Sunday, September 14, 2014

Things I've Been Meaning to Get To

I missed the whole kerfuffle with Tam's blog, and being driven silent by some cretin.  By the time I got back from Israel, on 9/5, she had started posting again, albeit with comments shut down.  I also ran across some comments elsewhere that anyone trying to mess with Tam would score really poorly on the victim selection scale and very likely find themselves in an unanticipated dirt nap.  While that's good for a joke, I wouldn't wish a use of deadly force situation on anyone. 

I'm pretty sure the first thing of Tam's I ever read was her piece on Kathy Jackson's "Cornered Cat", "The Day I Discovered That HCI Wants Me Dead" in which she recounts being in one of those situations.  Not fun.  Not a joking matter.  (As a side note, cops and Emergency Room workers have a notoriously rough sense of humor and make light of the most awful situations imaginable - like fighting to the death).

Anyway, I know you've dropped by on occasion, Tam.  If you see this, sorry you're having cretin troubles.  I appreciate the gun content you're posting and hope life gets back to "normal" ASAP.


Long time readers will know that my "Library Thing" bar on the lower right has several books in it from the low-carb viewpoint, and I have a pretty dim view of the current fad of "Wellness Programs".  I really think Gary Taubes' two books ("Why We Get Fat" and "Good Calories, Bad Calories") are two of the most important health and wellness books put together in the last century.  

I think I've found another.  Death by Food Pyramid is a very impressive book by Denise Minger., hostess of the Raw Food SOS blog.  Denise is a young health writer who is known for a very thorough deconstruction of some very famous studies that get lots of press coverage: the China Study and "Forks, Not Knives".   One of the highest compliments I can pay someone is that they're a good, clear, thinker.  Denise is definitely one; she has good thought processes and they're very evident through the book.  She's also an engaging writer with a knack for providing the right amount of levity for this serious subject matter. 

Denise's story starts with being a teenager who gets convinced she needs to be a vegetarian, which progresses to being only raw foods (or some other fad).  At 17, she goes to the dentist and after way too many disconcerting "hmm" sounds, heavy sighs, and pokes with pointy metal objects, finds she needs to have at least 17 teeth worked on - coming from never having had dental problems before she became a vegetarian.  In the space of one year. 
I was seventeen. It’d been a full year since I’d become a strict, low-fat, fruit-noshing raw vegan — led there by a cocktail of food allergies and dewy-eyed trust in people from the internet (bad idea is bad). Perhaps too distracted by my constant brain fog, perpetual shivering, and the clumps of hair making a mass exodus from my scalp, I’d failed to notice the prime victim of my lopsided diet: my teeth.
The book is divided into sections on the shady politics behind dietary recommendations, the slippery science, and concludes with some ideas for going forward.  The final section includes a fair amount of information on the role of ancestral diets and how, one by one, indigenous peoples were made sicker and sicker by switching to the abundant western staples of flour and sugar.  Gary Taubes spent quite a bit of time on this in "Good Calories, Bad Calories".

She asks a very reasonable question:  there are people who claim tremendous improvements in health from eating totally vegetarian and others who claim tremendous improvements in health by being meat-eating omnivores.  How can such opposites provide the same results?  Aside from the should-be-obvious conclusion that "one size never fits all", we have a tendency to focus on what people eat, or what they do, not on what they don't eat or don't do (those are admittedly infinite sets) and rarely on the environment they live in.  Perhaps what vegans and meat-eating "paleo" diet folks have in common is they both avoid heavily processed modern foods?  For another example, in those studies that gave rise to the "Mediterranean Diet" fad (as if there is one diet over the thousands of square miles of the region) they focus on the pasta and little amounts of meat; have they investigated minerals in the water or the soil?  What about the structures of their societies?  What if it has nothing to do with the baguettes, and everything to do with the amount of magnesium or some other mineral in their water?  

It's not too much of a spoiler to say that the FDA food pyramid (currently called "My Plate") has the drawbacks of every other thing the does that's crawling with crony politics.  The famous "eat 30% of your calories from fat", and "limit your intake of red meat" have more to do with the grain and sugar lobbies than they do with hard science.

If you care about this subject, or are forced to care about it, read this. People without the intellectual flexibility to face their favorite ideas being threatened will have a hard time with it (you'll note the vitriol used against Denise in vegetarian forums). 


  1. I have a question, Did anyone actually wright anything criminal to Tam? I haven't seen a single post to support that. If they did then the feds should be involved. If however this was NOT an interstate felony and only someone who "hurt her feelings" (rude but not criminal) then it looks as if several "Tam supporters" should look up "Making a threatening communication" (interstate)and SLANDER. Death threats posted on blogs are not jokes, they are interstate felony's.--- IMO if someone bills themselves as "Aunt Stabby The Queen of snark" and consistently smartasses and "puts down" anyone she disagrees with , Then she has nothing to whine about when people talk back and are as rude to her as she is to others.

  2. There is a lot of disinformation going around about food, diet, prepared foods, additives and supplements. The self styled experts rarely agree and almost never agree with science and common sense. Unless you are really out there on the conspiracy theories you will probably agree that much/most of the information from the FDA is legitimate and good info. Humans do have certain needs as defined by the Minimum Daily Requirements (MDR). Most vegetarians and vegans by default agree with this theory simply proven by the fact they must go to great lengths to insure they get the essential MDR because of their self restricted diet. Other fad diets (yes all diets with a name are fad diets) are less willing to openly admit that in addition to whatever their choosen fad is they must eat things the FDA has determined humans must consume. Any adult can safely pursue the fad diet of their choice as long as they make sure they supplement it with the things their fad diet is missing but their human body requires. The paleo diet is one of the latest fads closely related to or the same as the low carb diet. Fine, to each their own. Where I disagree is when someone feels the need to justify their particular fad by denying facts or making them up as needed. Are carbs bad for you? Of course not unless of course you are diabetic and then some carbs are worse then others. However if you aren't diabetic carbs are not only no problem but are actually good for you. Is wheat (or grains) bad for you? No, unless you have a gluten intolerence or celiac disease. Then like with any dietary contraindicated disease the solution is don't consume those items. But for the vast majority of humans on earth meat, fats, carbs, processed foods, unprocessed foods, junk foods, fast foods, and even organic foods won't hurt you. If you eat any food it is broken down into molecules in order to pass through the membrane in your small intestines. That is 100% of carbs are broken down into sugars. Your body does not know and does not care if your carbs came from organic vegetables, processed foods or a spoonful of sugar. What it does care about is that you get 100% of your MDR of all necessary vitamins, minerals and other requirements. One of those requirements is sugar or more correctly glucose. If you fail to eat carbs your body can and must convert almost anything you eat to carbs. Your body runs on carbs. Not meat, not fats, not vitamins and minerals, it runs on glucose. Your muscles burn glucose, your brain thinks with glucose and your body temperature is maintained with glucose. If you are starved to death your body slowly turns all of your fat then most of your muscle tissue into glucose. It is what keeps you alive. If you don't have glucose you die. Some will argue that certain sugars are "bad" because they are converted to glucose in your liver. Well that is one of the funtions the liver is intended to do. It is not abnormal and not harmful. The bottom line is prepared foods are not bad for you, meat isn't bad for you, organic foods merely cost more they don't do more for you and avoiding sugar is a personal choice that thankfully your body can counteract. In fact almost all dietary advice is wrong or at best misleading. I wish it were all true; that someone had a perfect diet. The right diet to keep us all healthy and prevent disease. But it isn't. The "right" diet is to eat a diverse diet and do not self limit food groups and if you have a disease that requires a specific diet to follow that diet and all while making sure you are getting your MDR's. Almost everything else is opinion/bias.

  3. Anon 1 - I have no idea. Never saw anything posted, but like I said, when I got back it was apparently all over.

    Anon 2 - When the people follow the government's recommendations and diabetes soars, I don't blame the people, I blame the government. I don't think that it's a coincidence that when the started telling people to eat more carbs and less fat that a diabetes epidemic started. There's clearly something wrong with what they're recommending.

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  5. While Tam and I have disagreed on several occasions (and girrls - but only those with attitude - _still_ make me cry ;-), she is a bright and witty - and quite comely - lady. Whoever was bothering her must have been pretty nasty to have caused her to shut down, even temporarily.

