Learn how to stick to your nutrition plan when you’re eating out, what alcoholism can teach us about food addiction, and why we’re obsessed with bacon.
Written by: Sarah Strange
So you’re looking to lose a little weight, tone up, and see some abs or lose a handful of dimples. You do what most of us do nowadays- you fire up the Google machine and try to find someone with an answer.
If you know a little bit about diet, hopefully you won’t fall prey to the landslide of gimmicks, tricks, and pills. You’ll keep looking until you find a more sensible approach. Various Clean Eating approaches dominate the search. Some are essentially the same thing with different names- and most go with their own branding, like Paleo. Some of these groups leave each other alone, or link arms, while others fight great battles over single food items or groups and define themselves along these differences. All of them seem to have strong opinions, come across as well informed, have great before & afters, and pages of health turn-around testimonials.
Your head starts spinning.
Then you may stumble upon the growing movement of Flexible Dieting/IIFYM (If it Fits Your Macros) proponents- especially if you got there via web stalking figure competitors. Their concept seems pretty legit too- same make-up of opinions, education, pictures, and stories. You might also notice that they rather vocally disagree with the practice of Clean Eating.
Now you start to get frustrated that this endeavor will likely take way longer than you had hoped. Who is right? You realize that you may need to consult with Google several more times before this diet you had hoped to find in an hour will make itself known to you. Tomorrow’s diet becomes next week’s diet.
(Ok, is she going to give me an answer here or what? – It’s coming, hold on.)
So Which is Better for Weight Loss and Why: Clean Eating or Flexible Dieting?
Most of us won’t bother to spend two to five years weeding through Pub Med to get to the bottom of it, so it all comes down to the diets’ closing arguments. The arguments for these diets can seem so strong on both sides, there’s lots of good information and linked research (which you probably won’t read beyond an abstract at best, but hey- it makes you feel a whole lot better knowing it’s there).
Unfortunately the arguments against tend to say, “Pick me!! The other guy’s an idiot”. These statements are often generated by misinformation and lack of fundamental understanding of the opponent. Many times, simple comments like “show me the research” or “there are no studies showing ___” really mean this person has just not bothered to look for- or read, the volumes of supportive research that do indeed exist.
The saddest part of the bickering is that we seem to lose sight of the bigger picture mid argument: that we clinicians, nutritionists, and trainers are here to help people. Helping people requires that we take a look at the individual and find them an appropriate solution they can run with successfully.
Which of the two are best depends on the individual, and can only be answered on an individual basis. Why this is even an argument for the entire population as a whole totally perplexes me.
When considering which to go with, the answer to the question depends on the individual’s personality, health status, current lifestyle, history, and goals. The answer must solve the problem in both short and long term: which protocol will both produce results and be sustainable enough to make lifelong changes and keep them off the diet yo-yo wagon?
These variables differ significantly person to person, so why would the answer be the same for everyone, regardless of these factors?
Your personal answer to this either/or dilemma should seem easy, once you strip away the complicated layers of fluff from both arguments and get to the basic root of each.
Flexible Dieting = FOOD TRACKING that allows the flexible incorporation of anything you could ever hope to eat or drink in whatever amounts your fixed macro tally allows
Clean Eating = NOT TRACKING, just avoid shitty food in favor of real food (as defined by your chosen sect), up quality protein, plant, and real-food fats- worry more about what you’re eating and how your body feels than precisely how much
In case those synopses didn’t clear the fog…
Flexible Dieting IS food tracking: you will weigh, measure, plan, and track every single thing you put in your mouth. Theoretically forever, since the only way to know whether or not something “fits” is with math, and to do math you need numbers.
It is flexible with irony, because what you eat is relatively flexible, but the counting system itself is rigid as F@#$. But that may be a great, great thing for people who are willing to keep their eyes on the details but hate the notion of having to eliminate entire food groups from their diets in order to succeed. If food tracking won’t bug you but eliminating foods or food groups WILL, then boy let me tell you, THIS IS YOUR SHIT!
If you’ve never tracked your food before, you should give it a shot. It is, hands down, the only way you’ll ever really know what’s going on… or should I say going in? It greatly simplifies your clinician’s life too because they have hard data to work with, as do you- if you know what you’re doing. It can be an extremely eye-opening tool for those of us struggling with excess weight and failed diet attempts. You might be surprised to find how much, or how little, you actually eat.
