Wendy Myers: Welcome to the Live to 110 podcast. I’m your host, Wendy Myers and you know Cate Beehan by now. She’s a Soul Cycle and Pilates Instructor and Health Coach. Hi, Cate.
Cate Beehan: Hi, Wendy.
Wendy Myers: How was New York?
Cate Beehan: It was great. Just you know lots of family time. I got some official fall weather in and a lot of time with my nephew who just turned two, so it was great.
Wendy Myers: Nice. Yeah, I told the listeners last week that you’re probably doing a lot of very unhealthy things over there. Haha.
Cate Beehan: Not too bad. My sister is actually very insanely meticulous about what she wants my nephew to eat, he thinks a lollipop is a kale banana smoothie. Haha.
Wendy Myers: Perfect. Haha.
Cate Beehan: Yes. So, it wasn’t too bad.
Wendy Myers: That’s good. More family time. That’s good. Well everyone, today we are interviewing Denise Minger, author of the new book, Death by Food Pyramid: How Shoddy Science, Sketchy Politics and Shady Special Interests Conspired to Ruin the Health of America. I love that title! I have really been anticipating this interview for a couple of months so this podcast is going to be a really, really informative so stay tuned. So Cate, can you do our little disclaimer?
Cate Beehan: Sure. Keep in mind that this program is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease or health condition and it’s not a substitute for professional medical advice. The Live to 110 podcast is solely informational in nature. Please consult your healthcare practitioner before engaging in any treatment, Wendy or myself suggest on the show.
Wendy Myers: Yes. So, what kinds of things were you doing in New York?
Cate Beehan: Well, actually I took a Soul Cycle class, I took one.
Wendy Myers: Yeah, really?
Cate Beehan: Soul Cycle out there in East Hampton and Watermelon Bridgehampton.
Wendy Myers: I thought you’d be pretty sick of it, take a break from it.
Cate Beehan: No, I didn’t. I still took a class.
Wendy Myers: Are you addicted?
Cate Beehan: Yeah.
Wendy Myers: Yeah. You’re addicted to cardio.
Cate Beehan: What’s going on with your weight loss guide?
Wendy Myers: It’s finally done! It’s a miracle. I finally have a little present for all you listeners. I wrote an e-book called the Live to 110 by Weighing Less eGuide. So if you go to my website Liveto110.com™, it’s available to download for free. So, just look for the blog post about it about the free weight loss guide or click weight loss in the post topics and you’ll find it. And it will also soon be available on the home page right smacked up on the front home page or when you look on the side bar, the right side bar. I’m working on that right now.
And the e-Guide is a 33 page basic weight loss e-Guide filled with science backed tips from the latest research that I’ve discovered about diet and exercise and other tips about the causes of cravings and how to conquer your cravings and how to reduce stress which is a very important aspect of weight loss. And the e-Guide will basically help you get started on your path to lose weight. And it’s a primer for my book; When Diet and Exercise are Not Enough: A Step by Step Plan to Eliminating Your Roadblocks to Weight Loss. And that will be available in hopefully spring 2014. It’s going pretty slow. Haha. It’s quite a task writing a book let me tell you, especially because when you’re trying to do such a good job and trying to do lots of research, with all the latest scientific studies and really get the most cutting edge information. It’s a big pain in the butt. Hahaha!
So everyone, as many of you guys may know, Denise Minger, our guest today is the famed study dismantler of The China Study. She studied and dissected Dr. Colin Campbell’s raw China Study data and found all kinds of flaws in the study and thus, major holes in his findings that supposedly claim that eating meat and dairy cause cancer and all the diseases of Western affluence. So essentially this study is what many vegetarians and vegans are basing their diet upon but they could be making a big mistake with their health. I turned vegan when I read this book a few years ago but my health absolutely nosedived really quickly.
I was pretty much about 6 months into the diet and I had to stop. I had to go to my doctor and try to figure out what was wrong and I realized it was the vegan diet I was doing. And I’m sure many of you listeners out there have had the same experience you know, because it’s just the diet that I personally don’t think can be done long term in a healthy way. I think not that many people can do it successfully like Cate, you remember when we both used to be vegans and vegetarians and we used to go eat at all the vegan restaurants in LA thinking we’re being super healthy?
Cate Beehan: Yeah. We would be eating salad leaves and sprouts with a side of seaweed, tacos of spiced walnut taco meat.
Wendy Myers: Ugh! I don’t know how I survived. I remember when you ordered a BLT once where the bacon was dried spiced coconut meat that was tough as nails, it was on this unchewable gluten free bread… eww nasty! And you kept going on about how good it was. I think we were both totally delusional.
Cate Beehan: I don’t think I’d eaten any like real food.
Wendy Myers: Yeah. I don’t know. I think both of us were vegetarian and vegan before going to IIN, you know our nutrition school for you listeners out there. It’s the Institute for Integrated Nutrition. And IIN, you know they had some lectures about vegetarian and veganism which is great but it pretty much set me straight and exposed me to, you know other ways of eating and other ways of being, and kind of got me thinking, I really responded to Sally Fallon who’s the founder of the Weston A. Price Foundation. A lot of her lectures really rang true for me and I read her book Nourishing Traditions. And I thought “this is it”.
You know, we need to eat how we’ve always eaten for millions of years and that just, I couldn’t deny that. But you know basically for me, after I first heard the speech from Sally Fallon, you know in our school program, I went and bought my first pound of bacon with total peace of mind. Do you remember when I used to give you and all my friends a copy of The China Study? I was so fanatical when I first read this book and it was like I was in some vegan brain fog thinking I was going to save everybody and I actually became a fanatical before I started Liveto110.com™. I was going to save everybody. These are just some of my friends and family. You know, I’m going to save them for the ravages caused by meat. Oh God, not bacon. I’m sure that was super annoying.
