Damning Dietary Data

Below are some tweets from Nina Teicholz, the journalist who authored The Big Fat Surprise. Her book has pushed further the debate that Gary Taubes earlier helped bring out into public view.

Both of their writings are an eye-opening critique of how we got to this place of mass health catastrophe that, if it continues, will bankrupt and cripple our society. Healthcare costs are going up not only because of big biz exploitation but also because the American population has become more sickly. Most healthcare money now goes to chronic conditions that were rare in the past, and those costs are skyrocketing. This is trending toward disaster.

The graphed data she shares does one thing well. It clearly shows that, as she and others have written about, most Americans have been following the dietary guidelines given by mainstream authority figures, scientific institutions, and government agencies. Americans are eating more whole grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruits. This is true in terms of both percentage of calories and number of calories. We’ve been doing what we were told to do. How has that worked out? Not so well.

Furthermore, saturated fat consumption also decreased over this period (not included in graphs). In fact, it had been decreasing since the early 20th century, prior to the beginning of the epidemic of obesity and heart disease. This is corroborated by the fact no study has ever found a causal link between saturated fat and heart disease, despite probably trillions of dollars spent on researching diet and nutrition this past century. It’s not for a lack of trying to find such a causal link.

It turns out that the main proven causal link, that of sugar, was apparent in the earliest data. But interestingly, even sugar can’t be solely blamed for the sharp rise of chronic diseases over the past few generations. Teicholz points out that, “Sugar consumption has actually declined since 1999…so have refined grains.”

Then again, that was a small decline following a massive increase over the prior century. Keep in mind that Teicholz is only talking about added sugar. That leaves out the increase of foods that are naturally full of sugar such as fruit, especially considering that fruit has been developed to be higher in sugar than what was available in the past. Plus, that leaves out the entirety of how simple carbs in our modern diet have shot through the roof, and as far as the body is concerned they’re treated the same as sugar since they convert so easily.

Taken altogether, we are nowhere near the lower level of sugar and carb intake as seen in the early 1900s. And the consumption in the 1800s was so low that the pro-carb experts today warning about the dangers of low-carb diets should be surprised that the American population somehow survived and thrived, with a citizenry that by the end of the century was on average the tallest among countries where such data was kept. That in the 21st century our added sugar addiction has finally hit a plateau should offer no comfort.

About the graphs, this is one of the cases where the data does speak for itself. Not that it proves anything specifically. It simply shows what has changed in relation to what else has changed. Quite telling, though, in its potential implications. Obviously, the standard dietary ideology can’t explain this data. The ruling experts don’t even bother to try to explain it. Heck, they do their best to avoid even acknowledging it. This is inconvenient data, to say the least. But in their corporate corruption and hypocrisy, it doesn’t stop the powers that be to continue pushing the same diet with claims that eventually it will have the opposite effect. What they won’t allow in public debate is what are the real causes behind all of this. That is dangerous territory because then we’d have to tread upon the high-profit territory of processed foods.

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On a related note, this might be the reason Anthony Warner is an “Angry Chef” in attacking “fad diets” and “bullshit”. That is to say anything other than the dominant paradigm.

I had noticed an earlier book by him, but his most recent book caused me to research him further. I was willing to take him seriously, up to the point when I saw in his book where he referred to Professor Tim Noakes as a “diet author”. Noakes is a top-rated researcher on diet and nutrition, the leading expert on the ketogenic diet in South Africa where he successfully defended himself in a government trial funded by millions of dollars of taxpayer money for the sin of having suggested a traditional foods diet to a pregnant woman. What are Warner’s credentials as an authority on diet and nutrition, well other than being a blogger and corporate shill? None.

A former anonymous blogger, Warner has admitted to being a corporate consultant and development cook for food manufacturers. With corporate money overflowing from his pockets, he unsurprisingly “goes to great lengths to absolve the food industry and its relentless marketing of processed food from playing any role in modern diet problems,” as it was put by Bee Wilson. Warner goes so far as to defend the besmirched name of sugar. From a Guardian article by Tim Lewis, he is quoted as saying,

The rhetoric that sugar is poison, it’s killing us, has become completely accepted… We’re told it’s just empty calories. Well, we kind of need calories to live. But a lot of people will read that and say, ‘He would say that. He works for a big cake manufacturer.’… Sugar has an enormous amount of energy and is one of the most important building blocks for life. But they say, “It has no nutritional value.” That makes absolutely no sense.

