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

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"

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