Cate Beehan: No, it wasn’t too bad. I mean, I do still have the book. Haha.
Wendy Myers: Yeah. Haha.
Cate Beehan: But yeah, I don’t know. You know the good thing about IIN is that we did get to learn everything. We got lectures from everyone across the board, across the spectrum of health. And it’s good because you’re kind of get to make your own decision and it’s true like in the beginning towards the first part of the lectures, a lot of it was about being vegan, being vegetarians. So you know, I was experimenting with that and obviously you were too and just eating meat, I think for me and I know for you, just is the way that we need to live.
Wendy Myers: Yeah, I agree. I mean my poor husband; he had to listen to me talk about how meat was going to give him heart disease and cancer. And I mean, I was hitting really agro about it too like it’s kind of like doing the vegan police thing. And my husband would be innocently eating his healthy food and I’d be talking about how nasty meat was and factory farming and he’s eating cancer tumors. Haha. They don’t call it the vegan police for nothing.
Cate Beehan: Yeah.
Wendy Myers: But he was very patient with me. But now I kind of feel bad for spewing nonstop nonsense about how meat is bad for you. I mean, you know in fact my husband, he would have to go to one restaurant to get his food and then to another one for my food.
Cate Beehan: That’s right.
Wendy Myers: And the poor guy, I definitely put that man through the ringer. I would have divorced myself. I was being so obnoxious about It. And now, I’m being super obnoxious about Paleo and grass-fed meat and bitching if we go to restaurants that don’t serve grass-fed meat because he just can’t understand why I don’t want to eat sliders at The Cheesecake Factory.
Cate Beehan: No!
Wendy Myers: I know. But all I can say is I literally became retarded when I was vegan. I couldn’t hold the conversation. I couldn’t remember anything. I’m still convinced I have brain damage from being vegan because the diet just starves the brains of fats, you know that’s basically the problem with the diet is the lack of fats and cholesterol that we need to be healthy. But all of that Denise will explain it.
So today, I’m so honored to have our guest, Denise Minger on the show today. She’s a fellow blogger at Rawfoodsos.com. And today, we’re going to extract a few of Denise’s thoughts on The China Study. But first, I want to talk about Denise Minger’s new book, Death by Food Pyramid: How Shoddy Science, Sketchy Politics and Shady Special Interests Conspired to Ruin the Health of America. I’m hoping her book will prompt change of the food pyramid, our lunch school programs are based upon this document as well as other government run food programs. And this document is taught in our school. Our children’s health is at stake frankly. And many other countries also based their diet recommendations on this document so it’s important not just for our country but for the world that this document is loudly criticized to prompt change. So Denise’s book is very important and timely and it’s a book that I believe, a book on this subject is long overdue. So Denise, thank you for being on the show, how are you?
Denise Minger: I’m fantastic and thank you for the intro. Do you want to be my publicist? Haha.
11:22 About Denise Minger
Wendy Myers: Absolutely. I will take the job. Haha. I would do a really good job too. Haha. So why don’t you first tell the listeners a little bit about yourself and why you started your website Rawfoodsos.com.
Denise Minger: Sure thing. So my health journey actually began when I was pretty young. I was 7 years old when I first went vegetarian. And at the time, it was a choice I made because it almost choked on a piece of steak and I became very phobic of anything with a meat texture. So at that point, I kind of just pushed meat off the menu. But as time went on, I became more involved with the ethical and health arguments with vegetarianism and became a vegetarian until I was 17 or 18 years old. It’s about a decade as a vegetarian. And throughout that process I developed 20 health problems as well as food allergies, including allergies to wheat and soy and dairy and that all happened about when I was 11 to 15 years old.
So by the time I was a teenager, I was already very kind of a, well I had to be very health aware just because I needed to read food labels and understand what was in my food so that I don’t get sick from it. So this kind of led to an ongoing interest in health that just kind of laid in the background for the rest of my life. And then, when I was 15, 16, I discovered the raw vegan diet. And the version of this diet I came across was promoted by someone named, Douglas Grant who basically his message is that, humans are best adapted for a diet of fruit and vegetables and almost nothing else. Maybe very small amounts of seeds but you should eat 80% of your diet’s carbohydrate, 10% fat, 10% protein. And at the time I have absolutely no health background, any knowledge on biology, physiology, anything like that and so his arguments made sense at the time. I was thinking, “Well ok, that’s kind of what the chimps eat and we’re you know very closely related to them. And they don’t get these diseases that humans get so maybe that’s how we’re supposed to eat.”
So at that point at very young age again, I think I was a sophomore in high school, I went completely raw vegan for a year. Not a single bite of cooked food, no animal products whatsoever. I’ve already been a vegan for about 2 years before that just because I couldn’t eat dairy and I didn’t like eggs. And so after that one year, it was, well it started out wonderful. There was this great honeymoon period that I think happens when a lot of people switch to a diet like that. And I felt incredible for the first time in my life for about 2 or 3 months. And my energy was sky rocketing, my skin was clear, I felt incredible all the time and then, it stopped working basically. And that great feeling left and was replaced by lethargy, swings of energy where I just crashed after eating a lot of fruit. Cold all the time, my hair started falling out and my teeth ended up just disintegrating at this very young age despite never having a cavity at any other point in my life.
And the breaking point for me came when I was at the dentist. In fact, I’ve gone to a doctor previously. He told me my blood work was a mess and all that and that didn’t swayed me as much as the dentis appointment did because I was back in the chair waiting for my usual pristine bill of health that they usually gave me when I went in for a cleaning. And instead, the dentist started making all these grunts and these horrible noises like “oh my God, something is really wrong”. And at the end of the appointment, I thought I had about I think it was 14 or 16 cavities. I didn’t know if they were counting. I think that all my teeth were basically decaying. And it’s at that point when I realized “wow I’m really a mess right now. I need to figure out what’s wrong with me and I need to change this”. So that’s kind of what began my deeper exploration of nutrition especially away from veganism and the vegetarian movement. And it was at that point when I came across the work of Weston A. Price and he did a lot of… he was a dentist, I don’t know if you’re familiar with him.
