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Tuesday, 23 August 2022

Vegetarianism, a warning from history, Pt 3 - John Hartford

John Hartford wrote one of the best songs ever written, Gentle on my Mind. For me, the best version of this is Elvis Presley's - The King turns it into an anthem of deluded masculinity, he's a loser who feels insulated from his deprivation and disorganization as long as he has one lover, out there somewhere too far away, being gentle on his mind.
The 1968 Hartford song that appeared on the Lady Bird soundtrack, This Eve of Parting, made the movie.
The usual Hartford album you'll find on Spotify may be one soppy love song after another, but they have a artful flow and playfulness that keeps them enjoyable - some are almost concept albums - and the playing is next-level, Hartford being a bluegrass exponent with few peers.

Neil Strauss interviewed Hartford shortly before his death in 2001, a fragment of the interview was included in his fascinating anthology of the telling bits of interviews from his career as a music writer, Everyone Loves You When You're Dead.

Strauss says of the interview setting, "It would have been a perfect moment if not for one thing; Hartford's doctors had told him he didn't have long to live. Complications from lymphomas (a cancer of the immune system), combined with anemia, a sinus operation, and a knee problem, had worn him down. In the little time he had left on this planet, Hartford had chosen to concentrate on one thing - fiddling"

John Hartford: I tried to get real healthy about twenty or thirty years ago, and I think that's why I got health problems now. I tried to be a vegetarian and all that crap. I think it hurt me: One of my big problems right now is that I have anemia. My daddy was a doctor and he told me to be real careful at the time, and his words have all come true. Cancer has just about emptied my phone book. And I've got it too.

A local banjo player enters the house and approaches Hartford, intending to shake his hand. But Hartford greets him by waving instead. Hartford hasn't shaken a hand for as long as anyone can remember. He is scared of someone bruising or breaking his bones.

Shortly after this interview, while on tour in Texas, Hartford lost movement in his hands. He continued to host picking parties, which he watched instead of played at, until his death several months later at the Centennial Medical Centre in Nashville. He was sixty-three.

What are the odds that Hartford was right? Non-Hodgkins lymphoma (the type Hartford had) is strongly associated with gluten sensitivity.[1] Arthritic conditions may be caused by cross-sensitive autoimmunity to the starch-eating bacteria Klebsiella pneumoniae, or to gluten and related proteins (such as zein from corn or casein from unfermented milk). And anaemia is also a possible consequence of gluten intolerance (as well as vegetarianism in general). The vegetarian diet of the 1970s that Hartford and his friends might have followed was a high-starch, low fat diet based on dried grains and legumes.
"Even in non-celiac gluten sensitivity, anemia is present in 18.5-22% of patients and appears to be related to ultrastructural and molecular alterations in intestinal microvilli."[2]

Of course we'll never know exactly - but I'm willing to take Hartford's word for it.

[1] Kane EV, Newton R, Roman E. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and gluten-sensitive enteropathy: estimate of risk using meta-analyses. Cancer Causes Control. 2011 Oct;22(10):1435-44. doi: 10.1007/s10552-011-9818-4. Epub 2011 Jul 14. PMID: 21755296.

[2] Stefanelli G, Viscido A, Longo S, Magistroni M, Latella G. Persistent Iron Deficiency Anemia in Patients with Celiac Disease Despite a Gluten-Free Diet. Nutrients. 2020 Jul 22;12(8):2176. doi: 10.3390/nu12082176. PMID: 32708019; PMCID: PMC7468819.

1 comment:

Silvia Price said...

He had a knee problem and was afraid his bones would break if he shook hands so he had low Vitamin D. . Anemia is linked to allergies, arthritis and high histamine. He had allergies and sinus problems so he had histamine intolerance, mast cell activation, high histamine and hypomethylation.