"I saw few die of hunger; of eating, a hundred thousand." -Ben Franklin

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Paleo at (and around) Penn

I can't believe I'm back at Penn for my senior year.  I'm still not sure where these last three years have gone, but I'm going to make the most of my last year here-- I love this school so much, and I'm definitely going to miss it after I graduate.

This is my sixth semester (fifth at Penn, since I was abroad in the spring) eating clean/Paleo/ancestral-- when I first came here, I lived on sandwiches and pizza and pasta in the dining halls like many other students.  But when I made the huge lifestyle change, I found that the dining halls here are surprisingly Paleo-friendly-- in fact, Penn was just ranked #22 on the Best Colleges for Food in America list!  But Paleo is about more than just avoiding certain foods: it's about high-quality and fresh ingredients.  The Bon Appetit food company that supplies the dining halls really stresses farm-to-table eating-- almost everything is local, organic, and humanely raised, and I can always find fresh fruits and vegetables.  After huge renovations this summer, Penn got rid of Subway and other fast food places under one of our main dining halls and added in one of my new favorite spots, Fresh on the Walk, which has a wonderful salad bar and even sells coconut water!  They also added in a market called Gourmet Grocer which sells-- I kid you not-- GRASSFED BUTTER!!!!!!!  Way to go, Penn-- this is a huge step in the right direction!
University City also has some pretty awesome farmers' markets.  There's one right in front of the Penn Barnes & Noble every Wednesday, and the nearby Clark Park has a much bigger one on Thursdays and Saturdays that has everything from produce to honey to meats to chocolates!  Given Philadelphia's obesity problem, I think the availability of healthy, local, fresh foods is a great first step in fighting the issue-- though it'll certainly take a lot more than just a few markets, the fact that Philly isn't devoid of real food is amazing.  For more information on Philly's farmers' markets, check out Farm to City.  For more information on eating local in Philadelphia, check out Farm to Philly and Eat Local Philly.
In addition to these farmers' markets, University City has quite a few fruit trucks/stands-- I particularly like the ones on 36th and 37th and Spruce, and 40th and Locust.  There are some other ones around Penn's campus too-- check them out here.


People often ask me where I eat around here that's Paleo-friendly and not a chain restaurant (like Chipotle or Jimmy John's).  While I don't eat out much in general, there are a few wonderful places that stress the  farm-to-fork philosophy, such as:
-White Dog Cafe (34th and Sansom)-- uses almost all sustainable, organic, seasonal, and local ingredients.  It has a great menu, fantastic atmosphere, and reasonable prices, and I highly recommend it to everyone.
-Sweetgreen (39th and Walnut)-- a casual salad place with all local and organic ingredients.  For more information, read my review here.

The Harvest Seasonal Grill is opening this weekend at 40th and Walnut, and it also stresses seasonal, fresh ingredients.  I'll most definitely review it at some point this semester, but if you're in University City and happen to check out, let me know what you think!

I'm really proud of Penn and University City in general-- there have been such massive improvements in the local food situation since I started here three years ago, and I can only hope that it gets even better!

Quote of the Day:
"At home I serve the kind of food I know the story behind."  -Michael Pollan

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

AHS: The Big Picture

My last three posts were play-by-plays of the Ancestral Health Symposium;  they were mostly just the typed-up and grammatical versions of the notes I took over the three days.  And since I took a ton of notes-- and each of the posts was pretty long-- I'm going to now discuss some of the major themes of AHS12.

1.  There is no "one size fits all" Paleo/ancestral diet.
Nearly every speaker at the conference said that (and many of them said those exact words), and it's so true!  The hot topic was the inclusion (or exclusion) of starches (see my Day 2 recap for the 'Safe Starches' panel), but supplementation, ketogenic diets, carb cycling, intermittent fasting, and varying macronutrient ratios were all discussed as well.  The bottom line is to self-experiment and see what works for you!


2.  Eat fat.
So many talks (such as the ones by Emily Deans, Nora Gedgaudas, and Elizabeth Thiele) discussed the ketogenic diet and its many benefits, and many others (such as Robert Lustig's, Denise Minger's, Peter Attia's, Gary Taubes's, and Grayson Wheatley's) talked about how fat has been vilified and actually doesn't clog your arteries/cause heart disease/make us fat.  Miki Ben-Dor's entire talk discussed how we're adapted to eat fat!!  Eat your bacon (the most nutritious pork product!) and eggs and meat-- just avoid sugar and processed crap and grains/legumes instead.

3.  The future of the ancestral movement and food policy is up to us.
Whether it was Robb Wolf ("Somebody needs to start this, and it's gotta be us"), Terry Wahls ("You guys are the doctors of the future"), or the entire 'Fix Our Food Initiative' panel (Change will come about by "a whole social network of people doing this at a grassroots level"), everyone was in agreement that the future is up to us.  We should get involved in the government (whether federal, state, or local) to push for changes in food policies, open up dialogues with our doctors about ancestral health, join CSAs and buy/eat locally, and keep spreading our message.  I was watching The Lorax the day after AHS, and the following quote really made me think about the conference and the ancestral movement in general.

4.  Avoid sugar.
Sugar is a toxic drug (see Dr. Lustig's talk from Day 3) and spikes insulin and causes inflammation (as discussed by Gary Taubes, Lynda Frassetto, Emily Deans, and many others).  We should only get our sugar/carbs through natural sources, such as fruit (or, more controversially, "safe" starches).

5.  Paleo isn't just a diet-- it's a lifestyle.
Although the majority of the talks at this conference were about food (or food policy/politics, or food for performance), there were a few that really embraced the lifestyle aspects of the ancestral movement.  Peter Gray encouraged us (and our children) to play more;  Esther Gokhale discussed the role of proper posture; Joel Salatin reminded us that "we are part of nature" and "life is more mystical than a cyberspace video game";  Boyd Eaton talked about how "relationships are more important than material success"; Frank Forencich explained Ubuntu ("we are people through other people"), and that the Paleo elements are "mind, body, spirit, land, ancestors, tribe."  There are so many other aspects of health than just food and exercise!!      

6.  Knowledge is power.
Many of the talks discussed bad science (such as Denise Minger's and Peter Attia's) and bad government recommendations (all of the food policy panels, Grayson Wheatley, Robb Wolf, Robert Lustig, Lynda Frassetto, etc.) and how we should arm ourselves with proper science and always ask questions!  Dr. Kelles told the crowd, "Be a devil's advocate with yourself: the more we question our own thoughts, the more successful we'll be", and Paul Jaminet said, "If we don't ask these hard questions, no one's going to listen to us."  We should experiment and look at all sides of an argument, and we should never just blindly listen to anything.  Read, question, hypothesize, tweak, and always seek more information!

There were certainly a lot of other themes of the conference (the government and Big Pharma/Agribusiness are connected, we are totally disconnected from the modern world, the poor health of this country is going to keep getting worse...), but I'd say the above are the six biggest ones.  I also think this conference solidified that all of us involved in the ancestral movement make up one big tribe, and we have the common goal of wanting to help each other and the world through the ancestral lifestyle.  I had such an amazing time at AHS, and I really hope to attend next year's!

Quote of the Day (from Dr. Terry Wahl's presentation):

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

AHS: Day 3

I know I said I'd do a three-part series of AHS12, but I'm actually going to do one more post after this that covers the main take-away messages of the conference and my thoughts on the experience as a whole.

Day 3 was absolutely incredible-- it was definitely my favorite day of the conference!  The first presentation I went to was Mark Sisson and Robb Wolf's "Paleo Primal Q&A" session.  Seeing these two guys together was amazing!
-Sisson:  "Paleo, primal, ancestral... let's call the whole thing off!"  On supplements:  "It's less and less critical to supplement the closer you get to ideal body composition."
-Wolf:  There is a lot of individual variability with supplementation-- you have to factor in stress, extenuating stories, etc.  "We have a template, and we should then look at our individual circumstances."  On sleep:  Be in a pitch-black room and have really good sleep hygiene and consistency.  "When we reverse metabolic problems, we antagonize the production of cortisol."  Plasma and magnesium go up for people in Epsom salt baths.  Sleep disturbances in police officers are the major causes of the officers getting into dicey situations.
-Sisson:  When it comes to icing, some amount of heat works better; however, for chronic inflammation, soaking in cold tub would be better.  He's not a fan of chronic icing post-trauma.  The orthopedic community is now getting people moving right after an injury to speed up recovery.
-Wolf:  Systemic effect of jumping in an ice bath is different than the acute icing of an injury.
-Sisson:  On carbs:  The less glucose you burn in a lifetime, the better off you are.  However, "I wouldn't necessarily plan the rest of my life to be ketogenic."
-Wolf:  Caloric restriction in humans is probably not going to extend life.  We can do a cyclic, low-carb approach, which leads to a hormetic effect, which is beneficial for long-term health.  We also need to tinker with our eating approach to find what works.
-Sisson:  On gender differences:  Women tend to hit a plateau sooner than men.  "It's a sign that your body is saying, 'I love what you've done with the place.'"
-Wolf:  On scales:  "You put a bow on it and find someone you hate and give it to them."  When we focus on performance and not aesthetics, our problems go away.  On intermittent fasting (IF) and the use of pure protein throughout it:  it antagonizes cortisol, which increases testosterone.  If you have a stressful lifestyle, be careful with IF!
-Sisson:  He only IFs when it's forced on him (i.e. when traveling).  It's purposeful, and it's good for people who want to lose a lot of weight or get the anti-aging benefits.
-Wolf:  On professional athletes:  Nutrition is extremely important, and there is some correlation between heart attacks and carb-loading.
-Sisson:  There is an epidemic of heart issues in endurance athletes due to chronic cardio.

The second talk I went to was Dr. S. Boyd Eaton's "Long-Term Paleo:  What Happens if You Follow the Ancestral Health Protocol for Thirty Years?".  Although very anecdotal, I still found his talk pretty informative, and I thought it was also pretty inspirational.
-The ancestral experience does NOT include smoking tobacco.
-We remain adapted for nutrition as it was during the phase of ancestral health.
-Paleo nutrition in East Africa (approximately 50,000 years ago) was most likely 30% protein, 35% carbs (from fruits, veggies, and nuts), and 35% fat, and it would've been high-fiber.  There would've been 2-8 times the amount the average American intake of vitamins/minerals, 4 times the amount of antioxidants, it would've been more basic than acidic, and would've had more potassium than sodium.
-Recreating the ancestral diet in the 21st century is possible in two forms: the weak and strong.  The weak form is for people free of health problems and includes meat, plant foods, dairy (skim milk), alcohol  and whole grains in moderation, and a lot of fiber.  The strong form is for people with resistant health problems-- it is the same as the weak form, except it excludes dairy and grains, and alcohol would be on a trial basis (i.e. the weak form is what we typically consider Paleo today).
-Recreating physical activity would include endurance/aerobic exercise a few times a week, as well as resistance/strength a few times a week as well.
-42% of U.S. males ages 60-70 are on statins.
-The Paleo approach leads to more vitality, a better appearance, and desirable health check-up results.
-"It's human to want some degree of material success", and material success requires "talent, hard work, and good luck."
-Good physical health and a positive self-image enhance talent, hard work, and luck.
-"Relationships are more important than material success."  They can enhance everyone's health!

Next up was Miki Ben-Dor's "Man the Fat Hunger: Animal Fat Storage as  Driver of Human Evolution and Prehistory."  This talk was really cool because it blended both anthropology and archaeology with ancestral nutrition.
-Man was actually a fat hunter:  "If I follow the fat, I'll find the answer."
-Fat was the biggest motivator for what animals the hunters went after.
-Hunting for fat has implication on prey size.
-Some caves in Israel showed evidence of meat-sharing and fire, and there were no bones of elephants in the Levant-- 80% of the animal bones were from deer, leading the archaeologists to believe the people who inhabited the caves were homo sapiens, because Neanderthals only hunted big animals.
-"An experienced hunter could pick out the pronounced curves of the body and eye the sheen of the coat that indicated a fat animal."
-A good hunter stored a huge deal of information to form hypotheses and revise them in order to hunt better.  The change to hunting caused a smaller brain size-- "Farming requires the brain of a small computer program."
-"Evolution gave us the brains to obtain fat."
-Animal fat plays a huge role in everything.  "We have evolved to eat animal fat."

The next talk I went to was "Dietary Therapy: Role in Epilepsy and Beyond" by Dr. Elizabeth A. Thiele, who discussed how putting children on a ketogenic diet really helped their epilepsy, and how dietary therapy can be used to help almost any problem.
-Ketogenic diets are extremely helpful in epileptic patients.  (For a movie discussing this, see Meryl Streep's First Do No Harm.)
-Ketogenic diets in children requires 4 grams of fat to 1 gram combined protein/carbs.
-The diet includes no bread/pasta/grains, no sugar, and no starchy fruits or vegetables.  There must also be a ton of cream, fat, and animal protein.  In order for this to work, the patients must be very vigilant.  1/3 of the children on this diet became seizure-free.
-Other diets used to treat epileptic patients include the Modified Atkins Diet and the Low Glycemic Index Treatment.
-Ketogenic diets are currently the most effective treatment for refractory epilepsy.
-Dietary therapy can be used for cancer, Alzheimer's Parkinson's, ALS, head injuries, and diabetes.
-However, there are some roadblocks:  the restrictiveness of the diet, the requirement of skilled dietitians, and many disbelievers because there's no pill.
-There is a potential benefit of a ketogenic diet for any health disorder.
-Dietary therapy:  "It's better than drugs."
-There is a bias against the word "diet", so it is referred to as "medical therapy."

The next talk kind of blew my mind, and it made me wonder why no one else had ever talked about this topic before.  Hamilton Stapell's "Ancestral Health in Historical Context: From Physical Culture to Primal Life" discussed the "physical culture" movement, which began over 100 years ago in the US and Europe, and was more or less the first Paleo movement.  I met Hamilton later on in the day, and he is a really sharp and nice guy and was more than happy to answer questions on this topic.  (He's a professor at SUNY New Paltz, so if any of my NP friends are reading this, take a class with him!  This guy is awesome!)
-The physical culture movement began around 1905 with the goal to create ideal men and women.  The "ideal" mimicked hunter-gatherers-- these enthusiasts looked to the past to help them.
-Hamilton then listed a ton of components of the movement, so here they are:
1)  Eat Natural Foods.  This was the first time in the modern world that there was a scientific approach to food.
2)  Fasting and compressed feeding window.  (Intermittent fasting!)
3)  Intestinal health
4)  Full-body strength training
5)  Barefoot walking
6)  Physical culture "boxes" (precursor to CrossFit boxes)
7)  Physical culture home gyms
8)  The Physical Culture Exhibition in 1905 at Madison Square Garden (NY) was more or less the first CrossFit games.
9)  Cold exposure
10)  Physical culture and women:  strength training and natural childbirth
11)  Criticism of conventional medicine.  They believed "doctors are 'pill pushers' who treat symptoms."
(I somehow missed #12, but this quote was awesome:  "What does MD stand for?  More Dollars.")
13)  Powered by "new media"
14)  Physical culture "best sellers" in the 1920s helped bring fitness/health into the mainstream.
15)  Physical culture "success stories" helped inspire others.
16)  Sun exposure
-While all of the above sound nearly identical to the ancestral movement, there were some differences:
1) Nudism or naturism:  clothing = weakness.
2)  Correct breathing and air quality
3)  Circulation:  "brain work" (i.e. desk work) => poor care.  They practiced hydropathy and Swedish massage.
4)  There were many types of foodists besides ancestral eaters:  vegetarians, raw foodists, etc.
5)  Mastication (chewing food) was a huge focus-- they believed no swallowing was necessary!  "Nature will castigate those who don't masticate."
6)  Excreta-- proper natural diet = proper poop.
7)  Physical location of the movement:  Dansville (NY) and Harvard College
-Both the physical culture and ancestral movements are reactions to rapid social change; they both seek to return to nature and to have autonomy and control, and both want to create a "sacred place" of our own.
-Will Paleo go mainstream?  He doesn't think so.
---This wasn't in his talk, but when I spoke to him later, he explained why the physical culture movement completely died out:  WWII and the rise of Nazism and fascism wiped out anything that wasn't mainstream.

