Saturday, August 1, 2009

Eat to Live

I remember one summer my parents decided our family was going to go on a "fruit fast". I guess they hadn't invented the word "vegan" yet. We ate fruits and vegetables, not meat, and maybe some whole grains. My parents both claimed they felt wonderful. I remember being very hungry, though it was nice breaking the sugar addiction.

This memory came flashing back two weeks ago when my wife came home from visiting friends and introduced me to Joel Fuhrman's book "Eat to Live". It sounded a lot like my childhood "fruit fast", and since it made my parents feel better, I figured it might work for me.

I started reading the book the same time we started the diet and found it convincing. I tried to find critics of "Eat to Live" and the only critics I could find where on a forum at a Low Carb website (Adtkin's Dieters who love their meat).

I was enjoying our new diet and started losing some of my midsection (I went from 201 lbs to 196) while my wife, who was more interested in losing weight (along with the health benefits) GAINED 4 lbs. I couldn't believe anyone could gain weight on this diet.

After she visited a doctor, we are on a new diet. We'll keep eating healthier but include more protein. My wife has already lost 5 lbs. in less than a week.

This all leaves me a little puzzled trying to reconcile the research that Dr. Fuhrman presented. He made a very convincing argument that eating food derived from animals (meat, milk , eggs, cheese, etc.) resulted in higher incidents of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc.

I still need to read How to Lie with Statistics, but I'm guessing there is something related here. What I want to understand is whether eating meat is like playing Russian Roulette, if you eat it you have a greater chance of dying? or whether it depends more on your genetic makeup whether or not you should eat meat.

Either way, I heard a very compelling argument for the "Eat to Live" lifestyle. Basically, it is more sustainable, since every pound of meat takes 50 to 100 pounds of food (from plants). Therefore, a meat based diet takes 50-100 times as much water and produces a lot of nasty waste. I would think that the Global Warming, Anthropogenic Climate Change zealots would adopt "Eat to Live" as part of their morality.

A final note: The 50-100 pounds of food making one pound of meat is reason that we don't eat carnivores (Lions, etc.), since every pound of Lion takes 50-100 lbs of meat, which takes 50-100 pounds of plants. In other words, 1 pound of carnivore takes 2,500 to 10,000 lbs of plants. It's just not economical.


1 comment:

Kevin said...

Well, I'm not having too much luck losing weight right now (although I've upped my exercise level a lot in the last 6 months and have a lot more stamina then I did), but...I think that humans generally do better eating some amount of animal protein. Humans are omnivores; we require a certain amount of protein as well as fats (those essential fatty acids) to live. If you don't eat enough protein, the body starts ripping it up from places where it is less important to put it where it is more important (the body can't synthesize protein). Interestingly enough, we don't actually require carbohydrates in our diet. So, the problem with vegetarian diets is that it's much more difficult to get the required amount of protein than with an omnivorous diet.

Most Americans go way overboard, though, and eat too much protein. Even so, there is some evidence that an Atkins-style diet is not significantly worse for you than the typical high-carb-low-fat-and-protein diet (see WebMD for some info; unfortunately I don't know how to insert links here) and may even help you lose weight due to feeling more full.

Obviously evolution didn't plan for the extra resources needed to raise enough meat to provide the required protein for 6 billion. Reminds me of the classic Fredrick Pohl novel Gateway where the protagonist works (initially) in the Wyoming food mines, where they take oil shale and use it as the foodstocks for protein-bearing algae to feed the world.