ok for breastfeeding mums? Worried about all the dairy + cauliflower = wind for babies??’

Always willing to engage with an inquiring mind, Professor Tim Noakes tweeted back: ‘Baby doesn’t eat the dairy and cauliflower. Just very healthy high fat breast milk. Key is to ween [ si c ] baby onto LCHF.’

With those few words, Noakes set off a chain of events that would eventually see him charged with unprofessional conduct, caught up in a case that would drag on for more than three years and cost many millions of rands. More difficult, if not impossible, to quantify is the devastating emotional toll that the whole ordeal has taken on him and his family, as critics attacked his character and scientific reputation at every turn.

At the time, it was open season on Tim Noakes. Doctors, dietitians and assorted academics from South Africa’s top universities had been hard at work for years trying to discredit him. They did not like his scientific views on low-carbohydrate, high-fat foods, which he had been promoting since 2011 . His opinions contrasted sharply with conventional, orthodox dietary ‘wisdom’, and the tweet provided the perfect pretext to amp up their attacks and hopefully silence him once and for all.

Within 24 hours of his tweet, a dietitian had reported him to the Health Professions Council of South Africa for giving what she considered ‘incorrect’, ‘dangerous’ and ‘potentially life-threatening’ advice. To Noakes’s surprise, the HPCSA took her complaint seriously.

Noakes is one of the few scientists in the world with an A 1 rating from the South African National Research Foundation (NRF) for both sports science and nutrition. In his home country, he has no equal in terms of expertise in and research into LCHF. Few can match his large academic footprint – quantified by an H-index of over 70 . The H- or Hirsch index is a measure of the impact of a scientist’s work. Noakes’s impact is significant. He has published more than 500 scientific papers, many of them in peer-reviewed journals, and over 40 of which deal exclusively with nutrition. He has been cited more than 17 000 times in the scientific literature.

Yet, remarkably, the HPCSA chose to back the opinion of a dietitian in private practice over an internationally renowned nutrition research scientist. They charged him with ‘unprofessional conduct’ for providing ‘unconventional advice on breastfeeding babies on social networks’ and hauled him through the humiliating process of a disciplinary hearing.

The public quickly dubbed it ‘the Nutrition Trial of the 21 st Century’. I’ve called it Kafkaesque. The HPCSA insisted that it was a hearing, not a trial, but the statutory body’s own conduct belied the claim.

At the time of Noakes’s tweet, I wanted to give up journalism. After more than 30 years of researching and writing about medicine and nutrition science, I was frustrated and bored. People were growing fatter and sicker, and the medical and dietetic specialists I wrote about weren’t making much difference to patients’ lives. Neither was my reporting.

Then I started investigating and writing about the HPCSA’s case against Noakes. The more questions I asked, the more walls of silence came up around me, and from the most unexpected sources. There’s an old saying that silence isn’t empty, it is full of answers. I found that the silence was loudest from those with the most to hide. I could not have foreseen the labyrinthine extent of vested inter ests ranged against Noakes, or the role played by shadowy proxy organisations for multinational sugar and soft-drink companies in suppressing and discrediting nutrition evidence.

It took a US investigative journalist to join many of the dots I had identified. Russ Greene’s research led to the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI), a Coca-Cola front organisation. In an explosive exposé in January 2017 , Greene showed how the ILSI has worked to support the nutrition status quo in South Africa, as well as the health professionals and food and drug industries that benefit from it. It has opened a branch in South Africa and has funded nutrition congresses throughout the country. It has also paid for dietitians and academics opposed to Noakes and LCHF to address conferences abroad . *

Of course, it might be coincidence that so many doctors, dietitians and academics with links to the ILSI became involved, directly and indirectly, in the HPCSA’s prosecution of Noakes. Then again, maybe not.

The HPCSA’s conduct throughout the hearing and since its conclusion has been revelatory. To a large extent, it confirms the premise of this book: that those in positions of power and influence in medicine and academia were using the case to pursue a vendetta against Noakes. The trial highlighted the inherent perils facing those brave enough to go against orthodoxy.

Tim Noakes: The Quiet Maverick
by Daryl Ilbury
pp. 166-172

Into this turgid culture of food and identity stepped Tim Noakes on 5 February 2014, when he replied to a question posted two days earlier on Twitter, addressed to him and Sally-Ann Creed, a nutritional therapist (and co-author with Noakes of The Real Meal Revolution ). It was from a breastfeeding mother, Pippa Leenstra: ‘Is LCHF eating ok for breastfeeding mums? Worried about all the dairy + cauliflower = wind for babies??’ Noakes’s reply was the following: ‘Baby doesn’t eat the dairy and cauliflower. Just very healthy high fat breast milk. Key is to ween [ sic ] baby onto LCHF.’

It’s neither an offensive tweet by any stretch of the imagination, nor does it fall foul of any media law – it’s not libellous and there’s no encouragement of harm to others. People could disagree with him and had a voice to do so; that’s the point of social media: it is a platform for public discussion. And people did disagree, quite vocally, and there were others who supported his advice, equally vocally. Importantly, the question demanded a public, not private, response, which the person asking the question was free to accept or reject. And, as a medical doctor, Noakes didn’t cross any ethical boundaries in replying on a public platform. He didn’t publish any confidential patient information or dispense a diagnosis for a specific patient without seeing that patient; he simply provided generalised nutritional advice based on scientific evidence. Breast milk is high in fat, and there is scientific evidence to support the benefits of an LCHF diet. There is also evidence to the contrary, but, as we’ve realised, that’s science for you. The secret in making sense of science is context, and this is where it clashes with social media.

The character limitation of Twitter is one of its selling points; it demands concise expression, a sub-editor’s dream. It also means that tweets can be short on context, unless accompanied by click-through links to supporting evidence. Therefore tweets can be open to interpretation. However, this misses the main point of the brevity of Twitter messages: they are designed to encourage debate. Whether Noakes should have said ‘Key is to wean a baby …’ as opposed to ‘Key is to wean baby …’ is a matter for retrospective semantic debate. The fact is he provided a broad opinion on a public platform as a scientist and researcher of human nutrition.

Importantly, in her original tweet, to which Noakes replied, Pippa Leenstra never referred to herself or her baby. She spoke of ‘breastfeeding mums’. She was doing the media equivalent of asking a question in a town hall where the discussion was around LCHF. At that moment, Leenstra was a media consumer of medical or health information.

Not everyone saw it that way. One of those was Claire Julsing-Strydom, who at that time was president of the Association for Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA), the professional organisation for the country’s registered dietitians. Julsing-Strydom’s reaction was to register a complaint with the Health Professions Council of South Africa. It was a decision that would effectively threaten to destroy Noakes’s career, and make Julsing-Strydom the focus of a social media witch-hunt.

According to its website, the HPCSA provides the public with the right to request an investigation of any registered health practitioner whom they believe has acted unethically or caused harm. The site includes a downloadable form and an email address for Legal Med, the department within the HPCSA that handles complaints. To make sure that no health professional is a victim of a truculent member of the public with a hefty doctor’s bill in one hand and an axe to grind in the other, there is a due process of investigation and assessment before any measure of disciplinary action is followed. Only the most serious cases demand a professional-conduct committee hearing, which is what Tim Noakes would be called before.

As I said at the beginning of this book, I am not going to go into the trial in detail; instead, I will focus on the following: the complaint, the charge that resulted, two key components in the case against Noakes, and the unexpected outcome of the hearing. The main focus will be on how this was all covered in the media.

