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Animals, being vegan, etc.

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Ethos's picture
Ethos
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Aug 14 2013 21:54

no1,

Quote:
This idea that we shouldn't eat meat because animals can feel pain too has always seemed really odd to me. Humans are just another animal, so doesn't that idea imply it would be allright to kill people if only we anaesthetise them first? How about eating people with congenital insensitivity to pain, would that be immoral in some way? IMHO the moral prohibition of killing hasn't anything to do with pain and suffering.

You're spot on here, no1. I didn't provide any argument against killing animals, only against making them suffer. So, let me reply to the bit in bold by quoting Singer again (Sorry Chilli Sauce!):

Quote:
...a rejection of speciesism does not imply that all lives are of equal worth. While self-awareness, the capacity to think ahead and have hopes and aspirations for the future, the capacity for meaningful relations with others, and so on are not relevant to the question of inflicting pain- since pain is pain, whatever other capacities, beyond the capacity to feel pain, the being may have- these capacities are relevant to the question of taking a life. It is not arbitrary to hold that the life of a self-aware being, capable of abstract thought, of planning for the future, of complex acts of communication, and so on, is more valuable than the life of a being without these capacities.

Killing a person, as it is implied above, is wrong because you end a life that was self aware, capable of abstract thought, planning for the future, etc. Other animals aren't capable of engaging in any of these things to the same extent that adult humans are, but (a) they are capable of some of them to a certain extent (self-awareness being the most important here) and (b) human newborns and toddlers also aren't capable of these feats to the same extent that an adult human is (for a while there dogs, dolphins, other apes, etc are much more capable of these traits than humans are). So, considering that we grant the "right" (I use the term loosely as I don't actually believe in "rights" per se, i.e. "natural rights", etc.) to not be killed to b, we should, on the pain of being arbitrary, grant the same right to a.

Further, the capacity to suffer (which can also be rephrased as I did in my first post, "the interest to want to avoid suffering") almost necessarily implies the capacity to have pleasures (it's almost a banal truth that, as an absolute minimum, if a being has the interest to want to avoid suffering it will take pleasure in just that, avoiding suffering) and on what basis to we justify our killing animals that have this capacity? The fact that pork is tasty seems rather arbitrary.

Quote:
Neither do I think that the preventioun of pain is some absolute imperative - there's a reason that we have developed a sense of pain, i.e. it tells us quite important stuff about the world we live in, and the deepest and most important insights are usually derived from very painful experiences.

I never argued that prevention of pain is an absolute imperative. I agree that you need it to get around world. That said, and I realize that a personal anecdote is of little value, I've had painful experiences that have left me bedridden and I didn't get any important insights all I wanted was for the pain to stop.

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Aug 14 2013 22:04
Kureigo-San wrote:
Ethos, the things I have said haven't been of the appeal to nature fallacy because the appeal to nature fallacy requires that the conclusion of the claimant's remarks logically leads to nothing - nor am I saying that one thing is good and another bad. A moral claim is required for the appeal to nature fallacy.

1. Appeal to nature is not in itself a fallacy. I don't think I called it a fallacy.
2. (regarding the bit in bold) That's the problem, even if what you're describing is correct and we are not "equipped" to eat meat, this alone wouldn't explain why eating meat would be wrong.

Edit: I hit italics instead of bold. Fixed now.

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Aug 14 2013 22:03
Arbeiten wrote:
pull the wool over your eyes

SPECIESIST!!!

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Aug 14 2013 22:17

Mike - I guess I don't fully understand it, at least not fully, so fair enough, I'll leave it at that.
I think this thread has actually gone off on a number of tangents and I am pretty exhausted by it!

Boze's post was a bit special though, so at least that much has been saved from the wreckage!

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Aug 14 2013 22:40
Kureigo-San wrote:
Every animal has its own optimal dietary nature and it doesn't change very radically depending on their metabolisms and blood types or any of that nonsense. It's commonly observable that the more animal foods a person consumes, the quicker they encounter serious health challenges and/or are very overweight.

Repeat after me "correlation is not causation" (especially correlations that are statistically insignificant or based on manipulated data).

Research does not show a solid causation chain between "consumption of animal foods" alone and "serious health challenges and/or are very overweight" (see the debunking of The China Study). The Standard American Diet is horrible, and, yes, contains a good deal more animal products than a vegan diet. However, comparing a whole foods vegan diet versus SAD also eliminates things like high fructose corn syrup, added sugar in general, trans fats, and so forth. In other words, far more than one variable is changed at a time. I could find good research on multiple, very different diets, showing improved outcomes against the SAD. Those studies don't indicate one of those diets is best (to do so, large scale comparative studies between them would need to be done) so much as it indicates that the currently prevalent diet in the overdeveloped world is horrible (and becoming very similar in middle-income countries, if you poke through stuff like WHO data).

Blood type diets are nonsense, but the idea that the exact same diet will suit everyone for every purpose is, frankly, ridiculous. To pick one simple example, a sedentary person is going to have lower caloric needs than someone who is active and undergoing intense athletic training; furthermore, they're going to need less carbohydrates as a percentage of their caloric intake because the demands on glycolytic pathways are significantly less.

To the idea that every species has a single optimum diet - species vary greatly in the range of foods they can eat. Species that have incredibly limited diets tend to occupy a very specific ecological niche; in contrast, humans, as hunter-gatherers, managed to spread over all the continents (excluding Antartica) and occupied environments ranging from tropical to artic, and desert to rainforest. A hunter-gatherer in the Artic is going to have a drastically different diet than one in a tropical rainforest. Homo sapiens would never have been able to spread as much as we have without the ability to do well on a diversity of food sources. In fact, having a standard diet that doesn't vary by region is a product of modern capitalism.

As to diet and cancer: I'd be incredibly wary of generalizing diets that are effective for a severely pathological state to people who are healthy or have different, much less severe pathology. Also, "cancer" is not one disease, and different cancers are going to respond differently to dietary changes. For instance, preliminary findings indicate that ultra-low carb diets that have the body consistently relying on ketones for fuel starve some cancers (breast, colon, prostate, some brain tumors), and make some cancers more aggressive. I would find it highly unlikely that there is one diet that is an effective complementary treatment for all cancers, and I don't think effectiveness as an adjunct in cancer treatment tells us all that much in people who don't have cancer. I also think responsible studies could be done by comparing how a standard diet control group (receiving chemo)'s cancer outcome with chemo + various diets. In other words, controlling for other variables, was there a statistically significant difference in outcomes when diet was varied? Of course, each type of cancer would have to be tested individually. The wonderful thing about Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) is the complementary part!

It is of course true that pharmaceutical companies aren't motivated to research and put onto the market treatments they can't profit from (the treatment being easily mass-produceable and patentable are significant factors in this). However, the idea that profitable treatments are in general not effective doesn't hold - between research requirements and the fact that if something is consistently observed to not work, it's not going to end up being successful in the market long term, especially given the amount of over healthcare spending that is done by health insurance companies and governments, who have a vested interest in spending money in ways that can be verified to be effective - not because they love us, but because they either need to be profitable (and thus don't want unnecessary costs) or need to run a healthcare system effective enough to guarantee an adequate workforce, in addition to more idealistic concerns among at least some administrators. Yes, there are problems with how evidence-based medicine is currently constructed (profit motive affecting what gets researched and developed and who gets it, drastically lower research quality and quantity for much CAM), but let's not throw out the empirical research baby with the political and economic bath water.

Bozemananarchy is of course correct that none of us are eating what our ancestors ate during evolution (which changed over time, and of course things like fire and stone tools drastically changed the diet) - evolutionary biology, studies of contemporary hunter-gatherers, reconstruction of prior cultures' diets along with examining their remains to provide information on their health status is only useful in so much as it provides some preliminary guidance on what to research and some possible explanation of epidemiological data (and epidemiological data is really, really hard to interpret - we don't have the ability to take a large number of people, control all other variables, and tweak their diet in one specific way at a time).

