With our present level of knowledge, there is nothing that will reverse or stop the aging process. However, a number of things can be done to improve your quality of life and probably add healthy years to your life. This can be accomplished today by adhering to scientific principles and should begin with proper eating habits. Unfortunately, even eating habits have not been clearly defined simply because so many have so much to gain by endorsing eating methods that are not in our best interest. It was long thought that high fat diets were detrimental to our health and many jumped on the bandwagon and the low-fat craze began. Instead of adhering to scientific principles, proponents of the low-fat craze promoted a simplistic model of reducing fat in the diet in order to reduce heart disease. As our knowledge has progressed, we have discovered no correlation between the amount of fat ingested and heart disease. In spite of recognizing that, the sales of cholesterol reducing agents has increased. Higher levels of blood fats (cholesterol and triglycerides) are typically a sign of other problems and certainly not the fats consumed in the diet. It is no wonder why people do not eat correctly with all the myths and misconceptions in our midst.
Personally, I owe a great deal of gratitude to Dr. Barry Sears who authored all of the ”Zone” books and Drs. Mike and Mary Dan Eades who wrote “Protein Power.” I learned more about diet, by reading their books, than anything I learned in medical school or residency training. All of these individuals recognized the body’s need for protein and advocated diets that are based upon the amount of protein that each person needs. Once the amount of protein is determined, the rest is fairly simple and easy to follow. I advise my patients to eat an equal caloric amount of carbohydrates and fats once they know their protein requirement. Their protein requirement is determined by their lean body mass and activity level. A person with a higher activity level needs more protein than a sedentary person. If you don’t know your lean body mass, then simply use your body weight in order to determine your protein requirement. If you have no kidney or liver condition and are exercising at least three times per week for 45 minutes each time, then it would be conceivable for you to consume one gram of protein per day for every pound of body weight. If you find yourself gaining fat weight, then you would be correct to reduce your consumption and that starts with determining the amount of protein you need. An example would be to reduce your protein intake to ¾ gram per pound of body weight provided you are exercising at least three times per week for 45 minutes. Some will have to reduce their protein even further, but it is a rare person who can’t lose fat weight after reducing their daily protein intake to ½ gram per pound of body weight.
I typically recommend Dr. Sears’ book, “A Week In The Zone” as a starting point. Once a person understands the basics, then the rest is simply fine tuning. Part of the fine tuning is developing an understanding that all proteins, carbohydrates and fats are not the same. For example, a person consuming a vegetarian based diet will encounter a difference in getting an adequate supply of protein due to the fact that meat has a high percentage of protein. Protein is also found in whey, soy and eggs. Including these foods, in a vegetarian diet, helps to satisfy the protein requirement. All carbohydrates are not the same either. Some carbohydrates enter the bloodstream faster and these are referred to as high glycemic or fast carbohydrates. Generally speaking, these types of carbohydrates should be avoided or reduced if fat reduction is a goal. The reason is because carbohydrates cause your body to secrete insulin for the purpose of helping your body use the carbohydrate as an energy source. That’s all well and good, but causing the body to secrete too much insulin is the problem because insulin also functions as a fat storage hormone. All fats are not the same either. Some fats are better than others in promoting good health. It’s probably wise to avoid man-made fats such as margarine, vegetable oils etc. simply because they are not metabolized as easily as natural fats like olive oil, butter or other cold pressed plant oils. Omega 3 fats, abundant in fish, are known to have health enhancing qualities. Keep in mind that the number of calories per gram of fat is 9 compared to 4 calories per gram of carbohydrates or protein. That means that you may consume less than half the serving of fat in order to equal the calories in twice the serving of carbohydrates or protein. Much of our knowledge regarding diet has resulted from the study of ancient man through the science of paleopathology. Contrary to popular thinking, mummified remains of ancient man are very common and not simply a product of ancient Egypt. As a result, there is an abundant supply of mummified remains to study and it has become very clear that ancient man didn’t die of heart attacks, strokes or cancer. The common denominator was a diet that was adequate in protein and matched with equal amounts of carbohydrates and fats. None of these people ate low fat, high carbohydrate diets. Any diet that is high or low in any macronutrient (protein, carbohydrates or fats) is improper and unhealthy. So why is modern man dying of heart disease, strokes and cancer? It’s very reasonable to conclude that it has a great deal to do with the way we eat. Instead of adhering to scientific principles, we have allowed marketing forces to determine the way we eat and as a result, our overall health has suffered. The low fat craze has caused immeasurable problems with our health, but yet many in medicine continue to support the concept of a low fat diet being superior. Again, it’s what your doctor doesn’t know that can hurt you.