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Two articles underscore why it's so hard to figure out our best lives. Answer? Be careful whom you believe

As someone who trained as a journalist back in 1974, I recall being told to report the facts, not my opinion of the facts. Back then, and it seems like eons ago these days, opinions were relegated to columns where you were quite aware that someone was weighing in and not necessarily trying to be the expert. Just sharing their take. You could like it or not.

These days with everyone having a megaphone called social media to weigh in, we are deluged with opinions bandied about as facts. Given that this has also happened to once-venerated newspapers, especially ones that I grew up trusting, it's gotten awfully hard to make sense of much of anything these days.

Take diet, exercise and longevity, for example. All three are areas I care deeply about. For this and other sources I have long drawn from various sources that I thought I could trust to share what I thought was valuable. My newsletters and blogs are full of my opinions and quoted what I'd hoped were facts. Increasingly, that's hard to gauge.

That said, like anyone else I'm far more likely to share information that underscores or validates what I already believe. So, I feed my bias, but I also need to acknowledge that it IS a bias and subject to new information.

I've believed that a mostly-plants diet was the right one. As a result, I've often mocked if not openly attacked keto and paleo diets as idiotic, not because I had scientific evidence but because it didn't fit my opinion. These days I'm having to make some serious shifts in those opinions. The bulk of evidence is shifting.

I'm willing to be wrong, but it takes a good piece of writing with solid research behind it for that to happen. Okay, more than one. Happily there are good people doing good work, and more good people point me in those directions so that I can share it. To that then, two articles that came my way; one via Jim Stutsman and other from Marcus Heid over on Medium.

The first, which was published on Substack, from Unsettled Science. One reason I like this is that Gary Taubes, half the reporting team for US, while a bit of a hack, is one food journalist whose work I largely trust because of his hard work exposing sugar. Here is the piece going after the attack on carnivore diets:

From that article:

An ancient, authentic association between meat consumption and masculinity has thus been remade for contemporary politics, shoehorned into a culture-war narrative where eating meat is mainly male, usually toxic, and always right-wing. By this accounting, carnivores are not humans who eat meat, eggs, fish, shellfish and sometimes dairy, hoping to cure whatever ails them; Rather, they are beast-like creatures who eat liver, testicles and gnash at raw meat like deranged lunatics.

This strikes me as "real men eat quiche" on steroids.

This piece exposes the hard-core opinions that drive writing about people like The Liver King, who claimed that his physique was all natural (nope) and it turns out he had help (dope).

From the Liver King’s mouth to your plate: Inside the controversial influencer’s world
“Impact x Nightline” goes one on one with the Liver King about his unorthodox diet and fitness mantra and the controversies surrounding steroid use.

The guy was spending eleven grand a month on drugs to give him the physique that he sold as all-natural. While this was unfortunate, that doesn't mean that ALL carnivores and ALL carnivore diets are bad, and that they are the purview of testosterone-crazy men with a small penis problem.

Or worse, of women desperately wanting a piece of said penis.

THAT is opinion.

It's also divisive, non-science-based, and not one damned bit helpful to those people who are trying to deal with real health issues and need competent advice and thoughtful reporting. This ain't it. It's headline-grabbing clickbait.

In her Substack article, writer Nina Teicholz lists the diseases and conditions that middle-aged and desperately sick women have been able to either resolve or reduce by turning to carnivore diets:

Type 2 diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, hypoglycemia, idiopathic intracranial hypertension, high triglycerides, asthma, allergies, anemia, MRSA spinal blood infection (infection in the spine causing abscesses), ankylosing spondylitis (condition causing the spine to fuse), dystonia (involuntary muscle contractions), trigger thumb, chronic tendinitis, arthritis, severe rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, joint pain, use of a walker/cane, chronic urinary tract infections, candidiasis (yeast infection), gastric issues, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), bloating, chronic constipation, dysbiosis, gout, GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), Chrohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), endometriosis, menorrhagia, NAFLD (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease), late-stage membranous nephropathy (a kidney disorder), acid reflux, migraines, chronic sinusitis, eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, lichen sclerosus (skin condition), skin tags, acne, skin rashes, chronic hives, lupus, fibromyalgia, celiac, multiple sclerosis, Raynaud’s syndrome (feeling excessively cold in one’s fingers and toes), Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, adrenal fatigue, plantar fasciitis, debilitating foot pain, hip and back pain, general aches and pains, hemorrhoids, bleeding gums, gum disease, tinnitus, thinning hair, bad body odor, dandruff, severe and resistant scalp psoriasis, anorexia, bulimia, crippling depression, debilitating vertigo, complex post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, panic disorder, ADHD, chronic fatigue, brain fog, cognitive decline, insomnia, need for anti-depressants or anti-psychotics, recovery of night vision and peripheral vision.

Also, many women report significant weight loss, up to 120 pounds in a year, improved vision, better moods and freedom from food cravings.

Look. That last is nearly enough for me to go, pardon the pun, whole hog.

I don't automatically infer from this that I should go all meat be instantly cured of all that ails me. A few things do ail me right now, and I'm making some changes to see what improves. The above, while tempting to leap on the bandwagon, is not an invitation to instantly change every damned thing and expect miracles from gorming lots of meat.

That said, it is indeed an important challenge to my mostly-salad and vegetable and nut diet which had gobs of dairy. Recent test results were a real surprise because wow, wasn't that healthy? Wasn't I being a good girl?

Wasn't extra calcium the right thing for osteopenia and a busted hip? Logically yes, but apparently inside this body, no. Therein lies the lie. We are all individual and unique universes.

This put me squarely in the same camp as so many of the women whose conditions and desperate dietary adventures simply didn't add up. Now. Is it possible that of all those women that Teicholz interviewed may have made other critically important changes in their habits? Of course. Simply ascribing all of their successes to the carnivore diet strikes me as simplistic.

And yet, the results may well be just that simple,and I have learned to be just that much more suspicious of diet culture and reporting.

I am dealing with a few issues concerning oxalates, not only with kidney stones but also, apparently, with arthritis in my big right toe which might just be gout. That horrified me, given how carefully I try to eat. My uric acid levels were way too high, which was frightening.

Trying to find that balance, trying to feed a changing, aging body is one hell of a challenge, especially with so much loud disinformation around. Worse, as Teicholz points out about women in the carnivore diet movement:

So, in sum: women founders, women leaders, and many middle-aged women participants. The mainstream media has thus far failed to notice any of them.

The bias against women, especially middle-aged ones, is deep. Are we burying important information which might just help a great many of us? It's bad enough the most doctors get embarrassingly little nutritional advice. Even more still most ignorantly advocate the deservedly-maligned FDA food pyramid, which had more to do with grain farmers with too much excess grain than legitimate science.

Lots of folks with personal agendas against eating animals have funded all kinds of programs and research. Even the much-ballyhooed Blue Zones, which has Seventh-Day Adventists' blessing as well as ownership, got blasted for its bias.

Like her or not, Dr. Cate Shanahan has this to say about Blue Zones:

Jim Stutsman referred me to Dr. Cate, and for the life of me I can't find anything to discredit her other than carefully-edited misquotes by someone with an agenda. So I've started reading more when I have time; so far, so good. She doesn't suffer from the screaming meemies and she bases her material on science. Breath of fresh air.

As to what other changes to make, that is a work in progress. I'm getting my numbers checked, a year-long battle with a most recalcitrant VA system ("oh, stage Two Kidney disease is NORMAL"). Those numbers help guide me to more thoughtful choices, which I have to make with or without medical approval.

In a world where we're really on our own any more to figure out whom to believe, one question is where the money comes from.

This is why those organizations we are expected to trust like the American Heart Association and the like are now suspect, because they have been compromised and infiltrated by Big Money, Big Food and Big Sugar. See this, for example:

The Heart Association’s Junk Science Diet
Science shows the low-fat diet to be BS, and yet the American Heart Association keeps touting it as the ‘heart healthy’ choice. Why? The quick answer: money, honey.

As always we have to follow the money. Too many of us, and I am among them, don't have the bandwidth to do that kind of constant investigative work. That's when we really do have to read, and in reading, do our level best to assess what feels true for us and our unique bodies.

This morning I found an article by Markham Heid over on Medium which speaks to the equally-ballyhooed topic of longevity. His piece on yet another loudmouth biohacker (a term I am beginning to dislike as much as "influencer") Dave Asprey further underscores why the world of health and nutrition is so full of nutcases.

What Heid points out, and this is the whole point, is that there are kernels of accuracy in what Asprey is pitching. The problem is that he pulls it like salt water taffy to make points that appear to this skeptic as unsupportable. What invariably gets my attention is whose names are on the billboard behind him. Who stands to profit from what he's pitching?

The Problem with Raspberries: An Interview with Biohacker Dave Asprey
The ‘father of biohacking’ talks living to 180, his bad night’s sleep, and high-toxin plant foods.

This article puts Asprey, at least in my mind, in the same category as Silicon Valley billionaire bro Bryan Johnson. Time will only tell if their extreme efforts will pay off. Even if they do, the other seven billion, nine-hundred and ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine people on earth won't be able to afford whatever super-fixes will forever and only be available to the super-rich anyway.

Which is why, even though Asprey mocks today's researchers, this so called 1970s nonsense is what most of us need to adhere to:

“They will say there’s no way to extend human lifespan — all you can do is exercise and eat a certain way,” he says. “That is 1970s nonsense.”

What is nonsense is selling fixes which aren't proven at prices in the stratosphere.

All of us who write about fitness and nutrition are swimming in shark-infested waters. To be fair, I'm one of those sharks if I have a sharkly-held opinion (sorry). As I evolve, as my body changes, so must my mind.

To that end, I am quite willing to back away from a hard-held stance around carnivore diets, one that has been softening lately anyway, and start investigating what different kinds of diets can help bring my numbers down.

It's both humbling and wonderful to be faced with where you could well be wrong. That said, you could legitimately argue that perhaps those women for whom the carnivore diet did indeed result in resolving those illnesses had bodies and metabolisms for which that diet was perfect.

They may also discover that as they age into their later years, the carnivore diet may not longer work. Or perhaps just needs some adjusting. Who doesn't, as we age? There is no one-size-fits all, and on top of that, no one diet works forever. We are always and forever a work in progress, and feeding ourselves well is an ongoing education.

So while I'm not likely to go all-out on any one diet as THE answer, as that would be foolish, I will go back to one absolute: that our bodies are unique, what works for us is individual, changes when we're ill, changes as we age and we are tasked and invited to change with it.

When it comes to diet and nutrition, those are the only absolutes I know. And they'll likely get challenged as well. Stay tuned.

raw meat on white ceramic plate
Photo by Eiliv Aceron / Unsplash

Thanks kindly for reading. I am slowly but surely moving more over to Substack, and invite all of you to join me there. Thanks ever so much for reading and for those of you kind enough to support, heartfelt thanks.