nutrition

RECENT POSTS

Study: In ‘Healthy’ Fast Food Ads, Kids Mostly Just See French Fries

Just watch the video here and you’ll immediately get the gist of this study. To sum up: when fast food companies try to advertise to children their “healthier” dining options, (like apple slices) the kids, for the most part, don’t see beyond the fries.

The takeaway, according to researchers at Dartmouth, is that these ads from fast food giants like McDonald’s and Burger King “don’t send the right message.”

Here’s more from the Dartmouth news release:

In research published March 31, 2014 in JAMA Pediatrics, Dartmouth researchers found that one-half to one-third of children did not identify milk when shown McDonald’s and Burger King children’s advertising images depicting that product. Sliced apples in Burger King’s ads were identified as apples by only 10 percent of young viewers; instead most reported they were french fries.

Other children admitted being confused by the depiction, as with one child who pointed to the product and said, “And I see some…are those apples slices?”

The researcher replied, “I can’t tell you…you just have to say what you think they are.”

“I think they’re french fries,” the child responded. Continue reading

The Distrust Diet: Can Suspicion, Anger And Disdain Help Us Lose Weight?

(Wikimedia Commons)

(Wikimedia Commons)

America is in, to quote the title of a new book, “A Big Fat Crisis.”

The crisis in question is what the surgeon general nominee, Dr. Vivek Murthy, this week called the defining public health challenge of our time. So we need more than ever to understand,”The Hidden Forces Behind The Obesity Epidemic — And How We Can End It,” to quote the subtitle of that new book.

Author Deborah Cohen, an MD and senior scientist at the RAND Corporation, makes two powerful points (among others):

• Given human nature — particularly all the ways we’re hard-wired to perceive and eat food — the current food environment (or “food swamp,” as she puts it) pushes most of us willy nilly into extra weight, and we cannot realistically expect most people to have the superhuman self-control needed to resist it.

Dr. Deborah Cohen (courtesy)

Dr. Deborah Cohen (courtesy)

• Given that obesity has become a major public health problem, it is time for the government to step in, as it has in past public health crises — including, most classically, bringing in better sewage systems in the 19th century to stem water-borne diseases like cholera. Government measures could range from restricting displays of junk food to rating restaurants on how healthy their menus are.

I leave it to others to debate those central messages; I asked Dr. Cohen instead to expand on a more minor point that particularly rang true for me. On page 184, she includes this little coping tip: “Look at the current food environment and purveyors of processed foods with suspicion.” She writes:

“If we start viewing the worst offenders in the food and beverage industries with disdain, their efforts will fail to persuade us to buy their products. We will have inoculated ourselves against companies that sell us junk foods and that advertise and market those foods relentlessly. The best thing about this approach is that we won’t have to use up any of our willpower or limited cognitive capacity to reject these unhealthy foods — we will say no automatically, as we do when faced with anything suspicious.”

Recent books and media coverage can certainly help fan our suspicion, particularly the rising criticism of “Big Food,” and marketers whose products have been clearly shown to be obesogenic — soda, candy, junk food in general. Personally, I’ve found my own food attitudes shifting as my distrust of food-makers has risen, as I’ve read more about how marketers develop “hyper-palatable” foods to hook us, and stores design their shelves to maximize impulse buying. (In fact, Dr. Cohen cites findings that supermarkets often gain more income from vendors who pay for the prominent placement of their foods than from selling the food itself.)

It’s reached the point that, if I find a truly indefensible bit of junk food in my pantry, I may declare it “non-food” — “They only want us to think that it’s food, but it has no redeeming nutritional value whatsoever!” — and throw it out. My tainted attitude vastly diminishes any appeal it may have. Eating it would make me a sucker.

We’re being tricked into spending our limited resources on food that will lead to chronic disease.

So Dr. Cohen’s prescription for suspicion made sense to me, and I asked her to expand on it further: Can we really use our own disdain and distrust to lose weight and improve our health?

Our conversation, edited:

Deborah Cohen: First, I want to say that I actually think that trying to have each person solve this problem on their own is doomed to failure, because the environment is so powerful and it affects us in ways that we can’t always recognize. Unless we can control the environment, we’re not going to be able to control ourselves very well. That’s for most people. Yet there will be some people who can take this advice and put it to good use to lose weight, but that’s not going to be everybody.