By now you know that whereas content is king, context is King Kong, and in this case the context behind the complaint makes for interesting reading, for two reasons: firstly, it shows that Noakes’s tweet was judged in isolation, and, secondly, it suggests that the complaint may not have been thought through.

What most people may not know is that directly after Noakes’s reply on Twitter to Pippa Leenstra, someone else entered the discussion: Marlene Ellmer, a paediatric dietitian and someone well known to Julsing-Strydom. Ellmer tweeted the following: ‘Pippa, as a paeds dietician I strongly advise against LCHF for breastfeeding mothers.’ Leenstra replied by posing the following question to both Noakes and Ellmer: ‘Okay, but what I eat comes through into my milk. Is that not problematic for baby and their winds at newborn stage?’ Ellmer responded by tweeting another message with her email address, encouraging Leenstra to contact her directly. Noakes didn’t do this, which is important to note, as we shall soon see. Leenstra tweeted to Ellmer that she would contact her, and after the discussion played out further with various people providing input, Leenstra tweeted: ‘Thanks, but I will go with the dietician’s recommendation.’ This she did, rejecting Noakes’s LCHF suggestion.

Let’s summarise: at that point Leenstra had posted a question on a public forum, received different opinions, including from two health professionals – one of them a registered dietitian – and been provided with the contact details of one of those professionals with an invite to get hold of her. Leenstra was free to choose which one to follow up with, and she agreed, publicly, to contact the registered dietitian. Theoretically, things could have stopped there.

However, the day after Ellmer’s invite for Leenstra to contact her, Julsing-Strydom entered the discussion and reacted with a tweet directed to Noakes, written thus: ‘I AM HORRIFIED!! HOW CAN YOU GIVE ADVICE LIKE THIS??’ For those unfamiliar with the idiosyncrasies of social media, the use of uppercase letters is normally reserved to express a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure or hostility. On its own, Julsing-Strydom’s use of uppercase in a tweet is perfectly acceptable; it shows how she must have felt reading Noakes’s tweet, and there are possible reasons for that. Firstly, she had a four-month-old daughter she was breastfeeding, so she had a personal as well as a professional interest in the topic under discussion. Secondly, as she would later testify, she had had a strongly worded engagement the previous month with Noakes over what she saw as his dispensing nutritional advice to breastfeeding mothers during a talk. It’s easy to imagine that for Julsing-Strydom the tweet was the last straw, and so she submitted her complaint, including screenshots of Noakes’s tweet, to Legal Med. The accompanying email read:

‘To whom it may concern. I would like to file a report against Prof Tim Noakes. He is giving incorrect medical [nutrition therapy] on Twitter that is not evidence based. I have attached the Tweet where Prof Noakes advises a breastfeeding mother to wean her baby on to a low carbohydrate high fat diet. I urge the HPCSA to please take urgent action against this type of misconduct as Prof Noakes is a celebrity in South Africa and the public does not have the knowledge to understand that the information he is advocating is not evidence based. It is specifically dangerous to give this advice for infants and can potentially be life-threatening. I await your response. Claire Julsing-Strydom.’

The wording is a little breathless, and the reason for that would emerge in the hearing.

The complaint contains many factors that Legal Med would have considered, but five pertain to focus points covered so far in this book: the limits to the public’s understanding of science, in this case that of human nutrition; the complexity and unreliability of academic research behind that science; the media profile of Tim Noakes, and the idea that he is a ‘celebrity’; that the complaint related to something said within a disrupted media environment; and the suggestion that nutritional advice is a clear-cut case of right or wrong.

What the legal department would have known when they received the complaint was that the complainant was another health professional; this wasn’t just someone with a beef about their proctologist having cold hands. This meant that the complainant would have understood the potential outcomes of submitting her complaint, especially one claiming that an act by a fellow health professional was ‘life-threatening’. The fact of the matter is that Legal Med saw sufficient seriousness in the complaint to investigate.

However, inconsistencies in Julsing-Strydom’s complaint soon came to light. She supposedly submitted it on behalf of ADSA, and yet didn’t make that clear in the complaint. When questioned in the HPCSA hearing that her complaint triggered, she replied that it was the first time she had registered a complaint, saying, ‘I was not aware that this email would actually be, you know, used at this level.’

Now, after 30 years of interviewing people for the media, if there’s something I’ve learnt it’s that the most honest comments are usually unconsidered – made as an aside, when thoughts are wandering, or if a little flustered. Perhaps, I thought, Julsing-Strydom hadn’t really thought through what was going to happen once she submitted the complaint.

Furthermore, a forensic analysis of Twitter timelines and the submission date and time of the complaint shows that Julsing-Strydom publicly expressed her horror on Twitter on 6 February 2014 at 07:48, and sent her email to Legal Med less than an hour later, at 08:47. It’s fair to say that Julsing-Strydom was upset when she wrote that email.

Based on the findings of a preliminary committee of inquiry, the legal department of the HPCSA sent a letter to Noakes on 28 January 2015, saying that he was to be summoned before the Professional Conduct Committee of the Medical and Dental Professions Board. The charge against him was attached to the letter, and it makes for puzzling reading: ‘That you are guilty of unprofessional conduct, or conduct which, when regard is had to your profession is unprofessional, in that during February 2014, you acted in a manner that is not in accordance with the norms and standards of your profession in that you provided unconventional advice on breastfeeding babies on social networks (tweet).’

It is so badly written that it would send any sub-editor reaching for a stiff shot of whisky, so it was invariably presented in the media thus: ‘charged with providing unconventional advice on social media to breastfeeding mothers’.

When I first read the charge, that part about ‘social networks’ intrigued me the most. Providing advice on a public social media platform is an ethical catch-22 for any clinician: if they provide generalised information, they can be accused of not taking into consideration the specifics of the patient; yet if they ask for specifics, they risk encouraging the sharing of confidential information on a public platform. There’s also the ethical conundrum that if they open a consultative dialogue with someone other than a patient, they can be charged with supersession, essentially ‘stealing’ a patient; and for the HPCSA, that is grounds for discipline. How is that for irony?

I sensed confusion in the poorly worded charge. On a hunch I contacted the HPCSA and asked for a copy of their guidelines for how registered health practitioners should engage with the public on social media – if the HPCSA were charging Noakes because of his use of social media, they’d obviously have the necessary guidelines in place. I received the following reply: ‘Kindly note that the HPCSA doesn’t have guidelines around how registered health practitioners should engage with the public on social media.’ The HPCSA was clearly in unfamiliar territory. I thought it didn’t bode well for a speedy, clear-cut course for the hearing; and I was right.

What started on 4 June 2015, and was supposed to be wrapped up in little over a week, would drag on for almost two years, and if its aim was to deliver a swift, unsparing and public reprimand of a dissident scientist, it failed.

Dr. Kendrick On Vaccines

I don’t really know how to open the debate out into something sensible. Something scientific, something questioning and positive. Screeching at people that they simply don’t understand ‘science’ is not a good approach. In addition, yelling that they are ‘killing thousands of children’ is not a way to conduct a debate.

My feelings about the vaccine debate
by Dr. Malcolm Kendrick

No-one can question anything. Such as, why do inoculations produce antibodies in some people, and not others? Kind of interesting you would think – but no. Question not, the mighty vaccination.

This is strange, because it is has been clearly established that vaccination does not work in many people:

‘An outbreak of measles occurred in a high school with a documented vaccination level of 98 per cent. Nineteen (70 per cent) of the cases were students who had histories of measles vaccination at 12 months of age or older and are therefore considered vaccine failures. Persons who were unimmunized or immunized at less than 12 months of age had substantially higher attack rates compared to those immunized on or after 12 months of age.

