Archive for the “Real Food” Category

Chareva’s parents, Alan and Nancy Smiley, sold their Chicago-area home last month and have moved in with us temporarily, along with her brother and sister-in-law. They’re looking around Franklin now for a new home. For those of you who asked in comments, yes, Alan is the one who built a train line around his property some years ago. That’s one of the things I always liked about the man: his go-go-go, get-things-done drive. That drive is the reason he was able to buy a luxury home in the same neighborhood as mobsters and movie directors at an age when most young husbands are saving for a starter home.

Unfortunately, Alan had a significant stroke in April. As a result, he can no longer move his left arm. He can walk, but has to shuffle along with a cane because he can barely lift his left leg. He’s been plagued by insomnia since the stroke and has occasional hand tremors. The doctors who treated him in Chicago said he might have Parkinson’s.

I’d hate to see this happen to anyone. I especially hate to see it happen to the bundle-of-energy guy who barely left the dance floor at our wedding reception and exhausted several dance partners who were considerably younger.  Some people are happy to retire to an easy chair.  Alan would have preferred to retire to a workshop and a string of projects that require expertise with tools.

Alan’s cousin, a neurologist with more than 30 years in the field, offered to drive down from Kentucky last weekend for a visit and a consultation. I was upstairs working on a programming project when Chareva’s mom told me the conversation was turning to nutrition, and Alan thought I might want to listen in. Nutrition? Well, of course I wanted to listen in.

On my way downstairs, I hoped I wasn’t going to hear the standard-issue advice about avoiding fat and eating those hearthealthywholegrains. I promised I’d bite my tongue if need be. After all, Dr. Mike Mayron, the neurologist, made the trip from Kentucky out of the goodness of his heart.

Imagine my relief when Dr. Mayron began by telling Alan that sugars and grains are bad for the brain. We weren’t programmed by evolution to deal with the high levels of glucose those foods produce, he said. We’re programmed to thrive on a diet in which fat is our primary fuel. The best diet to help heal your brain and give it the fuel it needs is a ketogenic diet.

Dr. Mayron explained that he prescribes a ketogenic diet as part of the therapy for a number of brain conditions, then added, “There’s a book I want you to read. I recommend it to all the patients I put on a ketogenic diet, because it was written by a layman and it’s easy to understand. It’s called—“

Holy @#$%, I bet he’s about to say “Keto Clarity.”

“—Keto Clarity, by Jimmy Moore.”

“I’ve got a copy upstairs, Doctor.”

“Oh, good!”

“Actually, Jimmy and I good friends.”

“You’re friends with Jimmy Moore? Seriously?”

“Yeah, in fact he and his wife will be visiting us for Thanksgiving. They were here last Thanksgiving too.”

“Wow. Well, be sure tell him I said thank-you for writing a book that’s helped a lot of people.”

“I will. Actually, hang on, I have a better idea. You can tell him.”

I went and grabbed my iPhone, dialing up Jimmy on FaceTime as I returned to the room. When Jimmy’s face appeared onscreen, I told him I was with a neurologist who wanted to thank him for his work. I handed the phone to Dr. Mayron, and the two of them had a nice chat.

Jimmy then mentioned that he was in Australia to give a speech, and it was 1:00 AM. He should probably try to go back to sleep. Oops. Sorry, Jimmy. It’s a credit to your character that you answered the call cheerfully instead of denigrating my manhood and/or place in the food chain.

After the call with Jimmy, Dr. Mayron continued explaining the many reasons Alan should be on a ketogenic diet, both as a stroke survivor and a type II diabetic. He explained that it normally takes a few weeks to make the adjustment, but there are drink mixes available now that help boost ketones right away. One of them, this one, was originally developed for Navy Seals. Apparently the military figured out Seals have more endurance and focus during long missions if they’re in ketosis.

I was, of course, delighted that Alan was hearing all this from a neurologist. I want him to control his diabetes and be as healthy as he can for as long as he can. After all, he just moved to the same town as the daughter and granddaughters who love him.  We’d all like for him to stick around for awhile.

But I was also delighted to see another example of how more and more doctors are catching on. I didn’t know Dr. Mayron before this weekend. He didn’t know I produced a movie called Fat Head. In fact, as he was assuring Alan that a ketogenic diet doesn’t have to be boring, he said he makes a low-carb pizza crust that taste just like real pizza crust. As he described the ingredients, I asked, “When you found that recipe online, was it by any chance called Fat Head Pizza?”

“As a matter of fact, yes, I’m pretty sure it was.”

“I’m Fat Head.”

I tried not to sound like Michael Keaton saying “I’m Batman.” I also felt obligated to explain that people call it Fat Head Pizza even though all I did was post a recipe my nephew found elsewhere online.

Anyway, my point (and I do have one) is that once again, I saw the Wisdom of Crowds effect at work. I can guarantee you that when Dr. Mayron was in medical school, he wasn’t taught about ketogenic diets as a therapy for brain issues. But thanks to the internet and the astounding ability we all have to acquire and share information, he’s quite familiar with the benefits of a ketogenic diet now. (He lost a lot of weight after going ketogenic himself.) The information gatekeepers don’t control the gates anymore, because the gates are gone. The overlords at the USDA have lost their grip on the conversation about diet and health.

Now when a neurologist wants to educate patients about a good-for-the-brain diet, he recommends a book by a blogger named Jimmy Moore.

