Around the Web, Easter Vigil Edition

Today is Holy Saturday, the day when Jesus joined the dead; a day of sorrow as we await Easter and rebirth. Tonight, at the Easter Vigil mass at St Paul’s Church in Harvard Square, Shou-Ching will be baptized and received into the Roman Catholic Church.

[1] Interesting posts this week: Bix at Fanatic Cook finds another study showing that calcium supplements increase risk of heart attack and stroke. Ned Kock discusses why older Inuit had lower bone mineral density. Stan the Heretic links to a study showing that if you have heart disease and want to eat a BIG meal, you should make it fatty. Jimmy Moore discusses the rising cost of coconut oil. Jimmy recounts his 7 day fast here. Jamie Scott provides background on the epigenetics of obesity, and a recipe for shrinking pig brains. Mark Sisson explains how to breathe. CarbSane finds that exercise is highly under-rated for fat (not weight) loss. Earlier, CarbSane engaged her critics on insulin. From Kit Perkins, a correspondent of Richard Nikoley, comes a good line indicating the link between hunger and fat regulation:  “for me and a lot of others, we felt the most hungry when gaining fat and the most satiated while losing fat.”

The New York Times “Think Like a Doctor” series is getting to be like an episode of House. Test your analytical skills: The puzzle. The solution.

Finally, Don Matesz gives us more evidence from the China Study. Rice, fish, meat, and green vegetables are good. Wheat, other grains including corn, legumes, and light-colored vegetables are bad.

[2] Aw Maa!:

Via Yves Smith.

[3] Autism and Diet: “Best of Emily” continues at Psychology Today with two posts on the links between opioid peptides, leaky gut, and autism, and evidence in support of two possible fixes:  a gluten-free casein-free diet and low dose naltrexone.

LDN enhances bacterial and viral immunity, and there are links between autism and viral infection, so we consider LDN as a highly plausible frontline therapy for autism.

Emily has a third post that mentions evidence that maternal malnutrition contributes to autism. In it she links to a free review of maternal nutrition and birth outcomes.

[4] 10 Years of Weight Loss: My favorite post this week was from Seth Roberts, reporting 10 years of weight measurements from one of his readers:

Low-carb dieting worked great for a time – Alex lost 50 pounds in his first year on low-carb – but over the second year his weight bottomed at 200 pounds and went back up to 220, at which point he gave up on low-carb.

Alex went to the opposite extreme, vegetarian and vegan dieting, but gained more weight.

Then he began walking. As with the low-carb diet, he lost weight rapidly for a time and then regained some of it.

Finally, on Seth’s Shangri-La Diet he lost weight rapidly for a time, then plateaued in the 190s.

A long data series like this is instructive on the difficulties of returning to slenderness; and the tendency for weight – yes, even on low-carb low-insulin diets – to reach a plateau and then rebound.

[5] Fraud revisited: Last week (#13) I mentioned the arrest of a leading autism researcher for stealing research funds, and problems with research fraud.

This week John Hawks hints at another fraud problem in biomedical science: dishonest grant applications. This is a problem two ways:  (1) Only 15% of grants are funded, so even if a small fraction of the proposals are fraudulent, frauds may get most of the money if the “best” (read: too good to be true) proposals are funded. (2) Reviewers defend against fraud by awarding money only to people they know – their friends and the “big name” groups. So the field becomes inbred and un-innovative.

The best solution, I argued last week, would be to decentralize funding to patients and taxpayers. An Amazon-like system letting people rate researcher performance and review public records of proposals and results would be enough, I think, to guide funds to productive groups and institutions such as hospitals and universities, while enabling innovators and outsiders to get a share of funds.

[6] Preserving the Serengeti: JS Stanton has an appeal to protect migration ways of Serengeti wildlife by stopping construction of a highway through the park. (Depressing and covering the highway would be another solution.)

He provides some video as well as photos from a Guardian picture gallery:

[7] Do you know your bug type?: The New York Times reports that humans have four blood types, but only three “enterotypes” – gut microbial ecosystems. The story is based on this Nature article.

