EARTH DAY EVERY DAY
If were going to get
anywhere fast, ecologically speaking, we have to see many changes happening faster than
they have in the last twenty years, since the first Earth Day in 1970. Environmentalism
has not significantly redirected the nations political or economic or spiritual
life. The current debate in Congress over the Clean Air Act proves that the
political process is firmly in the grip of corporate power. A compromise is being made
balancing the interests of the coal, automotive and utility industries and p mg their
welfare far ahead of ecological concerns. During this, the presidents chief of
Staff John Sununu has stifled the development of any major new policies by dismissing
environmentalists as special interests and characterizing atmospheric scientists as
Peter Borrelli, of the National
Resources Defense Council, together with Herman Daly who is senior economist in the
environmental department of the World Bank, and John B Cobb, a professor of philosophy and
theology and co-author of For The Common Good, all maintain that the Gross National
Product and its strictly mainline economic emphasis has to be rejected as a true measure
of economic welfare in the broader, more responsible sense. Could they be right that the
well-being of a nation is something more than just Kenyenesian money? Instead, they
propose an Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare, which includes income distribution, the
value of unpaid household labor. pollution, loss of farmland, and the external costs of
development. Equating public good with the countrys wealth is invalid.
It is suggested that the GNP should be changed to indicate true economic welfare,
such as the Physical Quality of Life Index, which takes into consideration such things as
literacy levels, infant mortality, and life expectancy. Incidentally, as early as 1827,
the great Swiss economist Jean Charles Sismondi warned against conventional economics
being truly able to equate the public good with simply the wealth of a nation.
How then can Earth Day be every
day? One of the first things that has to happen is that the technological and economic
pillars of the twentieth century have to go Additionally, an ethic has to be adopted which
is oriented toward ecologic and economic sustainability --and a sustainable society.
Lester Brown of Worldwatch proposes an ethic that shapes its economic and social
systems so that natural resources and life-support systems are maintained. We will also do
well to remember the words of ecologist Aldo Leopold when he defined a good land ethic in
1949: A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty
of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.
Amicus Journal, Spring 1990)
It is one thing to be critical
of the rain forest destruction, it is another, evidently, for us here in America to
deforest. We do it with impunity.
Our offices set down the road
from a beautiful forest and wetland that has recently in a matter of daysbeen
destroyed. Every time we pass this bleak ruined area which
is being prepared for a mall, we get lumps in our throats.
The following is an editorial
we sent to the local newspaper. It wont win us popularity contests, but at
least the forest and its millions of decimated inhabitants will receive an epitaph.
It is difficult to watch the
destruction of the beautiful forest at the intersection of Eastman and US-10. This is
progress from the standpoint that it will result in construction of a new convenient
shopping area for Midland residents; it is anti-progress in the context of what we have
come to know in the last several years about the fragility of our environment. The
following thoughts are not just to single out this new development. The Eastman project is
simply a glaring egregious example of what many of us are perhaps guilty of.
Forgetting the destruction of
wildlife and natural habitat taking place with the destruction of the forest on Eastman,
and considering just the trees, who would not be moved by their lost beauty? Standing next
to and touching a 100-or 200-year-old tree con give a wonderful sense of history. A tree
is a medium, a vicarious bridge to the past. That we can still enjoy a tree which was also
living when wilderness was king, before there were cars, airplanes, freeways, industry,
and malls, next to which a native American family may have camped, is on incredible
treasure. That such trees and natural forests still exist in our own community
(recognizing true virgin forests have by and large long since been destroyed) is a
reminder of our link to the wild, and reassures us that we may still be okay because our
heritage still is. Trees give us continuity with our own past and that of the Earth
Put in purely economic value, a
tree living fifty years has a value of almost $200,000 considering its contribution of
oxygen (trees produce 50% of Earth's oxygen - at least they did a few minutes ago, it's
less now), its air pollution and temperature control, its removal of carbon dioxide, its
contribution to soil fertility and erosion control. This does not include its value in
wood or fruit.
The rate of rainforest
destruction in developing countries is appalling and creates fear of the possible impact
on the climate of the entire Earth. In the time it takes to read this article, 60,000
trees will fall in the rainforest. The rainforest has stood since the very dawn of life.
We are cutting it down at the rate of 55 square feet per cheap American hamburger which it
can produce. This is a tragedy beyond description. So we lament rainforest destruction in
another country, fearing the consequences of global warming and wishing they could be made
to stop, but continue to deforest here without apparent concern. 95% of U. S. forests have
been humanly altered or destroyed.
Unfortunately. we here in the
land of plenty bulldoze forests and sprawl our developments with impunity and apparent
total disregard for the finiteness of Earth's remaining natural places. The forest on
Eastman will have been leveled with little said in its defense or praise and apparently
with most of us oblivious to the fact that we have stolen it from our children and theirs.
