33 Myths Of Health, Nutrition & Weight Loss
by Vic Cherikoff
Health, nutrition and weight loss share many common elements so the following myths are only roughly sorted between the three categories. Each myth topic response is backed by research published in peer-reviewed papers in academic journals, books, conference proceedings or other qualified and discoverable sources.
To disclose the reason behind this information, let me say that these myths are a result of modern marketing and food commoditization. In pre-agricultural times amongst traditionally-living cultures in Australia, Africa and the Americas, the incidences of cancer, ischaemic heart disease, obesity, diabetes, gout or mental diseases were “extremely rare” – actually no evidence was found.
Eventually weight will be lost as starvation progresses and approaches the three weeks before we die from the lack of food as substrates which feed our mitochondria (which are our cellular energy organelles). However, most people wanting to lose weight are thinking of reducing their fat stores and not the protein (muscle) loss that is more pronounced in the early stages of starvation. It also takes an inordinate amount of willpower (an energy-driven neural process) which is difficult unless the starvation is due to external circumstances. The best way to avoid muscle loss during calorie reduced diets is to top up phytonutrient intake (particularly whole food sources of magnesium), drink lots of water and exercise 3 to 5 minutes every other day with high intensity functional training methods.
See more in the Energy in < Energy out = weight loss entry
There are many biochemical checks and balances which come into play when food intake falls and is inadequate to maintain energy expenditure. Our survival mechanisms protect our fat stores with evolutionary vigour and often muscle wastage will provide nutrients for our brain and other life-critical organs and processes before our fat stores are depleted. Intermittent fasting can be done daily as a better lifestyle is adopted which helps reach and maintain an ideal weight.
Modern foods account for less than 1/10th the number of foods annually available in pre-agricultural times.
Also, the quality of modern produce is from less valuable to of nil value compared to wild ancestral forms. For example, most modern fruits have no fat-soluble antioxidants whereas wild fruits have up to 45% of their antioxidant capacity from lipophilic antioxidants. Bad sugars (sucrose and fructose) are up in ultra-processed foods, beverages and even our fresh produce. Fibre is way down. Magnesium intake is lower than desirable and also excretion is raised by alcohol, coffee and high calcium intakes as well as many pharmaceuticals and even some herbal supplements. The differences between wild foods and cultivated ones are dramatic with valuable and essential nutrients often absent in cultivated crops.
See above. And additionally, the range of farmed foods is 1/10th and some plant species have been engineered into many different cultivars. For example, Brassica oleracea has twelve forms including cabbage, broccoli, broccolini, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, savoy, kohlrabi, and gai lan (plus 2 new variants not yet in Australia). Capsicum annum has 36 forms with many different types of chilli and including cayenne, bell peppers, jalapeño, Thai chilies and many others (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Capsicum_cultivars#Capsicum_annuum)
The reality is that we depend on about 17 different species and only 8 species are core staples globally. The bad news is that cane sugar is one of these and is the most energy-rich and nutrient-poor foods when fully refined.
Any activity that increases our breathing rate and depth can help with the exhalation of fat as it is broken down metabolically into fuel for our mitochondria (these make the energy molecule abbreviated to ATP), CO2 and water. Exercising the heart to beat harder and faster is also of some benefit for cardiac muscles. However, if the exercise is sporadic or irregular, heart attack from over-exertion is not uncommon. Also, if calcium excess is a feature in the diet and magnesium deficiency is present too, then cardiac events (stroke, heart attacks) are more likely than not from ‘cardio’. Long duration, low intensity exercise typically damages our joints and spine, has little to no benefit to extending longevity although it might deliver some dopamine for an addictive buzz. More likely, it is like trying to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and it annoys the pig.
See above. Fitness is a function of muscle tone, absence of significant adipose tissue stores, vascularisation (extent of capillary network and function), resting heart rate, functional lung volume but above all, mitochondrial density and adequate magnesium levels. Aerobic exercise alone will not improve any of these substantially, if at all.
The ideal form of exercise can take as little as 3 minutes a day and is termed High Intensity Functional Training of HIFT. Best done on a rowing machine which provides good resistance or a stationary bicycle with toe clips (to pull up and over and not just open pedals to press down). Cycling also needs to be high resistance at medium fast cadence and standing on the pedals for part of the ride can provide exercise for more muscles than just seated.
If you can talk while exercising, it is not high intensity and if the 3 minutes is physically challenging and leaves you gasping for air, then you are doing it right.
Magnesium is many times more important than calcium for bone and tooth health. Just one of magnesium’s hundreds of functions is to activate vitamin D so that calcium can be properly stored in teeth and bones. Without adequate magnesium, calcium in our blood gets deposited in our soft tissues and blood vessels causing arterial plugs; stones in our kidneys, gall bladder, liver, pancreas and other organs and ducts; and joint calcification leading to local inflammation and then to arthritic conditions.
Only if you have a good throwing arm and aim and your doctor is not too quick on their feet. Apples were originally small, sour (from organic acids and low levels of sugars) fruits called crab apples and these were good sources of polyphenolic antioxidants and other phytonutrients. This has all changed with the small varietal numbers of apples cultivated today yielding typically large, juicy fruits with up to 10% sugar content. The sugars in the most sweet cultivars are generally the bad sugars ie sucrose and fructose. The only nutritious parts of a modern apple is the core and the skin with just a few millimetres of the surface flesh. The remaining apple flesh is low in fibre and rich in the bad sugars that we really need to avoid. So practice your throwing with apples. They are barely worth eating.
Our liver, kidneys, lymphatic system, skin, lungs and hair are constantly ‘detoxing’ along with our microbiome organisms. Restricting your dietary variety or over-eating of a very narrow range of foods is pointless as a detox (product marketing) concept. It generally leads to Hidden Hunger where a deficiency of phytonutrients occurs and our gut microbiome and instincts induce us to eat more and more often. If all we have is phytonutrient-poor foods (most of what we have available in stores today) then we are induced to keep on eating in the hope of finding what is missing. We over-eat, store the food products as fat and there you have it. Phytonutrient deficiency is why we see rising rates of obesity in most developed countries.
Both need rest, fluids and highly nutritious food which might be a challenge after reading the other 32 myths in this report. However, boosting phytonutrient intake can boost immunity and avoid future viral illnesses or vastly reduce their severity and duration.
Will power needs lots of energy and we can easily run out due to the decisions we make about getting healthy. We also experience behaviour rewards which is our brain and gut organisms wanting phytonutrients and driving us to eat to find them. If we use will power to over-come these Hidden Hunger signals, we often are tempted to cheat and treat ourselves to food once our will power fades.
We actually breathe off the metabolic products from food, mainly CO2 and water and so we need to boost our metabolic rate of conversion with high intensity functional training or HIFT. This is typically short bursts of maximum effort work in full body exercise. Rowing with a resistance rower is the best full body machine but a stationary bicycle works if you stand up on the pedals for some of the time and use toe clips so that you can pull up with your feet when seated.
Yoghurt is high in calcium and we get so much of this mineral that we need to start keeping inventory of its sources. Constantly high levels of calcium leads to deposits in soft tissues such as organ ducts, joints and blood vessels where blockage of arteries can be lethal. Also the milk protein, casein, attaches to red, crimson to purple coloured (anthocyanin) antioxidants and renders them useless. Never eat brightly coloured fruits with dairy yoghurt or cream. Dairy-free coconut or tree nut yoghurts are a better choice
This is true only for babies born via caesarean section or for anyone who has been on long term antibiotics. Studies show that a few different species of microbes (typically grown on dairy substrates) numbering in the 100s of millions will make next to no difference to the 100 trillion organisms that are already comfortable in the many niches in our gut.
It is all sources of sugars in excess and primarily the two bad sugars, sucrose and fructose, irrespective of their origin that make us store fat, can raise our blood pressure, make us hungry and begin the spiral towards obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and gout.
Sugars can also come from simple starches as from potatoes, pumpkins, grains (wheat products, rice) and similar foods. If weight loss is an aim, these sources of sugars should be omitted from the diet and non-starchy foods (and high quality protein foods) become the focus of meals.
They will certainly sweeten but this is because of their total sugar and specifically, bad sugar contents. These sweeteners are often well-termed empty calories and the non-sugar constituents are in insignificant amounts. Agave nectar is particularly high in fructose and should be avoided. Refined honey is also inferior to honey straight from the hive and which might include pollen, waxes and other nutrients rather than just the clarified sugar syrup.
This may be true if we measure the rate in years but if we use our health status, our fitness and how close we are to our ideal weight we can look and feel far younger than our years.
However, it seems that even our lifespan in years may be able to be stretched.
At a cellular level, estimates of human longevity have pushed our potential lifespan out to 190 years and this would clearly mean that we are slowing our rate of ageing by half.
To get anywhere near this age would need to establish and maintain ideal physical function and this will depend on high quality foods and a wide range of them long term to improve our biochemistry.
The key tools to build lifespan and healthspan are phytonutrients which are like tiny superheroes that we get from plants. They get into our system and fly around fixing, tuning and maintaining our cells, organelles, organs, tissues and biochemical systems. Even our gut bugs get a helping hand.
Classes of phytonutrients include antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, anti-allergens, anti-rogue cell (anti-proliferatives, pro-apopotics, anti-carcinogens, anti-mutagens), immune boosters and cytokine controllers, adaptogens, organic acids, organ and organelle protectants (brain, heart, liver, kidney, pancreas, lungs, blood vessels, lymphatics, skin, reproductive organs and the all-important mitochondria), live enzymes and enzyme regulators, good sugars, dietary fibre and bioavailable minerals.
Up until 150 years ago, infectious diseases were the big killers. and as high quality foods were not abundant, herbal medicines were the precursors of modern drugs. After the 2nd World War, antibiotics made an appearance followed by analgesics (reduce viral symptoms eg pain), antipyretics (lower body temperature) and the fledgling pharmaceutical industry.
My choice if we can’t get out in the sunshine due to our geography or physical situation (age, immobility, illness) is that our food gets the UV-B irradiation instead of our skin. That can give us the vitamin D we need but then we also need a good, whole food source of magnesium to activate the vitamin D so that it can do its work.
Fructose is a regulatory sugar for animals and insects that hibernate. This sugar will one day be recognized as a bad sugar in the same way as we now know about bad fats. The fructose in fruits, plant exudates (agave nectar is really high in bad sugars) and sucrose (which is half fructose) is metabolized in the liver and in the process, uric acid is formed. This is the signalling molecule which ‘tells’ hibernating species to wake up and smell the surroundings. Time to live again.
Taking the wider concept of taste to encompass olfactory inputs to our nasal membranes as well, we have the basic 5 tastes:
Then we can add another 9 others;
- fat – butter is distinct from pork fat or ultra-processed (toxic) margarine
- Maillards – those roasted-toasted notes as in beer, baked foods, soy sauce, chocolate, coffee
- aromatics – herbs
- pungents – spices, wild rocket
- astringency – some under-ripe fruits, strong tea
- metallic – some cooking utensils made from iron, copper, aluminium
- numbness – as from Szechuan pepper
- and after-taste, which might be a combination of several of the more enduring tastes
We actually have 11: sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, balance, time, temperature, pain, spacial awareness, gravity and who knows when they will rediscover telepathic communication as another one? This might be a third party sense.
No single food can or should be used as a therapeutic. In the first instance, most active components in modern foods are not in significantly high enough concentrations to have a therapeutic effect. Sure, some can conflict with the action of medications but using whole foods as medicines is not too effective. The other choice is to try food fragments eg omega-3 fat sources or other refined oils, fibre from oats or wheat bran, protein from milk whey and so on. These ultra-processed components are also pretty poor replacements for real, whole foods.
Neuroscientists now know that we are recycling and rebuilding neurons throughout our lifetime. This is called neuroplasticity and the more you repeat a task or practice a skill or the more you learn about a topic, the more brain cells are dedicated to the purpose of making it a habit or building on your networks of associated information.
Many nutrients from whole foods support our neurons and glial cells (structural cells that also participate in neural transmission efficiency and neural health.) Antioxidants play an important role in brain health as do anti-inflammatories, adaptogens and many minerals. Our gut microbiome also contribute nutrition and nutrients for proper brain functioning and plasticity.
Many research papers now prove that we do not derive much benefit from any synthetic forms of vitamins or inorganic minerals. This is due to the simplicity of their formulation as well as their synthetic nature. For example, vitamin C is now recognized as only part of the story when assessing vitamin C capacity and this vitamin activity depends on the presence and action of hundreds of other antioxidants such as bioflavenoids and folates, fat soluble vitamins E and D, numerous co-factors and minerals until finally, vitamin C can work.
A similar situation exists with vitamin D which appears to be more effective when supplied in food matrices or from what we can make ourselves from sunlight on our skin. Foods such as mushrooms and yeasts can provide D2 while animal sources have D3 form of the vitamin. These are called vitamers – same function, different variants.
These vitamers then need magnesium as a cofactor to activate them to do all the things we need vitamin D to do eg store calcium in our teeth and bones; support neural communication (mind body axes); facilitate muscle contraction (note that magnesium is the flip side of this in controlling muscle relaxation hence stopping cramps); activating blood-clotting factors; hormone release involvement; heart beat regulation; and more.
Most synthetic supplements are treated by our body as toxins and excreted within minutes. Some minerals even cause nausea or diarrhoea and are eliminated quickly while also stripping the gut of part of our microbiome. Magnesium citrate is routinely administered prior to gastrointestinal exploratory procedures and before surgery as it assists in emptying the gastrointestinal tract. This is not a way to boost magnesium intake.
