3 Easy Ways to Drastically Boost Your Health Today

posted imageStop me if you’ve heard this one before: there’s an obesity epidemic in America.  Fully two-thirds of us are overweight or obese.

But did you know that most of those people are actually malnourished?  In fact, you are probably malnourished.

And ironically, malnourishment contributes to obesity.  The standard American diet contains plenty of calories, but not enough nutrients.  So your body thinks it’s starving (because nutritionally it is), and it ramps up your hunger hormones, to make you eat more.

To fix this, you need to eat more nutrients, without increasing your caloric intake.  How is that possible?  By eating foods that are more nutrient-dense.

The hard way is to eat liver once a week.  It’s hard because liver is not delicious, to put it mildly.  But liver is the most nutritious food on the planet by far.  It’s not even close.  So if you’re serious about nutrition, eat it.

But there’s an easy way too, because there are three super-nutritious foods that are also super-tasty:

1. Mixed nuts.  That’s right, plain old nuts have more nutrients in greater quantities than most foods.  A few handfuls of almonds, pistachios, pecans, and sunflower seeds per day is a no-brainer.  Do it!

2. Oysters.  Now, if raw oysters gross you out, try these amazing smoked oysters in olive oil.  The taste and texture is totally different, and much better, than raw oysters.  Nutritionally, oysters are a close #2 or #3 after liver.  And they’re one of the very few sources of the omega-3 fats EPA and DHA, which are essential for health.  Twice a week would do you wonders.

3. Whole eggs.  Egg white is a good source of protein, and egg yolk is packed with vitamins and minerals, including some that are crucial for health that aren’t found in many other foods: choline, biotin, and vitamin K2.  Two to four eggs per day is a good goal.  And no, the cholesterol in egg yolks is not a problem, because in most people, dietary cholesterol has little effect on blood cholesterol levels.

The best method for incorporating these foods into your diet is to replace less-nutritious foods with them -- you want to replace calories, not add more.  A good place to start would be to remove any processed or packaged foods.  Or if you’ve already done that, then remove bread, pasta, and cereal.  Replace those calories with nuts, oysters, and eggs, and you’ll be significantly improving your nutrient intake, and your health too.

Posted by Anthony DiSante on reply

Why Your Doctor Is Clueless About Diet

Because, despite decades of government recommendations telling us what kind of diet we should eat (a low-fat, high-carb, grain-heavy one), there is actually very little science to support such claims:

Quoting The New York Times:

“We don’t know what the best diet is,” said Dr. Michael Lauer... When it comes to diet and heart disease, doctors -- and patients -- have been going on hunches. [...]

“Diets are an extreme case of accepting evidence we want to believe,” said Dr. J. Sanford Schwartz, a professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

That includes doctors, he added, who overlook that the evidence for the low-fat diets they often recommend is the sort “we would never accept in the practice of medicine.”

Those low-fat diets sound sensible -- eat fruits and vegetables, fish and lean meats.  Cut back on salt- and sugar-laden sodas and potato chips.  Cut or sharply limit most fats, including olive oil and nuts.  But such diets have not been tested in the way the Mediterranean diet was tested.

Doctors are in a bind, said Dr. Daniel J. Rader, a heart disease specialist at the University of Pennsylvania.  When patients ask what to eat, he said, “you have to give them something.”

“Given the importance of diets and given the decades of dietary recommendations we have given to people, you would think we would have had more dietary studies with hard endpoints to get at these questions,” Dr. Rader said.  But the best they have are studies that look at intermediate markers of risk, like cholesterol levels.  In the end, he said, “most doctors just give dietary platitudes.”

Actually, it’s worse than that: because the government decided to start giving out dietary advice before there was solid scientific evidence to support that advice, they now have a vested interest in keeping that narrative going even in the face of evidence against it, since the government can’t admit when it has made a mistake.

Posted by Anthony on reply

The Real Cause of Our Health Care Problems (Or: How Bureaucrats Destroy Industries)

Steven Brill just published a long article called Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us.  It’s a good article and worth reading, despite being far too long at 11 pages.  There’s so much repetition that it probably could have been 5 pages instead, and it’d be a better piece for it.

It’s surprising to me, though, that the author fails to identify (or at least, fails to state) what is the clear cause of the outrageously expensive medical bills that he details in the article’s several anecdotes.

He spends a lot of time pointing out exactly how much profit is being accumulated by many "non-profit" hospitals, and how much they are paying to their executives and administrators.  It’s the same as the situation with "non-profit" colleges and universities: the term non-profit is purely a marketing term, and a deceptive one at that, since hospitals, colleges, and universities are among the richest organizations in the country.  They are making tons of profit -- tens of millions of dollars per year in many cases -- they just aren’t structured in a way that it gets distributed to shareholders.

The problem is that medical bills are insanely inflated, and the implication seems to be that the cause is these rich fatcats running the hospitals -- or at the very least, those rich fatcats are evil even if they aren’t actually the cause.

The author correctly identifies chargemaster prices as part of the problem.  He gives many examples of chargemaster highway robbery, such as pills or alcohol wipes that cost several dollars each in the hospital even though their actual price in the free market is pennies each.  And he recounts how administrator after administrator was unable to explain to him exactly where the chargemaster prices come from or why they’re so high.

He also goes into detail about Medicare and private insurance and their strengths and weaknesses, including how a lot of insurance is limited to a few thousand dollars of coverage while medical bills routinely reach tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands.

Despite all the good reporting and detail provided on these many aspects of our health care system, nowhere does the author state the simple economic fact that is at the root of the problem: the decoupling of the customer from the payment.  In other words, the person receiving the service is not the person who pays the bill.

Whenever you insert a third party between a buyer and a seller, whether that third party is an insurer or the government, the result is an interruption of the price signal and a distortion of the market.  In many cases this leads to a bubble, as we’ve seen in housing and higher education.  When "someone else" is paying the bill, the buyer has no incentive to care about the price, which means that the seller -- whose goal is profit, after all -- will raise prices.

So when the government pumps billions of dollars into the housing market to "make housing affordable", the actual result is that prices skyrocket until the market is destroyed.  When the government pumps billions of dollars into higher ed to "make college affordable", the actual result is, again, skyrocketing prices as the bubble inflates.  And "making health care affordable", as Obamacare purports to do, by making it "free" for many people, outlawing copays, etc, will again in fact cause the opposite to occur: it will get more expensive.

There are many problems in the U.S. health care system, but none are more important or more fundamental than this one.  Hospitals, drug companies, and medical device makers can only charge outrageous prices because patients don’t pay them directly.  Further decoupling the patients from the prices will exacerbate the problem, not solve it.

The failure of politicians to understand this most basic economic principle has led to massive damage and suffering in our health care, housing, and education markets.

Posted by Anthony on 2 replies

My Cure for Headaches

For most of my adult life I’ve gotten headaches regularly, about once or twice per week.  Typically these are not severe -- and I don’t think I’ve ever had a migraine -- but they’re bad enough to make me want a couple of ibuprofen pills, which virtually always cure the problem within a half hour or so.

When I discovered Fat Head and Paleo and started cleaning up my diet (mainly eating more natural fats and protein, and cutting back on grains, refined sugar, and vegetable oil), the frequency of my headaches decreased a bit, to maybe one per week, and sometimes making it through a whole week without a single headache.

More recently it occurred to me that a headache seems like a kind of inflammation, and should therefore respond favorably to an improved omega-3 to omega-6 ratio.  I had already made progress on that by cutting back the vegetable oils and trying to eat more omega-3-rich seafood like salmon, but even when I ate salmon every single week (which was rare) that was still essentially the only source of the anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats in my diet, whereas the pro-inflammatory omega-6 fats are in virtually everything.

