11-12-2003
What Is a Healthy Diet? 


Humanity's Original Diet
    Humanity probably couldn't have left the African and Asian until they had developed clothing and tamed fire. Developing clothing would have demanded the ability to tan (or salt-cure) hides, and to fasten them together with some kind of vine or rope.
    The homenid branch of the primate family tree dwelt in the tropics until 100,000 B. C. In the tropics, fruits and vegetables would presumably have been available all year long, but in temperate or sub-arctic climes, fruits and vegetables would have had to be stored through the winter. It's worth noting that in our time, Algiers (38) is at the latitude of Louisville, Kentucky, while Cairo's latitude (30) is between Jacksonville and St. Augustine, Florida. It can get pretty cold in the wintertime in both those places, with snow and ice in Louisville. Humanity may have gotten some practice at living outside the tropics as they gradually diffused to the north coast of Africa.
    Throughout most of homined pre-history, they may have relied upon coconut palms, date palms, breadfruit, and other tropical fruits. However, many other species would have been in competition with them for food.
    From 100,000 B. C. to, perhaps, 40,000 B. C., one branch of homo sapiens lived in the Middle East, as they worked their way north and adapted to the changing of the seasons. By 40,000 B. C. , humans appear in southern France, where hard winters would have assailed them. There, it would have been mandatory to preserve food over the harsh winters, particularly during the Ice Ages.
    Salting meat to preserve it would have appeared sometime in the anthropological record. Fish would have been an ideal and danger-free source of meat, as would small animals. Sun-drying of fruits and vegetables (particularly beans and other legumes) would have furnished a supply of foodstuffs during the long winters. Nuts would have been ideally suited to winter storage. Grains would have kept well, and could have been reconstituted in the winter, or even eaten without preparation. Containers such as gourds to protect food from insects  would have been important. Tubers could have been available even in the dead of winter.
    It would have required quite a bit of organization, both social and methodological, to store up food for the winter. Women apparently took care of the food supply other than hunting.
    Since humans are omnivorous, it would appear that we had a broad-based diet. The occasional stag or elk would have fed a festival, but probably, everyday eating was based upon fruits, nuts, vegetables, grain, and fish and small animals. Anthropological studies have confirmed this, although noting that our forbears' meat was lean, taken from animals that were "on the hoof".
    
    To sum it up, their foodstuffs would have consisted of:

    This doesn't mean that this was an ideal diet, but it was probably the diet we evolved to handle.

Cognition, and the Foods We Eat

Strawberries may boost astronaut performance  - Nature  Rabin's team treated rats to an 8-week diet of 2% frozen strawberry, 98% standard lab chow, then exposed them to a minute's worth of artificially produced cosmic rays. In a motivation test a year on, these rodents beat animals that had been fed a fruit-free diet. They worked twice as hard to press a lever for a food reward. The study suggests that a strawberry-supplemented diet may help astronauts work more effectively in space, claims Rubin. To match the rat dosage, explorers would need to eat a pint of strawberries per day. The reason for the fruit's seemingly protective effect is not known. Antioxidant molecules in blueberries can slow age-related memory decline in rats, says Edward Spangler from the National Institute of Aging, Maryland, who studies the health benefits of fruit. Similar chemicals may help strawberries to shield brain cells from harmful cosmic rays, he speculates. If active ingredients can be identified, they could be synthesized and given to astronauts in tablet form.
Diet May Improve Cognition, Slow Aging, And Protect Against Cosmic Rays - SpaceDaily  "The role of diet in cognitive function is one of the vastly understudied areas in the neurosciences," says Carl W. Cotman, PhD, of the University of California-Irvine. "As these recent studies show, significant new findings are appearing which highlight the importance of this research on diet and cognitive function." "We found that old dogs that were on an antioxidant diet performed better on a variety of cognitive tests than dogs that were not on the diet," says P. Dwight Tapp, PhD, now of the University of California Irvine,"In fact, the dogs eating the antioxidant-fortified foods performed as well as young animals."

    A key point is that foods are being found to have "nutriceutical" properties, and researchers are rushing to learn what these are.
    "The role of diet in cognitive function is one of the vastly understudied areas in the neurosciences," says Carl W. Cotman, PhD, of the University of California-Irvine. "As these recent studies show, significant new findings are appearing which highlight the importance of this research on diet and cognitive function."