Vaccine failures among apparently adequately vaccinated individuals were sources of infection for at least 48 per cent of the cases in the outbreak. There was no evidence to suggest that waning immunity was a contributing factor among the vaccine failures. Close contact with cases of measles in the high school, source or provider of vaccine, sharing common activities or classes with cases, and verification of the vaccination history were not significant risk factors in the outbreak.

The outbreak subsided spontaneously after four generations of illness in the school and demonstrates that when measles is introduced in a highly vaccinated population, vaccine failures may play some role in transmission but that such transmission is not usually sustained.’1

We are told that if you reach a measles vaccination rate of 95%, in a population, you cannot get an outbreak. Seems that is wrong. You can get an outbreak in a 98% vaccinated population. Wouldn’t it be nice to know why?

It does seem weird that measles is the chosen battleground for the vaccine furies. I am not entirely sure why. You would think the highly vocal pro-vaccinators would point to smallpox, or polio – or suchlike. Although, to be frank, I look at smallpox and wonder. I wonder how the hell we managed to eradicate this disease so quickly and simply. The entire world successfully vaccinated in a few years – with a perfect 100% record. No vaccine failures, all populations in the entire world vaccinated? Quite some feat.

An alternative explanation is that some diseases naturally come and go. Measles, for example, was an absolute killer three hundred years ago. Captain Cook introduced it to South Seas islands. The mortality rate was enormously high in native populations that had never been exposed to it before. Gradually the death rate attenuated. In most of the Western World measles was becoming a ‘relatively’ benign disease by the time vaccination came along.

If we look back in history, the black death wiped out half the population of Europe. What was it? It was almost certainly not the plague, although many people claim that it was. From the descriptions of those who died from it, it seems it was possibly a form of Ebola (haemorrhagic fever).

‘The Black Death of the 1300s was probably not the modern disease known as bubonic plague, according to a team of anthropologists studying these 14th century epidemics. “The symptoms of the Black Death included high fevers, fetid breath, coughing, vomiting of blood and foul body odor,” says Rebecca Ferrell, graduate student in anthropology. “Other symptoms were red bruising or hemorrhaging of skin and swollen lymph nodes. Many of these symptoms do appear in bubonic plague, but they can appear in many other diseases as well.”

Modern bubonic plague typically needs to reach a high frequency in the rat population before it spills over into the human community via the flea vector. Historically, epidemics of bubonic plague have been associated with enormous die-offs of rats. “There are no reports of dead rats in the streets in the 1300s of the sort common in more recent epidemics when we know bubonic plague was the causative agent,” says Wood.’ 2

Of course, we cannot be sure what the Black Death was. We do know that it came, it killed, it went. It also appeared to leave a legacy of people with CCR5 Delta32 mutations. People with this mutation cannot, it seems, be infected by the Ebola virus (or, indeed HIV). Ebola and HIV both gain entry to cells using the CCR5 protein, and if it is missing, the virus cannot get in. [Yes, you can cure HIV by giving bone marrow transplant from a donor with the CCR5 Delta 32 mutation – little known fact].

Why would we have this mutation far more commonly in areas of Europe than, in say, Africa – where the Black Death did not occur? Unless it provided a survival advantage at some point, against a virus that was (or was very like), Ebola.

Looking back at smallpox, did vaccination get rid of it? Or did vaccination simply apply the final push to see off a weakened opponent?

The plague itself – where has it gone?

Yes, I do look at the official history of vaccination with a jaundiced eye. The greatest successes… Well, it seems inarguable that vaccination has created enormous health benefits. Polio and smallpox – gone. But has this been entirely due to vaccination – possibly? I am yet to be convinced.

1: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1646939/

2: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/04/020415073417.htm

* * *

This topic came back into the corporate media again recently. One of the Democratic candidates, Marianne Williamson, had dared to as questions about vaccinations. She didn’t deny they had their place. She didn’t even deny that sometimes they should be mandatory for public health. As Dr. Kendrick has no problem in being vaccinated, neither has Williamson. She has vaccinated her own daughter.

Claims that she is an anti-vaxxer are simply false or dishonest. All she is doing is pointing to inconvenient facts, as did Dr. Kendrick in this piece. And the facts don’t quite add up, within the explanatory framework that presently is accepted as Gospel Truth. She questions the often unscientific and undemocratic approach that so often determines public policy. What makes this questioning attitude dangerous? And dangerous to which interests and agendas?

Here is what I wrote about Williamson and vaccines:

“A Bitch For God”

Those in the mainstream are looking for reasons to attack her. For example, some misrepresent her as an anti-vaxxer (Jo Ling Kent, Marianne Williamson says she supports mandatory vaccines – but ‘when they are called for’). In explaining her actual position, she states in no uncertain terms that, “I understand that many vaccines are important and save lives. I recognize there are epidemics around the world that are stopped by vaccines. I also understand some of the skepticism that abounds today about drugs which are rushed to market by Big Pharma.” There is no way to fairly call her an anti-vaxxer. What she is mainly questioning is the anti-democratic role big biz plays in public policy and wants to ensure the best scientific evidence possible is available to promote the public good. She is a principled anti-corporatist and pro-democrat. As she put it in her own words, “I want you to rail against the chemical companies and their GMO’s — not support them. I want you to decry the military industrial complex — not assure them you’re their girl. I want you to support reinstating Glass-Steagall — not just wink at Wall Street while sipping its champagne” (An Open Letter To Hillary Clinton).

She supports mandatory vaccinations when they meet the criteria of the highest standards of the scientific method, if and only if the best evidence strongly supports a public health concern that is proven beyond a reasonable doubt to be remedied only through this drastic course of action. Otherwise, if the evidence is weak or still under debate, if big pharma is unduly influencing government decisions, then we are morally forced to defend democratic process and individual liberty, personal conscience, and bodily autonomy. It is the forever difficult but not impossible democratic balance between public good and private good. A mandatory vaccination is justified in many cases and maybe not in others. She is not promoting denialism. After all, she has vaccinated her own daughter. Science isn’t a dogmatic belief system that is forever settled. Instead, science is an ongoing process. To act like it is otherwise is anti-scientific.

* * *

Scientists have found plague in human bodies going back many millennia. Yet in most of those cases there was’t any large-scale plague going on in the concentrated populations of the time. Why is the same infectious disease highly infectious sometimes and not so much at other times?

Ancient ancestor of the bacteria that causes plague found in 5,000-year-old human remains
by Deborah Netburn

* * *

After finishing this post, I remembered another angle I’ve written about in the past. Vaccinated or not, some populations seem more prone to certain infectious diseases than others. Why? Weston A. Price argued that it had to do with populations with high levels of nutrition in their diets versus populations that were malnourished. Of course, even a healthy person can die of an infectious disease, but the point is they have a much greater probability of not dying because they have a stronger immune system. Also, many healthy people can carry an infectious disease without ever showing any symptoms of it. So, an entire population of healthy individuals could all become infected, never show symptoms, and their immune systems would simply fight it off as if they were never infected.

