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:
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.
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:
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.
While I was on the cruise, this YouTube video made a splash. It was hailed as the death of the carbohydrate-insulin hypothesis. Take a look:
Several readers emailed to ask what I thought, and I replied that since I hadn’t seen the study itself, I had no opinion yet … although little alarm bells went off in my head when I saw that the researcher being interviewed was Kevin Hall. If the name sounds familiar, perhaps it’s because he was the lead researcher on a recent study that was reported in the media with headlines like FOR FAT LOSS, LOW-FAT DIETS BEAT LOW-CARB DIETS HANDILY, NEW RESEARCH FINDS.
I wrote about that study in this post. The (ahem) low-carb diet provided 140 grams of carbohydrate per day – including 37 grams per day of sugar. Yeah, just like Dr. Atkins recommended. The low-fat diet, meanwhile, was truly a low-fat diet: just 7.7 percent of calories from fat.
Hall responded to that criticism by saying he had to choose a moderate-carb diet to keep protein constant across both diets. Several readers responded to that response by producing (within minutes) two low-calorie diet plans, one very low-fat, one very-low carb, both with identical protein. So Hall’s explanation doesn’t hold up.
The diets lasted a whopping six days each (everyone in the study was supposed to do both diets), and the difference in weight loss was a non-significant one-tenth of one pound.
In the full paper, I saw that 19 people completed the sort-of-low-carb diet, but only 17 completed the low-fat diet … and yet the researchers didn’t restrict their comparison to the 17 people who completed both diets, and didn’t provide individual data for any of the dieters. And the paper included this strange paragraph:
The data were analyzed using a repeated-measures mixed model controlling for sex and order effects and are presented as least-squares mean ± SEM. The p values refer to the diet effects and were not corrected for multiple comparisons. One female subject had changes in DXA % body fat data that were not physiological and were clear outliers, so these data were excluded from the analyses.
My impression was that Hall designed the “low fat beats low carb handily” study to get the results he wanted — perhaps assisted by tossing out a data point or two. Clear outliers, ya know.
Those complaints about his earlier study notwithstanding, if a study is conducted and analyzed honestly, then the data is what the data is. Like I said, I haven’t seen the study he’s explaining in the video. But Dr. Mike Eades took a careful look at the video, screen-capping some of the charts so he could analyze them, and also dug up the abstract. I’d suggest you read his entire post, but here’s the first punchline:
In the video, Hall declares that the study shows there’s no metabolic advantage to a ketogenic diet. Got that? No metabolic advantage. But the title of the abstract is … wait for it … Energy Expenditure Increases Following An Isocaloric Ketogenic Diet in Overweight And Obese Men. And a sentence in the abstract clearly states:
Therefore, an isocaloric ketogenic diet was associated with increased energy expenditure of ~100 kcal/d.
Perhaps it depends on your definition of “advantage,” but that sounds like an advantage to me.
After watching the video and reading Dr. Eades’ post, here’s my opinion of the study: I don’t really care either way. As Paul Jaminet pointed out during a podcast, there are more than a million diet studies in PubMed. You can find almost any result you want. I’ve seen studies in which a lower-carb diet led to more weight loss, even on the same number of calories. This one, for example:
On the 1,800-kcal reduction diet consumed over a 9-week period, diet A contained 104 g carbohydrate/day; diet B, 60 g; diet C, 30 g. The three-man subgroups were matched as closely as possible on the basis of maintenance caloric requirement and percent body weight as fat.
Weight loss, fat loss, and percent weight loss as fat appeared to be inversely related to the level of carbohydrate in the isocaloric, isoprotein diets. No adequate explanation can be given for weight loss differences.
But I’ve also seen studies in which restricting calories led to the same average weight loss whether the diet was low-fat or low-carb. And I suppose if someone did enough digging, he could find a metabolic ward study where people lost more weight on a high-carb diet than a low-carb diet.
