By Marc Braman, MD, MPH
MB (Marc Braman, MD, MPH):
Fad Proof Nutrition – How to know what the best diet is for human beings. I’m Dr. Marc Braman.
Everyone is so confused! Patients are confused. Doctors are confused. There is a new diet book and fad every year, it seems. The nutrition recommendations you hear on the nightly news seem to be changing all the time. People often just give up.
Don’t give up. We are going to help you be free from all that confusion and noise about nutrition. To do this, we need to work with a blank slate though, so…for at least a few minutes we need you to set aside all your assumptions about food and nutrition. Whether it is your master-of-the grill machismo persona, or your rabid tree hugging activism, just let it go for a few. Forget all the diet books you have read and nutrition blogs you have perused. We need you to be free to ask honest questions and find honest answers.
If we really wanted to know what the best nutrition was for human beings, how would we figure that out? What evidence would we want? What would be the very best kind of evidence? Wouldn’t we look at multiple lines or different types of evidence?
Now, if we set about to figure this out, the first thing we would logically want to know is what kind of nutrition produces the longest and healthiest lives for people of all different ethnicities and genetics, all around the planet, the most consistently. It turns out that work has been done. These are “Blue Zones”. Demographers used a blue pen, originally, to circle the Sardinian “Blue Zone.” Before this, they were just areas of demographically proven longevity. Dan Buettner, teamed up with National Geographic and a team of demographers to study the people in these areas to see what they were doing that produced such extraordinary results. On the nutrition aspect, while they have significant cultural food pattern differences, what they all had in common was that their nutrition was 95+% unrefined plant foods. This is not the folklore of the Hunzas with people not really even knowing when they were born and not having the scientific data. These are tangible consistent objective findings.
The second line of evidence we would want to inform us about nutrition would be what are called “controlled clinical trials” of nutrition intervention to treat our common metabolic diseases: diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, and so on. We would see which diets are the most effective at halting or reversing the disease process. So, what do these types of studies show and are they consistent with each other? Our #1 killer is cardiovascular disease. Many studies have demonstrated that nutrition plays a central role in vascular disease and that it can actually be reversed most of the time with lifestyle alone. What is the pattern? The more the diet shifts from our modern “Frankenfoods” toward unrefined plant foods the more the disease halts or reverses. The weight of evidence is very strong and very clear. And the research on other metabolic diseases follows this same pattern.
The third line of evidence we would want to look at is what is patently, in-your-face obvious to every human being. What equipment do we come with built in and what does it’s design demonstrate it is for, in this case as regards to nutrition. What is the most obvious aspect of human anatomy and physiology for eating? Our mouth…our teeth in particular. What kind of teeth do we have? What kinds of materials are the physics of our teeth built for? Do we have bone crushing molars and jaws like a hyena? Do we have long sharp canines like a cat? Are human teeth designed for crushing and grinding grains and vegetables, or ripping and tearing the hide of a buffalo? What kinds of animals have teeth most like ours and what foods do they eat or do best on naturally? It is self evident that humans have teeth for things like biting into apples and turning those pieces of apple into sauce to swallow. If in doubt about this, just trying eating a cow. I guarantee it won’t happen with just your teeth.
One of the important principles of good scientific process is examining agreement or disagreement between different pieces of research or lines of evidence on the same topic. In this case, do our three best lines of evidence agree or disagree? Can we reconcile them? In fact, in this case, they are strikingly in harmony and pointing to the same conclusion: human beings are designed for and run best on primarily unrefined plant foods. There it is. That’s it. That is the big take-home message.
You do not need to be a victim of the latest nutrition fads ever again.
If we are going to make you truly nutritionally fad-proof, we should do a little additional myth-busting of the most common nutritional myths that suck people back into the whirlpool of talking-heads confusion. Look for our next video.
Blue Zones: Lessons From the World’s Longest Lived. Buettner, Dan. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. 2016 Sep/Oct; 318-321. doi:10.1177/1559827616637066.
The burden of disease and the changing task of medicine. Jones DS, Podolsky SH, Greene JA. N Engl J Med. 2012 Jun 21;366(25):2333-8. doi: 10.1056/NEJMp1113569.
US Dietary Guidelines History:
Independent Nutrition Guidance by Many of the World’s Leading Expert:
Effects of the DASH diet alone and in combination with exercise and weight loss on blood pressure and cardiovascular biomarkers in men and women with high blood pressure: the ENCORE study. Blumenthal JA, Babyak MA, Hinderliter A, Watkins LL, Craighead L, Lin PH, Caccia C, Johnson J, Waugh R, Sherwood A. Arch Intern Med. 2010 Jan 25;170(2):126-35. doi: 10.1001/archinternmed.2009.470.
Intensive lifestyle changes for reversal of coronary heart disease. Ornish D, Scherwitz LW, Billings JH, Brown SE, Gould KL, Merritt TA, Sparler S, Armstrong WT, Ports TA, Kirkeeide RL, Hogeboom C, Brand RJ. JAMA. 1998 Dec 16;280(23):2001-7. Erratum in: JAMA 1999 Apr 21;281(15):1380.
A plant-based diet and coronary artery disease: a mandate for effective therapy. Esselstyn CB. J Geriatr Cardiol. 2017 May;14(5):317-320. doi: 10.11909/j.issn.1671-5411.2017.05.004.