Friday, September 30, 2011

Kresser: K2

[A] study recently published by the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) has revealed that increased intake of vitamin K2 may reduce the risk of prostate cancer by 35 percent. The authors point out that the benefits of K2 were most pronounced for advanced prostate cancer, and, importantly, that vitamin K1 did not offer any prostate benefits.
The findings were based on data from more than 11,000 men taking part in the EPIC Heidelberg cohort. It adds to a small but fast-growing body of science supporting the potential health benefits of vitamin K2 for bone, cardiovascular, skin, brain, and now prostate health.
[A] popular misconception is that vitamins K1 and K2 are simply different forms of the same vitamin – with the same physiological functions.
[Vitamin K'2s role includes] protecting us from heart disease, ensuring healthy skin, forming strong bones, promoting brain function, supporting growth and development and helping to prevent cancer – to name a few. In fact, vitamin K2 has so many functions not associated with vitamin K1 that many researchers insist that K1 and K2 are best seen as two different vitamins entirely.
[Researchers] found that calcification of the arteries was the best predictor of heart disease. Those in the highest third of vitamin K2 intakes were 52 percent less likely to develop severe calcification of the arteries, 41 percent less likely to develop heart disease, and 57 percent less likely to die from it.
K2 is preferentially used by other tissues to deposit calcium in appropriate locations, such as in the bones and teeth, and prevent it from depositing in locations where it does not belong, such as the soft tissues.
The rest of this post is a good read, and I'm sure you are asking "where do I get K2?"

The list:  Natto, hard cheese, soft cheese, egg yolk, butter, chicken liver, salami, chicken breast, ground beef

Kresser continues:  It is important to note that commercial butter is not a significantly high source of vitamin K2. Dr. Weston A. Price, who was the first to elucidate the role of vitamin K2 in human health (though he called it “Activator X” at the time) analyzed over 20,000 samples of butter sent to him from various parts of the world. As mentioned previously in this paper, he found that the Activator X concentration varied 50-fold. Animals grazing on vitamin K-rich cereal grasses, especially wheat grass, and alfalfa in a lush green state of growth produced fat with the highest amounts of Activator X, but the soil in which the pasture was grown also influenced the quality of the butter. It was only the vitamin-rich butter grown in three feet or more of healthy top soil that had such dramatic curing properties when combined with cod liver oil in Dr. Price’s experiments and clinical practice.

Just another example of how a change in life habits - like switching from a hunter gatherer style to that of wheat farming/consumption - can have a significant impact via a nearly invisible mechanism.  I've got to find a way to make the kidneys, heart and liver from harvested wild animals taste/smell good enough to eat.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Fat - You Can't Help Yourself?!

Is it simple lack of willpower that makes fatty snacks irresistible, or are deeper biological forces at work?
Some intriguing new research suggests the latter. Scientists in California and Italy reported last week that in rats given fatty foods, the body immediately began to release natural marijuanalike chemicals in the gut that kept them craving more.
The findings are among several recent studies that add new complexity to the obesity debate, suggesting that certain foods set off powerful chemical reactions in the body and the brain. Yes, it’s still true that people gain weight because they eat more calories than they burn. But those compulsions may stem from biological systems over which the individual has no control.

So, let me ask you a question:  is it fatty snacks that drives you over the cravings deep end?  In other words, when thinking of the foods in your diet that you have the highest impulse for, is it avocado, macadamia nuts, egg yolks, mayonnaise, bacon, lard, olive oil and coconut oil that tops out your list?
When you are depressed and vulnerable to your impulse to "chow down" - do you go out and get a bucket of Crisco?
Ever puke because you binged on a bottle of vegetable oil?
If so, let me say - you are indeed unique.  Because what I see people compelled by is the combination of sugar and fat (ice cream!  Icing/frosting), or sugar/wheat combinations, or perhaps carbs, fat and salt (E.G. potato chips). 
I have never heard these words - "If I could just keep my hands off of those avocados, I know I could lick this weight problem."  Or, "I just have to keep the olive oil out of the house or I'll drink the whole bottle."
So why are these researchers, and this writer, bothering with the "fat" angle? 
Forgive the rhetorical question. 
For one thing, rats are omnivores but are known not to tolerate fats as well as humans, so rat fat consumption research has to be taken for what it is; a low cost way to keep researchers employed, and to keep research publications filled.  Sometimes, rat studies offer clues into human behavior, but often, not so much.
The real point boils down to this - I dare you to get fat by eating fat, while eating only vegetables for carbohydrates.  You may be able to do it, but it will take a lot of effort.  It may be harder than sticking to a weight loss diet.  Humans just can't eat that much fat, UNLESS humans mix fat with sugar, in which case we can pound it down like John Henry with two hammers. 

This article is one that would comport with Guyanet's articulation of the food/reward hypothesis.  However, I think they are all ignoring the pink elephant in the room, which is, as I try to point out above, that fat is not the problem.  Sugars and bread are the problem.  There's just no reason to believe that the one third of us that are sick from eating too much of the wrong kinds of foods need to eat less fat, or that the fat is what drives the over consumption.  When you remove fat, appetite is not well controlled, nor is the urge to overeat diminished.  On the contrary, for obese people, removing fat is almost torture, whereas removing carbohydrate while eating enough protein and fat predictably results in a much better outcome (for most) with a spontaneous reduction of caloric intake. 
Eat meat, eggs, vegetables, nuts and seeds, little fruit and starch, and no sugar/wheat.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Animal on Wheat Belly

Richard at Free the Animal is a colorful guy, to say the least.  His blog started as a documentation of his paleo journey from fat to fit, but accumulated thousands of followers.  Now, "he's a voice" in the low carb/paleo world.  He's posted about "wheat belly" and brings a great perspective:
And who remembers my Nutrition Density Challenge: Fruit vs. Beef Liver, where it took a full 5 pounds of fruit to roughly equal the nutrition in 4 ounces of liver? How about we do one real quick like, beef liver vs. bread?
So, he did the research for what is exactly inside of a 1400 kcal loaf of bread, and ran the numbers on a comparable amount of liver and salmon.  What did he find?
Now of course, nobody's going to eat the roughly 30 ounces of liver or salmon needed to get to 1,400 calories, but you could eat a 4th of either of them and still break bread and leave it on its ass. And we also aren't even touching on the aspect that most of the "nutrition" in the grains are in the minerals, and grains have high levels of phytic acid that bind to minerals, preventing their absorption.
Cut back on the liver and salmon, add in some leafy greens, maybe some starchy veggies, add some fruit in there, maybe some nuts and eggs and you will always, always blow grains out of the water, and you'll do it every time. No exceptions. It's not even close. Grains are poverty food, plain and simple. Are you that poor? [underline/bold is mine]
Although Richard's attacks on the hapless advocates for grains are not to my taste, the charts he posted detail clearly the nutrient/calorie picture for bread, liver and salmon.  That of course is why most bread is sold "enriched", because wheat is actually a great example of a nutrient poor, calorie dense food - which is exactly the role it played in the human diet.  If you need to get 1500 kcal/day to a bunch of impoverished folks (subsistence farmers, serfs, the unwashed masses), bread will do it.  But the price in health and wellbeing is high.
How a low cost, high calorie, nutrient poor food product can be trumpeted by "health experts" in an age characterized by undernourished, obese, sick humans is virtually impossible to understand. 

