Sunday, September 13, 2009

Me Harping On and On about Diet Again

It's not that I'm on a health kick. It's not kicks with me, hepcat. I just roll with health. It's that I'm pretty much done with my big project, and so I have some time to read, and I'm reading that Taubes book, so that's what I'm thinking about in my down time. I love this sort of book. How things work. How wrong conventional wisdom is. Taubes is a professional writer, but he needs an editor. He uses five words where one will do. And the organization isn't so hot. And there's a journalist's penchant for extraneous detail. But it should be mandatory reading. This or other works on the topic.

It's a bit confusing for me, since I've known much of this for decades, yet it appears to be controversial among medical professionals. Hm. That says it right there. Medical -- as in medicine. What does medicine have to do with health? It has to do with sickness. Once you're sick, well, something to do with barn doors and horses. When you're way sick, medicines are good. Why did you get sick though. Because you failed to realize that you are made out of what you eat. If you're sick, non-infectious sick, it may have something to do with the fact that you've used substandard material in the manufacture, construction and/or assembly of your body.

There's a lot to talk about, in terms of what Taubes' discusses. But just now I wanted to make a simple observation. There are three macronutrients: proteins, fats and carbs. Your body never has and never will need or use protein; it needs amino acids, essential amino acids, which you must get through diet. Your body absolutely needs fat, certain kinds of fats -- the essential fatty acids, most notably omega 3. Other forms of fat are beneficial nutrients (say, oleic acid), or neutral concentrated energy -- and this includes saturated fats, even from animal sources -- or flatout poisons, like transfats, or omega 6 in too high amounts. Likewise with carbs. There is no essential carbohydrate. All carbs break down into glucose. You must have glucose -- it's brain and organ food -- but you can make it out of protein or fat. On the other hand, the plant nutrients that come along with carbs (plants) ... the phytonutrients ... you must must must eat these. Which ones? That's a judgment call. But eating too few plant-based nutrients is called malnutrition.

There are essential amino acids, but no essential proteins. You digest proteins into amino acids, which you build up into proteins. Sadly, there are poisonous proteins, commonly eaten -- those of animal origin. In moderation, they are unlikely to be dangerous. In excess, they can aggreiveate an auto-immune response, where your body designs antibodies to destroy any partially or non-digested alien proteins that have leaked into your bloodstream; consequently your immune system may learn to attack your own, similar (animal) proteins. A theory, but one I like.

Likewise, there are essential fats. You must eat them. But when eaten in disproportionate, unnatural amounts, they become toxic. We've looked at this before. Too many vegetable oils and you get a hysterical inflammation response. It is the scourge of the American diet. Poisonous.

As for carbs, there is no essential carb. What is essential in this case is moderation. Because an excess of carbs -- that is, sugars and refined grains ... concentrated and instant carbs -- wreaks havoc with insulin, which is a master hormone. Hormones are involved in one or more of four bodily functions: maintaining homeostasis; producing, utilizing or storing energy; reproduction; growth and development. I remember it as HERG, but that is neither here nor there. What is here and there is that insulin is involved in all of these, and too many carbs really, really really mess insulin up.

Which is the worst? Animal proteins that putrefy in your guts and can get into your bloodsteam, not so very different than viruses and bacteria? Fats that can inflame you or, as transfats, take the place of good fats but do a worse than useless job? Carbs, that in excess will cause diabetes and heart disease and virtually all of the modern black death of diseases associated with the Western and American diet? Well, choose your poison. It hardly matters. Most toxic, I'm tending to think now, is carbs. Maybe I think that because it would be my poison. Animal proteins are irrelevant to my lifestyle. I use no vegetable oils or transfats. But while I have never in my life bought white bread, or white rice, even granola bars are a refined carb, and therefore have an insulin spiking effect. So carbs would be the only danger to me.

We don't have to be perfect. We should be sensible. God appointed seven annual feasts for the Hebrews. Maybe that's how often we should indulge in these common dietary poisons. Just a ballpark estimate. That seems like moderation to me. Meantime, call to mind the thing that you don't want to live without. That thick bloody slab of steak, or the heaping mounds of ice cream, or the delectable sponginess of your cakes and pastries. Whatever it is, that's your addiction. Do you like being an addict? You know the course it takes. Increasing abuse, then death. Would you like an intervention? Beats a funeral.

Ah well. It's all just so interesting to me. So much so that I'm afraid I have to stop now, and get back to reading.


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