Respectful Insolence

It is an indisputable axiom that everything tastes better with bacon. Well, almost everything. As much as I love bacon, whenever I watch one of those cooking competition shows on the Food Network, like Iron Chef America, in which the secret ingredient is bacon, I can’t figure out how putting bacon in ice cream works. OK, so maybe it’s almost an axiom. There are a few exceptions. But the fact remains that the vast majority of foods do taste better with some bacon.

Of course, the problem with bacon is that it’s widely accepted that it’s not particularly good for you. Because it is a processed meat, between its fat content and the nitrites, bacon in excess isn’t particularly good for you. That doesn’t mean that eaten in moderation or less bacon can’t be part of a reasonably healthy diet, but, again, it is a processed meat, defined as a meat preserved via smoking, curing, or salting, and eating processed meats has been linked with an increased risk for various cancers through a combination of nitrates and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Of course, the main study that found this correlation wasn’t randomized or controlled, and correlation doesn’t always equal causation (not to mention that people who eat a lot of bacon probably also don’t eat the healthiest diet in general).

Now, it’s a very common claim among various aficionados of alternative medicine and opponents of science-based medicine that diet is destiny. In other words, diet can do miraculous things, such as reduce your risk of cancer and heart disease to near zero and even treat cancer. A more sober, science-based assessment would tell us that diet can be very important in the prevention of such diseases, but it also says that the effect is nowhere near what is frequently claimed. Similarly, various quacks like to claim that taking this supplement or this vitamin will do the same thing: Reduce your risk of various chronic diseases to near zero. Usually, these diet claims don’t involve a reasonable, varied diet dominated by vegetables and relatively low on red meats but rather variants of severe vegan diets, often raw “living” diets in which, or so it is claimed, cooking the food not only utterly destroys its nutrients but basically poisons it. Although I could understand the appeal that eating a certain sort of diet or taking certain supplements can act as a magic bullet against disease, I could never understand the appeal of such severe diets for which such claims are usually made.

Oddly enough, uber quack Joseph Mercola, of all people, has actually proposed a food that I can get down with, a food whose attraction I can understand: Bacon. See what I mean. After describing how Neal Barnard, MD tried to organize a protest of vegans against a Bacon Festival in Iowa (hmmm, I might have to visit Iowa) but could only find six vegans because of fear of the vegans of the lure of bacon itself:

Why so few? Probably fear of bacon!

Not fear of death by bacon, which is what Dr. Barnard hoped to fuel with anti-meat rhetoric and billboards of skulls and crossbones, but vegan fears of succumbing to the lure of bacon itself! Bacon’s smell and taste are so seductive that many vegetarians fear it as “the gateway meat.”

But what of those health risks? What about all that fat, cholesterol and sodium? And what about nitrites?

It’s not just vegans after all who warn us against bacon. Recently, the Harvard School of Public Health announced with great fanfare that just a small daily serving of red meat would increase our likelihood of death by 13 percent, while a little bacon, hot dogs, sausage or other processed red meats every day would kill us off 20 percent faster. 2-3

In fact, the study was pseudo science at its best — an observational study using notoriously fallible food-frequency questionnaires, with researchers drawing unwarranted conclusions based on mere associations. Much ado about nothing, in other words. A careful look at the data suggests a 0.2-fold increased risk at most. And that’s for people eating supermarket meat from factory farms who also happen to smoke, don’t exercise, and eat their red meat wrapped up in white bread and buns.

Yes! Finally, Mercola is saying something whose lure I can understand!

Of course, it is hilarious to read this. I couldn’t stop chuckling as I read and dreamt of a nice, juicy BLT sandwich. Here’s why. Mercola is complaining that the main study used as evidence that a diet high in bacon is potentially harmful is an observational study in essence confusing correlation with causation. Yet, what does Joe Mercola, who is antivaccine to the core, base his antivaccine beliefs in, particularly the belief that vaccines cause autism, on? Correlation, of course! And not even correlations observed through rigorous observational studies that were designed to try to control for confounding variables, either. Oh, no. Like all antivaccinationists, in particular his recently acquired best bud Barbara Loe Fisher, grande dame of the antivaccine movement and founder of the Orwellian-named National Vaccine Information Center, Mercola accepts anecdotes of autistic regression after vaccination. Indeed, he accepts correlations and claims that the link between vaccines and autism is being “suppressed.”

Now, I went and looked up the study referred to by Mercola’s article, and if there’s one thing that I have to concede it’s that the study is not the strongest evidence that high bacon consumption is associated with a higher mortality due to cardiovascular disease or cancer. True, it is a prospective study and included a lot of patients, which was a strength, but the hazard ratios found are not particularly impressive for a one extra serving per day of various types of meat (total mortality: 1.13 for unprocessed red meat and 1.20 for processed red meat; cardiovascular mortality: 1.18 and 1.21; and for cancer: 1.10 and 1.16). Also, the study used food diaries, which are prone to recall bias. No, I’m not doubting that red meat and processed meat don’t pose a risk; it’s just that this is an observational study, prone to all the problems of observational studies, and when I see even a prospective observational study that comes up with at most a hazard ratio of 1.2, the problems with drawing conclusions of causation from correlation are magnified. That’s why I like to see some confirmation from other studies, as there is for the risk of various diseases due to secondhand smoke.

Mercola could have easily done a reasonable, science-based article that pointed out that it’s quite possible to include bacon in the diet, as long as it’s in small quantities and included as part of a balanced diet rich in plant-based foods, but we’re talking about Joe Mercola here. It’s not enough for him or his lackey to say something reasonable like that. Oh, no. Because the health establishment reports a risk due to read meat and processed meat, it’s not enough for Mercola simply to voice a word of caution. He has to be contrarian and go completely in the other direction. Instead of pointing out the flaws with the Harvard study or the limitations to the conclusions that can be drawn from it, he has to go whole hog (word choice intentional) and label the study as “pseudoscience” (it’s not). Then he has to go beyond that and claim that not only is bacon not harmful but that it’s actually really, really healthy for you:

Even so, “everyone knows” bacon’s bad for us, and Dr. Barnard would have us think it’s a veritable risk factor for heart disease. In fact, bacon might be good for the heart. And not just because it makes us happy, though that’s surely a plus! Monounsaturated fat — the primary fat in bacon — is widely lauded for reducing inflammation and lowering blood pressure, while the antimicrobial palmitoleic content in bacon fat can keep plaque at bay. Triglycerides too may improve because bacon fat is especially good at helping us achieve satiety and stable blood sugar. Bacon can thus be useful for diabetics and prediabetics as well as everyone else coping with sugar cravings and carbohydrate addictions.

