What the Health: The Startling Truth Behind the Foods We Eat, Plus 50 Plant-Rich Recipes to Get You Feeling Your Best by Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn, BenBella Books, US $14.55, Pp 360, December 2018, ISBN 978-1946885524
The ancient Greeks believed in three goddesses, more powerful than any others. We know them as the Fates. They would arrive at a newborn baby’s cradle, where the first goddess spun the thread of life and the second determined the length of thread. The third — the most feared, known as the “inevitable” — cut the life-thread. The baby’s path was fixed from that moment. In What the Health, Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn say that, in the 21st-century America, we may not believe in the Fates with their spindle and shears but we have replaced them with a modern substitute — genetics. This does not mean Andersen and Kuhn deny the role of genetics in human development. They say that there are diseases and disorders that are 100 percent genetically determined. No matter how and where you live, if you have the genetic combination for these conditions, they will manifest. These include Down syndrome, cystic fibrosis, and Huntington’s disease, a degenerative brain disorder. Every person with the gene for Huntington’s will eventually develop it.
Andersen and Kuhn unpack the genetic component of the top causes of death in our country, like heart disease, cancer, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and diabetes, along with contributing factors like obesity. Andersen and Kuhn argue that the people often wrongly believe their genetic lot is the most powerful influence over whether they’ll develop these diseases. The World Health Organization (WHO) lists four factors as the main causes of death before the age of 86 — poor diet, high blood pressure, obesity, and tobacco. In other words, three of the four causes are related to diet. Andersen and Kuhn say that no more than 10 percent to 20 percent of the risk for the primary causes of death comes from our genes. Only about 5 percent to 10 percent of cancer cases are attributable to genetic defects, with the other 90 percent to 95 percent rooted in lifestyle and environment. Colon cancer, the second most lethal cancer in the country, is the cancer most directly affected by what you eat. According to WHO, 80 percent of all heart disease, stroke, and Type 2 diabetes can be prevented.
While people think that heart disease, cancer, and diabetes are inherited, Andersen and Kuhn argue that they do not realize that what they have actually inherited are the eating habits of their parents and grandparents. They argue that much of what we eat cause fatal diseases. The average American in 2016 ate over 90 pounds of chicken. That is a huge increase from 1909 when each person ate less than 20 pounds. Chicken is supposed to be a lean, white meat, lower in cholesterol, sodium, and saturated fat than red meat. People eat chicken because they think it’s a healthier choice. Andersen and Kuhn say that heterocyclic animes [HCAs] are clear-cut carcinogens which can form in any meat as it’s cooked but by far, the biggest source is chicken. These are independent laboratory test results. Over the last 30 years, esophageal cancer in America has risen by 500 percent. Meat and high-fat meals appear to be closely related to this dramatic increase. The fat in both types of meat — white and red — triggers acid reflux, which is believed to be one of the drivers of this disease.
Our parents, teachers, doctors, and our government tell us milk is a vital part of our diet. Andersen and Kuhn say that very few people actually consider what milk actually is. Andersen and Kuhn write that cow milk is the breast milk of a cow who just had a baby. Like humans and all other mammals, female cows produce milk only when they are pregnant or have given birth. The milk we buy at the supermarket is a bovine bodily fluid, the sole natural purpose of which is to jump-start the transformation of a newborn, 65-pound calf into a 1500-pound cow. That is heavier than a polar bear, the largest bear on Earth. Andersen and Kuhn say that, by its very nature, even the most pristine, organic, local milk from the happiest of the grass-fed cows is teeming with growth hormones, fats, IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor 1), and female sex hormones like estrogen and progesterone. Cows on modern dairy farms are milked about 300 days every year, and they are pregnant for a large portion of that time. The estrogen [primary female sex hormone] content of that is very high. These are active mammalian estrogens. This is a major factor in why little girls are going through puberty at ages 7, 8, 9, from the river of milk, ice cream, and butter that we are feeding.
What the Health is an important addition to the existing literature on how our food causes fatal diseases. In this meticulously researched book, Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn compellingly show that our food — particularly meat and milk — are the biggest causes of obesity and fatal diseases. We can prevent obesity and fatal disease just by changing our food. It must be a required reading for public policy-makers and health practitioners. Everybody who wants to live a healthy life and have a slim figure must read What the Health. What the Health will scare you into eating healthy food and adopt a healthy lifestyle.