Not all “diets” are healthy… let’s find out which ones really work…
#1. Nutrisystem / Jenny Craig / Ideal Protein / Optavia, ETC.
Heavily promoted via social media, these processed food programs sell you their “products” to lose weight. Do they work? Can you really lose weight? Absolutely. If all you care about is losing temporary weight… they work. If what you want is to learn how to eat in a sustainable fashion for overall health… they teach you almost nothing. Some even make money off their clients by convincing them that since they have lost weight they are now “health coaches” and can now promote the program to make money for themselves (and of course for the company also!)
One program even states, “not in the mood for a soup? Try a brownie instead!”
Pretty sure enabling someone’s sugar addiction and suggesting that a brownie is better or the same as a “soup” is not sound nutritional advice!
The ingredient lists for these companies’ products are filled with milk, soy isolates, sugars, various oils, & preservatives, etc. ! Again… in no way is any of that healthy nor does it feed correctly the body that God created for you!
But controlling calories with prepackaged foods where you are encouraged to indulge in the “foods” (desserts) you WANT to eat … well that sounds too good to be true… and it IS!
In the short term, you might lose weight and that will give you an ego boost and help you to feel better about yourself. In the long term, you have learned to substitute healthy real foods with Frankenfood (fake processed foods) that feed your addictions. Over 90% of individuals doing these types of programs put back on their weight 1-2 years after stopping the program.
#2. The Plant Paradox: Lectins
In the last year… clients started coming to me with questions about a new book that had been released… The Plant Paradox, purports to expose “The Hidden Dangers in “Healthy” Foods That Cause Disease and Weight Gain”—foods like beans, and whole grains, and tomatoes. Why? Because of lectins, which is a rehashing of the discredited Blood Type Diet from decades ago. They just keep coming back. Yeah, but this was written by an M.D., (oh but wait… there are zero classes on diets and nutrition in all medical schools!) so this is basically advertising to the world that you’ve received likely little or no formal training in nutrition. But look; you want to give the “author” the benefit of the doubt. The deal is… he doesn’t pass the test.
If lectins are truly bad for humans, then beans would be the worst and bean eaters would cut their lives short. Interestingly, the exact opposite is true with legumes (beans, split peas, chickpeas, and lentils)—found to be perhaps the most important dietary predictor of survival in older people in countries around the world.
As Dan Buettner points out in his Blue Zones studies… lectin-packed foods “are the cornerstones of” the diets of all the healthiest, longest-lived populations on the planet. Plant-based diets in general, and legumes, are a common thread among longevity Blue Zones around the world—the most lectin-lush food there is. And, if lectins are bad, then whole grain consumers should be riddled with disease—but, in fact, “whole grain intake is associated with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease,” which is the #1 killer of men and women; strokes, too; and total cancer; and mortality from all causes put together—meaning people who eat whole grains tend to live longer, and, get fewer “respiratory diseases, infectious diseases, diabetes, and all non-cardiovascular, non-cancer causes” to boot!
And, not just in population studies. You can randomize people into whole-grain interventions, and prove cause-and-effect benefits. The same with tomatoes. You randomize women to a cup and a half of tomato juice or water every day, and all that nightshade tomato lectin reduces systemic inflammation, or has waist-slimming effects, reducing cholesterol as well as inflammatory mediators.
Dr. Gundry’s Ulterior Interests?
So, when people told me about this book, I was like, let me guess: he sells a line of lectin-blocking supplements. And, what do you know? “Assist your body in the fight against lectins” for only $79.95 a month—that’s only like a thousand bucks a year—a bargain for “pleasant bathroom visits.” And then, of course, there’s ten other supplements. So, for only like eight or nine thousand dollars a year, you can lick those lectins. Oh, did I not mention his skin care line? “Firm + Sculpt” for an extra $120—all so much more affordable when you subscribe to his “VIP Club.”
Discrediting The Plant Paradox
But, you still want to give him the benefit of the doubt.
In Chapter 1, citation 1 he states: “forget everything you thought you knew was true.”
(arrrghhh… I hate THAT!) Diet books love saying that. For example: “Eating shellfish and egg yolks dramatically reduces total cholesterol.”
What?! Egg yolks reduce cholesterol? Is he nuts???
So what is this citation? He cites a paper that was written about a very faulty poorly conducted study. How do you show a food decreases cholesterol? You remove so much meat, cheese, and eggs that overall your saturated fat falls—in this case, about 50%. If you cut saturated fat in half, of course cholesterol levels are going to drop. So, they got a drop in cholesterol removing meat, cheese, and egg yolks. Yet, that’s the paper he uses to support his statement “egg yolks dramatically reduce cholesterol.”
