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The Dogma of Nutritionism - Eat Less Meat

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  • Rebecca Chopin
    Regina Wilshire January 31, 2007 The blogosphere has been buzzing the last few days over seven words: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. Those seven little
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 1, 2007
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      Regina Wilshire
      January 31, 2007

      The blogosphere has been buzzing the last few days over seven words:

      Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

      Those seven little words start Michael Pollan's essay, Unhappy Meals,
      in the New York Times magazine (from Sunday). As Pollan sums it up at
      the start, "That, more or less, is the short answer to the supposedly
      incredibly complicated and confusing question of what we humans should
      eat in order to be maximally healthy."

      Somehow as he meandered from his brillant assessment on the rise of
      "nutritionism" - "an ideology" - influencing nutrition - "the science"
      - he too fell for it; fell for the belief that animal protein is a
      dietary demon that must be limited, if not eliminated if we are to get
      back on track to reach an optimum diet, thus maximize our health.

      Intersperced throughout the essay are a number of not-too-subtle
      reminders that animal protein, especially meat, is taking up too much
      space on our plates.

      He tells us we we knew this decades ago when the McGovern Senate
      Subcommittee first drafted dietary guidelines that included the
      statement to "reduce consumption of meat," that was compromised in an
      effort to appease industry to read "Choose meats, poultry and fish
      that will reduce saturated-fat intake."

      He continues to explain to us that the Gary Taubes article, What if
      it's All been a Big Fat Lie, was a "revisionist" accounting of what
      really happened in our diet since the implementation of the
      compromised dietary recommendations; cites T. Colin Campbell and
      Walter Willet as two researchers in agreement with the view that "the
      culprit nutrient in meat and dairy is the animal protein itself", thus
      we should eat less meat.

      He then ties it all neatly up with "But people worried about their
      health needn't wait for scientists to settle this question before
      deciding that it might be wise to eat more plants and less meat. This
      is of course precisely what the McGovern committee was trying to tell

      He includes a number of convincing arguements to make the case against
      animal protein:

      We just heaped a bunch more carbs onto our plates, obscuring perhaps,
      but not replacing, the expanding chunk of animal protein squatting in
      the center.

      Of course thanks to the low-fat fad (inspired by the very same
      reductionist fat hypothesis), it is entirely possible to reduce your
      intake of saturated fat without significantly reducing your
      consumption of animal protein: just drink the low-fat milk and order
      the skinless chicken breast or the turkey bacon.

      Thomas Jefferson was on to something when he advised treating meat
      more as a flavoring than a food.

      Even the beginner student of nutritionism will immediately spot
      several flaws: the focus was on "fat," rather than on any particular
      food, like meat or dairy. So women could comply simply by switching to
      lower-fat animal products.

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