Categories
Health

“Do your own research” (Re: A Vegan’s Take on my video)

One of my viewers, “Unnatural Vegan” (UV) discussed my video What made the Ancient Egyptians Fat and Sick? on their channel. UV’s response video gained quite a bit of interest, amassing over 60,000 views, so I thought I would comment on it. She gets into a lot of topics that are quite interesting for me, so it’s been fun writing this response and rehashing old videos where I covered these before.

“Do your own research!”

I addressed this video a while back in a kind of lazy way, almost as lazily as saying “Do your own research!” (I referred everyone to look at Dr. Michael Eades’ talk on the subject)

I was having a chat with a friend recently and he was asking me how to deal with the fact that there are so many people pushing one view that goes against another, but they both have sound logic and cite scientific studies. So when people say Do your own research! it’s a cop out in my opinion.

My rule of thumb is: pay attention who is willing to dig the deepest and welcome the most nuance. For example, who is asking and answering the most why-s, what-s, where did that idea come from-s. (And of course relies less on things like ad hominem logic or emoting, as in “As evidence of the incredulous nature of this point, observe my flabbergasted expression.“) Unfortunately, the most thorough argument doesn’t always make the most compelling argument.

So, people who say “Do your own research” either (a) don’t understand the topic well enough to actually explain it themselves, (b) they lack enough correctness to sufficiently explain themselves, or (c) they’re too lazy. (However, they would prefer to spin themselves as “busy.”)

Like in my case, when I wrote this post, I wasn’t being “lazy” by redirecting people to Michael Eades talk instead of explaining how stable isotopes work, I was too “busy!”

If you are one of the few people who watched my video, watched the “debunking” of my video and then went a step further and are now here reading the debunking of the debunking, then I applaud you.

1. (00:00) Squiggly Lines

The video opens with Unnatural Vegan being flabbergasted that I would draw squiggly lines on a graph. Worry not, these squiggly lines in my video were not used to draw conclusions and were only for comic effect. Had I said something like “As this squiggly line indicates…[yada yada] …proving my point that…” –this indeed would be concerning. 

I’m not sure which of my arguments this squiggly would bolster. 

Anyone who watches my channel will know I’m not trying to be PBS Frontline. I use things like Simpsons clips to make the video entertaining …they’re not there to support my claims. 

“This is a complete misrepresentation of the USDA’s Food Pyramid. Joseph seriously needs to get his sources straight. Not to mention everyone knows Dr. Nick Riviera had his medical license revoked in 1994.”

At this point I would like to point out that Unnatural Vegan provides absolutely no evidence that my video directly resulted in her brain being broken, nor does she discuss the nature of the brain injury (not even distinguishing between skull fracture or neural tissue damage) , making this claim even more difficult to verify.

2. (1:07-5:45) – Ancient Egyptian Diet 

The New Food Pyramid

The statement from my video that she is addressing is “Egyptians with their bread based diet were essentially following the 1991 USDA food pyramid.


I presented a study titled Diet of ancient Egyptians inferred from stable isotope analysis[1] which explains that analysis of the hair of Ancient Egyptians indicated they surely got less than 50% of their protein from animals, but more likely around only 19 to 29% of their protein was from animals.

Quote from the paper: “This proportion is similar to that of 32% observed in present-day ovo-lacto-vegetarians and lower than the average of 64% of present-day omnivores.”

Then of course a common reasoning for why we found heart disease in ancient Egyptian mummies is: Mummies had heart disease because they were the ones who could afford to be mummified and therefore could afford to eat loads of animal foods and give themselves heart disease.

To address this, I reference another stable isotope analysis study[2] that says “A rather surprising observation is the lack of differences between isotopic composition of remains of different social classes…”

In response to this study, Unnatural Vegan says around 2:47 that “there’s not a big difference between beef fed on grains and grains themselves …a peasant who’s eating mostly grain and consuming smaller amounts of different meats like meats that royalty aren’t eating could look very similar in terms of nitrogen ratio compared to a pharaoh who’s eating almost exclusively beef. As explained in the study he references.”

(1) No, this is not explained in the study. The study doesn’t say anything along the lines of ‘there is little difference between a bread scarfing peasant and a beef gorging Pharaoh.’ In fact, it would be quite odd if this study said you can’t use stable isotopes to understand the amount of plant versus animal foods in the diet …considering one of the aims of the study was “to determine the amount of plant versus animal food in the diet.”

Yes, there will be a different between the beef and what the cow was eating. The Nitrogen-15 and Carbon-13 content will be different for the cow and what the cow ate. As explained in a study titled Stable Isotope Ratios as Biomarkers for Health Research[3] the Carbon 13 in the animal will be 1% higher than the animal’s food, and the Nitrogen 15 will be 3 to 4% higher than the animal’s food.

To my point, here’s a figure from the study showing a clear difference between vegans and omnivores. (The triangles on the top right are for inuit who we’d expect their data to lie there as they eat a lot of marine food.)

(2) What the study does say, as she shows on screen at 3:13, is: “This does not necessarily mean that no dietary differences existed between the very poor classes and wealthy people but, if they existed, they are not detectable by isotopic analyses.”

This sounds like the authors are being good scientists and admitting it’s possible their methods or samples may not have been perfect. They’re saying it’s possible that there are differences undetectable by isotope analysis, not that isotope analysis is not useful for understanding diet. As explained in the introduction of the study, one point of the study was to understand “whether diets could be related to social classes.” If they knew for certain that you couldn’t determine the difference between a grain eating peasant and a beef eating pharaoh with stable isotope analysis, why would they conduct the study?

In any case, for now, let’s go with the point that Unnatural Vegan is making: Stable isotope analysis is not perfect. Let’s look elsewhere to see if there’s evidence for my claim that “Egyptians with their bread based diet were essentially following the 1991 USDA food pyramid.”

The Worn down Teeth of the Egyptians

First, let’s take a look at Ancient Egyptian Teeth. In an article in a 1972 issue of the Journal of Egyptian Archeology[4], F. Filce Leek was trying to get to the bottom of a puzzling observation on ancient Egyptian skulls: They had terrible teeth. However, it wasn’t necessarily that they all had cavities, but that their teeth were terribly worn down. Even to the point that some people had already worn their teeth down to the dental pulp by early adulthood. 

See where the “Pulp Cavity” is? That’s how far down some of their teeth were worn off.

In fact, a study of 4800 ancient Egyptian teeth found that 90% of them had evidence of tooth wear.[5]

Leek wrote that since bread was such a staple in the ancient Egyptian diet, they would start investigating there. Here he cites a paragraph from the book Food in Egypt that says “The most important food of the Egyptians was bread… …The fondness of Egyptians for bread was so well known that they were nicknamed ‘artophagoi’ , or ‘eaters of bread’; it was the food par excellence, and the word was and has remained synonymous with food in this country.”

The Discovery of King Tut's Tomb

Leek wrote: “Several pieces of bread were found by Howard Carter during his excavation of the tomb of Tut’ankhamūn(King Tut), placed there for sustenance of the resurrected King.” Carter even found a model of a hand-mill for grinding grain in the tomb. 

Since bread was so important to apparently all classes of people in ancient Egypt, maybe the bread itself would hold some clues to what was happening to the Egyptians’ teeth. Since they had actual samples of ancient bread, they conducted a radiological examination of the bread and found clear “presence of inorganic particles in many of the specimens.” They found bits of minerals in the bread. More specifically, sand. 

The principle source, quite understandably, is from contamination with wind-blown desert sand.” Leek explained that the grain and resulting bread could be contaminated with sand at essentially every stage of the bread making process. He wrote that numerous statements from ancient papyri support this claim, with a typical one being ‘… I will repay in the month of Pauni of the present third year, in wheat that is new, pure, unadulterated, free from earth and barley and sifted.’

Leek wrote: “It became quite evident that the abrasive particles found in these samples of bread would more than account for all the attrition to be seen in ancient Egyptian skulls, so much so that further investigation was clearly unwarranted.”

Long story short: Bread was a huge staple of the ancient Egyptian diet, and Egyptians ate so much of this sandy bread that it ground their teeth down. 

Dr. Michael Eade’s talk titled ‘Paleopathology and the Origins of the Low-carb Diet’ is what lead me to this concept and Leek’s paper I just discussed above, as well as some of the concepts discussed in my video that Unnatural Vegan went on to respond to. Dr. Eade’s talk is really intriguing and he’s a great presenter – I recommend giving it a watch. In the talk, Eades was explaining that the bread makers would attempt to sift as much sand out of their bread as possible, but were never entirely successful. What made me laugh was when he said: “There were even ads back then saying buy Joe’s bread, it has less sand.

Too Poor to afford Cavities

So one of the points regarding heart disease found in Egyptian mummies goes something like ‘Only the rich could afford to eat meat and saturated fats, and because only the rich could afford to go through the mummification process, what we’re seeing is a bunch of rich people who gorged on saturated fat and meat and got heart disease because of it.’ 

Mummy scan

Case in point: an article from livescience.com writes of an Egyptian princess in her 40s who suffered from heart disease: “Ahmose-Meryet-Amon likely lived a more active life and ate a healthier diet than the average American today. She would have eaten lots of vegetables, fruit, wheat and barley, along with some lean meat. That makes it difficult to understand how two of her three main heart arteries were blocked.”

From the lens of the ol’ 1991 “eat low fat and high carb to save your heart” advice, indeed this would be difficult to understand. She’s following the food pyramid, …yet had heart disease.

So… they reason: “It’s possible that, as a royal, Ahmose-Meryet-Amon ate more meat, butter and cheese than the average Egyptian.

In my video, I suggested evidence points to the mummies who got heart disease eating a high carb diet. Well, if we’re not too confident in stable isotopes, maybe we can look at the teeth. So the question becomes: Did the rich people who could afford the embalming process have worn teeth as well?

Well, as already discussed above, Leek’s study of 4800 ancient Egyptian teeth found that 90% of them had evidence of tooth wear.[5] But let’s look at another source, this paper titled Dental status of three Egyptian mummies.[6]
The first mummy they looked was the “best model of the embalming techniques.” (I wonder how much he paid for that.) As for teeth wear: “All teeth had marked wear of the incisal edges and occlusal surfaces. This finding is commonly encountered in Egyptian mummies …and most likely results from wear to the enamel due to chewing hard foods… or to the presence in flour of siliceous residues from grinding stones.

They even wrote that the the pulp of the incisors rotted either from trauma to the incisor or “intense incisal wear.” Sounds like people who could afford to be mummified were eating a lot of sandy bread.  

Here’s an interesting bit regarding Mummy #2: “An uncommon finding, indicative of the subject’s relative wealth, was the presence of dental caries(cavities) on the distal aspect of tooth #15 and the mesial aspect of tooth#16, with pulp cavity involvement, most probably a result of the availability of sweet and starchy foods for the wealthier classes.

6 Foods that are Bad for your Teeth — Tulsa Teeth Cleaning | Tulsa Modern  Dental
Cute Graphic from Tulsa Modern Dental


I don’t think you’ll find anyone saying meat and animal fat cause cavities… but it’s been understood since at least 1949 (image to the left) that most agree carbs, and especially sugar, will give you cavities.

So, if royalty had more cavities than the commoners, wouldn’t that mean they ate even more carbs than the commoners?

Cavities do seem to have been prevalent with the rich in ancient Egypt. As explained in Dentists, Dentistry and Dental Diseases in Ancient Egypt,[7] around 2,100 years ago, a young wealthy man from Thebes dying from a sinus infection caused by a mouthful of cavities and other tooth ailments.

That same paper explains how royal mummies’ teeth were so bad that they had to have had brass and wood carved artificial ones.[7]

A 2016 article from the The Times of Israel discusses a 2,200 year old mummified priest going on display in Jerusalem. The author writes that “He still has most of his teeth, but suffered from cavities and receding gums, as well as osteoporosis. Like people nowadays, he indulged in too many carbs and spent too much time indoors.

