Saturday, April 30, 2011

More Awesomeness From Ron Swanson

Last week, television's greatest libertarian carnivore had a run-in with his uber-positive health nut boss Rob Lowe over the cancellation of red meat in the government commissary.

Here's Rob doing some dips. The guy looks pretty damn good at 47.

As Rob (well his character actually) explains to Ron, "Red meat can cause sluggishness, heart disease, even impotence."

To which Ron replies, "Has the opposite effect on me."

Me too, Ron, me too.

"Ever tried a turkey burger?"

"Is that a fried turkey leg inside a grilled hamburger? If so, yes, delicious."

"A turkey burger, you take lean ground turkey meat, you make that into a burger instead of red meat."

"Why would anyone do that to themselves?"

"What if told you I could make a turkey burger that tastes better than any other burger you've ever had?"

"Challenge accepted, cook-off later today in the courtyard. If I win, hamburgers remain in the commissary."

In order to get the best ingredients for his turkey burgers, Rob needs pop over to the nearest health food store, Grain 'n Simple, a mere 40 minute drive.

I love the name.

Ron Swanson tags along. Not because he plans to buy anything. But "for the same reason people go to the zoo."

"Shhhhh! Look at that thing."

"Nature is amazing."

While browsing around Grain 'n Simple, Ron is asked by a sexless, emaciated vegan if he would like to sample some vegan bacon ("100% meatless").

Obviously they got an actual vegan to play this part
"Yes, please," says Ron, who proceeds to throw it in the trash.

Ron asks for another piece which he also throws away, explaining, "I'm just making sure no one ever has to eat this."

Ron stops off at his favorite store, Food and Stuff to buy some beef.

A man who knows what he wants.

At the cook-off, Rob Lowe goes first.

“I humbly place before you my ‘East meets West’ patented Traeger turkey burger, an Asian fusion burger made with Willow Farms organic turkey, a toasted Taleggio cheese crisp, papaya chutney, black truffle aioli and microgreens on a gluten-free brioche bun. Enjoy!”

Everyone is quite pleased. Next is Ron's entry.

"It's a hamburger made out of meat, on a bun, with nothing. Add ketchup if you want, I couldn't care less."

Ron's meat on a bun blows away Rob Lowe's turkey burgers.

"I don't understand, I've, I've tinkered with this recipe for years. Granted, it's been a long time since I've had a hamburger ... "

"This is better. The commissary will continue to serve horrifying, artery clogging hamburgers!"

As Ron explains, "Turkey can never beat cow, Chris, sorry."

Truer words were never spoken, on or off TV.

I'm curious if Ron Swanson and his libertarian carnivore lifestyle are supposed to be purely ironic by the writers of Parks and Rec who "know" that he's wrong or if there are some crypto-paleoish writers on the staff.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Dr Annika Dahlqvist Lectures in Prague

Note to self: suck in the gut when posing with famous people
Dr Annika Dahlqvist is quite an illustrious low-carb high-fat (LCHF) pioneer in Scandinavia, especially Sweden and Norway. Sweden has the highest percentage of LCHF adherants in the world, as Jimmy Moore recently wrote about.

Dr Dahlqvist started helping diabetics in 2005 by prescribing an LCHF diet, which resulted in two nutritionists reporting her to the National Board of Health in an attempt to get her medical license revoked. After a three year battle, she managed to vindicate herself with more recent studies that showed reducing a diabetic's starches and sugars wasn't a homicidal act. Still, she was essentially blacklisted and forced to leave the clinic where she was working.

Since then, Dr Dahlqvist has been lecturing and writing books (currently only in Swedish but an English edition is in the works). She was interviewed a couple years back by Jimmy Moore. The original shownotes are  only available on his old blog. Jimmy wrote:
Although it is written in Swedish, I encourage you to check out Dr. Annika Dahlqvist's blog to get to know her even better. She's a hero in my book and I am very proud to know there are people like her willing to put it all on the line for what she knows is right.
I totally agree.

I didn't attend her lecture which was arranged by the international medical students studying here in Prague. This turned out to be somewhat fortunate because she gave it in Swedish since only Swedes and Norwegians showed up. The lecture was originally going to be in Swedish and Czech, and while my Czech is passable on a good day, I don't think I could comprehend much about the science of nutrition in it.

After the lecture, my Swedish friend brought her to a restaurant near my flat to wait for her plane and I was lucky enough to spend a couple of hours hanging out with the esteemed doctor.

I didn't take any notes or conduct an actual interview or anything, so I'll just throw out some general impressions and thoughts about Dr Dahlqvist.

-She's in the middle of reading was Taube's Why We Get Fat: And What To Do About It. Not surprisingly, she's a big fan.

-She's quite optimistic about the future of LCHF. When we jokingly bet on how long it would take the US FDA to stop demonizing fat, she said two years (!!!), I said fifteen to twenty. And I think I was being overly optimistic. It sure would be nice if Annika is right but I'm not holding my breath. (Her prediction for Sweden was even more optimistic--one year!)

-She mentioned new randomized studies on LCHF and I said "double-blind?". She pointed out that double-blind studies are not possible, which of course they aren't. In an attempt to save face I said that meat could be cut up into little pieces and put into gel capsules.

-Dr Dahlqvist has never bothered to have her blood cholesterol checked.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Hey Europeans, Quit Bitching and Learn to Think for Yourselves

After 16 years in Europe, I've taken a lot of hits for the team (yeah, the US is still my team, sort of--c'mon it's just a metaphor), I moved to Europe long before George W so it's not about that, but of course that was taken as valid excused to step up the America-bashing by an order of magnitude.

If America is so backwards, pitiful and stupid and all that, as the numerous America-bashers claim, then why the do Europeans copy almost everything, especially the really stupid stuff?

