Thursday, December 23, 2010

Optimal Level of Body Fat?

This question posted on PaleoHacks forum last week:
How lean can you get with strict paleo?
Let's hear some body fat percentages! Just how lean is everyone getting on strict paleo?
It seems like we see tons of success stories.. people dropping a ton of weight in going from obese to fit, but I haven't seen too many completely shredded people who are strict paleo.
I've actually gone up from around 8% to 9.5-10% in the year since I went strict (was working on low fat SAD with a calorie deficit with way too much activity and too little sleep before, so I am unquestionably healthier now).
Jamie Eason...
This is something I've thought about quite a bit, here are my current thoughts on this topic.
The evidence does show that an evolutionary or paleo diet is the healthiest diet possible, but when I think about leanness that leads to another question...
Is being ultra lean the healthiest state for your body?
Despite the instinctive appeal I (and many others) have for being in an extremely lean state, I doubt that this is the absolute healthiest state for the body to be in. Having a small amount of available body fat for hormone production, cell membranes, extended fasts, and other homeostatic functions is probably a good thing. This might explain your slight increase in body fat with a corresponding increase in wellbeing/health. 
However, it is certainly possible to get extremely lean by manipulating macronutrient ratios, exercise modalities, and maybe some intermittent fasting. How lean will depend on your individual genetics and desire. Eating slightly under maintenance calories while maintaining your muscles mass while result in fat loss, but I don't know if this is the optimal state for your body.
GSP - lean mean machine
This being said, I vary between 7-10% body fat, and many of my fellow athletes I have converted to an evolutionary diet are in a similar range.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Alcohol and Evolutionary Nutrition

File:Tequilas.JPGA primer on alcohol.
Alcohol is a beverage that contains ethanol. Ethanol is the molecule that makes all the fun effects when you drink some booze, and is a byproduct of bacteria during the fermentation process. Fermentation is one of the oldest organic reactions that has been used by humans. According to the book "Origin and History of Beer and Brewing: From Prehistoric Times to the Beginning of Brewing Science and Technology", alcohol has been produced by most cultures of the world, including hunter-gatherers.

Alcohol can be divided into two broad categories: Distilled and non distilled. Non distilled alcohol includes beer and wine- beer usually from a cereal grain and wine from grapes. Distillation is the process of concentrating the alcohol content of a fermented beverage. Distilled alcohol can further be divided in to liqueurs and spirits. Liqueurs are distilled and sweetened alcoholic beverages whereas spirits are the unsweetened distilled drinks.

Alcohol in an evolutionary diet - minimizing damage.
One of the most common questions I hear from other college students is about alcohol, what kind is best, how much, etc. This post will attempt to address some of these questions. 
  • How much.
    First off, consuming alcohol in large quantities in not beneficial for physique, performance, or health. However, nearly everything I've seen indicates that moderate consumption of alcohol is associated with positive health outcomes, particularly red wine. I consider a glass or two of wine with dinner as fine, a bottle is probably not. If your drinking to party or get drunk, drink as little as you can to get the desired effects.
  • Types.
    When drinking, the number one thing to avoid is gluten-containing drinks (beer) and sugary or sweetened drinks. These types of alcohol are by far the most destructive to health and physique. I recommend using red wine or spirits such as tequila, vodka, gin, etc. I'll share my favorite drink recipe later in this post.
  • Timing.
    Try to start early in the night, preferably not on a full stomach. This means it will take less alcohol to feel the effects. Also try to finish early and have some protein and fat afterwards as drinking too close to bed time will impact sleep quality.
As far as overall diet recommendations on days you plan to party, I think Martin Berkhan's recommendations are the best. His post on alcohol, fat loss, and muscle is very good.

Here's my favorite drink- my athlete friends and I have found that this is the best way to minimize the negative effects of alcohol. Credit goes to Robb Wolf on this one:

NorCal Margarita
  1. 2–3 shots of 100% agave tequila.
  2. Juice and pulp from one lime.
  3. Shake it all up with some ice.
  4. Add soda water to taste. Update: Lime-flavored soda water gives it an extra kick.
Here's why this drink rocks:
  1. Tequila is fermented agave juice, which makes it gluten and starch-free.
  2. Insulin release is blunted by lime, helps maintain insulin sensitivity.
  3. Alkaline kidney load from limes
  4. CO2 bubbles help ethenol enter blood stream more quickly, so you can drink less for same effects.
If your going to a bar, you can get this drink by asking for a well drink with tequila, club soda, and the juice and wedges of a lime.

Did I forget anything? Leave any suggestions or ideas in the comments.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Mastering Muscle Soreness

Muscle Soreness
An alarm clock wakes you up from the middle of a sound slumber. It's time to go but your eyes are heavy and your body wants to go back to sleep. You swivel your legs over the side of the bed and stand up as a wave of pain passes over your body. An aggressive met-con or weights workout has left you with a serious case of post-workout muscles soreness but you know you've got to perform again later in the day. As you make some coffee you ponder how to get your body ready for the next workout...

