Instant Carb Addiction

There are isolated hunter-gatherer tribes, the Toulambi of Papua New Guinea, in a region that saw few Westerners. The filmmaker Jean-Pierre Dutilleux, for some reason, was in a situation that brought him and his camera man into the territory of these reclusive people. Waiting at the edge of a stream, the tribal men come out to meet the white strangers in what was claimed to have been first contact.

After a period of cautious inspections of the visitors, they invited the two white men back to their camp. They were offered modern agricultural food. One tribal guy tries some white rice and initially rejects it with a shocked response, but after a second bite he decides it is good. The whole tribe joins the feast and quite possibly this is their first experience of refined starchy carbs. And going by how they quickly devour the pot of white rice, it appears they really really like this strange new delicacy!

This is an example of an event that has happened a million times before. This is how agriculturalists came to dominate the world. These tribal people will now crave these agricultural food staples. After a generation or so of trade, poaching on their hunting grounds, environmental loss, and maybe eventual confinement to a reservation, they eventually will become entirely dependent on this addictive food source. And their health will start to noticeably decline, as Gary Taubes describes what happened to the Pima (chp. 14, Good Calories, Bad Calories).

This is called the civilizing process. Addiction is the foundation of civilization. And from it forms the agricultural mind.

As a side note, there appears to have been some controversy about this film. But in the end, there is no particular reason to doubt its veracity. There is nothing about the behavior of any of the people in the film that indicates acting or inauthenticity. Everyone making such claims were not present. What is known is that there were multiple isolated tribes in this area and contact happened a few times over the past century. But that in no way suggests that this particular group had ever met outsiders. The experience of eating white rice seems to show a genuine surprise at a food they’d never tasted before.

Jean-Pierre Dutilleux: Controversies (Wikipedia)

“In one of his films dedicated to the Toulambi tribe of Papua New Guinea, Dutilleux believes his film footage includes this tribe’s first encounter with modern white men, and poses the possibility this may be the last time in history this can occur. A video of this film has been extensively posted in the internet, prompting much discussion and questions about this claim.[19] According to an article in the peer-reviewed Journal of Pacific History, the colonial archives indicate that the territory of the Toulambis had been visited by at least six patrols between 1929 and 1972. In itself that is very few and Dutilleaux may be quite correct as certainly seems to be so when viewing the film.[20]”

[19] @truth. “Footage: Uncontacted tribe meets outsiders and sees modern technology for the first time? The debate goes on…” Retrieved 14 July 2019.
[20] Lemonnier, Pierre (2004). “The Hunt for Authenticity: Stone Age Stories Out of Context”. Journal of Pacific History. 39 (1): 79–98. doi:10.1080/00223340410001684868.

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Sugar is an addictive drug. Of course, starchy carbohydrates aren’t the same as sugar, but it’s basically the same as the former quickly turns into the latter. Keep in mind that pure sugar is what they give to male infants to numb the pain during circumcision. Below are videos of babies experiencing sweetness for the first time:

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And for your amusement:

“Oatmeal. How are we doing on oatmeal?”
“Let’s check.”
*Opens cupboard filled with bags of oatmeal*
“Okay. We have a couple weeks worth.”

Ancel Keys, One of Lewis Terman’s Termites

Unless you are seriously interested in diet and nutrition, you’ve probably never heard the name of Ancel Keys (1904-2004). Yet he was one of the most influential men of the 20th century, at least within the area of nutrition studies, government food policy, and official dietary recommendations. He developed the so-called ‘Mediterranean diet’, although it could more accurately be called a post-war scarcity and austerity diet, since we now know it has little in common with the pre-war traditional Mediterranean diet that prioritized lard and not olive oil. Because of his public campaign against animal fats and his research on heart disease, he was sometimes referred to in the press as ‘Dr. Cholesterol’, despite not being a doctor. He was academically successful and had a scientific background, but oddly considering his career path he had absolutely zero formal education and professional training in nutrition studies or in medicine. Instead, his extended higher education included chemistry, economics, political science, zoology, oceanography, biology, and physiology.

His career as a scientific researcher started in 1931 with a study on the physiology of fish and eels, his main area of expertise at the time, whereas his first work in diet and nutrition happened later on by the accident of historical circumstances. The US military sought to develop prepared rations for soldiers and, as no one else at the University of Minnesota wanted this lowly assignment, Keys at the bottom of the totem pole saw it as an opportunity and took advantage of it to promote his career. In his lack of requisite knowledge and expertise, according to his colleague Dr. Elsworth Buskirk, “he was told to go home and leave such things to the professionals,” but he persisted in obtaining funds and came up with something that met specifications (From Harvard to Minnesota: Keys to our History). This became what is known as the K-Ration. During the Second World War, he did much other work for the military and that paved the way for his entering the field of nutrition studies. It was through the military that he did research on humans with much of it focusing on extreme conditions of stress, from high altitudes to starvation. This led to a study on vitamin supplementation during that time period and after the war a prospective dietary study in 1947.

Yet Keys wouldn’t fully enter the fray of nutrition studies until the 1970s. He was about 70 years old when, in his battle with the British sugar researcher John Yudkins, he finally became a major contender in scientific debates. His controversial Seven Countries Study, although done in 1956, wasn’t published until decades later in 1978, almost 40 years after his first involvement in animal research. The height of his career extended into his 80s, having given him many decades to have mentored students, allies, and followers to carry on his crusade. He had a towering intellect and charismatic personality that gave him the capacity to demolish opponents in debate and helped him to dominate the media and political battlefield. Think of Keys as a smarter version of Donald Trump, as seen in an instinct for media manipulation of public perception, maybe related to Keys’ geographic and familial proximity to Hollywood: “As the nephew of silent screen star Lon Chaney, Keys also filmed all of his scientific work and was a first-rate publicist, frequently writing for popular audiences” (Sarah W. Tracey, Ancel Keys). He was a creature of the mass media that took hold during his lifetime.

Though now largely forgotten by the general public, Keys once was a famous figure whose picture was found on the covers of national magazines, from Time to Life. He personally associated and politically allied himself with many powerful politicians, health experts, and leading scientists. Whether or not you know of him, his work and advocacy shaped the world most of us were born into and he had a direct impact on the modern food system and healthcare practice that has touched us all. A half century ago, his fame was comparable to that of Dr. John Harvey Kellogg (1852-1943), a Seventh Day Adventists and eugenicist from an earlier generation who also worked in the field of diet and nutrition in having been one of the earliest vegans, in having invented breakfast cereal, and in having operated a sanitorium that was popular among the elite: politicians, movie stars, writers, and artists. Dr. Kellogg preached against race mixing, and warned of race degeneracy, and to promote eugenics he co-founded the Race Betterment Foundation that held several national conferences. He advocated the development of a “eugenic registry” to ensure “proper breeding pairs” that would produce “racial thoroughbreds,” but for inferior couplings he advised sterilization of “defectives.” Though coming from different ideological perspectives, Keys and Kellogg were the twin forces in shaping anti-fat ideology and, in this scapegoating of animal fats, shifted the blame away from sugar which was the actual cause behind metabolic syndrome (obesity, diabetes, heart disease, fatty liver, etc). That misdirection sent nutrition studies down a blind alley and misled public policymakers, a quagmire we are still in the middle of.

To be fair, it must be clarified that Keys never showed any proclivities toward eugenics, but I bring it up because there is a connection to be explored. As a child, he had tested as high IQ. After Keys’ parents “signed him up while he was a student at Berkeley High School,” according to Richard C. Paddock (The Secret IQ Diaries), he was given entrance into a study done by Lewis Terman (1877-1956) who was a noted psychologists and, like Dr. Kellogg, was an early 20th century racist: “He joined and served as a high ranking member in many eugenic organizations (the Human Betterment Foundation, the American Eugenics Society, and the Eugenics Research Association), and worked alongside many others (such as the American Institute of Family Relations and the California Bureau of Juvenile Research)” (Ben Maldonado, Eugenics on the Farm: Lewis Terman). In studying and working with gifted youths like Keys, Terman sought to prove the hypothesis of social Darwinism through eugenics (‘good genes’). He believed that such an ideological vision could be made manifest through a genetically superior intellectual elite who, if promoted and supported and given all the advantages a society could offer, would develop into a paternalistic ruling class of enlightened aristocracy with the potential of becoming humanity’s salvation as visionaries, creative geniuses, and brilliant leaders. It was a humble aspiration to remake all of society from the ground up.

This attitude, bigoted and socially conservative (e.g., prejudice against “sexual deviancy” in seeking to enforce traditional gender roles), was far from uncommon in the Progressive Era. Keep in mind that, at the time, ‘progressivism’ wasn’t solely or even always primarily identified with social liberalism. Among the strongest supporters of Progressivism were Evangelicals, Mormons, Klansmen, Jim Crow leaders, white supremacists, WASP elites, military imperialists, and fascists — think of one of the most famous of Progressive leaders, President Theodore Roosevelt, who was a racist and imperialist; and even his distant cousin, the Progressive President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was not without racist and imperialist inclinations. Progress back then had a different connotation, and many of these American eugenicists were a direct inspiration to Adolf Hitler and other Nazi leaders. After all, the enactment of progressive Manifest Destiny was still playing out in the last of Indian Wars all the way into the 1930s, before the remaining free Indians were finally put down. The proto-neocon Civilizing Project was long and arduous and more than a bit bloody. This ideology continued even after the defeat of the Nazis, as sterilization of perceived inferiors in the United States was still practiced for decades following the end of Second World War, all the way into the 1970s. Eugenics has been persistent, to say the least.

Inspired by this idealistic, if demented and distorted, ideology of evolutionary advancement and Whiggish progress, Terman invented the Stanford-Binet IQ Test. During the First World War, he worked in the military to implement the first mass testing of intelligence. His own IQ test was the initial attempt to scientifically measure what is now called general intelligence or the g factor but for which he coined the term “intelligence quotient” (IQ), a mysterious essence that many at the time believed to be inherent to the individual psyche from birth, as genetically inherited from one’s parents. The Stanford-Binet was a measure of academic ability or what today we might think of as ‘aptitude’ — specifically having assessed attention, memory, and verbal skill in measuring ability in arithmetical reasoning, sentence completion, logics, synonyms-antonyms, symbol-digit testing, vocabulary, analogies, comparisons, and general information. The focus was on crystallized intelligence, but it was also culturally biased and coded for socioeconomic class.

The Stanford-Binet was modeled after the intelligence test of the French psychologist Alfred Binet. There was a significant difference, though. Binet used his test to identify those most in need in order to help them improve, whereas Terman saw these ‘deficient’ children as a danger to society that should be eliminated, quite literally with sterilization — this had real world application and consequences: “Terman’s test was also used regularly to determine who should be sterilized in the name of eugenics: individuals with an IQ of under 70 (deemed feebleminded) were targeted for sterilization by the state, such as in the famous case of Carrie Buck. In the United States, over 600,000 people were sterilized by the state for eugenic reasons, often because of IQ test results. For many eugenicists, Terman’s research finally presented a way to efficiently and “objectively” judge the eugenic worth of human lives” (Ben Maldonado, Eugenics on the Farm: Lewis Terman). Instead of helping the poor and disadvantaged, he hoped to use his own adaptation of Binet’s test to identify the smart kids so as to ensure they would become high achievers in gaining the success and respect they supposedly deserved. This was a response to his own childhood struggles as a sickly nerd growing up among other farm kids in rural Indiana.

By the way, this was the specific area that later on would become the stronghold of the Second Klan with the Indiana Grand Dragon D.C. Stephenson having set up base in Terman’s old hometown. The Second Klan rose to power at the very moment the adult Terman, having left Indiana, began his eugenicist project of IQ testing. That was no coincidence. Following upon a period of moral panic, there was a mix of fear and hope about the future and, central to public debate, threats to the survival of the white race was a major concern (The Crisis of Identity). The purpose of eugenics was basically to show that the right kind of people were a special breed of humans that, in eliminating what held back their genetic potential, would rise up to make America great again and so return Western Civilization to its previous glorious heights. The agenda, of course, wasn’t to create a fair and objective measure of human worth and human potential for the assumptions it was built upon presupposed the race and class of people who, by definition, were the best of the best. Terman was simply seeking to prove what he already ‘knew’ as a true believer of social, moral, mental, and racial hygiene.

With this hope in mind, Terman began in 1921 to gather a large group of children who scored high on his IQ test, a total of 1,521 subjects, including the teenage Ancel Keys. His selection process was highly subjective and idosyncratic. It just so happened that, among a total sample of 168,000 students, Terman included only 6 Japanese-Americans, 2 African-Americans, 1 Native American, and 1 Mexican-American. The vast majority of those chosen were white, urban, and middle class boys largely drawn from the college towns and suburbs of Northern California. These were known as Terman’s kids or ‘Termites’. Betraying scientific objectivity, he intervened in the lives of his subjects, sometimes openly but also behind the scenes. He followed these subjects into adulthood to find out how they turned out and to ensure they gained advantages, such as his having written letters of recommendation for college entrance, job applications, and professional contacts. The eugenics project was not a passive endeavor of neutral scientific observation.

Whatever is to be thought of it, there is no doubt that the study of Terman’s children was the first and maybe only time a hypothesis of social Darwinian eugenics was so fully tested at such an ambitious level. In general across all scientific fields, there is no other longitudinal study that lasted so long and, as some of the subjects remain alive, there are scientists carrying on the work to this day with the last of the surviving Termites still dutifully filling out the surveys sent to them (Ancel Keys remained a participant into his 90s until his death in 2004, two months shy of his 101st birthday). One has to give Terman credit for having dared to scientifically test his belief system in a falsifiable study, ignoring the problems with confounding factors. He put his convictions on the line, although Hitler was even more ambitious in using war as a test of sorts, forcing an end result of either total domination or total destruction, to prove or disprove the hypothesis of German racial supremacy. I guess we can be grateful that Terman took a less violent approach of scientific analysis that didn’t require vast desolation of battlefields and doctors experimenting on unwilling victims in concentration camps.

Terman’s decades-long experiment, continuing as it did into the post-war period, ended in failure by his own standards of expectation. Before his death in 1956, he was able to see how few of the children grew up to amount to much, beyond many of them becoming moderately successful middle class professionals, although a few attained some prominence: “Among some of the original participants of the Terman study was famed educational psychologist Lee Chronbach, “I Love Lucy” writer Jess Oppenheimer, child psychologist Robert Sears, scientist Ancel Keys, and over 50 others who had since become faculty members at colleges and universities” (Kendra Cherry, Are People With High IQs More Successful?). In Cradles of Eminence, Victor and Muriel Goertzel analyzed the Termites according to eminence, defined as having multiple biographies written about someone without their being either royalty or a sports star. It turns out none of Terman’s subjects had even a single biography written about them. Crystallized intelligence, at best, moderately predicted being professionally successful and conforming well within the social order. However, once later tests removed the cultural and class biases, IQ tests stopped even being useful for predicting even this much. When environmental factors and family background are controlled for, almost all IQ differences disappear. A lower IQ rich person is more likely to be successful than a higher IQ poor person. Surprise, surprise!

