Archive for September, 2010

A couple of studies caught my eye recently. When I opened our local newspaper this morning, I saw this headline over a short article:

Exercise cuts womb cancer risk

Women who regularly work up a sweat exercising have a 30 percent lower risk of developing endometrial cancer, a new study says.

Researchers at the United States’ National Cancer Institute analyzed 14 previous studies and found physical activity cuts the risk of endometrial cancer by 20 to 40 percent when compared to sedentary women. The study was published online Wednesday in the British Journal of Cancer. It was paid for by the National Cancer Institute.

“We already knew that maintaining a healthy body weight is an important way to reduce the risk of womb cancer, but our study showed that physical activity has a protective effects of its own,” said study author Steven Moore of the National Cancer Institute.

I exercise regularly and believe exercise is good for your overall health, but with all due respect to Dr. Moore, his study does NOT show that physical activity protects against cancer.  All it shows is that women who exercise are also less likely to develop endometrial cancer.  That’s an important distinction, and one that far too many researchers and health reporters don’t understand.

I looked up the full text of the study and, as I suspected, the previous studies Moore’s team analyzed were all observational studies.  The trouble with observational studies is that while the correlations researchers find in them may sometimes point to cause and effect, very often they’re simply the result of comparing different kinds of people.

Perhaps you recall the estrogen fiasco.  Examining data from the Harvard Nurses Study, researchers found that post-menopausal nurses who took estrogen had a lower rate of heart disease.  Based on that finding, doctors were ready to start prescribing estrogen to every middle-aged women in the country.  Just one little problem:  when estrogen was tested in a controlled clinical study, the women who took it ended up with a higher rate of heart disease, not lower.  Same thing happened in a clinical study with men.

As it turned out, the nurses who took estrogen were simply more health-conscious than most other nurses and were taking estrogen because they believed it was good for them — not because it actually was (at least for heart health). Health-conscious people are different. They exercise more, eat less sugar and other junk food, make sure they get enough sleep, take their vitamins, are less likely to smoke or drink alcohol to excess, and more likely to see a doctor if something doesn’t seem quite right with their health.  Estrogen wasn’t making nurses healthy … healthy nurses were taking estrogen.

We could be seeing the same phenomenon here.  Exercise may, for all we know, help to prevent endometrial cancer.  Or it could simply be that health-conscious women — who engage in host of healthier behaviors that help prevent cancer — are also more likely to exercise.  The point is, this study doesn’t tell us diddly about cause and effect.

In the full text, the authors explain that they examined the previous studies to determine rates of sedentary behavior — which, in a rare case of clarity for an academic paper, they describe as “too much sitting.”  They found a positive correlation between too much sitting and developing cancer.  They also found a negative correlation between moderate-to-vigorous exercise and cancer … in other words, more exercise, less cancer.  They speculate that since obese people have a higher cancer rate, exercise may prevent cancer in part by preventing obesity.

I sincerely doubt that.  First off, as research has shown over and over, exercise has a minimal effect on controlling weight.  Secondly, I think they’ve got the equation backwards.  We don’t become fat because of “too much sitting” — we sit around too much because our bodies are accumulating fat, thus storing the fuel that would otherwise be burned, compelling us to move around more.

In a recent interview with Jimmy Moore, Dr. Robert Lustig recounted how kids given certain cancer treatments gained weight and became sedentary afterwards.  Lustig suspected the treatments had somehow screwed up their insulin levels.  When he gave them an insulin-suppressing drug, they not only lost weight, their parents reported they became much more active — without being encouraged to do so.  With their insulin levels down, their bodies were no longer storing fuel and wanted to burn it.

Sugar and fructose tell our bodies to store fat.  Going into fat-storage mode makes us feel lethargic and lazy.  Sugar and fructose are also cancer’s favorite foods.

So it doesn’t surprise me that people who engage in “too much sitting” are more likely to develop cancer.  But I doubt sitting around is the cause, or that exercise is the cure.  I think it’s more likely sugar is the cause, sitting around is a related symptom, and cutting sugar is the cure … or at least the best prevention.

This study came to me in an email:

Antagonistic people have increased cardiovascular risk

Antagonistic people, particularly those who are competitive and aggressive, could be increasing their risk of MI or stroke, new research indicates.

