Monthly Archives: December 2011 - Page 3

Around the Web; ‘Tis the Season of Reward

I hope you’re all enjoying a festive holiday season!

I’d like to thank those who are buying the ebook edition. As I write this, our rank in the Kindle store is #4 in Nutrition and #7 in Diet.

[1] Israel the Birthplace of Humanity? Friend-of-the-blog Miki Ben-Dor has a new paper in PLoS ONE, “Man the Fat Hunter: The Demise of Homo erectus and the Emergence of a New Hominin Lineage in the Middle Pleistocene (ca. 400 kyr) Levant.”

The paper take notes of a few facts:

  • Elephants disappeared from the Levant c. 400,000 years ago.
  • This disappearance coincided with the appearance of a new cultural complex – the Acheulo-Yabrudian.
  • Teeth and other evidence from Qesem Cave in Israel suggests that the hominins of the Levantine Acheulo-Yabrudian more closely resembled the Homo sapiens who appeared in Africa c. 200,000 years ago than did the Africans of 400,000 years ago.

This is very interesting for several reasons, but one of them is that genetic evidence shows that the divergence time for Homo sapiens, Neanderthals, and Denisovans was close to or shortly before this time.

Disappearance of big-game species, such as elephants, often occurs during demographic expansions of humans utilizing new and more sophisticated technologies. Examples include the mass extinctions c. 45,000 years ago in Australia and 13,000 years ago in the Americas.

A plausible inference is that the Sapiens-Neanderthal-Denisovan common ancestor may have evolved in the Middle East c. 400 to 500 kya and initiated a demographic expansion which populated Eurasia with big game hunting Neanderthals and Denisovans and admixed with the large existing hominin population in Africa to create Homo sapiens.

The paper augments our understanding of Paleolithic diets with evidence that hunting of game for fat has been an important human activity for 1,800,000 years, with hunting skills adequate to eliminate major species by 400,000 years ago.

Congratulations, Miki!

[2] Music to Read By:

[3] Food Reward Hits Prime Time: 60 Minutes did a fascinating report, “The Flavorists,” on how the food company Givaudin makes industrial food enticing:

Some interesting aspects to me:

  • “The greatest flavorist of all: Mother Nature.” Flavorists go into orchards and fields, because natural flavors are the most pleasing.
  • Flavorists resemble nothing more than wine connoisseurs. They seek “a symphony of taste”: complexes of pleasant, interesting flavors. “Carrot on top of kumquat … really exciting.”
  • Flavorists find flavors in the oddest places. A commercial “natural flavoring” that tastes like raspberry and vanilla? Castoreum, which beavers secrete in urine to mark their territory.

As so often when looking at the modern world, I see corruption but the potential for good. These pleasing flavors are now being used to conceal toxic, malnourishing food. But the same techniques could be used to make healthful, nourishing food even more pleasurable.

Is there anything positive to say about “Gourmet Paleo” – delicious, complex flavors in Paleo foods? I think so. But don’t look for Castoreum in our cookbook!

[4] Interesting Posts This Week:

First, congratulations to Robb Wolf who’s in a new den and has a cub on the way!

Stephan Guyenet comments on the 60 Minutes piece: “hyperpalatable and hyper-rewarding products that drive our reward circuits beyond what they are adapted to constructively handle … contribute to obesity.” In the comments, Todd Hargrove declares “gourmet Paleo” a contradiction in terms; I disagree. Oddly enough, I wrote a comment on food reward this week.

FuelRestMotion ran a poll on Twitter, Mark’s Daily Apple, and other forums. 50% of respondents said their Paleo diet includes white rice. No word on what fraction include Castoreum.

Via Stabby, Sean Croxton of Underground Wellness interviews Morley Robbins. The interesting part runs from 18:30 to 21:30: Robbins recounts a dinner between Fred Kummerow, a researcher who identified trans-fats as a cause of disease, and Ancel Keys, the enemy of cholesterol and saturated fat. When Kummerow asked Keys why he chose to eat a large fatty steak, Keys gave a startling answer.

Dr. Kummerow has long been a friend of the Weston A Price Foundation, and I believe Chris Masterjohn may soon be following in Dr. Kummerow’s footsteps at the University of Illinois’s Burnsides Research Laboratory in food chemistry.

Norway has run out of butter. Hide the cows, !

Emily Deans is better than Freud at developing a grand unified theory of psychiatry. I hear she’s working on some blockbuster books: Food and Its Discontents. Five Lectures on Food-Analysis. The Interpretation of Food. And the one I’m looking forward to, Beyond the Food Reward Principle.

The Weston A Price Foundation has a set of beginner videos online.

