Monthly Archives: November 2013

An Ancestral Food Summit Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Joe Salama and Karen Pendergrass have organized a telesummit, the Ancestral Food Summit, to benefit the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund. The summit features video interviews, recorded at the Ancestral Health Symposium in August, with:

  • Robb Wolf
  • Chris Kresser
  • Chris Masterjohn
  • Terry Wahls, M.D.
  • Paul Jaminet
  • Jimmy Moore
  • Keith Norris
  • Darryl Edwards
  • Dr. Shauna Young
  • David Pendergrass
  • Sally Fallon Morell
  • Jordan Reasoner
  • Kendall Kendrick

Here’s the preview video:

For more information about how to obtain the summit and support the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, click on the image:


October-November at the Perfect Health Retreat

We’ve had another great set of health results at the Perfect Health Retreat. For me, the recent Retreats were fascinating because we faced some new health issues: chronic fatigue, disrupted sleep, and impaired mood. I’m pleased to say these conditions responded very well to PHD.

This round was especially fun because we were graced by special guests:

Before I get into the results, I want to say that if you’ve been considering trying the Retreat, I would encourage you to call me at 617-576-1753 or email me at

Retreat participants in October and early November who agreed to share their results include:

  • Rosie Perera, concerned about chronic fatigue, disrupted sleep, and weight;
  • Dr. Herb and Peggy Mandell, coming for general health and to learn about PHD;

Another October Retreat participant has chosen to continue on at the Retreat and so we’ll discuss her results later. We also enjoyed a visit from Katherine Watkins, a future lifestyle and health coach – expect to hear a lot from her in the future, she’s a dynamic and exciting person. Katherine began a retreat in November and will complete it in the new year.

Here are results from Rosie P and the Mandells.

Rosie Perera

Here’s a picture of Rosie:

Rosie P

And here’s her summary of results (my emphasis):

The results I experienced from 26 days at the Perfect Health Retreat were nothing short of miraculous. I had been struggling with chronic fatigue for probably a decade or more. I’d been gaining 5-10 pounds a year and was up to 240 pounds at my heaviest. My sleep cycle was chaotic. I was tired so much of the time that when I did get a burst of energy (usually late at night) I’d often stay up all night at the computer to try to be productive. But then I’d sleep through the entire next day. And some days I’d force myself to function on only 2-3 hours of sleep. I was keeping myself going with Diet Coke, drinking up to 2 liters or more a day. I had been told by my doctor that I was pre-diabetic, my triglycerides and bad cholesterol were too high, my good cholesterol and Vitamin D were too low, and several hormones were out of whack.

In February I quit Diet Coke and cut wheat out of my diet, and the weight started coming off. But I was still feeling lethargic all the time. Then I found out about the PHD and started trying to implement it at home, having made the decision to go down to Albert Oaks for the retreat for the month of October. Within 3 days after arriving, I was going to bed by 11 or so and waking up at around 7:30 every morning, feeling well-rested, feeling like going out for a jog! (I’d always hated jogging before, but Paul, you inspired me and I’ve really enjoyed jogging in those Vibram Five Fingers shoes.) By the end of the month, my energy level throughout the day was back to about 80% of what it had been when I was at peak health in the past. I’d lost another 11 pounds, for a total of 30 since February. My triglycerides were back in the normal range and all my other biomarkers were moving in the right direction, or at least unchanged.

I’ve been able to keep up the healthy sleep habits since returning home, with the help of modified lighting and blue-blocking goggles. I’m still working on integrating everything I learned about healthy eating and exercise into my life. I no longer feel that it’s an uphill battle like it always used to be. I never had enough energy to get enough exercise or cook healthy meals for myself, but that is no longer the case. There’s certainly more work to do, but I am confident that with just a little tweaking here and there, I can continue the positive journey towards full health.

The Perfect Health Retreat was my 50th birthday present to myself, and it has turned out to be the best investment I’ve ever made in the rest of my life. I’ve heard the expression that “Life begins at 50.” Well, I would modify that slightly (since I have had a pretty great life in spite of my health concerns). I would say rather that for me, “Life begins again at 50.”

