We live in an age of unbridled information, much of it conflicting so how do we know what it true and what is false – and why does it matter?
Well my interest is how food, particularly how it is grown and it matters a lot. False information can make us sick and die young while sound information can keep us healthy into old age.
I was brought up in the world of Newtonian laws – I was taught they were absolute truths then along came Einstein with a new set of laws. But they did not replace the Newtonian laws, they just showed they were conditional e.g. worked well under certain conditions but were not absolute truth but were still incredibly useful.
So it is with food, we may be told that bacon and eggs is not good for our health yet we all know some Uncle Joe who ate bacon and eggs for breakfast every day, lived until the was ninety eight and played football into his late eighties.
So we should forget about finding some absolute truth and look for what is useful and will keep us fit and healthy.
I have always has a bad memory but I learned early on in life that if I really understand the basic principles that I did not need to remember a whole bunch of facts – almost impossible with the saturation level of so called facts we are bombarded with in this information age.
So my interest is in finding out these basic principles which really work.
But before I get stuck into that lets chat about how our brains work.
Managing the information overload
We are so bombarded with facts we can’t possibly hope to analyse everything we are told. But as usual, evolution has provided us with a solution. Call it what you will, dogma, prejudice, working model for lack of a really neat word I will call it ‘mental picture’.
We were brought up to believe certain things from how we should hold our knifes and forks (or chopsticks), political beliefs, religion. For everything we do we have a mental picture of how the world works which means we don’t have to think everything through from scratch – we carry around with us these mental pictures which guides us on how to act.
It may be as simple as sleeping in on Sunday morning to something as complex as climate change or diet and whether bacon is good or bad for us.
And these mental pictures are firmly embedded into us and unless there is some major force we simply do not change them. In fact people can be very clever at protecting their mental pictures. For example fat is bad for us. We are strongly influenced by leading figures, scientist and celebrities. If they consistently tell us that fat is bad we form a mental picture that fat is bad for us and we avoid it.
Then along comes a new set of thinking – which may give us solid scientific evidence that certain vitamins are only fat soluble, so we may be bunging ourselves to the brim with these essential vitamins but our bodies simply cannot access them. Even worse they may be blocking our access to other essential vitamins. For example excess salt (sodium) can block our access to other essential minerals like potassium, magnesium etc.
This is just like Einstein coming along and showing us that the Newtonian world in which we lived was conditional truth.
Yes we need vitamins and mineral (true) but bunging ourselves full of mineral and vitamins is only conditionally true. We need a balance of minerals and vitamins and the appropriate fats so we can access them as a balanced food.
No where is this more evident in the mistaken believe that fat people should eat less and exercise more.
Eat less and exercise more
We can be sure of one very simple fact, that fat in the wrong places is very harmful for our health. Careful science has established this beyond question, diabetes comes from fat in the wrong place. At first we get pre-diabetes as our fat level builds up so we become insulin resistant, but this is not a big deal. It is estimated that about half the population have some issue with insulin resistance – but there is no obvious health issue and they carry on a healthy life as normal with the pancreas just making that extra bit of insulin.
But then the livers begins to fill up with fat and eventually the pancreas so it no longer can produce enough insulin and we have serious diabetes – the sort that leads to becoming a blind cripple.
So the experts, in their infinite wisdom, have advised us that we should eat less fat, and eat less in general as carbs can be readily turned into fats.
This is a conditional truth. There are some people who have completely reversed their diabetes by going on an extreme diet so their bodies have been forced to use up any fat kicking around the body it can lay it hands on (figuratively speaking).
But it misses some key points. A lot of people are fat, and there have always been fat people, but they are just not diabetic, and are often very fit and healthy. Maybe not Olympic standard high jumpers but still fit and healthy.
And these people who go on these extreme diets often end up even fatter a few years later, almost as though the body is fearful of starving and is protect itself from this artificial starvation diet. Like kids hiding their bit of chocolate so their big sister does not pinch it.
It is not that the ‘eat less exercise more’ is wrong, but maybe the opposite of eat more exercise less must surely be, it is simply that it is a conditional or partial truth.
Throughout these pages there is a consistent theme, that our bodies are controlled by an intelligent control system of which our gut biology forms an integral part.
How do I know for sure, well I don’t. No one knows how our intelligent control system actually works, we may know about the hormones, but they are messengers, and we have no idea of how our intelligent control system processes the information to decide to give us a burst of ghrelin or leptin.
But throughout these pages I am posing two questions, does it fit the known facts and is it useful.