That is amusing. I never thought I’d see a defense of sugar. Even the most mainstream scientific institutions and governmental agencies no longer try to defend sugar, although they did so in the past and have been slow to change. It’s scientific consensus at this point, both within and outside the establishment, that sugar is bad for health and is empty of nutrition. Consistency, of course, is irrelevant in his line of work — as explained by Chris C. at The Low Carb Diabetic forum:

I’m just thinking how unintentionally ironic his fevered defence of sugar is. Since he and his dietician pals all believe in calories in calories out, surely a food “full of energy” is the last thing to recommend that fat people eat even in their world?

Warner must be getting paid very well. His corporate advocacy is one of the greatest examples of sophistry I’ve ever seen. There appears to be no big money food interest or food product he won’t defend — besides sugar: white bread, potato chips, processed meat, fast food, etc; pretty much anything and everything that comes out of a factory. As to be expected, he and his books get promoted on corporate media.

The Angry Chef can do as much damage control as he wants on behalf of corporations. Any informed person doesn’t care what a corporate shill has to say. And at this point, neither should anyone pay attention to dietary guidelines from governments that are no more reliable than corporate hackery. Besides, it’s become overwhelmingly clear that governments and corporations regularly collude, specifically when the profits of the food system are involved (See Marion Nestle, among others). We are left to inform ourselves as best we can.

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The USDA Dietary Guidelines Committee Gets The Spanking It Deserves
Tom Naughton

As you’ve probably heard, the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) recently gave the USDA Dietary Guidelines Committee the spanking it deserves. Here are some quotes from an editorial in The Hill written by Rep. Andy Harris, who also happens to be a doctor:

The nation’s senior scientific body recently released a new report raising serious questions about the “scientific rigor” of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. This report confirms what many in government have suspected for years and is the reason why Congress mandated this report in the first place: our nation’s top nutrition policy is not based on sound science.

In order to “develop a trustworthy DGA [guidelines],” states the report by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM), “the process needs to be redesigned.”

Among other things, the report finds that the guidelines process for reviewing the scientific evidence falls short of meeting the “best practices for conducting systematic reviews,” and advises that “methodological approaches and scientific rigor for evaluating the scientific evidence” need to “be strengthened.”

In other words, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans are far from the “gold standard” of science and dietary advice they need to be. In fact, they may be doing little to improve our health at all.

Heh-heh-heh … remember what happened when Nina Teicholz, author of The Big Fat Surprise, wrote a piece in the British Medical Journal criticizing the dietary guidelines as unscientific? Dr. David Katz (who reviewed his own novel under a false name and compared himself to Milton and Chaucer) dismissed her critique as “the opinion of one journalist.” The USDA’s report, he insisted, “is excellent, and represents both the weight of evidence, and global consensus among experts.”

Then for good measure, he and several other members of The Anointed tried to harass BMJ into retracting the article by Teicholz.

And now along comes the NASEM report, saying Teicholz was right. The “opinion of one journalist” (which of course was shared by countless doctors and researchers) is now the official opinion of the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine. You gotta love it. Perhaps Dr. Katz can write a rebuttal to the NASEM report, then review his rebuttal under a false name and compare himself to Albert Einstein.

Anyway, back to the editorial by Rep. Harris:

It seems clear that the lack of sound science has led to a number of dietary tenets that are not just mistaken, but even harmful – as a number of recent studies suggest.

For instance, the guidelines’ recommendation to eat “healthy whole grains” turns out not to be supported by any strong science, according to a recent study by the Cochrane Collaboration, a group specializing in scientific literature reviews. Looking at all the data from clinical trials, which is the most rigorous data available, the study concluded that there is “insufficient evidence” to show that whole grains reduced blood pressure or had any cardiovascular benefit.

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Unsavory Truth
by Marion Nestle
pp. 108-113

[US senator William] Proxmire was right about the [National Academy of Science’s Food and Nutrition] board’s ties to industry. Those were revealed in 1980 during a dispute over the first edition of the US dietary guidelines, which advised reductions in intake of fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol (meaning, in effect, meat, dairy, and eggs) to reduce the risk of heart disease. The board opposed the guideline so vehemently that it issued a counter-report, Toward Healthful Diets, arguing that fat restrictions were unnecessary for healthy people. This infuriated health advocates, who charged that at least six board members had financial ties to industries most affected by the guidelines. Sheldon Margen, a professor of public health at the University of California, for example, objected that “the board’s range of expertise is too narrow, its ties with industry too close to avoid the suspicions of bias, its mandate is too ill-defined, and its mode of operation too secret.” Others criticized the board’s support by an industry liaison committee whose members represented eighty food companies. The furor over the report so embarrassed the academy that it eliminated the industry panel, removed board members with strong ties to food companies, and appointed new members with fewer industry ties.