Around the end of September I decided to make a more concerted effort to eat more omega-3.  I don’t like cooking, so it’s fortunate that there are a couple of delicious ready-to-eat sources of omega-3: sardines and salmon.  I especially like SeaBear Ready-To-Eat Smoked Sockeye Salmon, and Season Skinless and Boneless Sardines in Olive Oil; more recently I’ve found Crown Prince Natural Skinless & Boneless Sardines in Pure Olive Oil which are even better.  I stocked up and started eating one ~4-oz can or pack of those about 2-3 times per week, e.g. salmon on Monday, then sardines on Wednesday, and salmon on Saturday, etc.  (Update: two more delicious favorite omega-3 sources that I’ve found: Crown Prince Smoked Oysters, and several of the Bar Harbor brand varieties, especially Wild Herring with Cracked Pepper and Sardine Fillets In Maple Syrup.)

Amazingly, after having gotten a headache (and taking ibuprofen) about once a week for ~15 years, I went six weeks without a single headache after making this small, simple change to my diet.  After that, I was busy or distracted or something, and went 6 days with no salmon or sardines, and got a headache on about the 7th day.  I got back on the program and it’s now been about 2 more weeks headache-free.

Give it a try and see if it works for you.  It should also help with many other health issues, since most diseases are at least partially driven by inflammation.  A couple things to note: technically you can get omega-3 from plant sources such as flaxseed oil, but those are short-chain omega-3 fats, which your body can’t use without putting them through a very inefficient conversion process to turn them into the long-chain forms (EPA and DHA).  Only about 5% of those short-chain fats get converted to the long-chain forms, so it’s virtually impossible to eat enough of it to get any benefit, whereas omega-3-rich seafood already contains the long-chain forms.  Second, a lot of canned seafood is packed in nasty industrial seed oil -- aka vegetable oil -- like cottonseed oil, soybean oil, canola oil, etc.  Those are exactly the pro-inflammatory omega-6 fats we’re trying to avoid!  So watch out for that when buying seafood; it should be packed in olive oil, or something other than oil.

Posted by Anthony on reply

ObamaCare Diagnosed in One Sentence

Quoting Dr. Barbara Bellar:

So, let me get this straight.  We’re going to be gifted with a healthcare plan that we’re forced to purchase and fined if we don’t, which purportedly covers at least 10 million more people without adding a single doctor but provides for 16,000 new IRS agents, written by a committee whose chairman says he doesn’t understand it, passed by a Congress that didn’t read it but exempted themselves from it, and signed by a President who smokes, with funding administered by a Treasury chief who didn’t pay his taxes, for which we will be taxed for four years before any benefits take effect, by a government that has already bankrupted Social Security and Medicare, all to be overseen by a Surgeon General who is obese — and finally, financed by a country that’s broke. ... What could possibly go wrong?

Posted by Anthony on reply

The Best Adjustable-Height Desk: Better and WAY Cheaper Than Those Motorized Ones

Adjustable-height or "sit-stand" desks are popular now, since studies show that sitting for 8 hours a day is linked to various health problems.  Not to mention the fact that anyone who actually does spend all day sitting down knows it just gets uncomfortable after a while.  It’s a good idea to get up and take a 5-minute walk every hour or so, but being able to actually stand up for some of the work day, instead of only sitting, is even better.

But have you seen the prices of these adjustable desks?  They range from $800 or so up to several thousand dollars.  Why are they so expensive?  No good reason really, but part of the reason is that their design is kind of ridiculous: there’s literally a motor that you run to raise or lower the surface of the desk.

Despite the insane prices, I see people talking about these desks all the time.  I can’t believe more people don’t do the obvious thing: just buy or make a desk that’s at standing height, and then buy a tall chair (like a drafting chair) for when you want to sit down.

This is way better than an adjustable-height desk because you don’t have to adjust it.  Honestly, it’s hard for me to believe that there actually are people who, during the course of the day, just randomly get up and crank up their desk-motor and raise the desk... then an hour or two later, lower it back down... then raise it up again... come on!  That’s ridiculous.

The standing-height desk with drafting chair design takes advantage of the fact that your friggin’ body is already adjustable.  Just stand when you want to stand, and sit when you want to sit.  Genius!

It’s way cheaper, too: drafting chairs start at about $100, and you can use an $80 Ivar for your desk -- just cut the legs to your standing height and remove all but the top shelf.  I’ve been using Ivar as a desk for over 10 years now and he’s held up like a champ.  So, total cost: under $200.

If you don’t like the natural wood look of Ivar, or you already have a desk that you like, it’d be trivial to make ~foot-tall risers to go under the legs of your desk, using two-by-fours, or metal, or whatever you want.  Then your only real cost is the drafting chair.

I’ve been using my homemade sit-stand desk for almost two years now, and it’s great.  The only problem I’ve found is that when I stand, someone else usually swoops in and takes my chair:

posted image

Posted by Anthony on reply

Obama's Agenda: To Fundamentally Transform America

Quoting Daniel Henninger:

Last year, Mr. Obama began to be criticized by some of his supporters for being insufficiently transformative while holding the powers of the presidency -- this despite passing the biggest social entitlement since 1965, an $800 billion stimulus bill, raising federal spending to 24% of GDP and passing the Dodd-Frank restructuring of the U.S. financial industry.  Naturally an interviewer this week asked Mr. Obama why he hadn’t been more "transformative."  The president replied that he deserved a second term, because "we’re not done."  In term two, it will be Uncle Sam, Transformer. [...]

The question raised by the Catholic Church’s battle with ObamaCare is whether anyone can remain free of a U.S. government determined to do what it wants to do, at whatever cost. ... Anyone who signs up for more of this deal by assuming that it will never force them to fall into line is getting what they deserve.

Posted by Anthony on reply

How the Standard American Diet Promotes Depression and Deadly Disease

I recently heard a fascinating Science Friday segment with Dr. Andrew Weil, dealing primarily with depression and its causes, and how to fix it.  But interestingly, two of the most common causes -- vitamin D deficiency and omega-3 deficiency -- are also at the root of the big three deadly diseases: cardiovascular disease, cancer, and neurodegenerative disease.  That’s because those diseases, like depression and in fact like most diseases, are caused or exacerbated by inflammation.

Take 25 minutes and listen to the whole episode.  Here are a few quotes from it:

Quoting Dr. Andrew Weil:

Most people in my experience seem to think that they’ll be happy if they get something they now don’t have... Many people imagine that positive moods depend on external circumstances, and that’s not a good place to have it linked to.

The notion that a human being should be constantly happy is a uniquely modern, uniquely American, uniquely destructive idea... Many parents think that it’s their job to make kids happy all the time.  We’re not supposed to be happy all the time.  Our moods are supposed to vary.  They’re not supposed to vary so extremely that they disable us, but I think it is perfectly normal to have lows as well as highs, and there may be even some value in those experiences.

A much better goal to strive for is to be content.  Contentment is something that comes from within, and is relatively independent of external circumstances.

One of the research findings that I find very interesting is that the more people have, the less content they seem to be.  There is a clear correlation of depression with affluence.  And we’re seeing an unprecedented epidemic of depression, in our country especially, but in the developed world generally.  Some of this is manufactured by the medical-pharmaceutical complex.  The pharmaceutical companies have been very effective at convincing people that ordinary states of sadness are now matters of imbalanced brain chemistry which needs to be treated.  I think that’s spurious. [...]

