Monday, May 16, 2011

Visiting the Dentist

I used to be really creeped out by our old dentist, a really nice guy that always asked too many questions, so I was pretty happy when we switched to a new dentist who was an old family friend. And that’s great, but my oral hygienist is just a little bit out there, if you know what I mean. Yesterday’s conversations started early down the animals for food conversation because she knows that I raise animals with my family and she’s mostly curious. But some of the things she holds as fact are like these gray hair “cures”, absolutely ridiculous.

Curiosity is a truly great thing, and yet a humbling revelation if you’re the asker of seemingly obvious questions. But what seems obvious to me is much more difficult to grasp in the minds of other people who never grew up on a farm or around animals, and this is the case with my hygienist. She has an organic consultant whose main goal in life is sell product, and more of it, and so he presents her with lots of ideas which she doesn’t know what to do with. She believes most of what he tells her, but says she’s skeptical, adding that he’s smart so she wants to believe he knows what he’s talking about.

Unfortunately, not every smart person is always honest, or always well educated. So I just wanted to spend a few minutes addressing some misconceptions that “health food” experts propagandize shamelessly. It’s a free world and you’re free to believe anything you want to believe, and to spend your money on whatever makes you feel better at the end of the day. My bartender the other night likes to buy meat and milk only from Giant Eagle because she believes that their product is fresher, of higher quality and she maintained that she could taste the difference, and feel it when she woke up in the morning. And who am I to disagree with that? I have firm confidence in the ability of science to prove or disprove these theories though, and that is what I’m here to tell people about since I’m an animal scientist.

Hormones are always a frontrunner in conversations such as this. And with kids reaching earlier maturity and prom season once more getting out of hand, who will debate that hormones in our youth are definitely a concern. But for all of the desire to get more “natural” in the world around us, I find it hard to believe that people just don’t see this as the natural way of things. What’s important here though is to remember that regardless of the cause of hormone increases in our children, animal products are not the cause. I’ve included an informative video to accentuate this point, created by the American Meat Science Association.

And then the topic of grass-fed animals came up. For starters, those of you who believe that by buying organic products, you are consuming grass-fed products, you are far from the truth. Organic more specifically refers to the use of antibiotics, GMOs and pesticides for food consumption and just like you can buy organic grains at the store, we can feed organic grains to animals. Organic has a small standard of welfare assurance in the certification, but there is also no proof to date that one method or the other is better for the animals (a focus of my own research).

So if you want grass-fed meat, then specifically buy grass fed meat. But don’t be fooled that it will change the impact of your diet on your health. This video by the American Meat Science Association does a good job highlighting the fact that, for example, while Omega-3 fatty acids are increased in beef fed on grass, it is not really any healthier to consume than grain-fed beef. To truly see a change in the Omega-3 fatty acid profile of your diet, you would need to switch entirely away from beef to something more like fish because the difference between grass and grain feeding is not significant enough to impact your health (unless you only eat beef 24/7, in which case you probably don’t care anyways).

The finale of this onslaught of misinformation which accompanied an unnecessary bloodbath that was my dental examination (even though I had such “beautiful teeth”) was her telling me that she buys a ginger pill which she consumes with her beef. She confidently stated to me that she was short on sex hormones (TMI?) and that the ginger converted her cholesterol to testosterone, leaving her healthier. A captive audience, I could do naught but sit and listen to this nonsense, promising I would look it up for myself when I got home. Of course, Dr. Google can find anything, even articles that discuss ginger reducing cholesterol. But the key words in any semi-reputable article would be “possibly blocks production of cholesterol in the liver”, “may reduce blood cholesterol” and “might thin blood”. Not anything I’d stake my reputation on, that’s for certain, and nothing online that was convincing in the slightest. This is one more moneymaking myth on a list which I get every time I go to the dentist.
If you want to comment on the morals of farmers, it’s interesting also to note that they could absolutely pull the wool over the eyes of the consumer, producing ridiculous products with unverified claims and pilfer the consumers’ pocketbooks one overpriced product at a time. But the farmer sticks to what they know is right: providing wholesome food to the consumer at prices they can afford. And for that, they should be commended.

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