Another paper 2015 paper says this isn’t rare: “caries decay of the teeth of Egyptian aristocrats is a frequent observation, effect of a copious consumption of processed carbohydrates.”[10]

Comparing individuals from the periods Old Kingdom(OK)(2686〜2181 BC) and Ptolemaic(PP)(305〜30 BC), this paper from 2014 says: “The observed higher frequency of carious lesions in the PP sample could indicate that the individuals’ diet was richer in sugars and starches, the source of the latter being bread and cereals.[8]

Now you being the astute reader, are saying ‘I see where you’re going with this, but did these Ptolemaic mummies even have heart disease?’ The answer would be “Yes.” Not just the Ptolemaic mummies either. A 2011 paper specifically looking at mummies from different time periods says: “Definite or probable atherosclerosis was present in mummies who lived during virtually every era of ancient Egypt represented in this study, a time span of >2,000 years. Conclusions: Atherosclerosis is commonplace in mummified ancient Egyptians.“[9]

Not just Bad Teeth, Bad bones

So, we’ve got decent evidence that mummies who had heart disease also ate a bunch of carbs. Remember that earlier point Unnatural Vegan wanted to refute, that the poor and the rich were both eating high carb diets? Here’s another quote from the 2014 paper:

…only marginal differences in the prevalence rates of porotic hyperostosis observed between the OK élite population and PP lower status individuals from Saqqara-West could suggest that there were no major differences in the diet consumed by different social classes, or that foods of animal origin consumed predominantly by the wealthier in the Old Kingdom became more available to the commoners in the Ptolemaic Period.”[8]

So what’s porotic hyperostosis?

Image result for porotic hyperostosis

Essentially, it’s a pathology that affects the skull and causes the bone to become spongy or porous. The reason the authors from that earlier study are discussing this as an indicator of animal food intake is because porotic hyperostosis is a sign of anemia, which is typically due to an iron deficient diet.

Iron deficiency being the cause is widely accepted, although non-diet factors like infectious diseases and blood loss are suspected to play a role[12]. Megaloblastic anemia is also thought to be a cause, and this is caused by a deficiency in vitamin B12 (which Egyptians would need to have gotten from animal products) or folate (comes from liver, meat or leafy greens). [14]

If the rich are experiencing as much porotic hyperostosis as the poor, this would suggest that the rich are not eating all that much meat. This 2015 study looking at a Royal Cemetery complex in upper Egypt found that 77% of those in the Royal tomb had some level of porosis.[11] Considering the most bioavailable form of iron – heme iron, which comes from meat, they shouldn’t be experiencing iron deficiency if they had been eating gobs of meat.

Wait, wait. We’re “doing our own research,” remember? What if these bone defects are caused by blood loss from schistosomiasis and hookworm, as suggested in the above 2015 study?[11] Well, shouldn’t we expect eating plenty of meat to ameliorate that? I think most people are familiar with the fact that if you need to recoup blood, you should eat some meat. The university of Utah “prescribes”beef liver for women after blood loss during childbirth.[15] In a 2019 study looking at Inuit and levels of Caribou consumption, it explains that blood loss is a possible to contributor to inuit anemia, and more than half of those in the study were affected with H. Pylori (also understood to contribute to anemia[16]). Unsurprisingly, those eating the most caribou experienced the least anemia.[17]

So what’s left? Since Ancient Egyptians weren’t instagramming their food we can’t say exactly what they ate. We can’t say for certain that they didn’t eat tons of cheese and butter.

So, in an agricultural society that led to even to the rich experiencing bone porosis from anemia, in a diet dominated by enough bread to grind their teeth down, and enough starchy/sweet carbs to riddle their mouths with enough cavities, was it some saturated fat rich cheese and butter that caused their health issues?

Did I miss something?

(This ends the discussion of Unnatural Vegan’s video. The rest of it was basically justifying that yes saturated fat is bad and meat is bad – topics I’ve covered before so I’ll leave that.)

To be honest, I do think I sacrificed some nuance for the sake of the watchability of the video. Dr. Paul Saladino discussed this on his podcast – See here from 42:35.

He says: “I do not believe carbohydrates cause metabolic dysfunction and diabetes. …I believe it’s a long process initially sparked with seed oils in the diet.”

I think this is a good a point. In the video I should have clarified that “benign” carbohydrates by themselves (that is, just glucose) probably won’t cause diabetes. (For example in my Fructose video I paint Glucose as relatively benign compared to Fructose, based on Dr. Robert Lustig’s work.)

Dr. Saladino specifically points to seed oils being the problem (as he explains, Egyptians did have seed oils in that time.) I would agree, and add that excessive fructose or perhaps excessive gluten could also be factors in diet causing diabetes. The Egyptians would have had access to all three. See the following videos for more. (Dr. Knobbe’s presentation is highly recommended.)


Saladino also says that it’s more likely nutrient deficiencies leading to dental issues rather than simply the addition of carbs in the diet. Particularly the lack of fat soluble vitamins being the source of dental issues.

This is indeed well established in Weston Price’s Nutrition and Physical degeneration – highly recommended for anyone interested in the origins of modern diseases. (On that note, another avenue to explore is whether a lack of choline[18] could have helped Egyptians get their diabetes.)

Only one thing from my personal experience is that: Both my brother and I have found that when we get back into carbs, we get tooth pain and our gums get sensitive, even though we get plenty of fat soluble vitamins in our diet. I realize anecdotes are a very low form of evidence (even though I have a whole two anecdotes), but this has been a point of curiosity for me.

I agree with Dr. Saladino that there’s more to the story.

So, is my video bunk because I don’t understand how stable isotope analysis works? No.
Was it actually the saturated fat and butter that caused the Ancient Egyptians health problems? Highly unlikely.

[Pardon the lazy citation format. All numbers above are hyperlinked to the source research]
1 – Diet of ancient Egyptians inferred from stable isotope systematics
2 – An isotopic palaeoenvironmental study of human skeletal remains from the Nile Valley
3 – Stable Isotope Ratios as Biomarkers for Health Research
4 – Teeth and Bread in Ancient Egypt
5 – Dental Health and Disease in Ancient Egypt
6 – Dental status of three Egyptian mummies
7 – Dentists, Dentistry and Dental Diseases in Ancient Egypt
8 – A study of social stratification and physical health in an ancient Egyptian population of Saqqara.
9 – Atherosclerosis in Ancient Egyptian Mummies: The Horus Study
10 – Tutankhamun’s Dentition: The Pharaoh and his Teeth
11 – Variation in porotic hyperostosis in the Royal Cemetery complex at Abydos, Upper Egypt: a social interpretation
12 – The causes of porotic hyperostosis and cribra orbitalia: a reappraisal of the iron-deficiency-anemia hypothesis
14 – Megaloblastic Anemia
15 – After Blood Loss During Childbirth
16 – Helicobacter pylori and iron deficiency anemia: guilty as charged?
17 – Potential impact of restricted caribou (Rangifer tarandus) consumption on anemia prevalence among Inuit adults in northern Canada
18 – Choline, Its Potential Role in Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease, and the Case for Human and Bacterial Genes

Categories
Health

What made the ancient Egyptians Fat and Sick?

This is the transcript for my video of the same title published on July 27th, 2020

What was making ancient egyptians fat? The architect Hemiunu’s statue suggests he was overweight with a serious case of man boobs. National Geographic reported that King Tut had large deposits of fat on his hips and breast-like fat clumps on his chest. And the mummy of Hatshepsut was very fat, and probably had diabetes. It was found as early as 1911 that Egyptian mummies had heart disease.[R] In fact more than half of 43 middle aged mummies examined had heart disease.  What was making them so sick?
We’ll get to that story, but first we need to connect a few dots. 


Imagine you’re going on a date with someone you’re really into. You’ve arrived at the restaurant 10 minutes early because you need to use the bathroom. After some time, unfortunately you lose your battle with constipation, you leave the toilet defeated, and off you go to greet your date bloated and gassy.


Now imagine this uncomfortableness being a common occurrence for 10 years straight except it’s far worse. Your gut is inflamed to the point that you have open wounds and polyps on the lining of your intestines. You get stomach pain and cramps, diarrhea, there’s blood in your stool and you’re often drained tired.
This is a disease called ulcerative colitis, which a 71year old man from was suffering through. His health was pretty bad, he was also taking insulin and pills for his diabetes and high blood pressure. 

What’s interesting about this man is the unconventional diet he used to actually put both his ulcerative colitis and diabetes into remission, which by the way are both diseases thought to not have a cure. What’s also interesting is why his endocrinologist recommended he stop that oddly magical diet and do a different one. 


 I learned about this man after interviewing Doctor Paul Mason of Sydney Australia on Skype. 
…the guidelines by and large do not reflect evidence-based science – they’re distorted facts, they’re not based on science and following them does not lead to optimal health.” -Mason
 

Dr. Mason shared several surprising and somewhat controversial points, but this 71 year old man’s story happens to back up each of those points.
So, let’s look at the new diet that drastically improved the man’s health, and we’ll look at how it came to be that a medical professional – his endocrinologist would recommend that he go back on the type of diet that probably made him sick in the first place.


So, the 71 year old man’s new diet had plenty of saturated fat, yet his endocrinologist recommended he stop that and eat a diet low in saturated fat. You’ve probably heard a lot about saturated fat by now, but let’s look at the logic and history that led to health professionals making this recommendation

At the time, the logic was based on a flawed hypothesis supported by junk science. And that was what we call the diet heart hypothesis – it was by a guy called Ancel Keys, he was a physiologist and an epidemiologist and he had the hypothesis that serum cholesterol and saturated fat were causally related to heart disease and this was based on some experimental data for instance what happens if you feed rabbits which are herbivorous a high saturated fat diet so clearly this has no relevance for humans at all. And its based on an epidemiological study which has now been well and truly debunked called the Seven Countries Study where he basically cherry picked data from some countries that he liked the results of.” – Mason

Before Ancel Keys released the Seven Countries Study, he first presented a graph in 1953 showing data from six countries found the more fat a group of people ate, the more heart disease they had. It made for a very convincing chart.[R]

However, just four years later in April 1957, Biostatistics PhD Jacob Yerushalmy and Medical Doctor Herman Hilleboe presented a strikingly different chart using the same pool of data that Ancel Keys was using.[R

Their chart showed that the more fat people ate, the less heart disease there was. How could that be?
Well, Ancel Keys didn’t have data for only 6 or 7 countries, there was data for 22 countries. When you look at the data for all 22 countries, there’s no convincing relationship between fat and heart disease. 

Regardless, four years later, a 1961 issue of Time Magazine featured Ancel Keys and explained to the public that eating saturated fat raises your cholesterol and this causes heart disease. At the end of the article it says Keys’ cholesterol was 209. 

That’s funny because President Dwight Eisenhower had a much lower cholesterol of only 165 when he had his heart attack in 1955.

A couple years later, in a 1987 New York times article competing for real estate with a women’s summer suit ad, Famous Heart Surgeon Dr. Michael DeBakey said that his 30 years of experience with over 15,000 patients led him to conclude that high cholesterol was not the cause of heart disease.

So if we were to take saturated fat for instance, there’s been more than 10 systematic reviews and meta analyses which is where we actually compile all the data together looking at saturated fat and polyunsaturated fat and on balance, they find in favor of saturated fat. Higher saturated fat consumption is not associated with worse health.” – Mason

Another change that helped the 71 year old man fix his health was a drastic reduction in carbs. His endocrinologist on the other hand after seeing his excellent lab results, recommended instead he eat more carbs like whole grains as well as fruit and vegetables.  

This high carb recommendation starts at least as early as 1977 when Dietary Goals for the United States was released to the public thanks to George McGovern.[R, R2] These goals, driven by the idea that fat and cholesterol cause heart disease, recommended reducing saturated fat to just 10% of the diet and raising carbohydrates to 60% of the diet. However, there was plenty of opposition to this at the time. 

And I have pleaded in my report and will plead again orally here for more research on the problem before we make announcements to the american public.” – Dr. Robert Olson

I said to the professor that I was working with – you know, this is not right – animal fat is not causing this and this is not what the data says.” -Biochemist Mary Enig PhD

You know, there were imminent scientists at the time saying this is nonsense, there is no good scientific evidence that either fat or cholesterol y’know is at the root of heart disease.” -Dr. Mary Dan Eades

Back in the early 80’s[S] Luise Light was the leader of a group of top-level nutritionists specifically hired by the USDA to develop an eating guide. After pouring through all kinds of nutrition data with her team, Luise’s guide recommended at most 3-4 servings of grains per day. Not long after submitting the report, she was shocked to see that they made some drastic revisions like increasing the grains from 3-4 to 6- 11 servings a day.[What to Eat, Luis Light, M.S., Ed.D.

