I write the following based on what I've gleaned from the Internet about nutrition and health as well as personal experience of changing the way I eat. The reason I write it is because I want a summary that I can reference, together with pertinent links to sources of scholarly articles and/or scientific papers. The fact that I (and others) have found better long term health outcomes from bucking the system and changing our attitudes to the conventional dogma spouted by health 'authorities' about different nutrients, serves as some sort of proof of my cause. As always, it is the reader's choice to take the information on board or not, as they see fit.
Carnivore, Herbivore, or Omnivore?
For the last (roughly) two million years, our species has been evolving and adapting to environmental changes in order to live on this planet. Whilst many vegans would have you believe that we have done this mostly based on a plant dominated diet, the evidence would suggest the contrary. We have developed a large brain, compared to other primates, and this has led to our dominant position in the hierarchy of the different species. There is evidence to suggest that vegetarians and their subset, vegans, have smaller brains than the omnivorous population. There is also evidence that our plant eating cousins have a longer colon with which to cope better in the digestion of plants. They need this in order for the bacteria in their gut to breakdown plant material and create the necessary short chain fatty acids that they otherwise wouldn't get. Humans are well adapted to absorbing essential proteins, fatty acids and micro-nutrients from animal foods. They are less well able to absorb these from plant-based food, in fact some anti-nutrients in plants actively work against such absorption. It may be, with concerted effort by vegan/vegetarians to move our species to plant-based eating, that we evolve (over the next few hundred thousand years) to be better adapted to do this. By that time we will more likely resemble the gorilla - with a smaller brain and a bigger gut. Come to think of it, maybe we are evolving that way more quickly than I thought.
Under Attack From Big Food and Big Pharma
While we have spent most of our evolution adapting to the eating of animals and some parts of plants eg. fruits and leafy greens, for the last 5,000-10,000 years we have introduced agriculture into the mix and found that we've been adapting to its produce with mixed results. Preserved remains of some of our earlier agriculturists show that they had the beginnings of 'modern' illnesses such as shorter stature, pitted bones, diabetes and heart disease - symptoms not found in the remains of hunter/gatherer populations. Even more recently, in the last 200 years we've had the ability to refine grains and sugar and make them highly available - foods that in the past were not available at all (or in the case of sugar, available seasonally and combined with fibre). While much of the world, particularly food processors and the governments they paid for, scratched their heads wondering why people were getting sick, fat and having heart attacks, some of the sharper tacks in the box were pointing their fingers at carbohydrates.
Meanwhile back in the '50s, Ancel Keys threw a spanner in the works and convinced governments that saturated fat, (yes the same saturated fat we'd been eating for 2 million years), was the new enemy and that it was causing our arteries to get clogged and give us heart attacks. If that wasn't enough, some other bright sparks decided that one of our most important biochemical building blocks, cholesterol, always seemed to be present when there was trouble in the body and therefore must be what was causing the trouble. Never mind that the body was only producing it to repair the damage caused by stress, smoking and eating the wrong things! The drug companies were quick to develop a new drug to stop the body from producing cholesterol and thereby leaped onto a new money spinner (much more profitable than snake oil). Unfortunately for us, statins cause more serious adverse effects (SAEs) and ill health because of the disruption that they are creating with our natural body defences. It is difficult to get the hard information on this because most of the trials have been done by the pharmaceutical companies and the results are strictly guarded. I have learned that eating cholesterol does not cause the body to have more of it than it needs and that if you don't eat enough of it the body will automatically create what is necessary . So I don't hold back on bacon eggs and liver!
Overweight? Simple - Eat Less and Exercise More. Right?
People don't get fat because they are lazy (don't exercise) or because they are greedy (eat too much). They also do not get fat by eating FAT! They get fat because the food they have been advised to eat is the type of food that drives fat accumulation. When eating that type of food the body automatically stores excess energy consumed as fat, to be used later. That particular type of food doesn't trigger the body to stop eating by signalling that one is full. The body will continue to eat it until it is gone because that is how it is with seasonal foods. If you try to regulate fat storage by exercising more, the body automatically signals 'hunger' and you will crave and seek out more food. If you try eating less, the body will automatically turn on 'lethargy'. When the supply dries up then the body goes through a period of 'conservation mode', it becomes lethargic and unwilling to spend energy. After this it switches to 'fat burning' mode and draws its energy from the large stores of fat that have been accumulated. Eating fatty foods typically will not switch it out of the 'fat burning' mode. The type of food that does cause the switch from 'fat burning' to 'fat storing' is CHO or carbohydrate. Our problem is that we have now got an unlimited supply of fruits in our supermarkets and we've been told by misguided health authorities to have multiple portions of them each day. Not only that, but our 'food pyramid' has been influenced by the big grain producers to include much of their, even more insidious, unhealthy product.
