Earthlings (2005)

Earthlings is a 2005 American documentary film about humankind’s total dependence on animals for economic purposes.  Presented in five chapters (pets, food, clothing, entertainment and scientific research) the film is narrated by Joaquin Phoenix, featuring music by Moby, and was written, produced and directed by Shaun Monson.”


How Not to Die describes the numerous health benefits of eating a plant-based diet. After reading through half the book, I watched Earthlings to see arguments from the animal rights activists for eliminating animal products from the dinner table. Personal health has always been my primary interest for minimizing meat consumption. But the message in this documentary is just as difficult to ignore as it is to watch.

There are some valid counter arguments to abandoning meat, which are listed in this reddit thread. The most compelling was that from an Indian man who argues he will not stop eating meat nor stop providing it for his family because he has genuine concern that his children my not survive due to malnutrition. Perhaps citizens of the more developed nations are the primary audience for this documentary.

I have watched a handful of anti-meat documentaries, and often they appeal to emotions such as shame, guilt, or anger. Earthlings takes a more objective role, showing film of industrial animal manufacturing in the United States. It was refreshing to be treated as a neutral observer, instead of being reprimanded. There are definite appeals to emotion, but the dialogue in the documentary is more calm than any I’ve seen before.

Earthlings has made me reconsider my current relationship with meat and animal products.  I imagine I have grown up with more livestock experience than many of my neighbors. I learned from my family to slaughter fish, chickens, turkeys, and rabbits for food. I attempted a pescatarian diet for several years in my twenties, but only for personal health reasons. This is the most cognizant I have been of my indirect participation in the massive consumption of animals, and what that actually means.


Three Stages of Truth

  1. Ridicule
  2. Violent Opposition
  3. Acceptance

Attributed to German Philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860)


Sources

Case Report: 382 Day Therapeutic Fast

Features of a successful therapeutic fast of 382 days’ duration

A 27-year-old man weighing 456 pounds fasted for 382 days under clinical supervision. He lost 276 pounds (final weight 180 pounds) for an average weight loss of 0.76 pounds per day. The man was followed-up 5 years later, and he had maintained his weight at 196 lbs. This case report was published in 1973.

The authors describe case studies of other obese patients who died from fasting therapy:

“There have been reports of five fatalities coinciding with the treatment of obesity by total starvation (Cubberley, Polster & Schulman, 1965; Spencer, 1968; Garnett et al., 1969; Runcie & Thomson, 1970). One was attributed to lactic acidosis during the refeeding period following a 3 week fast (Cubberley et al., 1965). Two were considered to be due to ventricular failure, occurring during the fast, at 3 and 8 weeks respectively in patients who had shown evidence of heart failure before beginning the fast (Spencer, 1968). One patient (Runcie & Thomson, 1970) died on the thirteenth day of his fast from small bowel obstruction. Only one of the five ‘fasting’ deaths has been associated with a fast of more than 200 days’ duration. It occurred during the refeeding period after a fast of 210 days in an apparently well young woman (Garnett et al., 1969). Following this particular report doubt has been cast on the safety of the treatment of obesity by total fasting (Garnett et al., 1969; Rooth & Carlstrom, 1970). However, the allopurinol which had been given may have had unfavourable effects on nucleotide metabolism (Stewart & Fleming, 1969).”

The authors conclude:

“Short-term fasts, although demonstrating to the obese patient his ability to lose weight, have a poor long-term outlook with respect to subsequent weight gain (MacCuish et al., 1968). We have found, like Munro and colleagues (1970), that prolonged supervised therapeutic starvation of the obese patient can be a safe therapy, which is also effective if the ideal weight is reached. There is, however, likely to be occasionally a risk in some individuals, attributable to failures in different aspects of the adaptative response to fasting. Until the characteristics of these variations in response are identified, and shown to be capable of detection in their prodromal stages, extended starvation therapy must be used cautiously…Starvation therapy can be completely successful, as in the present instance.”


 

Sources

NCBI: Features of a successful therapeutic fast of 382 days’ duration

PDF: Features of a successful therapeutic fast of 382 days’ duration

Online Population-Based Cohort Study

An Internet Survey in a Population-Based Cohort Study

Consumption of ultra-processed foods and cancer risk: results from NutriNet-Santé prospective cohort is a web-based survey looking at the association of cancer risk and consuming ultra-processed foods in people in France who responded to a survey. Population-based cohort studies were previously done by calling people’s landlines, asking them to fill out surveys, and requesting that they drive to the clinic for a health examination.

Perhaps further epidemiological studies will be done primarily using online surveys, as the authors did in this paper. It would make epidemiological studies much less expensive and more readily available. But the validity of the results have not yet been verified.

Using the internet selects for younger people responding to the survey. This may not be representative of the larger population. But as these generations age, using the internet for data collection may be a useful tool.

The internet is an anonymous place, and it is difficult to understand the population that is being studied when using the World Wide Web as the only data collection vehicle. This may be a worth-while sacrifice for the convenience of bypassing what has historically been the most arduous part of studying the public’s health.


Source

NCBI: Consumption of ultra-processed foods and cancer risk: results from NutriNet-Santé prospective cohort

The Palate

The Palate is a peer-reviewed online publication for medical students at the intersection of nutrition and public health.

“The Palate seeks to engage medical students in conversations that explore the connections between nutrition and public health, and the health of our patients, communities, and ourselves. We envision a future where nutrition is an integral part of health care practice and medical education. We believe The Palate will inspire a commitment to the integration of nutrition and public health in the future medical careers of our readers.

“All content on The Palate is contributed by volunteer medical students. As a peer-reviewed publication, The Palate Editorial Board consists of volunteer medical students and Nutrition Experts, and is editorially independent. All content is reviewed solely by the Editorial Board and then editor-in-chief prior to publication. Nutrition Experts are faculty or individuals who have professional or academic expertise working in the field of nutrition and public health.”

Source

The Palate

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