To understand the basic lifestyle and dietary changes Marlene's lecture was ultimately advocating please see my first post, which contains links to her youtube videos where she explains the concepts herself. This post is about more support and follow-up info: historical evidence and modern scientific support.
I'd like to start by acknowledging that this is a departure from my previous recommendations, because it is NOT entirely based on chinese medicine food therapy. And while I still do advocate for many of the concepts in TCM food theory (namely focusing on increasing your food's ability to be cooked down by your digestive kettle by doing things like eating more cooked foods, chewing well, slowing down, eating smaller meals more frequently, enjoying food mindfully, being moderate, eating seasonally and locally). This post definitely represents a shift from a purely TCM recommendation to more of a hybrid.
Why, you ask? Because one of the very interesting things Marlene pointed out is that different populations have evolved to eat different foods (in our digestive tracts). Yes, in Asia there is a lot of rice and soy and no dairy and yes, eating this way is what TCM food therapy recommends, but most of my patients are not of Asian descent and so our guts have evolved to eat what was traditional in the places we came from. In European countries for example, dairy was much more common (especially Scandinavian ones), in Africa it was not. So this really puts some perspective on everyone eating the same foods... it just doesn't make sense from an evolutionary perspective. We have different guts and different abilities. This does still go with the TCM concept of listening to your own body above any one rule.
There was a man named Weston Price who has been called the Isaac Newton of Nutrition. He was a dentist and a vegetarian and in the 1930s he went and searched the world to find a healthy vegetarian culture. He went to cultures all over the world and used the powers of observation to come up with basic assertions. Although he did not find any healthy vegetarian cultures, he did find indigenous cultures that had much higher levels of health (when you took away illnesses and accidents that would be readily preventable and treatable in the west), fertility and ultimately nutrition.
These traditional diets were much more like our own ancestors and included:
Foods grown in nutrient rich/fertile soil
ALL the parts of animals including organ meats, marrow)
Animals on pasture
dairy products that were raw and/or fermented
grains and legumes that were soaked or fermented
and bone broth
only real foods found in nature
Our modern diets includes:
Foods grown in depleted soil
muscle meats (which are the least nutritious parts of animals)
Animals raised in confinement
refined and or extruded grains
WAY more grains than would have traditionally been available
lots of artificial and synthetic foods
So basically, as time went on and we had the luxury of not having to worry about starving and had more science, agriculture and politics enter into our food arena. Much of the traditional diet went out the window.
In the 1800s people averaged 18 lbs of sugar per year
In the 1900s it went to 90 lbs per year
In 2010 the average american consumed 120-150 lbs of sugar per year and 50% of americans consume a half a pound of sugar per day.
see USDA Agricultural fact book, profiling food consumption in america, pg. 20. www.usda.gov/factbook/chapter2.pdf
Yet, the FDA has NO recommendations on sugar intake, it has it for fat (especially saturated fat).
Since the 1950s the US food pyramid has advocated for less fat and more carbs (but, carbs are ultimately sugars: so simple and complex grains, fruits, legumes and actual sugar all are increasing our blood sugar)
And the typical american eats between 300-600 grams of carbohydrates per day... The American diabetic association recommends the reduction down to 45-60g PER MEAL. But the human body can only actually possibly use and process about 60-100 grams of carbs per day.
So the body is resilient and amazing and can make it look like it is coping for a long time even though it is in stressed out, coping mode day in and day out... really, the human body is AMAZING! The things we can do to it and that it will tolerate for YEARS! (that's not to say they won't catch up with us, individually and culturally)...
By the time we are 65, 77% of people are diabetic or pre-diabetic
us centeres for disease control and prevention 2011
US dept. of health and human services, national diabetes information clearinghouse, fast facts about diabetes,
American's are getting fatter and fatter... for years the statistic was 1 in 7 americans was obese and this statistic was stable for decades and decades... but with modern diets the rates are quickly jumping up... so that in 2012 most of the US was one out of 3 or 4 and the projected rates for 2030 are that most of the states in the US will have at least 1 out of every 2 people categorized as obese (NOT overweight, but obese!)