Point taken, and I must say, I found your emphasis on the power of these automatic responses to food, that most of us cannot control, very comforting, because it has long baffled me that so many of us — including me — can accomplish so many other things but not lose unwanted weight. So how can distrust help us?

The easiest things to give up are junk food items like candy, sugar-sweetened beverages, chips. Let’s start there, because those are generally very recognizable, and they’re placed in our faces everywhere we go. If we can look at those items and think, ‘Those are being made to trick me, to dupe me and to take my money’ it will be easier to resist them. If you think about a bag of potato chips, that might be less than half a potato in there, the ingredients might cost a few pennies, but they’re going to charge you a dollar or more. The ingredients are cheaper than the labor, packing and advertising that are used to sell them.

So if we think that junk food is ripping us off, maybe we’re going to be less likely to buy it. We’re being ripped off financially, we’re being tricked because this food will increase our risk for chronic disease, and they’re exploiting our human nature to want something quick, convenient and tasty. So be suspicious.

Also, think about sugar-sweetened beverages. Continue reading

Project Louise: When Wanting To Work Out Just Doesn’t Work Out

Maybe just a handful ... (bowenmurphy via Creative Commons/Flickr)

Maybe just a handful … (bowenmurphy via Creative Commons/Flickr)

By Louise Kennedy
Guest contributor

Welcome to February, the month when trainers and gym regulars alike note a falling-off in the crowds that appeared right after New Year’s. Resolutions are a wonderful thing, but without a sustainable plan, apparently, they don’t last much beyond Groundhog Day.

I wish I could report that I’m an exception to this rule. But somehow I went through all of last week without getting to the gym once.

It stings to write that, perhaps especially because in my very first Project Louise post I declared that my pride would keep me from reporting that “I didn’t get to the gym at all, I ate Cheez-Its and Chardonnay for dinner every night, and I feel pretty miserable about all that but I’m not about to change.”

Really, though, it’s not quite that bad. I only ate Cheez-Its once, and we were out of Chardonnay. (Besides, Cheez-Its really call for a red, don’t you think?)

More seriously, here’s what gives me a sliver of hope amid the frustration and disappointment in myself: I do feel pretty miserable about it, but I am absolutely committed to making a change. And so I am trying to use this past week the way Coach Allison has encouraged me to: as an opportunity to observe what’s working and what isn’t, rather than as yet another chance to beat myself up.

So what happened? For one thing, I chose to focus on eating more healthfully – following the DASH diet I wrote about last week – and, in my case, that meant taking back control of the family cooking. (My husband had been doing the lion’s share, which was logistically very helpful, but his repertoire focuses on spaghetti and meat loaf, and I’ve been wanting to amp up the vegetables and salads for quite a while.) Because I often work until 5:30 or later, I needed to do a lot of meal prep in the mornings – and that meant I wasn’t getting out the door in time to go to the gym.

Beyond that, though, there were a couple of days when I just couldn’t drag myself out of bed. I thought I was getting a cold; I was also babying my knee a bit – one of the earlier glitches I hadn’t mentioned here, because it’s flat-out embarrassing, is that when I was running late for my first training session, I tripped on the stairs and banged up my knee. Three weeks later, it’s still swollen and sore.

Sleep! That’s the biggest problem.

The maybe-a-cold and the still-hurting knee were enough to make me go to the doctor; the nurse practitioner I saw ruled out a sinus infection and said the knee was just a bad bruise. So I’ve been icing it, and it’s getting better, but slowly. And it still hurt enough that I was anxious about aggravating it with squats and lunges – or at least that’s what I told myself when I hit the snooze button.

Sleep! That’s the biggest problem. I am a night owl, a tendency deeply reinforced by years of working evenings and nights; left to my own devices, I would go to sleep around 1 a.m. and get up at 8:30 or 9. Children make that pretty much impossible, obviously, but even so I have spent years sleeping till the last possible second – 7:43, if you must know – that will let me get my daughter to kindergarten on time. (The high school sophomore, mercifully, gets himself to the bus, except on those days when I drive him to a 5:45 workout – but I didn’t do that last week, either.) So, even though early morning seems like the only part of my day that I can reclaim, I am finding it really, really hard to make myself consistently get out of bed at 5:30 or 6. Continue reading

Study: In Mice, Antioxidants Spur Lung Cancer Growth

Vitamin C, a well-known antioxidant (C. Bickel, Science Translational Medicine.)

Vitamin C, a well-known antioxidant (C. Bickel, Science Translational Medicine.)

