Saturday, 29 June 2013

Civil Eats

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

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Are All Carbs Equal?

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

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

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Gut Flora and Cancer

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

PETA: Misleading Advertising

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

Monday, 24 June 2013

Paleo-Kerfuffle; 'Paleo' is Shorthand Guys.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More and Better Sleep

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Do Plants Get Fat?

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

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

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

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

Friday, 21 June 2013

Finger Strength

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

Next up, a short video from Chris Webb Parsons:

Chris Webb Parsons Hangboard Program from on Vimeo.

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

    30 minute progressive warmup.

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

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

    3 finger drag on 15mm rung

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

    Middle 2 small pockets

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

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

Fake Outdoors!

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

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

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

Nightime PRO & CHO

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

Biodiversity Loss

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

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

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

"I said, 'Oi, fat bloke!"

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

Skeletal Muscle is the Organ that Counteracts Fat

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

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

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

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

Just Four Minutes

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

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

Tuesday, 18 June 2013


The latest film from Danny MacAskill. AWESOME!

The Micromort & Microlife

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 17 June 2013

No Fat Under Skin!

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

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

Short-Changed on Sleep

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

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

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

Sunday, 16 June 2013

And YOUR Excuse is...?

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

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

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

Modern Milk a Menace ?

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

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

Friday, 14 June 2013

+1000 kcal

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

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Questionable Content of an Industry-Supported Medical School Lecture Series

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

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

Hypertension: High Blood Pressure - One Minute Medical School

Hat tip to Chris:

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Big Fat Truth

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

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Hypertension Fix Pt3

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

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