Food tracking can also provide a layer of self-monitored accountability that some people do really well with.
Food tracking may be the only simple way one could hope to successfully embark on a metabolic rebuild post diet without gaining your weight back. By “metabolic rebuild”, I’m talking about getting your metabolism back up to speed after you slow it down with dieting. This is a very slow process of incrementally adding back very tiny amounts of calories that is next to impossible to do without tracking. That is one massive bonus touted by IIFYM/Flexible Dieting.
Please keep in mind, the figure competitors who most likely led you to Flexible Dieting make their bodies their #1 job. If you are THAT committed to making your shit look THAT nice, you’re probably more than ok with food tracking for a few decades on end because data simplifies the perfecting process. A pound of water will cost these people titles. Just be realistic with yourself before embarking on this process- can you easily plan, weigh, measure, and track every single one of your meals for any reasonable length of time?
To Track, or Not to Track- That is the Question.
As great and effective as food tracking can be, it’s not necessarily something everyone is willing or able to do, especially long term. Therefore recommending a Flexible Dieting approach is completely useless concerning anyone who can’t or won’t food track, regardless of how good it looks on paper.
As a personal trainer working with a largely “regular dude/dudette” population, I have to say that less than 10% of the clients I see are willing to track their food. It sounds extreme to normal folks. If they think it’s a bad idea but give it try, they often fail and may never come back. And then some of these people do well for a while but then wind up getting neurotic and obsessive and it becomes an unhealthy recommendation for them. People who have had eating disorders usually don’t do well with this level of control and you’re likely to send them into a tailspin that you’ll both feel terrible about.
Is it worth it when there’s a better option for these people?
Despite this very low buy-in rate, I still promote it to my clients if they’re game, (and I REALLY make sure they’re game) because like I said- it works and it makes my job of monitoring and adjusting SO much easier than trying to figure out what’s not working with general descriptions as data. Regardless of my efforts, most people say “no thank you” to food tracking. Actually they usually just make a funny little sound with their mouths and throw me a look that questions my connection to reality.
So food tracking is the #1 landmine for Flexible Dieting.
And “trigger foods” are landmine #2 for Flexible Dieting.
Not everybody has trigger foods or can even really relate to the concept. Some of us are “Moderators”, a term coined by Gretchen Rubin. Moderators don’t really get triggered. They can buy a bag of chips or box of donuts or pint of ice cream and have their sanctioned bit, and put the rest away. Let it get freezer burn even. Natural born Flexible Dieters. These folks look at those of us that have wiped out entire food groups for years as unhappy zealots worshiping a false God.
Because they just don’t understand those of us that make up the other category (which I fall into), known as the “Abstainers”. Abstainers get triggered. Abstainers are all or nothing. They actually do well with abstinence. Trigger foods lead to binges and guilt. Binges and guilt lead to the collapse of Hope Dam and a flood of F@#K IT, which can be really hard to reign back in. One exposure to a trigger can derail months of progress. Abstainers all know who they are. Why, in a million years, would you insist that this person would do better with Flexible Dieting when they self-admittedly do better in culinary quarantine?
It may be hard for you well-meaning Moderators to acknowledge our existence, but keep us in mind when recommending your shtick. We want people to succeed without feeling tortured, right, which is kind of the whole basis of your argument? Recommending a tiny dose of a trigger food to an Abstainer is like asking Tyrone Biggums to hold your crack rock for you while you go run some errands. Having 1 goddamn scoop of ice cream or a paltry 4oz pour of wine is legitimate torture for an Abstainer. I shudder at the thought.
If you’re an Abstainer type, plus or minus control issues, or an average Joe that won’t ever use a food scale and get really good at using My Fitness Pal, Flexible Dieting can be a rigid and possibly daunting cage, and food tracking can be a one way ticket to Cuckoosville.
So what do you do with all of these people that can’t hang with food tracking or having regular exposure to trigger foods? Clean Eating and a little education. You work with them on eliminating the classically offending and easy to overeat foods, stuff like processed food, sugar, booze, packaged snack food, and foods made from flours. You have them avoid any other foods that tend to cause them to overeat or binge or go off the rails and completely give up on their diet. You bump up their protein and other satiating foods. You teach them to be mindful of the extra calorie load that comes from eating fat in high quantities. You bump up the veggie consumption. You steer them towards nutrient density (which everyone should be doing, regardless). You run them through Robb’s 7 day carb test and make recommendations to suit the individual.
