Generic Advice And The Deathly Hallows

Memento Mori. Remember Death. Even when Latin was known and bubonic plague stalked the land, Memento Mori, was not an injunction to rush into death’s embrace.

And yet, just such a rush is created by generic advice. I’m often faulted for not providing more specific advice, actually more generic advice, in these posts. For crying out loud, one of the things I am trying to teach is that generic advice is often wrong; deadly, tellingly wrong.

Examples? ‘Eat Whole Grain!’ What if you have Celiac disease? The government’s decades-long injunction to eat whole grains has killed, yes, I said it, has killed thousands of people. Who is responsible for that? I can still remember as a child how I would feel bloated, tired and achy after a breakfast of ‘whole grain pancakes.’ It would be many years and a medical degree before I associated this feeling with the chance that I had Celiac disease. Not everyone is so lucky; with the generic advice to eat whole grains and the further inducement that we need the fiber of whole grain, almost no one associates feeling bad with this possibility. Rarely do docs check for this problem; why would they, when everyone knows we need whole grains in our diet? By the way, along the way, fiber is one of the most oversold commodities there is this side of ice to the Eskimos.

‘Eat low fat!” Without question this injunction has killed thousands, many thousands, in the many years we have heard this advice.

How? Well, that 20% of the population that has severe insulin resistance and who followed this advice and sought to avoid fats began to eat, well, whole grains and potatoes and low fat, no fat, milk and dairy. So then they avoided the healthy fats of whole fat milk, now known to protect against diabetes and to improve insulin resistance, and may well have suffered the double insult of Celiac disease, the two problems are allocated together more than chance would provide and, of course, if you avoid fat you have to eat something and wind up eating things far worse for you than any fat. Hmmm… obesity and diabetes epidemic anyone?

‘Don’t eat anything with cholesterol as it causes heart disease!’ OK? The American Heart Association encourages Americans to consume around 300 mg of dietary cholesterol per day. Now it turns out that dietary cholesterol affects blood cholesterol levels in very few people; furthermore, the liver can ‘choose’ to synthesize cholesterol out of almost anything- coffee anyone?- to the tune of many thousands of milligrams per day. Dietary cholesterol is the proverbial ‘inappropriate releasing of gas in the wind’ compared to what the body does everyday. As a result of the ‘generic advice’ to eat a low cholesterol diet an entire country, America not alone in this, changed it’s eating behavior, changed the way foods were processed, invented new technologies, markets, companies and products and even agriculture: for example, soybeans and high fructose corn syrup as food staples grew out of this dietary earthquake. Almost all of these changes have been harmful and more and more widely this is being acknowledged.

Now, ‘kill’ is a strong word. Still, it does not presume intent the way ‘murder’ does, but it certainly does not exclude any chance for there being someone or something responsible for the death. I think the nearest culprit is the one that Pogo found- how many of you remember Pogo?: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

If you can avoid it don’t fall for generic advice, be it for supplements, drugs, diets or exercise. Check things, measure things, look deeper; spend some money on tests for crying out loud.

Generic advice, government mandated dietary behavior- school lunches must include no fat milk!- are often urged on us as a kind of social responsibility. Pure acts of social justice. Spending money on the testing and validation of specific diets in each person is deemed socially irresponsible.  Don’t buy this line of thought. I mantain they are the purest form of injustice; they kill the innocent. If our wealth is not merely to feed, house and clothe us, then surely the next thing on the list is that money be spent to guide and protect our health.

Forgive me this is a short one today.

Have Fun, Smile, God Speed,

Dr. Mike

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