Search Results for: selenium

Are Bigger Muscles Better? Antioxidants and the Response to Exercise

We’re positive toward some dietary antioxidants:

  • Vitamin C is one of our supplement recommendations.
  • We also recommend higher-than-typical dietary intakes of zinc and copper, key ingredients of the antioxidant zinc-copper superoxide dismutase.
  • We recommend high intakes of extracellular matrix material in soups and stews. This is rich in glycine, a component of glutathione, a key antioxidant. N-acetylcysteine, which provides the other amino acid component of glutathione, is one of our therapeutic supplements.
  • Although we don’t normally recommend supplementing vitamin E, it is listed among our optional supplements, and we believe significant numbers of people might benefit from supplementing mixed tocotrienols.
  • Although we don’t recommend supplementing it, our book notes the importance of dietary intake of selenium, which is critical for an enzyme that recycles glutathione.

A fashionable contrary view has arisen: antioxidants not only don’t help, they can do harm by interfering with oxidative signaling pathways.

Adel Moussa, proprietor of Suppversity, has promulgated this view, especially the idea that antioxidants interfere with the response to exercise. In a post last week, “Bad News For Vitamin Fans – C + E Supplementation Blunts Increases in Total Lean Body and Leg Mass in Elderly Men After 12 Weeks of Std. Intense Strength Training,” he looked at a new study by Bjørnsen et al [1]. In the comments here, Spor asked me to address Adel’s post, and other readers expressed interest too.

The Bjørnsen Study: Muscle Size

In this new study, Bjørnsen and collaborators put a group of elderly men on a strength training regimen. Half the men were put on supplements – 1000 mg per day of vitamin C and 235 mg (350 IU) per day of the alpha-tocopherol form of vitamin E – and half on placebo. They then assessed the response to 12 weeks of exercise.

Both groups gained muscle mass, but the placebo group gained more. Total lean mass, and the thickness of the rectus femoris muscle (one of the quadriceps), increased more in the placebo than the antioxidant group. The lean mass increase averaged 3.9% in the placebo group, 1.4% in the antioxidant group. Here’s the plot of muscle thickness in the rectus femoris:

Bjornsen Fig 1

This muscle increased in thickness an average of 16.2% in the placebo group, 10.9% in the antioxidant group.

So far, so solid: it looks like muscle size will be larger if you don’t take antioxidants.

Adel concludes:

[Y]ou shouldn’t fall for … the bogus false promise that suffocating all the flames by using exorbitant amounts of antioxidants (and I am as this study shows talking about 10x the RDA not just 100x the RDA) would be good for you, let alone your training progress and muscle gains…. [Y]ou cannot recommend extra-vitamins for people who work out – specifically not the elderly.

I disagree.

The Trouble with Biomarkers

We have to use biomarkers to assess health, because the things we really care about – like how long we will live – cannot be determined on the time scales we need to make decisions in.

But no biomarker is a perfect assessment of health. There are always regimes in which a biomarker can look “better” but health can worsen.

Muscle size is no different. Other things being equal, more muscle is better than less muscle. But there are ways to increase muscle size that harm health. We have to look at the increase in muscle size in the placebo group and ask: was this good or bad?

The Bjørnsen Study: Strength

Fortunately, Bjørnsen and colleagues also reported another key biomarker: strength, as indicated by 1 rep maximum weight. Here is the data:

Bjornsen Fig 2

The exercises that utilize the rectus femoris muscle, the one that grew biggest in the placebo group, are the leg extension (b) and leg press (c). And here we see something interesting: in both cases, the antioxidant group increased their 1RM by more than the placebo group. Yes, the improvement was not statistically significant. But it was there. According to the text, on average, the antioxidant group increased their leg press 1RM by 18.7%, the placebo group by 15.8%.

So the antioxidant group gained more strength but less size than the placebo group. Which group was made healthier by the program?

I’ll put my money down on this: the smaller muscle that can exert more force is the healthier muscle. A gargantuan but weak muscle is an unhealthy muscle.

Large Muscle Size Can Be a Sign of Poor Health

To see that large muscles may be unhealthy, consider the health condition of cardiomegaly – an enlarged heart. When the heart tissue is dysfunctional and incapable of exerting as much strength as it should, the heart grows larger to compensate. People who have such an oversized but weak heart often die an early death.

We should consider whether something similar was going on in the placebo group of the Bjørnsen study. Their leg muscles grew larger to compensate for weakness. They needed more mass to accomplish less than the antioxidant group.