I know this is about weight loss, but sometimes un-wellness inhibits weight loss, so unfortunately the #3 landmine for Flexible Dieting is that it will not help many of the SICK by just paying attention to macros and calorie load. A perfect calorie deficit just simply won’t work 100% of the time. If you have an individual with immune, autoimmune, or gut issues- whether they track or not, pulling out inflammatory foods, gut irritating foods and substances is a must. Even if they are willing to track and follow macros, they will need to do so in a hyper clean eating fashion if they would like to start feeling better and eventually lose some weight.
Although I’m not really getting into it here, the winner from a health based standpoint is definitely Clean Eating… unless the flexible team is willing to change their slogan to: If it Fits Your Macros, If it Over-Performs on Your Micros, and Doesn’t Bug You Gut or Immune System. Definitely not as enticing, nor does it roll off the tongue quite so easily as Flexible Dieting.
There are 2 potential weight loss landmines for Clean Eating and #1 touches on what I mentioned before with client monitoring: Clean Eating does not automatically solve the problem of excess or insufficient calorie intake.
I know, I know, it’s not all super straightforward calories in, calories out. I get it. I too have taken a beating by that very stick. But at the end of the day, if you are simply overeating, you will also be simply not losing any weight. Maybe a 5-pound water teaser in the beginning, if you’re lucky.
It’s generally harder to overeat when you pull out hyper-palatable foods… unless you so happen to have a thing for nuts by the feedbag full and recipes featuring cans of coconut milk. Yet it’s not anywhere close to impossible to consume huge amounts of protein, carbs, and fat (which all equate to calories) on a Clean Eating plan. And as such, people that post memes about not being able to get “jacked” on a Clean Eating protocol are very well steeped… in horseshit.
So yes, Clean Eating food can be delicious and very high calorie. There are a bevy of wonderful cookbooks out there with delicious recipes to keep you happy on your Clean Eating quest, but a good number of those recipes are outright disasters for weight loss. Sorry guys. Sometimes, when left on your own to make this Clean Eating thing work, it can wind up NOT working, and if you’re not down with simple, lower calorie foods, and have not been blessed in the creative cooking department, it can wind up feeling rather Spartan. Let’s be honest, sweet potatoes can get boring with the quickness if you live in an area that doesn’t stock the more exotic clean carbs.
On the unsuspecting flip side of that coin, kind of like the dark side of the moon, is the group that has stopped losing weight because they are too low calorie. It’s also a lot easier to do than you would think, especially when you pull out those hyper-palatable items. Some people naturally opt for smaller portions of lean meats, large portions of low calorie vegetables, and a cute little amount of healthy fats. They might not give much thought to carbs. Maybe they skip meals here and there? Maybe a decent dinner portion to them is my idea of a waste of time? They start off with a sub-1000 calorie/ day diet and can’t imagine eating more and don’t have much of an appetite. They lose weight initially, but then everything grinds to a halt. You can’t continue to eat less to lose weight at this point. You’re stuck. This is a bummer and takes some work- maybe even some help, to get out of.
Landmine #2 is that is does have to potential to torture the Moderators who really like to have regular exposure to their controlled “substances”.
Some of us just CANNOT succeed without a regular, albeit small, dose of comfort food and drink. Really committed flexible dieters who have gone through a really successful round or two of metabolic rebuilds love to post pictures of their allowable naughty food feasts to Instagram. You too can have this pleasure and brag about it, if the flexible thing really works for you… after a number of cycles. But you have to be a Moderator who is totally fine with food tracking long term in order for flexible dieting to even be a viable option. Don’t be fooled- if you’re considering Flexible Dieting for weight loss today, you most likely won’t be posting pictures of sanctioned donut castles and kitchen sink sundaes for a few years at best. Unless your name is The Mountain.
It’s also important to note that by embarking on a Clean Eating protocol, you are not marked by a sniper if you incorporate some comfort food and drink… some “dirty” food. We just usually call it “cheating”- or whatever safe word we feel comfortable with, rather than writing ourselves a prescription for daily donut micro dosing.
