Manifesto, Practical Evolutionary Health
Eat only fresh whole foods, drink only water and unsweetened natural beverages, get adequate sleep at night, spend time outdoors during daylight hours, exercise wisely and in moderation with adequate periods of recovery time, participate in meaningful work, meditate, enjoy the company and physical contact of friends, family and social organizations, and have safe monogamous sex for a healthier, more enjoyable life.
This advice seems straightforward but the devil is in the details. This blog is devoted to presenting information that is based on sound science and dispels many commonly held misconceptions about health related topics. Some advice offered by such trusted sources as the American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association, and the US Department of Agriculture contains pitfalls that informed individuals should consider carefully before following.
This blog is not intended to provide medical advice. This blog is for educational purposes and is intended to make you think about your behavior as well as the cultural and economic influences that affect the health of you and your family.
Consult with your physician and health care providers for medical advice and decisions.
Consider the information and opinions provided here to help shape your questions. Read from the recommended readings to make informed decisions.
The following statements about nutrition, life-style, and health are well supported by scientific data. A few of these statements represent a minority opinion, but the minority is growing in size and intensity.
An Evolutionary Perspective
- Human evolution involved two million years of living as hunter gatherers and only 10, 000 years living as an agricultural society. Our genetic code has not had enough time to adequately adapt to this transition and especially to the dramatic changes of the last 100 years. The industrial revolution has brought stress, sleep deprivation, artificial light and daylight savings time which disrupt our circadian rhythm, highly processed foods engineered to reward our pleasure centers and produce over-eating, and the loss of strong family and social support systems as job requirements often separate families and friends by great distances. We cannot go back but we can live a healthier life by taking these simple facts into consideration as we set priorities in a mindful way and arrange our lives.
- Many of the diseases of modern civilization are attributable, in large part, to our transition from a hunter gatherer society to an agricultural and then an industrialized society. This transition included not just changes in diet, but also in physical activity, sleep, social support systems, and stress. Efforts made to address the deleterious effects of these changes will result in better health, increased longevity, improved functional capacity as we grow older, and allot more fun.
Saturated Fat is necessary for good health.
- Reducing the consumption of saturated fat and cholesterol probably does not protect you from heart attack, stroke, diabetes, obesity, dementia, or cancer.
- In fact, increased consumption of saturated fat was found to be associated with reduced progression of atherosclerotic plaques in post menopausal women while consumption of carbohydrates and polyunsaturated fats were associated with greater plaque progression
- Most if not all of the largest studies have demonstrated no benefit from reducing the consumption of animal fat, including the “China Study”.
- In many studies increased consumption of animal fat and animal protein has been associated with improved health (including the complete data from the “China Study”, not to be confused with the book by the same title)
- Many studies have misrepresented data and drawn conclusions that are contradicted by the data collected.
- Most studies that claim to support the thesis that animal fat is harmful ignore confounders that are likely responsible or simply draw non-sequitur conclusions.
- The low-fat craze in our nation has caused more harm than good.
Processed carbohydrates and added sugar are harmful.
- Consuming foods that cause your blood sugar and insulin levels to rise “significantly” will increase your risk of heart attack, stroke, obesity, diabetes, dementia, and many cancers.
- Such food products contribute to the epidemics of obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes and metabolic syndrome that wreak havoc in our country and the developed world.
- These foods include most processed foods that are available in the supermarket.
- They usually contain added sugar, particularly high fructose corn syrup, and often will contain flour of some kind.
- Soda, fruit juice, fruit drinks, energy drinks, candy, cake, breakfast cereals (even the “high fiber” cereals), bagels, bread, pasta, granola bars, and even oatmeal will do this.
- “Eat these at your own risk” should be on the packaging.
- These foods presently represent 70% of American caloric intake.
Manufactured Trans Fats are harmful. These are hidden in many processed foods. You cannot trust the labels. You must read the ingredients.
- The Institute of Medicine, on July 10, 2002 declared manufactured trans fatty acid (TFA) a serious danger to the health of our nation with a: “tolerable upper intake level of zero.” This means there is no safe level of consumption.
