I know I’ve totally neglected this blog for the last five days, but I have my reasons. Which I am not going to reveal here, because, let’s be honest, who really cares about what I do in my personal time? I certainly don’t. (Disclaimer: this post isn’t very funny. It’s a serious lesson on what makes you healthy.)
Garden update: My radish babies have gotten HUGE and I’m going to pull some of them out of the ground on Sunday. I’ll let you know how that goes. My tomato seedlings, meanwhile, are just getting tall and not really doing much else, which is kind of boring, but highly expected for week 2 of development.
ON TO BIGGER AND BETTER THINGS.
Ladies and gentlemen, lately I have been inundated with tales of what makes a baby strong and healthy, and what makes a human being more likely to not get cancer. This first part is for everyone, the second part is on pregnancy:
I am not a big fan of vegan diets. You can’t eat eggs, milk, dairy, animals, fish, cheese, cream, whipped cream, nothing. I would basically starve to death. And if you’re a true vegan you can’t wear leather. Once I was at a dinner party and I was wearing this awesomely rocking leather jacket, and I got cold so I put it on, and the person sitting next to me was vegan. We’re friends, so he can say whatever he wants, and he looked at me and wrinkled his little nose and said, “Is that leather.”
Not a question, just a statement. I said, “Yes.” and then, as his nose wrinkled a little more and his hands started flapping in distress, I said, “Why, can you -”
and he cut me off and said, “Smell it. Yeah, I can smell it.” Judgment was just oozing out of his pores, and he was so upset. To make matters worse, another vegan was sitting on the other side of him, and he was also staring at me in judgment. They then went on to talk about where you can buy vegan shoes (apparently payless is great, since they’re all made out of plastic — although how is a pair of shoes made by 8 year olds in an environmentally unsafe factory better than leather – otherwise you pay hundreds of dollars for ‘vegan shoes’). At some point I stuck in a question about whether they felt awkward in situations where they went to dinner parties and there were no vegan options, but they just shrugged and said they didn’t eat anything if that was the case (they clearly didn’t understand that I was being snarky, and that this behavior is upsetting to hosts).
I was totally traumatized for a couple of weeks after that and didn’t wear my jacket anywhere else, but then I was like, screw that, I’m wearing my banana-republic animal hide. The Native Americans did it. (Aaron, if you’re reading this, don’t feel bad. That’s what i get for going to an evolutionary anthropology dinner party).
So Evan comes home yesterday, all a blazes about a new book he wanted to read. Immediately I sensed it would be non-fiction and I shut down. But then we pulled it up on wikipedia, and there’s no criticism section. What? How is THAT possible? Basically these scientist dudes (men, of course) went out to China to do a longitudinal study on diet and disease and blah blah blah (Why rural China? My best guess is that they wanted to do unsanctioned, IRB disapproved research, and that was the best place to do it, so the question remains: what else, exactly, were they studying out there?).
So they found that eating animal products and getting cancer has a completely linear, 1:1 relationship. This, apparently, was easy to study because people tended to eat the same things throughout their lifetimes in China. And they provide all kinds of comparative statistics about rates of cancer in China vs the US and what we eat, etc. Those claims are totally absurd and ridiculous, as there are so many other cancer-causing differences between the US and rural areas of China, that i can’t believe that part hasn’t been deleted from Wikipedia, or at least criticized.
My own critique: The basic statistics are probably correct. In rural China, people who ate less meat probably did get less cancer. But, people who don’t eat animal products in China are probably poor – meat is a luxury item in developing countries. You could probably redo the analysis and find that poor people are less likely to get cancer. So, one could claim by the same logic, having money makes you get cancer. This is wrong – poor people live completely different lifestyles than wealthy people, and the differences could be any number of different things – wealthy people drive more, and are exposed to pollutants more often; wealthy people visit cities; wealthy people drink contaminated water in cities; wealthy people use cell phones and modern electronics; poor people use their own clean water wells; poor people don’t use bpa-filled plastics; poor people walk more; poor people exercise more; etc, etc, etc. This stuff, of course, is specific to a developing country; you might find the opposite poor/rich behaviors in countries like the US.
