Updated: Mar 2, 2019
TODAY, MY OPINION: We will return to regular programming after this brief meditation on mainstream media vs. your health.
Hacking the health information firewall
Why did it take me 57 years discover Paleo (along with weight loss, great health and energy?) Because I wasn't supposed to.
Sure, I had heard about the "paleolithic" diet a couple of times since about 2000, but always through mainstream media as a weird or fad diet--tagged as "too hard" or too high in protein or saturated fat, or even as "outdated." (!) Each exposure quickly and effortlessly spun me to move on, look at something else.
But...I wound up reading a hardcover book instead--totally by accident. (I picked up The Whole 30, thinking it was a cookbook.) There was no chance for the vast, sophisticated, pervasive web-, TV- and-print info-babble network to shunt me away from the "inconvenient truth" that a healthy whole-food based diet is bad for business.
Specifically, the "Big Food" business.
More and more, what we hear or believe--or believe we know--about food and nutrition is really just corporate propaganda.
Mainstream media has an agenda--and it's not yours
How do we know things--about food or anything else? Where does our information come from? Is it really information, or just something that others find it useful for us to believe?
"Belief in facts" assumes that's what they are, facts. Sadly, our grip on--and access to--facts becomes less firm every day that we rely on mainstream and social media.
It's not really news that "you can't trust everything you read." Most of us realize that media sources have an axe or two to grind. We tend to lose sight of this, though, as we scramble through busy days and weeks, fight multiple distractions, put out fires at home and at work--and choose what to eat.
Eating the "right things" to build health and avoid illness should be a snap by now, shouldn't it? Isn't nutrition a science, after all? And aren't we entitled to receive pure, unbiased nutritional facts through our preferred information channels? We certainly expect this...
...and this expectation, this assumption that A) the knowledge is out there for all to see, and B) we're getting all of it that we need... invites all manner of chicanery and misdirection.
The more mainstream input we process, the less we may actually know about food and diet.
Noise (and poise) don't equal truth
We live in a world where even "tweets" are news. (Tweets! Character-limited blatherings where anyone can say anything in pre-digested nuggets, irrespective of fact.)
Every day, tweets or posts or articles, or video clips snipe and swipe at us from all sides, vying for our increasingly fragmented attention.
The most unfounded, outlandish, or simply mis-directive content may appear completely factual because of presumed source, or presumed scientific basis, or simple, overwhelming repetition.
Saw it on CNN? Fox? Both? Must be true. Huffington Post too? Gospel. Your favorite news/food/hobby blog, site, or periodical? Network TV? Take it to the bank.
The mainstream "conversation" itself, the focus on what is (or is not) discussed, is completely out of our control--though we assume it is driven by immediate, relate-able, common-sense priorities. We don't realize (or we forget) that what gets talked about, weighed and validated or dismissed from the public eye is a carefully managed, trillion-dollar business.
Relatively naked manipulation of information, especially regarding food and nutrition, is constant and relentless. "Respected" sources, including mainstream "science journalists" and eagerly co-opted dietitians, doctors and scientists, endlessly regurgitate a carefully crafted party line.
The science of fakery
This repeated branding or spinning of specious or manipulative information is a science unto itself.
Dr. Robert Cialdini describes this in his book Influence: the psychology of persuasion, which studies the "psychology of compliance" (as applied to sales techniques.) He observes our strong tendency NOT to think for ourselves or look beyond...
what most other people (especially friends) think or do
what "experts" tell us is correct
what authorities (government, academia) direct us to do
Cialdini explains that we are conditioned from infancy to accept these "proofs" as a kind of shortcut. Rather than making our own assessment, it's easier to follow along, go with the flow.
While these shortcuts have some obvious advantages to society, they have long been co-opted by savvy, deep-pocket marketers--going all the way back the dawn of advertising.
Today, media inundates us with carefully tailored, highly polished, infinitely layered messages about "what most people eat", what "scientific studies" say, or "government diet guidelines" recommend. In our haste, and eagerness to use these shortcuts rather than apply CRITICAL THINKING to our daily lives, we may forget:
"most people," sadly, don't think critically about food information (I didn't!)
it is public knowledge that scientists and studies are frequently under the paid control of food manufacturers
most, if not all, Western government, academic or medical recommendations are heavily influenced by this same industry spending (please read Death By Food Pyramid, by Denise Minger. Chilling--and exhaustively researched.)
