Friday, March 5, 2010

A Handy Reference Guide about Health & Nutrition

I've been caught out a few times of late talking about the things I've learned about nutrition & health, and the current research I'm engaging with, and then being left without a place to point my audience toward. I tell them about my blog, but it takes a lot of digging to find the posts where I've discussed the then-latest findings.

So, in the vein of my Recipe Index, I want to build a collection of links to online resources here to help readers & stumblers find the information that has had a role in the development of my ideas about nutrition, as well as general lifestyle.

I'd love it if you, learned readers, could let me know of any awesome sites or articles that you've learned from, that you pass to your friends, etc, by commenting on this post with the link and explanation of its value. I'll pick out the strongest resources to use in this list - if we listed everything, we'd be here all day and the value of the reference guide would diminish. At the same time, if my categories list ignores an area you think important enough to include, let me know and I'll start building it! This will be a work in progress for a while, since I don't have heaps of free time to go gather all my info again. So the more collaborative this can be, the better!

Here goes!

Saturated Fat, Cholesterol, LDL & Coronary Heart Disease

An article posted on THINCS way back in 2002 is absolutely one of my favourite resources on the Internet when it comes to using science to totally dismantle the bogus Conventional Wisdom of cholesterol/LDL/saturated fat/CHD and everything that's claimed to link them. The article, Why The Cholesterol - Heart Disease Theory Is Wrong, involves thorough scientific discussion, buoyed by the author's frustration by the inexplicable arguments perpetuated by the medical community to this day. Everyone needs to read this article. The author, Malcolm Kendrick, MD, has written many more intriguing and insightful articles in the past decade - check the THINCS website for a substantial list.

"In Framingham, Massachusetts, the more saturated fat one ate, the more cholesterol one ate, the more calories one ate, the lower people'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." Dr William Castelli 1992 (Director of the Framingham study)
- cited in the Kendrick article above.

The word is getting out - this article may not be available online forever, at least not at this location, but for now The Boston Globe discusses the no-longer-avoidable truth about the importance and innocence of saturated fats in its article, Why Does Saturated Fat Cause? Arguments (published Feb 24th, 2010). For posterity, here's some juice from the opening of the article:

For the past 40 years, well-meaning specialists have told Americans that eating saturated fat is bad for heart health. It now appears that conventional wisdom is on shaky ground. Last month’s American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a landmark study from the Harvard School of Public Health and the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute that has turned current fat recommendations upside down. The verdict from the study is that “there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk for heart disease.’’ Equally important, we are learning that restricting fat intake is not without serious health consequences, such as escalating rates of obesity and diabetes. The report evaluates dietary data from a total of 347,747 subjects from eight countries in 21 studies, over 25 years.


Dr. Ronald Krauss, the study’s principal investigator and director of atherosclerosis research at Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute, says, “It’s time to turn the page on how we perceive saturated fats in relation to risk for heart disease. It’s the wrong message that saturated fats are artery-clogging or evil.’’ Krauss says any dietary recommendations to further reduce saturated fat would be of no benefit. Americans, he says, shouldn’t be avoiding all forms of saturated fats and it’s erroneous to focus on saturated fat out of context from the whole diet.


In addition, high rates of obesity and Type 2 diabetes, especially in children, are one of the United States’ biggest public health concerns, an epidemic that happens to parallel decades of public health messages warning Americans that eating saturated fat is bad. As a result, many consumers instead eat commercially made low-fat confections that are full of sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. Eating too many of these calories can result in abnormal levels of blood sugar and triglycerides. These are well-established risk factors for obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. The question now is whether those efforts to lower dietary fat have caused a whole new set of chronic disease problems.

The wonderfully funny Tom Naughton has been exploring this information in his own unique way of late, and brings more research to the fore to make his points in his recent posts, LDL Nonsense Is Taxing My Sanity & The American Heart Association: Do These People Read Their Own Data?

And another step up the accessibility & colour ladder is Richard Nikoley's series of blog posts on Saturated Fat & Coronary Heart Disease.

Josh Yelon has analysed a range of studies concerning heart health experienced though low-carb dieting - Effectiveness of Low-Carb Diet On The Heart & Arteries. Look to his comments for a basic break-down of each studies' findings.

Low-Carb Diets & Diabetes

First and foremost, anyone with diabetes needs to start engaging with the works of Dr. Richard K. Bernstein. Now.

Kurt G. Harris, MD, offers a thorough explanation of the two types of diabetes, and how Type 1 MAY and Type 2 CAN be cured by sticking to the Paleo diet. Diagnosing either type in their early stages seems to be the point of importance if you want a chance at a cure.

