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I didn’t write a post last night because the Cubs were in a do-or-die playoff game that ran late. But I did come across an interesting study that speaks volumes about The Anointed and their never-ending plans to (ahem) “help” the rest of us.

It’s been awhile since I’ve explained how The Anointed think and operate, so rather than link back to previous posts, let’s recap.

I borrowed the term The Anointed from author Thomas Sowell, who described them in great detail in his fabulous books Intellectuals and Society and The Vision of The Anointed. As Sowell explains, here’s the pattern we see with these people over and over:

1. The Anointed identify a problem in society. That problem is now The Bad.

2. The Anointed propose a Grand Plan to fix the problem. The Grand Plan nearly always involves spending more of other people’s money and/or restricting more of other people’s freedoms.

3. Because they are so supremely confident in themselves and their ideas, The Anointed don’t believe they should be bothered with having to provide proof or evidence that the Grand Plan will actually work. In fact, they often insist that because the problem is So Bad, we must adopt the Grand Plan RIGHT NOW.

4. Because the problem is The Bad, The Anointed assume their Grand Plan to fix the problem is The Good. Therefore anyone who opposes the Grand Plan isn’t simply opposing a plan; no, he or she is supporting The Bad and opposing The Good. The Anointed take this as proof that anyone who opposes the Grand Plan is either evil or stupid.

5. Because only evil or stupid people would oppose the Grand Plan, The Anointed feel entitled to impose the Grand Plan on others — for their own good, of course.

6. If the Grand Plan fails to solve the problem (which it usually the case) or makes it worse (which is often the case), The Anointed will never, ever, ever admit that the Grand Plan was wrong. Instead, they will insist that 1) the Grand Plan was good, but was undermined by people who are evil or stupid, or 2) the Grand Plan didn’t go far enough … which means we need to do the same thing again, ONLY BIGGER.

So with that in mind, let’s look at the abstract of a study (actually a meta-analysis) with the title A Meta-Analysis to Determine the Impact of Restaurant Menu Labeling on Calories and Nutrients (Ordered or Consumed) in U.S. Adults:

A systematic review and meta-analysis determined the effect of restaurant menu labeling on calories and nutrients chosen in laboratory and away-from-home settings in U.S. adults. Cochrane-based criteria adherent, peer-reviewed study designs conducted and published in the English language from 1950 to 2014 were collected in 2015, analyzed in 2016, and used to evaluate the effect of nutrition labeling on calories and nutrients ordered or consumed. Before and after menu labeling outcomes were used to determine weighted mean differences in calories, saturated fat, total fat, carbohydrate, and sodium ordered/consumed which were pooled across studies using random effects modeling. Stratified analysis for laboratory and away-from-home settings were also completed. Menu labeling resulted in no significant change in reported calories ordered/consumed in studies with full criteria adherence, nor the 14 studies analyzed with ≤1 unmet criteria, nor for change in total ordered carbohydrate, fat, and saturated fat (three studies) or ordered or consumed sodium (four studies). A significant reduction of 115.2 calories ordered/consumed in laboratory settings was determined when analyses were stratified by study setting. Menu labeling away-from-home did not result in change in quantity or quality, specifically for carbohydrates, total fat, saturated fat, or sodium, of calories consumed among U.S. adults.

In other words, the evidence from several studies demonstrates what common sense should have told The Anointed years ago: mandatory listings of calories and other nutrition information on restaurant menus don’t prompt people to eat less (except in a laboratory setting, which is meaningless.) In fact, nothing changes … total calories consumed, total fat, saturated fat, carbohydrates, sodium, you name it. It’s almost as if when people go to restaurants, they order the foods they like, not the foods The Anointed want them to order.

It’s a perfect example of The Anointed in action.

The Anointed identify a problem in society.

The problem, of course, is the rise in obesity.

The Anointed propose a Grand Plan to fix the problem. The Grand Plan nearly always involves confiscating and spending more of other people’s money and/or restricting more of other people’s freedoms.

