By Dr. Ron Eaker

At first I was mad. Then I was embarrassed. Then I was plain old frustrated. I had just come from a lecture where my world was upended. Maybe that’s a bit melodramatic, but, what I discovered was disturbing.

For the last 40 years of conscious adult life, (I consider myself brain dead and uninformed until I was at least 20) I had been indoctrinated by the concept that eating fat and meat was tantamount to gorging on pork drippings. I thought my proclivity towards vegetarianism was based on science and common sense.  After all, have you ever seen a fat vegan?  I was focused on the 2% body fat that these meat-shunners tended to espouse. I equated skinny with healthy. I know now that this is somewhat like corresponding an English accent with a high-level education, which ain’t necessarily so!

Granted, there are a lot of skinny folks who are fairly healthy and there are a lot of fat folks who are very sick. But there are also some thin people who are sick as colicky sheep and various plump people who are healthier than a hound dog with a pork chop collar.  So fact number one that blew through my narrow preconceptions: what we look like on the outside has very little correlation to what we look like on the inside. It’s way more complicated than that. Statistically, it is more likely for you to have diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer and a wide range of other illnesses if you are seriously overweight. So, I am not advocating being heavy. It’s just that moderation from both ends seems to be the ideal.  It’s not healthy to be normal weight and “over-fat” on the inside.

Fact number two is that sugar along with his devil twin insulin is the root of all evil, not money. Too much money makes you suffer from exuberant luxury and terminal opulence. Too much sugar? You die. We have been bamboozled by years of false teachings regarding nutrition. And unfortunately, the overlords of the medical/nutritional/industrial complex are largely responsible for perpetuating the myth.  I have swallowed this gospel hook, line and lard and have preached for thirty years that a low-fat diet is the holy grail of health. I have since come to understand that this is simply hubristic gobbledygook. 

Firstly, it is astonishingly simplistic. The mechanics of metabolism would make a Swiss watchmaker jealous. And limiting one class of nutrients as the cure to world ills is dangerously dogmatic and simply wrong.  When momma said to eat a balanced diet those many years ago, she was right.  Moderation in all and nothing in excess… except maybe more Star Wars sequels.

Secondly, sometimes something thought of as good can actually turn out to be bad. There was an old Greek philosopher— it’s hard to remember which— who said “everything in moderation, nothing in excess”.  It was known as the Greek Ideal.  In this case, it refers to our old friend insulin.  This pancreatic hormone does a lot of good when present in small quantities. It regulates blood sugar and prevents your serum from becoming molasses.  But when there is too much over a long time, bad things happen. Insulin resistance, like the French resistance, leads to death and destruction.  The insulin problem is at the root of many maladies such as diabetes, obesity, hypertension and impotence.  So, if you control the sugar then you control the insulin.  And in this particular sense sugar is synonymous with carbohydrates.  You can’t lump all carbohydrates together, just as you can’t lump all college professors together. Some are good, some are bad and some just smell funny (it is the same for carbohydrates).  The key is identifying which carbs elevate insulin most and to avoid those as you would a multi-level marketer.  Increase your protein and even your unsaturated fat, but limit carbs if you want to have a long and happy life.

Thus, my new, simplistic nutritional mantra: eat balanced meals, lower your trans-fats and sugar intakes, and load up on fiber.

This article appears in the February 2020 issue of Augusta Family Magazine.
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