I’m a stickler for getting “evidence-based” information no matter the topic. It’s one reason why I provide reference material at the end of my columns. Unfortunately, reading in-depth scientific literature is not the most entertaining thing to do. That’s why in most cases, when it comes to nutrition, videos, media articles, and product brochures are usually very limited in scope, provide selective science, and are crafted to be engaging and emotionally stirring. As a result, most people rarely have in-depth knowledge which tends to make them react spontaneously to labels and supposed gurus without examination and, consequently, without understanding.
Here are some examples:
● Consumers believe only organic foods can be safe and nutritious. Yet evidence-based science points out that all plants, even those grown organically, produce toxic pesticides. Usually the toxins exceed EPA limits for agricultural chemicals. Some plants are so toxic they are poisonous.
● Many people know Omega-3 is good for you. But they do not understand that evidence-based science is focused on the ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFA), not just Omega-3. A ratio close to 1:1 means Omega-3 levels are good while ratios above 4:1 indicate an Omega-3 deficiency.
● Many relatively unhealthy foods are marketed with labels touting their healthy compounds (antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fiber, glycemic index, fats, etc.). In fact every food product has at least one positive attribute–even sugar. A varied diet of foods that are not nutrient diverse and dense does not equate to eating mostly foods that are such as kale. That’s because there are many critical components impacting a body’s health that the body cannot synthesize.
Partial knowledge leads to myths which can trigger consumer choices regarding food. The health food industry exploits this anomaly which is why they usually market most products with buzz words and ignore the details of Evidence Based Nutrition (EBN).
The medical community is just as guilty in this regard when it comes to treating chronic diseases. Many doctors are still recommending decades-old treatments that were proven ineffective long ago. By doing so they are ignoring both Evidence Based Medicine (EBM) and EBN.
The formal definition of EBM is that it’s the conscientious, explicit, judicious, and reasonable use of modern, best evidence in making decisions about the care of individual patients. EBM integrates clinical experience and patient values with the best available research. EBN is essentially the same thing.
Interestingly, there is some debate surrounding this question: “Does EBM tend to make doctors ignore nutrition even more than they have in the past?” Medical students are taught little about nutrition. The EBM approach tends to compound that ignorance by encouraging physicians to only look at double-blind, randomized controlled trials that are often very difficult to manage in nutritional trials. That tends to increase the medical community’s bias toward drug treatments versus dietary interventions for managing chronic diseases.
In spite of the difficulty in conducting long-term research, nutritional science is not voodoo. Many short-term tests have shown results when diet is tightly controlled. And studies of entire populations within certain regions of the world and their traditional foods have provided strong comparative evidence connecting diet to incidences of chronic diseases. Over the years, thousands of nutritional tests and anecdotal evidence have identified the best foods for minimizing chronic diseases. Consequently, because of EBN the worst foods have been identified too.
EBN has established that sugar and high glycemic foods are known to cause many health issues including obesity. Fungal infestations inside animal bodies erupt with mycotoxins when high glycemic foods and/or sugar are eaten. Arthritis, skin diseases, intestinal issues, and cancer are just some of the issues. High glycemic selections include all syrups, honey (except manuka honey), sugar, dates, dried fruits, grains, seeds, and many tubers.
Omega-3 EFAs play a critical role in immune system, nerve, and brain function. But the effectiveness of Omega-3 EFAs diminish when not properly balanced with Omega-6 EFAs. The proper Omega-6 to Omega-3 balance within the body’s cells is considered to be 1:1. Ratios above 4:1 are associated with many autoimmune diseases, diabetes, CHD, arthritis, and more. “Nix the six” needs to be the new rule because the American diet is so overloaded with foods high in Omega-6 EFAs that the average American’s EFA ratio is approximately 15:1. Foods with high EFA ratios and large Omega-3 deficits include grains, seeds, nuts, some legumes, grain-fed meats of all kinds, grain-fed dairy, some fruits, and nearly all oils.
Proper nutrition incorporates an endless list of nutrients that are so numerous and intertwined in function that no food can be analyzed for all of them. But what is known is that the green leaf is the foundation food for animal life. It’s the same in the sea as on land. Consequently, when the green leaf is not at the bottom of one’s food chain, nutrient imbalances and deficiencies occur. In addition, through chemical analysis EBN does show which foods are nutrient dense and highly diverse versus those that are not. Unless eaten very sparingly, nutrient lite foods contribute to chronic diseases over time.
EBN has proven that foods that are low glycemic, nutrient dense and diverse, with EFAs balanced at 2:1 or less are the best. Nearly all food choices have been chemically analyzed for these attributes and the data is readily available. The standout foods include nearly all the green leafy vegetables, some additional vegetables, only some fruit, all grass-fed meats and dairy, all legitimate Omega-3 meats, and wild-caught seafood. Compared to the 50,000 items in your local grocery store the list of truly healthy foods is rather short.
To your health.
Ted Slanker has been reporting on the fundamentals of nutritional research in publications, television and radio appearances, and at conferences since 1999. He condenses complex studies into the basics required for health and well-being. His eBook, The Real Diet of Man, is available online.
Don’t miss these links for additional reading:
Show 1135: Who Do You Believe–the Experts or the Evidence? An interview with Vinay Prasad, MD, MPH from The People's Pharmacy
Ending Medical Reversal: Improving Outcomes, Saving Lives a book by Vinayak K. Prasad and Adam S. Cifu
Evidence-Based Nutrition by Michael Greger M.D. FACLM
efaeducation.org: Nix the Six by William E.M. Lands Phd
Want a Healthier Heart? Eat a Steak by Bret Scher an opinion from Houston Chronicle
Cardiologist Tells Patients to Eat the Burger & Skip the Bun by Amanda Radke from Beef Daily
Organically Grown Poisonous Plants by Ted Slanker
Grass-Fed vs Grain-Fed by Ted Slanker
Stories and Your Reptilian Brain by Ted Slanker
Fungus Among Us by Ted Slanker
Sugar = Sugar = Sugar by Ted Slanker
It All Began in the Sea . . . by Ted Slanker
Food Analysis Tables by Ted Slanker