Stossel gets it right

John Stossel of ABC’s 20/20 has never been one of my favorites. He’s one of those folks who often poses as a skeptic by using doubt and mockery indiscriminately. Tonight, though, he got it right. He discusses food obsessions and fads, pointing out the contradictions inherent in food cultists.

One of the worst of the food cult leaders is Viktoras Kulvinskas, a leader of the raw food movement. Stossel’s interview with this wacko is great…he actually calls him out on his bullshit.

Raw foodists believe cooking vegetables even a little destroys their nutritional value. And eating meat is even worse, Kulvinskas said, because you eat the animal’s fear.
“When they go through slaughter, they go through a lot of fear, and that fear is taken into the dietary habits of America.”

[Stossel calls that ridiculous and ask him how he knows. Kulvinskas says he just knows.]

Everyone knows that eating too much meat can be a problem. But does Kulvinskas even make sense? All over the world, as people have gotten wealthier, they are eating more cooked food, more meat and life spans keep increasing.

“That’s correct,” Kulvinskas said, adding that people are “sicker than ever. Living longer doesn’t mean quality of life. It only says that you’re living longer under medical intervention. These are not natural, whole people.”

So living longer isn’t good if you’re not “natural and whole”. WTF does that mean? But maybe he really values quality of life over quantity and is filled with compassion for his fellow humans? Nope.

When questioned about a raw foodie who died from her obsession, he responded, “at least she got detoxified and clean and moved on to another incarnation.”

Do you get why I liken altmed gurus to cult leaders? This guy prefers that his followers die pure and organic than live against his rules. This is typical of cult and other alternative medicine. Irrational ideology trumps logic every time.

Kudos to Stossel for calling out the purveyors of food woo and their manipulation of their victims’ psychopathology (and thanks to Mrs. Pal for making me watch the show).

Comments

  1. #1 Moopheus
    September 5, 2008

    Humans like to go on about their tool using, their big brains, their culture, art, language, and so on, but what’s the thing that really separates us from the other animals, that’s pretty unique? We cook our food.

  2. #2 Brian X
    September 6, 2008

    The raw food movement tends overall to be rather disturbing — if you know anything about the biochemistry of certain foods (especially legumes) it becomes downright terrifying. The raw milk crowd in particular (which I don’t think overlaps all that much with other raw foodies, who I believe are mostly vegan) is even more frightening as it seems to be widely espoused by people who really ought to know better.

    As a compulsive cookbook collector, I find vegetarian cookbooks in general to be a bit creepy and overly evangelistic, but the rawbies really take it over the edge. In a genre that’s loaded with evangelistic vegan crap, the raw stuff is the most extreme of the extreme. (Plus lots of veggies and almost all grains taste terrible uncooked anyway.)

  3. #3 LanceR
    September 6, 2008

    Does it count if I like my steak *VERY* rare? As in, “chase it past the stove once” rare?

    Just curious…

  4. #4 speedwell
    September 6, 2008

    I’m a vegan. I’m sitting here eating a bowl of vegan fettucine alfredo that I made up on the spur of the moment. Back when I was eating meat, I spent a summer working in an Italian restaurant, and I know my alfredo, and (pardon me while I take another bite) this is some good creamy garlicky stuff. Cheesy tasting, even. I love it. I love life and I love food.

    This raw foodie moron comes along and ruins everything for people like me. When I become a regular at a restaurant because it has a wonderful meatless dish, and I go to the manager and say, “I love to eat here because you make this wonderful dish, could you put some more vegan dishes on the menu,” he hears only “I love to eat here blah blah blah VEGAN blah blah blah”. Mind you, this is Houston, where good restaurants go after they die, and the word still scares restarateurs into forgetting there are lots of us potential customers out here. All because of death cultists like Kulvinskas, there.

    Lance, the meat industry exists because eaters want it to. I don’t have a problem with that. Once it’s dead you get to do what you want with it. The mental picture of you chasing a steak around the stove is putting a smile on my face right about now.

  5. #5 Vorn
    September 6, 2008

    I prefer my veggies raw, mostly a texture/flavor thing.

    I prefer sushi to cooked fish (which is to say I will actually eat sushi).

    Meat, on the other hand, I must quote Warren Ellis:

    MAN COOK MEAT WITH FIRE. Not “man show fire to meat and then eat it while it still squirts and pulses.” KILL IT DED WITH FIRE YUS.

  6. #6 totnesmartin
    September 6, 2008

    My housemate is a raw foodie, he drives to the supermarket (under a mile away), bypassing the local grocer (five minutes’ walk), to get stuff for a raw food dinner with his rawie mates, who all then talk about how natural and spiritual they are. There’s some self-delusion going on there.