What causes cardiomegaly? One contributing factor is a deficiency of antioxidants. When antioxidants are deficient, oxidative stress generated during exertion leads to lipid peroxidation and tissue necrosis.

One of my favorite nutritional studies – I always show it at the Perfect Health Retreat to demonstrate the existence of multi-nutrient deficiency diseases, diseases that appear only when you are deficient in multiple nutrients at the same time – is a study by Kristina Hill and collaborators at Vanderbilt in 2001. [2] The running title is “Myopathy resulting from combined Se and E deficiency” and that summarizes it well. Guinea pigs were put on one of four diets – a control diet, the control diet but deficient in vitamin E, the control diet but deficient in selenium, or the control diet with both vitamin E and selenium removed.

Something interesting happened to the guinea pig muscles:

Bjornsen Fig 3

These are quadriceps muscles – the same muscle whose size was altered in the Bjørnsen study. Panel (D) shows a healthy muscle from the control group. The muscle fibers are long, straight, and parallel to one another. Panels (B) and (C), the low vitamin E and low selenium groups respectively, are mildly damaged but still functional. However, in panel (A), the group deprived of both selenium and vitamin E, the muscle fibers are severely damaged. This muscle cannot exert force.

In the group deprived of both selenium and vitamin E, the loss of strength continued until the guinea pigs could no longer stand or move. At that point they lost the ability to feed and began to die of starvation. This happened in as little as 30 days. Here was the survival curve:

Bjornsen Fig 4

The last guinea pig died after 55 days.

Why did this happen? The guinea pig muscles were damaged by lipid peroxidation leading to cell death. They didn’t have enough antioxidants.

Hill et al didn’t measure muscle thickness, but it wouldn’t surprise me if at 20 days the guinea pigs on their way to an early death had the thickest and most massive quadriceps.

Can Muscle Size Be Used as an Indicator of Overtraining?

If growth in muscle size may indicate muscle damage from either overtraining or antioxidant deficiencies, we might be able to use the response to exercise to assess nutrition or exercise load.

Let’s look again at the Bjørnsen study. If the cross-sectional area of a muscle is proportional to the square of muscle thickness, then we can get a measure of strength per unit cross-section by taking the ratio of leg press 1RM to the square of rectus femoris thickness. That is 1.187/1.109^2 = 0.965 in the antioxidant group, 1.158/1.162^2 = 0.857 in the placebo group. Per unit cross-section, the antioxidant group lost 3.5% in strength, the placebo group lost 14.3%.

It looks like both groups may have damaged their muscles; the antioxidant group just did much less damage. It appears both groups were overtraining relative to their nutritional status. Perhaps if nutrition were better, the response to exercise would have been better, and strength per unit cross-section would have increased. Maybe the missing nutrients included antioxidants, and taking even more antioxidants may have enabled this rigorous training regimen (designed “to stimulate as much muscle growth as possible”) to take place without any impairment of health.

Is Bodybuilding Safe?

If large size can be an indication of damage in muscle, then many techniques which cause muscular hypertrophy will be health-damaging. The healthiest strength gains might come with only small size gains, as the muscle becomes more efficient. It is only unhealthy muscle that becomes super large.

If so, then bodybuilders, who are judged on the size of their muscles, not their strength, will be tempted to use health-damaging and muscle-damaging techniques, like antioxidant deficiencies, to expand their muscle mass. Presumably the winning bodybuilders will be those who use all effective techniques to grow muscle, including the health-damaging ones. So we should expect champion bodybuilders to die young.

I have not seen statistical evidence, but anecdotal lore suggests that champion bodybuilders do, indeed, die young, often of heart diseases (indicating muscle damage). Here are two Youtube videos memorializing bodybuilders who died young:


If you want me to believe that antioxidants are bad, the Bjørnsen study is not going to do it. It looks to me that the elderly men who were in the antioxidant group were the lucky ones. The 1000 mg of vitamin C and 350 IU of vitamin E they were taking daily improved their response to exercise. Indeed, for all we know their antioxidant intake may have been less than optimal!

The elderly men who didn’t get the antioxidants should worry about their hearts. If their leg muscles became large but weak, their hearts may have also.

Everyone who works out should be aware: when it comes to muscles, bigger is not the same as better. The healthiest muscles are those in a wiry physique – modest size, but able to exert a lot of force.

Finally, a pitch for our upcoming October 10-17 Perfect Health Retreat. Our advice is sensible, comprehensive, and increasingly well supported by guest experience. If you want to learn how to optimize health for the rest of your life, and have a great time doing it, please come join us.