Both Clean Eating and Flexible Dieting can and will produce weight loss. There are perks and downsides to both, depending on your personality, goals, and history. You can find foolproof meal plans and shopping lists for either approach. You can receive expert counsel in either system. But ease of strict adherence to either depends completely on the individual. How these approaches translate to long term success and lifestyle changes depends on the individual. Which one feels freeing, which one feels rigid, which one causes guilty binges, which one feels flexible, which one feels do-able, and which one addresses potential underlying health issues- totally depends on the person.
This has to stop being carried out as an argument as to which weight loss diet of the two reigns supreme for all humans- there is no possible way to answer that. We need to put the argument to bed and turn it back into a question for the individual so that we can make the best call for the person in front of us or in the mirror.
The only legitimate answer to the question, which is better for weight loss- Clean Eating or Flexible Dieting, is “it depends”. And when we have the details, for most of us the answer is easy.
Afterward: More About Me
If it helps anybody make further choices, I lost 25 pounds using a mash-up of Clean Eating and IIFYM and it was simple, straightforward, and worry free. I plugged in the numbers, stuck to my plan, and watched the weight move consistently in the right direction until I wanted to stop losing weight. I tried tracking because things weren’t working initially and I wanted data. I decided to mix it with clean eating because of the trigger foods you’re “allowed” in a flexible approach. Those items will throw me off my course 100% of the time in disappointing micro doses, so I always do better without them because I AM an Abstainer and as such, I can’t really be too flexible with any success.
However, prior to that, my personal history NEEDED clean eating- specifically the Paleo diet, to make it even possible for me to try food tracking. I was a ballet dancer for 13 years and while I won’t say I had a full-blown eating disorder, I was definitely not well with eating at the time. I needed to institute such a high level of control with my diet to stay in line with “the look” they were going for, which took a ton of effort. Dancing 3-6 hours a day will tend to make a person hungry. The control eventually broke me mentally and for years I couldn’t even think about a diet. The very thought process would trigger bingeing, it was like the anti-diet. I had completely written off ever being able to embark on a weight loss plan again.
The focus of Clean Eating for me was to get healthy and be my best. I felt better than I ever had, my appetite found its way out of the 3 hour roller coaster for the first time in my life. My body composition saw huge improvements although that was not my primary goal. Focusing on eating for health in this way for a few years, even with trigger food indulgences here and there, brought me to a good place with it all. It kind of freed me up and I’m good now!
That 25 pound weight loss story was a huge success for me, not because of the goal attainment, but because I was able to do it without spinning out whatsoever, for the first time in nearly 20 years. Before even trying it, I just knew I was in a place that it wouldn’t bother me whatsoever or I never would have tried it.
I’ve given up all hope of ever becoming a Moderator personality type, but having the freedom to make choices for myself again without the psychological backlash, I owe all to the primary focus of Clean Eating- adopting a healthy lifestyle. If you look at Clean Eating from my perspective, it is inherently and ironically flexible- you can do it for looks, for performance, for wellness, or for feels. It doesn’t have to feel like a diet whereas food tracking- to me, kind of always does.
Sarah is the director of programming at Norcal Strength & Conditioning. Her athletic and coaching background includes Olympic Weightlifting, CrossFit, Pilates, martial arts, yoga, triathlon, and a pretty long stint as a ballet dancer.
This week we have guest Christopher Kelly of Nourish Balance Thrive here to talk with us about using machine learning to analyze health, functional medicine, diet, and more. Check it out!
Be sure to take the free assessment questionnaire:
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Mike T. Nelson talks about metabolic flexibility (as Christopher mentioned in the podcast):
30 Day Guide to the Paleo Diet
Want some extra help? Have you been trying Paleo for a while but have questions or aren’t sure what the right exercise program is for you? Or maybe you just want a 30-day meal plan and shopping list to make things easier? We’ve created a getting started guide to help you through your first 30 days.
Meredith Rhodes and Roland Denzel join us to discuss News & Views. Stories include: the effectiveness of wearable fitness and diet trackers, what the gut microbiomes of obese kids tell us, whether stress erases the benefits of a healthy diet, and what we can learn from a new Blue Zone identified in southern Italy. The Moment of Paleo segment throws around ideas about working to get ahead. After the Bell features Dan Ariely, professor of economics, discussing whether we are really in control of our own decisions.