At PaleoHacks, nominations are being taken for the “Paleo Academy Awards.” Voting will start Dec. 16.

Mark Sisson comes in at #26 and Robb Wolf at #35 in’s 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness. They beat out Rachel Ray (#38), Dr Sanjay Gupta (#52), Michelle Obama (#55), Gary Taubes (#56), Dean Ornish (#63), and the Dalai Lama (#87). Heading the list were Jillian Michaels and Bob Harper, trainers on The Biggest Loser.

Dr Ralph Cinque comments on the safe starches debate. “And what about Dr. Kempner at the Rice House at Duke University? For decades, he put diabetics on a diet of rice and fruit to correct their diabetic condition, and he often got them off medication. How did that happen? Well, they dropped so much weight, and I mean fat-weight, that their insulin resistance went away, and so did their diabetes.”

Dave Asprey, the Bulletproof Executive, interviews Mary Newport.

Robert Kurzban of the Evolutionary Psychology blog reports that when it comes to neonates, a few minutes can matter. Babies whose umbilical cords were severed 3 minutes after birth were healthier at age 4 months than babies whose umbilical cords were severed in the first ten seconds after birth.

Dr BG shared her interesting personal story with Jimmy Moore:

What helped me after multiple episodes of adrenal fatigue including one after moving to Shanghai, China was a high carb (150-200 g/day) non-paleo ‘adrenal reset’ modeled by Diana Schwarzbein MD in her book ‘The Schwarzbein Principle II’.

It worked….

Recently I returned to a stable LC (paleo) + rice + workouts (which worked for my initial 50 lbs fat loss; 50-100 grams carbs/day) and lost a few kilograms in the last month and half.

Lucas Tafur thinks we may be able to adjust the subcutaneous to visceral fat ratio with diet.

Chris Highcock reports that static stretching can create new fat cells.

Stephanie at Midlife Makeover Year finds the H.A.L.T approach for terminating an eating binge.

When you have the urge to binge, ask yourself if you are actually Hungry.  If the answer is no, check in to see if you are Anxious, Lonely, or Tired.  Any of those three can trigger the urge to fill up on food in a mindless binge, and any of those can be dealt with in more effective, healthy ways.  Awareness of what is triggering an impulse to binge might just head it off.

Popular Mechanics looks at Quantified Self tools.

If you’ve never seen the “Paleo Before and After” thread on PaleoHacks, it’s impressive.

John Hawks links to two reports on the fall of the (potentially fraudulent) hypothesis that XMRV causes chronic fatigue: John Timmer and Abbie Smith.

Jamie Scott, That Paleo Guy, looks up the official National Academy of Sciences recommendation for carbohydrate intake: 130 g/day, or 520 calories, right in the Perfect Health Diet safe zone and well below most people’s intake.

[5] Cute animal:

Via Yves Smith.

[6] Would you like arsenic with your rice?:   A PNAS study finds arsenic in rice, and Jimmy Moore takes it as a reason to avoid rice.

This follows on the heels of other studies measuring arsenic levels in food and beverages. Recently, Dr Michael Greger did a video on Arsenic in Chicken, and The Dr. Oz Show and Consumer Reports reported on high levels of arsenic in fruit juices.

The PNAS study doesn’t finger only rice: in fact anything that contains water has arsenic, and study subjects got three times more arsenic from drinking water than from rice:

Arsenic exposure through tap water and rice consumption explained 12% and 4%, respectively, of the variability in total urinary arsenic.

Rice grown in the United States has more arsenic than rice grown in Thailand or India. The reason, according to a paper in Environmental Health Perspectives, is that 19th century cotton farmers used arsenic-based pesticides to control boll weevils, and the arsenic remains in land that now grows rice.

Dartmouth professor Tracy Punshon notes that “brown rice contains higher levels of arsenic than white rice, because arsenic concentrates in the outer layer of rice bran.” So stick to white rice.

Dr. Punshon doesn’t go as far as Jimmy:

“We don’t want to stop people from eating rice, because a rice-based, sort-of Asian diet is much better for your overall health than, say, eating McDonald’s and fries every day,” says Punshon, who has tested different varieties of rice for arsenic….

“We don’t want to scare people off rice,” Punshon says. “It’s still a healthy food.”

Of course, the toxicity of arsenic depends on the dose. Rice accounted for 4% of dietary arsenic in the New Hampshire subjects, and eating a low-carb diet with white rather than brown rice are two steps that will help keep arsenic intake down.

As always, it’s good to remember the rule “Eat Paleo, not toxic”: diversification of plant food sources will help keep toxin levels down. That’s true even for safe starches.