That was not the only instance of early concerns about conflicted committees. I asked Ken Fisher, who in the 1970s had directed the nongovernmental Life Sciences Research Office (LSRO), about his experience appointing committees to review the safety of food additives. In 1958, Congress had defined two categories of food additives: new chemicals that needed to be proven safe before they could go into the food supply and substances with a history of common use—sugar, salt, flavorings, and the like—that could be considered generally recognized as safe (GRAS). In the early 1970s, questions about the safety of GRAS additives led President Richard Nixon to direct the FDA to evaluate them, and the FDA commissioned the LSRO to conduct the reviews. The LSRO appointed committees to do this work and was immediately confronted with the problem of what to do about candidates with ties to companies making or using the additive under consideration.

The review committees eventually issued 151 evaluations of more than four hundred GRAS additives. In a report on this work, Fisher said that the LSRO required candidates to report grants, contracts, and consultancies, as well as investments and holdings.  It did not permit members with such ties to participate in discussions or vote on final decisions. Fisher told me that all members “were made aware of these conditions and all agreed—after some back and forth.” He recalled “one conflicted member, who of his own volition, absented himself from the vote on the decision.” He also recalled that committees “rejected several of the monographs on substances because they were incomplete and clearly biased in coverage of published positive or negative studies on certain substances.”

Fisher’s comments suggested that conflicts of interest only rarely caused problems with GRAS reviews. But in The Case Against Sugar (2016) the journalist Gary Taubes presented the GRAS review of sugar (sucrose) as highly conflicted. His book notes that the chair of the overall GRAS review process was George W. Irving Jr., a former head of the scientific advisory board of the International Sugar Research Foundation, and that the GRAS committee relied heavily on materials provided by the Sugar Association. The 1976 GRAS review concluded that “other than the contribution made to dental caries, there is no clear evidence in the available information on sucrose that demonstrates a hazard to the public when used at the levels that are now current and in the manner now practiced.” According to Taubes, the Sugar Association took that to mean that “there is no substantiated scientific evidence indicating that sugar causes diabetes, heart disease, or any other malady.” He has harsh words for critics of the idea that sugars are harmful. “If you get a chance,” He advises, “ask about the GRAS Review Report. Odds are you won’t get an answer. Nothing stings in a nutritional liar like scientific facts.”

The FDA’s GRAS reviews still elicit concerns about conflicted interests. A 2013 analysis of the GRAS review process concludes that the industry ties of committee members not only threaten the integrity of GRAS reviews but also the integrity of the FDA’s entire scientific enterprise. In a commentary on that analysis, I pointed out that without independent review of GRAS additives, it is difficult to be confident that the ones in use are sage.

My question to Fisher about GRAS review committees had induced him to search through notes packed away for decades. Among them, he found memos indicating that Mike Jacobson had asked to have consumer representatives appointed to GRAS review committees, but, he said, “We opted not to do so as it would imply the other members of the [committees] were not consumers.” Fisher was referring to Michale Jacobson, director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), whose concerns about conflicted advisory committee members also date back to the 1970s. Jacobson was arguing that if federal agencies insisted on permitting members with industry ties to serve on advisory committees, they should balance viewpoints with an equivalent number of consumer representatives.

Jacobson holds a doctorate in microbiology. He began his career working for Ralph Nader, cofounded CSPI in 1971, and retired as its director in 2017. CSPI’s purpose is to improve the American diet, and it continues to be the largest nonprofit organization engaged in advocacy for a broad range of nutrition issues, among them conflicts of interest caused by food industry sponsorship. I served on the CSPI board for about five years in the early 1990s, remain a member, and subscribe to its monthly Nutrition Action Health letter.