Studying more than 5000 people in Sardinia, Italy, US scientists found that those who scored high for antagonistic traits on a standard personality test had greater thickening of the carotid arteries on ultrasound compared with people who were more agreeable. Intima-media thickness of the carotid artery is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular events, say Dr Angelina R. Sutin and colleagues in their paper published online August 16, 2010 in Hypertension.

“We found that although men tended to have thicker arterial walls than women, antagonistic women had arterial walls similar to that of antagonistic men,” Sutin told heartwire. “So the association between antagonism and arterial thickness was much stronger for women.” And although arterial thickening is a sign of aging, young people with antagonistic traits already had such thickening, even after controlling for confounding factors such as smoking, she said.

She cautions, however, that this was a population-based sample and more research needs to be done in clinical settings.

Kudos to Dr. Sutin for exercising caution.  Associations don’t prove anything.  Their purpose is to suggest hypotheses for clinical research, not to serve as evidence for conclusions.

I have to admit, as a survivor of the Los Angeles freeway battle zones, I kind of like believing that the tail-gaiting, bird-flipping, I’m-more-important-than-you drivers I dealt with were thickening their arteries every time they made another dare-devil lane change.  (If you’ve never driven in Los Angeles, a significant portion of the drivers believe if they conduct a dozen death-defying maneuvers every minute or so, they’ll eventually discover the secret fast lane.)

However, I doubt aggressive behavior or even having an antagonistic personality causes heart disease in and of itself.  I suspect those people are just wired a little differently.  Perhaps they pump out a lot more stress hormones, which causes aggressive behavior and damages their arteries at the same time.

One of the most antagonist people I ever met was a young manager at a comedy club.  His favorite motivational technique was yelling at the top of his lungs.  As you might imagine, he wasn’t beloved by the staff.  I found out later he died of a heart attack at age 26.  I didn’t like the guy, but I was sorry to hear about his demise.  The punishment seemed to vastly outweigh the crime.

To close on a lighter note, a reader sent me a link to this picture.  Apparently the Modest Proposal I posted earlier in the week (let’s consume vegetarians for food and save the planet) is already being put into action.

I never considered storing them in the pantry … although CAN VEGETARIANS could be taken more than one way.

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A writer for the New York Times recently put forth an interesting proposal:  engineering carnivores out of existence so animals in the wild won’t be killed by other animals.

Wherever there is animal life, predators are stalking, chasing, capturing, killing, and devouring their prey. Agonized suffering and violent death are ubiquitous and continuous.

If I had been in a position to design and create a world, I would have tried to arrange for all conscious individuals to be able to survive without tormenting and killing other conscious individuals. I hope most other people would have done the same.

After quoting the famous verses from Isaiah describing a heavenly future where the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down the kid, and the calf and the young lion will declare themselves best friends forever on Facebook, the writer lays out his own possible future here on earth:

To be entitled to regard ourselves as civilized, we must, like Isaiah’s morally reformed lion, eat straw like the ox, or at least the moral equivalent of straw.

If we could arrange the gradual extinction of carnivorous species, replacing them with new herbivorous ones, ought we to do it? Suppose that we could arrange the gradual extinction of carnivorous species, replacing them with new herbivorous ones. Or suppose that we could intervene genetically, so that currently carnivorous species would gradually evolve into herbivorous ones, thereby fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy. If we could bring about the end of predation by one or the other of these means at little cost to ourselves, ought we to do it?

To his credit, the writer admits engineering a world without predators could have unintended consequences, such as overpopulation among the herbivores, followed by starvation.  He also acknowledges that some nature-lovers would object to the intentional extinction of any species — even blood-thirsty carnivores.  But then he makes his crucial point:  when the good of the world is at stake, no single species is sacrosanct. If some must die off so others can live, so be it.

After reading the essay, I considered it for a long time — especially that last crucial point.  With my mental gears oiled by deep thinking, I soon came up with my own proposal for improving the world.

A Modest Proposal
by Tom Naughton

It is a melancholy sight to those who travel this great world to see the streets crowded with beggars, followed by three or four or six children all in rags.  Unable to work for an honest livelihood, they are forced to beg sustenance for their helpless infants who, as they grow up, either become thieves or leave home to fight for the current warlord.

