Black Vegans

“Plant-based eating has a long, radical history in Black American culture, preserved by institutions and individuals who have understood the power of food and nutrition in the fight against oppression…Today, there are estimated to be more than a million Black vegetarians and vegans in the United States, with Black people representing the fastest-growing vegan demographic in the country.”

—Amirah Mercer, “A Homecoming.” Eater.com. January 14, 2021.

What I like about this article is that something, in this case veganism, can be a complete paradox in context. For this woman, veganism ties into a history of fighting black oppression. But, I have to admit when I think of veganism, my experience is mostly privileged whites rejecting mainstream culture either on moral, health or other grounds. Eating itself is a kind of oppression, and in some ways, veganism feels like a style of oppression. For example, the kind of vegan that won’t take public transit because axle grease has an animal component has a lifestyle that cannot be emulated by most people. Is that liberating? If so, for whom?

I found this to provide a lot of food for thought.

Ordinary Invisibility

“There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says ‘Morning, boys. How’s the water?’ And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes ‘What the hell is water?'”

-David Foster Wallace, “This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life (transcription of the Kenyon Commencement Address), republished in Farnam Street, April 2012.

I’m surprised to find that I have not referenced David Foster Wallace’s This Is Water before. I thought about it in when thinking about the kinds of things that are so ubiquitous that we tend not to see them. Some things that come to mind that are water to us:

  • The hidden labor that makes everything in our lives possible, from migrant workers harvesting industrial agriculture, people working in slaughterhouses, sewing the clothing we wear, manufacturing electronics, etc.
  • There are more slaves today than at any other point in human history.
  • Related, sexual trafficking is a variety of slavery and is pervasive.
  • It is clear the modern lifestyles are destroying the environment, such as the use of plastics.
  • The Standard American Diet is giving us all chronic health conditions.
  • Mass media distracts people from engaging directly with ideas and the people around them.

I’ve only scratched the surface here. What else so permeates our environment that we don’t notice it, even though we know on some level it is there?

Ferming

Everything the body needs.

Open Questions: Will agriculture by fundamentally transformed in the next decade? And if so, what are the likely health implications?

We are on the cusp of the biggest economic transformation, of any kind, for 200 years. While arguments rage about plant- versus meat-based diets, new technologies will soon make them irrelevant. Before long, most of our food will come neither from animals nor plants, but from unicellular life. After 12,000 years of feeding humankind, all farming except fruit and veg production is likely to be replaced by ferming: brewing microbes through precision fermentation. This means multiplying particular micro-organisms, to produce particular products, in factories.”

-George Monbiot, “Lab-grown food will soon destroy farming – and save the planet.” The Guardian. January 8, 2020.

“We are on the cusp of the deepest, fastest, most consequential disruption in food and agricultural production since the first domestication of plants and animals ten thousand years ago. This is primarily a protein disruption driven by economics. The cost of proteins will be five times cheaper by 2030 and 10 times cheaper by 2035 than existing animal proteins, before ultimately approaching the cost of sugar. They will also be superior in every key attribute – more nutritious, healthier, better tasting, and more convenient, with almost unimaginable variety. This means that, by 2030, modern food products will be higher quality and cost less than half as much to produce as the animal-derived products they replace.”

-Catherine Tubb & Tony Seba, “Rethinking Food and Agriculture 2020-2030.” RethinkX. September 2019.

The Big Vitamin D Mistake

“The role of vitamin D in innate and adaptive immunity is critical. A statistical error in the estimation of the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for vitamin D was recently discovered…Since all-disease mortality is reduced to 1.0 with serum vitamin D levels ≥100 nmol/L, we call public health authorities to consider designating as the RDA at least three-fourths of the levels proposed by the Endocrine Society Expert Committee as safe upper tolerable daily intake doses. This could lead to a recommendation of 1000 IU for children <1 year on enriched formula and 1500 IU for breastfed children older than 6 months, 3000 IU for children >1 year of age, and around 8000 IU for young adults and thereafter. Actions are urgently needed to protect the global population from vitamin D deficiency.”

—Papadimitriou DT. “The Big Vitamin D Mistake.” J Prev Med Public Health. 2017.

More time indoors also suggests a need for vitamin D supplementation.

How Not To Die

“The vast majority of premature deaths can be prevented through simple changes in diet and lifestyle. In How Not to Die, Dr. Michael Greger, the internationally-recognized lecturer, physician, and founder of NutritionFacts.org, examines the fifteen top causes of death in America—heart disease, various cancers, diabetes, Parkinson’s, high blood pressure, and more—and explains how nutritional and lifestyle interventions can sometimes trump prescription pills and other pharmaceutical and surgical approaches, freeing us to live healthier
lives.”

https://nutritionfacts.org/book/

Found the app Daily Dozen on F-Droid. The list of things to eat is in line with most nutrition information you hear, but the book looks worth a look.

The Case Against Sugar

“In America today, nearly 10% of the population has diabetes; more than two-thirds of us are overweight or obese; and one out of 10 kids are thought to have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. The journalist Gary Taubes blames all of these afflictions on one culprit: sugar.”

—Gary Taubes. Interview with Doug Fabrizio. The Case Against Sugar.” RadioWest. November 24, 2017.

Fuller treatment is available in his book, The Case Against Sugar. Add this to other classic discussions on the topic like “Sugar: The Bitter Truth.”

Also, it might be that refined sugar is the most obvious culprit and that building a diet around carbohydrates, which is a new feature that developed along with farming, might be the problem, which makes this a much bigger problem than just the “Western Diet”. See The Ketogenic Bible for a full discussion.

Biohacking: Smart People With Money Being Science-Based and Stupid 

“Over the last 4–5 years, my main hobby has been to get that by hacking my body and mind using a logical, science-based approach…

…People like me will be able to pay for this out of pocket and use off-label prescriptions from private doctors who focus on upgrading and prevention rather than merely healing. Downstream the extra mood, energy, focus, health, willpower and social skills — enhanced over decades — will accrue further and further advantages to people who upgrade themselves, which will lead to a cycle of further concentration of wealth.”

—Serge Faguet, “I’m 32 and spent $200k on biohacking. Became calmer, thinner, extroverted, healthier & happier.hackernoon.com. September 25, 2017.

N of 1 experimentation is valuable. The problem in this case is he is arguing hockey stick, compounding returns when the more likely scenario is that he’s going to give himself some form of chronic illness over the long-term. You’re only 32. Do you believe 40 years of thyroid supplementation isn’t going to lead to a health problem?

There is useful advice in write-ups such as this one. Thinking about sleep hygiene, eliminating sugar from your diet, intermittent fasting, weight-training built around deadlifts and squats, HITT training for cardio, meditation/cognitive therapy are probably all good ideas.

The place it goes off the rails is with medications and supplements. A low dose of 5mg of lithium is probably alright. If you take ~100-150mg as he is, you better have normal kidney function. Magnesium supplementation is also probably a good idea, since most of us aren’t eating big leafy vegetables at the same rate our ancestors did.

I could even get behind the very occasional therapeutic use of psychoactive compounds such as MDMA, psilocybin mushrooms, LSD, etc. If they were used to to augment a program of meditation and periodic hours in an isolation tank.

But hormone therapy? Playing sorcerer’s apprentice with your hormones strikes me as a singularly bad idea.