In 1976, Jacobson asked a member of Congress with a strong record of consumer advocacy, New York Democrat Benjamin Rosenthal, to help him survey the heads of university nutrition departments about their faculty’s ties to food corporations. Jacobson told me why he had done this: “It was so obvious to me that professors were touting their academic affiliations while shilling for food manufacturers and trade associations. I thought it would be interesting and possibly useful to collect information about the matter.” Rosenthal introduced their report of the survey results, titled “Feeding at the Company Trough,” into the Congressional Record, with this blunt statement:

Nutritional and food science professors at Harvard, at the Universities of Wisconsin, Iowa and Massachusetts, and at many other prominent universities work closely and often secretly with food and chemical companies. Professors sit on the boards of directors, act as consultants, testify on behalf of industry at congressional hearings, and receive industry research grants. Many professors with corporate links also serve as “university” representatives on Federal advisory committees. . . . One can only come to the conclusion that industry grants, consulting fees and directorships are muzzling, if not prostituting nutrition and food science professors.

The report named names: it characterized Fred Stare, the head of Harvard’s Department of Nutrition, as a “food-industry apologist,” but it also listed the industry ties to sixteen other eminent scientists, nearly all members of prestigious national committees issuing advice about nutrition and health. It proposed three strategies for countering conflicted interests: balance, disclosure, and new funding mechanisms. All merit comment from today’s perspective.

To achieve balance, they wanted consumer representatives to be appointed to nutrition advisory committees. This seems entirely rational, but in my experience federal agencies view experts who avoid industry ties on principle as too biased to appoint, especially if they state those principles publicly. I was a member of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory of Committee in 1995, but only because I had previously worked with the assistant secretary of health, Philip R. Lee, who insisted on my appointment. I served a s a consumer representative on two FDA advisory committees in the 1990s, Food Advisory and Science Advisory, but have not been asked to join another federal committee since the publication of Food Politics in 2002. The FDA’s current practice is to appoint one consumer representative to its committees, hardly enough to have much influence on decisions.

With respect to disclosure, the report comments on the failure of the named professors to state the full extent of their industry ties: “As long as collaboration with industry continues to be viewed by the academic community as ethical and respectable, it is important that the public know about potential sources of bias. . . . In such matters, respect for individual privacy must yield to society’s right to know.”

To help accomplish the third strategy, funding, the report raised the idea of a nonprofit, public interest group to “launder” industry contributions before they reach universities. But I doubt that such a group could maintain its objectivity if it depended on ongoing donations. I also doubt that companies would be willing provide ongoing support for research that might risk producing unfavorable results.

pp. 193-

[Founder of Harvard Department of Nutrition Fred] Stare ran into precisely the same difficulty faced by the Nutrition Foundation: the need to please donors to get ongoing support. For this reason, or perhaps because his personal beliefs coincided with those of his donors, eh was widely recognized as a nutrition scientist working on behalf of the food industry. His public statements consistently defended the American diet against suggestions that it might increase the risk of heart or other chronic disease. He, like officials of the Nutrition Foundation, could be counted on to state the industry position on matters of diet and health and to assure reporters and Congress that no scientific justification existed for advice to avoid food additives or eat less sugar.

We now know much more about the depth of Stare’s food-industry ties from documents that came to light in 2016 when Cristin Kearns and colleagues at the University of California, San Francisco published an analysis of internal documents of the Sugar Research Foundation (SRF), the forerunner of today’s Sugar Association. The documents included letters between the SRF and Mark Hegsted, a faculty member in Stare’s Harvard department, about the SRF’s sponsorship of a research review on the effects of dietary carbohydrartes and fats on cardiovascular disease. The review, written by Stare, Hegsted, and antoher colleague, appeared in two parts in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1967. The letters show that the SRF not only commissioned and paid for the review but also pressured the Harvard authors to exonerate sugar as a factor in heart disease, then and now the leading cause of death among Americans. Other documents from the mid-1960s demonstrate that the SRF withheld funding from studies suggesting that sugar might be harmful.

I wrote the editorial that accompanied

11 thoughts on “Damning Dietary Data

  1. Thanks for the recent thoughts on diet.

    I’ve experimented pretty much constantly with my diet for the last seven years, in conjunction with a lot of physical exercise typically. There’s a tremendous variety in what’s acceptable nutritionally and for energy. That’s perhaps the most remarkable fact about the human diet. But the emphasis on grains, processed food (with its ladling on of chemicals and dyes and nasty fats and empty carbs, and the stripping of fibers), and especially sugars is extremely toxic, when looked at at the statistical and longitudinal level. It is so sad to see a large black man refilling his 40 oz mug with standard soda at a fast-food restaurant, like watching a procession that leads to an eventual unhappy death in those who don’t know better. Likewise a tour through the south, white or black areas: mass obesity, long lines awaiting biscuits and gravy and soda and fries, either oblivious or resigned that they will die from their diet.

    One of the problems we don’t emphasize enough as progressives is the necessity for our tribes to think as units, instead of as individuals. Capitalism has a desperately defended underlying assumption that freedom and other characteristics of the well-lived life are all measured solely at the individual person level. But in the dietary fight for health, we can see how social policy should be enacted that allows our individuals to sacrifice the freedom to make terrible mistakes at a fast food restaurant for the society to be free from the unhappiness and expense of early, painful death due to abuse. The abuse of this essentially philosophic fatal flaw is endemic and far reaching, in the most innocent of reaches. It is very rare for me, for instance, to be able to find in any restaurant a refreshing drink that is healthy to drink. They either have large amounts of various sugars, unhealthy sugar replacements (many such are healthy, but more expensive for the manufacturer, so they are foregone), or a perfectly-legal secrecy around caffeine levels. All are designed solely to manipulate individual freedom to allow capitalism the repeat customers that addiction and habitual response to specific colors or flavors bring. Healthy such drinks are entirely possible, with many on the market technically, but they must compete in a “free market” that is only free separate, singly, in moments that, drawn together in a montage, show us to be “choosing” to destroy ourselves instead.

    This same emphasis on the individual’s freedom in order to exploit simple, crude biases in homo sapiens plays out in pollution and reuse of packaging, allowing society to suffer in order to promote capitalism through a viciously individualist perspective on freedom, with nearly all direct and all indirect costs being payed by the collective. For instance, it should and easily could be illegal to throw away all plastic items in the name of the planet, and in the name of preserving our precious hydrocarbon inventory for the future.Other forms of pollution can be moderated drastically through simple tax and recycling policy decisions that are easy and inexpensive to implement and regulate.

    The great antidote to capitalistic excess is information, which is naturally suppressed or, more commonly, drowned out in a sea of advertising and influence peddling. But part of the capitalistic portfolio of key tools is the right-wing notion that all is well, that the miracle of the market ensures safety and health, that things always have a way of working out whether we pay attention or not; that “we wouldn’t offer it to you if it was really bad for you.” This is the essence behind the anti-intellectualism that we see on the right: it is in a real sense anti-capitalist to pay attention to reality, because it upsets the individual-laden view of freedom of the caustic engine underlying our chosen economic engine.

    Calling information the antidote and getting the antidote used are two separate things. We have a whole corner of capitalism dedicated to making sure those two things stay separate, whole industries that are dedicated to that deep cognitive effort. It’s also simply not in our nature as humans– even the arguably curious like me and you, who are able to concentrate on a bauble or two here and there– to change ourselves to befit new information. And so we see the very effective tools of that anti-intellectual movement spill out into the health business over, tax policy, homelessness, and anywhere else that ignoring societal truth pays powerful individuals well.

    By the way, a book I got a lot out of on the dietary front is The End of Overeating, which goes into a lot of detail about the cynicism and manipulative expertise of the food industry.

    • There is a connection between our society’s rhetoric about individual freedom and our society’s dependence on mass addiction. This thought has been on my mind for a while, in various forms, as addiction has been a personal concern. It’s similar to the link between hyper-individualism and authoritarianism.

      I haven’t heard of the book The End of Overeating. I’ll look at it sometime, if I find a copy around. The latest book I’ve been reading is Marion Nestle’s Unsavory Truth. She doesn’t advocate for a diet I exactly agree with, but she is quite evenhanded and I find her to be an honest actor in promoting public debate.

  2. Well no idea what to eat anymore as it all seems compromised one way or another. Fish with mercury and plastic, red meat, or lean and vegetables and fruit that are loaded with chemicals or not.

    Last year I had a bad stomach bug and ended up in the hospital overnight. It got sorted out but the doctors were surprised I wasn’t on any meds for anything. Probably have had too much sugar and assorted other things over the years but (knocking wood) but so far so good.

    Remember Jim Fix? One of the first jogging is good for you gurus in the 70s and 80s. Died of a heart attack while running. And of course my go to example (have mentioned him before) – Sinatra. smoked, drank, did drugs, hung out with Kennedy’s and other gangsters, married Ava Gardner twice and lived to be in his 80s. Of course he could afford doctors and meds and so on but still it’s an example of – well I don’t know what exactly – DNA? Genetic lottery? Luck? How pasta and whiskey and cigs are the elixir of longevity?