And I believe there’s a good chance you’ll hear from Dr. Mayron on a future episode of Jimmy’s podcast show.  Let’s keep that Wisdom of Crowds effect growing.

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Yes, it’s possible to have real foods delivered to your door.  I love it that we live on a mini-farm and grow much of what we eat these days, but hey, it’s nice to know there are products you can have delivered that are made with real-food ingredients.  I’ve received some nice samples over the past several weeks and thought I’d give a shout-out to the people and companies making the good stuff.  (I don’t receive commissions or anything, but the samples were sent to me at no charge.)

We’ll start with Mark Sisson’s company because WOW, that was a big box full of goodies we received.

Primal Fuel is a protein shake mix.  The ingredients are: whey protein, inulin (a pre-biotic), guar gum, natural flavors and stevia extract.  Since Sisson is smart enough not to muck around with low-fat food, there are 9 grams of fat per serving, along with 9 carbs (3 of which are fiber) and 20 grams of protein.  The mix makes a nice, thick shake even if you just blend it with ice water.

I pretty much only drink protein shakes after my workout on Wednesday, but I like this one rather a lot.  There’s just a hint of coconut flavor, and the sweetness is subtle.  I don’t like food where the sweet flavor is overpowering, even if it all comes from stevia.

Chareva and the girls were also big fans of the Dark Chocolate Almond Bars.  (I probably would have been a big fan, but only managed to get my hands on one before they disappeared.  The bars, that is, not the girls.)  So many snack bars sold online are garbage, even if they’re low-carb.  Soy protein, maltitol and whatnot.  By contrast, look at the ingredients in Sisson’s bars:

Almonds, Roasted Pumpkin Seeds, Grass-Fed Hydrolyzed Collagen, Cassava Root, Water, Coconut Flakes, Honey, Natural Flavors, Coconut Oil, Bitter Chocolate, Cocoa Powder, Cocoa Nibs, Himalayan Pink Salt, Monk Fruit Extract, Tocopherols.

Again, as with the Primal Fuel, the sweetness is subtle.  Each bar provides 15 grams of protein, eight net carbs (14 minus six grams of fiber) and 15 grams of fat.  You can eat these as a treat and actually be doing yourself a favor.

Our care package included some salad dressings we haven’t tried yet, so I won’t comment on them other than to say they’re made with real ingredients.  Avocado oil provides the fat, and most of the dressings  also contain red wine vinegar.  Pretty much everything on the label is listed as “organic.”

My favorite item in the care package is the mayonnaise.  Why?  Because it tastes just like mayonnaise!  I’ve made mayonnaise that’s okay, but doesn’t quite taste like, say, Hellman’s.  I ordered some paleo mayonnaise awhile back that tasted more like a mustard spread than mayo.

But Sisson’s mayonnaise tastes like the real deal.  And unlike the real deal (assuming we’re calling Hellman’s mayo “real”), this stuff is actually good for you.  Here are the ingredients:

Avocado Oil, Organic Cage-Free Eggs, Organic Egg Yolks, Organic Vinegar, Sea Salt, Rosemary Extract.

I don’t know how Sisson’s people managed to make real-food mayo that tastes like commercial mayo when so many others have tried and failed, but they nailed it.  I spread this stuff on a slice of turkey breast when I want a quick protein snack.

By the way, you know how often one of us wishes that someone would open a chain of paleo restaurants?  Well, Mark Sisson is doing that, too.  The current plan is to open a Primal Kitchen Restaurant in three locations:  South Bend, Indiana; Anchorage, Alaska; and (of course) Los Angeles.  Sisson will be conducting a webinar next week for people who are interested in becoming franchise owners.  You can read more on the topic here.

If there was ever a sign that people’s attitudes about fats are changing, here it is:  there’s a company now that sells fat.  Specifically, FatWorks sells lard, tallow, chicken fat and duck fat.  The animals are all raised in cage-free environments, and the cows who provide the tallow are grass-fed.  In other words, these are the good fats.

The only one I’ve tried so far is the tallow.  I’m old enough to remember when McDonald’s still fried their French fries in tallow, and man, those were good fries.  So for breakfast on Sunday, I asked Chareva if she’d mind frying up some taters in tallow.  She told me later the tallow gave her iron skillet a nice, non-stick quality.  She never had to scrape the potato slices from the pan.

No wonder our great-grandmothers cooked with the stuff.  I remember reading somewhere that Teflon helped the low-fat diet movement gain momentum.  It was suddenly possible to fry or bake low-fat foods without having them stick to the pan.  If only we’d all known better.

I noticed right away that the potatoes became crispy without us having to fry them to the burning point.  Can’t say that about vegetable oils, which don’t taste good anyway.  And according to Nina Teicholz’ book The Big Fat Surprise, heating those “heart-healthy” vegetable oils to frying temperatures produces a chemical relative of formaldehyde.  So the bad news is that those oils will kill you.  The good news is that you’ll already be preserved when you die, which saves the undertaker some work.

Anyway, the taters fried in tallow were awesome.  Crispy, delicious, satisfying.  I ate a few as a stand-alone snack, then put three eggs fried in butter on top of the rest.  Heckuva tasty breakfast.

