Monday, May 31, 2010

Sun and D, 1

"It all goes back to my childhood freckles. The grown-ups told me they were cute, and I believed them. And when they kept sprouting, I didn't mind. I figured I was getting cuter.
Like millions of middle-aged Americans, I spent youthful summers basted with baby oil, hoping the Midwestern sun would bake me into a California girl. My friends and I envied the kids with spring-break tans. We didn't give a thought to cancer.
I know better now. I wear sunscreen-the kind that includes fake bronzer-along with an SPF of at least 15. I check my skin for changes and visit the dermatologist annually. But even so, sitting in the sun with a book is still my idea of heaven. That's my idea of a vacation, too.

Skin types at the fair end of the spectrum are more susceptible to the burning rays of the sun -- and to a higher risk for cancers and premature aging of the skin. But a little sun exposure also releases endorphins and gives us needed vitamin D. WSJ's Melinda Beck and Laura Landro debate how good or bad the sun is for you on the News Hub.
The sun makes me feel good. In fact, ultraviolet (UV) rays stimulate the production of endorphins, the feel-good brain chemical, like exercise does. And my vitamin D levels are great, thanks to the sun's rays, so I figure I'm lowering my risk for a wide range of diseases.
But these days, sitting in the sun makes me feel guilty as well. A health columnist with a tan? Shameful.
Both the Skin Cancer Foundation and the American Academy of Dermatology maintain there's no such thing as a safe tan. And they keep raising the alarm levels. Some equate the urge to tan (or "tanorexia") with addictive behaviors like drug and alcohol abuse.
Most dermatologists advise never to step outside without sunscreen and they say it's not enough just to guard against UVB rays, the kind that cause burns. It's the longer, less intense UVA rays that accelerate aging-and those even penetrate cloud and glass windows. We also need specially made protective clothing.

Is all this protection really necessary, even for skin types like mine that tan easily? I posed some questions to dermatologists and other experts at a sun-care symposium, sponsored by the Coppertone Solar Research Center, this month. Admittedly, I was hoping someone would say that my tanning habit is OK. But I kept getting shot down.
The sun has been shining on us since life began. When did it become the enemy?
Skin cancer is rising mainly because we're exposing more of our bodies to the sun than ever before, these experts said. It's only been in the past 50 years or so that people equated a tan with health and wealth. In centuries past, the upper classes stayed pale; only laborers, cowboys and farmers sported tans, and they didn't lay out at noon in bikinis.
What Happens to Your Skin
The sun's ultraviolet rays are classified in three categories, based on their wavelength from the sun to the earth. UVA and UVB rays have harmful effects on the skin, while UVC rays do not reach the earth's surface. See chart
We're also living longer than ever, and UV damage is cumulative, so 50-, 60- and 70-year-olds are getting skin cancer based on decades of exposure.
And it's not just the sun that's causing problems, they said. Tanning parlors emit UVA rays far more intensely. "Not a month goes by when I don't see someone in their 20s with skin cancer," said David Leffell, a professor of dermatology at Yale School of Medicine. "Invariably they've been to tanning parlors and they are consumed by guilt."
Doesn't a tan provide some protection?
You'd think I had suggested setting myself on fire for fun. The assembled experts insisted that a tan is really a distress signal that UV rays are damaging the skin's DNA; the body sends melanin, its naturally occurring pigment, to the skin's upper layer to block UV rays from penetrating deeper. Tanning does provide some protection-the equivalent of an SPF 2 or 3, said Steven Q. Wang, director of dermatology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Basking Ridge, N.J. "But you have to pay for it with your DNA."
He and others also pointed out that sun exposure hastens the aging process, by damaging deeper collagen fibers and creating sagging and wrinkles. "That message seems to be more powerful than the skin cancer message," Dr. Wang noted. After all, there's a 100% risk of aging.
A Shade-Seeker Finds Ways To Block Rays How to Check for Melanoma as Risk Rises What about the benefits of sun exposure-like vitamin D and endorphins?
In his new book, "The Vitamin D Solution," Michael Holick argues that "sensible sun exposure" can prevent many more deaths from breast, colon, prostate and other cancers than it will risk from skin cancer. (The exact amount differs by skin type, latitude and time of year; it's 10 to 30 minutes three times a week, without sunscreen for Caucasians in much of the U.S. in the summer.) He also blames the widespread vitamin D deficiency on what he calls the rising culture of "sunphobia." Because of views like that, he chose to resign from Boston University Medical School's department for dermatology in 2004, though he remains a professor of medicine, physiology and biophysics.
The dermatologists said there are still many unknowns about vitamin D, such as how much people really need and whether it really protects against cancer and other diseases, to make such tradeoffs. Besides, they said, vitamin D is readily available from supplements without risking skin cancer. So far, however, there's no pill to replicate the mood-enhancing effects of the sun.
Isn't the cancer risk different for people with different skin tones or different parts of the world?
"Absolutely," said Dr. Leffell, who noted that someday personalized medicine may be able to predict exactly who can bask in the sun safely. In the meantime, experts are left with fairly broad categories of recommendations.
The people at highest risk for skin cancer are those who have fair complexions, freckles, red or blond hair and who always burn instead of tanning. They are Types 1 and 2 on what's known as the Fitzpatrick scale, developed in 1975 by Harvard dermatologist Thomas Fitzpatrick. They should wear SPF 30 or more and seek shade anytime they're in the sun, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. People with Types 5 and 6-with naturally brown or black skin-are at much lower risk, even though they can get melanoma. People with Type 3 or 4, like me, as well as the 5 and 6's should wear SPF 15 outside and seek the shade between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Skin type is a much bigger risk factor for cancer than latitude, which explains why skin cancer rates are highest among fair-haired people in places like Australia, New Zealand, North America and northern Europe, than in areas near the equator, even though the sun is stronger. Dermatologists say that fair-haired people need to be especially cautious when they vacation in sun-drenched places, or on ski slopes, with high altitudes and reflected sun on snow.
The Skin Cancer Foundation has also modified its overall public-health message in recent years from "Avoid the Sun" to "Seek the Shade." What's the difference? "We're saying go to the beach and sit under an umbrella. Enjoy all your outdoor activities but be protected. That's a wildly different message than stay inside and watch TV," says a spokeswoman.
"I think most of my colleagues would say, 'Enjoy the sun in moderation,' " says Dr. Wang. "That does not mean it's a good idea to lay half-naked on the beach for five hours. And you need to be extra cautious if you are fair-skinned."
Personally, I'm going to mull all this over this summer, sitting in the sun, but I'll try to make it before 10 or after 4.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Real Food Challenge, Part 2