Rosie took some blood tests to get before-and-after lab values. Here is a comparative table:


Before Retreat

At end of Retreat

Fasting Glucose (mg/dl)



White Blood Cells (10^3/μL)



TSH (μIU/mL)



C-reactive protein (mg/L)



Vitamin D (ng/ml)



Total cholesterol (mg/dl)



LDL cholesterol (mg/dl)



HDL cholesterol (mg/dl)



Triglycerides (mg/dl)










In summary – Rosie went from 20% of normal energy to 80%, fixed her sleep, lost 11 pounds and inches from her waist, greatly reduced markers of infection such as white blood cell count and C-reactive protein, normalized her TSH, reduced triglycerides, normalized vitamin D and LDL cholesterol, and reduced ALT and AST suggesting improved liver health.

Best of all, she feels well prepared to live a healthful lifestyle from now on, and can expect to see further significant health improvements.

Peggy Mandell

Peggy writes:

My husband and I have just concluded a month long stay at the Perfect Health Retreat, which exceeded our expectations in every way and added years to our lives.

We began the Perfect Health Diet four months prior to attending the Retreat, beginning on July 1, 2013, and had already been experiencing amazing health benefits and weight stabilization when we arrived. But until coming to Albert Oaks, the only instruction I had in following the program was to go “by the book”–a wonderfully rich, informative, compelling book, indeed–but without the benefit of a community of other PHD program participants, experiences, and mentors to bring the program to life and make it second-nature. Now, I can’t imagine living any other way.

As the cook in our family, I was especially looking forward to enjoying PHD compliant meals cooked by a professional chef using eggs and fresh produce from their own back yard garden. From the moment we arrived at the airport in Austin, Damon and Joyce Young treated us like family and welcomed us into their spacious, beautifully appointed home. So much thought and care had gone into creating a comfortable environment for learning and living, from the commodious dining room where guests, hosts, and staff ate together family style, to the lovely yoga studio and outdoor patio equipped with weights, medicine balls, and primal 7 exercise equipment, to the attractive living quarters replete with special lighting to help guests reset their circadian clocks, if need be, and enjoy a long, restful sleep each night.

After a month of nutritious meals, great sleeping, and daily exercise, plus a stimulating educational program with world class scientist and eminently friendly and approachable Paul Jaminet, PhD, co-creator of the Perfect Health Diet, I feel ten years younger!

It was so easy to get into the “habit” of going outside each day for a jog around the peaceful, tree-lined, South Austin neighborhood in which Albert Oaks is situated, or to take in the Texas sunshine for my requisite dose of vitamin D. Once I had clearance to go into Damon’s really cool commercial kitchen (a Texas Food Handlers Card was required), I enjoyed learning Damon’s chef’s secrets and lessons for great PHD meals–including the world’s best bone broth and most nutritious fermented vegetables. We all learned the benefits of intermittent fasting (eating only between noon and 8 p.m.), and delicious morning coffee and broth made it easy.

The Perfect Health Diet is a lifestyle that can add years to one’s life simply by getting regular exercise and adopting regular sleeping habits, eliminating toxins from the diet such as grains, legumes and seed-based vegetable oils, and then eating wholesome, fresh, nutrient-dense foods in a perfect balance. Albert Oaks teaches one exactly how to do this in a community where everyone is committed to doing the same thing. All the supplemental foods that PHD recommends were amply provided, from great seafood at least once a week, to the delicious bone broth, to melt-in-your mouth liver mousse, to daily rations of fresh vegetables and fermented home-made kimchi, safe starches and satisfying meat dishes, to the ubiquitous eggs! It was sheer heaven hanging out in a kitchen where all the ingredients were abundantly PHD compliant. I tried my hand at cooking a few times and everyone in the kitchen was generous and supportive, especially the wry, iconoclastic and talented Damon Young. Arriving at Albert Oaks was like landing in a country where everyone spoke your language. I was treated to a shopping expedition with Damon to learn how he chooses food in a grocery store or farmer’s market. I envy his encyclopedic grasp of “cost per pound” and gift for mental addition, and am in awe of his boundless energy and creativity. Bringing PHD to life in a practical setting has been Damon’s dream and passion, and it is evident in every detail here at Albert Oaks.