I don’t eat meals at work very often these days, since I usually leave at 3:45.  But when I do decide to eat at the office, it’s often a soup I like called True Primal.  No grains, soy, preservatives, sugar, MSG, vegetable oils or any of that other nasty stuff.  The ingredients are:

Water, tomatoes, diced beef, carrots, onions, green peas, green beans, tomato paste, chicken broth, rendered chicken fat, pork gelatin, sea salt, spices, garlic.

Each one-can serving contains 18 net carbs, 10 grams of fat and 20 grams of protein.  If you’re on a strict ketogenic diet, the peas and carrots might be a no-no, but it’s a good lowish-carb soup and pretty tasty.  Beats the heck of out Campbell’s.

Enjoy.  I certainly did.

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I’ve mentioned this story a couple of times before, but given the topic of this post, it bears repeating:

The Older Brother and I had a conversation some years back as our dad was fading from Alzheimer’s.  The Older Brother noted that while our great-grandfather was sharp until nearly age 100, our grandmother developed Alzheimer’s in her 80s, and our dad had (in retrospect) started succumbing in his late 60s.  Seeing the progression, The Older Brother said, “Well, we’re screwed.”  (That’s the family-friendly version of his analysis.)

I replied that Alzheimer’s is probably a form of diabetes, not a genetic destiny.  We can avoid or delay it for decades by eating a good diet.

Turns out a good diet might even reverse the condition to an impressive degree.  Here’s part of the abstract of a 2014 pilot program published in the journal Aging:

This report describes a novel, comprehensive, and personalized therapeutic program that is based on the underlying pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease, and which involves multiple modalities designed to achieve metabolic enhancement for neurodegeneration (MEND). The first 10 patients who have utilized this program include patients with memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease (AD), amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI), or subjective cognitive impairment (SCI). Nine of the 10 displayed subjective or objective improvement in cognition beginning within 3-6 months, with the one failure being a patient with very late stage AD.

Six of the patients had had to discontinue working or were struggling with their jobs at the time of presentation, and all were able to return to work or continue working with improved performance. Improvements have been sustained, and at this time the longest patient follow-up is two and one-half years from initial treatment, with sustained and marked improvement.

Sustained and marked improvement?  Six of 10 patients able to return to work?  Why wasn’t this all over the news?!  Perhaps because there’s no miracle drug involved.  The therapeutic program employed here was mostly about diet and other lifestyle changes.

The paper opens with a long discussion of the biology of Alzheimer’s and the history (not an impressive one) of drug therapies.  Let’s skip those and get into the therapies employed with these patients.  Here are two examples:

Patient One

A 67-year-old woman presented with two years of progressive memory loss. She held a demanding job that involved preparing analytical reports and traveling widely, but found herself no longer able to analyze data or prepare the reports, and therefore was forced to consider quitting her job. She noted that when she would read, by the time she reached the bottom of a page she would have to start at the top once again, since she was unable to remember the material she had just read.

She was no longer able to remember numbers, and had to write down even 4-digit numbers to remember them. She also began to have trouble navigating on the road: even on familiar roads, she would become lost trying to figure out where to enter or exit the road. She also noticed that she would mix up the names of her pets, and forget where the light switches were in her home of years.

Sounds a lot like my dad around the same age.  Long before we realized he was suffering from Alzheimer’s, my mom complained to me that my dad just wanted to vegetate in front of the TV at night and didn’t read anymore – which seemed odd, given that he used to devour books and could quote facts from them years after reading them.  His driving also became so erratic, we had to talk him into giving it up before he killed someone.  Later, of course, we realized he’d stopped reading because he couldn’t remember what he’d just read.

Here’s the therapy for Patient One:

As noted above, and following an extended discussion of the components of the therapeutic program, the patient began on some but not all of the system: (1) she eliminated all simple carbohydrates, leading to a weight loss of 20 pounds; (2) she eliminated gluten and processed food from her diet, and increased vegetables, fruits, and non-farmed fish; (3) in order to reduce stress, she began yoga, and ultimately became a yoga instructor; (4) as a second measure to reduce the stress of her job, she began to meditate for 20 minutes twice per day; [5] she took melatonin 0.5mg po qhs; (6) she increased her sleep from 4-5 hours per night to 7-8 hours per night; (7) she took methylcobalamin 1mg each day; (8) she took vitamin D3 2000IU each day; (9) she took fish oil 2000mg each day; (10) she took CoQ10 200mg each day; (11) she optimized her oral hygiene using an electric flosser and electric toothbrush; (12) following discussion with her primary care provider, she reinstated HRT (hormone replacement therapy) that had been discontinued following the WHI report in 2002; (13) she fasted for a minimum of 12 hours between dinner and breakfast, and for a minimum of three hours between dinner and bedtime; (14) she exercised for a minimum of 30 minutes, 4-6 days per week.

No simple carbs.  Ditch the gluten.  Exercising, some over-the-counter supplements, more sleep and more exercise.  Now here are the results:

She began System 1.0, and was able to adhere to some but not all of the protocol components. Nonetheless, after three months she noted that all of her symptoms had abated: she was able to navigate without problems, remember telephone numbers without difficulty, prepare reports and do all of her work without difficulty, read and retain information, and, overall, she became asymptomatic. She noted that her memory was now better than it had been in many years. On one occasion, she developed an acute viral illness, discontinued the program, and noticed a decline, which reversed when she reinstated the program. Two and one-half years later, now age 70, she remains asymptomatic and continues to work full-time.

Big Pharma, eat your hearts out.  No drug has come close to those results.

