1/12/14 Nutrition and Climate Change

Both are controversial subjects in these perilous times we live in. We are being destroyed by climate change, which will eventually get us if our bad diets don’t get us first. We should beware.

I am not a denier of climate change, nor even a denier of man-made global warming, though I admit to being a bit of a skeptic on the religious zeal of some of those who are climate change’s passionate advocates. The movement itself has done a lot of damage to its own credibility by a constant alarmism and by the some of the scientists who have purposefully withheld and manipulated data. The climate will do what it will do, and there is no doubt that whatever it is doing is partly caused by my desire to flip a switch and have the lights come on at my whim and pleasure. Don’t you expect your lights to come on when you flip the wall switch? What will you do when they don’t?

We have the same thing going on with nutrition right now. We are in the midst of a big shift in what nutritionists are telling us, which seems to me to be remarkably similar to a general shift in what nutritionists told us about 20 or so years ago. It seems that every few years, a new generation of nutritionists comes along and tells us that what we had been told before is all wrong. Then the Department of Agriculture changes its basic nutrition pyramid chart and we are told that this is how we should be eating now, or then, or soon, anyway.

Honestly, we all expect new science to point towards new directions, but when the science points out that nearly everything the previous experts told us was wrong we immediately set out wondering just how long this new science will last and how long before we find out that it, too, is wrong. The details are all too tedious to go into. Try it yourself and you will find a bewildering number of claims, counterclaims, cross-claims, cross-linked claims, and outrageous claims. There is no shortage of people wanting to help me learn what to eat and what not to eat. I didn’t know that so many people wanted to help me so much until I took a look beneath the surface of nutrition information. There is no stopping point in diet investigation unless one decides to arbitrarily set one. I have set mine on three areas that interest me: veganism, fats, and supplements.

Vegans can be so tedious. Some of them are beyond tedious because many are not just believers in the benefits of a vegan diet, or the avoidance of any and all animal products, but they also tend to be animal rights activists. Many vegans are militant vegans and are about as productive for their cause as the militant climate-change folks. Humans have been making use of animals as meals for a long time and it is unlikely that they will stop any time soon, regardless of how other might personally feel about this.

There is a cardiologist whose articles I’ve read who promises a reversal of heart disease if one faithfully adheres to a vegan diet. He promises positive results if one sticks to it, and guarantees none for cheaters, and cheating included eating just one slice of cheese. “Nope,” he says, “Not one may you eat.” I liked his style about it. His attitude was if you want to get rid of your heart disease, here is what you do…if you don’t, then do something else. He did not chastise, criticize, or admonish. He just promised benefits for a specific purpose. Take them or leave them.

I read of remarkable comebacks and reversals of artery damage of those who had the worst heart disease. I did not get to read about those whose comebacks were less than remarkable. Advocates of anything don’t typically publish their failures. The interesting thing, though, was that this doctor’s only interest seemed to be in his patients, and extending this information freely to those who had heart disease as something they could actively do on their own, without any sales pitch for any products, clinics, or diets. The gist was, simply avoid all animal based products one hundred percent of the time and expect your own cardiologist to be pleased with your progress. There were no lectures about animal cruelty or my heartlessness…just the heart healthy benefits of a vegan diet.

We’ve come full circle on fats. For years we were told that we must reduce our cholesterol in order to stay alive and our chief source of cholesterol was from fats. We would surely die and die soon by eating the wrong kinds of fats, and it would be better if we perhaps avoided fats altogether. We went from being told that saturated fats were bad, unsaturated fats were good, polyunsaturated fats were good, monounsaturated fats were good, vegetable oils were good, animal fats were bad, all the way around the horn to where we are being told that lard is better for us than most every vegetable oil.

Fortunately for me, I always liked the taste of a first cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil. I use lots of it. There are a lot of benefits in its monounsaturated goodness. However, we were told for years that it was far better for us to avoid any saturated fats, so we chose corn oil, cottonseed oil, canola oil (what is a canola, anyway?), soybean oil, and a whole host of partially hydrogenated vegetable oils all because they contained no cholesterol. We were told they were heart healthy. Turns out that we had a misplaced confidence. Now, it seems that lard is better than these vegetable oils. You can look up for yourself all the reasons why. Generally, we were encouraged to avoid fats altogether, but humans like fats. We like the taste and texture of fats and how they feel in our mouths, and perhaps even like how they make us feel full. We were encouraged to eat more carbohydrates and less fats, and none of those fats should be from animal products lest our arteries clog like a lavatory drain gone bad.

