So, according to the commentary posted in this week’s JAMA Internal Medicine, we are in the midst of a “paradigm shift” when it comes to mainstream medicine’s conception of a healthy diet. In a study published in this month’s issue of the aforementioned journal, we learn that, in a prospective cohort of patients, the highest sugar consumers were twice as likely to die from heart disease as the lowest sugar consumers. This study, and the attendant commentary, joins a growing chorus of academic voices who, perhaps somewhat begrudgingly, are reversing their view of what we should conceive of as part of a healthy diet. And the refined carbohydrates (sugar, breads, pastas, etc.) look to be the first to fall.
Bit by bit, we’re slowly undoing the damage wrought by the last half century or so of bad dietary health advice. The days of the “low fat, heart-healthy whole grain” diet are numbered. In fact, were it not for large corporate and government interests invested in maintaining the dietary status quo, I suspect it would have been dead and buried long ago. It won’t receive the quick death it deserves, but it will die nonetheless. When that day comes, there will undoubtedly be countless folks facing the unsettling reality that, for years, in their laudable efforts to comply with dietary guidelines, they had unwittingly been accelerating their own demise. All that sacrifice for naught.
Fortunately, you won’t be one of them.
The most frustrating part of all this is how unnecessary it has been. In a recent post about the myths of the paleo diet, I discussed that, at its core, the ancestral health movement is simply about applying evolutionary biology to the study of human health and nutrition. That’s it. And if we’d been doing this all along, we’d have never been led so far astray. Because, when you add in this perspective, certain professed truths become nearly impossible to defend. Things like:
- grains should be the foundation of a healthy diet
- industrially processed seed and vegetable oil is good for your heart
- animal protein and fat are bad for you
- cooking with chemically altered, trans-fat laden vegetable oil is good for you
- sugar is just a harmless empty calorie
- and so on…
Through the lens of evolutionary biology, these claims look ridiculous, and would require a mountain of evidence in their favor before they were embraced (there is no mountain).
I have little doubt there will be a day in future — whether it be 5 years or 50 — when all of these things will be rejected unequivocally. History tells us that good science ultimately wins out.
Let’s hope for a speedy victory.