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  1. #1
    Lewis's Avatar
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    Nora's Book

    Primal Fuel
    I got a copy of Nora Gedgaudas' Primal Body - Primal Mind.

    It's a remarkable read. I'd say it's the first book I've come across since Weston Price's Nutrition and Physical Degeneration that really gives a sense that this - i.e. diet - is it, that it's the missing piece of the puzzle that explains so much else. With Price's book it's the cumulative effect of all those photographs of teeth and faces, together with the text. With this one it's a relentless quality in the text and a citing of a lot of information.

    If you were to talk to people who teach disciplines such as Alexander Technique or Feldenkrais, you'd hear a lot about physical degeneration in terms of "bad use" - and the difficulties artificial environments cause people (chairs, for example):

    What's Wrong With the Chair

    But it's difficult to read Ms. Gedgaudas, as it is to read Price, and not come away with a strong sense that many of the "physical" (and "mental") problems of civilized societies are at bottom biochemical and, ultimately, nutritional.

    The book's poorly proofread, and the author is not a good stylist. However, some later chapters read better and left me wondering whether parts of the book had been published before and been through a more rigorous editorial process at the time. There's somewhat of a patchwork feel to the book, too. However, there's so much thought-provoking material and such a interesting perspective on it that these aspects hardly matter. I think Nora might seem alarmist at points to some - particularly on matters such as EMR where we have no definite knowledge - but she comes across as basically sensible. I think far more so than Professor Cordain.

    Obviously, Cordain is a well educated man with a university chair, and he has some writing out there that seems highly significant - Cereal Grains: Humanity’s Double-Edged Sword, for example. But he doesn't always seem to have his feet on the ground. On page 26 of The Paleo Diet he has a woman consuming 12 oz. of halibut, three pork chops, and some shrimp. One wonders how this woman would feed a family. I see her going to the fishmonger and ordering 4 pounds of halibut and a few pints of shrimps, then trekking off to the butcher for fifteen pork chops - and the cantaloupes, of course (there always seem to be cantaloupes) - and reflect this is her shopping for one day, and the mind boggles. If you read Sally Fallon, you at least know she has fed a family on her suggested recipes. And, anyway, is such a large quantity of lean meat going to be good for this woman? Cordain says you'll lose weight on this, because the protein has to be converted before it's burnt and that takes a lot of energy. Nora, who cautions people against eating too much protein, says if you're eating more than is necessary for body-repair and burning it - as Cordain wants (though she doesn't say it) - then, as you're converting it to glucose, you're teaching yourself to become a "sugar-burner". You're also over-burdening your kidneys with nitrogenous matter that must be eliminated. Besides that, you're going to have less energy than is optimal for the business of living, because of the energy you have to put into the conversion. This touches on an area that repeatedly comes up in other contexts.

    For Nora, you're either a "fat-burner" or a "sugar-burner", and you'd better be the former, if you don't want a host of problems.

    Nora's definitely not scared of fat. Cordain bangs the "artery-clogging saturated fat" drum repeatedly in The Paleo Diet. And here he's clearly wrong - both in its effect on our bodies, and in terms of what our ancestors ate. Cordain repeatedly talks of "my research team and I" spending years finding out what hunter-gatherers ate - and you wonder how people could spend so long going so far wrong. At one point I recall his saying that he had consulted "world-class archaeologists and anthropologists" and really you can only wonder of the competence of these archaeologists and anthropologists. It's a shame he didn't read, for example, Myra Shackley's Using Environmental Archaeology, a standard text which has been around in a cheap paperback edition since 1985. And he'd only have to have read Selous on elephant hunting to find out how the African tribesmen handled elephant carcases, often taking the organs, cutting out the cavity fat, and abandoning the rest of the carcase. Ice Age Man is not likely to have treated a mammoth carcase any differently. (And any anthropologist ought to know these things.)

    There are accounts describing hunters sometimes eating pounds of meat at a sitting - and even falling asleep satiated, waking up and beginning again. But this isn't lean meat. And if the hunters don't kill again, their people might not eat for two or three days.

    So there we are. She's basically sensible, and the book's interesting.

    Before I forget, she's specially interesting on osteoporosis, noting the synergism between vitamins D, A, and K, and pointing out that while "[calcium] gives bones their hardness. Hardness without [the] strength and flexibility afforded by a protein matrix leads to weak, brittle bones". Why is this important?

    If a "sugar-burner" should attempt to starve themself [sic] or overly restrict calories, then the body will tend to convert its own protein stores from muscle and even bone to sugar to burn for fuel
    Again, don't be a "sugar-burner".

  2. #2
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    I'm reading that book now. I agree it is good and not flakey like so many lifestyle books.

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    I had not heard of this book but will check it out. Besides the style points that you noted, the other criticisms of the book are that many of her claims are not backed by research. For decades I have told countless doctors that I believed my health issues were diet related and they of course told me I didn't know what I was talking about. It wasn't until the last year or so that I found out that I was right. I'm interested on her viewpoint and will look for her book.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mizski View Post
    ... the other criticisms of the book are that many of her claims are not backed by research.
    I don't know that there's any original research in the book at all. Some of it is fairly speculative, some a little alarmist. And I really don't know what she means by saying, for example, that we should know that iodized salt contains "iodide not iodine".

    There are also tables reprinted from this or that book and extracts by permission of so-and-so, and all that contributes to the "patchwork" effect. There aren't any footnotes, although there are some sources listed in the back. She also makes some slightly hazy references. So, for example, she'll say that it was found that people living in isolated communities and eating traditional foods at the beginning of the 20th century had levels of fat soluble vitamins at some ten times that of the American diet of the day. Then she's got "Price" in brackets. That's not a reference. I've seen some of the WAPF people quote this figure, and I shouldn't be surprised if it were accurate, but where did Price say this? I think he did publish some figures for some important minerals in various diets, and maybe he did publish figures on fat soluble vitamins, but it would be nice to know where.

    It's just that in spite of everything there's a lot of interest there. I think her basic message of "low carbohydrate, moderate protein, and adequate fat" is probably the right one, too. It's good to have another perspective on Paleo/Primal, as well.

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    I agree the book reads as a somewhat patchwork of notes and anyone reading it for the first time could easily get lost in the amount of information overload. I think she needed better organization and a better editor.

    I also agree that there is no "original" research in the book but then neither does Mark's PB book. However, that does not take away from their useful information.

    If you read Mark's PB book first and then follow up with Nora's PB/PM book, Nora's book fills in some holes left from Mark's book.

    As for the iodide vs iodine, the two are chemically different and used differently by the thyroid. Iodine is a pure element used by the thyroid to produce hormones, whereas iodide is a compound containing iodine ion(s) such as sodium iodide in processed table salt. Iodide inhibits the uptake of iodine by the thyroid and may lead to hypothyroidism.
    Last edited by Asturian; 08-08-2010 at 12:40 PM.
    “It is a truism that almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creeds into law if it acquires the political power to do so, and will follow it by suppressing opposition, subverting all education to seize early the minds of the young, and by killing, locking up, or driving underground all heretics.”
    —Robert A. Heinlein

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    I just took a peek at Nora's website and blog and she really has a LOT of interesting things to say. Thanks again, Lewis, for starting this thread.

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    I have it, great book, fills in the gaps.
    You'll never see the light if you're in someone else's shadow, or said another way, life is like a dog sled team, if you're not the lead dog, the scenery never changes

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    This is coming in my next Amazon box o' delight. Looking forward to it. Love the Paleolithic cave art on the cover.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Asturian View Post
    As for the iodide vs iodine, the two are chemically different ...
    You imagine that elemental iodine occurs in foodstuffs? Good grief.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Asturian View Post
    As for the iodide vs iodine, the two are chemically different and used differently by the thyroid. Iodine is a pure element used by the thyroid to produce hormones, whereas iodide is a compound containing iodine ion(s) such as sodium iodide in processed table salt. Iodide inhibits the uptake of iodine by the thyroid and may lead to hypothyroidism.
    No, not true. The body absorbs and uses iodide. Iodine is not around much. Although you will see nutritional discussions use iodide and iodine interchangeably, iodide is what is used biologically.

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