I mean, that’s unbelievable. That’s the opposite of the truth. Add egg yolks to people’s diets, and their cholesterol goes up. I mean, how dare he say this? And, it’s not like some, you know, harmless foolishness like saying the Earth is flat or something. Heart disease is the #1 killer of men and women—this can actually hurt people. So much for my benefit of the doubt.
He lost credibility with me when he did that.
#3. DEBUNKING THE BLOOD TYPE DIET
It was Adolf Hitler who coined a propaganda technique he called, “the big lie,” arguing that people may be more likely to believe “colossal untruths,” because “they would not believe that others would have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.” So, “in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility.”
The book Eat Right for Your Type makes the astounding claim that people with different blood types should eat different foods. Type O’s are supposed to be like the hunter, and eat a lot of meat, whereas people with type-A blood are supposed to eat less. In one of the world’s most prestigious nutrition journals, a systematic review of the evidence supporting blood-type diets was published.
They didn’t find any.
“Diets based on the ABO blood group system have been promoted over the past decade…[but] the evidence to support the effectiveness of [such] diets [had evidently] not previously been assessed in the scientific literature.” In the Journal of the Norwegian Medical Association, there were a number of papers that came out of a day-long scientific seminar held by the Norwegian Society for Nutrition. Hard to believe they would even take the time, but evidently 40,000 copies of the book had been sold in Norway, and so, good for them. They sought to determine “Blood type diets: visionary science or nonsense?”
And, they concluded: nonsense.
What was so outrageous is that “the blood-type diet is promoted and justified [in the book] by [supposed] scientific arguments,” yet the author takes “no pains to prove” his ideas—just presenting them “simply as facts,” taking advantage of people’s ignorance of biology.
His arguments sound scientific, and he uses lots of big words. But, he displays a fundamental misunderstanding of the science, describing the book’s understanding of some basic tenets of blood-type biology as “absurd.” “There should be no doubt that [had the author]…practiced in Norway [as opposed to Connecticut], he would be in violation of the “so-called Quack [Law].”
The book cites the work of blood-type biochemists, but if you ask the actual experts, as scientists, they say they obviously have to keep an open mind, but not so open your brains fall out: “It must be stated that an ‘open mind’ should not extend to some of the non-scientific literature where there are books on the ABO [blood-type] system of pure fantasy. The most recent and incredulous of these claims [that] individuals of each ABO blood type must subscribe to a [particular] diet.”
I don’t know how researchers have the patience to read these popular press books, but it can “lead to an appreciation of the ridiculous aspects of the many ignorant and preposterous claims.”
“So, what should the overall assessment of [this] work be?” The nicest thing you can say about the book is: he does have a good “imagination.” He literally made up stories… and has made tons of money in the natural field selling his ideas…
Is it any worse than people who believe their fate is “determined by” the stars, though? Well, yes, because astrologists aren’t telling a third of the population to go out and eat organ meats.
The diet is not as bad as some. “Positive results reported by [some] individuals may well be due to a general improvement [in health] in diet and lifestyle (less fat and sugar, more fruits and vegetables, less smoking, [and] more exercise).” Look, anything that gets people to eat fewer doughnuts is better than nothing.
But though this may get lost a bit in translation, a professor of laboratory medicine at the Norwegian University of Science’s analysis concluded that the author’s “learning must be considered junk and without scientific foundation.”
What did the new review find? They sifted through over a thousand papers that might shed some light on the issue, and “In one of the studies showed an association between…blood type diets and health-related outcomes.” They conclude that “there is currently no evidence that an adherence to blood type diets will provide health benefits, despite the substantial presence and perseverance of blood type diets within the health industry.”
The author responded to the review on his website, saying that there’s “good science behind the blood type diet, just like there was good science behind Einstein’s mathematical calculations,” and that if blood-type diets were just tested in the right way, just like Einstein’s E=MC2 , he would be vindicated—complaining that “you don’t see any studies on blood types and nutrition [because of little…interest and…available money.” He’s sold over “7 million” books! Why doesn’t he fund his own studies? That’s what the Atkins Corporation did.
And, the answer is: he has! In 1996, he wrote, “I am beginning the eighth year of a ten-year trial on reproductive cancers, using the Blood Type Diets. By the time I release the results in another 2 years, I expect to make it scientifically demonstrable that the Blood Type Diet plays a role in cancer remission.” Okay, so that would be 1998, and the results?
Still not released, 16 years later.