I think in essence the depression epidemic represents a mismatch between the kind of life our genes have prepared us for, and the kind of life most of us actually live.  One clue is that major depression is virtually unknown in hunter-gatherer societies.  You can’t find a case of it in Papua New Guinea.  So what’s different there?  Well, everything.  People in those cultures are living close to nature, they enjoy strong tribal and community support, they’re eating natural diets, not industrial food, they’re getting plenty of physical activity. [...]

On the physical level, the strongest evidence we have is for exercise and for supplemental fish oil.  Both of these interventions work as well as antidepressant medication for mild to moderate depression.  I think they’re even very helpful as adjunctive measures for severe depression. ... These long-chain omega-3 fatty acids [in fish oil] have a great influence on brain function.  One of them, DHA, is the major constituent of cell membranes, neuronal membranes.  And if that’s deficient in the diet, as it is generally in the North American diet, brain health suffers.  So we have very strong evidence for not only the antidepressant effects, but I’d say generally the brain-protective effects of supplementing the diet with omega-3s.  I recommend that everybody take 2-4 grams of supplemental fish oil a day, whether or not you eat fish. [...]

We’re getting a tremendous overload of omega-6s today, mostly from refined vegetable oils; this is heavily present in industrial food.  The more omega-6s you consume, the more omega-3s you need to consume in order to get tissue levels up to where they need to be.  So I think the main thing is that our omega-3 sources have been reduced, and our omega-6 intake has greatly increased, and this puts us at a great disadvantage biochemically. [...]

There is a disturbing and growing body of evidence that the major class of antidepressant drugs, the SSRIs, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, don’t work so great.  In fact, they barely can be distinguished from placebo, even in severe depression.  And it may only be in very severe depression that they show any advantage.  There is also great concern about a new problem just coming to light; it’s called tardive dysphoria, which means lingering depression -- caused by the drugs.  We were always taught that depression, however severe it is, is self-limited, that it resolves itself.  Well, it doesn’t anymore.  And one reason why it may not is because the drugs produce the very problem they’re meant to treat.  And this is so logical; it’s similar to what you discussed earlier about antibiotics and germ resistance.  When you push on the body with an outside force, it pushes back; this is called homeostasis.  It’s a basic truth of physiology.  If you increase serotonin at neural junctions with a drug, the body responds over time by producing less serotonin and dropping serotonin receptors.  And therefore, it gets you into a worse situation.  It’s like trying to treat acid reflux with drugs that suppress acid: you take it away, and you have a worse problem than you did to begin with.  So the drugs may create their own need...

If you’ve been on these drugs for a year, it’s worth finding a practitioner who can help give you a schedule to wean yourself off while using the other measures that I recommend.  And if you have mild to moderate depression, I would really urge you to find out about the other things you can do first, before you try medication.  And that not only includes the things we’ve discussed; it may include getting your vitamin D levels checked, because there’s a clear correlation with low vitamin D and poor emotional health. [...]

One of the things that was new for me in researching the book is the connection between inflammation and depression. ... Farmers have long known that when domestic animals become sick, usually with infectious illnesses, they show a characteristic pattern of behavioral changes, and these are called sickness behavior.  They include immobility, loss of appetite, loss of interest in socializing with others of their kind, loss of interest in sex -- changes that are strikingly similar to the changes that human beings show who have major depression.  Farmers assumed that this was due to fatigue, caused by illness.  But in the 1950s, it was found that sickness behavior is mediated by a bloodborne factor.  You can take blood from an animal with this behavior, inject it into a healthy animal, and that animal shows the same behavior.  Nobody knew what it was; it was called Factor X for 20 years.  And then in the 1970s it was identified as cytokines, a group of regulatory proteins used by the immune system to regulate inflammation.

Some of these cytokines later became purified and available for medical use like interferon for the treatment of chronic hepatitis, and interleukin-2.  When these are administered to people for medical treatments, the most severe side effect is extreme depression and suicide. ... So this has led to the cytokine hypothesis of depression, which I find very compelling, and it is that there is a link between upregulated inflammation and cytokines, and depression.  In animals who are sick, this is an adaptive response: the cytokines affect the brain, and cause behavioral changes that probably favor healing.  It makes more energy available to the immune system.  But I think this is a really interesting connection; it opens new avenues for both preventing and treating depression by following an anti-inflammatory lifestyle. [...]

For years I’ve been recommending an anti-inflammatory diet as the best strategy for optimizing health, extending longevity, reducing overall risk of disease.  And I have devised an anti-inflammatory diet; you can find this in the book or on my website drweil.com; it’s a version of the Mediterranean diet, for which we have great evidence of general health benefits, and I’ve tweaked it to make it even more effective.  But the theory here is that all of the major chronic diseases -- cardiovascular disease, cancer, neurodegenerative disease -- begin as inflammatory processes.  And I think most people in our culture go through life in pro-inflammatory states.  There are many reasons for that: genetics, stress, exposure to environmental toxins.  Diet plays a huge role.  The mainstream diet, which is heavy in industrialized food-like stuff, is strongly pro-inflammatory.  It gives us all the wrong things: the wrong fats, the wrong kinds of carbohydrate, and it’s deficient in all that can protect us from the damage of inflammation.  And now, there is this new connection that our emotional health may also be tied here, so that following an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle may offer great protection as well as a new treatment strategy for managing depression. ... And the simplest step, the first step of an anti-inflammatory diet is simply to avoid eating refined, processed, and manufactured food.

Fortunately, it’s easy to fix two of the main drivers of inflammation, which are vitamin D deficiency and omega-3 deficiency.  You can get proper vitamin D levels by simply going outside in the noonday sun for about 20 minutes per day a couple of times per week during the summer, or taking ~5000 IU of vitamin D3 in supplement form a couple times per week during the winter months.  And you can get adequate omega-3 intake by eating fish like salmon and herring a couple times per week, or taking a few grams of fish oil (the kind containing EPA and DHA) as often.

But as Dr. Weil explains, regarding omega-3 intake, you also have to consider the opposing type of fat, which is omega-6.  Both are essential, but omega-6 is pro-inflammatory whereas omega-3 is anti-inflammatory, and it’s the ratio that matters: you want to consume about the same amount of each.  Unfortunately, the Standard American Diet is nowhere near this ideal 1:1 ratio; instead, it’s more like 10:1 or 20:1, with omega-6 far outnumbering omega-3, hence the epidemic of inflammation and inflammatory diseases.  So it’s not enough to simply boost your omega-3 intake; you also need to decrease your omega-6 intake, which means ditching the industrial seed oil -- commonly known as vegetable oil -- that’s present in so many packaged foods, not to mention commonly used as cooking oil and salad dressing.  Boosting your omega-3 intake won’t do any good if you’re regularly consuming typical amounts of soybean oil, canola oil, corn oil, etc.

Posted by Anthony on reply

Why You Can't Trust the Media for Accurate Health Information

A rather ridiculous Wall Street Journal article about weight gain carries this subtitle: "Study Challenges Idea That Varying Amounts of Fat, Protein and Carbohydrates Are Key to Weight Loss".  It states:

Quoting Ron Winslow:

It isn’t so much what you eat, the study suggests, but how much you eat that counts when it comes to accumulating body fat.

The findings are the latest in a string of studies to challenge claims that the secret to healthy weight loss lies in adjusting the amount of nutritional components of a diet -- protein, fat and carbohydrates. [...]

25 young, healthy men and women were deliberately fed nearly 1,000 excess calories a day for 56 days, but with diets that varied in the amounts of protein and fat... body fat among participants in all three groups increased by about the same amount. [...]

"The body was confronted with excess calories, but it didn’t care where they came from," ... The findings suggest that it matters little whether a diet is high or low in fat, carbohydrates or protein, it’s calories that build body fat. [...]

