Truth, More Truth, and Diet Failure
“Get the facts, or the facts will get you. And when you get them, get them right, or they will get you wrong.”
Dr. Thomas Fuller (1654—1734)
Fiber Madness or
Madness From Fiber?
While studying the history of Japanese cuisine, I came across a remarkable historical fact: in the name of Buddhism, which postulates strict vegetarianism, the Samurai class prohibited ordinary Japanese citizens from hunting, fishing, and keeping livestock. They didn’t, however, apply that prohibition to themselves. If you’re a fan of Akira Kurosawa’s movies, you must remember the striking visual results of that social policy—huge, well-endowed, Samurai masters vs. diminutive, hunched peasants and servants, who subsisted mainly on rice.
Just like the powerful Samurai warriors, early humans flourished on abundant meats, fish, and seafood. This is apparent from looking at a human dental chart—protruding canines, razor-sharp incisors, rock-hard premolars, and massive molars are not exactly the implements intended to slurp bananas. Had humans had an evolutionary predisposition for eating fibrous plants, their teeth would have evolved along the lines of sheep and cows, and we wouldn’t have become the canine-wielding predators that we really are.
If you continue analyzing the evolutionary functions of each digestive organ, you’ll find the same pattern: the functionality of each organ matches the specific food group: the mouth to macerate and masticate flesh; the stomach to ferment and digest proteins; the duodenum (the first section of small intestine) to mix chyme with enzymes and absorb water; the gallbladder to store bile needed to break down and assimilate fats; the jejunum and ileum (the last two sections of small intestine) to complete digestion of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, and absorb their basic components (amino acids, fatty acids, monosaccharides); the large intestine to recover remaining water, nutrients, and electrolytes, convert liquid chyme to semi-solid stools, and expel them.
If you interfere with this natural order by matching each organ with the wrong food group or specific constituent, the organs will eventually get dysfunctional for the same reason a luxury car may stall on cheap, regular gas—they aren't meant for each other. So to keep the digestive organs functional (i.e. healthy), you should pair them with foods that match their functionality (the stomach with proteins, small intestine with digestible carbohydrates, gallbladder with fats, and so forth). Otherwise...
Otherwise, if you feed cows with meat, first they get mad (the condition is called “mad cow disease”), and then they die. If you feed humans with only carbohydrates and fiber, first they get bloated, then emaciated and mad (the condition is called marasmus, which means a physical and mental wasting from protein-energy malnutrition, or PEM ) and then they die too. It just takes longer because, unlike cows, humans are omnivorous, and can, for a while, subsist on a carbohydrate-only diet.
That’s why we raise cows for meat and dairy rather than just grazing on the greenest pastures ourselves. And that’s why fiber is a relatively new phenomenon in human nutrition. As little as a few hundred years ago—an eye blink on the evolutionary timeline—people couldn’t consume fiber because there were no industrial mills, no stainless steel grinders, and no high-temperature ovens to convert (process) what is really livestock feed into foodstuff fit for human consumption.
Since we now can mill, grind, and bake fiber with the push of a button, its advocates may argue that it’s suitable for people, but the simple fact that humans don’t have digestive enzymes to break down fiber inside the intestines speaks volumes for itself. Hence, for anyone who aspires to remain healthy, adapting to evolutionary realities is far more practical than to wait for evolution to adapt to oneself.
Some people attempt to cheat evolution with digestive aids, such as Beano®, but even a fistful of Beanos can’t change the goings on inside one’s mouth, stomach, and intestines. Besides, breaking down fiber into glucose with factory-made enzymes may prevent bloating and flatulence, but only at the expense of even more weight gain and related metabolic disorders from digesting even more carbohydrates.
Other people, upon hearing that fiber is a menace, assume an ignorant or naive posture: “I (we, they) eat plenty of fiber and nothing happens, therefore everything you say is nonsense.” Well, if you smoke, abuse alcohol, cheat on taxes, or run red lights, nothing happens for a while, either. That’s exactly why fiber is so insidiously and maddeningly menacing. After reading the next three chapters you’ll be able to make your own judgment on just how menacing it really is:
- Chapter 1. Fiber Carnage. Describes the role of fiber in nutrition and disease in layman’s terms. It concludes that fiber is an addictive substance, meaning that after you begin consuming fiber specifically for its “health benefits,” you’ll need more and more fiber with every passing year to get, literally, the same “kick in the ass.” If you abuse any organ too long and too hard, it eventually breaks down. The list of fiber-related fault lines is so long, the chapter takes over thirty dense pages just to describe the major ones.
- Chapter 2. Water Damage. The widespread popularity of fiber brought with it another menace: increased consumption of water. Not because more water is actually needed, but because the advice to “eat more fiber” invariably accompanied the advice to “drink more water.” Water is every bit as addictive as fiber, but for a different reason—the more you drink, the more you urinate, the more you urinate, the more water you need to replace. Unfortunately, you don’t urinate just water. Urine washes out minerals that are crucial for health, especially potassium. Potassium deficiency happens to be one of the primary causes of costiveness (hard stools) and constipation (irregular stools). When that happens, you’ll be advised to increase fiber and water consumption. Imagine what happens next.
- Chapter 3. Atkins Goes to South Beach illustrates the connections between fiber and obesity, and fiber and diet failure—two of the most pressing public health problems of our generation. Public health authorities’ incessant urging that we consume more natural fiber in the form of bread, pasta, cereals, fruits, and vegetables precipitated an obesity epidemic, because fiber-rich foods contain ten to twenty times as much carbohydrate as they do fiber (5% to 10%). Unfortunately, by the time you’re ready to jump on the low-carb bandwagon, dropping carbs cold turkey doesn’t work, because your body is already addicted to fiber. If you throw the shortcomings of the Atkins and South Beach diets into this mix, you end up with diet failure. If you didn’t get major anorectal damage from the “hard landing,” consider yourself lucky. For anyone who aspires to lose weight and preserve health, this chapter alone makes it worth reading this book.