All diet books suffer from the same major flaw. They consider a healthy diet to be the end-all and be-all for achieving good health. This notion is patently false. In fact, food is no more than 3rd or 4th on the list of what is most important for achieving optimal health.
Why Diet is Not the Key to Good Health
Historically, different cultures around the world have survived quite nicely on a wide variety of diets. They all have certain things in common, such consuming plenty of the fat-soluble vitamins. The differences and commonalities in a variety of diets was the topic of my recent post, How To Choose A Truly Healthy Diet – Really!
One of the main lessons from such comparisons is:
for health and longevity than what you eat.
A corollary to that statement is:
Other lifestyle factors are much more important.
Before getting into what these factors are, let’s start by taking a peek at the latest dietary advice about a high-fat ketogenic diet. It seems to be pretty good advice, although it still comes up short.
Why Fat for Fuel?
If you are still afraid of eating fat, you are suffering from an extensive brainwashing campaign by the American Heart Association, the American Medical Association, the Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and just about everything that Dr. Oz has to say about eating. (Regarding Dr. Oz: Who wants to live on skinless chicken breast, anyway?)
In fact, fat is one of the two food groups that we must consume for optimal health. The other is protein.
Of the Big Three food groups, only carbohydrates are not a dietary requirement.
The bottom line is that we need fat. We burn it as metabolic fuel. It is part of all of our cell membranes. We store it for use in times of need. (We often overdo that last one.)
The key that I want to focus on is the role of fat as metabolic fuel. This is the main approach in the latest book by Dr. Joseph Mercola, Fat for Fuel: A Revolutionary Diet to Combat Cancer, Boost Brain Power, and Increase Your Energy. Although it is an excellent book as far as diet advice goes, it still falls short by overemphasizing the role of food for optimal health.
The main point that Dr. Mercola makes is that high levels of dietary fat drive healthy energy metabolism in your mitochondria. You may recall from Basic Biology that mitochondria are the so-called “energy furnaces” of cells.
You do recall, don’t you?
According to every torturous biology textbook (if that isn’t redundant), cells generate energy by first taking in “food” in the form of glucose (aka, blood sugar in animals). Glucose gets taken apart to yield energy in the form of a high-octane molecule abbreviated as ATP (adenosine triphosphate, if you must know). Certain of the breakdown parts go into mitochondria, where the real energy buzz takes place.
The same kinds of breakdown parts can also come from fat, although textbooks generally gloss over how this happens.
Either way, by time the mitochondria are finished making ATP, we have a whole bunch of it, plus some water that forms by combining protons (hydrogen) with oxygen at the end of the whole process.
NERD NOTE: If any of that sounds familiar, you may also recall that a molecule of glucose goes through the entire process to yield 36 molecules of ATP. Unfortunately, that explanation is flat wrong in many ways. Doubly unfortunately, the process is supported by something called the “chemiosmotic theory“, which is also dead wrong.
DOUBLE NERD NOTE: Even though Peter Mitchell got the 1978 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for explaining this theory, it is still wrong. Basic biology textbooks still haven’t caught up to that little detail.
APOLOGIES to the thousands of students to whom I taught the mechanisms of cellular respiration based on chemiosmosis.
NOW BACK TO FAT FOR FUEL:
What I want to emphasize from all this arm-waving is that eating lots of fat can be beneficial for your health only under certain conditions. Those conditions entail how healthy your mitochondria are in the first place.
Boosting Mitochondrial Health
Dr. Mercola has created something he refers to as Mitochondrial Metabolic Therapy. He devotes the first nine chapters in his book to explaining what MMT means and how to achieve it with a high-fat ketogenic diet. So far so good.
Chapter 10 finally gets into the really important strategies for good mitochondrial health, starting with fasting. If you don’t want to get his book, you can find out what this means, why it is important, and how to do it effectively in my earlier post on the topic, here: Health Problems Reversed by Intermittent Fasting. It is a very, very important strategy for achieving and maintaining optimal health.
Finally, in Chapter 11, Dr. Mercola reveals other strategies for boosting mitochondrial health. These strategies are much more important than the ketogenic diet that he advocates. Again, you can find much more on these strategies in my earlier post, here: Live Long And Prosper With Healthy Mitochondria.
No matter how good the dietary recommendations are in Dr. Mercola’s book, they are irrelevant unless you first do what it takes to make your mitochondria healthy. That entails the pointers that I provide in the two articles I have linked above.
One More Thing
The two most important starting materials for good mitochondrial health are:
- Energy from sunshine, especially ultraviolet and infrared light
- DHA from whole fish, not supplements (see Fish Oils – Industry BS Just Plain Fishy)
Put these factors in place before you even think about what kind of food is best for your health, mitochondrial or otherwise. A healthy diet is a good start. Food only works well if you first do what it takes making your mitochondria happy. If you don’t do so, you will not be as healthy as you can be, no matter how good your diet is.
All the best,