Again, I don’t really care. People don’t live in metabolic wards where their food intake is carefully controlled. They live in the real world. And in the real world, people respond to their appetites. For many people, myself included, switching to a low-carb diet resulted in (after years of frustration) losing weight without going hungry.
AHA! THAT MEANS YOU CONSUMED FEWER CALORIES THAN YOU BURNED!
Of course I consumed fewer calories than I burned, you @#$%ing moron! That is always HOW we lose weight. And consuming more calories than we burn is always HOW we gain weight. But as I’ve said many times (and will keep saying until I’m blue in face), HOW we get fat isn’t the same as WHY we get fat.
I tried explaining the difference in this post by pointing out that HOW your toilet overflows (more water entering the bowl than draining out) isn’t the same as WHY your toilet overflows (a clog in the drain pipe). But toilets don’t have appetites, so let’s use (or re-use) a different analogy:
Suppose I have a rather serious alcohol problem that’s affecting my life, and not in a good way. After getting a snootful, I tend to become annoyed by friends and acquaintances who haven’t fully recognized my superior understanding of all things and thus have the gall to disagree with me now and then. So I get in touch to correct their erroneous beliefs and offer strongly-worded advice on how they should fix their lives, careers, diets, social media sites, professional relationships, or whatever – for their own good, of course. As a result, my friendships soon have the life expectancy of a second lieutenant on Iwo Jima.
Waking up with a hangover one afternoon and recognizing the problem may actually be with me instead of everyone else, I vow to limit my drinking to two scotches per day from now on. But no matter how sincere the promise, one drink always leads to another and another and another. Next thing I know, I’m getting punched by strangers in bars for reasons I can’t accurately recall. I curse my lack of discipline and wonder what the @#$% is wrong with me. I really, really, really want to drink less but can’t seem to do it. So I turn to science.
“Why do I drink so @#$%ing much?” I ask the science world.
“Because you’re an alcoholic,” the researchers answer.
“But WHY am I an alcoholic?” I ask.
“Because you drink too much,” the researchers answer.
See the problem? The amount of alcohol I consume only explains HOW I get drunk. It doesn’t explain WHY I get drunk. Because you drink too much isn’t an answer; it’s simply a restatement of the problem.
But now let’s suppose something amazing happens. After making significant changes in my diet, I find my urge to drink has dwindled. I can go out on Saturday night and have two glasses of wine with dinner, then stop. That craving for a third, fourth and tenth drink just isn’t there anymore. (Long-time readers may recognize that this is partly a true story.) It’s not a character issue, because I’m not resisting an urge. The urge is gone.
“Why don’t I get rip-roaring drunk every time I drink like I used to?” I ask the science world.
“Because you don’t drink as much as before,” the researchers answer.
“But I used to have this powerful urge to keep drinking, and now I don’t. So it must have something to do with biochemical changes brought on by the new diet.”
“No, no, no,” the researchers reply. “We’ve done studies on this. If we get 20 people drunk for a week by having them knock back 10 scotches per day, then lock them all in a cell and give them two drinks per day for another week, they’re all equally sober at the end of the second week. Doesn’t matter if they’re alcoholics or not, and it doesn’t matter if we feed them chips or cheese while they’re drinking. So obviously the cause of alcoholism is drinking too much, and the cure is to drink less. It’s simple.”
That two-drink-per-day study may exist, and it may have been honestly conducted and analyzed. But I don’t care. It doesn’t tell me diddly about WHY alcoholics drink too much. It also doesn’t explain WHY a change in diet caused my appetite for alcohol to shrink. Everyone remains equally sober on two drinks per day isn’t useful information for a problem drinker trying to walk past an open bar.
Several studies, including this one, have demonstrated that switching to a low-carb diet causes many people to eat less – even though they’re not counting calories or trying to eat less:
On the low-carbohydrate diet, mean energy intake decreased from 3111 kcal/d to 2164 kcal/d. The mean energy deficit of 1027 kcal/d (median, 737 kcal/d) completely accounted for the weight loss of 1.65 kg in 14 days.
If you spontaneously cut your calories by more than 1,000 per day – and yes, end up consuming fewer calories than you burn as a result – then something very positive has happened to your metabolism. But I don’t think it’s quite as simple and direct as Fewer Carbs => Less Insulin => More Fat Burning. Or to state it in reverse, I don’t think getting fat is as simple as More Carbs => More Insulin => More Fat Storage.
This is already getting to be a long post, so I’ll explain why I believe the “alternative hypothesis” needs some revising in my next post.
Two items to get out of the way before moving on to the cruise report:
First, a big thanks to The Older Brother for taking over the Fat Head chair while I was gone. Today happens to be his 59th birthday, so wish him a good one and 50 more.
I recall a conversation we had a few years ago as our dad was fading from Alzheimer’s. The Older Brother pointed out that our great-grandfather (who lived to be 101) was sharp until around age 98. Our grandmother began fading mentally in her 80s, and in retrospect it was clear Dad began fading in his 60s. Noting the pattern, The Older Brother said (to paraphrase in polite terms), “We’re screwed.”
I disagreed and pointed out that researchers were beginning to describe Alzheimer’s as type III diabetes. The reason each succeeding generation in our family succumbed at an earlier age was that each generation began eating a crap diet at an earlier age — thanks to arterycloggingsaturatedfat! hysteria and hearthealthywholegrains! nonsense. This isn’t some biological destiny we can’t escape, I said. We just have to ditch the processed carbs and industrial oils and get back to eating real food. Then we’ll be the next generation to be full of lucid and smart-ass comments well into our 90s.
The Older Brother is now a year away from age 60 and isn’t showing any signs of losing his memory. (When he does, I’ll tell him he owes me money.) I like to think our conversation about Alzheimer’s is part of what turned him into the dedicated real-foodie he is now. After all, I owe him for turning me into a libertarian by shredding me in an impromptu economics debate back when I was a wishy-washy “moderate” about such things.
Second, I apologize for the delay in crawling back into the Fat Head chair myself. I came home from the cruise happy but exhausted. As usual, I stayed up waaaay too late the last couple of nights, getting in those last conversations with cruise buddies I won’t see again for a year.
To add insult to injury, whenever I have to catch a flight or leave a cruise ship early in the morning, my brain likes to pop awake at a ridiculously early hour. So I flew home on Sunday after sleeping maybe two hours. Perhaps because of the exhaustion, I came down with some kind of head cold/ear infection annoyance a couple of days later. When Thursday rolled around, I was running a fever and didn’t much feel like writing a post.
Here’s the difference a good diet makes: ear infections used to knock me flat for a week. Thursday I felt lousy and had a high fever. By Sunday I felt well enough to spend four hours pushing the mower up and down the big hill in our back pasture … then go play 18 holes of disc golf.
Anyway, on to the cruise report …
I’ll start with the most surprising news of the week: Jimmy Moore and I won the cruise-ship karaoke contest with our rendition of “Elvira.” We didn’t set out to enter the competition, but when we wandered into the karaoke club on Wednesday night, we learned it was the first of two qualifying competitions. Well, what the heck, since we wanted to sing anyway, we signed up. Applause from the crowd was the major factor in the qualifying rounds, which gave us an advantage … although some of our fellow low-carb cruisers were ticked off by the loud cheers that greeted two Brazilian girls in tight dresses.
I can’t believe you two are going to get beat out of the finals by a couple of dresses!
Uh, look, I replied, you’re taking this way more seriously than I am. It’s just for fun. The winners don’t move on to American Idol or anything.
But the low-carb crowd managed to out-whoop and out-clap the fans of tight Brazilian dresses, so Jimmy and I made it into the Saturday night finals. The emcee announced that applause would only count as 20% of the score for the finals. I have my doubts. Truth is, everyone in the finals could sing. An objective listener could have voted for any of us. So I think applause figured for more than 20%.