As she wrote in her book[S], Luise told her boss, the agency director that these changes would be “disastrous,” and would mean unleashing obesity and diabetes upon Americans. Despite her objections they decided to stick with their version. What was the reason they gave her? Well, it had nothing to do with health – they said that jacking up the grain recommendation would cut costs for the food stamp program. Fruits and vegetables were expensive. Grains were cheap. 

Despite Luise’s protests, In 1991, the food pyramid was released, recommending 6 to 11 servings of grains every day. Even before this though, the original high carb recommendation from 1977 was taking its toll on people’s health. 

If you look at the obesity trends, people started to get fat pretty much right when George McGovern issued his report recommending low fat high carbohydrate diets. We replaced steak and pork chops for pasta, butter with margarine, eggs and bacon for cereal with skim milk and grandma’s all butter cookies for Snackwell’s low fat cookies. And, we became fatter than ever.

Are there any consequences, you know, domino effects of this idea that you should not eat saturated fat, you shouldn’t eat- you should cut the fat off your steaks, you shouldn’t have full fat yogurt, you need to have skim milk… what are the down stream effects of that?” -Joseph to Mason

Well I mean we only have three main sources of macronutrients. Which is y’know carbohydrate, protein, and fat. And, you can only eat so much protein. …and you cut out the fat in the diet, then that really leaves only one thing – that means you have to increase your carbohydrate intake. And, what most people don’t realize is that carbohydrates are literally molecules of sugar joined together. Even the complex carbohydrates, you know the brown rice, the sweet potatoes, the whole meal bread. They are literally chains of glucose – sugar molecules joined together. And when you ingest them, they get absorbed into your circulation – you end up with what we call elevated blood sugar levels. And long term and high levels of carbohydrate consumption, we know are causally associated with a condition called insulin resistance which eventually leads to diabetes. And what’s the problem in diabetes? Well everybody knows, right? It’s having excess glucose – this particular type of sugar in the bloodstream. And, when we eat more carbohydrate, we put more sugar in the bloodstream – that sugar’s gotta come from somewhere, right? So, if I explain this to most of my patients, they’ll often look at me and say so why don’t I stop eating carbohydrate? And you know what? That is the solution, it’s really that simple, this is treating diabetes 101. And yet this concept that carbohydrates are made of glucose, they cause a rise in our blood sugar, therefore they’re not good for us is beyond the grasp of most doctors.” -Mason

Going back to the fat and sick egyptian mummies – what did they eat? Well, as Dr. Michael Eades explains, a modern nutritionist would say the ancient egyptian diet was just fantastic. 

The basic ancient egyptian diet had some plant oils, they also fished and ate some fowl and had the occasional serving of red meat, but the diet was mostly carbohydrates, primarily bread. They also had fruits, vegetables and honey. As explained in a paper in the Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, “The most important food of the egyptians was bread.” In fact the Egyptians were nicknamed Artophagoi which means eaters of bread.[R

You can find several figurines depicting people grinding wheat, as well as art depicting people harvesting wheat or preparing bread. Egyptians with their bread based diet were essentially following the 1991 USDA food pyramid.
Some people have argued that well it was only the rich who could afford to be mummified or have statues made of their fat selves made and only the rich could afford to buy and eat many saturated fat containing animal foods …so that’s why the mummies hard heart disease.

However, scientists have a really interesting way to determine what ancient people ate called stable isotope analysis. By looking at how much of an isotope of Nitrogen called Nitrogen 15 is in the bones of a person or animal, and then comparing that to the Nitrogen 15 content of plants in that area, they can tell whether an animal or person’s diet had more meat or more plants in it. 
Dr. Eades explains that this kind of stable isotope analysis found that the egyptians got only 29 to 19% of their protein from animal sources – not only was most of their protein coming from plants, but their diet as a whole was mostly grains and plants, which means very little saturated fat. The researchers described it as being close to a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet.[R] And, as this paper explains, there was a surprising lack of difference in the stable isotope composition between social classes, meaning everyone, rich or poor, was eating a generally high carb low saturated fat diet.[R

I remember when I was planning on doing a low carb diet, a couple of people were saying you can’t just cut a whole food group out, you can’t just not eat pasta, not eat bread… you need carbohydrates. Is that true – do we, is there a biological requirement for dietary carbohydrate?” -Joseph to Mason
So I will say right now and I’ll say it explicitly. There is no need for dietary carbohydrate. In other words, the theoretical minimum consumption of carbohydrate that is consistent with good health is zero. Now this doesn’t mean that some tissues in our body don’t need to use carbohydrate – they don’t need to use glucose – which is a carbohydrate. But it means we don’t need to eat it because if our body needs it, it can make it. It can make it from certain amino acids, it can make it from the glycerol backbone which forms the triglyceride type of fat, so we do not need to eat carbohydrate – the notion that we need at least 130 grams of carbohydrates a day to support or neurological function is based on nothing but junk science. So, I will again say we do not need to eat dietary carbohydrate, it is not an essential nutrient.” -Mason

That might be shocking to hear that the requirement for dietary carbohydrate is zero. Yet, again this 71yo man’s case proves the point: his diet had virtually zero carbohydrates. His diet was in fact an all meat diet – no carbs, no grains, no fruits, not even vegetables. I know that for some of you, saying an all meat diet cured this man’s diabetes and ulcerative colitis might sound like I just said you could cure eczema and baldness by eating Elmer’s glue. 

But bare with me for a moment and let’s look at it in terms of what he’s not eating. As Dr. Paul Mason explained, not eating carbohydrate would be good for lowering his blood sugar which would improve his insulin resistance and improve his diabetes. In fact, the endocrinologist even acknowledged in the report that the reason he wouldn’t need his diabetes medication metformin is because the reduction of carbs improved his blood sugar. 

But this man had a painful, constipating bowel condition, yet we all know fiber is good  for our bowels, it’s good for pooping. Yet, this man’s new, no fiber diet healed his bowel condition.

“Well, on the topic of carbohydrates, what about fiber, isn’t that a carbohydrate that’s good for you – it’s good for your digestion…?” – Joseph to Mason

Well, technically yes, Well yes it is a carbohydrate but no it’s actually not that good for you and that’s going to surprise a lot of people. So the definition of fiber is that it’s an indigestible carbohydrate – indigestible as far as your body goes, it can’t be absorbed or broken down by your body. And there’s a lot of myths surrounding fiber… It only comes from plant foods, and it’s often thought that it can prevent and treat constipation which is the most common belief around it and it would surprise a lot of people to know that there’s an absolute parcity of studies that actually support that. So, to my knowledge, there’s been no randomized controlled studies on the effects of fiber on the symptoms on constipation. And I say that very precisely – so the symptoms of constipation means things that bother people – things like pain and bloating and bleeding. So, there has been some evidence that shows that having fiber can actually increase the bulk of your stool. There have been some studies that show that having fiber can actually increase – well, reduce the transit time, meaning things transit through the intestinal tract a little bit quicker. But when you have a look at the symptoms that patients come and ask me about – they say:‘doc I’ve bloating – it hurts. I’ve got pain.’ Y’know,‘I have some bleeding, can you help me?’ There’s been no evidence at all that demonstrates that fiber is beneficial. In fact, when we have a look at the best available evidence on this – there was an experimental study that was performed in 2012 and subjects with constipation found that complete elimination of dietary fiber – that is, an intake of 0 grams of dietary fiber led to complete improvement in all the symptoms of constipation in 41 patients. So, this is absolutely staggering. The statistical significance of this study was through the roof. And, these people were compared to people on various other levels of fiber intake from high fiber to moderate fiber and low fiber diets and you could see a clear dose response relationship between the symptoms of constipation and the amount of fiber intake. And when you think about it logically, so, what is constipation? So effectively constipation is trouble passing fecal matter. You’re trying to pass something through a small hole. So, is it really logical that making that something bigger is going to make it easier to pass through a small hole? When you think about it, that’s like adding more cars to a traffic jam and expecting the traffic to suddenly clear… it just defies logic.” -Mason

Many people can handle tons of fiber in their diet,  but some people just can’t process fiber as well, and in fact we shouldn’t expect high fiber to be the norm for humans. 

If you dig into our evolutionary past, you’ll see that our gut shrank significantly around the time that we got these huge brains.[R] The brain is a very energy expensive organ, so we needed to make things more efficient. To achieve this efficiency, the gut shrank. And the idea is that this happened as began hunting animals for nutrient dense meat and energy dense fat. More calories and more nutrients in a smaller package means we can sacrifice all that gut real estate and use resources on building a huge brain. 

The reason gorillas for example have these gigantic bloated bellies is because they are packing their guts with difficult to digest fiber all day. Gorillas have a huge colon that is specifically for fermenting fiber to produce short chain fatty acids. These fatty acids are an energy source. In this way, a lowland gorilla will get 30-60% of their energy needs just by fermenting fiber in their big colon. The human digestive tract shrunk so much that the small human colon on the other hand can only provide at best 2-9% of our energy needs from fermenting fiber.[R]

“I guess this raises another important point – we’ve often put plants up on a pedestal as being uniquely nutritious and uniquely healthy and yet they do contain things like oxalates, and phytates and tannins that actually impair nutrient absorption – they’re literally called antinutrients and they can cause these other problems within the body, so y’know, we have a look at wheat based products and we know that gluten actually increases what we call intestinal permeability in everybody. Now, people with celiac disease are more susceptible to the side effects because of the degree of intestinal permeability that they already start with, but everybody is vulnerable to these.” – Mason

Now I realize how blasphemous it sounds to question the greatness of plants. But oddly enough this 71 year old man went on a diet that had literally no plants and his health dramatically improved. In contrast many people do fine with tons of plants, look at vegan triathlete rich roll for example. He seems to be doing pretty well. But plants do have substances in them that not everyone can handle. You wouldn’t give wheat bread to a celiac patient, you wouldn’t give a peanut to someone with a peanut allergy. Some people are very sensitize to oxalates – a compound found in many plant foods for example leafy greens. Sally Norton had been struggling with chronic pain, fatigue and other mysterious symptoms for 30 years since the age of 12. She finally went on a low oxalate diet – simply cutting out unsuspecting plant foods like spinach and almonds finally resolved these terrible problems she had been struggling with for decades. 

Oxalate poisoning is actual something farmers have to deal with[R]. They have to prevent their herds from eating too many oxalate containing plants. The animals can develop issues as serious as kidney failure from this. 
Humans are told the brassica Kale is a superfood, but ranchers caring for a herd of grazing animals are told to beware of the health risks of Kale.[R]
Now personally, I find that I get a little queasy every time I eat too much spinach, but I suspect I’m not as sensitive to oxalates as certain people. The point is to say we shouldn’t expect all people to perfectly be able to  handle all plants. 

“When we actually have a look at a lot of the nutrients in plant foods, we have to have a look at biological value. So if we take iron for instance, we get heme iron from animal foods and we get non heme iron from plant based foods like spinach but there’s really no comparison in terms of how effective they are – able to be utilized by the body. So non-heme iron in spinach is very difficult for our body to actually assimilate and to deal with. And we see this across the board – we have vitamin A, that comes in different forms and the form of vitamin A we have from animal foods is so much more biologically useful than what we get from plant foods.” -Mason

Then, we’re often told this or that fruit or vegetable is chock full of this or that nutrient – leafy greens have folate and calcium, carrots have choline, avocados have vitamin B6, beans have iron, nuts have zinc, mushrooms have riboflavin. That’s great, but an egg yolk has all of those. 

Sometimes the vitamins in plants aren’t what we think they are. For example, people think carrots have vitamin A because they refer to the beta carotene in carrots as vitamin A, but the reality is that that beta carotene needs to be converted in the human body into vitamin A. So, take a look at my Mom’s blood test. 

Her beta carotene level is very high where her Vitamin A is actually in the low range. What’s going on? Well, again beta carotene in plants isn’t vitamin A. How well you convert that beta carotene into actual Vitamin A depends on your genes. Some people say carrots are a good source of vitamin A, but at least when it comes to my Mom and probably myself, carrots are not a good source of vitamin A. 

