Nutrition: Why It Matters

Let me tell you a story about the power of food. 

My wife has a friend she has known since college named Mary (not her real name). In 2013, Mary and her husband had their first child. After the pregnancy, Mary found it difficult to lose the baby weight and eventually settled at a bodyweight ~50 lbs higher than she used to be.

She tried diet after diet after diet to lose weight. Months of effort would produce 10-15 lbs of weight loss, but inevitably the weight would come back.

Her inability to lose weight was frustrating. But that paled in comparison to the other reality she faced: she could not seem to get pregnant again.

She and her husband went to doctors, tried IVF, spent tens of thousands of dollars on tests and treatments, and it all failed. For over six years, they tried everything they could to get pregnant, and all it resulted in was a lighter wallet.

In January 2020, my wife and I had dinner with Mary and her husband. The topic of nutrition came up, and I recommended to Mary that she try eating a strictly animal-based diet for 30 days. No grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, seed oils, or any other plant product (I'll explain why I gave that particular recommendation in future articles).

Mary and her husband were understandably skeptical, but after several hours of discussion - and a lot of follow-up from my wife - Mary agreed to give the experiment a try.

In the first month, Mary lost 20 pounds.

By the end of the second month, she had lost nearly 30 pounds.

My wife and I ended up having dinner with Mary and her husband in May, and they couldn't stop talking about how transformative the diet experiment had been. In fact, Mary's husband was so complimentary to me that I remember later remarking to my wife, "I know the results were great, but didn't that seem a little over the top?"

It turns out that weight loss wasn't the reason Mary and her husband were so effusive that night. I found out two months later the real reason they had been so excited: they were pregnant.

Think about that for a second.

Mary and her husband spent over six years and tens of thousands of dollars trying to have a second child, but nothing they did worked. Then, just 60 days after changing her diet, Mary got pregnant. No drugs, no fancy treatments, no elaborate protocols, no doctor's visits. All she did was change the foods she put in her mouth for 8 weeks.

The reason nutrition matters is because stories like Mary's are the norm, not the exception

In the Western world, food is often conflated with "macronutrients" or "calories" or similar reductionist philosophies. Many people have been led to believe that if something has calories and contains vitamins/minerals, then it must be “food”.

In reality, food is a dynamic and complex subject whose effects impact the functioning of every one of your body's ~30 trillion cells, not to mention the ~30 trillion bacterial cells with whom you co-habitate.

Like all animals, the human body evolved over millions of years in response to a diverse array of signaling molecules found in the diet. Calories, vitamins, and minerals are part of that story, but so are things like peptides, polyphenolic compounds, aromatic molecules, deuterium content, linoleic acid ratios, and thousands of other substances.

Given that context, it should not be surprising that the food you put in your mouth has a profound effect on your health. Cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, neurodegenerative disease, gut issues, obesity, infertility, autoimmune conditions, and hundreds of other disease states are all influenced by the foods you choose to consume.

Life-long health is the natural human condition, and nutrition is one of the core pillars for achieving it.

This article is going to be the first in a series dedicated to explaining the fundamentals of diet. Keep on the lookout for articles prefaced with the “Nutrition” tag. In the next article, we will look at what our evolutionary history tells us about what we should be eating today.