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Aug 14 2013 22:44

Oh, and thanks, Chilli!

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Aug 15 2013 06:15

Operaista for libcom's medical blogger!

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Aug 15 2013 07:13
Ethos wrote:
Kureigo-San wrote:
Ethos, the things I have said haven't been of the appeal to nature fallacy because the appeal to nature fallacy requires that the conclusion of the claimant's remarks logically leads to nothing - nor am I saying that one thing is good and another bad. A moral claim is required for the appeal to nature fallacy.

1. Appeal to nature is not in itself a fallacy. I don't think I called it a fallacy.
2. (regarding the bit in bold) That's the problem, even if what you're describing is correct and we are not "equipped" to eat meat, this alone wouldn't explain why eating meat would be wrong.

Edit: I hit italics instead of bold. Fixed now.

It would be wrong in the sense that health problems are universally considered to be a shitty experience. I don't want to go to far down the rabbit hole with this point that should be more common sense than linguistic and political theory.

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Aug 15 2013 11:54

I'm very familiar with the so-called debunking of The China Study, Operaista. It seems odd to me that you would say "Time for some real science" then link me to an undergrad's blog that hasn't been peer-reviewed, whereas every 700+ reference used in The China Study has been peer-reviewed (by people with precisely zero idealogical interest in a vegan diet) and in addition so has T Colin Campbell's own work been scrutinised to the nth degree.

Quote:
Repeat after me "correlation is not causation" (especially correlations that are statistically insignificant or based on manipulated data).

Research does not show a solid causation chain between "consumption of animal foods" alone and "serious health challenges and/or are very overweight" (see the debunking of The China Study). The Standard American Diet is horrible, and, yes, contains a good deal more animal products than a vegan diet. However, comparing a whole foods vegan diet versus SAD also eliminates things like high fructose corn syrup, added sugar in general, trans fats, and so forth. In other words, far more than one variable is changed at a time. I could find good research on multiple, very different diets, showing improved outcomes against the SAD. Those studies don't indicate one of those diets is best (to do so, large scale comparative studies between them would need to be done) so much as it indicates that the currently prevalent diet in the overdeveloped world is horrible (and becoming very similar in middle-income countries, if you poke through stuff like WHO data).

You are right that correlation is not causation but that does not mean that correlations are useless and that they can't tell us anything. In my experience, every time somebody offers "the debunking of The China Study" article by Denise Minger it's very telling that they haven't actually read The China Study - because if they had read it they would be aware that the content of the book The China Study includes many hundreds of different supporting evidences, most of which are not of the population observation style like The China Study experiment from which the book is given its name. For this reason the author resents that his publisher forced him to accord the book such a confusing title - for good reason too as it muddies the waters and ultimately permits people to convince themselves that they've falsified the basis of the research..unfortunately not realising that that particular study was far from the only one performed, or the only type of study. Denise Minger's blog doesn't scrape the lid on a book that documents several decades' worth of accumulated study from various groups - all of which by the way began with the mission of finding ways to get people to eat more animal protein.

Quote:
Blood type diets are nonsense, but the idea that the exact same diet will suit everyone for every purpose is, frankly, ridiculous. To pick one simple example, a sedentary person is going to have lower caloric needs than someone who is active and undergoing intense athletic training; furthermore, they're going to need less carbohydrates as a percentage of their caloric intake because the demands on glycolytic pathways are significantly less.

When I talked about a single optimum diet, I most certainly was not referring to quantity..because that would indeed be ridiculous. You've misunderstood me - which is probably a result of my bad communication but there's a limit to how much I want to do on a libcom comment. So, we don't even need to go to the athlete example, even though I agree with you - simply a child vs an adult will have vastly different appetites. I'm not proposing a regimented amount of food for everyone. I am saying that plants as a group accord to every nutritional need in the body - except for in some people, b12, because some people don't have the ability to absorb b12 - the b12 issue is not a dietary one, because even taking a supplement of b12 does not mean that you will absorb that ingested b12. b12 deficiency is not exclusive to any dietary practice. Usually the best course of action is injection for b12.

Quote:
To the idea that every species has a single optimum diet - species vary greatly in the range of foods they can eat. Species that have incredibly limited diets tend to occupy a very specific ecological niche; in contrast, humans, as hunter-gatherers, managed to spread over all the continents (excluding Antartica) and occupied environments ranging from tropical to artic, and desert to rainforest. A hunter-gatherer in the Artic is going to have a drastically different diet than one in a tropical rainforest. Homo sapiens would never have been able to spread as much as we have without the ability to do well on a diversity of food sources. In fact, having a standard diet that doesn't vary by region is a product of modern capitalism.

I'm not talking about what animals can eat, I'm making a claim about which diet we thrive on. Of course, most of us can eat horrible food for many years seemingly without consequence partly because youth is forgiving and through a gene set strongly inclined in the opposite direction of disease formation. People can adapt to extraordinary circumstances, but they don't switch their digestive system for a new one when they do so - the optimum still applies. I don't understand the relevance of the last sentence, sorry.

Quote:
As to diet and cancer: I'd be incredibly wary of generalizing diets that are effective for a severely pathological state to people who are healthy or have different, much less severe pathology. Also, "cancer" is not one disease, and different cancers are going to respond differently to dietary changes. For instance, preliminary findings indicate that ultra-low carb diets that have the body consistently relying on ketones for fuel starve some cancers (breast, colon, prostate, some brain tumors), and make some cancers more aggressive. I would find it highly unlikely that there is one diet that is an effective complementary treatment for all cancers, and I don't think effectiveness as an adjunct in cancer treatment tells us all that much in people who don't have cancer. I also think responsible studies could be done by comparing how a standard diet control group (receiving chemo)'s cancer outcome with chemo + various diets. In other words, controlling for other variables, was there a statistically significant difference in outcomes when diet was varied? Of course, each type of cancer would have to be tested individually. The wonderful thing about Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) is the complementary part!

Yes, low-carb diets are demonstrably dangerous, and I would even extend on what you're saying: low-carb necessarily means high-fat and high-protein (usually means animal products because their macro-nutrient profiles look like this). This is precisely the dietary condition that is outlined as causing cancers to become more aggressive - it's when you say things like this that I have to be skeptical that you've read The China Study - because your intention is to critique it or dismiss it, but you're unknowingly agreeing with its core proposition. Eating plants shouldn't really be considered a cancer treatment, as it also treats a lot of other diseases of affluence. These reviews of Dr Neal Barnard's Program for Reversing Diabetes make for interesting reading - I can offer more strictly scientific material if the experiences of real, previously non-vegan people are found to be laughable.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Neal-Barnards-Program-Reversing-Diabetes/product...

When something reduces or outright eliminates the symptoms of various diseases that we think are incurable, without a single negative side effect then it demands our attention.

Usually when someone concerns themselves with debunking The China Study, they miss the big picture that we ought to be eating plants if even a modest level of health is what we desire.

Whole by T Colin Campbell came out recently and he uses that book to explain what it's like trying to get funding in his government labs for what are considered heretical findings. It sheds some light on the machinations of why the public don't know these things or misunderstand them. Most of the time it isn't some villainous conspiracy; it's just people doing what they're supposed to do in the system that they find themselves within. For instance, medical journals are threatened consistently that their sponsor funding (from animal food industries) will be withdrawn if they appear too favorable to the health benefits of a plant-based diet. It's not necessarily an evil conspiracy but what it is, is a capitalist mechanism of trying to shield its corporate interests which has the knock-on effect of ultimately radically altering not only the information that the public consumes on the topic, but even the paradigms with which they consider the matters.