Let’s look at one more case history.  Here’s what the paper says about Patient Two:

A 69-year-old entrepreneur and professional man presented with 11 years of slowly progressive memory loss, which had accelerated over the past one or two years. In 2002, at the age of 58, he had been unable to recall the combination of the lock on his locker, and he felt that this was out of the ordinary for him…. He noted that he had progressive difficulty recognizing the faces at work (prosopagnosia), and had to have his assistants prompt him with the daily schedule. He also recalled an event during which he was several chapters into a book before he finally realized that it was a book he had read previously. In addition, he lost an ability he had had for most of his life: the ability to add columns of numbers rapidly in his head.

Here’s his therapy:

The patient began on the following parts of the overall therapeutic system: (1) he fasted for a minimum of three hours between dinner and bedtime, and for a minimum of 12 hours between dinner and breakfast; (2) he eliminated simple carbohydrates and processed foods from his diet; (3) he increased consumption of vegetables and fruits, and limited consumption of fish to non-farmed, and meat to occasional grass-fed beef or organic chicken; (4) he took probiotics; (5) he took coconut oil i tsp bid; (6) he exercised strenuously, swimming 3-4 times per week, cycling twice per week, and running once per week; (7) he took melatonin 0.5mg po qhs, and tried to sleep as close to 8 hours per night as his schedule would allow; (8) he took herbs Bacopa monniera 250mg, Ashwagandha 500mg, and turmeric 400mg each day; (9) he took methylcobalamin 1mg, methyltetrahydrofolate 0.8mg, and pyridoxine-5-phosphate 50mg each day; (10) he took citicoline 500mg po bid; (11) he took vitamin C 1g per day, vitamin D3 5000IU per day, vitamin E 400IU per day, CoQ10 200mg per day, Zn picolinate 50mg per day, and α-lipoic acid 100mg per day; (12) he took DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) 320mg and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) 180mg per day.

And his results:

He began on the therapeutic program, and after six months, his wife, co-workers, and he all noted improvement. He lost 10 pounds. He was able to recognize faces at work unlike before, was able to remember his daily schedule, and was able to function at work without difficulty. He was also noted to be quicker with his responses. His life-long ability to add columns of numbers rapidly in his head, which he had lost during his progressive cognitive decline, returned. His wife pointed out that, although he had clearly shown improvement, the more striking effect was that he had been accelerating in his decline over the prior year or two, and this had been completely halted.

Ditch the processed foods, eat real foods.  Exercise and get enough sleep.  Take some supplements to replace the nutrients that were plentiful in hunter-gatherer diets, but are missing in modern diets.  Next thing you know, the guy can add columns of numbers in his head again.

I think we’re seeing why Alzheimer’s was rare in hunter-gatherer societies.  It isn’t some harsh sentence handed down by fate or genes.  It’s a condition caused by (in many cases, anyway) the same garbage diet that makes people fat and diabetic.

So no, I don’t believe The Older Brother and I will succumb to the disease that caused our dad to fade away in front of our eyes.  I expect to be blogging and making wisecracks at age 97 … with The Older Brother sitting in when I need a vacation.

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Pardon the delay in posting and responding to comments. I was on Dauphin Island off the coast of Alabama for a wedding last week. I couldn’t ask The Older Brother to sit in, since it was his Middle Son getting married.

Anyway … in my last post, I commented briefly on a video presentation of a study that, in some people’s minds, nailed the coffin-lid shut on the Carb-Insulin hypothesis. I replied that I don’t believe the hypothesis is dead, but needs some revising. Based on personal experience, lots of reading and listening to podcasts, conversations with other people and so forth, I’ve been slowly revising it my own head for years. So let me reach up there between my ears and pluck out some thoughts, then see if I can work them into a coherent post.

More Carbohydrates => Higher Insulin => Fat Storage

That’s the Carbohydrate-Insulin hypothesis in a nutshell. The more carbohydrates you eat, the more insulin you produce, and the more insulin you produce, the fatter you become. Or to express it in reverse for those trying to lose weight: the fewer carbohydrates you eat, the less insulin you produce, and the less insulin you produce, the leaner you become.

Simple is certainly appealing. But I happen to know the linear equation of more carbs = more body fat isn’t true in my case.

But wait … didn’t you finally lose weight after going low-carb?!

Why, yes, I did. And it was easy. Unlike when I tried low-fat/low-calorie diets based on cereals, pasta, bread and rice, I dropped the pounds fairly quickly and wasn’t hungry. Like a lot of people, I figured if low is good, lower is better.  So I stayed on a very-low-carb diet for a long time.

But after reading The Perfect Health Diet, I put real-food starches like potatoes and squashes back into my diet. After listening to Jimmy Moore’s podcast with the guys who designed the Carb Nite protocol, I started enjoying a high-carb Saturday night (but with a Mexican dinner, not donuts). After reading about the gut microbiome, I started eating tiger nuts for the fiber and resistant starch. After reading a book called Natural Hormone Enhancement, I decided to mix things up even more. Some days my diet resembles The Perfect Health Diet. Some days it resembles an Atkins induction diet, all meats and eggs and green vegetables. Some days I skip breakfast. Some days I fast until dinner. Saturday is still the high-carb night.

I average more carbs per day now than I did a few years ago, but haven’t gotten any fatter. So more carbs = more body fat clearly isn’t true for me, at least not as a linear relationship.

