1993 - NEW NATURAL HYGIENE DIET UNDERSTANDING
FROM VEGANISM TO OMNIVORISM
Here are some excerpts from issue #9 of hygienic newsletter M2M.
Eating for optimum health - about the need for flexibility when it comes to diet.
QUOTE: "The ayurvedic scriptures don't teach a vegetarian diet,... They talk about the use of all kinds of animals, birds, fish, mammals - nothing is omitted. India did not become vegetarian because of a spiritual awakening or for personal health reasons, but because of environmental pressures."
Hygienic myths versus the scientific account - about how a natural hygienist began to doubt the prevailing vegan world view in Natural Hygiene in the 1990's - by taking university classes in archaeology and paleontology. And how he summarizes the (in 93) existing scientific arguments for human development as omnivores.
QUOTE: "Surely - I thought - there must be something wrong with these so-called scientists for them NOT to understand that humankind was ACTUALLY a vegetarian or perhaps even fruitarian originally! "
Satire - "Some of you may laugh your socks off here. Others might not find it funny at all and get annoyed, pissed, or think it unfair."
M2M - Many-2-Many - #9
EATING FOR OPTIMUM HEALTH
Is there a place for animal food in a healthy diet?
In the early seventies, I was working in Boston at a natural foods company and trying to learn all that I could about diet and health. I had been living in a house with a group of like-minded people for about a year when a new man named Mark moved in. He had come to Boston to study Oriental medicine and had been a vegetarian for several years, but during the past year had been living as a vegan (eating no eggs, dairy products, or animal flesh). Mark was tall, quite thin, and although he had a pleasant outgoing manner and a good sense of humor, he didn't look well. He was pale and seemed to spend as much time napping as he did going to class.
Mark's health didn't seem to improve much on the hearty vegetarian fare being served in our house, so, in hope of gaining some insight into his condition, he made an appointment with macrobiotic philosopher Michio Kushi. Macrobiotics is a Japanese-oriented philosophy that advocates a grain-and-vegetable-based diet that includes seafood, but shuns the use of dairy products and red meat. Kushi is primarily responsible for popularizing its practice in this country. Those of us at the house speculated on what Kushi's dietary advice would be. All of us had already paid him a visit at one time or another and all had received the same admonition: "No eggs, no dairy, no animal food!" We figured Mark was already ahead of us on that score and expected him to receive some subtle dietary adjustments to Kushi's standard vegetable-based regimen.
"I think a strict vegetarian diet acts as a good cleansing program for people who come from a diet heavy in animal foods and processed foods. But for some people, when it goes on too long it seems to backfire."|
- Ann Louise Gittleman, M.S.
"A diet that is suitable for one person may be marginal, deficient, and even dangerous for another."
When Mark returned that evening he was grinning broadly. "Well, what did he say?" we asked.
Mark answered, "He said, 'Drink milk and eat pizza... Everyday!"'
As our collective jaws dropped, Mark capered about seemingly pleased with himself. I noticed a slight flush on his face. Evidently he had already taken Kushi's advice to heart, and it was working.
Unlike the rest of us who were in the process of kicking a lifetime habit of cheeseburgers and chocolate shakes, Mark had for years been eating what was an inadequate vegetarian diet for him, and he was undernourished. He simply couldn't get the calories and nutrients he needed from the grains and vegetables he was eating. It didn't take long for Mark's new diet to change his condition for the better. His overall appetite improved, and he started to eat more in general. Soon, he didn't need to eat milk and pizza every day to keep his energy up.
While Mark had not improved on the vegetarian fare served at our house, the rest of us certainly did. Having come from a diet based primarily on fatty animal foods in the form of eggs, dairy, and meat, we felt our health and vitality increase as we focused our diets on whole grains and vegetables. Yet even after Mark graduated from his milk and pizza diet, he found that he felt better when his daily intake continued to include a small amount of animal food. Although he still believed that a vegan diet was morally superior, he just couldn't thrive on it.
Mark's experience taught me two things. First, that rather than strive to adhere to a rigid dietary philosophy, we should instead strive to discover a diet that supports optimal personal health. And second, that personal needs often vary beyond the general guidelines of even the most comprehensive dietary philosophies.
VEGAN: eats no animal foods or any type.
OVO-VEGETARIAN: eats eggs, but no dairy foods or animal flesh.
LACTO-VEGETARIAN: eats dairy foods, but no eggs or animal flesh.
eats dairy foods and eggs, but no animal flesh. Commonly referred to as just vegetarians.
SEMI-VEGETARIAN: eats dairy foods and eggs and occasionally includes fish or chicken, but no other animal flesh.
This lesson in dietary flexibility and the uniqueness of individual needs is worth recalling given the growing amount of information in the press on the hazards of eating animal foods. Mark's experience runs contrary to the major themes of best-selling books such as Diet for a New America (Stillpoint Publishing, 1987) by John Robbins and Beyond Beef (Dutton, 1992) by Jeremy Ritkin, which say that animal foods are unsafe and unhealthy. In addition, the media (National Health included) are reporting on a wide number of studies from the National Cancer Institute, the American Heart Association, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and others, that show that the incidence of a variety of chronic ailments including cancer, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and diabetes can be reduced by adopting a vegetable-based diet. For example, T. Colin Campbell, director of the China Health Project, the largest study of diet and nutrition undertaken, suggests that "The goal ought to be a diet made up of 80 to 90 percent plant foods at a minimum."
These sometimes dramatic publications and studies have led some to suggest that we eliminate the use of all animal products. The argument goes that since eating less animal food improves health, eating none would improve it even more. Vegan advocate Michael Klaper, M.D., a dietary counselor in Redondo Beach, California, states in his book Vegan Nutrition (Gentle World, Inc., 1987), 'There is strong medical evidence that complete freedom from eating animal flesh or cow's milk products is a gateway to optimal nutritional health."
And John Robbins, in his new book May All Be Fed (William Morrow, 1992), suggests that the hazards of using any animal foods, even the so-called healthier ones, are considerable: "I am frequently asked what I think of eliminating red meat and substituting chicken and fish, cutting the skin off poultry and cooking it without fat, eating primarily low or nonfat dairy products, and restricting egg-yolk intake to two or three a week.., the data leads me to the conclusion that such a strategy is the equivalent of cutting smoking down to one pack a day."
Certainly no one can argue against the evidence that advocates a move from the high-fat, animal-based American diet to a low-fat vegetable-based one. But does the evidence show that the consumption of any animal products is dangerous or unhealthy? The experience of people like Mark indicates that the use of animal foods may be not only beneficial, but perhaps even essential.
Alternative health professionals have long supported a move to a vegetarian or even a vegan diet. Yet, after 10,15, and 20 years of treating vegetarian patients, many experienced alternative practitioners are now beginning to question the wisdom of overly restricting the use of animal foods in the diet. They've found that many of their patients who eat vegetarian or vegan diets fail to thrive on them, and that some even become malnourished.
Ann Louise Gittleman, M.S., is a nutritional counselor and consultant specializing in women's health in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She served as the Chief Dietitian of the Pediatric Clinic at Bellevue Hospital in New York and was the nutrition director at the Pritkin Longevity Center in Santa Monica, California. She supports the idea of a vegetarian diet in principle, but like Mark, she found that for her and many of her patients, it doesn't work. "We all know the reasons that show how unsound it is to be eating meat, and on paper I agree with them," she says. "But in real life I am seeing vegetarian and vegan women who don't menstruate, have protein deficiencies and fatigue, are losing their hair, and have premature menopause."
Gittleman has been working for over 18 years with vegans, vegetarians, adherents of macrobiotics, and people who have restricted their intake of animal foods. She says that she saw these nutritional problems, especially among women, when she was nutrition director at the Pritikin Center in California from 1980-1982. She saw them among the vegetarian community associated with the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health when she was in practice in Lenox, Massachusetts, in 1989. And she is seeing them now among her patients in Santa Fe. "I've been doing this enough years to know that, practically, something isn't working."
Gittleman says, "I think that a strict vegetarian diet (minimal use of dairy products) acts as a good cleansing program for people who come from a diet heavy in animal foods and processed foods, and for a time it is therapeutic. But for some people, when it goes on too long it seems to backfire." Gittleman believes that people on too strict a vegetarian diet can change their physical condition from one troubled by the problems of excess to one troubled by problems of scarcity.
Suzanne Havala, R.D., Chair of Vegetarian Nutrition, a dietetic practice group of the American Dietetic Association and co-author of the ADA position paper on vegetarianism, believes that it is not a lack of meat that vegetarians have trouble with, but rather a lack of calories. "I think that it stems from overly restricting food choices," she says. "People sometimes restrict themselves out of ignorance. If you try to live off of alfalfa sprouts and lettuce you won't be getting enough food. If you then add animal products to that kind of diet you will of course increase calories, fat, and other nutrients."