Promoting bacon as a red hot ticket to weight loss might seem over the top, but eggs and bacon do add up to a high-fat, high-protein and low-carb breakfast. They not only help people start their day feeling happy, but can reduce hunger pains and rev the metabolism. For many people, bacon’s signature salty and savory sweetness is a treat that reduces feelings of deprivation and lack. It can help people transition away from high carb diets and overcome carb addictions. And by stabilizing blood sugar, bacon helps prevent mood swings, reduce anxiety, improve focus and enhance coping skills.

Sure, and red meat can make people feel sated quickly as well—and very happy. Yet I don’t see the same article using that as a rationale for bulking up on red meat and arguing that it’s actually very healthy for you. As for the rest of the reasons, well, it’s rather interesting how it’s touted that bacon has monounsaturated fat in it but it is not noted that approximately 68% of the calories in bacon come from fat, and that half of that fat is saturated. Meanwhile, notice how the article zeros in on palmitoleic acid, neglecting all the other problems with bacon. For example, each ounce of bacon has 30 mg of cholesterol and a whole lot of sodium (400-600 mg). Again, in a contrarian fashion, concern about too much salt is dismissed as being nothing more than a product of the “food police,” as an appeal is made to how animals seek out salt in the form of salt licks.

Particularly amusing is the way that the problem with all the nitrites in bacon is so airily dismissed, even though it’s been correlated with cancer and COPD. I find it particularly interesting that the vast majority of the research cited about nitrites in bacon and health risks is old. There’s new research linking nitrites and N-nitroso with, for example, esophageal squamous cell carcinoma, colorectal cancer, renal cell carcinoma, although in fairness more recent evidence has called into question the previously accepted connection between nitrites and stomach cancer. Not that pointing out that the research linking nitrates with cancer is complicated, filled with noise, and difficult to interpret is enough. Again, like the case for the fat, salt, and other ingredients in bacon linked to health problems, what’s unhealthy has to be turned into being totally healthy. How is this done? I fear to mention this, but guess what? It’s all due to the NO (nitric oxide), baby!

Check it out:

Accordingly, NO is a key ingredient in many well-known erectile dysfunction products. Nitric oxide also benefits the immune system, where it helps us fight off infections, and the nervous system where it helps our brain cells communicate properly. NO’s myriad health benefits are summed up in the popular book The Nitric Oxide (NO) Solution by Nathan S.Bryan, PhD and Janet Zand, OMD.65 Although the book does not contain citations, a quick PubMed search reveals Dr. Bryan’s contribution to at least 88 journal articles, many establishing the NO benefits described above.

NO for Life

The message is NO is vital for a long, healthy and vital life. Unfortunately, few people today produce enough NO for optimal health, and NO deficiencies have been identified in many chronic diseases. Although NO supplements have been developed and marketed, and might well be helpful for people on plant-based, low-fat, low-cholesterol diets, such products might not be needed with a return to traditional foods. Traditionally cured bacon, sausage and other meats cured with sodium nitrite might be just the ticket to increasing NO production in the body.

Leading to the highly dubious conclusion:

The reason is bad studies and worse publicity, with the latest shoddy work out of Harvard a prime example. According to Dr. Bryan, the body of studies show only a “weak association” with evidence that is “inconclusive.” As he and his colleagues wrote in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, “This paradigm needs revisiting in the face of undisputed health benefits of nitrite- and nitrate-enriched diets.”73 So what’s the last word on America’s favorite meat? Indulge bacon lust freely, know that the science is catching up, the media lags behind, and, our ancestors most likely got it right.

It’s tempting—oh, so tempting—for me to believe this. For once, I can sort of understand the siren song of alt-med, as long as it’s wrapped in bacon. Too bad the article is chock full of logical fallacies, disparagement of science, and dubious reasoning. Everything might be better with bacon, taste-wise, but when it comes to the health benefits of the food to which it is added, not so much. Sometimes I wonder whether Mercola publishes articles like this just to be contrarian. If conventional medicine suggests that bacon and cured meats aren’t so good for you, well, then, they must be not just not harmful but fantastic for you! It’s like a two year old saying no to everything.

Comments

  1. #1 Darwy
    Røde grøde med fløde
    January 4, 2013

    I remember one Iron Chef episode where the secret ingredient was garlic.

    Yes, the ice cream maker got used that episode, and it was some time before I could LOOK at ice cream again…

  2. #2 Julian Frost
    January 4, 2013

    This whole article gave me a good chuckle. Thanks Orac.

    As much as I love bacon, whenever I watch one of those cooking competition shows on the Food Network, like Iron Chef America, in which the secret ingredient is bacon, I can’t figure out how putting bacon in ice cream works.

    Once upon a time, ice cream was as likely to be savoury as to be sweet. In fact, you could get blue cheese ice cream.

  3. #3 sophia8
    January 4, 2013

    Yes, Joe’s probably being his usual contrarian self – but what’s the betting that when he’s safely alone, he loves to guzzle a juicy bacon sandwich? ;)

  4. #4 Fergus Gallagher
    United Kingdom
    January 4, 2013

    The “Fat Duck” restaurant in England is often voted among the best in the world. They serve scrambled egg and bacon ice cream. Or crab ice cream if you prefer.

  5. #5 Lara Lohne
    About to head for bed
    January 4, 2013

    I’m curious, Orac, your take on Mark Sisson’a, “The Primal Blueprint” and the dietary and lifestyle guidelines he spells out in his book. Essentially he claims the problems with cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and all other metabolic syndrome linked diseases did not exist until the advent of agriculture and the inclusion of grains as the primary food source. He states that while it’s true less people died of starvation because we could always grow wheat and make bread, we saw a steady increase in chronic diseases at that time. I’ve read his book a few times, and I’ve browsed his site also and while the data he presents is compelling, I wouldn’t know enough about how to search for studies to either support or refute what he claims.

