Healthy Lifestyle = Lazy Lifestyle?

Being a (self-proclaimed) healthy bachelor and student, I believe I automatically have some of the accreditation associated with this article, originally titled “lifestyle for the lazy”.

The basic idea for this article is that a great majority of lifestyle change advice I see is focused around discipline…and this is lame.  Lame in the educated/academic sense of course.  People in advertising and business are on my side.  If you want people to do something, the best way to so is to make it as easy as possible.  For some  reason, people in exercise, nutrition, and environmental studies were never informed of this magical rule.  Anyway, grand introductions aside, lets get to some of my little tricks for being a healthy and moral-enough person.  Sections to follow: everyday world-saving, exercise, food (largest section), and conclusions.

Everyday World-Saving:

Don’t buy paper towels or ziplock bags much–if you do, keep them in a cabinet or drawer such that other options are closer at hand.

In exercise as well, if your town has decent public transit, consider getting around on a combination of bike, bus, and zipcar–makes it much easier to use less gas when you have to go through some minor hassle in order to get to/reserve your car.

Use less and less harsh cleaning products (you’re bigger than those bugs anyhow)


Get a pull-up bar, use it at random

Stretch or get up and walk around whenever you feel antsy or emotionally encumbered

Learn body-weight exercises (like pushups or squats or “burpees”)–do them whenever the mood strikes throughout the day (especially effective if you work at home)

Find something you like: dancing, kayaking, etc. — make plans to do this activity with a friend

(more in conclusion below)


The idea here is instead of forcing yourself to eat salads and avoid rich foods, the advice below should help you eat healthy and still fairly decadent compared to other health-conscious eaters.

The old adage of don’t shop hungry is helpful, actually shop when you’re feeling fairly stoic–stock up on veggies and the like so that when you’re at home the easiest thing to eat is healthy.

I am a firm believer that you can eat meat, fat, even carbohydrates and still be healthy.  Here are some of my focus-points on buying healthy food–i.e. nutrient-rich food that actually tastes better than artificial crap.  Couple notes: a) some of these things aren’t quite proven healthy, but most all are proven good for the world and I’d say that means it’s good for your heart and thus healthy b) a lot of the important things to say here (eat from outside of grocery store, spend more on food, eat REAL food), can be found in “food rules” by Michael Pollan.

With the above out of the way, additionally: shop at health-food stores, look for free-range meat and eggs, wild (non-farmed) fish products, dairy products from grass-fed or free-range cattle (or sheep or goats–these two might not claim free-range despite it being the case), buy organic, keep the treats at the back of your pantry/freezer so that they are just a bit more out of sight/reach, read labels–feel icky about preservatives–avoid as much as possible, look for labels filled with things like “organic tomato” or “ginger”, realize that “wheat flour” means “white flour” and

(rant on oils): “hydrogenated/partially hydrogenated” means that you shouldn’t buy the product (i.e. it has some amount of trans fat, even if it says 0g on label), oils should say: virgin or extra virgin, expeller-pressed, cold-pressed or best stone pressed–everything else is likely treated with many chemicals and at high heat (damaging, oxidizing, denaturing the oils/nutrients in the oils)–oils making the above claims might still, but are less likely to be denatured as such (if you want to be perfect buy Udo’s Choice–though I never liked the taste of his products), pay attention to the difference between “made with _” and a product made predominantly of _, ex:-often times shitty canola/soy oils are found as the primary part of a product “made with extra virgin olive oil”,

buy sustainably farmed and fair trade products, feel like you’ve spent too much money on food and find a way to feel good about that–you should.

Speaking of money–quitting the daily coffee, alcohol, and cigarettes are a great way to save money.  Also, buying from a grocery store–even an expensive one–is cheaper than eating out all the time (I know eating out is easier BUT–well I’ve got some tricks for that too…

While microwave food isn’t great, there are things like amy’s spinach-tofu burritos that are all-organic, no preservatives, seem fairly good for you, and easy too.  If you’re in a health-food store, you should be able to find some healthy frozen convenience foods for when you didn’t have time to make a sandwich or what have you.

When you are eating out in most places–you can generally assume the animal products are from factory-farm conditions and it’s best to eat as animal-free as possible–both for health and moral reasons.


