The February 2008 issue of the Harvard Heart Letter (subscription only) contains an article titled Triglycerides: A Big Fat Problem. The article discusses the correlation of elevated triglyceride levels with the development of coronary artery disease, then lists eight methods for reducing elevated triglyceride levels. It’s this list I want to discuss, but first let’s consider what triglycerides are and what they do.
Triglycerides are storage fats composed of three fatty acid chains hooked onto a glycerol (a 3-carbon carbohydrate) molecule. Fats travel in the blood as triglycerides and are stored in the cells as triglycerides. Each time a triglyceride moves into or out of a cell, the three fatty acids must first be removed from the glycerol backbone. After the fatty acids move across the cell membrane into or out of the cell, the fatty acids are then reattached in a process called esterification. (The particular bond between the fatty acids and the glycerol molecule is called an ester bond.)
There is undoubtedly a correlation between elevated levels of triglycerides in a fasting blood sample and the risk for heart disease. But, remember, although correlation implies causation it doesn’t really prove causation. As far as I can tell there is no firm data showing precisely how elevated levels of triglycerides actually drive the development of heart disease, but there is a considerable body of data demonstrating a strong correlation between elevated triglycdride levels and heart disease. My opinion, for what it’s worth, is that elevated levels of triglycerides in fasting blood are a marker for heart disease, meaning that whatever really causes heart disease also causes an elevation of triglycerides. A ridiculous example of this would be large belt sizes and obesity. Obese people wear large belts, but the belts don’t cause the obesity.
If this is the case, then simply lowering triglycerides won’t really reduce the risk of heart disease unless however you reduce triglycerides also reduces the real risk. Focusing on reducing triglycerides only would be comparable to an obese person buying a smaller belt in an effort to reduce his bulk because, after all, non-obese people have smaller belts.
We know that chronically elevated blood sugar, even if it is within what is considered the normal range, is a risk factor for heart disease. (Despite the focus over the past several decades on cholesterol in it’s many forms being a risk factor, this has never been conclusively shown to be true. The correlation between elevated blood sugar and heart disease, although dismissed or ignored by lipid-hypothesis promoters is much more closely associated in a dose response manner by the data than is cholesterol. See this old post for an explanation.)
After years of low-carb dieting myself and of taking care of thousands of patients on low-carb diets, I can tell you one thing with pretty much certainty: Low-carb diets reduce triglyceride levels markedly. And I can tell you that low-carb diets reduce blood sugar levels as well. Most of the patients with the highest fasting triglyceride levels also have elevated fasting blood sugars. On a low-carb diet, these patients drop their triglyceride levels like a rock.
Now, having this history, let’s take a look at the eight methods the Harvard Heart Letter recommends to help people reduce their triglycerides.
1. Beware of bad fats. Cut back on saturated fat (found in red meat and full-fat dairy foods) and trans fat (in some fried and commercially prepared foods).
Always the first recommendation by those in the grip of saturated fat hysteria. In their minds, no matter what the problem, cutting saturated fat makes it better. You can eat saturated fat to your heart’s content and still markedly reduce your triglyceride levels as long as you rigidly reduce your carbs. Same with trans fat. Needless to say, I’m not a fan of trans fat, but many patients have brought about tremendous reduction of their triglyceride levels while eating a lot of processed food by simply restricting their carbs. This isn’t the ideal situation, but it does give the lie to the idea that simply reducing trans fat will reduce triglyceride levels.
2. Go for good carbs. Eat whole grains and cut back on sugary drinks and foods.
Cutting back on sugary drinks and foods is sound advice. But they have to be virtually eliminated, not just cut back on if you expect much triglyceride lowering. Unfortunately, ‘good’ carbs elevate triglycrides as much as ‘bad’ carbs. And here they go again with the whole grains nonsense. Do these people not realize that we humans can’t eat whole grains. If you don’t believe me, go get some wheat grains and try to eat them. These grains are in a protective shell that we can’t break through to get at the starch within. In order to make the much-beloved whole grains edible, they have to be processed. What these people mean by whole grains are grains that have been processed up to the very last stage that removes all the brown husks from the flour. Whole grains, as these people mean them, are processed grains. You can go out and increase your consumption of five-grain, whole-wheat bread out the wazoo and watch your triglycerides rise. I can tell you categorically that eating whole grains as intended by these people will absolutely not lower your triglycerides. Eating real whole grains probably wouldn’t have much impact because they would pass through undigested.
3. Check your alcohol. Moderate drinking is good for the heart, unless you are a “responder” in whom alcohol dramatically boosts triglycerides. To determine if you’re a responder, avoid alcohol for three weeks and have your triglycerides tested.
The responder business counts only if there is actual demonstrated causation between elevated triglycerides and heart disease, which there isn’t. I suspect something else is going on here, but in all honesty, if I were a ‘responder’ I would probably cut back on my alcohol consumption until I figured out what is really going on. Thank God I’m not.
4. Go fish. Omega-3 fats in some fish lower triglycerides. Have fish twice a week.
Omage-3s do indeed work to lower triglycerides and are protective against heart attack. But I would have fish twice per week only if I wanted to increase my mercury levels along with my omega-3s. A much better way is by taking mercury-free fish oil and/or krill oil in supplement form. If you insist upon eating fish, go for sardines. They are small, low on the food chain and haven’t had time to concentrate much mercury.
5. Aim for a healthy weight. If you are overweight, aim to lose at least 5% to 10% of your weight to lower triglycerides.
Weight loss will really help to lower your triglycerides if you accomplish it via a low-carb diet. In fact, if you go on a rigid low-carb diet, you will lower your triglycerides dramatically long before you lose much weight.
6. Get moving. Exercise lowers triglycerides and boosts HDL.
I don’t have a problem with this recommendation, although you can lower triglycerides and raise HDL levels much more quickly with diet than you can with exercise.
7. Stop smoking. Smoking isn’t good for triglyceride levels (or anything else).
From the data I’ve read on smoking, that habit seems to drive the forces of insulin resistance and the metabolic syndrome. I’m pretty sure that insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia are the driving forces behind elevated triglycerides so anything you can do to reduce these underlying problems will reduce your triglycerides. Having said that, however, I’ve had a number of patients who smoked, refused to quit despite my nagging, and still lowered their triglycerides by eating low-carb. But don’t get me wrong – I believe everyone who smokes should quit.
8. Get help from a medication. Niacin, fibrates, fish oil, and cholesterol-lowering statins have all been shown to lower triglycerides.
Readers of this blog can, I’m sure, imagine my response to this recommendation.
If you want to lower your triglycerides, lower your carbs. It’s as simple as that. But you’ve got to really lower your carbs, not just make a half-hearted stab at a low-carb diet. If your idea of lowering your carbs is avoiding a dessert from time to time, but continuing to chow down on ‘good’ carbs all day long, you’re going to be disappointed. But if you eat a lot of meat, even red meat, accompanied by green and colorful vegetables and low-carb fruits, you should be rewarded with triglycerides that are almost always below the 150 mg/dl limit of what’s considered ‘normal,’ and you will more than likely find yourself with fasting triglycerides below 100 mg/dl, which is a very good place to have them.
On another note, I’m traveling today, so probably won’t be able to get comments posted until late tonight. I’m planning a post on the vitamin D situation that so many people have written questions about, and you won’t believe the latest from Anthony Colpo. All to come this week.
The brain researcher says Szent-Györgyi was wrong: It’s no use taking vitamin C
Dr Zsófia Clemens, brain researcher: Albert Szent-Györgyi was no doubt wrong on the issue: it’s no use taking vitamin C. Taking vitamin C supplements will not contribute to better health, even if it’s not easy to accept this concept in the scientist’s homeland. Vitamin C has actually become a symbol of healthy life, particularly in Hungary. The never proven mistaken theory that supplementation with vitamin C may prevent diseases has prevailed for decades now. Despite all scientific findings to the contrary, the vitamin C frenzy has in fact strengthened for the past few years. When, however, researchers began to realize that vitamin C administered orally was not effective even in a daily dose of several thousand milligrams, the idea came up that it would be, if administered intravenously in high doses. Nevertheless, it would not.
Brain researcher and neurobiologist Zsófia Clemens, scientific manager of the Paleomedicina group, recently published a comprehensive review on vitamin C in the scientific periodical of the Ancestral Health Society (AHS). We interviewed her, the leading author of the article, about the subject.
Paleomedicina: Would you, please, sum up the most important findings of this comprehensive review?
Zsófia Clemens: If we really eat healthy food, then we get sufficient vitamin C from our nutrition. Of course, it must be explained first what we mean by a healthy diet. If, however, we don’t take care of what we eat, it’s all the same whether we take vitamin C supplements or not, because if taken in tablets or capsules, vitamin C is not effective at all. To begin with, it’s a wrong approach that we expect miracles from a single nutrient separated from its natural environment. When we eat, the food we take in is not in an isolated form. Thus, thinking about the effects of vitamin C, we have to consider numerous interactions that occur between vitamin C and all other nutrients, also taking into account absorption, biological availability, and selection. No research has been made into this question so far. However, owing to its complicated nature, such research would be rather difficult to carry out anyway. Perhaps it would be of no use either, as there has been no scientific study so far that indicated that orally or intravenously administered vitamin C indeed has a role in preventing any kind of disease or death. In the article, we go over what we know about the connection between various diseases and vitamin C today.
Paleomedicina: Yet we still read analyses that praise the useful effects of vitamin C in the case of certain diseases. How is it possible?
Zsófia Clemens: There is a serious problem with those analyses in so much as they they confuse the results of interventional and cross sectional studies. Therefore, it seems as if there was great disorder in the relevant scientific literature. However, there isn’t! The cross-sectional studies have all demonstrated that high vitamin C concentration in the blood is associated with better health, while the interventional studies have shown without exception that giving vitamin C to patients has no use at all. It follows from the results of the two approaches that whereas vitamin C is useful for health, it will not help prevent disease if given in an artificial form as a supplement. Researchers publishing articles in the scientific media most often make the mistake of drawing a causal conclusion from a correlation. And, for lack of personal experience with patients, predisposed vitamin C fans generally cite this mistaken view when proposing vitamin C supplementation. Evolution developed the route of vitamin C in the human body during millions of years. Vitamin C supplementation with pills goes against nature.
Paleomedicina: You have said even stickier things than that! Namely, that the source of vitamin C is not to be found in vegetables and fruits.
Zsófia Clemens: That’s right. Vitamin C that is present in plants behaves, from a biochemical point of view, entirely differently from that found in animal sources of food. We scrutinize these differences one by one in our article. What is the least known in this context is that even heat treatment affects plant and animal vitamin C in a different way. At this point, we should definitely move away from the long-time erroneous assumption that not all types of vitamin C break down under the effect of heat, but only those that we find in vegetables and fruits. And, of course, those that are there in supplements. This is one reason why it is recommended not to drop vitamin C into hot tea. Vitamin C found in animal sources has a remarkably high heat stability. If you eat steamed calf liver regularly, you won’t become deficient in vitamin C.
Paleomedicina: What other animal foods contain vitamin C?
Zsófia Clemens: Apart from liver, it is found in skin, marrow, and kidney. Vitamin C is present in a concentrated form in these organs, which heap it up. In addition, glandular organs have high concentrations of vitamin C. These foods, for example calf sweetbreads, were much appreciated by consumers in the past, but now many people are averse to them. Offal of this kind may contain even 50 times more vitamin C than the amount found in the blood.
Paleomedicina: You worked on writing the article for almost a year. How confident were you about your conclusions?
Zsófia Clemens: There were powerful indications. I must say that the researchers who have firsthand experience of the nutrition and diets of hunter-gatherer societies have all arrived at the same conclusion, that is, that vitamin C supplementation is unnecessary alongside the consumption of animal source foods. Dr Walter L. Voegtlin, the only clinician who applied the paleo-ketogenic diet before us, also came to the same conclusion in the 1970s. In addition, our own patients, whose condition we followed up for quite a long period, confirmed it, too. We have also had numerous negative experiences associated with taking vitamin C pills. For instance, a little girl with epilepsy who had been on paleo-ketogenic diet then for a longer period of time and whose condition we were following up, did not become seizure free until she stopped taking vitamin C. I regard empirically based knowledge and feedback from patients as very important, and believe that there is no successful counselling on vitamins without them. I would advise everyone not to accept any advice regarding vitamins from consultants having no clinical experience. Untrustworthy information gathered from the Internet that hasn’t been proved by clinical practice may easily mislead people lacking sufficient background knowledge. Taking vitamins is far from being as harmless as most people think.
Paleomedicina: You even came across quite a lot of opposing views on the part of the reviewers. To what do you ascribe that?
Zsófia Clemens: That was probably because the criticism came from persons with rusty minds. Otherwise it couldn’t be explained how obvious facts can be assessed in totally different ways. Once something is ineffective, then it is definitely ineffective, no matter how many times we test it. It doesn’t need to be overcomplicated. However, the phenomenon is quite well known. For instance, whereas drugs prescribed to reduce high cholesterol levels are useless according to all existing studies and cause various side effects, it is hard to find physicians or researchers who would publicly defend their negative opinion regarding the taking of medicines. These facts directly contradict to the views prevailing in present-day medical practice. Moreover, researchers are openly averse to a meat and fat diet. Sadly, even those who believe in the beneficial effects of paleolithic nutrition, often find themselves on the wrong track. We are exceptionally lucky in this respect because we are able to draw from a large sample of patients as well as many laboratory tests to establish correct and appropriate conclusions.
Paleomedicina: What motivated you to start the project?
Zsófia Clemens: When I started to look at the scientific literature on vitamin C, I didn’t find any consistency in it. What I saw was that chiefly alternative (naturopathic) medicine practitioners or physicians who sympathize with alternative medicine preferred to use vitamin C. As these trends came from the East, they are concerned with dietary patterns that are close to the vegetarian diet. They try to mingle this fruit-and-vegetable attitude with some isolated facts associated with vitamin C. The result is catastrophic. The final conclusions of their articles are usually meaningless, most of the time implying that although we have been doing research on vitamin C for nearly 100 years, unfortunately we still don’t know whether or not it is helpful in preventing cancer, myocardial infarction, or cold. People have a distorted image of vitamin C. They are provided information which is totally misleading. The situation is the same in Hungary. I wanted to see, not least for the sake of our patients, whether we have to give them vitamin C for complete rehabilitation or for maintaining their good health.
Paleomedicina: Is intravenous vitamin C also ineffective in cancer therapy?
Zsófia Clemens: What I can say briefly about it is that there is not a single study to show that vitamin C has ever crucially influenced the expected outcome of cancer. Give it orally or intravenously, vitamin C will not prolong the life of a cancer patient.
Paleomedicina: What about other vitamins?
