Wednesday, September 11, 2019

NYT - Our Food is Killing Too Many of Us

Edit - fortunately a good friend sent a PDF of the article, and I'm going to copy it here with a few added comments:

Improving American nutrition would make the biggest impact
on our health care.

By Dariush Mozaffarian and Dan Glickman
Mr. Mozaffarian is dean of the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. Mr.
Glickman was the secretary of agriculture from 1995 to 2001.

The Democratic debate on health care has to date centered around who should be covered and who should pay the bill. That debate, which has been going on for decades, has no clear answers and cannot be easily resolved because of two fundamental realities: Health care is expensive, and Americans are sick.

Americans benefit from highly trained personnel, remarkable facilities and access to the newest drugs and technologies. Unless we eliminate some of these benefits, our health care will remain costly. We can trim around the edges — for example, with changes in drug pricing, lower administrative costs, reductions in payments to hospitals and providers, and fewer defensive and unnecessary procedures. These actions may slow the rise in health care spending, but costs will keep rising as the population ages and technology advances.

And Americans are sick — much sicker than many realize. More than 100 million adults — almost half the entire adult population — have pre-diabetes or diabetes. Cardiovascular disease afflicts about 122 million people and causes roughly 840,000 deaths each year, or about 2,300 deaths each day. Three in four adults are overweight or obese. More Americans are sick, in other words, than are healthy.

Instead of debating who should pay for all this, no one is asking the far more simple and imperative question: What is making us so sick, and how can we reverse this so we need less health care? The answer is staring us in the face, on average three times a day: our food.

Poor diet is the leading cause of mortality in the United States, causing more than half a million deaths per year. Just 10 dietary factors are estimated to cause nearly 1,000 deaths every day from heart disease, stroke and diabetes alone. These conditions are dizzyingly expensive. Cardiovascular disease costs $351 billion annually in health care spending and lost productivity, while diabetes costs $327 billion annually. The total economic cost of obesity is estimated at $1.72 trillion per year, or 9.3 percent of gross domestic product.

These human and economic costs are leading drivers of ever-rising health care spending, strangled government budgets, diminished competitiveness of American business and reduced military readiness.

Fortunately, advances in nutrition science and policy now provide a road map for addressing this national nutrition crisis. The “Food Is Medicine” solutions are win-win, promoting better well-being, lower health care costs, greater sustainability, reduced disparities among population groups, improved economic competitiveness and greater national security.

Some simple, measurable improvements can be made in several health and related areas. For example, Medicare, Medicaid, private insurers and hospitals should include nutrition in any electronic health record; update medical training, licensing and continuing education guidelines to put an emphasis on nutrition; offer patient prescription programs for healthy produce; and, for the sickest patients, cover home-delivered, medically tailored meals. Just the last action, for example, can save a net $9,000 in health care costs per patient per year.

Taxes on sugary beverages and junk food can be paired with subsidies on protective foods like fruits, nuts, vegetables, beans, plant oils, whole grains, yogurt and fish. Emphasizing protective foods represents an important positive message for the public and food industry that celebrates and rewards good nutrition. Levels of harmful additives like sodium, added sugar and trans fat can be lowered through voluntary industry targets or regulatory safety standards.

Nutrition standards in schools, which have improved the quality of school meals by 41 percent, should be strengthened; the national Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program should be extended beyond elementary schools to middle and high schools; and school garden programs should be expanded. And the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which supports grocery purchases for nearly one in eight Americans, should be leveraged to help improve diet quality and health.

The private sector can also play a key role. Changes in shareholder criteria (e.g., B-Corps, in which a corporation can balance profit versus purpose with high social and environmental standards) and new investor coalitions should financially reward companies for tackling obesity, diabetes and other diet related illness. Public-private partnerships should emphasize research and development on best agricultural and food-processing practices. All work sites should demand healthy food when negotiating with cafeteria vendors and include incentives for healthy eating in their wellness benefits.

Coordinated federal leadership and funding for research is also essential. This could include, for example, a new National Institute of Nutrition at the National Institutes of Health. Without such an effort, it could take many decades to understand and utilize exciting new areas, including related to food processing, the gut microbiome, allergies and autoimmune disorders, cancer, brain health, treatment of battlefield injuries and effects of nonnutritive sweeteners and personalized nutrition.

Government plays a crucial role. The significant impacts of the food system on well-being, health care spending, the economy and the environment — together with mounting public and industry awareness of these issues — have created an opportunity for government leaders to champion real solutions.

Yet with rare exceptions, the current presidential candidates are not being asked about these critical national issues. Every candidate should have a food platform, and every debate should explore these positions. A new emphasis on the problems and promise of nutrition to improve health and lower health care costs is long overdue for the presidential primary debates and should be prominent in the 2020 general election and the next administration.

The article is great, but there is a glaring omission...the primary reason we have such a hard time getting this message out to the public, never mind all the good suggestions in the article. How bout we just start by getting this information out there? Why can't we even do that???

It's called big pharma folks, one of the primary sources and purveyors of the mountains of misinformation on diet and health we, mostly unaware, wade through everyday. And why do they do that? Well first of all this industry is making a bloody fortune that depends on lots of sick people. Second of all, so called Health Care ("disease management" is more accurate) has, according to the article at the link below, become the primary contributor to US GDP. Which is a very big deal with all sorts of political ramification:

And why do I say why are we mostly unaware of all this misinformation? Because it comes to us through primary media sources. The New York Times is definitely taking the lead on bucking this trend. Good for them.

The other reason is because we hear so many half-truths that appeal to our pre-existing habits and biases. A good example of this is the so-called Paleo Diet. The range of diets possible under this name is huge. (To be fair the term "Vegan" has the same problem.) The all bacon all the time contingent is not healthy. The rate of heart attack in the paleo movement is reason enough to see this. The rate of digestive/congestive issues is another marker. And there are many others. There is a healthier contingent in the paleo world, these are the folks that consume mostly plants. You can measure this by volume or calories. Let's measure by calories: as "calories consumed" as a percent of total gets closer to the low fat plant based whole food prescription Paleos get healthier. Imagine that.

OK I'm coming off my soapbox now, for the time being at least:) The original blog below:


Unfortunately for me the New York Times has instituted a hard paywall for online viewers, so unless you are paying the $8/mo subscription fee this link will not let you read the article.

I say unfortunately for "me" because the NYT has been taking a lead recently against the "foods" (toxic substances really) that are killing us prematurely by the millions (leading cause of death by far), and the NYT is a major voice in the US and developed world in general. I like to feature this kind of story in my blog to reinforce the idea that I'm not "off the deep end" over here :)

Oh well, I'm making this a blog anyway just to note the fact increasingly prominent voices are in effect saying "enough is enough" and calling for greater awareness of this clear and present danger to our country and our fellow sisters, cousins, and brothers.

I will however quote the sub heading (which we can see), and provide the link for digital subscribers to the Times.

"Improving American nutrition would make the biggest impact on our health care."

Monday, September 2, 2019

Whole Foods CEO says plant based "meat" is not healthy

Whole Foods CEO on plant-based meat boom: Good for the environment but not for your health

And a quote from the article: 

Mackey says most Americans wouldn’t enjoy eating like he does (he has 15 fruits and vegetables a day) because their taste buds are used to a diet that includes a lot of processed foods.

“So the reason why these plant-based meats have taken the world by storm is that they taste very similar to regular meats, whereas if you get a [healthy] black bean burger with flax seeds and sweet potatoes in it, that’s going to taste great to me,” he says, but not to most people.

Mackey says the good news is that people can retrain their palate to “enjoy pretty much anything” by consistently eating something they typically didn’t like before.