Part 2
"You have to put everything into perspective. With any diet, you never want to follow it to such an extreme there's something wrong with it."
--Of course, the 'dietician' idea that eliminating 'things that are not food' is an extreme is interesting. I think saturated fat-phobia is extreme, not to mention a 20th century fad, scientifically unsupported, and a violation of common sense.

"I thought we ate healthy," said Kassandra Mier, a challenge participant. "I didn't think it'd be a problem. It was tougher than I thought. Trying to have a breakfast that didn't have anything processed was time-consuming." In the morning, she ground oats and buckwheat to make pancakes and waffles. She pan-fried eggs and made hash browns from scratch. The upside was her children had such hearty breakfasts, they rarely asked for snacks.
--This is an interesting thought; eating a plate full of home made carbs (waffles and hash browns? Wonder is they were also smothered in syrup or honey?) was a noticeable improvement from what her family had been eating. Wow.
But not every participant had such a smooth transition into traditional foods. After the pantry purge, a trip to the grocery store stunned her. "There's little real food in them," she said. "That was kind of a shock to realize how limited the choices were."
--It IS a shock when one finally is confronted with how much engineered food we are accustomed to eating. I've often day dreamed about what a 'real food' grocery store would look like .... Meat, veggies, fruit, nuts, seeds, a few oils, perhaps some jerky, raw milk; you could put a 'real food' store in the space of a gas station food mart.
"Real food costs more, because it's worth more," said Nina Planck, author of "Real Food: What to Eat and Why." It's a common complaint about real foods, and it boils down to priorities, Planck said. "You need to think about where and how you want to spend your money ...
--The equation above is a big deal. What's the 'cost' of marginalized health? We have learned to divorce our thoughts about food cost and health cost, but everyone who's given it a moment's thought knows these two are joined at the hip. And the costs are not just monetary. What is the "cost" of pain from unnecessarily inflammatory diets? If you save money on pain meds by eating real food, will you notice and count the difference? What is the "cost" of poor quality sleep and frustration about body fat accumulation issues from eating engineered food? What is the cost of premature aging? Of treatments from the diseases of the West? Should we count statins in our assessment of the cost of the American diet? How about kidney dialysis? Insulin treatments and blood glucose monitors and strips? These 'medical costs' are directly related to the weird economics of the industrial food production model we currently embrace, with cost curves bent by food subsidies and freakish farm policies and a 200,000 members strong Department of Agriculture (primarily a lever by which the industrial players manipulate markets). If we divorced our food production from oil derived fertilizers, we might reduce our national consumption of oil by 15% initially (eventually, the impact of decreased demand would tend to reduce the consumer cost for gasoline, which should lead to increased demand for same). At the same time, food costs would rapidly increase, and there's a real question of whether we could ever produce enough food to feed our nation without putting oil into our corn and therefore our cattle via amonium nitrate (did you know every cow you eat is about a half barrel of crude oil? And everything vegatable that you eat is probably oil of a like proportion. Thus the appeal of hunting, raising your own chickens, and vegetable gardening).

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Real Food Challenge, Part 1

The article linked below is akin to the "Paleo Challenge" many CrossFitters have read about. It's a well written article. I've inserted a few editorial comments below. I should thank the 'registered dietician' industry for providing the world with so many half baked nutritional ideas and thus making massive quantities of blog fodder.
The task set by a food blogger seemed deceptively simple: Eat real food for a month.
More than 900 people signed up for the challenge, and some were confident that it would not be difficult to avoid processed foods for 28 days. But in the age of potato powders, cheese in a squirt can and microwaveable meals, eating only "real food" turned out to be much more difficult. On Day One of the challenge, blogger Jennifer McGruther gave this instruction: Purge your pantry of processed foods. This meant everything with refined oils, white flour, sugar, low- and skimmed-milk products, margarine, processed cheeses, refined salt and dried pastas had to go. "It doesn't matter if the foods are organic or not. Toss them anyway," she said. "You may well have paid good money for the food at one time, but remember, real health comes from real food, and real food never comes from a box."
Neither a chef nor a nutritionist, McGruther is a full-time real estate office manager and a mother from Crested Butte, Colorado, who enjoys cooking and blogging at"
--The fact that she's not a nutritionist correlates with her common sense about food.
"Throughout the month, McGruther taught readers how to render lard to avoid refined oils, sprout grain, cultivate yogurt and make cheese instead of using premade convenience products from the store."
Processed food is defined as any food that has undergone a change of character. For example, edamame would be unprocessed, and tofu would be processed.
"I like the idea of less processed foods, but you can find healthy stuff in a package, too," she said, pointing to low-fat milk, sliced apples and unsalted canned vegetables as examples.
--There's just nothing good about low fat milk. Industrial food industry milk, organic or otherwise, has many potential issues:
-high temps from processing yeilds undesirable structural changes in the milk
-milk from industrial cows is far less nutritious than milk from pastured cows (one gives you milk created by oil with some help from sun, the other gives milk created by sun and soil alone)
-milk has been shown to produce a dis-proportionate insulin response relative to the amount of sugar it contains (
Skim milk has all of these problems, but they are exacerbated by the lack of fat. If you like milk and don't mind the potential issues associated with drinking milk produced by industrial farming techniques and the necessity of both ultra pasteurization and homogenization you should still drink only whole milk. If you think milk fat is bad, just wait until you meet the insulin spiking power of skim milk; might as well just inject the fat into your love handles and skip drinking the milk altogether.

WHS - Pertinent on Saturated Fat

"If saturated fat were important in determining the amount of blood cholesterol in the long term, you'd expect populations who eat the most saturated fat to have high blood cholesterol levels. But that's not at all the case. The Masai traditionally get almost 2/3 of their calories from milk fat, half of which is saturated. In 1964, Dr. George V. Mann published a paper showing that traditional Masai warriors eating nothing but very fatty milk, blood and meat had an average cholesterol of 115 mg/dL in the 20-24 year age group. For comparison, he published values for American men in the same age range: 198 mg/dL (J. Atherosclerosis Res. 4:289. 1964). Apparently, eating three times the saturated animal fat and several times the cholesterol of the average American wasn't enough to elevate their blood cholesterol. What does elevate the cholesterol of a Masai man? Junk food.

Now let's swim over to the island of Tokelau, where the traditional diet includes nearly 50% of calories from saturated fat from coconut. This is the highest saturated fat intake of any population I'm aware of. How's their cholesterol? Men in the age group 20-24 had a concentration of 168 mg/dL in 1976, which was lower than Americans in the same age group despite a four-fold higher saturated fat intake. Tokelauans who migrated to New Zealand, eating half the saturated fat of their island relatives, had a total cholesterol of 191 mg/dL in the same age group and time period, and substantially higher LDL (J. Chron. Dis. 34:45. 1981). Sucrose consumption was 2% on Tokelau and 13% in New Zealand. I think fructose (which makes up 50% of sucrose-- or table sugar-- and 55% of high-fructose corn syrup) is a more logical explanation for the high serum cholesterol and LDL of modern affluent societies, particularly considering the results of this study.

The inevitable conclusion is that if saturated fat influences total cholesterol or LDL concentration at all, the effect is modest and is dwarfed by other factors."

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Dr. Davis - More on Wheat

I have really enjoyed these posts from Dr. Davis on wheat.
Emmer, einkorn, and agribusiness

10,000 years ago, Neolithic humans did not obtain wheat products from the bagel shop, grocery store, or Krispy Kreme. They obtained wheat by locating a nearby wild-growing field of wild emmer or einkorn wheat grass, then harvesting it with their stone sickles.

Neolithic humans, such as the Natufians of the Fertile Crescent, carried their freshly-cut wheat home, then ground it by hand using homemade mortar and pestle. As yeast-raised bread was still some 5000 years in the future, emmer and einkorn wheat was not used to bake bread, but was consumed as a porridge in bowls. Einkorn has the simplest genetic code of 14 chromosomes, while emmer has 28 chromosomes.

A third variety of wheat appeared on the scene around 9000 years ago, a natural hybridization between emmer and goat grass, yielding the 42-chromosome Triticum aestivum species. Egyptians learned how to cause wheat to rise around 3000 BC, yielding bread, rather than the unleavened flatbreads of their predecessors.

From the original three basic varieties of wheat available to Neolithic man, over the past 30 years wheat has exploded to over 25,000 varieties. Where did the other 24,997+ strains come from?

In the 1980s, thousands of new wheat strains arose from hybridization experiments, many of them conducted in Mexico. Then, in the late 1980s, genetic engineering quietly got underway in which geneticists inserted or deleted single genes, mostly designed to generate specific characteristics, such as height, yield per acre, drought resistance, but especially resistance to various pesticides and weed killers. The fruits of these efforts were introduced into the market in 1994. Most of the genetically modified foods were thought to be only minor modifications of the unmodified original and thus no safety testing in animals or humans was conducted.

We now have many thousands of wheat strains that are different in important ways from original emmer, einkorn, and Triticum aestivum wheat. Interestingly, it has been suggested that einkorn wheat fails to provoke the same immune response characteristic of celiac disease provoked by modern wheat gluten, suggesting a different amino acid structure in gluten proteins. Another difference: Emmer wheat is up to 40% protein, compared to around 12% protein for modern wheat.

In other words, the wheat of earlier agricultural humans, including the wheat of Biblical times, is NOT the wheat of 2010. Modern wheat is quite a different thing with differing numbers of chromosomes, different genes due to human manipulation, varying gluten protein composition, perhaps other differences.

Somewhere in the shuffle and genetic sleight-of-hand that has occurred over the last 30 years, wheat changed. What might have been the "staff of life" has now become the cause of an incredible array of diseases of "wheat" intolerance

WHS - Dietary Cholesterol a Mythical Beast

There are still some badly written articles which report that consumption of cholesterol has an impact on the consumer's lipid profile - in other words, that eating cholesterol results in worse cholesterol levels and CVD. Here's a simple refutation, but it amazes me that something so totally unfactual has been repeated so often from so many sources over the years, by very smart, and presumably educated people. One cannot take any of the information in this arena at face value.

"The diet-heart hypothesis is the idea that (1) dietary saturated fat, and in some versions, dietary cholesterol, raise blood cholesterol in humans and (2) therefore contribute to the risk of heart attack.

I'm not going to spend a lot of time on the theory in relation to dietary cholesterol because there really isn't much evidence to debunk in humans. As far as I can tell, most diet-health researchers don't take this theory seriously anymore because the evidence has simply failed to materialize. Dr. Walter Willett doesn't believe it, and even Dr. Ancel Keys didn't believe it. Here's a graph from the Framingham Heart study (via the book Prevention of Coronary Heart Disease, by Dr. Harumi Okuyama et al.) to drive home the point. Eggs are the most concentrated source of cholesterol in the American diet. In this graph, the "low" group ate 0-2 eggs per week, the "medium" group ate 3-7, and the "high" group ate 7-14 (click for larger image): The distribution of blood cholesterol levels between the three groups was virtually identical. The study also found no association between egg consumption and heart attack risk. Dietary cholesterol does not raise serum cholesterol in the long term, because humans are adapted to eating cholesterol. We simply adjust our own cholesterol metabolism to compensate when the amount in the diet increases, like dogs. Rabbits don't have that feedback mechanism because their natural diet doesn't include cholesterol, so feeding them dietary cholesterol increases blood cholesterol and causes vascular pathology."

School Food

"What I saw during my week in Berkeley's central school kitchen was a pair of seasoned, professional chefs who knew what the deal was with kids and vegetables. Being chefs on a budget, they take a clear-eyed, pragmatic approach to making school meals. They weren't just slapping peas on a tray to satisfy some standard dreamed up in Washington, D.C. With stoic determination, they were finding ways to incorporate vegatables that would actually be eaten in daily meals, often by making them much less obvious. They don't waste time or money on broccoli side dishes. They serve lots of beans, which satisfy government vegetable requirements cheaply and efficiently-just in case that Tuscan bean salad ends up being scraped into the compost bin.
Why serve kids local brussels sprouts if they just end up in the trash? That was exactly the message D.C. school officials sent legislators here when they tried to adopt new Institute of Medicine standards calling for bigger portions of vegetables: Please don't!
In the District of Columbia, canned green beans, steamed carrots and broccoli cooked to death appear on Styrofoam serving trays on a regular basis, only to be ignored by the children for whom they are intended and dropped into trash receptacles at the end of the meal. "They're nasty," is how my 10-year-old daughter and her classmates describe them. Isn't the defininition of insanity repeating the same behavior over and over, expecting a different result?"

I can't even dream of how bad most school lunches are.  We ate a steady diet of bread, milk, and some protein back in "my" day.  The veggies were OK, if not great.  Now, I wonder if they can still provide meat based burgers?  Whole milk?  I bet you still get a dose of sugar for a dessert at every meal.  You could live on those meals, but I'll bet many, myself included, had a predictable blood sugar spike followed by a post-insulin crash, resulting in the post-lunch fog.  I didn't even know enough then to know the benefit of bringing my own food to school.  At least my kids won't suffer the same fate, nor need yours.

By the way - the best way to get kids to like veggies is to eat a bunch while the kid is in utero!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Dr. Davis on Wheat  Reposted:
"Wheat is among the most destructive components of the human diet, a food that is responsible for inflammatory disease, diabetes, heart disease, several forms of intestinal diseases, schizophrenia, bipolar illness, ADHD, behavioral outbursts in autistic children . . . just to name a few.

But why?

Wheat is mostly carbohydrate. That explains its capacity to cause blood sugar to increase after eating, say, a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread. The rapid release of sugars likely underlies its capacity to create visceral fat, what I call "wheat belly."

But neither the carbohydrate nor the other components, like bran and B vitamins, can explain all the other adverse health phenomena of wheat. So what is it in wheat that, for instance, worsens auditory hallucinations in paranoid schizophrenics? Is it the gluten?  First of all, what is gluten?

Gluten protein is the focus of most wheat research conducted by food manufacturers and food scientists, since it is the component of wheat that confers the unique properties of dough, allowing a pizza maker to roll and toss pizza crust in the air and mold it into shape. The distinctive “doughy” quality of the simple mix of wheat flour and water, unlike cornstarch or rice starch, for instance, properties that food scientists call “viscoelasticity” and “cohesiveness,” are due to the gluten. Wheat is mostly carbohydrate, but the 10-15% protein content is approximately 80% gluten. Wheat without gluten would lose its unique qualities that make it desirable to bakers and pizza makers. Gluten is also the component of wheat most confidently linked to immune diseases like celiac.

The structure of gluten proteins has proven frustratingly elusive to characterize, as it changes over time and varies from strain to strain. But an understanding of gluten structure may be part, perhaps most, of the answer to the question of why wheat provokes negative effects in humans.

The term “gluten” encompasses two primary families of proteins, the gliadins and the glutenens. The gliadins, one of the protein groups that trigger the immune response in celiac disease, has three subtypes: α/β-gliadins, γ-gliadins, and ω-gliadins. The glutenins are repeating structures, or polymers, of more basic protein structures.

Beyond gluten, the other 20% or so of non-gluten proteins in wheat include albumins, prolamins, and globulins, each of which can also vary from strain to strain. In total, there are over 1000 other proteins that serve functions from protection of the grain from pathogens, to water resistance, to reproductive functions. There are agglutinins, peroxidases, α-amylases, serpins, and acyl CoA oxidases, not to mention five forms of glycerinaldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenases. I shouldn’t neglect to mention the globulins, β-purothionin, puroindolines a and b, tritin, and starch synthases.

As if this protein/enzyme smorgasbord weren’t enough, food processors have also turned to fungal enzymes, such as cellulases, glucoamylases, xylanases, and β-xylosidases to enhance leavening and texture. Many bakers also add soy flour to enhance mixing and whiteness, which introduces yet another collection of proteins and enzymes.

In short, wheat is not just a simple gluten protein with some starch and bran. It is a complex collection of biological material that varies according to its genetic code.

