Category Archives: Health

Bottled Water, Brought to You by Fracking? The link between fracking and the bottled water industry is one more reason to take back the tap.

The new Food & Water Watch report Take Back the Tap: The Big Business Hustle of Bottled Water details the deceit and trickery of the bottled water industry. Here’s one more angle to consider: The bottled water business is closely tied to fracking.

The report reveals that the majority of bottled water is municipal tap water, a common resource captured in plastic bottles and re-sold at an astonishing markup—as much as 2,000 times the price of tap, and even four times the price of gasoline. Besides being a rip-off, there is plenty more to loathe about the corporate water scam: The environmental impacts from pumping groundwater (especially in drought-prone areas), the plastic junk fouling up our waterways and oceans, and the air pollution created as petrochemical plants manufacture the materials necessary for making those plastic bottles filled with overpriced tap water.

There is a growing international awareness that plastic is a serious problem. In 2016, about 4 billion pounds of plastic were used in the bottled water business, and most of those bottles are not recycled—meaning they often end up in landfills or as litter. There’s also the matter of whether we should be putting our drinking water in those bottles in the first place: The most common packaging (polyethylene terephthalate, or PET) includes compounds like benzene, and the bottles can leach toxins like formaldehyde and acetaldehyde.

But perhaps the biggest problem is where we get all this plastic in the first place. Many of the raw materials used to create those plastic bottles come from fracking. In addition to air and water pollution, the fracking boom has delivered an abundant supply of the hydrocarbon ethane, which is used in petrochemical manufacturing to create ethylene, which is turned into plastic.

One of the global powerhouses in this industry is a company called Ineos, which needs to expand fracking in order to keep profiting from plastics. To do this, massive “dragon ships” carry ethane from the United States to its facilities in Europe. The company wants even more of this raw material, which is one of the big reasons that Sunoco/Energy Transfer Partners is building the Mariner East 2, a dangerous pipeline that will travel across hundreds of miles of the state of Pennsylvania. Getting more ethane means Ineos can turn more of those hydrocarbons into plastic, with the accompanying industrial pollution and carbon emissions we have come to expect from a company that has amassed a horrendous environmental record.

The corporate water business is a costly scam that affects our air, water, and climate. It robs communities of a resource that is a public good and must be treated as one, and it relies heavily on dirty fossil fuels to produce and transport a product that it sells at an extravagant markup. It rakes in billions of dollars while our public tap water infrastructure—that these companies benefit from—remains in desperate need of federal funding to provide all Americans with access to clean, affordable drinking water.

By Wenonah Hauter / AlterNet

Posted by The NON-Conformist


Veganism Is Being Redefined in Black Communities More people are connecting the health implications of a vegan diet with the struggle against race-based oppression.

Food is a key part of any culture. Take the USA: Could there be a more potent symbol of all things Americana than BBQ? For many, to go against this national pastime amounts to a form of treason. Which is why it should cause little surprise to learn that a new culture has begun to take root among African Americans: veganism.

In years past, this dietary decision was largely associated with being, like, super white. In part, this could be due to the fact that avoiding all animal products is seen as a bourgeois indulgence, enjoyed by the sorts of people who like to proclaim that “All Lives Matter.” That perception is starting to shift.

“The black vegan movement is one of the most diverse, decolonial, complex and creative movements,” said Aph Ko, founder of the website Black Vegans Rock, in a recent New York Times article. And Ko should know. Back in 2015, she compiled a list of “100 Black Vegans” to highlight the fact that veganism is more than just an animal welfare-based lifestyle choice. Listed among Ko’s cohorts are a diverse group of individuals such as civil rights activist Coretta Scott King, neo-soul superstar Erykah Badu, the Williams sisters, and comedian Dick Gregory.

The Times listed a number of other notable vegans: Kyrie Irving from the Boston Celtics is just one of a number of professional basketball players to stop eating meat, prompting Kip Andersen (director of the documentary “What the Health”) to proclaim in an article for the Bleacher Report that the NBA should be renamed the National Vegan Association.