    I’ve also watched a documentary called “Fat Head” which essentially was the opposite of “Super Size Me” and was very entertaining but left me wondering, is it true or are these people just ‘taken in’ by what they want to believe? I have a family history of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer. I was already diagnosed as insulin resistant several years ago and I want to make sure I’m eating healthy, but not potentially contributing to my demise from one of these diseases. I do know if I eat too many carbs and not enough protein I get sick, shaky and weak and begin to have vision issues and become light headed. And by carbs I don’t mean sugar either. Too much salad, bread, pasta, too many veggies or fruit will do the same thing. I know this is probably way off topic but it is a curiosity and sometimes, it’s hard to know what to believe, as far as what is a healthy diet for someone already exhibiting intolerance to certain types of food.

  6. #6 herr doktor bimler
    January 4, 2013

    Accordingly, NO is a key ingredient in many well-known erectile dysfunction products.

    This is what happens when you learn your cell biochem from internet boner-pill spam.

  7. #7 tgobbi
    January 4, 2013

    Orac should have prefaced this column with a disclaimer: “Warning! Do not read this article about bacon before having eaten breakfast!”

    Such a warning would have served to make it much easier to follow my doctor’s order to lose 15 pounds…

  8. #8 Mojo
    January 4, 2013

    It’s not just vegans after all who warn us against bacon. Recently, the Harvard School of Public Health announced with great fanfare that just a small daily serving of red meat would increase our likelihood of death by 13 percent…

    Wouldn’t that make the likelihood of death 113%?

  9. #9 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    January 4, 2013

    Darwy,
    I have had garlic ice cream, as well as green tea ice cream and white pepper ice cream. Of them, the white pepper was worst. The garlic was OK, but not something I’d eat again given a choice.

    There’s a restaurant in San Francisco that serves garlic ice cream. Their motto is “We Season Our Garlic With Food!”®.

  10. #10 The Midwesterner
    The Midwest
    January 4, 2013

    I have a delicious recipe for popcorn “salad.” Whenever I’ve served it, people have raved about it. The ingredients are popcorn, mayo, cheddar cheese, bacon, and green onions (that’s what makes it a salad.) Although I’ve never actually tried this, my theory is that you could substitute packing peanuts for the popcorn and people would still love it because of the bacon.

  11. #11 BA
    Baconlandia
    January 4, 2013

    I was actually surprised by a nice garlic ice cream from an upscale asian place a few years ago. We ordered it just to give it a try. I finished the bowl but don’t think I’d order it again. It gave a special sort of breath for what seemed like a week.

  12. #12 Krebiozen
    January 4, 2013

    It’s confusingly laid out but Mercola only wrote the preamble. The article is actually written by Kaayla T. Daniel PhD CCN, who calls herself the Naughty Nutritionist™ (I call her the Deadly Dietitian). I’m surprised that Mercola doesn’t appear to be selling the pork from the “humanely raised pastured hog” he mentions.

    Fifty percent of the fat in bacon is monounsaturated

    According to the USDA it’s 41% monounsaturated fat, a little less than there is in beef dripping. Beef dripping, the new health food? It actually wouldn’t surprise me at all to see that being suggested, what with the cholesterol skeptics and those that suggest that beef and dairy products from grass-fed cows, being full of vitamin K2, are the elixir of life.

  13. #13 Dangerous Bacon
    January 4, 2013

    Could Mercola be using the bacon issue to differentiate himself from other figures in the alt med galaxy? After all, luminaries like Mike Adams have long warned us against the horrific dangers of bacon:

    ” As little as one sausage or two slices of bacon can increase your risk factors for pancreatic cancer by 51 percent.”*

    ht_p://www.naturalnews.com/035996_bacon_turkey_pancreatic_cancer.html#ixzz2H10ovuiu

    Hilariously, NN promotes the use of “turkey crisps” using smoked turkey as a healthy alternative to bacon (no one told Mike that smoked meats contain carcinogenic chemicals, and that smoked turkey can contain harmful bacteria like Listeria and Salmonella).

    Has the Cancer Establishment has gotten to both Joe and Mike? Is money changing hands? Just asking questions.

    *I had a single slice of bacon this morning (the Cancer Industry left a stack of it in the docs’ lounge this morning) so my cancer risk is up only 25.5%. Score!

  14. #14 Orac
    January 4, 2013

    I was actually surprised by a nice garlic ice cream from an upscale asian place a few years ago. We ordered it just to give it a try. I finished the bowl but don’t think I’d order it again. It gave a special sort of breath for what seemed like a week.

    I tried green tea ice cream once. It was the most disgusting ice cream I’ve ever eaten, and I would not eat it again.

  15. #15 Eric Lund
    January 4, 2013

    There’s a restaurant in San Francisco that serves garlic ice cream. Their motto is “We Season Our Garlic With Food!”®.

    A quick Google search confirmed my guess as to which restaurant this is: The Stinking Rose. In the process, I learned that they have a location in Beverly Hills as well.

  16. #16 tgobbi
    January 4, 2013

    Mephistopheles O’Brien: There’s a restaurant in San Francisco that serves garlic ice cream. Their motto is “We Season Our Garlic With Food!”®.

    That would be the Stinking Rose, “A Garlic Restaurant” on Columbus Ave. I’ve been traveling to San Francisco for 50 years and have never had enough courage to try the place.

  17. #17 Denice Walter
    January 4, 2013

    Mercola usually advocates a Paleo diet- like that of our ancient ancestors. I imagine them running across the savannah , coming home after a long day’s hunting or gathering, enticed by the scent of bacon.

    -btw- I never touch the stuff. And cannot remember when I last did.
    Perhaps 1980s.

    @ Mephistopheles O’Brien:

    I think that restaurant is called the Stinking Rose – or suchlike- in North Beach, SF. They offer cuisine for “vampires” as well ( i.e. garlic-free).

    And I do relish the green tea ice cream as well as ginger or lavender ice cream. How about rose water kulfi/ qulfi ?

  18. #18 Denice Walter
    January 4, 2013

    As I noted yesterday, our web woo-meisters include both vegans and carnivores- although the latter’s meat-eating is restricted to natural, un-processed, free-range etc.