Case in point, Ancel Keys and his homicidal acolytes.

My wife just bought a big jar of ghee at our local hippie health food store and the minimalist label informs the wary public that it contains no cholesterol.


There's the lipid hypothesis, which posits an association between high blood cholesterol and heart disease.

Then there's the diet-heart hypothesis which posits an association between saturated fats and increased blood cholesterol.

What is the proper label for the dietary cholesterol kills you hypothesis?

As Gary Taubes points out in GCBC, even the homicidal Ancel Keys acolytes (reluctantly) admit there's no proof beyond a ridiculous rabbit study that eating cholesterol has anything to do with blood cholesterol.

Yet this myth about dietary cholesterol continues to work its way around the world. Now making great inroads in Central Europe, soon we may see the abolition of goulash.

I have to give the French credit for actually putting their money where their mouth is as far as presumed cultural superiority and diet goes. They've refused to adopt American strictures about diet and the result is the so-called French Paradox. Long may it live.

The problem with America is that it is hugely influential. Too influental, especially in the wrong areas. Europe is often passive and cynical in America's dying wake. America is a waning empire but it is still the most influential one around.

If snobbish Europeans truly want to show they are superior they should stop blindly adhering to idiotic American notions such as the dangers of dietary cholesterol and saturated fat instead of wildly embracing them.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Introducing Meat Beer--The Paleo Pub Friendly Brew

Prague Stepchild Industries inc. is proud to announce a new product. After many years of experiments and some genetic manipulation we've managed to create a strain of yeast that transforms beef, tallow and blood into scrumptious low-carb, gluten-free beer.

We use only the finest animal parts along with Rocky Mountain spring water to create this fine stout brew that will please your taste buds, waistline AND your pancreas.

Soon available at fine paleo pubs and stores worldwide.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Don Matesz and Platonic Reality--In Defense of Hard Science

Don over at Primal Wisdom recently argued that "Western science" and shamanism are equally valid  paradigms. Don raises a lot of interesting points, and I happen to disagree with all of them.

Reality is Not Relative

First he argues that there is no absolute (or Platonic) reality.
I would argue that we have no reason to put any experience in the category 'unreal.'  If you experience it, it is a part of reality.  This is true whether you experience it in a 'normal' physiological state, or an 'abnormal' physiological state.  We have no evidence showing that what is 'normal' is more real than what is 'abnormal.'  Whether any individual can discern meaning in any particular 'abnormal' percept depends on her conceptual framework.  
I believe that there is an independent reality that exists no matter how we perceive it. If a tree falls in the forest, it doesn't matter if anyone hears it or not, or whether they watch it fall while 'shrooming their asses off.
We have no evidence showing us that any particular perceptual apparatus (say, human) is more accurately tuned to reality than any other (say, cat), or that only one particular state of the human apparatus (rested, tired, fed, unfed, awake, dreaming, without drugs, with drugs) provides the only correct information about reality.  Our knowledge is inevitably conditioned by the limits of our perceptual apparatus.
There is plenty of evidence showing that some mental states are more accurately tuned to reality than others. People are much better at driving while awake and not under the influence of psychoactive drugs. Is the ability to drive an accurate measure of the ability to assess reality? Yes it is. Drive off a cliff, whether awake or not and you will die in a fiery ball of death (at least according to every action movie I've ever seen). Dreams and psychoactive visions can lead to creative insights and help with lateral thinking, (Kekulé dreaming about the structure of benzene, for instance), but that doesn't make them real.

There is No Magic Line Separating Empirical From Theoretical

Don tries to create an imaginary divide between things we can see and touch, the perceptual (or empirical), and  everything else, what he labels the theoretical:
We have two basic types of concepts:  empirical and theoretical.  Empirical concepts refer to entities that we experience through the five senses, such as colors, textures, velocity, mass, direction, and so on. 

These entities are not self-explanatory; if they were, we would not do science to create explanations.

In its attempt to explain phenomena (perceptual data), the mind generates a class of entities called theoretical entities.  
We don't need science to create explanations, actually. We do it all the time, and probably have been doing so for millions of years. In the middle ages peasants would have "explained" the death of their cow with witchcraft.

Creating explanations (or heuristics) is a natural and generally useful thing (not so much for witches and other scapegoats). I'm sure it helped hunter-gatherers to survive and process the world around them. The main difference between science and a hunter-gatherer's heuristics is that the scientific method is a useful process to help humans overcome the many handicaps we have in creating explanations such as selection bias, laziness, lack of information, etc.

Newton Did Not "Invent" Gravity

To illustrate his point, Don talks about gravity:
Gravity is an example of a theoretical entity invented by Isaac Newton to explain the universally observed fact that objects will drop to the earth if released into free fall from a position above the earth.

It is of utmost importance to realize that Newton did not discover gravity while rummaging around the countryside looking for a 'force' to explain why things fall to the earth.  You can't open the earth and find gravity there.  You can't put a piece of gravity on your table. Gravity is an idea, not a physical entity.  Newton did not discover gravity, he invented it. 
Actually, what Newton did was to mathematically describe gravity, most especially noting that it is proportional to the distance squared.

To say that Newton invented gravity is no different than saying Galileo invented gravity when he figured out that all object objects fall at the same rate in a vacuum, regardless of mass. They both helped to correctly describe gravity.

"You can't put a piece of gravity on your table." Your table is a piece of gravity. 

Germ theory predated the actual ability to see germs, and Semmelweis was ridiculed by his colleges and his ideas ignored. Nowadays, we can take really cool pictures of lethal viruses with electron microscopes. At what point did the "theoretical" idea of germs turn into the "perceptual" fact that we can see and photograph them? Or maybe viruses and bacteria are still just inventions of people like Semmelweis and Pasteur.

