Tag Archives: nutrition

The Barriers We Confront

ImageInfrequently, I will receive an email that I feel is so far beyond comment that it should be discarded as merely written by detractors. But, it is this very type of correspondence that reminds me of the daunting task at hand, because similar to the person who contacted me with the email below, the vast majority of individuals in the world today have at least some barrier which impedes them from becoming aware and adopting the healthiest dietary regimen—consuming only plant based foods.

First let’s look at his comments posted on our Comfortably Unaware Facebook page as well as on my blog site:

John Wadford RD/PHD commented on Not Entirely Perfect in “The Land of Oz”.

“Actually Dairy and meat are healthy for us and not bad. Moderation is the key because if you over-eat thats when you get obese. No diseases are linked to meat or animal products. Thats a vegan lie and myth. Quit being a liar and saying meat and animal products are bad. I have taken numerous nutrition courses and I know whats good and bad. Limit carbs and junk food and fast food. You will be fine. Eat red meat twice a week and other days eat lean chicken and fish. Been proven very healthy. Eat veggies and fruits as sides/snacks.”

And my response:

I am pleased to see your correspondence, Dr. Wadford, because it brings to light interrelated issues for me along this journey. One is just how difficult my mission can be while disseminating information about the reality of our food choices. With your comments, we are witnessing a seemingly intelligent, learned individual such as yourself (“RD, PhD”), who somehow has missed the boat with the thousands of peer reviewed articles, studies, findings, and conclusions of scientists worldwide for the past 40 years as well as the position statements of every health organization in the world today that now recognize the benefits of a plant based diet.

Since you are an RD, and assuming that refers to a Registered Dietician (having, as you stated, “taken numerous nutrition courses” and “know what’s good and bad”), I thought I would provide you with the Position Statement of the American Dietetic Association, the governing body for licensing of at least one of your credentials, copied from their Journal published three years ago. This Position Statement is essentially the same statement they had initially made six years earlier that I’m sure you have seen, and one that every RD should certainly already be familiar with:

“It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Vegetarian diets are often associated with a number of health advantages, including lower blood cholesterol levels, lower risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure levels, and lower risk of hypertension and type 2 diabetes. Vegetarians tend to have a lower body mass index (BMI) and lower overall cancer rates. Vegetarian diets tend to be lower in saturated fat and cholesterol, and have higher levels of dietary fiber, magnesium and potassium, vitamins C and E, folate, carotenoids, flavonoids, and other phytochemicals. These nutritional differences may explain some of the health advantages of those following a varied, balanced vegetarian diet. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes. A vegetarian diet is defined as one that does not include meat (including fowl) or seafood, or products containing those foods.” J Am Diet Assoc. 2009;109:1266-1282.

Some of the many obvious questions and suggestions that arise for me following the reading of your comments are (with an honest attempt at subduing any sarcasm):

  1.  What educational institutions were you attending and what subjects were you studying to have information such as found in the above Position Statement overlooked?
  2.  It seems that before you would accuse a researcher such as me, as a “liar” and “spreading vegan myths”, and you make rash and blatantly false statements such as “no diseases are linked to meat or animal products” you should do some homework on the updated subject (although even in Plato’s era 2,000 to 3,000 years ago, it was known that eating only plant based foods was much healthier than the raising and killing of animals for their ‘Republic’).
  3.  Your comment to “eat red meat twice a week and other days eat lean chicken and fish. You’ll be fine. Been proven very healthy”, indicates to me that you and those with similar thoughts need to rethink how you are approaching your own eating habits let alone those of others, and make a solid attempt at enlightening yourselves to the origins of your food choices—and the ill effects on our planet, animals, and ourselves. This will obviously require a serious reconstructing of those factors that influence you and your decision-making—all those cultural or emotional hurdles that haven’t allowed you to see clearly or be open to what is in front of you (ie. reread the Oz blog now and try to view it more correctly as reality instead of propaganda and you will learn something valuable and meaningful).
  4.  Remember that it is not just human health that I am concerned about and therefore am conveying—it is the health of our planet, our resources, and all life we share this Earth with as well.

Even the overtly sluggish and highly political USDA has had to succumb to the preponderance of evidence of the many health benefits of a purely plant based diet. On June 2, 2011, they introduced a version of the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine’s vegan dietary guidelines with the Food Plate—leaving “dairy” off the plate, demoted to a small peripheral position, and completely replacing “meat and seafood” with the section called “protein” which more appropriately guides U.S. citizens toward healthier plant based alternatives.

Remember, Dr. Wadford, that the evidence had to be so overwhelming for the USDA to ignore its strong political ties to the meat, dairy, and fishing industries in order to recommend this new plant based food plate.

Yet, somewhere along the way, you and all other like minded registered dieticians, physicians, educators, authors, politicians, organizations, media, and general public have allowed some other form of influence—most likely cultural, social, and psychological—to suppress the overwhelming abundance of facts and findings that from a human health standpoint, eating animal products carries with it a significant risk of contracting any or all of the four most common diseases in our country (coronary heart disease, malignancies, cerebrovascular disease, and diabetes) as well as any one of the five most common cancers (colon, lung, breast, pancreatic, and prostate) as well as numerous other disease states and precursors such as hypertension and obesity.  Once again, this is not my opinion—it reflects the findings and opinions of every major health organization in the world.

The blog I posted about Dr. Oz that elicited your comments also made it clear that even if eating animals were healthy for us (which, obviously is a myth), it is not healthy at all for our environment—grass fed/pastured or not. It is also not healthy for the other species of living things lost along the way (livestock are implicated in over 50% of all lost biodiversity including 30,000 newly extinct animal species per year) or for the animals raised in the process.  Even if livestock are raised “humanely,” they are still slaughtered—which, for all but the anthropocentric, could only be considered entirely inhumane if not barbaric.

Since there are very few who understand the argument of how our demand to eat animals—whether in factory farm settings or not—adversely impacts our planet, it becomes more of the focal point of my lectures, blogs, and books. I happen to call it Global Depletion, but it is essentially about sustainability. Eating animals is simply not sustainable. I have recently introduced and am now advocating use of the term relative sustainability because raising, slaughtering, and eating billions animals factually uses resources, some irreversibly, that we can ill afford to lose—and there are many plant based options that are much kinder to our planet. So while I pointed out that Dr. Oz needs to reevaluate his advocating beef and fish from a human health standpoint, it was also from an ecological point of view that he has never favorably or correctly positioned in the equation. All the facts and figures related to Global Depletion can be found in my first book, Comfortably Unaware and in my lectures, found at www.ComfortablyUnaware.com, –which, once more, are factual reflections of the state of our planet—not simply my opinion.

And lastly to what can be seen as your lack of understanding or appreciation for the overall intent of the Dr. Oz blog, as being one component of the larger picture of my incentive to increase awareness. My objective with that particular blog and in general is quite simple—to provide a healthier and more peaceful food choice path for everyone. It is not about creating arguments or debates. However, it is also not about supporting an archaic animal based food production system purely because of universally found and culturally influenced myopia. Quite simply, eating animals IN ANY FASHION uses too much land, energy, and water, creates unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions, is responsible for a massive loss of biodiversity, plays a significant role in world hunger, and justifies the inhumane slaughtering of billions of animals annually—all while increasing the risk of contracting many disease states after consumption. This is not about generating debates where one faction is ill informed and emotionally driven, it’s about perpetuating a better way for all of us, including you, to eat and live.

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to further assess the barriers we confront while inspiring others to become aware.

Dr. O

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Not Entirely Perfect in “The Land of Oz”

Mehmet Oz, “Dr. Oz” of current media fame and respected talk show host, has brought to light numerous important topics related to our health and medicine. For this, he is to be commended. However, because he and his show have reached such superstar status, it is imperative that the crucial message about what food we eat be truly accurate—on all counts. This, then, would mandate him giving equal time to the negative impact eating all animal products has on our health and that of our planet. This, unfortunately, has not been the case.

Just one of many examples of this informational imbalance was seen with Time magazine and its September 12, 2011 issue, where the front cover displayed the title, “What to Eat Now, uncovering the myths about food, by Dr. Oz.” As a “Special Nutrition Issue” and read by minimally 25 million people globally, I had hoped that full enlightenment and complete accuracy would be the objective.  At the onset, Dr. Oz stated, “You’ll like some of the insights, and you won’t like others. Unlike fads and fashions, the facts aren’t going anywhere soon.” With this introduction, he then proceeds to tell us “Want to get healthy, then tuck into some eggs, whole milk, salt, fat…”

Unfortunately, this is not true for our health, nor is it true for the environment. He stresses “moderation” with advice of consuming “two servings of dairy, 18 oz. of red meat” as being “healthy” but more than that, it will “deny you the benefits of getting more of your protein from fish.” Our food choices are inextricably connected to our planet’s resources and to ourselves. Discussions of any sort then, let alone with this scale of audience, should never separate what we eat from the comprehensiveness of its impact. So someone should remind Dr. Oz that all dairy products have been implicated in numerous disease states in addition to simply “weight gain” (the only effect he mentioned) and the same is true of all other animal products. Eating meat contributes to a 27% increase risk of obesity. (Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: Diets High in Meat Consumption Associated With Obesity, September 2009, “International Journal of Obesity”: Meat Consumption is Associated With Obesity and Central Obesity among U.S. Adults: Youfa Wang, et. al. June 2009)

Additionally, the entire article missed the crucial point of the effect our food choices have on our resources. It really doesn’t matter what impact “18 oz. of red meat” will have on us if it is destroying the planet by way of land and water use, pollution, and loss of other species on earth, does it? And guiding readers from red meat to consuming fish for “getting more of your protein” because they are “rich in omega 3 fatty acids” is simply furthering the false belief that animal products are the only healthy source of protein—which, they are not even one “healthy” source of protein. By making these statements, Dr. Oz also is perpetuating the unnecessary continued ravaging of our oceans and their ecosystems. We do not need fish for their “protein”, and we do not need them for omega 3 fatty acids. On the other hand, we do need plants and microalgae for their protein, omega three fatty acids, phytonutrients, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and for their lack of saturated fat, cholesterol, and for not inflicting a detrimental impact on our oceans. With his television show and many public appearances, Dr. Oz has enlightened millions of viewers about health and medicine. For the most part, this has been a positive addition to what our entertainment driven (and influenced) culture offers. However, this recent and extremely visible article in Time magazine did little to move our country or the world in the correct and healthier direction toward a fully plant based diet. Let’s make sure the realities of our food choices are fully known—here, or in the Land of Oz.

Please read other examples of filtered information derived from those with public platforms in Chapter IX. “Tread Lightly” of my book Comfortably Unaware, and then inspire others to become aware!   Dr. O

Depletion of Our Own Health-an overview

Although I could write a new blog every day, continuously, about nutrition and the health benefits of a plant-based diet, I thought it best to simply intersperse one every now and then amongst those that I write about our environment. Here is the first of many,  that I promise to spread out a bit, related to depletion of our own health—or, what I refer to as “Why Do We Do It?”

Eating animal products are implicated as a leading risk factor in ALL four of leading causes of death in the U.S. today—coronary heart disease, malignancies, cerebrovascular disease, and diabetes. Looking at just one of these conditions, there are over 26 million people suffering from diabetes in our country, with another 80 million pre-diabetics. Eating solely a plant-based diet has been shown to significantly reduce your risk in contracting any of these four disease states. Certainly there are some very specific cases of each of these diseases that have causes not so much related to diet such as familial hypercholesterolemia and even some rare forms of cancers such as rhabdomyosarcoma, various glioblastomas, etc. However, the vast majority of all those individuals suffering from any of the four most prevalent diseases (including the five leading causes of cancer—colon, lung, breast, prostate, pancreas) could have reduced their risk of contracting it, very possibly can treat and reverse the disease, reduce or eliminate health care costs associated with the disease, and carry out a more productive, healthier, and happier lifestyle—all by eating a plant-based diet.

It is undeniably true.

