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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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December 21, 2016

2016 in Review: The Top 14 Developments in Ancestral Health

By Mark Sisson
41 Comments

2016 review text on a napkin with a cup of coffee2016 is just about over. I’m not a big party animal, as you probably know. Instead of bashes and balls, what I look forward to most of all at the end of a year is the quiet reflection on what impacted me most. Which science developments, business achievements, and thought evolutions characterized my 2016 more than the rest?

Put another way, what were the most exciting developments of 2016 in the ancestral health world?

Let’s take a look (in no particular order):

1. Legumes went back on the menu, if you like them.

It’s become quite clear that legumes do not belong in the same category as grains, which is where they languished for over a decade. Legumes are rich in prebiotic fiber, provide many vitamins and minerals, and seem to improve glucose control, not worsen it.

Eat ’em if you want ’em.

2. A Primal ranch dressing finally came out.

You don’t know how many emails I got asking for a Primal-friendly ranch. Recipes have always been there, but a surprising number of ingredients go into ranch. Few people keep everything on hand required to make it right.

So I made one. It took months of development, but I made one.
Skeptical husbands, picky kids, vegetable haters will all lie prostrate before PRIMAL KITCHEN™ Ranch, see—nay, know—the error of their ways, and be welcomed into the fold.

3. Nina Teicholz was right.

In 2015, science and nutrition journalist Nina Teicholz penned an editorial in the British Medical Journal criticizing the failure of the USDA’s diet guidelines to “reflect much relevant scientific literature.” Establishment critics and academics went berserk, even going so far as to demand the BMJ retract her editorial.

Last week, after over a year of battles, independent reviewers finally gave Teicholz the win. The critics lost. Her editorial stands.

4. We settled the “meat problem,” if only until the next study comes out.

More than any other dietary component, meat has been the most consistently controversial. It clearly played an integral role in human evolution, particularly of our energy-hungry brain. It’s delicious, contains vital nutrients, provides the densest collection of essential amino acids, and yet hundreds of millions of people are convinced it will give you cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. How do we square these seemingly opposing factions? How much meat should we be eating? And how should we optimize our meat-eating?

5. The birth of Primal Health Coaching.

The PB Expert Certification was cool, but it wasn’t enough. Teaching is different than knowing. The latter is necessary but not sufficient to accomplish the former.

In June, I introduced the Primal Health Coach Program: an enhanced education course that teaches you the science behind the Primal Blueprint and gives you tools, tips, and tactics for disseminating that information to clients and for running a successful business.

6. Gluten sensitivity really is real.

The story of non-celiac gluten sensitivity has featured more twists and turns than your average long-running will-they, won’t-they relationship storyline of a late 90s sitcom. Skeptics claimed it was all just a collective delusion, and several studies seemed to suggest it might be psychological rather than physiological. Then in July, 2016, a new study confirmed what many people already knew to be true: gluten sensitivity is real, and those suffering from it have leaky guts and elevated systemic inflammation.

7. PRIMAL KITCHEN™ restaurants became real.

Although we have yet to break ground (that happens early next year), the first PRIMAL KITCHEN™ restaurant will be in Culver City, CA. I’ve signed the papers, hired contractors, drawn up plans. It’s going to happen. It’s real.

8. More HDL isn’t necessarily better.

HDL is “good” cholesterol, yet research shows that elevating it to extremely high levels results in greater cardiovascular disease. Instead of HDL actively “scavenging” damaged lipids, higher HDL levels may simply be a byproduct of healthy lifestyle practices, like eating more fat, exercising, and generally leading an anti-inflammatory way of life.

9. Recent ancestry matters.

On this blog, we’ve always looked at human ancestry from 30,000 feet. We are all humans with the same basic machinery. We all digest fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. We all secrete insulin (to varying degrees), require oxygen, and drink water. That’s all true, but recent research into human genetics shows that recent ancestry can determine how we metabolize nutrients.

Whether it’s fatty acid metabolism in the Inuit, the “thrifty gene” in Samoans, or vitamin D requirements, we’re beginning to understand and integrate the lessons of our recent ethnic ancestry.

10. Exercise is important for weight loss.

For years, I’ve said that weight loss is 90% diet. It’s true that how much and what you eat are the most important factors when losing weight, but exercise helps determine what kind of weight you lose. We’re not trying to lose muscle and bone. We want to lose fat while preserving muscle. If the net weight declines, so be it. But fat loss is the ultimate goal.

Exercise is really, really important for weight loss:

It empties out glycogen, giving us a place to store incoming glucose.

It improves sleep and glucose control, and makes stress less harmful.

Strength training prevents muscle loss during dieting—and can even promote muscle gain.

11. Men and women are different—and that’s awesome.

This isn’t a “new” development, of course, but its acknowledgment throughout the ancestral health community has certainly expanded. Back in May, I gave my 12 essential tips for Primal women, laying out the areas where men’s and women’s needs diverge a bit. There are plenty of others, too.

Stay tuned for more MDA articles geared toward women in the near future.

12. CRISPR looms.

I wrote about the implications of CRISPR, the gene-editing tool that researchers use to study genetics (and transhumanists hope to use to create super-humans). Now they’re even using it to target RNA in live cells, which could be huge for diseases like muscular dystrophy and neurodegeneration.

I’m cautiously excited about CRISPR.

13. Evolutionary biology may be getting an overhaul.

Earlier this year, evolutionary biologists descended upon London’s Royal Society to debate whether evolutionary biology needed reworking. Was the standard Modern Synthesis theory complete, with its focus on natural selection as the primary driver of evolution, or should it expand to include other mechanisms and inputs like plasticity, creativity, culture, and epigenetics?

14. We’re born to move.

This year, scientists strapped sensors onto Hadza hunter-gatherers and tracked them throughout their daily routines. Young, old, man, woman—it didn’t matter. Everyone studied engaged in at least 2 hours of moderate physical activity per day on average. Furthermore, even the eldest among them remained fit and healthy on into their 70s.

Sedentary living is often portrayed as a necessary consequence of success. When we no longer have to physically work for our livelihood, we move as little as possible. But the Hadza research shows that movement is in our DNA, and that we must resist the temptation to be still.

That’s it for me, folks. What were your biggest takeaways from 2016? What are you looking forward to most in 2017?

Thanks for reading, everyone. Take care and have a fantastic rest of the year!

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41 Comments on "2016 in Review: The Top 14 Developments in Ancestral Health"

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johnd
johnd
7 months 29 days ago

I’d add that the whole paleo/primal/ancestral meme is receding as the much more obvious and demonstrable LCHF meme takes its place. Eat nutrient dense real food and keep your pancreas as quiet as possible.

The 2017 issue is creating a critical mass of visibility/acceptance within the medical community to effect real change in the public health and medical care public policy arena.

Jack
Jack
7 months 29 days ago

Legumes are back, good news. A couple spoonfuls of peanut butter is my desert (Smuckers no sugar version).

Steven
7 months 29 days ago

Isn’t there still a controversy re overall health of Peanuts??

John
7 months 29 days ago

I eat high oleic peanut butter. Its fatty acid profile rivals macadamia nuts, so I actually think it fits perfectly into a paleo diet. It’s also WAY more delicious than any other nut butter. I don’t think regular peanut butter is too bad from a paleo perspective, either.

Mandy
Mandy
7 months 29 days ago

That sounds wonderful…that’s the version I like. Less crap in it!

Elizabeth Resnick
7 months 29 days ago
So much exciting stuff here…I always love year end reviews! I ate so many beans during my vegetarian days that I don’t have them too often, but just threw together some chili with kidney beans and it was really tasty. And a little PB from time to time is a treat. LOVE the Primal Kitchen Ranch (and mayo!) and I’m thrilled to be a part of the Primal Health Coaching Program. As so happy that non celiac gluten sensitivity is finally being accepted. I was told by a functional MD years ago that I had it, and it made perfect… Read more »
Janine Hannis
Janine Hannis
7 months 29 days ago

Great list Mark. Here’s to a healthy and wonderful 2017 🙂

pm paul
pm paul
7 months 29 days ago

Great post. And thank you so much for the #1 item…how did I miss it? Man, I’ve felt weird every time I touch any legume…I LOVE peas, pb and bean burritos, now no weirdness when I occasionally indulge.