Vegan advocate Klaper adds that, "It is essential to eat a wide variety of yellow and green fruits and vegetables and different grains. If you do that plus make sure that you have an adequate source of vitamin B12... from fortified cereals, soy beverages, and nutritional yeast, or from a multi-vitamin and mineral supplement, you will be meeting all your nutritional needs. It really isn't that hard."
Yet for some, doing well on a vegetarian diet can be not only hard, but apparently, impossible. Rachel Albert-Matesz, author of Gourmet Wholefoods: Vegetarian and Macrobiotic Cuisine (GOMF, 1989) and co-founder of the Center for a Sustainable Diet in Seattle, Washington. says, "We found that you can develop nutritional deficiencies even with a carefully outlined diet that on paper meets all nutritional needs."
"We don't encourage patients to follow a vegan diet. I don't think even a well-balanced vegan diet is going to be sufficient for most people."|
Rudolph Ballentine M.D.
As professional natural foods cooks and cooking teachers, it was the business of both Albert-Matesz and her husband to create balanced and nutritious vegetarian meals. They both made time to prepare three meals a day for their family. "My husband didn't eat empty calories," Albert-Matesz says. "He regularly included some fish, eggs, or dairy. Yet he still tested for nutritional deficiencies. I had an amino acid blood test done, and I was deficient in nine amino acids. I was supposed to be getting all those amino acids from my diet, and they were there on paper, but I wasn't digesting them."
Albert-Matesz and her husband still eat a grain and vegetable-based whole foods diet, but now include 4 - 8 ounces of animal protein daily in the form of seafood or organic free-range dairy, chicken, eggs, or even red meat such as beefalo or wild game. "People don't realize that they can get health-supporting low-fat and hormone-free meats that are nothing like commercial meats," Albert-Matesz says. We're doing a lot better since we've changed our diets. Our sleep is more restful, we are more energetic, and our concentration is better. I no longer have clinical signs of anemia and my mensus has improved. I had no periods for three years on a vegetarian diet that occasionally included some fish."
Dietitian Havala acknowledges that individual dietary needs do differ and that there are normal variations in people's constitutions. "But I don't think that anyone has a requirement for animal products," she says. "People have to be careful when they associate their anemia with their vegetarian diet. Most anemia is not caused by nutritional reasons. Just as many people become anemic who aren't vegetarian, but they don't associate it with their diet."
Reed Mangels, R.D., Ph.D., a dietitian and nutritional consultant for the Vegetarian Resource Group, a non-profit Baltimore, Maryland-based organization that offers the public information on vegetarianism, adds that she doesn't believe that anyone "physically needs meat," but says that some people just have trouble finding the right combination of vegetable foods. "Strictly from a nutritional standpoint," she says, "animal foods appear to make no difference.
After nine years of trying to make her vegetarian diet work, Albert-Matesz doesn't think that her problem was the failure to find the right vegetable combination. "Vegetarianism is almost like a religious commitment to some people," Albert-Matesz says. "Vegetarians are fond of saying that if the diet isn't working it's because you are doing something wrong. They never question whether there may be nutrients that some individuals just can't get from vegetables."
Why a particular diet is able to work for one person but not another is due to vast differences in people's ability to metabolize nutrients. This diversity is the result of individual differences in digestion, absorption, transport, utilization, and rates of excretion of nutrients. Commenting on the scope of these variations, nutritional researcher Roger I. Williams said, "... Individuals within a species frequently are not even approximately alike in many details of their metabolism." The classic example is provided by historical novels like Richard Dana's Two Years Before the Mast. During long sea voyages, crew members subsisting on the same vitamin-C deficient diet for the same length of time shows a great range of deficiency. At a given point, only a few sailors showed severe deficiencies, many had moderate deficiencies, and some had no visible signs of deficiency at all.
Modern research has confirmed these dissimilarities. Speaking in a 1980 article in Natural History, medical researcher Rene Dubos, author of Man, Medicine & Environment (Pall Mall Press, 1968), cites a study of 19 healthy men that found a five-fold difference in their daily requirements for calcium (from 220 mg to 1015 mg) and two to seven-fold differences in their needs for various amino acids. "A diet that is suitable for one person may be marginal, deficient, and even dangerous for another," concluded Dubos.
Nutritionists know that some people cannot digest milk products. Others are unable to digest the complex sugars in beans, peas, and other legumes. And some have trouble digesting certain vegetables, like members of the cabbage family. Then there is the problem of allergies, where some people just cannot tolerate certain foods at all. Even in the absorption of vitamin B12 (see sidebar, 'The Trouble with B12") people have different capabilities.
THE TROUBLE WITH B12|
"People have different abilities to absorb B12."
Because reliable sources of B12 are found only in animal foods, or in foods fortified with the vitamin, attention to obtaining this nutrient is critical for vegans, and even for vegetarians who consume few dairy foods. Deficiencies of B12 can lead to pernicious (megaloblastic) anemia, loss of appetite, fatigue, pallor, dizziness, numbness or tingling in the extremities, and impairment of brain and nerve tissue that may result in permanent neurological damage. A major concern with B12 deficiency is that it is not easily recognized before it has already caused physiological damage.
One reason why B12 deficiency is difficult to diagnose may be due to folic acid consumption. Folic acid is a B vitamin that functions much as B12 does. Symptoms of folic acid deficiency are similar to those of B12 deficiency, and both give rise to megaloblastic anemia although B12 deficiency results in neurological damage. High folic acid intake, as found in many vegetarians and others who eat large amounts of green leafy vegetables, can mask the clinical signs of anemia. This means that blood assays of B12 may appear normal while neurological damage due to B12 deficiency may be progressing undiscovered.
Alternative practitioners such as Rudolph Ballentine, M.D., medical director of the Himalayan Institute for Yoga Science in Honesdale, Pennsylvbania, are finding that unrecognized B12 deficiency in their vegetarian patients is more common than they had thought. "When I was in medical school," Ballentine says, "I was taught that what you get with B12 deficiency was pernicious anemia. Then, if it goes on too long, you get degeneration of the nervous system. But now we know that this is not necessarily true. Neurological symptoms can precede hematological ones,."
To find a more reliable indicator of B12 status, Ballentine secured the literature and found that the most reliable test was one called the hypersegmentation index, a test where you put blood samples under the microscope and count the number of hypersegmented nuclei - the more hypersegmented nuclei, the greater the B12 deficiency. "We now examine people for hypersegmented nuclei and have found it in a surprising number of people, even vegetarians who eat dairy products, and even in a few people who are not vegetarian," Ballentine says. "It is alarming.
William Doell, M.D., medical director of Metagenics, a San Clemente, California-based formulator of dietary supplements, has had similar experience. Doell was a family practitioner and nutritional consultant in Denver, Colorado, for 25 years and had many vegetarian patients. "I had patients who would have high serum B12 levels," Doell says. But when he visually examined the blood cells, as Ballentine did, he would see signs of B12 deficiency. "At the time," he says, "I didn't know why that was."
Doell points out that people have different abilities to absorb B12. Some people cannot produce intrinsic factor, a protein secreted by the stomach that allows B12 to be absorbed by the intestinal wall. Others lack the transport mechanism to get B12 from the intestinal wall into the blood. And different factors may inhibit some people from getting B12 from the blood serum into the cells.
Ballentine believes that this malabsorption question is the most serious issue in the field of vegetarianism. "We must carefully watch B12 status in people who tend toward a vegan diet."
From a nutritional standpoint, animal food does have its advantages. For one thing, it is nutrient dense. It is a concentrated source of calories, protein, iron, zinc, copper, and, in the case of dairy products, calcium. And it is the only reliable source of B12 in the diet, outside of processed foods that are fortified with the vitamin. Although there are vegetable sources of these other nutrients, many of them are better absorbed by the body when taken in the form of animal products.
For example, the iron in animal foods, called heme iron, is highly bioavailable, while plant iron is less well-absorbed. In addition, many factors in the diet hinder the absorption of plant iron, such as fiber, soy protein, bran, tannins in tea, oxalates (organic acids in spinach, rhubarb, etc.), and food additives like EDTA. Heme iron also has the ability (the so-called "meat factor") to increase the absorption of nonheme iron from plant food when it is eaten during the same meal.
A similar situation exists with zinc. Although cereals are the richest of zinc, the zinc in cereals is less bioavailable than the zinc in animal products.
Patricia Johnston, Associate Dean of the School of Public Health at Loma Linda University, a Seventh Day Adventist school in Loma Linda, California, cautions against undue speculation, "I don't think you will find any good science on why some people may need to eat more animal foods than others. I don't think anyone has really looked at that question. Nutritionists just look at the availability of nutrients in foods, and some have different opinions on it."
Although Klaper adamantly says that 'There is absolutely no nutrient, no protein, no vitamin, no mineral that can't be obtained from plant-based foods,' he does admit that after 10 years of doing vegetarian nutritional counseling he finds that some people don't do well on a vegan diet.
