Food For Thought

We have evolved as omnivores and I wonder if we take the idea that we can eat anything to the wrong limit. Presumably, in evolutionary terms, it helped us scratch a living from a pretty unfriendly landscape. Our landscape in the world that we refer to as developed has become very friendly to the omnivore. We get an over-abundance of all sorts of stuff that we have very little idea where it came from and what is.

One thing we can be sure about, is that if it tastes really good, it is probably loaded with saturated fat, sugar and salt. This change in our fat-cat food supply is relatively recent being about a hundred years old.

We can evolve surprisingly quickly. For example our digestive system has only taken 3,000 years to enable most adults to drink copious amounts of milk in our lattes and the like. But we don’t have that long to evolve to cope with the current “Western Diet.” The fact that this diet is one to be aspired to is particularly bad news.

The incidence of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and multiple sclerosis all show a strong correlation with our high saturated fat diet.

Type 2 diabetes is strongly in our sights at the moment. Ohtsubo et al in the latest edition of Nature Medicine (1,2) have shown how mice fed on a high saturated fat diet containing a lot of palm oil have an impaired pancreatic function in that their pancreas no longer delivers a sufficient amount of an enzyme that works on the blood glucose levels and facilitates the metabolism of the sugar.

A few weeks ago, the BBC reported on a Newcastle U study by Lim et al (3,4) that showed that by going on a very low calorie, crash liquid diet, a group of patients managed to reduce the fat levels in their pancreases and subsequently got their blood sugar under control.

A big problem is that the dopamine-release reward system in our brains is trained when we are young and then we reinforce it on a daily basis. But it isn’t beyond our skill sets to cut out most saturated fat, sugar and salt and work with unsaturated fats in the kitchen. When our circulation improves, our brains work better and, maybe, so will my cooking.


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