Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Law Firm Defends Diabetes Warrior Blogger

This just arrived in my email:

Today the Institute for Justice will file a First Amendment case in North Carolina, where our client, Steve Cooksey, is being threatened with criminal charges for sharing through his website dietary tips and advice that saved his life. State officials are demanding that Steve acquire a government-issued dietician’s license in order to offer insights through a Dear Abby-style column.

To learn more, please watch this short video about the case: www.ij.org/paleospeechvideo.

Thank you for making this and all our work possible.


Monday, May 28, 2012

More Results of my (Almost) Dairy Free Diet

Clear skin. When I ate some cheese last week, though, I had a crop of pimples that night. (They weren't hormonal.)
Less frequent appetite. I spent an uncomfortable week adjusting to bigger, less frequent meals. It was nothing I tried to do--I just went by my appetite.I've been skipping lunch half the time, which I rarely did before. (I've been extremely busy at work, though, so this might have something to do with it.)
Fewer and lighter nosebleeds. 
I need less sleep. (My stress level from work and everything else might have something to do with that, again.)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Fibromyalgia Suggestions?

Question for readers: Have any of you cured or treated fibromyalgia with diet, supplements, etc.? What worked? What didn't? This is not a rhetorical question--I have an idea for a fibromyalgia diet, and the research I've done so far is encouraging, but I'd like a reality check. A friend of mine is suffering terribly and I'd like to help her.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Tips and Traps of the Japanese Diet

The Japanese and other Asians are often held up as models of carb-eating skinnies. Should we adopt a traditional Japanese diet, then? Naomi Moriyama, author of Japanese Women Don't Get Old or Fat(1) thinks so. "There is a land...where forty-year-old women look like they are twenty. It is a land where women enjoy some of the world's most delicious food, yet they have obesity rates of only three percent...The country is Japan." Moriyama goes on to describe her mother's cooking, which she says helped her and her husband slim down.

If you've tried to lose weight on healthy whole grains, good carbs, exercise, and following standard nutritional advice, a traditional Japanese diet won't work for you--because that's what it's all about. In fact, the book specifically says that the diet is similar to USDA guidelines. (And in an unintentionally ironic passage, Moriyama complains that she couldn't exercise off even "an ounce" of the 25 pounds she gained when she first lived in the U.S., yet on the next page credits, in part, "the walking-intensive Tokyo lifestyle" for losing the same 25 pounds. Read this book as an exercise in testing your critical thinking.)

So why does a traditional Japanese diet work for the Japanese?

High nutrient intake. "The classic Japanese home-cooked meal is a piece of grilled fish, a bowl of rice, simmered vegetables, a serving of miso soup, sliced fruit for dessert, and a cup of hot green tea," says Moriyama. Lots of nutrients there, with no empty calories and a low level of mineral-blocking phytic acid in the rice.(2) Additionally, seaweed and natto, two other traditional Japanese foods, are high in iodine(3) and vitamin K2.(4) In Why We Get Fat,(5) Gary Taubes presents a body of evidence from the 1920s and 1930s, largely forgotten now, that obesity is a disease of malnutrition.

No wheat. Wheat is an appetite stimulant: people who go on a gluten-free diet tend to reduce their food intake by 350 to 450 calories per day.(6). "In [a Columbia University study of 369 people with celiac disease]," writes Dr. William Davis in Wheat Belly, "wheat elimination cut the frequency of obesity in half within a year, with more than 50% of the participants with a starting BMI in the overweight range of 25 to 29.9 losing an average of 26 pounds." (7).

Little or No dairy. Certain dairy products induce an insulin spike, which can lead to fat storage. Paleo researcher Loren Cordain writes in The Paleo Answer, "About five to ten years ago, however, experiments from our laboratory and others unexpectedly revealed that low-glycemic dairy foods paradoxically caused huge rises in blood insulin levels....despite their low-glycemic indices, dairy foods maintain high insulin responses similar to white bread."(8).

Don't Get Full. "Eat until you are 80% full," Moriyama instructs us (three times). "The funny thing is, though," she adds, "I rarely hear any Japanese complaining about how hungry they are!" That's cute, but you can't be hungry and not hungry at the same time.

Fewer calories. According to this chart(9), the Japanese eat 2,768 calories per day per capita v. 3,754 for Americans. However, Japan's aging population may have something to do with this: the median age there is 45, making it the world's "grayest" society. (10) (Young, growing people tend to eat more than their parents and grandparents.) And note that Australia, at 3135 calories per capita per day, has an obesity rate of 56%.(11). Calories count, but they're not everything.

A 1,200-Year History of Enforced Pescatarianism. Tadishi Ono and Harris Salat write in The Japanese Grill, 
Starting around the year 675 A.D., the Japanese emperor began prohibiting the consumption of meat on religious grounds...The ban started with the clergy, then spread to the general population, who avoided most animals (seafood was allowed and didn't fall under the taboo). Hunters deep in the countryside, though, continued to bag game (boar was euphemistically called "mountain whale," perhaps to make it more palatable), and certain "medicine eating" of meat was accepted. All this changed in the mid-nineteenth century, when Japan reopened to the world after 300 years of isolation."(12)
Could this have winnowed out members of the population who needed a meaty, high-fat diet?

As for looking younger...Women from the Far East have more fat on their faces, giving them a younger appearance. (So do the women in my family, even though we're not Asian, and we also tend to look younger--at least, those of us who, like the vast majority of Japanese women, don't smoke.) Dr. Kate Rheaume-Bleue has another theory: vitamin K2. (Remember the natto? It's so rich in K2 that some supplements are derived from it.) She writes in Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox,
"[Vitamin K2] fights skin aging and the emergence of wrinkles by protecting the elasticity of the skin in the exact same way it safeguards the elasticity of arteries and veins." Further, "...even among Asian cities, female residents of Tokyo have the least visible signs of aging compared with their age-matched counterparts living in Shanghai and Bangkok. Granted, many Japanese ladies religiously avoid sun exposure...That being said, the inter-Asian groups are comparable for many other diet and lifestyle factors save one: the consumption of natto. Tokyoites commonly enjoy the pungent, fermented soybeans as a breakfast food, and they have the high levels of menaquinone [K2] to prove it.(13)
If you can't gag down natto, an excellent source of K2 is hard cheese. And it isn't as insulinogenic as milk or whey.(14) (Or you can just take MK-7 supplements, says Rheaume-Bleue.)

Some parts of the Japanese diet and lifestyle are healthful: after all, they're some of the longest-lived people around. Avoiding wheat, sugar and (possibly) milk are good; so are eating nutritious foods and taking exercise. As for shopping in a Japanese grocery, I've been to one or two, and literally everything but the tea bags was laced with some combination of wheat, sugar, and chemically extracted seed oils.

Can most of us adopt a regimen of 60% carbohydrate, whole grains, lots of fruits and vegetables, and mild hunger? That's what the USDA has been preaching for nearly 40 years.

  1. Japanese Women Don't Get Old or Fat by Naomi Moriyama. Bantam Dell, 2005.
  2. "Living with Phytic Acid" by Ramiel Nagal. March 6, 2010.  Weston A. Price Foundation website.
  3. "Sun, Fish and Seaweed" by Dr. William Davis, August 8, 2009. Heart Scan Blog.
  4. "Food Sources of Vitamin K2" by Dr. William Davis, December 27, 2007. Heart Scan Blog.
  5. Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes. Alfred A. Knopf, 2011.
  6. Wheat Belly by William Davis, M.D. p. 68. Rodale, 2011. 
  7. Ibid, p. 66.
  8. The Paleo Answer by Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Chapter 5, section on Milk, Insulin Resistance and the Metabolic Syndrome, Kindle location 1852. John Wiley & Sons, 2012.
  9. Daily Caloric Intake per Capita, kcal. Statinfo.biz.
  10. The Wilson Quarterly, "Japan Shrinks"  by Nicholas Eberstadt. April 1, 2012.
  11. Australian Bureau of Statistics, 4125.0, January 2012.
  12. The Japanese Grill by Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat, p. 2. Random House, 2011.
  13. Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox by Dr. Kate Rheaume-Bleue, Chapter 4, section on Vitamin K2 for Wrinkle Prevention, John Wiley & Sons Canada, 2012. Kindle location 1988.
  14. "Glycemia and insulinemia in healthy subjects after lactose-equivalent meals of milk and other food proteins: the role of plasma amino acids and incretins," (Table 3) by Mikael Nilsson, Marianne Stenberg, Anders H Frid, Jens J Holst and Inger ME Björck, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, November 2004.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Evidence-Based Gardening

Long ago, nobody messed with Mother Nature (much). Mostly, nobody knew how, and the traditional ways were common sense. Along came the chemical age, and then the backlash. Some say anything from a lab is harmful; others say Mother Nature alone is not enough.

