Friday, March 16, 2012

FOTG: The Mission

Saw this quote on the web today regarding a large observational study that showed a correlation between higher red meat consumption and some kind of cancer:
"I am tired of hearing this shxx ... eat red meat ... don't eat red meat ... die of cancer ... die of cardiovascular disease .... it is tiring to try and eat a healthy life style when everyone has a study that suggests you will die quicker if you do this or that ... this can really get exhausting".

This person's attitude embodies the mission of this blog.  This blog is successful if it helps people find an answer to the dilemna this writer illustrates.

If you are at this point, let me offer these thoughts on how to move ahead.

I see two outcomes as a result of folks that get to the point of frustration illustrated by this person's post.

One - they quit trying to figure it out and eat whatever they want to eat.  If everything's bad, everything is just as good as anything.

Two - folks adapt a position.  "If you don't stand for something, you're going to fall for anything."  So folks believe "something", because that is better than admitting they don't know, and being subject to doubt, confusion, and the ping ponging of information on the info highway.

The following discussion will offer you a "position" to test, and criteria by which you can test it.

The question:  What is a good diet?  How can I tell if a diet is good for me or not?

The BLUF:  You will gain and maintain glycemic control on a good diet.  If you don't have stable, healthy blood sugar, you don't have health.
*You sleep better on a better diet.  Why?  Stable blood sugar to feed the brain.
*You will have well regulated hunger on a good diet, meaning, you will feel hungry only when you are truly deficient in some nutrient.  By contrast, no matter how much you eat, you will routinely feel hungry on a bad diet.  Why?  Poor blood sugar regulation drives hunger via reactionary hypoglycemia.
*On a good diet, your fasting lipid profile will normalize - HDLs will rise to normal or good, LDLs will rise (but the ratio of total cholesterol to LDLcholesterol will be well under four), triglycerides will fall to under 100.  Why?  The necessity of dealing with excess blood sugar results in the liver producing too many triglycerides and VLDLs.  VLDLs become small, dense (dangerous, easily oxidized) LDL.
*With a good diet, your abdomen will get smaller by establishing glycemic control, which results in a normal appetite, and better fat burning throughout the body.
*A good diet will not make you hypertensive; about 80% of those with high blood pressure can stop taking their meds with carb restriction.  A good diet will also regulate uric acid levels, preventing gout.
*A good diet will lower inflammation levels, allowing you to take fewer pain meds, at lower doses; I was able to drop from 2400mg/day of ibuprophen to only an occasional 200-400mg dose.
*A good diet supports normal human ability to concentrate.  Blood sugar spikes/dips will leave you feeling lethargic, irritable, hungry and unfocused.
*I good diet will support feeling good.  A high sugar/high carb diet, especially in combination with other inflammation producing foods (omega 6 laden "vegetable oils"), creates a chronically high inflammatory state that may lead directly to depression by interfering with serotonin management loops.
*A good diet will result in good "energy levels".  If you are eating such that your blood sugar levels fluctuate, a source of quickly absorbed sugar will give you an "energy" boost.  Of course, those so called energy drinks will also reinforce, rather than helping to break, your cycles of fluctuating blood sugar, and the bigger question is "why do you need exogenous sugar for energy?".  The answer:  a bad diet.

The most unhealthy population is that group which suffers from uncontrolled blood sugars, which is to say, diabetics.  These people age and die about ten years faster than non-diabetics.  They die at greater rates from virtually every affliction we fear - cancers and vascular diseases and the rest.  That fact makes perfect sense.  Glycemic control is the second most critical metabolic function for life  (the most critical metabolic function is respiration), because the brain runs primarily on glucose, and having either too much, or too little, is an emergency.  Just as you would destroy much of the contents of a house with a high pressure water house in order to "save" the house from a fire, it appears that the body does the same thing when defending the brain and nervous system from chronic over-dosing of high blood glucose.

Preventative medicine must begin with the issue of glycemic control, and without glycemic control, there's little reason to think you can be "healthy." 

In summary, the premise is thus:  glycemic control is the entering argument for health.
Supporting evidence: every known health marker improves with improved glycemic control; many disease correlates can be treated effectively simply by restricting carbohydrate intake in order to restore glycemic control.

Highlights from my N=1 experiment:  I tested my glucose off and on for 30 days; predictably 85 ng/dl or below regardless of pre-post meal time.  Multiple health factors improved, body composition sustained at ~10% body fat, physical performance has never been better, my doctor tells me "I don't know what you are doing but keep doing it."  This experiment has been a 16 year effort.

At this point, one must ask "what if I'm wrong."  The point of science, the reason we revere it is that humans are notoriously bad at discovering truth.  Science provides a methodology which allows one to identify truth.  The science of diet, after a 100 years of trying, is dodgy (that's a technical term) - at best.  There's absolutely no proof of what is or is not causing disease.  There's a good reason for that - it's remarkably expensive to conduct the intervention studies that would be necessary to discover the answer to the question of what diet is best.  Most likely, there is no one "diet" that is best, because some folks tolerate a fair amount of carbohydrate intake and maintain glycemic control, whereas some tolerate much, much less.  Your N=1 test - you experiment to find out what diet is best for you - is literally the best that science has to offer.

And still, you may be wrong.  Even if your search finds a diet that gives you a good number for every health marker at your disposal, you may still die of cancer.  Which is exactly why "a good diet" is defined by outcomes such as looking, feeling, and performing well.  In other words - if you live to 100 but feel like death warmed over, did you win or lose?

You don't get to have certainty about how long you live.  You can have a good, good shot at enjoying the days you do have if you eat ... a good diet.

I've made my bet based on the paleolithic model of nutrition - eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, little fruit or starch, no sugar/wheat.  I enjoy the food, I love how healthy and lean I feel, and I don't think there's any other formula that better enables a vigourous, active life.  My health markers are the envy of my doctor.  If I cash out early but enjoy every day until then, so be it.

If you are ready to make a change in how you feel, in your health, in your mental and physical performance, and want assistance, call me!  Or come to my next presentation, held at Wolf River CrossFit, more information here.
(Edits for style 16 March 12)