As heart-warming as it is to know that more any more diabetics are ignoring the average doctor's advice (given that most GPs blindly follow the terrible advice of the ADA), it's still upsetting that for most diabetics, they have no option but to religiously follow the 'take more of the poison that's killing you' instruction until the day they die, full of bolus holes.

Thankfully, the online community is pushing the real information out there, through sites like Blood Sugar 101. And the Internet is rife with personal stories reinforcing how easy it is to treat/manage diabetes without medical interference. Sure, some Type 1's will need help through medical means. But not everyone. However, no one is helped by the ADA except the junk food companies.

Why does the ADA suck? Ask Richard Nikoley. As Mark Sisson says, The Best Way To Get Diabetes: Follow The Diabetes Dietary Guidelines.

The Endocrine System: Metabolic Function & Hormonal Balance

(another amazing image by Bryan Christie)

There are three agreed-upon ways to lose weight: lower caloric intake, or burn more calories through exercise, or raise your metabolism. Leaving the specific food aside for the moment, lowering calories can have deleterious metabolic effects. As Ancel Key's Starvation Study showed, the subjects of his study intuitively consumed extreme amounts of food post-starvation in order to restore basal metabolism back to pre-starvation levels, and were left with increased amounts of body fat as a result. (The study itself is a hefty piece of work - the best summary I have found thus far is the metabolically-biased write-up by Matt Stone of 180 Degree Health. It may miss some details, I'm not sure, but metabolism is examined closely.) This is the body's natural reflex when finally allowed to consume as much food as desired. There's a reason why the term 'yo-yo dieting' is common parlance.

Matt Stone has recently presented the argument that our surprise that low-calorie diets can still result in fat gain is backward - that it may well be because of low-calorie dieting that we are getting fatter. His focus is metabolism, and in the face of growing obesity trends, it certainly seems logical.

Some of his other ideas, expressed most concisely in a guest post on Tom Naughton's Fat Head blog, are less logical: he argues that following a low-carb diet for a significant period of time will necessarily result in impaired (lowered) metabolic functioning. Kurt Harris, MD neatly tears this apart on PaNu. Melissa McEwan from Hunt.Gather.Love suggests that those low-carb dieters who do develop metabolic problems end up that way due to lack of consumption of marine life (i.e. a lack of iodine).

Iodine is crucial regarding thyroid function, and the observation that 'healthy eaters' who shun iodised salt are ending up deficient and developing the-now-almost-unheard-of goiters! Personally, the basic tests I had prior to being diagnosed with PCO (as opposed to PCOS) showed that it was unlikely that I had any thyroid function issues (although those tests aren't always accurate since they don't necessarily test for free T3). Just in case, I am taking a potassium plus iodine supplement, mostly for the potassium, to see whether it impacts on my well-being. If you do have a low body temperature or other metabolic issues, it's a good idea to be tested for hypothyroidism. Dian Hseih from NoodleFood has written a great article linking to more information regarding thyroid function, body temperature gauging, and hypothyroidism.

So instead of following the old chestnut of 'eat less, move more', which has been thoroughly disproved by decades of us following the guidelines and yet getting fatter and sicker, we need to attend to specific food choices, as well as maintaining our metabolism to operate at optimal levels. For me, my system runs best on fatty meats. For others, unrefined starches may be their metabolic cure.

Danny Roddy, of The Carnivore Health Weblog, hammers the last nails in the coffin of low-carb-causes-metabolic-damage with his excellent article, The Carnivorous Diet & Your Thyroid - which covers much more than just the carnivore's lifestyle. His conclusion:

You cannot correct one gland without having a profound effect on another. This is why I believe that nutrition is the best medicine. Optimizing EVERY system in the body is the only way to get everything back on track. Simply treating low thyroid with medication is silly when we can clearly see that the origin can be multifaceted; rooted in stress, allergies, or even environmental pollution.

If you come away with two things from this post let them be that grains are shit and avoid stress whenever possible. A carnivorous diet poses no threat to anyones thyroid. In fact if you are hypothyroid it's likely that you already eat too many carbohydrates, seeming that most cases are autoimmune or stress related in origin. Carbohydrate consumption in the form of easily digestible sugars and gluten containing grains have a negative impact on the thyroid and adrenal glands. My recommendation would be to minimize or eliminate them completely.

Josh Yelon has analysed a range of studies concerning metabolic rate change experienced though low-carb dieting - Effectiveness of Low-Carb Diet On Metabolic Rate. Look to his comments for a basic break-down of each studies' findings.

