By Dr. Mercola
It’s a well-established fact that clean, pure water is a foundational cornerstone of good health. What’s open for discussion, however, is what constitutes “clean, pure water.”
There are many opinions and much confusion about which kind of water imparts the greatest health benefits, particularly when it comes to its pH.
I recently addressed the danger of alkaline water. In this segment I’ll address distilled water, and review the pro’s and con’s of reverse osmosis water filtration. Since most water sources are now severely polluted, the issue of water filtration and purification couldn’t be more important.
It’s unfortunate, but the value of plain water is vastly underrated by most experts when it comes to achieving optimal health.
I’m convinced that we could prevent many of our chronic health problems if we would simply start replacing all soda and nearly all commercial fruit juices with pure water.
As you may know by now, the number one source of calories in the U.S. comes from high fructose corn syrup primarily in the form of soda. Americans drink an average of one gallon of soda each week, and this excessive fructose consumption is a driving force behind obesity and chronic degenerative disease in this country.
Drinking alkaline or ionized water, however, is not a healthful choice in the long run, and as you will see, neither is drinking distilled water.
Why I Do Not Recommend Drinking Distilled Water
Long before natural health enthusiasts began touting the benefits of alkaline water, there were similarly glowing claims for distilled water.
During distillation, water is boiled and evaporated away from its dissolved minerals, and then the vapor is condensed and the resulting water droplets collected. Distilled water is an active absorber, and when it makes contact with air, it quickly absorbs carbon dioxide and becomes acidic.
Since it is free of dissolved minerals and other particles, it has the ability to absorb toxic substances from your body and eliminate them.
However, although drinking distilled water may be helpful when detoxifying for a week or two, the longer you drink it, the more likely you’ll develop mineral deficiencies and an acidic state.
You can rapidly lose electrolytes (sodium, potassium, chloride) and trace minerals, which can cause cardiac irregularities, high blood pressure, and cognitive/emotional disturbances.
In a paper by F. Kozisek of the World Health Organization (WHO), [i] water low in calcium and magnesium, such as distilled water, is associated with the following health problems:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Higher risk of bone fracture in children
- Neurodegenerative diseases
- Motor neuronal diseases
- Pre-term births, low birth weights, and preeclampsia
- Various types of cancer
- Increased risk of “sudden death”
- Acute magnesium and calcium deficiency, weakness, fatigue and muscle cramping
Clearly, changing the water you drink can have profound and potentially disastrous effects on your health, as this research shows.
For these reasons, I’ve been discouraging people from drinking distilled water for well over a decade now, but there are other far more problematic issues with distilled water that make potential mineral deficiencies pale in comparison.
Distilled Water is Only as Pure as the Water You Begin With…
One of the primary benefits commonly attributed to distilled water is its lack of contaminants.
However, this usually turns out to be far from true…
There are two primary reasons why your distilled water may not be as pure as you’d like to think:
- Any contaminant in the water that vaporizes at a lower temperature than the water, such as volatile organic compounds, such as disinfection byproducts that are thousands of times as toxic as chlorine, will be condensed and actually concentrated in the finished distilled water. So what you end up with is water that contains even more dangerous contaminants than what you started with.
- Because the water is acidic and demineralized, it will pull contaminants out of whatever container you put it in.
Many distillers on the market are made of metal, which will actually add certain toxic metals like nickel back into the water. And if you use a distiller with a plastic bottle, you have a number of plastic chemicals to contend with – many of which we now know are extremely toxic.
The Most Shocking Fact About Distilled Water
In recent years we’ve learned a lot about the dangers of disinfection byproducts (DBPs) found in most treated water supplies, such as trihalomethanes (THMs) and haloacetic acids (HAAs).
These DBPs form when water treatment disinfectants such as chlorine, chloramines, and chlorine dioxide react with natural organic matter in the source water.
Researchers have now discovered that DBPs are over 10,000 times more toxic than chlorine, and out of all the other toxins and contaminations present in your water, such as fluoride and miscellaneous pharmaceutical drugs, DBPs may be the absolute worst.
Trihalomethanes (THMs), for example, are Cancer Group B carcinogens, meaning they’ve been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals. They’ve also been linked to reproductive problems in both animals and humans, and human studies suggest that lifetime consumption of chlorine-treated water can more than double the risk of bladder and rectal cancers in certain individuals.
The process of distilling actually worsens the presence of these extremely toxic contaminants in your water because anything that vaporizes at a lower temperature than water, such as volatile organic compounds (VOC’s and trihalomethanes (THM’s), will also be boiled and condensed.
Sure, the heavy metals are left behind. Lead, for example, will not vaporize. But chlorine will change into chloroform during the distillation process, and will be present in your distilled water.
Distilled Water is Actually MORE Toxic than Municipal Tap Water
So, not only will distillation not remove one of the most significant toxins in water, which are the DBPs, it may actually deliver a more concentrated dose of them.
AND, you’re also drinking whatever chemical or metal contaminants the water has dissolved out of the container it’s stored in!
Talk about a double-whammy of toxic contamination!
This fact alone should be reason enough to ditch the idea that distilled water might be good for you, unless you start with entirely pure water to begin with, which defeats the whole purpose of distilling it.