"Weight gain depends primarily on excess calories, regardless of the composition of the meal."

After going on and on with comments like that, the author sticks the following sentence in at the end of the article, in a paragraph all by itself, without any commentary whatsoever:

Quoting Ron Winslow:

Carbohydrates were held steady at about 41% to 42% of calories while fat levels varied with the protein regimen.

Huh??  So: people were overfed by 1000 calories, they all ate the same amount of carbohydrates, and they all gained the same amount of body fat.  Conclusion: adjusting carb intake won’t help you lose weight!

How does this kind of thing get past editors, or the original author for that matter?  It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that either a) they’re all liars, or b) they’re all fools.

Posted by Anthony on reply

The Truth About Fruit and Vegetables

Conventional Wisdom says that we need to eat lots of fruit and vegetables to be healthy.  But as with so much of CW, this is a myth.  The truth is that fruit and vegetables are just not very nutrient-dense, especially when compared to animal products like meat and eggs.  Nutritionist and obesity researcher Zoe Harcombe explains:

The facts are these.  There are 13 vitamins and fruit is good for one of them, vitamin C.

Vegetables offer some vitamins - vitamin C and the vegetable form of the fat-soluble vitamins A and vitamin K1 - but your body will be able to absorb these only if you add some fat, such as butter or olive oil.

The useful forms of A and K - retinol and K2 respectively - are found only in animal foods.  As for minerals, there are 16 and fruit is good for one of them, potassium, which is not a substance we are often short of, as it is found in water.

Vegetables can be OK for iron and calcium but the vitamins and minerals in animal foods (meat, fish, eggs and dairy products) beat those in fruit and vegetables hands down.  There is far more vitamin A in liver than in an apple, for instance.

Are fruit and vegetables good for you?  Sure.  But let’s be honest about the nutrients they’re actually providing.

Vegetables can be pretty tasty, so if you like them, by all means, eat them.  But if you think they’re doing wonders for your health, you’re kidding yourself.  That’s only true if the alternative is something almost totally devoid of nutrients like wheat products (bread, cereal, pasta, etc) or the boxed processed crap that lines so many supermarket aisles (which is also mostly wheat products).

Fruit is definitely tasty, because it’s full of sugar.  Eat it in moderation, but realize that it’s essentially candy.  What’s worse is that the sugar in fruit is fructose -- the same stuff in the dreaded high-fructose corn syrup -- which, unlike glucose, is sent directly to your liver and converted to fat.  There is a reason that fruit is seasonal: before our modern times of food abundance, refrigeration, and long-distance shipping, people would load up on fruit when it ripened in the late summer/early fall, in order to pack on some body fat to survive the winter.  Eating lots of fruit year-round is not a great idea unless you too want to pack on the body fat.

No, fruit and vegetables are far from the most nutritious foods available.  The most nutrient-dense foods are animal products, especially egg yolks and liver.  Liver is nature’s multivitamin; it is literally the most nutritious thing you can eat.  And egg yolk is so full of vitamins and minerals that simply eating more egg yolk would resolve Americans’ most common nutrient deficiencies.

It’s easy to verify which foods are the most nutritious: just look at the numbers.  Compare fruit to liver, or bread and salmon.  Or look at oysters.  The animal products are more nutrient-dense in most cases, and in many cases (e.g. liver) they blow the plant foods out of the water completely.

Posted by Anthony on 5 replies

Must-Read: Wheat Belly

Dr. William Davis is a renowned cardiologist with a new book that’s probably the most important thing you’ll read this year.  Here are a few long but really good quotes from just the first few pages of the book:

Quoting Wheat Belly:

I recognize that declaring wheat a malicious food is like declaring that Ronald Reagan was a Communist.  It may seem absurd, even unpatriotic, to demote an iconic dietary staple to the status of public health hazard.  But I will make the case that the world’s most popular grain is also the world’s most destructive dietary ingredient.

Documented peculiar effects of wheat on humans include appetite stimulation, exposure to brain-active exorphins (the counterpart of internally derived endorphins), exaggerated blood sugar surges that trigger cycles of satiety alternating with heightened appetite, the process of glycation that underlies disease and aging, inflammatory and pH effects that erode cartilage and damage bone, and activation of disordered immune responses.  A complex range of diseases results from consumption of wheat, from celiac disease -- the devastating intestinal disease that develops from exposure to wheat gluten -- to an assortment of neurological disorders, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, curious rashes, and the paralyzing delusions of schizophrenia.

If this thing called wheat is such a problem, then removing it should yield outsize and unexpected benefits.  Indeed, that is the case.  As a cardiologist who sees and treats thousands of patients at risk for heart disease, diabetes, and the myriad destructive effects of obesity, I have personally observed protuberant, flop-over-the-belt belly fat vanish when my patients eliminated wheat from their diets, with typical weight loss totaling 20, 30, or 50 pounds just within the first few months.  Rapid and effortless weight loss is usually followed by health benefits that continue to amaze me even today after having witnessed this phenomenon thousands of times.

I’ve seen dramatic turnarounds in health, such as the thirty-eight-year-old woman with ulcerative colitis facing colon removal who was cured with wheat elimination -- colon intact.  Or the twenty-six-year-old man, incapacitated and barely able to walk because of joint pain, who experienced complete relief and walked and ran freely again after taking wheat off the menu.

Extraordinary as these results may sound, there is ample scientific research to implicate wheat as the root cause of these conditions -- and to indicate that removal of wheat can reduce or relieve symptoms entirely. [...]

I call it wheat belly, though I could have just as easily called this condition pretzel brain or bagel bowel or biscuit face since there’s not an organ system unaffected by wheat.  But wheat’s impact on the waistline is its most visible and defining characteristic, an outward expression of the grotesque distortions humans experience with consumption of this grain. [...]

Many overweight people, in fact, are quite health conscious... Most will say something like "I don’t get it.  I exercise five days a week.  I’ve cut my fat and increased my healthy whole grains.  Yet I can’t seem to stop gaining weight!" [...]

Diabetics became nondiabetics.  That’s right: Diabetes in many cases can be cured -- not simply managed -- by removal of carbohydrates, especially wheat, from the diet.  Many of my patients had also lost twenty, thirty, even forty pounds.

But it’s what I didn’t expect that astounded me.

They reported that symptoms of acid reflux disappeared and the cyclic cramping and diarrhea of irritable bowel syndrome were gone.  Their energy improved, they had greater focus, sleep was deeper.  Rashes disappeared, even rashes that had been present for many years.  Their rheumatoid arthritis pain improved or disappeared, enabling them to cut back, even eliminate, the nasty medications used to treat it.  Asthma symptoms improved or resolved completely, allowing many to throw away their inhalers.  Athletes reported more consistent performance.

Thinner.  More energetic.  Clearer thinking.  Better bowel, joint, and lung health.  Time and time again.  Surely these results were reason enough to forgo wheat. [...]

The bottom line: Elimination of this food, part of human culture for more centuries than Larry King was on the air, will make you sleeker, smarter, faster, and happier.  Weight loss, in particular, can proceed at a pace you didn’t think possible.  And you can selectively lose the most visible, insulin-opposing, diabetes-creating, inflammation-producing, embarrassment-causing fat: belly fat.  It is a process accomplished with virtually no hunger or deprivation, with a wide spectrum of health benefits. [...]

