Convergences

Ralph Nader

I went to hear Ralph Nader this evening at our local independent bookstore – Book Passage – talking about his new book Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State. There was a large crowd to hear him, and it included a fair number of young people.

He started with the conclusion – “It’s easier that we think.”

The book is about convergences. It’s about getting past the Left-Right, Liberal-Conservative, Red State-Blue State feuding that paralyses this country and finding areas of common ground on 25 key issues, including:

  • UunstoppableRequiring the Department of Defense budget be audited annually
  • Adjust the minimum wage to inflation
  • Break up the “Too Big to Fail” banks
  • Push community self-reliance
  • Revise trade agreements
  • End corporate personhood
  • End the ineffective war on drugs
  • Prioritize the protection of the environment

Two issues that resonated with me were:

  • Protect children from commercialism and it physical and mental exploitation and harm
  • Oppose the patenting of life forms, including human genes

Nader talked about going to a meeting of evangelicals a few years ago and getting a standing ovation after his talk about protecting children from rampant commercialism. Through direct marketing aimed at children, parents have lost control over what their children see and the choices they make. We are raising a generation of children who have been marketed to eat junk foods, and buy addictive products such as tobacco, alcohol and medications. The results of this are record levels of child obesity and young teens dealing with addictions. This is an issue that needs convergence to take on the hucksters who are profiting off of our children.

The issue of patenting life forms touches on GMO products, but also the work done and patents issued on gene research. But it is especially in the area of GMO labeling that the corporate state dominates. According to Nader, 90% of the American people want labeling on genetically engineered foods. However, Monsanto has prevailed over the majority. There is a growing movement to get labeling laws passed at state and local levels, but a nationwide movement is needed.

We have to reclaim our power and make the people in Washington, DC or state legislatures address them by speaking up, marching, writing letters, making phone calls and – most importantly – getting people to vote. When politicians know that people are engaged and willing to vote for or against them based on how well they listen to them, things will get done. Several examples of this was stopping the move to intervene in Syria in 2013 and the grassroots effort to stop the Orwellian-named Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) a few years ago.

It doesn’t take a lot of people to make these convergences work, usually less than 1% of the population, but it takes persistence and talking to people to help these ideas spread.

I would like to add a few more convergences that I think could find some common ground. They are:

  • Food labeling
  • Subsidizing organic foods – fruits and vegetables

Along with the labeling of GMOs, we also need to revise the current food labeling laws so that we get more information about the types and amounts of sugars in food and clearer information about harmful additives.

In this country, as I’ve written about before, we subsidize the foods that make us overweight and sick, instead of organic fruits and vegetables. There are large numbers of people who want to eat healthy, but find they can’t afford these products. It’s time to make our voices heard on this issue.

Nader is a realist – he’s been doing this work too long to be otherwise – he knows that there are challenges in making these convergences happen. But he comes back to the conclusion – It’s easier than we think.

Let’s get to work!

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Mark Bittman Knows Better…

New York TimesBut doesn’t want to tell us the truth.

Mark Bittman

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

Mark Bittman has a new op-ed at the New York Times today – What Causes Weight Gain.

If I ask you what constitutes “bad” eating, the kind that leads to obesity and a variety of connected diseases, you’re likely to answer, “Salt, fat and sugar.” This trilogy of evil has been drilled into us for decades, yet that’s not an adequate answer.

We don’t know everything about the dietary links to chronic disease, but the best-qualified people argue that real food is more likely to promote health and less likely to cause disease than hyperprocessed food. And we can further refine that message: Minimally processed plants should dominate our diets. (This isn’t just me saying this; the Institute of Medicine and the Department of Agriculture agree.)

And yet we’re in the middle of a public health emergency that isn’t being taken seriously enough. We should make it a national priority to create two new programs, a research program to determine precisely what causes diet-related chronic illnesses (on top of the list is “Just how bad is sugar?”), and a program that will get this single, simple message across: Eat Real Food.

Sounds great, but wait a minute, let’s look at that last paragraph again.

“A research program to determine precisely what causes diet-related chronic illnesses” – researchers like Drs. Colin Campbell, Dean Ornish and Neal Barnard have been doing this research for decades and can tell you exactly what is causing these illnesses. What we need to do is stop letting industry-financed “research” cloud the reality of what is causing our obesity/diabetes/heart disease/stroke/cancer epidemics.