Animals and race

A number of factors account for this growing trend. The Times’ Kim Severson notes that the Black Lives Matter movement and “What the Health” have helped expand veganism to “connect personal health, animal welfare and social justice with the fight for racial equality.”

“I always assumed ‘Black veganism’ was just white veganism experienced and perpetrated by black people, and not a framework to analyze various oppressions,” writes Sincere Kirabo on BlackYouthProject. But after reading a book Ko published with her sister Syl last year, Aphro-ism: Essays on Pop Culture, Feminism, and Black Veganism from Two Sisters, Kirabo reconsidered this point of view. “Now I’m rethinking the entire way the defining biases of our society create dehumanizing standards that not only impact me as a Black person,” he writes, “but also extend to animals, inform our food options, and empower the anti-Black food industry.”

What is the “anti-black food industry”? How can a diet be decolonial? Time for a quick history lesson. A core element of both slavery and colonialism was the promotion of an ideology that dehumanized black people. When Aph and Syl Ko describe veganism as a form of liberation, explains Kirabo, they are talking “less about meat consumption and more about the necessity of re-framing racism to include the relationship between anti-Blackness and anti-animal sentiment as codified into the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.”

This is not a new line of thinking. Anti-colonial writers like Frantz Fanon and Aimé Césaire first drew the connection between the colonial construct that disadvantaged certain humans and non-human animals alike. By understanding this historical context, the connection between racial oppression and our carnivorous culture begins to make more sense.

This might be a cognitive leap for some, but consider the fact that both racism and meat-eating are motivated by a sense of superiority. As such, Kirabo writes, describing the Ko sisters’ logic, “animality is a Eurocentric concept that has contributed to the oppression of any group that deviates from the white supremacist ideal of being—white Homo sapiens.”

A means to an end

Another way to understand this logic is through the simple facts of health. A 2012 analysis of national meat consumption showed that according to averages delineated by race, African Americans were overall the largest consumers of meat in America. This figure is no coincidence. As Nzinga Young points out in the Huffington Post, due to centuries of entrenched systemic poverty, black Americans have had to adapt to “making do” with what they have. In practice, this has translated, Young continues, into “eating everything from common staples like chicken and fish to chitlins, pigs’ feet, and other discarded animal parts our ancestors ate in desperation.”

In other words, meat-eating became an essential part of survival. Ironically, much of the foods that form part of this culture are centered around unhealthy eating habits. In her article, “How Black Veganism Is Revolutionary and Essential for Our Culture,” Danni Roseman explains how this situation has arisen from the fact “that the unhealthiest of foods were the cheapest and most easily available to low-income, black and brown families.” The existence of food deserts, which are predominant in poorer communities, have also contributed toward these unhealthy eating habits. As a result, a number of diet-related diseases have become endemic to the culture.

“Food is political,” writes Roseman, adding how these unhealthy eating habits have led to a rise in “illnesses that kill black people at astounding rates.” Roseman cites information provided by the CDC, which shows that “over 40% of black men over [the age of] 20 have hypertension and 44% of black women.” That’s not to mention that two of the three leading causes of death in this community are strokes and heart disease.

“It’s not just about, I want to eat well so I can live long and be skinny,” said vegan-friendly chef Jenné Claiborne in an interview with the Times. “For a lot of black people, it’s also the social justice and food access. The food we have been eating for decades and decades has been killing us.”

In order to counter this trend, Claiborne has become a specialist in vegan-friendly soul food. In her new book, Sweet Potato Soul, Claiborne combines the traditions of Southern cooking with recipes from West Africa and the Caribbean. The book is the latest in a series of similar titles joining restaurants around the country that have helped bring about the rise in black vegan culture.

