Cary G Dean.
A Question of Ethics
The current 'diet-heart' strictures and media pressure aimed at ever lower blood cholesterol levels, have driven more people towards unnatural and unhealthy cult diets.
Consequently, there has been a rapid rise in the incidence of infant malnutrition, deficiency diseases and other killer or debilitating diseases.
Without sufficient dietary fat, the body is unable to use the fat soluble vitamins.
Without vitamin D the body cannot utilise calcium.
In conjunction with an increase of bran in the diet, this is another possible factor in the growing incidences of diseases such as osteoporosis and rickets.
Vegetarian traits are increasing.
As animal products are the only natural source of vitamin B-12, Vegans, who eat no such animal products, run a real risk of pernicious anaemia.
Bottles of pills are not a good substitute as they are generally poorly absorbed.
Fermented soy products, such as tempeh, and spirulinas found in health-food shops, which are supposed to contain vitamin B-12, for the most part contain only analogues of the vitamin which are not active for humans and which, in some cases, actually block vitamin B-12 metabolism.
Children of Vegans also usually have a lower body weight and height and suffer other health problems.
Doctors in Britain are reporting cases in 'the muesli belt' of severe nutritional disorders which include kwashiorkor, marasmus and rickets which are due solely to their parents' food faddism.
Until recently, these diseases were only found among severely malnourished children in Africa.
In Britain it is becoming so serious that they suggest that such cases should be regarded as forms of child abuse.
But are the parents to blame?
Could not some of the blame for this deplorable situation be fairly laid at the doors of the nutritionists?
Doctors in the USA also are reporting ever increasing numbers of children suffering from nutritional dwarfing and other deficiency problems attributable entirely to pressures to eat nutrient-poor, low-calorie foods because they are 'healthy'.
These children are destined to have far-reaching problems beyond just being smaller than their peers. It has been shown that adults whose birth-weights early rates of growth were low have a much higher incidence of CHD.
Brain growth and intelligence are also found to be much lower in such undernourished children.
We really seem incapable of learning from previous experiences.
During World War II, when we are supposed to have been so healthy, protein-calorie deficiency was so pronounced that in many people pathology showed there was as much as 25% loss of muscle from their hearts - and similar patterns of protein deficiency are found today.
And it is not just humans who suffer side effects.
In the constant quest for ever leaner meat, food animals are being engineered which could not survive naturally.
Belgian Blue cattle, for example, bred to provide lean meat, have double muscles.
This makes the calves too large to pass along the birth canal and they have to be delivered by Caesarean section.
Other cattle and pigs are fed hormones to make them grow with less fat.
As yet it is anyone's guess what the long-term consequences of this will be on both the animals and humans.
The strictures against red meat also mean that fewer cattle and sheep are being reared and more fields are used to grow cereals, rape and other vegetable crops.
Unlike the animals, which on the whole produce natural fertiliser for the pastures, the vegetable and cereal crops require large amounts of manufactured nitrogen fertilisers to be spread.
As we know, these leach in ever-increasing quantities out of the soil to pollute our water supplies.
Grass, the food of the cattle and sheep, on the other hand, locks the nitrates in the soil, thus preventing pollution.
The Mediterranean diet
The 'Mediterranean' diet is healthier than ours, we are told.
We should eat what the French, Italians and Spanish eat.
That could be right - but not for the reasons usually given.
The Mediterranean diet is what the health fanatics advocate because, they say, it is low in fat.
This is nonsense!
Obviously, they have never been there.
They don't seem to know that northern Italians love butter, that bowls of pork dripping are sold on Spanish markets or that the Spanish spread it thickly on their toast for breakfast.
They don't know that goose fat is used to make cassoulet in the south of France, or that throughout the Mediterranean the sausages, salamis and pâtés all contain up to fifty percent fat.
The Mediterranean diet may be healthier than the British but, contrary to popular belief, it is very far from being a low-fat diet!
However, there are a number of major differences between the Mediterranean countries and Britain that may play a significant part in their effects on health.
Not only is the food eaten by the average working family in southern Europe very different from that eaten by a typical family in Britain, more importantly, the way it is bought, presented and eaten is also different.
A brief list of the principal differences is below.
Mediterranean Eating Pattern
The average Mediterranean diet comprises natural, unprocessed meat, vegetables and fruit that are usually bought fresh daily.
Meat plays an important part in the diet
Fats eaten are butter, olive oil and unprocessed animal fats
Meals are taken slowly, without hurrying.
Lunch usually takes up to two hours - and is followed by a siesta .
Over sixty percent of energy intake is before 2.00 pm.
British Eating Pattern
The average British diet is composed of packaged, highly processed foods with chemical additives.
We are told to eat less meat
Fats eaten are highly processed margarines, low-fat fat substitutes, and vegetable oils.
Food is rushed.
Lunches are eaten on the run or combined with work.
Often, they are junk-food snacks.
The largest meal is eaten in the evening
Beer, wines and spirits are drunk in the evening after the evening meal.
Imagine it is 2.00 a.m., you are lying in bed when you hear a noise downstairs that you know is caused by a burglar.
You know how quickly your heart starts to race.
Well, that is how quickly your cholesterol level can rise - and for the same reason.
One of the effects of the 'fight or flight' reflex is to raise blood cholesterol.
Any form of physical or mental stress has this effect.
So if you run to your doctor's, your cholesterol level will be higher than if you walked; if you have been standing it will be higher than if you sat.
If you are anxious, or your doctor looks worried, it will be higher.
If your blood cholesterol were tested hourly throughout a day, or daily over a month, it would not be unusual to find a wide variation in values.
Blood cholesterol levels also rise naturally as you get older so that while a reading of 9 mmol/l is high at the age of twenty, it is perfectly normal if you are fifty.
Cholesterol measurements are not very accurate - less than eighty percent - even when conducted in a laboratory.
A survey showed that on the same sample, laboratories could differ by as much as 1.3 mmol/l.
When it is tested with a doctor's desktop machine the accuracy will inevitably be lower.
To put it in perspective, let us assume that you are around thirty years old and your cholesterol level is a perfectly respectable 6.0 mmol/l.
You hurry to the surgery and are anxious about the result.
This could raise it by twenty-five percent to 7.5.
If it is sent to a laboratory giving the high readings it could be raised by a further 1.3.
Your perfectly normal 6.0 is now a high 8.8!
In fact, so many variables affect cholesterol levels that a one-off test is a waste of time, and an unnecessary worry for the patient that can do more harm than good.
Bear that in mind if you are subjected to a cholesterol test.
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