    Vegan Gary Null compares meat-eaters to ” vampires and ghouls” because they ingest “blood and dead bodies”. ( Yeah, I know, highly abstract, sophisticated analogies and metaphors).
    Bacon would be a cancer-causing corpse in his book.

    Even more hilariously, he reiterates his view of cook shows and eating shows- especially one where a guy undertakes challenges ” Eat the entire 10 lb sandwich and IT”S FREE!” and another where a fellow travels the world eating deep fried bugs and sauteed lower GI tracts of various mammals,

    He predicts that the first will certainly kill himself through his over-eating- like most over-eaters will. He ridicules the second because the guy is overweight and bald. Apparently not all people are sex symbols like himself.

    Mike Adams advocates unprocessed meat: bacon would be much too dangerous for him. He
    raises his own chickens so he can be sure that they eat and exercise correctly.

  19. #19 Shay
    Illinois
    January 4, 2013

    @Midwesterner

    Remember, in our part of the world, gelatin is technically a vegetable.

  20. #20 Shay
    January 4, 2013

    he raises his own chickens so he can be sure that they eat and exercise correctly

    I just had a flash of a bunch of chickens in OD green shorts, running in formation (with a chicken DI yelling at them).

  21. #21 The Midwesterner
    Still in the Midwest but wishing I weren't
    January 4, 2013

    @Shay

    Too true!!

  22. #22 Mark Thorson
    January 4, 2013

    On what basis does he claim that nitrates or nitrites can increase NO in the body? They aren’t the same thing, and NO in the body is synthesized by nitric oxide synthase from arginine.

  23. #23 novalox
    January 4, 2013

    @Orac

    Really? I’ve had green tea ice cream before at a local restaurant here, and it was rather good, although I liked the red bean ice cream better.

  24. #24 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    January 4, 2013

    tgobbi, Denice Walter,

    You are both, of course, correct – it was The Stinking Rose. Based on their web site they now have a location in Beverly Hills as well.

    I ate there once and quite liked it, though for the next several days I could smell it coming out my pores (at least, I thought I could). There hasn’t been a good opportunity to return, though.

  25. #25 Mike
    January 4, 2013

    There was a place in Santa Cruz, I forget the name, that had Ice Cream with Chocolate Covered Bacon chunks in it. The taste was . . . unique. But then, Bacon is the Candy part of the pig.

    Had Garlic Ice Cream too, at the Garlic Festival, and I think the Bacon Ice Cream was better. And the Green Tea Ice Cream I tried was just . . . meh.

    Though, for something that’s surprisingly good, a certain chain restaurant has a Beer Milkshake – though they don’t attribute it’s invention to David Lister.

  26. #26 Narad
    January 4, 2013

    Of them, the white pepper was worst.

    Color me unsurprised.

  27. #27 rork
    January 4, 2013

    Nerd here, with reminders about hazard ratios.
    For a given cancer treatment, we usually aren’t interested in HR’s between 1 and 1.2, cause that effect is small. But if the variable is continuous (like how much X you eat), then the effect of eating lots of X may be large even if the HR seems small. In fact the HR changes depending on the units you measure X in. In English: the effects of a small amount of X may seem tiny, but if you eat lots, it can be a pretty large effect, since HR’s are increased hazard per unit of intake.

    Save a trillium – eat deer.

  28. #28 sheepmilker
    In a whiteout
    January 4, 2013

    We used to make lavender chèvre, it sold quite well.

  29. #29 Denice Walter
    January 4, 2013

    @ sheepmilker:

    I don’t think I can go as far as lavender chevre.

    Oddly, I like cuisine from asia ( the Middle East- India- SE- China- Japan) BUT
    I seem to be really have a thing for cheese/ yoghurt/ ice cream. We can never truly escape our origins. And who would want to if it means’ no cheese’.

  30. #30 Jeffrey
    OH-
    January 4, 2013

    Mono saturated fat is the primary fat in bacon? How can mercola say that with a straight face? Since when did NO become a primary ingredient in erectile meds? The meds may increase availiabity of NO to promote erections but its juvenile to think nitrous oxide is in the little blue pill. How do these morons get a public voice, except as comic relief.

  31. #31 Nebl
    January 4, 2013

    @Lara
    How would anyone study pre-historic high blood pressure or heart disease or metabolic syndrome? Our oldest mummies date from thousands of years AFTER the advent of agriculture.–all we have of pre-agricultural humans are bone fragments.

  32. #32 Liz Ditz
    http://lizditz.typepad.com/
    January 4, 2013

    Californians: There’s a bacon-fest in Sacramento later this month.

    http://www.facebook.com/SacramentoBaconFest

    I haven’t dined at The Stinking Rose in a few years, but when I lasted visited, I thought it was over-rated, and I like garlic. You can try out “forty garlic cloves and a chicken” (Alton Brown’s recipe) at home.

    On savory ice creams (or sorbets) — the ingredients and recipe really matters.

    I don’t care for green tea, so green tea ice cream is not for me.
    Savory ice creams are essentially crustless quiches, frozen not baked, so anything combination that you like as a quiche should work as in frozen form.

    I’ve made red wine sorbet Sorbete de Vino Rioja (google for recipe), but I cut the sugar way down the second time. I also did a version with sangria — it was pretty good, not as a dessert but a side for a really great steak on a hot night.

  33. #33 Denice Walter
    January 4, 2013

    @ Lara Lohne:

    I read your comment earlier and wanted to respond but was pressed for time. Understand that I am generalising a great deal.

    The woo-meisters I survey utilise similar ideas as those you describe although they go in opposite directions with them.

    Primordial humans lived in close relation to Nature ( capital N); these lean creatures were exercising all day long- walking, hunting, gathering and evading swifter, larger predators. The vegan contingent stresses that they were mostly vegetarian, gathering fruit, nuts and vegetables that they ate raw. The Paleo crowd thinks that meat was important in their diet. Like many natural health people, they believe that modern innovation and the adulteration of Nature causes illnesses- especially cancer and CVD. Our early ancestors were shockingly healthy and lived to great ages unless an accident befell them or they were overtaken by a predator.