Traditional Diets & Modern Counterparts

Many advocates of paleo/primal-esque diets begin with the tenuous facts they can find regarding what paleolithic man ate, and build their nutrition choices around that. Loren Cordain of The Paleo Diet would be the most recognised of this group - his motto is essentially, "If it wasn't available, it's BAD."

Kurt Harris, MD, takes a different starting-point for his PaNu principles - he looks at the current science regarding what has been shown to be harmful, acknowledges that this includes most but not necessarily all Neolithic agents, and encourages the individual to work through a 12 step elimination process to find their ideal formula for health.

Mark Sisson's Primal Blueprint takes a similarly science-based approach, although he weaves the addictive Grok narrative into his dietary and lifestyle advice to (albeit artificially) contextualise his ideas. Whilst I don't romanticise my health choices, consideration of evolution certainly encourages one to take a more logical and scientific stance when approaching health and well-being information. MArk's work started my transition from low-carbing to going fully Primal (slash Paleo when I cut out dairy), and I can't thank him enough for his efforts and support over this past year. I look forward to watching him go on to take over the health & fitness industry!

The Weston A. Price Foundation is a pioneering group that is spreading the message of the importance of reverting to the 'old art' of preparing and consuming nourishing traditional foods, based on the wide variety of traditional diets explored by Price many decades ago (note: these people were nto eating pre-Neolithic diets, so the fact that they were indeed healthier than the average SAD consumer does not mean these diets were/are optimal). The certainly have good advice, but show signs of capitalist bias at times, promote dairy consumption heavily, and emphasise the supposed goodness of consuming grains once they have been sprouted and treated as they are by traditional communities. Many health experts question this method - should we be consuming poison that has been made less poisonous, or should we just eliminate it altogether? Kurt Harris, MD, answers the very question in response to a commenter's defense of a very questionable article. The last lines of his post are particularly powerful and significant.

Why You Shouldn't Eat Sugar & Grain

Mark Sisson tackles grains with eloquence and accessibility in his Definitive Guide To Grains and his more cut-throat Why Grains Are Unhealthy posts.

Kurt Harris, MD, also knows a thing or two about the dangers of grain consumption; as a starting point, check out his Argument Against Cereal Grains.

In the video above, Robert H. Lustig, MD, UCSF Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology, explores the damage caused by sugary foods. He argues that fructose (too much) and fiber (not enough) appear to be cornerstones of the obesity epidemic through their effects on insulin. It's not as simple as Lustig makes it sound, but this is a good starting point for those ignorant to the potential damage of excess sugar consumption.

Nutrition & Cancer

Research of causal relationships between diet and cancer is an ever-exploding industry, lapped up by the media no matter how tenuous or inconclusive the particular study's conclusion may be - especially if the results can be twisted to suggest that the old Conventional Wisdom had it right all along. We usually don't end up receiving the true results, and many studies that can claim conclusive results are often dumped since the conclusion doesn't match up with what the scientists wanted to find... It's painful, and it's true of all aspects of 'nutrition science'. DC from DC's Improbable Science blog details this very issue in an article from last year, focussing on the widely-held belief that red meat & processed meats are giving us all cancer.

Dr. Michael R. Eades says: "Since cancers can't really get nourishment from anything but glucose, it stands to reason that cutting off this supply would, at the very least, slow down tumor growth, especially in aggressive, fast-growing cancers requiring a lot of glucose to fuel their rapid growth. If you understand the Warburg effect and the metabolism of cancer cells, it's easy to see why this therapy works, even in patients who at at death's door. Cancer cells get their energy, not like normal cells, from the mitochondrial oxidation of fat, but from glycolysis, the breakdown of glucose withing the cytoplasm."

On Dr. Stanley S. Bass' website, two analyses of studies exploring the link between diet and cancer cell growth are presented by Richard Friebe and Dr. Michael R. Eades. They explore the Warburg Effect - the spontaneous reversal of cancer progression when patients follow low-sugar diets. These accessible articles should be read by everyone who has cancer or knows a cancer sufferer, which in this day and age pretty much means everyone in the modern world.

Josh Yelon has analysed a range of studies concerning low-carb dieting's effect on cancer cell growth - Experiment Using Low-Carb To Treat Cancer. Look to his comments for a basic break-down of each studies' findings.

Although the causality is theoretical only, the history of cancer incidence in Inuit populations seem to align themselves strongly with the increase in refined carbohydrate consumption, so Ned Kock of Health Correlator details in his article, Cancer patterns in Inuit populations: 1950-1997.