Remember that every municipal water supply is treated with chlorine or chlorine like substance that will induce the formation of disinfection byproducts in your water supply. So unless you are using the distiller on well water, you need to be very concerned about this.
A volatile organic compound is a chemical that vaporizes at a lower temperature than water and has carbon in it. And there are hundreds of thousands of volatile organic compounds out there, including benzenes, trihalomethanes, and trichloroethylene. Exactly what and how much of these toxic compounds are in your source water will naturally vary from one location to another.
Many of these are industrial organic solvents that are very destructive to the human body. Many if not most of them are carcinogenic at extremely low levels.
DBPs, for example, are measured in parts per BILLION, and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets the goal for some of these byproducts at zero because they are so dangerous. Unfortunately the EPA goal is impossible to enforce.
Still, the maximum annual average of THMs in your local water supply cannot exceed 80 ppb (parts-per-billion), and the maximum annual average of HAAs permitted by EPA regulations is 60 ppb.
It goes without saying that if distilling were to concentrate these contaminants just a little bit, the consequences to your health could be quite severe.
The Drawbacks Clearly Outweigh Any Potential Benefits
So, in the end, distilled water:
- Is expensive
- Is energy intensive
- Doesn’t remove VOC’s and DBPs
- Is ineffective at removing toxic fluoride
- Draws out chemicals and metal contaminants from whatever container it’s stored in
- Leaches minerals from your body which can lead to health problems
On the positive side, it may help draw out toxins during a short-term detoxification program, but all in all, I believe the drawbacks are stacked quite high and clearly outweigh any perceived benefit.
A Special Note on Removing Fluoride from Your Drinking Water
Distillation also will not effectively remove fluoride, another dangerous element added to most water supplies.
Distillation can remove an estimated 55-60 percent of fluoride, but the rest will get transferred. A reverse osmosis system is slightly more effective, capable of removing about 80 percent of fluoride.
Currently, the only commercially viable way to get non-detectable levels of fluoride (in water that is been treated with fluoride) that I know of is using an activated aluminum filtration system. However, I’m not convinced it will remove all volatile compounds.
I urge you to join us and get involved at any level you can.
If this is a topic that interests you, I would strongly encourage you to sign up for their site as we are shortly going to launch a social networking strategy that will allow you to network with those in your local community so you can initiate the process to have fluoride removed from your water supply.
This is clearly the best solution and it will also produce an improvement in the public health of your community, so you would be doing a major service for your uninformed and deceived neighbors.
Why I’m Changing My Stance on Reverse Osmosis…
I’ve recommended reverse osmosis (R/O) as the water treatment system of choice for some time now, because I was convinced it was the best solution on the market. It’s the system I’ve used in my own home, primarily to reduce the salt content of my water as I had initially installed a water softener.
However, lately I’ve begun to rethink my stance on reverse osmosis.
Reverse osmosis, like distillation, creates fairly acidic water, and it also strips the water of minerals. Additionally, some contend that R/O destabilized the structure of the water, and the system has other drawbacks as well.
It’s expensive, and it wastes water. According to Houston, depending on the system it can use anywhere between two to 10 gallons of water to produce one gallon of drinking water.
Another concern is that most of the systems have a holding tank that must be cleaned out regularly to prevent growth of bacteria.
Still, R/O has certain benefits, and there are ways to circumvent some of its drawbacks.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Reverse Osmosis
On the plus side, R/O is excellent for removing all sorts of contaminants, including herbicides, pesticides, lead, fluoride, disinfection byproducts (DBP’s) and even all but the smallest viruses or protozoan cysts.
Some hormones will slip through, but overall, it does a remarkable job of filtering out some of the absolute worst water contaminants.
It does, however, also create water that is both slightly acidic and demineralized.
One way to ameliorate this is to re-introduce minerals to the water. I add about
Some food additives are worse than others. Food Matters suggests these as the top ones to avoid:
- Artificial Sweeteners
Aspartame, also known as Nutrasweet and Equal, is believed to be carcinogenic and accounts for more reports of adverse reactions than all other foods and food additives combined.
The artificial sweetener Acesulfame-K has been linked to kidney tumors. All artificial sweeteners are bad news.
- High Fructose Corn Syrup
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) increases your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels and contributes to the development of diabetes.
- Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
MSG is used as a flavor enhancer. It is an excitotoxin, a substance that overexcites cells to the point of damage or death.
- Trans Fat
Numerous studies show that trans fat increases LDL cholesterol levels and increases your risk of heart attacks, heart disease and strokes.
- Common Food Dyes
Artificial colorings may contribute to behavioral problems in children and lead to a significant reduction in IQ.
- Sodium Sulphite
This is a preservative used in processed foods. People who are sulfite sensitive can experience headaches, breathing problems, and rashes. In severe cases, sulfites can actually cause death.
- Sodium Nitrate/Sodium Nitrite
This common preservative has been linked to various types of cancer.
- BHA and BHT
Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydrozyttoluene (BHT) are preservatives that affect the neurological system of your brain, alter behavior and have the potential to cause cancer.
- Sulphur Dioxide
Sulphur additives are toxic and in the U.S., they have been prohibited in raw fruit and vegetables. Adverse reactions include bronchial problems, low blood pressure, and anaphylactic shock.