Perhaps vitamin B12 supplementation has some merit for those who cannot absorb the vitamin due to a lack of Intrinsic Factor protein or in those who choose to be vegans. However, non-animal sources of B12 include various yeast spreads or nutritional yeast products, fortified foods, tempeh, nori, some mushrooms and shellfish eg clams.
Shellfish lack a central nervous system and are not products of sentient animals eg chicken eggs and so might be philosophically acceptable to by eaten by vegans.
In summary, although supplements are prescribed via Big Pharma’s drug dealer network in the sick care industry to help address nutritional deficiencies, current research shows that nutrients from whole foods surpass their supplement-based counterparts when it comes to health benefits. Why? Simply put, the biologically active compounds found in high quality foods cannot be completely captured in a neat little pill. So, when addressing any nutritional gap, a plant-rich diet with a wide range of wild and near wild foods should be your goal.
Considering the nutritional value of modern foods, even 30 meals a day will not provide adequate nutrition although weight gain will be a problem. However, once nutrient-rich foods are added back to the diet, 2 meals a day is adequate and one may also be a snack. Our portion sizes are far too large in Australia and grotesquely so in the USA.
Two meals a day also provides for the opportunity to intermittently fast every day. If evening meals are completed by say, 7:30pm and the first meal of the following day it around 11:30am then this provides a full 18 hours of no significant energy intake.
Sweetness is a key taste drive which in pre-agricultural times, motivated foragers to find sweeter foods because in the wild, these types of treats came with lots of exercise, a wide range of phytonutrients, fibre and social community bonds. Heroin is less accommodating. Interestingly, both sugar and narcotics stimulate the reward centre of our brain and involve the same neurotransmitters in motivating our responses (dopamine, oxytocin, adrenaline).
The 8 glasses is an arbitrary figure and concept. The need to hydrate is generally related to physical activity and environment rather than a set value. Consumption of diuretics, alcohol, diarrhoea or vomiting can also influence the need for hydration. Additionally, in order to rehydrate dry skin, for example, the layers of skin cells, their cellular glycation coating and the cell signalling precedes any uptake of moisture into the upper skin layers.
Cleaning or cleansing diets or foods do not exist. Additionally, juices are in effect, sweetened water with little nutritional value. There are also other problems from juices and one is their content of oxalates, especially calcium oxalate.
- Green vegetables and leaves – spinach, Swiss chard, kale, collard greens, Brussel sprouts, broccoli, broccolini, okra, purslane, celery, parsley, endive, beetroot greens, dandelion greens, rocket and turnip greens
- Root crops – beets, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and parsnips
- Nuts and seeds – peanuts, pecans, beans, buckwheat, and poppy seeds
- Apples, apricots, concord grapes, oranges, star fruits, and berries (strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, blueberry)
- Black pepper
- Tea leaves, cocoa, and cocoa products (yes, including chocolate products)
Oxalates are also by-products of our metabolism of bad sugars (fructose and sucrose) and vitamin C (particularly the supplement form). Calcium oxalate is an insoluble salt and more than 80% of kidney stones are made from this crystalline deposit in the kidney tubules. Another reason to avoid vitamin C in supplement form.
Drinking water is a better beverage to hydrate and flush your system than any juice made from fruits or vegetables or both.
While reducing our intake of these is a good idea if we want to lose those extra kilograms, the way to take advantage of these foods is to cook, cool and reheat them. This converts the starch to resistant starch which has a lower GI and higher fibre content. The problem though, is that tests have not substantiated how much of the evil carbs are turned into resistant starch and it might be as little as a few percent. Better to avoid these unnecessary carbs or at least choose the new high fibre pastas and check to see if any product you are considering buying is made from hard wheat. This wheat is higher in protein than softer wheats and might be called semolina flour.
Interestingly, a 450 year old, Iron-Age wheat was found in an excavation in the UK some years back. It was sprouted and tested to have the same protein content as some highly-bred, genetically engineered, modern varieties specially developed for their hardness. A lot of agricultural time and effort to end up with the same attributes as an ancient and natural variety.
Immune reactions from foods are many and varied. They might cause sneezing, nasal congestion, gastric upset all the way to a full-blown allergic response following proteins crossing a leaky gut wall, becoming systemic and triggering an immune response, to name a few aspects of food sensitivities, intolerances and allergies.
Contamination of foods which are otherwise labelled as gluten-free is also not uncommon and reducing food choices from our already narrow food range does not provide a nutritional advantage.
