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For those interested in diet(13 posts)

For those interested in dietMcAndrus
Jul 11, 2002 3:43 AM
From time-to-time we have discussions on diet - usually prompted by questions on optimal nutrition for racing or endurance. As a fan of what is now becoming called the Caveman Diet, I thought I'd post this cut-and-paste from a recent Wall Street Journal.


The Caveman Diet


Let's face it, America's weight problem is out of control. A summer stroll down any airport corridor reveals a family of five resembling spin dryers in easy-fit clothes. Youngsters are showing diabetes at 15 and obesity is a national health issue. Book stores feature hundreds of diet books facing their enemy cook books across the aisle. Virtually everyone is on a diet and people who still dare to produce dinner parties for their friends have to negotiate a perilous rapids of choice of foods which are certifiably low-cal, low-salt, low-chol, low-fat and low-whatever.

People go to their doctors for blood tests for cholesterol and triglycerides with the grave fear appropriate to confession -- Sin at Table will be revealed when the wizard inspects our entrails. Choosing food has become almost metaphysical and certainly moral, not simply physical and sensual. Surely something fundamental is involved, not just greed.

There is, and one burgeoning argument about what it is is the agricultural revolution. Step back for a moment. We evolved as hunters and gatherers. A graduate student in my Rutgers department, Matt Sponheimer, published an article in Nature in l999 showing from the micro-analysis of wear on fossil teeth that our ancestors were eating meat over 2.5 million years ago. We mainly ate meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, and nuts. We have to assume our physiology evolved in association with this diet. The balanced diet for our species was what we could acquire then, not what the government and doctors tell us to eat now.

We were likely hungry nearly all the time. When we had to reduce our intake of food our metabolism slowed to compensate. We didn't run after dinner for exercise, we ran before dinner -- for dinner itself. Only about 10,000 years ago did we learn how to herd animals, grow grains, and get to sit around.

Within medicine and anthropology there has been a controversy brewing for years about the possible unhealthiness of the diet made possible -- and even necessary given our crowded planet -- by agriculture. The most popular expression of sharp wariness about particular agricultural products was the 1972 book, "Diet Revolution," in which Robert Akins argued that eating carbohydrates, especially grains -- which are cheap -- made people hungry so they ate more and burgeoned. A set of endocrinological events in the body, he argued, cause the favorite foods of Current Authorities -- bread, pasta, rice, for example -- to cause hunger and overeating. Instead, they were told to eat food containing more-satisfying animal fats, including daily bacon and eggs, bacon cheeseburgers, butter sauces, no flour and hardly any fruit. The medical and nutritional establishments found this intolerable and said so very loudly. Thereafter cholesterol levels became as important personal scores as IQ and to some as net worth.

In 1987, three members of the Emory University faculty, Boyd Eaton, Mel Konner, and Marjorie Shostak, published "The Paleolithic Prescription" which analyzed what our ancestors ate (and we are still our ancestors physiologically) and recommended an appropriate modern diet which differed from the ideal food pyramid promoted by the Department of Agriculture. But there was an important difference from the Atkins-style claim, which was that paleolithic people ate meat which was lower in fat than domestic animals -- grain-fed beef (grain again) may have 36% fat content while grass-fed has about 18% and wildfowl and venison about 3%-4%, like most fish. They had no salt-cured bacon. They had no easy sugar which did not emerge until relatively recently.
Much ado about nothing...Wayne
Jul 11, 2002 4:10 AM
not your post but this whole diet issue. How hard is it?
Try to eat natural foods that have been processed as minimally as possible and you'll be better off than 99% of the population. IMHO paleolithic diet makes the most sense (although I find in annoying that they have to coin a silly name rather than just explain it), and is probably the "ideal" diet but you're not going to die 20 yrs early if you eat oatmeal for breakfast and use white bread for your sandwiches, and have a steroid laden piece of steak once a week! Everything in moderation is the key! Afterall you have the French Parodox, of a lean, healthy population despite a (bad) fat rich diet.
Makes health look funny.Leisure
Jul 11, 2002 5:08 AM
I think there is room to argue against some of what's presented here, but I mostly agree with it. I find it really funny though how little agreement there is within "modern medicine" regarding these kinds of issues. Look hard enough and you can probably find articles detailing on how water is cancerous. Every self-proclaimed authority thinks they have some esoterically contrived new solution to some great health crisis that noone can see. I am of the opinion that time will prove most of these people sorely misguided. Much of my reasoning is (and it comes up in this article) because so much of what gets postulated runs completely contradictory to the conditions we evolved in as Homo Sapiens. I'm going to try to moderate some of my ranting about the health mentality in first world nations, though, and simply revel in beef.

Actually isn't modern medicine...Wayne
Jul 11, 2002 5:39 AM
pretty much in agreement on what a healthy diet is:
Large amounts of complex carbs (50-60% of total calories) mostly in the form of unprocessed grains, vegetables and fruits, moderate protien in the form of lean meats or certain fishes, and mod./low level of fats (unsaturated mostly). People sticking to this is were the problems arise!
It's the people trying to sell books that create the controversies. Like Atkins trying to blame carbs of why people are fat, instead of blaming their OVEREATING of the WRONG carbs (not to mention too much fat and protien probably at the same time), and then replacing it with a diet that basically let's then to continue to overeat but with large amounts of protien that the body can only process to a limited extent.
Oh yes it is, (though your points are well taken).Leisure
Jul 12, 2002 3:44 AM
Anyone that listens to the health blurbs on the news has heard the countless studies by MD-this or PHD-that alleging any number of contradictory claims and methods to extend your life and health. One study says diets with high content of roughage will help prevent colon cancer, two years later another study says the opposite. You need to avoid salt at all costs but then when you don't get enough you bonk while exercising. I count this as modern medicine because the people involved are educated in medicine and do their research on medical campuses. You're very correct in pointing to booksellers, but their work wouldn't be so blindly validated if there wasn't so much confusion created among certain researchers within "modern medicine" in the first place. The average Joe/Jane doesn't know how to siphon out what research has merit and what doesn't, they'll just perceive themselves as receiving a lot of mixed messages, and of course s/he will just as easily trust any random book that at least says the same thing from beginning to end.
Yeah but the basic "good, healthy" diet...Wayne
Jul 12, 2002 4:17 AM
recommendations haven't changed. It's in the details that the confusion occurs. The problem with alot of those medical studies is that they are so huge that they are statistically overpowered. So small group differences become statistically significant!
As for salt, nothing wrong with salt per se, it's only a problem if you have high blood pressure. Since, consuming salt will lead to more water in the blood, so more fluid in the pipes leads to higher pressure. Bad if that means a high blood pressure, meaningless if your blood pressure is fine. As an athlete you probably don't have high blood pressure, and as you point out you lose alot of it when exercises so you need to replace it. Although it won't cause you to bonk, bonking is a depletion of your glycogen stores, which as far as I know is completely unrelated to salt!
Yes, I know.Leisure
Jul 12, 2002 5:14 AM
I'm not thinking about the details as being the source of confusion, more specifically the overextention of principles beyond what's most metabolically responsible. Sticking to the salt example, some people needed to moderate their salt intake, but as time went on this was overextended to mean that everyone needed to be paranoid about every milligram of salt intake or forever be afraid of premature kidney failure. Nearly two decades later the medical field has wholistically toned down that message. The same trend has been playing out with vegetarian diets, and now we're starting with the all-meat diets. The researchers do have a lot to do with this, some more so than others, and sometimes I imagine unwittingly. Sometimes it's about being naturally enthusiastic about their findings and publicizing how it's going to "change the face of health as we know it". Sometimes it's just about getting a spot on the news. I assume you've been close enough to scientific research to see first-hand that some research is incredibly responsible and some is rather mediocre, and there tends to be politics involved. I'm of the opinion that there's a lot more than there needs to be. Yes, I've taken the physiology classes too and I know that much of the basic messages haven't changed, but what gets taught in class versus what gets publicized in the news (and yes, the researchers have some control over this) are two different things.
Did you see the July 7 NYTimes magazine?RoyGBiv
Jul 11, 2002 5:10 AM
Very interesting article about diet; especially illuminating for me was a dicussion on the roles played by insulin and ketones in how the body handles food.
The upshot of the article was that, perversely, the push to low-fat, lots-of-carbs diets may be one of the reasons behind obesity.
Highly recommended.
Brian C.
No, no, noWayne
Jul 11, 2002 5:29 AM
the reason people are obese is too many calories and not enough exercise. Insulin in response to alot of carbs may influence your appetite, etc. but it still comes down to the bottom line. I guarentee you that if you ate a carbohydtrate rich diet, low in fat that was controlled for calories there would be no difference in your weight after a year than if you moderated your carbs and replaced them with fat/protien but had the same caloric total. You will lose weight on a 1000 calorie a day diet of table sugar just like you would on a 1000 calorie a day diet of fat/protien.
Of course moderation and exercise are essentialRoyGBiv
Jul 11, 2002 6:19 AM
The point of it was that, starting in the seventies, government and dieticians began touting the whole wheat bread / rice / pasta diet over fatty meat and dairy. Coincidentally, the leisure fitness craze - i.e. health clubs - began to explode. And, yet, the roots of obesity - or just plain plumpness - can be traced to the early eighties.
Maybe there really isn't anything wrong with steak and eggs, if the portions are small of course, to go along with spaghetti on Saturdays. That''s all.
Yes, but you canWayne
Jul 11, 2002 6:40 AM
also correlate the rise in obesity with a decrease in physical activity as well as an increase in the amounts of junk food, highly processed foods usually high in simple carbs AND saturated fat (calorie dense foods). Just because the government began recommending a certain diet doesn't mean people have necessarily followed it, and the food pyramid has always included meat and eggs. And I doubt the government's recommendation of a certain way of eating had anything to do with the fitness craze, rather than the fitness craze being a response to an already increasingly fat/sedentary population who needed to get off their asses.
the problem i had with the NYT articleColnagoFE
Jul 11, 2002 6:39 AM
it didn't really seem to mention anything about diets for athletes...the advice about carbs being fattening seemed to be aimed at sedentary people who probablt DONT need that many carbs.
The problem I had with the NYT article...Mr Good
Jul 15, 2002 7:58 PM
...was that it presented the question as "either/or" --either "carbs good/fat bad"; or "fat good/carbs bad." The only thing that makes people fat is excess calories, and these can come from carbs, fat, or protien. There is a rise in obesity because people have turned to calorie-dense food without increasing their exersize (and generally decreasing their physical activity, compared to even 20 years ago).

Of course fat has more calories per gram than carbs, so it would seem that people watching their weight should eat more carbs. But if they think they're eating "healthy" food they may eat a greater volume of food which still equals excess calories. The simple answer is to exercise. (But I don't need to tell you folks: the answer is to ride bikes instead of driving everywhere.)

But articles like the NYT Magazine, and the general additude of most people, seems to be asking doctors for a miracle nutrition plan that will make us slim, strong, and fit simply by placing a magic combination of food in the mouth! That ain't gonna happen, folks. The answer is to burn that fuel by making your body WORK.