Vegans of Color

Because we don’t have the luxury of being single-issue

The Complex Issues Behind Obesity and Children of Color April 7, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Alicia @ 1:53 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Below is a recent article by the Associate Press. I think it is one of the rare articles that points out the unique set of problems that are facing children of color in the United States and how this is affecting their overall health. I thought this article to be especially important because, although we often discuss the disparities between Hispanic and African-American children and adults  versus our white counterpart in terms of obesity rates, rates of heart disease, type II diabetes, cancer, etc.  a group that is often overlooked is the Native American population which is highlighted in this article.

As a nutritionist and cultural anthropologist I am horrified at the growing number of obese and overweight children of all colors but especially that of “minority” children because it points to so much more than just poor food choices it points to the social and political barriers that are keeping our children from succeeding at the very basics of life – health.  I’m interested to hear/read your thoughts.

Study finds 1 in 5 obese among 4-year-olds
Apr 6, 2009  11:29 PM EST
CHICAGO – A striking new study says almost 1 in 5 American 4-year-olds is obese, and the rate is alarmingly higher among American Indian children, with nearly a third of them obese. Researchers were surprised to see differences by race at so early an age.

Overall, more than half a million 4-year-olds are obese, the study suggests. Obesity is more common in Hispanic and black youngsters, too, but the disparity is most startling in American Indians, whose rate is almost double that of whites.

The lead author said that rate is worrisome among children so young, even in a population at higher risk for obesity because of other health problems and economic disadvantages.

“The magnitude of these differences was larger than we expected, and it is surprising to see differences by racial groups present so early in childhood,” said Sarah Anderson, an Ohio State University public health researcher. She conducted the research with Temple University’s Dr. Robert Whitaker.

Dr. Glenn Flores, a pediatrics and public health professor at University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas, said the research is an important contribution to studies documenting racial and ethnic disparities in children’s weight.

“The cumulative evidence is alarming because within just a few decades, America will become a ‘minority majority’ nation,” he said. Without interventions, the next generation “will be at very high risk” for heart disease, high blood pressure, cancers, joint diseases and other problems connected with obesity, said Flores, who was not involved in the new research.

The study is an analysis of nationally representative height and weight data on 8,550 preschoolers born in 2001. Children were measured in their homes and were part of a study conducted by the government’s National Center for Education Statistics. The results appear in Monday’s Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Almost 13 percent of Asian children were obese, along with 16 percent of whites, almost 21 percent of blacks, 22 percent of Hispanics, and 31 percent of American Indians.

Children were considered obese if their body-mass index, a height-weight ratio, was in the 95th percentile or higher based on government BMI growth charts. For 4-year-olds, that would be a BMI of about 18.

For example, a girl who is 4 1/2 years old, 40 inches tall and 42 pounds would have a BMI of about 18, weighing 4 pounds more than the government’s upper limit for that age, height and gender.

Some previous studies of young children did not distinguish between kids who were merely overweight versus obese, or they examined fewer racial groups.

The current study looked only at obesity and a specific age group. Anderson called it the first analysis of national obesity rates in preschool kids in the five ethnic or racial groups.

The researchers did not examine reasons for the disparities, but others offered several theories.

Flores cited higher rates of diabetes in American Indians, and also Hispanics, which scientists believe may be due to genetic differences.

Also, other factors that can increase obesity risks tend to be more common among minorities, including poverty, less educated parents, and diets high in fat and calories, Flores said.

Jessica Burger, a member of the Little River Ottawa tribe and health director of a tribal clinic in Manistee, Mich., said many children at her clinic are overweight or obese, including preschoolers.

Burger, a nurse, said one culprit is gestational diabetes, which occurs during a mother’s pregnancy. That increases children’s chances of becoming overweight and is almost twice as common in American Indian women, compared with whites.

She also blamed the federal commodity program for low-income people that many American Indian families receive. The offerings include lots of pastas, rice and other high-carbohydrate foods that contribute to what Burger said is often called a “commod bod.”

“When that’s the predominant dietary base in a household without access to fresh fruits and vegetables, that really creates a better chance of a person becoming obese,” she said.

Also, Burger noted that exercise is not a priority in many American Indian families struggling to make ends meet, with parents feeling stressed just to provide basic necessities.

To address the problem, her clinic has created activities for young Indian children, including summer camps and a winter break “outdoor day” that had kids braving 8-degree temperatures to play games including “snowsnake.” That’s a traditional American Indian contest in which players throw long, carved wooden “snakes” along a snow or ice trail to see whose lands the farthest.

The hope is that giving kids used to modern sedentary ways a taste of a more active traditional American Indian lifestyle will help them adopt healthier habits, she said.

By LINDSEY TANNER     AP Medical Writer

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24 Responses to “The Complex Issues Behind Obesity and Children of Color”

  1. adam Says:

    Alicia, thank you so much for bringing this article to our attention. It is indeed terrifying that so many children who are just old enough to begin walking are already threatened by chronic disease for the rest of their lives.

    The study’s results in some way prove that the Amerindian genocide is still going on today via U.S. “food” policy as well as the legacy of the colonial intervention that has nearly wiped out hundreds of cultures and healthy relationships between peoples and land and food. Though it is only one theory, some scientists believe that conventional northern European diets high in fat and carbs are inappropriate for many indigenous people whose diets for thousands of years were vastly different. If this is true, many people of color who already unjustly cannot access whole produce are, in a sense, being “force-fed” food by the fed. com. prgm. that may suit the bodies of whites (if even), but not their own.

  2. D Says:

    I don’t understand how 20% of children can be at or above the 95th percentile. I found contact information for the authors of the study and asked them about this discrepancy. I’ll let you know if I hear a response.

    I wish the study had taken socio-economic factors into account. For example, how many families of the children of color are receiving public assistance of some kind, compared to the white children? Without this type of information, it’s too easy to chalk it up to genetics.

  3. karmalily Says:

    Poverty is a large factor in childhood obesity, especially among minorities. When families are struggling to pay their bills, buying healthy foods (which are generally more expensive) are a low priority. The cheapest foods you can buy are usually the ones that are the worst for your health.

    Maybe some of this could be solved in school systems offering children highly-nutritious meals, although it wouldn’t help the four-year-olds the article looks at.

    It’s a complicated issue to solve, and one that should be very worrisome to all Americans. Our nation is surprisingly unhealthy.

  4. betsy Says:

    Like D stated above socio-economic factors are very important in order to understand the statistics. In articles there is the connection between low caloric intake with obesity. such as

    http://www.csuchico.edu/cjhp/5/2/029-044-leal-vasquez.pdf .

    it only after a closer study that we can really differentiate between genetic issues and issues of social inequality.

  5. Alicia Says:

    Hey D. Actually the article pays careful attention to highlight the role socio-economic status plays in this trend. I believe this article does a really good job of it and that’s exactly why I posted it. It is not often you find an article that really takes the time to discuss the realities behind the reasons why our children are becoming obese at such a young age. It is even more rare to find an article that also highlights Native Americans as well and discusses many of the complex social issues around the health problems in their community as well.

    Also, percentile is not the same as percentage so that may be where you are getting confused. The two are measured very differently. Percentile actually has nothing to do with percentages and therefore it makes perfect sense that 20% of children can be in the 95th percentile.

  6. As a cultural anthropologist and rehabilitative counselor (frequently working in the area of medical anthropology and public health) I have seen the impact diet and lifestyle practices have had on the growing number of obese and overweight children of all distinctions. One point touched on in this article of vital importance is gestational diabetes. Maternal wellness is a key factor in the entire equation.

    Here’s an article that continues the discourse:

    Pinocchio’s Nose

    Are Children Paying for the Self-deceptions of a Auto-reliant, Consumer Culture?

    Klang! The school bell tolls the day’s end as I stroll the hallway to the Principle’s office in AnyElementaryUSA…

    In a flash I find myself in a sea swirl of chattering youngsters. I’m swimming against the swelling tide of exhilaration to escape captivity. A ritual that has transpired for centuries has gotten a great deal harder these past few decades: I’m not only facing youthful exuberance, I’m pushing through a mini-tsunami of human lard.

    We’ve all heard the reports that America’s children are too fat and becoming dangerously unfit. Now, researchers are getting a definitive picture of the growing severity of the situation and what it mean to face a shorter lifespan with an increased rate of illnesses. The US Surgeon General projects that every third child (and one out of two Hispanic youngsters) born after 2000 will contract diabetes. Currently a third of children in the US can’t pass an eight-minute treadmill fitness challenge and the rate of childhood obesity has skyrocketed to nearly 20 percent (quadruple growth rate in the past 25 years).

    Why the rapid expansion?

    If you except the conventional argument that obesity stems from two basic factors–food marketing practice/technology and decreased physical activity–then a “Pinocchio-esqe” self-deception seems to have led to a culture of consumptive denial. Like Pinocchio, there also appears a reticence to see what’s directly growing in front of our eyes until it is all but too late. From an evolutionary point of view obesity can be seen as a result of our modern consumer lifestyle. Obesity in historical times was rare since consumption was directly linked to the physical output necessary to acquire consumables. There is no evidence to suggest that any homo (sapiens or not) was obese. This is true in modern times as obesity is considered an epidemic in developed consumer countries and is almost inexistent in countries where there is little to consume. A healthy economy that has an abundance and choice of everything is the breeding ground for obesity as people simply make bad choices. Lack of physical activity is oftentimes a consumer choice made by people conditioned to a level of passivity that avoids any hardship associated with exercise. The automobile reliant culture is an ironic example in that cars are consumed to increase mobility and they ultimately render the individual less inclined to be personally mobile away from the car.

    Cultural Culprit

    For example, unlike most countries, cycling in the US has long been regarded as primarily an activity of childhood, to be left behind once one became old enough to acquire a driver’s license and access to an automobile. Back in 1970′s and 80′s over 2/3 of all bicycle riders were juveniles while adults were just 1/4 of the total. Since the early 90′s however, the number of children encouraged to take up cycling has fallen dramatically, while the number of “mature” adult cyclists has grown at a slow but steady rate to partially offset what would otherwise be an enormous decline in bicycle use in the United States. Visitors arriving in the US from abroad are consistently struck by the existence of perfect foot and bicycle paths, and equally astonished by the fact of their total disuse. Unlike most countries, cycling and walking in the US has come to be regarded as activities of childhood or the indigent. Moreover, the cultural imperatives and compromises to the amount of exercise people living in the US get everyday via walking or cycling has increased at an alarming rate. Children are conditioned by strollers, then graduate to electric-motor play vehicles as early as possible. Mature adults are encouraged to ride on motorized mobility assist devices whenever and wherever it suits them. Most certainly, to be a member of mainstream society, every American over the age of fifteen must have access to wheels and no family owns fewer than two cars.

    What has concerned medical experts is that this early cultural conditioning has not only resulted in an obesity epidemic, but has created a culture of obesity. Beliefs, practices, behaviors and “lifeways” all reinforce consumer convenience at the expense of physical activity. Consumers are consistently making choices to avoid walking or cycling to schools, stores, parks and the like. Wellness experts have begun to label this the “Cradle-to-early Grave Anti-exercise Syndrome” (CGAS).

    Not without merit: health organizations like the National Institutes of Health (NIH), American Heart Association and American Medical Association report balance ability now peaks at about the age of 10, that 18% of adults (18-55 years of age) report being non-bike balance capable and that childhood obesity is expected to reach the 25% level in the U.S. population by 2010.*

    We’re not Made of Wood

    Putting exercise aside, we all know the biggest contributor to obesity is the type and amount of food people purchase. Yet it’s painfully obvious despite the best efforts of doctors, Oprah and many other experts, many people lack the will to act on nutritional education. A look at others’ supermarket carts reveals the poor choices consumers make. As a onetime baker’s apprentice I have personally served many people food that causes obesity. Day after day it was the sugar-coated, creamy and fatty that brought folks in and lack of will power notwithstanding most people did know that what they purchased was 40% fat, 50% sugar and 10% something else. The fact nearly every food product on sale has extensive information tables on it somewhere makes it hard to place the blame on anyone but the consumer who has all the necessary information to make a choice between healthy and unhealthy.