So, the list seems a bit short, though I did write a good bit for food, an obvious interest of mine.  One important comment–the above is my life.  It’s kinda how I operate, I save the world, eat healthy, and exercise–most of the time, as long as it’s easy enough.  The only thing I do differently is I recently combined my meditation and exercise into a daily standing regimen via Tai Chi–which is not as easy as it sounds–so I’m doing less of the random burpees, pull-ups, 1-legged squats, as I used to.  A note on that though–for the true bachelor, I had a dead-lift bar in my room for a bit over some cardboard, so you can have the makings of a gym right in your house.  Pavel Tsatsoline’s Power to the People and Naked Warrior are interesting reads in this regard (not necessarily tried and true evidence-based material, but interesting reading for the amateur lifter and something I’ve tried for a good bit of my life with fairly good results)–whole-body exercise in ~20min. sounds good to me.

As for the food things–my honest belief is that by choosing the right kind of real food (as outlined above) we don’t need to discipline/starve ourselves of whatever we crave.  My only exception is trying to reduce sugar/simple carb intake or only use after exercise or with fiber/protein and/or fat, though this only takes minor discipline when so many fulfilling options are still on the table.  Additionally, one trick for reducing sweets with some minor discipline is to try and only eat sweets that you cook yourself from scratch (i.e. make them more difficult to get).

Again, I adamantly believe that anyone in public health/environmental change movements needs to learn from the people in business and find some way to make whatever they want people to do easier/fun and whatever they don’t want them to do harder/less pleasurable. Whatever you can do to make good food choices, exercise, and general world-helping as easy as possible, do it.  Reciprocally, try to make sedentary activities, unhealthy foods, wastefulness, etc. somehow harder to do, put them a little further out of reach.

You might be pleasantly surprised at how well this works (i.e. at how lazy you are).

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The Benefits of Shiatsu

As part of a series of talks on healing by NCNM, I will be speaking at the Japanese gardens on Feb 28th, 2012 about “The Benefits of Shiatsu”.  I didn’t choose this title exactly, I had a hot moment for input and said “sounds good”.  So, spoiler alert, if you want to go see said talk, this is exactly what I’ll be talking about because I’m sort-of drafting a speech here.

Shiatsu is a Japanese massage that focuses on the same meridians used in acupuncture.  During a full Shiatsu treatment, nearly every major acupuncture point in the body is stimulated.  This means that the treatment might be called a chi tonic as the treatment can help a patient move chi in whichever channel in the body that is stuck.  This fact means that diagnostics are less essential in Shiatsu than in acupuncture where only certain channels are to be stimulated.

The practitioner must instead focus his energy on approaching each press correctly.  The well-trained Shiatsu practitioner is looking to apply the right speed, depth, and quality of press based on immediate feedback from his senses.

We thus have a set meridian-based pattern of movement throughout the body coupled with continuous sensing/intuitive modification of presses throughout the massage.  This combination ensures physical relaxation and release of muscle tension, as well as, possible energetic/emotional movement via the channels.

Shaking, pressing, percussions (light hitting), and stretching patterns are all constructed as to allow the channels to best move stuck chi.  These patterns happen to simultaneously provide an exceptionally pleasurable massage.

^All of that is probably more than I will say in person, with Q&A and a short demonstration, the hour will be over before I can say “stage fright” 😉

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My Weird Path To Food Freedom – And The Nutritional Bottom Line

This holiday season I notice myself saying no to anything I’m not hungry for, from the last piece of bacon slid under my nose by grama, to chips during and pie after lunch.  I’d eat these things if I were hungry for them, but often times I’m not.  This time of year helps me see most clearly that the road has come to its conclusion.  I can now feel what my body wants and have that expressed through my hunger directly and I merely follow that–recognizing some foods that don’t make me feel good afterward and otherwise simply sticking to the exact instructions I am given by hunger, taking into account what is available. I am now extra-ordinary.

I used to be normal–American normal–saying yes to any food presented to me until I was stuffed with food.  I used to honestly have a near eating disorder, complete with binge sessions and promises to not eat or eat little for the next couple days to make up for it.  I ate from my taste buds, sugar cravings, and habit.

That’s the end-point and the start-point and I wanted to confess that I solved the problem with a bit of an odd transition period.  The truth is–reading about nutrition, getting excited about health, exercise, and truly nutritious eating–all played a role.  But, it was a very unconventional diet that really put me through the transition period from struggling to eat better to naturally wanting nutritious food.

For about two years (starting ~2007), I ate a raw omnivorous diet primarily created and spread by Aajonus Vonderplanitz, called the Primal Diet.  I want to make clear up-front that I’m not necessarily recommending this diet as much as merely being honest.  The diet for me specifically at that time was made up of: raw steak, raw salmon, raw butter, raw milk, raw bone marrow, raw pineapple, unheated honey and raw green juice with celery, parsley, and raw honey.  I ate these foods almost exclusively for more than a year and still primarily for a second year before giving the diet up.

