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: