It is said that there are three things you cannot change about a man: His religion, his politics and his diet.
Most people believe so strongly about these three things that even when faced with undeniable proof that contradicts their beliefs, they will not open their mind to other possibilities.
Of course, we often see this in the dietary dogma of veganism. Despite a lack of evidence for its benefits (and clear proof of potential harm), proponents of veganism cling as tightly to their belief as religion.
But of course, it’s not just the vegans…
It’s no wonder that dating websites now claim that diet has joined politics and religion as the biggest “deal breakers” when it comes to the dating scene. The subject of the “optimal human diet” is hotly debated at dinner tables and across social media.
But the truth is that there is NO optimal human diet, because…
We Are All Genetically Unique – One-Size-Fits-All Does NOT Work When it Comes to Your Diet!
Of course, you know we all look different on the outside…
But it’s easy to assume we work the same way on the inside. We have the same organs. And our bodies function in the same basic way. Yet, that’s where the similarity ends.
Your biology and genetics are unique. And so are your dietary requirements. This is why two people can follow the exact same diet and achieve very different results. It is also why a healthy food for one person could actually make YOU sick.
Let me give you an example…
Oxalates are compounds found in spinach, kale and other “superfoods.” Most people break down oxalates in the gut. For others, however, these compounds turn into sharp crystals and can lead to chronic pain, inflammation, oxidative stress and autoimmune disease!
Let that sink in for a moment… for some people, eating too much spinach and kale can cause disease.
And this is not a “hypothetical” situation. Millions of people are adversely affected by oxalates. In fact, the American Journal of Kidney Disease recently published a report of a woman, “who developed acute kidney injury that progressed to end-stage renal disease” as a direct result of following a “Green Smoothie Cleanse.”[i]
Another study, published in the journal Cell, drives home the point…
Researchers tracked 800 people who consumed 46,898 identical meals. During the study, the scientists measured blood, hormonal and other responses to each meal. They discovered that the subjects experienced “extreme variability” in their reactions.[ii],[iii]
In the words of the leading scientist…
“Individuals often had completely opposite responses to the same food.”
And what solution did the researchers recommend? “Personalized Diets”
We often tell children that each person is as unique as a snowflake. And while it may sound silly, it is true. Your individual genetics and metabolism are as unique as a fingerprint. That is why there is no universal cure or “fix-all” solution for a chronic condition.
Each of us has native biochemical factors that influence our immune health, allergic predispositions, personality, behavior and potential for addiction. In fact, the number of different possible genetic combinations in a child from the same two parents exceeds 42 million!
Biochemical individuality explains why:
- Some of us are better at detoxifying chemicals
- The amino acid homocysteine may (or may not) cause heart disease
- Some people enjoy alcohol responsibly, while others become alcoholics
- One person may need higher levels of certain nutrients to be healthy
- Minerals like copper can be toxic and cause disease and mental illness in some people
- Foods like spinach and kale can cause kidney stones and disease in some individuals
Creating the Blueprint for YOUR Perfect Diet
The “ancestral” or Paleo template is an excellent starting point for most people. But within that framework, it is important to understand that each of us will have:
- Specific Foods to Avoid: Either due to allergies, intolerances or blood sugar reactions. For example, one woman who was a subject in a study referenced above, was able to metabolize rice with a rather low blood-sugar reaction, while tomatoes sent her blood sugar and insulin levels soaring.
- An Ideal Macronutrient Ratio: There is a protein/carbohydrate/fat ratio that is ideal for each of us based on our unique biochemical, genetic and microbiome factors. Some people do better on a low-carb-high-fat or ketogenic diet, while others do better on a moderate carbohydrate diet.
- Personal Nutrient Requirements. Due to extreme genetic variation, there can be no “Recommended Daily Value” for all of us. This is one of the many reasons why the USDA reductionist guidelines are misguided. It’s like trying to find the right shoes size for Americans. For example, if you have the MTHFR genetic mutation, you will require higher amounts of specific nutrients (which may need to come from high-quality supplements). Similarly, some people have a genetic inability to control copper and other trace metals. These people may need to avoid foods high in copper (such as chocolate, carob, shellfish and nuts). These are only two out of potentially hundreds of examples.[iv]
- Microbiome Manipulation: While there is no “ideal” microbiome, we know that certain factors regarding our gut microbes can increase the risk for disease. By uncovering weaknesses in our microbiome we can improve immunity, brain health, digestive health and overall wellness.
As you can see, to achieve your very best health, it is important to dig deeper than the common platitudes to “just eat whole foods” or “follow the diet of our ancestors.” While this is certainly a step in the right direction for someone following a typical American diet, it misses the fine point. And it is these essential details that can make the difference between merely existing… and truly thriving!
In the coming weeks, I’ll be discussing the rapidly emerging field of personalized medicine, including the fascinating areas of nutrigenomics, metabolomics and microbiome sequencing.
I’ll share with you some of the tools and services you can use to learn more about your biochemical uniqueness and create a diet that’s as one-of-a-kind as you are!
ED NOTE: Kelley Herring is the co-founder of Wellness Bakeries, makers of grain-free, gluten-free, low-glycemic baking mixes for cakes, cookies, breads, pizza and much more.
Kelley’s academic background is in biology and chemistry and for the last 15+ years, she has focused on the study of nutritional biochemistry…and the proven powers of compounds in foods to heal the body.
[iii] Cell, Zeevi and Korem et al.: “Personalized nutrition by prediction of glycemic responses” http://www.cell.com/cell/abstract/S0092-8674(15)01481-6