But The China Study is wrong. In 1993, according to the US Department of Agriculture, Americans consumed, on average: 11 pounds more of meat than in 1970; 76 fewer eggs; 6 gallons less milk; 22 gallons more of soft drinks; 48 pounds more of fruit; and 54 pounds more of grain products (Putnam et al 1994).
Let’s analyze those numbers.
Americans ate modestly more meat between 1970 and 1993, but consumed less milk and less eggs. Overall, the data doesn’t show a big increase in animal protein or milk consumption over 23 years.
But there was a huge increase in grain (+54 pounds) and soft drinks (+22 gallons). More grain seems good, but the US government classifies cereals as grain products, and between 1970 and 1993, consumption of cereals increased 45%.
I grew up on cereals in the 1980s.The ingredients lists were novels; wheat or corn were in there somewhere, but hard to find.
The point: cereals are a good proxy to measure chemical consumption. They are ultra-processed food, designed to stay good in warehouses for years. Cereals were a bellwether for ultra-processed food’s extreme success in today’s diet.
As part of soda increases, artificial sweetener use tripled between 1981 and 1993 (Putnam et al 1994). Diet sodas became the perfect symbol of our self-hate, mixed with our faith in chemicals: soda without calories. Decades later, research would confirm artificial sweeteners cause metabolic problems (Suez et al 2014), making us fatter and sicker.
But all the extra fruit per person (+48 pounds) should have prevented chronic disease, right? Well, just as cereal is “grain”, the Department of Agriculture’s classifies fruit juice as fruit. And just like cereals, fruit juices are full of chemicals, including Bisphenol A, leached from plastic containers.
Between 1970 and 1993, Americans replaced much of their natural food intake with ultra-processed food. Eggs: replaced with nitrate-rich meat. Fruit: replaced with processed fruit juice. Coffee: replaced with sodas. Whole grains: replaced with cereals. And to the government, these changes register as Americans eating more grains and fruits.
The China Study blames meat, milk, eggs, etc for our health declines. But the truth is, as people ate more meat, they ate more chemicals too. More than meat, people love the speed and ease of ultra-processed food. The research shows those who can afford meat also consume significantly more chemicals.
But there’s a big economic change-up in recent years. Only the rich used to be able to afford ultra-processed food; now only the rich can afford organic food. This increases chronic disease risk for billions of people, leading to demand for medicine to manage the diseases.
Although edible chemical load (ECL), the sum of chemicals consumed per person in their food and drink, is likely the premiere driver of chronic disease, there is almost no research on ECL, for a variety of reasons:
- No central database or tracking system for every chemical added to our food and drink
- No trustworthy audit system to verify manufacturer’s claims
- Millions of dollars of pro-chemical lobbying
- Regulatory capture of public health agencies like the FDA
- Advertising makes ultra-processed food look healthy
- Extracurricular activities have crowded out cooking
- People trust chemicals, or at least don’t think about them
- Environmental contamination is degrading the remaining natural foods
- Governments and doctors don’t care if something kills people slowly over 20 years
- People demand the cheapest, ultra-processed food on the shelf
ECL is likely the primary driver for heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and autoimmune disease. Increasing levels of ECL have driven a chronic disease boom, a prescription drug boom, and a government-backed medical system that promotes chronic disease.
The prescription drug industry is a chemical industry, fronted by doctors, designed to treat ECL damage to benelles. Basically, pharma is chemicals treating chemical damage, causing fresh chemical damage to other benelles, allowing a sick organism to limp along.
To prove ECL is our top health harm will take 20 years. That is, 20 years from the time we start collecting data. And no one is collecting the data.
The FDA could begin an ECL database, but the agency is caught between the food lobby and the drug lobby, both of which want less chemical regulation…and more chemicals.
Ultimately, The China Study makes the same mistake that the FDA makes, as well as the average American. They are all so busy counting calories, they don’t see calories are not created equally.
A pound of organic sweet potato has 400 calories, and won’t damage your benelles, or make you fat. A pound of artificial colors or flavors may have only 2 calories…but damage your DNA such that you’ll never see your normal weight—or good health—again.
For American children, ECL poisoning is a reality, as evidenced by our childhood obesity epidemic. If young, healthy benelles are not able to process today’s food chemicals, good luck to the rest of us.