Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Dr. Kevin Patterson on Western Diets and Health

A few readers have pointed me to an interesting NPR interview with the Canadian physician Kevin Patterson (link). He describes his medical work in Afghanistan and the Canadian arctic treating cultures with various degrees of industrialization. He discusses the "epidemiological transition", the idea that cultures experience predictable changes in their health as they go from hunter-gatherer, to agricultural, to industrial. I think he has an uncommonly good perspective on the effects of industrialization on human health, which tends to be true of people who have witnessed the effects of the industrial diet and lifestyle on diverse cultures.

A central concept behind my thinking is that it's possible to benefit simultaneously from both:

  • The sanitation, medical technology, safety technology, law enforcement and lower warfare-related mortality that have increased our life expectancy dramatically relative to our distant ancestors.

  • The very low incidence of obesity, diabetes, coronary heart disease and other non-infectious chronic diseases afforded by a diet and lifestyle roughly consistent with our non-industrial heritage.

But it requires discipline, because going with the flow means becoming unhealthy.


16 comments:

Stan (Heretic) said...

"Going with the flow " has become a trend in our society that directly threatens our survival.
Heretic

Poisonguy said...

In the article in Maisonneuve, he says: Metabolic syndrome’s elevated insulin level is why we order a second Whopper; getting fatter, cruelly, stimulates our appetite.

Very astute, indeed.

Rafael B. said...

A will be reading his article to see what to think about it (http://livinprimal.blogspot.com)

Might-o'chondri-AL said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Moshe Sharon said...

Most often the things we never see are in front of us all the time. We all have a part of ourselves that is always there within us and always escaping our attention. This part of who we are, always hidden in plain sight, is the ability to foresee future changes in our mind-bodies as unintended consequences of our behaviors. Therefore, once you read “Health Secrets from the Seventh Heaven” you will realize that the solutions to your existing or potential health problems are so close to you that all you need to do is to become aware of them. More at http://moshesharon.wordpress.com

David said...

I heard the interview and the first hand experience was interesting, but he didn't seem to have the same big picture understanding that you have as to the overall causes. I wonder how we could get him to read your most important posts!

Mrs. Ed said...

Interesting interview. If, as he says, our health care issues are becoming unsubstainable, then why are our "experts" still insisting on a ultra-low-fat high-carb diet? Has their own advice affected their brains?

Peter said...

I lived in Micronesia in the sixties and people were skinny, eating breadfruit, coconut, and fish. I went back in the nineties and there was. a lot of overweight and a lot of imported food. I see now the people in Micronesia are listed among the world's most fattest.

Might-o'chondri-AL said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
EL 66K said...

Stephan, a question. What do you know about the health of the !Kung? I find them very interesting since they are a hunter gatherer population with an incredibly high intake of omega 6. One would expect their health to be less than optimal.

Robert said...

EL66K

I have seen suggestions that their health was not optimal. I do not recall the exact detail.

EL 66K said...

Yeah, so have I, but only vague ones.

kenny said...

nowadays, most people just go with the flow which leads to positive or negative effect..its better to think well before engaging to something that you'd regret later

Kenny Scott
Best Skin Care

Anna said...

Maybe not a lot of women in the 1980s wanted to put on weight, but there were a few. Born in '62, I was underweight in childhood through my 20s. No matter what I eat, I never put on weight that would stay on, and had a figure I considered too bony, straight, and boyish (5'3" and rarely over 106#). My goal was to at least weigh enough to give blood (110#). Fast forward to age 29 in 1991, after a decade of being master of my own meals and eating anything I wanted (I shudder to think of all the sugar and vegetable oil, especially in those lunches from the hospital cafeteria at the southern university where I worked) and all of a sudden I gained about 20 pounds in less than a year - finally developing some feminine curves. For a while it was great. But the days of eating whatever I wanted were certainly over, though it took me a long while to realize it.

Anna said...

Clothing number sizes have changed dramatically just in my lifespan (born in 1962), so they can't be used as a reliable measure of people's size. My mother used to make comments that she went from girl's sizes to a women's size 12 after puberty, unlike me who had to take in the thigh seams of my jeans in high school and wearing a size 0 if I could find one, otherwise a size 2-4 in my 20s (1980s).

I sewed a lot of my clothes in the years after college and the pattern sizes didn't come close to matching up with the ready-to-wear sizes. In a sewing pattern I wore a 10-12 when I wore 0-4 in ready-to wear. I haven't sewn clothing in years, but I suspect the pattern sizes have been adjusted in recent years like ready-to wear sizes.

Around 1991 or 92 I tried on my mother's 1961 size 12 wedding dress (she was 19 yoa when she wore it) so it could be altered (let out) for my sister's wedding. It was slightly too tight on both my sister and I, and we were both wearing contemporary size 8 dresses at the time.

The "vanity sizing" has only gotten worse since then. I've given birth (which widens hip bone spread no matter what the weight or measurements), and am holding my weight fairly steady with LC eating (with higher carbs it would definitely go up and up). Yet I am currently wearing GAP jeans that are sized 8 and I know I am not as slim as I was in 1991, esp in the waist.

Sarah Nickolet said...

Hey!! I work with him!!! That's so awesome!!! What an amazing thing to log on to catch up on your blog and have someone I see on a regular basis on there :D!