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Aug 15 2013 09:23
Tyrion wrote:
Pointless sadism is obviously nothing to be cheered on, but I really can't say that I care in the least that some cow died in the process of making my cheeseburger. Certainly this animal liberation business has nothing to do with communism, either conceptually or as a social movement. I'm a bit surprised to see people appealing to morality and rights, since both of these are imagined social constructs that serve no purpose other than to give some appearance of objectivity to the social practices one prefers (e.g. I want to live in a society where myself and others can speak freely so therefore there's some "right" to free speech, and I don't want to live in a society where people randomly attack each other so therefore doing so is morally "wrong"). It's very problematic, I think, to act as if asserting that something is moral or immoral or that it's a right or not a right is anything more than a subjective assertion.

arguments like this always confuse me when they come from communists. there's nothing "objective" in the idea that we should produce according to ability and distribute according to need, that we should prevent environmental devastation, that we should care about humanity as a whole (or in fact anyone), that equality is "good" or whatever. "objectively" we're just animate sacks of flesh on a rock in space. anything after that is, at least in part, down to subjective assertions about how society is and how we'd like it to be - ethics in all but name.

I find it quite baffling the way some folks seem to dismiss any mention of ethics or morality out of hand despite their politics being largely a product of rejecting the horrors capitalism has brought humanity and a desire for something better.

regarding animal rights - I'm vegetarian and have been since I was about 10, essentially because I figure if I can feed myself while reducing the amount of pain I cause to creatures capable of feeling pain then there's really no reason not to. it does come from the same place as my politics but not something I've ever really been engaged with in an activistey way, nor something I feel the need to bring up except when asked (or when I'm sleep deprived and on libcom, it seems).

fwiw, tho this is just anecdotal obviously - I tend to find far more people moaning about vegetarians always talking about their vegetarianism than I find vegetarians actually always talking about their vegetarianism.

(odd comparison - I don't find anarchists actually talking about Kronstadt that much; I do however find socialists frequently moaning about how anarchos supposedly talk about Kronstadt all the time.)

I do find sometimes that the more aggressively anti-veggie arguments come across as a bit macho - assertions that one simply doesn't care about the pain of animals (cos REAL MEN don't care about that stuff), patronising comments about "fluffy bunnies" (cos only a silly softie or wuss *would* care about that stuff), etc. Take that as you will.

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Aug 15 2013 09:33
jonthom wrote:
I'm vegetarian and have been since I was about 10, essentially because I figure if I can feed myself while reducing the amount of pain I cause to creatures capable of feeling pain then there's really no reason not to.

Not meaning to be arsey so sorry if it comes across that way, but how are you reducing animal pain by being a vegetarian? Are fewer animals hurt because of your individiual lifestyle choice?

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Aug 15 2013 09:38
commieprincess wrote:
jonthom wrote:
I'm vegetarian and have been since I was about 10, essentially because I figure if I can feed myself while reducing the amount of pain I cause to creatures capable of feeling pain then there's really no reason not to.

Not meaning to be arsey so sorry if it comes across that way, but how are you reducing animal pain by being a vegetarian? Are fewer animals hurt because of your individiual lifestyle choice?

fair point. I retract that statement - being vegetarian isn't going to stop animals suffering any more than buying fair trade is going to stop workers being exploited.

in my defence I've been awake since 6am yesterday so not really functioning properly.

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Aug 15 2013 10:57

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=wxb7XPm_SxU

@Operaista and anyone who hasn't blown their brains out yet. The author addressing The Weston A Price Foundation.

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Aug 15 2013 10:50
jonthom wrote:
in my defence I've been awake since 6am yesterday so not really functioning properly.

Well in that case, kudos for being so coherant smile

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Aug 15 2013 14:28

I have a bit of sympathy because I used to do a less extreme version of this cherry-picking of data, and making some of the less obviously junk-science claims about anatomy and physiology. Actually getting educated in anatomy and physiology (which, say what you want about how we've locked health information away in programs that are hard to access, they do make you learn anatomy and physiology) dispelled that a good bit for me.

Given the amount of peer-reviewed research out there that contradicts Campbell's conclusions (which were not in a peer-reviewed book) - and the biochemists and nutritionists who have looked over the linked statistical analysis and support it. Also, really? The level of junk science you've thrown out about physiology, evolution, and nutrition? You've claimed that a handful of fruit is a sufficient meal, and, given the incredibly low fat intake you propose, you can't mean an avocado. Some examples of fruits:

A medium-sized apple is about a handful. It contains (select medium under serving size contain 95 calories, which, for all intents and purposes are entirely from carbohydrates. Six meals consisting of a handful of apples a day would thus be under 600 calories, well below base metabolic requirements for any adult. A pint of strawberries yields 1g of fat, 2g of protein - and 114 total calories (the rest of which are from carbohydrates). Six pints of strawberries a day would be under 720 calories.

The point are not that these aren't healthy things to eat (I think people should eat fresh fruit, and in greater quality and quantity than the Standard Western diet), but that basic nutrition holds that a handful of fruit (even an avacado) doesn't provide sufficient calories to be considered a meal. And for an avocado,

Kureigo-San said:

Quote:
I'm not talking about what animals can eat, I'm making a claim about which diet we thrive on. Of course, most of us can eat horrible food for many years seemingly without consequence partly because youth is forgiving and through a gene set strongly inclined in the opposite direction of disease formation. People can adapt to extraordinary circumstances, but they don't switch their digestive system for a new one when they do so - the optimum still applies. I don't understand the relevance of the last sentence, sorry.

Peer-reviewed analysis of the diets of contemporary hunter-gatherers, published in one of Nature's journals. Things that are important to note: far lower burden of chronic non-infectious disease than Western societies. A majority of them eat more animal protein than the Western diet. And universally, adoption of the Western diet leads to CVD, Type II diabetes, and other diseases, whereas going back to traditional diets lowers the risk. Now, of course, there are protective lifestyle factors that do affect disease rates (no tobacco use, lower amounts of chronic stress, more exercise), but even just the diet switch back improves things.

And, actually, evolutionarily, our digestive system got smaller and less metabolically intensive as our brain got bigger and more metabolically intensive- which indicates an adaptation to more calorie dense foods. It certainly hasn't changed significantly since the appearance of biologically modern humans, but by then, the dietary adaptations that differentiate humans had occurred. And you ignored my point that different lifestyles have different macronutrient requirements. My last sentence means that there are a lot of foods that, without modern transportation and refrigeration, would not be accessible to most people, at least year round. I live in New England - there's no way that I'd ever get an avocado or a banana hundreds of years ago, and without modern transportation and refrigeration, fresh fruits and vegetables are going to be scarce in winter. To survive even temperate zones, we need to be able to do well on a diversity of diets.

To take the example of an extreme diet that is an adaptation to extreme conditions (pop-science article, though I think the composition of the traditional Inuit/Inupiat/other circumpolar peoples diet is not controversial), circumpolar people, by necessity, eat nearly nothing but animal proteins and fats for most of the year. If a direct causation from animal protein and fat consumption to chronic disease existed, we could reasonably expect the Inuit to get healthier on the Standard Western Diet. Instead, the health of the population deteriorates. And non-Inuit do well on their traditional diet.

I'm not advocating anyone eat like the Inuit - just pointing out that there is a wide range of possible diets that populations can do well on. If the claims you're making were true, we would never have thrived in even temperate environments.

Quote:
Yes, low-carb diets are demonstrably dangerous, and I would even extend on what you're saying: low-carb necessarily means high-fat and high-protein (usually means animal products because their macro-nutrient profiles look like this). This is precisely the dietary condition that is outlined as causing cancers to become more aggressive - it's when you say things like this that I have to be skeptical that you've read The China Study - because your intention is to critique it or dismiss it, but you're unknowingly agreeing with its core proposition. Eating plants shouldn't really be considered a cancer treatment, as it also treats a lot of other diseases of affluence.

