There is more to food than energy. People will pay huge sums of money for prepared foods and it is not because that food contains more energy. Well prepared foods made with quality ingredients have more capabilities than just to get you to the next meal. Eating well leads to feeling well. Depending on what you eat it may not lead to being well, but at least the food made damaging your health seem worthwhile.
The scientists of food have begun to change their mind about what foods promote health and which are detrimental to health. The study is breaking down into two basic camps.
There are now those who feel that eating the right fats, natural saturated fats or uncooked oils, are healthy for you. They know that some fats must be eaten, because they cannot be made, but they have to be eaten in the correct proportions or they are not healthy but are detrimental. Omega 3 and omega 6 come immediately to mind. They feel that good inputs equal good outcomes, and they are unsure of the mechanism by which the good outcomes are arrived at in your body. These scientists are trying to figure out what is and is not good by doing trials and studies on study participants that are difficult to track (people).
The second camp of scientists think they are beginning to understand how the body is making it’s food demands and choices, why some foods are bad that would seem to be at worst neutral (artificial sweeteners for instance). These scientists are studying the microbes that reside in the human digestive tract. These studies have the advantage of being conducted on subjects that cannot deviate from the diet or tests being conducted on them (lab animals). These scientist believe that the outcomes we are getting from our foods are directly tied to the microbes that help us consume our foods.
Science has long known that without living microbes in the human bowel that we would die. We cannot survive if all of the microbes are gone and if just a couple of strains remain they can become toxic. We are finding that the foods we eat contribute or harm different varieties of germs. These germs, in turn can cause or inhibit certain health outcomes, good or bad. Eating a diet that is low in fat and cholesterol has been attributed to increased incidence of death from other causes than heart attack:
…other cholesterol-lowering studies where diet had been the only intervention consistently found higher rates of cancer and gallstones in the experimental group,
Teicholz, Nina (2014-05-13). The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet (Kindle Locations 2261-2263). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.
Once again, the science is pointing to an outcome based on inputs, but how or why it happens is not so easy to discover. New science is pointing to microbes actually creating stimulation for us on their own to influence our behavior in their behalf.
It sounds like science fiction, but it seems that bacteria within us – which greatly outnumber our own cells – may very well be affecting both our cravings and moods to get us to eat what they want, and often are driving us toward obesity.
I did not know until recently that there are one hundred million nerve receptors in the digestive tract. The gut actually can affect our moods and a sugar high is probably not originating just in the brain. Likewise the depression you feel if you eat the same foods over and over are probably not emotions that only you are sharing with yourself, but with the billions of microbes that are crying out for variety in your guts.
Research suggests that gut bacteria may be affecting our eating decisions in part by acting through the vagus nerve, which connects 100 million nerve cells from the digestive tract to the base of the brain.
Diet has long been know to affect mood. People on low-fat low-cholesterol diets have always been known to die more often from suicide and violence than people who are on the pre-1980 diet of bacon and eggs every morning. Until now no one had a very good handle on why that would be the case. Trying to find chemical reasons alone was unproductive. Now they are learning that what we eat affects how those microbes behave and what THEY produce with our foods, which have a direct bearing on hunger, moods and emotional wellbeing.
…a metanalysis of six cholesterol-lowering trials found that the chance of dying from suicide or violence was twice as high in the treatment groups as it was in the control groups, and the authors posited that the diet might cause depression.
Teicholz, Nina (2014-05-13). The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet (Kindle Locations 2259-2260). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.
Eating real foods is what the microbes that live in us expect. They eat what we eat, and they evolved with us over millions of years so that we both get what we need from the relationship. Now, we are changing the bargain without considering their needs. Artificial sweeteners are not what they expect. This new chemical is undoubtedly being changed by our germs on the way through. What they change it into is their business. How it makes them feel is why people who are using diet drinks aren’t losing weight. They use everything at their disposal to get you to provide what they need, and processed sugar or artificial sugar is not it. Nothing new and modern has only the expected results when interacting with our age-old microbial friends. Rashes, allergies, asthma, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, auto-immune disorders, eczema, dandruff, bad breath, tooth decay, ulcers, acid reflux disorder are all ways that our microbes are fighting back.
The Paleo diet may be onto something, but no diet can work. Only change can work. Ridding ourselves of the bad idea that fats are causing obesity or heart disease–they are not–can work. Our microbes expect natural fats, we should give it to them. We must stop eating foods that were dreamed up in industrial kitchens and go back to using ingredients that our great grandparents used. It’s what the gut demands. Actually demands.
We agree. There is a tendency in the Paleo community to inflate the importance of saturated fat, as if they are recommending precisely the opposite diet that the mainstream would recommend. If there is any thing we need to know about diet at this point, it’s the importance of minimally-processed food and a set of lifestyle habits inspired by ancestral health.