Tag: toxins

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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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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Environmental Toxins and Gene Expression

It’s the heart of the Primal Blueprint: understanding that our lifestyle factors direct influence the expression of our genetic code. While the DNA itself is set, the structure fixed, that’s hardly the end of the story – our story. How we live – even where we live – holds significant sway over the final picture. And by picture I mean, of course, the picture of our genes’ activity: when proteins are produced (and how much), when or whether certain genes are turned on or off. This activity, researchers are increasingly finding, is key in the development – or avoidance – of any number of conditions like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and cancer. Rather than a predetermined formula simply set in motion in the womb, our genes demonstrate a much more complex, nuanced interplay. The sum of all our daily choices and exposures direct our epigenetic signaling and the course laid out by that ongoing sequence of gene activity. As I’ve said many a time, our original genetic heritage doesn’t design our physiological fate. How we live determines how our genes play out their hand. No doubt a powerful concept, the comprehension can take us by surprise. The quickly expanding field of epigenetics has, indeed, rewritten old school genetics. It’s even ruffled a few feathers here and there, but isn’t that always the case with new breakthroughs?

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Dear Mark: Phenylketonurics and Chewing Gum

Dear Mark,

I’ve gone Primal and am loving it! But now you’ve got me questioning everything – even my beloved gum. I’m an avid chewer of the stuff and had never thought twice about. I took a closer look recently and saw all kinds of things I didn’t recognize including a warning about phenylketonurics. What are they and what about all the artificial sweeteners? Would Grok chew gum? If so, what are the healthiest options?

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Are Plastics Safe?

It’s an emblem of the modern culture. Think that Graduate line (“I want to say one word to you. Just one word….”), the commercial a couple decades ago in which the girl drops a 2-liter soda bottle, Tupperware parties, Ziploc bags, etc. Plastics were once cutting edge, and these days they’re absolutely everywhere. They’re so ubiquitous, in fact, that a recent book (The World Without Us) hypothesizes a post-human world with an evolutionary turn toward plastic ingestion. There’s an interesting nutritional concept….

Some weeks ago we tackled the question of safe cookware. While we took on the likes of aluminum, stainless, and ceramic, we knew there was a whole other world of cookware and food storage left to explore. So, today we tackle the question of plastics. What role can/should they play in a Primal kitchen? What price do we pay for their convenience? Is there such a thing as a safe plastic for food prep and storage? What are the ones to avoid at all costs? And what’s the real harm in it anyway?

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Rapid Fire Q&A: Fish Oil Guide Follow-Up

You guys had tons of questions following last week’s Definitive Guide to Fish Oils. Since the back and forth discourse is my favorite part of doing the blog, I’ll see if I can get to all of them. Let me know if I miss anything!

You recommend storing fish oil in the fridge, but how about storing capsules in the freezer? Wouldn’t this be an even better step to take to prevent the oil from oxidizing?

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