For a few years now I’ve seen more and more reference to Circadian Rhythm as the latest hammer, where everything is a nail.
As specialists, humans tend to do that a lot. If you are [a/an]…
- Paleo, then everything is explained by the consumption of non-Paleo foods.
- Low-Carb, then everything is explained by the consumption of carbohydrates.
- Fatphobe, then everything is explained by added or excess fat.
- Keto, then everything is explained by the absence of high levels of blood ketones.
- Vegan, then everything is explained by the inclusion of animals in your diet.
- CICO, then everything is explained by eating too much and moving too little.
- Obesity researcher, then everything is explained by brain chemistry.
- Gut biome fan, then everything is explained by probiotics, prebiotics, and their effects.
- Food purity fan, then everything is explained by mandatory food enrichment policy.
And so it goes. Over the years, while highlighting many of these things and promoting them, my true focus has always been to integrate new ideas and approaches as a part of the puzzle and not the hammer that nails all questions.
This is the problem with specialization and I think health and obesity science and research needs to be more generalized, where people who have a legitimate focus dialog, exchange ideas, and make the attempt to generalize and widen their thinking to all potentially relevant facts—not just those that support their narrow interpretations of probable causes.
And here’s the thing: for every single one of those holy-grail solutions to all problems, above, it’s easy to find individuals, cultures, and populations that don’t seem all that susceptible in terms of health or obesity. In each of those dietary paradigms, you can find those who die young, die way old, are skinny, are fat, of ill health, and those who make 90 and the last doctor they saw was when being born. In other words, it’s likely super-multifactoral and so complex we may never have “a pill.”
Everyone wants a pill, and to such an extent it’s its own metaphor.
So the latest thing is circadian rhythms. I’ve observed the pop fad over a few years, largely ignored it, laughed at people wearing yellow and orange glasses indoors—even at night—and generally considered it an instance where valid science (there is well established and understood circadian rhythm science) gets used to develop pop “theories” and various pseudoscience stuff to garner attention and sell products.
Is it a great idea to have all your lights on in the evening? Probably not when a couple of low-watt end-table lamps will do. How about a TV? Maybe, but most of the new flat screens have sensors so the darker, the dimmer. How about waking up in the middle of the night and staring at a phone or tablet screen? I doubt that’s “good”…but on the other hand, how long have people been turning on a light and reading a book until they get tired and for how long has it been touted as an insomnia cure? Does the act of engaging your mind intellectually bring on a fatigue that outweighs whatever effect the blue light has?
And consider all the millions and millions and millions of people who work at night and have done so for centuries, or work crazy shifts? Airline pilots and flight attendants, who get the double whammy of work and light at night, combined with huge and frequent time-zone shifts, seem predominately rather lean and, is there serious research that points to huge onset health problems later in life? Perhaps it takes a toll on longevity, but so do lots of things people want to pursue anyway.
…Without mentioning names, I got onto this mini-rant this morning by seeing a tweet by a well-known and respected dude in the general community, essentially saying that because of circadian rhythms, one ought not “skip breakfast;” and that bacon & eggs is a great way to do it. In other words, because of some—in my opinion—misapplied and exuberant stretching of facts and associations into a dubious hammer, not being particularly hungry in the morning is just another popped nail to be hammered down.
So, the message is, eat when you’re not hungry. Not eating when you’re not hungry is a problem, because circadian rhythm.
And sure enough, the first response is by a “keto” advocate in the health profession, who says ‘yep, I’ve eaten bacon & eggs first thing every morning for years.’ Then, you look at her profile pic, and you believe her.