The other day, I came across a couple of interesting stories online that could not be more disparate.
First, there was Dr. Mehmet Oz, who endorsed the new movie, Forks Over Knives, which is a documentary about people who have overcome serious diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease, by adopting a low-fat, vegan (plants-only) diet. It featured some famous vegetarian doctors, including Dr. Collin Campbell, Dr. William Esselstyn, Dr. Neal Barnard, and Dr. John McDougall. They all recommend a diet of fruits, vegetables, (including starchy vegetables like potatoes) beans, and whole grains, and that’s all. I found it amazing that the film is being offered as a regular, big-screen movie that you have to go to the theater to see. I wish them all the luck, but moviegoers today tend to be quite young, and well, I have my doubts that this is going to work, commercially speaking. But, I agree that unrefined plant foods are tops when it comes to disease prevention. I have not seen the movie, but I am concerned whether they mentioned the need to take Vitamin B12 on a vegan diet. I suspect they didn’t because they are trying to sell a big idea, and it would come across as negative to say, “Be sure to take a B12 supplement on this diet or you could get into serious trouble.” I know that would be poor salesmanship, but I hope they were responsible enough to do it anyway because I know that people have died from B12 deficiencies on vegan diets. What I mean is that I have personally known people who have died from B12 deficiencies on vegan diets. And beyond that, I am concerned about the ultra-low fat aspect of their diet. Demonizing fat, categorically, makes no more sense than demonizing carbohydrate. Both occur widely in nature. Both appeal strongly to human senses. An Australian study from last year demonstrated how keen and sharp the fat-sensing mechanism is in human beings. It seems that we are driven to eat fats, the healthy kind that occur in plants such as nuts, seeds, and avocadoes. I realize that that is a long-standing debate., but not for a second do I doubt the claims that they make. I just think that people could do every bit as well including healthy plant fats.
By the way, my understanding is that Dr. Oz is mostly vegan. His wife and children are completely vegan. I recall that he has said that he does sometimes eat animal foods, but to a very limited extent. He strongly appreciates and respects the health benefits of going vegan. And he devotes many episodes of his television program to extolling the virtues of a plant-based diet.
The second thing I came across online on the same day was a report about a trip made by Dr. Michael Eades, who is an advocate for a very different kind of diet: the paleo diet, which emphasizes meat and other animal foods Dr. Eades and his wife (who is also an MD and whose initials are MD) travelled to a hog farm in New Jersey where they raise a rare breed of hog called the Mangalitsa, which is from Holland. The Mangalitsa is known as a “lard hog” because it has so much fat compared to other breeds. They have a fat-to- lean ratio of 80 to 20, which is very high. The resultant pork chops have thick layers of fat and are marbled throughout with fat. Dr. Eades pointed out that commercial pork today is dry and tasteless because, as part of the low-fat hysteria, they have been breeding pigs to be lean, turning them into “the other white meat.” I don’t eat pork and I haven’t in decades, but I can still relate to what he is saying. For instance, when I buy an avocado, if it’s low in fat and therefore watery and bland, I don’t enjoy it as much as when it’s high in fat and rich-tasting . There is no getting around the fact that human beings like the taste of fat.
So, Dr. Eades took part in the whole process from killing the hog, to slaughtering it, to preparing it. And he said it is a real delicacy with most every part of the animal being deliciously edible, including the liver, kidneys, heart, and lungs. He did not speak well of the hogs. He said that they were very dumb due to their very small brains. I was amazed by his callousness towards them. But, one of the owners, a young man who gave a tour of the farm, wasn’t that way at all. He seemed very respectful and kindly towards the hogs almost like they were his pets- despite the reality of their fate.
I like to keep track of Dr. Eades just because he is so extreme. I have never heard him say anything positive about any plant food- not a fruit, not a vegetable, nothing. There are other paleos (such as Dr. Loren Cordain) who exalt meat but also rave about fruits and vegetables and also nuts and oil-seeds. But, Dr. Eades is only interested in animal foods: meats, fish, eggs, etc. I get the feeling that he avoids dairy products, except for butter. He’s not opposed to salt, and he loves his alcohol too. Of course, he does eat some plant food, how could he not? But, in one post he spoke of eating broccoli as part of a ribe-eye steak dinner, and he said that “a little butter, salt, and pepper helped it (the broccoli) go down.” Clearly, Dr. Eades is the most anti of the anti-vegetarians that I know of.
So, there you have it: two prominent, well known doctors who are as polar-opposite about diet as could possibly be.
In some fields, we expect there to be a lot of divergence of opinion. Who is going to win the next World’s Series? Is the recession over or is it about to get worse? Is the price of silver going to rebound or fall further? But, human nutrition is studied scientifically, and it has been for nearly 100 years. How could there be so much divergence of opinion about diet today after all the research that has been done? Yikes!
But, allow me to finish with a suggestion. All of these diet doctors- including McDougall, Barnard, and Esselstyn from the veggie side, and Eades, Cordain, and Mercola from the paleo side- they should all agree to undergo a carotid artery ultrasound at the same time so that we can find out the condition of their carotid arteries and compare. The test is harmless, and it’s not that expensive. And it tells a lot about a person's real internal health. The only caveat is that age is a factor as arteries tend to worsen with age. So, an adjustment would have to be made for that. However, some of the above-named doctors are close in age (60-ish), so a straight-up comparison would be fine. I am 60, so let me be the first to volunteer. I’ll do it; I’ll pay for it: and I’ll share the results with the world. Doctors, are you willing?