"If I put 100 people on a vegan diet and check with them a year later, 90 are doing great," he says. 'Ten are not doing great. They have a lot of gas, they lack energy, and they are unhappy. For some people it is more difficult to absorb some nutrients and trace minerals out of plant fiber. There is no question that some nutrients from animal foods are absorbed easier."
Klaper believes that after a lifetime of meat eating, some people take a longer time to adjust to getting their nutrients out of plant foods. "A slow transition is the way for these people to begin eating as vegans, but this is only about 10 percent of the population. Most people make the transition without a problem."
Rudolph Ballentine, M.D., knows about making the transition to vegetarianism. For the past 20 years he has been the medical director of the Himalayan International Institute of Yoga Science and Philosophy in Honesdale, Pennsylvania. Ballentine is the author of Diet and Nutrition (Himalayan Publishers, 1978) and Transition to Vegetarianism (Himalayan Publishers, 1987). The majority of his practice has involved treating both vegans and vegetarians. "I've found that a successful transition takes time," he says. "I think that people should make a move toward vegetarianism, but they should also be patient with themselves and base the process on developing self-awareness. Some people give up red meat and spend the next 10 years eating fish and poultry before they can take the next step, sometimes they spend the rest of their lives eating those foods. People who listen to what their body is telling them and who are willing to make a gradual transition tend to do better. They become healthier and naturally move to a more vegetarian diet. The people who get into trouble are those who read a book and just decide that a vegetarian diet is what they should eat and start to do it. But their digestive system says no way."
MEAT ISN'T WHAT IT USED TO BE |
Modern domesticated meats now contain more fat than they do protein. On the other hand, wild game has much more protein than domesticated meat, yet it contains only one-sixth the amount of fat - a level that approaches that of many beans and grains. Although hunting wild boar and other game certainly is not an option for most Americans, there is low-fat range-fed beef available such as Coleman Natural Meats, and low-fat meats such as bison and beefalo are appearing in the market.
PROTEIN AND FAT CONTENT OF SELECTED MEATS
100 Gram Portion
||Grams of Protein
||Grams of Fat
|Prime Lamb Loin
|Choice Sirloin Steak
|Coleman Natural Beef
|Grains and Beans
Ballentine, however, makes a distinction between making the transition to a vegetarian diet that includes small amounts of dairy, fish, and eggs and trying to make the transition to a strict vegan diet. "We don't encourage patients to follow a vegan diet," he says. Ballentine has found that for more people than not, even eating a broad vegan diet is not sufficient. "I don't think even a well-balanced vegan diet is going to be sufficient for most people. Ideally, you can argue that it could be if you include a source of B12, if all the food is grown organically in mineral-rich soils, and if you lived in an environment without the pollution and psychological stresses that increase your needs for certain nutrients such as B vitamins and C, and many trace minerals. But even then I still think a high percentage of people wouldn't do well on a vegan diet and could benefit from some milk, eggs, or fish.
"The ayurvedic scriptures don't teach a vegetarian diet," Ballentine says, referring to the traditional Hindu system of medicine practiced since the first century A.D. They talk about the use of all kinds of animals, birds, fish, mammals - nothing is omitted. India did not become vegetarian because of a spiritual awakening or for personal health reasons, but because of environmental pressures. It became both uneconomical and unsanitary to raise animals in so crowded an environment."
The experience of nutritionists on the proper role of animal foods in the diet appears to be almost as varied as the people they are treating. But the answer to why some people seem to need more animal products than others isn't clear. Ronald Schmid, N. D., author of Traditional Foods Are Your Best Medicine (currently out of print, but soon to be republished as Native Nutrition by Healing Arts Press) and a naturopath in general practice in Westport, Connecticut, has an interesting perspective on the question. "You can take the practical approach and look at the empirical evidence ~ based on what we see among the vegetarians we know," he says. "And it is plain that some are not doing well. You can also take the analytical approach of a dietitian and examine the nutrients in the diet to see what is missing and look at the problems of absorption, etc. Or you can look at the historical record and ask, what do the diets of traditional indigenous cultures teach us?"
Schmid points to the work of Dr. Weston Price, a pioneer in the study of dietary patterns in primitive cultures. As a dentist in the 1930s, price became convinced that certain animal fats contained an unknown factor, perhaps essential fat-soluble vitamins and other "mineral activators," which enabled the body to assimilate trace minerals and other nutrients that helped prevent dental caries and ensured optimal health. In order to pursue his theories. Price traveled all over the world to examine the diets of traditional cultures who were free from cavities and degenerative diseases. "After 20 years of searching Price concluded that there were no traditional cultures anywhere that did not place importance on eating animal foods or seafoods or both," Schmid says. In particular. Price found that using sea-food or the products of wild game or grass-fed animals was essential. Grain-fed animals did not seem to be able to provide that unknown factor that ensured health. Price observed that when traditional societies came in contact with Western people and began to eat sugar and other processed foods they, and especially their children, developed the same incidence of dental caries and degenerative diseases.
Schmid believes that there are several physiological reasons for using animal foods that need to be explored. "People don't realize that vitamin D, like the B vitamins, is a whole com plex of vitamins," he says. 'The D3 that is made by the skin through the action of the sun is essential for calcium absorption and is thought to be the most important, but it may be less important than other parts of the complex which come from animal foods such as fish oils. My experience is that D3 alone may not be enough.
"Another thing that is missing in modern nutrition is an understanding of protein," says Schmid. In Diet for a Small Planet (Ballantine, 1971), Frances Moore Lappé's ground-breaking book on the social costs of our food choices, the author popularized the idea that all protein is broken down into its individual amino acids, then absorbed. According to Lappé, it didn't matter whether you got your protein from plants or animals, as long as you took in all of the essential amino acids. Schmid believes that notion is only partly true. "Many nutrition texts still say that proteins are all broken down into amino acids before they are absorbed," Schmid says. "Yet in the past 20 years there has been a lot of research that shows that this is simply not true. Many proteins are absorbed as large polypeptide fragments and they have uniqueness and specificity. Liver protein is different from muscle protein and is different from vegetable protein. I think this has important implications for how proteins are absorbed and used in the body."
Schmid believes that the missing X-factor in Price's work may be related to essential fatty acids like EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). EPA is an omega-3 oil and an essential component of cell membranes and hormone-like substances called prostaglandins, which work throughout the body as microregulators. EPA and similar nutrients appear to be required for the optimal functioning of a whole array of bodily processes. "One thing you don't get from plant foods are EPA and these related nutrients." Schmid says. These nutrients are available in dairy products from free-range animals and in wild game - products which are rarely available in our supermarkets. 'Today, for all practical purposes, EPA is only found in seafoods," he notes. Some marine algaes aiid vegetable oils, such as flax oil, do have precursors of EPA, Schmid admits. 'Theoretically the body can convert alpha-linolenic acid, a fatty acid found in plant chloroplasts, into EPA. But research indicates that few people make this conversion in any significant amount, probably because many things tend to block this conversion in the body; alcohol, sugar, and other fatty acids in the diet from grain-fed meats, dairy products, and vegetable oils." Schmid says he doesn't encourage vegetarians to eat meat, but he does encourage them to consider the importance of the vitamin D-complex, EPA and associated nutrients, and biologically-unique proteins - all of which are available from seafoods. He feels that the risks of not having these nutrients outweigh the risks of polluted seafood. "I think that species like salmon, sardines, flounder, and sole are relatively safe."
"Another thing that is missing in modern nutrition is an understanding of protein. Many proteins are absorbed as large polypeptide fragments and they have uniqueness and specificity. "|
Ronald Schmid, N. D.
Today, there are so many cultural differences between the amounts and kinds of animal foods people eat that it is difficult to establish a clear case for what our real physiological need for meat is. 'That's why we went back so far in our research," says Boyd Eaton, M.D., chief of radiology at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia, and co-author of The Paleolithic Prescription (Harper Collins, 1989). "We wanted to find what diet was essential for our ancestors before they developed too many cultural differences." Eaton says that the anthropological record clearly shows that our ancestral species have been omnivores for well over a million years, and that most of our genetic structure and physiology was determined during that time. "Our bodies have been selected to get a lot of our protein from animal foods," Eaton says. And he finds that studies of primitive cultures today confirm this fact.
"Anthropologists have gone all over the world," Eaton says, "and whenever they talk to tribal peoples, they find that these cultures put a tremendous emphasis on the wild game they consume. They consider them to be the best foods. I don't know why that is, but it is universally so among these primitive cultures. I think that they reflect a long standing need that goes back a very long way."
In the Paleolithic Prescription, Eaton shows that today's grain-fed meats are different in their composition from the lean game meats traditional people ate. The meat from wild animals has one-sixth the total fat and one-tenth the saturated fat of the meat from domesticated animals (see chart "Meat Isn't What lt Used To Be"). These meats, he says, also contain omega-3 fatty acids such as EPA that are not found in domesticated animals. He describes many studies that show that cultures whose diets receive as much as 60 percent of their calories from these meats do not have heart disease, arthritis, and other diseases that have been linked to meat consumption. Eaton, however, isn't suggesting that modern people start to hunt and eat wild game. "If you eat fish or use poultry with the skin removed," he says, "you have a reasonable way to similate the foods of our ancestors, foods we are designed to eat."
