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home : health : health July 25, 2017

5/16/2017 12:26:00 PM
Cracking the diet code
By Andrew Lostcutoff

The human diet and nutritional science is a fascinating topic of discussion. The topics range from epigenetics, to evolution, to physiology - even a great deal of psychology.

No matter what the topic, there is a lot to digest, no pun intended.

With nutrition being such a dynamic topic, it is no wonder why many myths and anecdotes propagate.

While there is certainly a virtue in pushing science to advance, it's reached by extrapolating these myths into trials and studies; sometimes the myths themselves disregard sound principles and cherry-pick their evidence, disregarding the entire picture.

It is when this happens that a myth needs to be exposed for what it is- or adopted as confirmed.

The most important thing to consider regarding diet is how well someone can follow it. In trials where subjects were all given different dietary protocols, the best predictor of their results always was how long they were able to stay on track, and that's regardless of high-carb/low-fat, vegan, paleo, etc.

The next important thing to consider about a successful dietary protocol is confirmation bias. This is essentially if a person believes it to be true, then the more likely it'll work for that person. They're seeking out evidence that their notion or beliefs are reality. The human mind is very tricky in this sense, which is a commonality across all beliefs. A reality is truly a creation of the mind.

With this being said, another perhaps even-stronger predictor of the success of a diet is just the awareness of having to think about rules, guidelines, and additional thought that goes into what someone is putting into their mouth. Think about it in this way: If someone determines to be gluten-free, those small bites of cookies that appear on every lunchroom table suddenly become off limits.

With these restrictions, the small bites, which were once enjoyed, now become calories in the weight-loss bank account. This goes for general healthy eating habits as well. Once someone thinks about putting more veggies in their diet, or reducing sugars, they displace the calorie count to the green.

Hunger seems to be another misunderstood aspect of diet. Hunger is a dynamic system of psychological, mechanical, and chemical signals, which often can be misinterpreted. When is someone more hungry - during rest, or during activity? Physiologically during rest, a person has no need to take in more energy; they can easily supply their rest with no input with stored energy. However a person who is active, working, doing chores, etc. has a much greater need for energy and should thus feel more hungry.

Yet, the hunger signals are strongest when someone is at rest vs. active. This tells us that hunger is more dynamic than just an energy-need model. Hunger can be an effect of mental conditioning. If a person is used to eating right when they wake up or at the noon lunch hour their body will send signals at this time, increasing hunger. Often, if the mind is directed on another task, it will ignore the call of hunger.

It's another sign that hunger is partly a psychological effect rather than solely physiological.

Understanding these aspects can have an impact on one's dietary protocol and enhance the approach taken. It is important to choose a diet that is easy to follow, buy into, and increase awareness to what someone is eating.

For more information, meet at Sisters Athletic Club on May 18 at 5 p.m. for a free dietary myths presentation. The session is open to the general public.

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