(Other popular books that are part of this endeavor include Amie Breeze Harper’s anthology, Sistah Vegan: Black Female Vegans Speak on Food, Identity, Health, and Society; Tracye McQuirter’s By Any Greens Necessary: A Revolutionary Guide for Black Women Who Want to Eat Great, Get Healthy, Lose Weight, and Look Phat; and the Afro-Vegan cookbook.)

Diet as resistance

As Roseman points out, “if you’re dead, or perpetually functionally ill, you cannot march, you cannot protest, you cannot protect your family or yourself.” Framed in this light, a growing number of people are starting to connect the health implications of a plant-based diet with the ongoing struggle against race-based oppression.

For Kirabo, this goes beyond “people planting gardens and advocating for animal rights.” He argues that veganism is a “sociopolitical movement that renounces white-centered definitions of the world” and through that process “re-examines social norms imposed on us and calls out politics many of us take for granted.”

In other words, choosing not to eat animal products is a way of asserting a form of independence. “[We] take back control of [our] own diet in a system in which [we] are not in control of many of the things that we purchase,” performance artist and activist Jay Brave said in an interview with the BBC.

In the Times article, Zachary Toliver, a PETA columnist who appeared on Ko’s original list of black vegans, said, “I no longer feel like an endangered species out here.” Instead, Toliver and the growing community he represents are redefining what it means to be black and vegan. In the process, this movement is reframing the way society understands our relationships to animals, food and each other.

By Robin Scher/AlterNet

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Looking Down That Deep Hole: Parasitic Intersectionality and Toxic Afro-Pessimism, Part 2

This week we take a longer look down the deep hole that is the most popular flavor of intersectionality.

When I took a swipe at intersectionality last week, declaring that it was a hole, that afro-pessimism was a shovel and it was high time to stop digging, some friends and comrades were displeased. As far as they were concerned, questioning intersectionality amounted to a frontal attack on the place of women in the struggle against capital, patriarchy, white supremacy and empire, utterly inconsistent with my own politics and that of Black Agenda Report. I also threw some rocks at afro-pessimism, which I labeled the nappy headed step child of intersectionality, to the disappointment of its defenders, some of them friends and comrades too. Additionally neither group admits to understanding why I lumped them together, so I’m taking this opportunity to clarify both critiques and what joins them.

“The second intersectionality according to Smith, is rooted in post-structuralism which categorically rejects socialism and class analysis…”

Intersectionality is a termed coined by California law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989 in her attempt to convince her fellow officers of the court to refine anti-discrimination law by incorporating the recognition of multiple overlapping oppressions into anti-discrimination law. While the term hasn’t made much headway the last three decades in the arguments of lawyers or the decisions of judges, it’s become a pervasive buzzword with multiple meanings in the realms of politics and the nonprofit industrial complex.

Nowadays, and perhaps from the start, as Sharon Smith explains in an indispensable August 2017 Socialist Worker article titled “A Marxist Case for Intersectionality ,” there are two separate, distinct and mutually incompatible intersectionalities. The first, she says is firmly in the camp of the real left, those who oppose and aim to overthrow capitalism, patriarchy, white supremacy and empire – not two or three out of four but all four. This tradition, which puts intersectionality in the context of class analysis and class struggle goes back at least to Claudia Jones in the 1930s, 40s and 50s, and the Cohambee River Collective in the 1970s, although neither of these ever heard or uttered the word “intersectional.” The second intersectionality according to Smith, is rooted in post-structuralism which categorically rejects socialism and class analysis, and either downgrades the importance of class struggle at most to something coequal in importance with ageism, ableism and speciesism. With no anchor in class struggle, and emphasizing the oppressed experience of individuals and non-class groups this kind of intersectionalism acts to perpetuate the division of the US left and wannabe left into squabbling constituency groups vying for attention, funding and acknowledgement of whose cause is the most righteous. With neither the means nor the inclination to contend for power, this intersectionalist emphasis on individual experience and deeds has given rise to atrocities like callout culture .

