A study by experts at the Faculty of Sports Studies at Masaryk University has brought new and important information about the influence of diet on people’s health. The researchers compared data on the most frequent types of food in 42 European countries with the data on the most frequent types of diseases. The findings show that people should be much more guarded in their consumption of cereals and potatoes, and that Czechs should seriously reconsider their love of alcohol.
Czechs have been the world leaders in beer consumption for a number of years and this statistic is published each year as something we should be proud of. However, according to Pavel Grasgruber, the main author of an extensive ecological study (i.e. a study based on whole populations rather than individuals), this is literally the pride that comes before our fall.
“It is the most destructive aspect of the Czech diet, much worse than the consumption of any individual foodstuff. At the moment, we lead Europe in pancreas and kidney cancer statistics. There can be absolutely no doubt that these are related to alcohol consumption.”
Grasgruber also highlights the high rankings of Czechs in colon, rectal, and gallbladder cancer. These could also be caused largely by a high consumption of beer and alcohol in general. “Alcohol basically destroys our inner organs and it is probably a contributing factor to the high incidence of obesity as well.”
While beer and spirits are best left out of your diet completely, other recommendations cannot be applied indiscriminately. Factors such as age and level of physical activity need to be taken into account for individual types of food. You should exclude overcooked and fat red meat from your diet. While this is bad news for those who love summer barbecues, as it puts a complete stop to grilling and frying, you will be rewarded by a significantly decreased risk of gastrointestinal cancer.
However, you should not stop eating all red meat. For example, pork, together with milk, is one of the best sources of nutrients in the human diet. “The consequences of leaving it out of one’s diet are clear from our current research in Bosnia and Hercegovina,” says Grasgruber. “The local Muslims who don’t eat pork are significantly smaller in build than the Croatians who do eat pork and live in the same cantons.” He adds that lean red meat is very important for children.
Careful with the cereals and potatoes
The study findings are also very unfavourable for the consumption of cereals (i.e. mostly bread) and potatoes. White bread is not dangerous because it contains gluten, as many people wrongly believe. Rather, the problem with cereal products stems from the starch contained in the refined wheat, which significantly increases one’s blood sugar level. This leads to an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, obesity, or type 2 diabetes.
Potatoes are a more complicated matter. While they contain the most aggressive carbohydrates of all foods, they are also a good source of vitamin C. Also, potato protein is the richest commonly available source of tryptophan, which is the rarest essential amino acid contained in human food.
“Nutrition science is rarely black-and-white; you need to keep a sense of proportion when choosing what to eat and avoid any extremes,” says Grasgruber. The study that he recently published with his colleagues came to the conclusion that the so-called Mediterranean diet is an example of such good sense of proportion. It contains average amounts of meat and milk products and a high proportion of olives, nuts, fruits, and vegetables, all of which are beneficial for human health.
If you want your diet to be truly perfect, you should add more milk products to this pattern – preferably in the form of gently pasteurized milk and yoghurt – and lower the amount of cereals.