Royalty and Worms

Born, bred, and educated in England, I have lived half my life in America, finding much to admire and aspire to in these United States. Yet I was always baffled why this wonderful republic, on the one hand so dismissive of royalty, encouraged high school students to elect a homecoming king and queen, Realtors to characterize dream homes as palatial, and celebrities described as “Hollywood Royalty.” 

I suppose a combination of romance, the appeal of an unattainable lifestyle, and the inherent mysticism of the Divine Right of Kings is a supporting argument for the absolute power of monarchs; their rule is conferred by a deity, so cannot be questioned!

In ancient cultures, like my native Britain, royalty permeates many aspects of life; pomp and ceremony, currency bearing the regal likeness, the Royal Mail, seals of patronage afforded to businesses, and many unexpected things, including diet. It is said we should Breakfast Like a King, Lunch Like a Prince, Dinner Like a Pauper,” at least according to Adelle Davis, a prescient American nutritionist and author who was one of the first to pen consumer books on diet. But does royalty rule rotundity? It may well do!

Regular readers of my column know of my disdain for unproven recommendations, pseudoscientific constructs driven by commerce or other personal agendas. I am not cynical by nature, merely want people to back their claims with science, for if we are to make changes to our lives, surely we want those changes to at the very least be safe, and preferably, efficacious? Diet, as a noun, the overarching term for what we eat, as well as diet the verb, actions taken to reduce weight, is a multibillion-dollar industry, and there are more diets (the verb) than I have had hot dinners.

One diet that has made the rounds over the years is the concept of intermittent fasting and like dodgy street food, it won’t stay down! Michael Pollan’s 2009 book, Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual, focused on front-loading calories at the beginning of the day, diminishing intake as the day goes by. The premise for this is that our metabolism slows with the passing hours, so one’s opportunity to burn calories diminishes later in the day and consumed food will turn to fat. But to my mind this is simplistic; first, we are all different creatures with varying schedules and anyway, the Mediterranean diet (the noun and verb) is based on a culture that eats a light breakfast and a multi-course dinner, often late into the night, and they do very well, thank you! So perhaps there is more at play here?

That only one in three Americans regularly eat breakfast is interesting, and, as we all know, obesity is a major source of disease and shortened lifespan in the US of A. Scientific evidence points to multiple benefits of a Buckingham Palace Breakfast replete with fruit, cereal, and protein:

  • It gets your metabolism going, helping calorie burns through the day—skipping this meal tells your body to conserve, rather than consume calories;
  • Eating breakfast actually leads to consuming fewer calories and less fat and sugar being consumed and hence, greater weight loss; and
  • A good breakfast helps one meet recommendations for fiber, calcium, fruit and vegetable intake.

Studies from around the world have actually characterized that this has a solid basis for improved general health, while also helping people living with diabetes and heart disease. One paper from Israel in 2013 (High caloric intake at breakfast vs. dinner differentially influences weight loss of overweight and obese women, Jakubowicz D, Barnea M, Wainstein J and Froy: looked at two groups of obese and overweight women, ensuring both received the same, reduced caloric intake. One group had most at breakfast, the other spread calories over the day, but the first group lost more weight and saw more improvements in general health.

Another study, from the UK (The Big Breakfast Study: Chrono-nutrition influence on energy expenditure and bodyweight: Ruddick-Collins LC, Johnston JD, Morgan PJ, Johnstone AM supports this premise and notes that countries with a tendency to eat more later in the day have more obesity. In fact, in 2017, the American scientific triumvirate of Jeffrey Hall, Michael Rosbash, and Michael Young were awarded the Nobel Prize for medicine for discovering that deep in our cells there is a mechanism to explain “circadian rhythms.” Just like during phases of flight, aircraft need to be trimmed and set up differently, so do our cells. This has led to the word “chrono” (relating to time) being appended to many biological terms; hence we now have chrononutritionwhen we eat is as important as what we eat and how much we eat.

Recently, ancient worms were found in the Siberian permafrost, frozen from a time when woolly mammoths wandered in herds. Amazingly, scientists were able to defrost these creatures, which promptly wriggled around 46,000 years after they were chilling with Dumbo ( This is an extreme version of the intermittent fasting concept; by stressing the body, one causes systems to take protective action as a perceived existential threat is addressed, a cellular version of fight-or-flight.

How is this germane to you, dedicated aviators and readers? While I am not suggesting you turn the heat down at altitude, I am recommending that there is sufficient data to suggest you should challenge your body by minimizing caloric intake as the day goes on and maybe try the occasional multi-hour fast (with your doctor’s blessing, of course).

In his book Outlive, Dr. Peter Attia addresses many aspects of longevity; understanding the scientific basis for how best to maintain you, “N4HLTH”—making as much sense as following published airworthiness directives and flying according to the POH. The evidence is in, and I for one shall dine like King Charles III from now on and sup like Oliver Twist, but shall not ask for more. Reflecting on the title I chose for this missive calls to mind a tune by Instant Sunshine, a trio of doctors who recorded witty songs, one favorite, “Worms,” recorded in 1976, espouses the nutritional value of earthworms, contemplating a future where such proteinaceous treats will form a spineless backbone for our diet. As long as we don’t eat too many!

Fly well!

You can send your questions and comments to Dr. Sackier via email: [email protected] and listen to his weekly podcasts at:

Jonathan Sackier

Dr. Jonathan Sackier is an expert in aviation medical concerns and helps members with their needs through AOPA Pilot Protection Services.

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