Two of the singers (Brazilians, but not in tight dresses) had large groups of partisans in attendance, but I’d say at least of the third of the crowd consisted of low-carb cruisers. When it was time for vote-by-applause and the emcee held his hand over Jimmy and me, the noise was deafening. I told Jimmy I felt like we’d just won an election in Chicago, complete with ballot-box stuffing. But of course, I happily wore the shiny first-place medallion afterwards. It was a great way to end a great week.
There were three seminar days for our group, with so many good presentations, I won’t bother trying to describe them all. That would require a book-length post. Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt posted the seminar schedule on his blog awhile back, so I’ll just link to it rather than type the lineup again.
On last year’s cruise, Dr. Eric Westman announced that he would soon be opening his first HEAL Clinic – a center dedicated to treating diabetics with diet instead of drugs as much as possible. (Imagine that.) This year he was able to announce that the center is up and running. His long-term goal is to open them all over the country.
Low-carb author Dana Carpender wrote the official cookbook for the HEAL Clinic diet. After all, once people leave the clinic, they have to put what they’ve learned into practice in their own kitchens. The recipes – hundreds of them – are mostly of the quick-and-easy variety. If you like low-carb cookbooks, this is another good one to have. If you’re not on a ketogenic or VLC diet, do what I do: cook up one the recipes and add a potato as a side dish.
In Dr. Ted Naiman’s presentation about hyperinsulinemia, we learned why Dr. Westman’s approach is so necessary. Going through a series of studies at breakneck speed (the guy is a fast talker), Dr. Naiman made the case that high doses of insulin are as damaging as high blood sugar. If you’re a type I diabetic and need to squirt a normal dose of insulin into your bloodstream to absorb nutrients, fine. You have no choice. But doctors are treating type II diabetics with ever-higher doses of insulin – several times the dose produced by a person with a healthy metabolism.
The sky-high load of insulin thickens arteries, encourages the growth of tumors, triggers weight gain, and pretty much makes a mess of the whole body. So when I hear diabetes (ahem) “experts” insisting that type II diabetics should eat their carbs and then “cover” with insulin, I want to scream. Or punch somebody really, really hard.
One of the memorable presentations came from one of our own – Ailsa Marshall, a member of the team that organizes the cruise every year. She apologized a couple of times for not being a professional speaker (after, say, pushing the wrong button on the PowerPoint remote), but not being a professional was part of her charm. She was up there as just another person battling both diabetes and the effects of bad medical advice.
As she explained, she had tried following her own doctor’s advice, but her blood sugar kept spinning out of control, despite the insulin and other drugs. It was on last year’s cruise, in fact, that she finally asked Dr. Westman if he could help. (A bit tricky logistically, since Ailsa lives in the U.K. and Westman is at Duke in North Carolina.) Dr. Westman said he could indeed help, but under one condition: she had to be 100% on board. No half-measures, no cheating. She agreed.
A year later, she’s off the insulin and her blood sugar is finally under control. Oh, and she’s also lost 40 pounds. I almost didn’t recognize her at the pre-cruise dinner, even though I’ve known her for a few years now.
As I put it in the title of a long-ago post, This Is Why We Do What We Do. Ailsa’s story needs to become the common story for type II diabetics, not the story of one woman lucky enough to be treated by Dr. Westman instead of some drug-pushing doctor.
As if anyone needed more convincing, Jackie Eberstein (the long-time nurse for Dr. Atkins) gave an interesting/frightening presentation on the side effects of the most commonly prescribed drugs. Nearly all of them create vitamin or mineral deficiencies, yet few doctors know enough to tell patients which supplements to take. Then, of course, the drugs prescribed by different specialists treating the same patient start producing negative interactions. Then another doctor may prescribe more drugs to treat the problems caused by the drug interactions.
Geez, it’s enough to make you want to stay healthy by eating real food.
Real food was, in fact, one of the most common themes throughout the presentations. In his amusing talk about what low-carbers and paleo types think of each other, Jimmy Moore said many paleo adherents see low-carbers as a bunch of fat people swilling Diet Cokes and other treats full of artificial sweeteners. (Low-carbers, meanwhile, see paleo types as born jocks who gobble down treats made with honey and maple syrup and get away with it because they’re born jocks.)
Some years ago, that stereotype of low-carbers may have been true. It certainly isn’t now, at least not from what I’ve seen. Thanks largely to the paleo movement (which Jimmy acknowledged), the low-carb movement has become a real-food movement. Every doctor and researcher who gave a presentation on the advantages of a low-carb diet emphasized that the diet has to be based on real foods.
In a speech about the supposed dangers of ketogenic diets, Dr. Adam Nally pointed out that when people wave around studies of, say, kids who experienced health problems after going on a ketogenic diet to treat epilepsy, they don’t mention that the kids were largely living on ketogenic shakes, not real food. The health problems were caused by nutrient deficiencies nearly everyone who tries living on meal-replacement shakes will experience.
Anyone who thinks a low-carb diet is all about bacon and cheeseburgers without buns should join us for our leisurely cruise dinners. Yes, we ate steaks and lobsters and racks of lamb. We also ate a ton of vegetables. The waiters for our area (who were excellent) figured out our habits right away and took it upon themselves to bring huge serving trays of extra steamed vegetables to the tables – with butter, of course.
I took a camera on board, but as often happens when I’m not with Chareva and the girls, I forgot to use it much. But here are some of my dinner companions for the week. (There were more people at our table, but not when I was snapping pictures.)
Steve and Mariane Cunningham from Alberta.
Jeane Kelly (left) from New Jersey and Lisa Colclasure from Colorado.
Yours truly and Gerd Birgit Hay from Norway.
I sure hope I said something funny just before the picture was snapped. If not, Gerd may have been laughing at me for undisclosed reasons.
The seminars took place on sea-travel days. On port days, most people leave the ship for excursions. I chose not to go on any excursions. Back in my standup days, I was on Caribbean cruises more times than I care to remember. Beaches, beach bars, and souvenir shops have kind of lost their appeal. So I did some reading, watched tutorials on software I want to learn, and walked around the ship while sipping coffee. Here’s what the fifth-deck promenade looks like:
The eighth deck is called Central Park. There are shops, restaurants and an outdoor tavern along the walking paths. I thought for the sake of realism, the crew should stage an occasional mugging late at night, but no, it’s safe even at 1:00 AM. Nobody tried to steal my wallet as I sat there one night drinking red wine and staring at the stars.
I also took some time to re-work the blog a bit, in case you hadn’t noticed. I removed dead links, reduced the blogroll to people who are still blogging, dumped the No-Bologna Facts and Meet The Experts pages, and added a page for articles and studies. I plan to keep updating that one.
This year’s cruise took place during finals week for the girls, which is why they and Chareva stayed home. I missed them. It’s not the same being on a cruise without them. I borrowed Jimmy’s iPhone a couple of times so I could talk to them via Facetime and see their faces. (And when I got home, I finally caved and bought an iPhone.)
But next year … ohhhh, yeah! In case you didn’t already know:
I booked the four of us for next year before leaving the ship. No way I’m letting my wife and girls miss a week in Alaska. I did two weeks in Alaska during my standup days. In fact, I wrote the script for Fat Head during that cruise. (My standup workweek consisted of two shows, so I had plenty of downtime.)
For my presentation this year, I read portions of the book for kids, with Chareva’s cartoons on the screens. I already told Jimmy I’m going to have the film version ready to show in Alaska, no matter what it takes. Perhaps it will be the premiere.
Meanwhile, I saw in the cruise Facebook group that more than 150 people have already signed up. So if you’re planning to join the group in Alaska, best get on it sooner rather than later.
Hope to meet many of you there — or see you again, as the case may be.
Thanks for putting together another terrific cruise and seminar lineup, Big Guy … and for singing “Elvira” with me, of course.
Well, this Saturday I made a slight shift from being a Fathead, and instead became a Fat Ass. As in Fat Ass 5k.
The Fat Ass is a 5k run/street party that a few folks dreamed up nine years ago while sitting in a local pub. The gist of the idea was, “what kind of race could you do that even people who hate running would like?” Since then, it’s grown to around 3,000 runners and over 1,000 other “Friends of Fat Ass” entries. It’s a huge party that starts Friday night with bands, food, beer, cigars, etc. Not exactly the standard pre-race protocol.
I figured signing up would be a motivator to knock the cobwebs off the running gear from last year, as the Abe’s Army starts in a couple of weeks. I did a couple of short neighborhood runs to prep, so I’m ahead of last year’s efforts.
All the profits go to charity (hence the “Friends of Fat Ass” entries), and they’re hoping the cumulative take for the last nine years is going to tip over $1 million after they total up this year’s numbers!
It starts in front of the old Illinois state capitol, and winds around several blocks of the downtown area. It’s two laps to complete the 5k (that’s 3.1 miles in ‘merican). The streets are closed down for a couple of hours for the event. It looked like this as people started showing up a little after 9 for the 10:00am start.
As things get moving, it’s a pretty good crowd. This is about 3/4 through the first lap, so the crowd is already spread out. The real runners are long gone.
I managed to run (jog) most of the first lap, except for stopping to snap some pictures; then did run/walk splits the second lap. Besides the competitive runners, the not-so-competitive runners, and the walkers, this event has tons of people who are just there to have fun. You see all kinds of costumes, but these were some of my favorites, especially given this event’s moniker!:
Besides a lot of non-traditional running gear and runners, you see lots of other things not normally found in a race. Here’s one of the very first “aid stations”:
If you’re going to be pounding granola with marshmallows and chocolate chips to keep your energy up, you’re not going to want to wash it down with some nasty, chemical-laden sports drink, so Rolling Meadows, a local microbrewery, staffed another aid station:
I passed it up for actual water the first lap, then had a taste on the second. There were also giant marshmallows, ice cream, and people throwing donut holes available along the route. Oh yeah, and entertainment. There were probably 8 or 10 music groups playing at various spots around the circuit.
Plus, if you forgot to get a haircut before the big race, there was a station where you could pull over and take care of that!
Guess who else showed up — Elvis Himselvis! The 1975 version. Looks like maybe The King should’ve been lacing up and doing a little running himself.
There was a major traffic backup of runners in front of the shaved ice concession. You just had to run around the lines that formed in front of the various concessions on the route. There were tacos and corn dogs at other stands.
I was surprised to see that contrary to media reports, it turned out that the Illinois legislature actually was in session during the race:
Still no budget, though. Oh well.
Once you’re at the finish, there’s food, beer, munchies, fruit, etc. The one thing of which you don’t want to get between and an other runner is this:
At the end of a good run, the only thing you enjoy more than stopping running is that big bottle of cold water. After that, you hit the other tents. The meal for the participants was pretty good given the pork theme of the event. The chips and bun went in the trash, but the rest was very tasty.
As the run finishes and things move into the afternoon, the crowd starts to grow and the party is on.
The band is just starting to set up, but I’m not sticking around. The Wife and I have other activities for afternoon and evening.
I do stop by to get a picture with the mascot before the long walk back to the car.
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.
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.
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.
The film follows Donal – a lean, fit, seemingly healthy 41 year old man – on a quest to hack his genes and drop dead healthy by avoiding the heart disease and diabetes that has afflicted his family.
Donal’s father Kevin, an Irish gaelic football star from the 1960s, won the first of 2 All Ireland Championships with the Down Senior Football Team in 1960 before the biggest crowd (94,000) ever seen at an Irish sporting event.
When Kevin suffered a heart attack later in life, family and friends were shocked. How does a lean, fit and seemingly healthy man – who has sailed through cardiac stress tests – suddenly fall victim to heart disease?
Can a controversial diet consisting of 70% fat provide the answers?