We know so little about this. But what is becoming clear is so many of the diseases of civilization relate to a weakened or overactive immune system. And we now understand some of the mechanisms for this. For example, those exposed to a diversity of microbes in childhood have a more well functioning immune system as adults and, failing that, the consequences may be extensive (The Literal Metaphor of Sickness). There are many contributing factors. One thing that is clear is that it isn’t simply a matter of being exposed. Humans constantly are carrying microbes, cancer cells, etc that can turn deadly and yet most of the time they don’t. Getting sick is actually the exception, indicating something is wrong with the body. We become sick because something already weakened our body’s defensive systems. An important factor is the fact that our high-carb diet keeps us out of ketosis and autophagy, which are important for healing and maintaining health.

The modern diet and lifestyle is pro-inflammatory in so many ways (besides high-carb: too many omega-6s and too few omega-3s, lack of traditional food preparation to lessen plant anti-nutrients, food additives, farm and industrial chemicals, general stress of urbanized life, extreme levels of poverty and inequality, et). And chronic inflammation messes up normal functioning and gets expressed in many disease conditions, such as autoimmune conditions. Whereas these other factors are inflammatory and damaging, ketosis is anti-imflammatory and autophagy is healing. After three days of fasting, every cell in our immune system is replaced with new cells by way of eliminating old cells and growing new ones from stem cells. One might note that fasting was a common practice among traditional societies, as was ketogenic diets — in fact, common in almost every society in the world until the modern era (Fasting, Calorie Restriction, and Ketosis; Spartan Diet; & The Agricultural Mind).

The challenges to vaccine dogma overlaps with the challenges to diet dogma (The Creed of Ancel Keys; Dietary Dictocrats of EAT-Lancet; Failure of Nutritional Knowledge in Science and Practice; Scientific Failure and Self ExperimentationClearing Away the RubbishMost Mainstream Doctors Would Fail NutritionHighly Profitable Conflicts of InterestDietary Dogma: Tested and Failed; & Blue Zones Dietary Myth). This has forced many changes in dietary opinion, both among the public and in institutions (Low-Carb Diets On The Rise; Weight Watchers’ Paleo DietSlow, Quiet, and Reluctant Changes to Official Dietary Guidelines; American Diabetes Association Changes Its TuneOfficial Guidelines For Low-Carb Diet: & Obese Military?). And has led to new understandings about health (Ketogenic Diet and Neurocognitive HealthGundry’s Plant Paradox and Saladino’s Carnivory; & Caloric Confusion). It is part of a larger paradigm change (Essentialism On the DeclineDiets and Systems; & Coping Mechanisms of Health) that has been suppressed for far too long (Cold War Silencing of Science; & Eliminating Dietary Dissent).

Here is what I previously wrote about Weston A. Price:

Ancient Atherosclerosis

This isn’t only about agriculturalists versus hunter-gatherers. The distinction between populations goes deeper into culture and environment. Weston A. Price discovered this simple truth in finding healthy populations among both agriculturalists and hunter-gatherers, but it was specific populations under specific conditions. Also, at the time when he traveled in the early 20th century, there were still traditional communities living in isolation in Europe. One example is Loetschenatal Valley in Switzerland, while visiting the country in two separate trips in the consecutive years of 1931 and 1932 — as he writes of it:

“We were told that the physical conditions that would not permit people to obtain modern foods would prevent us from reaching them without hardship. However, owing to the completion of the Loetschberg Tunnel, eleven miles long, and the building of a railroad that crosses the Loetschental Valley, at a little less than a mile above sea level, a group of about 2,000 people had been made easily accessible for study, shortly prior to 1931. Practically all the human requirements of the people in that valley, except a few items like sea salt, have been produced in the valley for centuries.”

He points out that, “Notwithstanding the fact that tuberculosis is the most serious disease of Switzerland, according to a statement given me by a government official, a recent report of inspection of this valley did not reveal a single case.” In Switzerland and other countries, he found an “association of dental caries and tuberculosis.” The commonality was early life development, as underdeveloped and maldeveloped bone structure led to diverse issues: crowded teeth, smaller skull size, misaligned features, and what was called tubercular chest. And that was an outward sign of deeper and more systemic developmental issues, including malnutrition, inflammation, and the immune system:

“Associated with a fine physical condition the isolated primitive groups have a high level of immunity to many of our modern degenerative processes, including tuberculosis, arthritis, heart disease, and affections  of the internal organs. When, however, these individuals have lost this high level of physical excellence a definite lowering in their resistance to the modern degenerative processes has taken place. To illustrate, the narrowing of the facial and dental arch forms of the children of the modernized parents, after they had adopted the white man’s food, was accompanied by an increase in susceptibility to pulmonary tuberculosis.”

Any population that lost its traditional way of life became prone to disease. But this could often as easily be reversed by having the diseased individual return to healthy conditions. In discussing Dr. Josef Romig, Price said that, “Growing out of his experience, in which he had seen large numbers of the modernized Eskimos and Indians attacked with tuberculosis, which tended to be progressive and ultimately fatal as long as the patients stayed under modernized living conditions, he now sends them back when possible to primitive conditions and to a primitive diet, under which the death rate is very much lower than under modernized  conditions. Indeed, he reported that a great majority of the afflicted recover under the primitive type of living and nutrition.”

The point made by Mailer and Hale was earlier made by Price. As seen with pre-contact Native Alaskans, the isolated traditional residents of Loetschenatal Valley had nutritious diets. Price explained that he “arranged to have samples of food, particularly dairy products, sent to me about twice a month, summer and winter. These products have been tested for their mineral and vitamin contents, particularly the fat-soluble activators. The samples were found to be high in vitamins and much higher than the average samples of commercial dairy products in America and Europe, and in the lower areas of Switzerland.” Whether fat and organ meats from marine animals or dairy from pastured alpine cows, the key is high levels of fat soluble vitamins and, of course, omega-3 fatty acids procured from a pristine environment (healthy soil and clean water with no toxins, farm chemicals, hormones, etc). It also helped that both populations ate much that was raw which maintains the high nutrient content that is partly destroyed through heat.

Some might find it hard to believe that what you eat can determine whether or not you get a serious disease like tuberculosis. Conventional medicine tells us that the only thing that protects us is either avoiding contact or vaccination. But this view is being seriously challenged, as Mailer and Hale make clear (p. 164): “Several studies have focused on the link between Vitamin D and the health outcomes of individuals infected with tuberculosis, taking care to discount other causal factors and to avoid determining causation merely through association. Given the historical occurrence of the disease among indigenous people after contact, including in Alaska, those studies that have isolated the contingency of immunity on active Vitamin D are particularly pertinent to note. In biochemical experiments, the presence of the active form of vitamin D has been shown to have a crucial role in the destruction of Mycobacterium tuberculosis by macrophages. A recent review has found that tuberculosis patients tend to retain a lower-than-average vitamin D status, and that supplementation of the nutrient improved outcomes in most cases.”As an additional thought, the popular tuberculosis sanitoriums, some in the Swiss Alps, were attractive because “it was believed that the climate and above-average hours of sunshine had something to do with it” (Jo Fahy, A breath of fresh air for an alpine village). What does sunlight help the body to produce? Vitamin D.

As an additional perspective, James C. Scotts’ Against the Grain, writes that, “Virtually every infectious disease caused by micro-organisms and specifically adapted to Homo sapiens has arisen in the last ten thousand years, many of them in the last five thousand years as an effect of ‘civilisation’: cholera, smallpox, measles, influenza, chickenpox, and perhaps malaria” It is not only that agriculture introduces new diseases but also makes people susceptible to them. That might be true, as Scott suggests, even of a disease like malaria. The Piraha are more likely to die of malaria than anything else, but that might not have been true in the past.

