Meet Mark

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...

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Tag: toxins

Monday Musings: Vitamin D, Toxic Strawberries, New PUFAs Coming Soon

A quick look at Google Trends shows a clear, undeniable trend: that of regular folks armed with curiosity, questions, and Internet connections taking their health into their own hands and searching for information on “vitamin D.” Search traffic for the keywords is at an all-time high, having steadily increased for years. But just as people are discovering importance of getting enough vitamin D, either through sunshine or supplementation, out comes the official paltry new vitamin D guidelines.

As far as I’m concerned, vitamin D deficiency is one the biggest health issues in this country. I’ve written extensively on the topic here, here, here and here. I’ll continue to get sunlight when it’s available and supplement when it’s not. And I’m sure my fellow paleo bloggers will do the same. (As mentioned yesterday, Dr. Davis does a good job explaining exactly how paltry the new recommendations are.) This is a perfect example of why we distance ourselves from CW. What do you say? Has the latest report changed how you view vitamin D?

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How Air Pollution Impacts Your Health (and What to Do About It)

I make no bones about enjoying the conveniences of our modern age. As much as I esteem our beloved Grok figure, I wouldn’t opt to trade places with him. (All right, it might be fun for a day.) That said, I’ve always acknowledged that modern living comes with a price: persistent stress, rampant responsibilities, less sleep, less play, less sun, and novel environmental toxins. Pollution, in particular, is one of my central considerations in designing the Primal Blueprint well beyond a basic paleo model. Although we’re wholly Grok’s kin, let’s face it: we’re hardly in Paleolithic Kansas anymore.

Unlike some drawbacks to modern living, pollution (especially air pollution) is one downside that’s hard to avoid. Sure, you can live upwind from the industrial section of town, or you can settle in the country. Regardless, factories set up shop in new areas, highways are added to accommodate increasing sprawl, jets fly overhead, and crop dusters spread “drift” far beyond target fields. (And then there’s the next door neighbor’s daily chiminea ritual, stinky “vintage” truck, or perpetual tendency to spill gasoline in his garage while filling the lawn mower.) Not to be a killjoy, but very few of us live beyond air pollution’s reach.

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A Primal Primer: Estrogen

The human endocrine system exists in a state of delicate balance. None of its constituents function in a vacuum, and trying to explain every hormonal interrelationship would take volumes, but one statement is fairly safe to make: one hormone affects another. Secreting one often inhibits the next, which in turn sets off an entirely different chain reaction of hormonal secretions, inhibitions, and syntheses. I almost feel like trying to micromanage your entire endocrine system is tedious and counterproductive (and probably impossible to do effectively). I much prefer to simply eat right, exercise smart, get good sleep, normalize stress, and take advantage of simple lifestyle hacks. Still, it doesn’t hurt to understand some of the major hormonal players, especially one as widely maligned by the strength and fitness community as estrogen.

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Dear Mark: Latest in Gene Expression Research

One of my favorite topics, as many of you know, is epigenetics. It’s the burgeoning area of science that has blown apart the traditional nature-nurture dichotomy by examining the lifestyle-induced activation or dampening of genes. Epigenetics is increasingly filling in the gaps for understanding and monitoring degenerative disease risk. If you’re relatively new to MDA, take a look-see at my past articles (Gene Expression, What I Mean By “Reprogramming Your Genes”, Gene Expression: Location, Location, Location, Environmental Toxins and Gene Expression, Epigenetics and Depression) for a good Primal introduction to the concept. That said, when it comes to science there’s always more to read and know. New discoveries. Bold initiatives. Elegant correlations. Confirmed expectations and unexpected wrinkles. It’s what gets me up and roaring in the morning. Gladly, I’m not the only one….

Mark,

I’m fascinated by the idea that all the signals I send my body through diet and exercise and other environmental conditions can, as you say, literally reprogram my genes. I’m always on the lookout now for research that shows how lifestyle factors are related to gene expression. Have you seen anything new in your studies?

Stephanie

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Sustainable Lifestyles: Green Living and Health

Over the last couple weeks I’ve had the pleasure to announce two PrimalCon speakers: Maya White and Brad Kearns. As you may recall, Maya will be teaching PrimalCon participants how to sit, stand and walk like Grok, and Brad will be explaining how to apply the Primal Blueprint principles to endurance training. Today I’m pleased to announce the 3rd of 4 PrimalCon speakers. Nicoletta Florio, green-living expert extraordinaire, will show attendees how living a sustainable, green life is not only what’s best for the earth, but also what is best for your health. If you’ve ever wondered whether the PB could be considered a “green” diet, whether the world over could feasibly adopt the PB eating patterns, or what sort of impact our dietary choices have on our health and the planet this session is for you. Read on to to learn more from Nikki in her own words…

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How to Choose a Safe Water Bottle

