Friday, April 29, 2011

Have a Baseball Kid? Must read

I’m convinced that the next big thing in Major League Baseball’s “scouting revolution” is meticulously analyzing what players did when they were younger.  If they are going to draft kids, they want to know that they haven’t been overworked for years prior to entering professional baseball.  You’re already seeing this taking place in collegiate baseball based more on an assumption: pitchers from the North are getting more and more opportunities to play down South because coaches recruit them (beyond just talent) under the assumption that they’ve accumulated less wear and tear on their arms.

Read the rest if you have a baseball kid.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Excellent Review of O6/O3 Issues

BLUF:  Imbalance results in dis-functional inflammation and cell wall permeability issues.

More Fat Equals Lower Blood Sugar

Nice summary from Healthy Diets and Science:

Diet 1 consisted of 55% carbohydrate, 15% protein, 30% fat
Diet 2 consisted of 20% carbohydrate, 30% protein, 50% fat

After 5 weeks:
The high carbohydrate diet produced blood glucose levels of 198 mg/dl
The low carbohydrate diet produced blood glucose levels of 126 mg/dl

Mike Eades on Becoming a Fat Burning Machine

When first thrown wholly upon a diet of reindeer meat, it seems inadequate to properly nourish the system and there is an apparent weakness and inability to perform severe exertive, fatiguing journeys. But this soon passes away in the course of two or three weeks. At first the white man takes to the new diet in too homeopathic a manner, especially if it be raw. However, seal meat which is far more disagreeable with its fishy odor, and bear meat with its strong flavor, seems to have no such temporary debilitating effect upon the economy.

These anecdotes of those thrown into life with the inuit and other paleo cultures are always fascinating and myth busting.  Why does it take a few weeks to adapt to a high meat/fat diet?  Mike Eades provides a no-nonsense description:
Someone who has been on a high-carb diet–the standard American diet, for example–has to metabolize a lot of sugar. All metabolic processes require enzymes to carry them out. Our DNA codes for these enzymes, but we don’t make them unless we need them. And when we do need them it takes a while for them to get brought up to the necessary levels. So, when we’re on a high-carb diet, we’ve got a lot of sugar-metabolizing enzymes kicking around, ready to metabolize sugar. All the sugar-metabolizing pathways are working efficiently.

Suddenly we switch to a low-carb diet. Now we don’t have much sugar to be metabolized–we’ve got fat instead. But our fat metabolizing pathways are kind of rusty. We’ve got plenty of sugar enzymes, but not enough fat enzymes. The body stays put for a bit to see what’s going to happen. Is this just a few hours without carbs or is it a real low-carb diet for sure? Once the body gets serious, signals go to the DNA, which starts coding for the fat-burning enzymes. They are soon made and start to work, and the fatigue goes away because the body can now efficiently metabolize fat, the main fuel on a low-carb diet.

Can you see how it makes sense that eating a high fat, low carb diet results in less fat in the blood?  In short, on a high carb diet, the body has a continuous problem of how to dispose of all the excess sugar.  Some is stored as glycogen, some is converted to fat in the liver, and some is consumed to run the body.  As the liver is working over time to convert sugar into fats (triglycerides), the body cannot burn those fats; it's too busy burning as much sugar as possible.  A low carb eating, fat adapted paleo man on the other hand, is running the majority of their cells on fat.  To sustain stable blood sugars, that same person will convert protein to glucose, and fats to ketones.  In other words, a sugar adapted sugar eater has fats floating aroudn all the time but cannot utilize them, whereas a fat adapted low carber is constantly burning fats for fuel and nearly always on the low side on sugars (which isn't a problem, it's good!). 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Fat Head On Sat Fat/Keys

HT: to

Fat Head is a remarkably enjoyable movie given the education it provides - take a look at the attached clip to get a sense, reinforced by the article linked below, for how the anti-saturated fat conjecture got pushed so far, so fast, with only immature science (that's being polite) to support it. 

From this article:
If Keys had chosen seven other countries from the data of twenty-eight available he could have "proved" that saturated fat prevented heart disease. These countries are; Finland, Israel, Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, France, Sweden.

Monday, April 25, 2011


When we did farmer's walks, we'd just go for 40 yards, rest, add weight, and then go 40 more. This went on until we couldn't do it. We always started fairly light and worked up slowly (sound familiar)?
Whatever you plan on doing or have access to, all of these exercises offer variety to the staleness a weight room may have. Get the big movements in, then push, drag, or carry some heavy shit. Can't get more awesome than that.

I don't train like Wendler trains, but I would if CrossFit hadn't been invented yet.

Ageless Grace Indeed

It's worth taking a look at this blog just to see the first photo, which inspired the title for this post.

BLUF:  Fermented food is so cool even Tim Ferriss recommends it.

Coconut Oil - Magic?

Well, not exactly magic, as I don't believe in 'magic bullet' solutions to diet and health problems, but you can get your coconut oil on to reduce appetite, and set you up for a day's worth of high speed high fat metabolism:  About two months ago, as a sort of personal experiment, I began eating two tablespoons of coconut oil for breakfast. Just 250 calories of coconut oil, plus my supplements, seemed to hold me until lunch, which was a surprise. Not only that, I didn't seem to be quite as hungry during the rest of the day. Not only that, I seemed to do much better at weight maintenance than I have for many years.

The post goes into why - short version:  medium chain fatty acids have an optimal metabolic impact by requiring little digestion while supporting production of ketones. 