    Geppeto’s Toy Store Isn’t the Only Place to Learn

    While obesity appears the result of convenient indulgence in consumer society; comprehensive education is also a luxury of our modern world. Educational efforts can start at the grass roots family level, engage people in the community and even invade the civic domain. Parents can manage better what they and their children eat and encourage/role model exercise. Schools can prepare healthier meals, limit junk-food options on school grounds and make physical-education classes more acceptable to students, faculty and staff. Communities can sponsor nutrition-education programs and promote physical activities at parks, playgrounds and recreational centers. Civil planners and decision makers must start to recognize what many people are finally coming around to realize for themselves: that the way our neighborhoods are structured affords no way to get exercise while people go about their normal lives. Contemporary urban planning models such as the “city of short distances” and “walk-friendly, cafe-clustered” approaches that suggest walking or riding your bicycle as a viable alternative reflects ways to get Americans more active.

    …As our children will one day understand and Pinocchio certainly discovered (when in a healthy-state of flesh and blood), self-deception rarely fools the outside world even though we may have a hard time perceiving it for ourselves.

    By R.T. Eady, M.Ed, Founder, Quest Educational Foundation (QEF)

    *For ease of reading primary sources referenced in document.

  7. Alicia Says:

    Great article NoExitStrategy! And imagine that. I’m a nutritional anthropologist, small world.

  8. [...] 10, 2009 · Filed under News The Complex Issues Behind Obesity and Children of Color – Vegans of Color – Native American children are suffering the most from childhood obesity. Finding out why [...]

  9. supernovadiva Says:

    what i’ve noticed is that the before school/ lunch/ recess outdoor activity has been cut in many schools. more focus has been put into testing well for the “no child left behind” requirements and TAAS tests (Texas). There’s a mother fighting to make it required for every elementary school to provide recess. Recess is really up to the school districts and that can be as little as 15 minutes. Also I’ve noticed that the school grounds no longer has playground equipment on them. I don’t know if all of it rounds out to a fear of being sued. So instead of getting sued, they have these kids caged up inside where the soda/ vending machines and cafeteria cookie sales are in easy reach.

  10. D Says:

    Hi, Alicia,

    Actually, percentile has everything to do with percentages. If, for example, someone has a math SAT score in the 95th percentile, that means that their score is better than 95% of the people who took that same test.
    Check out this article:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Percentile

    So to say that 20% of children are in the 95th percentile does not make sense. There should only be 5% of children in the 95th percentile.

    And while the article quoted above did discuss socio-economic factors, the original scientific study did not. It’s important to distinguish between the first-hand scientific study and the lay article that tries to interpret that study. The article actually points out that the original scientific study did not try to explain the disaparities among the races:

    “The researchers did not examine reasons for the disparities, but others offered several theories.”

    Dr. Flores offered theories, but Flores “was not involved in the new research.” It appears that this original study did not take socio-economic factors into account at all.

  11. Alicia Says:

    Hey D, Thanks for the wikipedia definition but the article is still correct and there is a distinct difference between percentile and percentage. Using your SAT example, let’s say 100 students take the SAT at a high school. 20 of those students place in the 95th percentile of SAT scores meaning that 20% of those students were in the 95th percentile. That is the same logic that applies to this article.

    Also, I made a clear differentiation in my comments. I said that the article does a good job raising the concerns about the contributing factors to this problem such as socio-economic status. I said nothing about the researchers as it is clear that was not the goal of their research. I think it is very important, a step in the right direction, that this article presents the facts of the study and also reasons why this is happening to our children in the first place. Most articles are so one sided and just so the stats making it seem like minority children and just hopelessly unhealthy and overweight and obese while this article points out that no, it’s not that people don’t want to take care of themselves there are other reasons out there. This article points out that are system is broken and that the consequence of this broken system is 1 in 5 American children being obese.

  12. Maho Says:

    Socio-economic status greatly effects the result of this matter. I saw a Japanese program about poverty in the U.S. and learned that there is an area where the local people can not get fresh vegetables or fruits. No stores around, except mega-stores, which are a kilometer or so away. A lot of people do not have car or money to spend on fuel.

    Thank you for the great information.
    Maho
    Tokyo-

  13. Maho Says:

    Hi all, just a quick question. Do (or can) children in the U.S. bring lunch from home to school? And how much are the families charged for the lunch?

    Elementary&junior high schools usually provide lunch in Japan. Once a year or so, there is a day that parents can try the lunch to see what their children usually eat. A lot of high schools, though, don’t provide lunch so children bring a lunch box from home.

    I am just curious..

  14. D Says:

    Hi, Alicia,

    Thanks for your response.

    Using the SAT example, if 20% of children in one school score in the 95th percentile, that school has unusually high scores. That school is not representative of the general population. The way that the 95th percentile is calculated us based on all SAT scores across the country. By definition, across the country, only 5% of children are in the 95th percentile. To present those children of that school as representative of the general population is inaccurate and irresponsible.

    If the researchers found that 20% of their sample group is in the 95th percentile for BMI, their sample group is not representative of the entire country and should immediately be rejected. The researchers found an unusually overweight group of children to study, and it would be scientifically irresponsible to present the results as representative of the general population, in which only 5% are in the 95th percentile.

    I agree that the article is a great article that addresses socio-economic factors. As I explained above, I wish that the original researchers “had taken socio-economic factors into account. For example, how many families of the children of color are receiving public assistance of some kind, compared to the white children? Without this type of information, it’s too easy to chalk it up to genetics.”

  15. Alicia Says:

    Hey Maho!

    In the U.S. children can bring their lunches to school and, typically, children are not charged for school lunches and in some cases they aren’t charged for eating the school breakfast either. Meals are paid for by taxpayers dollars. Unfortunately, the quality of food offered to students in the school lunch program is relatively poor and based largely on subsidies. Many highschools (and I’m sure by now they’ve expanded this to junior highs) loan out parts of the school to fast food companies so kids can also get things like pizza hut, taco bell, subway, etc. from school. A million years ago when I was in highschool they offered the free school lunch, pizza hut, taco bell, subway, and KFC.

    Even though the school lunch program in the U.S. is terribly flawed at the end of the day it does provide meals for children who might otherwise not be able to get any kind of “decent” meal throughout their day. But it would be great if healthier options were available in the school lunch program, more fruits, more vegetables, less refined sugars and grains, etc. I’ve heard of some school districts who have actively made this happen and even have some veggie choices but a fraction of a percentage point of the population. In looking at private schools in the area I’m surprised how great their food offerings are. They are practically gourmet meals with tons of vegan and vegetarian options. Sometimes I wish I could eat there at lunch :)

  16. Alicia Says:

    Hey D,

    At this point I think we are closer to arguing the same point than you realize. What the article ultimately reveals is that, like you mentioned with the high SAT scores, the children in this age range are now far exceeding the weight they should be. More 4 year olds are above their normal weight putting them in the 95th percentile which makes them obese. Percentiles are a barometer to tell us how different things are going, and in this case it is telling us that way too many 4 year olds are obese than even what is considered above normal. When it comes to average weights the percentile categories aren’t likely to change so although percentage wise it would make sense to readjust all the numbers, percentile wise it would be counterintuitive because if the percentile values were changed then that would essentially chance the classification of these 20% of children from obese to simply overweight or even average weight (depending on how the percentiles were changed). But, unfortunately, that would only add to the problem by attempting to normalize major health crisis in our youth and in our country. So yes, 20% of children can be in the 95th percentile of weight. This overabundance of children in the 95th percentile means there are less children in the median and lower percentiles. So essentially, the bell curve is becoming lopsided. Just like, in your SAT example, that school with the 20% of kids having test scores in the 95th percentile would make the bell curve lopsided but in a positive way. Whereas in the case of childhood obesity right now the bell curve is lopsided in a devastatingly negative way.

    I hope that made sense, I have a tendency to start to ramble after midnight…kind of like right now ;)

  17. D Says:

    Actually, Alicia, I spent my undergraduate years devoted to scientific research, where percentiles, percentages and sample groups were very important. The search for the truth was all-important, and we would never have changed the percentiles out of fear that people would start to accept “overweight” as “average.” That’s the kind of scientific dishonesty that is absolutely unacceptable. I hope that standard is still emphasized in universities today, and can’t imagine that it isn’t.

    In the SAT example, the bell curve is not lopsided. The sample group is lopsided. The bell curve still looks like a bell curve. It’s very important to make that distinction.

    If the average child is overweight, it’s important to make that information known, and not to try to pretend that the average child is the exception.

  18. D Says:

    I just want to clarify – I’m not accusing the researchers in this situation of any kind of scientific dishonesty. I think it’s far more likely that something got lost in the translation when the results were reported in the mainstream media. If the study was reported in a peer-reviewed journal, I’m sure the researchers explained their methods thoroughly, and I’m pretty sure it didn’t involve fooling with the percentiles in order to make American children appear more or less obese.

  19. Anonymous Says:

    Alicia,

    Thank you very much!

    “Unfortunately, the quality of food offered to students in the school lunch program is relatively poor and based largely on subsidies.”

    This is interesting. I agree if that is the only decent meal that children can get a day, it makes a huge difference if they changed to something more healthier. As you said, more fruits and vegetables. Private schools charge for the meals, probably, right? Public schools lunches are paid by tax.. ok, I am sure people feel happier if their tax money is spent to improve nutrition of the school lunches.

    In Japan, parents pay about 3,000 yen ($30) a month. My brother who is a public elementary school teacher told me that there are parents who can’t pay for that nowadays.. But the lunches are provided to their children no matter what.

    I am not sure how nutritious the lunches here are..

    It was interesting and thank you.

  20. Noemi Says:

    many schools don’t allow things like pizza hut, taco bell to be sold on premises, anymore don’t they? At my kids school they don’t sell candy or cokes and have a limit on sugary snacks the kids can take to school to share like at parties because they are not nutritional. I don’t know about all children being given free lunches. I’m in Texas, we had to qualify for free lunch (if you were low income) as do my kids have to qualify. it’s been hard to let my daughter drink juice instead of milk, they wanted a doctor’s excuse, it took about 3 visits from me to finally allow her to be given juice instead of milk. The kids would love to take lunch to school, they don’t have a veg option and they think the food they serve is gross (their words).

  21. Alicia Says:

    Hey Noemi, I can’t believe they are making you jump through hoops like that to just let your child drink juice! How ridiculous. It looks like the policies change from state to state. Like I said it’s been a million years since I was in highschool, but that’s how the system was set up in California when I was growing up. My mom still works in the california school system and said they still do allow some fast food companies in the schools but I do remember hearing something about no more candy/soda’s, etc. at schools in the news a while back and I thought that was great, but it’s on a school by school basis.

    I still can’t get over the run-around they put you through to get some juice. When I was a kid they offered juice and 3 different kinds of milk at all grade levels, no note required. Wow, things sure do change. Thanks for the insight!

  22. Jon Says:

    Yeah, there is a genetic difference. I’m actually studying to be an endocrinologist, so I’m looking into it. Not only the amount of carbohydrates in traditional diets (much lower than the modern Western diet) but the kind of carbohydrates, which were generally of the slower variety. (There were some notable exceptions, such as maple syrup in the Northeast culture area and of course the near-universal practice of juicing.) For vegan options to avoid too many carbohydrates, there aren’t many: Peanuts, groundnuts, soy, and other low-carb legumes aren’t many in number (though soy is ubiquitous), but there are also nuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, and oily fruit. Usually in vegan terms, “low-carb” means “low-calorie”. The other option is to choose foods like black beans, where the majority of the carbs are indigestible. Many vegan diets also depend on refined grains and margarines. Margarine is technically low-carb, but one thing Atkins did get right was his rejection of trans fat. Indeed, if you think of veganism as an ideology, it requires the implication that refined grains and margarines (the true nutritional changes of the past century or so) be considered healthy.