Interestingly, in comparing the Termites to their peers, “two children who were tested but didn’t make the cut — William Shockley and Luis Alvarez — went on to win the Nobel Prize in Physics. According to Hastorf, none of the Terman kids ever won a Nobel or Pulitzer” (Mitchell Leslie, The Vexing Legacy of Lewis Terman). It’s ironic that Shockley later followed Terman’s example by also having become a eugenicist and, through his friendship with Terman’s son Frederick, was hired on as a professor at Stanford where the senior Terman had done his scientific work, the reason his IQ test was called the Stanford-Binet. Shockley and Frederick Terman came to be known as the fathers of Silicon Valley in having developed the high tech start-up model and in having played a central role in bringing in the massive Pentagon funding that has defined and dominated the American tech industry ever since (e.g., Jeff Bezos sitting on a Pentagon board and with numerous government contracts). Social Darwinism, intellectual elitism, and paternalistic technocracy remains the ascendant ideology of Silicon Valley tech bros and the capitalist class of entrepreneurial philanthropists who seek to shape society with their gifted genius, not to mention their wealth (e.g., Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation).

Lewis Terman privately admitted that some of his strongest bigoted views were wrong, but unlike many other eugenicists he never publicly recanted his earlier racism. Nonetheless, he was honest enough to conclude that a pillar of eugenicist dogma was flat-out wrong, in having stated that, “At any rate, we have seen that intellect and achievement are far from perfectly correlated.” Of the 730 subjects he was able to follow into adulthood, he divided them into three groups: In Group A of those he deemed successful, only 20% of the kids were categorized. He judged an equal number, 20%, to fall into a Group C of failures. Most of them fell into the middle Group B that included those working in positions “as humble as those of policemen, seaman, typist and filing clerk.” That is rather unimpressive. Writing about this, one person noted that, “The ones among Group A overwhelmingly were from the upper class. The Cs were majorly from the lower class. Majority in the group had careers that were quite ordinary. […] Sociologist Pitirim Sorokin, in his critique of the study, argued showing that Terman’s selected group of children with high IQs did about as well as a random group of children selected from similar family backgrounds would have done.”

Beyond the unsurprising prediction that wealthier people with better chances have better outcomes, the predictive ability of his IQ test was completely off the mark. The Termites, for all their test-taking ability, showed no advantages over the general population. The IQ test did demonstrate academic ability, for whatever that is worth. Among Termites, the rate of college graduates was extremely high (70%, ten times that of their peers), but on average they still were only getting B grades in their classes and a college degree didn’t translate to greater real world accomplishment. They were smart, even if no more successful than their socioeconomic equivalents. If they were wealthy, they did as well as other wealthy people. And if they weren’t wealthy, then they followed the typical path of underachievement. Supposed superior genetics offered no protective advantages beyond the social, racial, and economic privileges given or denied in the lottery of birth.

Even among the successful Termites, there was nothing unusual to be praised. “Rebels were scarce among the Termites, and Henry David Thoreau’s different drummer would have found few followers,” wrote Shurkin in Terman’s Kids. “They did not change life; they accepted it as it came and conquered it.” As good test-takers and students, they were the ultimate conformists, well-lubricated cogs in the machine. They knew how to play the game to win, but the game they played, that of mainstream success and conventional respectability, had rules they followed. These weren’t the types to rock the boat. Rather, Termites were simply well-educated sheep (see: A Ruling Elite of Well-Educated Sheep; & William Deresiewicz, Excellent Sheep). “This is unsurprising,” Elizabeth Svoboda points out, “given that the kinds of people who ace aptitude tests are, by definition, those specialising at jumping through the hoops that society has set up. If you believe that your entire purpose on Earth is to finish the course, chances are you’ll remain within its boundaries at all costs” (The broad, ragged cut).

As expected, the single greatest factor is environment. It’s not so much who we are, as if we have an inborn psychological profile where character is fate, since who we are is dependent on where we are (Dorsa Amir, Personality is not only about who but also where you are), although we know from epigenetic research it also matters where were our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and on back as environmental factors carry forward in our family inheritance, such as the grandchildren of famine victims having higher rates of obesity. The world is complex and humans are shaped by it. Despite Terman’s ideological failure, many aptitude tests were based upon this model. Our entire education system has since been redesigned to teach to such tests and as a filtering process for educational advancement, in an assumption of a pseudo-meritocratic dogma not all that different from Terman’s eugenicist dream of a better humanity.

As with fascism, the dangers and harms of eugenics linger on within our institutions and within our minds. We are trapped within false and misleading systems of ideological realism. That isn’t particularly smart of us, as individuals and as a society. We’d be better off promoting the development and opportunities of the majority (James Haywood Rolling, Jr., Swarm Intelligence), rather than investing almost all of society’s resources in a privileged elite who we desperately hope will be our salvation. Considering the national and global failure among the ruling class and capitalist plutocrats, maybe we should create a citizenry that can solve their own problems. Basically, maybe we should take seriously democracy, really and fully try it for the first time, not as superficially inspiring rhetoric to cling to in the darkness but as a lived reality. As ambitious experiments go, democracy is definitely worth attempting.

Up to this point, the democratic experiment has been more of a hypothesis waiting to be tested. The oligarchic and filthy rich American ruling elite, for some reason, have never been in favor of testing the potential for self-governance among the American people. Eugenics has been more thoroughly researched over the past century than has liberty and freedom. That speaks volumes about American society. But it isn’t only about eugenics, as authoritarian elitism and paternalism has taken many other forms. Let’s bring it back to Ancel Keys. Even though he was one of the Elect personally groomed by Lewis Terman to be a leading member of the master race, Keys rejected “Terman’s hereditarian bias” and thought that “personal will. . . is a greater factor in success than inherited intelligence” (Richard C. Paddock, The Secret IQ Diaries).

Even so, it appears that Keys carried on the sense of personal superiority that Terman helped instill in him. As part of the supposed meritocracy, he didn’t feel a need to humbly seek to make scientific advancements in workman-like fashion of careful research and cautious analysis. He had such immense confidence in knowing he was right and that inferior minds were wrong that he saw no need for scientific debate and, instead, used his political power and media influence to effectively shut down debate by silencing his opponents. As a self-identified genius imbued with noblesse oblige (with great power comes great responsibility), he wanted to change the world and had the zealous conviction to enforce his will upon others. It was irrelevant that he dismissed the idea that his elitist worth was based on genetics, as it was the same difference no matter what he believed was the justification for his dogmatic mission of dietary evangelism (The Creed of Ancel Keys). Following in the footsteps of Lewis Terman, he aspired to be a paternalistic technocrat who would save the lesser folk from their wrong thinking and behavior. He simply knew what was right.

Ancel Keys, in embracing his role as part of the wise ruling class, ended up being the greatest success story of Lewis Terman’s eugenics project. He also demonstrated its failure, in that it turns out that being smart is not enough. He was brilliant in his aggressive displays of intellectual prowess and he was successful in his professional achievement by climbing the ladder of power and prestige, but he was neither a creative genius nor a a visionary leader. Instead of thinking outside of the box, he forced everyone else into the box of his ideological biases that commanded the stunting effect of groupthink among several generations of scientific researchers and health experts, nutritionists and doctors. Maybe we should be unsurprised by this unhappy result (Quickie Post — Young Prodigies Usually Do Not Turn into Paradigm-Shifting Geniuses).

It could be argued that, at least in this case, the name of ‘Termite’ was aptly descriptive of the harm caused society. Now we are all suffering for it in the tragedy of our ever worsening public health crisis. And as if that weren’t bad enough, we have a new generation of paternalistic overlords who are repeating the same mistake in once again trying to enforce dietary dogma from up on high (Dietary Dictocrats of EAT-Lancet), in being led by Walter Willett who is the direct heir of Ancel Keys. The experiment of elite rule goes on and on.

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The broad, ragged cut
by Elizabeth Svoboda

Despite initial resistance, the public accepted the notion of a test-driven meritocracy because it twined together two established strands of thought: first, that the spoils should go to the declared winner, and second, that high-performers’ abilities should be harnessed for the good of the nation. ‘To each according to their ability’ became the tacit watchword, a neat variant of the Marxist injunction ‘to each according to their need’.

The first aptitude-testers promoted the idea that each person had an innate, more-or-less fixed intellectual capacity. In the context of the early 20th century’s growing eugenics movement, the tests were often deployed to justify widespread racial discrimination. Terman claimed that what he called borderline deficient scores on the Stanford-Binet were ‘very, very common among Spanish-Indian and Mexican families of the Southwest and also among Negroes’. ‘Children of this group should be segregated into separate classes,’ he wrote in 1916. ‘They cannot master abstractions but they can often be made into efficient workers … From a eugenic point of view they constitute a grave problem because of their unusually prolific breeding.’ In Terman’s mind, then, low IQ scores were simply and unarguably the result of objective deficiency.

We now understand just how wrong that notion was. Today, many psychologists understand IQ and aptitude tests to be ‘culture-bound’ to one degree or another – that is, they evaluate abilities prized in the dominant Western culture, such as sorting items into categories, and can privilege those raised in that milieu. Such inequities have persisted despite attempts to make the tests fairer to those from non-dominant cultures.

As the US marinated in social Darwinism after the First World War, the government began devising its own sinister solution to the ‘grave problem’ of which Terman had warned. The US Supreme Court case Buck v Bell in 1927 ruled for compulsory sterilisation of the ‘feeble-minded’ in the name of public welfare. For more than four decades thereafter, US states sterilised thousands of people with low IQ scores; a disproportionate number of victims were nonwhite. In later years, though aptitude tests’ eugenic roots would fade from view, the ranking of test-takers according to perceived social value would continue unabated.

The History of Eugenics in America, Part II
by Steven Vigdor and Tim Londergan

In light of our current knowledge of nutrition and fitness, we now view J.H. Kellogg’s practices as a combination of exceptional insight, mixed with positively bizarre notions on medicine and health. The field of eugenics also combined significant advances in applied science with a set of misguided, and in some cases tragic, biases and prejudices.

J.H. Kellogg was an enthusiastic proponent of eugenics, and in 1911 he established the Race Betterment Foundation in Michigan. That Foundation held three national conferences on Race Betterment in 1914, 1915 and 1928. The Race Betterment congresses allowed advocates of eugenics to share their suggestions for the most effective practices that would lead to maintaining or improving ‘racial purity.’ Kellogg himself had a complicated relationship with the notion of racial purity, particularly with respect to blacks. He and his wife had no children, so over the course of their lives they raised a large number of foster children; this included a number of black youths.

On the other hand, Kellogg was a strong supporter of segregation and a firm believer that different races should not mix. Here Kellogg adopted a common theme from the eugenics movement that Nordics, Mediterraneans, Alpines, Mongolians and blacks all represented different ‘races.’ Kellogg warned of “the rapid increase of race degeneracy, especially in recent times,” and urged the adoption of steps that he claimed would result in the “creation of a new and superior human race.”

With his characteristic energy and ambition, Kellogg proposed a multi-step plan to save the U.S. from a calamitous fate. His plan included “a thoroughgoing health survey to be conducted in every community every five years, free medical dispensaries for the afflicted, the inspection of schools and schoolchildren, health education, prohibition of the sale of alcohol and tobacco, strict marriage laws in every state, and the establishment of experiment stations [devoted] to investigating the laws of heredity in plants, animals, and humans.”

A central feature of Kellogg’s plan was the creation of a ‘eugenic registry’ that would establish criteria for ‘proper breeding pairs.’ The idea was that individuals would provide their credentials to a central clearinghouse. Males who met the highest standards for racial ‘fitness’ would be paired with similarly ‘fit’ females and encouraged to marry (the idea was clearly inspired by similar matings with ‘pedigreed’ dogs and ‘bloodlines’ for horses).

Kellogg proposed central record-keeping offices for family pedigrees and the establishment of contests for ‘best babies’ and ‘fittest families.’ A few years later, such contests became common at state fairs across the U.S., as we will describe in the next section. In addition to the fairly sinister aspect of ‘racial purity,’ such contests also placed an emphasis on wellness, and offered useful tips on healthy diets and nutrition for young children. […]

The study of intelligence testing was then taken up by scientists such as Lewis Terman and Robert Yerkes. Terman, a psychologist at Stanford, made major revisions in Binet’s tests. He organized the tests into two parts. Part A included sections on arithmetical reasoning, sentence completion, logics, a synonym-antonym section, and a symbol-digit test. Part B included sections involving sentence completion, vocabulary, analogies, comparisons, and general information. Terman and associates tried out their tests on numerous cohorts of school children. Their aim was to determine the average performance of children in each grade from 3 to 8, and to administer the test to as many students as possible. They also performed numerous statistical tests, and arranged the grading to achieve an average of 100 for every grade, with a standard deviation of 15. The resulting “Stanford-Binet” test fairly rapidly became the standard in the field.

Terman was quite candid about his motives for universal testing. “It is safe to predict that in the near future intelligence tests will bring tens of thousands of those high-grade defectives under the surveillance and protection of society. This will ultimately result in curtailing the reproduction of feeble-mindedness and in the elimination of an enormous amount of crime, pauperism, and industrial inefficiency.” So, while Binet had insisted that his tests be administered only to provide assistance in improving the skills of slow learners, Terman and his hereditarian brethren were determined to identify, isolate and stigmatize precisely this group of children. Terman had no doubt that his tests represented measurements of innate intelligence, and that intelligence was almost entirely determined by heredity. “The children of successful and cultured parents test higher than children from wretched and ignorant homes for the simple reason that their heredity is better.”

Terman also recommended that businesses use IQ tests in hiring decisions. He argued that “substantial success” as a leader required an IQ of at least 115 to 120. Furthermore, people with IQs below 100 should not be hired for demanding or high-paying jobs. Terman was even more specific: people with IQ below 75 should only be qualified for menial tasks, and the 75-85 level for semi-skilled labor. People with an IQ of 85 or lower should be tracked into vocational schools, so that they would not leave school and “drift easily into the ranks of the anti-social or join the army of Bolshevik discontents.”

The Vexing Legacy of Lewis Terman
by Mitchell Leslie

Terman, who had grown up gifted himself, was gathering evidence to squelch the popular stereotype of brainy, “bookish” children as frail oddballs doomed to social isolation. He wanted to show that most smart kids were robust and well-adjusted — that they were, in fact, born leaders who ought to be identified early and cultivated for their rightful roles in society.

