Thursday, July 24, 2014

Bittman's Great Summary

This one was so compelling, I'm reposting it.  It is foundational material in my book.

"The study controlled for poverty, urbanization, aging, obesity and physical activity. It controlled for other foods and total calories. In short, it controlled for everything controllable, and it satisfied the longstanding "Bradford Hill" criteria for what's called medical inference of causation by linking dose (the more sugar that's available, the more occurrences of diabetes); duration (if sugar is available longer, the prevalence of diabetes increases); directionality (not only does diabetes increase with more sugar, it decreases with less sugar); and precedence (diabetics don't start consuming more sugar; people who consume more sugar are more likely to become diabetics).
The key point in the article is this: "Each 150 kilocalories/person/day increase in total calorie availability related to a 0.1 percent rise in diabetes prevalence (not significant), whereas a 150 kilocalories/person/day rise in sugar availability (one 12-ounce can of soft drink) was associated with a 1.1 percent rise in diabetes prevalence." Thus: for every 12 ounces of sugar-sweetened beverage introduced per person per day into a country's food system, the rate of diabetes goes up 1 percent. (The study found no significant difference in results between those countries that rely more heavily on high-fructose corn syrup and those that rely primarily on cane sugar.)"

This article references a study (linking in the article) that is about as good as it gets in health science. Bittman's summary is spot on - until he gets to his politics, which I could do without.  Coercion hasn't worked well at all with regards to food and health.  I say let's try cooperation.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Good, Bad and Ugly of the NYT Paleo Article

The ugly:
Pound for pound, beef production demands at least ten times as much water as wheat production, and, calorie for calorie, it demands almost twenty times as much energy. Livestock are major sources of greenhouse-gas emissions, not just because of the fuel it takes to raise them but also because they do things like belch out methane and produce lots of shit, which in turn produces lots of nitrous oxide. One analysis, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, concluded that, in terms of emissions, eating a pound of beef is the equivalent of driving forty-five miles. (Grass-fed beef—recommended by many primal enthusiasts—may produce lower emissions than corn-fed, but the evidence on this is shaky.)
Not untrue, just irrelevant.  If you grow beef from corn grown from oil produced ammonium nitrate, it's certainly not going to help reduce emissions, if you are into that sort of thing.  So let's stop doing that, shall we?

I love her summary of this event:
Agriculture was “invented” several times, in different parts of the world, by people making use of the plants they found growing wild around them. The first time was probably about ten thousand years ago, in southeastern Turkey, when early farmers began cultivating einkorn wheat. The crop was a big hit, and, at least by the standards of the day, it spread rapidly. (This is sometimes referred to as the Big Agricultural Bang.) Wheat was being sown in Greece around eight thousand years ago, in the Balkans and in Italy seven thousand years ago, and in India and Scandinavia five thousand years ago. Meanwhile, around nine thousand years ago, a group of proto-farmers in southwestern Mexico began cultivating maize. It, too, quickly caught on, and was being grown in Panama seven thousand years ago and in Colombia six thousand years ago. Also sometime around nine thousand years ago, rice was domesticated in the Yangtze Valley.

This is also good:
“The adoption of agriculture, supposedly our most decisive step toward a better life, was in many ways a catastrophe from which we have never recovered” is Jared Diamond’s dour assessment, offered in an essay titled “The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race.”
Like Stone Age hunter-gatherers, early farmers left little behind—just some burnt grain, mud foundations, and their own bones. But that’s enough to reveal how punishing the transition to agriculture was. According to a study of human remains from China and Japan, the height of the average person declined by more than three inches during the millennia in which rice cultivation intensified. According to another study, of bones from Mesoamerica, women’s heights dropped by three inches and men’s by two inches as farming spread. A recent survey of more than twenty studies on this subject, published in the journal Economics and Human Biology, found that the adoption of agriculture “was observed to decrease stature in populations from across the entire globe,” including in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and South America.
Early farmers were not just shorter than hunter-gatherers; they were also more sickly. They had worse teeth—one analysis from the Near East suggests that the incidence of cavities jumped sixfold as people started relying on grain—and they suffered from increased rates of anemia and infectious disease. Many now familiar infections—measles, for instance—require high population densities to persist; thus, it wasn’t until people established towns and cities that such “crowd epidemic diseases” could flourish. And, by living in close proximity to their equally crowded farm animals, early agriculturalists helped to bring into being a whole set of diseases that jumped from livestock to people.
“The adoption of agriculture,” Diamond notes in his most recent book, “The World Until Yesterday,” provided “ideal conditions for the rapid transmission of microbes.” According to Daniel E. Lieberman, a professor of evolutionary biology at Harvard and the author of “The Story of the Human Body,” “farming ushered in an era of epidemics, including tuberculosis, leprosy, syphilis, plague, smallpox and influenza.”

It took thousands of years for human bodies to recover; Lieberman reports that “it wasn’t until the twentieth century that Europeans were the same height as cavemen.” And, almost as soon as the stature gap closed, new problems arose. People began to grow not just taller but also wider. During the past several decades, rates of obesity, hypertension, fatty-liver disease, and Type 2 diabetes have soared. 

For millions of years bison and other grazing animal ran around and helped grasses build top soil.  That's the way our ecology worked, as elegantly summarized in "the Vegetarian Myth".  I doubt we could recreate that, but if restoring natural processes that sequester carbon in soil is your goal, that's the way ahead.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Sugar-Addiction Taboo - Robert H. Lustig - The Atlantic

"No one argues that food isn't pleasurable, or even that food doesn't activate the "reward center" of the brain. But can food truly be addictive? In the same way that alcohol, tobacco, and street drugs are?"