Now we hear that animal fats do indeed have cholesterol, but they raise the good (HDL) cholesterol and lower the bad (LDL) cholesterol. I don’t know for sure, and I can’t know for sure, because what I am being told now is probably going to change in a few years, just like it did before, and I find out that I have eaten the wrong things all my life, even when I have been eating what nutritionists have said was the right things, or at least most of the time…OK…some of the time. I may fool you, but my body is not fooled for a minute. It uses what I put into it in one way or another. It’s best if I don’t put too much of anything. Maybe moderation is the key after all.

Science is not static, but I don’t expect it to reverse itself every twenty years or so. I expect it to be a bit more reliable than that. I suppose I am in for a disappointment. Please, pass the bacon-grease infused cornbread with egg in it, since bacon grease and eggs are now moving towards the top of the list of things that are good for you after having been notoriously ranking at the bottom of respectable foods, perhaps not even respectable, just delicious.

Supplements? Oh, please. There are as many supplement theories and subscribers as there are folks that sell them. Now we are being told that we should stop taking supplements, that they are poisoning us. Once we were encouraged to take large doses of the helpful, harmless vitamin E. Now, vitamin E is lurking like a criminal with foul intentions, trying to do us in. The E stands for evil. It has a heart of darkness, much like it’s sister Vitamin A. Well, they always said that large doses of Vitamin A could be dangerous, but now they say to avoid it in all its forms, whether pure Vitamin A or its less evil twin, beta-carotene.

We are even being told to stop taking our One-A-Day multivitamin pill. They are at best useless and at worst fatal. It would be best not to spend money on something that is useless and fatal, at least in my way of thinking.

There are so many choices and so little reliable information, though I can testify to this: I once enjoyed a 16 oz. ribeye steak as much as anyone you have ever seen, and I simply cannot eat one anymore. I can’t eat an 8 oz. steak. I can’t eat a 4 oz. Steak. Oh, I can, mind you, but the repercussions are disastrous…my stomach will hurt for days. My own body has informed me that ribeyes are no longer a part of my diet. Nor is chili. Nor is venison. Nor is anything more than the slightest bit of ground beef. Red meat is declining in value for me.

Thankfully, pork, the other white meat, does not affect me that way, but I use it sparingly, since meat does not seem to like me any more. I have learned to treat it with great respect.

I know that I am wrong about a lot of what I have written, but perhaps no wronger than the experts who have unintentionally mislead me, who in spite of their best efforts cannot seem to agree among themselves about what I should eat and not eat. And certainly no wronger than the advocates of the latest food fads that fade just as fast as they are developed. So I will eat when I’m hungry and be thankful that I can, since the world has a lot of folks who would trade a lot of what little they have for the eggs sitting in my refrigerator.

I will be thankful for the farmers, the animals, and those who labor to produce the food that I must eat. I will be thankful for every bite, saying to myself as I eat it, “This is soooo good…”

When our climate or our weather (they are different, you know) causes the failure of our food crops, and worldwide famine ensues, which it must eventually, we will relearn that our generation and time and place are also not immune to famine. Famines have come and gone countless numbers of times in the existence of humans, and it matters not where the famine comes from if you and your family are caught up in it . . . disease, plague, weather, political, natural disaster, alien invasion (if you think alien invasion is a stretch, find an Aztec or Inca and ask them)…whatever the cause; starving people look pretty much the same everywhere. Because it has not happened in our land in our lifetimes does not mean that it cannot happen here, or that it will not happen here. Famine breaks out from time to time all over the world. Modern farming, transportation, and distribution have helped to postpone it, or even hide it altogether from our view, but that does not mean it is gone…it is just hibernating, perhaps basking in the glow of an artificial warmth. When someone pulls the plug on the heater, or leaves the heater on high for too long, it’ll wake up.

You can count on it. Or not. Suit yourself.

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