Activist sees need for changes in American diet
By CRAIG REED
For the Capital Press
ROSEBURG, Ore. -- Peter Ballerstedt is speaking out for a change in the traditional food pyramid.
He favors moving animal products to the base.
"The human diet ought to be based on animal products instead of cereal products," said Ballerstedt, who described himself as a researcher, speaker, writer and practitioner of grass-based health. "I understand that's a 180-degree difference from what the U.S. Department of Agriculture and many others advise. I think the archeological and anthropological evidence strongly points to the fact human beings have been cooking and eating meat for a very, very long time."
Ballerstedt, who lives in Philomath, Ore., expressed his opinion during a presentation at the annual Douglas County Livestock Association's Spring Livestock Conference on April 9. He has an extensive background in forage production, having been the forage extension specialist at Oregon State University in Corvallis from 1986 to 1992. His forage background and his understanding of grass-based health has given him an interest in local food production systems.
Ballerstedt said he concluded from his research that the fat-is-bad hypothesis that has been promoted by the U.S. government since the 1970s was wrong.
"We were told to limit our intake of fat, especially saturated fats," he said. "It was recommended we eat a high-carbohydrate diet."
Ballerstedt explained that since 1977, when it was recommended that red meat and total fat consumption be decreased, there has been increased consumption of vegetable oils, cereal products, sugar and high fructose corn syrup. And there has been a significant increase in obesity and diabetes with no decrease in heart disease.
"Today two out of three adult Americans are overweight or obese and 44 percent of adults are diabetic or pre-diabetic," he said, citing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Weight and chronic disease issues are increasing in our teens and preteens, too. This should suggest that diets based on carbohydrates instead of fat and protein from animal products are harmful.
"Humans require animal protein and fat for optimal health," he said.
Ballerstedt is a practitioner of his research. He has lost 50 pounds and improved his blood glucose and lipid levels by eating more animal products and restricting dietary carbohydrates.
Ballerstedt said he wants people to do their own research rather than just take his opinion on animal fat versus carbohydrates.
"There's been such a one-sided presentation of the information so far," he said. "I'm trying to make people aware that there's a different scientific understanding of diet and then hopefully people will learn for themselves."
Tim Bare and Ernie Kahle, both ranchers in the Roseburg area, said they were both intrigued and impressed by the message Ballerstedt delivered.
"I think it was eye opening to everyone who was sitting there," said Bare. "The consumer has been told something totally different, that red meat isn't very healthy for you. What he (Ballerstedt) said is that the human being is meant to have a protein diet."
Kahle said ranchers are a good example of people who have included a lot of red meat (protein) in their diets through the years. He noted his own father is healthy, still does ranch work at age 87 and has eaten a lot of beef during his life.
"When you have people who live the lifestyle, it excites me and makes it more convincing," Kahle said.
Ballerstedt said he thinks there's a growing number of people who are changing their attitudes about diet. He called it "a grass roots movement." He said it's important farmers and ranchers know this information for their own personal well being and so they can pass it on to consumers.
"I view grass-based health from a holistic perspective," Ballerstedt said. "Not just personal health, but also the health of the environment, the health of the livestock, the health and profitability of the farms and ranches, and the well being of the communities those farms and ranches are a part of."
For more on Ballerstedt's views about grass based health, go online to http://grassbasedhealth.blogspot.com