Archive for November, 2010

We managed to finish off the turkey yesterday, mostly because I made myself a big lunch consisting of turkey meat, lettuce, cheese, sour cream, a hard-boiled egg and some hot sauce, all stirred up in a bowl. My wife has threatened to boil the scraps and bones to begin a soup, but I’m hoping she changes her mind.

I used to wake up on the Monday following Thanksgiving feeling very un-thankful about the size of my waistline. After four days of indulging in mashed white potatoes, sweet corn, white-bread stuffing and pumpkin pie, I’d look in the mirror and make one of two promises:

  • I’m going to go on a diet until Christmas.
  • I’m going to accept that this is what happens during the holiday season and go on a diet after New Year’s.

We don’t have a scale in the house, but my clothes tell me I survived Thanksgiving this year without getting any fatter. That’s because Thanksgiving weekend isn’t the sugar-and-starch fest it used to be. My wife roasted a turkey, of course, but the side dishes were green beans, whipped cauliflower, and mashed sweet potatoes. She also made stuffing with Ezekiel bread, and I ate some with my meals, but not much. For dessert, she made her famous (in our house, anyway) squash pie: squash, cream, eggs, pumpkin spice and some Splenda or Truvia, all blended together and then baked. Top it with some whipped cream, and you don’t miss sugar-laden pumpkin pie one bit.

The food was excellent, and so was the company: My friend Tom Monahan flew in from Albuquerque and stayed with us for a few days. If you recognize the name, it’s because he composed the music for Fat Head and sang most of the songs.

In the working versions of the film, I used pop songs for music. As a programmer, I’d produced a musician-payments system for Disney, so I had some idea of the musician royalties for songs that are picked up for TV shows and films. I was willing to pay those royalties. What I didn’t know is that the real cost is in licensing the songs, not paying the musicians. So imagine my reaction when I learned that licensing the music I’d selected would cost well over $300,000.

After the smelling salts were administered, I remembered that during my years in Chicago, I had a good friend who composed music for a CBS children’s show called the Magic Door — Tom Monahan. Tom and I hung around together in Chicago and recorded some songs together. I always liked his music and his singing voice.

I’d long since moved to Los Angeles and he’d long since moved to Albuquerque, but I dug around in my Outlook files and found what I hoped was his current contact information. Just one little problem: The last time I’d seen Tom, several years earlier, he was a vegetarian who ate mostly low-fat, macrobiotic meals. I wasn’t sure how he’d feel about working on a documentary demonstrating how I lost weight eating cheeseburgers and sausage patties.

So I called him up, chit-chatted a bit, and then (as he reminded me this week) finally got around to, “So, Tom … are you still a vegetarian?”

Call it luck, fate, kismet, or whatever, but no, Tom was no longer a vegetarian. After years of living on a mostly macrobiotic diet, Tom had found himself exhausted, heavier than he’d ever been, and with a lousy lipid profile. He’d gone on a mission to discover the truth about good and bad diets, and had since become fan of the Weston A. Price Foundation. It was Tom, in fact, who suggested I should get in touch with Sally Fallon and ask for an interview.

I sent Tom a rough cut of the film, and he started sending me compositions almost immediately. Eventually he flew to Los Angeles and we worked with Martin Blasick, a talented music producer recommended by someone I knew at Disney. By the time we finished the recordings (complete with Martin’s guitar and trombone licks and professional mixes), I considered it a stroke of luck that the licensing fees prevented me from using pop songs. I liked Tom’s music better. His compositions fit the tone of the film.

During Tom’s visit last week, we spent many hours talking about nutrition and health. Like me, Tom is in his fifties but healthier than when he was in his thirties. We compared notes on the ailments we both had back in our grain-eating, vegetarian days: arthritis, fatigue, skin rashes, frequent infections, etc.

We both have acquaintances who are falling apart, but still insist their meatless, low-fat diets must be good for them. They chalk up their ailments to bad luck or bad genes. One of Tom’s friends in Albuquerque is in constant pain and walks with a cane, but refuses to believe his diet of grains and soy has anything to do with it.

Tom and I are both grateful we figured out the connection between diet and disease before it was too late. And of course, that’s what Thanksgiving is supposed to be about: giving thanks. So I gave thanks to Mike and Mary Dan Eades, Uffe Ravnskov, Gary Taubes, Sally Fallon, Mary Enig, Malcolm Kendrick, Mark Sisson, Jimmy Moore, Robert Lustig, William Davis, and Al Sears.