Shi No Ubi Update

My friend Shi No Ubi, whom we met here, sent the following:

Please feel free to use this info as you see fit.  You know most of the background.  I was taking a statin, a med for Triglyerides, two BP meds, Celebrx, and a couple other things. Keep that in mind when looking at the 2010 numbers.
From July, 2010 to March 2011 -
Glucose was 166, now 109 (it was 108 in 2004)
Triglycerides were 331, now 83
Cholesterol was 189 on statins, now 232
Thx again

What do these numbers mean?  Well, even with a tremendous drop in fasting glucose from 166 to 109 his system is still recovering in its ability to handle glucose metabolism.  Add the lower glucose number to an over 50 pound weight loss, and SNU's obviously moving in the right direction.  Some folks would be concerned about a 232 total cholesterol, but readers of this blog will recognize that a 232, with his low TG level (83!  Awesome), means that his cholesterol is likely to show a high HDL (over 50), and will reflect a very low number of the dangerous, small, dense, LDL.  In short, SNU has a non-atherogenic fasting lipids profile.  Dropping the triglycerides from over 300 to under 100 is a dramatic marker of the change in his health! 

I'll ask him to write about what the change in his diet has changed in other areas of his life at some point.  It's great to know you can slow down the aging process, and it's great to feel like you can expect more years of living vice just being alive, but more import is - what's the impact on each day?  Living forever is great but some of us won't get to do that.  Is it better to wake each day healthy and lean, or would it be better to "live like there's no tomorrow?"  Can we do both?  Obviously, I think you get more out of today if you eat yourself healthy, but I'll ask SNU to describe that experience for himself. 

By the way, Gary Taubes recently posted his fasting lipids profile on his web site, after refusing to let Dr. Oz test him during the filming of the show in which Oz hosted Gary.  Check the link, you'll see SNU's numbers compare favorably to Gary's. 

I couldn't be happier for my friend.  It's extremely gratifying that SNU "took the money and ran."  I look forward to a visit this summer, if not sooner.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Vitamin D Correlation With Parkinson's

"According to the featured article, the findings refute the previous belief that vitamin D deficiency is a symptom of Parkinson's and instead squarely implicates vitamin D deficiency as one of the causes of Parkinson's:
"Previous studies in Asian populations reported a higher prevalence of hypovitaminosis D (deficiency or insufficiency) in patients with more advanced disease, suggesting that long-term effects of Parkinson's disease may contribute to the development of insufficient vitamin D concentrations," the authors write.
"Contrary to our expectation that vitamin D levels [in Parkinson's patients] might decrease over time because of disease-related inactivity and reduced sun exposure, vitamin D levels increased over the study period.
These findings are consistent with the possibility that long-term insufficiency is present before the clinical manifestations of Parkinson's disease and may play a role in the pathogenesis of [Parkinson's]."
This isn't the first time that I've told you sub-clinical levels of vitamin D is a risk factor for Parkingson's. But now the Archives of Neurology is offering even further scientific proof that backs this claim up."

Mercola On D & Parkinson's

It stands the hair on my neck to hear the term "risk factor" because the impliction is that someone thinks they know enough about the disease to assign mathematical probabilities aka "risk factors" but they have not even proven causality.  So take this for what it is - people are getting Parkinson's ever younger, they seem to have lower levels of D on average than those who don't get Parkinson's, and no one really knows why. 

Since Parkinson's is observed to increase in frequency just like all the other diseases of the West, it is a good bet that the same dietary changes are the cause of each.  Most likely candidates:  excessive sugar/wheat intake, excessive omega-6 intake, low levels of vitamin D due to unnaturally low sun exposure and perhaps re-inforcement of the resulting metabolic and hormonal derrangement due to inadequate amounts and quality of sleep. 

Good news - remedying the above costs little, will make you feel better every day, and has no known side effects.

Taubes - His Golden Oldie, 5

By the 70's, you could still find articles in the journals describing high rates of obesity in Africa and the Caribbean where diets contained almost exclusively carbohydrates. The common thinking, wrote a former director of the Nutrition Division of the United Nations, was that the ideal diet, one that prevented obesity, snacking and excessive sugar consumption, was a diet ''with plenty of eggs, beef, mutton, chicken, butter and well-cooked vegetables.'' This was the identical prescription Brillat-Savarin put forth in 1825.
It was Ancel Keys, paradoxically, who introduced the low-fat-is-good-health dogma in the 50's with his theory that dietary fat raises cholesterol levels and gives you heart disease. Over the next two decades, however, the scientific evidence supporting this theory remained stubbornly ambiguous. The case was eventually settled not by new science but by politics. It began in January 1977, when a Senate committee led by George McGovern published its ''Dietary Goals for the United States,'' advising that Americans significantly curb their fat intake to abate an epidemic of ''killer diseases'' supposedly sweeping the country. It peaked in late 1984, when the National Institutes of Health officially recommended that all Americans over the age of 2 eat less fat. By that time, fat had become ''this greasy killer'' in the memorable words of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, and the model American breakfast of eggs and bacon was well on its way to becoming a bowl of Special K with low-fat milk, a glass of orange juice and toast, hold the butter -- a dubious feast of refined carbohydrates.
In the intervening years, the N.I.H. spent several hundred million dollars trying to demonstrate a connection between eating fat and getting heart disease and, despite what we might think, it failed. Five major studies revealed no such link. A sixth, however, costing well over $100 million alone, concluded that reducing cholesterol by drug therapy could prevent heart disease. The N.I.H. administrators then made a leap of faith. Basil Rifkind, who oversaw the relevant trials for the N.I.H., described their logic this way: they had failed to demonstrate at great expense that eating less fat had any health benefits. But if a cholesterol-lowering drug could prevent heart attacks, then a low-fat, cholesterol-lowering diet should do the same. ''It's an imperfect world,'' Rifkind told me. ''The data that would be definitive is ungettable, so you do your best with what is available.''

Friday, April 22, 2011

Cardio Advice

(Cardio) will not give you the body of your dreams. Excessive cardio coupled with a lack of weight training, will either make you fatter, or will make you a smaller and flabbier version of your current self. Are there people who do excessive amounts of cardio and neglect weight training and still have nice bodies? Of course. But they are anomalies who look good in spite of their training, not because of it. So, is cardio bad? Of course not. The correct types of cardio done at the correct times can help you shed fat and show off the muscles that weight training has helped you build! High intensity interval training (HIIT) is incredible for fat loss, but some people experience too much muscle loss or hindered strength/muscle gains when they perform HIIT too often. Low intensity steady state (LISS) cardio is great when you are trying to preserve strength and mass, but it takes longer and doesn’t burn as many calories during or after as HIIT does. Most of you will have to experiment with different types of cardio to find the right combination to help you reach your goals. For example, if you are trying very hard to gain lean mass, a couple of short LISS sessions a week might be perfect. If you are looking to gain strength, 1-2 super short HIIT sessions right after you lift and 1-2 LISS sessions on off days might be just perfect to get your cardio in while allowing you to recover properly. If fat loss is your main goal, you might focus on doing more HIIT sessions. I personally prefer high intensity intervals a couple of times a week to shed fat and low intensity activities such as light sled pulling or walking with a weighted vest to speed up recovery while burning a few extra calories.
This is becoming a very common viewpoint, and this lady expresses it well.  I still doubt that these workouts are helping her deal with fat, as it's equally likely that they just make her hungry.  Still, coupling these types of HIIT and LISS sessions with strength training is a good, if much less potent than CrossFit) alternative to GPP. 

However, I think she's missing on some of the details:
The cool thing about HIIT is (remember TABATA is a form of HIIT), when you are finished your body releases fatty acids into your bloodstream. By resting a little while and then doing some low intensity cardio, you are allowing your body to release the fatty acids during the rest, and then they are the most readily available source of energy for your body to use during the low intensity cardio…so your body gobbles them up! This is discussed (much more in-depth and much more eloquently) in Lyle McDonald’s book, Stubborn Fat Solution, which I highly recommend if you are pretty lean but looking to shed the last bit of stubborn fat. He is a very smart man and has some pretty cool protocols for shedding fat. So, back to the above protocol…not only do you get the EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) and metabolic disturbance from the TABATA (which can burn calories for over 24 hours after it’s completed), but you also get the benefit of using previously stored fatty acids for fuel during your low intensity cardio.  What could be better than that?
If you eat correctly, meaning without excess carbohydrate, fatty acids are continuously circulating into and out of adipose tissue.  There's not much significance to the statement that "fatty acids are released" following high intensity exercise.  What is significant is that HIIT protocols trigger the liver, your glycogen battery, to release a big dose of glycogen - this has been observed to boost my blood glucose levels from the mid-80s to 125 right after a CF WOD.  Within an hour, this glucose is sucked up by the muscles from which I burned out the glucose during the workout.  My guess is were you to execute a LISS after a WOD, you would actually be burning up that post-HIIT glucose.  A significant result of that would be a delay in refueling of HIIT taxed muscles.  That might be good or bad, but I don't think it is necessary to be achieve health and fitness.  Keep in mind, this lady's expertise is most focused on looking good; what might make a difference when you want to look good in a bikini is not necessarily of significance for those of us chasing performance, activity longevity, and a life of abundant health.

Taubes - His Golden Oldie, 4

As far as exercise and physical activity go, there are no reliable data before the mid-80's, according to William Dietz, who runs the division of nutrition and physical activity at the Centers for Disease Control; the 1990's data show obesity rates continuing to climb, while exercise activity remained unchanged. This suggests the two have little in common. Dietz also acknowledged that a culture of physical exercise began in the United States in the 70's -- the ''leisure exercise mania,'' as Robert Levy, director of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, described it in 1981 -- and has continued through the present day.
As for the thrifty gene, it provides the kind of evolutionary rationale for human behavior that scientists find comforting but that simply cannot be tested. In other words, if we were living through an anorexia epidemic, the experts would be discussing the equally untestable ''spendthrift gene'' theory, touting evolutionary advantages of losing weight effortlessly. An overweight homo erectus, they'd say, would have been easy prey for predators.
It is also undeniable, note students of Endocrinology 101, that mankind never evolved to eat a diet high in starches or sugars. ''Grain products and concentrated sugars were essentially absent from human nutrition until the invention of agriculture,'' Ludwig says, ''which was only 10,000 years ago.'' This is discussed frequently in the anthropology texts but is mostly absent from the obesity literature, with the prominent exception of the low-carbohydrate-diet books.
What's forgotten in the current controversy is that the low-fat dogma itself is only about 25 years old. Until the late 70's, the accepted wisdom was that fat and protein protected against overeating by making you sated, and that carbohydrates made you fat. In ''The Physiology of Taste,'' for instance, an 1825 discourse considered among the most famous books ever written about food, the French gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin says that he could easily identify the causes of obesity after 30 years of listening to one ''stout party'' after another proclaiming the joys of bread, rice and (from a ''particularly stout party'') potatoes. Brillat-Savarin described the roots of obesity as a natural predisposition conjuncted with the ''floury and feculent substances which man makes the prime ingredients of his daily nourishment.'' He added that the effects of this fecula -- i.e., ''potatoes, grain or any kind of flour'' -- were seen sooner when sugar was added to the diet.
This is what my mother taught me 40 years ago, backed up by the vague observation that Italians tended toward corpulence because they ate so much pasta. This observation was actually documented by Ancel Keys, a University of Minnesota physician who noted that fats ''have good staying power,'' by which he meant they are slow to be digested and so lead to satiation, and that Italians were among the heaviest populations he had studied. According to Keys, the Neapolitans, for instance, ate only a little lean meat once or twice a week, but ate bread and pasta every day for lunch and dinner. ''There was no evidence of nutritional deficiency,'' he wrote, ''but the working-class women were fat.''

