Diets, Diets, and More Diets!!

By on October 28, 2013
various diet books

By Beth Havey –

We all eat a diet—because the basic definition of diet is the types of food that a person habitually eats. But we have come to know that word as a source of change: you diet to lose weight, gain weight, fight an illness etc.

A recent post by Barbara Berkeley MD states: While we can safely say that diet is important and a strong determinant of health, there is no one diet that has the corner on perfection. In fact, history shows that strict adherence to specific diets does not guarantee the avoidance of medical disaster, no matter how much one believes. Since this is so obviously true, we all need to be careful about those who claim to represent the one true path.

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Longevity: Not Necessarily A Diet Result

To make her point even more interesting, Dr. Berkeley listed some of the most famous diets, their founders and how long they lived.

Nathan Pritikin’s diet, based on low-fat foods like vegetables, grains, and fruits, helped him control his heart disease, but he died of leukemia at 69. Dr. Dean Ornish’s work echoes Pritikin’s as his Spectrum Food Choices lean toward low-fat foods. His diet has been honored for preventing heart disease. He is still living.

Robert Atkins had everyone eating bacon and other saturated fats and avoiding carbs, claiming that a very low carb diet would protect people from obesity and heart disease. People shed pounds, burning fat instead of carbs for energy, but some developed side effects consistent with carbohydrate deficiency—the brain and muscles did not get enough sugar from carbs to maintain their normal function. Atkins died after a fall that could have been related to a cardiac history. An autopsy was not performed. He was 72.

Dr. Roy Walford founded the CRON movement: Calorie Restriction with Optimal Nutrition, based on the theory that extreme longevity can be achieved by long term caloric restriction. Many people have joined the movement, but Walford developed ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and died at age 79.

In the 1980s, when I discovered I had hypoglycemia, nutritionist Adelle Davis was all the rage. Her cookbooks and advice advocated unprocessed foods and avoidance of additives. So you had to bake all your own bread and make your own mayonnaise etc.   She died of bone cancer at 70.

Aveline Kushi and Michio Kushi founded the macrobiotic diet that utilizes high fiber, low fat and mostly vegetarian foods—lots of soy. It was sometimes advised for cancer patients. Aveline adhered to the plan and died of cervical cancer at 78. He died of colon cancer in his 80s.

Another husband and wife team, Marjorie Shostak and Dr. Melvin Konnerand, were both anthropologists who researched diets of ancient peoples. They developed the Paleolithic diet consisting of fish, grass-fed pasture raised meats, eggs, vegetables, fruit, fungi, roots, and nuts. The diet eliminated grains, legumes, dairy products, salt, sugar, and processed foods. He is still living, but she died of breast cancer at age 51.

Ancel Keys wrote a study showing that fat led to heart disease. He left out data, causing researchers to mistrust and criticize his work. The study did affect the American diet as people ate low-fat foods, but increased carbohydrates. Some feel this led to our obesity epidemic. Later in life, Keys advocated the Mediterranean diet. He lived to be 100. Asked if his diet affected his lifespan, he said, “Very likely, but no proof.”

Many remember the fitness and exercise guru, Jack LaLanne. His diet consisted of raw vegetables and fruits, lean animal protein without red meat and vitamin supplements. He totally avoided sugar. Healthy almost to the end, he died at 96.

A recent article in the LA Times revealed once again how fad diets continue to come on the scene and how many of them are just a waste of time and money, not to mention probably bad for your health. Paulette Lambert, director of nutrition at the California Health and Longevity Institute, analyzed the following:

Juicing and Cleanses Lambert states that juicing is high in sugar and increases insulin levels—that’s not good and can lead to diabetes. Another criticism is that the body is consuming a sub-healthy level of calories—bad for you. It’s almost a short-term starvation diet masking as a detox diet.

Gluten-free Diets Lambert agrees that people lose weight when they start eating gluten-free food, but she warns about gluten-free junk food. “Many gluten-free versions of food that normally contain wheat tend to be high in sugar, low in fiber.” She agrees that people with celiac disease need to cut out gluten, but as a diet trend for everyone—it is not good to eliminate whole grains.

Potato Diet This one joins the ranks of other WACKY diets: baby food, cabbage soup, air.  Air, really?  Dr. Adrienne Youdim says that this diet is missing key nutrients. You think? “It also has a high glycemic index and raises blood sugar quickly—problematic for diabetics.”  The reason folks lose weight: “Whenever you limit intake to one food item, overall intake is reduced—so weight loss ensues.”

HCG and other Injections HCG, human chorionic gonadotropin, is a hormone produced during pregnancy. People inject it along with a 500-calorie-a-day diet. The low calorie diet is why they lose weight. The diet and the injection is neither safe nor effective stated the Mayo Clinic and the Food and Drug Administration has warned against HCG injection diet since the 1970s. Dr Youdim warns against any other type of injection as you don’t know exactly what you are getting and an injection could cause a severe allergic reaction.

So there you have it!  The latest on lots of diets.  I would conclude that eating a well-balanced diet that includes lots of vegetables and fruits, whole grains and low-fat meats and fish with sweets now and then is generally the best way to go.

Dr. Berkeley ended her piece writing about her aunt and her father. After reading, what can we conclude?

Heloise Menell was my aunt. She played bridge, often forgot to balance her checkbook, had her hair done religiously and did no exercise. Her diet was heavy on hamburgers and meat. She liked a good stack of onion rings when she could get one. Her refrigerator was always filled with chocolates. She died at 101 after a brief bout of pneumonia.

Jerry Berkeley was my father.  He ate a low fat diet, a ton of bread (none of it whole grain) and a large serving of fat free ice cream with chocolate syrup every night. His vegetable and fruit consumption was minimal.  He walked daily for many years after having a heart attack at the age of 50 but was later prevented from doing so by arthritis.  He died after he fell and hit his head at 99. At the time, he was still traveling and reading the New York Times every day.

Yes, genes! What we inherit has a lot to do with our longevity. Dr. Berkeley also provides these simple reminders: your diet is good if it is helping you achieve healthy blood glucose, blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides, a good weight, good energy and you can stick to it! Find the right diet that works for you.

Thanks to: Barbara Berkeley is an internal medicine physician and bariatrician who blogs at Refuse to Regain.

Alene Dawson LA TIMES



About Beth Havey

Beth Havey is a Boomer, member of the sandwich generation, passionate about health and the snags in the fabric of life that affect our children and grandchildren. Help me slow life down on BOOMER HIGHWAY Be sure to stop and to chat with her.

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Diets, Diets, and More Diets!!