Low-carb alone is not incredibly dangerous. Atkins is likely to make you feel like crap in the gym, though, especially if you do any sort of activity that stresses glycolytic pathways. Getting a majority of calories from protein is (google "rabbit starvation"). People can handle higher protein than the western diet, but proteins alone are the macronutrient that we can't attain sufficient energy from - because of the limitations on the abilities of the liver to perform gluconeogenesis from protein, and the limitations on the ability to handle the biproducts of the process. However, a certain intake of protein is necessary - the figure the Harvard School of Public Health cites as a minimum is .8 grams per kilogram. In an 80 kg person, this is only 64 grams (256 calories a day of protein). The upper limit for an 80 kg person is probably in the 285 gram - 365 gram range, which means that protein alone is not going to provide sufficient calories (once again, "rabbit starvation"). As to the lower end, yes, I know all about selecting complementary proteins on a veg*n diet - but given the general lower bioavailability of plant proteins, and the fact that the low end of the protein recommendation is for sedentary individuals (and you really, really should be exercising), I'd advocate higher protein consumption than .8 grams per kilogram (but certainly not in the "rabbit starvation" range!)

I don't advocate low-carb in general - with the foods available and palatable to a Western palate, people are not going to end up eating like circumpolar peoples, they're going to be eating poor quality fatty meats, excessive amounts of cheese, excessive saturated fat, not getting adequate micronutrients, and so forth. However, if you pop in this pubmed search, you'll find multiple peer-reviewed articles on preliminary findings on ketogenic diets for some cancers - which supports my point that different cancers will respond differently to different diets, and that diets appropriate for severely pathological states are not the same as those relevant to relatively healthy people.

Also, everyone who debunks The China Study I've read - nutritionists, biochemists, and so forth - advocates more fresh fruits and vegetables (especially vegetables!) than the standard western diet. No one is arguing that a moderate amount of fresh fruit and high quantities of fresh vegetables are not an important part of a healthy diet.

I'm arguing that:
1) the standard western diet is horrible for you (we agree)
2) that animal proteins and fats themselves are not the causation mechanism for the vast majority of the burden of chronic non-infectious disease.
3) that the likely culprits in the standard western diet is excessive saturated fat consumption, poor amount and quality of mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated fatty acids, overly high omega-6/omega-3 ratio, trans fats, added sugar and other sweeteners, low amounts of fresh vegetables and so forth, heavily processed foods, along with lifestyles marked as being sedentary and with high amounts of chronic stress. Plus, you know, fun lifestyle things like excessive alcohol consumption and tobacco use. Oh, and probably things like pesticide exposure, industrial pollutant exposure, exogenous hormones and antibiotics routinely given to animals we then eat, and so on.
4) The way animals are raised contributes to the unhealthiness of the western diet: higher saturated fat, poorer omega-6/omega-3 ratios. Free-range, grass-fed (or other natural diets), antibiotic free, exogenous hormone free, and so forth, are not only more humane, they're healthier. The warnings around eating large amounts of fatty red meat that do hold up to review are almost certainly because commonly available red meat in the western world are fed grains and kept in incredibly confined spaces, and thus have much higher amounts of saturated fat and worse omega-6/omega-3 ratios.
4) a whole foods vegan diet is vastly healthier than the standard western diet; this is not because of the absence of animal proteins and fats, but because of lower consumption of saturated fats, generally better omega-6/omega-3 ratios, absence of trans fats, little to no added sugar, higher amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables.
5) a vegan diet is not *the* optimum for health. It is unlikely that there is a singular diet that is *the* optimum for health. There are micronutrients it doesn't provide, by necessity it must heavily rely on grains and legumes for adequate protein, with their accompanying anti-nutrients making ingested minerals less bioavailable (very well scientifically substantiated) and their likely inflammatory properties in a vast majority of people (ongoing research). I think more research is needed on what the rate limitations of conversion of 18 carbon chain fatty acids to 20 and 22 carbon chain fatty acids are, and also in exactly how semi-conditional taurine requirements are.
5) The phrase "diseases of affluence" is a bit weird. Yes, as the world has become more developed, they have greater preponderance. However, they hit the poor in high-income countries far harder than the rich - see everything else I've said about access to healthful foods. And they hit middle-income countries even worse than high income countries. And, pretty soon, chronic non-infectious disease will pass infectious disease for morbidity and mortality in low-income countries (in some places, they already have). They're more diseases of industrialization leading to unavailability of traditional diets *and* having inadequate resources or access to consume truly healthful food in an industrial society.
6) people shouldn't confuse the ethical argument for veganism with a health argument. On purely health grounds, I think people should adopt a diet drastically different than the standard western diet; I think there's a great diversity of what those diets can consist of (as demonstrated by the great diversity of diets in cultures that traditionally have very low rates of CVD and diabetes). However, I think a diet entirely absent of animal products doesn't maximize health, and is harder to follow.
7) I've noted that everyone I've ever encountered who is vegan for purely health, or more environment-focused reasons, doesn't remain vegan long-term (over the course of years). It's just too strict of a diet that without an animal liberation perspective, it just doesn't end up being worth it to people.

This holds true for other diets that are restrictive in our society. Look at the fad for gluten-free diets - outside of people with wheat allergies, celiac, or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, few people are motivated enough to be totally gluten-free longterm (which is not to say that gluten-free does nothing for the 90-93% of people who don't have a severe issue with gluten, just that restricting it completely is a pretty big thing in our society, and requires a lot of motivation to pull off, motivation that is generally absent long term if you don't have a major gluten tolerance issue). And being absolutely gluten-free doesn't have the same weight put on it that being vegan does - if you eat a pizza one day, it's not like being vegan and having some eggs once in a while (because pretty much everyone will agree that even occasional intentional consumption of animal products is not vegan). Hell, being completely gluten-free is hard for people with celiac, which is a powerful motivation to not consume gluten.

8) As someone who works in healthcare, who will be a primary care provider in a couple of years, I will absolutely advocate to my patients that they should exercise more, reduce consumption of added sugars and saturated fat, reduce consumption of processed foods, eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, increase exercise, don't smoke, limit alcohol consumption, eat higher quality animal products (and go with the absolute leanest cuts if those aren't accessible), limit or eliminate dairy, and so forth. I won't be advocating any highly restrictive diet other than in special cases (in other words, if someone has celiac disease, I will tell them absolutely no gluten). As population health interventions, highly restrictive diets are not going to have high adherence. If a patient tells me they're vegan for ethical reasons, I'm not going to try and convince them otherwise - I'll steer them away from "junk food veganism" and toward supplementation for missing micronutrients. To reiterate, a whole foods vegan diet is vastly healthier than the standard western diet for the majority of people. As someone who is in healthcare, and sees firsthand the ravages the standard western diet is causing, I'm concerned with giving people options that are accessible to them and that are going to be adhered to. I don't think strict diets are that - necessary motivation is a lot higher with strict diets - and we shouldn't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

I'd steer people away from Atkins. I think there are dietary options beyond the standard western diet, veganism, or Atkins.
9) I think the ethical argument for veganism works, given certain assumptions. I don't share those assumptions, but, veganism does follow from them.
10) You hurt your argument for veganism when you make junk science claims about evolutionary biology, physiology, and nutrition. You also hurt the argument when you argue veganism is the only healthy diet. The better argument is that a) vegan diets can be vastly healthier than the standard western diet and then shift to b) ethical reasons.
11) To talk about agricultural lobbies and subsidies, it's not just around animal products. There are massive grain subsidies. Look at corn - it's in everything, it's subsidized, and I don't think anyone who isn't getting directly paid by the industry would say that the addition of high fructose corn syrup to nearly everything processed isn't bad for you.
12) As a socialist, I'm way more concerned about food deserts, the horrible quality of food the US government has distributed to Native American reservations (and, I am not all that familiar with Australia, but there's similar issues there with food access for indigenous communities, I think?), what WIC allows, the artificially low prices of processed food, the high expense of fresh fruits and vegetables, inadequate knowledge of nutrition among primary care providers and how that affects nutritional education, particularly in the working class, and especially in marginalized groups, the effects of CAFOs and other factory farming operations on the environment of communities around them and the horrible working conditions in factory farming, the way patents on life and destructive farming practices forced on them by the overdeveloped world is affecting the underdeveloped world, and so on. Like, really, on a forum where everyone falls under the umbrella of revolutionary socialism (and under an even smaller sub-umbrella of that), the ratio of "debates over veganism" to "all the issues I talked about in this list item" is so high as to be a little depressing.

