The popular story of how low-carb diets work goes something like this: Reducing your carbohydrate...
Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...Tell Me More
Oh, the food supply, the food supply. It’s impossible to miss the media stories on the risks of food-borne illnesses like salmonella and E. coli. Meats, eggs, fruits and vegetables always seem to be the most insidious culprits. (But that Little Debbie snack cake, you’ll be relieved to know, is on the safe list.)
We’ve all heard that it’s important to diligently wash our produce and thoroughly cook all meats. But more and more, we’re hearing that these measures just aren’t enough. In contrast to two washing practices, a recent study organized by the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service shows that irradiation kills more than 99% of many microbes, including salmonella and E. coli. Irradiation was compared with three minutes’ submergence in water and three minutes of cleaning with an unidentified chemical treatment. The water bath was ineffective at killing or removing E. coli, while the chemical treatment didn’t have significant effect on E. coli in tested spinach leaves and was not quite 90% effective when it came to lettuce.
In one of last week’s Cheap Meat discussions, you said something about ratios and saturated fats and how saturated fats aren’t really the issue in your mind. I might have been missing something in the conversation. Can you fill me in?
The issue of ratios within animal fat was raised by reader Jaana as she shared Cordain’s discussion of the varying polyunsaturated fat content and corresponding omega ratios in muscle meat versus different organ meats. Cordain compares wild game (that we can assume are comparable to the meats our pre-agricultural ancestors ate) with the domestically raised livestock we eat today. As a general rule, the muscle meat of conventional livestock today has less polyunsaturated fat than wild game does. Conventional domestic meat also has more saturated fat than wild game.
I am curious what you recommend for people who either don’t have access to or can’t regularly afford grass-fed, organic, free-range meats? It [cost] is a lot of the reason we are mostly vegetarian – we could have organic meat on a regular basis, or we can have fresh fruits and veggies for us and, more importantly, our young sons, to snack on. I believe the fresh produce is more important, and our budget just won’t allow for both, so we stick to mostly vegetarian – and less expensive – sources of protein. I’d like to hear tips for how to actually apply some of this in these situations, and what you recommend then. Is it better to eat less meat and make sure what you have is organic, or keep eating the same amount of the conventional stuff (which is worse for our bodies and the environment)?
Close your eyes and think about genetically modified crops. Now what do you see? Green fields of lush, pest-resistant, hardy crops? A ghoulish cast hovering above insidious kodachrome orbs they call GM tomatoes? Hordes of protestors in t-shirts and Converse sneakers? Hungry children being fed? A Pandora’s Box?
Applaud or curse, the U.S. allows the planting of GM crops, while many countries do not. It also doesn’t mandate labeling of genetically modified food, as do Europe and many other countries. These circumstances have, experts agree, allowed food made with genetically engineered ingredients to be included in approximately 70% of food in typical grocery stores.
While we’re all about vegetables here at MDA, we have a special place in our stomachs for clean, lean meat. Yes, it’s the ultimate primal picture-caveperson (O.K.-caveman, but can we get points for trying?) returning from the hunt with dinner for the family.
Fun illustration aside, it’s more than the image. Meat, of the MDA-approved variety, means protein, omega-3s, iron, and a host of other nutrients. And, yes, there’s that gastronomical, savory satisfaction. (Apologies to the vegetarian set. We’ll stop now.)
Nonetheless, as we say here at MDA, not all meat is created equal, especially in the current era of antibiotics, hormone injections, grain feed, factory farms, and cloned animals-coming soon to a neighborhood store near you. (Yes, our friends at the FDA are expected to approve cloned meat and milk in the coming days, according to the Wall Street Journal.)
Reader Sheila asked me a great question recently: is there really any safe meat to eat these days?
Beef and pork? Raised in cramped factories and fattened as quickly as possible, the happiness of the animal is nonexistent and the health of the meat is seriously in question. These animals are fed hormones, antibiotics, and an unnatural high-sugar grain diet that reduces beneficial fatty acids in the meat and causes illness in the animal (hence the need for drugs). Red meat and the “other” white meat (come on, it’s red) aren’t exactly the boon of health we low-carbers would like them to be. Sheila wondered about the rumors of dangerous parasites and germs in pork. Because of the modern factory system, pork really doesn’t have any greater health danger than beef. However, just because things like listeria have been reduced since the days of Upton Sinclair, doesn’t make meat healthy.
The sheer production level of meat is so high that it draws greedily on natural resources like oil, water, and land (and it’s a major contributor to rainforest deforestation). It’s no wonder many people are turning to vegetarianism. Either that, or it’s the fact that a typical burger patty is literally a composite of hundreds of cows, and processed meats are made of stripped spinal meat, which is turning so many people off of meat. This always turns my stomach, and although I do espouse responsible meat-eating (more on that in a moment), I’d sooner go hungry than eat a single meal that is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of animals. To me, it’s cruel and vulgar, and yet, a burger is the most popular food item in America. Sad.
