Skip to comments.(Vanity) Confessions of a Crunchy Con II, or, I Left My Heart in Cans of Crisco
Posted on 10/05/2006 11:41:11 PM PDT by grey_whiskers
As you may recall, in my last vanity, Confessions of a Crunchy Con, or, You Can't Judge a Conservative by his Birkenstocks, I discussed how I became a crunchy consomeone who endorses certain cultural and lifestyle values which have traditionally been associated with the left. In this piece, I follow up with some thoughts about health and lifestyle issues, with application to American society at large.
Taking fish oil supplements, despite my misgivings, and finding how successful it was at rejuvenating me, was a real eye-opener. In fact, it got me thinking not just of my own health, but the health of the American population as a whole. Sure, were all getting older; and the aging of the boomers is forecast to do many things to our health care system. But I am talking not of the inevitable changes that come with turning grey: but of eminently preventable changes which we have come to accept as part of the aging process.
Look at the general state of health of the US population. Not only is the population getting older, it is getting fatter, more out of shape, more prone to heart attacks, cancer, diabetes, and to other diseases which arise from these conditions. Consider all of the adds for Viagra and its competitors. Did you know that erectile dysfunction is commonly found among diabetics and heart patients? Its a classic symptom of general poor circulation. The common dismissal of this circumstance is that these types of things are all diseases of aging that since most people at the turn of the century died (say) in their 50s (due to poorer health care in general, higher rates of infectious diseases, etc.), the onslaught of degenerative disease is inevitable.(*)
So what has changed since the good old days? Both our knowledge, and our waistlines. But not all of our knowledge was for the betterin fact, I think a great deal of the waistline problem is due to misguided or incomplete knowledge. It aint what you know, its what you know that just aint so as the saying states. One of the most significant things to happen since I was young was the increasing concern with cardiovascular disease. The garden variety advice has included the following:
-- cut down on fats, especially animal fats.
--substitute healthy margarine for butter.
--the food pyramid with its emphasis on grains and pasta
A lot of this got started back in the 1950s and 1960s, due to the idea that saturated fats should be restrictedand the hunt was on for substitutes. Enter partially hydrogenated vegetable oils; enter margarine; and enter fat-free or low-fat foods such as bagels and (oh boy!) vitamin-fortified breakfast cereals. But somehow, reliance on these items has not seemed to improve aggregate health. Why, what could have gone wrong?
The answer, I believe, is that the answer was only *partially* correct. It is true that diet affects ones heart, but not in the way originally thought. As it turns out, more recent discoveries about insulin, glucagon, eicosanoids, and leptin are showing that the very foods proposed as remedies to overweight and poor cardiovascular health have actually been contributing to the problem. But by the time the medical consensus began to pull its fingers out of its collective ears, revisit the earlier studies, and reconsider, the damage had been done. In particular, I think that a lot of savvy businessmen took advantage of the good intentions of the medical community, by touting these foods as heart healthy. But then something else happened. Somewhere, the bean counters got involved, and noticed that many of the items which were being sold as heart healthy were not only cheaper than the original, non-processed alternatives (leading to a higher profit margin); but they had longer shelf lives as well!
There is a certain irony heremany of the very items which were originally touted as being part of the first line of defense against disease, turned out to contribute in large part to what they were supposed to prevent. While making two groups of people a load of money. Did I say two? Yes, thats right. Not only did the original food marketers make out like bandits, but once the long-term effects of the heart healthy diet kicked in, suddenly Americans developed the need for numerous medicines for everything from high blood pressure to cholesterol making the pharmaceutical industry a lot of money. (Ironically, one detractor against the so-called sensible diet was the Harvard cardiologist, Paul Dudley White. Since Dr. White had acted as President Eisenhowers personal physician, and Eisenhower coined the term military-industrial complex, I am going to borrow his term and refer to the agricultural-pharmaceutical complex. One of the things that makes me so suspicious in this area is the immense amount of government regulation behind food and drugs. You know, the FDA. Im not a conspiracy nut, but I *do* know better than to blindly trust some bureaucrat just because he says, Im from the government and Im here to help you.) I think that the problem is caused by the big, multinational corporationsto quote Alec Baldwin from Team America: World Police:
And then Team America goes out, and the corporations sit their in their corporation buildings and see.. they're all corporationy.. and they make money.
Now that Ive convinced everyone that Im an commie granola-munching eco-freak, Im going to let the other shoe drop. Imelda Marcos, take warning! I dont think the problem is that corporations are bad, or that we should all join a commune or a family farm. I think the problem is an unintended side effect of the corporations' success, and of a perversion of Americas great spirit of free entreprise and entrepreneurialism. And so the solution can come from us as well.
What do I mean? Hang on for Part III of the thread, where I take us from Adam Smiths hidden hand all the way to Hidden Valley Ranch salad dressing, with a bit of free-market libertarianism on the side.