During that time, I was encouraged to eat as much of the food as I liked, no longer connecting health to how little you can eat (eat less, mostly vegetables), but instead believing that health was related to intake of nutrients, as much as my body asked for.  Weight on this diet is expected to increase before it decreases.  The idea is that your body will need to get used to eating higher-density foods before it realizes it isn’t quite as hungry, it’s well nourished.  The small amount of options might have also helped me to kick the normal habits aside.

The creator of the diet asserts that the key is raw, the bacteria are symbiotes and intake of microbiota is a major key to health.  While I didn’t get sick but one small event in two years and I do wonder if my GI-flora is more diverse and better for the experience–I recognize that Aajonus’s theories are far from proven.  His views get more extreme and less proven as you dive deeper into his work.

I eventually gave up on the diet as it was a lot of work (juicing and getting the food), kept me from eating easily with friends, and it wasn’t all that tasty.  My health seemed to do just fine but didn’t necessarily go anywhere up or down drastically except for my newly found nutritional freedom.  With my own reading of Sally Fallon’s work and the associated works of Weston A. Price, plus my previous knowledge of conventional nutritional views, I simply went back to eating, but something was different.  I no longer struggled to eat healthy.

Something changed in me such that I no longer cared for food that didn’t feed my body. Soda and Doritos, cake and icecream no longer called my name.  I still eat foods like these from time to time but quite rarely.  I’ve come to recognize there is only one real diet, written about in Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food.  That is, health simply comes by eating real food.  Both of the dietitions previously mentioned had diets that encouraged me to eat more actual food with easy-to-read ingredients, primarily made at home.

More specifically, I read enough to have an intellectual distaste for preservatives, certain chemicals found in many foods, trans fats, all of the various things that are unhealthy that are hidden in food–then beyond that I threw out the rules about eating too much fat or meat (encouraged by Weston Price’s work) and just made sure that everything I ate was real, animal products came from animals treated and fed as they would naturally (“free-range”) and produce is organic, etc.

I believe most any diet is as good as it makes people eat real food, fresh vegetables, things you can get from a farmer’s market.

Now I’m the healthy version of the lazy bachelor.  I put little to no energy into cleanses, special drinks or even preparing meals in advance of my hunger.  It is noteworthy to me that at this point my diet is fairly effort-free.  Sure, I could be healthier with some more work, but the point is that anyone can live here–you don’t have to be a type-A, health-nut, super-controller to eat healthy.

After a period of change, I believe anyone can get to where they merely eat from their stomach’s desires rather than their mouth’s wishes.  People can enjoy food to the hilt and stop the moment they’re done.  I believe with some basic intellectual rules (eat food, avoid chemicals), people can eat and be quite healthy just following instinct.  This is my explanation of how I got there–the place I’m calling Food Freedom (or nutritional freedom if you like).  I’m not the first to mention such a term, but I can innately see how apt it is as I’m no longer worried about or thinking about what I eat almost at all.  I seem to be eating well enough for vibrant health none-the-less.

Unfortunately, I recognize that my path isn’t a verbatim answer for any person wishing to eat healthy in a way that comes naturally.  However, it might make a good scaffolding for another plan with the same desired endpoint.  I think the primary aspects are two: 1) an interest in nutrition leading to reading and excitement about eating in a way that truly fosters health, 2) a diet that forces one to eat primarily whole-unprocessed foods for a significant period of time such that the body’s natural reaction to food can reset to want food for nutrients rather than flavorings.

If you aren’t a big nutrition geek, maybe just read Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food, or if you can’t hack that then watch the future of food or just piece through the small “Food Rules” by Pollan.  Beyond that, either just go for it, or follow what you’ve read, or go for a more specific diet, just find something that makes you eat unprocessed whole foods–non-fast foods.  (I believe macrobiotic diets, “the caveman diet”, the Mediterranean diet, some vegetarian diets, and the nourishing traditions/Weston Price diet, among others, are good examples.)

Given a period of time, plus some awareness of your body’s long term reactions to what you eat, you’ll come to find what foods make you feel good and respond accordingly.  You will end up with an extra-ordinarily healthy diet that is specific to what your body wants (within your means and cultural context as well).