No, this is by no means an excuse to stop eating berries and beans and apples and all the other healthy foods high in antioxidants, those natural chemical compounds — the most famous are vitamins A, C and E — that help protect cells from damage. If there’s one thing scientists agree on, its that plant-based foods are good for us.

But antioxidant supplements or drugs, in people at high risk for lung cancer, may not be. A new study just out in the journal Science Translational Medicine suggests that antioxidants in mice with incipient lung tumors can dramatically boost the risks of cancer, tripling the number of tumors and speeding death. And the researchers say they’ve figured out how this works: The antioxidants seem to lower levels of a key suppressor of tumors, a protein called p53. From the press release:

Studying two different antioxidants, vitamin E and a drug called acetylcysteine, Martin Bergö and colleagues found that antioxidants sped up the progression of lung cancer in mice and in human cell lines. The authors used normal daily dietary doses of vitamin E and relatively low doses of acetylcysteine (humans typically received the antioxidant in an inhaled form, but the mice received it by mouth). When mice with early stages of lung cancer were given antioxidants, their tumors accelerated in growth, became more invasive, and killed the mice twice as fast compared to mice with early lung tumors that didn’t receive antioxidants.

So what are we to make of this? Oftentimes, basic scientists like Bergö, of the University of Gothenberg, in Sweden, punt on such questions. It’s not their job to translate bench work to the bedside. But Bergö answered the question head-on during a press conference.

“If I had a patient with lung cancer, I would probably recommend that they do not take extra antioxidants,” he said. “Would I make a general recommendation to healthy patients? Definitely not, because we haven’t studied that and we don’t have any data on that.”

What would he say to a patient with chronic lung disease who was taking the antioxidant drug acetylcysteine to improve breathing? “I don’t know what I would say, actually. I would make sure that as much research as possible is sparked from this as soon as possible, to determine if acetylcysteine use in this patient is causing an increased risk of cancer.”

Let’s add a few more grains of salt. I asked Prof. Robert Weinberg of MIT, famed for his research on cancer-related genes or “oncogenes,” what the public should make of this new antioxidant-cancer link. His emailed reply:

I would say that it is very difficult to extrapolate the results of this study to human beings, even hard to issue a caution about overdosing on antioxidants, since there is so much evidence that usually they do a lot of good. To my mind, this study only becomes meaningful (as well as it was done,) once others have explored the effects of antioxidants in other tumor systems, and that the effects that they observed might be very idiosyncratic for one kind of tumor triggered by one type of oncogene in mice.

Bergö made a similar point himself to reporters. Continue reading

Project Louise: The Dirty Word That Starts With ‘D’

Louise Kennedy uses the D word with Dr. Thomas Moore, co-creator of the #1-ranked DASH diet.  (Carey Goldberg/WBUR)

Louise Kennedy uses the D word with Dr. Thomas Moore, co-creator of the #1-ranked DASH diet. (Carey Goldberg/WBUR)

By Louise Kennedy
Guest contributor

So far in Project Louise, we’ve been talking mostly about setting goals and developing new exercise habits. But of course there is that one word that always comes up in any discussion of health and fitness, a word that strikes fear into the heart, a word that evokes countless memories of hope and failure and shame, a word that so far I have avoided saying because I hate it at least as much as you do.

That word is “diet.”

But Dr. Thomas J. Moore says we shouldn’t be so scared of this word – and we should learn what it really means.

“What do people mean when they say ‘diet’?” Dr. Moore wrote to me, after I’d asked to interview him about an eating plan that he co-created and that consistently ranks No. 1 in a U.S. News survey of diet plans. (We’ll get to all that in a minute.)

“For some people, it always means weight loss,” he continued. “To others, including most nutrition folks, it means whatever people eat.” This matters, he said, because “if you only think diet means weight loss, you also think diet is temporary.  When you have lost your weight, you stop your diet and then … what?  You probably go back to what you were eating before and gain it all back.”

I am not ‘on a diet.’ I am ‘changing my diet.’

Don’t I know it. Just as one example, my current weight is a good 30 pounds above my starting weight when I did a Weight Watchers at Work program back in the early ’90s. I did lose the weight – got all the way down to 135 – but then slowly, inexorably gained it all back, and more, once I stopped going to meetings and writing down what I ate.