Restaurant owners complained that being forced to have every food item on the menu tested for calorie and nutrition counts and then listing them on menus would cost a ton of money (much of which would passed on to consumers.) The Anointed, of course, didn’t care. Spending other people’s money is what they love to do.

Because they are so supremely confident in themselves and their ideas, The Anointed don’t believe they should be bothered with having to provide proof or evidence that the Grand Plan will actually work.

There was never any evidence that forcing people to look at calorie counts would convince them to eat less. If The Anointed wanted to make a case for menu laws, they could have conducted some simple, inexpensive studies.  Put calorie counts on menus at a couple of restaurants and see if people ate less as a result.  But of course, The Anointed can’t be bothered with supplying evidence.  So the menu laws were rammed through.

I predicted back in 2009 that the menu laws The Guy From CSPI and others were demanding wouldn’t make any difference:

Here’s how the politicians and the nutrition-nannies believe those calorie-count menu boards will make us thinner:

  • Fat Customer waddles into McDonald’s, intending to order a Double Quarter Pounder value meal.
  • Fat Customer is confronted with the calorie count, right there on the menu board where he can’t possibly miss it.
  • Fat Customer says to himself, “Oh my gosh! I had no idea there were so many calories in this meal! I’m going to order a Filet-O-Fish and a bottle of water.”
  • Fat Customer is satisfied with this low-calorie meal and, thanks to the menu board, begins eating low-calorie meals at restaurants from this point forward.
  • Fat Customer loses weight, as do millions of other fat customers. The obesity epidemic is solved. Rates of heart disease, cancer, and type II diabetes plummet. Medicare expenditures drop by 50 percent.
  • Millions of formerly-obese citizens march on Washington to express their gratitude. Hallelujah, hallelujah! All praise the wise and wonderful politicians and Kelly Brownell and CSPI for saving us from our ignorance and gluttony!

This fantasy outcome was based on the belief that people are stupid. They go to restaurants, order high-calorie meals they somehow don’t recognize as high-calorie meals, get fatter, yet have no idea why. So by gosh, if we make them look at the calorie counts, they’ll finally realize what they’re doing wrong and eat less.

Nonsense. Here’s more of what I wrote in 2009:

Here’s an even more likely scenario:

  • Fat Customer waddles into McDonald’s, intending to order a Double Quarter Pounder value meal.
  • Fat Customer is confronted with the calorie count, right there on the menu board where he can’t possibly miss it.
  • Fat Customer says to himself, “I don’t give a @#$%. I’m famished, and I want the Double Quarter Pounder value meal.”

The calorie-count menu laws were, of course, imposed on everyone by The Anointed — for their own good.

If the Grand Plan fails to solve the problem (which it usually the case) or makes it worse (which is often the case), The Anointed will never, ever, ever that admit the Grand Plan was wrong. Instead, they will insist that 1) the Grand Plan was good, but was undermined by people who are evil or stupid, or 2) the Grand Plan didn’t go far enough … which means we need to do the same thing again, ONLY BIGGER.

So how will The Anointed do the same thing again, only bigger? Actually, they already have. Originally, they wanted restaurants to post nutrition information where everyone could see it. The restaurants complied, but people didn’t eat less as a result. Faced with this failure, The Anointed of course didn’t conclude that the Grand Plan was based on faulty ideas.

No, instead they decided that people were too lazy and stupid to walk over and look at that big nutrition poster on the wall before ordering a meal. So by gosh, we need to put the information right on the restaurant menu, where people can’t possibly miss it.

As the recent study shows, that didn’t work either. So we wasted a lot of time, effort, and other people’s money on a Grand Plan that didn’t make a dent in the obesity problem.

You’d think The Anointed would give up at this point. Maybe, but I doubt it. I think it’s more likely they’ll wait for more favorable political conditions, then propose new regulations requiring every restaurant to employ an on-site nutritionist. If you dare to order a meal full of saturated fat and sodium, the nutritionist will be required to stride up to your table and lecture you on your bad choices.

Yeah, I know … that sounds crazy. But we’re talking about The Anointed here. They are often wrong, but never in doubt – and no matter how many times they fail to control what we want and what we do, they never, ever stop trying.

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As you’ve probably heard, the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) recently gave the USDA Dietary Guidelines Committee the spanking it deserves. Here are some quotes from an editorial in The Hill written by Rep. Andy Harris, who also happens to be a doctor:

The nation’s senior scientific body recently released a new report raising serious questions about the “scientific rigor” of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. This report confirms what many in government have suspected for years and is the reason why Congress mandated this report in the first place: our nation’s top nutrition policy is not based on sound science.

In order to “develop a trustworthy DGA [guidelines],” states the report by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM), “the process needs to be redesigned.”

Among other things, the report finds that the guidelines process for reviewing the scientific evidence falls short of meeting the “best practices for conducting systematic reviews,” and advises that “methodological approaches and scientific rigor for evaluating the scientific evidence” need to “be strengthened.”

In other words, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans are far from the “gold standard” of science and dietary advice they need to be. In fact, they may be doing little to improve our health at all.

Heh-heh-heh … remember what happened when Nina Teicholz, author of The Big Fat Surprise, wrote a piece in the British Medical Journal criticizing the dietary guidelines as unscientific? Dr. David Katz (who reviewed his own novel under a false name and compared himself to Milton and Chaucer) dismissed her critique as “the opinion of one journalist.” The USDA’s report, he insisted, “is excellent, and represents both the weight of evidence, and global consensus among experts.”

Then for good measure, he and several other members of The Anointed tried to harass BMJ into retracting the article by Teicholz.

And now along comes the NASEM report, saying Teicholz was right. The “opinion of one journalist” (which of course was shared by countless doctors and researchers) is now the official opinion of the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine. You gotta love it. Perhaps Dr. Katz can write a rebuttal to the NASEM report, then review his rebuttal under a false name and compare himself to Albert Einstein.

Anyway, back to the editorial by Rep. Harris:

It seems clear that the lack of sound science has led to a number of dietary tenets that are not just mistaken, but even harmful – as a number of recent studies suggest.

For instance, the guidelines’ recommendation to eat “healthy whole grains” turns out not to be supported by any strong science, according to a recent study by the Cochrane Collaboration, a group specializing in scientific literature reviews. Looking at all the data from clinical trials, which is the most rigorous data available, the study concluded that there is “insufficient evidence” to show that whole grains reduced blood pressure or had any cardiovascular benefit.

So far, so good. Now for the part where I disagree a bit:

It is imperative that the advice championed by our national nutrition policy be unimpeachable. With the process for the 2020 guidelines soon to be underway, now is the time for the Congress to take action to reform the Dietary Guidelines development process so that proposed guidelines work as intended – as a tool to restore and protect our nation’s health.

I periodically receive requests to sign a petition to put this-or-that expert in charge of the USDA Dietary Guidelines Committee. I always politely decline. Here’s who I think should be in charge of the nation’s dietary guidelines:

Nobody.

That’s right, nobody. We don’t need national dietary guidelines any more than we need national dog-grooming guidelines. People managed to figure out which foods were good for them long before the federal government got involved. In fact, it’s pretty obvious by now that the crowd wisdom handed down over the generations was vastly superior to the New & Improved! dietary advice concocted in Washington 40 years ago.

For reasons I can’t fathom, some people believe if you want a job done right, then by gosh, you need to put the feds in charge. Our history says otherwise. People don’t magically become smarter, wiser, or more ethical when they go to work for the federal government. They do, however, acquire the power to replace the diffused wisdom of crowds with the centralized decisions of the few. I don’t want a little group of experts in charge of dietary policy, even if they’re experts you and I respect.

As Nassim Nicholas Taleb points out in his terrific book Antifragile, centralized decision-making amplifies mistakes. If you empower one little group of experts to make decisions for everyone, their mistakes affect everyone.

That’s exactly what happened with our national dietary guidelines, which were imposed on schools, prisons, hospitals, the military, and pretty much every other institution run or funded by government. Worse yet, other countries adopted and imposed our dietary guidelines, apparently believing the people who wrote them had a flippin’ clue. Whoops.

Taleb points out that we rarely see big, disastrous governmental screw-ups in Switzerland. Why? Because there’s little centralized authority. Switzerland functions as a loose confederation of city-states that make most of their own decisions. If a city-state makes a bad decision, it doesn’t ripple through the entire country. The harm remains local. The other city-states see a plan that didn’t work and avoid it. On the other hand, if a city-state makes a very good decision, the other city-states see the happy result and adopt a similar plan.

That’s how the U.S. was originally intended to function as well. The states, not the federal government, were supposed to be the incubators of public policies. States and local governments can learn from each other’s successes and mistakes. When the feds make a mistake, what we usually learn is that while only death and taxes are forever, crappy federal departments and programs are so hard to kill, they may as well be immortal.

I’m glad the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine gave the USDA Dietary Committee the spanking it deserves. If the 2020 national dietary guidelines are based on rigorous science, that would certainly be an improvement.

But the best outcome would be if Congress decided, once and for all, that the rest of us don’t need the U.S. government telling us how to eat. There’s no good reason to have bureaucrats in Washington deciding what grade schools in Franklin, Tennessee are allowed to serve for lunch.

Low-carb, paleo, gluten-free, locally raised … they’re all grass-roots movements that are making a huge difference. Nobody’s in charge of them.  They weren’t designed by government committees – if anything, they were resisted by government committees, but thrived anyway because of the Wisdom of Crowds effect.

So instead of rooting for 2020 to be the year we finally get some real scientists on the USDA Dietary Guidelines Committee, I’m hoping it’s the first year new dietary guidelines are scheduled to be released, but nobody bothers to write them.

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In some recent posts, I’ve mentioned the net carb counts of some foods I like. True Primal soup has 11 net carbs per serving, lentil pasta has 24 net carbs per two ounces, etc. In case you’re wondering, yes, I’m aware that net carbs has become somewhat controversial, and that some low-carb gurus suggest counting all carbs, period.  I beg to differ.  I still think it makes sense to subtract fiber from the total carb count.

The concept of net carbs got a bad reputation because it was abused by the makers of low-carb junk foods. They’d put 25 grams of sugar alcohol in a dessert bar, then subtract those grams and claim 5 NET CARBS! on the label. Sugar alcohols raise glucose levels in many people, so yeah, I say go ahead and count them as carbs. (Better yet, just skip those food-like products altogether and eat real food.)

But I think it’s a mistake to count fiber as carbohydrate. If you are 1) restricting carbohydrates to VLC or ketogenic levels and 2) counting fiber grams as carbs, you’ll likely end up restricting your fiber intake to little or nothing. Bad idea.

Fiber got a Nyaaaa, who needs it? reputation in the low-carb community because the (ahem) “experts” told us we need to eat our hearthealthywholegrains! to make sure we get enough fiber. I’m pretty sure our Paleolithic ancestors didn’t start their day with bowls of All Bran, and yet the experts insisted we need grain fibers to avoid everything from heart disease to colon cancer. That of course turned out not to be true. Gary Taubes devoted an entire chapter in Good Calories, Bad Calories to the subject.

But grain fibers are the wrong kinds of fibers. As Dr. William Davis explains in this post, the fibers in hearthealthywholegrains! are mostly cellulose, a constituent of wood. Humans have no biological need to eat wood. Yes, those “whole grain” fibers promote regularity, but at a cost:

The poop-bulking effect of cellulose can fool you into thinking that you have achieved bowel health. In the case of wheat and grains, for instance, wheat germ agglutinin and gliadin peptide fragments are highly toxic to the intestinal wall, block gallbladder and pancreatic function, and induce alterations in bowel flora. Cellulose and phytates bind minerals, such as iron and zinc, and make them unavailable to you. But the cellulose provides the appearance of bulky stools despite the toxic damage incurred, causing you to believe that you’ve had a healthy BM.

We certainly don’t need cellulose fibers, which unfortunately led to the belief that we don’t need fiber at all. But we do, because plant fibers feed the good gut bacteria.

When we adopt a low-carb diet, what are our goals? What do we hope to achieve? To lose weight, sure, but also to keep our glucose levels under control and reap the benefits of short-chain fatty acids like butyrate. There’s plenty of research out there suggesting that plant fibers help us achieve both goals, including a study with the rather obvious title of Short-chain fatty acids produced by microbial fermentation of plant fibers improve glucose regulation.

If you’re onboard with the idea that mimicking the diets that kept our ancestors healthy is a good idea, then fibers should be part of your paleo or primal diet. Fossilized stool samples show that Paleo Man ate rather a lot of fiber from plant foods. Here are some quotes from another post by Dr. Davis:

Yes, consuming such fibers is evolutionarily appropriate, as it dates back well over 8000 generations of human existence, predating even the appearance of the Homo species, even predating carnivory, as it was practiced by pre-Homo hominids, Australopithecus (especially “robust” strains). It is therefore deeply instilled into the adaptive physiology of our species.

We evolved on diets that fed our good gut bateria. Here are some quotes from an article by Chris Kresser:

When we eat the soluble fibers found in whole plant foods, the bacteria in our gut ferment these fibers into short-chain fatty acids like butyrate, proprionate, and acetate, and greater amounts of fiber consumed will lead to greater short-chain fatty acid production. In this case, naturally occurring soluble fibers are very important for feeding the friendly bacteria that live in our guts.

One of the risks of long term very low-carbohydrate (VLC) diets, in my view, is the potentially harmful effect they can have on beneficial gut flora. VLC diets starve both bad and good gut bacteria, which means these diets can have therapeutic effects on gut infections in the short term, but may actually contribute to insufficiency of beneficial strains of gut bacteria over the long term. Providing adequate levels of carbohydrate and soluble fiber to feed friendly bacteria is important for optimizing digestive health and maintaining the integrity of the gut lining through the production of short-chain fatty acids.

I don’t count fiber grams as carbs because in my experience, fiber doesn’t raise blood sugar at all. If anything, it seems to blunt the effects of non-fiber carbs. As I’ve mentioned, if I include three ounces of lentil pasta in a meal, I’m getting 36 net carbs. But my blood sugar only rises to 125 or so, probably because of the 10-12 grams of soluble fiber in the pasta.

If you’re not convinced, then I’d suggest conducting a few n=1 experiments. Get out the glucose meter and see how you react to carbs that are high in soluble fibers vs. non-fiber carbs.

Even if you decide to forget the net carb concept entirely and count all carbs, please make sure you get some beneficial fibers into your diet. I know I just posted this video back in August, but it’s worth another look. Here’s Dr. Davis on why you don’t want to skip beneficial fibers on a low-carb or ketogenic diet:

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When we moved the chickens to the back of the property a couple of years ago, we kept the old chicken yard in the front pasture. I had visions of maybe putting a goat out there someday. A nice little barn, a barnyard with a secure fence, netting overhead … what’s not to like?

What’s not to like is that this part of Tennessee is apparently ideal for growing jungles. When I had time, I kept the jungle at bay. Heck, I even tilled the ground inside that chicken yard last year (picture below) and planted some tiger nuts, which have the reputation of being so prolific, they take over an area.

The area was indeed taken over, but not by tiger nuts. The chicken yard became home to a huge variety of tough plants, along with bees, wasps, and countless other insects.  Any time I got near the yard, I heard a cacophony of chirping, buzzing, trilling and rattling. We had such a complicated ecosystem thriving in there, I’m surprised the EPA didn’t stop by to tell me I could never touch it.

Since I didn’t relish the idea of having to periodically get in there under the nets and whack down the jungle, I decided it was time for a long conversation with Chareva to discuss the future of the chicken yard. The conversation went like this:

“Are we ever going to use that front chicken yard for anything again?”

“No.”

“So can we just get rid of it?”

“Sure.”

Just get rid of it sounds easy. Of course, there was rather a lot of work involved.