Zsófia Clemens: There’s complete confusion in that area, too. However, the situation is less complicated than in the case of vitamin C. With vitamin D, B12, B6, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and iron we had an easy time. It was enough to go over the laboratory results. It was evident from the tests that these needn’t be supplemented either, because a strictly adhered paleolithic ketogenic diet would ensure the physiological level in all cases. But how to measure the amount of vitamin C is still an open question, and, in addition, it has turned out that if we measured it in the blood of patients and relied on this value alone, that wouldn’t reveal much information about their condition.
Paleomedicina: And what’s the truth about liposomal vitamin C?
Zsófia Clemens: Liposomal vitamin C dosing is based on the misconception that ideal absorption requires vitamin C to be given continuously. Nevertheless, it doesn’t. The Inuit are hardly ever in a position to have access to food containing vitamin C daily. At the same time, the Inuit, and all other people, equally have the capacity to accumulate vitamin C in certain cells and organs. This again runs contrary to a deep-rooted disbelief that vitamin C, as a substance that dissolves in water, leaves the body quickly.
Paleomedicina: Intravenous vitamin C, liposomal Vitamin C, Szent-Györgyi vitamin C – are all these absurdities? Ineffective and worthless?
Zsófia Clemens: Yes, they are.
Paleomedicina: Will they believe it to a brain researcher, here in Hungary, in the shadow of Albert Szent-Györgyi?
Zsófia Clemens: In Hungary, Szent-Gyögyi’s homeland, it is very difficult to accept this concept. Vitamin C, Albert Szent-Györgyi, the only Nobel Prize awarded for scientific research conducted in Hungary is part of our national identity and pride. It’s with nostalgia that we remember the times when our devoted parents put vitamin C into our tea when we were ill. We grew up with the belief ever since childhood that taking vitamin C is as vital and natural as breathing. In this way, our approach to it is emotional. Nevertheless, biology pays no attention to feelings or emotions. I would like add though, that our assumptions are not meant to hurt the scientific merits of Albert Szent-Györgyi, who, contrary to popular belief, did not discover but in fact isolated vitamin C, and was awarded the Nobel Prize for his biochemical discoveries associated with cellular respiration. Though Szent-Györgyi himself took large doses of vitamin C in his later years to fend off disease, he did it out of personal rather than scientific conviction, because he never did research of that kind.
Paleomedicina: When and how did you come across vitamin C?
Zsófia Clemens: When I was a child, I did not hear about any other vitamins. My parents, who were both physicians, gave it to me indiscriminately. Then at university, we learnt ascorbic acid synthesis as part of a subject called plant physiology, which seemed so complicated to me at the time that I felt it was impossible to learn. Otherwise, I don’t remember I ever stumbled on it again during my university years. Nevertheless, I was impressed by the nutritional habits of hunter-gatherer peoples, which they passed down to the coming generations for centuries. I was especially affected by the work of a Canadian researcher, Karen Fediuk, who investigated the eating habits of the Inuit from the point of view of vitamin C. Going back to an earlier question, that was the first scientific accomplishment regarding vitamin C that I considered logical and authentic. We received feedback and vice versa, which confirmed that vitamin C-related biology works in the same way with us, first-generation Central European champions of paleo-ketogenic nutrition. The human race is very homogenous. We are right when we consistently apply the principles of evolutionary medicine to our patients, and don’t let business govern our work.
The Paleomedicina approach is that of evolutionary medicine which has a wholly scientific basis. We do not use naturopathic methods and we distance ourselves from such methods. Our scientific papers published in international medical journals can be viewed here.
“I have lived a long life…but I wish I had gotten more Instagram followers.”
Nobody has ever uttered these words on their deathbed. And yet most people are living their life as if that’s the only thing that matters.
Are you feeling anxious? Are you lacking purpose? Are you addicted? There’s a reason.
Modern society is frying your brain like a Mcdonald’s french fry.
You think you’re using these technologies as tools, but instead they’re using you. This is no conspiracy – these tools were designed to addict you.
You have been trained to seek instant gratification – whatever you want, you want it now.
The result? An onslaught of endless noise. A damaged brain. A loss of meaning. A numbness to sensation.
But it’s not a lost cause. Like a car, you just need an oil change.
Ever heard of a dopamine fast? Well, that’s your oil change. It’s the antidote. It’s your “f**k you” to modern society.
Read more to learn about what dopamine fasting is and how it will give you back control of your life.
What is Dopamine?
You know when you get that Instagram like and it feels good? That’s dopamine.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, a chemical in your brain responsible for motivation and reward. It’s a messenger between your brain cells, emitting a signal to the brain whenever it expects or receives a “reward.”
Stare at this photo below. Does it make you tingle inside?
What about this one?
This is modern day cocaine. Even something as simple as these photos can prepare your brain for a dopamine hit. If only it would get you to focus on this article like you do on your Instagram…
Let’s be honest. Despite all our human progress, we’re still fairly simple creatures. At our core, we are primal. We do things because they feel good.
That is how habits are created. Your brain is incredibly neuroplastic. Reward and reinforcement condition you to act in specific ways. If you do something once and receive a positive response, your brain will want to do it again.
But in our pleasure-addicted world, the search for the ultimate dopamine hit can become a nightmarish treasure hunt for nothing but fool’s gold.
Dopamine Gone Wrong
Dopamine itself is not the culprit here. Without dopamine, you’d have no motivation. They can be genuine and beneficial. They’re evolution’s way of saying you’re onto something good, promoting your own survival or even propagating the human race (or, as we like to call it, sex).
Dopamine is the whip that your genes use to get you to do things.
Until fairly recently, dopamine hits were always coupled with some evolutionary benefit. It took hard work and accomplishment to get a dopamine rush.
The Instagram notification of hunter gatherer times was the appearance of an elephant to kill for lunch. The pornography was a woman in bed. Both of these things increased your likelihood of survival. And as we well know, surviving is great.
The problem is that dopamine can be hacked for the wrong purpose.
Today, most dopamine hits bring no real benefit.
Instead, they are exploited as a mechanism to suck more time and revenue out of you. Facebook uses neurochemical techniques to make you more addicted. For example, they vary the frequency of notifications to keep you surprised and coming back for more (brain science shows that variable reward increases the addictive potential) [*].
Yes…this is why you keep getting random notifications when your Crazy Aunt posts a new photo.
And because dopamine hits today don’t produce a biochemical benefit, you never reach satiation. Here’s an example:
Hunting for a juicy cut of steak would give hunter gatherers both a dopamine hit and nutrient satiation.
Going to the nearest convenience store and bingeing on sugar only gives you the dopamine.
Because the hit is so easy to obtain, you never feel satisfied and Over time, you tolerance threshold increases, which makes it even harder to satisfy yourself next time you’re seeking a hit. And just like that… a vicious cycle that turns you into a dopamine addict.
Like a toddler with a lighter, this is a recipe for disaster.
Slowly but surely, you begin losing your ability to feel happy and motivated by real, meaningful things. Why make love to your partner when you can update your instagram profile to boost engagement?
Congrats: you have officially discovered the easiest way to destroy a society.
“Dig up the root of thirst so that Mara the tempter may not crush you again and again.”
One of the most prevalent themes in religion is demonic temptation. Evil things approach you under the guise of innocence, tempting you with fruitful rewards.
This was Satan in Christianity and the arch tempter Mara in Buddhism.
Modern society is back to tempt you to eat the apple: “Just try a little, it’ll feel good.”
Why does this theme recur over and over again? Because many of these pleasures are in our genetic interest in the short term… all at a severe cost in the long term.
This is the evil trick of genetic selection.
It lures you in with an external reward, telling you that your life will be complete if you get it. Just one more raise. One more job promotion. One more house. Then everything will be perfect. You work and work, and finally you get it…until you realize the joke’s on you!
You’re like a hamster on a wheel, on a mad dash towards the next pleasure. Just when you think you’re making progress you realize you’re back where you started.
A hamster on a wheel thinks it’s in control. But it has no free will. It exchanged it for the next dopamine high. You have too.
Who cares that you got a promotion. Who cares that Tom over in sales got a bigger bonus. Or that you didn’t get enough likes on your last post. There’s more to strive for.
External pleasurable things tend to be ephemeral. They disappear faster than Hillary Clinton’s emails.
Rewiring Your Brain: Monkey vs Human Brain
Every time you get a dopamine hit, you’re rewiring your brain.
Willpower is a muscle even if it’s weaker than Charles Barkley’s golf game for most people.
You know that voice in the back of your head telling you not to do drugs? Not everybody has that.
There are two main neural systems that regulate decision making:
Your Monkey brain – dominated by the amygdala (if I got a fancy degree from Harvard, I’d refer to this as the A-System [*])
Human brain – dominated by the prefrontal cortex (sometimes called the I-System [*])
The Monkey brain is concerned with maximizing immediate reward, while the Human brain is focused on maximizing long-term reward.
This ability to consider the long-term ramifications of our actions is indeed what sets us apart from the monkeys [*]. It’s the reason why you’re able to make it this far in the blog post instead of throwing poop at people on the streets like our herbivore ancestors.
But this monkey brain still lives inside of you. And if you don’t tame it, it will master you like Gepetto mastering Pinocchio.
Imagine you’re staring at a candy bar. The internal struggle begins. The battle between your monkey brain and your human brain. The monkey inside of you sees the candy and all it can think about is the rush of sweetness you will get as soon as you bite into it.
“I need that candy. I need it more than anything in the world,” you say to yourself, “that candy bar will change my life.”
On the other side of the spectrum, a properly trained human brain will fight back: “Fuck that. I’m going to feel like crap after. It’s not worth it. I need to stick to my diet.”
You thought Evander Holyfield vs Mike Tyson was a big fight…? This is bigger. More than just an ear will be bitten off…
But if you don’t train your brain, it will lose. The brain is a muscle like any other. Without the proper regimen, it will have no strength to fight..
Instead of exercising self-control, most people are pounding dopamine bars. Instead of building the willpower muscle, they’re causing it to atrophy away. It’s like showing up to the gym and stuffing your face with donuts in the locker room instead of lifting weights.
Too much dopamine causes the balance to shift too far in the monkey direction: the amygdala is hyperactivated and the prefrontal cortex is hypoactivated. Every time you do this, you’re strengthening the strings of your monkey puppet master.
The short term-focused systems dominate. You’ve muted your human brain, and this creates massive feedback loops. The more you give into the monkey brain, the stronger it becomes.
And if you’ve seen Planet of the Apes strong monkey is a scary sight because it has NO reservations. It wants more. And it wants it now.
This is why if you struggle with willpower in one aspect of your life, it’s unlikely you’ll have pristine discipline in another.
Can you remember the last time you saw a cocaine addict reading books and meditating?
Other Side Effects of a Dopamine Addiction
Man’s worth can be measured by things upon which he sets his heart.
––– Meditations 7.3
This shift towards the monkey system has massive consequences. It doesn’t just create addictive behaviors – it reshapes your whole life.
Just like physical obesity is from junk calories, mental obesity is from too much dopamine. You’ve stuffed your brain with junk and it’s incapable of functioning properly.
According to AJAC, a veteran personal trainer and mens self improvement writer:
“Mental obesity is dopamine addiction, the mind is trained to say “yes” to everything that is presented to it. This inevitably slows down and halts higher level thinking, and turns people into social media addicted zombies.
Their minds become controlled by infotainment, and the same way a physically obese person obsesses over food, they obsess over checking every feed and have intense anxiety over missing out on anything.”
Some other side effects include:
Short attention span – Studies show that the attention span of an average student has dropped from 12 seconds to 8 seconds. Chimpanzees have an attention span of 20 seconds. There you have it – humans are less focused than monkeys.
Anxiety – Constant dopamine makes you upset when you’re not getting it. Do you feel a constant state of depression and anxiety? It may be because your dopamine bar has been reset too high and your brain is addicted. You’ve got a heroin addict living inside your head.
Instant gratification addiction – Only looking for immediate results.
Dysfunctional personality styles: Excessive social media has been shown to lead to dysfunctional personality styles: narcisissm, shyness, need for confirmation, constant negativity and low self esteem [*]
What is the antidote?
What is a Dopamine Fast? Fasting Is Ultimate F*** You.
“Nature has intermingled pleasure with necessary things — not in order that we should seek pleasure, but in order that the addition of pleasure may make the indispensable means of existence attractive to our eyes. Should it claim rights of its own, it is luxury. Let us therefore resist these faults when they are demanding entrance, because, as I have said, it is easier to deny them admittance than to make them depart.” —Seneca
If your monkey brain is beating the shit out of your human brain, it’s time to wake up.
You need to start taking your brain seriously. Your brain is the most powerful weapon in the world, yet you’re not taught to use it properly.
Imagine handing a monkey an iPhone without any training. Do you think it would read the kindle? Or watch videos of monkeys throwing poop at each other all day?
If you’ve never been trained, you’re no more capable than a monkey… How do you expect to one second float around in a warm goo in your mother and the next to sit down, shut up and obey?
Without an instruction manual, you’re completely lost. All you know is you want some damn cake.
If there were one, page 1 through 100 would say in large letters: DON’T SCROLL THROUGH SOCIAL MEDIA ALL DAY OR EAT SUGAR. Then page 101 would say don’t be a vegan. The end.
Like going to the dentist to clean plaque off your teeth, you need to clean the plaque off your brain. You need to rewire your brain, reset your habits, and put yourself back in the driver’s seat.
How do you do that? Through the dopamine fasts.
As you’re about to learn, the dopamine fast is the antidote to this hedonistic lifestyle. It is the ultimate reset button you’re looking for.
According to Dr. Cameron Sepah, a clinical psychologist and professor at UCSF Medical School who’s helped to popularize this new Silicon Valley trend, “taking a break from behaviors that trigger strong amounts of dopamine release (especially in a repeated fashion) allows our brain to recover and restore itself.”
“Dopamine Fasting 2.0” is based on the behavioral therapy technique of ‘stimulus control’ for addictions, and is much more practical to implement, since it doesn’t require total abstinence.
It’s time to take back control of your life and attack the problem head on.
How Do I Dopamine Fast?
A dopamine fast requires that you abstain from activities that release dopamine. To do this, you pretty much have to do the exact opposite of what you’re used to. No phone. No internet. No clothes. (Kidding, you’re allowed to use the internet.)
If a behavior is problematic, you need to cut it out.
How do you know it’s problematic? If it’s causing you:
Distress (you’re bothered by how much you do it)
Impairment (interferes with your optimal social or school/work performance)
Addictiveness (you want to cut down, but cannot consistently do so)
There are a number of ways to integrate this practice into your life. My favorite way: a monthly dopamine fast.
It is a day you mark on your calendar. If you don’t have a calendar, tally it on your wall like a prisoner. One day a month, you will fast from all dopamine.
1-4 hours at the end of the day (depending on work & family demands)
1 weekend day (spent it outside on a Saturday or Sunday)
1 weekend per quarter (go on a local trip)
1 week per year (go on vacation!)
Activities to Cut Out
This isn’t going to be fun. In fact, it has to not be fun. This is why there’s no roller coasters in prison yards. You’re supposed to cut out anything that stimulates dopamine. That’s right, folks – it’s time to cut the strings of the monkey that are controlling your life.
There are two approaches.
(1) go cold turkey on ALL possible dopamine hits.
(2) just cut out the problematic behaviors.
If you cut out all dopamine hits for one day a month that means:
No making fun of vegans.
This sounds like a drag. You’re cutting off the monkey in your brain, like a parent cutting off their kid’s allowance. It will rebel.
However, Dr. Sepah’s modern version of Dopamine Fasting is a bit more practical. His “Dopamine Fasting 2.0” is based on the behavioral therapy technique of ‘stimulus control’ for addictions, and doesn’t require total abstinence. All it requires is abstaining from the problematic behaviors you identified above.
The choice is yours, but I like to mix in both.
What to Do During the Fast
The only thing you’re allowed to do all day….Read my blog posts….
Alright, actually…so you’ve cut the fun stuff out and you’re ready for your hard reset. What should you do during a fast?
My day is usually centered around walking, light exercise and meditation.
If you’re looking for more ideas, sign up below for a PDF of all the things I like to do during a dopamine fast (& 15 Stoic Journal Prompts).
6 Things to Do on Your Dopamine Fast (& 15 Stoic Journal Prompts)
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Benefits of Dopamine Fasting: Why Do it?
#1 Discipline is Freedom
It’s a paradox. The more disciplined you are, the more freedom you’ll have. They seem like opposites, but in reality they’re tied at the hip.
Want to be a slave to big Pharma in 20 years? Eat “freely.”
Want to be a slave to your iPhone? Download games freely.
Want to be a slave to your mind? Succumb freely to impulses.
Everything worthwhile takes time and effort. By giving in to dopamine, you’re reprogramming your brain to focus on the opposite.
Over the last hundred years, freedoms have increased immeasurably. The battle for freedom has in many ways been won. But at what cost?
Instead of being imprisoned by culture, people are imprisoned by their own brains. You’re free to protest, but you’re locked in a prison. You’re free to complain about anything… but you can only complain by writing it on a wall locked in a bathroom stall.
That’s how free you really are.
Fasting from dopamine and building better habits will strengthen your discipline and allow you to truly be free.
#2 Break Your Addiction to Comfort
The pursuit of dopamine will shrink your comfort zone to the size of a microwave. Today’s pleasure-addicted world is using dopamine hits to mask their pain.
Dopamine is a medication. But a medication with more side effects than what is listed in a standard pharmaceutical commercial.s.
Dopamine hits are used to avoid unpleasant experiences. Instead of living with your own thoughts, experiencing boredom or dealing with anxiety head on, you retreat to your phone.
When’s the last time you’ve even taken a shit without looking at your phone? Now you’re playing Candy Crush with double pink eye.
Of course, this is bound to backfire. Avoiding the problem only amplifies it. It’s like allowing a homeless person to sleep outside your home because you’re afraid of saying something. And then the next thing you know he’s sleeping with your wife.
Slowly acquiescing to dopamine trains your addiction to comfort, eroding your discipline. You cede control. You can’t find the motivation to do the important tasks.
Things that are uncomfortable do not produce the same dopamine spikes, so your craving brain avoids them.
Basically, if everybody is trained to experience pleasure, after a while you can’t put up with any discomfort. But discomfort is the only way to grow. Discomfort is a call to arms. A pleasure addicted society is a mediocre one: A society who’s greatest accomplishment is their Fortnite score, instead of their 100 year Cathedrals.
What starts merely as avoidance of pain turns into full-blown addiction to comfort, trapping you in a comfort cage.
A dopamine fast is the long, shit covered crawl that will break you out of this comfort prison.
After all, everything you want is just outside your comfort zone.
#3 More Resilience
“Here’s a lesson to test your mind’s mettle: take part of a week in which you have only the most meager and cheap food, dress scantily in shabby clothes, and ask yourself if this is really the worst that you feared. It is when times are good that you should gird yourself for tougher times ahead, for when fortune is kind the soul can build defenses against her ravages. Seneca
The reason you can’t be alone with your painful thoughts is the same reason you can’t motivate yourself to go to the gym. Or meditate. Or eat beef liver. Or stand up to that coworker that constantly takes credit for your ideas. You’re afraid of the pain, and you’ve trained your brain to avoid it.
This is so often how you are defeated, one seemingly small concession at a time. You don’t just wake up one day and become mentally and physically weak. Each and every time you give in, you erode your self-discipline.
A dopamine fast will give you more resilience. Like a vaccine, small stressors harden you to pain. The pain of giving up your biggest addictions will train you to deal with the real disasters when they come.
Deliberately putting yourself in uncomfortable positions prepares you for the inevitable unplanned discomfort. Whereas weakness leads to stagnation. So sleep on a bed of nails, put glass in your shoes… and remember that it’s not the end of the world the next time your barista forgets your half and half.
You obviously don’t need to go that far. But without any discomfort, you’ll never be comfortable.
You’ll never solve the biggest problems in your life if you don’t face them. Like a ticking time bomb, they explode in unexpected ways. The addiction to comfort is the fuse that ignites the nuclear explosion.
Most people live in fear of hard challenges, but you will not. You will become mentally and physically resilient.
#4 Tame Desires Before They Devour You
An addiction to hedonism will destroy your life.
The example of Marcus Aurelius and his brother Lucius epitomizes this. Marcus lived a life of philosophical inquiry and discipline, shunning parties and games in favor of studies and self improvement.
On the other hand, his brother and co-emperor Lucius was known for his extravagant parties. He once threw a party that cost the equivalent of the entire Roman army’s annual pay.
Marcus pored over books, Lucius poured drinks. Lucius dropped philosophy in search of more freedom and leisure, whereas Marcus was disciplined in search of fulfillment. Marcus rose early and studied. Lucius slept in and had a hair of the dog.
In the end, Lucius’ habits devoured him. His hedonistic lifestyle addicted him to the dragon of dopamine. Like a schizophrenic pendulum he swung back and forth between deep lows and very high highs. Lucius ended up dying early as an alcoholic, and Marcus ruled the Roman Empire and lived a life of fulfillment.
The stoics believe that entertainment is not inherently good or bad, but it is unhealthy when pursued excessively. It becomes a problem when you are more interested in doing what’s pleasurable than doing what’s good for you. When you scroll through Instagram instead of reading that book that’s staring at you from the shelf.
Time and time again, pleasure in the short run leads to pain in the long run. The road that seems the easiest never actually is.
Tame these addictions before they enslave you.
#5 Increase Your Long-Term Fulfillment / Meaning
There are two paths you can follow in life:
A life where you’re addicted to comfort. You make decisions by avoiding short-term pain and seeking pleasure.
A life where you seek self-discipline and reason. You attack discomfort and transform it into power. You use it to fuel you to accomplish great things.
One gives you fleeting pleasures. The other gives you lasting fulfillment.
It takes a Herculean effort to stay disciplined amongst the noise, to fight the siren call of the pleasures. But in the end, it produces something more satisfying than pleasure: genuine purpose and meaning.
As Marcus Aurelius said, “Real fulfillment comes from acts you do.” He also said “Check out my son Carnivore’s twitter account.” It’s not going to come from the shallow dopamine hits. To get real pleasure, you need to replace these superficial pleasures with better hobbies.
You need to achieve what the stoics called apatheia: freedom from harmful desires. Joy is a byproduct of achieving long-term goals, not ravenously snacking on quick dopamine hits. This is why Marcus was able to achieve much more pleasure than his brother who was more addicted to pleasure than I am to steak.
Epictetus underscored this point: “Freedom isn’t secured by filling up on your heart’s desire but by removing your desire.”
In today’s world, this is a challenge. We’re overstimulated from every direction, our attention spans whittled down from beautiful, long nails to bitten stubs of a madman.
All of this is echoed by neurochemistry. Low-level pleasures activate only one part of your brain, whereas higher-order pleasures engage broader neural networks [*].
#6 Fasting Teaches You to Be Grateful
Constantly pursuing pleasures only makes you need more. It’s allowing your base instincts to run the show, appointing your monkey brain CEO of your life.
From the perspective of your base instincts, you’re NEVER good enough. You’re never going on enough vacations. You don’t look like George Clooney. You’re not as wealthy as Bill Gates. But trust me, even George Clooney has felt self conscious about his gray hair.
The monkey ceo is ruthless. He won’t be happy until your head is on a stick and he’s eating bananas off your back.
But it’s not true. You have everything you need to be happy. It’s all in your control. It all comes from within.
An addiction to dopamine will tell you otherwise, but breaking that addiction will free you.
#7 Increase Productivity & Focus on Long-Term Goals
“Nothing, to my way of thinking, it better proof of a well-ordered mind than a man’s ability to stop just where he is and pass some time in his own company.” — Seneca
The ability to focus is a superpower, and a dopamine addiction is your Kryptonite.
The culprit: people have trained new habit loops and taught their brain to look for dopamine instead of doing long-term work.
Your monkey brain is always searching for the feeling of reward from the Instagram notification or the new text message until it can’t stand an hour without it.
Everybody has been trained to think for the short-term. But if you can break out of this paradigm, you will dominate.
You’re running a marathon, but most people are standing in place. They think they’re going faster but they’re really stuck in place on a treadmill. Meanwhile, you’re casually pacing to the finish line.
#8 Increases Creativity & Imagination
You can’t ever create anything if you’re never alone with your thoughts.
Your imagination is a muscle. If you’re constantly ingesting, you never imagine.
Being alone with your thoughts is the key to becoming great. If you slow down and give your brain time to create instead of ingest, you’ll be surprised by the genius you’re capable of.
Give your mind the silence it needs. Your brain is craving this fast.
#9 Rewire your brain: Dopamine Sensitivity
Your brain has been rewired by these demonic technologies and this addiction to comfort comes with crippling side effects.
Even if it doesn’t feel like you’re addicted, your brain has been rewired. As discussed above, the seesaw of reward has shifted more towards the monkey brain than the human brain.
You’ve trained your brain to focus on short-term instead of long-term goals, diminishing the impact of long-term thinking.
Every time you scroll through Instagram while working, you lay new habit paths in your brain.
You teach yourself that distraction produces reward. Not learning. Not skill acquisition. Not building things.
You give your thumb all the power. Our beautiful opposable thumb that evolved to dominate the world has now been reduced to a slave to the iPhone scroll. You’re focusing on the wrong things and pursuing vacuous rewards.
Once you learn about neuroplasticity, you’ll never use these menacing technologies again. Every thought and action you take literally rewires your brain, creating insidious associative behavior. It’s like you rip out the dash on your car and are plugging random wires into each other. Next thing you know, you try to turn on the stereo and your car starts driving in reverse.
The hyperactivated dopamine hits of the world also change the benchmark of your dopamine levels. It decreases your dopamine sensitivity over time. Meaning you no longer feel the same reward from a satiating, delicious steak. Instead, you need the sugar.
The scariest part is that this can eventually cause your entire brain to adapt. It rewires all your circuitry around motivation, inhibitory control, executive function and conditioning [*].
How You’ll Feel on a Dopamine Fast
Here are some things I experience on dopamine fasts:
My mind is quiet but focused. Like an ocean with an oil spill, your mind is polluted. Once you lift out the dopamine it will be like a clear reef.
At times, I crave the dopamine. It feels like the monkey inside my brain crying in pain. But weirdly it feels good. I meditate on it. I control it. And I starve it.
I experience massive insights. About business. About life. About myself. I’m pretty sure I cured cancer but forgot to write it down. When you clear out weeds, you allow flowers to blossom.
I realize how much of a waste of time these shallow pleasures are.
I notice more beauty around me. Things I don’t usually experience when I’m glued to my phone. Even the plants were beautiful. This is also why I think it’s so unethical that vegans eat them…
Your brain has been hijacked.
Big food companies have created foods that addict you.
Social media companies have created notifications that addict you.
Scientists have created porn that you crave.
It’s time for the way out. And that way out is fasting.
3) A study in Framingham, MA 60 years ago claimed cholesterol led to heart disease [*].
All three ultimately led to the diet-heart hypothesis and Food Pyramid.
Cholesterol was the critical second link of the diet-heart hypothesis. The hypothesis was that saturated fat increased cholesterol. And based on the studies above, that cholesterol then caused heart disease.
After cholesterol was found to be present in artery walls in patients with heart disease, cholesterol was blamed as the cause of the disease.
But we convicted the wrong enemy.
The Truth About Cholesterol
All three studies used to convict cholesterol would turn out to be flawed and corrupt.
The 1913 study on cholesterol by the russian scientist was on rabbits. Rabbits are herbivores. Of course they react negatively to cholesterol.
Ancel Keys cherry picked seven countries out of 22. After including all the countries there was no correlation.
There was not a shred of truth in any of the three studies.
A 30 year follow up to framingham actually showed a negative correlation between cholesterol and disease.
“There is a direct association between falling cholesterol levels over the first 14 years and mortality over the following 18 years (11% overall and 14% CVD death rate increase per 1 mg/dL per year drop in cholesterol levels).” [*]
So of course the USDA and health authorities backtracked on their cholesterol recommendations and saturated fat vilification right…? Of course not. They doubled down and still recommend people limit saturated fat.
Studies Confirm LDL and Total Cholesterol Are Not Risk Factors
Now that cholesterol has been rigorously tested, more studies continue to emerge that cholesterol is not predictive of heart disease.
In 1987, a thirty year follow up to the Framingham study was conducted — the study that crucified total cholesterol in the first place.
Those aged between 48 and 57 with cholesterol in the mid range (183-222 mg/dL) had a greater risk of heart attack than those with higher cholesterol.
They also found that “for each 1 mg/dL per year drop in serum cholesterol values, there is an 11% increase in both the overall death rate and the CVD death rate.” [*]
In fact, there are zero studies that show that high LDL is a risk factor, independent of triglyceride levels and HDL levels. [*]
What matters is the functioning of your lipid and energy transport system.
And a big reason why there is often a correlation between LDL, HDL and heart disease is because they are potentially indicative of a broken system.
And you know what? New scientific research confirms this.
There’s not a single randomized control trial that shows people with high LDL die younger. David Diamond has done some great work here.
In fact, some studies show that higher LDL-C is associated with equal or greater lifespan [*].
When it comes to total cholesterol, a study in Hawaii found the same. Having low cholesterol for a long time actually increases risk of death:
Instead of continuing to dig their heels in, I do appreciate the honesty of the study above: “we have been unable to explain our results”.
This study from UCLA showed that 75% heart disease patients had LDL below 130 mg/dl — the level at which doctors prescribe statins.
The above data shows that saturated fat can raise cholesterol. But no evidence has shown that, independent of other factors, high cholesterol is a cause for concern.
New evidence continues to pile up that cholesterol alone is not the culprit when it comes to heart disease. And that lowering it is not necessarily beneficial (in fact in some cases it can cause more damage).
In 2019, the BMJ reviewed 22 interventional trials and found that “‘The preponderance of evidence indicates that low-fat diets that reduce serum cholesterol do not reduce cardiovascular events or mortality” [*]
In the recently unearthed Minnesota Coronary experiment researchers lowered cholesterol like they intended by 14%.
But this led to a “22% higher risk of death for each 30 mg/dL reduction in serum cholesterol”
This study was BURIED for 40 years.
Lastly, remember the seven countries study that blamed saturated fat and cholesterol for heart disease? Well Zoe Harcombe added in 290 more countries and the correlation flipped. Cholesterol actually becomes negatively correlated with heart disease.
What BioMarkers Are Predictive of Heart Disease?
Yes, cholesterol is present in the artery walls of heart disease patients.
But it’s because it was there to rescue their artery walls.
It’s like condemning firefighters for starting fires just because they’re present at all fires. The logic is completely backwards.
What matters is how the fire started in the first place.
LDL, the “bad cholesterol”, is not predictive alone. Of course not. Because it is not inherently harmful. It’s only indicative of an atherogenic environment when it’s coupled with inflammation and oxidation.
What is the signature of inflammation and oxidation?
It usually rears its head as high TG / HDL ratios and high fasting insulin.
In a recent study of 103,446 men and women, LDL levels showed very minimal effect on heart disease.
But an increase in triglycerides/HDL ratio doubled the risk of heart disease. [*]
High triglyceride/HDL ratios are indicative of high remnant cholesterol, which is a better indicator for heart disease than LDL alone [*].
Dave Feldman showed below that remnant cholesterol correlated highly with all cause mortality.
And guess what is significantly associated with remnant cholesterol? Insulin resistance [*].
When it comes to biomarkers, I like to see:
– Total / HDL < 4
– TG / HDL < 1
– HDL > 40
– TG < 100
– Fasting insulin < 10
– Fasting glucose < 5 mmol/L
LDL, the “bad cholesterol”, is nowhere to be found…Why?
Big pharma can’t make money off the REAL predictive biomarkers
Make sure to also keep an eye on fasting insulin levels.
From the great Ivor Cummins: When insulin is low, high LDL particle count and high triglycerides don’t indicate that you’re at higher risk. [*]
But when insulin is high, the risk of high triglycerides and high LDL is magnified.
When fasting insulin is >15 uU/mL, your risk of heart disease with the same triglyceride levels go up 6.7x. And with the same LDL-P levels, it increases 11x.
High LDL with high insulin is much more concerning than high LDL with low insulin.
Too Little Cholesterol is Worse Than Too Much
Cholesterol is an organic molecule found in cell membranes and most tissues. It’s in the food we eat and is naturally occurring within our bodies.
Of the cholesterol present, around 75% is created in our bodies, and 25% is ingested.
Cholesterol is one of the most vital compounds in our bodies. So vital that our bodies make around 3000 mg of it every single day. [*] We can’t leave it to chance to get it externally – it’s that important.
Without cholesterol, we would literally be dead.
Cells would disintegrate. We’d have no hormones, no brain function, and no muscles. Every cell membrane is constructed out of cholesterol.
All of the following critical body components are made from cholesterol: [*][*]
Cortisol (anti-inflammatory stress hormone)
Aldosterone (regulates salt balance)
Bile (required for fat and vitamin absorption)
Brain synapses (neurotransmitter exchange)
Myelin sheath (insulates nerve cells)
Not having any cholesterol is MUCH worse than having too much of it.
Cholesterol is one of the most important molecules in your body. It is not a direct etiological agent in heart disease — it is merely correlative because it can indicate fundamental damage.
Lunges are like the Brussels sprouts of the exercise world — you know they’re good for you, but you can’t seem to develop a taste for them. Luckily, lunges aren’t your only option. There are plenty of other leg exercises that build lower-body strength while challenging your balance and flexibility.
So, if you loathe lunges but want the lower-body perks, Nedra Lopez Matosov, trainer and owner of the New York City-based fitness studio The P.E. Club, suggests incorporating these five killer leg exercises into your weekly workouts.
1. Sumo Deadlifts
Deadlifts are amazing for sculpting the hamstrings and glutes, says Lopez Matosov, adding that the sumo deadlift’s wider stance targets the hard-to-reach inner thighstoo.
Stand with your feet wider than your hips. Point your toes out, between 30 and 45 degrees.
The weight (barbell, kettlebell or dumbbells) should be right in the middle of your legs.
Stick your hips back and hinge forward to grab the weight with both hands, using an overhand grip.
Bend your knees slightly as you lift the weight, pushing through your heels to stand. Make sure to squeeze your glutes.
Slowly return the weight back down as you hinge forward again.
Kick your deadlift game up a notch with this single-leg version, which is great for increasing strength and stability, Lopez Matosov says. “You will notice your legs feeling leaner and your booty higher after including these consistently into your routine.”
Stand tall and soften your right knee with your right foot planted firmly on the ground.
Lift your left leg straight behind your body as you hinge at the hips to bring your torso parallel to the floor. Think of moving your body in a seesaw motion: you hinge at the same rate that you lift the leg behind you.
Your hips should stay square throughout the entire movement, avoiding the tendency to turn them out.
Once you’re parallel to the ground, squeeze your right glute, push through your right heel and pull your core in as you return back to standing tall.
Repeat for desired number of reps, then switch sides.
To help with balance, you can place an object in front of you to touch as you lean forward, or if you want to up the ante and increase the move’s difficulty level, hold a dumbbell, says Lopez Matosov.
5. Kettlebell Swings
“The kettlebell swing is a powerful and effective exercise that works your inner thighs, hamstrings, abs and glutes,” says Lopez Matosov, who adds that this heart-pumping move can also double as cardio.
Begin with your feet a little wider than hip-width apart. Place the kettlebell down about a foot in front of you.
Bend forward and grab the kettlebell by the handle. Begin to bend the knees slightly to allow your back to flatten and look forward.
Pull your belly in tight as you begin to lift the kettlebell back between your thighs. Allow your forearms to graze your inner thighs as you hinge forward.
Exhale as you push your hips forward and squeeze your glutes, which will propel the kettlebell forward.
Then hinge back allowing the kettlebell to swing between your thighs.
Don’t lift the kettlebell with your arms, Lopez Matosov say. The explosive power of the movement should come from your hips, glutes and core. And if you feel discomfort in your back, make sure to bend your knees and engage your abs, especially as the kettlebell swings forward.
Source: Article by Jaime Osnato (https://www.livestrong.com/article/13724466-leg-exercises-no-lunges/)
Oatly oat milk is a dairy-free alternative to milk. If you haven’t tried it yourself, maybe you’ve heard someone in line at Starbucks order something like a “matcha latte with oat milk.” It tastes creamier and more milk-like than many other plant-based milk substitutes and has grown like crazy in popularity, but is it healthy? Let’s take a look at the ingredients and nutrition facts:
Nutrition Facts per 1 cup (240 ml) Calories – 140 Fat – 7 g Saturated – .5 g Trans Fat – 0 g Cholesterol – 0 mg Sodium – 100 mg Potassium – 390 mg Total Carbohydrate – 16 g Dietary Fiber – 2 g Soluble Fiber – 1 g Sugars – 7 g Includes 7 g added sugars Protein – 3 g
One of the first things I notice is that there are 7 grams of added sugar per cup of oat milk, even though there’s no added sweetener in the ingredients list. So where does the sugar come from? The only carbohydrate source is oats, a grain that’s very low in sugar. It turns out the added sugar in Oatly comes from their production process, where added enzymes break down the oat starch into simple sugars, primarily maltose . Maltose has a glycemic index of 105. For context, white flour and doughnuts have a glycemic index of 85 and 75, respectively. The glycemic index is a scale from 0 to 100, meaning that maltose has a literally off-the-charts impact on blood sugar levels. A 12-ounce glass of oat milk (the amount in a medium latte) has about the same blood sugar impact as a 12-ounce can of Coke.
The third ingredient, after water and oats, is rapeseed oil, the slightly less flattering name for canola oil. Usually, rapeseed oil is used in the automotive and chemical industries to make things like engine lubricant and biodiesel, whereas the version used for cooking is known as “canola oil”. Both are extremely processed, inflammatory, and unhealthy oils and can even contain up to 2.03% of trans-fats . Trans-fats have no safe level of consumption and have (finally) been officially banned in the US . Seed oils like rapeseed and canola oil are one of the few foods left that still contain toxic trans-fats . Based on its nutrition information, we can calculate that each 8 oz cup of oat milk (the amount in a small latte) contains about the same amount of oil as a medium serving of french fries. A large latte with oat milk would contain over 10 grams of rapeseed oil, much more oil than in a large fries. Every time you drink a latte with oat milk, you’re getting the toxic and inflammatory equivalent of a medium to large serving of french fries.
After water, oats, and rapeseed oil, the next ingredient is dipotassium phosphate, a food additive in packaged foods originally derived from animal bones and urine. It is now extracted from phosphate rock and put through chemical reactions to make it edible . Other foods that typically contain added phosphates are processed meats, soda and colas, fast food, and frozen chicken nuggets . The FDA, whose policies and guidelines are usually decades behind the science, claim that phosphates are GRAS (generally recognized as safe), but the FDA said the same thing about artificial trans-fats until 2015, when the scientific research had been showing otherwise since at least the 1990s. In the case of phosphates, a 2012 study on their hazardous effects concludes, “In view of the high prevalence of chronic kidney disease and the potential harm caused by phosphate additives to food, the public should be informed that added phosphate is damaging to health” . Chronic kidney disease is now one of the leading causes of death and disability in the US .
To more closely resemble the nutrition facts on a carton of regular cow’s milk, Oatly fortifies its drink with added vitamins and minerals. They include added Vitamin D (a very important nutrient), but use the less effective Vitamin D2 in place of Vitamin D3. Your skin produces Vitamin D3 naturally; in contrast, Vitamin D2 is produced by plants and mushrooms exposed to sunlight. Although supplemental Vitamin D3 is nearly twice as effective as Vitamin D2 at raising Vitamin D levels in your blood [10, 11], Oatly has decided to opt for the less expensive D2, presumably to keep it 100% vegan.
Oatly claim their goal is, “to make it easier for people to upgrade their lives by switching to a more plant-based diet.” While they may have good intentions, little about this oily grain water will upgrade your life.
Triglycerides are fats that are found in the blood and they are normally healthy and contribute to important physiological processes. They are used by the body for energy and are used for the storage of it as well. They are also essential to the transport of cholesterol, necessary for brain and nerve health, throughout the body. However, sometimes the triglycerides levels in the blood can become too high, and this can lead to long term health complications like heart attacks and strokes. One major cause of high triglycerides comes in the form of foods that we eat every day.
Foods that are high in saturated fat are a big contributor to the buildup of excess triglycerides in the blood. And, foods high in triglycerides to begin with like oils and butters are also responsible for increasing triglyceride levels. But, there is another food source of these elevated levels in the form of carbohydrates, particularly simple carbohydrates. The body takes in carbohydrates and converts them into body fuel producing glucose. Extra glucose that the body does not use for energy purposes is stored in the form of fat. And therefore an excess of calories from simple sugar sources can lead to an excess of triglycerides in the body.
Essentially, the way in which simple sugars are a major cause of high triglycerides has to do with the way in which the body processes these so differently from complex carbohydrates. When foods rich in simple carbs are ingested, the body uses them for energy very quickly, and the result is a rapid rise in glucose levels in the bloodstream. The pancreas responds by upping its production of insulin. An overload of carbs that the body simply can not use all at once combined with a maximum capacity of the storage of glycogen can lead to the conversion of the excess glucose into triglycerides by the liver. These manufactured triglycerides are sent to fat cells. This relationship between triglycerides and sugar intake indicates the extreme connection between diet and maintaining healthy levels of blood fats, and shows how simple carbohydrates can be a key cause of high triglycerides.
High triglycerides can negatively impact the body in many different ways. And, the presence of higher than acceptable ranges can also indicate other issues with the blood fat levels within the body. Persons with elevated triglycerides also often have lower than desirable levels of HDL or “good” cholesterol, which can protect against heart disease. The cholesterol HDL ratio in these individuals can also be elevated. It is acceptable for the ratio of triglycerides to HDL cholesterol to be 2 or less (this number can be calculated by dividing the level of triglycerides by the total HDL). Higher ratios can often coincide with the presence of blood clotting disorders as well.
Higher than normal levels of bad cholesterol and triglycerides are associated with a significantly increased risk of both heart attacks and strokes. In fact, high triglycerides have been linked to a nearly thrice as likely chance of having a heart attack. It has been suggested that evaluating the levels of cholesterol and triglycerides within the body can be the best way to predict heart disease, furthering the importance of identifying these levels early and eliminating any known cause of high triglycerides and cholesterol.
High sugar foods should be avoided like a plague to eliminate the risk of elevated levels of triglycerides. Sweets like donuts and cakes as well as candies should be avoided by persons who have higher than desirable levels of the blood fats. Another often forgotten simple sugar based cause of high triglycerides is sugary beverages like soda and many fruit juices. Even diets that reduce or eliminate some food sources can be stymied by the incorporation of these sugary drinks. But, it is not just the tasty sweets that can be considered a cause of high triglycerides. Many foods that aren’t often thought of as necessarily bad for the body can be culprits too. White flour and white rice, for example, contain simple sugars that the body uses the same way it does the simple sugars from a candy bar. Complex carbohydrate choices are better substitutes for these such as brown rice and whole wheat flour.
The management of high triglycerides is typically a complex assortment of varied treatment methods including medical management and monitoring, lifestyle and dietary changes as well as sometimes the use of medications like fibrates and statins if necessary. Many people happily find however that reducing the dietary cause of high triglycerides has a dramatic impact on returning the levels of these blood fats to healthy levels, therefore dramatically decreasing the risk for serious and long term health complications.
I’ve been planning to write at length about this topic for a few months, but I’ve been hesitant to do so for several reasons:
To discuss it properly requires great care and attention (mine and yours, respectively).
My own education on this topic only really began about 9 months ago, and I’m still learning from my mentors at a geometric pace.
This topic can’t be covered in one post, even a Peter-Attia-who-can’t-seem-to-say-anything-under-2,000-word post.
I feel a bit like an imposter writing about lipidology because my mentors on this topic (below) have already addressed this topic so well, I’m not sure I have anything to add.
But here’s the thing. I am absolutely – perhaps pathologically – obsessed with lipidology, the science and study of lipids. Furthermore, I’m getting countless questions from you on this topic. Hence, despite my reservations above, I’m going to give this a shot.
A few thoughts before we begin.
I’m not even going to attempt to cover this topic entirely in this post, so please hold off on asking questions beyond the scope of this post.
Please resist the urge to send me your cholesterol numbers. I get about 30 such requests per day, and I cannot practice medicine over the internet. By all means, share your story with me and others, but understand that I can’t really comment other than to say what I pretty much say to everyone: standard cholesterol testing (including VAP) is largely irrelevant and you should have a lipoprotein analysis using NMR spectroscopy (if you don’t know what I mean by this, that’s ok… you will soon).
This topic bears an upsettingly parallel reality to that of nutrition “science” in that virtually all health care providers have no understanding of it and seem to only reiterate conventional wisdom (e.g., “LDL is bad,” “HDL is good”). We’ll be blowing the doors off this fallacious logic.
By the end of this series, should you choose to internalize this content (and pick up a few homework assignments along the way), you will understand the field of lipidology and advanced lipid testing better than 95% of physicians in the United States. I am not being hyperbolic.
One last thing before jumping in: Everything I have learned and continue to learn on this topic has been patiently taught to me by the words and writings of my mentors on this subject: Dr. Tom Dayspring, Dr. Tara Dall, Dr. Bill Cromwell, and Dr. James Otvos. I am eternally in their debt and see it as my duty to pass this information on to everyone interested.
Are you ready to start an exciting journey?
Concept #1 – What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a 27-carbon molecule shown in the figure below. Each line in this figure represents a bond between two carbon atoms. Sorry, I’ve got to get it out there. That’s it. Mystery over.
All this talk about “cholesterol” and most people don’t actually know what it is. So there you have it. Cholesterol is “just” another organic molecule in our body.
I need to make one important distinction that will be very important later. Cholesterol, a steroid alcohol, can be “free” or “unesterified” (“UC” as we say, which stands for unesterified cholesterol) which is its active form, or it can exist in its “esterified” or storage form which we call a cholesterol ester (“CE”). The diagram above shows a free (i.e., UC) molecule of cholesterol. An esterified variant (i.e., CE) would have an “attachment” where the arrow is pointing to the hydroxyl group on carbon #3, aptly named the “esterification site.”
Since cholesterol can only be produced by organisms in the Animal Kingdom it is termed a zoosterol. In a subsequent post I will write about a cousin of cholesterol called phytosterol, but at this time I think the introduction would only confuse matters. So, if you have a question about phytosterols, please hang on.
Concept #2 – What is the relationship between the cholesterol we eat and the cholesterol in our body?
We ingest (i.e., take in) cholesterol in many of the foods we eat and our body produces (“synthesizes”) cholesterol de novo from various precursors. About 25% of our daily “intake” of cholesterol – roughly 300 to 500 mg — comes from what we eat (called exogenous cholesterol), and the remaining 75% of our “intake” of cholesterol — roughly 800 to 1,200 mg – is made by our body (called endogenous production). To put these amounts in context, consider that total body stores of cholesterol are about 30 to 40 gm (i.e., 30,000 to 40,000 mg) and most of this resides within our cell membranes. Every cell in the body can produce cholesterol and thus very few cells actually require a delivery of cholesterol. Cholesterol is required by all cell membranes and to produce steroid hormones and bile acids.
Of this “made” or “synthesized” cholesterol, our liver synthesizes about 20% of it and the remaining 80% is synthesized by other cells in our bodies. The synthesis of cholesterol is a complex four-step process (with 37 individual steps) that I will not cover here (though I will revisit), but I want to point out how tightly regulated this process is, with multiple feedback loops. In other words, the body works very hard (and very “smart”) to ensure cellular cholesterol levels are within a pretty narrow band (the overall process is called cholesterol homeostasis). Excess cellular cholesterol will crystalize and cause cellular apoptosis (programmed cell death). Plasma cholesterol levels (which is what clinicians measure with standard cholesterol tests) often have little to do with cellular cholesterol, especially artery cholesterol, which is what we really care about. For example, when cholesterol intake is decreased, the body will synthesize more cholesterol and/or absorb (i.e., recycle) more cholesterol from our gut. The way our body absorbs cholesterol is so amazing, so I want to spend a bit of time discussing it.
In medical school, whenever we had to study physiology or pathology I always had a tendency to want to anthropomorphize everything. It’s just how my brain works, I guess, and understanding cholesterol absorption is a great example of this sort of thinking. The figure below, from the Gastroenterology Journal, shows a cross-section of a cell in our small intestine (i.e., our “gut”) called an enterocyte that governs how stuff in our gut actually gets absorbed. The left side with the fuzzy border is the side facing the “lumen” (the inside of the “tube” that makes up our gut). You’ll notice two circles on that side of the cell, a blue one and a pink one.
[What follows is a bit more technical than I would have liked, but I think it’s very important to understand how this process of cholesterol absorption works. It’s certainly worth reading this a few times to make sure it sinks in.]
The blue circle represents something called a Niemann-Pick C1-like 1 protein (NPC1L1). It sits at the apical surface of enterocytes and it promotes active influx(i.e., bringing in) of gut luminal unesterified cholesterol (UC) as well as unesterified phytosterols into the enterocyte. Think of this NPC1L1 as the ticket-taker at the door of the bar (where the enterocyte is the “bar”); he lets most cholesterol (“people”) in. However, NPC1L1 cannot distinguish between cholesterol (“good people”) and phytosterol (“bad people” – I will discuss these guys later, so no need to worry about it now) or even too much cholesterol (“too many people”). [I can’t take any credit for this anthropomorphization – this is how Tom Dayspring explained it to me!]
The pink circle represents an adenosine triphosphate (ATP)-binding cassette(ABC) transporters ABCG5 and ABCG8. This complex promotes active efflux (i.e., kicking out) of unesterified sterols (cholesterol and plant sterols – of which over 40 exist) from enterocytes back into the intestinal lumen for excretion. Think of ABCG5,G8 as the bouncer at the bar; he gets rid of the really bad people (e.g., phytosterols as they serve no purpose in humans) you don’t want in the bar who snuck past the ticket-taker (NPC1L1). Of course in cases of hyperabsorption (i.e., in cases where the gut absorbs too much of a good thing) they can also efflux out un-needed cholesterol. Along this analogy, once too many “good people” get in the bar, fire laws are violated and some have to go. The enterocyte has “sterol-excess sensors” (a nuclear transcription factor called LXR) that do the monitoring and these sensors activate the genes that regulate NPC1L1 and ABCG5,G8).
There is another nuance to this, which is where the CE versus UC distinction comes in:
Only free or unesterified cholesterol (UC) can be absorbed through gut enterocytes. In other words, cholesterol esters (CE) cannot be absorbed because of the bulky side chains they carry.
Much (> 50%) of the cholesterol we ingest from food is esterified (CE), hence we don’t actually absorb much, if any,exogenouscholesterol (i.e., cholesterol in food). CE can be de-esterified by pancreatic lipases and esterolases – enzymes that break off the side branches and render CE back to UC — so some ingested CE can be converted to UC.
Furthermore, most of the unesterified cholesterol (UC) in our gut (on the order of about 85%) is actually of endogenous origin (meaning it was synthesized in bodily cells and returned to the liver), which ends up in the gut via biliary secretion and ultimately gets re-absorbed by the gut enterocyte. The liver is only able to efflux (send out via bile into the gut) UC, but not CE, from hepatocytes (liver cells) to the biliary system. Liver CE cannot be excreted into bile. So, if the liver is going to excrete CE into bile and ultimately the gut, it needs to de-esterify it using enzymes called cholesterol esterolases which can convert liver CE to UC.
Also realize that the number one way for the liver to rid itself of cholesterol is to convert the cholesterol into a bile acid, efflux that to the bile (via a transporter called ABCB11) and excrete the bile acids in the stool (typically most bile acids are reabsorbed at the ileum).
Concept #3 – Is cholesterol bad?
One of the biggest misconceptions out there (maybe second only to the idea that eating fat makes you fat) is that cholesterol is “bad.” This could not be further from the truth. Cholesterol is very good! In fact, there are (fortunately rare) genetic disorders in which people cannot properly synthesize cholesterol. Once such disease is Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome (also called “SLOS,” or 7-dehydrocholesterol reductase deficiency) which is a metabolic and congenital disorder leading to a number of problems including autism, mental retardation, lack of muscle, and many others.
Cholesterol is absolutely vital for our existence. Let me repeat: Cholesterol is absolutely vital for our existence. Every cell in our body is surrounded by a membrane. These membranes are largely responsible for fluidity and permeability, which essentially control how a cell moves, how it interacts with other cells, and how it transports “important” things in and out. Cholesterol is one of the main building blocks used to make cell membranes (in particular, the ever-important “lipid bilayer” of the cell membrane).
Beyond cholesterol’s role in allowing cells to even exist, it also serves an important role in the synthesis of vitamins and steroid hormones, including sex hormones and bile acids. Make sure you take a look at the picture of steroid hormones synthesis and compare it to that of cholesterol (above). If this comparison doesn’t convince you of the vital importance of cholesterol, nothing I say will.
One of the unfortunate results of the eternal need to simplify everything is that we (i.e., the medical establishment) have done the public a disservice by failing to communicate that there is no such thing as “bad” cholesterol or “good” cholesterol. All cholesterol is good!
The only “bad” outcome is when cholesterol ends up inside of the wall of an artery, most famously the inside of a coronary artery or a carotid artery, AND leads to an inflammatory cascade which results in the obstruction of that artery (make sure you check out the pictures in the links, above). When one measures cholesterol in the blood – we really do not know the final destination of those cholesterol molecules!
And that’s where we’ll pick it up next time – how does “good” cholesterol end up in places it doesn’t belong and cause “bad” problems? If anyone is looking for a little extra understanding on this topic, please, please, please check out my absolute favorite reference for all of my cholesterol needs, LecturePad. It’s designed primarily for physicians, but I suspect many of you out there will find it helpful, if not now, certainly once we’re done with this series.
To summarize this somewhat complex issue
Cholesterol is “just” another fancy organic molecule in our body, but with an interesting distinction: we eat it, we make it, we store it, and we excrete it – all in different amounts.
The pool of cholesterol in our body is essential for life. No cholesterol = no life.
Cholesterol exists in 2 forms – UC and CE – and the form determines if we can absorb it or not, or store it or not (among other things).
Most of the cholesterol we eat is not absorbed and is excreted by our gut (i.e., leaves our body in stool). The reason is it not only has to be de-esterified, but it competes for absorption with the vastly larger amounts of UC supplied by the biliary route.
Re-absorption of the cholesterol we synthesize in our body is the dominant source of the cholesterol in our body. That is, most of the cholesterol in our body was made by our body.
The process of regulating cholesterol is very complex and multifaceted with multiple layers of control. I’ve only touched on the absorption side, but the synthesis side is also complex and highly regulated. You will discover that synthesis and absorption are very interrelated.
Eating cholesterol has very little impact on the cholesterol levels in your body. This is a fact, not my opinion. Anyone who tells you different is, at best, ignorant of this topic. At worst, they are a deliberate charlatan. Years ago the Canadian Guidelines removed the limitation of dietary cholesterol. The rest of the world, especially the United States, needs to catch up.
“Eat your fruits and vegetables!” You’ve probably heard that nagging scold more often than any other nutritional advice — not only from your mother but from doctors, health organizations, and governments — over the last four decades.
Eating fruits and veggies is so often recommended as the best way to live longer, healthier lives, that questioning it seems unbelievably controversial. After all, observations show that healthy people who eat fruits and vegetables can consistently live into their 90’s and 100’s.1While this may show that fruits and veggies can be part of a healthy lifestyle for some, it does not prove that they are required for a healthy lifestyle for everyone.
How many fruits and vegetables do we need to eat? Might some people be better off eating fewer than recommended? More provocatively, do we need any at all? In a world where fruit bowls and green smoothies are seen as virtuous and bacon is viewed as sinful, it may seem difficult to even consider these possibilities.
Yes, there’s been a lot of research on the health benefits of fruits and vegetables, but is it rigorous enough to recommend a standard minimum daily intake? And does the quality of the rest of your diet make a difference in that recommendation? Read on to learn where the scientific evidence currently stands on fruits and vegetables.
1. What are fruits?
Fruits are the seed-containing portion of various flowering plants. They grow exclusively above ground.
Different types of fruit
The broad categories of fruit include pome, citrus, tropical, melons, stone fruits and berries. Most fruits taste sweet, although citrus varieties are often sour or bitter. With the exception of bananas, most domesticated fruits are juicy due to their high water content.
Nutritional composition of fruits
Nearly all of the calories in fruit come from sugar — not surprising, given their sweet taste. Their net carb counts span a large range: 5 grams to 20 grams of carbs per 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of fruit, depending on the type. A single mid-sized orange would have about 12 grams of carbs and a banana at least 23 grams.
Reviewing the nutrition profiles of different fruits, we see that several are good sources of vitamin C and a few minerals. However, the actual nutrient content can vary depending on the type of fruit, how and where it’s grown and stored, and how long it’s been sitting at a stand or grocery shelf.2 In addition, all fruits fall short in vitamin D and key minerals like calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc.
2. What are vegetables?
Speaking from a botanical or gardening point of view, vegetables are the leaves, stems or roots of plants. However, many non-sweet fruits are commonly considered vegetables for eating or cooking purposes.
Different types of vegetables
Vegetables can be broadly classified into four categories:
Above-ground vegetables: greens (spinach, lettuce, chard, et cetera), cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, et cetera), bulbs (onions, garlic) and fungi (mushrooms).
Gourds: pumpkins, hard-shelled squashes and other winter squashes.
Technically fruits but treated like vegetables: avocados, olives, bell peppers, eggplant, tomatoes and zucchini. Unlike other fruits, these aren’t sweet and are often prepared and consumed with other vegetables. Avocados and olives are unique among fruits and vegetables because most of their calories come from fat rather than sugar or starch.
Nutritional composition of vegetables
Non-starchy vegetables are keto-friendly foods that provide 5 or fewer grams of net carbs per 100-gram (3.5-ounce) serving. Not so for the root and starchy vegetables, though, which range from 6 to 17 grams of net carbs per serving. Vegetables usually contain moderate to high amounts of fiber, especially avocado — which also happens to be among the lowest in net carbs.
3. How many fruits and vegetables should people eat per day?
Looking at official recommendations for fruit and vegetable intake in different countries, it’s clear that they’re basically all variations on “5 a day.” The US dietary guidelines, the UK National Health Service, and the World Health Organization all set minimums that are generally equivalent to two cups of fruit and two and a half cups of vegetables each day.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, only 1 in 10 adults consistently meet the US Dietary Guidelines recommendations for fruit and vegetable intake.3 But is this really a problem?
Some low-carb and ketogenic diet experts would say no; that if someone is following a diet that meets their needs for essential nutrients, eating several servings of fruits and vegetables every day isn’t necessary. For instance, Dr. Eric Westman initially recommends two cups of leafy greens and one cup of above-ground vegetables per day — and no sweet fruit of any kind — as part of a very-low-carb diet.4
Other doctors have gone on record as saying that consuming plants is entirely optional — and in some cases may be problematic — including the Paleomedicina Group and Dr. Georgia Ede.5
Health organizations state that their recommendations for fruit and vegetable intake are evidence-based. But as we’ve discussed previously in other guides, there are different levels of scientific evidence. And almost all these fruit and vegetable recommendations are designed for someone who is eating a standard Western diet or a low-fat, high-carb diet.6
Let’s explore the high-quality evidence available to see whether eating more fruits and vegetables has actually been proven to improve health.
4. Research on the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables
With few exceptions, eating more fruits and vegetables is standard weight loss advice. But if we look at the results of experimental trials in which people actually ate more — or at least were encouraged to eat more — of these foods, that advice just doesn’t seem to work for everyone.
A 2014 systematic review of eight randomized controlled trials (RCTs) lasting between 4 and 52 weeks found that people assigned to increase their fruit and vegetable intake lost an average of only 1.5 pounds more than those assigned to eat smaller amounts of these foods.7
The same year, researchers who published a systematic review of seven different RCTs failed to find any measurable differences in weight change between people who consumed high vs. low amounts of fresh produce.8
However, the interventions differed among the RCTs included in both of these analyses. In some cases, people were provided with fresh fruits and vegetables or vouchers to purchase them; in others, they only received advice to consume more of a specific fruit or vegetable. Furthermore, in most of these studies, researchers relied on reported produce intake from the groups rather than closely monitoring their intake. Often it just wasn’t clear whether people actually ended up eating their assigned amounts of fruits and vegetables or not.
In some cases, people who eat more fruits and vegetables may actually gain weight because they don’t compensate by cutting back on other foods — and juice seems to be especially problematic.
For instance, in one RCT, when overweight and obese people were provided with fresh fruits and vegetables to add to their diets for eight weeks, they gained twice as much weight as lean participants, who responded to increased produce intake by eating less of other foods. However, people from all three groups gained weight after consuming the same amount of produce in juice form during a second eight-week period. Still, obese participants gained the most.9
On the other hand, replacing highly processed refined food with fruits and vegetables is not only a smart choice nutritionally; it might also lead to weight loss. In a three-month study, overweight women who were given vouchers to purchase fresh produce lost 6 pounds, whereas those who were given vouchers to purchase any type of groceries gained 4 pounds by the study’s end.10
Overall, though, eating more fruit and vegetables hasn’t been shown to produce meaningful weight loss in most experimental studies.
Yet we often hear that doing so is the key to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. What is the basis for this advice?
For decades, it’s been predominantly larger yet lower-quality observational (also called epidemiological) research. For instance, a 2015 systematic review analyzing 17 epidemiological studies found statistically weak associations between eating a lot of produce and lower body weight and waist size.11
In observational nutrition studies, a hazard ratio (HR), odds ratio (OR) or relative risk (RR) that is close to 1 means there is almost no observable difference. That means any OR less than 2 or greater than 0.50 strongly suggests that any association between a behavior (e.g., eating produce) and an outcome (e.g., weight loss) is possibly random and false. What were the ORs in this study? They were 0.83 for high intake of fruits or vegetables separately, and 0.91 for high intake of fruits and vegetables combined. Indeed, even the study authors acknowledged that “The present meta-analysis seems to be limited by low study quality.”
Diabetes and metabolic syndrome
Fruits and vegetables are generally considered diabetes-friendly foods. In fact, nearly all types of produce make the “low GI foods” list on the American Diabetes Association website, with the exception of melons and pineapple. But how does adhering to “5 a day” or similar dietary advice affect blood sugar control and insulin resistance? The evidence from clinical trials is mixed.
One systematic review and meta-analysis of eight RCTs examining the effects of fruit and vegetable intake in people with metabolic syndrome found that although diastolic blood pressure slightly improved in those who ate more produce, fasting blood sugar levels were no different among the groups.12 The same held true for waist circumference, triglycerides and HDL cholesterol levels — all of which are considered markers of insulin resistance when outside the normal range.13
In 2017, Scottish researchers analyzed results from four RCTs with fruit and vegetable interventions in people with type 2 diabetes or other health conditions. The groups assigned to eat more fruits and vegetables improved their vitamin C and beta-carotene intake but consumed significantly more carbs and calories.14 That doesn’t sound very diabetes-friendly, does it?
In one randomized controlled trial published in Diabetes Care — a journal of the American Diabetes Association — researchers assigned overweight adults to consume two, four, or seven portions of fruits and vegetables per day for 12 weeks. Ultimately, none of the groups experienced any improvement in insulin resistance.15
However, results from another RCT suggest that including low-carb vegetables like broccoli and broccoli sprouts may help lower insulin levels and improve insulin sensitivity in adults with type 2 diabetes.16 Of course, neither the experimental nor control group were consuming low-carb or keto diets. It’s unknown whether adding broccoli or other green vegetables to low-carb or keto diets would provide any further benefit on insulin resistance. Since low-carb diets by definition eliminate two likely offenders behind insulin resistance — sugar and other high-carb foods — there may already be a maximal benefit which may not increase by adding more vegetables. Controlled trials exploring this would need to be done.
What about lower-quality observational studies that suggest eating plenty of fruits and vegetables can help protect against diabetes? Large meta-analyses of these studies have shown very weak associations between fruit and vegetable intake and diabetes risk.17
Finally, although results from observational nutrition studies often have such weak correlations that they’re likely due to chance, occasionally there are exceptions. For example, a 2017 prospective cohort study in pregnant women found that those who reported consuming the highest amount of fruit during their second trimester had a 480% greater risk (OR of 4.82) of developing gestational diabetes than women with the lowest reported fruit intakes.18
Controlled studies exploring this relationship are needed. However, it certainly seems possible that eating large amounts of fruit (“nature’s candy”) during pregnancy — a time of dramatic hormonal fluctuations and insulin resistance — could increase a woman’s likelihood of developing gestational diabetes.
Are fruits and vegetables heart-healthy? Although some experimental research suggests that eating more produce might reduce some cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors, the bulk of evidence to date is inconclusive in regards to clinical outcomes.
For instance, in 2013 researchers conducted a systematic review of 10 RCTs investigating whether increased fruit and vegetable consumption led to improvements in heart health markers. They reported that the trial designs differed significantly and often included other nutrition and lifestyle interventions that may have contributed to observed beneficial effects on CVD risk. Their conclusion? Further trials investigating higher fruit and vegetable intake as the sole intervention are needed.19
Another systematic review of RCTs found that high potassium intake seemed to be beneficial for arterial health, while the effects of high fruit and vegetable intake on arterial function weren’t clear.20
Some RCTs conducted after the 2013 systematic review discussed above suggest that eating more fruits and vegetables may increase blood levels of antioxidants that could improve HDL function and might also reduce inflammation in those at high risk for CVD, such as those with diabetes.21
Yet others found no reduction in CVD risk factors in overweight people who consumed seven servings of produce per day compared to those who consumed two servings per day for 12 weeks.22 In these studies, blood levels of lutein (an antioxidant found in vegetables) were measured to confirm compliance among the different groups.
The evidence from observational studies in this area is very weak. For instance, a large 2017 meta-analysis of 95 studies reported only an 8 percent reduction (RR of 0.92) in CVD risk for every 200 grams of fruits and vegetables people reported consuming per day, up to a maximum of 800 grams per day (roughly 10 servings).23 Yet despite the very weak association and low quality of evidence, major medical organizations cite this paper as conclusive support that fruits and vegetable reduce heart disease event.
Is it possible that you can greatly decrease your risk of heart disease solely by eating 10 servings of fruits and vegetables every day? The relative risk findings suggest that this association has a high chance of being random and false. Plus, given that food-frequency questionnaires and food recalls in observational studies are notoriously inaccurate, it makes sense that we should not rely on this low-quality evidence to make individual health decisions.24
In all likelihood, anyone who actually eats 10 servings of produce on a daily basis likely also engages in other habits known to protect heart health, such as working out regularly and avoiding junk food, excessive alcohol consumption and smoking.
Although fruits and vegetables are whole foods that contain beneficial nutrients, it’s too early to make that claim for them. In fact, it’s too early to make that claim for any foods with certainty, because very little high-quality experimental research has examined how specific foods affect cancer risk and progression.
It’s known that damage to cellular DNA may raise the risk of developing cancer in the future. One randomized cross-over study in healthy people found that consuming kiwifruit for three weeks led to increased antioxidant activity that helped repair DNA, regardless of whether small or large amounts were consumed.25 Similar results were seen in young male smokers who consumed three servings of broccoli per day for 10 days.26
However, other studies haven’t shown any improvement in DNA repair in people who increased their fruit and vegetable intake.27 And one even suggested that cruciferous vegetables may temporarily damage DNA, although this effect seems to disappear within several hours.28
Can healthy people reduce their chance of developing cancer by consuming antioxidants found in plants? At this point, we don’t know. After all, our bodies have their own built-in antioxidant systems in place that, when functioning normally, can help repair cell damage.29Additional trials exploring the effects of fruits and vegetables on DNA repair would give us more information about this.
Cruciferous vegetables contain compounds that might help reduce cancer risk in several ways, such as decreasing inflammation and improving cell signaling.30 Yet it appears there’s probably a threshold of these protective compounds that can be absorbed, so that very high intakes offer no further benefit than consuming more modest amounts.31
Many fruits and vegetables have other phytochemicals (literally “plant chemicals”) with potential anti-cancer activity, such as resveratrol and sulforaphane.32 However, their effects have been studied mainly in test tubes and animals. High-quality human research is needed before any conclusions can be made about their use in cancer prevention or treatment.
In contrast to the limited amount of experimental research, plenty of observational studies have explored the relationship between fruit and vegetable intake and cancer risk. Researchers who conduct systematic reviews and meta-analyses of these studies often conclude that people who eat the most fruits and vegetables decrease their risk of developing cancer. Yet these analyses reveal weak associations (RRs of 0.78 to 0.92) between eating a lot of produce and being diagnosed with any type of cancer, including breast, lung, colon, bladder, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.33
In summary, eating fruits and vegetables — especially cruciferous types — may very well decrease your risk of cancer, but much more rigorous research is needed before we can say this for sure.
Nearly all research on the benefits of fruit and vegetables for other conditions is observational, but a couple of experimental studies suggest potential benefits:
Bone health: Results from one RCT found that increasing intake of certain fruits, vegetables and herbs may improve bone health. Postmenopausal women assigned to consume the “Scarborough Fare” diet — which included several daily servings of leafy greens, cabbage, onions, mushrooms, prunes and, of course, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme (remember the old Simon and Garfunkel song?) — experienced less bone breakdown and calcium loss than women who consumed their usual diets or added other types of plants to their diets.34 By contrast, a meta-analysis of both observational studies and RCTs found no association between bone health and intake of fruits and vegetables.35
Psychological health: Only a single two-week study has investigated the potential psychological benefits of increasing fruit and vegetable intake in young adults who typically consume very little of these foods. The study participants reported improvements in well-being and motivation but no changes in depressive symptoms or overall mood.36
4. Modern-day fruits: larger, sweeter and widely available
Looking back at the diets of our hunter-gatherer ancestors, it’s clear that humans have been consuming plants (along with animals) for over a million years.37 Roots, leaves, berries and other fruits were readily eaten, but always based on seasonal availability. Today, a simple trip to the grocery store can present us with hundreds of produce options 365 days a year — many of them larger and more visually appealing than ever as a result of advanced farming methods and hybridization.38
Some domesticated fruits have become much bigger and less bitter compared to their earlier counterparts, and most have smaller seeds, thinner peels, and a higher water content, making them easier to eat:
Colossal, easy-to-eat apples, oranges and other fruits deliver more sugar with each piece of fruit — ushering more glucose and fructose into the bloodstream than our bodies may be able to handle effectively.
Should we really be consuming much of these modern-day fruits if we’re concerned about our weight, blood sugar and general health?
Indeed, following a very-low-carb diet containing no fruit at all (other than perhaps minimal amounts of berries on occasion) has been repeatedly shown to help people lose body fat and get their diabetes or pre-diabetes under optimal control.39
5. Can eating fruits and vegetables cause health problems in some people?
Most of us can eat a moderate portion of vegetables without any difficulty. Because they’re higher in sugar, fruits are generally best enjoyed in smaller quantities. However, for some people, both fruits and vegetables may cause issues.
Although there isn’t much published research about sensitivities to specific compounds found in fruits and vegetables, plenty of personal stories can be found online about some of the more common ones, including:40
Salicylates: Although harmless for most of us, salicylates are chemicals found naturally in certain foods and also synthetically produced for use in medications like aspirin and other products. Ingesting them can lead to asthma, nasal discharge, and digestive issues in susceptible people.41 Fruits and vegetables high in salicylates include berries, oranges, pineapples, apricots, broccoli, cucumbers and zucchini.
Oxalate: People who suffer from kidney stones may find that their symptoms worsen after consuming fruits and vegetables high in oxalate.42 Spinach contains much more oxalate than any other vegetable, but rhubarb, beet greens, kale and other leafy greens also contain large amounts.
Histamines: Your body releases histamine on its own as part of an immune response, but in people with excessive levels or an inability to break it down, histamine can cause symptoms like hives, abdominal pain, asthma and headaches, among other symptoms.43High-histamine foods include eggplant, spinach, tomatoes, sauerkraut, and avocados.
FODMAPS: This is an acronym for fermentable oligosaccarides, disaccarides, monosaccarides and polyols. Essentially these are all fermentable sugar molecules, found most often in fruits, vegetables and grains, that can cause digestive upset in people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). People with IBS often find reducing or eliminating FODMAP foods greatly improves their symptoms.44
If you suspect you may have one of these sensitivities, keep in mind that processed, canned and fermented foods also contain some of these compounds. Moreover, your symptoms might be due to another health problem. Make sure to see a doctor for a full work-up to rule out other causes.
6. Will a diet devoid of fruits and vegetables lead to nutrient deficiencies?
Many people feel that fruits and vegetables are indispensable for health because they provide important vitamins and minerals. While it’s true that they provide a range of micronutrients, other minimally processed foods can help meet your needs. Meat, fish, and dairy provide as many (or more) essential vitamins and minerals as fruits and vegetables do, and organ meats like chicken liver and beef kidney are excellent sources of vitamin C.