[1] Bjørnsen T et al. Vitamin C and E supplementation blunts increases in total lean body mass in elderly men after strength training. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2015 Jul 1.

[2] Hill KE et al. Combined selenium and vitamin E deficiency causes fatal myopathy in guinea pigs. J Nutr. 2001 Jun;131(6):1798-802.


Toward a Proof of the PHD

I hope all of our readers enjoyed a happy and healthy Father’s Day.

We had two PHD-related sources of happiness this weekend. On Friday and Saturday we filmed a documentary for Korea’s SBS TV, which will air July 7 in Korea. And then, over the course of the weekend, we heard a number of positive reader stories.

I’d like to share those stories, as a warmup to telling you about about a new venture that will, we expect, create many more health successes.

Reader Results

John Parker is 70 years old and looks fantastic on PHD:


Well done John!

Antoniette Descisciolo-Rozean is losing weight with ease:

Week 4 Update:

Another half pound bites the dust woot woot!! 😀 😀 😀

This may not sound like a lot to many people, but I don’t have a ton of weight to lose, and I’ve NEVER lost weight as painlessly and naturally as I have on this plan!

I can absolutely do this plan for life and never feel deprived. I still have not counted one calorie, nor have not felt hunger once.

This brings my total loss at close to ten pounds on one month. I am so completely happy with this!!

My husband, who doesn’t need to lose weight, is trimming up. Though he’s lost no weight, his waist is trimming up, his chest is getting more solid, etc.

He has only cut out grains/legumes and has not changed his routine (which is naturally active), yet is experiencing these surprising improvements!

He was previously getting stiffness in his joints, and that has nearly disappeared!

Aaron Macomber has lost 53 pounds and feels ten years younger:

January to June, I’m down 53 pounds on the PHD. I also weight train for 1-1.5hrs 4 days a week, no cardio training at all. I weighed 238lbs when I started and now weigh 185, and still dropping! I’m 40 years old and I feel and look better than I did when I was 30 (now just figure out how to re-grow hair :).

The better part of the story is that the inflammation that I was constantly suffering with is reduced so much it’s incredible! My hands and feet used to ache at the end of the day, and they just don’t anymore. I used to be hot all the time, and was popping advil like they were breath mints, and I just don’t have a need for that anymore. I am still dropping 1-2lbs a week and packing on the muscle fairly fast. I will be seeing my abs for the first time in my life within the next few months and have gone from a 38-40 waist to a 32 already.

Both Antoniette and Aaron left Amazon reviews – thank you very much!

Gill is only two weeks into PHD, but has some results already:

In desperation one night I trawled the web and found your website and thought it was worth a shot. Within a matter of days of kicking gluten for good (not that I ate much wheat anyway but we scots eat a lot of oats) and starting magnesium/selenium/iodine supplements I felt 50% better. Given my deteriorating health over the preceding two years, this was a HUGE improvement. My sinuses, whilst still far from perfect, are feeling considerably better.  My energy levels, whilst still not what they used to be, have definitely picked up.  This is after a fortnight.  I am so excited that I might actually keep improving!!

June is healing:

I have started eating this style of eating introducing bone broths, organ meats, coconut oil, eliminating vegetable oils, sugar amongst other things. One big change I am finding is at 59 I was having problems with the skin on my hands, every little knock cause a a heamatoma type of bruising under the skin, an obvious sign that the collagen in my skin was lacking. Today I gave my hand a big knock & there is only a small bruise.

Also I am having less problems with my knees, so I am sold on the paleo/high fat style of eating.

I haven’t lost a lot of weight but it is stable & body fat percentage is reducing slowly. On a low fat, moderate protein diet my body fat percentage just kept going up & up.

Thank you for your book & the information it provides.

