24A. Bias and Diets vs Nutrition

Please consider the following regarding nutrition and the bias of nutrition:

The average 20 year old person has eaten three meals per day for 20 years of her life. There are 365 days in a year so multiplying 365 days times 3 meals per day gives 1095 meals per year. Let1s round that off to 1000 meals per year. Because the 20 year-old has been doing this for about 20 years we get 1000 meals per year times 20 years of 20,000 meals. This individual has eaten about 20,000 meals!!!

If the person had done a kata, say Bassai Dai, 20,000 times over twenty years we would consider this person very well versed in the kata. As with the kata we must admit to the expertise of the person who has eaten 20,000 meals. With this experience the person has usually developed a set of preferences and opinions about food, eating and what is good. And, usually, it is unwise to argue with this person about her preferences because she is usually quite opinionated about what is healthy and what is tasty. If the person is not suffering from some nutritional aberration disease such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia, scurvy, obesity or one of the classical diseases of nutrition we really can1t argue much with the persons diet; after all is said and done, she is healthy after 20 years of doing it her way.

In such a situation it becomes very difficult to recommend anything to this person. She has 20 years of experience with 20,000 meals; she has a rather impressive degree of experience and expertise.

But, occasionally the woman has a special desire which is not in accordance with what she is familiar in her 20,000 meals. Often times she has a desire to lose weight in order to fit a remarkably unhealthy magazine cover image. She considers herself 10 pounds overweight according to the magazine cover (when in actuality she may be 5 pounds underweight for prime health). The cunning marketer knows that there are 50,000,000 women in the United States alone who think they are “fat.” The cunning marketer designs a 3diet2 which is partially based on good nutrition principles and partially a profit-making-device. He or she promotes the good nutrition principles and sells the profit-making-device diet-food, or pills or what they call “nutrition supplement” to the market. The cunningly developed plan usually works for some people and they are taken as the 3standard2 which can be marketed more to the public to create yet a larger market Some of these programs are really good. They teach the people to create healthy life-style changes rather than depend on their product. Others of these programs are horrendous using a kind of poisoning of the body which causes illness and during the period of illness the person loses weight. In 25 years as a physician I have seen high-fat diets, low-fat diets, high-protein diets, low-protein diets, free-carbohydrate diets, restricted-carbohydrate diets, miracle-protein supplements, various-vitamin diets and the list goes on. Some offer products at high prices, others are no more than a humanitarian1s mimeographed sheet of paper exhorting the values of a new miracle diet just discovered at some prestigious university. Unfortunately, in my opinion, some of these diets work, at least as far as causing the person to lose weight. I say unfortunately because these diets do not affect lifestyle, they are what the public wants, 3quick results.2

So what if there are 3quick results,2 as soon as the person finishes her diet, unless she has made a lifestyle change along with the diet, she regains the weight she lost. At the same time some shrewd business person has gained money. In fact, this little part of our economy grosses more than a billion dollars every year while the public1s weight yoyos around without much net result.

The weight control business is big business but not in comparison to the vitamin supplement business. Vitamin supplements gross 25 billion dollars annually in the US alone. Vitamins are not bad; neither is the business. So, why do I mention them? The answer lies in the abuse of vitamin supplements. In California this year more people will die from non-intentional overdose of vitamin supplements (especially vitamin A) than will die from any nutritional deficits.

I believe there are few if any health conscious people in the US who have not recognized the importance of vitamins in our diets. Since the discovery of vitamin A in 1915 the research and medical community has recommended these 3vital amines2 in the diet. I will discuss vitamins more later but here I use the over-usage of vitamins and the above mentioned weight-loss gimmicks as examples of how little the public really knows about nutrition and how their lack of knowledge results in their exploitation by business.

To me the weight-loss-diet community has far too many charlatans. They sometimes harm people and cause morbidity and occasional fatality by their hair-brained schemes to get people to lose weight. No month goes by but some karate-ka asks me about this diet, or that diet, or high-protein diet, or Acronym diet or Pseudonym diet. But what they are really asking is not for information regarding these diets. They want me to confirm that this “miracle” diet actually works. And it does in a few people. But it is not the answer. The answer is far more complex than the miracle-worker1s super-diet. The answer is in life-style. I will attempt to address the subject of life-style weight control in a future essay.

In no way do I want to tell you that I know it all, either. The subject is enormous and I do not know very much. I do know enough and have asked enough experts in dietetics and nutrition their opinion to know that what I will mention is close to how things are. If you want to know more there are thousands of good books on the subject. I recommend that you AVOID all diet books which have a “special” character to them. By that I mean books which exhort the carrot diet, or Dr. Brownley1s Miracle Weight Loss Diet Book, or Lose 30 Pounds This Month Dietbook or other specialized books. Keep yourself informed by general knowledge of lifestyle and a balanced approach to nutrition. This path may not lead to super-human weight-loss or super-human energy but it will give you far more than a set of doctor bills in the future.

Here are some excellent sources of information:

• “Wellness: Choices for Health and Fitness” Donatelle, Snow-Harter and Wilcox. Benjamin/Cummings Publishing, Redwood City, California. (This book is quite good for exercise and moderately good for nutrition. Chapters 7 and 8 for a total of about 50 pages deal with the wellness diet and body composition and weight management. I think these sections are good if, perhaps, quite simple. They, at the least, give the overall view of nutrition and weight control in a balanced perspective.)

• “Wellness: Concepts and Applications” Anspaugh, Hamrick, Rosato.
Mosby, St. Louis. (This book is much the same as the book by Donatelle but with a little different slant. In my opinion it is not quite as good as the above book but that is just my personal preference.)

• “Fit and Well: Core Concepts and Labs in Physical Fitness and Wellness” Fahey, Insel, Roth. Mayfield, Mountain View, CA. (This book has quite a unique approach to nutrition with many graphs and charts showing how various components of nutrition interrelate with wellness.)

• “Core Concepts in Health” Insel, Roth, Rollens, Peterson. Mayfield, Mountain View, CA. (This is an adjunct to the above book and repeats a lot but adds some really good information in terms of life-style.)

• “Nutrition, Weight Control, and Exercise” Katch and McArdle. Lea and Fabiger, Philadelphia. (This book is really good although it gets a bit more technical than most people wish to learn. Almost 200 pages in the third edition are dedicated to nutrition and weight control. This is my personal favorite book on the subject.)

• “Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease” Shils and Young. Lea and Fabiger, Philadelphia. (This 1600 page book is a reference book for all aspects of nutrition. It is not easily read unless a person already has a wide background in physiology and biochemistry but this book gives the most detailed account of nutrition that is available in one source.)