Food/Reward or Carbs/Insulin? Making the Case

In general, people with PhDs come to science in a way that differs from MDs. They are taught to break down large questions into small pieces and to look at differences between carefully controlled groups. They use dishes of cells, strains of rodents, and matched groups of human subjects. This makes it easier to see significant changes between groups that differ only (one hopes) because of the treatment variable. However, PhDs must always be careful to remember that their conclusions may not be valid outside the tissue type/rodent strain/particular human subjects they have studied. Scientific studies of this type are useful because they provide guidance about what might work to treat a particular condition or disease. They do not provide absolute truth about what must work to treat a particular condition or disease.

I like this author's post overall.  I like the paragraph above because it echoes my perspective on how often folks in the research business get caught up "looking through the straw."  They see a tiny piece of something, spend years trying to make sense of it, and then apply it incorrectly to the systems in which their piece of the puzzle fits.  The skills that make them brilliant at detailed research do not always translate in the application of the specific knowledge gained. 
It is the real world example of the blind men who find the elephant, and each thinks the part they are touching IS the elephant. 
I don't have any doubt that food addiction and therefore food/reward plays a role in human behavior, but I remain to be convinced that it is the dominant factor in human obesity.  As I've laid out previously, neolithic doses of blood sugar elevating carbohydrates could easily explain food addiction, before one even considers palatability, and/or opioid content. 
The good news, again, is that two of the protagonists are designing a study to test the food/reward conjecture.  Live and learn.
More on the topic may be found here:

Monday, September 26, 2011

Get In My Wheat Belly - Eades Review

Mike Eades reviews "Wheat Belly" here:
Over a half decade ago Professor Jared Diamond, in his Pulitzer Prize-winning book Guns, Germs, and Steel, famously wrote
“The adoption of agriculture, supposedly our most decisive step toward a better life, was in many ways a catastrophe from which we have never recovered.”
Dr. Eades doesn't spend too much time restating Wheat Belly's premise, but instead endorses the concept and provides additional context for it.!/DrEades/statuses/118002532038623232
This photo just came around Twitter - and considering the sponsors for the ADA, don't hold your breath for that organization to change it's prescription for how to kill diabetics ... I mean, how to theoretically help diabetics by force feeding them carbohydrate so they can look forward to a life of massive, consistently blood sugar spiking, doses of carbohydrate - and the resultingly high A1c statistics and the approximate 10 year reduction in lifespan such an approach provides.

Lastly, here's Denise Minger's review of "Forks Over Knives."  She's a skilled analyst, and it's a longish but thorough critique.  In the yin and yang of diet/health blogging, Denise is on the "more like a book than a blog" side, which is either wonderful or dreadful depending upon your taste in these things.  This may only be relevant to you if you have a significant other who views the "Forks over Knives" crowd as legit.

Want a review of the potential dangers of wheat without buying Dr. Davis' book?  Here you go, courtesy of Chris Kresser:
{Added content on 26 Sep 11, 1600}

Deadly Cost?

Doctors warned last night that continued calorie counting was a health time-bomb.
Cutting out nutrient-rich foods in a misguided attempt to lose weight could have “alarming” long-term consequences.
And with an estimated 12 million Britons currently on diets it could prove devastating for the nation’s health, placing massive burdens on the NHS. It has long been known that an unhealthy diet can lead to a host of deadly conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and cancer.
But a low-fat diet that lacks vital vitamins and minerals can also lead to long-term ­problems. A report found that many Britons have a dangerous attitude to food, being concerned mainly with cutting their intake of fat and calories rather than thinking about what they need to eat to stay healthy.
Experts are now calling on people to “re-learn” what good nutrition tastes like in a bid to stave off health problems for future generations.
It would seem that we are still struggling to grasp the concept of ‘good nutrition’ and the reason why we eat food in the first place. Though it is important to acknowledge calorie intake it must not come at the expense of eating a balanced and varied diet, low in saturated fat but also rich in vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids.

If the low fat concept is as wretched for most humans as I think it is, there is and will continue to be a deadly cost.  The cost in lives and wellness is on display every day, in every store I visit, every time I'm in public.  It's painful to see and like many, I go through periods of anger at the bizarre abuse of science that led to the last thirty years of USDA directed "low fat is healthy" dieting.  It is axiomatic that "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely."  Let us be thankful that the USDA does not at present have so much power as to compel us to eat by their model of health.
I agree with the conclusion above.  As Loren Cordain pointed out, there's no defining parameter, no overarching concept for the science of diet, and as a result, the science has been easily corrupted, imprecise, and only marginally helpful.  I hope for better days as the obvious flaws in the low fat fad come to light.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Ethnographic Data of Modern Hunter Gatherers

Abstract:  In the past, attempts have been made to estimate the carbohydrate contents of preagricultural human diets. Those estimations have primarily been based on interpretations of ethnographic data of modern hunter-gatherers. In this study, it was hypothesized that diets of modern hunter-gatherers vary in their carbohydrate content depending on ecoenvironments. Thus, using data of plant-to-animal subsistence ratios, we calculated the carbohydrate intake (percentage of the total energy) in 229 hunter-gatherer diets throughout the world and determined how differences in ecological environments altered carbohydrate intake. We found a wide range of carbohydrate intake (≈3%-50% of the total energy intake; median and mode, 16%-22% of the total energy). Hunter-gatherer diets were characterized by an identical carbohydrate intake (30%-35% of the total energy) over a wide range of latitude intervals (11°-40° north or south of the equator). However, with increasing latitude intervals from 41° to greater than 60°, carbohydrate intake decreased markedly from approximately equal to 20% to 9% or less of the total energy. Hunter-gatherers living in desert and tropical grasslands consumed the most carbohydrates (≈29%-34% of the total energy). Diets of hunter-gatherers living in northern areas (tundra and northern coniferous forest) contained a very low carbohydrate content (≤15% of the total energy). In conclusion, diets of hunter-gatherers showed substantial variation in their carbohydrate content. Independent of the local environment, however, the range of energy intake from carbohydrates in the diets of most hunter-gatherer societies was markedly different (lower) from the amounts currently recommended for healthy humans.
Abbreviations: P:A energy subsistence ratios, plant-to-animal energy subsistence ratios

Interesting research!  Very interesting that the 30% number is so close to Barry Sears' speculation in The Zone Diet.  While The Zone Diet is inarguably effective, it is also tedious, and I think there are many, in particular those who are "recovering" from being significantly overweight, who benefit from a much lower dose of carbohydrate - less than 100g/day. 
The takeaway - healthy humans can thrive on a variety of macronutrient ratios, but there are many who will suffer when eating large quantities of carbohydrates at "agriculturally availability" for 12 months per year - never mind the impact of abnormally high intake of fructose, low sunlight exposure and therefore low vitamin D levels, excess omega 6 fatty acids from their "oil fed plants", low levels of vitamin K2, and "light contaminated sleep".

