Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Does Nutrition Really Matter?

The Numbers Don’t Lie

The primary driving factor in the growing rates of and the costs associated with chronic disease is diet.  The solution to this problem would appear to be simple, change our diet, yet simple and clear is far from what the public sees.  There are so many special interests associated with this problem that many different solutions confuse the issue.

The best way to answer this question is to look at the actual research data we have regarding it.  While it has been very clear for quite some time, this is often not what the public sees.  A striking new study should bring the real answer into focus.

The study followed over 21,000 adults over 11 years.  Adherence to the Mediterranean and Paleo dietary patterns were assessed. 

Death rates from cancer, cardiovascular disease and from all causes were compared between those with the highest and lowest quintiles (highest 20% to the lowest 20%) of adherence to these two diets.  The results were striking with high adherence to the Paleo diet reducing deaths from 22-28%, while high adherence to the Mediterranean diet reduced risks 32-37%.

The comparable prevention rates of death from about any cause associated with chronic disease is very telling.  The tale is that bad diet drives the risk of death from a broad group of diseases, and good diet offers broad protection against this same spectrum. 

If these results could be produced from a single drug, it would be hailed as a great medical breakthrough and many would be standing in line to get it.  It would also be very expensive and would have its limitations as every drug has been found to. 

For example, improvements in delaying the complications of type two diabetes (TTDM) have been made with the ever-evolving group of medications targeting the disease.  The complications include diseases that diabetes drives such as stroke and heart disease.  While the advances in drug therapy have pushed back these complications by a decade or so, they are simply delayed and will eventually occur.  The problem is that while the complications can be delayed a decade or so, the age of onset of TTDM has plunged from 56 years of age to 40 years of age over the past 40 years.

It is simple math, if you push back the complications associated with a disease by a decade or so but the disease is occurring a decade and a half earlier in life, the battle is being lost.  The real elephant in the room here is that no medication has made any progress with preventing diabetes.  That can only be done with diet.

The only fail-safe solution can be as it always has been – to fix the factors that cause the disease in the first place.  Diet and exercise are the two factors that most associate with risk with diet being the strongest by a long-shot. So, does nutrition really matter?  In fact, as this study shows, it literally is a matter of life and death.

Whalen et al.  Paleolithic and Mediterranean Diet Pattern Scores Are Inversely Associated with All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality in Adults.  Journal Nutrition, 2017.

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