The last talk I went to before the lunch break was by Dr. Robert Lustig, whose "Sugar:  No Ordinary Commodity" presentation was one of the most informative, interesting, and memorable ones of the conference.  Not only is Dr. Lustig an incredible speaker, but the content was so amazing.
-"Science should drive policy, but politics get in the way."
-Criteria for societal intervention for substance control:  unavoidability, toxicity, abuse, externalities (negative impact on society)
-Unavoidability:  "We're not eating more fat-- it's carbs we're eating more of."  Which carbs?  Soft drinks, fruit drinks-- things with High Fructose Corn Syrup (63 pounds per person per year).  Low-fat processed foods means they substitute the fat with carbs/sugar.  "Virtually every naturally occurring foodstuff has either fat or carbs;  only sucrose/HFCS has both-- fructose (fat) and glucose (carbs)."  Of the 600,000 food items sold in the US, 80% are laced with added sugar.  Adding fructose leads to palatability and is a browning agent; removing fiber increases shelf life and is good for freezing;  the substitution of trans fats is a hardening agent and increased shelf life (but they're now being removed due to cardiovascular disease risk).
-Toxicity:  The world sugar consumption has tripled over the last fifty years.  Worldwide diabetes prevalence rose from 5.5% to 7% from 2000-2007.  "Sugar is a toxin.  Q.E.D. slam dunk, in your face!" The Maillard Reaction (the browning reaction) is associated with sugar consumption, which leads to inflammation.
-Abuse:  Dopamine binding correlates with glucose metabolism in both drug addiction and obesity.  When looking to see if sugar is an addiction, we can look at another addiction (alcohol) and check the criteria:  bingeing, withdrawal, cravings.  There are non-toxic substances that are abused (like caffeine), but the problem is when something is both abused and toxic... like sugar.
-Externalities:  Obesity affects everyone!  When we have less money, we eat more due to pleasure and reward.  Some methods of societal intervention include taxation, restriction to access, and interdiction;  Lustig says we should just cut down and have a peaceful coexistence with sugar (like we do with alcohol).
-Target:  Not just the obese!  40% of normal-weight people have metabolic dysfunction (vs. 80% of the obese), which equals more than 100,000,000 Americans.
-Alcohol strategies haven't worked, and they won't work with sugar.
-"Only about 15% of the US population actually has a brain."
-Strategies that might work:  control on advertising, and counter-advertising.  Strategies that are likely to work:  government agency action!
-The USDA being in charge of our health is like the "fox in charge of the hen house."

After a delicious AHS-provided lunch of grass-fed burgers (with no buns in sight!), veggies, guacamole, and sweet potato fries, the first talk I attended-- "Minding My Mitochondria"-- was by Dr. Terry Wahls, who went from being wheelchair-bound with MS to being able to bike ride more than 18 miles!  The video of her story went viral awhile ago, so seeing her in-person was really awesome.  She is such an inspiration, and I'm so glad she was there to share her story with us.
-There is a link between nutrition and MS.
-"Becoming disabled was the most profound gift I have ever received."  In 2002, she went Paleo after reading some of Loren Cordain's work, but her MS continued to decline.  By 2007, she was disabled.
-Fish oil, creatine, and co-enzyme Q10, as well as other supplements, slowed decline (but she was still declining!).  She then found the Institute of Functional Medicine, which believed that modifiable behavioral factors lead to many diseases.
-She supplemented with vitamins B1, B9, B12, sulfur, antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, amino acids, and iodine.  The more fats and antioxidants in your blood stream, the better the brain function.
-There were 31 supplements of vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, etc. in order to help her.
-Americans are starving!  Hunter-gatherers exceeded the RDAs by 2-10 times!
-Ancestral diets have more nutrition per calories than any of the government-sponsored diets.
-Beets, greens, and berries protect blood vessels.  Daily greens decrease your risk of cataracts.  Garlic and onions improve blood fluidity.  Colorful fruits (that is, ones where the color is all the way through, such as berries-- not apples and bananas) and veggies = polyphenols.  Wild fish/more DHA leads to bigger brain and straighter teeth.  Organ meats contain vitamins, minerals, and co-enzyme Q.  Seaweed contains iodine.
-After nine months of this diligent supplementation, Dr. Wahls was able to go on 18-mile bike rides.  She also saw tremendous improvements in her patients.
-Chinese proverb:  "The superior doctor prevents sickness.  The mediocre doctor attends to impending sickness.  The inferior doctor treats actual sickness."
-"You guys are the doctors of the future.  I solute you."

I then went to Peter Gray's "The Role of Play in the Development of Social and Emotional Competence:  Hunter-Gatherers, 1950s America, and Now."  I really loved this talk-- I work with kids, so it's so interesting to see how much things have changed over the last fifty years when it comes to play.
-There was no whining in hunter-gatherer societies.
-Hunter-gatherer societies were egalitarian.  Children were treated in indulgent, trustful, and respectful ways, and they spent nearly all day playing.  These societies believed that childhood was a time of learning, which is done through play.
-Children in hunter-gatherer societies had many different types of play:  bows/arrows, tools, making fires, building things, music, dance, storytelling, imitating animals, digging, climbing, etc.  Many of these mimicked what was going on in the adult world.
-From the 1950s to today, there has been a 5-8-fold increase in clinically significant anxiety and depression in children, and a 3-4-fold increase in suicide rates among young people.  These statistics are correlated with the decline of children's freedom.
-Play is an egalitarian, cooperative thing-- it's "what you want to do, not what you have to do."  Play always involves the freedom to quit.  Social play motivates you to play, but also motivates you to keep your playmates happy so that they don't quit.
-"Play is the means by which children learn self-control.  Play has rules.  In play, children rise above their normal capacities."
-"The world has become worse for children.  The world is becoming less tolerable for children because of what we're dong to them."
-"We are treating childhood as a time of resume-building."
---There was an unscheduled Q&A session with Peter and Frank Forencich after Frank's talk (which was next), and Peter discussed the Sudbury Valley School in Massachusetts, which allows the children to play all day, to mimic the hunter-gatherer societies' view of play.  These children have gone on to be very successful without the typical, structured school setting.  Pretty cool!

Frank Forencich was up next, and he was the first presenter to get the crowd up out of our chairs and to stretch and move around!  It was very fitting, considering all of his books are about moving and playing and not being sedentary.  His talk, "Ubuntu:  A Paleolithic Perspective on Human Community and Health", was incredible-- he discussed the world as a social place, and how we are all very connected to each other.  It was such an amazing, inspirational talk-- at the end, when people were asking questions and commenting, one guy said, "This whole conference, people have been educating my head, but I think you for educating my heart."  Amen!
-"We are people through other people."
-"What is the essence of Paleo?  Exposure!"
-For most of history, we were not hunter-gatherers-- we were hunted-gatherers.
-"We are so confused about how to live in the modern world."  "In a way, we're the most disempowered people ever."
-Paleo elements:  mind, body, spirit, land, ancestors, tribe
-Your self is bigger than you think!  There is interpersonal neurobiology.
-The body is an open system.  Your body "changes under the stories we tell each other."
-"Clever Hans" was a horse that could do arithmetic; however, if his owner wasn't there, or if the owner didn't know the answer, the horse couldn't do it.  The horse and the human were essentially connected-- Clever Hans took all of his cues from the human.
-Cozolino:  "There are no single human brains.  The brain is a social organ."
-The tribe is a sensory organ.  Mirror neurons fire when we're imitating others.
-"Your friends' friends impact you.  But even more, your friends' friends' friends get back to you."
-Health follows a social gradient.
-We are hypersocial-- it's a matter of life and death.
-"Forget born to run-- we are born to attach!"  We're all born premature, and we attach to someone (usually our mothers) right away.
-The most significant object in the universe for a baby is the human face.
-Ubuntu:  "we are people through other people."  This concept was written into South African documents by Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu.  "The hurt of one is the hurt of all.  The honor of one is the honor of all."  Ubuntu is not, however, passivism or communism or anything negative;  it's also not Maslow's hierarchy of needs.
"I don't use the word exercise;  I use movement.  I don't use the word diet; I use food."

The next talk was Nora Gedgaudas's "The 'Holy Grail' of Primal Health:  Benefits of a fat-based, ketogenically-adapted caloric intake for body and brain."  I loved her book, so I was really excited to hear her speak, and I loved her presentation-- she's a great speaker, and her information was awesome.
-Dietary fat in primal neo-Paleo cultures was very sacred to all!  Fat-rich diets would've been 10-times more rich in especially fat-soluble nutrients such as A, D, E complex, and K2.
-Your brain runs better on fat;  we were born to rely on fat as our primary source of fuel.
-A ketogenic state results in a substantial (39%) increase in blood flow to the brain.  Our growth is dependent on dietary fats.
-Well-adapted ketosis has a ton of health benefits.  Very low-carb ketogenic diets decrease body weight and fat with no negative effects on performance.
-Glucose has its place:  it's our rocket fuel.
-Carbs vs. fats:  carbs are like kindling in our metabolic fire;  alcohol would be like lighter fluid or gas on it-- there'd be a constant preoccupation with where the next ones are coming from!  Fats, however, is "the big fat log on our metabolic fire."
-Fat to our primary physiology means survival!
-The primary fuel for cancer is glucose.  Ketones don't feed it.

The next talk was Dr. Grayson Wheatley's "Lesson from the Frontlines:  A Cardiovascular Surgeon's Dilemma with Professional Guidelines in the Era of the Paleo Diet and Ancestral Health."  Because of some technical glitches during Nora's talk (so the time ran over), I missed the first few minutes of Dr. Wheatley's talk, but the end of it was really good.
-Heart disease prevention and an ancestral diet:  decreases inflammation => decreases biomarkers for cardiovascular disease.
-Elevated glucose leads to an elevated cardiovascular risk.
-It takes about ten years between a publication of some research and for it to make it into guidelines.
-Cardiovascular guidelines don't include research on the ancestral diet.
-Use peer-reviewed papers/journals/articles for opening a dialogue on ancestral diets with your doctor.
-We need farm to "table" health care.
-Doctors will take awhile to get the ancestral movement, but keep the dialogue open and always be armed with credible sources.

The final talk of the day-- and the conference-- was by the hilarious and brilliant Denise Minger, whose presentation was "Meet Your Meat:  An Objective look at a Controversial Food." It was the perfect way to end the conference:  humor, facts, charm, awesome speaking, and meat!
-Nikolai Anichkov experimented in 1913 with feeding cholesterol to rabbits, which caused atherosclerosis.  The problem was that rabbits normally just eat vegetables (i.e. not food with cholesterol), and Anichkov thought his research shouldn't apply to humans.
-The 1960s brought a resurgence in interest in dietary cholesterol; by the 1970s, the USDA was saying to limit cholesterol.
-In 1957, the American Heart Association was skeptical of the link between fat and heart disease.  By 1961, however, they did an about-face due to four new board members, including Ancel Keys.
-The McGovern Report in 1977 advised Americans to eat less meat, and was more political than scientific.  The Dietary Goals for the United States, written by a vegetarian/"Keys groupie" caused the USDA policies!
-Are there actual problems with meat?  First of all, there's a limited concept of what "meat" is today-- we only think of muscle meats, because we've forgotten about the whole animal:  the cartilage, tendons, brains, organs, etc.  We no longer eat "nose to tail."  Organ meats are higher in nutrients, and muscle meat is very high in methonine.  "It's very neolithic to only eat certain parts of the animal."  Sources of glycine include bone broth, gelatin, and skin collagen.
-Eat things with faces, such as sardines.  Go to Asian markets and farmers markets to find all of these other types of nutritious food.
-High-heat cooking problems:  Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) are formed when amino acids, sugars, and creatine react at high temperatures (over 300 degrees F);  polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons occur in charred foods.  These two result in genetic mutations-- it can lead to cancer in rodents (and possibly humans).
-We should use gentle cooking methods such as stewing and steaming, avoid charred foods and temperatures above 300, and marinade our meat with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, or red wine to cut HCAs by as much as 90%.
-What about iron problems?  One in five people have an iron storage disorder!  Solutions:  donate blood, drink coffee/tea with high-iron foods, avoid Vitamin C and iron-heavy foods, and focus on organ meats.

Quote of Day 3 (not previously mentioned):
"'With gluten and dairy, I shall conquer the world.'  -Lord Voldemort" -a slide in Dr. Terry Wahls's presentation, which was followed by "Harry Potter: The Boy Who Ate Kale"

Monday, August 13, 2012

AHS: Day 2

For days 2 and 3 of AHS, there were always two talks going on at the same time.  As much as I would've loved to see (and report on) all of them, my next two entries will only be covering the talks I went to; for full coverage, definitely check out the blogosphere for reports on the other talks going on simultaneously.

The first presentation I went to on Day 2 was Esther Gokhale's "Restoring Our Primal Architecture", which was primarily a demonstration on proper posture.
-"It's so great to be with people like-minded.  It's like being with your tribe."  -Gokhale's opening remarks
-Spine should be J-shaped, not S-shaped!  "Your behind is out behind, down low in the back."  Babies, statues, and hunter-gatherers all have J-shaped spines.
-To achieve better posture, roll one shoulder back, then the other.
-"One of the reasons you want your behind behind is that it lets the rest stack easily."
-We should use better furniture in order to have better posture.
-"When you have good posture, the people around you are influenced."
-The Gokhale Pain Free Chair is an option for better posture and much less back pain.

I then went to Keith Norris's "Health vs. Performance: Two Distinct and Oftentimes Conflicting Wellness Goals", which discussed how the two words are not synonymous and how people need to break their scale addictions.
-By 2030, more than 1/3 of the entire federal budget will be spent on Medicare and Medicaid alone.
-There is a profound difference between training an athlete and training a person who wants to be healthy.
-"If you're training for health, and training more than a few hours a week, you're doing it wrong."
-Blood work is a means to show someone that something's wrong internally.
-A DEXA scan shows body composition in not only the full body, but separately in the arms, legs, etc.
-"It's not about the weight: it's about body mass... and how you perform."
-"If you don't have the DEXA scan, it's hard to get rid of the scale problem."

There were a lot of presentations on Day 2 about food policy, politics, and advertising-- the first one I went to was Matthew Metzgar's "Simulating a Ban on Food Advertising", which was really fascinating. He showed how the overweight and normal weight children in his research were exposed to the same amount of food advertisements on TV and both consumed the advertised foods; however, the normal weight children compensated by eating less later on that day, whereas the overweight children did not.
-Food advertising increases consumption of advertised foods.  However, normal weight and overweight/obese children watch similar amounts of TV.
-After eating fast food, the lean children ate less later in that day.
-Assumption: overweight children have lost the ability to self-regulate energy intake over time.
-When overweight/obese adults were told to eat more fruit and vegetables, they actually gained weight because they failed to eat eat less of other foods.
-Given the above, more exposure to food advertising should lead to more weight gain, but only in overweight/obese children.
-Food advertising: trying to get everyone to eat more of those foods!
-Higher levels of TV viewing lead to a positive relationship with BMI in overweight children.
-49% of ads during Saturday morning children's programs were for food.
-There has been a huge jump in obesity in African American girls.  Further, the closer one is to poverty, the higher his/her BMI.
-If food advertising is banned, then watching TV should have the same effect as any other sedentary activity (video games, reading, etc.) in overweight children.
-Results:  in this sample, banning food advertisements would shift 5.8% of individuals (children 2-11) from overweight/obese to normal weight (4.4% for boys, and 6.2% for girls).

Next up was Danielle Purifoy's "How Food Policy Councils Can Support Urban Agriculture."  I didn't really know much about urban agriculture, so I thought this talk was really quite informative.
-Why urban agriculture?  Local/healthy/Paleo foods.
-One objective is to get zoning for urban agriculture:  expand agricultural land use in all zoning districts, create urban agricultural districts, create overly districts to support sustained urban agriculture.
-Another objective is to get zoning for animal husbandry!
-Land inventory and preservation is another object, but one of the major challenges is receiving fiscal support.
-Water, besides land, is the #1 most important resource for urban agriculture.
-Training and public outreach is an absolute must in order for urban agriculture to succeed.
-Ecological sustainability is another major issue.  We need to get involved in food policy councils in order to further these goals and allow for urban agriculture to grow.

I then went to a panel of Nate Rosenberg (moderator), Peter Ballerstedt, Dr. Lynda Frassetto, Adele Hite, and Anna Kelles called "Fix Our Food Initiative: A Comprehensive Approach to Food and Nutrition Reform".  This was one of my favorite panels of the AHS-- not only was it really informative, but I could really relate to it due to how messed up food policy at all levels.
-Research and money = a catch-22.  You need money to do research, but you need to do research in order to receive money.
-"Most Americans believe that obesity is caused by eating too much, not exercising enough, and watching too much TV."
-Change will come about by "a whole social network of people doing this at a grassroots level."  Us!
-Ballerstedt:  "'Agriculture' is people."  After WWI, the US was cut off from the principal supply of wheat (Russia), which lead to the Dust Bowl-- people plowed up the ground that shouldn't have been plowed up.
-Kelles:  "Be a devil's advocate with yourself: the more we question our own thoughts, the more successful we'll be."
-The nutrition community is extremely diverse!  (Sorry the quality's not that great, but the picture shows all of the different nutrition practitioners in the US.)
-We need to push for a monopoly in nutrition therapy!
-All nutrition laws have been initiated by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND).  47 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico all have some law governing nutrition; however, laws vary!
-The AND corporate sponsors include General Mills, Coke, Pepsi, Kelloggs, etc.  The AND also believes that organic is unnecessary and that "biotechnology techniques" (a.k.a. genetically modifying foods) is better, because they're pro-industry.
-92% of registered dietitians work in industrial settings, and therefore only focus on acute care treatment.  They work with the people who need care the most, which is a major issue!!
-We need to increase the access to quality nutrition practitioners and increase transparency of the role of industry and government on nutritional care in the US.
-Why should we get involved?  A million reasons!  "Nothing will work, but everything might."
-We need individualized nutrition ("One Diet Does Not Fit All"), nutritional literacy, and sustainable food-health systems.

The last talk before lunch was Dr. Peter Attia's "The Straight Dope on Cholesterol", which, as promised in the abstract, taught me "more about cholesterol than 99% of the physicians in this country."  Although some of the science went a bit over my head (I'm really not a science person...), I feel like I now have a pretty good understanding of the topic.
-What causes atherosclerosis?  The presence of a sterol in the artery wall-- nothing more, nothing less.
-Cholesterol is the sterol from the animal kingdom.
-ALL cholesterol is good cholesterol.  Cholesterol is essential for life.  No cholesterol = no life.
-Exogenous cholesterol (from what we eat) vs. endogenous cholesterol (from the body).
-The liver plays a huge role in cholesterol; the gut regulates how much gets reabsorbed.  The total body store is 40-50 grams.
-People either synthesize or absorb cholesterol (the former is more common).
-Think of lipoprotein vs. cholesterol/triglycerides as "boats" and their "cargo."
-People with a mutation in PCSK9 are immune to atherosclerosis because of really low LDL.
-Atherosclerosis is not a lipid-mediated disease; it's a lipoprotein-mediated disease.
-Does the size of an LDL particle matter?  Are the small ones bad because they're small, or because there are more of them?
-Discordance:  2 variables not predicting the same thing.  The greater the metabolic derangement, the greater discordance between LDL-C and LDL-P.  There is a discordance from having too many triglycerides, which crowd out cholesterol.
-The A to Z trial (Gardner, 2007)-- after comparing people on many different types of diets, the Atkins dieters had the biggest reduction in triglycerides.  The Workplace Diet Trial (2008) had the same result.
-What role does sugar play in triglycerides?  Pure fructose and High Fructose Corn Syrup worsen your lipoproteins and lead to the build up of more LDL and less HDL.
-The cholesterol we eat has little to do with the cholesterol in the body.

After a wonderful lunch of chicken, ribs, greens, and mashed sweet potatoes (thanks, AHS!), the next talk I attended was by the amazing Gary Taubes, whose talk "Calories vs. Carbohydrates: Clearing Up the Confusion Over Competing Obesity Paradigms" cleared up a lot of the issues surrounding calories and carbs-- pretty much, his signature topic!
-Obesity is a fat accumulation disorder.
-Refined sugar/grains/starches lead to insulin issues, which lead to obesity.
-The first law of thermodynamics is always true.
-If obesity is an energy balance disorder, then carb-restricted diets work because they increase satiety, and therefore we eat less.  They may also provide a metabolic advantage by increasing dietary-induced thermogenesis.  
-The brain regulates body fat mass through Energy-in and Energy-out.
-Insulin is "the principal regulator of fat metabolism" (quote from 1965).
-The primary problem with calorie-restricted diets is that the total calories include total carbohydrate calories.
-"One explanation for the poor long-term outcome of weight loss diets relates to behavior!"
-The greater the carb restriction, the greater the energy expenditure, and the greater the weight loss.
-Why do a ketogenic diet?  Insulin regulation!
-Calorie restriction in monkeys wasn't an accurate experiment, because look what they were restricting:
-Leptin reverses weight loss-- it induces changes to regional neural activity responses to food stimuli.