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Aug 15 2013 13:03
Chilli Sauce wrote:
Operaista for libcom's medical blogger!

I wonder how many regular posters here are in healthcare or closely related fields - I know there are at least a few others.

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Aug 15 2013 14:48

Operista is the man.

Just a quick question though, you don't seem to dwell too much on genetics. Given that humans are capable of living on a quite narrow amount of foods, as some have traditionally done you gave the example of the Inuit, and don't fare so well when moved onto the 'western diet'. There must a at least a contributing genetic factor?

No doubt if I ate nothing but an inuit diet but hail from a lineage that were agriculturalists for 8k years then I would assume I would not do so well.... Some people lack lactase other lack ability to metabolise alcohol well. And given how relatively quickly (evolutionarily speaking) humans can thrive on quite narrow ranges of foodstuffs could it be that there is 'active' evolution going on? That is mutations in the genotype the effect phenotypic changes in digestion metabolism etc (as well as epigenetic effects which is another story!), in humans that run at quite a high rate to accommodate our wandering species?

And given that this is the case there may well be no 'optimum' diet out there?

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Aug 15 2013 14:38
Mr. Jolly wrote:
Operista is the man.

Just a quick question though, you don't seem to dwell too much on genetics. Given that humans are capable of living on a quite narrow amount of foods, as some have traditionally done you gave the example of the Inuit, and don't fare so well when moved onto the 'western diet'. There must a at least a contributing genetic factor?

No doubt if I ate nothing but an inuit diet but hail from a lineage that were agriculturalists for 8k years then I would assume I would not do so well.... Some people lack lactase other lack ability to metabolise alcohol well. And given how relatively quickly (evolutionarily speaking) humans can thrive on quite narrow ranges of foodstuffs could it be that there is 'active' evolution going on? That is mutations in the genotype the effect phenotypic changes in digestion metabolism etc. in humans that run at quite a high rate to accommodate our wandering species?

And given that this is the case there may well be no 'optimum' diet out there?

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/story/2008/05/13/ST20080513...

Quote:
In this case it would be the Nenet paradox. The Nenets, the indigenous reindeer-herding people of this part of Siberia, have a menu that sounds like just the opposite of what the doctor ordered: They eat reindeer meat, most of it raw and frozen. From September to May they eat very little else, apart from the odd piece of raw, preferably frozen, fish. One would think that this extreme protein- and fat-driven diet would lead to a lot of health problems -- obesity, cardiovascular diseases -- but the opposite is true.

"It is my experience that the further away you come from the city centers of the Arctic, the healthier people look," says Lars Kullerud, president of the University of the Arctic, a network of more than 100 universities and colleges. He researches the diets of the region's indigenous people.

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Aug 15 2013 15:14
Quote:
In this case it would be the Nenet paradox. The Nenets, the indigenous reindeer-herding people of this part of Siberia, have a menu that sounds like just the opposite of what the doctor ordered: They eat reindeer meat, most of it raw and frozen. From September to May they eat very little else, apart from the odd piece of raw, preferably frozen, fish.

Thats not what I was asking, this is the flip side of the vegan diet for health argument, seems to be pushing some kind of 'paleo' diet. I was asking whether humans are highly disposed in evolutionary terms to adapting to different foodstuffs.

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Aug 15 2013 15:28
Quote:
Given the amount of peer-reviewed research out there that contradicts Campbell's conclusions

This ties in with the ways in which you talk about nutrition later on in your post.
It's a convention when talking about nutrition to talk about saturated fats, omega 3's, 6's as though they were divorced from the entire foods. We can't do this because we don't eat these things, we eat chicken; we eat bananas; we eat spaghetti. No one has ever eaten a plate of omega 3 or vitamin C - so to advocate for the consumption of certain foods on the basis that they possess some nutrients that are supposed to be good for us, misses a couple of vital points

1) That this fragmentary method of looking at a food's components operates on the assumption that it is the individual vitamins and nutrients that provide health when we eat plant foods. But if this were the case then the same results in health could be observed from a delicately balanced mixture of supplements as the results that ensue from a large consumption of plant foods - I will come to the calorie issue later

2) When we fixate on one or two ostensibly beneficial nutrients, we are likely to overlook those components which are harmful in whatever food it might be in question

3) There is the assumption that we understand the body's activity with any given nutrient. Considering that what the body does with any amount of ingested material is different at any given time based on stress, sleep habits, physical activity and incalculable other factors, a nutrient supplement or recommendation to eat fish based on the same line of thinking, is probably reckless.

A lot of the research out there is making these kinds of mistakes. Of course I'd be able to comment more specifically if I knew which research you were talking about that finds conclusions opposite to that of Campbell.

Pitfalls of fragmented thinking

Quote:
The fragmented view does not so much look at foods as it does their component parts. It also fails to distinguish true well-being from merely looking good, feeling good, or removing symptoms of dis-ease--a grave error.
The fragmented approach extols the virtues of certain nutrients in a "pick-and-choose" fashion-the kind used in infomercial sales pitches. Excellently geared toward selling a specific product, this viewpoint never considers the full story, always omitting material that would give a more balanced view of the situation.
Like a person who makes a decision after listening to only one side in a debate, the fragmented thinker relies on skewed information, and the resulting incomplete picture provides a misunderstanding of nutrition that can only spiral out of control. Using the fragmented approach, if I were concerned about calcium, I would seek out foods high in calcium. I would not likely consider the foods that cause me to lose calcium, or even those that interfere with calcium uptake. I would not research the lifestyle factors that result in calcium losses, nor those that enhance calcium absorption.

Alternatively, I might choose to take calcium supplements, a prime example of fragmented thinking. It is unlikely that I would inquire about any possible adverse effects of consuming too much calcium. Nor would I tend to educate myself about the bioavailability of one form of calcium versus another. Perhaps most important, I would not know to question the wisdom of thinking in terms of isolated nutrients in the first place.
In nature, calcium (and all other nutrients) come packaged in a very precise combination in plant foods, accompanied by hundreds, even thousands, of other micronutrients that are designed to be consumed together. We cannot improve upon Nature's pristine design by extracting and refining one or even a few dozen nutrients-removing them from the cofactors they naturally accompany--and produce a positive result.
What is more, I have heard estimates that scientists today may only have discovered 10% of the nutrients in existence, particularly the so-called phytonutrients. In light of this, we might stop for a moment to wonder: How can any of us claim to have zeroed in on some specific nutrient deficiency and take informed action toward correcting it? It cannot be done intelligently, in my opinion.

The calorie issue about plants you raised..absolutely. There is no way anyone should be content with less than a 500 calorie meal. A sicky feeling of empty, unsatiated and premature fullness comes upon on when we ate greater quantities of fat than a couple of small avocados, so it would indeed be unwise to try to make a meal of them. The denser sweet fruits like Bananas almost match their caloric content with their weight in grams - off the top of my head a kilo is about 920 calories. An important part of the picture is that calorically dense animal foods which are high in prematurely filling fat, do not fill our stomach very much at all. A meal of potatoes of bananas would on the other hand fill the stomach almost to capacity.