Sound familiar? 

Days like these used to be commonplace for me, I've had more of these than I can count. 20 or 30 hours a week of sprinting, jumping, throwing, and lifting can do that to you. My experiences have led me through necessity to find the best methods of accelerating recovering from strenuous exercise. Although the exact cellular causes of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) are currently unknown, it doesn't really matter because this stuff works regardless of what is going on. 

Maximizing Recovery
After being forced to seek out the best methods of recovery and for mitigating muscle soreness. Here are the things that worked for me, with the most effective first. Note that what will be most effective for you is probably whatever aspect you are currently most deficient in.

  • Sleeping a lot: Try to get 9.5 hours of sleep a night in a totally dark and quiet room. Magnesium and melatonin help a lot with this. Natural Calm is by far the most effective magnesium supplement I've found... 2-3 tsps in a cup of hot water an hour before bed really chills me out. Everyone I've given it to raves about it. Time release melatonin is you best bet, as I have found that I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night with the instant release. 
  • Eating for recovery: This means follow the same basic guidelines: Plenty of protein, fat, and avoiding inflammatory foods (grains, sugar, n-6 PUFA). If your pretty lean, some sweet potatoes or yams will also accelerate recovery. Drink a lot of water. If you are someone who tolerates dairy products, a couple glasses of whole milk after a hard workout is a powerful recovery agent. My favorite is goat milk as it tends to be less allergenic and insuligenic according to Robb Wolf. 
  • Massage work: This one is critical. Using various massage tools and information from the Trigger Point Therapy Workbook, I felt like I was given a new body without any of the previous aches, pains, and stiffness. Crucial for increasing sports performance. Most versatile are a foam roller and a lacrosse ball. Can be done before, after, or during workouts. I do one to three 5-15 minute massage sessions on most days. A Tiger tail and Theracane have also been extremely beneficial for me. Best is if you can find a good partner to trade massages with.
  • Warming up right: Doing dynamic mobility work and making sure my muscles are hot helps a lot for preventing excessive soreness. Magnificent Mobility by Eric Cressey is a great place to start. 
  • Recovery workouts: Do something that takes out the eccentric motion of exercise, which creates most of the soreness. Pulling a sled is one of my favorites.
  • Enzymes: In-season I noticed that some systemic enzymes like wobenzym or something similar decreased muscle soreness a lot. However, once my CRP (systemic inflammation levels) got really low from diet and sleep, the enzymes no longer had the same benefit. Same thing with the tumeric- works if your inflammation levels are high, effects drop off as inflammation is lower.
  • Heat: I never found much of a benefit from ice baths. They did make muscles less painful in the short term (numb) but didn't accelerate recovery at all. I did them every day for 3 months then stopped and noticed no difference in recovery. Heat always worked better for recovery for me.
  • Don't do stupid shit: If you just did heavy deadlifts yesterday and go out to flip a 300lb tire for a 100 meters, this is counterproductive, you are a dumbass, and you will be painfully sore for a week. Don't ask how I know this. 
Any other ideas? Leave a comment and let me know what has worked for you.

Real Food 4: Nori Rolls

More food posts
There's been a request for more posts about food (shoutout to Max). Luckily I've been making tons of great new foods and have some pictures to share with you guys.

The Nori Roll
Lately for my meals I've been making a lot of ghetto sushi. It makes a delicious meal fit for a king, kind of like a sandwich without the bread. This has become a staple for me because it is healthy, tastes amazing, versatile, and very quick too make. Here's the basic idea:

  1. Take a sheet of Nori
  2. Add base: egg or cauliflower rice.
  3. Add meat: shrimp, ground beef, chicken, steak, etc.
  4. Add accessories: Avocado (my favorite), caramelized onions, whatever your heart desires. 
  5. Add flavoring: my favorite is Sriracha hot sauce or some type of wasabi sauce. 
  6. Wrap it up. If you haven't used Nori before this may be difficult but after you try it a couple times it gets a lot easier.
Almost ready: Nori with egg, cauliflower rice, shrimp, avocado, and sriracha.
One of the great things about this is how flexible the recipe is. You can create great combos depending on whatever you have lying around. The other day I made one with scrambled eggs, bacon, and avocado. I've found that cooking up a few types of meat and having them ready throughout the weak when needed allows me to make a complete meal in a couple of minutes.
A finished product: Egg, cauliflower rice, grassfed ground beef, avocado, sriracha sauce. Veggies on side
Nutrition on these are great- Nori is high in iodine (you might be deficient if you don't eat much salt), Vitamin A, and several other micro-nutrients. There is good fats from the meat, sea food, eggs and avocados, plenty of protein from meats and eggs. I usually have a few vegetables on the side when I've got some lying around.

