The Human Brain & the Senses

If the human brain was unable to “filter out” nonessential incoming sensory information, we would become paralyzed by indecision, our sensory systems overwhelmed, and our brain unable to translate this information into action.  In the world of yesteryear this indecision would have caused us to be eaten by a lion or starve to death.  Our brain has a tremendous ability to filter incoming signals and determine which information is important and which is not.  If you stop what you are doing right now and focus on all the noises and sensations around you, you may notice that your furnace is running, the birds are chirping, the sound of a passing car, or a conversation on the street.  From an evolutionary standpoint, our auditory system was initially designed to alert us to danger.  Because none of these background sounds represent any real danger our brains allow us to easily ignore them.  But what if we couldn’t help but pay attention to every passing sound?  Would that not be paralyzing?

In today’s day and age our nutrition senses are overwhelmed with information.  We are bombarded with so much information on a daily basis that we are unable to decipher which information is important and which is not.  Even the experts do not have a grasp (or offer a consensus) on what we ‘should’ and ‘should not’ be eating.  This week a new large-scale research study was published stating that there is no association between saturated fat intake and heart disease!  This new analysis is HUGE because it flies in the face of the dietary advice medical professionals have been prescribing for the past 25 years and really causes us to reevaluate what we should and should not be eating.  Eventually we will all figure out that a diet based on obtaining the correct macro and micro nutrient requirements is of very little value, that this type of diet is nothing more than auditory noise alerting us to a danger that is no longer present in today’s nutrient rich society.  In fact all of this noise is leading us to ignore the very real danger of consuming too many calories, expending too few calories, and upsetting our metabolic balance.

We have created a medical nutrition therapy to treat and prevent every single diagnosed and/or conceived disease that we may or may not have.  What if we have multiple conditions?  Then what?  How are we supposed to eat?  What rule cancels out what rule?  What food exacerbates our condition(s)?  What food helps it?  Are the foods additive or detrimental to our health?  Although dietary interventions for the management of some diseases have been well studied and it is clear that certain changes are necessary for successful management of the disease (e.g., type 2 diabetes), this is not the case across the board.  Don’t you wish that instead of trying to micromanage your diet for the prevention of every single possible disease there was a simple means of eating that could cover all of your bases without having to follow strict guidelines and rules?  Well, call me a genie because I just granted you your wish.  It’s called energy balance.  Why not follow one rule, calories in = calories out.  This rule applies to the prevention of heart disease, diabetes, and some types of cancer.  By living according to the energy balance principles, you will prevent weight gain and the development of obesity – one of the major risk factors for the development of many of the preventable diseases we see today.  Instead of micromanaging your diet and being paralyzed by multiple dietary rules and indecision, why not follow one simple relatively easy rule, energy balance, and have the freedom to eat what you want, when you want?  Enough is enough.  I’m fed up with micromanaging miniscule dietary manipulations.  Filter out the noise and make the change today!


Todd M. Weber, PhD, MS, RD