In fact, there is evidence that we may need less vitamin C on a low-carb diet because glucose competes with vitamin C receptors; the more sugar or carbs you eat, the more vitamin C you might need in your diet.45 That said, it may be difficult to consistently meet your nutrient needs for vitamin C, potassium, folate and other key nutrients on an entirely produce-free diet.
What about fiber? Although fiber isn’t an essential nutrient, many health organizations recommend a daily minimum of 25 grams per day for adults. Of course, fruits and vegetables aren’t the only source of dietary fiber; nuts and seeds also provide some. However, the amount of fiber we actually need has been a hotly debated topic within the low-carb and keto community for some time. And to date, studies demonstrating fiber’s health benefits have been in people eating higher-carb diets.46
Recently, ketogenic experts Dr. Steve Phinney and Jeff Volek PhD wrote a post on their Virta Health blog explaining that although high fiber intake may be important for people who don’t follow a ketogenic diet, fiber needs may be greatly reduced for those of us in nutritional ketosis. 47 They point out that the ketone body beta hydroxy butyrate (BHOB) can help nourish the cells lining your large intestine because it’s very similar to the chemical butyrate produced by the gut microbiome when it digests fiber.48
7. Summary – fruits and vegetables: Optional, optimal, or essential?
In summary, fruits and vegetables are whole foods that provide vitamins, minerals and fiber, along with other potentially beneficial compounds like phytochemicals. In addition, many people — although certainly not all — genuinely enjoy the taste and texture of keto-friendly fruit and veggies, especially when combined with a fat or a tasty sauce. Think creamed spinach, zucchini noodles with alfredo sauce, or berries with high fat cream.
Moreover, there’s no question that replacing processed foods high in added sugar and refined carbohydrates with fresh fruits and vegetables is a healthy move.
It’s possible that fruits and vegetables may play an independent role in reducing disease risk. In the case of cruciferous and leafy green vegetables, it seems likely. However, there’s a limited amount of high-quality evidence on this, and much of it is conflicting. The observational research is much larger in volume but can’t be relied upon due to extremely weak correlations and a likely “healthy user” bias.
Aside from phytochemicals (and vitamin C, if organ meats aren’t consumed), fruits and vegetables don’t contain any nutrients that can’t be found in other minimally processed low-carb foods. And since there’s a lack of high-quality evidence on the role that phytochemicals play in human health, at this time we can’t say with certainty that eating fruits and vegetables is absolutely necessary for everyone.
On the other hand, including vegetables — and in some cases low sugar fruit like berries — probably makes sense for most people. Yet the optimal amounts to consume are unknown, and they likely vary from person to person. Some of us thrive on a diet that includes several servings of produce a day, while others seem to do best with minimal amounts.
On a keto or low-carbohydrate diet, low-sugar fruit and vegetables should be consumed based on personal preference, metabolic goals, and individual tolerance. Across-the-board recommendations to include five or more servings of produce every day, especially when the types aren’t specified, isn’t based on strong evidence.
Source: Article by Franziska Spritzer, RD, CDE; Medical review by Dr. Bret Scher, MD (https://www.dietdoctor.com/low-carb/fruits-and-vegetables)
Many of us may be considering “burning some fat” so we feel better in our bathing suits out on the beach or at the pool. What does that actually mean, though?
The normal fat cell exists primarily to store energy. The body will expand the number of fat cells and the size of fat cells to accommodate excess energy from high-calorie foods. It will even go so far as to start depositing fat cells on our muscles, liver and other organs to create space to store all this extra energy from calorie-rich diets – especially when combined with a low activity lifestyle.
Historically, fat storage worked well for humans. The energy was stored as small packages of molecules called fatty acids, which are released into the bloodstream for use as fuel by muscles and other organs when there was no food available, or when a predator was chasing us. Fat storage actually conferred a survival advantage in these situations. Those with a tendency to store fat were able to survive longer periods without food and had extra energy for hostile environments.
But when was the last time you ran from a predator? In modern times, with an overabundance of food and safe living conditions, many people have accumulated an excess storage of fat. In fact, more than one-third of the adult population in the United States is obese.
The major problem with this excess fat is that the fat cells, called adipocytes, do not function normally. They store energy at an abnormally high rate and release energy at an abnormally slow rate. What’s more, these extra and enlarged fat cells produce abnormal amounts of different hormones. These hormones increase inflammation, slow down metabolism, and contribute to disease. This complicated pathological process of excess fat and dysfunction is called adiposopathy, and it makes the treatment of obesity very difficult.
When a person begins and maintains a new exercise regimen and limits calories, the body does two things to “burn fat.” First, it uses the energy stored in the fat cells to fuel new activity. Second, it stops putting away so much for storage.
The brain signals fat cells to release the energy packages, or fatty acid molecules, to the bloodstream. The muscles, lungs and heart pick up these fatty acids, break them apart, and use the energy stored in the bonds to execute their activities. The scraps that remain are discarded as part of respiration, in the outgoing carbon dioxide, or in urine. This leaves the fat cell empty and renders it useless. The cells actually have a short lifespan so when they die the body absorbs the empty cast and doesn’t replace them. Over time, the body directly extracts the energy (i.e., calories) from food to the organs that need them instead of storing it first.
As a result, the body readjusts by decreasing the number and size of fat cells, which subsequently improves baseline metabolism, decreases inflammation, treats disease, and prolongs lives. If we maintain this situation over time, the body reabsorbs the extra empty fat cells and discards them as waste, leaving us leaner and healthier on multiple levels.
Source: Article by David Prologo, Associate Professor, Department of Radiology and Imaging Sciences, Emory University (https://theconversation.com/how-does-your-body-burn-fat-97813)
Lactation us a phenomenon that is purely controlled by hormones. These hormones are growth hormone, parathyroid hormone, insulin, estrogen, progesterone and prolactin. When pregnant, the placenta secretes a tremendous amount of estrogen which stimulates the breast ducts to grow and branch, and also extra fatty tissue develops in the breast. Growth hormone, prolactin, adrenal glucocorticoids and insulin also contribute to ductal development. The final development of breasts into milk-secreting organs also requires progesterone, which is also supplied by the placenta. Estrogen and progesterone have a synergistic effect in inhibiting the actual secretion of milk. The hormone prolactin however, promotes milk secretion. Prolactin is secreted by the mother’s anterior pituitary gland. It rises steadily from the fifth week of pregnancy until the birth of the baby. It reaches levels ten to twenty times above the normal non-pregnant levels.
From the last few days before the baby is born, until the first few days after birth, colustrum is secreted. Colustrum contains the same concentrations of proteins and lactose as milk, but almost no fat. Right after the baby is born and there is no more placenta, this causes a sudden loss of estrogen and progesterone in the mother’s body. This sudden drop in progesterone and estrogen allows the prolactin from the mother’s pituitary gland to do what it is naturally meant to do; promote the production of milk. Therefore, over the next one to seven days, the breasts progressively begin to secrete copious amounts of milk instead of colostrum. The continuous secretion of milk requires an adequate background secretion of most of the mother’s other hormones apart from prolactin. The most important of those hormones being cortisol, parathyroid hormone and insulin. They are all essential to provide the amino acids, fatty acids, glucose and calcium required for milk formation.
Prolactin levels return to basal levels (pre-pregnancy levels) during the next few weeks after giving birth. However, everytime the mother breastfeeds, nipple stimulation causes a one to twenty fold surge in secretion of prolactin that lasts for about one hour. This prolactin also serves to keep the mother secreting milk which is stored for subsequent breastfeeding sessions. The surge of prolactin needed for maintenance of breastfeeding can be absent or blocked if there is damage to the hypothalamus or pituitary gland, or if she stops breastfeeding for as little as one week or so. Milk formation normally decreases considerably after seven to nine months, which contributes to one of the reasons mothers are advised to start weaning their babies onto other foods at about six to seven months.
The composition of breastmilk is as follows:
O.4% lactalbumin and other proteins
0.7% ash (contains calcium and other minerals)
Various antigens and anti-infectious agents that provides an immunological protection that cow’s milk does not, because the cow’s protective agents are destroyed within minutes in the internal environment of the human being.
Mother’s have the ability to form up to 1.5 liters of milk each day, and even more if they have twins etc.. This causes a significantly great amount of metabolic substrate to be drained from the body daily. For example, about 50g of fat from the mother enters the milk each day. The mother’s body must convert glucose to provide about 100g of lactose daily. Also, the mother may lose about 2-3g of calcium phosphate daily to provide adequate amounts in breastmilk. This loss is mitigated only if the mother is drinking large quantities of milk and has adequate daily vitamin D levels through diet and sunlight. However, the average output of calcium and phosphate of breastfeeding mothers most often is much greater than the amount the mother ingests. Therefore, the consequences of breastfeeding to a mother are greatly enlarged parathyroid glands and progressive decalcification of bones, which can be a distinct problem during lactation.
With all this, it can be seen how a carnivore diet can especially be quite beneficial for breastfeeding moms. The carnivore diet provides more than adequate amounts of protein and healthy fats needed for optimal hormone production in the mother. It also ensures that she has more than enough macronutrients, vitamins and minerals to guarantee that lactation and nursing does not become excessively draining on her body. Mother is happy, therefore baby is happy as well. Even though carbohydrate ingestion is very minuscule on a carnivore diet, moms can remain assured that they will produce enough glucose in their own bodies to ensure adequate amounts of lactose for baby. This is because the human body has the capability of producing its own glucose via gluconeogenesis. This process is demand driven, and both protein and fats are substrates that are utilized in gluconeogenesis.
There have not been studies that document the effects of fasting on breastfeeding, due to the ethical issues that may arise from such a study. However, because of the physically draining nature of breastfeeding, common sense would dictate that fasting while breastfeeding may not be a good idea. What about intermittent fasting? Unless a mother is sure that during her eating window she can ingest enough food for her daily requirements and offset daily losses, then the best thing to do will be to not fast, unless fasting cannot be avoided. Remember, there is a time for everything under the sun. The time of exclusive breastfeeding is not the time to be fasting as it will affect both milk quality and quantity, as well as the mother’s overall wellbeing. However, after six to seven months when the baby is not requiring all its sustenance from only breast milk, it may be ok to introduce some form of intermittent fasting.
Fears over a vitamin c deficiency is one reason that people worry about when embarking on a ketogenic diet. However, it has been shown in several scientific studies that this fear is unfounded.
Here’s why: First, many fresh, low carb vegetables such as peppers and dark leafy greens like kale and broccoli have loads of vitamin C. Plus, eating less carbohydrate results in needing less vitamin C. This is because glucose competes with Vitamin C for access to the same metabolic pathways in the body (Reference here).
So if your carbohydrate intake is high, you will have to increase your intake of vitamin C containing foods or natural supplements to get enough vitamin C to overcome the high blood sugar. It’s only when eating the standard American diet which is high in carbohydrates and grain consumption that vitamin C needs are higher. Lowering your carb intake lowers the need to supplement with Vitamin C.
Because animals are able to make vitamin C internally, their flesh contains it. If you eat no carbohydrate at all, you can get enough vitamin C from lightly cooked meat and fat alone.
Don’t believe it? Read this:
While studying the Inuit people in Alaska, anthropologist Vilhjalmur Stefansson documented the fact that the Inuit diet consisted of about 90% meat and fish. During his time there, he followed their custom, and he and the entire tribe would eat nothing but meat and fish for 6-9 months of each year. This was essentially a zero carb ketogenic diet. Stefansson survived on this ketogenic diet for 9 years while living with the Eskimo. When he returned to city life and described his experiences, doctors were amazed that his health had not suffered.
Stefansson himself wondered if his health had suffered during those years, so he agreed to an experimental study. He would live at the Bellevue hospital in New York City and eat nothing but fat and meat for an entire year. The doctors involved with this study came from Harvard, Cornell and other prestigious organizations, and they were convinced that he and another volunteer, Dr. Karsten Anderson, would develop health problems or at least vitamin deficiencies.
The volunteer’s food intake was kept under close scientific scrutiny, so cheating was out of the question. The food that they ate was analyzed and the end of the study, the daily totals were averaged and noted:
Total daily calories: 2000-3100
Daily Protein Intake: 100-140 grams (15-25% of calories)
Daily Fat Intake: 200-300 grams (75-85% of calories)
Daily Carbohydrate Intake: 7-12 grams (1-2% of calories)
At the end of the experiment, Stefansson and Anderson remained in perfect health – no vitamin deficiencies or serious health issues occurred. The results of the study were published by the Journal of Biological Chemistry in 1930. (Download from this site).
It’s kind of ironic.. eating fruits and vegetables increases your carbohydrate intake, which increases the danger of a vitamin C deficiency. Good thing that fruits and vegetables have vitamin C included.
There’s a great post here by the people at Break Nutrition on vitamin C needs for those on a ketogenic diet.
While you’ve likely seen people bench pressing or deadlifting with a weighted barbell at the gym, you don’t necessarily need to wait until a bench or squat rack frees up to get a good workout. In fact, depending on your goals, you may only need one thing: a weight plate.
(Image: Halfpoint Images/Moment/GettyImages)
VIDEO OF THE DAY
This relatively inexpensive piece of equipment is not only easy to store and use, but it’s more versatile than you might think. A weight plate can be used for strength training, endurance work, flexibility, balance and injury prevention.
Whether you’re dragging and pushing plates for cardio, throwing plates outside to build explosive power or simply working on grip strength, introducing plates into your workout can add some variety to your routine. Check out this weight-plate workout and see for yourself. Just be sure to start with a lighter weight before you increase the resistance.
For the following warm-up, all you need is one weight plate. At first, use the same weight plate for all five exercises, but as you get stronger, add heavier weights for some of the exercises. Perform this warm-up and workout for two to three rounds.
Hold the plate from the sides and twist the chest and shoulders to one side while bringing the knee on that side forward.
Quickly reverse the direction and switch the position of the feet.
Repeat for two sets of 40 twists.
Full-Body Weight-Plate Workout
The four exercises of this main portion of the workout will hit almost every muscle in your body and improve flexibility in your shoulders, core and hips. These exercises are also designed to improve balance and coordination.
Since this workout demands weighted movements of both the arms and legs, start with a lighter plate and go heavier if you’re comfortable after the first set — but maintain good form!
Move 1: Press and Step
(Image: Martin Rooney)
Stand with feet together and the plate at chest level with the elbows at your sides.
Then, while keeping the head at the same height, simultaneously step the foot out in the direction you are moving while pressing the plate forward.
Hold for one second and then move the other foot sideways to return to the original position.
Repeat for three sets of 20 steps and presses.
You can use an open space and move in one direction for the whole set, or if space is limited, just move back and forth each step.
Move 2: Raise and Step
(Image: Martin Rooney)
Stand with feet together and the plate held at your shins with the elbows at your knees.