Of course we can say – and I did say, for years – that this is my fault for not sticking with the program. (And my fault for not having the “willpower” to stay on Atkins or South Beach or cabbage soup or juicing or any of the other fads that I – and possibly you – have picked up and put down.) But Dr. Moore gets me thinking: What if the problem wasn’t me and my willpower, but my not having found a program that I could stick to for life? Continue reading

Thyroid Doc: Kale Risks ‘Theoretical’ But In Reality, Very Low To Minuscule

bittermelon/flickr

bittermelon/flickr

This post — “The Dark Side of Kale (And How To Eat Around It)” — went wildly viral this week, generating huge traffic and high passions over this once minor but now hotter-than-hot vegetable. Among the accusations from readers were charges that the post was “dubious and dangerous” and that I was, in effect “discouraging Americans from eating vegetables” (my children would disagree).

Still, for a medical reality check, I turned to a doctor who specializes in treating the thyroid.

(Before we get to him, for background, my post was inspired by an earlier piece in The New York Times on potential thyroid problems linked to kale and other cruciferous vegetables, called “Kale? Juicing. Trouble Ahead.” This article was troubling to me since I, too, am a devoted kale fan.)

OK, back to the thyroid expert, who points out that this debate is particularly timely since January is Thyroid Awareness Month.

Dr. Jeffrey Garber is chief of endocrinology at Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates, and lead author of the latest clinical practice guideline on hypothyroidism in adults. He agreed to answer a few more questions on the kale-thyroid connection.

I’d sum up Dr. Garber’s take on the whole kale issue pretty simply: It’s probably unwise to embrace a long-term, pound-a-day raw kale habit, but even if you do, you will, in all likelihood, be fine. (Especially if you live in the U.S., where iodine deficiency isn’t a huge problem, and if you don’t have a family history or predisposition to thyroid disorders.)

“If one isn’t a food faddist or predisposed to a thyroid problem (family history, prior diagnosis) the risks are very low,” Garber said. And, he adds, if you have any concerns at all, check in with your doctor for a simple thyroid test.

Here, lightly edited, is our Q&A:

RZ: In plain terms, what’s the connection between kale, a cruciferous vegetable, and thyroid function?

JG: There are many substances that can interfere with the way the thyroid functions. Goitrogens, as in those that promote goiter, make up one of these categories.
(There’s an enormous amount of interest in environmental goitrogens, like BPA and other substances, but that’s another story: We’re talking about dietary goitrogens here.)

When you get into the way goitrogens can affect the thyroid directly there are three general ways (and all relate to iodine, which is what thyroid hormone is made from):

1. the way the thyroid picks up the iodine;

2. the way the thyroid produces the hormone once the iodine is in the thyroid;

3. the way thyroid hormone is secreted into the bloodstream.

When you look at dietary goitrogens, they interfere with one or more of these three steps.

OK, so kale is one of these so-called “goitrogenic” foods, right?

Yes. Continue reading

The Dark Side Of Kale (And How To Eat Around It)

(photofarmer/Flickr)

(photofarmer/Flickr)

The headline in The New York Times made my heart sink: “Kale? Juicing? Trouble Ahead.

Confession: I’m one of those Vitamix-loving, green-smoothie worshipping, kale bandwagoners. I brim with holier-than-thou pride when my kids eat raw kale (no dressing, even!) and thick kale-laden shakes while other children snack on sugary GoGURT squeezes and suck on juice boxes.

I am not alone. Presidents and stars are kale-lovers too.

Kale, in case you haven’t noticed, is health-conscious America’s “it” vegetable. Raw, blended, sauteed or in chip or “crunch” form, it appears to be the manna of celebrities: Gwyneth and Jennifer devour it while Kevin Bacon recently declared [it's] “the age of kale.” In an astutely reported feature called “Stars Who Love Kale,” US Weekly quotes Bette Midler saying: “Kale is burning up the veggisphere.”

Even the Obamas dined on kale salad at their Thanksgiving feast, notes The Washington Post.

But apparently there’s trouble in cruciferous paradise.

Writing for The Times, Jennifer Berman reports on the dark side of kale, and how the health-infused, veggie Eden she’d carefully built over years began to crumble:

Imagine my shock, then, at my last physical, when my doctor told me I had hypothyroidism, common in women over 40. When I got home I looked up the condition on the Internet and found a list of foods to avoid. Kale, which I juiced every morning, tops the list, followed by broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and collard greens — the cruciferous vegetables I consumed in large quantities because they are thought to prevent cancer, which runs in my family. And flax — as in the seeds — high in omega 3’s, that I sprinkled on cereal and blended in strawberry almond milk smoothies. Also forbidden: almonds and strawberries, not to mention soy, peaches, peanuts, corn, radishes, rutabaga and spinach.

