Last week Kimberly Hartke published a piece on pellagra, wondering aloud if it might be the root cause of the upswing in public shootings and violence.
Pellagra is a vitamin B deficiency, symptoms include: fears, fatigue, depression, confusion, paranoia, hostility, rage and anxiety. In the early part of the 20th Century the rural South was rampant with pellagra. It is this, in part, which is to blame for the Southern stereotype of being slow, dumb and quick to anger.
Yesterday, my fellow Mental Meat Head, Jason C. Brown, re-posted an article from the Exhuberant Animal. In it Frank Forencich touches on the high drama that surrounds the diet debate and our tendency to polarize our selves into factions that war over who has the monopoly on Truth.
Vegans and Vegetarians claim their lifestyle is not only healthy but humane and castigate all non-believers with the mantra, “Meat is murder.” Carnivores and the relatively new Paleo movement counter “Wheat is murder” citing theirs is the original diet to which we are optimally evolved, anything less is an invitation to disease, sub par mental capacity and a general waste of available space.
Full disclosure: I have spent a little time in each of these camps.
In college, much to my mother’s dismay, I embraced a vegetarian lifestyle and lived this way the two years I lived in Athens, Georgia.
Recently, I entered the Paleo camp, mainly as part of my ongoing effort to solve the dilemma of my waistline. I enjoy my chops, steak and bacon and I do better on less grains than more, but I can tell when my body is craving carbs and I’ve learned it’s foolish to deprive myself of something my body says it needs.
Which brings me to my point.
I have met and worked with people who live very successful and healthy lives on a vegetarian diet, I’ve met near total carnivores who do the same and I know vegetarians and meat eaters who seem to always be sick or with a cold.
So what conclusions can we draw from all of this, seemingly contradictory, information?
Here’s what I get. Nutrition is of fundamental importance. If you’re not getting the nutrition your body needs it doesn’t work right and can go completely haywire, prompting us to behave in ways we otherwise wouldn’t, possibly with disastrous results.
The specifics of that nutrition is a highly individual experience, each one of us is slightly different, our needs vary based on a host of variables.
This may be a radical thought, but our taste buds evolved to direct us toward what we need.
Profit based food systems take advantage of how taste buds work and try to direct us based on their motives, not our nutritional ones.
My only dietary advice then is to base your diet on real food. It it takes much more than a sharp knife and a good stove or oven to prepare, you might be better off giving it a pass.