“We’ve got in our head that plant based foods are more nutrient dense and essentially more nutritious than other foods and if we don’t have a side of vegetables or fruit on our plate, then we must be missing out. The simple fact is that is not the case. Animal foods are more nutrient dense than plant based foods…”-Mason

By the way, aside from those other nutrients I already mentioned, an egg yolk also has Vitamin A, I mean actual vitamin A. It doesn’t need to be converted.
Not to mention egg yolks also have vitamin D, and E, and Thiamin and B12 and Pantothenic acid and Betaine and phosphorus and selenium. Oh wait but we’re not supposed to eat eggs, especially not egg yolks because of cholesterol…
So, to recap, this man went on an all meat, that is- high saturated fat, no carb, no vegetable diet. This strange diet mysteriously healed his diabetes, ulcerative colitis and high blood pressure. Despite the drastic health improvements though, his endocrinologist recommended he go back on a high carb reduced fat diet and limit his red meat consumption. Essentially the recommendation was to do the opposite of the diet that solved his health problems. Fruits and vegetables are perfectly fine for most people, but it was surprising to me that the endocrinologist didn’t at least investigate why the new low carb high fat high protein diet was so effective and instead gave him the same high carb low fat diet advice that people have heard since the 1970’s.

This wave of bad advice and close mindedness seems to stem entirely from Ancel Keys diet heart hypothesis – the idea that saturated fat causes heart attacks. This poorly supported idea is still taught as fact to doctors today. 
You were saying that essentially the foundational teaching that people are given when they are on their path to become a medical doctor – they are taught this right, that the diet heart hypothesis is correct and this is what causes heart disease?” -Joseph

This is accepted as fact. Certainly it was when I was in medical school and I was actually provided with some of the curriculum notes from a local university here a couple of years ago, and I was quite surprised to see the lipid heart hypothesis still going strong, so unless things have changed in the last 2 years and I am almost certain that they have not – then that would be the status quo today. 
Here’s the problem: If you start to understand the root biochem, the root cause biochemistry of all of this, you then have to understand that saturated fats are not dangerous for our health and then the whole house of cards falls down. I think in a way, this – the situation we’re in with such atrocious dietary guidelines could never have occurred if doctors had a better understanding of biochemistry.” – Mason

Categories
Health

Less Breath: Better Health? (Mouth Breathing vs. Nasal Breathing)


The following is the transcript for the video by the same name on my channel “What I’ve Learned
,” originally posted on April 12th, 2017.

The hit Netflix series “Stranger Things” has done a great service to its viewers. While it has an excellent story with a good sense of mystery, humor, horror and a loveable cast, what I’m talking about is…

Mike to Eleven: “mouthbreather – y’know, a dumb person?”

This phrase actually only comes up 3 times, but hopefully it made viewers more aware of how they are breathing throughout the day. As the character Will Mike explains, Mouth Breather refers to a “dumb person,” 

But is it because leaving your mouth open just looks dumb or you could say the person is dumb for not being aware of their own face, or does breathing through the mouth actually decrease intelligence somehow? Actually, there is evidence that simply taking air into the mouth rather than the nose can result in reduced IQ.

A systematic review of medical literature done by the Federal University Sergipe in Brazil found that after applying certain criteria Overall, 80% of the articles showed a higher incidence of learning disabilities among mouth breathers,” concluding that “This systematic review has shown that mouth breathers are more likely to have learning difficulties than nasal breathers.”


In the book “Adenoids and Diseased Tonsils: Their Effect on General Intelligence” by Margaret Rogers, she quotes a H. Addington Bruce saying “… mouth-breathing means difficult breathing, and this in turn means deficient [oxygenation] of the tissues, with a resultant lowering of vital activities generally and of the activity of the brain in particular. “

Shut Your Mouth and Save Your Life : George Catlin : Free Download, Borrow,  and Streaming : Internet Archive

George Catlin, author of the 1869 book “Shut your mouth and save your life” stresses the importance of breathing through your nose at all times, while awake or sleeping. He says “there is no perfect sleep for man or brute, with the mouth open; it is unnatural, and a strain upon the lungs” and he describes how impressed he was to see a Native American woman gently press on the lips of her baby to keep its mouth closed while sleeping. 

But how could simply getting Oxygen from one route rather than another be so important that it affect your cognitive ability or anything else for that matter? 

The nose is extremely complex and takes up much more space than just the knob in the middle of your face.  That’s only only 30% of it and the other 70% of the nasal cavity is deep in the skull. While smell is a very important sense, it wouldn’t be necessary to allocate all that real estate unless the nose had other important responsibilities. 

When someone breathes through the mouth, they are bypassing several critical functions of the nose. To name a few, the nose filters, warms and moistens the air you breathe to make it more suitable for your lungs. Nasal breathing also increases levels of nitric oxide, a key signaling molecule used throughout the body. Another very important function of the nose is that it regulates airflow and helps prevent overbreathing. 

So how can you ‘over breathe’? Well, breathing in and out more air than is necessary results in hypocapnia, or a state of reduced carbon dioxide in the blood. This is why people breathe into a paper bag when hyperventilating from intense stress or an anxiety attack. The excessive breathing depleted too much carbon dioxide, so the bag helps trap the carbon dioxide they are exhaling and keep it in the body until their carbon dioxide blood levels and breathing rhythm return to normal. And this is a key point in why mouth breathing can affect people’s intelligence.

Breathing through the mouth during the day or while you’re asleep not only means the air is not conditioned by the nasal cavity, but you tend to exhale too much carbon dioxide, meaning your tissues are actually getting less oxygen. And, lower carbon dioxide within the blood causes a constriction of the carotid artery, the main blood vessel going to the brain. “Each 2.5% drop in the partial pressure of arterial carbon dioxide reduces blood flow to the brain by 2%.

The loss of carbon dioxide from improper breathing isn’t drastic enough to be easily noticeable, but over time the habit can take its toll on the brain and body.

But this is a bit counter intuitive. How could taking in more air through a bigger passage – the mouth, lead to less oxygenation of your tissues?  People mainly think of oxygen when discussing breathing, but Carbon Dioxide is a key factor in this equation.

Amazon | The Oxygen Advantage: The simple, scientifically proven breathing  technique that will revolutionise your health and fitness | McKeown,  Patrick | Sleep Disorders

As Patrick McKeown, author of the Oxygen advantage explains, “The amount of Oxygen, your muscles, organs and tissues are able to use is not entirely dependent on the amount of oxygen in your blood. Our red blood cells are [almost always] saturated with between 95 and 99% oxygen and that’s plenty for even the most strenuous exercise.” So, since your red blood cells are already saturated with oxygen, taking in more oxygen with big breaths isn’t going to do anything. 

What is important, is getting that Oxygen out of the red blood cells so it can be used by the body. And Carbon Dioxide is what allows the release of oxygen from the red blood cells. This physiological phenomenon is called the Bohr effect, it was first described in 1904 by Christian Bohr and it states that “hemoglobin’s oxygen binding affinity is inversely related both to acidity and to the concentration of carbon dioxide.” Hemoglobin is the protein inside red blood cells that carries oxygen. An increase in carbon dioxide decreases blood pH and hemoglobin proteins release their load of oxygen so it can be utilized by the muscles and organs.  A decrease in carbon dioxide increases pH and causes haemoglobin to hold on to more oxygen. That is, the oxygen stays stuck to the hemoglobin so it’s not available for your tissues to use. 

Carbon dioxide is created as an end product of metabolism. So, the Bohr effect helps oxygen be released to the tissues most in need of oxygen. For example when you’re running, your thighs are going to be using a lot of energy, the metabolic rate will increase and the thighs will produce more carbon dioxide. This extra carbon dioxide will then let the hemoglobin supply more oxygen to these hardworking muscles.

However if you’re taking large breaths through the mouth, you’re going to exhale and lose a proportionally large amount of precious carbon dioxide.

Patrick McKeown explains that if we breathe a lower volume of air by breathing in a slow controlled fashion through the nose, we increase the amount of carbon dioxide inside us and can deliver more oxygen to our muscles and organs, including the heart and the brain.

So what’s important is not having enough oxygen, but being able to use that oxygen. Unless you have some serious pulmonary problems, your red blood cells will always be almost fully saturated with Oxygen. If you don’t have enough Carbon Dioxide in the blood because you’re breathing too heavily or through the mouth, you can’t use oxygen efficiently and bringing more Oxygen into the lungs with a big breath won’t help you. 

Ironically, most people will start gasping for air through their mouths in the middle of a long run,  but this only makes matters worse.

Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness: Jurek, Scott,  Friedman, Steve: 8601421057493: Amazon.com: Books


Scott Jurek is one of the most dominant ultramarathon runners in the world, winning many of the sport’s prestigious race events multiple times. He won the 100-mile Western States Endurance Run seven consecutive times. In his memoir “Eat and Run” he says: “One of the most important things you can do … is to breathe abdominally, and a good way to learn that skill is to practice nasal breathing.”

The Tarahumara native Indians of Mexico are able to run up to 62 miles a day, twice that of a typical elite athlete. Studies of the Tarahumara show that they breathe almost entirely through the nose. The tarahumara are better able to utilize nasal nitric oxide, and have more CO2 in the lungs.

Of course there are other factors that allow them to accomplish such impressive feats of endurance, but this is an excellent display of nasal breathing during athletic performance.

Anthropologist Wade Davis has studied and lived with fifteen groups of indigenous people, including tribal hunters of the Amazon. While staying with the tribe, Davis was allowed to accompany them on hunting expeditions. Hunts began in the morning and they would persistently chase animals at a jogging and running pace over many hours, possibly even days. After a while the animal would collapse from exhaustion and they would kill it at short range. Davis was most impressed by the fact that the hunters never opened their mouths to breath during the excursion. 

While you may have been told in gym class that you should breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth while exercising, it’s best to inhale and exhale through the nose for more controlled breathing that lessens the volume of air you take in and out. There are some exceptions where you’d want to breathe through the mouth like very high intensity training, but in most cases nasal breathing is the best option. 

To maintain proper carbon dioxide levels and better facilitate the oxygenation of the body, you’ll want to lower the volume of air you take in and out over time. What that means is while taking deep breaths can be good, taking deep breaths quickly is not. Some well meaning yoga instructors may teach that you should take deep breaths that expand the lungs, but fail to stress the importance of having the breath be slow and controlled.  

In The Hathapradīpikạ, a seminal text of Hatha yoga, compiled in the 15th century, one of the passages says:.


Just as lions, elephants and tigers are calm and controlled, the breath must be controlled by slow degrees. Hasty or forceful breath kills the practiser himself.” 

In the animal world, mouth breathing is a rarity to the extent that it is usually a sign of illness. Farmers know this; they will immediately know if an animal is sick not by noticing whether it breathes through the mouth. Aside from dogs, who pant to regulate their body temperature when they’re hot, most all land mammals breathe regularly through their nose except in times of distress. 

In humans, chronic mouth breathing can lead to cavities, gum disease, lowered immune function, digestive disturbances, poor sleep quality, and  can result in crooked teeth and even poorly developed facial structure.  


“During the 1960s, dentist Egil Harvold conducted a number of experiments where young monkeys’ noses were blocked with silicone nose plugs. 

This caused these monkeys to breathe through the mouth and they gradually acquired a facial appearance different from the control monkeys. The mouth-breathing monkeys developed crooked teeth, a lowered chin and other facial deformities.


Essentially mouth breathing leads to a longer face with a set back jaw, less pronounced cheekbones and restricted airways.

I’ve sometimes wondered why most athletes usually tend to be pretty good looking. I figured there would be an equal amount of facially challenged athletes as there are attractive ones.

Top 15 Most Handsome Athletes in the world 2020: Checkout!

Patrick McKeown argues that breathing plays a role here too. Because the athletes had been breathing properly, it set them up for better physical conditioning as a child meaning better sports performance, and proper breathing supports the development of good facial structure. 