[8]  Dr Steve Parker unearths a good line:

Diet has always generated passion, and passion in science is an infallible marker of lack of evidence.

That sentence is from a review of diabetic diet cycles over the last 150 years, published in Diabetologia (2009, vol. 52, pages 1-7).

[9] The key to healthy shoulders: The Boston Globe reports that the leading cause of shoulder injuries may be misaligned shoulder blades.

This doesn’t surprise me, as the two things that most helped my shoulders were:

  1. Strengthening exercises, such as push-ups and the reverse fly, that promote shoulder blade retraction.
  2. Mobility exercises for the shoulder which retract the scapula. I like the following, which someone dubbed “shoulder dislocations”:

[10] REMOVED DUE TO DISGUST BY CO-AUTHOR. Do not watch the video linked by Stabby here.

[11] I hate when that happens: A bank in India opened a vault to find termites had eaten through millions of rupees.

[12] Beth Mazur is giddy: Beth points out a new way high-carb, high-vegetable-oil diets may promote obesity.

It turns out that insulin upregulates an enzyme that turns omega-6 fatty acids into an appetite stimulating hormone called anandamide, “which is a chemical that affects the same receptor in the brain that THC does … you know THC, it’s the active ingredient in pot. And when people smoke pot they often get … the munchies.”

Beth goes on to give a reason why American food works better than pot at causing obesity.

[13] Pesticides impact IQ: The most pesticides in the mother, the lower the IQ of the child, says The Scientist reporting on new research in Environmental Health Perspectives.

[14] Mozart: Two guys, one guitar:

[15] Another upright blogger: Emily Deans has a fancy new (hardwood!) standing desk.

[16] Ooh! Ooh! Can I have one?: If Jamie Scott’s walking desk doesn’t raise your HDL enough, consider a Dutch HDL-raising closet:

[17] Weekly video: Director Krzysztof Kie?lowski produced for Polish television a magnificent, dark but moving and inspirational, series called The Decalogue , consisting of 10 hour-long dramas each dealing with one of the Ten Commandments. The videos are on Youtube with English subtitles.

For those who have an hour to spare, in honor of Passion Week, here is Dekalog I part I:

The remainder of Dekalog I: Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6.

Leave a comment ?


  1. Number 5, hear hear!!! Well Said!

    Congrats and best wishes to Shou-Ching. As a fallen Lutheran, surrounded by my husband’s devout RC relations, I’m not quite there myself, but I admire the spiritual quest.

  2. Ned’s article is a good one and I sort of assumed something like that. The whole “Eskimos had this, therefore it was animal protein!” thing is affirming the consequent and ought to be investigated for all of its possible explanations, and it’s good that we do that. One other explanation could be that sometimes old Eskimos would die by starvation, as a cultural thing. Grisly, but we know the effects of starvation on bone health so it fits. The skeletons would have to show other signs of starvation to make it work.

    Africa is so cool, there are kissing giraffes and seas of critters with sweet-looking trees. Why can’t Western Canada have that? The Rockies have mild critter action and boring trees *sulk*

    It really seems that a lot of people plateau on low carb if it is a lot of weight that they have to lose. Some think it is because too much gluconeogenesis elevates cortisol levels. Is that the case? I have seen studies where more carbohydrate in one meal of the day seemed to break a fat-loss plateau. Either way I’m sold on keeping the gluconeogenesis to a minimum.

    Great “Around The Web” as usual.

  3. Thanks, Kate!

    Stabby, the Rockies are awesome. I’ve had great times in Glacier National Park, Yellowstone, and Banff. Mountain goats, bighorn sheep, deer, bear, wolves, mountain lions – what’s wrong with the critters?

    I think the fewer demands you place on your body, the more resources it can devote to healing. I think there are diminishing returns to reducing carbs, and increasing costs.