POLYUNSATURATED FATS IN MEATS|
Many drawbacks attributed to red meat in general possibly should be attributed only to modem fatty meat. Wild game contains a much higher proportion of polyunsaturated fat1y acids. It also contains about 2.5 percent of an essential fatty acid, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), thought to offer protection against atherosclerosis, whereas domesticated meats don't contain enough EPA to measure.
PERCENTAGE OF POLYUNSATURATED FATS IN SELECTED MEATS
||Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids
as % of all Fatty Acids
The China Health Project is often cited by vegetarians to prove the hazards of eating meat. The massive study showed that people in the country-side who get only 10-15 percent of their calories from animal foods had a low incidence of heart disease, colon cancer, and osteoporosis. But when these people moved to the city and increased their meat consumption and use of sugar, junk food, and white flour, the incidences of these diseases rose dramatically. "It's ironic that people use the China Project to make a case for the elimination of animal products," Albert-Matesz says. "Traditionally in China they are highly valued and often indicated for pregnant and lactating women and growing children. She says that the people in the country who are forced to get 90 percent of their calories from vegetable foods are not interested in eliminating animal products, but instead seek them out because they think animal foods are essential.
"In Oriental cultures there are both vegetarians and nonvegetarians," according to Efrem Korngold, an acupuncturist in San Francisco, and co-author of Between Heaven and Earth (Ballantine, 1991), a guide to Chinese medicine. "But animal foods are thought to contain a kind of energy or essence that nonanimal foods just do not have. Animal foods are used to treat illnesses that result from a deficiency of the body's basic essence, which is very difficult to replenish even with a good vegetarian diet. I see people who have been vegetarians improve for a few years and then have their health decline again. They don't seem to have enough of that basic essence to work with." Korngold finds that people who lead stressful lives or suffer severe illnesses or trauma, especially women who have had miscarriages or difficult pregnancies, benefit from adding animal protein to their diets. "I find that men can do better on a vegetarian diet than women," he says. Korngold adds that eggs are a traditional remedy for replenishing essence and blood. "If I think a woman needs animal protein, I often recommend that she eat one egg a day, if her cholesterol is not an issue."
At Women to Women, a holistic medical practice in Yarmouth, Maine, Christiane Northrup, M.D., has also come to recognize the value of animal products for women. "I didn't come to this position until just this past year, 'Northrup says. She asks women to consider eating some animal foods when they complain of being weak and tired. 'They have this deep sense of fatigue about them," Northrup says. "For whatever reason, their diet just seems to lack enough life energy. There may be other choices that will work, but it seems as though many people just need to get it from animal foods." Northrup isn't suggesting that we go back to eating slabs of beef, "Grains and vegetables still should be the basis of the meal. The animal food portion should be used as a sidedish or a condiment."
"The bottom line," Loma Linda's Johnston says, "is to eat a broad variety of foods. The adequacy of a diet doesn't depend upon what we call it, but on what foods we actually select. There are lousy vegetarian diets just as there are healthy omnivorous diets." Johnston admits that nutritional science is far from providing all the answers to what people should eat. But, she says, "We know enough to say that we have to choose our foods carefully. It isn't something that just happens. And that goes for omnivores, too."
Reprinted from Natural Health: The Guide to Well-Being, Box 1200, 17 Station Street, Brokline Village, MA 02747. Subscriptions $24 per year. All rights reserved
S.D. Resources Jun/Jul/Aug 1993
M2M - Many-2-Many - #9
FROM: Ward Nicholson / Wichita, Kansas - for issue #9 10-1-93
(OPTIONAL TOPIC: Virtually all of my letters here in this issue is oriented towards areas of disagreement that I have with hygiene (primarily the animal-food-in-the-diet question for now), so I won't address the optional topic separately. I am sure that to some here much of what I will be saying will probably seem like a strange about-face with a pointed argument that may appear aimed at supporting a meat-centered diet. This is not really the case. Keep in mind that even with my current experiment I am still eating about the same as I always have - predominately raw (about 2/3), mostly plant - but with meat now making up 10-15% of the regimen.)
HYGIENIC MYTHS OF THE PREHISTORIC PAST VS. THE SCIENTIFIC ACCOUNT
As tentatively promised last issue, my main project for this M2M letter was to assemble here the relevant juicy information about human-kind's evolutionary past that one would assume those concerned with 'natural diet' would be curious about. At least I HOPE people are interested in this sort of thing. I myself find it absolutely fascinating, since in my view it is really the key linchpin to the entire 'philosophically correct,' 'hygienically principled' argument which says we should eat 'food of our biological adaptation.' (Stated up-front: my underlying premise is that what we evolved on is what we are adapted to.)
A startling disillusionment.
When I first (roughly about a year ago) actually got into what is now known about this by scientists through archaeology (digging up our past) and paleontology (studying fossils), I was somewhat disturbed initially to discover how often the subject of meat-eating prehistoric humans kept coming up and in such a matter-of-fact way. Surely - I thought - there must be something wrong with these so-called scientists for them NOT to understand that humankind was ACTUALLY a vegetarian or perhaps even fruitarian originally! After all, wasn't that what all the vegetarian and/or hygienic literature consistently told us and purported to prove - via anatomical comparisons with other animals, the length and type of digestive tract, tooth structure, lack of human claws, and so on? And didn't any scientist worth their salt KNOW about all this? What was the matter with these cretins?!!
But after a time, as fascinated as I was by the material I was poring over, a gentle disillusionment gradually began to set in, which I found hard to accept at first: Because gee, if what these scientists were saying were actually true - and it certainly appeared they were no slouches in the cranium-size department - then it might mean I would have to question one of the prime rationales for pure vegetarianism itself! Then after doing that, it meant if I was REALLY convinced, I might actually want to put my money where my mouth was: go out and buy some MEAT (horrors) to experiment to see if I actually DID better on such a dietary regime myself! Then too, there were the disconcerting personal observations and stories, mentioned last issue, that I had heard from Joel Kramer and Diana Alstad (formerly staunch vegetarians of 17 years) about themselves and their vegetarian acquaintances - observations I hadn't ever heard before, at least not in a form I trusted. But then, what would everyone THINK, I wondered?
But I decided to damn the torpedoes because I have become convinced that the scientists actually ARE telling the truth insofar as they know it, and that in fact, it is the people in the vegetarian camp who have their facts about humankind's dietary heritage twisted to suit their own fancy. So for what it's worth, whether people dismiss it all or disbelieve me or not, I've decided to cough up the evidence here, which I think pokes some large holes in the total-veggie myths and legends that continue to circulate about humankind's supposed Edenic past. First, though:
My new experimental 'hygienic carnivore' diet.
Primarily what the introduction of flesh into my diet has so far involved is simply substituting cooked fish and fowl for the greater part of my nut and seed intake (at this point mostly fish, since it's much easier and quicker to prepare and eat). The basic idea is for whatever meat I eat to approximate the lean composition of wild game (only about 4-6% fat, whereas modern feedlot meats are usually 25-30%). This means if I could get hold of some, I would also be willing to try buffalo (getting more popular locally), or range-fed cattle perhaps. Other than this, my diet remains pretty much the same as before: roughly about 2/3 raw (a little lower than before), and maybe 25-30% fruit, 5-10% sprouts, 5% raw juices, maybe 20% high-starch cooked items (grains, potatoes, etc.), and maybe 20% raw vegetable items. The flesh currently makes up about 10%, maybe 15% some days.
After having eschewed dairy products for about the first month of the experiment (since they weren't part of our evolutionary history until very recently - at the time of the agricultural revolution 10,000 years ago), for awhile I tried eating some non-fat plain yogurt most days and a slice or two of unpasteurized raw milk cheese about every second or third day. (This was based on something I read in Running Research News, plus a lifetime liking for dairy products.) After a little over a month of this however, it seemed I was beginning to have oilier skin, so except for what I imagine will be the usual once or twice-monthly indulgence, I have eliminated the dairy once again.
The intent here has been to leave as much of my diet as possible the same as before, with animal foods replacing nuts for the most part,. to have a halfway decent baseline for rational comparison. Perhaps, therefore, one could say that for this experimental period I am a 'hygienic carnivore.' ;-) (hehe)
I have been eating dead fish, and occasionally dead chicken or turkey, so far, about 6 days/week, one meal a day on average - usually lunch, where it replaces my usual nuts in about the same ounce by amount (5-6 oz/day). (I'd like tot ry some type of range-fed dead red meat too, but have not gotten around to trying to locating any. It probably won't be easy. Come to think of it, I've heard some people say 'better dead than red,' but can't say that I'm sure about that. ;-) ) Some days I go back to nuts/seeds, or eat them in addition at a different meal, when I get a hankering for them. In general, I am finding dead fish/fowl vs. the live (dormant?) nuts to be about '6 of one, half a dozen of another.' That is, I'm about equally satisfied taste-wise on either regimen.