Einstein Did Not Discredit Newton

Newton was famously puzzled by the problem of action at a distance, writing in a letter:
It is inconceivable that inanimate brute matter should, without the mediation of something else which is not material, operate upon and affect other matter without mutual contact…That gravity should be innate, inherent, and essential to matter, so that one body may act upon another at a distance through a vacuum, without the mediation of anything else, by and through which their action and force may be conveyed from one to another, is to me so great an absurdity that I believe no man who has in philosophical matters a competent faculty of thinking can ever fall into it. (source)
That problem was solved by Einstein who discovered (in the Platonic sense) that gravity is a property of space (or more properly space-time).

Don writes:
We measure mass in grams and acceleration in meters per second per second.  We can only know the magnitude of the force by measuring the mass and the rate of acceleration, then performing this calculation.

But then when you consult Einstein, gravitation is not a force anyway, it is a function of spacetime curvature.

So if gravity is like rocks, a purely physical phenomenon, how is it that Newton can say it is a force, and Einstein can say it is a curvature of space-time?  Think about it.  Did Einstein dispute Newton by producing a bit of gravity, and saying "Come on, just take a look, its obvious that gravity is a curvature of spacetime.  How could you have ever believed that it was a force?"
What Newton did was to accurately describe gravity. What Einstein did was to refine that description. Newton's description is quite accurate, Einstein's is more accurate. The alleged smoking gun that a force was suddenly transformed into a physical phenomena like a rock is a chimera (or a psychoactively induced "reality").

Relativity made some testable predictions. Most famously that if gravity was a property of the curvature of space then the path of photons (which are massless) ought to be effected. This was borne out by observation. Later such things as time dilation were measured with atomic clocks on airplanes.
The perceptive reader will realize that everything I say here about gravity applies to all forces invoked in modern science.

For an example relevant to the field of biology, including nutrition, it also applies to the concept of energy.   Like gravity, energy has no shape, color, sound, odor, or texture.  If you think otherwise, I invite you to show me a bit of energy.
We are back to the show-me argument. I, for one, do think otherwise, and I invite Don to explain that big yellow ball in the sky. Photons don't have mass, or smell, that's true, but they do have momentum (strangely enough), and they definitely have color (the visible ones, at least).
Few scientists question the very foundational concepts of the science in which they operate.  Most accept the foundational ideas like gravity and energy and use them to conduct 'normal' science.  Only now and then do we see some unusual individual (Newton, Einstein, Darwin, etc.) who questions the foundational concepts of any particular scientific enterprise (physics, chemistry, biology, etc.) and revises old concepts or creates new concepts to organize and explain the data in a new fashion.

In fact, in order to pursue conventional Western science one has to accept gravity as a given.  If you start to question whether gravity exists or causes the convergence of matter, you are no longer practicing Western science, you are undertaking a revision of Western science.  And to take this position, you would have to be looking at Western science as just one of many possible ways of understanding how things work, not accepting it as 'the way things REALLY work.'
Underneath this type of argument against "Western science" is always the implicit double standard. How many shamans or acupuncturists question the framework in which they operate? How long would I last as an apprentice homeopathicist if I demanded proof?

Scientists question foundational concepts all the time. String theory attempts to explain some odd things about gravity, like why it is so frickin' weak compared to other forces. No one accepts gravity as a given, they accept it as something with a mountain of evidence behind it, that has been thought about and tested quite a bit.

None of these genius innovators Don mentions (Newton, Einstein, Darwin, etc.) worked in a vacuum. Where would Einstein have been without the Michaelson-Morley experiment? Newton and Leibnez were co-inventors of calculus, and Darwin was frightened into publishing upon seeing similar ideas from Alfred Russel Wallace.

Physics and Shamanism Are Not Equivalent

We now come to Don's concluding argument, a reiteration of the idea that all paradigms have equal merit but that "Western science" is probably less equal, because they its practitioners are apparently less open-minded.
Unfortunately, many people, including many scientists are not aware of the fact that modern science is full of  theoretical entities, like gravity, quarks, positive charges, negative charges, electromagnetic waves, energy, and so on.  These people assume that quarks exist the same way that rocks exist, and will summarily dismiss as absurd any theoretical entity proposed by alternative conceptual frameworks.
Again, all these "theoretical entities" seem to rest on the fact that they can't be presented in a box. And again, Don doesn't list formerly theoretical entities that now can be displayed like viruses and DNA.
As an example, shamans the world over use the concept of nature spirits to explain certain phenomena.  People unaware of the difference between perceptual entities and theoretical entities will often dismiss the idea of spirits on the basis that "Western science has searched far and wide and never discovered any nature spirits."  

The problem here is that nature spirits are theoretical entities.  You don't confirm or disconfirm their existence by rummaging around the forest, just as you can't confirm or disconfirm the existence of gravity by looking for it in the English countryside.
Now we come to the heart of the matter. Nature spirits are the same thing as gravity because they are both "theoretical". As I pointed out, Newton didn't look for the existence of gravity any more than Galileo or Aristotle. What they all attempted to do was accurately describe gravity. People already knew about things falling down.
The concept of gravity is meaningless outside the context of the conceptual framework (Western science) to which it belongs; and the concept of nature spirits is meaningless outside the context of the conceptual framework (shamanism) to which it belongs. 

In the shamanistic conceptual framework, the concept of nature spirits serves as a key concept in explanations for certain types of phenomena, some of which are generated and perceived in 'normal' physiological states, and some of which are generated and perceived in experiments entailing 'altered' physiological states.

Both paradigms (and apparently any paradigm at all) are equivalent. But their ideas are only relevant inside their own conceptual framework! So General Relativity and wood nymphs are both equally valid depending on the paradigm one operates in.