- Potassium Bromate
This additive is used to increase volume in some breads. It is known to cause cancer in animals, and even small amounts can create problems for humans.Sources:
Dr. Mercola’s Comments:
If you’ve ever read the ingredients lists on packaged foods, you know that there’s a lot more in food these days than in generations past. Virtually every processed food now contains a laundry list of preservatives, colorings, flavorings, emulsifiers and more — and unless you’re shopping at a natural specialty store, gone are the days when a loaf of bread contained just a few ingredients.
A food additive refers to virtually any substance added to a food, but according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) definition, a food additive is “any substance the intended use of which results or may reasonably be expected to result — directly or indirectly — in its becoming a component or otherwise affecting the characteristics of any food.”
There are currently more than 3,000 food additives added to foods in the United States; ideally, you should steer clear of all or most of these, but if you’re just getting started the 10 listed above are an excellent starting point of additives to remove from your diet as soon as possible.
What are You Really Eating?
When you purchase a package of cheese, you expect it to contain milk and salt . bread you’d expect to contain flour, yeast, etc., and when you pick up a can of beans, you may think it only contains beans.
In reality, cheese is commonly laced with preservatives and colorings. Bread contains high fructose corn syrup, preservatives and sometimes trans fats. And even canned beans typically contain a slew of additives including corn syrup, coloring and other sweeteners, along with being packaged in a can that probably leaches BPA from its lining.
The fact is, if you’re like most Americans who spend 90 percent of their food budget on processed foods, you’re eating your share of these additives and then some . which is concerning when you begin to look into their potential effect on your health:
- Cancer: Additives linked to cancer — BHA/BHT, propyl gallate, trans fats, aspartame, blue 1,2, Yellow 6, potassium bromate and more — are in countless products from baked goods and chewing gum to chicken soup base, cereal, luncheon meats, vegetable oils and potato chips. If you eat a highly processed food diet, you are therefore potentially exposing yourself to cancer-causing toxins at every meal.
- Hormone disrupters: An analysis published in the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology found 31 potential estrogen-mimicking food additives during their research.
These include propyl gallate, a preservative used to prevent fats and oils from spoiling, and 4-hexylresorcinol, which is used to prevent discoloration in shrimp and other shellfish.
Chemicals with estrogen-like effects, known as xenoestrogens, have been linked to a range of human health problems, including reduced sperm counts and increased risk of breast cancer.
- Behavior Problems: A carefully designed, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in the journal The Lancet concluded that a variety of common food dyes, and the preservative sodium benzoate — found in many soft drinks, fruit juices and salad dressings — cause some children to become measurably more hyperactive and distractible.
- Lower IQ: The Lancet study mentioned above also found that the E-numbered food dyes (such as tartrazine (E102), ponceau 4R (E124), sunset yellow (E110), carmoisine (E122), quinoline yellow (E104) and allura red AC (E129) do as much damage to children’s brains as lead in gasoline, resulting in a significant reduction in IQ.
Processed Foods Depend on Additives
When foods are processed not only are valuable nutrients lost and fibers removed, but the texture, natural variation and flavors are lost also. After processing, what’s actually left behind is a bland, uninteresting “pseudo-food” that most people would find entirely unappetizing.
So at this point, food manufacturers must add back in the nutrients, flavor, color and texture to processed foods in order to make them palatable, and this is why they become loaded with food additives. Most commonly, additives are included to:
- Slow spoilage
- Prevent fats and oils from becoming rancid or developing an off-flavor
- Prevent cut fruits from turning brown
- Fortify or enrich the food with synthetic vitamins and minerals (which are lost during processing)
- Improve taste, texture and appearance
When reading product packages, here’s a breakdown of some of the most common food additives to watch out for:
- Preservatives (sodium benzoate, sodium nitrite, potassium sorbate, BHA, BHT, etc.): Found in fruit sauces and jellies, beverages, baked goods, cured meats, oils and margarines, cereals, dressings, snack foods, fruits and vegetables
- Sweeteners and artificial sweeteners (fructose, high fructose corn syrup, aspartame, sucralose, acesulfame potassium (acesulfame-K), etc.): Beverages, baked goods, confections, table-top sugar, substitutes, many processed foods
- Artificial colors (FD&C Blue Nos. 1 and 2, FD&C Green No. 3, FD&C Red Nos. 3 and 40, FD&C Yellow Nos. 5 and 6, Orange B, Citrus Red No. 2, etc.): Many processed foods (candies, snack foods, margarine, cheese, soft drinks, jams/jellies, gelatins, pudding and pie fillings)
- Artificial flavors: Pudding and pie fillings, gelatin dessert mixes, cake mixes, salad dressings, candies, soft drinks, ice cream, BBQ sauce, etc.
- Flavor enhancers (monosodium glutamate (MSG), hydrolyzed soy protein, autolyzed yeast extract, etc.): Many processed foods
The Simplest Way to Avoid Food Additives?
Ditch processed foods.
You might already know that 90 percent of the money Americans spend on food is for processed foods so there is massive room for improvement in this area for most of us.
