Wednesday, 21 May 2008

How crucial is your diet to your health?

I find most things in diet and exercise aren’t as cut and dried as they’re first presented. So I’m generally not really bothered by it all. Just eat the best you can, be as active as you can given your workload etc and make sure you have enough time to recover. I think I could put money on there being a relationship between increased risk of diseases of affluence and increased pressure as markets become more and more competitive and competition for jobs increases.

Basically as we exercise less and have less time to kick back and recover then our bodies just build up damage. I haven’t thought it all through but that’s where I’m leaning because so much of the research has been based on correlations for so long and I’m not sure that we’re that much closer yet to understanding our bodies properly. I’m thinking maybe another 50 – 100 years

So I'm not going to completely answer the question that started this post. The purpose of asking it is to inspire debate and also ask
  1. do we know enough about diet yet to know what's perfect for us?
  2. is diet the be main thing we should be worrying about?
Question 1: Do we know enough about diet?
I don't think so. I do a lot of reading around and I've also tried out lots of different approaches and theories to see for myself. The only thing I've learnt is that as long as I'm eating enough and I get enough unrefined foods, that's not to say they all have to be un-refined, then I feel pretty damn healthy. I do however read all sorts of things that contradict the 'known' and accepted wisdom. What's important to me is that these studies or theories hold weight, even if it's just that they can't be disproven at this point, I'm prepared to wait for the dust to settle but that's going to take years.

Right now I can tell you about many things that haven't required good nutrition to fix. Which is why I'm convinced diet is only part of the solution and it may not be as big a solution as many people indicate. For example in Scott Kuses article http://www.modernforager.com/blog/2007/03/08/five-worst-dietary-trangressions/ he points out that high cholesterol or specifically ldl levels may be the bodies response to heart disease rather than the cause. That's an interesting point and I feel a wise insight. I don't know if this holds up yet given other evidence but I've got a good feeling about it (How scientific is that).

So do we know enough about food to know exactly what we should be eating. My logic is that if we don't 'know it all' then I'm just gonna be happy doing the best I can rather than spending all day worrying. There are more important things in life.

Fundamentally I feel no we don't know enough. We've only just decoded the genome but we don't yet know what it all means. For every answer we're given there are many criticising or questioning it's validity with research to back up their claims.


Question 2 Is diet all we should be worrying about?
We often focus too much on one thing because it's so complex to consider diet as part of a wider picture. I feel we have to accept that this is the case whether it's difficult or not and find ways to analyse these multiple factors at the same time.

I just feel our bodies have been keeping themselves healthy for thousands of years. Modern science, understood correctly has helped enormously in treating specific diseases and provides a valuable insight into our bodies and minds. I feel the greatest benefit comes when you combines a knowledge of food and diet, with daily rhymns and their importance including sleep, activity, work. Bascially we aren't isolated beings. We live in societies we have demands placed on us and we place demands on other people. These things can and do affect us and can have a greater impact than diet.

3 comments:

Scott Kustes said...

Great post Colin. It's funny that the more we learn about the body, the less we seem to know about nutrition. While I opt for a low-carb Paleo diet, civilizations have thrived on high-carb, low-fat, low-carb, etc...the key is always unprocessed foods. All of the food science in the world can't overcome our need for fresh, unprocessed foods.

You are definitely right about social cohesion, stress, exercise, etc all being important in health. I'm nearly finished reading a book right now called "Last Child In The Woods" which discusses our need for nature and how our indoor lifestyles are hindering us and our children. I'll review it once I'm done.

Good stuff
Scott Kustes
Modern Forager

colchambers said...

Thanks Scott,

I agree I feel we often get too focused on what exactly we should be eating and forget that our bodies are designed to search out the right foods as long as we learn to listen to them correctly.

I feel that processed foods are part of life today and so I've jsut been looking at how bad they really ara and what you can do to minimise the effects.

I term it 'taking out the trash'. Basically even unprocessed foods have bad parts to them especailly if they stay in the gut or digestive tract for too long. Bowel cancer is linked to a lack of fibre simply because it encourages waste products to hang around in the body. And just like rubbish left in the street that attracts rats, food waste left in our bodies attract microbes that we don't want.

Some will kill the microbes we do want. Others will jsut produce bad things and this can leach through the colon or intestinal walls into our bloodstream in the same way we get vitamin k from bacteria in the colon and it gets into our blood stream. (I haven't had a chance to completely check these 'facts' so any comments please post but I'm pretty certain the theory is sound)

so basically I make sure I've got enough in my diet that encourages waster to be taken out. that's just fibre or sugar that's not starch and plenty of water. Once you do this and get a bit active too to help your internal muscles push all this food pulp around the digestive tract (technically it's called peristalsis) then atleast you're doing what you can to make sure that bad things don't stay in your system.

At least that way I can eat less desirable things when I have a craving or two and know I'm doing what I can to minimise the bad effects.

colchambers said...

oh yes and I look forward to reading your review. The book definitely sounds interesting.