Archive for February, 2013

Cholesterol Revisited

February 28, 2013

In response to my column on “The Cholesterol Sting”, a reader was kind enough to recommend that I update my references with two important books. Both books were the result of over 40 years of research, neither of which was funded by food and drug companies. They were funded by US taxpayers and results are openly available to us.

 The first is The China Study by T. Colin Campbell, Cornell University nutritionist, and co-authored by his physician son, Thomas M. Campbell II. Campbell includes 750 peer reviewed studies to back up his finding that cholesterol levels in fact do cause heart disease and other illnesses. This was true even if the cholesterol levels were high in HDL (High Density Lipoproteins), the so- called  “good cholesterol.”

 The reason China was an important country to study is that their plant-based, dairy-free diet kept the incidence of heart disease and breast cancer at bay in China. Also, when Chinese people emigrated to the US and adopted our diet, they also developed heart disease, breast cancer, and auto-immune diseases. Campbell established that diet, not genes, is the most significant stimulant of conditions.

 The second book is by Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr., MD, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. Esselstyn is a surgeon who wanted to find a way to prevent women from needing disfiguring breast surgery, and heart disease patients from undergoing such invasive and life threatening procedures. He found that when he was able to convince patients to adopt a plant-based, dairy-free, fat and oil free diet, they usually did not need surgery: hence, the title of his book.

 He asked doctors to refer to him their heart patients who had exhausted their by-pass and stint procedures and had been essentially told, “we can do no more for you.” When they came into his program, all who accepted the diet plan improved and/or reversed the damage to their coronary arteries.

 Here’s what they had to say about cholesterol that jolted my education. First, total body cholesterol IS an important marker, even if HDL, the good cholesterol, is high. For optimum health the total level needs to be 150mg/dL  or less (not 300, which the USDA recommends or 200, which the American Heart Association recommends.)

 We do need cholesterol but excessive amounts of it end up blocking our arteries. The amounts the USDA recommends appear to be causing more harm and expensive treatments.

 There is so much money to be made by radical surgery and treatment for breast and other cancers and heart disease that there is little incentive for doctors to focus on preventing the diseases. Esselstyn had a long uphill struggle to get referrals from cardiologists but once the word got out that people who went through his program regained their health, people began looking him up.

 Significantly, both Campbell and Esselstyn walk their talk. Esselstyn’s family made the transition when their children were young. They all enjoy robust health. Campbell grew up on a dairy farm. Esselstyn grew up on a cattle farm, but their search for what makes people well superseded  preconceived notions about diet.

 President Clinton attributes both his weight loss and improved health to this diet which he continues to maintain.

 The good news is that there is a growing number of physicians who are committed to keeping people well. That goal supersedes making a lot of money with preventable surgeries. Both books are available at your local library or through Inter-Library-Loan.

 Campbell’s book covers research on a broad spectrum of diet-caused conditions. Esselstyn’s deals mainly with heart and breast cancer and has a long section on the diet itself and recipes to transition for those interested. YouTube has an informative talk by T. Colin Campbell, “Lessons from the China Project.”

 Bottom line is, we can’t lower cholesterol with the American diet, which relies heavily on meat and fat. And, equally important, changes need to be made gradually to be sustainable.


Small Group of Concerned Citizens Changes the World!

February 17, 2013

Margaret Mead advised us to, “Never doubt that a small group of concerned citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” In the towns of Nottingham and Barnstead, NH, such a group passed a Rights Based Ordinance (RBO), and stopped USA Springs Corporation from draining their towns’ shared aquifer.

 The world watches what happens in the US. People in India were inspired by Nottingham’s model, and have organized to stop pollution of the Ganges. In India, their focus is on building a national campaign to recognize the river’s rights. Their campaign slogan is, “Ganga’s Rights are our Rights.”

 I was certainly educated to believe that the US was a democracy, governed by, for and of the people. Yet, I have come to realize that our government was never set up as a democracy in practice. Instead, it assigned states the parent role and citizens as children who must obey their parents. When the state is feeling indulgent, it provides hearings for citizens to express their concerns but rarely seems to feel an obligation to make significant changes based on citizen input.

