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It's True, You Are What You Eat!

Sep 10, 2008
Have you noticed how many diet and nutrition books there are in the bookshops these days?

It seems that the areas of weight control and nutrition are amongst the most popular of all reading materials, with many well-known stores stocking no fewer than 100 different dietary plans espousing the various virtues of high fat vs low fat, high protein vs low protein and high carb vs low carb.

There quite simply has never been a time in history when so much information has been made readily available to us in the fields of human nutrition and biochemistry. As fitness professionals we should be jumping for joy!

Yet, before we pat ourselves on the back and congratulate ourselves for a job well done we would do well consider the fruits of our collective labour.

Despite (or perhaps because of) our increasing knowledge of the chemical qualities of foods, it is a sad fact that there are currently more clinically and morbidly obese people on the planet than at any other point in history, with statisticians from many first world countries predicting worse yet to come. And it's not just obesity that's on the rise; Diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, mental illness and even cancer have reached record levels too, signifying that the human metabolism has finally reached breaking point and can no longer cope with the excessive demands placed upon it.

Clearly, our understanding of nutrition is lacking. It is time to examine the wisdom of our current nutritional strategies and change our paradigms regarding the dietary advice we give our clients.

The Problem

As fitness professionals we are often called upon to make judgements about the quality and quantity of food that our clients eat in order to maintain and improve their health. Armed with our nutritional advisor certifications and a little extra reading we often find ourselves advising our clients about the foods that they should or should not eat, classifying some foods like fruit and vegetables as "good" whilst we advise that red meats and saturated fats are "bad" and should be avoided at all costs.

These generalisations allow fitness professionals to offer non-prescriptive advice to the masses, for what is generally regarded as "healthy eating" or a "balanced diet". The advice we give our clients has become so accepted as fact that rarely, if ever, do we stop to question the efficacy of this advice, the wisdom behind it and the effect it will have on those that follow it. Rarer yet do we ask the most important question of all;

Good or bad for whom?

The Case For Biochemical Individuality

When Lucretius first said "One man's food is another man's poison" he hit the nail right on the head as far our individual nutritional requirements are concerned.

Indeed, the ancient Romans of Lucretius time, the ancient Greeks of Hippocrates era and the ancient practitioners of Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine were very well-studied in human health and were fully aware of food's amazing power to heal and revitalise as well as its potentially destructive properties. Yet, far from the prescriptive "one size fits all" approach offered by modern nutritional experts, these healers of yesteryear recognised that the healing powers lay not in the food itself but more specifically, how that food interacted with the individual.

In more recent times, researchers like Dr Weston A. Price and Dr Royal Lee have noted from their observations of the indigenous cultures from around the globe, that macro and micro nutrient intake varies greatly from region to region without impairment to the health and well-being of those that survive on their own native diets.

For example, the Inuit Eskimo's of Northern Alaska subsist almost exclusively on seal and whale meat and fat with kelp, nuts and berries forming the remainder. This diet, high in saturated fats and protein breaks every 'rule' of modern western diets yet the Inuit people living on it lead healthy, vital lives and are virtually disease-free. Similarly, yet at the other end of the nutritional spectrum, are the Quetchus Indians of South America who live on predominantly vegetarian diets and yet are still afforded the same benefits of disease-free good health.

It is interesting to note that in each of these cases, that the indigenous peoples surviving on very different and even what would be considered extreme dietary variations are able to maintain a level of health and wellness that is virtually unheard of in western society and yet, when introduced to foods not native to their own geographic regions they exhibit the same illnesses and diseases that are now so rife in the industrialised world.

Quick to pick up on this fact was Dr Roger Willams Ph.D an outstanding biochemist who noted that just as we all have unique fingerprints, iris patterns and external physical characteristics, so too do our internal environments exhibit a distinct individuality also. In fact, Williams discovered that on every level from organ size and shape, to acid/alkaline balance to endocrine system dominance we are each individually unique with unique responses to each and every stimulus that is presented to us; including food.

It would seem that Lucretius was right all along!

Metabolic Typing - Identifying the biochemical types

Our modern knowledge of biochemical identification owes a lot to the work of three men in particular, Dr William Kelly, Dr George Watson and William Wolcott. These men, through extensive research and more than a little trial and error, spent years identifying and recording the characteristics of foods and their interactions with human biochemistry. This accumulated knowledge has resulted in the science that we now call metabolic typing.

Far from the trial and error that it once was, metabolic typing has developed into a science founded on strict principles that allow practitioners to identify specific biochemical interactions that are of benefit or hindrance to each individual. In particular, metabolic typing advisors are trained to identify and understand nine separate systems that are responsible for maintaining biochemical homeostasis.