While wheat is primarily carbohydrate, it is also a mix of gluten protein which can vary in structure from strain to strain, as well as a highly variable mix of non-gluten proteins. Wheat has evolved naturally to only a modest degree, but it has changed dramatically under the influence of agricultural scientists. With human intervention, wheat strains are bred and genetically manipulated to obtain desirable characteristics, such as height (ranging from 18 inches to over 4 feet tall), “clinginess” of the seeds, yield per acre, and baking or viscoelastic properties of the dough. Various chemicals are also administered to fight off potential pathogens, such as fungi, and to activate the expression of protective enzymes within the wheat itself to “inoculate” itself against invading organisms.

From the original two strains of wheat consumed by Neolithic humans in the Fertile Crescent 9000 years ago (Emmer and Einkorn), we now have over 200,000 strains of wheat virtually all of which are the product of genetic manipulations that have modified the protein structure of wheat. The extraordinary complexity of wheat proteins have therefore created a huge black box of uncertainty in pinpointing which protein causes what.

But there's an easy cure for the uncertainty: Don't eat it."

Monday, May 24, 2010

Red Meat Study - Some of the Issues

"The study was a meta-analysis, which combines the results of several studies looking at the same issue. Like others of its kind, the study "is limited in terms of scientific value," Dr. Eckel said. None of the studies in the analysis, for example, was a randomized controlled clinical trial, just one factor affecting the strength of the findings. The report is helpful in raising issues for further study, but "it doesn't answer any questions," he said.
==These are great points and should be taken to heart as regards all study results.  If the study is not an intervention trial, it cannot be used to establish causality, but it may be useful to form or refine a conjecture/hypothesis for further study.

"The American Meat Institute Foundation took issue with the findings [regarding processed meat products], saying they conflict with national dietary guidelines. "The body of evidence clearly demonstrates that processed meat is a healthy part of a balanced diet," James H. Hodges, president, said in a statement. He said the study didn't "achieve the standard threshold that would generate concern" and that "it is no reason for dietary changes." "
==Mr. Hodges is correct in this case - this study is no reason for dietary change. 

Current U.S. dietary guidelines call for limiting saturated fats-the kind found in red meats and dairy products such as milk, cheese and butter-to less than 10% of calories consumed each day-while keeping overall fat consumption to under 30% of calories. A big reason is that saturated fats are associated with higher levels of cholesterol in the blood. Dr. Eckel said that "is still a reasonable recommendation."
==The thing to keep in mind when hearing this bit of drivel - that saturated fat intake raises cholesterol levels -  is that it's true but irrelevant, as Taubes covers in delicious detail in "Good Calories Bad Calories."  Saturated fat intake raises both HDL and LDL, and almost always improves the total cholesterol to HDL ratio that is a far more significant (if imperfect) predictor of CVD.  Saturated fat, as we've covered many times, has a significant health benefit, and virtually no negative health impact (except for a few folks who are sat fat sensitive).

"The report is the second meta-analysis in recent weeks to question just how much of a culprit saturated fats are when it comes to cardiovascular risk. In March, a meta-analysis (involving 21 different studies) by a team headed by Ronald Krauss at Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute, Oakland, Calif., found that intake of saturated fat wasn't linked to a statistically-significant increased risk of heart disease, stroke or cardiovascular disease."
==More on that study here:

"That's not necessarily a license to unleash your inner carnivore. Calorie control as well as a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, fish, whole grains and nuts remain the mainstay of heart-healthy eating, he said."
==They have to advocate something - but be advised they do not have anything like scientific certainty for much of what they advocate.  Eat fruit and vegetables if you like them, nuts are great, fish is great, but don't let them convince you they KNOW (I think they have their head in the sand if they think grains, whole or otherwise, are a significant part of a healthy diet).  They are making a guess.  You are perfectly capable of sorting through the issues and coming to your own conclusions, testing and experimenting with what works for you.  The recommended prescription remains the same - "Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar." 

Friday, May 21, 2010

WHS - Meet the Kuna

I really enjoyed this older post from WHS. It's a snapshot of life as a Kuna, at least in terms of how they eat. Enjoy.

Prospecting for Correlation

Interesting prospective study - meaning they used existing studies and examined the data to prospect for previously undiscovered relationships - which shows consistency with the carbohydrate hypothesis.  Would be interesting to dig into the study more and find out if they studied indicators like fasting insulin levels and could document a relationship between those and the carb/GI pattern.
Results: During a median of 12 y of follow-up, 1943 incident MI cases occurred. There was a nonsignificant inverse association between substitution of carbohydrates with low-GI values for SFAs and risk of MI [hazard ratio (HR) for MI per 5% increment of energy intake from carbohydrates: 0.88; 95% CI: 0.72, 1.07). In contrast, there was a statistically significant positive association between substitution of carbohydrates with high-GI values for SFAs and risk of MI (HR: 1.33; 95% CI: 1.08, 1.64). There was no association for carbohydrates with medium-GI values (HR: 0.98; 95% CI: 0.80, 1.21). No effect modification by sex was observed.
Conclusion: This study suggests that replacing SFAs with carbohydrates with low-GI values is associated with a lower risk of MI, whereasreplacing SFAs with carbohydrates with high-GI values is associated with a higher risk of MI.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Miracle Cure?


