The first part of this post is written by me as a lead in to Daniel Kucan's post which follows.
If I were told that in order to live a long healthy life I would have to eat meat, I wouldn’t do it. If I were told that it would make me feel better and look better, I wouldn’t do it. If I were told that it was for my blood type or my body type, I wouldn’t do it. If I were dying and someone said that I just might live if I ate meat, I still wouldn’t do it. Lucky for me, researchers have found that the healthiest diet for human beings is a vegetarian diet. Not for some human beings, but for all human beings.
Studies show vegans and vegetarians live 6-10 years longer than meat eaters. They’ve also found incidents of cancer and heart disease and strokes and diabetes and Alzheimer’s and osteoporosis and high blood pressure and a whole host of other serious health issues are significantly lower in vegetarians and even lower still in vegans than in meat eaters. Yet, none of those are the reasons I am vegan. Those things are just the proverbial icing. Nice side effects. Bonuses.
The reason I wouldn’t eat meat even if it were the best thing for me is the same reason Gandhi didn’t drink cow’s milk on his deathbed when doctors ordered him to do so or die—because most of the meat and dairy we consume is a product of horrific cruelty. And I have always known with everything that I am that what isn’t good for an animal isn’t good for me. And that’s good enough for me. I don’t need to hear someone rattle off the health benefits. I’m sold on pain and suffering. I hear that and I’m out.
When people say, “I can’t be vegetarian because it’s not for my blood type.” I want to say, “What blood type is that? Cold-blooded?” I’m astounded that we care more about a fad diet than years of sound evidence that clearly states NOT eating animals is the healthy way to go. I’m even more shocked that we care more about this diet than the fact that millions of animals are suffering in silence, hidden away from our protected eyes and ears.
Dogs and cats and horses all have different blood types within their breed. And some horses don’t “have to eat meat” while other horses are better off with plants. All horses eat the same—on all seven continents. Just like all cows. And gorillas. And elephants. And so on. It should also be noted that horses, cows, gorillas, and elephants are four of the strongest animals in the world, and they’re herbivores!
Human bodies are not elite bodies. The human body isn’t more of a miracle than a cat’s body. We’ve just decided it is. With varying degrees, generally, all of these bodies have the same needs: food, sleep, water, sex, and activity. They all have hearts and lungs and a sense of smell and sight. In fact, our human body is often slower, weaker, and less agile than many animals. So what makes us think the human body is so much more special than a horse’s body? How much better could our bodies be if we have astoundingly higher rates of disease than animals’ bodies? What makes us believe that we are the only species of bodies that have to eat differently among us?
I contend that all human bodies need the same fundamental diet, just like all other animals left to their own devices would eat the same things within their breed. As studies continue to show, ALL human bodies live longer, healthier lives on a plant based diet. In a later post I will write about how the human body is most similar to herbivores (teeth, intestines, without claws) and radically different from carnivores. We have not always eaten meat, we have been conditioned to eat meat. As the ADA (American Dietetic Association) says, “Most of mankind for most of human history has lived on a vegetarian or Lacto-ovo vegetarian diet.”
Today as I was mulling over this whole blood type theory, and the myth I think it is, it dawned on me that there was only one person I should turn to to get another opinion—my whip smart, funny, thoughtful, vegan, animal rescuer, super fit, ex-physical trainer, television personality from Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and now star of HGTV’s Desperate Spaces, friend: Daniel Kucan.
Here’s what he sent back. (Scroll down to see his post.) I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Thanks for taking the time to be a guest blogger, Daniel. I still believe in astrology though.
The Magick Behind "Eat Right 4 Your Type"
and the Difference Between Thinking and Believing
by Daniel Kucan
My first guest blogger and I couldn't be more happy to have him! None other than Daniel Kucan, television personality from "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" and HGTV's "Desperate Spaces." (The above post explains why I asked Daniel to give us his take on this subject.)