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Metformin - Because You Are Eating For Two

How far will we go to prevent childhood obesity? U.K. researchers are bringing the battle against obesity to babies still in the womb.
In this novel approach, which will ultimately enlist 400 pregnant women in the U.K., obese pregnant women will be given the diabetes drug Metformin in hopes of reducing their infant's chance of developing heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes later in life.
The study, funded by the U.K. government, will be one of the most extensive tests to date of a concept known as fetal programming -- changing the environment of the womb to affect the health of the child.
Doctors already use "fetal programming" in less extreme ways by encouraging pregnant women to take prenatal supplements, make dietary changes, and avoid drug and alcohol use. This study promises to introduce a whole new level that might one day be commonplace: using medications that the mother otherwise wouldn't need in order to tweak the fetal environment. 
By giving obese mothers-to-be the diabetes drug Metformin -- even though they do not have diabetes -- researchers will be lowering their glucose levels, hopefully mitigating the negative effects of maternal obesity.
It will take years to determine if this intervention pays off. In the short term, however, how big these infants are at birth will serve as a preliminary marker of how well the Metformin is adjusting fetal environment.

It is fascinating but scary that giving mothers METFORMIN, granted a very mild drug, is seen as being a safer alternative than simply teaching them to eat meat, vegetables, nuts and seeds, little fruit or starch and no sugar/wheat. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Bread for B6? Get In My Wheat Belly!

I know many a person who loves wheat.  It is a powerful attractant to humans for the opiod content alone, never mind the blood sugar issues.  Many, when confronted with the evidence that it drives up blood sugar, attacks the gut, and in general isn't nutritious, get a pained look on their face and then simply ignore the information.  However, in order to eat the wheat they apparently can't live without, they mix into the flour any number of flavor producing products prior to baking (if they don't buy their sugar and flavor enhanced bread off the shelf) and slather butter, jelly, mayonaise, or some other product on to the bread to make it taste good enough to eat it.  Truly, this is a puzzling behavior to witness for people who express a desire to control their blood sugar, lower their weight, or reduce the hypoglycemia/hunger cycles. 

Dr. William Davis, unusual in that he's a cardiologist who's built a business around non-surgical heart care interventions, has done the world a favor and published "Wheat Belly".

The adult RDA for vitamin B6 is 1.3-1.7 mg per day for adults, though many argue (and I agree) that higher quantities are beneficial. According to the USDA, two slices of whole wheat bread contain 0.117 mg of vitamin B6.
What other sources of B6 are there? Here’s a partial list:
Salmon, 4 oz: 0.64 mg
Spinach, 1 cup cooked: 0.44 mg
Chicken breast, 4 oz cooked, 0.68 mg
Tuna, 4 oz, cooked: 1.18 mg
Flaxseed, 2 tablespoons: 0.18 mg
Pistachios, 1/4 cup shelled: 0.408 mg
Sunflower seeds, 1/4 cup hulled: 0.484 mg
Avocado, 1 cup: 0.41 mg

Herbs and spices, such as garlic, paprika, turmeric, oregano, and chile powder, are also rich sources of B6. Just two cloves of garlic, for instance, contain 0.074 mg B6, or 63% of that contained in two slices of whole wheat bread.
So 4 oz of chicken breast provides nearly 6-fold more vitamin B6 than two slices of whole wheat bread, 4 oz of tuna over 10-fold more. Even two tablespoons of flaxseed–very easy to obtain–handily exceeds the B6 content of wheat products.

Paleo man and woman may have had a few grass seeds from time to time, but mostly they got the nutrition that is in grass by eating the herbivores (and omnivores like chickens) who were made for that purpose.  And that's just how you should get your B6 also. 

Listen here to Dr. Davis' summary of "Wheat Belly" via Jimmy Moore's podcast:

Here's the BLUF:  The wheat you eat today is a variety much unlike that eaten by any prior generation.  Further, whole wheat or not, when measured, wheat very often (unless your system is still bulletproof) wheat drives blood sugars sky high.  To that, add a remarkable number of neurological effects and you get a food that is truly suspect unless your life and health is so perfect you can afford to take a hit so that you can eat a food that must be slathered in sugar or fat to be enjoyed (by most).

Why do people still recommend "whole wheat" (which isn't really whole, but that's another story) for its glycemic superiority?  I can't answer that.  It's mind boggling that professionals can be that ignorant.

Here's another fabulous post by Fat Head himself, Tom Naughton:
A taste:   receive occasional emails and comments from people who can’t believe wheat isn’t health food. Some have quoted Bible passages about our daily bread, the staff of life, breaking bread with family, etc. Others have pointed out that Americans ate plenty of bread and other wheat products 100 years ago, but weren’t as likely to be fat and diabetic as people today.
I usually reply that the wheat products we consume today aren’t the same as those consumed by people in Biblical times, or even in more recent times. But I didn’t realize just how different today’s wheat is until I read Wheat Belly, a terrific new book by Dr. William Davis, the cardiologist you may already know from his Heart Scan Blog.

Here's Mark's Daily Apple weighing in on lectins and why you don't want them unless you do want a wheat belly:
Before Monsanto, Mother Nature had her own pesticide strategy. (Humans being among the “pests” to be warded off.) In order to avoid being completely decimated by insects, foraging animals and Groks, plant species evolved assorted anti-nutrients that would make said pests regret their gorges with a variety of mostly digestive related ailments. Low grade toxins, in a sense. A workable balance developed between plants that were able to safeguard their species’ survival and the “pest” patrons that were able to benefit from the plants’ nutrition but learned to partake more sensibly from their supply. Given that our primal forefolk foraged widely and ate a surprisingly diverse diet, the system worked.
Lectins are essentially carb-binding proteins universally present in plants (and animals). Just as they protect plant species from Grok-sized predators, lectins also support other immunological functions within plants and animals (against pathogense, parasites, etc.) They also assist in other functions like protein synthesis and delivery in animals. They’re relatively sticky molecules, which makes them effective in binding with their sought after sugars but undesirable for our digestion, in which their binding powers can lead them to attach to the intestinal lining and wreak havoc.

Lastly, here's a grain industry post on the topic, which is interesting to read because of the fabulous effort to spin the book via half truth and appeal to authority (grain industry group cites USDA as the gold standard for scientific endorsement?  How's that working for you?) - but even better are the comments.  Folks are passionate because they know they are being lied to, and it makes them angry (and informed!).  Really, grain food industry, all you have throw at this book is B6 deficiency and the USDA?
But that's all they will likely have to throw at the book, because most just won't do without the convenience and the habit of wheat and bread consumption, and seem to willingly pay the price.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Low Fat Food Myths

It is always interesting to read these kinds of articles ("debunking the myths" articles) and "see where the author stands."

Long time readers could probably read this and see which elements I would agree with. 

The nit I'll pick today is that, while I like fresh vegetables and eat them frequently due to my wife's happy determination to include them in our dinner every night, there's virtually no evidence that we need 'more nutrients' of the kinds vegetables provide.  In fact, the nutrient deficiency model which we see bandied about as folks discuss 'healthy eating' is a result of widespread population nutrient deficiencies all based on excessive grain consumption.  In other words, there's no evidence that getting more than just enough micronutrients results in better health outcomes.  Perhaps if you eat raw veggies, you are ingesting more micro nutrients - but who knows if they will be digested and pass through the gut into your blood stream?  Humans are not really built to fully digest veggies, which is why raw foods have an estimated 30% lower caloric value than when cooked.  Further, raw foodists have such a struggle getting adequate nutrition, that many (I've seen estimates as high as 30%) cannot get pregnant. 
In short, don't sweat the cooking.  I buy the argument that humans are designed for eating cooked food - we've been eating cooked food for so long we have small and frail teeth relative to our raw food eating ancestors.  Eat veggies the way that they taste good to you, and if you avoid consumption of most grains, and follow the paleolithic prescription with moderate fidelity, you can be confident in being well nourished insofar as what vegetables provide. 
NOTE:  you still have to think about the fat soluble vitamins, K2 and D, as our neo lifestyles often leave us short on them.
*There's a note in the article which references CoQ10's ability to "reduce the risk of cholesterol".  I hope that was a typo.  That "cholesterol" is a risk is the biggest myth ever - but I'll skip beating that dead horse for now.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Home Remedy: Lard

