Weekend Link Love – Edition 189

Some guy named Jerry Tobbs (I might have that wrong) recently explained why he thinks the campaign to stop America’s obesity crisis keeps failing.

Here’s the winning entry from last month’s “ethics of meat eating” NY Times essay contest. What do you think?

Don’t eat green bacon (unless it’s St. Patrick’s day).

Amish farm kids are “remarkably immune” to allergies, a new study has found. Something tells me Amish moms aren’t slathering their kids with Purell.

We Want Paleo!, a new organization devoted to getting restaurants to start offering Paleo-friendly menu items, needs your help.

Epigenetics rears its lovely-but-potentially-deadly head once again, this time showing the effect of different sleep durations on the expression of genetic influences on body weight in sets of twins.

In a recent study, serum vitamin D levels of 50-60 nmol/liter were associated with the lowest all-cause mortality risk. Not all that surprising, right? But both very low (10 nmol/L) and very high (140 nmol/L) levels were associated with a higher risk of all-cause mortality. It’s a classic reverse J curve.

Recipe Corner

Time Capsule

One year ago (May 13 – May 19)

Comment of the Week

I voted 5+, but to be totally honest all occured this last weekend. 2minutes swordfighting max effort 4 times.

Run away from short barbarian horde (children)(about a minute) then avoid injury as you play dead when they catch up) 7 times. various throwing of javelins and axes and finally dodge four charging horses four times.

What can I say? Roman re-enacting is hard work!

– Now that’s the right kind of re-enactment, Ian.

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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61 thoughts on “Weekend Link Love – Edition 189”

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  1. How had I not heard of the “farm effect” before in the allergy discussion. Fascinating link on the Amish.

    And I’ve just put two and two together and discovered that corn tortillas make me feel like crap (I know, I know) so I’m psyched to see the bell pepper tacos. Thanks!

  2. 50-60 nmol/liter seems very very low compared to what has been recommended over recent years as “optimal”: 125-200 nmol/L. Which, near the low end, is what lifeguards and other people who spend a lot of time in the sun reach naturally.

    What could be causing the apparent increase in mortality — insufficient vitamin A, K2, and magnesium? Other confounding factors associated with people who spend a lot of time in the sun?

    1. Is it natural if the lifeguard reached that level with the aid of sunscreen?

    2. Given the high latitude of Copenhagen, I imagine that the higher levels of D were achieved via cod liver oil, not sun exposure.

      Vitamin A toxicity may be the confounding factor here. Dr. Cannell has written about this on the Vitamin D Council website.

    3. I have found that just because something is good, doesn’t mean the extreme is best.

      Now that it is near summer-time here in Florida, I find that I can only tolerate the sun in the morning, and the late afternoon. Being out in the middle of day is miserable. Just stepping out into the sun you can feel that it is too intense. The UV index is high everyday.

      Sondra brings up a good point with the vitamin A, but if vitamin A toxicity was the case they would see higher serum levels of calcium.


      In the Vitamin D study I think they were saying the serum calcium was low in the subjects with high vitamin d. I couldn’t look at the full text (have to pay) to be sure.

      Fish (cod) is high in vitamin d, while low in A, so maybe eating too much fish, or over-exposure to radiation is the factor here?

  3. I just finished reading the winning meat-eating essay, as well as all the finalists. They varied from absolutely ridiculous (Ingrid Newkirk), to rambling, to not-bad. The winner was pretty good, but I actually preferred the essay by Justin Green.

  4. The bell pepper “tacos” sound good but they are stuffed peppers not tacos. Also, “cauliflower mashed potatoes” are not mashed potatoes.

    1. Hah, this is my son’s pet-peeve. I’ll fix something like zucchini with pizza toppings and call it “squizza.” He’ll say: “This is good, mom, but stop pretending it’s pizza, because it’s not and it suffers in comparison.”

    2. That is being quite generous. You know what I have never wanted while eating a taco salad? A big bite of raw bell pepper. Look, a taco is great because of all of its ingredients – a corn tortilla being one of them. If you hand me some cumin-ey meat and some assorted veg on a bell pepper, there is no way a single person ever anywhere is going to think, mmm what a good taco that was. More than likely the sentiment will be closer to man bell peppers really aren’t very good raw.

      1. Are you kidding? Bell peppers are AWESOME raw! It’s the only way my kids will eat them (but not the green ones – they aren’t ripe!)