  7. #7 D. C. Sessions
    September 6, 2008

    “I am holier than thou.”

    Some people base their whole identities on where they are relative to the majority. For some, “in the middle” is where they have to be; they are easy to manipulate by argumentum ad populum. Others like being a bit avant garde and are manipulable by appeals to (perceived) trends.

    Others have to be on the very fringes.

    Personally, I ascribe the rawists to the fact that veganism has become popular enough that it doesn’t provide the “radicalism rush” that it used to.

  8. #8 Carolyn
    September 6, 2008

    I can’t eat many vegetables raw – oral allergies related to my birch pollen allergy. Cook my carrots and celery and so on and they’re fine, but hand them to me raw and I spend the rest of the day with swollen lips and tongue. Certainly would wreck my quality of life.

    As far as I know, this is a pretty common allergy pattern.

  9. #9 iRobot
    September 6, 2008

    I never could understand the point of vegans! no animal products, why? Is it mean to the cheese to eat it? I have a relative who runs a dairy farm and have seen it. There is no way you can say those animals are mistreated, so whats the point, that its not healthy? I cant buy that, we are omnivores. Look in your mouth, we evolved canine teeth. What are they for?
    Not that I begrudge it to you, do what every you want, as long as you dont hurt other people. I just dont understandt the point!

  10. #10 Robert W.
    September 6, 2008

    Oh…I love this stuff. I’m a vegetarian and HATE, HATE, HATE it when we all get associated with people like this. Of course, I’ve got a friend who used to be a vegetarian, but has since realized how unwholesome and unnatural consuming ANYTHING that has been touched by an animal ever is. Of course he now thinks that he is holier-than-everyone.
    It’s people like that who make vegetarians look bad.

    Also, I think the whole raw-food movement is full of crap.

  11. #11 The Blind Watchmaker
    September 6, 2008

    I must admit, I enjoyed reading Stossel’s 2 books, ‘Give Me a Break’ and ‘Get Out the Shovel’. I don’t watch much T.V.

    He had a piece on the vaccine ‘debate’ a few years back that I watched on You Tube. He confronted a lady from a prominent anti-vaccine website and basically got her to admit that she was a fear-monger.

    I will never understand how statements like, “When they go through slaughter, they go through a lot of fear, and that fear is taken into the dietary habits of America.” This smacks of Homeopathy (the water is magically charged with the ‘memory’ of the offending substance).

    If critical thinking were taught to the average kindergarten student, John Stossel would have to look for other things to do.

  12. #12 I am so wise
    September 6, 2008

    Organic food fundamentalists are just as bad. At least vegans are small in number, but organic food fiends numbers coupled with their ability to weave historically and scientifically ignorant conspiracy, theory laden BS theories are far scarier.

  13. #13 khan
    September 6, 2008

    Does it count if I like my steak *VERY* rare? As in, “chase it past the stove once” rare?

    Just curious…

    Posted by: LanceR | September 6, 2008 1:27 AM [kill]​[hide comment]

    “I tried eating vegetarian. I feel like a wimp going into a restaurant. “What do you want to eat sir? Brocolli?” Brocolli’s a side dish, folks. Always was, always will be, ok? When they ask me what I want, I say, “What do you think I want!? This is America. I want a bowl of raw red meat right now. Forget about that. Bring me a live cow over to the table. I’ll carve off what I want and ride the rest home!”
    -Denis Leary

  14. #14 Orac
    September 6, 2008

    He’s one of those folks who often poses as a skeptic by using doubt and mockery indiscriminately.

    Indeed. If there’s one other thing that bugs me about Stossel, too, it’s that he seems far less skeptical of big business and conservative political stances than he is of everything else.

  15. #15 Marilyn Mann
    September 6, 2008

    I think nutrition research is an area where it is hard to say anything definitive. Most nutrition research consists of either epidemiological studies or short-term interventions that look at biomarkers or, well, short-term outcomes. I would really like to know which diet would, say, help me live longer, or reduce my risk of heart disease and cancer. It’s really hard to conduct RCTs for nutritional interventions that measure the intervention’s effect on hard endpoints such as death and cardiovascular events.

    There is a guy named Loren Cordain (sp?) who promotes something called the “Paleo Diet.” I think the basic idea is that our bodies evolved over hundreds of thousands of years based on a certain diet and that we will be healthier if we follow that diet. There is a certain plausibility to that hypothesis. Certainly, one would expect people to be healthier if they eat lots of fruits and vegetables, say, rather than MacDonald’s hamburgers and french fries. But ultimately, you need to test the hypothesis and that’s where the problem comes in. But I’m not an expert in this area.