- Eliminating the consumption of manufactured trans-fats (trans fatty acids, TFA) will likely reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke, diabetes, obesity, and probably some cancers.
- Manufactured TFA should be banned from the food supply. It already has been banned in New York City restaurants. Caution-any food that has a “partially hydrogenated” or “hydrogenated” oil contains TFA even if the label states “zero trans fats” or “no trans fats”.
- The FDA allows food manufacturers to claim “no trans fats”, “zero trans fats” if a serving size contains less than 1/2 gram of TFA. (So if you were a food manufacturer, how would you calculate serving size?) As a result, many packaged foods that have “no trans fats” or “zero trans fats” on the label, actually contain trans fats. You must read the full list of ingredients. Trans fats are present in many foods including peanut butter, protein bars, granola bars, cake, cookies, candy etc even when the label says “no trans fats” or “zero trans fats”.
The USDA “Dietary Guidelines for Americans” include recommendations that are not supported by science.
- The USDA “Dietary Guidelines for Americans” includes some recommendations that lack scientific foundation. The guidelines ignore a large body of scientific literature.
- The guidelines are correct in recommending more fresh fruit and vegetables.
- The guidelines fall short in recommending decreased consumption of manufactured trans-fatty acids( TFA). TFA should be banned.
- The recommendations to decrease saturated fat and increase carbohydrate consumption are ill advised.
- Increased consumption of whole grains is arguably bad advice.
- The first set of guidelines evolved from a political, not a scientific process. These guidelines have included some recommendations that lack scientific support ever since.
Whole Grains and Legumes may not be health foods.
- Gluten, gliadin, and gluten like proteins found in wheat, rye, barley and oats are a problem for many if not most or all people.
- Whole grains that contain gluten and similar proteins, increase intestinal permeability and thereby allow “foreign” proteins and lipopolysacharides to cross the intestines into our bloodstream challenging our immune system in detrimental ways.
- Legumes (beans and in particular soy beans) contain an anti-nutrient (phytic acid) that decreases absorption of minerals and important nutrients. They also contain components (saponins and lectins) that can increase intestinal permeability, causing inflammation in the gut and throughout the body. Saponins and lectins also directly stimulate and exaggerate the immune response, providing an additional mechanism of inflammation and contributing to the probability of autoimmune disease. Lectins are such potent immune stimulators that they are used as adjuvant agents to increase the immune response to vaccines.
- Legumes also contain trypsin inhibitors which impair the digestion and absorption of protein.
- Avoiding grains that contain gluten/gliadin and similar proteins can improve health for many if not all people.
- Food preparation techniques such as overnight soaking and fermentation of grains and legumes can mitigate much of the anti-nutrient problems associated with grains and legumes but will not alter the problems specific to intestinal permeability and immune stimulation.
- Eating natural animal fat from healthy animals raised properly does not make you fat.
- Eating and drinking sugar (especially high fructose corn syrup added to processed food and beverages), refined carbohydrates (especially flour foods), and manufactured TFA along with the hormonal effects of inadequate sleep, disruption of circadian rhythm, and stress are major causes of overweight and obesity
- If you are obese or overweight and want to lose weight you should significantly reduce your consumption of sugar and starch. Most importantly this includes processed foods that are high in sugar and starch.
- Successful weight loss for many individuals also requires significant reduction in starchy vegetables and fruit during the initial weight loss period.
- A low carbohydrate whole foods approach to weight loss has proved to be effective, safe, and does not require calorie counting. This approach results in a natural spontaneous reduction in caloric intake. This approach has demonstrated superior results relative to sustained weight loss, amount of weight lost, and other markers of health (blood pressure, blood sugars, insulin sensitivity, etc.)
Nutrition and health
- The healthiest sources of protein and fat include wild seafood (avoid the kind with high mercury levels), wild ruminants (wild animals that graze on wild green plants), meat from domestic cattle and other ruminants that graze in the pasture until slaughter (not fed grains, not given antibiotics or hormones), wild game birds, domestic free range poultry, eggs that come from free range poultry, modest amounts of nuts.
