The Science Behind What We Should Eat
January 9, 2019 1:36 p.m.
Related Story: The Science Behind What We Should Eat
Right around this time of year after all of the indulgence of the holiday season is over. Many of us get hit with diet fads and food myths. Dr. David Katz a leading nutritional expert and the founding director of the Yale Gryffen Prevention Research Center is speaking at this week's Scripps natural supplements conference at the Sheraton Hotel in Marina I spoke with him about what we should be eating and how to do so for longevity and disease prevention. Here's that interview.
You've got a new book out called The Truth About Food why Pandas eat bamboo and people get bamboozled what is it that people are missing when it comes to food and dieting.
I think what people are missing is how much nonsense is in the way how diet is essentially a topic in almost every news cycle there is a constant flow of new information competing theories. So you know I really think the big picture that people are missing is that the fundamental time tested truths about diet for health and for pleasure are well established clear the product of science sense and the global consensus of experts. But in order to get to that and the luminous promise it all offers of adding years to your life and life to your years you need the sophistication to wade through all of the misinformation.
And you say the purpose of the book is to really set us all free from fads and false claims and distractions by showing how to differentiate truth from lies what are some of the lies the biggest lies that you've seen out there. And what does research say about them.
Well you know to be honest one of the biggest lies is that we're waiting on the next study and the next news cycle to know what's true about dying how science doesn't work that way at all. So you know our whole culture is sort of in on this. A study comes out it generates headlines and it's as if everything we knew about died unhealth. Up until this morning is tossed out and we start again scratch. That's one of the greatest fallacies of all. It's a misrepresentation of science. We proceed incrementally every study adds to what we already knew it has to be interpreted in context.
So the idea that you know we're waiting for some new study to change everything it is absolute folklore. And you know quite frankly a number of industries profit from pseudo confusion about diet.
So then if you're saying you know the fundamentals haven't changed the science hasn't changed then what should we be eating.
Each new study does matter. But it matters in context what we should be eating is a basic theme where the foods that predominate are minimally processed vegetables fruits whole grains beans lentils nuts and seeds and when you're thirsty you should mostly drink plain water and if you get that basic theme right then pretty much any variant on that theme is fine. So you could be on that theme and have a Mediterranean diet. You could be on that theme and have a. PESCA tear it down. Flexitarian diet vegetarian diet vegan diet even a Kwale or diet.
So you know if you're eating animal products they should be a smaller part of your diet and they should be lean and they shouldn't be from animals that in turn are well-fed and well raised and well treated. But all of the world's best diets and the vast aggregation of evidence from diverse sources ranging from basic science to randomized clinical trials and people point to the same basic theme.
And let me ask you this. You did mention that no one's diet should consist of vegetables and grains and fruit little meat though. Tell me about that. What does does research suggest happens to our body when we have an abundance of meat.
Well you know there are lots of different aspects to this conversation. First if you're going to argue that hey we should eat meat because our Stone Age ancestors were hunter gatherers and the hunting Cartman's meat eating the immediate rebuttal to that is we'll wait just a second. You know what they were eating was the flesh of wild animals. And the real experts in this space paleoanthropologists when they're trying to find a valid comparison say that meat was a lot more like antelope than it was like grain fed beef. And that's a pretty huge difference.
If you take an average cut of steak crown a grain fed steer about 35 percent of the calories come from fat. Most of that fat is saturated and virtually none of it is Omega 3. Contrast that with the flesh of antelope where only 7 percent of the calories come from fat. So one fifth as much. Virtually none of it's saturated and much of its omega 3 so-called fish oil. So pretty much night and day. So the argument about we are adapted to be omnivores we are adapted to meat. OK fine but we should then be talking about the kind of meat we're adapted to eat and it certainly isn't pepperoni and pastrami.
But to answer your question specifically eating the kind of meat most people eat in the modern world so processed meats beef hamburgers and hotdogs and so forth is associated with marked increases in LDL cholesterol which is associated with heart disease marked increases in inflammatory markers in the body associated with heart disease or other chronic diseases. Processed meat has been specifically associated with increased risk of cancer. Red meat in general has been associated with increased risk of certain cancers and on and on it goes. Now this doesn't mean that there can't be any meat in your diet but it does mean that minimally processed plant foods should predominate.
If you want to get not just pleasure but good health from what you eat and so many people say that they've found success with diets such as the Atkins diet and the Kito diet those are two popular ones. What are the dangers of those.
Well you know when you say people say they found success it's interesting. I was writing about this over the weekend actually. So people often define success as short term weight loss. And if that's your measure of success every diet works the grapefruit diet the cabbage soup diet just eat carbs eat no carbs just cut sugar only eat cumquats under the light of a full moon while standing on your left lay. You know it just doesn't matter any severely restricted diet can produce weight loss in the short term. The real question is is it compatible with vitality longevity and for that matter a stable weight.
You don't have to worry about so I think one of our problems as a culture is we do tend to define success as I lost a certain number of pounds in a certain number of weeks. The places around the world Jade where people derive the greatest benefit from diet and I would define that benefit as the combination of pleasure and health. I very much favour the proposition that we can love food that loves us back. Think about the Mediterranean diet in its native homeland. That's a part of the world many of us will very happily go to spend our money to enjoy the food.
But it also happens to be one of the greatest health promoting dietary patterns well in those places. Nobody is defining success as weight loss over six weeks or six months or you know keeping weight off for a year. Success is defined as eating in a way that's culturally normal that's delightful everyday and that oh by the way is conducive to a long life of enviable vitality. And we see that in the world's Bluesville.
All right. I've been speaking with Dr. Katz. You can catch his keynote address January 11. That's this Friday 730 p.m. as part of the 16th annual natural supplements conference hosted by Scripps Center for Integrative Health. Dr. David Katz thank you so much for joining us.
Pleasure to be with you Jane. Happy New Year to you.