Odds and ends.
If anyone requests it, I'll post a video of how to make a nori roll including the rolling part.

Here's a quick primer on how to make cauliflower rice: 

  1. Shred up a head of cauliflower with a cheese grater or a food processor. 
  2. Heat up some oil in a pan
  3. Throw the cauliflower in the pan over medium heat and cover with a lid. 
  4. Cook for 10 minutes or so, whenever the cauliflower starts to get soft.
  5. You can use it plain or add spices during cooking for flavored rice.
This is a vegetable replacement for rice that can be used in any type of meal. It has the same consistency as rice and tastes great. You can make a big container of it and use it throughout the week. 

Questions or comments? 

Friday, December 17, 2010

Ancestral Health Symposium

I wanted to let everyone know about the Ancestral Health Symposium: The Human Ecological Niche and Modern Health. This is a two day event that is coming together in Los Angeles on August 5th and 6th, 2011. I just got my ticket at the student discount, for $25 this is a steal! Here's the description:
The Ancestral Health Symposium fosters collaboration among scientists, healthcare professionals and laypersons who study and communicate about health from an evolutionary perspective to develop solutions to our modern health challenges.
The symposium is presented by the Ancestral Health Society, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating healthcare professionals and laypersons on ancestral lifestyle dynamics.
This event has the best and brightest from around the world- The concept is to bring together prominent thinkers in the areas of evolutionary biology, paleolithic nutrition and related topics.

If you can go to one event this year, make it this!

Anyone else going?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Senior Writing Assignment

For my senior seminar class I had to write a short essay about my learning experiences at HSU. I just spend the last 30 minutes writing it and decided to post it here on the off chance that someone might be interested in it. Post any thoughts on this or your own educational experience in the comments.

 Here's the guidelines for the essay:
"Describe how your learning experiences in kinesiology or recreation administration influenced your future as a professional in your particular focus area or area of interest. Give Examples as to how specific learning experiences (classes, service learning, internships, etc.) facilitated your personal growth."

My future as a professional and my career focus has changed greatly throughout the last four years in HSU's Kinesiology program. My goal of this essay is to explain how and why my career focus has changed, and to expand on the good and bad parts of the program that facilitated my personal growth. Let me be clear, I do not intend to offend or impart disrespect to anyone, these are just my opinions and experiences.

Interest Changes 
My main interest when I originally came to Humboldt was to study Kinesiology, specifically strength and conditioning. My goal was to train athletes in a sports performance facility- work with athletes of all ages and skill levels to improve their performance, decrease injuries, and generally make them better. I was also interested in overall health and possibly working with physique athletes or people who just wanted to look and move better. I spent most of my time researching on my own and doing just enough in school to get A's and B's. As I learned more about sociology, economics, and agriculture, I realized that average health problems were of a much greater global concern than individual sport performance. We spend 2.3 trillion dollars a year on health care, 75% of which goes to treat preventable chronic disease- diabetes, heart disease, obesity, fatty liver, hypertension, cancer etc.

Always being a skeptic, I turned to the actual information sources themselves rather than institutional guidelines and party lines; I started reading journal articles, epidemiological studies, and everything else I could get my hands on. My original bias was to claim exercise was a panacea for all these problems, as was popular in American culture. I blamed lack of willpower to exercise as the cause of these problems.

Unfortunately it turned out I was completely wrong, in more ways than one. The research just didn't support the idea that exercise was the critical factor- it all pointed to nutrition being about 85-90% and exercise/lifestyle making up the rest. In short, I admitted that I was wrong and decided that I could do more good by studying nutrition rather than focusing solely on exercise.

You may notice that I haven't mentioned learning experiences such as “classes, service learning, or internships”. This is because I came to these conclusions through my own research outside of the institutional setting.

The Good 
Tina Manos was the first person I met at HSU, and one of the decisive factors in deciding to come here. Tina did a fantastic job as and advocate for me and my interests and helping me understand exactly what I needed to do at HSU. Although I didn't have her as a teacher till my senior year, I can't overstate the value of office conversations we had in helping me decide my original career path and intentions.

Biology 104 (pre-req for kines major) by Leslie Vandermolen was the first class I had at HSU, and to this day, one of the best. Leslie is an amazing teacher and the class was designed in a way that allowed me to instantly fit each piece of information in to the systems they affected. Great basis for my later classes.

Exercise Physiology with TK was another important class. Although the practical application of the information would come later, the physiology information gave me the basis I needed to understand the biology behind the results. TK's class was taught in a way that worked great for me- great content and no busy work.

Justus Ortega is another excellent teacher although the only class I had from him was Structural Kinesiology. He did a great job of teaching the class, making it interesting, and showing how to apply the information to real life settings.