  5. The Amish kids articles made me laugh, the experts are at a loss again. Genetics? Exposure to germs on the farm?

    One word expains it: nutrition.

    They are probably living as close to the Nourishing Traditions style as possible.

    1. The amish are famous for eating tons of sweets. So while they may eat a pretty good diet otherwise, they fail on sugar intake.
      My vote goes with higher exposure to nature in all its grubby, wonderful glory, and less exposure to chemicals.

        1. There was a really great Radiolab segment where a guy gave himself tapeworms to rid himself of very severe allergies. The hypothesis was that tapeworms suppress the same immune response that triggers histamine reactions. And it worked! Maybe the Amish just have more worms…

    2. As a native of Lancaster County… yeah, the Amish aren’t too great on nutrition. “Pennsylvania Dutch” cooking is heavy on shortening, flour, and white sugar. There are plenty of natural-foods enthusiasts among the Amish as well, but on the whole I wouldn’t pick them as a shining example of Nourishing Traditions-style eating.

      I think that if they have advantages in health it comes from living more closely to the earth (literally) and moving a lot.

    3. The Amish and good nutrition? Don’t bet on it. The diet of the Amish around here is about 50% sugar, and the rest is white flour. And sure, they garden, but they pressure-can most of what they produce because they always have to be prepared for long bouts of unemployment with little or no income. What all the researchers seem to overlook is the role that social support and stable families play in human health. And Amish kids are allowed to really be KIDS. They are allowed to do things that all kids used to do 50 years ago, but which are looked upon now as child endangerment.

    4. I don’t know. Judging from what they sell on the roadside and publish in their cookbooks, it’s a lot of awesome looking cakes and doughnuts and pastries. Maybe that’s just what sells or they’re trying to weed out the competition, but I wonder what a real Amish diet would look like.

      1. Cakes and doughnuts sell very well. Liver sausage and headcheese do not (not to SAD-diet people anyway, LOL!)

        There are a lot of variations in diet among any group and the Amish are no exception. But they are more likely to view dessert as a treat and exercise as a requirement, rather than the other way around.

        (traditional recipes for doughnuts and pastries also use decent ingredients and put store-bought crap to shame, but that’s another story.)

    5. I think it’s more likely that it’s their good gut health due to no antibiotics during pregnancy and high levels of breastfeeding.

  6. signed up for ‘we want paleo’ hopefully restaraunts will start offering the option

  7. Jerry Tobbs? You mean Gary Taubes? Obviously…

    I’d like an explanation of what that error was all about.

    1. So this article doesn’t pop above Gary Taubes site on google search results 🙂

  8. Little confused about the green bacon thing; I’ve seen that on nitrate-free bacon, too, and was told that it had something to do with nonpathogenic bacteria and fat molecules. My, how my world has been turned!

    1. Yeah, don’t freak out about your green bacon just yet. That article is a couple OU “scientists” saying “Um yeah, we’ve seen that green bacon too, but we ignored the existing science & “discovered” it’s ‘nitrate burn’ but we’re gonna claim we discovered it even though it was already discovered, and um, oh yeah, we don’t know if it’s bad for people to eat it, so we need a pile of money so we can secure our financial futures & have a job for the rest of our lives studying it all over again.”

      It’s crap, important first step my ass, the first step would have been to Google it. Since my google is broken I put ‘nitrite burn’ into Yahoo’s search box and the first hit was

      APPLIED MICROBIOLOGY, Sept. 1972, p. 405-408 ‘Nitrite Burn in Fermented Sausage’

      “A rare outbreak of anaerobic nitrite burn in fermented sausage afforded the
      isolation and characterization of the offending microorgansim which was identified as a Staphylococcus sp. Unlike most staphylococci, this organism reduces nitrite as well as nitrate.

      Most manufacturers of fermented sausage
      use nitrite in the cure to effect the production of the cured meat pigment. In relatively rare instances, some fermented sausage makers still rely on a microbial reduction of nitrate to nitrite for color development. This sole reliance on microbes can lead to a color defect wherein a green discoloration is observed (2). The defect results from excessive nitrite accumulation and subsequent oxidation of the cured meat pigment to a distinct green color.”

