Meta-analysis comparing 18 previous studies on the relationship between meat consumption and psychological health: “Our study does not support meat avoidance as a strategy to benefit psychological health.”
While carefully avoiding any conclusion relating to causation, this new study – which compared “18 previous studies on the relationship between meat consumption and psychological health (which was narrowed down to depression, anxiety, deliberate self-harm, stress perception, and quality of life)” and which included 149,559 meat-consumers and 8,584 meat-abstainers from Europe, Asia, North America, and Oceania – nonetheless found a striking correlation.
“The researchers found ‘clear evidence’ that those who abstained from consuming meat tended to have higher rates or risk of depression, anxiety, and self-harm compared to those who did not.”
Quite a bit higher, in fact! The Toronto Sun, in a report on this study, notes that “the study found people eating a plant-based diet were twice as likely to take prescription drugs for mental illness and just about three times more likely to contemplate suicide. It also indicated that 33% of vegetarians suffer from depression or anxiety.” That is pretty dramatic, and it is not an isolated phenomenon. As study author Urska Dobersek, an assistant professor at the University of Southern Indiana, states,
“‘My co-authors and I were truly surprised at how consistent the relation between meat-avoidance and the increased prevalence of mental illness was across populations. As we stated in our conclusion, ‘Our study does not support meat avoidance as a strategy to benefit psychological health,’ Dobersek told PsyPost.”
That is certainly a gentle, and politically-correct, way to express the matter! Dobersek does, however, make a significant, if carefully-phrased, recommendation:
“Our study provides further evidence that because humans are omnivores, it is illogical and potentially unhealthy to recommend “eating a varied diet” followed by a long list of foods, beverages, and nutrients to avoid (e.g., meat, eggs, sugar, salt, fat, fruit juices, cholesterol, etc.). This is especially true, as my co-authors demonstrated, when the proscriptions and recommendations are based on a ‘fictional discourse on diet-disease relations.’”
To which I would only add, in the words of the “Selkirk Grace,”
“Some have meat and canna eat, and some have nae that want it. But we have meat, and we can eat, so let the Lord be thankéd!”
There is a lot of mixed information, and most likely a lot of misinformation, out there about the current outbreak / pandemic of what, for simplicity, I’ll call C-19. There are, it seems to me, two general category errors that a lot of people are making, currently.
The first is panic / gloom-and-doom pessimism: “It’s going to kill us all! Millions dead! It’s the end of the world as we know it! And it’s all Trump’s fault!” To people on that side of the spectrum, let me say, take a chill-pill. For one thing, there is no situation that it helped by panic. For another, the stark and, yes, frightening “worst-case scenarios” are precisely that: what might happen if governments and people do nothing.
But a lot is being done. Social distancing and voluntary isolation – even, yes, government-enforced shutdowns and quarantines, as little as us liberty-minded folks like them – do a great deal to break the chain of transmission. So do closing borders, although it can certainly be argued that that should have been done sooner!
Moreover, there are tremendous efforts underway in labs across the nation and world to bring new antiviral therapies and even vaccines online, and there is a lot of promising being done. We are by no means out of the woods yet; but the chance of a mass die-off is, while not zero, at least fairly unlikely. Particularly if proper precautions, such as those in the graphic above, are utilized.
And that brings me to the other significant error I see in this: the idea that “oh, it’s just a bad cold!” Or, “oh, it’s just another flu” – with the assumption being that it’s not that big of a deal; it’s an over-reaction, or worse yet a hoax, and I don’t really have to change my behavior or worry about this thing.
That attitude, frankly, could get you killed. Or worse yet, get someone you care about killed: your grandparent, your friend or relative who is immuno-suppressed or has an underlying condition you didn’t know about. Too many knowledgeable people, who have no reason to be advancing a hoax, have sounded warnings about this for me to take it lightly.
I was, frankly, horrified to see the videos of college kids on Spring Break in Florida hanging all over each other on the beach like nothing was wrong. Yes, when you’re that age, you think you’re immortal, invincible – right up until something happens. Stupidity shouldn’t be lethal, but it often is – and it’s not always the stupid one who suffers.
So it’s not only or even primarily what might happen to them; it’s what they may take back to their communities, and more vulnerable members of those communities. And while younger people do tend to have milder effects from this thing, they’re not immune: 1 in 5 of those hospitalized in the US are younger adults, between 20 and 44.
But if ignorance, foolishness, and chance-taking go with the young, what is even more frustrating is older adults, including some who should be thoughtful, intelligent, and responsible, who are not yet taking this with the seriousness it deserves. Most of those are skeptics because they assume that it is an attempted Deep State takeover, or part of the vendetta against President Trump, or both.
To be fair, I think there are very real dangers to our Constitutional rights and civil liberties stemming from government actions to limit the effects of this virus, and they will increase the longer the threat continues, and the more drastic the steps taken to contain it. “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” as the old saying goes.
This is particularly the case since, unlike (for instance) World War Two, in which the American people had to put up with some pretty extreme government limitations – including rationing of fuel and foodstuffs, censorship of mail, and even limitations on travel – there is not necessarily a clear and obvious end-game.
The war against the Axis had a definitive conclusion: surrender, and the signing of peace-treaties. The war against a virus isn’t likely to end on the deck of a battleship. Like the also-nebulous “War on Terror,” there will always be a new virus, a new threat, and a new (or worsening) temptation to misuse power, even for good reasons. And of course, not everyone in the government has pure motives, and the Deep State does exist.
But that is a separate (though related) issue from limiting the spread of a dangerous virus. If the government oversteps, that’s a problem; but it is, in my view, a more serious and immediate problem to refuse to take the danger posed by C-19 seriously, or neglect to take appropriate steps to mitigate it, just because one is concerned that the government will take Rahm Emanuel’s infamous dictum (“never let a good crisis go to waste”) to heart.
At minimum, the suggestions in the infographic above provide reasonable, common-sense precautions that will help prevent or limit the spread not only of C-19, but of other dangerous viruses as well. The top two apply to everyone (and the instructions for hand-washing should apply to all times, not just pandemics); the lower one is for those whose state or municipality has not already imposed more stringent restrictions.
Yes, by all means let’s keep a weather-eye on the government! But in the meantime, let’s also do what we can to prevent C-19 from becoming even more of a problem than it is already. The life you save may be your own… or a beloved grandparent’s.
“When new, virulent diseases emerge, such as SARS and Covid-19, the race begins to find new vaccines and treatments for those affected. As the current crisis unfolds, governments are enforcing quarantine and isolation, and public gatherings are being discouraged.
“Health officials took the same approach 100 years ago, when influenza was spreading around the world. The results were mixed. But records from the 1918 pandemic suggest one technique for dealing with influenza — little-known today — was effective. Some hard-won experience from the greatest pandemic in recorded history could help us in the weeks and months ahead.
“Put simply, medics found that severely ill flu patients nursed outdoors recovered better than those treated indoors. A combination of fresh air and sunlight seems to have prevented deaths among patients, and infections among medical staff… The open-air regimen remained popular until antibiotics replaced it in the 1950s.”
However, as many are aware, some diseases are becoming antibiotic-resistant, these days; while others, such as coronavirus, are viral, and therefore cannot be treated with antibiotics anyway (although antibiotics may help with secondary infections, if those are not resistant).
I remember my mother always wanted us to get as much fresh air and sunshine as possible when we were sick – and yes, it did seem to help mitigate the severity and duration of colds and flu (both of which are viral). At the very least, spending as much time outside as possible can’t hurt! I can think of no health situation which fresh air and sunlight would worsen.
I certainly hope and pray that the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic does not end up having the kind of global impact – and especially, is not as damaging and deadly here in the US, and in other Western countries, where cases have so far been few in number – as some doomsayers seem to take perverse pleasure in predicting.
But if nothing else, I hope it does point out the weakness and danger of globalism: both open borders, and the off-shoring of major chunks of our economy, especially manufacturing. Cheap consumer goods (and cheap – not to say exploited – labor) are not the only things that can circulate freely, in such an environment.
Perhaps most sobering is the fact that we are reliant on China – China, the source of the outbreak, and the country hardest-hit by it – for many of our drugs!
“Everything from antibiotics to chemotherapy drugs, from antidepressants to Alzheimer’s medications to treatments for HIV/AIDS, are frequently produced by Chinese manufacturers. What’s more, the most effective breathing masks and the bulk of other personal protective equipment — key to containing the spread of coronavirus and protecting health care workers — and even the basic syringe are largely made in China.”
Another article notes that “the Food and Drug Administration estimates that at least 80 percent of the active ingredients found in all of America’s medicines come from abroad – primarily China,” and asks us to “imagine if China turned off that spigot.” Or if we are forced to turn it off ourselves, due to issues like coronavirus! A third article points out the hazards of contamination of generic drugs manufactured abroad:
“What’s responsible for the repeated drug safety lapses? The offshoring of the American drug supply to China and, to a lesser extent, India during the past couple of decades.”
“China and India now manufacture about 80% of the drugs consumed in the U.S. This figure understates China’s dominance because many of the active ingredients in the Indian manufactured drugs come from China. The U.S. doesn’t even manufacture vital drugs like antibiotics anymore [emphasis added], with the last penicillin factory closing in 2004.”
That is chilling, or should be.
Particularly in the face of the current situation, in which reliable supplies of drugs are critical! But unfortunately, as USA Today notes,
“The coronavirus outbreak is sparking fears of drug shortages in the U.S., largely due to its disruption of pharmaceutical supplies from China and India. The Food and Drug Administration has warned of shortages in one drug due to the coronavirus, while penicillin shipments to the U.S. from China have dried up [again, emphasis added]. The FDA said it expects the outbreak of COVID-19 to cause ‘potential disruptions to supply or shortages of critical medical products in the U.S.'”
And to make matters worse, as yet another article points out, “the U.S. is woefully unprepared to address even minor disruptions in the supply of these drugs.” This article continues,
“Medicines can be used as a weapon of war against the United States,” Rosemary Gibson, a senior adviser on health care issues at the bioethics-focused Hastings Center and co-author of China Rx: Exposing the Risks of America’s Dependence on China for Medicine, told lawmakers last month. “Supplies can be withheld. Medicines can be made with lethal contaminants or sold without any real medicine in them, rendering them ineffective.”
Then there is the whole issue of “just in time” logistics, a primary feature of the modern economy. This may have cost and efficiency advantages when everything’s working smoothly, but it leaves us highly vulnerable to disruptions in overseas sources of manufacture and supply, whether these originate in pandemics like coronavirus, international conflicts, other forms of social or political disruption, rising fuel prices, or other causes.
While the issue is obviously most vital in the fields of pharmaceuticals and medical technology, the reality is that we need to seriously rethink our entire approach to the so-called global economy, starting with a clear-eyed understanding that independence and sovereignty begin with being able to supply our own needs from our own resources and manufacturing capability, here at home.
Anything less leaves us dangerously vulnerable to disruptions abroad.
This blog article in Psychology Today traces the top five causes of the epidemic of depression here in the U.S. (and in fact, throughout much of the world). These include:
1. The erosion of traditional social structures and communities. “A gradual disintegration of the social fabric, which has closely paralleled industrial and technological growth, has resulted in greater isolation and loneliness… we have become increasingly disconnected from family, friends, and neighbors. Urbanization and the breakup of the extended family and rural community are leading causes of this social atomization.”
2. Changes in modes of communication. “Following the physical upheaval of urbanization, the world has been swept by a tidal wave of electronic innovation… [The] alarming rise in depression among U.S. youth during the period 2004–2015… coincides with the birth and rapid growth of smartphone usage during the same period. While this does not prove a cause-effect relationship, it would seem to reinforce an urgent need to closely examine the impact of smartphone usage on the communication skills and psychological well-being of young people.”
3. Changes in Diet. “Consumption of processed foods, which mostly contain a serious imbalance of omega fats, large quantities of sugar, and a lack of fermented ingredients, are radically affecting the delicate balance of our gut flora. A landmark comparison between North Africans and North Americans revealed sharp declines in bacterial diversity among the North American group, including genera containing the psychobiotic strains… Is fast food and processed food throwing our microbiome, that is, our internal environment, into chaos in the same way that pollution is destroying the macrobiome?”
[Note: the Weston A. Price Foundation has been saying this since 1999; Dr. Price himself raised the alarm regarding processed foods vs traditional dietary patterns, back in the 1930s and 40s. This is not new information! But it’s finally beginning to be recognized by the mainstream.]
4. The intense competition surrounding education among industrialized nations. “Korea, Japan, China, and to a growing degree, Western nations, are experiencing an exponential rise in youth depression… fierce competition in the academic arena, in which academic success is equated with social and economic “success” by parents, is leading to a loss of personal autonomy and acute stress. Secondary schools are now largely focused on exam-centered curricula… marked by a lack of content related to life skills, social-emotional learning, and wellbeing in general.”
5. The familiar socio-economic suspects, including war and poverty. “Nations strongly affected by conflict and extreme poverty, with an emphasis on extreme, rank relatively high on the depression scale and low in happiness and satisfaction. Nonetheless, the relationship between GDP and depression/happiness rates is by no means linear… Personal freedom and the presence of social networks, two factors inversely correlated to depression mentioned above, are highly related to scores on the Positive Experience Index of the Global Emotions Report.”
Assuming that the above is accurate, and based on my own experience and informal research, I believe it is, what is most interesting in all this to me – aside from a certain degree of grim satisfaction of the “I hate to say I told you so, but I told you so” variety – is that four out of five of these factors are both endemic to, and so far as can be determined, unique to, our modern/postmodern age. Our ancestors had rough lives in many respects – rougher than ours in most – but they do not appear to have suffering from comparable levels of depression… which has spiked in recent years, as recounted in the linked article, and many others.
These contributing factors to the contemporary depression epidemic can therefore (despite the usual disclaimers about correlation not equalling causation) be pretty much laid at the feet of our abandonment of traditional approaches, thoughts, understandings, philosophies, and ways of living and being, in so many areas of life, from foodways to lifeways, from communication to education.
This mindless neophilia, this willingness (even eagerness) to cast aside the traditional, the tried and true, and to eternally chase after the supposedly “new and improved,” which is so characteristic of our present society, is going to kill us – is killing us – if we do not moderate it with a more sensitive and sympathetic appropriation and re-adoption of traditional norms and ways of life.
It is neither particularly Anglophilic, nor particularly Anglican, but I have a “real” water bottle again, after years of making do with reused juice bottles (reduce, reuse, recycle…). Visited REI Outdoors in Columbia yesterday, and splurged a bit to purchase this one.
It celebrates both the Appalachian Trail – the longest hiking-only footpath in the world, running some 2200 miles, from Maine to Georgia – and the 50th Anniversary (2018) of the National Trails System Act; a portion of the proceeds (5%) go to support our National Scenic Trails, so I can use that to help justify the purchase!
Pictured with my digital indoor-outdoor thermometer (the “outdoor” portion of which isn’t working again, darn it!) and an assortment of pocketknives.
Side note: I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t notice until just now that REI was sponsoring a hike at Catoctin Mountain Park (just across Route 77 from Cunningham Falls State Park, where I used to work, and a beautiful area of the state) today… until I saw that it had been canceled! So now I don’t need to be disappointed. I do need to get out to that area again, and do some hiking, though!