The Toll of Racism on Black Relationships: Adding On

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Soundtrack: Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway “Where Is The Love”

On January 4, 2015, Rakhem Seku published a post at http://www.jujumamablog.com entitled “The Toll of Racism on Black Relationships”. This edition of Complete Constructive Change is a response to that writing from Rakhem. I was so inspired by his words that I promised myself I would devote an episode of my radio show to shining light on what he wrote. This was a few weeks before my show debuted. He starts his post by saying:

“This post was inspired by a member of our Progressive Love community.  He made various points about how White Supremacy (WS) or White Supremacy Racism (WSR) affects black men’s ability to have successful relationships with black women.  I wanted to address his point (and I have already in our Facebook group), but also make sure I was thorough enough so that all points are considered as well as the metaphysical and the feminine perspectives.  And actually, I prefer the term Institutionalized Racism (IR) over WS or WSR because IR represents a mode of thinking being a part of the culture without people’s awareness of it, which is true for 98% of Americans.  Only a small percentage of people are actually conscious of and capable of implementing a global, systematic campaigned aimed at dividing mass populations of people in the name of WS.  Everyone else is simply subject to this mode of thinking without much awareness.”

I will attempt to add something of substance to what Rakhem lays out in his writing. There are a few things he brings up that I think are worth looking deeper into.

Chancellor Williams, in his book The Destruction of Black Civilization, said these words:

“ONE OF THE MOST TROUBLESOME FACTS IN THE STUDY OF history over very long periods of times, such as several centuries, is that a truth may slowly emerge, period after period, until it clearly forms itself into a truth impregnable, a fact nowhere explicitly stated as such in the mass of data covered. As one continues to move on down through the centuries, countless events and situations may continue to make supporting additions to what has already been established as an unassailable fact. Yet that truth may be so repugnant, so utterly void of any rational or intelligent reason for its existence that hardly any historian would wish to state it in his work.

Yet I did just that when I wrote that the whites are the implacable foe, the traditional and everlasting enemy of the Blacks. The compelling reason for publicly putting this declaration in its historical context is clear: The necessary re-education of Blacks and a possible solution of racial crises can begin, strangely enough, only when Blacks fully realize this central fact in their lives: The white man is their Bitter Enemy. For this is not the ranting of wild-eyed militancy, but the calm and unmistakable verdict of several thousand years of documented history.”

Dr. Frances Cress Welsing, in her works The Cress Theory of Color Confrontation and Racism as well as The Isis Papers: The Keys To The Colors, developed a theory behind the ultimate root of racism/white supremacy. Her position was and is that white people are a product of genetic mutation from the original black people of the earth. White people, some on a conscious level but most on an unconscious level, see their minority status in the world (11 people of color to every 1 white person) from a position of fear. They are afraid of the genetic annihilation they could experience if they mixed freely with the people of the world because of their recessive genes. So they operate in the world from a spirit of aggression and domineering rooted in their fear of what could happen if they allow others to get the upper hand on them.

Rakhem Seku beautifully points out the correlation between the Kemetic myth of Ausar and Auset, and the history and present condition of African people in the United States. I would like to mention another ancient story involving Egypt that has some metaphysical relevance for my people. In the Bible, the book of Exodus, Chapter 1, Pharaoh states this about the Children of Israel:

‘Come, let us deal wisely with them, or else they will multiply and in the event of war, they will also join themselves to those who hate us, and fight against us and depart from the land.’…Then the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other was named Puah; and he said, ‘When you are helping the Hebrew women to give birth and see them upon the birthstool, if it is a son, then you shall put him to death; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live.'”

This Biblical story has several parallels with the actual history of the American Africans. The Establishment is deathly afraid of us rising up to do unto them what they have done to us for centuries. So they take extra precautions to make sure that we don’t get too close to any of our indigenous cousins in the world who might also have a legitimate beef with them. And they favor our women over our men as a way to reduce the potential threat of Black manhood.

Speaking of Black manhood, here is a picture of the Roman God Mithra slaying a bull. This image was used in temples all over the Roman Empire where the secret fraternal cult of Mithra had their gatherings. The black bull was used frequently in the ancient world to symbolize the Black God. This was true for the people of Kemet and Babylon and Canaan and many others. The bull was honored as a representation of the Creator because of its strength and virility. Notice the scorpion with Mithra going to attack the genitalia of the bull.

mithra

I also want to bring attention to two images of the Kemetic god, Min, who was always represented with the supremely erect penis. Min’s penis, like the bull, represented his potency, his creative power, his ability to produce new life. When Europeans began to explore Egypt in depth, these images of Min brought something up in them that compelled them to vandalize the carvings of Min. The picture on the right is one of just many that you can find in Egypt where obvious attempts have been made to remove or obscure the erect penis of Min by the Europeans.

min erect    min vandals

All of this relates to the toll that racism has on black relationships. All of this is a completely logical and understandable response to the historical position of white people in the world. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad taught us that the way in which a thing is created determines its nature and function. I don’t have space here to go deep into the origin of white people. See Frances Cress Welsing’s work along with that of Paul Guthrie and Michael Bradley for details of how the harsh climate and extreme violence of early European life contributed to the cultural habits of Caucasian people.

This fear of Black manhood has consequences for black men as well as black women. Rakhem addresses that topic by saying:

“…black women are not directly attacked and seen as a threat in the same way black men are under the system of IR.  A woman is metaphorized as water and is therefore able to adjust, change, and flow with her environment.  She can become invisible (i.e. vapor) at times and take the form of what the environment demands she become to survive.

However, her indirect impact from IR is greater than the indirect impact black men would experience and that’s where the equation balances.  The things that affect a man won’t necessarily have the same effect on a woman and vice versa.  For example, a woman’s son being killed will affect her much deeper than his father because of her emotional connection to a child she carried in her womb for nine months.  Her witnessing her husband beat down, tortured, or failing affects her deeply.  This fact cannot be underestimated and to not recognize it equates to not understanding and recognizing the feminine.

Lastly, you can’t just be a woman in the midst of IR because a woman in her feminine is a goddess and powerful and therefore seen as a threat.  We all too often see women adjust their behavior, look, belief system, or inner desires to fit the limits and demands of IR.  It’s precisely the behavior that many men complain about of women that are a direct result of IR.  What you may be judging as a woman being a woman may be further from the truth.  The truth is both the IR power structure and black men are fearful of any black women fully expressing her womanhood because it would mean the end of the current paradigm as we know it and not many are ready for that kind of change, including black men.  At the end of the day, she is feared by all.” 

Now let’s look at how this played out in the past 50 years. Right now, there are more Black children being raised by a single parent than there were during slavery. Let me say that again. There are more Black children being raised by a single parent right now than there were during slavery. Slavery was the time when we were routinely traded from plantation to plantation as property, and families were often intentionally broken up so the children wouldn’t get too much of a connection with their African roots. But despite that history, there are more of our children being raised by a single parent now than there were under that system. How did that happen?

Let’s run through some history real quick. World War II ended in 1945. That war ended up being very good for the United States economically. The decade after World War II, the 1950’s, is often described as one of the most prosperous economic times in American history. With victory under their belts and money in their pockets, Americans in the 1950s could optimistically pursue the American dream. Of course, racism prevented black people and black war veterans from benefiting equally from this new American abundance. But we still got some fringe benefits.

Many American Africans (this is my preferred term for Black America) got new industrial jobs and/or moved to new cities and experienced financial gains that they had never thought possible before. This ability to provide a home for your family had a humongous impact on the psyche of many of our men at that time.

The spoils of war had a part to play in the rise of the Civil Rights Movement in the mid 1950’s. Households that were no longer worrying about where their next meal would come from were able to free up some space in their minds to consider their lack of social justice and equality. Our communities were able to support freedom fighters who traveled around the country organizing us to fight for voting rights and the various issues of the day. The Establishment took notice of this.

The 1970’s saw several significant things happen to us at the same time. One thing is that many of the heroes of Black masculinity were killed or imprisoned. Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Medgar Evers, Fred Hampton, Geronimo Pratt, Mutulu Shakur, the list goes on. There were less heroes for the children growing up in the 70’s and 80’s than there had been for the generation before them.

Also at that time heroin swept through the American African communities. Many Vietnam War veterans came home hooked on heroin and more opium started coming into the U.S. from Thailand and Burma and Vietnam.

Simultaneously, jobs started leaving the inner cities. The industrial jobs that had sustained so many Black households for the previous 30 years started to disappear and head overseas. Less ability to earn money, less heroes to look up to, more access to drugs, bad combination for men in our community in the 70’s.

Also in the 1970’s we started to see women entering the workforce in record numbers due to the successes of the women’s liberation movement. Laws were changed that made it possible for women to compete (somewhat) equally for jobs with men. But the unintended consequence of this was that there are less jobs available due to outsourcing and offshoring, more people competing for jobs; supply and demand made it possible for salaries to decrease throughout the country. This impacted inner city communities disproportionately because they had been the location for most of the jobs that were sent overseas.

At the same time, many families who were impacted by these changes had to go on welfare in order to get by. One of the peculiarities of welfare is that it focused on supporting mothers and it was mandated that if a man was present in the house then the mother was ineligible for government assistance. So there was incentive for families to keep the father out of the house in order to receive the government aid they so desperately needed. That phenomenon combined with everything mentioned before led to a lot of 1970’s households not having a man present.

The early 1980’s saw the rise of the War on Drugs. In previous installments of Complete Constructive Change we’ve dealt with how the War on Drugs was and is really a war against Black men. The War on Drugs and the criminal justice system surrounding it is the New Jim Crow, as Michelle Alexander puts it. This led to record numbers of Black men being in prison, which has continued until this day.

Rakhem Seku raises this point:

“I agree with the point of a man working for another man feminizing him, but ONLY when that work is not his passion. I’ve witnessed both sides where men slowly lose testosterone over time messing with a job to just pay the bills.  It’s sad to watch.  That has less to do with IR and more to do with a man being willing to be in his WARRIOR archetype and make his OWN way in the world.  The same thing happens to boys going to public school – it sucks the life force right out of them.  Again, women are better able to adjust to both of these scenarios, but it affects them as well.  Women often have to get deep into their masculine energy to get up and go to these jobs every single day.  What’s the result?  A loss in magnetism and ability to attract the partners and life they desire.  An inability to tap into their orgasmic potential and feel the heights of pleasure.  Increased stress levels and the accompanying illnesses.”

Speaking of boys in public school, consider this:

“While the nation’s graduation rate, including that of black and Latino males, has continued to grow, the gap between black males and their white peers has widened, according to a new report released Wednesday by the Schott Foundation for Public Education.

The report, “Black Lives Matter: The Schott 50 State Report on Public Education and Black Males,” is the fifth such study the foundation has released on the state of black males in public education.

Since the last report in 2012, the gap between the four-year graduation rate for black males and white males widened from 19 points in the 2009-10 school year to 21 points in the 2012-13 year.  For Latinos, the gap shrunk to 15 points from 20 during that same period, according to the report. 

The national graduation rate for black males was 59 percent, 65 percent for Latinos, and 80 percent for white males for the 2012-13 school year, according to the report. Particularly striking was Detroit where only 20 percent of black males graduated on time in the 2011-12.” 

Less industrial jobs available means that a higher level of education is needed to compete in the job market. Only half of Black boys graduate from high school, let alone getting a college degree. That is problematic. 67% of American African children in 2013 lived in a single parent household. 67%. All middle class and working class people are aware that many arguments in relationships have something to do with money. How are we supposed to make money if we don’t finish high school?

Women making the money. Women buckling under the stress of having to be the masculine and the feminine. Men feeling emasculated by their lack of ability to make shit happen. Men going to prison when they try the only way they can think of to create some money. None of this is by accident. All of this is directly related to Mithra and Min and the Cress Theory. This is war. This is the society and culture that we live in declaring war on us and us being too unconscious to see it for what it is.

Rakhem concludes his post by giving his bottom line:

I’m hoping that all people can take an empowered perspective on race and racism.  The truth is, a change in thinking is required to end it and heal all peoples.  It’s the same change in thinking for everyone believe it or not.  We must understand that a Progressive Way of Thinking is the Answer We all Seek:

—We individually and collectively create our lives

—The purpose of relating and interacting with one another is growth

—There are no victims in life

—There are no villains in life

—There is no need to or no way to drop out of any situation in life

—There is no need to or no way to cop out of any situation in life

—There is no need to feel shame for who you are or to you judge your past actions

—There is no need to blame others for who they are or to judge their actions

I completely agree with all of these points. This is a composite of “the highest wisdom of our Ancestors”, as Rakhem puts it. The white aggression toward African people and African manhood doesn’t make them villains, it doesn’t make them bad. It just makes them people who are acting in their own self interest. Their self interest requires them to constantly seek the upper hand, according to their way of processing the world.

What does our sense of self preservation prompt us to do in response? A living being that doesn’t have any impulse to protect itself (e.g. immune system) will surely die. As a community we seem to be functioning like a person with an autoimmune disease or a cancer. We are attacking ourselves. Rakhem Seku says:

“IR takes away role models, reduces opportunity to have self esteem, and paints a picture of black men as being lesser than other men on the planet.  At the least these factors can make it tough for a black male to become a man.  At the most it can completely break him such that he embraces his negative masculine nature (i.e. the Dark Side) or his feminine at the expense of his masculine.”

The 5th leading cause of death for American African males is homicide. 4.6% of all of our males who die, die from homicide. In 2013, that added up to 2, 491 total Black murder victims, 93% of whom were killed by another Black person. These deaths are a result of men embracing their negative masculine nature. This is related to the social media phenomenon of

niggabelikebitchesbelike

On the deepest of levels, we really don’t like each other, and we don’t like ourselves. We are suffering from self hatred, 150 years removed from the end of physical slavery. We have internalized western society’s hatred of Blackness. That is at the root of our difficulties in relating to one another. Correcting that is the only thing that can restore our relationships and our families and our communities. It is not anyone else’s responsibility to fix this for us; only we can do this for us.

Only a very foolish army would think that they can win a war by firing at each other. Yet that is the strategy that we are deploying in the war that we are engaged in everyday. It is time for us to close ranks, move closer together, and support one another; as a matter of necessity. With everything that we are up against living in the belly of the beast, behind enemy lines, in the world capital of the system designed to keep us in check, we don’t have a second to lose with battling one another.

This is why I promote Tantra so adamantly in my community. Our survival depends on us learning how to love one another and heal one another from ALL of the unhealthy crap we have internalized over the years. We have to give white people back their ideology, and especially their anti-Black hatred. It’s not doing us any good.

The more that we can heal each other in our romantic relationships, the more we’ll be able to handle interpersonal conflicts without resorting to violence, the more we’ll be able to find ways to create wealth together, the more we’ll be inspired to take ownership over making our communities decent places to live. That starts with us not feeling like we’re under siege and walking around carrying undue levels of stress. Having healing relationships with one another can get us on that road.

Having a few less “real-world” problems will make it more feasible for us to wrap our minds around the final words of Rakhem’s post:

“We must understand the highest wisdom from our ancestors:

OMNIPRESENCE: We are one with all things; although, we appear to be separate and disconnected

OMNIPOTENCE: We have the power to achieve our purpose, passion, and vision in life.  Always.  Without Exception.

OMNISCIENCE: No thing has a quality in an of itself and everything can and will be known to us.”

Many of us just ain’t ready for that level of positive thinking. But our actual survival in this world depends on us getting ready.

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Is Hip Hop Too High?

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Soundtrack: Dr. Dre “The Chronic (full album)”

I remember being a high school freshman in 1993 and 1994 and being a bit of an outcast because I smoked so much weed. Most of the girls who I talked to regularly expressed some concern for my well being based on my weed habit. They just couldn’t fathom why I wanted to get high so often.

20 years later, teenagers are embracing frequent marijuana smoking on a level that was inconceivable in my younger years. The chart below shows rates of marijuana use among 12th graders in the United States from the early 90’s until today. Part of what this illustrates is the low frequency of use that I just described in the early 90’s and then a fairly sharp increase in teen weed smoking in the years after that. It also shows that rates of use have either leveled off or started to decline since 2011. It is difficult to determine what has led to that decline.

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I have a few questions about this. What caused the increase in weed smoking? Is smoking weed healthy or harmful or neither? Is any of this related to the increase in the number of Hip Hop songs and Hip Hop artists promoting being constantly high?

Like we always do about this time…let’s look at the history of the subject. Marijuana has been used for medicine and spiritual purposes in various parts of the world for thousands of years. It is important to distinguish between the two familiar subspecies of the cannabis plant. Cannabis sativa, known as marijuana, has psychoactive properties. The other plant is Cannabis sativa L. (The L was included in the name in honor of the botanist Carl Linnaeus.) This subspecies is known as hemp; it is a non-psychoactive form of cannabis, and is used in manufacturing products such as oil, cloth and fuel.

A second psychoactive species of the plant, Cannabis indica, was identified by the French naturalist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, and a third, uncommon one, Cannabis ruderalis, was named in 1924 by Russian botanist D.E. Janischevisky.

Cannabis plants are believed to have evolved on the steppes of Central Asia, specifically in the regions that are now Mongolia and southern Siberia. The history of cannabis use goes back as far as 12,000 years, which places the plant among humanity’s oldest cultivated crops, according to information in the book “Marihuana: The First Twelve Thousand Years” (Springer, 1980).

world map_MarijuanaHistory_Draft

This map shows the general picture of how marijuana use spread throughout history and at what times. In 1596, famed Dutchman traveller and writer Jan Huyghen van Linschoten described the Egyptian’s use of weed (or “Bangue”) in edibles:

Bangue is likewise much used in Turkie and Egypt, and is made in three sorts, having also three severall names. The first by the Egyptians is called Assis (Hashish (Arab.)), which is the poulder of Hemp, or of Hemp leaves, which water made in paste or dough, wherof they eate five peeces, (each) as bigge as a Chesnut (and some more); such as eate it, for an hower after, are as if they were drunk, without sence, and as it were besides themselves, thinking they see many strange sights, wherein they are much pleased. This is used by the common people, because it is of a small price, and it is no wonder, that such vertue proceedeth from the Hempe, for that according to Galens opinion, Hempe execssively filleth the head.

Over the next centuries, cannabis migrated to various regions of the world, traveling through Africa, reaching South America in the 19th century and being carried north afterwards, eventually reaching North America. After this really long trip throughout the pre-modern and modern worlds, cannabis finally came to the United States at the beginning of the 20th century. It arrived in the southwest United States from Mexico, with immigrants fleeing that country during the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1911.

“Many early prejudices against marijuana were thinly veiled racist fears of its smokers, often promulgated by reactionary newspapers,” writes Barney Warf, a geography professor at the University of Kansas. “Mexicans were frequently blamed for smoking marijuana, property crimes, seducing children and engaging in murderous sprees.” American laws never recognized the difference between Cannabis sativa L. and Cannabis sativa. The plant was first outlawed in Utah in 1915, and by 1931 it was illegal in 29 states, according to the report.

In 1930, Harry Aslinger became the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) and undertook multiple efforts to make marijuana illegal in all states. In 1937, the Marijuana Tax Act put cannabis under the regulation of the Drug Enforcement Agency, criminalizing possession of the plant throughout the country. Here is some of what Aslinger preached in order to convince the country that weed needed to be highly regulated:

“There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the U.S., and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others.”

“Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.”

Between Anslinger’s ruminations on the need to keep marijuana away from people of color — especially the entertainers! — were countless other fabrications about the health effects of pot. It was “more dangerous than heroin or cocaine” and “leads to pacifism and communist brainwashing,” he claimed. “If the hideous monster Frankenstein came face to face with marijuana, he would drop dead of fright,” Anslinger declared in a line that underscored the type of extreme anti-marijuana hysteria that served as a catalyst for the 1936 propaganda film “Reefer Madness.”

Anslinger was also fond of pulling statistics out of the sky. As the drug war got going in the early 20th century, the bureau published surveys showing its efforts to combat drug use had led to dramatic declines over the decade of the 1920s. But drug historian David Courtwright, through a Freedom of Information Act request, got his hands on the actual surveys and found the data to have been fabricated. He also found a private memo from Anslinger admitting the numbers were made up. Nevertheless, Anslinger used that success to argue for an expansion of the drug war to weed in 1937.

Meanwhile, states throughout the south began implementing drug laws as part of the explicitly racist Jim Crow system, with southern lawmakers being quite open about the racist motivations behind the laws. And though the anti-marijuana hyperbole of the “Reefer Madness” era may no longer be believable today, our current anti-drug policies remain bolstered by arguments that have little, if any, factual basis. According to federal authorities, marijuana fully deserves its current standing as a Schedule I substance, alongside heroin, LSD, ecstasy and a “Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas”-length list of inorganic -dines, -mines, -dols and -ates. By definition, then, the government considers marijuana to have “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” It is among the “most dangerous drugs of all … with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence.”

Every person who has ever smoked a joint knows that this is some bullshit. This is why the movement to legalize or de-criminalize weed is quickly growing. And because of all of the evidence that marijuana can have a myriad of medicinal uses. But the extreme federal regulation of weed makes it difficult for scientists to do the level of research needed to really prove how marijuana can be used to treat diseases. To do research on marijuana, scientists need approval from several federal departments. And that approval is rare.

Most marijuana studies focus on the harm caused by the plant. The studies on its medicinal qualities are small, early stage or observational at best. Mainstream physicians won’t come near the stuff, even if they hear that it works, because without the research, without it approved in legitimate practice guidelines, they are going to worry about their license and their professionalism. Even with this situation, medical marijuana has been shown to have a positive effect on people suffering post-traumatic stress disorder, AIDS, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, asthma, cancer, chronic pain, Crohn’s Disease, epilepsy, glaucoma, and multiple sclerosis.

The health benefits of marijuana get a bit murky when it comes to the Hip Hop community. Across the board, the studies done on marijuana use are with people smoking weed in joint papers, or from a pipe, or vaporizer. There is a pretty big difference in the chemical composition of weed that comes from a vaporizer or in edible form as opposed to what happens to weed when you burn it, but I won’t get into that right now.

I am very interested in the common practice among my people of smoking weed in tobacco papers. With whatever confusion might be out there concerning what weed does or doesn’t do, there is no confusion about the health risks of smoking tobacco.

Cigarettes are the leading preventable cause of death in the United States.

  • Cigarette smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths each year in the United States. This is about one in five deaths.
  • Smoking causes more deaths each year than all of these combined:
    • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
    • Illegal drug use
    • Alcohol use
    • Motor vehicle injuries
    • Firearm-related incidents
  • More than 10 times as many U.S. citizens have died prematurely from cigarette smoking than have died in all the wars fought by the United States during its history.
  • Smoking causes about 90% (or 9 out of 10) of all lung cancer deaths in men and women. More women die from lung cancer each year than from breast cancer.
  • About 80% (or 8 out of 10) of all deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are caused by smoking.
  • Cigarette smoking increases risk for death from all causes in men and women.
  • The risk of dying from cigarette smoking has increased over the last 50 years in men and women in the United States.

It appears that the Hip Hop community hasn’t fully thought through the idea that blunt wrappers contain tobacco and nicotine. The same stuff that kills people in cigarettes. The whole idea which we like to promote that “no one ever died from smoking weed” is rendered null and void when you smoke your weed in tobacco. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that our revered entertainers who are always seen with a blunt hanging from their lips are actually killing themselves.

How did rap and rappers become so seemingly synonymous with weed? Dr. Dre released the album The Chronic on December 15, 1992. It not only completely changed the way that Hip Hop sounded in terms of production, it also had a humongous impact on Hip Hop culture. It featured Hip Hop’s greatest producer in Dre and arguably its most charismatic rapper in Snoop Doggy Dogg. That album was followed up by the most highly anticipated debut album in rap history, Snoop’s Doggystyle, on November 23, 1993. It is not a coincidence that these dates coincide with the start of weed being consumed more frequently by 12th graders as we saw in the earlier chart.

This is ironic given that Dr. Dre said on the 1988 NWA song Express Yourself, “I don’t smoke weed”. I find it difficult to believe that a 23 year old Dre in ’88 didn’t smoke weed but the 27 year old Dre of ’92 smoked enough weed to wanna call his album The Chronic. But that’s just me.

Either way, weed has become such an omnipresent part of the culture since The Chronic that even artists like Jay-Z, 50 Cent, and Kendrick Lamar who admittedly don’t smoke weed have felt the need to make multiple songs about the topic. Hip Hop collectively has a marijuana obsession. So what are we to conclude from all of this?

Too much of anything can be a bad thing. Scientists have found that teenagers who smoke weed everyday for a few years end up with abnormalities in the brain’s hippocampus which leads to poor long-term memory in adulthood.  For the first several thousand years of weed’s use it was done on special occasions, in spiritual rituals and at celebratory gatherings. As with many other things in this modern world, especially food, current weed smokers are doing too much of a good thing.

I am glad to see that the statistics show that marijuana use may be leveling off after rising so much over the past couple of decades. It’s time for us as a culture to take a step back and analyze our cultural habits surrounding weed. Maybe we should do it in a way that doesn’t involve any tobacco. Maybe we should do it in a way that doesn’t involve any smoke at all since the smoke itself can have negative effects on the lungs. Given the availability of vaporizers and weed oil and weed butter and weed tinctures, there are many ways to get whatever is good about marijuana while minimizing some of its potential harms.

So if you’re going to celebrate this 04/20 maybe you should leave the Phillies and the Backwoods at the store and try the vaporizer instead. Or make some brownies to go along with the food at your party.

One more thing, if you wake up in the morning and the first thing you think about is “where the weed at?”, that’s called an addiction. That is an unhealthy thing. There is nothing cool about being an addict. How bout we limit our weed consumption to just the weekends? Is that feasible? I’m just saying…

(Editor’s Note: I said earlier that I wasn’t getting into the details of weed from a vaporizer as opposed to burning it. Well I’m adding this addendum to get into that now.

It’s really no question: health-conscious medical marijuana patients and casual tokers expose themselves to less carcinogens, and get more THC from vaping compared to smoking.

Whenever dried plant material is burned, it produces thousands of chemical substances in the smoke. It’s true for tobacco as well as weed. Burning breaks the chemical bonds between the carbon atoms in the large, organic molecules present in plants, creating very reactive fragments called free radicals. Free radicals can combine with each other or with other molecules to produce an amazing variety of products.

Many of these products, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), are highly toxic and are known to cause cancer. (See Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons: Chemistry and Carcinogenicity by Ronald G. Harvey). Significant concentrations of PAH are present in the brown tar stains observed on cigarette filters and the dark tar found in pipes used to smoke cannabis.

Some scientists believe cannabis smoke is less toxic than tobacco smoke because there is evidence that nicotine which is present in tobacco smoke, but not in cannabis smoke, increases the toxicity of PAH. Other studies have shown the cannabinoids (e.g., THC and CBD) which are present in cannabis smoke, but not in tobacco smoke, help to protect normal lung tissue cells from the effects of carcinogens like PAH.

Vaporizers use a stream of heated air to vaporize the active ingredients in cannabis without combustion. Vaporization simply converts the cannabinoids to a vapor that can be inhaled just like smoke. It has been demonstrated in a study conducted by California NORML and MAPS that vaporization of cannabis dramatically reduces formation of PAH relative to smoking cannabis.

“…vapor was remarkably clean, consisting 95% of THC with traces of cannabinol (CBN), another cannabinoid. The remaining 5% consisted of small amounts of three other components: one suspected cannabinoid relative, one suspected PAH, and caryophyllene, a fragrant oil in cannabis and other plants. In contrast over 111 different components appeared in the gas of the combusted smoke, including a half dozen known PAHs. Non-cannabinoids accounted for as much as 88% of the total gas content of the smoke.”

The authors of the study stated, “Harmful toxins in marijuana smoke can be effectively avoided by a vaporization device”. In an article in Harm Reduction Journal by Robert Melamede of the University of Colorado, the author stated, “It should be noted that with the development of vaporizers, that use the respiratory route for the delivery of carcinogen-free cannabis vapors, the carcinogenic potential of smoked cannabis has been largely eliminated.”

Another significant advantage of vaporization relative to smoking is that cannabis smoke contains many other components that do not cause cancer but do cause lung and respiratory irritation. Vaporization eliminates many of these components by avoiding combustion. Patients self-report decreased irritation with vaping, one study shows.

It should also be kept in mind that combustion of cannabis causes destruction of the active cannabinoids leading to a significant reduction in the desired effects of cannabis. The cannabinoid molecules are broken down into free radicals just like the other molecules in the plant when it is smoked. Vaporization does not break down cannabinoids. Thus, when a given quantity of cannabis is vaporized, tests show it delivers a larger quantity of cannabinoids to the user than the same quantity of cannabis when it is smoked.

So, the bottom line is that cannabis smoke appears to be less toxic than tobacco smoke. However, many of the same cancer causing PAH compounds that are present in tobacco smoke are also present in cannabis smoke. It just makes sense to avoid them by using a vaporizer. It also makes sense to avoid destroying a significant fraction of the cannabinoids by smoking cannabis. After all, the cannabinoids are responsible for the desired effects derived from using cannabis.)

(P.S. One more addition. While we’re talking about alternatives to smoking your weed, here is some information about tinctures from theweedblog.com.

“Tinctures are perhaps the least popular and beloved way of consuming marijuana. They don’t have the ritual that comes with smoking, nor the fun of edibles. Some long-term weed lovers might not even know exactly what tinctures are. Well, to clear that up, tinctures are a liquid concentration of cannabis, where the THC and cannabinoids have been leached out into alcohol. Put a few drops of this concentrated serum under your tongue, and within a few minutes you’ll be feeling the effects.

“Why are tinctures underrated, in my opinion? Unlike edibles, the effects of tinctures can be felt rather rapidly, usually within 15 minutes. Although the high varies with respect to the type of bud used, tinctures are known for delivering a peak rather rapidly and then bringing a steady high over a long period of time. Unlike eating weed, you won’t be waiting around for an hour and a half, wondering if you’ve peaked yet and if it’s safe to go about your daily activities, or if you should resign your seriously baked self to the house. Tinctures don’t have a smell (unless you open the bottle!), so you can discreetly carry some with you wherever you go, and you won’t have to worry about finding a place to smoke. Let’s face it, even with a medical marijuana card, it makes sense to avoid the stress of a run in with the law and having to explain yourself.

“And besides all those reasons, it’s just nice to have another way to medicate! You can purchase tinctures at most medical marijuana dispensaries. A small bottle of 100 drops will run you about $20, and 3 or 4 drops will deliver a moderate dose. Or, if you’re feeling creative, you can experiment with making your own tinctures at home.”)

How To Eat To Live: What’s Up With This Vegan Stuff?

how to eat to live

Soundtrack: Boogie Down Productions “Beef”

I have a lot of friends who have various “healthy” ways of eating. I don’t think I can go anywhere in my social circle without hearing about something that people shouldn’t eat or some new thing that people should eat. Whether I like it or not, I know all about gluten sensitivity and alkaline foods and superfoods and liquid fasts and such. I know that most people don’t have these things on their mind all the time. However, maybe they should.

Most people in the United States eat what is referred to as the Standard American Diet. Fittingly, when it comes to health standards, most people in this country are SAD.

  • More than one-third (34.9% or 78.6 million) of U.S. adults are obese.
  • Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable death.
  • The estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the U.S. was $147 billion in 2008 U.S. dollars; the medical costs for people who are obese were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight.
  • Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years.
  • The percentage of children aged 6–11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 18% in 2012. Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged 12–19 years who were obese increased from 5% to nearly 21% over the same period.
  • In 2012, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.

The numbers look a lot worse for my community.

African American adults are nearly 1.5 times as likely to be obese compared with White adults. Approximately 47.8 percent of African Americans are obese (including 37.1 percent of men and 56.6 percent of women) compared with 32.6 percent of Whites (including 32.4 percent of men and 32.8 percent of women). More than 75 percent of African Americans are overweight or obese (including 69 percent of men and 82.0 percent of women) compared with 67.2 percent of Whites (including 71.4 percent of men and 63.2 percent of women).

Overweight and obesity rates also tend to be higher among African American children compared with White children, with obesity rates increasing faster at earlier ages and with higher rates of severe obesity. From 1999 to 2012, 35.1 percent of African American children ages 2 to 19 were overweight, compared with 28.5 percent of White children; and 20.2 percent were obese compared with 14.3 percent of White children.

The good old internet is providing us with plenty of ideas about how to change all of this. One of the popular things floating around is the idea of having an alkaline based diet. That means eating foods that are alkaline on the pH scale instead of acidic, thereby making the whole body alkaline and less likely to be a hospitable environment for dis-ease. I don’t think I have space in this article to really get into that topic. Suffice it to say that the human body is designed to keep pH steady, and levels vary throughout the body. Your blood is slightly alkaline, with a pH between 7.35 and 7.45. Your stomach is very acidic, with a pH of 3.5 or below, so it can break down food. And your urine changes, depending on what you eat – that’s how your body keeps the level in your blood steady.

The biggest diet trend going around the internet these days is veganism. For anyone who is unfamiliar, a vegan diet is one that completely avoids animal products. That includes no dairy products, no milk or cheese or eggs. That’s different from a vegetarian diet which is strictly about avoiding meat but still allows other products from animals.

Many people feel like vegans have become a bit nazi-esque in how they promote their diet. It’s easy to find examples of people who are mean spirited in how they promote having a vegan diet. They talk about people who eat meat in a way that resembles how you might deal with a complete idiot or an ax murderer. That is what inspired this topic. The vegan propaganda has reached such a fever pitch that I decided it worthwhile to dig into this topic and see what is the best alternative to the sad Standard American Diet.

I won’t go into the environmental reasons for going vegan even though that is a very important subject. The raising of animals for food on an industrial scale is having a very adverse effect on the earth’s ecosystem and we should definitely be concerned about that. But this article is about health claims.

The vegansociety.com website says this:

“More and more people are turning to a vegan diet for the health benefits: increased energy, younger looking skin and eternal youth are just some of the claims from enthusiastic plant eaters. Well, eternal youth might be a bit optimistic, but there are certainly many scientifically proven benefits to vegan living when compared to the average western diet.

“Well-planned plant-based diets are rich in protein, iron, calcium and other essential vitamins and minerals. The plant-based sources of these nutrients tend to be low in saturated fat, high in fibre and packed with antioxidants, helping mitigate some of the modern world’s biggest health issues like obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. For more information on living a healthy, vegan life, check out our nutrition section.” 

