Inuit man with dead beluga whale
Certain people continually condemn vegan diets as unbalanced, lacking, dangerous…at the same time marveling at the “robust health” of the Inuit of the past, implying we should all eat like those who made up a tiny percentage of the world’s population and were extremely unusual in their living conditions.
As opposed to those less healthy hunting cultures of today…
Today’s Inuit have numerous health problems. But Inuit health problems and short life spans are not a new occurrence. Research published in an article in the June 1987 National Geographic, titled “Sealed in Time: Ice Entombs an Eskimo Family for Five Centuries” showed autopsy results of two Eskimo women, one in her 20s and one in her 40s that were frozen five centuries ago. These Eskimo women “…suffered from atherosclerosis, or narrowing of the arteries caused by deposits of cholesterol and fat, probably the result of a heavy diet of whale and seal blubber …and they showed signs of severe osteoporosis, bone-mass deterioration.”
All that animal protein, and that lack of fiber, folate, vitamin C, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and vitamins A, D, E, and K, leading to their high rate of osteoporosis and very short life-spans.
But today’s meat proponents (i.e. paleos) like to blame modern Inuit health problems on flour, sugar, and processed foods & oils, because of world trade products being available to them. That implies that those products can be gotten to them by The White Man, but healthy whole foods cannot? Further, most fresh whole foods do quite well in freezing temperatures.
In his book, “Health Conditions and Disease Incidence Among The Eskimos of Labrador,” Dr. Samel Hutton reported on the Inuit before the addition of western foods. He studied them personally from 1902 to 1913, and had access to the detailed birth and death records kept by missionaries from the previous century.
Hutton said: “Old age sets in at fifty and its signs are strongly marked at sixty. In the years beyond sixty the Eskimo is aged and feeble. Comparatively few live beyond sixty and only a very few reach seventy. Those who live to such an age have spent a life of great activity, feeding on Eskimo foods and engaging in characteristically Eskimo pursuits.”
Curious thing that is. Since Inuits’ bad bone health is said…by certain meat activists whom I’ve witnessed…to be due to lack of exercise, not the high protein/fat diet.
One has to wonder why meat activists have to go back to cave men or bring up today’s obscure cultures (Inuit, Masai) to defend the meat/fat diet, when we have ample proof with about 490 million vegans (and growing) in the developed world that we humans can indeed thrive on vegan diets. And that the iron alone from red meat causes heart disease: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140423170903.htm
To digress a bit more:
Another favorite tactic to discount vegan diets is to go back 20 years or so to say vegans are still 1% of the population, while we’re more like 7% now according to Public Policy Polling’s 2012 survey. It seems like much more than that nearing 2015, but perhaps that’s because vegans are so enthusiastic and speaking up. But the increase has escalated in the last 5 years or so.
Also, notice how these hunting cultures are romantically waxed about by certain meat lovers who indulge in their fandom from cushy homes using computers while eating KFC and preaching about grass-fed meat, while condemning vegans for preaching. They imply that sugar, flour and processed foods are what vegans must eat, because “without meat/eggs/dairy, what else is there?” But unhealthy stuff like flour is only an occasional thing for me as a long-term vegan who’s quite healthy, even if a bit on the plump side. (But I used to be very obese as an omnivore, so my current size is a vast improvement.)
What on Earth do we eat? The wide array of awesome fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, nuts, and seeds. Now I’ll stop digressing…
The Masai’s Problems Today
Zealous meat-lovers attribute today’s Inuit & Masai health problems to sugar, flour, etc., and imply those things are forced onto them by “westerners” or The White Man. But a study titled “Atherosclerosis in the Masai” that was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 1972, and was carried out largely before sugar and flour played a part in the Masai diet, concluded that the Masai tribes who consume diets of meat and milk have a similar amount of atherosclerosis vascular disease as old American men, but at a much younger age.
Life expectancy for Masai people is 45 for women and 42 for men, with 59 considered very old. Their necessary physical fitness plays a large role in the prevention of heart attacks, as their arteries expand to make up for the blockages. This suggests that the Masai would have higher rates of heart attacks if they lived to older ages. Combat wounds, infections, and cardiovascular-renal failure (heart failure combined with kidney failure likely due to all that animal protein & low fiber) are their leading causes of young death. Showing that with violent, protein-heavy lives come violent and/or disease-caused early deaths.
Now there are Masai tribes who eat much less meat and far more fruit and vegetables (not donuts and chips) than their more traditional counterparts, and thereby benefit from less violence, better health and longer life-spans. I won’t get into that further except to share this video from someone I’m friendly with, a Swedish woman (vegetarian veterinarian) living among a Masai tribe, married to a Masai man. The partial preparation of an animal-free meal (any eggs possibly used at times are from truly free-range birds):
Gabriele has told me that meat is a rare indulgence among her people, and she is a very healthy vegetarian woman in her 60’s who’s amazingly fit and highly skilled at her profession.
Evidence from both those “robustly healthy” hunter cultures shows that even back when traditional diets heavy in animal foods were consumed, they had gross evidence of atherosclerosis at a young age, very short life-spans, and that the Inuit suffered from bone loss at a young age. The Inuit also have a similar prevalence of coronary artery disease as other populations (omnivores) but they have higher death rates due to cerebrovascular strokes, which are caused by plaque in the arteries leading to blood clots that block blood flow to the brain. (But of course that plaque must be caused by anything other than fat in their diet, so say the meat-lovers…Hah, I say.)
Pumpkin Seed-Crusted Lentil Patties with Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Salad from rusvaplauke on Flickr
So regardless of any concerns, be they about animal suffering, ruthless human behavior, heart health or bone health, etc., paleo style dieters continually advocate for heavy meat/fat diets and point to the Inuit and Masai, while warning of the grave risks they attribute to “The Vegan Diet.” As if we all barely survive on a strict, short list of questionable foods and as if that sad list is set in stone like the Ten Commandments. When reality strongly contradicts all of these meat-lovers’ claims.
So in summary…
Some people are to be listened to at your own risk. Get your information from objective and credible sources, disregard hype from those evidently with financial interests, and you likely can’t go wrong.
The main implication in praising these hunting cultures is that they’re far better at surviving in the “wild” than other cultures are, which is true, but is that the sort of life you want for yourself? If so, go live with the meat-based Masai or Inuit, don’t just champion them from afar, in comfortable security. But don’t think living that way would make you physically healthier or that that sort of “in the wild” living is possible for over 7 billion people on Earth.
Nor should we want to choose that sort of life, heavily dependent on exploiting and killing others. As evolving human beings with such a great capacity for cherishing the lives of others, we need to move away from choosing to ruthlessly use and kill the disadvantaged. Unless we want to continue stagnating morally and ethically, continually creating among us the likes of John Wayne Gacy (et al) along the way. And what sane person wants that?
Following is an entirely objective and scientific article that outlines the benefits and possible risks of vegan diets, explaining how they are easily made optimal. I do most everything suggested here (except for the DHA supplement – I use flax) and it’s not difficult: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/89/5/1627S.full