So why has this seemingly benign plant that sustained generations of humans suddenly turned on us?  For one thing, it is not the same grain our fore-bearers ground into their daily bread.  Wheat naturally evolved to only a modest degree over the centuries, but it has changed dramatically in the past fifty years under the influence of agricultural scientists.  Wheat strains have been hybridized, crossbred, and introgressed to make the wheat plant resistant to environmental conditions, such as drought, or pathogens, such as fungi.  But most of all, genetic changes have been induced to increase yield per acre.  The average yield on a modern North American farm is more than tenfold greater than farms of a century ago.  Such enormous strides in yield have required drastic changes in the genetic code, including reducing the proud "amber waves of grain" of yesteryear to the rigid, eighteen-inch-tall high-production "dwarf" wheat of today.  Such fundamental genetic changes, as you will see, have come at a price.

If you are overweight or have any kind of sickness at all -- or even if you don’t -- you owe it to yourself to try simply removing wheat from your diet for 30 days, and see if it helps you.  It costs you nothing and could literally save your life.  The first time you think about cutting out wheat, the reaction is usually something like, "But what am I going to eat without bread, pasta, cereal...??!?"  But it’s actually pretty easy: just eat lots of meat and vegetables, plus smaller amounts of fruit, nuts, and seeds.  It helps if you already know that saturated fat is good for you, because then you won’t be worried about replacing "healthy whole grains" (which are actually killing you) with "artery-clogging saturated fat" (which is actually good for your heart and the rest of your body).

Perhaps the best thing about Dr. Davis, Robb Wolf, etc, is that these guys aren’t trying to sell you anything; they’re just trying to help you.  Well, technically they’re selling books, but you only need the books if you want all the details and the proof: they give away the "secret" for free on their websites and in their book summaries.  The "secret" is that if you cut these foods (wheat in Dr. Davis’ case, or all grains plus legumes and dairy in Robb Wolf’s opinion) out of your diet -- ideally for good, but at least for 30 days to see how it affects you -- then you’ll be far healthier for it.

Posted by Anthony on 2 replies

Love the Sun, Ditch the Sunburn

Mom and I were talking the other day about getting sunlight on your skin to make vitamin D, while not getting so much sun as to get a sunburn.  Your body makes something like 10,000 IU of vitamin D from just 10 minutes of midday sun exposure -- assuming a decent amount of uncovered, non-sunblocked skin is exposed -- so it’s pretty easy to get enough D without getting burned.  But then mom brought up an interesting question: why is it that, as kids, we were able to play outside in the sun all day with no sunblock and not get sunburned, whereas today, just an hour of sun will often cause a sunburn?

One theory is that ozone depletion, which has led to more ultraviolet light reaching Earth’s surface, is the cause of the increased sunburn incidence, but there doesn’t seem to be much solid evidence for that.  It makes sense and I think it’s a factor, but probably not the whole story.

A few days after this conversation, Mark Sisson wrote a piece on natural sunburn prevention in his usual thorough and well-referenced style.  It turns out that avoiding the sun, avoiding saturated fat, and loading up on omega-6 fats (e.g. vegetable oils) all increase the likelihood of getting a sunburn when you do get a rare bit of sun exposure.  Of course those three things are all recommended by the US government, and by now I’m well beyond the point where I’m surprised that US government recommendations actually cause harm rather than helping.

I didn’t realize this until I read Mark’s article, but since I switched to a more primal/paleo diet earlier this year, I’ve been able to get a lot more sun exposure without getting sunburned.  Last year, after hearing Steve Gibson’s comments on vitamin D and then deciding to go out and get some midday sun a few times per week, I could only get about 20 minutes before starting to burn, as I discovered one day when I tried to push it up to 30 minutes.  But this year, although I again started at 20 minutes, I have since pushed it up to about 45 minutes and I’m not getting burned at all.  The only difference is that this year, with my new way of eating, I’m consuming much less frankenfood like vegetable oil, and much more natural saturated fat.

Be sure to read Mark’s whole article on the topic for more natural ways to prevent sunburn, and don’t miss the comments, which are full of people reporting a complete lack of sunburn since having gone primal.

And if you’re worried about skin cancer, then you should seek the sun, not avoid it.  Sun exposure protects against skin cancer, as long as it’s not overexposure.

Posted by Anthony on 2 replies

The Primal Blueprint Carbohydrate Curve

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Pretty much says it all.  Notice that there’s no mention of calories nor dietary fat, because the fact is, those have very little impact on weight and body composition.

From Mark’s Primal Blueprint diagrams page.

Posted by Anthony on reply

Cure for Vegetarianism

Quoting The Paleo Solution podcast:

Greetings.  I think it was last week or maybe the week before when I posted a question here asking about resources for a conflicted ethical vegetarian thinking about going Paleo.  That’s me.  Well, after reading the first few chapters of Robb’s book and the first couple of chapters of The Vegetarian Myth, I did it.  I ate animal flesh after 17 years of not touching it.

In my previous email post, I mentioned having Crohn’s disease and Ankylosing Spondylitis, and how my doctors have been amazed that I’m not in worse shape than I am.  However, I’ve lived with constant pain for most of my life, helped only by my high level of athleticism.  I’m writing here today not to ask a question but to thank you, Robb, for convincing me via your podcast to attempt carnivorous consumption.

The last two days in a row have started out like any other, with the pain in my gut increasing as the day has gone on.  Yesterday I ate chicken for the first time in 17 years; the pain in my gut was gone in less than an hour.  Today I ate a sirloin steak (if I’m going to do this, I might as well go all out); the pain went away as I was eating it.  Based on what I’ve heard on your podcast, I expected some improvement on my Crohn’s symptoms, but surely not instantaneous relief!

Admittedly, I still have some reservations about the ethical stuff, but both chunks of meat were free-range.  I have a lot to learn about eating ethically and carnivorously so I can live guilt-free.  If anyone asks me what made me change, I shall blame Robb Wolf for turning me into a meat eater and changing my life for the better.  I really can’t thank you enough.

(From episode 61 at the 42-minute mark.)

Posted by Anthony on reply

What the Government is Really Feeding Us

By now you’ve probably seen the "improved" version of the government food pyramid, which is the food plate:

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Of course, it’s the same old scientifically-discredited message: load up on fruit (sugar) and grains (more sugar) and avoid fat.  And what do you get when you follow the government’s advice?  All of this can be yours:

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The solution is painfully obvious to anyone with half a brain: just eat real food.  Eat the foods that people have ALWAYS eaten, for the vast majority of human history, instead of the grains, vegetable oils, and other processed foods that modern man has invented.  In other words:

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(Images via @robbwolf’s Twitter feed.)

(show full-size image viewer)

Posted by Anthony on reply

Why You Can't Get Sunburn Near Sunrise And Sunset

[For people finding this page by searching for things like "how late can you get sunburn", the short answer is that in the continental US, it’s virtually impossible to get a sunburn before 10 AM or after 4 PM, except in subtropical places like Florida.]

When the weather starts getting nice, I start thinking about the sun and UV rays and how to avoid sunburn.  I always try to plan my outdoor activities (biking, tubing, etc) to avoid the worst part of the day in terms of sunlight, which is when the sun is directly overhead -- around 1 PM in North America.  Sun exposure is crucial for proper health, but only if it’s time-limited so that it doesn’t give you a sunburn.

You’ve probably noticed that, while you can get a tan/sunburn in half an hour or so around midday, it’s pretty much impossible to get any tan -- let alone sunburn -- within an hour or two of sunrise and sunset.  When I got my iPhone 4 last June, I stood in line at the Lehigh Valley Apple store from about 4:30 PM to 7 PM.  It was a hot, sunny day; the Apple employees were giving out bottled water, and the line was in direct sunlight the whole time.  Despite this, I didn’t get a bit of tan.