All of the above is thus the longer, hopefully more helpful, autobiographical version of the fact that healthy eating is simply done by eating real food rather than fancy food products or processed junk.

Thanks all.  Feel free to write back with any questions, comments, or mere words. 🙂

Merry Christmas–

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Fats and fat research–Part 3?

Here is: Part 2, Part 1, and the introductory mayonnaise post.

My apologies for the overlap/redundancy between these articles. I’m sure someday I’ll become or hire a professional to awesome-ify all of this, until then, enjoy part 3-ish of my series on fats.

What follows:

1) Intro

2) Saturated fats research equates unhealthy and healthy versions of saturated fat

3) Saturated fat research lumps saturated fat eaters and refined/packaged/fast-food eaters

4) Amount of fat intake doesn’t actually connect to weight, BMI, or CHD risk.

5) Conclusive statement

6) Another reason why this whole fat thing is so important

I know half of this blog so far has to do with my view on fats.  That is mostly because I think a) nutrition is important, and b) the general view on health and fat intake is wrong, thus affecting peoples’ ability to eat healthfully.

I wanted to explain in a nut shell why the prevailing view on fats/saturated fats and health is wrong, so here we go…

Start with saturated fats being bad for you–i.e. give you heart disease and various other problems.

The research supporting this claim is fundamentally flawed.  This becomes obvious when we realize that a man eating a twinkie is lumped in the same category as the man eating pasture-raised beef-fat.  One being combined with all sorts of chemicals, preservatives, almost no nutrients, and the other being combined with fat-soluable vitamins, omega-3s, a different fatty acid composition, and all of the wonderful nutrients inherent in eating an animal which has eaten its natural diet (grass in this case).  We equate coconut oil or farmer’s butter from his own pasture-grazing cows with both the industrial meats and eggs of sick, tortured birds.

We now know it is quite incorrect to equate these as they contain entirely different amounts of nutrients and chemicals.  For a simple demonstration, just crack open an egg from the store and then crack open an egg (if possible) from a neighbor’s chickens, the difference is astounding if you’ve never seen it.  The deep orange color indicates health and dense nutrients to nourish the body.  The numbers may or may not be significant in relation to official RDA, but it seems that having a complex of natural nutrients, even in small amounts, the natural balance would serve the body beyond what one might expect by running the numbers.

Another problem, alluded to earlier, is that when we say “saturated fat”, from a research perspective, we also often mean preservatives, fast food, refined carbohydrates, and the lifestyle of a person who doesn’t know or follow the recommended dietary guidelines.  That is, we’re proving that people who eat refined and packaged foods (which are often high in saturated fat), are unhealthy–and I think the blame on saturated fat itself is mistaken.

Second, there is a general view that independent of the kind of fat, more fat is worse, it makes you fat.  Not so.  Looking into actual metabolic biochemistry, it seems insulin spikes have more to do with storing fat and being hungry than intake of fat ever has.  Fat intake has a strong effect on decreasing hunger and slows digestion–actually decreasing the insulin spikes which encourage fat deposition. Rather, liberal fat intake with a meal of complex carbs, vegetables, and proteins will ensure that metabolism is even, nutrient and calorie intake is more gradual, hunger is effectively decreased and calories are properly used rather than rapidly stored.

An interesting caveat is that in the epidemiologic research proving the horrors of fat intake–the highest fat intake was found in the countries with both the highest and lowest rates of heart disease.  Specifically, at the time of the multi-country study on diet and particularly fat, crete had the lowest rates of CHD and finland had the highest. Both shared, I believe, an ~40% fat intake.

I should mention again as I have elsewhere, I do not at all defend intake of trans-fat, that stuff is unequivocally bad for you, and almost exclusively created by an unnatural process.

My overarching view, which I’ve implied strongly but never directly stated above, is that a saturated fat is as healthy as the food surrounding it.  I try to avoid butter which is not from pasture-raised cows, and to a greater extent I avoid both red meat and poultry raised in ways which make them sick, unhappy, and unhealthy to eat (i.e. the way 90% of our food is raised these days).  If you can’t afford the good stuff, then you honestly are better off eating more of a vegetarian-type diet.  Eat avocados, coconut, cold-pressed olive oil (other foods without fat if you so desire), but leave out the bovine growth hormone and save some karma points.

Another reason why this whole fat thing is so important:

Releasing the taboo against fat and saturated fat, we simultaneously free ourselves from the puritanical/religious guilt of enjoying what we eat.  It does seem the ‘if it feels good, it’s bad for you’ view has crept into our research of what is and is not healthy and has us still today saying that if only we could cull our nasty joy-mongering lower instincts, we too can have a wonderful life of heath and attractiveness.

It seems that letting go of the “fats are bad” myth would require also accepting simple enjoyment as a worthwhile factor in right living.  Which may be a surprisingly hard fact to swallow.

So, still eat those veggies, but with some pasture-raised unpasteurized butter–lots of it–and don that big grin of a person guilty of indulgence in simple pleasures.  Call it an act of yielding to the wisdom of nature or possibly call it an act of rebellion.  Either way, enjoy it! Hopefully for the sake of joy itself, but even still if only for the fact that joy also seems to be healthy.

Happy Thanksgiving 😀

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What follows is my description of Naturopathic medicine including a short history, training/educational requirements, state of the research, and philosophy.  It is important to note that this is how I see and wish to present Naturopathic medicine, and for a more official description, see

Contemporary to a strong influence from hippocrates, galen, and other early fathers of western medicine, the “modern” Naturopathic roots extend to the early 1800’s with Father Kniepp and his nature-cure practices including primarily herbal therapy and hydrotherapy (described below) along with lifestyle recommendations such as exercise, nutrition, and sanitation (before sanitation became the norm).  Currently, we have a truly amazing mixture of traditional roots and cutting-edge research and technology.

For example, in learning botanical medicines, students are taught the traditional/indigenous uses, uses by traditional herbalists and midwives, information on active ingredients and lab science, case studies, and clinical research literature, all side-by-side.  If “evidence” is defined as primarily “double-blind randomized placebo controlled trials”, we strive for “evidence informed” practice rather than a practice, which is entirely based on that information alone.  Clinical decisions are made based on the whole picture of the individual patient, including relevant biomedical research, traditional medicinal indications, and the clinical experience of that physician and her colleagues.

A true Naturopathic degree requires graduation from an accredited 4-year post-graduate program.  Some “Naturopathic Doctors” graduate from online programs, however, as state licensing of Naturopathic Doctors continues to be implimented, these practitioners will be less able to pose as the same entity as the highly trained Naturopathic physician.  The accredited naturopathic colleges meet and often exceed credit hour requirements of conventional medical school programs in subjects such as biochemistry, ethics, anatomy & physiology, organ systems, histology, etc.  We receive rigorous training in conventional pharmacology, though many Naturopathic Physicians choose to focus on other treatment modalities in their practice.

On top of a conventional medical education, naturopathic physicians have education on patient communication, nutrition and nutritional counseling, physical therapy and manual joint manipulation, botanical medicine, homeopathic medicine, and hydrotherapy.

For more information on Homeopathic medicine, see my note on Homeopathic research, or feel free to write to me.

The primary focus on hydrotherapy is to use contrasting hot and cold water treatment to increase circulation and detoxification, immune stimulation, and generally act as a health tonic.  While the research has not yet been completed, preliminary research suggests that hydrotherapy stimulates the immune system via heat-shock proteins. Other whole system hydrotherapy research seems to provide some validation to this therapeutic modality.  However, like many alternative medicines, hydrotherapy could certainly benefit from more research.  Generally, with hydrotherapy and other alternative therapies, safety seems fairly well established. There are still specific aspects of treatment, i.e. optimization of methods for certain cases and desired outcomes, that need fettering out the most.

Well done natural medicine research is a topic in and of itself. For now I will just mention that in addition to needing more funding, we require research methodology that reflects clinical practice. These methods must take into account prescription methods, which are not solely based on biomedical diagnoses and lab tests, but often also involve physical and emotional characteristics of individual patients. For now, a lot of our research is comprised of collections of case studies. Case studies are little better than anecdotal evidence for strongly scientific minded researchers.  However, to the unbiased, critical thinking observer, the naturopathic modalities have already proven their general safety and efficacy when in the hands of the kinds of physicians trained in accredited Naturopathic colleges.  Thus, we both have sufficient evidence for use of our natural therapies, and could surely benefit from further study.

I personally was initially attracted to naturopathic medicine for its philosophy and tendency to spend up to 90-minutes with the patient per visit.  I look forward to communicating with and forming healing doctor-patient relationships with each patient that walks in the door.

