A similar undercurrent rides along the more traditionally yang perspective; Nature once again shows us the flaw in such an oversimplified, additive caloric perspective on health and wellness. In The Fallacy of the Calorie: Why the Modern Western Diet Is Killing Us and How to Stop It, among other things, I recount the reasons as to why using a quantitative assessment of food value, like the caloric content of different foods, is an unsound and misguided approach to health and wellness. Simply consuming less of the constituents which comprise the modern Western diet and believing that that will lead to health and wellness is like thinking you’re safer just because you have Gary Bussey chauffer you about in a smaller car. Such approaches leave us standing by the roadside wanting, and not just because of the deprivation of absolutely delectable dishes that are often the casualty of such a superficial and narrow approach.
As an exclamation on that point, an alteration of the gut microbiome associated with the ingestion of the zero calorie artificial sweeteners has been shown to make the humans who consume them more likely to gain weight and suffer the glucose abnormalities associated with diabetes and its precursor, metabolic syndrome. Now a similar study has shown deleterious effects of previously presumed innocuous additives.
This study looked at two common emulsifiers. Emulsifiers are ubiquitous and can be found in some form or another in almost all processed foods. They are added to extend shelf life, to enhance texture and to prevent things like artificial whipped cream from separating and to keep other items like coffee creamers dissolved. They can be found in almost all the processed, baked goods as they help prevent such comestibles from becoming stale.
The researchers examined the effects of polysorbate-80 (P80) and carboxymethylcellulose (CMC) of the intestine and gut microbiota of mice. P80 is allowed by the US FDA to comprise up to 1% of selected foods. It has been studied prior to approval for its potential to cause cancer and for its potential toxicity. During those analyses, which were done decades ago, the only significant reported effect was its potential to affect certain ions and minerals and potentially cause loss of calcium.
CMC has not been tested at all, and like many of the additives and agents found in highly refined and processed foods, it was approved under the auspices of being Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS). The FDA has approved its inclusion in up to 2% of a number of various foodstuffs.
The effects of these additives delivered both through the animal chow and through the drinking water were nothing short of astonishing. In mice genetically predisposed to develop inflammatory disease, the addition of these common food additives caused active colitis. In healthy mice who were not so genetically predisposed, they developed active ongoing low level intestinal inflammation. The results were apparent as early as four weeks into the study, and by twelve weeks grossly apparent. Furthermore, the results were detectable when CMC and P80 were administered at levels as low as 0.1%.
The mechanism appears to involve a change in the quantity and composition of the gut microbiome. In germ-free mice, which have no gut microbiome, these additives caused no effect. In the other groups these compounds caused a reduction in the normally protective mucus layer that overlies the gut wall. Without such normal security to bar their entrance, the bacteria can engage the cells of the intestine like Jason Bourne on the Mall Cop. The result of such inflammatory processes are associated with the development of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis and is associated with an increased risk of other inflammatory conditions like atherosclerotic coronary artery disease. This inflammation was also associated with the development of obesity and metabolic syndrome; a precursor of type II diabetes.
“The dramatic increase in these diseases has occurred despite consistent human genetics, suggesting a pivotal role for an environmental factor,” said Benoit Chassaing, one of the study’s researchers. He continued, “Food interacts intimately with the microbiota so we considered what modern additions to the food supply might possibly make gut bacteria more pro-inflammatory.”
“A key feature of these modern plagues is alteration of the gut microbiota in a manner that promotes inflammation,” added Andrew T. Gewirtz, the lead author
And that is why it is about quality over quantity. That is why seeking to achieve health and wellness by suffering deprivation and grabbing for an arbitrary caloric value, be it by Yin or by Yang, is to engage in The Fallacy of the Calorie.
 (Chassaing, et al., 2015)
 (Suez, et al., 2014)
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