What You Eat Really Does Matter

Posted by Dr. Rick Cohen on Aug 21st 2019

In four years of medical school we had only one class on nutrition and that came in the first semester of our first year. It was by far the lowest on the totem pole of our education. Conspicuously this class was after lunch on Wednesdays when there were no more classes for the rest of the day. So, even the most committed of students making it back for nutrition class after lunch and a morning marathon of gross anatomy lab was unlikely.

What You Eat Really Does Matter.

In four years of medical school we had only one class on nutrition and that came in the first semester of our first year. It was by far the lowest on the totem pole of our education. Conspicuously this class was after lunch on Wednesdays when there were no more classes for the rest of the day. So, even the most committed of students making it back for nutrition class after lunch and a morning marathon of gross anatomy lab was unlikely.


Attendance for the nutrition class (I did go a few times) was less than 25% of what it was for the “important” classes of pharmacology, anatomy and physiology. And to be honest, if you missed the class you really didn’t miss much. The professor was by far the most uninspiring of lecturers and the information was solely a didactic on each vitamin and its effects on the body when deficient.


Other than a short lecture on how dietary fat caused heart disease (yes it was the low-fat days) not once did we talk about how what we eat effects how we feel, age and the likelihood of getting diseased. And since there wasn’t an attendance requirement and all the information for the all-important multiple-choice examinations could easily be found in our textbook, there really was no need to attend the class.


This class was so unimportant in the curriculum that in order to entice students to come to a special lecture by a visiting Registered Dietician, we were bribed with a free lunch, that I kid you not, was a buffet of pizza, rolls and butter, coca cola and donuts!


This class was so unimportant in the curriculum that in order to entice students to come to a special lecture by a visiting Registered Dietician, we were bribed with a free lunch, that I kid you not, was a buffet of pizza, rolls and butter, coca cola and donuts!


Well 30 years later, I sure hope medical education has changed, but at least popular knowledge and awareness about the power of food certainly has!


The problem is medical education can take years to adapt. Information is institutional and unfortunately, tied to grants and industry interference. From McDonald’s still sponsoring conferences for dieticians going back to the time when doctors promoted cigarettes as a way to calm nerves.


Check out these old advertisements.

Recently a study published in Lancet and the prestigious British Medical Journal, with the sensationalized headline being “Bad Diet Causes More Deaths than Smoking” Here are two links from the Insider and Runners World which also link out to the full Lancet article.

Recommended

Here is the upshot of the articles.


Diets lacking in “healthy food” are responsible for more deaths across the globe than smoking. The researchers claimed that around 11 million deaths per year - or one in five - are a result of a poor diet. And the diets cutting lives short were found to be particularly high in salt and too low in whole grains and fruit.


The analysis, part of The Global Burden of Disease Study, saw researchers assess the diets of people in 195 countries using data from surveys, sales, and household expenditure from 1990 to 2017. Of the 11 million deaths linked to diet in 2017, 10 million were a result of cardiovascular disease. cancer (913,000 deaths) and Type 2 diabetes (339,000) were the next biggest diet-related killers.


The analysis, part of The Global Burden of Disease Study, saw researchers assess the diets of people in 195 countries using data from surveys, sales, and household expenditure from 1990 to 2017. Of the 11 million deaths linked to diet in 2017, 10 million were a result of cardiovascular disease. cancer (913,000 deaths) and Type 2 diabetes (339,000) were the next biggest diet-related killers.


The global take-home recommendations were that we should be eating more whole grains, fruit, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fish and we should avoid salt, sugary drinks and processed meats. The cost to find out this information was over $25 million dollars!


The global take-home recommendations were that we should be eating more whole grains, fruit, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fish and we should avoid salt, sugary drinks and processed meats. The cost to find out this information was over $25 million dollars!


Other than the cost here’s the problem with almost all of these studies.


While in this case, the conclusion seems fairly obvious but large population studies have been notorious for leading us a stray due to weak data based on subjective surveys. And while it is great to make people aware of the importance of food on health and longevity. Study headlines can be misleading, the recommendations most of the time are not meaningful and never individualized.


A recent example was a new population study that came out with the headlines saying eggs are now bad for us again. While most people read the journalist version of the study, in this case if you spend review the actual study, you will see that the whole premise is based one single food questionnaire that estimated diet going back 17 years with no consideration how it changed over time!


Clearly, almost everyone knows these days that pizza, coke and donuts are not good for our health.


But what should you be eating?


What is a “healthy” diet anyway? For most people it is all too confusing so people just give up or grab on to something that “seems” logical.

If you have a moment check out this quite amusing video on a time traveling dietician

Next week, I will make it easier for you.


Based on my many years of nutritional supporting people, fine-tuning my own personal health and the latest cutting science, I want to provide you a more meaningful strategy with the six steps to take to determine what diet and foods are best for you!