The turkey is finally gone, but the gratitude remains.

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One of my favorite leisure activities is taking long walks at night while listening to audio books. I read a lot of paper books too, but there’s something about walking outdoors with a million stars overhead that makes a good story that much more enjoyable. (And now that I no longer live near Los Angeles, I can actually see the million stars.) The images my mind calls up are more vivid when I listen to books at night. Perhaps walking in the dark puts me in a bit of a trance.

Over the weekend, I finished a gem of first-person story titled Kabloona: Among the Inuit, written by a French adventurer who lived and traveled with nomadic Eskimos (as he called them) for a 15-month span in 1938 and 1939.

Gontran de Poncins was an aristrocrat who became bored with the business world and remade himself as a traveling journalist-adventurer. In Kabloona he makes references to his other adventures in Tahiti and New Caledonia, but soon assures the reader that the Arctic is the toughest and most unforgiving place he’s ever seen … incredibly cold, with flat, snow-covered tundra that seems to go on forever in every direction. Without knowing the nearly-imperceptible landmarks, an explorer could easily become disoriented and wander in circles until he froze to death – which Poncins nearly did on one occasion, despite being within a few miles of the trading post where he’d been staying.

Not surprisingly, this tough landscape was inhabited by very tough people, which is the main reason the book caught my interest. Initially, Poncins spent several months with Eskimos who traded furs with whites and had adopted some of the white man’s ways. (They seemed particularly fond of tea and tobacco, for which they happily traded foxes.) But Poncins was determined to also meet the “real” Eskimos — those who rarely if ever saw a white man and still mostly lived as their ancestors had lived. So he hired Eskimo guides to take him hundreds of miles into the interior of the Arctic, where the “real” Eskimos lived. It was this glimpse into the life of an almost-Paleolithic people that I was anticipating.

Frankly, much of that glimpse isn’t pretty, at least as Poncins recounts it. As a journalist writing in the 1930s, he felt no need to let political correctness or racial sensitivity color his descriptions, and early in the narrative much of what he recalls is his general disgust for Eskimos and Eskimo ways. Disparaging remarks such as “The Eskimo has no ability to plan ahead” and “the Eskimo isn’t capable of logical thinking” pop up frequently. So do remarks about the Eskimo’s “savage” habits and their apparent preference for living in poverty.

To be honest, even though I like the benefits of Paleolithic eating, I’m pretty sure I’d be similarly annoyed if I were surrounded by dinner companions who grunted as they tore raw meat with their teeth, gulped and slurped their meat as blood and grease dripped down their faces, then finished by tossing the bloody remnants and bones into a corner of the small igloo where I’d soon be sleeping.

But as the adventure unfolds, Poncins becomes progressively less disgusted with the Eskimos and more disgusted with himself with being so judgmental when he first encountered them. As he travels with his Eskimo guides, he’s amazed by their ability to locate and catch fish swimming beneath the ice, to sneak up seals, to quickly and efficiently cut snow into bricks and construct an igloo. He likens one Eskimo to a gifted architect when it comes to making igloos, with each snow brick cut to exactly the right size and shape so all the bricks fit tightly together in a dome.

He soon realizes it’s not such a bad idea to toss bloody seal guts into the corner of an igloo when you’ll abandon that igloo in a couple of days and move on. He even begins to appreciate the simplicity of living in a shelter that’s basically an icebox: catch your fish, toss them into the corner, and they’re preserved by the cold. Wake up, warm the fish with your hands and breath, then enjoy cold sushi for breakfast.

He’s also amazed by the endurance of the Eskimos. The nutritionists who parrot their textbook knowledge that “you need carbohydrates for energy!” should read this book. Poncins recounts running along trails with Eskimos for hours – he was fatigued and panting, while they barely seemed to notice the effort. After a year in the Arctic, Poncins finds he is beginning to prefer their diet, even though he had supplies of “white man” food on the sled carrying his belongings. As he explains in one passage, boiled rice could warm him up temporarily, but then he’d feel colder an hour or two later. By contrast, raw meat or raw fish was cold going down, but then he felt warmer for the rest of the day.

In the far northwest Arctic, Poncins eventually meets up with a priest who’d been living among the Eskimos for six years. The priest was a fellow Frenchman, and Poncins had brought him some “civilized” food as a gift – a block of cheese being the real prize. But the priest, Father Henry, politely explains that he’s lost his taste for civilized foods. He no longer likes rice, biscuits, or cheese. As Poncins writes, “He’d been living on nothing but caribou, seal and fish for six years, yet he was none the worse for it.”