  4. Thanks for the answer.

    Heh, I suppose the Rockies are great. I think I just got stars in my eyes from the elephants and giraffes and the shear volume of critter awesomeness in Africa.

  5. People should be aware that the Dekalog is both fantastic and often wildly depressing. Feed it into your TV if you can, each episode is worth the attention you would pay to an Oscar winner.

  6. Thanks once more for the linkage, of course – as for my home standing desk, it wasn’t too long before I figured out just how little time at home I spent sitting (with two children ages 3 and 1, almost none!). Still, it is a good option for the Tuesday morning when the youngest is napping, I’m at home, and the oldest is in school, and something doesn’t desperately need to be cleaned or laundered. 🙂 Kids – good for the HDL? Awaiting the hard data.

  7. Stabby: “Africa is so cool, there are kissing giraffes and seas of critters with sweet-looking trees. Why can’t Western Canada have that? The Rockies have mild critter action and boring trees *sulk*”

    That’s because Paleolithic humans ate all of them.

    When the Clovis people came across from Siberia/Beringia, they proceeded to munch their way through a profusion of mammoths, mastodons, camels, horses, peccaries, tapirs, glyptodonts, pampatheres…

    …and along with them went the American lions, giant short-faced bears, dire wolves, saber-toothed cats, and American cheetahs that preyed on them. Pre-Clovis America was far richer than the modern-day Serengeti.

    The reason Africa still has megafauna is that the surviving ones co-evolved with humans and had time to adjust to their hunting strategies. (And much of the African megafauna is now extinct, too.)

    Special thanks for the link! I think it’s very important to save the few scraps of remaining African savanna: they are, quite literally, the places that made us human. How can we possibly understand and appreciate what “paleo” means if we’ve destroyed our last living connection to it?


  8. Loved the Decalogue. Watched it a few years ago. Love all his work. Happy Easter!

  9. J. Stanton: Awesome info. I have your site bookmarked, I need to peruse it more, apparently.

  10. Congratulations to Shou-Ching. May her life in the church bring her much joy.

    Confirming that the wild west is fabulous and my favorite place in the world after Central Park NY is Yosemite. Canadian Rockies ditto — Lake Louise isn’t to be believed. The water is a color blue I’ve never seen before or after.

    Happy Easter to all.

  11. Congrats to Shou-Ching!

  12. My prayers are with Shou-Ching: welcome home to the Catholic Church.

  13. Hi Paul, Happy Easter to both of you.

    Have you noticed yet that the study on calcium supplements you cite implies that the multi you recommend (with 220mg Ca) may be just as harmful as larger Ca supplements?

    Reading this study makes me wonder about slow release Ca (does it exist?) or mixing small amounts at a time of calcium carbonate powder into food where intake would otherwise be too low for whatever reason.

  14. Hi donat,

    For those interested, here’s the full text of the study:

    Since 200 mg is well within the range of normal food intake (~500 mg/day), and calcium is undeniably a necessary human nutrient, I would need good evidence to conclude that 200 mg calcium is so dangerous that it warrants giving up the convenience of a multivitamin.

    But several aspects of the study make it unclear that low doses of calcium are really harmful:

    (1) The lowest overall mortality was in the “personal use of calcium plus Calcium-D supplementation” group. So you could argue that calcium was protective overall, even if it raises cardiovascular risk.

    (2) There was no dose-response to calcium — any supplementation was as bad as high supplementation. This calls into question the attribution of the harm to calcium. Maybe it was vitamin A or niacin in multis, since everyone supplementing calcium was probably taking a multi. Or some other factor that correlates with calcium supplementation.

    The possibility, mentioned in the study, that a sudden surge of calcium in the blood is responsible for ill effects, and this only occurs with supplementation, is possible. But this should be ameliorated by taking (a) low doses of calcium such as in our multi (b) with a meal, so that digestion of the calcium is slowed. One can interpret this study as arguing for taking multis with food.