First, I had to remove the fencing. I snipped away the aluminum ties that clipped the fencing to the t-posts, then yanked and yanked to no avail. The weeds had become intertwined with the fence all along the base, and it was like trying to pull up a tree.

After reciting some ancient curses known only to farmers, I had an inspiration. I looped a chain through the fence and attached the other end to the back of my car. Then I drove sloooowly away from the chicken yard. Sure enough, that ripped the fencing out of the ground.  It also left behind some impressive furrows.

The universe seems to have certain rules about which kinds of people are attracted to each other. A night person will usually marry a day person, for example. That’s the case in our marriage. Someone who wants to throw away  everything not being used will marry someone who wants to save everything. That’s also the case in our marriage.

I would have chucked the fencing since much of it had gotten torn, but Chareva spotted long sections that were intact. We had a long conversation to determine the future of the fencing. The conversation went like this:

“That’s good, strong fencing. We can’t just throw it all away. That would be a waste.”

“Okay, Honey.”

So we unrolled it all in the pasture and removed the weeds, then she cut away long sections to save. Then we rolled those up again and stored them in the barn.

With the fencing out of the way, I was able to remove the t-posts. I like cranking away on the t-post remover because it’s good exercise. There’s also very little chance I’ll whack myself in the head with a heavy chunk of steel.

I don’t mean to sound like an advertisement for the Swisher Predator (a.k.a. The Beast), but man, that thing was a real find. The picture below should give you an idea of how thick and tall the jungle was in front of the barn.

Here’s the same area after I pushed The Beast through there. It just kept chewing up the jungle and spitting it out.

That’s The Beast in the foreground below. The jungle is officially whacked, and the chicken yard is gone. I’ll till the ground one more time, then we’ll toss some grass seeds in there.

I sent the picture above to Jimmy Moore to make his day. During our disc-golf tournaments, he’s had quite a few shots drift into the nets that covered the chicken yard. Now all he has to worry about is hitting the barn — which he assures me he’ll do.

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You may have heard that 60 is the new 40. I’ve generally interpreted that as Unlike previous generations, we didn’t save enough for retirement and now we have to work until we die.

Okay, that may be overstating it. I know the idea is that today’s 60-year-olds want to live and feel more like 40-year-olds. Trouble is, plenty of recent studies suggest that the baby-boomers are sicker than their parents were at the same age, largely because of the rise in type 2 diabetes and other features of metabolic syndrome.

I’ll turn 60 in just under 14 months. I don’t know what 60 is supposed to feel like, but I know I feel better at 58 than I did at 38. I’ve also had more than a few people express surprise when they learn my age and tell me they had me pegged at 40-something.

Well, heck, it turns out my DNA thinks it’s only 39. That’s some wildly optimistic DNA … or perhaps I’ve got a Jack Benny thing going on, turning 39 yet again.

Anyway, those are the results of my TeloYears test. If they’re legit, then I guess 60 will be the new 40 for me. Chareva will turn 45 in a few weeks, so now I feel like I’m hanging around with a hot older chick … although as she reminded me, we don’t know her TeloYears age.  My daughter Alana also wondered if there’s a separate test for my maturity level.

To be honest, I paid no attention to telomeres until someone at TeloYears got in touch to ask if I’d like to try the test. It’s a simple matter of filling out a form and sending in a blood sample, so I said sure, why not? But I still didn’t read up on exactly what telomeres are.

Here are some quotes from the literature they sent along with my results:

TeloYears is a simple genetic test that reveals the cellular age encoded in your DNA, allowing you to assess how well you are aging at the cellular level.

The TeloYears test measures one thing: the length of your telomeres, which are the protective caps on the ends of your DNA that tend to shorten with age. To calculate your age in TeloYears, we use proprietary scientific methods to measure your telomere length, and statistical methods to determine your age in TeloYears, based on the average length of other people of the same age and gender.

Hmmm … my concern was that this might be like those online IQ tests that declare everyone a genius. So I did some poking around online and found an interview with the woman who won the Nobel Prize for her discovery of and research into telomeres. Here are some quotes:

If you think of your chromosomes – which carry your genetic material – as shoelaces, telomeres are the little protective tips at the end. They are made of repeating short sequences of DNA sheathed in special proteins.

