Living Too Short, Dying too Long
What do I mean by that – well simply that too much of the majority of people’s lives is spent suffering – and eventually dying – from what are known as the chronic degenerative diseases. Too much of one’s life is spent battling against lack of energy, aches and pains, headaches, digestions problems etc, that gradually leads into an ever worsening picture that becomes a diagnosed disease. Very few of us will die of old age – the vast majority of us will be picked off beforehand by one of the myriad different causes displayed on death certificates. By the time we are in our 60s, 1 in 5 of us will suffer from one or more of these chronic degenerative diseases. Shocking isn’t it!
Average life expectancy is around 75 years for a man, and 82 for a woman. But did you know that scientists now believe that a natural lifespan is 110 -120 years? A common myth nowadays is that we’re all living longer – but a close look at statistics doesn’t bear this out. Life expectancy hasn’t changed for over 20 years, and the current generation of 40-somethings are predicted by some to be unlikely to live as long as their parents did.
Going back to previous centuries the killers were infectious diseases such as influenza, diphtheria and tuberculosis. Today’s killers are very different – the metabolic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimers, multiple sclerosis, Parkinsons and osteoporosis, to name but a few. And that doesn’t take into account the misery caused by arthritis, macular degeneration, fibromyalgia, depression, IBS etc. These are all chronic degenerative diseases – they have a long latency period, and by the time symptoms appears damage has already occurred.
Fortunately, modern medicine can offer drugs to help you deal with the ever more severe symptoms. Unfortunately it does little to address the underlying causes. Research scientists have made great strides in getting to grips with these causes, and there is now a lot of information available, but unfortunately their results are taking a long time to trickle through to the front line.
So what is really going on? What are these studies showing?
Well, our bodies are miraculous mechanisms, delicate and finely balanced with a variety of systems constantly working to keep us fit and healthy. They are in a perpetual state of flux with the processes of decay and regeneration going on ceaselessly. If the rate of repair is slower than the rate of decay, you have problems, if the rate of repair is faster you have both healing and health. Simple isn’t it.
So what causes our repairing mechanisms to become inefficient, or even ineffective? Time and time again this is being traced back to depletion of the macro and micro-nutrients needed to both slow down and repair tissue decay and give our body systems the fuel they need to work properly. Scientists have even given this problem a name – Type B malnutrition. This basically describes a condition where there are more than sufficient calories, but insufficient nutrients!
You are what you eat. We are all familiar with this saying, but over-familiarity perhaps blinds us to the fundamental truth and simplicity of its meaning. Overweight, tired, lacking energy, no libido, indigestion, poor focus and concentration, PMT, poor memory, recurrent colds, mood swings etc – these are all warning signs that something is amiss, they are an early wake up call that most of us don’t heed. We say ‘It must be my age’ or ‘I’ve been working hard recently’ or even ‘I need a holiday’.
Various surveys have shown that most people are depleted in most micronutrients to some degree. Over a period of years this sub-optimal intake leads to a host of problems that inevitably shorten our lifespan – and ensure a miserable time of it for the last 30 years or more. We need a wide variety of ‘fuel’ to ensure we are performing at optimum – macro nutrients, micro nutrients, amino acids, enzymes, water, oxygen etc. When we are not getting this in sufficient quantities things quietly start to lose that delicate balance which is fundamental to good health.
But I have a well balanced diet I hear you cry. Well yes – a well balanced, nutritionally deficient diet is probably more accurate. And anyway, what is a balanced diet??
Looking at why the traditional diet doesn’t quite cut the mustard any longer with regards to our nutrient requirements, and what we can do about it is a topic in itself. So read on and find out why a well balanced diet no longer is enough…..
Where are We Going Wrong with our Food?
Many of the modern health issues are being blamed on Type B Malnutrition – which is basically a depletion of essential nutrients, despite the fact that more than enough calories are going in.
So how does this situation come about? In a world of plenty, how come so many of us are suffering – and dying – from diseases which trace their roots back to lack of the right nutrition? You’re not starving any more than I am. Look around you and the number of overweight and obese people is plain to see. How come so many of us are malnourished in the midst of all this plenty?
