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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Health Care and the S.A.D.

Just wanted to share a few links I've found interesting lately, mostly on the topics of wellness, healthcare, and food.

Most of you probably saw John Mackey's op-ed in the Wall Street Journal back in early August. If you didn't already read it, I suggest reading his original, un-edited version. Mackey lays out eight clear steps to government health care reform. He also suggests greater personal responsibility for health and preventable illness, pointing out how the American diet is responsible for such an overwhelming percentage of disease. As the CEO of Whole Foods, he's certainly made a lot of liberal foodies more than a little annoyed, and many are currently boycotting Whole Foods because of Mr. Mackey's opinions on the subject. I suppose it was to be expected that stating that health care is not a basic human right would be sure to get people riled up.

"Many promoters of health care reform believe that people have an intrinsic ethical right to health care-to universal and equal access to doctors, medicines, and hospitals. While all of us can empathize with those who are sick, how can we say that all people have any more of an intrinsic right to health care than they have an intrinsic right to food, clothing, owning their own homes, a car or a personal computer? Health care is a service which we all need at some point in our lives, but just like food, clothing, and shelter it is best provided through voluntary and mutually-beneficial market exchanges rather than through government mandates. A careful reading of both The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution will not reveal any intrinsic right to health care, food or shelter, because there isn’t any. This "right" has never existed in America."

Michael Pollan also weighed in on the health care reform issue, suggesting that the biggest problem isn't just the health care system; what really needs to be addressed is the Standard American Diet and the government subsidies within agriculture (corn, soy, etc.) that often affect what Americans can readily afford to eat.

For other news on the health-and-wellness front, check out this USA Today article pointing out that 60% of adults can't digest milk. Yep. Since becoming a vegetarian back in February, I've found myself leaning more and more towards the "human milk is for baby humans, and cow milk is for baby cows" viewpoint, finding it increasingly odd that the human species relies on dairy for a sizable percentage of food intake. (Not that I ever liked cheese or milk!) Of course, some call my viewpoint on this issue "propaganda," but then take the "Got Milk?" commercials in stride without a second thought - of course cow's milk is part of a healthy diet. What?

The American Heart Association made waves by suggesting that women limit their added sugar intake to no more than 6 tsp. a day, and for men, 9 tsp. Quite a reduction from the average, which this article says is 22 tsp. per day!

For those calorie-counters who say, "A calorie is a calorie - who cares if it's from a potato chip or an apple?", here's an interesting article that delves into the science of that very issue. It's not the sort of thing you can skim - I found myself really having to think about each thing the author was saying.

That's all the linkiness for now!

By the way, I still love being a vegetarian. I was chatting with Nathan this evening about how my mindset has changed in the past seven months. I'm gaining a new perspective on how I view food as I think more about where my food has come from, and in some cases, at what costs. I told Nathan I find it interesting that some use words like "extreme" when describing my decision not to eat meat, when I, in my current frame of mind, view my dietary choices as exactly the opposite of extreme. Factory farming seems extreme to me. Almond butter, fresh-picked fall apples, medjool dates, avocados, spinach, hummus, ak-mak crackers, pita bread, sweet potatoes, squash, savory beans... mmm, these things are delicious simplicity.


  1. I've read that milk consumption in America is actually linked to osteoperosis. The gargantuan effort required to digest the milk you buy at the grocery store uses up more calcium than the milk contains.

    But it's not because it's from cows--it's because it's been pasteurized. While there is a difference between human milk and cow milk, there's actually a bigger difference between live milk and dead milk. When they started instituting (really unethical) factory farm practices, the cows became very sick, and people became very sick from drinking their milk. But as Pasteur discovered, if you boil the milk first, you'll kill the pathogens, and so it won't kill you. But the same process destroys all the beneficial bacteria and digestive enzymes.

    God didn't design any creature to digest milk of any sort--God rather designed milk to digest itself, and to transfer the friendly flora necessary to digest other things, too.

    This is why in old books, you're always reading about folks successfully raising babies on (fresh) animal milk. On the other hand, even human milk makes babies sick if you pasteurize it. (Which makes me glad that I never got around to following up on my good intentions of donating to a milk bank...)

  2. Elena, thanks for your comment. I've read quite a bit about raw milk and am familiar with the information and source you cite. I agree with you that if you want to drink cow's milk, and want to digest it easily without your body leaching calcium from your bones, raw milk is the way to go. It doesn't interest me for myself because I don't feel the need to incorporate cow's milk into my diet as there are so many plant-based sources of protein, calcium, etc. - but for those who want to drink milk, unpasteurized may be the best option. I think the benefits outweigh the risks. (This is assuming one can find and afford raw milk!)

  3. That is a very interesting essay by the Whole Foods CEO - I've heard a little about his ideas and how they do health care at WF, but I hadn't seen this. I wish it didn't feel so completely hopeless that some of these reforms he suggests might come to pass. At this point I feel like the only thing I can count on is that government, no matter which party is currently on top, can only be trusted to do the irresponsible. *sigh* And being from CA makes it all the worse, because I'm represented by a couple senators who have absolutely no interest or respect for my thoughts or beliefs. There is perhaps a little hope for the local representative, but I'm pretty cynical in general at this point. Good thing I know this world isn't all there is!