Tuesday, July 28, 2009

meat and mrsa...what are we thinking?

Hi Guys-
I was reading a magazine the other day and I saw a tiny blurb talking about the connection between eating red meat and MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus)…remember that super-bug that was wiping people out in hospitals and long term care facilities because bacteria can flourish in these environments and many of the people there have compromised immune systems and are heavily antibiotic-reliant?

Well, it seems that MRSA is back in a big way and you’ll never guess how…turns out that confined animal feeding operations (aka factory farms) have become a spectacular breeding ground for this vicious little villain because the animals are compromised and so antibiotic-reliant. And then it’s passed on to us, through the meat we eat and since we are so heavily antibiotic-reliant and compromised, MRSA can thrive in us, too. Wow, another selling point for McDonald’s, Arby’s and Wendy’s!

And it gets better. A new study has been released linking the consumption of red meat and dairy products to an increased risk of pancreatic cancer. The study was done by the Division of Cancer, Epidemiology and Genetics at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, MD (wow, that’s a mouthful…) and was initiated because ‘up to now, the link between pancreatic cancer and dietary fat, a risk factor that people can do something about, has been inconclusive.’ Ay, ay, ay!!!! But I held out hope…

So the NIH (National Institutes of Health) and AARP got together and studied more than 300,000 men and 200,000 women to search for links between fat consumption and pancreatic cancer. They also took into account, smoking, body mass index and diabetes.
The study concluded that people who consume the greatest percentage of their diet as saturated fats had the highest risk of pancreatic cancer and here’s the kicker.

‘We did not observe any consistent association with polyunsaturated or fats from plant food sources.’ And…‘Altogether, these results suggest a role for animal fat in carcinogenesis.’

Seriously? That was the conclusion???? It suggests a role? Who are we kidding?

Okay, so here’s my beef (pun intended). What will it take for us to really get the message that meat is not the best choice of food for us? And while I live a vegan lifestyle, I don’t for one second think that the entire world will follow suit. It would be nice, but I live solidly in reality.
I go back to, what for me, are the million dollar questions. What will it take for us to wake up and look at how our food, particularly meat is produced? When will we demand better and stop swallowing the swill they market to us?

Where, in all of our ability to reason, do we see the logic in producing more than 14 billion animals a year for slaughter? Do we really think that it’s sustainable? For us, the planet or the species we kill by the millions? Do we think that these animals are raised in a healthful manner (forget being nice to them for a second…) that makes them fit for human consumption? Or do we just refuse to look at the issue because that would demand change? Real change…and then we’d have to do something about it.

Maybe that’s it. Maybe we think that we can just ignore all of this and it will disappear on its own…obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer (good lord, if I see one more bloody race, walk or other sporting event to support research for disease…that will never be cured because the pharmaceutical giants out there would close their doors…). Well, here’s a clue. Lifestyle diseases, as we have come to know the modern day plagues that rob us of our health, aren’t going anywhere as long as we continue to cling to our childish eating habits and old ways of doing things.

The time is over for us to wait for someone else to do the work. We can not sit idly by and wait for an ambitious soul to come along and rescue us from ourselves. There is no magic wand to wave. We can’t bury our head deeply enough in any sand to escape the hard realities of the effects of meat-eating on health.

Another article I read this morning questioned whether or not meat is the villain in this drama we call our health. The article showed results from a study that said that it’s the quantity and quality of meat that affects us, not so much the actual components of meat. Seriously, this article goes on to say that if Americans ate one or two servings of organic, grass-fed meat a week, surrounded by lots of whole grains and vegetables, then it would be okay to eat. Well, duh. And just how many fine Americans are doing that? How many are spending a mortgage payment to buy organic, grass-fed meat for the family and eating it only once of twice a week?

With less than 19% of Americans eating the 5-9 servings of vegetables and fruit a day and consuming close to 4000 calories per person, per day on average, with 40% of the average diet coming from saturated fats, not many of us are following this utopian eating pattern that includes organic, grass-fed meat and lots of fruits and veggies.

While most of us are aware that we should be eating vegetables and fruit each day…we even know how much, we take in most of our veggies in the form of potatoes and our fruit in the form of juice…more calories and sugar.

But look, it’s not easy and marketing makes us nuts and literally makes it hard not to be fat and sick. There are more than 50,000 fast food chains in this country, translating to more than 500,000 places to buy junk food. Kids between the ages of 6 and 14 eat at fast food restaurants an average of 157 million times a month…a month!!!! Americans spend more than $100 billion (with a ‘b’) on fast food every year. And that number is growing with our waistlines.

And the real kicker? Most Americans know that fast food is not their healthiest option.

So why? What’s it gonna take to wake us up and get us on the path to being the healthy, fit humans we are meant to be? Whatever it is, I hope it happens soon because I am tired of paying for other people’s childish indulgences each month when I write the check for my health insurance premium.

Time to be well, people…


Monday, July 13, 2009

i'm back from italy!

Hi Guys-

I am sure everyone has seen the latest stats to be released on obesity. (I just got home from Italy and found them waiting on my desktop.) While Mississippi is ‘still king of cellulite,’ an ominous tide is rolling onward as Alabama is currently running a close second in its obesity rankings.

The new stats have just been released and they hold little good news. In 31 states, more than 1 in 4 adults is obese (not just pleasantly plump, but obese…yikes!). The report, released by the Trust for America’s Health says that obesity rose in 23 states over the past year, while not one state experienced a decline. In fact, the report indicates that the crest of the wave of obesity has yet to crash over us.

And while this report provides one of the first in-depth looks at obese baby boomers…and also credits them for a good deal of the crushing rise in obesity (39% of boomers in Alabama are obese), I won’t bore you with yet another blog about obesity and its impact on health. We all know the truth. We need to eat real food and exercise regularly to be fit, vital humans.

But I think the problem is much deeper than how many Happy Meals you eat. I think that we live in a world where you have to be constantly vigilant to not be obese. I think that beating people up, yelling and finger-pointing won’t really solve the problem. I think that the problem runs so deep that a total overhaul of our food system is needed to beat obesity before it steals our future completely.

If you’ve seen the documentary Food, Inc., read anything by Michael Pollan, or listened to the current information that Mark Bittman talks about, you know the truth. As a culture, we have moved so far from eating real food, that we almost can’t identify it anymore.

As decades have passed and we grow further from the garden and the kitchen, we have lost sight of what real food looks like, tastes like and how we feel when we eat it. In the name of convenience and speed, we let our health, along with real food slip through our fingers and the price we are paying is high.

I often ask people what they are looking for in life. It seems that we spend our days wishing them over. We can’t wait for school to be out, work to be finished, our time at the gym over, dinner done…and I wonder why. What is it that we can’t wait for? Hours in front of the television? More time on Facebook or Twitter? What?

We need to re-think and re-set our priorities. In this economy, we talk a lot about getting back to basics, getting rid of excess. We need to begin with our food. It’s time to stop buying into all the marketing and hype that we see and hear, promoting fast food, junk and other foodlike substances.

Getting back to basics begins in the kitchen…actually in the garden and at the farm stand. Before this madness known as the obesity epidemic can be stemmed, we need to identify real food and begin to make those choices. We need to demand better quality from the people who produce and manufacture the food we eat. We need to tell them…loud and clear…that enough is enough and we won’t continue to eat their cheap, fast food that is loaded with fat, sugar and salt and is designed to send us to an early grave, but not before we become reliant on pharmaceuticals. We have to tell them that we won’t buy it anymore…and then we need to stop buying it…and make better choices for ourselves.

It’s so easy to turn this tide that threatens to snuff out humanity. Obesity, diabetes, heart disease, even some cancers are all part of the new category of killers known as ‘lifestyle diseases.’ Our lifestyle is killing us and only a change can stop the terrifying statistics that steal our hope. Eating whole, natural, unprocessed food…the real thing…going back to the kitchen and preparing the lion share of your meals…gathering around the table with those you love…that’s the road back. That’s the path that can remove the stain that fast food and convenience has left on humanity.

And don’t for one minute try to make the argument that eating natural food is expensive and elitist and that it’s so much cheaper to buy poor-quality junk food to feed your family. Not only is that not true, but even if it were, the long term effects of eating fast food on our health is seen in the terrifying statistics we hear about every day. Better to invest in that head of broccoli than those 99-cent burgers. Remember that eating well is a right, not a privilege and everyone can afford to buy fresh fruit and vegetables. Yes, you have to cook them and that makes it harder than swinging by the drive-through window, but if we are to return to health, we need to go back to the kitchen.

It’s time to stop letting marketing and advertising own us and determine our health. It’s time for us to take control of our destinies and create the vitality that so many ads promise, but none can deliver. There is not a pill, lotion or potion that can give you your health. They can only mask the symptoms they have helped to create and give you the illusion of health and well-being.

Instead, why not eat real food, not too much, mostly plants and create the real thing?