I think most of us can agree that if you live off a junk food diet, ie hamburgers, pizzas, fizzy drink, cakes and biscuits etc it isn’t too surprising if you generally feel lousy – and don’t look too good either!. But if you’re eating ‘sensibly’ where’s the problem.
The production of our food now is industrialized – just as our farming is, and the techniques used have resulted in a general degradation of what ends up on our plate.
Let’s start at the beginning of the process with the soil that grows our crops and feeds our animals. A teeming mass of microbes and bugs ensure the structure and fertility of the soil. Intensive farming, spraying with pesticides, insecticides and fungicides, not to mention constant use of NPK fertilizers all drain the vitality of the soil with the result that the myriad nutrients – both macro and micro – and now severely depleted in much of our soil. Add to this the fact that some soils have long term structural imbalances in trace elements anyway – for example, much of UK soil is deficient in an important micronutrient, selenium – and you can start to understand why foods grown in these soils don’t offer the nutrient boost we need. One study shows that European soils are a massive 70% depleted on what they used to be!!
So, point number 1 – if it’s not in the soil, it can’t be in the food – whether that food has been grown in the soil, or fed on it as an animal has.
The next point to consider is what happens once the food leaves the farm. Often fruit and vegetables are stored for long periods of time, or irradiated to prolong their shelf life. Vitamin levels in particular start to decay the longer a food is stored. Or fruit and vegetables are often picked underipe. This has the effect of ensuring that it has not had a chance to build up its full compliment of vitamins and minerals – an easy way to measure this is the taste test! The more bland and flavourless a food is the lower its nutrient content is almost certain to be. Vitamins and minerals = flavour!!
Next step on is to consider what food processing does to the nutrient content – and I’m not just talking ready meals here. Flour is a processed food, as it milk these days,. In fact, most of what you buy from a supermarket has been treated, or altered in some way before it reaches the shelf, and this all affects it’s nutrient status. It is estimated that as much as two thirds of the average calorie intake is from ‘empty calories’ ie calories which have no nutrient content. This comes from refined flours, sugars and fats. Wheat, for example, has 25 nutrients removed in the refining process – yes, sure some are replaced – four to be precise – but is that a good deal? It is a similar picture with rice and sugar, refined cereals and anything made from these (in the case of flour and sugar, that’s an awful lot of things – they appear in a huge number of foods). Pasteurising milk destroys the enzymes it contains and makes it more difficult for us to digest and assimilate it’s nutrients – including that all important calcium. The hydrogenation of oils and fats to make margarines and countless pies and pastries causes our body systems problems in coping with these man-made fats. I could go on and on. Industrialising our food production and agriculture has had disastrous effects on the goodness we obtain from those foods, and therefore on our health.
Then we get to the kitchen. Most of our diet consists of cooked foods – but heat destroys many essential nutrients including essential fatty acids, and vitamins. It also destroys enzymes which help us to digest and assimilate food properly. The less raw food we eat, the more issues we are likely to have around digestion.
Whew! Quite dismal isn’t it. And on top of all this is another interesting fact that food scientists are now telling us – we don’t eat enough! We were designed to be active and use between 3,000 – 4,000 calories a day. Modern lifestyles are so much more sedentary than that of our ancestors that we have reduced our calorie intake (average 1800 – 2000 a day). Less calories also equals less nutrients. Our bodies were designed to work on the nutrient loading of higher calorie levels, so inevitably there is a shortfall here as well.
So where does all this lead us. Almost inevitably I’m afraid to the vitamin and mineral supplement. How else are we to make up all these shortfalls and give our body the optimal amounts it requires for true good health?
There are a number of things you need to assure yourself of through when buying a multivitamin in order to ensure the quality of what you are taking – and that you are not wasting your money. Potency is one thing – how much of each nutrient does it contain (remember the RDA is just the amount you require to crawl over the border of ill health, not reach good health). Quality of ingredients is another – this comes down to the integrity of the company. Some high street brands don’t do too well here I’m afraid. The form the nutrient is presented in is another – is it synthetic, chelated, food state etc.
So, lots to think about when you sit down to eat your meal tonight. Food for thought you might say!