Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Yippee-Kai-Yay: the research shows...

The "red meat tied to cancer" story has certainly swept the news industry. I like this story about the reaction of Saskatchewan cattle ranchers to the new study:

Ed Bothner, president of the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association, questions those findings.

"There's societies that eat three to four times as much red meat or three to four times as much beef as we do," Bothner told CBC News. "And I can remember in my lifetime when our per capita consumption in Canada was over 100 pounds. Right now it is lower than 50, so I don't think it's the consumption of red meat, per se, that's the problem."

Joe Kleinsasser, the chairman of SaskPork, said that when he heard about the study, his first reaction was to dismiss it.

"These studies are a dime a dozen," Kleinsasser said. "One day eggs are bad for you, the next day you can't eat enough of them."

I'm sorry dude - BUT WHERE IN THE HELL are people eating three to four times more red meat than North Americans? That's goddamned ludicrous. And the other guy is priceless as well... these studies are a dime a dozen.... Yeah I know. Troll through the archives of this blog... there is NO END to the amount of research saying Whatever the f*&^k you do, don't eat red meat!


Wow - am I the only one who completely missed this Pew Commission Report that came out in April 2008?

Pew Commission Says Industrial Scale Farm Animal Production Poses “Unacceptable” Risks to Public Health, Environment

Washington, DC - 04/29/2008 - The current industrial farm animal production (IFAP) system often poses unacceptable risks to public health, the environment and the welfare of the animals themselves, according to an extensive 2½-year examination conducted by the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production (PCIFAP), in a study released today.

Commissioners have determined that the negative effects of the IFAP system are too great and the scientific evidence is too strong to ignore. Significant changes must be implemented and must start now. And while some areas of animal agriculture have recognized these threats and have taken action, it is clear that the industry has a long way to go.


I found the Pew Commission report while scanning through the references at the end of this article:

Common Foods and Farming Methods Thought to Promote Health: What the Data Show
Primary Care: Clinics in Office Practice - Volume 35, Issue 4 (December 2008)
John Chahbazi, MD & Shelly Grow, MS

If you don't have access to the journal "Primary Care" shoot me an email (check my profile) and I'll see if I can send you a copy.

Here are some exerpts:

On how hard it is to figure out what the healthiest diets are, when our whole lifestyle is so sick

Even if the POEMs needed for evidence-based dietary counseling and farming practice recommendations are available, there is the difficulty of applying proven interventions to a population that has such a high rate of lifestyle-associated disease. This is a population that has continued to gain weight and become diabetic at ever-increasing rates in the face of improved food label reading and dietary changes as reported in Healthy People 2010. Trying for different results while maintaining the basic elements of a lifestyle that already has caused poor health could explain why only a small portion of proven dietary interventions have been shown to improve long-term health or longevity.

Quote from Diet for a New America on the benefits of adopting a vegetarian diet

“The effects on our physical health are immediate. The incidence of cancer and heart attack, the nation's biggest killers, drops precipitously. So do many other diseases now demonstrably and causally linked to consumption of animal proteins and fats, such as osteoporosis … hormonal imbalances causing miscarriages and aberrations of sexual development similarly drop away, as we cease ingesting with our meat, poultry and milk the drugs pumped into our livestock. So do the neurologic disorders and birth defects due to pesticides and other chemicals, as we begin to eat lower on the food chain where the poisons are far less concentrated … We find that the grain we previously fed to fatten livestock can now feed five times the U.S. population; so we have been able to alleviate malnutrition and hunger on a worldwide scale … We find ourselves also relieved of fear. For on a semiconscious level we knew all along that the old disparities in consumption were turning our planet into a tinder box, breeding resentments and desperations that could only eventuate in war.”

On the blood type diets like Eat Right for Your Type

Blood-type diets claiming benefits from different dietary components based on genotypes[37] are dismissed commonly as baseless theory.[38] Evidence is scarce and limited to secondary prevention. The most interesting study showed that a particular blood type in diabetics predisposed to more effective low-density lipoprotein lowering in response to increased dietary fiber.

Antibiotic Use

Cattle in 83% of United States commercial beef and dairy feedlots routinely receive antibiotics for disease prevention and to promote growth, resulting in the use of over 24 million pounds of antimicrobials annually for nontherapeutic purposes.
Many of these antimicrobials, such as tetracycline and penicillin, are important for human use. Drug-resistant bacteria and pathogens have emerged because of the widespread use of antibiotics in the animal reservoir, and these theoretically are able to be passed to people through the consumption of meat products. Health implications of antimicrobial resistance are infections that otherwise would not have occurred and increased rates of treatment failures and infection severity. An antibiotic-resistant urinary tract infection already may have been linked to this practice.

In general

This article is an overview of research on diets and nutrition, and the most common theme is this one:

For now, amelioration of unhealthy choices may be the best approach. Serial substitutions using nonanimal foods and snacks to reduce animal product consumption over time, encouragement of daily vigorous exercise, and increased consumption of organic and locally grown foods appear to be the best strategies toward that end.

Friday, March 20, 2009

End hunger by having a sirloin?

A local community group just started advertising something they're doing to raise money for a food bank - it's obvious that no vegetarians or vegans were part of this. The premise is that you have a steak dinner at a local restaurant for $20.00, and $2.00 from each meal goes to the food bank.

I couldn't help myself. I wrote the community group a nice email detailing the intimate connection between the meat-rich (particularly beef) diet and world hunger.

I came across some neat stuff while writing my email.

In the Independent Online I found The Big Question: Is changing our diet the key to resolving the global food crisis?

How does eating meat cause hunger?
Because it is a very inefficient way of producing food. It takes 8kg of grain to produce 1kg of beef, and large tracts of forest have been cleared for grazing land that might have been used to grow crops. Chicken is more efficient to produce – it takes 2kg of feed to produce 1kg of meat. To maximise food production it is best to be vegan. According to Simon Fairlie, in his magazine The Land, it would take just 3 million hectares of arable land to meet Britain's food needs, half the current total, if the population were vegan.

From WorldWatch, 2004, 17(4) pg12-19 I found a fairly devastating (for the meat industry) article with the very long title Now, it's not personal! But like it or not, meat-eating is becoming a problem for everyone on the planet.
Here's an excerpt from the article abstract:

As environmental science has advanced, it has become apparent that the human appetite for animal flesh is a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening humanity - deforestation, erosion, fresh water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, social injustice, the destabilization of communities, and the spread of disease.

The WorldWatch group is biased by the way. I happen to think they're right and I agree with them, but they're the group behind Happier Meals (which you can find a free copy of if you google it) and they've been on about the meat industry for a long time now.

Here are the other links I provided in my letter to this community group, some of which you've seen before on this blog:

Wired Online - Food Riots Begin: Will you go vegetarian?

BBC - Hungry World Must Eat less meat

Guardian - Only a radical change of diet can halt looming food crises

U.N. Food & Agricultural Association: Livestock's Long Shadow

Thursday, March 12, 2009

from Irish research to Vancouver newspapers

While pissing off vegans everywhere, here is a good illustration of something like the joke about how there are three types of lies (punchline being - Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics). In this case, we have the grey fuzzy gap between research, and how research gets portrayed in a newspaper.

First - the Vancouver Sun runs a story called Vegan diet tied to birth defects.

So read that, but then definitely read a follow up piece in the same newspaper called Is eating vegan while pregnant as bad as smoking and drinking? What you are particularly going to want to read are the string of comments below this piece, where pissed off vegans tear both stories to shreds.

A) All the hoopla in both stories is about women who are B12 deficient. Vegans are not necessarily B12 deficient... especially mothers who have probably read up on this and are taking their supplements.

B) The data in the study is 20 years old (which is fine) but comes from a test group in Ireland where neural tube defects are already common - i.e. this is already a fairly biased test group.

C) None of the women in the study actually identified as vegetarian or vegan - some happened to have low B12 levels... and no offense... but in Ireland in 1989 they were probably meat eaters, not veggies.