Although I began lecturing and writing about this fact more than 35 years ago when documentation was scarce but available, today there are exhaustive amounts of studies, publications, and books written that demonstrate this. The scientific literature is replete with  documentation showing that a purely plant-based diet is healthier for you. Because of this, nearly all of the largest health organizations in the world have now included some form of a statement reflecting their acknowledgement.  This includes the American Dietetic Association, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, American Academy of Pediatrics, and many others. Of course, then, the question becomes: why do so many of our ‘experts’, those formally trained or working in related occupations, fail to recognize, recommend, prescribe, or otherwise speak up and teach these irrefutable findings that their very own organizations acknowledge? The answer lies buried in layers upon layers of powerful influences—cultural, educational, political, social, and even from the media we are so constantly exposed to. . Nevertheless, it needs to clearly understood, that the link today between eating animal products, grass/pasture fed or not, and contracting many different diseases is as strongly supported by scientific literature and case studies as the link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer. By the way, I almost forgot to ask…do you smoke cigarettes?

So, in summary, what we all choose to eat, if it involves animal products (and whether immediately recognized by you or not), is depleting your own health, implicated in all of the most common diseases in developed countries, costs hundreds of billions of dollars unnecessarily spent each year on health care, and is not at all being correctly addressed. It does not have to be this way. Think…”smoke free environment”…businesses, restaurants, buildings, schools, homes…

More insights  in “Comfortably Unaware”, Chapter VIII “Why do we do it? A word about nutrition—do you really care?”

The Real Cost of Organic Food

When discussions arise about how expensive it currently is for the U.S. consumer to purchase organic food, I would suggest viewing it with a more comprehensive perspective.

Let me explain…

Latest statistics reveal that organic produce typically costs the end-user/consumer between 10-40% more than its counterpart grown conventionally. Knowing that this is simply the “price” of the produce, I think it is crucial that all consumers understand there are two other major factors involved that should always be taken into consideration when buying organic plant-based foods. One factor is what I would call the actual calories used issue. This refers to the fact that the U.S. wastes approximately 30% of all food from the point of production through to the plate of those eating it. For me, this actual calories used issue also can refer to the fact that the typical individual in the U.S. consumes between 185 and 336 calories per day more than we did 40 years ago. On average, instead of consuming 2,000 to 2,800 kcal per day, to maintain a healthy weight to height ratio (obviously these numbers would be slightly higher or lower relative to other factors such as one’s age, gender, lifestyle/activity level, etc.), we are essentially taking in kilocalories at a rate whereby one to two pounds can easily be gained per person per week, hence our national obesity issue. So here we can see that per person in the U.S. there is on average 15% more calories eaten per day than is necessary as well as up to 30% food loss occurring as waste. This combination of food wasted and overeating, the actual calories used issue, should then be compared to the 10-40% increased price of organic food. Go ahead and purchase organic produce, but simply do not waste it or eat more than your body needs per day.

The other primary factor which must always be considered when viewing the price of organic produce is exactly what the real cost savings are to our environment and our own health. It is well-known now that organic produce, especially when compared to non organic or organic animal products/meat, is less costly to our planet–saving valuable resources such as our atmosphere, fossil fuels, water, land, biodiversity, rainforests, and others. When compared to any type of animal product, organic plant-based foods are much less costly to our own health as they substantially reduce our risk of the four leading causes of death (coronary heart disease, malignancies, cerebrovascular disease, and diabetes). Eating organic plant-based foods would cost our nation approximately $145 billion less per year in health care (Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, CDC). The difficulty is that these real cost savings have not yet been accounted for in our agricultural systems. Proper government incentives and subsidies have not been established to help reduce production costs of organic plant-based foods. Less than 1% of the 2009 Farm Bill was paid to plant-based food producers while $6.6 billion or 75% of farm subsidies has been paid to support the meat and dairy industries. We need to keep in mind that an additional $750 million was also paid by our government in 2009 to support the fishing industry, which just furthers the incentives to overfish and exploit already depleted fishing stocks (of which, 70% of all fish species are already overexploited). These major factors must always be taken into consideration when paying a slightly higher price for organic plant-based foods. Very soon the prices will come down… there simply will be no other choice as we evolve.

More of this topic can be explored, along with my thoughts on mandating a food “Eco-Tax” and “Health-Risk Tax”, in my book “Comfortably Unaware: Global Depletion and Food Choice Responsibility” which can be previewed at www.comfortablyunaware.com .