The reason is because sunlight has to travel through the Earth’s atmosphere before it reaches us on the surface, and the atmosphere blocks some of the UV light.  When the sun is directly overhead, its light has to travel through a certain amount of atmosphere, but when the sun is at more of an angle (further from midday), the amount of atmosphere that sunlight must travel through is greater.

But how much greater?  I wanted to figure this out, and a little Googling didn’t turn up anything.  So I thought about how to model it, which is pretty simple: you just need to draw a big circle with a thin band surrounding it, then compare the thickness of the band at different angles.  So that’s what I did:

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The Earth’s radius is about 4000 miles, and the atmosphere (depending on how you want to define it) is, say, 80 miles thick.  The precise thickness doesn’t matter for our purposes here, though; all that matters is the ratio between the smallest thickness (the midday atmosphere) and the greatest thickness (the sunrise/sunset atmosphere).

By drawing two exact circles that are concentric, and using 1 pixel to represent 8 miles, it’s easy to "calculate" the sunrise/sunset thickness: you just need to count/measure the pixels.  There are 100 of them, compared to 10 pixels for the midday thickness, so the UV radiation must pass through ten times as much atmosphere at sunrise/sunset as it does at midday.  That explains why virtually none of that UV light passes through around sunrise and sunset: the atmosphere is far too thick for the UV to penetrate.

Update: here’s a related graph from NASA (via Wikipedia) showing how much of each UV fraction is blocked by the atmosphere (mainly the ozone layer):

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It shows that the atmosphere blocks all UVC, and most UVB, but only a small amount of UVA.

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Posted by Anthony on 14 replies

Science For Smart People

Tom Naughton recently gave a great presentation called Science For Smart People, and it’s well worth your time.  In it, he explains why there seems to be so much contradictory "scientific" evidence nowadays, especially regarding diet and health.  Tom also tells how to separate the wheat from the chaff to determine whether an alleged conclusion is actually supported by the evidence in a given study.

In one example, there was a clinical study involving three groups of people: one group on a low-carb, high-fat diet; a second group on a low-fat, moderate-carb diet; and a third group on an unmodified diet.  The actual results were that the low-carb group lost more body fat and showed the greatest improvements in all cardiovascular markers, including total cholesterol, triglycerides, HDL and LDL.  But what did the researchers write in their conclusion?  "Moderate approaches to weight loss such as a moderate-carbohydrate low-fat diet may be prudent."  Tom’s take on that:

Quoting Tom Naughton:

By "prudent" I guess they meant "we would like to continue receiving research grants from Kellogg’s, who funded this study."

This shows two big problems with much of the supposedly-scientific information reported on a daily basis: first, that research is often tainted by the simple fact that it’s funded by corporations; and second, that many people, including scientists, find it very difficult to accept the fact that eating fat is not bad for you, because they’ve been brainwashed by decades of government propaganda to the contrary.

Posted by Anthony on reply

Italian Salad Dressing From Scratch

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I’m trying to find a good Italian salad dressing recipe, since buying a bottle of dressing that’s made with olive oil instead of industrial seed oil (soybean oil, canola oil, etc) is virtually impossible.  This recipe was pretty good except that it was way too salty, even though I did cut the salt quantity in half.  And honestly, a dozen ingredients seems a little crazy for just dressing.  But it did make a neat pattern as I added ingredients to the jar.

Posted by Anthony on 2 replies

What Really Causes Heart Disease

Quoting Chris Kresser:

Let’s just make this crystal clear: 9 out of 10 cases of heart disease are completely preventable without drugs.  With sales of statin drugs reaching close to $30 billion this year with Lipitor alone bringing in close to $14 billion, this might come as some surprise.  But the pharmaceutical companies are, quite literally, invested in people taking their cholesterol-lowering drugs in spite of the complete lack of evidence that lowering cholesterol prevents heart disease.

In order to understand the changes we need to make to prevent heart disease, we have to briefly examine what causes it.  By now you know that the answer is not "cholesterol".  In fact, as I mentioned briefly in last week’s article, the two primary contributing mechanisms to heart disease are inflammation and oxidative damage. [...]

Over the past century we’ve seen a consistent decline in the consumption of traditional, nutrient-dense foods in favor of highly processed, nutrient-depleted products.  The flawed hypothesis that cholesterol causes heart disease has wrongly identified health-promoting foods like meat, organ meats, eggs and dairy products as harmful, and replaced them with toxic, processed alternatives... The average American gets 57% of his/her calories from highly refined cereal grains and polyunsaturated (PUFA) oils.  The #3 source of calories, behind grains and PUFA, is sugar and high-fructose corn syrup.  Refined grains, polyunsaturated oils and sugar are all major contributors to both inflammation and oxidative damage.

Not only do refined carbohydrates, vegetable oils and sugar contribute to inflammation and oxidative damage, they are also completely devoid of micronutrients that would protect us from these processes.  Meats, fruits and vegetables are all high in antioxidants that prevent oxidative damage, and rich in other micronutrients that play important roles in preventing heart disease.

If you only follow one health-related website, make it The Healthy Skeptic.

Posted by Anthony on reply

The Case Against Gluten For Everyone

A CNN article from yesterday points out the prevalence of gluten sensitivity even among non-celiacs:

Quoting Carina Storrs:

Cooper tested negative for celiac disease, but the doctor advised her to try a gluten-free diet anyway.

"Within a week of eliminating [gluten], I started to feel markedly better," says Cooper, now 36, from Melbourne, Australia. [...]

"Gluten is fairly indigestable in all people," Leffler says. "There’s probably some kind of gluten intolerance in all of us."

Experts now think of gluten intolerance as a spectrum of conditions, with celiac disease on one end and, on the other, what’s been called a "no man’s land" of gluten-related gastrointestinal problems that may or may not overlap.

Leffler estimates, for instance, that half of the approximately 60 million people in the U.S. who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are probably sensitive to gluten.

The following evolvify article from 2010 presents an overview and a list of medical journal articles on the topic:

Quoting Andrew Badenoch:

In the general population (those not having celiac disease or wheat allergies), gluten either causes, or is strongly correlated to a range of autoimmune and neurological disorders. Further, gluten intolerance can present with any one, or group, of symptoms or disorders with varying degrees of severity. Lastly, it is generally agreed that celiac disease and non-celiac gluten intolerance are underreported and under-diagnosed, though the numbers remain speculative.

For me, on a practical level, the correlations between autoimmune and neurological problems in the scientific literature, my personal experiences with gluten, anecdotal reports from others, and the logical framework of evolutionary biology/paleo diet is convincing enough for me to abstain from gluten.

As for me, I’ve already cut about 95% of the grains out of my diet, simply because I don’t want to eat all that sugar.  I’m not 100% wheat/gluten-free, but I do try to avoid it, especially in packaged products where there’s just no need for it in the first place.  At this point my primary wheat exposure is from croutons on salad once or twice per week, and from pizza once or twice per month.

Posted by Anthony on reply

Salmon and Yammon

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It’s not every day that you discover a new favorite meal, let alone one that’s easy to make.  But this meal here, just some salmon and a yam, is definitely one of my new favorites, and it could hardly be any easier to make.  Kim found the maple salmon recipe; for the yam, you just bake it at 350F for an hour, then add butter.

I generally love seafood, but have stayed away from salmon because the first and only time I ever tried it, a few years ago, it was really fishy-tasting and gross.  But since I’ve been learning about how screwed up our omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid balance is -- it should be close to a 1:1 ratio but in the typical American it’s more like 10:1 or 20:1 -- I’ve really wanted to get more omega-3 in my diet.  And oily fish like salmon are pretty much the only significant dietary source of omega-3.