Rock Braithwaite did a great job teaching Evaluation Techniques. The reason I found this course so valuable was because it gave me the statistical analysis skills to interpret and evaluate the results of studies, research, and journal articles. These are some of the skills that I use on a daily basis.

Pat Hyland in the Human Performance Lab is also a great teacher, the enthusiasm and experience he had really contributed to my learning and skills for interacting with clients.

The facilities of the Kines program are excellent- Human Performance Lab, really great weight room and training facilities.

The Bad 
Overall, my main issue with the Kinesiology program is that the students memorize all kinds of technical information but are severely lacking in the ability to apply that information to a real life situation to get results. For example we are taught all about how to teach exercises but don't learn how write a exercise or nutrition program customized to an individual and their goals. I'm having trouble explaining this correctly, but it seems like sometimes students are missing the forest for the trees. There's a chance that I have this impression because I haven't taken KINS 425 Strength and Conditioning or Exercise Prescription, but it seems slightly backwards to spend only 1 out of 8 semesters on the actual application of the information we learn in the other 7 semesters. Also, the internship is probably the most valuable part of this which I have also not yet done.

In my opinion much of the information we memorize is also irrelevant. I can safely say that I have memorized tons of skills and facts that I will never use in my career, in an attempt to fulfill class requirements. I realize that some students may be entering a clinical practice where they will use the skills, but I think the majority of students would be better served by focusing more on certain areas and less on clinical practices.

Some parts of the kinesiology program have shifted too far towards the direction of “teaching to the test”, and too far away from discussion and truth seeking. Students are taught information from textbooks and from certification tests as if they are indisputable facts. While I realize this is necessary for certain exams HFS, CSCS, etc, many students fail to understand that these sources are not infallible, and that new research is constantly updating or knowledge but these tests and textbooks often lag years behind the best understanding of the information. This is certainly the students responsibility as well, to realize that no source is perfect. I also understand how the difficulties of teaching with larger class sizes and less teachers contribute to this problem.

The nutrition department has been the worst of my classes. Kathy Munoz seems to be much more concerned with maintaining the status quo in nutrition rather than evaluating the evidence and seeking to get to the true nature of human nutrition requirements. There is almost no Socratic discussion whatsoever in any of the nutrition classes (partly due to the online format). The teachings are good in some areas but blatantly wrong in other areas.  This is not an isolated problem, many nutrition courses suffer the same issues, my problem is when there is no discussion or effort to update the curriculum in light of newer research. In the bigger picture this might be a good thing because of how it forced me to really strengthen my research and analysis skills. However, other students are being taught information that is directly unsupported by evidence and that will directly harm their clients in the future. I think this is irresponsible. 

I have greatly enjoyed most of the Kinesiology program. Some of the classes gave me a great basis of information, but for me the main value has been in my interaction with our fantastic professors and lecturers.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Pharmaceutical Fiasco

Pfizer's funds allocation
Do you trust pharmaceutical corporations?
If your anything like me and have seen the massive conflicts of interest, skewed statistics, and profit-driven strategies used by pharmaceutical giants, you probably don't. While there are certainly pharmaceuticals that are indicated for specific disorders, and work well, it appears that the vast majority are prescribed as a means to greater profits, not better health. And everyone gets screwed by the high prices.

Ever notice how many TV commercials are for prescription drugs? Since the advent of direct-to-consumer (DTC) marketing, pharmaceutical companies have been misleading millions of people. Using a combination of fear (medical condition so and so is often undiagnosed), making pharmaceuticals for banal conditions (restless legs?), and getting consumers to pressure their doctor ("ask your doctor about ____"), pharmaceutical companies have effectively created a market for their products. 

I'm not much in to conspiracy theories, but I feel like I could write a sinister science fiction book about what goes on with pharmaceutical companies, economics, and politics. Here's what my book would be about: The food that the federal government subsidizes with our tax money happens to make us sick (corn, wheat, soy, veg oils), and then they tell us to eat it by making the "food pyramid", effectively institutionalizing poor nutrition. We eat the foods, get sick, and pharmaceutical companies sell us the drugs that supposedly cure these problems. As more people are at higher risk for getting sick, health insurance becomes a necessary service. Insurance companies will only pay for pharmaceuticals and surgeries, no prevention or diet based medicine there either... its a scary scenario. 

Not to mention that almost all of these problems can be avoided through a healthy diet and lifestyle in the first place. 

Pfizer on Wikileaks.
Unless you've been hiding in a cave, you've probably read about wikileaks in the news lately. Today a new development from the cables- Apparently the details of Pfizer's practices in Nigeria are getting out. In an article from the Guardian, "WikiLeaks cables: Pfizer 'used dirty tricks to avoid clinical trial payout", the US embassy cables reveal that some of the pharmaceutical giant's business practices aren't to wholesome. 

In 1996 Pfizer was sued by Nigerian state and Federal authorities for the deaths that occurred due to an antibiotic Pfizer developed and used in clinical trials in Nigeria. Last year Pfizer came to a tentative $75 million dollar settlement, but apparently didn't want to pay out the two cases- one civil and one criminal. 

So what does Pfizer do to get out of paying the settlement? They hire private investigators to uncover corruption links to the local Attorney General, and then start feeding the information to local media outlets. 
The cable, classified confidential by economic counsellor Robert Tansey, continues: "A series of damaging articles detailing Aondoakaa's 'alleged' corruption ties were published in February and March. Liggeri contended that Pfizer had much more damaging information on Aondoakaa and that Aondoakaa's cronies were pressuring him to drop the suit for fear of further negative articles."
In short, Pfizer basically blackmailed Nigerian Government officials in to dropping the settlement payments for the deaths caused by Pfizer's clinical trials. 

Does this inspire confidence in our pharmaceutical corporations?  

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Fat Head documentary

Order the DVD
Fat Head.
Just watched this documentary. It is a really excellent investigative look in to how and why the low-fat theory of nutrition became dogma.

From the movie description:
"Have you seen the news stories about the obesity epidemic? Did you see Super Size Me ? Then guess what ... You've been fed a load of bologna. Comedian and former health writer Tom Naughton replies to the Super Size Me crowd by losing weight on a fat-laden fast-food diet including plenty of double quarter-pounders and fried chicken while demonstrating that nearly everything we've been told about obesity and healthy eating is wrong. Fat Head features humorous animations as well as informative interviews with doctors, nutritionists, and political scientists."
The full length film is available to watch free here: Fat Head Movie

So for the people who watch this or have already seen it, what do you think? Leave your comments below.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Preventing Fatty Liver

Fatty Liver II.
A couple weeks ago I wrote a little bit about how children as young as five years old are getting Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) and discussed how fructose appears to be a causative factor (not the only one). It's kind of an important issue considering that as many as 100 million Americans probably have some stage of fatty liver disease.

Chris Masterjohn just published an article on his blog, The Daily Lipid, looking in to the research on what actually causes fatty liver. It's a bit technical, but the information is simply fantastic. In fact, Chris' work in general is some of the best there is on nutrition and health, and I highly recommend his blog. Anyway, I suggest you read his full analysis here, but I'll give a quick summary of his findings. 

Sugar, fat, alcohol and choline. 
In his review of the literature the evidence shows that alcohol, fat, and sugar/fructose intake ALL contribute to fatty liver, but only in the presence of a choline deficiency. It appears that a deficiency of choline impairs the ability of the liver to export the fat it creates from alcohol, fat, or sugar, effectively trapping it in the liver and leading to fatty liver disease. Adequate choline intake prevents this pathogenesis, even in the presence of sugar, fat, or alcohol. Chris wraps it up nicely here:
I have to conclude from all these studies that choline deficiency plays a role in virtually every type of diet-induced fatty liver model. The fat has to be provided to the liver through either dietary fat or dietary lipogenic substrates like ethanol and fructose, and the fat has to be trapped by impaired export of fats from the liver. And choline deficiency seems to be the preeminent cause of this.

Take home points.
  • Fatty liver needs a choline deficiency to develop.
  • Make sure you are getting adequate amounts of choline in your diet, especially if you are consuming large amounts of alcohol, fat, or sugar.
  • The best food sources of choline are... Egg yolks and liver! Yum!
Any thoughts?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

ADA is coming around? Low fat diets increase heart disease risk

Today a report from the recent American Dietetic Association (ADA) conference was released with several experts reporting that replacing saturated fat with carbohydrates in the diet probably increases heart disease risk. Maybe this will be the straw that breaks the camel's back... 

Here's the report- thanks to Jamie at Primal Muse for pointing this out. 

Low fat diets could increase heart disease risk, say nutrition experts

By Caroline Scott-Thomas, 16-Nov-2010
Related topics: Fats & oils

Many Americans aim to eat low-fat foods but there is strong evidence that replacing fat with carbohydrates could be harmful to health, according to nutrition experts at the ADA conference in Boston last week.

Recommendations to reduce saturated fat intake are largely based on the notion that high levels increase risk of cardiovascular disease, but unless saturated fat is replaced with other fats, many studies have suggested that fat reduction could increase risk of heart disease.
During a symposium called “The Great Fat Debate: Is There Validity In the Age-Old Dietary Guidance?” at the American Dietetic Association’s (ADA) Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo, four leading experts presented evidence suggesting that low fat diets may be less healthy than those containing at least a moderate amount of fat. In particular, all four agreed that replacing saturated fat with carbohydrates – as has been widely recommended in the United States – is likely to raise the risk of cardiovascular disease.
The low fat message
Director of the cardiovascular health laboratory at Tufts University Dr. Alice Lichtenstein said dietary advice to adhere to a low fat diet is based on an oversimplification of recommendations.
“The emphasis should be on displacing saturated fat and trans fat with unsaturated fat because that is where the data is,” she said. “…‘Displace saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat’ was simplified to ‘low fat’. Then ‘low fat’ became ‘low calorie’. The low fat message is still very pervasive, especially in the lay press.”
‘Massive distraction’
Chair of the Harvard School of Public Health’s nutrition department Dr. Walter Willett takes this even further.
“If anything, the literature shows a slight advantage of the high fat diet,” he said. “The focus on fat in dietary guidelines has been a massive distraction…We should remove total fat from nutrition facts panels on the back of packs.”
He added that while the pervasive dietary guidance given to consumers has been to eat fats sparingly, to load up on starch and eat non-fat products, “the food industry quickly realized sugar was cheaper than fat and laughed all the way to the bank.”
“It was really the type of fat that was important,” he said. “If you replaced saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat there was a reduction of risk.”
American eating behavior
Meanwhile, distinguished professor of public health and professor of epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health, Dr. Lewis Kuller, said that dietary guidance to reduce saturated fat should not change, considering that too much of the fat in the American diet is saturated and not enough is unsaturated.
“The biggest problem in America at the moment is eating behavior,” he said. “…Eating is a social pleasure and not a therapeutic challenge. We have done a great job of confusing the public.”
The importance of overall diet
Assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School Dr. Mozaffarian agreed with the other speakers about a lack of evidence linking total fat consumption and cardiovascular disease risk.
High levels of low density lipoprotein (LDL cholesterol) and high triglyceride levels have both been linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease, but Mozaffarian said there has often been overreliance on single biomarkers in drawing conclusions about fats’ impact on heart health, “even one as hallowed as LDL cholesterol”.
“Overall dietary quality is very important for cardiovascular risk,” he said. “Saturated fats may raise LDL cholesterol but increasing levels of all fats lowers triglycerides…You can’t look at data across countries and draw conclusions. Nor can you look at animal studies or a single biomarker and draw conclusions from that.”
Concluding the discussion, Dr. Lichtenstein warned against focusing on single nutrients for disease risk reduction.
She said: “We need to stop focusing on individual dietary components because when one goes down, another goes up.”

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Cognitive dissonance in government institutions

The System.
Jamie Scott runs a great blog called Primal Muse and writes articles on evolutionary medicine and nutrition. In this post, he displays a correspondence between himself and "Dr Doug Lush - Principle Advisor on Human Health and having held previous positions with the Ministry of Health and the New Zealand Heart Foundation".

Cognitive Dissonance.
The exchange is about the conflict between evolutionary nutrition principles and government/institutional recommendations. Despite being in New Zealand's system, it's incredibly applicable to our own predicament in the United States. Jamie writes and awesome letter and "attached a meta-analysis that spanned 21 studies and ~350000 subjects, and a Cochrane Collaboration report" to back up his stance, after which the former government official replies that his stance should be backed up by evidence based meta analysis and information from the Cochrane Collaboration... did he even read Jamie's email? The absurdity of this is killing me and I feel Jamie's frustration.

Check it out here:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Real Food 3: Chicken and Pork Taco Salad

Another quick and delicious lunch:

Chicken and Pork Taco Salad on Kale and Lettuce

Take some ground pork and ground chicken and throw it in the skillet with some mexican spices to start cooking. While the meat browns, chop up some Kale and Lettuce in to small strips. Chop a zucchini in to slices and throw it in to finish cooking with the meat. When the meat and zucchini is done, just throw your kale and lettuce in the bottom of a bowl and serve the meat mixture on top of it. I also mixed in some chili-garlic sauce for some heat. Heres the final product:

click for full size

Monday, October 18, 2010

Real Food 2: Squash, pork, veggies

My post-workout meal for today. Practice was: bounding exercises, followed by bleacher sprints, then 6 x 100m hill sprints out in the forest. After catching my breath and suppressing the strong urge to empty the contents of my stomach on to the base of a Redwood tree I was kind of hungry so I came home and made this:

Butternut squash, pork sausage, and vegetables

Since I just completed a glycogen-depleting workout and will be strength training later today,  there is some extra carbs from squash in here. I took butternut squash, and sliced it very thin- about 1/4 inch and let it sizzle in some butter till it was crispy on the outside and cooked through. Meanwhile I cooked the organic pork sausage, scooped it out of the pan, then cooked the veggies in the pork fat. Veggies were green beans, summer squash, zucchini, and mushroom. 

click for full size

Real Food 1: Vegetables in butter, eggs, steak

I'm going to start posting some pictures of my culinary adventures. The food I make isn't always artistic looking, but I make sure that it always fulfills these standards:
  1. Tastes delicious
  2. Provides nutritious fuel
  3. Is cost effective
  4. Doesn't take too long to prepare

Vegetables Sautéed In Butter, Fried Eggs, Steak w/ Spices

This is today's breakfast. Took some green beans, a serrano pepper, handfull of mushrooms, a zucchini, and a sumer squash and sautéed everything in 4 tbsp of melted butter. After those were done, I fried 3 eggs in the remaining butter, then took the eggs out and cooked the sliced up steak in the remaining fat with some mexican spices. Very easy, little prep work, and tastes delicious.

Click for full size

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The morning run

Gotta love it.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease in Kids

A disturbing conversation

While I was in the University Health Center for some routine blood work yesterday, I learned something interesting.

The doctor I talked with happened to be a national speaker on diabetes, which lead us in to a conversation on the nutritional treatment of diabetes. She mentioned how having her patients stop drinking sugar (soda, juice, sweet teas), had remarkably improved health with just this one change. I agreed, chiming in that the massive amounts of fructose and sugar must me wreaking havoc on their livers, as the liver is the only site where fructose can be processed. The next thing she told me blew my mind:

Many of the children she sees as early as 5 years old are developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Either we have some seriously negligent parents who are letting their kids start swigging vodka right after they get off breast milk, or little kids are eating way too much sugar!


Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease occurs when the liver is overloaded with more sugar than it can process. When this happens, the process of de novo lipogenesis starts - the conversion of carbohydrates in to "new fat", also known as triglycerides. As you may be aware, elevated triglycerides are not a good sign, and when this chronically happens at the liver, it can lead to hepatic cirrhosis (scarring of the liver).

The liver is a pretty important organ, if you know someone who's consuming tons of sugar, let them know that they are damaging it! The fact that we are seeing this in children as young as five is outrageous, as this condition is usually only seen in
diabetics or chronic alcoholics.

Recent studies

Research in the last 2 years (2,3) is showing that NAFLD is associated with increased mortality. A February 2010 Science Daily article reported on the new study that,
"findings suggest that for this study population, persistently elevated serum levels of liver enzymes was associated with an increased risk of death during the 28-year study period. Patients with NAFLD and NASH had a much higher risk of death than the general population but not as high a risk as for patients with chronic viral hepatitis or alcoholic liver disease."(1)
Apparently these findings are confirming what we already suspected: messing up your liver messes up your life. Decreased survival is not a good outcome...


Cut the soda, fruit juice, candy, and sugar out of your diet to live longer.

Update 11/23 : Preventing Fatty Liver


1. Wiley-Blackwell (2010, February 1). Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease associated with high mortality rates. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 2, 2010, from

2. Paul Angulo. Long-term mortality in NAFLD. Is liver histology of any prognostic significance? Hepatology, 2010; NA DOI: 10.1002/hep.23521

3. Cecilia Söderberg, Per Stål, Johan Askling, Hans Glaumann, Greger Lindberg, Joel Marmur, and Rolf Hultcrantz. Decreased survival of subjects with elevated liver function tests during a 28-year follow-up.Hepatology, 2009; n/a DOI: 10.1002/hep.23314

Friday, October 1, 2010

How I learn: From knowledge to application

"Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution" 
                -Theodosius Dobzhansky
Many of the topics that I discuss in this blog are controversial and do not have a clear cut answer. Some of the ideas conflict with conventional wisdom and institutional or government recommendations. The purpose of this post is to explain why and how these conclusions are attained.

Learning is a constant pursuit of knowledge; a persistent attempt to delve in to the true nature of an issue. My basic philosophy is that knowledge must be evidence-based. For this reason, my ideas are never static, they reflect the greatest preponderance of quality evidence available. As new evidence becomes available, my ideas will change and update. I am an epistemocrat, as defined by Nassim Taleb, "one who holds his own knowledge in the greatest suspicion".

Confirmation bias is "a tendency for people to favor information that confirms their preconceptions or hypotheses regardless of whether the information is true." The human brain will naturally want to believe things that are in accordance with what it already believes; it's own confirmation bias. We try to fit all new information in to the lens of our world view. Sometimes this provides a barrier to learning if we hold any belief too close to our core values. This is why I always seek out information that could possibly disprove the ideas I hold to be true. If you consistently fail to prove a well supported theory wrong, it strengthens it much more than if you are always looking for evidence to prove it right.

To really understand something, we must keep our minds open but think critically about everything we learn. Seeking new information is good; believing things without evidence is not. In the pursuit of knowledge we must understand systems and look through a systems thinking point of view: how does it fit in to the larger system? This method of learning contrasts the reductionist "nutritionism" that has dominated the field of health for several decades. As Michael Pollan describes it, "nutritionism" is assessing the qualities of nutrients in a vacuum, as opposed to assessing them based on how the interact together and with other systems". In real life, nutrients are not isolated from each other.

Thinking in systems provides a useful tool for explaining the behavior of a system and the function of a part of that system. The function of a system is often not revealed just by summing up the parts. For example, the different parts of a car interact to produce an effect that would not be evident by looking at each part individually. The performance of a system does not depend on the parts, it depends on how the parts interact with each other. The human body is the same way; the overall function of the system can not be explained by looking at each organ and structure, it has to be explained by looking at how the parts interact together to create an entirely new behavior. The human body is a complex network of systems within systems that all tie in together and are regulated by integrated feedback loops. Keeping this in mind while studying health is very important. Small changes have effects on multiple body systems.

An example of how reductionist thinking can cause harm: Statins, the most profitable drug in the world work by blocking the rate-limiting enzyme for cholesterol in the liver and all extra-hepatic tissues (brain, adrenal glands, reproductive organs). This effectively reduces cholesterol levels; unfortunately they systemic effects are often ignored by doctors:
"Statin use was associated with... increased risks of moderate or serious liver dysfunction, acute renal failure, moderate or serious myopathy, and cataract. Adverse effects were similar across statin types for each outcome except liver dysfunction where risks were highest for fluvastatin." (1)
So where statins do reduce cholesterol (and have a small effect on cardiac risk in very specific disease population), they also cause systemic problems associated with these reductions. See how reductionism can get us in trouble?

When looking at health and exercise, my strategy for finding the nature of an issue is to look at it through the scope of different disciplines, and see how they integrate in to a whole. Looking at the evidence from just one discipline can be misleading at times, you must integrate it in to a general theory of how the systems work together. In health I look at the evidence from evolution, physiology, biochemistry, epidemiology, anthropology, clinical studies, and individual case studies. This is how I evaluate all information; based on how it fits in with other knowledge.

The ultimate proving ground is the real world; what works in real life. In the end, we always see if the application of information creates real world results.


1Unintended effects of statins in men and women in England and Wales: population based cohort study
    using the QResearch database. Julia Hippisley-Cox, Carol Coupland
    BMJ 340:doi:10.1136/bmj.c2197 (Published 20 May 2010)
         Full Text:

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

New study: Omega 6, epigenetics, and obesity

Standard American Diet

The Standard American Diet (SAD) tends to be very high in linoleic acid (LA), the main polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) in vegetable, grain, and seed oils. Over the last several decades a phobia of animal fats has lead food manufacturers and health authorities to replace naturally occurring animal fats with industrially processed vegetable oils in many foods. This in turn has resulted in a massive increase in omega 6 intake in humans compared to pre-industrial populations. Now research is being done that implicates omega 6's in multi-generational obesity. 

Not meant for human consumption?

Recent research has shown that a high intake of omega 6 fatty acids (polyunsaturated) causes epigenetic changes in populations increasing the risk of obesity in later generations.

A new study (1), has shown that mice exposed to a diet high in LA and low in ALA (omega 3), similar to the american diet, changes gene expression in a way that increases the prevalence of obesity. 

"To perform their experiments, the researchers exposed four generations of mice to a Western-style diet, characterized by these same omega 6/omega 3 ratios. As a result, they saw a gradual increase in fat mass over several generations. They also observed the onset of metabolic disorders such as insulin resistance, which is the first step in the development of type 2 diabetes and a stimulation of the expression of the inflammatory genes involved in obesity." (2)

In industrialized countries, the amount of ingested omega 6 has shot off the charts, increasing by 240% over the last 40 years (2). During this same period there has been a steady rise in obesity throughout multiple generations. It is now thought that this decrease in omega 3's and increase in omega 6's has serious long term effects on human health, bringing in to question the recommendation of replacing other fats (saturated) with omega 6's in the diet. 

Surprising, but not really

The recent research in to omega 6 fats goes against conventional wisdom on dietary fats, but in retrospect the poor health outcomes related to high omega 6 are not that surprising. Agriculture was developed about 10,000 years ago, and the industrial processing to render vegetable oils (omega 6) only became widely available within the last 50 years. Humans have been evolving for 2.5 million years. This means that high concentrations of grains and vegetable oils in the diet have only been possible for  .4% and .002% of our evolutionary history respectively. This is certainly not enough to permit sufficient evolutionary adaptation and it is not surprising that introducing massive amounts of these foods never seen before can negatively affect human health. 

The bottom line

The take home concept from this study is that if your grandfather ate large amounts of vegetable oil, it increases the chance that you will develop obesity. Ditch the industrially processed vegetable oils from the diet. Corn, canola, soy, and sunflower oil are destructive to humans in a variety of ways which I will be discussing in future posts.


1. Massiera et al. A Western-like fat diet is sufficient to induce a gradual enhancement in fat mass over generations. The Journal of Lipid Research, 2010; 51 (8): 2352 DOI: 10.1194/jlr.M006866

2. CNRS (2010, July 27). Excessive intake of omega 6 and deficiencies in omega 3 induce obesity down the generations. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 15, 2010, from