    At any rate, many in both camps disparage wheat as being of the devil and the root of all illness. While vegans and vegetarians must rely more on grains and beans (products of agriculture and requiring cooking), natural, raw foods – fruit and nuts- which are *gathered* are prized as more ancient choices and therefore sacrosanct.

    Grain products are tolerated if they are natural, organic etc.
    Stricter Paleos are supposed to shun grains. Mike Adams- an omnivore- also harks back to the naturalness factor and advocates meat, milk, fruits and vegetables as close to natural and as unprocessed as possible.

    Many of these folks- vegan or not- ascribe a sort of magical healing factor to phytonutrients inherent in plants- like unto an *elan vital*- that might be disturbed by cooking at temperatures over 115 F. Thus raw or nearly raw.

    I think to understand these people we have to remember that this is not data-based but a sort of folk religion that they make up as they go along, taking concepts from other Naturalistas over the centuries and discarding what they dislike etc. I wouldn’t expect consistency or rationality.

  34. #34 Darwy
    Røde grøde med fløde
    January 4, 2013

    My dear friend Larian has given me a recipe for chocolate chip cookies with candied bacon.

    I haven’t yet worked up the stones to try it.

  35. #35 Narad
    January 4, 2013

    @sheepmilker

    We used to make lavender chèvre, it sold quite well.

    It’s a strong flavor; I was afraid I had overwhelmed the lemon verbena ice cream I made this summer with just a little bit after tasting the custard, but fortunately, the flavor calmed down quite a bit at low temperature.

    @DW

    And I do relish the green tea ice cream as well as ginger or lavender ice cream. How about rose water kulfi/ qulfi ?

    On the other hand, I absolutely did overwhelm the cranberry-rose sherbet to accompany the verbena ice cream. Should’ve used an eyedropper; if you think garlic stays with you, try a rose overdose.

  36. #36 Pareidolius
    On the savannah
    January 4, 2013

    Oh, how this reminds me of the waning days of my New Age life when I embraced the Neanderthin Diet! I became a paleo zelot for almost a year. I felt great, but honestly, the thought of never having chocolate cake or beer again just became too much.

  37. #37 Vasha
    January 4, 2013

    Anthropologist Marjorie Shostak, studying the !Kung hunter-gatherer people circa 1970, wrote that “they do not suffer from high blood pressure, heart disease or stherosclerosis, hearing loss or senility” — but few of them lived past age 50, either.

  38. #38 Chris
    Neither here nor there...
    January 4, 2013

    Mike:

    Though, for something that’s surprisingly good, a certain chain restaurant has a Beer Milkshake – though they don’t attribute it’s invention to David Lister.

    More than likely, it would attributed to “Doc” from John Steinbeck’s book Cannery Row. I remember that part of the book, even though I read it decades ago: How John Steinbeck pondered the beer milkshake long before Red Robin.

  39. #39 Liz Ditz
    January 4, 2013

    @Darwy — send me the recipe and I’ll try it for you….AND become the most popular grandparent on the block.

  40. #40 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    January 4, 2013

    the thought of never having chocolate cake or beer again just became too much.

    Paleolithic man doubtless drank anything they could find that resembled beer. I suppose there’s always fermented yak’s milk…

  41. #41 herr doktor bimler
    January 4, 2013

    a recipe for chocolate chip cookies with candied bacon

    Needs a dill akvavit chaser.

  42. #42 lilady
    January 4, 2013

    @ herr doktor bimler…please don’t get Narad started on dill. :-)

  43. #43 eNOS
    January 4, 2013

    @ Mark,
    I recall a paper discussing the increase of NO after high nitrate ingestion. Some surface bacteria of the tongue will reduce nitrate to nitrite, where it is further reduced in the stomach to NO. I would think this would only apply to gastric NO concentration, though.

  44. #44 Denice Walter
    January 4, 2013

    @ Narad:

    To correct myself:
    it was kulfi with rose ESSENCE- which is also a key ingredient in ras malai. They also made kulfi with kewra ( screw pine) essence. I had the kewra on something else and didn’t like it at all.

    Right now I just get lahori qulfi plain. It’s perfect..

  45. #45 Narad
    January 4, 2013

    To correct myself:
    it was kulfi with rose ESSENCE- which is also a key ingredient in ras malai. They also made kulfi with kewra ( screw pine) essence. I had the kewra on something else and didn’t like it at all.

    Yah, it was the essence that led to my mishap. I’ve also got a bottle of kewra water and one of khus essence (vetiver) lying around.

  46. #46 Peebs
    January 4, 2013

    I may have misread Orac’s blog but why should bacon be a processed food?
    I accept smoking it is a form of processing but a decent butcher this side of the pond will just slice some from the (dead!) pig.

  47. #47 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    January 4, 2013

    Peebs,

    Bacon has typically been brined, cured, smoked, and treated with nitrates. This is a reasonable amount of processing – not as much as, say, Spam or frankfurters but certainly more than a pork chop or ground beef.

    You can get bacon without nitrates – I’ve not found it to be particularly good. What passes for bacon in the UK (at least at the hotel buffets) is a pale, weak sister of what true bacon should be.

    BTW – I would think that what we refer to as a country ham would be considered processed as well.

  48. #48 Denice Walter
    January 4, 2013

    @ Narad:

    So what’s next for you, kulfi wallah?

  49. #49 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    January 4, 2013

    Chocolate covered bacon is an amazing taste treat (no, really). Candied bacon sounds like gilding the lily – but ungilded lilies are so boring…

  50. #50 Rich Scopie
    January 4, 2013

    Has anyone pointed out that “bacon” in America (where I assume Joe Mercola is) is usually nasty, crispy strips, more akin to cardboard than meat. Whereas in the UK, bacon is tender, juicy slabs of piggy goodness, which fried slowly in garlic and butter is guaranteed* to provoke an oral orgasm**.

    Sorry, I’ve gone all moist.

    * not actually guaranteed
    ** may not actually produce orgasm, but it’s incredibly good

  51. #51 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    January 4, 2013

    Rich Scopie – you have clearly had different bacon than I have. UK bacon, in my experience, is flabby, fatty meat of no distinguished origin and minimal flavor – possibly closer to fried ham than anything else. But then, I may not have gotten the good stuff.

  52. #52 Narad
    January 4, 2013

    You can get bacon without nitrates – I’ve not found it to be particularly good.

    Does sodium nitrite serve any purpose other than keeping the meat reddish?

  53. #53 Narad
    January 4, 2013

    (Or nitrate, take your pick. I also have a jar of saltpeter behind the khus.)

  54. #54 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    January 4, 2013

    Narad,

    According to http://www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/nutrition/DJ0974.html

    Nitrite in meat greatly delays development of botulinal toxin (botulism), develops cured meat flavor and color, retards development of rancidity and off-odors and off-flavors during storage, inhibits development of warmed-over flavor, and preserves flavors of spices, smoke, etc.

  55. #55 Yodelady
    January 4, 2013

    A food nut I’m subjected to on a cancer support message board insists the notion that cholesterol and saturated fats are linked to cardiovascular disease is an “old myth.” Only trans-fats do that. She is a big Mercola fan and has suddenly “gone Paleo.” Is Mercola now taking on the American Heart Association?

    I notice the food fanatics really do not know where food comes from. They think separating milk from cream is a nasty, mysterious, complicated industrial process. Pasteurization — evil incarnate! And raw milk only comes from “clean cows.” The last time I milked one, I guess old Bossy had forgotten to take her morning shower.

  56. #56 Krebiozen
    January 4, 2013

    What passes for bacon in the UK (at least at the hotel buffets) is a pale, weak sister of what true bacon should be.

    My American spouse is always disappointed in what I, a Brit, consider to be excellent bacon (and sausages, potatoes, bread, cider…). Our tastes are largely (but not inexorably) fixed at around the same time regional accents are, I suspect.

  57. #57 Denice Walter
    January 4, 2013

    I cannot believe it! A man who can actually clearly articulate his own sensual proclivities AND who waxes rhapsodic about charcuterie. Impressive!
    Take a bow, Mr Scopie

  58. #58 Bob G
    Los Angeles
    January 4, 2013

    The town of Gilroy, California has an annual garlic festival. I used to eat at a roadside cafe in Gilroy once in a while (long since gone out of business) that really could be described as mixing a little grilled chicken in with the garlic. Doing a quick internet search, I find that the Gilroy festival will do its 35th edition this July.

    Re ED treatments: The standard 2 pills inhibit the phosphodiesterase enzyme that breaks down a compound called cyclic-GMP, hence the term “pde5 inhibitors” used for them. One of the effects of NO release is to stimulate cyclic-GMP production. In this sense, using a drug that preserves cyclic-GMP (by inhibiting the enzyme that destroys it) potentiates what NO does. But that is because cyclic-GMP is “downstream” of the NO effect. Why this would have anything to do with eating bacon is a mystery to me. As somebody pointed out in an earlier comment, NO is the product of the metabolism of a particular amino acid.

  59. #59 Phoenix Woman
    January 4, 2013

    The best bacon I ever had was cured at home by a former boss of mine. He didn’t use commercial cures, either, so it tasted nothing at all like supermarket bacon.

    By the way, it is possible to make bacon without nitrates or nitrites: http://letsmakesomethingawesome.com/2011/03/home-cured-bacon-without-nitrates/

  60. #60 Phoenix Woman
    January 4, 2013

    By the way, adding Vitamins C and E to bacon during the manufacturing process helps lower the nitrosamine level: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Factsheets/Bacon_and_Food_Safety/#8

  61. #61 Narad
    January 4, 2013

    My American spouse is always disappointed in what I, a Brit, consider to be excellent bacon (and sausages, potatoes, bread, cider…).

    There is precious little decent cider to be had on this side; the only thing that occurs to me is the Woodchuck oak-aged winter offering, which is a standout from their usual stuff. Then again, nobody is likely to suggest serving over ice, like… Riunite.

  62. #62 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    January 4, 2013

    There’s a pub & restaurant near Heathrow where I had a truly excellent Sunday roast with potatoes, gravy, veg, and Yorkshire pudding. Combine that with a pint or two of London Pride – that’s British cuisine at its best.

    The breakfast buffet at the hotel was great as well, as long as you didn’t try to compare the bacon to bacon.

  63. #63 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    January 4, 2013

    And Narad, I had some very excellent unfiltered sweet (not hard) cider in Massachusetts. You have to get that in season, though.

  64. #64 Bacon Eater
    British Columbia, Canada
    January 4, 2013

    How about the t-shirt that claims,
    “Bacon. The gateway meat.”

  65. #65 Alain
    January 5, 2013

    Offtopic: it seem like I’m on a roll,

    http://www.securivm.ca/2013/01/the-job-of-doctor-in-armed-forces.html

    Enjoy
    Alain

  66. #66 herr doktor bimler
    January 5, 2013

    a pint or two of London Pride – that’s British cuisine at its best.

    Nuff said.

  67. #67 Bob G
    Los Angeles
    January 5, 2013

    I actually enjoyed pub food when I was in England, although that was a long time ago. I also got used to drinking room temperature Guiness.

    I would say that for those of us who don’t visit the Wolfgang Puck type of places, the best food at a reasonable price in Los Angeles is Asian. But that doesn’t tell the whole story, because there are lots of different Asian cultures in the area, and they all have different food styles. Off hand, I can think of Thai, Viet Namese, Indian, Japanese, at least 3 different varieties of Chinese, Korean, Mongolian barbeque style, and a subvariety known as Hong Kong style. There is also seafood, a million varieties of Mexican, and of course lots of varieties of Italian. There is also indigenous Los Angeles cuisine, aka McDonalds, In N’ Out Burger, and Norms. There is a slowly degrading tradition of restaurants being open all the time, a throwback to when the WWII aircraft plants ran 3 shifts, and people would get off work after midnight. It’s still possible to get breakfast at 1 AM, and you can see it happening in the places around the port where the dockworkers come off at 11 PM. Curiously, there is a restaurant called Versailles that does Cuban food, including a garlic chicken (there, I finally got around to that) that is local legend.

  68. #68 Andreas Johansson
    January 5, 2013

    Primordial humans lived in close relation to Nature ( capital N); these lean creatures were exercising all day long- walking, hunting, gathering and evading swifter, larger predators. The vegan contingent stresses that they were mostly vegetarian, gathering fruit, nuts and vegetables that they ate raw. The Paleo crowd thinks that meat was important in their diet.

    It’s notable that both varieties tend to assume that pre-agricultural humans all ate the same. They rarely if ever stop to reflect that, in a world without McDonald’s, the foodstuffs available in, say, the Kazakh steppe were very different from those on a tropical coast.

  69. #69 Krebiozen
    January 5, 2013

    There is precious little decent cider to be had on this side; the only thing that occurs to me is the Woodchuck oak-aged winter offering, which is a standout from their usual stuff.

    In the UK (and most of the rest of the world) cider is simply an alcoholic beverage made from apple juice. In the US and Canada there are alcoholic (hard) and non-alcoholic (soft) varieties. The apple cider my wife craves is soft cider from Michigan, and there is no adequate substitute commercially available in the UK, not that I can find anyway. The filtered, pasteurized apple juice and the alcoholic “hard” varieties available in the UK are, I am told, nothing like American soft cider. As a Brit I am, of course, a little bemused by the idea of people wasting perfectly good cider by drinking it before it has been fermented.

    I’m guessing that the tradition of drinking unfermented cider is something to do with prohibition. Or is it that there is insufficient sugar in American apples?

  70. #70 Andreas Johansson
    January 5, 2013

    Non-alcoholic cider is popular in Sweden (which narrowly dodged its own Prohibition in the early 20C). Tho these days EU rules mean it can’t be sold as “cider” – instead you get “apple drink with cider character”.

    Alcoholic cider is popular too. For whatever reason it’s stereotypically a woman’s drink.

  71. #71 Krebiozen
    January 5, 2013

    Alcoholic cider is popular too. For whatever reason it’s stereotypically a woman’s drink.

    I think that tends to be true in the UK as well, unless it is ‘scrumpy’, a legendarily powerful rough cider mostly found in the south-west of England, which appeals to macho types.

    In my drinking days I was most familiar with cider as a constituent of ‘snakebite’, a 50/50 mixture of lager and cider that for some reason goes cloudy despite both its constituents being clear. Some people add a shot of blackcurrant, turning it into a cloudy foul-looking pale purple concoction. I believe its reputation for synergistic intoxication is a myth, as the case with many other mixtures of intoxicating drinks.

  72. #72 Marc Stephens Is Insane
    January 5, 2013

    Some bacon cookies for breakfast please.

  73. #73 Denice Walter
    January 5, 2013

    I’m here for the same purpose,MIIS, but non-bacon please.

  74. #74 Ken
    January 5, 2013

    @Pareidolius, @Mephistopheles O’Brien: Some anthropologists theorize, in all seriousness, that one reason humans settled down and began agriculture was to have enough grain to ensure regular supplies of beer. I’m not sure that works for China and Mesoamerica, but it seems plausible for Mesopotamian agriculture.

  75. #75 Narad
    January 5, 2013

    I’m guessing that the tradition of drinking unfermented cider is something to do with prohibition.

    The U.S. temperance movement surely played a part, but the story of the demise of hard cider is a topic of some speculation. It’s apparently a fast-growing market segment at the moment, but I have one meatballish acquaintance who will readily mock me for consuming it. (Fortunately, his own tastes supply retorts aplenty.)

  76. #76 Alain
    January 5, 2013

    There is a non-alcoholic apple cider which we call moût de pomme (apple mash) at my favorite brewpub which tastes really great and is the perfect replacement for beer or regular cider when one does not want to drink alcoholic beverages.

    Alain

  77. #77 Shay
    January 5, 2013

    Alain, is that what is called cidre doux? I can’t get it here, but I used to love the nose-tingling “snap” of it.

  78. #78 herr doktor bimler
    January 5, 2013

    cider as a constituent of ‘snakebite’, a 50/50 mixture of lager and cider that for some reason goes cloudy despite both its constituents being clear. Some people add a shot of blackcurrant, turning it into a cloudy foul-looking pale purple concoction. I believe its reputation for synergistic intoxication is a myth, as the case with many other mixtures of intoxicating drinks.

    All the same, I knew some pubs that would ban anyone who ordered a snakebite, on the theory that they were probably hoping (however misled) for “synergistic intoxication” and subsequent aggravation.

    Most of the people who favoured the combination were crusties or members of the “brew crew” who otherwise confined their activities to Carlsberg Special Brew.

  79. #79 herr doktor bimler
    January 5, 2013

    his own tastes supply retorts aplenty

    I like a standard nonic glass myself, but if someone else prefers to drink from laboratory glassware, fine.

  80. #80 Alain
    January 5, 2013

    @ Shay,

    Could be but I’m not sure. However, I agree it has a good snap.

    Alain

  81. #81 Narad
    January 5, 2013

    if someone else prefers to drink from laboratory glassware, fine.

    The yard glass didn’t invent itself.

  82. #82 Krebiozen
    January 5, 2013

    Regarding the rarity of hard cider in the US, I think the following from Narad’s link explains it:

    Cider, as a traditional English drink, was much identified not so much as an American drink but as a symbol of rural WASP culture. The earlier English settlers who drank cider could be distinguished from the Germans who drank beer and the Irish who drank both beer and whiskey. When in an effort to end drunkenness among the WASP majority Temperance advocates urged their countrymen to refrain from alcoholic beverages, cider was therefore peculiarly vulnerable.

    HDB is quite right about the types of people who drink snakebite. As for drinking retorts, I quite fancy one of these.

  83. #83 Composer99
    January 5, 2013

    Mmmm…bacon… tasty, tasty bacon….

  84. #84 palindrom
    January 6, 2013

    All scientists should praise Bacon. His Novum Organum was a founding document of modern science.

    Oh, wait …

  85. #85 Grant
    http://sciblogs.co.nz/code-for-life/
    January 6, 2013

    Way off-topic, SaneVax (heh) is still pimping Dr. Lee’s work as if it were new (and news):

    http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20121231005212/en

    Sigh

    (Meanwhile the local anti-vaccine group has taken to pimping their wares [articles/spam] by way of paying Facebook to pop them in others’ timelines. Ugh.)

  86. #86 Grant
    http://sciblogs.co.nz/code-for-life/
    January 6, 2013

    HDB,

    Your mention of drinking from laboratory glassware brings back memories of my graduate student days and our lab-sponsored journals clubs. The lab paid for the wine we’d consume during the weekly journal club;. we’d drink from borrowed, recently-cleaned, glassware. Excess wine stock was periodically cleared with a party :-)

  87. [...] meat causes cancer. No, processed meat causes cancer. OK, it’s both read meat and processed meat. Wait, genetically modified grain causes cancer [...]

  88. #88 Retro Pastiche
    Surrounded by baconists
    January 7, 2013

    Unfortunately, I am prevented from indulging in bacon due to intolerances (yuk it up people). I do, however, provide bacon for others (does this make me an enabler?).

    My daughter, embarking on her first teenage food fetish, announced that she was now and forever more a vegetarian. A week later, she sheepishly admitted that she hadn’t considered a life without bacon sandwiches and was renouncing her vegan vows.

    Much hilarity ensued, and I can now say that Mercola was right about one thing – bacon is truly the “gateway meat”.

  89. #89 Alia
    January 7, 2013

    Well, somehow this discussion reminds me of a line from Lou Reed’s “What’s good”, which goes like this:
    “Life’s like bacon and ice cream
    That’s what life’s like without you.”

  90. #90 Denice Walter
    January 7, 2013

    Just a thought ere I depart:

    many of the fine, creative chefs/ cooks whose establishments I often frequent- like for our infamous Monday events- never allow bacon within the hallowed confines of their sanctified kitchens because they’re Moslem**. From Bangldesh, Pakistan, Egypt, Indonesia etc.
    They somehow manage to be brilliant.

    I just offered that in the spirit of international accord.

    ** similarly Jewish and Hindu.

  91. #91 JGC
    January 7, 2013

    I’ve made chocolate/bacon ice cream. The bacon has to be cooked really crisp, and broken into small bits, and a little bit of cayenne helps. The chocolate’s like a mole sauce and the bacon gives you smoke, salt and crunch.

    Also eaten at Stinking Rose–the 40 Clove Chicken’s yummy.

  92. #92 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    January 7, 2013

    FWIW, having lived in the American South, bacon or bacon grease can be considered a vegetable.

  93. #93 Krebiozen
    January 7, 2013

    When I was a vegetarian I found that smoked tofu well seasoned with soy sauce can be used as a substitute for bacon. It’s not great, but could prevent a relapse into carnivorousness.

  94. #94 Narad
    January 7, 2013

    When I was a vegetarian I found that smoked tofu well seasoned with soy sauce can be used as a substitute for bacon.

    I imagine tempeh could work pretty well in this role if you could get it sliced thinly enough. Makes a good mock Reuben sandwich.

  95. #95 Krebiozen
    January 7, 2013

    Grilled smoked salmon, for ichthyophages, works well in a mock BLT.

  96. #96 Krebiozen
    January 7, 2013

    I should probably clarify that by “grilling” I mean broiling, and by “ichthyophage” I mean someone who eats fish, but not red meat.

  97. #97 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    January 7, 2013

    Coho salmon is pretty red. Just sayin’.

  98. #98 lilady
    January 8, 2013

    @ Grant: AoA has the press release up on Dr. Sin Hang Lee’s, “new” nested PCR blood test to test for HPV rDNA in serum.

    The also identify Lee as a pathologist at *Milford Hospital and as an **expert witness who testified at the New Zealand Coroner’s Inquest.

    * Lee works at Milford Hospital ?

    ** Lee was “qualified” as an expert witness by the coroner ?

  99. #99 Grant
    http://sciblogs.co.nz/code-for-life/
    January 8, 2013

    lillady,

    My understanding is that Lee wasn’t called by the coroner, but by the parents, who, as I understand it, insisted the coroners include Lee and Shaw. Point being, Lee was not “qualified” as an expert witness by the coroner (to paraphrase you).

  100. #100 herr doktor bimler
    January 8, 2013

    Way off-topic, SaneVax (heh) is still pimping Dr. Lee’s work as if it were new (and news):
    http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20121231005212/en

    I understand Businesswire to be an advertising site — you send them your press release and a fee, they circulate it to market analysts. SaneVax are searching for investors. They are not going to let the absence of developments hold them back.

  101. #101 Roger Kulp
    January 8, 2013

    My favorite candy,but they need to do something about that name.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZG6LFDzQQw

  102. [...] was thinking. After my post a week ago in which über-quack Joe Mercola unexpectedly gave a glowing introduction to a paean of praise for bacon and my post yesterday in which a credulous fellow by the name of David Freedman who fancies himself [...]

  103. #103 LovleAnjel
    January 11, 2013

    @Narad

    If you want something better than Woodchuck, I recommend Blackthorn cider, or one of the Crispin varieties only sold in bombers (they have a Honeycrisp cider which is to die for, my husband prefers the oak-aged variety). JK Scrumpy’s Solstice was heaven but I couldn’t find it this year. You have to go to a decent liquor store to find them, usually.

  104. #104 lilady
    January 11, 2013

    My *favorite* cancer/nutrition/toxicology/Botox *expert* has weighed in on the Newtown Creek School murders…

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/10/suzanne-somers-adam-lanza-newtown-shooting-diet_n_2451983.html

  105. #105 Phoenix Woman
    January 12, 2013

    By the way: Marmite and tofu have a meaty flavor when eaten together.

  106. #106 Narad
    January 12, 2013

    If you want something better than Woodchuck, I recommend Blackthorn cider, or one of the Crispin varieties only sold in bombers (they have a Honeycrisp cider which is to die for, my husband prefers the oak-aged variety).

    Yah, I suppose I should revisit the Blackthorn. The “original” Crispin was the embodiment of insipidness to my taste, though, juicelike and feebly carbonated. Of course, as mentioned, even Woodchuck gets it right once in a while, and it looks like Crispin is getting into the redistribution business.

  107. #107 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    January 12, 2013

    Narad – I find the Woodchuck Barrel Select to be particularly tasty and complex.

  108. #108 Ben
    January 15, 2013

    Bacon may be problematic due to nitrates, but a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease found no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of the disease: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20071648