I’m making the leap that nutrition matters. Over the years, I’ve been struggling to figure out how to connect this with overall health – because seemingly so many experts eschew the idea that nutrition is a major component of your body working smoothly (what, with the argument that has been made for exercise, exercise, exercise). But how could it not be important? The differences between a Ho-Ho and an organic carrot are…… worlds apart. It’s like putting mashed up corn juice into your car engine instead of 93 octane – one is indigestible and will leave your engine sputtering (with minor explosive releases out the back end) and the other burns hot and leaves considerably less “residue” in its wake. Would you ever take the risk to feed your car the corn mash?
Definitively saying that nutrition packs a punch is tough because we have such a limited understanding about our bodies in this sense: what kind of nutrition/long-term diet is best, what impact exercise has, and what safeguards our bodies have in regards to all kinds of diets (and what we don’t have a safeguard against). An example: we – the American public – look on as scientists find evidence that long-distance runners have increased risk of heart attack due to a thickening of the heart muscles, just as we read the reports of high-sodium diets causing this same myocardial fibrosis. What should we believe? Is it exercise, nutrition, moderation, meditation, spiritual awareness, counting our steps or pledging 10% of our annual income to the Church that makes us have a long and healthy life?
I’m gonna say that nutrition matters. A lot.
Last week, NPR’s All Things Considered did a piece about pregnancy and its relation with predisposing our children to obesity. A major takeaway from the piece was that mother’s weight does, in fact, have serious implications for their children. One study cited that “high pregnancy weight gain is associated with increased body weight of the offspring in childhood.” Another, subtler conclusion was drawn in a quote from Dr. Ludwig, the researcher for that study, that “maternal weight gain… is a good proxy for the quality of diet during pregnancy.”
It’s not a monster leap to make that diet is related with weight, although the posit I’m making is that diet relates with biochemistry and epigenetics, not just with being fat (if that were the case, this issue would be much simpler). Attacking fatness is an easy way out, and rarely examines the real issues behind childhood illness and the way it translates into adult illness.
In a book “Fat Chance” by Dr. Lustig, the argument is made for “developmental programming,” a burgeoning field in medicine that studies the developmental origins of health and disease, assuming that the intrauterine environment in which a fetus is developing can have an effect on how the fetus later relates to the world biochemically. In the words of the author regarding a fetus’ epigenetic response to stress, nutritional and other stimuli: “It’s a tough world out there, kid; best be ready for it.” This book in its entirety examines the relation biochemisty has with behavior, but how does developmental programming play into that? The author alleges that a hostile intrauterine environment, in a wide variety of situations, can drive issues like metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance for the fetus later in the life. These are real-world correlations that have been studied in various contexts (1,2) and have astounding possibilities in terms of what our DNA does regarding its outside propellants.
This is FASCINATING research, and heavily implicates the mother’s environment (chosen and not chosen) in the overall health of coming generations. The main piece here is that unhealthiness begets unhealthiness. And this nation is unhealthy. More to come on issues like this, but the message here is simple: nutrition does matter.