Unfortunately this second version of intersectionality is nearly hegemonic among self defined radicals and even liberals in the academy. Since it’s vigorously promoted by sectors of corporate media and the funders of the nonprofit industrial complex , it’s likely to remain so for the forseeable future. Worse still, since class conscious and class oriented formations neither dominate or even figure prominently in the US left, the class struggle intersectionalists are seriously handicapped at playing the game they say they want to play. Add top this the fact that some left feminists doggedly insist on using the same name for themselves as the anti-socialist, anti-class struggle intersectionalists who have a far broader reach and bigger microphones, and we have what can only be described as a hot mess.

“…the term intersectionality has become a kind of brood parasite. It mimics just enough of left feminist rhetoric to deceive the unwary…”

Zoologists identify about a hundred species of birds they call brood parasites . A brood parasite lays its egg in the nest of a host species, and it counts on fooling the host mom into hatching, feeding and raising the hostile alien offspring. Evolution has engineered the parasite chick to out-eat, out-compete or simply butcher its nest mates. The parasite chicks often grow bigger than both parents put together while still being fed in the nest. In the context of the real left, the community of those aiming to overthrow capital, patriarchy, white supremacy and empire – not two or three out of four but all four, the term intersectionality has become a kind of brood parasite. It mimics just enough of left feminist rhetoric and branding to deceive the unwary and ensnare many bright, serious and sincere leftists into defending and promoting its fundamentally hostile project.

Melissa Harris-Perry was lauded as a leading intersectionlist at the same time she aggressively defended the government’s right to intercept and record every email, text message, phone call and electronic brain fart on the planet and store them for future inspection. Democracy Now, which has given more air time to intersectionality than perhaps anybody refused to cover the lynching and ethnic cleansing of black Libyans during Obama’s 2012 war on that unhappy country even though they had a correspondent on the ground. To this day DemocracyNow dependably spouts US propaganda justifying Obama’s and Trump’s war on Syria. Angela Davis gets credit for being a leading proponent of intersectionality too, even though like hordes of other intersectionalists, she lost her mind over Barack Obama. All these people are examples of intersectionalists, with bigger audiences and far more visibility than left feminists are likely to achieve any time soon. When bona fide left feminists defend the word intersectionality and call themselves intersectional they confuse the lazy, the naive or unwary, they surrender their own credibility to the anti-socialist intersectionalists, and they provide protective cover to the eggs of these brood parasites. It doesn’t have to work that way.

In the natural world brood parasites have been around for millions of years, long enough for hosts to evolve defenses against them. Birds defensively mark their eggs and their chicks to distinguish them from hostile parasites. Sometimes they stand watch to sound the alarm at the presence of intruders and strange eggs, and more. These are lessons left feminists might do well to emulate. You defeat a brood parasite not by adopting its name, but by making it easier, not harder to distinguish the parasite from the real thing. Real left feminists will never get as many professorships, grants, media outlets and TED Talks as the anti-socialist intersectionalists. They invented the term anyway, for their own reasons not yours. Get over it. The real left can’t get intersectionality back and there was never a time when they had exclusive possession of it anyhow. Claudia Jones and the Cohambee comrades made themselves perfectly well understood without it.

There’s no shortage of sharp, erudite left feminists who can if they want, come up with some new terminology that will allow ordinary people to distinguish between the anti-socialist intersectionalist project and authentic left feminism without a six paragraph discourse on postmoderism and post-structuralism. We cannot wait on natural selection to take care of this for us. At the risk of being that cis het guy who offers unsolicited advice to woman comrades, I respectfully suggest this is something that needs to happen real soon.

“Like the dominant version of intersectionality afro-pessimism is pretty explicitly anti-socialist and anti-class struggle…”

I said last week that afro pessimism was a stepchild of intersectionality. Like the dominant version of intersectionality afro-pessimism is pretty explicitly anti-socialist and anti-class struggle. It’s about centering (the woke intersectional word for putting something first and last and ignoring all else) the totality of anti-blackness, the permanent war against black bodies, black aspirations, black lives, black livelihoods and black dreams. Sounds a lot like Ta-Nehisi Coates. Like intersectionality afro-pessimism is not a theory. Like intersectionality, it only describes and does not explain. Like the prevailing flavor of intersectionality, it enjoys considerable support in the academy and mimics enough “woke” rhetoric to deceive the unwary into imagining afro-pessimism is some new kind of emancipatory project, that it prescribes or informs solutions and strategies to tackle real world stuff, even though its foremost proponent Frank Wilderson says it does not.

The only instance where afro pessimism seems to have anything prescriptive to say about how struggle ought to be conducted in the real world is afro-pessisms’s consistent disparagement of the possibility of achieving anything in coalition with anybody who ain’t black. It’s never worked before, the afro-pessimists say, trotting out a long historical list of times and places white “allies” turned tail and defected from the cause of their black compatriots. But since in just about every instance neither the fickle white allies nor the black formations in question were class-based, class oriented or led by the working class it’s hard to see how things could have turned out differently. It’s a problem the Green Party, which I’m part of, has to this day. If the state, the media and the so-called economy are contraptions a particular class uses to rule the rest of us, how do you contend for power when you don’t have a class analysis, or even recognize the importance of class? Nobody can be a dependable ally, a steady rock on either side of an alliance contending for power without a class analysis and an understanding of how power is exercised.

Clearly, the afro-pessimist injunction against working with non-blacks is a prescription for impotence. People of African descent are 13% of the US population. Slavery didn’t end until the political moment when a plurality of white people sided with blacks to end it. Reconstruction folded only when that plurality was shrunken, disarmed and shattered. Jim Crow also ended at the political moment that a plurality of whites took the same side as blacks to kill it. But afro-pessimists, even the ones who talk about reparations, rule coalitions off the table period exclamation point. How they plan to achieve that without cultivating and working with non-black political partners is anybody’s guess. But I misspoke– Afro-pessimists do not plan. They engage, they propose, they put on a show making the point that nobody is or ever was as oppressed as they are, all in the same self-involved spirit of post structuralist intersectionality. Their shtick isn’t even unique; there’s a queer pessimist discourse that sounds a lot like Frank Wilderson or Ta-Nehisi Coates on whatever drug is the opposite of speed.

Tellingly there was no queer pessimism in the early 1980s, when gay men (and even greater numbers of straight black women) were dying like flies from then untreatable HIV-AIDS. People were too busy fighting for their lives then, just as our own ancestors in the 1950s, the 40s, and prior decades had no time for anything like afro-pessimism when Africans in America could be lynched with impunity and Jim Crow was an everyday reality. Queer pessimism only emerged after drug therapies enabled people to live decades with HIV-AIDS. Similarly afro-pessimism only surfaced after enough black faces got comfy spots in the academy.

A few years ago a young comrade in school somewhere told me his professor was insisting that Europeans colonized Africa and maybe the Americas too not because they wanted land, slaves, gold and empire, but because they feared and/or envied the sexual potency of all those outa control black bodies. After I stopped laughing, I assured my young friend this was errant nonsense and I didn’t think about it any more. Now I know this is part of a concept Jared Sexton and Frank Wilderson and other afro-pessimist academics call, presumably with straight faces, “libidinal economy .”

Ta Nehisi Coates has fashioned a lucrative and prestigious career out of that stuff, although I doubt he would call himself an afro-pessimist. Nice work if you can get it. I really believe the afro-pessimist shtick is about one-upping Coates. It’s working well for him, maybe it will work for them too.

By Bruce A. Dixon/BlackAgendaReport

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Diet Coke’s Moment of Panic The problem with the soda is right there in the name: It’s neither healthy-seeming enough to thrive as a diet drink nor tasty enough to thrive as a cola.

