Tower Review: You suggest that the mind and body are more connected than we know, partly because the so-called blood/brain barrier is more permeable than we've been told. The brain is also more elastic than was believed. So the potential for harm, and also for change, exist side by side. What do you tell people who are addicted to overeating--a dilemma as bad these days as addiction to alcohol, cigarettes, or other mood altering drugs, given the devastating effects of toxins, sugar and saturated fats? Is there hope for our so-called "fast food nation"?
Dr. Mark Hyman: I am very concerned about the disconnect in our about how we think about our behaviors and our health. We feel poorly, we are sluggish, we are depressed, we have digestive issues, we are overweight, and we make very little connection between the symptoms and serious conditions like memory loss and dementia, depression, and ADD and we make little connection between those symptoms and the choices we make every day. I think most of us do not recognize the effects of overeating, or processed foods, or alcohol, and cigarettes, sugar, trans fats on our health. The hope that I bring is the potential to feel dramatically different in a very short time by simply altering the inputs and changing output by eating whole, healthy food. If you eat whole food you can feel whole and healthy. If you eat junk you will feel like junk. I believe there is hope because we have come to a crisis point and actions are required, and communities are rallying. Government is beginning to take action, medical practices are changing, and I see quite a different future for medicine around the corner.
The Japanese have record longevity and very low Alzheimer's disease risk. Certain Mediterraneans are similarly healthy. And both have traditionally eaten low amounts of meat and other iron-rich foods; unsurprisingly, they have low body iron stores. All this is in The Mindspan Diet. As is evidence from genetics, molecular biology, biochemistry, brain imaging, and on and on.
Here is something I knew about when I wrote TMD but didn't put it in the final draft because it is highly technical for a lay audience: there is a newly recognized form of cell death called ferroptosis (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22632970), that is dose-dependent on the amount of iron, and not on any other kind of metal or nutrient. It is especially important in Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative diseases. Higher iron kills cells in a very specific way, and cell death is proportional to iron.
There is so much evidence from so many fields that the simplest hypothesis is that excess iron drives disease and premature aging, and that sufficient but low body stores of iron are protective against disease.
On their side, Teicholz and Taubes have nothing solid. They criticize other people's science, but they don't have any legitimate claims of their own. The claim that saturated fat doesn't promote disease is not credible. Most saturated fats raise both LDL and HDL, but, as I explain in TMD, high LDL is a causal factor in heart disease (especially in the presence of pro-oxidants like iron), while it has been shown in a few different ways that HDL plays no causal role, and is only a passive biomarker. This is new but increasingly accepted science. That isn't to say that higher saturated fat doesn't protect against certain conditions (e.g. stroke), but it does so at the expense of increasing other disease risks and all-cause mortality. Iron oxidizes LDL, so LDL together with high iron is much more problematic than high LDL with low iron, which is why non-meat sources of saturated fat are safer than fatty meat. --Dr. Preston Estep