Five Myths About Healthy Lifestyle - ForumDaily
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Five myths about a healthy lifestyle

From time to time I get into the hands of books, the content of which I want to share with everyone, writes in a blog for VOA Tatyana Vorozhko. The latest finding was the book The History of the Human Body, a professor of evolutionary human biology at Harvard University, Daniel Lieberman.

Фото: Depositphotos

In it, from the perspective of evolution, he tries to answer the question: Why are our bodies the way they are? Why do so many people in developed countries suffer from diseases that were rare even 100 years ago - certain types of cancer, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, allergies, depression, insomnia and others? And how can you best take care of your body, given millions of years of evolution, to stay healthy for as long as possible?

Some of the professor’s conclusions go against popular beliefs regarding a healthy lifestyle. Like any publication or research, these theses are not the ultimate truth, but, despite the position and scientific degree of its author, I think they are worth reading. Just like any other myths, these five are not necessarily inherent in every person on the planet, but I have come across them, and I myself was convinced of the veracity of some of them - until I became familiar with the work of Professor Lieberman.

1 Myth: Veganism and vegetarianism are beneficial because humans evolved to eat vegetables and fruits.

The human body is perfectly adapted to consume meat and fish. Moreover, we are who we are precisely because we started eating meat. The genus Homo has existed for several million years and, according to archaeological finds, for at least 2.6 million years, humans (then even more ape-like) ate meat, first raw and then cooked.

The earliest human ancestors had a small brain and a large digestive system, because digesting plant foods requires a lot of energy. Once we began to consume meat, which is a more efficient source of energy than fruits and roots, very slowly the stomachs, intestines and other digestive organs began to shrink and the brain began to enlarge. In Australopithecus Lucy (a skeletal fragment found in Ethiopia dating back to 3.2 million years ago), the brain weighed only 450 grams. A modern person, even those who write stupid comments under articles, has 1300 -1400 g of brains.

At the same time, our teeth and jaws became smaller, incisors appeared, and the muscles in the lower part of the face decreased - in my opinion, we became more attractive. Our predecessors had more free time to paint a cave or make a spearhead. And also it was hunting and the division of labor that emerged as a result that required greater coordination between members of the tribe, which, in turn, contributed to the development of cognitive abilities (brains grew).

Of course, this does not mean that vegans and vegetarians from the lack of meat will begin to draw guts and shrink brains. Such changes will require hundreds of thousands of years of evolution. In addition, domesticated vegetables and fruits are a better source of energy than wild ones.

“Just because we evolved to eat meat doesn’t mean we should eat meat. In general, vegetarians live longer,” Professor Lieberman wrote to me, to whom I turned for clarification on what vegans should do now. “There is nothing wrong with being a vegan or vegetarian, but I believe raising children vegan is dangerous,” he added.

Myth 2: Fresh and juices are useful.

Eating an apple is many times healthier than juice made from it or even fresh juice made with your own hands. Fruits contain glucose and fructose (about half of the latter is processed by the liver into glucose). The body really needs glucose - without it, cells, including the brain, die. But too much glucose has a harmful effect. The brain and pancreas constantly monitor blood glucose levels using the hormone insulin. However, the body has not adapted to quickly secrete exactly as much insulin as needed. Fruits weren't as sweet as they are now, and cakes didn't exist 2000 years ago, let alone juices or Pepsi-Cola. If a lot of glucose comes in at once, then more insulin is released than necessary. More glucose is stored as fat, and persistently elevated insulin levels lead to type 2 diabetes.

Glucose from an apple is processed more efficiently, because it goes slower and the body has the opportunity to secrete the optimal amount of insulin and put it to work, rather than panickingly hiding it in fat. Glucose in it is tied up in fiber, which, firstly, slows down the rate of processing carbohydrates into sugars and transporting calories to the blood and organs, but speeds up the passage of food through the intestines and gives a feeling of satiety. So, put down your juicer and wash your apple or pear.

By the way, children also need to chew. Although there is nothing wrong with cereals, soups or purees, you should not keep children on a liquid diet. “The mechanical forces generated by chewing food not only help develop the correct jaw shape and size, but also help develop the correct shape of individual teeth,” Lieberman writes. He suggests children chew sugar-free gum to avoid visits to the orthodontist, although he notes that there is no scientific evidence to support this suggestion.