Jim Young / Reuters

With sales of Diet Coke in a prolonged rut, Coca-Cola announced last Wednesday that it is tweaking the design of its most famous zero-calorie soft-drink can to be more slender and colorful. It is also launching several new flavors of Diet Coke, including “Feisty Cherry,” “Twisted Mango,” and “Zesty Blood Orange.”

“You don’t mess with a good thing,” Coca-Cola said in its statement. But, quite to the contrary, Coca-Cola is in a near-permanent state of messing with its things. The first version of Diet Coke debuted in 1982. The very next year, the company released a caffeine-free Diet Coke, and a cherry-flavored variety followed in 1986. This century, several more flavors have joined the family, including lemon, vanilla, lime, black cherry, and raspberry.

These changes—in addition, of course, to the old standards—amounted to a winning formula. At the peak of soft-drink consumption in the mid-2000s, America consumed 53 gallons of soda per person each year—more than half a liter, per person, per day.

But soda’s prospects have since fizzled. Diet Coke may still be the second-most popular soda in the country, but soft-drink consumption has declined every year this decade, according to an analysis shared with The Atlantic by the research group IBISWorld. In its last annual report, Coca-Cola said that the volume of Diet Coke sold in North America declined by 5 percent—more than any other Coca-Cola beverage brand identified in the report.

Per Capita Soft-Drink Consumption


It’s not hard to understand Diet Coke’s imploding popularity: The diet beverage is suffering both as a diet product and as a beverage.

A growing consumer focus on health has clearly dented soda’s dominion. Beyond widespread concerns of the dangers of artificial sweeteners, government research has found that daily drinkers of diet soda are at higher risk for strokes and other “vascular events.” While Diet Coke’s new can designs are tall and slender—a possible reference to the body type a diet-beverage drinker seeks—more of them simply don’t trust any kind of soda to be a part of a healthy diet. Between 2000 and 2015, switching from sodas to other beverages saved the country an estimated 64 trillion calories in total—that works out to 71 fewer calories per day, per drinker.

At the same time that academics have questioned the health effects of soda, the U.S. has undergone a profound change in its taste for liquids, in three major ways.

The new line of slender Diet Coke cans (Coca-Cola)

First, bottled water has transformed from an ecologically dubious ordinary consumer product to an ecologically dubious economic juggernaut. Since 2000, bottled-water consumption has tripled. In 2016, the volume of it consumed surpassed that of soda in the United States for the first time ever, according to data from the Beverage Marketing Corporation (BMC). Meanwhile, related categories such as flavored water and flavored seltzer water have grown even faster, albeit from a much smaller base. Sales of so-called “value-added” water, like Coca-Cola’s vitaminwater, have grown by nearly 3,000 percent since the turn of the century, according to BMC. The flavored-seltzer market is growing by more than 10 percent annually, with the top five brands—Sparkling Ice, LaCroix, Perrier, San Pellegrino, and Polar—now accounting for $1.2 billion in yearly sales.

Second, whereas many Americans once turned to Diet Coke to power their afternoons, these days the market for energy-giving beverages is crowded. At the peak of Diet Coke craze, in the early 2000s, soft drinks outsold coffee by a three-to-one margin in the U.S. But thanks to rising coffee consumption (and coffee’s high price, relative to soda), the U.S. coffee industry is on track to surpass domestic soda sales sometime in the early 2020s. Meanwhile, sales of energy drinks in the U.S. have grown by more than 5,000 percent this century, according to analysis from the BMC.

Finally, while Diet Coke is still one of the most popular sodas in the country, it’s losing market share to more-flavorful beverages. Many drinkers prefer the richer taste of classic Coca-Cola, which is still growing worldwide. Sales of Sprite and Fanta are also rising in the U.S., according to Coca-Cola’s financial reports. Research has shown that black cans and avoiding the word diet in beverage titles lures male consumers; indeed, the black-bottled Coca-Cola Zero Sugar is growing at Diet Coke’s expense.