    As to the corruption of the food industry – well like everything else. Corporations making billions selling bs – bs about diet, nutrition, what’s good for you and what’s not.

    What a racket.

    • Instead of mere length of life, I’d rather have quality of life.

      That has been my goal in my dietary changes as of late. I’ve eliminated food cravings/addiction, increased my energy, and improved my mood. I generally feel better, whether or not I will live any longer. If nothing else, I’m less likely to kill myself in my present state. That is something.

      My grandmother lived to be old but didn’t take care of her health. She was riddled with disease for the last half of her life. She was in constant pain and discomfort. Her life was miserable. But modern medicine kept her alive somehow.

      Ancel Keys was like that. He lived to 100. But he became obese and wheelchair-bound. Jack Lalanne who avoided sugar in his diet and regularly worked out only made it to 96. Then again, he was fit and healthy right to the end, dying quickly of untreated pneumonia.

  3. Here is a point of clarification. The data doesn’t likely indicate that eating more vegetables is the cause of the rising rates of chronic diseases. But the greater amounts of bread, even so-called whole wheat, might be a contributing factor. Few people in past centuries ate lots of bread. And commercial whole wheat breads are still essentially junk food, just with some fiber and vitamins added in.

    I might not dismiss the vegetable angle, though. I would make a couple of points. The recent PURE study, although correlative and so limited, did indicate that vegetables can only improve health so far. Beyond a certain level, greater intake doesn’t necessarily mean greater health. But that is of course in the context of modern industrialized society. The vegetables most of us have access to is largely nutrient-deficient, GMO and chemically-drenched. The other thing is that most ‘fresh’ produce is ripened unnaturally which decreases nutrients and increases anti-nutrients. Eating more unhealthy industrially-farmed vegetables might be worse than the alternative..

    All of that is on top of higher consumption of processed foods. That means a century of rising levels of carbs, sugars, refined vegetable oils, and food additives. All of this context is left out of the data. Some of what I refer to is speculation — informed speculation, yes, but still only speculation. Much of it, though, is based on the best science available at the moment, ignoring the replication crisis. For example, we know that most modern people are low in omega-3s, even as the best and safest source of these is another issue.

    • Some people dismiss concerns about GMOs as denialism. This is plain idiotic or else corporate propaganda.

      The results of studies have been mixed, some showing connections to health issues. Nothing is known about the potential long-term consequences. Based on the precautionary principle, we shouldn’t be gambling with our own lives and with the futures of our children.

      Here is what we do know. Whether or not the genetic modifications directly harm us, the chemicals so commonly used in high amounts with GMOs definitely harm us. One of the main reasons for genetic modification is to make plants more tolerant of heavy chemical usage. The problem is we humans haven’t yet be genetically modified to handle all those chemicals.

      Roundup is the most well known example of this. It is regularly used with GMO crops. Most corn, soy, and similar crops are doused in Roundup and other chemicals. This is also true with many vegetables and fruits. So, increased amount of this produce, for most Americans, means increased amounts of chemical-doused GMOs. Worse still, that chemical-dependent industrial farming is precisely what has killed the microbes in the soil and depleted the minerals.

      This then relates to why we simultaneously have so much obesity and malnourishment. Fat, by the way, is one of the places the body stories excess toxins. More chemicals and fewer nutrients in our produce leads to a dilemma. Telling people to eat more veggies and fruit when that is exactly they’ve been doing and the end results have not been a net gain.

      And so we come around to why advocates of functional medicine, traditional foods, and paleo diet strongly emphasize and prioritize food quality. This wasn’t a problem in the past. But it is the reality we live in right now. We can’t assume the food sold to us is healthy, not even the supposedly good foods that the authority figures tell us to eat more of.

      • This is maddening. We are collectively doing so much harm to ourselves and the biosphere we depend upon. The human species is presently acting suicidal or at least our portion of it. And in response, most people feel helpless as individuals, as families, and communities. Almost all of the power is concentrated in the hands of psychopaths, narcissists, Machiavellians, authoritarians, and social dominators.

        This most personally touches us in how we feed ourselves, within the constrains of mostly bad choices being presented to us. It’s plain shittiness. Foods that are supposed to be good for us have become vehicles of harm. Veggies, fruits, grains, legumes, etc are filled with farm chemicals. And so are the factory-farmed animals fed these. Meanwhile, wild-caught fish are now filled with heavy metal toxins along with microplastics. The only foods left safe to eat are those that most people don’t have access to or can’t afford.