I don't know if you saw it or not, I wouldn't blame you for not reading through the whole thread but I've said that healthwise the issue isn't one of vegan, vegetarian or anything like that. To my mind, good health consists in the greater majority of one's calories coming from plants. It does not need to be 100% in order to reap the benefits, only that whatever percentage isn't plants will detract from health rather than contribute to it, but if absence of sickness satisfies a person as a status of health then I doubt very much that less than 10% of calories coming from animal products will present significant health challenges. So we also always agreed that the better shouldn't be the enemy of the best. I don't encourage dietary purism despite my views about animals - as you have more or less pointed out, the feeling of restriction appears to be what causes people to throw up their arms and say "What's the use anyway?", throwing all their positive changes under the bus. Direction is more important than speed except in special cases of urgency like people who are teetering on the cusp of another, potentially fatal coronal event.

edit: I didn't mean to ignore your point about different macronutrient requirements for different lifestyles. Macronutrient ratios shouldn't alter too greatly from person to person, however the calories that an individual would consume would be the relevant variable.
more edit: @lurkers: I find the downvoting of everything I say to be quite petty in character at this stage. Why don't you 'like' concepts that I've spoken about? Also, I struggle to believe, given the length of the last few posts, that people find absolutely everything within them totally disagreeable.

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Aug 15 2013 21:51
jonthom wrote:
Tyrion wrote:
Pointless sadism is obviously nothing to be cheered on, but I really can't say that I care in the least that some cow died in the process of making my cheeseburger. Certainly this animal liberation business has nothing to do with communism, either conceptually or as a social movement. I'm a bit surprised to see people appealing to morality and rights, since both of these are imagined social constructs that serve no purpose other than to give some appearance of objectivity to the social practices one prefers (e.g. I want to live in a society where myself and others can speak freely so therefore there's some "right" to free speech, and I don't want to live in a society where people randomly attack each other so therefore doing so is morally "wrong"). It's very problematic, I think, to act as if asserting that something is moral or immoral or that it's a right or not a right is anything more than a subjective assertion.

arguments like this always confuse me when they come from communists. there's nothing "objective" in the idea that we should produce according to ability and distribute according to need, that we should prevent environmental devastation, that we should care about humanity as a whole (or in fact anyone), that equality is "good" or whatever. "objectively" we're just animate sacks of flesh on a rock in space. anything after that is, at least in part, down to subjective assertions about how society is and how we'd like it to be - ethics in all but name.

I find it quite baffling the way some folks seem to dismiss any mention of ethics or morality out of hand despite their politics being largely a product of rejecting the horrors capitalism has brought humanity and a desire for something better.

Why is that baffling? What do attempts to put an objective spin on one's social preferences (whether it be through appealing to morality, natural rights or law, or whatever else) have to do with wanting communism?

I want to live in a communist society because my loved ones and I would be far more able to enjoy our lives and the world without the enormous restrictions imposed by time spent engaging in wage-labor and the use of price to mediate access to goods and services. But this has nothing to do with communism being "moral" in any sense beyond it being desirable to me and billions of others (within the context of a revolutionary situation).

My point in this case was that saying meat production is no good because it's immoral, or that animals shouldn't be harmed because they have a right not to be, is tautological and a mystified way of saying meat production should be abandoned because it's socially undesirable. There's certainly nothing wrong with taking that view--after all, what better than desires and needs to guide social practices?--but I don't think there's any need to bring in mystical notions like morality and rights and doing so just clouds the whole issue.

jonthom wrote:
I do find sometimes that the more aggressively anti-veggie arguments come across as a bit macho - assertions that one simply doesn't care about the pain of animals (cos REAL MEN don't care about that stuff), patronising comments about "fluffy bunnies" (cos only a silly softie or wuss *would* care about that stuff), etc. Take that as you will.

If this is aimed at me, I think it's totally ridiculous to have been accused a second time now of engaging in some tough guy machismo because I don't feel any sadness or guilt when I eat meat. Yes, I feel sad when I see an animal in pain. I do not, however, see any animals in pain when I eat meat. Nor am I upset by the knowledge that a chicken was killed in the process of producing my lunch, since I don't feel any empathy or sympathy toward farm animals that I've never encountered and have virtually nothing in common with and never will other than being a living being.

I certainly don't think I'm tough or macho for not getting upset whenever I eat pork.

Whether or not one personally eats meat has no effect on the scale and methods of the meat production process, so it's silly to feel any remorse over one's own eating habits.

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Aug 16 2013 15:41
Mr. Jolly wrote:
Operista is the man.

Just a quick question though, you don't seem to dwell too much on genetics. Given that humans are capable of living on a quite narrow amount of foods, as some have traditionally done you gave the example of the Inuit, and don't fare so well when moved onto the 'western diet'. There must a at least a contributing genetic factor?

No doubt if I ate nothing but an inuit diet but hail from a lineage that were agriculturalists for 8k years then I would assume I would not do so well.... Some people lack lactase other lack ability to metabolise alcohol well. And given how relatively quickly (evolutionarily speaking) humans can thrive on quite narrow ranges of foodstuffs could it be that there is 'active' evolution going on? That is mutations in the genotype the effect phenotypic changes in digestion metabolism etc (as well as epigenetic effects which is another story!), in humans that run at quite a high rate to accommodate our wandering species?

And given that this is the case there may well be no 'optimum' diet out there?

Well, it's pretty clear that the standard western diet isn't particularly good for anyone - but the consequences differ a bit in different populations (varying type 2 diabetes rates, varying cardiovascular disease risks, and so forth).

With the Inuit as an extreme example, I think we need a lot more research to know - Inuit do have larger livers and higher urinary output, which is definitely an adaptation to their diet - but how much of that is genetic factors and how much is changes from growing up on the traditional Inuit diet is unknown (and probably very complexly interrelated). Our evidence for non-circumpolar people on the Inuit diet is incredibly limited - a handful of Scandinavian adults spending a long time in the Artic - and it seems they did much better on an Inuit diet (as in, they remained healthy) than a diet entirely of lean protein (but, once again, "rabbit starvation" would mean that even if you were relatively poorly adapted to an Inuit diet, you'd be better off on that diet than one consisting entirely of lean protein).

We definitely have had genetic changes (not huge ones, but some) since the adoption of agriculture - lactase persistence past early childhood is the big one, and most commonly found in populations that have consumed the milk of other animals for a while. There's a lot more that needs to be researched, though. It's also pretty clear that we've been selected for for quite a while to do well on a wide variety of diets.

For instance, there's much different prevalence of type 2 diabetes among different ethnic groups in the US. Now, type 2 diabetes arises through multiple factors (and the development of insulin resistance, the precursor to type 2 diabetes, is likely an attempt by the body to deal with both a caloric excess and an excess of sugar in the bloodstream by consistently preferentially pushing it into fat cells rather than through mitochondria). Rates are much higher among Latin@ people in the US, African-Americans, and Native Americans. A great deal of this is socioeconomic factors, and even controlling for socioeconomic status and diet, we would have greater chronic stress due to systemic racism. And chronic stress leads to elevated cortisol, which leads to elevated blood sugar, which leads to insulin resistance. Chronic stress doesn't equal type 2 diabetes, but it's definitely a contributing factor (as well as a contributing factor to a number of other chronic non-infectious diseases. The health benefits of controlling stress levels are inarguable). We know that family history impacts type 2 diabetes rates, so there is a genetic link, but we haven't determined the precise genes, so we can't evaluate whether whatever genes are contributing factors are more common in specific populations - and what those genes do in environments that don't predispose people to type 2 diabetes.

Celiac is also really interesting - we know exactly what genes are needed to predispose one to it (if you don't have those genes, you can have a wheat allergy or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, but not celiac) and we know that increased permiability of the intestine is necessary so that the immune system can be exposed to gluten. What isn't perfectly understood is the exact environmental contributions - though breastfeeding seems to be protective against it, particularly introducing gluten before weaning (a good example of this is Sweden- rates went way up when it was advocated that gluten not be introduced until after weaning). There's also some interesting research being done on differences in gut flora between celiacs and non-celiacs. I think research into our internal biome is going to have big implications on how we view health and diet in general.