A friend arrives for dinner but does not want to kiss hello. “I might have a cold,” she says. “Eat this, then,” I say, proffering a piece of hot toast with a thin, transparent slice of cured pork fat, lardo di colonnata, draped over it.
Feeling like one of those women in television adverts who advise their friends to use products that will make their kitchens sparkle, I explain to the suffering creature that animal fats contain antiviral and antibiotic properties.
A little lard a day to keep the doctor away? It takes some persuading, given that most of us have been brought up to fear saturated fats. While it is true that we should watch the quantity we eat every day, they are essential to the diet of a healthy person.
Both lard and dripping contain palmitic and stearic fatty acids, important for energy metabolism and normal growth. Conjugated linoleic acids in animal fats (including butter) can also help reduce body fat.
I defy the author to produce a shred of proof that one should watch the quantity of saturated fat consumed - unless what she means is watch it go from the plate to my face.  It is not possible to eat enough fat to harm you, unless you eat it doused in sugar.

Salt - Good?

The cardiovascular benefits of salt restriction remain unproven on the basis of currently available evidence, authors of a systematic review concluded.
The accumulation of clinical-trial data on 6,500 participants failed to produce a statistically significant outcome for hypertensive or normotensive individuals with respect to overall mortality or cardiovascular morbidity.
Moreover, salt restriction was associated with an increased mortality risk in patients with congestive heart failure (CHF), according to a report in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.
"There is still insufficient power to exclude clinically important effects of reduced dietary salt on mortality or cardiovascular morbidity in normotensive or hypertensive populations," Rod S. Taylor, PhD, of Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry in Exeter, England, and co-authors wrote in conclusion.
"Further randomized clinical trial evidence is needed to confirm whether restriction of sodium is harmful for people with heart failure. Our estimates of benefits from dietary salt restriction are consistent with the predicted small effects on clinical events attributable to the small blood pressure reduction achieved."

The War On Salt was mis-guided and thankfully, you can take comfort that you can eat salt without fear of injury - if you like it.

BTW - have some iodized salt at least weekly, for most of our modern diets, devoid of fish eyeballs, we don't get enough iodine to support healthy thyroid function.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Last week I spent 5 days in Mt. Nebo, WV with Erwan LeCorre, Vic Verdier and Clifton Harski learning the pillars of MovNat while camping at Summersville Lake Retreat. I learned a lot over those five days, some of it directly from the instructors, some from my peers, and some just from the experience of being in nature and observing my own reactions for the duration of the retreat. I had a blast, made some new friends and found myself in challenging situations through which I have learned a lot – all while being taught or re-taught the skills of: walking, running, jumping, balancing, moving on all fours, climbing, lifting, carrying, throwing, catching, swimming and defending.
I could give you a 5-day blow-by-blow review, but Robb Wolf has already done so quite well on his blog 

Balance is a work-in-progress for all of us.
In balancing things in our lives, we often think that we need to fit in more things to do, see and become. In fact, the reality is that we are often overloading ourselves and simplifying our activities, to-do, lists and efforts will often lead to balance with greater ease. In MovNat, balancing tends to come easily when you drop all of the tension and thoughts around how to balance, and actually just allow your body to remain calm and centered. To balance, often less effort is more effective. Note: This does not mean less concentration – please don’t start to daydream while crossing a log and fall from a dangerous height!

MovNat is cool, I will go one day!  When you look at their vids, it is so obvious = this is still our ancestors could all do.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Three Days to Get Fluffy

High-fat, low-carbohydrate diets have been shown to raise plasma cholesterol levels, an effect associated with the formation of large low-density lipoprotein (LDL) particles. However, the impact of dietary intervention on time-course changes in LDL particle size has not been investigated. To test whether a short-term dietary intervention affects LDL particle size, we conducted a randomized, double-blind, crossover study using an intensive dietary modification in 12 nonobese healthy men with normal plasma lipid profile. Participants were subjected to 2 isocaloric 3-day diets: high-fat diet (37% energy from fat and 50% from carbohydrates) and low-fat diet (25% energy from fat and 62% from carbohydrates). Plasma lipid levels and LDL particle size were assessed on fasting blood samples after 3 days of feeding on each diet. The LDL particles were characterized by polyacrylamide gradient gel electrophoresis. Compared with the low-fat diet, plasma cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol were significantly increased (4.45 vs 4.78 mmol/L, P = .04; 2.48 vs 2.90 mmol/L, P = .005; and 1.29 vs 1.41 mmol/L, P = .005, respectively) following the 3-day high-fat diet. Plasma triglycerides and fasting apolipoprotein B-48 levels were significantly decreased after the high-fat diet compared with the low-fat diet (1.48 vs 1.01 mmol/L, P = .0003 and 9.6 vs 5.5 mg/L, P = .008, respectively). The high-fat diet was also associated with a significant increase in LDL particle size (255.0 vs 255.9 Å; P = .01) and a significant decrease in the proportion of small LDL particle (<255.0 Å) (50.7% vs 44.6%, P = .01). As compared with a low-fat diet, the cholesterol-raising effect of a high-fat diet is associated with the formation of large LDL particles after only 3 days of feeding.

Taubes' Good Calories Bad Calories paints the picture of small, dense LDL formation, and I've commented on that topic several times over the years.  Short version:  High carb diets force conversion of high blood sugars to fat/triglycerides, which necessitates the formation of VLDL, which converts to small, dense LDL after the triglycerides are ferried to their destination (fat cells).  The small, dense LDL are associated with inflammatory markers and increased "risk" of heart disease, arterial damage, ETC.  By contrast, large, fluffy LDL are associated with decreased "risk".  The "risk" comment is in quotes, because usually this is the language of epidemiology, which is not legitimately used to determine causation. 

Why do you care that low carb diets can reduce your levels of small dense LDL in just three days time?  Short version:  because small, dense LDL are part of a fasting lipid profile that almost everyone agrees is an indication of sickness.  That profile is low HDL, high triglycerides, high LDL, and likely includes also:  high glucose, high A1c, high fasting insulin, low insulin sensitivity, high blood pressure, and most likely excess body fat around the waist/internal organs.  This, my friends, is the profile of someone who is sick from eating a neolithic agricultural diet. 

So this article is good news, because it indicates you can start the healing in as little as three days.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

USDA Likes Grassfed Beef

A study by USDA scientists finds that raising cows on grass, instead of in factory farms, produces fewer greenhouse-gas emissions and other pollutants.

By Marian Burros
Photo by fishermansdaughter/Flickr

To find milk from grass-fed cows, talk with a local farmer or look for USDA-certified organic milk at the supermarket. Double-check your brand with the Cornucopia Institute's organic dairy rating list.
Read the original article.

Saturday, September 17, 2011


Today, if the flight went well, I'm at a CrossFit Running certification in Boston, where I'll learn the POSE method of running from its founder, Dr. Romanov.  I've been hankering to attend this training for more than a year!!

