Monthly Archives: November 2012 - Page 2

The Safe Starches Panel from AHS 2012

I discussed it in AHS 2012: The Safe Starches Panel, Aug 18, 2012. The Ancestral Health Symposium Facebook page gives this summary:

The Ancestral Health movement—often known as “paleo”—has generally favored low-carb dieting with an emphasis on vegetables and sugary fruits rather than starchy tubers, roots, and grains. In 2010, however, Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet with their Perfect Health Diet argued for an ancestral diet with more starchy plants than fruits and with a moderate carb intake; they popularized the term “safe starches” to describe starches that are low in toxins after cooking, such as white potatoes and white rice. This panel brings together Dr. Ron Rosedale, author of The Rosedale Diet; Dr. Cate Shanahan, author of Deep Nutrition; Chris Kresser, blogger at and integrative medicine practitioner; and Paul Jaminet to extend a discussion initiated on Jimmy Moore’s Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb blog. The issues: What is healthier – low-carb or moderate-carb? sugary fruits or starchy tubers?

Here’s the video:

Safe Starches: Are they Essential to an Ancestral Diet? — 2nd annual Ancestral Health Symposium 2012 (AHS12). from Ancestral Health Society on Vimeo.

Chocolate: What is the Optimal Dose?

Bret asked us how much chocolate is needed for good health:

I have a question about having dark chocolate daily. Does it need to be every day or what is the mininum grams per day. I have been having around 35g a day of 70% but I wondered if less would be ok or not having it at all.

This is a great time for this question, since Halloween candy will be running out soon, and those on tight budgets may be tempted to skimp on their chocolate. Should they?

Chocolate Is Not Considered Essential … Yet

Chocolate has not yet been recognized by the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academies as an essential nutrient. We haven’t either: Our food plate lists it among “pleasure foods,” which are healthful but optional.

However, we are becoming ever-more chocolate friendly. In the new edition of our book, we list chocolate among our “supplemental foods” which we recommend consuming regularly. But our suggested dose is “as desired.” Perhaps we should narrow that down a little.

Chocolate Against Cardiovascular Disease

We’ve previously warned of the danger of chocolate deficiency, based on a systematic review that found: “The highest levels of chocolate consumption were associated with a 37% reduction in cardiovascular disease and a 29% reduction in stroke.” [1]

Here’s a visual summary of their findings:

The review authors report that every study accounted for chocolate intake in a different way, so they could only compare the groups with highest and lowest chocolate consumption in each study, not specific doses of chocolate.

Chocolate Against Diabetes

Bret was concerned about the sugar in chocolate, but if this is a problem, it’s outweighed by the benefits of chocolate. A Japanese study found that the rate of diabetes was reduced by 30% in those who consume the most chocolate. [2]

Chocolate Against Dementia and In Support of Cognitive Function

Several studies [3, 4] have found that chocolate consumption reduces risk of dementia and enhances performance on tests of cognitive function.

One of them found that cognitive function was optimized with a relatively low dose of chocolate – ten grams per day:

The associations between intake of these foodstuffs and cognition were dose dependent, with maximum effect at intakes of approximately 10 g/d for chocolate and approximately 75-100 mL/d for wine, but approximately linear for tea. [3]

The other found that cognition improved with intake of cocoa flavanols up to quite high doses – elderly given 1 g/day cocoa flavanols performed significantly better on cognitive tests than those given lower doses. [4]

Unfortunately I don’t know what fraction of chocolate is made of flavanols. I’m guessing it’s not more than a few percent, in which case this research suggests the optimal dose of chocolate may be 50 g/day or more.

Chocolate in Support of Circadian Rhythms

Most authors attribute the benefits of chocolate to their flavanols, which are thought to improve endothelial function and increase blood flow to the brain, among other effects.

However, there are other active compounds in chocolate, include peptides that interact with the opioid receptor. The opioid receptor has a role in circadian rhythms, which is one reason low-dose naltrexone (which blocks opioid function at night) works. It’s possible that eating chocolate during the day may support circadian rhythms via opioid receptor stimulation, especially if the peptides can reach the systemic circulation.

Indirect evidence that this may be beneficial comes from a Russian study in which exorphins (opioid receptor ligands) were injected into rats:

The chronic intraperitoneal administration of the peptide at the same dose of 5 mg/kg significantly increased exploratory activity, decreased anxiety, and improved learning. [5]

I don’t know how much chocolate would have to be eaten to achieve a similar exorphin dose in humans, but I imagine it’s large.

