Is A Little Meat OK?

Noodles are a staple food in Asia. Here, a woman from Lukang, Taiwan is making very thin wheat noodles known as misua. – Wikipedia: Noodle

Dr. Greger wrote on his blog recently:

What about eating a really healthy diet with just a little meat? Is it better to eat none at all? We have new insight last year from Taiwan. Asian diets in general tend to be lower in meat and higher in plant foods compared with Western diet, but whether a diet completely avoiding meat and fish would further extend the protective effect of a plant-based diet wasn’t known, until now.

Traditionally, Asian populations have had low rates of diabetes, but a diabetes epidemic has since emerged, and appears to coincide with increased meat, animal protein, and animal fat consumption, but the Westernization of Asian diets also brought along a lot of fast food and junk, and so these researchers at the national university didn’t want to just compare those eating vegetarian to typical meateaters. So, they compared Buddhist vegetarians to Buddhist non-vegetarians, eating traditional Asian diets. Even the omnivores were eating a predominantly plant-based diet, consuming little meat and fish, with the women eating the equivalent of about a single serving a week, and men eating a serving every few days. That’s just 8% of the meat intake in the U.S., 3% for the women. The question: is it better to eat 3% or 0%?

Again, both groups were eating healthy; zero soda consumption, for example, in any group. Despite the similarities in their diet, and after controlling for weight, family history, exercise, and smoking, the men eating vegetarian had just half the rates of diabetes, and the vegetarian women just a quarter of the rates. So even in a population consuming a really plant-based diet with little meat and fish, true vegetarians who completely avoided animal flesh, while eating more healthy plant foods, have lower odds for prediabetes and diabetes after accounting for other risk factors. They wanted to break it up into vegan versus ovo-lacto like in the Adventist-2 study, but they couldn’t because there were no cases at all of diabetes found within the vegan group.

The answer to his question, 3% or 0%, is 0%. It’s better to eat no meat at all, at least when it comes to diabetes. The men who ate 0% meat had half the rate of diabetes compared to the men who ate 3% (a serving every few days). Women who ate no meat had a quarter of the rate of diabetes compared to women who ate just one serving a week.

Here’s that Tiawanese study:
Taiwanese Vegetarians and Omnivores: Dietary Composition, Prevalence of Diabetes and IFG, PLOS ONE, February 2014

Conclusion: We found a strong protective association between Taiwanese vegetarian diet and diabetes/IFG, after controlling for various potential confounders and risk factors.

By the way, in this study…

Vegetarians [who had the lowest rates of diabetes] had higher intakes of carbohydrates.

… which kind of blows out of the water the claims that eating carbs causes diabetes.

Diabetes Prevalence By County, 2012

This map was in the September issue of Diabetes Care.
Diagnosed and Undiagnosed Diabetes Prevalence by County in the U.S., 1999–2012, Diabetes Care, September 2016

Age-standardized diabetes prevalence by county, 2012. A: Diagnosed diabetes prevalence. B: Undiagnosed diabetes prevalence. C: Total diabetes prevalence.

This was interesting:

However, our estimates of diagnosed diabetes, which are based on data directly observed at the county level, suggest that there is more variation in diabetes prevalence among counties than can be explained by socioeconomic and demographic differences alone. Further, the underlying factors driving differences between socioeconomic and demographic groups have not been entirely elucidated. Given the significant health and financial burden of high diabetes prevalence, this disparity demands further investigation into what underlying (and potentially modifiable) factors drive the exceedingly high diagnosed and total diabetes rates found in many communities.

As you can see, there is a whole lot of variation across the US. If what people eat affects their risk for diabetes, what do you think people are eating in the South, especially the Southeastern states, that are making them more prone?

Pope Francis’ Message To FAO On World Food Day

Pope Francis continues to push the envelope of his venerated position. Here’s the letter he wrote to the head of the FAO, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. When it comes to global food production, the buck stops with the FAO. And the FAO says that climate change is the biggest threat to global food security.

Francis doesn’t mince words. He doesn’t like the profit motive of modern food production, especially that which employs genetic engineering.