Then, while keeping the head at the same height, simultaneously step the foot out in the direction you are moving while raising the plate overhead.
Hold for one second, then move the other foot sideways to return to the original position.
Ancient Romans found the idea of breakfast repellent. They were “obsessed with digestion,” according to the historian Caroline Yeldham, and believed eating more than one meal a day was unhealthy and gluttonous.
If that’s the case, the likes of Cicero and Marcus Aurelius were early adherents of “intermittent fasting,” which is a catchall term for a handful of related diets that either restrict food intake to certain hours of the day or limit intake several days each week. The nomenclature can get confusing, but the most popular and evidence-backed of these fasting plans are known as time-restricted feeding, alternate-day fasting, and the 5:2 diet.
The first — time-restricted feeding — involves compressing the day’s snacks and meals into a narrow window of time, usually six or eight hours. The operating theory here — one that, to an extent, nearly all nutrition experts support — is that the human body wasn’t designed to consume and digest food all day, every day.
“Most people are putting something caloric in their mouths essentially every minute they’re up, and we know that from an evolutionary perspective, this is not how humans or animals are geared to eat,” said Mark Mattson, a fasting researcher with the National Institutes of Health and an adjunct professor of neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
In both human beings and mice, studies have found that constraining food intake to an eight-hour window promotes weight loss, regardless of diet quality. “If you restrict the time window of eating, you can put animals on a McDonald’s diet and they don’t get fat,” Mattson said.
No one is suggesting a McDonald’s-only plan. “I think quality of diet is important in the long term for reduction of heart disease and diabetes risk,” said Krista Varady, an associate professor of nutrition at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “But in the short term, even if people don’t eat healthier, they still lose weight.”
Varady coauthored a 2018 study that found obese men who ate only between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. lost an average of 3 percent of their body weight after three months, and also improved their blood-pressure scores.
Apart from that 2018 study, much of Varady’s research has focused on alternate-day fasting. These diets involve eating freely one day and restricting food intake to 500 calories the next. “Alternate-day fasting produces faster weight loss, but it’s harder to follow,” Varady said. In three months, she said someone on a time-restricted diet can expect to lose five to 10 pounds, while someone on an alternate-day fasting regimen would likely lose 10 to 15 pounds.
In three months, she said someone on a time-restricted diet can expect to lose five to 10 pounds, while someone on an alternate-day fasting regimen would likely lose 10 to 15 pounds.
Weight loss aside, the metabolic and disease-lowering benefits appear to be similar when comparing time-restricted feeding and alternate-day fasting diets, Varady said. And the same goes for 5:2 plans, which involve eating normally five days a week but mixing in two non-consecutive days of caloric restriction — usually defined as 500 to 600 calories or fewer. A 2018 studyin the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found people lost an average of 7 percent of their body weight after 12 weeks on the 5:2 diet, and a 2018 study in JAMA found that following a 5:2 plan for one year improved blood-sugar scores among people with Type 2 diabetes. Both of these studies found that the 5:2 plan either matched or bested traditional diet strategies that involved cutting calories on a daily basis.
All this evidence has nutrition experts buzzing. Traditionally, popular weight-loss plans have concerned themselves with the types and amounts of foods a person eats. Most have involved either cutting carbs or cutting fat. But time and again, research has shown that these approaches fail in the long run. While most diets work in the short term, inevitably, the weight comes back. The appeal of intermittent fasting is that it concerns the timing of meals, not the content. “It’s not good to constantly bombard our bodies with nutrients,” Varady said. “Fasting gives the body a break from having to deal with food coming in all the time.”
At this point, Varady said, the research doesn’t reveal which of the popular fasting plans is optimal for health or weight loss. There aren’t good head-to-head studies comparing these diets. But time-restricted feeding — because it does not involve severe restriction or counting calories — seems to be nosing ahead of its competitors. “People like it because all they have to do is watch the clock and pick their window,” Varady said. (A common practice is to skip breakfast and morning snacks, and then eat freely from noon to 8 p.m.) Experts usually cite poor adherence as the prime reason that diets fail in the long-term. If people find it easier to stick with time-restricted feeding compared to other fasting diets, as studies to date suggest, that’s a big selling point.
Another unsettled question: Are fasting diets beneficial for healthy people who aren’t trying to lose weight? Here, the data are murkier.
“We only have good evidence that intermittent fasting is a good option for overweight and obese people,” said Michelle Harvie, a research dietitian at Manchester University in the U.K. who studies the effects of intermittent fasting on health and disease. “We don’t know of [intermittent fasting’s] benefits in normal-weight people as it has not been studied.”
Varady shared this view. “There’s not that much evidence out there at this point on healthy adults,” she said. Some studies found that certain groups who practice intermittent fasting for religious reasons — such as Seventh-day Adventists and Orthodox Christians — enjoy health benefits. But Varady said these groups tend to lead healthy lifestyles, at least compared with the average American, and so it’s tough to tell whether to credit fasting. “I’m hopeful that intermittent fasting will have more general health benefits, but we need more long-term studies,” she said.
But while most of the work on intermittent fasting involved sick or obese adults, there is some evidence that periodic, long-duration fasts may also benefit healthy folks.
“The longer you fast, the more you basically kill cells,” said Valter Longo, a professor of biological sciences and gerontology at the University of Southern California. “That sounds like a bad thing, but the cells that die are unhealthy ones.”
According to Longo, dysfunctional cells and disused cell components steadily accumulate in the body as a person ages, and these ailing cells contribute to the aging process and age-related diseases like cancer. But when the body gets an extended break from food and digestion — something on the order of five days — it has to break down its own tissue for sustenance. And in so doing, it ends up clearing away unhealthy cells and making room for new ones to flourish. “So fasting kills cells, but with refeeding [following the fast], the cells not only come back but are healthier,” he said.
Some of Longo’s work — most of it on mice — found that an extended fast can trigger a number of beneficial biochemical changes, including the regeneration of healthy cells and a retardation in the growth or development of cancer cells and tumors. More of his work has found that fasting reduces inflammation and oxidative damage, and also “reprograms” an individual’s metabolism in ways that may combat Type 2 diabetes.
It normally takes several days of water-only fasting for the body to initiate these processes, and this kind of fasting can be dangerous without close medical supervision. But some of Longo’s research on humans found that a specially designed, temporary fasting diet — known as the fasting-mimicking diet, or FMD — can provide people with sustenance without interrupting these cell-regenerating operations. “It’s not pure fasting — it’s not water-only,” he said. “People can eat nuts and non-starchy vegetables, raw or cooked, dressed with a tablespoon of olive or canola oil and lemon, vinegar, and salt.” But the FMD is very low in calories — as low as 300 per day, depending on a person’s health status — and no proteins or carbohydrates from grains are permitted, he said.
A 2017 study of Longo’s found that people who stuck with FMD for five consecutive days a month for three months were slimmer, had lower blood pressure, and improved cholesterol scores. They also had lower circulating levels of hormones associated with inflammation and disease risk. Here again, FMD benefited adults at risk for disease more than healthy ones. But Longo said most Americans fall into the “at-risk” group, and he believes FMD can help prevent or lower a person’s risk for a number of age-related diseases.
“If you’re very healthy, I would say do the fasting-mimicking diet two to three times a year,” he said. “If you’re unhealthy, once a month, but only with a doctor’s recommendation.” (Based on his research, Longo helped formulate diet products that are sold commercially under the name ProLon. These provide people with the nutrients they need to safely complete a five-day fast without undue risk. He donates his share of profits to charity and does not receive consulting fees from the company.)
In the not-too-distant future, the evidence backing fasting diets may be so solid that doctors recommend these plans to sick and well patients alike. The science isn’t there yet. But for overweight or obese Americans looking for new, research-backed diet strategies, few are as promising as those that incorporate elements of fasting.
Red meat is the ‘most perfect food’ for humans, closely followed by milk, according to a leading nutrition expert.
Red meat ‘most perfect food’ for humans, closely followed by milk, says nutrition expert
Professor Robert Pickard, emeritus professor of neurobiology at Cardiff University, said the agricultural industry had been ‘the butt of an enormous journalistic effort to sell copy by producing totally indefensible headlines’ about red meat causing cancer.
Prof Pickard also hit out at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) report which claimed processed meats ‘definitely’ cause cancer and lean red meat ‘probably’ causes cancer.
Speaking at NFU Cymru’s annual conference in Llandrindod Wells last week (November 7), he said: “There is not a single proven case of eating red meat or processed meat actually causing a cancer.
“This [is not] objective scientific analysis. This has been put together by people who have their own agenda, which is nothing to do with the nutritional benefit of red meat and red meat products.
“Look at the listing into which they put processed meat. You have got arsenic, you have got diesel exhausts, you have even got plutonium. No serious scientist would do this.
“If you feed plutonium to laboratory mice, they will develop tumours, sometimes within days. After about three or four weeks, they will all be developing tumours.
“If you feed processed meat to the same laboratory mice, they will just get fat.”
Prof Pickard went on to say he has not had a single complaint from the authors of the report, despite publicly criticising it in the years since its publication.
“But I have had lots of letters from other people in the scientific community, and practising doctors, saying ‘thank you very much for putting the record straight’,” he added.
“Red meat is the most nutritious food you have available on your plate. It contains all the minerals, all the vitamins, all the protein amino acids which are required in the correct ratio and all the fats which are required in the correct ratio.
“It is the most perfect food for a human being, and coming close behind it is milk. Babies build their entire bodies getting nothing but milk for months and months.”
Source: Article by Abi Kay (https://www.fginsight.com/news/red-meat-most-perfect-food-for-humans-closely-followed-by-milk-97570)
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and Linus Pauling, one of my favorite scientists in history, believed it was the solution to all diseases of civilization. Together with vitamin E it reduces lipid peroxidation. It’s a cofactor in many enzymatic reactions – including those in the making of collagen and carnitine.
But what I was most concerned about was that inadequate vitamin C can result in scurvy.
Vitamin C is essential in the synthesis of collagen. Many animals can synthesize vitamin C out of glucose. But humans as well as primates like monkeys and apes lost this ability about 60 million years ago. We lack the enzyme (L-gulonolactone oxidase – GULO) that is required in the last step in the synthesis of Vitamin C from glucose. [r]
Because of this, we must consume our vitamin C or risk the consequences of scurvy – fatigue, weakness, gum disease, poor wound healing, and potentially death from infection or bleeding.
Looking through the lens of evolution has influenced my nutrition views as much as looking through the lens of microscopes. Evolution doesn’t tend to just drop things because they are no longer useful. It selects for advantages.
But what’s the advantage of not synthesizing an essential vitamin?
In our evolutionary history, we also loss the ability to break down uric acid. And there is a striking parallel between the loss of the ability to synthesize vitamin C and the loss of the ability to break down uric acid.
Uric acid is a major antioxidant, more potent than Vitamin C.
Losing the ability to break down uric acid resulted in higher levels of uric acid in primates. These high levels are thought to explain the relatively long lifespans of apes.
It’s entirely possible, if not likely, that increased uric acid took over many of the antioxidant functions of vitamin C.
Glucose-Ascorbate Antagonism Theory (GAA Theory)
When we look at animals that make their own vitamin C, we find they make less of it when carbohydrates are low.
Which is interesting – low carbohydrates would indicate a lower vitamin C intake from the diet and presumably a higher need to make it endogenously.
Yet we see the opposite.
The more carbohydrates/glucose an animal eats, the more vitamin C it gets from its food, AND the more it makes endogenously.
This suggests that more vitamin C is needed in a glucose-based metabolism.
It also suggests that Vitamin C requirements may be less in low-carbohydrate conditions. [r]
This makes sense though.
Glucose and vitamin C look very similar. There molecules are nearly identical. They even use the same pathways for absorption into cells. Because of this they directly compete with each other for uptake into cells. And glucose wins out preferentially.
This is why drinking orange juice doesn’t make sense (at least for vitamin C purposes). It may have a lot of vitamin C, but it’s high sugar content blocks that vitamin C from getting used.
This is also why diabetics with high blood sugar have strikingly similar symptoms that are seen with scurvy. They are vitamin C deficient even though they may be getting “adequate” intake from their diet or supplements. The glucose blocks out the vitamin C.
In fact, the benefit of vitamin C in disease may not have anything to do with its antioxidant properties. Rather, high dose vitamin C could sometimes compensate for the glucose overload and insulin resistance that is characteristic of many of the diseases of modern man.
Linus Pauling was on to something after-all.
Meat, Vitamin C, and Scurvy
Our food labeling would lead us to believe that meat doesn’t contain vitamin C. But it does.
And in the absence of carbohydrates far less vitamin c is needed. It doesn’t have to constantly compete with glucose for uptake.
The amount of vitamin C to prevent scurvy is just 10 mg/day in the context of a high carb diet.
In a low/no carb diet, even less is needed.
On the Carnivore Diet, the meat content plus the absence of carbs creates an environment that doesn’t result in scurvy.
Vitamin C’s role as a cofactor in hydroxylation reactions (transferring a hydroxl group to the amino acids lysine and proline), is what helps make the building blocks of collagen. But meat comes “pre-packaged” with hydroxylysine and hydroxyproline – further bypassing much of the requirement for vitamin C.
So even though the amount of dietary vitamin C consumed on a meat-based diet may be lower compared to that of a plant-based diets with fruits and vegetables, the former has a lower need for vitamin C with higher bioavailability.
“Well if we don’t need Vitamin C to prevent scurvy on a meat-based diet, surely we need its antioxidant properties, right?“
Endogenously synthesized uric acid and glutathione (natural human antioxidants) are much more powerful and take over much of the roles that vitamin C would play. Plus, in a low carb diet these powerhouses are up-regulated.
In essence, we “turn on” more of our most powerful antioxidants. In addition glutathione and uric acid spare vitamin C by recycling it.
So Do Humans Need Vitamin C?
Yep we do.
But how much is entirely dependent on the context of one’s diet. If you eat a high carb diet, you need a lot more vitamin C to compete with those carbs for uptake.
Contrary to popular belief, meat does contain vitamin C, and in the context of a low/no carb diet like the Carnivore Diet, very little vitamin C is actually needed to prevent scurvy. This environment also up-regulates our naturally produced antioxidants. It’s likely the loss of endogenously synthesized vitamin C was not detrimental to our hominid ancestors but rather conferred a competitive advantage (perhaps from the uptick of the likes of uric acid and glutathione) that coincides with our remarkable ability to recycle the vitamin c.
However, a mismatch, the “discordance theory,” between our current diet and ancestral physiology is likely the cause of vitamin C deficiencies and their association with disease.
As is seen time-and-again in research, the clinical manifestation (vitamin C deficiency for example) is the consequence, not the cause, that can only be understood in the proper context.