Are Midland's natural forests not of at least the value of other historical sites
preserved and treasured in our community?
Because we will not feel
immediate ill consequences from the loss of yet another forest, many will argue that no
harm has been done. But as we learn more about environmental balance we discover that
everything is intertwined. When the forests ore destroyed, we are destroying a part of
ourselves; when we pollute the air, we are jeopardizing our health; when we decimate the
habitat of another species thus driving it to extinction. we bring ourselves closer to our
own extinction. Trees and the forests containing them are a part of Earth's lungs, and as
such are an integral part of the health of all life on the planet.
Laws are in place to prevent
the upstream owner of land bordering a river from diverting it for private purposes
resulting in loss or harm to those downstream. But each time a forest is destroyed, we are
putting another brick in a dam curtailing a resource critical to the rest of the world's
population. Because someone owns land, however, they have a right to lop off part of the
lung that breathes for us all.
Earth Day brought many of us
close to these ideas and there is a groundswell of sensitivity resulting from the
realization that we live on a fragile planet. This is all there is. We cannot simply
exploit. maraud and otherwise spoil the planet for personal gain without potentially
bringing ruin to ourselves. Our children stand to lose the most as we rape the land that
is simply on loan to us from them.
These are big, even gigantic,
problems facing our world. There is no reason that we should do nothing because we may
seem to be able to do so little.
Here in our community, we could
curtail deforestation. City planners elsewhere, such as in Atlanta, have learned that
standing forests can have a direct effect upon urban air quality and temperatures. We
could encourage building developments that went up or down, rather than sprawled at one
story level endlessly to the sides. We could make natural forest areas protected and force
development into already spoiled vacated urban areas or into barren already deforested
land such as the thousands of acres of farm land that has already been deforested and lies
barren--often being subsidized to do so. When such areas are developed, there could be
regulation to require reforestation of the land. We should build in deforested areas and
require tree planting rather than deforest natural treasures to place buildings which
could set on already ruined land.
Such regulation and planning
must come from government. It does little good for someone who is environmentally
sensitive not to build on forested land if someone else who is unconcerned can do it
Why not save natural forest
areas while they still exist? If we do it now. we can still have these wonderful areas to
enjoy and pass on to our children. If we don't do it now, we will be forced to later--when
we learn that the roofs of buildings and asphalt parking lots create air that chokes us
and a climate which cannot sustain us.
The decision to no longer cut
forests will one day be forced upon us. Why wait for the crisis? Why not take rational
actions now with prevention in mind? If we wait until all natural areas are ruined before
we decide that we want them back, we will have waited too long.
VITAMIN D SUPPLEMENTATION
The controversy continues as to
whether vitamin mineral supplements are useful or simply produce expensive urine.
Although I can say that I have ever experienced any change I have noticed from
taking any nutritional supplement, I can also not deny that they may produce remarkable
changes remarkable changes in some people and may indeed produce expensive urine in
others. I do periodically take supplements because reflection on the literature and
reason suggests that I do so. Intensive exercise, stress, disease, and just about
any variable that can take a person out of the homeostatic norm can be an indication for
vitamin and/or mineral supplementation.
By and large the traditional
medical community suggests supplements are not necessary and that if a person eats from
the four food groups regularly, they are receiving all the nutrients they need, the
government is also very conservative in terms of the possible health benefits that vitamin
and minerals may afford the population but remain liberal on taxes. As we have
mentioned before, in spite of the nay saying, the medica lcommunity takes supplements
about as much as the general population and several studies demonstrate that 35% or more
of people 18 to 74 years old are taking supplements in one form or another. The USDA
performed a food consumption survey of 20,000 people and found that none of them were
receiving 100% of the RDA of 10 nutrients.
There is valid concern any time
isolated chemical compounds are put in tablets and mass marketed. The medical
community is well trained in pharmacologic contraindications, and seeing tablets and
capsules being gobbled up by the ton makes them nervous. There is an inordinate
emphasis on possible harm from taking vitamin and minerals yet it seems the medical
community more or less winks at the very real dangers that have been documented from the
use of modern medical procedures and drugs. (See chart for summary for comparisons of
dangers.) The medical person would argue that modern medical procedures are not
useful and necessary whereas vitamin and mineral supplementation is not.
