Thursday, 26 December 2013

Treats Making Pet Monkeys Diabetic

I love the bit about the inappropriateness of feeding processed and 'human' foods to the monkeys!

BBC News - Treats making pet monkeys diabetic

Lakers go 'Real Food'

Nutrition in the NBA:

  • ...they avoid sugar, processed foods and unhealthy oils – vegetable, canola, corn and other chemically engineered cocktails. It's more nuanced than that, and Shanahan has sold the Lakers on the science to back it up.
    "She's not pushing supplements on us," Lakers point guard Steve Nash said. "It's all natural foods. There's nothing processed; nothing unnatural. ... Although it is a bit of an extreme diet compared to the traditional diet, what works in its favor as far as a safeguard is that it is a natural diet."

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Risky Business

Eat real food!∣=tw-nytimes&_r=0

Friday, 20 December 2013

A Pioneering Supporter of Real Food

Thursday, 19 December 2013


Vitamins vs. Whole Foods:  There is nothing more 'whole' than eating cheek to cheek from nose to tail.

Unlike vegetables, animals can provide a nutritionally complete diet.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

BP Guidelines

3 Things to Know About the New Blood Pressure Guidelines

Monday, 16 December 2013

Tim Noakes: Groupthink

Tinkering. ..

As the Stomach Churns: The Side Effects of Acid Suppression

Fast Food Salads

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

24hr Gut Change

"However, it seems likely that changes in our gut microbiota and their metabolic products are important in explaining the influence of diet on many aspects of health, says Harry Flintat the University of Aberdeen, UK. For example, butyrate is thought to reduce colorectal cancer risk by boosting the health of cells lining the intestines and prompting cancerous cells to self-destruct."

Check out @newscientist's Tweet:

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Sat Fat: BMJ Letter

Saturated fat is not the major issue | BMJ

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Are Parasites Paleo?

Is Modern Hygiene Making Us Sick? One Man's Experiment.

Monday, 18 November 2013

DC On Nutrition Research

DC hits the back of the Internet in 'We know little about the effect of diet on health. That’s why so much is written about it':

More than in any other field it is hard to do the RCTs that could, in principle, sort out the problem. It’s hard to allocate people at random to different diets, and even harder to make people stick to those diets for the many years that are needed.

We can probably say by now that no individual food carries a large risk, or affords very much protection. The fact that we are looking for quite small effects means that even when RCTs are possible huge samples will be needed to get clear answers. Most RCTs are too short, and too small (under-powered) and that leads to overestimation of the size of effects. That’s a problem that plagues experimental pyschology too, and has led to a much-discussed crisis in reproducibility.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Green Finger

This is an interesting piece and comes from an angle I have mentioned before. If you were in the wild and had to hunt/forage for food, what confidence would you have in sourcing non-toxic food?

Outside of some seasonal berries and fruit I think most of us would be wary of foraging. Even skilled foragers make mistakes when it comes to, for example, mushroom picking.

But hunting is altogether easier. Bar eating too much liver, pick a large mammal (especially a herbivore), eat pretty much all of it. Hack meat off and cook over a fire. Job done. You don't really need specialist skills bar the actual hunting bit.

Can’t get children to eat greens? Blame it on the survival instinct

Friday, 15 November 2013

Do Indigenous Sports Make You Jacked?

The answer from these pictures and these, would appear to be an emphatic "Non!", although we cannot be sure of the participants' diet and general lifestyle. 

I still think there is merit in training around sports that involve the ability to strike (kick and punch), wrestle, swim and climb, along with activities that involve chopping, throwing, carrying, jumping and pulling.  Games/play that incorporate these themes are recommended doubly so!

Sugarman of Brazil

From BBC R4's The Food Program, 'The Sugarman of Brazil':
  • Leontino Balbo - The Sugarman of Brazil. The incredible story of one maverick farmer who is trying to change the way we produce our food.
  • David Baker brings us a story from Sao Paulo about a man who is managing to produce sugar whilst also helping wildlife.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

The Fun Theory

Art Devany was the first guy I heard articulate the importance of play in our adult life.   We seek novelty from our earliest days and our industrialised lives can crush awareness to the rewards of simply going off-grid.

Here is a great example of the benefits of throwing efficiency to the winds and simply exploring the pleasures of play.

Watch it twice,  the second time focusing on the elevator.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Kendrick on Blood Pressure

After my brief run in with hypertension I still look to monitor my BP readings.  Malcolm Kendrick has put up another superb piece on the measurement of BP and a few other passages that calm anyone who is tarred with the 'lower is better' broad brush.

My readings have fallen massively since I've resolved the underlying cause (sleep quality/'cold-showers & cortisol').  My BP is still very dynamic but morning and evening readings regularly touch sub-120/sub-75.  Resting pulse is often in the low 40s.  I am happy with where I am, and improving sleep quality seems to have brought a host of other benefits.

The reason for this post is to draw attention to something in Kendrick's post that really stood out, to do with 'a series of bullet point in the European Journal of Cardiology entitled ‘There is a non-linear relationship between mortality and blood pressure’':
  • •Drugs that lower the blood pressure by about the same amount have very different effects on outcomes

    •Cardiovascular benefits of ACE-inhibitors (Angiotensin Converting Enzyme – Inhibitors), independent of blood pressure, are not observed with calcium antagonists, despite the latter having more pronounced effects on blood pressure.

    •HOPE (Heart Outcomes Prevention Evaluation study) demonstrated that ACE inhibitors provided diverse and profound cardiovascular benefits, with only trivial differences in blood pressure between the treatment and control groups

    •ALLHAT (Antihypertensive and Lipid Lowering treatment to prevent Heart Attack Trial) showed a dramatic difference in cardiovascular risk between alpha blockers and diuretics, with essentially no difference in their effect on blood pressure. The investigators of ALLHAT concluded ‘blood pressure lowering is an inadequate surrogate marker for health benefits in hypertension.
We're big fans of MK here at Natural Messiah.  His reputation continues to grow!

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Slow Metabolism

Laughably there is talk of drugs to treat a slow metabolism.  Why no talk of gene expression and efforts to effect epigenetic change?

Slow metabolism 'obesity excuse' true!

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Sat Fat Myth

The Moment We've Waited For

Saturated fat heart disease 'myth'

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Vitamin A Overdose

A heads up for those in the UK for tonight's episode of "Trust Me I'm A Doctor" (BBC Two at 20:00 BST on Thursday 17 October 2013), which has a piece on vitamin A toxicity as experienced by polar explorer Douglas Mawson:
  • A month into their journey, one of the team, along with the tent, most of the provisions and six dogs plunged into a crevasse, never to be seen again. Mawson and the other surviving member, Xavier Mertz, started to return to base, surviving in part by eating the remaining dogs. After a few weeks Mertz developed stomach pains and diarrhoea. Then his skin started to peel off and his hair fell out. He died incontinent and delirious a few days later.

    Mawson suffered similar symptoms. With the kind of understatement typical of his generation of polar explorers he described the skin of the soles of his feet peeling off: "The sight of my feet gave me quite a shock, for the thickened skin of the soles had separated in each case as a complete layer... The new skin underneath was very much abraded and raw."

    It was the suffering of early explorers and sailors that motivated the first studies of vitamins and their deficiency diseases. At first sight Mawson's story seems to be another such tale - starvation combined with a lack of some vital nutrient. In fact, Mawson's description of his symptoms is an almost textbook description of vitamin A overdose - probably from eating dog liver. As little as 100g of husky liver could give a hungry explorer a fatal dose. 
Non-UK residents can see this program on the BBC iPlayer.

I've asked before where people who 'pill-pop' think we got our vitamins from in our ancestral past.  Pill-popping is a 'downstream' intervention which may or may not have the desired effect.  Better to tackle problems at their root and make the necessary lifestyle adaptions.