Swapping your processed food diet for one that focuses on real, whole foods may seem like a radical idea, but it’s a necessity if you value your health.
And when you put the history of food into perspective, it’s actually the processed foods that are “radical” and “new.” People have thrived on vegetables, meats, eggs, fruits and other whole foods for centuries, while processed foods were only recently invented.
It’s easy to forget that the processed, packaged foods and fast food restaurants of today are actually a radical change in terms of the history of food production. The frozen food business didn’t begin until the mid-1920s when the General Seafoods Company set up shop and began selling crudely frozen fish fillets, and fast food restaurants didn’t get a foot hold until after World War II.
TV dinners didn’t even come around until the 1950s . before that it was a home-cooked meal or no meal at all.
If you want to eat healthy, I suggest you follow the 1950s (and before) model and spend quality time in the kitchen (yourself, a family member or someone you hire) preparing high-quality meals for yourself and your family.
If you rely on processed inexpensive foods you will simply exchange convenience and short-term cash savings for long-term health miseries.
When it comes to staying healthy, avoiding processed foods and replacing them with fresh, whole foods is the “secret” you’ve been looking for.
Related Articles:How Ultra-Processed Foods are Killing Us
Drinking too much soda or fruit juice will increase your risk of developing gout, a painful form of arthritis, according to a new study.
Women who drank two cans or more of non-diet soda a day, or 12 ounces or more of orange juice a day, were more than twice as likely to develop gout. Women who drank just one soda or 6-ounce glass of juice per day were at 74 percent and 41 percent greater risk, respectively.
“The culprit appears to be fructose … [F]ructose increases levels of the chemical uric acid, which causes gout. When uric acid levels in the body get too high, the acid hardens into sharp crystals that are deposited in joints.”Sources:
Dr. Mercola’s Comments:
Gout is a type of arthritis characterized by painful, stiff and inflamed joints. It can occur in any joint of your body, but most commonly occurs in your big toe.
The stiffness and swelling are a result of excess uric acid forming crystals in your joints, and the pain associated with this disease is caused by your body’s inflammatory response to the uric acid crystals.
Gout affects between 2 million and 5 million Americans, and the prevalence is increasing, both in the US and other developing countries.
This comes as no surprise, because the principal reason for the rising incidence of this painful type of arthritis stems from our modern diet, which is chockfull of fructose, mainly in the form of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).
New Evidence Confirms Fructose/Uric Acid/Gout Connection
The latest JAMA study, cited above, used data from the 22-year long Nurses’ Health Study, which included nearly 79,000 women.
The analysis showed that women who drank more than two cans of soda per day were more than twice as likely to develop gout, compared with women who rarely drank soda.
Drinking 12 ounces or more of orange juice daily had the roughly the same effect.
Additionally, as reported by CNN:
“Women who had just one soda or 6-ounce glass of OJ per day were at 74 percent and 41 percent greater risk, respectively, compared with women who rarely drank either.
The culprit appears to be fructose, says the lead author of the study, Dr. Hyon Choi, M.D., a professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine.”
In that study, men who drank two or more sugary soft drinks a day had an 85 percent higher risk of gout than those who drank less than one a month.
The risk significantly increased among men who drank five to six servings of sugary soft drinks a week. Fruit juice and fructose-rich fruits such as oranges and apples also increased the risk.
This is why I always recommend paying equal attention to the fructose consumed in the form of fruit juices and even whole fruits, and not just that from soda and processed foods. For a helpful chart showing the fructose content of common fruits, please see this link.
As a general rule, I recommend limiting your total fructose intake to 25 grams per day, from ALL sources.
Since virtually all processed foods contain HFCS, it’s a wise move for most people to also limit total fructose from fruit to 15 grams per day. You could easily exceed the max of 25 grams due to this ‘hidden’ fructose in your diet, even if you consumed no soda or fruit…
Fructose is the ONLY Sugar that Raises Uric Acid
I became fully aware of the dramatic and devastating impact fructose has on your uric acid levels when I interviewed Dr. Richard Johnson on this topic, earlier this year.
Dr. Johnson’s research focuses on how fructose — which is the number one source of calories in the American diet – causes obesity, diabetes, and a number of other common diseases, including:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol and high triglycerides
- Kidney disease
- Heart disease
- Fatty liver disease
As it turns out, a major component of all of these diseases is elevated uric acid, and more recent research shows that fructose is the ONLY type of sugar that will raise your uric acid levels!
Fructose is distinctly different from other sugars as it’s metabolized through very specific pathways that differ from those of glucose, for example, and it is through this distinct metabolic action that uric acid is generated.
In fact, fructose typically generates uric acid within minutes of ingestion.
However… Glucose Boosts Harmful Effects of Fructose!
Yes, although glucose will not increase uric acid levels, it will accelerate fructose absorption! So when you MIX glucose and fructose together, you actually absorb more fructose than if you consumed fructose alone.
This is an important piece of information for people who want to make a better effort at controlling their weight and prevent disease.
At What Point Does Uric Acid Start Creating Disease?
According to Dr. Johnson’s research, uric acid appears to take on a lead role in creating health problems when it reaches levels in your body of 5.5 mg per dl or higher.
At this level, uric acid is associated with an increased risk for developing high blood pressure, as well as diabetes, obesity and kidney disease.
Dr. Johnson believes the ideal range for uric acid lies between 3 to 5.5 mg per dl.
How to Limit Your Fructose Consumption
According to Dr. Johnson’s research, a quarter of the US population consumes a whopping 134 grams of fructose a day. This is a staggering amount of fructose when you consider the fact that you need to restrict your fructose intake to below 25 grams a day in order to maintain good health.
This makes it pretty easy to see how so many fructose-related diseases have peaked to such unfathomable levels.
For example, this statistic dovetails nicely with the statistics showing that one in four Americans is also either pre-diabetic or has type 2 diabetes.
So, just how much fructose are you consuming every day?
I strongly advise you take a look at all the labels of everything you put in your mouth, and make sure you’re taking the serving size into account…
In his book, The Sugar Fix, Dr. Johnson provides detailed tables showing the content of fructose in different foods – an information base that isn’t readily available when you’re trying to find out exactly how much fructose is in various foods.
I do realize that reducing sugar/fructose in your diet can be tough for some people. After all, sugar is just as addictive as cocaine! But it is possible, and Dr. Johnson provides helpful guidelines for doing so in his book.
It calls for following a very low fructose diet for two weeks, which has the effect of “rebooting” your system and re-sensitizing your body to the fructose.
Additional Guidelines for Preventing and Treating Gout
If left untreated gout can become increasingly painful and lead to joint damage. So if you experience sudden, intense pain in your joints, especially your big toe, it’s important to seek help.
However, I strongly recommend avoiding drug therapies for gout, and drugs specifically designed to reduce uric acid levels. It makes little sense to gamble with side effects when most people can successfully reduce their uric acid levels simply by limiting or eliminating excessive fructose from their diet!
In addition, the following strategies can help you successfully address (or prevent) gout:
- Modify your diet to fit your nutritional type. To help determine your nutritional type, take my free online nutritional typing test. We have charged thousands of people $29 for this test in the past, but now we’re able to offer the test entirely free of charge, so please, take advantage of this beneficial tool.
- Avoid drinking soda, fruit juice and other sweet beverages. As discussed above, these types of drinks are a primary source of excessive fructose. Instead, drink plenty of pure water, as the fluids will help to remove uric acid from your body. Cutting back on all forms of sugar and grain in your diet is also important.
- Limit or eliminate alcohol consumption, particularly beer. Alcohol in general, and beer specifically, may also raise the levels of uric acid in your blood.
- Exercise. Being overweight increases your risk of gout, and regular exercise will help you to maintain a healthy weight and improve your overall health.
- Try tart cherries or concentrated tart cherry juice. Tart cherries contain two powerful compounds, anthocyanins and bioflavonoids. Both of these compounds slow down the enzymes Cyclo-oxyygenase-1 and -2, which helps to relieve and prevent arthritis and gout in your body.
Interestingly, we have had many readers state that alfalfa tablets have provided a fair measure of relief and improvement from gout as well. I have no experience with this but it would certainly seem another avenue to explore since it is a natural product with virtually no downside or side effects.
Nutmeg has also shown promise for relieving gout symptoms, so if you enjoy this spice feel free to add it liberally to your diet.
For even more information about gout and how to treat it without resorting to potentially dangerous drugs, please see my article Five Steps to Overcoming Gout Naturally.
Related Articles:Sugar May Be Bad, But This Sweetener is Far More Deadly
Scientists have begun exploring what can be learned from the diet of cavemen who lived ago, based on vegetables, fruit, nuts, roots and meat. Cereals, potatoes, bread and milk were not featured at all.
It was only with the dawn of agriculture (around 10,000 years ago) that our diets evolved to include what we think of as staple foods now.
Research will focus on how the food eaten by hunter-gatherers could enhance modern day nutrition.
In contrast to the cereal crops we rely on now for the basis of our food, the pre-farming diet contained fewer carbohydrates, less fat and more vegetables. So was it a healthier diet?
“It seems so,” Mark Thomas, professor of evolutionary genetics at University College London, told BBC News. “Paleolithic man may have died earlier than we do now, but he didn’t die of bad nutrition.”
“We need to decrease our reliance on refined sugar and a heavy carbohydrate diet, and replace some of the things we have lost,” says Professor Monique Simmonds, head of the sustainable uses of plants group at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in the BBC News article.Sources:
Dr. Mercola’s Comments:
Cavemen who lived long ago were eating a lot healthier than most Americans today, according to even preliminary research into the ancient hunter-gatherer diet.
During the Paleolithic period, which spans to 12,000 years ago, people ate primarily vegetables, fruit, nuts, roots and meat. Today, these healthy staples have been largely replaced with refined sugar, high fructose corn syrup, cereal, bread, potatoes and pasteurized milk products . which are doing no favors for modern day health.
Can a Stone Age Diet Make You Healthier?
One of the most thorough looks into “Stone Age” nutrition was done by Dr. Loren Cordain, author of The Paleo Diet and considered to be one of the world’s leading experts on Paleolithic nutrition.
