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Is Paleo Diet Really As Healthy As You Think It Is?

Various Paleo diet products on wooden table, top view

Proponents of Paleo diet claim that they follow the eating habits of our paleolithic ancestors who roamed the earth from around 2.6 million years ago to 12,000 years ago. We refer to them as hunter-gatherers because they lived on berries and nuts they gathered and the animals they hunted with their crude weapons, before farming changed the way people lived. As you can imagine, their lifestyle was entirely different.

The basis of the Paleo diet is that despite our progress on many counts, there has not been any major mutation  in their DNA , that changed our genetic makeup from that of the Paleolithic man. So the Paleo diet fans insist that our digestive system is still attuned to the diet of the caveman, so we should eat the way he did. In other words, our diet should be predominantly made up of red meat, fish, berries, vegetables, and a few types of nuts. All types of grains, legumes and other seeds have to be avoided because people presumably had access to them after they started agriculture about 10,000 years ago.

The Paleolithic society did not have a specific diet

The diet of the hunter-gatherers depended on availability. It varied not only between different communities but between seasons and geographic areas. They could never insist that meat should be part of their everyday meal. If they happened to kill a caribou, well and good. There would be a celebration. But on other days they would have to make do with the fruits and edible vegetables they gathered. In some seasons, they had to subsist on roots.

It is easy for us to romanticize their life as a blissful existence in the midst of unspoilt nature. To kill and not to be killed at the same time is extremely difficult as any bushman would acknowledge. They were not particularly bothered about nutrition, so they ate whatever came handy, and that could have included small amounts of whole grains and seeds, including peanuts.

We cannot recreate the diet of our hunter-gatherer ancestors

The food stuffs we have today, be it meat, vegetables or fruits, have changed irrevocably in the millennia that separate us from our Paleolithic ancestors. The animals we rear for food are not anything like the wild animals our ancestors chased through the mountains and the plains for food.

High demand for meat has now led to high-tech cattle rearing facilities aimed at higher productivity. They remove the animals from their natural habitat and natural diet, and rear them in controlled environments. It is downright unhealthy for the animals as well as for the people eating their meat, no doubt, but even grass-fed cattle is not the same as their wild counterparts.

It is not much different in the case of vegetables, fruits, and tree nuts. Leave alone hybrids and GMO plants; let’s take the case of heirloom tomatoes. A few centuries earlier, they were tiny berries growing wild in the South American jungles. Simple selective breeding has given us bigger, fleshier and juicier tomatoes. 

Their diet may not have been as healthy as we think

It’s nearly impossible to get hold of the type of plant and animal foods our ancestors ate. Even if we could, it may not even be safe to eat many of them. For instance, wild almond trees generally produce bitter almonds, which are poisonous. We get sweet almonds from the trees selectively cultivated for the absence of the toxic substance that produces bitterness.

The starchy root vegetable cassava is another example. Unless sweet varieties are selectively grown, cassava roots contain cyanide-forming alkaloids, their bitterness directly proportional to the amount of toxin present. Eating the bitter root gives stomach upsets, and the accumulation of the toxin damages the liver and the kidney. But our ancestors may not have had the luxury of choice when faced with death from starvation.

Then how did they live long, healthy lives? They probably did not.

What we learn from their skeletal remains indicate that they had pretty short lives. It could be partly due to the harsh environment, but their diet also could have played a part. Now, this Primal diet is touted as the panacea of all modern ills, from obesity to Alzheimer’s. If the hunter-gatherers did not have age-related degenerative diseases, it could be because they did not reach that age.

Problems in our present day life is no comparison to what the cavemen faced

Their day-to-day existence was a struggle, to say the least. They probably had to travel long distances almost every day in search of food. They might have had to run like an Olympic sprinter when chased by a predator, which wouldn’t be very rare.

The fight or flight hormone adrenaline produced during such stressful situations results in fat-burning at a higher rate. Paleo diet advocates exercise for this very reason, but no amount of workout in the gym can match the adrenaline drive that a real life threatening situation produces.

