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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving and Obesity in America

That's two seperate thoughts there. Happy Thanksgiving! Today is a good day for "cheating" on your nutrition plan. And enjoy the company of your family and friends while you're at it.

Thought #2: I've seen this before and just came across it again today. It's a rather interesting and disturbing look at the rise of obesity in America. It's mind blowing to watch the year-by-year changes in obesity throughout the nation. I have only glanced over the rest of the article and wouldn't really trust my nutrition advice to come from MSN, but maybe you'll find a nugget of wisdom buried in their articles following the map.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Book Review - Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival

I finished reading Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival for the second time recently. If you care about health and nutrition, this book is a must-read. It is one of my favorite nutrition books, right up there with Protein Power Lifeplan and The Paleo Diet. The basic premise of the book is that our use of artificial lights has disrupted our connection with the seasonal and circadian light cycles of the earth. Until humans discovered methods of controlling fire, we were reliant on the sun for light, just as all wild animals are. However, the real kick in the pants for us came in the 20th century when artificial light became cheap and widespread. We are now in control of "the sun".

So why does this matter? The human body, just like the body of all animals, is finely tuned to the amount of sunlight that hits the earth during the day. The basic formula is this:
- Long days = summertime
- Summertime = winter is coming
- Winter = famine
- Famine coming = feast now to store bodyfat
There are alot of hormonal workings going on that drive those things, from insulin to melatonin to seratonin and dopamine, but that's the gist of it.

When you look outside your window in November, you see darkness, usually by the time you arrive home from work. Fifty-thousand years ago, we would've gone to bed soon after the sun went down, even though we had fire to light the darkness. Keeping a fire going would've been costly in terms of energy expenditure to find the materials to burn. Now we stay up four, six, even eight hours after the sun has set. While we should be laying down, creating melatonin which cascades into prolactin production, we are wide-awake, staring at the TV or computer screen, keeping ourselves up with bright lights. It all boils down to light toxicity which brings on metabolic disorders, including depression (from improper seratonin/dopamine production), heart disease, cancer, dysbiosis of the gut, and any number of other maladies. And because our bodies judge the "days to be long" (it's "constant summertime" in the modern world!) from all the light hitting the skin, we crave carbohydrates, which causes insulin resistance so that the incoming calories can be stored as bodyfat. It is a survival mechanism that is no longer needed.

Read this book! Yearly! And go to bed earlier. The authors of the book recommend 9.5 hours per night in a completely dark room. Completely dark means completely dark, not mostly dark. That means cover your windows with blinds, shades, curtains...whatever it takes to keep the outside light outside. And cover up your alarm clocks and blinking LEDs. You may miss your favorite TV show, but you'll feel better, look better, and have a much easier time eating better.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Men's Health and Type II Diabetes

Men's Health on The Cure for Diabetes

This article was posted on The Performance Menu Forum run by Robb Wolf and Greg Everett. Even Men's Health is starting to get it, or maybe they're just publishing what sells. Regardless, this five-page article has some very excellent information regarding why a low-carb diet is healthier than a low-fat diet.

A few excerpts that stood out when I read it:

Even with all the accumulating evidence, there's no doubt that the high fat content of low-carbohydrate diets is worrisome for many people. And this may be why more physicians don't advocate the approach, even though many follow it themselves: A University of Pennsylvania study reports that doctors prescribe a low-fat diet to their patients 67 percent of the time, yet when it comes to their own diet, they more often go low-carbohydrate.

When it comes down to it, doctors are following a much healthier diet than what they are prescribing to their patients. One reason is that people are so indoctrinated with thinking that fat is bad for them that it can be futile to push a low-carb diet. And even when people believe that low-carb is healthier, getting them to give up their beloved pasta, bread, and chocolate can be impossible. Giving up unhealthy foods is far more uncomfortable than being overweight and unhealthy.

"We're not saying it's okay for people with diabetes to eat lots of sweets," says Franz. "But they deserve the right to eat all types of carbohydrates, just like any other person."

"The right"? People have the right to put whatever they want in their bodies. People have the right to drink antifreeze if they want to. It doesn't mean they should exercise that right very often. The Diabetic Food Pyramid is a carb-heavy, starchy and sugary mess. It proposes a diet that is at odds with the biochemical workings of the body, especially that of a diabetic.

Wrong, says Jeff Volek, Ph.D., R.D., a nutrition researcher at the University of Connecticut. "Our research indicates that replacing carbohydrates with saturated fat has a beneficial effect on cardiovascular health," he explains. "A low-carbohydrate diet decreases the body's production of saturated fat and increases its ability to burn the incoming dietary fat." In fact, says Volek, more than a dozen peer-reviewed studies published since 2003 show that a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet is more effective at reducing overall heart-disease risk than a high-carb, low-fat regimen. And, just like the diet that Dr. Vernon prescribes, each of these meal plans ranged from 50 percent to 70 percent of total calories from fat.