      Then from that article a Yahoo search of ‘Staphylococcus sp.’ yielded:

      “Staphylococcus (from the Greek: ???????, staphyl?, “bunch of grapes” and ??????, kókkos, “granule”) is a genus of Gram-positive bacteria. Under the microscope, they appear round (cocci), and form in grape-like clusters.[1]

      The Staphylococcus genus includes at least 40 species. Of these, nine have two subspecies and one has three subspecies.[2] Most are harmless and reside normally on the skin and mucous membranes of humans and other organisms. Found worldwide, they are a small component of soil microbial flora.[3]”

      So eat up, you probably get more exposure from licking your fingers after pushing a shopping cart through a grocery store.

  9. I love the “We want paleo” idea. I hope they also target coffeeshops. I love coffeeshops, but all that they ever offer are breadlike substances. I’d love to see some Paleo options.

    1. Hear, hear! Even when they offer salads, they’re usually full of sugary dressing.

      The best option I’ve found so far is, surprisingly, Starbucks – which at least offers an assortment of nuts and the occasional apple, nuts, and cheese platter.

    2. Wikipedia, people!! Those researchers probably kept their mouths shut about this since they’d be out of a job & lose their grant money if this was commonly known, there’d be no hysteria to justify the “studies.”

      From Wikipedia re Biliverdin:

      “Biliverdin is a green tetrapyrrolic bile pigment, and is a product of heme catabolism.[1][2] It is the pigment responsible for a greenish color sometimes seen in bruises.[2]


      Biliverdin results from the breakdown of the heme moiety of hemoglobin in erythrocytes. Macrophages break down senescent erythrocytes and break the heme down into biliverdin, which normally rapidly reduces to free bilirubin.[1][3] Biliverdin is seen briefly in some bruises as a green color. Its breakdown into bilirubin in bruises, leads to a yellowish color.[2]
      [edit]Role in disease

      Biliverdin has been found in excess in the blood of humans suffering from hepatic diseases. Jaundice is caused by the accumulation of biliverdin or bilirubin (or both) in the circulatory system and tissues.[1] Jaundiced skin and sclera (whites of the eyes) are characteristic of liver failure.
      [edit]Role in treatment of disease

      While typically regarded as a mere waste product of heme breakdown, evidence that suggests that biliverdin — and other bile pigments — has a physiological role in humans has been mounting.[4][5]
      Bile pigments such as biliverdin naturally possess significant anti-mutagenic and antioxidant properties and therefore fulfill a useful physiological function.[5] Biliverdin and bilirubin have been shown to be potent scavengers of peroxyl radicals.[4][5] They have also been shown to inhibit the effects of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, heterocyclic amines, and oxidants — all of which are mutagens. Studies have even found that people with higher concentrations levels of bilirubin and biliverdin in their bodies have a lower frequency of cancer and cardiovascular disease.[4]
      A 1996 study by McPhee et al. suggested that biliverdin — as well as many other tetrapyrrolic pigments — may function as an HIV-1 protease inhibitor. Of the fifteen compounds tested, biliverdin was one of the most active. In vitro experiments showed that biliverdin and bilirubin competitively inhibited HIV-1 proteases at low micromolar concentrations, reducing viral infectivity. However, when tested in cell culture with micromolar concentrations, it was found that biliverdin and bilirubin reduced infectivity by blocking viral entry into cells. Results were found to be similar for HIV-2 and SIV. Further research is needed to confirm these results, and to determine whether unconjugated hyperbilirubinemia has any effect on the progression of HIV infection.[6]
      Current research has suggested that the anti-oxidant properties of biliverdin and other bile pigments may also have a beneficial effect on asthma. This is because oxidative stress may play a vital role in the pathogenesis of asthma. A 2003 study found that asthma patients suffering from jaundice brought on by acute hepatitis B exhibited temporary relief of asthma symptoms. However, there could also have been confounding factors such as elevated levels of cortisol and epinephrine, so more research into this possibility is required.[5]”

      1. Also check Biliverdin reductase:

        “BVR has also more recently been recognized as ***a regulator of glucose metabolism!!!*** and in cell growth and apoptosis control, due to its dual-specificity kinase character.[11] This control over glucose metabolism indicates that BVR may play a role in pathogenesis of multiple metabolic diseases – the notable one being diabetes, by control of the upstream activator of insulin growth factor-1 (IGF-1) and mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling pathway.[12]”

        And “Cells that experienced a 90% reduction in BVR experienced ***three times!!!*** normal ROS levels.[15]”

        There’s more there but I spam Mark’s page too much already, even if it’s interesting facts.