Stephan Guyenet says - Got cancer? Corn Oil bad. Animal fats good (not helpful, but not harmful either). Well, at least in mice.

Living On The Fat Of The Land (The Carnivorous Lifestyle)

If you are considering trying an all-meat or wider carnivorous lifestyle, make sure you read the communication between Lex Rooker, a long-term zero-carber (one meal of ground, raw, red meat per day) and Kurt Harris, MD from PaNu - the conversation is quoted on Danny Roddy's blog, The Carnivore Health Weblog. In the same article, Danny discusses fat metabolism and points out the importance of eating to hunger and eating a REALLY high fat diet to ensure the body is willing to burn stored fats (i.e. isn't worried that it will need the stored fats any time soon - a touch illogical, huh?). This information comes from Peter's Hyperlipid blog, in a post entitled Weight Loss: When It's Hard.

Peter from Hyperlipid is an utter genius, and everyone should steadily read & do their best to make sense of every post on his blog. However, it has been hard to find places for his work in this guide since he doles out his genius in small doses! However, a couple of years ago he crafted a thorough analysis of whether fruit & vegetable consumption was in ANY way related to improved health. Answer = no. Not that this is a surprise to those of us currently keeping up with nutrition research and analysis - fructose consumption is being revealed as anything but the healthful substance it has been made out to be during these years of sugar (glucose) attacks.

A vocal proponent of the zero-carb lifestyle online is Charles Washington, who also brings together fellow meat eaters via his Zeroing In On Health forum. They're passionate people, and can be intimidating, but most are working from a thorough scientific understanding of bio-chemistry and nutrition. A great place to visit for advice and support, much like Mark Sisson's forum is for primal eaters.

Low Carb & Fat Loss

Dr. Michael R. Eades has sparked 'controversy' amongst many health circles by pointing out the metabolic advantage of limiting or avoiding dietary glucose consumption - the advantage being, the body needs to make glucose from dietary (one hopes) proteins, a process which uses energy itself. Not a heap, but potentially 100 - 300kcal per day may be 'wasted' through this and other process brought about by low-carb dieting. Eades has targeted his recent explanation of the metabolic advantage as a response to Anthony Colpo, who has, erm, 'colourfully' refuted Eades' claims, but shows definite signs of not really knowing what he is talking about - a trait shared by many non-scientists in the health and nutrition community. Eades recently quoted a thorough explanation of the metabolic advantage and thermodynamics as a whole by Dr. Feinmann in a recent post, and is a must-read for anyone who thinks a calorie is a calorie is a calorie, or that thermodynamics sounds like the dance equivalent of Bikram Yoga.

Josh Yelon has analysed a range of studies concerning fat loss experienced though low-carb dieting - Effectiveness of Low-Carb Diet for Weight-Loss. Look to his comments for a basic break-down of each studies' findings.


Paleo For Life has a Research section on the site where they have meticulously listed many studies related to the Paleo diet & lifestyle, and then followed each listed study with a collection of links to articles throughout the blogosphere analysing the results of the study and tying them directing to this way of living.

I'll leave this for now - I'm looking forward to your ideas! There are sites and articles that strike me as especially valuable, and I will be adding those, but that's only my opinion so I'd love to know what has really hit you as important and meaty, whilst still being clear enough for the average person with an interest in health to understand. Consolidated pieces that delve deeply and thoroughly into an aspect of health are best of all. :)


Anonymous said...

Yowza! What a great compilation of useful information. I'm bookmarking this post and sending some of the links to skeptical family members. Thanks!

Jezwyn said...

Thanks!! I'm taking advantage of the new Blogger 'Pages' and making this post a page instead, though I'll update them both whenever I have items to add. But I'd probably recommend you bookmark the page ( since that's more likely to be updated long-term. There's a link to it, and my Recipe Index, at the top-right of my blog now :) Let's hope the skeptics aren't too stubbornly proud to admit their flaws in the face of the facts!

Cheryl Yank said...

Thanks for all these terrific links Jess. I definitely have to hang out at some of them and Blood Sugar 101 is on my bookmarks toolbar for easy access.

Allison said...

Hey J,
Thanks so much for the info, this post rocks. I went "primal" about a month ago and stumbled upon your blog. I identify with you and your beginnings of over a year ago and have had a blast digging through your archives. This post has sent me in a bazillion right directions! Thanks again.

Larry said...

This is really great stuff! Thanks for putting it together.