We need to widen the lens on what is causing our *ahem* widened loads. There is no one single nutrient, one single cause, and no one single cure #sorrynotsorry. How we interact with our environment has vastly changed from previous generations and to settle on just one thing as the definitive cause of our increasing lifestyle related health woes is to close off to other potential ways we can improve our health.
Gluten-free does not automatically mean healthy, nor does low carb, low fat, 'clean', paleo, cholesterol free or sugar free. I have seen 'gluten free' fast foods dripping in fried oils, paleo donuts at health food stores with more foreign ingredients than a pre-packed meal, low fat yoghurts pumped with sugar, sugar free 'treats' turned into franken-food and 'clean eating desserts' which lull you into thinking they may even make you lose weight.
The problem is while there is money to be made from preying on our most human behaviours i.e. want for instant gratification, aversion of pain, fear of missing out and wanting to fit in, then there will be someone out there spruiking a product claiming it is the answer to all your issues. There may be true and genuine belief in their cause, but correlation does not equal causation. Put another way, the buff man holding the box of donuts having a great time surrounded by da babes, probably didn't eat any of the donuts, but left to our own thought processes, we want to believe that he did so we can eat the delicious donuts and frolic with the scantily clad shorty's too! It comes down to my usual boring diatribe that what works for one, may not work for another and more importantly, it might not even be healthy over the long term.
We are unique little snowflakes with our own genetic pre-dispositions, areas we put on fat, lifestyles, food preferences, cooking skills, financial situations, food knowledge, penchant for activity, levels of stress, and social groups. These factors and many more, all influence how we actually end up looking, feeling and behaving, how healthy we are and what illnesses we may get. Epigenetics is the field of study which explores how, while we cannot trade in our DNA and genetic code, our gene expression can, and does, change within our lifetime. These changes can be influenced by all the factors I outlined above and probably more. Our bodies are constantly adapting to our environments, and these genetic changes can be switched up and down like a dimmer light. In a nut shell, we want to be as efficient and as safe as possible. If our bodies sense a change which may threaten life, it calls a whole body board meeting, decides what needs to be adjusted to combat the threat, approves the changes, identifies the genes which need to be affected and then amends our next round of gene expression accordingly.
For this reason that we are such complex sacks of cells, I find it difficult to blindly accept that one thing, one nutrient, and one food group is the culprit and that if we change that, we will be fixed. It’s over simplifying a topic which is evolving, as we are, every day. I’d be stoked if it were that simple, because it would mean I might one day get through my ‘to-read’ pile and not be crossed-eyed with new concepts that appear challenging old ones I thought were gospel.
The more likely story, albeit incomplete, is that the cause for our obesity crisis and other lifestyle related health woes is multifactorial and the curing of which requires a multi-factorial approach: Eat better, eat for health most of the time, eat for enjoyment the rest, move more, sit less, socialise, turn off your TV, have regular holidays, get enough sunlight, manage stress, sleep and be kind to yourself. I think that’s all… but this time next year I might be wrong, but if it means we get closer to knowing how to suit the individual better, more accurately, and with greater success, then hey, I am cool with being wrong.