Pill popping may also be seen as reductionist to the extent that taking a vitamin pill ignores all and every other compound and bioactive ingredient in the food or foods from which humans may have historically sourced the said vitamin.   All this before we get to the question of the bioavailability of vitamins in pill form.

Unless directed by a doctor, the advice from here is save your money and eat real food!  What is real food?  You KNOW it when you see it.  It 'ain't difficult.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Industrial Living

An article recognising we live in a culture that owes more to the industrial revolution and factory-working than it does to human biology.

Breakfast Champions or Chumps? How Breakfast Can Accelerate Aging.

Monday, 7 October 2013


If there is one concern I have about modern medicine it is to do with its commercial motivation which makes it more profitable ti treat peripheral symptoms rather than underlying cause.

A further problem is that a focus on the peripheral manifestation of disease and illness  as discrete conditions in their own right may over simplify things.

Binge Drinking Could Make It Harder For Broken Bones To Heal

Two Types of Obesity (including 'Bad Obesity')

From New Scientist:
  • "It clearly shows that there are two types of obesity, and that bad obesity is characterised by a fatty liver," says twin researcher Tim Spector of Kings College London, author of the book Identically Different: Why you can change your genes. However, what predisposes some individuals to accumulate fat in the liver, and" to grow fewer, larger fat cells remains unclear.
I've mentioned Identically Different before here and here.

I'm not really in to the Sisyphian task of dividing stuff in to simple 'good' and 'bad' categories - and 'bad obesity' stumbles in to that exact same problem.  But it is good to see some issue developing naunce.

It is easy to establish that obeisty is nuanced.  Ask a skeptic 'why do we get hungry' and you'll get talk of an 'energy deficit' and the body requiring to restore its energy levels, of conditioning and hormonal factors.  But here is the kicker - why do the obese get hungry?  I mean clearly the obese do not have a calorie deficit - they are carrying kilograms of energy!  Why can't they access it?

Similar complexity is evident with the obese who are often relatively weight stable despite eating whatever they want.  How is it that for many, their weight gain is slow if at all, despite not watching what they eat?  And yet when they slim down, they cannot sustain the lower body fat levels (despite rigourous dietary control), return to 'normal eating' and rebound quickly to their previous weight where they once again stabilise? 

The critical points are that they can enjoy a stable weight without any requirement to control dietary intake when obese, but are not able to enjoy weight stability in a lean state.  Why?  Similarly why is that rebound so quick?  Why does the weight gain stablise when back to pre-diet weight....almost as if a set point is being defended?

Friday, 4 October 2013

Roadkill Grill

Check out @TheEconomist's Tweet:

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Where Do Bears Sh!t?

BBC News - Exercise 'can be as good as pills'
  •  Exercise could be just as effective as drug treatments for some patients suffering from heart disease and stroke, according to a study published in the British Medical Journal.  
Do people who pop a regular diet of vitamin pills ever stop to wonder where we used to get vitamins from? Do the obese and sick ever ponder how their lifestyle may be affecting their health? Does anyone doubt that exercise can form an important pillar of ones' health?  There may be cases where exercise may be as good as a pill but there is MORE to it than that.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Mast Year

Plantwatch: Rich pickings for foragers

Re-Wild Your Plate!

An edible gardening project is looking to ancestral plants of modern vegetables for qualities of disease resistance, yield and flavour:
  • By domesticating wild plants to create our familiar crops we have selected desirable traits like disease resistance, yield and flavour. The Really Wild Veg project has been examining how significant these changes have been by growing trial plots of three familiar crop plants alongside their wild relatives. The project has focussed on three crop species – cabbage, beet and radish – as all three are native Scottish coastal plants. For more information about the species and varieties grown in the trial and the participating community gardens see the 11th June blog update.

    The Crop Wild Relatives are important because they hold genes that may be valuable in breeding new improved varieties. One area where the wild plants may show particular promise is in their nutritional qualities. A varied group of chemicals found in plants that are particularly important for human health are called bioactive phytochemicals. This group includes antioxidants and anthocyanins among many others and can help prevent cancer, heart disease and diabetes. In order to investigate this interesting area further the Really Wild Veg project has teamed up with the Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health. The Rowett’s lab in Aberdeen will analyse the samples supplied from across all five gardens that have participated in the trials. This will provide a picture of how the phytochemicals have changed their makeup and concentration as a result of domestication.
 It nice to see the middle-ground between commerical veg-growing and foraging being explored.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

If It Fits Your Macros... via DuckDuckGo for Android

Feeding People is Easy

We're big fans here at Natural Messiah of the work of Colin Tudge.  Tudge puts a lot of thought in to agriculture; from the culture, science, biology and ecology that underpins it, to the commercial and health/nutritional drivers that so influences the form of what is harvested out in the fields by the time it ends up on our plate. 

In Feeding People is Easy, Tudge launches a polemic at the current state of world agriculture and makes a case for 'New Agrarianism'.

Biodiversity: Ecological Security and Food Security

Industrial agriculture is destroying our source of food - something discussed on BBC Radio 4's Shared Planet. One of the contributers makes the case that biodiversity produces more nutritional output than industrial agriculture (which is usually monocultural):
  • "Agricultural Crops and Wildlife Duration: 28 minutes First broadcast: Tuesday 03 September 2013 Monty Don presents Shared Planet, the series that looks at the crunch point between human population and the natural world. In this week's programme we have a field report from England with Simon Potts, Professor of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services at Reading University. Simon Potts's research looks specifically at how effective bees and other pollinators are and their abundance in agricultural landscapes - a crucial link in food security. Monty Don explores some of the issues with Vandana Shiva in Delhi, a board member of the International Forum on Globalisation and an author of over 20 books about biodiversity, food and economies."

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Discordant Lifestyle

Thursday, 19 September 2013

The Guardian on Fasted Training

Fasted training: should you eat before exercise?

Monday, 16 September 2013

Uniting Diet Haters

Why Vegans and Paleos Should Stop Hating Each Other

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Psychics Exposed

The Economist on Gut Flora

Check out @TheEconomist's Tweet:

Friday, 13 September 2013

6 Health Lessons From The Paleo Diet

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Sitting is the New Smoking

From Runner's World:
  • "Up until very recently, if you exercised for 60 minutes or more a day, you were considered physically active, case closed," says Travis Saunders, a Ph.D. student and certified exercise physiologist at the Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group at Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario. "Now a consistent body of emerging research suggests it is entirely possible to meet current physical activity guidelines while still being incredibly sedentary, and that sitting increases your risk of death and disease, even if you are getting plenty of physical activity. It's a bit like smoking. Smoking is bad for you even if you get lots of exercise. So is sitting too much."

Baby Food

Low in nutrition and high in sugar, this is a good example of the processed food I would seek to avoid as a parent.  

The story is likely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to ready-made foods whether you buy baby or adult food.

If you want to know what isn't 'paleo', here it is.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Play & Evolutionary Fitness

Play is an important component in the palei model. I look forward to paleocritics making the argument that paleo folk didn't have gym equipment nor did they play ball sports!

Play your way to evolutionary fitness.|NSNS|2012-GLOBAL-twitter

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Live Longer

Some interesting ideas and themes, many of which we've seen in the paleosphere over the past five years. via DuckDuckGo for Android

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Seasonal Numbers

Cold Weather Linked With Heart Risk Factors, Heart Attack, In New Studies

Junk Food: Know It When You See It

Smoothies and fruit juices are a new risk to health, US scientists warn

Sugar Intake Must Come Down

Sugar intake must come down, says WHO – but UK likely to resist

Friday, 30 August 2013

Suppversity on Autophagy

Thursday, 29 August 2013

7 Fat-Regulating Hormones

7 Fat-Regulating Hormones That Become Out of Whack With Too Little Sleep

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Some Useful Myth-Busting

Nutrition Myths

Fifteen Minutes to Awesome

Personal Trainer Exposes 'Before & After' Secrets on Instagram

Middle-Aged Gain

Why weight gain in middle age is not inevitable

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Don't Swallow It

5/6 ain't bad!

Scientific American on Calorie Counting

We've been here before.  Originally phrased in Paleo as "calories don't count", evolved in to "why count calories", and now reformulated as "can you count calories".  Some of us don't count calories.  Calories still count, but how effectively you can count them is the crux of the matter.  Isocaloric is not isometabolic - as Scientific American report,
  • Food is energy for the body. Digestive enzymes in the mouth, stomach and intestines break up complex food molecules into simpler structures, such as sugars and amino acids that travel through the bloodstream to all our tissues. Our cells use the energy stored in the chemical bonds of these simpler molecules to carry on business as usual. We calculate the available energy in all foods with a unit known as the food calorie, or kilocalorie—the amount of energy required to heat one kilogram of water by one degree Celsius. Fats provide approximately nine calories per gram, whereas carbohydrates and proteins deliver just four. Fiber offers a piddling two calories because enzymes in the human digestive tract have great difficulty chopping it up into smaller molecules.
    Every calorie count on every food label you have ever seen is based on these estimates or on modest derivations thereof. Yet these approximations assume that the 19th-century laboratory experiments on which they are based accurately reflect how much energy different people with different bodies derive from many different kinds of food. New research has revealed that this assumption is, at best, far too simplistic. To accurately calculate the total calories that someone gets out of a given food, you would have to take into account a dizzying array of factors, including whether that food has evolved to survive digestion; how boiling, baking, microwaving or flambéing a food changes its structure and chemistry; how much energy the body expends to break down different kinds of food; and the extent to which the billions of bacteria in the gut aid human digestion and, conversely, steal some calories for themselves.

    Nutrition scientists are beginning to learn enough to hypothetically improve calorie labels, but digestion turns out to be such a fantastically complex and messy affair that we will probably never derive a formula for an infallible calorie count.
You can try and count calories but precision is difficult when the targets (calroies in AND calories out), are moving.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Lip Service

Something that I saw on Conditioning Research a long time ago:
Fatal Attraction
Created by:

It is still a relevant issue today:
  • Most lipsticks contain at least a trace of lead, researchers have shown. But a new study finds a wide range of brands are contaminated with as many as eight other metals, from cadmium to aluminum. Now experts are raising questions about what happens if these metals are swallowed or otherwise absorbed on a daily basis.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Bodyweight = Big & Functional!

Sound Advice

Meet the Next Fitness Star Winner!

The Men Who Made Us Thin

Further to this post here is a post by Carl Henegan expanding on why he thinks Weight Watchers does not work

You can see the full program on the men who made us thin on the BBC. This follows on from a series last year called The Men Who Made Us Fat.

On The Right Foot

Start your meal on the right foot, and you’ll cut back on calories without even thinking about it

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

‘Safe’ levels of sugar harmful to mice

Living Wild

Whilst in the mood to blog I thought I'd share a book that I've recently read; The Wild Life: A Year of Living on Wild Food by John Lewis-Stempel. 

When I first received the book I wasn't really that enthusiastic about it as the cover seemed to feature some upper-class member of the horsey-set.   But from the opening page this really is a triumph of prose and an absorbing account of how Lewis-Stempel sought to live off hunted and foraged food for a year,. 
  • The Wild Life is John Lewis-Stempel's account of twelve months eating only food shot, caught or foraged from the fields, hedges, and brooks of his forty-acre farm. Nothing from a shop and nothing raised from agriculture. Could it even be done?

    We witness the season-by-season drama as the author survives on Nature's larder, trains Edith, a reluctant gundog, and conjures new recipes. And, above all, we see him get closer to Nature. Because, after all, you're never closer to Nature than when you're trying to kill it or pick it.

    Lyrical, observant and mordantly funny, The Wild Life is an extraordinary celebration of our natural heritage, and a testament to the importance of getting back to one's roots - spiritually and practically.
The struggle of the hunter/gatherer is well documented and Lewis-Stempel records his moments of hardship with warmth and humour.  The book pulls together interesting asides and anecdotes from folklore and early English literature.  It is also sprinkled with recipes both modern and traditional.

The book has a deep emotional feel to it that reminds me of Roger Deakin's Waterlog where the author shows a visceral understanding and love for the subject at hand.  In other ways it is an modern take upon Ian Niall's excellent The Poacher's Handbook.  Both these books are superb additions to the canon of modern nature writing and I have to say Lewis-Stempel's The Wild Life is right up there alongside them.

"Well Done"

I went to the doctor's last week and got an official 'all clear' for my hypertension issue.  I got a high reading in the doctor's surgery (154/95 ish and due to 'white-coat' hypertension), but I was able to show him my own records that show daily averages of under 140/90 over the past few months.  These averages show modal reading around 130/80.  On seeing my records he smiled and simply said, "Well done!".

This morning I had a reading of 113/71.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Nutrient Arteries

An interesting article from the BBC supporting some of the ideas that modern arable farming gives rise to largely sterile ecological wilderness and in contrast, pastoral farming can facilitate biodiversity:
  • "The demise of big animals in the Amazon region 12,000 years ago cut a key way that nutrients were distributed across the landscape, a study has suggested.

    Researchers say animals such as huge armadillo-like creatures would have distributed vital nutrients for plants via their dung and bodies.

    The effects, still visible today, raise questions about the impact of losing large modern species like elephants."
It is worth reading the rest of Big animal extinction 'severed nutrient arteries to see how dung and bodies are important conduits in the dispersal of nutrients throughout any ecosystem.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

The Secrets To A Fulfilling Life

The 75-Year Study That Found The Secrets To A Fulfilling Life

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Fat Profits

As I said several years ago, the diet industry is built on failure.

Fat profits: how the food industry cashed in on obesity

Eating on the Wild Side

A pseudo Paleo 2.0.

Jo Robinson: Eating on the Wild Side

Monday, 5 August 2013

Predictive Adaptive Response Hypothesis

If hunger doesn't kill you, it doesn't make you stronger

Why Dieting Must Die

How Junk Food Can End Obesity

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

How Exercise Changes Fat and Muscle Cells

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Dim Light & Weight Gain

Dim Light at Night Exaggerates Weight Gain and... [Endocrinology. 2013] - PubMed

Friday, 19 July 2013

Low Vitamin D Tied to Aging Problems

Saturday, 13 July 2013


RDFRS: Rush Limbaugh Claims Exercise is A Left Wing Conspiracy

Friday, 12 July 2013

One Hundred and Twelve Days

How times have changed.  My previous daytime best reading was:
  • '09/09/2013' 122/75
Then, 194 days later, I went hypertensive.  I've just performed a BP test and got:
  • 120/72
Since my first hypertensive reading ('22 March 2013'), it has taken 112 days to get a lower daytime reading ('12 July 2013').  I have had other readings almost as low and I've had several very low readings at night - but the significance of a work-time reading like this is tremendous!

Sleep; the Great Healer! Oh, and pretty much only one coffee a week (if at all)!

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Gluten Intolerence

New Scientists today suggest gluten intolerence is for most people, 'all in the mind'.  I'm not so sure but I liked this paragraph,
  • Accepting a psychological explanation of gluten intolerance is especially difficult because food aversions often turn into a way of life. Like religion, avoiding gluten requires personal sacrifice. Gluten intolerance creates communities, which, like religious communities, share stories of suffering and redemption, and share meals made special by the presence of a food taboo. It's no wonder people take offence at the suggestion that gluten intolerance could be psychological – after all, who wants to have built their way of life on a "mere" trick of the mind?

Not sure I will return to mainstream grain-based food just yet!

Omega 3 and Prostate Cancer

Apart from magnesium, potassium and D3 (during winter), I am not that big a fan of supplements.  I prefer to get what I need from food.  It seems to me that supplements are sold on the promise of a solution in a pill.  But there are two sides to such reductionism.

It seems that high levels of O3 can increase risk of an aggressive form of prostate cancer according to HuffPo (I couldn't see any hard numbers so although this is an increased risk, total risk may well be quite small - Examine digs further about the quality of this research),
  • Writing in the online edition of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, the scientists said the evidence suggested that the fatty acids played a role in prostate cancer development. People tempted to up their intake of omega-3, particularly by means of supplements, "should consider its potential risks".
    Omega-3 fish oils are one of the most fashionable and popular supplements on the high street.
    They are said to have a plethora of health benefits, including protection against heart attacks and strokes, staving off arthritis, boosting brain power, and preventing behavioural disorders in children.
    Each year Britons reportedly spend around £116 million on fish oil supplements. Globally, omega-3 sales run into billions. In 2012, supplements accounted for 10% of the world-wide retail market for omega-3 products, valued at 33 billion dollars (£22 billion).
Looks like this *might* be a good enough reason to vary your food sources and add a seasonal element - but above all, eat real food.  Sound familiar?

Sunday, 7 July 2013


David Colqhoun on Nutriprofile: useful aid or sales scam?
Follow the money...

Paleo Properties

I was thinking about how you'd define paleo food in just a few words.  It is tricky as paleo is evolving as a concept.  As with all movements it is splintering as it moves to the mainstream.  For many now, dairy is 'in' as are (traditional) grains when prepared in traditional ways. 

So what does this leave us with?  How would we define paleo foods?  Some ideas include:
  • Could be hunted with a stick or foraged for.
  • Can be eaten raw.
  • Can be eaten after modest processing (soaking and cooking)
  • Has an indigenous name in a native tongue amongst several cultures.
  • Has a short shelf life.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

How Exercise Can Calm Anxiety

From the NYT:
  • "...other studies “show that physical exercise reduces anxiety in humans,” suggesting that similar remodeling takes place in the brains of people who work out.

    “I think it’s not a huge stretch,” she concludes, “to suggest that the hippocampi of active people might be less susceptible to certain undesirable aspects of stress than those of sedentary people.”

Monday, 1 July 2013

Jim Kelly

Sad to hear news of the passing of a great martial artist. RIP.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Civil Eats

From HuffPost 'The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics' Big Food Controversy':
  • For years, many of my colleagues and I have voiced our discontent that the professional organization that represents us takes money from and partners with the likes of Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, McDonald's, and Hershey's, supposedly to foster dialogue with the industry and help Americans get healthier. In reality, Big Food gets free press for feigning concern, while going about its usual business, and the registered dietitian credential gets dragged through the mud.
I know that the paleoscene has been accused of hysteria when it comes to BigAgri, BigPharma and BigGovernment, but heck, the smell-test is the same.  FOLLOW THE MONEY!

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Are All Carbs Equal?

In How Carbs Can Trigger Food Cravings, some of Taubes' ideas get a further airing:
  • Sugary foods and drinks, white bread and other processed carbohydrates that are known to cause abrupt spikes and falls in blood sugar appear to stimulate parts of the brain involved in hunger, craving and reward, the new research shows. The findings, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, suggest that these so-called high-glycemic foods influence the brain in a way that might drive some people to overeat.

    For those who are particularly susceptible to these effects, avoiding refined carbohydrates might reduce urges and potentially help control weight, said Dr. David Ludwig, the lead author of the study and the director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children’s Hospital.
 It has been known for some time that isocaloric is not isometabolic so these ideas shouldn't really come as a surprise to long time readers.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Gut Flora and Cancer

Gut flora is a big theme on this blog.  Gut flora are not freeloaders, they are integral to health.  They are also integral to poor health and disease.  Nature report that gut microbes spur liver cancer in obese mice:
  • The gut bacteria of obese mice unleash high levels of an acid that promotes liver cancer, reveals one of the first studies to uncover a mechanism for the link between obesity and cancer. The research is published today in Nature.
Incredible and fascinating stuff.


The origins of human throwing have been unlocked !
  • Neil Roach, from George Washington University, US, who led the study, said that changes in the anatomy of hominins (early humans) that occurred two millions years ago, enabled energy storage in the shoulder that allowed fast throwing, and therefore hunting, to occur.

    "Success at hunting allowed our ancestors to become part-time carnivores, eating more calorie-rich meat and fat and dramatically improving the quality of their diet.

    "This dietary change led to seismic shifts in our ancestors' biology, allowing them to grow larger bodies, larger brains, and to have more children, and it also did interesting things to our social structure.

    "We start to see the origins of divisions of labour around that time, where some would be hunting, others would be gathering new foods.

    "It probably also allowed us to move to new environments, such as areas that did not have vegetation to support us before we had the ability to hunt," Dr Roach told BBC News.
I find it interesting that both this article and at least one of the evolutionary arguments for running in 'Born To Run' both argue from quite different perspectives that major changes occured to human physiology in pursuit of meat.  And yet both seem to downplay the role of meet to an extent ('part-time carnivores'). 

I don't doubt our omnivory but if we have several distinct threads of evidence placing meat-eating and the pursuit of meat at the root of our evolution, I'm guessing the resulting specialisation meant we were good at it.  The 'fruits' of foraging would appear to be secondary and supplementary to our primary dietary constituent..

PETA: Misleading Advertising

I've not posted about PETA since this piece a couple of years ago, but they are once again on my radar due to a ruling by the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA):
  • A poster for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), featured an image of a toddler smoking a cigar. Text stated "You Wouldn't Let Your Child Smoke. Like smoking, eating meat increases the risk of heart disease and cancer. Go vegan! PeTA".
The advert was found to have breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 (Substantiation), and the following ruling was given:
  • The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told PETA not to imply that any consumption of meat would raise the risk of heart disease and cancer.
I will conceded the 'paleo' framework has some over-simplified advice, but the resulting diet is often remarkably close to that advocated by the most vocal paleocritics.  I go so far as to say that the resulting diet is more nutritious and personally more sustainable than governmental dietary advice.  But this piece reiterates the need to leave the tent and erect a proper building.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Paleo-Kerfuffle; 'Paleo' is Shorthand Guys.

Paleo is NOT about re-enactment.  It is simply short-hand for an evolutionary perspective on eating, exercise and wider lifestyle.

The food part simply means eating 'close to the ground' - 'low order' or real foods (we know them when we see them), that could be hunted, gathered and prepared out in the field.  This means meat, fish, shell fish,  nuts, fruit and veg.  Simple!  Dairy in the form of milk is most definitely 'in' - although tolerance may vary.

There is no one paleo diet nor one simple ratio of macros (seasonal and geographic factors would have put paid to that).  With modern science we can look at optimising macro ratios, but remember that what is 'optimal' will be a moving target given our dynamic biology.

That is fundamentally it.  Not sure why there is such a kerfuffle, but kerfuffle there is. What is funny is that most of the kerfufflers seem to recommend a diet not too dissimilar to that which would be considered 'paleo-compliant'.

If you want to try adding cheese, wine, chocolate, legumes and grains then these may well be tolerated and may be beneficial to your health.  There is a definite argument that they WILL be tolerated when prepared in traditional ways.

Modern foods may be made using these same raw materials, but they are not processed to the same nutritional profile as traditionally prepared foods and so may not be tolerated as well.  The foods may also be 'engineered' which means that their nutritional signature/payload will vary to what the body may well expect given the colour, smell, texture and flavour of the food.  

Yes, modern food can be made to taste, smell and mouth-feel to whatever extent optimises economic return.  The rate of reformulation is far beyond any traditional agricultural breeding program.  The more 'high order' a food is, the easier it is to reformulate.

Is this good or bad?  Well, look at the incentives of the people manufacturing these foods, and look at the health of the people eating them.  Your call.  

I would caution that ill health can take root at a micro level and take years to manifest at a macro level.  How long do you think they test the health implications of high order foods for (if at all)?  As I said, your call.