I think it is agreed by all parties that this prodigious number of people has led to a deplorable destruction of the planet, as the need for producing an ever-greater food supply has taken its toll in the form of over-farming, over-fertilizing, and over-irrigating; and therefore whoever could find a cheap and easy method of either reducing the worldwide requirement for food, or increasing the supply without further environmental damage, would deserve so well of the public as to have his statue set up as Preserver of the Planet.

I shall now therefore humbly propose my own thoughts, which I hope shall meet with the least objection.

The number of souls currently living in this country is said to be 300 million, of which I calculate there are about 21 million vegetarians.  While it is claimed by health experts that this group is leaner than others, even the most conservative estimates put the average weight of an adult vegetarian at well over 130 pounds.

I have been assured by a very knowing explorer that a healthy vegetarian is a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked or boiled; and I make no doubt that one will equally serve in a fricassee or stir-fry.  Therefore I offer, for public consideration, that is time for the carnivorous people of the planet to consume the vegetarians for sustenance.

The advantages of the proposal are obvious and many, and of the highest importance.

Firstly, it would greatly lessen the number of Plantists, with whom we are currently overrun.  As anyone who produces written works centered on carbohydrate restriction or Paleolithic nutrition can attest, Plantists are our most self-righteous and hostile enemies, constantly showing up unannounced and uninvited, and plotting to take over through devious and dishonest methods of conversion.  With the institution of my proposal, carnivores could defend against attacks upon their dietary choices by replying, “Those are some interesting theories, but require further explanation.  Please stop by this address tomorrow evening, and I’ll have you for dinner.”

Secondly, it would ease the strain on the world’s scarce resources through both direct and indirect reductions in the population.  The direct reduction would occur as the result of re-purposing vegetarians as steaks, chops, hams, filets, and other protein-rich meals.  The indirect reduction would occur for the simple reason that vegetarians are disproportionately represented among those who are young and passionate, and therefore prone to reproduce.  A direct reduction by two now could therefore result in an indirect reduction of 16 or 20 over subsequent decades.

Thirdly, it would greatly reduce the economic barriers to providing a high-quality, protein-rich diet for the masses.  Plantists have frequently criticized the resources used and expenses incurred in raising cattle for beef.  By contrast, vegetarians would provide the unique advantage of raising themselves, at their own expense, until they are ready for consumption.  Thus they would reduce the cost of meals for carnivores both by providing an inexpensive source of complete protein, and by reducing the overall demand, and therefore the price, for beef, chicken, and pork.  A surplus of those products would likely follow, which would encourage producers in the United States to offer them as cheap exports to starving people overseas.

Fourthly, it would reduce unemployment by regularly removing a significant portion of the adult workforce from the population, and by encouraging carnivores to hire vegetarians for domestic positions, albeit on a temporary basis.

Fifthly, it would reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by creating an ever-growing supply of inexpensive, pre-owned hybrid automobiles, such as the Prius and Smart Car.

Sixthly, it would provide a renewed source of entertainment to the sporting classes.  In regions where the deer, quail, and pheasant populations have dwindled, the hunting grounds could be re-stocked annually with vegetarians.

Seventhly, and most importantly, it would lead to an improvement in the nation’s overall health, with a concomitant reduction in medical costs.  Plantists have pointed out for years that vegetarians are the healthiest people in the world because of their exclusively plant-based diets.  By extension, vegetarians themselves would also make some of the most nutritious meals.  Carnivores who refuse to give up fatty meats and eat their vegetables would likely relish the opportunity to eat low-fat, low-cholesterol vegetarians as an alternative.  Instead of guiltily avoiding eye contact with the vegetarian section of restaurant menus, they would eagerly seek out the latest creations, such as Sam Chowder, Eggs with Benedict, McDougall with Cheese, Oz and Onion Omelet, Vegetarian Liver with Fava Beans and a Nice Chianti, or (sure to be a hit) T. Colin Campbell soup.

I am aware that some will raise objections to this proposal; the most likely being that consuming vegetarians for food is immoral.  This has already been refuted by an influential and highly intellectual writer the New York Times, who pointed out that when the good of the planet is at stake, no species is sacrosanct.  It has also been refuted by the most passionate Plantists themselves, who have stated countless times that a pig, a frog and a boy are metaphysically equal.  If you ask a sincere Plantist, “I’m going to broil either you or that pig over there … do you have an opinion about that?” the only honest answer could be, “Morally, it doesn’t make any difference.”

Another objection I anticipate is that it would be unfair to consume only the vegetarians among us.  This objection, however, is flawed on two counts.  Firstly, since the Plantists have spent so many years explaining that humans who eat meat are polluting their bodies, carnivorous humans cannot possibly be fit for human consumption.  Secondly, no matter how nutritious a food may be, it will never become a significant part of the nation’s diet unless it is palatable.  As countless bumper-stickers have informed us, vegetarians taste better.

In closing, I profess that I bear no animosity towards vegetarians, and have no personal interest in promoting this proposal.  My only concern is for the good of the public and the planet.

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I was disappointed to learn that my home state of Tennessee is jumping on the “government must prevent obesity” bandwagon by instituting a new program called Eat Well, Play More Tennessee

The title pretty much says it all:  the state is going to tell us what to eat and encourage us to exercise more.  Man, it’s inspiring to see government officials thinking outside the box.

The program’s home page states This plan is closely associated with the Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity Program of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  I’m guessing “closely associated” means the state program is funded by a federal grant.  It may even part of the “stimulus” package or the health-care “reform” bill … hard to say, since nobody in Congress actually read either one.

If the funding didn’t come from the feds, the advice certainly does.  One of the documents featured on the site is a list of anti-obesity strategies produced by the CDC.  Here’s a paragraph from the Methods section:

The Measures Project Team completed a full review of 94 articles and seven seminal documents, resulting in the identification of 791 potential obesity prevention strategies. Similar and overlapping strategies were collapsed, resulting in a final total of 179 environmental or policy-level strategies for obesity prevention.

Well, that boosts my confidence already.  If the CDC is promoting 179 separate anti-obesity strategies, there’s an outside chance one of them might work.  The trouble with offering a simple solution (such as admitting that sugar and refined carbohydrates are fattening and ceasing to subsidize them) is that if it fails, you don’t have 178 back-up plans.

Another document featured on the site is the Surgeon General’s Vision For a Healthy and Fit Nation.  This one is also full of bold new strategies, such as:

  • Choose low-fat foods
  • Eat more whole grains
  • Become more physically active

The Surgeon General’s report opens by explaining that while obesity rates were low and stable during the 1960s and 1970s, they began to skyrocket over the next two decades.  I can’t help but wonder if the committee members who produce these reports ever engage in conversations along the lines of:

“In closing, Mr. Chairman, the data demonstrates that obesity began to rise around 1980.”

“I see.  And what can we do about it?”

“We recommend implementing programs to convince the public to consume less fat and more whole grains.”

“And this is a new strategy?”

“No.  We put it in place around 1980.”

Naturally, the new state program calls for getting the schools involved.  The recommendations include placing a nutrition counselor at every school and requiring teachers to take nutrition classes.

I can see how that will make a big difference.  Look at the current situation: kids leave the classroom for the school cafeteria, where they’re served meals dictated by federal guidelines … teeny portions of protein with sides of mashed potatoes, noodles, rolls, peaches in syrup, and boxes of apple juice.  Amazingly, those foods haven’t produced thinner kids.

After years of research, the state pinpointed the reason:  the teachers don’t understand why kids need mashed potatoes, noodles, rolls, peaches in syrup, and boxes of apple juice.  Educate the classroom teachers, and the federal guidelines enforced in the cafeterias will finally work.

Germany, perhaps not surprisingly, is considering a somewhat more punitive means of dealing with fat people:  slap higher taxes on them:

Marco Wanderwitz, a conservative member of parliament for the German state of Saxony, said it is unfair and unsustainable for the taxpayer to carry the entire cost of treating obesity-related illnesses in the public health system.

“I think that it would be sensible if those who deliberately lead unhealthy lives would be held financially accountable for that,” Wanderwitz said, according to Reuters.

It’s nice to know the deep thoughts of MeMe Roth are finally gaining a following in Europe.

