Research On Meat And Health

Below are mostly some scientific articles on meat-related research and meta-analyses. Mixed in are also some general articles discussing this area of scientific study and the implications of the evidence. A major focus is on the data that is available and lacking, but also the data that is in contradiction, specifically between Western and Asian sources. What some of the authors explain is how this is problematic in having led to unsubstantiated dietary recommendations and healthcare practices. Included further down is a section that explores a specific example, that of the so-called China Study.

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4/11/22 – As a revision, there was added new studies on meat-based diets. The most important is a recent Harvard research paper about the first carnivore diet study ever done. That has long been a criticisms, that there was no research on the carnivore diet. And it was as much, if not more, a criticism of nutrition studies than a criticism of the carnivore diet. It’s a diet that has been known about since earlier last century when an informal hospital study was done on a couple of individuals. Also, it’s long been known that some hunter-gatherer tribes follow a near-carnivore diet. Anyway, this is a game-changer.

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4/13/22 – All of this has still been on my mind, as I was noticing how much lively public debate is finally happening on these issues, after decades of suppression of public debate. It is quite refreshing. What has changed is a growing awareness of the replication crisis in nutrition studies. Researchers in the field knew about the replication crisis for a long time, but it took a while to filter out into the general public and begin to inform our critical attitude toward the older research. This was combined with improved standards for research that led to results and conclusions that challenged, contradicted, and in some cases disproved conventional wisdom, mainstream healthcare practice, and official dietary guidelines.

An example of this is the generations of fear-mongering over saturated fat. What is interesting about this is that, even though meat gets blamed, the main source of saturated fat is actually dairy. Indeed, following decades of decline of full-fat dairy, there was also a persistent takeover of plant-based fake ‘milk’. But, ironically, research shows the fake milks are worse than the real thing, for children most of all (Jen Christensen, Most young children shouldn’t drink plant-based milk, new health guidelines say). It is measurable in decreased height among children who partly or entirely drink plant milks, since they are getting less essential nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, and protein (not to mention plant proteins being less bioavailable).

There is a vast diversity of other essential and conditionally essential nutrients in dairy and other animal foods. The fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin D are particularly key, as they are hormones, hormone precursors, and hormone activators; including in determining how other nutrients (e.g., calcium) are used and where they are directed. Of course, fat-soluble vitamins are concentrated in the fat, and that fat can also have benefits. Dairy fat, much of it saturated, has been shown to prevent diabetes over the lifetime, but importantly proven effective in protecting children and adults from becoming overweight.

The mechanisms for this aren’t yet entirely known. Some suspect that the satiating effect of dairy fat, probably like any animal fat, will cause one to eat fewer carbohydrates and other calories. Indeed, there is evidence that when people imbibe low-fat dairy they compensate by increasing their carb intake. And carbs are much easier to overeat. But it’s also possible there is some molecule that upregulates fat utilization and metabolism. That is intriguing. Such dietary fats ensure the body doesn’t produce excess body fat. So, get more animal fat to stay trim! Drink the cow’s milk and eat the cow’s meat. That is the secret to a long, happy, and healthy life.

It’s not clear why animal fats got such a bad reputation. Lard has about the same ratio of monounsaturated fat (MUFAs) as olive oil, specifically oleic acid; and it is precisely because of oleic acid that olive oil is said to be so healthy. Red meat also has some MUFAs in them, if a relatively lesser percentage, but nonetheless ground beef has more MUFAs than saturated fat. Interestingly, dark chocolate has a balanced ratio of oleic acid and saturated fat stearic acid, the latter common in ruminant meat (tallow is also a concentrated source of the highly sought after conjugated linoleic acid or CLA that, like stearic acid, promotes a lean body). The major blame always goes to saturated fat, despite its intake not having increased, contrary to conventional claims; and dairy is a greater source than red meat — by the way, a new essential fat (EFA) was discovered (C15:0, pentadecylic acid, pentadecanoic acid, Fatty15, or FA15) that is most abundant in dairy fat and also higher in meat that is pasture-raised or wild-caught. Heck, coconut oil has more saturated fat than beef. Also, coconut oil and palm kernel oil are a significant source of a specific saturated fat called medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), along with dairy (particularly from goats (30-35%), sheep (10-25%), and cows (10-20%); not to mention in human breast milk (2-10%).

MCTs, although non-essential for adults, have proven to have immense benefit for energy metabolism (thermogenesis and fat oxidation) in the body in general and particularly in the brain. Combined with MCTs’ action as an appetite suppression, this might be the magical substance that limits weight gain with full fat dairy intake. They’ve gained public interest because they are the main ingredient in Bulletproof coffee, basically the one-two punch of MCTs plus caffeine (where the latter assists in fat burning). MCTs have also gained much fame in their benefiting serious neurocognitive issues such as Alzheimer’s where, because of insulin resistance in the brain, the neurons lose the capacity to use glucose and so MCTs offer an alternative source of fuel.

This is getting away from the issue of meat and even necessarily animal foods, as plant-based MCTs are popular these days; but let’s dig a bit more into these awesome saturated fats. One thing MCTs are known to do is help the body to produce ketones, even with moderate carb intake, despite ketones typically only produced at high levels (i.e., ketosis) with a consistently and strictly very low-carb diet (the kind of diet that is much easier and more satisfying to do with animal foods and animal fat). The thing is, even when carb levels are high enough to guarantee non-ketosis, MCTs still show neurocognitive benefit in studies demonstrating other pathways of action. It turns out the MCTs themselves can be used by the brain.

A related phenomenon is seen in general during early human life. From fetus to at least early teen years, it appears that all humans are continuously in a state of ketosis, according to various studies and the work of Angela A. Stanton. This might make sense for infants with their diet of MCTs from breast milk that, by the way, is loaded with sugar. Yet even older children on a high-carb diet remain in ketosis. That indicates ketones and ketosis is central to early development. Interestingly, even as all young people are presumably in ketosis, a keto diet (often including MCTs) has still benefited children with neurocognitive disorders (e.g., epileptic seizures) and serious diseases (e.g., type II diabetes).

Anyway, considering the neurocognitive advantages of MCTs, maybe it’s significant that the rise of the challenging complexities within civilization coincided with the widespread increased adult consumption of MCT-filled milk, butter, and other dairy foods. Genghis Khan and his Mongol army nearly conquered all of Eurasia on a diet consisting mostly of red meat, dairy, and blood — saturated fat galore! From butter and ghee to lard and tallow, animal fats have often been a way for farming communities, from feudal villages to pre-war Okinawa, to get an extremely concentrated source of calories and nutrients, sometimes MCTs as well, while on an otherwise limited agricultural diet.

That isn’t even to cover the hundreds of other fatty acids, saturated and otherwise, found in meat and other animal foods. A saturated fat already mentioned, the long chain stearic acid (SA), also helps the body burn fat as do MCTs. Some long chain saturated fats are odd-chained and, as has been argued, among them might be those that are essential. This is the problem as the components of animal foods have been understudied. It’s related to the problem of all the plant foods and plant-based supplements that research shows as beneficial, but when one looks deeper the same benefits often can be obtained through animal foods, a low-carb diet, fasting, exercise, etc.

Palmitic acid, palmitoleic acid, (Omega-7) mearic acid, conjugated linoleic acid (trans fat). Or consider butyrate, a short chain fatty acid (SFCA). It’s why there are official recommendations for a high-fiber diet because fermentation creates butyrate and other SFCAs. Yet butyrate is also found in dairy fat, if only at 4%. Then again, butyrate can form as well from the fermentation of animal connective tissues and collagen. Besides, on a low-carb diet, the body produces a similar molecule, beta-hydroxybutyrate. So, another plant-based talking point is shot down.

Then there is arachidonic acid (ARA) that, though an omega-6, is not inflammatory like the omega-6s in seed oils; and instead it actually regulates inflammation. It does compete for absorption and utilization with the omega-3 docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) that is more well known as an anti-inflammatory, but that probably just means the body doesn’t need both ARA and DHA in high amounts at the same time since they both have this same overlapping purpose. There might be a reason some animal foods are higher in ARA and lower in DHA (beef), while others are the reverse (cold water fatty fish). Then again, any pasture-raised or wild-caught animal food will be higher in these kinds of healthy fats.

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8/15/22 – One could add much more info about the affect of meat and animal-based nutrition on mental health. The more one looks for the scientific evidence the more one finds. Of course, studies are mixed and this is a field in the middle of a replication crisis. There are more badly designed than well designed studies, unfortunately. Nonetheless, there is growing evidence, as research improves, showing the importance of animal foods. The further evidence will be included below. But let us note two basic points. Much of the evidence indicates that an animal-based diet, particularly one including meat, is strongly associated to greater mental health; specifically lower rates of mood disorders. This is unsurprising as many animal-based nutrients, from carnitine and DHA to choline and B vitamins, have been specifically studied in their positive affect on neurocognitive functioning.

A basic nutrient many people, other than weightlifters, don’t know about is creatine that, besides promoting muscle-building, is necessary for brain health and can be used to treat psychiatric disorders (Patricia J. Allen, Creatine metabolism and psychiatric disorders: Does creatine supplementation have therapeutic value?). Another interesting example, the abovementioned EFA C15:0 has anti-anxiety effects (Eric Venn-Watson, A New Take on Comfort Food: Getting the Anxiety-Lowering Effects of Food without the Calories). Depression has often been studied in terms of animal fats, specifically those high in wild-caught fish (docosahexaenoic acid or DHA) and pasture-raised ruminants (conjugated linoleic acid or CLA) (Luisa Cigliano et al, Dietary Supplementation with Fish Oil or Conjugated Linoleic Acid Relieves Depression Markers in Mice by Modulation of the Nrf2 Pathway). One could go on and on with the immense research on various animal-based nutrients. Unsurprisingly, those on extreme plant-based diets show improvements with supplementation.

Interestingly, the comparison of animal-based and plant-based diets aside, at least one study showed no difference on mental health for those eating meat versus fish (Mary Hysing et al, Fatty Fish Intake and the Effect on Mental Health and Sleep in Preschool Children in FINS-KIDS, a Randomized Controlled Trial). It could be noted, though, that meat intake was neutral for dementia, whereas fish intake lowered risk (Pascale Barberger-Gateau et al, Fish, meat, and risk of dementia: cohort study); but this could merely be increased omega-3s intake balancing out the harm of excessive omega-6s from seed oils; and so possibly there would be no difference between meat and fish if that confounder was controlled for. Almost any kind of animal flesh will apparently be beneficial, if there might be some variance depending on specific nutritional profiles; with the possible exclusion of processed meats, as some research indicates, that contain a lot of non-animal additives, although the ingredients of processed meats vary greatly and studies of them are confounded with the unhealthy user effect.

Here is a takeaway point. It’s not only what benefit might be gained from animal-based nutrition but what harm might be caused by non-animal substances that either are added to agricultural goods (e.g., glyphosate) and processed foods (preservatives, artificial flavorings, etc), including processed meats, or that are naturally found in plant foods (antinutrients like lectins, oxalates, salicylates, goitrogens, phytoestrogens, phytates, and tannins; proteins such as gliadin/gluten and zein; hormone mimics in soy; etc). Avoiding plant foods, for many people, can be as important as adding animal foods. This is what so many have found when they’ve eliminated certain plant foods or gone strict carnivore. Disabling and sometimes deadly conditions, from cancer to autoimmune disorders, have been reversed and possibly cured; but we aren’t allowed to call them cured because these diets are considered medical treatments and not normal eating patterns consistent with millions of years of hominid evolution.

Beyond that, surely eggs and dairy would have some benefits as well (Aurora Perez-Cornago, Intake of High-Fat Yogurt, but Not of Low-Fat Yogurt or Prebiotics, Is Related to Lower Risk of Depression in Women of the SUN Cohort Study; Chen Du, Relationships between Dairy and Calcium Intake and Mental Health Measures of Higher Education Students in the United States: Outcomes from Moderation Analyses; Ester Solberg, The Effects of Powdered Fertilized Eggs on Depression; etc). But that isn’t our focus here; if it is important to note that animal foods are what distinguish lacto-ovo-vegetarianism from strict plant-exclusive veganism.

There is a helpful angle to take. In one study, even as the conclusion was questionable, the data was telling (Christopher J. Hopwood, The link between vegetarian diet and depression might be explained by depression among meat-reducers). The author found that depression was more associated with meat-reduction than with vegetarianism/veganism. This might seem strange, if one is unfamiliar with other data. When asked, most vegetarians admit to eating meat and fish while vegans admit to eating animal foods; not to mention many vegetarians getting much nutrition from dairy and eggs. In knowing many vegetarians and vegans over a lifetime, we have observed that most do eat significant amount of animal foods. As a case in point, we know a self-identified vegan who regularly eats fish and daily puts cream into her coffee. Many such people are more focused on eating a plant-based diet than in eliminating animal foods. This could be why there is a major distinction between meat-reducers and vegetarians/vegans, the two not necessarily being the same.

Consider the most vegetarian population on the planet, a population that once commonly sacrificed animals to their gods, a historically recent result of the meat and fish taxes enforced by the British Empire (Rohini Krishnamurthy, ‘Indian vegetarians do not eat vegetables’). In India, 39% identify as vegetarian (almost 4 in 10, about 400 million), “according to a new Pew Research Center survey. (While there are many ways to define “vegetarian” in India, the survey left the definition up to the respondent” (Manolo Corichi, Eight-in-ten Indians limit meat in their diets, and four-in-ten consider themselves vegetarian); although multiple Indian states have +98% non-vegetarians. Overall, 81% claim to reduce meat intake, but 70% still regularly eat dairy, eggs, and fish; and “42.8% Indian women and 48.9% of men consumed poultry and meat weekly” with “barely 6% of the population eats meat on a daily basis, and nearly 40% on a weekly basis,” however ‘meat’ is being defined.

Then again, there is a problem of underreporting where, in India, eating beef is socially condemned and beef bans are sometimes enforced. Nonetheless: “A reported 7% of the population eats beef. However, this figure is disputed by many researchers, who claim that the actual statistic is closer to 15% with people unwilling to admit to eating meat due to cultural and religious factors” (Roshni Ramesan, India Has 70%+ Non-Vegetarian Population But Is Considered Vegetarian; Why?). There was no data found on how many Indian vegetarians eat ‘meat’, what kind, how often, and under what circumstances. We can’t assume that vegetarianism always means never eating meat or even not eating meat regularly, and that goes doubly in speaking about other cultures. The main reason people all over the world eat less meat than they otherwise would is simply the costs of meat and the commonality of poverty. The main point is most people across all countries, maybe including most vegetarians, eat meat when it’s available.

Plus, based on an old cultural bias going back to the ancient world, many vegetarians and vegans don’t consider fish to be meat and others are also willing to make an exception for chicken. Combined with dairy and eggs, that can potentially be enough animal-based nutrition to avoid the worst deficiency-related health conditions and diseases. Anyway, most people on such diets aren’t doing so for dogmatic principles: “the majority (54%) of vegetarians were open to the possibility of eating meat. […] Despite the fact that eating meat fundamentally defies the definition of being a vegetarian, meat-eating vegetarians appear to comprise a substantial proportion of the vegetarian population: For example, a study by Kwan and Roth (2004) revealed that 40% of self-identified vegetarians actually eat meat” (Daniel L. Rosenfeld, What Does It Take to Get a Vegetarian to Eat Meat? Factors Predicting Dietary Adherence).

Other data shows it to be a much higher number: “A poll conducted by CNN surveyed 10,000 Americans about their eating habits, and roughly 6% of the respondents self-identified as vegetarians. The researchers then asked individuals to describe their eating habits, and 60% of the “vegetarians” reported having eaten meat within the last 24 hours. Okay, that could’ve have been a fluke (or just a really, really dumb sample group). Then the U.S. Department of Agriculture conducted a similar study. This time, they telephoned approximately 13,000 Americans, and 3% claimed to be vegetarians. When they followed up a week later, 66% of the self-proclaimed veggie-lovers had eaten meat the day before” (Erika Grant, SURVEY: 60% Of Self-Proclaimed Vegetarians Ate Meat Yesterday). If two-thirds of vegetarians eat meat on a daily basis, then what kind of ‘vegetarianism’ are we talking about. Talk about a confounding factor. This calls into question every scientific study and survey ever done in studying ‘vegetarianism’, specifically in comparing ‘vegetarianism’ with meat-inclusive diets.

There are many reasons meat-abstainers lapse, a common reason being drunkenness, but even without alcohol many regularly imbibe animal flesh: “34% said every time they drink, 26% said fairly often, 22% said rarely, and 18% said occasionally” (Mary Bowerman, Survey: 1 in 3 vegetarians admits to eating meat when drunk). For a significant number, they might not perceive it as a lapse at all: “Some vegetarians reported that they view their diets as flexible guidelines, rather than rigid rules they ought to follow without exception” (Daniel L.Rosenfeld & A. Janet Tomiyama, When vegetarians eat meat: Why vegetarians violate their diets and how they feel about doing so). Many vegans in particular and many vegetarians as well openly admit that their ideological position is not primarily about diet but more broadly about an ethical lifestyle, which is why any diet that adheres to the least harm principle can be reasonably and fairly labeled as ‘vegan’ (Carnivore Is Vegan).

Even then, most of these supposed plant-based meat-abstainers or merely meat-reducers go back to regularly eating meat (Faunalytics, A Summary Of Faunalytics’ Study Of Current And Former Vegetarians And Vegans). Most vegetarians and vegans couldn’t even last a year on the diet, a third not making it beyond three months, and most of the rest giving up within a few years (Colin Schultz, Most Vegetarians Lapse After Only a Year), “with 9 years being the average length of time of abstinence” (Sarah Pope, Most Vegetarians Return to Eating Meat due to Failing Health) and the average age being quite young at 28 years old, which means most of them spent their first couple of decades or so eating meat (Scritto da Redazione, Why do most vegetarians go back to eating meat?); such that “ex-vegetarians outnumber current vegetarians by a ratio of three to one, suggesting that 75% of vegetarians lapse” (Guy McCardle, Lapsed Vegetarians or, Return of the Meat-Eaters). The main reason given for ending their meatless experiment was declining health and persistent physical weakness, while others noted animal-based cravings and a general sense of constant hunger. Hunger for meat is built into our biology from evolution. For optimal health, we need animal-based nutrition and, no matter our personal ideology, our bodies know what we need.

Plant-based advocates can’t deny the failure of this ideological project — more from Sarah Pope: “Even the 2017 Netflix documentary What The Health was unable to name a single vegan population group that was successful long term! […] I submit that the results of this survey are not surprising and are in fact a testament to the research of Dr. Weston A. Price. Dr. Price traveled the world in the 1920s and 1930s visiting 14 isolated cultures in the process. During this adventure which he documented in great detail with amazing pictures in his masterpiece Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, Dr. Price concluded that while the diets of these natives varied widely, nutrient dense animal foods high in the fat soluble vitamin A, D, and K2 (also known as Activator X) were the common denominator. Consumption of these animal foods were revered in these communities as they bestowed vibrant health, easy fertility, healthy children, and high resistance to chronic and infectious disease.

“This discovery was a disappointment to Dr. Price who had expected to find the vegetarian cultures to be the healthiest cultures of all. But, the vegetarian cultures he examined displayed far more degeneration and tooth decay than the omnivore cultures. This surprised him given that these vegetarian cultures did indeed have superior health than the Americans of his day. However, he could not deny that the health of the indigenous omnivores exceeded that of the vegetarian cultures. Those consuming a wide variety of marine seafoods exhibited the most vibrancy of all.” One of Dr. Price’s expectations actually was of discovering a plant-exclusive traditional community, somewhere in the world, but he never did find such a mythical creature. Knowing what we now know, this is the opposite of surprising. By the way, as related to mental health, Dr. Price observed populations that had plentiful fatty animal foods (i.e., nutrient-density) in their diet exhibited greater ‘moral health’: happier, friendlier, kinder, and more helpful.

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Meat and mental health: a systematic review of meat abstention and depression, anxiety, and related phenomena
by Urska Dobersek, Gabrielle Wy, Joshua Adkins, Sydney Altmeyer, Kaitlin Krout, Carl J. Lavie, & Edward Archer

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.

Red meat consumption and mood anxiety disorders
by Felice N. Jacka, Julie A. Pasco, Lana J. Williams, Neil Mann, Allison Hodge, Laima Brazionis, & Michael Berk

The fact that red meat was a prominent component of this protective dietary pattern was of some interest, as previous studies examining dietary patterns as predictors of illness have observed red meat to be a part of unhealthy dietary patterns (e.g. [9-11]). Moreover, there are published studies from Australia [12] and Scandinavia [13] reporting that vegetarians and/or low meat consumers have poorer mental health than those who habitually eat meat, although the direction of the relationship between vegetarian status and mental health is unclear. […]

For those women consuming less than the recommended intake of red meat per week, the odds for MDD/dysthymia were more than doubled compared to those consuming the recommended intakes. Similarly, those women with low red meat consumption were nearly twice as likely to have an anxiety disorder. Adjusting for ‘traditional’ dietary patern scores resulted in strengthening of the relationship between high meat intake and these variables (table 1).

Meat Consumption Associated with Less Anxiety and Depression
by Joseph E. Scherger

Twenty studies met the selection criteria, representing 171,802 participants (157,778 meat consumers and 13,259 meat abstainers). Most studies showed meat abstainers recorded higher rates of depression, anxiety, and self-harm, including suicide. Meat abstainers also were more likely to be prescribed medication for mental health problems. Conversely, the authors observed meat consumption was associated with significantly lower rates of depression ( P < 0.001) and anxiety ( P = 0.02). Their analysis showed the more rigorous the study, the more positive and consistent the relation between meat consumption and better mental health.

Evolutionary biologists have shown ancient Homo sapiens were omnivores who ate both animal and plant foods. 1,2 Our relatively large brains and narrow waistlines reflect this. […] People who were vegans for many years have reported a dramatic improvement in their well-being once they varied their diet to include healthy animal products.

Meat and mental health: A meta-analysis of meat consumption, depression, and anxiety
by Urska Dobersek, et al

In this meta-analysis, we examined the quantitative relation between meat consumption or avoidance, depression, and anxiety. In June 2020, we searched five online databases for primary studies examining differences in depression and anxiety between meat abstainers and meat consumers that offered a clear (dichotomous) distinction between these groups. Twenty studies met the selection criteria representing 171,802 participants with 157,778 meat consumers and 13,259 meat abstainers. We calculated the magnitude of the effect between meat consumers and meat abstainers with bias correction (Hedges’s g effect size) where higher and positive scores reflect better outcomes for meat consumers. Meat consumption was associated with lower depression (Hedges’s g = 0.216, 95% CI [0.14 to 0.30], p < .001) and lower anxiety (g = 0.17, 95% CI [0.03 to 0.31], p = .02) compared to meat abstention. Compared to vegans, meat consumers experienced both lower depression (g = 0.26, 95% CI [0.01 to 0.51], p = .041) and anxiety (g = 0.15, 95% CI [-0.40 to 0.69], p = .598). Sex did not modify these relations. Study quality explained 58% and 76% of between-studies heterogeneity in depression and anxiety, respectively. The analysis also showed that the more rigorous the study, the more positive and consistent the relation between meat consumption and better mental health. The current body of evidence precludes causal and temporal inferences.

The case for red meat
by George Henderson

Several observational studies have looked at the characteristics of meat-avoiding populations and found alarming increases in depression, anxiety and self-harm.