More and Better Sleep

Sleep is high on my agenda at the moment.  The NYT seem to be running with a similar theme.  HO on the heels of this article, they've posted up Steps for More, and Better, Sleep:
  • EXERCISE Physical activity leaves you tired, but if you do your workout within two or three hours of bedtime, you may be too revved up to fall asleep easily.

    Many drugs, both prescription and over-the-counter, contain stimulating chemicals like pseudoephedrine and caffeine, commonly found in decongestants and painkillers. Beta-blockers, used to treat certain heart conditions and high blood pressure, may be disruptive as well. Ask your doctor if you can use an alternative drug.

    Eating a big meal close to bedtime can be a problem, especially if you are prone to indigestion. Drinking a caffeinated beverage late in the day can disturb the sleep of anyone who has not developed a tolerance to caffeine by drinking too much of it. Caffeine’s stimulating effects can last for six to eight hours and make it hard to fall asleep or cause middle-of-the-night wakefulness.

    Alcohol may help you fall asleep, but when its effects wear off hours later, you may wake up and be unable to get back to sleep. (I and others I know find wine especially problematic and avoid drinking it with dinner.)

    Anxiety, excessive stress and difficulty shutting out worries trigger the release of body chemicals that act as stimulants. Try a relaxing bedtime ritual like a hot bath, meditation or progressive muscle relaxation, starting at the toes and working up to your head. Or, odd though it may seem, try reading something dull.

    If things you must remember or do the next day keep popping into your head, put a pad and pen next to the bed, write them down and then do your best to forget about them until morning.
Good advice!

Remember, sleep is not 'the daily event where you black out', it is time for your mind and body to service itself - time to repair and rebuild.  It is right up there with nutrition and exercise, and you wouldn't scrimp on those now would you?

Don't stress about sleeping solidly for 8 hours either (it is natural to awaken a couple of times during the night).  Just ensure you avoid electric light for the sleep window (which for me is 2130hrs to 0700hrs), and focus on relaxing and resting during that time.  With practice comes habituation and the process of initiating sleep - QUALITY SLEEP - may become easier for you as it has done for me.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Do Plants Get Fat?

CICO is tautological, over-simplified and as an explanation of obesity, lacks 'causal' information.

But what about plants? Their food supply is limited and can be variable from day-to-day (for example, due to cloud cover), season to season, and, from generation to generation (as seeds can root in less than optimal locations). How come plants don't get fat.... or whatever the plant-y equivalent is?

That is to say, how do they regulate their energy? Do they have strong willpower or what? Is their energy regulated by biochemical process? Could it be 'plant maths'?

  • During the night, mechanisms inside the leaf measure the size of the starch store. Information about time comes from an internal clock, similar to the human body clock.
    The researchers proposed that the process is mediated by the concentrations of two kinds of molecules called "S" for starch and "T" for time. If the S molecules stimulate starch breakdown, while the T molecules prevent this from happening, then the rate of starch consumption is set by the ratio of S molecules to T molecules. In other words, S divided by T.
    "This is the first concrete example in biology of such a sophisticated arithmetic calculation," said mathematical modeller Prof Martin Howard, of the John Innes Centre.
    The scientists think similar mechanisms may operate in animals such as birds to control fat reserves during migration over long distances, or when they are deprived of food when incubating eggs.
From the BBC's article Plants 'do maths' to control overnight food supplies.  (No harming was done to the Second Law of Thermodynamics in the production of this post.)

Friday, 21 June 2013

Finger Strength

Some good ideas from guys with strong fingers.  First up...Eva Lopez has some great articles on finger strength and how to develop it here.  There is LOTs to absorb on this site.

Next up, a short video from Chris Webb Parsons:

Chris Webb Parsons Hangboard Program from on Vimeo.

And lastly a guy who went from non-climber to 8C within a year!  Ben Davidson Secrets of the Powerful:
  • Repeaters: 3 sets. 6 or 7 grips per set. 1 minute of 7 seconds hanging, 3 seconds rest per grip. 2 and a half minutes rest between grips, and 6 minutes between sets. That’s your basic structure, tweak it as necessary. You should aim to have the intensity such that you fail on the last second of each minute. These is the grip types I have been using on the beastmaker 2000:

    30 minute progressive warmup.

    Half crimp on 15mm rung – I find 4 finger too easy, but 3 too hard, so I alternate one hand with 3 fingers the other 4.

    Slopers – again, I find the 35′s too easy and the 45′s too hard. I used to use 3 fingers on the 35 to make it harder, now I use hand on the 35 and one hand on the 45′s, but use my thumb and nestle my index against the crease to make it possible. Just.

    3 finger drag on 15mm rung

    Half crimp again – I feel like this is one of my weaker grips and is used often in climbing which is why I do it twice

    Middle 2 small pockets

    Back 2 – one hand in back 2 pocket, one hand in medium pocket

    front 2 small pockets
Some previous posts on this topic include 321s, the Metolius routines, the Moon Deadhanging routine and finally some thoughts on Digit Strength.

Fake Outdoors!

As you'll see from 'Ducks In a Row', I advocate 'immersion' in the wild landscape, and this extends to using sounds from nature in place of the usual beeps and blips that constitute alarms and notifications.  Modern electronic sounds can be harsh and aggressive and simply don't have the rounded acoustics of organic sounds.

New Scientist carried a little something in support of this approach in The Fake Outdoors: Nature that isn't real still heals,
  • STAND on the shores of Wembury Bay and let nature heal you. Here on England's south-west coast, the gentle sway of the trees in the ocean breeze will lower your blood pressure, the sound of lapping waves will banish the stress hormones from your blood, and the pine scent will invigorate your immune system.

    On closer inspection, you'll find that something is missing from this scene: namely, all of it. This is no shore. You're in an intensive care unit 325 kilometres inland, in Birmingham. But the illusion will fool your body into healing itself, its creator claims
  I'm looking forward to more research in this area.

Nightime PRO & CHO

You are when you eat! British Journal of Nutrition - Abstract - Night-time consumption of protein or carbohydrate results in increased morning resting energy expenditure in active college-aged men,

Biodiversity Loss

When you look at a arable land you are actually looking at an industrial landscape that is devoid of complexity and biodiversity.  Modern industrial farming cannot be contained and so the problems it creates reach beyond the 'productive' land.  These places are increasingly sterile as you can see here 'Pesticides spark broad biodiversity loss'.
  • The team examined 23 streams in the central plains of Germany, 16 in the western plains of France and 24 in southern Victoria, Australia. They classified streams according to three different levels of pesticide contamination: uncontaminated, slightly contaminated and highly contaminated.

    The researchers found that there were up to 42% fewer species in highly contaminated than in uncontaminated streams in Europe. Highly contaminated streams in Australia showed a decrease in the number of invertebrate families by up to 27% when contrasted with uncontaminated streams.
 Unlike pastoral farming, arable farming competes with nature at the base of the food chain and so higher order life has no base to build upon.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

"I said, 'Oi, fat bloke!"

I've posted quite a bit on how obesity is one dimension (but perhaps the most obvious), of 'Syndrome X'.  The NYT has an interesting new angle on this today.

Skeletal Muscle is the Organ that Counteracts Fat

Outside magazine on fat,
  • In 2003, biologists Mark Febbraio, from Australia, and Bente Pedersen, of Denmark, figured out that muscle is an endocrine organ, just like fat, and that exercising muscle produces chemical secretions—which they called myokines—that communicate with the rest of the body. As Pedersen puts it: “Skeletal muscle is the organ that counteracts fat.”

    Febbraio and Pedersen identified the most common myokine as none other than IL-6, the inflammatory cytokine that’s also produced by excess fat. But when released during exercise, they found, IL-6 actually had beneficial effects, telling the liver to increase the rate of fat oxidation. “When we made this discovery, people really didn’t believe us, because IL-6 was considered a bad actor in many diseases,” says Febbraio, a former professional triathlete. “But the thing is, in exercise it’s actually anti-inflammatory.”

    The difference had to do with time. Obese patients tended to have low but constant levels of IL-6, which caused chronic inflammation. When patients exercised, their IL-6 levels would spike, then dissipate over a few hours. The patients who exercised had much lower baseline levels of inflammation.

    Since then, dozens of these myokines have been identified. Febbraio believes there could be hundreds more and that they’re largely responsible for the beneficial effects of exercise. They act on bones, the pancreas (which secretes insulin), and the immune system. Researchers think they may also act on muscle itself, promoting growth and healing, and on the brain, triggering the release of derived neurotrophic factor, which heals and protects neurons.
Hat tip to That Paleo Guy.

Just Four Minutes

  • There are other groups of scientists looking at even shorter bouts of exercise, he says, “but it seems like they don’t get the same results regarding the maximal oxygen uptake” as the four-minute sessions used in his experiment. Since improved maximal oxygen uptake can reliably indicate better overall cardiovascular health, he suspects that “we need a certain length of the interval to trigger” such health and fitness benefits.

    Thankfully, for those worried that a trip to the gym is an inefficient means of completing four minutes of exercise, the workout can effectively be practiced anywhere, Dr. Tjonna says. Sprint uphill for four minutes or race up multiple flights of steps. Bicycle, swim or even walk briskly, as long as you raise your heart rate sufficiently for four minutes.
A good reason to work on the O'Neill Test!

Tuesday, 18 June 2013


The latest film from Danny MacAskill. AWESOME!

The Micromort & Microlife

Number geeks should check out Understanding Uncertainty.  For those of a paleo bent, a good starting place is "What does a 13% increased risk of death mean?" which looks at red-meat consumption and death rates.  It is all a bit technical in places, but persevere with it and it is rather informative (I also recommend DC's Improbable Science and this post on the same topic).

The website makes much of the micromort (a unit of risk measuring a one-in-a-million probability of immediate death) and the microlife (30 minutes of your life expectancy),
The microlife was formulated by David Spiegelhalter and he explains its relationship to the micromort thus,
  • If we expose ourselves to a micromort, we take a 1-in-a-million chance that our future life will be 0, and hence our life expectancy is reduced by a millionth. Hence a young adult taking a micromort’s acute risk is almost exactly exposing themselves to a microlife. An older person taking the same risk, while still reducing their life-expectancy by a millionth, is only perhaps losing 15 minutes life-expectancy. However, acute risks from dangerous activities are not well expressed as changes in life expectancy, and so different units appear appropriate.

    There is one big difference between micromorts and microlives. If you survive your motorbike ride, then your micromort slate is wiped clean and you start the next day with an empty account. But if you smoke all day and live on pork pies, then your microlives accumulate. It’s like a lottery where the tickets you buy each day remain valid for ever - and so your chances of winning increase every day. Except that, in this case, you really don’t want to.
 To hear more about David Spiegelhalter check out this excellent podcast on The Life Scientific,
  • Is it more reckless to eat a bacon sandwich everyday or to go skydiving? What's the chance that all children in the same family have exactly the same birthday? Jim Al-Khalili talks to Professor David Spiegelhalter about risk, uncertainty and the real odds behind everyday life.

    As one of the world's leading statisticians, he is regularly called upon to help answer questions in high profile inquiries - like the one into the Harold Shipman murders, infant heart surgery at Bristol Royal Infirmary and the PiP breast implant scandal.

    Jim finds out more about the Life Scientific of the man who despite winning many awards and his research papers being some of the most cited in his field David Spiegelhalter says he isn't really that good at maths.

Monday, 17 June 2013

No Fat Under Skin!

From the Beeb today:
  • Baffled doctors are nothing new to 23-year-old budding Paralympic cyclist Tom Staniford, from Exeter.
    He has an extremely rare condition that means he is unable to store fat under his skin.
    Although he was born a normal weight, he lost all the fat around his face and limbs during his childhood, and yet his body still thinks he is obese, meaning he has type 2 diabetes. His hearing also deteriorated when he was 10 and he has worn hearing aids since.

    Staniford's condition had never been identified - until recently, when a research team set about mapping and analysing his DNA to pinpoint the precise gene mutation responsible.
This reminds me of GCBC where one of the most interesting topics of discussion was how hormones can compel us to eat (think growing teenagers and pregnant women), and how hormones govern the location of fat storage (think lipodystrophy).

Short-Changed on Sleep

Cheating Ourselves of Sleep makes for good reading in today's NYT.  It covers a lot of the stuff I've been talking about recently with regard to sleep. 
  • Research shows that most people require seven or eight hours of sleep to function optimally. Failing to get enough sleep night after night can compromise your health and may even shorten your life. From infancy to old age, the effects of inadequate sleep can profoundly affect memory, learning, creativity, productivity and emotional stability, as well as your physical health.

    According to sleep specialists at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, among others, a number of bodily systems are negatively affected by inadequate sleep: the heart, lungs and kidneys; appetite, metabolism and weight control; immune function and disease resistance; sensitivity to pain; reaction time; mood; and brain function.

    Poor sleep is also a risk factor for depression and substance abuse, especially among people with post-traumatic stress disorder, according to Anne Germain, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh. People with PTSD tend to relive their trauma when they try to sleep, which keeps their brains in a heightened state of alertness.
 Improving my sleep quality seems to have resolved my hypertension issue and to have leaned me out a bit.  The article above suggests myriad other benefits - all from doing 'nothing'!  What's not to like?

Sunday, 16 June 2013

And YOUR Excuse is...?

Weightlifting world record holder Sy Perlis, 91: "Bench pressing 85kgs is good for me",
  • Most 91-year-olds would be happy enough to lift a hobnob and a cuppa unaided – not so for Sy Perlis, who has just set a new world record by bench-pressing 85kgs (187.2lbs).

    Mr Perlis, who only started competing as an 86-year-old, set the 90-and-over age division world record at the National Bench Push-Pull Press and Dead Lift Championships in Phoenix, Arizona.

    Remarkably the previous record had stood for eight years at 61kgs (135lbs) – meaning Mr Perlis’ effort was a whopping 23.5kgs (52lbs) heavier.

Modern Milk a Menace ?

Hormones in milk can be dangerous claims physician Ganmaa Davaasambuu in the Harvard Gazette,
  • The link between cancer and dietary hormones - estrogen in particular - has been a source of great concern among scientists, said Ganmaa, but it has not been widely studied or discussed.

    The potential for risk is large. Natural estrogens are up to 100,000 times more potent than their environmental counterparts, such as the estrogen-like compounds in pesticides.
As with most modern foods, they are quite different to those we consumed in our ancestral past,
  • "The milk we drink today is quite unlike the milk our ancestors were drinking" without apparent harm for 2,000 years, she said. "The milk we drink today may not be nature's perfect food." 
Smart sourcing of your food will perhaps confer the greatest compromise between the benefits of milk and the problem of estrogen.  Oh, and keep lean!

Friday, 14 June 2013

+1000 kcal

Suppversity has a superb post on bulking.  There is so much more to getting fat than calories in!

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Questionable Content of an Industry-Supported Medical School Lecture Series

Questionable content of an industry-supported medical school lecture series: a case study:
  • This case demonstrates the need for better strategies for preventing, identifying and dealing with problematic interactions between the pharmaceutical industry and undergraduate medical education. These might include the avoidance of unnecessary conflicts of interest, more disclosure of conflicts, an open process for dealing with recognised problems and internationally harmonised conflict of interest policies.

The full paper can be found here.  Follow the money!

