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Your metabolic roots

MagazineApril 2006 (Vol. 17 Issue 1)Your metabolic roots

My own material of late, on the other hand, has been the commonality of the human condition: that human beings of every hue and persuasion have intuited a common under-standing of the universe since the beginning of time

My own material of late, on the other hand, has been the commonality of the human condition: that human beings of every hue and persuasion have intuited a common under-standing of the universe since the beginning of time. Aborigine, Maori, Hawaiian kahunas, Siberian tribes, Zulus, Haitians, Andean Q'ero - they all share a common view of the way the world works, something akin to the descriptions given by modern quantum physics with distinction only of detail.

What they eat, however, is an altogether different matter. One human experience for which there appears to be no common denominator is diet. Healthy native populations around the globe appear to thrive on vastly different regimes. The Masai, for instance, subsist on a diet of pure protein - mainly meat, blood and milk - with up to 300 g/day of fat, similar to the Inuit of Alaska, whose fat-rich fish-and-blubber regime included scant fruit and vegetables. The Aborigines, on the other hand, have a diet high in carbohydrate and protein, but extraordinarily low in fat. Their neighbours, the Maori, eat a high-protein, low-carb diet, mainly from fish, kelp and roots. Southern Europeans are largely lactose intolerant, while the Samburus, from East Africa, manage to bolt down some 10 litres of full-fat milk a day.

Whatever was seasonal and to hand became that culture's appropriate fuel and, ultimately, formed a genetic blueprint through the generations. Protein and carbohydrate became the two sides of a dietary seesaw, the position of which depended upon which gene carried the heavier load.

Clearly, there is no one-size-fits-all diet.

Two unlikely dietitians, American dentist and later cancer specialist William Kelley and American psychologist George Watson, made two extraordinary intuitive leaps about dietary individuality. Kelley worked out that the autonomic nervous system, which keeps the basic systems of our body ticking over, not only had a 'push-pull' element to it - a sympathetic system that switches on the organs and glands which use up energy, and a parasympathetic branch to conserve energy and re-build - but that one of the two was always dominant. Watson, on the other hand, observed that people differed in their rate of cellular oxidation - the pace at which their body converted food into energy.

William Wolcott, a student of Kelley, added a final touch to the new paradigm. People, he realised, had a tendency to be either autonomic-system dominant or oxidative-system dominant. This tendency meant that food would have opposite effects on two people of different metabolic types, whether they are 'burners' or 'storers' of food.

Calcium would feed the sympathetic system, but inhibit the parasympathetic system. That meant literally that one man's meat was another man's poison. As Wolcott says succinctly in his book The Metabolic Typing Diet: "Any given disease may arise from virtually opposite biochemical imbalances in different metabolic types."

The current rage in nutrition is acid-alkaline balance of the body (see the Special Report, p 6). Although nutritionists understand that it is good to give yourself a slightly alkaline edge, the alkalising or acidifying effect of a food in your body ultimately depends upon which system is dominant in you.

Before you begin dousing yourself with alkaline water, it's vital to work out your own metabolic oddities and embrace them (see the Special Report, p 6, for details). Just consider it a case of returning to your roots.

Lynne McTaggart


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