 It seems incredulous that we citizens have to, at our own expense, organize to put Rights Based Ordinances in place in order to protect our water, land, health, livelihood, and wildlife. All this to protect ourselves and our land from self-serving ‘parents’.

 At this point in time, denial of costly long range harmful effects continues to be the hallmark of corporations as they take advantage of small towns. Our lack of self-governance leaves corporations open to get state permits for what amount to sting operations. The plan seems to be to use up natural resources, destroy habitats of species, including humans, slash real estate values, destroy livelihoods, raise the cost of living, and move on.

 Hydro Quebec has already plundered it’s own province, including Newfoundland, and now wants to ‘move on’ through New Hampshire. Iberdola slid into Groton with the state’s approval. After the fact, residents are reeling as they realize the total impact the wind farm will have on this area. At first, there were a few wind towers and none of them were spinning up a racket. Suddenly, there are many, like a disease defoliating our ridges, and they won’t be able to generate much electricity from our average 6 mph winds. Iberdola’s big plan is to cut a 3000 mile swath over our ridges in addition to an above ground grid that looks like a massive cobweb over our state.

 Burying the transmission lines costs no more than installing above ground lines, especially when you add in the long term cost of maintaining above ground lines due to wind, ice, and snowstorm damage.

The whole point of establishing a chain of Rights Based Ordinances in our towns is that collectively, we can pool our efforts to save our communities, our forests, land, and water from continued corporate onslaught.

 Instead of giving corporations rights as individuals, we need to give rivers rights to flow freely, to be healthy and thrive.  In 2011, Ecuador became the first country to try the first Rights of Nature constitutional case and ruled in favor of the plaintiff, the VilcabambaRiver. Ecuador stopped a highway construction project that was harming the river.

 Trees need rights to breathe in carbon dioxide for themselves and to exhale oxygen for humans and wildlife. Our land needs the right to breathe free from debilitating pesticides and fracking.  Sustainability is measured, not by people’s loss of use of the ecosystem, but by damage inflicted on the ecosystem itself and the cost of bringing the ecosystem back to its pre-damaged state.

 On February 27, Thornton RBO citizens’ Opposition to the NorthernPass group is holding a public hearing from 5-7 PM at the Mad River Coffee Roasters in Campton.

Here’s an opportunity be informed and express your concerns.

Redefining Pro-Life

February 12, 2013

This preoccupation with calling Pro-Life a child’s right-to-life is totally missing an important part of life’s equation. We do suffer in this country from a blind spot to future responsibilities for our actions. Whether we are talking about water, energy, food, medicine, or life itself, we tend to avoid looking at the long-term consequences of responsibilities we never got around to assuming.

 Children don’t exist in a vacuum. We’re all part of a community. If a child has a right to be born, then that child, in a responsible community, would also have a right to a welcome home, sustenance, and education to prepare for life work. That child has a right to a quality of life which seems to be totally disregarded in the passionate Pro-Life pleas. True pro-life requires a much stronger commitment than simply delivering a child.

 The very voices espousing Pro-Life politically, are the same voices that want to cut taxes, education, and health care. If we do honestly care about the life of a child, it begins before conception and continues throughout growth and development. Without that commitment, who has the audacity to demand that every conception be brought to term?

 While there are success stories of women who have chosen to carry their children to term and placed them for adoption to loving homes, there are too many other stories of children who were not wanted, and were raised in a home that resented them, or an adoptive home that abused them.

 In their book, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women, Kristof and WuDunn quote a Muslim woman who said, “You think we’re victims, because we cover our hair and wear modest clothing. But we think that it’s western women who are repressed, because they have to show their bodies- even go through surgery to change their bodies- to please men.”

 Pro-Life/ Pro-Choice cannot be taken out of the context of all of life. We’ve taken baby steps towards women’s rights in the US but the current debate lets us know we have much work to do to define, encourage, and support a quality of life for all people.