Amber Waves of Shame

Death by Food Pyramid ExcerptThe following passage is an excerpt from Chapter 3 of Denise Minger’s riveting new book Death by Food Pyramid. Order your copy of Death by Food Pyramid by December 31 and get free gifts plus a chance to win Primal prizes valued at $1,800. Learn all the details here.

On a spring night in 1968, thousands of Americans witnessed the televised death of an infant, body no bigger than a toy doll, lying limp as he took his last breath beneath the unflinching gaze of the camera. “This baby is dying of starvation,” the narrator’s voice boomed. “He was an American. Now he is dead.”1

The gut-wrenching footage was part of a CBS documentary called Hunger in America—an expose? on the nation’s hidden plague of starvation. From the backwaters of Alabama to the dusty Navajo reservations of the Southwest, the program pulled viewers into a world of struggle and pain, sending shockwaves throughout the country. Under the nation’s rippling flag of freedom lay a shadow few knew existed: deep poverty and malnutrition in a land that prided itself on abundance.

Among those most deeply affected was Senator George McGovern, who’d been watching the documentary with his wife and daughters. As he recounted decades later, one scene in particular burrowed deep into his conscience and refused to leave. The filmmakers had zoomed in on a young boy standing against the wall of his cafeteria, eyes downcast and solemn. “When you get to school, what do you have to eat there?” one of the CBS reporters asked him.

“Nothing,” the boy replied.

“You don’t have anything to eat when you’re at school?”

“No, sir.”

With the boy’s gaze lost to the floor, the interviewers prodded further, asking how he felt about his situation—standing there day after day with an empty stomach, watching the other children buy their lunches and eat while he could not.

“I feel ashamed.”

It was a pivotal moment for McGovern. He turned to his family, seated beside him in the comfort of their upper middle-class home. “You know, it’s not that little boy who should be ashamed,” he said. “It’s George McGovern, a United States Senator, a member of the Committee on Agriculture.”

The very next day, McGovern marched into the Senate with a mission. He would leverage his political clout for the welfare of the nation, launching a committee dedicated to abolishing America’s hidden hunger. He had no trouble gathering the support he needed. The documentary’s shocking—and, for the country’s pride, disgraceful— exposure of hunger had been enough to galvanize both the public and Congress into action.

A few months later McGovern was named chair of the soon-to-be Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs, whose membership would include a number of political big-hitters ranging from the liberal Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts to the conservative Bob Dole of Kansas. It was a rare instance where partisan scuffles fell by the wayside and politicians from both sides of the aisle linked arms for a unified goal.

By 1970, the committee had successfully rekindled the food stamp program, which had lain mostly dormant since the 1940s after piloting during the Great Depression. As the months and years rolled forward, the committee approved a series of specialized “safety nets” to protect low-income individuals and families against hunger and malnutrition, including the launch of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), still in place today.

Just as McGovern’s anti-hunger mission began to see success, he announced that he would run for president of the United States, a campaign that proved to be an uphill battle nearly from the start. McGovern had already tussled with the Nixon administration over letting him expand the food stamp program, but with the stakes now raised to presidential proportions, animosity became even more cutthroat. And one of McGovern’s rivals was Nixon’s Secretary of Agriculture Earl “Rusty” Butz—a man whose legacy, to some, was almost as foul as his mouth.

While McGovern was busy tackling national hunger and juggling his campaign efforts, Butz had his hands tied with a pursuit of his own: siphoning every drop of political support away from McGovern and depositing it back into the Nixon administration. Not shy about his vote lust, one of Butz’s most prized possessions was a woodcarving of two elephants in the heat of passion, which he gleefully whipped out from behind his desk whenever he had visitors—explaining, somewhat poetically, that it symbolized his quest for Republican farm votes to be fruitful and multiply.2 And his chief plan for making that happen? Dangle the promise of bigger profits in front of the nation’s food growers.

As we shall soon see, opportunity came in spades just when Butz needed it most.

The Great Grain Robbery

The year 1972 gave us more than just The Godfather and Watergate: it also heralded in an international food scandal whose impact is still reverberating. The Great Grain Robbery, also known as the Soviet Wheat Deal, remains so unknown today that it might read more like a bad conspiracy theory than a historical event. Sneaky Soviets. Clandestine contracts. A man with the last name “Butz.” Yet it’s a tale that is as true as it is fantastical—and its effects not only helped seal McGovern’s defeat, but also launched a period of agricultural tumult that would ripple through our food guidelines for decades to come.

