Dear Dietitians of South Africa: You Look Like @$$holes Right Now

Fat Head
 
Dear Dietitians of South Africa: You Look Like @$$holes Right Now

Dear Dietitians of South Africa –

Take a look at this brief clip from the movie Boogie Nights:



WE LOOK LIKE ASSHOLES RIGHT NOW
by reaction flv on YouTube

That character, like many in the film, is a doofus. But he nonetheless possesses a capacity Nature provides to (most) humans as a useful form of self-correction: namely, he recognizes when he looks like an @$$hole.

I look like an @$$hole right now!, like guilt, is uncomfortable to experience but also crucial for the well-being of both individuals and society as a whole. When people are devoid of the capacity for guilt, they become sociopaths. When people are devoid of the capacity to recognize I look like an @$$hole right now!, they engage in behaviors that prompt normal people to shake their heads and say, What the @#$% does that @$$hole think he’s doing?!

Dietitians of South Africa, you look like @$$holes right now — and not just in your own country. Trust me, countless people around the world are watching your ongoing attempt to prosecute Professor Tim Noakes and saying to themselves (and everyone else), Holy @#$%! Why don’t those @$$holes just accept that they lost and leave the guy alone?

I realize it’s difficult for @$$holes to recognize their own @$$hole behavior — after all, that’s the root of the problem. So I’ll take the opposite approach and explain how people who aren’t @$$holes view this entire sorry episode. You won’t change your minds or behavior, of course, but perhaps you’ll understand why if people recognize you on the street, they stop and whisper to each other, “Hey, look! There’s one of those @$$holes who kept going after Tim Noakes.”

Things people who aren’t @$$holes understand, but you don’t:

1. Nobody should be prosecuted for answering a question tweeted to him by a fan.

I won’t even bother explaining that one.

2. It isn’t necessary to prosecute people who offer contrary dietary advice if they’re actually wrong.

People seek alternative dietary advice for exactly one reason: they want better results than they’ve gotten with other diets. Tim Noakes recommends a diet he believes helps people become leaner and healthier. If he’s wrong, people will discover that for themselves. They’ll flock to the internet to warn others that a low-carb, high-fat diet made them sicker and fatter or whatever.

But of course, that isn’t happening.  Instead, people are flocking to the internet to describe how switching to the kind of diet Noakes recommends has changed their lives for the better.  That’s how it happens in a marketplace of ideas: bad advice eventually gets squeezed out by advice that actually works.  Obviously, that scares the hell out of you.

3. Tim Noakes isn’t your real problem. Results are your real problem.

Yes, I know you want to believe that people are questioning the standard dietary advice because of Tim Noakes. But as much as I applaud his work, he’s not the reason people are turning away from you. They’re turning away from you because they’re not happy with the results of the advice you offer.

Noakes is just one of countless conduits for advice that just flat-out works for many, many people. In an age of nearly unlimited access to information, people who are frustrated with the standard dietary advice are going to seek and find alternative advice.

4. There’s no positive outcome to your continued harassment of Tim Noakes.

You seem to believe that if you keep prosecuting until you get a guilty verdict, people are going to say to themselves, Oh, so Noakes was found guilty this time? Well then, those dietitians must have been right all along. I’m going to go back to the diet they recommend.

No, that isn’t going to happen. You apparently don’t realize it yet, but the days of people simply kowtowing to supposed experts are over. Nassim Nicholas Taleb put it rather nicely in the opening of an essay describing what he calls The Intellectual Yet Idiot:
What we have been seeing worldwide, from India to the UK to the US, is the rebellion against the inner circle of no-skin-in-the-game policymaking “clerks” and journalists-insiders, that class of paternalistic semi-intellectual experts with some Ivy league, Oxford-Cambridge, or similar label-driven education who are telling the rest of us 1) what to do, 2) what to eat, 3) how to speak, 4) how to think… and 5) who to vote for.

You will not regain any respect by prosecuting Noakes. In fact, the more likely result is that more people will view you the way Dr. Malcolm Kendrick described the medical establishment in his book Doctoring Data:
I feel they are like those highly decorated generals in North Korea with the funny hats. They look splendid and important, but the only point of their existence is to suppress dissent and keep an idiotic regime in place.

Maybe you’ll get your precious guilty verdict this time around. I pray you don’t. But either way, nearly everyone who becomes aware of this ongoing harassment of a principled scientist will see you as a bush-league version of The Spanish Inquisition.

You look like @$$holes right now. Your failure to recognize that makes you your own worst enemies.

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 Government Foolishness
Dietitians Want Their Bad Advice To Be The Only Advice: A Tale of Three Twitties

Fat Head
 
Dietitians Want Their Bad Advice To Be The Only Advice: A Tale of Three Twitties

Actually, this post is about three tweets, but A Tale of Three Twitties is catchier.

I came across the three tweets on the same day, and together they tell the story of what’s wrong with the current dietary advice and The Anointed who promote it.

The first tweet included a link to a recent study in which a low-carbohydrate diet was used to treat type 2 diabetics. Here’s a quote from the summary:
The purpose of this study was to evaluate if a new care model with very low dietary carbohydrate intake and continuous supervision by a health coach and doctor could safely lower HbA1c, weight and need for medicines after 1 year in adults with T2D. 262 adults with T2D volunteered to participate in this continuous care intervention (CCI) along with 87 adults with T2D receiving usual care (UC) from their doctors and diabetes education program. After 1 year, patients in the CCI, on average, lowered HbA1c from 7.6 to 6.3%, lost 12% of their body weight, and reduced diabetes medicine use. 94% of patients who were prescribed insulin reduced or stopped their insulin use, and sulfonylureas were eliminated in all patients.

Lower blood sugar, lower body weight, and 94% of the patients reduced or even eliminated the need for insulin treatment.  Awesome. All patients were able to discontinue sulfonylureas, which are drugs that stimulate the pancreas to produce more insulin. Since all drugs have side effects, I looked up the side effects of sulfonylureas. Here’s what I found on a UK diabetes site:
Sulphonylureas are not recommended for people who are overweight or obese, as their mode of action (increase in insulin production and secretion) means that weight gain can be a relatively common side effect.

Funny, isn’t it? The fact that elevated insulin triggers weight gain seems to be accepted as a given by everyone except many (ahem) weight-loss experts.

I doubt the results of this study surprise you.  Quite a few clinical studies, like this one and this one, have shown similar results.

If you’ve got high blood sugar because of insulin resistance, cutting way back on the carbs can work wonders. I know it, you know it, countless personal trainers know it, everyone who’s read a book on low-carb diets knows it, gazillions of people who’ve done their own research online know it. Seems as if the only people who don’t know it are a helluvalotta doctors and nearly all dietitians.

Which brings us to the second tweet. That one included a link to a Dear Dietitian column in a county newspaper. If you have a tendency to bang your head on your desk when reading incredibly stupid advice from registered dietitians, you might want to don a helmet before continuing.

Okay, you were warned. Here goes:
Dear Dietitian,

I was recently diagnosed with diabetes. I’m trying to watch my diet, and have cut out most carbs, but if I eat a slice of white bread, my blood sugar goes up to 200! What gives?

Dear Frustrated,

First of all, try to be patient. This is a major lifestyle change, and it cannot be accomplished in a couple of weeks. It will take at least six weeks to become accustomed to the new diet, and it won’t be perfect. Secondly, there is no need to remove carbs from your diet. Carbs are a great source of energy and are very satisfying. Anyone who has diabetes should be able to consume 12 to 15 servings of carbohydrate foods each day while maintaining healthy blood glucose levels.

Head. Bang. On. Desk.

How the @#$% is someone with type 2 diabetes supposed to maintain a healthy glucose level while eating 15 servings of carbohydrate per day?! Well, you know the answer to that one:
Another important component for good diabetes management is to obtain the right medicine to lower your blood glucose levels.

Eat your 12 to 15 servings of carbohydrate per day (a great source of energy!), then beat down your blood sugar with more insulin. That’s how dietitians are trained to think. When Chareva’s father was in the hospital for surgery some months back, he was of course given meals approved by the staff dietitian. For breakfast, he was served pancakes with maple syrup … but no butter on those pancakes, because butter will kill ya, doncha know.

These registered imbeciles believe that if you shoot enough insulin to beat your blood sugar down to the normal range, it means you’re okay now — same as if you kept your blood sugar in the normal range by cutting back on the carbs instead.

No. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, damnit, it’s not the same.

If you’re a type 1 diabetic and you need injections to achieve a normal level of insulin, that’s fine.  You’re just replacing what your body fails to produce.

But if you’re a type 2 diabetic and you have to inject yourself with extra-high doses of insulin so you can eat those great source of energy carbs, there are consequences. High insulin triggers weight gain. It thickens your arteries. It screws up the balance of your sex hormones. It likely promotes the growth of tumors. Telling insulin-resistant people to eat all those carbs and then shoot ever-higher doses of insulin is insane.

But that’s what dietitians are trained to recommend, which is why so many fat, sick, frustrated people are going elsewhere for dietary advice. Naturally, The Anointed don’t like it when the masses refuse to listen to them.

Which brings us to the third tweet. That one included a link to a video posted by the president of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Here’s the official description:

President Lucille Beseler, MS, RDN, LDN. CDE, FAND, offers members ways to protect the public’s health (and the nutrition and dietetics profession) from “disruptors” – competitors who offer lower-quality care and less-comprehensive services.

I’d prefer to embed the video in the post, but can’t. You can watch it on this page — and please don’t leave any snarky comments here or elsewhere about Ms. Beseler’s size. No need to go for the cheap shot.

Ms. Beseler is encouraging members to keep an eye out for people who give non-approved dietary advice and report these “disruptors” to state licensing boards … to protect the public’s health, of course.

Yes, because lord only knows what will happen to the millions of type 2 diabetics in the country if they aren’t told to eat their 12 to 15 servings of carbohydrates per day and then shoot up with more insulin.

Let’s take the official description of the video and edit it to reflect the true purpose:

President Lucille Beseler offers members ways to protect the nutrition and dietetics profession from competitors.

This is nothing new, mind you. As Adam Smith pointed out way back in 1776 when he wrote The Wealth of Nations, regulations that are supposedly passed to protect the poor, helpless public are often nothing more than a means to stifle competition — which screws the poor, helpless public.

In what has to be the most outlandish example I’ve ever seen, Illinois passed a regulation requiring anyone who braids hair for a fee to first obtain a cosmetology license. (If you think I’m kidding, read this.) Apparently the regulation was passed after hundreds of people were rushed to emergency rooms suffering from badly-braided hair.

Here’s how it should happen in a supposedly free country: People who give dietary advice that works attract more customers who are willing to pay them. People whose dietary advice doesn’t work lose customers. A license granted by The Anointed shouldn’t figure into the equation either way. If health coaches, personal trainers and other “disruptors” are giving advice that doesn’t work, then the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has no cause for concern. Word will get around.

But of course, that’s the problem: the word has gotten around. Dietitians are still telling diabetics to eat their carbs and shoot more insulin — perhaps because the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics receives generous support from the makers of industrial foods. Their advice is garbage, so people are seeking and finding alternative advice that actually works — as demonstrated by clinical studies and the experiences of millions. That makes the alternative advice a threat, so the dietitians want government licensing boards to stifle the “disruptors” who offer it.

And that’s where we’re at.  A Tale of Three Twitties tells pretty much the whole story.

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 Bad Science  Bad Diets
Jane Brody And The American Heart Association Bravely Admit They’ve Been Right All Along

Fat Head
 
Jane Brody And The American Heart Association Bravely Admit They’ve Been Right All Along

The strategy is clear now. The American Heart Association, terrified that the Wisdom of Crowds effect is causing more and more people to reject their arterycloggingsaturatedfat! nonsense, has decided to leverage what Josef Stalin referred to as useful idiots — i.e., people who can be counted on to swallow and spread the party’s propaganda.

Step one: produce a Presidential Advisory Report that concludes we were right all along about the dangers of saturated fats.

Step two: do interviews with media types who have been on the anti-fat bandwagon for years … because if we were right all along, it means they were right all along too. They’ll dutifully promote the message without asking pesky questions.

For decades, one of the biggest cheerleaders for the low-fat diet has been Jane Brody of the New York Times. Gary Taubes mentioned her several times in Good Calories, Bad Calories. I wrote a post about her battle with “high” cholesterol back in 2009. You can read the post for the full details, but these quotes capture Ms. Brody’s apparent immunity to cognitive dissonance:
Ms. Brody’s cholesterol panic began when a routine test revealed her total cholesterol to be 222. (So much for a low-fat diet keeping cholesterol down.) Since she just knows that a “heart healthy” level should be below 200, Ms. Brody dutifully stopped eating cheese and went on a diet to lose a few pounds.

But – horrors! – when she underwent another test a few months later, her cholesterol had risen to 236, and her LDL had gone up, not down. Now, you’d think someone with a functioning brain would pause at this point and wonder if perhaps the whole low-fat diet theory is load of bologna. But not Ms. Brody. After all, she’s been telling her readers for decades to cut the fat, cut the fat, cut the fat.

So she cut the fat. She stopped eating red meat, switched to low-fat ice cream, took fish oil, and increased her fiber intake. In other words, she did just about everything she’s been telling her readers they must do to prevent heart disease.

And boy, what wondrous results! Her next test revealed that her cholesterol had risen to 248, and her LDL was up yet again.

If this were a horror movie, we’d all be screaming at the screen, “Don’t go through that door, you freakin’ idiot! Everyone who went through that door ended up hanging on a meat hook!”

But Ms. Brody went through the door. Mere paragraphs after recounting how her low-fat diet failed utterly to bring down her cholesterol, she reminded her readers how important it is to exercise more and cut the saturated fat from their diets. She even informed us that a former roommate lowered her cholesterol by becoming a vegetarian. (“See, this diet made my cholesterol worse, but I know someone who had good results, so you should do exactly what didn’t work for me. Okay?”)

Finally, Ms. Brody reported that despite having some reservations, she began taking a cholesterol-lowering drug. And lo and behold, her cholesterol went down! (At this point in the story, you are allowed to scream, “Of course your cholesterol went down! That’s why it’s called a cholesterol-lowering drug!”)

Perfect example of the phenomenon described in Mistakes Were Made (but not by me). Her own experience demonstrated that restricting saturated fat (which she believes is good for the heart) caused her cholesterol to shoot up (which she believes is bad for the heart). That’s the point where a person blessed with a healthy capacity for skepticism would question the entire theory. But Brody can’t question the theory because she’s been a very public promoter of it. So she dutifully took a statin and declared victory over the cholesterol monster.

Yup, if I were the American Heart Association and needed a useful idiot to explain why we were right all along, that’s who I’d choose. So let’s look at some quotes from the useful idiot’s article, which appeared recently in the New York Times.
The media love contrarian man-bites-dog stories that purport to debunk long-established beliefs and advice. Among the most popular on the health front are reports that saturated fats do not cause heart disease and that the vegetable oils we’ve been encouraged to use instead may actually promote it.

Ah, I see. The belief that saturated fats aren’t the problem is just a man-bites-dog story … instead of, say, the result of new research. Or of countless people learning through experience that low-fat diets didn’t work for them. (Hey, Ms. Brody, remember what happened to your cholesterol numbers when you kept cutting the saturated fat from your diet?)
So before you succumb to wishful thinking that you can eat well-marbled steaks, pork ribs and full-fat dairy products with abandon, you’d be wise to consider the findings of what is probably the most comprehensive, commercially untainted review of the dietary fat literature yet published. They are found in a 26-page advisory prepared for the American Heart Association and published last June by a team of experts led by Dr. Frank M. Sacks.