Cooking-wise I'm doing everything plain with no oils or spices (other than rubbing the pans with safflower oil beforehand to keep the meat from sticking) and enjoy the taste of the cooked dead flesh just fine as-is - I've no objections or problems with it. (Saaaayy... does anybody want to hear what my favorite kinds of dead fish are? Nope?...
Huh, well, I didn't think so. ;-) ) I've been told not to cook chicken/turkey less than 50 minutes due to the concern for salmonella poisoning. Fish, I cook for 20 minutes. (I would like to try raw dead fish, maybe some craw-dead fish too, but haven't inquired about that just yet - or tried killing any either, for that matter. Hmmm... raw plant food is 'live,' but raw fish is 'dead'- - but I wonder if it's classifiable as 'dead' if it's just been freshly killed and eaten while still pulsating? Ya got me. Whatta the Indians say? ;-)
As far as results, I did not expect to notice any big changes in the way I felt for maybe a month or two, based on what my acquaintance Joel Kramer had told me. But I began to notice an initial difference, after about two to three weeks, of somewhat better recovery ability between my daily training runs (of anywhere from 3 to 4 miles on easy days, to 8 or 10 miles on harder days), and a bit more feeling of strength. (An interesting sidelight here is that I later talked to a friend of Melinda's who had been vegetarian for about 10 years, and she mentioned 2-3 weeks as when she first started noticing changes after she added animals foods back to her diet a number of years ago.) After this, I was able to increase my running mileage from about 25-30 miles! week to about 35-45 miles! week during the third and fourth weeks on the new experimental dietary regimen (which I hadn't been able to sustain before, even though I had made a few attempts), where I have maintained it since. Instead of having to take 3 or 4 easy days between hard workouts, I can now just take 1 or 2.
Around 6 or 7 weeks I experienced another uptick and was able to add an extra hard workout per week. At this point I'm now getting in about three hard workouts per week (previously it was one, very occasionally two), with a race counting as a hard workout when I compete in one.
My sex drive has remained the same as before so far. My high level of hunger did not diminish at all for some time; since about the 2-month mark, though, it's begun gradually coming down, which has been experienced as a real 'relief.' In general, I have been sleeping a bit more restfully, though still not like I would prefer ideally. I will note further (if any) changes in following issues.
I was advised by Joel Kramer (mentioned last issue) to masticate and ensalivate the flesh very thoroughly, that I might not enjoy the 'feel' of chewing it at first, and that it might take my stomach about two weeks to adjust its capacity to putting out the extra hydrochloric acid needed to digest meats well - that when my stools were regular and passing easily I would know I'd probably adapted. As it has turned out, I have had no adaptation problems that I've been able to notice. From the very start, the fish and fowl both seemed to digest within about 2-1/2 to 3 hours - about the same as I experience for nuts. I have not experienced smelly stools, 'putrefaction' that I know of, etc. In general, I am coming to recognize that I just have a very fast (and, I hope, efficient) digestive system and passage times no matter what I eat.
The research behind things.
My sources: Primarily I am citing from 4-5 major books here pertaining to the subject of humanity's evolutionary past, of which most either list a bibliography for further reading or are extensively footnoted and refer to more detailed studies themselves. I'll list them up front here to avoid the need for excessive anal-retentive (with a hyphen, yeaaah!) footnoting myself, and so other people here who want to themselves be anal-retentive (with or without hyphenating) can double-check me and look up the stuff too if they desire. By far the best single source I have so far run across pertaining to the evolutionary question of humanity's diet is a book I've quoted from here before several issues ago, called The Paleolithic Prescription, (c) 1989, by Eaton, Shostak & Konner. So far as I have yet been able to discover, this is the only book of its kind: one that directly asks the question, 'What did we use to eat during our evolutionary development, how has that been determined/estimated, and how can we try to approximate it today?' It brings together info pertaining to humanity's prehistoric diet from a number of sources and puts it all together into an extremely well-written, absorbing, arid coherent story of humanity's dietary past in layman's terms, something no other book I've run across even seems to attempt.
Another highly interesting work I found, although it is very technical in nature, is a caucus of papers from a recent (1991) international symposium of primatologists, archaeologists, and anthropologists held in Britain, and assembled into a book titled Foraging Strategies and Natural Diet of Monkeys, Apes, and Humans, edited by A.White and E.M.Widdowson of the British Royal Society (c) 1992, Clarendon Press, Oxford.
Another fascinating one is The Driving Force: Food, Evolution, and the Future, by M.Crawford and D.Marsh (c) 1989, also Brits. (Republished 1995: Nutrition and Evolution: Food in Evolution and the Future) This book pushes the intriguing perspective that the environment - working through the chemical substrates on the planet (via the food supply) as intermediary - is the unknown 'X factor' that both helps drive AND limit the directions biological evolution can take. (A unique view, because most evolutionists maintain that it is random mutation, and random mutation alone, that plays the sole hand in genetic change.) The chapters in this book pertaining to that particular hypothesis are probably not yet 'accepted' science, but the rest of the book is also interesting for the many and varied tidbits it has on the evolutionary past on earth as related to food in general.
Most of the information and quotations presented here are from these three books. A fourth one, an anthology edited by Francis Johnston, is Nutritional Anthropology (Alan R. Liss Inc., New York) (c) 1987, which has a couple of thought-provoking initial chapters on the human evolutionary diet question in an otherwise rather UNinteresting book that covers a hodge-podge of additional unrelated nutritional questions. I also had saved a U.S. News & World Report article I stumbled across awhile back (the 9/16/91 issue) with a particularly good update on the debate over current refinements to the evolutionary picture, called 'Who We were.'
Then another book I stumbled across just several weeks prior to this issue was Origins Reconsidered: In Search of what Makes Us Human, by Richard Leakey and Roger Lewin (1992). Leakey is one of the paleontologists doing actual excavation of human fossils in Africa. Having gotten tired of the dietary rehashes in the other books, I found this book probably the most refreshing and interesting of all exactly because it didn't focus on diet much - merely mentioning it where relevant in several places and putting it in the perspective of the entire human evolutionary story. The evolutionary dietary questions having now largely been answered for me personally, I began to find the story of what makes humans uniquely human (the interwoven gestalt of bipedalism; highly developed oral language; the in-built politic dynamics of small-tribal-group behavior; artistic-yet-functional tool-making; the larger and more complex brain and extremely extended childhood development period of learning and cultural acquisition compared to other species; and yes, food, and how it was obtained), and how it all came to be over the eons utterly fascinating.
If anyone thinks I have selected these particular scientific sources in a biased way, I invite them to look at other books besides them as well. I myself scanned through a number of others at the WSU library, but most are so filled with irrelevant accompanying scientific minutiae that it is sometimes exasperating attempting to locate the forest among all the 'trees' of jargon and nit-picking points of dispute that are of interest only to academics. Anybody who wants to get into all this is going to find that what disputes there are, are limited to specific details that are somewhat minor compared to the overall consensus concerning the meat-eating question (such as the exact dates at which meat-eating began, and whether the neat was gotten by scavenging or hunting), which in general has long since ceased to be an issue for most scientists because the evidence for it so far has been so consistent.
All these books do of course acknowledge that plant foods have always made up the bulk of humanity's diet, but none goes so far as to argue the 'pure vegetarian' scenario, all pointing to the fact that though animal foods have been the smaller proportion in most prehistoric periods, they have still been significant. Most of these sources all end up saying pretty much the same thing, so that much of it gets pretty boring after awhile anyway - the main points fascinating the more technical of these researchers being characterized by such statements as,
'We rely principally on dung analysis for comparisons of food intake over time or between populations to overcome sampling biases present in direct observation of food intake.., we often lost contact with chimpanzees when they began to eat terrestrial pith and leaves, because when doing so they selected their foraging areas unpredictably, tended to be silent, and were rarely visible.'
(In other words, since they couldn't always catch the monkeys in the act of eating, it was more reliable to simply analyze the contents of the poop they left behind.) [That marvelous quote courtesy of Wrangham et al in the above-mentioned Foraging Strategies of... book.]
TIMELINE OF THE HUMAN EVOLUTION AND CORRESPONDING DIETARY PATTERNS
Here's the evolutionary sequence for diet I pieced together from the above sources (which interestingly, and exasperatingly, none of them ever showcased explicitly, so I had to cobble all the dates and stages together into a coherent sequence for myself - it figures!):
65,000,000 to 50,000,000 B.C. - First primates in the human evolutionary line, resembling today's mouse lemurs, bush-babies, tarsiers. Small, weighing 2 lbs. or less. Largely insectivorous diet.
