Meet Mark

Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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Month: December 2006

Are Germs Making You Fat?

A fascinating article in New Scientist discusses the impact that germs have on your weight.

In short, our digestive tracts are host to millions of microbes that aid in fermenting and digesting food. There are germs that help break down carbohydrates, germs that help digest fats, and so on. What’s fascinating is the new finding that obese people have more of a particular type of microbe that not only digests “better” but digests carbohydrates “better”.

However, in this situation, “better” is not better at all. In times when food was scarce (certainly not a problem now), being able to maximize every bit of nutritional value from each bite was a benefit. That’s not such a good thing now, particularly for carbohydrate digestion. What this means is that being overweight makes you more likely to become even more overweight.

This is really big news, Apples.

It’s a self-perpetuating system. The more carbohydrates are taken in – because the body is becoming better and better at digesting them – the more those carbohydrates are stored as fat. The body literally is set on a “get fat” course because the digestive tract becomes “efficient” at turning food into stored fat. All thanks to germs.

These digestive microbial bacteria are developed early in life – within the first few years. You can see how a childhood spent eating bad foods sets people up for a lifetime of obesity. And because of the self-perpetuating nature, the more fat you get, the more fat you get.

There’s good news, however. When study participants were put on a reduced-carbohydrate diet, the carbohydrate-friendly microbes began to die, coming closer to levels found in thin people. And, of course, the individuals lost weight. Eventually, the body can be retrained, and the digestive microbes we want – the ones that don’t extract quite as much from the food we eat – increase. All it takes is the first step, and the body can be retrained.

More on this in coming posts, Apples.

Aside from the carbohydrate and weight issues, there’s a further issue to consider: should we be supplementing with beneficial bacteria? And if so, which kind?

[tags] digestive tract, bacteria, gut bugs, germs, carbohydrates, metabolism [/tags]

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Living Long and Strong

The average life expectancy for American males and females born after the year 2000 hovers between 75 and 80 years old, respectively. Which side of the average you may fall on has a lot to do with things you can control. These include maintaining a well-rounded nutrient-rich diet, getting enough sleep and water, managing your stress levels, and making sure you get adequate amounts of exercise. To get an idea of how healthy your lifestyle is try this fun and interactive game that helps put things in perspective- The Longevity Game.

This game will you ask you a number of questions that relate to your medical history, exercise regime, and diet habits, synthesize that info, and then provide you with an estimate of your life expectancy. If you would like a more extensive questionnaire try the one provided by MSN Money. While no life expectancy quiz or game can tell the future, it can help us realize the places in our lives that may need a little more attention. Don’t forget: awareness is the first step in achieving results!

[tags] lifespan, longevity, game, MSN Money, quiz [/tags]

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The Buckler Brief

EVERYTHING YOU EVER WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT: Choline

Choline is a B vitamin. It is essential to the body’s functions and it is found in every cell. Choline can be produced in the body, but not in adequate amounts. Choline works in concert with other vitamins, particularly Folic Acid and B12.

WHAT IT DOES: Choline assists in brain function, liver function, and cardiovascular function. This supplement is a precursor to acetylcholine, an important neurotransmitter.

Choline also plays a role in lipid metabolism and storage in the body. Choline is particularly vital for the regulation of fat in the liver, possibly playing a role in triglyceride regulation and fat storage.

STUDIES SHOW: Pregnant women who take choline can help the brain development of the fetus. Choline supplements have been proven to increase blood choline levels. And high-performance athletes have benefited from choline supplementation because it can help boost endurance.

WHY WE LIKE IT: Choline was determined to be an essential vitamin by the U.S. government in 1998, but many people are unaware of its importance to good health. Choline may assist in memory, brain development and function, cardiovascular health, fat metabolism, liver health and energy levels. As an essential component of the B-vitamin family, choline can help to support your optimal health.

[tags] folic acid, folate, B12, choline, B vitamins, memory support, liver health, fat metabolism [/tags]

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Generation XXL

Health Day News published an article on children’s health this morning, and here’s the quote that made me pause:

“Being overweight or obese is the most important health issue facing children in the United States, a new survey finds.”

I remember a time when the most important health issue a kid had to think about was how many bites of broccoli you could feed to the dog without Mom noticing.