Hypertension: High Blood Pressure - One Minute Medical School

Hat tip to Chris:

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Big Fat Truth

 Interesting article from Nature on the 'Obesity-Paradox',
  • A team led by Katherine Flegal, an epidemiologist at the National Center for Health Statistics in Hyattsville, Maryland, reported that people deemed 'overweight' by international standards were 6% less likely to die than were those of 'normal' weight over the same time period.
The principle gap I can see is that there was no account for body-composition.  This point is alluded to in the final paragraphs,
  • All this suggests that BMI is a crude measure for evaluating the health of individuals. Some researchers contend that what really matters is the distribution of fat tissue on the body, with excess abdominal fat being most dangerous; others say that cardiovascular fitness predicts mortality regardless of BMI or abdominal fat.
  Thought provoking all the same.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Hypertension Fix Pt3

After parts one and two, here comes part 3; changes in physical activity.

After a lay-off from specific goals relating to DL and OACs, I am back to doing what I enjoy and am working on strength training on a 11 day cycle comprising of three workouts:
  1. Monday - Planche and Levers + sprints
  2. Friday - OACs/MUs + Shoulder Prehabilitation
  3. Monday - Deadlifts RPT/Deficit + Wrist Prehabilitation
This gives me several days of rest between 'formal' workouts and allows full recovery.  I am normally busy with other activity in the week (marital arts and climbing), and this approach seems to accommodate my total weekly volume. 

Friday, 31 May 2013

The Nordic Diet

Move over Mediterranean Diet!  It looks like the Nordic diet is the next big thing (sadly I had to read the Daily Mail to get this story):
  • For years, the Mediterranean diet with plenty of olive oil and vegetables has been lauded as the key to health and longevity.

    But it seems that a Scandinavian nation's cuisine could actually be better for you.

    Scientists have found that eating a diet based on that served up traditionally in Denmark could significantly reduce your risk of heart disease.

    Nordic cuisine is usually made up of fresh berries, fish and game - foods that thrive in colder northern climates.
While it is saddening to hear of another 'new diet' fad, the fact is that this diet easily falls under the paleo template.  There is no 'best diet', and the diet best for you may well be somewhere between these two diets and may change based on age, gender, activity levels, health and seasonality.

As with all these 'super-diets', they share a commonality in that they involve real foods and are based on traditional nutritional practice. The key to health and longevity is probably to avoid or limit foods that have the same name globally or that you can't make or prepare in your kitchen.  Not hard is it?

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Hypertension Fix Pt2

You'll know from part one what (modest) changes I've made to my diet in terms of restrictions.  So what about my wider dietary practise?  First of all let me list my objectives (based upon the key factors that *may* by responsible for my episode of HBP):
  • Alkalize my body.  Cordain suggests elevated acid is one source of hypertension.  As an aside, anyone familiar with Supperversity cannot help but be impressed my the ergogenic benefits of raised alkalinity in the body (primarily via Bicarbonate of Soda). 
  • Lower chronically elevated cortisol levels - through increased sleep, reduced light exposure after sundown and elimination of excessive stressors such as cold water exposure.
  • Increase iodine consumption.  This is crucial for thyroid function and implicated in HBP.  Also, a shredded idiot is still an idiot.
  • Address sodium intake.  High quality sea salt is exceptional in taste.  As with much of this stuff, it is RATIOs that matter - but bear in mind that these ratios will be dynamic and perhaps impossible to manipulate directly save for providing your body with appropriate nutrition and letting it do the rest.

To this end I've made the following changes and amendments:
  1. A large salad for lunch.  I still mainly eat fish or boiled eggs, and some fruit, at lunchtime but this is accompanied now by a large salad.  Pride of place in the salad usually goes to one or more of beetroot, celery, avocado and spinach.
  2. Lunchtime protein will comprise of shellfish once or twice a week (this is a new introduction to my diet).  In an attempt to increase my iodine levels I've taken to eating mussels and alternatively shrimp.  Delicious.
  3. Apple Cider Vinegar.  There are LOTS of health claims made for ACV - and if they are to be believed, this stuff is Chuck Norris's Tears.  I use this to dress my salad but will occasionally just squeeze fresh lemon juice over the salad instead as lemon raises your body's alkalinity significantly.
  4. Sea salt (a pinch is added once or twice a week - usually to my bone broth).  I never salt my foods and figured that if I am to address my potassium to sodium ratio, I'd better ensure I have adequate levels of both (and then let my body work out where to go from there).  A small pinch on liver is particularly enjoyable.
  5. Pretty much all my meat now comes from a quality butcher, not from a supermarket.  This is especially important if you make bone broth from the bones.
  6. Beverages are mainly water and camomile or hibiscus tea - the latter is held to lower BP.
My number still spike on occasion, but morning and evening readings give regular sub 140/80.

I need to reiterate that I am not medically trained and am not conferring any advice as such.  I'm simply looking for non-pharmacological interventions that will allow my body to thrive and do what it evolved to do.

Hypertension is a symptom of some other dysfunction.  The bigger picture is a question of whether treating high blood pressure does any good and whether the side effects of medication are worse than the cure.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Stress and Hypertension

 The unambiguously named American Institute of Stress gave me food for thought recently.  Certainly their opening paragraph in this interview with Bjorn Folkow echoed much of my own thoughts on the matter of HT:
  • What we refer to as “essential” or “primary” hypertension is generally viewed and often treated as if it were a distinct disease. However, it is merely the observation of consistent blood pressure measurements that exceed arbitrary values for which there is no obvious explanation. Like fever, hypertension is really a description rather than a diagnosis. As with an elevated temperature, it may have many varied causes that require very different treatments...As a consequence, therapy is often a hit or miss trial and error exercise or a buckshot approach consisting of a combination of drugs designed to lower an elevated blood pressure irrespective of its cause.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Sleep Architecture

We fixate on diet and exercise, but in the West, of at least equal importance is sleep.  I've ruminated on the importance and nature of sleep a few times in the past. Only a day or two ago there was broad media coverage of the health implications of blue light from modern media and its impact on our circadian rhythm.  Sleep and our circadian rhythm are every bit as important as the 'diet and exercise' tenets of health and worthy of greater understanding.

The diagram above was appropriated from a site which has a good breakdown of the sleep and shows that idea of a 'solid eight hours' is indicative of sleep debt.

The Corporate Playbook, BDA and DUK

The BMJ has launched a stinging attack on the relationship between Diabetes UK and their corporate sponsors.  The British Dietetic Association also come in for criticism.

The game really is up for these organisations. Charities such as DUK and BDA have similarly been exposed for their lack of integrity.:
  • Despite the American Heart Association’s statement and the supportive scientific evidence, the food industry continues to adopt strategies to deny sugar’s role as a major causative factor in what now represents the greatest threat to our health worldwide: diet related disease. It took 50 years from the first publication (in the BMJ) linking smoking to lung cancer before the introduction of any effective legislation because Big Tobacco successfully adopted a strategy of denial, planting doubt, confusing the public, and even buying the loyalty of scientists, all at the cost of millions of lives. The same “corporate playbook” has been adopted by Big Food.
It is good to see such high profile discussion of these issues.

Follow the money!

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Hypertension Fix Pt1

My numbers are getting pretty good - down to 'high normal' (or 'normal' as it used to be called), and often at least one of my readings qualifies as 'athletic'/'low normal'.  I am not sure if these lowered numbers are due to the changes I've implemeted or whether the high readings were episodic and have simply passed.  I believe the former is the case.

Potentially Useful?

Some supplements that might actually be useful in lowering blood pressure. Googling turns up these time and again for HBP (yes, I self-medicate via Google!)

Iodine in the News

A timely story in the mainstream media.  Pregnant women should up iodine intake to increase child’s IQ.  I've mentioned iodine before quoting Bertrand Russell who noted that,
  • "...a deficiency in iodine will turn a clever man into an idiot."
I've recently upped my intake of iodine in my quest to lower blood pressure.  I guess I must be a ripped-idiot.