Ms. Brody thinks the American Heart Association produced the most commercially untainted review yet? You mean the organization whose very existence depends on generous support from the makers of low-fat foods? The organization that will dry up and blow away the day after the arterycloggingsaturatedfat! theory dies?

Pardon me while I go laugh my @$$ off for several minutes …

… Okay, I’m back. Let’s continue:
As documented in the new advisory, misleading conclusions that saturated fats do not affect the risk of developing and dying from cardiovascular diseases have largely resulted from studies that were done in good faith but failed to take into account what people who avoided saturated fats ate in their place.

For example, in a study of 252 British men who had suffered heart attacks, following a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet reduced cholesterol levels by a meager 5 percent and had virtually no effect on future heart attacks. The carbohydrates they ate were mainly refined, low-fiber flours and sugars that promote weight gain and diabetes, two leading risk factors for heart disease.

In North America and Europe, the team noted, the effect of lowering saturated fat was essentially negated by people’s consumption of more “refined grains, fruit juice, sweet desserts and snacks, sugar-sweetened beverages, and other foods” that hardly promote good health.

Wait … you mean when people cut back on saturated fat, they consumed more refined grains, fruit juices and sugars? Boy, I don’t know how people could have gotten the AHA’s advice so very wrong.

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Yes, it’s true: the AHA has finally stopped putting its logo on sugar-laden cereals and other sugary foods. Only took them a few decades. But let’s think about this …

The AHA jumped on the arterycloggingsaturatedfat! bandwagon after Ancel Keys joined the organization’s board. Keys, as you probably know, waged a very bitter and very personal war of words against British researcher John Yudkin throughout the 1970s. Why? Because Yudkin insisted it was sugar causing heart disease, not saturated fat. Keys replied over and over, in paper after paper, No, damnit, the problem isn’t sugar, it’s saturated fat!

Here’s a quote from Keys himself:
It is clear that Yudkin has no theoretical basis or experimental evidence to support his claim for a major influence of dietary sucrose in the etiology of CHD; his claim that men who have CHD are excessive sugar eaters is nowhere confirmed but is disproved by many studies superior in methodology and/or magnitude to his own; and his “evidence” from population statistics and time trends will not bear up under the most elementary critical examination.

There you have it. The man who steered the American Heart Association onto its anti-saturated-fat path insisted that sugar doesn’t cause heart disease and the very idea had already been disproved.

So now that cutting back on saturated fat has failed to reduce heart disease in several clinical studies, how does Dr. Frank Sucks … er, Sacks and the American Heart Association explain away the embarrassing results? Like this:

Uh, yeah, but … uh … ya see … uh, that only happened because when people cut back on the saturated fat, they ate more sugar.
In an interview, Dr. Sacks said the advice derived from the best research “is pretty straightforward: consume few saturated fats like butter, full-fat dairy, beef and pork fat, and coconut, palm and palm kernel oils and replace them with natural vegetable oils high in polyunsaturates – corn, soybean, safflower, sunflower, peanut, walnut and grapeseed oils.” Also healthful are canola and olive oil, rich in both monounsaturates and polyunsaturates.

The “best” research, of course, consists of the four studies Dr. Sucks managed to cherry-pick that support the AHA’s position. He somehow found methodological problems with all the others.

And as for this part:

… replace them with natural vegetable oils high in polyunsaturates – corn, soybean, safflower, sunflower, peanut, walnut and grapeseed oils.

If you can explain to me how it’s natural for humans to consume oils from corn and soybeans, I’m all ears. Silly me, I tend to think the natural fats are the ones that don’t require industrial processing.
As for coconut oil, Dr. Sacks said, “It’s the nutritional fat du jour but it has not been proven to be healthful.”

Ah, I see. Dr. Sucks only recommends foods that have been proven to be healthy. I guess that explains this paragraph in Brody’s article:
Alas, the advisory team noted, there have been no trials to date testing the cardiovascular benefits of replacing dietary fat with “healthful nutrient-dense carbohydrates and fiber-rich foods such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits and legumes that are now recommended in dietary guidelines.”

No trials proving the cardiovascular benefits of replacing dietary fat with whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes … and yet that’s exactly what the American Heart Association tells us to do. And Ms. Brody echoes that advice in her article:
In other words, if you are truly concerned about preserving good health over all, focus on a Mediterranean-style diet heavy on plant foods and unsaturated vegetable oils, with whole grains like brown rice and bulgur, fruits and vegetables as the main sources of carbohydrates.

Fortunately, useful idiots in the media no longer shape public opinion as effectively as they once did. Here are few choice comments on Brody’s article left by readers:
I sport climb with guys in their sixties and seventies who are as fit as super-heroes. They, to the man, get their nutrition information from Youtube and not their doctor. This article’s laundry list of failed studies and misleading conclusions by the experts is the reason why.

—-

I really can’t sit here and read any more AHA fraud articles about health. I find it impossible to believe NYT can’t write any other articles about the consumption of fats without citing these people who rampantly skew data.

—-

Yes, Dr. Sacks, well over 70 years old, ignored literally hundreds of studies over the last 50 years in this latest diatribe to go back to the incorrect studies of the 1960s. News flash: In the 50 years since, science has advanced! Turns out fats are actually generally good for you, not bad for you. And saturated fats are basically neutral. This is what hundreds of better, more modern studies say.

—-

The comments are much more informed on the subject than the author.

Indeed they are. That’s why the author is a useful idiot.  I suspect we’ll hear from more useful idiots as the AHA continues trying to save itself from the inevitable.

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 Bad Science  Media Misinformation
One Of Those Weeks …

Fat Head
 
One Of Those Weeks …

The fun part of being a programmer is creating something new, especially something that saves the end-users a lot of tedious work.  I was quite happy, for example, when I managed to find a way to extract data from PDFs and spreadsheets with different layouts.  Until I came up with that one, people at our office processed the data by looking at the PDF or spreadsheet and keying the information into a database screen.  Very, very time-consuming.  I received a lot of kudos (and some free drinks) when my solution worked.

The not-so-fun part of being a programmer is when I have to take over maintaining a big-ass system I didn’t create in the first place.  Then I have to read through reams of code and try to figure out what the @#$% the original programmer was thinking … or more likely, what the previous three or four programmers were thinking.  I always leave copious comments in my code explaining what I’m doing and why.  Some of my predecessors weren’t so kind.

A system was dumped in my lap recently, and the programmer who designed much of it is long gone.  So of course, that system decided to misbehave this week, probably because the Super Bowl is coming up in a few days.  During Super Bowl week a few years ago, I had to fix a different misbehaving system on a tight deadline.  I ended up coding right up until kickoff, watching the game, then jumping back into the coding.

I’d like to avoid a repeat of that weekend, so I’ll be working late instead of writing a post … again.

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 Random Musings
Blood Pressure, Sodium, Drugs and Diets

Fat Head
 
Blood Pressure, Sodium, Drugs and Diets

In my previous From The News post, I mentioned that the definition of “high” blood pressure will soon be lowered from 140/90 to 130/80. (The systolic, or top number, is when your heart is contracting. The diastolic, or lower number, is when your heart is between beats.) I also said I believe the redefinition is likely driven by a desire to sell more drugs.

A couple of you commented that the drugs might be necessary. Okay, maybe that’s true for some people. I’ve never had high blood pressure, so I’ve had the luxury of not being personally concerned with the subject. Nonetheless, I thought I’d dig through my database of articles and studies to explain why I’m not convinced that most people diagnosed with “high” blood pressure need drugs.

The best way to treat a health problem is to treat the root cause, not the downstream effect. So what causes high blood pressure? Many of the so-called experts still insist the problem is sodium. (They’re generally the same so-called experts who insist saturated fat causes heart disease.)

Dr. Frank Sucks … er, Sacks – the same researcher who wrote the American Heart Association’s we were right all along about saturated fat! presidential advisory report – has been a long-time champion of low-salt diets. He believes he proved lowering salt will save our hearts with his famous DASH trial. Here’s what his Harvard profile says about it:
These multi-center National Heart Lung and Blood Institute trials found major beneficial additive effects of low salt and a dietary pattern rich in fruits and vegetables on blood pressure.

Actually, that’s not what the DASH trial showed at all. You have to read the study carefully (and I have) to get the true picture, but here’s the brief summary: Sacks put people on either a standard American diet that included plenty of sugar and other junk, or on a low-fat DASH diet that included no sugar and no junk. Then he had them consume versions of those two diets that were high in salt, medium in salt, or very low in salt.

In order to claim he’d proved restricting salt is beneficial, Sucks had to compare the blood-pressure differences between people on the high-salt/junk diet and people on the low-salt/DASH diet. That’s akin to comparing people on a high-salt/high-whiskey diet to people on a low-salt/high-water diet, then declaring that restricting salt prevents liver damage.

Within each diet group – junk food vs. DASH – restricting salt by a whopping 75% only produced a blood-pressure drop of about three points. Whoopee.

Other researchers have found similar results (and unlike Dr. Sucks, reported them honestly). Here are some quotes from a 1998 meta-analysis titled Effects of Sodium Restriction on Blood Pressure, Renin, Aldosterone, Catecholamines, Cholesterols, and Triglyceride:
In 58 trials of hypertensive persons, the effect of reduced sodium intake on systolic blood pressure was 3.9 mm Hg, and on diastolic blood pressure was 1.9 mm. In 56 trials of normotensive persons, the effect of reduced sodium intake on systolic blood pressure was 1.2 mm Hg.

Once again, restricting sodium produced a teeny drop of a few points.
These results do not support a general recommendation to reduce sodium intake.

Gee, do ya think?

Here are some quotes from a 2008 E Science News article:
Contrary to long-held assumptions, high-salt diets may not increase the risk of death, according to investigators from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University.

They reached their conclusion after examining dietary intake among a nationally representative sample of adults in the U.S. The Einstein researchers actually observed a significantly increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease (CVD) associated with lower sodium diets.

“Our findings suggest that for the general adult population, higher sodium is very unlikely to be independently associated with higher risk of death from CVD or all other causes of death,” says Dr. Hillel W. Cohen, lead author of the study and associate professor of epidemiology and population health at Einstein.

And here are some quotes from a Food Navigator article about a Cochrane review of sodium-restriction studies:
The authors, led by Professor Rod Taylor from Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry in the UK, found no strong evidence to support the idea that salt reduction reduces cardiovascular disease or all-cause mortality in people with normal or raised blood pressure.

People with normal or raised blood pressure at baseline showed no strong evidence of benefit from salt intake restriction. Salt restriction did, however, increase the risk of death from all causes in those with congestive heart failure, reported the authors.

I found that article amusing because it provided a perfect example of The Anointed in action. The researchers concluded that given the results, we need to conduct more research before governments jump in to set lower targets for salt intake.

But as we know, The Anointed don’t believe they should be bothered with providing evidence before instituting a Grand Plan. So here’s how a spokesperson for a U.K. organization calling itself the Consensus Action on Salt and Health replied to the Cochrane review:
Campaign director Katharine Jenner told FoodNavigator that it is “very disappointing” to see the message from the review indicates that salt reduction may not be beneficial.

“This is a completely inappropriate conclusion, given the strong evidence and the overwhelming public health consensus that salt raises blood pressure which leads to cardiovascular disease,” said Jenner.

Whenever you hear The Anointed insist that by gosh, there’s a consensus and therefore the debate is over, you know they’re peddling junk science they don’t want examined.
Jenner told FoodNavigator that “there is no sense in waiting for further trials before progressing with an international salt reduction programme, which will immediately save many thousands of lives.”

Of course not. Because when The Anointed devise a Grand Plan, it must always be implemented RIGHT NOW or people will die … and it will be your fault for insisting on evidence before proceeding.

Salt restriction is the standard dietary advice, but it doesn’t do much. So after concluding that your low-salt diet just isn’t working for some reason, your doctor will reach for the prescription pad. The drugs do lower blood pressure. But do they save lives?

That’s where it gets a bit murky. In Doctoring Data, Dr. Malcolm Kendrick stated that there’s no convincing clinical evidence that blood-pressure medications reduce mortality for most people with “high” blood pressure.

Here are some quotes from an article on the Whitaker Wellness Institute website:
Another hypertension myth is that it is a silent killer that sets us up for strokes and heart attacks and knocks about five years off life expectancy. Although this is true for patients who have very high blood pressure and/or existing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or kidney disease, the picture is considerably different for mild hypertension, which is defined under current guidelines as 140-159/90-99.

Scientific data published in top medical journals over the past few years makes it clear that mild hypertension does not confer these risks. For example, reevaluation of data from the renowned Framingham Heart Study shows that deaths related to hypertension barely budge until systolic blood pressure reaches 175 and mortality rates climb significantly only above 185. In other words, malignant hypertension is a killer. Uncomplicated mild hypertension is not.

Sixty percent of hypertensive Americans fall into the mild category. Nevertheless, more than half of them are treated with medications. And that’s the real tragedy.

There is no convincing scientific evidence that treating basically healthy patients with mild hypertension provides any benefits. In a groundbreaking recent study, researchers reviewed all the clinical trials in the medical literature comparing drug treatment of mild hypertension with placebo or no treatment. They found no differences in heart attacks, strokes, and deaths between treated and untreated individuals. But they did find that the drugs caused a lot of misery.

Maybe the drugs provide life-extending benefits for people with very high blood pressure. For people merely in the “high” range of 140 to 159, I’m not convinced. It seems the drugs merely treat a symptom.

As I said earlier, the best option is to treat the root cause. Several studies have hinted at the root cause, or at least one of them. Here are some quotes from a 2010 WebMD article:
A new study shows that a low-carbohydrate diet was equally good as the weight loss drug orlistat (the active ingredient in Alli and Xenical) at helping overweight and obese people lose weight, but people who followed the low-carb diet also experienced a healthy drop in their blood pressure levels.

“I expected the weight loss to be considerable with both therapies but we were surprised to see blood pressure improve so much more with the low-carbohydrate diet than with orlistat,” researcher William S. Yancy, Jr., MD, an associate professor of medicine at Duke University Medical Center, says in a news release. “If people have high blood pressure and a weight problem, a low-carbohydrate diet might be a better option than a weight loss medication.”

In the study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, 146 obese or overweight adults were randomly divided into two groups. Many of the participants also had chronic health problems, such as high blood pressure or diabetes.

The first group was advised to follow a low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet consisting of less than 20 grams of carbohydrates per day, and the second group received the weight loss drug orlistat three times a day, plus counseling in following a low-fat diet (less than 30% of daily calories from fat) at group meetings over 48 weeks.

The results showed weight loss was similar in the two groups. The low-carb diet group lost an average of 9.5% of their body weight and the orlistat group lost an average of 8.5%. Both weight loss methods were also not significantly different at improving cholesterol and glucose levels.

But when researchers looked at changes in blood pressure, they found nearly half of those who followed the low-carbohydrate group had their blood pressure medication decreased or discontinued during the study, compared to only 21% of those in the orlistat group.

Plenty of doctors who prescribe low-carb diets have said the same thing: many of their patients end up ditching the blood-pressure medication. In fact, if the patients combine a low-carb diet with the medication, they can actually become dizzy from low blood pressure.

