Eat This, Not That!
It's no news that processed foods, whether you're munching on salty snacks or sugary treats, aren't great for your waistline—especially if you're eating them in the place of fresh fruits and vegetables and other healthy foods like legumes and nuts. However, what's even more concerning is processed food's ability to wreak major havoc on your health later down the line.In his new novel "Metabolical," which recently debuted on bookshelves everywhere, Robert H. Lustig, MD, MDL, a pediatric neuroendocrinologist exposes the many ugly truths of our current food system and modern medicine. He dives into the depths of eight pathologies within cells that belie all chronic disease, arguing that drugs are not an adequate solution to preventing or treating them. Instead, he demonstrates how the food we eat is the real cure (and enemy) for conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even cancer.Ultra-processed foods such as potato chips, candy bars, cheeses, and even cured meats are often teeming with added sugars, partially hydrogenated oils, and nitrates. In "Metabolical," a title that marries the workings of the body (metabolic) with that of mass-produced food, Big Pharma, and Big Government (diabolical), Lustig illustrates how all of these components found in processed foods can lead to type 2 diabetes and heart disease if consumed regularly and over time. Even more petrifying is the idea that these foods can contribute to cancer growth.How can eating processed foods lead to cancer?"Nitrates are turned in the intestine first into nitrites, then into nitrosoureas, which are known carcinogens and cause colon cancer," Lustig said in an interview with Eat This, Not That!Recent research has even suggested that nitrates on their own, which are found in cured meats such as pancetta, prosciutto, salami, and other processed meats including bacon, beef jerky, and sausages, may increase your risk of developing cardiovascular disease."And refined carbohydrates lead to insulin release and insulin resistance," he says. "Insulin is a growth factor that makes cancer cells grow, and glucose is their primary fuel."Some cancers, such as pancreatic cancer, feast on fructose (which makes up 50% of table sugar or sucrose) which allows them to become stronger and more harmful."So, while sugar is not a specific cause of cancer cell differentiation, it is a primary driver of cancer cell growth," Lustig adds.How has mass food production ruined society's health over the past several decades?Excluding 2020, Lustig says if you were to look at what people are dying from over the past 50 years, it's changed dramatically from infectious disease (such as influenza) to chronic non-communicable disease which includes heart disease, cancer, and dementia."These are the diseases of mitochondria. We now have the evidence for how ultra-processed foods—especially sugar, but also trans fats—interfere with mitochondria to cause these chronic diseases," he says. "In other words, food has gone from providing health to causing disease. The point is that it's not the food, it's what's been done to the food that makes it poisonous."What do you propose we do to improve our own metabolic function and avoid chronic and inflammatory diseases?It's simple. Lustig says the answer lies within three words: Eat real food."Real food is anything that came out of the ground or any animal that ate what came out of the ground," he adds.When the animal is fed something processed or the plant-based item has been stripped of nutrients and fiber (think whole wheat versus white bread), or chemicals are added to the animals' feed and to the growing crops, the food becomes a threat to our health."We have a limited capacity to metabolize these chemicals, and we are way over our limit," says Lustig.For more, be sure to check out 26 Worst Habits Slowing Your Metabolism, Says Science.