Summer Reading: Macro-nutrients, Get Moving, Don’t Fear Meat
I’ve been negligent, dear readers, in reaching out, but I did my summer reading! Here are three informative and short articles from the summer of 2019 that are worth reading. Enjoy – and learn!
First, a summary of macro-nutrient (protein, fat, carbohydrate) ratios – can there be a “best” when we are all different and have different conditions and goals? Chris Kresser is a respected clinician who sees many chronic disorders, including obesity and diabetes and is one of my go-to health experts. He’s written extensively about Paleo and Low Carb High Fat (LCHF) styles, but fully acknowledges that we need our own personal approaches. How to Calculate Macronutrient Ratios that Work for You is an informative and readable summary. Takeaways include:
No matter what approach, quality of food is the key. Highly processed “foods” – including flour, refined sugar, and industrial seed oils like vegetable and corn oil - are not high quality.
Most of us can benefit from a low carb approach (vs. the Standard American Diet, or SAD), but are any carbs OK? Kresser argues that cellular carbs are fine and that we should avoid acellular carbs. Carbs exist naturally inside fiber-walled living cells. Acellular carbs are removed from living cells and their fiber: refined grains (yes, that’s bread and most cereals – even those weekend bagels!) and sugar are again chief culprits. Examples of cellular carbs: cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower, sweet potatoes, and whole fruits.
Be reasonable about fats and proteins
Kresser gives recommendations about macronutrient ratios for 16 specific conditions and life stages, including general health, Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, weight loss, mood disorders, pregnancy and lactation, athletes, childhood, intestinal troubles, and cancer.
Next, a topic near and dear to my age group: how to live longer in health. We know that exercise and movement are key, but how and how much? Perhaps the sedentary among us would be convinced to move more if presented with evidence that you don’t have to join a gym or do CrossFit to gain real benefits from moving around. Many studies in this area have been faulty, but a new, rigorous meta-analysis shows that even light, gentle activity such as “moseying, housecleaning, cooking, or gardening” can reduce one’s chances of dying prematurely. Here’s a good article by Gretchen Reynolds published recently in the New York Times: For a Longer Life, Get Moving. The article focuses on simply living longer, but more movement also enhances a longer health span.
Third, it is always the season to scare people away from red meat. Over the last 50 years or so, red meat has been accused of causing much cardiovascular disease and cancer. Here’s Chris Kresser again on the annual red meat scare, this time concentrating on cancer. There are studies that show correlations, but they are necessarily “observational” and cannot show causality. Kresser writes “For example, most Americans that eat red meat eat it with a huge bun made of white flour, with a serving or more of other refined carbohydrates (chips, fries, soda) cooked in rancid, industrially processed vegetable or seed oils. How do we know that it’s the red meat—and not these other foods—that is causing the increase in cancer?”
A tidbit from the article about processed meat: “Even if you ignore everything I’ve written in this article and accept the WHO (World Health Organization) report at face value, just how much would your risk of cancer increase if you eat cured and processed meats? About three extra cases of bowel cancer per 100,000 adults. That means you have about a 1 in 33,000 chance of developing bowel cancer from eating cured and processed meats.”
We all make up our own minds, but I’m sticking with grass-fed beef and the occasional bacon.
My health decisions are informed by modern science and by how we evolved, or “ancestral health.” I’ve often wondered how we evolved over millions of years eating meat, and suddenly it’s unhealthy? For a good discussion about this, read the beginning of Should dietary guidelines recommend low red meat intake? Of interest: a chief health challenges for vegans is the lack of highly bio-available B12 from plants. It seems we humans lost our ability to support an intestinal biome that makes B12 about 1.5 million years ago, so it became essential to ingest it from animal sources. But other primates exist on plants, right? Turns out their microbiomes continue to make B12, among other major intestinal differences.
I’ll offer some thoughts about the very real environmental and ethical considerations in a later post but focus on nutrition here. If you’d like to dig further into environmental sustainability and nutrition from animals now, you might start with a very controversial article entitled Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT–Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems, published in the British journal The Lancet in January 2019, written by 37 authors after 3 years of study, recommending a diet that would purportedly reduce worldwide meat consumption of 90%. Then read this immediate rebuttal on the nutritional value of the diet by Zoe Harcombe, Ph.D. In March, the World Health Organization dropped its endorsement of the Commission’s diet; it seems a “one-size fits all” approach to nutrition for all 7 billion of us is quite problematic.
And now, back to school!