5. History

[Four or More Feasts a Day, p. 77, The McDougall Quick & Easy Cookbook]

Throughout history most people have lived on diets based on starches such as rice in Asia, pasta in southern Europe, and corn and beans in South America.  But all societies have celebrations, and on these days people do extraourdinary things:  They take the day off from work, dance in the streets, watch athletic games, and eat rich foods.  In the past a few rich people – royalty and fellow aristocrats – decided to make every day a special occasion.  The results of all that feasting are obvious from literature and art:  Wealthy people are pictured sitting uncomfortably with their gout-inflicted feet propped on a stool.

Today, many Americans can afford to eat like royalty.  For breakfast we have eggs, an Easter tradition.  At lunch and dinner we feast on Thanksgiving and Christmas favorites – turkeys and hams, creamy sauces and thick gravies, and butter soaked breads and vegetables.  And we top it all off with cake and ice cream.  The consequences of this diet are the same today as they were in the past.  Eating foods loaded with fat, cholesterol, sugar , and salt, and deficient in vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber, causes repeated injury to the body.  The solution is to make feasts special again and to eat foods designed for healthy human beings every day.

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Among 22 mummies who received full-body computed tomography scans, 16 had hearts or arteries preserved enough to study. Of those, nine had evidence of blockage from atherosclerosis. “This disease has been around since before the time of Moses,” said Randall Thompson of the St. Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City. Thompson and colleagues presented their findings November 17 at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2009. The data were also published in the Nov. 18 Journal of the American Medical Association.

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[Repeating Histories, Campbell, pp. 344-5,  Chapter 18: The China Study]

“Almost 2,500 years ago, Plato wrote a dialogue between two characters, Socrates and Glaucon, in which they discussed the future of their cities.  Socrates says the cities should be simple, and the citizens should subsist on barley and wheat, with “relishes” of salt, olives, cheese and “country fare of boiled onions and cabbage,” with desserts of “figs, pease, beans,” roasted myrtle-berries and beechnuts, and wine in moderation.  Socrates says, “And thus passing their days in tranquility and sound health, they will in all probability live to an advanced age…”

But Glaucon replies that such a diet would only be appropriate for “a community of swine,” and that the citizens should live “in a civilized manner.”  He continues, “They ought to recline on couches… and have the usual dishes and dessert of a modern dinner.”  In other words, the citizens should have the “luxury” of eating meat.  Socrates replies, “if you wish us also to contemplate a city that is suffering from inflammation… We shall also need great quantities of all kinds of cattle for those who may wish to eat them, shall we not?”

Glaucon says, “Of course we shall.”  Socrates then says, “then shall we not experience the need of medical men also to a much greater extent under this than under the former regime?”  Glaucon can’t deny it.  “Yes, indeed,” he says.  Socrates goes on to say that this luxurious city will be short of land because of the extra acreage required to raise animals for food.  This shortage will lead the citizens to take land from others, widch could precipitate violence and war, thus a need for justice.  Furthermore, Socrates writes, “when dissoluteness and diseases abound in a city, are not law courts and surgeries opened in abundance, and do not Law and Physic begin to hold their heads high, when numbers even of well-born persons devote themselves with eagerness to these professions?”  In other words, in this luxurious city of sickness and disease, lawers and doctors will become the norm.

Plato, in this passage , made it perfectly clear:  we shall eat animals only at our own peril.  Though it is indeed remarkable that one of the greatest intellectuals in the history of the Western world condemned meat eating almost 2,500 years ago, I find it even more remarkable that few know about this history.  Hardly anybody knows, for example, that the father of Western medicine, Hippocrates, advocated diet as the chief way to prevent and treat disease or that George Macilwain knew that diet was the way to prevent and treat disease or that the man instrumental in founding the American Cancer Society, Frederick L. Hoffman, knew that diet was the way to prevent and treat disease.


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