Now I’ve covered only some of the important aspects of nasal breathing, Check out the book The Oxygen Advantage for an impressively thorough exploration of this topic. But I’ll leave you with one important tip to help get the most out of your breathing. Just put some micropore tape on your mouth when you sleep. As weird and slightly scary as that may sound, the quality of sleep you get from ensuring that you breathe through your nose, will definitely be worth getting used to the tape. This has helped me personally, and even people with asthma report that this drastically improves their quality of their sleep. Of courcse it’s best to avoid this if you have certain medical conditions, or in certain situations like after drinking alcohol. After wearing the tape for about 3 months, it should have you naturally breathing through your nose during sleep and improve your breathing pattern during day. 

Categories
Health

How to get more quality sleep | (Science of Sleep Part 2)

The following is the transcript for the video by the same name on my channel “What I’ve Learned,” originally posted on February 10th, 2017.

I assume you’re here because you already understand that sleep is a top priority for good health. But in either case let me first quickly point out just one thing about sleep. Before you stay up late to get just little bit more work done, or to watch that movie newly added to netflix, think about the things you need to do or the decisions you need to make tomorrow, and decide whether all that is OK to do after a couple beers in the morning. 

alcohol: 2019 beer round-up: Hoppy ales, lagers and other brews that ruled  this year - The Economic Times

There are several studies that compare sleep impairment to drunkenness, and this one in particular found that just 17 to 19 hours of going without sleep ( a normal day for most of us..)“was equivalent or worse to a Blood Alcohol Concentration of 0.05 percent.”


In this talk Chris Barnes discusses how after 4 days on 5 hours of sleep, you’re almost the equivalent of too drunk to drive, and then in 14 days on 6 hours of sleep you are as bad as if you had stayed up an entire night.

Alright so how do we get more quality sleep?

We live in a very cyclic world. We have 4 seasons, stars have annual patterns, some birds migrate annually; and of course circadian rhythms are very important for most living things, even bacteria have circadian rhythms. Humans are no different. We have a daily dose of cortisol in the morning to wake us up and a rise in melatonin at night to put us to sleep at night. We also have ultradian rhythms- rhythms shorter 24 hours where we experience oscillations in alertness, concentration, and physical performance throughout the day.


Unfortunately nowadays we’re either moving so fast or medicating these rhythms with caffeine to the point that we’re no longer aware of them. However if you can act in sync with these rhythms, falling asleep and getting up in the morning can be as smooth and seamless as a rower hitting a good stroke. 

What we should strive for, and what our bodies would like for us to do, is to fall asleep just a few hours after the sun goes down. This differs depending on where in the world you are, but for most people it’s around 10PM. As Russell Foster explains in this talk, as you’re awake throughout the day, adenosine builds up in the brain and you develop a sleep pressure. Then during the night, physiological processes such as melatonin secretion work to set up a “sleep window”. If the buildup of sleep pressure and the sleep window are in alignment then you drift off to sleep without a hitch. However if the sleep window is out of sync with the sleep pressure due to using caffeine too much, having a wonky sleep schedule or because you’re stimulating yourself with your phone before bed, then you’ll miss your chance. After the sleep window closes, usually around 11PM your body is programmed to give you a second wind of energy in the form of cortisol which can keep you awake until as late as 2AM. 

Now, if you have the flexibility in your schedule to go to sleep at 2 and wake up at 9 that might not sound like such a big deal, but the anticarcinogen and antioxidant melatonin as well as Human Growth Hormone- the  “youth hormone” are secreted in their strongest doses between 10PM and 2AM. As Neurologist Kulreet Chaudhary says, “If your body is chronically deprived of the regenerative sleep between 10:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m., then you may still feel fatigued when you wake up in the morning.” 

An easy way to set yourself up to fall asleep at this time is by resetting your biological clock by getting some sun in the morning between the hours of 6AM and 8AM. Research from the journal “Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience” found that exposure to sunlight in the morning significantly decreased cortisol levels later in the day. By getting some sunlight when you wake up, you set up cortisol and melatonin to be at optimal levels for getting a good night’s sleep and falling asleep at the right time. 

You will want to get this morning sunlight as often as possible. The human circadian rhythm is actually more like 24 hours and 10 minutes, so if you aren’t resetting it, then within a week you could end up on a sleep schedule that is an hour later than usual. 

A caveat here is that your body is very good at latching on to whatever rhythm it can, so if you for whatever reason your schedule does not allow for you to go to bed by 10PM, try and at least keep the same bedtime each night.

We’re a lot more like Pavlov’s dogs than we’d like to think. Your body will anchor whatever physiological processes it can to certain times of day and to your environment and even to objects. For example: While this baby’s association of water with sleep is cute, I’m sure no one wants to have to have water running on them to sleep. This is one reason why it’s imperative to keep the phone and laptop out of the bed. If you like watching movies or playing games at night, fine, but you don’t want your brain saying “Oh we’re in bed, it must be time to play flappy bird.” If you can train your mind to understand that 10PM is the time for sleep, and your bed is the place for sleep and only sleep, it will do the work for you. Then, if you can establish a pre-sleep routine that always happens in the same sequence- take a bath, make some herbal tea, read a book (whatever), that will create even more anchors associated with sleep and it will be even easier to pass out quickly after your head hits the pillow. 

Now this might not be all that compelling, but your brain really is good at automating processes like this.

Taking advantage of this automatic processing and establishing simple positive associations like “bed” only with “sleep” is called Cognitive Behavior Therapy and it’s used as a method for treating insomnia. Dr. Vyga Kaufmann explains in this talk that Cognitive Behavior therapy or CBTI is so powerful for treating insomnia that in the short run it is as good as medication and in the long run, “CBTI is the clear winner.” 

I said that you don’t want to associate the bed with using your phone, but there’s another big reason for this. The light and dark cycle perceived by the eye is  the most important regulator of your biological clock. You have something called Photosensitive Retinal Ganglion cells in your eyes that are highly sensitive to blue light in particular. Originally, the light from the sun was the only blue light that made it to our eyes, so having specialized cells in the eye to look for blue light was very effective for regulating our biological clocks. 

However, our technology has advanced dramatically, but our human hardware is still relying on these blue light sensors in our eyes to determine whether it is day or night and whether we should be alert or resting. When it comes to sleep, looking at a bright blue light is as alarming to your eyes as a loud barking dog is to your ears.

Amazon.co.jp: Sleep Smarter: 21 Essential Strategies to Sleep Your Way to A  Better Body, Better Health, and Bigger Success (English Edition) 電子書籍:  Stevenson, Shawn, Gottfried, Sara: Kindleストア

As Shawn Stevenson explains in his book “Sleep Smarter,” “The artificial blue light emitted by electronic screens triggers your body to produce more daytime hormones (such as cortisol)” and suppresses the secretion of the key sleep hormone, melatonin. 

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston compared two groups, one reading on an iPad and another reading a printed book. Nighttime iPad readers secreted less melatonin, ended up taking longer to fall asleep, felt less sleepy at night, and had shorter REM sleep compared to those using printed books. What’s interesting is that they were also more tired than the book readers the next day, even if both got a full 8 hours of sleep.

iPhone、iPad、iPod touch で Night Shift を使う - Apple サポート

Try and stop looking at screens at least an hour before you go to bed so that your cortisol and melatonin levels can normalize. If you absolutely must get on the internet, make sure to at least get f.lux on your computer, and use the nightshift feature on your iPhone or get a blue light blocking app on your android. Blue light blocking glasses are great as well, but in any case, not looking at any bright screens is the best choice.  

You’ll also want to get your bedroom as dark as possible. There’s a light-sensitive chemical found in the retina called rhodopsin, which is also produced by the skin. If something is emitting light in your bedroom, it can interfere with your sleep even if your eyes don’t pick it up. 

Establishing a proper circadian rhythm is one of the best things you can do for your sleep as it will have you falling asleep faster and balances your hormones to give you higher quality sleep. 

As for enhancing sleep onset specifically, you can take advantage of the thermoregulation step of the sleep process. When it’s time to turn in for the night, there is a drop in your body’s core temperature to help initiate sleep. If your room is too hot, falling asleep can be a physiological challenge.  

    Studies have found that the optimal room temperature for sleep is around a cool 60 to 68 degrees fahrenheit. 

A study at the University of Pittsburg School of Medicine wanted to see if cooler temperatures could assist insomniacs with falling asleep. During the study, test subjects were fitted with “cooling caps” that contained circulating water at cool temperatures. What they found was that when the participants wore the cooling caps, they fell asleep even faster than people without sleep disorders. With the caps, the insomniacs took about 13 minutes to fall asleep, compared to 16 minutes for the healthy control group. The insomniacs also stayed asleep for 89 percent of the time they were in bed, which was the exact amount of time the healthy control group slept in bed. 

You can take advantage of this phenomenon by setting your thermostat lower of course, or you can take a cold shower or bath or take a warm bath. The relaxing nature of a warm bath is helpful and it doesn’t interfere with the thermoregulation step because your body starts to rapidly cool after stepping out of the bath, leaving you at a cooler temperature than you started with. Just make sure you get out of the bath at least a half hour before getting in the bed so you have time to cool off. A cold bath isn’t near as pleasant, but if you can handle it, it is really effective. I tried an ice bath twice recently and both times I fell asleep on the couch in my towel with the lights still on. 

Another thing I can say about sleep onset is to have the right expectations and try not to psych yourself out. As Psychology Professor Allison Harvey of Berkeley University says, you have to keep in mind that sleep is not a light switch but more like a dimmer switch. It takes most people on average about 20 minutes to fall asleep. Once you have the lights off, and you’re in bed there’s really not anything left for you to do so there’s no point in stressing out about how long it takes you to fall asleep. And actually it’s particularly  harmful for you to look at the clock. Clock watching is actually a well known exacerbator for insomnia. There’s even a phenomenon called placebo sleep where simply thinking you got more sleep the night before leads to better cognitive functioning. We can’t always trick ourselves into thinking we got good sleep but checking the time and saying “Shit it’s already 1AM!” is an easy way to make yourself anxious, secrete a little bit of cortisol and keep yourself up later. 

The best thing to do is to think about things unrelated to the consequences of everyday life, don’t review your embarassing moments, don’t think about your to-do list, while you’re laying in bed try and practice some form of meditation.

The other thing here is to improve the efficiency of the sleep process. Like we talked about last time, sleep is when your brain is shifting into waste cleanup mode. A specialized system called the glymphatic system floods the brain with cerebrospinal fluid and flushes out toxic waste products that have accumulated during the day. The cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is produced by ependymal cells in the brain and in the central canal of the spinal cord. As well as CSF, the flow of blood to the brain increases during sleep.  1/5th of your circulatory blood goes to the brain to facilitate the sleep process. 

You want to make the process of routing your blood and CSF to the brain as smooth as possible. For this, the integrity of your spine is key. Going to bed with a stiff back or sleeping in the wrong position can be compromising your sleep quality. Since the spine is connected directly to every major organ in the body, your spine integrity can affect many other things like hormone production, muscular function, tissue repair, blood pressure as well as metabolism and digestion.

I was never too keen on Yoga until I tried a sequence before bed that is directed at loosening up the spine. The next morning I woke up about 45 minutes before my alarm clock feeling fresher than I had all week. The yoga may not have been the only factor, but taking a few minutes to loosen up my spine each night has generally improved my sleep recently. 

Why Top Performers Use Teeter Inversion Tables | Teeter.com

Tim Ferriss recommends trying “gravity boots” or an inversion table to decompress the spine before bed. Doing a bit of stretching or yoga as well as rolling your back out on a foam roller is also very effective. 

The other thing you’ll want to do is make sure you’re in a decent sleeping position. The most common problem with people’s sleeping situation is that they are using too many pillows which hyperextends their neck, or they are sleeping on a worn out mattress which doesn’t support the natural curvature of the spine. 

As long as you’re not putting a kink in your back while you sleep, it seems that being on your back, stomach or side are generally fine. However, sleeping on the side is known to lessen sleep apnea by reducing snoring, and there is some compelling evidence that suggests sleeping on your side may be the best choice.

A 2007 study in The Journal of Allied Health Sciences and Practice, found that most people favored the side-sleeping position, and were less likely to wake up bothered by neck pain.

Then, Another study from 2015 in the Journal of Neuroscience looked at how sleeping positions affect the glymphatic pathway. Rodent models were used to see what sleeping position allows for the most efficient glymphatic transport, that is- how easily fluid could flow around so the brain could complete its cleanup job during sleep. Rodents slept on either their side, back or stomach and were monitored via magnetic resonance imaging. They found that glymphatic transport was the most efficient  when the rodents slept in the lateral position- on their side.

In the news release, Dr. Maiken Nedergaard said: “It is interesting that the lateral sleep position is already the most popular in humans and most animals — even in the wild — and it appears that we have adapted the lateral sleep position to most efficiently clear our brain of the metabolic waste products that built up while we are awake.”

There are some other very important factors that contribute to sleep quality like your body fat percentage or muscle mass, but for now these simple steps like changing your sleeping position or going to sleep a bit earlier and waking up earlier can have a profoundly positive impact on your sleep.

If you haven’t already, make sure and check out my last video which is all about why sleep is so important. If you’d like to improve your sleep, understanding what makes sleep so critical is the first factor in getting you to make the necessary changes.

*Two years later in July 2019, I made another video titled “What’s the Best Position to Sleep in? Do we even need a pillow?”

Categories
Health

Why Sleep is Critical for the Body and Brain

The following is the transcript for the video by the same name on my channel “What I’ve Learned.”

After reading The Sleep Revolution which is all about the importance of a good night’s sleep… I found it really hard to… fall asleep. Before that I didn’t have much difficulty with it, but after being bombarded with endless statistics and research results illustrating the detriments of inadequate sleep, I became very anxious about how long I was lying awake in my bed. 

When we’re trying to get more out of life, sleep is usually the first thing that gets cut to make room in our schedules. Ironically, it can be hard to realize that by cutting back on sleep, we are decreasing productivity, creativity, concentration, patience, communication skills and a lot of what makes a good… human. That’s because less sleep results in a less effective brain and less healthy body. Pretty much whatever you’re doing, you end up doing it worse.

Of course there are some cases where you have no choice but to stay up late or wake up early. But I’d like to spend this video looking over why sleep is so important. By getting a new perspective on sleep, hopefully you’ll enjoy getting more of it rather than just feeling like you’re wasting 8 hours of your life. First, let’s take a look at what happens to your mind when you’re not completing the process of sleep properly. 

In 1999, two professors at Loughborough University wanted to test how sleep affects the brain’s ability to react to changing conditions. They developed a computer game set in the business world, and MBA students had to promote sales of a virtual product. Then, halfway through the game, the dynamics of the virtual marketplace suddenly changed. Now strategies that used to work resulted in terrible sales. Only students who could quickly change and adapt could survive. 

 Students were split into two groups, one with restricted sleep and another where they could sleep as much as they liked. Most of the students who slept well quickly adapted to the changes and maintained their sales. On the other hand, the sleep-deprived students were unable to modify their strategy appropriately and very quickly became bankrupt. 

The conclusion was that without sleep, their brains lost the ability to consider alternative solutions to problems. Brain scans have shown that when you’re lacking sleep, the neurons firing in the prefrontal cortex begin to slow down. The prefrontal cortex is particularly important for the behaviors that make us… human. This region is associated with planning, personality expression, decision making, attention control, reasoning, and problem solving. When you lack sleep, it’s harder for us to complete a thought or see a problem in a new way. 

In a talk on the role of sleep in learning and creativity, Robert Stickgold discusses an experiment where subjects were supposed to come up with a string of numbers based on a different set of numbers they were provided with. The instructions were complicated, but after several trials everyone got the hang of it and could slowly but consistently solve the number puzzle. However, there was a trick to make the process much faster. The last three numbers in the sequence always ended up being a mirror image of the 3 numbers before it. They wanted to see how long it would take people to pick up on the trick. So, after everyone got a hang of the instructions, they had them wait 12 hours and then try it again. But, they were split into three groups: those who learned how to do the puzzle in the morning and got tested at night, those who learned how to do it at night and then stayed awake all night before trying in the morning, and those who tried in the morning but had gotten a good night’s rest. 

The first two groups showed about the same chance of discovering the trick in the puzzle. But with the 3rd group, again the only difference is that they got to sleep, they were 2.5 times more likely to gain the insight into the puzzle and catch the trick.


[Robert Stickgold] “So you can gain these insights when you didn’t even know there was an insight to find, just by sleeping on it. It’s an amazing phenomenon, it really is. It’s like… how does it do it?

Two big things on the sleep to-do list that allow for such insights are memory consolidation and information processing. While asleep, your brain looks at the information you picked up throughout the day, prunes out the useless junk and keeps the things worth remembering. Of the four stages of sleep, slow wave sleep and rapid eye movement have been shown to move electrical impulses between the brain stem, hippocampus, thalamus and cortex. These four areas serve as relay stations for memory formation. During this process, your brain takes the information in the short term memory and moves the important bits to long term memory.

In this World Science Festival program, Neurobiology professor Matthew Wilson describes an experiment designed to gain insight into this information processing step. They analyzed the brain activity of rats while they were making their way through a maze, and then compared that to their brain activity while sleeping. What they saw was that as the rat went into non-REM deep sleep, its brain was lighting up as if it was actually back in the maze… except it was replaying the information about 10 times faster than normal, and it was playing the events backwards and forwards and skipping around. The idea is that during this non-REM deep sleep phase, your brain is quickly reviewing the information you’ve gained throughout the day and taking notes. It’s kind of like flipping around in your textbook before your test the next day.

REM sleep however is played out at normal speed. This is why your dreams, however ridiculous, will follow some sequence of events. While you dream, your brain is seeing how unrelated pieces of information fit together and simulating scenarios you might need to be prepared for. What if my boss turns into the monster from Pan’s Labyrinth, what would I do! Because your brain is playing around with information like this, some of our most creative insights can come to us in the form of dreams. August Kekulé in 1865 came up with the structure of the Benzene molecule in a dream. Elias Howe owes the invention of the sewing machine to a dream. Paul McCartney came up with the melody for Yesterday in a dream, and there’s all kinds of examples like this. 

Because of the timing at which these processes happen, it’s suggested that you should go to sleep 3 hours after acquiring declarative knowledge like after studying from a book, and you should go to sleep 1 hour after working on procedural knowledge like playing an instrument. Also if you’re trying to learn or remember something, you should definitely avoid alcohol. It’s thought that the reason we don’t remember much after drinking alcohol is that alcohol interferes with memory consolidation. 

So insufficient sleep interferes with creativity and memory, but it can also interfere with your personality and competence in general. As mentioned earlier, the more “human” part of your brain, the prefrontal cortex shows less activity when you’re sleep deprived. The Amygdala on the other hand, shows more activity. The amygdala is associated with processing emotional information and, as this study has found, “a lack of sleep inappropriately modulates the human emotional brain response to negative aversive stimuli.” Essentially, the less sleep you get, the more likely you are to interpret situations negatively, overreact to things and be more moody in general. This can manifest itself as more fights with your spouse as illustrated by this article, or as much more drastic behavior. 

In 2009, a band of American soldiers from the 172nd infantry found themselves in court martial for murdering two men in Baghdad against a superior’s orders. Their lawyers’ defense was that the soldiers were too sleep deprived to make rational decisions.

David Randall’s book Dreamland discusses several how in the early 80’s military studies found that sleep deprived air force pilots “changed their vocal patterns, no longer enunciating or speaking loudly enough [to be understood]”  by their co pilots. Maybe that didn’t bother the military that much because in 1996 ”…crew fatigue was blamed for thirty-two accidents that destroyed American military aircraft, including three F-14 jetfighters that cost $38 million each.” The military has spent millions of dollars testing all kinds of methods to keep soldiers awake longer, but in 2007 they concluded that the only way to recover from lost sleep was to …sleep.

One issue is that it’s “cool” to not sleep so much. Getting by on less sleep is the mark of a “hustler,” a hard worker who will stop at nothing to achieve their goals. During a speech, Arnold Schwarzenegger said “We sleep 6 hours a day, so that give you still 18 hours. There’s someone shaking their head out here in front and say probably ‘I don’t sleep 6 hours, I sleep 8 hours.’ Well, just sleep faster.”

Now some of you may say “I’m operating just fine on my 6 hours of sleep a night.” And you could be one of the 5% of the population with the genetic mutation that lets you get by on only 6 hours of sleep.  But as we discussed earlier, activity in the prefrontal cortex lessens when you lack sleep. And The prefrontal cortex is the only part of the brain that has the power of self-assessment, ….to think about how it is thinking. So if you’re not getting enough sleep, would your prefrontal cortex properly recognize that it’s working at sub-optimal capacity? Let’s put it this way: If your  brain was operating at say only 85% of its performance capacity, could it make the mistake of thinking it was performing at 100% capacity? 

It’s not only your brain that needs sleep, also on the sleep to do list is tissue repair, maintenance of metabolic pathways and the balancing of hormones. Sleep is very important for your body too. 

A study at the University of Chicago put participants on a calorie restricted diet and then randomly assigned them to sleep 5.5 hours or 8.5 hours each night. Those who slept only 5.5 hours lost 55% less body fat. Again, they were on the same diets. The sleep deprived group did lose weight, but they were losing more muscle. They lost 60% more fat-free mass compared to those who slept well. They also reported feeling hungrier. An important factor in this was that the sleep deprived group were shown to have much higher ghrelin levels. Ghrelin is a hormone that causes you to retain fat and feel more hungry. It has been shown that just one night of poor sleep leads to a 15% increase in this “hunger hormone.” 

Our bodies are very complex dynamic systems so usually it’s not only one hormone that gets disrupted. Lack of sleep also means lowered levels of the satiety hormone leptin, and less melatonin. Melatonin has some very powerful anti-aging and anti-cancer properties, and as the Journal of pineal research found, melatonin increases weight loss by increasing brown adipose tissue. Brown adipose tissue or BAT Fat actually acts a lot like muscle in that it increases your metabolic rate and burns white adipose tissue- white adipose tissue is the fat you don’t want. 

Inadequate sleep also increases Cortisol, which has been shown to increase the worst type of fat -visceral fat, the stuff that surrounds your organs. Cortisol also encourages your body to break down muscle for fuel through a process called gluconeogenesis. 

Whether you are trying to make some “gains” or just want to lose a bit of fat, your time in the gym needs to be complemented with proper sleep.

One more key hormone secreted during sleep is Human Growth Factor (HGH), otherwise known as “the youth hormone”. As the name suggests, it stimulates growth, cell reproduction and cell regeneration, which means increased muscle, more fat loss, and other things like improved skin elasticity. Human growth hormone even plays a role in  improving cognitive function and a deficiency in it has been linked with depression. At the University of Berkeley, lack of sleep was the top predictor of depression symptoms among graduate students. 

It’s important to get enough sleep, but also to get it at the right time. While it depends on each individual’s circadian rhythm, in general 10PM to 2AM is when your body secretes the most growth hormone (that is- IF you’re asleep at that time). 

Thomas Edison, a famous opponent of sleep, said that “Sleep is a criminal waste of time, inherited from our cave days.” Did him dying of type 2 diabetes in an era when the disease was exceptionally rare have anything to do with that? Maybe.

The other thing on the sleep to do list is waste cleanup. The brain takes up 2% of the body’s mass yet burns up one quarter of the body’s energy supply. Throughout the course of the day, the brain produces a decent amount of waste.

The brain handles this waste cleanup task during sleep via something called the glymphatic system in which brain cells shrink to allow for cerebrospinal fluid to flood into the brain and flush out the waste. Kind of like a dishwasher. One thing that needs to be flushed out is the compound adenosine. Adenosine is a byproduct of your neurons and other cells when they burn up adenosine triphosphate, the main molecule that our bodies use to store energy. As adenosine builds up, you start to slow down and accumulate a “sleep pressure”. When your adenosine levels reach a certain point, your body sends you signals to go to sleep.

