Health and Bullshit

Lately there has been a lot of brouhaha about the life-threatening qualities of red meat. However, this hysteria is based on an extremely faulty scientific study on red-meat consumption and mortality. How faulty was it?  All I can say if that my methodologies professor in grad school would have (metaphorically) slapped me if I had tried some of “methods” used in the study … and she would have been right to do so. Moreover, even if the results were gospel, which is unlikely in the utmost, the “20% higher risk of dying” from red meat consumption still came to a chance of kicking the bucket that was less than 1%.

Healthcare, etc. breaks it down for you: “The study further reports that at its worst, meat increases this risk by 20% (95% confidence interval 15-24%, for processed meat). If we use this 0.8% risk per year as the baseline, and raise it by 20%, it brings us to 0.96% risk of death per year. Still, below 1%. Need a magnifying glass? Me too. Well, what if it’s closer to the upper limit of the 95% confidence interval, or 24%? The risk still does not quite get up to 1%, but almost. And what if it is closer to the lower limit, 15%? Then we go from 0.8% to 0.92%.”

So the crap study indicates a less than 1% chance of dying … so why are people losing their minds? Simple. It is just another “scientifically proven” lucky rabbit’s foot that will magically keep you from dying. People fear death. Death is inevitable. So if they are told they can ward it off for a while by doing X, Y and Z … then they have the false comfort of thinking X, Y, and Z will make them live longer. Anything that keeps you from going bananas is fine by me, but it leads to the ugly corollary that those who die “young” from heart disease, cancer, or a stroke somehow deserved to die because they did A, B, and C instead of the scientifically approved X, Y, and Z. 

That victim-blaming mental poppycock belief is the result of the Just World Hypothesis. If you can blame someone for their troubles, then you can find reasons why YOU don’t deserve those problems, and thus you are magically safe from troubles! However, this is a delusion that allows the unsympathetic to justify their callousness. Blaming others for their own tragedies applies to damn near everything, including rape and poverty, but for now we are concentrating on food and death.

Now, there are certainly choices that encourage health. I’m not saying that smoking or a sedentary lifestyle does not increase risk. What I am saying is there is no “magic bullet:, like avoiding simple carbs, that will keep you safe from (for example) heart disease or cancer. Those things can happen even if you do everything “right”.

Let’s look at Otzi the Iceman to illustrate this. Otzi, named (of course) by those researching him, is an incredibly well preserved Neolithic body. Otzi ate a wide range of organic fruits and vegetables, only consumed free range pastured game, and got LOTS of exercise. Yet it turns out Otzi had significant hardening of the arteries. As was pointed out:

“Earlier computer scans had revealed Ötzi’s severe arteriosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. But the new analysis shows that Ötzi had a genetic predisposition to the condition, despite the fact that as a hunter-gatherer he had none of what are currently believed to be the relevant risk factors, such as being overweight, getting too little exercise, and smoking or drinking. “This new data suggests that we might be less able to prevent arteriosclerosis than we believed,” notes cardiologist and mummy expert Gregory Thomas of the University of California, Irvine”

I certainly don’t recommend smoking, a lack of exercise, or eating a ton of super-processed GMOs. That’s not the point of this post. The first point of this post is that most eating fads are based on fear and speculation, not fact and science. The second point is that if you are a victim-blamer, you are a heartless asshat. You might want to work on your sympathy, compassion, and understanding of large socio-cultural forces.

As for me, I am making a nice meatloaf tonight for dinner. Yum. 

About Betty Fokker

I'm a stay-at-home feminist mom.
This entry was posted in fat hating, Feminism, racism, shit I think y'all should know. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Health and Bullshit

  1. Robin S. says:

    I would like to add that what is “scientifically proven” today, may not be tomorrow. In the 80’s they did not label transfats and declared them “safe”. I took one look at their idea of “safe” and went back to real butter (margarine was loaded at the time). And then eggs were proclaimed to kill you quick because of cholesterol and now eggs are no longer considered villains. It makes me crazy and I no longer jump on any band wagon, scientifically proven or not. Moderation in all things. Even salt, a necessity of life, will kill you if you gulp it down.

  2. bookmom says:

    I loved that when I first came across the results from the study it was on yahoo and the picture accompanying the article had a slice of bacon. Um, yeah, bacon is WHITE meat.

  3. londonmabel says:

    I agree that there’s no Magic Bullet and think we need to stop Hunting It Down. That’s been my problem with how Oprah has conducted her weight loss quest–she’s always looking for the magic bullet (loving yourself, veganism, etc) to help her lose weight. And she does it in public.

  4. Yeah, statistics are soooooo misunderstood and misused — here you very eloquently show how bad it is.

    I stopped worrying a few years back and follow the maxim “everything in moderation”. A bit of butter won’t kill you, and if it tastes better, then, damn it, eat it. Of course, when you eat a whole stick at a sitting, you have a problem (and “moderate” is no longer the descriptor).

    Ultimately the only diet which works is calorie restriction. Here in Germany it’s referred to as the “FDH” diet. “FDH” stands for “friss die Hälfte” (“only eat half”), i.e., eat what you want, just eat LESS. All the other stuff (eat eggs, don’t eat eggs, oh, wait, eggs are okay again…) comes and goes. So, STOP WORRYING ABOUT IT!!! Just try to control quantity (obviously, of calories).

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