For more information, check out Dr. Romanov's web site,, or his many videos at

Here's the BLUF:  Human movement is an interaction between the body and gravity, and gravity effects your movement more than your response to gravity does.  The POSE Method attempts to optimize your body position so that you waste the least amount of effort opposing gravity, and gain the greatest benefit from gravity.  In running, this means keeping your feet underneath you, which means taking fast, relatively short strides, and landing on the mid foot (vice heel), which in combination with a fast foot turnover captures the elasticity built into your body already - and that's likely not an accident.

The catch is that running shoes, with their big heel wedges and thick soles, make it nearly impossible to run well.  Part of the skill of POSE running is in the proprioceptive loops which start in the sole of the foot - insulate the sole from foot fall impact, and you begin the cascade of problems that results in an un-natural stride. 

In short, a Russian PHD javlin thrower is proving via science and practice that Zola Budd and the Tarahumara had it right.  My goal is to master POSE so that I can run pain free despite significant arthritic damage in my left knee - and to give this method of less effortful, more natural running to as many as I can.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Treat Cancer With Exercise

The advice that cancer patients should rest and take it easy is clearly outdated given the myriad of research showing that regular physical activity can improve health by leaps and bounds, even while you're undergoing treatment. The new recommendation -- that cancer patients and cancer survivors should exercise at least 2.5 hours a week -- comes from a new report by Macmillan Cancer Support, which gives a comprehensive overview of exactly why exercise is so important.

So maybe it works, maybe it doesn't, but I'm betting it does - and I also don't think it matters.  Part of the issue for cancer folks is getting past the pretense of certainty.  Whether the exercise helps you survive or not, it helps you feel better.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Harvard's Brain Trust

The folks at Harvard are thinking about energy, and specifically, your energy.  But they don't see to understand where it comes from or how to optimize it.

Their thought process: 
The tried-and-true advice for healthful eating also applies to keeping your energy level high: eat a balanced diet that includes a variety of unrefined carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, with an emphasis on vegetables, whole grains, and healthy oils. Taking a daily multivitamin will ensure that you get the vitamins and minerals you need, but taking extra amounts of individual nutrients won’t give you more energy. In addition, eating certain types of foods in particular amounts can help prevent fatigue.

They are inexplicably uninformed about the glycemic properties of "whole grains":
Because different kinds of foods are converted to energy at different rates, some — such as candy and other simple sugars — can give you a quick lift, while others — such as whole grains and healthy unsaturated fats — supply the reserves you’ll need to draw on throughout the day. But limit the refined sugar and white starches to only occasional treats. While you may get a quick boost, that feeling fades quickly and can leave you depleted and craving more sweets.

Here's a useful bit of opinion by which one can prevent blood sugar crashes (but where tested, it has not proved helpful for weight loss).  Interestingly, though, it implies your body is unable to regulate blood sugars unless it is fed more or less continuously (perhaps because they eat all those whole grains?):
Where energy is the issue, it’s better to eat small meals and snacks every few hours than three large meals a day. This approach can reduce your perception of fatigue because your brain, which has very few energy reserves of its own, needs a steady supply of nutrients. Some people begin feeling sluggish after just a few hours without food. But it doesn’t take much to feed your brain. A piece of fruit or a few nuts is adequate.

Harvard is right on the money as regards drinking water.  They also state the obvious, which is you won't get an "energy boost" from drinking sugary drinks, or eating most "power bar" style energy bars, unless you have first put yourself into reactive hypoglycemia.  And that brings me to the most important point.

You can have all the energy you need, all day, without eating food all the time, and without having to feel dependent on food to avoid those nasty blood sugar crashes.

How?  Train your body to run on fat, of which you have enough stored already to last for weeks, perhaps more than a month, even if you are not carrying excess weight.

The best way to develop this metabolic flexibility is to restrict carbohydrate intake to less than 100g/day - and follow Mike Eades' advice about how to make the transition to a fat burning metabolism.

When you have the metabolic flexibility to run on fat, the body naturally runs most of you on fat, and saves the glucose needed by the brain.  Or, if needed, it makes more glucose from protein.  And if that's not enough, it also makes "brain food" (ketones, a glucose substitute) when needed by liver action on fat.  These processes are all normal, and far healthier than the mess that results when you stuff yourself with sugar all day via the never ending small meals. 

The only way the "multi small meals" advice is useful is if you can't tolerate enough fat to support true low carb eating (aka, you lost your gall bladder or some other medical issue, and cannot substitute coconut oil, which most in this category can).  But if you have concluded that low fat is good, and "whole grains" are good, you probably will have to eat the "multi small meal" way, as these Harvard writers have apparently discovered.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Amanda Miller, Again Faster, the Sun, And You

A longish post, stay with it.  The BLUF:  lack of sun exposure is more dangerous than sun exposure.  Like economists, we must consider not just what is seen but what is unseen in evaluating cost/benefit.

On April 23, 2010, CrossFitter and Games athlete Amanda Miller passed away after her battle with melanoma. In memory of her life and friendship, Dave Lipson wished to give back.  Dave's tribute to Amanda is simple: He's backsquatting at least 450 pounds, every day for a year.  Dave is seeking to raise awareness of skin cancer and it's dangers, and we're here to help.  By purchasing a shirt below, you're supporting Dave, Amanda, and skin cancer research. 100% of the profits from the sale of the Amanda Miller/365 Days of Squatting T-Shirts will go to the Melanoma Research Foundation, an organization dedicated to finding a cure for melanoma. Please visit 365 Days of Squatting for more information.

Amada's story was poingnant - CrossFit Games athlete in 2009, dead from skin cancer in 2010.  The first WOD of the 2010 Games was named in her honor, and I love that Again Faster and Dave Lipson are making this tribute. 
Amanda's case reminded me of this bit of conjecture from Dr. Mike Eades' blog:
I touched on the idiotic extremes the dermatology mainstream have adopted to discourage people from spending time in the sun.
It’s worse than I thought.
Not long after posting, I came across a McClatchy column in our local paper pushing the perspective of most dermatologists, a perspective that’s so unbelievable that it almost reaches comedic proportions. (Our local paper requires paid registration, so I’ve linked here to a paper that doesn’t.) The piece serves to show in spades the way dermatologists think (if that’s what you call it), and lets us know why their advice should be taken with a huge grain of salt.
But what about vitamin D?  A lowly SPF 8 reduces vitamin D synthesis by 90 percent, so your sunscreen-slathered walk from the car to the store gains you no vitamin D. Where should you get it?  Well, if you ask the question, the good doctors start finger wagging.
And don’t make the vitamin D argument, which says sun exposure is necessary to absorb the highly important vitamin. Just take a vitamin supplement
Okay.  But Dr. Holick writes
when you are exposed to sunlight, you make not only vitamin D but also at least five and up to ten additional photoproducts that you would never get from dietary sources.
The bottom line:
68,720 melanomas, which are malignant, are much more attention getting.  But, there is no evidence that excess sun exposure causes melanoma, while there is data showing that chronic sun exposure and vitamin D seem to prevent it.
Just for grins, let’s go along with Jane and assume that melanoma is caused by the sun.  If we go to the latest cancer statistics from the American Cancer Society (ACS), we find that 8,700 people died last year from melanoma.  We know that sun exposure and vitamin D (along with maybe the other 5-10 photoproducts we synthesize from sun exposure) help prevent breast, colon and prostate cancerIf Jane is correct and we avoid the sun, we run less risk of being one of the 8,700 people who perish from melanoma. But what about the other side of the coin?
According to the same ACS statistics, last year 40,230 people died from breast cancer, 32,050 from prostate cancer and 51,370 from colon cancer. So, on the one hand, we have 8,700 people die of a disease that probably isn’t related to sun exposure while on the other we have 123,650 who died from cancers known to be related to lack of sun exposure.  I don’t know about you, but I’ll go with the sun exposure, “disfiguring” superficial skin cancers be damned.
Plus, we didn’t even mention the devastating disease multiple sclerosis, a disease much more common in those with little sun exposure.  There are between 250,000-350,000 new cases of MS diagnosed each year. I’ll be happy to accept the risk of a few minor cancers to significantly reduce my risk of developing MS.
The danger of too much sun is minimal – the danger of too little sun is enormous.  I know which side I come down on.  
In terms of our current discussion, we could say, "Don’t be skin-cancer-wise and colon-breast-prostate-foolish."