Richard Parker had inflammatory bowel disease for 35 years, now it’s gone:

I have been following the PHD for about 5 months. I had a serious flare of IBD over the Christmas holidays. For several years I had been able to control my symptoms to tolerable levels but this flare was beyond my control with my old diet. I first started with a broth diet for 2 weeks, then elimination diet before I discovered PHD. I lost 30 pounds in a month, which is mot particularly healthy before starting the PHD at the end of January. Several things truly shocked me on PHD that helped. Being able to tolerate fat, cutting down on fruit was good, elimination wheat and whole grain was good, eating egg yolks didn’t raise my cholesterol, eating liver and liking it and switching to goat dairy helped. I had been on a low fat, whole grain, yogurt, low animal protein, probiotic and Chia seed fiber diet before. The Chia seeds had been my savior to slow down the diarrhea. I still eat Chia seeds but just sprinkle them on salads. Today my digestion and elimination system is better than it has been in 35 years. My triglycerides have dropped from 153 to 72. My HDL has risen to 45 after 30 years of HDL between 27 and 35. I drink bone broth every day as I eat 3 egg yolks. The only probiotic I take now is Live Zing Salad. I also take most of the supplements recommended but take them on faith that Paul knows what he is talking about here too. I have never been able to say that I know a supplement has helped. But I wouldn’t stop anything I am doing for fear that the good changes I have experienced would end.

Bill Rafter found that PHD helped him deal with cancer:

About 6 months ago I learned that I had metastatic prostate cancer.  The treatment recommended was hormone therapy and targeted radiation.  The hormone (androgen deprivation) therapy tricks the brain into suppressing testosterone production.  The effects are a total suppression of sexual drive, hot flashes similar to those experienced by menopausal women, and the feeling that one is an old, old man.  The lack of sexual function I could deal with, and the hot flashes just seemed like a good sweat.  But, at 65 and still athletic, I found the last one particularly brutal, and questioned whether I wanted treatment at all.

A friend gave me a good book on cancer, recommending an all-out approach rather than the sequential attempts favored by most oncologists.  Nutrition was a major part of the approach.  I then trolled my friends for books on nutrition and one commented that PHD was the best he had ever read.  I am overwhelmed by what it has done for me.

After reading PHD, I immediately adopted the recommendations in full, with the exception of fasting.  I then went thru 44 radiation treatments, and never felt fatigue, a common symptom.  No more old man feelings, and no thoughts of quitting treatment.  Hot flashes are completely gone, which really puzzles the oncologists. Everyone wants to know what stopped the hot flashes.  The trouble is that because I adopted everything at once, there is no way to identify that which contributed most.  But that’s not all.

Ever since grade school I have been a nailbiter.  I knew the habit was caused by a chemical imbalance, rather than behavioral, but could never figure out what.  But since adopting PHD, my fingernails have grown to the extent that filing them is annoying.  That makes me wonder that if PHD brought my system into balance, how many other imbalanced people could also benefit.  Those people could manifest their imbalance otherwise, say with abuse of alcohol or drugs.

This reduction in cancer therapy side effects may be more significant than mere symptomatic relief. Cancer therapies generally have a very narrow margin between hurting the cancer and hurting normal tissue. A diet that enables normal cells to tolerate cancer therapies better may allow more effective doses of therapy to be used, potentially significantly improving odds of remission.

There are many other great stories on the PHD Facebook group. Our thanks to all who share their results!

Toward a Proof of the PHD

I strongly believe that PHD is, indeed, the most healthful human diet. The science is solid. Moreover, diet seems to have a large influence on health, so adopting PHD can lead to dramatic health improvements. Personal experience, and reader stories like those above, give me confidence in those claims.

But how can we prove PHD to skeptics?

Self-reported reader results don’t convince skeptics because they are an incomplete and biased sample. Those who have good results are enthusiastic and excited and take the time to report their success. Skeptics can always wonder whether there were an equal number of readers with poor results who simply didn’t report their negative experiences. To prove a diet, it is necessary to compile unbiased evidence from a complete sample.

For some time, I’ve been looking ways to generate compelling evidence. At the Ancestral Health Symposium in 2012, I organized a panel discussion (“New Technologies, New Opportunities”) looking at how new technologies such as quantified self tools with automatic data collection via Wifi could help us generate unbiased data on the effects of different diets and lifestyles.

Others in the ancestral health community are also attacking this problem. For example, Gary Taubes and collaborators have created NuSI in an effort to fund clinical trials testing the effects of low-carb diets.

Now, happily, thanks to a new partnership which I’ll announce on Thursday, we are going to have an opportunity to do a fair and unbiased test of PHD’s effectiveness. In fact, it’s already underway. At a secret location in Austin, Texas for the last four to eight weeks, a half dozen people with serious health concerns have been following the PHD diet and lifestyle advice. Every one of them has experienced health improvements. Among the results:

  • A woman who in February was walking with a cane, taking pain medications, and scheduled for knee and hip surgeries is now walking with no difficulty and has stopped her pain medications. A longtime Sjogren’s sufferer, she now has tears. She has lost two inches from her waist, is sleeping better, is happier, and has more energy.
  • A diabetic with fasting blood glucose of 160 now has fasting blood glucose in the 90s. He has lost 7 pounds and 4 inches from his waist.

