To Succeed at Any Diet, You Must Know Your Metabolic Type: Part 2

Previous Article Next Article
December 28, 2002 | 93,730 views

Story at-a-glance

  • The roots of metabolic typing go back 5,000 years to the Indian system of medicine known as Ayurveda
  • Metabolic typing analyzes, evaluates, and interprets objective physiological and biochemical indicators, along with symptomatology, in order to define your metabolic type
  • Any nutrient or food can have virtually opposite biochemical influences in people with different metabolic types
  • The variable influences of nutrients on different metabolisms, along with the same condition arising from totally different biochemical imbalances, make it impossible to treat conditions with a standardized treatment protocol
  • Successful, predictable, reliable therapy can only be chosen once you know the metabolic type because only then will you know how nutrients behave in that person's metabolism

By William Wolcott

Founder of The Healthexcel System of Metabolic Typing and author of The Metabolic Typing Diet (Doubleday)

Part 2 of 2 (Part 1)

Part 1 of this series on metabolic typing introduced the idea that whether a given food or a particular diet is good for you or bad for you is a matter of your genes -- not whim, appetite, preference, philosophy, belief or even "expert" opinion.

It is important to realize that the idea of metabolic typing is not new. The roots of the concept of metabolic individuality can be traced to antiquity. The 5,000 year old East Indian system of medicine known as Ayurveda was based on the interaction of the 5 elements and the 7 energy centers in the individual and primary treatment addressed one's dosha (one's metabolic type) before it addressed the symptom or disease.

Similarly, the ancient system of Chinese medicine recognized 5 elemental, constitutional types. Diagnosis and treatment in ancient Egyptian medicine was based on the 7 organ systems in the body. Greek physicians were concerned, as Hippocrates stated, with the patient who has the disease instead of the disease that has the patient, and evaluated the 4 humors (liver-bile metabolic types). The ancient Roman philosopher Lucretius is attributed with the saying, "One man's meat is another man's poison."

The modern background of metabolic typing

In modern times, there have been some well-known and many not so well-known medical researchers who recognized the value of addressing biochemical individuality. In 1919, Frances Pottenger, M.D., published his Symptoms Of Visceral Disease, where he established the autonomic nervous system as the basis of metabolic individuality and correlated the influence of various nutrients on the autonomic nervous system.

Dr. W.H. Sheldon, in the '40's, published his famous Varieties Of Human Physique, providing photographic illustrations of his somatotypes (ectomorph, endomorph and mesomorph metabolic types). In the '50's, Dr. Melvin Page and Dr. Henry Bieler concurrently developed concepts of endocrine types and their relationship to various foods. Dr. George Watson, also in the '50's, in his astounding book, Nutrition And The Mind, published his research on the variable influences of oxidation (glycolysis, beta oxidation, citric acid cycle) in different individuals he classified as fast, mixed or slow oxidizers.

In 1956, the noted biochemist, Dr. Roger Williams, published his genetotrophic theory on biochemical individuality, based on his research which suggested that every human being has, because of his genetic makeup, distinctive nutritional needs that must be met in order to achieve optimum health and well-being. Dr. Royal Lee's extensive writings in the 50's and 60's correlated nutritional influences of the autonomic and endocrine systems.

Dr. Emanuel Revici, in the '60's, recognized the critical necessity to address biochemical individuality and devoted his life's work to the development of an entirely new system of medicine based upon the variances between individuals in their catabolic and anabolic influences.

Dr. James D'Adamo, in the '70's, put forth a system of individual classification based upon ABO blood types. In the mid '70's, Dr. William D. Kelley met Dr. Roger William's call for "metabolic profiling" by becoming the first to apply William's concept of nutritional individuality to computer science in identifying the autonomic types, sympathetic, balanced and parasympathetic.

Further efforts to address metabolic individuality can be seen in current works of numerous other pioneers. Among the more recent who have joined the ranks are Dr. Elliot Abravanel, Dr. Paul Eck, Dr. David Watts, Dr. Rudolph Wiley, and the insightful founder of Nutri-Spec, Dr. Guy Schenker, to name a few.

What exactly is metabolic typing and why is it important?

Metabolic typing is a systematic, testable, repeatable, and verifiable methodology based on research and extensive clinical experience over the last 25 years that combines the wisdom of the ancient systems of medicine with our modern scientific understanding of physiology and biochemistry.

Metabolic typing analyzes, evaluates, and interprets objective physiological and biochemical indicators along with symptomatology in order to define one's metabolic type -- the specific, individualized, genetically-based patterns of biochemical metabolic individuality that dictate one's physiological and neurological "design limits" and requirements for nutritional substances.

