Weekend Link Love – Edition 171

How producing “ethical, zero-harm” plant food for vegans and vegetarians kills more animals than, well, actually killing animals for the purpose of eating them. How’s that blood-soaked tofu burger taste? (Kidding. Kinda.)

What twins can tell us about epigenetics.

Scientists finally figured out that red deer – and most likely the other large mammals from wintry climates – actively lower their body temperatures (through such nifty tricks as eating snow) to conserve energy in response to winter and food scarcity, not as an inadvertent reaction to it.

Bolivians are hardcore about their real food and home-cooked meals made with love and attention to detail, so hardcore that not even McDonald’s could survive there. A heartwarming story indeed.

Gobekli Tepe: earliest temple by 6000 years (eat your heart out, Stonehenge); built by hunters wielding naught but flint tools; receptacle for bones from tens of thousands of butchered gazelles, boar, deer, sheep, and over a dozen species of bird; testament to early man’s awesomeness.

How tanning beds change the brain by stimulating the reward centers akin to “a drug or a high-value food like sugar.” Sure, that sounds scary and all, but you think maybe our brains respond to (natural) UV light that way for a good, helpful reason? Seems plausible.

Memory improves post-workout.

“Most people are simply not designed to eat pasta.”

Science is limited because humans are. We can’t hope to understand every factor determining “causality,” no matter how many variables we “isolate,” because everything is intertwined and interrelated. And that’s why some of our home runs turn into unmitigated disasters, like torcetrapib.

Recipe Corner

Time Capsule

One year ago (Dec 26 – Jan 1)

Comment of the Week

Oh man can we call it Grokstock? I’m bringing the lamb shoulder, the prosciutto wrapped dates, my booty shaking genes and the ukulele… ooooohhh raw oysters on the half shell too!!

– Maureen gives me some really good ideas about Grok throwing a party.

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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50 thoughts on “Weekend Link Love – Edition 171”

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    1. I live in Australia and 80% of the grain we grow is used to feed Australian livestock or export it to feed US livestock.

      We eat more grass fed beef than anywhere on earth and we are the fatest western nation on earth.

      1. Australia is fatter than the US and Britain? Unless obesity and overweight Australia has rocketed in the past 2 years, I don’t think that statement is correct.

        1. Hi, Im Australian, and I recall seeing this statistic on the news recently that Australia is now officially fatter than America and Britain. Cannot remember if it was supported with hard scientific evidence, however I do recall being pretty shocked at walked over to the tv and watched it pretty closely. I don’t watch any rubbish telly, so it was ACA or anything like that! Perhaps it is true.

  1. “Most people are simply not designed to eat pasta.”

    This paper was a actually a good counter to the reasoning of some Paleo advocates. It claims that, if Paleolithic humans ate so few carbohydrates, then how could they have evolved to store carbohydrates as fat? There would have been no way to select for these fat-storing genes.

    But hasn’t the current Primal community thrown out this interpretation of the “thrifty gene” hypothesis? Taubes’ GCBC destroys the the hypothesis and don’t we believe that the problem with massive consumption of grains/sugar is not that we have adapted to storing their energy as fat, but that we get health problems from eating them because we are adapted very little to them?

    Also, the paper cited studies that show that low-carb diets composed of mostly plants lead to lower mortality than low-carb animal-based diets. It’s unclear how controlled this study was, but if it was, shouldn’t we rethink our food pyramid? Then again, the Primal food pyramid stresses consuming massive amounts of plants, which make up the majority of the volume of the Primal diet.

    I really like this paper, because although it does not truly bring our philosophy into question,it reminds us that, as followers of evolutionary nutrition, we must continually revisit the question of “what did our ancestors adapt to eat?”

    1. Yeah, he has some great points. I liked what he was saying about micronutrient content of paleolithic diets. Our ancestors would have been eating nothing but wild foods–they would have been drowning in amazing nutrition! It disturbs me a little how difficult it would be to replicate that kind of nutrition, as many of us are eating vegetables grown in depleted and chemically fertilized soil. If anyone’s interested in exploring wild food, this is a blog I really like: firstways.com. It’s accessible and urban-based and the content is really useful.
      I also have an interesting anecdote: I came across a wolf-killed deer in the woods the other day. Many different animals had come through to have their share, and the organs were eaten and the ribs gnawed down. What struck me was the all the delicious muscle tissue cuts hadn’t been touched. I feel like that tells us something about the relative nutritional value of muscle meats when wild animals–who are far more constrained by a calorie budget than modern humans– leave it till last?