So I mentioned to Kim that I wanted to try salmon again, and she found that recipe and cooked it up for me.  It was amazing, and I’ve been making it about twice a week now.  And this is just farm-raised Atlantic salmon (from Wegmans); I can’t imagine how good the wild-caught Coho and King salmon that Rolly’s been telling me about might be.

Posted by Anthony on 2 replies

Super-Easy (But Still Awesome) Low-Carb Meals

A couple of months ago I decided to stop overdosing on carbohydrates.  I’m not really on a low-carb diet per se, but I did cut my daily carb intake to around 90 grams.  Low-carb diets start around 20 grams and work their way up a bit from there over time, and I don’t think 90 grams would be considered particularly low by true low-carbers -- but it’s far lower than the 300+ grams consumed by people on the SAD diet (Standard American Diet), which heretofore included me.

About half of my carb drop came from giving up sweetened iced tea, of which I used to drink about 60 fl oz each day (I now drink water instead).  The other half came from switching my meals from primarily Stouffer’s frozen dinners (which are delicious and there are tons of varieties of them, but they’re mostly pasta-based) to primarily real whole food that I cook myself.  But cooking meals and doing dishes is a pain in the butt, which now consumes a couple hours out of each day for me.

Recently I hit upon a good solution: Bertolli Frozen Meals.  There are over a dozen varieties including beef, chicken, shrimp, and pork, with various vegetables, and you just dump the bag into a skillet and cook for 12 minutes or so.  Most of them do contain pasta, but here’s the thing: the way they’re packaged, each ingredient is separately pre-cooked before being frozen and then put into the bag, including little blocks of frozen sauce.  So since the sauce isn’t all over everything, it’s super easy to just pick out the pasta and chuck it before cooking, thereby removing 95% of the carbs.  What’s left is a nice and healthy meal of meat, fat, and vegetables.

Of course I won’t be replacing all my meals with these, but they do provide a nice way to have a good meal without all the hassle of preparing something from scratch.

Posted by Anthony on reply

Everything You Know About Health Is Wrong

Part 1: Fat

How many scientific studies do you think there are which show that saturated fat causes heart disease?  A couple of months ago, I would have guessed "several", if not "lots", or at the very least, "one."  As it turns out, the answer is zero, and this is despite the government having spent decades and hundreds of millions of dollars trying to find just such a causal relationship between evil dietary fat and heart disease.

The truth is that eating fat is not only not bad for you, it also does not make you fat.  The body does not simply store the fat we eat; rather, it stores fat in response to elevated insulin levels -- and it is dietary carbohydrates that cause elevated insulin levels.  The body also converts excess carbs into fat and then stores it, so a "low-fat", high-carb diet -- the kind that the government has been recommending for decades -- actually results in increased fat storage.  So we’ve got a nation of obese diabetics who are hysterically anti-fat and are stuffing themselves -- killing themselves -- with grains.

I first started learning about this stuff a couple of months ago via Tom Naughton’s excellent videos Fat Head and Big Fat Fiasco.  (Update: and Fat Head is now available for free instant streaming on Hulu, and free-for-members instant streaming on Netflix.)  But none of this is actually news; the proof for it is all over the scientific literature and all over the web.  For example, the following two long and detailed articles (both definitely worth your time to read in full) are several years old by now:

Quoting Men’s Health:

What if "bad" fat is actually good for you?  For decades, Americans have been told that saturated fat clogs arteries and causes heart disease.  But there’s just one problem: No one’s ever proved it.


Quoting New York Times:

These researchers point out that there are plenty of reasons to suggest that the low-fat-is-good-health hypothesis has now effectively failed the test of time.  In particular, that we are in the midst of an obesity epidemic that started around the early 1980’s, and that this was coincident with the rise of the low-fat dogma.  (Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease, also rose significantly through this period.)  They say that low-fat weight-loss diets have proved in clinical trials and real life to be dismal failures, and that on top of it all, the percentage of fat in the American diet has been decreasing for two decades.  Our cholesterol levels have been declining, and we have been smoking less, and yet the incidence of heart disease has not declined as would be expected.  "That is very disconcerting," Willett says.  "It suggests that something else bad is happening." [...]

Rather it occurred...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.

If you want to go deeper into the details, from article-level to book-level, Gary Taubes’ Why We Get Fat and Robb Wolf’s The Paleo Solution are both highly recommended.  I have a stack of about half a dozen books that I want to read (mostly not health-related), and I normally don’t skip ahead, but I made exceptions for both of these.

The work of Dr. Cordain and the Drs. Eades are also great sources of information on diet.

Part 2: Disease

Unfortunately, being fat is just one of the consequences of a high-carb diet; the other consequences of this "healthy" way of eating include diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s.  It’s not fat that causes these diseases, but rather a combination of inflammation and autoimmune disorder.  Grains like wheat are the biggest instigator of the gut irritation that leads to these disorders -- though legumes and dairy are also problematic for many people -- and the irritation is often at a low enough level that there are few if any symptoms, despite the damage that’s being done.  That damage leads to what’s known as leaky gut:

Disease occurs when the tight junctions become "leaky" allowing pathogens to enter by the paracellular pathway.  When this occurs, the GALT immune system will become activated.  However, during this stimulation, the GALT system may produce antibodies which cross react with native proteins.  Thus, autoimmune diseases may occur like Type I Diabetes Mellitus which is an autoimmune disease against the beta cells of the pancreas.  This leads to decreased insulin production by the pancreas.

In other words, foods that irritate the gut put it in a weakened state, and in this state, the gut allows not just nutrients to enter our bodies, but also pathogens.  The immune system mounts attacks against these pathogens, but some of what leaks through are things like undigested proteins, which can be similar to our own proteins, resulting in our own proteins being targetted by our immune system’s response -- hence, autoimmune disease.

Then of course there’s type II diabetes, which is actually caused by a high-carb diet directly.  When you overload your system with sugar (i.e. carbohydrate, whether from grains or refined sugars) for long enough, your tissues become insulin resistant, because your pancreas is constantly pumping out massive amounts of it in order to bring down your blood glucose levels.  Your cells no longer respond properly to insulin: they don’t pull much glucose out of the bloodstream, which results in a chronically high blood sugar level, and also results in you feeling chronically hungry, because your cells (in your muscles, etc) are not getting the energy (glucose) that they need.  As an added bonus, your liver steps up and converts the excess blood glucose to fat which gets stored in your fat cells.

Part 3: The Cure

The cure for all of this is simple: eat the foods that your body was designed to consume: meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds, with emphasis on meats and vegetables.  This kind of diet is known as the Paleo diet, since it’s what humans ate before the dawn of agriculture; it’s what everyone ate for most of human history.  This way of eating is automatically low-carb, unless you load up on super-starchy "vegetables" like potatoes and corn, which is not advisable.

Or to view it from the foods-to-avoid perspective: simply avoid grains, legumes, and dairy.

Part 4: The Podcast

If you want a huge source of invaluable information on health and nutrition that’s also entertaining and totally free, listen to Robb Wolf’s Paleo Solution podcast.  Robb is a fitness trainer and an expert in nutrition and physiology, and his depth of knowledge is astounding.  For an hour each week he answers reader/listener questions, and it’s one of the most fascinating and informative shows I’ve ever heard.  Parts of it are pretty heavily focused on strength training, which I’m not hugely interested in, but it all generally comes back to the same principles regarding how to fuel your body for optimum health.

One of my favorite things about the podcast is the stories of all the clients Robb has helped, in many cases curing people of diseases (not to mention fixing tons of smaller problems like IBS, acne, etc), just by correcting their diets.  People are often reluctant to give up bread, pasta, etc, but they get over that after taking the 30 day challenge, which is simply to cut out grains, legumes, and dairy from your diet for 30 days, and see if you don’t look, feel, and perform better.  It doesn’t cost you anything to try, the potential upside is huge, and the only downside is missing out on some foods that you like for a few weeks.

