Around the Web; and Is There a Fat Mass Setpoint?

[1] CoQ10 and niacin not good for Top Gun pilots: You don’t get useful supplement information like this at other Paleo sites.

The case presented here details a Naval Aviator who experienced reduced G tolerance over two successive flights with a temporal relationship of starting a new supplement. Two components of the supplement, coenzyme Q10 and niacin, are highlighted here for their hemodynamic effects. After stopping the supplement the aviator regained his normal G tolerance and had no further issues in flight.

Barker PD. Reduced G tolerance associated with supplement use. Aviat Space Environ Med. 2011 Feb;82(2):140-3.

[2] Thank you, science, this is helpful:

[3] N-acetylcysteine and choline reverse insulin resistance in rats. This is for biology junkies. How does physiological insulin resistance get reversed? Feeding signals do it, and cysteine and choline may be primary signals. Also, there is liver and brain involvement, since denervation of the liver causes insulin resistance. A hypothesis: there is a “hepatic insulin sensitizing substance” (HISS).

Lautt WW et al. Bethanechol and N-acetylcysteine mimic feeding signals and reverse insulin resistance in fasted and sucrose-induced diabetic rats. Can J Physiol Pharmacol. 2011 Feb;89(2):135-42.

[4] Do eggs eliminate need for carbohydrates? Seth Roberts recounts an interesting n=1 experience:

Joseph Buchignani … discovered that a meat-only diet eliminated his IBS. However, it also caused craving for carbs. Because carbs caused IBS, he couldn’t simply eat carbs. He tried many ways of getting rid of the craving for carbs: eating more animal fat, eating less animal fat, eating oil, eating lard, and eating different kinds of animals and cuts of meat. He varied how he cooked the meat, eating especially fresh meat, and eating fresh whole fish. All of these attempts failed. He did not try taking a multivitamin pill.

Finally he tried adding egg to the meat. That eliminated his craving for carbs…

Sure, some cravings reflect nutrient deficiencies. (Not all cravings: An alcoholic craves alcohol.) But in the cases I know about, there is an obvious or semi-obvious connection between the craving and the deficiency. For example, people who chew too much ice (pagophagia) crave ice to chew. They are iron-deficient. Eating iron eliminates the pagophagia. Long ago, a craving to eat something crunchy would have led you to eat bones. Bone marrow is high in iron. So the craving makes sense. In contrast, there is no obvious or semi-obvious connection between carbs and eggs.

The explanation for Mr. Buchignani’s experience is not obvious to me either. However, here’s a hypothesis:  Eggs are rich in cysteine and choline, so maybe they give an especially strong feeding signal that over-rides the appetite signal generated by carbohydrate deficiency.

[5] We need a good mucus barrier to prevent self-digestion. Every once in a while I assert in the comments that we need a good mucus barrier to protect our own cells from digestive enzymes, and so people with bowel problems (hence a deficient mucus barrier) should be cautious about taking protease or lipase enzymes. Then somebody asks for a reference (tough crowd!).

Well, here’s a paper that came out this week. It’s about proteases. The new part to me was that NAC is mucolytic and aggravates the injury. So reversing your insulin resistance with NAC might damage your gut … trade-offs, trade-offs.

Qin X et al. The Mucus Layer is Critical in Protecting Against Ischemia-Reperfusion-Mediated Gut Injury and in the Restitution of Gut Barrier Function. Shock. 2011 Mar;35(3):275-281.

[6] Most pesticide-contaminated vegetable? Celery. “This stalky vegetable tops the dirty list. Research showed that a single celery stalk had 13 pesticides, while, on the whole, celery contained as many as 67 pesticides.”

[7] Paleo cavities and chronic infections: Rhodesian Man, dated to between 125,000 and 300,000 BC, had cavities in ten upper teeth and pitting in his skull indicates he was probably killed by a chronic dental or ear infection. Paleo diets were not a cure-all for infectious disease. Via Melissa McEwen.

[8] Love in nature:

(Via Yves Smith)

[9] Vegan recovers health by eating animal foods: That’s not news. But she wrote a beautiful essay:

I wanted desperately for it to be right, for my ethics to outweigh my physiology.

Then she got death threats.

(Via Newmark’s Door)

[10] Shows how out of touch I am: If Richard Nikoley hadn’t blogged about it, I wouldn’t have known he has detractors. Whatever for? Has he been teasing the vegans again?

[11] Does the body have a fat mass setpoint? Pål Jåbekk of Ramblings of a Carnivore has a discussion of why the word “setpoint” may mislead. I agree – fat mass “equilibrium” or leptin “target” would probably be better words.

