The Importance of Food
By Dr. Tim Fargo, Chiropractor
I have been a chiropractor for 40 years, but I date my interest in nutrition and healthy living to 50 years ago. I will never forget being reprimanded for pouring multiple teaspoons of sugar into my tea while sitting in the dining hall as a freshman at McGill University in Montréal, Canada, in 1972. The girl who was giving me a hard time about it made an “outrageous” assertion that excess sugar consumption was bad for me. I remember that I argued vigorously against this “preposterous” idea. That was the first time I ever heard anything about the relationship between diet and health. The first book I ever read on the subject was Sugar Blues by William Dufty; that was in 1975. From that point forward I began studying and learning more about the relationship between what we eat, how we feel, and how long we live. In 1976, I became gravely ill with infectious hepatitis (now known as Type A) after hitchhiking and mountain climbing for six months in Mexico and Guatemala. At the time, while incarcerated in my hometown hospital, I inquired of the attending physician about what I might do for myself in the way of nutrition to heal this liver disease. What he said stunned me. He said, “Son, diet has nothing whatever to do with it”. I knew, at that moment, that this medical authority actually knew nothing about health and healing. That began my journey into natural healthcare. I started chiropractic school in 1979.
Since then, I have read, studied, and applied all manner of information, and practices in the nutritional arena. Here is what I will tell you. If you had to pick one single tool to improve your health, increase vitality, and prolong your life, then nutrition and diet are your most potent weapons. I say this without reservation. If we look at the diseases that both take the lives of Americans, and contribute to profound morbidity and disability, then the conclusion that diet and nutrition matters is inescapable. As if we needed further corroboration of this conclusion, then the pandemic drove the point home even more forcefully. COVID has disproportionately affected those afflicted with heart disease, diabetes, cancer, morbid obesity and other diseases. All of those conditions are related, to a greater or lesser degree, to improper or poor nutrition. It is estimated, for example, that 30% of all cancer deaths could be prevented by improvement in nutrition. Diabetes, with the exception of Type I, is almost entirely related to the dietary choices that people make over the course of years and decades. If I have to tell you that there is a relationship between cardiovascular disease and nutrition, then you have probably been living under a rock for the past 50 years. The combined impact of obesity, high blood pressure, and atherosclerosis (arterial plaque) is a surefire recipe for cardiovascular disease.
So, food is important, and it is not just important because it gives us full bellies, but because we literally are what we eat. If you try to build a wall with brittle bricks and weak mortar, then the wall will prematurely turn to rubble. If, you build a body with toxic, incomplete, and insufficient nutrients, then it too will crumble all too soon.
I do not need to tell you that the subject of nutrition and diet has plenty of controversy swirling around it, and also numerous vested interests mixed up in it. I think it is important to get down to the physiologic foundation of the subject. That foundation has to do with human genetics. Just as a philodendron and a cactus have different genetically determined needs for water and soil nutrients, humans have specific needs that have been built into our genetic programming over the course of millennia. If you feed and water a cactus as you would a leafy plant, or the other way around, the plants will die. Similarly, if you violate the dictates of human genetics by feeding a human in ways and with things to which that human has not been adapted, then the human gets sick and dies prematurely, just like the plant. What I am advocating is that we look at our nutrition through the lens of what any sensible person might conclude about the necessities and needs of our genetic programming. Human genetics is substantially unchanged in the last 30,000 to 40,000 years. For historical perspective, the agricultural revolution took place approximately 10,000 years ago. Prior to the agricultural revolution, there was no widespread cultivation of crops or domestication of animals for food and utility. Our ancestors, whose identical genetic programming we share, did not grow up on McDonalds, Twinkies and Coca-Cola, and neither should you. It is not that you can never have such things, but it is a matter that your default choices must be better than that, otherwise those choices will have grave, and sometimes irreversible, health consequences. It might be that some people can get away with a diet of junk food, but the vast majority of us will express disease as an inevitable consequence of the body’s attempt to adapt.
In a future blog I will give you some tips about how to better use nutrition to combat disease, and improve function, health and longevity. In the meantime, I would like to leave you with an idea on this subject. When looking at the chronic disease epidemic in this country many have concluded that disease happens primarily because of bad genes, bad germs, or bad luck. The truth is that your genetic programming is like a loaded gun. You can have a loaded gun in your pocket all day long and play tackle football and, as long as the safety is kept on, no harm will come to you. Similarly, you can have a family history and predisposition to a particular disease and live your whole life without ever expressing that disease. If, however, you “take the safety off” by making lifestyle choices that run counter to your genetic programming, then the gun (your genetic predisposition to disease) will likely discharge and hurt you. The daily lifestyle choices that you make are what either take the safety off or keep it on. Proper nutrition is one of the most potent means of keeping the “safety” on so that you never express the disease processes that may lurk in the depths of your DNA. More to come.
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