Archives for: February 2006
'Low-Fat Diets Flub a Test' proclaims today's main editorial from the always peripatetic New York Times:
"The baffling results came from a $415 million study of almost 49,000 women age 50 to 79 who were tracked for eight years, with repeated exhortations to the low-fat dieters to stick to the regimen. In findings announced this week, the almost 20,000 women on low-fat diets had essentially the same incidence of breast cancer, colorectal cancer, heart disease and stroke as the 29,000 women who followed their normal eating patterns. The results clearly surprised the investigators and may sound the death knell for the belief that reducing the percentage of total fat in the diet is important for health."
Among other concerns, restricting fish, nuts, and seeds immediately cuts off any source of Essential Fatty Acids such as Omega-3. Low fat dieters are also more at risk of suicide.
Eat your rabbit food.
Not unexpected. There's huge amounts of money at stake: Grant money, book sales, you name it.
Although it took me the better part of my first two decades in practice to realize it, a truly resourceful approach to nutrition is not very complicated:
It is the foods that you identify as benefical for a specific person and which truly feed him, that make him more healthy. Telling a person what to avoid will sometime make him less sick, but only rarely more healthy.
I've never seen anyone improve on a diet of rice cakes and lemon water.
Future low fat gurus may want to ponder the wisdom of cajoling sick people into draconian dietary measures.
Now, before anyone thinks that this is the ultimate validation of all things Atkins, the study also found that an increased consumption of carbohydrates and grains is safe and healthy - contradicting the claims by proponents of low-carbohydrate diets such as the Atkins that high carbs increase the risk of diabetes. Those in the study "did not show any signs of diabetes, their triglycerides were normal and their blood glucose was normal," said Dr Elizabeth Nabel, director of the US's National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, which sponsored the $415 million study.
So, now that we know who lost, when do we find out who won?
Not any time soon. That won't happen until researchers start incorporating specific markers of genetic individuality into their study designs: Polymorphisms (like ABO blood type and secretor status); single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and metabolomics (the study of genetic differences by analysis of metabolic end products).
Until then, we will constantly be left with conflicting results and confounding, competitive theories.
Could it be that the idea was right, but the execution wrong? That the cause of some cancers does have to do with fat, but not in a way that is addressed by a low fat diet?
In other words, suppose toxins and free radicals in fat tissue do cause breast cancer and cardiovascular disease, but (unfortunately) a low fat diet in and of itself does nothing to help eliminate them?
And perhaps paradoxically, in some people, actually concentrates them instead?
Then you have a reasonable experimental model for the case of the life-long vegan who gets breast cancer.
One of my teachers used to tell us that there were two types of medical students: The first type, who go through four years of medical school; and the second type, who go through the first year of medical school four times.
Sadly, we seem destined to go through this first phase of nutrition research a few more times.
Anyway, some other news:
Put up some new sound files in the Media Center. The first is an extract of a lecture I gave at the Ontario College of Naturopathic Medicine. The second is part one of the 'Century of Blood Type Science' lecture given as the keynote address at IfHI 2003. I hope you enjoy them.
You can access these sound clips by clicking this link.
Made an all-vegetable curry for dinner last night. Martha picked up some bok choy, which I used to use in my cooking many years ago, so we threw it in, with onions, garlic, tofu and a few other ditties. I made an effort to use more of the bulb or fleshy part of the plant, as opposed to too much of the top leaves. If you're using regular bok choy you'll want to cut the leaves from the stalks because the stalks will take longer to cook, however if your cooking with the â€˜baby bok choy' you can just chop up everything and throw it all together. What I liked about the taste of bok choy was its kind of silvery texture; smooth but not slimy. Try it sometime. It's pretty much neutral for everyone.
Neutral has been pretty much on my mind these days. I've been hanging out on the message board a bit more than usual, this attendance being occasioned by my current stationing at the computer for lots of other reasons (writing, tech stuff, etc.)
A recent blog discussed my frustration with the depiction of my work on the Wikipedia Encyclopedia site, where the prime author, in a work of titanic stupidity, characterized the BTD a â€˜flim-flam.' He is apparently a medical doctor with some expertise in menopause. Now, what that does to qualify him as an expert in what I do is still open to question.
One of the things I like best about the Wikipedia concept is that the knowledge base is additive; we all can add information to entries on the site. If we disagree with the biased point of view of an entry, we can contest it. In general, it is better with technical stuff, but some of the pop culture information is pretty good as well.
One of the best concepts put forth over there is the idea of the Neutral Point of View (NPOV), the ideal of representing all majority and significant-minority views fairly and without bias.
The article on the BTD is missing some NPOV.
Now, I think a lot of us in alternative medicine can benefit from a good dose of the NPOV, since much of the alternative health information flying around the internet these days is emotionally charged and tinged with personal experience. Witness the â€˜soy is bad' stuff all over the internet. I've spent hours looking at some of the supposed problems with soy (glutamate and excitoxins, â€˜dangerous hemmaglutinins', thyroid interactions, etc.) and almost all of these points are routinely presented as absolute truth when in fact they are often over extrapolated from basic research which never actually said what many of these people claim it implied.
Now before you go ahead and think I'm a soy defender, I'm not. It's not for everyone. But then again, it's also not, not for everyone.
So with that in mind, I share with you my new* Three Aphorisms on Nutrition Information:
- If you think something could be either good or bad for you, do it with the acceptance of the reality that with a thought like that, it probably is.
- If your preaching villianizes a particular food for everyone, you must also accept and realize that, right now, someplace on the planet it is probably getting somebody better.
- If your preaching glamorizes a particular food for everyone, you must also accept and realize that, right now, someplace on the planet it is probably making somebody sick.
And this final thought:
We should always evaluate recommendations in the light of what works for each of us as individuals. Similarly, we should also guard against the inadvertent foisting off of our own specific results as any sort of universal truism. That is what makes the whole individuality thing so great.