Lights Out Goes Mainstream

Mainstream are playing catch up!  Peering at bright screens after dark could harm health, doctor claims. None of this is news to those of us who have looked at our health and fitness from an evolutionary perspective for any lingth of time.

UPDATE: Nature has more detailed coverage of Charles Czeisler's work - including a couple of pithy observations:
  • Paradoxically, the daily peak of waking energy driven by the brain's master circadian clock in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of the hypothalamus occurs not at the start but near the end of our usual waking day, providing us with a 'second wind' that keeps us going as the day wears on. Before the widespread use of electric light, people probably experienced that second wind in the mid-afternoon, keeping them going until night fell. But light exposure after sunset signals 'daytime' to the SCN, shifting the clock later, postponing the second wind and delaying the onset of melatonin secretion. As a result, many people are still checking e-mail, doing homework or watching TV at midnight, with hardly a clue that it is the middle of the solar night. Technology has effectively decoupled us from the natural 24-hour day to which our bodies evolved, driving us to go to bed later. And we use caffeine in the morning to rise as early as we ever did, putting the squeeze on sleep.
This brings to mind Wiley and Formby's observation that our bodies are stuck in a perpetual summer, preparing for a winter that never comes.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Blood Pressure Ranges

Well, I finally managed to find some graphic which illustrates BP ranges.  I can't remember the address of the website I nicked them from so apologies (and if you find your corporate image on this site, let me know and I will give due credit).

I definitely fall on occasion in to 'borderline' but also tick 'normal' (usually during the morning and evening).  My BP is DYNAMIC - which at 189cm and with an active lifestyle, I would expect to some extent.  Could I my 'borderline' readings be latency in BP adapting to changes in things like stance/posture, hormonal (cortisol) and activity level?

Normal Blood Pressure Range

Borderline Hypertensive

As my numbers are seldom sustained in the borderline state, I do wonder at my diagnosis.  Needless to say I don't get too stressed by a single 'dimension' on my health.  I've focused on controlling inputs rather than the more elusive 'outputs', and continue to subscribe to Devany's Fifth Law:
  • We should recognize the limits of knowledge and just get on the path that favours better outcomes.
In summary, there are a few things I've done which I believe have influenced my much-improved numbers but lower BP has not been an objective in itself.  I will try to pull a post together giving more detail.

Reversing T2 Diabetes

An interesting piece from The Guardian today about a guy who reversed his T2:
  • At 59 I was 10st 7lb, 5ft 7in, and had never been overweight. I ran and played cricket regularly and didn't drink alcohol excessively. Yet at a routine check-up I was told that I had type 2 diabetes. In 10 years I could be dependent on insulin, it could affect my sight, feet, ears, heart and I had a 36% greater chance of dying early.
    In type 1 diabetes, the body produces none of the insulin that regulates our blood sugar levels. Very high glucose levels can damage the body's organs. Patients with type 2 diabetes, however, do produce insulin - just not enough to keep their glucose levels normal. Because I was fit and not overweight (obesity is a major risk factor in type 2 diabetes; however, a number of non-obese people, particularly members of south Asian communities, are also prone to it), my doctor told me I could control my condition with diet alone.

    Desperate for information, I headed to the web, where I found a report about a research trial at Newcastle University led by Professor Roy Taylor. His research suggested type 2 diabetes could be reversed by following a daily 800-calorie diet for eight weeks.
As with all such stories the comments give a tantalising insight in to the potential of eating real food (you know it when you see it), and engaging in some occasional, vigorous, strength-demanding exercise. (Of course none of this will be new to those who have been around the paleosphere for the last 5 years.)

On the study, I think an 8-week diet of 800 calories a day is rather restrictive and, given some of the research from Martin at Leangains, I wonder if the same outcome could be achieved with an IF approach.  Perhaps the timescales would be longer, but compliance may well be higher.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Of Nature and Numbers

I completed yet another orbit of the sun yesterday and had the day off work (soldering some new Bare Knuckle pups in to my Gordon Smith if you must know).  It was a fantastic blue-sky day and I worked outdoors in the back garden.  My BP lunchtime reading was 131/78 which might just be due to the sunshine - as reported on the BBC website:
  • "The health benefits of exposing skin to sunlight may far outweigh the risk of developing skin cancer, according to scientists.

    Edinburgh University research suggests sunlight helps reduce blood pressure, cutting heart attack and stroke risks and even prolonging life.

    UV rays were found to release a compound that lowers blood pressure.

    Researchers said more studies would be carried out to determine if it is time to reconsider advice on skin exposure.

    Heart disease and stroke linked to high blood pressure are estimated to lead to about 80 times more deaths than those from skin cancer in the UK.

    Dietary vitamin D supplements alone will not be able to compensate for lack of sunlight” [said] Dr Richard Weller [of] Edinburgh University

    Production of the pressure-reducing compound, nitric oxide, is separate from the body's manufacture of vitamin D, which rises after exposure to sunshine."
This is a good example where simply thinking about how early man *might* have lived can give you a good handle on the context of scientific advice of the last 30 years!  Blanket advice to avoid the sun wouldn't match with our ancestral past.  Such an approach might draw criticism of 're-enactment', but only in so far as re-enactment helps us formulate a framework in which to experiment (re-enactment is never the objective here).

Thursday, 2 May 2013

One Hundred and Ninety Four Days

Some curious facts have come to light since my being classified hypertensive. After a brief chat with Methuselah who asked "Had you any benchmarks against which to compare these recent readings?", I was scratching around trying to think of when it would have been recorded in the recent past.

I recalled an annual health check offered by my employer and after a bit of searching, BINGO!  I found notes from these health checks extending back several years:
  • 'xx/xx/2006' 155/83
  • 'xx/xx/2006' 136/85 (retest)
  • '30/09/2010' 131/97
  • '30/09/2010' 132/94 (retest)
  • '27/07/2011' 140/82
  • '09/09/2013' 122/75
I remember the early ones - in both cases I was late for the appointment and walked up a flight of stairs to get to the appointment.  My BP was taken almost immediately - hence the retakes.  It should also be noted that these reading would have been taken around midday on a busy work environment - not conducive to relaxation!

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Food Reward: Constant Craving

Heads up for those interested in food reward and addiction:
  • Could obesity, in some cases, result from an addiction, and if so, do we need to change the way we treat it?

    When we think about addiction, drugs, alcohol or gambling come to mind. Though hardly uncommon, many people will go their whole lives without ever even dabbling in them. But could the everyday act of eating also be addictive? In excess, drugs, alcohol and gambling can cause massive physical and psychological harm, cutting across class, sex and age. But so can excessive eating. And if we're to believe alarming predictions about rising obesity levels, then perhaps we need to consider looking at overeating from a different angle.

    Researchers around the world are asking the same question: is overeating a compulsive behaviour that exploits the same biological mechanisms we see in people addicted to drugs or alcohol? Is there such a thing as food addiction and how addictive are certain foods? In, Constant Cravings: Does Food Addiction Exist, Sally Marlow, a researcher in alcohol addiction at London's Institute of Psychiatry, explores the latest evidence underpinning the scientific basis for overeating, and asks just how radical should the solutions be?

    In 2012, NeuroFAST, an EU research project began co-ordinating data on the relationship between overeating and addiction. Its mission is to achieve consensus on how overeating should be classified clinically, which might then lead to major shifts in treatment, public policy and attitudes to obesity.

    Few of us, if we're honest, would consider obesity as little more than self-inflicted. And it's how many of us used to think about other addictions. Yet now we know that an individual's choices are influenced by a host of biological and environmental mechanisms: genes, brain chemistry and family history. Might overeating share these mechanisms? Behaviourally, does overeating feature the two psychological cornerstones of addiction: tolerance and withdrawal, where something that was initially pleasurable, becomes an act to relieve negative feelings of shame and disgust?

On BBC Radio 4 next Tuesday (30th April) @ 2000hrs.