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For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering three questions from a single reader who just read an article from Vice. The article makes pretty bold assertions about topics that have already received a good deal of attention here on the blog. First, are probiotics actually useless? A new study cited in the article seems to suggest so. Next, is your gluten-free diet killing you? That’s what the author of the Vice article says. And finally, have GMO foods been conclusively proven to be safe and indistinguishable from non-GMO foods? Is the debate, more or less, conclusively over?
Let’s discuss:Read More
Conventional wisdom demands skepticism. Whether it’s the official stance on high-fat diets (“they’ll give you heart disease, don’t work, or do work but not for long!”), exercise (“you must jog at a moderate pace for an hour a day, four days a week!”), organic food (“it’s nutritionally identical to conventionally-grown food!”), or sun exposure (“you must always wear sunblock!”), I always question conventional wisdom. And when it’s lacking (as is often the case), I rightly skewer it.
I’m going to do something a little different today. I’m going to look critically at conventional wisdom, but of a different sort: the kind espoused by the alternative health crowd.Read More
For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering three questions. First, the matter of Kerrygold butter. It’s the go-to option for Primal butter eaters, but it’s also neither organic nor GMO feed-free. Is this a problem and should I withdraw my recommendation? Next, can a person who eats no meat, no eggs, no seafood, no tubers, and a limited selection of fruits and vegetables go Primal? Probably not, but that’s not the end of the world. And finally, what’s the deal with using saffron as a supplement? It appears to be effective at reducing appetite, but what else does it do?
Let’s go:Read More
A new study came out last month out of France. In it, researchers found that rats on diets consisting of 11%, 22%, and 33% Roundup-resistant genetically modified corn developed far more mammary tumors than control rats on non-GMO corn diets. GMO diet rats died earlier and in greater numbers. Why is this study notable amidst all the other studies that seem to show the safety of GMOs? Well, it’s one of the few long term GMO feeding studies, lasting a full two years, which, to a rat, is the equivalent of 60 of our human years. The other safety studies which found no evidence of toxicity in GM foods tend to last just 90 days, or 15 rat years. In other words, the French study studied rats over the course of an entire lifespan, whereas other studies have looked at rats for a relatively brief snippet of their lives. Cancer generally develops over a lifetime, as you probably know, so this would appear to be more relevant to human health than the shorter trials.Read More
At first glance, these may seem inconsequential to the casual reader. Biodiversity? That sounds like some fancy newspeak conjured up by Greenpeace! Soil health? How can soil be healthy? It’s just a collection of inanimate bits of dirt and clay and sand! Bee health? What do I care about a lousy bee? All those things have ever done is sting me, vomit up fructose, and make annoying buzzing noises. Carbon sequestration? Carbon dioxide is a mythological compound! It doesn’t even exist. Worker health? I dunno about you, but it looks like they’re getting a great workout to me, and what’s healthier than that?
Although I’m exaggerating these reactions, of course, the fact is that a lot of the potential benefits of organic farming are lost on consumers because they fail to immediately impact your health in the here and the now. You might be vaguely aware that biodiversity, the health of the soil, the role of bees, the ability of soil to sequester carbon, and the health effects of conventional farming on farm workers are “important” to consider, but are they important enough to nudge you toward consuming organic?Read More
Even if you can get folks to begrudgingly admit that organic foods tends to contain fewer pesticide residues than conventional (and that this might even impact a person’s health or the way a child develops), they’ll dig in their heels when it comes to the nutritional content. And why shouldn’t they? Organic isn’t really about getting more vitamins, minerals, or other nutrients; it’s always been about getting vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients without the conventional pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides that so often accompany conventional produce. The presupposition that proponents of organic produce claim it contains more nutrients is a bit of a straw man, as that claim is rarely – if ever – made.
But what if that mythological claim actually held a kernel of truth? I mean, now that they’ve mentioned it and let that monkey out of its cage, let’s explore a bit to find out, starting with the Stanford study that sparked this whole topic.Read More
I was wanting to know if there is any danger in eating hybrid foods. I recently tried broccolini and then discovered that it was a hybrid between broccoli and Chinese kale. Is this dangerous to eat? Is it similar to GM? I would greatly appreciate your input on this before I start eating more of it.
Thanks, Angelina, for the question. It’s a good one, because even when we don’t explicitly seek out the obvious hybrids (broccolini, pluots, apriums, etc.), we’re still exposed to them. In case you didn’t know, hybrid fruits and vegetables are created by cross-pollinating two closely related species of the same genus or two cultivars or varieties within the same species. Though we’re talking about the artificial, man-enabled variety in today’s question, this phenomenon happens quite frequently in nature. Random hybridization is essentially how new species of plants arise – stretched out over time. Artificial hybridization operates on the same principle as natural hybridization, only with authorial intent.Read More
We’ve examined the arguments for and against GMOs in the past. Indeed, there are reasonable and valid points to be made on both sides of the issue. Nonetheless, we concluded that there are just too many red flags to support the industry’s direction in GM technology. Not only do GMOs drive the use of naturally occurring and regionally suited seed varieties into the ground, they lock farmers (including those in developing countries) into a legal deal with the devil – one that often comes back to haunt them. Their rampant subsidization further encourages farmers to raise the same garbage grains and other “staple” crops that undermine our public health. And then there are the nagging, unsettling questions about our physiological response to these organisms. What happens exactly when you eat plants grown from seeds that are synthesized with everything from bacteria to fish to herbicides? What happens when you eat the animals that ate these crops? How much do we really know about these GM crops? With that in mind, a good reader sent this recently published study my way. See what you think.Read More
When Winston Churchill, in the 1932 essay ?Fifty Years Hence,? mused that ?we shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium,? he may have been more prescient than credited. Alexis Carrel had already been keeping a cultured chunk of chicken heart ?alive? in a Pyrex flask for the past twenty years by feeding it nutrients (though Carrel was only interested in whether cell death was inevitable, not whether meat could be grown in a lab for human consumption). Sci-fi author Frederik Pohl was one man who took the idea of in vitro meat seriously enough to write about it ? in the novel The Space Merchants, where cultured meat is the primary source of protein. That was science fiction, sure, but most good sci-fi is borne of the author?s honest opinion of what the future might hold and it?s usually inspired by the scientific advancements of the day. And sometimes, science fiction comes true. Like this time.Read More
For running a blog committed to following in Primal man’s footsteps, we Bees were initially all abuzz at the news that the FDA would be reviewing the prospect of introducing genetically engineered animals into the US system. We’re all about kickin’ it old school, as it were, so we weren’t too sure if eating super steaks was going to be in line with our philosophy. But it seems our trepidations might be a bit premature. While genetically engineered meat sounds bad to a Primal eater, there’s a possibility the stuff might actually be healthy, let alone dangerous.Read More