At this point, everybody probably knows about “Supersize Me”, the awesome documentary where a 30-something healthy male filmmaker named Morgan Spurlock vowed to eat McDonalds for a month and look at his health (to the horror of his vegan girlfriend!). The results surprised even him. The film documents the diet’s drastic effect on Spurlock’s physical and psychological well-being. Spurlock ate at McDonald’s restaurants three times per day, eating every item on the chain’s menu at least once. As a result, the then-32-year-old Spurlock gained 24½ lbs. ( a 13% body mass increase), a cholesterol level of 230, and experienced mood swings, sexual dysfunction, and fat accumulation in his liver. It took Spurlock fourteen months to lose the weight gained from his experiment using a vegan diet supervised by his future wife, a chef who specializes in gourmet vegan dishes.
Fast forward to writer Michael Pollan, who has done more than anyone to teach us about food and what the western diet is doing to us. Here’s the reverse of Super-Size Me!“The human animal,” Pollan writes, “is adapted to, and apparently can thrive on, an extraordinary range of different diets, but the Western diet, however you define it, does not seem to be one of them.”
In the summer of 1982, a group of ten middle-aged, overweight, and diabetic Aborigines living near the town of Derby, Western Australia, agreed to participate in an experiment to see if temporarily reversing the process of westernization might also reverse their health problems. Since leaving the bush a decade earlier, all ten had developed type 2 diabetes; showed signs of insulin resistance, and elevated levels of triglycerides in the blood. “Metabolic syndrome,” or, more recently, “diabesity” is the medical term for the complex of health problems these Aborigines had developed. Metabolic syndrome has been implicated not only in the development of type 2 diabetes, but also in obesity, hypertension, heart disease, and the worsening of many other chronic conditions.
The ten Aborigines agreed to return to their traditional homeland, “more than a day’s drive by off-road vehicle from the nearest town,” where they had “no access to store food or beverages.” Accompanied by the nutrition researcher who designed the experiment, the Aborigines during their seven-week stay relied exclusively on foods they hunted and gathered themselves: seafood, supplemented by birds, kangaroo, the fatty larvae of a local insect, turtle, crocodile, yams, figs, and bush honey.Their civilized diet had consisted mainly of flour, sugar, rice, carbonated drinks, alcoholic beverages (beer and port), powdered milk, cheap fatty meat, potatoes, onions, and [some] fruits and vegetables, which was the local version of the Western diet. After seven weeks the Aborigines had lost on average 17.9 pounds and their blood pressure had dropped. Their triglycerides had fallen to within normal range and “all of the metabolic abnormalities of type II diabetes were either greatly improved or completely normalized by a relatively short reversion to traditional hunter-gatherer lifestyle.”Now, if that doesn’t convince you we’re eating wrong, I don’t know what will. We may not eat like poor Morgan Spurlock, but when’s the last time you had a day with no refined sugar? Start reading the labels. Watch out for chemicals, sugar, corn syrup, and the WORST offender, High Fructose Corn Syrup. (more on that later…)How to make sense of this? If your Grandmother could have eaten it, it’s probably ok, (for those of you younger, you better go with Great Grandmother…), if she couldn’t, look at it as guilty until innocent!