My first reaction: Berman must be misguided, mistaken. Can kale possibly be bad?

Well, yes, possibly. Here’s the science-y lowdown on the kale-thyroid connection from the Oregon State University Micronutrient Information site:

Very high intakes of cruciferous vegetables…have been found to cause hypothyroidism (insufficient thyroid hormone) in animals (68). There has been one case report of an 88-year-old woman developing severe hypothyroidism and coma following consumption of an estimated 1.0 to 1.5 kg/day of raw bok choy for several months. Two mechanisms have been identified to explain this effect. The hydrolysis of some glucosinolates found in cruciferous vegetables (e.g., progoitrin) may yield a compound known as goitrin, which has been found to interfere with thyroid hormone synthesis. The hydrolysis of another class of glucosinolates, known as indole glucosinolates, results in the release of thiocyanate ions, which can compete with iodine for uptake by the thyroid gland. Increased exposure to thiocyanate ions from cruciferous vegetable consumption or, more commonly, from cigarette smoking, does not appear to increase the risk of hypothyroidism unless accompanied by iodine deficiency. One study in humans found that the consumption of 150 g/day (5 oz/day) of cooked Brussels sprouts for four weeks had no adverse effects on thyroid function.

(For an updated reality check on kale consumption and the thyroid, see our Q and A with endocrinologist and thyroid expert Dr. Jeffrey Garber here. Bottom line: in the U.S, where we don’t have a big problem with iodine deficiency, it’s probably OK.)

Teresa Fung, Sc.D., M.S.. an adjunct professor of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health and a professor at Simmons College in Boston, confirms the kale-thyroid link. But, she says, “normal, reasonable amounts of eating should not be a problem. A regular person [with no thyroid issues] who eats several servings of cruciferous vegetables a week should not have problems.”

Fung adds: “It’s the dose that makes a poison. If people have hypothyroidism or they’re taking thyroid medication, then they should check with their doctor. But even in this case, reasonable amounts shouldn’t be a problem. Now, if people have a tall glass of kale juice every single day, then it gets into the unknown territory.”

So, what are still-anxious kale-lovers to do? I asked Somerville, Mass. health coach and psychology of eating coach Nina Manolson to offer some guidance. (She’s not a doctor, but she knows a lot about food, so keep that in mind and always check with a professional if you make major changes in your diet.)

Nina reiterated that kale is a goitrogenic food, meaning that it can contribute to an enlarged thyroid — a goiter. A goiter indicates that the thyroid gland is not functioning optimally. But, she says, there are ways to have our kale and eat it too. Here, lightly edited, are her suggestions:

1. Cook Your Kale

The goitrogenic properties of kale become dramatically lessened when kale — or any other cruciferous vegetable — is cooked. (Other veggies in this category include: broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kohlrabi, mustard, rutabaga, turnips, bok choy and Chinese cabbage. Arugula, horseradish, radish, wasabi and watercress are also cruciferous vegetables.) Continue reading

Breaking News: FDA Takes First Steps To Ban Trans-Fat

Up until now, the FDA has deemed trans fat to be “GRAS” — Generally Regarded As Safe. Well, those days may be numbered. Medpage Today reports that the federal food and drug agency is moving to “eliminate partially hydrogenated oils — the main dietary source of artificial trans fat — in processed foods.”

Why? According to the FDA website:

Trans fat has been linked to an increased risk of coronary heart disease, in which plaque builds up inside the arteries and may cause a heart attack.

(FDA)

(FDA)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that a further reduction of trans fat in the food supply can prevent an additional 7,000 deaths from heart disease each year and up to 20,000 heart attacks each year.

In its inimitable bureaucrat-ese, the FDA website explains what today’s action means:

If FDA determines that PHOs are not GRAS, it could, in effect, mean the end of artificial, industrially-produced trans fat in foods, says Dennis M. Keefe, Ph.D., director of FDA’s Office of Food Additive Safety. FDA is soliciting comments on how such an action would impact small businesses and how to ensure a smooth transition if a final determination is issued.

