Monday, February 8, 2010

China Study versus Paleo diet/Weston Price

I'm not qualified to answer this question. Ready for me to get preachy? Just skip this whole post if you think it will make you uncomfortable. I'm struggling with some things I've seen around lately, and sometimes just have to get it all out on (ha! I was going to say paper!) my blog to straighten my thoughts out.

One of the favorite blogs I follow: Heather Eats Almond Butter has moved over to a high saturated fat diet (her words not mine). Weston Price has a "Cholesterol for Health" website. Then there's the Paleo diet and its followers that claim that prehistoric man would fast for 18-20 hours and then gorge on high fat animal protein. I also read an article in Outside Magazine "The Athlete's guide to food", where a man tried 4? 5? different diets over the course of a year, and tracked his cholesterol, and body fat, and a bunch of other markers for health, and this type of diet does seem to work. He got the best results following the paleo or the atkins. There are a lot of people that swear by this too --there's the whole Atkins following, and man, a lot of these people really look lean and sculpted. Bodybuilders are probably a lot closer to Weston Price than anything else.

The China Study guy wasn't trying to sell a diet and merchandise however. He was just stating results from peer-reviewed scientific studies he conducted, and those of others such as Esselstein. Long term health, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and many other auto-immune disorders are most positively affected by this type of diet according to these studies. What may be less important to many people, but is a little concern of mine, is how the large scale meat industry runs (I'm not talking about small family operations, but the big industrial operations). They are using so many resources that are subsidized by our tax dollars (I'm talking a lot of oil to transport for one thing, and not just their product, but the corn used to create their product), and raising these animals so inhumanely. This, like I said, is not the reason I'm doing the vegan thing, I'm doing it for health.

I'm puzzled though by all of the anecdotal evidence however that says that people's healthy cholesterol numbers went up, and their bad numbers went down following these high animal fat, "grains are the bad guy", diets. Maybe it's a case of short term results versus long term results, or maybe it's a case of these diet promoters doing what my grad school professors called "massaging the data". Maybe their test subjects were eating fewer calories, and hence the results. Maybe though, there is something valid here.

We've been doing this vegan type of diet for a few months now, and although we're not perfect, (sometimes my one free meal a week is REALLY FREE), we seem to be doing OK. My strength has gone up in my lifting sessions, I recovered from a bout of stress-induced Graves just as quickly, replacing the muscle loss, and Jeff says his muscle mass has literally gone up during this time. We've been really careful whole food, high protein vegans, and we haven't skimped on the nuts and nut butters, but then again overall, we've been pretty low fat. Jeff uses no salad dressing, and mine is usually based on a blended vegetable or fruit, with a pinch of nut butter sometimes to smooth it out. We use salsa as a topping on our bean burgers or burritoes, and use tamari alone on stir-frys. I've been really slow taking off pounds gained during the holidays, but then again that's not unusual for my body, especially when I've had a Graves attack, and I've had about three since then. I always get more in winter (especially with Christmas treats), and this has been a pretty stressful couple of months for me.

I just can't see how it's possible that eating a lot of saturated fat can be good for your arteries and heart. It doesn't make intutitive sense to me. These articles claiming it's the way "nature" intended it, have to believe that nature intended us to heavily rely on cow's milk and its fats for our diet, and intended us to kill a lot of animals, and I'm not sure either was the case. Once again, this isn't about the "poor animals" though, it's about what's good for us. We do have a couple of canines, so maybe once in a while meat eating is reasonable. We don't however have a mouthful of shark teeth. We don't nurse beyond infant stage, so I'm thinking dairy (even just dairy fat) is probably not the most logical diet base. Who knows for sure though. My free meals will still probably always involve dairy or meat in some form, and more power to everyone I know who do great on whatever diet they choose. I'm a caterer too, and I still have my Paula Dean side that periodically gets me into trouble. Sigh. You can't beat cream for making almost any recipe taste better, unless you use butter.


Deja said...

I've been thinking a lot about this lately, too. Mostly because of HEAB. She's disturbing me. Almost wondered if I'd have to stop reading. A big plate of eggs and bacon with a slop of full-fat cream cheese ... I don't know, there.

Anyway, glad you're thinking it out. It saves me from having to do it. ;) Just kidding. Sort of.

I do notice a negative difference when I eat high-dairy. It may be yummy, relatively low calorie protein (I'm taking greek yogurt, not cheese.), but I'm noticeably congested, usually immediately. That can't be normal, right?

And I just can't feel good about upping Sam's saturated fat. Really, no way.

Don Wiss said...

You link to and call it a paleo diet. The diet there is only a paleo-inspired diet. It allows dairy. There is NO dairy on a true paleo diet. In this new page of mine I also list all the variations:

Launie said...

I have tried Atkins in the past and just can't really wrap my mind around the fact that all that meat all the time is a "good" thing. Besides, after about 3 weeks on Atkins I started to fantasize about bread, and that can't be healthy either. Interesting blog Am!

Amara said...

I can't seem to email back to Don, but thank you for the link, that is a MUCH better link for the paleo diet, and I'm changing it.

belann said...

A high protein diet, as the China Study reports, is essentially a calorie restricted diet. Calorie restriction will lower body weight and cholesterol, but at a price. Studies show it cannot be maintained without serious health consequences. Putting my money on the veggies.

Anonymous said...

The book is great, too. It's mostly a HIT workout book, but it touches on food a little bit (Paleo-esque) and on why you need those types of foods more so.