HOME INDEX  

Food Fools

I hate to bring up a subject which you certainly do not want to even think about, but I must. You are going to die! Oh, I don't mean right away, like tomorrow, although you could, I just mean it is absolutely certain you are going to die sometime, and based on your current age, you can know when that time is. Subtract your age from 80, and call it, "d-time." Now you know you will die in d-time years, plus or minus 5 years. It's not absolutely perfect; there are some rare exceptions; but, unless you are one of those, you know about when you are going to die.

Now I'm sorry, again, to have to bring up another subject you are not going to like. You are going to be sick and will almost certainly have some physical problems, which are all more likely the longer you live. No matter how careful you are about your diet and no matter what kind of lifestyle you live, with rare exception, none of us will escape some diseases or physical ailments.

[There are exceptions. I had two aunts who lived into their 80s and 90s who just never were sick, and both, like my father, their brother, who was 92 when he died, lived very long lives. I'll have something to say about their strange diets later.]

In spite of these facts about longevity and health, most people are convinced if they can just discover the right diet and right lifestyle, they will never die—or at least never be sick. Of course none of them really think they will achieve immortality, but really do believe they have the secret to healthy long lives—but there is no such secret.

They Do Not Know

There have always been self-styled food experts and there have always been throngs of people ready to follow the experts who promise everything from good health to absolution to their followers. I've already discussed the latest, "paleo," madness in my article, "Eat Like A Caveman."

Now it does not matter to me if anyone wants to fall for any of these food crazes. There are certainly worse things one can waste their time and energy on, but if you would like to not waste your time and energy on that which is nothing more than superstition, and more frequently some kind of fraud, understand none of these so called food and diet experts know what they are talking about.

I'm sure you are aware of the cholesterol scare, and all the expert advice about cholesterol and diet. If you are seriously concerned about it, perhaps you should try the Masai diet.

The Masai (or Maasai) tribal people of East Africa (Kenya and Tanzania) subsist primarily on a diet of milk, meat, blood, and bark soup. They all have low blood pressure, low cholesterol levels, and no arteriosclerosis or heart disease.

Perhaps you'll not be interested in that diet so much when you learn that, although no one knows if it is a diet issue or not, since none has been discovered, the Masai life expectancy is less than 50 years, even without arteriosclerosis or heart disease.

Exactly What Is Food?

Food experts of all stripes are in the business of telling people what food is, or at least what, "good," food is. In reality almost anything that is not clearly toxic or indigestible can be food. So long as an individual consumes enough essential vitamins and proteins, whatever else a human eats or doesn't eat really does not matter.

Some things which are food the experts know nothing about. How can they be experts about food they do not even know exists. For example, none of the food experts provide the right recipe for Masai cow's blood and milk pudding.

It is also unlikely you will see the Norwegian delicacy sheep's head on most food experts' menus. Perhaps sheep's head is a bit much for you, in which case there is always the Chinese dish, spicy Sichuan rabbit head.

If you are ever in Egypt, be sure you sample the dish featured in so many restaurants there, cow brains. If you happen to be on the other side of the planet, you'll not want to miss that famous delicacy of the Philippines, balut eggs. "Balut eggs are fertilized duck (sometimes chicken) eggs that are at the stage of development where there is a nearly developed embryo inside. They are then boiled and usually eaten with salt, just like a normal boiled egg." You really ought to try a balut. You can do it.

Baluts are also found in other Southeast Asian countries like Cambodia and Vietnam. Speaking of Southeast Asia, there are some very interesting dishes found in Thailand. Some favorite snacks are insects, like jing leed (a cricket), maeng kee noon (a heavy beetle), non mai (a wood worm), non pai (a bamboo worm), tak ga tan (a common grasshopper), and my favorite, the lovely aromatic maeng da beetle. These are only snacks. For a real meal you need to try the roast rice-field rat, frogs, and snakes.

If you are still interested in food at all, I'll make the point. People eat all sorts of things, most of which no food expert would approve, and they live very well. The Thai diet is very high in oils and starch (lots of rice and noodles) as well as the exotic items I've described.

Life expectancy in the United States is 78.5 years. In Thailand it is 73.6 years. That is actually a very small difference, and the difference has nothing to do with diet or lifestyle. One of the major contributors to the difference in life span is disease. Diseases common in Thailand, and throughout Southeast Asia are virtually unknown in the US. Those diseases include: malaria, dengue (the hemorrhagic form is fatal), measles, typhoid fever, Japanese encephalitis (similar to West Nile virus, about 25% fatal), chikungunya, lymphatic filariasis, plague, leptospirosis, schistosomiasis, and polio. If you live in Thailand and escape all these diseases your life expectancy will be the same as an American's no matter what you eat or how you live your life.

No One Knows

I love some of the old sayings that capture simple common sense principles by which men lived when integrity, self-sufficiency, decency, and honesty still prevailed. Sayings like, "you cannot have your cake and eat it too," (which is the solution to the economic problems of the world) and, "sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me," (which is the solution to the PC world's thin-skin and absurd supposed offenses and "hate" crimes) and, "one man's meat is another man's poison," (which is the solution to all the diet nonsense).

