Monthly Archives: January 2011 - Page 2

In Memory of Jack Lalanne

Jack Lalanne, the great fitness guru and natural food advocate, is dead at 96. (Hat tip: Jamie Scott.)

He died of pneumonia, just a year after having heart valve surgery. Both conditions are suggestive of Chlamydia pneumoniae infection; perhaps antibiotics could have gotten him to 100.

The Associated Press obituary notes that his youthful diet wasn’t very good:

The son of poor French immigrants, he was born in 1914 and grew up to become a sugar addict, he said.

The turning point occurred one night when he heard a lecture by pioneering nutritionist Paul Bragg, who advocated the benefits of brown rice, whole wheat and a vegetarian diet.

“He got me so enthused,” LaLanne said. “After the lecture I went to his dressing room and spent an hour and a half with him. He said, ‘Jack, you’re a walking garbage can.'”

Lalanne was an advocate of eating whole foods, but may have over-emphasized the carbohydrates. Late in life, his diet consisted mainly of fruit, vegetables, brown rice, and fish. Rather like the Kitavans, but with less coconut oil.

Nevertheless he was a great example of healthy living. He joked at age 92 that he couldn’t die, because it would wreck his image.

Here he demonstrates fingertip push-ups:

Here he explains how to cure “pooped out-itis”:

Thanks, Jack! The fitness classes of heaven just got a little more entertaining.

Herb-Encrusted Salmon Cakes with Lemon Juice

We’ve been looking at cookbooks lately. We recently acquired The Garden of Eating by blogging stars Chef Rachel Albert (The Healthy Cooking Coach) and Don Matesz (Primal Wisdom).

The first thing one notices about this book is the impressive amount of effort that was put into it – 7 years, I’m told.  At 8.5” by 11”, 582 pages, it’s full of great recipes. Most pages present a single recipe plus variations.

The Garden of Eating synthesizes Paleo dieting with the foodways of traditional cultures. It begins with a discussion of Weston A Price’s survey of traditional cultures. From the Perfect Health Diet point of view, there are a few missing ingredients. There are recipes with potatoes or sweet potatoes, but no rice or taro. There are recipes with butter, but no cream. Still, potatoes and butter are a big step forward over some Paleo meal plans!

There are plenty of great dishes. We looked first for recipes with key Perfect Health Diet foods:

  • Salmon and beef are favored in our diet for their low omega-6 content;
  • Coconut milk and oil are favored for their ketogenic short-chain fats;
  • Lemons are favored for reasons I’ll discuss in an upcoming series on dietary ways to enhance immune function;
  • Herbs like oregano are favored for their antimicrobial activities in the gut.

We chose a recipe, “Herbed Salmon Cakes with Citrus,” that has a lot of these ingredients. Here is how we made it.

The Recipe

We doubled the size of the recipe, from 2 pounds salmon to 4 pounds, because we had a few college students at home for the holidays.

The recipe begins by pulverizing the fish in a food processor and combining it other ingredients in a bowl. We used a wok and here is the salmon with onion:

Other ingredients include fresh parsley leaves, minced celery, grated carrot, eggs, minced dulse leaf, herbs (basil, rosemary, thyme, oregano, lemon pepper), lemon zest, some starch, and some broth.

We made two substitutions: for the starch we used tapioca starch, while the recipe calls for shan yao, arrowroot starch, or powdered rolled oats; and we used lemon juice in place of the broth, where the recipe calls for chicken broth or filtered water.

Here are the ingredients mixed in our wok:

The next step was to divide into portions, form into balls, and press into patties. The patties are then covered and refrigerated overnight, or at least for several hours.

The recipe calls for lining a 13x9x2 baking pan with unbleached parchment or using muffin tins, and arranging the patties on a lightly oiled surface. We used aluminum foil on a cookie sheet and greased it with butter:

We cooked for 15 minutes at 350ºF until the patties were opaque throughout. Here’s how they came out:

It appears our mix was a little too watery and bled a bit. Maybe the tapioca starch isn’t right for this recipe; or maybe we didn’t use enough seaweed. One of the variations was to replace the dulse with sea salt; we had a shortage of dulse and forgot to put in the sea salt, so perhaps that was the cause.

No matter; it tasted great. Here it is on a serving plate:

The recipe suggests dipping the cakes in one of the cookbook’s many sauces: Cajun Ketchup, Better Barbecue Sauce, herb infused Mayonnaise, or Tahini Tartar Sauce.

We found the cakes to be addictive:  the more you ate the more you wanted another.

There’s a lot to be said for this recipe, apart from its healthy ingredients. The marinade takes away most of the fishy flavor, and the herbs cover the rest, so this may be palatable even to those who dislike salmon. Also, the cakes are a very portable form of salmon, easy to pack for lunch at work; they can be eaten as finger food.


