Since When Is “Emaciated” A Compliment?

Fast Tube by Casper

Recently, when I told a new acquaintance I was vegan, he said that explained why I look emaciated. He was just out of university, making him roughly 25 years younger than me. At first, I felt offended, then pondered writing an “Emaciated Bastard” Cookbook.

Just by coincidence, someone sent me this video, “Sugar-The Bitter Truth,” which says people in modern countries weigh 25 lbs more on average than 25 years ago. It dawned on me these statistics probably don’t apply to the majority of vegans, even guys like me who have only been vegan for a few years.

Recall the October CNN interview where Bill Clinton reported his weight and waist-size were the same as when he was in high school, after only a few months of his having begun a plant-based diet? Indeed, PETA’s website confirms that adult vegans weigh 10 to 20 pounds less than adult meat-eaters on average.
Fast Tube by Casper

The Bitter Truth’s presenter, Robert Lustig, MD, (a UCSF-based authority in the field of neuroendocrinology), attributes the weight and Body Mass Index (BMI) gains to the typical American diet, in which more and more (now 12%) of total caloric intake is accounted for by sugar, particularly fructose,  a “poison by itself”.

  • Lustig talks about the origins of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), developed by the Japanese in 1975, and later reintroduced to Japan by Americans to Japan via processed foods.
  • Lustig claims “our food supply has been contaminated on purpose” and goes on to explain how fructose is being used for enhancing palatability (otherwise low-fat processed foods taste like cardboard), and for browning. He explains how fructose hardens your arteries, too. “Fat down, sugar up is worse thing you could do.”
  • Americans have vastly increased consumption of carbohydrates, including 41% more soft drinks in the past 25 years. He refers to Coca-Cola conspiracy: “A stimulant and diuretic, [Coke] contains sugar to mask the salt – with 55 mg sodium per can, it’s like drinking a pizza. The sugar is there to hide the salt.”
  • Defining fast food as “fiberless food”, Lustig examines how fiber has largely disappeared from the American diet: “We used to consume 100-300 grams of fiber a day. We now consume 12. Why?” he asks. “Because it takes too long to cook, eat, and has a short shelf life. Nothing has more than 1g of fiber, so they can freeze it, cook it up and ship is around the world”.
  • Traditionally, the Japanese (likewise Italian, except for the occasional sweet) diet did not contain fructose, but only sucrose–the sugar present in fruit. The difference between the two being that fructose does not suppress the hunger hormone.
  • “Chronic fructose consumption causes the metabolic syndrome”.

The Japanese word for Metabolic Syndrome,  “Metabo”, wasn’t coined until 5 years ago. Although McDonalds and KFC established footholds in Japan decades ago, it’s probably no coincidence that Starbucks and Costco, purveyors of the modern American diet, have expanded aggressively in Japan in recent years.

A long-term resident of Tokyo, I had often shopped Costco in the States during my visits home, and filled my luggage with items that were difficult to find or ridiculously expensive in Japan.

It was a milestone when the first Costco Warehouse store came to Tokyo 10 years ago. I remember walking from the train station adjacent to Tokyo Disneyland, the excitement welling up in me when the enormous familiar red/blue sign came into view.

More than anything, I longed to visit Costco’s food court, to have a giant hotdog piled with sauerkraut, onions, relish, and mustard.  Similar to the States, the price was cheap, only 250 yen (about $2) with a large drink.

After becoming vegan, I would bypass Costco Japan’s food court offerings and buy a salad or vegetable sushi from their deli case, but I had to remove the cheese and the chicken, and couldn’t eat the Caesar dressing, nor the sushi made with white rice (no fiber). I also had to learn to avoid indiscriminate food sampling, once a highlight of Costco shopping.

Nowadays, my partner and I bring our lunch (i.e. almond butter sandwiches, or a whole-wheat pasta salad, with a bottle of water), feeling like aliens sitting at the table among Japanese indulging on junk food and sugary soft drinks.

Cheap hotdogs and pizza and institutional size jars of mayonnaise are no longer the only things in Costco Japan American-sized. Japanese housewives with young children crowd Costco’s food court as well as their clothing.

What can be done to reverse the decline in Americans’ health and increasing waistlines, and prevent other nations like Japan from becoming just as unhealthy?

While “The Bitter Truth” does not mention a vegan diet, it makes it clear that diets high in nutrients and fiber (fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains), and low in added salt and sugar are best. And what diet meets that description better than a vegan diet?

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