[tags] children’s health, obesity, childhood obesity [/tags]

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Tuesday’s Buzz

WORKER BEES’ DAILY BITES

Yo! All kinds of news you’ll want to check out today, Apples. Here’s the best of it:

Bite My MDA

The FDA says it wants stricter warnings on the dangers of over-the-counter pain pills like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and naproxin sodium. Since thousands of people die every year from painkiller-related problems (even when following dosage directions!), this is a good thing, but we’re still not forgiving the FDA for what we feel is a moronic decision yesterday to allow Celebrex for tiny tots. It’s not at all about being anti-drug – drugs serve a tremendously important role in improving human health and survival. But we think it’s short-sighted to approve the prescription of a very problematic drug to the wee ones.

There’s no clear-cut data on just how many people die from painkillers, according to the FDA. Sure. If you believe that, you’ll also believe the FDA’s claim that they wanted to issue stern warnings back in 2002, but it just takes so long to write warnings. Yes, that’s right – your eyes do not deceive you. It has taken over four years to deal with this because, well, writing a few paragraphs for pill bottle labels just takes a really, really long time. We know there are things like rules, regulations, and procedures. But don’t lives take precedence? Nope – lobbyists do, and that’s why it takes so long. That’s why they get paid the big bucks, Apples.

Feed Those Kids Some Sushi!

While this is a small, simple study, it’s certainly interesting news for your little ones’ health that isn’t the least bit fishy. Read up.

Why Supplements Are Important As We Age

Here’s a good study out of Cornell University that discusses the importance of supplements for older women. Stay healthy, ladies!

Trans Fats Make It to State

First, Chicago and NYC had to start in with the fat bans. We’re still waiting on Los Angeles to join the city competition, but in the meantime, an entire state – Massachusetts – is all set to ban trans fats, too. They always have to be first, don’t they? However, we’re glad to see the trans fat issue finally getting some serious political sizzle (we know, we know…bad pun).

[tags] FDA, Celebrex, painkillers, fish health benefits, aging, trans fat, Massachusetts, hydrogenated fat, restaurant ban [/tags]

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Risk, Schmisk

What are you more likely to be afraid of:

A shark or a candy bar?

Driving in your car or flying on a plane?

Falling out of your bed or being hit by lightning?

The flu or avian flu?

It’s interesting how we humans assess risk. It turns out, we’re pretty bad at it. Our risk of choking on a candy bar is 3,000 times greater than being attacked by a shark. Our risk of being killed in a car accident is over 44,000 times greater than dying from an airplane crash. No one in America has died from avian flu, but 36,000 people died from the “regular” influenza virus just last year. You have a greater chance of dying from falling out of your bed than from a snakebite, shark attack, airplane crash, stampede, skydiving, dog bite, bee sting, and lightning strike…combined. And then doubled.

It’s interesting how our evolutionary development intersects with the rapid changes in human society over the last 50 years. We simply haven’t caught up, physically or mentally. A fascinating article I caught the other day explains our faulty risk assessment in greater detail, but what concerns me most is how this judgment quirk of the human brain has an impact upon our health.

A few noteworthy points:

The brain fears what is new or unusual, rather than what is likely.

The brain also has a cumulative way of reasoning. So, if you’ve (just hypothetically) gotten away with an unsafe behavior in the past – say, driving under the influence, or speeding recklessly, or eating junk food in high school without gaining much weight – your brain rationalizes that you can continue taking the risks, even though the odds are stacked considerably against you (again, a hypothetical “you”).

The brain has a bad risk memory, and a bad consequence memory, too. Though junk food might cause you to have a spare tire now, the memory is that you “have always been able” to eat junk food. We consistently underrate our risk and overrate our success. We consistently underrate consequences. That’s just part of human biology. It served us well when we had to worry about being attacked by a mammoth or filling up on all the seeds and berries one could possibly ingest in the likely event that food might not come around for a while. But, these days, with the food and drug supply being what it is, coupled with consistently sedentary behavior, hours in front of computer screens, and long commutes, it’s no wonder we are witnessing widespread health problems.

This isn’t an issue we can solve in a day. It’s simply something to be mindful of as we go about our daily business, making all manner of choices. The real things to fear – heart disease, lung cancer from smoking, fatal diseases caused by obesity – are literally hundreds of thousands of times more likely than any (admittedly scary) prospect of death by large animal or flying transport. My take on

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