Links for this episode:
- Get the Latest in Paleo Health News Ticker!
- This Episode at latestinpaleo.com
- Recommended Books & Audiobooks
- Forward Health Coach |
- Meredith (@geomert) | Twitter
- Adventures in Humaning | Free Listening on SoundCloud
- Facebook – Adventures In Humaning
- Facebook – Eat Well Move Well
- Eat Well Move Well™ – #EatMoveLive52 – Better In A Week!
- Roland Denzel (@rolanddenzel) | Twitter
- Effect of Wearable Technology Combined With a Lifestyle Intervention on Long-term Weight Loss: The IDEA Randomized Clinical Trial | Sep 20, 2016 | JAMA | JAMA Network
- Your Wearable Won’t Help You Lose Weight | TIME
- Could your fitness tracker sabotage your diet? – CNN.com
- Obese Kids Have Different Germs in Their Gut | Health Care | US News
- Obese Kids Have Unique Set of Gut Bacteria
- Gut Bacteria Could Be Making Kids Fat | Motherboard
- Access : Depression, daily stressors and inflammatory responses to high-fat meals: when stress overrides healthier food choices : Molecular Psychiatry
- Chill Out, Ladies. Stress Can Erase the Benefits of Your Healthful Diet | Sci-Tech Today
- Stress May Counteract Effects of a Healthful Diet – The New York Times
- ?A tough day could erase the perks of choosing ‘good’ fat sources, study finds | News Room – The Ohio State University
- How to live to 100: Town of centenarians spills secrets – CNN.com
- Dan Ariely: Are we in control of our own decisions? | TED Talk | TED.com
Visit PuraKai to shop for eco-friendly clothing and stand-up paddle boards. Be sure to use coupon code “latest in paleo” for 15% off all clothing purchases.
Liam Bowler and Carrie Forrest join us to discuss News & Views. We start with three very interesting stories centering around genetics: anxiety’s link to metabolic disorder; the ‘fat gene’ and weight loss; and the latest research on the ‘thrifty gene hypothesis.’ The Moment of Paleo segment furthers some of the themes discussed during the news segment and revolves around boxing ourselves into various narratives. After the Bell features Jennifer Douden, one of the inventors of CRISPR, a genome editing tool.
Links for this episode:
- Get the Free Latest in Paleo Health News Ticker!
- This Episode at latestinpaleo.com
- Latest in Paleo on Facebook
- Book & Audiobook Recommendations
- The Body Awake by Liam Bowler + Dynamic Alignment Bodywork on iTunes
- Dynamic Alignment Bodywork : Liam Bowler, LMP, BCSI
- Liam Bowler, LMP, BCSI — Dynamic Alignment Bodywork – YouTube
- Carrie on Living
- Carrie Forrest, MPH (@carrieonliving) | Twitter
- Carrie on Living
- Carrie Forrest, MPH Nutrition (@carrieonliving) • Instagram photos and videos
- MicroRNA Regulators of Anxiety and Metabolic Disorders: Trends in Molecular Medicine
- Study reveals a biological link between stress and obesity
- Why Anxiety Can Lead To Weight Gain: New Study
- Israeli researchers find first biological link between stress and obesity – Business & Innovation – Jerusalem Post
- FTO genotype and weight loss: systematic review and meta-analysis of 9563 individual participant data from eight randomised controlled trials | The BMJ
- Obesity gene no barrier to weight loss, study shows | Society | The Guardian
- FTO gene not an obesity life sentence: study
- SNPwatch: Gene Variant Linked to Obesity Affects Food Choices in Children
- Analysis of Positive Selection at Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms Associated with Body Mass Index Does Not Support the “Thrifty Gene” Hypothesis: Cell Metabolism
- Obesity Might Not Have Evolved To Protect Us From Starvation | Popular Science
- Human tendency for obesity not result of evolutionary adaption to survive famine | Genetic Literacy Project
- Good Posture Matters More Than You Think | Timi Gustafson, R.D.
- Ways to Avoid and Treat 'Tech Neck' – Story
- 5 Exercises to Remedy "Tech Neck" – How to Treat and Prevent Neck Pain
Visit PuraKai to shop for eco-friendly clothing and stand-up paddle boards. Be sure to use coupon code “latest in paleo” for 15% off all clothing purchases.
Joel Fuhrman, M.D. is our guest on today’s show. We talk about fat, protein, longevity, what foods should be eaten daily, why nuts and seeds are important, why he doesn’t recommend eating too much starch, and so much more. He’s written several best sellers, including Eat to Live and most recently The End of Dieting. He’s also appeared on several PBS specials, published research, and was once the number 3 pairs figure skater in the world. He calls his diet Nutritarian, with immense focus on nutrient density from whole foods. He doesn’t fit neatly into any of the popular diet camps. This episode is information-dense, as Dr. Fuhrman answers my many questions with great detail. Enjoy the show!
Links for this episode:
- This Episode on LatestInPaleo.com
- Get the Free Latest in Paleo Health Ticker
- Food & Other Recommendations
- Book Recommendations
- Smart Nutrition, Superior Health. | DrFuhrman.com
- Eat to Live Blog | DrFuhrman.com
- Joel Fuhrman, MD (@DrFuhrman) | Twitter
- Dr. Fuhrman – YouTube
- Defining the Nutritional and Metabolic Context of FGF21 Using the Geometric Framework: Cell Metabolism
- This New Study Proves That Carbs Are Not Bad For You
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Spoiler alert: No.
Recently, the American Heart Association (AHA) opened an attack on coconut oil.
The basis of AHA’s criticism is the claim that “randomized controlled trials that lowered intake of dietary saturated fat and replaced it with polyunsaturated vegetable oil reduced cardiovascular disease by around 30 percent,” as stated in the advisory’s abstract.
But this message from the AHA is not only false, it is dangerous.
False Claims—None of Cited Studies Involved Coconut Oil
The advisory cites four key clinical trials in support of their position. However, these four clinical trials do not in fact compare the health effects of coconut oil to vegetable oil—instead, the trials analyze certain health effects of standard diets of the 1960s and ’70s, which included large amounts of vegetable oil and margarine, along with butter, eggs, and other foods containing natural fats. As such, few—if any—of the study participants were actually eating coconut oil.
Why then do most doctors—who certainly believe science is an evidence-based practice—accept this argument against coconut oil, despite the lack of evidence?
This is because the advisory (and other organizations like it) conceals truth by misleading the public about the source of the saturated fats used in the studies they cite.
Coconut Oil Is Not a Saturated Fat
Saturated fat is not a food, it’s a kind of fatty acid. Therefore, coconut oil cannot be labeled as such. Coconut oil is, however, high in saturated fatty acids. It also contains monounsaturated fatty acids and even some polyunsaturated fatty acids (or PUFAs). Vegetable oils also contain a blend of all three, but they contain far lower quantities of saturated fatty acids.
Why does this subtle distinction matter? Because when the AHA says that “participants cut their intake of saturated fat,” they’re making a true statement. But what they imply is that participants cut foods that naturally contain saturated fatty acids, like butter and eggs. However, what the AHA fails to disclose is that participants also removed from their diets products like margarine and shortening—foods high in saturated fatty acids indeed, but also high in toxic trans fat.
Though saturated-fat-intake data used in these trials are absent from most of the publications, historical data do show that the average person’s diet was higher in margarine and shortening than it was in butter, lard, and tallow. One must consider that most, or possibly all, of the 1970s-era studies showing a supposed benefit of adding PUFAs are actually evidencing the benefit of cutting out trans fat.
A Dangerous, Nationwide Experiment With Vegetable Oil
Anyone who seriously studies nutrition and its connection to disease comes to the same conclusion: The modern diet is making us sick. Diseases like obesity, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and cancer were far less common in years past, not because we’re living longer now (just consider that what we thought were age-related diseases are now showing up in kids), but because we eat very different foods—that is, processed foods.
Few foods better fit the description of a processed food than does vegetable oil. It is a main ingredient in everything from Twinkies to “healthy” salad dressings. Since the 1950s, the AHA has steadily promoted vegetable oils over saturated fat. And in that time, according to the statistics on fat consumption, we have followed their orders. Soy-oil consumption—the most common vegetable oil—increased by roughly 600 percent. Canola did not exist in the 1950s, but is today the second-most commonly consumed vegetable oil after soy. Meanwhile lard, tallow, and butter consumption have all declined by half, or more.
At the subcellular level, the effects of vegetable oil are sobering. According to Dr. Sanjoy Ghosh at the University of British Columbia, Canada, our bodies cannot easily burn PUFAs. Meaning that when we eat as much vegetable oil as we now do, some of it gets deposited in our omental fat, some in our liver (where it eventually causes fatty liver), and some in our arteries (causing atherosclerosis). And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
This field of study is new, and it’s difficult for scientists to acquire funding to pursue it—still, we do have animal research clearly showing that eating these oils causes uncontrolled weight gains (exceeding the oils’ caloric content), promotes diabetes and fatty liver, and initiates a reluctance to exercise. Plus there is ample human research suggesting that getting off these oils reduces chronic pain, migraines, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis.
Our Answer Is Biochemistry, Not Statistics
Biochemistry is at play from one end of the food chain to the other: In the processing plants where the oils are refined, in the frying pans of restaurant chains and Big Food manufacturers, and eventually in our bodies where they deregulate our natural homeostasis.
Consumption of processed PUFAs leads to uncontrolled reactions between those polyunsaturated fats and oxygen in your body. One consequence of this disruption is inflammation, a factor causing arterial plaque and heart attacks.
The AHA claims that it is the saturated fat that is pro-inflammatory and as such is the cause of heart attacks, but there is no biochemically plausible explanation for their argument. Saturated fat is very stable, and will not react with oxygen the way PUFAs do.
Unfortunately, most people—including doctors—are not familiar enough with the biochemical issues at hand to confidently dismiss the rhetoric we’ve all heard about saturated fat clogging our arteries. The biochemistry involved in imputing PUFAs as the true cause is beyond the scope of this article, but not beyond the scope of a proper medical education.
Vegetable Oils Cause Oxidative Stress
One of the breakdown products of PUFA oxidation is 4-hydroxynonanol. This toxic compound forms inside vegetable-oil bottles during the refining process,1 surfaces in the oils when we cook with them,2 and once the oils are consumed, saturates every tissue inside our bodies.3The more we eat, the more our tissues experience oxidative stress, and effectively the sicker we get.
You could rightly dub oxidative stress the “great disease maker” of our time. We now know that the underlying cause of cardiovascular disease—along with just about every other chronic and degenerative disease under the sun—involves some form of oxidative stress. And because vegetable oil increases oxidative stress the more we consume it, you could rightly call canola, corn, cottonseed, soy, sunflower, safflower (and a few other oils) “death in a bottle.”
The link between PUFA consumption and oxidative stress is not esoteric science. It is a result of basic reactions between molecules. These well-documented molecular processes are as irrefutable and immutable as algebraic equations—just ask the next organic chemist you meet on the street.
Unfortunately, organic chemists do not frequently go on to medical school, so during our education we don’t learn that understanding the oxidation of PUFAs is critical to the practice of preventative and curative medicine.
Without this insight, during our years at medical school most of us do our best to completely forget the organic chemistry reactions that we worked so hard to memorize back in college, in an effort of clearing space in our brain for more relevant knowledge. The nutrition science we do learn involves nonbiochemistry-based strategies—statistical correlations, clinical trials, and physiologic mechanisms.
Since the bulk of these kinds of studies are flawed by some missing piece of biochemical knowledge, this leads to confounding by variables not controlled for, and the churning out of inconsistent and conflicting results.
That’s why one week you hear that eggs are part of a healthy breakfast, and the next week it’s back to the “eggs clog arteries” verdict. That is also why nutrition science has become a team sport, with one side flinging not-so-well-done studies at the other side. We can only settle the debate once and for all by bringing the discussion back to a place where there’s fundamental agreement—namely, basic science.
And when your head is spinning from all the conflicting headlines, news reports, and advisories, just remember: Nature doesn’t make bad fats—factories do.