[7] Niko Tinbergen on Food Reward: For Herring gulls, it’s the red stripes that do it:

Scientist Niko Tinbergen discovered that Herring gull chicks habitually tap the red-striped beak of their mother to be fed. He further realized that the tapping response of the chicks could be triggered without any beak at all.

In place of the beak, the chicks responded to a yellow colored stick with a red strip painted on its side. Further, if the number of stripes were increased, from one strip to three stripes, the chick’s enthusiasm for tapping the stick and demanding food increased proportionally.

[8] Maimonides on Food Reward: From “Concerning the Diseases of the Soul” (hat tip: Herb):

To those who are physically sick, the bitter tastes sweet and the sweet bitter. Some of the sick even desire and crave that which is not fit to eat, such as earth and charcoal, and hate healthful foods, such as bread and meat – all depending on how serious the sickness is.

To me this is evidence for how sophisticated the food reward system is. Bitter foods are rich in antimicrobial compounds; charcoal and clay help clear toxins; sugars feed bacteria; fasting and ketosis can be therapeutic. Sickness might well lead us to seek bitter foods and avoid sweets, if our food reward system is working properly.

[9] Don’t frustrate your food reward system!: Deceiving it with sweet-tasting but calorie-less beverages might cause weight gain. Sort of a reverse Shangri-La Diet effect.

[10] Watch out, you may find this anti-migraine food hyper-rewarding: Reader Sharon McAllister wrote to tell us that our diet had helped her migraines:

Before the Perfect Health Diet, I was getting migraines almost every day.  I was on a low-fat, high fiber diet which is, necessarily a high carbohydrate diet.  I ate lots of legumes, lots of whole grains, and lots of fruits and vegetables.  I also ate low-fat and non-fat dairy.  As you can see, the only good thing in my diet was the vegetables.  I was on this diet for about 4 years.  My bowels were regular for the first time in my life, and it did feel good to not always be constipated.  I believed I was doing all the right things.  I now know that slowly over time toxins were building up in my system.  Eventually, I realized that immediately after eating a meal (a meal that I thought was superfood healthy), I got a migraine before I could even get up from the table.  I couldn’t understand it!  I began to research, and by the grace of God, I found your diet and immediately purchased your book.  I have many migraine triggers, so they are not completely gone, but the frequency and intensity have reduced substantially.  My doctor has put me on several different maintenance drugs over the years that were suppose to reduce the frequency and intensity of my migraines, but none of them worked at all.  Your diet has done far more than anything else I’ve tried.  I am still hoping that one day I will be migraine free, but with my hormone related migraines, it will probably not be until after menopause.  I’m 48 years old though, so maybe not too much longer to wait.  My adult niece has also been a migraine sufferer for years and she is now on your diet, and it is working great for her too.  We both owe you a great deal of thanks!

Sharon also found that something called Choffy helped, and is now a distributor of Choffy. Choffy is cocoa beans roasted like coffee beans and then ground and brewed like coffee, to make a chocolate drink with a hint of roasted bean.

Sharon sent us a sample. I’m surprised it wasn’t mentioned on 60 Minutes, the Flavorists would love it.

For more see Sharon’s blog:

[11] Comment of the Week:

Christian rebuts the “Lipid Hypothesis of the mollusk world”: it is, in fact, OK to eat mussels that don’t open during cooking.

[12] Not the Weekly Video:

Aetiology advises that it’s risky to castrate lambs – with your teeth. She has video demonstrating what NOT to do:

[13] Shou-Ching’s Photo Art:

[14] Weekly Video: Dr. Michael Evans explains what health step has the biggest return on investment:

Via Chris Highcock and Todd Hargrove.

Kindle and Nook Available, Others Soon

I’m happy to announce that ebook editions are or soon will be available:

  • The Kindle version is available, here. It should be linked to the print version sometime this weekend.
  • The Nook version is available here.

I’ll work on publishing to other platforms next week. By the way, these are in color, so if you have Kindle Fire or Nook Color you’ll see the natural colors.

I’d like to thank reader Jason Voegele who did the ebook formatting. Great job, Jason! If you are looking for an ebook formatter, please check out Jason’s site:

My apologies to all those who have been waiting so long for the ebooks.  Merry Christmas!

Pork Spare Ribs

The holidays are a great time for finger-food. There must be a reason why pigs have ribs: I think it was so that our fingers could hold that fatty rib meat at Christmas.

Our recipe for Pork Spare Ribs is essentially the same as the one for Chicken Wings (Sep 19, 2011) – another great recipe for buffet-style family gatherings. It goes like this.

Preparing the Spare Ribs

A rack of spare ribs looks like this:

Use a pair of kitchen shears or scissors to cut between the rib bones:

Wash the ribs and pat them dry. Just as in the Chicken Wings recipe, put ¼ cup potato starch in a plastic bag with salt and pepper, and shake the dried ribs until they’re evenly coated.

Lay them out in an oven-safe baking dish:

Cook for 20 minutes at 350ºF (177ºC), then turn the ribs over and cook for another 20 minutes. They’ll come out like this:

Preparing the Sauce

Many flavors of sauce are possible. The Chicken Wings post discusses Garlic, Parmesan and Mustard Sauce; Buffalo Style Spicy Sauce; and Pacific Sweet and Sour Sauce. Here’s a fourth sauce, an Asian style sauce.

Heat diced garlic, ginger, and scallions in a bit of beef tallow or other healthy cooking oil. Cook the garlic and ginger first for 2 minutes at medium heat, then add scallions:

Quickly add the premixed wet ingredients: 2 tbsp rice vinegar, 1 tbsp brown rice syrup, 1 tsp gluten-free soy sauce, and salt and pepper to taste. (Don’t substitute other vinegars for the rice vinegar.) Then mix in the cooked ribs and stir until they’re thoroughly coated.

Set them on a serving plate:

Here are ribs made with Garlic, Parmesan and Mustard sauce:

Here are ribs made with Buffalo Style Spicy Sauce:


Around the Web; Revisiting Green Meadows Farm

A few months ago we toured Green Meadows Farm; I wrote about it here. Tomorrow, Shou-Ching and I will be there at 3 pm for a casual talk, Q&A session, and book signing. We’ll discuss what evolution tells us about the optimal diet, and the PHD food plate; but mostly we’ll just be chatting with whoever shows up. Green Meadows Farm also has a great farmstand where you can buy organic food of all kinds.

Green Meadows Farm is located at 656 Asbury Street, South Hamilton, MA. Directions are available on their web site.

Also, Jimmy Moore has just informed me that I was voted #4 guest of the year by Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb readers and will be back for “Encore Week” in January. Thanks, LLVLC fans! I’m excited to talk to Jimmy again, this will be a fun interview.

Sometime this month we’re also going to put together a 7-day meal plan for anyone who wants to try our diet for weight loss. But Jay Wright beat us to the punch, sharing the meals that helped him lose 80 pounds in less than eight months.

[1] Music to read by: From Enya:

[2] Interesting posts this week:

Pal Jabekk explores what happens when you can’t utilize glycogen.

The possibility that XMRV, a new human retrovirus, might cause chronic fatigue syndrome has degenerated into a fiasco. Judy Miskovitz, the principal investigator, has been dismissed from the Whittemore Peterson Institute and arrested on charges of stealing her research notes, which WPI claims belong to them. Dr. Jamie Deckoff-Jones, a chronic fatigue sufferer herself, offers her view of the affair.

Emily Deans discusses mitochondrial dysfunction and depression.

NPR notes that the innate food reward system drives kids to eat more carbs than adults. No surprise there: breast milk is 40% carbs, and we know that’s optimal for infants; the optimum for adults is probably significantly lower.

Stephan Guyenet summarizes some new review papers on the food reward theory of obesity. Dr. Srdjan Ostric comments on the role of food reward in obesity.

Jamie Scott, That Paleo Guy, comments on the circadian variability of sun damage risk. What’s the best time of day to go to the beach?

Canadian political philosopher Colin Farrelly quotes Leonard Hayflick in Nature writing that “Prehistoric human remains have never revealed individuals older than about 50 years of age.” Can this be true? Can bones reveal the age of death so precisely?

The New York Times reports that exercise improves memory.

Seth Roberts reports on a rat who favors pate, salmon sashimi, and scrambled eggs. What a lucky rat!

Japan Times reports on Japanese research indicating that beef and pork consumption is associated with colon cancer risk.

Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause skin lesions.

Dienekes points out that African-Americans are losing the genes that give Africans resistance to malaria.

Dr Briffa reports that low-carb diets look good for cancer patients.

Barry Sears discusses how contestants on “The Biggest Loser” eat.

Wired asks if the obesity epidemic could be due in part to over-use of antibiotics.

Cheeseslave reports that intermittent fasting gave her insomnia and belly fat, perhaps because fasting led her to drink alcohol, and alcohol can induce zinc and magnesium deficiencies.

Steph at Midlife Makeover Year found that eliminating fructose, even from fruit, eliminated her eczema.

Dr David Brownstein argues that the optimal sodium intake is 4 to 6 g/day (1.8 to 2.7 tsp salt).