We give two thumbs up to the recipe and the cookbook. Here’s a link to its Amazon page:

Havasu Falls

It snowed yesterday and is bitterly cold today; and Shou-Ching just brought up the topic of a vacation.

This place looks nice.

Why We Get Fat: Food Toxins

Erich asked about the link between omega-6 fats and obesity. It’s a good question and also a good way to introduce the first step of the Perfect Health Diet weight loss program:  removal of toxic foods from the diet.

Vegetable Oils With Fructose or Alcohol

These toxic foods are particularly dangerous in combination. We discuss this mix of toxins in the book (pp 56-59).

If you feed lab animals high doses of polyunsaturated fat (either omega-6 or omega-3 will do) along with high doses of either fructose or alcohol, then fatty liver disease develops along with metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a major risk factor for obesity, and it’s not very difficult to induce obesity on these diets.

Both sugar and vegetable oils are individually risks for obesity:

  • Stephan did a nice post a few years back, “Vegetable Oil and Weight Gain,” discussing a couple of studies showing that both rats and humans get fatter the more polyunsaturated fat they eat.
  • Dr. Richard Johnson and colleagues did a review of the evidence for sugar (fructose) as a cause of obesity in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition a few years ago. [1]

What the animal studies show us is that when fructose and vegetable oils are consumed together, they multiply each other’s obesity-inducing effects.

Here are a few pictures illustrating the correlation between polyunsaturated fat consumption, fructose consumption, and obesity.

Here is the Johnson et al chart showing historical fructose consumption in the UK and US [1]:

Here is Stephan’s chart showing historical polyunsaturated fat consumption in the US:

And here are obesity rates in the US:

Cereal Grains

It’s a common observation that the toxic grains, especially wheat, can produce a potbelly or “beer belly.” Rice doesn’t seem to do that.

There is epidemiological evidence for this effect. Here, for instance, is obesity prevalence by country from the World Health Organization Global Infobase:

Note the low obesity prevalence in the rice eating countries of China, India, Japan, Indonesia, and southeast Asia; and in sub-Saharan Africa, where a diversity of starch sources are eaten, including manioc/cassava, sorghum, millet, rice, maize, and wheat. The highest obesity prevalence is found in wheat-eating countries.

This correlation persists within countries. In the China Study, the correlation of wheat consumption with BMI was 56%, whereas the correlation of total calorie intake with BMI was only 13%. (Since total calorie intake is correlated with muscle mass, total calorie intake may be completely uncorrelated with fat mass. It’s not how much you eat, but how much wheat!)

Similar outcomes occur in mice. I can’t find any mouse studies comparing wheat to rice, but I did find one comparing wheat to rye [4]. Wheat was far more obesity-inducing than rye:

Body fat percentage was 20.2% in the wheat group, 13.7% in the rye group; fasting insulin was 126 pM in the wheat group, 90 pM in the rye group; and fasting cholesterol, triglycerides, and free fatty acids were higher in the wheat group.

In short:  wheat made mice fatter, more insulin resistant, and more dyslipidemic than rye.

Just for fun here’s a picture comparing fat tissue in the rye (left) versus wheat (right) fed mice:

I believe that rice would have done even better than rye, but I was unable to find a paper directly comparing rice vs wheat or rye.

Why We Get Fat

This brings me to a point of difference with Gary Taubes. Although glucose is toxic in high doses, the body has an extensive machinery for disposing of excess glucose. As we discussed in our last post, all tissues of the body participate in glucose disposal. Dietary glucose is not likely to do much damage unless the body’s glucose-disposal machinery has been damaged by other toxins first.

Obesity is caused not by carb calories per se, but by natural plant toxins. Plants, not carbs, make you fat!

It’s possible, by the way, that differing toxicities among grains could be responsible for epidemiological evidence favoring “whole grains” over “refined grains.” In America, products made with refined grains are usually 100% wheat; but products made with whole grains are often of mixed origin (“7 grain bread”). Since wheat is the most obesity-inducing grain, dilution of wheat content may be masking the toxicity of whole grains.


Certain toxic foods seem to be very effective at causing obesity:  vegetable oils, fructose, and wheat. Along with malnourishment (for instance, by choline deficiency) and infectious disease, food toxins are why we get fat.

The first step in any weight loss effort, therefore, ought to be removal of these toxic foods from the diet. Removing these toxins may not cure obesity; but without this step a cure is unlikely.


[1] Johnson RJ et al. Potential role of sugar (fructose) in the epidemic of hypertension, obesity and the metabolic syndrome, diabetes, kidney disease, and cardiovascular disease. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Oct;86(4):899-906.

[2] Andersson U et al. Metabolic effects of whole grain wheat and whole grain rye in the C57BL/6J mouse. Nutrition. 2010 Feb;26(2):230-9.