During our lives they tend to wear down and when telomeres can’t protect chromosomes properly, cells can’t replenish and they malfunction. This sets up physiological changes in the body which increase risks of the major conditions and diseases of ageing: cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, a weakened immune system and more. But the process is somewhat malleable. It is happening in all of us at some rate, but the rate can change. An enzyme called telomerase can add DNA to the ends of chromosomes to slow, prevent and partially reverse the shortening.

We all have health spans – the number of years we remain healthy, active and disease-free – and the shortening of our telomeres contributes to ageing and our entry from health span into disease span. But we can [do things that] affect our telomerase and telomeres, that can [delay] entry from health span to disease span. So we are talking more about keeping people healthier for longer and staving off some diseases of ageing. This is not about extreme life span extension – though of course staying healthier longer does have a reflection in mortality rates.

Yeah, okay. So according to my results, I have the telomere length of the average 39-year-old male, and that means I’m aging slowly – assuming the science is all legit.

If it is, I’m going to be honest and blame a big part of my results on lucky genes, much as I’d like to credit my diet and lifestyle. A lot of people in my family lived to a ripe old age – in fact, other than the ones who shortened their lifespans with smoking and/or heavy drinking, they all seemed to live to a ripe old age.

My great-grandfather, to name one shining example, lived to age 101 and was mentally sharp until the last couple of years. Chareva and I got to know his daughter (my great-aunt) when we lived in Los Angeles.  She was 96 and still sharp as a tack when we first met her.  I remember her complaining that people in her family live too long; all her friends in Los Angeles had passed away years earlier.

Apparently, some wing of my dad’s side of the family took the normal 80-year aging program and stretched it out to 100 years. From what I’ve read online, most guys reach their full adult height by 17 or 18. I was only 5’8” when I was 17. I didn’t stop getting taller until age 23, when I finally hit exactly 6’0”. (I’ve since shrunk to 5’11” despite having DNA that thinks it’s only 39.)

Of course, I believe diet also plays a part. Although I didn’t start seriously cutting back on carbs until my 40s, I’d pretty much given up sugary sodas, candies, pies, cookies, cakes, donuts, etc. by the time I was 20. Sugary stuff just didn’t appeal to me anymore, and given that I tended to feel like crap when I did indulge, I was convinced it couldn’t be good for me.

The TeloYears literature lists dietary tips for slowing the aging process, and avoiding sugar is one of them. Unfortunately, other tips appear to be straight from the USDA/American Heart Association playbook. Here are some examples:

  • Eat five servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit most days of the week. (I don’t.)
  • Don’t eat processed meats (salami, sausage, bacon, ham) more than twice per week. (I do.)
  • Follow a mostly plant-based diet that’s low in fat. (Not a chance in hell.)
  • Replace butter with healthy fats, such as olive oil and canola oil. (I’m fine with olive oil, but not as a replacement for butter.)

The literature mentions several studies in which plant-based and Mediterranean diets were correlated with longer telomere length. I don’t doubt that, but these were observational studies, and what we’re actually seeing (once again) is the “healthy person” effect: those diets attract people who care about their health, and are thus different in many, many ways.

I also care about my health, so I avoid what I consider the Big Three of disease-inducing foodstuffs: sugar, refined grains, and industrial seed oils.  I also eat mostly whole foods.  If the TeloYears test is accurate and my DNA really does think it’s only 39 years old, then some portion of that happy result is because of factors I inherited, and the rest is because of what I eat and what I do.

So I’ll ignore the advice to switch to a plant-based, low-fat diet and keep doing what I’ve been doing.  And of course, I expect to enjoy my sixtieth-new-fortieth birthday next year.

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Back in December, I mentioned that our local Kroger started carrying chips like these:

We’re seeing the wisdom of crowds at work. The U.S. government, the American Heart Association and other (ahem) “experts” still insist that coconut oil will kill us because of the saturated fat, and yet grocery stores are responding to demand from consumers who know better.