USA Today reports benefits from a ketogenic diet for Parkinson’s patients.

More pregnancies, more health? Reason at FightAging! reports that fetal stem cells can repair the mother during pregnancy.

[3] Cute animals: Odd couple:

Via Yves Smith.

[4] Me and the GAPS Diet at Wise Traditions: Foot in mouth disease?

Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, originator of the Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) diet, has done a tremendous job refining the Specific Carbohydrate Diet and helping a number of people recover from gut dysbiosis. She is also one of the most popular speakers at the Weston A Price Foundation Wise Traditions conferences – deservedly so, from what I was able to see of her talk.

There was a lot of interest among the Wise Traditions attendees in what I thought of GAPS. Many people came up to me to ask about it, and the first question posed in the question and answer session asked what I thought of GAPS. I tried to make the point that there are many pathogens that can afflict the gut and, while GAPS is great for many gut disorders, no single dietary prescription is going to be perfect for all of them. The GAPS prescription of eschewing starches and obtaining carbs from sugary sources like honey is one of those prescriptions: often beneficial in gut disorders, but not always.

A few PHD readers, whose cases are listed on our “Results” page (see Angie and Bella), had trouble on GAPS and were able to fix their problems by adding starches. I suspect their diets had been ketogenic without starches and the ketones were feeding eukaryotic infections; adding starches eliminated the ketone production and helped them overcome the infections.

Apparently I gave the impression – no doubt I mis-spoke in some fashion – that I thought GAPS was a ketogenic diet. Dr. Tom Cowan spoke to me about it soon afterward. Dr. Judy Tsafrir, who uses the GAPS diet in her psychiatry practice, heard about the episode and wrote about it. I wrote a comment on Judy’s post clarifying my perspective.

I’d like to reprint that comment here, so that my attitude toward GAPS can be placed more prominently into the public record. I have the utmost respect for GAPS; with lore derived both from the Specific Carbohydrate Diet and from years of clinical experience by Dr. Campbell-McBride herself and other nutritionists, it is arguably the leading methodology available today for dealing with gut dysbiosis.

Here is my comment from Judy’s site:

Hi Judy,

A few clarifications. It is not starches per se that are protective of the gut, but glucose; this is needed for mucus production, for preservation of the intestinal barrier, and for immune function. It is possible in very low-carb diets, especially if protein intake is limited, to significantly reduce mucus production and impair the integrity of the gut mucosa and barrier.

Both starches and sugars (such as are found in honey, squash, and carrots) are possible sources of glucose. In cases of gut dysbiosis, one wants to avoid foods that feed pathogens. Both starches and sugars can do this.

Some pathogens benefit from fructose, and fructose malabsorption is very common in bowel diseases.

Many pathogens can also benefit from resistant starch, or the branched structures in starch that humans cannot digest. Starchy foods tend to be fiber rich. As such, they are often problematic in bowel disorders.

I often recommend dextrose or rice syrup, which is readily digestible to glucose only, for bowel disorders. This seems to be the safest glucose source.

There is such a diversity of pathogens in bowel diseases, that no single dietary prescription is universally safe. Zero-carb diets are potentially problematic due to glucose deficiency or ketosis that favors certain pathogens; and for any given carb source, there is a pathogen that can flourish on it.

GAPS came up in my talk in response to a question someone asked. I had recently had two people on GAPS diets report that when they added starches, in line with our recommendations, their health improved and they were able to clear lingering gut problems, including fungal infections. Of course I have no idea how faithfully they were following Dr Campbell-McBride’s recommendations; but I think their cases illustrate the points you make in your final two paragraphs. Every pathology is unique, and diets have to be tailored to individual needs.

I am not quite sure what I said, since this was extemporaneous and I haven’t watched the video, but the symptoms those two readers had were ones that tend to develop on ketogenic diets. If they were excluding fructose because it gave them gut symptoms, then their diet could easily have become ketogenic. I do not think that GAPS is ketogenic in general, but in at least those two cases its attempted application seems to have been so.

I have the utmost respect for Dr Campbell-McBride and I am well aware of the many people her diet has helped. I hope no one thinks that I was in any way denigrating her diet or her very valuable work. I was able to attend part of her talk at Wise Traditions and thought it was the most valuable talk I saw at the conference.

Best, Paul

[5] Interesting comments this week:

[6] Not the Weekly Video: Samsung introduces a new sport: “Extreme Shepherding”

[7] Shou-Ching’s Photo-Art:

[8] Weekly Video: Dr Terry Wahls treats her multiple sclerosis effectively with a high-vegetable Paleo-type diet: