Nutrition Should Replace Calorie-Counting,… | The Paleo Diet®
noun_Search_345985 Created with Sketch.
noun_Search_345985 Created with Sketch.

The latest from The Paleo Diet®, just for you.

Hot topics, new recipes, and science

Keep It Simple: Doctors Say Sound Nutrition Should Replace Calorie-Counting and Pharmacotherapy

By Christopher Clark
September 4, 2015
Keep It Simple: Doctors Say Sound Nutrition Should Replace Calorie-Counting and Pharmacotherapy image

When we think about enormously complex problems, like the social and economic burdens of chronic degenerative diseases, we sometimes presume that the solutions must also be complex. Complex problems, however, often have simple, straightforward solutions.

Imagine you’re an astronaut living on a space station powered by enormous solar-powered generators. Your worst-case scenario would be for those generators to break down and for you to be missing the tools required to fix them. In 2012, astronauts aboard the International Space Station found themselves in precisely this situation. One of the station’s power distributors went down, but when the astronauts ventured outside to assess the situation, they discovered that metal shaving had accumulated around several critical bolts.

NASA had equipped them with highly technical tools, but none of their tools could remove the shavings, and if the shavings remained in place, the generator could not be repaired. After a thwarted 8-hour repair attempt, the astronauts went back inside to brainstorm solutions. Finally, they improvised a makeshift tool consisting of an allen wrench and a toothbrush. It worked – a $3 toothbrush saved a $100 billion space station.1

Could the same graceful simplicity be applied to the cardiovascular disease and diabetes crises? The American Heart Association estimates that in 2011 the annual cost of cardiovascular disease and stroke in the US was $320 billion.2 Similarly, the cost of diabetes increased over 40% from 2007 to 2012 and now costs at least $245 billion annually in the US.3

In a new editorial published in Open Heart, Doctors Aseem Malhotra, James DiNicolantonio, and Simon Capewell argue that complex, expensive, and ultimately ineffective “solutions” are exacerbating the heart disease and diabetes crises while simple, relatively inexpensive, effective solutions are being overlooked.

Specifically, they argue, “An exaggerated belief in the (modest) benefits of pharmacotherapy, aggressively reinforced by commercial vested interests, can often mislead patients and doctors, and promotes overtreatment in chronic disease management, and may even distract from and undermine the benefits of simple lifestyle interventions.4

In short, our approach to chronic diseases is one of treating symptoms rather than addressing underlying disease causes. Likewise, our approach to food is one focusing on calorie-counting and energy balance rather than sound nutrition. The diet industry generates $58 billion annually in the US but long-term follow-up studies show the vast majority of dieters regain the weight they lost during diet regimens.5

So what is the solution? In their Open Heart editorial, the doctors point to numerous randomized controlled trials in which simple dietary interventions resulted in dramatic disease risk reductions. In the DART trial, for example, the consumption of fatty fish among survivors of myocardial infarction resulted in a significant 29% reduction in all-cause mortality compared to control patients. Moreover, in an Italian study, the consumption of 1 daily gram of omega-3 fatty acids led to clinically important and statistically significant reductions in all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality.

Higher-fat diets inclusive of nuts, olive oil, oily fish, as well as plenty of vegetables, consistently outperform the antiquated low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet recommended by the American Heart Association with respect to attenuating inflammation, atherosclerosis, and thrombosis. In their editorial, the doctors specifically endorse “a high-fat Mediterranean-type diet and lifestyle.” A high-fat Mediterranean-type diet has remarkable overlaps with the Paleo diet, as both emphasize sound nutritional principles and a widely varied, yet balanced diet. Our modern health problems are complex, but the solutions can be as simple as respecting and embracing the dietary traditions and nutritional wisdom of our ancestors.

REFERENCES

[1] Garber, M. (September 6, 2012). “Behold, the Toothbrush That Just Saved the International Space Station,” The Atlantic.

[2] Mozaffarian, D., et al. (December 17, 2014). “Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics – 2015 Update,” Circulation 2015, 131.

[3] American Diabetes Association. (April 2013). “Economic costs of diabetes in the U.S. in 2012.” Diabetes Care, 36(4).

[4] Malhortra, A., et al. (August 26, 2015). “It is time to stop counting calories, and time instead to promote dietary changes that substantially and rapidly reduce cardiovascular morbidity and mortality,” Open Heart, 2(1).

[5] Strohacker, K., et al. (January 2010). “Influence of obesity, physical inactivity, and weight cycling on chronic inflammation,” Frontiers in Bioscience, 2.

Even More Articles For You

Autoimmune Disease: Drawing the Lines of Defense
Is adopting a Paleo diet the only way to avoid the onslaught of processed foods and food additives that are causing a wide range of autoimmune diseases?
By Stephanie Vuolo
Industrial Meat and Soaking Nuts
Does the industrial feeding of animals change the fat composition and make it unhealthy for us?
By Loren Cordain, Ph.D.
Can Paleo Help Ichthyosis?
A friend of mine is suffering from ichthyosis. It is a rare disease where skin dries out.Can the Paleo Diet bring relief to these type of diseases as well?
By The Paleo Diet® Team
Paleo Leadership
 
Trevor Connor
Trevor Connor

Dr. Loren Cordain’s final graduate student, Trevor Connor, M.S., brings more than a decade of nutrition and physiology expertise to spearhead the new Paleo Diet team.

Mark J Smith
Dr. Mark Smith

One of the original members of the Paleo movement, Mark J. Smith, Ph.D., has spent nearly 30 years advocating for the benefits of Paleo nutrition.

Nell Stephenson
Nell Stephenson

Ironman athlete, mom, author, and nutrition blogger Nell Stephenson has been an influential member of the Paleo movement for over a decade.

Loren Cordain
Dr. Loren Cordain

As a professor at Colorado State University, Dr. Loren Cordain developed The Paleo Diet® through decades of research and collaboration with fellow scientists around the world.