Comment from Essentialism On the Decline

As with Sapir and Whorf studying linguistic relativism, there were those like Weston A. Price who traveled the world to study the diet and health of traditional communities. Much that conventional medicine assumed to be true about disease was easily refuted by even the most casual knowledge of non-WEIRD societies, in particular isolated hunter-gatherers. People didn’t get sick simply by coming into contact with tuberculosis, a parasite, or whatever. They didn’t get sick because of a single gene or a single anything else. Human bodies are systems that are part of larger complex sociocultural systems and natural ecosystems.

Western essentialism had multiple strategies in dealing with these challenges. The non-WEIRD could be dismissed out of hand and so ignored as irrelevant and wrongheaded. Failing that, the non-WEIRD could be kept at a distance by either demonizing or romanticizing the other. Yet it turns out that not only are these others relevant to us and our society but also are not fundamentally (i.e., essentially) different than us. Teach someone a new language and they will think in similar patterns to anyone else who learns that language. Change someone’s diet and they too will experience the same health results. Genetics, race, language modules, etc don’t explain the differences nor explain them away.

In discussing Weston A. Price in his book Primal Nutrition, Ron Schmid clearly asserts that “a racial difference this was not”. There is an old racist argument that non-whites are essentially a different species or sub-species that is of hardier stock (like a mule), that Westerners made an evolutionary bargain of exchanging genetics of physical health for the genetics of intellectual and social superiority; hence, supposedly why non-whites make good slaves/workers and whites make good masters/bosses; an inventive if bizarre rationalization for Western sickliness.

Schmid was specifically writing about Price’s travels throughout the African continent. There was no reason to turn Africans into some strange other, an oddity that doesn’t apply to us, as Price found the same patterns of diet and health in early twentieth century rural communities in Europe. About Africa, Schmid writes (pp. 44-45):

“Price’s most indelible impression: the contrast between the rugged resistance of the natives to their harsh environment and the fragility of foreigners.

“A racial difference this was not, for when the natives abandoned primitive foods for refined foods, they developed dental decay and became susceptible to infectious processes to which they were previously immune. These included malaria, dysentery, and tick-borne diseases such as sleeping sickness. The immunity experienced when eating native foods extended to chronic disease; an interview with the doctor in charge of a government hospital in Kenya revealed that in his several years of service among native people eating the native diet, he had seen no cases of appendicitis, gallbladder problems, cystitis, or duodenal ulcer.

“In several tribes studied, no evidence of tooth decay was found, nor a single malformed dental arch. Several other tribes had nearly 100 percent immunity to decay, and in thirteen tribes no irregular teeth were found. Where some members had moved to cities and adopted modern foods, however, extensive decay was found. Children born of these individuals often showed narrowed dental arches with crowding of the teeth.”

This leaves us with two related conclusions. First, specific diseases aren’t essentialist, that is to say all of these diverse health conditions are overlapping and tied together by common causes to be found in diet and lifestyle. Second, the diseased state in general isn’t essentialist, that is to say it isn’t an inherent and inevitable fact of human genetics and biology.

That these healthy indigenous people also had very different cultures and languages brings us to the further point that it was a difference not only of degree but of kind. It is our essentialist thinking that is at the heart of our sickly minds and bodies. Essentialist thinking is at best a powerful tool and at worse a dangerous weapon, destroying and denying all differences in seeking universal and ultimate truths, the dark impulse behind monocultural hegemony.

To Supplement Or Not?

Some say vitamin, mineral, and electrolyte supplements are unnecessary, useless, or even harmful. I’ve been on the fence about this. Our modern diet is so deficient in nutrients. But it is argued that even in the modern world we should be able to get all the nutrients we need from nutrient-dense foods. I’m coming around to this view.

There are specific conditions where supplementation would be necessary. If you get a lot of caffeine, that will dehydrate you and throw off your electrolyte balance and so maybe supplementation could help, but even then it probably would be better to use a natural sea salt and eat seaweed or, better yet, give up caffeine. Another example is that, for those on statins, additional CoQ10 is required beyond what is likely found in the diet. But this shouldn’t apply to anyone who is healthy. There is the rub. Most Americans aren’t healthy.

I might add that nutrient deficiencies are much more common on vegan and vegetarian diets, especially the former. But that is the problem with these diets. We should be able to get all our nutrients from our diet without supplements, as most humans have done for most of evolution, something I’ve long agreed with in theory. Requiring supplements indicates a failure. If we aren’t getting enough nutrients, there is something wrong with either our diet or our food system. This is why food quality is so important. We need to be getting plenty of wild-caught and pasture-raised animal foods, especially organ meats. But how many people have access to and can afford these foods? And how many will go to the effort to procure and prepare them?

My own carnivore experiment only lasted a couple of months, but I did learn from it. I’m still mostly animal-based in my meals, with a few nutrient-dense plant foods (e.g., fermented vegetables). I’ve known about nutrient-density since the late 1990s, back when I first read Sally Fallon Morrell (just Sally Fallon at the time). I have been trying to improve my diet for many years, but not to the degree I’ve been doing over the past year.

The only issue I’ve had is that most foods today are nutritionally deficient. And so I’ve worried about not getting required nutrition without supplementation. I’ve argued in favor of supplementation in the past, for the simple reason most Americans are malnourished. Telling people to eat nutrient-dense foods is easier said than done, as such foods are less common and familiar while being more expensive. I’ve previously come across those who oppose general supplementation for all or most people. But I wasn’t sure what to make of it. Most people are dealing with major deficiencies while struggling to eat even moderately well. Our society isn’t exactly supportive of a healthy diet. Even the official food recommendations and guidelines are making people sick.

One thing that brought me to thinking about this again is a study reported on by the New York Times, Supplements and Diets for Heart Health Show Limited Proof of Benefit by Anahad O’Connor. The evidence on effectiveness is mixed. Maybe the risk to benefit ration is too high in taking an approach of the precautionary principle, considering we don’t have enough good research yet. I’m coming around to the conclusion that modern foods, as long as they are high quality, can or should be enough for optimal health — other than medically diagnosed deficiencies because of health problems.

I’ll experiment with this, maybe after I use up my present supply of multivitamins, and see if I observe any differences or rather observe a lack of a difference. I still don’t know what that will tell me, as some deficiencies like that of vitamin K2 are almost impossible to notice since the effects are mostly indirect. I guess eat the best food possible and hope for the best.

I must admit I still have some reservations. When I look at the people advocating nutrient-density alone can be adequate without supplementation, I notice that these are people putting immense time, effort, and money into their diet and health. They are going to great lengths to ensure high quality food — dairy, eggs, organ meats, brains, caviar, etc from animals that were pasture-raised, wild-caught, or hunted. This is simply not an option for most Americans, for many reasons. The reality is few Americans will be willing to do this, to dedicate their entire lives to this endeavor, even if they could afford it and had the time to do it.

So, I don’t know. But since I have the money and motivation, I’m going to try to do my best in getting as much food-sourced nutrition as possible.

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For no particular reason, I’ll share some videos only from Frank Tufano. He is one of the carnivore advocates who talks about nutrient-density.

As a side note, Tufano got into a snit because he thought that fellow carnivore Paul Saladino stole information from him and didn’t credit him as the source. What he claimed was unjustly taken had to do with nutrient-density from animal foods. He was trying to convince his viewers that he was the first carnivore advocate to ever talk about nutrient-density. That simply is not true.

