Thursday, 5 March 2009

More than a grain of truth

Searching through Inuit studies, while preparing this blog entry, I came across this:

Recommendations for the American population

The data summarized here suggests that there is value in the definition of MetS [Metabolic Syndrome] and that a nutritional strategy based on CHO [carbohydrate] restriction might sensibly be the "default" diet, the first to be tried, for patients with MetS. In the case of normal weight individuals with MetS, CHO restriction may be the only effective non-pharmacological approach for treating the diversity of symptoms
The five symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome listed are: obesity (high body weight, BMI and/or waist circumference), high glucose and insulin levels, low HDL, high TAG [triglycerides] and high blood pressure.

Now, that was published 16 November 2005 - over THREE YEARS ago. So why has this advice not been given to the American people, and, for that matter, the rest of the world?



Archaeology keeps pushing back the date for the emergence of humans on planet Earth, and the most recent report suggest there is evidence of the earliest homo sapiens at Gademotta in Ethiopia at least 276,000 years ago.

A change of diet
It wasn't until 5,000 BC that cattle, sheep and pigs, reached the British Isles, to alter the diet that had pertained for around 275,500 years. Our ancestors lived mainly on a diet of fish, shellfish, meat from wild animals and birds, eggs, berries and nuts - all raw. When the domesticated animals became established, marine foods seem to have almost disappeared from the diet, for some reason.

Hot pots!
Cooking was discovered sometime before Neanderthal man appeared, and by 2300 BC a huge variety of foods were available, although rice and corn had not been discovered, and the grains that were available were unrefined, with coarse and unleavened flat bread often made from barley.

The English revolutions
In the British Isles, farming continued at a subsistence level, until the century between 1750 and 1850, when there was an agricultural revolution in England, matching the Industrial Revolution. Low-yield rye was replaced by wheat and barley; arable land replace pasture; and new cattle fodder such as clover and turnips was introduced.

Towards the end of this period the yield from cereal crops had increased by about fifty percent, as farmers became more aware of the benefits of nitrogenous fertilizers, both from cow manure and growing clover, pea and bean crops.

Things were quite different in Scotland, where it was too damp for wheat to grow successfully, and oats had long been used by the Celts together with fish and shellfish, wild game and birds, and meat and meat products, such as milk and cheese.

Although the origins of the cattle of the north-east, later bred with others to become the Aberdeen Angus breed, are unknown, representations appear on cave drawings in both Aberdeenshire and Angus, and to the west, Highland cattle have remained a more distinctive, separate breed in the islands and Highlands. The Scottish diet was further influenced by Scandinavian traditions such as the salting and smoking of fish and meats, including pork and mutton.

In England the yield of cereal crops increased with the growing population.

Is it only a coincidence that in the late 1700s there was also an expansion in waistlines, with writers commenting on the obesity that had previously been a rarity?

By 1829 the problem of weight gain in Europe was reflected in the United States, where it had become the subject of preachings by Rev Sylvester Graham of New Jersey, who advocated vegetarianism and wholegrains.

And all the while the production of cereal crops was increasing in leaps and bounds. Sir John Lawes patented the first chemical fertiliser in 1842, and so arable farming began to move from sustainable, organic methods to those of the industrial age.

No bread, thank you.
William Banting had tried every slimming remedy suggested by the medical profession, including low-calorie and starvation diets, but lost only six pounds. Fortunately he consuled Dr William Harvey, who advised him to cut out starches and sugars - it worked. The outcome was the first recorded low-carbohydrate diet, which Banting published, and distributed free, as Letters of Corpulence, in 1862.

Then, as now, the public found it worked, but in a pre-echo of what was to come for Dr Robert Atkins, he was ridiculed by the medical establishment; after all, Banting was only an undertaker - he wasn't 'one of them'!

And so a German doctor, Felix Niemeyer, adapted Banting's diet, to make it more acceptable to the establishment, and it became a high protein diet with both carbohydrate and fat restricted.

Accurate records were not kept at the time, but in the late 19th century deaths from infectious and contagious diseases occurred in both England and Scotland, but England also saw increased health problems caused by obesity, and insurance companies linking it with morbidity and mortality.

Coeliac disease.
In the late 1940s, a Dutch paediatrician, Willem Dicke, made the link between coeliac disease and bread, although it had previously been noted by many that bread aggravated the symptoms. Dicke had noticed that during the Second World War, when supplies of wheat were scarce, children with coeliac disease had improved, and when wheat was returned to the diet after the war's end, the symptoms returned.

More than twenty years later, it was realised that people who suffered with dermatitis herpetiformis responded well to the removal of wheat from the diet. It is estimated that about 1% of the population suffers from dermatitis herpetiformis or coeliac disease.

Up to this point I have taken a variety of sources that support my belief that consuming grains is the primary cause of modern Western diseases, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.

What about more up-to-date studies into the last
population of any size to add grain to its diet, the Inuit.

In 1934, FS Fellows published a study entitled "Mortality in the Native Races of the Territory of Alaska, With Special Reference to Tuberculosis". In it, a table of deaths from cancer in four Alaskan regions, is very revealing. Those in Region 1 ate the most 'Western' foods - wheat flour, sugar, canned goods and vegetable oil - while those in Region 4 ate the least.

This quotation is from the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress 2003 refers to Inuit who ate a totally traditional diet:

"In spite of being obese and sedentary, and having high levels of mercury in their own blood and hair, all 117 Inuit living in the town of Salluit had very healthy cholesterol levels, says Belanger, who adds that mortality from heart
disease among the Inuit is 50% less than the overall rate for uebec. "
And one from Ahmet Selçuk Can, of the Department of Medicine, Istanbul Science University, Turkey, referring to the Genetics of Coronary Artery Disease in Alaska Natives (GOCADAN) Study:

"recent accumulating evidence indicates that dietary carbohydrate restriction with or without weight loss has salutary effects on atherogenic dyslipidemia, the lipid component of the metabolic syndrome. Higher carbohydrate intake over the years was also associated with increasing dental caries in Eskimos. As Eskimos spontaneously consume a lower carbohydrate diet, rather than a physician prescribed diet, and as they are a homogenous conserved population, the requested information will be important to the scientific community."

Researchers seem to keep searching for a magic bullet in the Inuit gene pool that protects them from cardiovascular disease, while most ignore the fact that those who are protected are the ones who don't eat grain!

To misquote James Carville, IT'S THE GRAINS, STUPID!!

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