But slender bottles with streaks of color probably won’t arrest Diet Coke’s demise. As the Harvard business professor and author Clayton Christensen has written, products and customers have certain “jobs” that need to be done. One could argue that, in the last decade, all of the jobs of Diet Coke are being outsourced to superior beverages. The role of hydration has been outsourced to bottled water and sports drinks, like Gatorade. Getting a jolt of energy has been outsourced to coffee and energy drinks, like 5-Hour Energy. And the satisfaction of a cold liquid fizzing on one’s tongue? That’s been outsourced to the trendy crop of flavored seltzers, like LaCroix. In the end, it probably doesn’t matter what the Diet Coke can looks like. Young people know what’s inside the can. Perhaps that’s precisely why they’re drinking so much less of it.


Posted by The NON-Conformist

Poor Diets Are Killing More Americans Than Anything Else Even in young populations across the United States, nutrition-related health conditions are prevalent.

systematic study by a group of 125 leading researchers who call themselves the U.S. Burden of Disease Collaborators shows that diet is the leading cause of both death and disability in the United States (U.S.). Meanwhile, only 12 percent of visits to doctors’ offices include counseling about diet, according to research by the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

Even in young populations, nutrition-related health conditions are highly prevalent, according to the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). Cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, hypertension, and many cancers are linked to diet and are together called non-communicable diseases (NCDs). NCDs are the highest cause of adult mortality in the U.S. and account for 70 percent of premature deaths globally, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Because NCDs are in large part caused by food or lifestyle choices, the WHO argues that “most premature NCD deaths are preventable.”

While more than 70 percent of both men and women in the U.S. are overweight or obese, according to the U.S. NCHS, a national survey by the University of Chicago reports that 60 percent are trying to lose weight. In total, MarketData Enterprises reports that Americans spend US$ 66 billion annually on diets and diet aids.

Unfortunately, while 94 percent of physicians feel that nutrition is important, only 14 percent feel comfortable talking about it, according to the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Even among high-risk patients with CVD, diabetes, or hyperlipidemia, only 1 in 5 receive nutrition counseling.

The root of the problem lies in the way doctors are educated in American medical schools, according to Dr. David Eisenberg of the T.H. Chan School of Public Health at Harvard University. “The fact that less than 20 percent of medical schools have a single required course in nutrition is a scandal,” he says. “It’s outrageous.” According to a study in the Journal of Biomedical Education, less than one-third of medical schools in the U.S. teach the recommended 25 hours of nutrition content over a student’s four years of classroom education.

Dr. Eisenberg’s solution is to train other doctors himself. Through a partnership he founded with the chefs of the Culinary Institute of America called Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives, he has taught thousands of American doctors in teaching kitchens around the country. This new class of doctors is learning to turn their backs on the reductionist ‘a pill for an ill’ approach and instead live what they preach.

Some medical schools are starting to retool, like the Tulane University School of Medicine, home to the Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine, and the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, in partnership with the L.A. Kitchen.

Dr. Erica Frank, the Research Chair of Preventative Medicine and Population Health at the University of British Columbia, has been working to build a body of literature that describes the connection between doctor lifestyle and patient outcomes. A decade ago, Dr. Frank surveyed more than 2000 medical students and found that the best predictor of whether they counseled their patients on healthier practices was whether they themselves incorporated those practices into their lives. She also showed that patients actually had better food habits when their doctors also did.

Increasingly, doctors are turning to culinary training to flesh out their toolkits as healthcare professionals. Food Tank interviewed Dr. Robert Graham of New York City as he was in the process of enrolling in culinary school at the Natural Gourmet Institute. “My decision to become a chef comes after years of watching patients battle ailments that could be remedied with a change of a diet,” he said. I’ve spent the past 15 years of practicing medicine witnessing the impact of poor diets on the health of people I was trying to take care of.

Collectively, efforts to combat obesity in the U.S. seem to be making progress. A report in August 2017 by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Trust for America’s Health suggested that U.S. obesity trends began to level off in 2015 and 2016, after decades of constant increase.