Approaching nutrition on a
tablet basis is however likely not the best approach. It missed the mark of
attempting to convert the diet to its more natural wholesome form. Although vitamin
and mineral supplementation may be very helpful for certain classes of individuals under
certain circumstances, such supplementation should be considered a transition to a more
healthy whole raw fresh diet which, if properly selected and prepared, will provide the
nutrients required. Even then there remains questions such as whether produce or
animal foods grown on lands that have been nutrient depleted over the decades can ever
really produce the quality of nutriture certain individuals may need. Fortunately,
this is being reversed with the organic agriculture movement, but until crops are grown to
increase nutrient concentration rather than simply yield, important questions must be
asked about the sufficiency of our basic food supply. Needless to say, this is an area of
Adding to the list of
indications for foods rich in certain vitamins, or the use of supplements, is evidence
indicating that elderly people in nursing homes are not receiving adequate levels of
vitamin D. vitamin D is responsible for preventing rickets in children and osteomalacia in
adults. But before overt symptoms of vitamin D deficiency occur, there can be an increased
risk of fracture by as much as 30-40%. This is particularly important for older people who
are already suffering the inevitable loss in bone mass attendant with the passing of
In a study out if Boston
University, it was shown that elderly people in nursing homes with limited exposure to
sunlight had lower serum levels of the active form of vitamin D, which is
25-hydroxyvitamin D, than are indicated as appropriate amounts for skeletal health.
The elderly population might
get adequate levels of vitamin D from milk in the form of ergocalciferol or from fish, cod
liver oil, and eggs. But this population tends to move away from the consumption of
milk because of lactose intolerance and just simply the dislike for the taste of the
product, and do not consume much fish or cod liver oil or eggs due to the current negative
press about cholesterol. They are then quite dependant upon solar generation of
vitamin D by the conversion of 7-D hydrocholesterol to pre-cholecalciferol which is the
isomerized to cholecalciferol. Unfortunately, many elderly, particularly in nursing
homes, rarely are exposed to sunlight.
There are perhaps several
solutions to this problem. Certainly allowing elderly people to get out in the fresh
air and sunshine would be a step in the right direction. Regular exercise and the
consumption of fresh, whole, natural foods would also help the general physiological
health of bones. Supplementation may indeed be appropriate as an interim measure to
raise plasma levels of vitamin D until sunlight and quality nutrition take over.
Ann R., An evaluation of the relative contributions of exposure to sunlight and of
diet to the circulation concentrations of 25-hydroxyvitamin D in an elderly nursing home
in Boston, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 51, No. 6, June
1990, pg. 1075.
A recent study out of Harvard
has shown widespread variability in the use of transfusions among physicians, as well as
deficiencies in physicians knowledge about the risks and indications for the
procedure. Transfusion risk was estimated correctly by fewer than half of the
physicians surveyed and only 31% responded correctly to a set of four questions regarding
transfusion indications. It is also interesting that attending physicians had lower
knowledge than did residents, but exhibited more confidence in the knowledge that they
had. On the other hand, residents allowed their decisions to be strongly influenced
by the desires of attending physicians. Sixty one percent of the residents surveyed
showed that they ordered transfusions even though they felt that they were unnecessary and
did so at least once a month because a senior physician had suggested that they do it.
Evidence continues to mount
demonstrating the widening scope of danger with transfusions. At the same time, more
radical blood intensive procedures are on the upsurge increasing the supposed need for
Sometimes the obvious is not
necessarily correct. The logic of if blood is lost, blood should be replaced
is perhaps true if the exact blood that is lost could be replaced. However, the
blood that is received out of blood banks is not the same blood that was lost and amounts
to the most intimate relationship a person could have with another. Many of those
contributing to blood banks are people you might not desire to drink from the same cup
with, let alone consume their blood into your circulatory system. Some critics of
transfusions argue that it is nothing more than a modern form of cannibalism. This
may be hyperbole, but does give attention to the procedure for what it in fact is.
Although increasing tests are
used to screen donor blood, these tests are not perfect and are by no means comprehensive
and able to remove all possible risks. For a patient who is perhaps already weakened
and immunologically compromised, to have to deal with the antigenic load presented by a
bolus of foreign blood may do more harm than good. Unknowns always lurk in the
shadows as dangers. People who now have AIDS as a result of transfusions are sad
reminders of this.
Often alternate, more safe
methods are available. Blood loss often does not so much require the replacement of
red blood cells as it does replacement of intravascular fluid volume. thus various
parental solutions containing electrolytes, glucose, amino acids and so forth are
available which serve to replace volume loss yet do not create either the short-term
potential risk or long-term hazards. The New England Journal of Medicine recently
reported that a patient with leukemia who was treated with ablative chemotherapy survived
with no transfusions at all given. This particular procedure pretty much universally
is believed to require blood transfusions.
Couple these considerations
with the information revealed at Harvard that most physicians do not even properly
understand the indications for transfusions or the risks, and it becomes clear that this
is a procedure that should not be viewed lightly nor received without careful
July 25, 1990:476.
England Journal of Medicine, 322-11:777.
Although it is argued and
increasingly assumed that lifestyle changes such as cessation of smoking, increased
exercise, decreased stress, and improved diet can prevent cardiovascular disease, hard
evidence for regression has been by and large lacking. Some controlled data has
shown that there can be regression of atherosclerosis renal and femoral arteries, but
little other than anecdotal evidence is available for coronary atherosclerosis regression.
