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October 2005 after the first frost and summer grasses had turned brown.  The growth of winter grasses was delayed by the drought.

Too Scientific?

Column #196

Can discussions and recommendations surrounding nutrition and diets be too scientific? A recent article posted online by Precision Nutrition (PN) addressed that very topic. PN is a Personal Coaching, Professional Education service that coaches people in their desire to overcome health issues. They are very scientific, but they are also well aware of the many additional and varied steps that are required by individuals in the practical application of nutritional science.

I’m more of a commentator and reporter than a scientist in the trenches or a health coach. In that capacity my focus is based on food chemistry, what bodies require, how bodies react, how the best foods are raised, and how we can protect agriculture and food processors from ridiculous laws and myths. Only marginally do I comment on sleep, exercise, stress management, and the myriad of personal differences that saddle us all. My narrow nutritional focus is heavily based on science. I also have considerable ranching experience which is why I comment on misguided beliefs we are all subjected to these days. Therefore all too often my comments are not politically correct and readers outside the center of the bell curve can get upset.

Since I’m well past retirement age (who retires these days?) I certainly didn’t start out eating like I eat today. My father was a butcher in his younger days and as a child the family ate a lot of “aged meat” past the sell-by date. The good thing about 1950 was that about half of the beef sold nationwide was still grass-fed. So that part of my diet was good. But I certainly didn’t gobble down veggies (other than what I was told to eat or else) nor pass up any opportunity to consume deserts, candy, potatoes, gravies, cereals, breads, peanut butter and jelly, pasta, ice cream, and all the other goodies you might name.

Up until I was 55 I ate about everything under the sun that tasted good. Eventually I had learned how to push away from the table (eat less), trim off the fat, avoid salt, and eat more veggies. By then I weighed 200 pounds. And like most of my friends my aches and pains and other issues were making me think I should start having annual checkups in case I required prescription drugs to prevent a heart attack or something.

Then, based only on nutritional science, in 1999 I was inspired to start selling and eating the grass-fed beef I was already raising. The more I read about nutritional science, the more I changed my diet. Very early on I met Doug Kaufmann and Dr. Dave Holland of “Know the Cause” fame and learned a great deal about fungi and mycotoxins. By the time 2004 rolled around my weight was way down and I fully understood the need to eat foods that were:
●    Low Glycemic
●    Nutrient Dense and Diverse
●    With 1:1 balances of Omega-6 to Omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs)

I didn’t change my diet overnight. It took several years for many of the nuances to sink in. And then it took even more years of really intentional eating to get my EFA ratio down to 1.5:1 and subdue the health issues that were developing at 55. So it has been a journey which was motivated significantly by being in the meat business. Without the inspiration of trying to set a good example, I might not have been so pointy headed about what I ate. My reward is that I do not take any prescription drugs. I do not have annual physicals. I am significantly healthier than both my parents were when they were my age.

The point of this discussion is that we all have had different journeys. Therefore, most of us are not in the same physical shape or mental state. These differences cause us to react differently. For example, many people today are vegetarians while others are even carnivores. Some people are addicted to particular foods, especially sweets and high glycemic offerings. Some people exercise regularly and others not at all. Most people have a wide range of, what I call, religious-like beliefs in what is proper nutrition, healthy foods, and good food sources. Their beliefs, many of which are myths, keep them from making appropriate changes. Everyone has a chromic disease or two, but some people are severally burdened with one or more chronic diseases. For some their chronic diseases are so advanced they have suffered permanent disabilities.

Consequently when people start a strict regimen of following the findings of mainstream nutritional science, not all of them will have the same results. Some people may even experience a Herxheimer reaction (similar to withdrawals) and believe their new diet is killing them. I know people who lowered their EFA ratios from 15:1 down to 8:1 to only experience some partial relief from asthma. The diet didn’t fail them because total asthma relief usually requires a ratio of less than 5:1. Other health issues may require EFA ratios of less than 2:1 and total sugar abstinence.

Some people cut out sugar, but substitute with honey, syrups, and high glycemic fruits. This approach for sweets can provide just enough sugar to flare up fungal infestations and their associated mycotoxin loads that can cause mental reactions, candida, skin allergies, and heart disease. Consequently, their seemingly strict diet may not be very rewarding. In fact, it can seem like a failure.

Nutritional science is based on certain absolute facts and also many advanced theories that are based on antidotal experiences. The reason for so many theories is the difficulty in conducting experiments. Unless people are isolated and made to eat just this or just that, there is no reliable test taking place. When people report what they recall eating over a period of months or years the information is totally unreliable. The best studies involve tightknit societies such as the early Japanese, Intuits, and Asian Indians. That’s because their traditional diets provide insight into how different foods can impact health on a large scale. In addition to those studies there are cases where individuals have follow ridged regimens and their antidotal reports add up. Thus theories are refined and strengthened.

On the flip side of science are the many pied pipers whose marketing practices are based on myths and politically correct phraseology. Their songs are very appealing, but without a sound scientific foundation they lead people astray and keep alive the many myths intertwined in the health food industry. All too often they are better persuaders than are the boring scientific reports.

Nutritional science is not easily understood. It tends to focus on the chemistry of the body, body functions, and food chemistry. All living things require some essential nutrients. It’s the same for plants as it is humans. Most of the essential nutrients required by humans have been identified. Most foods have been extensively analyzed for nutrient density and diversity. The lists of elements and compounds read like a chemistry book.

Very consistently the scientific conclusions for naming the best foods are the same as mentioned above:
●    Low Glycemic
●    Nutrient Dense and Diverse
●    With 1:1 balances of Omega-6 to Omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs)

The foods that meet these determining factors in spades are grass-fed meats, Omega-3 meats, wild-caught seafood, and green leafy vegetables. All other food categories such as fruit, grain, seeds, nuts, grain-fed meats and poultry, grain-fed dairy, and vegetable oils fall short in helping people gravitate to the better-than-average-results side of PN’s bell curve. And there isn’t a one method approach that will work for everyone. Some people have a hard time with green leafy vegetables. Some can gag on animal fats. Some react to seafood. So it all depends . . .

To your health.

Ted Slanker

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:

Evidence-Based Coaching: Are Health and Fitness Pros Doing it Wrong? By Brian St. Pierre, M.S., RD, CSCS and Helen Kollias, Ph.D.

Herxheimer Reaction by Ted Slanker

Know the Cause Website by Doug Kaufmann

Food Analysis: EFA, Protein to Fat, Net Carbs, Sugar, and Nutrient Load by Ted Slanker

The Importance of the Ratio of Omega 6 Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids by Artemis Simopoulos M.D.

Ted Slanker’s Omega-3 Blood Test

Get Your Own Omega-3 Blood Test and use slanker as a code for a discount

Science or Belief? by Ted Slanker

Meet the Carnivores by Ted Slanker

Vegan Lunacy by Ted Slanker