A study published waaaay back in 1985 suggests why a low-carb diet can lower blood pressure:
Both systolic and diastolic blood pressure were found to be significantly related to fasting serum insulin level even when age, weight, and serum glucose level were controlled. The relation between serum insulin and blood pressure was more pronounced in those women with a family history of hypertension. These data indicate that insulin may play a major role in the regulation of blood pressure in obesity and that the previously accepted relation of weight to blood pressure may depend on blood levels of insulin.

So there you go. High blood pressure, like so many other aspects of metabolic syndrome, is apparently driven by chronically high insulin. It’s the high insulin that needs fixing, not the symptoms it produces.

The Whitaker Wellness article provides some practical advice as well:
We would all be better served by shifting the focus to safe, natural, proven therapies that not only lower blood pressure but, unlike antihypertensive drugs, also improve multiple aspects of health.

Regular aerobic and resistance exercise, which reduces systolic blood pressure as effectively as many medications, rejuvenates every system in your body. Losing as little as 10 pounds or 5 percent of your total weight provides significant all-around benefits. Relaxation techniques, meditation, yoga, acupuncture, and neurofeedback reduce stress’s adverse effects on blood pressure, health, and quality of life.

Cutting out high-glycemic sugars and starches lowers blood sugar, lipids, insulin resistance, and other aspects of metabolic syndrome as well as helping to lower blood pressure. Beets, leafy greens, and other nitrate-rich foods boost synthesis of nitric oxide (NO), which dilates and protects the arteries.

Magnesium has powerful effects on blood pressure because it relaxes and reduces pressure on the arteries; that 75-80 percent of Americans fail to get the RDA of magnesium is a likely contributor to our high rates of hypertension. Coenzyme Q10 has positive effects on blood pressure and the entire cardiovascular system.

Cut the refined carbs, eat some leafy greens, get some exercise, and supplement your diet with magnesium and CoQ10. Sounds a lot better than taking medications if you ask me.

Image/photo
 Good Science
From The News …

Fat Head
 
From The News …

Interesting items from my inbox and elsewhere …

Sugar finally getting the blame for cancer

We’ve been told since the 1980s that we should all be on low-fat diets to prevent cancer. Evidence has been mounting that sugar is the more likely culprit (I wrote about that in a 2013 post), but I haven’t seen much to that effect in the major media outlets.

So I was pleased to see an article in the Los Angeles Times pointing the finger at refined carbs:
In August of 2016, the New England Journal of Medicine published a striking report on cancer and body fat: Thirteen separate cancers can now be linked to being overweight or obese, among them a number of the most common and deadly cancers of all — colon, thyroid, ovarian, uterine, pancreatic and (in postmenopausal women) breast cancer.

I know what you’re thinking: If they’re linking cancer to obesity, they’re going to say it’s because people just eat too much or eat too many cheeseburgers. Wait for it …
The studies reflect whether someone is overweight upon being diagnosed with cancer, but they don’t show that the excess weight is responsible for the cancer. They are best understood as a warning sign that something about what or how much we eat is intimately linked to cancer. But what?

It’s a pleasant surprise when a newspaper article points out that correlation doesn’t prove causation.
Lewis Cantley, the director of the cancer center at Weill Cornell Medicine, has been at the forefront of the cancer metabolism revival. Cantley’s best explanation for the obesity-cancer connection is that both conditions are also linked to elevated levels of the hormone insulin. His research has revealed how insulin drives cells to grow and take up glucose (blood sugar) by activating a series of genes, a pathway that has been implicated in most human cancers.

Hallelujah. A researcher sees a connection between a disease and obesity and doesn’t immediately blame the obesity. And there I was, getting psyched up to bang my head on my desk.
The problem isn’t the presence of insulin in our blood. We all need insulin to live. But when insulin rises to abnormally high levels and remains elevated (a condition known as insulin resistance, common in obesity), it can promote the growth of tumors directly and indirectly. Too much insulin and many of our tissues are bombarded with more growth signals and more fuel than they would ever see under normal metabolic conditions. And because elevated insulin directs our bodies to store fat, it can also be linked to the various ways the fat tissue itself is thought to contribute to cancer.

Having recognized the risks of excess insulin-signaling, Cantley and other metabolism researchers are following the science to its logical conclusion: The danger may not be simply eating too much, as is commonly thought, but rather eating too much of the specific foods most likely to lead to elevated insulin levels — easily digestible carbohydrates in general, and sugar in particular.

Cancer, diabetes, heart disease … for years, almost all the diseases of civilization were blamed on animal fats. Lots of the (ahem) “experts” still want to blame fats (just read the previous post for an example), but it’s nice to see the tide turning.

She doesn’t eat animal fats, but she’s too annoying for the Swiss

Honestly, really and truly, I don’t care if people choose to be vegans. I only care when they won’t shut up about it. (Q: how can you spot the vegan in the room? A: Don’t worry, she’ll tell you.) Apparently the Swiss share my aversion to the preachy types:
A Dutch vegan who applied for a Swiss passport has had her application rejected because the locals found her too annoying. Nancy Holten, 42, moved to Switzerland from the Netherlands when she was eight years old and now has children who are Swiss nationals.

Does that make her a Vegan Dreamer?
However, when she tried to get a Swiss passport for herself, residents of Gipf-Oberfrick in the canton of Aargau rejected her application.

Ms Holten, a vegan and animal rights activist, has campaigned against the use of cowbells in the village and her actions have annoyed the locals. The resident’s committee argued that if she does not accept Swiss traditions and the Swiss way of life, she should not be able to become an official national.

I bet when she heard the news, she shouted something like Gipf Oberfrick!!
Ms Holten told local media: “The bells, which the cows have to wear when they walk to and from the pasture, are especially heavy. The animals carry around five kilograms around their neck. It causes friction and burns to their skin.”

Let’s see … a cowbell weighs about 11 pounds, and the average cow weighs 1,600 pounds. Yeah, I can see how that would really be a burden.  It would be like asking a human to carry a set of keys, a smartphone and a wallet all at the same time.
Ms Holten, who describes herself as a freelance journalist, model and drama student, has also campaigned against a number of other Swiss traditions like hunting, pig races and the noisy church bells in town.

Boy, I just can’t imagine why the local Swiss don’t want her as a fellow citizen.

Give it time, we’ll all have “high” blood pressure

In Fat Head, I described how members of the National Cholesterol Education Campaign (Dr. Frank Sucks … er, Sacks was one of them) redefined “high” cholesterol in the 1980s so that most of us fall into that category – which created millions of instant patients for statins.

Now new blood-pressure guidelines will apparently redefine millions of people as hypertensive:
New guidelines lower the threshold for high blood pressure, adding 30 million Americans to those who have the condition, which now plagues nearly half of U.S. adults.

Okay, stop right there. If nearly half of U.S. adults have “high” blood pressure and we’re about to add another 30 million, doesn’t that once again mean that average is being defined as high, just like with cholesterol?
High pressure, which for decades has been a top reading of at least 140 or a bottom one of 90, drops to 130 over 80 in advice announced Monday by a dozen medical groups.

“I have no doubt there will be controversy. I’m sure there will be people saying ‘We have a hard enough time getting to 140,'” said Dr. Paul Whelton, a Tulane University physician who led the guidelines panel.

But the risk for heart disease, stroke and other problems drops as blood pressure improves, and the new advice “is more honest” about how many people have a problem, he said.

Perhaps. But my suspicious side wonders if these new guidelines are appearing just in time for a new wonder drug to hit the market – the process Dr. Malcolm Kendrick described in his book Doctoring Data.
For people over 65, the guidelines undo a controversial tweak made three years ago to relax standards and not start medicines unless the top number was over 150.

Now, everyone that old should be treated if the top number is over 130 unless they’re too frail or have conditions that make it unwise.

Uh-huh. Sorry, but I think this is about selling drugs. And by the way, Dr. Kendrick also stated in Doctoring Data that no clinical studies have proved that lowering blood pressure actually saves lives.

Finally, a good use for Crisco

When the Bears went to the Super Bowl in 1986 and 2007, I was delighted. Excited. Ecstatic. But it never occurred to me to climb a city light pole to express my enthusiasm. Apparently that’s a potential problem among Eagles fans, and Philly officials found a good way to deal with it.
As the Philadelphia Eagles geared up for a championship playoff game at their home stadium on Sunday, the police were preparing to keep the city’s boisterous football fans safe.

They put up barricades, Capt. Sekou Kinebrew, a spokesman for the Philadelphia Police Department, said in an email. They assigned officers to patrol on foot, on bikes and on horses. And they broke out cans of Crisco, slathering up street poles to try to stop people from climbing them.

The Guy From CSPI would no doubt approve. If city officials slathered those poles with lard, CSPI Guy would be out there with a megaphone and yelling, “Stop! The arterycloggingsaturatedfat will soak into your skin and give you heart disease!”

And of course, people with good taste would be licking the poles. So Crisco it is.

By the way, after I finished watching yesterday’s games, Alana showed me a note she saved to her iPad in November. She had asked me which two teams I’d pick to be in the Super Bowl if I had to place a bet. I told her the Patriots and the Eagles, and she saved the prediction as note, perhaps to wave in my face if I turned out to be wrong.

So I got that right. That’s the good news. The bad news is that I’m in a four-man football pool and ended up in last place this season. Obviously I’m better at predicting the final outcome of a season than the individual games.

Nonetheless, I’ll predict the winner of the only remaining game: Eagles.  I want as much Crisco as possible to end up on light poles instead of in the food supply.

Image/photo
 News and Reviews
The Guy From CSPI And The Guy from AHA Bravely Agree They’ve Been Right All Along

Fat Head
 
The Guy From CSPI And The Guy from AHA Bravely Agree They’ve Been Right All Along

Back in June, the American Heart Association released a Presidential Advisory Report that I covered in posts titled The American Heart Association Bravely Admits They’ve Been Right All Along, part one and part two.

The lead author of the report was Dr. Frank Sucks … er, Sacks, who is a fine example of a scientist too firmly wedded to a particular hypothesis to ever be objective. Sucks was chairman of the AHA’s Nutrition Committee back when they were releasing guidelines warning us that saturated fats will kill us and vegetable oils (and Cocoa Puffs!) will save our lives.

He was the lead researcher on the DASH trial, which concluded that restricting salt produces “major” benefits for hypertension … even though the study’s own data showed that reducing salt intake by 75% led to a measly three-point drop in blood pressure.

Sucks .. er, Sacks was also a member of the National Cholesterol Education Program (the folks who decided we should all have a total cholesterol score below 200), and a member of the Whole Grains Council, which is generously supported by the grain industry.

In other words, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone more personally invested in the arterycloggingsaturatedfat! and hearthealthywholegrains! nutrition advice than Dr. Frank Sacks … with the possible exception of The Guy From CSPI. So naturally, The Guy From CSPI (or his organization’s newsletter, to be exact) recently interviewed Dr. Sacks to explain why they’ve both been right all along.

Here are some quotes from a CSPI article titled A refresher on fats:
Q: How strong is the evidence that saturated fat in foods like meat, butter, and cheese is harmful?

A: The evidence that saturated fat causes atherosclerosis and heart disease is compelling. It’s consistent across randomized trials, large observational epidemiologic studies, and animal studies.

This is, of course, complete poppycock. Consistent across randomized trials and epidemiologic studies?! Not even close. I’ve written about the glaring inconsistencies in the evidence in this post and many others.
Q: Why have some people heard that the evidence on saturated fat has gotten weaker?

Actually, CSPI Guy, the evidence hasn’t “gotten weaker.” It was never strong to begin with. But let’s see what Sucks has to say on the matter.
A: Some of the more recent studies take a standard epidemiologic approach, which is inadequate. Saturated fat seems to be harmless in those studies because it’s being compared, by default, to the typical American diet, which is high in refined, junk-food carbohydrates. They’re also linked to a higher risk of heart disease.

Ahh, I see! Recent studies – and apparently only recent studies – took a standard and therefore inadequate epidemiological approach! Gee, it’s nice to see a Harvard researcher finally speak out against drawing conclusions from observational evidence. Too bad Harvard spent decades scaring the hell out of people based on crappy observational studies.
Q: Why inadequate?

A: Let’s say you give someone advice to reduce their saturated fat. Well, what do they eat instead? If they just reduced their saturated fat, they’d lose weight, because they’d be getting fewer calories. That’s unlikely. So what do they actually do? In many cases, people who eat less saturated fat eat more refined carbohydrates.

Yeah, that tends to happen when you tell people bacon and eggs will kill them and then put the American Heart Association seal of approval on boxes of Cocoa Puffs. And Dr. Sacks was a big muckety-muck at the AHA back when that was happening.
A: But Walter Willett and Frank Hu—my colleagues at Harvard—devised a new epidemiology based on food substitutions that would occur in real life. And that’s really innovative.

Allow me to interpret that: Willet and Hu spent lord-only-knows how much time finding a new way to crunch the numbers so they can continue believing that 1) observational studies based on food surveys tell us anything meaningful, and 2) saturated fat is the killer they’ve always said it is.
Q: Didn’t you re-examine the clinical trials from the  1960s that assigned people to diets with different fats and then measured heart disease rates?

A: Yes. We separated them into core and non-core trials, because some were superb in quality, and some were kind of dreadful. So we set out uncontroversial criteria for a good clinical trial.

Allow me to interpret that as well: we looked at all the clinical trials and decided the ones that showed higher rates of heart disease after switching to vegetable oils just HAD TO WRONG, DAMNIT! So we put those in the ‘dreadful’ category. Then, after digging like crazy, we found a whopping four trials that seemed to suggest that switching to vegetable oils reduces heart disease. We labeled those ‘superb in quality.’ And our criteria are uncontroversial because we all agreed with ourselves.
Q: Is large LDL safer than small LDL, as some people argue?

A: No. It’s basically a non-issue. If you have a lot of big LDL, it’s no better than a lot of little LDL. In fact, big LDL is probably worse, because it’s loaded up with more cholesterol.

Q: Do high triglyceride levels cause heart disease?

A: We don’t have proof with triglycerides the way we have proof that LDL cholesterol causes heart disease. But the evidence linking triglycerides to heart disease is getting stronger.

Fascinating. Dr. Sacks believes we have proof that LDL causes heart disease, but don’t yet have proof triglycerides cause heart disease. Perhaps he missed this study and its conclusion:
Stepwise higher concentrations of nonfasting triglycerides were associated with stepwise higher risk of heart failure; however, concentrations of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol were not associated with risk of heart failure in the general population.

I suppose Sacks could dismiss the study as dreadful, but that could be embarrassing since it was published by The American Heart Association.
Q: What about coconut oil?

A: Some of the short-chain saturated fatty acids in coconut oil don’t raise LDL cholesterol. But they don’t counteract the effects of the oil’s longer-chain fatty acids, which do increase LDL cholesterol. So coconut oil raises LDL cholesterol in the same way that, say, butter does.

Ah, yes, in the Presidential Advisory Report, Dr. Sacks assured us that coconut oil is even worse for our hearts than butter because it’s higher in saturated fat. But Dr. Michael Moseley recently conducted a small study in which volunteers added 50 grams of butter, olive oil or coconut oil to their diets. A BBC article describes the results:
As expected the butter eaters saw an average rise in their LDL levels of about 10%, which was almost matched by a 5% rise in their HDL levels.