        Also check Sulfhemoglobinemia:

        “On June 8, 2007, Canadian anesthesiologists Dr. Stephan Schwarz, Dr. Giuseppe Del Vicario, and Dr. Alana Flexman presented an unusual case in The Lancet.[2] A 42-year-old male patient was brought into Vancouver’s St. Paul’s Hospital after falling asleep in a sitting position. When doctors drew the man’s blood during surgery to relieve pressure from his legs, the blood was green. A sample of the blood was immediately sent to a lab. In this case, sulfhemoglobinaemia was possibly caused by the patient taking higher-than-prescribed doses of sumatriptan.[3][4][5]”

        I’m sure he survived the green blood incident just fine & with no lasting harm or effects, don’t know that for a fact, just saying.

        I don’t worry about the green bacon, for me it’s more of a “fresh is higher nutrient density & quality” thing, I want my money’s worth! But if the bacon was a little green I wouldn’t it away, cause I’m CHEAP, otherwise known as thrifty, frugal, etc., whatever.

        Looks like even natural foods that are “iffy”, questionable & not too fresh are STILL better than any factory “foods.” Amazing!

  10. This one’s particularly timely for me, since a friend’s been here working for 3 weeks and we’ve eaten out a LOT. I’m managing to stay pretty Paleo, but I’m looking forward to fixing my own, again, knowing what’s in it, having exactly what I want rather than having to just say “please hold the beans/bread/rice/potatoes/ and could I have real butter, please, not margarine?” Some places we’ve taken to taking our OWN butter or good vinegar…

    We’re lucky to have a decent source of nitrite and nitrate-free bacon, though!

    1. Now all we need is a decent source of nitrite and nitrate-free vegetables!

      From Wikipedia re Sodium nitrite

      “Nitrites are a normal part of human diet, found in most vegetables.[14][15][16] Spinach and lettuce can have as high as 2500 mg/kg, curly kale (302.0 mg/kg) and green cauliflower (61.0 mg/kg), to a low of 13 mg/kg for asparagus. Nitrite levels in 34 vegetable samples, including different varieties of cabbage, lettuce, spinach, parsley and turnips ranged between 1.1 and 57 mg/kg, e.g. white cauliflower (3.49 mg/kg) and green cauliflower (1.47 mg/kg).[14][17] Boiling vegetables lowers nitrate but not nitrite.[14] Fresh meat contains 0.4-0.5 mg/kg nitrite and 4–7 mg/kg of nitrate (10–30 mg/kg nitrate in cured meats).[16] The presence of nitrite in animal tissue is a consequence of metabolism of nitric oxide, an important neurotransmitter.[18] Nitric oxide can be created de novo from nitric oxide synthase utilizing arginine or from ingested nitrate or nitrite.[19] Most research on negative effects of nitrites on humans predates discovery of nitric oxide’s importance to human metabolism and human endogenous metabolism of nitrite.”

    2. Cathy,

      I do the same thing. 🙂

      Please, please don’t drench my vegetables in a gallon of veggie oil!

      It’s really hard to assume what you are eating is safe. Almost everything contains gluten.

      Sometimes I am surprised by how food producers manage to get gluten into almost every food imaginable. It’s like they are trying or something.

  11. I grew up Amish and until I was 16, I didn’t know what a “cold” was, or what “acne” meant.

  12. I want to double-check my understanding of the units used to measure serum vitamin D in lab tests. The results mentioned in the study above are shown in units of nmol/L, and I’m accustomed to seeing my lab results (in the US) shown as ng/mL. I think that you divide nmol/L by 2.5 to get ng/mL. So the “optimal” 50-60 mnol/L would be equivalent to 20-24 ng/mL? And the “high” value of 140 mnol/L is 56 ng/ml? Am I doing that correctly?

      1. This is the conversion I have found online as well which makes no sense. This would mean the study is saying 20-24 ng/ml is optimal – which is a very low level. I think the study mixed up their units….Which would say a lot about it’s credibility. Hopefully Mark sees this and gives some clarification.

        1. In Europe they use nmol/L, so it’s not liekly to be a unit mix up.

          At that latitude, higher levels of D are likely to be acieved through cod liver oil, not sun exposure alone. It’s more likely to be Vitamin A toxicity or competition for D receptors by A that is the confounding factor.

          Dr. Cannell discusses this on the Vitamin D Council website.

