Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Extreme Dietary Interventions

I intended to name this post "Dieting for Dummies" but then thought better of it. We are all victims of a massive, global propaganda campaign to deliberately delude us all into adopting diets that are extremely lucrative and profitable for a wide variety of industries and entities. 

I've spent years carefully eating...years carefully eating what I thought was the right way, then years of carefully eating what I now know is the right way. I say so definitively, because my personal experience makes this self-evident, as I've experienced dramatic results in terms of weight loss, body composition, quality of life, and overall good health over a long, sustained period of time. I have gotten to a place where I really enjoy eating the food I prepare and cook, and I experience almost zero bad effects from the foods I regularly eat with gusto and great enjoyment.

It's extremely liberating to sit down to a large meal, and to eat everything, savoring every bite, without worrying about my weight, my "diet" or whether or not I'm eating too much or not enough. All the worrying and considerations happens before hand, when I select ingredients, preparation and cooking. Once that's done, it's just time to enjoy eating without worry, until feeling fully sated.

I've gotten to this point, having years of reading so many blogs, books, testimonials, anecdotes and comments on the topic, I've come to the point where I've forgotten more than I remember. When I go and re-read some of my older posts on these topics, I laugh to see various aspects of this topic that I've forgotten about.

One thing we must always remember - we are all going to die some day.

There is no grand prize for achieving the perfect diet...and in fact, there is no such thing as a perfect diet.

That being said, I'm at a point where I'm seeing the same topics going round and round and round. Everytime newcomers stumble upon one of the blogs that discusses (to borrow a recent turn of phrase) the "dark enlightenment of neo-reactionary diets" and discover the dietary red pill, they all seem to fall into the same modes of thinking.

Just because you tried any of the Atkins/Ketogenic/Paleo/Vegan diet and lost a bunch of weight and felt a lot better, doesn't mean you've found dietary perfection, nor the long term solution to an eternal life of robust health.

I think most of us have in these fringes of teh Interwebz, have heard the following type of argument from the low carb/very low carb and ketogenic diet advocates before:

"The government and food production industry embraced the demonization of saturated fat and cholesterol - aka "The Lipid Hypothesis of Degenerative Diseases," and instead promoted everyone onto high carb diets."

While this is not wrong, it is a misdirection that indicts "carbohydrates" as a class of macro-nutrient as the primary culprit of all the ill health and diseases we now see as pervasive amongst we the sheeple of the Brave New World Order's global feedlot.

Yes, the type of carbs you eat are important. Wheat, and other grains like oatmeal, barley and rye contain gluten and other anti-nutrient substances that can contribute to all sorts of maladies. But I've come to a point where I now believe carbohydrates, even the "bad" ones, are not the primary culprit (though an important part of the equation) of so many maladies that afflict the people on the S.A.D. (Standard American Diet.)
The anecdotes and testimonials of people who've embraced some form of low-carb dieting and experienced dramatic improvements in health and weight are legion. I've made my fair share of them myself throughout the history of this blog.

BUT....there also exist a wide number of similarly dramatic turnarounds from people who also embrace diets from the opposite end of the carnivore - herbivore spectrum of conflicting dietary paradigms. I know of folks who experienced some life and death diagnosis like cancer, who then embraced a raw food, vegan diet and find themselves in miraculous remission, improved health and weight loss. According to the more dogmatic of the ketogenic-embracing factions, this simply does not compute.

What's the one thing the carnivorous ketogenic low carbers and raw food vegans have in common when they embrace these so-called fad diets and experience near-miracle changes in health? I've recently come to the conclusion that it really does come down to two rather simple concepts: cellular inflammation and the health of your gut bacteria.

In either case of the extreme dietary interventionist, they stop eating the largest source of inflammation-promoting foods: foods made from grain flours that compromise gut permeability and prevent absorption of critical nutrients, foods sweetened excessively with various forms of sugars, and the inflammatory lipids of Big Agriculture: Round-up Ready Soybean "vegetable oil," partially hydrogenated Round-up ready Soybean oil, rancid Rapeseed oil (aka "Canola"), cotton seed oil, sunflower seed and corn oil.

You want the tri-fecta of modern poisons (what Dr. Kurt Harris calls NADs, or Neo-lithic Agents of Disease) found in a single food item, look no further than the typical doughnut.

The NAD Trifecta: Refined and bleached white flour, plenty of sugar, and deep fried in rancid, pro-inflammatory vegetable/grain oil. 

Dr. Art Ayers, a molecular biologist (NOT a medical Doctor, but a scientist who studies cellular and molecular biology) identifies these same foods as the true culprits for the plague of S.A.D.-caused maladies and diseases. His advice, as his blog title indicates, is Cooling Inflammation. Inflammation on a cellular level, caused by the regular consumption of pro-inflammatory foods, the NADs. Avoiding the inflammatory foods also cultivates a healthy garden of gut bacteria, which is integral to your immune system and overall health.

In either case, when a person has a certain amount of stored body fat, whether they switch to the carnivorous-side or the herbivorous-side of extreme dietary interventions, there body begins to burn off it's stored body fat for energy.

On the hardcore carnivore side (the ketogenics and VLC'rs), they go into an extended state of ketosis and their body must process both ingested and stored protein and fats to keep their blood glucose levels stable.

Meanwhile, on the hardcore herbivore side, the raw food vegan enters a state of starvation from the lack of consuming essential proteins and fats, and there body begins to burn off it's stored adipose tissue for the essential fatty acids the body needs to function.

In either case, the extreme dietary interventionist inevitably goes through a period of dramatic health improvement and feeling of energetic well-being, thanks in part to the biological process known as gluconeogenisis.

As WinstonWiki notes:

Gluconeogenesis (abbreviated GNG) is a metabolic pathway that results in the generation of glucose from non-carbohydrate carbon substrates such as pyruvate, lactate, glycerol, glucogenic amino acids, and odd-chain fatty acids.

It is one of the two main mechanisms humans and many other animals use to keep blood glucose levels from dropping too low (hypoglycemia). The other means of maintaining blood glucose levels is through the degradation of glycogen (glycogenolysis). Gluconeogenesis is a ubiquitous process, present in plants, animals, fungi, bacteria, and other microorganisms. In vertebrates, gluconeogenesis takes place mainly in the liver and, to a lesser extent, in the cortex of kidneys. In ruminants, this tends to be a continuous process. In many other animals, the process occurs during periods of fasting, starvation, low-carbohydrate diets, or intense exercise.

This is my basic assertion here the one common thread found on both ends of the extreme Dietary interventions of the ketogenic carnivore versus the vegan herbivore, is that both inevitably lead to their bodies turning to their stored body fat to get the essential fatty acids needed to function.

And yet, on both ends of the spectrum, if you read enough anecdotes and observe people long enough, the one thing you see on either end, is that long term, once the stored fats are used up for energy and bodily functions, other health problems can develop if they rigidly adhere to the extreme interventionist diet (everyone's situation and baseline health, as well as other lifestyle factors undoubtedly play a role.)

For the ketogenic, zero and very-low carbers, some have reported experiencing insomnia and adrenal fatigue; while for the long term, raw food vegan, the lack of protein and essential fatty acids as well as deficiencies in micro nutrients that are mostly found only in animal foods lead to health problems of their own.

Now if I were to err towards one side of this spectrum or the other (I have tried both, though the vegan experiment didn't get past 5 days before I surrendered in the face of a bacon cheeseburger,) I'd certainly prefer the ketogenic/carnivorous end of the spectrum, as some folks have reported living in ketosis for years without health problems... nevertheless, it's not rocket science to understand that the human bodies physiological characteristics indicate we are an omnivorous species (that link was written by an activist-vegetarian no less!), and carbohydrates can and do play an important role in optimal nutrition. This is why I now consider both a purely carnivorous diet and a purely herbivorous diet to both be extreme and should only be used for a short period of time as an intervention for health and weight problems.


That all being said, long-time "paleo-diet" proponent Richard Nikoley at Free the Animal has spilled a lot of virtual ink as of late on the topic of resistant starch (aka teh evil Carbz), which really focuses on the latest area of fascination amongst those of us highly interested in diet and physiology of the human body: the role of the gut micro-biome and overall health.

Full disclosure: based on reading the extensive posts and his logical reasoning behind his latest promotion of the benefits of resistant starch, I bought a bag of Bob's Red Mill potato starch and proceeded to eat the prescribed dosage (4 Tbsps. daily) with a bowl of organic, full fat yogurt for close to two weeks until the bag was all gone. I didn't really experience any change in my digestion, sleep nor energy levels nor increased gas that many others including Richard himself report. However, as I no longer possess a blood glucose meter, I was unable to really test my blood sugar response to it, and many diabetics and pre-diabetics have reported dramatic improvements for incorporating resistant starch into their daily diet. In my own experience, I didn't personally experience anything, positive or negative.

I don't take my personal experience as a negative on the entire idea at all. Rather, I think it confirms that many of the dietary changes I've adopted over the past 5+ years have succeeded in already giving my gut biome a diverse garden of flora that eating resistant starch is purported to promote. For years now, my diet has incorporated daily servings of fermented foods (and drinks) and I didn't realize it at the time, but I also believe I already  have had a fair amount of resistant starch in my diet to begin with, as I eat white rice at nearly every meal.

Now, according to the resistant starch protocol Richard is advocating, white rice needs to be cooked, then chilled before eating. I've been doing this for years, as I often cook a large pot of 3-4 cups of rice whenever I cook a fresh batch. While the initial meal with a freshly cooked pot of rice is eaten hot, the next 3-4 meals over the course of the next couple of days, I always eat the rice cold, straight from the fridge, served alongside the hot, fresh cooked foods. It was not something I consciously did for any sort of health benefit, but rather because re-heating refrigerated rice results in the reheated rice sticking to the bottom of the rice cooker and requires vigorous cleaning of the rice pot before it can be used to cook a fresh batch again.

So apparently, for years now,  ever since I got off the low-carb bandwagon and embraced the idea that carbs are not the devil, I've been eating regular portions of resistant starch at almost every meal, based on my sheer laziness over having to clean stuck rice from the inside of the rice pot. Heh. As anyone who lives or has lived in Hawaii knows, we eat rice at nearly every meal. The only time I don't, is when I eat some other staple carb like poi (fermented taro paste), or some sort of tuber fried in coconut oil.

So for myself, I don't think I'll be buying another bag of potato starch, as it really didn't do much for me. But for most folks that don't eat a lot of cold rice, especially if you're diabetic or pre-diabetic, you should go and check it out, you've got nothing to lose but a few bucks that it costs for a bag of potato starch. It may be one dietary intervention you can try that may prove very beneficial to your overall health, and at such a minimal cost to try it out, it cannot be considered extreme at all.


Bob Wallace said...

"Primitive" cultures have gotten around the problem with grains by fermenting them for about three days: water, the grain, yogurt. It destroys the gluten and releases the nutrients.

The only grain I don't use is wheat, which has been so perverted I don't think it's possible to make it safe.

It works great with oatmeal, which is how porridge is made.

Keoni Galt said...

Yup, good point. I frequently eat corn tortillas that are traditionally treated with lime to negate the phytic acid in corn.

I also like to occasionally eat some sour dough rye bread.

Johnycomelately said...

Just a personal anecdote.

My mother went to an Orthopedic surgeon for arthritis of the talus (foot), the inflamation was the size of a small fist and her bones were separating causing joint abnormalities. The surgeon's prognosis was that she needed pan Talus fusion (basically pins to fuse all the ankle joints) and would be in a wheelchair for a while before she could walk, so we booked an appointment to schedule an operation.

In the meantime I inadvertently read an archeological study that mentioned arthritis was nearly absent in the bones of non-grain societies compared to being very prevalent in ancient grain based societies. So I proposed to her that she remove grains from her diet (which was difficult being a vegetarian) and after a month the inflamation completely subsided, interestingly when she gets back on grains (particularly wheat) the inflamation returns.

She has yoyoed countless times with the same result.

That was over a decade ago and I have no idea what the underlying mechanism is but it was clear grains (except rice) was causing the arthritis.

Velvet said...

And here I thought you were going to tell me how I could eat all the donuts I wanted and not get porky. Dang.

We're not grain-free, here, but mostly wheat free. I can't maintain VLC the way I once could, being old and all - I think it was becoming troublesome for both my eyesight and my concentration, and I was freezing all the time which is NOT normal for me. Adding about 20g of carbs by way of half a potato or a couple tablespoons of rice with a healthy drizzle of Kerrygold completely solved those problems. I didn't notice any profound changes in digestion or sleep, but I haven't gone all in for the r/s self-experiment. I stay as low carb as possible for therapeutic reasons. I suspect I've completely corrupted my bodys ability to manage sugars. Years of whole grain goodness and borderline vegetarianism combined with more years of eating total crap have taken their toll.

Co-sign the inflammation thing. Sleep and stress factors as triggers for inflammation are ignored too often, I think, and diet can only do so much. My husbands a/i stuff was repaired in large part with diet, but even if he's eating clean but doesn't sleep properly he'll have a flare. His docs go apoplectic when he tells them he (gasp!) goes out in the sunshine without sunscreen on purpose and eats a pound of butter a week. (As opposed to what, pounding methotrexate and diet cokes? It's a wonder anybody survives medical treatment.) Three years ago he was sick to the point of incapacitation and now he's the fittest he's ever been, eating much the way you describe your own diet - I think I'll believe my lying eyes on this one.

ryan said...


Love your blog. Been reading for several years. You've helped me to get healthier and for that I thank you very much.

I want to share a brief experiment - I was inspired to do this by something you wrote a few years back.

I'm 57. I've stayed active and have not had weight problems. But, it finally became clear that every piece of junk food just meant a lost opportunity to eat something that could make my tendons stronger, bones denser, and who knows what else.

Each year I test myself. Super Bowl Sunday means pushups. Ten years ago, (age 47) I could crank out about 500.

3 years ago I reached 850.

Then I quit wheat, all HFCS, all sugar, and have only eaten eggs, meat, fish, veggies (and juiced most days), fruits.

Pushups increased to 1500 last year, and then this year I did 2400 (seven hours)

Just wanted to share that. No one could be more surprised than me.

Training method...weights 3 days a week. abs two days a week.

Pushups on sunday. thats it.

Anyway, just want to let you know your blog is very valuable to a few of us older jocks on the downslide. haha. Thanks again.

ryan said...

Meant to say... and yes, I'm still sore!

KJ said...

Dr. D'adamo who wrote Eat Right 4 Your Type mentioned some research that showed variance in the ability to digest animal fat vs vegetables and grains depending on how early our ancestors had been exposed to them. I'm of Scandinavian descent and do best with greens and red meat. I've known folks though who trace their lineage further south who can go without meat for weeks.

Calvados said...


If you would put together an e-book outlining just the nutritional focus of your blog, along with some recipes/menus I would definitely buy it as, I'm sure, would many other of your readers.

shenpen said...

Hi Keoni,

This is more about your "paleo baby" post but still relevant here.

I think the difference is between people like you who can keep a diet and me who cannot is that you are eating ingredients, not meals. This is really weird to me. It is as if you would have a bottom up approach, like I want this amount of macros, so I want this meat and that veg and then figure out how to cook them. Frankly it seems like very boring meals, or even when not still a break with your family tradition or whatever.

People like me are exactly the other way around: there are meals, recipes, from your national/ethnic tradition or from your family tradition, and then you go and shop for the ingredients. Top-down. The meals, the recipes are part of the identity of the family, the people, something not easily given up.

Of course one can still swap out the ingredients but... the whole way of thinking is different. We are not eating chicken or peas. They are just ingredients. We are eating mom's recipe of chicken peas casserole (other ingredients range from oil to onions to paprika powder to some flour for roux) that every time my wife cooks it creates a continuity between my childhood and now.

The point I would like to make, it seems like everything from paleo to keto to vegetarian was meant for ingredient-eating people, not meal eating, traditional identity recipe eating people. And largely for boring eating people who think steak and vegs is an acceptable level of culinary performance. For people who think in a different, say, French style way i.e. if it has no sauce and not thickened with roux it is very very very basic cookery it is really hard to make the very idea of a diet even interpretable.

Do you have any suggestions?

tempesttcup said...

I tried the Potato Diet of Richard's and then the potato starch, and had two very different but very bad reactions to both, so no more potatoes for me!

I have been trying to get more resistant starch in my diet, so I'm doing it with the precooked rice and with properly soaked and fermented beans and lentils cooked in broth with a hambone.

In 2008 I discovered Paleo and went high saturated fat for a couple of years, then went keto, and now I eat whatever doesn't hurt me or turn me red.

Velvet said...

shenpen - I'm not KG, he might have other suggestions but you might start with this man:


fwiw, one of the go to books for foody ancestral health geeks is Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Michael said...

RE: RS. Some of these diet hacks might be useful but all that hype is cringe inducing. Full disclosure: my opinion of Nikoley is that he's an alcoholic + an attention whore, I don't understand why so many people seem to consider him a reference or something.

It seems a fairly large % of the paleo audience have a sheep mentality and they're going to believe their favorite guru's latest Revelation. And then the next and the next. I don't like it because I thought people who reject the government's diet plan would be smarter than that but it doesn't work like that apparently. I guess everyone wants to be 'involved' so they feel like they have to choose a side to root for or something.

(I read a forum thread in which a RS Believer told his doom & gloom stories about his low carb phase and he's flagellating himself for having told people to try low carb :rolleyes: I suspect he jumped on the ketosis train because it was a Revelation for him at the time so he taught it was almost magic and he didn't take vitamins & minerals supplements, which is something everyone should do no matter what you're eating. Newsflash: everyone can experience vitamins or minerals deficiencies, if you're not testing for it you should take an insurance i.e. supplements)

Remember Jack Kruse's 'Cold Thermogenesis' craze and his 'Leptin Reset' protocol? There's a 1000+ pages thread on that topic on Mark Sisson's forum but who's talking about that now? Resistant starch is just the newest buzz. That's not to say it can't be useful but when I see the paleo tribe adopting something en masse and raving about it I go back to Mr.Freeze's ice baths Revelation and remember all the super positive testimonials he received. And I like cold showers and ice baths they make me feel good (afterwards) but they're not life-changing.

I got on the CT train for like a week until I realized that the more time and attention I invested into this the more likely I was going to look for positive outcomes. For the simple reason that the human mind doesn't like that feeling of having wasted time/energy. Expectation changes perception and if you're not aware of that your mind can get fooled by your own wishes.

The most obvious 'revelation' everyone should agree on is that 20th Century food products and official health recommandations by government agencies aren't good for us, no matter where you live or who your ancestors were. If you avoid them you're going to be better off.

Michael said...

And something similar happened with Guyenet VS Taubes on insulin & obesity. Almost everyone including a lot of internet health gurus at the moment mindlessly sided with Guyenet because his so-called refutation of Taubes' hypothesis had 100+ references or something - which they didn't actually took the time to read and verify, they just took the guru's stamp of approval as if it was cash - and even to this day few of them are willing to admit they didn't think very hard about the issue they just felt like they had to choose a side and that anyways you can't violate the laws of physics and calories**, which is the stupidest thing one can say about the book GCBC (in chapter 16 he points to studies/experiments showing that some people can eat a lot more calories than they usually do but they don't necessarily gain a lot of body fat with that caloric surplus). BTW Taubes is still essentially right: glycemic problems/insulin and the fear of fat is at the root of the obesity epidemic.

And when I see people pointing at the Kitavans and their high carb/starch diet as an argument against the thesis of GCBC I just want to teleport them on the island so they can see that they have a very different meal frequency than north americans: they basically eat one big meal per day, they're not snacking on potatoes all day long, they fast or eat very little and then they cook the tubers and all the rest at the end of the day. If you're only looking at the macronutrient ratios you're clearly missing the other important pieces of the puzzle.

Right now I'm not doing low-carb I'm basically on the Fast-5/Warrior Diet until my summer job starts then I'll have to eat 3 times a day to maintain my endurance but I'm going to keep eating most of my carbs at the end of the day.

I disinvested my time in most of the health blogs/websites I used to read regularly. Now I mostly listen to MP3 podcasts in my car i.e. Superhuman Radio and a couple others. If I'm going to read something it'll be a book first.

**you can read J Stanton's series of articles at www.gnolls.org on the problems with the calorie balance model