I had not planned on buying "Eat Yourself Beautiful". Authors typically earn 10% of the cover price of hardbacks; at €20 my purchase would include a regrettable two Euro contribution to the coffers of an opponent of modern medical care. I've resolved this conflict with a mitigating €20 donation to Arthritis Ireland in recognition of their strong response to Davison's piffle that gluten causes arthritis.
"... the drugs of modern medicine, they tend to cover up any issues or symptoms rather than get to the source of the problem." - Page 2
We need venture no further than page two before finding the first assault upon reality. Do you recall that time you got Polio? No, you do not, for modern medicine has vanquished it in all areas that do not have armed vaccination opponents. When was a diagnosis of tetanus last accompanied by advice to get one's affairs in order? Not in living memory. Those of us fortunate enough to have access to modern medical care and smart enough to use it enjoy a quality of life unrivaled throughout history in both quality and length. Tuberculosis, smallpox, polio, diphtheria and pertussis - once sources of quite a considerable number of health problems - find themselves silent when called up on to support Davison's thesis. A cover up seems unlikely.
What sparks this antipathy towards medicine? Davison holds with unwarranted pride a degree of sorts in Nutrition from the College of Naturopathic Medicine. It runs conferences on the 'risks' of vaccination. The course is 'accredited' in Ireland by the Irish Association of Nutritional Therapy, a group founded by one of the college's lecturers and a PE teacher who graduated the course. This arrangement calls to mind a trip to the principal's office to explain why my signature so closely matched that of my mother's on a secondary school sick note.
The college itself is founded by Hermann Keppler, a man who believes that Himalayan rock salt contains crystals whose vibrations can cleanse the canny consumer of exposure to WiFi and other electromagnetic fields. His specialties include dispensing magical water under the label of homeopathy and diagnosing your inflamed organs by gazing into your iris, a folklore he refers to as iridology. Seeking medical advice from a graduate of his tutelage is akin to drawing up your maps with the help of the flat earth society. For those interested, I wrote more on the group here.
This background in mind we return to the book at section one.
"Enormous bodies of scientific research now show us that the power to live your whole life free from modern lifestyle diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes starts on your plate" - Page 10
Many citation styles are open to the budding author. Documentary note citations would work well in this book. Parenthetical references could be a mite formal but still welcome. There are of course offshoots. Faced with the diversity of approaches available to her, Davison opts to not bother, frequently making claims that will have your jaw drop low enough to accommodate a full bushel of quinoa. Note how smoothly cancer is branded a lifestyle disease, and imagine how such blaming might affect those impacted by it.
The 'enormous bodies of scientific research' seem too slight to warrant mention, but some light discussion follows in the following paragraphs that gives us a lead.
"In 1995, Dr Caldwell Esselstyn published his benchmark long-term nutrition study that showed that heart disease in severely ill patients could be halted and reversed by putting them on a low-fat, whole foods, plant-based diet. It demonstrated the self-healing power of the human body under ideal conditions. Since natural medicine is so effective at preventing disease rather than just suppressing symptoms, as modern medicine tends to do, I firmly believe that there is a great need for natural medicine to become more widespread than conventional medicine."
A source! A source! My kingdom for a source! When you've read through a few unevidenced assertions that beetroot cleanses blood (page 180) the presence of a name and a hint of an actual study quickens the heart. True, the study isn't named, but we have enough to go on.
Let us take a moment to examine Esselstyn's 'benchmark' work that we might learn how heart disease can be halted and reversed. Commencing in 1985 it consisted of 22 participants and no control group. They all took cholesterol lowering medication, a glaring omission from Davison's quest to paint real medicine as a mere masking of symptoms. Of the 22 only six continued the diet for the ten year duration; hardly a useful sample size. You may wish to read the abstract.
What can we conclude from this? That cholesterol lowering medication and changes in diet can lower cholesterol, so therefore medication only hides symptoms? Davison's conclusion is further weakened when we see that Esselstyn allowed skimmed milk and yoghurt in his diet but forbade any oils or avocados. Davison does not explain why her plan disagrees with him in these areas.
"The powerful medicinal properties of a huge array of herbs have been used for centuries by Native American (35-40), Roman (20-30), Persian, Egyptian (40) and Hebrew (30-35) cultures." Page 38
To help the reader I have included in brackets the average life expectancy of each culture.
Is this among the systems Davison wishes to 'become more widespread than conventional medicine'?
"There are more natural therapies gaining respect in mainstream medicine now than ever before, as it is clear that scientific evidence of the efficiency [sic - efficacy? - Geoff] of natural medicine is solid." Page 10-11
This is untrue and I question how any editor could allow ink assault paper in such a depraved manner without leaping to its defence. At the very least, seeing such mortal wounds inflicted on the page they should have had the decency to put it out of its misery.
Meat, Wheat, And Other Things Not To Eat
"Just imagine the heat in our intestines and what must happen to the meat a human eats as it slowly moves through that long digestive tract. It begins to putrefy and rot, allowing harmful toxins and acidic by-products to leak into the bloodstream." Page 12There are well thought out ethical grounds for vegetarianism and veganism, but Davison's pseudoscientific reasons for eschewing meat will only hurt such a movement. Meat rotting in our intestines would be an interesting feat considering at this stage it has been dissolved in our stomach.
"...according to research [gluten] can lead to health conditions like arthritis, depression, eczema and psoriasis." - Page 28
Living through depression? Blame the pizza. Arthritis? Perhaps you shouldn't have had that pint. Davison has been asked by various doctors, researchers and experts to supply the research she promises but as with so many of the novel claims in this book it seems not to exist.
Few of us would wish to dissuade our fellow citizens from devoting a little more thought to the nutritional content of their meals. Some have told me that as long as the book forces someone to choke down an occasional apple it will do more good than harm. But is this the case? There's much one could say in favour of legumes, for example, but Davison asks us to eschew the convenience of tinned goods (she says - absent explanation - that tinned goods contain 'chemicals') in favour of hand soaking the little blighters the night before. I can barely make time to floss. I will not be planning my kidney beans days in advance.
"It's important to choose organic produce as much as possible, as the soil it has been grown in remains rich in the important minerals you need. Organic fruit and veggies have been enabled to grow and develop as nature intended rather than being ripened artificially before they're naturally ready. This means that they're chemical free...While pesticides are intended to kill insects, many of them are actually absorbed into our air, soil, water or food supply...It's essential to wash non-organic fruit and vegetables really well..."
I'm not sure from which angle to best tackle this Gordian knot of nonsense. Starting from the bottom up, you should wash all fruit and veg. Your organic tubers were likely grown in cow poop. Organic vegetables are not rendered immune from contamination with serious diseases. The implication that washing is less necessary is a dangerous one. Pesticides aren't intended to kill insects, they're intended to kill pests, including fungi, bacteria, insects and weeds. And organic farmers use them too, rotenone and pyrethrin being two examples. It's bordering on illiterate to suggest that fruits and vegetables of any sort don't contain chemicals. Organic farmers do artificially ripen crops. I find it hard to pluck a correct statement from this section designed to push folks to unnecessarily expensive fruit and vegetables, despite there being no evidence that organic branded food is more nutritious.
By this stage of the book we have seen dairy demonised, meat maligned, we have been warned off wheat, cautioned against cans and swayed to organic outlets. Far from encouraging a varied diet the advice in this book is profoundly limiting. The resulting message is that healthy eating is the preserve of those who live within walking distance of an organic market and have the sort of disposable time on their hands that allows much of the evenings to be spent bathing legumes. If you have a day job and enjoy the benefits of modern medicine this may not be the recipe book for you.
(note: this review is also posted on Amazon. Feel free to join the discussion.)
(note: this review is also posted on Amazon. Feel free to join the discussion.)