WHAT?! They're even talking good about saturated fat? Hell hath frozen over. Saturated fats from grassfed animals and coconut and palm oils are every bit as good for you as olive oil, all of which are many times better for you than polyunsaturated fats with their immunosuppressing characteristics. But it's rare to see a mainstream publication take that side. Next thing you know they'll be talking about how cholesterol isn't the killer it's made out to be.

The tide is turning. One day people will look back and see humor that fat in general and saturated fat in particular were considered health demons while bread and pasta were looked upon as a health panacea. The work of Drs. Atkins, Eades (Michael and Mary), and Sears, along with many, many others will one day be appreciated for setting human nutrition back onto the pathway that our genes have determined for us.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Staley-DeVany Conversation

On Art DeVany's blog, he recently posted a link to a long conversation that he had with Charles Staley. It was an interesting interview regarding Art's work on his Evolutionary Fitness model.
Link to Art DeVany's Blog
Link to mp3 on Charles Staley's site

A few of the more interesting tidbits of the discussion:
- DeVany broke down genotype vs. phenotype. Basically, the genotype is the specific genetic makeup of an organism, while phenotype is based on the genotype, but is also influenced by gene expression (genotype + environment + random-variation → phenotype). Gene expression is the result of genetic "switches" being flipped on or off based on how one lives their life, environmental stressors, etc. Basically, Art seems to be saying "Stop blaming your genes and examine your lifestyle!" I say the same thing.

- Staley brought up the concept of "compressed morbidity." This concept basically explains the deaths of wild animals and healthy humans; that is, death in most animals is a rather abrupt experience rather than the long, drawn-out period of increasing disability experienced by most humans. The average person doesn't want to get old because they see those around them breaking down, requiring help with everyday tasks, and experiencing prolonged disease. However, by living properly, eating a hunter-gatherer style of diet, and getting brief, intense exercise, one can decrease the length of death. As Dr. Garrett Smith has said, healthy people tend to either get well or die after a major trauma whereas unhealthy people tend to either die, spend a long time recovering, or begin a slow slide into decreased function.

- Finally, DeVany discussed post-workout (PWO) nutrition. The general consensus is that you must take a protein and carbohydrate drink following exercise to replenish the muscles. However, DeVany's take (and my take) is that PWO nutrition is not only unnecessary, but is harmful for the average Joe. A PWO shake is usually formulated so as to bring about an insulin spike. Unfortunately insulin is antagonistic to growth hormone, so as the insulin goes up, the growth hormone stimulation of the workout is shut down. Also, proper gene expression works best in a glycogen-depleted environment, such as that following a workout, so refilling the glycogen stores quickly eliminates this environment. As a final slap in the face, insulin spikes are highly damaging to arteries and insulin receptors. Insulin spikes bring about atherosclerosis (you know...what cholesterol is blamed for) and Type II diabetes from insulin receptor burnout. If you're not an elite athlete struggling to get in high-quality calories to maintain a high activity level, you would probably benefit more from a 60- to 90-minute window between your workout and first meal (of real food, not liquid!).

Those are just a few of the highlights that I found most relevant to my interests. There was a lot of other good stuff in the interview.

Monday, November 13, 2006

High Blood Sugar and Heart/Stroke Death

High blood sugar levels add to heart, stroke deaths

Scientists in the United States and New Zealand have calculated that in addition to the 960,000 diabetes deaths worldwide each year, raised blood sugar levels are linked to 1.5 million deaths from heart disease and 700,000 from strokes.

So far high blood sugar has been linked to cognitive impairment, increased risk of blood clots, diabetes, and numerous other disorders. There's a reason for that: the human body is not designed to run on glucose 100% of the time! High blood sugar means high insulin, both of which damage arteries. Damaged arteries cause cholesterol to be called to the scene to repair the damage. Yet cholesterol gets blamed for arterial damage, which makes as much sense as blaming the ambulance that shows up at the scene of an accident. You simply cannot be healthy eating large amounts of processed grains and sugar. Those foods are alien to your body, distorting the fatty acid profile of your cells and disrupting cellular function.

Step away from the candy bar and put down the low-fat blueberry muffin.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Study Shows Low Carb Not Unhealthy

Low-carb Diet Doesn't Raise the Risk of Heart Disease
Nurses Health Study Abstract

All of those low-carbers can now rest easy, science having proven what some have known for years. The Harvard Nurses' Health Study, a huge ongoing study of over 80,000 women, showed that the risk of heart disease between the groups consuming the lowest quantity of carbs and those consuming the highest quantity of carbs (and therefore, the highest and lowest amounts of fat, respectively) differed none. Why is this not surprising? Because humans have been eating a low carb, moderate protein, high fat diet for millions of years. From 2.5 million years ago to about 10,000 years ago, humans subsisted off of that which they could hunt and gather. As vegetables and fruits are relatively nutrient-sparse, most of their calories came from animals, but for some "strange" reason, they weren't keeling over from heart attacks or coming down with cancer. Only with the rise of agriculture and the grain-based diet did those diseases begin occuring.

