Food for health
Episode 6 The diet debate
Anyone with an interest in food and has tried to fathom out the literature would have been astounded by the intensity of the debate on diet among highly qualified health professionals.
The problems stems from the way food is classified as carbohydrates, protein and fats which are based on the chemical structure of the food.
I want to take a different approach and classify food by what it actually does e.g. energy – (to provide the power for our body and so we can move), replacement (throughout our lives we are continuously replacing our body parts) and food to feed our gut biome (a critical part of our intelligent control system).
Food for energy
Our bodies can burn pretty well anything we put in our mouths for energy. If they contain carbon and hydrogen it will use the oxygen in the air we breath to form carbon dioxide and water and release energy – just like in any other thermodynamic machine.
If you think about a steam engine – it burns fuel in a boiler to produce steam and it really makes no real difference what the fuel is as long as it burns, it could be coal, wood, oil, gas or just plain rubbish – as long as it burns.
It’s pretty much the same with our bodies – we can burn carbohydrates, sugars, fats or just about anything we eat as fuel for energy.
There are some subtle differences – if we burn carbohydrates out intelligent control system tells the pancreas to produce insulin – which can be a problem if we eat too much carbohydrates and we become insulin resistant (which nowadays we tend to do – keep on reading).
But if a normal healthy person just happens to eat a bit too much carbohydrates our bodies simply turn it into fat which we will store until we need a bit of extra energy – no big deal.
Fats may appear to be a better energy source as they do not lead to high blood sugar levels and trigger the production of insulin. Or may be not – just keep on reading and I will explain more.
The key point to remember is that fuel is chemically pretty simple – any old combination which contains carbon and hydrogen makes a useful fuel.
Here is the first major change. Before modern agriculture our food was relatively low in these high energy foods like sugars and fats, modern food is almost explosively high in energy food.
Food for replacement
As soon as we are borne and start feeding, hopefully from mum’s breasts – the best food for babies, we are busy turning that food into body parts – it’s called growing and babies do it very well.
But our bits keep on wearing out so throughout our life we are continuously replacing these bits, some bits like nails, hair and skin are very obvious but there are very few bits of us that are not being continuously replaced. I am definitely not the man I used to be – I have been rebuilt many times.
Now the key point to take away here is that unlike the very simple fuel we burn for energy our body parts are made of pretty complex chemicals.
Going back to our steam engine, someone will be responsible for maintaining the engine. When say the bearings wear out they will be replaced with new bearings probably made from a special alloy like phosphor bronze.
It’s the same with our bodies, we need a whole range of complex chemicals which may be based on a range of essential minerals like chromium, iodine, selenium, zinc etc.
Take chromium for example. While toxic in high quantities it is essential for controlling blood sugar (therefore important for diabetics) but we can’t just go and chew on an old car grill – there is really a chain of events.
The chromium may initially be contained in rocks in the soil, these are broken down by the micro-biology in the soil which makes them available to plants, which will in turn convert them to complex chemicals, often referred to as phytonutrients, which we will then eat so eventually we end up with our dose of chromium.
Most of the complex chemicals we need for replacing our bits come from the soil but there is a similar process going on in the sea with plankton, algae and other creatures processing these chemicals which eventually we will end up by eating as some form of sea food.
The key point is that our intelligent control system can sense when we are deficient in these replacement materials and send out messages for us to eat more.
Don’t believe me that our intelligent control system can sense these deficiencies – have you ever wandered around the kitchen saying I want to eat something but I am not sure what?
Originally soil – based on volcanic rocks – were very high in these trace minerals and the soil biology made them available to the plants so there was an ample supply of minerals and phytonutrients – now by continuous farming the nutrient levels have dropped dramatically and even worse the soil biology has been decimated so even what minerals are there are no longer available to the plants.
This ratio of energy to replacement food has changed dramatically.
In the days when there was plenty of minerals in the soil and the biology to make it available there was simply no need for our intelligent control system to differentiate between energy and replacement fuel so it never evolved to tell us what was needed.
All we got was a warming light on the dash saying eat more so we ended up eating more energy food.
This is the first problem with modern food – but there is an even bigger problem.
Food for our intelligent control system
Going back to our steam engine analogy, say a modern power plant, and when we think about how it is controlled we see there is a complex system in place.
There will be a maze of sensors measuring all sorts of things from pressure, temperature, voltage which will be fed into a central computer which will decide to increase or cut down on say fuel requirements – and this will be totally automatic.
However there will still be a human watching the computer screens and may take overriding decisions if needed.
Our bodies are similar – if we have to run to catch a bus our intelligent control system will send out instructions right across our bodies, telling us to breath faster, the heart to pump faster, our blood to send extra energy to our muscles and our muscles to give that spurt.
We have absolutely no control over our heart or breathing rates or how much sugar is being supplied to our muscles – all we can do is to decide to make that extra effort to catch this bus or relax and catch the next one.
Similarly after we have caught the bus and system has settled down we have no control over whether we feel hungry or tired, but we can take a conscious decision to have a quick snack or take a bit of a rest.
Our gut brain
Our gut biology is a critical part of this decision making – our gut brain not only needs its own special diet (which it normally gets from plants) but will change with what we actually eating.
If we are continuously stuffing ourselves with sugar we will develop a gut of sugar loving bugs which will send out signals telling us to eat more sugar. If we obey we will get more sugar loving bugs and Houston we have problems.
We can of course take the conscious decision to eat the sort of food that leads to a healthy gut, the sugar loving bugs won’t like it and will give us a hard time with food cravings but they will simply die off after about three weeks – if we can stick it out that long.
The modern diet is not only low in food to feed our gut biology but we have made sure we screw up our gut biology using toxic chemicals – which have a double wammy effect.
These chemicals may or may or may not cause harm to the human body – there is considerable debate about the cancer causing properties of these chemicals but what is beyond debate that they damage our gut biology – that’s what they were developed to do.
But is is worse than that. At this moment we really do not understand how soil biology can effect out gut biology but if we learn from the Kim’s brick it certainly seems to – just as effectively as being banged on the head with a brick causes head ache. We may not know form a scientific view point the mechanism but just because we haven’t as yet defined the mechanism does not stop it happening.
We know that from looking at the gut biology or traditional tribes.
Back to the diet debate
What sort of food to eat has been the subject subject of often near violent debate between the low fat, low carb, vegan, vegetarian groups but perhaps we are missing the key point.
People from all over the world are eating an immense variety of food types and generally surviving quite successfully.
Perhaps the quality of the soil is far more important than the type of food we eat.
But lets have a look at some of these arguments.
The debate between the paleo backers and the vegans is nothing compared with the debate between paleo man himself and the antelope.
Paleo mans view was that the antelope should quietly stand with a friendly notice saying antelope prime rump steak $2.Kg please self serve.
The antelope did not agree and simply ran away. Now antelopes are pretty good at running and even the fastest animal – the cheetah which can reach 120kph has only 400 metres to catch an antelope before he is left in a panting heap.
So poor paleo man was left without almost no hope. But we know from modern paleo man how he caught the antelope – well before the invention of the bow and arrow or spear.
Humans may not have many plus points over the ferocious beasts, we are slow, not all that strong, certainly at the back door when big teeth were being handed out, but we do one thing remarkably well, we walk and walk. and keep on walking. We can out walk virtually any other creature – even a horse.
So for the next day and beyond paleo man would keep on walking and walking after the antelope, may be travelling 20 kilometres and taking all day until finally the poor exhausted antelope would lie down and say ‘OK you won, just make it quick’.
The modern day paleo debate would make far more sense if people had to walk 20 kilometres to the butchers.
So what can we learn from paleo man
If we look at the traditional paleo diet in terms of the three jobs that food does we would see that energy was on the critical list. The high energy food had an annoying habit of running away, glucose from plants took a lot of extracting to get the energy so paleo man was obsessed with getting enough energy food.
And modern man is equally obsessed about energy, whether its a dietitian, a food expert trying to solve the worlds hunger problem the debate is always how to get enough energy or nowadays to reduce the energy input – the overly simplistic eat less exercise more approach. We have evolved to be obsessed with energy foods.
There is more to diet than calories, given a chance our intelligent control system will automatically regulate how many calories we need to eat.
The paleo man never had to worry about replacement food or food to feed his gut biology. That was available in abundance from native plants growing in nutrient rich soil.
From energy to gut food
In modern society the tables have been completely turned. The heated debate on whether we should get our energy from carbohydrate or fats is almost irrelevant, we have an excess of both.
Modern soils are becoming degraded and low in some of the critical trace minerals so there could be a significant percentage of the population who are low in replacement food.
But the real crisis is in food to feed our guts – which are a critical part of our intelligent control system.
Even if our intelligent control system were healthy it would still be sending out messages ‘you are low in critical minerals and phytonutrients so go out and eat some more’.
The problem is that we would then go out and eat more of the energy food which is in abundance.
But the situation is worse than that. We are not just starving our poor gut biology we are also poisoning it. Modern agriculture uses simply staggering amounts of chemicals which initially kill the soil biology which is essential for releasing and making the minerals in the soil available to the plant.
But if that is not bad enough those toxic chemicals get into our food.
There is a lot of debate whether these chemicals are harmful to the human body and there has been some spectacular cases of chemicals being suspect in cancer.
But what is not a subject of debate is that these chemicals harm our gut bacteria – that is what many are designed to do – kill bugs.
So it seems clear that the modern black death is caused by food with excessive energy (whether sugar or fats) a lack of minerals and phytonutrients but above a lack of foods which should be feeding out gut biology – but instead are poisoning it.
It may be colloquial but the modern black death is because we have screwed up our intelligent control system which has evolved over millions of years to effectively control our appetites – how much and what we want eat.
Diversity and general laws
People vary greatly so we must suspect general laws of diet that apply to all people, simple observations show that some people have a digestive system that can handle large amounts of fatty food without problems – while other can’t.
But one general law of diet we can trust is that we need a healthy intelligent control system which means a healthy gut and that comes from eating plants grown in nutrient rich biologically active soil.
The concept that healthy bodies come from healthy soil has been around since the times of Aristotle but the issue we face in our modern society, with it’s chemical industrial agriculture, is how do we ensure we are eating food grown in healthy soil.
This is not an issue of technology, I and many other people have been researching and writing on healthy soils for decades (see www.waterright.com.au).
The technical answer is really very simple – soil was originally created by microbiology breaking down rocks. We can readily repeat that process by adding volcanic rock dust to our soils and feeding the microbiology, for example by adding compost to the soil and using cover crops.
To create healthy soil simply needs mineral rich rocks, microbiology to break down the rocks and plants to supply the energy.
Not quite – and so they all lived hapilly ever after The End that is coming.