Meatonomics“A program that will get this single, simple message across: Eat Real Food” – not going to happen. The government spends millions, if not billions, on marketing meat, dairy and egg products to increase consumption and far fewer dollars promoting healthy eating. The Farm Bill recently passed by Congress includes subsidies for the meat industry and favors producers of corn and soybeans, instead of healthy fruits and vegetables. Much of that corn becomes feed for cattle and other meat products or high fructose corn syrup which winds up in the “hyperprocessed” foods American’s eat. To find out more about how our tax dollars are being spent to fatten the meat, dairy and egg industry pockets, read Meatonomics by David Robinson Simon.

In the meantime, the crisis worsens – from a Reuters article: CDC report says 29 million Americans have diabetes

The number of American adults with diabetes has soared to 29 million with another 86 million at high risk of getting the chronic disease, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Tuesday.

The CDC report, based on data from 2012, illustrated a continued worrisome rise in diabetes, which can cause serious health complications including heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness, amputation of toes, feet or legs, and premature death.

If the current trends continue, federal health officials predicted that one in five Americans could have diabetes by 2025 – and one in three by 2050. The CDC said more than 12 percent of U.S adults had diabetes as of 2012.

These chronic diseases account for the dramatic rise in healthcare costs to treat these diseases, while we spend very little on prevention. From Bittman’s article

In the United States — the world’s most obese country — the most recent number for the annual cost of obesity is close to $200 billion. Obesity-related costs are incalculable but could easily exceed $1 trillion annually.

And from the Reuter’s article

“We simply can’t sustain this trajectory,” said Ann Albright, director of the CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation.

The report said that diabetes and its related complications accounted for $245 billion in total medical costs and lost work and wages in 2012.

I don’t know about you, but these numbers are frightening. Are we happy being Number 1, when it is being the most obese country in the world?

Want to follow Mark’s advice and “Eat Real Food?” Find the websites for the researchers mentioned above in the Nutrition links section to the right and start eating a whole food, plant-based diet. Do it for your health, the health of our nation, the health of our world, but just do it.

 

Are Cheeseburgers Really Heart Healthy?

cheeseburger

Smokey Bones Bar & Fire Grill/PRNewsFoto

The New York Times headline read “Study Questions Fat and Heart Disease Link.” It’s OK to order the cheeseburgers again!!

The article was highlighting new research showing that saturated fat, the kind found in meat and dairy products, is not linked to heart disease. The new research also found that taking supplements like fish oil to raise “good” cholesterol did not have any impact on heart health.

Dr. John McDougall – author of The Starch Solution and a whole food, plant-based diet advocate was quick to respond.

This March 18, 2014 Annals of Internal Medicine article will become a feeding frenzy for the animal-food-industries: a “nugget of proof” that their saturated fat-laden foods can be eaten guiltlessly. Millions of people worldwide, especially those who are looking to hear good news about their bad habits, will die of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and obesity, and if left unchallenged, resulting increases in livestock production will accelerate global warming even faster.

The headlines proved him correct.

Why almost everything you’ve been told about unhealthy foods is wrong – from The Guardian

Another Blow to the “Saturated Fat Is Bad” School of Thought – from Diabetes Health

A different view on saturated fats – a rather subdued headline from meatpoultry.com

More from Dr. McDougall

The main scientific study they used showing the safety of saturated fat, was a study supported by the National Dairy Council. This is the single study used to promote eating animals by the low-carb movement and the animal food industries.

The majority of the studies this research looked at were from the US and Europe. These studies, for the most part, looked at people eating the typical Western diet.

In the nineteen that were based in North America and 42 in Europe, people all ate the same diet (full of saturated fat, ie. Dairy, meat, and eggs) – how could you possibly see any difference in health?