In the early 1970s, the world’s food outlook was a thing of much misery. Global soybean production was down 7 percent. America’s corn crop had been ruthlessly clobbered—first with drought, and then by early frost—resulting in what could only be deemed a mass cereal killing. Canada’s wheat supply hit a ten-year low. Monsoon-ravaged Asia found itself short on rice. And the USSR, suffering both from unfortunate weather and its own questionable agricultural practices, was in the direst situation of all.3

Clearly in a jam but tight-lipped about just how sticky of one, the Soviet Union turned to America with a somber plea and open wallet. Their goal was to purchase a hefty amount of US wheat to make up for their shortage—a move that would become the single biggest grain trade the world had ever seen, kicking off a massive shift in America’s relationship with its own food system.

Senator George McGovern

Fig. 7. Senator George McGovern displays cans of soda, sugar, and fat during a 1977 news conference to discuss the Dietary Goals for the United States

In 1971, when President Nixon first pulled Butz into the USDA’s fold, American agriculture was still trembling under decades-old fears. Since the 1930s, corn farmers had been cashing paychecks in exchange for leaving some of their land fallow in the face of over-production—a strategy to keep supply in line with demand. The pay-not-to-plant system had emerged as part of the New Deal, a series of economic programs intended to combat the effects of the Great Depression. While farmers had previously endured boom-and-bust cycles that shot their income all over the map (too often in the wrong direction), the New Deal aimed to turn those profit roller coasters into something more even-keeled.

Butz, eager to squash out anything with even the faintest aroma of socialism, decided it was time for a change. Viewing America’s agricultural system as a caged animal that needed to be freed, he deregulated the market for the first time in decades—tearing down the supply management policies that’d been in place since the Depression, abolishing production limits, and letting the free market reign once again. His selling point—trumpeted loudly to the farmers whose votes he was chasing—was that food producers could rake in more money if they grew as much as possible and sold their surplus overseas, reveling afterward in their products’ price hikes.

So when the Soviet Union came knocking on America’s door looking to gobble up its grain surplus, Butz saw nothing unpalatable about the situation. In fact, shuttling America’s bounty overseas would help push grain prices higher than they’d been in quite some time. Higher prices would impress the nation’s farmers. And impressing the nation’s farmers would earn Butz the political support he was vying for. His copulating elephants, had they not been pint-sized and inanimate, would have surely rejoiced.

Thinking the maneuver would be a political coup for Nixon and a sting for McGovern’s campaign, Butz helped seal the grain deal and waited for his farm-profit-boosting plan to take root. It didn’t hurt that McGovern, a native of South Dakota who was born and raised in a small farming community, had already been labeled the candidate of “amnesty, abortion, and acid” due to some of his public opinions; outshining the Democratic hopeful on the farm front would only further tarnish his image in the conservative Midwest.4

There was just one problem: along with their above-board agreement with the US government, the Soviets also made secret alliances with some of the nation’s top grain producers. So instead of buying just $150 million worth of wheat as expected, they secured nearly $1 billion of the grainy treasure—all at dirt-cheap subsidized prices. With deft timing, the USSR tiptoed away with a full quarter of America’s wheat crop before market prices had a chance to shoot up from increased demand.

Although the Great Grain Robbery’s aftermath would eventually cause rampant inflation and riot-inducing surges in American food prices, farmers saw their promised profit boost just in time for the 1972 election. And to Butz, that was the only thing that mattered. He developed his own gravitational force for political support, drawing in votes from the Midwest farm belt and earning back pats galore from big agribusiness. Butz’s dictum—“Get big or get out!”—ensured a food production future where farming practices could revolutionize and expand like never before.

Michael Pollan best summarizes this shift in his book Omnivore’s Dilemma, stating that Butz, because he believed big farms were more productive, pushed farmers to consolidate and regard themselves not as farmers but as “agribusinessmen”—or as he put it in another one of his quotable quotes, “adapt or die.” Pollan goes on to write that by the 1980s, the big grain buyers like Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) took a hand in shaping the farm bills, which predictably came to reflect their interest more closely than those of farmers.5

But for now, it’s still 1972. And with former fence-sitters firmly won over to Nixon’s side, the election became a landslide victory for the Republican party and an utterly annihilating loss for McGovern—with Nixon’s percentage of the popular vote coming in second only to Lyndon Johnson’s record-setting win in the 1964 election. Barry Goldwater, the candidate Johnson had mercilessly crushed, later mailed McGovern a political cartoon that placed the two of them side by side, spoofing the dourly father and daughter in the painting “American Gothic,” linking them by their devastating defeats. “George—if you must lose, lose big,” Goldwater had scribbled on the cartoon.6

The levity wasn’t enough to soothe McGovern. Scarred and anguished by the loss, he and his wife contemplated moving to England in the months following the election.7 He opted instead to remain state-bound and threw himself with renewed vigor into tackling American health and hunger. In the end, he still yearned to leave an impact on the nation.

Pritikin and the Lowfat Revolution

It wasn’t long before McGovern’s concern with diet bled across political borders and into his own life. Following the election, he encountered a man whose radical message would reform McGovern’s kitchen, profoundly influence his views on health, and ultimately trickle into the nation’s future. Enter Nathan Pritikin: an inventor-turned-diet-guru who’d famously declared, “All I’m trying to do is wipe out heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and obesity.”8

After securing patents in fields ranging from photography to aeronautics to engineering, Pritikin turned his gaze to the most intricate machinery of all: the human body. He’d developed a fascination with heart disease after discovering its rates had mysteriously plummeted in wartime Europe. An established problem-solver, Pritikin was determined to figure out why. His own sleuthing—which launched him on a journey through various universities, scientific papers, and doctor’s offices—eventually landed him at the door of Dr. Lester Morrison, a California-based cardiologist who’d also been intrigued by the drop in heart disease during World War II. Speculating that the lowfat, low cholesterol, rationed diet forced upon much of Europe might have something to do with it, Morrison spent the early 1950s testing the theory on his patients. For fifty of the most ill men under his care, Morrison prescribed a diet mimicking that of wartime Europe; for another fifty, the control group, he let them eat whatever they chose.

The results were profound. While patients in the control group were dropping like flies, those on the mock-rationed diet saw their cholesterol level plunge and their survival rates double.9

In 1956, after catching wind of Morrison and his experiments, Pritikin stopped by the doctor’s clinic for a checkup of his own. The news was discouraging: with a cholesterol level topping 300 and an electrocardiogram showing coronary insufficiency, Pritikin, at the young age of forty-one, was himself a victim of heart disease.

The diagnosis was enough to spur him into action. Unconvinced by the era’s standard advice to cardiac patients—to stop exercising, stop climbing stairs, rest often, and take naps in the afternoon—Pritikin plowed deeper into research, eventually stumbling across population studies showing that when blood cholesterol fell below 160, heart disease seemed to vanish. It was a compelling solution in Pritikin’s mind. By 1960, after adopting a lowfat, sugar-free, salt-free vegetarian diet and adding a three-mile run to his daily schedule, he managed to slash his cholesterol to a mere 120—and a new stress test showed the coronary insufficiency that first frightened him into action was now gorgeously reversed.

In the following decades, Pritikin conducted a series of projects testing whether his spartan diet-and-exercise regimen could save hearts other than his own. By 1975, with mounting evidence in the affirmative, Pritikin opened his namesake Pritikin Longevity Center in Santa Barbara, California, inviting members of the public to take part in the same program that had saved his own life. Soon rolled in the book deals, the magazine articles, and the television interviews, including a popular segment on 60 Minutes that brought Pritikin’s message to the nation.

Though Pritikin’s plan seemed impressive when it came to slaying heart disease, its effects on health weren’t universally glowing. As former Pritikin Center director Joe D. Goldstrich noted, when long-time adherents of the Pritikin diet returned to the center for follow-ups, many had developed dry, itchy skin—an outward manifestation of an essential fatty acid deficiency.10 The complaints were copious enough to convince Pritikin to add a weekly helping of salmon to the diet. And while the program enjoyed success in battling chronic disease and excess weight, its multifaceted approach—reducing not just fat intake but also sugar, refined grains, salt, and most heavily processed foods—was often lost on the public and media, who interpreted the program mainly as a lowfat boot camp.