I will share further details on Thursday, as we still have work to do before a formal launch and announcement. Let me just say – I am excited; I am optimistic that we can make a huge difference in the lives of a number of people; and I believe we will be able to generate convincing proof that a natural diet and lifestyle, along the lines of PHD, is the path to good health.

More coming soon!

Nutrition and Pregnancy, I: Nutritional Triage

Happy Mother’s Day!

2013 Mothers DayMother’s Day seems an auspicious time to begin a series on nutrition in pregnancy. It is an important topic, as I believe pregnant mothers are often alarmingly malnourished.

Triage Theory

“Triage theory,” put forward by Bruce Ames [1], is an obviously true but nevertheless important idea. It offers a helpful perspective for understanding the consequences of malnourishment during pregnancy

Triage theory holds that we’ll have evolved mechanisms for devoting nutrients to their most fitness-improving uses. When nutrients are scarce, as in times of famine, available nutrients will be devoted to the most urgent functions – fuctions that promote immediate survival. Less urgent functions – ones which affect end-of-life health, for instance – will be neglected.

Ames and his collaborator Joyce McCann state their theory with, to my mind, an unduly narrow focus: “The triage theory proposes that modest deficiency of any vitamin or mineral (V/M) could increase age-related diseases.” [2]

McCann and Ames tested triage theory in two empirical papers, one looking at selenium [2] and the other at vitamin K [3]. McCann & Ames used a clever method. They used knockout mice – mice in which specific proteins were deleted from the genome – to classify vitamin K-dependent and selenium-dependent proteins as “essential” (if the knockout mouse died) or “nonessential” (if the knockout mouse was merely sickly). They then showed experimentally that when mice were deprived of vitamin K or selenium, the nonessential proteins were depleted more deeply than the essential proteins. For example:

  • “On modest selenium (Se) deficiency, nonessential selenoprotein activities and concentrations are preferentially lost.” [2]
  • The essential vitamin K dependent proteins are found in the liver and the non-essential ones elsewhere, and there is “preferential distribution of dietary vitamin K1 to the liver … when vitamin K1 is limiting.” [3]

They also point out that mutations that impair the “non-essential” vitamin K dependent proteins lead to bone fragility, arterial calcification, and increased cancer rates [3] – all “age-related diseases.” So it’s plausible that triage of vitamin K to the liver during deficiency conditions would lead in old age to higher rates of osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.

Generalizing Triage Theory

As formulated by Ames and McCann, triage theory is too narrow because:

  1. There are many nutrients that are not vitamins and minerals. Macronutrients, and a host of other biological compounds not classed as vitamins, must be obtained from food if health is to be optimal.
  2. There are many functional impairments which triage theory might predict would arise from nutrient deficiencies, yet are not age-related diseases.

I want to apply triage theory to any disorder (including, in this series, pregnancy-related disorders) and to all nutrients, not just vitamins and minerals.

Macronutrient Triage

Triage theory has already been applied frequently on our blog and in our book, though not by name. It works for macronutrients as well as it does for micronutrients.

Protein, for instance, is preferentially lost during fasting from a few locations – the liver, kidneys, and intestine. The liver loses up to 40 percent of its proteins in a matter of days on a protein-deficient diet. [4] [5] This preserves protein in the heart and muscle, which are needed for the urgent task of acquiring new food.

Protein loss can significantly impair the function of these organs and increase the risk of disease. Chris Masterjohn has noted that in rats given a low dose of aflatoxin daily, after six months all rats on a 20 percent protein diet were still alive, but half the rats on a 5 percent protein diet had died. [6] On the low-protein diet, rats lacked sufficient liver function to cope with the toxin.

Similarly, carbohydrates are triaged. On very low-carb diets, blood glucose levels are maintained so that neurons, which need a sufficient concentration gradient if they are to import glucose, may receive normal amounts of glucose. This has misled many writers in the low-carb community into thinking that the body cannot face a glucose deficiency; but the point of our “Zero-Carb Dangers” series was that glucose is subject to triage and, while blood glucose levels and brain utilization may not be diminished at all on a zero-carb diet, other glucose-dependent functions are radically suppressed. This is why it is common for low-carb dieters to experience dry eyes and dry mouth, or low T3 thyroid hormone levels.