Others are suggesting even more extreme measures.  The German teachers association recently called for school kids to be weighed each day, The Daily Telegraph said.  The fat kids could then be reported to social services, who could send them to health clinics.

Given the country’s history, let’s hope sending the inferior people off to “clinics” strikes most Germans as a very bad idea.

The state of Michigan helped its citizens to become leaner and healthier this year, too.  How?  By encouraging them to give up meat for a day.  The resolution is fascinating; I’ve never heard vegan propaganda translated into legalese before:

Whereas, A wholesome diet of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains promotes good health and reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and other chronic diseases, which take the lives of approximately 1.3 million Americans each year; and,

Whereas, The number of those who choose to live the lifestyle of a vegan or vegetarian has increased and so has the availability and selection of meat and dairy alternatives in mainstream grocery stores, restaurants, and catering operations; and,

Whereas, Reducing the consumption of meat or not eating meat at all can significantly decrease the exposure to infectious pathogens such as salmonella, E. coli, and campylobacter, which take the lives of several thousand Americans and sicken millions more each year; and,

Whereas, The benefits of a plant-based diet can consist of increased energy levels, lower food budget costs, and simplified food preparation and cleanup; and,

Whereas, It is encouraged that the residents of this state get into the habit of healthy living by consuming a diet that is rich with vegetables, fruit, and whole grains, and by staying active;

Now, Therefore, be it Resolved, That I, Jennifer M. Granholm, governor of the state of Michigan, do hereby proclaim March 20, 2010, Michigan Meatout Day in Michigan. In observance of this day, I encourage the residents of this state to choose not to eat meat.

I love it.  It’s nearly as silly as the opening speech in Monty Python’s sketch The Royal Society For Putting Things On Top of Other Things.

Speaking of silly people across the pond, Scotland has decided it can cure obesity by ordering restaurants to serve smaller portions:

The SNP administration at Holyrood said it will ask chefs to reduce the calorific content of their meals, but warned legislation will follow if they fail to make “sufficient” progress.

The strategy argues an interventionist stance is required by the state because people will not sufficiently change their eating and exercise habits of their own free will.

Riiiiiight.  But if you force the restaurants to serve smaller meals, then people will lose weight.  I mean, it’s not as if they’ll go home and say, “Aaaacchhh!  That damned little meal!  Step aside, I’m fryin’ up a pan of chips.”

Shona Robison, Scottish public health minister, said: “No country in the world has successfully addressed obesity and we want Scotland to be the first.

Now that statement shows some amazing stupi–  uh … confidence.  No government in the world has successfully addressed obesity, but Shona Robinson has it all figured out.  And here I thought the obvious conclusion is that government anti-obesity plans don’t work.

Or perhaps government programs need a more direct approach, like the one suggested by an official in Britain:

Doctors should stop mincing their words and tell the overweight they are fat, the public health minister has said. Anne Milton called on the NHS to ban terms such as “obese” because they do not have the same emotional impact.

The former nurse said larger people were less likely to bother to try to lose weight if they were told they were obese or overweight than if the doctor was blunt and said they were “fat.”

Mrs Milton told the BBC that it was important people took “personal responsibility” for their lifestyles. Speaking in a personal capacity, the public health minister said: ‘If I look in the mirror and think I am obese I think I am less worried than if I think I am fat.’

“How’s my health, doctor?”

“I’m sorry to break this to you, but … well, you’re fat.”

“What?!  No way!  I looked in the mirror this morning.  I’m not fat; I’m just obese!”

“No, I’m sorry, but you’re fat.  Really, really, really fat.”

“I’ll be damned.  Now I feel personally responsible.”

By the way, the picture you see to the left is of Mrs. Milton.  Someone needs to tell her she’s fat.  She clearly hasn’t been informed.

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I received this comment from a Maori in New Zealand.  I know this  blog has a following in New Zealand, so I’m posting the comment here to ensure all you Kiwis see it.

I commented earlier in the year about how I’d started a new low carb, high fat diet after watching Fat Head on skytv in New Zealand.  Anyway, an update: I’ve lost 24 kg very safely and enjoyably… but the best news is that my asthma and gout have also disappeared.  I partially attribute this to inflammatory consequences of wheat.

I am a NZ Maori (we were colonised only 150 yrs ago — and existed without grains or monocotyledons) and I have a particular interest in this subject since our people (along with other pacific islanders) are over represented in metabolic syndrome mortality rates (cardio vascular, obesity, diabetes). There is also very compelling research by joint US and NZ researchers whom I have contacted who have drawn links between gout and fructose (corn syrup especially).  Eliminate fructose … eliminate gout.  I can tell you that prominent rheumatologists in NZ are very nterested in understanding the link between carb and gout because gout is a ’sentinel’ disease that can indicate metabolic syndrome in Maori before it becomes a problem.

Your information has sparked a movement (not-for-profit) here in Auckland and we plan to implement programmes that support the low carb truth. The good news Is that although the NZ gov’t still subscribes to the US food pyramid model, there are doctors and researchers here who support our theories.

If you could publish my email address in case other Kiwis want to support this cause or need help, I’d appeciate it.

Rhys Coffin
rhys@internetnewzealand.com

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Last week I posted an on-line debate between me and someone who is, I believe, a nutritionist. Most of the debate was over grains, which she insists we need as part of a balanced diet. (Note: Sorry if this seems sexist, but I’m assuming the nutritionist is a she, since the vast majority of dieticians and nutritionists I’ve seen quoted in the media are women. I don’t like writing sentences of full of awkward “he or she” and “him or her” phrases, so I’m going with she.)

I asked her to explain the scientific basis for her belief that we need grains but never received a reply, other than further insistence that we need them — especially those oh-so-wonderful whole grains. I suggested she find and read Dr. Loren Cordain’s paper on grains, lectins and diseases … which I seriously doubt she did, since learning that grains are bad news could cause her head to explode.

Cordain’s paper, titled Cereal Grains: Humanity’s Double-Edged Sword, isn’t an easy read — some of the biochemistry can make your head swim — but it’s worth the effort.  I first read it after Fat Head was already in the can, which is why (to answer a question some people have asked) I didn’t quote Cordain in the film or ask for an interview.  After reading the paper, I finally understood why my vegetarian phase was such a disaster:  I was getting the bulk of my calories from grains and legumes.  Some humans may have adapted to those foods, but many (if not most) have not.

Below are some quotes from the paper, with my comments.

For the vast majority of mankind’s presence on this planet, he rarely if ever consumed cereal grains. With the exception of the last 10,000 years following the agricultural ‘revolution’, humans have existed as non-cereal-eating hunter-gatherers since the emergence of Homo erectus 1.7 million years ago.

It is apparent that there is little or no evolutionary precedent in our species for grass seed consumption. Consequently, we have had little time (<500 generations) since the inception of the agricultural revolution 10,000 years ago to adapt to a food type which now represents humanity’s major source of both calories and protein. The sum of evidence indicates that the human genetic constitution has changed little in the past 40,000 years. The foods which were commonly available to pre-agricultural man were the foods which shaped modern man’s genetic nutritional requirements.

This is why it drives me nuts when nutritionists insist we “need” grains.  It makes zero biological sense.  According to Cordain, grains have been part of the human diet for roughly 0.4% of our existence. If 99.6% of my ancestors managed to live without them, why would I need them now?

Generally, in most parts of the world, whenever cereal-based diets were first adopted as a staple food replacing the primarily animal-based diets of hunter-gatherers, there was a characteristic reduction in stature, an increase in infant mortality, a reduction in lifespan, an increased incidence of infectious diseases, an increase in iron deficiency anemia, an increased incidence of osteomalacia, porotic hyperostosis and other bone mineral disorders and an increase in the number of dental caries and enamel defects.

So we became shorter and sicker, with reduced lifespans and bad teeth.  On the other hand, according to today’s nutritionists, switching to grains probably cured the type 2 diabetes problem among Paleolithic humans.

Consumption of high levels of whole grain cereal products impairs bone metabolism not only by limiting calcium intake, but by indirectly altering vitamin D metabolism. In animal studies it has been long recognized that excessive consumption of cereal grains can induce vitamin D deficiencies in a wide variety of animals including primates.