A recent study out of the
University of California, however, has shown that lifestyle modification of one year
duration can significantly regress atherosclerosis. A heterogenous group of 28
patients were assigned to a test group using a low fat vegetarian diet, no smoking, stress
management training, and moderate exercise. A control group of 20 were followed
using similar coronary angiography parameters.
The average stenosis in the
vessels regressed by almost 17% in the experimental group undergoing the lifestyle
changes, whereas those in the control group progressed between 15 and 18-1/2%.
Overall, 82% of the lifestyle change group had an average change toward regression.
Note that this regression
occurred outside of a hospital environment and that serum lipid levels improved similar to
patients who undergo pharmacologic treatment for adverse lipid profiles. When you
consider that atherosclerosis is a disease that progresses over a period of many decades,
improvement of this magnitude is highly significant. Additionally, the perfusion of
the myocardium through its coronary vessels is a fourth power function of the diameter of
these vessels. Therefore, even a small increase in the diameter is dramatically
magnified in the perfusion of heart muscle. So in the patients who had experienced
regression with only one year of lifestyle modification, the effects on their heart muscle
would have been dramatic.
The study also showed that
those experiencing the most advanced atherosclerosis are the ones who benefited the most
from the lifestyle modification. It is also interesting that the average guidelines
for our populations such as maintaining fat to 30% or less as occurred on the control
group are not sufficient since in this controlled group atherosclerosis progressed.
What a powerful piece of
evidence this is to support the value of lifestyle modification in not only preventing
disease, but working toward its cure.
July 25, 1990:476.
England Journal of Medicine, 322-11:777.
England Journal of Medicine, March 15, 1990;322-11:777.
July 25, 1990;264:476.
THE QUESTIONABLE VALUE OF ADVERTISING
It is commonly assumed that the
more a company advertises, the more successful it is. It is indeed true that usually the
more successful companies advertise the heaviest... usually. But is such advertising the
cause or the result of success? In other words, which came first? A successful company
with healthy profits may find it easy to advertise. Thus the illusion can be created that
advertising is the cause of, rather than the result of the company's success.
The most avid promoters of the
value of advertising are found in the advertising departments of media which profits from
the sale of advertising space. Skeptics of the value of advertising are usually those who
carefully measure the return from the cost of advertising. Many small companies running
campaigns on radio and in the local newspaper, for example, find that they are usually
fortunate to retrieve the cost of the advertising from the sales created by the
On the other hand, it is true
that sufficient exposure of a product will indeed create sales. Whether these sales offset
the cost of the advertising is the issue of debate.
The are many companies which
have achieved notable, if not extraordinary, success with essentially no advertising at
all. A recent example is the Newmans Own food line. This is a company begun by Paul
Newman which markets salad dressings, lemonade, pop corn, and other new products. In 1990
they will have achieved 50 million dollars in sales. Another example is Fabrege, which
once led the cosmetics industry but had used no advertising to do so.
Sometimes advertising programs
become battles of cleverness, cuteness, or elaborateness. The most interested
audience becomes the respective advertising departments in the vying companies
rather than the public.
Nevertheless, when people
embark upon business, they almost universally assume that there is some special magic to
advertising and that although they themselves may not respond to the idiotic ploys used in
some advertising messages, the public will respond to theirs. Who, for example, really
decides to switch from Coke to Pepsi or vice versa based on whether Elton John or Michael
Jackson does the advertisement? And why should an intelligent person be moved by the Beef
Industry Council advertising campaign "Real Food for Real People" using as their
star James Garner, who is recovering from bypass surgery?
There is the belief that the
"masses" are evidently responding to some subtle psychological pressure...
surely this must be true or the companies would not spend the dollars they do on
advertising. The trick is to simply figure out, with the help of MBA's and advertising
agencies, what the tricks are.
Modern advertising can, in many
instances, reflect the down side of what has happened in American industry. True quality,
true product merit has been replaced with flash and glitter. Emphasis has been
placed on creating public perceptions, titillating emotions, and tricking rather
than building product substance and educating the consumer about it.
But the public is not easily
duped. Recent polls show that a large percentage of the public wish to choose products
based on their wholesomeness, their safety, and their environmental responsibility, and
will even pay additionally to obtain them. Thus companies and businesses which are
sensitive to these issues will emerge in the coming decades as the leaders in a new,
more responsible and quality oriented American marketplace.
MORE ON THE LOGIC OF VEGETATION-BASED
George Bernard Shaw said,
The average age (longevity) of a meat eater is 63. I am on the verge of 85 and
still work as hard as ever. I have lived quite long enough and I am trying to die;
but I simply cannot do it. A single beef steak would finish me; but I cannot bring
myself to swallow it. I am oppressed with the dread of living forever. This is
the only disadvantage of vegetarianism. His sentiments reflect those we have
discussed before about the emotional difficulty of living too long. He also is
arguing that a vegetation-based diet somehow adds years to life. We have discussed
before the logic of a more vegetation-based diet and I want to continue on with this topic
and expand upon it here.
