Archive for October, 2011

Don’t diet

Another new study is out – concluding that diets don’t work, and that temporary dieting may reduce our long-term health and natural ability to manage our weight. Though these conclusions are not new, this latest study is different from earlier ones. It explores a specific hypothesis to explain why temporary diets don’t work, rather than simply re-confirming this now well-documented human health phenomenon.

Don’t get us wrong. Our eating habits are important to our health and changing them can lead to weight loss. HumanaNatura, in fact, advocates a very specific way of eating – but a lifelong way, not a temporary one. We do this to encourage optimal health and body weight, and for the same reason, discourage short-term dieting.

It’s easy to understand why. When we examine diet study results and speak to dieters, again and again we find that people put their old weight back on after their dieting ends. And this research and our experience even suggests that there can be a sharp and higher bounce back up when we aggressively cut calories and lose weight precipitously. Our take-away from this: don’t diet.

What should overweight people do? As we explain in our science-based natural health system, a far better approach for lasting weight-loss is to find a way to get and then stay on a natural human diet, for good. This more enjoyable and naturally health-promoting strategy for weight optimization is far sounder scientifically and much easier in practice than crash dieting.

HumanaNatura guides people in this alternative to traditional dieting via our Natural Eating technique, which uses natural foods, and our natural physiology and health mechanisms, to steadily move our weight to its natural level. Importantly, people achieve a lean body weight in our natural health system without significant calorie restriction. Instead, we focus on building more ideal long-term eating habits and new perspectives on food – and on life more generally – through a process of progressive natural health alignment.

The latest study of short-term dieting was inspired by prior research suggesting slowed metabolism and increased hunger during and after calorie-crunching diets. To explore a chemical foundation of this, researchers at the University of Melbourne placed 50 people on an aggressive calorie-restriction diet of about 500 calories a day, and examined key dietary hormones before, during, and after the dieting period. About a third of the participants dropped out within 10 weeks, making their small study group even smaller, but underscoring the inherent difficultly and hardship of low-calorie dieting in general (leaving aside questions of its effectiveness and long-term side effects).

Importantly, the research team found that hypothesized hormonal changes in the dieters did occur and were more significant and longer lasting than is generally appreciated. Although further study is needed, the new results support the idea that intensive dieting chemically sets us up for failure, paradoxically and perhaps indelibly slowing our metabolism and increasing long-term feelings of hunger. The results are also consistent with the counter-proposal that efforts to permanently alter and scientifically naturalize our eating patterns – without severe calorie restriction but eliminating health-impairing and weight-engendering unnatural foods – are the correct way to achieve a healthy and sustainable body weight.

This new-old alternative to modern dieting appears far more likely to leave our weight-optimizing natural metabolism intact, while developing healthier eating attitudes and behaviors for the future (by both requiring and motivating them). This alternative model is of course precisely HumanaNatura’s approach, including our strong emphasis on essential health science understanding and advocacy of satiated eating within our natural range of foods. For people using our natural health system, we counsel expectations of gradual weight-loss of about a kilogram (2 pounds) per week until our natural body weight is reached, and then permanent maintenance of this weight as long as our Natural Eating guidelines are followed.

We would emphasize that this more natural form of weight optimization occurs without either significant calorie restriction or sensory deprivation. Instead, our method promotes a 100% natural and scientifically optimized human diet – emphasizing raw vegetables and fruit, while avoiding all carbohydrate-rich agricultural and industrial foods (including all grains, beans, and starches). Our Natural Eating technique also includes consumption of sufficient lean animal proteins and tree nuts to meet our physiological needs and satisfy normal hunger (with fats moderated principally for long-term cardiovascular health, rather than weight management).

It may be different, but HumanaNatura’s naturalized approach to weight loss works in practice and is supported by a growing body of nutritional and evolutionary science that explains why it does in principle. Learn about the newest study at Why It’s Hard To Keep Weight Off and how to make the delicious salad meals you see on NaturaLife via our popular article Perfect Salad Meals.

If you need to get lean or want to enjoyably stay lean the HumanaNatura way, you can review our guidelines for delicious, science-based natural nutrition and practical tips for achieving an optimal body weight via the Natural Eating section of HumanaNatura’s free and comprehensive four-part Personal Health Program.

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Future natural

A key theme of HumanaNatura is using our past and natural health to inform our present and future health – the caption of one of our website photos reads “examining earlier life to guide modern life.” But this important goal for the use of science is often easier to understand in principle than practice, so we are always looking for examples to show and not just talk about our “future natural” ethos.

A great example of using science to make contemporary life progressively healthier was in the news this week, this time involving the breeding of a new “super broccoli.” Though coincidentally lower in sulphur, we’re sure the new breed of broccoli will still wrinkle the noses of many children, but it is very likely to make daily life at least a little healthier.

The new vegetable comes from the cross-breeding of a common domesticated variety of broccoli with a wild and less palatable variant that has much higher levels of glucoraphanin, a nutrient believed to help prevent heart disease. The result is a new and reportedly more delicious variety of broccoli with significantly higher levels of glucoraphanin. At HumanaNatura, we really like the project’s synthesis of the modern and the natural to enable new health and quality of life, and think it is a great metaphor for our science-based natural health system.

