Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Denis Thoet, with his partner Michele Roy, own and
China has done it again.
Not only is it the most populous country in the world at over a billion people, or one of the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, or that it's taking away our manufacturing jobs and selling back all the stuff we used to make.
China is now beating us at something at which we thought we were invincible: They are out-eating us.
The average food consumption per-person, per-day in China is 2,641 calories. In the U.S. the average is 1,989.
How can that be? I was raised on tales of starvation in China from the 1950s through the 1980s. But, according to a book "The China Study" by nutrition scientist T. Colin Campbell, the Chinese are beating us at eating.
And they are healthier than we are, to boot.
The book describes a massive human study in China which proves that a diet high in whole foods (grains, fruits, and vegetables) and low in animal protein and highly processed foods will pretty much abolish all the diseases we seem to be dying of here in America.
Surprisingly, the book has been around since 2005, and its basic message is that a healthy life is based on a "whole food, plant based diet, coupled with a reasonable amount of exercise."
So who needs the $2.7 trillion health industry that we pay for here, plus a $1 trillion industrial food industry? Apparently we do. And the Chinese don't.
The Chinese began studying cancer in the 1970s when Premier Cho EnLai, who was dying of cancer, ordered the creation of a "cancer atlas" of the entire country. Predictably, the atlas showed concentrations of cancer in urban centers in eastern and southern China. However, the incidence of all cancers is much lower than in the U.S.
The difference is that the Chinese eat fiber for a third of their diet, compared to 11 percent for Americans. The American diet is 34-38 percent total fat, compared to 14.5 percent for the Chinese.
The most telling difference between us and them? The average body mass index in China is a little over 20, which is considered 'normal' or thin.
In the U.S. it is well over 25, which is overweight.
The conclusion: a diethigh in fat, animal protein, and over-processed fiber is making us both fat and sick. And we are dying from it -- through cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, liver disease, and Alzheimer's. Rural Chinese people have a much lower incidence of these cancers and chronic conditions, and, just as importantly, urban-dwelling Chinese have much higher incidences of these 'diseases of affluence," as Campbell calls them.
Genetic causes of these diseases can be largely dismissed, Campbell says, because the Chinese are relatively homogeneous, unlike Americans. The difference in cancer rates depends almost totally upon whether Chinese diets were either low or high in animal protein and fats.
The national health debate should not be about who provides health insurance or the high cost of care. It should be about what we eat, and why aren't we eating healthy food.
Much of Campbell's book discusses why our giant food industry and our government agencies are determined to keep us fat and sick. Obviously, there's profit in it, which translates into political influence. And our drug, insurance, and health care industries are much more interested in selling pills, policies, and expensive medical procedures than actually helping us get healthy.
In the end, no one is holding a gun to our heads making us eat unhealthy food. No one is ordering us to gain weight or passing awards out to the biggest American. Even in China, as closed and regimented its state society is, no one is forcing the Chinese people to eat lean or fat.
There are problems with trying to eat primarily whole foods in Maine and elsewhere. It takes more time and planning to prepare; they're not available year-round, at least not from our farm.
And we just are not used to it. French fries and iceberg lettuce make up half of current vegetable consumption. Sugared soda is our national drink, with the average consumption in the U. S. 50 gallons per person per year.
Individually, we may not be able to hold down the national deficit, or create jobs, or lower taxes. But we do have final say on what we put into our bodies.
Denis Thoet, with his partner Michele Roy, own and manage Long Meadow Farm in West Gardiner, email@example.com