- Glycine-rich foods (anything with connective tissue including bone broth, joints, skin, organ meat) are important to balance the proteins found in muscle meats.
- Healthy fats for cooking include unrefined organic coconut oil, organic butter and ghee (unless you have an autoimmune disease), homemade lard and tallow.
- Healthy oils for salad dressing include extra virgin olive oil and avocado oil.
- Fresh colorful vegetables are good for your health. Most Americans do not eat enough of these.
- Fresh fruit is also generally speaking, good for your health. Most Americans do not eat enough fresh fruit. But if you have diabetes you are probably better off avoiding the sugar content of fruit as much as possible.
- Deep fried foods are unhealthy, no matter what fat is used but especially when “vegetable oils” are used.
Cooking technique affects your health.
- How you cook your food is arguably as important as the choice of foods. Moist, slow, low heat cooking produces significantly less AGEs (advanced glycation end products) which are linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, dementia, and aging.
- High dry heat (grill, roast, fry) produces more AGEs and cancer causing PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.)
- Deep frying food is very harmful for many reasons.
- Whenever possible choose poaching, steaming, stewing and slow cooking in a slow cooker.
- If you wish to grill or cook meat at a high temperature, marinate it for one hour in an acidic marinade such as vinegar, lemon juice or lime juice, this has been reported to reduce the amount of AGEs produced.
Excess omega 6 fats (refined “vegetable oil”) cause problems
- The modern American diet includes an unhealthy ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids.
- This unhealthy ratio can contribute to inflammation through several mechanisms.
- The major source of excess omega 6 fats is the use of “vegetable oils” in cooking, salad dressings and processed foods.
- Oils to avoid include margarine, soy oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, safflower oil, peanut oil, any processed/refined “vegetable oil”.
- Most of the cooking oils, “vegetable oils” and salad dressings sold in the US include soy and/or corn oil which are predominantly linoleic acid (the main omega 6 fat in our diets).
- These oils are usually highly processed and refined. The refining process typically includes heating, oxidation , deodorization, de-waxing, bleaching.
- These oils are often chemically treated with carcinogens during the refining process.
- All of these oils, with the exception of canola oil, have brought an unhealthy/ pro-inflammatory ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids to the American diet.
- These oils, because they are poly-unsaturated are easily oxidized both before and after consumption.
- Oxidized fat contributes to atherosclerosis (formation of plaques in the artery walls). These oils bring oxidized fats into your bloodstream and artery walls.
Stress Reduction is important for health.
- Stress of modern society significantly contributes to disease. You can reduce stress, train your mind and change your brain for the better by practicing mindfulness meditation 20-30 minutes per day.
- Regular meditation improves the immune system, decreases stress, decreases inflammation, facilitates DNA repair, improves memory and cognitive function and alters brain chemistry. Yoga and meditation decrease the risk of death, heart attack and stroke in individuals who have already suffered a heart attack.
- Functional MRI scans and blood tests demonstrate beneficial changes within 3 months of meditating 30 minutes per day.
- Physical contact with family, friends, and pets reduces stress and promotes health.
- Social support from family, friends, and organizations reduces stress and promotes health.
- 8-9 hours of restorative sleep, without the use of sleeping pills, reduces stress and is essential to health.
Sleep and Circadian Rhythm are essential to health.
- Americans are chronically sleep deprived.
- Before the invention of the light bulb adults slept eight to nine hours per night.
- Inadequate sleep increases stress hormones, blood sugar and blood pressure.
- Inadequate restorative sleep promotes obesity, diabetes, depression, heart disease and stroke as well as the risk of accidents and cancer.
- Adequate sleep reduces stress, improves the immune system, reduces blood pressure, reduces blood sugar and insulin levels and reduces the risk of automobile accidents.
- Night Shift workers suffer from higher rates of obesity, depression, heart attack, stroke, and cancer.
- Optimal health and disease prevention require regular exposure to natural light outdoors during the day and minimizing exposure to artificial light, particularly in the evening hours before bedtime.
Engaging in meaningful work improves health.
- Meaningful work, either voluntary or for pay, promotes health, happiness, improved functional status, and longevity.
