Keith makes her case in an oddly well-researched yet intimate voice, that pauses mid polemic to call out to her reader: ‘Can you believe this shit?” And frankly, the tactic is called for. Because what she’s saying is BIG.
Along with the rest of the world, I’ve been the recipient and the victim of several nutrition ‘turnings’. I was interested enough in Nutrition to become a professional, not that it has much meaning anymore. Everything I was taught was wrong. I might as well be Woody Allen in ‘Sleeper’. The complexity of studying human nutrition plus the political/economic stakes involved mean that there are very rarely any clear answers. Plus (to paraphrase Dr. House) Everybody Eats. So a stinkin’ credential doesn’t buy you much credibility. Very early on in my career I fled from anything clinical since that involves an attempt to change something more personal than religion. It usually just doesn’t happen.
Diet for a Small Planet was the rallying cry in the late 70’s. It sparked my interest in the field. The entire premise is eviscerated by Keith. Toast. And the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the infernally misguided USDA meal patterns that it engendered. All bunk. We’ve killed diabetics and made our citizens obese. We have much to answer for. We’ve been victimized by a pervasive like-produces-like fallacy. The enemy all along has not been FAT. It’s SUGAR.
I realized this the day I read Gary Taubes’ NYT article. I remember I stopped reading and (much as Keith urges her vegan readers to do), made some bacon and eggs. Not that I’ve never successfully been a vegetarian of any stripe. I didn’t have the willpower or the (blind?) moral certitude that Keith had during her 20 years as a vegan. Keith says she destroyed her own health with low protein, high carb. I was just getting fat. A low carb approach, has worked well for me. I don’t go on hypoglycemic binges anymore. I can control my weight. My lipid panels are good enough that doctors notice. I’m far, so very far from the Dietetic Party Line.
Keith systematically provides arguments against every path to Vegetarianism:
Moral Vegetarians: basically life happens because of death and even plants communicate and try to defend themselves. There is no such thing as life without killing.
Political Vegetarians: Agriculture is been destroying our health and our planet since its beginning. Devil Annual Grains make both us and animals fat. Cows need to eat grass (because we can’t) and we need to eat cows. Big Corn makes Big Oil look benign. We’re using up our ‘fossil soil’ as fast as fossil fuels and we’re on the path to worldwide starvation.
Nutritional Vegetarians: (see above) Another account of the Ancel Keys studies and how they don’t hold up. The mythical CHD scare. And the scariest devil in a book of devils: lectins, which Keith makes sound like gut-busting alien parasites.
Altogether a very disturbing, provocative book that I think needs to be widely read and discussed. Whether this book’s dismal predictions come to pass or there is another nutritional ‘turning’ in the future remains to be seen.