Depression In Men

Interesting read.

What is the relation of depression to a fitness and nutrition blog?  These three things are intimately connected.

Exercise and nutrition are directly linked to depression, both in observational studies and by models. Probable ingredients necessary to fuel depression include:
*lack of sunlight
*lack of activity, in particular, intense activity
*excess carbohydrate intake
*any of a number of vitamin deficiencies
*chronic lack of sleep (leading to a the insomnia-depression reinforcing loop)
*chronic stressors accelerate all of the above

Considerations for prevention/cure: 
*exercise hard and short.  Start with Tabata intervals, up to five days per week:  Work for 20s/rest for 10s.  Start with four intervals of work, and increase to eight intervals over time.  Add some version of strength training.  Train the least amount necessary, not the most possible, unless you really enjoy the training.
*reduce carbs to a max of 100g/day, by eliminating grains, legumes, most dairy, sugar drinks, and with a limit of one serving of fruit daily.  Use a glucose meter to help identify those foods that make your blood sugars go high, and eliminate or reduce them
*get some sun on your skin every day (mid-day sun needed during fall/winter)
*get some sun in your eyes, unaltered by sunglasses, daily (no, this does not mean "look at the sun")
*get tested for vitamin D levels and take action according to the results
*increase your interaction with real people - not virtual ones
*decrease TV time, decrease alcohol intake, and substitute activities like writing or socializing.  People need positive human contact to feel good.  In one study, people who spent fifteen minutes a day writing about the most painful experiences in their lives drastically shifted their mortality curves compared to a control group - writing can be powerful therapy.  Start with 60s/day, and set a goal to increase towards the 15 minutes/day

Lastly - do what you already know works for you, perhaps with some supplementation from the list above. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

That Light Is Killing You

The study, titled "Limiting the impact of light pollution on human health, environment and stellar visibility" by Fabio Falchi, Pierantonio Cinzano, Christopher D. Elvidge, David M. Keith and Abraham Haim, was recently published in the Journal of Environmental Management.
The fact that “white” artificial light (which is actually blue light on the spectrum, emitted at wavelengths of between 440-500 nanometers) suppresses the production of melatonin in the brain’s pineal gland is already known. Also known is the fact that suppressing the production of melatonin, which is responsible, among other things, for the regulation of our biological clock, causes behavior disruptions and health problems.

This has fascinating implications for lighting and human health.  As the ground breaking book "Lights Out" pointed out, amongst the many changes in human experience over the neolithic period (agricultural products in general, seed oils and vitamin D dis-regulation more specifically), none was more dramatic and few were as recent as having a source of light 24/7.  Apparently, the orange color of firelight does not impact our hormonal signalling to the degree that white lights do.

The paleolithic model implies that humans are adapted to an annual cycle of light - longer summer days, when carbohydrates were relatively plentiful, and short winter days, when there may have been virtually no carbohydrate and much less time each day to be active.  The implication of that is that we are designed for periods of zero or extremely low carb, and periods of high carb intake.  If the system worked right, we would feel 'friskier' in the summer when the carbs are plentiful and we're getting a larger variety and quantity of foods - thus making us prime for reproductive activity at a time which would bring us children in the warm, but not sultry, spring.  So summer time may have been a period of vastly higher levels of reproductive hormones, as well as a time when we're primed to eat anything sweet we can get close to, but whatever fat we were able to accumulate would have served us well during fall/winter periods of relatively low activity and scarce food. 

How's a model like that useful for us neoliths living in light polluted and carb polluted endless summer? 

Try sleeping in zero light and see how it affects you - more and better sleep?  Try letting yourself eat more carbs via locally grown sources in the summer - assuming you are not still in the recovery stage of metabolic derangement.  Try bringing your carbs down in the winter.  Try sleeping more in the winter.  Let yourself stay up later in the summer.  Try and turn the lights down in the house after sun set.  Take a look and see if you can eliminate the white lights altogether after sunset. 

These experiments have these things in common:  a model suggesting one or all of these interventions may help, nothing to lose, no risk, low cost and potential health benefits. 

Downside of Vampiric Creativity

Interesting theory in that vitamin D deficiency would enable rapidly advancing cases of many of the other proposed causes of death.  As a bonus, written about a topic of interest to many.
Pilz and Grant explain: "Mozart did much of his composing at night, so would have slept during much of the day. At the latitude of Vienna, 48º N, it is impossible to make vitamin D from solar ultraviolet-B irradiance for about six months of the year. Mozart died on 5 December, 1791, two to three months into the vitamin D winter."

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Cholesterol Con "Man"

From the guy who wrote the book on the cholesterol con, and his case is still valid.
Total cholesterol levels didn’t make a whit of difference to coronary heart disease risk, and were in fact associated with a lower risk of stroke[1].
Oops. Bet this study won’t be getting the extravagant media coverage given to all those shonky Big Pharma-sponsored statin studies that are prematurely ended whilst the “miracle” drug is still showing a piddling but “statistically significant” advantage…
So what factors were associated with increased stroke and heart attack risk?
Only age, smoking, systolic BP, diabetes and physical activity were predictive of stroke, while age, male gender (get those iron levels checked fellas…), smoking, systolic blood pressure, HDL cholesterol, diabetes, BMI, physical activity, CRP, and fibrinogen were predictive of coronary heart disease.

This study was a relatively large epidemiological study.  These studies can't show causality, only correlation, however - when there's no correlation, there's also likely to be no causation, whereas, the opposite is not true.  But this study isn't the only nail in the cholesterol hypothesis of disease, it's just the latest.

More to follow on Mr. Colpo, who is one very interesting blogger, perhaps most famouse for his fiesty exchanges with practically anyone of note in the diet blogger world.

Gupta on Cholesterol Myths

"The cholesterol number is essentially worthless," says Dr. Arthur Agatston. The Miami cardiologist and South Beach diet books author says the cholesterol of people who have heart attacks and those who don't are almost identical.
"The overlap is troubling," Dr. Kwame Akosah at the University of Virginia agrees. "As an isolated predictor, it falls short."
As a sign of the weakness in cholesterol numbers alone, one large study found the average LDL cholesterol of people hospitalized for heart disease was 105, which is considered "near optimal."
The study, published in the American Heart Journal in 2009, found almost half of the hospital admissions had LDL cholesterol levels below 100, traditionally considered "low risk."

Another study found that only half of heart attacks occurred in people with high cholesterol (at or above 240), while a fifth of the heart attacks struck people whose cholesterol levels (below 200) deemed them safe based on long-held guidelines.
Most heart attacks are not caused by the slow narrowing of blood vessels but by a rupture of a blister or bubble of plaque in an artery that is less than 50 percent blocked. Half of all heart attacks come with no warning at all, making diagnostic tests all the more important.

Dr. Gupta's advice:
A class of drugs called statins lowers LDL cholesterol. Exercise and a low-fat diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes can also lower LDL and raise HDL. Smokers who quit also improve their cholesterol numbers.
But the numbers themselves may be only the first step in learning your heart health.

From my perspective, very few people who need to lose weight and improve their blood lipid profiles will benefit from the ADA/AHA/USDA style diet described above.  Whole grains, legumes, and fruits in particular are often trouble for folks struggling to emerge from metabolic syndrome or type II diabetes.  That said, if that works for you, fantastic!  But since that advice has been flouted for the last thirty or so years to little positive effect, I'm not optimistic that it will help a lot of people. 

Lucky for you, you live in an age when don't have to rely on a doctor's advice to determine what type of diet is more healthy for you.  You can use a blood glucose meter, and frequent tests of your fasting lipic profile, to get feedback from your body's reaction to any diet you want to test.  Forget the bad science and the politically motivated advice from so called non-profit organizations.

When you get ready to try meat and vegetables, some nuts and seeds, little fruit and starch, and no sugar or wheat, I predict your triglycerides will decrease, your HDL will increase, your LDL will increase marginally but it will be the large, fluffy type of LDL which are regarded as benign, and your weight and blood pressure will also decrease, as will your appetite.  With a few refinements from there, you can stare down the diseases of civilization while eating and living well.

Classic Quote, Tate

"If you are over flexible in a strength sport it could do you more harm that good, but if your flexibility becomes less than what is optimal for the sport, you will be looking at shoulders, hips, pecs, elbow and low back injuries." - Dave Tate

Dave Tate saying this does not make it true, what makes it true is how true it is. 

Friday, September 9, 2011

Correlation and Causation

Because good science on humans is so hard to do well, we still rely too much on corellation.  The most compelling narrative to be found is scary and simple:  the majority of the diseases of the West are not present in paleolithic cultures; if they are, they are found in much lower numbers.  This has been known for many years, but is only recently being used as a framework to understand what makes humans sick.  What do we do now that we didn't do before the advent of agriculture?  There are many, many factors, and there's no clear cut proof of what the ancestors ate, but the "paleolithic model" is a better far more useful framework than the absurdity on display by the "correlation is causation" crowd, as described below:'s no surprise that the relationship between diet and cancer is still largely a matter of educated guesswork--and in many cases, the guesses have turned out to be wrong. Take the much publicized link between high-fat diets and breast cancer, for example. Women who live in Western countries, where high-fat diets are the norm, tend to have high breast-cancer rates. Even more telling: women of Japanese ancestry who live in the U.S. get the disease six times more often than their grandmothers and great-grandmothers in Japan. Yet a huge recent study of 90,000 women has refuted the breast cancer-fat link. Fat has also been suggested as a trigger for colon, prostate and bladder cancers--but there's no hard evidence that cutting fat will reduce your risk for any of these diseases.
Read more:,9171,991543,00.html#ixzz1WRuJ0sQF

This is a significant document from a medical doctor documenting the progression of Western disease (but at $85, I won't be buying that soon):

Thursday, September 8, 2011

"That Stuff Will Kill You"

His initial question — which he first posed in a 1999 study — was simple: Why do some people who consume the same amount of food as others gain more weight? After assessing how much food each of his subjects needed to maintain their current weight, Dr. Levine then began to ply them with an extra 1,000 calories per day. Sure enough, some of his subjects packed on the pounds, while others gained little to no weight.

Another cut:
The people who didn’t gain weight were unconsciously moving around more,” Dr. Jensen says. They hadn’t started exercising more — that was prohibited by the study. Their bodies simply responded naturally by making more little movements than they had before the overfeeding began, like taking the stairs, trotting down the hall to the office water cooler, bustling about with chores at home or simply fidgeting. On average, the subjects who gained weight sat two hours more per day than those who hadn’t.

The heart of the matter:
Over a lifetime, the unhealthful effects of sitting add up. Alpa Patel, an epidemiologist at the American Cancer Society, tracked the health of 123,000 Americans between 1992 and 2006. The men in the study who spent six hours or more per day of their leisure time sitting had an overall death rate that was about 20 percent higher than the men who sat for three hours or less. The death rate for women who sat for more than six hours a day was about 40 percent higher. Patel estimates that on average, people who sit too much shave a few years off of their lives.

All of these observations of correlation beg the same question:  Why? 

If you are a long time reader of this blog, you know my thoughts; what you eat impacts how much you move, and more specifically, how your body responds to what you eat impacts how much you move.  The mechanisms are complex and change over time for the same people, due to acruing damage from stress chronic stress, chronic inflammation from omega fat imbalances, lack of vitamins D, K and perhaps certain B vitamins, etc. 

Should you sit less?  Yes, if possible.  Is sitting really a new item on the list of "stuff that will kill you"?  That remains to be seen, because it is just as likely to be a symptom of what is killing you - metabolic derrangment - as it is to be a cause per se.

I hope they will be able to sort through the causality vice correlation issue, but they don't seem to be close right now.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Energy Balance, What Drives What?

Obesity and energy balance: is the tail wagging the dog?

J C K Wells and M Siervo
The scientific study of obesity has been dominated throughout the twentieth century by the concept of energy balance. This conceptual approach, based on fundamental thermodynamic principles, states that energy cannot be destroyed, and can only be gained, lost or stored by an organism. Its application in obesity research has emphasised excessive appetite (gluttony), or insufficient physical activity (sloth), as the primary determinants of excess weight gain, reflected in current guidelines for obesity prevention and treatment. This model cannot explain why weight accumulates persistently rather than reaching a plateau, and underplays the effect of variability in dietary constituents on energy and intermediary metabolism. An alternative model emphasises the capacity of fructose and fructose-derived sweeteners (sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup) to perturb cellular metabolism via modification of the adenosine monophosphate (AMP)/adenosine triphosphate (ATP) ratio, activation of AMP kinase and compensatory mechanisms, which favour adipose tissue accretion and increased appetite while depressing physical activity. This conceptual model implicates chronic hyperinsulinaemia in the presence of a paradoxical state of ‘cellular starvation’ as a key driver of the metabolic modifications inducing chronic weight gain. We combine evidence from in vitro and in vivo experiments to formulate a perspective on obesity aetiology that emphasises metabolic flexibility and dietary composition rather than energy balance. Using this model, we question the direction of causation of reported associations between obesity and sleep duration or childhood growth. Our perspective generates new hypotheses, which can be tested to improve our understanding of the current obesity epidemic, and to identify novel strategies for prevention or treatment.

Meatheads on Calories

I love the influx of big brain writers, thinkers and practitioners in the fitness and nutrition industry.  Here's a great example:
Sorry big-box trainers and the equivalent ilk: the body obeys the 2nd law of thermodynamics as it does the 1st and therefore varies in efficiency based on activity, hormonal status and—by far the most important factor—the type of fuel we provide. That’s why Atwater, the father of the 4-4-9 calorie values for carbs, protein, and fat, respectively, distinguished between physical fuel values and physiological fuel values16.