Does that mean insulin doesn’t drive fat accumulation? Nope, not at all. I don’t think we’ve seen the final word on the research, but let’s just say I’ll be stunned if turns out insulin has little to do with gaining weight.

Insulin inhibits lipolysis — the breakdown and release of fat from fat cells. Any book on metabolism will tell you so. That’s one of insulin’s many jobs, and it’s a crucial one. When you eat a meal that raises your blood sugar, insulin brings the blood sugar down partly by storing fat and keeping it stored. That way your cells burn the glucose first.

Take a look at this graph from a study by Dr. Jeff Volek. It shows the relationship between the concentration of insulin in our blood and the ability to release fat.

Here’s a quote from text accompanying the graph in the Volek paper:

Adipose tissue lipolysis is exquisitely sensitive to changes in insulin within the physiological range of concentrations. Small to moderate decreases in insulin can increase lipolysis several-fold, the response being virtually immediate. Insulin also stimulates lipogenesis [creating new body fat] by increasing glucose uptake and activating lipogenic and glycolytic enzymes. Small reductions in insulin levels, such as that easily achieved with dietary carbohydrate restriction, remove the normal inhibition on fat breakdown.

I’ve seen several studies in which giving diabetics higher concentrations of insulin made them fatter. In a study of the effects of obesity on rats, the researchers stated matter-of-factly that they made the rats obese by pumping them full of insulin. When they stopped pumping the rats full of insulin, the rats returned to their normal weights. So yes, high insulin levels encourage fat accumulation and inhibit fat breakdown. And yes, your body releases insulin when you eat carbs.

But it’s not the temporary spike in insulin after a meal that makes you fat. That’s when insulin is doing exactly what it’s supposed to do: partitioning nutrients, shuttling glucose into cells, storing fat so glucose is burned first when glucose is high, etc. Later, insulin is supposed to drop and allow fat to flow from the fat cells.  Lower insulin also allows glycogen to be converted to glucose.  It’s all about keeping glucose within a safe range.

In a lecture I watched online, a biochemist described insulin rising as the building/storing phase and insulin dropping as the burning/using phase. Both phases are necessary for good health. The problem is that for metabolically damaged people, insulin stays high when it ought to be low. They spend too much time in the building/storing phase, and not enough time in the burning/using phase.

During his presentation on hyperinsulinemia on the cruise, Dr. Ted Naiman showed a chart of the insulin responses of normal vs. obese/insulin-resistant people to the same meal. The obese people not only had a much higher initial insulin spike, their insulin levels stayed higher for several hours. Take another look at Dr. Volek’s graph. It doesn’t take much extra insulin to inhibit lipolysis rather dramatically.

But those are metabolically damaged people. (We’ll get to what I believe causes the damage shortly.) For metabolically healthy people, a high-carb meal will certainly raise insulin temporarily — as it should — but that doesn’t necessarily mean insulin will stay high. When I first started hearing from paleo types that tubers have been part of the human diet for eons and are perfectly fine foods, they usually pointed to the Kitavans – native people who live on a high-carb diet (mostly sweet potatoes), but aren’t fat or diabetic.

So I looked up some articles and a study of the Kitavans. Yup, they eat a lot of sweet potatoes and they’re not fat or diabetic. But here’s the interesting part: their average insulin level is 24 pmol/L. If you check Volek’s chart, you’ll see that’s down in the range where fat breakdown occurs. (By contrast, one study puts the average insulin level for American adults at around 60 pmol/L.)  So for the Kitavans at least, a high-carb diet of whole unprocessed foods doesn’t lead to high insulin levels throughout the day. In other words, they don’t become insulin resistant. I’m sure we could find plenty of other paleo people who ate natural starches without becoming fat and diabetic. Quite a few Native Americans, for example, grew squashes and beans.

No doubt the potatoes and other starches I eat now temporarily spike my insulin. So why haven’t I gotten any fatter? Well, I don’t have any way of checking my fasting insulin level at home, but I’d wager a large sum it’s no higher now than it was a few years ago, when I rarely ate starch. I’d also wager a large sum that when I was living on low-fat cereals, low-fat pasta, whole-wheat bread with margarine and other vegetarian delights, my fasting insulin was much higher.

So the first revision of the “alternative hypothesis” I carried around in my head looked something like this:

Damaging Diet => Chronically High Insulin (Insulin Resistance) => Fat Storage.

What is or isn’t a damaging diet certainly varies among individuals. Back in this post, I recounted a section from Denise Minger’s excellent book Death By Food Pyramid in which she wrote about the huge variations in how much amylase we produce. People who produce little amylase experience much more dramatic blood-sugar surges when they consume starch than people who produce a lot of amylase. The low-amylase producers are also eight times as likely to become obese.

I doubt that’s a coincidence. Excess glucose damages cells. It makes sense that cells would protect themselves against high-glucose assaults by developing resistance to the insulin that’s trying to shove glucose through the door. So perhaps for some people, it really is as simple as too many carbs => insulin resistance.

But having said that, I doubt many type II diabetics got that way by eating potatoes and fruit. I think it’s much more likely that the carb culprit was processed carbs. It isn’t just that they spike blood sugar (although they certainly do). These “acellular” carbohydrates also produce inflammation – and inflammation is a likely driver of insulin resistance.

