Of puppies and fad diets
I recently got a puppy. It’s my first pet ever. And I’ve already become one of THOSE dog owners.
But what I found very interesting when Dax went in for his first checkup was the veterinarian emphasizing that I should avoid feeding him any “grain-free” dog food. Turns out dogs had recently been developing cardiomyopathy – weakening of the heart muscle leading to heart failure – at significantly higher rates. And the cause was traced back to a spike in the use of in-vogue grain-free pet foods.
These fad diets were leading to taurine deficiency, and this was causing the cardiomyopathy. Taurine is an amino acid essential for heart health and function. It's found in plentiful supply in meat and dairy, and can even be manufactured internally from other amino acids. Yet these dogs had low circulating taurine levels despite there being meat in their dog food. Fortunately, when their taurine levels were normalized, their cardiomyopathy resolved. The exact reason WHY the shift to grain-free diets was leading to taurine deficiency is not entirely understood – but the finding was significant enough that the FDA issued a warning statement about the association last summer.
This is a cautionary tale. Not about taurine deficiency, but about fad diets. We take them at face value and are thrilled when we lose some weight. But what other effects are these diets having? The Keto diet, especially, comes to mind. Severely restricted in carbohydrate intake, it markedly skews nutrient composition. What sorts of unintended consequences is that having? The truth is we don’t know. What we DO know is that the Inuit, whose diets are carbohydrate restricted, enjoy a lifespan that is 10 years SHORTER than that of the average Canadian.
I know I’m a broken record, but when it comes to nutrition, I truly believe in staying away from fads and, instead, following the example of people who live long well. They are the best barometers of what we should be eating to attain optimal health. Their diets skew way over towards the vegetarian/vegan end of the spectrum, and are naturally high in fiber, healthy fats, antioxidants and plant sterols – as well as a whole host of other essential and interesting nutrients that come as part of a whole food plant based eating approach.
At Step One we don’t pretend to be a complete eating program, but we are also not a fad. Our formulations are based on mountains of research and have been validated by clinical trial in a real-world environment. And we're a great a place to get started, especially if your goal is to improve your cholesterol profile or reduce the dosage of medication needed to control your cholesterol readings. After all, our foods were designed specifically to help you do that. But we wholeheartedly encourage you to continue to move to a more whole-food plant-based eating plan overall. Because our overriding desire is for you to attain your best health, not just great cholesterol results.
Eat real food. Not too much. Mostly plants. Still the best dietary advice ever.
And now I’m going to go have my Sprinkles with yogurt and blueberries, while Dax has his fad-free dog food. Because I want both of us to live long well.
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