      1. Good point, D’Arcy. It’s interesting that we still might be completely off – if we are eating the less fatty, less micronutrient-dense muscle meat. Seems like the Paleo movement is gradually embracing the fatty parts more an more (didn’t it start off with lean meat?)
        Have you read the Omnivore’s Dilemma? He mentions a study of micronutrients in organic vs. conventional plants. The conventional ones had like a tenth of the polyphenols as the organics(not sure what those are, but have been shown to have significant health benefits).
        Thanks so much for the link – I’m a hiker and have been thinking about real, wild foraging for a bit now.

        1. I would love to see a study that compares organic foods to wild foods. But plants–and especially wild plants–are incredibly chemists, and I think there are all kinds of benefits and reactions and emergent properties in wild plants (and wild plant medicines!) that domestic plants may not have, aren’t understood and can’t be measured. I love wild food–for many reasons. The nutrition is so rich that eating that way totally blurs the distinction between food and medicine. As it should be! I hope you get out and start harvesting some good food. 🙂

      2. D’Arcy, carnivores (especially non-scavengers) don’t like muscle meats because of the lack of fats.

        Eating too much protein will result in diarrhea, inability to absorb fat-soluble nutrients and ‘rabbit starvation’. Lean protein flesh doesn’t taste very good compared to fattier flesh anyways so animals will eat the tastier bits first.

        Stefansson once spent 9 years eating only meat in the arctic, and then a full year eating only meat (including raw meat & organs/soft bones etc) as part of an experiment. He was healthier than with his old diet and wasn’t nutrionally deficient (except, the chemists who analyzed everything he ate said, in calcium – but he pointed out that they failed to analyze the bits of soft bone tips he’d eat)

        1. Yeah! I think apart from the lack of fat in muscle tissue there are also big differences in the micronutrient constitution of organ meats…I wonder too about the different living enzymes and bacteria gained with eating raw organs. Not that I’m ready to go there!…Yet. But I’ve always kind of wanted to try living on a traditional Arctic diet. I’ve met a few traditional Inuit hunters who still eat a largely traditional diet and hoo boy are these people ever healthy! I also have a hunch there’s some difference in the lipid profile of those northern mammals, and sea mammals. Really interesting stuff!

    2. I don’t think its so much that paleolithic humans evolved to store carbohydrates as fat but rather that we evolved from earlier mammal species that were frugivores. Therefore, that was embedded in our DNA before we ever started eating meat. I’m also sure that humans never went extended periods of time without any carbs.

    3. ” It claims that, if Paleolithic humans ate so few carbohydrates, then how could they have evolved to store carbohydrates as fat? There would have been no way to select for these fat-storing genes. ”

      umm… gee, why would we evolve to convert excess blood sugar to fat?

      Hmm, I don’t know – perhaps because if you don’t you will suffer and die from massive, systemic organ & cardiovascular damage from having chemically unstable glucose react with oxygen from leaky red blood cells and caramelize/oxidize/fry your own body?

      If you’d stuck around long enough in the paleo community and done some basic research you’d have known this already

      1. True, not to mention that early humans probably came upon large amounts of carbohydrates sporadically, followed by extended periods of little to no carbohydrates.

        The truth on macro-nutrient ratios and mechanisms for effectively storing glucose in our fat-stores probably falls somewhere in-between–we had to find a way to store carbohydrates effectively because excess glucose in the blood is poison AND we would have consumed whatever was available, which would have likely included intermittent large supplies of carbs. This certainly doesn’t suggest we evolved eating large amounts of carbs and there is nothing in our knowledge of physiology that suggests we need or even optimally operate on a diet consisting of a great deal of daily carbohydrate. It may, however go a long way towards explaining why many crossfitters who consume a lower carb paleo/primal diet seem to benefit from intermittent “carb re-feeds.”

      2. I was just paraphrasing the article here, and I did so poorly. The point of the paper was that, according to SOME proponents of a paleolithic diet, “Stone-Age people ate consistently low levels of unrefined carbohydrate, and no refined carbohydrate at all.” The author claimed that this contradicted the thrifty gene reasoning of these same proponents, because this could not be gene be selected in the absence of carbohydrates. I was unclear about the “fat-storing genes.” The author meant that it would have been impossible to select for especially potent fat-storage abilities in the absence of large amounts of CHOs. Of course, as you say, all individuals must be able to store sugar as fat. It is a question of being especially potent at that.

