Diet and Nutrition

Paul L. Reller L.Ac. / Last Updated: August 03, 2017


Fat, salt and calories, don't get confused by the hype

In the last few decades, the American public has been inundated by the notions of low-fat, low-salt (actually lowered sodium, not salt in general), and caloric intake (the number of energy producing units in foods). For the most part, the commercial food industry has manipulated the debate to sell products and keep the public confused enough to believe some outrageous misinformation and generalization. Public health experts around the world do not, and never have, found that starving the body of dietary fat and salt was healthy. The problem is that these scientists speak in a technical language, which is easily turned on its head when reporting their findings to the public. The real threat to public health occurred when the commercial food industry was able to lobby the government to promote a low fat diet, which opened up the market for substitution for tasty fats with an enormous increase in fructose to make commercial foods taste better, as well as commercial salt in the form of sodium. Both sugar in the form of fructose (sucrose is also half fructose) and sodium (commercial salt) increased the appetite enormously, resulting in much more food consumption. Since fructose is not metabolized like glucose, a quick fuel for our cells, but like fat, this change in the commercial food content created even more fat in the body. Even in the portion of the public that fixed their own food from raw ingredients and avoided excess high-fructose corn syrup and other modified sugars, as well as transfats, in processed foods, though, the public health guidance to drastically decrease healthy fats and stop using healthy salt has generated ill health as well. The degree to which public health misinformation has been disseminated is a scandal, and points to a widespread manipulation of public dietary recommendations by the food industry.

In the last 20 years, the American public has found out that public health recommendations have misled the population in their chief areas of dietary advice, promoting a low-fat, low sodium model that was too simplistic and resulted in even worse public nutritional health. A May 14, 2013 article in the New York Times, entitled Panel Finds No Benefit in Sharply Reducing Sodium, reported that a prestigious expert panel commissioned by the Institutes of Medicine at the request of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) examined all scientific study and found that drastically reducing sodium was shown to actually increase risk of heart disease and mortality, according to the chairman of this panel, Dr. Brian L. Strom, professor of public health at the University of Pennsylvania. A definitive study at the McMaster University School of Medicine in 2015 showed that consuming less than 3 grams of sodium per day presented significant adverse cardiovascular health, and "although lower intake may reduce BP, this may be offset by marked increases in neurohormones and other adverse effects which may paradoxically be adverse" (PMID: 25983308). One needs to know that real salt, or sea salt, is comprised of many essential minerals, not just sodium, and that a teaspoon or two per day supplies the right amount in a healthy diet. On the other hand, sodium is added to most processed and fast food, along with processed sugar, and the totals of these bad forms of salt and sugar are now enormous and an enormous public health threat. The public needs to focus on quality, not quantity, replacing unhealthy fats and sources of salt with the right amounts of quality fats and a complete mineral salt.

For decades, the American public has been given the impression that they just need to eliminate the use of table salt to prevent cardiovascular disease. The truth is that over 70 percent of sodium in the American diet overall comes from processed and fast food, not the addition of table salt. Table salt itself became a problem when we stopped using natural sea salt, a complex and natural blend of minerals that is identical to the normal saline solution in the human body, and started marketing processed table salt that was too rich in the mineral sodium. This modern salt increased sodium content until about one teaspoon of salt contained up to 2000 milligrams of sodium, equal to about two-thirds of the daily recommended consumption. A 2011 study of sodium and potassium consumption, conducted at the McMaster University Population Health Research Institute, followed 28,800 patients age 55 or older with either cardiovascular disease or diabetes diagnosed, and found that reducing sodium intake to less that 3000 milligrams per day (the world population average has been about 3400 milligrams per day for many decades) presents just as much risk of cardiovascular death as consuming over 7000 milligrams per day (an amount that is normal for a person eating a lot of processed and fast food). This expert institute found that lowering sodium levels to those suggested in 2005 recommendations increased cardiovascular death and hospitalization for congestive heart failure. An insufficient level of potassium was also found to be a significant risk factor for stroke in this study population (potassium is obtained mainly from fresh vegetables and fruits). To see a summary of this study go to Additional Information below and click the link. A number of other studies across the world in recent years have also provided sound evidence that decreasing sodium levels drastically resulted in more cardiovascular complications, not less, as our public health guidelines have told us. Instead of an emphasis on achieving a healthy natural intake of quality fats and salts, as well as healthy carbohydrates, the U.S. public health system has instead promoted a notion that buying foods labeled low-fat and low sodium is all that you need to consider.

The real threats to public health in regards to fats, salt and calories boils down to these simple recommendations: 1) a significant amount of total daily nutrition should be in the form of healthy fats and oils, but the modern average diet is too high in meat and dairy fats, altered oils (e.g. transfats), and unhealthy fat/sugar/protein chemicals (advanced glycation endproducts); 2) daily intake of mineral salts is important to maintain healthy function, but the commercial industry has reduced natural salts to a high sodium product and put it in everything commercially produced, even sweets. Eating too much of these processed and commercial fast foods, even sweet snacks, creates a mineral sodium imbalance that is hard for your body to handle. 3) In general, we do not need to eat all the time, and some of the modern processed foods that we take for granted supply many more energy units, or calories, than we can use, especially if we aren't particularly active (such as sitting at a desk and lying on a couch watching TV). We don't need to eliminate salt, stick to low-fat food products, and eat all the time. When we feel tired and fatiqued, it is usually not because we are hypoglycemic and need to eat a snack, but because insulin flux is occurring, usually due to unhealthy dietary habits. Although eating some simple carbohydrate food or stimulant such as caffeine, guarana etc. will, of course, provide some quick feeling of energy, a short burst of glucose, caffeine, or nicotine does not address the real physiological problems of fatique, asthenia, and sluggishness. Carbohydrate rich foods, such as candy and soda, supply many food calories of energy units, and were meant to eat in small portions when we can't get a bigger meal. Instead, we now consume massive amounts of these simple carbohydrates, and eat normal big meals as well. Such smug overconsumption is the privilege of a wealthy society, but not a prescription for health.

The American public, even those that feel that they have adopted healthy diets and read a lot on the subject, generally are still confused over these basic issues. The amount of media hype available in press and internet sourcing has only strengthened the notion that these fundamental ideas of healthy diet cannot be challenged. Many individuals that switched to a vegan diet did not actually fulfill their natural physiological needs, and most people that adopted a dietary faith in one type of system over another ended up believing that the dietary system that they joined up with would provide a promised health. Now, any type of dietary regimen is completely workable, as humans are very adaptable, but ignoring fundamentals and believing that a particular belief system is going to solve all problems by itself, is a fundamental neuroses that seems to pervade human society more and more as time goes by in the modern world, not only in dietary beliefs, but in sociopolitical and religious beliefs as well. Joining a group does not make one a good person by itself, other groups are not composed of intrinsically bad people, and a particular type of dietary protocol does not in itself solve all your dietary health problems.

No matter what type of dietary protocol one tries in order to lose weight or improve health, a number of basic dietary principles must be adhered to. Number one, try to avoid processed and commercial foods, which are now inundated with sugar and high fructose corn syrup, transfats, other unhealthy fats, and imbalanced salts, and almost always lack fiber. Even commercial foods touted as natural, organic, low fat, and healthy alternatives generally lack real fiber, contain much fructose and sodium, contain altered fats, and short chain fatty acids. They also may contain healthy ingredients, but this does not negate the unhealthy ingredients. The diet chosen should provide for the type of individual metabolism, rather than be chosen with a one-size-fits-all mentality. We are not all alike, and out diets should reflect real individual needs. Changing dietary protocols creates adaptive stress and should be accomplished slowly and methodically.

Mineral salts and the widespread health problems associated with deficiency and problems of utilization of key mineral regulators in the body

For decades, experts in nutrition and human biology have warned of the growing prevalence of common mineral deficiencies and the complex interactions of these chemicals leading to poor mineral metabolism and a public health threat. Instead of encouraging a more balanced and healthy dietary intake, the food industry instead adopted strategies that increased this threat. In the early twentieth century, the problem of iodine depletion in the soil through modern farming methods resulted in the adoption of widespread iodine supplementation in salt, as well as the encouragement of the use or addition of iodine in many commercial foods. Universal salt iodization did not always eliminate iodine deficiency disorders, though. Research found that deficiencies of iron, selenium, zinc and Vitamin A retinol could blunt the thyroid regulation and reduce the effectiveness of universal salt iodization. In 2001, the World Health Organization announced that problems of dietary deficiency and utilization of iron, iodine, and Vitamin A molecules were the 3 main health threats associated with nutrition worldwide. The problems of iron, iodine and Vitamin A deficiency were not merely problems with intake, though, but of utilization in the metabolism as well, and for those that still presumed that iron deficiency was only a problem of anemia, these WHO experts found that there are up to 5 times more iron deficient than iron-deficient anemic individuals worldwide. These problems are occurring both in poor undeveloped countries and in rich developed countries such as the United States. These problems of iron, iodine and Vitamin A homeostasis were also interrelated. Further studies showed that while selenium, zinc and Vitamin A retinol were all integral to healthy thyroid function, only the problems of iron homeostasis were clearly associated with thyroid goiter. Restorative medicine is needed to holistically fix these homeostatic dysfunctions, not just the increased purchase of supplements. Complementary and Integrative Medicine in the form of Traditional Chinese Medicine (CIM/TCM) provides this holistic approach to homeostatic restoration.

In a randomized and double-blinded placebo-controlled trial in the Ivory Coast, Africa, of 166 children with goiter that was related to iodine deficiency, despite the children consuming iodized salt, this study found that half of the children that were provided iron supplementation to improve this condition in addition to iodized salt, resolved their thyroid goiter. The research found that by week 12, the reduction in goiter, and improvement of thyroid function and iodine utilization were increased dramatically (see study link below in Additional Information). The research noted that iron deficiency and utilization significantly affected thyroid peroxidase (TPO) activity and subsequently thyroid hormone concentrations in circulation (Sonja Y. Hess; 2003; Interactions between Iodine and Iron Deficiencies; Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich). Problems with iron homeostasis were clearly linked to hypothyroid and hyperthyroid disease as well as goiter. To understand this problem with iron homeostasis, go to the article on this website entitled Iron Overload Toxicity in a Variety of Diseases.