Of course, I'm talking about gardening. In general, gardeners seem to be on one side or the other: chemicals should be avoided entirely, or the only good bug is a dead bug. (Conversion is possible, though: a friend of mine was fervently anti-chemical until her apartment got a bedbug infestation.)

Jeff Gillman, a professor of horticulture at the University of Minnesota has chosen a different side: looking at the evidence. His book The Truth About Organic Gardening tips over some of the sacred cows of both camps: For instance, natural pesticides aren't necessarily safer than synthetic ones (good to know if you eat organic fruit, since natural pesticides are used on organically grown fruit). And bug sprays can make an infestation worse by killing the bugs' natural predators. Does chronic exposure to pesticides raise your risk of cancer, and are organic foods more nutritious? Nobody really knows. The epidemiological evidence on pesticides is mixed and has confounding variables (possibly, higher vitamin D levels from farmers working in the sun), and produce has a variety of nutrients that can't be summed up in one score.

In a similar vein, Decoding Gardening Advice by Jeff Gillman and Meleah Maynard examine common gardening advice, and their analysis concurs with some things I've found. I don't mulch my front yard, for instance (they consider mulching "debatable" advice), and just as they say, it's full of volunteer plants (and more weeds grow there, too). They also suggest digging a big hole for your plants, selecting plants that are suited to your climate, aspect and soil, and avoiding landscape fabric that's supposed to suppress weeds. (It seems to be used by people who don't want to do yardwork, since it starts looking shabby within a few years. A better idea: get an apartment.) However, some of my results differ from theirs: I've found ladybugs very effective at controlling aphids (they don't fly away from a feast), and here in the semi-arid Denver area, I've found no need for fall cleanup.For the debatable advice, N=1 carries the day.

The adherer effect is at work in some organic (and non-organic) practices, just as it is in nutrition. People who swear by lunar cycles or manure tea are likely doing a lot of things right in their gardens. This is where experiments that Gillman cites come in handy. They admit they don't have the answer to everything, but they don't condemn any hints unless they know they don't work.

Friday, May 11, 2012

My Milk-Free Diet Results: Less Acne, BO and Aging

A few months ago, after suddenly gaining a pound a day, and by sheer coincidence, reading The Paleo Answer by Loren Cordain describing the insulin-spiking effects of dairy, I changed my diet. I gave away my custard and low-carb ice cream and cut way back on the half and half. I've kept eating cheese--it doesn't have much insulin-spiking effect, according to Cordain.

I stopped gaining weight and dropped three pounds, but I'm still up five pounds from my weight before my sinus infection. Nevertheless, all my clothes still fit (albeit a little tighter). (I had just taken a gigantic dose of vitamin D. I like to imagine my weight gain being mostly bone mass.)

Other effects ensued. Since I'm not sure how to put this delicately, I'll just say it: I smell better. Before, when I went for a leisurely walk in warm weather, my Right Guard took a left turn. I had to soak a lot of my shirts in Biz to make them smell fresh. But last weekend, for example,when I was putting in a new lawn on a hot day, planting pots, cleaning up the yard, fixing up things around the house, and going dancing, at no point did I stretch my arms and think, "ick." No Biz required, either. Whenever I have too much coffee with half-and-half (milk and cream combination), I think I smell icky in short order.

Also by coincidence, the same day I wrote about reducing dairy, Dr. John Briffa wrote a post about milk contributing to acne. (Cordain also hypothesizes that milk in part causes acne.) Soon after I started avoiding milk, my complexion improved. Since I tend to have ups and downs in this department, I held off writing about it until now. It's been almost two months, and my skin has been as close to perfect as it has been since I was twelve years old. That's over 30 years. It's not just clearer, but smoother and softer. Not many people would look at me and guess I'm past 35. "...most dairy products..." writes Cordain in The Paleo Answer, "are loaded with [AGES, or advanced glycation end-products]." "AGEs are known to speed up the aging process...In human beings, restriction of dietary AGEs lowers markers of oxidative stress and inflammation."

What do I use in place of milk? Heavy cream in my coffee, limited to one cup a day (my party place is one of the few restaurants that offers this instead of half-and-half), almond milk, custard made with coconut milk, and coconut milk curry. The Primal Blueprint Cookbook by Mark Sisson and Jennifer Meier has two recipes for coconut milk custard. (If you use those recipes, though, note that there's an error: it takes an hour and a half, not 30 minutes, for custard to cook. And don't be intimidated by the bain marie: I use one of those cheap pans you cook turkeys in; they show an ordinary cake pan.) As for butter, I use only a tiny amount on vegetables. I fry with coconut oil and use homemade mayonnaise as an alternative dressing for vegetables.

