Around the Web; Return of the Carbs Edition

A reminder: Shou-Ching and I will be at the Locavore Dinner, hosted by Denny and Aimee Perrin at the Wrap-Around Cottage, 254 Cider Hill Road, York, Maine, later today (September 17). Contact information may be found here. A pot-luck dinner starts at 5 pm; bring “a dish to share consisting of locally-sourced ingredients of animal and/or vegetable origins.” After dinner, I’ll give a talk describing our diet and the logic behind it. All are welcome.

[1] Interesting posts this week: Dr. Kurt Harris was interviewed on the Robb Wolf show. Kurt reports that he got healthier when he went from VLC to 15% carbs, and that lately he’s been eating 40% carbs from safe starches, and doing fine. Some interesting observations: Kurt thinks that problems with legumes are more commonly due to FODMAPs than toxins (and thus problems are gut flora dependent). He says that peaches give him problems due to polyalcohol sugars such as sorbitol.

Remember when Sean at Prague Stepchild was “taking on” Stephan Guyenet?  He’s surrendered.

Pål Jåbekk had a nice post on Carbs and cancer – a good primer for our cancer series.

Lucas Tafur has moved to a new site, plans to broaden his scope, and begins with a nice post: The “Old Friends” Hypothesis.

Craig Newmark reminds us that no one appreciates your health as much as you do, so you should try to take care of it yourself. Bruce Charlton says that science has gone from maximum to minimum honesty.

Eggs or chickens: which poisoned us first? Dr. Michael Greger, a vegetarian, argues that eggs are bad for us, and that eating chicken may lead to a smaller penis. But Dr. Oz says that eating eggs will extend your life.

Bon Appetit says gluten-free is the hottest new health trend: “Physicians are swearing that their own fatigue and brain fog lifted” after they gave up gluten, says Peter H. R. Green, M.D., director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University. “We don’t know the mechanisms for this. It’s fascinating.”

A new blog about living Paleo on little money: A Slim Winter. “[T]his is borne from desperation, frustration and anger…. We have used up all of our savings and now are living just on our unemployment check.  Those checks stop in seven more weeks.  It’s crunch time.”

[2] No, it’s not love: Sea otters hold hands to keep from drifting apart while sleeping.

Via Yves Smith.

[3] A surprising cure for tinnitus?: Todd Hargrove (How to Do Joint Mobility Drills, July 26, 2011) taught us about brain maps, and how a re-mapping the brain can cure phantom pain and improve mobility.

Well, it turns out the brain has maps for sounds also, and tinnitus is “phantom hearing.” Re-mapping the brain may cure tinnitus:

“We argue that reorganizing the cortical map should be the goal, so that the nerves get some input and stop their tinnitus activity,” he said. “You don’t want to leave these cells without sensory input.”

“We changed our (brain training) strategy from one where we completely avoided the tinnitus domain to one where we directly engage it and try to redifferentiate or reactivate it, and we seem to be seeing improvement,” Merzenich said.

[4] Cook your food gently: By testing the hearts of old mice for oxidative agents in mitochondria, researchers found that acrolein, which is generated when glycerol is heated to 280ºC, was responsible for most of the aging damage.

Chavez JD et al. Site-specific proteomic analysis of lipoxidation adducts in cardiac mitochondria reveals chemical diversity of 2-alkenal adduction. J Proteomics. 2011 Apr 13. [Epub ahead of print]

[5] Pretty: Jack Brauer of photographs Plitvicka Jezera National Park in Croatia:

Via the Daily Mail.

[6] Do maternal low-carb diets make children fat?: In mice, mothers eating low-carb high-protein diets give birth to offspring prone to obesity. Some evidence has emerged indicating that something similar may happen in humans.

In a new study, women who ate a “low-carb” diet – 1,000 calories per day or less – early in pregnancy were more likely to give birth to children with hypermethylation (epigenetic silencing) of the retinoid X receptor-alpha (RXRA) gene. This is the most important receptor for vitamin A.

The more RXRA was silenced, the more likely children were to become obese. By age 9, children in the highest quartile of RXRA methylation at birth were significantly fatter than children in the lowest quartile of RXRA methylation.

Godfrey KM et al. Epigenetic gene promoter methylation at birth is associated with child’s later adiposity. Diabetes. 2011 May;60(5):1528-34.

See also:

Reynolds RM et al. Maternal BMI, parity, and pregnancy weight gain: influences on offspring adiposity in young adulthood.  J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2010 Dec;95(12):5365-9.

Pollin TI. Epigenetics and diabetes risk: not just for imprinting anymore? Diabetes. 2011 Jul;60(7):1859-60.

[7] Perfect Health Hummus?: Anyone who wants to eat more carbs is going to need more “safe starches.”

One of the more popular legumes worldwide is chickpeas, the main ingredient in hummus. A number of commenters – Andrea Reina, Ruth of Ruth’s Real Food, and Beezneez – gave us instructions for achieving this. Here are Ruth’s detailed instructions. You need acid, potatoes, overnight soaking, and thorough cooking.

[8] Shou-Ching’s Photo Art:

[9] Video of the week: Catherine Destivelle performs an amazing solo climb in Mali:


Leave a comment ?


  1. Very interesting study into maternal low carb diets. Would be very interested to delve further to see exactly which foods made up the study diets

  2. Shou-Ching’s NE scene is lovely. Looks like it might have been taken in the early morning before the wood smoke had a chance to dissipate.

    Have a great time in Maine. I wish I could be there to hear your talk and taste some of that sure-to-be-wonderful pot luck food.

  3. So I guess you didn’t find Kurt’s linking ketosis & hormesis anywhere near as intriguing as I did. That was really an a ha for me!

    Thanks for the safe hummus recipe. Just was thinking that’s probably the only legume-y foods I really liked.

  4. thanks for the update & link to Sean’s article.

    the recent debate of the Food Reward theory is quite unfortunate. perhaps one reason is the choices of words; “palatable”, “rewarding”, “bland”, are very subjective.

    some of the rewarding food listed i really dont’ find them all that palatable, compared to real food. & conversely real food does not taste “bland” to me at all.

    i read Sean’s article. i agree that if it had been “food addiction”; it would be better.

    also the peril on beans is new to me. i eat beans occasionally (long soak & fermented). it still disagrees w/ my digestion slightly, compared to grains treated the same way, perhaps it’s FODMAP.


  5. He, he, I only partially surrendered!

    I think the idea of FRH being related to addiction and certain foods bypassing or shorting out neuroregulation of appetite regulation to be plausible a la Drs Kurt and Emily. Stephan seems to be more of a mind that FRH is about palatability which I find less plausible.

    As far as the maternal LC methylation goes it seems rather odd. Why such a big jump between ~300 and ~260 g/day? 260 g/day isn’t really that LC, and why would an extra 40 g/day make such a big difference? There could be other things happening there.

  6. That maternal carbohydrate intake study was observational. It seems to me that women on a LC diet are far more likely to have weight issues in the first place, and thus more likely to have fat offspring. Of course, that wouldn’t explain the mouse study. Do you have a link to that one?

  7. If one is going to eat legumes, why go for chickpeas? Adzuki beans have higher ORAC score than even blueberries. I eat them once or twice a week to boost my iron intake aside from the abundant antioxidants. I cook it Japanese style and also eat it as one of the ways they serve it in Japan, with mochi rice cakes in stew itself or inside as filling of mochi rice cakes. Instead of sugar, I use pure Stevia powder to sweeten the adzuki beans.

  8. @Sean

    I think the “palatability” thing is confusing people. Palatability is more than just something “tasting” good. For example, this is from Wikipedia: “The palatability of a substance is determined by opioid receptor-related processes in the nucleus accumbens and ventral pallidum.”

    Stephan advocates blander, whole food as a possible therapeutic step to help “reset” reward mechanisms in the brain. I believe that he has said that he used to have cravings for donuts, and now he doesn’t. I think it remains to be seen whether the benefits of bland, whole food would be a long term requirement or a just a short term therapeutic step to “reset” the brain from craving crap food.

    Chili’s is not a viable restaurant chain because the food tastes good (it is some of the most tasteless food I have eaten); it is viable because many people find the food is palatable.

  9. The otters are so cute!

    Interesting about the low carb maternal diets and offspring.

    Would someone with mitochondrial disease benefit with ketogenic diet?

  10. That Catherine Destivelle is amazing.

  11. Paul (or anyone else who wants to chime in):

    Is carrageenan so adverse to health that it should be avoided at all costs?

    The reason for my question is: I generally eat a fair amount of fermented cream (creme fraiche) made from cream that contains 0.02% carrageenan. Due to where I live (big city but without any sources of local dairy), the only cream products available contain carrageenan or other thickeners; I have been unable to find a single cream product without additives.

    As I enjoy creme fraiche, use it as a not insignificant source of calories (about 200 ml per day) and have no digestive or manifest health problems as a result of it, I would prefer not to give up this particular food item. But I obviously want to weigh the adverse effects that may result from the additive.

    Also, the cream I use is otherwise of high quality and comes from pastured cows. I ferment the cream myself and then strain off any whey using cheesecloth. Thanks all for any thoughts or views.

  12. Thanks for the link to the Dr. Kurt Harris interview – I enjoy his style, well spoken, with often helpful and amusing tangents/metaphors.

    I also noticed Kurt revised his Archevore Diet this week:

    I see a lot of similarities to the PHD and it’s nice to see commonality.

    Some things I noticed:
    Legumes are okay.
    “whole meal corn products are reasonable sources of starch if tolerated”
    No snacks.

    Whole cream (Diesel #1) had to be reduced in favor of russets, american yams, white rice and bananas.
    Multifuel stove. Animal fats or starches.


  13. Daniel, I also cannot find cream without carrageenan here in central Florida. I also looked for it while I was up north in June. Couldn’t find any in an upscale Connecticut town or ditto in Vermont. Probably could find a dairy farmer supplier up there, but we weren’t going to be around long enough for a search.

    The local dairy farmer here who sells raw milk doesn’t separate out the cream, but he does have a waiting list a mile long. I don’t expect to get a call anytime soon that I’m at the top of the list.

    Since I want to include cream in my diet, I’m hoping that my general good health will mitigate the negative effects of the carrageenan.

    Any other ideas or suggestions are welcome.

  14. I too am surprised about the low carb maternal diet study, mostly in the fact that it wasn’t all that low carb.

    Pregnant women don’t (or at least shouldn’t) consciously calorie restrict. So that small caloric difference in carbs will have been replaced by another element, prot or fat. In the case of fat that is going to be a sig portion of n6 (just because it is the most widely available fat) which may have an impact.

    I know there was one study of women with gestational diabetes with low carb high protein and they had smaller than normal babies, but again that’s confounded by the protein issue.

  15. Thanks for the input, erp. I guess the mainstream market demand is still for “whipping” cream, and carrageenan makes it whip and hold properly. Maybe more consumers such as we can be more vocal about the need for cream without additives.

  16. Daniel, the regular, non whipping cream also had same additives.

  17. @CPM, what one means by “palatability” and “reward” has been a challenge wrt the food reward discussion. Just for the record, Stephan said on his blog that “his definition of palatability is strictly the hedonic value of food– distinct from reward.”

  18. @Jana,

    we call those beans “red beans” we eat it sweet.
    (i like it w/ rice ball sweet soup)

    it is nice to know its ORAC score.

    although it seems mildly diuretic for me.


  19. If you can’t find cream without carrageenan, try Mascarpone (should have milk/cream and citric or tataric acid as the only ingredients).
    It’s less ideal for coffee but great for sauces/shakes/just eat by the spoon.
    Check your coconut milk too, most have the carrageenan as well!

  20. Thanks for the input, Franco. I occasionally buy mascarpone but it is a very different animal from homemade creme fraiche and cannot, in my view, really replace it.

    On coconut milk, I totally agree with you. In the case of coconut milk, it is not just that I don’t want to eat additives but also that real coconut milk has a much better taste and texture for cooking. Coconut milk that has emulsifiers doesn’t separate but becomes very gluey and unpleasantly think when cooked. Luckily, I do have a reliable brand of pure coconut milk with no emulsifiers!

    Ultimately for the carrageenan, I would like to find out how bad it really is. If it is not that big a deal, I will just continue to use that cream since I do not otherwise eat many packaged foods at all.

  21. Franco, thanks for the tip about mascarpone, but since I mostly use cream for coffee, adding to smoothies or soups and since I can’t tolerate coconut in any form, just the smell turns my stomach, and I eat no prepared foods at all, I’ll stick with the heavy whipping cream even with the additives.

    I think it was it host who said and I’m paraphrasing here, don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the pretty darn good. 🙂

    *Also whip it on the rare occasion to top strawberries. We get fabulous ones from Plant City here in Florida.

  22. Cleanliness is Next to Frugalness « A Slim Winter - pingback on September 19, 2011 at 12:29 pm
  23. Nothing against Maine, or Mali, but I spent half my life in Boston, New Hampshire, and Maine, and the second half in California and Oregon, and I think it’s inevitable that you will go west. The weather’s better, the geography’s grander, the people are friendlier, and there’s more influence of other cultures, especialy Hispanic and Oriental.

  24. Hi Suz,

    I’m interested too. I suspect it may have more to do with protein intake, omega-6 intake, and vitamin A/D imbalance than carb intake.

    Hi erp,

    The photo was from Block Island, which is a lovely place to spend a day or two. Maine was indeed delightful, the food, views, and company were outstanding.

    Hi Beth,

    I’m not sure I agree that the effect of ketosis is hormetic.

    Hi pam,

    I think beans probably still have some toxins, I doubt it’s entirely FODMAPs.

    Hi Sean,

    Glad you still have fighting spirit!

    I’m sure there’s other things happening in the methylation … hard to know what.

    Hi Amber,

    That’s a good idea. I’ll look up some of the mouse studies, there are many, in general high protein diets in murine pregnancy lead to obese children, low-carb diets tend to be high protein.

    Hi Jana,

    Thanks for the suggestion.

    Hi Sue,

    Very possibly. Mitochondria usually benefit from ketosis, but it would depend on the nature of the disorder. Certainly worth a try.

    Hi Daniel,

    Wikipedia has a summary of the health concerns for carrageenan:

    I don’t think it needs to be avoided at all costs, but (a) since heat degrades it into toxic compounds, you want to be careful in cooking any foods with carrageen; and (b) be aware that certain gut bacteria may digest it to toxic compounds, so some people may be particularly sensitive to it, so monitor yourself for negative reactions.

    It would be better to get cream without it, but I still consume carrageenan-containing cream.

    Hi MarkES,

    Yes, Kurt is getting even more positive to carbs than we are! We’re still negative on legumes and corn.

    Hi Peter,

    I like New England a lot 8-9 months of the year. Winter gets old starting in January and spring is a little too muddy into April.

    I was born in San Diego and went to graduate school in Berkeley, and I don’t care so much for California. Too dry, too much the same all the time. Time passes and you don’t notice. I like the greenery and the seasons.

    Oregon or (really) northern California might be nice.

  25. Thanks very much, Paul, very helpful.

  26. Hi erp and Daniel,

    I have no other chance, anything with carrageenan and 40 minuts later I’m exploding on the toilet! So for me, carrageenan is indeed that bad.
    Interestingly I have that same reaction to high PUFA-oils and even to (high quality) olive oil if it’s more then a very small quantity and especially bad when it’s re-heated (oxidation?).
    I’m actually wondering if it’s that what “helped” me to stay relatively slim and free of major problems for decades on a standard diet before PHD – I just didn’t absorb that much of the neolithic agents of disease.

  27. Hi Franco,

    Most of the high-PUFA oils need a lot of processing with solvents and heat, they probably have the toxins you are sensitive to … I bet olives don’t give you any trouble.

  28. hi Paul,

    you’re exactly right! I love olives – in brine.
    This actually would mean that not all extra virgine olive oils (nothing else at my home since years) are what they claim to be, wouldn’t it?
    I want to add that I can eat SAFAs like butter, coconut oil, mascarpone, lard etc. on their own and in big quantities and feel really great. I think I wrote sometime before that I was always, from earliest childhood on, quite the butter-fan – much to the dislike of my mother.

  29. Btw,

    there’s one German saying “In der Not schmeckt die Wurst auch ohne Brot.” which means something like “in emergency the sausage tastes good without bread as well”.
    I lived by it and expanded that to cheeses (and butter of course) early on. 😉

  30. Hi Franco,

    I think not all “virgins” are as virginal as one might wish. Why would they need to put “extra” in front, unless it was a relative concept?

    You can’t go wrong with butter.

  31. Franco, never thought I’d agree with that German saying, but since going off bread a couple of years ago and then following the PHD for a year, I can truly say that baked goods including cake, bread, crackers, etc. no longer appeal. In fact, the smell of yeast is almost off-putting.

    Paul, Do you think putting refrigerated cream in hot coffee or soup would constitute “heating it”?

    BTW – I love Block Island. The beaches are fabulous. We used to go there frequently when the kids were small and go tent camping at the converted naval base near Point Judith.

  32. You can’t go wrong with butter.

    Words to live by.

  33. Hi erp,

    I doubt boiling water/coffee/soup is hot enough to degrade the carrageenan, but maybe someone who’s sensitive to it could do an experiment for us.

  34. Holding hands to keep from drifting apart = love. Because I said so.

  35. Thanks Paul, I think I’ll stick with the cream I can get until I can get something purer.

  36. Hey, no comments about the egg articles? Are any of those studies legit? They sound perfectly reasonable; the Dr. links to all of them, so are eggs bad or what?

    …cause i eat 3-4 every other day or so, and if they are bad, I am in deep doodoo!


  37. …sorry I should add that they are high quality, pastured eggs, local or otherwise.


  38. Hi Eggman,

    I eat a lot of eggs too, I haven’t had time to look more deeply into the evidence yet. I do think buying organic pastured eggs is a good idea.

  39. erp and Paul,

    no need to experiment, I know that heating/boiling doesn’t help my carrageenan sensitivity. No effect to speak of.


    I have another German saying for you “Das ist nicht das gelbe vom Ei” (in English: that’s not the yellow(yolk) from the egg) meaning something is not much worth.


    need one for butter? “Jetzt mal Butter bei die Fische!” (put butter to the fish!) meaning “tell the truth without hiding any facts” or just “be precise”.

  40. Eggman,

    from one of the studies: “Frequent consumption
    of eggs was associated with higher
    BMI, higher proportion of current smoking,
    higher prevalence of hypertension,
    and lower prevalence of hypercholesterolemia.
    In addition, frequent consumption
    of eggs was associated with older age
    and more alcohol consumption in men
    and higher energy intake,…”

    Same old, same old.
    What was it? The smoking? the alcohol? The age? The higher energy intake?
    Observational study… Self reported data…
    And remember always: association doesn’t mean causation.
    And if you check the table 1 at
    you will see that cholseterol numbers for example are much lower for >7 eggs/week.

    Or to make it short: Bad science! Eat more eggs!

  41. Hi,

    I’m somewhat worried about the pregnancy diet study. Actually I am trying to conceive, 3 months ago my husbund and I changed my diet to Paleo.

    Now I see this study and even though I feel great, better than before, I’m not sure,how much credibility would you give it?

    I presume that perhaps there could be too little fat, and with that law calorie intake for a pregnant woman, perhaps that could be the case, opinions please!!!

    Thank you,

  42. Thanks for the replies! I thought as much, but you know, as this way of eating (WOE™ as in “woe to those who don’t eat this way) gains momentum it is inevitable that the vicious counter attacks designed to make the doubt monster rear it’s ugly head will increase. A sure sign you are on the right track!

    Unfortunately a lot of people without the intestinal fortitude (pun intended) will be swayed by the “studies”, and revert back to eating junk.

    Love the German expressions!


  43. Hi Paul,
    Speaking of fodmaps, I did a search for fructans and inulin and didn’t find anything on your blog. I was wondering how you felt about fructans/inulin in general. It seems to make a lot of people gassy (perhaps with or without dysbiosis?). Do you think these foods are worth the trouble for nutritional reasons (like cruciferous vegetables), or should we just avoid them for the most part if they cause indigestion?


  44. Hi Robin,

    I don’t know of any special benefit to them unavailable from other foods, so if they give you trouble I would avoid them.


    Q. What is Carrageenan??

    A. Carrageenan is a naturally-occurring seaweed extract. It is widely used in foods and non-foods to improve texture and stability. Common uses include meat and poultry, dairy products, canned pet food, cosmetics and toothpaste.
    Q. Why the controversy?
    A. Self-appointed consumer watchdogs have produced numerous web pages filled with words condemning carrageenan as an unsafe food additive for human consumption. However, in 70+ years of carrageenan being used in processed foods, not a single substantiated claim of an acute or chronic disease has been reported as arising from carrageenan consumption. On a more science-based footing, food regulatory agencies in the US, the EU, and in the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization (FAO/WHO) repeatedly review and continue to approve carrageenan as a safe food additive.
    Q. What has led up to this misrepresentation of the safety of an important food stabilizer, gelling agent and thickener?
    A. It clearly has to be attributed to the research of Dr. Joanne Tobacman, an Associate Prof at the University of Illinois in Chicago. She and a group of molecular biologists have accused carrageenan of being a potential inflammatory agent as a conclusion from laboratory experiments with cells of the digestive tract. It requires a lot of unproven assumptions to even suggest that consumption of carrageenan in the human diet causes inflammatory diseases of the digestive tract. The objectivity of the Chicago research is also flawed by the fact that Dr Tobacman has tried to have carrageenan declared an unsafe food additive on weak technical arguments that she broadcast widely a decade before the University of Chicago research began.
    Q. What brings poligeenan into a discussion of carrageenan?
    A. Poligeenan (“degraded carrageenan” in pre-1988 scientific and regulatory publications) is a possible carcinogen to humans; carrageenan is not. The only relationship between carrageenan and poligeenan is that the former is the starting material to make the latter. Poligeenan is not a component of carrageenan and cannot be produced in the digestive tract from carrageenan-containing foods.
    Q. What are the differences between poligeenan and carrageenan?
    A. The production process for poligeenan requires treating carrageenan with strong acid at high temp (about that of boiling water) for 6 hours or more. These severe processing conditions convert the long chains of carrageenan to much shorter ones: ten to one hundred times shorter. In scientific terms the molecular weight of poligeenan is 10,000 to 20,000; whereas that of carrageenan is 200,000 to 800,000. Concern has been raised about the amount of material in carrageenan with molecular weight less than 50,000. The actual amount (well under 1%) cannot even be detected accurately with current technology. Certainly it presents no threat to human health.
    Q. What is the importance of these molecular weight differences?
    A. Poligeenan contains a fraction of material low enough in molecular weight that it can penetrate the walls of the digestive tract and enter the blood stream. The molecular weight of carrageenan is high enough that this penetration is impossible. Animal feeding studies starting in the 1960s have demonstrated that once the low molecular weight fraction of poligeenan enters the blood stream in large enough amounts, pre-cancerous lesions begin to form. These lesions are not observed in animals fed with a food containing carrageenan.
    Q. Does carrageenan get absorbed in the digestive track?
    A. Carrageenan passes through the digestive system intact, much like food fiber. In fact, carrageenan is a combination of soluble and insoluble nutritional fiber, though its use level in foods is so low as not to be a significant source of fiber in the diet.
    Carrageenan has been proven completely safe for consumption. Poligeenan is not a component of carrageenan.
    Closing Remarks
    The consumer watchdogs with their blogs and websites would do far more service to consumers by researching their sources and present only what can be substantiated by good science. Unfortunately we are in an era of media frenzy that rewards controversy.
    Additional information available:
    On June 11th, 2008, Dr. Joanne Tobacman petitioned the FDA to revoke the current regulations permitting use of carrageenan as a food additive.
    On June 11th, 2012 the FDA denied her petition, categorically addressing and ultimately dismissing all of her claims; their rebuttal supported by the results of several in-depth, scientific studies.
    If you would like to read the full petition and FDA response, they can be accessed at!searchResults;rpp=25;po=0;s=FDA-2008-P-0347

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