Clearly, cutting out fat isn't the answer. Weston Price showed lots of healthy indigenous cultures who ate lots of foods that we look at as unhealthy but they were actually healthy. AND the actual statistics show that despite eating less and less fat, we are getting fatter and more unhealthy.
If you want more big picture evidence, look at the lower rates of heart disease associated with higher levels of saturated fat in the diet in the modern french, swiss, dutch, icelandic, belgium, finnish and austrian cultures!
european cardiovascular disease statistics
And for those of you who like the research based approach check out these:
The Framingham Study (Archives of internal medicine, jul 1992, 152(7), 1371-1372)
showed that the more saturated fat and cholesterol one ate, the more calories one ate, the lower people's serum cholesterol was.
And the follow up 30 years later which concluded that lower cholesterol equaled a greater risk of death. "For each 1% ml/dl drop of cholesterol there was an 11% increase in coronary and total mortality." Anderson, leaven M., William P. Castelli, and Daniel Levy. "Cholesterol and mortality: 30 years of follow-up from the Framingham Study." Jama 257.16(1987):2176-2180 l
And it doesn't get much more clear and damning than this: "Those individuals with a low serum cholesterol maintained over a 20 year period will have the worst outlook for all-cause mortality."
Schatz, Irwin J., et.al. "Cholesterol and all cause mortality in elderly people from the honolulu heart program: a cohort study." the lancet 358.9279 (2001): 351-355
But those are just on cholesterol, how about this:
"In studies conducted over 20 years, the Harvard School of Public Health showed that total fat intake bore no significant relation to coronary Artery Disease risk... epidemiological studies have shown no evidence that men who eat less fat live longer or have fewer myocardial infarctions"
Hooper, L., et. al. "Reduced or modified dietary fat for prevention of cardiovascular disease." Cochrane Database Syst. Rev 2 (2000)
Mozaffarian, Dariush, Renata Micha, and Sarah Wallase. "Effects on coronary heart disease of increasing polyunsaturated fat in place of saturated fat: a systematic review and mata-analysis of randomized controlled trials." PLos medicine 7.3 (2010): e1000253
or for Women:
"In women and in the elderly, no appreciable difference in coronary heart disease rate for any level of cholesterol. In fact, for women of all ages and the elderly, higher cholesterol is associated with longer lifespan.
Circulation medical journal 86, 1026-1029, 1992
And this one has been in the news, because it was just released 2 weeks ago: in over 500,000 subjects the conclusion was that decreasing saturated fats should not be encouraged!
Chowdhury R. et al. Annals of Int. Med. 2014, March 160(6) 398-406
So why is cholesterol actually not so bad?
In addition to being a basic building block for many of our cells (it is part of cell membranes), It acts as a bandaid to fix up cellular damage and if we don't have enough our cells can't repair. Leaving our bodies more prone to damaged cells turning into problems.
Cholesterol is also a precursor to many hormones and Vitamin D, so when you decrease it, you mess with those.
It helps fight infection and it protects against depression and helps your nervous system deal with stress. So much so, that one study showed people who relaxed prior to blood draws had lower cholesterol than they did on days when they were stressed prior to blood draws.
So, there is SOOOO much more I got from these talks and more I will definitely be discussing with patients, friends and family, but for now, I'll give a few closing tidbits:
If you want more information on the diet changes Marlene Merritt suggests it is basically the Weston Price approach Which you can read about at length here PLUS specifically limiting your carbs to under 100g/day ideally more around 60 is the goal... Remember, doing what you can and making some changes is better than doing none and sticking with the low fat, high carb approach.
A thought provoking article from the Atlantic about medical research and the fads/bad info they can result in.
and if you've made it this far... way to stick with it! Thank You...
for you, some Julia Child :)
on McDonalds French Fries, Saturated Fat and Flavor!
PS. For those who are vegetarian or vegan and may site the China Study (Book, not actual study). There were shown to be over 8000 correlations in that study and one of the authors of the actual study went on to publish several other papers stating animal protein is not harmful. Here is the Weston A Price foundation's page on info for you