Moderation, the J-Curve Effect
The Golden Mean
In Aristotelian philosophy, the golden mean is the desirable middle point between two extremes, one of excess and the other of deficiency.
This belief speaks to the fact that the world for mature adults is gray, rather than black and white. In the real world, one never finds pure evil, or pure goodness, but rather something in between.
In the few remaining wildlife areas in America, wildlife eats to survive. That wildcat that unfortunate health enthusiasts have managed to run into while jogging on mountain trails out West are NOT evil monsters. Wildcats are just living creatures trying to survive in the harsh world of nature.
The Golden Mean Fallacy
In natural health, the idea is not moderation for moderation's sake, but rather moderation for better health, and for the enjoyment of one's life. While one should feel bad for NOT doing anything, you should never be reduced to feeling guilty for NOT doing enough.
In matters of health, more is not necessarily better.
Thankfully, in most cases overdoing it is more about reaching a point of diminishing returns, than doing yourself in.
Aristotle's Golden Mean
Moderation, the J-Curve Effect
In the academic subject of statistics, students are first introduced to the "Bell-Curve." Mathematically, the golden ratio plots a spiral shaped curve which does NOT hold up in matters of health. In health, where the golden ratio curve starts turning back on itself, the graph should rather continue upward at about the same angle, forming a "J-Curve" shape, illustrated above. The J-Curve in health matters recognizes the typical enthusiast's biase towards doing too much of a good thing, rather than too little. Thus, the Golden Mean for advanced students of wellness is more about avoiding excesses, than deficiencies. In health matters, the J-Curve effect usually provides for a period of diminishing returns long before any health risk would result in death.
Moderation, or the Golden Mean, thereby translates to the target optimum amount of a specific lifestyle metric, such as cardio exercise. People after all have the choice of being a couch-potato, of bicycling occasionally, riding a bike to and from work every day, as well as participating in a three week long Tour de France bike race. While some bicycling is clearly beneficial, more is not necessarily better for your health. At some point, diminishing returns in the health department would set in, where less is more. Further up the J-Cure doing even more at some point would result in a Higher Risk, than if you had done nothing at all. Yet, according to some Web sites and foolish enthusiasts; you can never do too much of a good thing. The Natural Health Perspective, however, more wisely advocates moderation in all things.
Moderation rather than narrowly viewed as meaning not too much nor too little, refers to engaging in an optimum range of activity. The Golden Mean will always be a range, since rarely will the perfect amount of anything be known with precision. Furthermore, the ideal optimum amount is likely to change as your health status changes, from day to day. Thus, while engaging in 30 minutes of intense aerobic activity normally would be healthy, can become the worst thing that anyone could possibly do, while experiencing a high-fever.
Moderation, the J-Curve Effect Examples
There are many well known J-shaped associations with an endless number of different lifstyle metrics.
- Colorectal cancer and folate consumption
- Coronary artery disease and blood pressure
- Coronary artery disease and body weight
- Heart failure and coffee consumption
- Immune function and exercise
- Longevity and jogging
- Mortality risk and alcohol consumption
- Mortality risk and superfood consumption
- Mortality risk and water consumption
- Over-training symptoms and exercise
In conclusion: It is the position of the Natural Health Perspective, that with the intelligent use of your brain less is often more. It is NOT how hard you work that produces results, but rather how smart. Remember, that all good things have a limit where diminishing returns will set in.