    The bottom line is that the human mind can come up with all kinds of theories but ultimately the theories need to be tested. The road to hell is paved with biological plausibility.

  16. #16 D. C. Sessions
    September 6, 2008

    There is a guy named Loren Cordain (sp?) who promotes something called the “Paleo Diet.” I think the basic idea is that our bodies evolved over hundreds of thousands of years based on a certain diet and that we will be healthier if we follow that diet.

    Ah, now we’re heading back into denialism territory.

    You could, I suppose, consider “rawism” as being like the “paleo diet,” but dialed back before our ancestors discovered fire (or animals too slow to get away …)

    Following the diets of our distant ancestors assumes that our nutritional needs are the same as theirs.

    As it happens, one of the main surprises in evolutionary biology in recent years is the discovery of how quickly humans are adapting to new dietary conditions. There are, IIRC, at least two different adult-lactase mutations that have spread very quickly indeed through the species, and several others related to improved ability to digest grains.

    Following the diets of our distant ancestors assumes that our nutritional needs are the same as theirs, and science isn’t supporting that idea.

  17. #17 Strider
    September 6, 2008

    I’m sorry, I’m trying to process the combination of the words “John Stossel” and “gets it right” and I just can’t. I CAN’T!!!!!!

  18. #18 Kagehi
    September 6, 2008

    Following the diets of our distant ancestors assumes that our nutritional needs are the same as theirs.

    Though, it might be plausible still if not for a fatal flaw in the logic, which is that, with a few exceptions, most ape species tend to hunt small animals, or even other apes, to supplement their protein intake. So, what? Early man was the **only** species on the entire planet that didn’t eat either bugs or the occasional rat/mouse/lizard? Its an absurd assumption on its face. Almost as absurd as the idea that adaption of better grain digestion can’t be a result of a) existing genes that previously had adjusted themselves to, say, fast protein digestion, or, far more likely, all the gut bacteria we have shifting to help digest what they suddenly found more common in the stomach. Our own bodies are not, after all, the only subject involved in “adapting” to such changes in diet.

    So, you have people claiming they **know** what our ancestors ate, **know** what we have/can adapt to, etc., trying to tell everyone that they are all 100% wrong about everything, especially eating other animals. Yeah, I am sure they are all *experts* on what they are talking about…

  19. #19 D. C. Sessions
    September 6, 2008

    Yeah, I am sure they are all *experts* on what they are talking about…

    Damn right they are. Every one of them is supported by quite a few other experts in the field.

    Sort of like Andrew Wakefield, Boyd Haley, the Geiers, etc.

  20. #20 Interrobang
    September 6, 2008

    I just wish that North American culture made more allowances for those of us who are not lactase-persistent. You mutants get your damn dairy products in everything. (Low-end American restaurants are the worst. Do you really need to put disgusting cheese on a green salad, ferchrissakes? Good thing I stopped visiting the US years ago.)

    Personally, I get it doubly because I can’t digest milk protein either (I also have the same problem with eggs and a couple of the more obscure grains, like quinoa.)

    /grump

  21. #21 HCN
    September 6, 2008

    Interrobang “I just wish that North American culture made more allowances for those of us who are not lactase-persistent. You mutants get your damn dairy products in everything.”

    I hear you! I am not lactose intolerant like my sister, but I do have high cholestorel. I hate it when I go in to grab a quick sandwich in the store that they all have cheese, or that salads not only have cheeese but also chopped up egg!

    I’ve had to learn to order and ask them to not put cheese on my sandwich.

  22. #22 ERV
    September 6, 2008

    Also funny– people push ‘raw food’ for feeding your pets too. I shit you not, they call it ‘BARF’.

    When your pet inevitably starts vomiting and gets diarrhea, they call it ‘detox’.

  23. #23 mayhempix
    September 6, 2008

    This is a case where it just too hard for me to look past the messenger.
    Stossel is a dogmatic denialist Libertarian who seems unable to understand the need to weigh the benefits to society against the right to make the quickest buck sans taxation, everyone else be damned.

    I do find it interesting that raw food looks and smells the same as cooked food on the way back out…

  24. #24 D. C. Sessions
    September 6, 2008

    I hear you! I am not lactose intolerant like my sister, but I do have high cholestorel. I hate it when I go in to grab a quick sandwich in the store that they all have cheese, or that salads not only have cheeese but also chopped up egg!

    I’ve had to learn to order and ask them to not put cheese on my sandwich.

    Sing it, Sister!

    In my case, it’s just a preference — I think adding cheese to a good meat only ruins the meat. (Sometimes the only thing that keeps it from ruining the cheese is the fact that nothing could ruin the cheeses they use.)

    So why is it that in a lot of restaurants you can’t even get a burger without cheese? I mean, seriously, I order the “cheeseburger, hold the cheese, hold the pickles” and odds are about one time in three it’ll come with the burger still covered in cheese, so they offer to scrape it off. Which is a neat trick when it’s melted down the sides and has penetrated every crevice in the patty …

    I feel bad for the poor server, but that’s a tip-killer even though it was an illiterate cook who did the evil deed.

  25. #25 howdini
    September 6, 2008

    In the words of my favorite book, the Bible, on the raw foods movement: “Must thou be fucktards unto the Lord?”

  26. #26 Danimal
    September 6, 2008

    Raw foodists believe cooking vegetables even a little destroys their nutritional value. And eating meat is even worse, Kulvinskas said, because you eat the animal’s fear.

    I’ve have heard the first statement often and actually believe it. Vegetables should not be over cooked. Yeh, and the second statement about an animal’s fear? Well yeh, I just ate a burger and I am scared as shit!

  27. #27 eugene_X
    September 6, 2008

    Is it just me, or do these extreme fad diets occur in America more often than they do elsewhere? I wonder if this is connected to the wild and diverse ecosystem of religious beliefs in this country. America has no official state religion, and so has become this kind of marketplace of competing religions, and because of this it’s intensified and perpetuated religiosity in general.

    I wonder if it’s the same phenomenon at work with food? In cultures with strong, diverse, and deep-rooted culinary traditions, there seems (to me anyway) a lower instance of veganism, raw-food-ism, and other “fundamentalist” food movements, where food is associated with morality. In places like Britain, where the traditional cuisine is rather impoverished (sorry, but it is), or former British colonies like Australia, where it’s even worse, or places like the U.S. which has some strong regional and ethnic cuisines, but is generally shiftless and rootless when it comes to food, you get these food cults, and fad diets.

    Just a thought.

  28. #28 Marilyn Mann
    September 6, 2008

    Clarification: I didn’t mean to imply that the “Paleo Diet” was a raw food diet or vegetarian diet. It isn’t. Cordain discourages consumption of grains, I guess the theory being that our bodies haven’t adapted to eating them. He encourages meat, but believes our standard Western corn-fattened beef is less healthy than the wild game our ancestors ate. I have not tried the diet and don’t particularly subscribe to it (I love my oatmeal!). In fact, I’m not a food purist of any type. Life’s too short for that.
    That’s not to say that the Paleo Diet is necessarily dangerous or unhealthy. So far as I know it isn’t. I’m just not convinced that there is much evidence for its benefits.

  29. #29 D. C. Sessions
    September 6, 2008

    Is it just me, or do these extreme fad diets occur in America more often than they do elsewhere? I wonder if this is connected to the wild and diverse ecosystem of religious beliefs in this country.

    I’m more inclined to chalk it up to abundance. Our ancestors going back pretty near forever had to expend a lot of energy and attention on just keeping fed. The USA is one of the first cultures ever where people could pretty much count on having enough to eat.

    Trouble is, we’re hard-wired to spend those cycles on food whether we need to or not. So …

  30. #30 khan
    September 7, 2008

    Also funny– people push ‘raw food’ for feeding your pets too. I shit you not, they call it ‘BARF’.

    When your pet inevitably starts vomiting and gets diarrhea, they call it ‘detox’.

    I am NOT going to cook chipmunks.

  31. #31 D. C. Sessions
    September 7, 2008

    I am NOT going to cook chipmunks.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N0yyITRyvM4

  32. #32 Ren
    September 10, 2008

    In the case of children, yes, let’s do something to stop this madness. In the case of sound-of-mind adults, let nature sort it out. If they want to go on and die of Listeriosis or get some E. coli, hey, that only means more cooked food for the rest of us.

  33. #33 Rev Matt
    September 11, 2008

    OK, so , pre-historic man living out on the plains or whatever is a large mammal with an ability to craft tools and make fire. Do these people actually think that they didn’t eat meat? I mean, even ignoring the evidence we have from numerous digs that they in fact *did* cook meat and presumably then eat it. And they cooked vegetables as well. We have cookware in every damn podunk museum in the country, it’s not even too controversial an idea for the YEC crowd, and they’ll argue over anything.

    We are carnivores. There’s nothing wrong with individuals choosing to not eat meat or whatever for personal reasons, but trying to justify it by claiming that eating meat in reasonable quantities and quality is bad for us is absurd.

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