Thursday, February 25, 2010

Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human (Part Four)

In the end I did make it to the end of the book, which was a surprise. Not only in finishing it, but that the book ended before the end. By that I mean that the second half of the book was just notes on the first half. Going through the notes I don't believe they added a thing to the book. All of this just led to a frustrating experience. I like it when my beliefs are challenged, which is what I was hoping for when I purchased this book. Instead, I got the run around. The feeling of this book was more like Wrangham was a paid consultant to the food industry than an actual research writer. He just never supported his claims with logical data.

I will give Wrangham this much, it is possible that his claim that cooking made us human is true. He doesn't prove it, but he brings up the possibility and I can accept that. I can believe that cooking animals allowed human beings to live in places that they couldn't have if they depended only on the foods that they evolved to eat. So, while our bodies are designed to eat plants, we can survive, at least to reproduce, by eating animals and cooking tough plants.

To this I say: So what? Cooking animals may have helped us live, but not live longer and healthier. And that is what I am concerned with in the 21st century. Over and over again Wrangham cites studies that show that cooked diets result in more disease and higher mortality rates. And, "The less processed our food, the less intense we can expect the obesity crisis to be." So why in the world this idiot rails against raw foodists is beyond me! He ends the book with this statement: "We must find ways to make our ancient dependence on cooked food healthier." Dear Dr. Wrangham the answer is staring you right in the face. You keep referring to it all through your book. We need a reasonable, rational, realistically raw food diet.

I am sorry you did not help me. I will still feel uneasy whenever I do give in to my love of...hamburgers.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human (Part Three)

I am hanging in there with this book, though Wrangham is driving me crazy with his lack of logic. He constantly cites research that points to cooking being bad for food, then he argues that it is good. Most writers use research to support their claims, Wrangham does the opposite.

For example, in Chapter Three he talks about rat research that shows that "soft, well-processed foods made rats fat." The experiments results were that a softer (cooked food) diet led to obesity. And this is a good thing? For Wrangham yes, because there is more energy gain. I say "No! there is more fat! Idiot!

Someone please tell Dr. Wrangham that you can get softer, easier to digest, energy producing food, from...drum roll please...fruits!!!

There are more things for humans to eat on this planet besides meat and potatoes. Okay, fine, meat and potatoes are easier to digest when cooked. And they make you fat. And yes, humans were able to multiply in greater numbers by cooking and eating meat. But that does not mean it is healthier.

So, great, evolution did its job. More people were able to live long enough to have more babies and spread their genes. And if that is all you are interested in, fine. Wrangham you understand evolution. But you sure are not helping the rest of us who would like to live longer, healthier lives. For a guy who spent his life researching monkeys you sure did not learn anything about their eating habits!!!

I'm writing this after drinking a delicious smoothie made of fresh squeezed oranges, mangoes, and pineapple. I've got a bunch of bananas on my desk and a bag of lettuce in the fridge. You think I'm going to have any problem digesting my food? Dr. Wrangham, come over to my house for lunch some time will ya?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human (Part Two)

I can tell already that I'm going to be trashing this book all the way through. I'm disappointed because I thought this would challenge my raw food beliefs. Instead I'm left thinking, "who are the people who are reading this book and think the author is rational?" Is it just because he is a Harvard professor? Yikes!

For instance, Chapter One, which goes right after the raw foodists, uses the Evo Diet experiment in England as proof the raw diets do not work. The experiment, Evo for evolutionary, took people with dangerously high blood pressure and kept them on a diet of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and a small amount of fish for a short time. In the end blood pressure went down to normal, cholesterol levels fell by a quarter, and everyone lost significant amounts of weight. So, why does Wrangham say that a raw food diet is dangerous? Because it causes people to lose weight. I am not making this up.

Wrangham's major premise is that only food that can deliver energy, and apparently more weight, can be considered safe and good for us. What planet is this guy living on?Does he not know that we are a country of fat people? A mostly raw food diet is healthy because it helps us bring our weight down to what it should be.

Next he brings up journalist Jodi Mardesich, who wrote about her experience with raw food. She claimed that a raw food diet made her feel energized, mentally sharper, and more serene. However, she too lost weight, and there you go, more evidence that raw food is bad for you. Throughout the chapter Wrangham keeps writing that raw foodists do not "fair well." He says that animals thrive on wild raw foods, but there is something odd about us humans, we need cooked food. Someone tell him that last time I checked humans were animals too.

His logic drives me up a wall. For instance, he says in Chapter Two, "Very little is known about how our detoxification system and enzyme chemistry differ from those of great apes, but studies should eventually provide further tests of the hypothesis that human bodies are adapted to eating cooked foods." In other words, there is no science to back up his claims, but we should take his word for it that some day there will be. It will be a miracle if I make it through this book without breaking my Kindle.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human (Part One)

I am reading a very anti-raw book called Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human. I believe that it is important to hear all sides of an argument. I truly believe that a raw diet, or mostly raw diet, is far better for people and the planet, but I want to hear all the evidence on both sides. So I'm reading the other side to see if my beliefs hold up.

This book targets raw foodists directly. There is no mistake about it,  the author, Richard Wrangham, goes after those of us who do not like to set our food on fire. I have no problem about that. Maybe he will convince me that I don't have to feel guilty when I stray and treat myself to a burger and fries. Hey, boiled lobster and butter is awesome. Just please make a reasonable, rational, realistic argument for it.

For me, Wrangham gets off on the wrong foot right in the introduction. He states that humans began cooking nearly 2 million years ago. However, there is absolutely no archeological evidence for this at all. Controlled fire, and we do not even know that this involved cooking, only begins to appear 800,000 years ago. I don't like writers who play loose with the facts.

The worst part of the introduction is that first he states that "Little change has occurred in human anatomy since the time of homo erectus almost 2 million years ago", then he says that cooking changed our brain size, our jaws, and our hairy bodies. Which is it? Has human anatomy changed or not?

Wrangham's inconsistencies are one thing, but he draws conclusions that just do not follow logically. For instance, he says that humans had small jaws and teeth, not made for eating meat. So we had to have cooked it. It never occurs to him that maybe humans just didn't eat meat.  After all, our bodies were not designed to digest meat, cooked or raw, like they for eating fruits and vegetables.

He goes on to say that the strongest voices that argue for cooking being a core influence on human nature are students of food and eating. Duh? How stupid does he think his readers are?

The main point of the introduction, and possibly the book, is that cooking increases the amount of energy our bodies can obtain from food. I'm looking forward to seeing how he proves this. I think what he should be saying is that by cooking foods, particularly meats, humans had more food and energy available to them to survive. I could agree with that. But being able to process sugar cane and make twinkies also allows humans to extract more energy from nature. That doesn't make it more healthy.

I was hoping for a good challenge to my raw beliefs, but when Wrangham says that human bodies are biologically adapted to cooked foods like cow are adapted to eating grass he makes breatharians look good.