Though the more than 1,000 youngsters enrolled in his study didn’t know it at the time, they were embarking on a lasting relationship. As Terman poked around in their lives with his inquisitive surveys, “he fell in love with those kids,” explains Albert Hastorf, emeritus professor of psychology. To the group he always called “my gifted children” — even after they grew up — Terman became mentor, confidant, guidance counselor and sometimes guardian angel, intervening on their behalf. In doing so, he crashed through the glass that is supposed to separate scientists from subjects, undermining his own data. But Terman saw no conflict in nudging his protégés toward success, and many of them later reflected that being a “Terman kid” had indeed shaped their self-images and changed the course of their lives. […]

A story of a different kind emerges from Terman’s own writings — a disturbing tale of the beliefs of a pioneer in psychology. Lewis Terman was a loving mentor, yes, but his ardent promotion of the gifted few was grounded in a cold-blooded, elitist ideology. Especially in the early years of his career, he was a proponent of eugenics, a social movement aiming to improve the human “breed” by perpetuating certain allegedly inherited traits and eliminating others. While championing the intelligent, he pushed for the forced sterilization of thousands of “feebleminded” Americans. Later in life, Terman backed away from eugenics, but he never publicly recanted his beliefs. […]

Many who did well in their fields had received no boost from Terman beyond an occasional pat on the back and the knowledge that they’d qualified for his study. For others, like Dmytryk, Terman’s intervention was life-changing. We’ll never know all that he did for his kids, Hastorf notes. But it’s clear that Terman helped several get into Stanford and other universities. He dispatched numerous letters of recommendation mentioning that individuals took part in his project. And one time, early in World War II, he apparently pulled strings on behalf of a family of Japanese-Americans in his study. Fearing they were about to be interned, they wrote to Terman for help. He sent a letter assuring the federal government of their loyalty and arguing against internment. The family remained free.

From a scientific standpoint, Terman’s personal involvement seems foolish because it probably skewed his results. “It’s what you’d expect a mentor to do, but it’s bad science,” Hastorf says. As a conscientious researcher whose work got him elected to the National Academy of Sciences, Terman should have known better — but he wasn’t the first or last to slip. Indeed, the temptation to meddle is an occupational hazard among longitudinal researchers, says Glen Elder Jr., a sociologist at the University of North Carolina. A certain degree of intimacy develops, he explains, because “we’re living in their lives and they’re living in ours.”

It’s difficult to gauge Terman’s influence on the kids because so many are deceased or still anonymous. One survivor willing to speak on the record is Russell Robinson, a retired engineer and former director of aeronautical research at NASA Ames. He was a high school student in Santa Monica when, he recalls, “someone in the school system tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘Dr. Terman would like to test you, if you’re willing.'” Robinson, now 92 and living in Los Altos, doesn’t think being in the study significantly changed his life, but he did draw confidence from knowing that Terman thought highly of him. Several times during his career, he mentally invoked Terman to shore up his self-image. “Research is a strange business — in a sense, you’re out there alone,” he says. “Sometimes, the problems got so complex I would ask myself, Am I up to this? Then I would think, Dr. Terman thought I was.”

Others have echoed that sentiment, Hastorf says. In fact, the study meant so much to some of the subjects that the Terman project now runs entirely on their bequests.

Several Terman kids have cited a negative impact on their lives. Some complained of being saddled with an unfair burden to succeed, Hastorf says, while others thought that being dubbed geniuses at an early age made them cocky and complacent. For better or worse, a quarter of the men and almost a third of the women said they felt that being a Terman kid had changed their lives. And since Terman often did his meddling behind the scenes, others may have been influenced without ever realizing it.

His support of the gifted was heartfelt, but an equally fundamental part of Terman’s social plan was controlling the people at the other end of the intelligence scale. Both were aims of eugenics, a movement that gained momentum early in the 20th century.

The eugenicists of Terman’s day held that people of different races, nationalities and classes were born with immutable differences in intelligence, character and hardiness, and that these genetic disparities called for an “aristogenic” caste system. Traits like feeblemindedness, frailty, emotional instability and “shiftlessness,” they believed, were controlled by single genes and could be easily eliminated by controlling the reproduction of the “unfit.” In the United States, the movement peddled a topsy-turvy form of Darwinism, claiming that the “fittest” (defined as well-to-do whites of Northern European ancestry) were reproducing too slowly and in danger of being overwhelmed by the inferior lower strata of society. America was jeopardized from within, eugenicists warned, by the rapid proliferation of people lacking intelligence and moral fiber. From without, the threat was the unchecked arrival of immigrants from southern and eastern Europe. Together these groups would drag down the national stock.

Terman’s letters and published writings show that he shared these beliefs and argued for measures to reverse society’s perceived deterioration. He was a member of the prominent eugenics societies of the day. “It is more important,” he wrote in 1928, “for man to acquire control over his biological evolution than to capture the energy of the atom.” Yet he wasn’t a renegade howling from the fringe. Eugenics was “hugely popular in America and Europe among the ‘better sort’ before Hitler gave it a bad name,” as journalist Nicholas Lemann puts it. Luminaries who supported at least part of the early eugenic agenda include George Bernard Shaw, Theodore Roosevelt, Margaret Sanger, Calvin Coolidge and Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. In fact, Terman sat on the boards of two eugenics organizations with Stanford’s first president, David Starr Jordan.

Early eugenicists managed to push through several laws. Thirty-three states, including California, passed measures requiring sterilization of the feebleminded. As a result, more than 60,000 men and women in mental institutions were sterilized — most against their will and some thinking they were getting an emergency appendectomy. In 1924, Congress set quotas that drastically cut immigration from eastern and southern Europe. Though pressure to stem immigration had come from many sources, including organized labor, the quotas had an undeniably racist taint. Terman cheered these efforts.

During the 1930s, as the brutality of Nazi policies and the scientific errors of eugenic doctrines became clearer, the eugenics movement withered in the United States and Terman inched away from his harshest views. Later in life, he told friends he regretted some of his statements about “inferior races.” But unlike several prominent intelligence-testers, such as psychologist Henry Goddard and sat creator Carl Brigham, Terman never publicly recanted.

At least one eugenic measure proved as stubborn as he was. News of the Nazis’ mass sterilization program did not put an end to the practice in the United States, where sterilizations of the mentally ill and retarded continued well into the 1970s.

Terman left a difficult legacy. On one hand, his work inspired almost all the innovations we use today to challenge bright students and enrich their education. As he followed the lives of intelligent kids, he also became their best publicist, battling a baseless prejudice. As a scientist, he devised methods for assessing our minds and behaviors, helping put the field of psychology on an empirical and quantitative foundation. He was one of Stanford’s first nationally prominent scholars, and as a department chair for two decades, he transformed the psychology department from a languid backwater into an energetic, top-ranked program. He established the longitudinal method and generated an archive of priceless data. Longitudinal studies have “become the laboratory of the social sciences” and are growing in importance as the population ages, unc sociologist Elder observes.

On the other hand, as biographer Minton points out, the very qualities that made Terman a groundbreaking scientist — his zeal, his confidence — also made him dogmatic, unwilling to accept criticism or to scrutinize his hereditarian views. A similar paradox existed in his social agenda. Terman was a visionary whose disturbing eugenic positions and loving treatment of the gifted grew out of the same dream for an American meritocracy.

“He was a very nice guy, but I have some things I would argue with him about,” Hastorf declares. His conclusion is that Terman was as much a product of his time as a force for change — and that, like many powerful thinkers, he was complex, contradictory and not always admirable.

The Parable of the Talents
by Scott Alexander
from comment section:

Harald K says:
“The IQ pioneers were social reformers who wanted to reduce human suffering.”

Oh sure. By turning as much as possible of decision making over to them, or resisting efforts to take away the privileges they already had, i.e. egalitarian efforts. I don’t hold much faith in the good will of US eugenicists, any more than their German cousins. The decision of which of other people’s genes deserve to survive to the next generation, is one which every human is hopelessly biased, and every decision is hopelessly corrupt.

Sure, many socialists were fooled too by the eugenicists’ crocodile tears for humanity, but it’s an inherently and irreparably selfish practice, only morally compatible with every man for himself/might makes right morality. I could have told them (and many DID tell them).

Binet can get a pass, sort of. His concern was mainly about who would do well in the French school system. Goddard imported the Binet test before Terman turned it into the first IQ test, so hardly “the man who brought IQ tests to America”. I wonder who can look at Goddard’s wikipedia page for arguments that he had such noble intentions, and overlook how he argued that Americans were unfit for democracy, or how he let first and second class skip the intelligence testing for immigration demand on Ellis Island.

IQ tests were invented in America, by Lewis Terman. From the moment Terman touched the test, it was conscripted to the service of racism and elitism.

“Does that sound like radical antihumanism? Nope.”

Yes, it does. Note how it promotes the welfare of humanity in the abstract, at the expense of concrete humans living here and now. But as I’ve argued, even that is just a fig leaf for the crudest power-grab a biological human can possibly make.

Harald K says:
“And ended up making a tool that predicts that the Chinese and Jews should be doing it instead of them.”

Ah, here it becomes relevant that the IQ of today isn’t really Terman’s IQ. Today’s test make Chinese people look good, but Terman’s test didn’t. It didn’t try to be culturally independent at all, so if you administered it to a Chinese person, he’d score horribly. There were even questions which obviously coded for social class, like where would you go to buy certain products.

It was in response to such criticism that they gradually tried to make the tests more independent of culture and language. It was not such a great sacrifice for them to open up for the possibility that some groups may on average do slightly better than your group, once the tests had scientifically established that they, individually, were superior beings.

But as they did so, the tests became less useful for prediction of success. (It turns out upper class white kids are more successful than kids who go to the liquor store to buy sugar, even if the latter kids are otherwise clever. Who knew?).

Elof Carlson says:
There are several difficulties with using a single number to measure intelligence, in a spectrum running from retarded to genius. Issue one is the diversity of talents. As you point out musical genius is not correlated to IQ test genius because there are many people in the 160 plus range who have little music appreciation n or talent. My mentor, HJ Muller, had a 165 IQ measured by Anne Roe, but he had no ear for music. The same might be true for artistic expression among museum quality artists. It might also be true for creativity. The second issue is the role of home environment. This varies a lot. In general those in poverty have lower IQ scores than those who have wealthy home environments. Premeds who take MCAT Kaplan courses do better than those who do not. Those who go to elite private schools do better than those who go to public high schools. Having a private tutor helps even more. The wealthy can afford such luxuries for their children. The poor cannot.

A book that changed my mind about the usefulness of IQ scores was Cradles of Eminence by Victor and Muriel Goertzel. They wanted to compare Terman’s study of 1000 high IQ California kids with eminence. They defined eminence as having two or more biographies written about a person who is not royalty or a sports figure. They found that none of the Terman kids had biographies written about them. They mostly became health professionals, CEOs, lawyers, engineers and solid middle class and contented adults. They found that those who had biographies written about them often had unstable middle class homes (e.g., a neurotic or psychotic parent, an alcoholic parent, a financial collapse in business leading downward in social class, a parent who was a zealot for a cause). They argued that it was the conflict at home (the parents were nevertheless loving to their children) that led these students to creative activities that set them apart. The Terman kids were teachers’ pets, loved school, and aced all their tests. The Goertzel biographees often disliked school (they were bored by it), were often misinterpreted by their teachers as lazy or mentally disturbed or nonconforming. Very few of the high IQ Terman kids were in the arts or wrote fiction. Many of the Goertzel biographees had careers in the arts (but about a majority of both groups chose science careers). None of the Terman kids won a Nobel or Pulitzer. Numerous of the Goertzel biographees did win Nobels and Pulitzers.

I hope you will read that book and comment on it. I believe IQ measures effectiveness in test-taking. That may be innate. It certainly has value in who gets into medical school or who succeeds academically. I believe creativity is independent of IQ score and no one has developed an objective quantitative measure of that creativity in whatever field people excel.

Are ‘vegetarians’ or ‘carnivores’ healthier?

Nutrition studies has been plagued with problems. Most of the research in the past was extremely low quality. Few other fields would allow such weak research to be published in peer-reviewed journals. Yet for generations, epidemiological (observational and correlational) studies were the norm for nutrition studies. This kind of research is fine for preliminary exploration in formulating new hypotheses to test, but it is entirely useless for proving or disproving any given hypothesis. Shockingly, almost all of medical advice and government recommendations on diet and nutrition are based on this superficial and misleading level of results.

The main problem is there has been little, if any, control of confounding factors. Also, the comparisons used were pathetically weak. It turns out that, in studies, almost any dietary protocol or change improves health compared to a standard American diet (SAD) or other varieties of standard industrialized diets based on processed foods of refined carbs (particularly wheat), added sugar (particularly high fructose corn syrup), omega-6 seed oils (inflammatory, oxidative, and mutagenic), food additives (from glutamate to propionate), and nutrient-deficient, chemical-drenched agricultural crops (glyphosate among the worst). Assuming the dog got decent food, even eating dog shit would be better for your health than SAD.

Stating that veganism or the Mediterranean diet is healthier than what most people eat really tells us nothing at all. That is even more true when the healthy user effect is not controlled for, as typically is the case with most studies. When comparing people on these diets to typical meat eaters, the ‘carnivores’ also are eating tons of carbs, sugar, and seed oils with their meat (buns, french fries, pop, etc; and, for cooking and in sauces, seed oils; not to mention snacking all day on chips, crackers, cookies, and candy). The average meat-eater consumes far more non-animal foods than animal foods, and most processed junk food is made mostly or entirely with vegan ingredients. So why do the animal foods get all the blame? And why does saturated fat get blamed when, starting back in the 1930s, seed oils replaced lard as the main source of cooking fat/oil?

If scientists in this field were genuinely curious, intellectually humble, not ideologically blinded, and unbiased by big food and big farm funding, they would make honest and fair comparisons to a wide variety of optimally-designed diets. Nutritionists have known about low-carb, keto, and carnivore diets for about a century. The desire to research these diets, however, has been slim to none. The first ever study of the carnivore diet, including fully meat-based, is happening right now. To give some credit, research has slowly been improving. I came across a 2013 study that compared four diets: “vegetarian, carnivorous diet rich in fruits and vegetables, carnivorous diet less rich in meat, and carnivorous diet rich in meat” (Nathalie T. Burkert et al, Nutrition and Health – The Association between Eating Behavior and Various Health Parameters: A Matched Sample Study).

It’s still kind of amusing that the researchers called carnivorous a “diet rich in fruits and vegetables” and a “diet less rich in meat.” If people are mostly eating plant foods or otherwise not eating much meat, how exactly is that carnivorous in any meaningful and practical sense? Only one in four of the diets were carnivorous in the sense the average person would understand it, as a diet largely based on animal foods. Even then, it doesn’t include a carnivorous diet entirely based on animal foods. Those carnivores eating a “diet rich in meat” might still be eating plenty of processed junk food, their meat might still be cooked or slathered in harmful seed oils and come with a bun, and they might still be washing it down with sugary drinks. A McDonald’s Big Mac meal could be considered as part of a diet rich in meat, just because meat represents the greatest portion of weight and calories. Even if their diet was only 5-10% unhealthy plant foods, it could still be doing severe damage to their health. One can fit in a fairly large amount of carbs, seed oils, etc in a relatively small portion of the diet.

I’m reminded of research that defines a “low-carb diet” as any carb intake that is 40% or below, but other studies show that 40% is the absolute highest point of carb intake for most hunter-gatherers. As high and low are relative concepts in defining carb intake, what is considered a meat-rich diet would be relative as well. I doubt these studied carnivorous “diets rich in meat” are including as high amount of animal foods as found in the diets of Inuit, Masai, early Americans, and Paleolithic humans. So what is actually being compared and tested? It’s not clear. This was further confounded in how vegans, vegetarians, and pescetarians (fish-eaters) were combined into a single group mislabeled as ‘vegetarian’, considering that vegetarians and pescetarians technically could eat a diet primarily animal-based if they so chose (dairy, eggs, and/or fish) and I know plenty of vegetarians who eat more cheese than they do fruits and vegetables. Nonetheless, at least these researchers were making a better comparison than most studies. They did try to control for other confounders such as pairing each person on a plant-based diet with “a subject of the same sex, age, and SES [socioeconomic status]” from each of the other three diets.

What were the results? Vegetarians, compared to the most meat-based of the diets, had worse outcomes for numerous health conditions: asthma, allergies, diabetes, cataracts, tinnitus, cardiac infarction, bronchitis, sacrospinal complaints, osteoporosis, gastric or intestinal ulcer, cancer, migraine, mental illness (anxiety disorder or depression), and “other chronic conditions.” There were only a few health conditions where the plant-based dieters fared better. For example, the so-called ‘vegetarians’ had lower rates of hypertension compared to carnivores rich in meat and less rich in meat, although higher rates than those carnivores rich in fruits and vegetables (i.e., more typical omnivores).

This is interesting evidence about the diets, though. If the carnivorous diets were low enough in starchy and sugary plant foods and low enough in dairy, they would be ketogenic which in studies is known to lower blood pressure and so would show a lesser rate of hypertension. This indicates that none of these diets are low-carb, much less very low-carb (ketogenic). The plant-based dieters in this study also had lower rates of stroke and arthritis, these being other health benefits seen on a ketogenic diet, and so this further demonstrates that this study wasn’t comparing high-carb vs low-carb as one might expect from how the diets were described in the paper. That is to say the researchers didn’t include a category for a ketogenic carnivore diet or even a ketogenic omnivore diet, much less a ketogenic ‘vegetarian’ diet as a control. Keep in mind that keto-carnivore is one of the most common forms of those intentionally following a carnivore diet. And keep in mind that plant-based keto is probably more popular right now than keto-carnivore. So, the point is that these unexpected results are examples of the complications with confounding factors.

The only other result that showed an advantage to the ‘vegetarians’ was less urinary incontinence, which simply means they didn’t have to pee as often. I haven’t a clue what that might mean. If we were talking about low-carb and keto, I’d suspect that the increased urination for the ‘carnivorous’ diets was related to decreased water retention (i.e., bloating) and hence the water loss that happens as metabolism shifts toward fat-burning. But since we are confident that such a diet wasn’t included in the study, these results remain anomalous. Of all the things that meat gets blamed for, I’ve never heard of anyone suggesting that it causes most people to urinate incessantly. That is odd. Anyway, it’s not exactly a life-threatening condition, even if it were caused by carnivory. It might have something to do with higher-fat combined with higher-carb, in the way that this combination also contributes to obesity, whereas high-fat/low-carb and low-fat/high-carb does not predispose one to fat gain. The ‘vegetarianism’ in this study was being conflated with a low-fat diet, but all of the four categories apparently were varying degrees of higher carb.

The basic conclusion is that ‘vegetarians’, including vegans and pescetarians, have on average poorer health across the board, with a few possible exceptions. In particular, they suffer more from chronic diseases and report higher impairment from health disorders. Also, not only these ‘vegetarians’ but also meat-eaters who ate a largely plant-based diet (“rich in fruits and vegetables”) consult doctors more often, even as ‘vegetarians’ are inconsistent about preventative healthcare such as check-ups and vaccinations. Furthermore, “subjects with a lower animal fat intake demonstrate worse health care practices,” whatever that exactly means. Generally, ‘vegetarians’ “have a lower quality of life.”

These are interesting results since the researchers were controlling for such things as wealth and poverty, and so it wasn’t an issue of access to healthcare or the quality of one’s environment or level of education. The weakness is that no data was gathered on macronutrient ratios of the subjects’ diets, and no testing was done on micronutrient content in the food and potential deficiencies in the individuals. Based on these results, no conclusions can be made about causal direction and mechanisms, but it does agree with some other research that finds similar results, including with other health conditions such as vegans and vegetarians having greater infertility. Any single one of these results, especially something like infertility, points toward serious health concerns involving deeper systemic disease and disorder within the body.

But what really stands out is the high rate of mental illness among ‘vegetarians’ (about 10%), twice as high as the average meat-eater (about 5%) which is to say the average Westerner, and that is with the background of the Western world having experienced a drastic rise in mental illness over the past couple of centuries. And the only mental illnesses considered in this study were depression and anxiety. The percentage would be so much higher if including all other psychiatric conditions and neurocognitive disorders (personality disorders, psychosis, psychopathy, Alzheimer’s, ADHD, autism, learning disabilities, etc). Think about that, the large number of people on a plant-based diet who are struggling on the most basic level of functioning, something I personally understand from decades of chronic depression on the SAD diet. Would you willingly choose to go on a diet that guaranteed a high probability of causing mental health struggles and suffering, neurocognitive issues and decline?

To put this study in context, listen to what Dr. Paul Saladino, trained in psychiatry and internal medicine, has to say in the following video. Jump to around the 19 minute mark where he goes into the nutritional angle of a carnivore diet. And by carnivore he is talking about fully carnivore and so, if dairy is restricted as he does in his own eating, it would also mean ketogenic as well. A keto-carnivore diet has never been studied. Hopefully, that will change soon. Until then, we have brilliant minds like that of Dr. Saladino to dig into the best evidence that is presently available.


Here are a couple of articles that come from the BBC. As a mainstream news source, this demonstrates how this knowledge is finally getting acknowledged in conventional healthcare and public debate. That is heartening.

[Text below is from linked articles.]

Why vegan junk food may be even worse for your health
by William Clark, BBC

There’s also the concern that the health risks associated with these kinds of nutrient deficiencies might not show up immediately. It could take years to associate foggy thoughts and tiredness with low B12 levels, infertility with low iron, and osteoporosis brought on by calcium deficiency does not show up until late 40s and 50s in most people, says Rossi.

“People will think about their health now and not their future health,” she says.

How a vegan diet could affect your intelligence
by Zaria Gorvett, BBC

In fact, there are several important brain nutrients that simply do not exist in plants or fungi. Creatine, carnosine, taurine, EPA and DHA omega-3 (the third kind can be found in plants), haem iron and vitamins B12 and D3 generally only occur naturally in foods derived from animal products, though they can be synthesised in the lab or extracted from non-animal sources such as algae, bacteria or lichen, and added to supplements.

Others are found in vegan foods, but only in meagre amounts; to get the minimum amount of vitamin B6 required each day (1.3 mg) from one of the richest plant sources, potatoes, you’d have to eat about five cups’ worth (equivalent to roughly 750g or 1.6lb). Delicious, but not particularly practical. […]

There are small amounts of choline in lots of vegan staples, but among the richest sources are eggs, beef and seafood. In fact, even with a normal diet, 90% of Americans don’t consume enough. According to unpublished research by Wallace, vegetarians have the lowest intakes of any demographic. “They have extremely low levels of choline, to the point where it might be concerning,” he says.

For vegans, the picture is likely to be bleaker still, since people who eat eggs tend to have almost double the choline levels of those who don’t. And though the US authorities have set suggested intakes, they might be way off.

Meat and mental health: a systematic review of meat abstention and depression, anxiety, and related phenomena
by Urska Dobersek et al

Conclusion: Studies examining the relation between the consumption or avoidance of meat and psychological health varied substantially in methodologic rigor, validity of interpretation, and confidence in results. The majority of studies, and especially the higher quality studies, showed that those who avoided meat consumption had significantly higher rates or risk of depression, anxiety, and/or self-harm behaviors. There was mixed evidence for temporal relations, but study designs and a lack of rigor precluded inferences of causal relations. Our study does not support meat avoidance as a strategy to benefit psychological health.

“I’m sorry, we don’t have any side orders of toast.”

Waitress: I’m sorry, we don’t have any side orders of toast. I can bring you an english muffin or a coffee roll.
Bobby: What do you mean you don’t make side orders of toast? You make sandwiches, don’t you?
Waitress: Would you like to talk to the manager?
Bobby: You’ve got bread and a toaster of some kind?
Waitress: I don’t make the rules.

That is from the diner scene with Jack Nicholson in the movie Five Easy Pieces. All he wants is some toast. The waitress refuses because it’s not on the menu… and, well, there is the management-mandated rule: No substitutions! It leads to what in the movie is great comedy but in real life would be frustration for all involved. In my employment as a city parking ramp cashier, I suspect that some customers think of me in the way this waitress is portrayed. But from my perspective, I’m simply some schmuck doing my job, just following orders of management and city policy. And yet many people don’t understand why I can’t simply do what they tell me to do (e.g., not charge them $23 for a lost ticket because, after all, they assure me they were only parked for an hour).

I give them the official set of options and they don’t like any of them. This makes them unhappy and sometimes quite upset. A few of them start yelling and have tantrums. If there was a bunch of glasses to knock to the floor, they would be so inclined. Telling them, in a calm but stern voice, that they can talk to management rarely appeases them. As the person in front of them with the immense power to open or not open a gate, they see me as the ultimate authority figure who stands in the way of their being able to leave, the bad guy who is denying justice and common decency and who is refusing to do what obviously makes sense. I get it. Life sucks. And my blank face, after dealing with customers all day, probably comes across as unfeeling an unsympathetic, maybe cruelly indifferent and hardhearted. I’m the enemy, the ‘Man’, the ‘good Nazi’. Their entire fate rests in my hands.

We live in a world of rules, sometimes meaningless rules. And then there are those whose job it is to follow and enforce those rules. This is what we call ‘civilization’. Without it, we’d become savages and society would collapse into chaos! Who am I to defy all of civilization? As a mere peon, what is a bureaucratic functionary to do? It’s not just about the ‘toast’. It’s about the principle. There are ways things must be done because that is the way things are done because someone said so, someone above both of us. It’s the order of things. And if I don’t comply with the system, I’ll be fired and some other schmuck would be hired to replace me. The system itself will continue on. You’re still not going to get your side order of toast. I’m sorry about that.

Besides, look at it from the other side. This scene is from a movie script written for Hollywood. This was no small production. Jack Nicholson at the time already had 18 movies under his belt. And this wasn’t the first movie by either Carole Eastman (as Adrien Joyce) and Bob Rafelson who co-write the screenplay, specifically that scene. They weren’t poor nobodies struggling in the world. Imagine you are an impoverished and struggling waitress with a bunch of kids at home, a husband who left you, and bill collectors who keep calling. You work long hours at multiple jobs while going home to clean, cook, and hopefully find some time to sleep. Then a pompous Hollywood big shot comes into the diner where you work demanding toast, but the owner or manager has rules about no side orders of toast nor substitutions.

You don’t know why your boss makes up stupid rules. All you know is your boss, an middle class white guy, likes to yell at you and would be glad to fire you in an instant if you don’t do what he tells you to do. If you lose this job, you won’t be able to pay the bills or feed your kids and the threat of homelessness might be very much real. Or even if your financial situation isn’t that extreme, you’re simply overworked and underpaid, you’re tired and stressed. You have very little energy left over to deal with people making your life even more difficult.

Now tell me this. How would you feel toward some asshole acting like Jack Nicholson in this scene? This customer is another white male who has no clue what your life is like and who thinks its is his right and privilege to boss you around and tell you what to do, to harass and intimidate you. Guess what? Fuck such assholes! Leave the goddamn waitress alone. Order your fucking meal and, if all you want is the toast, then throw the rest away. Or if you don’t like the rules, just quietly go away. Don’t go away mad. Just go away. Don’t turn the situation into melodrama to feed your ego. Yes, the world sucks, but you aren’t the center of the world. Life is hard for others as well, quite likely far harder for others than you might imagine. Be kind. Be compassionate. Or failing that, keep it to yourself. Don’t add to the suffering of others in a false crusade of self-righteousness.

* * *

Bobby: I’d like a plain omelet, no potatoes – tomatoes instead, a cup of coffee and toast.
Waitress: No substitutions.
Bobby: What do you mean, you don’t have any tomatoes?
Waitress: Only what’s on the menu. You can have a #2 – a plain omelet, comes with cottage fries and rolls.
Bobby: Yeah, I know what it comes with, but it’s not what I want.
Waitress: I’ll come back when you make up your mind.
Bobby: Wait a minute, I have made up my mind. I’d like a plain omelet, no potatoes on the plate, a cup of coffee and a side order of wheat toast.
Waitress: I’m sorry, we don’t have any side orders of toast. I can bring you an english muffin or a coffee roll.
Bobby: What do you mean you don’t make side orders of toast? You make sandwiches, don’t you?
Waitress: Would you like to talk to the manager?
Bobby: You’ve got bread and a toaster of some kind?
Waitress: I don’t make the rules.
Bobby: Okay, I’ll make it as easy for you as I can. I’d like an omelet, plain, and a chicken salad sandwich on wheat toast, no mayonnaise, no butter, no lettuce and a cup of coffee. 
Waitress: A #2, chicken salad sand. Hold the butter, the lettuce, the mayonnaise, and a cup of coffee. Anything else?
Bobby: Yeah, now all you have to do is hold the chicken, bring me the toast, give me a check for the chicken salad sandwich, and you haven’t broken any rules.
Waitress: You want me to hold the chicken, huh?
Bobby: I want you to hold it between your knees.

How to Save the Environment.

“The next president must be more Lincoln and FDR than Obama or Clinton.

“Both Lincoln and FDR asserted powers that rush right into the realm of tyranny or dictatorship – to the dismay of both conservatives and liberals.

“The threats they faced required, and in fact demanded it.

“The first step must be to articulate the brutal truth of the threat we face and to name those responsible.

“The next president must be a radical relative to the centrism and tyranny of the system.”

Past Views On One Meal A Day (OMAD)

“Eating once a day is angelic, twice a day human, and three, four or more times is bestial.”
~Le Menagier de Paris, The Parisian Household Book, 1393

“Oru velai sapta yogi (if you eat once you’re a yogi);
Rendu velai sapta bogi (if you eat twice you’re a hedonist);
Moonu velai sapta rogi (if you eat thrice you’re a patient).”
~Traditional Tamil wisdom

“And there are men to be found who take but one meal a day, and yet remain quite healthy. The elder Fowler, the phrenologist, is one of them. Such, too, in past years, were Talleyrand of France, and Mr. Taliaferro of Virginia. It is even stated that some of the old Romans ate but one meal a day. Seneca, though worth an estate of $15,000,000, taught the doctrine, and, as it is said, practised it.”
~William Andrus Alcott, 1859

The Laws of Health:
Or, Sequel to The House I Live In

by William Andrus Alcott


636. The question, how often we should eat, has been much agitated, especially within a few years ; and with various results. In general, however, there is a belief that we eat too often, and that a deduction from the number of our meals might very profitably be made. Many incline to the opinion that two meals a day for healthy adults are quite sufficient. A few go farther still, and teach that nature’s purposes are best answered by only one.

637. This subject, like most others pertaining to a connection with the appetite, has been hitherto approached in a wrong way. For, since nature, perverted as she is, ever tends to excess, the great practical question in all these matters should be, not how much we may gratify ourselves without any evil results, but how little gratification will best accord with our usefulness. Instead of inquiring how near the edge of a precipice we can go without falling from it, we should seek to keep at the greatest practicable distance. The proper question is not, Which is the worst or most dangerous road? but, Which is the best?

638. In the present instance, the true physiological inquiry should be, What is the least number of daily meals which will best answer nature’s purposes? What number will preserve us in the most healthy condition, and at the same time give us the firmest appetite, and, in the aggregate, the most pleasure? The true question is not, How often can we eat and not get sick immediately? And yet, more than this, I say, is very seldom asked.

639. Although it should be our first and highest aim to do what is best and most according to truth in all things which concern our appetites, yet we can never keep pleasure entirely out of sight; nor is it the Divine intention that we should. God has kindly united duty, interest, and pleasure; and what he has joined together should not be sundered.

640. There can be little doubt that, the more frequently we eat, the less, as a general rule, we enjoy. At present, it is customary to eat so often that we seldom, if ever, reach the point of having a good appetite; and what of appetite we have, at first, is soon spoiled. The less frequently we eat, on the contrary, even to the comparatively narrow limits of once a day, the more we enjoy.

641. But observe, if you please, I do not say God has united with our duty the highest possible degrees of immediate pleasure, but only the greatest amount in the end. There is room enough left for self-denial, or what is usually called by that name ; by which I mean, a denial of present pleasure, at least in part, for the sake of pleasure in the distance, which is greater in the aggregate.

642. There are certain physiological considerations which aid us in determining how often we should eat ; or, rather, in deter mining how often we should not eat. We have seen (551) that the process of chymification is forwarded, in no small degree, by a species of muscular motion which has a slight resemblance to the churning process among dairy-women.

643. This churning muscular motion generally continues till the stomach is cleared of its contents; i.e., till all, or nearly all, has passed out at its pyloric orifice. The time required for this varies, in the adult, from two or three to four or five hours. (558.) In children, the process, like those of breathing and circulation, is more rapid.*

644. Now, it is a law with all voluntary or willing muscular parts of the body, that they shall have their seasons of rest. But the heart is muscular, and there are muscles in the walls of the thorax to aid in moving the lungs; and then, as we have seen, the stomach is muscular. None of these, it is true, are voluntary or willing muscles. Their motion takes place with out our having much to do with it, directly.

645. Still, it is true, most undeniably true, that these parts need rest. The muscular parts of the heart and lungs have their intervals of rest, though they are short; and is not this the plainest proof that they need it? The muscular parts of the stomach, in all probability, come under the same necessity. Sometimes they obtain this rest; at others they do not. But I have spoken on this subject before. (120-122.)

646. When we breakfast at six, take a lunch at nine or ten, dine at twelve, take another lunch at three, and eat a heavy supper at six, the stomach probably has no rest during the day, and, in consequence, is so much fatigued at night, that the load which is imposed on it at six is not wholly cast off during the night, and we rise in the morning to go again the same round, and with similar results.

647. Then, again, when we rise at seven, breakfast at eight, take a lunch at eleven, or twelve, as in fashionable life, dine at two, take tea at five, and a heavy lunch of the most heavy of all indigestibles at nine or ten, we come to the hour of rest, as before, with a jaded stomach; and in due preparation for a restless and distempered night.

648. And the reward we have so richly earned is sure to be received. Our sleep is too sound on the one hand, or too much disturbed on the other. The latter result is most frequent. We toss out the night in distressing dreams, and wake the next morning to a bad taste in the mouth, a dryness of the throat, a dull headache and loss of appetite, and an unwillingness to rise, except from the most pressing necessity.

649. Such a course of life, persisted in for weeks, months, or years, will bring about, in most persons, a bad state of things in the alimentary canal, which, in its sympathies or effects, some times extends to other parts of the system. Many a tooth-ache, ear-ache, head-ache, and neuralgic attack, and not a few cold feet and sour stomachs, may be fairly charged to the errors of which I have here spoken.

650. Children, no doubt, should eat much more frequently than adults. True, their stomachs are not so strong, nor their digestive powers, though they are generally more active. But even our children eat too often, in most instances. They are trained to it from the very first. Some of them seem to be almost always eating, from morning to night. Little infants, in most instances, are even nursed or fed in the night. And the penalty is but too well known. Half of them, or nearly half, die under ten years of age; and this is one of the causes.’

561. The healthy adult who eats but three times a day, and this at regular intervals of about six hours, gives his stomach a little time for rest; and may hope to proceed on in the journey of life, at least a short time, without disease. He may indulge this hope, I mean, if other things are as they should be.

652. But three meals a day for an adult, whatever may be his habits or circumstances, — except in the rare case of some peculiar disease, — is the maximum number which is admissible. It is running as much risk as we can with safety. It is going as near the edge of the precipice as we can and not fall from it, instead of taking the highest and safest and best road!

653. They who take but two meals a day, especially during the short days of winter, not only give their digestive powers — their stomachs in particular — more time for rest, but actually enjoy more, and find themselves in better general health. Of this habit we have many eminent living examples. In this case the first meal might be profitably taken at ten o’clock in the forenoon, and the second at four in the afternoon.

654. And there are men to be found who take but one meal a day, and yet remain quite healthy. The elder Fowler, the phrenologist, is one of them. Such, too, in past years, were Talleyrand of France, and Mr. Taliaferro of Virginia. It is even stated that some of the old Romans ate but one meal a day. Seneca, though worth an estate of $15,000,000, taught the doctrine, and, as it is said, practised it.

655. It is even told of, Mr. Taliaferro, that he went still farther. When by any unavoidable circumstance he was unable to dine at his usual hour of the day, he deferred it to the next day. This was to eat only once in two days. But this course I think an error. Once a day is the minimum or smallest needful number of our meals.

656. On this point, however, I wish to be understood. I do not say, positively, that three meals a day are incompatible with the maintenance of tolerable health; nor that one a day is sufficient. But I do say that more than three are injurious ; that two would for most persons be preferable to three; and that one for most people may after all be found adequate to every purpose. Indeed, I am inclined to think it would be so.

657. They who take but one meal a day secure at least one important point, that of having always a good appetite. At least they gain this point provided they do not eat too much at this one meal. Most persons, as we have seen, eat so often that they never know what a good appetite is. They always eat before they are truly hungry, in a physiological sense; and hence know neither the blessing of a good appetite or of true gustatory enjoyment.

658. They remind me of a half-idiot, whom I knew in early life, who was always pressing the question, ” Don’t you wish to know the art of never being dry ? “that is, thirsty. ” Always mind to drink before you are dry,” he added, “and you will never be dry.” We have most of us already made a faithful application of the fool’s rule to our eating. We eat always be fore we are hungry, and hence are never hungry.

[Questions. — Is there not a general belief abroad that we eat too often! Have we arrived, as yet, at a settled opinion on this subject?]


659. In the last section I was obliged to encroach a little on the topic assigned to this. I was obliged to allude to the evils of eating too often; and this of course involved the subject of eating between our meals, or, as it is called, of taking lunches or luncheons. But I have not yet said all that the case requires. Eating between our regular meals is a dietetic transgression of no ordinary magnitude.

660. Whether we eat once, twice, thrice, or ten times a day, we should stop with our regular meals, Nothing containing nutriment, whether in a solid or liquid condition, should go down our throats between our meals, except water. To this rule, so far as the healthy are concerned, I know of no exception.

661. May we not eat an apple, it will be asked, or a little fruit, of such kinds as we happen to meet with, or a few nuts? Must we go without all these things, which the kind hand of the great Creator has scattered all along our path — probably not in vain? Would we not be even ungrateful to him, did we do so?

662. No doubt that these things, for the most part, are made to be eaten, either by us or the other animals, or both. But they should be brought to our tables, and, without exception, made a regular part of our meals. Not indeed at the end, after we have eaten enough of something else; nor yet at the beginning, merely to excite an appetite for other food. They should be eaten, as the potato usually is, as a part of our meal.

[Have we not studied the subject in a wrong manner? What is a better way? What should be the true inquiry in prosecuting the study of hygiene? In our inquiries is pleasure to be overlooked, entirely so? Why not? Is our enjoyment in eating in proportion always to the number of our meals? Is he the greatest gainer in point of mere pleasure in eating, who gets the most pleasure immediately?

What are we to infer, in this particular, from the muscular character of the stomach? How may we eat so as to give the stomach and other digestive organs no rest? What are the frequent evidences of abuse during the previous day? What diseases may ensue? Should children eat oftener than adults? What is said, in particular, of the effects of eating three meals a day? What of eating two only? What of eating but one? Are there some eminent examples in both these latter kinds? To what extreme did Mr. Taliaferro go? Who are they that always have a good appetite? What anecdote is related of a certain idiot? What is the application?]

663. It may perhaps be said that our ancestors — puritannical though they were — accustomed themselves not only to lunches in the forenoon and afternoon, but to nuts and cider or apples and cider in the evening, and yet were a healthier people, by far, than their more squeamish descendants; and there will be no want of truth as the basis of the remark.

664. But, remember, that if they were more healthy than we, then we, of course, are less healthy than they. How came we thus? Is it a matter of chance, or hap-hazard? Do these things spring out of the ground? Is there not a cause for every effect? Do we not inherit a deteriorated and deteriorating constitution?

665. Besides, our fathers and grandfathers set out with better constitutions than we, so that, whatever may have been the cause of their better or our inferior stamina, they could most certainly bear up longer under violations of physical law than we, their descendants. It does not then follow, as a necessary inference, that we may eat lunches because they did.

666. May we not take nourishing drinks between our regular meals, such as milk and water, molasses and water, and bread coffee? some will ask. Not a drop. Better, by far, to eat a piece of dry bread; for that will be masticated. But you do not want either. The sediment of nutritious drinks (561) is one of the hardest ordinary things the stomach has to contend with. It is, moreover, a curious fact that a piece of dry bread, well chewed, will often quench thirst better than any liquid, even water. But, I repeat, I do not recommend even that.

667. Anything that contains nutriment must, of course, set the stomach and other digestive organs at work, more or less; even if it is nothing but a strawberry, or a lump of gum or sugar, or some aromatic seeds. I do not say or believe that it takes as long, or tasks the digestive machinery as severely, to work up a lump of sugar or a strawberry into chyle, as a full meal; but I do say that the whole process of digestion, complicated as it is, must be gone through with.

668. Many, who have listened patiently to remarks like these, have at length exclaimed, with some surprise: “But what is the laboring man to do, especially in the long hot days of haying and harvesting, without something to sustain him be tween his meals? You proscribe stimulating drink, and very properly; but what will you propose as a substitute? He, would faint away without something. Or, if he should not faint, there would often be a gnawing at the stomach, which would be insupportable.”

669. It should be distinctly known to everybody, that neither the faintness nor the gnawing here spoken of, indicate any real hunger. They are mere nervous sensations. They indicate, moreover, a diseased condition of the nerves. If any one doubts, let him but make the following experiment. The writer has made it for himself, and that repeatedly.

670. While your fellow-laborers are removing, for the time, their gnawing and faintness by a lunch, just seat yourself at their side, and, instead of adding a new load to the already overloaded and sympathizing stomach, drink slowly a small quantity of pure water, tell a story or hear one, and, if you can, excite a little the risible faculties; and when they return to their labor, join them, as before. Pursue this course a few days, or a few weeks, and see who endures it best, and com plains most of gnawing and faintness.

671. It is no uncommon thing to hear farmers telling how glad they are to be through with their haying and harvesting. But it is they who use lunches, or take other means beyond their regular meals for restoring themselves temporarily at the expense of the future, who complain most. He who eats of plain food twice or three times a day, and drinks nothing but water, endures best the heat and fatigue, and suffers least from gnawing and faintness.

672. Young men in groceries, eating-houses, and inns, as well as clerks in public offices, and in shops and factories, often injure their health very much by a foolish acquired habit of tasting various things which are constantly before them, such as fruits, nuts, confectionery, sugar, dried fish, cordials, etc. Clerks, in addition to all this, sometimes eat wafers.’

673. It is but a few days since I saw a young man about thirty years of age, of giant constitution by inheritance, who was suffering severely in his digestive machinery from the very cause, by his own voluntary confession, of which I am now speaking. And I have before my mind’s eye the painful history of a young man whom I twice cured of dyspepsia from this same cause, but who afterwards went beyond my reach, and fell a victim to it.

674. Perhaps the worst violation of the law which forbids eating between meals, is found in the wretched habit of the young, of eating what are called oyster suppers, at late hours and at improper places. Our cities, and sometimes our large towns, abound with places of resort for those who will not deny their appetites; and it is not surprising that they so often prove, not only a pathway to the grave, but as Solomon says, to hell.


675. There are to be found, among us, a few strong men and women — the remnant of a by-gone generation, much healthier than our own — who can eat at random, as the savages do, and yet last on, as here and there a savage does, to very advanced years. But these random-shot eaters are, at most, but exceptions to the general rule, which requires regularity.

676. For very few things, I am quite sure, can be more obvious to the most careless observer, than that those individuals who are most regular in regard to eating, other things and circumstances being equal, are the most healthy. And, what is of very great importance, too, any one who will take the trouble may soon satisfy himself that it is these regular men and women whose children inherit the best constitutions.

677. I have, indeed, admitted that we are so far the creatures of habit that we can accustom ourselves to almost any hours for eating, and to one, two, three, or more meals a day, as well as to many other things which are generally regarded as objectionable; and yet not suffer much, immediately. But I have also shown and insisted that this does not prove we are wise in forming these habits. We must look a little way into the future, and have regard to the good of the race, as well as to our own present gratification or happiness.

678. It is often said that since the conditions of civic life require occasional irregularities, it is desirable to accustom our selves to such irregularities, betimes. For, if we do not, it is still insisted, we shall be liable, at times, to such derangement and disturbance in our systems, from unavoidable changes, as might subject us to a long and perhaps severe fit of sickness.

[Questions. — Is eating between our meals a light transgression? Should nothing which contains nutriment be swallowed between meals? May we not eat fruits? Why not, if the fruits are made to be eaten? Our ancestors ate lunches; why may not we? What is said of milk and water, molasses and water, etc., between meals? Must the whole work of digestion be gone through with, when we eat but a single nut, or a strawberry? May not the hard laborer have lunches? What then shall we do, when gnawing and faintness arise? Have these sensations nothing to do with real hunger? What experiment is proposed? To what dangers are young men sometimes exposed in groceries, shops, eating-houses, public offices, etc.? Are they apt to yield to the temptations? What case is related by the author? What still more striking case came under his observation? What is the worst violation of the rule for infrequent eating?]