And so it goes that McGovern, whose own cholesterol level totaled a worrying 350, ventured to California to participate in Pritikin’s increasingly famous program. Perhaps it was the “filling but not thrilling” menu that stopped him short of becoming a puritanical devotee.11 Or maybe it was the senator’s demanding schedule and social obligations that didn’t easily bend to such a rigid diet. Either way, McGovern spent the next several decades steering his diet in a Pritikin-esque direction, noting in a later interview:

You can’t go to somebody’s house and say, “Oh, I can’t eat any of this.” So I try to cut down on overall consumption. When I’m traveling, I always can order a salad with only vinegar—no blue cheese. For breakfast I can get, almost anywhere, oatmeal with skim milk, a sliced banana, unbuttered wheat toast. A piece of fish for lunch is fine.12

A description of his food choices at a banquet in 1988 reflects a similar theme. According to Philadelphia’s Inquirer, McGovern “ate heartily through lowfat courses consisting of precisely 2.5 ounces of chicken breast, assorted salt-free and butter-free vegetables, a baked potato with a dollop of fat-free yogurt, and a piece of carrot cake sweetened with apple juice concentrate.”13 And while it may seem baffling that a man showered with an abundance of delicious, catered foods would opt for such a modest menu, McGovern had good reason to stay motivated: even rough adherence to the Pritikin diet had slashed his cholesterol to 170, pleasing both him and his physicians.14 It didn’t hurt that his wife Eleanor—who had also spent time at the Longevity Center—was a gifted cook who, per McGovern’s own words, “makes the Pritikin diet the best of anyone I know.”15

After Pritikin committed suicide in 1985—taking his own life rather than endure the final days of the radiation-induced leukemia he’d been battling—McGovern spoke as the principal eulogist at his funeral, celebrating the man’s life instead of mourning his death. Describing their relationship as “fast friends, mutual admirers, and fellow crusaders,” McGovern’s ongoing admiration for the lowfat diet king shone through his words:

Nathan Pritikin is one of the great men of our time. I say is a great man rather than was, because he achieved in the way he lived an immortality that will enrich all of us for the rest of our lives. …

He demonstrated beyond all reasonable doubt that the American diet—rich in fat, sugar, salt, nicotine, and alcohol—was the enemy of health and longevity. … When a reporter asked me if Nathan were [sic] controversial, I laughed and said ‘Of course he was controversial. So was [sic] Louis Pasteur, and Thomas Edison and Madame Curie. You show me an original thinker with a mobilizing vision, and I’ll show you a controversial figure.’ That is another mark of a great man.16

Given what the future had in store for McGovern’s own name and image, the statement was strangely prophetic. McGovern, too, would go down in history as an icon of controversy, for much the same reason as Pritikin.

Get Death by Food Pyramid Today and Learn How Shoddy Science, Sketchy Politics and Shady Special Interests Ruined Your Health… and How to Reclaim It!


  1. “Video: Making America Stronger: U.S. Food Stamp Program,” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, March 8, 2007, https://
  2. Richard Goldstein, “Earl L. Butz, Secretary Felled by Racial Remark, Is Dead at 98,” New York Times, February 4, 2008, https://
  3. “Food Conference: Let Them Eat Words?” Science News 1, no. 18 (1974): 278.
  4. “’Meet the Press’ Transcript for July 15, 2007,” NBC News, aired July 15, 2007, transcript, id/19694666/page/7/.
  5. Michael Pollan, Omnivore’s Dilemma (New York: Penguin Press, 2006), 52.
  6. Michael Leahy, “What Might Have Been,” Washington Post, February 20, 2005.
  7. Joe McGinniss, “Second Thoughts of George McGovern,” New York Times, May 6, 1973, html?res=F20B13FD3954137A93C4A9178ED85F478785F9.
  8. “Biography: Nathan Pritikin, Founder,” Pritikin Longevity Center and Spa, accessed February 20, 2013, home-the-basics/about-pritikin/press-room/item/biography-na- than-pritikin-founder.html.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Joe D. Goldstrich, personal phone interview, February 8, 2013.
  11. “McGovern Lauds Pritikin,” Milwaukee Sentinel, March 1, 1985.
  12. Darrell Sifford, “A Dozen Years Later, McGovern Defends Diet Recommendations,” Spokane Chronicle, March 4, 1986.
  13. Curtis Rist, “McGovern Tastefully Moderate,” Inquirer, February 6, 1988.
  14. Sifford, “A Dozen Years Later, McGovern Defends Diet Recommendations.”
  15. Ibid.
  16. Eugenia Killoran, “The Remarkable Friendship of Senator George McGovern and Nathan Pritikin,” Pritikin Longevity Center and Spa, accessed February 20, 2013, https://www.pri-

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54 thoughts on “Amber Waves of Shame”

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  1. I am not sure if we were talking about the same documentary I recently watched on Netflix, “A place at the table- hunger in America”, from the same producers of “Food, Inc”. I didn’t realize that there are actually people in US who actually go hungry on daily basis…:( But my impression is the one I watched was kinda taking a stab on the Welfare system in United States. And their point (or one of their points) is the Government shouldn’t rely on charity and donation to solve this problem but the fact is it does.

    1. A Place at the Table is a new documentary. The one mentioned above came out in the 1960s.

  2. I couldn’t get past the baby dying. I’m not a hippie and I am NOT a fan of big government at all, but that hurt to read. It just hurt.

  3. George McGovern, despite his mistakes, was a true gentleman and patriot.

    1. “Growing old is not for sissies.” Probably said by someone long long ago.

  4. Wow. Thank you for the tease, Mark. It definitely leaves me wanting to read more. Fortunately, I ordered the book last Thursday. According to the tracking info, it should be on my front porch when I get home from work tonight.

    1. same here. i wasn’t planning to get this one, but heaving read the teaser changed my mind and I placed my order on bookdepository (they ship for free, which is important for me as I live in Europe).

  5. I might just have to buy the book now. It’s fascinating to start understanding how government has so heavily influenced the food industry, controlling prices, and creating health fads. It’s scary but also important to understand where guidelines come from, why a loaf of bread is 99 cents, and why oreos are alluring. If anyone has read Salt, Sugar, Fat, it provides many insights as to how companies and government have been manipulating our palates.

  6. Since grain is lethal I’m glad we sold so much to the Soviet Union, particularly during the Cold War.

    1. ok, but it was russian people that ate it, not russian government. The people hated their government at least as much as we did. Don’t conflate a tyrannical government with the people it tyrannizes.

  7. This post brings back memories of my childhood. Times were changing, however, we lived a simple life of raising most of our food, farm fresh milk and gathering food (free oysters,clams) and limited meats (read cheap cuts like liver, tongue, bones with bits left on and the kind you have to cook low and slow). My mom baked bread, oh right out of the oven….. smelled so good, and dripping with butter = even better. I didn’t like bread that much then, probably a good thing since I am not one to digest it effectively.
    Kids running around barefoot, trying to avoid what the chickens left. Good times, well until I found out that we don’t get a year of summer-so sad that it was only a few months.
    It’s not as easy to have a simple life now, where we live we are not allowed to grow food in our yard.

    1. So basically, you were getting shellfish and organ meat, two of the foods Dr. Weston Price pinpointed as common traits of healthy traditional diets worldwide. (Milk was another one–grass-fed and raw. Farm kids often got their milk raw in the old days; I wouldn’t be surprised if some still do.)

      People these days want to solve health problems by growing a garden, but you can’t raise liver or oysters or milk in a garden. Vegetables make an excellent supplement to a diet but they cannot be the backbone; the mere fact of their seasonality prevents this. We lose sight of that fact because we import food from all over the world now and have invented ways to store the harvest, but we didn’t always have all of that at our disposal. A healthy diet for human beings that takes evolution into account must also take into account what was available to us when the bulk of that evolution was happening.

      1. Well as Lierre Keith said in _Vegetarian Myth_ raising lettuce certainly draws slugs. Since slugs are mollusks perchance they could substitute for sea food?

  8. I ordered the book from Amazon 10 days ago but it wont be delivered until after Christmas. Looking forward to a good read.

  9. I will definitely be getting this book–I’m just debating on whether I want a hard copy or a copy on my Kindle! As a farmer’s daughter from Nebraska, I have a love/hate relationship with learning about our food industry and agribusiness. Looking forward to reading the rest of this book.

  10. Just fantastic writing here.. I absolutely want to hear the rest of the story. Good move posting the tease, as I will be picking this one up.

    Without a doubt, this wasn’t the first time or the last that an America politician sold out the greater good of the public to score re-election..

  11. food stamps and government involvement have gotten people “food” and look where we are today. a largely obese population who consume “food” but they are literally starving because the “food” has no nutritional value.
    govt has “solved” this problem just like they “solved” the education problem by creating the dept of education and helped increase the frequency of illiterate dunces and sheeple. mcgovern used his power in govt to force people to do things he thought they should do. rarely does the destruction of freedom lead to less suffering. if you think aproblem is bad, just wait until you experience the govt’s solutions.

    regardless of how we look at it the following quote holds true; now and likely forever:

    “Living isn’t for the weak.”