    Until stronger evidence appears I’m sticking with the “middle course” recommendation in the book and in this post (“Why You Shouldn’t Supplement Calcium,” Basically, we strongly suspect that calcium is dangerous primarily because of endemic deficiencies in vitamin K2, magnesium, and C. With healthy levels of those, especially K2 and magnesium, the body should be able to handle food-like doses of calcium fine. After all, there’s a huge reservoir of it in bone, and with the proper vitamins and mineral balance, it should be possible to move calcium in and out of that reservoir freely.

    So with supplementation of K2, C, and magnesium, 200 mg/day supplemental calcium should be OK – even prudent given the lack of calcium in treated tap water.

    However, given the evidence against calcium, it’s prudent to keep intake down to the levels normally found in food and water, and to take calcium-containing multis with a meal. The high supplement doses recommended by many health authorities (500 mg or higher) should be avoided.

    Best, Paul

  15. Paul,

    One more question and I promise I will quit bugging you!

    I wanted to know your thoughts on Magnescent Iodine… I have found several that contain 400mcg which seems like a better amount for me than Iosol’s 1.8mgs. After beating the folliculitis it really bursts my bubble to get the forehead acne from Iosol… even at 2 drops a week! I would love to start slower and I am not sure the kelp caps are effective for me. So, wondering if Magnescent is any good or not?

  16. Hi Bill,

    The idea of “magnetically charged iodine” is voodoo and I wouldn’t pay extra for it. That said the stuff seems to be inorganic iodine which is fine.

  17. Happy Easter to both of you and congratulations to Shou-Ching. As a Christian, I’m delighted to be following a wonderful science-based nutrition and health blog that doesn’t make me feel like a dimwit on account of my religious beliefs.
    Btw, my brother and sister-in-law went to St. Paul’s while she was getting her master’s degree at Harvard three years ago.

  18. Many thanks Paul for the calcium reply, –very helpful as always. Let’s assume then that the study results are in part due to the interference of deficiencies, –effectively that means we don’t believe its main conclusions are solid and particularly we don’t believe that they are directly relevant for anyone on PHD. (Am I right in thinking that in fact this argument would question the results of most other anti-calcium supplement studies too? So the recommendation not to take a lot of the stuff cannot then be based on these, and becomes basically an argument based on general considerations?)

    As for the relevance of taking calcium with food, I’m not sure that makes a difference wrt to what they have in this study. They say subjects took calcium carbonate so they must have been told to take it with meals, and in any case unlike citrate it does not get absorbed otherwise.

  19. Furthermore (a) assuming that taking calcium with food significantly slows absorption even if only for smaller amounts and (b) carbonate does not get absorbed without food, it follows that their calcium spiking hypothesis does not explain well the non-dose dependence of the data. So that leads back to your first hypothesis. (Could you not also point to the fact here that women taking calcium on their own will presumably be more health conscious, an assumption supported by their baseline data on subjects. So unlike those not taking calcium on their own, who might be more deficient in other relevant nutrients, the personal calcium takers will not be –at least statistically visibly– harmed by the supplements.)

  20. Hi donat,

    Yes, our argument would work against other anti-calcium studies too. However, there have been no studies of calcium supplementation with K2 and magnesium, so this idea has not been tested. I think the cautious thing is to take the anti-calcium studies at face value until there is evidence otherwise.

    But I’m not going overboard with anti-calcium sentiment, since it is an important part of the body.

    Yes, supplementers are probably more health conscious, better educated and have higher incomes, so that could make the calcium group look healthier than it is. Another reason to be cautious about calcium.

    The calcium with food idea was in the paper.

    Best, Paul

  21. Paul, a few questions for you.

    My girlfriend and I did a fast from Thursday to Sunday brunch. Didn’t quite make it — some rice and mussels on Friday night, and some dried fruit and wine on Saturday.

    I lost somewhere around 2-3 pounds (around 168 to 165), she did the same. We did eat a lot sunday, and I’m back up 168. oh well! we weren’t doing it for the weight loss.

    Some observations, and I’d love your thoughts.

    1. Scruvy. I mentioned to you before about a sub-clincal scurvy, which went away with Vitamin C. Noticed it again this weekend, although I was taking the same level of supplement. Doubled my Vit C intake and it went away by sunday morning.

    2. Mental anguish: both of you were very much in a fog for the fast. Very light headed, hard to make decisions, etc. Ketones or glucose problems? After Friday, hunger wasn’t there. Well, until about 11:45 on sunday when my brain new we have brunch reservations, which in itself interesting.

    3. Body heat. This is probably TMI. I’ve always joked my GF is hyperthyroid — she gets very warm at night. But during the fast — nothing. And and soon as we had eaten, once again she became very warm at night.

    I’d be curious to know your thoughts on Greek Orthodox style fasting — vegan two days a week — or Muslim Ramadan style fasting.

  22. A very reasonable position, I think, given the uncertainties.

    (I actually meant that supplementers might in fact be healthier *with less deficiencies*, –not just appear healthier– and then the fact that they were not harmed by calcium would support your hypothesis that calcium supplements are really only harmful in the context of other deficiencies.)

  23. Hi Robert,

    Well, I used to have some similar symptoms. My scurvy resulted from a systemic fungal infection and it would be particularly bad during fasts. To me this suggests some type of systemic infection with an extracellular, ketone-consuming pathogen – fungal or protozoal.

    Brain fog is a symptom of immune activity, also consistent with the presence of an infection.

    Do you have any infectious symptoms?

    Reduced temperature can happen during a fast as the body conserves energy. This is part of the starvation response. Perhaps your girlfriend is slender – this would make her more prone to it?

    I think either of those styles are fine and health-promoting. I personally do intermittent fasting, 16 hours a day. That is rather like the Muslim Ramadan style, except I try to eat in the daytime.

    Best, Paul

  24. she is slim; 5’7 125 pounds — would kill me if I revealed that. However, from the casual stuff I’ve read on IF the claim is you don’t see a reduction in metabolism for a short fast. Clearly different for men vs. women as well.

    No real signs of infectious symptoms. Allergy season is at a high in Washington — had to wash my car after leaving it out 20 minutes. Or worse yet, trying to gargle out the yellow tree pollen after doing a bike ride. gross. However, I am not getting any reaction to it. regular saunas also help.

    My query on Ramadan was more the benefits/dangers of not drinking water during the day during the fast. Seems incredibly difficult, although the body clearly can re-regulate after a few days.

  25. Yes, I would recommend water during any fast, but a 12-hour water fast should endurable, though there is no advantage to it.

    Allergens could account for it, maybe. I would consider this an open issue. Something was causing oxidative stress.

  26. Paul, thanks for the heads up. I tend to think not; other than mild gum disease no real chronic infections. My point re: allergens was that they are heavy this year but not bothering me at all, something to which I attribute regular sauna use as a cure.

    Very interesting though. Lack of food = oxidative stress = need for more Vitamin C?

    Thanks again for your time and looking forward to the kindle edition!

  27. Interesting as always, thanks. I am also trying to improve my posture, pronated shoulders, protracted shoulder blades, some kyphosis. This, perhaps quixotic attempt, after an unexpected improvement in lower back pain and mobility early (4 months) into the PHD is showing some small results, although I could be suffering from reverse hypochondria. One early improvement was a renewed ability to fall asleep on my back after 8 years. My test for the shoulders are scapular wall slides (some call it wall angels) and this definitely shows improvement as back sleep time increases. Also trying standing at a desk but finding it difficult, as my weight shifts to the front of the feet, quickly causing discomfort in the lateral knee area. That is strange as I easily see that shifting the centre of mass towards the heels relieves the pressure on the knees and is much less demanding, but something (reminds me of the ant and dicrocoelium dendriticum fluke story) induces me to sway forward. Partly to test this and my ongoing contest with the gut microbiota I fasted for 96 hours, on water, Vit C and one espresso w/ heavy cream per day. Results: no hunger, no fog or dizziness, no apparent symptoms. Blood glucose fell from 102 mg/dL in a linear (surprisingly) fashion to 65, weight fell 5 lbs (I believe only microbiota and water), waking temperature showed no trend. BG one hour after 2100 cal first meal rose to 93, ie about normal FBG for me. The usual clicking/grinding (but no pain) in my shoulders seemed slightly diminished after 2nd day, but the effect was very small and I could be easily mistaken. Do you experience noises in your shoulders and do you think there is some correlation to inflammation? I have clearly demonstrated a dose response reaction to casein & lactose plus heavy use (extended hiking) in one knee, so I wonder if some inflammation still lurks in other joints. Esther Gokhale has some interesting ideas on posture.