Many people go to Albert Oaks to eat healthfully and lose weight. While I had already achieved my ideal weight before I got there, it was extremely important to me to maintain my weight and this was easy to do. Many people go to Albert Oaks to find ways to overcome chronic illness through diet rather than medication, or to get off medications that are ineffectual, have nasty side-effects, or both. My personal goal was to reverse post-menopausal osteoporosis through diet and lifestyle, with the right mix of recommended supplements to maximize bone health, so that I could get off a medication that has dangerous side effects. By carefully following the PHD guidelines and also speaking personally with Paul Jaminet during our Skype Q & A sessions, I have been able to tweak my vitamin and mineral supplements with these goals in mind. If osteoporosis was unknown in Paleolithic times, surely we moderns can nourish our bones for strength and health by eating “the way we were meant to eat.”

Another happy outcome of the diet for me, both before and during our stay at Albert Oaks, is that I now feel completely satisfied at mealtime, never get hungry before the next meal, but also never feel bloated, too full, or uncomfortable after eating. My body does a “happy dance” each day because it now gets exactly what and how much food it needs, and nothing harmful.

This next unexpected consequence took me completely by surprise. For years I had pain in my neck from what I believed was age-related osteoarthritis. After trying everything (massage, yoga, chiropractic adjustments–all of which provided only partial, temporary relief), I woke up one morning at Albert Oaks and realized my neck did not hurt any more and I had regained full range of motion. I thought about all the changes I had made in my diet and what might have been THE magic bullet for taking away my chronic inflammation and muscle stiffness, and I decided it didn’t matter because it worked! PHD teaches, and I am living proof, that with the right diet and lifestyle one need not be sick, or chronically inflamed or infected, particularly in later life, just because one is aging.

I am grateful beyond words for what PHD and Albert Oaks has done for me and my husband Herb, who will relate his own Albert Oaks story. By coming to Austin we have discovered a beautiful, vibrant part of central Texas hitherto unknown to us. On our days “off” we went canoeing on Town Lake, visited the magnificent State Capitol building and LBJ Library on the University campus, hiked all around the spectacular Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center, enjoyed yoga “in the park” where Damon cooks BBQ and invites everyone to join him for volleyball, learned “contra dancing” with other Albert Oaks guests and staff, enjoyed some of Austin’s best country music at the legendary “Broken Spoke,” had a lovely bike ride in the park, spent a weekend out in the Hill Country where we rode 10 zip lines across a canyon on a beautiful Texas ranch, and met some of the warmest, friendliest, truly big-hearted and generous people we have ever encountered. Thank you Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet. Thank you Damon and Joyce Young. Thank you wonderful retreat teachers, organizers, staffers, cooks and helpers: Beth, Hannah, Jorjan, Charlie, Paula and Seth. Thank you, Albert Oaks!


If you are thinking about coming to Albert Oaks and not sure you can afford the financial or time commitment, think again: ask yourself “how can I afford NOT to come here?” Not only is this all-inclusive immersion experience more affordable than any month-long vacation you could possibly take, it is such incredible value for the money. Think of all the other ways you spend your time and money with no measurable benefit. To attend Albert Oaks is to give yourself a gift for a lifetime with continuing good health returns. Surely you and your loved-ones are worth that!

If you do come, know that like everything else in life, you get back what you give. Learning a new way of living and eating takes discipline, commitment and trust. The best advice I can offer someone just starting out is this: come with an open mind and an open heart, and be prepared to surrender your old habits and beliefs about what’s “bad” and what’s “good” to eat. Paul Jaminet’s fascinating classes will give you all the understanding you need to grasp the science of the PHD, and the pleasure of feeling great and living the fullest possible life will be your reward.

Peggy Mandell

Here’s a picture of Peggy doing something called ACRO-Yoga:

Mandell Peggy Acro-Yoga

Dr. Herb Mandell

Herb Mandell, M.D., writes:

My goal in coming to the Albert Oaks Perfect Health Retreat was to totally immerse myself in a culture of food, exercise, and circadian entrainment, with like-minded individuals, so that I might emerge with an integrated lifestyle and game plan to work with. Although I am still working on the circadian part, I have made some progress there, and am more than satisfied with my progress in all the other areas. I could not have predicted how helpful the staff, our talks with Dr. Jaminet, the environment, or certainly our gracious hosts, Damon and Joyce Young, would prove to be. These are tremendously big-hearted people who shared their wealth of knowledge, their Retreat, and their practical experience with us on so many levels. I am also eternally grateful to my lovely wife and lifetime partner, Peggy, who accompanied me on this journey with her quick wit, her deeply reflective insights, and her truly indomitable spirit. I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunities for exercise here, and personally mastered the Primal 7, the bicycle course at the Velopark, and even went on to successfully complete a ten-segment zip line course on a weekend jaunt to nearby Wimberley.

The information that I have absorbed has been nothing short of a huge paradigm shift for me. As a retired physician and medical director of a national children’s charity, I can honestly say that I have never so clearly comprehended the importance and role of diet, exercise, and other lifestyle elements in shaping one’s personal health status. While here I was able to achieve my goal of getting off my protein pump inhibitor medication, which I had taken for over seven years with very mixed results. While on the PHD diet, my C-Reactive Protein plunged from 35 to 7, and I was able to discontinue my statin medication as well. I have also made significant progress in addressing a chronic fungal infection while being able to cut back on medication for that also.

The other guests here were very interesting folks, and I am sure we will remain friends, at least online, and hopefully again in person. Our host and chef, Damon Young, served as a powerful presence in anchoring our daily educational meetings, meals, and in suggesting exercise and other outdoor activities. He and his wife, Joyce, are a warm, deeply caring couple who are fun to interact with.

The accommodations at the Retreat were extremely comfortable, with a large private room and en suite bath. We always had full access to the living room, dining room, exercise areas, yoga room, as well as laundry facilities. Yoga classes, in particular, were extremely enjoyable and an important integral part of a healthy approach to life and to aging. I can honestly say I feel several years younger, although I celebrated my 64th birthday while at the Retreat. The rest of the staff were spontaneous, high energy folks who did everything possible to keep us engaged and happy and helped ensure the success of our experience.

Finally, some words about Austin, Texas. I found it to be a fascinating, intriguing, multi-cultural, and unexpected big city. It was easy to get to with a non-stop flight from the East Coast, and because it is laid out in a grid, easy to navigate as well. The one drawback, of course, is the traffic. We managed to pack in visits to a number of restaurants that were excellent by any standards, as well as the State Capitol building, the LBJ Library, the Broken Spoke, and some bohemian shops on South Congress Street. It helps that I have a nephew and niece in Austin, but anyone would find it a really cool town.

I would urge anyone who is learning the PHD diet and philosophy to come to the Retreat for the total experience. You cannot put a price tag on your life, your health, or your ability to make the most of both.

More Pictures

A combination Halloween and birthday party:

Rosie halloween

(I’m going to assume that was a PHD-compliant cake, but I haven’t dared ask!) (UPDATE: It is PHD-compliant. It was made with ground cashews and coconut milk, and the frosting is a paste of ground berries and mint leaves. It was a frozen cake, no cooking required.)

The Mandells took pictures of some favorite meals. Here is mussels and cod simmered in coconut milk with potatoes and vegetables:

Mandell food 2

Eggs and potatoes with beet and spinach salad:

Mandell food 1

All of the meals are accompanied by homemade kimchi.


The food, activities, and educational programs at the Retreat are now quite polished and the health results speak for themselves. Even my health improves during my monthly visits, thanks to the extra sun and exercise I get while working with Retreat participants.

