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What would be the meaning - if any - of the popular concept of metabolic type? In general, it states that each of us has metabolic preference for one of these three basic types of diet:
∙high in animal proteins and fats (carnivore)
∙ high in carbohydrates (plant-based)
∙ nearly balanced between the two.
Which group you belong to is, according to it, mainly determined by your genetic inheritance.
The metabolic type concept claims to be explaining, at least in part, why some people - and especially those trying to recover from serious illnesses - do better on high protein/fat diet, some others on high carbohydrate diet, while the rest needs it roughly balanced.
The origins of this concept could probably be traced to ancient times, but those that were most prominent in articulating it in our time include Weston Price, Francis Pottenger, George Watson and William Kelley.
It was Dr. Kelley who tested the concept most extensively in the actual treatment practice, beginning with his own cancer of liver and pancreas (cured), as well as a part of its successful cancer-fighting program (which in addition to metabolism-optimized proportion and type of macronutrients also featured detox routine, pancreatic enzymes supplementation, an emphasis on wholesome, unprocessed foods and strengthening positive attitude).
Documented success of his therapy is the testament, not necessarily of the flawless theoretical concept of "metabolic type", but definitely of the enormous potential of individually tailored therapy
based on assisting body's own healing potential.
Commercialized copy-cat concepts of metabolic typing that can be found on the net are just that - commercialized. They offer you to help determine your metabolic type, and the corresponding optimum diet - for a fee - implying that switching to a diet appropriate to your type will take your overall health to a higher level. While their "theoretical" explanations - individual variations in how the autonomous nervous system functions, originating from Dr. Kelley's concept, or variations in cellular metabolism, originating from Dr. Watson's concept - when offered, don't hold much water, as presented, they do relay two critically important points:
a food is the most important determinant of health
a healthful diet, and efficient treatment, have to be individually tailored
But it is more complex than finding your score on a simple questionnaire - so called "metabolic test".
The process of metabolizing nutrients through myriads of chemical reactions inside your body would challenge world's most sophisticated computers. The complexity of this coordinated action is beyond comprehension. Direct consequence of this complexity is that
it cannot be
duplicated - each of us
From digestion of food, absorption of nutrients, cellular assimilation and metabolism, to the transport, utilization and elimination of metabolites, detox and immune functions, and to the regulatory mechanisms overseeing all this - there are countless variations in the mechanism of action possible. We all need similar raw materials to support life, but the specifics of the biological processes built around them are different and unique at many points for each single individual.
This is one of the reasons why generalized dietary standards - such as DRI (Dietary Reference Intakes, former RDI) for nutrient intake - for healthy intake of nutrients, are very likely - possibly by a wide margin - different from your individual optimum. Moreover, your own optimum changes with time, activities, environment, mental state, health condition, and so on.
How often you eat, strength of your appetite, food agreeing with you, or foods you think make you gain weight - some of the main points in a typical commercial metabolic typing questionnaire - are the final expression of many factors, all varying, not seldom significantly, from one individual to another. They share that same characteristics with any symptom: one same symptom can be caused by very different set of factors, and vice versa, the same factor - or set of factors - can cause entirely different symptoms in different individuals.
Neglecting this goes against the very foundation
these programs are claiming to be based on: individual differences
in body function.
Is your "metabolic type" fixed?
This is what the commercial "metabolic type" concepts overlook, when suggesting that each individual belongs to a certain metabolic type based on eating patterns, habits and preferences. Real life is, as usual, more complicated. Using handy concept of the
with the extreme diet modes being total vegetarian on the left vs. total carnivore on the right, and all raw on the top vs. all cooked food on the bottom, most people will do best, most of the time, with their diet gravitating somewhat left and upward off the center. In other words, with little of everything, but with plant foods dominant, and with greater proportion of raw versus cooked foods.
Dominant proportion of plant foods also ensures that your diet has alkaline bias, supporting health with most people, most of the time.
Any metabolic imbalance - induced by poor diet, toxic exposure, illness, or even genetic twist - can and often does
shift the optimum diet closer to one of the extremes.
Deficiency or imbalance in nutrients needed for efficient metabolism - primarily vitamins and minerals - as well as many environmental toxins, can and often do negatively affect activity of metabolic enzymes, both at the digestive and at the cellular level. Depending on which metabolic pathways are most affected, your metabolic "optimum" will shift to favor some form of dietary imbalance.
A number of other factors can affect your metabolism and shift it from its optimum. For instance, Candida infection (intestinal dysbiosis) can, among other negative effects, cause thiamine (vitamin B1, needed for carbohydrate metabolism at the cellular level) to be destroyed in the intestine. Toxic exposure, such as mercury from dental amalgams, can cause low stomach acid. Combination of poor diet (low in antioxidants) and high oxidative exposure, can damage cellular membranes and compromise organ function. Sensitivities/allergies to grain protein (gluten), or milk sugar (lactose), will compromise digestion of these foods, and so on.
Some people have compromised digestion, that they can't properly digest raw foods, or proteins, or fats. In extreme cases, people cannot digest much else but sugars and refined carbohydrates alone. That
doesn't mean their metabolism is "optimized" for sugars,
or all-cooked foods (exhausting the pancreas), low-protein, or low-fat diet, all of which are unhealthy longer term. The proper course of action is to determine the causes of compromised digestion, and have them addressed. Once they are corrected or minimized, optimum diet shifts toward the more balanced, mid-area of the cross.
These few examples illustrate that your individual metabolism is not cast in stone. It is both, very complex internally, and changing in time, being affected by a number of outside factors. The fact that you appear to be thriving on a certain diet
doesn't necessarily mean that it is your long-term optimum.
If it is closer to the extremes on the metabolic cross, chances are, it is caused by metabolic (nutritional) imbalance, toxic exposure, and/or health condition. If so, your longer term health prospects are questionable. If you find yourself doing well close to the outskirts of the metabolic cross,
you want to know why you are there.
While some individuals have metabolism genuinely optimized for imbalanced diets, they are very rare. On the other hand, people with nutritional imbalances of all kinds are many, and the chances that you are among them are much greater.
What makes it more complicated is that most often there is a multitude of seemingly unrelated factors shaping up what surfaces as your individual metabolism (i.e. "metabolic type"). Also, some of them may be constantly present, while others affecting you intermittently. That makes it more difficult to properly diagnose and correct the problem, but there is no good alternative.
If the carbohydrate metabolic pathway works efficiently, and there is no other factors, like Candida infection, obstructing the use of carbohydrates, optimum diet for recovery from serious illnesses, as well as for optimum long-term health, is
very likely to be plant based
for the majority of people. This is due to plant foods providing, in general,
-wider variety of nutrients,
- benefits of dietary fiber,
- allowing significant raw food proportion,
- being easier to digest,
- cleaner to burn, and
- less contaminated
(remember, bio-magnification results in toxins concentrating at much higher levels toward the top of the food chain, i.e. in animals, especially predators).
In addition, plants have developed many potent protective mechanism against microorganisms, oxidative and/or toxic damage that often benefit those using them for food.
How do you find out if your "best feel" diet is off due to your natural metabolic type, or due to nutritional/health imbalances? Good place to start is to have lab tests done for your nutrients (minerals and vitamins) level. It can give very useful indications of what could be negatively affecting your individual biochemistry. Additional tests can reveal more information on the state of your metabolism. For instance, organic acid (or metabolic) test, analyses some 40 urine metabolites, and gives indications of the efficiency of a number of body's metabolic processes.