Next up was a panel including Jimmy Moore (moderator), Paul Jaminet, Dr. Ron Rosedale, Dr. Catherine Shanahan, and Chris Kresser-- "Safe Starches: Are They Essential to an Ancestral Diet?".  This is such a huge topic in the ancestral community, so it was really interesting to hear so many differing opinions from this group.
-Jaminet:  the Perfect Health Diet is low-carb.  "If we don't ask these hard questions [about starches], no one's going to listen to us."  "Safe starches" are starchy plants whose toxins are destroyed when you cook them, and they are therefore toxin-free.  Examples include white rice, white and sweet potatoes, and taro.
-Kresser:  Some problems occur for people who don't have starches, such as low energy, cold hands/feet, depression and anxiety, and thyroid issues.  Not everyone thrives eating very low carb (VLC) long-term;  people on VLC don't convert as much T4 to thyroid hormone.  There is no "one size fits all" approach-- there are genetic and epigenetic factors to take into consideration.
-Shanahan:  People who low-carb gradually might not run into trouble.  It's important to be in ketosis many days, but it's important to burn sugar some days too.
-Rosedale:  The thyroid goes down with low-carbing, but not THC.  People on low carb dies do not go into hypothyroidism!  Carbs that are not a fiber will turn to sugar and cause harm (though what harm, we're not sure).
-Jaminet:  Is "safe" just semantic?  No!  Glucose is a nutrient-- not necessarily a toxin.  We're supposed to have a certain blood sugar, insulin levels, etc.  Breast milk is 50-60% fat, then carbs, then protein.   The body will adapt to different diets-- T3 goes down in low carb diets, but that doesn't mean you have a thyroid problem.  If you add in starches, some problems (dry eyes, dry mouth, etc.) will go away.  Energy excess causes faster aging.
-Kresser:  There's a lot we still don't understand.  Cultures that are healthy with a lot of starch include the Kitavans (75% carb) and Okinawans (85% carb, and they have the most centenarians).  There were starches in human evolution as an alternative to fruit, and this may have increased brain size.  Starch consumption may not affect longevity.  However, people with insulin resistance may not be able to process starch well.
-Shanahan:  Sugar is sugar!  She also doesn't believe Kresser's statistics about the starch-heavy cultures due to how Westerners interpret data.  "The Paleo diet is one type of traditional diet."
-Rosedale:  If you eat something that contains sugar, it will turn to glucose and raise insulin levels.  You can burn sugar or fat; fat furnishes ketones.  The brain doesn't need to burn any sugar under certain adapted situations.  Kitavans are small people (have IGF1) and therefore have increased longevity.  "I do not understand this obsession with the Kitavans."
-Jaminet:  There is a ketogenic version of the Perfect Health Diet, and patients have helped many major conditions by following it.  However, it still contains some safe starches!  The higher the carb intake, the shorter the life span.

I then went to Dr. Lynda Frassetto's "Paleolithic Diets and Diabetes Control: How Do We Think It Works?", which was really spot-on-- the current diabetes recommendations are so far from ancestral!
-The way to prevent type 2 diabetes is NOT through a low-fat diet and exercising!
-Grain/dairy-free diets in clinical practices show decreased insulin secretion and improved insulin resistance in healthy, sedentary volunteers.
-Diabetes is the #1 cause of kidney disease in the US.
-Apple vs. pear shaped bodies and genetics do make a difference!
-Just eating a lot of salt can increase more insulin.
-Obese people have higher free fatty acid levels, which leads to hyperglycemia, which results in glucose toxicity, altered insulin signaling, higher levels of AGEs, and inflammation.
-Sleep is important!  The activation of circadian rhythm ligands lead to increased energy expenditure and weight loss, which lead to lower insulin and glucose levels in obese mice.
-Leptin blocks the hunger chemicals and turns on the satiety levels in your brain.

I was so excited for the next presentation, "What Not to Eat for Good Mental Health" by Dr. Emily Deans, who was a really great speaker.  I love her blog, and her presentation certainly did not disappoint!
-Trans fats are formed primarily from the partial hydrogenation of vegetable and seed oils.  They should be avoided!
-Heart disease deaths have decreased in Denmark since 2003, when the country banned trans fats.
-However, natural ruminant trans fats are thought to be safe.
-Trans fats displace essential n-6 and n-3 fatty acids, which can lead to ADHD, depression, psychosis, and dementia.
-Carbs:  There is a link between hypoglycemia and irritability and violence!  Caffeine and alcohol will exacerbate the blood sugar drop.
-Women with PCOS are more likely to have reactive hypoglycemia symptoms and more likely to engage in binge eating.
-Carbs lead to an increase in insulin.
-Soda consumption has correlated with poor mental health, increased aggression, and violence.
-What to eat?  Real food.

The last presentation of the day-- "What is Hunger, and Why Are We Hungry?" was by J. Stanton, whose quirky, brilliant, and hilarious talk was one of my favorites of the conference.  Definitely check out his blog and book for just a little taste of how great his presentation was!
-Diets fail because our levels of hunger override our motivation.
-Food palatability and reward are objective-- they are based on past experiences and our current state.
-"Palatability is a lot like pornography-- we all know it when we see it."
-Hunger is the interaction of 4 processes:  satiety, satiation, hedonic impacts ("likes"), and incentive salience ("wants").  Availability and will power are also major factors.
-Junk foods are not hyper-palatable:  they're hyper-available.
-Obesity is primarily a failure of satiety.
-Taste receptors are located throughout our bodies, not just on our tongues.
-More micronutrients lead to more satiety.

Miscellaneous:
-I met Mark Sisson!  He is such a nice guy, and I am so glad I finally got to talk to him.
-I'm not exactly the most social person, yet everyone at the AHS was so nice, and I felt really comfortable approaching/talking to people.  The ancestral community really is a big family, and I'm so thankful to be a part of it!
-Cambridge restaurant recommendation:  EVOO.  It doesn't get much better than farm-to-table!

Quote of Day 2 (not previously mentioned):
"I challenge each one of you to follow the path of science, and not the path of politics."  -J. Stanton

Sunday, August 12, 2012

AHS: Day 1

Words cannot even begin to describe how incredible of a time I had at this year's Ancestral Health Symposium at Harvard Law School.  I met so many people and learned so many things-- I don't even know where to start!  I took a ton of notes (and therefore not too many pictures... I was too busy scribbling everything down...), so I'm going to do a three-part AHS series to share them with you!
(Note:  Much of the information I post here are either direct quotes-- not all of which I put "" around since I was just trying to write everything down-- or taken right off of the speaker's slides.)


The first talk of the conference-- "What Are Humans Adapted For?"-- was by Harvard professor Dan Lieberman, who was not only incredibly informative, but was also a dynamic speaker and hilarious.  His presentation was a great crash-course in evolutionary biology-- he talked a lot about fitness ("relative ability of an organism to survive and transmit its genes to the next generation") and adaptation ("useful feature that has been shaped by natural selection that promotes fitness") and just how connected the two are.
-Many modern illnesses are mismatched conditions.
-Adaptations always evolved to promote fitness, but not necessarily promote health.
-Evolution hasn't stopped!
-Many so-called "symptoms" are adaptations (such as fevers, nausea, and shin splints).
-There is no Paleo diet-- instead there are multiple Paleo diets.
-Modern humans evolved as hunter-gatherers, but with increased capacities/proclivities for cultural innovation.
-We evolved many diverse adaptations to be athletes.  Physical inactivity is abnormal and pathological.
-"No pain = no gain" is an adaptation to match capacity with demand.
-There is a minimal selection to like exercise.  Instead, there is a selection to rest when possible.
-Cultural evolution is a more powerful force than natural selection.
-Storing excess energy as fat is an adaptation.  Obesity is not a disease, but a long-term imbalance.

The next talk was David Sloan Wilson's "The EvoS Diet: Creating a Framework for Testing Hypotheses About Optimal Diet and Social Organization for a Healthy Lifestyle", which talked about evolutionary mismatch and his theory/empirical research.
-Evolutionary mismatch is the state of disequilibrium between organism and their environments; it's a negative consequence that results from a trait that evolved in one environment being placed in another environment.
-Human health problems can be enormously complex.
-In a typical mismatch scenario, the trait remains the same while the environment changes; the development of most traits involves an interaction between the genes and the environment.
-Evolution requires variation, selection, and heritability; evolutionary theory is required to navigate the complexity.
-Factors to be varied in research: diet, exercise, social organization.  A challenge, however, is that tightly controlled studies are often difficult to reproduce in real-world settings.
-Genetic evolution takes place on ecological time scales; it is an analysis of genes specific to ancestry.

Mat "The Kraken" Lalonde's "Nutrient Density: Sticking to the Essentials" was up next, and wow.  I always knew this guy was incredibly smart, but seeing him speak in-person was amazing-- he was so articulate and sharp and funny, and his information was fascinating.  He looked at (via his own research) the nutrient densities of all different types of Paleo foods and compared them to grains and legumes; no surprise, Paleo foods win.
-Why avoid grains/legumes?  Immunogenic and/or allergenic proteins, unsustainable grain agriculture, and nutrient density.
-40% of Americans believe evolution is false, 20% are undecided, and only 40% believe it.
-NuVal and ANDI: ranking systems that give ratings to food.  Meats get low scores because of research bias!
-Fiber is not considered essential.
-Brazil nuts have 34.85 X the RDA in selenium.  Cashews are not nuts-- they're legumes!
-The losers in the fruit category are apples.
-The best rice (if you eat rice) is long-grain white rice.
-The most nutritious pork product is BACON!!!!  (The entire room erupted in cheers!!)
-Organ meats have the highest nutrient density scores.
-A Paleo/ancestral diet can easily provide all essential nutrients in adequate quantities.

Next up was the first panel of the conference:  "Seeds of Discontent: Regulatory Hurdles to Practicing an Ancestral Diet".  Emily Broad Leib, Baylen J. Linnekin, and Margaret Sova McCabe discussed food policies at the federal, state, and local levels.  I found this talk extremely interesting because it really applies to all of us, considering how crappy food policy has become in this country (MyPlate, anyone?).
Federal:
-Current federal policies include MyPlate, no raw-milk cheese, and no foraged/hunted foods.
-The government skews things by subsidizing certain things (such as corn and soy) and making bogus claims on packaged foods (like "fat free" marshmallows).
-Other things the government is trying to push:  "Meatless Mondays" and a federal "fat tax"
-Solution:  the federal government should neither establish nor restrict any person's food choices (which is similar to our other First Amendment rights-- they can't restrict/establish our religious choices, for example).
State:
-States have raw milk regulation, BMI report cards, sandwich labels, etc.
-States voluntarily participate in SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), which is federally funded.
-A Florida bill aiming to restrict foods high in fat from being purchased with food stamps failed due to the ambiguity of "fat"-- such a bill would ban the purchasing of nuts or cheese, not just junk food.
Local:
-Local governments only have the powers given to them by each of the state's constitution, state statutes, or state grants of home rule.
-State governments can generally override local laws.
-Land use rules may restrict food production/sales.
-Most school nutrition programs use the federal government's nutrition guidelines.  However, there are some at state and local levels, such as the 2010 Child Nutrition Reauthorization, as well as farm-to-school programs.
-Food bans have increased over the last few years.  New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and many other cities-- as well as the entire state of California-- have bans on trans fat.  Mayor Bloomberg in NYC has also banned sugary drinks more than 16 ounces; he is able to do this due to powers given to him by the state.
-Local food sovereignty is created from local ordinances that allow farmers and ranchers to sell food directly to consumers within town borders without obtaining required state or federal permits or licenses.
-There have been meat inspection laws in the United States since the 1700s!  (This fact makes me think of The Jungle by Upton Sinclair-- I guess those meat inspection laws weren't all that great!)
-Although Paleo foods aren't profitable, we still need to get involved in any of the levels of the government in order to bring about change.

Peter Ballerstedt's "The Reality of Ruminants and Liebeg's Barrel: Examining the New 'Conventional Wisdom'" discussed how contaminated and messed up CW has become thanks to incorrect science, and how we in the ancestral community have a new CW.
-Grasslands represent 70% of the world's agricultural area, and 26% of the world's general land area (8.6 billion acres).
-1/3 of the global meat supply is from ruminants.
-There are four major topics:  environmental, management, nutrition, and health.  One of the points under environmental is that any carbon emitted from cows come from their food-- for every pound of carbon emitted, 3.2 pounds are fixed.
-"Don't come talking to me about implanted beef if you're eating soy."  High-quality animal products do not cause chronic diseases, and (humane) animal agriculture does not harm the environment.
-"The problem is not the grain-fed cattle; it's the grain-fed people."  Amen!

The next talk was on a topic that has gotten a lot of attention lately: Paleo and sustainability.  Alyssa Rhoden's "Sustainability and World Hunger from the Paleo Perspective" sought to answer if it's possible and what's going on with food throughout the world in general.
-The "food" system is overwhelmingly made up of wheat and corn.
-There are 850 million starving people, according to a 2008 report from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.
-In the developing world, chronic hunger and malnutrition are caused by inequality and poverty, political instability, and lack of infrastructure.
-2 billion people lack iron and iodine, and more than 200 million children are protein deficient.
-70% of an average American's calories come from refined grains, added sugar, and refined vegetable oils.
-World hunger isn't caused by a lack of food-- a huge amount of food is thrown out every day.
-Big Agriculture says to increase calories, increase crop (grain) production, and use more technology and chemicals to solve world hunger.  These approaches fail because increased calories don't solve the problem, and we need to prioritize growing healthy foods with a lower impact to get a healthier, sustainable diet.
-Some solutions are to empower the poor to mitigate hunger, eat the least resource-intensive healthy foods, and to redefine "healthy."
-We should also buy sustainable (organic/seasonal) foods, get involved in CSAs, not buy CAFO beef, eat a variety of cuts of meat, advocate for better foods, and grow our own foods.

Robb Wolf spoke next!!  I'm such a huge fan of his blog and podcasts, so I was expecting quite a lot-- and he totally delivered.  His intelligence, humor, and wit come across even better in-person, and he's also such a nice guy (I had the pleasure of meeting him!).  His talk, "City Zero: How Markets and Evolution Can Revolutionize Medicine" discussed his recent work in Nevada.
-"I just want to Hulk Smash the whole operation" (talking about the American Heart Association).
-By 2050, between 1 in 3 and 1 in 2 people in the United States will have diabetes.
-On-the-job selection pressure has caused many Las Vegas police officers to have cardiac problems.  The estimated cost to retire a police officer is $1.2 million, but it's actually more like 10 times that amount.
-The company SpecialtyHealth, which originally did orthopedic risk assessment, started wondering if metabolic risk assessment could save lives and money.  They did standard blood work for their patients and put them on the American Heart Association diet (high-carb, low-fat), and the results were dismal.  Then they had a paradigm shift:  low carb, yearly risk screening, low-carb/paleo, sleep counseling, and metabolic conditioning.  They then tracked statistics:  obesity, blood pressure, breathing, lipid problems, and blood sugar.  This new way of tracking health in the police and fire departments, as well as some city council members, has saved lives and a projected $22 million (prorated over 20 years).
-The addition of the Paleo template int his program can fix intestinal permeability and autoimmunity, and therefore these should be screened.  This program will encompass all Reno police and fire departments and will save $1.2 billion.
-Robb wants to spread the program to a global audience, and eventually develop a health insurance company and referral network to gyms, physicians, and others.
-"Epilogue:  It's all connected.  And stuff."
-"I think we CAN change this all.  I really do."  "Somebody needs to start this, and it's gotta be us.  And we'll drag the rest of the people along kicking and screaming."