“I love fruits and vegetables,” Mackey says, because he trained his taste buds to love them.

So let's say a person retrains their palate to love fruits and vegetables. They are also going to notice they don't feel the many physical discomforts of eating bad foods (antacids are the best selling over the counter medication). They will notice they can eat fruits and vegetables till they are coming out of their ears and they will still drop to a healthy BMI. They will notice good nutrition + healthy BMI = a lot more energy, and they will want to move their bodies, and they will enjoy it.

How many conclusive studies, for how many years, did it take before the Surgeon General put warning labels on cigarettes? More than 7000 studies over three decades. Governments are short sighted, they prefer industrial sources of revenue to public health.

Now, compare how much revenue was generated by the tobacco industry to how much is being generated by all the industries profiting in some way from all the various diseases directly caused by bad diet. I don't have a stat for that but my guess is at least 20x the revenue, adjusted for inflation, is being generated by bad food in many various ways.

The government will tell us (finally) that tobacco is bad for us. They will tell us that alcohol and drugs are bad for us. But they won't tell us bad food is the bigger problem. Will it take 20x as many studies and 20x as much time for gov to begin telling us a processed food animal based diet is bad for us?

Don't count on government or industry to reverse behaviors that are generating hundreds of billions of dollars annual revenue. Do count on those sources of revenue to be protected by dozens of industries and many thousands of influential individuals. Count on those sources of revenue to be protected by bad science, and count on seeing those conclusions on the front pages of mass media. (Bad science is essentially that which is generated by profit motive, with studies designed to produce a certain result.)

Count on never having heard of the many thousands of good science studies going back decades. If you start looking into it count on being surprised the good science outweighs the bad by multiples of 100.

Don't count on gov to promote truly healthy diets. The change will be a grassroots effort driven by individuals from all walks of life that have begun to see the big picture and want health for themselves and their loved ones.

On a related note, there is an interesting movie coming out soon titled "The Game Changers".

Interview of the director at Sundance this year:

And the web site for the movie:

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Can You Spell V-E-G-A-N? by Doug Graham

Have you heard the latest news? After almost fifty years of dawdling, the following information was finally accepted as credible. The August, 2019 issue of 'Complementary Therapies in Medicine' includes a study in which cardiologists assessed the plant-based diet as a therapeutic treatment for heart patients. Cardiologists concluded: "A plant-based diet may contribute to the reversal of cardiac morphological and functional abnormalities in the setting of CHF.” Well, it took them long enough, but doctors are finally coming out in favor of the vegan diet.

Look around. Veganism is gaining momentum, and the raw vegan community is growing by leaps and bounds. Soon enough, veganism will be the rule, rather than the exception. Governments around the world are pushing for vegan, because it is the most economical and most environmentally friendly way to feed their people. Heart disease and Type II diabetes kill more people than all other causes combined. Both conditions are caused by our food and lifestyle choices, and could be completely eradicated almost immediately. Will you be leading your family to health this year, or will your family have to suffer more unnecessary losses before veganism becomes the norm in your home?

Vegans make up roughly one half of one percent of the US population, yet vegan athletes seem to be winning everything is sight. One weekend in July of this year, vegan athletes won four different championships in four different professional sports. The writing is on the wall, and all you have to be able to do is read. Burger King is about to release a vegan burger that they say you will not be able to distinguish from their original. Several other fast food chains have announced that they are increasing their vegan options. The airlines all offer vegan meals, and some even offer fruit meals. The NBA has a position paper on their website in favor of veganism for their athletes.

Various churches, politicians, models, and all types of rich and famous people are joining the vegan bandwagon. If you are unsure about your vegan stance, make your decision soon, because eating anything that doesn’t come from a plant is soon enough going to be as socially unacceptable as slavery, smoking cigarettes, and child abuse has become.

Alan Watts - from survival to mysticism

Biologic survival comes down to thousands or millions or billions of unconscious bio-mechanical autonomic functions that run our body and protect us from danger, whereas mysticism could be said to be coming into that state where oneness (of everything) and wholeness are consciously experienced at the same time. It is not always called mysticism as there are variations in this state of consciousness, children experience it when they are playing, athletes experience it when they are "in the zone", artists experience it when "visited by the muse", scientists experience it when realizing a great functional truth, and any individual might experience it when they simply sit and breathe. Some of the key features of this state is no awareness of the passage of time, and the sense of serenity that comes with complete engagement.

Alan Watts describes the impossibility of focussing simultaneously on an image of dual oppositional components (at 2:30)

Seeing both images at the same time is similar to seeing "magic eye pictures" One must defocus the eyes in a way to be looking at everything instead of one thing. It may not come easily because focusing on just one thing is a survival mechanism that allows us to find food and detect danger.

So perhaps then the mystical experience is the defocus on just one thing, and instead a focus on "everything" simultaneously. Then might it also be said that the basic conundrum of the human condition is the "tension" between (the autonomic mechanisms of) survival, and the boundless freedom of mysticism?

Friday, August 9, 2019

Dr. T. Colin Campbell: Food, Cancer And The Future Of Plant-Based Science

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine hosted an event in April 2019 where Dr. Campbell was a speaker. This one on one audio interview was conducted just after Dr. Campbell's presentation to the audience.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month: What About Prevention?

In a 2 minute video Dr. Neal Barnard of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine talks about Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an effort by the National Breast Cancer Foundation to raise awareness of breast cancer. He also seems to have found a pink elephant in the room...

Thursday, August 8, 2019

maybe the world will have to go vegan ?

A BBC environmental analyst writes an article "Plant-based diet can fight climate change - UN"

Perhaps human health and environmental health are directly correlated.  But industrialization is compelling for all kinds of reasons. "Dr Freud" - please tell us how do we balance the instinctual "unlimited growth" impulse? Freud sez - knowledge has got to be the answer...unless, that is, we want to wait for nature to take care of it for us (lemmings off the cliff version).

So we have a plant based message for the environment and a plant based message for human health.

Meanwhile T. Colin Campbell's work created so much backlash it's been virtually forgotten. The message itself is quite simple: animal proteins are carcinogenic. He also has the broader message that nutrition is the critical foundation piece in health, and that a plant based diet is best, but that in itself is not such an unusual message.

"Animal proteins are carcinogenic" is quite unusual, heretical even, as it reverses long held ideas about what is good for us.

Campbell was a carcinogenicity researcher (among other things). The lab research showing that animal proteins are carcinogenic (which preceded the China Study by years) was simple - give the test animals high doses of a known carcinogen to make them cancer prone, then give them diets with no animal protein compared with diets of increasing % of calories from animal protein. Then he cycled the test animals on and off the diet with protein. The result was clear, add protein and tumors begin to form. Cycle off protein and tumors begin to recede, cycle on again and tumors begin to grow again. Campbell said the result was so clear it was like turning a light switch on and off.

To the best of my knowledge this study has been replicated, and not a one off, or a mistake.

Does this translate to humans? Not directly, first of all we are not shot up with high doses of carcinogenic chemicals to make us cancer prone. Right? Only 1 in 2 of us will have the diagnosis at some point in our lives. All of Campbell's test subjects got cancer when fed animal protein. Second, we are not mice, but mice are omnivores and so are humans. BTW omnivorous does not connote "optimal" diet, it is what a species will eat to survive when calories are scarce. It is increasingly obvious the optimal diet for humans is plant based.

And the backlash against the "animal proteins are carcinogenic" message is being whittled away gradually, most recently when the World Health Organization said red meat is a probable carcinogen. It's going to take awhile, meanwhile a big fad diet now is "carnivore" where nothing is consumed except meat. Nice of them to volunteer for an epidemiologic study:)