The food that we eat is intended as the "fuel" for our body's cells, our engines of metabolism. Our cells in turn convert the fuel to energy to be used in all the life-supporting processes of metabolism that keep us alive and healthy. But like any engine, our body needs a certain kind of fuel to function optimally. A gasoline engine requires gasoline for fuel. A diesel engine is designed to run on diesel for fuel. But try to run a gas engine on diesel or a diesel engine on gas and not only will the energy output be deficient, but using the wrong fuel for the engine will cause real problems for the engine itself.

Similarly, our bodies have genetically-based requirements for specific kinds of foods and balances of nutrients in order to produce optimal energy and function in a state of optimal health. If we meet these "design requirements," we can expect to be healthy, energetic, fit and trim.

Failure to obtain on a regular basis the kinds of foods our body's are designed to utilize will initially produce sub-clinical health complaints such as fatigue, aches and pains, headaches, indigestion, weight gain, constipation, rashes, dry skin, low blood sugar, etc.

But long-term deficiency of the right foods for the metabolic type will lead to degenerative conditions like asthma, cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, etc. In other words, it's not just that the Eskimos can eat up to 10 pounds of meat and huge amounts of fat and almost no carbohydrate, they need to eat that way in order to be healthy because that's what their metabolisms are genetically programmed to utilize as fuel. Similarly, each of us has very specific requirements for nutrients that must be met in order to obtain and maintain good health, energy and well-being for a lifetime.

Without metabolic typing, there is no way to discern one's "medicine" from one's "poison." Without metabolic typing, there is no way to know how nutrients behave in one person as opposed to another. In essence, without metabolic typing, no rational basis exists from which to select proper diet and nutritional supplementation because one's metabolic type dictates individual responses to nutrients.

This gets to the heart of some core premises of metabolic typing that have not only great significance for each individual in identification of a proper diet, but also have profound implications for scientific research. Let's look at two of these core premises of our system of metabolic typing. Here's the first one:

Any Nutrient and Any Food Can Have Virtually Opposite Biochemical Influences in Different Metabolic Types

The metabolic type defines the way in which the body reacts to nutrients. Different metabolic types react differently to the same nutrient. For example, in one metabolic type 100 milligrams of potassium or eating, say, an orange (also high in potassium), will cause the body's pH to shift alkaline and produce a sedating effect. But in a different metabolic type, the same amount of potassium or an orange will produce an acid shift and a stimulating response. This has been observed tens of thousands of times through both objective metabolic type testing as well as through changes in symptomatology.

Now the second core premise:

Any Adverse Symptom or Degenerative Condition Can Arise Due to Virtually Opposite Biochemical Imbalances

This same principle applies to any adverse health complaint, from simple to complex, from cramps to cardiovascular disease (CVD), from rashes to rheumatoid arthritis. For example, we have seen just as many cases of high cholesterol and CVD resolve through a high carbohydrate, low fat, low protein diet as we have seen resolve through the opposite low carb, high protein, high fat diet. Match the diet to the metabolic type and any degenerative condition has a chance to reverse. But eat the wrong foods for the metabolic type, even high quality, organic foods, and degenerative processes will only worsen.

The implications of these premises are staggering.

If they are true, then allopathic nutrition has no rational basis. Seeking a common therapy for all people for every condition is a wild goose chase and is doomed to failure. Any success with that approach has been and will continue to be by chance -- not systematic, reliable predictability.

If any nutrient or food can have totally opposite influences, biochemically speaking, in different people, how can there be a treatment, for any condition, that can work for all people?

The answer is that there can't be only one treatment. This is precisely why what works for one person can worsen the same condition in another person. This is why what makes your friend thin can make you fat. This is why what improves energy and performance for one person can worsen it in another. As it turns out, metabolic typing explains why Lucretius' adage, "One man's food is another man's poison," is literally true.

And, if it is true that two people with the same degenerative disease can have virtually opposite biochemical imbalances, and that when two opposite biochemical protocols are administered the problem resolves, then this clearly means that it's not the diseases that should be treated but the underlying metabolic type imbalances that have caused the diseases that need be addressed.

From this viewpoint, the diseases are not the problems; they are the symptoms, the manifestations, the expressions of the underlying, foundational imbalances. The reality of metabolic individuality demands that the person who has the disease -- not the disease that has the person -- be treated!

These premises of metabolic typing also explain why scientific research on nutrition is usually so inconclusive and produces such inconsistent results. For example, researchers have been confounded why calcium can lower blood pressure in some but raise it in others. Similar findings occurred with the effect of potassium. Until research on the effect of a given nutrient on a given condition is performed on a like metabolic type subject population, you will always see variable results.