Caffeine works by bonding to the same receptors as adenosine, tricking the body into thinking it’s not tired. While caffeine will wake you up, it will interfere with your sleep cycle if taken too late in the day. Cristopher Drake, associate professor of behavioral neurosciences at Wayne State University School of Medicine led a study that found that taking caffeine even 6 hours before bed can lead to a measurable objective loss of 1 hour of sleep. What this means is that it may seem like you got say 7 hours of sleep after having a coffee mid day, but a sleep monitor would show that you’re not properly dipping into the normal ranges of REM and deep sleep, leading to an actual sleep total of 6 hours. For this reason it’s recommended to finish your caffeine at least 8 or more hours before you go to sleep. 

Like adenosine, Amyloid beta is another waste product that is created in the brain as a consequence of being alive. Unfortunately, excess amyloid beta is toxic to the brain and Amyloid plaques have been thoroughly linked to Alzheimer’s disease. It’s understood that Alzheimer’s patients don’t create significantly more amyloid beta than other people, but they simply were not clearing it out enough. Of course other lifestyle factors like diet play a role here, but sleep could be particularly critical for avoiding neurodegenerative disease.

Artificial intelligence, robots, and all kinds of automation are already replacing jobs nowadays and the technology is only expected to get better and better. Machine intelligence may be the last invention humanity will ever need to make, but at least until that point we need to set ourselves up access our creative insights and take advantage of the more human faculties of our brains. As Daniel Pink says in A Whole New Mind, it’s the “creative and emphatic ‘right-brain’ oriented thinkers whose abilities mark the fault line between who gets ahead and who doesn’t.” Without enough sleep, our bodies as well as these creative, insightful and emotionally adept human faculties of our brains suffer. 

Categories
Health

Why Exercise is so Underrated (The Link between Brain Power & Movement)

This is the transcript for my video published on my channel on December 28th, 2016

To understand the injustice that has been done to exercise, let’s pretend we’re back in 1995 and Nintendo is advertising the Nintendo 64. When marketing, they talk solely about the technical aspects of the machine and how it has a 93.7 megahertz processor compared to the Super Nintendo’s measly 3.56 megahertz processor. The N64 flops and the entire marketing team is fired since they failed to promote any relevant information like the actual nature of the new games or even that an entire D was added, making the games 3D instead of 2D. 

Of course in reality, the Nintendo 64 did quite well. This hypothetical marketing strategy is just a parallel to the poor marketing strategy for exercise.  The sales points of exercise up until now were that it’s good for the heart and it will make you lose weight. First off, while these are good benefits, they’re not nearly as compelling as the other benefits of exercise. “Good for the heart” is a vague notion that’s encouraging only if you happen to be older and worried about a heart attack. Then, data is showing that exercise isn’t even that effective for losing weight. A review of exercise intervention studies published in 2001 by Queen’s University in Canada found that after 20 weeks, “the amount of exercise energy expenditure had no correlation with weight loss

I’m not saying that exercise doesn’t affect your body. The right kind of exercise increases muscle mass and improves your insulin sensitivity, setting you up to have a healthier body composition. However, if you begin exercising without managing other factors like diet, you may be very discouraged by poor weight loss results.

Pediatric Endocrinologist Dr. Robert Lustig said at UCSF Osher Mini Medical School for the Public in 2013:
Does exercise work? So, here are studies of exercise – as you can see when compared with no treatment, exercise resulted in very small weight loss across the board. Exercise does not cause weight loss. What does exercise do? It causes muscle gain. Muscle have mitochondria, mitochondria burn energy. So, exercise is the single best thing you can do for yourself, but if you think it’s gonna show up on the scale, think again.” 

In a September 2016 issue of TIME magazine, Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky said that “If there were a drug that could do for human health everything that exercise can, it would likely be the most valuable pharmaceutical ever developed.

To understand what makes exercise  so great, we need to understand how it affects the brain. First off, what is the brain for? Some may say “we have brains to think! To create art and to come up with creative solutions to complex problems!” but Neuroscientist Daniel Wolpert argues that is not the case.

As Daniel Wolpert said in his TED talk:
 “ We have a brain for one reason and one reason only and that’s to produce adaptable and complex movement. There is no other reason to have a brain.” 

 To illustrate this, Daniel uses the example of a sea squirt. Early in its life, the sea squirt has a nervous system. It will use this nervous system to move around and find a suitable rock to attach itself to, then it will spend the rest of its life there. At that point, movement is no longer a necessity for survival, so the very first thing the sea squirt does is it digests its brain for energy. 

A more relatable example is the Koala. The Koala has adapted its digestive system to derive all the energy it needs from eucalyptus leaves. It really doesn’t need to move that much as it can just sit in the tree, eat, and watch the world go by. Earlier in the Koala’s evolution, it used to have a much bigger brain. However, once its diet became less diverse and required less movement to survive, its brain shrunk. Less movement meant less brain was necessary. From an evolutionary perspective, it’s the same as not wasting your money on a 4000 dollar laptop if all you need to do is run some simple software like your web browser and email client. 

What research on exercise is suggesting, and a better understanding of neurochemical mechanisms is proving, is that there is a very powerful connection between the brain and movement. A big brain is necessary to facilitate complex movements, and executing such movements and getting your heart rate up bolsters your  brain power. 

Exercise  has been shown to help people learn much more efficiently, better deal with stress, and drastically reduce anxiety. It improves mood to the point of lifting people people out of depression, and it strengthens focus to the point that some ADHD patients elect to throw out their prescriptions. And that’s not even the full list. 
 
The California Department of Education has consistently shown that students with higher fitness scores have higher test scores. Former President Ma of Taiwan increased the occurrence of Physical Education in schools nationwide from twice a week to three times a week for this reason. The minister of education, science and technology in South Korea extended the school day by 1 hour to add more time for PE and sports. This decision was made after reading Dr. John Ratey’s book “SPARK” which is all about the brain benefits of exercising.

The reason the Taiwanese and South Korean school systems don’t just have students study for another hour is because exercise actually primes the brain to learn faster. A 2007 study showed that subjects who did high intensity exercise beforehand could learn vocabulary words 20% faster than those who remained sedentary.

The key to this phenomenon is a protein called Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor, or BDNF for short. In order to learn something, the brain actually needs to grow and modify its cellular infrastructure to allow neurons to fire more easily. Researchers found that “if they sprinkled BDNF onto neurons in a petri dish, the cells automatically sprouted new branches, producing the same structural growth required for learning.” This impressive result had John Ratey nickname BDNF the “Miracle-Gro for the brain.”

“BDNF improves the function of neurons, encourages their growth, and strengthens and protects them against the natural process of cell death. …BDNF is a crucial biological link between thought, emotions and movement.”

A 2013 study in the journal of sports science and medicine showed that just 20 to 40 minutes of aerobic exercise increased BDNF in the blood by 32%. Rather than stocking up on coffee before you sit down to study, you might want to try jogging around the block instead. 

One way to understand why exercise would trigger your brain to initiate “learning mode” like this is to think of your body as the world’s most intricate “IF THEN” system. Your body has triggers for almost every physiological process. For example, IF cold THEN shiver. IF hot THEN sweat. Most of your body’s physiological expressions can’t be induced just by force of will, certain triggers must be present. [“Alexa, increase my testosterone by 50%.” “I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.” ] By understanding which physiological triggers influence which physiological expressions, we can start getting our brains to do what we want. 

The reason exercise is a key trigger for all kinds of positive effects in the brain, particularly learning, is because movement signals to the brain that something important is happening. Maybe not in modern times, but originally, when we were moving, it was for the sake of survival. You move to escape a predator, to forage for food, to hunt, et cetera. While moving, it’s in your best interest to learn the lay of the land so you don’t get lost and can locate forageable food again. You had better remember how an attacking animal moves and what path was most efficient to escape so you can prevent yourself from becoming a carcass next time. When you’re loafing around, you’re not convincing your brain that learning is necessary. From your brain’s perspective, being sedentary means you’re safe, nothing important is happening, and it’s time to rest.

When you think of Arnold Schwarzenegger, you might not associate him with intelligence. You might say he talks funny, and that his success only comes from him being a novelty when musclebound guys were rare. However, no matter how much attention your arms get you, you’ll need a lot of motivation, learning capacity, and focus to become a bodybuilder, businessman, actor, investor, and politician. By the way it wasn’t his physique that made him rich, he became a millionaire through real estate before he even began acting. Oh and all this while he was speaking in his second language. 

There’s a good chance that Arnold can thank his fitness for such an impressive display of focus and motivation. We owe our motivations and entire ‘will to live’ to the brain’s reward center. With almost any activity we choose to do, we do it because we expect some sort of reward. We strive for success in life because we expect the reward of fulfillment, we eat candy bars for the rewarding taste and we do taxes for the reward of not getting audited by the IRS. Without reward, our brains don’t have much reason to do anything.

An anti-obesity drug called Rimonabant was a tragic example of this. Rimonabant is an endocannabinoid antagonist- it’s an “anti-marijuana” medicine, which also means it’s “anti-munchies” medicine. It gets you to stop eating by inhibiting the sense of reward from food, and unfortunately everything else. 20 percent of users experienced serious depression and there were several suicides. Kill the reward system and you just might want to kill yourself.  

Dopamine is a key player in the reward center. Dopamine is all about motivation and attention, and is responsible for that feeling of satisfaction when we accomplish something. It makes you want to do things, and reassures you that that thing was worth doing. 

So if your dopamine is not working properly, you can find it hard to get things done, because you’re not getting enough fulfillment to justify doing them. One of the ways the ADHD drug adderall works is by mimicking the action of dopamine in the reward center of the brain. Adderall users can get so focused on mundane tasks and blast through their to-do lists because everything becomes interesting. But you don’t have to go the pharmacy to get your reward center going. Studies show that exercise boosts motivation by increasing dopamine storage and triggering the creation of dopamine receptors in the reward center. Exercise won’t have you staying up all night in a studying frenzy like adderall, but it will give you more willpower and focus to do those little things that don’t usually feel rewarding.

Aside from its positive effects on dopamine, exercise also elevates levels of norepinephrine and serotonin. When these three neurotransmitters are in deficit, people become depressed. 

In a 1999 study, James Blumenthal compared exercise to the anti-depressant Zoloft in a 16 week trial. They found that just thirty minutes of jogging, three times a week was just as effective as Zoloft. But that’s only looking at depression. A 2006 study of over 19,000 Dutch twins and their families showed that exercisers were  less depressed, less anxious, more socially outgoing and less neurotic. I guess it wasn’t hyperbole when Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky said that if exercise were a drug, it would be the most valuable one ever developed.

The last point about exercise and the brain has to do with stress. Let’s take a look at the original stress scenario: You’re chilling out eating berries or whatever and then you see a tiger advancing towards you. Your fight or flight response switches on, the pituitary gland secretes adrenocorticotropic hormone, cortisol is released, your heart rate shoots up, your digestion turns off and you really start moving. You will exert an immense amount of effort, after a couple minutes you will come to rest, then your physiological processes will calm down, and your cortisol will quickly drop and stay down for the rest of the day. 

This is another example of the body’s IF THEN sequencing: IF See tiger, THEN jack up cortisol. After that, it becomes: IF You have exerted sufficient effort THEN lower cortisol levels. Unfortunately for most people they activate the first part of this a lot, but they don’t activate the second part. Which means for most of the day, you’re sitting around with a bunch of cortisol in your system.


We’ve heard that stress makes you fat, and indeed it does. Research shows that cortisol specifically increases the accumulation visceral fat, which is linked to cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome. But there’s a much more important area affected by stress. Brain imaging has shown that people with frequently high cortisol levels degrade their brain tissue much faster than normal. As cortisol rises, electrical signals in your hippocampus deteriorate. The hippocampus is associated with learning, memories, and of course stress control. However, by exercising in the morning, you can dial down your cortisol levels and keep them down the rest of the day. Frequent exercise allows your body to become much better at reacting to stress.

I mentioned that exercise is as good as medication for treating some issues, but exercise isn’t just for correcting  health. Even if you are confident that you feel great, have good focus, and you are happy with your ability to learn new things, you could still improve all of these areas.

If you’ve replaced say your headphones recently, you probably were satisfied with the ones you had… until you tried better ones and thought “Whoa! I could have been hearing in high quality this whole time!” Then those new headphones become your new standard. If you later put on your old headphones, you think “God these sound like crap.” Starting an exercise routine feels like putting on those new headphones. 