Those consuming olive oil saw a small reduction, albeit a non-significant drop, in LDL cholesterol, and a 5% rise in HDL. So olive oil lived up to its heart-friendly reputation.

But the big surprise was the coconut oil. Not only was there no rise in LDL levels, which was what we were expecting, but there was a particularly large rise in HDL, the “good” cholesterol, up by 15%. On the face of it that would suggest that the people consuming the coconut oil had actually reduced their risk of developing heart disease or stroke.

But there I go again, digging up contrary information. Dr. Sacks and The Guy From CSPI are worried that people like me are causing confusion:
Q: How can people avoid confusion?

A: If you want to sort out what is good scientific knowledge and what is speculation or biased, look at guidelines produced by the American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association, or American Cancer Society.

Riiiight. Because organizations whose very existence depends on generous contributions from the makers of vegetable oils and grain products couldn’t possibly be biased.

So what’s going on here? Are people like Sucks … er, Sacks and the The Guy From CSPI just pathological liars? Are they intentionally dishonest?

Actually, I don’t think so. I think we’re seeing yet another example of the phenomenon described in an excellent book I haven’t mentioned in quite a while: Mistakes Were Made (but not by me). The subtitle is Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts. That pretty much captures the subject matter.

The authors give many examples of the same basic behavior:

DNA evidence exonerates someone who spent 15 years in prison for murder, but the district attorney still insists he didn’t prosecute an innocent man. The lab screwed up, or someone tainted the samples, or the guy in prison must have had an accomplice whose DNA ended up on the victim.

A doctor’s procedure kills a patient, but the doctor insists the procedure was correct.  Some complication that was impossible to predict caused the death.

A therapist prods a young patient into “recovering” memories of sexual abuse that were supposedly repressed, but are later proven to be false.  The therapist insists the memories are accurate and rationalizes away all evidence that the abuse couldn’t have happened.

A woman stays married to a physically abusive husband, insisting to her friends and family that he’s really a sweet guy at heart and his behavior is his employer’s fault, or his parents’ fault, or whatever.

A researcher accepts generous funding from a pharmaceutical company, then fudges a few numbers in a study concluding that the company’s newest drug is wonderful, but tells himself the drug really is wonderful and the fudged numbers simply enhance the truth.

A boy who moves to a new school district and wants to fit in somewhat reluctantly joins a pack of bullies in tormenting a fat, weak kid … and the more he participates in the bullying, the more convinced he becomes that the fat, weak kid deserves every bit of it.

As the authors explain, humans are naturally inclined to engage in self-justification as a means to reduce cognitive dissonance. Most of us believe we’re basically decent and competent, and we selectively filter information and rewrite memories to support that belief. (People with low self-esteem do likewise to confirm their negative opinion of themselves, but that’s another matter.)

The result is that once we’ve chosen a path or a position, we’re quite brilliant at convincing ourselves the path or position is correct … and the longer we’re on that path, or the more public the position, or the more consequential the action, the more we’re psychologically driven to justify it.

DNA says the guy didn’t do it? That can’t be right! I’m a good person, and a good person wouldn’t railroad an innocent man, so he had to be involved in that murder.

The patient died the family are blaming me? That can’t be right! I’m a good doctor, and a good doctor wouldn’t make a mistake that killed a patient. It wasn’t my procedure; it was something else.

Does fudging a few numbers make me a dishonest researcher? No, I’m a good scientist. Those numbers were outliers, and I had to smooth them over so this life-saving drug can be approved and help people who need it.

I picked on a weakling just to fit in? No, that would make me a bad guy, and I know I’m a good guy. The weakling is pathetic and annoying and not a good person, so he had it coming to him.

You get the idea. I’m a good and competent person, but I made a stupid or harmful decision creates cognitive dissonance. So we convince ourselves the decision wasn’t stupid or harmful. We do that largely through confirmation bias; that is, by latching onto any evidence that we were right and ignoring or dismissing evidence that we were wrong.

So imagine you’ve spent decades very publicly promoting grains and vegetable oils as the key to health while warning people away from saturated fats. Imagine you’ve also received generous donations from the makers of grains and vegetable oils – which is fine, you tell yourself, because those funds merely help you fulfill your life-saving mission.

Now imagine the science is turning against you. New (and old but recently discovered) studies suggest that vegetable oils and grains are harmful to health, while animal fats and other saturated fats are either neutral or beneficial.

You only have a couple of choices. You can look in the mirror and say to yourself, “Oh my god. I’ve spent 30 years giving out advice that helped turn countless people into fat diabetics suffering from inflammation and autoimmune diseases they didn’t need to have.” Or you can tell yourself you’re a good scientist, the advice you’ve been handing out is actually beneficial, and those new studies can be ignored because they were conducted by people who are incompetent.

As the authors point out, Americans tend to forgive and sometimes even rally to support public figures who admit to their mistakes, take the blame, and sincerely apologize. Nonetheless, most public figures and organizations don’t go that route. They can’t admit to themselves that they were wrong, so they double down. They rationalize. They attack the critics. And so the correction, whatever it is, almost always happens as the result of outside forces.

That’s why whenever I receive one of those email petitions demanding that the AHA or USDA change their dietary advice, I toss it. They’ll never announce that they were wrong because their heads would probably explode as a result. All we can do is convince more and more of the public to stop listening to them. I’m pretty sure that’s already happening — even if Dr. Sacks and The Guy From CSPI have a psychological need to convince themselves we’re just confused.

Image/photo
 Bad Science
Hollyweird and Harassment

Fat Head
 
Hollyweird and Harassment

My previous post dealt with Morgan Spurlock’s recent confession that he’s been a drunk, a womanizer and a sexual harasser. He now promises to be part of the solution. Well, gee, that’s great. Here’s how he and all men can be “part of the solution”: don’t act like a jackass when you’re around women.  Don’t attempt to have sex with women who aren’t actually attracted to you, and if you’re married, don’t cheat on your wife.  It’s not that difficult to figure out.

If you watched the Golden Globe awards on Sunday (I didn’t), you know the rich and famous women of Hollywood wore black dresses and gave rousing speeches to publicly demonstrate their outrage over all that sexual harassment in the entertainment industry. They were, of course, praised for their courage by a mostly-fawning press.

Sorry, but I’m not impressed. According to what I’ve read, Harvey Weinstein’s status as a sexual predator was the worst-kept secret in Hollywood. Many of the women courageously donning $10,000 designer black dresses on Sunday night had to know, yet did nothing when Weinstein was still sitting atop the industry and could boost or bust careers.

Rose McGowan, the actress who had enough spine to call him out (and whose story was spiked by some of our “speak truth to power” journalists because they were afraid of Weinstein) wasn’t impressed either. As CBS reported:
Rose McGowan is still unimpressed with the black dress protest at Sunday’s Golden Globe Awards. The outspoken actress claimed that all of the stars at the Golden Globes wearing black in protest against sexual harassment would not have done so if it weren’t for her.

Yup. Wearing a black dress and giving a rousing speech now, after years of remaining silent, is kind of like running out from the crowd to kick Goliath in the groin after David hurled the fatal stone, then patting yourself on the back for your bravery. I mean seriously, am I supposed to cheer for Meryl Streep and her black dress and her righteous speeches now, when she once stood and cheered for director Roman Polanski after he was convicted of drugging and raping a teenage girl?! Pardon me if I remain seated.

Perhaps you’re wondering how Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and all those other walking penises got away with it for so long. As someone who lived in Hollywood and worked in and around the entertainment industry, I can make an educated guess.

Here’s the brief version: the entertainment industry (including TV news) is universe in which 1) a disproportionate number of powerful people at the top are amoral sociopaths, and 2) a disproportionate number of the people who aren’t at or near the top are so desperate for success, they’ll do or put up with almost anything.

In other words, it’s a perfect environment for abuse.

You can find various definitions of sociopath on the internet, but I like this list of traits:
  • Having an oversized ego.
  • Lying and exhibiting manipulative behavior.
  • Exhibiting a lack of empathy.
  • Showing a lack of remorse or shame.
  • Behaving irresponsibly or with extreme impulsivity.
  • Having few real friends.
  • Being charming—but only superficially.
  • Living by the “pleasure principle.”
  • Showing disregard for societal norms.
Doesn’t that sound rather a lot like some Hollywood bigshots we could all name?

There are, of course, some very nice people at the top in showbiz. I’ve yet to hear anyone say a bad word about Tom Hanks, for example. But as Chareva and I both noticed during our years in the L.A. area, something about the entertainment industry seems to both attract and reward a particular type of aggressive, amoral, me-first personality.

I’ll give you just one example from my corner of the entertainment industry, standup comedy. I’m actually talking about a couple of famous comedians (whose names I won’t reveal, so don’t ask), but the story is similar in each case, so we’ll just roll them into one guy named Freddy Funny.

When Freddy Funny first appeared in comedy clubs in Los Angeles, he already had a killer act. There’s a good reason for that: while working the comedy-club circuit around the country before moving to L.A., he wrote down the best bits of every comedian he worked with. Then he went to L.A. with an act that could have been titled The Best Of The Club-Circuit Comedians.

His punishment for stealing material that other comedians had meticulously written, worked and reworked was to become a TV star. After all, agents and producers saw him slaying audiences. Eventually, word got around that Freddy routinely stole his material from unknown comedians. Nobody cared. Freddy was a star now with millions of fans. His presence in a show drew the numbers that make producers rich.

I was first warned about Freddy by other comedians. “If you’re about to try that great new bit on stage and you see Freddy in the back of the room, don’t do it. Switch to your old material, finish your time, and get off the stage.”

“Why would I want to do that?” I asked. “Wouldn’t it help my career if Freddy Funny saw me and liked my stuff?”

“No, it will hurt your career. Because you’ll turn on The Tonight Show or The Letterman Show some night, and Freddy will be doing your best bit. Then you’ll have to drop it from your act, because audiences will think you stole it from him instead of the other way around.”

Eventually, a comedian who was outraged at hearing his best bit come out of Freddy’s mouth on TV cornered Freddy in a club, punched him in the face, and shoved him down a flight of stairs. After that, Freddy’s manager routinely paid the victims of Freddy’s thefts for their silence. But of course, the thefts continued … because despite the millions of fans who considered a Freddy a brilliant comedian, the guy never did learn to write a good act.

When Freddy died – one of them, anyway – some comedians posted an inside joke beneath his obituary in a showbiz magazine: When Freddy Funny died, a little bit of all of us died with him.

Keep in mind I never personally met Freddy, so I’m passing on what I was told by quite a few other comedians. But I did have a personal experience with a comedy thief. I was the headliner in a small club many years ago, and the opener was okay but not exactly rocking the house. About a year later, I worked another club where he was opening, and he seemed to have really improved. And yet some of his material seemed familiar … and then one of my best bits came out of his mouth.

I didn’t say anything to him, but went ahead and did the same bit in my act. When the audience responded with quizzical looks and a few nervous chuckles, I said, “Yeah, I know, you just heard that bit about an hour ago, right? Which is weird, because I wrote it.”

At that point, the opener left the club instead of fulfilling his duty to come up on stage after the show to wish the audience a good night and send them on their way. With such an a-hole attitude, I’m surprised he didn’t end up as a TV star.

It’s not just performers who lie, cheat and steal. As you may recall, the first two distributors for Fat Head never paid us. One of them sold the film to TV markets around the world, but reported zero profit because of huge and unexplained expenses – for a film I produced and financed out of my own pocket. (Gravitas, our current distributor, is one of the good guys, by the way. They send regular quarterly checks and document the rare expenses they charge against the film’s sales.)

Bottom line: the glamor of showbiz lures a lot people who have no qualms about lying, cheating, stealing or screwing other people — literally or figuratively. And those at the top, the ones who can make or break careers, have access to plenty of people who will put up with being abused.

That’s where the desperate-to-make-it aspect comes in.

When Chareva and I first moved to Hollywood, her sister – who at the time was a documentary producer and knew quite a few industry people – gave us a friendly warning about relationships among showbiz types. Dating isn’t really dating; it’s a career move. People jump into bed with whoever might open doors for them. Same for friendships; if you’re in a position to boost careers, you’ll have more new “friends” than you can handle – which in turn makes you suspicious of anyone who wants to be your friend.

I saw that from both angles. Some years ago, I was in a sketch-comedy show at a small theater near Burbank. After our opening night, we went out to celebrate at a local pub. One of the actresses had a friend with her, a middle-aged woman. I ended up chatting a bit with the friend and eventually asked what she did for a living.

After just a hint of hesitation, she replied, “I’m a photographer.” She seemed uncomfortable, so I didn’t ask any more questions about her profession.

Later I said something about “your photographer friend” to the actress.

“My what friend?”

“Your photographer friend. She was with you at the cast party after opening night.”

“She’s not a photographer. She’s a director.”

“Why didn’t she just say that?”

“Because if she tells people she’s a director, they start schmoozing with her, hoping she can give them an acting job.”

The year before we moved, I was in an acting workshop I’d been attending for several weeks. One of the actors and I had become chit-chat friendly, and he asked if I’d done any standup shows recently. I told him I’d given up the comedy gigs for the time being and was shooting some footage for an independent film I wrote, a comedy-documentary of sorts.

Boom, next thing I know, a pretty young actress-wannabe who had never spoken to me before was chatting me up and being very friendly – and of course, she handed me a copy of her headshot and resume.

I had no interest in her, but I’m guessing I could have asked her out for a drink right then, despite the wedding ring on my finger.  I was a nobody, but I was shooting a film, so she suddenly found me interesting.  Imagine what a Harvey Weinstein could do.  Well, you don’t have to imagine anymore.

People in the industry just seemed to accept this as normal. I once attended a workshop run by a brutally honest casting director. He’d worked in various aspects of the industry, including a brief stint as a producer.

“I never actually got anything produced, but having Producer on my business card made it easy to pick up girls,” he said, prompting chuckles in the room. Ha-ha. I don’t doubt it.

During Q&A, a good-looking wannabe actress asked him (perhaps speaking from experience) what she should do if a big-name producer decided to put his hand on her thigh during an audition.

“If you’re smart and you want the role, you’ll reach out and pat his hand with yours,” he replied.

Like I said, brutally honest. And that, of course, is why Harvey Weinstein got away with it for so long. Actors desperately want the next role. Agents desperately want their actors to get the next role. Writers desperately want their scripts produced. Directors, designers, composers, whatever, countless people fighting for a spot in the industry are desperate.

That includes many people who, to mere mortals, already appear successful. I found that to be one of the most disturbing aspects of the whole showbiz culture: almost everyone seemed to be suffering from some degree of career frustration. Actors who actually had roles on TV shows were frustrated because they wanted to be acting in films. Actors who were in films were frustrated because they wanted to be in the meaningful films, or wanted top billing. I remember reading an interview with Alec Baldwin in which he said he felt like a failure as an actor because he never got the kind of meaningful roles he wanted. I kid you not.

Same goes for directors, producers, agents, you name it. Below the tippy-top of the industry, it seemed damned near everyone was in a constant career-climbing, claw-my-way-to-the-top mode. Chareva and I used to wonder if that’s why there are so many incredibly rude and angry drivers in L.A. They’re frustrated by the traffic, but more frustrated by their careers … or lack of careers.

The desire to be discovered prompted some truly strange behavior.  Chareva and I were having dinner at a restaurant for one of our anniversaries, and an adolescent boy at another table was annoying the crap out of other diners by singing show tunes — and his parents were encouraging him.  They apparently hoped a producer would be somewhere in the restaurant and sign junior to a three-picture deal.

I once filled in for Chareva and took Alana to a dance class.  While I was sitting in a waiting room with other parents, a young dad was reading to a toddler whose older sibling was in the dance class.  I noticed with growing irritation that the young dad was reading way too loudly and with way too much expression.  Is this guy deaf?  Does he think his toddler is deaf? And then it hit me: he’s an actor, and he’s acting the character parts — loudly, just in case one of us might be a producer or agent or whatever.

Meanwhile, my Midwest friends working in other fields were nothing like the people I met in L.A. My friend who set out to be an attorney as a young man was one – a partner in a prestigious firm, in fact. My buddy who wanted to work in finance was a manager for an investment firm in Chicago. My pal who wanted to teach yoga owned a yoga studio. No desperate, never-ending career-climbing for them. They had achieved their primary goals and were enjoying life.  If Kevin Spacey had grabbed one of them by the privates, they would have punched him in the nose, not complain to a manager who would tell them to keep quiet because Spacey has serious mojo in Hollywood.

I wasn’t aware of any specific sexual abuse at the time, but I was keenly aware of the toxic combination of desperate wannabes and amoral sociopaths in power positions. I suspected there plenty of people engaging in Harvey Weinstein behavior. I just didn’t know their names yet.

So there I was in 2008, with Fat Head done and in the hands of distributors who would later rip me off. I looked out the window of our townhouse one afternoon and saw my girls “playing outside” on the little strip of grass in front of our building.

That’s when it hit me:

This is going to be their childhood. They’re going to be L.A. kids.  They’re never going to just run around outdoors unsupervised, because parents don’t let kids do that around here.  As they grow up, they’re going to be surrounded by all those desperate, career-climbing, attention-seeking, needy people in the industry. And if, heaven forbid, they get caught up in the culture and want to be actresses, there’s a chance they’ll be meeting the amoral slimeballs who prey on pretty young actresses.

And why am I here? Because I love being a writer and entertainer and want to do it for a living. But what would that mean? It would mean working with a lot of people I don’t like, people whose me-first, aggressive personalities and loony-lefty politics make me want to vomit, all so I can perhaps someday make enough money as an entertainer to afford a nice house with a big yard in state run by big-government morons who are spending it into bankruptcy.

Holy crap … I’m an idiot. I know now I could have made Fat Head while living almost anywhere, and yet I’m still in a part of the country dominated by a bat-shit-crazy culture I’ve come to loathe.

So we moved to Tennessee. And the big yard is pretty nice indeed.

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 Random Musings
Morgan Spurlock Confesses To Being A Lying, Cheating, Womanizing Drunk

Fat Head
 
Morgan Spurlock Confesses To Being A Lying, Cheating, Womanizing Drunk

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Just before I took a holiday vacation from blogging, several readers and Twitter followers alerted me to news stories about Morgan Spurlock confessing to being a sexual harasser. Here’s an example from
https://youtube.com/watch?v=v=otI813hkMqc

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 News and Reviews
Happy New Year

Fat Head
 
Happy New Year

I hope you all had a terrific holiday season. Mine was pretty enjoyable, considering I’m still feeling post-surgical pain in the shoulder and am limited in my activities. I can tie my own shoes and button my own shirts now, so at least I don’t feel like an overgrown toddler.

Now that Chareva’s parents live here instead of just outside Chicago, we stayed home for the holidays. We used to make a triangle trip every year; first to central Illinois to visit my family, then on Chicago visit hers. I won’t miss making those drives.

Perhaps the best present we received was the surprise news that Chareva’s younger brother Alex bought a house in Franklin. He has a baby daughter who’s as adorable as adorable gets. Now we know we’ll get to see her grow up. My girls are already lining up for future baby-sitting duties.

Last we’d heard, Alex and his wife were planning to live in either Portland or the Chicago area. The whole time he was looking at and bidding on a house about 10 miles from us, he managed to keep it a secret. Fortunately, his wife had a video camera running when he broke the news by giving keys to the new house to Chareva and her mom. Their reactions were priceless. You can bet that scene made it into the DVD I create at the end of each year.

Speaking of which, I just managed to finish all the video editing and get the DVD done before my vacation ended. Here’s a sample, the video I put together to commemorate the low-carb cruise to Alaska:



Alaska - family scenes from the 2017 low-carb cruise
by FatHeadMovie on YouTube

Jimmy and Christine Moore arrived a few days before Christmas and left on Christmas day. The weather is certainly better around Thanksgiving, but it was nice to spend a Christmas with them for a change. As far as my girls are concerned, Jimmy and Christine are Uncle Jimmy and Aunt Christine. The more family around on Christmas, the better.

We managed to squeeze in a few rounds of disc golf, but agreed not to make them part of the official record. It was cold outside, and we played after rains had soaked the pastures. Between the slippin’ and slidin’ and my post-surgery weakness, I didn’t exactly rack up impressive scores. Jimmy whooped me quite convincingly in the last two rounds, but he’s such a good friend, he only mentioned it a couple dozen times. (Just kidding, Bro.)

I finally got around to writing down plans for the new year yesterday. I’m not against New Year’s resolutions, but as I’ve mentioned before, I think too many people go about them in a way that sets them up to fail – that is, they make promises in terms of results (I’m going to lose 30 pounds by June) instead of actions (I’m going to follow this-or-that diet and exercise plan). Take it from an old guy: you can control your actions, but you can’t control the results.

I know what my diet plans are, but of course the exercise plans at this point boil down to Whatever the surgeon and physical therapist say I can do. If I had my way, I’d be at lifting at the gym tomorrow, since the atrophy on my left side is already becoming obvious. I made the mistake of flexing both arms in front of a mirror over the weekend to see what they’d tell me. The right arm said Adult Male. The left arm said Probably Hasn’t Started Shaving Yet.

I had a follow-up visit with the surgeon today and asked what I can do for upper-body exercise. The short answer is: almost nothing outside of physical therapy. The physical therapist told me I’ll start working out with weights in another couple of weeks. The “workout” will consist of curling two-pound dumbbells. I saw the two-pound dumbbells sitting in a rack nearby. They’re pink.

Pink?! Seriously? Am I required to wear a skirt as well? Next thing you know, I’ll start crying during the she’s-going-to-lose-him scene in chick-flicks and stopping to ask directions if I’m lost. I may need to watch a Schwarzenegger film or two every weekend just to maintain a sense of balance.

My main goal in the upcoming months is, of course, to finish the film version of Fat Head Kids. That one’s very much under my control, and I know I can get it done … even with a left bicep that looks like it belongs to an adolescent.

Happy 2018, everyone.

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 Random Musings
‘Twas The Night Before Statins

Fat Head
 
‘Twas The Night Before Statins

I haven’t exactly been a posting machine these past few months, but nonetheless it’s time for me to call it a year.  I need to make tracks on the film version of Fat Head Kids, plus I’ve got my annual end-of-the-year project (a DVD of family memories) to start soon.  Jimmy and Christine Moore will be popping in for a few days as well.  Weather permitting, we’ll get in a few rounds of disc golf. I haven’t had a disc in my hands since a couple of weeks before the surgery and I already feel a bit weaker from the lack of exercise, so this may be Jimmy’s chance to kick my butt out there.

Anyway, I’ll see you again in 2018.  In the meantime, here’s a holiday post I wrote some years ago.  Relative newcomers probably haven’t seen it.  I wish you all a wonderful holiday season.

————————————-

Twas the night before statins, and all through the land
Our lipids were lethal, as we’d soon understand.
Our eggs were all stacked in the fridge with great care
In hopes they’d be scrambled, or fried if we dare.

The children were calm and well-fed in their beds,
While visions of sausages danced in their heads.
The dads, mostly lean, and wives often thinner
Had just settled down for a porterhouse dinner.

When out in the world there arose such a clatter,
They sprang from their plates to see what was the matter,
And what on the cover of TIME should appear,
But an arrogant scientist, peddling fear.

Cheers and belief from an ignorant press
Gave a luster of truth to the new, biased mess.
So away to the doctor we flew in a pack,
In hopes of a plan to end heart attacks.

He was dressed in all white from his neck to his butt
(which conveniently hid the size of his gut).
He sat us all down for a well-meaning chat:
“More carbohydrates — avoid all that fat!”

So sugars and starches we passed through our lips,
Only to wear them on bellies and hips.
Our hearts with their plaques continued to swell,
We grew diabetic and weren’t feeling well.

The doctor announced it was likely our fault —
We were, after all, still eating salt.
“But there’s no other option,” he said with shrug,
And pulled out his pad to prescribe some new drugs.

“Now Crestor! Now Zocor! Then Lipitor next!
Now Lipex! Now Lescol, and best take Plavix!
To the depths of the liver! To the artery wall!
Force it down, force it down, foul cholesterol!”

Our appetites crazed, we soon looked like blimps.
Our children lost focus, our manhood went limp.
The doctor examined joints now wracked with pain
And concluded the patients were old or insane.

He chose Celebrex for muscles that ache,
And added Cialis to the drugs we should take.
“Now stick to your diet, and be of good cheer,
If this doesn’t work, I’ll do lap-band next year!”

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 Random Musings
The Real Inuit Diet, All-Meat Diets and Paleo Plants

Fat Head
 
The Real Inuit Diet, All-Meat Diets and Paleo Plants

I suspected my post about the real Inuit diet would draw a few howls online, and I was right. There are people in the low-carb world I think of as vegans-in-reverse: instead of insisting that humans aren’t designed to eat meat, nobody actually needs meat, and eating any kind of meat is bad for you, they insist that humans aren’t designed to eat plants, nobody actually needs any plant foods, and eating any kind of plant food is bad for you.

Sheesh.

If you’re on all-meat diet and it’s working for you, great. But it’s one thing to say an all-meat diet works for you and quite another to insist that our paleo ancestors didn’t eat plants and therefore nobody – absolutely NOBODY, you understand – needs any plant foods to be healthy. When I commented on Facebook that many plants provide micronutrients we need to be healthy, someone even labeled it as an excuse to eat carbs.

An excuse to eat carbs? Seriously? We don’t need an “excuse” to eat whole, unprocessed plant foods that contain carbohydrates any more than we need an “excuse” to eat meat. That’s what I mean by the vegan-in-reverse mentality:  in the eyes of some people, eating any plant foods at all is apparently a moral failure.  Give me a break.

Short of building a time machine and zipping on back to paleo times, I don’t suppose we can prove what paleo humans ate or didn’t eat. But I’m convinced Paleo Man included plants in his diet. Here are a few reasons:

Our nearest relatives

Humans share about 99% of our DNA with chimpanzees. We’re not directly descended from them, but according to the genome project, we almost certainly split off from a common ancestor. Vegans like to insist that chimps are vegetarians, and therefore we should be vegetarians too. That’s wrong, of course. Chimps hunt and eat meat. But they’re still omnivores who get most of their calories from plant foods.

Eating meat allowed us to develop bigger brains and become human. But I find it difficult to believe that after evolving from plant-eating apes, we rejected plant foods entirely once we became proficient hunters, and then suddenly started eating plants again 15,000 years ago. It seems a wee bit more logical to assume we added meat to a diet that continued to include plants.

Hunter-gatherers

More than 200 hunter-gatherer societies were discovered and studied in relatively modern times. These were people who hadn’t previously been exposed to civilization and were living a stone-age lifestyle. They all ate meat or fish or both. They also gathered and ate plants – even the Inuit ate certain plants when they could find them.

According to Loren Cordain’s studies, carbohydrates made up 20% to 40% of the diet in most hunter-gatherer societies. Good luck doing that eating nothing but meat. So once again, I find it more than a little difficult to believe that Paleo Man ate no plants whatsoever, but people living essentially a paleo lifestyle in modern times did.

Yes, yes, yes, I can hear the reply in cyberspace already: yeah, but humans only ate plants when they hunted the big game to extinction and ran short of meat!

Sorry, but that is simply not true.

As I’ve mentioned before, I was fascinated with Native Americans for years and read a ton of books about them. I still read one now and then. A book I read a couple of years ago described how the buffalo-hunting Sioux would get together with their Eastern cousins and trade buffalo meat and hides for foods like pumpkins and squash.

If you’re trading away meat for squash, it means you want the squash.  It’s not a meat-shortage survival strategy.  Until the “civilized” buffalo-hunters came along and nearly wiped out the herds, there were a shootload of buffalo living on the Great Plains. I doubt the Sioux ever ran short of meat. I’ve also read that the buffalo-hunting Sioux ate wild berries, spinach, turnips and potatoes. No meat shortage, and yet they ate plant foods.

One reader on Facebook suggested I watch a speech by Dr. Mike Eades, claiming it provides slam-dunk evidence that early humans lived on an all-meat diet. So I watched the speech, which was excellent, of course. But the evidence Dr. Eades presented (much of which focused on analysis of stable isotopes) only proves that early humans ate a heck of a lot of meat, both from herbivores and carnivores. It proves they were top-level hunters. It doesn’t prove – and wasn’t intended to prove – that they stopped eating plants.

In fact, in one section of the speech, Dr. Eades talked about a study of Native American skeletons found in Kentucky. One group of skeletons came from hunters who lived nearly 3,500 years ago – 3,000 years before Europeans showed up. Another group of skeletons came from agriculturalists who lived 1,500 years ago and ate a lot of maize. The hunters were healthier in all kinds of ways – watch the speech if you’re interested. But what struck me was this slide:

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The hunters ate a variety of meats, but also gathered and ate grapes, acorns, blackberries, sunflowers and hickory nuts. Again, I sincerely doubt they only gathered those foods when they ran short of meat, because I doubt they ever ran out of meat.

Kentucky and Tennessee have similar weather and terrain. Even with the encroachment of civilization, we have plenty of deer and other animals tromping around our area year-round. Heck, we hit a deer recently while driving home. Lots of people around here end up with damaged vehicles because of deer collisions. Just this week, Chareva spotted three deer carcasses along the highway near our home. And as you know if you read my farm-report posts, there’s no shortage of raccoons around here.

In Good Calories, Bad Calories, Gary Taubes describes how early European explorers described much of the planet as a “paradise for hunting,” with large and small game present in almost unimaginable numbers. I’m pretty sure that applied to the dense forest that’s now Kentucky. The Native American hunters in that area didn’t eat grapes and blackberries because they ran out of meat. They ate them because of …

Our taste buds

If you’ve seen Fat Head, you may remember this line: Mother Nature isn’t stupid. She didn’t make human beings the only species on earth who prefers foods that will kill us.

The whole idea behind paleo diets is that we have to eat the kinds of foods that Nature, through evolution, designed us to eat. We put it this way in the Fat Head Kids book:
The Nautilus was programmed to choose the right fuels and building materials automatically. Inside the FUD hatch, special sensors send messages to The Brain that say This is what the ship needs. You experience those messages as This Tastes Good.

When humans hunted and gathered their food, this app worked perfectly. Our taste for sweets told us to eat fruits and sweet-tasting vegetables like carrots and squashes. Our taste for fats told us to eat olives, nuts, eggs and meats. Our taste for salts told us to eat meats and seafood. Our taste for spices told us to eat plants that were full of vitamins and minerals.

