Ladies, I’m concerned about the skinny-fat among us. You know what I’m talking about. Skinny-fat women might look nice in a v-neck, but they’d sooner crawl into a hole than expose an upper arm or leg. This is what happens when you become “skinny fat” instead of genuinely lean and fit (where the muscle and fat are fairly evenly distributed and you have a lot less cellulite). While you can’t fight your body’s natural shape, you can certainly maximize what you’ve got. What I’m talking about is the difference between curvy and super-fit Gabby Reece or Evangeline Lilly and certain starving-yet-sagging starlets (I won’t name names, mainly because there are too many these days and who can be bothered to keep track). Skinny-fatness strikes women a lot more than men. I think this is mainly because men aren’t afraid of lifting weights to lose weight (and, to be fair, men naturally do have so much more muscle and far less fat). We women, on the other hand, evidently prefer inventing bizarre and complicated diet regimens revolving around arcane preparation rituals, subsistence on one food group or arbitrary calorie limits (whoever said women were bad at math has never met a woman 2 weeks before her high school reunion or 2 days before a date). Simply dieting will eliminate weight, but it won’t tone anything. And because of our unique feminine physiology, the fat cells in our lower body are world-class clingers. But before you get too depressed about the latest Kate Moss advertisement, consider this: I’m bringing this up because skinny-fatness is about a lot more than physical appearance. In fact, your dress size has nothing on the bigger issue – health. The good news: simply being skinny is not akin to being healthy. In fact, the skinnier you get, the more you’re at risk for things like osteoporosis! (There I go beating that llama again.) The less muscle you have, the less work your bones have to do, and they begin to shed that incredibly valuable osseous material: your bones, which are, in fact, living tissues directly related to your blood, immune system, strength, longevity – even your mood. You know how coral reefs are actually living organisms that provide all sorts of vital and irreplaceable functions to the fish and plants and water surrounding them? Your bones are your body’s coral reef. You have to feed them, and weight-bearing activity = food for bones. In this country of aerobic fanatics and serial dieters, is it any wonder American women have such high rates of osteoporosis and a perpetual state of skinny-fatness? I watched my own mother live on Tab and jazzercise during the early 80s, and now, faced with bone trouble, she’ll be the first to tell you: lift something! Who wants to look like Nicole Ritchie, now seriously? I’d rather look like Evangeline! There’s only ONE solution to the problems we women face: osteoporosis, beach season, and the belly that won’t budge. The solution is weight-bearing activity. … Continue reading “Skinny-Fat”
I can’t tell you how furious I am about what I feel is the meat industry’s blatant disregard for human health. While I’m no vegetarian, I saw this study in the Archives of Internal Medicine, and let’s just say, I’m not buying the “Happy Cows” line.
The researchers looked at 90,000 women. That’s a huge study. They compared US and UK women, and here’s what they found:
Eating more than 1.5 servings of meat daily doubles a young woman’s risk of breast cancer. What concerns me is the type of cancer which had double the risk: hormone receptor-positive breast cancer. To me, that says something pretty sobering about the meat industry’s production habits.
Both the study, and the BBC News article that covered it, are cautious to merely “suggest” a link between eating red meat and increasing – doubling – the risk of breast cancer. It doesn’t take much to read between the lines here.
The reason I think this study is really important to highlight is not because I hope to bandy a statistic like “double the risk!” about. (Remember the Statistics Game: always consider context and relative risk or results.) It’s important because the women who ate high amounts of red meat had double the risk of hormone receptor-positive breast cancer. That is a big issue, namely, because the American meat industry uses growth hormone like it’s manna from Heaven. Growth hormone helps the animals get bigger, faster, which translates more profit – but I’m pretty skeptical about how this practice could possibly be in the interest of public health. I just wonder how these people sleep at night knowing their profits come at the expense of other human beings.
Personally, I believe it’s clear that human physiology supports being omnivorous. No culture anywhere at any time has done without some sort of animal flesh, whether it’s fish, beef or reindeer. So I’m not “anti-meat”. However, I am strongly opposed to the way meat is produced in this country: quickly, unethically, with little regard for the animals or the people eating the animals. That’s why I only buy meat that is free-range, local, organic and definitely hormone-free.
The researchers were careful not to draw any ultimate conclusions. I think we can probably begin to draw our own, with some additional critical considerations:
1) Processed meats generally contain a chemical known as heterocyclic acid, which has been shown to cause cancer;
2) Red meat, of course, contains iron, which can sometimes encourage the growth of some types of tumors (though this isn’t a significant concern, likely);
3) The standard line: “The biggest risk factors for breast cancer remain gender and increasing age.” This from specialist Maria Leadbeater, quoted in the BBC article. Fair enough.
[tags] breast cancer, beef, red meat, cancer, factory farming, growth hormone, omnivore, Maria Leadbeater, BBC, hormone receptor, heterocyclic acid, risk factors [/tags]
You’re still here? Go eat these foods!
Okay, we cringe a little bit at the word “superfood”. No food wears a cape. Still, there are foods that pack major nutritional punch.
A few of our top picks:
1. Berries, because…
– Blueberries are best, but blackberries, raspberries, cranberries, strawberries and bilberries are all excellent
– They contain antioxidants called anthocyanins
– They fight infections (especially urinary tract infections)
– How much: 1/2 cup whenever you like
2. Fish, because…
– Choose deep-‘n-cold-water fish like salmon and red tuna
– Northern Pacific is better than Atlantic (less pollution)
– You can’t get enough Omega-3 fatty acids
– How much: twice a week, or more, plus an Omega supplement
– Remember: Don’t fry or bread it!
3. Dark, Leafy Greens, because…
– Pick spinach, kale, bok choy, chard, dark lettuce
– Greens contain beta-carotene, C, folate, iron, magnesium, carotenoids, phytochemicals, and antioxidants.
– Greens reduce your risk of diabetes because they’re easy on your insulin response mechanism. In other words, they won’t give you a sugar rush, jelly belly, or mood swing.
Look for more heroic foods soon. No spandex tights – we promise.
[tags] greens, spinach, kale, bok choy, chard, vitamins, antioxidants, phytochemicals, nutrients, magnesium, iron, folate, beta-carotene, omega-3’s, fish, salmon, red tuna, berries, anthocyanins, superfoods [/tags]
Lying, Twisting and Manipulating: The Statistics Game Drug Companies Play Faced with high insurance rates, long hours, endless paperwork, and high-pressure demands, doctors don’t have an easy time of it. If you’re blessed enough to have a thoughtful, proactive, cautious M.D., let them know, by all means. Doctors are inundated with free drug samples, bonuses and perks from Big Pharma, and even the most well-intentioned practitioner can face dilemmas. Case in point: even the most careful doctors are getting misleading information from many medical journals. It’s one of the most serious problems facing healthcare and medicine today. Scientists and medical experts are expressing increasingly loud concerns about the ethical standards of medical publications. Some journals and publications have essentially become an extended limb of advertising for drug companies. The problem isn’t just in the expensive pharmaceutical ads that provide a means of financial survival for scientific and medical news publications. Many of the studies themselves are funded directly by pharmaceutical companies, making the journals de facto supporters of such companies. Or, doctors participating in the studies also serve positions in various companies. It’s troubling enough that independent news sources, supposedly impartial and peer-reviewed by other scientists and medical experts, are vulnerable. But even government agencies aren’t immune. The CDC, FDA and NIH have all faced huge criticism in recent years for obvious conflicts of interest. How is Big Pharma getting away with this? Simple: we let them. Here is what frequently occurs: For starters, when companies fund studies of their own drugs – big shock – there are almost never unfavorable results. When there are, they’re simply omitted, or a new study is funded. A fairly recent review found that when a study is funded by the company producing the drug, positive results happen four times more often than when impartial studies by independent researchers are conducted. According to the Public Library of Science, an impartial public access resource (check it out in my Daily Reads at right), “between two-thirds and three-quarters” of the studies reported in the top journals are paid for by pharmaceutical companies. According to the Library, companies aren’t bold enough (or unwitting enough) to skew the results. They simply ask questions they know will yield the “right” results. How convenient. Another problem: even though journals are usually reviewed by colleagues, if companies are using the same study again and again, but presenting it in different ways, editors have no way of knowing. Editors try to maintain strict ethical integrity, but it can be next to impossible to know the origin, conflicts or “right questions” involved in some studies. Before I started Primal Nutrition, I served a stint as an editor of a large national health magazine, and I certainly empathize with editors – as my staff knows all too well, information is always changing and getting to the truth is a ceaseless quest that demands constant vigilance. Of course, the truth is worth it. The stakes – Americans’ health – are too high. Clearly, this is … Continue reading “Bite Me, Big Pharma”
Apples are asking what I think about bread. The short answer: not very much. But this is an ongoing issue worthy of some debate, so let’s get it started:
In general, the best source of carbohydrates is a vegetable, not a grain (unless you are an athlete, in which case, you’re probably just trying to consume as many calories as possible).
Among other things, grains contain lectins, a mild toxin (is there such a thing as a mild toxin?). Technically, grains don’t “want” to be your next meal. They didn’t really evolve to be our food source – we humans exploited them when we figured out how easy they were to grow. Consequently, they’re in everything – especially processed foods – because they’re cheap and can be made into just about anything, from sauces to syrups to candies to side dishes.
It’s not for nothing that our ancestors ate only flesh (meat and fish), nuts, roots, fruits and berries, and grabbed at wild greens for fiber. In fact, there’s a whole dietary movement – sometimes called the Caveman diet, sometimes the Paleo diet – we cautiously subscribe to (I’m uncomfortable with extreme diets, though I also am uncomfortable with how we define “extreme”!) Why? Grains are a relatively new thing for humans, and the evidence increasingly points to the notion that this isn’t a good development. If you’re into learning more, check out our Carbs category.
I recommend that you stick to zero grains a day. On the whole, I stick to vegetables for my carbs – I just don’t really “do” carbs. Vegetables have far more vitamins, fiber and minerals than grain-sourced carbohydrates, and they are much lower in calories, giving you room for protein and vital fat. Vegetables also keep your blood sugar levels at a healthy, low level, so you don’t start pumping your pancreas to death.
Scientists point out that the human body was designed to subsist on a mixture of fresh vegetables, good fats (from nuts, fish, oils, and meats), and protein (from fresh meats, beans, a little dairy, and fish). Add in plenty of water, occasional fruit, and you’re set. On the whole, avoid the processed, unnatural, refined, sugary stuff. Try it for just one week and you’ll notice a big difference – really.
[tags] caveman diet, paleolithic diet, paleo diet, no-grain diet, sugar, blood sugar, grains, fiber, paleodan, anthropology [/tags]
Evolution is all about adaptation – to the environment, to circumstances, to stress and even (or especially) to food. In this context of adaptation, it’s truly amazing how “inventive” the human body has become in finding novel (and perhaps heretofore uncontemplated) ways to repair damage we do to ourselves through our diets and other lifestyle indiscretions. And most of these changes are less than a few hundred years old, which makes the adaptations even more remarkable. Let’s use cholesterol as an example. Cholesterol is actually very beneficial. Among other duties, it’s a necessary component of every cell membrane and it’s involved in hormone production. The body makes about 1400 mg a day just to keep up! Now let’s take a stressful lifestyle (show of hands, please), add in a bad diet and lack of exercise and we get an inflammatory process in the arteries that causes lesions. This inflammation problem is completely unrelated to amounts or types of cholesterol. Nevertheless, the ever-inventive human body adapts to this inflammation sequence by using cholesterol as a band-aid to cover up the lesions until healing can take place – which, of course, almost never happens since the silly human continues to live the same pro-inflammatory lifestyle. Eventually, the cholesterol band-aids harden (sclerosis), narrow the arteries and sometimes break off causing a heart attack. Of course, we blame the cholesterol for all this and embark on a national campaign to rid the body of this important substance instead of focusing on the foods (and other stresses) that promote inflammation in the first place! Now let’s consider fat. For years we believed fat was nothing more than nature’s way of storing extra calories for some future famine. That would be a handy little adaptation in and of itself if that’s all it were. But when you do the math, you see that it doesn’t require a lot of fat to survive or even migrate for long periods. A 165-pound person with only 13% body fat has 21.45 pounds of fat. Being generous and assuming that you need a minimum 3% just to carry on basic survival functions, that leaves 10% or 16.5 pounds of fat to live off. At 3500 calories per pound of fat and 100 calories per mile walking, you’d theoretically have enough fat to survive weeks and migrate several hundred miles. So maybe fat has another purpose, and this is where my friend Art De Vany’s description of fat as a toxic waste site (my words) comes in. Modern humans have so thoroughly altered foods to focus on simple carbohydrates (sugars) that we now consume hundreds of excess grams of it every day. As Art has explained, the body recognizes excess sugar (glucose) as a toxic load – and remember, it doesn’t take a whole lot of it to be excessive – and the body starts the adaptive process of secreting insulin to take sugar out of the bloodstream and deposit it into the muscles. Two problems arise immediately: First, there’s not … Continue reading “Mark Sisson Is Not Afraid of Fat”