Which brings us to a major non-carb culprit: the crap oils that have been displacing natural fats in our diets for decades. We didn’t just start eating more breads and cereals after the Food Pyramid came around. We also started replacing butter and lard with soybean oil, cottonseed oil and other industrial horrors that drive inflammation. If inflammation in turn drives insulin resistance, then the “heart healthy” diets people started adopting in the 1980s were a double whammy: too many processed carbs, combined with industrial oils. Pass the (ahem) “whole wheat” toast with margarine, please, because I’m being good to my heart.

The second revision of the “alternative hypothesis” I carry around in my head took it from this:

Damaging Diet => Chronically High Insulin (Insulin Resistance) => Fat Storage.

To this:

Damaging Diet => Hormonal Disruption => Fat Storage.

Yes, insulin resistance is a form of hormonal disruption, and yes, I believe chronically high insulin drives fat accumulation. But other hormonal disruptions can make us fat too. I’ve mentioned seeing a documentary called The Science of Obesity that featured a woman who’d been lean her entire life, then started blowing up. She cut her calories to 1500 per day and still got fatter. Doctor after doctor accused her of lying about her diet.

But finally an endocrinologist ran some tests and found she had a small tumor on her brain. The tumor was preventing her brain from sensing the hormone leptin. Since leptin tells the brain how big our fat stores are, her brain concluded that she had no fat stores and needed to build them up. Fat stores are, after all, a crucial part of our fuel system. So each time she restricted her calories more, her body responded by slowing her metabolism more.

Few obese people have a brain tumor, but once again, a bad diet can lead to leptin resistance. Inflammation may cause leptin resistance directly, and chronically high insulin can block the leptin signal from reaching the brain. So we’re back to the same likely suspects: processed carbs and crap oils.

A baked potato with butter contains neither, which is one reason I now eat the occasional baked potato with butter. I may have surprised a few people on the low-carb cruise by eating the potato that came with my dinner on several nights. Then again, I saw others in our group doing likewise. Like I said, the low-carb movement is becoming more of a real-food movement, at least among the people I know.

But I don’t just eat the potato because I think I can get away with it. I eat the potato because I believe I’m better off with it than without it. Yup, you just heard me say that … er, write that.

Once again, the reason has to do with hormones. Going down to near-zero on the carbs and staying there can cause hormonal disruptions in some people. In the Natural Hormone Enhancement book I mentioned above, author Rob Faigin praised low-carb diets as a way to jump-start weight loss, but cautioned that going very-low-carb permanently can reduce testosterone and raise cortisol in men. He cited several studies to back up the point. Here’s one I just dug up.

He also cited evidence that going permanently low-carb can lead to a slower thyroid. I know Dr. Ron Rosedale insists the change in thyroid hormones is a healthy adaptation, but come on … if you’re trying to lose weight, do you really want a “healthy” slower thyroid?

Faigin’s solution is to mix it up: a VLC diet five days per week to promote weight loss, then high-carb (but not processed carbs) with reduced fat two days per week to prevent hormonal disruptions. The Carb Nite protocol is based on a similar idea. Paul Jaminet’s solution, of course, is to eat some “safe starches” daily while still keeping carbs on the lowish side overall. I can’t say if one solution is better than the other. It probably depends on the individual. Like I said, I mix things up and go with different diets on different days.

Having said all that, I would never encourage type II diabetics to run out and eat potatoes. During a Q & A session on a previous low-carb cruise, Denise Minger put it something like this: a low-carb diet is an effective treatment for type II diabetes, but that doesn’t mean metabolically healthy people have to give up fruit and potatoes to avoid diabetes. In other words, just because someone with a broken leg needs crutches, it doesn’t mean we must all use crutches to avoid breaking our legs. On the other hand, just because people can eat potatoes and fruit without becoming diabetic, it doesn’t mean diabetics should eat potatoes and fruit. In other words, just because walking without crutches won’t break your leg, it doesn’t mean people with broken legs don’t need crutches.

So to wrap up a very long post:

I don’t believe obesity is as simple as the more carbs we eat, the higher the insulin, and the higher the insulin, the more fat accumulation. Losing weight also isn’t as simple as the fewer carbs we eat, the lower the insulin, and the lower the insulin, the leaner we become. Cutting carbs can certainly promote weight loss (as it did for me), but when most of us go low-carb, we not only cut out the acellular processed carbs completely, we also embrace real fats and give up the crap oils. We eat bacon and fry our eggs in real butter. So I suspect the benefits are partly the result of reducing inflammation, which in turn reduces insulin resistance and perhaps leptin resistance.

To keep the benefits coming, it’s not necessary (or even advisable for many people) to stay at near-zero-carb levels permanently. For non-diabetics, I believe it’s better for overall hormonal health to mix it up, adding in some real-food starches, or cycling VLC days with higher-carb days.

To me, the golden nugget of the “alternative hypothesis” is that getting fat isn’t about calories; it’s about hormones. When our government told everyone to eat plenty of grains and cut the arterycloggingsaturatedfat!, following that advice created hormonal disruptions for many, many people. The cure is to 1) eat real, unprocessed food and 2) reduce the carbs to a level appropriate for your metabolism.

