Monday, May 27, 2013

What Happened to My Food?

For the first few years after I reached my ideal weight and found a good balance of nutrition and activity that was right for me, I didn't change much about how I lived and ate. Why fool with success? In January of 2012, however, my concerns over how our foods (especially meats) are processed led me to start researching the differences between the diets of my great-grandmother's generation and what we eat today. My great-grandmother lived to be 96 and enjoyed great health for most of her life. My grandmother died at 74, and my mother died just this past year at 72. Most of my life, I've heard that every generation is living longer than the previous one. Credit is invariably given to improvements in medicine and medical care. This increased longevity certainly can't be proven by my family, and according to Sally Fallon in her book, Nourishing Traditions, it just isn't true today. According to Fallon, less people who make it to the age of 70 today will still be alive in 20 years than made it to 90 just four decades ago. And as I watched my mom fight and lose her battle with cancer, I had that epiphany moment when I realized that age is just a number anyway. The ability to keep people alive with modern medicine doesn't really matter if those years are plagued by chronic disease that severely diminishes the quality of life.

In my research, I found that it isn't just my sense that more people are dying of cancer. According to the US Public Health Service, the mortality rate from malignant neoplasms (cancer) between 1900 and 2005 has nearly tripled from 64 in 100,000 population to 188.7 per 100,000 population. Improvements in modern medicine should, one would think, show the exact opposite trend.

Unless something we are doing today is very, very different than it was in 1900 ...

The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates is quoted as saying, "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food." I believe that we are what we eat, and I am living proof of the validity of that statement.  So I began reading books, watching documentaries, and conducting Internet research using valid sources to learn what really constitutes a healthy diet. It's like the "WWJD" bear I got from my mentor teacher years ago, except I ask myself, "What would Great-grandma Lisa eat?" And the answer is always the same - real food.

So it is fitting that the first book I found and read is Real Food by Nina Planck. She defines real food as old food, foods we've eaten for millions of years like meat, fish, and eggs, or for at least ten thousand years like butterfat. But it's not real food strictly by virtue of how long it has been in the diets of humans. Real food is also traditional - it is eaten the way it's always been eaten.

As a child, I ate healthy farm food, mostly what we grew in our two gardens, but also dairy products and meats my parents bought from the farmers in our community. I was trim; I was healthy. For most of my adult life (my fat years), food has been industrialized. Small farms have been put out of business in obscene numbers in our quest for efficiency - for cheap food that can quickly go from freezer, to microwave, to the table. Planck calls industrial food "recent and synthetic." It is designed to be a replica of real food, like margarine impersonating butter.

In the introduction to Fallon's book, Nourishing Traditions, she makes the observation that there has never been a time in American history that we have eaten so poorly, and medical statistics prove the premise that the way we eat determines our health.

From Nourishing Traditions:
*Heart disease and cancer were rare in 1900 but continue to increase today despite billions of dollars spent on research and advances in diagnosing and treating them. One in three Americans now dies from cancer. 
*One in ten Americans will have ulcers.
*One in five Americans is mentally ill.
*One in three Americans has allergies.
*One in five pregnancies ends in miscarriages.
*One-quarter of a million infants are born with some kind of birth defect each year.
*Diseases that were extremely rare a generation or two ago now affect a large segment of the American population: arthritis, multiple sclerosis, digestive disorders, diabetes, osteoporosis, Alzheimer's, epilepsy, chronic fatigue, and learning disabilities.
*Chronic diseases that once struck primarily the elderly are increasingly afflicting children and young people.

When nearly half of a country's population gets some kind of chronic illness and three out of four of those people die from their illnesses as is now the case in America, it is time to examine the cause and to look for a solution.

With new killer viruses striking us that are often drug-resistant, increased chemical sensitivities and food allergies in children, and more immune system disorders, we shake our heads, think it's a darn shame, and then stick those same heads in the sand. I kept hearing about men getting prostate cancer and finally asked my mom if prostate cancer is just inevitable if you live long enough. She said that she knew of few men of her generation who managed to escape it. Recently (and I no longer remember where) I read that prostate cancer has increased 230%. I don't remember the comparative time frame, but it almost doesn't matter - 230%???? And men aren't alarmed? Really? It seems to prove Fallon's point. She writes, "We have almost forgotten that our natural state is one of balance, wholeness and vitality."

In my view, God gave us everything we need to be healthy, energetic, and free of chronic disease even into old age. But then man decided he could do a better job making food than did God. First he started removing healthy parts of foods like fiber from fruits and bran from grains and selling the public on these processed foods, usually by associating food with emotion and fun, often with misinformation. Despite the abundance of healthy fats already available to us, man decided to make trans-fats, hydrogenated fats, and homogenized fats, all of which are either less healthy or actually harmful to us. To increase profits, the industrial giants decided to force-feed grains to cows that should be eating grass and then set forth on an advertising campaign to convince us that "corn-fed beef" was somehow desirable, which it's not. The food industry added artificial flavors, artificial colors, emulsifiers, stabilizers, and preservatives (and the list goes on and on) that not only don't add to the nutritional value of food, they harm us and are usually added to achieve such insignificant ends as being more visually appealing, better imitations of the real food (like yellow food coloring in margarine to make it look like butter), or so we don't have to give the milk jug a quick shake before we pour it on our cereal.

And then it started getting really insane. Man decided to play God and synthesize totally unnatural, doesn't-exist-anywhere-in-the-real-world food that our bodies don't recognize or know how to deal with.