My favorite aspect of the philosophy was a strong focus on treatments which aide the body’s own natural healing mechanisms.  Thus, we not only address the current cause of symptoms, but the individual’s general state of health as well.  This feature of general health is called the “vital force” in Naturopathic philosophy.  The vital force is certainly a spiritual concept.  However, if you prefer, the concept can be approximated as a capacity to self-heal when one’s immune system, microbiotic flora, organs of detoxification, digestion, metabolism, and circulation, are all functioning optimally.  While sometimes palliative or emergency treatment is appropriate, the majority of our treatments or lifestyle recommendations are focused on the goal of strengthening one’s life-force so that one is free of disease, truly happy, and truly healthy.

>Thanks to Dr. Heather Zwickey for editing part of this post.

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Fats — The Research (Part 2)

we found that the people who ate the most cholesterol, ate the most saturated fat, ate the most calories, weighed the least, and were the most physically active.

With a comment and a like, the fats article is rapidly becoming my most popular article ;). I thought I might go ahead and bring out the research I have available on the topic.  The best collection of information, that I know of, on the mistaken link between saturated fat intake and CHD–happens to be from a short presentation that I believe was from a student (TA?) in my UNC-CH nutrition program.  I showed up a little late that day to find they were finally giving a bit of my view and was basically dumbfounded as to how the information snuck into our classroom.  Looking at the powerpoint, I’m happy to say I hit the highpoints already in my previous article, fats.

To skip to the finale–there were multiple tables at the end of the presentation listing study after study (approximately 60) of dietary intervention trials showing no link between saturated fat intake and CHD mortality outcomes (some participants in each study with preexisting CHD diagnosis, and others not).  Again, I honestly don’t know where these tables come from, it seems to be a photocopy of a published article though–you know, back when we did that.  However, for the truly skeptical reader, I’ve got the author name and date of each of the individual studies in the tables, as well as their follow-up period, number of participants CHD/not and age/gender information.

It is an obvious oversight that this paper did not report on any incidence differences.  Statin drugs, which lower serum cholesterol, have been shown to decrease CHD incidence (not mortality).  This merely says that if we artificially lower serum cholesterol, the mechanisms of heart vessel repair which go awry in CHD are less likely occur.  This fact seems minor, almost off-topic, given the information below–specifically the shaky foundation of the lipid hypothesis, the attempted connection of actual fat intake to CHD, and the astounding words of the original researchers. paraphrasing and direct quotation of the presentation follows

Ancel Keys first proposed that saturated fat and cholesterol was responsible for CHD, he “tested” his theory by comparing fat intake and coronary mortality in various countries, selected only 6 of 22 countries with available food intake data, found a correlation with this limited data.  Other researchers analyzed all 22 countries and found no such link (fat in the diet and mortality from heart diesase. a methodological note. New York State Journal of Medicine, 1957).

John Yudkin (1957) examined the data from 15 countries and found strongest association with CHD was carbohydrate consumption and TV/radio ownership.

The famous framingham study is another such foundational study, one which I’ve often heard is the proof of the fat/CHD link.  It observed 5,000 residence of Framingham, MA over 16 yrs.  Conclusion: for people under 50, CHD is “stringkly related to the serum total cholesterol levels” (11% higher in those with HD). Note: 95% of CHD deaths occur in those over 55.  Important facts in the study: 1) for people over 55, those whose total cholestrol levels had decreased during the study experienced an increase in both total mortality and CVD mortality.  2) For every1mg/dl per yr drop in cholestrol, 14% increase in CVD death and 11% increase in overall mortality.

More striking is the quotes from William Kannel, the framingham study director, in the Lancet 1982:  “serum cholesterol is not a strong risk factor for CHD, in the sense that blood pressure is a strong risk factor for stroke or cigarette smoking is a risk factor for lung cancer”, “in framingham, Mass, the more saturated fat one ate, the more cholestrol one ate, the more calories one ate, the lower the person’s serum cholesterol…we found that the people who ate the most cholesterol, ate the most saturated fat, ate the most calories, weighed the least, and were the most physically active.

Frederick Stare (former AHA member, in JAMA in 1989): “The cholesterol factor is of minor importance as a risk factor in cardiovascular disease.  Of far more importance are smoking, hypertension, obesity, diabetes, insufficient physical activity, and stress,” and that the National Cholesterol Education Program was “most unfortunate, because it gives undue emphasis to a minor risk factor in cardiovascular disease and thus false hopes to millions”

The presentation moves on to the biochemical science.  PUFAs (polyunsaturates) are the most susceptible to free radical damage due to the multiple double bonds — especially when heated (and almost all vegetable oils are heated during processing).  Heated vegetables oilds increase free radical damage in animals in humans (cited 8 studies: annals of nutrition and metabolism, 2001; lipids, 1999; food and chemical toxicology, 1991; lipids, 1999; atherosclerosis, 2002).

Linoelic (om6) consumption (in 4-week intervention trials) is found to be prooxidative and vasoconstrictive compared to a diet high in saturated fat diet (prostaglandins, leukotrienes, and essential fatty acids, 1998). LDL carrying PUFAs oxidize more readily (am. journal clinical nutrition, 1991).  Theory: PUFAs may lower LDL and cholesterol, but increases LDL oxidization.

In US, om6 found mostly in soy, corn, sunflower, safflower, cottonseed and peanut oils; ratio of consumption of om6:3 used to be 1:1 or 3:1, now it is 15:1. Diet high in om6 reduces conversion of ALA to EPA/DHA.  Om3-> prostaglandins -> artery dilator, inhibits clotting; Om6->thromboxanes->inflammation, blood clots, arterial constriction. Ateromas are 50% pufa, 30% mufa (Monos), 20% saturated, when compared to normal arterial tissue, advanced plaque in the aorta contains a higher proportion of om6 (lipids and oxidized lipids in human ateroma and normal aorta. biochimica et Biophsica Acta, 1993).

Fat type and MI: Double-blind, randomized control trial (lancet, 2003) found the higher the linoleic acid (om6) content of the atheromas, the greater the likelihood that the fibrous cap ruptures (thin, inflamed fragile cap); the higher the EPA, DHA content, the thicker the fibrous cap, the less likely the plaque will rupture). Association of n-3 polunsaturated fatty acids with stability of aterosclerotic plaques: a randomized contorl trial. Lancet, 2003).

Given 75g glucose: incrased thrombin (blood clotting enzyme), increased blood pressure, catecholamines, and heart rate, increase free radical activity (glycation stimulates formation of AGEs), decreased vitamin C and E (antioxidants).  Harvard nurse health study of 75,000 women found women with the highest dietary glycemic load = 2x CHD risk (2000).

To repeat, the presentation concludes with multiple tables of dietary intervention studies which speak for themselves: dietary intervention which decreases saturated fat intake very rarely produces any reductions in CHD mortality.   When lowering saturated fat seems to have a therapeutic effect, often the dietary intervention improves the diet in other ways than only replacing saturated fats with PUFAs.  These are not small studies, they involve many thousands of people representing a variety of demographics.

Discussion:  So–what the hell?  With this kind of information, what gives?  I think it best just to provide some possibilities, with the honesty that I’m not sure what’s going on/went on.

One theory is to simply say, “Oops!” we screwed up, we thought it was true, it seemed like a good idea, maybe we were blinded by enthusiasm to cure CHD and weren’t quite objective enough.  To go ahead and go to the opposite pendulum swing, there is some theory that unhealthy encouragement of this type is part of a Rockafeller conspiracy to make money and control overpopulation by getting people to be unhealthy.  Another common theory is that sales of cheap oils/margarines and soon later, statin drugs, relied heavily on the theory, financial concerns overtook good judgement for those in power and the AHA and others might have made a lot of money in making the low-fat recommendation.  With the monetary concerns comes is the expelling of all those who oppose the theory and a massive public-health campaign to “educate”/advertise the importance of reducing fat, and especially saturated fat intake, to the public.

So what do I think?  Probably a bit from column A, a bit from B, those columns being mistaken good intentions, uncritical evaluation evidence and more greed-driven intentions yielding excess promotion of what was bad science to begin with.  Whether it be oversight or greed, as part of the American people, my family and I have been harmed by this misinformation.  It is disheartening to know that the same thing happens quite often, research is turned into infomercials aimed at convincing doctors and ‘consumers’ alike rather than conduction of proper science.  That, however, is the topic of another, to-be-written post: eager readers can jump the gun and read the well-researched book “Overdo$ed America” by a truly caring, honest and brilliant M.D. John Abramson.

A sort of late addition, but I thought I’d add what I’d like to see in research.  1) Dietary intervention trials which compare, for example, intake of ‘regular milk’, versus unpasteurized unhomogenized pasture-raised varieties.  2) Something to explain how low saturated/cholesterol can yield CHD morbidity but not mortality.

To wrap up: don’t be afraid to consume health-giving coconut, palm oil, or animals fats.  Support your local farmer and buy some fresh dairy or humanely raised meat.  Support yourself and your community, listen to your gut and question.

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Fats (Part 1)

I’d like to share some of my views about healthy and unhealthy fats.  I do have some resources which I intend to add in later, or possibly in another article.

Fats, and especially saturated fats, have been deemed unhealthy for some time now, starting around 1950, with the advent and advertisement of margarines.  The cheaper polyunsaturated margarines, soy, and canola oils–after extensive processing including bleaching, degumming, processes to remove smell, high heat and treatment with various other chemicals and a trans-fat producing homogenization for the margarine–yield a fat that basically lasts forever on the shelf.

Like the GMO’s you can do animal – what will they eat – studies proving both the un-naturalness of things like margarine and the relative intelligence of animals.

During the period of time from 1950-2000, we reduced our saturated fat intake, increased our intake of omega-6 rich polyunsaturated fats, and increased rates of cancer and cardiovascular disease.  The link between saturated fats and cardiovascular disease becomes more tenuous when we realize that much of the basic research on the issue yields no link or a positive effect on cardiovascular health from increased fat and saturated fat intake–I’ll get that citation–though probably faster if someone actually asks me for it.

Despite the above, at some points saturated fat has been correlated with heart disease.  I believe these correlations are more products of an unhealthy cohort–similar to the positive effects of being a person who tends to take vitamins, there are various negative correlations to being a person to eats saturated fat.  If a person is ignoring dietary advice about saturated fat, increased intake of sugar, processed, and fast foods are quite likely and not likely to be adequately corrected for if at all corrected for in these studies.  That is, saturated fat might be a marker for processed food and factory-farmed meat intake rather than a risk factor it self.

The theoretical construct is tenuous as well.  We connect dietary saturated fat to a process of attempted damage correction in blood vessels via cholesterol deposition.  Is it not more likely that healthy unoxidized fats with fat soluble vitamin-rich complexes in dynamic bioavailable configuration could effectively aide in repair of oxidative damage, especially in the heart which loves to use them as fuel?

We’re making an incredible leap in connecting a McDonalds burger to the butter or meat fat of a chemical-free, antibiotic free, grain free, stress free, pasture-raised (i.e. grass fed) cow.  The two have completely different nutrient and fatty acid profiles and we’re effectively equating them in these massive correlative studies.

Despite this huge mistake, there is still a lot of data manipulation needed to make the correlation stick.  The epidemiologic study of multiple countries around fat intake and heart disease involved many countries but only reported on few, which fit the proposed theory (see weston price foundation materials for a more detailed explanation). One particularly interesting fact from that study is that in terms of total fat intake, the highest numbers of such are found in Finland and Crete, finland having the highest cardiovascular disease and Crete having the lowest.

There is consensus that trans fat is unhealthy, and I agree with that completely. This is almost exclusively found in deep fried and hydrogenated foods, as well as various food additives.  A small amount is found naturally in dairy products and I wonder if that has the same effect as the unnaturally formed types.

Polyunsaturates are touted as the healthy ones–being so far from the saturates–basically different due to amounts of hydrogens on the carbon chains.  The omega-3’s, found in flax and fish are well known for positive health effects and it is my opinion that those positive effects are much more important than whatever benefit you might get from avoiding possible mercury contamination in fish, the om-3 is worth it and general nutrient studies find people are healthier eating fish than not.  Choose wild-caught for the healthiest fish.  Om-6 is thought to in some ways to be negative for its tendency to increase clotting.  It has various positive effects as well…I think the best way to make sense of the polyunsaturates is simply to realize that they are fragile–if your om-6/om-3 are high-heat processed with various chemicals which are the standard in anything that isn’t cold-pressed, expeller pressed, extra virgin–you probably have a damaged fat which will only cause your body damage in turn.  See Udo Erasmas’s Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill, for more information on fat quality, processing and more.

To wrap up, this and anything else I write about nutrition generally comes from the view that eating real food, what we now call organic, pasture raised, unprocessed, etc.–is the only way to nutritional health.  You can make it easy, cheap, expensive or difficult, all in all though, you need to do as Michael Pollan suggests and “eat food” as eating real food is the only truly well proven way to eat for health and proper weight.  Traditional diets ranged from nearly vegetarian to living off of milk and blood, to living off of seal blubber and the occasional caribou without hardly a weed of vegetation, all with incredible results.  All sorts of types and amounts of fat and other nutrients seem to work–what doesn’t work–refined sugars, processed meats and packaged foods.  Most diets just seem to get people to eat more real food, and that’s the capacity in which I can support them.

Personally, my diet is probably at least 40% fat, much of that is saturated–but do what works for you.

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