Consistent with populations from the fossil record showing a characteristic reduction in stature with the adoption of cereal-based agriculture, is the observation that present-day populations depending upon cereal grains for the bulk of their energy and protein also tend to be of short stature. Further, vegan and vegetarian children often fail to grow as well as their omnivorous cohorts despite apparently adequate intakes of amino acids and nitrogen.

Wait, that simply can’t be true … I just read an article published by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine that explains how feeding your kids a vegetarian diet is Raising Them Right From the Start.  I’m not going to be persuaded by actual evidence when it’s in competition with a catchy phrase.

Because primates evolved in the tropical forest, all of their potential plant food was derived from dicotyledonous species; therefore, the primate gut was initially adapted to both the nutritive and defensive components of dicotyledons rather than the nutritive and defense components of monocotyledonous cereal grains.

Consumption of monocotyledonous plant foods, particularly cereal grains, is a notable departure from the traditional plant foods consumed by the majority of primates. Consequently, humans, like all other primates, have had little evolutionary experience in developing resistance to secondary and anti-nutritional compounds which normally occur in cereal grains.

Don’t feel bad; I had to look ‘em up too.  From what I read online, grasses are monocotyledons and most other plants are dicotyledons.  Grains are grasses, and according to Cordain, humans haven’t been eating them long enough to build up much resistance to the anti-nutrients Mother Nature gave them as a means of warding off over-consumption by predators.

After several pages explaining how grains have replaced more nutrient-dense foods and may even block the absorption of nutrients we still manage to consume, Cordain begins to deal with effects of the anti-nutrients contained in grains. The worst anti-nutrients seem to be the lectins — which, by the way, are also found in legumes and are particularly high in soybeans.

Lectins are proteins that are widespread in the plant kingdom with the unique property of binding to carbohydrate-containing molecules, particularly toward the sugar component. They were originally identified by their ability to agglutinate (clump) erythrocytes which occurs because of the interaction of multiple binding sites on the lectin molecule with specific glycoconjugate receptors on the surface of the erythrocyte cell membranes. Because of this binding property, lectins can interact with a variety of other cells in the body and are recognized as the major anti-nutrient of food.

Of the eight commonly consumed cereal grains, lectin activity has been demonstrated in wheat, rye, barley, oats, corn, and rice but not in sorghum or millet. The biological activity of lectins found in cereal grains are similar because they are closely related to one another both structurally and immunologically. The best studied of the cereal grain lectins is wheat germ agglutinin (WGA), and the in vitro biological effects of WGA upon tissues and organs are astonishingly widespread. In his comprehensive review, Freed has shown that WGA can bind (in vitro) the following tissues and organs: alimentary tract (mouth, stomach, intestines), pancreas, musculoskeletal system, kidney, skin, nervous and myelin tissues, reproductive organs, and platelets and plasma proteins.

But … but … but … my college nutrition textbook says grains are good for us.  So, uh … lectins must bind to our alimentary tract, pancreas, musculoskeletal system, kidneys, skin and nervous system so we’ll never be without them!  (I don’t even want to think about lectins binding to my reproductive organs.)

Most food proteins entering the small intestine are fully degraded into their amino acid components and therefore do not pass intact into systemic circulation. However, it is increasingly being recognized that small quantities of dietary protein which escape digestive proteolytic breakdown can be systemically absorbed and presented by macrophages to competent lymphocytes of the immune system. Under normal circumstances, when the luminal concentrations of intact dietary proteins is low, absorbed proteins generally elicit a minimal allergic response because of the limiting influence of T-suppressor cells.

Because of their resistance to digestive, proteolytic breakdown, the luminal concentrations of lectins can be quite high, consequently their transport through the gut wall can exceed that of other dietary antigens by several orders of magnitude. Additionally, WGA and other lectins may facilitate the passage of undegraded dietary antigens into the systemic circulation by their ability to increase the permeability of the intestine. Consequently, dietary lectins represent powerful oral immunogens capable of eliciting specific and high antibody responses.

In other words, lectins can lead to leaky-gut syndrome.  They poke holes in your intestines, seep into your bloodstream and are carried throughout your body, which then must produce antibodies to attack them.  If that were the end of the story, it would be bad enough.  But that’s not the end of the story.  The amino-acid profile of lectins is similar to the amino-acid profile of many of your own tissues.  The result of what Cordain calls “molecular mimicry” isn’t pretty.

Autoimmune diseases occur when the body loses the ability to discriminate self proteins from nonself proteins. This loss of tolerance ultimately results in destruction of self tissues by the immune system.

So your body ends up attacking itself.  We already know grains cause celiac disease.  Based on both observational and clinical evidence (such as high concentrations of the antibodies produced when lectins seep into the bloodstream), it’s also likely that grains cause or aggravate ailments like these:

  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Dermatitis Herpetiformis
  • Insulin-Dependent Diabetes
  • Sjogren’s Syndrome
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Epilepsy
  • Schizophrenia

Based on my own experiences as well as countless emails and comments I’ve received, I’d add psoriasis, irritable bowel syndrome, asthma and chronic fatigue to that list.  And yet nutritionists are apparently taught in school that humans need grains to be healthy.  So they scurry off to the clinics and tell people to eat foods that can make them sick.

That’s why I don’t listen to nutritionists anymore.

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Google Alerts brought me another positive review of Fat Head today.  Apparently, somebody with a link to Amazon has been using a review that was translated from English to another language then back again.

Hey, good press is good press …

“Elephantine Head” is simultaneously a send-up of Morgan Spurlock’s “Supersize Me” and an expose’ on the status of nutrition “science”. Using humor and Pythonesque cartoons, Tom Naughton does a beneficial job of tipping many sacred cows on the topic of nutrition, showing how the government, media, and special interests combined to yield the new situation: people are eating what’s supposedly “healthy”, yet are developing metabolic diseases like diabetes at an alarming and increasing rate.

The core premise of the movie is to revisit “Supersize Me”, where Spurlock supposedly showed the evils of like a flash food by eating nothing but McDonald’s for a month. Spurlock gained 25 pounds, was issued a variety of dire health warnings by his doctor, etc. Naughton turns this understanding on it’s head: he also ate only fleet food for a month, but mature his “functioning brain”. Rather than honest blindly eating whatever was available, he avoided those foods which science has shown contribute to metabolic problems like obesity, including sodas, french fries, too powerful bread, etc.

The result? Eating nothing but double Titanic Macs and the like, he lost over 12 pounds in 28 days and his cholesterol went down. The expression on his doctor’s face alone is worth the ticket of the DVD.

“Beefy Head” is very laughable and discusses the science of chubby salvage and loss in an manner which is easily understood. My kids (8 and 4) watched it with me, and they “got it”. Glean a copy and section it with your friends and family.

This movie is silly and captivating and amazingly informative. It has so many pieces of useful advice that it’s hard to derive them all. Furthermore, it passes along this information in a method that got my wife’s attention in a device that I hadn’t been able to.

A year and a half ago I was 35 pounds overweight. I ate like the standard American. I finally decided to do something about it so I did some research on the Internet, trying to focus on the science-based research. Following the advice that I found, I lost that weight in 4 months and have kept it off ever since by continuing to follow the advice. This movie captured the basic concept of all that research: extreme tubby is awful for you, shameful cholesterol is worse than high cholesterol for most people, don’t eat high carb food.

He does the best job I’ve ever seen at disproving the lipid hypothesis which nearly every doctor and media outlet promote: 1) Eating high rotund foods give you high cholesterol. 2) High cholesterol leads to heart disease. Well, he makes it really sure that both of these statements are erroneous. It’s gruesome to anyone who has been fed these lines (lies) for year. He explains all of this in a simplified manner that is within come of everyone.

The other points that he manufacture extremely well portray to what it is that actually does cause heart disease and what we should do and eat in order to minimize our risk of getting it. Again, he’s droll and informative. It’s hard to gain that this combination can exist when talking about nutrition, but he does it.

I added this to my library so that I can heartily recommend it to my family and friends. I read (and loved) “Protein Power” by Eades & Eades, “Splendid Calories, Dreadful Calories” by Taubes, and the “Tremendous Cholesterol Con” by Kendrick but not everyone is going to utilize the time and pain to glean through these books. However, this movie presents the highlights of these books in 100 easy-to-watch minutes. If you are intrigued after watching this movie, then I highly recommend those books. And if you were not intrigued, then you weren’t paying attention.

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