Thursday, 27 September 2012

The pot noodle approach to health

What's that?

Just add water and stir.

Many people are involved in health and nutrition.  They recognise that people want a simple formula that they can easily follow and that will bring results.  Books are published, films are made, interviews are recorded, blog posts are written, which all tend to emphasise a simple formula.

This implies that we are all the same and respond in similar ways.

It ain't necessarily so.

I've been a follower of the low carb community since a health crisis a couple of years ago.  I'd tried more conventional ways of stemming weight gain, which didn't work.  I tried low carb eating and had great success in losing weight, improving fitness and feeling better.  This lasted for a couple of years and then I had some setbacks.

I noticed that I had heart arrythmia with very low carb days and protein smoothies.  I also felt better with slightly higher carb intake at various times.

I had a couple of holidays in Georgia and consumed a lot of khachapuri (cheese bread), kubdari (meat bread), shusha (potato and cheese) and matsoni (yogurt) with honey but didn't put on weight.

In the United States, some doctors keep their medical credentials, white coats and stethoscopes (though they no longer practice), so that they can sell their diet books, supplements and cooking appliances.  They also pick their unique selling point and find euphemisms for including ideas they wish to de-emphasise or distance themselves from, because these are contentious (high fat) or associated with old diet plans (calorie counting).  Protein and nutrient density are two popular terms that fit this category, as a higher protein intake is easier to advocate than high fat, given the huge public health campaigns against fat.  Calorie counting is deemed outmoded, but avoiding 'nutrient dense' foods may help avoid unintended weight gain.  Weight may be demonised to distinguish a plan from a generalised exhortation to avoid starch.

The growth of the blogosphere has encouraged people to experiment with their own health and publish the results as a general truth.  This may include the observation that very high Vitamin D3 intake in the mornings improves sleep.  Others conclude that high vitamin D3 intake increases blood vessel calcification and heart disease.

The advice to test things for ourselves is good.  However we have little evidence of measurable effect, if we don't have access to relevant tests.  We may also confuse cause-effect relations between 2 things, when something else is involved.

One aspect of the low carb movement is the number of young, fit men who routinely assume that a diet of red meat works as well for everyone as it does for them.

Mary Dan Eades points out the problems older women face with hormonal changes and weight gain.  Gary Taubes does not refer to this in his work to establish irrefutable scientific underpinning for medicine in the field of nutrition.  Perhaps the inclusion of Stephan Guyenet on the panel of experts for NuSi may help to redress the balance.

Jenny Ruhl, who runs Blood sugar 101, to help others control their blood sugar and deal with mis diagnosed diabetes, is critical of low carb dietary advice.  She wrote 'Diet 101' to clarify some of the simplistic myths about low carb eating.  Jenny encourages people to be realistic about weight loss they can achieve in later life (and to drop dreams of returning to the figure they had in their 20s).

She encourages people, especially women, to count calories to ensure they eat what their body needs (and no more), with a nutritional calculator to help.  Jenny reckons that some have problems with low blood sugar and exercise, so may need a tiny intake of glucose to keep them well.  She cautions against very low carb eating and side effects.  Her main advice is to focus on good health rather than just weight loss.  Jenny repeats the old maxim about the dangers of falling cholesterol.  A previous blog post noted that Bill Clinton fell foul of this phenomenon.  She would prefer people to achieve stable blood sugar than very low weight.  Jenny admits that she is now averse to steaks and red meat, from her experience of Paleo eating.

Diet Evolution includes examples of older people (men and women), who successfully reduced weight and improved health to realistic and enjoyable levels.

The focus on health continues with the reduction of diabetes, heart disease and cancer through diet and nutrition.

Dr Steven Gundry addresses many of those issues in his diet, which encourages people to reduce calories and increase intake of vegetables, particularly raw.  He explains how the body deals with different types of foods and shows how some have an aversive effect, rather than being naturally healthy.

Jenny Ruhl reminds us that specific foods don't make us fat, but may stimulate us to eat more than is good for us.  Low carb eating can help stabilise blood sugars and reduce cravings for sugar and starches.

One size does NOT fit all.  Find a way of eating that helps you achieve realistic goals over a long period and leaves you feeling healthy.

No comments:

Post a Comment