Lisa
Lisa
7 months 29 days ago

So Mark — are you personally adding back in legumes to your diet. You have been pretty strict with your opinion of lectins and anti-nutrients. Was this wrong? Can you please elaborate on this… thank you.

kathy
kathy
7 months 29 days ago

I’ve been experimenting with adding back legumes, but only “traditionally” prepared (ie – soaking with water and an added acid like lime juice, etc to address anti-nutrients). Personally, I find it too easy to over-consume legumes 🙂 However, since eliminating grains/legumes made a huge impact on my asthma I’m being careful to test in smallish amounts and infrequent meals. Curious if anyone else had respiratory symptoms and was able to go back to eating them without care?

Suji
7 months 29 days ago

My biggest takeaway from 2016 is to “let it GO” and to take all things lightly. Sometimes, when you focus too much of your energy on one thing (especially when that focus is a problem) you end up missing out on all the other good things that are available in this moment. Very excited to visit the first Primal Kitchen in 2017 Mark!

Naomi
Naomi
7 months 29 days ago
For me, one of the top 2016 developments has been all the science on fasting and time restricted eating. Fascinating stuff! We are on Day 4 of a supported fast (i.e., not water-only; fat in our coffee and bone broth in the afternoon and evening), and our glucose and ketone numbers this morning were 64/5.6 and 67/5.9. We went into it already in nutritional ketosis, so it’s been surprisingly easy. We’re breaking it tonight for a Solstice party, because among all the other gifts Mark has provided me, balance is the most valuable, and connection with tribe seems more important… Read more »
Suji
7 months 29 days ago

Naomi, I have done intermittent fasting before but stopped after I had a bout of adrenal fatigue. I have been considering doing a low calorie fat based fast (exactly your protocol actually!) and seeing your post was the inspiration I needed! 😉

2Rae
2Rae
7 months 29 days ago

Oh, I want to do a fast as well. Details?

Suji
7 months 28 days ago

Mark wrote several posts on fasting. This would be a good place to start! Good luck! http://www.marksdailyapple.com/women-and-intermittent-fasting/

Matt
Matt
7 months 29 days ago

I’m not sure I understand the HDL one. So higher HDL could lead to cardiovascular issues, but higher HDL is a byproduct of a healthy lifestyle? I think I’m missing something. Does anyone understand this to explain it?

Naomi
Naomi
7 months 29 days ago

Thanks for asking this, Matt. I had the same problem. And since my latest HDL reading was 133 (direct LDL of 28), I need to understand this!

Nannsi
Nannsi
7 months 29 days ago

Same here.

David
David
7 months 29 days ago
There are two issues here: First is to distinguish between “high” and “extremely high”. High HDL is correlated with better health than low HDL, but for extremely high HDL things get worse again. Second is that the HDL level is not necessarily causative of good or bad health. So you may have: (1) Someone with healthy lifestyle, which causes high HDL, and good health (2) Someone else with bad lifestyle, which causes low HDL, and bad health (3) Someone else with bad lifestyle, taking medicine to increase HDL, so has high HDL, but still has bad health. Because the good/bad… Read more »
good apple
good apple
7 months 28 days ago

Really, really would like clarification too. My latest Total Chol. 240, HDL 120, LDL 110, Trigl. 51. Prior to Primal my numbers were Total Chol. 136, HDL 65, LDL 65, Trigl. 29. Am wondering if more exercise, more carbs, a multivitamin to cover the trace nutrients would help my latest numbers…or if my new numbers are good? The conflicting information is maddening.

rich
rich
7 months 26 days ago

Professor Grant Shofield (an advocate of a low carb diet pretty much equivalent to primal eating), questions the validity of this study (see link below).
Very high HDL can be a side effect of alcoholism, which would skew the results. He says the authors of the CANHEART study tried but failed to account for that.
https://profgrant.com/2016/11/10/the-canheart-study-is-higher-hdl-better-it-depends-but-the-answer-is-yes/

good apple
good apple
7 months 24 days ago

thanks for the info. sorry, not sure how to read this. I am a born-again Christian and do not drink alcohol whatsoever. no interest in it. no knowledge of it. just thought i’d clear that up. I think I will go back to my old eating routines. thank you thhough

Martha
7 months 29 days ago

What do you think of organically grown, sprouted Einkorn wheat?

Carol
Carol
7 months 29 days ago

Good on you Mark. You’ve been a tremendous inspiration worldwide. You’ve been prepared to put yourself out there. So hope this information gains mainstream acceptance. Can anyone be a Primal health Coach or is it just for health professionals?