These are:

The oxidative system - The rate at which fuels are oxidised after consumption. For example, fast oxidisers will use up glucose rapidly and run out of available energy for maintenance and repair. These individuals will require diets that are higher in fat and protein, providing a 'slow-burn' of fuel. Slow oxidisers on the other hand will not be able to get their energy from fat and protein fast enough and will require greater carbohydrates in their diets in order to remain balanced.

The Autonomic Nervous System - The ANS controls all 'automatic' bodily functions such as heart rate, respiration and digestion. Divided into sympathetic and parasympathetic branches, the ANS can provide either an excitatory stimulus 'fight or flight' or an inhibitory one 'rest and digest'. We are usually more dominant in one of these areas than the other and can have our balance thrown out further still by ingesting foods that stimulate either branch.

Catabolic/Anabolic balance - The human body regularly fluctuates between anabolic and catabolic cycles as part of its natural diphasic rhythm. Often though, as a result of a stress that the body cannot cope with it becomes locked into one cycle with energy system disruption occurring as a result. In response to this disruption the cell membrane will either increase or decrease in permeability making nutrient provision and retention difficult.

Acid/Alkaline Balance -George Watson's excellent book 'Nutrition and your mind' highlighted the importance of acid/alkaline balance in treating psychological disorders without drugs. Specifically, he noted that rather than the acid/alkaline qualities of the foods consumed it was their interaction with the biochemistry of the individual that determined their effects. Imbalances here will often cause respiratory and renal stress to increase.

Endocrine type - Research has found that we are each dominated by one of our four endocrine glands. For some it will be adrenal or thyroid whilst for others it may be pituitary or gonads. These glands determine how much excess weight may accumulate on the body. In addition, it is known that specific foods can stimulate specific glands into over or under-production and create unnecessary weight retention.

Prostaglandin Balance - Prostaglandins are made from fatty acids and are involved in virtually every metabolic activity. Disruption to prostaglandin balance can affect hormone production, neurotransmission, immune efficiency, circulation and inflammatory processes as well as others. It is vital to regain balance of PG1 through the reduction of trans-fatty acids (PG2 - vegetable oils) and the correct ratio of PG1(omega6) to PG3 (Omega 3).

Blood Type -In Dr Peter J. D'amo's book 'Eat Right for your type' he introduces the concept of blood-group biased diets that identify our nutritional requirements based upon our ancestral genetic biochemistry. Metabolic typing recognises this as a contributory factor to biochemical balance yet due to global migration and inter-racial breeding across the last few generations this is seen as less important. However, blood typing gives us a good idea about foods that you should avoid.

Constitutional Type - Probably the least 'proven' yet still highly effective area of metabolic typing relates to your constitutional type. Based upon ancient Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine this relates to the elements wood, fire, earth, metal and water and how they present within the individual foods and the individuals themselves.

Electrolyte/fluid balance - When the body fluids become imbalanced or depleted the ability to transport vital nutrients is also seriously affected. In the case of dehydration for example, fluids become more concentrate and 'sluggish' affecting the delivery of nutrients to where they are needed. This can alter endocrine response, acid/alkaline balance and create further negative consequences 'downstream'.

The resulting information from a metabolic typing assessment will lead the advisor to steer their clients to one of three primary dietary protocols:

The carbohydrate type, for example is instructed to eat from carbohydrate rich food groups with plenty of starch and moderate glycemic index values. Although encouraged to eat proteins at every meal their quantity will be low-moderate and ALWAYS of the lower purine, leaner types.

Protein dominant type on the other hand is encouraged to eat diets high in fat, high in protein from heavier, darker meats and lower in carbohydrates.

Mixed types as you may well guess are allowed to eat from both ends of the spectrum.

Far from these three base types however, are myriad permutations allowing for individual factors to be addressed in relation to specific foods and macronutrients ratios. It is this flexibility and adaptability to individual needs that makes metabolic typing such a powerful tool in the arsenal of the health and fitness professional.

In short, metabolic typing is NOT about addressing the effects of ill health such as obesity, hypertension and heart disease, rather it focuses on the simple premise that the quality of every activity in the body, whether it be physiological, psychological or biochemical in nature, depends on the rate, quality and amount of energy available. In other words it addresses the root cause of our clients health problems and focuses on building health rather than tackling disease.

The question that we should be asking ourselves then is this; if the cause of ill health no longer exists, how can there possibly be an effect?

I think you know the answer to that one!
About the Author
Dax Moy is a master personal trainer, performance enhancement specialist and wellness consultant working from his own studios in and around London.

Voted one of the UK's top fitness experts Dax's unique approach to health and fitness is in high demand.

Visit www.lookgreatnakedchallenge.com to download your own free copy of Dax's Elimination Diet
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