The simple truth is, no one knows what the correct diet is for anyone else. Like all other personal choices in life, what one chooses to eat, and what will be good for them, only they can decide. An individual may not be very wise in their choices of diet, but it is certain no one else is going to choose more wisely for them.

What food expert would advise anyone to eat heaps of cheese, cookies, candy, bacon and eggs, and drink gallons of soda. Well those are the kind of things that dominated the diets of those two long-lived aunts and my father I mentioned. My father used to eat Bismarcks for breakfast when it wasn't donuts, coffee cake, or cookies. Just for the record, all three of them smoked, my two aunts up to the day they died. If the food experts were correct, my two aunts and my father should have been perpetually sick and would have died in their late fifties.

No one knows what the correct diet is for someone else, much less, for everyone else, which the government and its diet recommendations claim. Nevertheless, the urge to tell others what to do, especially when it comes to diet, seems irresistible in great numbers of people.

Milk—All The Wrong Arguments

Some adults cannot drink milk. It's called lactose intolerance. It affects large numbers of people. Others can drink all the milk they choose, and consume as many other dairy products as they like. Everybody is different. Recommendation about milk consumption are certain to be wrong for a large number of people no matter what those recommendations are.

Today there is a raging controversy about milk. Raw milk.

Raw milk is milk that has not been pasteurized, the process of heating milk to a temperature that kills all bacteria that might be in it, like tuberculosis, salmonella, campylobacter, listeria, and E. coli.

All of those bacteria, and the diseases they cause, have sources other than milk, and people who never drink milk, raw or pasteurized, are infected with these bacteria every year.

There is one bacteria, however, called brucella, which causes brucellosis, or undulant fever, which can be contracted by contact with animals, but in humans is virtually always contracted by consuming unpasteurized dairy products. The disease is not as common in the United States as other parts of the world, but there are some cases every year in the US. The disease is characterized by a range of symptoms including fever, sweats, headaches, back pains, and physical weakness. It is a chronic disease often affecting the central nervous system and lining of the heart.

The current debate is about whether raw milk and raw milk products ought to be consumed. If that is all the debate were about, it would be nothing more than a debate about taste (whether one likes or dislikes raw milk products) and the amount of risk one is willing to take regarding potential infection (which there definitely is) versus whatever supposed benefits they believe raw milk has for them.

Unfortunately the debate is all about the wrong thing. The real issue is about whether government should be deciding what people can sell and buy, and what individuals may choose to consume or not consume.

On one side, the federal government is making claims that raw dairy products are 150 times more dangerous than pasteurized dairy products. The objective of such claims is to ban the sale of unpasteurized dairy products across state lines. I'm sure they would like to ban such products altogether.

The other side argues that the federal government is exaggerating the danger of raw milk products, that raw milk products are perfectly safe, and even healthier than pasteurized milk products.

The pro-raw milk crowd is arguing that raw milk is better than pasteurized milk. Perhaps it is better for some people, like any other kind of food, it's still true, "one man's meat is another man's poison," and no one can say for anyone else which is which. The raw milk fans are definitely wrong about one thing, that there is no risk at all in consuming raw milk products.

Whether or not the federal government is exaggerating that risk or not does not really matter. It says raw milk products are 150 times more dangerous than pasteurized milk products, which means pasteurized milk products are also dangerous, just less so.

The only argument is whether the government ought to regulate what people may sell, purchase, and eat. The government's argument is based on the big statist lie, that it is the government's business to make people safe. The truth is, the government cannot make anyone safe because there is no way to eliminate all risk, and even if it could, it has no business interfering in any individual's life, even for their own good.

Diet Recommendations

I do not do diet recommendations. There are some facts about diet I'd be glad to explain to anyone interested, but I can give no advice about what anyone should do with that information.

The facts are simply biological facts. The human body needs certain nutrients to live. It needs enough water to prevent dehydration, certain vitamins to maintain biological functions, certain minerals to maintain bone structure and support endocrine functions. There is the simple fact that if one consumes more calories than one's body can burn, one's weight will increase, a process which carried to extremes will make one obese.

Beyond these biological facts, what anyone eats, or does not eat, cannot be recommended by someone else. No one knows what is best for you. Your own tastes, what you learn makes you feel good, and what makes you feel not so good, and what you learn about how you are affected by what you eat is how you learn what is right for you. It is unlikely it will be like what is right for anyone else.

Take raw milk for an example. I've drunk raw milk. I found it disgusting. Of course my experience of raw milk was directly from the cow and still at cow temperature. Perhaps if chilled I would have liked it better; but chilled is not really raw milk, is it? Bacteria can be killed by cold as well as heat, why wouldn't cold also change whatever else raw milk fans think is better about raw milk. If you drink your "raw" milk chilled, it's not really raw.

Should you consume raw milk products? If you really like them better than pasteurized milk products, and are willing to take the greater risk of being infected by milk-born diseases, and are not fooling yourself about the reality of that risk, and are willing to take full responsibility for the consequences of that risk, enjoy all the raw milk products you like. At least in the USA the risks are much lower than in most other countries.

If you are a government agent trying to force some bureaucrat's idea of what is safe down people's throats, you are a million times more dangerous than raw milk, or any other supposed danger the government pretends to protect people from. It is too bad the government cannot be pasteurized.

—(02/29/12)