    Here is one major case where I as a future endocrinologist who also likes to cook as a hobby (My only vegan experience has been dating one, but I did take to vegan cooking fairly easy. I do eat meat, but not at every meal, and I try to choose sustainable animal products.) have issues with the animal rights movement. Vegan diets are next-to-last in bringing down A1c, after low-fat diets. (Not surprisingly, low-carb diets were in front. I’m guessing low-carb dieters had more ketones, but that’s more a type 1 issue.)

    Childhood obesity, and therefore juvenile NIDDM, though, is actually pretty simple: It’s the soft drinks. The average American child consumes three 12-oz cans of soda a day. That’s just cans. That’s to say nothing of 20-oz bottles, 2-liters, or sodas sold at convenience stores, restaurants, sporting events, clubs, or movie theaters.

    BTW, about ndn foods: There’s a myth that they were lower in fat. Corn is relatively high in oil, for a grain. Food processors prefer to use soy for oil, but corn has its virtues from the food processor’s perspective. (For one, it’s only 1.161% linolenic acid according to the USDA.) On top of that, for some tribes, much of this fat was saturated. (Plains tribes, for instance.) Saturated fats don’t necessarily do anything bad for diabetes; they still raise cholesterol (both kinds), but that’s about it. What is annoying is animal rights activists getting in the way of traditional foods. (Look up the Makah.)

  23. Joselle Says:

    Jon, it seems that you are attacking vegans and animal rights advocates for the poor diets of schoolchildren of color. I think you’re muddying the waters by doing that since the schools providing lunch, for example, are most certainly not providing vegan options.

    “Indeed, if you think of veganism as an ideology, it requires the implication that refined grains and margarines (the true nutritional changes of the past century or so) be considered healthy.”

    That’s just not true. There’s no nutritional need for margarine or white flour, vegan or otherwise. In fact, not all margarine is vegan and many foods made with animal products are made with refined grains and margarine so I don’t understand how you can conflate industrially processed foods with inadequacies in the vegan diet. You can be vegan and never eat margarine. Vegan butter is an option, not a necessity. It’s inaccurate to paint it as anything other than that.

    Your second paragraph is a bit inscrutable to me. You seem to start by saying that you like to cook, had a vegan partner, have problems with the vegan diet and that it’s pretty bad at bringing down hemoglobin A1C levels. This last point is contrary to the latest research that states low-fat and low-glycemic vegan diets not only reduce HA1C levels but also reduce cardiovascular risk (Turner-McGrievy, G.M. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, October 2008; vol 108: pp 1636-1645.). This is in addition to decades worth of research that shows a lower incidence of chronic disease in vegetarians and vegans overall.

    As for your last paragraph, I don’t know what “ndn” foods are so let us know what you meant.

    If you’ve read some earlier posts on this blog, I think it’s safe to say that you won’t find any contributor who thinks every single human group on the planet can or should be vegan at this point in time. As a vegan and a medical editor, I’m aware that a vegan diet is not perfect but no human diet is. Given the horrific realities of factory farming, however, I’ve weighed the risks and benefits of the vegan diet and have decided that a vegan diet abundant in whole foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and legumes, not corn oil and margarine slathered on Wonder Bread) is pretty optimal for me. Finally, just as there are many cultural and ethnic groups that heavily feature animals in their diet, there are those that are mostly, if not entirely, vegetarian.

    Actually, this is my last point: I’m alarmed that, despite your claims of studying endocrinology, you seem a bit nonchalant about saturated fats raising cholesterol levels. Heart disease and diabetes often go hand in hand and the American Diabetes Association recommends a diet low in saturated fat (no more than 15 grams/day).

  24. Charles K Says:

    Truth is beens rice bananas and some other foods are pound for pound way cheaper then meat. most often we are tricked into thinking we have to buy mock meets and all this other crap to live, also in some areas there is allot of community gardens popping up, once its time to harvest allot of the veg goes to food banks and family members of the ppl that grow the gardens. Vegan life style is easy we just have to be realistic on our approach. we cant get sucked into the elate buy this and that.


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