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
Go back 160,000 years and we all share a common ancestor: The emergence of the first Homo sapiens in East Africa. Since then, humans have spread across every environment imaginable and adapted to those environments. Much remains the same. We all breathe oxygen, require protein, produce insulin, oxidize fatty acids. But extended stays in unique environments have created genetic proclivities in different populations. For example, descendants of people who settled in high-altitude areas like the Himalayas, the Andes, and the Ethiopian highlands tend to show greater resistance to low-oxygen environments, while the Greenland Inuit show unique adaptations to cold environments, including increased activity of heat-stimulating brown fat. And among the island-dwellers of Sardinia, where the landscape constrained the amount of available food, there’s considerable evidence of positive selection for short stature.
What other differences exist, and how can we explore them to inform and improve our own diet and lifestyle choices?
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.
We know how important gut health is for overall health. We understand that it improves digestion, that our pursuit of extreme sterility has compromised our immune systems, and that the gut biome is etiologically involved in the pathogenesis of various health and disease states. We’re even familiar with the more esoteric functions of gut bacteria, like converting antinutrients into biovailable nutrients, synthesizing sex hormones and neurotransmitters, and mitigating the allergenicity of gluten. But what about gaining and losing body fat, the real reason most people get interested in diet in the first place—are the bacteria in your gut responsible for the fat on it?
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?
For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering three reader questions. The first comes from Chris, who’s a little worried his one-year-old isn’t eating a wide enough variety of foods. As it turns out, he doesn’t need to worry, though I do offer a few suggestions for foods to include or offer. Next, how should Verria, a long-time vegan, transition to Primal? Is there anything to watch out for? What physiological and psychological issues will Anita have to face and overcome? And finally, what tips do I have for a fibromyalgia patient whose condition hasn’t improved on a strict very low-carb, high-fat diet?
I know parents who have “yes” days with their kids—days when the kids can ask for just about anything (barring the hazardous, illegal, harmful or physically impossible) and the parents have agreed to go with it. While the idea assuredly raises some eyebrows and probably isn’t for every family or age/personality of child, I’ve observed that it’s rarely the Pandora’s Box most people would assume.
On the first round, kids might try to push the limits out of sheer curiosity to see how far they can ride that train—how far they can push the parental units. With time and steadiness on the parents’ parts, however, the kids generally settle into a happy but reasoned approach in which their requests end up reflecting their parents’ values to a startling degree. They plan a healthy picnic or cook a healthy, albeit strangely assembled meal together. They ask for an extended family activity or day trip that includes some hiking or biking or family sport. It becomes more about their self-determination and maybe some creative embellishments than flying in the face of the normal family guidelines, oddly even if they’re subject for regular complaint. Nonetheless, the fun factor just went through the roof. We adults can learn something from this….