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.

THIS is why I’m pursuing a third career

After 21 years working at Mayo Clinic, including starting Mayo’s social media programs and leading the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network with Dr. Farris Timimi for the last 11 years, I retired last Tuesday to pursue a third career.

My of counsel role with Jarrard, Inc. will give me a great opportunity to build on what I did at Mayo, and I’m very much looking forward to that work.

In my announcement I also mentioned that Lisa and I (with a physician friend) are launching a venture related to our health journey, and inviting those interested in being one of our early participants to help us formulate the program to send me an email so we can discuss.

I’ve received several inquiries and will be having follow-up conversations in the coming weeks, but one of the emails and our subsequent discussion captures the essence of why Lisa and I are compelled to pursue this work.

I’m sharing this anonymized exchange with permission.

M.L.: Hi Lee. I’ve been following your and Lisa’s health journey and your advice – like Lisa the menopause hormones thing hit me hard and going keto with intermittent fasting finally helps me – down 45 pounds with more to go, sticking with it at 56 … I have no interest in sharing photos or name yet… but in 6 months who knows? Would love to be in the loop on whatever you have planned.

L.A.: So great to hear from you! Your story is exactly why Lisa and I decided to share ours, because we think it’s really important for people to hear about low carb and IF. Yet we did it with a little trepidation because we didn’t want to go out there and talk about what we had been doing, only to relapse. As it turns out we’re both 10+ lbs. under where we were when we started telling the story 18 months ago, so we can confidently say this works long term.

So yes, we understand about not wanting to “go public.” We have another couple I profiled anonymously who are down 35 and 20 lbs. respectively, and they’re in the same boat, although he and his brother-in-law (down 34 lbs.) just did a Zoom interview with me (recorded) that we’ll be releasing soon. I’d love to talk with you about what we have planned. Maybe we could catch up by Zoom in the next week or so.

M.L. Knowing and trusting you as a person and as an information source were what made me try out your suggestions- and looking into it myself (with your suggested resources to start) convinced me to give it a serious shot – especially since all 4 of my brothers and my late parents struggled with both weight related type 2 diabetes and heart disease- and Dr. Fung’s information was very compelling!

I wish I’d known decades ago how much more important diet (including what and when you eat) is versus just working out more and eating less – so much wrong, guilt inducing, widespread info out there!

I’m very grateful you and Lisa decided to share (to be honest, her even more so than you, as the struggle to do everything right and losing so few pounds when your hormones have gone kablooie really resonated with me and gave me that little, well maybe it actually COULD work push. Would love to chat.

We ended up having that conversation Saturday morning, and learned that M.L had started following the #BodyBabySteps in March, so she’s lost 45 lbs. in just five months!

Her story validated both why we started sharing our health journey story on my blog and also why we’re wanting to devote as much of our time to this effort as we can as I move into Career #3.

I can’t think of many types of work that would be more fulfilling than helping people like M.L. get health results they didn’t think possible.

Most importantly, it was M.L. getting the results.

She checked out my Health Sherpas.

She explored what I was saying to see if it made scientific sense.

Then she made the changes in what and when she ate that led to these great results.

We’re excited that we get to cheer her on and provide more support from now on.

If you’d like to make similar changes and turn back the clock on your health, the #BodyBabySteps are a great place to start.

And if you’d like some additional help and support to encourage you along the way, that’s what our venture is about. We’d be delighted to discuss helping you more directly, too.

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.

Increasing My Life Expectancy

Chip Conley tells the story of taking an online life expectancy assessment and discovering he was only halfway through his projected adult lifetime.

After reflecting on this yesterday, I decide to find one of those calculators to see what I might expect.

The top one on Google (which means it must be the best, right?) was developed by University of Pennsylvania professors and is part of a retirement financial planning website.

Based on a short quiz about my habits, height and weight I got this estimate of life expectancy:

That got me thinking: what if I hadn’t made the changes outlined in My Health Journey over the last four years?

What if I still weighed more than 260 pounds?

Answering the quiz questions based on that scenario provided a strikingly different result:

So four years ago my remaining life expectancy was 35 years.

Today it’s 38 years!

I’ve lived four years while increasing my life expectancy by seven.

And given how much better I feel, and my increased energy, I think it’s highly likely those additional seven years will be productive and enjoyable instead of being characterized by disease and decline.

What result= do you get when you take the quiz?

It’s not too late to change it!