    1. People are not fat and malnourished because they have access to SNAP. It’s not the same as WIC. It doesn’t prevent you buying healthy whole foods (including meat).

      If you think not being able to get food is “freedom,” you need a new dictionary.

      And I can’t think of many more obvious signs of weakness than to express envy of or contempt for the poor. If you’re so strong, pick on the strong, not the weak. Better yet, pick on no one at all. A genuinely strong person does not have to continually prove their strength.

      1. Dana, unfortunately your reply tells us more about your defensiveness than anything else. You can get off the soapbox, it won’t last anyway, it’s MDF imported from China now instead or southern pine from the US. (BTW, I run a charity for children’s hunger at a school where I teach.)

  12. All of Pritkin’s methods may not be the best for everyone, but the basic idea of his approach is immensely important. If we would just give more focus to fruits, vegetables, and other natural foods we would be a lot healthier. And he was also recommending exercise at a time when they said to take it easy. I’m thankful that he did the research and work that he did.

    1. Meat is a natural food too. Amazes me that even people on Paleo and Primal blogs can’t seem to bring themselves to acknowledge that fact.

  13. So…from a primal slant, is this inferring that we cut out fat, eggs, bacon, olive oil, cheese, meat, etc….everything we love? seems kind of anti-primal, and seems to give good reasons to cut the fat and meat. hmmm…am I missing something?

    1. Yes. You’re reading an excerpt from a book which means you did not get the whole story.

      I would imagine Minger’s book will be available at public libraries even if you don’t want to buy it.

  14. One of the first things that comes to my mind is how they imitated the ‘wartime diet’ in subsequent studies and somehow managed to think it was vegetarian based. I’m pretty sure if they had to ration fats, meats and sugar, vegetables were certainly not on the menu.

    It seems the wartime diet was reduction in ALL food.

    One of the things that Dutch children received as relief were oranges (tangerines, …) They did not have abundant fruit/veggies available to them. They had to crush up tulip bulbs in order to fill their stomachs.

    I’m not sure where this fits in, but I know that my personal view on grains is that they are not ‘evil’ nor are they ‘healthy’. They are a filler food and also useful during frank famine situations. I think if one realizes it’s a filler food and nothing more than that, they can save themselves a lot of stress over trying to argue if they are healthy and fibre rich as the 70s people (and still current) health FDA etc. promote it as, or they are evil, ‘anti’- nutrients there to kill people. It’s a filler, it’s a famine food. No one is meant to subsist on grain alone, nor is some small amounts going to kill anyone either. *I’m not including the small % of true celiac patients, since there are the PKU patients who cannot digest phenylalanine, or the people that have severe shell fish allergies etc. These populations are not relevant to a larger population at whole in this context.

    1. I don’t have celiac as far as I know, but I do get neuro symptoms from wheat, and I cannot lose fat and in fact gain it if I eat “safe starches.”

      Just because something is not acutely dangerous doesn’t mean it can’t be dangerous at the chronic level.

      Dr. Weston Price’s dental caries numbers on the traditional populations he studied indicated greater numbers of cavities in the grain-eating populations even with protective animal foods (organs, seafood, dairy fat) also in their diets, and even though most of those groups had access to vegetables. The Inuit and I believe the Maasai, who were practically carnivorous, had the lowest caries rates. There is more to dental health than how clean one keeps one’s teeth; none of these groups had access to toothbrushes or regular dental care.

      If it’s eating your teeth up from the inside out, you probably shouldn’t consume significant amounts of it.

      1. Well said Dana. I agree. Just because it doesnt kill you inside 5 minutes doesnt mean its not dangerous to the health and wellbeing.
        Maybe some people have adapted to certain grainfoods better than others, but a lot of the worlds population is not really equipped to metabolise and deal with new world grass grains, such as the modern form of wheat, Hence the metabolic syndromes that plague certain ethnicities.
        Factor into the equation that high sugar/starch foods are (generally) more abundant, cheaper, easier to prepare with less skill involved, addictive to the taste buds, and so on and so on – no wonder people fill up on it.
        From my own perspective, wheat tastes great and is addictive – when I dont eat it I lose weight more readily and have a better sense of well being etc, but I think about it all the time! Breads cakes etc are the drug du jour if I dont rein it in and the temptation is there to lapse and eat it “just this once!” and as we mostly all know once is never enough and its a slippery slope! High five to those of you who metabolise wheat and have no issues, but it is a slow gluey death to our systems for a lot of us.
        Happy christmas everyone!