Those are the flavors we naturally seek: sweet, fatty, salty and spicy. Good luck finding sweet and spicy flavors in an all-animal-foods diet. We like sweet and spicy foods because in a natural environment (not a processed-food environment), those tastes lead to us foods that provide micronutrients.

Here’s a slide from a lecture by Chris Kresser on the nutrient density of foods:

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Yup, meats – especially organ meats – are nutrient-dense, which is why we should eat them. But please notice that herbs, spices, nuts and seeds are more nutrient-dense than beef, seafood and wild game. Many vegetables are more nutrient-dense than pork, eggs and poultry.

When I mentioned our natural desire for sweet and spicy foods, a reader on Facebook retorted with something along the lines of, Well, we only like fruits and other sweet foods now because we bred them over the centuries to be bigger and sweeter than they were in paleo times.

So let’s think about this …. you’re Paleo Man, supposedly a pure carnivore with no inborn desire for sweet foods. And yet you decide to breed fruit to contain even more of a flavor you don’t naturally like. How does that make any sense?

Humans don’t eat tree bark because it’s not a natural food for us and therefore doesn’t have a flavor we naturally enjoy. Would we start eating (and perhaps over-eating) tree bark if someone bred trees that grew really, really big and chewy bark? I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t. We bred animals to be fatter because we naturally love the taste of fat, and we bred fruit to be sweeter because we naturally like sweet foods.

Yes, the makers of processed foods have hijacked our taste for sweet foods to sell us donuts, candies, sodas, Pop-Tarts, Frosted Flakes, Twizzlers, gummy bears and countless other junk. But you can’t hijack a desire that doesn’t already exist.

My cat is an actual carnivore. He wouldn’t touch a donut if I offered it to him. Heck, even though he loves meat, he won’t touch spicy meats like pepperoni. Why? BECAUSE HE’S AN ACTUAL CARNIVORE. His brain tells him not to bother with sweet or spicy flavors, which come from plants.

Someone pointed out that his cat will eat dry cat food made from grains. Yup, so will mine. But only because the food-taste scientists managed make grain-based cat food appeal to a carnivore’s taste buds. If you don’t believe me, take a bite of some dry cat food. I promise it won’t taste sweet or spicy. You could fill my cat’s plate with bananas, berries, potatoes, bread sticks, tomatoes and broccoli drizzled with butter and he wouldn’t eat any of it. He wouldn’t eat gummy bears either, even though they’re super-sweet. Once again, you can’t hijack a desire that doesn’t already exist.

If Nature designed humans to be pure carnivores, we wouldn’t like sweet and spicy foods. And yet we do. And therefore it makes no sense to insist that paleo humans wouldn’t have gathered and eaten plant foods that were available, tasted good, and provided nutrients.

The AMY1 gene

All humans carry the AMY1 gene, which enables our bodies to digest starch. Some people have just one copy of the gene, while others carry up to 15 copies. The average among humans is six copies, whereas the average among chimpanzees is two. If we share a common ancestor with chimps, but then evolved into our human form on plant-free diets, why the heck would most humans carry more copies of the starch-eating gene than chimps, who live mostly on plant foods? That makes no sense.

Research strongly suggests that people with fewer copies of the AMY1 gene are more likely to have blood-sugar problems and gain weight on a starchy diet. Fair enough. That’s evidence that some of us have to limit our intake of starches. But if we’re all descended from paleo ancestors who lived on meat-only diets, there’s no logical reason we’d carry the AMY1 gene at all – and certainly no reason for some people to carry 15 copies.

If the reply is something like Well, humans probably only started carrying more copies of the AMY1 gene after we started farming, then it means our bodies were reprogrammed rather dramatically in the past 15,000 years. The whole idea behind paleo, of course, is that we’re virtually the same as our paleo ancestors and therefore need to eat like them.

Can’t have it both ways. Biologically, we’re either nearly identical to our paleo ancestors, or we’re not. If we are, then Paleo Man carried the genes to digest starch. If we’re not, then what Paleo Man did or didn’t eat doesn’t matter all that much.

The effects of zero-carb diets

Some people do well on zero-carb diets. But other people don’t. They get the symptoms Paul Jaminet described in his Perfect Health Diet book. They get dry eyes. Their thyroids slow down. Their cortisol levels go up. Their production of sex hormones declines.

I didn’t read the back-and-forth debate between Jaminet and Dr. Ron Rosedale on safe starches until a few years ago, but when I did read it, I found Jaminet’s arguments more convincing.

Rosedale, for example, doesn’t deny that a glucose deficiency can slow down the thyroid, but offered this explanation:
Glucose scarcity (deficiency may be a misnomer) elicits an evolutionary response to perceived low fuel availability. This results in a shift in genetic expression to allow that organism to better survive the perceived famine…. As part of this genetic expression, and as part and parcel of nature’s mechanism to allow the maintenance of health and actually reduce the rate of aging, certain events will take place as seen in caloric restricted animals. These include a reduction in serum glucose, insulin, leptin, and free T3. The reduction in free T3 is of great benefit, reducing temperature, metabolic damage and decreasing catabolism.

So yes, your thyroid may slow down, but Rosedale insists that’s good for longevity. Hmmm. If you’re struggling to lose that last 50 pounds, a “healthy” slower thyroid isn’t going to help. Neither is the reduction in leptin. Losing weight requires being in a catabolic state, so you can guess what “decreasing catabolism” means as far as weight loss.

As for the reduction in sex hormones, Rosedale replied with this:
If we evolved in a certain way and with certain physiologic responses to the way we eat, it was not for a long, healthy, post-reproductive lifespan. It was for reproductive success. The two are not at all synonymous, in fact often antagonistic.

Just roll that one around in your brain for a minute. Rosedale doesn’t deny that your sex hormones will decline, but insists it’s a worthwhile tradeoff for longevity. Jaminet does a good job of disputing that lower-is-always-better when it comes to glucose and longevity, but that’s not the point. If long-term, drastic restriction of glucose doesn’t support “reproductive success,” it can’t be the diet that allowed us to win the game called Survival of The Fittest.

If we’re all descended from and virtually identical to paleo ancestors who lived on all-meat diets, then almost nobody would suffer ill effects from a zero-carb diet – which, of course, is what an all-meat diet is. And yet many people don’t do well at all on a diet that includes no plants and no carbohydrates.

That’s because their paleo ancestors ate plants and at least some carbohydrates. Jumping up and down and insisting that anyone who doesn’t feel awesome and healthy on all-meat diet just isn’t doing it right! is thinking and acting like a vegan-in-reverse.  That doesn’t help the cause.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m about to go enjoy a dinner of beef, broccoli and roasted squash with onions … but if you happen to have any buffalo meat, I’ll trade you some squash for it.

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 Real Food  Random Musings
Post-Surgery Prognosis, Part Deux

Fat Head
 
Post-Surgery Prognosis, Part Deux

I’m working on a longer post that’s related to my previous post about the real Inuit diet. That’ll come later. A chunk of my time today was taken up with a follow-up visit with the surgeon. Since some of you asked for an update, here it is:

According to both the surgeon and the physical therapist, I’m healing as expected. The day-to-day pain level has dropped almost off the charts. I get an ache in the shoulder or bicep now and then, but it’s nothing an ibuprofen and a cold pack can’t handle.

There are exceptions.  Twice in the previous week I woke up with a stronger, throbbing pain around the bicep and had to pop a Percocet to go back to sleep. I suspect that’s just the result of me struggling against the sling while I sleep. The surgeon wasn’t at all concerned when I mentioned it.

The good news is that I can start removing the sling when I’m working at home. I just have to remember not to actually lift anything with my left arm. He suggested I still wear the sling when I leave the house, partly to restrain my own movements and partly to signal other people not to bump into me.

The really good news is that I no longer have to wear the damned thing while sleeping. Hallelujah. Trying to get a decent night’s sleep has been one of the worst parts of the whole experience. If you videotaped me sleeping normally and sped it up for playback, I’d look something like a fish tossed ashore. I turn and roll and flop into different positions. (Chareva’s worse. She also kicks and steals blankets.)

Turning and rolling and flopping was apparently a real threat to the reattached bicep tendon at first, so for the 30-plus nights since surgery, I’ve had to sleep sitting up, surrounded by pillows to keep me in that position, with my arm pinned to my side in the sling.

I didn’t have any trouble sleeping like that when I was still knocking myself out with Percocet before bed, but it’s a different story now that I’m off the painkillers. I sleep for a few hours, wake up feeling stiff and cramped and wanting to just roll the hell over already, get out of bed, utter a few curses known only to weekend hobby farmers who’ve had surgery, crawl back into bed, re-assume the sitting position, then try to sleep again.  I’m usually awake for at least an hour.

No sling tonight. No sitting up in a pillow throne. I don’t remember the last time I looked forward to crawling into bed this much.  There was probably lingerie involved.

I already feel a bit like the Pillsbury Dough Boy from the lack of exercise, so I asked the surgeon what I can and can’t do at this point. I’ve got the green light to work my legs at the gym, but that’s it. No upper-body exercise at all.

Dangit. That’s what I expected, but dangit anyway. The physical therapist told me that after surgery for a torn bicep, it’s a very slow buildup to exercise. It usually takes about a year to return to full strength.

Sheesh. I’ll be turning 60 in just under a year. I guess that will be my birthday gift: a return to full strength.

I went through this with the last shoulder surgery 15 years ago. By the time I could really start working out again, I had the muscles of an adolescent boy. If I remember correctly, I even started laughing at booger jokes again.

The difference between now and then (besides being almost 60 vs. being almost 45) is that I know a helluva lot more about what constitutes a good diet. I can’t avoid getting weak, but I can avoid getting fat and weak.

In the meantime, since outdoor work on weekends is a no-go, I’ve been focusing more on composing music for the Fat Head Kids film, which is one of the last remaining creative tasks before post-production work.

Composing and recording tools these days are, to put it mildly, simply awesome. With all the digital stuff, it’s gotten to the point where if you can hear it in your head, you can get it into your song. I haven’t been able to play guitar for obvious reasons, so I had my iPad strum the chords for one of the songs I’m recording. Blows my mind.

I wish I’d had these toys back when I was writing songs for my band in my twenties. We spent a lot of money to record in a studio that had a mere fraction of the tracks and effects and processors that now live inside the Logic Pro software on my Mac. I can even export a song-in-progress to my iPad, go sit in my comfortable recliner to do more composing, then pull the new tracks into Logic Pro. Again, it blows my mind.

So despite being physically sidelined and missing the joys of working myself into a state of Dog Tired Satisfied on the farm, I’m feeling just fine. For a time at least, my brain will have to do the heavy lifting.

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 News and Reviews
The Real Inuit Diet

Fat Head
 
The Real Inuit Diet

In my previous post, I wrote this:
I don’t agree with the conclusion that we only need meat and fish to healthy, by the way. Perhaps that’s true if you’re eating wild-caught fish and caribou who feasted on nutrient-dense wild plants, but unless you live off the land in Alaska, that’s not your meat-and-fish diet.

Perhaps that statement could use some explanation. Our favorite poster-boys for a meat-and-fish diet are the Inuit. In fact, back in 2010, I wrote a review of an excellent book titled Kabloona: Among the Inuit, written by a French adventurer who traveled and lived with Eskimos (as he called them) in the 1930s. In one chapter of the book, he describes how he brought some white-man’s treats (bread and cheese) to a friend who was a priest. The priest, as it turned out, no longer liked those foods. As the author wrote, the priest had lived on nothing but fish, seal and caribou for six years and was none the worse for it.

Okay, so people can live well on meat and fish. But there’s a little more to it than that.

Back when I researching Fat Head, I came across a Discover Magazine article titled The Inuit Paradox – the “paradox,” of course, being that they were healthy despite living on fatty meat and not having any hearthealthywholegrains! in their diets.

Here are some quotes from that article:
Patricia Cochran, an Inupiat from Northwestern Alaska, is talking about the native foods of her childhood: “We pretty much had a subsistence way of life. Our food supply was right outside our front door. We did our hunting and foraging on the Seward Peninsula and along the Bering Sea.

“Our meat was seal and walrus, marine mammals that live in cold water and have lots of fat. We used seal oil for our cooking and as a dipping sauce for food. We had moose, caribou, and reindeer. We hunted ducks, geese, and little land birds like quail, called ptarmigan. We caught crab and lots of fish—salmon, whitefish, tomcod, pike, and char. Our fish were cooked, dried, smoked, or frozen. We ate frozen raw whitefish, sliced thin. The elders liked stinkfish, fish buried in seal bags or cans in the tundra and left to ferment. And fermented seal flipper, they liked that too.”

Seal, walrus, geese, moose, caribou, reindeer, crab, fermented “stinkfish” and fermented seal flipper … does that sound anything like the all-meat-and-dish diet the typical zero-carber living in America would consume?  I’d urge people to read that paragraph several times before concluding Well, the Inuit didn’t eat plants, so I’ll be fine living on steaks, chicken, cream, bacon, eggs and a bit of broccoli now and then.

The Inuit did eat some plants, by the way, as the article explains:
In the short subarctic summers, the family searched for roots and greens and, best of all from a child’s point of view, wild blueberries, crowberries, or salmonberries, which her aunts would mix with whipped fat to make a special treat called akutuq—in colloquial English, Eskimo ice cream.

And even when they weren’t eating plants, they didn’t live strictly on meat and fish as we think of them:
One might, for instance, imagine gross vitamin deficiencies arising from a diet with scarcely any fruits and vegetables. What furnishes vitamin A, vital for eyes and bones? We derive much of ours from colorful plant foods, constructing it from pigmented plant precursors called carotenoids (as in carrots). But vitamin A, which is oil soluble, is also plentiful in the oils of cold-water fishes and sea mammals, as well as in the animals’ livers, where fat is processed.

Livers from cold-water fish and sea mammals – often eaten raw. Apparently that’s also where they got their vitamin C:
In fact, all it takes to ward off scurvy is a daily dose of 10 milligrams, says Karen Fediuk, a consulting dietitian and former graduate student of Harriet Kuhnlein’s who did her master’s thesis on vitamin C. Native foods easily supply those 10 milligrams of scurvy prevention, especially when organ meats—preferably raw—are on the menu. For a study published with Kuhnlein in 2002, Fediuk compared the vitamin C content of 100-gram (3.55-ounce) samples of foods eaten by Inuit women living in the Canadian Arctic: Raw caribou liver supplied almost 24 milligrams, seal brain close to 15 milligrams, and raw kelp more than 28 milligrams. Still higher levels were found in whale skin and muktuk.

Raw caribou liver, seal brains, kelp and whale skin. Again, not foods found in your local grocery store – not even at Whole Foods.

The Inuit hunted and fished for animals we don’t eat, and they ate them nose-to-tail – again, often raw. That’s why they didn’t need plants foods. They ate the animals that ate a variety of wild plants – and often they ate the digested plant matter found inside the animals, as the article explains. Yummy. I’d probably sprinkle some garlic salt on that side dish before digging in.

We’re critical of vegans for shunning meat, which provides necessary nutrients, then refusing to blame the meatless diet when their health tanks. So let’s be consistent here. If you’re not actually eating like an Inuit, an almost-plant-free diet is likely to leave you short on necessary nutrients. A small salad with dinner probably isn’t going to cut it. In most areas of the world, paleo humans consumed dozens (and sometimes hundreds) of local plants, including nuts, leaves, stems, roots and tubers.

But if you’d rather eat raw caribou liver and fermented stinkfish, I’ll be the first to applaud your dedication.

