The popular story of how low-carb diets work goes something like this: Reducing your carbohydrate...
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...Tell Me More
For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m talking about a new rodent study has just been released that seems to identify the general low-carbish, Primal-ish way of eating as bad for GI tract health. I know, I know. It seems odd, especially since so many people get relief from digestive disorders, inflammatory bowels, and irritable guts after ditching grains and eating more animals and plants. I’ve certainly benefited from going Primal, having spent decades of my life being ruled by IBS to enjoying pristine bowel health the last decade and counting. But what do I and millions of others know?
Let’s dig into it.
For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering a few questions about grass-feeding several of you raised in last week’s comment section. First, is there a difference between grass-fed and grass-finished?What is the difference between grass-fed and grass-finished? Next, is it true that lamb is by definition grass-fed? Are there actually lamb feedlots, or can we be certain that the lamb we eat lived a fairly decent, grassy life? And finally, what about grass-fed eggs? Does such a thing even exist? After all, when most of us think about happy egg producers, i.e. fowl, are they munching away on their fair share of freshly sprouted greens?
Let’s find out:
We all know vegetarians and vegans. And while we have our differences, they are our friends, our family, our partners, our spouses, even our children. We all have people in our lives who avoid meat and/or animal products in general for multiple reasons—health, ethics, the environment, squeamishness, animal welfare—but we care about them. We also subscribe, with varying degrees of rigidity, to an eating philosophy based on the nutritional importance of animal foods. How do we reconcile these competing loyalties? Should we give up on them? Are they a lost cause? Should we simply wait for them to come limping toward us with sallow skin and low muscle tone? I kid, of course. We should absolutely help where and when we can.
Yet telling them to “just eat meat” doesn’t work. If anything, it’s counterproductive. Instead, we can offer productive, legitimately helpful advice from a Primal perspective. Like:
For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering one question. It’s a burning one, though, judging from the deluge of emails I’ve received in the past few days. A new study has just come out purporting to show the deleterious effects of a “paleo diet” on weight gain, fat gain, and glucose tolerance in type 2 diabetics. It sounds alarming, so today I’m going to explore just how relevant this study is for you guys following a Primal eating plan. Should you be concerned with the results? Is it time to start radically restructuring the way you eat? I’ll evaluate the study, and its larger implications, to let you know.
The popular story of how low-carb diets work goes something like this:
Reducing your carbohydrate intake lowers your insulin levels. Since insulin keeps fat locked into adipose tissue, lowering insulin can increase the amount of fat released to be burned for energy.
For the portion of the overweight/obese population with insulin resistance and chronically-elevated insulin levels, this is a fairly accurate description of why low-carb diets work so well. When you’re an insulin-resistant hyper responder in whom even a baked potato can cause elevated, protracted spikes in insulin that hamper fat-burning for long periods of time, or a person living under the backdrop of perpetually-elevated insulin, dropping the most insulinogenic foods can be your way out of obesity.
A couple weeks ago, I linked to an article discussing the “obesity paradox”—the idea that across many different studies and populations, people with slightly overweight and even obese BMIs often have the lowest mortality risk. The author is Harriet Brown, a supporter of the “Health At Every Size” movement, comes down hard on the side of overweight/obesity as safe and even beneficial. At first glance, she makes a strong case. She appears to cite compelling research. She talks to obesity researchers who’ve found protective links between higher BMIs and better health and been lambasted by their colleagues. And if the general consensus is right, and carrying extra weight is so unhealthy, why are obesity and overweight consistently associated with a lower risk of death?
The future prospects of antibiotics look grim. Headline after headline proclaims the mounting resistance to antibiotics among pathogenic bacteria and the impending inefficacy of our best drugs to fight them. Antibiotic-resistant “pig MRSA” has been documented moving from pigs to people in several countries, including Denmark and Holland. That same MRSA has also been found in the US, England, and is likely brewing wherever pigs and other animals are intensively raised. And just recently, researchers discovered that MCR-1, the gene responsible for resistance to the “last line of defense” antibiotic—polymixin, the one we use when everything else has failed—is transferable between different strains of E. coli. Formerly relegated to pigs, E. coli and K. pneumoniae bacteria with the MCR-1 mutation have appeared in human subjects in several Chinese hospitals. Transferring the gene between different bacterial species is theoretically harder, but that it’s possible at all has raised alarms in the scientific community.
It’s not just industrial farms and antibiotic overuse causing the resistance. Even the scientists studying the problem and running experiments with antibiotics could very well be promoting antibiotic resistance on a larger scale.
There’s nothing like charcoal-grilled meat. It’s not just the food itself, although that’s amazing. It’s the entire experience: being outside in fresh (albeit smokey) air, the sizzle when you slap that meat down on the hot grill, the smell of the smoke. Even the tools we use when grilling are bigger and savager and more rewarding than the dainty implements used inside. We don’t gently flip the steak. We grab it with huge metal tongs and throw it down. There’s less precision and more art. And the flavor can’t be found anywhere else. The smoke, the flame, the char, the grill marks, the color, the dripping fat—they are irreplaceable.
But is it healthy? Is that perfect sear costing you years off your life? Are those BBQ ribs adorning your colonic interior with pre-cancerous polyps?
I’m sure you’ve seen the rash of fear-mongering headlines proclaiming red meat to be as carcinogenic as smoking. In fact, I know so because dozens of you have asked me for my thoughts. What’s going on? Do we need to worry? What actually happened? Why have your vegan friends become even more smug than before? Why did your crazy aunt send an email in all caps pleading for you to stop eating “so much beef”?
Citing a short summary paper of a much larger study, earlier this week the World Health Organization (WHO) named processed meat a definite human carcinogen and red meat a probable human carcinogen. That’s frightening at first glance. I mean, the WHO? Great band, weren’t quite the same after Keith Moon died, but for my money they’ve always delivered quality health information. When they issue a report about dietary carcinogens, I listen up.
Prior to 1980, how in the world did anyone know how to eat? When you think of all the centuries, the millennia of human existence, how did the species manage to survive bumbling their way through day after day of undirected eating patterns? I’m guessing those of you who know me expected a few irreverent remarks when you read the title of today’s post. Still, I’ll try to keep myself on a short leash today. It’s a legitimate and even, in some regards, culturally (and probably politically) significant question: why were government dietary guidelines ever put in place—and what was the backstory of their uses and modifications over time? Finally, what perspective can it bring to our understanding of embracing a “niche” dietary model like the Primal Blueprint?