Chocolate in Support of Nobel Prizes

So how shall we resolve the issue of optimal chocolate dose? For me, the decisive evidence comes from a recent study by Franz Messerli published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Based on chocolate’s support for cognitive function, he decided to see if chocolate consumption was related to another measure of cognition – Nobel Prize awards per capita. He counted Nobel Prizes and compared them to the recipient’s country’s chocolate consumption. These were his findings [6]:

There is clearly a strong correlation. The correlation coefficient is .79; p < 0.0001.

The correlation coefficient if Sweden is removed increases to .86 – which is suspicious:

Given its per capita chocolate consumption of 6.4 kg per year, we would predict that Sweden should have produced a total of about 14 Nobel laureates, yet we observe 32. Considering that in this instance the observed number exceeds the expected number by a factor of more than 2, one cannot quite escape the notion that either the Nobel Committee in Stockholm has some inherent patriotic bias when assessing the candidates for these awards or, perhaps, that the Swedes are particularly sensitive to chocolate, and even minuscule amounts greatly enhance their cognition. [6]

Those dastardly Swedes! Giving themselves more Nobel Prizes than their chocolate consumption warrants!

But I apologize, I’ve been diverted. The key point is, is there an optimum chocolate consumption?

the dose–response curve reveals no apparent ceiling on the number of Nobel laureates at the highest chocolate-dose level of 11 kg per year. [6]

11 kg/yr is an average of 30 g/day. So benefits are still increasing at that dose.

Of course, this was only a population level study. We still need to measure the doses in individual laureates to gain confidence. But anecdotally, there appears to be a correlation:

“I attribute essentially all my success to the very large amount of chocolate that I consume,” said Eric Cornell, an American physicist who received the Nobel Prize in 2001. “Personally I feel that milk chocolate makes you stupid. Now dark chocolate is the way to go. It’s one thing if you want like a medicine or chemistry Nobel Prize…but if you want a physics Nobel Prize it pretty much has got to be dark chocolate.”

Dark chocolate is, indeed, the PHD-approved form of this highly beneficial food.


This dose-response data might not be strong enough to define an RDA, but I’m going to take a stand: Bret’s intake of 35 g/day is healthy. Indeed, it’s right in line with the Nobel Prize-maximizing chocolate intake of the Swiss.

In regard to your last question, Bret – can you eat less chocolate, or none at all – the answer is clear. Yes, you can. But you must accept the consequences. You probably won’t be winning the next Nobel Prize for Physics.


[1] Buitrago-Lopez A et al. Chocolate consumption and cardiometabolic disorders: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ. 2011 Aug 26;343:d4488. doi: 10.1136/bmj.d4488.

[2] Oba S et al. Consumption of coffee, green tea, oolong tea, black tea, chocolate snacks and the caffeine content in relation to risk of diabetes in Japanese men and women. Br J Nutr. 2010 Feb;103(3):453-9.

[3] Nurk E et al. Intake of flavonoid-rich wine, tea, and chocolate by elderly men and women is associated with better cognitive test performance. J Nutr. 2009 Jan;139(1):120-7.

[4] Desideri G et al. Benefits in cognitive function, blood pressure, and insulin resistance through cocoa flavanol consumption in elderly subjects with mild cognitive impairment: the Cocoa, Cognition, and Aging (CoCoA) study. Hypertension. 2012 Sep;60(3):794-801.

[5] Belyaeva YA et al. Effects of acute and chronic administration of exorphin C on behavior and learning in white rat pups. Moscow University Biological Sciences Bulletin Volume 64, Number 2 (2009), 66-70, DOI: 10.3103/S0096392509020035.

[6] Messerli FH. Chocolate consumption, cognitive function, and Nobel laureates. N Engl J Med. 2012 Oct 18;367(16):1562-4. doi: 10.1056/NEJMon1211064. Epub 2012 Oct 10.

PaleoFX, AHS, and Building Institutions

The next year could be huge for the ancestral health movement. We have a chance to leap into the mainstream. Shou-Ching and I will certainly be working hard to bring that about. A lot of other people are working hard at it, too.

In order to accomplish this, we have to work together, and to do that it’s extremely important to meet. That’s why I’m very excited about the two big ancestral health gatherings: PaleoFX and the Ancestral Health Symposium. Both have made announcements this week.