And here’s more from the Medpage Today story:

On the basis of a review of scientific evidence and findings from expert panels, the agency made a preliminary determination that the oils “are not generally recognized as safe for use in food” and should be eliminated, FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, MD, said on a conference call with reporters.

The decision “is very welcome and strongly supported by massive scientific evidence that trans fat has many adverse effects on health,” Walter Willett, MD, DrPH, of the Harvard School of Public Health, said in an email to MedPage Today. “Trans fat has no place on the table, and this step will help make the diets of Americans safer.” Continue reading

‘Fat Letters’ To Trick-Or-Treaters? Get Real (Also, Halloween Health Tips)

I am typically the Halloween Scrooge. Sure, I love the costumes and neighborhood rituals, but the furious sugar obsession and frenetic hoarding of candy (whatever happened to apples?) makes me crazy.

But not, apparently, as crazy as a woman in North Dakota who apparently plans to hand out “fat letters” to chubby trick-or-treaters who show up at her door, according to a report on Valley News Live.

The news site posts what it says is a copy of the (still anonymous) woman’s Halloween letter which says, in part:

“Your child is, in my opinion, moderately obese and should not be consuming sugar and treats to the extent of some children this Halloween season. My hope is that you will step up as a parent and ration candy this Halloween and not allow your child to continue these unhealthy eating habits.”

Why bother trying to make a public health statement on Halloween? The anti-fat-kid letter writer tells a local N.D. radio station, “I just want to send a message to the parents of kids that are really overweight… I think it’s just really irresponsible of parents to send them out looking for free candy just ’cause all the other kids are doing it.”

halloween candyWhile I agree with the sentiment here, the Halloween finger-wagging (if true) seems a bit misplaced. I’m not thrilled about my kids getting high on candy corn either, but let’s get some perspective here people: it’s only one day.

Still, for those who want to minimize the kids’ sugar hangover Friday, I’m reprinting our post “Five Halloween Health Tips” written by Boston-area mom and health and wellness coach Nina Manolson:

1. Start The Evening Full

While it’s tempting to just grab a slice of pizza and then run out for trick-or-treating, Nina says it’s critical to feed your kids a generous, protein-rich dinner on Halloween night, including a healthy sweet dessert, like baked apple with cinnamon or a fruit smoothie. This, hopefully, will leave them less vulnerable to the Tootsie Rolls and Laffy Taffy lurking outside.

2. Trading, Sorting And Counting

After collecting vats of candy and calling it a night, it’s time to get down to work. First, Nina has her kids divide their sugar-laden cache into two groups, which she calls, loosely, “Food” and “Nonfood.”

“Nonfood” is anything with high-fructose corn syrup or trans-fat and anything that looks like plastic. (You know those rubbery candies shaped like hamburgers and ice cream cones? Nina says she’s kept one of those around for six years now, jumped on it, kicked it around and it still looks exactly the same.) Continue reading

Caveman Syndrome: Today’s Killer Diseases Stem From Evolutionary Mismatch

 

By Karen Weintraub
CommonHealth Contributor

Cavemen didn’t have flat feet or type 2 diabetes. They didn’t need orthodontia or get impacted wisdom teeth. The ones who couldn’t see their prey – or predators – from far away didn’t live long enough to pass their nearsightedness on to their children.

Indeed, the vast majority of what ails us today — from leading killers like heart disease and cancer, to smaller health woes such as back pain — is the result of a mismatch between the environments we evolved in and the ones we now inhabit, argues Harvard evolutionary biologist Dan Lieberman in his sweeping new book, “The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health, And Disease.”

Lord Jim/flickr

Lord Jim/flickr

Lieberman, perhaps best known for his energetic advocacy of barefoot running (which he sometimes does), convincingly makes the case for a wholesale rethinking of how we live our modern lives based on overcoming these evolutionary “mismatches.”

“Most of us in this room are probably going to die of a mismatch disease,” Lieberman told a capacity crowd Thursday night at the Harvard Museum of Natural History.

Our bodies evolved as hunter-gatherers to walk 5-10 miles a day, eat a varied diet loaded with fiber and pack on fat in times of plenty to get us through the leaner times, he said. But instead, we live in an environment where we can drive to the mall, park close to the door and take the escalator up to the food court for a dinner that barely needs chewing.

This mismatch has led, he suggests, to a proliferation of heart disease, cancer and diabetes – which were nearly unknown to our prehistoric ancestors, as well as disabling conditions like low back pain and autoimmune problems. Continue reading