I’ve made my stance on bottled water quite clear before, but I’ll go ahead and reiterate: bottled water is a joke. It’s completely unnecessary, unless you’re in a nation with unsafe water quality, and the plastic bottles make for excellent landfill fodder. You could reuse the bottles, but then you’ve gotta worry about the plastic leaching into your water, especially the more you refill and reuse them (and don’t ever stick ‘em in the dishwasher). Poor taste is one thing – I can’t expect a person to happily drink tap water that tastes terrible – but tap is perfectly safe to drink, especially if used with a simple filter. And if it weren’t, most bottled water wouldn’t be any better, since it’s often just repackaged tap (check the label or cap – if it says “from a municipal source” or “from a community water system” or anything along similar lines, it’s tap water). Sparkling water in glass bottles is justifiable (tap isn’t bubbly, after all, although you could make it so at home, and the glass bottles are definitely reusable (I like filling them with homemade salad dressings).

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Dear Mark: Trans Fat

The message has been circulating for a few years now: trans fats = bad. It’s one of the rare times I find myself in alignment with conventional nutritional guidelines. (Of course, it’s not so simple, but I’ll unpack that one in a moment.) The fact is, manufacturers have done a better job sending the anti-trans fat message than public health agencies. Everywhere you turn in the grocery store the “No Trans Fat!” tag leaps out at you, complete with manic font and exclamation point, from hundreds of boxes, bags, and packages. (“Well, it must be healthy then!”) Unfortunately, the marketing push has crowded out the real science when it comes to the public’s engagement with the real issue. As you can guess, there’s more to the trans fat picture than the self-congratulatory manufacturer claims.

Dear Mark,

I know trans fats are unhealthy and I avoid them like the plague. But like so many things sometimes I need a little reminder why. (I regularly brush up my knowledge by visiting your site so that when a friend asks why I avoid grains I don’t say something like “Grains are bad because… something about lectins and phytates – can’t remember why… but they’re bad.”) Could you write up an easy to remember primer on what trans fats are and why are they unhealthy?

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Is Canned Food Safe to Eat?

Ideally, The Primal Blueprint is a living, breathing document. Whether it’s emails from insightful readers or random articles from my RSS feed casting a subject in a completely different light, or even personal N=1 revelations spurring a meticulous re-examination of previously-held stances, I’ll often find myself rethinking certain aspects of the PB. They usually hold up pretty well, mind you, but it’s always good to take stock of the evidence. It keeps us in the Primal community on our toes. Take yesterday’s post, for example. The discovery of grain residue from a 100,000 year old dig site was undoubtedly intriguing, because it suggested that a major tenet of the Primal lifestyle – that grains have no place in the human diet – might need some refining. In the end, our position remained the same (the intense labor inherent in the sourcing, gathering, hulling, processing, and cooking of grass seeds would have been too great for Grok to make it a staple food – especially when nutritionally-superior and far more nutrient-dense alternatives existed in abundance), but it was tested and therefore strengthened.

Sometimes, though, new evidence forces me to completely rethink things. Even something so seemingly innocuous as a random comment from a reader can set me off on a researching bender. Last week, someone mentioned the Bisphenol A (BPA) leaching tendencies of canned tomatoes. That was all it took to send me on a tear.

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Is Organic All It’s Cracked Up to Be?

Several months back, a major study comparing the nutritional value of organic food to conventional food made the rounds. Organic food, it found, was “no healthier” than ordinary food. There were no significant “differences in nutrient content,” and the study’s authors found “no evidence to support the selection of organic over conventionally produced foods on the basis of nutritional superiority.” Hmm, so there were “differences,” but they were “unlikely to be of any public health relevance.” Okay – even if I accept that the differences were unimportant, there was a major, glaring qualifier: “nutritional superiority.” Going organic, then, doesn’t suddenly change the essential composition of a plant. A grape remains a grape (small differences aside), whether you use artificial pesticides or “natural” pesticides. I buy that, and I don’t think many people who support organic are arguing that industrial organic farms produce purer, more “appley” apples than conventional farms. They’re simply wary of ingesting the artificial chemical cocktails applied to conventional crops.

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Demystifying Detox

It’s a nebulous term used by snake oil-salesmen to sell products cloaked in pseudoscientific terminology on late night television. Detox. If what they say is true, we apparently have millions of toxins constantly circulating throughout our body, permeating our cells, coating our digestive systems in a poisonous film, bogging down our organs. These toxins cannot be dealt with, nor reasoned with via the standard avenues of diet and exercise; no, they require the aid of special supplements and detox paraphernalia: magic herbs, weird colon-scouring clay mixtures, foot pads that supposedly suck the toxins directly out of the body, lemonade or juice fasting kits, liver flushes. They’ll often bring out a spokesperson who plays doctor well enough to convince your average Cheeto powder-encrusted insomniac that he or she needs this book or that colon cleanse to avoid obesity, cancer, disease, and depression. If you could just flush out all those toxins, you’d be doing great.

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