        Nonetheless, the author is pointing out contradictions in outdated arguments of Paleo advocates. My next point was that we have changed our logic. As Verdran said, perhaps it was our frugivorous ancestors that became especially effective at storing carbs as body fat. Or, as Fritzy just commented, humans did not experience prolonged CHO restriction (a claim that the author attributed to paleo proponents), but instead developed
        a sort of thrifty gene in response to cyclical CHO consumption. As I stated, Taubes and many Paleo followers have thrown out the thrifty gene theory. But only a thrifty gene theory that promotes storage of ALL macronutrients as fat; the current supporters of Paleo have modified it only to apply to CHO intake.

        So, as I said, this article explains why the OLD Paleo logic is flawed. We have created a new hypothesis to account for this (one based on frugivorous ancestors and cyclical carbohydrate restriction/gorging, among other things).
        I was wrong when I said that “the problem with massive consumption of grains/sugar is not that we have adapted to storing their energy as fat, but that we get health problems from eating them because we are adapted very little to them.” We have, in fact, evolved to be very effective at storing CHO’s as fat. This is not the same as the thrifty gene hypothesis invoked (correct me if I’m wrong)by Sears, for example.

        1. I thought that it was important to point out how the paper was actually about a flaw in old Paleo logic (based on the incorrect assumption that our ancestors had constantly restricted amounts of CHO’s). I think that this is a reminder that we are constantly rethinking how our ancestors adapted to what they ate (for example, fritzy has brought some important insights about intermittent availability of carbs).

          Thus, the article had a somewhat deceptive title.

        2. Sorry for my somewhat nonsensical posts. I agree with mm 100%, I think you just misunderstood me and I was making some clarifications.

      3. That pasta paper is pure junk. Filled with loaded language and strawmen. Like so much social science about science. Does she really think evolution began only in the Paleo era and our metabolism doesn’t come to us with some basic keys from millions of years before? I love how she decries the use of genetics in bariatrics – no no they’re fat because they’re lazy bad bad gluttons. Le sigh.

        1. Agreed. Someone needs to take the time to deconstruct this paper quick. I wish I had the time.

          The only thing good about the paper is that it points out the ecological fallacy we make when assuming everyone should eat the same. However, there are virtues to determining a foundational average ideal diet before individualizing it, and I think the evidence points toward a primal/paleo diet as that foundation.

          Also, just because we have adapted to store CHO as fat does not mean we consistently ate carbohydrates at all. Even on a no carb diet our body converts macronutrients to glucose because thats what we use for energy, and its what passes the blood brain barrier (correct me if I am wrong).

        2. I just read the “pasta” article today and wanted to let it cool off on my desktop for a day before having a thorough go at it. One of the things I have to bear in mind, though, is that it’s an excerpt from her PhD, so there’s likely some more developed reasoning to her position that what’s in that article.
          I’d be really interested to see the full discussion on race vs diet, for example.
          One thing that jumped out at me was the line about dietary prescriptions denying personal agency. It’s SUCH a new-world attitude, this ‘it’s my right to be/do/become/eat whatever I want’! No. It’s. Not. Don’t hide it behind human rights, we are not smarter than our bodies.

    4. Just for fun I checked the reference regarding low carbohydrate and vegetables v/s meat. In that study what they call low carb means at least 35 % of energy from carbs and based on the figures presented that means 165 g carbohydrate (or more)/day. As this study was used to prove that Atkins and other similar diets are dangerous I am not sure if i can trust the rest of the conclusions. I don’t have time to go through all the references…
      The full text is here:

      1. I remember reading that paper as well. I also think, it had processed meats (Bacon/sausage/etc with nitrates) included in the meats. I don’t think any Paleo/Primal person would disagree that a diet high in processed meats and crappy fats, won’t be good overall.