I found this article – reprinted from WebMD – Saturated Fats: Bad, Not So Bad? It included information about the main author of the study, Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, at the Harvard School of Public Health, and the companies he receives fees from – Bunge (agribusiness), Pollock Institute, Quaker Oats (agribusiness), Life Sciences Research Organization, Foodminds (PR), Nutrition Impact  (“helping food & beverage companies develop and communicate aggressive, science-based claims about their products and services”), Amarin (pharmaceutical), Astra Zeneca (pharmaceutical), Winston and Strawn LLP (corporate law firm), and UpToDate (evidence-based clinical decision support resource), and serving on the scientific advisory board for Unilever North America (among other companies, owner of Ben & Jerry’s).

I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

With more and more people wanting organic, non-GMO food and “healthier” options for their families, the meat and dairy industries feel threatened. This study was just what they need to continue to push back against the issues with eating the saturated fat in their products.

Let the “feeding frenzy” begin. Me, I’ll stick with what is working for me to keep me healthy and feeling great.

The New York Times Publishes More Nonsense on Nutrition

New York TimesGary Taubes, who I had discussed earlier in my review of Colin Campbell’s book The Low-Carb Fraud, had a opinion piece in the New York Times Sunday Review this week. The title was “Why is Nutrition So Confusing?”

He talked about all of the research nutritionist have done in the past 50 years related to Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes, yet the number of people with these chronic diseases keep increasing.

It would be nice to think that this deluge of research has brought clarity to the issue. The trend data argue otherwise. If we understand these disorders so well, why have we failed so miserably to prevent them?

Because the nutrition research community has failed to establish reliable, unambiguous knowledge about the environmental triggers of obesity and diabetes, it has opened the door to a diversity of opinions on the subject, of hypotheses about cause, cure and prevention, many of which cannot be refuted by the existing evidence. Everyone has a theory. The evidence doesn’t exist to say unequivocally who’s wrong.

However, Taubes is the author of two best-selling books advocating a low-carb diet. He has a theory – the closest he gets to letting us in on his con game is this.

Obesity and diabetes are epidemic, and yet the only relevant fact on which relatively unambiguous data exist to support a consensus is that most of us are surely eating too much of something. (My vote is sugars and refined grains; we all have our biases.) Making meaningful inroads against obesity and diabetes on a population level requires that we know how to treat and prevent it on an individual level. We’re going to have to stop believing we know the answer, and challenge ourselves to come up with trials that do a better job of testing our beliefs.

What he fails to mention is that there have been trials, studies and proven methods that do halt or reverse diabetes, obesity and related chronic illnesses like heart disease, stroke and erectile dysfunction.

Work done by Drs. Caldwell Esselstyn, Neal Barnard, Dean Ornish, John McDougall, Colin Campbell and many others have shown that a whole food, plant-based diet is the healthiest way to eat.

Last Spring, Kaiser Permanente, America’s largest managed care company and hospital system, told their doctors to “consider recommending a plant-based diet to all their patients…encouraging whole, plant-based foods and discouraging meats, dairy products, and eggs as well as all refined and processed foods.” In order to hold down healthcare costs and control the spread of diabetes.

I am appalled that the Times printed his “opinion” piece without identifying him as someone who is part of, as he put it in the article, “the noise generated by a dysfunctional research establishment.”

The Times refers to Taubes as “a health and science journalist and co-founder of the Nutrition Science Initiative.”

The Nutrition Science Initiative is

unencumbered by bureaucracy or by an obligation to do anything other than find the truth. We can move quickly and efficiently to execute a novel plan: harness the talents of the best scientists in the field and channel their skills into one concerted effort to generate reliable knowledge, once and for all, on the nature of a healthy diet.

The companies that produce dairy, eggs, meat, sugar and processed foods don’t want the majority of Americans to stop buying their products. So they spend lots of money lobbying Congress to not change food policy or dietary guidelines.

Whole food, plant-based advocates have to find a way to break through the noise of fad diets and the confusion fed us by the media and our own government.

The truth is out there. It is unambiguous. Whole food, plant-based diets work.

Obesity, Not Old Age, Drives Healthcare Costs

Obesity in the US 2012

Obesity in the US 2012

A recent article from The Atlantic highlighted a new report in the Journal of the American Medical Association that shattered some myths about the US Healthcare Disease Care system.

The study authors—a combination of experts from Alerion Advisors, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Rochester, and the Boston Consulting Group—take a point-by-point look at why healthcare costs so much, why our outcomes are comparatively poor, and what accounts for the growth in medical expenditures.

