|Issue #14 - November 2003|
Welcome to Naturopathic News issue #14. It’s my goal to help you find natural solutions to health problems. This newsletter is one way to do that. The more educated you are about your health options the better able you will be to take control of your health. Any feedback in the form of comments, letters to the editor, success stories, etc., is appreciated.
ONE DIET FITS ALL—I DON’T THINK SO
Atkins, Atkins, Atkins. Seems you can’t open a magazine or turn on a talk show these days without hearing about the Atkins diet. High protein, low carbohydrate, ya da, ya da, ya da. Your brother’s tried it, your aunt’s tried it, maybe your cousin in the Poconos lost 34# in 27 days. Sounds like a good deal. Why not give it a try yourself? One more diet to go on (and to fall off of).
My experience with patients that have gone on an Atkins diet is that they feel good while they are on it, but after a period of time they don’t feel good, it’s too hard to follow, and they stop. Before Atkins had all their products available it was difficult to find foods that fit the scheme. Now between the Atkins labeled items and the ‘low carb’ sections in food stores there are plenty of healthy choices, or are there?
One of the fundamental tenets of naturopathic medicine is Primum non nocere – “First Do No Harm”. This means that one of the fundamental issues I address when I work with people is the safety of what we do. How is this applied in practice? A common example is not to supplement iron unless there is diagnosed iron deficiency anemia. Hemochromatosis, iron overload syndrome, is the most common undiagnosed genetic illness. Many people are taking iron supplements thinking they are doing a good thing. However, they may be harming themselves if there is no demonstrated need for iron. If you do not know, if no one addresses your specific health parameters—family history, genetics, medical history – in other words, “One Size Fits All” (OFSA), that’s where you fall in between the cracks.
Recently I looked at the label of a common ‘health food’ marketed as a low carbohydrate alternative treat or dessert-type food. I will address the 2 most egregious ingredients from my perspective. The first ingredient listed (which means major component) was ‘Protein blend’, consisting of ‘soy protein isolate’ and other sources. Commercial soybeans are one of the crops with the greatest pesticide and herbicide use. I never recommend that anyone consume commercial soy foods for a variety of reasons—hormonal effects, toxic load, immune system effects, etc. Not to mention that people with under-functioning thyroid glands should not be eating soy foods at all—neither commercial, nor organic. You may consume one of these bars as a meal replacement and lower your carbohydrate intake but make yourself sicker in the process.
The other nasty ingredient in these highly profitable, faddishly marketed foods is sucralose. Sucralose is a relatively new, artificial sweetener, a ‘high-intensity’ non-caloric sugar substitute 600x sweeter than white sugar (sucrose). Chlorinating sugar—adding chlorine molecules to sugar, produces Sucralose. You might assume that sucralose is a healthy ingredient; it doesn’t add to your calories, it’s in all these ‘health foods’, it must be good for you. You’d be wrong. WE DON’T KNOW. There are no long-term human studies. In animal studies sucralose has been shown to atrophy immune cells, abort pregnancies, decrease red blood cell counts, and cause diarrhea. When concerns were raised about sucralose’s chlorinated structure (somewhat similar to chlorinated pesticides like DDT that are stored in body fat), the manufacturer claimed that sucralose passed through the body ‘unabsorbed’. However, anywhere from 11-40% of ingested sucralose is absorbed. Marketed sucralose has an estimated purity of 98%. What’s in the other 2%? Fun items like lead, arsenic, methanol (wood alcohol), and chlorinated molecules. Sucralose was a multi-billion dollar business before this latest surge in low carb products. It won’t be taken off the market until long-term ‘human studies’ demonstrate a problem. In other words, you are the guinea pig if you eat these foods.
Am I saying that the Atkins diet is necessarily wrong or bad? No, I’m not. Some estimates are that almost 1/3 of Americans are obese. And over 16 million Americans have pre-diabetes. Clearly something must be done. What I am saying is, any time a “One Size Fits All” approach to health is taken, a great opportunity is lost. The chance to individualize health care. To address what your specific needs are. How else can you truly get well?
Gregory Pais, ND, DHANP