Learn more about the project at Scientists Grow Super Broccoli, and explore your options for fusing the present and the natural for a healthier future via About HumanaNatura and our comprehensive Personal Health Program.

Photo courtesy of Broccoli Bloom.

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Seafood mix

Tasty mix of curry-seasoned shrimp, scallops, squid, and chopped veggies served with baby greens, diced cucumbers, halved grape tomatoes, and quartered fresh figs…garnished with parsley, coriander, anise, and black pepper. Quick, delicious, and about as healthy as a meal can be…with food chain-low fish and a high raw vegetable content.

Learn about our guidelines for healthy natural nutrition and how to make delicious salad meals via our popular article Perfect Salad Meals or through the Natural Eating section of HumanaNatura’s comprehensive Personal Health Program.

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Natural attention

Most of us mean to live optimally, especially people using or exploring HumanaNatura’s natural health techniques. But our desire to make the most of our brains and bodies must confront the fact that this effort relies on them, and thus is subject to certain natural limitations and biases. We may feel clear, objective, and in control, but we know through science that this can only be partially true. Without a certain amount of humility and curiosity about our natural limits, and ongoing attention to them, we individually and collectively risk living far below our potential.

A simple but revealing example of the everyday natural limits we each face in optimizing our lives comes from a new study by the University of Minnesota. Researchers there compared reported versus actual attention to nutritional information. They found that even self-reported “health conscious” shoppers assimilated much less information than they believed. The team concluded that we are far more apt to consume information that is at the top of lists and when it is presented advantageously, confirming the general conclusions of considerable and still growing research regarding our natural cognitive and perceptual biases.

The new findings shouldn’t be a surprise, since we are not evolved for perfection or even special accuracy amidst modern life, and because there is so much established science predicting exactly these results. Another predicted finding from this field: many of us reading this story will feel exceptional and that the results don’t apply or aren’t important to us. This natural bias explains why a large majority of us believe we possess above-average intelligence and attractiveness. Such native optimism may have had survival advantages in band life on the plains of Africa, but ultimately is one of many natural biases that has important quality of life implications today – for example, causing our frequent under-appreciation of health risks or the persistence required to make positive changes stick.

Learn more about the new study at What Am I Missing, and explore our options for more attentive life via HumanaNatura’s popular article Understanding Personal Empowerment or the Natural Living section of our comprehensive Personal Health Program.

Photo courtesy of Attentive Mind.

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Orange cod

Delicious fresh cod, seasoned with curry and herbs and broiled until just flakey, served with mixed greens, julienne celery and cucumber sections, red onion bits, and quartered grape tomatoes…garnished with orange rind and juice, parsley, coriander, black pepper, and a good amount of anise. Yummy, healthy and done in under fifteen minutes!

Learn about our guidelines for healthy natural nutrition and how to make delicious salad meals via our popular article Perfect Salad Meals or through the Natural Eating section of HumanaNatura’s comprehensive Personal Health Program.

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Place matters

In HumanaNatura’s natural health system, the fourth and final of our science-based health techniques is called Natural Communities. This health-critical practice begins with the idea that our social environment is essential to our health, and guides practitioners in the steps to either find or create a healthier community setting.

The science of healthy groups and communities, and the study of their important health and quality of life impacts, is quite broad – ranging from public health and city planning studies to management and political science research – making it difficult for health professionals and the general public to appreciate its full scope and importance. A new study by University of Chicago researchers is thus useful because it makes the power of place more tangible, and reminds us that we may naturally habituate to poor quality conditions and underestimate the power of community life on our health more generally.

The new study specifically investigated obesity and diabetes changes among families in poor U.S. neighborhoods who were given the opportunity to move to less poverty-prone areas in the 1990s. Some did so, while others did not, creating a natural experiment in the impact of relocation and background community quality. Ten years later, the research team found significant improvements in diabetes and obesity rates (of about 20%) among the group that had moved. This impact is reportedly about equal to the expected change from standard medical interventions, and the findings are important enough to warrant investigation of other health consequences in this group.

Do you want to consider the power of place in your life or more generally? Learn more about the new study at Change Your Neighborhood, Improve Your Health, and explore HumanaNatura’s guidelines for healthy communities via our unique and comprehensive Community Health Program.

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Grass-fed beef

Even our conservative local supermarket has begun carrying grass-fed beef…what a difference! If yours has too, we would encourage you to make the switch. Unlike traditional beef, grass-fed animals are not unnaturally “finished” with a grain-rich diet that increases their body fat and produces richly-marbled but less healthy meat. Though a bit more expensive, if you follow HumanaNatura’s guidelines on limiting red meat frequency and right-sizing our daily protein portions, this far healthier and more natural form of beef may be a worthwhile alternative.

Learn about our guidelines for healthy natural nutrition and how to make delicious salad meals via our popular article Perfect Salad Meals or through the Natural Eating section of HumanaNatura’s comprehensive Personal Health Program.

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