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Taubes - His Golden Oldie, 3

With these caveats, one of the few reasonably reliable facts about the obesity epidemic is that it started around the early 1980's. According to Katherine Flegal, an epidemiologist at the National Center for Health Statistics, the percentage of obese Americans stayed relatively constant through the 1960's and 1970's at 13 percent to 14 percent and then shot up by 8 percentage points in the 1980's. By the end of that decade, nearly one in four Americans was obese. That steep rise, which is consistent through all segments of American society and which continued unabated through the 1990's, is the singular feature of the epidemic. Any theory that tries to explain obesity in America has to account for that. Meanwhile, overweight children nearly tripled in number. And for the first time, physicians began diagnosing Type 2 diabetes in adolescents. Type 2 diabetes often accompanies obesity. It used to be called adult-onset diabetes and now, for the obvious reason, is not.
So how did this happen? The orthodox and ubiquitous explanation is that we live in what Kelly Brownell, a Yale psychologist, has called a ''toxic food environment'' of cheap fatty food, large portions, pervasive food advertising and sedentary lives. By this theory, we are at the Pavlovian mercy of the food industry, which spends nearly $10 billion a year advertising unwholesome junk food and fast food. And because these foods, especially fast food, are so filled with fat, they are both irresistible and uniquely fattening. On top of this, so the theory goes, our modern society has successfully eliminated physical activity from our daily lives. We no longer exercise or walk up stairs, nor do our children bike to school or play outside, because they would prefer to play video games and watch television. And because some of us are obviously predisposed to gain weight while others are not, this explanation also has a genetic component -- the thrifty gene. It suggests that storing extra calories as fat was an evolutionary advantage to our Paleolithic ancestors, who had to survive frequent famine. We then inherited these ''thrifty'' genes, despite their liability in today's toxic environment.
This theory makes perfect sense and plays to our puritanical prejudice that fat, fast food and television are innately damaging to our humanity. But there are two catches. First, to buy this logic is to accept that the copious negative reinforcement that accompanies obesity -- both socially and physically -- is easily overcome by the constant bombardment of food advertising and the lure of a supersize bargain meal. And second, as Flegal points out, little data exist to support any of this. Certainly none of it explains what changed so significantly to start the epidemic. Fast-food consumption, for example, continued to grow steadily through the 70's and 80's, but it did not take a sudden leap, as obesity did.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Taubes - His Golden Oldie, 2

Scientists are still arguing about fat, despite a century of research, because the regulation of appetite and weight in the human body happens to be almost inconceivably complex, and the experimental tools we have to study it are still remarkably inadequate. This combination leaves researchers in an awkward position. To study the entire physiological system involves feeding real food to real human subjects for months or years on end, which is prohibitively expensive, ethically questionable (if you're trying to measure the effects of foods that might cause heart disease) and virtually impossible to do in any kind of rigorously controlled scientific manner. But if researchers seek to study something less costly and more controllable, they end up studying experimental situations so oversimplified that their results may have nothing to do with reality. This then leads to a research literature so vast that it's possible to find at least some published research to support virtually any theory. The result is a balkanized community -- ''splintered, very opinionated and in many instances, intransigent,'' says Kurt Isselbacher, a former chairman of the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Science -- in which researchers seem easily convinced that their preconceived notions are correct and thoroughly uninterested in testing any other hypotheses but their own.
What's more, the number of misconceptions propagated about the most basic research can be staggering. Researchers will be suitably scientific describing the limitations of their own experiments, and then will cite something as gospel truth because they read it in a magazine. The classic example is the statement heard repeatedly that 95 percent of all dieters never lose weight, and 95 percent of those who do will not keep it off. This will be correctly attributed to the University of Pennsylvania psychiatrist Albert Stunkard, but it will go unmentioned that this statement is based on 100 patients who passed through Stunkard's obesity clinic during the Eisenhower administration.
With these caveats, one of the few reasonably reliable facts about the obesity epidemic is that it started around the early 1980's. According to Katherine Flegal, an epidemiologist at the National Center for Health Statistics, the percentage of obese Americans stayed relatively constant through the 1960's and 1970's at 13 percent to 14 percent and then shot up by 8 percentage points in the 1980's. By the end of that decade, nearly one in four Americans was obese. That steep rise, which is consistent through all segments of American society and which continued unabated through the 1990's, is the singular feature of the epidemic. Any theory that tries to explain obesity in America has to account for that. Meanwhile, overweight children nearly tripled in number. And for the first time, physicians began diagnosing Type 2 diabetes in adolescents. Type 2 diabetes often accompanies obesity. It used to be called adult-onset diabetes and now, for the obvious reason, is not.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Taubes - His Golden Oldie

This article, published in 2003, was one of Taubes' first shots at the lipid hypothesis (cholesterol causes heart disease).  The topic is as controversial today as it was then, with a few exceptions, such as the USDA Dietary Guidelines indicating that, among saturated fats, stearic acid is benign.  This is as concise a summary of the issue as you'll find - note, the alternative hypothesis is also called the 'carbohydrate hypothesis':
The science behind the alternative hypothesis can be called Endocrinology 101, which is how it's referred to by David Ludwig, a researcher at Harvard Medical School who runs the pediatric obesity clinic at Children's Hospital Boston, and who prescribes his own version of a carbohydrate-restricted diet to his patients. Endocrinology 101 requires an understanding of how carbohydrates affect insulin and blood sugar and in turn fat metabolism and appetite. This is basic endocrinology, Ludwig says, which is the study of hormones, and it is still considered radical because the low-fat dietary wisdom emerged in the 1960's from researchers almost exclusively concerned with the effect of fat on cholesterol and heart disease. At the time, Endocrinology 101 was still underdeveloped, and so it was ignored. Now that this science is becoming clear, it has to fight a quarter century of anti-fat prejudice.
The alternative hypothesis also comes with an implication that is worth considering for a moment, because it's a whopper, and it may indeed be an obstacle to its acceptance. If the alternative hypothesis is right -- still a big ''if'' -- then it strongly suggests that the ongoing epidemic of obesity in America and elsewhere is not, as we are constantly told, due simply to a collective lack of will power and a failure to exercise. Rather it occurred, as Atkins has been saying (along with Barry Sears, author of ''The Zone''), because the public health authorities told us unwittingly, but with the best of intentions, to eat precisely those foods that would make us fat, and we did. We ate more fat-free carbohydrates, which, in turn, made us hungrier and then heavier. Put simply, if the alternative hypothesis is right, then a low-fat diet is not by definition a healthy diet. In practice, such a diet cannot help being high in carbohydrates, and that can lead to obesity, and perhaps even heart disease. ''For a large percentage of the population, perhaps 30 to 40 percent, low-fat diets are counterproductive,'' says Eleftheria Maratos-Flier, director of obesity research at Harvard's prestigious Joslin Diabetes Center. ''They have the paradoxical effect of making people gain weight.''
For those would be leaders in field of nutrition, "people of consequence", who unwittingly told us to eat a diet that's (possibly) killing us - how much evidence will they need put in their faces to change their minds?  Perhaps more significantly, how many of them have the gumption to truly chase the truth in the carbohydrate hypothesis?  Will they invest their time and reputations in the types of expensive studies that will measure the hypothesis accurately? It would be much more comfortable to sit back and say "it's a toxic food environment and people are fat and sick because they eat too much and exercise too little."

Do Not Miss This

Claudette Hilliard
Need a dose of inspiration?  Don't miss Claudette!  Gravel in her gut, spit in her eye, and more.

My advice - don't work out in her gym unless you are willing to suffer like this lady does.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Marathon for Health?

I've quoted Kurt Harris blog a few times, and now he's "hit the big time" with his blog being published on Psychology Today.  Kurt is noteworthy for being an MD, specifically he's a radiologist, so he's particularly well informed on the subject of this article - how to measure heart damage via imaging.  I recommend that you read the whole article, but he does such a good job of summarizing the subject that I submit that for your consideration.

Of note, my friend Crusader, has been telling me for the last 25 years that jogging is not good for me.  I didn't start to believe him until 2005 or so.  After finding CrossFit in 2007, I stopped "jogging."
Note: Underlining added by me for emphasis.

I think that atherosclerosis is not caused by lack of sustained high-level aerobic ("cardio") exercise.
Just like I don't think lack of "cardio" is the cause of the obesity epidemic.
I think premature atherosclerois is mostly caused by diet. Our susceptibility to a bad diet is contributed to by genetics.
I think that not only does sustained "cardio" not protect you from atherosclerosis, I think it is quite likely that through repetitive shear stress with endothelial damage and promotion of an inflammatory state, that it may promote atherosclerosis and/or direct cardiac muscle damage.

Further, I think that excessive "cardio" might precipitate the thromboembolic and acute inflammatory events like plaque rupture - acute heart attacks, even if it does not directly contribute to atherosclerosis, which I think it does.
Could "cardio" promote atherosclerosis and myocardial damage by being confounded by diet? That is, could the wheat, excess sugar and linoleic acid found in low fat "healthy" diets be more prevalent in marathon runners by virtue of their greater caloric intake of this noxious garbage?
That's a possibility. I think it may apply to cyclists, most of whom seem to eat horribly and who seem to be prone to osteoporosis.
Even if these findings are all confounded by a noxious athletic diet, I still find no grounds at all to believe that high levels of "cardio" protects your heart or makes you live longer. Certainly not "the more the better" which is what we've been led to think since the 1970s running craze.
I think a modicum of repetitive, aerobic-type physical activity can definitely improve your mood. I like to a run about 5 k a few times a week. It feels good and cross-country seems good for your coordination with all the varied terrain. A little cross-country and some sprinting sure seems to make me more functional.
I am not under the delusion that it will dramatically improve my overall health or my longevity, though. And I've seen no evidence that doing it every day or doing 5 times the mileage would be better. Just the opposite, in fact.
Same goes for eating "fruits and vegetables", gorilla levels of fiber, "antioxidants", and most supplements. No magic foods.
The really good kind of exercise, resistance training, makes you more functional and stronger. That is the only sensible definition of fitness if we follow the hippocratic oath with our selves.
Primum Non Nocere
I vote we keep the terminology. We should keep calling marathons, centuries on the bicycle and hours on those ridiculous stairmasters and treadmills "cardio" to remind us which organ we may be putting at risk.
Running a marathon is starting to look about as smart as boxing or playing football.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Taubes Times Sugar

Taubes Sugar NYT
This is a long (14 page) survey of what the current thinking is on sugar.  I have not finished it yet, but since I've read GT's book about four times, I'm mainly curious to find out what if anything he's modified in his perspective since GCBC was published.  If you have kids or any hint of diabetes, you should read this.

The viral success of his lecture, though, has little to do with Lustig’s impressive credentials and far more with the persuasive case he makes that sugar is a “toxin” or a “poison,” terms he uses together 13 times through the course of the lecture, in addition to the five references to sugar as merely “evil.” And by “sugar,” Lustig means not only the white granulated stuff that we put in coffee and sprinkle on cereal — technically known as sucrose — but also high-fructose corn syrup, which has already become without Lustig’s help what he calls “the most demonized additive known to man.”
It doesn’t hurt Lustig’s cause that he is a compelling public speaker. His critics argue that what makes him compelling is his practice of taking suggestive evidence and insisting that it’s incontrovertible. Lustig certainly doesn’t dabble in shades of gray. Sugar is not just an empty calorie, he says; its effect on us is much more insidious. “It’s not about the calories,” he says. “It has nothing to do with the calories. It’s a poison by itself.”

