Diet For A New America
by John Robbins.
ISBN 0-913299-54-5 (Paperback, 423 Pages)
The second section of this book is the largest, the most in-depth and it is here where the author examines in fine detail the results of medical research that has recently taken place. We now learn that the decision to adopt a vegan lifestyle is often based not only on concerns for animal welfare but also for personal health reasons as well. Demonstrating this, we are first presented with the unmistakable links between animal fat consumption and the death rate due to circulatory diseases.
The cultures with the very longest life spans in the world are the Vilcambas, who reside in the Andes of Ecuador, the Abkhasians, who live on the Black Sea in the USSR, and the Hunzas, who live in the Himalayas of Northern Pakistan.21 Researchers discovered a "striking similarity" in the diets of these groups, scattered though they are in different parts of the planet. All three are either totally vegetarian or close to it.22 The Hunzas, who are the largest of the three groups, eat almost no animal products. Meat and dairy products combined account for only 1½% of their total calories.23
Particularly striking to researchers who have visited these cultures is that the people not only live so long, but that they enjoy full, active lives throughout their many years, and show no signs of the many degenerative diseases that afflict the elderly in our culture.
As children, we all learnt that protein is an important source of nutrition. The author takes the reader back to when these lessons were first implanted within us.
I am sitting in elementary school. The teacher is bringing out a nice colored chart and telling all us kids how important it is to eat meat and drink our milk and get lots of protein. I'm listening to her, and looking at the chart which makes it all seem so simple. I believe my teacher, because I sense that she, herself, believes what she is saying. She is sincere. She is a grown-up. Besides, the chart is decorated and fun to look at. It must be true.
Protein, I hear, that's what's important. Protein. Lots of it. And you can only get good quality protein from meat and eggs and dairy products. That's why they make up two of the four "basic food groups" on the chart.
Of course, just because the concept of the "basic four" food groups was promoted by the National Egg Board, the National Dairy Council, and the National Livestock and Meat Board, doesn't mean it is necessarily false. Just because there were hucksters in our classrooms doesn't mean the hucksters lied.
But it does mean their motives were a little less pure than we thought, and their "concern" for our education a little more self-interested than we knew. It might cast a shadow upon the wisdom of unquestioningly accepting the "truths" we were taught. It might mean, for example, that we should consult sources of information less biased than the Egg Board, or the Meat Board, or the others who applied so much political and economic pressure to get those nice pretty charts to say what they wanted them to say.
The National Dairy Council has spent tens of millions of dollars to make us think that osteoporosis can be prevented by drinking more milk and eating more dairy products. But the only research that even begins to suggest that the consumption of dairy products might be helpful has been paid for by the National Dairy Council itself.
Many a deeply inspiring story has emerged from the dedicated medical researchers working day in and day out for year after year to discover what has been learned. At the same time, however, there are other stories which are anything but inspiring. There are powerful interests who profit from the sales of foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol who recognize that the advances in medical understanding are not to their financial advantage. And though they have not been able to impede the growth of medical knowledge, they have been remarkably successful in preventing the public from having the full benefit of what has been learned, employing ruse after ruse in their efforts to keep our nation hooked on foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol. What the tobacco industry is for lung cancer, these industries have become for the heart attack.
Reading like a script straight out of The X-Files, we discover a conspiracy at the highest levels with regard to the public's food consumption.
"Over the years, the 'fat lobby' - the meat, dairy and egg industries, and their academic and political allies - has not only influenced our nation's food and nutrition policies, it has determined those policies."18
Most of us grew up thinking of the National Dairy Council as a benign organization whose purpose was wholesome and pure. Just as the "National Commission on Egg Nutrition" sounds like an independent health organization concerned with our well-being, the name "National Dairy Council" seems to imply an impartial group of elders who have come together to provide us their wisdom and council. When they told us milk was "nature's most perfect food," we believed them. When they told us to drink a glass of milk with every meal, we did as we were told. Little did we know this was an organization especially organized to sell the American public as much milk, and particularly as much milk fat, as possible.
21 - Hur, Robin, Food Reform: Our Desperate Need, Heidelberg Publishers, 1975, page 95
22 - Ibid, page 2, 95-6
23 - Leaf, A. National Geographic, 143:92, 1973
18 - Jacobson, M., preface to Hausman, P., as per note 3, pg 13-19