PaleoFX: Make Plans Now

PaleoFX will be held March 28-30 in Austin, Texas. March 30 is my birthday and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than with lots of Paleo friends.

PaleoFX is a terrific event. The 2013 speakers include Mat Lalonde, Sarah Fragoso, Nora Gedgaudas, Kelly Starrett, Diane Sanfilippo, Jimmy Moore, Nell Stephenson, Cate Shanahan, Abel James, Emily Deans, Michelle Tam, and many more, including rising young stars like Dan Pardi of Dan’s Plan.

PaleoFX has strong fitness and food components, as you would expect given the backgrounds of Michelle and Keith Norris of Ancestral Momentum. Fitness sessions and cooking demos run alongside the talks, so PaleoFX is a great opportunity to improve body and spirit as well as mind.

It will be in a new location, the scenic Palmer Events Center, which unfortunately has space limitations placing a strict limit on the number of tickets that can be sold. PaleoFX 2013 is expected to sell out early, so it’s a good idea to make plans soon.

PaleoFX is offering a special deal on tickets purchased by December 1: you’ll be automatically entered in a contest to win access to a VIP dinner with speakers or a full refund of the PaleoFX ticket cost. Visit to register for PaleoFX 2013.

Ancestral Health Society: Calling for Volunteers

The Ancestral Health Society has released a call for volunteers to help with the Ancestral Health Symposium 2013.

AHS 2013 will be held in Atlanta, Georgia on August 15-17. Right now the Society is looking for volunteers for the following positions:

  • Program Chair and Committee – invite presentation proposals, choose speakers, and craft the program schedule.
  • Public Relations Committee – help make the event successful.
  • Social Chair and Committee – arrange the parties!
  • Registration Chair.
  • Volunteer Chair.

If you’re interested, please let the Society know.

Building Institutions

At AHS 2012, I volunteered to help the Ancestral Health Society create a scholarly and clinical journal, the Journal of Evolution and Health. We’re currently choosing a publishing platform and solving technical issues; the editorial process is expected to begin in the new year.

We believe that this journal can bring scholarly, clinical, and popular communities together. The many health success stories that have appeared on Paleo/Primal/PHD blogs are strong evidence for the effectiveness of ancestral approaches to health. The journal will provide a forum to assemble evidence systematically and communicate it to a broader audience.

I know of a number of other promising initiatives underway in the community to bring ancestral health to the general public. Many, I’m sure, will bear fruit.

For our part, we’re hopeful that the new edition of our book can help the movement become more popular. We believe our diet is well-grounded scientifically, effective at healing, delicious to eat, and, because it supports gluten-free safe starches, easy for most people to adopt and maintain.

In the spirit of teamwork, we would like to introduce our readers to other worthy members of the ancestral health community. Toward that end, I would like to add a few “resource” pages to the site:

–          Food sites. A lot of great food bloggers post PHD-compatible recipes. Some of my favorites: Hilary Finch Hutler’s TummyRumblr; Russ Crandall’s The Domestic Man; Josephine and Henry Svendblad’s Nutty Kitchen; and Francesca, “The Italian Paleo,” at Francesca Eats. I’m sure there are other great food bloggers that should be on this list. All of them deserve more attention.

–          Healers. We often get emails from readers asking if we know of doctors, nutritionists, or alternative medicine practitioners in their area who are familiar with PHD and supportive of integrating modern medicine with natural, ancestral approaches to healing. Usually we don’t. Assembling a list of PHD-friendly healers would let us give a better answer.

If you’d like to be listed on one of these resource pages, please send me an email: pauljaminet at perfecthealthdiet dot com.

I have ulterior motives for discovering PHD-friendly foodists and healers. Identifying allies-in-spirit is the first step toward working together. For example, as the journal gets going, we will want to publish clinical case reports; to do so, the editors will need to be in contact with healers. There may be other opportunities. I organized a panel at AHS 2012 on “New Technologies, New Opportunities” to discuss how the ancestral community can take advantage of software technologies that are enabling new forms of collaboration, information sharing, and mutual aid. I don’t have anything definite in mind – yet – but I think there are opportunities to do a better job of bringing great food and ancestral healing to a broad public.


It’s an exciting time in the ancestral health movement. The community is growing fast, but is still small enough that it’s possible to know most of the players personally. If you’d like to be involved, there are many opportunities. Please consider getting involved!