Challenging Seven Nutrition Myths

The prevalence of Type 2 diabetes has more than tripled in the last generation.

Dittos for obesity.

Alzheimer’s disease was unknown a century ago, and now almost every family has had a loved one affected.

Cardiovascular disease is still the #1 killer of men and women, although cancer is fighting for supremacy.

All of these are related to metabolic syndrome, and almost nine of ten Americans either already have it or have at least one marker of metabolic ill health.

It’s certainly NOT a genetic problem. Our gene pool could not have changed that much in a generation.

This raises two possibilities:

  1. Americans are systematically and overwhelmingly ignoring the health and dietary advice of their doctors, the government health agencies and the health care establishment. They just don’t care or totally lack self-control. Or
  2. The conventional advice they’ve been getting, and which they’ve mostly tried to follow, is wrong or at least less than optimal. It doesn’t work.

In the video below one of my Health Sherpas, Dr. Zoe Harcombe, whose Ph.D. examined the evidence for dietary fat guidelines and found it lacking, outlines seven tenets of conventional dietary wisdom:

  1. A pound of fat is equal to 3,500 calories.
  2. Creating a calorie deficit of 3,500 calories will produce a pound of fat loss.
  3. Animal fat is saturated and plant fat is unsaturated.
  4. Saturated fat causes heart disease.
  5. Cholesterol causes cardiovascular disease.
  6. Whole grains are healthy.
  7. Getting five servings of fruit and vegetable per day is essential to health.

Her conclusion:

Watch it for yourself, and then go to her website where you can see that she has the evidence to back her assertions. She’s got the receipts.

This is simultaneously maddening (because we’ve been given such bad conventional “wisdom” for more than four decades) and also extremely encouraging news, because it points to the possibility of a more enjoyable and healthier way to live.

As Lisa and I have been on our health journey over the last several years, we’ve reclaimed and restored our health and vitality by taking a path that would be much more familiar to our ancestors than what is currently recommended by the dietary establishment.

We’ve been coaching friends in these same changes for about the last 10 months, and they’ve seen great results too.

I retired from Mayo Clinic last month mainly because I wanted to start a third career, launching a new venture.

We’re joining with a friend (and my high school classmate) who has 30 years of experience as a family physician and a long-term interest in metabolic syndrome.

We’ll be providing information and education people can apply to improve their health through diet and lifestyle modifications, along with an online community and coaching support to help our members make these changes.

We plan to announce details in the coming weeks. If you’re interested in being one of our early members send me an email and I’ll be in touch to give you a preview.

Recommended Reading: Sam Apple’s Ravenous

I just finished listening to the Audible version of Ravenous: Otto Warburg, the Nazis, and the Search for the Cancer-Diet Connection, by Sam Apple.

It’s a fascinating story of a brilliant Jewish scientist, Nobel Prize winner Otto Warburg, whose discovery of how cancer cells rely on fermentation because of damaged respiration faded into scientific oblivion until the recent resurgence of interest in metabolic theories of cancer.

It is unfortunate for humanity that Warburg’s key work was done in Germany before and during World War II. Perhaps if he had fled the Nazis as many of his contemporaries did, his theories may have had more impact decades earlier.

I highly recommend this book, and to get a taste of it here’s a CBS This Morning segment in which the author is interviewed:

Spoiler alert: Sugar, and particularly fructose, are the major villains because of the role they play in insulin resistance by increasing insulin levels in the blood, and keeping those levels continually elevated.

Many cancers have a strong association with obesity, but as Apple notes it is not likely that obesity causes cancer, but rather that both obesity and cancer have a common underlying cause.

The Metabolic Syndrome is not only implicated in increasing cancer rates, but also cardiovascular disease, which is the leading killer of both men and women.

That’s why the work Lisa and I are looking to do in helping people overcome poor metabolic health is so exciting to us: it isn’t just or even mainly about weight loss, as welcome as that would be for many people.

It’s about affecting health at a fundamental level.

To learn more about our metabolic health progress (we’ve each lost more than 50 lbs. and have become metabolically healthy), check out My Health Journey.

My #BodyBabySteps offers a condensed version of my basic recommendations. With a physician friend we’re developing a more comprehensive program that will include online education and community support, individual and group coaching and medical care as needed.

If you’re interested in being one of our early participants to help us formulate the venture, send me an email.

The Inspirational Example of Dr. Sarah Hallberg

Thanks to the diet and lifestyle changes Lisa and I have made in the last four years, my life expectancy is now 96.

Dr. Sarah Hallberg is among my Health Sherpas who have guided us in our Health Journey.

That’s why I was looking forward to listening to this week’s episode of Dr. Peter Attia’s podcast, The Drive, when I heard she would be the guest.

Dr. Hallberg has led the Virta Health studies in reversal of Type 2 Diabetes through carbohydrate restriction and active daily counseling.