50,000,000 to 30,000,000 B.C. - Gradual shift in diet for these primates to primarily frugivorous, but with great variance between different species existing at the time as to proportions of other items in the diet, such as insects, meat, and other plant foods besides fruit, i.e., roots, shoots,
etc. Order of primacy of intake appears to have been fruits easily first, with vegetables and meat a distant second and third.
30,000,000 to 10,000,000 B.C. - Fairly stable persistence of above dietary pattern.
9,000,000 to 7,000,000 B.C. - Last common primate ancestor of both humans and the modern ape family.
7,000,000 B.C. - Divergence of proto-human ancestral line into separate chimpanzee and human branches. Meat begins to account for greater importance in the human line. Most sources cite actual physical evidence for meat as regular feature of the human diet as clear by 1.7 million years ago (with strong but a bit less clear evidence for it going back 2.5 million), after which it continues as a normal feature of hominid (proto-humans') diet from then on.
4,000,000 B.C. - First fully upright bipedal hominid (australopithecus afarensis). [Example "Lucy".]
3,000,000 to 2,500,000 B.C. - Australopithecus line diverges further into three co-existing separate sub-lines, one of which eventually gives rise to homo sapiens (modern man).
2,000,000 to 1,700,000 B.C. - First 'true humans' with stone tools and cultures (homo habilis): Hunter-gatherers subsisting on wild plant foods and scavenging and hunting. (The recent U.S. News & World Report piece dating to 1991 has the anthropological consensus pushing the date of origin for homo habilis back to 2,500,000 B.C.) There is continuing debate about whether at this time meat was obtained more by scavenging kills made by carnivorous animals or whether it was more by actual hunting.
1,700,000 to 400,000 B.C. - Appearance of homo erectus. Similar in height to modern humans but heavier with smaller brain. Hunting activity increases over homo habilis, so that meat in diet assumes greater importance. First in the human line to control and use fire (possibly as early as 1.4 million years ago).
1,000,000 B.C. - Due to the control of fire (the date of convincing evidence for the discovery of fire varying from .7 to 1 million years ago, depending on whom you read), homo erectus begins spreading to colder climates in Asia and Europe from the ancestral African home. Probable beginnings of the use of heat for cooking and processing foods.
400,000 B.C. - Archaic homo sapiens (our immediate predecessor) appears.
150,000 B.C. - Subspecies of archaic homo sapiens begins to develop (homo sapiens neanderthalensis - or the Neanderthals), thriving between 90,000 and 30,000 years ago in Europe and western Asia.
90-100,000 to perhaps as long ago as 200,000 B.C. - First 'anatomically modern' human beings (homo sapiens sapiens - yes, that two 'sapiens' in a row there) appear. It is not yet clear whether they descended from the Neanderthals or were a competing variant of homo sapiens species that supplanted them, or at what exact date within this general timeframe homo sapiens sapiens first arose. (The general timeframe is agreed, but the pinpointing of exact dates is still in dispute currently.) Research is ongoing.
40,000 B.C. - First 'behaviorally modern' human beings. Sudden explosion of new forms of stone and bone tools, artwork, plus elaborate burials arid many other quintessentially human behaviors. The impetus or origin for this watershed event is still a mystery.
40,000 to l0-8,000 .C. - Last period prior to the advent of agriculture in which modern human beings universally subsisted by hunting and gathering (the 'Paleolithic' period).
40,000 to 2,000 B.C. Migratory spread of humans around the globe: to Australia by 40,000 to 50,000 years ago when the last ice age had lowered sea level creating a land bridge linked to Asia; to the Americas by 12,000 years ago; the Arctic by 10,000 years ago; and the Pacific Islands by 2,000 years ago.
35,000 to15,000 B.C. - Cro-Magnons (an ancient 'race' of fully modern humans) thrive in Europe. Big-game hunting and temporary increase of meat in the diet to perhaps as much as 50%.
30,000 B.C. - By this time homo sapiens sapiens has supplanted all other types of humans.
10,000 to 8,000 B.C. - The advent of agriculture and animal husbandry (the 'Neolithic' revolution). Made possible by the recession of the last ice-age glaciers, which precipitated the current warm and wet modern climate. Made necessary by the gradual increase in human population over the millennia, which ultimately strained food resources that could be obtained by simple hunting/gathering. Infectious disease rates, which were apparently extremely low prior to this time, begin to skyrocket.
5,000 B.C. - Except for the few isolated primitive tribes that continue to persist to the present, agriculture supplants hunting/gathering as the primary mode of food production everywhere except Australia.
Food and human biology put in perspective:
Hunting and gathering was the context in which humans evolved, with our impressive intellectual, psychological and physical endowments - as well as our limitations.' (quote from Paleolithic Prescription, pp.26-27)
- 100,000 generations of humans have been hunters and gatherers;
- 500 generations have been agriculturalists;
- 10 have lived in the industrial age;
- and only one has been exposed to the world of computers.
TO GIVE A RECENT EXAMPLE OF A MODERN VEGGIE/HYGIENE MYTH IN CONTRAST TO THE ABOVE
Although I have a great deal of respect for Victoria Bidwell's Health Seekers' Yearbook - the sheer amount of work and the completeness of her all-in-one-place synthesis of Hygiene that the book represents is quite impressive (and I say this admiringly, the appalling graphic design and typesetting of the book left aside), and hygiene has needed a book like this for a long, time - nevertheless it does contain a notable error relating to humanity's 'original' diet. On page 108, the ubiquitous vegetarian and hygienic refrain that humanity was originally a frugivore is sung. But unlike many other authors, Bidwell recognizes that quoting of specific, traceable, scientific research is needed if such a claim is to be believed in this day and age. She quotes research from anthropologist Alan Walker, at the time of Johns Hopkins University, which was reported on in the New York Times edition of 5/15/79, based on the study of markings on fossil teeth that give clues as to the diet eaten.
Although a few years ago I'd been excited upon running across this passage in Bidwell's book, several things had begun to bother me recently about the way she utilized this research citation, in light of what I had learned over the last year or two about the human evolutionary picture. First, Bidwell paraphrases Walker's research as saying that 'humans were once exclusively fruit eaters... of nothing but fruit.' Now, while there is a partial grain of truth in this, as specifically stated'(with her use of 'exclusively' and 'nothing but') I began to strongly suspect Bidwell had probably exaggerated what the article said in order to make its claim so absolute-sounding.
Second of all, one single study does not establish the kind of consensus needed for a well-accepted scientific claim. To latch onto one lone research study as 'proof' of a theory is an oft-observed earmark of rash thinking casting about for respectability. (I do not mean to single Bidwell out for this: it is rather easy to do, and I do it myself from time to time, which - heh, heh - is probably the best training there is for spotting when someone else is doing it.) I'm sure it must have seemed, as it has to me on occasion, as if FINALLY, here was some anal-retentive [och, there's that word ayain ;-) ] scientific fart who was willing to admit the obvious: something which WE who are so far ahead of everybody else have seen as so obvious all along that we don't even NEED proof for it.
For another thing, 1979 is quite a while ago in terms of scientific research these days, at least in this particular field (microwear of fossil teeth), and it seems clear from the more recent literature I've gotten into that while this is a method which (at present) can be used to interpret the general thrust of a diet, it cannot (yet, anyway) nail down exact specifics. The specific significance of specific teeth markings, enamel thickness, and so on, continues to be debated (as can be witnessed in the Foraging Strategies book) and the unified consensus does not seem to go beyond saying that teeth tell you just the broad general outlines of an animal's food intake. Walker himself, in the article - which I have reproduced after my letter here - states that, 'I don't want to make too much of this yet. But it is quite a surprise.' This guardedness is typical of research scientists who recognize that not all initial studies are supported 100% by later ones, which can refine or modify initial conclusions somewhat. This is because initial studies are often biased by the views of, or limited evidence uncovered by, the researcher, or by the funding behind the research; critics may then come up with loopholes in the theory to object to it; new studies are designed to close off the loopholes; newer findings subsequently emerge which refute or further corroborate the original ones; and gradually you get more and more evidence one way or the other.
For another thing, it didn't seem to me that Bidwell made sufficiently clear in her summarization that even were her absolute-total-frugivore claim accurate, it would apply to a precursor species (homo habilis) that lived one to two million years prior to Paleolithic times - roughly about 40,000 years ago - when our physiology had finally assumed its present-day form, thus preceding the advent of more modern humans by enough time that the argument humans today should also be frugivores is weak.
Her further summation of the research, which had it saying that 'though we undertook omnivorous practices - our anatomy and physiology have not changed: we remain biologically a species of vegetarians,' is stretching things a bit. The article accompanying the report on Walker's research actually says, 'the human digestive apparatus and metabolic equipment has probably changed little in the last few million years.' But even changing just 'a little' genetically or physiologically speaking, where primates are concerned, can entail noteworthy consequences - at least from the kind of vegetarian point of view bent on making great mountains out of the differences between eating totally fruit as opposed to mostly fruits with a smaller portion of more-fibrous veggies and nuts; or that would consider a smaller fraction of meat and/or vegetables in an otherwise primarily frugivorous diet as blasphemous. As a for-instance, gorillas and chimps and humans all share 98% of the same genes - yet that small 2% obviously can make a telling difference in certain respects.
