A couple weeks back, the LA Times published a piece on a geneticist’s experience with “personalized medicine.” Based on careful and constant monitoring of his sequenced DNA and around 40,000 health markers – or “omics” – over 14 months by a team of his colleagues, Stanford geneticist Michael Snyder observed in painstaking detail exactly what his body was doing during periods of sickness and health. If and when a viral infection entered the picture, Snyder and his team could watch how thousands of biomarkers responded. He could track its invasion, his body’s battle against it, and its eventual retreat. Although Snyder had no family history of diabetes, his sequenced DNA revealed he was at risk for it, so he began monitoring his blood sugar. Sure enough, a couple weeks after the viral infection, he noticed that his glucose was abnormally elevated. Analysis of his “omics” profile during the infection showed that auto-antibodies, which are often produced by the body in response to infections, had begun targeting an insulin receptor-binding protein which impaired his ability to clear glucose from the blood. Snyder was eventually diagnosed with the disease (but later fought it off with diet and meds), and though it isn’t spelled out clearly in the article, it sounds like the fallout from the viral infection may have precipitated his development of type 2 diabetes.
A time-honored and research-tested way to extend an animal’s lifespan is to restrict its caloric intake. Studies repeatedly confirm that if, say, a lab mouse normally gets two full bowls of lab chow a day, limiting that mouse to one and a half bowls of lab chow a day will make that mouse live longer than the mouse eating the full two bowls. Cool, cool, a longer life is great and all, but what about the downsides of straight calorie restriction, aside from willfully restricting your food intake, ignoring hunger pangs, relegating yourself to feeling discontent with meals, and counting calories and macronutrients obsessively? Are there any others? Sure:
Loss of muscle mass. Humans undergoing calorie restriction often suffer loss of lean muscle mass and strength, all pretty objectively negative effects (unless you really go for the gaunt “Christian Bale in The Machinist” look and use a super-strong bionic exoskeleton for all your physical tasks).
A hallmark of the Primal Blueprint is that our genetics were shaped by our ancestral environment. That the foods to which we had access, the amount of sun and stress and sleep to which our bodies became accustomed, the movement patterns in which we engaged represented environmental factors that exerted selective pressure on our genetic makeup and phenotypic expression to make us who we are today. As a result, heeding those environmental factors generally results in excellent health. And, even more importantly, many evolutionarily novel environmental factors – like grains, refined sugar, and high omega-6 vegetable oils (plus chronic stress, poor sleep, and all that other good stuff ) – are things to which we’ve only recently been exposed. When we are exposed to them in excess, like in say 21st century America, it generally results in poor health. Hence our current predicament.
A couple weeks ago, I wrote about how becoming an efficient fat-burner helps mitochondrial function, and last week I went over some of the nutrients and supplements most important for your mitochondria. All good and all useful, but today I’m going to talk about another route: exercise. It makes intuitive sense that mitochondria are profoundly affected by exercise, doesn’t it? They are the power plants of the cells (and that goes for muscle cells), they are the organelles that convert fat, protein, and glucose into usable energy – and continuously producing ample amounts of cellular energy to lift heavy things, run really fast (or really far at a slower pace), or jump high is what exercise is all about. What I like about exercise is that it’s an entirely self-contained lifestyle modification. Modifying your energy pathways from sugar to fat and obtaining certain nutrients requires eating different foods and different amounts of those foods, and supplementing (obviously) requires taking supplements. But exercise is entirely up to you. If you want to. It’s a subtle distinction, but an important one. And an empowering one, if you ask me.
I receive a lot of emails from folks worried about losing too much weight on the Primal Blueprint, underweight readers who need to gain weight, or the formerly overweight who have reached their target weight and wish to stay put. No, they don’t outnumber the questions from overweight readers, but that’s to be expected given the obesity rates in industrialized countries, from which most of MDA’s readers hail. Anyway, with the frequency of those emails increasing, I decided to take a look through the archives for pertinent posts. Other than the post on how to gain weight and build muscle, I realized that gaining weight hasn’t been addressed at length on MDA. I’ve explained how to pack on muscle mass, but what about the folks who aren’t going to squat heavy and don’t care about getting 70′s big?
Is Primal right for those people? I’m talking about:
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