        Should a Paleo/Primal study every be completed, I think this will be one of the factors that will separate it from previous diet studies (the exclusion of processed meats and the use of quality fats). Denise Minger broke that study down quite well:


    5. sorry to throw a wrench in this discussion – but that was a total waste of 15 pages of printer paper – glad i have a 4 year old who loves to scribble cause at least she can enjoy it –

      IMHO – Ms Knight was presumptuous, inaccurate, and actually provided nothing of value to the discussions she tried so hard to sound like she was intelligently dissecting – a college student bucking for her PhD or whatever –

      it never ceases to amaze me that people can endlessly criticize practicing doctors who have a clue (like Eades or even the much maligned Davis) who have treated and followed hundreds or even thousands of patients through recovery via some form of the primal/paleo/low carb approach with such remarkable success.

      i feel a rant coming – a good reason to fire up daiasolgaia again – this time about the amazing effort to make celiac a legit “disease” when they – celiacs – are actually the lucky ones amoung us – they have been told by mother nature in no uncertain terms that grains are bad for them – course most just get out their “whoa is me” fiddle and eat every other non-gluten carb they can get their hands on totally screwing themselves rather than take the big fat hint the universe just slapped them in the face with–

      low carb people – for whatever silly science you want to back it up with–

  2. I thought I invented the apple ale and sausage just this Christmas! See, I make my own festive holiday sausage and I got a meat grinder for Xmas. In case anyone cares, the recipe goes, loosely, like this:
    ground pork (maybe 3 or 4 pounds?)
    fennel seed, basil, parsley, sage (about 1 tbl each), 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary. Added coarsely ground salt. Then I dashed in some nutmeg, maybe about a tsp and some cinnamon, probably a tbls and 2 chopped apples and a bottle of apple ale. I marinated chunks of meat overnight, then drained it and ground it before I stuffed the sausage. It was awesome!

    1. Cool — I got a meat grinder for Xmas too, and am now looking round the house for things I can put into it! Sausages, chilli, burgers… er… Mark, how about a post on what’s best to grind into what?? Thanks!

  3. Love the article about the bankrupt Bolivian Mcdonald’s.

    And grateful for the time machine today. I definitely needed to re-read the old stress post!

    1. Ditto what Anne said. The 10 and 12 hours work days are getting to me.

  4. The article on how many animals grain planting kills was really good. I like how many cows are grazed on pasture in Australia.

    “Most people are simply not designed to eat pasta.” I can’t read this study, do I have to make an account there to view it?

    1. There’s a link just to the right of the Abstract that says “Full Text PDF – Free” so just click on that link. (Don’t feel bad – I had the same problem at first!)

  5. Everyone becoming vegetarian would simply cause cows to become extinct. No farmer can afford to keep cows as pets. I love and respect cows for the good mothers they are but I would like to see them pastured and given a rest from time to time.

    1. yes, there would simply be less cows, sheep, pigs etc in the world, requiring less land to be cleared to grow grain etc to feed them all, rendering the argument that “vegetarians kill more animals” redundant. We should take into account the land required to grow food for ALL sentient beings, not just the human variety.

  6. I just spent a good length of time reading about your post on torcetrapib and the article you linked “Why Science is Failing Us”.

    Very fascinating!

    When Lipitor patent expired I knew Pfizer would brew up another drug. It sickens me to see where science is headed. It’s all money driven and not a real appreciation for real heath and nutrition.

    I just thank God my family eats a paleo diet because I would hate to be forced in a corner with a doctor prescribing me these kind of drugs.

  7. I read the Aussie article with interest, we are very lucky down here in that most of our sheep and cattle graze, including our dairy cows, I know of only one dairy farm locally that sheds it’s cows during their milking cycle. However most supermarket beef is grain fed, or grain finished, so is most export beef. Two of my sons have worked/ing in the cattle industry. One worked at Newcastle waters (10,000 square kilometers) and this year at Manbulloo (just on 4,000square kms). It’s big down here, though I can’t feel too much sympathy for mice or plague locusts,

  8. I’m not sure about the claim here that red deer “actively lower their body temperatures (through such nifty tricks as eating snow) to conserve energy in response to winter and food scarcity.” Energy conservation isn’t about body temperature per se but about metabolism. Any energy-conserving benefit in this context would need to come from declining endogenous heat production rather than from exogenous cooling. Indeed, one interesting question is why this mammal’s metabolism is able to slow down *despite* the introduction of exogenous cooling.

  9. I think I need to exercise more if it’ll improve my memory. Regardless of being Primal or not, my memory has always been crap. For example, I tend to leave something everywhere I go. Kind of like I’m leaving a souvenir but it’s something I really need like my sunglasses or camera lol

  10. Thanks again for the great links! I’d seen the one in Wired about the limitations of science but not the one about twins and epigenetics, which is really interesting. The story about the twin that received intense antibiotics after a surgery at three months, who then went on to become more gravely autistic than his twin brother, made me think about the microbiome, of course, and the recent evidence that the gut microbiome may play a role in autism.
    Mark’s Daily Apple has become a go-to source for interesting and thought-provoking science news for me! Thanks!