Hearing all this, my best friend asked a good question: why did dairy suddenly start affecting me? Tonight, my aunt had a piece of the puzzle: I've always been allergic to milk. I couldn't even tolerate it when I was a baby. In fact, I couldn't tolerate any formula. When I was older, I thought I'd gotten over my allergy, but I see now that there were symptoms of milk intolerance all along.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Can You Be Too Thin?

Can you be too thin? Certainly--but in a day when the average American man and woman weigh 191 and 164 pounds(1), and some athletes have bulked up with steroids, some people have lost perspective of what "too thin" is. Maybe somebody should tell these civic-minded Russians in miniskirts to let a tractor shovel the snow, lest they faint on the sidewalk. Better drop that log! And those clay water jars! That paleo diet is going to kill you! Better take up dainty activity of gardening instead--er, wait...

The pictures show that people can be thin, strong and energetic. Yet my best friend worries about me and my diet because she thinks I'm too thin (even though we both have about the same energy level--and she has health problems that I don't). My mom thinks I'm too thin, too, but she grew up in the thirties and forties, when thinness was associated with malnutrition. "Of the first million men screened by draft boards in 1940," says the article "Wonder Bread" in The Wilson Quarterly on how the USDA got so involved with bread, "at least 13 percent were rejected for reasons relating to malnutrition."(2) (As of the late nineties, "the average military BMI was well into the overweight range."(3))

So what's too thin, really? Unexplained weight loss isn't good, but you already knew that. As long as a person is healthy and feels good, how can they be "too thin"?

First, how's your energy level? Could you shovel snow, go to work or school, chop some wood, do some household chores, read a magazine, play with your kids or pets, and call it a good day? (Even in their 70s and 80s, my grandparents kept a large garden and ran a household with few modern conveniences and no air conditioning in southern Missouri.) How's your strength? Assuming no injuries, even a petite woman should be able to pick up a toddler and move furniture and large appliances by herself. It's not necessarily down to bad diet if you can't do these things, but it's something to consider. You need sufficient protein and other nutrients to build and maintain muscle.

How does your stomach feel? Paleo and low-carb diets tend to improve digestive problems since they eliminate or cut down on wheat and dairy, two common digestive irritants. Gas, bloating and acid reflux are often from too many carbohydrates, or carbohydrates that your particular system doesn't digest well.(4)(5)(6)

How are your skin and teeth doing? Cavities suggest too many carbs and not enough nutrients.(7) They can also be a sign of diabetes.(8) Likewise, certain deficiencies will show up on your skin. My GP suspected I had an iron deficiency because of my pallor (a test proved him right), and I've found that a higher fat diet has made my skin softer and smoother. And it's common knowledge that zinc and vitamin A are needed for good skin health. Not all skin problems are from deficiencies, of course, but being free of cavities and skin problems, to me, suggests good diet.

What about your mood and concentration? Needless to say, if you're thin because you're starving yourself, you'll be in a lousy mood. (And you'll be lowering your metabolism.) This is unscientific, but I've observed that people who starve themselves or eat a lot of flour and sugar tend to overreact to things. Your brain is part of your body, and it needs nutrients to function properly.(9) It sends a clear signal when it lacks nutrients: hunger.

In other words, poor diet, malnourishment and underlying illnesses are problems. But if your thinness doesn't seem to be from any of these things, where's the problem?

1. "Americans Getting Taller, Bigger, Fatter, Says CDC," by Robert Longley, About.com.
2. "Wonder Bread," The Wilson Quarterly, April 1, 2012.
3. Wheat Belly by William Davis, MD, page 58. Rodale, 2011.
4. "My GERD is Cured! Low Carb Hits the Mark!" by Lori Miller. Pain, Pain Go Away! March 3, 2010.
5. "Gas Bloating: The Incredible Shrinking Waistband and Exploding Intestines" by Lori Miller. Pain, Pain Go Away! September 25, 2010.
6. "Fodmaps Diet: Why Not DIY?" by Lori Miller. Pain, Pain Go Away! November 9, 2011.
7. "Can Teeth Heal?" by Lori Miller. Pain, Pain Go Away! March 12, 2011.
8. Dr. Bernstein's Diabetes Solution by Richard Bernstein, MD. 
9. "Lousy Mood? It Could be the Food" by Lori Miller. Pain, Pain Go Away! February 7, 2011.