"Western science", whatever that actually means, is easily attacked in its transparency by those without transparency. The point of these arguments and their proponents is to create an equivalency that simply doesn't exist. Intelligent Design is not equivalent to evolution, acupuncture is not equivalent to antibiotics and relativity is not equivalent to shamanism.

Note: this is not an attack on Don Matesz or his intellect, I read his blog for good reason. But I am very much opposed to this sort of relativism.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Free Speech and Factory Farms

Remember when Florida wanted to make photographing farms illegal? Now Iowa and Michigan are trying to get in on the act.

From the NYT article:
A bill before the Iowa legislature would make it a crime to produce, distribute or possess photos and video taken without permission at an agricultural facility. It would also criminalize lying on an application to work at an agriculture facility “with an intent to commit an act not authorized by the owner.” 
This is something of a mixed bag legally, I say speaking as someone who's far from being a legal expert. However, it is apparent that the Ioweejan lawmakers who drafted this have even less knowledge of the law than I do.

Taking photos in public in the US is generally considered protected by the First Amendment. But First Amendment rights do not apply to private property--I have the right to protest peacefully, but not in your living room.

Videoing people without their knowledge, even in public, can be considered a violation of wiretapping laws.

Recording a TSA agent groping your private regions is technically legal but can still get one arrested.

But what if I video someone committing a crime on private property? If I record someone shooting their spouse in their living room with my phone, is the recording destroyed and myself brought up on wiretapping charges?

The most ridiculous thing about this legislation, of course, is its specificity. It would be illegal to lie on a job application, but only if you are applying to work at an "agricultural facility", and only with an intent to commit an act not authorized by the owner. WTF? Is a convenience store an agricultural facility? They sell agricultural products.

What exactly is an act not authorized by the owner? Seems awfully nebulous to me.

"I wanted those cans stacked over there! You said on your application you knew how to stack cans! I'm calling the police!"

If recording people and animals without their permission on private property is to be illegal, along with lying on job applications, then shouldn't the law be applied to everyone?

I've never lied on a single job application in my life (pinky swear)*, but I support other people's right to do so. If an employer is too lazy to check your references then that's their problem. Especially if they've got something to hide.

* May be a whopping lie, besides it never seemed to help.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Healthy Recipes a Quick Un-Reality Check

Just for the hell of it, I decided to do a Google image search for the term, healthy recipes. Here are the top 16 results:

Not surprisingly, it is dominated by pasta and vegetables and vegetables and some lean meat and vegetables and pasta. What is surprising, even to a jaded soul such as myself, is that strawberry pancakes is #6 and apple pie is #13.

Seriously, pancakes? Oh, right, they are smothered in healthy fruit and syrup.

By the way, #14 is garlic bread birds on a bed of green pasta (not chicken and lettuce), it is a "healthy recipe for kids", because what could be better for a kid than a bunch of bread and pasta?

Picture #2 links to a site that advises this kind of crap:
Or if you really want to make sure that your family has a healthy breakfast, there are things that you can prepare the night before from healthy recipes that make excellent breakfast foods. Cinnamon rolls are always a favorite and if you make them using healthy recipes that use whole wheat flour and sugar substitutes, you are giving your family a delicious treat in the morning that is loaded with nutrition.
Excuse me, I have to go puke now.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Cure Diabetes With a Simple Stomach Bypass

Alas, the magic bullet for diabetes has finally arrived and it only involves a 40% risk of complications.

According to a report by UK stomach bypass surgeons, the BBC slavishly reports.
The National Bariatric Surgery Registry said type 2 diabetes fell by 50% and on average patients lost nearly 60% of their excess weight a year after surgery, based on 1,421 operations.

The Royal College of Surgeons says the NHS should prepare for rising demand.
In other news, a report by the Association of Lobotomists (AssOL) said that shoving an icepick into someone's brain is a great way to deal with their uppity backtalk.

"You can't handle the icepick"
Back to the 'news' article, though, and not everyone is convinced:
However, the chairman of the charity Diabetes UK, Professor Sir George Alberti, emphasised that people who were obese should try to lose weight through diet and lifestyle changes first.

"We agree that bariatric surgery should be used as an alternative treatment to help people lose weight if all other attempts have been unsuccessful and their diabetes remains poorly controlled," he said.
These poor diabetics are really between a rock and a hard place if they only listen to the 'experts' and the mainstream media. A quick look at Diabletes UK's 'healthy' recipe page comes up with such wonderful things as apple-muesli smoothie, apricot porridge, and apple cinnamon cake.

And that's just the As.

Nobody should be eating that crap and consider it healthy, much less a diabetic.

I'm not sure why bariatric surgery would reduce diabetes by half (assuming there's no self-interested bias--a big assumption), I suppose just losing a lot of weight helps quit a bit. Also, a stomach bypass essentially forces one into a starvation diet, if I understand it right, a very low carb (and everything else) diet. So perhaps it is just a very roundabout way to go VLC.

Speaking of diabetes, I have a friend who cured himself of diabetes by doing the exact opposite of what the doctors told him to do (including one doctor who almost forced him to take insulin). I might write up his story including lab results and stuff (he's given me permission) if I manage to find the time and motivation.

Addendum: Jan wrote about this also after seeing a segment on Good Morning America

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Boxer of Quirinal

Many years ago I read The Pugilist at Rest by Thom Jones which discusses the Boxer of Quirinal (BoQ).