Wendy Myers: Oh yeah!
Denise Minger: So he’s just fabulous. I mean, the stuff he explored and that he documented is probably irreplaceable because you can’t really do that today because all these primitive populations have been westernized. But anyway, so I came across his work and just the importance of fat soluble vitamins, vitamin B2, vitamin A, vitamin D and start eating foods that were rich in those nutrients and I was able to pretty much stop the progression of my tooth decay as well as just heal all the stuff that was going on in my mouth. There was expensive dental work involvedas well. But I realized the nutritional aspect of it was just huge. So at that point, I became very disillusioned with veganism, vegetarianism. It’s just all the information I’ve been fed from that movement. And that kind of laid in the background for a few years you know, I was finishing up college, kind of did my own thing. And then at some point, I forget why. I just became inspired to kind of go back onto vegan websites and forums and just stir up trouble. Haha.
Wendy Myers: I love to do that. Haha.
Denise Minger: I mean, I don’t know if I did like an outlet for my aggression or something. I guess at that point, I’m just feeling like you know there’s so many people out there who are struggling the same things that I was struggling with. I might as well go and try to help them. And so I go into these forums and usually message people privately that are complaining with the same health issues I’d undergone as a raw vegan. And then just tell them, “This is what I did to fix myself and here is my information maybe it will help you.” And during this process, there was one book that kept getting thrown on my face and that was The China Study. And anytime I would say anything about animal products being beneficial, someone would bring up The China Study and they wouldn’t even go further beyond just this one sentence, “Read The China Study, you’re wrong.”
Wendy Myers: Seee that’s all they got, that’s all they have.
Denise Minger: Yeah. And that’s why this book was so widely embraced because it’s the answer, you know, written by a very credible person with all these wonderful credentials and we think we should be able to trust and so you take this book and you just feel like you can slap it down on the table and that’s going to end any argument. So that’s what was going on for me and people kept throwing that book at me. It was a book I had already read too but I didn’t read it much in dept because I came across this after I was already non-vegan anymore so it wasn’t that interesting to me. But after I kept getting this argument and this book thrown at me to conclude every argument I tried to bring up about animal foods. I was like, “You know I’m going to read this book and I’m going to go into greater depth with my comprehension of it. And I’m going to go back to the original data that this scientist T. Collin Campbell was drawing from it, I’m going to see if he is actually representing his findings correctly”.
I just want to know what’s going on. So there’s a lot of bad story right at this time. I actually had recently got hit by a car so I was laid up for a while. I have some insurance money to burn from like pain and suffering money that they give you after we get injured like that. And my plan at first was to travel to Thailand and live there for a while. And that didn’t pan out because they can’t get my passport in time for this thing to work out so I was stuck in the US, I had a lot time in my hands and I was like, well I’m just going to dedicate the next few months of my life to looking at this huge compilation of like 900 pages of data from the study because I’m a nerd I like math and numbers. It’s wonderful for me.
Wendy Myers: I mean, that’s a big nerd project. Haha.
Denise Minger: It’s a very big nerd project. I’m not ashamed of it, I embrace my nerdism. It’s you know, I’m happy how it turned out.
Wendy Myers: Yeah. Had faith intervened that you couldn’t get your visa.
Denise Minger: Yeah. So basically, I spent the next 2 or 3 months just pouring over this data and crunching numbers and trying to figure out what the author of this book have done with these numbers to reach the conclusions that he reached. And by the end of this experience, I had basically convinced myself based on looking at what he had written versus what the data said that he’d very selectively picked evidence from this huge just database and stuff to support a very unfounded position about animal protein being related to all these chronic diseases. And what was in the data was a correlation; just you know a straight up one variable changes with another variable in case.
Correlation between animal protein consumption and total blood cholesterol then the there’s a mild relationship between total blood cholesterol and certain chronic diseases. And so I found out the author had said, “Well if you have this 3 link chain of variables, then we must be able to say that animal protein is the thing causing this diseases.” But if you actually go back and look at the data, there is almost no relationship between animals food consumption, animal protein consumption, meat consumption, dairy consumption and these chronic diseases that the author explained. So I wrote a “Kacheek” of just basically everything I found. And I had this little dinky blog named Rawfoodsos.com that I started when I was, just shortly after I got hit by a car. I had the idea to start blogging with one hand that I could type with because my other arm was broken.
Wendy Myers: Oh no. Haha.
Denise Minger: Yeah. It was just you know, a little project I had maybe 5 people reading it. I had 5 consistent you know readers on my blog. And so I didn’t expect too many people to actually read the critique that I’ve written off this book. I just wanted to put it out there. It’s kind of a compilation of everything I found just from my own reference and to direct people to it if it could possibly help them. So low and behold, this thing went viral within a few days. I send it out to a couple of people I thought would be interested and then it just exploded it all over the Internet.
My blog went to having maybe 50 views a day to I think it’s 20,000 in one day and I just couldn’t believe it was happening and how many people were interested in this. So that’s kind of what kicked me off into the blogging process. And after that, I mean my blog started out basically as kind of a vegan, raw vegan myth debunking blog with just you know helpful tips for people who might be struggling as raw vegans. And after that, I kind of abandoned that direction and kind of bound my blog into debunking bad science in general especially in terms of nutrition.
Wendy Myers: Yeah I love it. It’s a fantastic blog. I mean, I know a lot about nutrition and I learned a lot because I like how you really get into the science and you get really detailed about that, I really like it.
Denise Minger: Thank you.
21:43 Death by Food Pyramid Book
Wendy Myers: Yeah and so, I’m really glad that your success with you know, picking apart The China Study kind of parleyed into a book deal. So why don’t we talk about your book a little bit. What is it about and what prompted you to write Death by Food Pyramid?
Denise Minger: So, the Death by Food Pyramid basically, I was offered the opportunity to write a book on almost anything I wanted regarding nutrition by Mark Sisson who had wrote a book, called the Primal Blueprint. He has fabulous blog, Marksdailyapple.com. And so I’ve written some guest posts for him and he came at me with an author to write this book. And so I have to think about this for a while because writing a book is something I wanted to do since I was very, very young. And, I forget how the title came to me or the concept but I think I was like waiting on the bus stop one day. I was thinking Death by Food Pyramid I wanna do something like that because here we have this symbol.
You know the food pyramid is retired now but it’s probably the most prominent symbol of conventional wisdom and the health advice we’ve been dished out by the USDA and the American Heart Association, by the American Dietetic Association, all these big name acronyms that kind of gained our trust and seem like authorities and so many people look to them for reliable information. So I was thinking the food pyramid which would be a fabulous symbol, like a central point to build this book around. It’s just the advice that it contained and how that advice came to place. So basically the book has 2 major sections, 2 major elements and themes. And one of those is the political influences that spoke to our dietary recommendations and the other one is scientific background that basically led to our conclusions about saturated fat and about grains, about carbohydrates, about cholesterol, all that stuff and how these two forces converged into the creation of this pyramid.
So my goal with the book is basically first of all, to give people kind of an eye opening view of our history in both in the clinical and scientific aspects. And also do it just in a very unbiased way because I feel that the information we have out there right now, a lot of it is planted from the vegetarian vegan standpoint. A lot of it is also from low carbohydrate Paleo, that primal community as well. It’s also unfortunately has its own dogma but not as much as we know that vegan one does.
So this book is kind of an attempt to restore the balance between the different versions of history we have and just make it something very objective for people to help them understand how we got to where we are right now in terms of nutrition. And the other aspect of it is just to implore people to become critical thinkers because in reality, anytime you outsource your thinking to somebody else even someone who is a very credential authority, you know high brow organization that seems to have all the facts in place for us. Any time you do that, you’re giving out some of your own personal power and, you’re basically telling other people to know you better than you know yourself. And so I’m just trying to encourage people to take control of their own health and kind of learn to think for themselves when they heard these nutritional things so that they can evaluate these things without having to go to somebody else and you know having some middle man involved in the translation process.
So, I’m pretty excited about it. What was interesting to me is when I started writing this book, I felt a lot more confident about the things that I know that I do now and just the process of researching, I’ve come to realize how many great areas there are in terms of our knowledge about nutrition. How many things we really don’t understand yet and that we are still trying to figure out and more importantly, how many people out there are kind of convinced that we have all the answers figured out in a full form of information in terms of the specific dietary paradigm. So really the whole point of the book is to demolish this whole pyramid you know geometric figure, mind play whatever attitude we intend to take towards food and just make it so that people realize there’s no one size fits all diet for anybody. You really have to go back to the basics and understand nutrition in a very basic level. Go back and look at what healthy populations have done in the past instead of trying to tweak and modify these new things to good new diets that are completely not for our bodies. So really, the whole rest of the book is a call to critical thinking.
26:22 Food Pyramid History
Wendy Myers: Well why don’t you tell us about some of the history of the food pyramid because I think it’s really interesting like what did the originally proposed food pyramid look like and why did it change so drastically from the original proposal?
Denise Minger: Yes. So basically this is something I haven’t heard, spoken about too often in terms of the pyramid history. It’s because there’s one woman who wrote this book, her name was Luise Light she wrote the book called “What to Eat” and she published it in 2005 shortly before she passed away. And basically, she was hired by the USDA to replace the nutritionist who had created a previous food pyramid. This is way back in late 1970′s. This was way before our current food pyramid ever came into existence. But basically she was hired to kind of scour the information and convene groups of scientists and agricultural workers and determine what would be the best nutritional plan to put the United States on because basically ever since World War II, the nation’s mortality and disease trends had shifted away from infectious disease and pneumonia and tuberculosis, that kind of thing towards chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity.
And so the USDA was kind of lacking behind in terms of updating these recommendations and finding something that would be more preventative in terms of these chronic diseases so that’s kind of what Luise was brought on board to do. So she spent her first year working at the USDA, convening all these groups of experts scouring literature herself, she had a team by the people working with her as well. And by the time she was done with her project, she had assembled this food guide that was based on fresh fruits and vegetables, I think it was 9 servings a days of these that she formed the days of this new food guide. Some lean meats and dairy products, cold pressed fats. It wasn’t a fat in the pyramid at all pyramid. She’s recommending I think 3 to 4 table spoons of cold pressed oils and fats like flax seed oil and olive oil. And then, up to the very tip of the pyramid of her version of the food guide were grains.
And she thought that grains should be 2 or 3 servings a day per person, always in whole form, never anything like crackers or bagels or you know the refined stuff that ended up forming the basic later pyramid. And her reasoning was that she thought people were eating a very high starch diet. It would unleash waves of basically diabetes and obesity within the nation and that was her prediction. So she went to the Secretary of Agriculture at the time, proposed her food guide, send it out to approval and strangely enough, when it came back to her, the whole thing had basically been ripped apart as if you know Picasso had redone it or something. And the “use sparingly tip” that used to be the tip that included the grains, suddenly that was the bottom of the new pyramid and instead of 9 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, I think it was 2 to 3 servings that USD have minimized it first. And the only reason they ever changed that was because the National Cancer Institute thought that that was going to kill people by giving such low recommendations for fresh produce. And fat was stripped away from the pyramid and basically it just became this stark centric new food guide that just completely horrified Luise Light.
And so she went to her boss and she said, “I don’t understand what happened. This is going to kill people.” And basically the only thing she was told was that the USDA considered grains, fruits and vegetables all to be nutritionally equivalent and it will be more economical and cheaper and easier on food stamps programs at that time if they just increased the grains servings and decrease the fruits and vegetable servings. So unfortunately, she really couldn’t do anything else at that point. It was just out of her hands, her position didn’t allow her to really protest that very much. So basically that became the seed for what later became the USDA’s food guide pyramid which was released in 1982. And yeah so it was basically a complete perversion of what the food guide was intended to be originally.
Wendy Myers: I mean obviously the food pyramid, to us that know a lot about nutrition, it’s not based upon our nutritional needs.
Denise Minger: Yeah. Haha.
Wendy Myers: And getting America healthy. It’s about money. It’s about saving the government money. But what are the real motivations behind pushing this document and teaching it in our schools?
Denise Minger: Well, big part of it is financial. If you look at what the government subsidizes, we have all these money to trick farmers to produce corn, wheat, and soy. And if you look at any package food that’s out there then you can see that those are the top three ingredients in some forms or another, you know, high food corn syrup, wheat flour, soybean oil. Those are the three ingredients used with blowns of flavorings and salts and dyes. And that’s going to produce almost every single fats in you eat junk food or packaged food that you see it out there in the markets. The push for Americans to eat high amounts of grain is very much financial. In fact when Secretary of Agriculture Bob Bergland, this was back, I think it was in the late 1980’s. At that time, the grain farmers were so upset about losing money that they would actually protest outside his office building. And there were times when he had to crawl out of his bathroom window to get out of work and go home just because people were standing in the way. These angry grain farmers were protesting, asking him to do something to increase their profits. So the book was trying to piece together how that linked in with the ultimate grain recommendations that the pyramid ended up espousing. I don’t have conclusive evidence for this yet but I’m pretty sure a large reason they ended up embracing so many grains was because these farmers were protesting at the time. One of the issues with the USDA is that it has these two conflicting missions. One of those missions is to protect agricultural interest in America and the other mission is to dispense health information for Americans. Unfortunately when agricultural interest and health information are in a conflict of interests, the USDA usually defers to its agricultural roots and it aims to protect the farmers and its products. It needs to protect the most profitable crops that were growing and that usually comes at the expense of giving adequate health advice to Americans. When the food pyramid was being put into place, a big issue was just the fact that the USDA was trying to protect these agricultural interests even if it was going to be at the expense of American health.
Wendy Myers: I always scoffed at how much these grains were recommended on the food pyramid. I mean, eleven servings? That’s what was taught to me as a kid.
Denise Minger: Yeah, me too.
Wendy Myers: Even then I doubted its merit because I couldn’t even fathom how someone could eat 11 servings of bread and bagels etcetera. No matter how tasty they are, how can someone fit that many servings into their body?
Denise Minger: Right, right.
Wendy Myers: And because of this document I ate grains for decades thinking that they were healthy. They do have some nutrition in them but they’re not nearly as healthy as people think. I personally believe that they’re, after sugar, the least nutritional food that you can eat. Except for blue corn chips, those things are super nutritious.
Wendy Myers: But what is the real reason so many grains are recommended on the food pyramid? How did the cheap corn, other grains are taking over our diet?
Denise Minger: Well a big part of that was in the 1970’s, under the Nixon administration, there’s this whole revolution of basically farming practices. What Nixon did was, he stripped away all the regulations that have been put in place after the Great Depression to prevent these huge price swings for farmers. What he did was, he encouraged farmers to just plant as much corn and grains they possibly could. The goal of that was to produce much grains as possible then just ship any surplus overseas. The farmers were having this promise of greater money earnings staying over their heads to produce more grains. Ultimately that led us to be a nation of excessive grain production which we then need to do something with. And what better way to get rid of it than to feed it to humans. Haha. So a big part of it was the stuff that was going on back then. There’s all this stuff that was going on in 1970’s. There’s something called the Great Grain Robbery that happened when the Soviet Union bought in a very illegal underhanded shaving way millions of tons of grains because its own crops have failed that year. That set the US on this weird price roller coaster with grains that really influenced the way the nation need to grow and produce. While stuff roots back to the 1970s, these changes that happened back then, and that’s kind of what we can pinpoint our nation is turning into this nation of high grain production and high grain consumption as well.
35:51 Is there any hope of the food pyramid having a drastic change?
Wendy Myers: Do you think there’s any hope of the food pyramid having a drastic change? Do you think Michelle Obama’s food plate was an improvement?
Denise Minger: No. Haha. I mean, you know in some ways I know they’re trying to just reach a certain portion of the population that really has no understanding of nutrition but the graphics that they’re producing just tell us, first of all, so little. They give so little guidance about selecting proper foods. The new plate is supposed to be an improvement over the food pyramid but there’s no place, no direction for fat even if you look at the whole thing. There’s skim dairy on the side, there’s grains, there’s food and vegetables, then there’s protein which isn’t even a food. Haha. I think that’s for the purpose of protein sources but there’s no guidance about how to select food in a way that will make you healthy. I think at this point all the money that we’re shovelling into these expensive graphics is really, really wasted.
36:54 Saturated fat
Wendy Myers: Let’s weigh up on the case against saturated fats because this is a huge thing almost everyday people are like “Am I really supposed to eat saturated fat?” It’s just so ingrained in our brains and by our doctors and by the media that we are supposed to avoid saturated fats. But that’s not true. So what did you find on your research on saturated fat when writing your book, how did saturated fat become vilified as causing heart disease in the medical community?
Denise Minger: Let me start this by saying that when I first started this book, I was very much convinced that saturated fat was not a problem in any quantity for any person. I have to say that over the course of writing this book I’ve realized that the picture is a lot more nuance than that and I will not, at this point, say that everyone can go hog wild on saturated fat and be okay. Basically, I don’t think that it’s like a one-side-splits all picture in any way. That said, if we go back and look at the very root of where saturated fat first became a villain, it takes us back to Ancel Keys who was a scientist and physiologist, had a whole bunch of occupations who’s working at the early 1940’s on developing key rations for war. He conducted something called the Minnesota Starvation Experiment and it shed some light on the effects of good deprivation on the human body. But what he was most known for is, first one, he did this analysis of six countries in the early 1950s. He was kind of curious of what was going on with the trends that were popping up. Soon as the war was over, heart disease started skyrocketing for the first time and scientist were trying to figure out what was going on. What he did was he took data from a bunch of countries and he looked at it in terms of the fat content people were eating on their diets for each nation and then pegged that against each nations rate of heart disease mortality. What he found was that for the nations he selected which were only six, there was a very very perfect curve connecting fat consumption with heart disease mortality. From this he started hypothesizing that the reason people were getting heart disease was because they’re eating more fat. He got highly criticized for this graph first of all because it was only six countries. There’s actually data for other countries available at that time that he didn’t use. On top of that, some of his critics discovered that there are other variables associated with heart disease that weren’t just fat and that includes television viewing, radio, sugar consumption, saturated fat, animal protein. All these different variables that were actually just markers of a nation’s affluence. A lot of stuff were changing after the war that was contributing to heart disease but what, Keys homed in on was fat content of diets. Just developed from his theory that the reason, heart disease occurs was in part, because people were getting more fats, especially in the form of saturated fats and that raises blood cholesterol. In turn that high blood cholesterol would cause heart disease. He developed what we the Diet Heart Hypothesis which connects diet fat to cholesterol to heart disease. Basically the start of the 1950s and we kind of are still running this hypothesis today. It’s the reason our saturated fat recommendations are still kept very low. It’s the reason people with heart disease are told to eat low fat diets. It all boils down to that one guy Ancel Keys. Throughout the following decades of his career, there were a bunch of observations that were conducted that were kind of in the same way. A country’s saturated fat intake or citizens’ fat intake would be measured and they’ll be followed for the heart disease outcomes. There’s some observational evidence linking saturated fat consumption to heart disease but were actually controlled trials done to see whether reducing saturated fat intake or just reducing it with omega-6 rich vegetable oils which lower cholesterol levels; testing to see whether that would improve people’s heart disease mortality. Some of the study shows for some, mortality really changed. Occasionally, mortality would really sink but usually it tends to give mortality a good rise than actually benefit. Unfortunately, the highest quality studies of those early years were kind of forgotten and replaced with other studies that were less quality. Basically, it kind of gave the impression that saturated fat was bad but if actually go back and look at all the evidence, the case against saturated fat is so incredibly weak that it’s amazing it persisted as long as it did. Now that said, during my research writing this book I discovered there is one genetic variation that is called ApoE-4 and it’s a variation of the Apolipoprotein-E gene that is involved in liquid metabolism, cholesterol absorption. It’s considered the… because it dates back way before the humans and chimps even split. It goes way back to old primate days. Basically this genetic variation is incredibly good at keeping your cholesterol levels very high. It’s very good at suctioning dietary cholesterol out of your intestines and is basically good at holding in all these nutrients from food because it arose at a time in our history when nutrient and animal fluids were very scarce and food supply was inconsistent. Basically it was a boon at that time to be able to suction every drop of nutrition from the foods you’re eating and hold on to our bodies. A small number of people, I think it’s about 15% of the population, has at least one copy of this gene. For these people, a diet that has saturated fat has actually some link with heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
Wendy Myers: Is that the test for familial hyperial cholestrolemia?
Denise Minger: Yeah.
Wendy Myers: Is that the test for that? Okay.
Denise Minger: No, that’s actually something different. That’s also another situation where people with that condition where in their bodies, there’s something called receptor which picks up from your bloodstream and it’s supposed to take it to the tissues that needs to be in. For people with that condition they don’t express enough of the receptors to really clear the bloodstream. What happens in that case is, they end up usually with very elevated cholesterol levels because the cholesterol is not getting through the bloodstream rapidly. What happens then is it floats around for a long time and oxidize and that kinds of kicks off the whole heart disease process because when you have oxidized cholesterol on your bloodstream your body views it as a foreign invader. It sends out all its immune army, cells to come gobble up the oxidized cholesterol and incorporate it into class. But that’s another condition where people aren’t going to any diets that keep their cholesterols as low as possible just because there are very strong ones with that condition and heart disease. That’s another one. But the ApoE-4 is a thing that is completely different and I think, we still need a lot more research on it to really understand what’s going on and how it interacts with diet, with saturated fat and whether it’s really a problem in the context like a non-Westernized diet high in saturated fat. Because you know maybe there are other things like lower quality diets that influence the effects of that gene. Basically I think that for the most part, eating saturated fat in natural form, in the form of animal products, cold foods, for the vast refrigerated people it’s not going to be a problem at all. In fact many of our most nutrient dense foods like organ meats, egg yolks, they’re very high in saturated fats but they’re also incredibly nutritious. One of the big casualties of this whole anti-saturated fat movement is really push some of the best foods we could be eating straight off of our dinner plates. We not eating this food anymore will also be having health repercussions.