    2. Good point. Grain is more healthful than starvation. They may fight for last place, but if those are my choices, I take the bread.

    3. you seem to have a serious backlog on grains. your personal opinion is irrelevant if not supported by facts. pls read and learn a lot more about grains before forming a definite opinion about their harmfulness. no offence meant of course.

  15. McGovern died at age 90 , it looks like his diet worked for him.

    1. No–it’s what his grandparents ate before they made him (epigenetics) that allowed him to live so long. His genetics were already set, and he wasn’t exposed to all the food crap long enough to do any real damage.

    2. You could say the same about Ancel Keys, til you found actual photographs of him at over 100 years of age. The man’s body was ravaged. I wonder what McGovern looked like at the end.

  16. Kind of depressing to hear the phenomenon of government central planning shift from favoritism of small family farms to favoritism of large corporate farms as “letting the free market take over.” The free market favors neither; it simply allows what consumers want (not what politicians and bureaucrats think they want, or should want – even if they’re correct) to decide winners and losers.

    1. +1

      Well, at least one voice of reaon around these posts (with regard to the topic of free market, I have to add). I liike Denise, but markets and economy don’t seem to be her place. And Mr. McGovern was a criminal – just look at what his food stamp and other “poverty-protecting” programs have achieved – more poverty, more health problems. Evidently, he never evaluated the outcomings of his desastrous politics. He only ever thougt: “I need more money!”

      BTW: For me, as a promotion for her book, this has failed. I might buy it nevertheless, for the nutritional information. The economical is not well grounded, that’s for sure.

      1. I have always thought it ironic that most of the people who are upset about the truly abysmal state of mainstream American food culture are the same people who made it economically necessary (provided you accept that everyone being able to eat is a legitimate necessity). When you have an entire segment of the population (the urban poor) substantially or completely dependent upon income redistribution in order to eat, the only way to feed them is to give them cheap, nutritionally-meager, fattening foods like grains. It’s that or starve (even though most of those who are “outraged” would counter that the solution is simply *more* income redistribution; but that’s only because they subscribe to a Marxist labor theory of value, so they don’t regard anyone living beyond the bare minimum as economically necessary).

        The reality is that the only way that *everyone* could eat the way these people think everyone should eat is if *all* welfare programs were ended, and the urban poor were left with no choice but to relocate to rural areas. Once there, instead of spending their time doing things like reproducing, forming street gangs (sorry, “community organizing”), or – at best – flipping burgers or being indoctrinated at an “institution of higher learning”, they could work in, or very close to, agriculture; producing good, high-quality food for themselves and everyone else.

        It’s the very social programs that most of these “outraged” people support that made America’s food situation what it is today, and it’s the height of arrogance to turn around and blame it all on capitalism, the profit motive, and “greed.” Yes, some unprincipled, politically-connected “businessmen” have taken advantage of the system, but that’s not the thrust of the problem – and to be outraged about that is the height of hypocrisy. If you support government intervention into the economy for the sake of the poor, by what *principle* should you oppose it for the sake of the rich?

        1. I live in a rural farmer area. I have to say the poor around here will not even work in the fields because the farmers pay so low, and force their employees to work six days a week most of the summer, and 16 hours a day during harvest. You can actually bring in more income from welfare and food stamps than by working for a farmer. It’s a “beaners” job, because they have no problem living in squalor. It’s actually really sad the way the farmers treat their workers, only to rake in millions in subsidies when the market isn’t favorable!

        2. If you don’t own the land you are using to produce your food, you are forever at the mercy of the people who do own the land.

          Marxism says the worker should own the means of production. That has been corrupted by statists who think the state is “the people” and therefore if the state owns something, the people do. If you actually read Marx you will see he predicted that at some point we would abolish the state because it just wouldn’t be needed anymore. I don’t know if he was right–statist interests are very powerful, and statists will resist the abolishment of the thing that gives them power–but just the fact that he said this should have prevented libertarians demonizing him.

          Then again, expecting an American to actually read Marx is too much to ask. Your loyalty to your STATE is more important than your curiosity about someone’s philosophies, apparently.