This bad ass mofo:

BoQ is notable for it's physique and scarred and battered features, or as Jones says so eloquently:
Perhaps it is Theogenes who is depicted in the famous Roman statue (based on the Greek original) of "The Pugilist at Rest." I keep a grainy black-and-white photograph of it in my room. The statue depicts a muscular athlete approaching his middle age. He has a thick beard and a full head of curly hair. In addition to the telltale broken nose and cauliflower ears of a boxer, the pugilist has the slanted, drooping brows that bespeak torn nerves. Also, the forehead is piled with scar tissue. As may be expected, the pugilist has the musculature of a fighter. His neck and trapezius muscles are well developed. His shoulders are enormous; his chest is thick and flat, without the bulging pectorals of the bodybuilder. His back, oblique and abdominal muscles are highly pronounced, and he has that greatest asset of the modern boxer - sturdy legs. The arms are large, particularly the forearms, which are reinforced with the leather wrappings of the cestus. It is the body of a small heavyweight - lithe rather than bulky, but by no means lacking in power: a Jack Johnson or a Dempsey, say. If you see the authentic statue at the Terme Museum, in Rome, you will see that the seated boxer is really not much more than a light-heavyweight. People were smaller in those days. The important thing is that he was perfectly proportioned.
That, my friends, is writing. It rightly won Jones an O. Henry award.

Detail of the head with copper inlay.

I suppose it's possible that this statue is highly idealized but I tend to doubt it. These are hard flat working muscles, not the balloonish, pumped-up muscles of a modern bodybuilder.

And what's up with the cestuses? Let's box naked except for rock hard strips of boiled leather on our knuckles. How's that for shits and giggles?

The attention to detail is simply stunning
Ouch! I think I'll pass.

But what is most interesting to me is the physique of this anonymous 2000+ year old pugilist.

With all the modern access to food, vitamins, gyms, trainers, etc. How many physiques can hold a candle to this ancient, weary fighter?

On Letting Children Take Risks

An excellent video from TED.

Gever Tulley, 5 dangerous things you should let your kids do:

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Lindeberg In a Nutshell

I felt like kind of an idiot posting about Lindeberg yesterday without knowing much about him. So I got ahold of Food and Western Disease (FAWD) and did a little skimming (which, incidentally, goes for the low, low price of 75 bucks on Amazon). I will probably read the whole thing despite my waning interest in the technical side of nutrition. The book is pretty simple and straightforward reading as far as I can tell, despite the fact that it seems to be more of a textbook, and it is chock full of references.

So for anyone who wants a cliff notes version of Lindeberg and FAWD I'll attempt one here.

FAWD is an updated, revised and English version of a medical tome Lindeberg wrote in 2003 in Swedish, it was published last year so represents his most current views, I assume. FAWD has a forward by Loren Cordain, who also seems to be something of a lapsed lipophobe.

Lindeberg led the famous (some would say infamous) Kitava study. He doesn't have a Wikipedia page so I don't know much about him beyond the fact that he's currently associate professor at Lund University in Sweden (which is some country where everyone has to have blond hair and drive Volvos at very slow speeds, trust me, I've been there).

As he writes in the preface:
Now I was hooked for real. I began to read scientific papers systematically. After a while, I cut grains, dairy, salt and processed food from my own diet, and my blood pressure, weight and blood lipids went from normal to low. I could see no obvious risk with a diet mainly based on meat, fish, root vegetables, vegetables, eggs, fruits and nuts. I informed my patients who were usually interested and often surprised of the results.

I phoned Goran Burenhult, an archaeologist who had also read Eaton's paper and who had visited the traditional horticulturalists of the Trobriand Islands, Papua New Guinea. He convinced me to organise a clinical study there, due to the signif­icant proportion of elderly and their ancestral dietary pattern. This is the Kitava study, mentioned here and there in the text.

Lindeberg on salt

My opinion on salt is that it totally rocks and not simply because it actually is a rock. I'm a big fan of Gary Taubes essay (which no longer seems to be freely available) on the bad science behind NaCl research, but that's probably because I like to eat tons of salt. I'd probably even eat tofu if it was rolled in salt and fried in lard. I do think it's important to eat real salt.

Lindeberg takes the traditional view on salt that we don't need and probably shouldn't ingest very much of it.
Quitting smoking, daily walks, extra vegetables and fruits, Mediterranean-like food choices, as well as reducing our consumption of energy-dense foods and salt are one step on the path, but it is evidently not enough. [FAWD, preface]
Mediterranean-like food choices? Extra fruit and vegetables? Hmmmm . . .
A starting point for discussions about salt and health was a French experiment 100 years ago showing raised blood pressure after high salt intake. Considerable evidence now suggests that restriction of dietary sodium below 100 mmol Na/day (<6 g sodium chloride or <2.4 g sodium per day) will reduce blood pressure and prevent cardiovascular disease in people with hypertension. Since only a minority of middle-aged and elderly Westerners have optimal blood pressure (< 120/80 mm Hg), and since low levels are more healthy than average or high levels, most people would seem to benefit from a low salt intake. Several studies suggest that dietary salt is a contributing factor in the development of stroke and heart failure, particularly among overweight people, and possibly independently of blood pressure. A correlation between sodium intake and stroke has also been noted among Europeans, as well as in China and Japan. The influence of dietary salt on ischaemic heart disease is more controversial, but here, again, the risks with high salt intake may be highest for overweight subjects. [FAWD, pp 26-27]
Consumption of salt (sodium chloride, NaCl) was most likely low during human evolution, similar to what was the case during the evolutionary history of land animals. An average Westerner consumes 150-200 mmol/day (9-12 g salt/day), which can be compared with an estimated intake of less than 30 mmol/day among prehistoric hunter-gatherers and 1 mmol/day among the Yanomamo Indians in the Amazon rainforest. Note that not just sodium, but also the chloride intake, was originally very low. In modern times, the balance between both sodium and potassium, as well as between chloride and bicarbonate, has shifted strongly in favour of sodium and chloride.