She’s a true pioneer who has developed the data that make it safe for others to experiment with and advocate for a way of eating that runs counter to prevailing dietary dogma.

In the second half of the podcast, she shifts to telling the story of her lung cancer diagnosis four years ago, and her subsequent journey and learnings. While I had heard of her diagnosis I wasn’t aware just how grim her prognosis was.

Dr. Hallberg gives us a timely reminder that while we can make changes that increase our life expectancy in general, we can’t know what unexpected challenges we will face.

This video is well worth your time, both in its explanation of how carbohydrate restriction fights metabolic disease and in Dr. Hallberg’s inspiring example of continuing to do her important work even while in a cancer battle she knows she won’t win.

She’s hoping to make seven more years, when the youngest of her three children will graduate high school.

You won’t soon forget her jarring story.

While most lung cancers occur in smokers or those who live with smokers, this wasn’t the case for Sarah. She’s done more than most to maintain her metabolic health, and yet she got this inexplicable metastatic lung cancer diagnosis.

This interview increased my already-strong commitment to our monthly #3DayCancerPreventionFast regimen. It’s not a guarantee we won’t get cancer, but it has a plausible prevention mechanism.

And if it has even a slight chance of preventing us from going through what Sarah has experienced, fasting a few consecutive days each month is worth the minor discomfort and inconvenience.

I hope you’ll find Sarah’s metabolic disease teaching as informative, and her personal story as inspiring, as I did.

See also my earlier post that features her TED talk.

Renewal Illustrated

Lisa and I were both born in May of 1963, so last week we went to the DMV office together to complete our quadrennial task of renewing our Driver’s Licenses.

Because of COVID-19 the state is not updating the photos, but it was kind of satisfying when the clerk asked if we needed to make any changes to our information.

We both answered: “My weight.”

To which, looking at the previous figures, she responded: “Good job!”

She didn’t know the half of it.

Let’s just say that when we put our weights on the forms in 2017, the figures were…aspirational.

Our expired Driver’s Licenses (top) and the replacements that arrived yesterday.

It was a great feeling opening the mail yesterday and comparing our before-and-after licenses, and knowing that this time the weights are legit.

Even if the photos make us look four years younger.

Milestones like this are great reminders of why we started our health journey nearly four years ago, and why I am blogging about it.

After being frustrated with our inability to maintain a healthy weight in our 40s and early 50s, we found a way that works, thanks to some Health Sherpas who described the science of effective, sustainable weight loss.

We also got a little bit angry, because what we had been told about healthy eating for decades was at odds with what had given us such great results.

And we know that a lot of people are just like we were: unhappy with our health, weight and reduced vitality, but with no idea how to fix it.

Resigned to physical decline, and just hoping it will be gradual.

We’re here to tell you it doesn’t have to be that way. If this worked for us it can work for you, and it’s totally worth it.

That’s why I developed the #BodyBabySteps, to condense in one page the top priorities I see for renewing and restoring health. While there are no shortcuts, it at least eliminates dietary detours.

It’s how I would do it if I were starting my journey today.

If you have used the #BodyBabySteps to achieve some health goals, we’d love to hear your story. And I hope you’ll pay it forward by sharing on your social accounts, too.

If you’d like to explore having a coach to guide you in your journey, send me an email and we can discuss how that might work for you.

Can you lose weight and keep it off?

It is something of truism among dietary experts that “most diets eventually fail.”

See what Psychology Today and Scientific American have to say on the subject.

Researchers at UCLA state it flat out: Dieting does not work.

At my peak I weighed 265 pounds. When I started working in earnest and experimenting with different diets in October of 2016, I set a “dream” goal of getting to 210 pounds.

Realistically, I would have been pretty happy to reach 22o even 230.

And when I got to those milestones I did feel a lot better.

So I don’t know whether what Lisa and I have been doing is a “diet” or not, but today I’m celebrating a full year under my dream goal weight.

June 2016 in Beijing, today in Austin, MN and a year’s worth of monthly average scale readings.

I first cracked the 210-lb. barrier on May 1, 2020 and this morning’s reading was 205.5, which is what I weighed 40 years ago in high school.

Lisa and I experimented with a few different approaches over the first couple of years of our journey, but for the last 20 months we’ve been following a low-carb, relatively high fat eating pattern along with intermittent fasting or time-restricted eating windows.

She’s been averaging between 136 and 138 pounds for the last eight months. That’s about 50 pounds below her peak, and is what she weighed when we were married in 1984.

This approach is totally sustainable.

It’s not always easy, but we don’t have the constant willpower battles that characterize many diets.

And if we find ourselves inching up a bit, we know exactly what we need to do to reclaim control.

To see how I’d do things differently (and get results more quickly) if I were starting over again, see my #BodyBabySteps page.

If you’d like to consider coaching to help you on a similar journey, send me an email and we can set up a no-cost, no-obligation initial consultation.

You can do this!