30 September 2009

How did we get here?

How did we get here? How did we get to the point where we abstain from all fats and suck down all the carbohydrates we can get out hands on? Who's idea was this anyway?

In the 1970's, there was a lot of political unrest going on. Food prices were beginning to steadily rise and angry housewives joined together to protest these higher costs. At the time, Richard Nixon was president and he had appointed Earl Butz as Secretary of Agriculture. Butz would also continue to serve under Gerald Ford. Butz's solution to rising crop and grocery prices was to simply produce more. Farmers were encouraged to start monoculturing and planting commodity crops (corn, wheat, soybeans, etc.) "fencerow to fencerow." (Read: as much as physically possible)

It worked. Prices for consumers fell to record lows, but the prices paid to farmers also fell. Farmers were struggling to make ends meet and were having to produce more commodity crops to pay the bills, which brought prices down even more. See the never ending cycle? This also paved the way for companies like Mansanto and Cargill to use technology as a means of producing more food. This was the end of agriculture and the beginning of the food industry.

So now we've got a lot of corn and wheat and carbs on our hands.

Dr. Ancel Keys was doing a bit of his own research at this time. He is responsible for the "Seven Countries Study," which concluded that fat (especially saturated fat) increases cholesterol that increases your risk for heart disease. His data was quite remarkable and quite clear. The published graph showed a nice and neat correlation between saturated fat intake and rates of heart disease in countries like Japan and the United States. Unfortunately, Keys actually studied about twenty countries and the data was all over the board. He carefully selected those countries that would give him the nice and neat graph he needed to convince us to decrease our fat intake. It was published. We bought it.

Almost 40 years of American nutrition recommendations have come from this contrived study? You heard right. What's even more disturbing is that other scientists were conducting research on the effects of sugar on heart disease and cholesterol. John Yudkin was the most notable figure opposing Ancel Keys at this time, but when his findings didn't help us get rid of all the commodity grain we had laying around, he was doomed to obscurity.

The following clip is from the movie Fat Head. This is a great summary of what I have just explained.

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