  11. Finally finished the “pasta” paper! I don’t really get the point she’s trying to make, but maybe that’s because either she or the people she cites are misunderstanding the ‘thrifty’ gene.

    Grains and fruits are a signal that winter and/or hard times are coming. We don’t store fat and reduce our metabolism during times of plenty, but rather during times of famine. The body will never interpret a bowl of Captain Crunch as a time of plenty, but as a signal that nutrients are getting scarce.

    (I believe this is a DeVany line of reasoning)

  12. Mark, very insightful about the torcitrabip drug. Did you see the article in Time Magazine about the new intervention to lower blood pressure? Just “denervate” the kidneys (as the procedure is called), and they’ll stop doing the job the nerves were designed to do, regulating blood pressure. Just as with cholesterol, these nerves are responding appropriately to conditions in the body, and we’re essentially turning off the alarm signal.

  13. I saw the pasta linked on Reinagel’s Google+ https://plus.google.com/112430795278017169071/posts/i1jLGChzFW4 and she also linked to https://www.socresonline.org.uk/16/2/8.html ‘If You’re Not Allowed to Have Rice, What Do You Have with Your Curry?’: Nostalgia and Tradition in Low-Carbohydrate Diet Discourse and Practice’

    “Concern about obesity has shifted weight-loss coverage in the media away from women specifically (Boero 2007: 44n1), and low-carbohydrate diets seem to appeal particularly to men (Bentley 2005), with at least one survey showing that men are much more likely than women to follow a low-carbohydrate diet long-term (Blanck et al. 2006). ” https://www.socresonline.org.uk/16/2/8.html

  14. Thank you for the article on twins. I grew up believing I would be overweight because my mother told me it was in our genes to be overweight. She, along with her parents and four out of five of her siblings are obese; most of them morbidly so. The only one of my mother’s siblings that has never been more than a few pounds overweight is her identical twin sister. When I finally realized that, it dawned on me that I wasn’t genetically fat. I don’t even believe in “genetically fat” anymore becasue our bodies were not designed to run efficiently with excess fat. The article on twins really gave me some more information to think about.

  15. My family were fruit growers and I always knew about the loss of life of many creatures as a result–and the fallacy of vegetarians-vegans that their diet prevents the killing other creatures. My brothers trapped hundreds of gophers as just one case in point. All life on earth lives at the expense of something else, the web or circle of life, and sentiment does not alter that fact.

  16. The twin photos are fascinating. I shouldn’t be surprised at how different they look. There is usually one who doesn’t quite get equal access to resources from their mother in utero, so even with a 100% genetic match, there are going to be differences in appearance and gene expression. Oh, epigenetics.

  17. Presumably, Grok would’ve killed his own wild meat every now when opportunity arose, and then and done it in a way that minimised suffering to an animal. I’m not sure the amount of meat most westerners eat on a daily basis is necessary or a reflection of paleolithic times. Please correct me if I’m wrong.
    Not everyone considers prematurely truncating an animal’s life as wrong, but surely an overconsumption of meat is really not necessary either.

  18. I wanted to contribute to this discussion as the author of the “pasta” paper! I’m sorry this comment didn’t arrive sooner – I was on Christmas holidays when these posts went up and only found out about them when I returned to work. I’m really pleased that my paper has generated so much discussion, both positive and negative – I will certainly take the feedback into account (with acknowledgement) in any future publications or presentations in this area.

    This research was undertaken between 2004 and 2007 as part of my PhD research on the low-carbohydrate diet movement, through the University of Adelaide, South Australia (Discipline of English) and the Human Nutrition Division of CSIRO (Australia’s national science agency). I was not specifically researching Paleo diets or evolutionary nutrition – I was looking at the (often hazy) representation of these ideas in bestselling low-carb diet books. I looked at Atkins, South Beach, Protein Power, The Zone and Sugar Busters as the bestselling low-carb diet books (in the US and Australia) that engaged with “nutritional primitivism”. I also interviewed low-carbohydrate dieters in South Australia.

    If you are interested in reading other parts of my PhD research please contact me at [email protected] as I can email copies of other papers. My article in Sociological Research Online is freely accessible at https://www.socresonline.org.uk/16/2/8.html but it is probably least relevant to the interests of this blog.

    If you have any other questions or comments I’d be really interested to read and respond to them either via email or this blog thread.

    Best wishes, Christine Knight