EAT-LANCET’S PLANT-BASED PLAN FOR YOU
With much fanfare, and a pretentious title (“Food in the Anthropocene”), The Lancet has published “an important new study about global nutrition.” It seems that since the planet has reached a crisis point, and we are running out of everything, we all have to eat lentils. The diet that is going to save the world from global warming and environmental devastation allows just over one teaspoon of red meat, one-quarter of a piece of bacon and about two tablespoons of egg per day, eight tablespoons of “plant protein” (soy, lentils, peas or nuts—beans are oddly absent from this list), twenty-five tablespoons of grain foods, and about three tablespoons of olive oil or sunflower oil. The diet allows more sugar (two tablespoons) than meat! Although prepared by “an international group of thirty-seven scientists,” contradictions abound. To quote the amusing analysis by Dr. Georgia Ede, the EAT-Lancet authors claim that while complete protein is essential, it is also cancerous. While meat “can improve dietary quality, micronutrient intake, nutrient status, and overall health,” it also causes heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Vitamins and minerals are essential, so we’ll need to take supplements; everyone should eat a vegan diet, except for most people— growing children, adolescent girls, pregnant women, aging adults, the malnourished and the impoverished (diagnosisdiet.com/eat-lancets-plant-based-planet/). How does EAT-Lancet propose to make people adhere to a plant-based diet when they’d rather eat beef? Suggestions from the report include “the elimination or restriction of consumer choices, and taxation” (eatforum.org/eat-lancet-commission/).
NOW WE KNOW WHY
We’ve often wondered why government agencies harbor such an intense prejudice against meat, and beef in particular, even for growing children. For example, both the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and American Academy of Pediatrics assert that “well-planned” vegetarian and vegan eating patterns are healthy for infants and toddlers. The answer emerges from a study carried out over ten years ago and reported by the author at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In her presentation, Professor Lindsay Allan of the University of California warned that “Denying growing children animal products in their diet during the critical first few years of life is ‛unethical’ and could do permanent damage.” The study she conducted showed that adding just one quarter cup of meat daily to the diet of poverty-stricken children in Africa transformed them both physically and mentally. Over a period of two years, the children almost doubled their muscle development and showed dramatic improvements in mental skills. They also became more active, talkative and playful at school. The African study involved over five hundred children in Kenya, typically aged about seven, whose diet chiefly consisted of starchy, low-nutrition corn and beans. Over a period of two years, one group of the children was given a daily supplement of two ounces of meat. Two other groups received either a cup of milk per day or an oil supplement containing the same number of calories. The fourth group had no dietary changes. The meat group had an 80 percent increase in muscle mass over the two years of the study while the milk and oil groups had a 40 percent increase. Test scores for mental skills improved by thirty-five points for the meat group and fourteen for the milk group, with no change in the group that received no supplements. Interestingly, the group that received meat “showed more leadership skills” (tinyurl.com/y26ufhgb). Is that why the powers-that-be keep pushing meatless diets, so that no leaders will emerge in the next generation to rock the status quo?
NOT THE ENEMY AFTER ALL
Remember when “high” cholesterol levels were public enemy number one? Then they found out that high-density cholesterol (HDL-cholesterol) was “good,” so to maintain the fiction that cholesterol is bad, we started hearing about the villainous low-density cholesterol (LDL-cholesterol). Now it turns out that LDL is not a bad guy either. A review headed by Uffe Ravnskov and just published in The BMJ online looked at thirty cohorts with a total of over sixty-eight thousand elderly people. In 92 percent of the participants they found an inverse association between all-cause mortality and LDL. In other words, the higher your LDL, the less likely you were to die. Something to tell your doctor when he pulls out his prescription pad for a statin (bmjopen.bmj. com/content/6/6/e010401).
SECRETS OF LONGEVITY
Canadian Lillian Sharples just celebrated her one hundred seventh birthday. Lillian is known for her sense of humor and keen mind. She drove a car until age ninety-four and still plays a weekly game of bridge. She says she’s had a “few” drinks over the years but has never smoked. When asked the secret to her long life she answered, “I think I have arrived here by the grace of God and the next best thing is cod liver oil” (Renfrew Mercury, February 15, 2018).
CRISPR TECHNOLOGY—A BLUNT AX
Current techniques for genetic modification are sloppy and imprecise—resulting in many unwanted changes to the DNA. Scientists and investors are pinning their hopes on a new generation of genetic engineering techniques called CRISPR (which stands for Clusters of Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats). Marketing materials have compared the CRISPR technology to a pair of sharp scissors. According to one puff piece, “CRISPR technology is a simple yet powerful tool for editing genomes. It allows researchers to alter DNA sequences easily and modify gene function. Its many potential applications include correcting genetic defects, treating and preventing the spread of diseases and improving crops” (livescience.com/58790-crispr-explained. html). But scientist and Harvard professor George Church, one of the developers of the CRISPR technology, is having second thoughts. At a recent medical conference, he called CRISPR a “blunt ax.” “It’s called editing,” he said, “[but] I think it’s really genome vandalism” (tinyurl.com/yxgxvre9). Church proposes four other types of gene editing systems that might solve the problems they are seeing in CRISPR (such as making edits to a genome far away from the target site, resulting in “unintended alterations”). Of course, these methods will require similar hype to attract investors and are equally likely to disappoint. Eventually the world must come to the realization that the only solutions to our health and agriculture problems lie in good nutrition and wise soil husbandry.
