It began many years ago, with a controversial diet doctor, the famous Dr. Atkins, who believed that a four-stage diet, containing unlimited fat and protein intake, supplemented by small amounts of complex carbs, is the formula for near-instant fountain of youth, beauty, and of course, the ultimate dream of most Americans – a slender body which could be had in a matter of weeks. I found a yellowed book translated into Hungarian in my grandparent’s book case bearing the name ‘The Atkins Diet’. Hard to imagine anyone used it, yet there it was, in Hungarian. Then suddenly, beginning in the late 1990’s to 2000’s, the revised book became the hottest best seller and then became the basis for the Beverly Hills Diet.
Dr. Perricone and some others followed suit by emphasizing that simple carbs turn to sugar which ages you, gives you a sugar spike then a huge drop in energy and a ravenous appetite, thus weight gain, wrinkly skin, tiredness – the works. So, we all consumed daily salmon, sardines, chicken, meat, vegetables and fruit (only after or with our protein), loaded up on protein powder smoothies and protein bars. Sugar became the devil, white bread and in fact all white food was branded "BAD". We consumed these "health bars" en masse to keep in shape, chewing the chalky tasting things and feeling saintly. We believed that we were enhancing the results of our hours at the gym or ballet, growing muscle tone and. as a plus, losing weight insanely fast. No sugar, grains or even fruit and the diets, if adhered to strictly, brought about the most stunning transformations in the blink of an eye. I know a woman who lost 40 pounds in one month by eating a hunk of protein and fat at every meal, accompanied by small doses of complex carbs from the approved list. In between, she would munch on mixed nuts and hard boiled eggs, coffee with whipped cream, sweetened with Splenda. This particular beauty, who became a heartbreaker once again, awoke one morning with sore and swollen legs, only to be informed she had gotten gout from consuming too much protein. When she got off the diet, she gained 100 pounds in less than two months. Last time I saw her she was still beautiful and a vegetarian. She told me she gave up on dieting, and is now a Yogi who embraces her voluptuous curves, as she should.
By now we have gone back to our ancient history and the Paleo diet was born. Added to that, many cardiac surgeons who warned against animal fat and red meat now encourage us to smear on the fat for maximum weight loss, glossy hair and perfect skin. Still, many doctors claim the maximum daily protein intake for a female adult who is not an athlete nor body builder ought to be around 46 grans and for a male 56 grams. Some studies showed older adults, mainly elderly women, who lost weight on a high protein diet lost out on the great benefit of weight loss: the improved insulin sensitivity which reduced the risk of diabetes B. In fact, there is an association between habitual high protein intake and diabetes in elders.
Moreover, for those who harbor a silent kidney disease, being over flooded by protein may put an extra strain on the kidneys, causing serious damage. If there is already high blood pressure or diabetes, according to the National Kidney Association – 1 out of 3 of these Americans are likely to suffer kidney disease.
Last but not least, the muscle building properties of protein can lead to a risk of cancer. Animal protein makes cells multiply at such an accelerated rate, that unless you’re a growing child, this very fundamental process could put you at an increased risk of cancer. This is especially true in adults over the age 50-65 according to the Longevity Institute at UCLA.
Then there are the skeptics. Professor Phillips from McMaster University in Ontario maintains that older adults must eat 30 to 40 grams of protein at each meal to prevent the loss of muscle which comes with aging. GO FIGURE?
I think everyone has a point and we must listen to our own bodies as well as to all the learned talking heads.
Variations of the source of protein are important to prevent problems. Constant meat intake will make you feel wild and strong like a Paleo age man/woman, but remember, most of our cave-bound ancestors didn’t live past the age of 50. So diversify – eat nuts, eggs, beans, chicken, yogurt and lots of complex cruciferous veggies for a long, beautiful and healthy life. Let go of powders and supplements which are loosely regulated, make sure your sources are grass-fed and free-range, and if you can, check up on the farm they graze at to ascertain there are no pesticides in their food.
One final word – moderation is key. I speak from experience as the Paleo-Candida diet changed my set point several months ago. All I wanted is to cleanse my gut from toxins but instead, at 5?" I move between 99-104 pounds. If not for my relatively chubby cheeks I could apply to work as a scarecrow. At least that’s my brother’s observation…
When following any strict diet, pay attention to your body’s responses. Any radical changes in your eating habits may have some negative repercussions and this is perfectly normal. However, if your body doesn’t get back into some sort of equilibrium, you may want to seriously reconsider whether this diet is right for you or not, whatever the talking heads may say.
Remember: Dieting is not yet a deductive science, it is empirical. Everyone is a little different. You and you alone are the primary data collector for your own body. Pay attention and honor yourself.