How about chicken and turkey? Fowl is raised in much the same manner as beef and pork. Modern chicken is far more fatty than the chicken your grandparents ate. You even have to be careful with free-range products. The only thing that “ranges” with many of these free-range products is the degree of accuracy in the term. In some states, the “free range” is still a pen, albeit with some sunlight. My idea of healthy protein is not tens of thousands of chickens crammed into a sunless room smelling of chemicals and covered in filth, and I’m sure it’s not yours either, yet this is the reality.
But fish is healthy, right? Again, it’s not a pretty picture. Our oceans’ fisheries are in jeopardy. In fact, an entire section of California’s coast has been banned because the fish populations are close to being wiped out. This sort of thing is going on in many places. This isn’t fun news, but the facts remain. Our way of life is causing serious problems. Couple overfishing with the gross levels of pollutants in many waterways – particularly southern waters – and fish isn’t necessarily your best bet. Farmed fish is problematic because it can interfere with wild fish habitats, and farmed fish are often overcrowded to the point of cannibalism. And there’s the sea lice infestation to consider.
Sheesh! What about shellfish? My staffers jokingly call shrimp “sea
The Tuesday 10:
This Tuesday’s 10 serves up a tempting buffet of unusual and useful health nibbles. Guaranteed to be at least as entertaining as a heat lamp and definitely more interesting than a pan of reconstituted potato flake crests rising from lakes of Yellow No. 5 “butter”.
10. Peter Pan may have to grow up and face the salmonella, but it’s just as well, because now there’s an excellent alternative: Omega-3 peanut butter . That’s right – peanut butter, the all-American food spread which is neither nut nor butter, is now enhanced with heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids.
(And it’s true: the peanut is more pea than nut – it’s a legume. Also, we think it’s time for a new cardiovascular-benefit phrase, because “heart-healthy” is just so tired. Cardio-caring? Artery-amor? Oh, fine…)
9. According to these genii , sugar does not have any relationship to type 2 diabetes. You see, that’s just a silly myth that foolish people used to believe. In fact, according to the experts at the American Diabetes Association, no one is sure what exactly causes type 2 diabetes.
All we know is that the liver can’t handle sugar a certain substance sometimes so the pancreas has to pump out insulin to manage the blood sugar and when this happens too much over a prolonged period of time from eating sugar unknown causes, the entire system gets worn out and, interestingly, you get diabetes. It’s a very mysterious mechanism, this liver-pancreas-blood thing. There may be some association. But it definitely has nothing to do with sugar.
(Note: this information was brought to you by the ADA, the same progressive association which sent out Christmas cards in 2006 that were plastered with images of candy canes. So obviously sugar has nothing to do with diabetes.)
8. What beef broth and beef flavoring are typically made from . Warning: this does take all the fun out of ramen. And with all we know about refined starch and trans fat, this couldn’t come at a worse time for noodles.
7. The weirdest disease you’ve ever heard of. (After #8, we figure you need a break.)
6. What’s as big as a football and hangs out below your ribs? No, not your belly (we hope). This important guy . Give him love.
5. Happy cows? Not only is a picture worth a thousand words, it’s worth some clickativity . This is a very well-written, thoughtful dairy piece that comes out in favor of Big Moo. Some further investigation into the studies reveals Blunder Tonic bias, but since we promised to give da-iry and mad cows a rest, we’ll let it slide…for now. This link is merely to draw attention to food production circa 2007.
4. Crazy fact: If you actually read through that dairy article, you’ll learn there are about 9 million dairy cows in this country. And all of them are the spawn of only a couple of bulls. Incest jokes aside, isn’t it wacky that 300 million+ people are drinking/chewing/DiGiorning the reproductive fluid of animals with identical fathers (and therefore genetic history)? We really are all
We’re as sick of mad cow as you are (just feed them grass and keep them clean!), but we promised to find out who was behind the crazy study to breed mad-cow-free cows. Ladies and gents, we present Hematech. This outfit uses cows to research and develop all sorts of human disease antibodies. In a bizarre example of how this corporate world works, Hematech is owned by none other than Kirin Brewing Company. As in, the beer.
Drop in later for Mark and Russ’s chat on core fitness, today’s Smart Fuel, and the weekly roundup!
Worker Bees’ Daily Bites:
You won’t want to miss today’s health news, Apples – the world of health just got more interesting! There’s plenty of fascinating controversy in the works…
1) Big Puff Ain’t Happy
Which makes the gang here at Mark’s Daily Apple absolutely…elated!