Part 5: Testimonials

There are quite a few testimonials on Robb Wolf’s website, along with a whole category for them on his blog.  Here is one from a recent podcast (episode 65, about 30 minutes in):

Quoting Robb Wolf:

Interesting back-story: the whole reason that Paleo Brands exists is that John Welbourn’s neighbor Joe, he went with John to a Paleo talk that John did.  I was supposed to do one down at CrossFit LA for Andy Petranek, and due to some scheduling stuff I couldn’t show up, so John gave the talk for me, and he took Joe with him.

Joe is Italian, and his mom’s really Italian, like from-Italy Italian, but after Joe heard about all this stuff, he told his mom, hey mom, I want you to not eat pasta and bread, and I want you to eat meat, and fruit, and vegetables, and all this stuff.  And Joe’s mother is in her 60s; she had had alopecia since she was in her early 40s, and her hair had just fallen out -- she had to wear a wig.

And then Joe didn’t see his mom for about two months, and then the next time he saw her, her hair was growing all back in, and the guy like collapsed on the ground crying when he saw his mom.  And then he was like, we’ve gotta get this [Paleo diet] idea out to everybody.

So it’s really remarkable how beneficial that autoimmune intervention is, the Paleo flavor of autoimmune intervention, for things like alopecia, vitiligo, and a number of skin and hair-related issues, psoriasis, eczema, and on and on and on.  It’s definitely worth a shot.

Posted by Anthony on 1 reply

Eating Fat Is Not Bad For You

This is one of those things that’s seemed vaguely obvious to me for a long time.  It never made any sense when so-called experts -- who generally turn out to be government stooges -- released grand statements claiming that natural foods like meat, eggs, milk, and butter were unhealthy.  The other day I came across a video that kind of pulled it all together.

The video is called Big Fat Fiasco (that link goes to part 1; you’ll see links to the subsequent parts after it’s over) and it was very interesting and informative.  The video’s creator, Tom Naughton, explains how the whole eating-fat-is-bad-for-you concept was created largely by a single scientist named Ancel Keys.  Keys had to throw out most of his data in order to reach the conclusion that he had previously decided was correct -- that eating fat is bad and causes heart disease.  But then, study after study failed to substantiate his theory, so naturally it was discarded the government got involved.

Quoting Big Fat Fiasco:

This [low-fat] diet, this [lipid] hypothesis, was failing over and over in clinical research ... What could have possibly kept such an unscientific, discredited, and possibly even harmful idea alive? ... A government committee.

Dr. Robert Olson: "I have pleaded in my report, and will plead again orally here, for more research on the problem before we make announcements to the American public."

Senator George McGovern: "I would only argue that senators don’t have the luxury that a research scientist has, of waiting until every last shred of evidence is in."

So the "heart-healthy benefits" of a low-fat diet became national policy because senators don’t have time to wait for all the evidence to come in.

The McGovern Committee’s report -- written by a vegetarian, of course -- recommended that Americans eat less fat, and started the government’s decades-long propaganda blitz telling us we should avoid fat and eat lots of carbohydrates, leading to the obesity epidemic that we’re in today.

Naughton goes on to point out the "French Paradox," which is that they eat twice as much saturated fat, four times as much butter, three times as much pork, and 60% more cheese than Americans, yet have only one-third as much heart disease.  There is also the "Swiss Paradox:" they have the second-highest intake of saturated fat, yet the second-lowest rate of heart disease.

You should check out these short videos on Naughton’s site; they’re pretty funny and they shoot down some of the anti-fat hysteria that the government has been pushing for decades.  They also point out how the "Super Size Me" video -- I can’t bring myself to call it a documentary -- was essentially BS, and the creator, Morgan Spurlock, appears to have lied about his caloric intake during the time, and has refused all requests to release his food log.  I’m no fan of McDonald’s, but nor am I a fan of anti-meat/anti-capitalism propaganda.

Gary Taubes also has a good article and a couple books on the subject, and somewhere on one of these guys’ sites, I read a comment that really made sense to me.  It said that eating a low-fat diet actually causes your body to create and store more fat, because your body interprets a lack of dietary fat to mean that it’s in a food-scarce environment, and thus it adjusts your metabolism accordingly, storing more energy in order to survive the period of famine.

Posted by Anthony on 2 replies

For Dad

A couple of weeks ago, after a long battle with cancer, my dad died.  He outlived his initial expected survival timeframe by about 3 years, and fortunately only the final month or so was really bad (not that he didn’t suffer a lot during those 3 years, though).  I’ve wanted to say something about it here, but wasn’t really sure what, so I’ll simply share what I wrote for dad’s funeral.  I didn’t have the strength to stand up and read it myself, so uncle Eddie read it for me.

The older I get, the more I realize how similar I am to my dad.  One of the similarities is being introverted, and being a man of few words, which dad surely was.  I couldn’t give a public speech to save my life, and since I can’t remember a single time that dad ever gave any kind of speech, I’m pretty sure I can blame this one squarely on him.  But I do want to share a few thoughts.

Dad’s defining characteristic was how hard-working he was.  It’s not an exaggeration to say that he was the most hard-working person I’ve ever known.  When we were little, all of us boys looked forward to the day when we’d be old enough to go work for him -- until we actually did it, at which point we wondered what the heck we were thinking.

Roofing is a hard job, and maybe that’s part of why dad was such a hard man.  He certainly was not a touchy-feely kind of dad.  I never doubted that my dad loved me, but I think he viewed his role as mainly that of a provider and protector, not so much an emotional supporter.  That’s mom’s department.

Another thing I never doubted was dad’s willingness and ability to help me with any kind of project I was working on -- as long as it didn’t involve the computer.  Dad had a seemingly-infinite well of knowledge of all things related to construction -- not to mention a seemingly-infinite tool collection -- and was always eager to share it.  I didn’t have many deep conversations with dad, but I came to realize that the way to engage him was through carpentry and building; and all the time I spent with him working on those kinds of projects means the world to me.

Even without being a big talker, dad taught me things about life, most of which I didn’t really appreciate until I got older.  As a kid, it drove me crazy when dad would constantly yell at me for leaving the light on after leaving a room.  Now it drives me crazy to see a light left on.  As I got a little older, I noticed that dad would yell at politicians on the TV, regardless of what party they were from.  We didn’t talk much politics in our house, and I didn’t know what party (if any) dad belonged to, but when I asked him why he was mad at both parties, he said: "They ALL talk out of both sides of their mouths."  Ain’t that the truth.

When dad got the cancer diagnosis three years ago, it was shocking and scary.  I think it scared dad too, and that’s saying something.  But dad was a stubborn man, and he sure stretched his few-month life expectancy into a few years instead.  I know these three years have been hard for him, but though I certainly wish dad had never gotten cancer, I can’t help but feel that these three years have been a blessing in disguise.  The cancer forced him to stop working, it humbled him, and I think it definitely softened his personality a bit.  As a result, we all got to see him a little bit more, and we got a lot more hugs and I-love-yous.

I don’t know whether dad was ultimately satisfied with his life, whether he thought it was all worthwhile.  We just didn’t have the kind of relationship where we talked much about those kinds of things.  But to me, the answer is obvious, and other than wishing we’d spent more time together, there isn’t a lot I would change about my dad.  And you need look no further than all his kids, who love him and miss him, to know that dad’s life was a successful one.

Posted by Anthony on 1 reply
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