(*) I beg to differ. Looking at a variety of sources, one finds that the incidence of diabetes and heart disease was much smaller in the past. How do I know this? Because all of the health websites are now decrying an explosion in diabetes ratesthey are going up. For example, according to the American Heart Association,
In the United States, 2.6% of adults aged 45 years and older had been diagnosed with diabetes in 1960; by 1990, this proportion had risen to 7.0%. These trends may be attributed to marked increases in obesity and physical inactivity, which are major risk factors for type 2 diabetes. Obesity has become epidemic in the United States. In 1960, 13% of US adults were obese (body mass index >30 kg/m2); this rate had risen to 27% in 1999
And of course, we all know about the rates of heart attacks. For example, the late Robert Atkins (of Atkins Diet fame) quotes the US Census as saying that there were less than 3,000 heart attacks in the United States in 1930. Compare that to the estimated 1.1 million people with a coronary heart disease related event in the year 2001 (according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. Yikes! But if we got into this mess, we can get out of it again. Stay tuned.
By the way, while researching this article I came across an interesting link called The Townsend Letter. I dont know if it a nutcase website, or quack, or reasonablebut it did contain some interesting information about diet and heart disease, particularly the studies on fat intake and heart disease. As usual, the opinions are my own and are subject to change without notice. If you want Medical AdviceTM, you should see your doctor, or at least write him a check
No, I'm not giving away the title.
...and if I missed anyone, I'm sorry. It's past my bedtime...
Thanks - will look at it as time permits. Big story in NC this morning, industrial fire.
Thanks for the ping! Many of my earlier opinions were formulated after reading "Confessions of a Medical Heretic" (I don't remember the author), which gave me a healthy (pun intended) skepticism of all things medical. Dr. Andrew Weil is the current inheritor of that kind of legacy. He opines that traditional, or allopathic, medicine is great for trauma intervention, such as broken bones or accidents, but that it stinks with respect to chronic or long-term treatments, such as chronic pain. And the recurrent theme is that WE have to be responsible for our own health care decisions, after being informed about all the options.
I never have been much of a believer of the "better living through chemistry" approach to pill-taking. Instead, healthy eating (no fake fats or fat-reduced food of any kind, and I personally eat no meat) and regular exercise are "a must". And to underscore my tag, a cheerful and optimistic attitude is essential. (I wonder whether Republicans, a more cheerful lot overall, are generally more healthy than Democrats. Hmmmmm.) But the point is that it is MY responsibility to oversee my health decisions, and not the gummit's.
(Climbing down off soapbox now, LOL!)
I stopped using margarine and tried to avoid using hydrogenated anything -- I'm interested in reading your next article.
(At least that's when I first saw the thread.)
Apparently a major leak of chlorine gas, nothing to mess around with...
Yes, I saw the live thread this morning. We have FReepers on the spot, of course!
When folks began working in offices more, they moved around a lot less. When folks had to start traveling longer distances to work, that left less time in the evenings for activity. Most times, the man of the house would come home and just sit while the wife was preparing and serving dinner. Not making a gender offensive statement here, just the facts. There were exceptions, of course, some men still did some manual labor in the evenings. Many nights, my Dad would come home from his regular job, sit for an hour or two, reading the paper or watching the news, then get up from the supper table and go out into his shop and spend the rest of the evening building cabinets for a customer. Even then, he dropped dead of something at the age of 64; don't know if it was a congenital heart condition or not, my older brother died of a heart attack this summer at the age of 66.
Women have not been immune from this. Women used to stay slimmer by doing work around the house without modern conveniences like washers and dryers, dishwashers, central vacuums, etc. It took a lot more motion and activity to do the work. The more women moved into the realm of office work, the more they didn't move around a lot during the day, but they still continued to eat as much as they did before, so they started gaining weight, and it's HARD to get off, once it's there.
That was informative, thanks.
substitute "healthy" margarine for butterAmazing (or not) that the push for hydrogenated oils used for margarines led to a backlash; I've even seen lard recommended over vegetable oils for deep frying (not that deep-frying is necessarily a great idea to begin with). I'm a food ho, in that I'll eat pretty much whatever's put before me, but I way prefer butter, and prefer lard in pie crusts.
No, I'm not giving away the title.LOL!
I took a baking class a few years ago, and the teacher used lard for pie crusts and many of her breads and rolls (and oh, were they delicious!). I don't use lard, but I refuse to use anything other than butter or real oils in my cooking or baking.
For one thing, they're so much more filling than the imaginary ones. ;')
If I can just list out the knee-jerk responses that often appear on threads that dare suggest there's a diet-health connection:
1) We're all going to die of something anyway, so why bother?
2) We only have these diseases because we're living longer.
3) All our ancestors died at age 40 - so quit yer complaining.
4) Bah, that's all just quackery. My doctor said so. So does Snopes and QuackWatch.
might be inspiration for future crunchy articles.
LOL! I meant olive oil, coconut oil, sunflower oil, or macademia nut oil, instead of those sprays that contain other junk.
Thanks for taking the decision out of my hands ;-)
I have a jar of safflower-oil based mayonnaise in the pantry as I type...
Keep writing and I'll keep reading.... Thanks for the ping.
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