One “zero-carb danger” which I haven’t blogged about, but have long expected to eventually be proven to occur, is a heightened risk of connective tissue injury. Carbohydrate is an essential ingredient of extracellular matrix and constitutes approximately 5% to 10% of tendons and ligaments. One might expect that tendon and ligament maintenance would be among the functions put off when carbohydrates are unavailable, as it takes months for these tissues to degrade. If carbohydrates were unavailable for a month or two, there would be little risk of connective tissue injury. Since carbohydrate deprivation was probably a transient phenomenon in our evolutionary environment, except in extreme environments like the Arctic, it would have been evolutionarily safe to deprive tendons and ligaments of glucose in order to conserve glucose for the brain.

Recently, Kobe Bryant suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon about six months after adopting a low-carb Paleo diet. It could be coincidence – or it could be that he wasn’t eating enough carbohydrate to meet his body’s needs, and carbohydrate triage inhibited tendon maintenance.

Triage Theory and Pregnancy-Related Disorders

I think triage theory may helpfully illuminate the effects of nutritional deficiencies during pregnancy. When a mother and her developing baby are subject to nutritional deficiencies, how does evolution partition scarce resources?

Nutritional deficiencies are extremely common during pregnancy. For example, anemia develops during 33.8% of all pregnancies in the United States, 28% of women are still anemic after birth [source].

It’s likely that widespread nutritional deficiencies impair health to some degree in most pregnant women.

Those who have read our book know that we think malnutrition is a frequent cause of obesity and diabetes. Basically, we eat to obtain every needed nutrient; if the diet is unbalanced, then we may need an excess of fatty acids and glucose before we have met our nutritional needs. This energy excess can, in the right circumstances, lead to obesity and diabetes.

But obesity and diabetes are common features of modern pregnancy. Statistics:

  • 5.7% of pregnant American women develop gestational diabetes. [source]
  • 48% of pregnant American women experience a weight gain during pregnancy of more than about 35 pounds. [source]

I take the high prevalence of these conditions as evidence that pregnant women are generally malnourished and the need for micronutrition stimulates appetite, causing women to gain weight and/or develop gestational diabetes.

Another common health problem of pregnancy is high blood pressure: 6.7% of pregnant American women develop high blood pressure [source]. This is another health condition which can be promoted by malnourishment.

It’s likely that nutritional deficiencies were also common during Paleolithic pregnancies. If so, there would have been strong selection for mechanisms to partition scarce nutrients to their most important uses in both developing baby and mother.

A Look Ahead


  1. Nutritional deficiencies are widespread during modern pregnancies.
  2. They probably lead to measurable health impairments and weight gain in many pregnant women.
  3. The specific health impairments that arise in pregnant women or their babies are probably determined by which nutrients are most deficient, and by evolutionary triage which directs nutrients toward their most important functions and systematically starves other functions.
  4. Due to variations in how triage is programmed, deficiency of a nutrient during pregnancy may present with somewhat different symptoms than deficiency during another period of life.

This series will try to understand the effects of some common nutritional deficiencies of pregnancy. Triage theory may prove to be a useful tool for understanding those effects. Based on the incidence of possibly nutrition-related disorders like excessive weight gain, gestational diabetes, and hypertension, it looks like there may be room for significant improvements to diets during pregnancy.

Around the Web: Palm Sunday Edition

The Audible edition of our book will be released tomorrow, Monday, March 25. Also, early buyers of our Kindle edition received email notice from Amazon last week of a major update: this fixes the links to notes.

This week I’ll be at PaleoFX and posting will be light. There are still a few tickets available, so if you can make it to Austin, please do!

Also, the 2013 Ancestral Health Symposium is accepting registrations. Only a limited number of rooms at the Sheraton are available at the event rate, so please consider making plans now.

[1] Music to read by: I feel a sermon coming on …

We try to follow Johnny Mercer’s prescription. The attitude of doing right is:

  • Look for goodness in others and encourage it; overlook faults.
  • Ac-cent-tchu-ate the positive, eliminate the negative.

Robert Louis Stevenson, too, had a good attitude:

  • “There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy. By being happy we sow anonymous benefits upon the world.”
  • “Our business in life is not to succeed, but to continue to fail in good spirits.”

So let us be happy, and seek good health in good spirits!

[2] Reader results: There is much to celebrate.