From my own experience and recollections, even 50 years ago, these food reactions were unknown in Australian schools. No teachers ever had to be warned that peanuts could be a problem food for their kids. We had no warnings that there were tree nuts in products and we had never heard of gluten, gliadin or any similar-acting ingredients in common foods. We all ate white slice with peanut butter and thought nothing of it.
Back to today and even oats, which are gluten-free, contain a compound called avenin which appears to mimic gluten in allergenic symptoms. Additionally, wheat breeding for improved yields for farmers seems to have introduced higher levels of a particularly hyper-allergenic protein called gliadin. Prior to the 1990s, products being screened as gluten-free for a minority group of consumers who were very sensitive to gluten, were only screened for this protein. As the numbers in this group of consumers continued to grow, the related wheat protein, gliadin, was found to be even more capable of inducing allergic responses than gluten.
So you might ask why this is now the norm.
One reason is the falling food quality we have now. In comparison to wild foods, farmed species are missing anti-allergens which were protective against allergies throughout human history. Also, because we cook a lot of our produce instead of eating it raw means that live enzymes are inactivated so there are no health benefits from these valuable proteins.
2 and 5 (or the newer scheme of 2 and 9) could also make you really fat and unhealthy. What if I chose my fruits from this list: dates, sultanas, mangoes, melons, stone fruits, bananas, grapes and my vegetables were potatoes, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, capsicums and mushrooms? I would be overdosing with bad sugars and simple starches and missing out on fibre, critical phytonutrients such as antioxidants and vitamin D and a whole lot more.
Home grown using organic methods ie avoiding toxic chemicals and pesticides, picked ripe and eaten promptly, some eaten raw is a first step. Better still, would be forage for wild and near wild fruits and grow vegetables in healthy, rich soil teeming with worms and well-composted organic material. Include some more hardy Indigenous Australian root vegetables which might take several years to mature but can grow in sandy loam or even leaf litter in a native plant landscape.
While a plant-rich diet is a good idea, we still need some nutrients we can only get from meats and seafood. Vegans need to ensure an adequate intake of vitamin B12, iron, zinc and magnesium (which maximizes the absorption of dietary calcium). A good whole food source of magnesium, zinc and iron is available with a recent product launch (see Karuah Active Magnesium below) and B12 can be obtained from seafood, particularly clams but also some finned fish.
However, if we stick to game meats and wild caught seafood and shellfish, our nutrition is better than from eating only domestic animal meats and farmed seafood. We should also expand the parts we eat with organs from game animals as well as finned fish since they have far greater nutritional value than just muscle meats.
There you have it. 33 myths and I hope, some insights into where we have gone wrong with our foods, their production and the advice as to consuming it.
You might ask, so what DO I eat after following the advice from the busted myths?
Well, my suggestion is to keep eating whatever you do now and start making changes as needed.
- If you need to lose weight, cut out starchy carbs (potatoes, pumpkin, rice, pasta, bread), drink plenty of water and boost your protein intake so that you preserve muscle as you breathe out fat and take on high intensity functional exercise (see point 2).
- Need to get more physical? Set yourself up with a resistance rowing machine or stationery bicycle and exercise flat out for 3 to 4 minutes every few days. Also get a pair of hand weights (I recommend dial up hand weights up to 24kg each). Bending your arms at the elbows, lift the barbells at a weight you find a little heavy (at first) and walk around the house. Up and down stairs is good. Walk for 3-5 minutes or until the weight is getting so heavy that you need to straighten your arms. Do not do this. Just put the weights down. Rest for a minute and repeat the walking and stairs. The idea is to get to 3 sets and increase the weight over time.
- Want to get more phytonutrients in your diet? Eat wild, foraged or near-wild garden grown fruits from your local area. It might take some research to identify these and some seasonal foraging and storage of what you can find. Alternatively, we offer LIFE (Lyophilized Indigenous Food Essentials)™ as a very complex mix of suitable wild foods – Shop L.I.F.E. HERE:
- Need to address low energy, weakness, loss of appetite, night time cramps, numbness, tingling, fuzzy thinking, personality changes or to counteract a high intake of coffee, alcohol or dairy? Boost your food sources of magnesium. An ideal mixture of critical minerals, trace elements, high vitamin D shiitake mushroom and Australian wild foods can be found here – Shop Karuah Active Magnesium – HERE
- Concerned over your high intake of dairy products, commercial bakery products, sesame seed products and other sources of calcium? For a week every few months you might want to have a calcium de-rust habit. Explore Karuah ChancaPlus here – HERE
These tips, tricks and tools will adjust your diet to a healthier one and help your gut bugs change in species and numbers to help you stick with the plan. You will biohack your biochemistry and reap the rewards of improved healthspan and lifespan over time.
Yours in Health, Vic
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