J.D. Garland has been a carnivore longer than Tufano. Where Garland comes from is specifically a nutritional approach, prior to his going on a carnivore diet. He learned of this from Sally Fallon Morrell who in turn got it from Weston A. Price, the latter having researched this topic long before any of these other people were born. This comes up in an interview with Tristan Haggard. As far as that goes, Haggard has also been going on about this topic for quite a while. It’s pretty much common knowledge at this point.

That was a bit of meaningless drama. But I wanted to set the record straight. Many people have picked up on the knowledge of traditional foods from Price. And it was Morrell who specifically did the most in popularizing his work. Still, Tufano is worth listening to, if not as original as he’d like to believe. Listen to his informative videos and ignore the rest.

Gundry’s Plant Paradox and Saladino’s Carnivory

There is a great discussion between Dr. Steven Gundry and Dr. Paul Saladino. It’s an uncommon dialogue. Even though Gundry is known for warning against the harmful substances in plant foods, he has shifted toward a plant-based diet in also warning against too much animal foods or at least too much protein. As for Saladino, he is a carnivore and so takes Gundry’s argument against plants to a whole other level. Saladino sees no problem with meat, of course. And this leads to one point of potential conflict. His view contradicts what Gundry writes about in his most recent book, The Longevity Paradox.

A major argument in Gundry’s book is that too much protein leads to elevated IGF-1. That has to do with the concern that it is unhealthy for the body to be permanently in growth mode. This partly misses the point that many people on animal-based diets tend toward fasting, ketosis, and autophagy, sometimes caloric restriction as well. This happens because, as starchy and sugary plant foods are eliminated, hunger and cravings lessen. It becomes easier for people to eat less or go for long periods without food, sometimes without intentionally trying to do so.

So, contrary to Gundry’s fear, one would actually expect a carnivore diet to be low in IGF-1. That is exactly what Saladino has found, in himself and in his patients. That goes against a key argument in The Longevity Paradox. The fact of the matter is that a plant-based diet is more likely to drive up IGF-1. “So most of the carnivores I test for IGF-1 are around 120,” said Saladino, “which is significantly lower than people on mixed diets who are not even carnivores. So I think this brings back the idea of context. And the context that I’m talking about here is that IGF-1 can be triggered by a lot of things. But I think that the response of the body to protein is very different when we are in ketosis, than it is on a mixed diet. And we see this with insulin as well.”

Also, they got onto the topic of TMAO. Saladino points out that fish has more fully formed TMAO than red meat produces in combination with grain-loving Prevotella. Even vegetables produce TMAO. So, why is beef being scapegoated? It’s pure ignorant idiocy. To further this point, Saladino explained that he has tested the microbiome of patients of his on the carnivore diet and it comes up low on the Prevotella bacteria. He doesn’t think TMAO is the danger people claim it is. But even if it were, the single safest diet might be the carnivore diet.

Gundry didn’t even disagree. He pointed out that he did testing on patients of his who are long-term vegans and now in their 70s. They had extremely high levels of TMAO. He sent their lab results to the Cleveland Clinic for an opinion. The experts there refused to believe that it was possible and so dismissed the evidence. That is the power of dietary ideology when it forms a self-enclosed reality tunnel. Red meat is bad and vegetables are good. The story changes over time. It’s the saturated fat. No, it’s the TMAO. Then it will be something else. Always looking for a rationalization to uphold the preferred dogma.

Related points are made about advanced glycation end products (AGEs). Gundry asked if Saladino was worried about these. He did say they were a concern, but not for carnivores more than for anyone else on other diets. Everything we cook is going to have AGEs, but we can we lessen them by how we cook (e.g., avoid cooking with olive oil). This problem is far from being limited to cooking meat. And no matter what one is eating, there are ways of avoiding AGEs, such as using a pressure cooker.

Point by point, Saladino knocked down all possible criticisms of eating meat. And, surprisingly, there seemed to be little push back from Gundry. They both understood the science and there really was no difference of opinion based on the facts themselves. It was more about what each preferred to emphasize and the strategies they advocated, but nonetheless both appeared to understand the scientific-based reasoning of the other. It was rather refreshing. In the end, Gundry seemed to be more in line with Saladino than I thought he would be from having read The Longevity Paradox. He even threw out some evidence for how animal or insect protein is important even for other primates. Here are Gundry’s concluding thoughts:

“And in fact, one of the things that got me interested in bugs is that a very famous observation was made at the Washington Zoo back in the 1920s. And I wrote about this in my first book, Dr. Gundry’s Diet Evolution. They brought a bunch of marmoset monkeys from South America who are obligate frugivorous, all they eat is fruit. And they fed them fruit and these monkeys did not do well. They didn’t reproduce. And a young zoologist at the zoo said, “You know, we’re going giving them fruit that basically we buy at the grocery store. And the fruit that these guys are eating out in the jungle is full of bugs.”

“In fact, chimpanzees have been observed by Jane Goodall to take a bite of fruit and look at it, and then throw it on the ground. And she found that the ones that were thrown on the ground didn’t have any bugs in it. And so they introduced 6% animal protein into the diet of the marmoset monkeys to make up for these insects that they weren’t getting in their diet. And lo and behold, they thrived, and they actually began to reproduce. And it was one of the things that really compelled my argument that we’re a great ape, and even great apes have to have some animal protein in their diet.

“So that’s a great question. And chimpanzees will take little sticks and go into termite mounds and get the termites. And believe it or not, even hummingbirds who all they do is drink sugar water will actually go after gnats and little bugs growing or crawling on leaves, because they have to have a source of animal protein.”

We are coming to realize how important are these kinds of foods. Primates don’t only eat insects for observations of hunting have also been made. Even many herbivores will eat some occasional meat when it’s available. There are hundreds of videos of deers, rabbits, etc eating meat, maybe usually what they find dead but sometimes another living animal. We can argue about the carnivore diet, but meat consumption sure is a lot more common than previously thought.

This is true among humans as well. When the so-called Blue Zones are looked at more closely, they include more animal foods than had been acknowledged. Some of the longest living populations are in Asia where research, opposite of that in the West, correlates meat with greater health and longer life. Saladino brought up the example of Hong Kong, the residents of which have a long lifespan averaging 85 years old while also on average eating a pound and a half of meat on a daily basis. Whether or not one wants to be on a carnivore diet, there is no scientific reason to live in fear of animal foods. As Saladino makes clear, humans have been eating large amounts of meat for hundreds of thousands of years. This is what we were evolved to eat.

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Transcript

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Like water fasts, meat fasts are good for health.
Carnivore Is Vegan
Too Much Protein?
Vitamin D3 and Autophagy
Fasting, Calorie Restriction, and Ketosis
Ketogenic Diet and Neurocognitive Health
Spartan Diet
Carcinogenic Grains
The Agricultural Mind
Blue Zones Dietary Myth
Low-Carb Diets On The Rise
Does a Healthy LCHF Diet Protect Against Sunburns?
Obese Military?
Official Guidelines For Low-Carb Diet
Slow, Quiet, and Reluctant Changes to Official Dietary Guidelines
American Diabetes Association Changes Its Tune
Dietary Dogma: Tested and Failed
Dietary Dictocrats of EAT-Lancet
The Fad of Warning About Fad Diets

Dietary Dogma: Tested and Failed

There were two recent studies that looked at diets. One compared the 2010 Dietary Guidelines against the typical American diet. The other compared multiple dietary interventions: Mediterranean diet, low-fat diet, and low-salt diet. This covers the main diets advocated most often by doctors, nutritionists, dieticians, and health officials. Yet neither study found a significant overall benefit to any of the recommended diets. That is shocking, when one considers how official experts and major institutions have pushed these diets for decades. The low-fat diet has been a favorite among dietary technocrats for about a half century (The Creed of Ancel Keys).

