HOW TO SPOT A MAGIC BULLET DIET
A ‘magic bullet’ diet is an approach to eating with huge herds of followers declaring that, ‘Everyone should eat this way to be the healthiest they can be’. Here’s how to spot them:
1“IT CURES EVERYTHING”
Enthusiasts of the diet / superfood / ingredient claim it cures everything – from chronic diseases, to skin conditions, and even psychological or stress-related disorders.
According to one top paleo diet website, “Eating like this is ideal for maintaining a healthy metabolism and reducing inflammation within the body. It’s good for body composition, energy levels, sleep quality, mental attitude and quality of life. It helps eliminate sugar cravings and re-establishes a healthy relationship with food. It also works to minimise your risk for a whole host of lifestyle diseases and conditions, like diabetes, heart attack, stroke and autoimmune.” That’s quite an extensive list! While it might do some of these for some people, is it fair to say it has these effects on every single person who goes on the diet? My patients say otherwise.
2“THERE’S SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE”
There is often scientific evidence to back up these diets. Some of it is super solid, and some of it is anything but. Many paleo studies are extremely short term,
and while there’s the argument of ‘2 million years of evolutionary evidence’ always waiting in the shadows, the items I see paleo-ists eating usually do not resemble anything that I imagine a paleolithic person in any region of the world would have eaten. Atlantic salmon coupled with organic produce from different parts of the world, with raw paleo brownies for dessert sounds anything but paleolithic to me. There are very few studies done on the benefits of a 100% raw food diet, and none done on its long-term sustainability.
The funny thing about scientific evidence is that, if you look hard enough, you can find evidence for whichever argument you decide to take, whether it’s paleo or the exact opposite – a high carbohydrate, low to no animal protein, plant-based vegan approach.
The work of Colin Campbell and Cardwell Esselstyn exemplifies the many benefits of such a diet. Their studies are probably the most comprehensive and scientifically valid of the lot. It still doesn’t make them perfect and failproof, however. I’ve seen people on a vegan diet suffer, the same way I’ve seen paleo people and raw foodists suffer. Not everyone does well on a 100% vegan diet, the same way not everyone suits a high animal protein diet.
3“IT’S HOW WE WERE MEANT TO EAT”
The flyer at a paleo cafe I enjoy attending says the paleo diet “avoids dairy, grains, legumes, added sugars and preservatives, which our bodies were not designed to digest”
Really? What about the traditional cultures who adapted to digesting lactose and have lived for centuries eating cultured raw milk products, like the Abkhasians of Russia? Or the myriad traditional cultures that eat legumes and grains on a daily basis – Indians with rice and dahl, or native Central Americans with maize and beans? You could hardly argue that these guys – when left in their traditional settings – are unhealthy.
The same applies with hard core raw foodists and vegans. ‘ We weren’t meant to eat cooked food.’ We don’t have the correct length digestive tract or teeth to digest meat.’ While it’s easy to find some form of evidence for some of these statements, they are still sweeping statements – they simply don’t work for EVERYONE.
The paleo, i.e., ‘what cavemen actually ate’ aspect is arguably just its hook and underpinning principle; a clever marketing tool. It’s not a paleo label that will make you healthy. Rather, any success that comes does so because ultimately it promotes eating lots of fresh vegetables, and avoiding processed food where possible.
Atlantic salmon coupled with organic produce from different parts of the world, with raw paleo brownies for dessert sounds anything but paleolithic to me.