Friday, November 10


US Journalists were largely responsible for confusing the populace into thinking diets like Atkins were effective and healthful (and that's ignoring those who were actively prosletyzing for it such as Gary Taubes). They jumped on every study showing any value in any kind of fat and spun it into the ongoing narrative of "It Turns Out Atkins is Right!" even after Atkins died of a, *cough,* slip on the ice in 2003. It wasn't until the company went bankrupt last year that the bloom was off the rose.

But an overarching narrative dies hard, and many news outlets, including, unfortunately, the Huffington Post, trumpeted this recent study as an all-new vindication for "low-carb diets," occasionally referencing Atkins or using the Atkins logo as illustration. But even a cursory glance at the data involved shows this is nonsense: Atkins was denounced by serious nutritionists largely because of his adherence to the notion that saturated fat - the kind of fat found primarily in animal products - had some mysterious weight-shedding power and did not interfere with health. This says quite the opposite: "Women who eat a diet moderately low in carbohydrates, but rich in vegetable fat and vegetable protein, can cut their risk of heart disease by as much as 30 percent compared with just following a low-fat approach..." and "The new findings, published in today's issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, underscore that eating few processed carbohydrates, such as bagels, white bread, cookies, candy and cake, and replacing animal fat with a moderate amount of healthful vegetable oils "can help reduce the risk of heart disease," said Alice H. Lichtenstein..."

The article also points out the study found no significant weight loss, but in fairness to Atkins, this diet plan has almost nothing to do with his - other than the (entirely uncontroversial) notion that donuts, cookies and cake should be consumed in extremely moderate amounts.

So let's review, shall we? Once again, the narrative says: Low-carb, high-animal-fat diets are fine; meanwhile, the data says: Replacing animal fat with vegetable fat gives a health advantage. And which one gets the headline?

Thursday, November 9


If you've been keeping up with Meat Facts for a while, you may remember the big 2002 ConAgra recall of millions of pounds of E.Coli-tainted beef, during which dozens of people in multiple states were sickened, including an Ohio woman who died from the illness. The main ConAgra plant in Greeley is now "Swift," and by whatever name it appears the company hasn't changed its stripes: Japan Halts Beef From 1 U.S. Meatpacker, reports CBS News (apparently having dropped the "#" symbol from before the "1" in the headline).

    The Agriculture and Health ministries decided to halt shipments from Swift and Company's plant in Greeley, Colorado after a shipment from the facility arrived in Osaka without proper documentation for some of the internal organs contained within, Agriculture Ministry official Yasushi Yamaguchi said.

    The Japanese government has asked the U.S. government to investigate the mishap and outline measures to prevent a recurrence, Yamaguchi said. After receiving a report from the U.S. side, the Japanese will send a delegation to the Greeley plant to review whether it is following rules for export to Japan before allowing trade to resume.

    "We are very concerned about what appears to be a simple error because it comes so soon after Japan lifted its import ban," Yamaguchi said.

America's meatpackers are used to the backslapping "oversight" of our industry-stacked USDA. Their arrogance about BSE up to 2003 has already damaged US trade to the tune of millions in exports, and this shows that even after that fiasco they haven't learned their lesson.

And, lest this point needs to be underscored - These are the people we're trusting to keep our own food safe?

Tuesday, November 7


This is a cute "offbeat" story about a guy studying eating habits, headlined: Prof asks: Why do we eat mindlessly, and what would help us stop? Simple, snarky answer: We eat mindlessly because we don't want to think about where what we're eating came from, if it's from a dead animal, which it tends to be, one way or another. And what would help us stop? Hmmmm. I'd have to say, stopping doing so.

Sure, it's snark, but it's more applicable than you might think:

    Eating a wrap sandwich for lunch on campus, he can't help noticing a label on his mayonnaise packet: "As always 0g carbs."

    "I love it!" he said with a laugh.

    The packet doesn't mention that a single serving has 10 grams of fat and 90 calories.

The article doesn't mention that the label plays into one of the great "mindless" fads of all time, the "low-carb" craze, and attempts to soothe the consumer's health consciousness while slamming them with saturated fat and cholesterol from animal products.

There are a lot of reasons, in short, for mindless eating, but we'll never be mindful unless we're willing, as a culture, to pay attention to what our food really is.

Sunday, November 5


The indefatiguable Michael Greger has completed his book "Bird Flu: A Virus of our Own Hatching," and though those of us who are familiar with his efforts should buy the thing anyway, Dr. Greger has made the whole thing available online at this site. And after I gave him so much grief about the non-linked "20th-century style" footnotes on his Atkins Exposed site, I gotta say, he's really done a great job with these, linking you right from the citation to its source through the magic of the Web. Check it out!