As more evidence that crowd wisdom is winning, I offer this picture:

There are only three ingredients in these chips: sweet potatoes, coconut oil and sea salt.

So what? It’s just another bag of chips cooked in coconut oil, right? True, but I found these at …wait for it … a gas-station mini-mart, right there by the checkout. That means someone who buys snacks for the mini-mart chain has realized there’s a demand for products like this.  I remember driving from California to Tennessee in 2009 and not being able to find any gas-station snacks that weren’t vaguely horrifying.

Just for kicks, I also took a picture of the ingredients list for a bag of Lay’s cheddar-flavored baked chips:

Look at those yummy ingredients.  But they’re baked! Lower in fat, ya see, so they must be good for you. Heh-heh-heh …

I’ll try not to strain my arm while patting myself on the back, but I’ve been predicting this trend for years. After Fat Head was released, I heard from plenty of food zealots who told me I’m an idiot, a shill for McDonald’s, etc., etc., for refusing to blame the evil corporations for making us all fat and sick by selling us bad foods.

I replied (over and over and over) that manufacturers only produce what people will buy, period. When more and more consumers demand grass-fed beef, or less-processed foods, or whatever, that’s what manufacturers will produce.

Here’s another example. I mentioned awhile back that I like a soup called True Primal. The latest incarnation is even better. It’s now made with all grass-fed beef, and the peas are gone. I’m sure that’s based on consumer feedback.

One pouch of the soup provides 24 grams of protein and just 11 net carbs.  All the vegetables are organic.  My daughters like the flavor, which makes it an easy lunch for them.

The demand for grain-free and gluten-free products is continuing to change what’s available in stores as well. Our local Kroger now carries several types of wheat-free pastas. Sure, they had gluten-free pastas before, but most were made from rice. My glucose meter tells me that anything with rice as a primary ingredient will send my blood sugar into the stratosphere. But now we’re finding pastas made from lentils, peas, sweet potatoes, carrots and beets.

Here’s the complicated ingredient list for the lentil pasta:

If you’re on a strict ketogenic diet or a paleo purist, pasta made from lentils probably won’t appeal to you. I’m not a paleo purist (I think lentils are a fine food) and my daily carb intake is in the 75-100 gram range, so I’m happy to have the option of a pasta meal now and then. Unlike wheat pasta, which seems to just make me hungrier until I stuff myself, these pastas are quite satisfying.

The lentil pasta has 24 net carbs for two ounces. I use three ounces when I make a dinner-sized meal, so it’s 36 net carbs. I’ve checked my glucose an hour after eating and have yet to peak above 125 mg/dl. I’m fine with that.

I usually add four ounces of chicken breast to boost the protein, although the lentil pasta itself has a decent amount of protein at 20 grams per three ounces. For sauce, I make a quick-and-easy alfredo. Here are the ingredients for one serving – multiply as necessary.

3 tablespoons grass-fed butter
2 tablespoons Parmesan
2 tablespoons full-fat sour cream
Garlic and salt to taste
Warm the ingredients and whip with a fork.

Sometimes I also add a quarter-cup of marinara sauce made with no added sugars. According to my calculations, the meal comes out to:

900 calories
58 grams of protein
40 net carbs
11 grams of fiber

Nice to see more foods like these becoming available in grocery stores. Definitely a sign that things are changing for the better.

On the other hand, there’s this:

Weight Watchers is still trying but failing to get it right. Yes, they’ve caught on that people want real ingredients you can pronounce, but they substituted bean puree for cream as a “smart swap.” I don’t have anything against bean puree, but it’s just not necessary to ditch the cream. And of course, they kept the wheat pasta. Wrong swap, folks.

Just to confirm that we have a ways to go despite all the positive changes, the checkout guy at Kroger furrowed his brow when he scanned a bag of the Boulder chips and said, “Coconut oil? Isn’t that bad for you?”

“What makes you say that?”

“I think I read it has too much of the bad kind of cholesterol or something like that.”

Ah, well. We’re getting there, but it will take time.

 

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