The fakery of science
Most insidious of these is the auction block approach to nutritional science. I have a post coming out on these details soon at The Paleo Diet website (slated for March, stay tuned.) Food companies routinely and openly fund research that supports product sales, even in the face of real-world experience and known contradictions with other research.
There is even a "study about studies" that shows how funding sources skew actual results in the funders' favor.
If you really think about it, how can we possibly be in the middle of the obesity, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease epidemics if we are awash in all this scientific knowledge?
Could it be that these epidemics are...profitable? Is it just too easy to sell you high-margin processed food for life, and then bill you for the resulting medical treatment?
If you follow mainstream ("evidence based!") advice and consume a highly processed, sugar- and carb-heavy, industrial seed oil/trans-fat rich diet, (including the classic con "high fiber, low fat") you are paying to play in an elaborately rigged, losing game.
The truth is not hard to find--so far
To be fair, there are ethical scientists. Most of these don't follow the money--or can't, if their ideas are too cutting-edge.
Their work is out there but mainstream media won't spoon-feed it to you--it will nudge you way. For examples, google the work of Dr. Loren Cordain (diet), Dr. Dale Bredesen (Alzheimer's disease), Dr. Terry Wahls (multiple sclerosis) or Dr. Thomas Seyfried (cancer.)
One common thread in the work of these dedicated, respected scientists is that they all recognize the traditional high-carb Western diet for what it is: bad for you. Many others agree--but you won't see this on the nightly news.
And there's the rub. This vital information, which can drastically improve our health and reduce medical expenses, exists behind a media-complicit information firewall. As of today, this knowledge is not so much "concealed" as simply withheld from the mainstream universe that so many of us accept as All We Need To Know.
You can find it if you want to. At this point. (Net neutrality anyone?) But you have to search for it. Which means you have to know you should be searching...
And don't be fooled by the occasional mainstream article that boldly states "ultra processed foods cause cancer" or "high carb diets may cause Alzheimer's." These things make good press, lend a fleeting patina of legitimacy...and soon disappear in the blizzard of misdirection. If science and diet editors were serious about such issues, they would be in our faces constantly.
They know "most people" will completely forget these articles in less than 24 hours, no matter how important or shocking they are.
But you aren't most people
Certainly try not to be me, stumbling into a whole-food, Ancestral diet completely by accident--in late middle age.
Like most people I was grunging along, cheating regularly on my "high fiber, low fat" diet, unable to lose weight, constantly ill. I picked up that book by mistake (The Whole 30), which eventually prompted me to read a second book (The Primal Blueprint) which referred in passing to Dr. Cordain's work, so I read his book (The Paleo Diet.)
If I had bothered to google "Paleo" I could have gone right to Dr. Cordain's website...but I thought Paleo was just another fad diet--courtesy of the mainstream.
Three years later (and several more books--see our "resources" page) my wife Kathy and I are still full-on Paleo and will never go back. Ever. For one simple but all important reason...it works. We lost weight. We can go all day. I take no meds. I haven't seen a GP in almost four years--and had maybe two colds in that time. Despite my schedule I spend up to two hours a day in the gym--easily. My only complaints are athletic injuries--I refuse to hold back when I should.
This is also the big reason that Paleo hasn't faded away like so many du jour diets or lifestyles. It's tough to argue with success...
...so mainstream media uses another tactic.
Your conversation, my conversation--or is it?
It simply drops the subject, then mounts a stealthy flank attack...and in doing so reveals who's really running the show.
Have you noticed that in the babble-sphere there is far less discussion of Paleo than in past months or years? (There is still some about Keto though, which in it's healthiest whole-food version is basically Paleo with different ratios--but Keto is much easier to dismiss due to the wild proliferation of UN-healthy fad-diet versions.)
Instead, Ancestral, whole food, or healthier low carb diet ideas, are increasingly replaced by vegan and vegetarian topics. Or even more extreme, "scientific" studies like the EAT-Lancet study that demonize animal protein.
Then there is the whole "lab meat" movement, again targeting those who prefer the real thing.
Meat, of course, is a Paleo staple--although most people (that phrase again) don't understand that Paleo is not "all about meat" (it's really about lots of vegetables and some meat.) This media trend against meat strikes directly, if silently, at Paleo devotees, as much as at hamburger and pork chop-lovers everywhere.
These posts, videos, articles and "memes" (a word I utterly loathe) spin and recycle all the standard meatless-lifestyle nuggets, in a new faux-scientific context emphasizing sustainability and alleged health benefits. The more you read, the more it can seem like meat eaters are, at best, ignorant or atavistic sadists.
Vegans and vegetarians (both of which Kathy and I have been, for years at a time) are free to live their own lives, and propound their views. They have done so for years. Why, suddenly, are their previously fringe-element ideas being mainstreamed so widely?
That is, where is the money coming from for such slick, professional advancement of their cause?
(One example was the beautifully produced, if factually bankrupt and widely debunked, film What The Health?)
Let's follow the money one more time
Remember, vegans and vegetarians eat LOTS OF PROCESSED FOOD.
It's not all about steamed vegetables and brown rice.
Soy and grain based meat-replacement products are enormous in this space. Tofu, tempeh, veggie-friendly burgers, chips and jerky, a vast spectrum of frozen casseroles, bakes (including fake cheese, usually soy based), milks, creamers, faux ice cream and sweet deserts, cookies and snacks are widely consumed.
My favorite was seitan, a wheat-based "meat substitute" of almost pure gluten (that is, 99.999% likely to cause leaky gut and systemic inflammation.)
Classic levels of high carbs, trans fats, sugars, seed oils, even corn syrup and questionable additives are rife here. You can easily be just as unhealthy as a vegan or vegetarian as you can on the classic Western diet. Maybe more easily. Another plus (for the food & medical companies orchestrating the conversation): you will spend even more on your specialty pre-prepped, processed items than non-vegetarians.
No one mentions the acknowledged nutritional shortcomings of the meatless lifestyle...but the Media Conversation isn't about your health.
It's about your wallet.
WWACTD? (What Would A Critical Thinker Do?)
A real conversation about modern meat consumption should probably include:
Feedlot meat, or factory-farmed chicken or pork or even fish, are not healthy dietary choices, and their production is rightly questioned as un-sustainable.
Grass fed beef, heritage pork, pastured chickens and wild caught seafood are healthy to eat, and their production is far more sustainable than the feedlot varieties.
Vegan and vegetarian lifestyles have never been permanently adopted by any world culture--although many Ancestral or traditional cultures don't eat a lot of meat.
Absence of animal protein in the diet often leads to substantial nutritional deficiencies.
The new guilt-free "lab meat" uses real meat components as a "starter." Is it really guilt free? It is, after all, still...cloned meat. (Yuck?)
...but this is not the point. The intent of the conversation's mainstream architects is to pull the focus away from whole-food, low carb, Ancestral eating and its obvious, tangible health benefits.
Attacking meat consumption is an easy, dramatic, attention-grabbing strategy. Even a wider, non-vegetarian audience may--and do-- take the posts, articles, tweets and "studies" at face value.
Critical thinking is your primary defense in this modern, virtual wasteland of thinly disguised advertising and media-based lifestyle manipulation.
The clues are easy to spot: the more money behind a message, the less likely you stand to benefit from it.
As the investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson says in the final paragraph of her penetrating book on media manipulation, The Smear:
"For now, one thing you can count on is that most every image that crosses your path has been put there for a reason. Nothing happens by accident. What you need to ask yourself isn't so much 'Is it true, but...
... Who wants me to believe it--and why?' "
Trust Me, I'm Lying: confessions of a media manipulator, by Ryan Holiday
The Smear: how shady political operatives and Fake News control what you see, what you think, and how you vote, by Sharyl Attkisson
Death By Food Pyramid, by Denise Minger
Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon and Mary G. Enig, Ph.D. [PLEASE read at least the first section on "Politically Correct Nutrition." I could not put this book down.]
The Wahls Protocol, by Terry Wahls, M.D. [Dr. Wahls reversed her own advanced multiple sclerosis using a dietary approach.]
Ted Talk by Terry Wahls, M.D. on her experiences with diet and MS
The End of Alzheimer's: The first program to Prevent and Reverse cognitive decline, by Dale E. Bredesen, M.D.
The Paleo Diet, Revised, by Loren Cordain, Professor Emeritus
And don't forget....
DAVID WHITESIDE IS NOT A DOCTOR and does not give medical advice or treatment. He offers information and personal experience only. Nothing you read on this website or blog should be construed as medical advice or as intended to supersede information you get from your medical professional. Following the advice given here or on any recommended resource site does not create a doctor-patient relationship or create liability for David or anyone else. David is not liable for any loss or complication you experience from following any diet or taking any action. You should check with your properly accredited medical professional if you think you are injured or ill.