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Testimonial: Nic

My co-worker Nic, who joined my NSA Mid South CrossFit group last year, sent this report to me.

In the spring of 2010 I weighed 210 pounds, and for that PFA (physical fitness assessment) I scored a 273 calories burned on the eliptical machine, after doing 80 pushups and 99 situps.
Note: the Navy test starts with pushups, max in 2 minutes, then a rest, followed by situps, max in 2 minutes, followed by the "cardio" portion. 
Seven months later, I weighed 217, burned 274 calories, and hit 80/100 pushups and situps respectively.  So my work output did not change.  However, for the spring PFA, I spent two days wrapped in plastic, wore a plastic bag when walking and on the treadmill - in other words, deliberately tried to dehydrate myself, and was sucking on ice cubes to keep my mouth wet, just so that I could get below my max percent of body fat. 

For the fall 2010 preparation, I didn't touch the plastic, nor make any change, except that I did not drink 1 liter of water when I woke up...

In other words, by including CrossFit in an already prodigeous training regimen that Nic followed (and follows), and by modifying his diet with carb restriction to a max of 100g/day while eliminating wheat from his diet, he lost enough fat that he didn't have to worry about his weigh in. 

If you've never been in the situation before of facing a pass/fail measurement of your belly, which will dramatically and negatively change the trajectory of your career if you fail - you may not know how significant of a change this is.  He didn't say it, but what Nic means is he went from weeks of figuratively and literally "sweating" it out for his PFA weigh in to a "no problem" attitude.  What do you suppose the impact might have been on his ability to deliver the goods in the office, with his family, and to his workouts, now that's he's not 'sweating' that load? 

We can also tell from the combination of a smaller belly with a 7 pound weight gain that he was trading less than desirable (fat) mass, for increases in muscle mass and bone density - which is good for most athletes, non-athletes, senior citizens and probably for anyone over the age of 7.  It's becoming more and more well known that a smaller abdomen in and of itself is a marker of improved health, whereas abdominal circumference in excess of 40 inches is a strong predictor of the chronic diseases of the west.

Nic's the kind of athlete you have to rein in - he's always pushing his body to the limit, and trains much like I did at his age, with a mix of barbell training, martial arts, and metabolic conditioning.  As the song goes, he has "a smile for everyone he meets", and never backed down from any workout I threw at him.  It was a pleasure working with him.  Now he's setting sails to take command at another locale, so let me say "thanks" Nic, fair winds and following seas!
(minor edits 13 Apr 11, 16.20)

A Real Stunner

Government and food labels and advertising - a literal witches' brew.

They may need to do more of that kind of moving. On Oct. 15, Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut's attorney general, announced that he is launching an investigation into whether the "Smart Choices" label violates his state's consumer-protection laws. "What's so 'smart' about Froot Loops?" he asked at a press conference. If the label is found to be misleading, it will need to be changed, he said.
Read more:,9171,1931730,00.html#ixzz1HpMqz3Q9

This one is way out there.  I would love to see that court battle as each cites the absurd variety of "studies" out there trying to prove their case.  There's yet to be a serious government agency that will declare that sugar is harmful, so good luck to the AG.  It's bizzaroworld and has been ever since the federal government dipped its toe into the nutrition world, rendering an opinion of what is good for you and what is bad not with a coherent model, and not with scientific proof, but after a series of conflicting testimonies that left the observers confused.  Of course, that didn't stop the geniuses running our government from rendering an opinion.  After all, the people needed their help!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Brody Statins Reverso World

Mike Eades Summary of Brody's Story, from an article he cites.

Key points?  She is a long term advocate of the high carb, low fat, low cholesterol diet and widely viewed as an authority.  I'll let Mike take it from there:

She has been bopping along for most of her 65 years slowly following her own idiotic nutritional advice. And, I’m sure, feeling very full of herself for being so very, very good. She goes in for a routine check up and discovers – GASP! – that her cholesterol is slightly elevated. It was 222 mg/dL with a high normal being 200 mg/dL. Never mind that her HDL is nicely positioned at 69 mg/dL or that her triglycerides are pretty low at 99 mg/dL, she freaks out over her total cholesterol (a meaningless reading) and her minimally elevated LDL levels (134 mg/dL). 
Translation from Eades-ese:  she finds her fasting lipid panel is good but not GREAT.  Since her entire diet is designed to give her a GREAT fasting lipids panel, she's quite upset.
Eades:  Now if she were a reader of this blog – or even of the pertinent medical literature – she would know that a low triglyceride level and a high HDL level means that her LDL is of the large particle variety that is not only not dangerous, but actually beneficial.
What do you reckon she’s gonna do?  You’re right. She’s gonna go whole hog on a low-fat diet. She’s going to cut out the cheese; she’s going to take some over-the-counter plant stanol cholesterol-lowering supplements; she’s going to lose some weight.
And she does it all. But when she returns for a recheck in three months her cholesterol has gone up even more. It is 236 mg/dL and her LDL is 159.
Now she’s in big time gotta-get-serious-about-this mode. Gotta get the fat down, gotta cut the red meat, gotta go for the low-fat ice cream, gotta ratchet up the fiber, gotta, gotta, gotta…
She goes back in three months later for another blood test and AAAAAARRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHHHH. Her total cholesterol is at 248 and her LDL is 171.
She is now in blind panic mode. What can she do? 
Ultimately, she takes statin drugs to treat not her health, but her fasting lipid profile NUMBERS.  There's no research to indicate she's can reduce her risk of disease with statins, nor is there for any woman under any circumstance.  The only proven beneficiaries in all cause mortality for statins are men, under age 65, with a prior cardiac event.  As Mike Eades puts it:
...women over the age of 65 (she is 65) who have high cholesterol live longer than those who have normal to low cholesterol. And she missed the studies that show that both men and women over the age of 65 who take statins have an increased incidence of cancer.
Much like the case of Clarence Bass, the low fat is best conjecture leads to wretched conclusions and poor decision making which negatively impacts these folks' lives despite their passion and dedication to their own health and wellness.  The low fat conjecture as a model for health is like trying to drive through Detroit with a map of Memphis.  You can't get to where you want to be using that map except by accident.
There are many lessons to be learned besides the apparent folly of "statinating," or  the now dis-proved conjecture that low fat protects from heart disease.  One is that there is no proof about what we humans ought to eat, and one should always be scanning for more complete answers.  
But the biggest lesson to learn is that if you want a better fasting lipids profile, carbs are what you must limit.  Carb restriction will give you a smaller abdomen, lower triglycerides, higher HDLs, lower blood pressure, and a better glucose number.  What you lose in a "perfect" LDL number you gain in better LDL particle type.  The irony that smart people became convinced that reducing fat and cholesterol intake would result in a better fasting lipids profile can't possibly be lost on you if you read the rest of Mike Eades' post.  Perhaps it'll be another torpedo in the side of the Bismarkian low fat conjecture.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Knowing How They Work, You'll Know They Don't

The statin industry has enjoyed a thirty year run of steadily increasing profits, as they find ever more ways to justify expanding the definition of the segment of the population that qualify for statin therapy. Large, placebo-controlled studies have provided evidence that statins can substantially reduce the incidence of heart attack. High serum cholesterol is indeed correlated with heart disease, and statins, by interfering with the body's ability to synthesize cholesterol, are extremely effective in lowering the numbers. Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the U.S. and, increasingly, worldwide. What's not to like about statin drugs?

I predict that the statin drug run is about to end, and it will be a hard landing. The thalidomide disaster of the 1950's and the hormone replacement therapy fiasco of the 1990's will pale by comparison to the dramatic rise and fall of the statin industry. I can see the tide slowly turning, and I believe it will eventually crescendo into a tidal wave, but misinformation is remarkably persistent, so it may take years.

I have spent much of my time in the last few years combing the research literature on metabolism, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer's, and statin drugs. Thus far, in addition to posting essays on the web, I have, together with collaborators, published two journal articles related to metabolism, diabetes, and heart disease (Seneff1 et al., 2011), and Alzheimer's disease (Seneff2 et al., 2011). Two more articles, concerning a crucial role for cholesterol sulfate in metabolism, are currently under review (Seneff3 et al., Seneff4 et al.). I have been driven by the need to understand how a drug that interferes with the synthesis of cholesterol, a nutrient that is essential to human life, could possibly have a positive impact on health. I have finally been rewarded with an explanation for an apparent positive benefit of statins that I can believe, but one that soundly refutes the idea that statins are protective. I will, in fact, make the bold claim that nobody qualifies for statin therapy, and that statin drugs can best be described as toxins.

Why do I blog about statins as much as I do?  Mainly, it's a result of my horror at some of the people I've met who take statins.  It would appear that doctors will give that stuff to just about anyone with a bit of abnormal blood work - never mind age, gender or other significant factors.  

Perhaps you think you should take statins - that's fine with me.  What I react to is young, very healthy people being advised to take these powerful drugs and seemingly not knowing the side effects - AND, knowing that for the vast majority the symptom that is being treated - a poor blood lipids profile - is completely treatable by restricting carb intake to 100g/day, with the primary side effect of that treatment being weight loss, better sleep, greater energy levels, and removal of the need to eat every few hours to avoid a blood sugar crash.  

Why don't doctors use diet to treat their patients' abnormalities on a fasting lipids profile?  My post tomorrow will describe the experience many have when they try the doctor recommended diet.  It's much like what was described in this post about Clarence Bass.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

"Essential" Foods

We think of vitamin C, vitamin D, omega 3/6 fatty acids, vitamin B12, complete protein, and fats in general as "essential" (and there are others).  That is to say, we humans must have some of each of these nutrients to be healthy, but we don't make it ourselves (we make fat, but without eating fat, we get sick, so fats per se are essential), so we must eat something that has these things.

It strikes me that if paleo man survived all those many years without knowing that he/she needed "essential nutrients" but got them anyway, it must have been because these nutrients were in the foods that paleo folk always had access to.  Not coincidentally, I think, if you could get fish and a large herd animal from time to time, you could get all the essential nutrients listed above in adequate amounts.  It's likely that even a rabbit or squirrel would meet these nutritional requirements.  This is true as well of other apex predators such as lions, and omnivores such as bears - there are essential nutrients and they get them all from the food they eat and have always eaten.

Why does the modern version of nutrition focus so much on vitamin content of food?  Because these sciences were born and shaped around wide scale nutritional deficiencies that happened in conjunction with the disruption of traditional food cultures which were displaced by the availability of large quantities of cheap grains.  In short - when folks began to eat large quantities of grains, they got rickets (due to the anti-nutrient qualities of neolithic grains).  When they ate large a quantity of wheat flour and sugar with some meat but no organ meats (a Brit afloat with the Royal Navy, for example), they got scurvy due to vitamin C deficiency (whereas you can get all the C you need from a low sugar diet that includes a bit of liver).  When folks gained the inclination and leisure to avoid the sun, they became vitamin D deficient (rickets again).

