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The age of technology: Sides looks at the impacts of technology, culture on beef

Written by Saige Albert

Casper – In today’s hyper-connected world, Zoetis Nutritionist Gary Sides emphasized to producers that access to the sheer amount of information that is available can be both helpful and harmful.

“We literally, with our fingertips, have access to the accumulated knowledge of mankind,” he commented during an April 20 producer dinner, sponsored by Zoetis and Superior Livestock Auction in Casper. “If we want, we can find information that fits any bias we want.”

He continued, “With Google, we can find out how to build an atomic bomb, yet most of our consuming public has no clue where their food comes from.”

As a result, the information they do collect may not have any basis in science or fact.

Food ‘authorities’

“The famous food scientists that tell us what we should eat include Michelle Obama, Michael Pollan, Oprah Winfrey and Meryl Streep,” Sides said. “About 20 year ago, Meryl Streep almost destroyed the apple industry.”

Streep’s comments about a product sprayed on apples to maintain color on 60 Minutes nearly destroyed the industry.

As First Lady, Sides also noted that Michelle Obama has redesigned the school lunch program across the nation.

“Nationwide, Michelle Obama is telling our school kids what they should have for lunch,” he said. “What are her credentials? She has a microphone, and she’s repeating what she’s heard for the past 60 years.”

The media message for over a half a century has been to avoid animal proteins and fat.

Food trends

“When we look at news about animal products, whether it’s beef, eggs or pork,” Sides added. “They say it’s going to kill us, or we’ll die if we eat it.”

Since the 1950s, magazines have been using misconstrued data to advocate against consumption of proteins and fats, instead favoring a diet high in grains, vegetables and fruit. Over time, as vegetable oils replaced animal fats and beef consumption was replaced by chicken or vegetable proteins, Sides commented that the health of Americans has actually declined.

“With a low fat, high carb diet, I’ll never die, right? Am I missing anything so far?” Sides said, parroting many media outlets. “But the results seem to be just the opposite.”

Obesity has nearly tripled in both adults and children, and diabetes has also increased.

Salt

One of the major concerns for doctors has been salt intake.

“If I have really elevated blood pressure, the first thing the doctor tells us is to quit the salt,” Sides said. “It’s settled science, and we’ve known this for decades. The current recommendation is less than 1,500 milligrams – less than half a teaspoon.”

However, in a meta-analysis that analyzed 167 clinical trials, no effect was seen from sodium on blood pressure.

“The folks with the low sodium diet had higher rates of diseases than those on the high sodium diet,” he explained. “In 2013, the Centers for Disease Control even said they’d been wrong about the salt. Now they want us to eat between 3,000 and 7,000 milligrams a day.”

As just one example of bad nutrition information, Sides continued that vegan diets are another.

“Vegans don’t have any healthier lives and don’t live as long as meat eaters,” he said.

Skewed science

Additional recommendations on fat consumption and cholesterol have also included flawed science. Sides used the example of Ancel Keys seven country study.

“This study was dated February 1963, and Ancel Keys was a professor at the University of Minnesota,” he said. “He did a survey after World War II of 26 countries with a questionnaire.”

The questionnaire asked about diet and health, including heart disease.

“He came up with this theory that higher saturated fat meant a greater chance of dying of heart disease,” Sides said. “He only used seven countries in his actual published data because the other countries didn’t follow the theory. He kicked them out and cherry-picked the data.”

“This all started as a lie from Ancel Keys,” he added.

Beef’s role

While cholesterol and salt have been implicated in diseases like heart diseases, Sides said that beef can actual be helpful in preventing heart disease.

“The fat in beef is 40 percent steric acid and 40 percent oleic acid,” he said. “These fats decrease very low density lipoproteins (vLDLs) and increase high density lipoproteins (HDLs) and triglycerides. The remaining 30 percent of fat in beef is neutral, so the fat in beef is heart healthy. It is one of the few items in our diet that can do those three things – just the opposite of what we’ve been told.”

In addition, Harvard’s scientists have looked at 21 clinical studies from the past 40 years that were purported to show that fat caused heart disease.

“The problem is, when they analyzed the data, they found no association between cholesterol and heart disease,” he said. “Is there a dietary factor that affects heart disease? Yes. What is it? Refined carbohydrates.”

Carb diets

Refined carbohydrates have steadily been increasing in the diet of Americans.

“We eat 130 pounds per capita of sugar per year. About 75 pounds of that is white sugar, and the rest is high fructose corn syrup,” Sides said, noting that the second or third ingredient in many prepared foods from the grocery store is sugar or corn syrup.

“Here’s the take-home message,” he added. “It’s not the number of calories that we eat. It’s the source of those calories. If the source is something that raises insulin levels, that’s the problem.”

Elevated insulin causes calories consumed to be stored as fat, Sides explained, which is the reason for obesity in Americans.

Even with exercise, Sides said that a low fat, high carbohydrate diet will lead to weight gain.

“We need fat, and children need fat,” Sides added. “We’ve had it 180 degrees backwards for about 50 years.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..