It was during his time with Father Henry that Poncins began to appreciate the depth of his own ignorance about Eskimos. In one passage, Father Henry explains that Eskimo words have many shadings and subtleties, and that the way Poncins speaks the language, it sounds like he’s barking orders. Yes and no don’t mean yes and no, the priest explains, because the Eskimos don’t think in either-or terms. Both words, depending on how they’re said, could mean some degree of “maybe.”

Soon after that conversation, Poncins spots a group of Eskimos doing impressions of him and laughing themselves silly. He can’t help but laugh as well, and he recounts how they reproduced his robotic gestures as he gave commands, his obvious impatience, even his voice. As he writes, “These people had only just met me, but they imitated me perfectly.” It’s an eye-opening moment for Poncins: the people he’d initially considered savages consider him a fool – a white man, a Kabloona, someone with no sense of what’s actually important in life.

At this point in the story, I realized Poncins included the many disparaging remarks about Eskimos in the early chapters primarily so his readers could fully appreciate this moment … Remember all those nasty things I said earlier, dear reader? Now you know what a fool I truly was. I was a Kabloona.

By the end, Poncins no longer sees the Eskimos as savages living in poverty. He sees them as they see themselves: people living in a land that gives them everything. They can build a shelter in a matter of hours using the snow that’s all around them. The frozen waterways are highways for their sleds. The land provides them with fish and seals and herds of caribou.

Poncins is (or was) a gifted storyteller and often quite witty – which is impressive, considering he was a Frenchman who wrote this book in English. In the epilogue, he explains that he wrote the book while living a small town in Connecticut, and that as soon as winter came and the snow fell, he began to pine for the Arctic.

Personally, I wouldn’t want to live there. But I thoroughly enjoyed visiting the place in my imagination as I walked beneath a million stars.

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“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” — C.S. Lewis.

Government solutions to obesity and other health issues continue to spring up everywhere. San Francisco followed through on its threat to outlaw Happy Meal toys, as I recounted in a previous post. Several states have ordered restaurants to post calorie counts on their menus. Mayor Bloomberg in New York wants to tell food manufacturers how much sodium their products can contain. And now the city council in Cincinnati is considering ordering restaurants to “go vegetarian!” on Mondays.

Cincinnati’s Food Task Force has proposed instituting “Meatless Mondays” in Cincinnati, and forcing restaurants to offer dishes that don’t contain meat.

“Everybody cares about their health, health of their children. It’s an invitation to try something new once a week,” said Meghan Burke, a member of the task force.

An invitation?! What a lovely euphemism.

Ms. Burke, when you pass a law, it’s not an invitation; it’s a government mandate. And like all government mandates, it will be enforced with the threat of violence — that’s what “enforced” means. If you don’t believe me, ignore a government mandate sometime. When the government levies a fine for noncompliance, call the department in charge and tell them to piss off. Eventually, uniformed people with guns will show up at your door. This is no more of an “invitation” than a tax bill from the IRS is an “invitation” to donate to the treasury. What kind of nut-case could possibly see it any other way?

Burke is also co-owner of the vegan restaurant Loving Hut.

Oh, thaaaaat kind of nut-case. Now I get it. So Ms. Burke is proposing a law that would just happen to benefit the business she owns. Man, it’s inspiring to watch government officials serve the public so selflessly.

She said healthier food is better for the environment. “If people cut out meat once a week, it’s the equivalent of taking thousands of cars off of the street,” Burke said.

The idea that eating meat contributes to excess greenhouse emissions is vegan poppycock, of course, as explained recently by a columnist for the Guardian. Lierre Keith also did a bang-up job in The Vegetarian Myth of showing how it’s mono-crop farming that’s destroying the planet, not raising livestock.

But I agree with Ms. Burke that forcing Cincinnati restaurants to go vegetarian on Mondays will probably remove thousands of cars from the street … because restaurant patrons will stay home and grill their own steaks and burgers. Or it could produce exactly the opposite outcome:

“Yes, I’d like the prime rib, and my wife will have the New York Strip.”

“I’m sorry, sir. We can only serve vegetarian meals on Mondays.”

“What?! Says who?”

“The city council.”

“I see. Well, how far is the nearest city that isn’t run by dimwits?”

“About 17 miles.”

“And they have restaurants there?”

“Yes.”

“Bye.”

Either way, the restaurants in Cincinnati are going to lose business if this law passes — except for Ms. Burke’s, of course. Some hard-working entrepreneurs will take a financial hit, which means some employees could lose their jobs — but hey, that’s okay, as long as the people in government believe they might, perhaps, just maybe persuade a few people to eat what they believe are more nutritious foods.

A few vegans who showed up on this blog to comment on previous posts accused me of being hostile towards vegetarians. Not true. If people choose not to eat meat, I don’t really care. But I definitely feel hostile towards people who try to impose their dietary preferences on others, and wouldn’t ya know it,  every time a law like this comes around, there are vegan nut-cases behind it. (Have you ever heard of meat-eaters trying to force restaurants to serving nothing but steaks, ribs and chops once per week?)

I’m thoroughly convinced wheat is one of the worst foods you can eat. I can cite evidence that wheat and other grains are a factor in obesity, heart disease, diabetes, schizophrenia and a host of auto-immune disorders. But just imagine the reaction in the vegan community if I convinced the Nashville city council to mandate Wheatless Wednesdays. I’m pretty sure the vegans would shake their little fists and stamp their little feet so hard, they’d split the heels on their Birkenstocks.

Of course, I’d also oppose Wheatless Wednesdays. Call me crazy, but I believe that in a (supposedly) free country, governments should not be allowed to prohibit adults from making voluntary exchanges unless there’s one heck of a compelling reason. And by compelling, I mean actual proof that we’re preventing actual harm that people can’t voluntarily avoid … not “it would be a good idea if people did this” or “we’re rather people didn’t do that” or “we think maybe this will work.”

If Cincinnati is going to mandate Meatless Mondays in restaurants, the city council should be required to produce solid, indisputable evidence that the law will lead to a healthier, leaner, happier citizenry — and even then, the law would merely be an outrage, as opposed to an outrage perpetrated by misinformed imbeciles. (Or as Curly Howard might would put it, intelligent imbeciles … nyuk, nyuk, nyuk.)

If San Francisco is going to ban Happy Meal toys — thus preventing supposedly free adults in a supposedly free country from making decisions for their kids — they should be required to justify that ban with solid, indisputable evidence that:

  • Happy Meals toys cause kids to eat at McDonald’s more frequently than they would otherwise
  • Eating frequently at McDonald’s causes kids who would otherwise remain lean to become obese
  • Outlawing Happy Meals toys will discourage kids from eating at McDonald’s
  • Kids who would otherwise become obese remain lean if they are discouraged from eating at McDonald’s

For the Happy-Meal ban to actually do any good, all four of those conditions would have to be true. But of course, the do-gooder dimwits running San Francisco can’t prove that all four conditions are true. They can’t prove that any one of them is true.

But for big-government dimwits, proof of an actual benefit isn’t a necessary condition before taking away basic freedoms. All that’s necessary is for them to believe they know what’s best for us. As Milton Friedman replied when he was asked why so many intellectuals favor big-government authoritarianism, “It’s not the smart people who are dangerous. It’s the people who think they’re smarter than everyone else.”

I suppose I should be grateful to the San Francisco city council for reminding me that leaving California was the smartest move I ever made. The state is run by do-gooder dimwits, apparently because a majority of voters share the same do-gooder dimwit ideas. If The Guy From CSPI lived in California, he could probably be elected to the U.S. senate.

As you know, I’m a huge fan of Dr. Malcolm Kendrick’s book The Great Cholesterol Con, partly because he shreds the Lipid Hypothesis, and partly because he’s a brilliant writer … clear, direct, logical and laugh-out-loud funny, all at the same time. It’s a rare treat to be educated and amused at the same time.

Dr. Kendrick recently sent me an email (including the C.S. Lewis quote at the top of this post) in which he explained the progression from good intentions to outright authoritarianism in government health policies. He’s threatened to expand on the topic in a book someday, and I hope he does. But in the meantime, with his permission, here’s part of what he wrote:

——————————————————————————-

We carry on forever. We give drugs to the terminally ill, the extremely old and severely demented. Once started we never, ever, stop, no matter what, until the patient is dead. Perhaps we should scatter statins on their ashes, just to make absolutely and completely certain that we aren’t missing a trick. After all, I would hate be thought of as ‘deadist’.

And what, exactly, does this prove – you may well ask.

It proves that the activity we call preventative medicine is no longer a rational activity, if it ever was. It is something else completely. Quite what it is, I am not entirely sure anymore. On one level it is an honest attempt to help people live longer and healthier lives. Hopefully, happier lives too.

But on other levels it has become hijacked by rather more sinister forces and desires. The desire that always seems to end up in the driving seat, unfortunately, is the deep-seated authoritarian desire to control other people. So what starts as concern and advice evolves, with wearisome inevitability, into laws and punishment.

Essentially, preventative medicine travels through the following stages:

Stage 1: Something is identified as being harmful to health e.g. smoking, drinking, boxing, eating crisps
Stage 2: Doctors raise awareness of this harmful thing
Stage 3: Education begins
Stage 4: Nothing much happens
Stage 5: Three parallel activities then occur
(i): Doctors begin to lobby the Government to take action
(ii): Advertising starts against the harmful thing
(iii): The harmful thing is chastised as being immoral/damaging to as wide a population as possible – especially children
Stage 6: A law is passed restricting the harmful thing
Stage 7: More laws are passed further restricting the harmful thing
Stage 8: The harmful thing is completely outlawed/banned

The full progression is not absolutely certain, and can sometimes move backwards. Drinking alcohol, for example has been made illegal at various times in several countries, with prohibition in the USA being the most famous example. However, the US moved back, by repealing prohibition, as did Finland, Sweden, and a few other countries. Which means that the process of preventative medicine can undergo some degree of reversal. Usually from stage 8, back to stage 7.

Having said this, things rarely reverse very far. Alcohol consumption is still very tightly regulated in most countries with law after law passed to control it, ban it and tax it. It seems very unlikely that drinking alcohol will move much further back than Stage 7 any time soon.

Other activities, despite repeated attempts, have not been completely banned yet. Smoking and boxing spring to mind. However, I can’t see this situation lasting much longer. They have both reached stage 7, and the pressure to move towards a complete ban is pretty unrelenting.

Of course, preventative medicine is not just about stopping people from doing things. The other side of the preventative coin is about things deemed to be good for you. For example, exercising, or eating five portions of fruit and vegetables, or drinking water that has had fluoride added to it.

As with banning, once something has been decreed to be a ‘good thing’ the process of ensuring that it becomes mandatory (or as close to mandatory as possible) begins. Essentially, this is the same process as banning, in reverse:

Stage 1: Something is identified as being good for health, e.g. water fluoridation, vaccination, eating fruit and vegetables
Stage 2: Doctors raise awareness of this good thing
Stage 3: Education begins
Stage 4: Nothing much happens
Stage 5: Three parallel activities then occur
(i): Doctors begin to lobby the Government to take action
(ii): Advertising starts in support of the beneficial thing
(iii): The beneficial thing is promoted as being beneficial to as wide a population as possible
Stage 6: A law is passed making the ‘good thing’ mandatory for some people
Stage 7: More laws are passed making the ‘good thing’ mandatory in a wider population
Stage 8: The activity is imposed/enforced on everyone

And so it goes.

———————————————————————————–

Looking forward to that book, Dr. Kendrick.

The end of freedom to make your own diet and health decisions won’t begin with snarling, jack-booted thugs showing up at your door. It will begin with smiling, sincere people in government telling you, “We’re only trying to help you.” And they’ve already started.

p.s. – speaking of thugs, you may want to read about the TSA airport screeners on my other blog.

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Over the past several weeks, I’ve received quite a few emails and comments about Kansas State nutrition professor Mark Haub and his “Twinkie Diet.” I became aware of professor Haub’s experiment awhile back because he emailed me about it.  He’s seen Fat Head, and if I remember correctly, he said he shows it to his students in class.

In case you haven’t heard about his experiment, here’s a typical headline, this one from a CNN article:

Twinkie diet helps nutrition professor lose 27 pounds

For 10 weeks, Mark Haub, a professor of human nutrition at Kansas State University, ate one of these sugary cakelets every three hours, instead of meals. To add variety in his steady stream of Hostess and Little Debbie snacks, Haub munched on Doritos chips, sugary cereals and Oreos, too.

His premise: That in weight loss, pure calorie counting is what matters most — not the nutritional value of the food.

The premise held up: On his “convenience store diet,” he shed 27 pounds in two months.

As you might imagine, a lot of the emails and comments I received included a question along the lines of “How can this guy be losing weight when he’s living on all those refined carbohydrates?” I replied that I’d need to see a breakdown of what he actually ate. Fortunately, Professor Haub (unlike Morgan Spurlock) has nothing to hide and has made his food log and health assessments public. I finally spent some time going over them and crunching some numbers.

So, the answer to the question How can this guy be losing weight when he’s living on all all those refined carbohydrates? is … (wait for it):  By not actually consuming a high number of carbohydrates.

Despite the headlines, Professor Haub wasn’t living on a “Twinkie Diet” or a “Little Debbie Snack Cake Diet.”  He was on a diet that includes Twinkies and Little Debbie Snack Cakes.

First, let’s look at a couple of daily menus:

November 12
Pumpkin Spice Donut
Coffee
Protein shake
Onion Rings
Steak
Broccoli
Macaroni and Cheese
Baked potato casserole
Dynasty Lychees
Baby carrots
Peanut butter cookies
2% milk

October 29
Hostess cupcake
Coffee
Sesame chicken
Teriyaki chicken
Egg roll
Chicken nachos
Broccoli
Lemon zingers
Kit Kat

Like my Fat Head fast-food diet, nobody would mistake this for any kind of health-food diet.  The guy is definitely consuming sugar.  And yet he lost weight, lost body fat, raised his HDL, and lowered both his triglycerides and LDL.  How can that be?  Well, let’s look at the numbers.

I copied the daily nutrition totals into Excel and calculated Professor Haub’s average daily intake of calories and macronutrients over the 10 weeks he’s been on the diet:

Calories: 1457
Fat (g): 61
Carbohydrate (g): 173
Protein (g): 54

As a percent of daily calories, it works out to:

Fat: 38%
Carbohydrate:  47%
Protein:  15%

Now, 173 grams of carbohydrate per day certainly isn’t low, but it’s not high either. Depending on whose figures you use, that’s about half as many carbohydrates as an average American male consumes per day. It’s also at least 1,000 fewer daily calories than an average male consumes. So it doesn’t surprise me at all that Professor Haub lost weight on a “Twinkie Diet” that is actually moderate in carbohydrates and very low in calories. I’d lose weight on that diet, too.  (I’d hate it, but I’d lose weight.)

I would also lose muscle on such a low protein intake, and according to his health assessments posted on Facebook, Professor Haub did in fact lose 6 pounds of lean body mass over the 10 weeks. So we’re looking at a fat loss of 20 pounds in 10 weeks, or two pounds per week.

As with dieters everywhere, his weight loss appears to be slowing down as he goes along. During the first four weeks of the diet, according to his online data, he lost an average of 3.75 pounds per week, but slowed to 1.8 pounds per week over the next six weeks. That’s not surprising. There’s usually some initial water loss in the early phase of a diet, and of course once you begin to lose weight, your basal metabolism tends to drop. What would be interesting to see is how quickly he’d regain the weight if he went back up to 2500 calories per day and consumed more carbohydrates — not that I’d encourage him to try it.

Overall, it looks like an interesting experiment, and it’s certainly generated a lot of media buzz. It’s just too bad the buzzing media reporters aren’t taking a little closer look at the professor’s online food log. There’s certainly junk food in this diet, but it is not (as one headline described it) a Junk Food Binge. When you consume fewer than 1500 calories and 175 carbohydrates on an average day, it’s not any kind of binge.

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A few odds and ends …

Podcast Interview

Hank Garner, a guy who describes himself as “just a fat man trying to get to the truth” has created a new blog titled My Low-Carb Journey. Like Jimmy Moore, he’s making podcasts part of his offerings. And wouldn’t you know it, his first podcast was with The Man himself, Jimmy Moore.

His second podcast, which just went online today, is with yours truly.

The Big Fat Fiasco Speech

I don’t recall who first requested the Big Fat Fiasco speech on DVD, but bless you. I uploaded the speech to YouTube as a way of saying thanks to the many loyal readers who wished me well and said they’d like to see it. I certainly didn’t expect there’d be a market for a DVD version of a speech that was available online for free.

Boy, was I wrong. Once I edited and authored the DVD and put up an order page, we were swamped. I burned DVDs nonstop for days and ended up shipping copies to the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Britain, Scotland, Canada, Sweden, Belgium, Israel and Afghanistan. We still get orders trickling in every day.

So thank you all for your support… honestly, you blew me away.

Fat Head Direct

Now that we’re in habit of processing DVD orders, we asked our U.S. distributor if they had any issues with us selling Fat Head DVDs directly from the blog site. They said no problem — the only catch is that we can only ship their DVD to U.S. addresses. You can still buy from Amazon, of course, but you’ll notice we’ve changed the sidebar link from Amazon to a direct-order page. Since we do a little better financially without Amazon taking a cut, we’re making the direct-order price $15.00 with shipping included.

Fat Head overseas version

We’ve given up on waiting for our overseas distributor to make DVD deals outside the U.S. They’ve managed to sell the TV rights in several countries, but no DVD rights. For more than a year, I’ve been receiving emails from fans in other countries asking where they can buy a DVD that isn’t region-restricted for North America. I’ve had to tell them to be patient, our distributor is working on it. I’ve even heard from people who confessed to downloading an illegal copy and wondered how they could pay me for it.

Well, enough waiting already. We’re looking into other options to replicate and distribute the film overseas, and we should have the details worked out soon. There won’t be any foreign-language audio tracks or subtitles, but the DVD won’t be region-restricted either.

As a way of saying thanks to fans overseas who order the non-U.S. DVD when it’s ready, I plan to include the Big Fat Fiasco speech as a bonus track.  Like the U.S. DVD, it will also include a bonus track of extra interview footage with the people you saw in the film.

Birthday weekend

Hard to believe, but I’ll turn 52 on Sunday. If only I’d known 30 years ago what I know now about diet and health, I could’ve saved myself a lot of frustration. I might have even kept a full head of hair, according to a new book I’m reading on baldness and nutrition.

But all’s well that ends well. I have a fabulous wife and two daughters I adore (one of whom had her own hair disaster last week, as described on my other blog), I live in a charming town, I work at home, I’m back to writing for print after decades away from it, I correspond with some brilliant doctors and researchers, and I thoroughly enjoy the back-and-forth comments with readers. Life is good. Here’s to 52 more.

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My wife recently tore a page out of Scholastic Parent & Child magazine and left it on my desk. As I sipped my morning coffee, I read a headline — Is Sugar to Blame? — with the subtitle There are many misconceptions about type 2 diabetes.  Below that was a brief article in Myth vs. Truth format.

You already know what’s coming, don’t you? That’s right:  an article exonerating sugar, along with other nonsense. Look at these three Myth-Truth entries and ask yourself if perhaps they should’ve caused some cognitive dissonance in the writer’s brain:

Myth:  Type 2 diabetes only affects adults.
Truth:  The disease used to be called adult-onset diabetes because it mainly occurred in people over 40. Not anymore. In the past two decades, the number of children and adolescents diagnosed has been rising steadily.

Myth:  It’s caused by eating too much sugar.
Truth:  A combination of genetics and lifestyle factors cause type 2 diabetes. But many sugary foods can lead to being overweight, which increases risk.

Myth:  Only overweight people develop type 2 diabetes.
Truth:  People of normal weight can develop the disease.

So let’s see if we can follow the logic here:  This disease used to pretty much only show up in people over 40.  Now it’s rising rapidly among kids.  But it’s not caused by eating too much sugar; it’s caused by genetics and/or being overweight.  And by the way, plenty of people who aren’t overweight also develop the disease.

Conclusion:  Our genetics must’ve undergone one hell of a mutation in the past 20 years. Either that, or some mysterious change in “lifestyle factors” caused a rapid rise in diabetes among teens and adolescents. Perhaps we’ll eventually learn that video games or just-above-the-butt tattoos are to blame. Trouble is, I can’t imagine the biological mechanism by which either of those would cause diabetes, and I’m pretty sure the people running the genome project would’ve noticed a sudden genetic mutation.

So I believe if our brains are functioning, we’re stuck looking for an alternate conclusion.  Here’s mine:  whoever wrote this garbage for Scholastic Parent & Child doesn’t have a flippin’ clue.

Correlation doesn’t prove causation, but I sincerely doubt the fact that type 2 diabetes has risen right along with our consumption of high-fructose corn syrup is a mere coincidence.  (Oh, excuse me … it’s “corn sugar” now, not high-fructose corn syrup.)  And in this case, we can definitely imagine the biological mechanism that leads to diabetes. For that, we’ll turn to a paper co-authored by Dr. Richard Johnson. (See his speech on fructose and uric acid in this post.)  Here are a few quotes from the opening of the paper:

We propose that excessive fructose intake (>50 g/d) may be one of the underlying etiologies of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. The primary sources of fructose are sugar (sucrose) and high fructose corn syrup. First, fructose intake correlates closely with the rate of diabetes worldwide. Second, unlike other sugars, the ingestion of excessive fructose induces features of metabolic syndrome in both laboratory animals and humans.

Beginning with studies in the 1950s, it was recognized that diets high in sucrose can rapidly induce features of metabolic syndrome in rats, including hyperglycemia, insulin resistance, hyperlipidemia, hypertension, weight gain, and hyperuricemia. Further studies documented that these metabolic changes were due to the fructose content.

Later in the paper, Johnson and his co-authors present details on the biochemistry involved.  Don’t worry about wrapping your brain around all this stuff; the point is that they’re citing clinical evidence and chemistry, not simply blaming unspecified “lifestyle factors.”

Moreover, there is evidence that fructose-induced insulin resistance is mediated by fructose-induced hyperuricemia. Lowering uric acid using either xanthine oxidase inhibitors or uricosuric agents can prevent the development of metabolic syndrome induced by fructose. At least two mechanisms may account for these findings. First, it is known that insulin-mediated endothelial nitric oxide (NO) release can account for one third of insulin’s action possibly by increasing blood flow to skeletal muscle and peripheral tissues and enhancing glucose uptake. Mice incapable of generating endothelial NO develop full features of metabolic syndrome. Uric acid inhibits endothelial NO in cell culture and in the animal, and the mechanisms involve uric acid-induced oxidant production, C-reactive protein production, stimulation of arginase, and direct scavenging. Asymptomatic hyperuricemia in humans is also associated with endothelial dysfunction, and lowering uric acid with allopurinol improves endothelial function in diabetics. The second proposed mechanism is by a direct effect of uric acid on the adipocyte. There is evidence that insulin resistance is mediated in part by inflammation and oxidative stress within the adipocyte. Sautin et al. have recently shown that uric acid induces this phenotype in cultured adipocytes. In addition, Cheung et al. reported that xanthine oxidoreductase knockout mice fail to become fat due to a defect in adipogenesis. These studies therefore implicate xanthine oxidase and uric acid in metabolic syndrome.

Bottom line:  there’s strong evidence that excess fructose causes the body to produce excess uric acid, whicn in turn induces insulin resistance, among other horrors.

With all the research out there, Scholastic Parent & Child tells parents not to blame sugar (and HFCS) for the rise in childhood diabetes?  You’ve got to be kidding me.

My first thought was that they must’ve gotten their talking points from that creepy lady at the Corn Refiners Association.  Then I noticed the sources listed at the end of the article:  The American Diabetes Association the National Diabetes Education Program.

Well, of course … we’re talking about the same people who explain in their literature how carbohydrates rapidly turn into blood sugar, then tell diabetics to be sure to eat lots of carbohydrates.

The article also suggested that parents who are worried about diabetes should visit diabetes.com for more information. So I did. Here are a few gems from that site:

When you have type 2 diabetes, high levels of sugar build up in your blood. This can lead to serious health complications. That’s why controlling your blood sugar is key to managing diabetes.

Ah, very good so far. Of course, you’ll next explain to diabetics how to adopt a diet that will keep their blood sugar low, right?

There’s no such thing as a “diabetic diet.” Still, you may be confused about what to eat. Here’s the low-down on some common misunderstandings about foods:

Carbohydrates. Some meal plans want you to count grams of carbohydrates (sugar and starch). Your dietitian can help you learn to count carbohydrates.

Sugar. Most experts say small amounts of sugar are fine, as long as they are part of your meal plan.

Oh, I see … if you’re a diabetic and plan to eat sugar, it’s fine. Your body says to itself, “Well, looky here … this sugar was listed right there on the day’s schedule, so I won’t bother dumping it into the bloodstream. I only do that with sugar I didn’t expect.”

Healthy eating, along with medicine if prescribed and regular physical activity, can help lower your blood sugar. Eating healthy is key to reducing your risk of health complications from diabetes.

Changing the way you eat can be hard. So make changes slowly. Start by adding high-fiber foods including fruits and vegetables. These fiber-rich foods may help stop spikes in blood sugar. Eat less meat and fewer sweets.

Meat is bad (no explanation as to why), sweets are bad (unless you plan on eating them), but other foods that jack up your blood sugar are great:   In other sections, the diabetes.com site recommends six servings per day of low-fat breads, beans, crackers, tortillas or pretzels, plus two to four servings of fruit — those would be providing you with fructose, of course. 

So there you have it.  Sugar doesn’t cause diabetes, and if you develop diabetes, you should base your diet on foods that jack up your blood sugar … but be sure to check your blood-sugar level, and if it goes too high, see your doctor.  So say the experts at diabetes.com, the American Diabetes Association, and Scholastic Parent & Child magazine.

This is what we’re up against.  I feel sorry for well-intentioned parents who believe this nonsense.

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