The vegans say you can get B12 from dirt - and perhaps that's their pleasure.  I prefer a nice cut of steak to get my B12, but for some reason they get really indignant about that.  They also would probably point out that you can make some omega 3 fatty acids from alpha linolenic acid - but that's very a very inefficient way to make it (essential but inefficient?  That's unlike every other essential process in the human body) whereas we get long, branched chain omega 3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) in fish and grass fed animals in plenty of quantity and quality (and be not confused - plant sources of omega 3s provide short chain fatty acids that are inadequate for human needs).

As for protein, subsistence farming cultures learned how to get a complete protein by mixing two crops - beans and rice - or by adding a little bit of meat to an otherwise incomplete plant protein.  But the fact that animal proteins are complete, and plant proteins are not, is telling.

The early part of the 20th century was defined by nutrient shortages as traditional diets, which had evolved over years to be nutritionally adequate, were replaced by neolithic foods.  When the puny human mind began to get a grasp on what we had done, we began to think of vitamins as a treasure, when they are nothing more than what we always ate.  We "fortified" the processed, grain based foods, which did at least prevent crisis levels of malnutrition. Sadly, that led to the confused idea that the presence of vitamins was equivalent to "added value" when "fortification" was just a ham fisted attempt to compensate for the loss of generations of collected wisdom about how to eat in ways that allowed the expression of the naturally vibrant health built into our genome.  We now have to think of "essential" nutrients because most of our diets are so far removed from what our genome adapted to.  Embracing science and doctors and all things modern, the idea of nutrition wisdom coming from the "primitives" was dismissed by most.  It went so far that when you introduce the idea of "the paleolithic model" to most folks, they are surprised they've never heard of it or thought of it before.

By virtue of our relatively short gut, our teeth, and the sorts of nutrients that we recognize are "essential", it seems to me that the natural human diet included plenty of meat and fish, with vegetables and fruit consumed as available - and I note that it is nearly impossible for humans to consume adequate calories on a non-meat, non-animal fat diet, without the addition of corn/wheat and other neo foods.

If the sun coming up is a blessing, then also count it as a blessing if you like to eat meat.  I also count it as a blessing that grass farmed animals are the only sustainable form of farming in most places on the earth.  It should certainly be counted as a blessing that grass farming sequesters carbon and saves fossil fuels - assuming you care about that sort of thing. (minor edits 9 April 2011)

Magnesium Supplementation = Good
BLUF:  Either due to leaky gut or the effect of anti-nutrients like phytates in grains, or due to the natural deficiencies in the unnatural industrial food chain, we're likely all a bit short on magnesium.  This study shows a number of benefits from supplementation.  The question is 'how'?

Natural Calm is a good choice, but any magnesium citrate or oxide will do.  You'll know when you are taking too much when your guts let you know with a certain amount of urgency to get to a restroom.  So, start small, work up the dose slowly.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Sense on Omega Fats Balance

One of the major differences between our post-industrial diets and the evolutionary and traditional foods of our past is in the kinds of fat we eat. One huge change has to do with the polyunsaturated fatty acids (or PUFAs), which come in several varieties, but most commonly omega 6 and omega 3. PUFAs are "essential fats," meaning we can't make them from other types of food, and we must eat them. However, never in the history of humankind have we eaten novel omega 6 fatty acids in such massive quantities.

Corn oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, cottonseed oil, peanut oil and/or soybean oil are ingredients in pretty much all processed food. Just check the list on the back of breakfast cereals, bread and other baked goods, fried items, salad dressings, margarine, mayonnaise, and sauces. Vegetable oils are used (along with canola oil) in the fryers at most restaurants. They are cheap and relatively tasteless, which make them perfect for certain industrial and restaurant food applications. They are also universally high in omega 6 fatty acids, and therefore we eat a ton of them in the Western diet, especially since throwing out butter, lard, and beef tallow 30-40 years ago.

Why does it matter if we eat lots of vegetable oil? Omega 6 PUFAs are used by the body to make certain hormones and signaling molecules. Roughly speaking, the omega 6s are the precursors for many of the molecules that make up our body's inflammatory response. As an example - the omega 6 linoleic acid (corn oil is mostly linoleic acid) is a precursor for many molecules, but among them are the prostaglandins that the enzymes COX-1 and COX-2 work on. If you have ever taken ibuprofen or another NSAID painkiller, you have blocked the effects of COX-1 and COX-2, decreasing inflammation and therefore the easing experience of swelling and pain in the body
Here's the real problem - too much inflammation mediated by a high dietary percentage of the omega 6 fatty acid linoleic acid can be reasonably associated with coronary vascular diseaseinsulin resistancecancer, hypothyroidism and other autoimmune diseases, thrombotic stroke, headaches, asthma, arthritis, depression, and psychosis

This papernotes that "it is intriguing that the dramatic increase in the prevalence of [Alzheimer's disease] in the last century not only parallels the increase in average lifespan, but also an increase from 2 to more than 20 of the ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 PUFAs in the average Western diet."

...common sense will tell us that the best result would likely result from decreasing the overall omega 6 burden while making sure we get adequate omega 3s of the right kind for our brain.
In simple terms, that means significantly decreasing the amount of processed food we eat, and making sure we get some oily fish a few times a week. Switching to grass-fed beef and eating lamb or bison (which are usually grass fed) will also help. Olive oil is relatively low in omega 6 (it is primarily a monounsaturated fat and therefore a neutral player in the inflammatory vs. anti-inflammatory war), so olive oil and vinegar or lemon juice can be deliciously substituted for commercial salad dressings. For baking and cooking, use butter, lard (a commenter reminds me it should be naturally sourced and used in moderation, of course), or coconut oil! It won't kill you. Really.