Message Of His Holiness Pope Francis For The World Food Day 2016, 14 October 2016

To Professor José Graziano da Silva
Director General of the FAO

Illustrious Sir,

1. The fact that the FAO has chosen to devote today’s World Food Day to the theme “Climate is changing. Food and agriculture must too”, leads us to consider the struggle against hunger as an even more difficult objective to attain in the presence of a complex phenomenon such as climate change. With regard to facing the challenges that nature poses to man, and that man poses to nature (cf. Enc. Laudato si’, 25), I would like to submit some reflections to the consideration of the FAO, its Member States and those who participate in its activity.

What is the cause of the current climate change? We must question our individual and collective responsibilities, without resorting to the facile sophistry that hides behind statistical data or conflicting predictions. This does not mean abandoning the scientific data we need more than ever, but rather going beyond merely interpreting the phenomenon or recording its many effects.

Our condition as people who are necessarily in relation to one another, and our responsibility as the guardians of creation and its order, require us to retrace the causes of the current changes and to go to their root. First and foremost, we must admit that the many negative effects on the climate derive from the daily behaviour of people, communities, populations and States. If we are aware of this, a mere evaluation in ethical and moral terms is not sufficient. It is necessary to act politically and therefore to make the necessary decisions, to discourage or promote certain behaviours and lifestyles, for the sake of the new generations and those to come. Only in this way can we preserve the planet.

The responses to be put into effect must be suitably planned, and cannot be the fruit of emotion or fleeting motives. It is important to plan them. In this task, an essential role is played by the institutions called upon to work together, inasmuch as the action of individuals, while necessary, becomes effective only if framed in a network made up of people, public and private bodies, and national and international apparatuses. This network, however, cannot remain anonymous; this network is fraternity, and must act on the basis of its fundamental solidarity.

2. Those who are engaged in work in the fields, in farming, in small-scale fishing, or in the forests, or those who live in rural areas in direct contact with the effects of climate change, are aware that if the climate changes, their life changes too. Their daily lives are affected by difficult or at times dramatic situations, the future becomes increasingly uncertain and in this way the thought of abandoning homes and loved ones begins to arise. There is a prevalent sense of abandonment, the feeling of being abandoned by institutions, deprived of possible technical contributions or even of just consideration on the part of all those of us who benefit from their work.

From the wisdom of rural communities we can learn a style of life that can help defend us from the logic of consumerism and production at any cost, a logic that, cloaked in good justifications, such as the increasing population, is in reality aimed solely at the increase of profit. In the sector in which the FAO works, there is a growing number of people who believe they are omnipotent, or able to ignore the cycles of the seasons and to improperly modify the various animal and plant species, leading to the loss of variety that, if it exists in nature, has and must have its role. Producing qualities that may give excellent results in the laboratory may be advantageous for some, but have ruinous effects for others. And the principle of caution is not enough, as very often it is limited to not allowing something to be done, whereas there is a need to act in a balanced and honest way. Genetic selection of a quality of plant may produce impressive results in terms of yield, but have we considered the terrain that loses its productive capacity, farmers who no longer have pasture for their livestock, and water resources that become unusable? And above all, do we ask if and to what extent we contribute to altering the climate?

Not precaution, then, but wisdom: what peasants, fisherman and farmers conserve in memory handed down through the generations and which is now derided and forgotten by a model of production that is entirely to the advantage of a limited group and a tiny portion of the world population. Let us remember that it is a model which, despite all its science, allows around eight hundred million people to continue to go hungry.

3. The issue is directly reflected in the emergencies that intergovernmental institutions such as the FAO are called upon to confront and manage on a daily basis, well aware that climate changes do not belong exclusively to the sphere of meteorology. How can we forget that climate contributes to making human mobility unstoppable? The most recent data tell us that there is increasing migration for climatic reasons, swelling the numbers of that convoy of the least, the excluded, those who are denied a role in the great human family. A role that cannot be granted by a State or by a status, but which belongs to every human being by virtue of being a person, with his or her dignity and rights.

It is not enough to be upset or moved by those who, at every latitude, ask for their daily bread. Decisions and action are needed. Very often, also as the Catholic Church, we have reiterated that the level of world production is sufficient to ensure food for all, provided that distribution is equitable. But can we still continue along this line, if market logic follows other routes, to the point of making food products a commodity like any other, to use produce increasingly for non-food uses, or to destroy food for the simple fact that there is excess in relation to profit and not to need? Indeed, we know that the mechanism of distribution remains theoretical if the hungry do not have effective access to foodstuffs, and if they continue to depend upon more or less conditional external support, if the correct relationship is not established between need and consumption, and not least, if waste is not eliminated and food loss is not reduced.