    In a related article, Daily Vitamins Could Prevent Vision Loss Among Thousands - Science Daily, a team of Johns Hopkins ophthalmologists and other researchers participating in the National Age-Related Eye Disease Study found that age-related macular degeneration could be averted by daily supplementation with 500 mg. of vitamin C, 400 mg. of vitamin E, 15 mg. of beta carotene, 80 mg. of zinc oxide, and 2 mg. of copper oxide. Their study involved 4,757 adults between the ages of 50 and 80.
    These results are stunning, in that they confirm that:

  1. Macular degeneration is a deficiency disease, and
  2. Dietary supplementation with heavy doses of vitamins and minerals can ward off this dreaded disease.

    This is coming from mainstream medicine!
    Dr. Roy Walford, in his book, "Beyond the 120-year Diet, sets a safe upper limit of 50 mg. of zinc a day for long-term zinc supplementation, and suggests 30 mg. a day as a recommended dose.
    Dr. Walford recommends 100 to 200 mg. a day of d-alpha tocopherol (not the dl version), 100 to 200 mg. a day of d-gamma mixed tocopherols, and 100 mg. a day of mixed tocopherols. This constitutes the complete 8-component vitamin E complex.)
    In considering vitamin supplementation, it may be advisable to take the full complex for each vitamin. Nature put those complementary nutrients in for her own purposes, and we may not yet know fully what they are.

Are We About to Completely Cure Cardiovascular Disease?
    The six articles below point toward the conquest of cardiovascular disease.  
Exercise, Not Diet, May Be Best Defense Against Heart Disease - Science Daily
Drug could help clear coronary arteries - Washington Post Washington Post Washington Post
Protein Reverses Clogged Arteries - ABC
Study- Bone Marrow May Aid Damaged Hearts-
ABC
Researchers Use Patient's Cells to Renew Heart - Google
Cholesterol-lowering drug stops coronary artery disease, study finds - Google  
    Of course, the best way to treat cardiovascular is to prevent it. The traditional maneuvers of vitamin- B6, -B12, folic acid, and omega-3 fatty acid supplementation are still very important dietary maneuvers, along with adjustment of cholesterol and fat intake to match individual requirements. (Different individuals have different body chemistries... something which medicine isn't quite yet equipped to accommodate.) There's also the question competing lethalities. Too low a cholesterol level can be as dangerous as too high a level, opening one to an increased risk of cancer. An ideal cholesterol level is typically between 180 and 200 mg. per deciliter. .Ingestion of "good" fats and attention to triglyceride levels is also important. I suspect that all the degerative diseases, including cardiovascular disease,might  need to be integrated with the results of aging research in order to arrive at optimum overall life extension strategies for different individuals.
    These are momentous discoveries. Cardiovascular disease is the world's leading killer. Its elimination would add 7 or 8 years to our lives.
    It will be three to five years...2006 to 2008... before the infusion of Apo-1 Milano becomes available in the clinic. Lipitor is available today to halt atherosclerosis (but with the above caveat about not running total cholesterol values too low).


Conclusions
    For those who want to cut to the chase without reviewing the past, here are some dietary recommendations.

Fruits

* - One of the startling things about blueberries and strawberries is that they are also "brain boosters"! Apparently,  Oxford University (in England) has been pioneering in this, and Oxford students know things the rest of us don't.
** - The pulp contains bioflavenoids that are part of the "citrus complex".

Vegetables

* - The nutrients in vegetables are more accessible cooked than raw, so that the cell walls are broken down and the nutrients can escape. They should either be steamed or microwaved, so that the nutrients don't escape.  (An alternative approach might be to freeze the vegetables, and then heat them. Freezing should break down their cell walls without cooking them.)
** - We buy a five-grain bread that is better than candy. It's delicious.

Meats and Dairy Products

* - I mix a can of salmon with fat-free mayonnaise and onion, and eat it in a sandwich between two thin-sliced slices of our five-grain bread. Fat-free mayonnaise can also be used to prepare tartar sauce.

Sweeteners

Tomato Sauce

Processed Foods

Coffee, Tea, and Chocolate

More will follow...

 

    One of the dilemmas that has faced most of us over the years has been knowing what kind of diet is good for us. This has changed markedly, if not dramatically, over time. 