          Meanwhile I have yet to see the so-called “free market” solve the problem of people not being able to own their own food production. Period. The free market favors only those who already own everything.

        1. Oh yes, they do. Economy is all about incentives. If the pice of something goes up (ceteris paribus), what will happen? Of course, fewer people will buy smaller amounts than before.

          The same goes for poverty. It has also a “price” (being able to spend very few, having low prestige in society, getting bad healthcare etc.). Through food stamps and all other “wellfare programs”, all three described components are being lowered (suddenly you are “entitled” and you get some money to live on on a weekly basis).

          Even more so, the price for “working yourself out of it” increases, since some of your yearnings already are met by state wellfare.

          So, if you want to admit it or not – food stamps cause, maintain and manage poverty. They are like drugs, and the government is the dealer, first robbing those you worked hard and then givin it to those who did less or nothing at all.

    2. Amen. It is ridiculous to call that statist central planning the operation of the market people and makes me wary of bias on the book. That said I will still read it once my library has it.

      1. Denise Minger is not a nutritionist or a dietitian and yet you trust her to write about diet. If you’re like most Minger fans, your rationale is that she thinks outside the box.

        I don’t suppose it ever occurred to you that you yourself might be unfairly biased and that perhaps she is thinking outside the box on economic issues as well, in a direction you could stand to examine as well.

  17. Another great book (if you can find it – it’s from the 60s or early 70s) is Reay Tannahill’s “Food in History”. Not nearly as controversial, but a good overview of why we eat what we eat; and how badly out-of-whack it has become thanks to gov’t intervention.

  18. …a number of political big-hitters ranging from the liberal Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts to the conservative Bob Dole of Kansas

    We all know what grows in Kansas, right? We also know that while in office, Bob Dole was THE LARGEST political whore on the planet, right? Guess who moved to K street after he left office, and now represents Big Food corporations? Yep–Bob Dole, brought to you by Monsanto, Cargill, and ADM.

    His wife Libby was some sort of political head of South Carolina for a while, but even she lost an election. She may also be involved in K Street stuff too now–I don’t know for sure.

  19. Earl “Rusty” Butz…His selling point—trumpeted loudly to the farmers whose votes he was chasing—was that food producers could rake in more money if they grew as much as possible and sold their surplus overseas, reveling afterward in their products’ price hikes.

    Now we know who to blame for exporting sickness!

  20. Let’s not crush Denise about her economics. I dare say none of us are reading the book to get her take on the stages of production or causes of inflation. It’s about how we got where we are and what to do about it. The value of the book is not contingent on whether she understands what the free market actually looks like or how inflation is caused. Besides, compared to the new deal, Butz’ deregulation – fascistic though it was- was a huge step towards a free market.

    1. Again, regulation in favor of one group being shifted to regulation in favor of another is not “deregulation”, but “reregulation.” Simply because capitalism is associated with large, concentrated businesses (because most of the time that is what works best, and thus that is what develops) doesn’t mean that when those businesses succeed as a result of government favoritism that that’s capitalism.

      1. Disastrously the subsidies moved to grains and soy and the market is anything but free.

  21. Sounds like McGovern’s getting a free pass in this excerpt. Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food doesn’t look as kindly on him. Either way, any time big government involves itself unnecessarily, the results are disastrous, regardless of motive.

  22. Still reading Primal Connection. Good stuff, very thought-provoking. I do wonder if there were any gay or bi Groks, though…

  23. In a quotation in the passage, someone has erroneously added “[sic]” to perfectly correct language: “When a reporter asked me if Nathan were [sic] controversial, I laughed and said . . .”

    The person who added “[sic]” to perfectly correct grammar reveals a surprising ignorance of the English language. “Were” is the form of the singular in the subjunctive mood—example: “if he were here now, I would explain this.” That “sic” is clearly wrong.

    The second “[sic]” is not so obviously wrong, but I would also argue against it: “So was [sic] Louis Pasteur, and Thomas Edison and Madame Curie.” I read that as “So was Louis Pasteur (pause, indicated by comma, which otherwise would be omitted), and (come to think of it) Thomas Edison and Madame Curie (as well).” The tip-off is the use of “and” twice, with a comma preceding the first. Rather than three subjects, I would argue that this is one subject (Louis Pasteur) and, as an afterthought, two other persons in the same situation.

    But the first “sic” is unambiguously incorrect.