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 Real Food
Carbs And Colds

Fat Head
 
Carbs And Colds

When I switched to a low-carb diet some years ago, weight loss was only one of the benefits. My arthritis went away, as did restless legs at night, frequent belly aches, psoriasis on the back of my head, and occasional bouts of mild asthma (“mild” because I would wheeze when breathing, but never needed an inhaler).

I also seemed to gain a stronger resistance to colds, flu and sinus infections. When it seems everyone around me at the office is coming down with a nasty cold, I usually don’t have any symptoms at all. Or perhaps I’ll feel tired for a day or two with a bit of a drippy nose, and then it’s over.

One explanation that I read some years ago (sorry, don’t remember where) is that glucose and vitamin C compete for the same cell receptors – and glucose wins. So when blood glucose is elevated, vitamin C doesn’t get into the cells to do its job.

Okay, that makes sense. But I recently read another explanation that also makes sense and is backed up by at least one small but interesting study.

I came across the study while reading an article a reader sent on why the notion that we need five servings of fruits and vegetables per day to be healthy is nonsense. I don’t agree with the conclusion that we only need meat and fish to healthy, by the way. Perhaps that’s true if you’re eating wild-caught fish and caribou who feasted on nutrient-dense wild plants, but unless you live off the land in Alaska, that’s not your meat-and-fish diet. I do agree with the article’s conclusion that the five-per-day rule is arbitrary and encourages some people to consume too much sugar in the form of fruit.

Anyway, the article mentions a study in which researchers measured how efficiently the subjects’ white blood cells were at destroying bacteria and other microorganisms. They measured after fasting (which, interestingly enough, increased the kill-the-bugs efficiency), then measured again at several intervals after having the subjects consume 100 grams of various types of carbohydrates.

All the carbohydrate loads reduced the ability to destroy microorganisms. And in all cases, it took more than five hours for the blood to regain its normal bug-killing efficiency. But what’s interesting is how much the reduction varied. Here’s how much what the researchers call the phagocytic index (think of it as bug-killing ability) declined for the different types of carbohydrate:

Fructose – 45.1%
Sucrose – 44%
Orange Juice – 42.1%
Glucose – 40.5%
Honey – 39%
Starch – 13.4%

Starch clearly doesn’t reduce bug-killing ability to the same degree as simple carbohydrates. In fact, the researches stated that “Starch ingestion did not have this effect” … but there was an effect, so perhaps they meant that given the small number of subjects, it wasn’t statistically significant.

But wait … isn’t starch just glucose molecules bound together? Why yes, it is. But when you eat whole-food starches, it takes time for your body to break them down. You don’t get the same spike in glucose that you’d get from pure glucose or refined carbohydrates that turn to glucose almost instantly.

Most people also don’t pig out on whole-food starches like they do processed carbohydrates. My (ahem) “healthy” breakfast used to be a cup of Grape Nuts and a glass of orange juice. (The official serving size for Grape Nuts is half a cup. Good luck feeling full on that.) Assuming the orange juice was 6 ounces, that’s just over 100 grams of sugar and processed carbs – in other words, the carb load that would reduce my bug-killing ability by 40% or more, according to the study.

By contrast, a small potato (which I sometimes include as part of my sausage-and-egg breakfast) contains about 25 grams of unprocessed starch. Assuming the relationship between carb load and the phagocytic index is linear, that might reduce my bug-killing ability by 3.35%. Since I believe there are benefits from eating small servings of whole-food starches (feeding the gut bacteria, to name one), I’m fine with that.

When you think about the standard American diet, it’s no wonder people are so susceptible to colds and other infections. If the study is correct, we can pretty much guess what happens when people consume 100 or more grams of simple carbohydrates at, say, 8:00 AM, 1:00 PM, 6:00 PM and again at 10:00 PM for that late-night snack. They’d only be at full bug-killing capacity for five hours out of every 24.

According to the CDC, cold and flu season peaks in the months December through February. I don’t know if the viruses and bacteria are actually more prevalent during those months, or if it simply means more people succumb. Either way, I believe the holidays, with all that sugar and white four being snarfed up in the form of holiday treats, are at least a contributing factor. We lower our immune system’s capacity to fight infections while simultaneously attending gatherings full of people carrying the viruses and bacteria.

I usually cheat on Thanksgiving and enjoy some pumpkin pie, stuffing with the turkey, etc. Not this year. I’ve learned from past experience that if I’ve got any kind of inflammation going, wheat makes it far worse.

I have good days and bad days with the shoulder. On good days, it’s a mild ache. On bad days, it throbs and I reach for the painkiller.  I’ve only had one bad day in the last four, and I’d like to keep it that way.  Stuffing and pumpkin pie aren’t worth the pain, so I’ll skip them. I sure as heck don’t want a cold or flu to add to the discomfort.

Whether you cheat or not, I hope you enjoy your Thanksgiving. And to our non-American readers, I hope you have a good Thursday.

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 Good Science  Bad Diets
From The News …

Fat Head
 
From The News …

Interesting items from my inbox and elsewhere …

Don’t laugh. That would be callous and rude.

Oh, the irony. Here are some quotes from an online article in the Dallas News:
The president of the Dallas-based American Heart Association is recovering after suffering a minor heart attack Monday morning at the organization’s scientific conference in California.

The president of the AHA not only suffers a heart attack, he has the comic timing to do it at an AHA scientific conference. That almost tops all the times Al Gore showed up to give a speech on global warming just as the host city experienced a record-cold day.

Anyway …
John Warner, a cardiologist, vice president and CEO of UT Southwestern University Hospitals, was in stable condition with his family by his side at a California hospital. Doctors inserted a stent to open an artery, the association said in a prepared statement.

Dr. Warner is 52 years old – i.e., seven years younger than yours truly. Out of curiosity, I looked up the average age for a first heart attack among American males. It’s 66. The president of the AHA had his 14 years younger than the average.

The American Heart Association explained it this way in a tweet:
Sending all our love and support to American Heart president Dr. Warner as he recovers from a mild heart attack. Heart disease can strike anyone, at any time. That’s why we keep fighting.

Yeah, that’s one explanation. Another explanation is that the AHA’s advice for avoiding heart disease just plain sucks. That’s how I’d put. Dr. William Davis (also a cardiologist) employed a more professional tone in a post on his Wheat Belly blog:
I am hoping that, now that this disease has touched you personally, your eyes will be opened to the corrupt and absurd policies of conventional coronary care and the American Heart Association. Your life, after all, may be at stake in coming years. Contrary to the self-serving Tweet from AHA staff to you, heart attack risk is 1) quantifiable, 2) trackable, 3) stoppable and reversible.

American Heart Association officials should read their own studies.

Perhaps Dr. Warner could have avoided a heart attack if he and other AHA officials checked their own data and studies before issuing dietary advice. The AHA has tunnel vision when it comes to cholesterol. They keep insisting that lowering LDL is the key to a healthy heart. But as I pointed out in a 2010 post, data available on their own web site says otherwise:
People with “high” LDL make up 32.6% of the population, but account for just 27.9% of the heart attacks … We’ve been told for decades that the higher your LDL, the more likely you are to clutch your chest in the middle of the night. But if the “high” LDL group experiences slightly less than their share of heart attacks, how can that possibly be true?!

And here’s the conclusion from a study recently published in one of the AHA’s own journals:
Stepwise higher concentrations of nonfasting triglycerides were associated with stepwise higher risk of heart failure; however, concentrations of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol were not associated with risk of heart failure in the general population.

Higher LDL wasn’t associated with heart failure.  But higher triglycerides – which are produced by high-carb foods like the hearthealthywholegrains! the AHA recommends — were associated with heart failure.

Boy, I bet the AHA’s scientific council members nearly had a heart attack when they read that. No, wait …

NuVal is NoVal.

If Dr. David Katz weren’t such an arrogant jackass, I’d almost feel sorry for him. Talk about a rough couple of months. First the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine declared that the USDA’s dietary guidelines (which Dr. Katz insisted are “excellent and supported by the weight of the evidence”) aren’t based on good science.

And now there’s this, as recounted in a press release by the National Consumers League:
The National Consumers League (NCL) has welcomed news that a supermarket-based nutritional scoring system of food products called NuVal, which at its peak was used in 1,600 grocery stores nationwide, has been discontinued.

NuVal, as you may recall, was the brainchild of Dr. Katz. The nutrition scoring was so back-asswards, it gave sugar-laden soy milk a higher nutrition rating than a chicken breast, as I explained in a 2010 post.

Back to the NCL release:
“The NuVal rating system was fatally flawed, and its removal from grocery store shelves is a win for consumers,” said National Consumers League Executive Director Sally Greenberg. “Its proprietary algorithmic formula – which was not made transparent to consumers or the scientific community – resulted in snack chips, soft drinks, and desserts being given as high or higher nutritional scores than some canned fruits and vegetables. We welcome the news that NuVal has been discontinued nationally.”

My guess is that the “proprietary algorithmic formula” was never made public because it consisted of Dr. Katz just making @#$% up as he went along … kind of like when he reviewed his own novel under a fake name and compared himself to Milton and Chaucer.

This is why Katz is hostile to the wisdom-of-crowds idea. He thinks we should stop sharing information and experiences in the “echo chamber” online and simply listen to (ahem) “experts” like him – and the president of The American Heart Association, of course.

Birthday Bash a Bust.

I turned 59 on Tuesday. I’d been looking forward to that birthday for months … not because 59 is a significant number, but because it was also the 20th anniversary of my first date with Chareva.

For those of you who haven’t heard the story, we met at an acting school in Chicago. I was 38, and she was 24 and just home from the Peace Corps. I was smitten, but figured the age difference was too great. I remember staring across the room at her during an improv class and thinking, “Damn. If only I were 10 years younger.”

She took a few Microsoft Office training classes at a Manpower office where I was a part-time trainer, and some female co-workers finally talked me into asking her out. They insisted she was as attracted to me as I was to her. A woman can tell, etc., etc. I finally got over my hesitations and asked her to dinner and a play on my 39th birthday. The rest is history.

Anyway, I’d planned on celebrating the anniversary with a big night out. Nice expensive meal, good bottle of wine and all that. The shoulder surgery put the kibosh on my plans. I can’t drink because of the painkillers, and I didn’t relish the idea of ordering a prime rib, then watching Chareva lean across the table to cut it into pieces for me. So we postponed the big night out to an unspecified future date.

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Instead, she made a Fat Head pizza at home. Pretty good stuff, even if I am a bit embarrassed that people call it Fat Head pizza, since I had nothing to do with creating it. All I did was post the recipe.

For my birthday present to myself, I bought this:

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I expect the surgeon will give me the green light to do leg presses at the gym soon. But full workouts are out of the question for several months. Same goes for heavy-duty farm work. If I don’t get enough exercise, I tend to start feeling lethargic, so I figured I can at least put in some long walks on the treadmill while I’m waiting the shoulder and bicep to fully heal.

As you may have noticed, the treadmill is strategically placed to allow for watching movies and football games while I walk.

In the meantime, I’ve graduated from the recliner to a makeshift desk. For the first 10 days or so after surgery, I was only comfortable leaning back in the recliner, so I worked with a laptop on my thighs. With the sling keeping my elbow pinned to my side, I can’t reach a keyboard on my desk – my chair doesn’t raise high enough.

But I have an IKEA table in my office than can be lowered quite a bit, so Chareva lowered it for me. At the current height, it looks like a table for a toddler. But it allows me to position a laptop pretty much on my lap, with an inch of tabletop separating my thighs and the keyboard. It ain’t much, but getting myself out of the recliner for my programming job feels like progress.

I just try to avoid looking out my office window at the lovely autumn weather and thinking how much I’d love to be out there splitting wood or playing some disc golf.

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 News and Reviews
Post-surgery prognosis

Fat Head
 
Post-surgery prognosis

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As you can see, I’m able to do my programming work from the comfort of my big recliner … although Rascal occasionally hops up to remind me I should take a mental break and pay attention to something besides work.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that recovery is going to be a lot longer and more involved than I’d anticipated.

The surgeon originally predicted I’d be back to normal activity within six weeks. That’s because he thought all he’d have to do in there is shave down the bone spur that was causing collisions in the shoulder joint. And in fact, that part of the operation wasn’t traumatic at all. I have three small punctures in my skin where he went in with a scope. I get a bit of an ache in that part of the shoulder, but it’s nothing much.

The torn bicep tendon is another matter altogether. No scope for that procedure. He had to go in the old-fashioned way and slice open my arm. To re-attach the tendon (as I learned later), he cut a slit in the arm bone, then nailed the tendon into the slit with a tiny titanium spike. The bone will eventually grow back over and around the tendon and the spike (which will remain in my arm), and then the tendon will be fully attached.

Well, it turns out that when a surgeon cuts open your arm, slices away a portion of bone, then pounds little spike into the bone, it hurts rather a lot. I’m allowed to take two Percocet tablets every four to six hours, according to the prescription. I don’t want to process that much acetaminophen and oxycodone through my liver, so after the first day recovering at home, I started limiting myself to one tablet every four hours. Then I stretched it to five hours, then six.

I’ve gotten to the point now where I take one tablet during the day, then two before bed. I need the two-pill dose before bed because if the pain isn’t completely numbed, I can’t sleep. I usually wake up five or six hours later with my shoulder throbbing, take one more pill, then go back to sleep for another three or four hours. During the day, I can mostly get by with cold packs to reduce the pain.

The pain level will continue to diminish. Unfortunately, it will take 10 weeks for the bone to grow around the re-attached bicep tendon, and I’ll be stuck wearing a sling that pins my arm to my body the entire time. I’m not supposed to flex the bicep muscle at all, not even to pick up a coffee cup. A physical therapist will move the arm for me, but the most I’m allowed to do on my own is lift the forearm with my other hand and place it on the laptop for working.

I won’t be able to fully exercise the arm for four to six months. Yeesh. I went through that the last time I had major shoulder surgery. As you’d expect, I lost rather a lot of muscle and strength – not just in the arms, but in the entire upper body, because you can’t do much upper-body work that doesn’t involve the arms.

So no farm work, no fixing up Sara’s cabin, nothing until spring. I’m not happy to be in this situation, but I still feel more gratitude than anything. The surgeon found the torn bicep tendon and fixed it. That was him being a good doctor and looking for problems that didn’t show up on the MRI. I can still do my programming job. I can still write blog posts.  After a bit more healing, I’ll be able to get back to working on the film.

If I feel the least bit tempted to complain, I remind myself that Chareva’s father lost the use of his left arm permanently after his stroke. My situation is temporary. It will take some time and effort to get back to full strength and normal activities, but I will get there.

In the meantime, there are plenty of books I’ve wanted to read and courses I’ve wanted to watch on Lynda.com. With no weekend farm work in my near future, I may as well get to them.

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 News and Reviews
Recovering

Fat Head
 
Recovering

As you’ve probably guessed by the fact that I’m answering comments, I’m home from surgery. The bone-shaving procedure apparently went well. The surgeon told Chareva he also discovered that I had torn a bicep tendon at some point, so he reattached it.

In addition to general anesthesia, they gave me something called a shoulder blocker. It’s like having an entire shoulder on Novocain. I have absolutely no sensation from the elbow to the neck. You could stab me in the shoulder and I wouldn’t know it. That, of course, will wear off. I’m supposed to start taking Percocet later this evening.