The last presentation of the day-- the keynote address, "Folks This Ain't Normal"-- was by the amazing Joel Salatin, an organic farmer/author who runs Polyface Farm in Virginia (you might recognize him from the movie Food, Inc. or Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma).  He was absolutely phenomenal-- with no notes or electronic presentation, his speaking was extremely captivating, articulate, informative, and inspirational, and I am so glad I was there to see it.  When the videos from AHS go online, you need to watch his presentation-- words don't do it justice.
-"We are the first culture in history that has denied our children meaningful chores.  We're becoming more and more immunity dysfunctional over time, because we've been too busy with video games and anti-bacterial soap.  Our immune systems are becoming lethargic!"
-"And we thought the conquistadors had hubris-- today, we're even worse.  They were just killing people; today, we're killing DNA."
-"Life is more mystical than a cyberspace video game!...  How about growing up with a dream to actually keep tomato plants alive?"
-We're the first culture in history that's had cheap grain; grain is an annual, and historically, it required days and laborious days of walking behind work animals with a sharp stick in the ground... but now there are new practices.
-Barley was way too precious to feed animals-- that's why all ancestral diets coalesce around herbivores and seafood because they're the only nutrient-dense foods harvested without pillage.
-"We talk about having to commune with nature, as if nature is out there somewhere.  We are part of nature...  The point is that I'm supposed to come to this nature with creativity and human cleverness, with my big grain and opposable thumbs....  We think lawns, we think golf courses-- that's the only interaction we have with grass."
-In the course of 150 years, Europeans sent 3-8 feet of top soil out to Chesapeake Bay and collapsed the shell fish and clam populations.
-"We come alongside this ecological womb-- rather, how can I help you?  How can I touch and massage the right places?  This creation is not an enemy to be subdued-- it is a lover to be caressed."
-We didn't buy into the "US-duh" (USDA) because there was no template in which all herbivores ate carrion.
-"Just because we can, should we?" -Salatin quoting Jurassic Park to discuss today's messed up food policies
-"By respecting the pigness of the pig, we see the pig as a co-laborer."
-In 1910, there were 20,000,000 draft animals in the US.  Today, there are no more pounds of animals than there were in 1910.
-"Who needed a gym back then?"
-"If you really wanted to be green/normal, you'd have a chicken coop out the back door of the dining hall."  -Salatin discussing so-called "green" dining
-50% of all the edible foods in the world don't ever get eaten by a human.
-Pigs and chickens are omnivores-- they're not herbivores.  They were scavengers!  Chickens were the garbage disposals-- they got the dinner scraps.
-All of our plant breeding n the last 40 years is breeding a membrane that's 95% water to survive a journey of 2000 miles.
-Food is fundamentally mechanical-- the orthodoxy is different between the "US-duh" and us (the Paleo enthusiasts).
-"We're the first culture that's ever tried to eat foods that we cannot pronounce."
-"Why would you want to eat something that worms won't even eat?" -Salatin discussing an experiment in which kids buried a box of processed foods and a box of real food, and how the worms wouldn't touch the processed foods.
-The #1 thing that we can do is to get int he kitchen and break our supermarket addiction.
-"When we throw away the TV, the Caribbean cruise tickets, and stop reading People magazine; when we begin to unplug and move to a historically normal, visceral relationship with the food shed environment, we will connect to our food source" and we won't have to worry!
-"If it's worth doing, it's worth doing poorly first, because that's the way change is made.  It's okay to fail and it's okay to fall-- our countenance will grow with truth."
"May all your carrots grow tall and straight, may your culinary experiences be delectable, and may we all leave the world a better place than we found it."

Day 1 Miscellaneous:
-I met Jimmy Moore, who is even more awesome in-person than on his blog/podcast (and he is really awesome on his blog/podcast).  Also, he live-tweeted the entire weekend, so definitely check out his twitter for an amazing play-by-play of #AHS12.
-Tanka Bars (made from buffalo) are awesome.  There was a table there, and I finally tried them-- so good!
-Best chocolates ever:  {eatingEVOLVED}.  Seriously-- gluten/dairy/soy-free chocolate truffles are the way to go... and there's a kind made with bacon!  (They're addicting!)
-Best ghee ever:  Pure Indian Foods.  Not only is there just regular ghee, but there are types of flavored ghee too!
-There were so many people wearing Vibrams!!  I'm pretty sure this was the first time ever I went out in public without getting weird looks for my shoes.
-Everyone there was awesome.  You know you're in a tight-knit community when you can leave your electronics/bags/stuff wherever and no one would even think to touch them.  You guys all grok so much.

Quote of Day 1 (not previously mentioned):
"Bacon is the most nutritious pork product we can eat, and eggs are pretty kickass too."  -Robb Wolf

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Template: The Choice Is Yours

In my last post, I wrote about how I was going to go back to eating simply again (just animal protein and vegetables) due to my addiction to Paleo/Primal baked goods and sweet things (like fruit and sweet potatoes).  Since eliminating nuts (and nut flour-based desserts), dark chocolate, tubers, and fruit, I was able to clear up a rash on my arm that only appeared after eating the aforementioned foods in excess, and was also able to break my snacking habit.  Most importantly, however, this elimination experiment really cemented the fact that I cannot have sweet foods.  Ever.  Period.

One of the things I love the most about the Paleo/Primal/ancestral lifestyle is that there's no "one size fits all" way to eat.  Eating plans are like snowflakes: no two are exactly the same.  I don't do well with nuts and tubers, whereas other people don't feel well without them.  I stay pretty low carb (less than 30 a day) most of the time, but I've read stories of people who become irritable or moody unless they have a ton of fruit or sweet potatoes.  My eating plan does not include fish (I simply don't like it), but maybe yours doesn't include pork or chicken or beef.  I cook most of my food, but there are plenty of raw ancestral eaters as well.  Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera!  The leaders of the ancestral movement each have slightly different eating plans too.  Some include dairy (e.g. Mark Sisson's Primal Blueprint) or (white) potatoes (e.g. the Perfect Health Diet) or a lot of fat; others are low-carb or raw or similar to Weston Price or GAPS.  Some are specific to athletes or people with autoimmune conditions.


I've had people tell me that they could never try this lifestyle because they don't like [food X] and are allergic to [food Y].  Hey, it's totally cool if you can't/won't eat certain foods-- just pick something else!  There are countless types of fruits and vegetables, many types of animal protein and a ton of ways to prepare them ("you can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it..."), and you don't need to eat nuts or tubers or dairy.  That's the beauty of the ancestral/Paleo template-- it can be tailored to your individual needs and taste buds.  There is general agreement that glutinous grains, refined sugar, processed/chemical-laced foods, legumes, and industrial seed oils are bad for you.  But outside of those, your eating plan is totally up to you.


Experiment!  Try cutting out dairy or nuts or nightshades to see what makes you feel at your best.  Taste new foods: you never know what you might love if you never give it a chance (or another chance-- just because you didn't like it as a kid doesn't mean you won't like it now).  Play around with different combinations of animal proteins, vegetables, fruit, nuts, and seeds until you achieve your goals.  Cook or don't cook, high carb or low carb or no carb, dairy or no dairy, sensible vices or Whole30-style... the choice-- and the power-- is yours.


Quote of the Day:
"All life is an experiment.  The more experiments you make the better."  -Ralph Waldo Emerson