When it comes to food, we have a problem of plenty, while our ancestors had barely enough. Organic or not, all kinds of berries and vegetables are now available round the year. We have knowledge about what kinds of nutrients our body needs and the means to remedy deficiencies through supplements. The cavemen worried about their day to day survival – longevity was never on their agenda. Our focus is on having a balanced diet and living a long, healthy life. How can we expect to reach our goals through their methods? 

So, what is right about Paleo diet?

The Paleo diet has got a number of things right. For one thing, it shuns all processed foods, including refined sugar; it promotes whole foods and self preparation of meals. Secondly, it recommends good protein sources such as meat from organically grown grass-fed animals. Also, it encourages people to be active.

Is it difficult to see that any sensible diet that advocates the above would be healthy? There’s absolutely no need to drag the caveman into this.

It has been scientifically proven that a protein-rich diet can aid weight loss when there is a moderate calorie restriction and overconsumption of carbohydrates is avoided. It is no secret that processed foods and food additives, including sugar, have to be blamed for half of the nutritional and health problems we face today. Our sedentary lifestyle is probably responsible for the other half.

What makes Paleo diet dangerous?

The absurdity of the Paleo diet aside, it has the potential to have negative effect on your health. Excesses of certain food groups without the balancing effect of other macronutrients can put you in danger. In this case, animal proteins are promoted at the expense of carbohydrates and fats from oil seeds. We are speaking of fish also, let us not forget.

Nutritional pitfalls

Completely eliminating natural food groups such as pulses, grains and seeds puts you at risk of nutritional deficiencies. Our body derives nutrition from different foods in different ways.

Carbohydrates from wholegrain are an important macronutrient that provides a continuous stream of glucose to the body. The digestion of carbohydrates starts in the mouth, but does not get completed until they reach the small intestine and beyond. The microorganisms in the large intestine take care of the breakdown of the resistant starches present in the grains, making many micronutrients available to the body.

Dairy is another food group shunned by Paleo diet fans. Unless a person is lactose intolerant, there’s no reason to avoid dairy, especially the probiotic derivatives like yogurt, whey and cheese. They are not only good protein and calcium sources, but keep the gut flora healthy.

Pulses are excellent vegetable sources of protein; they are known to regulate blood sugar and add soluble fiber to the diet. Seeds such as hemp seeds, chia seeds and sprouted legumes have many health benefits to offer. People miss out on them when these super foods are diligently avoided.

 Damage to the kidneys

High-protein diets are beneficial in many ways, but American diet is generally high on animal protein and low on plant-based foods. Breakdown of proteins results in high amounts toxic nitrogenous waste in the body, which can put tremendous pressure on your kidneys.

Risk of cancer

When you eat a diet high on red meat, the food particles move slowly through the digestive tract, resulting in putrefaction. It releases toxic substances in the large intestine. They can pass into the cells lining the colon, initiating changes that can trigger cancer. People with different types of cancers, including prostate cancer, are found to have better outcome when they are put on a diet free of red meat.

Long term effects

Cutting out several food groups creates a sense of deprivation in the followers of the diet. It has the potential to trigger eating disorders like binge eating. The sheer effort required to stick to the diet can take its toll sooner or later.

Paleo diet has been found to bring about short-term weight reduction mainly from avoiding all processed foods and sugar, but its long-term health risks are not yet know.

 

Eggs and Cholesterol – How many Eggs is too many?

Cracked egg and shell on a white background. Broken chicken egg.

Eggs have long been considered one of the healthiest foods. They are a good source of protein, Vitamins A, B12, D and E, riboflavin, selenium, phosphorus as well as nutrients that are good for the brain and eyes. Some eggs even have omega-3 fatty acids, which may help protect against cardiovascular disease.

Eggs also contain cholesterol. When people think “cholesterol”, the words heart attack, often come to mind. But the truth is that cholesterol plays a quintessential role in the human body. Contrary to the belief that it causes havoc to the body, cholesterol plays a vital role in each and every single cell membrane. In fact, cholesterol is so crucial that the human race would not be a possibility without it as it is used to produce important steroid hormones such as cortisol, testosterone, and estrogen.

The part that cholesterol plays is extremely important and as such, the human body has worked out extensive ways to make sure that there is always availability of it. As obtaining cholesterol from diet is not always advisable, the liver produces it. But when we eat foods that are rich in cholesterol, less is produced by the liver. Therefore, there is minimal change in the total amount of cholesterol in the body if it comes from just diet and not so much from the liver.

Eating Several Whole Eggs a Day

For years, people have been cautioned against the number of eggs, especially egg yolks, they consume per day. The white or the albumen, consisting of mostly protein, is said to be low in cholesterol. People are commonly advised to consume a maximum of 2 to 6 yolks per week. However, scientific proof has not been discovered to support these limitations.

Fortunately, there are a number of excellent studies that can put you at ease. In the research that has been conducted, people were split into two groups. In one group, people eat 1 to 3 whole eggs a day, while the second group eats egg substitutes. The people are then followed by the researchers for several weeks/months.

The studies proved the following:

  • In almost every case, there was a rise in the “good” or HDL cholesterol
  • Sometimes, there was a slight increase in total and LDL cholesterol levels, but usually, no change was recorded
  • An important risk factor, blood triglycerides, can be lowered by eating eggs enriched in Omega-3
  • There is a significant increase in blood levels of carotenoid antioxidants such as Lutein and Zeaxanthine

The studies also showed that the response to whole egg consumption varies from individual to individual. Little to no effect on total or LDL cholesterol was seen in about 70 percent of people. However, a slight rise in numbers was seen in 30 percent of people called “hyper responders.” What the studies point out is that eggs can change the LDL particles from small, dense LDL to large LDL.

This clearly shows that for people who want to maintain a healthy lifestyle, consumption of up to 3 whole eggs per day is perfectly safe. Let your DNA determine your egg intake.

Corporate Wellness Programs Are Catching On In America

25It’s no secret that a company’s employees are vital its success. Unhappy, ill-trained, unproductive employees can adversely effect the bottom line, just as happy, well trained productive employees can help drive revenues. Also shown is that longer work days yield greater fatigue and employee burn out. To maximize employees’ effectiveness and minimize absences and turn over, many companies are investing in their employees and striving to enhance morale on an ongoing basis.

It’s been shown that companies who invest in employee support ultimately improve their bottom line. Research from the University of Warwick found that happier employees were 12% more productive. Employee satisfaction at Google rose 37% as a result of such initiatives.

These types of studies are, at least in part, the reasoning behind so many companies are working to create a fun environment with ping pong tables, drink stations and social outings. Large organizations have added amenities, such as a cafeteria, barber shop and massage chairs to their locations.

Slowly, businesses are starting to realize that more than happiness and training are needed: healthy employees are crucial. To improve employees’ health, some companies have instituted wellness competitions, walking groups and even have on-site (or near by) healthcare clinics specifically for their employees. This trend is known as corporate wellness.

The onsite clinic is a way of keeping the employees at work, and ensure their healthcare needs are met quickly. Less time spent at the doctor or waiting for a scheduled appointment means more time at work. Similarly, with onsite medical care employees tend to be more proactive and seek treatment when they feel they are getting sick, as opposed to when they are already sick. This also leads to more productive time at work and fewer absences.

Since these programs are working well, employers are beginning to understand the need for onsite services. Some bring in entertainment or chefs, while others are looking at a longer term strategy to improve mental, emotional and physical well being: a wellness program.

Wellness programs aim to support and encourage healthier behavior, and typically range from health education to fitness classes. They may include a speaker on healthy eating, a mobile pop-up gym, or even a DNA based diet. Imagine having your employer pay for you to learn what kinds of foods or exercises work best for your particular body and then supporting your health initiative by making those foods available and matching exercise machines accessible. You could lose weight during your lunch hour.

If you’re interested in starting a wellness program at your work place, talk with your coworkers or boss. Find out who else is interested. Before you talk with your company’s decision maker, be sure you can explain the benefits to the company; here are a few to get you started:

  • Employers are able to keep healthcare costs low due to lower absenteeism. Implementing wellness programs has also been shown to have a positive impact on productivity and even raise retention rates. Healthier employees take fewer sick days and are more likely to stay with a company.
  • Chronic diseases account for approximately 86% of the nation’s healthcare costs according to data from the CDC. Conditions from heart disease to obesity and diabetes are also the most preventable of all health problems. Preventing the onset of these diseases starts with education and taking action.
  • Changing behavior is not something that happens overnight. But employees that actually participate in wellness programs and are held accountable benefit tremendously. It also builds a sense of camaraderie among other employees.
  • Wellness programs give employees a chance to engage in activities outside of work from going to the gym or having healthy meals together. This type of social support is simply priceless and contributes to increased job and life

Corporate wellness is a growing trend. As an added benefit for employees, these programs have proven beneficial for the employer as well as the employees.

 

Is Medicine the Best Option?

picModern medicine has seen significant advances. It seems like there is a cure, treatment or procedure for handling most conditions. Most homes are stocked with antibiotics, ointments, disinfectants, sanitizers and more. We are well prepared to be 99% germ-free, right? Maybe, but is are medications the best treatment?

 

Let’s look at eczema as an example. There are a plethora of creams, ointments, even steroids to help quell the skin condition. While it might be necessary to treat an open wound or infection – if it’s gotten out of control, most of the time it’s not that bad and can managed in other ways.

 

By treating the condition, we aren’t looking at the surrounding factors, or the causes. It’s important to look at the whole situation rather than solely focus on the condition, because treating the surrounding factors may be able to alleviate the issue all together. Plus, there may be alternatives that are just as – or more effective than medicine – and may save you money.

 

Depending on what sets off their condition, they would want to limit that particular variable. In the eczema example, one might limit the amount of sugar they eat or the stresses in their lives.

 

Similarly, to alleviate knee or ankle pain, an overweight person may decide to lose weight. By losing weight, they take off some of the pressure on their joints, thus reducing, or eliminating, the pain.

 

Treating the cause rather than the symptom makes a lot of sense. It also helps keep us healthier by reducing the quantity of pharmaceuticals we ingest. Imagine taking a pain reliever every day for knee pain and applying a medicated cream every night for a skin issue. Between these two medications alone, the body ingests more chemicals and compounds than it wants.

 

Now, add an antihistamine for allergies and an antibiotic for the scrape on your leg. Even more compounds and chemicals are being absorbed by your body.

 

If you have high cholesterol, high blood pressure or are sick, you might take even more medications. It’s easy to see how quickly the list of pharmaceuticals grows. However, it may not have to.

 

If you limit stress, lose weight, consume local honey rather than commercial and wash your scrape, you might be able to avoid most of the medications.

 

Of course, there are times when medicine is absolutely necessary.

 

However sometimes the best option has nothing to do with medicine. Intuition can prove to be extremely beneficial for your health in many ways. After all, no one knows your body better than you do. It starts with taking a moment to actually listen to your body.

 

Listen to the clues your body is giving you. Consult with your healthcare provider before resorting to taking medication and check-in with yourself to determine if your lifestyle could be causing the ailment.

 

Take listening to your body to the next level by getting your DNA tested. Your DNA says a lot about your health.

 

Advances in technology have made DNA testing affordable and accessible to the public. Getting a test is highly beneficial so you can make changes to your lifestyle.

 

DNA analysis can also provide you with a personalized nutrition plan. The data reveals how your body metabolizes nutrients. This is absolutely invaluable as it enables a balanced diet of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats that are conducive for a healthier lifestyle.

 

Why is this important?

 

Because poor nutrition has links to a number of health problems from diabetes to heart disease. If you notice any irregularities with your body, the answer may not be medication but rather changing to a healthier diet.

8 Nutrition Myths Busted!

Nutrition facts

Wherever nutrition is involved, it can be a difficult task to separate fact from fiction. Whether you get information from a friend, the Internet or a magazine, no matter how credible it sounds, you should be skeptical. One source started a large number of these fitness and nutrition myths, and once they went viral, people treated them like facts. Here is a look at 8 nutrition myths busted wide open by science.

  1. The healthiest diet is a high-carb, low fat diet with plenty of grains: A couple of decades ago, a high-carb, low-fat diet was recommended for everyone. At the time, there weren’t studies that showed this diet could prevent disease and illness. Since then, there have been many high quality studies, including the largest nutrition study in history, the Women’s Health Initiative, about diet. The results were clear – the high-carb low-fat diet does not reduce the risk of heart disease, prevent cancer, or promote weight loss. It is better than eating McDonald’s though!
  2. Salt intake should be controlled to reduce strokes and heart attack and lower blood pressure: Many people still believe this myth, even given the fact that there isn’t any scientific support to support this. While lowering salt intake can lower blood pressure by 1 to 5mm/Hg, it does not affect strokes, heart attacks, or death. However, you may be an exception if you suffer from certain health conditions like salt-sensitive hypertension.
  3. Whole wheat should be part of a healthy, balanced diet: For centuries, wheat has been a part of the diet but genetic tampering in the 60s changed it significantly. The modern wheat you eat today is actually less nutritious than the older wheat. According to preliminary studies, wheat today may increase inflammatory markers and cholesterol levels. It also causes bloating, pain, and fatigue among those suffering from IBS.
  4. Full-fat dairy products increase the risk of obesity and heart disease: Dairy products with high fat content are one of the richest sources of saturated fat and have high calorie content. Because of this, people are told to eat low-fat dairy products. However, studies do not support this. Eating full-fat dairy products has no connection to heart disease and has even been shown to lower the risk of obesity. There have been studies in countries where cows are grass-fed that show that full-fat dairy products may reduce the risk of heart disease by up to 69%.
  5. Oranges are the best Vitamin C source: People trying to meet their daily Vitamin C needs may reach for some orange juice or grab a couple of oranges to eat as a snack. However, there are many other better ways to get the Vitamin C you need. According to Health, there is about 69.7 mg of the nutrient in a medium-sized orange, but you get almost triple that amount in bell peppers. Kiwi, strawberries, mango, broccoli, and cauliflower all contain more Vitamin C than oranges.
  6. Coffee is unhealthy: Coffee has been considered unhealthy for a long time, mostly due to the caffeine. However, studies show that this beverage actually has some great health benefits. This may be due to the fact that coffee is a rich source of antioxidants. In fact, it has more antioxidants than fruits and veggies combined. If you drink coffee, you have a much lower risk of type II diabetes, depression, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and others. Some studies have even shown that coffee drinkers live longer than those who do not.
  7. Eggs can cause heart disease: Due to the large amounts of cholesterol, eggs are thought to be bad for health. However, it does not necessarily mean that dietary cholesterol increases blood cholesterol and there have never been studies that prove that eggs are bad for health. In fact, eggs are one of the most nutritious foods, loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Studies show that consuming eggs can actually improve the blood lipid profile. They increase HDL cholesterol change small, dense LDL to large. Some studies have also shown that eggs for breakfast may actually help in weight loss.
  8. Low-fat foods are healthy due to low content of saturated fat and calories: When people were first told that low-fat foods are one of the healthiest types of food, manufacturers everywhere created all types of low-fat “health foods”. The problem was that these foods tasted terrible as all the fat was removed. Manufacturers then added loads of sugar to improve the taste, actually making them extremely unhealthy. The fact is that excess sugar causes a lot of harm while the naturally-present fat in foods does not.

There are many myths that people often believe, despite the fact there is no scientific evidence to back them up. It is important to know the facts, especially when it comes to health and nutrition, so make sure you find out the truth before you believe what you hear or read.

There are exceptions to every rule, so be sure to talk with your health care provider about how these fit with your GenoVive DNA diet.