Pål objects to the setpoint language because he thinks it has encouraged a simple fat in / fat out mechanistic view of weight gain, and promotes a therapy of “starve and do insane amounts of exercise.” Pål suggests instead a lake metaphor:

When it comes to the body fat setpoint, I rather like the lake comparison. A lake can for those less informed seem to have a set point of water level. Despite rather large fluctuations in temperature, evaporation and water going into and out of the lake, the lake maintains it water level because the factors mostly responsible for the level influence each other. This does not mean that it is difficult to change the level, nor does it mean the lake “attempts to defend against change.” Build a damn dam and the water level will go up. Drain it, and the level goes down. It’s not very hard, you just have to push the right buttons.

I like this metaphor because it expresses the equilibrium concept – fat mass is in equilibrium the way water in the lake is in equilibrium; the equilibrium can change. On the other hand, the way to adjust water level is to reduce water in and increase water out. Doesn’t this metaphor promote the calories in / calories out view? And isn’t that the view that suggested the failed “starve and do insane amounts of exercise” weight loss regimen?

My conclusion: Semantic disagreements can be hard to resolve!

(Note to readers: For our thoughts on how to lose weight, peruse the “Weight Loss” category).

[12] Weekly video: The Cleveland zoo discovers that gorillas get healthier when they eat natural foods instead of sugary biscuits. This is a revelation to zoology:

(Via John Durant)

Leave a comment ?


  1. Ha, Paul. How timely. Teasing vegans again? Well, yes, just this morning as a matter of fact.

    And as if I need to say it: foul language alert!

  2. Hi Richard,

    I’m happy to send our vegan traffic your way! Taunting is out of our line.

    Do you get death threats too, or is that only for girls?

  3. I just read an article supporting your idea about the problems that occur in science by choosing the wrong metaphor to descibe something:

  4. eggs digest fast. It may be the speed at which hunger is addressed that give the relief, if you were hungry to start with. Raw milk should have the same effect. Possibly even a protein shake. If all three, I will suggest it is speed of digestion.

    but what do I know.

  5. Interesting about adding the egg and the reduced carb cravings. I have just the opposite effect with eggs. Whenever (since I was little)– I eat eggs, I must have a piece of chocolate after it. It’s a craving that I need to fulfill. It’s like the savory sensation of an egg needs to be broken with something sweet. Do you think it’s psychological or is there any physiological basis for this particular carb craving following eggs?

  6. P.S. I should be sufficient in magnesium– I have taken at least 500 mgs daily for the past couple of years. Sometimes more sometimes less but it averages out to be about 500.

  7. Gary Taubes is well known for his criticism of the set point concept. He prefers the term “settling point.” He also uses the lake metaphor, which originated apparently with two psychologists who initially proposed the settling point concept. The essential difference between set and settling points is whether the regulation is basically central (i.e., brain) or metabolic.

    In Gary’s lake metaphor, water entering or leaving does not correspond to, say, fat passively entering or leaving tissue. It corresponds to the physiological regulation of fat movement, much as a watershed regulates water movement with no “brain” to centrally direct the water level. Gary discusses this in his recent two-part interview with Jimmy Moore. It is also discussed in Good Calories, Bad Calories. Not sure yet if he expands upon this in his latest book.

  8. Hi Ellen,

    Your experience is just as baffling as Mr. Buchignani’s. I’ll admit to a craving for chocolate that comes from seeing chocolate. Perhaps, like Pavlov’s dogs, eggs are now associated with chocolate like dinner with the bell?

    Hi Bill,

    Thanks. I’ve listened to several of Gary’s talks, which are great, but haven’t read Good Calories Bad Calories yet.

  9. Paul, you must read GCBC! It is remarkable, and he is a truly fundamental thinker. Even if he turns out not to be right about all of it, I think this may be one of the most important books of the last century.

    As a physicist you’ll get a particular kick out of Gary’s demonstration that the bigshot mainstream scientific experts on obesity, many of them professors at major universities, completely misunderstand elementary thermodynamics.

  10. Hi Bill,

    I know I must! His talks are great, and I’ve read plenty of Internet summaries and several shorter pieces.

    I think it’s great to see generalists/outsiders doing scientific syntheses. Science has gotten so specialized and oriented toward grants and money, that it’s inbred. There are opportunities for people like Gary and ourselves to make real contributions, just because so few professionals are able to see the big picture.

    Best, Paul

  11. Raw egg yolks do taste somewhat sweet and somehow potentiate the sweetness of sugar. In my shakes or icecreams as more egg yolks are contained as less sugar is needed (or as sweeter they taste with the same amount of fruit/sugar/glucose/sweetener).
    At least that’s my subjective feeling.

  12. I wonder if eggs could have some signaling effect that the opiates in chocolate counter. I didn’t see anything in a quick search though.

  13. Hi Paul,

    I liked your Pavlov-idea more!
    Do you have colored hard-boiled eggs at easter too in the US? Side by side with chocolate eggs? 😉

  14. Hi Franco – Yes … for kids!

  15. Paul,

    sure for kids (mainly), that’s the time when “conditioning” takes place.

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