Exercise Moderately and Wisely
- A modest amount of exercise promotes health and a sense of well being.
- Many people cause harm by excess exercise (duration and/or intensity) which can impose excess oxidative stress.
- Brief periods of high intensity interval training in combination with resistance training is the most efficient way to benefit from exercise.
- Adequate recovery periods and rest days are as important as the exercise.
- Exercising during daylight and out of doors in a green space provides multiple benefits.
Sustainable farming practices, humane animal husbandry, creation of rich topsoil, and avoidance of toxic chemicals, drugs, and hormones in our food will in the long run improve our health and economy.
- Sustainable farming and animal husbandry that provides healthy food is cost effective, protects and restores our soil and health, and is an economically viable alternative to modern mono-agriculture, factory farms, and feed-lot meat which threaten our health, soil and economy.
- Joel Salatin’s farm in Virginia is an example of this.
- Cheap food is not cheap. It causes human disease, pain, and suffering with increased medical costs, decreased productivity and increased sick-days.
- Cheap food pollutes our water and degrades our precious soil.
- Cheap food increases the risk of dementia, obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart attacks and strokes.
- These costs are not paid at the supermarket checkout counter but they are real.
- We also pay more for cheap food through our taxes which provide corporate welfare to large agri-business (e.g., corn, wheat, soy subsidies)
Personal Responsibility and Consumer Choices
- You are responsible for your own health.
- Every day you make personal choices that affect your health.
- If you depend on doctors, nurses, and therapists to fix problems that result from the poor choices you make, you will not achieve optimal health.
- Most health problems require significant changes in life-style and behavior to address the major determinants of health.
- Poor choices result not just in illness, pain and suffering, but in decreased enjoyment of life.
- Food manufacturers that sell unhealthy food respond to market forces.
- Corporate factory farms also respond to consumer demand.
- If you stop buying crap-in- a-bag and crap-in-a box, corporate America will produce healthier foods for Americans.
- If you support sustainable farming and humane animal husbandry the market will respond.
- You can start today by reading the ingredients of the food you buy.
- Avoid foods in the center aisles of the supermarket.
- Purchase only the whole foods that are placed in the periphery of the supermarket (fresh produce, fresh meat and seafood)
- If the packaging indicates more than one ingredient, you probably should not buy it. Remember, we are talking about “whole food”.
- Write your elected representatives and ask them to eliminate the corporate welfare in our farm subsidies. These subsidies do not save family farms, they support major corporations and subsidize disease.
This blog will explore the science that supports these statements. References will be provided including research papers and review articles published in peer reviewed journals, books, magazine articles, scientific texts and other sources of information.
I will provide an evolving reading list of books and articles written for the lay public. These books will provide a springboard for you to explore the validity and details of the statements made above.
Many scientific research and review articles are available free on line. Although these are written in scientific terms, they are useful to read. Beware of reading only the abstracts (summaries) of scientific articles. These summaries sometimes draw conclusions not supported by the data presented in the papers, reflecting the bias of the authors and the editors of the journals in which they are published. Science is advanced by iconoclasts and individuals dedicated to seeking the truth. Science is hampered by the financial incentives that dominate present day research funding and academic career pursuits. Additionally, many recommendations provided by trusted non-profit medical organizations are biased by financial conflicts of interest such as corporate sponsorships and consultant fees paid to the members of committees that formulate policy recommendations.
This will become evident as you explore the recommended readings. I encourage you to read and come to your own conclusions.
The US National Library of Medicine offers a wealth of information on line. Visit http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/ . Many articles are only available in abstract format unless you subscribe to the scientific journal in which they are published or have access to the full articles as a member of a university or research organization. If you do not have a subscription and do not work for an academic organization that subscribes, you can usually purchase the full article for $25-30, an exorbitant price. However, many important research and review articles are available on-line for free. A pubmed search that leads you to the abstracts of articles related to a particular topic will let you know what articles are available on line for free.
The information provided herein is meant for educational purposes only and not to be used as medical advice. Consult with your doctor and health care providers for medical advice.