- Hua, Hongying, et al. “Impact of reﬁning on the levels of 4-hydroxy-trans-alkenals, parent and oxygenated polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in soybean and rapeseed oils.” Food Control 67 (2016): 82-9. Web: researchgate.net/publication/313880604_Impact_of_refining_on_the_levels_of_4-hydroxy-trans-alkenals_parent_and_oxygenated_polycyclic_aromatic_hydrocarbons_in_soybean_and_rapeseed_oils
- Wang, Lei, et al. “Kinetics of Forming Aldehydes in Frying Oils and Their Distribution in French Fries Revealed by LC–MS-Based Chemometrics.” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 64.19 (2016): 3881-9. Web: pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.jafc.6b01127?journalCode=jafcau
Do you know what sugar really does to your brain? In this week’s show with returning guest Dr. David Perlmutter, learn how food changes your genetic code, what sugar does to your brain, and how to maintain health as you age.
Loren Cordain, Ph.D. joins us on today’s show. Dr. Cordain is widely regarded as the father of the modern Paleo approach to diet. We discuss everything from whether the diet should be standardized, the high-protein component of Paleo, how data about hunter-gatherer dietary patterns were collected and analyzed, why the Paleo Diet restricts legumes and potatoes, the role of plant foods, anti-nutrients, the consumption of oils, aging and longevity, calorie restriction, the Blue Zones, and much more. He is the author of The Paleo Diet, The Paleo Diet for Athletes, The Paleo Answer, The Real Paleo Diet Cookbook, many other books, and several research papers. Whether or not you’ve previously heard Cordain speak or lecture, you’ll come away from today’s show with new information. There is also a Moment of Paleo and a talk by Staffan Lindberg After the Bell.
Links for this episode:
- This Episode's Homepage on latestinpaleo.com
- Latest in Paleo on Facebook — Leave a Comment About this Episode or Post a News Link
- The Latest in Paleo Health News Ticker
- Food & Product Recommendations
- Book & Audiobook Recommendations
- Loren Cordain's Books
- Home – The Paleo Diet™
- Paleo Diet Blog | #1 Scientific Paleo Source | Dr. Loren Cordain
- (7) The Paleo Diet
- Loren Cordain (@ThePaleoDiet) | Twitter
- Plant-animal subsistence ratios and macronutrient energy estimations in worldwide hunter-gatherer diets
- Origins and evolution of the Western diet: health implications for the 21st century
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Just like knowing someone’s history can help you understand them better, understanding your DNA can help you better understand your own body’s needs. On today’s show we talk with former Olympic athlete, Craig Pickering. Craig is a former Olympic sprinter and competed in four world championships and the 2008 Olympic Games before switching to bobsleigh and qualifying for the 2014 winter Olympics, making Craig only the eighth British person to be selected for both a summer and winter Olympic Games. There’s no doubt he’s got one heck of a good story and a ton of great insights on human performance to share.
Today Craig heads up another one of his passions called DNAFit. DNAFit uses genetic information to let us know what types of training, food and supplementation will help us maximize our health and athletic performance. We had a chance to take this test and learn all kinds of interesting things and in today’s interview, we get to use our results as an example for how to use this service.
CLICK HERE for the full transcript.
On today’s show we discuss:
- How Craig became a professional athlete.
- Why Craig moved from the 100m Olympic sprint to British Bobsleigh.
- What a bobsleigh is really like, and Craig’s experience.
- Craig’s injury setback and how he got involved in DNAFit.
- What DNAFit is and how DNAFit testing works?
- How DNAFit helped Craig himself.
- What we discovered using the DNAFit test.
- Endurance versus power training. Which is best for me?
- How to navigate your individual injury-risk level.
- The most common diet recommendations that are given out through DNAFit.
- What the caffeine gene is.
- How to reduce trial and error by understanding your DNA.
- How to quit fickle dieting plans for good!
- Any much more!
“I had kind of a choice; either get a real job or find somebody else to pay me to do sports.” — @craig100m [0:05:04.1]
“Being in an actual bobsleigh was horrific.” — @craig100m [0:07:15.1]
“If we know what DNA we’ve got, we can change the training and diet we do to best suit our genetic makeup.” — @craig100m [0:10:53.1]
“The biggest issues around DNA testing is that people aren’t aware that you can do it and how valid it is.” — @craig100m [0:15:11.3]
“There is no good news or bad news, just actionable news.” — @craig100m [0:27:02.3]
“Having a better idea, at the start, of what works for you could be massively important.” — @craig100m [0:37:01.4]
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