Wendy Myers: Yeah, and I think there’s something to be really said for biochemical individuality. Every person is different and I think that the paleo diet that I advocate is a good template to start with. But I tell people that you know, you’re gonna have to play with how much protein you need. You’re gonna have to play with, if you’re sensitive to dairy or not. I think many people are that to dairy or a little bit of grains or other foods like potatoes that are typically on the paleo diet. These foods don’t bother a lot of people and they’re really nutritious foods. I think it’s definitely a good point that some people are sensitive to saturated fats that are found in red meats and you just kind of have to eat those foods and see if they work for you or not.
Denise Minger: Right. Exactly. Even with the grain issue, another really fascinating thing I came across when I was researching for this book is, in our saliva we have this enzyme called amylase that kicks off the starch digestion process. The cool thing about amylase is we can produce, depending on your own genetic make-up, some people produce very very small amount of amylase, other people produce tons of it. They have actually done studies that show that people low in amylase, when they ingest starch-rich food like grains, potatoes and squash and all that, they have a very exaggerated blood sugar response as well as exaggerated insulin response compared to people who produce a lot of this enzyme. It’s actually a case we need that some of us are, I don’t know if adaptive to grains per se, but there’s a legitimate reason some people are gonna do well on a high-starch diet whereas another set of people could eat the exact same diet that person is feeding on and feel like their blood sugar is going on a roller coaster ride. Just another point in favour of the whole bio-individual thing.
Wendy Myers: Yeah. I’m a big advocate of having people try different diets and do medical testing.
Denise Minger: Yeah.
Wendy Myers: Do a certain diet for 6 months and then go to your doctor or test your blood sugar at home, test your cholesterol levels and if you have blockages in your arteries and just see if it’s working.
Denise Minger: Yeah.
48:22 Underlying themes in health promoting diets
Wendy Myers: You talk a lot about new geometry in your book, about common underlying themes in health promoting diets. Can you explain this a little bit and why we need to transcend any kind of food pyramid altogether?
Denise Minger: Yeah sure. A big part of that section in my book for anyone who’s gonna read it in the future is looking back on the work of Weston A. Price. He’s work just beautifully sums up the fact that people really can thrive on a wide-range of different foods as long as they’re certain basic nutritional needs met and as long as they are not eating this modern age of substances like these highly refined vegetable oils, sugars and grains. I think Price’s work, basically what he found, for any listeners who are not familiar with him, he travelled around the globe for many years studying primitive, isolated population who are not used to western foods yet. So they’re eating the same kind of diet they’re eating generation after generation after generation. The kinds of foods that they knew as a community could promote health, produce very healthy babies, could protect against infectious disease. That seems to be keeping people pretty free of all kind of disease that we’ve seen else around the world. What he found was regardless of whether he was up in the Arctic Circle or down in Africa, all these communities embrace certain foods that were very rich in those fat soluble nutrients. These foods are like fish eggs, shell fish and organ meats and eggs, and insects and just foods that a lot of us don’t eat anymore today. What was the common denominator in these certain foods, the communities that he discovered that were in fabulous health are allowed their own diets. Some of them were eating grains, with just as beautifully nutritious made into cheese. They were in this pristine state of health. Then you go and you see the Eskimos that are eating whale skin and seal skin and just the organs of most of these sea animals that they can capture and eat with small amount of dairies and stuff. Just a completely different set of diet and they’re extremely healthy. If we look at the sum of all that evidence that he pulled together and the picture that he painted of human health, we can see that this whole concept of there being one diet that’s gonna be best for all of us, a diet that we can prescribe universally and that’s gonna give everyone the same health outcome is just baloney. The whole USDA food pyramid paradigm which gives us a very firm set of guidelines, eat this many servings of this kind of food, avoid the fat in this and not the other; that’s just a horrible approach to nutrition. It’s really not going to make the nation, as a whole, healthier. It completely sidestepped the issue of being individuals and having different nutritional needs and having different health conditions to fix and so on and so forth. The new geometry chapter is basically saying: here are the common denominators on all this health promoting cuisines that we’ve seen whether it’s from Weston A. Price, whether it’s from the paleo community and the successive so far, whether it’s from the low fat plant-based diet, the successive diet. What kind of common trends do we have in all of these different cuisines? A huge one is not just about what you’re eating but about what you’re not eating and again that goes a back to avoiding these high omega-6 vegetable oils, fined sugar, fined grains. You’ll never find a nourishing, health promoting diet that contains those foods, especially processed generations. If you dig deeper you can also see again that theme of these specific, highly-priced, nutrient dense foods like the organ meats, shell fish, eggs, fish eggs, prawns, cartilage, basically all these briskly bits on animals that most people don’t eat anymore. If you look elsewhere in the world those foods that have been once, are those that have been most cherished and priced by communities that know how to stay healthy. A big thing we all need to do is find a place for those kinds of foods within our diet. Of course it’s a little harder for vegans if they’re not eating any animal products. for some potential solutions or suggestions for staying as healthy as you can as a vegan if you’re doing that for other health reasons. We can just look at the sum of our evidence instead of claiming these worrying diet communities where we want our diet to be the right one and the best one for everybody and we’re gonna shoot down everyone else that says otherwise. Instead of that mentality, we really need to move towards a unifying and interactive dialogue between different cuisines that have proven to be healthy and just learn from other people’s successes. Combine that everything that has worked and let people draw from that combined wisdom.
Wendy Myers: I think that’s a really great thought because it makes me sad how I’ve had a couple of clients that come to me that are vegan and they see that another person has been raw-food vegan for thirty years, just a couple of examples of it and I’m thinking “That’s probably not you!”. Haha. Because everyone is so different. People need to remember that, just because someone is successful at one diet doesn’t mean that that’s gonna work for you.
Denise Minger: Exactly. You could find successful examples of people, like a grandma who lived to be 96 who’s always smoking a pack a day, being able to be successful in any program. You can’t always assign their success to their diet like with the raw vegans who are surviving that long and getting well on it. They’re exceptions rather than the rule at this point and it is alarming though because we look at people like that who are succeeding and we think that we’ll succeed too. It just doesn’t work that way usually.
Wendy Myers: I like that idea that you brought up about some people can smoke and drink and load to a hundred like nothing’s gonna kill these people. Some of the raw vegans that are doing it for a really long time, it’s the same concept, nothing’s gonna kill these people. They’re just these hardy individuals like cockroaches, like nothing’s gonna kill these people. No matter what diet they eat, no matter how much they eat. A nutritionally deficient diet or smoke or drink whatever. So that’s just my two cents. Haha.
Denise Minger: I agree. It’s been a decade I guess since my raw vegan experience and I’ve watched the community change a whole lot in that process. I think a lot of raw vegan gurus kind of reversed their opinion on eating potatoes and steamed vegetables now. Some of them are not vegan anymore. There’s probably a shift going on as well within that community as people realize, maybe this is not maintainable for your entire life.
Wendy Myers: I’m on the opposite spectrum. I tell all my clients to eat cooked vegetables. Haha. There are some things you can’t cook but I just think that we have a hard time breaking down cellulose or plant fiber and it’s hard to extract the minerals. This is my personal opinion but I think people are mineral efficient and that contributes to a lot of health problems. But I think that there’s a place for raw foods. You can get too much of a good thing to.
Denise Minger: Right.
56:21 The most pressing health issue in the world today
Wendy Myers: I have a question I would like to ask all my guests. What do you think is the most pressing health issue in the world today?
Denise Minger: Oh, that’s hard. Haha. That’s like asking my favourite color which I don’t have one. I would have to say on a very general sense, it is our disconnection with our sustenance, our food. And I don’t just mean physical disconnection because obviously we don’t grow around food anymore. Most of us never touch the soil that are where vegetables grow in. Most of us don’t have our own farms anymore. We’re very disconnected from our food supply. At the same time we have this intellectual disconnection from the food we’re eating because everything we think we know about food has been fed to us from manufacturers, from marketers. We’re living in a time right now where we’re eating things that are worn into our bodies, with the exception of the people who live beyond the standard American diet and embrace more whole food cuisines. We’re so far removed from the thing that can probably make us the healthiest and sustain us through our lives. Because of that disconnection it’s like every aspect of our life has gone haywire. And maybe even in a more general sense we’re so disconnected from the kind of environment that our bodies know. It’s like we’re living in a foreign world right now that we only emerged within the last hundred years or so where no longer do we need our bodies as transportation. No longer do we need to hunt and work for food. We sit at our computers all day and we’re using our smartphones. We basically created all these tools to make life easier. Our bodies as a result. So combined with our disconnection from our food, we’re tolling our bodies to completely place that we’re living in right now and it’s the root of almost all these chronic diseases that we’re experiencing now.
Wendy Myers: Thank you so much for being on the show Denise. Why don’t you tell the listeners a little more about you and where they can find you and what you’re up to these days?
Denise Minger: Sure. Well I’m just in a very last few days/weeks of finishing my book. Pretty soon I’m gonna reemerge into the world. I’ll be blogging and posting stuff again. But right now my book Death by Food Pyramid should be available January but I’m not quite sure. You can pre-order it right now so you can get it whenever it will be published. You can just do that on Amazon or wherever. I have a blog rawfoodsos.com, which I don’t think I’ve updated in like a year and a half. Haha. Pretty soon I’ll be posting again on that. You can follow me on twitter, Denise Minger is my name on there. You can find me on Facebook, I don’t post too often but when I do it’s usually nutritional related stuff, my name on there is again Denise Minger. Other than that pretty soon I’ll be getting back to speaking on engagement events and stuff but right now I’ve just been focusing so strongly on finishing my book. That’s kind of where my head has been for like a year. Haha.
Wendy Myers: I know what you mean I’m writing a book right now too about weight loss and I’ve gained ten pounds writing a book on weight loss. I’m like “Why??!!”
Denise Minger: It’s so ironic writing about health books. I know my health has never been worse than when I’ve been working on this. In the middle of the night I’m just stressed out and just not sleeping or eating properly. It’s ironic I’m writing a book about health while I’m letting my own deteriorate. Haha.
Wendy Myers: You sent me the Table of Contents of the book and I can tell that it looks really, really good. So I definitely urge you guys to pre-order it and check it out when it comes out. I think it’s gonna be really, really good.
Denise Minger: Thank you so much.
Wendy Myers: Well Denise, thank you for coming on the show. I’m thrilled that you’ve agreed to come on and help people navigate the nutrition literature and get some facts straight. I know it’s really confusing when I first began to figure out how to eat. It took me a few years of basically nonstop reading and then nutrition school to finally figure out what diet personally works for me. It’s daunting to say the least, for the majority of people. Thank you for coming to the show to shed some light on this issue.
Denise Minger: Thank you so much for having me.
Wendy Myers: All right, thank you. I’ll talk to you soon hopefully. Hopefully we’ll have you again soon.
Denise Minger: That’d be awesome. Thank you.
Wendy Myers: Okay, ba-bye.
Denise Minger: Bye.
Wendy Myers: And thank you listeners for tuning in. Remember the time to be thinking about your health is while you’re still enjoying it. Not waiting until you get sick because by then, it’s much harder to turn around your health so thank you so much for listening to Live to 110 webcast.
Cate Beehan: Please go check out our websites. I can be found at http://fitness-broad.com/ and Wendy at www.Liveto110.com™ . If you liked what you heard on the show give it a rate and review on iTunes. Thank you!
Wendy Myers: Thank you every one! See you next week!