Hillary reports that PHD has been life-changing:

Life changing in that it’s the first “diet” I can see being a long term lifestyle, I’ve already lost ten pounds without trying and for once I’m eating healthy because I want to be healthy, not because I want to lose weight (although that’s been a great benefit). It’s much easier to stick with something because it makes your body feel good, not for the fad of it. I’ve got my husband on it as well. We’re eating things we never thought about making before – I’ve recently made goat and oxtail stews, which was a first. I don’t crave sugar anymore, which is amazing and I love that I can still eat chocolate daily (I have a square of 90% topped with a date to sweeten it up) and a glass of wine.

Elizabeth Perez had an epiphany:

I can still remember that first night I had a PHD homecooked meal. I had been fat phobic and eating brown rice and whole wheat bread and the very first time I heard Dr Mercola and Jaminet talk I got some fatty beef with carrots celery and onions in my crockpot and 8 hours later around 11pm had my first home made stew with white rice and avocado and I felt this indescribable nourishing just ‘right’ feeling in my gut and body and that night I slept like a baby. That interview just made so much common sense and left me with this gut feeling like ‘I just knew’ it was true and got ‘permission’ to enjoy a fatty meal. Something in me ‘remembered’ all Jaminet was saying. Weird right? But anyway it was the interview and meal that changed my life forever. Lol.

Claire reports a cure of her IBS:

Hi Paul!

I recently started taking N-acetylcysteine after reading your blog posts about IBS and bowel disease. For the past two years I’ve been in pain, had irregular bowel movements, basically everything that goes with IBS. However, after starting NAC, I HAVE NO MORE IBS AT ALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


I’m stunned. I was hoping to understand why on earth this has helped so greatly? I don’t understand what it “fixed?”

The PHD book and this blog have literally saved my health and my sanity. I am eternally grateful.

Libba writes:

I have been faithfully sticking to PHD for one month and have seen drastic improvement! I am so grateful to you and your wife for the work and knowledge you have shared. I have 40 stubborn pounds to lose, scalp psoriasis, acne and other random ailments. I’m down 9 lbs, have more energy than I can remember and my scalp and skin have never looked better (if I do say so myself)!

Long-time commenter Mari writes:

Thank you, Paul, for PHD.

When I first started following the PHD diet and lifestyle recommendations two years ago, I wrote up a list of the various issues that were bothering me: frequent blackouts, cold extremities, digestive issues, hair loss, chronic sinus infections, extremely low blood pressure, low blood sugar, no sensation of hunger, migraines, muscle weakness, insomnia, etc. Without having to think too hard, I came up with 37 health issues.

On my one year anniversary of adopting PHD, I went over my list and saw that nearly all of those issues were gone. There were some new things that that I became aware of as I worked on tweaking to find what worked best for my body. Still, I had only 2 of my initial health symptoms, and a few new ones.

Now, on my second year anniversary of PHD, I have none(!) of the initial health issues. I have a few things that are new since starting PHD–such as a lot more build-up on my teeth–but I can say that following the PHD template has completely changed my health, energy, and mood. And I’m sure by year three, with some tweaking, these last few things will be scratched off the list.

Carmelite wrote:

I just started your diet last week, have not even completely implemented it yet, and am already seeing amazing benefits to my mood, energy levels, and a reduction in food cravings.

A Chinese emailer wrote:

I find that the PHD diet has worked really well. You are so right; when the nutrients are at an optimal level for peak health, I feel very well, physically and emotionally. I neither overeat nor undereat and just feel like a well oiled machine with lots of energy and my mood is on an even keel.

We’re very interested in pregnancy and nursing anecdotes. Meg reports that PHD is great for generating breast milk:

I have had amazing success on your diet after struggling for years to balance my motherly demands and lose weight. I have been breastfeeding and/or pregnant for almost 6 years, and I found that when following low-fat or low-carb diets while breastfeeding, milk supply will diminish. For years I tried cutting calories, cutting carbs, cutting fat, etc, always with the same result= no milk and a mad baby. I started PHD in December and have lost 15 pounds so far (about 10-15 more to go), I feel great, and I have TONS of milk. And the milk has changed! I can tell because the babies (ages 2 and 10 mos) don’t seem to need to nurse as often, and their bowel movements are much healthier looking. Sorry for TMI, but I know that sharing my experience will help someone else eventually.

Daniel Kitching writes:

I have been on the PHD for nearly three weeks now, and I’m seeing AMAZING results. I feel great, I’m not hungry or craving, and I’m discovering new, delicious foods. I even was able to stick to it while at Walt Disney World. Thanks A MILLION!