What's also interesting is that celiac is most common in people of European descent - Irish and Italians are particular populations with high rates, and at least for people on the Italian peninsula, wheat has been a staple part of the diet for a long time. And celiac is more common in the US than elsewhere, and rates are rising (and not just due to better diagnosis). There's the theory that our wheat has more gluten, it could be differences in breastfeeding rates...but genes for celiac very likely showing up more in European populations is really interesting (and leads me to conjecture that for the vast majority of people with the gene who don't develop celiac disease, that there was some sort of benefit to it at some point).

I definitely agree there's no singular optimum diet (in that we could come up with one meal plan for everyone), I think the best we can do is narrow down more what the dietary risk factors are for various conditions, check for confounding variables, and make recommendations for a range of diets that would provide for much better health than the majority diet in the overdeveloped world now. And also emphasize the other environmental factors involved (and how they influence how diet should be addressed). Also, I think following an overly strict diet all the time saps a lot of the joy out of life - we don't make food decisions purely on physical health, and obsession over every little thing we eat is another source of stress. And I think people need to individually pick their battles - given my personal response to gluten, avoiding it very strictly is worth it. Ice cream is certainly not a healthy food, but, you know, I still have some on special occasions. And that's individual to me.

And I think our understanding of diet and its impact on health is going to grow by leaps and bounds, and I think part of that will be everyone's biases being challenged at some point.

EDIT: I misspoke, confusing the Swedish situation (skyrocketing celiac in children born in the 80s and 90s correlated to the recommendation to not introduce gluten until after weaning) with Karelia, where the Finns have higher rates of autoimmune diseases such as Type I diabetes and allergies compared to Russians, despite being the same genetic pool; the Russian Karelian environment provides exposure to a greater number and variety of bacteria.

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Aug 15 2013 16:46

Kureigo-San wrote:

Quote:
3) There is the assumption that we understand the body's activity with any given nutrient. Considering that what the body does with any amount of ingested material is different at any given time based on stress, sleep habits, physical activity and incalculable other factors, a nutrient supplement or recommendation to eat fish based on the same line of thinking, is probably reckless.

Wait, when have I ever denied a holistic view? We're getting better at knowing why the standard western diet is bad for our health (in ways that a wide variety of traditional diets aren't), and we can look for what differences we can identify...and then you experiment. Advocating for increased consumption of whole foods, consumption from sources that are themselves healthy, and avoidance of heavily processed foods is based, in part, on recognizing that we absolutely don't know everything about nutrition, and we should hedge our bets by eating whole foods.

Also, I know all about how lab-created mixes of micro and macro-nutrients are in general inferior to whole foods - in hospitalized patients, we keep their diet as close to whole foods as is safe. We strongly prefer people eating actual food by mouth, if people can't take sufficient calories by mouth, we then use tubes to get a thick liquid diet to various parts of the digestive system (either the stomach or the beginning of the small intestine). Only if the digestive system can't handle adequate caloric intake do we start to put nutrients directly into the bloodstream, and only if the digestive system can't be used at all do we put in everything through the bloodstream. And there's a huge degree of recognition that giving all nutrition that way is very, very non-ideal - for one, even in non-diabetics, glucose intolerance develops, and insulin is often needed. See here, also note that with TPN we don't have the option of buffering the acidity of protein (grains are also acidic) with alkalinity from fruits and vegetables, so our acceptable range for protein is smaller, long term (we need to avoid protein deficiency, but also want to avoid excess calcium being taken out of the bone to help buffer acidity).

And how is a blanket recommendation of "all animal products are bad for you" not an extreme version of what you're arguing against here? Fish is a particularly egregious example, because everyone from paleo diet advocates, to Mediterranean diet advocates, to the current ultra-mainstream diets advocated by public health agencies and major healthcare organizations are all about oily fish as a protein source. The consensus on oily fish as a good choice as part of a healthy diet is at the level of broccoli or brussel sprouts.

We can reasonably surmise that prior to the development of agriculture (studies of contemporary hunter-gatherers, isotype studies of remains), most genetically modern human populations got a majority of their calories from animal sources. I would imagine that a caloric input from animal sources of 10% or less was rare to nonexistent. Given the well-documented dietary adaptability of humans, ethnographic and physical anthropological studies of contemporary and historic hunter-gatherers, and the comparatively short time since the advent of agriculture and whatever changes that selected for, claiming that animal products are universally unhealthy is an extraordinary claim, which requires extraordinary evidence.

Oh, and the fact that fat gives a feeling of satiety - probably why people lose more weight on lower carb diets and keep more of it off for a year than they do on low fat diets (and, yes, they found that people cheated on Atkins (they cheated on all the diets), and ate more like 150g of carbohydrates (600 calories from carbohydrates) a day. I'd prefer that people just plan on a far more reasonable than Atkins carbohydrate load (and I don't think carbohydrates that low have any long-term benefit in most people), and then plan healthy sources into their diet, rather than cheat on whatever sweets are available). Satiety is the entire point, and a big part of why there's a caloric excess in the standard western diet - it combines high caloric density with a lot of added sugar and excessively processed carbohydrate sources (alternated with a lot of the bad fat!) - it's a recipe to not feel satiated at sufficient calories, but to eat excess calories and put an incredible glycemic load on the body. We certainly can handle a pretty wide range of food volumes - but we do have a good bit of adaptation to higher caloric density. The fact that fats make you feel satiated is a feature, not a bug.

And you're still sticking with the idea that everyone is universally wrong about dietary fat requirements, and that aiming for the absolute lowest level of protein consumption to prevent malnutrition in a sedentary person is desirable. You're not even arguing for a healthily-designed vegan diet at this point, because I've never seen any vegan dietitians argue for protein and fat as low as you're advocating for.

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Aug 15 2013 21:40

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Aug 15 2013 21:42

I can't see the image I posted; I tried changing it around. Is it broken or what?

[Edit: Never mind.]

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Aug 15 2013 21:50
Quote:
No one has ever eaten a plate of omega 3 or vitamin C

Maybe not. But in my high school there was a trend of folks buying powered vitamin C to snort to get a buzz. True story.

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Aug 15 2013 23:30

operaista wrote:

Quote:
the likely culprits in the standard western diet is excessive saturated fat consumption, poor amount and quality of mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated fatty acids, overly high omega-6/omega-3 ratio, trans fats,..

The way animals are raised contributes to the unhealthiness of the western diet: higher saturated fat, poorer omega-6/omega-3 ratios.

The warnings around eating large amounts of fatty red meat that do hold up to review are almost certainly because commonly available red meat in the western world are fed grains and kept in incredibly confined spaces, and thus have much higher amounts of saturated fat and worse omega-6/omega-3 ratios.

a whole foods vegan diet is vastly healthier than the standard western diet; this is not because of the absence of animal proteins and fats, but because of lower consumption of saturated fats, generally better omega-6/omega-3 ratios, absence of trans fats,

Are you saying these things because you believe the diet-heart hypothesis ‘if people eat too much saturated fat the level of ‘cholesterol’ in their blood will rise’, you seem to have quite a few of its adaptations in there, or are you relating dietary fat to cancer?

As I'm sure you know, there is no structural similarity at all between Acetyl CoA, the building block of cholesterol, and any form of fat. It has a bunch of ring structures none of which are found in fats. as well as nitrogen, phosphorous and sulphur, the constituents of proteins not fats. Although the liver is an amazing processor and can convert almost any chemical into another, the synthesis of cholesterol doesn’t involve any kind of fat at any stage. The newspeak for cholesterol within the latest of the many incarnations of this undying hypothesis, is low density lipoproteins, a pretty little entity to be sure but same problem of how eating saturated fat raises LDL levels, since most dietary fat is transported inside chylomicrons straight to fat cells and any fats getting to the liver are not involved in cholesterol synthesis.

