29 August 2010

My thougts on dietary cholesterol

I have been interested in nutrition and food since the 1970s and I have read a lot of studies and done a lot of research. I went through almost 9 years as a vegetarian, based on the very best information I could get -- and I got VERY sick. (Vegetarianism is a fine diet for those whose body's are suited to it -- but not everyone is.)

As to cholesterol...did you know that there is zero scientific indication that consuming cholesterol has any impact on your blood cholesterol levels? Actually, only about 1% of the cholesterol circulating in your blood comes from dietary source, the rest is manufactured in your liver in response to inflammation in your body (infection, disease, etc.). If you eat more than you need, it is broken down, the EFAs used and the rest is 'disposed of'.

Heart disease was pretty rare until the 19th century. It wasn't unknown -- even the Egyptians had some trouble with it -- but it went from being relatively rare to being the leading cause of death as the Industrial age took hold. But people have been eating meat (sometimes in HUGE quantities -- think Eskimos) for 6 million years without a big heart disease problem. Why suddenly in the 19th century did our customary meat consumption become dangerous?

The research I have read suggests that it didn't.

Meat was never the problem. It was a another change in our diets at the beginning of the Industrial Age: far more processed foods - especially hydrogenated fats and refined sugars and grains. Non-infectious disease skyrocketed! In the 1950s, we exacerbated it further by adopting TV and along with it a remarkably sedentary lifestyle -- which has only gotten worse and worse.

Of course, in the years since the 1970s, as we have adopted an agribusiness model, meat *has* become dangerous. Meat from sick animals isn't good for us, and our methods of meat production are focussed on 'more for less' -- bigger, faster, cheaper is the thing that matters. Grains fatten cattle, so we feed them grains, even though they are supposed to feed mostly on grasses. The cattle are kept alive long enough to be slaughtered, but they're so sick they need to have antibiotics as a regular part of their diet. Their own immune systems are no longer up to the job!

If you don't have access to traditionally raised meats and eggs, I think that you probably should limit your consumption of meat and eggs -- but not for the reasons the common wisdom suggests that it's important. Since we do have access to the meat and eggs of healthy animals, I think they are a very healthy element of our diet.

More than you ever wanted to know, I'm sure.
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  1. I am curious where you buy your eggs.

    We've been getting ours from an Amish(?) farm that brings them to Arbor Farms. I'm pretty sure that these are from chickens that really do go outdoors in the summertime, and not from the type of farm that only pretends.

    Do you ever think about raising chickens? I'm a little bit tempted, but don't think my family would go for it, and honestly I'm not sure that I want the responsibility. But I like the idea of having chickens at home, laying totally fresh free-range eggs.

  2. Hi, Valerie!

    We don't usually buy eggs; our friend Nerida gives us many dozens at a time. When we do need to buy eggs, we get them from the farm coop we belong to. If they don't have them, then we buy from Arbor farms, too. ;)

    I have pondered raising chickens, and if Nerida ever stopped, I might have a try. Like you, I am attracted by the fresh eggs at home...and by the birds themselves. But we travel an awful lot ... and I'm not sure how I'd cope with a hawk or a raccoon making off with my "babies"! ;)


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