Tag: research analysis

2016 in Review: The Top 14 Developments in Ancestral Health

2016 is just about over. I’m not a big party animal, as you probably know. Instead of bashes and balls, what I look forward to most of all at the end of a year is the quiet reflection on what impacted me most. Which science developments, business achievements, and thought evolutions characterized my 2016 more than the rest?

Put another way, what were the most exciting developments of 2016 in the ancestral health world?

Let’s take a look (in no particular order):

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A Primal Take on Cannabis

Today I’m taking on a mammoth in the living room so to speak. Based on the emails I’ve received and the string of developments around the issue, it’s maybe a long time coming.

As of November 11, marijuana is legal for recreational or medical use in 26 states. Recreational use is even legal in the nation’s capital, Washington DC. Despite the DEA declining to recognize the therapeutic potential of marijuana, formal medical research proceeds in labs and clinics, while millions of consumers in states like California, Oregon, and Colorado are running informal n=1 personal experiments. Usage has doubled in the last ten years. A recent Gallup poll found that 1 in 8 American adults “say they smoke marijuana.” Pretty much anytime legalization is up for a vote, it passes.

It seems there’s more weed out there than ever before and more people willing to consume it. They’re eating it, applying it sublingually, vaporizing it, and smoking it. Meanwhile, “pro” and “con” claims mount on both sides.

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Promises and Limitations of the “Personalized Care” Movement: Where We Are Now

Several years ago, I gave my take on the “personalized care” movement: the broad push to use a person’s genetic data to design optimal therapies, treatments, interventions, and pharmaceuticals. I was supportive and hesitantly optimistic, but I also acknowledged the limitations and drawbacks. Yes, genetics do determine how we respond to different therapies, and we can optimize medical care using the information—if we understand what our genes are saying and how they interact with the environment.

It’s only picked up steam. In last year’s State of the Union address, President Obama announced the Precision Medicine Initiative, pledging renewed efforts and funding to develop treatments tailored for an individual’s genetics, lifestyle, and environment. Businesses have sprung up promising to analyze your genetic data and create personalized workout routines, meal plans, and daily habits.

We’ve made big strides in personalized medicine.

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Eating Insects: No Longer a Fringe Choice

Three years ago, my pal Gabi Lewis—founder of Exo, who make the best cricket protein bars on the planet—made a compelling case for eating more insects. Today, I’ll build on these arguments and, based on new evidence, offer even more reasons you should consider incorporating edible insects into your diet.

Though few people reading this consider insects anything but a novelty, for many human cultures they were (and are) staple foods. Humans have been eating insects for millions of years, starting with our distant ancestors and continuing through the present day.

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Dear Mark: Gene Editing

For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’ll be addressing the concerns raised in the comment section of last week’s CRISPR post. Many of you were rather alarmed at my apparent whole-hearted endorsement and enthusiastic embrace of the latest gene-editing technology CRISPR. Actually, I am more cautious than I may have let on. You brought up some great points. And I’ll try to address some of them down below.

Let’s go:

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CRISPR: What Does Gene Editing Mean for the Future of Primal Living?

By now, you’ve no doubt heard of CRISPR, the latest gene-editing tool sweeping research labs across the globe. It was first discovered in certain strains of bacteria, who use it as an important weapon against dangerous viruses. In bacteria, CRISPR identifies a virus that poses a threat, records the virus’ genetic data and imprints it onto RNA molecules. An immune enzyme called Cas9 grabs one of the RNA molecules and goes exploring. When Cas9 encounters a virus that matches the data on the RNA molecule, it latches on and slices the virus in half to prevent it from replicating and posing any threat.

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Dear Mark: Did Three New Studies Debunk the Primal Blueprint?

For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering three questions that at first glance appear to cast doubt on some of the founding tenets of the Primal Blueprint. First, did a recent study show that low-carb dieting is no better—and perhaps worse—than low-fat dieting at helping you lose body fat? The second is a two-parter: are we hypocrites for “ignoring” the insulinogenic effects of protein, and does a paleo diet actually abolish the beneficial effects of CrossFit?  And third, a new study found evidence of cereal grain consumption in a group of European hunter-gatherers. What gives?

Let’s go:

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Is Gluten Sensitivity All in Your Head?

First, non-celiac wheat/gluten sensitivity was a sham and everyone claimed its participants were in a collective mass delusion. Then some actual studies came out, and it appeared to be a real condition. Soon after, researchers offered different theories. Maybe it was FODMAP intolerance. Maybe it was all that wheat fiber messing up the gut. Maybe it was too little fiber and other fermentable substrate, and we were actually starving our gut bugs and compromising our intestinal health. Maybe it wasn’t even the gluten. And maybe it was actually some kind of a placebo. One of the most recent findings was that gluten sensitivity might not even exist. What’s the truth?

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Dear Mark: How to Eat Blackstrap Molasses; Healthy Whole Grains Studies

For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering two reader questions. First, I answer a very specific question about blackstrap molasses, that nutrient-dense sweetener with the distinctive taste. How can a person who hates molasses work it into their diet? Next, I address concerns surrounding a set of healthy whole grain studies that I’m sure you’ve been hearing about. Are whole grains really healthy? Will they make you live long and prosper? Is there something unique to whole grains we’re missing out on?

Let’s go:

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The Health Paradox Paradox

A paradox is an observation that contradicts a previously-held assumption about reality. But assuming the observation is true, a paradox isn’t really a paradox. It’s not the new observation that’s wrong or faulty or misinterpreted; it’s the assumption that contradicts reality and needs reworking. The history of science is littered with paradoxes that dissolved when previously held assumptions were modified under the weight of new observations. The health, fitness, and nutrition spheres are rife with presumptions, conventional wisdom that pretty much everyone—from authorities and experts on down to laypeople—holds to be true. But we’re finding that these presumptions are increasingly challenged by the steady onslaught of new observations. Some of the most notable presumptions include but aren’t limited to:

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