Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Retrospective #242: God Favors Animal Fat

About one-third through Nina Teicholz’s, The Big Fat Surprise, possibly the best book yet on nutrition and healthy eating for the whole human race, I came across a reference I had never seen before. Nina describes herself as a tireless researcher with a nine-year obsession reading thousands of scientific papers, but she does not explain how she came upon this citation from the Old Testament, Genesis, Chapter 4, Verses 1-5 (New International Version):
[1] “Adam lay with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, ‘With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man.’ [2] Later she gave birth to his brother Abel. Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. [3] In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. [4] But Abel brought fat portions from some of the first born of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering. [5] but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So, Cain was very angry and his face was downcast.”
Well, we all know what happened next: Cain killed Abel. How prophetic! Cain, who favored “the fruits of the soil,” killed his brother who favored animal fat. When I read this passage the NIV Study Bible to my wife, she said it sounded “paraphrased.” So, I went to her copy of “The Revised Standard Version” of The Holy Bible. Verse 4 there reads: “And Abel brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and for his offerings.” When I read this to my wife, she had to agree it was essentially the same: God favors animal fat.
But just to be sure, I searched online for the King James Version of the Bible (the one I grew up with). Verses 4-5 read as follows: “[4] And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: [5] But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.” So too, the Samaritan Pentateuch (Hebrew language version of the Torah), Septuagint, Vulgate, Syriac, even the Masoretic Text, all have the same ancient message: God looks upon animal fat with special favor.
When my wife was satisfied that Nina Teicholz had accurately cited the passage from Genesis in The Big Fat Surprise, she got the message and then contributed to the message with this: The New Testament’s Parable of the Prodigal Son (NIV Luke 15: 11-31), paraphrased: When the “lost” son, who had squandered his inheritance (while his father lived), and returns home to humbly ask for his father’s forgiveness, the father instead celebrates the return of his “lost” son, with these words: [23] “Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate.” God favors animal fat.
Has animal fat always been the preferred source of nutrients for optimal human health? That we evolved to select the “fat portions” of our “fattened” domesticated animals to eat first? Tribal peoples all over the world, who were neither Jews nor Christians, also preferred the fat and viscera (organs) rather than muscle meat. Teicholz writes (pg. 17) “…the Inuit [aka Eskimos] were careful to save fatty meat and organs for human consumption while giving leaner meat to the dogs. In this way, humans ate as other large, meat-eating mammals do. Lions and tigers, for instance, first eat the blood, hearts, kidneys, livers, and brains of the animals they kill, often leaving the muscle meat for vultures.”
Vilhjallmur Stefansson, the Harvard-trained anthropologist, learned this during the year he spent living with the Inuit in the arctic.  He ate the same meat and fat, including organ meat, as the Inuit. And when he returned home and was ridiculed for reporting his observations, he submitted to a year-long experiment eating just “the Eskimo diet.” And “during the ensuing year,” Teicholz wrote, “Stefansson fell ill only once – when experimenters encouraged him to eat only lean meat without the fat.” “Diarrhea and a feeling of general baffling discomfort,” Stefansson said, “were quickly cured by a meal of fat sirloin steaks and brains fried in bacon fat.”
But lions and tigers and even Eskimos are not part of our experience. We are products of what has come to be called Western Civilization. And we have become victims of our own prodigal past. We have abandoned our traditional ways of eating and have been led astray by “Cain” and a diet of mostly processed grains, sugars and “vegetable” (seed) oils.
By some accounts, you can’t get much earlier in the history of the human race than Adam and Eve, who begat Cain and Abel. And, “(I)n the beginning” God looked with favor on Abel and on animal fat. So, where did we go wrong? 

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