Despite our routine focus on medications, diet is profoundly important in maintaining overall health. Here are a couple of recent examples of articles that help reinforce the significance diet plays:
Scientific American wrote about a key amino acid, Valine, and its potential role in helping with treatment of blood cancer without necessitating radiation or chemotherapy. They report that the absence of valine can inhibit the reproduction of cancerous blood stem cells, thus reducing or negating the need for harsh treatments prior to blood transplants. The down side is that valine is required for development of good blood stem cells as well, so deprivation for too long a period could negatively impact health. There is more research yet to do, but the idea that a dietary restriction could mitigate the need for radiation and chemotherapy is great news for those that face such treatments, and reinforces the power of food in regulating proper function of our bodies.
Another recent article from the Wall Street Journal reminds us of the impact of ingesting too much sugar. Here are some key excerpts:
“Many argue that sugar in moderation is benign, but that assumption has been up for debate for as long as we have added sugar to our diets. Anti-sugar forces (myself included) continue to warn that sugar—both the crystalline variety that we put in our coffee and high-fructose corn syrup—may be a fundamental cause of disease, particularly a condition known as insulin resistance. If we are right, sugar has a uniquely powerful role in causing obesity and diabetes—and thus increases our risk of developing the major chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, associated with these conditions.”
“The sugar industry has long defended itself against the notion that sugar is uniquely fattening by repeating the mantra that a calorie is a calorie. The worst that can be said of sugar, the industry argues, is that it tastes good, which leads us to consume too much of it. ‘There is no difference between the calories that come from sugar or steak or grapefruit or ice cream,’ proclaimed industry ads in the 1950s. That is not actually true, though nutritionists have been slow to come around. Beginning in the 1960s, researchers led by the British nutritionist John Yudkin began to publish the results of experiments in animals and trials in humans suggesting that sugar’s distinctive chemistry had a role in producing an entire cluster of biochemical abnormalities known today as ‘metabolic syndrome.’”
We have previously mentioned the decades-old complicity between the sugar industry and health industry in hiding the ill-effects of sugar consumption, and the continued impact of food industry lobbying efforts with regard to federal nutritional guidelines. Despite their efforts to convey the opposite, there is a clear link between over-consumption of sugar and our increasing obesity, with its accompanying health risks.
We mustn’t assume that all calories are created equal, or that we can just exercise away our bad nutritional habits – though exercise is beneficial. Instead, we should pay more attention to how we are impacted by our diet and ensure we are choosing the right nutrients for ourselves and for our families.