In Summary

  • Biochemical individuality is responsible for the fact that nutrients behave differently in different metabolic types
  • The variable influences of nutrients on different metabolisms along with the same condition arising from totally different biochemical imbalances make it impossible to treat conditions with a standardized treatment protocol
  • Successful, predictable, reliable therapy can only be chosen once you know the metabolic type because only then will you know how nutrients behave in that person's metabolism.

Degenerative conditions account for well over 80% of all of the adverse conditions that afflict the peoples of our country. This means that only a little over 1 out of every 10 people that go to doctors has crises or infectious conditions that require and respond to allopathic treatments.

More and more people every year fall prey to degenerative conditions and, sadly, at younger and younger ages. Diseases once viewed as accompaniments to old age are now commonplace in our children. Yet, currently, there is no orthodox cure for nearly any degenerative disease.

So-called alternative practitioners, as a group, fare little better. Even those who meet with "success" often find that when the therapy is stopped, the condition returns and no real, lasting healing has taken place. Or they are baffled by the universal phenomena of failing to help the next patient with the same condition with the very same protocol that worked so well for the former patient.

We find ourselves, practitioners and lay people alike, trying futilely to absorb the avalanche of information and research in nutrition that has descended upon us and only promises to gain speed with ever-increasing volume. We're bombarded with seemingly endless newspaper and magazine articles, health books, interviews on radio and television, internet sites, all touting opposing points of view. What are we to do with the blessing/curse of this information explosion?

The problem is that there hasn't been a reference point or a framework in which to organize and understand the thousands upon thousands of research findings, many of which are outright contradictory in nature. It's like an enormous jigsaw puzzle that arrives without the picture on the box. How do the pieces fit together? How can we possibly make sense and make use of this research? A PDR (Physician's Desk Reference) of nutrition?

Even if it was possible to know the effects of every single vitamin, mineral, fatty acid, herb, etc., and then to organize them item by item, of what practical use would that be? How would we be any further along? We would still have 100's or even 1000's of choices to make for each nutrient. And every day more and more effects are being found for every nutrient known to us.

Even so, it is every practitioner's experience that what works for one patient does not work for another with the same condition. The total body of scientific research is one gigantic pool of randomized information that is only growing in complexity. And yet, this is precisely the path that researchers and practitioners are following. The wrong path was chosen and it is leading us deeper and deeper into the dark forest of confusion. The more that research uncovers, the less clear the picture becomes.

The wrong questions have been and are still being asked. Instead of seeking answers to the effects of biochemical substances on diseases, we need to turn our attention to understanding how nutrients effect individual metabolisms. Instead of thinking in terms of treating disease, we must learn to think in terms of building health and meeting and optimizing genetic functional capacity by addressing the needs of each individual's metabolic type.

The adverse influences in the environment will continue to increase in the years ahead. In order to survive and live a full, productive life in the current millennium, especially if one wants to live a healthy life, it is becoming increasingly important that each individual take responsibility for his own health and address the inescapable requirements of his biochemical individuality, for it is only in so doing that the body will adapt and maintain its defenses against the adversities of the environment and that the joy and exuberance of true good health can be known.

By Dr. Mercola

William Wolcott is the author of the pioneering book, The Metabolic Typing Diet. If you want to begin understanding your Metabolic Type in order to adopt the diet that is right for you, reading Wolcott's book is an excellent way to begin, as it gives you a good background into why there is NO one-size-fits-all approach to diet.

I have incorporated Wolcott’s principles, which he discusses in his article below, into my Nutrition Plan. My program comes from decades of experience in which I have researched extensively, conferred with my professional colleagues, and most importantly, successfully treated tens of thousands of patients. I incorporated Nutritional Typing (which builds upon Metabolic Typing) in my book Take Control of Your Health.

My nutrition plan is easy to learn and easy to manage with today’s busy lifestyle. By eating the foods that are best for you, you won’t be hungry, and you will achieve your optimal weight, and optimize your insulin level, cholesterol level and blood pressure.

You will learn how to listen to your body and modify your foods as appropriate. Whether you are basically healthy and wish to keep it that way, or whether you have major health challenges, my Nutrition Plan is an excellent guide.

Not only is what you eat important for optimizing your health, other lifestyle choices are also very important:

  • Exercise should be a part of your daily routine
  • You should make sure you get plenty of adequate sleep
  • Make sure you have a way to de-stress yourself

By embracing a comprehensive lifestyle approach to your health, you will feel better, have more bounce in your step, and enjoy more vitality than you ever imagined.