I have been working on a new book dealing with human health; mainly with how nutrition effects health. The subject might seem to be a little out of my field but in reality, the same factors that bring about healthy productive animals produce healthy humans.
One of the most important factors for both man and beast is proper amounts of the right foods. I have done quite a bit of research and am more than a little disturbed by what I have found. Bye and large today's young people have a very poor diet compared to that their parents ate when young. A lot of this is due to personal choice – quick and easy fast food and way too many soda pops and sweets but it is a struggle for even the most dedicated young mothers to feed their children a healthy diet.
We have one of the most advanced food production and distribution systems in the world; you can walk into any super market in the U.S. on any given day and find reasonably priced fresh and frozen foods from all over the world. What is harder to find is good advice as to what we should be eating. The U. S. government got involved with giving out advice on proper nutrition in the 1970's with recommendations that came to be called Dietary Goals for Americans. These recommendations called for reducing the amounts of meat, eggs and dairy products consumed and eating more grains and vegetable oils.
The DGA is reviewed periodically and each review has called for further reductions in animal products; the latest suggests a total ban on red meat. The ban on red meat is rationalized, in part, by the unsubstantiated claim that red meat production is harmful to the environment. I touched on this subject in a column a year or so ago; I want to bring it up again since the situation has gotten worse rather than better. Let's put that on hold a minute and examine the results on human health that have occurred since a significant number of people began following the DGA.
In the time since the recommendations first came, out maladies such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, dementia, obesity, hypertension, and diabetes have all increased dramatically. I realize that correlation does not equal causation but the fact remains that a lot of Americans changed their diets in accordance with government recommendations and we now have tremendous health problems.
The DGA recommendations are badly flawed on several issues: making recommendations based on political correctness rather than science; placing far too much reliance on processed carbohydrates (flour & sugar); and substituting vegetable oils (usually highly processed) for animal fats. The demonization of animal products, particularly animal fats, as a means to sell non food as food has been very successful.
Many people believe that saturated fats are inherently unhealthy when the opposite is true. The true villains in today's diets are the vegetable oils being sold as healthy alternatives to butter, lard, and tallow. Forty years ago, a very wise physician said to me, "If you want to produce instant senility, remove all saturated fats from the diet." We have millions of people doing just this thinking that it will benefit their health. Animal products play an important role in human health as sources of quality proteins and fats and as suppliers of vital trace minerals and vitamins. Some elements are present in available forms only in animal products or are present in plants at levels too low to meet human needs.
Fact: Vitamin B12 is an example; we have to have it. The vitamin B12 like substance, found in green leafy plants and touted as a replacement by some vegetarians, cannot be used by the human body and is antagonistic to B12 from other sources.
Betting beyond demonization
Animal agriculture has healthy nutritious products to sell but we have allowed ourselves to be demonized by flim flam artists and con men selling snake oil. That statement is a good lead in to the "meat is bad for the environment" statement in this years' DGA. You have to wonder what environmental credentials a group of dieticians and bureaucrats hold; I suppose their views are as valid as the groups using "save the environment" as their own private piggy bank.
The work being done by farmers and ranchers with soil health, with poison free pest control, with range improvement through grazing management is yielding real results that will benefit the environment and mankind for many years. We have some problems in animal agriculture but we also have a lot of dedicated and intelligent people working on those problems.