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Greetings Fatheads,

Well, it’s sure been an eventful year in Illinois politics, what with the veto-proof Democratic legislature and the Republican governor putting together a surprise last-minute deal for an honest-to-goodness balanced budget that will get the 100+ billion pension debt paid down over the next ten years, AND address the unfunded state retiree health benefit obligations ($56 B), while knocking down the $5+ billion backlog of bills to vendors dating back over a year now, and simultaneously restoring state services to the indigent, and even finally opening our state museum and public parks again.

PSYCH!

HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA!

Man, if you could see the look on your face! Sometimes, I just crack myself up.

Actually the unfunded pension liability rose over $6 billion last year to over $111 billion (in a record up market), retiree health beneficiaries are one year closer to insolvency, and state vendors (including social service NFP’s) are still registering red on the “How Screwed Are We?” meter, but at least according to the budget — …

Oh wait, there is no budget.

I don’t mean a budget for this year. I mean the fiscal year 2015 budget, that started July 1, 2015 and is ending in less than two months. They haven’t finished passing a budget for that. It’s not looking so good for 2016 either.

Not to worry — welfare checks and state worker checks (including the legislators who haven’t passed a law to pay anything) are still going out. Just not the ones for if you, say, sold the state some office supplies; or rent a building to them; or provide care to the mentally disabled. Little stuff like that.

You would be forgiven for thinking that our elected officials, who are demonstrably incapable of discharging even their most basic, simple tasks, are just absolutely useless. You couldn’t be more wrong — they’re much worse than useless.

They may not be able to do things like pass a budget and allocate funds for things like taking care of poor people, funding schools, building roads, and sundry other basics that even libertarians like me understand people now want government to do (not agree, of course, but understand); but that doesn’t mean they aren’t busy.

Sorry. I know I didn’t give you a “Politics!” trigger warning, but that’s not the real point of this post. Here’s the point:

As I confidently predicted here and reiterated here, the bureaucrats have completed their inevitable march to addressing one of the most dangerous health scourges facing our nation…

… yes, after three years, the $100,000 a year, state-employed lick-spittle turds who are being funded by the USDA to get raw milk out of the market apparently wore down the mom-and-pop operators who had to take time off (lose income) every time they (re-)proposed new regulations.

Remember kids — regulators never get you with brains, competence, or results. They always win by exhaustion.

As elaborated in my prior posts, they can’t just make raw milk illegal. When they want to take away something the Bigs (Ag, Pharma, Banking, or in this case Milk) don’t want to have to compete with, they just regulate you to death.

[Here’s the short version if you didn’t read those previous posts:

“after over a hundred people showed up to politely but loudly protest the state’s heavy-handed actions, I noted:

‘I’ve heard from a couple of folks who think the regulators got an education on raw milk… Maybe the bureaucrats would change things up substantially.  Maybe even remove impediments to raw milk while setting a few common-sense protocols, as it fits in with the buy local/real foods programs the state and others talk up.’

Feeling I had a better understanding of bureaucratic sausage-making than those good, honest people, I ended with…

‘I’m guessing they’ll lay low for a few months or more, and then pass pretty much all of those rules as is, maybe without the 100 gallon limit.  Or maybe they’ll bump the limit to 500 gallons.  But they didn’t learn anything, and they’re there to pass those rules.’

It’s what they do.]

The first posts were after a 2013 hearing. The followup was from 2014. Our betters had to lay in the weeds for over another year, but then they did exactly what I said they’d do. It’s like Gravity.

Right again. Dammit.

So starting in July, when I go to Linda’s farm — where I can always walk around and see the cows my milk comes from, and see the operation, and walk through the barn she milks in, there will be a few other things in place.

For my protection, of course.

Like, she’ll have to get a permit from the insolvent Illinois government. But first,she’ll have to complete an inspection by the incompetent Illinois government. She’ll have to take samples and pay for a lab to test the milk for a few weeks to get the permit, then do regular ongoing tests. Any day anyone buys milk, she’ll have to store a sample of the milk for two weeks. If the department doesn’t like the way her barn looks, they can shut her down until she makes it look nice to them and they re-inspect her. Getting an inspection rescheduled could be difficult as the state doesn’t have a budget, so they can’t hire more inspectors, and even if it did they don’t have any money to pay for more inspectors.

[They can also shut her down if one of her free-ranging egg chickens walks through the milk barn. Hey, it sounds harsh, but you have to be cautious about  the whole “avian flu” thing that used to wipe out whole geographic areas of birds and spread disease until we started safely housing hundreds of thousands of chickens in legal, government approved and inspected warehouses; cutting their beaks off; and force feeding them antibiotics. Hmmm, I may have that backwards.]

Every time I buy a gallon of her delicious “creamy milk” (as The Grandkids call it), she’ll have to write my name, address, and phone number in a log that she has to keep for six months and make available to the egregiously misnamed Department of Public Health. She’ll have to have a placard up (in letters at least 2 inches high) that states:

“”Warning: Milk that is not pasteurized is sold or distributed here. This dairy farm is not inspected routinely by the Illinois Department of Public Health”

Wooooooo. Scary. It’s supposed to be, anyway.

Also, she’ll have to provide me with “Department-approved consumer awareness information.” It will say things like:

“”WARNING: This product has not been pasteurized and, therefore, may contain pathogens that cause serious illness, especially in children, the elderly, women who are pregnant and persons with weakened immune systems.”

Plus, it’s now illegal for any raw milk producer to sell yogurt or cheese made with their raw milk, even if they pasteurize it as part of the process. Wouldn’t want any of these folks being able to earn a value-added premium for their products.

One of the last items in the new reg states that the Department can suspend or revoke the dairy farm permit whenever:

“the Department has reason to believe that a public hazard exists”

So since “the Department” is being funded by the USDA, and the USDA’s position is that there is absolutely no such thing as a safe glass of raw milk, somewhere down the line, you can bet “the Department” will determine that they have reason to believe that anyone producing and selling raw milk constitutes a public hazard.

I’ll say it again,

“It’s what they do.”

I feel so much safer.

Tom should be back next week, hopefully with highlights of the Low Carb Cruise. Thanks for stopping by.

Cheers!

The Older Brother

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Hiya, Fat Heads!

Been awhile since I’ve got to sit in The Big Chair — trying to remember what all these buttons do.

As Tom mentioned, The Middle Son and his amazing girlfriend told The Wife and me a couple of months ago that they where going to get married. We were thrilled. Then they told us where they wanted to get married. Here’s a hint from this post from about a year ago:

I’d been adamant for the last several years that I wasn’t coming back. Don’t get me wrong, I love it here. House facing the Gulf (we actually have two houses this time to accommodate all 15 people), The Wife and I doing most of the cooking, everyone else doing most of the cleaning, hanging out on the beach, watching the shrimp boats go out with the dolphins trolling behind them for the freebies that fall out of the nets.

It’s just that we’ve done it several times and I was done. I kept arguing that I didn’t want to have a one destination bucket list. This year, The Wife pointed out that this would be the first time The Grandkids would be able to come, too, and wouldn’t it be great to see them at the ocean for the first time.

n.b., folks — there’s no actual defense against that one.

Yep. Back to Dauphin Island. Turns out there are other things besides “The Grandkids first time” that there’s no defense against. It’s becoming a family joke. One of the folks I work with suggested maybe I should look in to buying a burial plot down there, since that seems to be where I always end up anyway.

It will be a great and joyous time, and it’s coming up fast — the end of this month. Tom and Chareva and their girls are coming, lots of the rest of the family, a few good friends — around forty people or so at last count.

And I’m never going back. This time I mean it (Ha!).

As Tom also mentioned, my responsibilities in preparing for the occasion essentially consist of showing up. This is an approach I mastered early on, and every semester urge the young men in the Economics class where I am a guest speaker to adopt. The key, as I serendipitously discovered with The Wife (who was at the time The Fiancee), is to take a job about 700 miles away shortly after you’ve bamboozled your betrothed into accepting your proposal. So then you essentially can’t be involved in any of the decision-making for the wedding – photographer, venue, dresses, tuxes, food, entertainment, etc., etc., etc.

But, as I explain to them, “guess what — YOU DON’T GET TO MAKE ANY OF THOSE DECISIONS, ANYWAY, because it’s not your day. It’s hers!”

You get the exact same amount of decision-making power, but you don’t get dragged all over to various vendors, shops, and venues, and then have to give your opinion before being told the correct answer. You just have to fly in a couple of days ahead of the wedding, get your tux fitted, do the bachelor party, then show up for the wedding.

It’s a beautiful system. Pass it on.

Anyway, it’s to the point where Spring looks like it may stick around now, and I took a trip out to Linda’s farm last week and thought I’d share some pics. I’ve been dropping in once in awhile to get some eggs, but things just seemed to pop into full season this past week. Here’s the front pasture, really greening up now.

Linda and her sister Kim took the “pick up the old grocery store produce once in awhile and compost it” approach we were doing and really got serious about it. Here’s the current work area, which should be next year’s compost…

… and here’s part of this year’s compost from their efforts last season. There’s another three or four mounds this size off to the side. Black Gold!

Linda’s hedge trimmers/weed eaters have had their annual maintenance and are all primed up for the season.

Here’s Tartar, our cow who’s now given us our third calf after getting out of the “freezer” and into the “breeder” column by surprising us with her first calf a couple of winter ago.

Here’s this year’s calf. It’s a heifer and Linda named her “Tofu.” She got a name because I think we’re planning on keeping her as a breeder also. The Oldest Son has been wanting to get in on a share of a cow, and this will give us two breeders for four families (1/2 a cow each per year, hopefully) instead of three families splitting one cow a year.

Here’s last year’s bull, who will be heading to the freezer in late fall after getting to spend the Spring and Summer on pasture.

Linda’s second set of “bacon” is also coming along nicely.

After three months of maybe being able to get a couple of dozen eggs every other week or so, Linda’s egg layers are in full production mode. I’ve been getting 6 or more dozen a week, and she’s got other customers.

Our next batch of 100 day-old Freedom Ranger chicks arrived via Post Office the first week of April, so these guys have about another week in the coop/brooder until they get moved into the “tractors” on the pasture, where Linda moves them daily and they can get sunshine, organic feed, bugs, new grass and fresh water every day, and generally “express their chicken-ness” until mid-summer. Then The Oldest Son and I show up, bring the Whiz-Bang Chicken Plucker out of the barn, and start re-stocking the freezer.

Finally, we’re on the verge of being able to get real milk again. A couple of Linda’s milk cows calved recently, and will have “extra” pretty soon. This one should be having her calf any minute!

So, Spring is finally here and we’re looking forward to this year’s supply of beef, pork, chicken, eggs, and milk — knowing and respecting where every bite and drop came from.

Cheers!

The Older Brother

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