I won’t be able to shower or sleep in bed for a few days. I’ll be living in my La-Z-Boy recliner. We’ve already got  The area set up  with my iPad, charger, phone, TV remotes, a video adapter to put my iPad screen on the big TV, etc. I can’t really type yet, but the dictation feature On the iPad Pro is pretty accurate … although as you may have noticed, it has a bad habit of capitalizing words for no apparent reason.

I appreciate everyone’s good wishes. I feel pretty good, considering. Time to kick back and binge-watch a couple of shows and catch up on some Lynda.com tutorials.

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 News and Reviews
From The News …

Fat Head
 
From The News …

Interesting items from my inbox and elsewhere …

Soy it ain’t true, Joe

Makers of soy-based foods will no longer be able to claim soy protects against heart disease, at least if the FDA gets its way. Here are some quotes from an article in Fortune magazine:
Since 1999, food makers have been able to slap a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cleared claim onto their products that soy protein has proven heart health benefits. But the FDA on Monday moved to revoke that soy heart benefit claim—the first time ever that the agency has attempted to nix a previously authorized health claim.

That’s not to say there isn’t any kind of heart benefit to soy protein—it’s just not as certain as an officially designated claim would suggest. “[S]ome studies, published after the FDA authorized the health claim, show inconsistent findings concerning the ability of soy protein to lower heart-damaging low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol,” as the FDA notes.

Of course, I don’t care if soy lowers LDL or not, because most people who have heart attacks are already in the supposed “good” range for LDL. I don’t eat soy because it lowers testosterone, to name just one of many negative effects. You can read about those here.

There’s a corny joke in here somewhere …

I remember my grandma hugging me when I was a wee tyke and saying things like, “Oh, I could just eat you up!” Lucky for me she didn’t live on corn … and wasn’t a hamster. Here are some quotes from an article in Science New For Students:
People who eat a diet dominated by corn can develop a deadly disease: pellagra. Now something similar has emerged in rodents. Wild European hamsters raised in the lab on a diet rich in corn showed odd behaviors. These included eating their babies!

“Corn again?! Where’s junior? I need a real meal.”
Hamsters and other rodents are known to eat their young. But only occasionally. This tends to happen only when a baby has died and the mother hamster wants to keep her nest clean.

To be perfectly truthful, our house would be a lot tidier if Chareva ate the girls without waiting for them to die. But I’d rather put up with the mess, so we limit our corn consumption to the occasional tortilla.

Wait … a high iron level is good now?

Some of you may recall the Wood Allen movie Sleeper, in which a man wakes up in the future and discovers (among many other things) that everything once considered good for you is now considered bad for you and vice-versa.

We’ve been told for years to avoid eating too much red meat because the iron it contains will build up in your body and cause heart disease. So I found a recent study reported in Medical News Today rather interesting:
Recent research suggests that iron may have a protective effect against heart disease. These promising findings could pave the way for new treatments.

A team of researchers from Imperial College London and University College London, both in the United Kingdom, set out to examine the link between levels of iron in the body and the risk of developing the most common type of CVD: coronary artery disease (CAD).

Previous research has put forth the idea that levels of iron in the body may be linked to heart disease. But the studies that investigated this link yielded inconsistent results, with some of them suggesting that high iron levels can protect against heart disease and others indicating the exact opposite.

The new research uses Mendelian randomization to investigate this link more closely. More specifically, the scientists – led by Dr. Dipender Gill, a Wellcome Trust Clinical Fellow at Imperial College London – tried to establish causality, examining whether or not iron status has a direct effect on CAD risk.

The results confirmed the hypothesis that higher levels of iron reduce the likelihood of developing CAD. “These findings,” the authors conclude, “may highlight a therapeutic target.”

So now a high iron level might be good for us … and of course the goal is to develop new treatments for low iron.

I think I’ll just eat a steak and go on my merry way.

Meatless Mondays in the land of good beef?

And while I’m eating steaks to keep my iron status up, officials in Argentina are looking for ways to reduce beef consumption. Here are some quotes from an article in The Economist:
Argentina is famous for its beef… In 2010 Argentines lost the title of the world’s biggest beefeaters, when measured by annual consumption per person, to neighbouring Uruguayans. Diego Vecino, a writer, lamented Argentina’s declining beef consumption and suggested the country was “immersed in shame”.

Now it seems the Casa Rosada, the presidential palace, is embracing the trend. In a bid to start a debate on health and the national diet, it has instituted meat-free Mondays. For one lunch each week, the canteen will only serve vegan options to the 500-plus employees, including President Mauricio Macri.

I love it. In fact, I think our federal government should require all employees to eat nothing but vegan foods at every meal. That alone might reduce the number of federal employees – and if we’re lucky, the ones who remain would be too fatigued to cause trouble for the rest of us.
The introduction of meatless Mondays to the Casa Rosada adds Argentina to the list of countries investigating ways to limit meat consumption. The countries of Latin America and the Caribbean are in the middle of an obesity crisis. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that a majority of people are overweight in all but three countries of the region.

Argentina has particular grounds for concern. The rate of obesity among its boys is the highest in Latin America, and among girls it is the third-highest. This has been linked to various causes, including excessive eating of beef.

Head. Bang. On. Desk.

So Argentina has a childhood obesity problem and they think BEEF is the cause?! Note to Argentine officials (somebody translate this into Spanish): if your kids are getting fat, check their consumption of sugar and other processed carbs. I’m pretty sure beef isn’t the problem.
The Argentine Beef Promotion Institute, a lobbying group, has denounced the move as a bid for votes. Indeed, the promotion of meat-free eating has become rather political. A German proposal from 2013 calling for “Veggie Day” in public canteens led to a backlash. It was condemned as an “ecological dictatorship” and received considerable attention in pre-election coverage. Germans voted “nein” to the Greens that year.

And of course, The Anointed accepted the will of the masses rather than proceed with the Grand Plan …
Undeterred, the country’s environment ministry said earlier this year that it would stop serving meat and fish at official functions.

Yeah, that’s what I expected. The article provides more examples of The Anointed in action:
Portugal passed a law this year requiring a vegan option at public institutions. The UN’s International Resource Panel has called for governments to tax meat products. Researchers at Oxford University found that pricing food according to its climate impact could prevent more than half a million early deaths every year, largely in Europe, the United States, Australia and China. And surveys show that measures restricting meat consumption could be accepted by the public if justified in their interest.

Riiight. Because when The Anointed impose their preferences on you, it’s always for your own good.

I believe I have the answer for Argentina’s childhood obesity problem: put everyone on an all-corn diet. People will then develop an appetite for youngsters. Boom, no more childhood obesity problem.

Luckiest Deer Collision Ever?

We drove to Illinois over the weekend to see The Older Brother’s Middle Son and Youngest Son perform in a play. (They’re both talented actors. In fact, they provide most of the cartoon dialog in the upcoming film version of Fat Head Kids.) I usually do most of the driving, but with my aching back and all, I asked Chareva to drive so I could recline in the back seat.

As she drove along a winding, hilly road a few miles from home on the return trip, I reminded her that deer like to run across the road at night. She slowed down.

Sure enough, we came around a bend and saw three deer in our lane. Chareva let off the gas and steered left to go around them. Unfortunately (as often happens), one of them panicked and ran toward the van instead of away from it.

WHAM!

I jumped in my seat and said a bad word. Sara and Alana were so startled, they almost looked up from their iPads. Chareva might have said a bad word, but I wouldn’t know because I said my bad word too loudly to hear other bad words.

I had no idea how much damage had been done to the deer or the vehicle, but I could see that both headlights were still working, so that was a good sign. I fully expected to have a major dent somewhere on the passenger side.

When we pulled into the driveway, I got out to look. This was the extent of the damage:

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I’m not happy we had to replace the mirror, but I felt more gratitude than anything. One of our neighbors had his windshield bashed in by a deer.  Another neighbor hit a big ol’ buck, which came through the windshield and seriously injured his daughter in the passenger seat.  One of the antlers poked a hole in her skull.

We got lucky. Same probably goes for the deer. With the minimal damage to the car, I’m thinking the deer likely ended up with nothing more than a headache and a good story to tell its deer pals.

Shoulder Surgery

I’m having surgery tomorrow to remove the bony mass that’s messing up my left shoulder. The surgeon told me he won’t know how much cutting and bone-sawing will be required until he’s in there. I hope it’s considerably less traumatic than my last shoulder surgery.  I was useless for weeks after that one.

Anyway, I’ll probably be too doped up to post for several days. I’ll let you know how the surgery goes, even if I have to dictate a short post to Chareva.

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 News and Reviews
Order ‘Diabetes Unpacked’ To Learn … And To Stick It To The Anointed

Fat Head
 
Order ‘Diabetes Unpacked’ To Learn … And To Stick It To The Anointed

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The HPCSA (left) has informed Professor Tim Noakes (right) that the battle to shut him up will continue.

My daughter Sara recently asked to watch Monty Python and the Holy Grail with me. She didn’t love it like I did when I first saw it, but she did laugh at the Black Knight scene. I thought of that scene while reading Marika Sboros’ latest article describing how the Health Professions Council of South Africa is continuing to go after Professor Tim Noakes.

As you may recall, the HPCSA filed charges of unprofessional conduct against Noakes because of a tweet – yes, a tweet – that annoyed an obese dietitian named Claire Julsing-Strydom. After a long, expensive, exhausting legal battle, the committee hearing the charges found Noakes not guilty by a vote of 4-1.

During the trial, the HPCSA had both arms cut off in a battle over the science. (Nina Teichholz and Zoe Harcombe were among those swinging swords for Noakes.) But as I mentioned in a recent post, The Anointed never, ever admit they’re wrong or give up trying to impose their Grand Plans on the rest of us. So now the HPCSA is standing there with blood squirting from both shoulder sockets and shouting, “Right! I’ll do you for that!”

They can’t possibly believe they’re continuing this battle to protect the public. They’re just furious that they lost to a guy who recommends a real-food, high-fat, grain-free diet not approved by them … or more accurately, not approved by Big Food, which funds them. And so, taking a page from Big Pharma, they’re going to keep conducting trials until they get the result they want. And what they want is for Professor Noakes to shut up and stop telling people their dietary advice is wrong.

When governments or agencies like the HPCSA prosecute you, they spend other people’s money on legal fees. Meanwhile, you have to spend your own money to defend yourself … or in this case, by relying on attorneys who are outraged enough to work pro bono.

Image/photoI assume this ongoing witch-hunt makes you angry. So let me suggest a way to show your support for Professor Noakes while simultaneously benefitting yourself or someone you know: order a copy of a Diabetes Unpacked, which was produced by The Noakes Foundation. All proceeds go to the foundation, which will help Professor Noakes continue his important work.

I received a copy some months ago but only recently got around to finishing it. (I always seem to be behind on my reading, a hazard of juggling work, family, farm and multiple creative projects.) It’s an excellent read, and probably the most comprehensive book on diabetes out there, at least among those written for the general public.

The book consists of 14 chapters written by a variety of authors, many of whom you probably follow online. Dr. Malcolm Kendrick, for example, wrote the chapter titled What is diabetes? It’s informative, but also filled with his usual wit.
Before starting, I feel I must begin with one of my favourite quotes on the possible causes for diabetes. It comes, once again, from the NHS.

‘Your risk of developing type 2 diabetes is also increased if your blood glucose level is higher than normal, but not yet high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes.’

Really! How amazing. If you have a high blood sugar level, you are more likely to end up with an even higher blood sugar level … we are surrounded by flipping geniuses.

Here are some other chapters, their authors and some quotes:

What causes type 2 diabetes? – Dr. Jason Fung
How does hyperinsulinemia lead to insulin resistance? Remember that insulin unlocks the gate that allows glucose to enter the cell. Under conditions of persistently and abnormally high insulin, glucose enters the cell far in excess of energy needs. There’s simply too much glucose going into the cell, so it overflows back out into the blood.

From the outside, it appears that the glucose cannot enter the cell and that insulin is not doing its job, so this is called ‘insulin resistance.’ The cell appears resistant to the effect of insulin. It is an overflow phenomenon, not a gummed-up lock and key one.

How did a LFHC dietitian become LCHF – Dr. Caryn Zinn
Suddenly, what I had always been taught and practiced didn’t seem logical to me. I had never actually thought about these issues, but naturally believed there must be a good reason for carbohydrates being as important as they’re made out to be in mainstream guidance systems and clinical practice … I figured the only thing to do was to go away and dig up the evidence that justified these concepts.

(You can probably guess what happened when she went looking for the actual scientific evidence supporting high-carb/low-fat diets as the key to health.)

Why do we eat so much carbohydrate? – Dr. Zoe Harcombe
In ideal research circumstances, epidemiological evidence would have established clear and consistent associations and then well designed randomized controlled trials (RTCs) would have followed and set out to test associations found. This did not happen with the development of the diet-heart hypothesis.

Why do people with diabetes from heart disease? – Dr. Jeffrey Gerber and Ivor Cummins
There are many contributors to heart disease progression, but the insulin resistance syndrome best describes the state that accelerates vascular degeneration. It is essentially a state of metabolic mayhem. Many organs and biological pathways are involved, as the body struggles to maintain homeostasis. All the while, a system-wide fire is burning through one’s vascular network. What develops downstream is inflammation, oxidative stress and advanced glycation, which is ultimately damaging to multiple organ systems – especially the blood vessels.

Why are low carbohydrate high fat diets best for all persons with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus and for almost all athletes? – Dr. Tim Noakes
For 33 years I personally ate and promoted a high carbohydrate diet for both health and athletic performance. So in the 4th edition of my book The Lore of Running, I wrote that “all athletes must be advised to eat high-carbohydrate diets both in training and especially before competition. This interpretation forms the central pillar of the profession of sports nutrition as high-carbohydrate diets are now considered ideal for both health and sport.”

I no longer believe that this statement is correct. In fact, I now think this advice is totally wrong and probably harmful to a majority of those who might choose to follow it.

And that’s why the HPSCA wants to silence Professor Noakes.

The politics of nutrition – Nina Teicholz
Given the global failure to make any meaningful progress to date in combating this type of diabetes, one has to ask why this new and promising approach has not been more enthusiastically embraced by health officials. In fact, we see quite the opposite, with authorities in quite a few countries attempting to shut down those practicing or promoting a low-carbohydrate approach.

These events cannot be described as routine disciplinary actions. They appear instead to be oppressive attempts to silence the science and practice of low-carbohydrate diets, motivated by a mixture of industry forces, institutional rigidities, longstanding biases and deeply entrenched interests – all of which are threatened by the success of a treatment that is the very opposite of what officials have espoused for decades.

“I have no quarrel with you, good sir knight. I merely want to pass along some dietary advice that actually works.”

“Then you shall die.”

[Draws his sword] “So be it!”

By the time you finish this book, you’ll understand what causes type 2 diabetes, how to prevent it, and what to do if you’ve already developed the condition. You won’t be surprised if I tell you the advice wouldn’t meet with the approval of the HPSCA or any number of obese dietitians who want Tim Noakes to shut up and go away.

But Noakes won’t shut up or go away, because he has a steel spine and refuses to be intimidated by bullies. And he’ll continue to win because, as Diabetes Unpacked demonstrates, the actual science is his Excalibur.

But for now, I suspect we’ll continue to see the HPSCA hopping around on one leg and screaming, “The Black Knight always triumphs! I’m invincible!”

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