If you’re interested in taking a Retreat, please contact me at

Last but not least: Happy Thanksgiving to all of our readers!

The Healthfulness of Eggs

Our book has 199 reviews at, and almost 80% of them are 5-star reviews, for which we thank you. But once in a while we get a 1-star review, usually from a vegan. Recently we got a 1-star review from someone named “Victor” which actually cited two papers:

This book recommends eating red meat, white rice, and eggs? Ridiculous. These aren’t healthy foods. They aren’t good for your body.

Red meat and eggs both promote colon cancer. White rice has a terribly high glycemic load and glycemic index, which can increase the risk of getting diabetes.


“Egg consumption and mortality from colon and rectal cancers: an ecological study.”

“Red Meat-Derived Heterocyclic Amines Increase Risk of Colon Cancer: A Population-Based Case-Control Study”

Look up other research studies that support these two. They all go hand in hand.

You can deny the evidence however much you want, but the truth is that red meat, white rice, eggs (as well as dairy products) will NOT promote your health.

Odd: I expect a critic who objects to red meat, eggs, and dairy to be a vegan, but Victor objects to rice too. One wonders what foods Victor doesn’t object to, and whether he manages to eat at all. (UPDATE: Victor is a vegan.)

His objection to red meat is irrelevant to PHD, since heterocyclic amines form at temperatures above 400˚F which do not occur in the gentle cooking methods we advocate. Indeed, our book explicitly warns against cooking methods that generate HCAs on page 234. It’s pretty easy to avoid these cooking methods, because they char meat. Indeed, the study Victor cites is based on a food survey called CHARRED. [1]

The “red meat” category in epidemiological studies includes not only beef and lamb, but pork and processed meats. Industrial foods like processed meats have their own problems which we warn about in our book, and undercooked pork can carry dangerous infections which we also warn about in the book and on this blog.

But none of those caveats touch gently cooked beef or lamb. All the evidence indicates that these are thoroughly healthful foods.

Victor objects to rice because of its high glycemic index, an issue which we’ve addressed in the book and on this blog in the safe starches debate and my post on how to avoid hyperglycemic toxicity.

Which brings us to Victor’s bête noire, eggs. I was curious, so I looked up the study Victor cited linking eggs to colon cancer. [2]

An Association at the Country Level Between Egg Consumption and Colon Cancer

This turns out to be quite a simple paper; the research in it could have been done in a day or two. They gathered some data from two online sources: the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, which has food consumption data for countries, and the World Health Organization, which has health statistics by country. Then they made some scatter plots in Excel, and found an association between eggs and colon cancer. Here it is:

eggs 1

For some reason they included only 34 countries; the FAO and the WHO gather data from nearly every country on earth. They stated, “The selection of the countries was based primarily on the availability of relatively reliable data on mortality from colon and rectal cancers and consumption of eggs, other food groups or nutrients, and cigarettes.” (The “other food groups and cigarettes” – fat, meat, vegetable, fruit, alcohol, and cigarette consumption – were used as adjustment variables in a regression analysis.)

Now, country-level ecological studies have a poor reputation in nutritional epidemiology. One reason is that there are many confounding variables. Foremost among them is income. Health outcomes are strongly dependent on income, with high-income countries eating more animal foods and living longer. But do people live longer because of what they eat, or because they are richer?

Then, when we look at a disease like colon cancer, what we find is that the healthier and longer-lived the country, the more colon cancer cases it has. Cancer is a disease of the elderly, and in societies where people die young, there are few cancer deaths. On the other hand, if some magical food were invented that cured cardiovascular disease, then in countries where that food was eaten cancer would be the leading cause of death. In such a case, we would find consumption of that food to be positively associated with colon cancer rates, even though the food made everyone healthier.

So before one takes an ecological association like the one noted in this paper seriously, it is good to step back and look at the big picture.

As it happens, I have FAO and WHO data in an Excel spreadsheet, so it didn’t take long to make a few charts.

Eggs and Mortality or Life Expectancy

I used 2003-4 data which gave me data from 164 countries for both egg consumption and health outcomes.

