Saturday, 13 November 2010

Grub's Up: 'DON'T PANIC'!

We stray too far from our evolutionary past at our peril.  I will bang this drum again and again; once you 'get' the paleo idea, once you understand its evolutionary drivers, you are quite well placed to go off and implement it for yourself without too much of a problem.  Without gurus.   Hell, without science.
I don't approve of going against science, but science has been heavily battered and bruised by poor quality research - particularly in the field of nutrition.  This is why we in the West with all our scientists and doctors, nutritionists, medical researchers, education and wealth can suffer a deterioration in personal health that would be alien to an Eskimo living an indigenous existence.  Armed with our conventional wisdom we would, of course, march up to said Eskimo and tell him to 'cut back on the saturated fat and red meat'.

Despite some misgivings, a degree of paleo re-enactment gets us precisely the results we desire.  A good example of modern science really screwing up our health is with rickets. 

Rickets is making a comeback - not amongst the poor, but amongst the middle classes,
  • Computer-obsessed children who spend too long indoors and over-anxious parents who slap on excessive sunscreen are contributing to a sharp rise in cases of the bone disease rickets, doctors are warning.
Having spent much of the 1980s sat in front of first a ZX81 and then a ZX Spectrum, I really don't think that today's kids with their mobile phones and mobile games devices are actually playing inside any more than me or my generation did.  By the late 80s I was obsessed with guitar and would spend a lot of time practising in my room.

Of course I was also outside quite a bit over this same decade - playing army games or on my BMX/skateboard/rollerskates (with no helmet or pads).  And for me, there was even the odd holiday to Spain.  I am sure today's middle class children do much the same - and I'd argue they get more sun-holidays than I ever did. 

I'd wager the BIG difference is actually in the amount of suncream these kids are doused in.  For me, I only wore sun cream in Spain (so that is about three times).  Here in the UK?  Never.

Now contrast this with the last few summers.  As I drop my kids off at Nursery, no one gets to play outside between about early May and late August without a smothering of factor 30.  There is then the addition of a hat.  Come midday, EVERYONE is inside or in heavy shade.  It is crazy.  I have told the staff a few times not to put sun cream on until after 1100hrs and also argued that if she is in the shade, then there really is no need for suncream.

But bizarrely this raises more than a few eyebrows amongst the staff and the other parents.  I have pointed out the requirement of sunlight for the manufacture of vitamin D (better than getting it from a fortified cereal), and have also pointed out that I have a neat trick to adapt to the sun - it's called a tan!  No dice!

Andy why is this solarphobic ritual soooooo deeply ingrained?  Lots of bad pseudo science.  A robust message (don't burn), has snowballed in to an empty mantra that is harming us.

So what of a 'paleo' approach?  At its base implementation, the pain of sun burn would dissuade us from getting too much sun...but long before we get there, getting out in the sun all year round, even in the UK (it IS possible sometimes, even in the depths of winter), and build up that vitamin D (and that tan).  Yep. paleo compass suggests that regular near naked exposure to the sun, even near the tropics, is fine.  We need to account for the evolutionary adaption of skin colour, but 'DON'T PANIC'!

(The upside here is that the middle classes are 'aspirational' and compliant.  They do what they believe to be best for their kids.  They follow the government's advice believing it to be sound.  This is the big problem with the government's position on nutrition.  When the government finally do admit they have got it wrong, the trust of the middle classes in the government will be irreperably damaged.)

There are of course other pseudo scientific mantras that hurt us.  Heart-healthy grains is a great example, riding as it has done on the back of sat-fat phobia.  "Plants good; meat baaaad!"

Personally I don't mind infomercial bullshit as it is easy to spot.  I look at what they are trying to sell me and I simply ask myself 'how the fuck did we evolve without that product, be it slippers/Cheerios/supplement X'?  Once I have concluded that we evolved (quite successfully I might add), without said product, I relax.  I have spotted an infomercial.  I don't need the product.  They are selling it to me to make themselves rich, NOT to make me or my life better.

But things are becoming more convoluted.  Believe it or not, the UK Health Policy will soon be guided by Kelloggs, PepsiCo and others!
  • The Department of Health is putting the fast food companies McDonald's and KFC and processed food and drink manufacturers such as PepsiCo, Kellogg's, Unilever, Mars and Diageo at the heart of writing government policy on obesity, alcohol and diet-related disease...
 Unbelievable.  It is like putting Harold Shipman in charge of the NHS.  I can tell you EXACTLY what such companies will come out with:
  • Eat less,
  • Do more,
  • Eat a balanced diet,
  • Can be enjoyed as part of a calorie controlled diet,
  • A bit of what you fancy does you good,
  • Too much of anything is bad,
  • We've lowered our fat/salt/sugar*  (*delete as appropriate)
Worse is that any nutritionally crap food can carry some strap line along the lines of "assisting the UK Government's Health Eating program" - which will then enable fuckwits (for there are many of them), to make a logical jump that "as the manufacturers are associated with the UK Government's Healthy Eating program, it can't be bad for you can it?"  Aaaarggh!

One good point is that they are talking about getting rid of the 'traffic light system' (can you imagine keeping track of a few of these over the course of a day, each day.  I mean how do you add 'colours' and how the heck do you sustain a running total for each macro and micronutrient AND do all your other stuff day to day?).

Applying my paleo compass I conclude that fatigue dictates when I sleep and how much I get.  Thirst controls when I need to drink and how much.  I get a particular sensation that lets me know when to take a crap or a pee.  So that leaves food - when and how much to eat.   Hmmmm - do I need a timetable or a traffic light?  Nope?  'DON'T PANIC'!  I am going to let hunger and my appetite do all that.

Bug's Life 
So what about real food.  You know, none of that vegetarian crap or highly processed junk.  I am on about REAL food that you can go out and hunt, and eat with minimum preparation.  What about some fine gourmet food that has an optimal protein ratio?  Better still, from a food source that is sustainable?

I am talking about insects.  Welcome to the world of the entomophagist,
Hmmm, time to consult my paleo filter.....those cave paintings - I recall mammoth, buffalo and bees - but no bugs!  Still, as real food goes, bugs beat Twinkies!

Baise Moi!


Methuselah said...

"The Department of Health is putting the fast food companies McDonald's and KFC and processed food and drink manufacturers such as PepsiCo, Kellogg's, Unilever, Mars and Diageo at the heart of writing government policy on obesity, alcohol and diet-related disease"

Excuse me while I go outside and shoot myself.

Asclepius said...

Kind of unreal. :(

Evolutionary Diet said...

"none of that vegetarian crap"

Why be so anti-veggie? Aren't there a lot of paleo vegetables that could be used in a natural whole-food unprocessed salad? Wouldn't our paleo ancestors have eaten lots of fresh raw veggies before the local Caveburger was open for business?

Asclepius said...

When I talk of 'vegetarian crap' I am explicitly talking about those foods developed (!) for the vegetarian market.

So fruits and vegetables I would not consider vegetarian per se. Vegetarians may eat them, but the driver for them is not of a vegetarian origin.

However Facon,Quorn and other foods invented for vegetarians (and would not exist otherwise), are to my mind 'crap'.

I am sure we have middle ground between us with regard to this point.

As for 'raw veggies' - I have a post in progress about that!