"No, this isn't some National Enquirer headline like "Woman delivers alien baby."
Tom is a 26-year old man with a complex medical condition, a malformation he was born with and has had reconstructed. Aside from this, he leads a normal life: works, is married, and is, in fact, quite intelligent.
He came to me for an opinion regarding his overall health. Tom was worried that his congenital condition would impair his long-term health and longevity prospects, so he wanted to optimize all other aspects of his health.
But, when I examined Tom, he could barely get himself up on the exam table without wincing in pain. When I asked him to walk, he hobbled a few steps, again clearly in pain. When I asked him what hurt, he said "everything." He said that all his joints hurt just to move.
He told me that his several doctors over the years didn't know why he was in such pain: It wasn't rheumatoid arthritis, gout, pseudogout, or any of the other inflammatory joint diseases that might account for virtually incapacitating this 26-year old man. Even the rheumatologists were stumped. It was also unrelated to his repaired congenital condition. So Tom went on with his life, barely able to even go for a walk with his wife without pain, slowing him down to the pace of an 80-year old.
So I suggested that he eliminate all wheat products. "I don't know for a fact whether it will work, Tom. But the only way to find out is to give it a try. Why not try a 4-week period of meticulously avoiding wheat? Nothing bad will come of it."
He and his wife look perplexed, but were so desperate for a solution that they agreed to give it a try.
Tom returned 6 weeks later. He walked into the room briskly, then bounded up on the exam table. He told me that, within days, all his joint pains had completely disappeared. He could walk, stretch, do all the normal physical things with none of the pain he had suffered previously.
Tom told me, "I didn't think it could be true. I thought it was just a coincidence. So I had a sandwich about 2 weeks into it. In about 5 minutes, I got about half my pains back."
Tom now remains wheat-free and pain-free, thankfully with no discernible joint impairment.
So, yes, Tom walked freely and without pain simply by eliminating wheat from his life.
Is it an immune phenomenon? Does wheat gluten trigger some inflammatory reaction in some people? There is surely something like this underlying experiences like Tom.
Wheat contains far more than gluten. Modern wheat is a collection of hundreds of different proteins, though gluten is the most plentiful, the one that confers the "viscoelasticity" of dough. But there's plenty more to wheat than gluten or celiac disease."

Low Fat Long Term

As you consider this study, also consider the ground we've covered as regards LDL, small dense LDL, LDL measurement error, and relevance of LDL as a CVD risk factor (vice HDL/Total Chol. ratio, or TG/HDL ratio).  The low carb group lost ~3 kilos more weight, 2 kilos more fat, showed a greater reduction in triglycerides, greater increase in HDL, and also a predictable increase in LDL.  The only number that surprises or would concern me is the 'insignificantly' greater increase in apolipoprotein B.  These numbers are otherwise "all good," and comport well with what my experience shows happens when folks use carbohydrate restriction.  I would have liked seeing the numbers for fasting insulin levels and fasting blood sugars in the abstract.

BLUF:  "Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds some fruit little starch and no sugar."

Long-term effects of a very-low-carbohydrate weight loss diet compared with an isocaloric low-fat diet after 12 mo1,2,3,4

Design: Men and women (n = 118) with abdominal obesity and at least one additional metabolic syndrome risk factor were randomly assigned to either an energy-restricted ({approx}6–7 MJ) LC diet (4%, 35%, and 61% of energy as carbohydrate, protein, and fat, respectively) or an isocaloric LF diet (46%, 24%, and 30% of energy as carbohydrate, protein, and fat, respectively) for 1 y. Weight, body composition, and cardiometabolic risk markers were assessed.

Conclusions: Under planned isoenergetic conditions, as expected, both dietary patterns resulted in similar weight loss and changes in body composition. The LC diet may offer clinical benefits to obese persons with insulin resistance. However, the increase in LDL cholesterol with the LC diet suggests that this measure should be monitored. This trial was registered with the Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry at as ACTR 12606000203550.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Caffeine Health Bonus

"Researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, MD hypothesized that caffeine may inhibit the intraocular generation of reactive oxygen species in the lens and consequent damage to the tissue.
The team studied the oxyradical effects in vitro by incubating mice lenses in medium exposed UVA in the presence of kynurenine with and without caffeine. In vivo studies were conducted in rats by incorporating caffeine with galactose in their diet. In both cases, caffeine was found to be effective in protecting the lens against damage."

What's the application of incubated mice lenses to humans?  Beats me.  Hope it's significant!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Measuring LDL

When is high LDL not "bad?" How does your doctor calculate your LDL? When is the 'standard formula' for LDL calculation not reliable? All this and more is answered in this very dense, very smart piece (see link below to protein

Doctors talk about cholesterol because it was one of the first significant blood markers they could measure and use to form correlations and hypotheses - and they simplified the topic to make it digestible to the masses (50% of whom have a below average IQ). However - the science of cholesterol is anything but simple. For example - US doctors are trying to get US citizens to lower their cholesterol levels to 'reduce the risk of heart disease' while Japanese doctors are trying to get their men to raise their cholesterol to 'reduce their risk of hemmoragic stroke.'

So what's the right level of cholesterol?

The answer is complex, and following Dr. Eades' post, you'll have a lot to consider about cholesterol. This describes the Friedewald formula used to calculate LDL levels:

"The ultracentrifugal measurement of LDL is time consuming and expensive and requires equipment not commonly available in the clinical laboratory or physician's office. For this reason, LDL-cholesterol is most commonly estimated from quantitative measurements of total and HDL-cholesterol and plasma triglycerides (TG) using the empirical relationship of Friedewald et al. (1972).

[LDL-chol] = [Total chol] - [HDL-chol] - ([TG]/5)
where all concentrations are given in mg/dL.

The quotient ([TG]/5) is used as an estimate of VLDL-cholesterol concentration. It assumes, first, that virtually all of the plasma TG is carried on VLDL, and second, that the TG:cholesterol ratio of VLDL is constant at about 5:1 (Friedewald et al. 1972). Neither assumption is strictly true."

Why is this method of measurement a problem?
"Here is one of the problems with the Friedewald equation. Let us assume that an individual has the following lipid profile numbers: TC = 200, HDL = 50, and trigs. = 150. The calculated LDL will be 120. Let us assume that this same individual reduces triglycerides to 50, from the previous 150, keeping all of the other measures constant. This is a major improvement. However, the calculated LDL will now be 140, and a doctor will tell this person to consider taking statins!" (BTW, this post is worth reviewing top to bottom, and includes a calculator for estimating LDL via Friedewald and an alternative method to see how far off your estimate might be).

