Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The one diet that will save your life

I caught a documentary a few night ago. It chronicled a groups' scientific exploration of a specific diet. It reviewed the results of those scientific studies, and presented a number of analogies regarding the diet improving quality of life for those who followed it - there were even testimonials from individuals who had been cured of diabetes and other diseases by faithfully following this diet.

That alone was pretty compelling stuff. They continued form there to document their efforts to implement legislation to correct certain misconceptions in current government nutritional guidelines. They discussed how legislators were quite enthusiastic after hearing their findings, and in some instances trying out the diet personally and seeing the difference it made for them. Then various agricultural lobbyists became involved, and things suddenly cooled. The implication of course was that money changed hands, or that political pressure was brought to bear by the lobbyists, whose industries wold be hurt by this dietary information. While that may cause the tin-foil hat alarm to ring, the history of the tobacco lobby suggests this conspiracy is not nearly so implausible.

In the same vein, they discussed modern medicine's failure to educate individuals, pointing out that healthcare workers aren't properly educated around correct diet principles, and that the economy associated with modern pharmaceuticals gives no incentive to apply principle which would lessen their need.

They also spent some time analyzing several currently popular diets which they deemed "dangerous fads". Again, they provided plenty of evidence to back their claims, in the form of studies, anecdote and basic logical analysis and interpretation of current medical and biological data.

I imagine some of you are annoyed with me right now, for being so vague about this amazing diet. I didn't want to prejudice you right at the outset, because the really interesting thing to me wasn't the diet itself, nor was it precisely the information they provided.

The diet presented in this case was the whole-foods, plant-based diet (essentially vegetarian). And the 'fad diets' they targeted for debunking were several meat-based diets, including the Atkinson diet and the Paleo diet. I point that out specifically because as I was watching the program, I found myself recalling a a body of documentation I had read quite a few year ago promoting the Paleo diet, and what struck me as interesting is that this program and those documents were nearly identical in content. Both presented the scientific journey of a group to find the ideal diet for humans, both referenced scientific studies and analogies demonstrating the effectiveness of the diet in improving health and preventing or even curing some modern ailments (Plant based focused on heart, Paleo focused on gut, both claimed wins with diabetes).

Both cited lobby interference and pharmaceutical economy as reasons the "truth" was not more widely know and accepted. Both made sound, rational cases against the alternative diet based on scientific evidence and  analysis and interpretation of current medical and biological data.

Of course, I have also seen rebuttal's by each side claiming the other side's science is junk science;  flawed at best, or dishonest at worst.

But it lead to me to couple of thoughts.

Perhaps most success stories on these diets are really success stories for the placebo effect; people are convinced that it will work, and therefore dedicate themselves to it. Consequently they also are making other changes (exercise, etc...) which - combined with their belief - is what really made the difference.

So, if you can't trust "science" (or at least not the people presenting it), you can't trust the governments, you can't trust the testimonials, who can you trust?

It is interesting to note that while both claim the other is unhealthy, and both have significant points of conflict, they do have some commonalities (eliminate processed foods, processed oils, alcohol, coffee...), so, given that they all agree on those, perhaps those are the real culprits that need to be eliminated.

I am still inclined to stick to my theory that since different people have different biologies, it is more likely that different people derive better health from different diets. Perhaps some day in the not-so-distant future, there will be a genetic test which will allow you to correctly identify which foods are most beneficial, and which are most risky for your specific biology.

In the Old Testament, God gave some specific dietary guidelines to the children of Israel, In our day, Latter Day Saints believe that God provided an updated version of these guidelines (for some portions the idea that it is updated make sense. Pork for instance was a no-no for the Jews, but not restricted by the Latter Day Saint "Word of Wisdom". Pork is a much less risky option nowadays, given better food prep. technology. Of course the Word of Wisdom was written in 1833. Technology has come a long way since then - refrigeration, freezers, better food preservation technologies, we are are even starting to print food. It would be interesting to see what an current update from God would look like.

1 comment:

  1. The best point was likely they chose a diet (and stuck to it). There is also a very good possibility there is a placebo effect but the biology differences seem the most plausible (anecdotal of course).

    Many people have tried various different diets only to realize the one that "works" for them, or makes them feel the best, does not cause inflammation, gives them energy or sickens them.

    Interestingly this is often very different per individual which would imply strong biological preferences that are worth exploring. However in most cases I don't buy into the conspiracy promotions of diets. What I see are sites "selling" books, supplements etc all based on "their scientific" studies. When I see that, I become suspect. If it is medical journals or studies not tied to some sort of product or diet program they want to sell (or political agenda) I will investigate further.