In other words, the guy that identified calorie values by oxidizing macronutrients in a calorimeter knew from the beginning that there's always a difference in the potential energy in a fuel, and the actual energy delivered from a system after consumption.
The first, physical fuel values, is the amount of energy you can get out of food by burning it with oxygen, literally. You throw food in a fancy oven, incinerate then record the total amount of heat released—this is the physical fuel value.
The physiological value is the amount of energy the organism can derive from the fuel, which can be lower or higher. Fat, for example, depending on if the body is in a growth stage can get over 11 calories per gram out of fat17-21. That’s significantly more than the 9 listed on candy bar wrappers.

This is a consistent result of measurement. Clearly, even a calorie of fat is not a calorie of fat.

The physical and physiological fuel values don’t match up for protein either. It takes energy to process the food we eat, energy that’s wasted as heat known as the thermic effect of feeding (TEF). When you eat a meal, you warm up. It’s that simple. There’s an extensive amount of research on the subject: about 2% of the ingested calories of fat, 7% of carbs and 30% of protein is wasted as heat whenever you eat22.
Let’s stop for a second. This is well established fact. There’s no disagreement in the scientific community, amongst pop-diet writers, not even among medical professionals. Knowing this, you can calculate the difference in physiological fuel values between two identical diets. If you took a diet that is 60% carbohydrates, swapped it around so that a much larger percentage of the calories came from protein, you could create two different 2000 calorie diets, one that’s high-carb providing 1850 physiological calories (considering all the heat lost) and one that’s low-carb providing about 1700 physiological calories (even more heat loss). By shuffling things around, we cut 150 usable calories per day while still putting 2000 calories into our mouths.

Just another way to give the lie to the well meaning simpletons who say "a calorie is a calorie", which is true but completely meaningless. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Taubes Lecture

For the Taubes die hards, here's one of his later versions of his speech:

WHS: Dairy - It's A Big Fat Issue

The text below from the link below offers the following very interesting analysis, which is rarely or never heard because it is exactly opposite of the USDA's "low fat milk is best" message.  How can the USDA keep publicizing scientifically questionable practices?  They say things that in one way or another comply with the wishes of the folks that have the most money so that in effect - no one can stop them.  This shouldn't be a surprise, as the idea of a monopoly being bad derives from the experience that monopoly need not respond to customer demand.  The USDA is of course a monopoly.
People who ate the most full-fat dairy had a 69% lower risk of cardiovascular death than those who ate the least. Otherwise stated, people who mostly avoided dairy or consumed low-fat dairy had more than three times the risk of dying of coronary heart disease or stroke than people who ate the most full-fat diary.

Contrary to popular belief, full-fat dairy, including milk, butter and cheese, has never been convincingly linked to cardiovascular disease. In fact, it has rather consistently been linked to a lower risk,
particularly for stroke. What has been linked to cardiovascular disease is milk fat's replacement, margarine. In the Rotterdam study, high vitamin K2 intake was linked to a lower risk of fatal heart attack, aortic calcification and all-cause mortality. Most of the K2 came from full-fat cheese. In my opinion, artisanal cheese and butter made from pasture-fed milk are the ultimate dairy foods.
Of course, these are quotes from observational studies, and can't prove causality - but they can show that other observational studies that "link" heart disease to high fat intake are as questionable as they've long been thought to be.

I don't know whether the USDA is influenced by industry, or bad science, or just incompetence.  I believe that no government agency should make recommendations without supporting intervention studies.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Classic Quote, Starrett

“If we get an athlete into a better position, then we see a commensurate change in power output, in wattage, in poundage and in rep count.”
—Kelly Starrett

Hyperlipid Weighs In On Taubes/Guyanet "Dust Up"

Should we abandon the carbohydrate hypothesis of obesity?

Peter is a tough read - hope to summarize his post this week.  Highlights many of the critical issues wrt "Food/palatability" and weighs in on the side of "carbohydrate drives insulin drive fat accumulation".

Questions to WHS

Stephan summarizes his model here:

These are the questions I posed (I'll be interested to see if he answers):
A proposition on what the purpose of a metabolic system is:
-fueling the brain is the highest priority of the metabolic system, the most critical element being oxygen, second is glucose/ketones IOW a "brain specific fuel."
-possibly the next most critical function is hydration
-not as time critical, but critical, is prevention of an excessively high level of blood glucose to prevent damage to the nervous system
-after that, the priorities are to distribute fuel to keep the body moving, and then to ensure long term viability via distribution of essential nutrients to support growth, healing, and the mechanisms of long term health

In other words, for a model to explain a condition like obesity, or how to reverse it, I would expect it to reflect the primary drivers of metabolic purpose.  I understand how the carb/insulin/fat model aligns with the priorities as I understand them - that model explains the role of insulin in defense of excess blood sugar, it explains why we get the ketogenic response in the absence of carb intake (brain fuel source redundancy, in combination with the fact that most cells exhibit metabolic flexibility to either help control glucose levels from exceeding healthy levels, but easily burn fat for most purposes when glucose is not abundant), it explains why we observe very high blood concentrations of free fatty acids in the absence of fat intake with high carbohydrate intake (liver production of palmitic acid from glucose), and in this model we observe that in the obese, many indicators of metabolic derangement can be reversed via carb restriction alone in just a few days (and less rapidly so with non-carb restriction of calories).   

IOW, the carb/insulin/fat model is compelling for me because it fits within a coherent model which satisfies the important "WHY" question:  why do we have a metabolic process.

I am working through an understanding of the model you advocate - is there a post in which you've highlighted how that model also meets the metabolic purpose?  IOW - why is it good that the body as a "set point"?  What purpose does it serve, what survival/adaptability function is enhanced, via "set point/leptin signaling?"  I can see how leptin signaling serves us in the carb/insulin/fat model, but the light is not yet on for your advocated model.

As I read the comments, I'm surprised by how many of the commenters on "both sides" (and Taubes, but he likely didn't read it) can't see the significance of this part of your post:  "According to USDA data, Americans today eat an astonishing 425 more calories per day than they did in 1970** (11).  That is the reason for the obesity epidemic, plain and simple.  However, that fact doesn't tell us why we're eating more calories, so its usefulness is limited."  (my italics/underline/bold)

I'm also curious, in your experiment w Kresser, how you will define palatability in a way that differentiates that quality from carbohydrate in general, sugar specifically, in real food.

For me, as I have become habituated to carb restriction, regular, non-sweetened/salted food tastes much better.  My "addictive" behaviors as regards sweets have been regulated.  My pleasure in eating sweets now is decreased.  I cannot remember the last time I "ate big", and I don't feel the desire to eat big.  My body fat has modulated between 10% and 20% over the last 25 years (everyone else in my family spend at least half their lives overweight; I don't have a genetic super-metabolism).  Prior to age 20, I couldn't eat enough to gain weight, ever since, it has required significant experimentation to find a strategy to maintain a healthy weight, despite hours of weekly exercise.  I can explain all of that - to my satisfaction - via the carbs/insulin/fat model.  I'm still a long way from that level of understanding in your model.

Lastly, thank the heavens the debate has moved beyond "saturated fat bad, plant based food good, exercise more and control your portion size."  

One more thought - when does the change in model from the carb/insulin/fat model to the Guyanet/pallatability model result in a clinical implementation that is different? It appears that carb control (~100g/day) is practically the same as palatability control.