One of the more interesting points of the study is that the "low carb" group was still consuming 117g of carbohydrates daily, far from low carb. However, low carb diets have never been proven to be dangerous; people with a preconceived hypothesis have simply used that hypothesis to "prove" it wrong. The study authors did still throw in the old party line about eating less animal protein and fat and more vegetable protein and fat. So throw out your beef and chicken and use soy and corn oil. That's sarcasm, by the way. Soy is a dangerous substance, full of antinutrients that disturb your body's hormonal environment and polyunsaturated vegetables oils are strong immunosuppressors and are highly prone to rancidity. It's as simple as "meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar."

Maybe nutritionists will stop prescribing high-carb, low-fat diets for people needing to lose weight. Maybe I shouldn't be so hopeful that those invested in the high-carb fallacy for so long will suddenly see the light.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Another Plus for Exercise

Exercise For Your Eyes

This Forbes article discusses a finding that exercise can reduce age-related macular degeneration by 70%. While they point out that this is merely correlation (which does not equal causation), it is a salient finding. Exercise improves your skin and muscularity, lowers your blood pressure, regulates your bodyweight, and releases endorphins that make you feel good. Exercise also reduces your risk of heart disease, colon and breast cancer, diabetes, and depression. It's good for so many things, why not your eyes too. A sedentary lifestyle is at odds with our genetic heritage - only in the late 20th century did humans become largely sedentary and we are paying the price with our life.

You don't have to go out and run marathons or deadlift small automobiles. Even walking, while it's not going to get you into great shape, is better than nothing. Throw in some resistance training and you can build some muscle at the same time. CrossFit is an excellent exercise program that is scalable for all ages. There are people as old as 70 and as young as 12 on CrossFit. Whatever you do, do something.

Monday, November 06, 2006

The PC Machine Strikes Again

Police Chief fired for telling his officers to shape up

Winter Haven, FL police chief Paul Goward was fired for an email that he sent out to his department telling them that they need to lose weight. Unfortunately, his choice of wording in the subject line included the words "Jelly Belly", which hurt some of his officers little feelings. Now, he didn't actually single anyone out and only used an "offensive" name in the subject, but apparently the words struck awfully close to home for a few officers. It seems the department was looking to get rid of him anyway and this was a pathetic excuse for "the straw that broke the camel's back."

Part of the memo:

"Take a good look at yourself. If you are unfit, do yourself and everyone else a favor. See a professional about a proper diet and a fitness training program, quit smoking, limit alcohol intake and start thinking self-pride, confidence and respectability. And stop making excuses for delaying what you know you should have been doing years ago. We didn't hire you unfit and we don't want you working unfit. Don't mean to offend, this is just straight talk. I owe it to you."

I'm sure you don't have to think very hard to come up with a list of several overweight police officers that you know. It's also not too hard to imagine everyday situations that require an officer to be in good physical condition - they can't just shoot everyone with a taser. There is no question that a fit police force is a more effective police force. And if these poor fellows can't handle "jelly belly", what will they do when a criminal is calling them so many other names? Maybe they'll just cry.

I find the results of the poll telling however. 72% of respondents don't think the memo was inappropriate and 97% think he should not have been fired for such an offense. Obviously an Internet poll is not a representative sample (self-selection and all that jazz), but it does show that alot of people are not down with all the political correctness flying around these days. Maybe people realize that coddling the obese is not going to do anything to help them. We shouldn't make fun of them, but calling someone obese is not an insult, it's the truth. And doctors, police chiefs, and others should be able to inform people of the danger to their health and their community (especially in the case of police officers and firefighters).

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Cod Liver Oil Protects Against Type 1 Diabetes

Cod Liver Oil Protects Against Type I Diabetes

Ok, so the article is a week old, but I've been busy. Anywho, it seems that the more we learn about the vaunted omega-3 fatty acid, the more we realize what an amazing and cheap medicine it is. This study shows that consumption of cod liver oil during the first year of a child's life reduces the chances that s/he will develop Type I diabetes, the insulin-dependant type (as opposed to the type you get from eating too much sugar). Cod liver oil and fish oil are both rich in the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA with cod liver oil also being a great source of natural vitamins A and D, two fat soluble vitamins that are difficult to come by in the food supply. In fact, cod liver oil and fish oil are the most important supplements you can take. Our food supply is rife with omega-6 fatty acids, but relatively devoid of the omega-3 variety. Unless you consume a ton of fish and grassfed meats, you are not getting enough omega-3 and this omega-6/omega-3 imbalance influences internal inflammation and general disease.

Cod liver oil has also been shown to fight cancer, heart disease, depression, Alzheimer's, arthritis, and numerous other health issues. The omega-3's also help pregnant women avoid birth complications, low birth weight, and premature birth. Five to ten grams of omega-3 per day will help anyone and you can get it from oil or capsules. Carlson's and Kirkland's both make excellent brands at a good price.