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

Beginning with the introduction into the food supply of a genetically engineered tomato in 1994, Americans have been eating GMOs whether they know it or not. Approximately 70% of the food on the market today is contaminated with GMOs. I remember hearing about the GM tomato years ago and not being the least bit alarmed. It sounded like a good thing; I bought the sales pitch. However, when I saw the movie Genetic Roulette by Jeffrey M. Smith and learned the exact nature of the genetic manipulation applied to corn, I was truly shocked! Why would any scientist anywhere in the world think it is a good idea to splice the DNA gene of bacillus thuringiensis into the DNA of corn? If this genetic manipulation enables corn to continually produce a pesticide that kills pests that feed off of it, what does it do in my body? I am not a scientist, but I don't need to be one to know that we are gambling with our health and our lives. These genes are living things. One area of study pertaining to genetically engineered pesticide-producing crops is the rise in inflammatory bowel diseases. An interesting graph I ran across plots the incidence of these diseases against the acres planted in Bt corn. Not surprising to me at all is that they correlate very well. Of course, you can "prove" any position you want using the Internet, but it is scientific fact that our bowels contain flora that aids in the digestive process. Therefore, when you consume pesticide DNA that has been manipulated to stay "on" so it can continually produce its pesticide, it's not a huge leap to at least theorize that your bowel flora can become pesticide manufacturers, as well. We want to believe that the digestive process kills or renders harmless the living things we swallow, but research on rats that ate GMO corn proves otherwise. The body of evidence is mounting, but a scientific French study concludes that there is a significant increase in deaths from the use of GMOs. I will not eat corn. Period! That means I have to read every food label looking for corn syrup, corn starch, cornmeal, etc. Actually, I now just go to Trader Joe's and buy their brands since they say they do not use GMOs in foods that carry their label. Whole Foods has committed to requiring GMO labeling of all products in their stores within five years. I guess it takes that long for all their suppliers to shift to "real food" since they know (as Norman Braksick, president of Asgrow Seed Company was quoted as saying in the Kansas City Star) that requiring GMOs to be labeled is tantamount to putting "a skull and crossbones on it."

I guess that means that the biotech industry knows that we don't really want to eat their food-like products. So why is our government allowing them to hide it them in our food?

Corn isn't the only genetically modified item on the market. Soybeans, canola, and cotton make up the list of the top four (in terms of prevalence), but there are more. The Weston A Price Foundation has a great site for a quick education on which GMO foods and fabrics are on the market, the dangers GMOs present, and how to avoid them.

From the Weston A Price Foundation website but credited to Jeffrey M. Smith's documentary, Genetic Roulette:
"The only human feeding study on GMOs ever conducted showed that genes 'jumped' from GM soy into the DNA of human intestinal bacteria and continued to function. That means that long after you stop eating GM soy, you may still have GM proteins produced continuously inside of you."

So the DNA you eat becomes part of your DNA. 

What's on the horizon? How about a nice piece of transgenic salmon? AquaBounty has been working to get to market salmon that has been genetically engineered with growth hormones to make it grow much larger and quickly. To prevent an environmental catastrophe, it is also going to be genetically engineered to be sterile (let's hope that part really works with 100% accuracy). 

And it all just makes me wonder. If I eat these man-made DNA sequences and they become part of my DNA, what will happen to me? I may have a small tumor growing inside of me at some point in my life. For all I know, I have a tumor just starting to grow in my body at this very moment. Will ingestion of the salmon engineered with a growth hormone like that cause my tumor to grow exponentially? If a woman eats the salmon with the sterility gene, will it cause her to be sterile, too? 

These are questions that must be answered before GM foods are fed to human beings. I frequently see claims that these foods are the most thoroughly tested foods on the market. These claims are made by bloggers and in advertisements with absolutely no offer of substantiation. What little research has been done by the biotech industry seems to be short-term. I guess that if we don't immediately start convulsing or seeing blood squirt out of our navels, we accept that what we just ate is safe. The very resilience of the bodies God gave us makes the effects of these foods difficult to identify until a tipping point occurs after years of exposure. Our need to see an immediate cause and effect connection before we change our behavior just proves how very gullible we can be.

Or maybe we just have to cling to that childlike belief that our government wouldn't allow these foods to become part of the food supply unless they are safe. If we believe even a bit of the research, we must deduce that we have all been turned into lab rats, unwittingly participating in an experiment that most likely will take years from our lives and from which there is no turning back; much damage has already been done even if we commit to change today. Our government gives into lobbyists and political pressure as standard operating procedure. It has failed the American consumer while protecting the people who secretly started this experiment with our food and thus, our health. And it's an experiment that has no control group. So how can anyone prove that the current state of American health is directly related to the introduction of GMOs in the food supply? The truth will eventually come out. Many countries currently ban or significantly limit GMOs, so they'll have to serve as the scientific control group for this particular experiment when Americans finally demand to know why our health stats just don't stack up against the stats of the citizens of countries.

As for me, I've seen all the data I need to make my decision.

So that's what happened to the real food that evolved over millions of years and kept man healthy and thriving.

Can we get it back? Is it even possible to eat only real food in America today?

I am working on it, but it is an ongoing process and one that I often find overwhelming.

A good starting point for your own education is this brief interview of Jeffrey M. Smith (Genetic Roulette). Our health is too important for us to be complacent about these foods. And as much as I didn't want to know any of what I now know, I am so glad my daughter forced me to watch Smith's film. In doing so, I believe she added years to her mother's life.

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