For example, Bidwell overlooks a very noteworthy dietary difference in her Yearbook chain of logic by making an unexplained shift from the at-first-claimed 'frugivore' designation to the more conservative 'vegetarian' claim a few lines later based on the same evidence without any intervening explanation. In their 'comparative anatomy' analogies, many hygienic authors seem to also lump these two categories together in similar fashion without any real supporting rationale. But these two simply aren't equivalent for evolutionary purposes. For example, gorillas are - unless pushed out of their normal habitat - closer to being what are called folivores (predominantly leaf-eaters) than are chimpanzees who are closer to being frugivores. Gorillas and some monkeys, for instance, have different enough digestive systems than chimps whereby the intestinal flora they thereby harbor enables them to digest types of plants very high in cellulose that chimps cannot make much use of. The much higher roughage content of the gorilla folivore-type diet is closer to what we might mean by 'vegetarian' and would be something the 'frugivore' chimpanzee could probably not handle very well or but for short periods of time - seasonal differences in available vegetation imposing variations on chimp and gorilla diets that they sustain only until food of preference once again becomes available. The gorilla is able to handle a higher fruit composition out-side of its normal range of foods better than the chimp can handle a higher roughage content outside its normal range. (This is all gone into in detail in the Foraging Strategies book.) Again, that seemingly minor 2% or less genetic difference makes the telling difference here between the physiology of chimp and gorilla digestion.
I DO NOT mean to castigate Victoria Bidwell here. (There are plenty of others one could pick on; she is just the most recent I have read that comes to mind.) It is understandable when one is so exceedingly enthused about something to overstep and make absolutistic claims or inferences. (Again, I do this myself from time to time and still have to watch against it occasionally! we all do. ;-)
At any rate, to test my above growing suspicions, I finally decided now was a good time to make the effort to actually track down Bidwell's NY Times article, and I was able to locate it on microfilm at the Wichita State University library. As it turned out, Bidwell was indeed engaging in some wishful thinking and reading more into the research than was actually said. I have reproduced the text of the article after my letter so that others can see for themselves. (Since the microfilm print was too splotchy for good reproduction in the N2N, I ended up rekeyboarding the piece for better legibility (sans photo captions). I think everyone will be able to see from it that while the article on Walker's research states that the diet of early species of protohumans was said to be 'chiefly' fruit, 'predominantly' fruit, which was the 'staple,' nowhere does it say or imply that 'humans were once exclusively fruit eaters... of nothing but fruit' as Bidwell summarizes it.
I should mention here two important factoids in the article that have since been updated. One is that it now appears while during this frugivore phase fruit did make up by far the largest part of the diet, small amounts of vegetables and meat, or at least insects, were also included. The other is that while the article states the first true human being (homo habilis) did not appear to eat meat - while its immediate successor species homo erectus did - later research has now pushed the date for at least some consumption of meat back to include homo habilis as well. (This is reflected in my timeline of human dietary evolution above.) Other than that, most of what is in the article still agrees with current research to the best of my knowledge.
[Also see Bidwell's website getwellstaywellamerica.com]
Here is the New York Times (edition of 5/15/79) article referred to in the text:|
RESEARCH YIELDS SURPRISES ABOUT EARLY HUMAN DIETS
Teeth Show Fruit Was The Staple
By Boyce Rensberger
BALTIMORE - Preliminary studies of fossil teeth have led an anthropologist to the startling suggestion that early human ancestors were not predominantly meat eaters or even eaters of seeds, shoots, leaves or grasses. Nor were they omnivorous. Instead, they appear to have subsisted chiefly on a diet of fruit.
Not until the advent of Homo erectus, the species immediately ancestral to Homo sapiens, is there evidence of the omnivorous diet that is typical of human beings today.
If confirmed, the findings would upset several widely held assumptions about the diet of early hominids, or human-like creatures. It is generally held, for example, that the large, flat-topped molars of the robust forms of Australopithecus were used to grind tough nuts and roots. The smaller form of Australopithecus and a similarly gracile form of true human being called Homo habilis were thought to have been omnivorous, mixing meat with roots, nuts, eggs, shoots and fruit.
'I don't want to make too much of this yet, said Dr. Alan Walker, a Johns Hopkins University anthropologist, who discovered the dental evidence. 'But it is quite a surprise.'
No Exceptions Found
The sample of teeth studied so far is small - fewer than two dozen representing four major types of hominids - and further analysis could refute the early indications. But, while the sample is small, no exceptions have been found.
- Every tooth examined from the hominids of the 12-million-year period leading up to Homo erectus appeared to be that of a fruit-eater.
- Every Homo erectus tooth was that of an omnivore. Homo erectus was the first form of human being known to have migrated out of Africa. Specimens have been found in many parts of Africa and Asia.
The findings are based on extremely detailed analysis of the microscopic wear patterns on the chewing surfaces of the teeth. The method, which Dr. Walker invented, uses a scanning electronic microscope to see scratches and pits that are invisible to the naked eye.
Dr. Walker has found that different kinds of food contain materials that mar the enamel surface of a tooth in characteristic ways. It is possible even to distinguish between a grass-eater and a leaf-eater because each food contains characteristic types and quantities of silica crystals that form naturally within plant cells. These crystals, called phytoliths, are harder than tooth enamel and scratch it slightly as the animal chews its food.
Grasses contain a much higher proportion of phytoliths than do leaves of bushes and trees. Fruits contain almost none at all. As a result, fruit eaters' teeth are highly polished, lacking any of the wear patterns characteristic of other food sources. Meats contain no phytoliths but the teeth of carnivores show scratches caused by crunching into bone.
Consistent Patterns of Wear
Using the teeth of various living mammals whose diets are known, Dr. Walker has established that the basic pattern of microwear on teeth is fairly consistent from one species to another. This is largely because tooth enamel is essentially the same substance throughout the animal kingdom.
To prove his method, Dr. Walker has compared the microwear patterns on closely related species of animals that are known to have different feeding habits. For example, of two closely related species of hyrax (rodent-sized hooved mammals sometimes called conies), one feeds predominantly on grass while the other is a browser, eating leaves of bushes and trees. Their teeth can be told apart easily using a scanning electronic microscope.
Dr. Walker has established similar patterns in the various types of wild pig, such as warthog, and among a number of monkeys and apes. It is against these patterns that the hominid teeth are checked.
To examine teeth with the scanning electron microscope, Dr. Walker must mount the tooth crowns on metal stubs that will hold them inside the microscope's vacuum chamber and then coat the crown with a gold palladium alloy that reflects the instrument's electronic beam. (It is the reflected electron beam that the microscope detects and manipulates electronically to enlarge the image and display it on a special television screen.) Hominid teeth are considered priceless relics and are not handed out by their discoverers to be treated this way, not even to Alan Walker, who is a close colleague of many of the leading finders of hominid fossils. Therefore, Dr. Walker developed a method of making replicas of the teeth by casting them in epoxy. The method does not alter the fossil but does pick up all the microscopic detail needed to make the analysis.
If it is true that the earliest hominids were all predominantly fruit eaters, the fact would suggest a way of life more like that of chimpanzees living in forests than most anthropologists had suspected.
Dr. Walker notes, however, that a fruit diet need not resemble what Americans consider a fruit diet - oranges, plums, apples, bananas and other extremely sweet and soft items. Hundreds of plants produce fruits that are tougher, more substantial foods. The pod of the acacia tree is one, for example, that is quite common in Africa today. It grows in lightly forested regions close to the grasslands usually considered to have been the home of early hominids.
May 15, 1979 issue of the New York Times. The print made off the microfilm was not good enough for xerox reproduction (of the pictures).
PROBLEMS WITH MODERN SCIENTIFIC STUDIES SUPPORTING STRICT VEGETARIANISM DUE TO HUGE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN ANCIENT WILD GAME AND MODERN DOMESTICATED AGRICULTURAL MEAT
In my own mind, at this point, the only scientific studies which do a good job of supporting a completely strict (or 'pure') vegetarian diet are those which study people LIVING TODAY and that compare groups of vegetarians with control groups of non-vegetarians. Harking back to our prehistoric past is actually worse than useless to defend vegetarianism: it actually argues for the opposite. With modern scientific studies, however, I unfortunately discovered there is a big flaw in that the people doing them do not seem to have thought to include a crucial element in their experimental designs: So far as I know (and I'd like to be tipped off about contrary studies if anyone here knows of them) they do not control for the great differences between 'modern meat' and 'wild game' (the latter of which is on average 6 to 7 times lower in fat, half or less the calories of the former, with a polyunsaturated to saturated ('good' to 'bad') fat ratio of 5 times higher. The researchers into prehistoric 'natural' diet who are interested in this bit of data often make special mention and remark at some length about its significance.