Here's another good summary of the issue:
"Because LDL particles can also transport cholesterol into the artery wall, retained there by arterial proteoglycans and attract macrophages which engulf the LDL particles and start the formation of plaques, increased levels are associated with atherosclerosis. Over time vulnerable plaques rupture, activate blood clotting and produce heart attack, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease symptoms and major debilitating events. For this reason, cholesterol inside LDL lipoproteins is often called bad cholesterol. This is a misnomer. The cholesterol transported within LDL particles is the same as cholesterol transported by the other lipoprotein particles. The cholesterol itself is not bad; rather, it is how and where the cholesterol is being transported, and in what amounts (over time), that causes adverse effects [5]."

The current thinking is that not all LDL particles are good candidates for being trapped inside the aretery walls, rather, primarily the small, dense LDL particles are.  These are not identified by the standard LDL estimates.
In other words, another serious problem with the standard method for measuring LDL is that the method does not descriminate.  A person with high levels of large, fluffy LDL particles is in a totally different risk category than a person with a large dose of small, dense LDL.

So, what is the "right" level of cholesterol?  Well, high levels of HDL is good, LDL numbers are frequently meaningless, and thus, there's no simple answer.  But all people want to avoid 'Syndrome X', or metabolic syndrome, characterized by:
-high blood pressure
-high triglycerides
-high levels of small, dense LDLs
-hyper insulinemia
-low HDL

How do we avoid this condition? Eat a lot of protein and fat, and avoid high density carbohydrates.

Don't believe me? I wouldn't ask you to. Avoid all the speculation and try it yourself through a before and after test. If you do read his post, you'll know what to ask your Dr. to clarify your results.

More here:
Re-edit 17 May, 12:27 PM CDT, and 10 March, 2011

Friday, May 14, 2010

How To Eat Grain (If You Must)
This is an interesting description of how to prepare grains for human consumption such that they will be net positive for nutritive value (if you do it right) compared to net negative if eaten as they are drawn from the ground. 

My question is still - why eat grains?  Humans got fat, short and sick when they converted from hunting/gathering to grain eating.  That's enough evidence for me.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Fasting Insulin Measures

Whole Health Source is a goldmine. Here's the best of many nuggests from this post on studies baselining insulin levels:
"We also have data from a controlled trial in healthy urban people eating a "paleolithic"-type diet. On a paleolithic diet designed to maintain body weight (calorie intake had to be increased substantially to prevent fat loss during the diet), fasting insulin dropped from an average of 7.2 to 2.9 uIU/mL in just 10 days. The variation in insulin level between individuals decreased 9-fold, and by the end, all participants were close to the average value of 2.9 uIU/mL. This shows that high fasting insulin is correctable in people who haven't yet been permanently damaged by the industrial diet and lifestyle. The study included men and women of European, African and Asian descent (7)."

For more on the significance of this number, take a look here:

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sugar v. Cocaine

"When rats were allowed to choose mutually-exclusively between water sweetened with saccharin - 'an intense calorie-free sweetener' and intravenous cocaine - 'a highly addictive and harmful substance' - the large majority of animals (94%) preferred the sweet taste of saccharin."

Monday, May 10, 2010

Kinesiologoy Tape or "What's with the Pretty Colors?"

Two recent studies on Kinesio Tex showed some short-term effect. A study of 42 patients with shoulder pain, published in 2008 in the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, found that range of motion improved immediately after application of kinesiology tape, compared with a sham taping using no tension. But the study found no significant difference in pain or overall disability scores.
Last year, a study on 41 patients with whiplash after car accidents found statistically significant pain relief and improvements in range of motion with kinesiology taping compared with a sham tape. The effects were seen immediately and continued a day later. In the paper, published last year in the same journal, the Spanish-led research team said the changes were so small they "may not be clinically meaningful." Kinesio Holding, which didn't fund either study, says a limitation of the shoulder study is that the kinesiology taping wasn't customized to each patient's injury.
Even if taping does work in the hands of a trained clinician, it isn't clear it will work when used by consumers. Taping can sometimes cause skin rashes, which can be minimized by not overstretching the ends, clinicians say. Baby oil can be used to remove any sticky residue.

Friday, May 7, 2010

HFCS Beat Down

I've no sympathy for the HFCS folk, but this is not believable:

"Our bodies have been adapted over the years to metabolize sugar, which is natural,” Mr. Royster says. “But the body doesn’t know what to do with high-fructose corn syrup.”

It may be that large doses of HFCS are worse than large doses of sugar (table sugar, by the way, has almost as much fructose as HFCS), but the body is adapted to large quantities of neither one.

The link below highlights the pushback from the market place as folk begin to make their mistrust of HFCS known to food manufacturers.  I hope those folk don't quit pushing and learning until they figure out that all sugars are dangerous at present US consumption rates, and that most starches are nearly as dangerous as sugars, and then keep digging to learn about the unsustainable nature of our current food production industry, and about the benefits of grass finished beef ... etc!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Classic Quotes, Abbey

"The real work of men was hunting meat. The invention of agriculture was a giant step in the wrong direction, leading to serfdom, cities, and empire. From a race of hunters, artists, warriors, and tamers of horses, we degraded ourselves to what we are now: clerks, functionaries, laborers, entertainers, processors of information." - Edward Abbey

This quote makes my heart race ...

I think there's a connection between the sentiment in this quote and CrossFit - we were made to occasionally give the full extension of physical effort and there's a reason it feels 'good' in the larger sense (although quite bad in the moment). The reason is that those who could give the full extension and kind of like it were more likely to have and see their children's children.

Jerk Box Plans

Found this, wanted to put somewhere that others could get access also.