What these studies didn’t bother to consider is the benefits of traditional foods diet (Weston A. Price & Sally Fallon Morrell), paleo/hunter-gatherer diet, low-carb high-fat diet, ketogenic diet, carnivore diet, etc. Nor any of the related but less well known diets like ketotarian, pegan, etc. Nor related dietary strategies such as fasting, either intermittent or extended, along with calorie restriction. With a narrow focus, the comparisons were limited. Still, it is a powerful judgment that none of the diets that were tested stood out as being all that impressive. What is being brought under doubt represents the key message of authoritative opinion on diet and nutrition. These diets tested (official Dietary Recommendations, Mediterranean diet, low-fat diet, and low-salt diet) are among the best that the collective wisdom of mainstream thought has to offer.

Here is an intriguing point. The first study looked at the 2010 Dietary Guidelines as separate from weight loss, to determine what were the results of the diet itself (besides, even including weight loss, the low-fat diet is one of the worst, as studies show few people drop body fat when adhering to it — see meta-analysis by UK Public Health Collaboration, Eat Fat, Cut The Carbs and Avoid Snacking To Reverse Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes). This officially trumpeted dietary regime, a fad diet that hasn’t been around long by the way, had no noticeable affect on glucose homeostasis, fasting lipids, or type 2 diabetes. Let’s consider another study, as a comparison and to clarify a point (Parker N. Hyde et al, Dietary carbohydrate restriction improves metabolic syndrome independent of weight loss). As with the above mentioned study, body weight was carefully maintained so as to control for that potentially confounding factor. What were the results?

“Despite maintaining body mass, low-carbohydrate (LC) intake enhanced fat oxidation and was more effective in reversing MetS [metabolic syndrome, including type 2 diabetes], especially high triglycerides, low HDL-C, and the small LDL subclass phenotype. Carbohydrate restriction also improved abnormal fatty acid composition, an emerging MetS feature. Despite containing 2.5 times more saturated fat than the high-carbohydrate diet, an LC diet decreased plasma total saturated fat and palmitoleate and increased arachidonate.”

Interestingly, these particular two studies demonstrate that obesity by itself is not necessarily the problem. Rather, it is a symptom of the problem. Obesity can even be an attempt by the body to compensate in preventing something even worse (Coping Mechanisms of Health). The fundamental problem is the metabolic syndrome itself and the insulin resistance behind it, and any diet that doesn’t directly deal with that will be ineffective. Only some variation of a low-carb diet can accomplish that end.

It’s time to rethink dietary recommendations and guidelines. There are signs this is already happening. The public is already turning toward low-carb diets (Low-Carb Diets On The Rise). And slowly but surely the official position is shifting in this direction (Obese Military?, Weight Watchers’ Paleo Diet, American Diabetes Association Changes Its Tune, Official Guidelines For Low-Carb Diet, & Slow, Quiet, and Reluctant Changes to Official Dietary Guidelines). The evidence keeps accumulating. These recent two studies add to the growing pile. It’s getting harder and harder to ignore the obvious.

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A randomized controlled-feeding trial based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans on cardiometabolic health indexes
by Sridevi Krishnan et al

To our knowledge, this is the first controlled-feeding trial to test the effect of a food-based dietary pattern following recommendations of the DGA [2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans]. We measured cardiometabolic disease risk factors in an at-risk female cohort, while maintaining body weight, with the use of foods that are accessible and acceptable to the consumer. The higher quality of the DGA diet relative to the TAD [typical American diet] was confirmed by HEI scores of 98 and 62, respectively. We found that, in the absence of weight loss, consuming a diet based on recommendations of the DGA did not change glucose homeostasis or fasting lipids in our cohort. The 2015 DGA Advisory Committee report concluded that there was moderate evidence for reduction in type 2 diabetes risk associated with nutrient-dense diets (2); however, the results from our short-term intervention trial did not align with this evidence. By design, the intervention did not lead to significant weight loss, and because changes in body weight and body fat can play a role in the pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes (31), this may also explain why improvements in blood sugar control were not observed despite the improvement in diet quality.

Supplements and Diets for Heart Health Show Limited Proof of Benefit
by Anahad O’Connor

When Dr. Khan and his co-authors looked at various diets recommended for cardiovascular prevention, they found a similar lack of solid evidence.

That was certainly the case for low-fat diets, which health authorities have recommended for decades as a way to lower cholesterol and heart disease risk. Dr. Khan and his colleagues found that the most rigorous randomized trials provided no evidence that eating less fat, including saturated fat, had an impact on mortality or cardiovascular outcomes. Low-fat diets have largely fallen out of favor among health authorities in recent years, though the federal government’s dietary guidelines still encourage people to limit their intake of foods rich in saturated fat, such as butter, meat and cheese.

One diet that remains highly touted by health authorities is the Mediterranean diet, with its abundance of whole grains, beans, nuts, fruits and vegetables and olive oil. While clinical trials have found that it reduces cardiovascular risk, some of the major ones have been flawed, and experts who have scrutinized the evidence for the diet have urged caution.

One of the largest and most publicized Mediterranean diet trials, called Predimed and published in 2013, found that it reduced heart attacks and strokes. But last year it was retracted because of methodological problems. The Predimed authors published a new analysis of their data, claiming their conclusions had not changed. But other Mediterranean diet trials have been embroiled in similar controversies. After analyzing data from all the relevant trials, Dr. Khan and his colleagues found that “the totality of evidence did not favor the Mediterranean diet for cardiovascular outcomes.”

“It’s not favorable or harmful,” he added. “It’s just a neutral diet from a cardiovascular perspective.”

The one dietary intervention that seemed to have the most support from randomized trials was lowering salt intake, though the researchers graded the evidence only as having “moderate certainty.” And there was nuance. Low-salt diets reduced mortality from all causes only in people with normal blood pressure. Among people with hypertension, lowering salt intake reduced deaths from heart disease but not from other causes.

Dr. Topol said that in his own clinic he sees a wide range of responses to salt intake. Some people are very sensitive to salt: A small increase in salty foods can have a pronounced effect on their blood pressure. But others can eat salt-laden meals and their blood pressure will hardly budge.

Dr. Topol said he finds diet studies hard to interpret because they rarely take into account the unique way that different people can have markedly different responses to dietary changes, whether it is cutting back on salt or avoiding fat or carbohydrates.

“The problem we have here is that all these studies essentially treat all people as one,” he said. “I think that all these things are going to turn out to be quite heterogeneous. Maybe salt restriction really is beneficial for some, but we haven’t defined the people yet that would drive that.”

Killing Ourselves

Some societies have a lot of suicides and some don’t. The United States has a fairly high suicide rate (13.7 out of 100,000). But Europe as a region, for some reason, has the highest suicide rate in the world (15.4). To put that in context, the global average is 10.6 out of 100,000. That puts Europe more than half again higher than average. Excluding the United States, other former British colonies are about average: Canada (10.4) and Australia (11.7). And the United Kingdom for some reason is rather low (7.6). The United States is listed as the 34th most suicidal in the world (in a comparison of 183 countries), almost as high as Europe in general, but no where near the levels of specific European countries like Russia.