Based upon scientific research examining the types and quantities of foods our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate, the foundation of “The Paleo Diet” is lean meat, including ostrich and bison as well as organ meats, seafood, fresh fruit and non-starchy vegetables — a far cry from the standard American diet.
“Simply put, human nutritional requirements for optimal health are determined by our genes, and our genes are shaped by the environment of our ancestors through natural selection. Many modern staples and processed foods were not present throughout most of the more than 2 million years hominin species have been present on earth.
The nutritional qualities of modern processed foods and foods introduced during the Neolithic period are discordant with our ancient and conservative genome. This genetic discordance ultimately manifests itself as various chronic illnesses, which have been dubbed “diseases of civilization.”
By severely reducing or eliminating these foods and replacing them with a more healthful cuisine, possessing nutrient qualities more in line with the foods our ancestors consumed, it is possible to improve health and reduce the risk of chronic disease.”
Millions Have Trouble with the Modern Day Diet
A perfect example of Cordain’s findings are the vast numbers of people who have trouble digesting grains and pasteurized dairy products.
Gluten, a protein found in grains such as wheat, rye and barley, wreaks havoc in people with Celiac disease, triggering an immune reaction that damages the small intestine and prevents absorption of nutrients.
Large numbers of people, perhaps even the majority of the population, are adversely affected by gluten on some level, and most of them do not have full-blown celiac disease, just a lesser form of gluten intolerance.
Grains and sugars are inherently pro-inflammatory and will worsen any condition that has chronic inflammation at its root — and not just inflammation in your gut, but anywhere in your body.
In fact, if you want to avoid heart disease, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes or even cancer, you will want to severely limit your grain consumption, or avoid grains entirely.
During the paleolithic period our ancestors may have died much earlier than we do nowadays . but they didn’t die of heart disease, diabetes and cancer — which are among the leading causes of death in 2010, and all are related to diet.
In my experience about 75-80 percent of ALL people benefit from avoiding grains, even whole sprouted grains, whether you have celiac disease, gluten intolerance or neither of those conditions. Your body is simply not designed to eat the high levels of processed grains so common in diets today.
The same holds true for pasteurized dairy products. Drinking pasteurized milk is frequently associated with a worsening of health, and this is largely due to the pasteurization process itself. As Sally Fallon of the Weston Price Foundation stated:
“Pasteurization destroys enzymes, diminishes vitamin content, denatures fragile milk proteins, destroys vitamin B12 and vitamin B6, kills beneficial bacteria, promotes pathogens and is associated with allergies, increased tooth decay, colic in infants, growth problems in children, osteoporosis, arthritis, heart disease and cancer.”
Raw dairy products, which have their fats, enzymes and probiotics intact, are typically much easier to digest and are associated with health improvements, rather than harm. While raw dairy did not make an appearance into humans’ diets until much later in history, it is a much more natural food than the pasteurized products so widely circulated today.
What Happened to Diversity?
Our Stone-Age ancestors not only ate more natural foods than we do today, but they also ate an incredibly wide variety of them. Dr. Mark Berry, who is involved in the Paleolithic nutrition research, explained that back then humans ate 20-25 different plant foods a day.
Today, many Americans struggle to fit in five.
The truth is, the typical American diet is incredibly monotonous and does not include a variety of healthy foods that your body was designed to thrive on.
“As a species, we once ate a complex unrefined wild diet consisting of a wide variety of plant and animal foods rich in phytonutrients, fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. Now, our monotonous diet triggers different and diseased patterns of gene expression.
The USDA reports that the top nine foods eaten by Americans are:
Whole cow”s milk 2 percent milk Processed American cheese White bread White flour White rolls Refined sugar Colas Ground beef
All of these foods are foreign to our genome that evolved on a Paleolithic diet. This mono diet creates altered patterns of gene expression that lead to disease, including food allergy or sensitivity.”
In fact, you wouldn’t be able to find many of the wild varieties of plant foods eaten by cavemen even if you wanted to, because modern agriculture has largely taken over the food supply and tweaked and shrunk it to where only a few varieties of wheat, corn and other plant foods are left.
Researchers are now trying to uncover the natural genes of various plant species — the ones that grew in the wild before big agriculture and genetic modification took over.
A Simple Way to Uncover What Type of Diet is Right for You
There’s no doubt that your body has a unique biochemistry that predisposes you to thrive on a certain diet. That diet is certainly not one that’s focused on the relatively “new” inventions in the food arena, like white bread, white sugar and processed cheese.
Instead, it may be high in green vegetables and healthy fats, or you may require a higher protein percentage with your meals. You see, modern humans have developed so there is an enormous level of biochemical and genetic individuality that essentially guarantees that there is no perfect diet that will work for everyone.
While our Stone Age ancestors may have all been able to thrive on a similar whole food diet, the U.S. population has a widespread heterogeneity; we are all uniquely designed and require customized plans.
For many years we charged $29 for this test, but I didn’t want the cost of the test to prevent anyone from taking it. So please take advantage of this free test.
Nutritional typing is a way to determine what YOUR customized diet is, and it is not even a one-size-fits-all within each nutritional grouping. If you take nutritional typing seriously, its guidelines will help you modify your food intake until you find the right balance.
Because food selection today is no longer dictated by your environment as it was so long ago, but rather by your choices at the supermarket, you owe it to yourself to uncover which choices will lead you to optimal health.
Hunting and gathering worked in the Stone Age, but the “hunting and gathering” of the 21st century is “hunting down” your nutritional type, and then “gathering” the foods to satisfy it.
This article, taken from Eating Well Magazine and reported by Shine on Yahoo, assures you that high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is no different than regular sugar, and that microwaved food is perfectly fine and unchanged, with no unwanted byproducts.
But the truth is, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, Eating Well Magazine was taken to task in April by the authors of a study on high fructose corn syrup, who said that Eating Well had distorted information from a study they had done on HFCS.
With a rebuttal that included four detailed points, Princeton University professor Bart Hoebel, who specializes in the neuroscience of appetite, weight and sugar addiction, took Eating Well to task for trying to say his study was flawed:
“Our study in laboratory rats complements the growing body of literature suggesting that HFCS affects body weight and some obesogenic parameters.
We cite in our paper additional evidence reported by other groups that supports our findings, and also acknowledge studies that suggest that HFCS does not affect body weight in ways different than that of sucrose. We acknowledge in the paper that at higher concentrations (e.g., 32%) sucrose has been shown to increase body weight.
We are claiming, however, that at the concentrations we compared in this study, HFCS causes characteristics of obesity. The data show that both male and female rats are (1) overweight, (2) have heavier fat pads, particularly in the abdominal area, and (3) have elevated circulating triglyceride levels,” Hoebel said.
Eating Well printed his rebuttal — but completely ignored the science by putting HFCS as No. 2 on its September list of food myths and “lies.”
Meanwhile, despite two decades of public health initiatives, stricter government dietary guidelines, record growth of farmers’ markets and the ease of products like salad in a bag, The New York Times is now telling us something that, in truth, we already know: Americans still aren’t eating enough vegetables.
Today, the Times said, only 23 percent of American meals include a vegetable (note: French fries don’t count). And in restaurants, a mere 5 percent of patrons order salads as a main course. In an effort to make vegetables more attractive, growers are trying all kinds of tricks to get us to eat them, including the baby carrot industry trying to position the product as a junk food.Sources:
Dr. Mercola’s Comments:
Eating Well magazine actually published 13 “food myths” — not just six — they attempted to bust. Not all are inaccurate, but many are misleading. With all of the health information out there, it’s already difficult to weed through the many lies and truths.
So it’s disappointing when a media source attempts to correct a myth but fails to hit its target, thereby adding even more confusion and misinformation to an often already misunderstood topic.
Believe me, there is no shortage of real health myths that can, and do, have a massive impact on tens of thousands if not millions of people. The ones I address below, which Eat Well chose to focus on — are among some of the most pervasive, and misleading.
1. Eggs and Cholesterol
Eating Well was correct in busting the myth that eggs are bad for your heart; eggs are one of the healthiest sources of protein out there. But they failed in their assertion that cholesterol contributes to clogged arteries and heart attacks, and in their advice to eat “less than an egg a day . more like two eggs a week” for certain at-risk populations.
Not only is cholesterol most likely not going to destroy your health (as you have been led to believe), but it is also not the cause of heart disease, which you can read more about here.
Further, most people can benefit from eating eggs many days of the week — personally, I eat from two to four eggs each morning in my breakfast shake — provided they’re in their healthiest form, which is raw.
Raw eggs are better because cooking them will damage the valuable nutrients like lutein and zeaxanthin, bioflavanoids present in egg yolk that are incredibly important for your vision. Heating the egg protein also changes its chemical shape, and the distortion can easily lead to allergies.
Further, when an egg is overcooked, such as when it is scrambled, the cholesterol in it becomes oxidized, or rancid, and oxidized cholesterol can increase your levels of inflammation and lead to numerous health problems.
So go ahead and eat your eggs, but choose organic varieties, preferably from a small farmer near you, and eat them raw. The next best would be soft-boiled and then sunny-side up, with the yolk still very runny.
2. High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) IS Worse for You than Sugar
While Eating Well did state that HFCS can increase your risk of disease, they made it a point to state that it is no worse for you than ordinary sugar — a false and misleading statement.
HFCS is typically 55% fructose, and sucrose is 50% fructose, so it’s a wash in terms of sweetness, but medical researchers HAVE pinpointed various health dangers associated with the consumption of HFCS specifically, compared to regular sugar.
HFCS is a highly processed product that contains similar amounts of unbound fructose and glucose. Fructose and glucose are metabolized in very different ways in your body.
Glucose is metabolized in every cell of your body and is converted to blood glucose, while all fructose is metabolized in your liver, where it’s quickly converted to fat and cholesterol. (When a diet includes a large amount of fructose, it can therefore create fatty liver, and even cirrhosis.)
Sucrose, on the other hand, is a larger sugar molecule that is metabolized into glucose and fructose in your intestine.
Fructose is metabolized to fat in your body far more rapidly than any other sugar, and, because most HFCS is consumed in liquid form (soda), its negative metabolic effects are further magnified.
For an in-depth review of just how different fructose and HFCS really is from regular sugar, please read through this article and watch the lecture given by Dr. Robert Lustig.
3. Carbohydrates and Weight Gain
Eating Well once again misses the boat by stating that, while refined carbs like white sugar and white bread may make you pack on the pounds, “good” carbs like whole grains, beans and fruit won’t.
The truth is that for a large subset of the population, easily two-thirds, those “good” carbs, including whole grains, very well may lead to weight gain, not to mention insulin resistance and related health problems like diabetes.
This is because, typically, grains rapidly break down to sugar, which causes your insulin resistance to increase which then can exacerbate health problems such as:
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Type 2 diabetes
That said, one-third of people will actually require a high-carb diet to lose weight, but even then those carbs typically need to exclude grain carbohydrates.
Vegetables will NOT convert into sugar the way grains do, and most Americans need to eat far more vegetables in their diet – as the New York Times reported above, only 23 percent of American meals include a vegetable! But a mistake many make is to classify corn and potatoes as vegetables. When you think “vegetables,” it is far better to think “green.”
Eating carbs in the form of vegetables may make your carb intake higher, but will not be a hindrance to your health goals the way even “healthy” carbs like whole grains and fruit might.
The bottom line is that the reason why so many people have trouble losing weight is because a one-size-fits-all approach to diet just doesn’t work. Once you understand that everyone has their own nutritional type, you will be able determine whether a high-protein diet is right for you, or if you actually need a high-carb diet (with vegetables as the primary carb source) to look and feel your best.
4. Raw Food and Enzymes
Eating Well also takes time to state that it’s not necessary to eat raw foods to get valuable enzymes, as your body will make enough on its own. This is another disservice, as your body can, and does, get enzymes from fresh, raw food, and if you don’t eat raw foods you can bet that your enzyme levels will diminish.
As you age — especially in a culture that focuses on processed foods — about one-third of your body’s ability to produce enzymes is lost by the age of 40! This is why many people find they benefit from enzyme supplementation as they get older, especially if they don’t eat many foods with naturally occurring enzymes.
There are numerous other reasons to eat raw foods, too, and one of the primary ones is for their ‘biophotons.’ Biophotons are the smallest physical units of light, which are stored in, and used by all biological organisms – including your body. Vital sun energy finds its way into your cells via the food you eat, in the form of these biophotons.
They contain important bio-information, which controls complex vital processes in your body. The biophotons have the power to order and regulate, and, in doing so, to elevate the organism – in this case, your physical body — to a higher oscillation or order.
This is manifested as a feeling of vitality and well-being, which you will miss out on if you don’t eat raw foods.
5. Microwaving Your Food
Eating Well further claims that microwaving your food is not only safe, but will not harm the nutrient content of your food either. Both of these statements are false.
Microwaves heat food by causing water molecules in it to resonate at very high frequencies and eventually turn to steam, which heats your food. While this can rapidly heat your food, what most people fail to realize is that it also causes a change in your food’s chemical structure.
Microwaving distorts and deforms the molecules of whatever food or other substance you subject to it. An example of this is blood products.
Blood is normally warmed before being transfused into a person. Now we know that microwaving blood products damages the blood components. In fact, one woman died after receiving a transfusion of microwaved blood in 1991, which resulted in a well-publicized lawsuit.
Further, some excellent scientific data has been gathered regarding the detrimental effects of microwaves on the nutrients in your food. For instance, a study published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture found that broccoli “zapped” in the microwave with a little water lost up to 97 percent of its beneficial antioxidants. By comparison, steamed broccoli lost 11 percent or fewer of its antioxidants.
Eating Well did point out that microwaving can cause plastic chemicals to leach into your food, and this is one more reason why I highly recommend choosing other cooking methods instead.
6. Gluten-Free Diets
Eating Well maintains that only people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance can benefit from avoiding dietary gluten. While these two groups definitely need a gluten-free diet, large numbers of people, perhaps even the majority of the population, are adversely affected by gluten on some level
Most of them do not have full-blown celiac disease, just a lesser form of gluten intolerance that they may not even be aware of known as a subclinical gluten intolerance.
Grains and sugars are inherently pro-inflammatory and will worsen any condition that has chronic inflammation at its root — and not just inflammation in your gut, but anywhere in your body.
Those with celiac disease know the importance of eliminating grains from their diet, as many cannot tolerate even minute amounts of gluten, but this message has still to take root in the collective mind when it comes to dealing with autoimmune diseases and other inflammatory conditions.
In fact, if you want to avoid heart disease, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes or even cancer, you will want to severely limit your grain consumption, or avoid grains entirely.
In my experience about 75-80 percent of ALL people benefit from avoiding grains, even whole sprouted grains, whether you have celiac disease, gluten intolerance or neither of those conditions.
Stay Informed to Avoid Misleading Health Information
As you can see, there is no shortage of health myths out there, and it only seems to be getting worse … the six myths reviewed above are but a sampling; there are still many more.
If you ever have a question about whether your dietary information is sound, seek the guidance of a knowledgeable health care practitioner — one who thinks outside the box of the conventional medical field — and use this site to search through the thousands of myth-busting pages.
And, as always, remember to listen to your body, as it will be an invaluable source of feedback to help you gauge which foods are best for you.
Related Articles:12 Medical Myths Even Most Doctors Believe.