Australian Functional Ingredients – by Vic Cherikoff

The Best Diet

Dietary Choices and Choices of Diets

We all know that the next diet is probably in preparation as you read this blog and will add to the plethora of diets of the past. These include celebrity diets (who’d listen to an actor for long term nutritional advice); or a particular doctor’s diet (again, MDs get about 6 weeks on nutritional science in 15 years of study – so can we really expect that they know something of the topic); religious diets; low fat, low carb, high protein, paleo, warrior, vegan and really, everything from alkaline to zone diets. Here is a dynamic list and it is mind-boggling: wiki/List_of_diets

We know that few to none of them are long term solutions, some are impossible to follow and some lack any sense, science or semblance to anything you could stick to for more than a few days. Sad but true.

There’s even a new diet ratified by the CSIRO. I wonder what this is worth, considering the dwindling number of scientists still there after the brain-drain of the last few decades of zero-funding for anything that is not dairy or mining research. This CSIRO-endorsed rubbish is meant to replace real food with synthetic supplements (meal replacements) which is like replacing a real life partner with a blow up doll and some chemical stimulants. It is as if the CSIRO knows nothing about micro-nutrients in food and they rubber stamp a program that assures us that all we need are carbs, protein, some fats and a bucket full of synthetic alphabet vitamins and purified dirt (inorganic minerals). As if.

So let’s look at some of the causes of us gaining weight (in no particular order):

  • High intake of bad sugars (sucrose and fructose)
  • Low intake of good sugars (smart sugars eg trehalose, rhamnose, xylose, ribose, sambubiose and others)
  • Missing micro-nutrients eg antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, anti-allergens, anti-carcinogens, antiproliferatives
  • Reduced intake of bitter and sour ingredients which can stimulate digestive enzymes and help with pre-metabolic processes
  • Promoting the growth of unhealthy gut flora (species and populations) and then responding to their chemical demands
  • Wayward hormonal, enzymatic and signalling control of satiety, insulin sensitivity, blood pressure, hydration, inflammation, energy etc
  • Uric acid control of a need to hibernate swamped by an over-abundant but poor quality food supply
  • Ignoring our instinctive taste drives which compromises our health due to the nature of our food supply and lifestyles
  • Ignoring how our brain’s neuronal programming influences our eating, emotions, rewards, biochemistry and eventually, our weight
  • Inadequate water consumption reducing fat elimination and compromising the hydration of our cells and tissues
  • Poor intake of microbially-activated minerals including silica (for all our structural tissues), magnesium (regulates calcium metabolism, facilitates sleep and hence weight loss and more), and a host of others

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Common lexicon is yet to adopt the terms good sugars and bad ones but it must happen.

The main difference between the concept of good and bad when used for fats is that bad fats should be totally avoided if possible, whereas bad sugars are only bad when consumed in excess amounts.

Good sugars are those most often associated with antioxidants and include sugars some of which are probably unfamiliar to us: rhamnose, sambubiose, ribose, mannose, galactose, rutinose and others.

We can’t totally avoid either sucrose or fructose (the Bad) because they are natural sugars and occur in nearly all the terrestrial and aquatic plant foods, yeasts and fungi we consume.

So what happens if we eat too much sugar and why do they earn the reputation as bad sugars (the Ugly)?

Hibernation Leave – Employers please note that we might need to add this to sick leave, annual leave, maternity leave, etc

It is the fructose that is the really bad boy. I explained the facts in a previous post and urge you to read or re-read it.

The gist is that we are equipped with the same hibernation genetics as many animals such as bears, squirrels, snakes and a host of insects.

We were never meant to have access to our abundant food supply nor have the ability to control our environment and avoid the cold of winter and the heat of summer. These changes from our hunter-gatherer past remove the need for us to actually go into hibernation.

However, our biochemistry is still pre-Agricultural Age and it works against us when our food supply diverges from the ideal as it does today.

The preparation for hibernation is controlled by uric acid which is a by-product of fructose metabolism.

Take bears for example.

In late summer and autumn (fall) the availability of honey and ripe fruits is high if the conditions are good. Fructose intake rises and the brain gets signals to eat more high fructose foods as the uric acid level in the liver and bloodstream suppresses various biochemicals (leptin and ghrelin) and hunger is stimulated. The bears begin to experience leptin and insulin resistance at a cellular level and they get fatter as both effects lead to fat storage:

Leptin acts indirectly (via a boosted appetite) and insulin acts directly on fat cells, stimulating fat storage and the development of additional fat cells and tissues.

Ripe, high fructose fruits are also characterized by lowered vitamin C levels and as this antioxidant can have a neutralizing effect on uric acid and fructose, without it, all stops on fat storage are gone. Only when the fructose availability drops at the end of the season do the fat bears begin their hibernation and live off the stores that they have accumulated.

You can see what happens in humans.

We never stop our access to fructose and so we stay in the fat accumulation phase. Uric acid also rises and vitamin C intake from modern foods is not great. This one bad sugar and low vitamin C intake drives our ‘hibernation programming’, making us fatter and fatter, preparing us for a hibernation event that never happens.

Uric acid complicates things even further in that it also raises blood pressure

An article by Johnson et al. (J Comp Physiol B. 2009 January ; 179(1): 67–76. doi:10.1007/s00360-008-0291-7. summarizes the points:

The introduction of the Western diet resulted in dramatic increases in serum uric acid due to the availability of purine-rich meats and the introduction of sugar (fructose). In particular, the increase in fructose intake closely parallels the rise in gout, obesity and metabolic syndrome that has occurred over the last two centuries (Bray et al. 2004; Havel 2005; Johnson et al. 2007; Segal et al. 2007). Serum uric acid levels increased from <3.5 mg/dl in the early twentieth century to over 6 mg/dl today in adult males (Johnson et al. 2005). Furthermore, there has also been a marked increased in sodium intake since prehistoric times (Eaton and Konner 1985). Thus, the marked increase in uric acid, due to intake of fructose- and purine-rich foods, coupled with increased sodium intake, might account for why today’s society is at increased risk for the development of obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

They also note the following:

The concept that a rise in uric acid may have a beneficial role in starvation yet when present in excessive amounts may cause obesity and insulin resistance has a parallel with cortisol (the stress hormone). Thus, cortisol also increases with uric acid during the proteolytic phase of starvation and is also thought to have a role in the foraging response (Challet et al. 1995; Jenni et al. 2000; Robin et al. 1998). While cortisol levels are typically not elevated in subjects with metabolic syndrome, elevated cortisol levels do occur in Cushing’s syndrome. In this regard, the manifestations of hypercortisolism include abdominal obesity, dyslipidemia (hypertriglyceridemia), hypertension, insulin resistance, and fatty liver (Friedman et al. 1996; Rockall et al. 2003) Thus, one could hypothesize that cortisol and uric acid may have similar physiological roles for the survival of the host, which, if present in excessive amounts, may also have deleterious and similar consequences.

Our genes are plotting against us.

If it is not accumulating fat in huge amounts, we have uric acid with which we need to deal biochemically. The recent rise in gout is no accident. Gout is now the 5th most common condition of ill-health as defined by the term Metabolic Syndrome: obesity, diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and now gout.

We are too clever in selecting sweet, sugary, high-fructose foods, often low in vitamin C due to the time between harvest and consumption. This is then paired with purine-rich meats in abundance. This is a modern trend as we have ‘progressed’ to factory farms, Big Ag and sufficient financial resources to eat ‘sweet and meat’. Our foods no longer match our biochemistry and our brains which are both adapted for a higher quality diet – low levels of bad sugars, lots of micro-nutrients and game meats, not domesticated ones.

Did you know that the liver and other offal of game animals are rich sources of vitamin C? Domestic meats have none. And this is before we compare the fat content and quality, the flavours we add on cooking and so on.

So what do we do to get or stay slim, fit and healthy?

Eat bear meat.

No. Only kidding.

To be continued …

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Vic Cherikoff