  13. I enjoyed the article on the causes of obesity. What the article doesn’t mention is the enormous amount of money there is to be made in the American diet. I have to wonder if the obesity activists aren’t possibly funded by the food industry that needs people to eat they way they do for their profits. We subsdize the very things that are killing people.

    1. I think that is a very real possibility. And then of course people have to spend more money at the doctors or medical professionals to help with the ailments caused by said subsidised “foods”. Just conjecture of course. 🙂

    2. Maybe, but probably has more to do with the fact that paradigms change slowly. Consider that we have been made to fear fat for so long and have been convinced of the “simple” formula of “calories-in/calories-out” that changing this paradigm to something so dramatically different is not going to happen over night. Say the phrases “heart healthy…” and “artery clogging…” and most people give the appropriate “whole grains” and “saturated fat” respectively without thinking. A few “naysayers” like Gary Taubs aren’t going to change this quickly, despite how logical and scientifically sound the arguments.

      1. I have to agree with Debbie and Craig on this one. Heart healthy whole grains is a marketing term used to sell megatons of whole grains. (I hope “gut-irritating grains” catches on more.) But the only reason why there are megatons to begin with is subsidies.

        And Debbie is right on. The medical industry would be nothing with the food industry and government subsidies.

        I have always wondered how Gary Taubes would respond to this question…

        How do you explain countries, as in China, where high glycemic carbohydrates with little nutritional value are the main staple, but the people are not obese?

        Obesity has started to show up in major cities where western culture has had an impact.

        He seems to pick and choose his data.

        He ignores that high carb diets with low nutritional value have been around since the dawn of agriculture, yet obesity epidemics are new to us.

  14. A touch underwhelmed by the winning Ethicist entry. The overriding notion of giving thanks though, can’t really be faulted.
    I always marvel at, and thank the swine gods for their amazingly delicious epidermis.

    1. Agree, the five finalists were weak. Someone from PETA!?! Give me a break.

    2. Really? I think it was written in a way that’d be hard to argue against if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, and yet it’s not in anyone’s face, which I liked. Definitely don’t think I could have written it any better, any way.

      1. I thought one of the constraints was that we could not mention how animals were raised or killed or am I wrong? And I too thought the essay was weak. Gee I’d hate to read some of the losers!!

  15. From the Amish kids article: “… the mysterious factors that seem to protect farm kids …”. Yeah, it’s a HUUUUGE mystery, isn’t it? Some magic without doubt. Those pesky Amish are for sure involved in witchcraft! :-))

    I (a town child) will have to thank my father for taking me every weekend to his father’s place in the village and almost forcing me to take hikes in the woods. I did not love it back then, now I can appreciate it.

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  16. Interesting that the essay that won violated the contest rules – i.e. connected the “ethics” of meat eating to the way in which the meat was raised. I thought that was why the contest was so flawed in the first place. Lesson learned: break the rules and write what you think is a good essay anyway.

  17. This line from the ethics article sits very well with me, and works for me. I think the winner did a great job, because his argument is deeply felt, but also deeply rational:

    “Which leads to my main argument: eating meat raised in specific circumstances is ethical; eating meat raised in other circumstances is unethical. Just as eating vegetables, tofu or grain raised in certain circumstances is ethical and those produced in other ways is unethical.”

  18. Of course green bacon is safe to eat! That’s what the Angry Birds eat isn’t it?

  19. My new favorite place to eat out is Ted’s Grill, the chain owned by billionaire mogul/rancher Ted Turner. The serve grass fed beef and bison, wild caught salmon and trout, and have great options for veggies. Though I’m sure the recipes aren’t PURE paleo, they are quite tasty and about the closest you can get at most restaurants. I love the cranberry chicken, almond crusted trout and their broccoli with butter and creamed spinach sides.

  20. “‘But, we have discovered that a simple chemical process, which inhibits the flow of oxygen in the blood and degrades the blood protein hemoglobin, causes the blood to turn from red to green. Identifying the degraded blood components allowed us to characterize the related green pigment seen in bacon and other meats.'”
    That sounds like they’ve re-worded a description of “Blue Baby Syndrome” – aka methemoglobinemia. Which is essentially nitrite poisoning from excess nitrate fertilizers running into drinking water in ag areas. I can’t find a reference but could have sworn Dr. Atkins said dairy products inhibited the nitrate-nitrite conversion, and I think vitamin C is also supposed to prevent the conversion.
    My pediatrician had originally told me not to make a first baby food out of dark leafy greens to try to keep nitrates down as a just-in-case measure.