There are all sorts of stories that I wish were true. There are fairy tales, urban legends, creation stories, pseudo-scientific theorems, all manner of folksy bits of wisdom that appeal to me on a sort of mythic, dramatic level. Or, and I find this aspect of myself even more disturbing, I occasionally find myself believing an inscrutable story because it speaks to my prejudices and predispositions; I often make the conscious decision to believe something because it is useful as evidence to support a position upon which I have already made a choice.
I believe it is this exact same principal that makes people believe in astrology. It’s lovely for a complete stranger to tell us “you have a lot of unused potential” or that “you will soon experience a big change.” In my opinion, we believe these things because we want to.
I have no doubt that it’s this exact same phenomenon that explains why the “Eat Right 4 Your Type” fad diet is being accepted as even mildly valid. The blood type diet is advocated most famously by naturopathic physician Peter D’Adamo. (Anyone rational should have huge issues with the term “naturopathic physician” anyway. It is exactly as oxymoronic as “creation science,” but that’s a subject for a different article.) D’Adamo’s thesis is that, as human beings evolved, they moved throughout different parts of the planet and developed certain dietary requirements based on the locations in which they now found themselves. Since blood type also seems to coincide with certain geological locales, D’Adamo links these two things and “presto!”, he can now magically tell you what you should be eating.
And it’s really that simple, and really that magical. While there is a certain appeal to the notion that those of us with ancestral ties to the Himalayan Mountains should be eating foods that were plentiful there, there is no scientific justification for this at all. There have been no peer reviewed studies to support this theory, and in fact, D’Adamo himself hasn’t published any studies, although he claims to be conducting them. Likewise, anyone with even a fair understanding of evolution knows that the timeline proposed by D’Adamo doesn’t provide nearly enough time for this to have occurred.
The other fly in D’Adamo’s ointment is that, sometimes, people do get really sick. What happens then? What happens when someone has been eating right for their blood type, and they get an infection and develop kidney disease, or they smoke and are stressed out and they have a heart attack? Now, they have to change their eating habits in order to minimize their risk of further damage. But their blood type HASN’T CHANGED, only their dietary restrictions. There is NO EVIDENCE linking blood type and the body’s ability to absorb nutrients.
The most preposterous bit of hokum is when D’Adamo claims that eating wrong for your blood type can cause blood agglutination, where the red blood cells start to stick together and clot. Blood agglutination kills people. It is not caused by eating the wrong kind of toast, or eating too many grains when I should be having a starch.
The question is further clouded by a particularly pernicious turn in the dietary advice D’Adamo suggests. More than half the country is type O, and the diet given for type O is a completely reasonable, healthy, well balanced one. Anyone who was to follow this diet, would almost certainly lose weight and feel good. Since statistically more than half the people reading the book and following that diet will get good results, good testimonials are a sure thing.
I am not so cynical as to suggest that D’Adamo has done this on purpose, but it wouldn’t surprise me either. Book sales are books sales, after all.
I have a particular disdain for this type of pseudo-science. It plays on our romantic notions of uniqueness and our craving for history and ancestral ties. It’s a beguiling fairy tale to be sure, but until someone can do a double blind study that statistically proves it, it’s a fairy tale nonetheless. But quackery like this also relies on the idea that, as long as it makes emotional sense, then we will accept it as truth.
Let’s be honest. If no one had proven that the Earth moves around the sun, then I wouldn’t believe it. It just doesn’t make emotional sense. I believe, deep down, that the Earth is the center of the universe, even though it’s completely, demonstrably false. Or flying; I don’t for a second believe that an airplane can fly. An airplane is like a gazillion pounds of metal and polyester, it can’t possibly fly. But I know that it will. It is this conflict between what we “think” and what we “believe” that provides a platform upon which folks like D’Adamo can build their “science.”
I refuse to seek answers grounded in irrationality. I demand to look beyond my prejudices, my simplistic, emotional demands. Simply because something pulls at our emotional strings or makes sense in a mythic way, does not make it science, and I refuse to base my ethical decisions upon it; and you probably shouldn’t bet your health on it.