For instance, in The Driving Force ...: (republished 1995: Nutrition and Evolution: ...)
'... Animal fats were assumed to be the rigid saturated type, such as is found in domesticated 'fatstock' and used to make candles. This 'fact' has led several Government committees to recommend eating less meat to reduce heart disease on the assumption that meat fat was the same saturated fat.
'However, this assumption turned out to be incorrect, instead of finding the [wild] buffalo meat [the example used in the particular study cited] full of the saturated fatty acids as expected, it was rich in the essential polyunsaturated fatty acids. Meat samples collected from other buffaloes and wild herbivores were all, without exception, rich in essential polyunsaturated fatty acids: the very opposite of the accepted view of meat as a saturated food to be avoided....
'If an animal is overfed and denied exercise it simply gets fat. If the process is continued long enough, it loses muscle, and depot fats infiltrate the retreating muscle fibres, giving the 'marbled' appearance characteristic of modern intensively fed animals. This infiltrating fat is, like the rest of the storage fat of ruminants, saturated fat. Analysis of meat from this type of animal shows its fat to be largely saturated.
'By contrast, under natural or free-living circumstances this cannot happen. The animal eats the right kind of food in amounts appropriate to its growth and exercise and the requirements for the different seasons. Hence analysis of its meat shows it to be characterized by the type of fatty acids involved in cell function and structure: that is, it is rich in the essential fatty acids.
'Here in the buffalo meat was plain evidence that throughout man's evolution, the animals he ate would have had a low fat content: and what fat they had, contained a high proportion of essential structural lipid - quite different to 'marbled' beef. The fat in the domestic animal was the opposite: importantly, it is the kind of fat that experimenters had linked with heart disease. Man had unwittingly changed his animals in a direction now known to increase the risk of heart disease.
'What went wrong to produce such an unhealthy result? The answer emerges when the history of the development of modern meat animals is examined: in summary, they have been changed by alterations in the conditions under which the animals themselves were made to live.' (pp.221-222)
'It has happened little by little, but the end result is that we are eating obese animals. Although people say that they rear animals to get protein, they are actually producing far more fat than protein. In domestic breeds the fat provides more than five times as many calories as the lean. The differences between the wild and domestic animals are staggering. One thing is certain: we cannot blame the animal for it.
'...What is termed lean meat in butchers' carcasses is not lean meat at all. The tissue is infiltrated with veins of fat which can account for anything up to 20% of its weight. In wild animals there is virtually no visible fat between the muscle fibres. The only fats present are the structural (essential polyunsaturated) lipids used for building the cells. Any surplus fat the animals have is stored around the interior organs such as the kidneys and heart. People have selectively bred overweight animals, unhealthy in themselves and unhealthy to eat.
'What is true of cattle is also true of other domestic species.... The effect... can be seen from the comparison of wild and modern domestic pigs. The fat in and around their [wild pigs'] muscles amounts to no more than about 2% of the muscle weight, and in their bodies as a whole, the ratio of essential polyunsaturated to saturated fats is about 2:1. A modern pig fed on a high-energy diet produces a pork chop with 40-80% of its energy as fat and a ratio of polyunsaturated to saturated fat of only 0.2:1. In that ratio the wild pig does 10 times as well....
'Even chickens, which traditionally were very low in fat, were brought into line. In its 1976 report..., the Royal College of Physicians urged people to eat chicken in place of read meat because it was low in fat. The Royal College reflected a popular misconception which is now out of date. At the end of the last century the carcass fat on chickens was indeed a mere 2.4% but by the end of the early 1970s the data reported by the Agricultural Research Council Centres showed it close to 8% and by the early 1980s it had risen to 22%... The drive for 'weight gain' resulted in fat gain. Nutrient gain was not part of the design.' (pp.226-228)
Eaton, Shostak & Konner in The Paleolithic Prescription draw much the same picture: 'Wild meat also differs from that of domesticated animals Indeed, the carcasses of today's domesticated animals are 25 to 30 percent fat, while a survey of 43 different species of wild game animals from three continents has revealed an average fat content of only 4.3 percent.' (p.75) And also, '..the fat content of wild game averages 1/7 that of domesticated beef.... And what little fat there is in meat from free-ranging game animals has 5 times the proportion of polyunsaturated fat as is found in the fat of supermarket meat.' (p.7)
The following section I composed recently while laughing my fool head off after I got a 'wild hair'. Having been through several of the rationalizations made fun of below before (which is partially how I am aware of them), I began to see - now that I have begun experimenting with flesh consumption - how there were many other similar rationalizations that are possible to engage in regarding vegetarianism, even when people are having significant problems and don't seem to be doing well on the diet.
And since satire is one of my favorite forms of humor, I couldn't help indulging in the following bit of spoofing. Sometimes it gets me into trouble because people think I'm totally serious when I am only kidding - MAYBE, well, um, at least partially so (heh, heh).
So there... you have been forewarned! I got a lot of yucks out of writing this on - it pokes sly but also kinda hard-hitting fun at typical areas of vegetarian/hygienic doublespeak and true-by-definition arguments. You could say it's my best stab at answering this issue's optional topic about what dissatisfies me regarding hygiene: all the unanswerable, yet by and large, unprovable, arguments we are all so fond of. Some of you may laugh your socks off here. Others might not find it funny at all and get annoyed, pissed, or think it unfair. (I'll be curious to find out!)
29 COMMON REASONS WHY YOUR VEGETARIAN DIET ISN'T WORKING
(from those who know better than you do)
- a cataloguing of 18 years of conversation with the faithful:
Can be found online here:
Hey - another spoofing brainstorm that hit just before this issue's deadline!
11 GOOD REASONS WHY IF SOMETHING HAPPENS
ON A VEGETARIAN DIET IT MEANS ONE THING
BUT ON A MEAT DIET IT MEANS ANOTHER
(and why even if a meat diet succeeds, it really doesn't)
- If you kill a plant but eat it before it has completely died, it is called 'live' food. If you kill an animal and eat it while the flesh is still quivering, it is nevertheless still 'dead' food.
- If you kill something without legs (or fins) for food, unless you're a fruitarian there's nothing wrong with that. But if it has legs (possibly fins), you're committing an unpardonable dietary sin.
- If you are feeling good eating a vegetarian diet, it obviously means the diet is good for you. If you are feeling good eating a diet with meat in it, well, it probably means you are being fooled.
- If you're feeling bad eating a vegetarian diet, it's because the body is taking the chance to rid itself of toxins, which makes you feel lousy. On the other hand, if you're feeling bad on a meat diet, it's the toxins in the meat diet gunking you up.
- Feeling good on a vegetarian diet is due to the fact it is such a clean and pure, toxin-free source of nutrients. But if you feel good on a meat-based diet it's the toxins in it falsely stimulating you. (Aren't toxins just SO great? They can be used to explain opposites differently!)
- Plant metabolites are classified for the most part as 'nutrients' and supply you with stuff you need. Most biochemical metabolites from animals, however, should be viewed as 'toxins,' and poison you.
- For instance, when you eat plant protein it mostly breaks down into amino acids your body can use. When you eat animal protein, much of it breaks down into greatly excessive quantities of uric acid that your body cannot handle and which poison it.
- If the vegetables and fruits you eat happen to have unseen pesticides in or on them, you just do the best you can to avoid them and it's a risk you sometimes have to take. If fish from the ocean happens to be contaminated with some level of pollution, though, you'd do well to completely avoid it because you might do yourself untold damage by eating it.
- 'How can the same people who have dogs and cats for pets eat other animals? It's incomprehensible! Why, that would be like someone who grows house plants also purposely raising sprouts just to kill them for food! (Whoops! Lemme rephrase that...)'
- If people actually knew how modern meat was produced in slaughterhouses, they'd never eat it again. But as far as grafted, slave fruit trees in orchards go that are pruned and hacked yearly and cut down while still in their prime.., well, we just have to live with that these days.
- If you're following a vegetarian diet right and feeling good, you can rest easy knowing you'll never get the diseases of civilization. If you're eating a diet with meat in it and seeming to do well.., well, just you wait. You'll eventually (a) die of cancer of the colon, (b) have a heart attack from clogged arteries before retirement, or (c) if you manage to die of natural causes, you still can't escape retribution: you'll at least reap the karma by returning as a pitiful, mooing, hormone-fattened feedlot cow in your next lifetime.
M2M - Many-2-Many - issue #9 10-1-93 --- provided by Dr. Bass
Also read: "What Did Our Ancestors Eat?" - Garn&Leonard 1989
Read more about: The case against veganism - #1, and #2
For more information on the best fats - checkout Michael Eades (Protein Power) "Saturated Fat Debate"
He also wrote Why We Get Fat
The pitiful state of medical ignorance.
Another writer who mainly stresses EFAs (Essential Fatty Acids) is Udo Erasmus:
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