The suicide rate overall in Africa is actually quite low (7.4 out of 100,000), even if well above that of Eastern Mediterranean (3.9). The African rate is lower than Southeast Asia (13.2), Western Pacific (10.2), and Americas (9.8). So Africa’s rate is less than than half that of Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean a quarter — near the bottom can be found every single Eastern Mediterranean country (Cyprus, Greece, Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Turkey, Egypt, Libya, and Jordan). On the other hand, some specific African countries have high suicide rates (e.g., Lesotho). In Africa, 28 countries are below the global average and 26 are above, but considering in total it’s so much further below average must mean there is larger populations in the low suicide rate African countries. Still, one must note that about half of the countries with the worst suicide problems are African. And to compare with Europe, there are 29 below and 20 above. That also has to do with some of the largest European countries being disproportionately found on one end of the rankings, tilting all of Europe toward the suicidal.

Interestingly, there isn’t a single European country in the bottom 26, whereas 4 of them are African. All of the countries with the very lowest rates, in the bottom 11, were Hispanic North American and Asian, which creates a stark contrast for the mostly non-Hispanic United States being so relatively high in the rankings. In the bottom 50, there are only 4 European countries: Greece, Italy, Albania, and Armenia; although Greece can be grouped instead with the Eastern Mediterranean countries. Europe is largely divided by more suicides in the north and less suicides in the south. It’s harder for me to discern, but the pattern with Africa seems to be more suicides in former regions of the slave trade, in contrast to many of the countries with fewer suicides being in the north and east of the continent. In general, countries around the Mediterranean (North Africa, Levant, and Southern Europe) tend to be less suicide-prone.

In the top 50, there is included only one country from Oceania (Kiribati). And, despite some being above average, no North American country is close to the top, not even the United States. Whereas several South American countries are at or near the top with the most suicidal country in the world being South American Guyana. The top 11 countries rate from 20 to 30.2 per 100,000 with several of them being European (Russia at 26.5, Lithuania at 25.7, and Belarus at 21.4), with that top level being more than twice as high as the United States and almost twice as high as the European average. Even some advanced European countries are above the United States (Belgium at 15.7 and Finland at 13.8) with others not far behind (Iceland at 13.3), if that makes Americans feel better.

At its worst during the Great Depression, the American suicide rate surged from 18 in 100k up to 22 in 100k (Jim Craven, More Americans Commit Suicide Than During the Great Depression). That is much higher than now, but because of the larger population there are actually more total number of Americans killing themselves now than then, similar to how there are more American blacks in prison now than once were in slavery. The United States is such a massive country with many states larger than most countries in the world and so it is helpful to break it down. Some parts of the United States and some demographics have low suicide rates while elsewhere it is extremely high. Looking at 2016 data from the National Center for Health Statistics, even though there isn’t data available for most places, I counted around 130 counties that have suicide rates greater than 25 out of 100k and maybe another few hundred with less than that but more than 20 out of 100k; the rural average being 18.9 (Suicide Death Rates for U.S. Counties).

The Mountain West is called the “Suicide Corridor” (Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona) with suicides at 17.65 per 100k, a pattern that has held for the past century. “The reason suggested for this suicide corridor is that the mountain west has people that have a propensity for suicide, which are: Native Americans, non-Hispanic whites, and older retired people. […] Arizona has one of the worst suicide rates at 17.65 out of 100,000. Arizona’s suicide rate is worse than the 22nd worse country in the world for suicides at 17.2 out of 100K, which is SUDAN. The causes for SUDAN’s high suicide rate is similar to the problems in Arizona, which are: poverty, crime, corruption, and a brutal legal system” (Mark and Carol Fairall, The Real Faces of Elder Abuse). Clarifying that it isn’t only about poor rural white men, consider that the Native American suicide rate is 22.5 out of 100k, compared to 15.4 for non-Hispanic whites (Caroline Jiang Andreea Mitran, Arialdi Miniño, and Hanyu Ni, Racial and Gender Disparities in Suicide Among Young Adults Aged 18–24: United States, 2009–2013). The Mountain West is a region of many tribal reservations and living conditions there are often quite poor, in more than one sense of the word — even the soil tends to be poor, as Native Americans were forcefully moved onto lands that were useless for farming.

To emphasize this point, “An Arizonan commits suicide every seven hours” (Fairall). To give a specific example from Mojave County in Arizona, 28.3 out of 100k kill themselves, “nearly triple the national rate and double Arizona’s rate” (Jim Seckler, County in poor health, poverty). Arizona is far from leading the way — according to 2014 data: Wyoming at 29.66 out of 100k, Montana at 23.17, Alaska at 23.0, New Mexico at 21.21, and Colorado at 20.27. It’s more impressive when you break it down by demographics, such as with middle age white men: “With a suicide rate of 44 per 100,000, men in this age and geographical group have more than three times the risk of dying by suicide than the national average. In Wyoming, approximately 80 percent of suicides are men; a quarter are men ages 45-64.” (Anna Maria Barry-Jester, Surviving Suicide In Wyoming). Yet, “when you start looking at the data, this region of the country leads for men, for women, across all racial groups, across all ethnicities. It’s not just a rural problem, whatever it is is also in urban areas, as well as everywhere in between and across all age groups.”

Much of the above data comes from the Wikipedia article on international comparison of suicide rates, but on the same page there is a second collection of data from 1985-2017 that shows suicide rates as being much higher across the board. Accordingly, the United States has 21.8 suicides out of 100k, instead of 13.7, but in either case significantly above the global average. Considering the starting point of that data, I wonder if that is biased by the suicide spike that happened in my childhood of the 1980s, as my generation at the time had a high suicide rate (along with high rates of homicide, abuse, addiction, etc; most of it related to high rates of lead toxicity). Other countries saw a similar pattern that increased with lead toxicity and then decreased with environmental regulations that eliminated most lead pollution.

The damage from lead toxicity is permanent and so carries on for the rest of a generation’s lifespan. It is unsurprising that suicide rates have increased to such a degree to capture the attention of mainstream media. Guess who now forms the middle age demographic? Yep, Generation X. Here is a good summary: “Generation-X also, statistically, has suffered the highest childhood suicide rates since 4 previous generations spanning almost 100 years, and now have the highest middle age suicide rates of any living generation. Their current suicide rates now have silently reached the AIDS epidemic levels of deaths — which they also had to worry about in youth” (Danny Brooms, comment).

Also in that second set of Wikipedia data, Greenland shows a whopping level of 116.9 per 100k. That is confirmed by an NPR piece that shows the Greenland suicides as being that high in the late 1980s and having since dropped to 82.8 (Rebecca Hersher, The Arctic Suicides: It’s Not The Dark That Kills You), and so maybe also related to lead toxicity. As another comparison, “In some Native communities in the U.S., the suicide rate is even higher than it is in Greenland. For example, among Alaska Native men 15 to 24 years old, the suicide rate is about twice that of Greenland’s” (The Arctic Suicides: Your Questions Answered). Even so, Greenland too has its local populations that are feeling the pressure. One town there, Tasiilaq, has a suicide rate of 400 per 100k (Hersher). This high national level of suicide is a drastic change from the 1960s when Greenland had few suicides at all, a shift that some blame on the increase of processed foods and so loss of vitamin D that is so important in northern regions, especially to maintain positive mood.

To really put it all in perspective, societies like the Piraha apparently have a rate of suicide that is zero and, one might note, they also eat little if any processed foods, but then again neither do they have any of the other problems of modern civilization. Suicide is so incomprehensible to the Piraha that, when Daniel Everett told a group of Piraha about his aunt’s suicide, they all laughed because it was so absurd they thought he was joking. So, when we see societies with high suicide rates, we shouldn’t take it as normal and inevitable. It’s a sign that something is seriously wrong.