Ok, I changed my mind. Let’s talk about environmentalism. The vegan story doesn’t really start with seeking a healthy diet. It starts with concerns about the treatment of animals and the environment.

The word vegetarian is probably an English or American invention of the late 1830s. In 1847, an organization was formed called The Vegetarian Society. Its stated aims were:

“[To] induce habits of abstinence from the flesh of animals as food…proving the many advantages of a physical, intellectual, and moral character resulting from vegetarian habits of diet; and thus to secure…the adoption of a principle which will tend essentially to the increase of human happiness generally.”

Almost a hundred years later, there were rumblings among many vegetarians that their philosophy wasn’t going far enough. They didn’t like the fact that most of their vegetarian brethren ate eggs and drank milk. In November 1944, a gentleman named Donald Watson called a meeting with five other non-dairy vegetarians, including Elsie Shrigley, to discuss non-dairy vegetarian diets and lifestyles. Though many held similar views at the time, these six pioneers were the first to actively found a new movement – despite opposition. The group felt a new word was required to describe them; something more concise than ‘non-dairy vegetarians’. Rejected words included ‘dairyban’, ‘vitan’, and ‘benevore’. They settled on ‘vegan’, containing the first three and last two letters of ‘vegetarian’. In the words of Donald Watson, it marked “the beginning and end of vegetarian.”

Most people who are vegans today are completely unaware of this history, however this is the origin of their way of life. The first manifesto from the newly formed Vegan Society in 1944 stated:

“The Vegan Society seeks to abolish man’s dependence on animals, with its inevitable cruelty and slaughter, and to create instead a more reasonable and humane order of society.”

Donald Watson posited that “our present civilisation is built on the exploitation of [nonhuman] animals, just as past civilisations were built on the exploitation of [human] slaves”. Obviously this group felt very strongly about their cause. They were highly motivated to find every possible means of convincing other people to join their cause. As admirable as that may be, once we start getting into the realm of health and science, that zeal becomes dangerous. The first rule of good scientific research is that you must suspend your judgment until you have all the data that you need to draw conclusions. Going into the process of research already knowing what you hope to find will generally lead to you finding what you wanted, whether it is true or not. This is usually what we find with those who seek proof that a vegan diet is the healthiest option.

Two of the most popular sources of research that is used to support vegan diets are 1) the China-Cornell-Oxford Project and its corresponding book called The China Study and 2) the studies done at Loma Linda University owned by the Seventh-day Adventist religious group. I want to, as briefly as I can, examine the evidence these teams have offered for why being vegan is the healthiest diet option.

The China Study is a book by T. Colin Campbell, Jacob Gould Schurman Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University, and his son Thomas M. Campbell II, a physician. It was first published in the United States in January 2005 and had sold over one million copies as of October 2013, making it one of America’s best-selling books about nutrition.

The China Study examines the relationship between the consumption of animal products (including dairy) and chronic illnesses such as coronary heart disease, diabetes, and cancers of the breast, prostate and bowel. The authors conclude that people who eat a whole-food, plant-based/vegan diet—avoiding all animal products, including beef, pork, poultry, fish, eggs, cheese and milk, and reducing their intake of processed foods and refined carbohydrates—will escape, reduce or reverse the development of numerous diseases. They write that “eating foods that contain any cholesterol above 0 mg is unhealthy.”

They also recommend sunshine exposure or dietary supplements to maintain adequate levels of vitamin D, and supplements of vitamin B12 in case of complete avoidance of animal products. They criticize low-carb diets, such as the Atkins diet, which include restrictions on the percentage of calories derived from carbohydrates, which they say would reduce the benefits of complex carbohydrates. They are also critical of reductionist approaches to the study of nutrition, whereby certain nutrients are blamed for disease, as opposed to studying patterns of nutrition and the interactions between nutrients.

The book is loosely based on the China-Cornell-Oxford Project, a 20-year study – described by The New York Times as “the Grand Prix of epidemiology” – conducted by the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine, Cornell University and the University of Oxford. T. Colin Campbell was one of the study’s directors. It looked at mortality rates from cancer and other chronic diseases from 1973–75 in 65 counties in China; the data was correlated with 1983–84 dietary surveys and blood work from 100 people in each county. The research was conducted in those counties because they had genetically similar populations that tended, over generations, to live and eat in the same way in the same place. The study concluded that counties with a high consumption of animal-based foods in 1983–84 were more likely to have had higher death rates from “Western” diseases as of 1973–75, while the opposite was true for counties that ate more plant foods.

(Disclaimer: THIS is the 1788th word in this post. It would take me about 9000 more words to fully get into the statistics cited in The China Study and why the book does a poor job of drawing conclusions from the raw data. I will simply give a broad critique of the book and leave it up to you to go look into it further if you’re interested. I’m refraining as much as I can from sounding overly technical, but it’s difficult when dealing with this kind of subject matter.)

Campbell cherry picked the data from the study to support his conclusions and ignored the data that didn’t fit. Campbell presents evidence incriminating animal products as the cause of nearly every disease. He cites several health care practitioners, including Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn Jr. and Dr. Dean Ornish, who claim to have been able to reverse heart disease with plant-based diets, and cites the Papua New Guinea Highlanders as an example of a traditional society without the occurrence of heart disease.

Yet the pages of The China Study make no mention of George Mann’s and other researcher’s extensive study of the heart-healthy Masai or the healthy primitives of Weston Price, who relied extensively on fatty animal foods.

That the programs of Ornish and Esselstyn involved more than abstention from animal foods– especially the program of Ornish, of which diet is only a small part– is not seen as a confounding factor that detracts from our ability to incriminate animal foods in heart disease. Nor does he bother to mention the cannibalism or the swollen bellies of children that accompanies the protein-starved diet of the New Guinea highlands. In The China Study’s discussion of diabetes, Dr. Campbell concludes that “high-fiber, whole, plant-based foods protect against diabetes, and high-fat, high-protein, animal-based foods promote diabetes.” He discusses the possible role of cow’s milk (an animal food) in causing type one diabetes via an autoimmune reaction, but makes no mention that wheat gluten (a plant food) has been implicated in Type 1 diabetes by a similar process. He similarly fails to mention the role of fructose consumption (from plant foods) in causing insulin resistance, and the increase in high fructose corn syrup consumption that has paralleled the increase in diabetes.

Campbell discusses the suspected role of animal foods in causing prostate cancer, but makes no mention of the potent preventative role current research is attributing to vitamin A, a nutrient found in animal foods. He devotes 19 pages of The China Study to discussing the role of cow’s milk in causing autoimmune diseases, but zero pages to the role of wheat gluten in causing autoimmune diseases.

Campbell reiterates the myth that dietary fat and cholesterol contribute to Alzheimer’s and discusses the potential protective effects of plant foods, but makes no mention of the protective effect of DHA, an animal-based nutrient, that is currently being investigated and has been known about for years.

The China Study frequently ignores the contribution of animal foods to certain classes of nutrients, such as B vitamins and carotenes. Both classes of nutrients are assumed to come from plant foods, despite egg yolks and milk from pastured animals being a good source of carotenes, and the high B vitamin content of liver.

The most curious of such statements is one found on page 220, where Campbell declares, “Folic acid is a compound derived exclusively from plant-based foods such as green and leafy vegetables.” (My italics.) This is a fascinating statement, considering that chicken liver contains 5.76 mcg/g of folate, compared to 1.46 mcg/g for spinach. A cursory look through the USDA database reveals that the most folate-dense foods are organ meats.

The China Study contains many excellent points in its criticism of the health care system, the overemphasis on reductionism in nutritional research, the influence of industry on research, and the necessity of obtaining nutrients from foods. But its bias against animal products and in favor of veganism permeates every chapter and every page.

Less than a page of comments are spent in total discussing the harms of refined carbohydrate products. Campbell exercises caution when generalizing from casein to plant proteins, but freely generalizes from casein to animal protein. He entirely ignores the role of wheat gluten, a plant product, in autoimmune diseases, so he can emphasize the role of milk protein, an animal product. The book, while not entirely without value, is not about the China Study, nor is it a comprehensive look at the current state of health research. It would be more aptly titled, A Comprehensive Case for the Vegan Diet, and the reader should be cautioned that the evidence is selected, presented, and interpreted with the goal of making that case in mind.

Moving on.

A couple of weeks ago, March 16 2015, an article was posted on the Seventh-day Adventist website (http://news.adventist.org/all-news/news/go/2015-03-16/vegetarian-diet-cuts-risk-of-certain-cancer-adventist-study-finds/) with the headline “Vegetarian Diet Cuts Risk of Certain Cancer, Adventist Study Finds”.  I have to quote some of it:

A vegetarian diet may reduce your risk of certain kinds of cancer by 22 percent, according to a new analysis from the Adventist Health Study-2.

Researchers at Loma Linda University Health found that eating a plant-based diet offers significant protection against cancers of the colon and rectum, the second-leading cause of cancer death in the United States after lung cancer.

The findings, published online in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine this week, are the first to emerge from the university’s multimillion-dollar Adventist Health Study-2 investigation that links diet to specific forms of cancer.

“The balance of scientific evidence seems to implicate red meat and processed meat as being linked to a higher risk of colorectal cancer, whereas a diet rich in fiber — not fiber supplements — is linked with lower risk,” the study’s lead researcher, Dr. Michael Orlich, said Tuesday. “The vegans, lacto-ovo vegetarians, and pescovegetarians in our study all avoid red and processed meat and eat an increased amount of a variety of whole plant foods.” 

The study, which tracked the food questionnaires and medical records of 77,659 Seventh-day Adventists over seven years, determined that vegetarians are 22 percent less likely to develop colorectal cancers than non-vegetarians.

Of those vegetarians, vegans were 16 percent less at risk of cancer, and lacto-ovo vegetarians, who eat milk and eggs, were 18 percent less at risk, although results for these groups did not achieve statistical significance.

The least at risk of the vegetarian groups were the pescovegetarians, or vegetarians who eat fish. They were 43 percent less likely to develop cancer. 

Dr. Gary Fraser, principal investigator for Adventist Health Studies-2 and a co-author of this week’s report, cautioned against interpreting the results as a message to eat more fish.

“The main message is to avoid all meats, as the main result was that all vegetarians as a group did better than the non-vegetarians,” Fraser said in an e-mail interview. “Thus from this paper alone what one can really say is that replacing meats with vegetables, nuts, legumes, and fruits will most likely decrease risk of colorectal cancer.”

The logic here mirrors the work of T. Colin Campbell. “Statistical significance” means that the correlation is high enough that it couldn’t possibly have come from mere chance. The results for the vegans and lacto-ovo vegetarians were not statistically significant. The results for the fish eaters were very significant, at 43%. With those numbers in hand, these researchers jump all the way to the conclusion that there is a statistically significant correlation (22%) between being vegetarian and avoiding colorectal cancers. They had to lump in people who eat fish in order to achieve that number but then turn around and say this does not mean that eating fish is a good idea. There would be nothing to talk about here if we couldn’t claim the fish eaters as part of our team, but it’s not the fish that’s protecting against the cancer, it’s the veggies. C’mon, son!

This is a perfect illustration of the general pattern of those who claim that science supports the idea that being vegan is the healthiest diet option. They jump over logical hurdles that would make an Olympic champion proud. The raw data collected in the China-Cornell-Oxford Project is a goldmine of information. It allows us to see that there is no direct relationship between consuming meat or animal products and the most commonly occurring diseases. Where there appears to be correlation between animal proteins and disease risks in the study, there are always other variables like schistosomiasis infection, industrial work hazards, increased hepatitis B infection, and other non-nutritional factors spurring chronic conditions.

 There are plenty of people who have switched to a vegan diet and can report having wonderful improvements in their health. What usually doesn’t get talked about in these scenarios is that besides no longer eating animal products, these same people make complete lifestyle changes that support their health. Usually these people are avoiding added sugars and processed foods and they stop smoking and start exercising and doing yoga and thinking more positively and any number of other things that generally health conscious people do. It is impossible to determine which lifestyle change or set of changes is having the most positive effect; we definitely can’t assume that it’s only avoiding meat that is making them feel better.

__________________________________________________________

PART 2

group eat

Soundtrack: Jay-Z “Forever Young”

Now that we have determined that we can’t assume that being vegan is the most healthy way to eat, how should we eat? What evidence is available for a way of eating that really will lead to a longer and more healthy life?

 A centenarian is a person who is a hundred years old or more. There are some societies where people routinely live to be centenarians and are still healthy enough to move around and enjoy life. National Geographic sponsored a study of these societies and the team of people doing the study called these places Blue Zones. The study of these Blue Zones was designed to find out what they all had in common that led to their people living such long and productive lives. They came up with nine characteristics that they all share. I won’t get into all nine, we’ll just focus on the ones that have to do with diet.

PLANT SLANT: Beans, including fava, black, soy and lentils, are the cornerstone of most centenarian diets. Meat—mostly pork—is eaten on average only five times per month.  Serving sizes are 3-4 oz., about the size of deck or cards.

These diets also incorporate a lot of fresh vegetables, olive oil (or something  similar), fish, nuts, and whole grains. Notice that “meat” here, refers to land animals. 4 out of the 5 Blue Zones is an island or peninsula. These people are surrounded by fish and they eat fish often. Besides that they pretty much only eat what they grow out of the ground. You can’t find fast food restaurants and packaged junk food in these societies. They are almost completely devoid of processed foods. The term ‘processed food’ applies to any food that has been altered from its natural state in some way, either for safety reasons or convenience. That pretty much means anything made to be able to “last” in the store or any juice or milk that has been pasteurized.

It doesn’t take a lot of statistics to realize that if you eat the way centenarians eat then you’re probably doing it right. These people are not vegans or vegetarians, they don’t have any ideology about what they eat. They just eat what’s naturally found around them. Food comes out of the ground in abundance, almost everywhere on the Earth. You can plant a few seeds and end up with more vegetables than your whole family is able to eat. It is a lot more difficult to naturally shepherd enough cows or sheep to feed your family everyday. So natural eating means that meat is not going to be something you eat everyday, most definitely not multiple times everyday.

This is the way most human beings have evolved to eat over our millions of years in existence. A diet high in fruits and vegetables with an occasional serving of meat. As the centenarians in these Blue Zones show, (land) meat once a week is about right. Just as important as the types of food they eat is the fact that they grow their own food and eat it with minimal processing. They eat it the same way that it comes out of the ground.

WINE @ 5:
 People in all Blue Zones (except Adventists) drink alcohol moderately and regularly.  Moderate drinkers outlive non-drinkers. The trick is to drink 1-2 glasses per day, with friends and/or with food. And no, you can’t save up all week and have 14 drinks on Saturday.

A lot of my religious friends hate to hear this but the facts is the facts. Moderate drinkers outlive non-drinkers. Red wine, in moderation, has long been thought of as heart healthy. The alcohol and certain substances in red wine called antioxidants may help prevent heart disease by increasing levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol) and protecting against artery damage.

It is important to stick to the dosage when it comes to drinking alcohol though. Anything more than 1-2 glasses in a day starts to have very negative effects on your health. The purpose is absolutely not to get drunk. This is about enjoying the company of your loved ones, relieving stress (which is also good for your health), and strengthening the heart. It’s possible that antioxidants, such as flavonoids or a substance called resveratrol, have heart-healthy benefits.

There is some evidence that red wine has even more heart-healthy benefits than do other types of alcohol, but it’s possible that red wine isn’t any better than beer, white wine or liquor for heart health. There’s still no clear proof that red wine is better. Antioxidants in red wine called polyphenols may help protect the lining of blood vessels in your heart.

80% RULE:  “Hara hachi bu”  – the Okinawan, 2500-year old Confucian mantra said before meals reminds them to stop eating when their stomachs are 80 percent full. The 20% gap between not being hungry and feeling full could be the difference between losing weight or gaining it. People in some Blue Zones eat their smallest meal in the late afternoon or early evening and then they don’t eat any more the rest of the day. Another approach is to not eat breakfast and to get most or all of the day’s food in one large, late afternoon meal.

A study done in 2013 found that diabetics got better results from one meal a day with red wine based on the Mediterranean diet than from a low-fat or low-carb diet spread over three meals per day.

The study, which is published in the journal PLoS ONE, sought to quantify the effects of certain diets on blood glucose, blood lipids, and other hormones in diabetics. Three diets were considered: a low-fat diet, a low-carb diet, and the Mediterranean diet –– a meal plan that emphasizes whole grains, legumes, fish, herbs, and nuts.

“We found that the low-carbohydrate diet increased blood glucose levels much less than the low-fat diet but that levels of triglycerides tended to be high compared to the low-fat diet,” the researchers wrote. “It is very interesting that the Mediterranean diet, without breakfast and with a massive lunch with wine, did not induce higher blood glucose levels than the low-fat diet lunch, despite such a large single meal.”

The results were derived from a randomized cross-over trial in which 21 patients diagnosed with type 2 diabetes tried all three diets in varying orders. During each test day, the researchers collected six separate blood samples from each subject.

According to co-author Fredrik Nyström, the study’s methodology recalls the original version of the much-praised diet. “[The outcome of the study] suggests that it is favorable to have a large meal instead of several smaller meals when you have diabetes, and it is surprising how often one today refers to the usefulness of the so-called Mediterranean diet but forgets that it also traditionally meant the absence of a breakfast,” he explained. “Our results give reason to reconsider both nutritional composition and meal arrangements for patients with diabetes.”

This last point of limiting the amount of times you eat or limiting the amount of calories you take in corresponds with another interesting set of studies. David A. Sinclair of the Department of Pathology at Harvard Medical School published a paper in 2005 that said this:

“The diet known as calorie restriction (CR) is the most reproducible way to extend the lifespan of mammals. Many of the early hypotheses to explain this effect were based on it being a passive alteration in metabolism. Yet, recent data from yeast, worms, flies, and mammals support the idea that CR is not simply a passive effect but an active, highly conserved stress response that evolved early in life’s history to increase an organism’s chance of surviving adversity. This perspective updates the evidence for and against the various hypotheses of CR, and concludes that many of them can be synthesized into a single, unifying hypothesis. This has important implications for how we might develop novel medicines that can harness these newly discovered innate mechanisms of disease resistance and survival.”

A paper from B.J. Merry of the University of Liverpool School of Biological Sciences published in 2002 said this:

Calorie-restricted feeding retards the rate of ageing in mammalian and invertebrate species. The molecular mechanisms underlying this effect include a lower rate of accrual of tissue oxidative damage that is associated with a significantly lower rate of mitochondrial free radical generation in rodent species. To identify the important sites of control and regulation for mitochondrial free radical generation during ageing and calorie-restricted feeding, metabolic control analysis is being applied to the study of mitochondrial bioenergetics. With ageing an increase in the mitochondrial proton leak is observed in mouse hepatocytes and in rat skeletal muscle. Limited data suggest that calorie-restricted feeding lowers the inner mitochondrial membrane potential and this may explain the reduced rate of free radical generation. A lowered unsaturation/saturation index is observed for mitochondrial membrane lipids in calorie-restricted rodents resulting in an altered membrane structure and function. Plasma concentrations of insulin and triiodothyronine are significantly lower under calorie-restricted feeding conditions and these hormones exert transcriptional control over desaturase enzymes that are important in the control of membrane lipid unsaturation. A loss of double bonds should make the mitochondrial membranes more resistant to peroxidation damage and would also reduce the proton conductance of the membrane, raising the membrane potential at a given respiration rate. This effect however, appears to be offset by other membrane changes that may include increased activity of uncoupling proteins. These unidentified adaptations increase the proton leak in calorie-restricted animals resulting in a lowering of the membrane potential and ROS generation.

All of that basically means that they have found that restricting the amount of calories you eat can slow down the processes within the body that cause aging. Whether you do this by limiting the amount you eat per meal or by limiting the amount of meals you eat, the Blue Zone studies show that the results appear to be the same.

So how do we summarize our findings about how to eat?

  • Eat what you can grow from the ground, mainly beans, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and the occasional meat. In a modern American context that means buying as much of your food as you possibly can from local growers, at the farmers market, organic. Develop a personal relationship with the people who grow your food and/or grow it yourself. If you don’t know exactly where your food came from then it is probably doing you harm in some kind of way.
  • Have a glass of wine or beer with your dinner. It’s good for your heart, literally and figuratively.
  • Don’t eat with the goal of staying full all of the time. Your body actually thrives on you being hungry for a certain amount of time everyday. How you want to approach that is up to you but keep the overall principle in mind.

Simple enough, right? One other aspect of diet shared by the Blue Zones is that they all eat their meals in groups. They are surrounded by friends and family when they eat. Meal time is a social bonding ritual. There are other characteristics of the Blue Zones but when it comes to eating, if you adopt these principles then you will definitely add to your life.