Perhaps one of the reasons that
animal-based products have become such a mainstay is that two of the four food groups
promoted as necessary for proper nutrition are based on animal products, namely diary and
meats. It is an interesting study to determine how the four food groups were
derived, but we can guess and guess correctly, that behind it are strong financial forces.
In 1930, there were 12 food groups which seemed too difficult for the public to
remember and this was changed to the 7 food groups in 1944. This was subsequently
changed to the basic 4 with strong input from meat and dairy organizations. From
1950 on, also the extravagant American farm became possible. By extravagant here I
mean financially profitable to convert vegetation crops into meat products which is highly
The 4 food groups became
entrenched as sound nutrition in spite of early evidence of decreased life span in meat
eaters as opposed to vegetation eaters. When you thing about it, almost all of the
current information regarding the hazards of diet can be linked directly to animal
products. The solution advocated is vegetation products. Obesity is
practically impossible on a fresh, whole, predominantly raw vegetation diet. Fiber
is plentiful in whole vegetable foods, but practically non-existent in muscle fiber.
So the modern advise to maintain proper body weight, consume less fats, increase
fiber fit perfectly with a vegetation-based diet, but not with an animal-based diet.
In spite of this, the traditional medical and nutritional communities by and large
poo poo vegetation-based diets as faddish and even dangerous citing potential vitamin
deficiencies such as B12 and protein inadequacy. This is done in spite of the
evidence that millions of people survive and survive well on pure vegetation-based diets
around the world.
Dr. Klaper, in his book Vegan
Nutrition, which we will be carrying in the Wysong Library, states that according to
the four food group diet plan a good nutritious day of eating could be a breakfast of
bacon and eggs and a glass of milk, a lunch of a cheeseburger, french fries and a
milkshake, and a dinner featuring beefsteak or fried chicken or fish with baked potatoes
and sour cream. Ice cream is often eaten for desert and chocolate candy, potato
chips or bacon rinds for snacks and treats. He says, and I quote, Consider all
the animal fat that lies in ambush within these meals. The egg yolks, bacon and
cheese are heavy with triglycerides and cholesterol. Even more fats lurk in the
flesh of the beef, burger and dinner steak or chicken breast or fish fillet, as well as in
the butter fat in the sour cream, milkshake and chocolate. These foods contain a
total of 287 grams of fat - that is 65 teaspoons - exceeding the RDA by 441%. These
meals also pack 1127 milligrams of cholesterol, smothering the RDA of 250 milligrams by
451%. This eating style creates a flood of animal fat coursing through the blood
stream every 3-4 hours. After eating a cheeseburger and milkshake or other fatty
meal, the blood actually becomes greasy with animal fat - and stays that way for up to 4
As we have learned in previous
reviews, this lipemia which follows high fat meals is not only wrong in quantity, but
wrong in nature. The fats which are processed are usually oxidized and it is this
oxidized form of cholesterol as well as other oxidized unsaturated fats which may be
directly linked to atherosclerotic lesions as well as a wide range of other degenerative
In coursing through the
literature, it is rare that we happen upon articles describing disease as a result of
vegetation-based diets other than that which occurs in impoverished nations receiving
things like processed cassava, white rice and milled flour.
These diseases of deficiency which do not speak against the
whole, raw natural diet that we advocate in the Review, are paled in the shadow of the
diseases of excess which are prevalent in meat eating societies who overconsume fats and
But perhaps more timely and
convincing arguments than even the nutritional merits of a vegetation-based diet lie in
those which speak to the environmental danger we are subject to as a result of
animal-based foods. To convert the protein in corn and soybeans, for example, into a
pound of beefsteak requires about a 16 to 1 ratio. That is it takes 16 pounds of
these vegetation foods to yield the 1 pound of steak. But that is only the beginning
of the problem. The inefficiency goes far deeper and broader. Think of the
fuel necessary to run the tractors to create the 16 fold excess grains and to fuel the
trucks to ship the grains to the animals, to run the power refrigeration units to keep the
meats fresh and to pump the billions of gallons of water to irrigate the fields and run
the slaughter house operations and to create the pesticides and herbicides to generate the
16 fold increase in crop yields. In summary it requires 60 calories of petroleum
energy to harvest 1 food calorie from animal flesh. In contrast, vegetation products
yield 20 calories for each 1 calorie of fuel energy invested. One acre of land can
produce either 165 pounds of beef or 20,000 pounds of potatoes.
As mentioned in a previous
Review, it can be argued that most of the worlds woes can in one way or another be
either directly or indirectly linked to this extravagant production of animal foods for
humans. For example, it is argued that changing to a vegetation-based diet would
essentially eliminate our dependence on imported oil. If Americans reduced their
meat consumption by 25 to even 50%, the energy saved would result in our country meeting
its own energy needs. It is the flow of oil that has and does create world tension
and potential military conflict.
Water is becoming a precious
commodity, yet animal food production uses up half of all consumable water in our country.
Not only is it a great user of potable water, but it is one of the most egregious
polluters of fresh water in the world.
There are all kinds of
interesting and compelling facts that further impress upon us the logic of a
vegetation-based diet. As we have mentioned, if everyone in America would simply
abstain from any animal product one day a week, the food resources preserved could feed 60
million people. Put another way, the grain and water resources required to create a
single beefsteak could feed 16 people directly. Put another way, if Americans would
decrease their meat consumption by only 10%, enough food would be saved to feed every
person in the world who would otherwise starve to death this year.
We have talked before about how
much of the clearing of rainforests is to create pasture land for cattle to produce cheap
hamburgers for the U.S. market. We are trading these incredible Earth treasures and
perhaps an essential part of the Earths lungs for cheeseburgers and hotdogs.
Translated another way, it is argued that every person who changes to a pure
vegetation diet saves one acre of trees every year.
Much more can be found in the
book by Dr. Klaper and the one we referred you to previously in the Wysong Library by
Robins entitled Diet for a New America. Klaper, who is an M.D., argues that
humans are not adapted for meat eating. He goes through several argumentations to
attempt to prove this, some of which I have included in the chart on the back of the
summary for this month. He makes a couple of interesting points. One is we
should imagine ourselves running up to the nearest cow or bull, jumping on its back,
opening our mouths, and trying to sink our teeth into it to bring it down. He makes
the argument that we would have a tough time even penetrating the hide with the teeth and
the jaw structure that we have and therefore we are not adapted as carnivores. He
also makes mention of the fact that if we were true carnivores, we would walk into a
butcher shop, purchase a large slab of raw cow muscle, leave the store and sit down at the
nearest park bench, open the wrapper, and devour the blood flesh with gusto.
Although this is repulsive to most of us, there are few plant-derived foods which
would elicit the same sort of revulsion.
Again, if you find these
thoughts compelling, dont attempt to make a conversion rapidly or radically.
Try to become informed and as we learn more here, we will pass these on to you in
the form of topics and resource materials which will give you practical information on how
to convert your diet to a more vegetation-based one.
March 9, 1990;263;10.
Vegan Nutrition, Pure and Simple by
for a New America by Robins
RECTANGULARIZING THE LIFE CURVE
We have talked in previous
reviews about how that the goal of the health professions as well as that for each of us
individually should be to square the vitality curve. If we plot vitality on a
vertical axis and aging years on the horizontal, we would like to be active, alive, and
vital right on out until the very end of our genetic life limit and then die rapidly much
as a leaf falls from a tree. The idea is to add life to years and not necessary
years to life.
For those experiencing
degenerative or debilitating disease beginning in their 20s or 30s or 40s,
the curve begins a downward slope when the individual looses vitality, increases trips to
the doctor, stays in the hospital, begins to accumulate a pharmacy in the bathroom cabinet
and in effect slowly dies over sometimes a period of decades.
The style with which we age may
indeed be altered, but the average life span is fixed genetically. The geometry of
the shape of the vitality curve has gradually become more rectangular, but will not
advance further until the underlying causes of chronic degenerative diseases are
addressed. To review these vitality curves, look to the back of the summary sheet
which accompanies this months tape.
One of the most common
misconceptions the public as well as the professions have is that we are actually altering
through modern technology someway the potential life span of humans. In actual fact,
we have done nothing to alter the genetic end limit to life or life span. We have
altered life expectancy. The fact that life expectancy was about 47 in 1900 and is about
73 or 74 today confuses interpretations. The reason expectancy, that is the average
length of life of a population, has increased since the early 1900s is because of a
dramatic decrease in infant mortality. In other words, if a population is two people
and one of the people lives to the age of 80 and the other dies at the age of two
days, the life expectancy for that population is gong to be 40. If the youngster
lived to be 60, the average would be 70. Please note however that this has nothing
to do with the life span or the ability of an organism to live beyond a certain number of
years that seems to be set for each species.
The contemporary medical
paradigm would argue that life span is increasing and thus we should continue to pursue
further increases on toward immortality. Also it argues that death results from
disease and that therefore immortality can be achieved via the elimination of disease.