The physiological need for sodium has been estimated to be less than 0.6 mmol/kg of body weight/day. Since the intake among the Yanomamo Indians fell below this level, the actual requirement is probably considerably lower. Real sodium deficiency in the tropics occurs because of rapid salt depletion among people who are used to a high salt intake. Salt supplements are therefore only required in the initial 10-15 days, until the sweat glands reset their salt secretion patterns. [FAWD, pp 37-38]
I have to admit he's got a point, and the part about salt glands resetting is quite interesting.

Unlike the idiotic notion that we overeat because we are genetically programmed to do so in times of abundance, I can see a reasonable case to be made for humans being over-programmed for a scarce resource like salt that is now screwing us up.

Speaking of salt, I highly recommend Salt: a World History.

Lindeberg on saturated fat

Lindeberg is pretty skeptical of SFAs.
However, studies in animals have shown high-fat diets to be a partial cause of both atherosclerosis and insulin resistance. In some of these studies, a very moderate increase in dietary fat has caused abdominal obesity and insulin resistance, one of the main culprits in Western disease. Moreover, this effect has been independent of total caloric intake. In other animal experiments, a high-fat diet has led to intracellular fat accumulation, which is suspected of leading to long- term loss of cell function by way of lipotoxicity. This disturbance is closely related to insulin resistance and the metabolic syndrome. [FAWD, pp 23]
Do these animal studies involve rabbits and mice? Because last I checked these creatures weren't exactly apex predators.
Ancestral human diets are expected to have varied substantially with regard to saturated fat, depending on habitat. For populations with 40-50% dependence on meat and/or fish, saturated fat is estimated to have been 5-15% [here Lindeberg cites Cordain's 2006 paper]. In addition to the low total fat content in wild game, there is less saturated fat as proportion of total fat, in comparison with modern domesticated farm animals. Saturated fatty acids constitute more than 50% of the fat storage depots of wild mammals, whereas the dominant fatty acids in muscle and all other organ tissues, includ­ing bone marrow, are polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids. Since subcutaneous and abdominal body fat stores are depleted during most of the year in wild animals, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids constitute the majority of the total carcass fat. The intake of saturated fat among shore-based populations was particularly low, with a high percentage of marine fat from fish and shellfish.

The percentage of saturated fat is low in most nuts. Coconut fat, however, is dominated by saturated fat. The dominant saturated fatty acids in coconut fat are lauric acid (12:0) and myristic acid (14:0), while the amount of palmitic acid (16:0), which is the main saturated fatty acid in meat and dairy products, is low. The presence of coconuts in prehistoric Africa is very uncertain [here he cites this paper]

The majority of saturated fat in today's Northern European diets comes from dairy products, edible fats and delicatessen products. [FAWD, pp 45] (emphasis mine)
Now we get to the meat of the argument (Ed., stop with the lousy puns). I'm not really familiar with Cordain, but I believe he makes the same lipophobic (or I should say, SFAphobic) argument. Wild animals are much leaner than modern grain-fed animals (no argument there), and the fats they do have are mostly not saturated. Well, I'm not really qualified to dispute this, but this is a lot of supposition in my opinion. These pictures of free-roaming bison show quite a lot of subcutaneous and especially abdominal body fat. Also, I believe Cordain has revised up his estimates since his 2006 paper.

Since the point of this post is to briefly summarize Lindeberg's views, I'll leave it at that.

(*cough*  bullshit!  *cough*)

Lindeberg on fruits

He's a pretty big known as a pretty big fan.
For people on a Western diet, fruits and vegetables may provide an important source of essential vitamins, minerals and trace elements. However, once nutri­ent requirements are met it is uncertain whether these foods are important for long-term health in the prevention of Western disease. The high water content of fruits and vegetables is expected to prevent obesity by way of satiation. Several studies found beneficial effects on health-related variables of lifestyle or dietary advice, which included increased amounts of fruits and vegetables. In the successful Lyon Diet Heart Trial, fruits and vegetables were some of the foods recommended to the intervention group, which conceivably explained some of the reduced mortality in that group. Epidemiological prospective studies suggest a slightly reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and several types of cancer. [FAWD, pp 24] (emphasis mine)
I love the passive voice, and by that I mean I hate it.

Mistakes were made, innocent civilians were, uhm, made non-functional.

The high water content of fruits and veggies was expected to prevent obesity.

I know, a cheap shot, the passive voice can't really be avoided in a textbook tome such as this. Still, it always reminds me of some sleazy politician or bureaucrat dodging blame and accountability. Here Lindeberg seems to be leaning toward fruits and veggies.

But the next paragraph is:
However, no randomised controlled trial has specifically addressed the indepen­dent effects of fruits and/or vegetables on the incidence of death or serious disease such as cardiovascular disease or cancer. In a study on males with angina pectoris, Burr and co-workers found no effect on total mortality or cardiovascular disease of advice to eat 4-5 portions of fruit and vegetables and drink at least one glass of natural orange juice daily, and also increase the intake of oats. Hence, there is as yet no strong evidence that a low intake of fruits or vegetables is an independent cause of Western disease. [FAWD, pp 24] (emphasis mine)
Now there's a sentence I can totally get behind.

Interestingly, that's about it as far as fruits being mentioned. I've heard Lindeberg is big on fruit, but I find little evidence of it in FAWD.

OK this has gone on way too long, but that's my quick and dirty take on Lindeberg and FAWB.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Staffan Lindeberg Literally Afraid to Embrace Animal Fat

Staffan Lindeberg - The other Swedish Chef
Over at Ramblings of a Carnivore, Pål Jåbekk is disheartened to read Staffan Lindeberg's apparently excellent book, only to find that he still toes the party line on SFAs.
I finally finished Lindebergs “Food and Western Disease: Health and nutrition from an evolutionary perspective." Despite the joy of finally reading this exiting book, at closing the book after reading its last page I felt a strong sense of disappointment. Lean meat! LEAN MEAT! Come on, Staffan.
I was talking about Lindeberg with a Swedish friend of mine who is trying to switch to Lindeberg as his doctor under a new portal Sweden has where one can choose their own doctor via the internet. Lindeberg is overbooked, of course.

We were discussing Lindeberg's stance on fat, and my friend pointed to a quote by Lindeberg he came across on a Swedish blog which he translated as:
My rejection of fat has been for pragmatical reasons. I have not wanted to take the battle with nutritionists, because I have so many other battles to fight.
So this was apparently done for practicality.

I don't know much about Lindeberg but I tend to come down on the side of the pragmatic. The un-demonization of SFAs is crucial to a healthy approach to nutrition, of course. On the other hand he's been quite influential. Sometimes it is better to compromise rather than to preach from the wilderness.

The fact that the lipid hypothesis is so entrenched in the Church of Nutrition (especially in Sweden, apparently) that Lindeberg feels it necessary to try and change things from the inside certainly says something, though, and not about Lindeberg's lack of courage, in my opinion.

There was the Swedish doctor who had her license challenged a few years back for recommending a low carb diet (sorry, too busy lazy to look for the link). I mean, what a shocking proposal, that diabetics might be better off avoiding simple and complex sugars, dogs and cats living together, etc.

Addendum: The Lindeberg quote comes from Annika Dahlqvist's blog, who is the Swedish VLC doctor I was thinking of (hey, I'm not a frickin' encyclopedia), and who was apparently critical of Lindeberg on this issue. The fact that she was willing to challenge the Swedish Church of Nutrition certainly gives her plenty of street cred and weakens the argument for having to toe the party line. She is also critical of Lindeberg's promotion of fruits. I get all this second-hand from my flaky busy Swedish friend.

I think Dr Dahlqvist owes it to the world to write her blog in English. Perhaps she does and I'm not aware of it, I'm swimming in a sea of ignorance here. (Kateryna points out there is a poorly translated version here)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Oyster Stew

This turned out surprisingly well, mostly because I didn't have any celery.

First brown an onion and some green onions in plenty of butter. How much butter? If you have to ask . . .

Some nice fresh basil.

Add the basil about a quarter liter of milk and a quarter liter of heavy cream and let simmer.

I didn't have any celery stalk, which is rather hard to come by in the local groceries, but celery root (or celeriac) is quite ubiquitous, doesn't wilt after a few days, and I happened to have some.

Chopped the celeriac into french fry pieces with the V-slicer then diced with a knife. I didn't use the whole thing, about half, which is a lot, but it is pretty mild and adds a wonderful flavor. I can't stand celery except in soups and bloody marys, but for those two things it has no equal.

Add the celeriac and simmer on low for 10-15 minutes to soften, then hit it with the immersion blender.

It's now so thick that bubbles have trouble making their way to the surface.

And the pièce de résistance, giant oysters from Korea I bought at the Japanese grocery. I had to slice them up because they were the size of tennis balls. Add the oysters and simmer for another 5 minutes or so.

And finally some black pepper and gray salt. Looks more like custard with cinnamon and chocolate at this point.

But its much better.

All that celeriac and the immersion blender made the stew very thick and hearty (the butter and heavy cream don't hurt, either). That and the high quality oysters made this the tastiest thing I've cooked in quite a while.

Dobrou Chut'!

Lamb Meatballs 'n' Lard

My kid gets away with eating more crap than he should. But he's developed quite a taste for meat and especially fish. Last night he had lamb meatballs fried in lard for dinner (and fish for lunch).

He had three plates of these. I honestly don't know how it all fit.

Last week he had the stomach flu and didn't eat hardly anything for a few days, now he's making up for it. Amazing thing that, eating when and how much your body wants. But I think it only works if one's metabolism isn't broken.

"What is this word vegetable you speak of?"

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Skin Pigmentation, Evolutionary Rapidity and Fish

How long does evolutionary adaptation take?

Why are Northern Europeans so much lighter than Inuits?

A while back, John Hawks wrote about Native Americans and skin pigmentation.

A really interesting question is why Inuits are swarthy. One hypothesis is that Eurasians acquired their skin pigmentation from Neandertals. Another is that Inuits simply didn't have enough time to evolve light skin. As Hawks quotes William Boyd:
Unless the selection of light skin as opposed to dark were fairly intense, the time elapsed has simply not been enough to allow for much adaptation to occur (12). As a matter of fact, the populations which might have been expected to become lighter, namely the Fuegans and the Eskimo, have probably had a shorter time in which to achieve this end than other American aborigines, for it is reasonable to suppose that the Fuegians did not reach their present home until long after their northern neighbors were well installed. And all students of the Eskimo agree in recognizing them as probably the most recent (aside of course from the whites) arrivals in America. It could well be that there has just not been enough time for selection to bleach the skins of the American aborigines. [emphasis mine]
I have a much simpler hypothesis. The Inuit diet consisted of a lot of fatty fish, which is a wonderful source of vit D. So they would've been under zero selection pressure to have blindingly white skin like my Irish grandma.

While the Celts are now famous for occupying the edges of Europe (Ireland, Scotland, Wales and South Boston) they originally occupied much of western and central Europe, including here in the Czech Republic. The Austrian town of Salzburg derives its name from ancient Celtic salt mines where mummified Celtic miners are still occasionally discovered.

It seems to me that the landlocked Celts of central and western Europe (in those days anyone not living on the coast was landlocked although there is evidence of abundant trade), and would have been under strong evolutionary pressure to generate vit D with the lightest skin possible.