679. This reasoning, by way of objection to the doctrine of regularity in our habits, is certainly specious. The great difficulty with it is, that it is practically untrue. For few things can be more easily shown than that they whose digestive systems hold out best, are precisely those who are most regular in their habits of eating, drinking, etc.

680. It is indeed true that such persons, when subjected to the supposed necessary irregularities of civic life, above alluded to, may be subjected, at times, to a little temporary disturbance, but it quickly passes away. Does not this prove the general integrity of the digestive function? No condition of the human stomach is more to be dreaded than that unresisting state which permits us to make it a complete scavenger for the time; while the abuse awakens slowly, in some remoter part of the human confederacy, a terrible insurrection, and still more terrible retribution.

681. I knew a physician who, at home and abroad, with others, and especially with himself, passed for a wise man. Yet, unable to resist the temptations incident to the life of a country medical practitioner, he gradually fell into the utmost irregularities about his meals. For his morning meal he had no appetite; at the dinner hour he was among his patients, eating at any hour convenient; or, oftener still, refusing to eat at all.

682. On returning to his family, — often late at evening, — , his faithful wife, who knew his habits and expectations, was accustomed to prepare for him as rich and as abundant a meal as possible, of which he almost always partook in excess. But the penalty of his trangression was fearful. Disease, painful and harassing, early followed; and, though blessed with an “iron constitution ” by birthright, he sunk into the grave at sixty-five.

683. The history of this man is, in substance, that of thousands. I have myself witnessed twenty years of the most in tense anguish, ended by a premature and terrible death, which was the obvious result of physical disobedience. The penalty, it has repeatedly been said, does not always fall directly on the suffering organ or function, but sometimes on a part in sympathy with it.

684. It may, to many, seem strange, but it is nevertheless a fact, that they who are most regular with regard to their habits of eating, — whether as it regards times of eating, quality of the food, or quantity, — are the very persons who suffer least, as a permanent thing, when compelled to occasional changes or interruptions of their accustomed habits. Or, if they suffer, the suffering is but temporary. Their stomachs are stomachs of integrity, and their promptitude in meting out justice, and putting to rights injurious tendencies, is as striking as their integrity.

685. Locke, the philosopher, has somewhere told us that when a child asks for food at any other time than at his regular meals, plain bread should be given him — no pastry, no delicacies, but simply plain bread. If the child is really hungry, he says, plain bread will go down; if not, let him go with out till he is so.

686. But why give him anything at all between his regular meals? These, to be sure, should be somewhat more frequent than our own; but this is not to make concessions to irregularity. Is it not truly marvellous to find the best of men — those who in many things have thought for themselves — still yielding to authority when arrayed against the plainest good sense?

687. It is very unfortunate for human health and happiness that the young should be trained from the very first — and to a most lamentable extent — in the way in which they should not go. They are very tenacious of life, — are made to live, — and yet, presuming on their known tenacity of life, we only make them the greater sufferers on account of it. I have known many a child, swept away by summer and autumnal diseases, who, but for his past irregularities in eating, might very probably have escaped.

688. That to train up a child in the way he should go, in every particular, is exceedingly difficult, every parent, master, or guardian well knows. Forbidden trees, on which hang curses, beset everywhere the path of human life, especially that broader division of it which, alas! so many of us travel. How to have our children escape all pitfalls and dangers, — how, even, to escape them ourselves, — is a question not by any means easy of solution ; but its importance is at* the least equal to its difficulties.

689. I wish the young could fully understand that every time they depart from their accustomed usages, and, during the intervals of their meals (be the latter few or many), venture on a little fruit, a little candy, a little confectionery, etc., they are not only impairing their appetite, and contaminating their blood, but impairing the tone of their digestive system, and deranging the action, more or less, of the whole alimentary canal.

690. Every well-directed effort to invigorate the alimentary canal, and increase the tone of that and the greater internal surface of the lungs, is richly repaid in future hardihood and health; while every neglect, or disregard — everything disloyal to the calls and demands of Nature’s conservator — is repaid in near or remote suffering, and perhaps transmitted to yet unborn generations.


691. Nothing is more common than the remark that the greatest dietetic error is with regard to quantity. It is admitted that we often err, as regards quality; that we eat irregularly; and that we eat too fast. And yet the great practical error, after all, we are told, is, that we eat too much.

692. There is truth in the remark, as the subject must necessarily be viewed by those whose standard of hygiene is still low. And yet, bad as excessive alimentation may be, it is but the natural — I had almost said necessary — result of certain errors lying back of it. If the quality of our food, and the modes of preparing and receiving it, and the moral tendencies of our nature, were such, from the very first, as they ought to be, there would be comparatively little among us of excess.

693. The common doctrine of intelligent men is, that we eat about twice as much as nature’s best purposes require. Philosophers, physiologists, chemists, pathologists, dietiticians, and even many of the unenlightened, all agree in this. Not of course that every individual eats twice as much as he ought; but that, as a people, here in the United States, this is true.

694. Most persons, it would seem, eat just about as much as they can and not suffer from it immediately. The inquiry with most who inquire at all, is not how little is best for them and how much they can save, beyond this measure, for “him who needeth”; but how much they can consume, without loss of health or character as the consequence.

[Questions. — What is said of certain random-eaters among us? Are they whose habits of eating are most regular, usually the most healthy? Must we have regard, in the formation of our habits, to the good of our race? What very specious objection is sometimes made to these views and doctrines? Why is it unsound? Relate the anecdote of a medical man, and tell me what it is designed to prove. Is this man’s history substantially that of thousand ? What has the philosopher Locke said? Wherein is he mistaken? What is there especially unfortunate in an early training? Do all our dietetic errors, especially our irregularities in regard to eating, tend to derange the action and motion of the alimentary canal? What important hints does this afford in the education of the young? What equally important hints does it afford to the self-educated?]

695. In truth, the declaration of eighteen hundred years ago, that all seek their own, not another’s (or others’) good, covers the whole ground. To get good and apply it to the gratification of our own propensities, whatever may become of others, is fallen nature’s great law, As John Foster has well said, this not caring for others is the very essence of human depravity.

696. It is frequently asked how much we should eat; and some are unsatisfied till we put in requisition the scales, and tell them exactly how many pounds or ounces they must take, daily. I have even dined, in the city of Boston, with a man otherwise respectable, who had his scales on the table, and proceeded to weigh out, before me, his dinner.

697. Of course I do not intend to question the propriety or the usefulness of weighing out our food, at least, occasionally. Experiments of weighing food, made by scientific or thinking men, for scientific or practical purposes, might be made — no doubt sometimes are made — quite useful.

698. Thus, in experiments made in Glasgow, in Scotland, on laborers, who, from their increased expenditure during their exercises, are very naturally supposed to require as large a supply of food as any other class of men, it has been found that two pounds of good bread, daily, or six pounds of good potatoes, (which in point of nutriment are deemed about equal to two pounds of bread,) is the largest quantity demanded or required.

699. President Hitchcock, late of Amherst College, and Mr. Graham, have taught that the average quantity of nutriment which the best development and support of the body require, is somewhat less than this. They, too, have made their conclusions from observation and experiment. The former would reduce the British standard quantity about one-fourth; the latter, nearly one-half.

700. Much allowance, in this matter, must be made for early training, as will be seen in the next section. I once had the pleasure of sustaining, at college, a most deserving young man, who could not get along, as he believed, without two pounds of bread, or its equivalent, daily. But he had been trained to excess; and for the time seemed to demand it. However, he exhausted his physical capital in a few years, and died bankrupt!

701. Are there, then, you may be disposed to ask, no specific rules for the individual, about quantity? Must we gather up, from abstract or general principles and from facts, a code for ourselves? Like the new-fledged arithmetician at school, must we make our own rules? Is experience in dietetics every thing, and science nothing?

702. Not quite so fast. I have given you the deductions of science already. It has determined, no less surely than experience, that we eat too much. It has told us what is the maximum quantity required. What the minimum or smallest quantity we really need is, we have not yet inquired. And most persons do not choose to make the inquiry, lest they should have to resist, a little, their propensities.

703. To those who have moral courage enough — in other and better words, enough of Christian philosophy — to dare to make the inquiry, a few rules may be given which will enable them to approximate towards the truth in the case, by seeking an answer to the inquiry: How little can we get along with, and at the same time best discharge all our duties and secure all lawful and proper interests?

704. We have been taught, in time past, to leave off hungry; or, as some express it, with a good appetite. Or, as others still, are wont to say, we have been told never to eat quite enough. The rule is a good one, as far as it goes. I have known a few who partly observed it; and they believe they owe to this partial obedience their health and life.

705. Thus, Grant Thorburn, whose writings, over the signature of Laurie Todd, have interested and delighted many, and who, at the age of ninety, or nearly so, is almost as young in his feelings as ever he was, is accustomed to say to his friends that he never ate enough in his whole life.

706. Early in the year 1852, I called to see a man in Ohio, who was eighty-seven years of age. It was one of the severest days of a most severe winter. He was in the woods, at work, for he was a farmer; but he soon came home. Surprised at his power to labor and endure the cold, I inquired about his habits; and, among other things, asked him about the quantity of his food. His answer included just such a statement as that of Mr. Thorburn.

707. Cases of this kind might be multiplied, not, however, to an indefinite extent; for, most unhappily, the world as yet does not abound with them. I will only add to the list, at present, John “Williams, a Baptist minister of Rhode Island, who died at the age of one hundred years or more, and myself.

708. It is quite possible to err, however, under this rule. A person who bolts his food will eat much more without reaching the point of satiety than one who does not. While, therefore, he who bolts food has not reached the stopping-place, so far as he knows, another who masticates well has reached it with far less food. The former may therefore eat too much and yet leave off hungry.

709. It is a better rule still, to eat no longer than the food appears to refresh us, bodily and mentally. This rule, I grant, is liable to the same difficulties with the preceding, nevertheless, it restricts us more. For even Grant Thorburn, who never eats enough, may possibly sometimes eat so long as to become dull in body or mind as the result. I am not without doubt whether he and my Ohio friend always leave off their meal with feelings of merriment, and with a disposition to dance and sing, like children. Yet such, as I believe, should be the effect of our eating. Its main object, I grant, is to secure nourishment for a future hour; but it has a secondary object, too, which is refreshment and gratification.

710. It is recorded of President Jefferson, that he was accustomed to remark that no man, when he comes to die, ever repents of having eaten so little. This remark would be worth more if it were true that men are apt to repent of eating too much. But the truth is, we seldom exercise any genuine repentance at all when we come to die, unless we have begun the work before. Death-beds are not the very honest places some have supposed. Men generally die as they live.

711. The early travellers among the Japanese tell us that a native of that country, especially of the interior, will work all day long on a mere handful of rice and a little fruit. Yet the Japanese are among the stoutest and strongest men of Asia ; and for size and strength almost resemble the German, the Swiss, and the Yankee. Can it be that they suffer for want of food?

712. We come back, then, from our reasonings and facts to the point whence we started, viz., to the affirmation that we generally eat twice as much as we ought, and that retrenchment is loudly and imperiously demanded. Few err on the other side. Inclination, habit, refined cookery, and the customs of society are all against it.

713. I have admitted that the laborer, as a general rule, requires more food than other men, because his expenditure is greater. Yet it does not thence follow, that he who performs two days’ work in one, and who consequently overworks him self, should eat in the same proportion, that is, twice as much. Generally speaking, if he really overworks, he should eat some what less, since the same causes which have overtasked and crippled his general system must have reduced the energies of his digestive system in the same proportion.

Ancient Greek View on Olive Oil as Part of the Healthy Mediterranean Diet

“I may instance olive oil, which is mischievous to all plants, and generally most injurious to the hair of every animal with the exception of man, but beneficial to human hair and to the human body generally; and even in this application (so various and changeable is the nature of the benefit), that which is the greatest good to the outward parts of a man, is a very great evil to his inward parts: and for this reason physicians always forbid their patients the use of oil in their food, except in very small quantities, just enough to extinguish the disagreeable sensation of smell in meats and sauces.
~Socrates dialogue with Protagoras

So what did ancient Greeks most often use for cooking? They preferred animal fat, most likely lard. Pigs have a much higher amount of fat than most other animals. And pigs are easy to raise under almost any conditions: cold and hot, fields and forests, plains and mountains, mainlands and islands. Because of this, lard is one of the few common features in traditional societies, including the longest-lived populations.

That was true of the ancient Greeks, but it has been true ever since in many parts of the world, especially in Europe but also in Asia. This continued to be true as the Western world expanded with colonialism and new societies formed. As Nina Teicholz notes, “saturated fats of every kind were consumed in great quantities. Americans in the nineteenth century ate four to five times more butter than we do today, and at least six times more lard” (The Big Fat Surprise).

To return to the Greeks, the modern population is not following a traditional diet. Prior to the World War era, pork and lard was abundant in the diet. But during wartime, the pig population was decimated from violence, disruption of the food system, and the confiscation of pigs to feed the military.

The same thing happened in the the most pig-obsessed culture in history, the long-lived Okinawans, when the Japanese during WWII stole or killed all of their pigs — as the Japanese perceived these shamanistic rural people on an isolated island to be a separate race and so were treated as less worthy. The Okinawans independence was dependent on their raising pigs and that was taken away from them.

When the Greeks and Okinawans were studied after the war, the diet observed was not the diet that existed earlier, the traditional lard-based and nutrient-dense diet that most of the population had spent most of their lives eating. They were long-lived not because of the lack of lard but because of it once having been abundant.

So, something like olive oil, once primarily used as a lamp fuel, was turned to in replacing the lost access to lard. Olive oil was a poverty food used out of necessity, not out of preference. It is great credit to modern marketing and propaganda that olive oil has been sold as a healthy oil when, in fact, most olive oil bought in the store is rancid. Olive oil is actually a fruit juice which is why it can’t be kept long before going bad, maybe why it gained a bad reputation in ancient Greece.

Lard and other animal fats, on the other hand, because they are heavily saturated have long shelf-life and don’t oxidize when used for cooking. Also, unlike vegetable oils, animal fats from pastured animals is filled with fat-soluble vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids, essential to health and longevity. How did this traditional knowledge, going back to the ancient world, get lost in a single generation of devastating war?

* * *

American Heart Association’s “Fat and Cholesterol Counter” (1991)

Even hydrogenated fat gets blamed on saturated fat, since the hydrogenation process turns some small portion of it saturated, which ignores the heavy damage and inflammatory response caused by the oxidization process (both in the industrial processing and in cooking). Not to mention those hydrogenated fats as industrial seed oils are filled with omega-6 fatty acids, the main reason they are so inflammatory. Saturated fat, on the other hand, is not inflammatory at all. This obsession with saturated fat is so strange. It never made any sense from a scientific perspective. When the obesity epidemic began and all that went with it, the consumption of saturated fat by Americans had been steadily dropping for decades, ever since the invention of industrial seed oils in the late 1800s and the fear about meat caused by Upton Sinclair’s muckraking journalism, The Jungle, about the meatpacking industry.

The amount of saturated fat and red meat has declined over the past century, to be replaced with those industrial seed oils and lean white meat, along with fruits and vegetables — all of which have been increasing.** Chicken, in particular, replaced beef and what stands out about chicken is that, like those industrial seed oils, it is high in the inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids. How could saturated fat be causing the greater rates of heart disease and such when people were eating less of it. This scapegoating wasn’t only unscientific but blatantly irrational. All of this info was known way back when Ancel Keys went on his anti-fat crusade (The Creed of Ancel Keys). It wasn’t a secret. And it required cherrypicked data and convoluted rationalizations to explain away.

Worse than removing saturated fat when it’s not a health risk is the fact that it is actually an essential nutrient for health: “How much total saturated do we need? During the 1970s, researchers from Canada found that animals fed rapeseed oil and canola oil developed heart lesions. This problem was corrected when they added saturated fat to the animals diets. On the basis of this and other research, they ultimately determined that the diet should contain at least 25 percent of fat as saturated fat. Among the food fats that they tested, the one found to have the best proportion of saturated fat was lard, the very fat we are told to avoid under all circumstances!” (Millie Barnes, The Importance of Saturated Fats for Biological Functions).

It is specifically lard that has been most removed from the diet, and this is significant as lard was a central to the American diet until this past century: “Pre-1936 shortening is comprised mainly of lard while afterward, partially hydrogenated oils came to be the major ingredient” (Nina Teicholz, The Big Fat Surprise, p. 95); “Americans in the nineteenth century ate four to five times more butter than we do today, and at least six times more lard” (p. 126). And what about the Mediterranean people who supposedly are so healthy because of their love of olive oil? “Indeed, in historical accounts going back to antiquity, the fat more commonly used in cooking in the Mediterranean, among peasants and the elite alike, was lard.” (p. 217).

Jason Prall notes that long-lived populations ate “lots of meat” and specifically, “They all ate pig. I think pork was the was the only common animal that we saw in the places that we went” (Longevity Diet & Lifestyle Caught On Camera w/ Jason Prall). The infamous long-lived Okinawans also partake in everything from pigs, such that their entire culture and religion was centered around pigs (Blue Zones Dietary Myth). Lard, in case you didn’t know, comes from pigs. Pork and lard is found in so many diets for the simple reason pigs can live in diverse environments, from mountainous forests to tangled swamps to open fields, and they are a food source available year round.

Blue Zones Dietary Myth

And one of the animal foods so often overlooked is lard: “In the West, the famous Roseto Penssylvanians also were great consumers of red meat and saturated fat. Like traditional Mediterraneans, they ate more lard than olive oil (olive oil was too expensive for everyday cooking and too much in demand for other uses: fuel, salves, etc). Among long-lived societies, one of the few commonalities was lard, as pigs are adaptable creatures that can be raised almost anywhere” (Eat Beef and Bacon!). […]

Looking back at their traditional diet, Okinawans have not consumed many grains, added sugars, industrial vegetable oils, or highly processed foods and they still eat less rice than other Japanese: “Before 1949 the Okinawans ate NO Wheat and little rice” (Julianne Taylor, The Okinawan secret to health and longevity – no wheat?). Also, similar to the Mediterranean people (another population studied after the devastation of WWII) who didn’t use much olive oil until recently, Okinawans traditionally cooked everything in lard that would have come from nutrient-dense pigs, the fat being filled with omega-3s and fat-soluble vitamins. Also, consider that most of the fat in lard is monounsaturated, the same kind of fat that is deemed healthy in olive oil.

“According to gerontologist Kazuhiko Taira, the most common cooking fat used traditionally in Okanawa is a monounsaturated fat-lard. Although often called a “saturated fat,” lard is 50 percent monounsaturated fat (including small amounts of health-producing antimicrobial palmitoleic acid), 40 percent saturated fat and 10 percent polyunsaturated. Taira also reports that healthy and vigorous Okinawans eat 100 grams each of pork and fish each day [7]” (Wikipedia, Longevity in Okinawa).

It’s not only the fat, though. As with most traditional populations, Okinawans ate all parts of the animal, including the nutritious organ meat (and the skin, ears, eyes, brains, etc). By the way, besides pork, they also ate goat meat. There would have been a health benefit from their eating some of their meat raw (e.g., goat) or fermented (e.g., fish), as some nutrients are destroyed in cooking. The small amounts of soy that Okinawans ate in the past was mostly tofu fermented for several months, and fermentation is one of those healthy preparation techniques widely used in traditional societies. They do eat some unfermented tofu as well, but I’d point out that it typically is fried in lard or used to be. […]

The most popular form of pork in the early 1900s was tonkatsu, by the way originally fried in animal fat according to an 1895 cookbook (butter according to that recipe but probably lard before that early period of Westernization). “Several dedicated tonkatsu restaurants cropped up around the 1920s to ’40s, with even more opening in the ’50s and ’60s, after World War II — the big boom period for tonkatsu. […] During the Great Depression of the 1930s, a piece of tonkatsu, which could be bought freshly cooked from the butcher, became the ultimate affordable payday treat for the poor working class. The position of tonkatsu as everyman food was firmly established.” This pork-heavy diet was what most Japanese were eating prior to World War II, but it wouldn’t survive the conflict when food deprivation came to afflict the population long afterwards.

Comment by gp

I just finished reading The Blue Zones and enjoyed it very much, but I was wondering about something that was not addressed in great detail. All of the diets discussed other than the Adventists (Sardinia, Okinawa and Nicoya) include lard, which I understand is actually used in significant quantities in some or all of those places. You describe (Nicoyan) Don Faustino getting multiple 2-liter bottles filled with lard at the market. Does he do this every week, and if so, what is he using all of that lard for? In Nicoya and Sardinia, eggs and dairy appear to play a large role in the daily diet. Your quote from Philip Wagner indicates that the Nicoyans were eating eggs three times a day (sometimes fried in lard), in addition to some kind of milk curd.

The Blue Zones Solutions by Dan Buettner
by Julia Ross (another version on the author’s website)

As in The Blue Zones, his earlier paean to the world’s traditional diets and lifestyles, author Buettner’s new book begins with detailed descriptions of centenarians preparing their indigenous cuisines. He finishes off these introductory tales with a description of a regional Costa Rican diet filled with eggs, cheese, meat and lard, which he dubs “the best longevity diet in the world.”

Then Buettner turns to how we’re to adapt this, and his other model eating practices, into our current lives. At this point he suddenly presents us with a twenty-first century pesco-vegan regimen that is the opposite of the traditional food intake that he has just described in loving detail. He wants us to fast every twenty-four hours by eating only during an eight-hour period each day. He wants us to eat almost no meat, poultry, eggs or dairy products at any time. Aside from small amounts of olive oil, added fats are not even mentioned, except to be warned against.

How Much Soy Do Okinawans Eat?
by Kaayla Daniel

There are other credibility problems with the Okinawa Centenarian Study, at least as interpreted in the author’s popular books. In 2001, Dr. Suzuki reported in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition that “monounsaturates” were the principal fatty acids in the Okinawan diet. In the popular books, this was translated into a recommendation for canola oil, a genetically modified version of rapeseed oil developed in Canada that could not possibly have become a staple of anyone’s diet before the 1980s. According to gerontologist Kazuhiko Taira, the most common cooking fat used traditionally in Okanawa is a very different monounsaturated fat-lard. Although often called a “saturated fat,” lard is 50 percent monounsaturated fat (including small amounts of health-producing antimicrobial palmitoleic acid), 40 percent saturated fat and 10 percent polyunsaturated. Taira also reports that healthy and vigorous Okinawans eat 100 grams each of pork and fish each day. Thus, the diet of the long-lived Okinawans is actually very different from the kind of soy-rich vegan diet that Robbins recommends.

Nourishing Diets:
How Paleo, Ancestral and Traditional Peoples Really Ate

by Sally Fallon Morell
pp. 263-270
(a version of the following can be found here)

From another source, 7 we learn that:

Traditional foods of Okinawa are extremely varied, remarkably nutrient-dense as are all traditional foods and strictly moderated with the philosophy of hara hachi bu [eat until you are 80 percent full]. While the diet of Okinawa is, indeed, plant-based it is most certainly not “low fat” as has been posited by some writer-researchers about the native foods of Okinawa. Indeed, all those stir fries of bitter melon and fresh vegetables found in Okinawan bowls are fried in lard and seasoned with sesame oil. I remember fondly that a slab of salt pork graced every bowl of udon I slurped up while living on the island. Pig fat is not, as you can imagine, a low-fat food yet the Okinawans are fond of it. Much of the fat consumed is pastured as pigs are commonly raised at home in the gardens of Okinawan homes. Pork and lard, like avocado and olive oil, are a remarkably good source of monounsaturated fatty acid and, if that pig roots around on sunny days, it is also a remarkably good source of vitamin D.

The diet of Okinawa also includes considerably more animal products and meat—usually in the form of pork—than that of the mainland Japanese or even the Chinese. Goat and chicken play a lesser, but still important, role in Okinawan cuisine. Okinawans average about 100 grams or one modest portion of meat per person per day. Animal foods are important on Okinawa and, like all food, play a role in the population’s general health, well-being and longevity. Fish plays an important role in the cooking of Okinawa as well. Seafoods eaten are various and numerous—with Okinawans averaging about 200 grams of fish per day.

Buettner implies that the Okinawans do not eat much fish, but in fact, they eat quite a lot, just not as much as Japanese mainlanders.

The Okinawan diet became a subject of interest after the publication of a 1996 article in Health Magazine about the work of gerontologist Kazuhiko Taira, 8 who described the Okinawan diet as “very healthy—and very, very greasy.” The whole pig is eaten, he noted, everything from “tails to nails.” Local menus offer boiled pig’s feet, entrail soup and shredded ears. Pork is marinated in a mixture of soy sauce, ginger, kelp and small amounts of sugar, then sliced or chopped for stir-fry dishes. Okinawans eat about 100 grams of meat per day—compared to 70 grams in Japan and just over 20 grams in China—and at least an equal amount of fish, for a total of about 200 grams per day, compared to 280 grams per person per day of meat and fish in America. Lard—not vegetable oil—is used in cooking. […]

What’s clear is that the real Okinawan longevity diet is an embarrassment to modern diet gurus. The diet was and is greasy and good, with the largest proportion of calories coming from pork and pork fat, and many additional calories from fish; those who reach old age eat more animal protein and fat than those who don’t. Maybe that’s what gives the Okinawans the attitudes that Buettner so admires, “an affable smugness” that makes it easy to “enjoy today’s simple pleasures.”

Hara Hachi Bu: Lessons from Okinawa
by Jenny McGruther

Traditional foods of Okinawa are extremely varied, remarkably nutrient-dense as are all traditional foods and strictly moderated with the philosophy of hara hachi bu. While the diet of Okinawa is, indeed, plant-based it is most certainly not “low fat” as has been posited by some writer-researchers about the native foods of Okinawa. Indeed, all those stirfries of bittermelon and fresh vegetables found in Okinawan bowls are fried in lard and seasoned with sesame oil. I remember fondly that a slab of salt pork graced every bowl of udon I slurped up while living on the island. Pig fat is not, as you can imagine, a low-fat food yet the Okinawans are fond of it. Much of the fat consumed is pastured as pigs are commonly raised at home in the gardens of Okinawan homes. Pork and lard, like avocado and olive oil, are a remarkably good source of monounsaturated fatty acid and, if that pig roots around on sunny days, it is also a remarkably source of vitamin D.

The Sickness of the Sick Care System

“Today medical schools in the United States offer, on average, only about nineteen hours of nutrition education over four years of medical school. Only 29 percent of U.S. medical schools offer the recommended twenty-five hours of nutrition education. A study in the International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health assessed the basic nutrition and health knowledge of medical school graduates entering a pediatric residency program and found that, on average, they answered only 52 percent of eighteen questions correctly. In short, most mainstream doctors would fail nutrition.
~Dr. Will Cole, Ketotarian (quoted here), 2018

Burnout has become an increasing problem among physicians. A recent Medscape survey found high rates of burnout among medical practitioners, including 42% of psychiatrists and mental health professionals. Depression is also extremely common in physicians, who have a suicide rate higher than that of the general population, and even higher than that of other academics. There is also a high suicide rate in psychologists, with some studies suggesting that close to 30% have felt suicidal and nearly 4% have made a suicide attempt. One study of more than 1000 randomly sampled counseling psychologists found that 62% of respondents self-identified as depressed, and of those with depressive symptoms, 42% reported experiencing some form of suicidal ideation or behavior.
~Batya Swift Yasgur, Challenging Stigma: Should Psychiatrists Disclose Their Own Mental Illness?, 2019

“Researchers Rubén Díaz and Carlos Rodríguez, explored the burnout prevalence of mental health professionals in Panama (where I live and work) and found that about 36 percent of its community has suffered from burnout syndrome at one point or another of their careers… While it’s not shocking to learn that mental health professionals also struggle with mental health issues—given that we’re human and all—it’s disconcerting to see research show that mental health care professional are hesitant to seek help. In the aforementioned study, about 43 percent of psychologists “struggle to see the presentation of mental illness and psychological distress within themselves,” and one in five psychologists withholds information about their emotional difficulties.
~Mariana Plata, Therapists Need Therapy, Too, 2018

Probably no single fact illustrates the frequency of this disease [neurasthenia] more impressively than this, that at all times while on duty, I have a number of physicians, who are themselves sufferers in this way, under my care. Many of these medical patients have been affiicted for years, without ever reaching the true diagnosis of the condition, and in not a few instances, the real debility and distress are heightened and intensified by fear of impending disablement. Overworked and overworried physicians are quite apt to develop this disease, and for reasons elsewhere stated… are also more likely to develop at the same time hypochondria or pathophobia. At least one of every ten of those who consult me for neurasthenia are physicians.
~Dr. George Miller Beard, A Practical Treatise On Nervous Exhaustion (Neurasthenia), 1884

“Perhaps he is best known for the establishment of his rest cure, a method of treatment for patients, especially women, who suffered from hysteria and neurasthenia. The cure became the standard treatment for many decades, particularly in England… On a visit to Paris, Mitchell sought out the great Jean Martin Charcot (1825-1893) for help without revealing his name. Where was he from? “Philadelphia?” Then said Charcot: “You should consult Weir Mitchell; he is the best man in America for your kind of trouble.”
~Whonamedit? Biographical Dictionary, Silas Weir Mitchell

“Heard joke once: Man goes to doctor. Says he’s depressed. Says life seems harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in a threatening world where what lies ahead is vague and uncertain. Doctor says, “Treatment is simple. Great clown Pagliacci is in town tonight. Go and see him. That should pick you up.” Man bursts into tears. Says, “But doctor…I am Pagliacci.”
~Alan Moore, Watchmen, 1987

“What would Mister Rogers do?”

“He had faith in us, and even if his faith turns out to have been misplaced, even if we have abandoned him, he somehow endures, standing between us and our electrified antipathies and recriminations like the Tank Man of Tiananmen Square in a red sweater.”
~Tom Junod, My Friend Mister Rogers

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is an inspiring and, in the end, a challenging portrayal of Fred Rogers, AKA ‘Mister Rogers’. It took some suspension of disbelief, though. Tom Hanks does as good of a job as is possible, but no one can replace the real thing. Mr. Rogers was distinctive in appearance and behavior. The production team could have used expensive CGI to make Hanks look more like the real man, but that was not necessary. It wasn’t a face that made the children’s tv show host so well respected and widely influential. A few minutes in, I was able to forget I was watching an actor playing a role and became immersed in the personality and the moral character that was cast upon the screen of imagination, the movie presented as if a new episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood had just been released.

The way the movie was done was highly effective. It was based on an Esquire article, Can You Say … Hero? by Tom Junod. It was jarring at first in taking a roundabout approach, but it might have been the only way to go about it for the intended purpose. Fred Rogers appears to have been a person who was genuinely and fully focused on other people, not on himself. So a biopic that captures his essence requires demonstrating this concern for others, which makes him a secondary character in the very movie that is supposedly about him. We explore his world by experiencing the profound impact he had on specific people, in this case not only Junod but also his family, while there are other scenes showing the personable moments of Mr. Rogers meeting with children. The story arc is about Junod’s change of heart, whereas Mr. Rogers remains who he was from the start.

This leaves Mr. Rogers himself as an unknown to viewers not already familiar with the biographical details. We are shown little about his personal life and nothing about his past, but the narrow focus helps to get at something essential. We already were given a good documentary about him from last year. This movie was serving a different purpose. It offers a window to peer through, to see how he related and what it meant for those who experienced it. Part of the hidden background was his Christianity, as he was an ordained Presbyterian minister. Yet even as Christianity inspired him, he never put his faith out in the public view. As Jesus taught to pray in secret, Fred Rogers took it one step further by keeping his faith almost entirely hidden. He didn’t want to force his beliefs onto others. The purpose of religion is not dogma or outward forms. If religion matters at all, it’s about how it transforms people. That is what Mr. Rogers, as a man and a media personality, was all about.

Some people don’t understand this and so don’t grasp what made him so special. Armond White at National Review wrote that, “Heller and screenwriters Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster don’t show enough faith in Rogers’ remedies—and not enough interest in their religious origins. In short, the movie seems wary of faith (it briefly mentions that Rogers was an ordained minister) and settles for secular sentimentality to account for his sensibility and behavior. This not only weakens the film, but it also hobbles Hanks’s characterization” (Christian Faith Is the Missing Ingredient in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood). That misses the entire message being conveyed, not only the message of the movie but, more importantly, the message of Mr. Rogers himself. As Greg Forster subtly puts it, “that is of course the whole goddamned point here” (Pass the Popcorn: Anything Mentionable Is Managable).

To have put Mr. Roger’s Christianity front and center would be to do what Mr. Rogers himself intentionally avoided. He met people where they were at, rather than trying to force or coerce others into his belief system, not that he would have thought of his moral concern as a belief system. He was not an evangelical missionary seeking to preach and proselytize, much less attempting to save the lost souls of heathenish children or make Christian America great again. In his way of being present to others, he was being more Christ-like than most Christians, as Jesus never went around trying to convert people. Jesus wasn’t a ‘good Christian’ and, by being vulnerable in his humanity, neither was Fred Rogers. Rather, his sole purpose was just to be kind to others. Religion, in its highest form, is about how one relates to others and to the world. Thomas Paine voiced his own radical faith with the words, “The World is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion.” I suspect Mr. Rogers would have agreed. It really is that simple or it should be.

That childlike directness of his message, the simplicity of being fully present and relating well, that was the magical quality of the show, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. I didn’t appreciate it when I was a kid. It was a fixture of my childhood, a show I watched and that was all. But looking back on it, I can sense what made it unique. Like the man himself, the show was extremely simple, one might call it basic, demonstrated by the same ragged puppets he used his entire career. This was no fancy Jim Henson muppet production. What made it real and compelling to a child was what the people involved put into it, not only Fred Rogers but so many others who were dedicated to the show. Along with the simplicity, there was a heartfelt sincerity to it all. The scenes with the puppets, Daniel Striped Tiger most of all, were often more emotionally raw and real than what is typically done by professional actors in Hollywood movies.

That is what stands out about Tom Hank’s performance in bringing this to life. He is one of the few actors who could come close to pulling it off and even his attempt was imperfect. But I have to give Hanks credit for getting the essence right. The emotional truth came through. Sincerity is no small thing, in this age of superficiality and cynicism. To call it a breath of fresh air is a criminal understatement. Mr. Rogers was entirely committed to being human and acknowledging the humanity in others. That is such a rare thing. I’m not sure how many people understood that about him, what exactly made him so fascinating to children and what created a cult-like following among the generations who grew up watching his show. As a character says about the drug D in A Scanner Darkly, “You’re either on it or you’ve never tried it.”

Some people claim that “sincerity is bullshit” (Harry Frankfurt), a sentiment I understand in feeling jaded about the world. But I must admit that Fred Rogers’ sincerity most definitely and deeply resonates for me, based on my own experience in the New Thought worldview I was raised in, a touchy-feel form of Christianity where emotional authenticity trumps outward form, basically Protestantism pushed to its most extreme endpoint. Seeing the emotional rawness in Mr. Rogers’ life, although coming from a different religious background than my own, reminded me of the sincerity that I’ve struggled with in myself. I’ve always been an overly sincere person and often overly serious, that is how I think of myself… but can anyone really ever be too sincere? The message of Mr. Rogers is that we all once were emotionally honest when children and only later forgot this birthright. It remains in all of us and that core of our humanity is what he sought to touch upon, and indeed many people responded to this and felt genuinely touched. The many testimonies of ordinary people to Mr. Rogers’ legacy are inspiring.

This worldview of authenticity was made clear in one particular scene in the movie. “Vogel says he believes his dining companion likes “people like me … broken people.” Rogers is having none of it. “I don’t think you are broken,” Rogers begins, speaking slowly and deliberately. “I know you are a man of conviction, a person who knows the difference between what is wrong and what is right. Try to remember that your relationship with your father also helped to shape those parts. He helped you become what you are”” (Cathleen Falsani, Meditating On Love and Connection with Mr. Rogers and C.S. Lewis). That dialogue was not pulled from real life, according to Tom Junod in his latest piece My Friend Mister Rogers, but even Junod found himself emotionally moved when watching the scene. The point is that what mattered to Fred Rogers was conviction and he lived his life through his own conviction, maybe a moral obligation even. The man was exacting in his discipline and extremely intentional in everything he did, maybe even obsessive-compulsive, as seen in how he maintained his weight at exactly 143 lbs throughout his adult life and in how he kept FBI-style files on all of his friends and correspondents. He had so little interest in himself that even his wife of 50 years knew little about his personal experience and memories that he rarely talked about. His entire life, his entire being apparently was focused laser-like on other people.

He was not a normal human. How does someone become like that? One gets the sense that Mr. Rogers in the flesh would have, with humility, downplayed such an inquiry. He let on that he too was merely human, that he worried and struggled like anyone else. The point, as he saw it, was that he was not a saint or a hero. He was just a man who felt deeply and passionately moved to take action. But where did that powerful current of empathy and compassion come from? He probably would have given all credit to God, as his softspoken and often unspoken faith appears to have been unwavering. Like the Blues Brothers, he was a man on a mission from God. He was not lacking in earnestness. And for those of us not so fully earnest, it can seem incomprehensible that such a mortal human could exist: “He was a genius,” Junod wrote, “he had superpowers; he might as well have been a friendly alien, thrown upon the rocks of our planet to help us find our way to the impossible possibility that we are loved” (My Friend Mister Rogers). Yet for all the easy ways it would be to idolize him or dismiss him, he continues to speak to the child in all of us. Maybe ‘Mister Rogers’ was not a mystery, but instead maybe we are making it too complicated. We need to step back and, as he so often advised, remember what it was like to be a child.

Fred Rogers was a simple man who spoke simply and that is what made him so radically challenging. “Indeed, what makes measuring Fred’s legacy so difficult is that Fred’s legacy is so clear.” Junod goes on to say, “It isn’t that he is revered but not followed; so much as he is revered because he is not followed—because remembering him as a nice man is easier than thinking of him as a demanding one. He spoke most clearly through his example, but our culture consoles itself with the simple fact that he once existed. There is no use asking further questions of him, only of ourselves. We know what Mister Rogers would do, but even now we don’t know what to do with the lessons of Mister Rogers.” He might as well have been talking about Jesus Christ, the divine made flesh. But if there was spiritual truth in Fred Rogers, he taught that it was a spiritual truth in all of us, that we are children of God. Rather than what would Mister Rogers do, what will we do in remembering him?

Epilepsy Not Treated With Ketosis

Silas Weir Mitchell was a famous doctor that first learned about neurological disease during his service in the American Civil War. He is most well known for his views on hysteria and neurasthenia, but he was considered an expert on other neurological conditions as well. One area he was respected in was the treatment of epilepsy, for which he preferred to use drugs. “Despite the prevalent views on lifestyle modification as a treatment for epilepsy during this time period, as well as Mitchell’s own development of the “rest cure” for certain disease states, he was not a proponent of these types of interventions for epilepsy” (David B. Burkholder & Christopher J. Boes, Silas Weir Mitchell on Epilepsy Therapy in the Late 19th to Early 20th Centuries).

From his writings on neurasthenia, he had articulated a common view of this disease in terms of nerves and energy, libido and sexuality. And he applied a similar understanding to epilepsy: “Still, in Mitchell’s first discussion of amyl nitrite as an abortive therapy, he clearly agreed with a common thought of the day by attributing the patient’s epilepsy to sexual vices, stating he had partaken in “…great excess, and that the punishment was distinctly born of the offence” (Burkholder & Boes). But in 1912, he questioned his prior causal explanations, having had written that, “It is conceivable that in nerve centres normal or abnormal substances may accumulate until they result in irritative symptoms and discharges of neural energy. But how then could this sequence be arrested by a mere sensory stimulation, like a ligature on an arm, or by abruptly dilating the cerebral vessels with amyl? The explosions would only be put off for the minute; the activating poison would remain.” These doubts were expressed when in his early 80s, after a long career in medicine.

Still, he never suspected any role to be played by diet or lifestyle. This is strange, considering his professional expertise in his having used diet and lifestyle for those suffering from neurasthenia, a neurological disorder like epilepsy. Even in his theorizing, the factors he considered for both overlapped to some degree in specific details and through general framework. Yet for epilepsy, he couldn’t somehow make a connection in the same way between physical health and mental health. Meanwhile, others were attempting to make such connections. There was much experimentation going on with epilepsy, including dietary protocols.

William Spratling, in Epilepsy and Its Treatment (1904), partly shared Mitchell’s assessment in writing that, “have been unable to determine that different foods have any specific effect on epilepsy itself beyond that which they have on the organism in general.” That didn’t stop him from having suggested a mixed/balanced diet that, though not having excluded carbohydrates, did tell epileptics to eat moderately and slowly while avoiding pastries, alcohol and over-sweetened drinks. In certain extreme cases, he went even further by asserting that, “Foods should be in liquid form and highly nutritious from the start. Various preparations of milk, eggs, and beef extracts may be given; but plain peptonized milk is by far the best food of all. It should be given often and in small amounts.”

Spratling’s professional advice for treatment in some cases potentially could have been ketogenic, if not in a systematic manner. The same might’ve also been true of Sir J. Russell Reynolds’ even earlier 1862 epileptic protocol of avoiding “Salted meats, pastry, preserved vegetables, and cheese” (Epilepsy: Its Symptoms, Treatment, and Relation to Other Chronic Convulsive Diseases). Besides openly advocated low-carb diets like that of William Banting, many scientific experts, medical practitioners, public intellectuals and popular writers during that era flirted around the edges of restricting starches and sugar for various reason, though not to treat epilepsy. That is significant, since the average diet was already far lower in carbohydrates than what was seen in the following generations. Some patients would have found relief from seizures through ketosis without realizing what had helped them. The seeming randomness of who did and who did not experience improvements had to have been frustrating to doctors of the time.

In 1914, two years after having fallen into self-questioning, Mitchell would die without having learned of an effective treatment. Only a few years later in 1921, there was the discovery of dietary ketosis (Rollin Woodyatt) and the discovery of the medical use of a ketogenic diet for epileptic seizures (Russel Wilder), although ketosis was used for this purpose through fasting as far back as 500 BC. Despite this failure, like so many others, he approached the territory of a ketogenic diet while entirely missing it, such as in his recommendations of meat and dairy for neurasthenics which potentially could’ve put a patient into a state of ketosis. He came so close, though. After graduating from medical college in 1851, he moved to Paris and spent a year studying under Claude Bernard. About a decade later, the British Dr. William Harvey heard Bernard speak about the relationship between diet and diabetes, and this information he used to formulate a low-carb diet for his patient William Banting to lose weight. Banting then popularized this diet, but at that point it had already been in use by others going back to the 1790s.

During Mitchell’s lifetime, most Americans would have still followed a diet where carbohydrates were a small portion of meals and a small percentage of calories. It’s probable that the majority of the population during the 19th century was regularly in a state of ketosis, as the common diet back then consisted of mostly animal foods — what Nina Teicholz describes as the “meat-and-butter-gorging eighteenth and nineteenth centuries” (The Big Fat Surprise; see context of quote in Malnourished Americans). Mitchell himself might have experienced ketosis at different points in his life without realizing it. This wouldn’t have been an unusual thing for most of human existence, if not from a low-carb diet then from caloric restriction, intermittent eating, and fasting — ketosis isn’t exactly hard to achieve in a traditional setting. For example, it used to be standard for Americans to eat only one meal a day (Abigail Carroll, Three Squares) and that was in the context of a labor-intensive rural lifestyle. Sugary cereals, Pop-Tarts, etc were not available for breakfast. And snacking all day on crackers, chips, and cookies simply was not an option.

It’s interesting to note that meat-and-butter or rather meat-and-milk was what Mitchell, working as a doctor in the 19th century, told his neurasthenic patients to eat. But for unexplained reasons, he didn’t advise the same or a similar eating pattern to his epileptic patients. Low-carb and animal-based dieting was popular in his lifetime and was used by many doctors for various conditions, often for obesity but far from limited to that. It’s odd that no one made the connection of the ancient practice of fasting for epileptic seizures with the 19th century practice of potentially ketogenic diets. No one managed to figure this out until the 1920s and not for a lack of experimentation with diverse alimentary regimens. Then when it was finally discovered, after a short period of research, it was mostly forgotten about again for another three-quarters of a century. Yet even now drugs remain the primary treatment for epilepsy, despite ketosis being the most effective, not to mention safest, treatment; and, if ketosis is the normal state of physiological functioning, we might call it a cure for many people.