My favorite reality show–The 21st Century Diet Wars–has been off the charts drama lately. Since I’m not going to be writing any commentary about it anytime soon, I thought I would point my faithful readers (all both of them) in the direction of my favorite moments so far.
1) Just in time for Halloween, Georgia Ede, MD, publishes a post on the scary Dietary Guidelines Advisory Report (just why they are scary depends on your own personal food orientation: They’re letting cholesterol off the hook! They’ve reduced meat to a footnote!) and the crapstorm that Nina Teicholz raised in the BMJ when she “attacked” that most sacred of (pasture-raised, GM free, organic, speaks Chicken as a second language) cow. [Word to the rhetorically wise: If someone accuses you of “attacking” some belief system, you can be sure they think that system should be beyond question. That’s why “questioning” gets framed as “attacking.” ]
Read it and laugh, or weep: here.
2) This would be in the read it and weep category. Mark Anthony Neal posted some excellent points–in an article by Lawrence Ware and Rebecca Martinez–about the whole “processed meat and cancer” issue. While #smugvegetarians and #smugvegans are making like Church Lady and doing their superior dance in response to the new WHO report …
… what is often omitted is that observed links between these two factors may be related to issues of class as much–or more so–than any biological mechanism. Outside of foodie-sharcooderie land, processed meats tend to be poor people food (I’m pretty sure the observational studies that linked processed meat to cancer didn’t have a huge representation of house-cured sopressata, air-dried bresaola, and lamb shank terrine). This means that processed meats cluster with a whole lot of other health-related factors not necessarily under an individual’s control: stress, limited access to health care, environmental pollutants–you get the picture. Whether or not there is a direct link between processed meat and cancer is less to the point than the article’s closing remarks:
We have a health crisis in this country. Obesity, diabetes and cancer are ravishing disadvantaged communities. Too often this crisis is centered in personal responsibility, but we must also look at systemic conditions lest we blame the victims of poverty without equipping them with the tools necessary for positive health outcomes.
Tell it. I raise this challenge to anyone who regularly reads (or writes) articles on nutrition epidemiology. Show me a situation where a food, food component, or dietary pattern is linked to an adverse health outcome and the population that consumes that dietary evil is not also a population with significant differences in health behaviors and/or socioeconomic factors relative to the healthy outcome population. I’ll be here, waiting.
Or maybe we should just encourage those poor folks to slice their store-brand hot dogs in creative ways and serve them with fancy mustard and tiny pickles.
3) And, then–this: