Friday, April 1, 2016

Invincible Coffee: The Next Evolution of Joe

Warning -- Satire -- old April Fools post!

You've heard of Bulletproof Coffee, that mixture of coffee and butter that keeps you lean and supercharges your mental focus.

The problem with Bulletproof Coffee is that the butter forms a greasy oil slick on top of your coffee.  Yuck!  Is there any way to rescue Bulletproof Coffee?


Enter Invincible Coffee, the next evolution of Joe.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Can Salt Increase Calorie Intake?

The debate rages on over whether dietary salt (NaCl) increases the risk of cardiovascular events, with no clear answer in sight.  Yet few people are paying attention to another, more insidious effect of salt: it may increase our calorie intake, and eventually, the size of our waistlines.

Introduction

Humans are born with specific hard-wired food motivations, which guide us to food properties that kept our ancestors alive and fertile in times past.  We have an instinctive attraction to sweetness because, in the world of our ancestors, it indicated ripe fruit or honey-- both important sources of calories and other nutrients.  Most of the other food properties we're instinctively drawn to, such as starch, fat, and glutamate, signify high-calorie foods.

Yet one of our hard-wired food motivations stands out from the rest: our attraction to salt.  Since salt is calorie-free, salt appetite is one of the few instinctive food drives that doesn't relate directly to acquiring calories.  Interestingly, salt is the only essential micronutrient (vitamin/mineral) we can taste at the concentrations normally found in food.  Not only our brains, but also our tongues, are hard-wired to seek salt above all other micronutrients.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

A Free Issue of Examine.com Research Digest

Examine.com is a website that provides unbiased information on supplements and nutrition.  They publish the Examine.com Research Digest (ERD), which reviews the latest studies in these areas.  I like ERD because it does a nice job of curating recent science, making it understandable and engaging for a broad audience, and explaining important background information.  They have no conflicts of interest because they don't sell anything except information.  I've been a scientific reviewer for ERD since the beginning.

Examine.com is celebrating its fifth anniversary today.  To celebrate, they offered to put together a custom issue of ERD using five of my favorite articles.  I chose articles I thought my audience would enjoy.  You can download your free copy here (PDF).

If you like it and decide you want to sign up for ERD, there is a link in the PDF, or you can visit this page.  They're having a sale today, so if you're thinking about joining, today is a good choice.  If you purchase through the links I provided, you'll be supporting Whole Health Source at no extra cost to yourself.

If you already have ERD, let me know how you like it in the comments.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

What I Eat

People often ask me what I eat.  I've been reluctant to share, because it feels egocentric and I'm a private person by nature.  I also don't want people to view my diet as a universal prescription for others.  But in the end, as someone who shares my opinions about nutrition, it's only fair that I answer the question.  So here we go.

In my food choices, I try to strike a balance between nutrition, cost, time efficiency, animal welfare, pleasure, and environmental impact.  I'm the chef of my household of two, and I cook two meals a day, almost every day, typically from single ingredients.  I prefer organic, but I don't insist on it.

Eggs from my hens
My diet changes seasonally because I grow much of my own food.  This started out with vegetables, but recently has expanded to staple foods such as potatoes, flour corn, and winter squash.  I also have a small flock of laying hens that turn table scraps, bugs, grass, and chicken feed into delicious eggs.

The primary guiding principle of my diet is to eat somewhere between a "Paleolithic"-style diet and a traditional agricultural/horticultural diet.  I think of it as a broad ancestral diet.  Because it's partially inspired by agricultural/horticultural diets, starch is the main calorie source.

My meals are organized around three food groups: a protein, a starch, and vegetables/fruit.  If any of those three are missing, the meal doesn't feel complete.  I'll start with those categories and move on from there.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Is the "Obesity Paradox" an Illusion?

Over the last two decades, multiple independent research groups have come to the surprising conclusion that people with obesity (or, more commonly, overweight) might actually be healthier than lean people in certain ways.  This finding is called the "obesity paradox".  Yet recent research using more rigorous methods is suggesting that the paradox is an illusion-- and excess body fat may be even more harmful to health than we thought.

Introduction.  What is the obesity paradox, and why does it matter?

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Testing the Insulin Model: A Response to Dr. Ludwig

Dr. David Ludwig, MD, recently published a response to my critique of the carbohydrate-insulin-obesity hypothesis.  This is good because he defends the idea in more detail than I've encountered in other written works.  In fact, his piece is the most scientifically persuasive defense of the idea I can recall.

Before we dig in, I want to emphasize that this is science, not tribal warfare.  The goal is to arrive at the best answer, rather than to win an argument.  I'm proceeding in good faith, based on my belief that Ludwig and I are both serious people who care about science and human health, and I hope my audience will do the same.  That said, let's get to it.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Always Hungry? It's Probably Not Your Insulin.

David Ludwig, MD, recently published a new book titled Always Hungry? Conquer cravings, retrain your fat cells, and lose weight permanently.  The book is getting widespread media coverage.  Ludwig is a professor of pediatrics at the Harvard Medical School and a professor of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.  He's a pediatric endocrinologist, but his primary focus is research, particularly the impact of nutrition on hunger, calorie expenditure, and body weight.  Although I sometimes disagree with how he interprets evidence, he has made significant and useful contributions to the scientific literature in these areas, and I also support his efforts to find policy solutions to curb the intake of sweetened beverages and other junk foods.  In the grand scheme of things, he's an ally in the fight to improve the American diet.

Ludwig has written several high-profile op-ed pieces in recent years, both in the popular press and in scientific journals (1, 2).  He argues that our understanding of eating behavior and obesity may be all wrong, and that our focus on calories may be leading us away from the true cause of obesity: hormonal imbalance.  And the primary culprit is insulin.  You might recognize this idea, because it's similar to the one that science journalist Gary Taubes developed in his book Good Calories, Bad Calories.

According to this view, overeating is irrelevant.  We gain fat because our insulin levels are too high, leading our fat tissue to take up too much fat, and other tissues to take up too much glucose, causing our blood energy levels to drop and resulting in fat gain, hunger, and fatigue.  The ultimate cause of the problem is the rapidly-digesting carbohydrate and sugar we eat.  This idea is encapsulated by Ludwig's quote, "Overeating doesn't make you fat.  The process of getting fat makes you overeat" (3).

Here are eleven facts that may make you question this line of reasoning: