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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Is Grilled Food Really Killing Us?

I have a really fundamental question to ask, and, at least at first, it might sound stupid.

I was reading an article about the dangers of grilled food: heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) - carcinogens - the results of burning carbon and grilling organic things on a fire.  (Just Google "grilled meat bad"...)

Now the question I have is really simple: "What would people be eating in a 'perfect food world'?"

You know, the one where everybody didn't do the all or even some of the stuff scientists tell us are bad: like eat grilled food, twinkees, cholesterol, and so forth.

Do you think there is a person like this on the planet somewhere?

I doubt it very much.

Certainly its not natives living on some forgotten Amazonian back water - they eat food grilled on a fire or fish with parasites.  Nor is it, say, Eskimo's - they eat a diet almost exclusively made up of fat and blubber.  Not us here in the US, in fact, my guess is that there isn't anyone who is perfect this regard.  Most "natural" foods have pesticides on them, or fungus, or bacteria - all bad.  Or they may have a concentration of bad elements, aluminum, for example.

Yet virtually everything we eat is "bad for us" in some way.


So I have to ask myself this: is this kind of "study" really science or medicine?

We all have to eat, don't we...?

I doubt there is anyone alive on the planet who has never eaten food cooked on a grill or over an open fire - perhaps one or two somewhere - but mostly no.

So why do we think about this as part of this kind of science?  You might argue that studying the "bad things" in what everybody on the planet eats is important because we need to know about what's "bad" for us and we should be eating less of that. 

The problem, though, is that virtually everything is bad in one way or another.

Another problem is there isn't some "test population" somewhere who is in perfect health that we can compare are test results too - or people who have only eaten "the right foods" all their life.

So does it really make sense to "study" why grilled food is bad?

Everyone eats it and its not likely to be eliminated any time soon...

Most people live longer today than they did a thousand years ago when cooking on a fire was the only alternative to eating your meat raw.

Instead, I think, we should be studying the big picture of how life operates - human and otherwise - in what I would call "the real world."

When developing complex industrial processes the approach is not like the one followed by medical science.  Businesses try not to have processes (computer, electrical, etc.) they depend on that they do not understand.

Would it make sense to have a business built upon a process you didn't really understand?

I think we have to accept that our bodies "work" in "the real world."

They are "designed" that way (by whatever means you like) - we can eat cooked food, raw food, and so on - we extract the nutrients - we eliminate what we don't need.  And depending on what we eat there are consequences.  Depending on the consequences our life might be good or bad.

We also have to accept that whatever it is that we eat their always going to be some "scientific" problem with it.

But this is dumb as well.

We don't exist as human's in a "vacuum" by ourselves.  We exist in an environment with other things as well (like fire, plants and animals).

Why does "science" separate "us" out from our environment?  Aren't we an integral part of it?

If, for example, you believe in evolution then we are all part of the same "thing?"

Do they plan on banning cooking meat?  Probably.

The bottom line is that most of this kind of "science" is not really science at all.  Its fact collection based on presupposed concepts - like cooking is bad - meat is bad and so on.  Then we "study" things to find reasons they are bad, e.g., burnt food is a carcinogen.  Then we can tell people what to do because we know what they do, e.g., eat meat, is bad.

But that ignores the larger picture of our environment as something we are "part of."

Isn't it entirely possible that our bodies are designed to separate the important and nutritious parts of what we eat from the bad parts?  After all, if we "evolved" in a context of using fire wouldn't we adapt to it?

After all we can evolve complex body parts out of nothing - why not a tolerance to burnt food?

In general I think "we" as human's are well beyond science's ability to study as a whole.  We and our environment are simply too complex.  So science loafs around studying bits and pieces here and there for political or economic purposes.  The problem is that these studies may not be valid on their own when trying to understand the concept of the "big picture."

But it doesn't matter because science today is about money and grants - no grants - no science.

No customers, no science.

I think it time that we start looking at things differently if we really want to start understanding...

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