        If food-related problems were the only ones we had to worry about, we could manage the situation and control for the harm. But we are being fucked over from every direction. The same forces that are sickening us through the food system are also behind all of the other problems we face. When we predictably get sick, the healthcare system bleeds us dry of whatever little wealth we maybe accumulated and throws us into debt beyond that. All of this taken together looms as a catastrophe.

        Consider how 70% of research into diet and nutrition comes from the private sector, the same corporations and organizations bribing politicians and buying the government, as they pollute the environment and destroy ecosystems. Then they shift the blame us in our consumer choices when most of us are barely getting by. We peons are supposed to save the world from those who are holding it hostage, if we only made the right choices as consumers.

        But the whole system is stacked against us. And it is mostly the poor, especially the brown-skinned, who suffer the most for it. Meanwhile, those rich assholes make sure that they and their families have all the healthiest foods, clean water, and all that is necessary for the support of a high quality and happy life. It has never been better for the filthy rich.

        Don’t worry about it, though. Just eat more fruits, veggies, and whole wheat. That will take care of all your woes.

  4. It’s not all shittiness. Even in my harsh criticisms, I write from the perspective that there are things we can do that matter. That isn’t limited to health, of course, but that is what this post is about. I’ve spent decades trying to make a dent in depression. It was failure after failure.

    Not only many diets and supplements, but also almost anything else you can imagine. Psychiatric drugs, psychotherapists, various alternative health practitioners, a life coach, etc. I even went to massage school to learn about other modalities of health. I’ve read hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of books on health, diet, self-help, psychology, and on and on. Also, I meditated in various ways, from focusing on my breath to mantras. I did energy practices such as yoga, Chinese medicine, and much crazier stuff as well. And of course, I was raised in positive thinking which was something I’ve long experimented with. I did basic things like aerobics and weight training. I could list many more things as well.

    You have to give me credit for not giving up. Or rather for continuing to try something new, no matter how many times I gave up. It didn’t do much good, at least not for those decades of struggle. Nothing really worked, not for long or to any great extent. That is until I stumbled across The Magic Pill documentary that introduced me to the ketogenic and nutrient-dense paleo diet. It accomplished what nothing else before could. That is my experience and it has been the experience of many others too. I feel better. It really is that simple. A few basic changes have made all the difference in the world, despite the world remaining a depressing place. I just feel less overwhelmed by it now.

    The message of a post like this is simple. Ignore the official experts decreeing from above what is true and what you should do. Life is an experiment and, as uninspiring as it may seem, we are left to figure out so much for ourselves. But fortunately, we aren’t alone in this. Others have gone before us. What worked for those others sometimes might work for us. It’s worth trying. And if it is another failure, that is fine. We’re all going to die eventually.

    • I wouldn’t want to oversell the paleo diet or anything else along those lines. Changes an individual can make are of limited value. It isn’t going to save the world, that is for sure. But minor changes can sometimes be good enough under bad circumstances.The paleo diet isn’t a miracle cure. Still, it might make you feel a bit better. And it might prevent or lessen some of the worse health conditions we are plagued by.

      That is good enough for me. The effects have been mostly subtle. What I notice more is what is absent. It’s not that I’m suddenly filled with joy and feeling motivated to take on the world. More simply, my depressive funks have gone away. They are just not there these days. I’m now in a state that non-depressed people might consider ‘normal’. But for me that is no small achievement.

      Standing out most of all is the hunger and cravings. I know what addiction feels like. I used to constantly be snacking. I’m sure my levels of insulin, blood sugar, serotonin, etc were all over the place. My body was severely out of whack. Now I can go long periods without food and I don’t think much about it. On work days, I eat in a 4 hour period in the morning and that is it with no hunger for the rest of the day. With ketosis and nutrient-density, hunger is simply less of an issue. I can even easily fast for a 24 or 36 hour period with no issue.

      It’s a good feeling. I’m not constantly driven by food. It simplifies one’s life. When I eat, I eat well with high levels of calories, specifically healthy fats. And at all other times, I go about my life perfectly fine without needing constant refueling of carbs and sugar. The energy and mood crashes no longer happen. It would’ve been hard for me to imagine this in the past. There is nothing complicated about it.

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