I need to read the book, and it’s possible that they controlled for all of this. Still, it’s an interesting claim, that appears to be gaining some traction.
There is an enormous amount of evidence that says that what the mother eats during pregnancy affects how well the child performs later in life. My mother ate two pounds of kimchi and non-nutritious white rice every day while she was pregnant with me, and thus, I have grown up with crippled mental capabilities and an inability to walk in a straight line, or update a blog on the regular. Also I have halitosis. And I crave salt. And starbursts. So, ladies and gents, the question is, what can all y’all learn from my mother’s mistakes, and the findings of science ? (i’m not ripping on my ma. i love my ma. What she handed down in diet and brain defects, she more than made up for in giving me a fantastic set of genetically-perfect chompers and a genome that keeps my body at a perfect 8-12% fat level, in spite of anything I may consume. In fact, I was thinking about redoing the SuperSize Me movie, because I’m pretty sure that not a damn thing would happen to me after three months of eating McDonalds every day for three months. HA, TAKE THAT, GENETICALLY DEFICIENT OTHER-PERSON-WHO-STARRED-IN-THEIR-OWN-DOCUMENTARY!)
On to the science:
Tina Williams, a Duke professor, discovered that feeding pregnant rats an enriched-choline diet made their babies have better memories that were stable throughout life — other rats weren’t as good at remembering how to navigate mazes, and their memories declined as they got older. This didn’t happen to the choline rats – they had better memories in the beginning, middle, and end of their lives.
LESSON: Eat lots of eggs and chopped liver during pregnancy.
On NPR yesterday, they discussed a study that found that mothers who were exposed to more pesticides during pregnancy had children who had significantly lower IQs throughout childhood. Three different, independent studies were published confirming this phenomenon, and they were all published in Environmental Health Perspectives, the premier journal in that field.They did look at abnormally high levels of pesticides, not organic vs inorganic food consumption, but still.
LESSON: Eat all organic foods. If you buy inorganic, wash them all. Even the outsides of oranges and bananas. Don’t visit farms. Don’t work on a farm. unless its a hippy organic farm.
Eating folic acid during the first 28 days of pregnancy reduces the likelihood of spina bifida, a neural tube defect.
LESSON: Eat lots of spinach, chickpeas, melons, citrus, eggs, all of the time, if you think you might get pregnant, cause you might not know you’re pregnant until it’s past 28 days.
Cat feces cause toxoplasmosis.
LESSON: get rid of your cat. While we’re on the subject, everyone should just get rid of their cats. They’re evil and they communicate to each other using their little mental mind waves. They take joy in shitting in their weird little poop boxes and then tracking their poop-covered feet all over the rest of your house. They’re plotting the takeover of Earth as we know it, one poop-covered house at a time. Get. rid. of. your. cat. Consider yourself warned.
From Wikipedia: A 2006 study found that children who were exposed prenatally to the insecticide chlorpyrifos had significantly poorer mental and motor development by three years of age and increased risk for behavior problems. A 2007 study using a mouse model suggested that exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons prior to conceiving and when lactating reduces the number of eggs in the ovaries of female offspring by two-thirds. A 2009 study of pregnant women exposed to tetrachloroethylene in drinking water found an increased risk of oral clefts and neural tube defects in their children. A 2009 study found that prenatal exposure to phthalates, the chemical compounds used as plasticizers in a wide variety of personal care products, children’s toys, and medical devices, may be an environmental risk factor for low birth weight in infants.”  A 2010 study found that prenatal exposure to flame retardant compounds called polybrominated diphenyl ethers is associated with adverse neurodevelopmental effects in young children.
LESSON: Don’t touch anything. Go live in the woods with chickens so you can have an unlimited supply of eggs, preferably in an untouched environment. This means nowhere in the United States. Canada, maybe, would work, or maybe somewhere like Bhutan. Yeah, go live in Bhutan. Bhutan is awesome.
Moral of the story: Bhutan is awesome
Ah, Bhutan. Greatest six days of my life.