Laurie has done better on PHD than on low-carb or high-carb:

I’ve only been following the PHD for a less than a week, so I’m still trying to figure out just what works for me. First thing I can say is that I have never felt quite so satisfied and full on any diet as this one. Going 16 hours without eating (except for coffee and cream/coconut oil in the morning) has been an absolute breeze.

I feel full and satisfied after each meal, and that feeling sticks around for a long long time! I thought carbs made me hungry. Turns out it was wheat that gave me the cravings. I’m fine with potatoes and rice! Better than fine, really! I’m amazed at how great I feel!

I’m a person who has always struggled with hunger. I’m just not good at white knuckling through it! I thought I had hit the jackpot when I found low carb. Eating low carb was the closest I had ever come to actually controlling my appetite. Sadly, I didn’t keep it up forever, and gained all my weight back, plus some.

So did Caressa Santella Neary:

Dear Paul and Shou-Ching, I just had to tell you both how much I love the new edition of your book! I have been on a low carb and high fat diet for many years and my weight loss had stalled and my energy levels were terrible. I added some safe starches and cut back on added fat on my foods and am happy to report your approach has restarted my weight loss and improved my energy levels and mood, very excited!

Lynh writes:

My things which resolved:

1) No more cold/canker sores.

2) more energy! and a better mood.

3) I feel satiated with the rice, potatoes, or sweet potatoes

4) finally – a more normal body temperature! this has been the best part, I used to feel cold all the time and supplementing with iodine and selenium, diet, etc., my body temperature went from 97 to 98.2. I don’t need a coat anymore when it’s cold outside and I used to be freezing all the time.

I really like the explanations for everything in this book, I wish it were required reading for medical school students.

Tim Freeman tweeted:

Dropped 20 pounds in 28 days with PHD. No hunger, better mood, and better sleep.

David wrote:

Oh yes, things have definitely gotten better with PHD. I came from a gluten-free standard american diet (GFSAD ), eating out 3 times a day. I was already off gluten for two and a half years before PHD, but transitioned quickly and almost live in the kitchen now. I’ve lost over 40 pounds since starting PHD and have maintained it easily for quite a while now. Thank you guys so much for your work. Glad I found it first before going on to read books on Paleo and Primal. I’m just about finished with the 2nd edition of PHD, awesome work.

Our thanks to everyone who shares their results or writes Amazon reviews! We’re most grateful.

[3] Cute animals:

Via Yves Smith.

Bonus: A new breed of chauffeur:

[4] Interesting items:

The English of the mid-1800s had a life expectancy at age 5 similar to ours, despite a far higher incidence of infectious disease; credit belongs to their healthy diets and lifestyles. This finding is more evidence that diet and lifestyle can substantially reduce risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Miki Ben-Dor reviewed Marlene Zuk’s Paleofantasy and Christina Warinner’s TEDx talk that I mentioned positively last week. He thinks her anthropology is wrong, and suspects her of anti-meatism.

Sally Fallon critiques Paleo.

Neely Quinn points out that if you’re craving carbs, you just might need carbs. Women’s Health Mag has further tips on what food cravings may mean (via Craig Newmark).

Seth Roberts believes in earwax transplants for ear infections.

The Atlantic looks into why published research misleads us.

Emily Deans reports that early-life malnourishment affects adult personality traits.

Via Connie Warner, “Let them eat fat.”

Another reason to avoid multivitamins: Via ProfDrAndro, manganese increases the virulence of the Lyme disease pathogen Borrelia and presumably other pathogens too.

Keeping track of Paleo parodists: Hunter Gavera, who authored this Paleo manifesto, might be the same person as MatthewGreenUK who assembled this video and as Walter West, Paleo Caveman. He might be a different person than Paleo Dooche,.  Via Meredith Harbour Yetter.

The dose makes the poison.

Sarah the Healthy Home Economist shows that food reward really does promote acquisition of the healthiest foods – even in thieves!

Maybe a rice diet isn’t so great for chickens.

[5] Never lose hope: I didn’t know this: In his 30s, Alexander Solzhenitsyn was diagnosed with a late-stage malignant cancer and was not expected to live, but after converting to Christianity staged a recovery he regarded as miraculous.

He went on to win the Nobel Prize for Literature and to chronicle the evil of Soviet prison camps. One of his best passages:

If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?

[6] Not the weekly video: What an inspiration!

[7] Shou-Ching’s Photo Art:

[8] Weekly Video:

Will Harris is a zero-waste farmer, is pioneering zero-waste natural cattle raising at White Oak Pastures. Watch this terrific video (via PrimalDocs):