Speaking of CRISPR, scientists claim to have created a leaner pig using the CRISPR technique. The genetically altered pigs have a higher body temperature and thus burn more fat and produce leaner meat. The researchers were looking for a way to provide pig farmers with animals that would be less expensive to raise and would suffer less in cold weather; the leanness was an unexpected side effect. But hello? Normal pigs survive cold weather because they are fat! In the U.S., the pork industry uses a chemical called ractopamine to keep pigs from becoming fat. The drug is banned in most of the rest of the world because research has linked it to lowered reproductive function, birth defects and increased disability and death in the animals. We predict that the FDA will show interest in the CRISPR pig as a way to phase out ractopamine. No one knows what effect eating lean CRISPR bacon will have on human beings because no research has been done (tinyurl.com/y9qh5mwo).
SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS MODEL?
One claim for genetic engineering is that the technology will come up with cancer cures. Of course, that will not happen, but belief in the possibility led to a very interesting statement in an April 2018 report, entitled “The Genome Revolution,” which Goldman Sachs prepared for investors. The author, Salveen Richter, vice president of Goldman’s research division, worries that gene editing might actually eliminate disease, and that would not be a good thing. “Is curing patients a sustainable business model?” she asks. The answer is No. “The potential to deliver ‛one shot cures’ is one of the most attractive aspects of gene therapy. However, such treatments offer a very different outlook with regard to recurring revenue versus chronic therapies. While this proposition carries tremendous value for patients and society, it could represent a challenge for genome medicine developers looking for sustained cash flow” (Moss Reports, December 14, 2018). Again, the real solutions to disease will come only from good nutrition and nontoxic agriculture, but such solutions are not good for corporate cash flow, only for people.
SKIM MILK AND ACNE
Traditionally, milk maids had beautiful skin; in fact, in the olden days, the young ladies who milked cows (and had plenty of fresh milk for to drink) seemed to be immune to the ravages of smallpox. But data from the massive Harvard Nurses’ Health Study found a link between milk consumption and acne, with a very strong link between consumption of skim milk and acne. Those opposed to consumption of dairy products, such as Michael Greger, MD, have used these data to blast away at milk, noting that there are a lot of estrogen and growth-enhancing hormones in modern milk, and that the levels in skim milk are even higher (tinyurl. com/y6ms5wx4). We have a different explanation, of course. Modern pasteurized milk is so highly indigestible and so hard on our beneficial gut flora, that acne is often the result; and since butterfat is beneficial to digestion, gut flora and the skin, to a certain extent it can mitigate the damaging effects of pasteurization. After all, there have always been growth hormones and estrogen in milk, but these didn’t seem to be harmful in the past—perhaps because components in real, raw full-fat milk help the body use these in the proper way—after all, milk-drinking tribes are traditionally taller than non-milk-drinking peoples.
WE’VE BEEN PREDICTING THIS
The Mayor of London has instituted a new policy banning “unhealthy food advertisements” at tube (metro) stations and on city buses. The ban targets foods contributing to soaring rates of obesity among British children: sugary foods such as breakfast cereals, cakes, juices, pies and breads. But the policy also bans relatively healthy foods such as sausage, yogurt, coleslaw(!), pizza and olives because they are sources of saturated fat and salt. The policy bans foods high in saturated fat, salt and sugar. . . but “Advertisers can apply for an exception by arguing they do not target children.” McDonald’s has confirmed it will continue to advertise on public transport “under the new rules” (London Evening Standard, February 21, 2019).
For decades, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Dental Association (ADA) have promoted fluoridated water and toothpaste as a way to prevent tooth decay. Now these agencies are warning that children are getting too much fluoride from their toothpaste. They recommend no more than a pea-sized amount for children ages three to six and for those younger than three, toothpaste no bigger than the size of a grain of rice on their toothbrush. Fluoridated toothpaste actually contains a warning label stating, “If you accidentally swallow more than used for brushing, seek professional help or contact a poison control center immediately,” a warning mandated by the FDA in 1997. Fluoride ingestion can cause unsightly mottling of the teeth, but more seriously, it is an endocrine disruptor and neurotoxin shown to lower IQ in children (tinyurl.com/y4hz9n55).
FSMA NOT WORKING
Remember how the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was going to make our food supply safer? Well, folks, it’s not working. Food recalls have risen 10 percent since 2013, with foodborne illnesses killing three thousand Americans per year. Meat and poultry recalls have increased by two-thirds since 2013 (tinyurl.com/yxku6laq).