The metabolic typing diet solution

Diet and nutritional advice should never be offered with “a one-size-fits-all” approach. There is no single ideal diet that works for all.

by Marianne Crafts-Brandner — 

If we can put a man on the moon, produce iPhones and sequence the human genome, why haven’t scientists been able to find a diet that works? As each new fad diet comes along, we hope we have finally found the solution to our weight problems. First, it was avoiding all fat; then it was eliminating carbohydrates or, perhaps, just the “bad” ones.

Often, in desperation, we seize upon what is perceived to be a miracle weight-loss food. Maybe if we eat only grapefruit or cabbage soup three meals a day, our troubles will be over. Some of us are still waiting for that magic weight-loss pill (motivation in a bottle); but even alli, the new over-the-counter diet drug, comes with the caveat that it is effective only when paired with diet and exercise. Then there are the fads that focus on just one particular metabolic factor, for example pH or blood type.

All these approaches are too simplified, too narrow. This makes sense only if we tailor it to the individual to figure out what works for each of us. It is time to realize that the optimal diet is different for each person, due to a concept called “biochemical individuality,” a term first used by Nobel Prize-winning researcher, Dr. Roger Williams, in his book by the same name.

Williams was one of the first researchers to focus on detecting the broad range of individual differences in body chemistry that arise from each person’s unique genetic inheritance. Even though we all require the same nutrients to sustain our various metabolic processes, how much of each nutrient we require depends on our genetics. Unique DNA means a unique body chemistry, necessitating a different set of dietary requirements for each individual to maintain the healthy balance that is optimal wellness.

In his book, The Metabolic Typing Diet, William L. Wolcott provides a brief history of how researchers have discovered the many factors underlying biochemical individuality. Among their findings was the variable pH effect of foods. As Wolcott points out, “One important way in which foods or nutrients affect your health is by influencing your body’s acid/alkaline balance. The proper pH balance is essential to the maintenance of good health. But contrary to conventional wisdom, foods and nutrients have no fixed or inherent acid/alkaline qualities. The very same food that can produce an alkaline shift in one metabolic type can produce just the opposite (acidic) shift in another metabolic type.”

Acid/alkaline type is just one of at least nine physiological factors that vary by individual and influence body chemistry and metabolism. The three most important ones are autonomic type (related to the nervous system, including the fight or flight response), endocrine type (related to the functioning of the glands and hormones, and how they influence our food choices), and oxidative type. The latter, along with catabolic/anabolic balance, has to do with energy production, both quality and quantity, and the rate at which nutrients are oxidized.

Two other factors, electrolyte balance and blood type, may be more familiar to many of us. Prostaglandin balance involves body chemicals that regulate the inflammation process and also influence the functioning of our immune systems. The last of the nine physiological factors, constitutional type, encompasses various other physical and mental characteristics and personality aspects that distinguish one individual from the next.

Diet and nutritional advice should never be offered with “a one-size-fits-all” approach. There is no single ideal diet that works for all. It is not that simple. In fact, sound advice is as complex as we are, and will require a comprehensive understanding of the interaction between all the various metabolic factors listed above. There may be as many ideal diets as there are people.


Marianne Crafts-Brandner is a certified nutritionist. She offers individualized nutritional counseling, specializing in special diets. or 602-615-8065.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 26, Number 4, August/September 2007.

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