But when I share with him my newfound theory that semolina porridge and other “children’s food” that I hated as a child could be the reason for my high dental expenses, he immediately rejects it. “Caries is a consequence of consuming foods high in starch and sugar,” the professor recalls.

Myth 3: Sport is the best way to lose weight

The professor pays attention to how few calories we lose when we go in for sports and hard physical labor. On the day of this writing, I ran a little more than 5 km and burned up calories to 324, which corresponds to the caloric content of three bananas or 1 buns. And when a person suddenly spends a lot of energy, he releases a stress hormone cortisol, from which a person becomes hungry. The body perceives this situation as a signal that it was necessary to run away from a predator, and appropriate mechanisms are launched. And if you exercise at the expense of sleep, then there will be more harm than good, because lack of sleep contributes to the release of the hunger hormone ghrelin. I think that everyone has seen builders and other workers engaged in hard physical labor with their bellies.

“You can lose weight through physical activity, but it requires enormous effort and time,” the professor wrote to me, from whom I asked how to deal with extra pounds. — The diet works much faster. However, physical activity is critical in order to maintain a healthy weight. "Whether you need to lose weight or not, physical activity has significant benefits."

Much of the book is about the benefits of physical activity. We have evolved to lead active lifestyles. True, researchers have expressed certain doubts about the benefits of an extremely active lifestyle - ultramarathons, Iron Man competitions.

By the way, playing sports in childhood is no less useful for girls than for boys. And they have one additional need. No, this is not a slim figure. This is osteoporosis, which affects more than 30% of women and 10% of men aged 50 years. This is because, explains Lieberman, that the level of estrogen in a woman's body decreases much faster after menopause than in men (in men, testosterone is converted into estrogen). Estrogen, among other things, turns off the activity of cells that remove bone mass and turns on the activity of cells that build it. So, due to its deficiency, the bones become thin and porous.

Large bone mass grows in childhood, and in girls until puberty. And those who actively engage in sports manage to form a strong skeleton. Everyone loses bone mass in adulthood, but if you have more of it, you'll suffer less from the effects of the process, Lieberman explains.

Myth 4: Long-distance running is a separate sport that is not suitable for everyone

Over millions of years, the human body has evolved from being comfortable to climb trees, walk and run long distances. As soon as our ancestors stood on their hind legs, they ran. Lieberman points to the adaptation of the body just for a long run: we can cool ourselves in motion through sweating the entire surface of the skin, so the fur does not interfere (other mammals, the same dogs need to stop, go to bed and often breathe to reduce body temperature) toes, a comfortable form of the foot for running, and the gluteus muscles of the body work during the run. But in the sprint, even a domestic cat will make a mockery of us.

Lieberman shares the theory that our ancestors, before they had spears with a sharp tip, hunted by the method of attrition - chasing a wild boar for hours until the unfortunate one died from fatigue and heatstroke.

5 Myth: Healthy sleep requires total silence and darkness.

About 10% of people in developed countries suffer from insomnia, and even more do not get enough sleep, which makes them feel worse and leads to numerous negative health consequences. Well-known reasons include stress, the opportunity to have fun after dark, and alcohol; Lieberman adds another one: the way we sleep.

Sleeping alone or with one partner in the absence of any sensory stimulation is a relatively new way to do this. Gradual falling asleep, when a person's brain goes through several phases of light sleep before falling asleep deeply, writes Lieberman, is an adaptation mechanism. The man woke up, heard the snoring or snoring of his fellow tribesmen, the howling of hyenas in the distance, the sounds of crickets, felt the touches of children and relatives, made sure that everything was in order, and fell asleep again. Complete silence meant that something catastrophic had happened: “maybe my friends didn’t appreciate my joke with the fire and left me alone in the cave?!” Society today lives in accordance with real traditional values ​​and does not maintain complete silence in order to put a baby to sleep. He falls asleep in his arms during tribal dances around the fire, and it’s good.

And a bonus - information that has nothing to do with a healthy lifestyle, but I found very interesting. A woman who has lost weight - even half a kilogram in a month - will find it difficult to get pregnant within a month. This is not an effective method of preventing pregnancy, but for those who dream of children, I think it will be useful to pay attention to this factor.

The original column is published on the website. Ukrainian service "Voices of America".

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