The number one myth is that old age accounts for the majority of healthcare spending – when in fact it is obesity.

Actually, chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes, among people younger than 65 drives two-thirds of medical spending. About 85 percent of medical costs are spent on people younger than 65, though people do spend more on healthcare as they age.

“Between 2000 and 2011, increase in price (particularly of drugs, medical devices, and hospital care), not intensity of service or demographic change, produced most of the increase in health’s share of GDP,” the authors write.

The biggest-spending disease with the fastest growth rate was hyperlipidemia—high cholesterol and triglycerides—for which spending grew by 14.4 percent annually between 2000 and 2010.

All you have to do is look around and see the increase in people’s waistlines or the proliferation of fast food and junk food everywhere.

These two maps also tell the story. The map at the beginning of the post is the Obesity map for 2012 from the United Healthcare Foundation’s America’s Health Rankings website. The one below is the map from 1990. The growth in the rate of obesity is astounding.

Obesity in the US 1990

Obesity in the US 1990

We are eating ourselves sick with the Standard American Diet (SAD) full of meat, dairy and eggs cooked with fat, sugar and salt. This way of eating is impacting all of us – high healthcare costs, productivity loss from hospitalizations and increased death rates.

It’s time to change to a whole food, plant-based diet full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. (You knew I was going to go there sooner or later, didn’t you?)

Other findings in the study include:

  • The US does not have the best healthcare system in the world (why are there still people who would have us believe that we’re still number 1? We haven’t been for decades. We spend more than other Western countries for worse outcomes.)
  • Spending more on IT and technology is not making the system more cost-efficient (Your doctor has an iPad! – does that make them a better doctor?)
  • The rate of increase in medical costs has slowed down (thanks in part to the recession and the Affordable Care Act)

We are on a path to have this generation of Americans living shorter lives than their parents because of our diet and health habits. It’s time to change.

Why Don’t We Just Put It in the Water?

pills

New heart disease and stroke prevention guidelines were released Tuesday (Nov. 12) by the American Heart Association (AHA) and American College of Cardiology.

Highlights of these new guidelines are that obesity should be treated like a disease and cholesterol-lowering drugs could prevent cardiovascular disease in more Americans than previously thought. The guidelines also urge overall healthy diets rather than stressing about occasional indulgences. And they give doctors formulas to calculate heart and stroke risk specifically for African-Americans.

Cholesterol-lowering statin drugs should now be prescribed to an estimated 33 million Americans without cardiovascular disease who have a 7.5 percent or higher risk for a heart attack or stroke within the next 10 years.

If followed, this would double the number of people taking these drugs. Why don’t we just put it in the water? In 2010, there were 221 million adults 21 or older in the US. If we are considering giving these drugs to 65 million of them – that’s 30% of the adult population.

This is craziness. Drugs have side effects. The known side effects of statins – according to the Mayo Clinic are:

  • Muscle pain and damage
  • Liver damage
  • Digestive problems
  • Rash or flushing
  • Increased blood sugar or type 2 diabetes
  • Neurological side effects

If we give these drugs to more and more people, what are the long-term health implications? What are the long-term financial implications? Who is going to pay for a third of US adults to take these drugs?

When will we get serious about changing the dietary and exercise habits of Americans instead of giving them more pills to hide the problems?

When will we stop suggesting diets like DASH that can only reduce the risk of diseases like heart disease, stroke and diabetes, but won’t make you heart attack- and stoke-proof the way a whole food, plant-based, oil-free diet can?

Why are researchers and clinicians like Colin Campbell, Caldwell Esselstyn, Dean Ornish and Neal Barnard ignored when guidelines are created by groups like the AHA? These doctors have over 20+ years of research and studies that prove the effectiveness of whole food, plant-based diets and the health risks of consuming even moderate amounts of meat, dairy and eggs.

As Dr. Esselstyn reminds us, “Moderation Kills.”

In his book Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition, Dr. Campbell described the cozy relationship between groups like the AHA and the drug manufacturers and dairy and meat industry groups. (And the takeover of government agencies and research groups by the same monied interests.) The AHA can’t tell you to change your diet and give up meat, dairy, eggs, sugar and oils without losing funding.

Statins won’t keep you from getting heart disease or stroke. Don’t ask your doctor if statins might help reduce your risk of chronic diseases. Instead, find a doctor who can help you change your diet and lifestyle to quickly show real results.

Read this account of a man who had his “first 8 stents” done at the age of 31, and 9 years and numerous procedures later, he became heart attack proof following Dr. Esselstyn’s recommendations. He writes:

I have lost 48 pounds. My blood work has gone from total cholesterol of 208, LDL of 93, HDL of 41, and triglycerides of 368 last June to most recent results of total cholesterol of 89, LDL of 19, HDL of 53, and triglycerides of 83. That transformation is nothing short of amazing.

Take control of your health. Follow the links in the Nutrition section on this site and get the information you need to find your own path to health and well-being.

A Place at the Table

Barbie and her children

Barbie Izquierdo and her children

In America today, in the richest country in the world, as many as 50 million people are food insecure – they don’t know where there next meal is coming from or don’t have enough money to feed themselves or their families between paychecks.

Most of these food insecure Americans are working – some two or three jobs – in an effort to make ends meet. Yet, they still need assistance.

A recent film, A Place at the Table, highlights hunger in America, its long-lasting impact on children’s development and ability to learn, and how food insecurity leads to obesity. Continue reading

Meat and Potatoes, Hold the Meat

John McDougall

When John McDougall was 18 he had a paralyzing stroke. When he asked the doctors why this had happened to him, they didn’t have an answer. So he went to medical school and became a doctor to see if he could find the answers. Forty years later, we are the recipients of his life-long quest.

In his book The Starch Solution, Dr. McDougall lays out a way of eating to improve health and reduce the risk of diseases like heart disease, diabetes and stroke while eating foods you love like potatoes and whole grain bread.

His research of the people with the healthiest diets all had one thing in common – starch. Rice in Asian countries, sweet potatoes in South America, corn in Central America and the southwest US.

His recipe for a healthy diet includes vegetables; fruit; beans, legumes and unprocessed soy products (think tofu, not fake chicken nuggets); and starches.

Like many other proponents of a whole food, plant-based (WFPB) diet, Dr. McDougall’s plan does not include meat, fish, dairy, eggs or added oils. It also avoids white flour and sugar.

The Starch Solution

The book covers why starches help you lose weight and stay healthy and why animal products are unhealthy for you and the planet. There are also chapters that discuss how a WFPB diet provides you with all the calcium and protein you need and why you don’t need supplements (with the exception of B-12).

To help you get started, there is a 7 day meal plan and over 100 recipes to get you started.

Dr. McDougall is passionate about his work – helping people stay healthy and live life to the fullest. Read his book and you’ll become a believer in the Starch Solution.

The Health Care System is Waking Up to WFPB

kaiser-permanente-logoThe objective of this article is to present to physicians an update on plant-based diets. Concerns about the rising cost of health care are being voiced nationwide, even as unhealthy lifestyles are contributing to the spread of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. For these reasons, physicians looking for cost-effective interventions to improve health outcomes are becoming more involved in helping their patients adopt healthier lifestyles. Healthy eating may be best achieved with a plant-based diet, which we define as a regimen that encourages whole, plant-based foods and discourages meats, dairy products, and eggs as well as all refined and processed foods.    Spring 2013 Kaiser Permanente Journal

Kaiser Permanente, America’s largest managed care company and hospital system, told their doctors to “consider recommending a plant-based diet to all their patients…encouraging whole, plant-based foods and discouraging meats, dairy products, and eggs as well as all refined and processed foods.”

This is big news and may be the start of a trend in the health care arena to promote nutrition over drugs and surgery.

Read the entire article here.

The Ideal Human Diet

eggplants

“The ideal human diet looks like this: Consume plant-based foods in forms as close to their natural state as possible (“whole” foods). Eat a variety of vegetables, fruits, raw nuts and seeds, beans and legumes, and whole grains. Avoid heavily processed foods and animal products. Stay away from added salt, oil, and sugar. Aim to get 80 percent of your calories from carbohydrates, 10 percent from fat, and 10 percent from protein.” *

Can it really be that simple? Is this what it takes to feel healthy? To be able to stop taking medicine for heart disease, increased blood pressure and diabetes? Continue reading