Mandy
Mandy
7 months 29 days ago

I am still fairly new to PB; I stumbled across this community inMay-June of this year. I have some major takeaways from this change…
Primal eating is everywhere. Paleo/Primal is becoming much more widespread, and even in mainstream health articles I’m starting to notice an emphasis on the importance of fats and proteins, in place of carbs. No “diets” ever made sense to me before. This makes SENSE.

Also, I’ve learned to not fret so much over food, exercise, et cetera. And have FUN. That fun is a legitimate part of being (and staying) healthy. Thanks Mark and the PB community!!!

Bob
Bob
7 months 29 days ago

I’m taking the Primal Health Coaching Certification course and I just started Key Concept #7 this morning, titled Exercise is ineffective for weight management. Imagine my surprise when I read #10 above: Exercise is important for weight loss. Looking forward to reading more about this and getting some resolution around this topic so that I have a clear message for my clients.

David
David
7 months 29 days ago

Mark,
First off, thanks for all you do and share. I’ve learned a lot. Regarding CRISPR, I’m sure you’ve also seen and read about the latest technology called HITI that’s 10x faster and has cured 3? blind mice. If not, here it is: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/11/161116144134.htm

So do your HIIT, and then conduct research studies with HITI

Nocona
7 months 29 days ago

My prostate lies prostrate before your Primal Ranch Dressing!
Thanks Mark!

Kay
Kay
7 months 29 days ago

Mark, I always look forward to your posts and read them carefully, and I want to thank you for all you do. Happy Solstice!

Sonja
Sonja
7 months 29 days ago

Dear Mark and Team

So excited to hear you will build a Primal Kitchen Restaurant in Culver City.
Please invest the time, energy and finances to have a “Baubiologe” as your primary consultant right away and throughout the entire planning and building process. So you can have a building that is as healthy as can be for the people using it and the environment.

Good Luck!
Sonja

Cathy Ruckman
7 months 29 days ago

Whoa, how did I miss that legumes are back on the menu?! And you didn’t put a link on that one, tell me more, please? What about the evil lectins? What about the evidence of farts, not to put too fine a point on it?

That said…yes, please tell me more, I’ve miss lentils.

Pat G.
Pat G.
7 months 28 days ago

I discovered that I have a leaky gut! I did a Whole 30 in September and found out that I have issues with gluten — likely have had it for years, since I always thought I suffered from undiagnosed IBS. Going without, I found out what feeling “good” is like. Also — my hands get stiff from inflammation due to gluten, and not from arthritis (for which my now-retired doctor was suggesting taking one of those 12-hour pain pills; did nothing to help, and now I know why).

Julie
Julie
7 months 28 days ago

Legumes being back are like a big fat Christmas gift to me. I missed the original pronouncement and now am over the moon ecstatic. I’m pathetic.

Matisvijs
Matisvijs
7 months 28 days ago
By far the most important variable in terms of health is how well and deeply you sleep, imo. So here are some cutting edge sleep tips: I swear if you combine these tools you’ll fall asleep in under 5 minutes and feel better than you ever have the next morning! So the tools are: 1. Blue lights blocking glasses – http://amzn.to/2ifDMeY Wear these when you go to sleep or are working on the computer in the evening. Blocks out blue light so when it’s evening your brain actually thinks its evening. 2. Taurine – http://amzn.to/2hZcc5 Use 5g before bed. Besides… Read more »
Caesius
Caesius
7 months 26 days ago

So recent ancestral history sorta trump’s Paleo ancestry…by millions of years.

Mister Meat
Mister Meat
7 months 25 days ago
On 13. Evolutionary biology needs reworking, BIGTIME. “with its focus on natural selection as the primary driver of evolution, or should it expand to include other mechanisms and inputs like plasticity, creativity, culture, and epigenetics?” Darwinism is a LIE. The premise of natural selection aka survival of the fittest (or most adapted), the process leading to macro-evolution (evolving from one species to another), is false. Evolution in biology is in the epigenetics, adaptation to environment. No such thing as morphing from one species to another. ‘Small’ changes that benefit the species, is what happens as a result of adapting to… Read more »
Heather
Heather
7 months 25 days ago

Good article. Mark, any chance you or the worker bees could put up an update on what’s being done to fix the forums? Really disappointed how unusable they still are for searching and posting. I know you said recently this is a priority…

???? ???
2 months 18 days ago

so great

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