Clever tactic, though, saying you’re just about to publish, banking that nobody would actually follow up. So, in his sequel, he said he was “currently conducting a twelve-week randomized, double-blind, controlled trial implementing the Blood Type Diet, to determine its effects on the outcomes of patients with rheumatoid arthritis.”
That was ten years ago.
As many doctors (medical and natural) bemoaned, “it is difficult not to perceive the whole thing as a crass fraud.”
#4. THE REAL PALEO DIET!
We evolved eating huge amounts of plants. It’s estimated that 200,000 years ago we got 600mg of vitamin C a day. That’s the amount of vitamin C found in 10 oranges. Every day we appear to have consumed the amount of vitamin E found in 2 cups of nuts, the amount of fiber found in 12 bowls of oatmeal, and the amount of calcium found in 5 cups of collard greens. They weren’t milking mammoths–that came in part from all the wild greens they foraged.
We were exposed to such a quantity of whole healthy plant foods that we, as a species, lost our ability to make vitamin C. We still actually have the vitamin C gene in our DNA, but our bodies presumably just junked it because we were getting such massive daily doses that it wasn’t worth maintaining it. The problems occur when you take our evolutionary heritage, fine-tuned over the millennia, and plop it down into meat and potato chip country.
Advocates of the so-called Paleo diet are certainly right in railing against refined and processed junk, but may just use it as an excuse to eat loads of meat that bears little resemblance to the flesh of prehistoric wild animals. The contaminant issue alone is a compelling reason to eat as low as possible on the food chain.
The journal of the American Meat Science Association recently published a review cataloging the laundry list: arsenic, mercury, lead, cadmium, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, preservatives, and veterinary drugs such as antibiotic residues. Given what’s now in fish, for example, “it would be impossible to follow the Paleolithic diet while avoiding the risks associated with consuming mercury in amounts in excess of the suggested EPA threshold.”
For those interested in digging deeper, there was an interesting Scientific American blog this summer entitled “Human Ancestors Were Nearly All Vegetarians” and there’s an in-depth video series on YouTube debunking the paleo diet fad.
#5. VEGAN vs Vegetarian vs Plant Based vs WHOLE FOOD PLANT BASED
We all, by now, have heard of family or friends that have gone “vegan” or have adopted a “plant-based diet.” Others may even know people on a “whole-food, plant-based diet.” Some of this terminology is relatively new; some of it has a longer history. Further confusing things is how these terms are quickly evolving and often mean different things to different people. But what do these terms mean to most of us today? Let’s take a deeper dive.
A plant-based diet predominantly consists of plants; most people use the term to refer to a 100 percent plant diet which is NOT correct, but some people include small amounts of animal products (AGAIN… more confusion).
Donald Watson coined the term “vegan” in 1944 to describe someone who fully abstains from all animal products for ethical reasons. It followed that a “vegan diet” completely eliminated animal-derived foods of all kinds, 100 percent of the time.
LET’S DEFINE THE TERMS CORRECTLY: Vegan – Vegetarian – Plant Based – Whole Food Plant Based
Vegan: any food item can be eaten as long as it didn’t come from an animal as the source. Almost always contains heavy amounts of oils, preservatives, chemicals and added sugars. Even cheerios, chips, vegan butters and vegan cheeses are “vegan” technically but highly unhealthy containing oils and junk.
Vegetarianism: any food item can be eaten as long as it doesn’t KILL the animal and is mainly plant based. So you can eat eggs and drink cow’s milk since it didn’t KILL the animal to procure it! Almost always contains heavy amounts of oils, preservatives, chemicals and added sugars.
Plant based: Any food that contains mainly plants but may also contain heavy amounts of oils, preservatives chemicals, and added sugars. “Plant based” has become more of a marketing term than an actual healthy way of eating. Companies are labeling items “plant based” even though they contain some animal products, dairy and eggs and chemicals! All those plant based chicken and beef products are filled with junk!!!!!
WHOLE FOOD PLANT BASED: Any food that is the whole food, not processed foods, no oils, chemicals, food colorings nor added sugars. Eating the whole food versus the pieces parts of foods (ie. eating an apple vs drinking apple juice, eating the olive instead of using olive oils, etc.). A whole food plant based diet is centered on whole, unrefined or minimally refined plant foods and excludes meats (including fish), dairy products, eggs, and highly refined foods such as bleached flour, refined sugar, and oil. It may contain a very small amount of animal meats (1-2x per week; mainly fish).
Eating whole food plant based is a way of life not a temporary diet. It has been proven clinically and for thousands of years to reverse chronic diseases and prevent most lifestyle diseases more so that any other way of eating and feeding the body. Please people… use good sense and eat real food that is mainly plant based and leave the fads alone…
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