So, eat the wrong food and have it drive you toward obesity, diabetes, CVD, dementia, ADHD
Cancer Starvation. Warburg Effect
Sugar feeds cancer cells. The mitochondria on cancer cells have become dysfunctional and do not signal normal cell death as they should. Also they cannot use fat as a source of energy and instead gobble up glucose. Because they do not signal when it is time for the cell to die its natural death (apoptosis), the cell continues growing out of control. Clinicians use the property of cancer cells taking up sugar (Warburg Effect) to diagnose the disease via PET scans. While drug companies see some promise making money by developing drugs that can starve these cancer cells - they haven't yet come up with the magic bullet. Do-it-yourselfers can simply try dropping sugar out of their diet - and cutting back drastically on those foods (carbohydrates) that just convert to glucose in the body. In my wife's case, (diagnosed with a malignant bowel tumour); at the time of surgery to remove it - and after some earlier chemo and radiotherapy - the tumour was found to be dead. No evidence of any spreading of the cancer was found. This effect is apparently found in only about 16% of those patients receiving the type of treatment she was on and we feel that her sugar free, low carbohydrate diet was a key factor in this result. My suspicion is that a probable cause of the cancer in the first place may have been her earlier penchant for eating indigestible 'health' products such as bran - which may have irritated the bowel and caused the damaged cells. Eating animal fats likely has a protective effect against cancers. Efforts by health authorities over the last 40 years to get us to cut back on animal fats seem to coincide with a greater prevalence of cancers. While lung cancer may well be initiated by smoke as an irritant - it might be that we now have a greater incidence because of the fact that our lungs have insufficient saturated fat to line themselves effectively.
See also: Cancer as a metabolic disease
Salt is needed and doesn't need to be regulated. Our body can do that for itself
Having always been a person that adds salt to any meal until it 'tastes right', I had to have a laugh when I found out that reducing our salt intake to that of the recommended government guidelines will actually reduce our life expectancy. It seems that science has been going in two different directions with this subject over the last 40 years. One school of thought that found a link between high salt intake and hypertension (you know - in the type of study where they feed rats 60 times more salt than humans would normally eat) as opposed to another school of thought that found heart disease patients had a higher mortality with reduced salt over time. While more recent studies trying to link increased salt intake with poor health outcomes has proved "inconclusive" and "inconsistent", another set of studies trying to link the opposite ie. decreased salt with poor outcomes, seems to have found a much more consistent link.So, if your doctor has you on statins to reduce your cholesterol, low fat diets and reduced salt - what are you going to tell him on your next visit?
If you don't believe me, Gary Taubes has written about it all here.
According to another expert - "There is no scientific relationship between salt intake and blood pressure/hypertension. There is no way to manipulate the blood pressure by manipulating the salt intake."
Inflammation by Imbalance - Omega 3 and Omega 6
One of the trends in our food chain, since recommendations to reduce saturated fat became prevalent in the last 40 years, has been the move to increase our intake of vegetable oils. We've been urged to stop cooking in animal fats like butter, lard and dripping and use Canola oil instead. (Other vegetable oils are also touted). The problem is that the omega 6 fatty acids that are prevalent in these oils, (besides the oxidation levels), promote inflammation in our body when out of balance with omega 3 fatty acids. Vegetable oils are generally hard to obtain and have only been available with modern processing - coincidentally over the same time frame as modern illness. This is how you can optimise your omega-6 to omega-3 ratio
A recent addition to our food chain, wheat is something that we have to process in order to be able to digest (or at least partially digest). There appear to be some properties of wheat that are only now becoming apparent. Alzheimer's, among other diseases, may be linked to wheat. While we may have evolved over the last 10,000 years to be more tolerant of wheat (at least for populations that have had agriculture for that period), when you introduce wheat to recent hunter/gatherer populations adverse effects are more apparent. The apoE4 gene allene is one that has shown up in more people with Alzheimer's. While this gene has reduced/disappeared from populations that have a long association with wheat, it is still present in the likes of Polynesians. Polynesians have a greater incidence of Alzheimer's.
Connect the dots.
Our Life Expectancy is Getting Longer, Right?
The argument often brought up by people when you explain to them that our ancestral way of eating is healthier for us, is that we used to have short life spans and therefore our current agriculture-based diet must be healthier since we live longer.
Well the answer to this is that our rate of mortality has always been skewed by the fact that early childhood mortality has been high - partly by death due to infections and disease. If you take these out then the average length of life after getting to a certain age has never really changed much. What has happened in recent centuries is that we have found ways to get children to live longer. The current dietary regime, based on grains and sugar, is now attacking our mortality from the other end. We get people through the youth years only to have them die younger because of obesity related illness. This current generation is the first that is expected to have a shorter life span than the previous generation.
While I spent quite a while researching the above and putting links to all sorts of places that I've found information, I have just found a very recent paper that backs up much of what I've just said. Naturally it is quite long and has a lot of scientific jargon as well as many links to scientific references but I am pleased to be able to include a link to it here.
Problem solver from way back. Currently working on the challenge of weight and health. Hence this website.