“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.”[3]

How can we explain these correlations? Why should we assume that they are causal?There are several lines of evidence to support a causal link:

1) several nutrients found in meat and animal foods are important factors in mood and cognition; vitamin B12, iron, carnitine, DHA, choline and tryptophan are some examples.[4]

2) the fatty acid mix in dairy and red meat has a similar composition to that of amniotic fluid and breast milk which has anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects in young animals.[5]

3) soy is a convenient and cheap replacement for animal protein; soy processing in Western diets results in a 10-fold higher level of the estrogenic contaminant isoflavone than that found in Asian diets.[6] Soy isoflavone causes anxiety behaviour in young female animals, and there is evidence supporting psychotropic and hormonal effects in humans.[7,8,9.10] Interestingly, while right-wing critiques of soy eating focus on effects it can have on young men, the scientific evidence for adverse effects in younger females, converting to HRT-like benefits after menopause, is stronger.[11]

4) other toxins found in plants, such as salicylates and oxalates, as well as problematic proteins such as gliadin/gluten and zein, may be present at higher levels in meat-free diets (but are not unique to them). A vegan mince sold in Countdown supermarkets is simply a coloured blend of soy protein and gluten, a protein linked to the risk of schizophrenia.[12]

In the New Zealand context it would be relatively easy to confirm or dispute some of these associations. Everyone admitted to hospital for longer than a day supplies their dietary preferences. The dietetic preference data from psychiatric admissions could be both linked to outcomes over time and compared with the population average distribution, or the distribution in a ward where diet is least likely to play a role in admissions.

Dietary Recommendations for Familial Hypercholesterolaemia: an Evidence-Free Zone
by David M Diamond, et al

Key points

  • Current dietary guidelines for management of coronary heart disease (CHD) risk in familial hypercholesterolaemia (FH) are based on the diet-heart hypothesis, which is outdated and unsupported.
  • There is no evidence to support the recommendation that FH individuals should consume a low saturated fat, low cholesterol diet.
  • A low carbohydrate diet (LCD) significantly improves cardiovascular disease biomarkers, compared with a low fat diet.
  • There is sufficient rationale for conducting clinical trials to assess the effects of an LCD on FH individuals with an insulin-resistant phenotype.
  • Extensive research has documented that hypercoagulation is a more important risk factor for CHD than low-density lipoprotein cholesterol in FH. Therefore, LCD trials should include FH subjects with an elevated risk of hypercoagulation.

Consumption of Unprocessed Red Meat Is Not a Risk to Health
from World Farmers’ Organisation (WFO) Scientific Council

A synopsis of five significant, recent and broad-scale scientific investigations on the health risks and health benefits of red meat consumption indicates that there is no convincing scientific evidence for assertions about harmful health effects of unprocessed red meat intake. If at all, the data very slightly lean toward an association of red meat consumption and protective health benefits. Overall, any of the statistical associations of up to 100 grams of red meat consumption per capita per day are so weak that they should be considered neutral. It is notable that less than 1% of the global population consumes more than 85 grams of red meat per day. From a global public health perspective, then, red meat consumption above the threshold of 85 grams is so negligible as to be irrelevant. National governments and supranational organizations such as the EU and UN, and their initiatives such as this year’s UN Food Systems Summit, as well as international business and consumer associations, would be wrong to assume that a scientific consensus exists to justify policies to reduce red meat consumption in the general population for health reasons.

Associations of unprocessed and processed meat intake with mortality and cardiovascular disease in 21 countries [Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) Study]: a prospective cohort study
by Romaina Iqbal, et al

In a large multinational prospective study, we did not find significant associations between unprocessed red meat and poultry intake and mortality or major CVD.

Controversy on the correlation of red and processed meat consumption with colorectal cancer risk: an Asian perspective (full paper)
by Sun Jin Hur, et al

We conducted an in-depth analysis of prospective, retrospective, case-control and cohort studies, systematic review articles, and IARC monograph reports, which revealed that the IARC/WHO report weighted the results of studies based in Western countries more and that the correlation between intake of processed meat products and colorectal cancer incidence in Asians is not clearly supported. Among 73 epidemiological studies, approximately 76% were conducted in Western countries, whereas only 15% of studies were conducted in Asia. Furthermore, most studies conducted in Asia showed that processed meat consumption is not related to the onset of cancer. Moreover, there have been no reports showing significant correlation between various factors that directly or indirectly affect colorectal cancer incidence, including processed meat products types, raw meat types, or cooking methods.

Red meat and colon cancer: A review of mechanistic evidence for heme in the context of risk assessment methodology
by Claire Kruger & Yuting Zhou

In conclusion, the methodologies employed in current studies of heme have not provided sufficient documentation that the mechanisms studied would contribute to an increased risk of promotion of preneoplasia or colon cancer at usual dietary intakes of red meat in the context of a normal diet.

Meat intake and cause-specific mortality: a pooled analysis of Asian prospective cohort studies
by Jung Eun Lee, et al

Ecological data indicate an increase in meat intake in Asian countries; however, our pooled analysis did not provide evidence of a higher risk of mortality for total meat intake and provided evidence of an inverse association with red meat, poultry, and fish/seafood. Red meat intake was inversely associated with CVD mortality in men and with cancer mortality in women in Asian countries.”

No association between meat intake and mortality in Asian countries
by Dominik D Alexander

After pooling data across the cohorts, Lee et al (3) observed no significant increases in risk of all-cause mortality comparing the highest with the lowest intake categories of total meat, red meat, poultry, or fish. In contrast, most associations were in the inverse direction with significant decreased risks for poultry (among men and women) and fish (women), with a nearly significant decreased risk with greater intakes of red meat in women (upper CI: 1.00). Similar patterns of associations (most indicating a decreased risk) were observed for cause-specific mortality; comparing the highest with the lowest intake categories, significant decreased risks of CVD mortality with red meat (men) and cancer mortality with red meat and poultry (women) were observed. The only significant positive association in the overall analyses was for the highest category of fish intake and cancer mortality. Little effect modification was apparent after stratification by educational level and by BMI.

Cancer link to red meat consumption may not exist for Asians: Study
by Pearly Neo

Researchers in Korea have discovered that the link between meat consumption and colorectal cancer may not apply to Asians. The meat-colorectal cancer correlation was first elucidated in a report by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in 2015. The Korean researchers carried out a thorough review of over 500 studies that had previously been conducted on meat consumption and cancer. These included cohort and case-control analyses, prospective and retrospective studies, other review articles, as well as IARC monograph reports. Of these, 73 human epidemiological studies were selected for more in-depth analysis.

“The aim was to investigate the relationship between meat intake and colorectal cancer risk from an Asian, particularly Korean, perspective,” ​said the authors. “[We found] that approximately 76% [of the studies] were conducted in Western countries, whereas only 15% of studies were conducted in Asia. Furthermore, most studies conducted in Asia showed that processed meat consumption is not related to the onset of cancer.”​ “[As such], the correlation between intake of processed meat products and colorectal cancer incidence in Asians is not clearly supported,” ​they concluded. The study also reported that there do not exist any conclusive reports proving a significant correlation between meat consumption and colorectal cancer, whether it involves processed meats, raw meats or the relevant cooking methods.

Unprocessed Red Meat and Processed Meat Consumption: Dietary Guideline Recommendations From the Nutritional Recommendations (NutriRECS) Consortium
by Bradley C. Johnston, et al

Recommendations: The panel suggests that adults continue current unprocessed red meat consumption (weak recommendation, low-certainty evidence). Similarly, the panel suggests adults continue current processed meat consumption (weak recommendation, low-certainty evidence). […]

Contemporary dietary guidelines recommend limiting consumption of unprocessed red meat and processed meat. For example, the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting red meat intake, including processed meat, to approximately 1 weekly serving (1). Similarly, United Kingdom dietary guidelines endorse limiting the intake of both red and processed meat to 70 g/d (2), and the World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research recommend limiting red meat consumption to moderate amounts and consuming very little processed meat (3). The World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer has indicated that consumption of red meat is “probably carcinogenic” to humans, whereas processed meat is considered “carcinogenic” to humans (4). “These recommendations are, however, primarily based on observational studies that are at high risk for confounding and thus are limited in establishing causal inferences, nor do they report the absolute magnitude of any possible effects. Furthermore, the organizations that produce guidelines did not conduct or access rigorous systematic reviews of the evidence, were limited in addressing conflicts of interest, and did not explicitly address population values and preferences, raising questions regarding adherence to guideline standards for trustworthiness (5–9). […]

In our assessment of causal inferences on unprocessed red meat and processed meat and adverse health outcomes, we found that the absolute effect estimates for red meat and processed meat intake (13, 16) were smaller than those from dietary pattern estimates (14), indicating that meat consumption is unlikely to be a causal factor of adverse health outcomes (Table 1).

Total Meat Intake is Associated with Life Expectancy: A Cross-Sectional Data Analysis of 175 Contemporary Populations
by Wenpeng You, et al

This ecological study examined the relationship between meat intake and life expectancy at birth e(0), at age 5 years e(5) and child mortality at a population level. Our statistical analysis results indicate that countries with the greater meat intake have greater life expectancy and lower child mortality. This relationship is independent of the effects of caloric intake, socioeconomic status (GDP PPP), obesity, urbanization (lifestyle) and education. Of course, nutritional variations among countries include many more variables than those included into this study. Diet composition, food preparation methods, cultural dietary constraints, availability of some nutrients and a number of other variables should have been considered to obtain a complete picture of meat’s importance in human diet. However, even with these possible analytical inadequacies, our statistical analyses indicate a significant role that meat plays in influencing variation of survival and mortality.

Meat has advantages over food of plant origin in containing complete protein with all essential amino acids, is rich in vitamins, in particular vitamin B12, and all essential minerals. It has a significant role not only for maintenance of health, development and proper growth59 but also has played an important evolutionary role in ancestral hominins for approximately 2.6 million years.60,61

Benefits of meat eating include better physical growth and development,62 optimal breastfeeding of neonates, and offspring growth.63 Human adaptation to meat eating and mechanism to digest and metabolise meat6,59,62,64–67 have been supported by studies in human dietary evolution. This may also be reflected in the importance of meat eating for human’s whole life span.5,60,68 Culturally, meat production and eating have also been integrated into human societies.62,69–72

A study of more than 218,000 adults from over 50 countries around the world suggests that consuming unprocessed meat regularly can reduce the risk of early death and can increase human longevity.73 A recent dietary advice published by Lancet Public Health advocates an increase of dietary meat in order to benefit our heart health and longevity.74 This study also highlights that saturated fat in meat may be cardio protective, as well as, that meat contains many vitamins and the essential amino acids for human health and well-being.73,74

Recent epidemiological literature highlights that increasing meat consumption, especially in its processed forms, may have adverse health effects, such as cancer,8 cardiovascular disease,75 obesity31,76–78 and diabetes.79 However, there has been no clinical trial evidence to consolidate the putative negative effects of processed meat consumption for human health.21 The aforementioned epidemiological literature is not reflected in the healthy food guidelines published by the government authorities for general public. These guidelines always include meat as a major human dietary component. One reason for their position could be a lack of evidence-based research that demonstrates negative aspects of meat consumption in the general human population.80–83 Statistically, the finding of this study unequivocally indicates that meat eating benefits life expectancy independently.

Meat contains high protein with all the essential amino acids, and is a good source of minerals (iron, phosphorus, selenium and zinc) and vitamins (B12, B6, K, choline, niacin, riboflavin). Simply put – a human animal consuming a body of another animal gets practically all constituent compounds of its own body.

Behavioral Characteristics and Self-Reported Health Status among 2029 Adults Consuming a “Carnivore Diet”
by Belinda S Lennerz, et al
(also see: Reply to R Kirwan, GS Mallett, L Ellis, and A Flanagan)

In this social media–based survey, a self-selected group of adults consuming a carnivore diet for ≥6 mo reported perceived good health status, perceived absence of symptoms of nutritional deficiencies, and high satisfaction with this eating pattern. To our knowledge, this is the first modern report on a large group of people habitually consuming few plant foods, a dietary pattern broadly considered incompatible with good health.

Weight loss and other health benefits were most frequently indicated as the motivation for adoption of a carnivore diet. In accordance with this possibility, respondents reported substantial BMI reduction and improvements in physical and mental well-being, overall health, and numerous chronic medical conditions. Respondents with diabetes reported special benefit, including greater weight loss than the overall group, and marked reductions in diabetes medication usage and HbA1c—notable findings in view of the generally low success of lifestyle interventions for obesity and diabetes (3738). Although we did not formally assess macronutrient intake, carbohydrate content in meat and other animal-based foods is minimal, and inherent limits to protein intake exist. Both ancestral data (39) and self-reported preference of fatty cuts of meat in our survey suggest high fat intake with the carnivore diet. As such, the macronutrient composition of a carnivore diet would likely correspond to other very-low-carbohydrate diets (e.g., ketogenic, Atkins). For this reason, studies of these diets may provide relevant comparisons. In meta-analyses of trials for T2DM, low- compared with high-carbohydrate diets produced greater weight loss (40–42), lower HbA1c (40–46), and reduction in usage of glucose-lowering medications (41434546), consistent with our observations. Although general dietary adherence and glycemic effects diminish over time (47), the findings of 1 recent nonrandomized trial suggest that a very-low-carbohydrate diet may be sustainable and efficacious when combined with high-intensity individual support (48).

Consistent with other low-carbohydrate diet studies (40–45), respondents reported a mixed blood lipid pattern: LDL-cholesterol, a major conventional cardiovascular disease risk factor, was markedly elevated whereas HDL-cholesterol and TG were favorable. However, LDL-cholesterol elevation, when associated with low TG, may reflect large, buoyant lipoprotein particles, possibly comprising a relatively low-risk subtype (49). Indeed, the low ratio of TG to HDL-cholesterol is suggestive of high insulin sensitivity and good cardiometabolic health (50). However, it is unclear whether this apparent benefit of the diet, together with the reported weight reduction and improved glycemic control (in the subset with diabetes), would counterbalance or outweigh any increased risk from LDL-cholesterol elevation. For individuals with a more extreme LDL-cholesterol response, drug treatment could be considered—an option that is generally more effective and better tolerated than drug treatment of insulin-resistance dyslipidemia.

Beyond macronutrient composition, elimination of allergenic, inflammatory, or other food components may provide potential health benefits to individuals following a carnivore diet. Food allergies and sensitivities are common, and predominantly related to plant foods (51). Some plant chemicals may produce adverse effects through other mechanisms, such as lecithin in beans, cyanogenic glycosides in certain seeds, and glycoalkaloids in potatoes. Indeed, >50% of survey participants started the carnivore diet to improve allergic, skin, or autoimmune conditions, or digestive health, and many reported improvements in inflammatory conditions and related symptoms. Conversely, dietary intake may be low for vitamins that are typically derived from plant foods (e.g., fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and grains) or from nutritional fortification of staple foods (e.g., milk, juices, cereals, pastas, and other grain products) (5253). In addition, often unquantified phytochemicals (e.g., polyphenols, alkylresorcinols, phytosterols) are largely absent from the diet. Although these phytochemicals do not have DRIs, they have been linked to cardiometabolic benefits (5455). In people who eat meat only with exclusion of dairy (∼30% in this survey), calcium intake might also be low, as illustrated by the low intake and negative calcium balance in 2 Arctic explorers (28). Although essential nutrients can presumably be derived in sufficient amounts from animal foods (34), they are present in less commonly consumed parts of the animal, such as fat and organ meats (vitamins A and D), or bone (calcium), or may be reduced during food preparation (vitamin C) (34). Vitamin C is of particular interest, because meats are not formally considered a good source of vitamin C (i.e., they contain <10% of the DRI per serving) (56). Typical symptoms of deficiencies in these vitamins would include dermatological, cognitive, or neurological symptoms, as listed in Supplemental Table 1. A worsening or new presentation of these symptoms was reported in <2% of survey participants, whereas the majority of participants reported improvements, resolution, or no change—regardless of intake of vitamins, organ meat, or dairy. Given the self-reported nature of these findings, it remains unclear whether clinical or subclinical symptoms of nutrient deficiency are present. Research is needed to clarify the absence of perceived symptoms of nutrient deficiencies and the underlying biochemical processes that govern nutrient needs with the long-term consumption of a carnivore diet. It is possible that requirements for some micronutrients may be lower than those established in DRIs for the general population (57), related to remodeling of the gut microbiome, whole-body metabolism, and nutrient utilization in the setting of a low-carbohydrate carnivore diet, analogous to observations with a vegan diet (58).

Respondents reported high levels of satisfaction, and little social impact, from following a carnivore diet. Notably, medical providers were perceived as supportive, neutral, or unsupportive at generally similar proportions despite the discrepancy of the carnivore diets from dietary guidelines. Whereas meat is more expensive than grains and starchy foods, it may be less expensive on a caloric basis, depending on location and specific comparisons, than fresh fruits and nonstarchy vegetables (59), and cost may be in addition offset by decreased expenditure for diabetes and other medications. Our respondents spanned low to high income classes, suggesting against major financial barriers to the diet.

Vegetarians and Heart Disease: Will Ditching Meat Really Save Your Arteries?
by Denise Minger

Studies on vegetarians are inherently tricky. Although some folks dump animal foods strictly for ethical reasons, many of the meatless [Maria Gacek, Selected lifestyle and health condition indices of adults with varied models of eating] eat their veggies alongside other pro-health behaviors like exercising more, nixing tobacco, swapping refined grains for whole, limiting processed food (soy Frankenmeats notwithstanding), and avoiding the biggest of the baddies (trans fats, corn syrup, Cadbury Creme Eggs, and pretty much everything on this site).

What does all of that equal? Confounderville for researchers. It’s impossible to adjust for every little diet and lifestyle tweak a vegetarian makes in the name of health, so in scientific studies, vegetarians almost always have an advantage over health-indifferent omnivores. But the reason can’t be pegged on their meatlessness: Vegetarianism is a marker for a comprehensive shift in behaviors that influence disease risk.

But that’s not always the case with all groups of vegetarians. Studies focusing on some religious vegetarians (namely Buddhist and Hindu*) are more likely to show the effects of going meat-free in isolation rather than as part of a health-boosting plan. Confounding can still be an issue (especially in terms of stress reduction from certain religious practices)—but unlike the vegetarians who make a cascade of changes when they ditch meat, some religious vegetarians eat diets pretty similar to their omnivorous counterparts, just without flesh. That makes it a bit easier to compare apples with apples: We can see how an average omni diet stacks up against a similar diet sans meat, instead of comparing an average omni diet with a multifaceted vegetarian lifestyle.

So where am I going with this? Right here [Chih-Wei Chen et al, Taiwanese Female Vegetarians Have Lower Lipoprotein-Associated Phospholipase A2 Compared with Omnivores]. That’s the full text for a recent study from Taiwan looking at inflammatory markers in mostly-Buddhist vegetarians versus omnivores. (And if access to that link disappears, as full-texts are wont to do, just shoot me an email and I’ll send it to you.)

This study has a few good things going for it. For starters, it excludes smokers and uses only women—which automatically eliminates problems associated with controlling for tobacco use or gender-related differences in inflammatory markers. As the researchers note, the health-consciousness gap between Taiwanese vegetarians and Taiwanese omnivores is probably much smaller than with Western vegetarians and Western omnivores:

Most western vegetarians include fresh vegetables and fruits as their main source of nutrition and energy, based on health benefits of the foods. In contrast, most Taiwanese vegetarians choose a vegetarian diet because of their Buddhist religion, which teaches a policy of “no killing.” Buddhists in Taiwan have a dietary pattern similar to that of most Taiwanese in terms of meal patterns and cooking methods, except that they do not include any meat, fish, or poultry in their meals.

Although the researchers don’t explore the subject at all, the difference in religious practices between the vegetarians (apparently Buddhist) and omnivores (whose religion(s) weren’t documented) could be significant. Stress and mental outlook may play a role [K Rees et al, Psychological interventions for coronary heart disease] in the progression of heart disease, and meditation/centering practices associated with Buddhism could help improve both [Erin L Olivo et al, Feasibility and effectiveness of a brief meditation-based stress management intervention for patients diagnosed with or at risk for coronary heart disease: a pilot study]. If any of that is confounding the results, we won’t be able to know from the data presented.

But other than that, the study was pretty thorough. It tracked BMI, blood pressure, heart rate, glucose levels, cholesterol (total, HDL, and LDL), white blood cell count, homocysteine, and two inflammatory markers: lipoprotein-associated phospholipase AS (Lp-PLA2) and C-reactive protein (CRP).

The good news for the vegetarians is that their Lp-PLA2—a marker specifically for vascular inflammation—was lower than in the control group. But that’s where the good news ends. The researchers seemed pretty surprised to report that the vegetarians had higher levels of CRP (borderline significant at p=0.05) than the omnivores, along with higher homocysteine and triglycerides. […]

Interestingly, the researchers note that one of their earlier studies [C-W Chen et al, Total cardiovascular risk profile of Taiwanese vegetarians] showed borderline lower CRP in vegetarians—but despite using it to claim vegetarians had a better risk profile than omnivores, that finding might not be very meaningful:

As we know, gender and smoking influenced the serum hs-CRP level significantly. In our previous study, there are more males and smokers in the omnivore group that can influence the statistical power of difference of hs-CRP between both groups. Actually, it failed to demonstrate a significant difference if male and female samples were analyzed separately.

In the current study, the researchers offer a few explanations as to why vegetarians might have higher CRP levels, even if their Lp-PLA2 levels were lower. One is that there were large variations in the CRP levels for all groups, which makes it harder to analyze statistically (translation: “maybe the correlation is a fluke”). They also mention that Taiwan vegetarians rely heavily on soy products as a substitute for meat, eat fewer fresh vegetables than western vegetarians, and typically cook vegetables in oil (presumably industrial seed oils).

The significance of this study is that it underscores the major issue with vegetarian research at large: The health-protective effects of vegetarianism are probably due to factors other than meat avoidance. When you study vegetarians that aren’t partaking in a bigger diet and lifestyle change, they no longer have a glowing health report. The lower Lp-PLA2 levels in this particular study are noteworthy, but higher CRP and triglycerides aren’t doing anyone any favors.

Of course, this isn’t the first study to poke holes the claim that meat-avoiders have special protection against heart disease. A 2005 study conducted in China [Timothy Kwok et al, Vascular Dysfunction in Chinese Vegetarians: An Apparent Paradox?] rounded up some long-term vegetarians (6 to 40 years of meatlessness)—including many religious vegetarians—and compared their heart disease markers against an omnivorous control group. Apart from eating less saturated fat, protein, and cholesterol, the vegetarians had nutrient intakes similar to those of their omni friends.

The surprising results? The vegetarians had significantly thicker arterial walls (p<0.0001), reduced flow-mediated dilation (a predictor of cardiovascular events) (p<0.0001), higher blood pressure (p<0.05), and higher triglycerides (p<0.05) than the omnivores. (According to the paper, the raised blood pressure might be related to some popular high-sodium vegetarian foods such as processed protein food substitutes, fake oyster sauce, and tomato paste.)

In the researchers’ multivariate statistical models, vegetarianism had the strongest association with both artery thickness and diminished flow-mediated dilation out of all the variables documented—including age, gender, and triglyceride levels.

As might be expected, the vegetarians also had lower B12 levels and higher homocysteine than the control group—but even after adjusting for these, vegetarianism remained strongly linked with less-healthy hearts. The researchers concluded with this:

In summary, contrary to common belief, vegetarians, at least in the Chinese, might have accelerated atherosclerosis and abnormal arterial endothelial function, compared with omnivore control subjects. The increased risk could only be partially explained by their higher blood pressure, triglyceride, homocysteine, and lower vitamin B12 concentrations.

A little alarming, no? My guess is that these vegetarians got such a lousy report card because they didn’t make all the positive health changes most Western vegetarians make when they forgo flesh—but rather, replaced meat with processed foods, ate more carbohydrates and polyunsaturated plant fats, and failed to get enough B12 (resulting in higher homocysteine). This is what happens when you simply pluck meat out of your diet and fill the void with plant-based substitutes: the Healthy Vegetarian image becomes a lot less rosy.

No doubt some vegetarians would dismiss this study because the participants “did vegetarianism wrong” by not supplementing B12, not eating enough fruit and vegetables, consuming too much salt, and failing to provide daily offerings to the Arugula God. But if that’s the case, one could argue that all the meat eaters in the studies supporting vegetarianism just “did omnivorism wrong” for similar reasons. This is a good study because neither the vegetarians nor the omnivores seemed particularly health conscious. It’s rare that we get a level playing field like that.

Should dietary guidelines recommend low red meat intake?
by Frédéric Leroy & Cofnas

3. Meat eating and chronic disease: evaluation of the evidence
3.1. Evidence from observational studies needs to be interpreted with care

As a first point of concern, the input data obtained from food frequency questionnaires should be interpreted prudently as they can be problematic for a variety of reasons (Schatzkin et al., 2003; Archer et al., 2018; Feinman, 2018). Social desirability bias in food reporting is just one example, as reported consumption can be affected by the perceived health status of certain foods. Not all self-defined vegetarians avoid meat, which is suggestive of a considerable risk for underreported intake in health-conscious groups (Haddad & Tanzman, 2003).

Secondly, diets are difficult to disentangle from other lifestyle factors. It has been shown that Western-style meat eating is closely associated with nutrient-poor diets, obesity, smoking, and limited physical activity (Alexander et al., 2015; Fogelholm et al., 2015; Grosso et al., 2017; Turner & Lloyd, 2017). Given the fact that health authorities have been intensely promoting the view that meat is unhealthy, health-conscious people may be inclined to reduce intake. Typically, the associations between meat eating and disease tend to be higher in North American than in European or Asian cohort studies, indicating the presence of lifestyle bias and the need for cross-cultural assessments (Wang et al., 2016; Grosso et al., 2017; Hur et al., 2018). A pooled analysis of prospective cohort studies in Asian countries even indicated that red meat intake was associated with lower cardiovascular mortality in men and cancer mortality in women (Lee et al., 2013). Likewise, when omitting Seventh-Day Adventist studies from meta-analyses, the beneficial associations with cardiovascular health for vegetarian diets are either less pronounced or absent indicating the specific effects of health-conscious lifestyle rather than low meat consumption as such (Kwok et al., 2014; FCN, 2018). This is important, as Seventh-Day Adventism has had considerable influence on dietary advice worldwide (Banta et al., 2018).

As a third point, the relative risks (RRs) obtained from observational studies are generally low, i.e., much below 2. In view of the profusion of false-positive findings and the large uncertainty and bias in the data due to the problems mentioned above (Boffetta et al., 2008; Young & Karr, 2011), such low RR levels in isolation would not be treated as strong evidence in most epidemiological research outside nutrition (Shapiro, 2004; Klurfeld, 2015). Relationships with RRs below 2, which are susceptible to confounding, can be indicative but should always be validated by other means, such as randomized controlled trials (RCTs) (Gerstein et al., 2019). The association between meat eating and colorectal cancer, for instance, leads to an RR estimate below 1.2, whereas for the association between visceral fat and colorectal neoplasia this value equals 5.9 (Yamamoto et al., 2010). The latter provides a robust case that is much more deserving of priority treatment in health policy development. […]

3.2. Intervention studies have not been able to indicate unambiguous detrimental effects

As stated by Abete et al. (2014), epidemiological findings on meat eating “should be interpreted with caution due to the high heterogeneity observed in most of the analyses as well as the possibility of residual confounding”. The interactions between meat, overall diet, human physiology (including the gut microbiome), and health outcomes are highly intricate. Within this web of complexity, and in contrast to what is commonly stated in the public domain (Leroy et al., 2018a), the current epidemiological and mechanistic data have not been able to demonstrate a consistent causal link between red meat intake and chronic diseases, such as colorectal cancer (Oostindjer et al., 2014; Turner & Lloyd, 2017).

RCTs can play an important role in establishing causal relationships, and generally provide much stronger evidence than that provided by observational data. However, even RCTs are not fail-safe and can also be prone to a range of serious flaws (Krauss, 2018). Intervention studies that overlook the normal dietary context or use non-robust biomarkers should be interpreted with caution, and do not justify claims that there is a clear link between meat and negative health outcomes (see Turner & Lloyd, 2017; Kruger & Zhou, 2018). The available evidence generally suggests that interventions with red meat do not lead to an elevation of in vivo oxidative stress and inflammation, which are usually cited as being part of the underlying mechanisms triggering chronic diseases (Mann et al., 1997; Hodgson et al., 2007; Turner et al., 2017). Even in an epidemiological cohort study that was suggestive of an inflammatory response based on an increased CRP level, this effect became non-significant upon adjustment for obesity (Montonen et al., 2013). Moreover, a meta-analysis of RCTs has shown that meat eating does not lead to deterioration of cardiovascular risk markers (O’Connor et al., 2017). The highest category of meat eating even paralleled a potentially beneficial increase in HDL-C level. Whereas plant-based diets indeed seem to lower total cholesterol and LDL-C in intervention studies, they also increase triglyceride levels and decrease HDL-C (Yokoyama et al., 2017), which are now often regarded as superior markers of cardiovascular risk (Jeppesen et al., 2001).

Based on the above, we conclude that there is a lack of robust evidence to confirm an unambiguous mechanistic link between meat eating as part of a healthy diet and the development of Western diseases. It is paramount that the available evidence is graded prior to developing policies and guidelines, making use of quality systems such as GRADE (Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation; Guyatt et al., 2008). One of the founders of the GRADE system has issued a public warning that the scientific case against red meat by the IARC panel of the WHO has been overstated, doing “the public a disservice” (Guyatt, 2015). The IARC’s (2015) claim that red meat is “probably carcinogenic” has never been substantiated. In fact, a risk assessment by Kruger and Zhou (2018) concluded that this is not the case. Such hazard classification systems have been heavily criticized, even by one of the members of the IARC working group on red meat and cancer (Klurfeld, 2018). They are accused of being outmoded and leading to avoidable health scares, public funding of unnecessary research and nutritional programs, loss of beneficial foods, and potentially increased health costs (Boyle et al., 2008; Anonymous, 2016; Boobis et al., 2016).

3.3. A scientific assessment should not overlook conflicting data

Dietary advice that identifies meat as an intrinsic cause of chronic diseases often seems to suffer from cherry-picking (Feinman, 2018). One example of a fact that is typically ignored is that hunter-gatherers are mostly free of cardiometabolic disease although animal products provide the dominant energy source (about two-thirds of caloric intake on average, with some hunter-gatherers obtaining more than 85% of their calories from animal products; Cordain et al., 2000, 2002). In comparison, contemporary Americans obtain only about 30% of calories from animal foods (Rehkamp, 2016).

Whereas per capita consumption of meat has been dropping over the last decades in the US, cardiometabolic diseases such as type-2 diabetes have been rapidly increasing. Although this observation does not resolve the question of causality one way or the other, it should generate some skepticism that meat is the culprit (Feinman, 2018). Moreover, several studies have found either that meat intake has no association with mortality/morbidity, or that meat restriction is association with various negative health outcomes (e.g., Key et al., 2009; Burkert et al., 2014; Kwok et al., 2014; Lippi et al., 2015; Hur et al., 2018; Iguacel et al., 2018; Yen et al., 2018). As another example of conflicting information, the epidemiological association pointing to a potential role of the meat nutrient L-carnitine in atherosclerosis via trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) formation (Koeth et al., 2013), is contradicted by intervention studies (Samulak et al., 2019) and epidemiological data showing that fish intake, being by orders of magnitude the largest supplier of TMAO (Zhang et al., 1999), improves triglycerides and HDL levels (Alhassan et al., 2017). […]

5. Meat avoidance leads to a loss of nutritional robustness

Diets poor in animal source foods can lead to various nutritional deficiencies, as already described more than a century ago for the case of pellagra (Morabia, 2008), a condition which remains relevant today for poorly planned vegan diets (Ng & Neff, 2018). Advocates of vegetarian/vegan diets usually admit that these diets must indeed be “well-planned” in order to be successful, which involves regular supplementation with nutrients such as B12. However, realistically, many people are not diligent about supplementation, and will often dip into deficient or borderline-deficient ranges if they do not obtain nutrients from their regular diet. In such cases, general malnutrition (Ingenbleek & McCully, 2012), poorer health (Burkert et al., 2014), and nutrient limitations (Kim et al., 2018) may be the result, as found in various countries, such as Denmark (Kristensen et al., 2015), Finland (Elorinne et al., 2016), Sweden (Larsson & Johansson, 2002), and Switzerland (Schüpbach et al., 2017). For example, a substantial number of vegetarians and vegans are in the deficient or borderline-deficient range for B12 (Herrmann & Geisel, 2002; Herrmann et al., 2003), despite the fact that the need for B12 supplementation is well-publicized (see also Herbert, 1994; Hokin & Butler, 1999; Donaldson, 2000; Elmadfa & Singer, 2009; Gilsing et al., 2010; Obersby et al., 2013; Pawlak et al. 2013, 2014; Pawlak, 2015; Woo et al., 2014; Naik et al., 2018). B12 deficiency is particularly dangerous during pregnancy (Specker et al., 1988, 1990; Bjørke Monsen et al., 2001; Koebnick et al., 2004), childhood (Rogers et al., 2003) and adolescence (van Dusseldorp et al., 1999; Louwman et al., 2000).

Other potentially challenging micronutrients for people on plant-based diets include (but are not limited to) iodine (Krajcovicová-Kudlácková et al., 2008; Leung et al., 2011; Brantsaeter et al., 2018), iron (Wilson & Ball, 1999; Wongprachum et al., 2012; Awidi et al., 2018), selenium (Schultz & Leklem, 1983; Kadrabová et al., 1995), and zinc (Foster et al., 2013). Even if plant-based diets contain alpha linolenic acid, this may not (as noted) prevent deficiencies in the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA (Rosell et al., 2005), which can pose serious risks in pregnancy and for growing children (Burdge et al., 2017; Cofnas, 2019).

Risks of nutritional deficiency are also documented by an extensive list of clinical case reports in the medical literature, with serious and sometimes irreversible pathological symptoms being reported for infants (e.g., Shinwell & Gorodisher, 1982; Zengin et al., 2009; Guez et al., 2012; Bravo et al., 2014; Kocaoglu et al., 2014; Goraya et al., 2015), children (e.g., Colev et al., 2004; Crawford & Say, 2013), adolescents (e.g., Chiron et al., 2001; Licht et al., 2001; O’Gorman et al., 2002), and adults (e.g., Milea et al., 2000; Brocadello et al., 2007; De Rosa et al., 2012; Førland & Lindberg, 2015). The latter reports commonly refer to failure to thrive, hyperparathyroidism, macrocytic anemia, optic and other neuropathies, lethargy, degeneration of the spinal cord, cerebral atrophy, and other serious conditions. Although the direction of causality is not clear, meat avoidance is statistically associated with eating disorders and depression (Zhang et al., 2017; Barthels et al., 2018; Hibbeln et al., 2018; Matta et al., 2018; Nezlek et al., 2018) and may mirror neurological problems (Kapoor et al., 2017).

Our main concern is that avoiding or minimizing meat consumption too strictly may compromise the delivery of nutrients, especially in children and other vulnerable populations. Evidently, health effects of plant-based approaches depend largely on the dietary composition (Satija et al., 2016). Yet, the more restricted the diet and the younger the age, the more this will be a point of attention (Van Winckel et al., 2011). According to Cofnas (2019), however, even realistic vegetarian diets that include diligent supplementation can put children at risk for deficiencies and thereby compromise health in both the short and long term. There is some direct and indirect evidence that the elevated phytoestrogen intake associated with low-meat diets may pose risks for the development of the brain and reproductive system (Cofnas, 2019). Moreover, attempts to introduce dietary modifications that are also compatible with vegan philosophy often pose a medicosocial challenge (Shinwell & Gorodischer, 1982). In our opinion, the official endorsement of diets that avoid animal products as healthy options is posing a risk that policy makers should not be taking. As stated by Giannini et al. (2006): “It is alarming in a developed country to find situations in which a child’s health is put at risk by malnutrition, not through economic problems but because of the ideological choices of the parents”.

* * *

On the China Study:

To explore a specific area of debate, consider Colin Campbell’s book The China Study. It was a correlative analysis of earlier data. And it’s focus on an Asian population is relevant. But some have pointed out that the correlations are mostly statistically non-significant while other statistically significant correlations were ignored. The best and most thorough critique was done by Denise Minger, in a series of articles she published at her website. One of her articles was specifically about the meat issue. Even one of the original researchers admitted that nothing meaningful was likely to be concluded from the data because there simply is too much noise of uncontrolled confounders. Anyway, in summarizing some of Minger’s findings, Harriet Hall wrote,

“The data do show that cholesterol is positively associated with various cancers, that cholesterol is positively associated with animal protein, and that cholesterol is negatively associated with plant protein. So by indirect deduction they assume that animal protein is associated with cancers and that reducing intake is protective. But if you compare animal protein intake directly with cancer, there are as many negative correlations as positive, and not one of those correlations reaches a level of statistical significance. Comparing dietary plant protein to various types of cancer, there are many more positive correlations and one of them does show strong statistical significance. The variable “death from all cancers” is four times as strongly associated with plant protein as with animal protein. And Campbell fails to mention an important confounder: cholesterol is higher in geographic areas with a higher incidence of schistosomiasis and hepatitis B infection, both risk factors for cancer.

“Campbell says breast cancer is associated with dietary fat (which is associated with animal protein intake). The data show a non-significant association with dietary fat, but stronger (still non-significant) associations with several other factors and a significant association with wine, alcohol, and blood glucose level. The (non-significant) association of breast cancer with legume intake is virtually identical to the (non-significant) association with dietary fat. Animal protein itself shows a weaker correlation with breast cancer than light-colored vegetables, legume intake, fruit, and a number of other purportedly healthy plant foods.)

“He indicts animal protein as being correlated with cardiovascular disease, but fails to mention that plant protein is more strongly correlated and wheat protein is far, far more strongly correlated. The China Study data show the opposite of what Campbell claims: animal protein doesn’t correspond with more disease, even in the highest animal food-eating counties” (The China Study Revisited: New Analysis of Raw Data Doesn’t Support Vegetarian Ideology).

Beyond Minger, others have also responded to The China Study that gets cited endlessly by vegans. Chris Kresser noted that, “Campbell conveniently fails to mention the county of Tuoli in China. The folks in Tuoli ate 45% of their diet as fat, 134 grams of animal protein each day (twice as much as the average American), and rarely ate vegetables or other plant foods. Yet, according to the China Study data, they were extremely healthy with low rates of cancer and heart disease; healthier, in fact, than many of the counties that were nearly vegan” (Rest in Peace, China Study). Another Chris, of the Masterjohn variety, discussed issues involving the roles of lysine and folate, with his giving credit to Minger for making the connection to lysine (Denise Minger’s Refutation of Campbell’s “China Study” Generates Continued Debate).

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Research on non-meat animal foods and saturated fat:

Aren’t Saturated Fats Bad For You?
by Dr. Nicholas Norwitz

What Are The Functions of MCTs in Goat Milk?
from Aurora Health

The Health Benefits of Medium Chain Triglycerides in Goat Milk
by Sarah Holvik

Cow’s Milk and Dairy Consumption: Is There Now Consensus for Cardiometabolic Health?
by Sally D. Poppitt

Organic Whole Milk Is Better than Conventional Skim or Whole Milk, Studies Find
by Clarence Bass

In further support, Dr. Donald R. Davis, a co-author of the Benbrook study, pointed out that many now question the assumption that the saturated fat in whole milk increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. As this was being written a meta-analysis by Cambridge and Harvard Universities of 72 studies with 600,000 participants found no evidence that saturated fat is associated with a greater risk of heart disease (March 17, 2014, Annals of Internal Medicine). The new emphasis seems to be on eating a balanced diet of real foods, whole foods—and avoiding highly processed foods. (More about this next month.)

Do Not Give Young Children Plant-Based Milk, As It Lacks Important Nutrients, Pediatricians Warn
by Martha Garcia

Several childhood health organizations are warning that plant-based milk alternatives should not be consumed by children, as they lack key nutrients.

Young children under the age of five should only drink cows’ milk, water, and a minimal amount of juice each day, according to pediatric experts, who warn that children should avoid plant-based milk and other beverages that do not provide growing children with the nutrients they need for proper development.

These recommendations were made in the “Healthy Beverage Consumption in Early Childhood” September 2019 consensus statement, issued Wednesday as part of the Healthy Eating Research guidelines.

The statement was developed by a committee of leading health organizations, including a panel of experts with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Heart Association.

The recommendations also indicate infants should only drink breast milk or infant formula. At six months of age, they can have small amounts of water, and after one year, they should only drink cows milk daily and occasionally juice.

The key change in this year’s guidelines was the call for young children to avoid plant-based milk. This includes milk made from rice, coconut, oats, almonds, or other blends, with the exception of fortified soy milk. Plant-based milks do not have the proper nutrition for early development, like vitamin D and calcium the experts said.

The Full-Fat Paradox: Whole Milk May Keep Us Lean
by Allison Aubrey

Consider the findings of two recent studies that conclude the consumption of whole-fat dairy is linked to reduced body fat.

In one paper, published by Swedish researchers in the Scandinavian Journal of Primary Health Care, middle-aged men who consumed high-fat milk, butter and cream were significantly less likely to become obese over a period of 12 years compared with men who never or rarely ate high-fat dairy.

Yep, that’s right. The butter and whole-milk eaters did better at keeping the pounds off.

“I would say it’s counterintuitive,” says Greg Miller, executive vice president of the National Dairy Council.

The second study, published in the European Journal of Nutrition, is a meta-analysis of 16 observational studies. There has been a hypothesis that high-fat dairy foods contribute to obesity and heart disease risk, but the reviewers concluded that the evidence does not support this hypothesis. In fact, the reviewers found that in most of the studies, high-fat dairy was associated with a lower risk of obesity.

“We continue to see more and more data coming out [finding that] consumption of whole-milk dairy products is associated with reduced body fat,” Miller says.

It’s not clear what might explain this phenomenon. Lots of folks point to the satiety factor. The higher levels of fat in whole milk products may make us feel fuller, faster. And as a result, the thinking goes, we may end up eating less.

Or the explanation could be more complex. “There may be bioactive substances in the milk fat that may be altering our metabolism in a way that helps us utilize the fat and burn it for energy, rather than storing it in our bodies,” Miller says.

In defense of dairy fat
by Allison Aubrey

A new study finds the dairy fats found in milk, yogurt and cheese may help protect against Type 2 diabetes.

The research, published in the journal Circulation, included 3,333 adults. Beginning in the late 1980s, researchers took blood samples from the participants and measured circulating levels of biomarkers of dairy fat in their blood. Then, over the next two decades, the researchers tracked who among the participants developed diabetes. “People who had the most dairy fat in their diet had about a 50 percent lower risk of diabetes” compared with people who consumed the least dairy fat, says Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, who is also an author of the study. […]

“It appears that children who have a higher intake of whole milk or 2 percent milk gain less weight over time” compared with kids who consume skim or nonfat dairy products, explains DeBoer.

And there’s some evidence that dairy fat may help adults manage weight as well. As we’ve reported, researchers in Sweden found that middle-aged men who consumed high-fat milk, butter and cream were significantly less likely to become obese over a period of 12 years compared with men who never or rarely ate high-fat dairy. So, in other words, the butter and whole-milk eaters did better at keeping the pounds off. In addition, a meta-analysis – which included data from 16 observational studies — also found evidence that high-fat dairy was associated with a lower risk of obesity. […]

And there’s evidence that “when people consume more low-fat dairy, they eat more carbohydrates” as a way of compensating, says Mozaffarian.

Many high-carb foods such as cereals, breads and snacks that contain highly refined grains are less satiating and can prompt people to eat more calories.

Plant-Based Milk Beverages Affect Children’s Height
by Ross Tellam

The investigators concluded that for the average child, each cup of noncow’s milk consumed per day was associated with a height decrease of 0.4 cm [1]. The investigators also concluded that the effect of the noncow’s milk beverages on height was not just due to the removal of the positive benefits of cow’s milk from the diet, i.e. consumption noncow’s milk was associated with the height loss. The height reduction at three years of age for the average child drinking three cups per day of noncow’s milk compared with the average child drinking three cups of cow’s milk was 1.5 cm.

Maguire and colleagues speculated that many noncow’s milk beverages may have reduced protein content compared with cow’s milk, which could explain the height decrease in the group consuming noncow’s milk. Other studies additionally suggest that plant-based milk proteins, unlike animal proteins, often do not contain all the essential amino acids required for optimal human growth and development [12–14]. The investigators further suggested that consumption of noncow’s milk by children may not induce increased levels of a natural growth promotant (insulin-like growth factor 1) as happens with the consumption of cow’s milk.

1. Morency M.E., Birken C.S., Lebovic G., Chen Y., L’Abbé M., Lee G.J., et al. Association between noncow milk beverage consumption and childhood height. Am J Clin Nutr. 2017;106(2):597-602.

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Related posts:

Dietary Risk Factors for Heart Disease and Cancer
Blue Zones Dietary Myth
Eat Beef and Bacon!
Like water fasts, meat fasts are good for health.
Dr. Saladino on Plant and Animal Foods
Gundry’s Plant Paradox and Saladino’s Carnivory
Fiber or Not: Short-Chain Fatty Acids and the Microbiome
Are ‘vegetarians’ or ‘carnivores’ healthier?
Vegetarianism is an Animal-Based Diet
Being “mostly vegan” is like being “a little pregnant.”
Plant-Based Nutritional Deficiencies
True Vitamin A For Health And Happiness
Hubris of Nutritionism
Ancient Greek View on Olive Oil as Part of the Healthy Mediterranean Diet
Wild-Caught Salmon and Metabolic Health
Early Research On the Industrial Diet
Amish Paradox
Moral Panic and Physical Degeneration
Health From Generation To Generation
Dietary Risk Factors for Heart Disease and Cancer
Ancient Atherosclerosis?
Multiple Sclerosis and Carnivore Diet

The Human War On Cat Drugs

When our uncle died recently, we cleaned out his house and it was quite the job. He had been a bachelor his entire life and had lived alone in that large house since the 1970s. He left behind many things, including some cats. One cat, a calico, was found in the house by the emergency workers and she was brought to the vet. When we got there, a couple of outdoor cats were needing to be fed. One of those cats, orange and white, was our uncle’s buddy and would follow him around; according to the neighbor. We were able to catch him, but not the other grey cat. Then several days after working in the house, we heard a noise when we sat down on the couch.

It turns out another cat had remained hidden for about a week after our uncle’s death, as some water and spilled treats were still around. This kitty is a black and white female who we named Betty. She was the third kitty to be caught and adopted. After bringing them back to our house, she was bullied by her feline housemates. It turned out the other two cats preferred being outdoor kitties, anyway; and so we sent them to a farm. Because of some clawing issues, we thought we might have to get rid of Betty as well. She was also such a scaredy cat that we hadn’t been able to touch her since bringing her home. But, on the morning the other cats were to be sent away, we were finally able to pet her. So, we decided to give her a chance to see how she was without the other kitties. It turns out she is a sweety, if still skittish, although less so over time.

One of the things she loves most in the world, besides constant petting, is eating the leaves of a dracaena plant we’ve had for 30 years. She’d prefer to have several leaves every day, if we’d let her. Even though she has shown no ill effect, we decided to make sure the plant isn’t poisonous. Many websites declare the plant toxic, but it doesn’t seem so straightforward once further investigated. In one of the articles that warned about the plant, it pointed out that there was no evidence of toxicity and yet still the warning was emphasized, just to be on the safe side. It was written that, “However, while the Dracaena is poisonous to cats, they likely won’t consume too much as it’s quite bitter. Furthermore, the plant is only mildly to moderately toxic, so ingestion won’t be deadly. According to the ASPCA, no death from Dracaena plant consumption has been reported to date. […] There are also no lasting effects related to the poisoning” (Donna-Kay, Dracaena Marginata and Cats – Is the Dracaena Toxic to Your Feline?).

So, what is the issue? The main one is the cat might vomit. But then again, cats will vomit from eating grass and licking their own fur. Cats vomiting is not exactly a sign of anything unusual going on. What are some other symptoms of supposed dracaena poisoning? There is loss of appetite, dilated pupils, and lethargy. Hey, wait a second, that just sounds like a drug; similar to marijuana, except losing appetite rather than gaining it. No wonder my kitty loves this plant so much, although she has never gotten lethargic as she is quite spunky. But when she wants her dracaena leaves, she begs for them. And it seems to make her extremely happy. How could anyone be opposed to the happiness of a sweet little kitty? Nancy Reagan says, Just say no! Yeah, whatever. They used to say that smoking marijuana would make people go psychotic, commit crimes, and kill people. Plant chemicals have been under a long war on drugs. Why foist our human delusions onto innocent non-human animals? Why must poor little Betty suffer for the sake of our unfounded fears?

The only possible issue is that the leaves contain saponins, a common plant chemical, specifically a bio-detergent (breaks up lipids and so useful as a soap). They are considered natural toxins, as the purpose of them is to discourage creatures from eating them. They are plant defense molecules, but they are generally harmless to mammals, except at very high levels. Plants are full of all kinds of defense chemicals. Those like Dr. Steven Gundry advise not eating certain plants or preparing them carefully to reduce the concentration of what are called antinutrients. Saponins are simply one variety of antinutrients. The thing is dracaena doesn’t necessarily contain any more plant antinutrients than many common vegetables humans eat, from the brassica family to the nightshade family. We couldn’t see any information that dracaena is a particularly toxic plant or that it has excess antinutrients compared to any other plant.

Technically, all of the antinutrients have toxic qualities and there are cases of people dying from eating large amounts of certain plant foods — a poison is in the dose. But such deaths are rare. Largely, it’s the antinutrient aspect that is the concern. “Like lectins, saponins can be found in some legumes—namely soybeans, chickpeas, and quinoa—and whole grains, and can hinder normal nutrient absorption. Saponins can disrupt epithelial function in a manner similar to lectins, and cause gastrointestinal issues, like leaky gut syndrome” (Melissa Sammy, Should you be eating anti-nutrients?). Saponins are also found in kratom, gynostemma, sarsaparilla root, licorice, avocado, spinach, asparagus, oats, agave, yam, and approximately a million other plants imbibed by humans and other creatures. It’s insects, in particular, that don’t like saponins; as central purpose is as an insecticide.

Cats, humans, and other mammals consume plant chemicals all the time, including saponins. This is an intentional activity, as plant chemicals can also have medicinal effects (ed. by Kazuo Yamasaki & George R. Waller, Saponins Used in Traditional and Modern Medicine). A cat might be drawn to eating saponin-rich leaves in order to kill parasites, suppress viral infections, reverse bacterial overgrowth, and clean out their intestinal system. Some saponins have also been found useful for treatment or reduction of symptoms for many conditions: cancer, arthritis, osteoporosis, obesity, fatty liver, etc; and COVID-19. Also, they lower cholesterol, modulate the immune system, and act as an anti-inflammatory. Medicinal plants like ginseng have saponins as active compounds. In fact, dracaena is used medicinally: “Many of the dracaena saponins are steroids and contribute to the use of this plant as a form of traditional medicine in west Africa” (Helga George, Is Dracaena Toxic to Cats or Dogs?).

So, it’s not exactly implausible that cats might use dracaena as a drug, either medicinally or recreationally. Ginseng with its saponins is an extremely popular and effective adaptogen and nootropic. People take ginseng not only because it improves their health but because it gives them energy, improves neurocognitive functioning, and makes them feel good. Yerba mate is another stimulating herb with saponins. All animals use plants to change their internal chemistry and functioning. That is the role of plants, as nature’s chemical factories. Saponins come in two main varieties, triterpenoid and steroidal; the latter of which are structurally similar to some human hormones, and presumably the same applies to other mammals like cats; but the triterpenoids are also biologically active.

But one doesn’t want to be eating large amounts of saponins all the time. Traditionally, people would rinse and soak saponin-rich plant foods or use other methods in order to eliminate some of the saponins and so make them less harmful. Some suggest simply being more careful about which plant foods one eats. Then there are those who advocate removing plant foods altogether. There pretty much isn’t any plant foods that don’t have one antinutrient or another in them. As for saponins, some potential negative effects are — besides as antinutrients: disrupting fat metabolism, increasing intestinal permeability, cleaving cholesterol, disrupting endocrine function, and toxicity to cells. The problem is that, if this is reason for your cat to not eat dracaena leaves, it’s also the same reason for you to not eat hundreds of plant foods you’ll find at the grocery store and farmer’s market.

There is a lot of debate about antinutrients. And the evidence is mixed. But, generally, they aren’t deadly. Or rather, if they’re going to kill you, it will likely come slowly over many years of overconsumption. No one really knows if these plant chemicals are a net benefit or a net risk to human health. We know even less about cat health. Cats in the wild would nibble on all kinds of plants. And various species of felines have lived all over the world for millions of years. They are highly adaptable creatures. Generally speaking, they probably aren’t going to keep eating any plant that makes them sick. Every claim about dracaena being toxic is pure speculation based on absolutely zero knowledge of any proven evidence or mechanism of dangerous toxicity. That isn’t necessarily to say one should be entirely unconcerned. Maybe try to limit your cat’s consumption. But if and when your cat chomps down on a dracaena leaf, you probably don’t need to immediately call your vet in a state of panic. Just watch your cat to see if it’s fine.

It’s interesting that the warnings are so consistently and widely repeated, based on no facts or known cases of harm. The main thing seems to be that some cats act ‘intoxicated’ and therefore they must be in a state of potentially threatening toxicosis. By that logic, you should call 911 every time you see a mildly inebriated person. So, why does this warning get repeated? Most of the websites are from veterinarians or other official websites related to health, toxicity, and pets. In their formal capacity of authority, they are going to be cautious, even when there is no rational reason for caution. If a veterinarian gives out a warning of toxicity about a non-toxic plant, the worse that happens is someone unnecessarily throws away a perfectly fine houseplant. But if a veterinarian tells someone that a plant is safe or simply has no known toxicity and an animal gets sick as a result, that could lead to bad results for their reputation and career. Yet this is in stark contrast to how mainstream health professionals for humans usually dismiss claims that saponins in plants are anything to worry about, even though there are real concerns in some cases.

On a personal level, we do take our cat’s health seriously and would do nothing to intentionally harm her. This is about risk-benefit analysis. The case for risk is weak and minimal, but there are some potential real negative outcomes. Is it any more dangerous than a human drinking a beer or eating spinach? No one knows. From the perspective of the precautionary principle, one might simply remove the plant from the equation, just in case with the idea that it’s better safe than sorry. Then again, Betty just loves her dracaena leaves, one of her few joys in life, right up there with watching chipmunks out the window. But as the responsible human caretakers, we are in the position to make a decision on Betty’s health and happiness. It’s not like she’d likely fall into despair by the loss of her beloved dracaena habit. Even if risk could be calculated, how much risk is pleasure worth? Certainly, pleasure can’t be calculated. If we were making this decision for ourselves about a plant that had saponins in it, we’d definitely think twice before imbibing every day. Yet, we enjoy the buzz from our multiple cups of coffee a day, yet another plant drug that contains antinutrients, including saponins. Too much coffee is probably harmful as well. We are feeling uncertain and undecided about what to do with this dracaena plant.

* * *

6/13/21 – We finally gave into fear-mongering. Or rather we rationally sided with the precautionary principle. We couldn’t find any scientific evidence or even anecdotal evidence that dracaena is harmful for cats. The closest we came to evidence of any sort is that it’s traditionally used as medicine in Africa. And it’s interesting to note that Africa is one of the origins of the modern domesticated cat. Presumably, some of the wild cats of Africa evolved with dracaena. It would be interesting for someone to study the habits of these wild cats. Do they eat dracaena? Do they enjoy it? Do they get ill? Do they die?

Anyway, we don’t know where this “old wives tale” came from. And we don’t know why veterinarians, medical professionals, those in pet-related fields, and animal lovers are promoting this seemingly unfounded rumor and spreading apparent disinfo. But, based on the precautionary principle, we feel compelled to give tentative credence to the notion that such evidence might exist, even if the dozens of websites we looked at cited no such evidence. It’s maybe better safe than sorry. The only downside is Betty’s temporary unhappiness. We removed the dracaena plant yesterday morning and since she keeps looking for where it went. She’ll probably have forgotten about it by the end of the week. So, she’ll have to find a new addiction or replacement. Maybe she’ll, instead, eat more food to fill the void in her life, become fat, and then die of metabolic syndrome.

Jokes aside, we honestly do take seriously the potential risk of plant toxins and antinutrients. We’ve intentionally gone strict carnivore for periods and, even when not carnivore, we limit the kinds and amounts of plant foods we allow in our diet. Tonight, for example, we picked out the pork and left the beans, although we did take a heapful serving of cabbage (the dark leafy greens are a nod to my past paleo diet and the influence of Dr. Terry Wahls). In line with Dr. Paul Saladino and others, we’re really not sure that plants offer much benefit to human health; and probably even less to cat health; although the harm is likely minimal if plant consumption is occasional. Then again, there is also the happiness principle or at least the pleasure principle. We’re certainly not trying to take away the small joys from Betty’s life. But we do follow an anti-addiction philosophy and, admittedly, Betty is acting a bit addicted to her cherished dracaena leaves. At the rate she was eating it’s leaves, we’d probably have to buy a new dracaena plant every month or two.

To demonstrate the seriousness of our intentions, we’ve cut out almost all sugar and starches from our diet. The only exception is very rarely some honey, wild berries when in season, and maybe baked goods if made by someone we personally know. The neighbor lady made cookies for taking care of her cat and so we ate one of them. Yet, typically even at birthday parties, we’ll abstain from cake and ice cream because it’s just store-bought crap. Make cake and ice cream from scratch and that is a whole other matter. The thing is we used to be carb addicts and so we are now on an extremely low-carb diet. On a typical day, we get near zero carbs of any sort. Sure, even meat has some carbs in it, if rather meager in amount. The most carbs we typically might get is from cheese, but we tend to eat aged cheese which only has 1 gram of carb per 1 ounce. We still get cravings that we fulfill with stevia, yet another plant, and even that bothers us because it seems to keep the craving alive. We went a period of time without even stevia and it was interesting how some of the simplest of things could taste sweet. Without sweeteners to dull the tongue, the carbs in dairy jump out on the palate.

Unrelated to helping Betty kick her dracaena habit, we went on a caffeine fast this week and withdrawal was a doozy. We were in a state of near continuous semi-unconsciousness for a couple of days, until our body kicked back into gear with producing its own dopamine again. We really hate the feeling of being addicted to anything. Should we force our Puritan abstention on innocent Betty who just wants her next hit of dracaena goodness? Obviously, if she is addicted, she doesn’t mind it. And it’s not like it negatively affects her life or employment. All she does is lay around the house anyway. She seems to prove the war on drugs propaganda. She is a lazy loser who is wasting away her life while more productive citizens carry her weight. But she brings added value to the world in her own way. Oh well. She’ll get over it, hopefully.

Still, it’s hard to shake the nagging feeling that the idiotic warnings, however improbable, might have some merit. Still, one has to wonder how there could possibly be zero known evidence, at least unknown to the fear-mongers and rumor-mongers, if it truly was a dangerous plant. Cats, of course, are one of the most common house pets and dracaena is one of the most common house plants. If dracaena was dangerously toxic, there should be thousands or hundreds of thousands of cases of dracaena poisoning of cats. The lack of evidence, in this case, could be taken as a massively overwhelming evidence of lack. Why should the precautionary principle give deference to irrational fear? It shouldn’t. But there is an off chance that the fear could be rational. After all, how could an endless number of experts be wrong? That is kind of a stupid question for anyone familiar with the replication crisis and public health epidemic related to the field of diet and nutrition, which does overlap with the contentious issue of plant antinutrients.

For whatever it’s worth, maybe Betty and the rest of us will drift back toward a strict carnivore diet. We did a meat fast (i.e., meat-only diet) this winter and last. And maybe we’ll do it again, particularly eliminating caffeine and stevia as well, if only as another experiment. In doing so, we could join Betty in solidarity by sacrificing all of our plant pleasures, such as our love for avocado and olives. It’s good to clear the system out once in a while to get the sense of how plants are affecting one. Yet it doesn’t mean we have to be anti-herbivore forever. Betty doesn’t seem to like cat grass, but maybe we can find some similar plants she could safely nibble on, if not as addictively as her dracaena plant.

Early Research On the Industrial Diet

By the early 1900s, the modern diet had long been a growing concern, as it already was a topic of public debate going back a century, such as obesity and conditions like ‘nerves’. This public health issue became a moral panic with tuberculosis and neurasthenia that was linked to diet. Much of the focus was scientific study. Many vitamins and micronutrients were being discovered and researched.

Also, the industrial seed oils were being linked to ill health right from the start; although not yet understood as oxidative, inflammatory, and mutagenic. The initial observations were being made on farm animals being fed “on by-products from margarine factories”, as advised by feeding experts. It would be decades later that a mass experiment would be initiated on humans when, in the 1930s, industrial seed oils replaced animal fats as the main source of fatty acids in the American diet.

The following decades after that in the post-war period would begin the public health crisis of skyrocketing rates of metabolic syndrome: obesity, heart disease, strokes, diabetes, etc. But long before that, the health decline was already becoming apparent to many, such as Dr. Weston A. Price and Dr. Francis M. Pottenger Jr, and even earlier with Dr. Claude Bernard, Dr. William Harvey, Dr. James H. Salisbury, etc. Another example of someone on the leading edge was Dr. M. J. Rowlands.

* * *

Rheumatoid Arthritis: Is it a Deficiency Disease?
By M. J. Rowlands, M.D.
May 25, 1927

My clinical investigations began as far back as 1912, when I installed an X-ray apparatus with the idea of trying to find out what similarity there was in the lesions amongst my cases. In the war during 1914 and 1915 stationed at Netley. The blood-cultures and joint punctures I carried out proved sterile.

Owing to ill-health I had to relinquish the Service for some time; I returned to it again in 1916 and was given the pathological charge of three hospitals of some 2,000 patients, where I could place as many rheumatoid patients for whom I could find beds, an order being posted in the London area that all true rheumatoids were to be sent to one of my hospitals. In this way I was able to accumulate some 200 rheumatoids and keep them for investigation. But with all this opportunity and all the advantages of able assistance and cordial help for over three years, until May, 1919, nothing of great value was discoverable. In 1916 I wrote a paper which was published in the Lancet1 giving the results of my investigations up to that time.

After the war I again took up the investigation of this disease chiefly owing to my farming instinct. The question of vitamins and the work of Hopkins, Funk, Plimmer and Drummond, was being published. I began to experiment with pigs, as I found that a large number of my pigs which were bred on the open-air system were from time to time suffering from marked stiffness and swollen joints. I began to feed my animals on a full vitamin diet and the result of these experiments was marvellous. There was a complete change in the condition of my herd and I decided to show my experimental animals at the largest Fat Stock Show in the world-namely, Smithfield. The result of the first time of showing was every possible prize that I could have won as well as the Cup. This gave me ample proof that in animals’ malnutrition lay the seat of investigation. In 1921 I read a paper before the Farmers’ Club at the Surveyors’ Institute discussing my experiments. Professor T. B. Wood, of Cambridge, and Dr. Crowther, Principal of the Harper Adams College, who opened the discussion, ridiculed all my experiments, and the whole idea of vitamins, and, in fact, the only member of the audience who agreed was Lord Bledisloe. To-day I think both Professor Wood and Dr. Crowther are aware of the value of vitamins and now admit their use to the British farmer. […]

I had by me all the notes of an experiment I had carried out a few years previously. Feeding experts were constantly advising farmers-and are doing so to-day-to feed their pigs on by-products from margarine factories, such as palm kernels, coco-nut, earth-nut, soya beans, etc. So I placed three pens of pigs on these foods as a test, using against them a food containing meat, yeast, cod-liver oil and a salt mixture, the carbohydrate content of the diet being the same in all the pens. Within a few weeks it became apparent that the pigs on a diet of palm-kernel and coco-nut were rapidly going downhill; and at the end of the test the pigs fed on my mixture had increased by 143 lb., and for every 1 lb. of increase in weight had consumed 2 * 62 lb., whereas the ” palm kernel pigs ” had increased only 40 lb., and for every 1 lb. of increased weight they had consumed 5 lb. The palm kernel pigs showed a vitamin B deficiency. […]

In dealing with the deficiency of vitamin B in cases of rheumatism, Dr. Rowlands’ paper was convincing and dramatic, but the relationship between this deficiency and the various forms of rheumatism was not clearly shown. Whereas it was probably a factor in rheumatoid arthritis, the co-relation was not evident in either osteo-arthritis, with its prevailing characteristic of robustness, or in the climacteric type associated with thyroid deficiency. Possibly there were other vitamin deficiencies-an “A” deficiency and probably a “D” deficiency-concerned in the control of phosphates, […]

Rheumatoid arthritis was certainly a deficiency disease, and the deficiency was connected with the assimilation or utilization of phosphoric acid and other phosphates, so that probably vitamins B and D were often associated with it. Rheumatoid arthritis never attacked the bon viveur or the alcoholic, but was the disease of the total abstainer, the vegetarian and the careful liver. […]

An important point which none of the discussers had mentioned was the great change in our diet, not so much in our own choice of food, but in the food of the animals on which we depended so much for our own. For instance, cows used to be fed on ground oats, ground wheat, ground barley, ground rye; all these contained the essential vitamin B. To-day very few farmers gave such food to their cattle; instead, they gave cotton-seed cake, linseed cake, and all kinds of patent foods which were deficient in vitamin B, and therefore. milk was not now so good as in former days. Chickens, again, were now fed on all sorts of material, and were the subjects of intensive culture, with the result that the egg-yolk was not of the same value as formerly. Vitamin B was not an animal product, it must be supplied to the animal from some outside source.

Wild-Caught Salmon and Metabolic Health

Related to the high-fat vs low-fat debate, there is an interesting article to shake up our thinking: Study of Alaska Natives confirms salmon-rich diet prevents diabetes, heart disease. It states that, “A diet of Alaska salmon rich in Omega-3 fatty acids appears to protect Yup’ik people from diabetes and heart disease — even when the individuals in question have become obese, according to a recent study that examined eating habits and health in the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta region. […] Something was different, and it didn’t appear to be genetics. […] “Interestingly, we found that obese persons with high blood levels of Omega-3 fats had triglyceride and CRP concentrations that did not differ from those of normal-weight persons,” Makhoul concluded.” Now that is fascinating. There could be a lot going on with this population, but they do make for a useful comparison.

To begin, it should be noted that these Inuit/Eskimos are on average overweight, similar to other Americans. Yet they have some of the lowest rates in the world of metabolic syndrome and obesity-related diseases like diabetes. This is in spite of their no longer being entirely on a traditional diet. They are getting plenty of crappy processed and packaged foods, in line with the industrialized Standard American Diet (refined grains, high fructose corn syrup, seed oils, etc). And these native Alaskans are unhealthy in other ways, as obesity isn’t a good thing. But those large doses of healthy unoxidized Omega-3s from wild whole foods seem to be their saving grace. It is true that most Americans are getting too many inflammatory Omega-6s and increasing Omega-3s is already known to decrease inflammation. That is all the more reason to eat fresh cold water fish, assuming it’s wild-caught in clean waters (it’s too bad we’re overfishing the oceans). Or, failing that, supplements might be beneficial; including algae-based sources.

That might go against the argument of those like Dr. Paul Saladino who speculate all polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) are problematic at high intake; whether Omega-6s or Omega-3s, industrial or whole, oxidized or fresh; and no matter the PUFA ratio. The argument is all PUFAs will oxidize, even in the body after consumption because the unsaturated carbon bonds are unstable in being able to pick up oxygen atoms and the body can only handle so much oxidization using its limited supply of self-produced antioxidants and dietary antioxidants. The system overwhelmed by oxidized PUFAs is unable to contain the free radicals that wreak havoc with oxidative stress. But is that excess PUFA theory true? The jury is still out on that. Even if too many PUFAs overall might still be harmful in other ways, the recent Inuit study indicates certain PUFAs maybe can’t be blamed for metabolic syndrome and such.

It would be useful to look at these Inuits’ total PUFA intake and Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio, which determines inflammation levels. And one might wonder about a causal link between inflammation and insulin resistance. Of course, as Dr. Saladino would argue, it might be simpler to just remove all the processed carbs and industrial seed oils; rather than try to counteract the harm with more Omega-3s. But if your (carb-caused, stress-induced, etc) cravings or other factors beyond your control have compelled you to eat a health-destroying diet that has made you fat or otherwise metabolically unfit, not to mention inflamed and maybe with high LDL (a response to inflammation), then by all means glug down some Omega-3s as medicine. It is known to have numerous health benefits, at least for those on an unhealthy diet, including this other evidence for possibly preventing/reversing insulin resistance and diabetes. You might slowly die of some other dietary-related disease, but at least you’ll lessen a large swath of health problems and feel relatively better.

Dietary details and confounders aside, this study blows the anti-fat crowd out of the water, including those like Ted Naiman who argue for low-carb, high-protein, and moderate fat. This seriously challenges the claim that the carbohydrate-insulin hypothesis is dead and that it’s simply about energy excess, either carbs or fat (or both). Ben Bikman, a leading insulin expert and active researcher, still thinks the carbohydrate-insulin hypothesis is valid and his view appears to be supported or not contradicted, according to this data. But, if nothing else, this new evidence clearly keeps the debate undeniably alive and even more compelling, however it might remain unresolved in continuing disagreements. What is refuted is the sweeping declaration that all energy excess, though surely sometimes a valid factor, can apply to every form of dietary energy under all conditions and in all diets.

It really does matter what kind of fat one is eating. Then again, it also matters what kind of carbs (Dr. Saladino thinks honey might be metabolically different, a whole other contentious debate). Talking about macronutrients as general abstract categories may not always be helpful. Sure, many people can lose fat by restricting calories or particular macronutrients. Both low-carb, high-fat diets and low-fat, high-carb diets can cause some people to naturally reduce calorie intake because there is nothing that causes overconsumption like the fattening powerhouse of carb-fat combo. And no doubt one could choose to increase protein, instead. But even if one eats high-carb, high-fat diet and so unsurprisingly becomes obese, it doesn’t follow that metabolic syndrome is inevitable. In that case, the healthy fats might protect one against metabolic syndrome, even on an industrial diet. If this is confirmed, Omega-3s not only balance excess Omega-6s but also excess simple carbs.

This seems to imply the unoxidized Omega-3s from fresh wild-caught whole foods is maintaining insulin sensitivity, despite the fact that all those carbs typically would be causing insulin resistance. That is the really interesting part. The whole point of the carbohydrate-insulin hypothesis is that excess glucose in the blood eventually overtaxes the body’s capacity and throws off the hormonal system, specifically the hormone insulin but also possibly involving insulin-glucagon ratio. The hormonal system acts as locus of messaging and control for multiple other systems, including metabolism. With insulin resistance, fat simply gets stuck in fat cells and can’t be accessed. So, the individual gets hungry and eats more. Interestingly, long-term fasting can sometimes kick insulin sensitivity back in gear and so the body will start burning the fat. That mechanism described is what the carbohydrate-insulin hypothesis is all about. That is the theory that supposedly down for the count.

Maybe we need another theory. As countering the harm described by the carbohydrate-insulin hypothesis, we could call it the fat-insulin hypothesis or, to be more specific, the Omega3s-insulin hypothesis. This might relate to how certain fats promote fat-burning, specifically in terms of Stearic fat (in tallow) which is a saturated fat, the supposedly worst fat. It apparently means eating energy as this kind of fat not only increases metabolism but encourages the release of the bodies energy stored as fat. This presumably would have to include a role of insulin sensitivity, the opposite of insulin resistance. It’s true that eating lots of Stearic acid on a high-carb industrial diet while obese and metabolically unfit might not be all that helpful. As another factor, consider that wild-caught fish would be higher in fat-soluble vitamins and micronutrients. The fat-soluble vitamins play a powerful role similar to hormones. In that case, it might be a fat-soluble-vitamin-insulin hypothesis, but that is getting a bit wordy. Context, as always, is king. Obviously, we need to get away from overly simplistic generalizations. The macronutrient model is as unhelpful as the caloric model, if not combined with more detailed knowledge.

COVID-19 and States, Lives and Jobs

In reference to the below COVID-19 graph of loss of life and jobs (per capita), someone wrote to us that the, “Lower left would appear better [i.e., more people alive and working. BDS]. Iowa was slightly lower left, but mostly in the center of all states. Hawaii had lowest excess death rate (negative), but highest job loss. West Virginia, Maine, and Indiana were well balanced.” The graph is from Hamilton Place Strategies. It is included with their brief data analysis as presented in the recent (4/18/21) article, 50 States, 50 Pandemic Responses: An Analysis Of Jobs Lost And Lives Lost, co-authored by Matt McDonald, Stratton Kirton, Matisse Rogers, and Johnny Luo. The time period for the data is unstated, which could make a difference. That aside, most of the states clump near the center; although more states tended toward higher death toll; but, of course, it’s the outliers in the four quadrants that grab one’s attention.

We didn’t initially give it much careful thought, even though such data does make one curious about what it represents, beyond some seemingly obvious observations. Here was our initial off-the-cuff response: “It maybe should be unsurprising that the most populated states struggled the most with finding a balance or, in some cases, keeping either low.” That was tossed out as a casual comment and it was assumed no explanation was necessary. But apparently it was perceived as surprising (or speculative or something) to our collocutor who asked, “Why?” This seems to happen to us a lot, in that we are so used to looking at data that we assume background knowledge and understanding that others don’t always share. It genuinely was not surprising to us, in that ‘populated’ clearly signifies particular kinds of factors and conditions. Once committed to the dialogue, we felt compelled to answer and explain. Continue further down, if you wish to see the unpacking of background info and social context that, once known, makes the graphed data appear well within the range of what might be expected.

It seemed unsurprising to us, as we’ve looked at a lot of analysis of (demographic, economic, and social science) data like this over the years. So, we’re familiar with the kinds of patterns that tend to show up and probable explanations for those patterns. But maybe it seems less intuitively obvious to others (or maybe we’re biased in our views; you can be the judge). In the original article, the authors do note some relevant correlations indicating causal factors: “States with major hospitality and tourism sectors were hit hard in terms of job loss, with the impact falling unevenly across sectors. And states that were in the first wave of infections—when the healthcare system was still learning how to treat COVID-19—fared comparatively worse on their death tolls. New York, which falls into both categories, had the worst overall outcome, with both high excess deaths and high job losses.”

The authors go on to say, “The states that emerged in the best position were Idaho, Utah, and West Virginia, all with some combination of low loss of life and low loss of employment.” Others that did reasonably well were North Carolina, Nebraska, Maine, West Virginia, Indiana, and Wyoming. I don’t recall any of these being hit early by COVID-19 outbreaks nor are they major tourist and travel destinations, other than NC to some extent. It could also be noted that all are largely rural states, if not as rural as they were last century, but still way more rurally populated (or rather less urbanized with fewer big cities and metropolitan areas) than states that had it rough in soaring death and jobless rates: New York, New Jersey, Louisiana, etc. It comes down to a divide between more and less urbanized, and hence more and less populated and dense. That has much to do with the historical economic base that determined how many people, over the generations, have moved to a state and determined their residential location.

As for the really obvious observations, there is the typical clear divide between North and South. Many liberty-minded Southern states, with historically high rates of total mortality and work-related mortality (along with historically overlapping classism and racism), were tolerant of sacrificing the lives of disproportionately non-white workers during a pandemic, particularly when it kept the economy going and maintained corporate profits for a mostly white capitalist class (see: Their Liberty and Your Death). ln general, all of the Deep South and Southwest states, along with most of the Upper South states, had above average death tolls (with MS, AL, AZ, and SC leading the pack); whether or not they kept job losses low, although they did mostly keep them down. All of the states that sacrificed jobs to save lives are in the North (AK, RI, MN, MA, etc) or otherwise not in the South (HI), be it caused by intentional policy prioritization or other uncontrollable factors (e.g., reduced tourism). Northern industrial states, as expected, took the biggest economic hit.

As for the initial point we made, larger populations that are more concentrated create the perfect storm of conditions for promoting the spread of contagious diseases. This represents numerous factors that, though any single factor might not be problematic, when all factors are taken together could overwhelm the system during a large-scale and/or long-term crisis. That typically describes states with large cities and metropolitan areas. Look at all of the highly populated and urbanized states and, no matter what region they’re in, they are all near the top of excess deaths per capita. None of them managed to balance keeping people alive and employed, though some did relatively less worse. And it is apparent that the worst among them had the highest population density. That last factor might be the most central.

For comparison, here is the land area, population, and population density of the top 6 largest US cities, all in different states: New York City (301.5 sq mi; 8,336,817; 28,317/sq mi), Los Angeles (468.7 sq mi; 3,979,576; 8,484/sq mi), Chicago (227.3 sq mi; 2,693,976; 11,900/sq mi), Houston (637.5 sq mi; 2,320,268; 3,613/sq mi), Phoenix (517.6 sq mi; 1,680,992; 3,120/sq mi), and Philadelphia (134.2 sq mi; 1,584,064; 11,683/sq mi). New York City has about half the land as Houston and Phoenix, but has about four times the population of Houston and about seven times the population of Phoenix. So, even among the largest cities in the US and the world, there are immense differences in population density. States like Texas and Arizona have encouraged urban sprawl which, though horrible for environmental health, does ease the pressure of contagious disease spread.

This particular pattern of public health problems is seen all the way back to the first era of urbanization with the agricultural revolution when populations were concentrating, not sprawling. It wasn’t merely the nutritional deficiencies and such from change in the agricultural diet. The close proximity of humans to each other and to non-human animals allowed diseases to mutate more quickly and spread more easily (a similar probable reason for COVID-19 having originated in China with wilderness encroachment, habitat destruction, and wild meat markets). Many new diseases appeared with the rise of agricultural civilizations. Even diseases like malaria are suspected to have originated in farming populations before having spread out into wild mosquitoes and hunter-gatherer tribal populations. Even in modern urbanization, humans continue to live closely to and even cohabitate with non-human animals. This is why populations in New England, where indoor cats are common, have high rates of toxoplasmosis parasitism, despite a generally healthy population.

Plus, at least in the US, these heavily urbanized conditions tend to correlate with high rates of poverty, homelessness, and inequality (partly because most of the poor left rural areas to look for work in cities where they became concentrated) — these high rates all strongly correlated to lower health outcomes, particularly the last, inequality. Of the only four states with above average economic inequality in the US, three of them (NY, LA, CA) had all around bad COVID-19 outcomes, with only high inequality Connecticut escaping this pattern by remaining moderate on job losses and excess deaths. As expected, the states that did the best in keeping both low were mostly low inequality. Other than two in the mid-range (WV, NC), all of the other cases of COVID-19 success are among the lowest inequality states in the country — according to ranking: 1) UT, 4) WY, 7) NE, 12) ID, 13) ME, and 15) IN. All of the top 10 low inequality states were low in COVID-related mortality and/or unemployment. That result, by the way, is completely predictable as it matches decades of data on economic inequality and health outcomes. It would be shocking if this present data defied the longstanding connection.

By the way, rural farm and natural resource states tend to be low inequality, whether or not they are low poverty, but research shows that even poverty is far less problematic with less inequality — as economic inequality, besides being a cause or an indicator of divisiveness and stress, correlates to disparities in general: power, representation, legacies, privileges, opportunities, resources, education, healthy food, healthcare, etc (probably entrenched not only in economic, political, and social systems but also epigenetics; maybe even genetics since toxins and other substances, such as oxidized seed oils in cheap processed foods, can act as mutagens which can permanently alter inherited genes; and so inequality gets built into biology, individually and collectively, immediately and transgenerationally). Certain economic sectors tend toward such greater or lesser inequities, and this generally corresponds to residential patterns. But the correlation is hardly causally deterministic, considering the immense variance of inequality among advanced Western countries with more similar cultural and political traditions (party-based representative democracies, individualistic civil rights, and relatively open market economies).

The economic pattern is far different between rural states and urban states, specifically mass urbanization as it’s taken shape over the generations, and it has much to do with historical changes (e.g., factories closed in inner cities and relocated to suburbs and overseas). In big cities, many large populations of the poor (disproportionately non-white) have become economically segregated and concentrated together in ghettoes, old housing, and abandoned industrial areas (because of generations of racist redlining, covenants, loan practices, and employment). These are the least healthy people living in the least healthy conditions (limited healthcare, lack of parks and green spaces, lead toxicity, air pollution, high stress, food deserts, malnutrition, processed foods, etc), all strongly tied to COVID-19 comorbidities. In these population dense and impoverished areas, there is also a lack of healthcare infrastructure and staffing that is especially needed during a public health crisis, and what healthcare exists is deficient and underfunded.

To complicate things, such densely populated areas of mass urbanization make public health difficult because there are so many other factors as well. Particularly in American cities with immigrant and ethnic residents historically and increasingly attracted to big cities, additional factors include diverse sub-populations, neighborhoods, housing conditions, living arrangements, places of employment, social activities, etc. And all of these factors are overlapping, interacting, and compounding in ways not entirely predictable. This might be exacerbated by cultural diversity, since each culture would have varying ways of relating to issues of health, healthcare, and authority figures; such as related to mask mandates, vaccination programs, etc. It would be challenging to successfully plan and effectively implement a single statewide or citywide public health policy and message; as compared to a mostly homogeneous small population in a small rural state (or even a mostly homogeneous small population in a small urban country).

Also, disease outbreaks in big cites and metropolitan areas are much harder to contain using isolation and quarantines, as many people live so close together in apartment buildings and high-rises, particularly the poor where larger numbers of people might be packed into single apartments and/or multiple generations in a single household, and that is combined with more use of mass public transit. This came up as an issue in some countries such as in Southern Europe. Italians tend to live together in multigenerational households and tend to take in family members when unemployed. Combined with poverty, inequality, and policies of economic austerity, the Italian government’s struggle to contain the COVID-19 pandemic made it stand out among Western countries, such that it early on showed potential risks to failing to quickly contain the pandemic. But, in many ways, it might have been as much or more of a sociocultural challenge than a political failure.

On the completely opposite extreme, the Swedish have the highest rate in the world of people living alone, but also some of the lowest poverty and inequality in the world. So, even though Sweden is heavily urbanized (88.2%), contagious disease control is easier; particularly with an already healthy population, universal healthcare, and a well-funded public health system (no economic austerity to be found in Swedish social services). Indeed, they only had to implement moderate public measures and, with a high trust culture, most of the citizenry willingly and effectively complied without it becoming a politicized and polarized debate involving a partisan battle for power and control. By the way, Sweden has a national population only slightly above NYC but less than the NYC metro. Of Nordic cities, Stockholm is the largest in area and the most population dense: total density (13,000/sq mi), urban density (11,000/sq mi), and metro density (950/sq mi). New York City has about two and a half times that urban density.

Then again, all of that isolated urbanization takes it’s toll in other ways, such as a higher suicide rate (is suicide contagious?). It is one of the most common causes of death in Sweden and the highest rate in the West; in the context of Europe being one of the most suicidal continents in the world, although it’s Eastern Europe that is really bad. Among 182 countries, Sweden is 32nd highest in the world with 13.8 suicides per 100,000; compared to Italy at 142nd place with 5.5 suicides per 100,000. That is two and half times as high. But, on a positive note, COVID-19 seems to have had no negative impact in worsening the Swedish suicide epidemic (Christian Rück et al, Will the COVID-19 pandemic lead to a tsunami of suicides? A Swedish nationwide analysis of historical and 2020 data), as presumably being socially isolated or at least residentially isolated is already normalized. If anything, suicidal inclinations might become less compelling or at least suicide attempts no more likely with the apparently successful response of the Swedish government to COVID-19, especially combined with the Swedish culture of trust. Not that global pandemic panic and local pandemic shutdown would be a net gain for Swedish mental health (Lance M. McCracken et al, Psychological impact of COVID-19 in the Swedish population: Depression, anxiety, and insomnia and their associations to risk and vulnerability factors).

So, theoretically, public health during pandemics doesn’t necessarily have to be worse in large dense urban areas, as other factors might supersed. But, unfortunately, it apparently was worse in the US under present (social, economic, and political) conditions, however those conditions came about (a whole other discussion barely touched upon here). Many of the states that fared badly are massively larger than Sweden. As seen with New York City, the US has cities and metros that are larger than many countries in the world. These unique conditions of not merely mass urbanization but vast urbanization have never before existed in global history. The US population now in the COVID-19 outbreak is more than three times larger than during the 1918 Flu. The five boroughs of NYC have almost doubled in population over the past century with Queens almost five times as populated, and surely the NYC metro area has increased far more.

Places like Houston, Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York City are hubs in immense systems of commerce, transport, and travel with heavily used airports and sea ports, interstate highways and railways, a constant flow of people and products from all over the country and the world (the rise of mass world travel and troop transport was a key factor in the 1918 Flu, helping it to mutate and spread in the deadly second and third waves). Systems thinking and complexity theory have come up in our studies and readings over the years, including in discussions with our father whose expertise directly involves systems used in businesses and markets, particularly factory production, warehousing, and supply chains. Those are relatively simple systems that can to varying degrees be analyzed, predicted, planned, and controlled. But massive and dense populations in highly connected urban areas are unimaginably complex systems with numerous confounding factors and uncontrolled variables, unintended consequences and emergent properties. Add a pandemic to all of that and we are largely in unknown territory, as the last pandemic in the US was over a century ago when the world was far different.

Also, there is there is the issue of how systems differ according to locations and concentrations of various demographics, specifically in contrasting the privileged and underprivileged. That goes back to the issue of poverty, inequality much else. A major reason we’ve had so many problems is because most politicians, lobbyists, media figures, public intellectuals, and social influencers involved in the ‘mainstream’ debate that gets heard and televized are living in separate comfortable, safe, and healthy communities, as separate from both the rural and urban masses, particularly separate from minorities, the poor, and the working class (see: Mental Pandemic and Ideological Lockdown). We could note that the individual who originally showed us the graphed data, as mentioned at the beginning of the post, is of this typical demographic of wealthier urban white who has never personally experienced impoverished population density (AKA slums or ghettoes). And even though urban, like us, he lives in this same rural state with clean air surrounded by open greenspace of parks, woods, and farms; not to mention being smack dab in the middle of the complete opposite of a food desert. This could be why our reference to ‘populated’ states could gain no purchase in his mind and imagination.

Obviously, as complex systems, the densely populated big cities and metros described above aren’t isolated and insular units, contained and controlled experiments. Their populations and economies are inseparable from the rest of the global society, even more true in this age of neoliberal globalization. That would complicate pandemic response in dealing alone with either excess deaths per capita or job loss per capita, but that would exacerbate further the even greater complexity of finding a balance between the two. When these major centers of industrial production, service industry, commerce, trade, transportation, marketing, and finance get shut down (for any reason) and/or when other closely linked major centers get shut down, it severely cripples the entire economy and employment of the state, even ignoring the potential and unpredictable pandemic threat of overwhelmed hospitals, death toll, and long-term health consequences. Economic and public health effects could ripple out and in with secondary and tertiary effects.

It’s not anything like less populated rural farm states and natural resource states where, no matter what is going on in the rest of the country and world, the local population is more isolated and the local economy usually keeps trucking along. The Iowa economy and housing, for example, was barely affected by the 2008 Recession. Indeed, for all its failed state leadership in dealing with COVID-19, low inequality and low poverty Iowa was below average on both job losses and excess deaths. So, if Iowa could do better than most states, in spite of horrible leadership by the Trump-aligned Governor Kim Reynolds (even our Republican parents despise her handling of the crisis), maybe governments in other states also don’t necessarily deserve as much of the blame or credit they are given, at least not in terms of the immediate pandemic response, although long-term public health planning and preparation (over years and decades) would still be important.

That is to say, the situation is complicated. Yet we seem to know what are some of the key complications, however entangled they may be as potentially causal or contributing. It’s a large web of factors, but strong correlations can be discerned, all of it mostly following already known patterns, but of course we are biased in what we notice according to our focus. The data gathered and analyzed this past year, as far as we can tell, is not fundamentally different in nature than any other data gathered and analyzed over the past century. So, even though COVID-19 is a highly unusual event, what is seen in the data isn’t likely to be surprising, even if requiring multiple layers and angles of interpretation. Still, unexpected results would be welcome in possibly indicating something new and interesting. Serious study of this pandemic has barely begun. The data will keep rolling in. Then decades of debate and theorizing will follow. Some of the observations offered here might to varying degrees stand the test of time, such as the well-established inequality links, but surely much of it might prove false, dubious, misleading, or partial. Many questions remain unanswered and, in some cases, unasked.

Autism and Lead Toxicity

There has been much debate about the causes of autism, from genetics to diet. Many have suspected a link to heavy metals. According to a 2017 NIH study, strong evidence of this link has been found in the baby teeth of children with autism, indicating early life lead exposure (see below).

The question is why would autism rates be increasing if lead toxicity rates are not increasing. One thing to keep in mind that, though lead pollution has declined, the environment remains filled with lead and other heavy metals — in the soil, paint, and pipes. Lead exposure still is extremely common and even low doses can be damaging.

That brings us to a recent congressional investigation released a couple of days ago (see below). Most of us may not be breathing more lead pollution and paint dust, or drinking more lead in our water. But we might still be getting excessive levels of lead in our food. The congressional investigation specifically found toxic levels in nearly all baby food.

What is uncertain is if this represents some kind of change. Has there been a change in farming practices or a change somewhere else in the food supply that is increasing heavy metal concentration? Or is it some combination of other factors that is somehow worsening the effect of already present heavy metals accumulated in the soil?

Basically, why does the autism rate appear to be on the rise? That is a mystery, if we invoke lead toxicity as the central cause. Overall, lead toxicity rates have been on a decline, compared to the heavy toll of lead toxicity that spiked with the childhood of GenXers and young Boomers during the 1960s and 1970s, prior to environmental regulations.

Looking at baby teeth and baby food might help to grasp the key factor. It’s not about lead exposure in general but at a specific period of development. What we need to be looking at is the lead toxicity rates of babies and pregnant mothers, but such testing is not standard. Children typically are only tested after, not before, they show health and developmental problems.

So, it’s possible that, even though there is less lead exposure on average across childhood and adulthood, lead exposure in infancy might have gone up. This could be caused, for example, by increasing import of baby food from countries with weak environmental regulations and more heavy chemical use in farming.

This is concerning, as the long-term affects of heavy metal toxicity are diverse and sometimes devastating — besides autism: behavioral issues, impulse control issues, aggression, lowered IQ, etc; along with physical health problems. We might be seeing another generation or two of lead toxicity damage, exacerbated by the poor communities still struggling with already high rates of lead toxicity from old housing and industrial residue.

* * *

Baby teeth link autism and heavy metals, NIH study suggests
from National Institutes of Health

Baby teeth from children with autism contain more toxic lead and less of the essential nutrients zinc and manganese, compared to teeth from children without autism, according to an innovative study funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of the National Institutes of Health. The researchers studied twins to control genetic influences and focus on possible environmental contributors to the disease. The findings, published June 1 in the journal Nature Communications, suggest that differences in early-life exposure to metals, or more importantly how a child’s body processes them, may affect the risk of autism.

The differences in metal uptake between children with and without autism were especially notable during the months just before and after the children were born. The scientists determined this by using lasers to map the growth rings in baby teeth generated during different developmental periods.

The researchers observed higher levels of lead in children with autism throughout development, with the greatest disparity observed during the period following birth.

Leading baby food manufacturers knowingly sold products with high levels of toxic metals, a congressional investigation found
by Sandee LaMotte, CNN

Four leading baby food manufacturers knowingly sold baby food that contained high levels of toxic heavy metals, according to internal company documents included in a congressional investigation released Thursday.

“Dangerous levels of toxic metals like arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury exist in baby foods at levels that exceed what experts and governing bodies say are permissible,” said Democratic Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois, chair of the House Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, which conducted the investigation, signed by the Democratic members.

Krishnamoorthi said the spreadsheets provided by manufacturers are “shocking” because they show evidence that some baby foods contain hundreds of parts per billion of dangerous metals. “Yet we know that in a lot of cases, we should not have anything more than single digit parts per billion of any of these metals in any of our foods,” he told CNN.

Chemicals of concern for children

Arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury are in the World Health Organization’s top 10 chemicals of concern for infants and children.

As natural elements, they are in the soil in which crops are grown and thus can’t be avoided. Some crop fields and regions, however, contain more toxic levels than others, partly due to the overuse of metal-containing pesticides and ongoing industrial pollution.

“There was a time where we used metals as the predominant pesticide for many years, assuming it was safe,” said Dr. Leonardo Trasande, chief of environmental pediatrics at NYU Langone.

All of these heavy metals have been linked to cancer, chronic disease and neurotoxic effects, but it’s the devastating damage that can be done to a developing baby’s brain that makes baby food toxicity so critical.

The US Food and Drug Administration has not yet set minimum levels for heavy metals in most infant food. The agency did set a standard of 100 parts per billion inorganic arsenic for infant rice cereal, but even that level is considered much too high for baby’s safety, critics say, especially since the FDA has already set a much lower standard of 10 parts per billion of inorganic arsenic for bottled water.

From the time of conception through the age of 2, babies have an extremely high sensitivity to neurotoxic chemicals, said Jane Houlihan, the national director of science and health for Healthy Babies Bright Futures, a coalition of advocates committed to reducing babies’ exposures to neurotoxic chemicals.

“Their brain is forming rapidly, and so when they’re exposed to metals that can interrupt those natural processes, the impacts range from behavioral problems to aggression to IQ loss and all kinds of cognitive and behavioral deficits that can persist throughout life,” Houlihan said.

“Pound for pound, babies get the highest dose of these heavy metals compared to other parts of the population,” she said. “So the consequences are serious.”

Healthy Babies Bright Futures published a report in 2019 that found toxic metals in 95% of the baby foods randomly pulled off supermarket shelves and tested — that exposé was the “inspiration” for the subcommittee’s work, Krishnamoorthi told CNN.

Medical-Industrial Complex

“Unless we put medical freedom into the Constitution, the time will come when medicine will organize into an undercover dictatorship…To restrict the art of healing to one class of men and deny equal privileges to others will constitute the Bastille of medical science. All such laws are un-American and despotic…, and have no place in a republic…The Constitution of this Republic should make special provisions for medical freedom as well as religious freedom.”

Dr. Benjamin Rush, signer of Declaration of Independence, member of Continental Congress

“The efforts of the medical profession in the US to control:…its…job it proposes to monopolize. It has been carrying on a vigorous campaign all over the country against new methods and schools of healing because it wants the business…I have watched this medical profession for a long time and it bears watching.”

Clarence Darrow (1857-1938), Populist leader and lawyer

“Medicine is a social science and politics is a medicine on a large scale…The very words ‘Public Health’ show those who are of the opinion that medicine has nothing to do with politics the magnitude of their error.”

Rudolf Virchow, (1821-1902) founder of cellular pathology

“The profession to which we belong, once venerated…-has become corrupt and degenerate to the forfeiture of its social position…”

Dr. Nathaniel Chapman, first president, AMA, 1848

In 1922, Herbert McLean Evans and Katharine Scott Bishop discovered vitamin E. Then in the following decades from the 1930s to the 1940s, Drs. Wilfred and Evan Shute treated 30,000 patients with natural vitamin E in their clinic and studied it’s health benefits. Despite all of the documented evidence, they had little influence in mainstream nutrition and medicine. They had the disadvantage of promoting a vitamin right at the beginning of the era when pharmaceuticals were getting all of the attention: “Better Living through chemistry.” Responding to the resistance of medical authorities, from his book The Heart and Vitamin E (1956), Dr. Evans Shute wrote that,

“It was nearly impossible now for anyone who valued his future in Academe to espouse Vitamin E, prescribe it or advise its use. That would make a man a “quack” at once. This situation lasted for many years. In the United States, of course, the closure of the JAMA pages against us and tocopherol meant that it did not exist. It was either in the U.S. medical bible or it was nought. No amount of documentation could budge medical men from this stance. Literature in the positive was ignored and left unread. Individual doctors often said: ‘If it is as good as you say, we would all be using it.’ But nothing could induce them as persons of scientific background to make the simplest trial on a burn or coronary.”

In the article Drs. Wilfrid and Evan Shute Cured Thousands with Vitamin E, Andrew W. Saul emphasized this suppression of new knowledge:

“The American Medical Association even refused to let the Shute’s present their findings at national medical conventions. (p 148-9) In the early 1960’s, the United States Post Office successfully prevented even the mailing of vitamin E. (p 166).” Over the decades, others have taken note of the heavy-handedness of mainstream authorities. “The failure of the medical establishment during the last forty years,” wrote Linus Pauling in his 1985 Foreword, “to recognize the value of Vitamin E in controlling heart disease is responsible for a tremendous amount of unnecessary suffering and for many early deaths. The interesting story of the efforts to suppress the Shute discoveries about Vitamin E illustrates the shocking bias of organized medicine against nutritional measures for achieving improved health.”

What is motivating this ‘failure’? And is it really a failure or simply serving other interests, maybe quite successfully at that?

* * *

“Today, expulsion is again mustered into service in a war of ideology. …Modern society makes its heresies out of political economy…Ethics has always been a flexible, developing notion of medicine, with a strong flavor of economics from the start.”

Oliver Garceau, Dept. of Government, Harvard U., The Political Life of the AMA (1941)

“Everyone’s heard about the military-industrial complex, but they know very little about the medical-industrial complex…(in) a medical arms race…”

California Governor Jerry Brown, June 1980

“The new medical-industrial complex is now a fact of American life…with broad and potentially troubling implications…”

Dr. Arnold Relman, Editor, New England Journal of Medicine

“Bankers regard research as most dangerous and a thing that makes banking hazardous due to the rapid changes it brings about in industry.”

Charles Kettering, of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and Vice President of General Motors, (in Ralph Moss, Cancer Syndrome)

“The system of influence and control..is highly skewed in favor of the corporate and financial system. And this dominant influence is felt not only in universities, foundations, and institutions of higher learning, but also…from media to all other instruments of communication.”

Vincente Navarro, (Professor of Health and Social Policy, John Hopkins U., and other credentials).

“In the feeding of hospital patients, more attention should be given to providing tasty and attractive meals, and less to the nutritive quality of the food.”
“People say that all you get out of sugar is calories, no nutrients…There is no perfect food, not even mother’s milk.”
“Have confidence in America’s food industry, it deserves it.”

Dr. Frederick Stare, Harvard U. School of Public Health, Nutrition Dept. Head

So, why are the powers that be so concerned with harmless supplements that consumers take in seeking self-healing and well-being? The FDA explained it’s motivativions:

“It has been common…to combine such unproven ingredients as bio-flavinoids, rutin…, with such essential nutrients as Vitamin C…, thus implying that they are all nutritionally valuable for supplementation of the daily diet. The courts have sustained FDA legal action to prevent such practices, and the new FDA regulations preclude this type of combination in the future…Similarly, it has been common…to state or imply that the American diet is inadequate because of soil deficiencies, commercial processing methods, use of synthetic nutrients, and similar charges. FDA recognizes that these false statements have misled, scared, and confused the public, and is prohibiting any such general statements in the future…The medical and nutritional professions have shown strong support of this policy,…” (FDA Assistant General council’s letter to 5 US Legislators, Hearings, US Congress, 1973).

To give a further example of this contorted thinking, consider another statement from an FDA official: “It is wholly unscientific to state that a well-fed body is more able to resist disease than a less well-fed body” (FDA’s Head of Nutrition Department, Dr. Elmer M. Nelson. in Gene Marin and Judith Van Allen, Food Pollution: The Violation of Our Inner Ecology). That is so absurd as to be unbelievable. Yet it’s sadly expected when one knows of incidents like Ancel Keys attack on John Yudkin amidst wholesale silencing of his detractors and the more recent high level persecution of Tim Noakes, along with dozens of other examples.

The advocates of natural healing and sellers of nutritional supplements were criticizing the dominant system of big ag, big drug, and closely related industries. This was a challenge to power and profit, and so it could not be tolerated. One wouldn’t want the public to get confused… nor new generations of doctors, as explained the Harvard Medical School Dean, Dr. David Edsall: “…students were obliged…to learn about an interminable number of drugs, many…valueless, …useless, some…harmful. …there is less intellectual freedom in the medical course than in almost any other form of professional education in this country.”

This is how we end up with young doctors, straight out of medical school, failing a basic test on nutrition (Most Mainstream Doctors Would Fail Nutrition). Who funds much of the development of medical school curruicula? Private corporations, specifically big drug and big food, and the organizations that represent them. Once out of medical school, some doctors end up making millions of dollars by working for industry on the side, such as giving speeches to promote pharmaceuticals. Also, continuing education and scientific conferences are typically funded by this same big money from the private sphere. There is a lot of money slushing around, not to mention the small briberies of free vacations and such given to doctors. It’s a perverse incentive and one that was carefully designed to manipulate and bias the entire healthcare system.

* * *

“[Doctors] collectively have done more to block adequate medical care for people of this country than any other single group.”

President Jimmy Carter

“I think doctors care very deeply about their patients, but when they organize into the AMA, their responsibility is to the welfare of doctors, and quite often, these lobbying groups are the only ones that are heard in the state capitols and in the capitol of our country.”

President Jimmy Carter

“The FDA and much, but not all, of the orthodox medical profession are actively hostile against vitamins and minerals… They are out to get the health food industry…And they are trying to do this out of active hostility and prejudice.”

Senator William Proxmire (in National Health Federation Bulletin, April, 1974

“Eminent nutritionists have traded their independence for the food industry’s favors.”

US Congressman Benjamin Rosenthal

“The problem with ‘prevention’ is that it does not produce revenues. No health plan reimburses a physician or a hospital for preventing a disease.”

NCI Deputy Director, Division of Cancer Cause and Prevention; and of Diet, Nutrition and Cancer Program

“What is the explanation for the blind eye that has been turned on the flood of medical reports on the causative role of carbohydrates in overweight, ever since the publication in 1864 of William Banting’s famous “Letter on Corpulence”? Could it be related, in part, to the vast financial endowments poured into the various departments of nutritional education by the manufacturers of our refined carbohydrate foodstuff?”

Robert C. Atkins, MD, Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution, c. 1972

“Although the stated purpose of licensure is to benefit the public…Consumers…have learned that licensing may add to the cost of services, while not assuring quality….Charges…the legal sector that licensure restricts competition, and therefore unnecessarily increases costs to consumers….Like other professionals, dietiticians can justify the enactment of licensure laws because licensing affords the opportunity to protect dietiticians from interference in their field by other practitioners…This protection provides a competitive advantage, and therefore is economically beneficial for dietiticians”

ADA President, Marilyn Haschske, JADA, 1984

“While millions of dollars were being projected for research on radiation and other cancer ‘cures’, there was an almost complete blackout on research that might have pointed to needed alterations in our environment, our industrial organization, and our food.”

Carol Lopate, in Health Policy Advisory Center, Health PAC Bulletin

“Research in the US has been seriously affected by restrictions imposed by foreign cartel members. …It has attempted to suppress the publication of scientific research data which were at variance with its monopoly interest. …The hostility of cartel members toward a new product which endangers their control of the market(:)…In the field of synthetic hormones, the cartel control has been …detrimental to our national interest.”

US Assistant Attorney General, Wendell Berge, Cartels, Challenge to the Free World. – in Eleanor McBean, The Poisoned Needle

“We are aware of many cases in industry, government laboratories, and even universities where scientists have been retaliated against when their professional standards interfered with the interests of their employers or funders. This retaliation has taken many forms, ranging from loss of employment and industry-wide blacklisting to transfers and withholding of salary increases and promotions. We are convinced that the visible problem is only the tip of the iceberg.”

American Chemical Society President, Alan C. Nixon, (in Science, 1973)

Similar to the struggles of the Shute brothers, this problem was faced faced by the early scientists studying the ketogenic diet and the early doctors using it to treat patients with epilepsy. The first research and application of the ketogenic diet began in the 1920s and it was quickly found useful for other health conditions. But after a brief period of interest and funding, the research was mostly shut down in favor of the emerging new drugs that could be patented and marketed. It was irrelevant that the keto diet was far more effective than any drugs produced then or since. The ketogenic diet lingered on in a few hospitals and clinics, until research was revived in the 1990s, about three-quarters of a century later. Yet, after hundreds of studies proving its efficacy for numerous diseases (obesity, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, etc), mainstream authority figures and the mainstream media continue to dismiss it and spread fear-mongering, such as false and ignorant claims about ketoacidosis and kidney damage.

Also, consider X-ray technology that was invented by Dr. Émil Herman Grubbé in 1896. He then became the first to use X-rays for cancer treatment. Did the medical profession embrace this great discovery? Of course not. It wasn’t acknowledged as useful until 1951. When asked what he thought about this backward mentality denying such a profound discovery, Dr. Grubbé didn’t mince words: “The surgeons. They controlled medicine, and they regarded the X-ray as a threat to surgery. At that time surgery was the only approved method of treating cancer. They meant to keep it the ‘only’ approved method by ignoring or rejecting any new methods or ideas. This is why I was called a ‘quack’ and nearly ejected from hospitals where I had practiced for years” (Herbert Bailey, Vitamin E: Your Key to a Healthy Heart). As with the Shute brothers, he was deemed a ‘quack’ and so case closed.

There have been many more examples over the past century, in particular during the oppressive Cold War era (Cold War Silencing of Science). The dominant paradigm during McCarthyism was far from limited to scapegoating commies and homosexuals. Anyone stepping out of line could find themselves targeted by the powerful. This reactionary impulse goes back many centuries and continues to exert its influence to this day, continues to punish those who dare speak out (Eliminating Dietary Dissent). This hindering of innovation and progress may be holding civilization back by centuries. We seem unable of dealing with the simplest of problems, even when we already have the knowledge of how to solve those problems.

* * *

“Relevant research on the system as a whole has not been done… It is remarkable that with the continuing health care ‘crisis’, so few studies of the consequences of alternative modes of delivering care have been done. Such a paucity of studies is no accident; such studies would challenge structural interests of both professional monopoly (MD’s) and corporate rationalization in maintaining health institutions as they now exist or in directing their ‘orderly’ expansion.”

Robert R. Alford, Professor, UC Santa Cruz, Health Care Politics

“…It seems that public officials are afraid that if they make any move, or say anything antagonistic to the wishes of the medical organization, they will be pounced upon and destroyed. ..Public officials seem to be afraid of their jobs and even of their lives.”

US Senator Elmer Thomas, In Morris A. Bealle, The Drug Story. c. 1949 and 1976

“I think every doctor should know the shocking state of affairs…We discovered they (the FDA) failed to effectively regulate the large manufacturers and powerful interests while recklessly persecuting the small manufacturers. …(The FDA is) harassing (small) manufacturers and doctors…(and) betrays the public trust.”

Senator Edward V. Long. 1967

“The AMA protects the image of the food processors by its constant propaganda that the American food supply is the finest in the world, and that (those) who question this are simply practicing quackery. The food processors, in turn, protect the image of the AMA and of the drug manufacturers by arranging for the USDA and its dietitic cronies to blacklist throughout the country and in every public library, all nutrition books written for the layman, which preach simple, wholesome nutrition and attack …both the emasculation of natural foods and orthodox American medical care, which ignores subtle malnutrition and stresses drug therapy, (“as distinct from vitamin therapy”) for innumerable conditions. The drug manufacturers vigorously support the AMA since only MD’s can prescribe their products.”

Miles H. Robinson, MD; Professor, University of Pennsylvania and Vanderbilt Medical Schools, exhibit in Vitamin, Mineral, and Diet Supplements, Hearings, US House of Representatives, 1973

“The AMA puts the lives and well being of the American citizens well below it’s own special interest…It deserves to be ignored, rejected, and forgotten. No amount of historical gymnastics can hide the public record of AMA opposition to virtually every major health reform in the past 50 years….The AMA has turned into a propaganda organ purveying ‘medical politics’ for deceiving the Congress, the people, and the doctors of America themselves.”

Senator Edward Kennedy, in UPI National Chronicle, 1971

“The hearings have revealed police-state tactics…possibly perjured testimony to gain a conviction,…intimidation and gross disregard for the Constitutional Rights…(of) First, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments, (by the FDA)
“The FDA (is) bent on using snooping gear to pry and invade…”
“Instance after instance of FDA raids on small vitamin and food supplement manufacturers. These small, defenseless businesses were guilty of producing products which FDA officials claimed were unnecessary.”
“If the FDA would spend a little less time and effort on small manufacturers of vitamins…and a little more on the large manufacturers of…dangerous drugs…, the public would be better served.”

Senator Long from various Senate hearings

“From about 1850 until the late 1930’s, one of the standing jokes in the medical profession, was about a few idiots who called themselves doctors, who claimed they could cure pneumonia by feeding their patients moldy bread. …Until…they discovered penicillin…in moldy bread!”

P.E. Binzel, MD, in Thomas Mansell, Cancer Simplified, 1977

“Penicillin sat on a shelf for ten years while I was called a quack.”

Sir Alexander Fleming.

“(in)”1914…Dr. Joseph Goldberger had proven that (pellagra) was related to diet, and later showed that it could be prevented by simply eating liver or yeast. But it wasn’t until the 1940’s…that the ‘modern’ medical world fully accepted pellagra as a vitamin B deficiency.”

G. Edward Griffin, World Without Cancer

“…The Chinese in the 9th century AD utilized a book entitled The Thousand Golden Prescriptions, which described how rice polish could be used to cure beri-beri, as well as other nutritional approaches to the prevention and treatment of disease. It was not until twelve centuries later that the cure for beri-beri was discovered in the West, and it acknowledged to be a vitamin B-1 deficiency disease.”

Jeffrey Bland, PhD, Your Health Under Siege: Using Nutrition to Fight Back

“The intolerance and fanaticism of official science toward Eijkman’s observations (that refined rice caused beri-beri) brought about the death of some half million people on the American continent in our own century alone between 1900 and 1910.”

Josue Castro, The Geography of Hunger

“In 1540…Ambroise Paré…persuaded doctors to stop the horrid practice of pouring boiling oil on wounds and required all doctors to wash thoroughly before delivering babies or performing surgery….(in) 1844…Ignaz Semmelweis in Vienna proved…that clean, well-scrubbed doctors would not infect and kill mothers at childbirth. For his efforts Semmelweis was dismissed from his hospital…(and) despite publication, his work was totally ignored. As a result he became insane and died in an asylum, and his son committed suicide.”
“As a chemist working for the US Government in 1916 on the island of Luzon (Philippines), (R.R.) Williams, over the opposition of orthodox medicine, had managed to eradicate beri-beri…by persuading the population to drink rice bran tea. In 1917, Williams was recalled to the US, and thereafter orthodox medicine discouraged anyone from drinking rice bran tea, so by 1920 there were more beri-beri deaths on Luzon than in 1915. ..In 1934, R.R. Williams (now) at Bell Telephone Labs., discovered thiamine (vitamin B-1), and that thiamine in rice bran both prevented and cured beri-beri.”
“Christian Eikman in Holland…shared the Nobel prize for Medicine in 1929 for Proving in 1892 that beri-beri was not an infectious disease…”

Wayne Martin, BS, Purdue University; Medical Heroes and Heretics, & “The Beri-beri analogy to myocardial infarction”, Medical Hypothesis

“In the 1850’s, Ignaz P. Semmelweis, a Hungarian doctor, discovered that childbed fever, which then killed about 12 mothers out of every 100, was contagious…and that doctors themselves were spreading the disease by not cleaning their hands. He was ridiculed…Opponents of his idea attacked him fiercely….(and) brought on (his) mental illness….(he) died a broken man.”

Salem Kirban, Health Guide for Survival

“…Galen…was…forced to flee Rome to escape the frenzy of the mob….Vesalius was denounced as an imposter and heretic…William Harvey was disgraced as a physician…William Roentgen…was called a quack and then condemned…”
“In…1535, when…Jacques Cartier found his ships…in…the St. Lawrence River, scurvy began…and then a friendly Indian showed them (that) tree bark and needles from the white pine – both rich in…Vitamin C – were stirred into a drink (for) swift recovery. Upon returning to Europe, Cartier reported this incident to the medical authorities. But they were amused by such ‘witch-doctor cures of ignorant savages’ and did nothing to follow it up…”
“It took over 200 years and cost hundreds of thousands of lives before the medical experts began to accept…Finally, in 1747, John Lind..discovered that oranges and lemons produced relief from scurvy…and yet it took 48 more years before his recommendation was put into effect….’Limeys’ would soon become rulers of the ‘Seven Seas’…”
“In 1593, Sir Richard Hawkins noted and later published, in observations on his voyage into the South Seas, references that natives of the area used sour oranges and lemons as a cure for scurvy, and a similar result was noted among his crew. …In 1804, regulations were introduced into the British Navy requiring use of lime juice….(and) into law by the British Board of Trade in 1865….It took two centuries to translate empirical observations into action…”

Maureen Salaman, MSc, Nutrition: the Cancer Answer

Most of the above quotes were found on a webpage put together by Wade Frazer (Medical Dark Ages Quotes). He gathered the quotes from Ralph Hovnanian’s 1990 book, Medical Dark Ages.

Face Masks and Novel Coronavirus

There has been much discussion about wearing face masks. The basic purpose is to prevent the spread of viruses, specifically the novel coronavirus, although many masks will also protect against bacteria, air particles, pollutants, and fumes. As for viruses, there are two sides to the equation, what protects you from exposure if others are infected and what protects others from exposure if you are infected. Some argue that basic cloth masks are only effective for protecting others and so you have to hope every infected person around you is wearing a mask. For many of us who aren’t immunocompromised, our main concern is more about protecting others in case we become infected — mask-wearing is caring.

Now about the kinds of mask. I don’t know about elsewhere, but this town has been flooded with cloth masks. Our family has a wide selection of different designs and styles, some procured from workplaces and local organizations while others made with love by family members. Finding a mask that works for each individual is a challenge, as form-fitting, ear comfort, and breathability are the desired traits of a good mask. However, for those who do have health concerns and find themselves in the vulnerable demographics, there are even greater issues for a quality mask. This is where one turns to products being sold, some cheaper and others not so much. The more advanced ones offer higher levels of filtration than an N95 of KN95.

The Vogmask apparently is one of the better face masks on the market. It’s popular and, according to research, highly effective; if pricey. It’s comparable to the also popular and effective Cambridge face mask. Vogmask and Cambridge are basically the same design and material — a person working at one of the companies supposedly left to start the other company. Cambridge seems to be the more well established of the two. They’ve been top ranked for years now, whereas Vogmask is only now catching up, but determining which is better depends on many factors. One would have to look more closely at comparisons in making a decision.

Furthermore, there are similar quality products from Dettol, Breathe Healthy, Airinum, Debrief Me, OnroadCo, and other companies. Another option is Respro that has replaceable filters, but they have to be replaced every month and aren’t cheap either (Product Review: Respro vs. Vogmask Personal Air Pollution Masks). Some claim Cambridge and Respro offer higher filtration than Vogmask (Vogmask Review – All You Need To Know | Breathe Safe AirCambridge Mask – The Best Reusable Respirator? | Breathe Safe Air; & What Are The Differences Between Vogmask and Cambridge Mask for Chronic Illness? A Comprehensiv, e Review), but it’s confusing as Vogmask has different products with different standards depending on the country. Some of these comparisons are about filtration of pollution, allergens, and such; not necessarily viruses.

Even if Cambridge overall might be better, some claim that, “When it comes to viral protection, Vogmask is the better choice” (Reusable Masks – Cambridge Mask Vs Vogmask | Breathe Safe Air). For purposes of control of viral infection, the masks without valves are preferable, assuming you care about the lives of others (A Growing Body Of Research Highlights The Importance Of Wearing Face Masks). It might be added that other companies produce face masks with high viral filtration: Respro, Re-Mask, O2 Canada, and Debrief Me (12 Best Reusable Respirators – Cambridge Mask Alternatives). Re-Mask and Aropec offers a face mask without a valve; Aropec is another great anti-viral mask (Aropec Anti-Viral Mask Review – 99% Reduction in Viruses). For something really different, consider the Purely KN95 Mask which has a small attached fan that increases flow of fresh, filtered air into mask.

Some complaints about Vogmask are what one hears with any such face mask. For example, they can be hard to breathe in but others don’t find this problematic. Vogmask does make products with one or two valves to ease exhalation. One reviewer preferred Vogmask, even though it could fog up his glasses, a problem he said he had with every other kind of mask he had tried (maybe he has an oddly shaped face). Another issue is they only protect well to the degree they fit well. A benefit of Vogmask is that they come in multiple sizes and a cinch strap can be added to improve a tighter fit.

If you want to know the technical details of each kind of Vogmask product, there is a page that gives the specs and includes info on government standards and test results: “95% Particle Penetration Filtering Efficiency, Filter class provides >99.9% Viral and Bacterial Filtering Efficiency, Safe and Comfortable Breathing Resistance, Valves Tested for inward valve leakage.” Also, see the third-party analysis from Nelson Labs, Viral Filtration Efficiency (VFE) Final Report. As a side note, Nelson Labs has also tested the products of Cambridge and Re-Mask. One reviewer pointed out, though, that they had to request Cambridge’s test results, as opposed to Vogmask that publicly shares their lab certificates — greater transparency is commendable.

By the way, “Vogmask products are also long-lasting – their obsolescence date is 3 years from the date of the manufacturing; the masks can be safely used for about 1 year in moderately contaminated environments and for 5-6 months in environments contaminated with high levels of particulate matter in the air” (Our Vogmask Review for Wildfire Smoke and Air Pollution). Someone else suggested it could be used longer: “The middle filter layer can be used for up to three years, but most users replace with a new one every year” (Coronavirus: Reusable Masks That Work).

Below are some reviews. Keep in mind that some of the reviews are more recent than others. Vogmask has put out new and improved face masks the past few years, which may include changes made since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. So, it’s not clear how the present line of Vogmask products might compare against the other brands. At the very least, it’s safe to say that they are among the best available. On the other hand, not all Vogmask products are equal, as they offer different levels of filtration; and so shop carefully for your individual needs and purpose.

* * *

Vogmask Review For Pollution and Allergies (Plus Head Strap)

Vogmask N99 (what does N99 mean)

If you’re wondering what N99 means you’re not alone. Labeling on face masks can be confusing.

N99 is the mask’s efficiency level. Pay close attention to the number 99. On a face mask marked 99 it will filter 99% of particulates 2.5 in the air. Particulate matter 2.5 are particles that measure 2.5 micrometers and are a mixture of solid and liquid droplets floating in the air (they are invisible to our eyes).

Particulate matter creates the haze we often see in the sky and the particles are so small the can be inhaled deep into our lungs. The strongest efficiency levels are usually 99% and 95% for allergy masks.

An N99 mask won’t protect against oil based pollutants, however Vogmask also uses a carbon filter in their masks that trap chemicals and oil based pollutions. Think of the mask as a dual filter.

If you use a surgical mask you likely won’t be getting the PM 2.5 protection or the carbon filter. A Vogmask will protect from PM 2.5 and comes with a carbon filter too!

Vogmask Review – The Most Stylish Anti-Pollution Facemask?

Vogmask: effectiveness and protection against viruses

Vogmask is well-known over the globe. It had undergone extensive evaluations in different regions worldwide.

In South Korea, it was awarded KF94 certification from the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety. China also issued a certificate KN-95, which means that Vogmask meets a 95% filtering limit for particles under .3-micron size.

Vogmasks were reviewed and certified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, as well as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Models like Vogmask N95 are proven to filter approximately 95% of particles found in the air. It’s also one of the most common face equipment available for the public.

The primary purpose of a Vogmask is protection against airborne particles, allergens, germs, odors, and scents. It can also intercept other various contaminants. Vogmask products are proven to be 99.9% effective again 0.3, 2.5, and 10-micron particulate matter (air particles). They can also filter dust particles with a size smaller than 0.254 microns.

What about other dangerous viruses like COVID-19?

Theoretically, N95 can be effective even against coronavirus. But the results of a Vogmask review conducted in 2014 have shown ambivalent outcomes. But it’s mostly because the results are hard to measure retrospectively and not due to how they perform.

At the same time, clinical reviews suggest that Vogmask N95 offers undeniable protective advantages over standard medical masks.

There’s also Vogmask N99, which is available in microfiber and organic cotton versions. It offers two built-in valves, which provide multi-layered filtration of microns with a size smaller than 0.3-microns.

Numerous Vogmask reviews argue that this gear offers an appropriate level of protection to ward off viruses and bacteria. The current Viral Filtration Efficiency stands at about 99% for the abovementioned N95 and N99 Vogmask models.

Vogmask Review (Effective For Dust And Allergies?)

Does Vogmask Filter Out Viruses?

One of the common questions raised is whether Vogmask is effective in protecting against viruses, particularly flu. It is known that N95 masks are certified to block 95% of PM2.5 particles but is it effective for viruses?

A study in Hong Kong involving 407 participants has shown that surgical mask is effective to reduce the spread of influenza viruses. Typical surgical facemask offers lower filter protection than N95 masks.

As Vogmask is N95-rated, it is fair to state that it offers reasonable protection against the flu virus. However, it is important to note that different types of viruses may have different sizes. In another study, it is found that the penetration rate of viruses measuring 10nm – 80 nm may exceed the 5% threshold.

Vogmask Review – All You Need To Know | Breathe Safe Air

One thing that I appreciate with Vogmask is that they provide links to their lab certificates. Not many mask creators show these certificates publicly, however, Vogmask has them available to everyone.

Vogmask conforms to the KF94 standard from South Korea. This is a globally recognised standard for fine dust protection and is roughly equivalent to FFP2, and performs slightly worse than N95.

The masks also conform to the N95 standard but they do NOT hold an official N95 rating (CDC). That is to say, Vogmask meets the N95 standard for filtration efficiency (< 95%) however, it does not hold an N95 rating (Vogmask).

Vogmask also conforms to the NIOSH standards for inhalation and exhalation resistance along with valve leakage. This means that Vogmask should be comfortable to breathe through (Vogmask).

On top of this, these masks also features bacterial and viral filtration, and have been tested by Nelson Labs for each.

For bacteria at 3 ± 0.3 micrometres, the masks feature 99.9% filtration. This will provide filtration against many, but not all, kinds of bacteria. It is worth noting, however, that even though they may not be tested for it, many masks are capable of filtering even smaller particles (Vogmask).

For viruses at 3 ± 0.3 Vogmask also features 99.9% filtration. This means that Vogmask will be very efficient at filtering larger viral particles. Many viruses are smaller than 3 micrometres, however (Vogmask). If you are interested in an anti-viral mask, check out the Aropec anti-viral mask.

As mentioned earlier, it is important to note that while Vogmask does not guarantee any protection against smaller particles, that some N95 respirators are quite effective at small particle filtration even though they are not rated for it (3M).

Since Vogmask is not officially rated as N95, and since N95 is rated for filtration at 0.3 micrometres, there is no guarantee that your mask will filter viral particles. However, respirators do tend to provide some protection against smaller particles.

Compared to other masks on the market, Vogmask sits in the middle of filtration efficiency. There are some masks which perform better – certain Cambridge Mask (N99 equivalent) and Respro (FFP3) models perform better, at least in regards to fine dust filtrationRe-Mask masks also offer more filtration, along with the Earth Filters that the company makes.

However, there are also many reusable masks that are rated around N95, and many hold no rating at all. Vogmask is a mask that you can trust to provide around 95% filtration for fine dust particles – provided of course, that it is fitted correctly.

Another interesting fact that I came across while researching was that Vogmask appears to offer different models to different regions. Vogmask.com sells the models listed above and is targeted at a U.S audience. These masks have a KF94 rating.

However, Vogmask-Europe.com offers N99CV and N99 organic models. These masks are rated KF94, KN95, and claim to meet N99 criteria (but as with the U.S models, they do NOT have an N99 certification).

These masks also hold the FFP1 R rating, which is (according to Vogmask support) due to their small size when is intended for youths.

Therefore, rather confusingly, it appears that EU Vogmask models meet (but don’t hold) N99 certification. U.S (and global) models meet (but don’t hold) N95 certification.

Coronavirus: Reusable Masks That Work

1. Vogmask
Vogmask can filter particles as small as 0.254 microns in the air (including PM 0.3 / PM 2.5 / PM 10 suspended particles), such as bacteria, viruses, allergens, dust, odors, mold spores, mold, volcanic particles, etc. Proven to be very useful against air pollution.

2. Breathe Easy
Breathe Healthy uses advanced AEGIS antibacterial treatment technology to form a colorless, odorless, positively charged antibacterial protective layer on the surface of the product. When exposed to microorganisms, the C-18 molecules in the protective layer will pierce the cell membrane and let the charge impact the cells. After testing, the protective layer on the mask continues to be effective throughout its useful life. It can filter particles as small as 1.0 micron in the air, prevent the body from inhaling airborne bacteria and allergens, and is very helpful for preventing flu and reducing the incidence of asthma .

3. Cambridge Mask
Known as the British pollution solution, the filtration system of Cambridge Mask™ combines a particulate filter layer and a military-grade carbon filter. It has been tested by the Nelson Lab in the United States and has been certified to meet the N99 particle filtration standards. Particulate contamination provides nearly 100% protection. The inner layer of the mask is a military-grade carbon filter developed by the British Ministry of Defence to filter out viruses, bacteria and gaseous pollutants such as volatile organic compounds (VOC), ozone, benzine and formaldehyde.

Cambridge Masks are available in two versions:
Cambridge Mask BASIC meets N95 standards, can filter 95% of particles, bacteria and viruses in the air. It can be used for 90 hours.
Cambridge Mask PRO Meet N99 (higher than N95) standards, can filter 99.6% of particles, bacteria and viruses in the air. It can be used for up to 340 hours.

Do Air Masks Help With Pollution? Which Ones Actually Matter?

Dettol Air Mask: Amazon India and Dettol have launched an air mask that claims to protect you from haze, dust, pollen. It is has an adjustable nose that fits the face and is air tight. It comes with two filters and has ear loops that can be adjusted. The mask is all black and comes with its pouch. The air mask is priced at Rs. 699.

The Vogmask: The Vogmask claims to be better than the N95 masks that are available on the market. These come in all shapes, sizes, and styles. The Vogmask is however a bit on the expensive side. It starts at Rs. 2,000. On the other hand, you can hand wash them and you can use for longer period of time.

These Vogmask masks also have a second layer that helps you deal with stuffiness during summer – however we still found it stuffy to wear. But it could be because we have been just getting used to the concept of covering our noses. So, whether you are a runner, cyclist or even a brisk walker. you should check this one out.

Cambridge Masks: These are made a bit differently but results are similar to the Vogmask. There are three layers to this mask – one to block dust, other to curb PM 2.5 particulate matter and the last layer is to fight bacteria. The Cambridge masks were launched in China first, and now, they are in India starting at Rs. 2000, hoping to influence users.

10 Fashionable Face Masks People With Chronic Illness Recommend

Vogmask is a filtering respirator intended for general public use that can help protect you against allergens, poor air quality and airborne contaminants. It can filter out up to 99 percent of airborne particles. To be effective, a respirator must be sized to fit tightly against your face and create a seal. They are also known for being hot and uncomfortable to wear. The experience has been described as breathing through a blanket, and may not be an option for those who have difficulty breathing. Some come with an exhaust valve to increase their comfort. […]

Padi may be a dive training organization, but its affiliated Padi Gear website offers athletic wear, now including face masks. Padi Gear’s face masks, which feature five different sea-themed patterns, are made from recycled plastic. The multilayered mask is designed to be breathable, and each masks comes with five carbon filters. Padi Gear masks are secured using elastic ear straps. […]

Rafi Nova masks offer three layers of cotton fabric with a built-in filter that is designed to make these face masks both effective and breathable. These masks also have an additional pocket to add another filter layer. The company offers the masks in several types of straps, from ties to around-the-ear elastics. Rafi Nova also makes a mask with a clear panel in the front for those who are Deaf or hard of hearing. […]

Breathe Healthy face masks are designed to protect against dust, pollen, allergens and the flu. It is made with an antimicrobial agent that kills germs and lasts as long as the mask, even after multiple washings.[…]

This neoprene respirator is designed for landscaping or outdoor work, but it provides all-purpose protection and can filtrate up to 99.9 percent of all particulates and dust. Its dual-valve exhaust provides one-way easy breathing, expels moisture and optimizes temperature. […]

Cambridge masks are washable and reusable. They can filter out almost 100 percent of particulate matter, allergens or irritants, air pollution and harmful airborne pathogens such as viruses and bacteria.

Buying face masks with filters? Here’s what medical experts recommend.

1. Avocado Green Mattress Organic Cotton Face Mask
The maker of eco-friendly mattresses is making 100-percent organic cotton fabric face masks available in packs of four. They can allow for a separate filter to be inserted. The brand has so far made more than 130,000 non-medical grade masks, and will be donating on percent of sales to the EcoHealth Alliance.

2. Casetify Reusable Cloth Mask
The technology brand is pivoting to making reusable masks. The masks come in five different colors and are made of cotton material — plus, they come already fitted with a filter, plus two additional ones. For every mask sold, Casetify will donate a surgical mask to a medical worker in need via Direct Relief. The company is also selling packs of 10 interchangeable carbon filters.

3. Hedley & Bennett The Wake Up & Fight Mask
These reusable masks come in plenty of different styles and are designed to be used with a filter, such as a HEPA filter, inserted within the fabric. The masks were developed with a pediatric orthopedic surgeon and are one-size-fits-most. Each purchase provides a mask for you and a donation of one for a frontline worker.

4. Honeycomb Carbon Filter Masks (Out of Stock)
This mask comes with a disposable carbon filter inside layers of cotton and polyester. The outer layer is mesh and comes in five different colors. These masks are both washable and reusable.

5. Kinglight
These activated carbon filters come in packs of 10, and are made of non-woven fabric and cotton. The filter’s five layers effectively filter out emissions, exhaust and other particulates.

6. Ministry of Supply Mask Kit (Pre-Order)
Each mask, made of washable fabric, comes with 10 disposable filters. The masks are made out of 3D Print-Knit technology, a knit that’s 3D printed. For each mask sold, the company is donating a mask to frontline healthcare workers at Boston Medical Center.

7. OUBA Face Mask Filters
These individual filters are made with activated charcoal and five layers of cotton. These filters help filter out particulates like pollen, exhaust and allergens. Filters come in packs of 20 disposable filters and can easily be inserted to any mask with a pocket.

8. Public Goods K95 Face Masks (Out of Stock)
These non-medical masks are KN95-certified, meaning they adhere to the Chinese standards for respirator masks, according to the CDC. These masks include five layers of polypropylene and cotton filters and have a nose clip to fit the mask more tightly to your face.

9. Vida Mask Filter Replacements
The retailer is selling non-medical face masks, in addition to packs of five insertable filters designed to block airborne contaminants. VIDA recommends users change out the filter every seven days.

10. Vistaprint Face Masks
The printing company has created their own reusable masks that allow for a filter to be inserted. The masks come in three colorful designs and have four filtration layers: a textile exterior, replaceable fiber filter, a cloth layer and a 100-percent cotton inner layer. The company is also selling packs of 10 disposable filters, that can be used for up to 12 hours.

11. Vogmask
These filter masks claim to filter out airborne particulate .3 microns or larger, and additionally come with an exhalation valve and noseband for a tighter fit. The mask is made out of cotton and spandex, and comes in five sizes — and plenty of colorful designs. Most masks are currently sold out, but expected to be restocked soon.

Mental Pandemic and Ideological Lockdown

“Don’t let anyone arguing to “reopen the economy” get away with “we have to let people work to stay alive.” That’s a rhetorical trick aimed at suckering you into accepting their toxic worldview. The real question is this: how did the richest nation in the world get into a mess like this in the first place?”
~Sam Smith, How Many Dollars Is a Life Worth (and Why Did We Choose This)?

If you’re familiar with low-carbohydrate diet debate, you’d know one of the big names is Ivor Cummins, AKA the Fat Emperor. He isn’t a health professional but a chemical engineer by training. For some reason, several engineers and others in technological fields have become major figures in the alternative health community, especially diet and nutrition along with fasting, sometimes in terms of what is called biohacking. They have the skill set to dig into complex data and analyze systems in a way most doctors aren’t able to do. Cummins runs a health podcast, is active on social media, and has a large following. His popularity is well deserved.

He has been on our radar the past couple of years, but recently, along with Dr. Paul Saladino, he has been at the center of contentious debate about COVID-19 and lockdowns. Besides seeing his active Tweeting, we were reminded of him with some commentary by Chuck Pezeshki, another thoughtful guy we respect (see his post, The Curious Case of the Fat Emperor — or How Not Understanding How to Merge Knowledge is Creating a Culture War). Here is Pezeshki’s description of Cummins: “What is most interesting is that he was not only a systems integrator — someone who floats between the different disciplines churning out various subsystems for complex products. He was a “systems system integrator” — where he was in charge of a team of systems integrators. The first-level integration positions are relatively common. Boeing has a whole employment line dedicated to Liaison Engineering, which they pronounce “Lie – a -zon”. The second tier up — not common at all.” So, not an average bloke, by any means.

We agree with Cummins in sharing his views on the importance of diet and metabolic health. Right from the beginning, we had the suspicion that COVID-19 might never have reached pandemic levels if not for the fact that the majority of people in the industrialized world now have metabolic syndrome — in the US, 88% of the population has some combination of major metabolic issues: obesity, diabetes, pre-diabetes, insulin resistance, heart disease, liver disease, etc. These conditions are prominently listed as comorbidities of COVID-19, as metabolic health is inseparable from immune system health. Also, we’re in line with his anti-authoritarian attitude. Like Cummins, on principle, we’re certainly not for top-heavy policy measures like lockdowns, unless there is good justification. Yet early on, there was strong justification as a response to emergency conditions and many, including Cummins, initially supported lockdown.

Since then, he has become a strident opponent and, even as his heart seems in the right place, we find his present approach to be grating. He has become ideologically polarized and has fallen into antagonistic behavior, including dismissive name-calling. This doesn’t encourage meaningful public debate. We’re trying to resist being pulled into this polarized mentality in looking at the situation as dispassionately as possible, especially since we have no desire to dismiss Cummins who we otherwise agree with. We’re not even sure we exactly disagree about lockdowns either, as we feel undecided on the issue with a more wait-and-see attitude in anticipating a possible worst second wave if caution is thrown to the wind with a simultaneous ending of lockdown, social distancing, and mask-wearing as is quite likely in the United States. The public attitude tends toward either it’s the Plague or it’s nothing, either everything must be shut down or there should no restrictions at all.

Cummins strength is also his weakness. As an engineer, his focus is on data, not on the messy lived experience of humans. In his recent Tweeting, he is constantly demanding data, but it feels like he is overlooking fundamental issues. Even if there was good enough data available, we only have data for what is measured, not for what is not measured. About lockdowns, the confounding factors in comparing countries are too numerous and there are no controls. But to his engineering mind, data is data and the details of human life that aren’t measured or can’t be measured simply are irrelevant. Engineering is a hard science. But how societies operate as complex systems — that are living and breathing, that have billions of moving parts — can’t be understood the same way as technical systems to be managed in a corporate setting, as is Cummins’ professional expertise. He appears to have no knowledge of sociology, anthropology, psychology, cultural studies, philosophy, history, etc; that is to say he has no larger context in which to place his demands for ‘data’.

The dietitian/nutritionist Adele Hite hit the nail on the head in a response she gave in another Twitter thread: “You know data is never *just* data, right? It comes from somewhere, is collected, displayed & interpreted via some methods & assumptions & not others. […] Take a few science studies courses? maybe some science history? or just read some Bruno Latour & get back to me. It’s not nihilism to recognize that there is no such thing as a “view from nowhere” (the context of her comment, I presume, is here working on a PhD in communication, rhetoric, and digital media that, as she says on her official website’s About page, taught her “to ask questions I couldn’t have even articulated before”). She also points out the importance of listening to scientists and other experts in the specific fields they were educated and trained in, as expertise is not necessarily transferable as demonstrated by the smart idiot effect that disproportionately affects the well-educated.

According to his standard bio found around the web, Cummins “has since spent over 25 years in corporate technical leadership and management positions and was shortlisted in 2015 as one of the top 6 of 500 applicants for “Irish Chartered Engineer of the Year”.” That means he is a guy who was shaped by the corporate world and was highly successful in climbing the corporate career ladder. He then went on to become an entrepreneur as a podcaster, blogger, author, and public speaker. That is to say he is a high-achieving capitalist within the businesses of others and his own business, not to mention an individual having benefited from the status quo of opportunities, privileges and advantages afforded to him. The sticking point with lockdowns is that they don’t fit into the ruling capitalist ideology or at least not its rhetoric, although oligopolistic big biz like Amazon and Walmart does great under lockdown.

Our own biases swing in a different direction. We’ve had working class jobs our entire lives and presently we’re unionized public employees. Opposite of someone like Cummins, we don’t see capitalism as the great salvation of humanity nor do we blame lockdowns for economic decline and failure that preceded the pandemic for generations. All that has changed is that the moral rot and psychopathic depravity of our society has been exposed. That brings us to our main point of contention, that of a typically unquestioned capitalist realism that has been forced to the surface of public awareness with pandemic lockdown, as previously touched upon with the issue of what David Graeber calls bullshit jobs (Bullshit Jobs and Essential Workers).

Though lacking a strong view on lockdowns, we do have a strong view of those with strong views on lockdowns. It is hard to ignore the fact that those who are most vocal about reopening the economy are those whose lives are least at risk, those not working in service jobs (Their Liberty and Your Death). One might note that Cummin’s precise demographic profile (a younger, healthier, wealthier, white Westerner) is the complete opposite of the demographics hardest hit by COVID-19 and problems in general (the elderly, the sick, the poor, and minorities); though to his credit, he has spoken about the importance of protecting vulnerable populations, even if his understanding of vulnerability in our kind of society is ideologically and demographically constrained.

Here is the point. You won’t hear many working poor people, especially disadvantaged minorities, demanding to have the right to risk their lives and their family’s lives to work poverty wages, few benefits, and no affordable healthcare to ensure the capitalist ruling elite maintain their high levels of profits. Imagine how frustrating and disheartening it must be to be poor and/or minority as you listen to wealthy white people who are healthy and have great healthcare discuss lockdowns versus reopenings when the infection and mortality rates in your community is several times worse than in the rest of the country (Jared Dewese, Black people are dying from coronavirus — air pollution is one of the main culprits; Jeffrey Ostler, Disease Has Never Been Just Disease for Native Americans).

Think about this: “black people are more than 3.5 times more likely to die of COVID-19 than white people, and Latino people are nearly twice as likely to die of the virus as white people” (Bill Hathaway, New analysis quantifies risk of COVID-19 to racial, ethnic minorities); now increase that death rate several times higher when comparing poor minorities to wealthier whites, high inequality locations to low inequality locations, et cetera. And it’s even worse for other minorities: “In Arizona, the Indigenous mortality rate is more than five times the rate for all other groups, while in New Mexico, the rate exceeds seven times all other groups” (APM Research Lab, THE COLOR OF CORONAVIRUS: COVID-19 DEATHS BY RACE AND ETHNICITY IN THE U.S.). For those important people on the corporate media or the thought leaders on social media, COVID-19 for their own communities really might not be any worse than the common flu. Meanwhile, for disadvantaged populations, COVID-19 could be described as nothing other than a pandemic in the fullest sense. Yet the fate of these disadvantaged is being decided by the very people disconnected from the reality of those who will be most harmed.

Let’s put this in context of a specific example — in the District of Columbia where so many powerful people, mostly whites, live in determining public policy, blacks are only 44% of the population but 80% of the COVID-19 deaths. Many states show immense disparities: “In Kansas, Black residents are 7 times more likely to die than White residents. In Wisconsin and Washington D.C., the rate among Blacks is 6 times as high as it is for Whites, while in Michigan and Missouri, it is 5 times greater. In Arkansas, Illinois, New York, South Carolina, and Tennessee, Blacks are 3 times more likely to die of the virus than Whites. In many states, the virus is also killing Black residents several multiples more often than Asian and Latino residents” (APM Research Lab).

It’s not only that minorities are more likely to die from COVID-19 but more likely to get infected with SARS-CoV-2 in the first place and so this is another multiplier effect as measured in the total death count. This is exaggerated to an even greater extent with poor brown people in some developing countries where COVID-19 is also killing large numbers of the young (Terrence McCoy & Heloísa Traiano, In the developing world, the coronavirus is killing far more young people; Louise Genot, In Brazil, COVID-19 hitting young people harder). COVID-19 may be a disease of the elderly and sick among well-off white Westerners, but to other demographics the entire population is vulnerable. Furthermore, mostly ignored in Western data are poor whites and rural whites or even middle aged whites — all of which, in the United States, have shown increasing mortality rates in recent years. There is no data, as far as we know, with a demographic breakdown of deaths within racial categories. Then there is the issue of pollution, in how it increases vulnerability and maybe in how it could help spread the virus itself by riding on air pollution particles, and of course pollution is concentrated where poverty is found — keep in mind that pollution alone, without pandemic, is linked to 40% of deaths worldwide (Socialized Medicine & Externalized Costs; & An Invisible Debt Made Visible); combine that with COVID-19, pollution is then linked to 80% of deaths (Damian Carrington, Air pollution may be ‘key contributor’ to Covid-19 deaths – study). [For more resources on the inequities of COVID-19, see ending section of this post.]

By the way, we appreciated that Chuck Pezeshki did touch upon this kind of issue, if only briefly: “The problem is that because COVID-19 is truly novel, ringing that bell, while it may daylight the various ills of society, it also at the same time obscures responsibility for all the various ills society has manifested on all its various members. I have a whole essay, almost written, on the meatpacking plant fiasco, which is really more of a damning indictment of how we treat people at the bottom of the economic ladder than the COVID-19 crisis. For those that want the short version — we keep them trapped in low wage positions with no geographic mobility, with undocumented status, and poor education so they have no choice but to continue their jobs. COVID-19 is just an afterthought.” It’s too bad such understanding hasn’t been included to a greater extent in public debate and news reporting.

This is a situation about which everyone, of course, has an opinion; still, not all opinions come with equal weight of personal experience and implications. Being forced to potentially risk your health and maybe life while on the frontlines of a pandemic creates a different perspective. We are more fortunate than most in having a decent job with good pay and benefits. But similar to so many other working class folk with multigenerational households, if we get infected in our working with the public, we could become a disease vector for others, including maybe bringing the novel coronavirus home to family such as our elderly parents with compromised immune systems. The working poor forced to work out of desperation have no choice to isolate their vulnerable loved ones in distant vacation homes or highly priced and protected long-term care centers.

Meanwhile, some of the well-off white Westerners dominating public debate are acting cavalier in downplaying the concerns of the vulnerable or downplaying how large a number of people are in that vulnerable space. We’ve even seen Ivor Cummins, an otherwise nice guy, mocking people for not embracing reopenings as if they were being irrational and cowardly — with no acknowledgement of the vast disparities of disadvantaged populations. Imagine trying to have a public debate about government policy in a city or state where the poor and minorities are two to seven times more likely to die. Does anyone honestly think the poor and minorities would be heard and their lives considered equally important? Of course, not. No one is that stupid or naive. Now consider that the disparities of wealth, pollution, sickness, and death is even greater at the national level and still greater yet in international comparisons. At the local level, the poor and minorities might hope to get heard, but they are as if invisible or non-existent within the public debate beyond the local.

Still, that isn’t to say we’re arguing for a permanent lockdown even as we do think the lockdown, if only for lack of needed leadership and preparedness, was probably necessary when the crisis began — from the DataInforms Twitter account: “Not saying it’s the right action if you’ve planned for a Pandemic. Saying it’s the inevitable action to minimize risk, when you haven’t planned for a Pandemic. By not paying attention to 2003 outbreak we brought this on ourselves.” Besides being politically paralyzed with corrupt and incompetent leadership, we Americans are an unhealthy population that is ripe for infectious diseases; and one could easily argue that a public health crisis has been developing for centuries, in particularly these past generations (Dr. Catherine Shanahan On Dietary Epigenetics and Mutations, Health From Generation To Generation, Dietary Health Across Generations, Moral Panic and Physical Degeneration, Malnourished Americans, & The Agricultural Mind). The terrain theory of infection proposes that it is the biological conditions of health that primarily determine the chances of infection and hence, in a situation like this, determine how bad it will get as a public health crisis. As we earlier noted, the 1918 flu also began mildly before becoming fully pandemic later in the year with a second wave (Then the second wave of infections hit…), not that I’m arguing about the probability of such an outcome since our present knowledge about pandemics in the modern industrialized world, the West in particular, is only slightly better than full ignorance (Kevin Kavanagh, Viewpoint: COVID-19 Modeling: Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics).

All of this puts us in an odd position. We simultaneously agree and disagree with Cummins and many others who support his view. Our main irritation is how the entire ‘debate’ gets framed, in terms of cartoonish portrayal of libertarianism versus authoritarianism. The frame ends up dominating and shutting down any genuine discussion. We noticed this in how, for all the vociferous opinionating about lockdowns, there is still no agreement even about what is a lockdown. When confronted about this, Cummins has repeatedly refused to define his terms, the most basic first step in attempting to analyze the data, in that one has to know what kind of data one needs in knowing what one is hoping to compare. The haziness of his language and the slipperiness of his rhetoric is remarkable considering engineers like him are usually praised for their precision and held up as exemplars in the alternative health community.

We weren’t the only ones to make this observation — Gorgi Kosev asked, “Did you reply to the people who asked to specify what counts as lockdown vs what counts as distancing?” Cummins responded to many other Tweets in that thread but he did not answer this question and appears to not be interested in such a dialogue. To be fair, I did come across one of his Tweets buried deep in another thread, in response to an inquiry by Gregory Travis, where he vaguely clarified what he meant but still did not operationalize his definition in a way that would help us categorize and measure accordingly. When asked for a specific list of what he considered to be lockdowns and not, he would not specify. In attempting to get at what is the issue at debate, Philippa Antell asked him, “Are you comparing lockdown Vs non lockdown ( in which case define those in detail)? Or sensible Vs non sensible lock down rules (again define)?” Cummins did not further respond. A point we and others made to him is that there has been a wide spectrum of government policies — Toshi Clark said that, “This whole thing seems predicated on making a distinction between distancing and lockdown policies. It’s not a binary thing”; and someone simply named Ed said that, “I think one of the problems Ivor is it doesn’t have to be black and white but shades of grey. Lockdown is a terrible term that is unhelpful as there has never been a full lockdown and no measure of each mitigation.”

Such comments were the opportunity to begin debate, rather than in the way Cummins took them as the end of debate. I get that he is probably frustrated, but he is avoiding the very heart of the issue while continuing to demand ‘data’ as if facts could exist separately from any frame of analysis and interpretation. I’m sure he isn’t actually that naive and so, even if his frustration is understandable, it’s unfortunate he won’t get down to the nitty gritty. As such, others understandably feel frustrated with him as well. One of the main points of frustration, as shown above, is clear and yet remains unresolved. In our own Tweeting activity responding to Cummins, we noted that, “It feels like he is trying to force debate into a polarized black/white frame that turns it into a political football, a symbolic proxy for something else entirely.” At this point, it’s no longer really about the data for it has become an ideological battle verging on a full-on culture war, and one of the first victims is the mental flexibility to shift frames as the polarized opponents become ever more locked into their defensive positions — a lockdown of the mind, as it could be described.

Let’s consider a concrete example to show how the ideological lines get drawn in the ideological mind, as opposed to how fuzzy are those lines in reality. In one of his few responses to my seeking to engage, Cummins shared an earlier Twitter thread of his where he compared the ‘social distancing’ of Sweden and the ‘lockdown’ of New Jersey; a bad comparison on multiple levels. Yet when asked what is a lockdown, he still never offered a definition and, even more interesting, he decidedly emphasized that his priority was not the data itself but his principles, values, and beliefs. He was asked point blank that, “Since I showed that there effectively was no implemented and enforced stay at home full lockdown in even some of the worst hit places like NYC, what are we talking about in terms of a lockdown? What is the real issue of debate?” And his answer was, “Civil Liberties and our future freedoms. Principles. And the Scientific Method being respected.” Those principles seem fine, at least in theory assuming they are part of a genuinely free society that sadly is also theoretical at present. The problem comes with his conflating all of science with his libertarian beliefs taken as ideological realism. His libertarian conviction seems to be both his starting assumption and his ending conclusion. It’s not that the facts don’t matter to him, that he is merely posturing, but it is obvious that the data has become secondary in how the debate is being so narrowly constrained as to predetermine what evidence is being sought and which questions allowed or acknowledged.

Our interest was genuine, in seeking to clarify terms and promote discussion. That is why we pointed to the actual details in how it played out in actual implementation. In New York City, there was a supposed full lockdown with a stay at home order, but that didn’t stop New Yorkers from crowding in public places (Stephen Nessen, More New Yorkers Are Crowding Onto Buses And Subways Despite Stay-At-Home Order) since it’s not like there is a Chinese-style authoritarian government to enforce a Wuhan-style lockdown. That is the problem of comparisons. In terms of effective actions taken, the Swedish example involved more restrictions than did what happened in New Jersey and New York City. That is because the Swedish, in their conformist culture of trust, enforced severe restrictions upon themselves without government order and for all practical purposes the Swedish had implemented a greater lockdown than anything seen in the United States. Unless a police officer or soldier is pointing a gun at their head, many Americans will continue on without wearing masks or social distancing. This is a cultural, not a political, difference.

It is bizarre to see libertarian-minded individuals using the example of the anti-libertarian Swedish society as evidence in defense of greater libertarianism in societies that are completely different from Sweden. These are the same people who would normally criticize what they’d deem an oppressive Scandinavian social democracy under non-pandemic conditions, but all of a sudden Sweden is the best country in the world. If we think the Swedish are so awesome, then let’s imitate their success by having the highest rate of individuals living alone in the world as promoted by government policy, a population that does social distancing by default, a cultural willingness to sacrifice self-interest for the common good, a strong social safety net paid for with high taxes on the rich, and socialist universal healthcare for all (Nordic Theory of Love and Individualism). Once we implement all of those perfect conditions of public preparedness for public health crises in promoting the public good, then and only then can we have a rational and meaningful debate about lockdowns and social distancing.

Otherwise, the critics are being disingenuous or oblivious about the real issues. Such confusion is easy to fall into during an anxiety-inducing crisis as we all struggle to see clearly what is at stake. Cummins is highly intelligent well informed and, most important, he means well. But maybe he has lost his bearings in being pulled into ideological polarization, which is a common malady in Western society even at the best of times — one might call it an ideological pandemic. No one is immune to such ideological mind viruses, which is all the more reason to be highly aware of the risk of memetic contagion and so handle the material with the proper intellectual protective gear, rather than assuming it’s only those other people who are mindless ideologues ignoring the cold hard facts. Obsessing over data can create yet another blindness, specifically when it leads one to seeking the data that confirms what one is looking for. The reality of diverse data, conflicting data, and missing data is far more murky, and the mud really gets stirred up when we are floundering amidst unstated assumptions and undefined terms.

The present debate isn’t really about public response to infectious disease. If it was only about that, we could be more fully on board with Cummins since, in terms of health data, we are in his camp. The other component to the ideological conflict is a failure of public trust in countries like the United states, as opposed to the success of public trust elsewhere. In terms of economics and health, the Swedish had comparably similar results as their Nordic neighbors who followed different government policies, which further demonstrates it’s more about culture than anything else. Lockdowns did cut the number of lives lost in those countries, but the greatest protection appears to have been cultural, which is to say how the population behaves under various government policies. Scandinavians have a culture of trust. The United States does not. I can’t speak for other countries that fared less well such as Italy and Spain, although hard-hit Brazil obviously has some public trust issues. Social distancing without any closures and restrictions probably works great in almost any strong culture of trust, whereas a lack of full lockdown could be a catastrophe where public trust is deficient. That would be a more interesting and meaningful debate.

What is it about American and British society, in particular, that soft issues of society and culture are reduced and rationalized away or dismissed and diminished by putting everything into a frame of economics and politics? It used to be that religion in the form of the Christian church was used as the frame to explain everything. But now capitalist realism, both in economics and politics, is the dominant religion. Notice most of the opponents of lockdowns are doing so in defense of capitalism (liberty), not in defense of democracy (freedom). It’s posing a particular kind of politics in opposition to a particular kind of economics. The idea of a genuinely free society is not in the frame, not part of the debate.

This is part of an old ideological conflict in the Western mind. It erupted more fully when the neoliberals took power, as signaled by former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s declaration that, “there’s no such thing as society.” Karl Polanyi theorized about the rise of a market culture where everything came to be understood through an economic lens. Even politics has been made an extension of capitalist realism. This is more broadly part of a mindset obsessed with numbers. Everything can be measured. Everything can have a price put on it. Not only was religion demoted but all ‘soft’ approaches to understanding humanity and society. This is how we can have a debate in comparing different cultures while few people even bother to mention culture itself, as if culture either does not matter or does not exist. We have no shared frame to understand the deeper crisis we are suffering, of which the perception of pandemic threat and political malaise is merely a symptom.

The sense of conflict we’re experiencing in this pandemic isn’t fundamentally about an infectious virus and governmental response to it. It’s about how many societies, United States most of all, have suffered a crisis in loss of public trust based on destruction of traditional community, authority, self-sacrifice, etc. Libertarianism is inseparable from this cultural failure and simply further exacerbates it. In opposing authoritarianism, libertarianism becomes psychologically and socially dependent on authoritarianism, in the way drug rehab centers are dependent on influx of drug addicts (think of Philip K. Dick’s A Scanner Darkly). What gets lost is radical envisioning of a society free of ideological addiction of divisive polarization that is used for propagandistic social control. Control the public mind with frame of libertarianism versus authoritarianism and the ruling elite can guarantee freedom is suppressed.

We must understand difference between Latin ‘liberty’ and Germanic ‘freedom’. The former originated from the legal status of not being a slave in slave society; whereas the latter as etymologically related to ‘friend’ originally meant being a member of a free society, as being among friends who would put common good over individual interest. Philip K. Dick liked to say that, “The Empire never ended,” in seeing the Roman Empire as fundamentally identical to our own. Well, the Norman Conquest never ended either. Romanized Norman thought and language still rules our public mind and society, economics and politics. That is the sad part. Even the word freedom has become another way to invoke the liberty worldview of a slave society. This is taken as the unquestioned given of capitalist realism. Negative freedom (Latin liberty) almost entirely replaces positive freedom (Germanic freedom). Another difference between Latin is that it was more abstract than German. So liberty as negative freedom is much more of an ideological abstraction. One can have freedom in theory even while being oppressed in lived reality. Liberty ideology can justify lack of freedom.

Interestingly, this brings us back to an important point that Chuck Pezeshki made in his post where he was looking upon Ivor Cummins with more support and sympathy. One of the reasons,” suggested Pezeshki, “I fervently believe our current society in the U.S. is collapsing is the loss of noblesse oblige — the idea that those of us that are better off in some definable way should help those who are less fortunate. I view my role as a full professor as one where I am supposed to think about complex and complicated things for the common good, just like a rich person is supposed to build housing developments for the poor.” Basically, we agree, even if we take a meandering path and throw out a bunch of side commentary along the way. Noblesse oblige, one might note, was a carryover from feudalism. Like the Commons, it was intentionally destroyed in creating our modern world. We have yet to come to terms with the fallout from that mass annihilation of the public good. There has been nothing to replace what was trampled upon and thrown away.

Such loose human realities can neither be counted in profit nor measured in data. Yet they determine what happens in our society, maybe even determining whether an infectious disease is a momentary inconvenience or turns into a deadly pandemic, determining whether it kills high numbers of the vulnerable or not. The terrain in which a virus can gain purchase is not only biological but environmental and economic, political and cultural. We need to talk not only about physical health for a public health crisis is about the health of the entire society and in this age of interconnectivity with mass trade, mass transportation and mass travel that increasingly includes the larger global society. It’s not only about your own health but the health of everyone else as well, the least among us most of all.

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The Coronavirus Class Divide: Space and Privacy
by Jason DeParle

Harvard Researchers Find ‘Inequality On Top Of Inequality’ In COVID-19 Deaths
by James Doubek

No Wealth, Poor Health: COVID-19 Has Exposed the Depth of Inequality For Marginalized Communities
by Shelly M. Wagers

Poverty, Tuberculosis, COVID-19 and the Luxury of Health
by Amy Catania

How The Crisis Is Making Racial Inequality Worse
by Greg Rosalsky

Social distancing in Black and white neighborhoods in Detroit: A data-driven look at vulnerable communities
by Makada Henry-Nickie & John Hudak

Poor New York City Neighborhoods Seeing Deaths From Covid at More Than Twice the Rate of Affluent Areas
by Julia Conley

COVID-19 outbreak exposes generations-old racial and economic divide in New York City
The Bronx is home to 1.5 million New Yorkers, many of them essential workers.
by Juju Chang, Emily Taguchi, Jake Lefferman, Deborah Kim, & Allie Yang

Divergent death tolls in New York’s Rockaways show Covid-19’s uneven reach
by Sally Goldenberg & Michelle Bocanegra

Density, poverty keep L.A. struggling against virus
by Brian Melley

In Mississippi, families of COVID-19 victims say poverty and race determine survival
by Candace Smith, Knez Walker, Fatima Curry, Armando Garcia, Cho Park & Anthony Rivas

Poor Health, Poverty and the Challenges of COVID-19 in Latin America and the Caribbean
by Samuel Berlinski, Jessica Gagete-Miranda, & Marcos Vera-Hernández

India COVID-19: The killer virus is still poverty
by C.P. Surendran

Iran COVID-19 Crisis: Poor People Are Victims of Regime’s Criminal Policy of Forcing People Back to Work
by Sedighe Shahrokhi

‘We’re expendable’: black Americans pay the price as states lift lockdowns
by Kenya Evelyn

How air pollution exacerbates Covid-19
by Isabelle Gerretsen

Air pollution has made the COVID-19 pandemic worse
by Ula Chrobak

Air Pollution May Make COVID-19 Symptoms Worse
by Alex Fox

Are you more likely to die of covid-19 if you live in a polluted area?
by Adam Vaughan

COVID-19 severity and air pollution: exploring the connection
from Healthcare In Europe

Can COVID-19 Spread Through Air Pollution?
from Environmental Technology

Air Pollution Is Found to Be Associated with Vulnerability to COVID-19
by Shuting Pomerleau

Exposure to air pollution and COVID-19 mortality in the United States: A nationwide cross-sectional study
by Xiao Wu, Rachel C. Nethery, Benjamin M. Sabath, Danielle Braun, & Francesca Dominici

Black people are dying from coronavirus — air pollution is one of the main culprits
by Jared Dewese

One reason why coronavirus is hitting black Americans the hardest
by Ranjani Chakraborty

Covid-19 Flares Up in America’s Polluted ‘Sacrifice Zones’
by Sidney Fussell

Study shows how air pollution makes COVID-19 mortality worse for marginalized populations
from News Medical Life Sciences

Air pollution, racial disparities, and COVID-19 mortality
by Eric B. Brandt, Andrew F. Beck, & Tesfaye B. Mersha

Air Pollution and COVID-19 are worsening existing health inequalities
from European Public Health Alliance

In the Shadows of America’s Smokestacks, Virus Is One More Deadly Risk
by Hiroko Tabuchi

‘I’m Scared’: Study Links Cancer Alley Air Pollution to Higher Death Rates From Covid-19
by Yessenia Funes

The Health Emergency That’s Coming to West Louisville
by John Hans Gilderbloom & Gregory D. Squires

COVID-19, pollution and race: new health concerns for Nicetown
by Nydia Han and Heather Grubola

Philadelphia’s coronavirus numbers show stark racial and income disparities
by Yun Choi

Many cities around the globe saw cleaner air after being shut down for COVID-19. But not Chicago.
by Michael Hawthorne

Pollution rollbacks show a ‘callous disregard’ for communities hard hit by COVID-19
by Justine Calma

COVID-19 Is Not a Reasonable Excuse for Continued Pollution
by Janet McCabe

COVID-19 Cannot Be An Excuse For More Toxic Air
by Amy Hall

How Trump’s EPA Is Making Covid-19 More Deadly
by Michael R. Bloomberg and Gina McCarthy

Dirty air, weak enforcement hurt Arizona during COVID-19
by Sandy Bahr

Useful Info On Covid-19

For covid-19, data has been coming out. Two things to keep in mind are the incubation period and the latent period. The incubation period is the time from when the individual is infected to when they show symptoms, although there are asymptomatic cases where no symptoms are experienced at all.

The average incubation period is 3 days, but it can be as short as 2 days or maybe as long as 21 days or even 24 days. The upper end is rare. Quarantine for 14 days was assumed to be sufficient for nearly all patients. Even a quarantine of less than that, if implemented strictly and widely, presumably would eliminate most infections. Is that true?

More important is the latent period. This is how long it takes from being infected to the onset of symptoms. Keep in mind that, as I understand it, covid-19 is not more contagious than the common flu with any single exposure. Rather, there is a longer potential exposure period which translates as a higher infection rate.

It’s not clear how long one carries the virus and can pass it on to others. Doctors detected the RNA of the virus in the lungs 20 days after infection. And in a study, the pathogen was found in the respiratory tract for much longer, upwards of 37 days. However, carrying the virus doesn’t necessarily mean one is infectious.

For mild cases which is most cases, the infectious period following symptoms doesn’t likely last more than 10 days, even as the virus still can be detected. To demonstrate this, researchers used samples from patients (sputum, blood, urine, stool) to try to grow the virus. On day 8, they failed to do so with patients of mild infections.

So, the fact that some can test positive for weeks might be largely irrelevant. Most patients stop what is called viral shedding in the first 5 days, although in a minority of patients with severe sickness it can go some days beyond that. The extreme cases involved pneumonia and the viral shedding continued for 10-11 days. Still, generally speaking, the most infectious period is those first few days.

Also, keep in mind that not everyone is equally infectious. An elderly couple went on a cruise ship together for a couple of weeks. The wife got infected and presumably was sick for the entire two weeks and yet the husband remained free of infection.

Someone with symptoms may infect no one else while someone without symptoms could easily infect many. It is about 1.2% of covid-19 patients that show no symptoms. On the Diamond Princess cruise ship, 322 of 621 people tested positive with no symptoms. That makes containment difficult, especially with limited ability to do testing.

About symptoms, here is a key piece of info. In a small but significant number of cases, there are no symptoms at all. In many other cases, the symptoms are minor or even atypical. We mostly hear from the media about the respiratory problems, but it can be seen in other ways. Nearly half (48.5%) of patients had digestive issues such as diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. And about 7% showed no respiratory symptoms at all.

There are other symptoms as well. Most recently, it’s been found that loss of taste and smell can be a sign of infection. About half of patients, in one cluster from Germany, experienced a change in smell or taste. Sensory loss usually follows respiratory symptoms, although not always. Another symptom is redness around the eyes, as seen in some of the worst cases.

Those without the typical respiratory problems and higher temperature don’t see a doctor or only do so much later. This can actually make these cases more severe with a longer recovery period. Yet for some reason, few people are talking about the full spectrum of potential symptoms. In many lists of symptoms, gastrointestinal distress is not mentioned at all. And the loss of senses is only now being reported on.

Bonus info: A mouse study showed that ketosis has protectin against influenza (flu). Coronavirus is different in many ways, but the body deals with viruses through the same basic mechanisms. Ketosis causes the body to produce a special kind of T cell in the lungs and also a protective layer of mucose in the lungs. The survival rate of mice was higher for the mice on a keto diet.

This might be a similar reason why ketosis is inefficient in producing excess heat. Ben Bikman speculates this has to do with the time of year, winter, when ketosis tends to happen. While fasting or in dietary restriction during winter, it would be useful for both the body to produce extra heat and for the immune system to shift into higher functioning.

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Coronavirus may incubate for longer than we thought–which means quarantines may have been too short
by Joseph Guzman

A Person Can Carry And Transmit COVID-19 Without Showing Symptoms, Scientists Confirm
by Aria Bendix

Coronavirus Can Live in Patients for Five Weeks After Contagion
by Claire Che

People ‘shed’ high levels of coronavirus, study finds, but most are likely not infectious after recovery begins
by Helen Branswell

‘Covid-19 most infectious in early days’
by Sumitra Debroy & Malathy Iyer

Lost Sense of Smell May Be Peculiar Clue to Coronavirus Infection
by Roni Caryn Rabin

Study: Nearly half of COVID-19 patients experience digestive issues
by Joseph Guzman

Diarrhea Could Be First Sign Of Coronavirus Infection, Study Says
by Jan Cortes

Doctors say pink eye with other key symptoms may represent COVID-19 cases
from Chron