We are all required to cooperate in this change of course: political decision-makers, producers, those who work the land, fisheries and forests, and every citizen. Certainly, each one with his or her different responsibilities, but all in the same role of constructors of an internal order within nations and an international order that no longer permits that development be the prerogative of the few, nor that the goods of creation be the patrimony of the powerful. There is no lack of possibilities or positive examples and good practices that make available to us the experiences that can be followed, shared and spread.

4. The wish to act cannot depend upon the advantages that may derive from it, but is instead a requirement linked to the needs that are manifest in the lives of people and of the entire human family. Material and spiritual needs, but in any case real, not the fruit of the decisions of the few, of the fashions of the moment or models of life that make the person an object, human life a tool, even for experimentation, and the production of food a mere economic affair, to which it is possible to sacrifice even the food that is available, destined by its nature to ensure that every person may have a sufficient quantity of healthy food every day.

We are now close to the new phase that in Marrakech will call all States Parties to the Convention on climate change to give effect to these commitments. I echo the desire of many in expressing my hope that the objectives outlined by the Paris Agreement do not remain simply as good words, but rather that they are transformed into courageous decisions able to make solidarity not only a virtue but also a working model in economics, and fraternity no longer an aspiration but a criterion for domestic and international governance.

These, Mr. Director General, are some reflections I wish to extend to you at this moment, in which there are concerns, trepidations and tensions caused also by the climate question which is increasingly present in our daily lives and has an impact on the living conditions of so many of our brothers and sisters, including the most vulnerable and marginalised. May the Almighty bless your efforts in the service of humanity as a whole.

From Vatican City, 14 October 2016

Some of my takeaways: Pope Francis says…

  • … that climate change is real, that man’s activities have contributed to it, and that people are suffering today because of it.
  • … that to change it, “it is necessary to act politically.”
  • … that current technologies are aimed “solely at the increase of profit” and “entirely to the advantage of a limited group.”
  • … that food is destroyed or wasted “for the simple fact that there is excess in relation to profit.”
  • … that we all have a role to play, “political decision-makers, producers, those who work the land, fisheries and forests, and every citizen.”
  • … that we have to uncouple our actions from profit and couple them to need.

No where in the 100-minute US Presidential debate last night was climate change discussed. It wasn’t discussed in the three prior debates either. David LeonHardt in the New York Times said:

The lack of a single question on the world’s biggest problem was a grievous error.

There is stark disagreement about climate change between the parties. From Vox:

Clinton thinks the issue is pretty serious and has a bunch of proposals to address it, whereas Trump says it’s all a hoax invented by the Chinese.


Ideas, Events, Or People

This quotation is often attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt:

Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.

It probably originated years earlier:

Quote Investigator: The earliest strong match known to QI appeared in a 1901 autobiography by Charles Stewart. As a child in London, Stewart listened to the conversation of dinner guests such as history scholar Henry Thomas Buckle who would sometimes discourse engagingly for twenty minutes on a topic:

His thoughts and conversation were always on a high level, and I recollect a saying of his, which not only greatly impressed me at the time, but which I have ever since cherished as a test of the mental calibre of friends and acquaintances. Buckle said, in his dogmatic way: “Men and women range themselves into three classes or orders of intelligence; you can tell the lowest class by their habit of always talking about persons; the next by the fact that their habit is always to converse about things; the highest by their preference for the discussion of ideas.”

Quote Investigator cited several other references. The evolution of the remark is fascinating, yet its kernel endured: talking about people, “gossip” as Pope Francis calls it, isn’t very high on an intelligence hierarchy.

Here are two I liked:

In 1849 to students of theology:

The great temptation both to ministers and people, is to talk about persons. “Why,” said Dr. Rush to some one, “are you always talking about persons? Why do you not talk about things?” The answer is plain. It is so much easier to talk about persons than things. It is so much more gratifying to our evil natures to talk about persons, especially their faults. Any one can talk about persons.

From a 1888 sermon:

It is easier, no doubt, to talk about persons, because so many disagreeable remarks spontaneously occur to one. It is more difficult to talk about things and events, because this requires a certain amount of intelligence and reflection and information. If we are to talk of things, we must know something about them. And it is our duty to see that we do.

I’ll keep this in mind while watching the debate tonight.