Given the liver’s huge processing capabilities, after the body’s 2000 calorie limit for storing glucose has been reached and the liver begins converting the excess into fatty tissue, why doesn’t it make supposedly healthier unsaturated fats rather than producung exclusively the hypothetically deadly saturated ones? Would you agree that a diet high in any form of fat has no causal relationship with blood cholesterol which itself has no bearing on CVD anyway since ‘high cholesterol levels’ don’t cause heart disease?

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Aug 16 2013 08:52
Chilli Sauce wrote:
Quote:
No one has ever eaten a plate of omega 3 or vitamin C

Maybe not. But in my high school there was a trend of folks buying powered vitamin C to snort to get a buzz. True story.

Are you one of those people who always stands on the sidelines of interesting conversations interjecting with nonsense?

I hate that. Especially when it's an attempt to undermine someone for no good reason.

Anyway operaista it seems that your main issue with what I've said is the idea that 10% or less protein, all from plants, isn't sufficient for a serious athlete. I have to go into explaining that the amount of attention given to protein in the first place is largely a product of hype. Our protein needs are way overstated, by all official organisations.

Human breast milk's protein content is usually between 2.5 to 3.5 percent - considering that this is sufficient for a baby during the period of the most explosive growth they will ever do, we have to wonder why there are people recommending 20%+ of total calories as protein. Protein is of course important but getting enough protein is the same thing as getting enough calories.

You mentioned protein deficiency. What is protein deficiency as distinct from calorie deficiency, in your view?

radicalgraffiti
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Aug 16 2013 12:51

milk is mostly water

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Operaista
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Aug 16 2013 14:31

Actually, I agree that overall level of dietary cholesterol influences blood cholesterol levels by about .5%, and that the cholesterol causes heart disease chain doesn't work (whereas I think poor ratios of blood lipids as a marker of a pathological process, not the cause, is more likely). And that the data only supports saturated fat leading to short term elevation, not long term, anyway.

I'm saying the problem with the standard western diet's fat content is not the amount, nor the presence of any particular fat, but rather that ratios of fat are imbalanced, making the diet inflammatory - there's a severe excess of omega-6 to omega-3. As to saturated fats, I don't think they need to be excessively limited - but even though traditional diets contained more animal fat than our diet, there was less saturated fat. Significance of that health-wise as opposed to the omega-6/omega-3 imbalance? I don't think we're sure if it is significant or how. I do think, that with the foods available to us, that we should eat more omega-3s (and get a good bit of them from animal sources) and less omega-6s, and we'll happen to have less saturated fat in our diet (which may not be all that significant, and isn't the goal we're going for). The fats we clearly should not have in our diet are transfats. I also advocate against very low fat diets (or obsessive counting of macronutrients or calories). I brought up the IOM's recommendations not because I totally agree with them (though I agree that the bottom range is the absolute minimum fat that the body *needs* to keep going - I think the top end of their range is low, because I think fat ratios matter far more than fat amounts), but to point out the claim of 10% of caloric intake as fat would be viewed as drastically too low by any person or group who is *at all* reputable in nutrition.

Moving on to Kureigo-San:

As to breast milk...you do realize that caloric intake is drastically higher in infants, and that the primary caloric source in breast milk is fat, and that breast milk composition varies greatly over the course of lactation. Infants need tons of calories and nervous system development is undergoing an explosion (high fat requirement). Infants and small children have higher protein needs per kilogram than adults or older children.

Quote:
There is no singular standard for breast-milk composition. Total protein varies markedly as a function of the duration of lactation, providing from > 2 g/kg to the infant in the first weeks of life to ≈1.15 g/kg at 4 mo. During the same time, the whey-to-casein ratio changes from 80:20 in colostrum to 60:40 in term milk and is even lower in late-lactation milk (4). The different digestibility and kinetics of absorption of amino acids from casein and whey proteins (5) and the different amino acid composition of these fractions means that the protein nutriture of breastfed infants is continuously changing.

From here. Also, all the proteins in breast milk are animal proteins! And while protein needs as a function of weight go down (especially in sedentary individuals) in adulthood, how we metabolize protein doesn't drastically change (in the sense that animal proteins wouldn't go from "good" to "bad). Also, do you have a single scientific study or source that intense physical activity (which requires additional maintenance of muscle tissues, for one thing) doesn't impact protein needs? On differing macronutrient needs for different lifestyles, do you know the glycolytic pathway and why it would be more stressed in an athlete than in an entirely sedentary person? Do you know how exercise affects insulin sensitivity?

I was really charitable about how I read your comment about micronutrients and composition of foodstuffs. I read it as "I don't think we know everything about micronutrients so whole foods are best rather than processing micronutrients out of them and then enriching them" (which I agree with) rather than "detailed knowledge of nutrition is impossible, as it unknowable" which I absolutely disagree with, and makes nutrition sound like faith rather than science. You don't seem to want to talk about the nuts and bolts of nutrition (your arguments boil down to "low protein, ultra-low fat diets consisting entirely of plants are best because they're the best"), don't provide good (or generally any) support for your claims that are outside of the broad consensus on nutrition. Yes, my views are closer to Loren Cordain than the low fat/decrease animal products diets pushed super hard up until recently (and I think the general consensus in the healthcare field is getting far more reasonable on fat), but I recognize that when everyone, with otherwise wildly differing interpretations of data, agrees on something, that something is most likely very rock solid.

I definitely think people should get everything they need from diet; I also believe in hedging my bets with appropriate supplementation and that in actual cases of deficiency, supplementary micronutrients are very valuable.

In the spirit of remaining charitable in my interpretations, since you know the cure for *all* the cancers, to ask a very heavily micronutrient-oriented question - what would you recommend for someone who has megaloblastic anemia and neurological symptoms from B-12 deficiency?

On protein deficiency distinct from caloric deficiency: there are twenty amino acids we use. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins - which make up enzymes, important structures in the cell, are a major component of muscle, and they're necessary to repair tissue and maintain fluid balance, beyond their use as an energy source. 9 out of the 20 amino acids we cannot synthesize - we must get them from dietary sources. Without those 9 amino acids, enzymes can't be made, cellular structures cannot be made, muscle wastes away, you can't repair damage to the body, and you can't even keep fluid in your blood vessels. No matter how many calories you consume, if you have an insufficient dietary intake of the nine essential amino acids, symptoms of protein deficiency will occur because you can't produce enzymes, can't make new cells, can't maintain muscle, can't repair damage, and can't prevent fluid from leaking from the bloodstream. Early on, your body is going to catabolize what it sees as non-essential protein containing tissues to use the protein for more essential processes - which is why in severe caloric restriction, AIDS related wasting, and so on, skeletal muscle is lost - it's less important than maintaining metabolic processes or the muscle of say, the heart. Eventually things like the heart will be damaged, though.

This is why there is an absolute minimum protein intake, independent from calories, necessary to sustain life. This is also covered in the most introductory of nutrition courses, and anyone who has studied any cellular biology or biochemistry should be familiar with amino acid synthesis reactions and what an essential amino acid is. Obviously, since most foods contain protein, protein deficiency is more frequent with caloric deficiency, but it's certainly possible to get adequate (or even excessive) calories and be protein deficient. It's unlikely with a decently varied diet to get protein below survival needs in a healthy adult. It is common in the elderly, however, who have decreased appetite and tend to eat less protein rich foods - I see markers of inadequate protein consumption (blood work and physical signs) in elderly patients all the time.

All animal protein sources contain essential amino acids in the ratio we need them (because other animals need amino acids in the same proportions we do); plant sources do not contain all the essential amino acids in the proportions we need; however, different plant protein sources have different limiting essential amino acids (the essential amino acid that is severely limited in that source), which is why people who get all or a vast majority of their protein from plant sources must vary those protein sources (not necessarily at the same meal, but regularly).