Here is the relation between egg consumption and adult mortality. (“Adult mortality” means the probability of dying between ages 15 and 64 per 1000 people.)

eggs 2

There is a clear correlation: more eggs, lower mortality.

Here is the association between egg consumption and life expectancy:

eggs 3

Again, there is a clear correlation: the more eggs a country consumes, the longer its people live. Note that the country with the highest egg consumption, Japan which obtains fully 2.71% of energy from eggs, has the longest life expectancy.

What about the association between eggs and cancer? Here it is, with cancer mortality standardized by age:

eggs 4

Eyeballing it, there seems to be no correlation at all. I’ve had Excel calculate a linear fit here, and it turns out cancer mortality actually seems to decline very slightly as egg consumption increases.

If eggs are associated with lower mortality and longer lifespans, but have no effect on cancer, then you’d expect them to be associated with lower rates of cardiovascular disease mortality. So they are:

eggs 5

Countries with low egg consumption have CVD mortality about double that of countries with high egg consumption.

I was curious if reducing the sample from the full set of 163 countries to the 34 used in the paper would alter the data. It does. Here is cancer mortality plotted against egg consumption for the 34 countries included in the paper Victor cited:

eggs 6

In this subset of countries the correlation of egg consumption with cancer mortality is reversed and becomes positive. It looks like the paper chose its countries well, if its goal was to show a negative effect from egg consumption.

Eggs Are a Health Food

One lesson this exercise teaches is that if you look at population-level data for associations, restrict your sample of countries to a subset of the available data, and restrict the health outcome you analyze to a small fraction of the causes of death, you can make any food, including eggs, look bad.

But if one looks at total mortality or life expectancy, eggs seem to be quite a healthful food. Higher egg consumption correlates with lower mortality and longer lifespan. The country in the world with the highest egg consumption, Japan, has the longest lifespans.

Is it plausible that eggs extend lifespan by reducing cardiovascular disease mortality? Yes! Eggs are along with liver the best food source of choline, and choline is a critical nutrient for vascular and metabolic health. Chapter 35 of our book discusses this nutrient.

Is it plausible that eggs promote colon cancer? Not really. There has not to my knowledge been proposed any plausible mechanism by which eggs promote cancer generally or colon cancer specifically.

Since eggs are strongly correlated with lower cardiovascular mortality and plausible causal mechanisms are known, while eggs are correlated with zero change or perhaps a slight reduction in cancer mortality and there is no known mechanism tying them to cancer risk, we should regard eggs as a health food.

To assure adequate choline intake, PHD recommends eating 3 egg yolks per day. They are one of our “supplemental foods” that should be eaten routinely.


Victor seems to have fallen for a rookie mistake: taking associations too seriously.

Positive associations with diseases exist for every food. Consider what would happen if you took a variable totally unconnected to health – say, the mean number of stars above a certain brightness in a country’s night sky – and looked for associations with national health outcomes. Simply by chance, some diseases would show a positive association and some would show a negative correlation. If you only publish the positive associations, you can scare naïve readers into thinking that starlight causes assorted diseases.

And if you repeat the exercise for foods, you could scare naïve readers into avoiding every single food in existence, as Victor has eschewed beef, lamb, eggs, and rice.

Pubmed is a large database, with over 22 million articles. Not all of these articles represent careful work that seeks to establish a robust truth. Many articles are published “for practice,” even if they have nothing useful to say. Graduate students have to learn how to run regression analyses, write papers, and get them published; even senior academics may be rewarded for publishing weak or pointless papers. We shouldn’t let them scare us into a needlessly restricted diet.


[1] Helmus DS et al. Red Meat-Derived Heterocyclic Amines Increase Risk of Colon Cancer: A Population-Based Case-Control Study. Nutr Cancer. 2013 Oct 29. [Epub ahead of print]

[2] Zhang J et al. Egg consumption and mortality from colon and rectal cancers: an ecological study. Nutr Cancer. 2003;46(2):158-65.