Further it suggests that disease is best treated with medication and therefore we should
seek more perfect medical and surgical treatments to help achieve immortality. And
finally, it argues that since aging is simply some sort of physical aberration,
genetically or physiologically, that our goal should be to control the process to obtain
Much of the misunderstanding
results from results from interchanging terminology. Maximum Life Potential
would be the age at death of the longest lived member of a species. For humans this
is believed to be about 115 years. On the other hand, Life Span is the age at
whichan average individual would die if there were no disease or accidents. For
humans that is about 85 years and as far as we know this has been constant since records
have been tabulated. On the other hand, Life Expectancy is the expected age
at death of an average individual in a population allowing all factors for mortality such
as disease and accident. That is approximately 73 to 74
tears and has been rising. If we can keep these definitions clearly separate and
apart, then understanding what the possibilities are in terms of life alterations become
more realistic. We can only hope for expectancy to reach span, not immortality.
As is true with any popular
paradigm, it gains power when the economic forces derive comfort from it. There are
huge medical and nursing industries which survive, grow, and thrive as a result of
misconceptions about aging and vitality. If the basic paradigm would suggest that
our hope for a better life would come through technology and medical intervention, then
such technology and such medical industry will be relied on heavily and will thrive.
On the other hand, the self-care movement would argue prevention and more holistic
and natural approaches to health and disease be undertaken. This movement threatens the
paradigm. It is for this reason more than any other that those who espouse more
natural methods of healing come under attack by the reigning medical powers. The
self-care movement indeed encourages more critical consumption of medical services and
autonomy from professional dominance with individual free choice replacing it.
If we are to deal with the
reality of the aging process we must understand that the human span is fixed and not
simply haplessly wait around without trying to affect our own health and vitality in hope
of a magic injection which will turn off the aging process. The real problem before
us and the one most of us fear is the one of infirmity and senescence. Being dead
does not bother me nearly so much as how I am going to get dead. Dying in the middle
of my sleep at a ripe old age having watched my children grow and having come to know my
grandchildren is far different than being struck with some sort of debilitating and
painful process that lingers over many years wiping out all family resources.
Parenthetically, I might add that 2/3 of all those in nursing homes spend all their
assets within 3 months and subject the family to trauma, pain, and tragedy.
Disability is to be feared far more than death.
It should be mentioned that
some would argue that life span in some shangrila type societies is beyond the 115 year
maximum. Most of these societies have been studied carefully such as certain Russian
groups, the Hunzas, and the Vilcabamba of Ecuador. However, in studies of all these
societies nothing beyond the age of 115 has been confirmed. It should be mentioned
that in those societies that do seem to have many long lived individuals we do not find
increased medical service but rather a high level of physical activity all the way through
life such as heavy hand farming into old age, the absence of obesity, moderation, no
retirement, a sense of usefulness and purpose, the integrity of family, and a meaningful
contributing life to the very end.
There are certain aging
diseases that can greatly accelerate the process although none of them are an exact mimic
of aging. Examples include progeria, Werners syndrome,
Rothmundss syndrome, and Cockaynes syndrome.
The mechanism of aging has long
been studied and is currently being studied with much intensity. It appears that
debility and death are a result of a linear decrease in organ function. Each of our
organ systems has a reserve capacity in the resting state.
For example, the heart can increase its output by a factor
of 6, the kidney can function with over 80% of its nephrons lost, a person can survive
with one lung removed, and over ¾ of the liver can be lost and a person still survives.
It is the loss of this reserve over time that does us in. We live because we
are in homeostasis with our environment and can endure its threats. As we lose organ
reserve over time, the threats from the environment become more life threatening. As
the linear loss of reserve proceed , organ function will decline below the necessary level
to even withstand a minor environmental assault and death will result. At age 85,
over 50% of the original organ reserve has been lost.
Another way to look at aging
and death is that the universe is consistent with the second law of thermodynamics
proceeds toward ever increasing entropy, toward ever increasing disorganization and more
probable states. A living organism has low entropy, is highly improbable and very
organized. In other words, the universe will not be one day filled with stars, solar
systems, hot and cold, motion and stillness, rather, everything will be ultimately cold ,
dark, still and random. This same process that life is subject to.
Gerontology, the study of
aging, distinct from geriatrics which is the care of the aged, is focused primarily on
aging at the cellular level. It would seem that since certain malignant cells, for
example HeLa cells derived from cervical cancer, appear to be immortal. Eggs and
spermatazoa are also immortal with the history of any species being simply the success of
the dividing over and over of the original fertilized seed. Do secrets lie therein
that would give us the opportunity for immortality? Unfortunately malignant cells
consume their host and thus eventually die. Germ cells, on the other hand, carry
only ½ of the organism and are highly specialized. Other considerations that must
be given before we take the injection giving us immortality would be the cost to the
species. Life and death permit adaptation of a population to environmental stress
and thus help insure survivability of the population. An organism that contained immortal
cells but which was tuned to a particular environment would not be able to survive if that
environment changed beyond the ability of homeostatic mechanisms to adapt. There are
also considerations we have discussed before in the Review such as the stress, the trauma,
the grief, the emotional difficulty of out-living friends, relatives, children and so
forth. Growing old is not for sissies as Betty Davis once said. The older you
get the stronger you must be.