So my gut feeling on all of this, I think things like melatonin adaption can happen rather quickly if there's enough evolutionary pressure but the Inuits skin pigmentation doesn't represent this sort of pressure. They were probably more at risk for (and selected for resistance against) hypervitamosis D.

Oh yeah, and you can't go wrong eating plenty of fish.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

The Obesity Epidemic: A Visual Perspective

I decided to do a little photographic research to see how much fatter people are now than a hundred years ago (in North America, at least). So I looked through some old crowd pictures at Shorpy. The great thing about Shorpy, besides the pictures themselves, is that they are super high resolution so one can really zoom in and pick up the details. There are plenty of crowd shots, but many of them only show hats. I wanted to find ones which give a good feeling of how much leaner people were a hundred years ago.

I was only able to pick out two obviously fat men in this 1905 picture of a parade (I'll mostly stick to men because the clothing of the period heavily masked women's figures), out of perhaps a thousand.

Here's one:

And here's the other:

And I'll go ahead and add this woman as a possible. It's difficult to tell if she is pregnant or fat but her belly is definitely bulging.

So a generous three out of a thousand that I can see.

But I think it is this 1908 beach photo of the Jersey Shore which really illustrates the change a century has made in the average North American's body composition. These guys (unfortunately women weren't allowed to show much flesh in those days) would be considered emaciated these days but they look pretty healthy.

I love the old guy on the left scowling at the camera. Skinny as hell and whipstrong.

These dudes are the stoutest and most muscular ones around. Mr Striped Shirt has the only visible paunch on the beach. He's also the only one wearing spandex. Documented proof of time travel?

This guy in the foreground seems to be showing off for the photo, but come on, you can see his abs through his shirt. Not super buff but somewhere below 7% bodyfat. Oh wait, they are all below 7% bodyfat.

So let's compare and contrast to the modern day.

I picked this photo because it was from a neutral article about a dead whale washing up in Ocean City and it is rather high definition.

And here's a similar shot from a similar beach 100 years earlier:

Monday, April 04, 2011

Transgenic Chinese Cows Produce Human Milk, OMG !!!

Scientists in China have apparently been successful in creating cows that transgenically produce human milk. They did this by adding human genes to the cow's DNA.

The problem is, when you take the exact same genes responsible for human milk and give them to a cow you create an ABOMINATION!!!!

Dogs and cats living together, you know the drill.

Genetically modifying anything is evil, of course, unless it is done by animal husbandry over thousands of years.

Mixing DNA is inherently evil, of course, unless it is done by two members of the same species in the back seat of a Chevy.

The best thing about this article in The Telegraph is the comments which are almost entirely composed of  predictable self-righteous indignation.
I breastfed my 2 year old but I fed my 3 year old twins formula. I would sooner feed them regular formula than GMO cow milk. :-o Formula is a safe and fine alternative to breast milk when necessary. (Catherine Lavallee)
Formula is awesome, that's why I often add it to my coffee.

Have you ever tasted formula, Catherine? It's disgusting. Why would you think it is safe and fine to give your kid something you wouldn't willingly consume yourself?
To the GM apologists out there who argue that gene manipulation is "natural" and can happen by selective breeding.

So this is natural is it? (wherethereishope)
As natural as getting knocked-up by someone who isn't a clone or identical twin.

My name is Sean and I'm a GM apologist. In fact, I'm an apologist for science over hysteria in general.

I apologize.
This concerns me on so many levels......mainly the health and nutrition of our children. Are there no limits to the injustice of how we obstruct the intended usages of the earth's gifts? Politicians need to get out of our "food sources" (Kathi Rushing)
We must think of the children. That's the main thing. Lucky for me, I happen to hate children..

Sometimes knee-jerk hatred and ignorance of science and technology concern me, but then I just think about all the ways to obstruct the intended "usages" of the Earth's gifts and I feel better.

Addendum: here's a link to a video news story at Newsy about this.

Appeal to Authority, The Hydra with A Thousand Heads

Over at Fat Head some chucklehead commentor writes:
So now you think you’re smarter than doctors, eh Tom? Just keep filling that ego of yours.
Mr Naughton had the audacity to mock Dr Oz, a guy who believes in faith healing, astrology and the lipid hypothesis.

There's a lot of reasons why this comment is idiotic, but the most basic one is the fallacy of appeal to authority. It seems that whenever the subject of nutrition is broached this fallacy is immediately trotted out, and the lower the IQ of the debater, the quicker it rears its ugly head.

"Who are you to talk? You're not a doctor."

If I had a penny for every time I've heard this or some variation, I'd have a hell of a lot of pennies, which would kinda suck because I don't have much space to store them and low denomination coins can't be exchanged at the bank. So I'm actually kinda glad about that.

I'm trying to think of the most succinct way to capture the idiocy of the appeal to authority fallacy. Perhaps the best would be to mention the 100 Authors Against Einstein which included people like Emanual Lasker, who had a PhD in mathematics and was world chess champion for 27 years.

If an 'expert' like Lasker thought relativity was bullshit, then surely he must be right?

Actually, no.

Nobody seriously questions relativity these days (Charlie Sheen doesn't count), except in the sense that it is incomplete or an approximation, in the same way Newtonian mechanics is a useful approximation of relativity.

Einstein supposedly said of 100 Authors Against Einstein, "If I were wrong, one would be enough."

I would add that that one needn't have a PhD or even an MD.

Science isn't about the consensus of experts, although the experts do come around eventually and the heresy becomes the dogma. This will happen with the bullshit lipid hypothesis, probably after all the 'experts' like Dr Oz die off.

Remember kiddies, only take nutritional advice from someone wearing scrubs