After hanging out for years in cigar-smoke-filled rooms (okay, maybe not), a bipartisan bill that would allow the government to step in when Big Puff hurts people may finally make it to the presidential desk . Even tobacco-growing states have put their support behind the bill, which would stop the tobacco industry from marketing to children, making misleading claims about “low-tar” and “light” tobacco products, and adding harmful chemicals. Lawmakers tried to get a similar bill passed back in 2004, but you can guess what happened there. We’ll keep you posted on this bill’s progress.
Stick around the orchard, kids, because next Tuesday’s 10 will feature ways to quit smoking. If you’re curious and just. can’t. wait. till then, head on over to Ririan Project in the meantime for ways to quit the sticks.
Photo courtesy Audrey Jacometti.
2) What’s Best for Your Little Guppy?
A big study says mothers ought to consume fish during pregnancy to optimize baby’s development (all those beneficial fats in fish are excellent for fetal brain development). But Uncle Sam says the opposite, citing concerns about mercury’s impact on ‘nates.
In fact, there’s a growing movement questioning the relationship between mercury and autism (you no doubt remember the news from last week that rates of autism have skyrocketed from virtually…well, none…before 1940, to 1 in 150 kids today). We’ll bring you more news as it develops. In the meantime, the wise thing for expecting moms to do: supplement with purified fish oil, or choose cold-water fish – it’s far safer than warm-water fishes, which are more likely to be contaminated with metals and pollutants.
Thanks to Tiffany Johnson for the photo!
3) The Dumbest Idea, Possibly Ever
Scientists are trying to create cows that can’t get mad cow . Here’s an idea: clean up the poop and stop feeding cows – cud-chewing ruminants – animal protein! This is a real-world example of digging a hole to put in a ladder to wash the basement windows. Who’s paying these genii? We’re gonna find out.
Web It Out:
The Health Ranger rides again . Er, writes. This time, a disturbingly logical argument for eating cow brains (the entire point of the article ultimately advocates avoiding the consumption of flesh). Whether you’re for vegetarianism, love steak, or have settled on some place in between, this is the kind of highly provocative and interesting writing that is important to read if you’re someone who wants to think, not follow. Think you can trust mainstream health wisdom? Think again.
Mark is totally comfortable with animal protein, provided it’s organic, lean and unprocessed (check out his new page on vegetarians way up yonder). But we think it’s important for everyone to arrive at their own health decisions only after careful research and consideration. Although a lot of mainstream health experts genuinely believe you are incapable of arriving at your own smart health decisions,
Worker Bees’ Daily Bites:
Or should that be…health is the new blog? And have you noticed the constant “this is the new that” slogans everybody likes to come up with? (Just Google : sugar is the new trans fat, brown is the new black, adults are the new kids.) How about a new turn of phrase device? Like…”couplets are the new turn of phrase device”. Oh, wait, that’s just the new thing again. Nevermind.
Here’s your piping hot batch of health news!
1) No More Wining
All the benefits of wine , none of the headache-inducing tannins and brain toxins. Just make sure you pick 100% real juice, and don’t drink too much of it (because…yes…sugar is the new trans fat). Or just eat grapes. The beneficial antioxidants everyone is in a big stomp about (like resveratrol) are found in the skins of the grapes.
2) Unexpected Mad Cow News
Here is some unexpected mad cow news . We’ll keep you posted as research develops. You might want to consider going organic in the meantime.
3) Will it make a difference?
The Faster Death Agency Food and Drug Administration has come under furious scrutiny over all manner of corruption and shenanigans (Vioxx, politicizing Plan B, Prempro and numerous other drug scandals). A recent independent investigation found that the FDA errs – big surprise here – on the side of approval even when new drugs have not had extensive testing. Essentially, the FDA gives drug companies a hall pass. In so many words, the FDA says “Hey, Big Pharma, you’re gonna make sure your product is safe, right? Cool. Sally, did you find my iPod yet? I have to make my private jet to Telluride in, like, 30 minutes!”
The actual wording is convoluted legalese, but that’s pretty much what it boils down to.
In light of the fact that a post at the FDA is a cushy chill-out job for stressed former Pharma execs, this news fills us with hope. We’ll keep an eye on whether or not it actually makes a difference. Check the press release (link below), and you’ll see that the official spin is maddeningly glib: the FDA is changing because it’s simply time to update processes in light of new scientific methods. Gosh, is that it? How fun. Translation: the FDA is changing because, oops, we need to stop approving needless deaths by instituting standards that have already been around for two hundred years.
In the meantime, be careful about trying new drugs or multiple prescriptions without first doing a little research – and always get a second or third opinion (fortunately, real research is now easy to find at places like Pubmed , Vitasearch and even the FDA’s own website ).
And let’s just remember, the FDA is the fine organization that brings us this inflamed nubbin:
New York has taken steps to ban trans fat. So we knew L.A. would catch up sooner or later. It just needed time to come up with a subtle little “Um, we’re already so much healthier than NYC!” jab, and here it