    Her brand of snark can certainly lead to disagreement. Having been at the sharp end of her snark, I will state that a gentleman will walk away, not threaten or become vile in response. Whatever it was the miscreant did to give her pause was probably worth at least an ass-whipping.

  6. Diabetes hasn't soared. It is still the same percentage of the population that it was 20 years ago or 50 years ago, etc. Here is the problem and why you and others might believe the rate of diabetes has soared:
    1st, the medical community in the U.S. began a program to identify people who had diabetes but were unaware of it. This is because about half the people with diabetes don't know it and the medical community recognizes that early identification and treatment will be beneficial for the person with the disease. Makes sense. So while in the past about 1/2 a million or so people with unidentified diabetes were identified each year the greater effort to screen for the disease found and extra million or so each year. If you only looked at the data without understand what happened then indeed you would think we were having a diabetes epidemic. This was further muddied by organizations whose goal it is to bring the diabetes issue to the forefront so they knowingly went along with the whole "epidemic" meme. After all nothing motivates people to give money to a charity like fear, right?
    2nd, diabetes is genetic. That is people of Northern European ancestry have a low rate of diabetes and people of African, South and Central American and native Australian have a much higher rate of diabetes. You might have noticed that in the last 50 years or so the population of the U.S. has sharply skewed towards people of African and South/Central American ancestry. This fact alone increased the overall percentage of Americans with diabetes. But within ethnic groups it hasn't changed. That is people of European ancestry have about a 2% chance of having diabetes while people of African ancestry have about a 5% chance and people native to Central and South America have about an 8% chance. Quite a difference, right?
    The simple fact is diabetes is genetic, you get it from your parents not your food. And the old wives tale about diabetes being caused by eating sugar is still wrong (remember when they called it sugar diabetes?).
    The problem with diagnosing it further feeds the belief that is is caused by diet. That is it is most common that type II diabetes is first diagnosed when the person is in their mid 20's to 30's. This is true for a lot of reasons but the significant ones are that is when we stop getting lots of exercise because we are married and working. That's when we start eating more and gain weight (same reason; married and working). And last that is because as we age the symptoms are simply more likely to manifest themselves and cause us to go to a doctor with complaints. But if you have diabetes regardless of your age you also had it on the day you were born. The thing is you just didn't have any symptoms or your symptoms were not significant. So it is indeed quite natural that someone might think diabetes is "caught" and the culprit is our diet. (more...)

  7. And that brings me to the next complication that most often confuses people. That is since diabetes requires a special diet to help combat the symptoms then, duh, it must be caused by diet!! Makes sense right? But it simply isn't true. If you do not have diabetes (diagnosed or undiagnosed) then it doesn't matter what you eat. You could eat candy bars for thirty years and you are not going to catch diabetes. You eaither have it (or the genetic predilection to have it) or you do not.
    Now the last thing that makes diabetes confusing both in knowing if you have it and treating it is this: Most people think of the symptoms and not the disease. After all if your 18 and symptom free and never been tested for it then you don't have it right? And conversely if you have it and by diet and exercise you can reduce and even eliminate the symptoms then you are getting better, right? Wrong on both counts. You must treat the symptoms but you cannot "cure" the disease. You can only alleviate the symptoms and slow the progression of diabetes. The goal of any diabetic is to live a long life and not die due to complications from diabetes. This is not easy because diabetics have higher frequencies of other serious health problems as well; a 2 1/2 times great chance of a fatal heart attack for example.
    The bottom line is diabetes is not increasing and this is in spite of our "bad diet" (or what some think is a bad diet) and in spite of our increased obesity rate (which doubled overnight in 1998 when they changed the way they determine obesity; but that's another issue). Kind of makes you wonder what else they lie to us about. And that (the lying to us) is really what it's all about. The people selling you supplements or writing books on good food; bad food are making money on our ignorance. In fact almost everyone involved in the great fad diet and supplement scam is making money on disinformation.

  8. Thanks for those numbers on the true rates.

    I've long said that I think diabetes (the tendency toward it) causes obesity and not the other way around, which is what I read you saying.

    Any links to substantiate points that you can point to would be appreciated.

  9. Here is some info on diabetes and a couple of other popular issues of health that we struggle with today:

    Old Definition: Blood sugar > 140 mg/dl
    People under old definition: 11.7 million
    New Definition: Blood sugar > 126 mg/dl
    People added under new definition: 1.7 million
    Percent increase: 15%
    The definition was changed in 1997 by the American Diabetes Association and WHO Expert Committee on the Diagnosis and Classification of Diabetes Mellitus.

    High blood pressure is reported as two numbers, systolic or peak pressure and diastolic pressure when heart is at rest) in mm Hg.
    Old Definition: cutoff Blood Pressure > 160/100
    People under old definition: 38.7 million
    New Definition: Blood Pressure > 140/90
    People added under new definition: 13.5 million
    Percent Increase: 35%
    The definition was changed in 1997 by U.S. Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure.
    Prehypertension, a new category created in 2003: blood pressure from 120/80 to 138/89 includes 45 million additional people! If one includes this category, we have a grand total of 97.2 million total numbers of hypertensives and prehypertensives (whatever that is).

    High (Total) Cholesterol:
    Old Definition: Cholesterol > 240 mg/dl total cholesterol
    People under old definition: 49.5 million
    New Definition: Cholesterol > 200 mg/dl total cholesterol
    People added under new definition: 42.6 million
    Percent increase: 86%
    The definition was changed in 1998 by U.S. Air Force/Texas Coronary Atherosclerosis Prevention Study.

    Body Mass Index (BMI) is defined as the ratio of weight (in kg) to height (in meters) squared and is an inexact measure of body fat, though it supposedly establishes cutoff points of normal weight, overweight, and obesity.
    Old definition: BMI > 28 (men), BMI > 27 (women)
    People under old definition: 70.6 million
    New definition: BMI > 25
    People added under new definition: 30.5 million
    Percent Increase: 43%
    The definition was changed in 1998 by U.S. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
    "The new definitions ultimately label 75 percent of the adult U.S. population as diseased," conclude the two researchers.

    As you can see there was a very specific decision by the health care community that suddenly increased how we classify some health conditions. This change dramatically increased the numbers of people with these "serious" conditions. But how often, if ever, do you have an article that uses these statistics AND explains this little kink when discussing the dramatic increase?

  10. Sugars have been studied up, down and inside out for decades and repeatedly shown to be safe. In the 1970s, the FDA had commissioned the Select Committee on GRAS Substances which found no evidence to implicate sucrose, corn sugar, corn syrup or invert sugar to obesity, heart disease or diabetes. But fears and conspiracy theories abounded among the public, so the FDA commissioned a Sugar Task Force to conduct a comprehensive review of epidemiological, clinical and animal studies on sugars. It specifically examined and rejected hypotheses that sugars play a causal role in “glucose tolerance, diabetes mellitus, lipidemias, cardiovascular diseases (hypertension and atherosclerotic coronary artery disease), behavior, obesity, malabsorption syndromes, food allergies, calciuria-induced renal disease, gallstones, nutrient deficiencies, and carcinogenicity.” The FDA concluded in its 1988 ruling: “Other than the contribution to dental caries, there is no conclusive evidence on sugars that demonstrates a hazard to the general public when sugars are consumed at the levels that are now current and in the manner now practiced.”

    A 1997 Joint Report prepared by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization also found no evidence that sugar consumption is a causative factor in any disease, including obesity, diabetes or coronary heart disease. The Surgeon General’s Report on Nutrition and Health, the National Academy of Sciences report Diet and Health, and Healthy People 2000: National Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Objectives by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services concurred.
    Fears of sugars are greatly exaggerated. “Sugar is not inherently a dietary villain,” said David Klurfeld, Ph.D., professor and chairman of the Department of Nutrition and Food Science at Wayne State University, editor-in-chief of the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. “The statistical relationships of sugar intake with the rest of the diet are small and probably not biologically meaningful.” A study in that journal, for instance, found little difference in the quality of diets among those eating more or less sugars.

    The Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences examined the scientific basis of sugar guidelines and said “the expert panel concluded that it was not appropriate to set a tolerable upper intake level for added sugars but suggested a maximal intake level of 25% of energy from added sugars because of concerns [greater amounts could] reduce intakes of essential micronutrients” — something that can be said of any food in excess! :)