  28. Hi Morris,

    Yes, Esther Gokhale’s book is excellent.

    It’s taken me 3 weeks to get used to a standing desk. The cushioned kneeling bench is a huge help.

    Congrats on a well-tolerated fast.

    I don’t have many noises in my shoulder, but I had rotator cuff tendinitis from tennis about 15 years ago and I think the joint got infected when I had my bacterial infection. It’s much better now but still a bit less mobile than the other shoulder. I think persistent bacterial infections in joints is a common phenomenon, especially in older folks. If it’s really troublesome for you, you could try antibiotics, possibly it might make a difference.

  29. Hi Paul
    Thanks for replying and apologies for being off-topic. My short term plan then is to try a course of low dose antibiotics (doxycycline 200mg x 5 days) as a test. If no significant change, I will take that as indication that bacterial infection is not main contributor, if positive then add a second pulse of antibiotics (yes?). Strong negative response would be more difficult to interpret. My gut is probably in fair shape as I have over the last 23 weeks varied energy intake between 2500 and 3300kCal/day while maintaining a lean BMI of 23 so do not expect a large die-off of gut bacteria. I am now at 2400Kcal, 76/13/12 %_F/P/C , Wilder Ketogenic ratio 2.8. Over the entire 23 w period fat % varied from 70-80 and Wilder ratio average was 2.8. Longer term plan is to go to Wilder ratio of 3.5 and 80% F calories (Kcal/ Pgm/Cgm_ 2400/70/50); this is probably max I can do eating more or less normal food. Reasons to suspect some bacteria in connective tissues: manageable but static periodontal disease and niggling tendon injuries (elbow, groin, glute) which are very slow to heal. If that strategy proves not effective then perhaps go with short term (4 weeks?) of very high ketogenic diet (10-12 Tbs of coco oil/day), or should I begin with this? I have been at Step 4 (your book) for about 16 weeks and have been doing one 36hr fast/week for about 8 weeks without any difficulties. All is well except those dang connective tissue annoyances which have been with me for decades but then I am quite old. Thanks again.

  30. Hi Morris,

    It usually takes a lot longer than 5 days to address joint infections. But you can use a lower dose than 200 mg doxy. You might want to check out the Road Back Foundation protocol for arthritis, that might be a good one for you.

    Best, Paul

  31. Paul,

    Are there plans for Lent / Fasting related posts soon?

    What to eat during fasting (other than cranberries & coconut oil) is on my mind. Looking for some variation in the fasting menu.


  32. George Henderson

    Calcium supps; surely long term exposure to abnormally high intakes of inorganic calcium salts, which can be absorbed to some extent without vit D if concentration is high enough, would result in the body no longer activating (hydroxylating) vitamin D3 as it once did. This would be a sensible adaptation to high serum Ca, which is (in more natural states) a sign of vit D adequacy. What if chronic exposure to high levels of inorganic calcium salts resets the Vit D homeostat too low?

  33. George Henderson

    Morris G, I might suggest that postural problems might be addressed with a temporarily higher intake of protein than the PDH allows, as this seems likely to be due to prior protein deficiency. My own experience is that my posture altered noticably for the better when I resolved to eat more protein, and this was long before I discovered fats.

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