Gee, if we’d only eat less and exercise more.
Says Dr. Barry Sears: “I wish it were that simple.”
But it’s not, according to Sears, famous nutrition expert and author of “The Zone Diet” and 10 other health-related books. He was in San Juan Capistrano Friday at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School to give a lecture about how the foods we eat are altering our genes for generations to come.
Diet can absolutely change the expression of our genes, said Sears, a biochemist .
“We’ve opened up a genetic Pandora’s box,” he said.
The progression goes something like this: A diet high in Omega-6 fatty acids and low in Omega-3s leads to hormonal imbalance, which over time, creates inflammation on a cellular level, causing disease and altering the genes, Sears said.
A woman eating the same bad diet while pregnant will program the baby’s genes in the same, negative way, and the first two years’ of eating habits will cement those changes, he said.
And most formula is chock full of Omega-6s with little Omega-3s, Sears said.
“Each generation [in America] is getting more obese than the previous,” Sears said. The population with the fastest growth rate in diabetes in the U.S. is 0-4-year-olds.
In two to three generations, what was once a changed genetic expression becomes a permanently changed genetic code, he said.
Good nutrition is all about cutting back on Omega-6s and increasing Omega-3, reversing a 40-year trend in food processing, Sears said. It’s not about calories, and it’s not about going super low-carb to control weight.
Showing an explicit photo of two rats sliced open, Sears explained two groups of the experimental animals ate the exact number of calories, with the exact number of grams of protein, carbohydrates and fat for three generations, but the group that consumed high quantities of Omega-6 fatty acids and low quantities of Omega-3 fatty acids ended up obese.
Consider food to be a “very powerful drug,” Sears advised. His message wasn’t meant to be fatalistic. Americans can fight back with good eating habits.
If food is like a drug, we’ll understand that we have to get dosage just right, he said.
Balancing nutrition by staying within a zone of eating 40 percent carbohydrates, 30 percent fat and 30 percent protein isn’t just a marketing term, Sears added.
The Zone Diet is really a variation on the Mediterranean diet, he said. It’s not about deprivation. Serving sizes can be large, especially when two-thirds the plate is covered in vegetables. Red wine and chocolate are permitted.
“Everything we hear about diet is basically wrong because it’s a lot more complicated,” he said.