Although Carrell experiments
originally suggested that fibroblasts in culture could apparently divide forever,
subsequent experiments showed that these cultures had been contaminated with fresh chick
embryo fibroblasts during the culturing processes. In 1961, Hayflick and Moorhead
published a significant paper showing that there is a life span to fibroblasts and tissue
culture which is at a limit of 60 divisions and no more. This has since become known
as the Hayflick Limit. There is no evidence that the cells stop dividing as a result
of toxins or infectious agents or problems within the growth media, but that there is an
inherent limit to the doubling period. If the cultures are frozen and then thawed
several years later, the cells simply go on to complete their normal number of doublings
up to the limit of 60. It is interesting that the maximum doubling number is
proportional to the maximum life span of the species. For example, the Galapagos
turtle has a maximum life span of 175 years and a maximum doubling of cells of 125.
Mans life span is about 115 with maximum doubling of approximately 60 whereas the
mouse has a life span is about 4 years with a maximum doubling of about 28.
Form this it would appear that
of one could effect the doubling, one could effect life span. However, ot can be
argued that the doublings are a result of an overall aging process and not the cause of
it. Ot appears that although some organ functions may decline linearly with age, it
is the end stage exponential decline that robs the organism of organ reserve and results
in cessation of life.
Although cell longevity studies
are highly interesting and may provide clues to one day increasing life span, at this
point in time the potential problems from attempting to increase cell life span, such as
the formation of malignancy, are cause for more concern than hope.
In previous reviews, we talked
about how the dramatically decreased incidence of many diseases in the early 1900s
were the primary factor in an increasing life expectancy. These diseases would
include diptheria, typhoid fever, syphilis, measles, whooping cough, small pox and others.
We have also talked about how that it is more convincing that the decline of these
diseases were a result of just better hygiene and better food distribution than
intervention or any specific medical measure such as vaccines or chemotherapeutic agents.
So although we may have decreased early mortality which dramatically increases the
average life expectancy, there is no evidence that we have done anything to effect life
span. Another way to look at this is that from age 40 life expectancy has increased
relatively little since early 1900s and the increase form age 75 is barely
perceptible and the increase beyond the age of 75 cannot be determined at a maximum of 85
years on average. This is a part of a bell-shaped distribution curve with deaths
occurring before and after up to a peak limit of the 115 years as the maximum life
Thus the focus in aging should
not be on the development of new vaccines or gene splicing techniques to create perpetual
cells. Rather it must be on permitting us to attain our natural life span. To
do that we must overcome the debilitating killers that slope the vitality curve
prematurely. These include atherosclerosis, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, emphysema,
and cirrhosis which cause almost 90% of all disability and prematurre death. We come
back to the strategies we have discussed again and again in the Review. Namely,
exercise, cessation of cigarette smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, moving the
diet to more fresh whole natural foods which will automatically take care of obesity,
eliminating and avoiding environmental toxins, and striving for psychological health.
For the latter we can develop techniques to suppress the importance of adverse
events so that we are not overcome by them such as the use of humor, altruism, mild denial
and so forth as well as not putting ourselves into positions of helplessness and chronic
frustration. As we have mentioned before, to be healthy psychologically and thus
physically we must feel some what autonomous and in control of our situation and destiny.
We must get ourselves into a position where if problems occur we can do something
about it. And lastly, of course, we should avoid situations which would result in
injury. Appropriate steps in this direction will result in rectangularizing the
vitality curve. This would mean staving off disease conditions that rob our bodies
of their organ reserve, diseases which make us more susceptible to debility and
premature death. We thus would look forward to a full and productive life with a
very short compressed period of senescence culminating in rapid death.
Not everyone ages the same.
There is a plasticity in aging that varies with every individual. Some are youthful
and remain youthful in regard to certain attributes in age and age rapidly in others.
There are certain markers of aging such as graying of the hair, loss of skin
elasticity, the development of opacity in the lens, the increase in rigidity of the larger
arteries as well as loss of capacity of organs such as the ability to detoxify, to excrete
waste, to exchange gases. And so forth. Some people may rapidly develop aging
signs such as the individual in the early 20s who turns gray. Certain changes
we might have to concede since there appears to be little we can do about them. The
change in skin elasticity, the graying of the hair, the increased rigidity in arteries,
and the changes occurring in the lens of the eye are examples. Bu it is hard to
prove we cant do something about it even these since everyone is individualistic and
it would therefore be impossible to prove by controlled study (since you would have to be
in each group control and experimental at the same time) that hair graying
could not be delayed.
Journal of the American Medical Association, March 9, 1990;263;10.