No Grain Beats Whole Grain, Hands Down

Small LDL: Simple vs. complex carbohydrates
Summary of another great post from Dr. Davis:  He has a client who's lukewarm about changing the wheat in his diet - but needs to change something!  His LDL is over 262 mg/dl LDL, of which 89% is small LDL (very high).

The client replaced all sugar and refined flour products with whole grains, but did not restrict whole grain consumption.  LDL dropped to ~ 245 mg/dl, but maintained 81% of LDL small particles.

The client then eliminated the whole grains, and his LDL dropped to ~ 139 mg/dl, of which only 48.9% were the dangerous small LDL, a reduction of over 65% since the first test.  Wow!

Dr. D's conclusion:  "This is typical of the LDL responses I see with elimination of wheat products on the background of an overall carbohydrate restriction: Big drops in precisely measured LDL as LDL particle number (i.e., an actual count of LDL particles, not LDL cholesterol) and big drops in the number of small LDL particles.  You might say that wheat elimination and limitation of carbohydrate intake can yield statin-like values . . . without the statin."

That's a big deal.  Notice the clarity provided by measuring the results before, during and after, vice the normal mish mash of theory you get when folks just speculate about one formula or another.  The interesting thing to know is how much grain the client was eating, and also what foods he used to replace the grain he eliminated.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Dr. Mercola on Milk

Dr. Mercola on milk - his advice?  Don't drink it unless you get pasteurized non-homoginized milk - link below.

Aside from his list of suspected issues, there's the matter of increased insulin secretion in response to lactose when compared to other sugars (as reported at

When I stopped drinking milk, I felt better.  The improvement was palpable enough to reinforce the change, even though I really enjoy drinking whole milk.  I drink a glass from time to time, usually after a workout, but otherwise don't miss it.

I concur with the Doctor's recommendation - do a test run, see if you notice a difference.  There is reason to believe that grass fed cows generating raw milk - especially when used for butter - is a powerful nutrient laden real human food.  Don't confuse that with the stuff you can get at the grocery store.  Lastly, milk has to be consumed in low doses to keep yourself at a good carb restriction level.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Fiber - Good or Bad?

"And a final telling paragraph:  The scientists aren't certain how many times cells can take a hit, but they suspect turnover is so high because of the constant injury. Potentially caustic substances, such as alcohol and aspirin, can produce so much damage that natural recovery mechanisms can't keep up. But they doubt a roughage overdose is possible."  (Note:  link to study available from Dr. Eades' link below).  

"So, we have a situation where a product causes damage to the cells lining a tube, causing them to produce a lot of mucus in an attempt to protect themselves. In the process many of these cells die and are replaced by new cells. And this is perceived as a good thing.  My question is: is it really a good thing?"

The fiber myth - would you believe, even after all the hype, that there's essentially nothing but conjecture to support the oft heard admonition that we need fiber in our diets?  From this link, Dr. Eades goes through the nasty details of what fiber IS known to do - give your intestines a beating.

There's a detailed summary of the fiber myth in "Good Calories Bad Calories", just another reason to read the book if you just have to understand all the conflicting things we've been told by the "authorities."

Monday, May 3, 2010

Fruit As Cancer Preventative?

BLUF:  You'll hear a million times how important it is to eat fruit and vegetables but .... it's only because it sounds like such a good idea.  The evidence to support the claim is thin.  This is the kind of study, by they way (an observational study) which, even had it showed a strong correlation between eating the big pile of veggies and fruit and a cancer protective effect, could not show causality.

"Researchers adjusted the results for other factors likely to influence the results" - As they say, they try to 'correct' for other variables, but they cannot account for them all and even the 'correction' process is just an educated guess (and associated math tricks).   

In thinking about the Paleolithic model, we have good reasons to believe that there were many healthy, pre-agricultural cultures who did not have access to fruit and vegetables year around.  If some powerful protective effect from fruit/vegetables is detected, it's likely to be, at best, a compensation for the protein and fat deprivation most put themselves through.  So if you skip the protein and fat to over consume carbs, eat your fruit and vegetables like your life depended on it.

Article follows:
Eating a lot of fruit and vegetables has only "a very modest" effect on protecting against cancer, according to a study.
Researchers suggest that the "five portions a day" health mantra has strong validity only when it comes to preventing the disease in heavy drinkers. Even then the benefits may apply only to cancers caused by alcohol and smoking, such as those in the gut, throat and mouth.
The verdict is based on a study of almost 500,000 people in 10 European countries and suggests that even the small overall association of fruit and vegetable consumption with prevention of cancer may be linked to other factors.
Fruit and vegetable intake was compared with cancer data covering nine years up to 2000 for the research published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
Researchers adjusted the results for other factors likely to influence the results, such as smoking, alcohol intake, obesity, consumption of meat and processed meat, exercise and whether women had taken the contraceptive pill or hormone replacement therapy.
The results showed that eating an extra 200g of fruit and vegetables a day reduced the overall risk of cancer by 3%. The link between eating a large amount of vegetables and reduced cancer risk applied only to women.
The study, led by Paolo Boffetta from the Tisch Cancer Institute at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, suggested a "weak" association between high fruit and vegetable intake and reduced cancer risk.
An accompanying editorial by Walter Willett of the Harvard School of Public Health said efforts to increase fruit and vegetable consumption were still worthwhile because accumulating evidence showed that they helped protect against cardiovascular disease and "a small benefit for cancer remains possible". Research now should focus more sharply on specific fruits and vegetables – including lycopene in tomatoes which, studies suggest, helps protect against prostate cancer – and on reducing smoking and obesity.
NHS advice in Britain is careful to say that eating five portions a day can help reduce the risk of "some cancers", including bowel cancer, and heart disease, type 2 diabetes, strokes and obesity.