By Michael Peñuelas / Food Tank

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Mental Health Inc: How Corruption, Lax Oversight and Failed Reforms Endanger Our Most Vulnerable Citizens A new book exposes the greed and cronyism behind some of Big Pharma’s worst excesses.

An excellent new book by Art Levine exposes how “indifferent professional associations, pharmaceutical-subsidized patient advocacy groups and government regulators that either push a drug-industry agenda or fail to halt what amounts to an epidemic of behavioral health malpractice” enable Pharma’s worst excesses.

Toddlers drugged with psychiatric medication? Elderly in nursing homes dosed to make them manageable? Soldiers and veterans driven to suicide from their medication? Mental patients given drugs that cause diabetes and extreme obesity and lead to more dangerous drugs? It’s all there in Mental Health, Inc: How Corruption, Lax Oversight and Failed Reforms Endanger our Most Vulnerable Citizens, including psychiatric drugs that should never have been approved to begin with and “religious” youth treatment centers that abuse the young people in their care.

Greed explains much of the behavioral health malpractice Levine cites, but not all of it. Certainly Pharma-funded doctors oblige with prescriptions, and certainly Pharma-funded medical associations oblige with Pharma-friendly guidelines including describing “pre” disease states that create more drug customers. Certainly drug treatment centers are among Pharma’s most treasured customers especially as the opioid epidemic––which Pharma started––grows.

But cronyism––the revolving door between industry and government––is also a big factor. One example is Kerry Weems, a former Medicare official who joined Rechnitz’ TwinMed who Medicare regulates, writes Levine. Other examples of the effects of the government/industry revolving door include former CDC director Julie Gerberding, who went on to head Merck vaccines; former Texas governor Rick Perry, who recommended state-wide inoculation of all 11- and 12-year-old girls with Merck’s Gardasil vaccine after his chief of staff left to work at Merck; and Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, who left government for industry.

Mental Health, Inc. does an outstanding job of exposing a key player in the $220 billion-a-year behavior health field: the formerly Bain Capital-owned CRC Health, now Acadia Healthcare, the nation’s largest provider of addiction treatment services. Levine chronicles at least six, gory and preventable deaths at Acadia’s Sierra Tucson facility leading readers to wonder why the facility––or even the chain––is still in business and why the responsible parties have not been sentenced or jailed.

Also shocking in Mental Health, Inc. is the American Association Of Retired Persons’ silence on the well-known and well-documented drug abuse of people in nursing homes––AARP’s constituency. “Licensing deals with United Healthcare allow it, indirectly, to rake in a share of federal spending on antipsychotics,” Levine says of the group, which has 38 million members.

Despite “bought” medical institutions, prescribers and government regulators which result in over-diagnosis, overmedication and overtreatment of Americans with dangerous and expensive psychiatric drugs, Mental Health, Inc. offers hope.

Non-drug, non-medical models for mental problems do exist and they work, writes Levine. Two promising groups addressing PTSD, depression, anxiety and drug abuse in the military population without drugs are War Fighter Advance and Operation Tohidu. Hopefully they will become models for other populations.

By Martha Rosenberg / AlterNet

Posted by The NON-Conformist

CHIP on their shoulders? Dysfunctional Congress puts children’s health insurance funding at risk

Republicans say they want to continue the Children’s Health Insurance Program that insures roughly 9 million low-to-moderate income children nationwide as well as 370,000 pregnant women.

Image: Tatiana Flowers, Associated Press

Democrats insist they also want to retain CHIP – which covers kids whose families earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but don’t have insurance through the Affordable Care Act or their employers.

But even renewal of this innocuous program has been bogged down by hyper-charged bickering in Congress over how to pay its $15 billion estimated yearly price tag.

While Congress quarreled, the CHIP program ran out of money in September and several states including Colorado began warning recipients the program will be discontinued unless Congress acts.

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Posted by Libergirl