U. S. Diets in the Thirties, Forties, and Fifties
    The original U. S. diet that I knew from childhood consisted of bacon (or ham or sausage) and eggs (fried or scrambled) for breakfast, a piece of toast, with jam, and a glass of orange juice. Alternatives were oatmeal with raisins, milk, and sugar; or French toast; or pancakes/waffles, with maple syrup or jam. Lunch would often be a sandwich, with some sort of meat, lettuce, and mayonnaise and a glass of milk. Supper could be almost anything, but dishes such as sliced potatoes and ham  in a cream sauce (i. e., escalloped potatoes and ham), spaghetti made with canned tomatoes, onions, and hamburger, macaroni and cheese, veal cutlets, and various other dishes.. Mother would usually serve a salad, a vegetable, such as English peas, carrots, corn, spinach, cabbage or Brussel spouts, and a dessert, such as pudding, Jello, or occasionally, lemon meringue pie. I wanted chocolate milk or orangeade to drink.
U. S. Diets in the Sixties and Seventies
    As adults, we began to hear about the need to reduce fats, and to eat more chicken. Margarine began to compete with butter. We switched to low-fat milk, and backed away from fried foods.
U. S. Diets in the Eighties
    I became interested in nutrition in 1979, I "got religion" regarding dietary choices. For the first time, I was concerned about having a heart attack because of a spate of heart attacks among neighbors and in my lab. (In retrospect, they were a matter of coincidence.)  I haunted our local medical library seeking answers. 

The Official American Heart Association Recommendations
    In 1979, the official dietary recommendations issued by the American Heart Association were, as I recall, that the American public should reduce its intake of fats from 45% of calories to 35% of calories. Protein was to comprise 15% of calories, and carbohydrates were to provide 50% of total calories. We were enjoined to replace saturated fats with polyunsaturated oils. Hydrogenated fats were OK because they firmed up polyunsaturated oils so that  We were to have several servings of grains each day, including bread, several servings of vegetables, including potatoes (with articles extolling how nutritious is the lowly potato), a serving or two of fruit, and fish, chicken, and egg whites.
    A lot was known or suspected at that time. Coronary artery disease seemed to be unknown in third-world countries, but once they adopted a Western lifestyle or emigrated to the West, Western heart attack rates caught up with them. A diet high in saturated fats and red meat was implicated, but there were still puzzles. Some people had high cholesterol levels, and yet failed to exhibit coronary artery disease. Others had relatively low cholesterol levels, and yet presented with cardiac infarcts. The importance of the ratio of HDL to LDL was known, as was the danger associated with the Apo E-4 lipoprotein fraction. There were numerous arguments over whether the ingestion of eggs had anything to do with overall cholesterol levels, and whether margarine was better for you than butter. 

The Pritikin and Ornish Diets
    Nathan Pritikin and Dean Ornish were pushing for low-fat diets, arguing that among third-worlders and Stone-Age tribes, fats furnished about 10% of the calories in their diets. Then there were the Eskimos who lived on a surfeit of fat, and yet, were total strangers to coronary artery disease. Their resistance to heart disease was correctly attributed to the omega-3 fatty acids they consumed, although it was thought that these functioned only as blood thinners. And there was the Mediterranean diet, rich in red wine and olive oil, that seemed to confer protection against cardiovascular disease. 
Dr. Passwater's Ideas
    And there was Richard Passwater, Ph. D. Dr. Passwater argued that the unsaturated fats in margarine were more chemically active and more dangerous than the fats in butter. And most dangerous of all were the hydrogenated "trans" fats. He urged nutritional supplementation beyond the Minimum Daily Requirements set forth by the U. S. health establishment.
    In 1979, the accepted range of total cholesterol levels in the U. S. was 150 to 300. We also had one of the highest heart attacks rates in the world. The Japanese rate was a small fraction of ours. Obviously, something was very wrong.

I Opt for the Pritikin Diet
    In the summer of 1979, I opted for the Pritikin diet, although not to a rigorous degree. I began eating mackerel when it was available to get omega-3 fatty acids. I also ate sardines, which were packaged in individual cans. I took a multivitamin supplement. I read Albert Rosenfeld's Prolongevity, and researched some of the papers concerning aging. Some of the information about animal models seemed relevant to the arguments raging over butter and eggs.
    Nathan Pritikin argued that you only needed about 10% of your diet in the form of fat, and there was a little fat in everything, including fruits and vegetables, so you didn't need any external sources of fat. There were three essential fatty acids: linoleic acid, linolenic acid, and arachnadonic acid. Arachnadonic acid could be synthesized from the other two, and when push got down to shove, even linolenic acid could be synthesized from linoleic acid, but don't worry about it because fats aren't all that important, anyway.
    I switched to skim milk, and consumed butter and egg yolks sparingly. 

The 1992 Official American Heart Association Recommendations
    By 1992, the U. S. medical establishment had fallen somewhat in line with the Pritikin thesis that fats are bad for you and carbohydrates are good for you. (See, Rebuilding the Food Pyramid  - Scientific American


What's Wrong With the Pritikin Diet
    Today, we know a lot more.

(To Be Continued)


      










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