Mealtime Strikes The Stone Age

10. January 2017
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Paleo and LowCarb diets, in which carbohydrate intake is dramatically reduced, are in vogue. Now, however, current study results are delivering evidence that the completely opposite diet is the key to a long and healthy life.

Paleo and LowCarb have for several years been a hipster topic, and a flamboyant way of eating. Many people swear by these diet formats and believe the Stone Age diet, specifically with its high meat consumption and raw vegetables, to be particularly healthy. A complete absence of grains and legumes is thought to offer species-appropriate nutrition, as was already consumed by the people in the Stone Age before the era of agriculture began.

Abstaining from carbohydrates at the cost of losing valuable years of life?

A rejuvenation-protein, according to the latest study results, is only produced in large volume through the completely opposite diet, with increased intake of carbohydrates and reduced protein intake.

The so-called “fountain of youth protein”, fibroblast growth factor21 (FGF21), was considered as early as 2015, based on study results from Yale University, to offer life-giving capacities. The hormone is supposed for instance to perform an important function in the metabolism of glucose and lipids. It is produced among other things in the liver and in certain situations induces the burning of fats, so as to keep blood sugar levels constant.

In addition, FGF21 is thought to prevent the degeneration of the immune system and thus also increases longevity. In fact, researchers were able through the previous study to show that FGF21 was able to extend the life of mice by up to 40%.

In the recently published study researchers from the University of Sydney managed to demonstrate a connection between diet and FGF21. They studied the effects of 25 different diets on FGF21 levels in the body of mice. And their results show significantly elevated FGF21 levels for protein-restricted diets.

The maximum levels of FGF21 were ultimately achieved with a form of diet in which a reduced protein intake occurred coupled with increased carbohydrate intake. Diets involving increased protein intake and reduced carbohydrate intake such as Paleo or LowCarb are consequently not suitable for inducing high FGF21 levels.

Those bad carbs – but why?

Alongside fat and protein, carbohydrates really rank among the main constituents of our diet. The body uses them among other things as short-term energy supplies and converts them into stored fat for use during hard times. According to some recommendations, a nutritious diet requires that more than 50% of energy supply be taken up in the form of carbohydrates. Yet more and more people consciously avoid this nutritional element and treat carbohydrates as if they were unhealthy.

In one interview Prof. Christoph Klotter of Germany’s Fulda University takes the following stance on nutrition psychology: “In today’s society various forms of nutrition are constantly getting into disrepute. Carbohydrates are merely one example as such. Fatty acids, among other food components, were also presented for years as being unhealthy and now it looks as though we ought to go over this theory again starting from scratch. Carbohydrates have of course, due to their sugar components, always been a health issue. And of course, the increased intake of sugars may under certain circumstances pose a health risk, but carbohydrates are, generally speaking, a food which is difficult to attack from a scientific perspective”.

Abstinence from carbohydrates unhealthy?

Especially with Paleo and LowCarb diets large amounts of fats and proteins are consumed in the form of meat, fish or dairy products in place of carbohydrates. While the recommended daily allowance of proteins for an adult is actually only 0.8 g per kilogram of bodyweight, with such diets four to five times that amount is often consumed per day.

Looking at fats as well, in some instances a proportion of only 30% daily energy intake in fat form is recommended. These levels are often exceeded in carbohydrate-restricted diets, and viewed critically by some nutritionists. Among other things, a supposedly increased risk of atherosclerosis is discussed in connection to increased fat intake, and elevated protein intake is subject to criticism in relation to gout and liver or kidney disease.

Diet creates identity

Irrespective of whether Paleo and its proponents really die sooner, it raises the question of where this trend towards diets and new diets actually originates and why so many people allow themselves to be carried away by it.

While a diet in earlier times was just a measure used for losing weight, it nowadays represents one’s own life philosophy. This could explain the hype and enthusiasm for radical diets like Paleo. Suddenly you can live like Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble. Real Stone Age men eat real meat. No wonder then that Paleo is a phenomenon that appeals especially to men. One can still recognise the alpha male on account of his large steak and “real male diet”.

So the subject of nutrition is today clearly not just a matter of health, taste or well-being, but also a way of defining how one sees oneself and what one wants to present to the external world. “We are living in luxury today. In supermarkets there is an incredible variety of food and people are free to select whatever kind of food they decide to. Through eating one can now create one’s own identity. You can stand out from the crowd through your way of eating; be unique”, says the nutritional psychologist Klotter.

Dietary advice? – Difficult

In fact, there seem to be more diets today than ever before. Besides the Paleo, LowCarb and Atkins diet, the LowFat diets, various crash diets and the Glyx diet increasingly enjoy greater popularity. The abundance of diets is inexhaustible. “People can afford to think about their diet and they do so increasingly. Eating matters are increasingly and more consciously being attached to lifestyle”, explains Klotter.

Ultimately, however, all nutritional recommendations are only a guide and the question is raised as to how much the individual guides his or her nutritional intake according to some code. “In my opinion, no generalised dietary advice can be dispensed anyhow. Every body metabolises food differently and if someone on the Paleo-Diet feels as though it does him or her good, I see no reasons for opposing it”, says Klotter.

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