What is nutrition?

Nutrition, in regard to all mammalian species, is essentially a biochemical process required for the production of energy and the nourishment of cells within the body.  If food is not ingested, the human body will in fact “digest” itself in order to obtain calories from its own tissue via catabolism of fat mass and/or lean mass.  Having established nutrition and its vital necessity in the propagation of life, the only choice that we have is whether or not we fuel our body with calories derived from nourishing sources that do not create a “cellular ecosystem” conducive to the development of chronic and acute disease states.  I like to compare this to either running on “clean burning fuel” such as fresh organic vegetables and wild-caught salmon or on Big Macs and french fries washed down with a beer.

Three excellent examples of this hypothesis that are well-supported within academia include the following chronic diseases sharing the commonality of obesity driven by improper nutritional practices.  I want to emphasize, as a caveat, that none of these conditions are caused directly by poor nutrition, but that poor nutrition manifesting as obesity and the comorbidity of Type II diabetes sets up a favorable environment for the development of chronic diseases within the human body.  Correlation does not always equal causation, but it is a good starting point for scientific enquiry.

1)  Cancer and systemic inflammation.  Recent studies have highlighted the role of a pro-inflammatory obesogenic diet and carcinogenic compounds found in processed foods that may lead to the development of numerous cancers, including brain, liver and pancreatic cancer.

2)  Arteriosclerosis and systemic inflammation.  Elevated cholesterol may be the proverbial “bullet in the gun” but it is actually elevated HS-CRP (C-reactive protein) that pulls the trigger on a heart attack.  Familial hypercholesterolemia, a genetic condition identified via Apo-E genotyping, is the “gun” itself.

3)  Dementia/Alzheimer’s and systemic inflammation.  There has now been established a strong association between the consumption of pro-inflammatory refined sugars (especially High Fructose Corn Syrup) and inflammatory cooking oils linked to what is sometimes referenced as “Type III Diabetes“.

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Clearly, nutrition is either a fertile soil for health and longevity or a breeding ground for deadly diseases.  What we put in our mouths is much more than just fuel.  It is fuel that can potentially generate pro-inflammatory cytokines and ROS (reactive oxygen species) that turn our bodies into a toxic waste dump, basically a welcoming committee for chronic diseases such as cancer and arteriosclerosis.  I have always advised my patients/clients in respect to their nutritional choices that they can either treat their bodies as a sacred temple or as an amusement park.  It’s all about our personal choices!  We must therefore live with the consequences of our actions, for better or for worse.  The greatest tragedy in the world today is that millions have no choice but to consume unhealthful foods just to stay alive.  However, those of us who are financially privileged to have a choice in what we consume should certainly not squander that freedom by consciously choosing to put foods into our bodies that we know are harmful and self-destructive.  Bon appetit, but with wisdom!

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