In the article linked here,
Robert Lustig makes the case that sugar addiction is just as real as any other.  I agree.  There's a simple model I wrote about some time back (this is it), and while it's neither proved or under research, the concepts he relates in this article point to similar pathways for sugar addiction.

The BLUF - without sugar, food does not pervert our basic drive to consume the nutrition we need.  With sugar, we behave like addicts.  My two favorite paragraphs follow:

"Which brings us to sugar. Another fun substance, full of energy, made up of two molecules linked together: glucose (kind of sweet, and not that much fun), and fructose (very sweet, and a whole lot of fun). Glucose is a nutrient, although not essential—it's so important, that if you don't eat it, your liver will make it. But what about fructose? Is fructose a nutrient? As it turns out, there's no biochemical reaction that requires dietary fructose. A rare genetic disease called Hereditary Fructose Intolerance afflicts 1 in 100,000 babies, who drop their blood sugar to almost zero and have a seizure upon their first exposure to juice from a bottle at age six months. Doctors perform a liver biopsy to confirm the diagnosis. From that moment on, they're fructose-free for the rest of their lives. And they're among the healthiest people on the planet. Alcohol and fructose both supply energy. They're fun—but they are not nutrients."

"But oh, do we want it. As an example, rats are not big fans of lard. But if you lace the lard with some sugar (called "cookie dough"), that's another story — indeed, in a controversial abstract at this year's Society for Neuroscience meeting, rats were found to prefer Oreos to cocaine. And we humans are not far behind. A recent study by Dr. Eric Stice of Oregon Health Sciences University looked at our obsession, by parsing out the fat from the sugar. Subjects laying in an MRI scanner consumed milkshakes where the fat and the sugar concentrations were dialed up or down.  Bottom line, fat stimulated the somatosensory cortex (in other words, "mouthfeel"), but only sugar stimulated the reward center. And adding fat to the sugar didn't increase the reward any further. This study shows we want sugar way more than we want fat."

Lustig's hot for government action, but of course, government action has been the sugar industry's best friend for a long time.  I'd prefer the government just stayed out of our food, so that government cannot be highjacked but the highest bidders.

But for you and for me the message is simple.  Alcohol, sugar, driving, shooting guns, swimming pools, motorcycles - high risk, handle with care.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Double Under Tutorial

I like this way of teaching the double under.  The start - understand what a double under is.  Next, refine your single under technique.  Third, practice the high slow jump.  Fourth, add double under rope speed to the high slow jump.  Practice a lot.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Personal Paleo Code - Eat Real Food

You might be thinking a multivitamin can prevent nutrient deficiency, but supplemental nutrients do not have the same effect on the body as nutrients gotten form food.  Humans have evolved to get their nutrients from whole foods - not supplements.  Most nutrients require specific enzymes and other substances to be properly absorbed.  While these are naturally present in foods, they are often not included in synthetic vitamins and isolated nutrients.  This may explain why several trials have shown that adding antioxidant supplements to a typical American diet not only doesn't prevent people from getting heart disease and cancer but may actually increase their risk.  While supplements can (and should) be used for therapeutic effect in specific health conditions or to replace certain nutrients that are difficult to obtain from food, they should never be used to replace nutrients that can be found in a  nutrient-dense diet.
Chris Kresser, Your Personal Paleo Code

This is as good as it gets for learning how to eat for health, including how to address your specific issues of health and wellness.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Research Confirms Good Reporting on Obesity Research Almost Impossible

Another reporter that should be arrested for the murder of science reporting.

The head line is in - it is not possible to lose weight and keep it off.  What do you think of that?  Are you relieved because you have tried and failed so many times?  Are you in denial - "I am not willing to believe that, I'm going to be one of their 5%."  Or, like me, are you just plain flabbergasted at the poor quality of the dialogue? 

For me, this article is just another piece of pathetic writing from a profession that seems to set low standards which it then fails to meet.

Here's the opening:  "There's a disturbing truth that is emerging from the science of obesity. After years of study, it's becoming apparent that it's nearly impossible to permanently lose weight."

This is good writing but poor analysis.  For one thing, it's not emerging, it's been a discussion point for many years.  "Scientists" posit that we are in a "toxic food environment" and editorialize about the necessity of further research to develop appetite suppressing drugs and gene therapies and so on, since they have concluded that long term dietary success is impossible.  One of the better summaries is here:

The author goes on to summarize the work of a few scientists and a sample of research about fat loss results.  What is revealed is that this article is not about the topic "obesity research confirms that long term weight loss is almost impossible". This article is about a survey of a small sample of researchers who have apparently discovered what you and I already know - it is very hard to lose weight long term using the fad diet of the science world - calorie restriction with a focus on fat restriction.  And the reason that sort of diet does not work is simple - it leaves most of us feeling very hungry, lethargic, irritable or all three.

Of course, fat loss is not easy.  We are built to be hunter-gatherers but we eat all manner of foods that we are not adapted to.  If you eat like a hunter-gatherer, the prospect of weight loss is much different.  My story is just one, but dropping from 225 in 2007 to my current 190 has been instructive.  

As long as science research focuses on the singular variable of caloric intake, without consideration for the many other variables such as sleep, coffee and alcohol intake, social influence, hormonal variations (of which there are MANY especially for ladies) and genetic/ethnic variations - it will deliver results that are not particularly useful.