When someone mentions they don’t have time for 20 minutes of exercise in the morning, it reminds me of one of my favorite Brian Regan skits about eyeglasses:

How can instantly improved vision not be at the top of your to do list? ‘Ah I’ll see tomorrow. I don’t- I don’t have time! I don’t have time. To see clearly. No. ” 
Sometime about two years ago, I was dissatisfied with my productivity and thought I had a touch of ADHD, so I got a prescription for modafinil. Modafinil has been compared to the magical productivity pill NZT in the movie “limitless”. Some users said colors look brighter and that they instantly felt “switched on.” For me, not so much. There was never a particularly striking contrast in how I felt on modafinil, just at some point during the day, I would look back and think “Wow I really got a lot done today.” I stopped taking modafinil after just a few weeks of trying it as I didn’t like the idea of relying on something for productivity. Now that I’ve finally made a habit of consistently exercising first thing every morning, I have a lot of those moments where I look back and say “Wow I really got a lot done.But, any time I skip the exercise, it feels like I’ve put my shitty old headphones back on.

Categories
Health

How to quit sugar & other unhealthy habits [Transcript]

Almost everyone understands that Sugar isn’t particularly good for you and may feel guilty whenever having sweets or candy. This wasn’t always the case, sugar used to be advertised as just a source of quick energy, and even as a means for losing weight. “Mmm, another thing – the cold crisp taste of Coke is so satisfying it keeps me from eating something else that might really add those pounds.” Nowadays you can find all kinds of articles, books, documentaries and plenty of videos that describe how unhealthy sugar is for you. With recent research data on the health effects as well as the Sugar Industry’s antics coming to light, the topic has gotten even more attention. The more you learn, the more you’ll want to stop eating it. As a recovering sugar addict, I’ve read and watched all kinds of great content on the subject, but the focus is rarely how to quit sugar. Since I’ve already put out two videos on the problems with sugar, I figure a solution is in order.

The key point of this video is to explain why people become inclined to eat sugary foods, and how to undo this inclination. The other thing we’ll look at is the mindset to have when approaching this, as well as how to react when you have a craving. Several of the techniques in here can be applied to eating less unhealthy foods in general as well as quitting bad habits.

There are five areas that are working against you that we need to address. Once those are out of the way, quitting sugar becomes really easy. We’ll start with your brain.

Sugar keeps you consuming it regardless of the amount of food you have eaten for 2 reasons. The first is that it is actually biologically addicting – sugar acts on your reward center in the brain to give you a sense of pleasure when you eat it. When you frequently consume sugar, you become tolerant to it and require more to get the same amount of pleasure. Then, you can suffer withdrawal symptoms like headaches, tremors, mood swings and irritability when you go without eating it.

Another way sugar keeps you eating more food in general is by keeping you hungry. Eating sugar causes an excess release of insulin, and when there is too much insulin present in the body, your hypothalamus cannot pick up on its leptin signal. Leptin is a hormone released from fat cells that is registered by your brain as a “satiety” signal. So when your brain can’t pick up on that signal, it thinks you’re starving. Ever had a soda or two before lunch and thought “Man that really filled me up, I think I’ll have a light lunch.” …Me neither. Your brain also interprets hunger as your environment not having much food available so it says “We need to use less energy by reducing activity and we have to store whatever energy comes in”. Anything that raises your energy expenditure makes you feel good – things like coffee, exercise or ephedra. Anything like hunger that lowers your energy expenditure makes you feel crappy. The sugar keeps you hungry and feeling lethargic and crappy. Quitting cold turkey quickly breaks this cycle after a week or two.

So here are the 10 most obese states in the nation. Ten most obese states. Here are the 10 laziest states in the nation, here are the 10 most unhappy states in the nation. Here’s the adult diabetes rate, here’s the adult heart disease rate and finally here’s soda per capita consumption. Pretty significant overlap, wouldn’t you say? Yea?

One thing I found really kept me going in spite of massive sugar cravings was knowing that the longer I went without sugar the better I would feel. This brings us to a key point which is: “Reducing sugar doesn’t mean reducing happiness”

The main premise of Allen Carr’s book “Easy way to stop smoking,” is that you need to get it through your head that you’re not depriving yourself of anything by quitting cigarettes. Cigarettes don’t improve people’s lives in any way and the only reason smokers feel deprived while quitting is because of the dependency the cigarettes created. While sugar at least tastes good, the feeling of deprivation occurs for the same reason -extended use of sugar changes your brain so that you crave it.

A lot of people when faced with the idea of quitting sugar will equate it to depriving themselves of pleasure. What they’re not realizing is that sugar isn’t raising overall happiness, it is simply creating a temporary contrast in happiness. If you’re constantly consuming sugar, you can be making yourself unhappy, lethargic and fat without realizing it. So what is happening is your baseline happiness gets lowered, and you have a spike in pleasure when you eat sugar. However, when you’re not dependent on sugar for that boost in pleasure, then your baseline happiness is much higher and you’re more content all the time, not just when you get sugar.

The other thing people will do when approached with the idea of quitting is that they will start to predict the agony they can expect and visualize it as a graph like this with time on the X axis and agony on the Y axis with agony extending out into eternity. The reality is that your body adapts to the absence of sugar, so you will feel much more comfortable without it and worry about sugar less and less so that graph will look more like this:

Depending on what your diet looks like and factors like whether or not you drink alcohol, you can expect to start feeling much better in as little as a week to two weeks.

This brings us to the next thing that is working against you: Advertising & …Almost any store selling food
Food companies have found that virtually every food product they sell, they can add at least a little bit of sugar to a product to make it tastier. The “Bliss Point” is a term used for the point at which the product is the sweetest and therefore tastiest it can be, before adding any more sugar would make it too sweet. This is why sugar is in 80% of foods on the market, and it’s mostly in foods you wouldn’t expect to have any sweetness to them.

So you have to put in some effort to ensure what you’re buying doesn’t have added sugar and avoid all the tempting advertisements and colorful packages. We’re bombarded with advertisements for crappy and especially sweet food everywhere we go. You can try to ignore them, but having to see these food pictures all the time is a bit confusing for your brain. Your brain will release dopamine in response to expecting to get that food.

A car speeding towards you can immediately jack your heart rate up even if it stops 10 feet in front of you. Mothers will start to lactate when they hear their baby crying even if it’s in another room. Your brain has a lot of ways to prepare you for what it expects to happen, and this is the same with food. When we think about, see or smell foods our brains trigger what is called the Cephalic Phase Insulin Release to prepare you for digesting that food. The sweeter the brain thinks the food will be, the more insulin it stimulates the pancreas to release. This extra insulin can make you feel even hungrier as it will block your leptin signal, like we discussed before. So, just the sight of sweet food can make you hungry even though the contents of your stomach have not changed at all.

The good news is that you can deconstruct this programmed response the brain has created. If your normal programming is: see picture of food, buy food, take food out of the package, eat food then advertisements or food labels in the store can have a real strong effect on you. However if you change your programming to: see real food, check if food is fresh or ripe, cook food, and then eat food, your brain will stop associating colorful packages with eating and it will become much easier to resist well marketed foods.

The next thing you have working against you is your habits.

In the “Power of Habit,” Charles Duhigg talks about the Basal Ganglia, a primitive part of the brain that takes long series of actions and packages them into a single “chunk”. So a task like unlocking your door, sitting down, putting your seatbelt on, adjusting your mirror, putting the key in the ignition and so on becomes just “backing out of the driveway.” Duhigg says that habits “…emerge because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort.” Try and remember your commute to work in the morning yesterday. What do you remember about it? Not much or maybe even none of it at all- this is because your Basal Ganglia takes over and you run on “autopilot”. The thing is is you can autopilot your meals too, this is something McDonald’s is of course familiar with: “Every McDonald’s, for instance, looks the same—the company deliberately tries to standardize stores’ architecture and what employees say to customers, so everything is a consistent cue to trigger eating routines.”

As you repeat an action, a fatty tissue called myelin covers the axons of your neurons. Myelin speeds up and strengthens nerve impulses, allowing actions associated with certain neurons to be performed with much less mental energy. This is where “practice makes perfect” comes from, but this also explains why people can get stuck into certain routines. You can get “good” at anything you do. “…but I’m pretty good at drinkin’ beer🎶 ” You can get “good” at deciding you’re better off going for the packaged food since you’re too tired to cook. You can also get “good” at resisting cravings for junk food, buying some proper food, taking it home and cooking it.

The other side to this is familiarity and Nostalgia. Alan Hirsch describes Nostalgia as not relating to “a specific memory, but rather to an emotional state.

In Robert Lustig’s book “Fat Chance,” he says that food is one of the true enjoyments of life. “Yet familiarity breeds greater cravings. Ask Philadelphians about their cheese-steaks, New Orlean denizens about their Po-Boys and beignets or Memphians about their barbecue. Surprise! Those are among the three most obese cities in the country.”

All this information I’ve been throwing at you about how your brain reacts to food and develops habits et cetera is designed to be ammo for when you have a craving. Understanding what causes the craving makes it much easier to control.

In his TED talk, Judson Brewer describes a technique that several smokers have used to kick their smoking habit. They just needed to analyze their smoking cravings and be mindful about what the craving felt like when it came up. They’d crave a cigarette and then notice their body was a little tense, heart rate maybe sped up a little bit, and some noticed they were fidgeting in their chair. By simply being mindful about these aspects, subjects were able to step out of the craving and realize what exactly it was and let it pass. Next time you feel the urge to buy some processed food or sugary snacks, think about why you’re doing this. Are you just reacting to some advertisement you saw? Maybe you have a headache from the withdrawal period? Maybe you have a habit of turning to sweets when you are stressed. By analyzing and understanding what it is that’s creating the craving makes it really easy to get in control, and let it pass.

The fourth thing that has been set up to work against you is your gut.
Sugar contributes to the breakdown of the intestinal barrier, resulting in a “leaky gut,” which increases your body’s exposure to inflammation and creates several problems like worsening insulin resistance. Were you to insert a gastroscope into someone’s stomach so that you could see their stomach lining, you could actually see the mucous membrane turn red with irritation upon drinking coffee sweetened with sugar. John Yudkin said in his 1972 book “Pure White and Deadly” that sugar may alter “the numbers and proportions of huge numbers of different microbes that inhabit the intestine. … The sorts of food that have been eaten will … affect the proportion and numbers of the intestinal microbes.”

Recent evidence is showing that an unhealthy Gut Microbiome could be to blame for ADHD and Autism in Children as well as Alzheimer’s and general “Brain Fog” in people of all ages. One way in which sugar affects your Gut Microbiome specifically is by facilitating the growth of the problematic candida. Candida is a type of fungi, a single celled member of the yeast family. An overgrowth of Candida can lead to problems like Fatigue, Weight gain, Bloating and Gas, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and Constipation. Like other types of yeast, the preferred food for Candida is sugar.

As the numbers of Candida increase, it is suspected that they can directly cause sugar cravings as this is their preferred source of energy. This doesn’t sound so far fetched when you consider the fact that we have a network of 100 million neurons lining our guts. This network is so extensive that it’s nicknamed the “second brain” This second brain is thought to have a significant impact on your mood and overall health.

One thing you can do to speed up the restoration of a healthy gut, as well as quitting sugar of course, is to eat fermented foods and take prebiotics and probiotics.

The last problem, which for some people may be the easiest or hardest to address, is your family and friends. Pediatric endocrinologist Robert Lustig noticed that “A sugar addicted parent, similar to one who is drug addicted, will act as an “enabler,” “codependent,” or “apologist” for her child.” By the same token, your friends and family who frequently consume sugar will most likely prefer that you continue to eat what they eat. They might accuse you of having become a health nut or tease you and claim that sugar isn’t “that big of a deal.” Ever tried to hang out with your friends at the bar when you were cutting back on alcohol? You immediately have to offer up a good reason for not drinking, otherwise be constantly badgered about getting a drink. I’m guilty of doing this to friends in the past myself.

This doesn’t need much advice as most friends are kind enough to leave you be after you’ve politely refused sweets long enough. Where this can get tricky is when your friends or family bring up certain points about sugar to justify why it’s OK. The most common argument I’ve heard is “Sugar can’t be that bad because it’s in fruit.”

This is where one of the most effective actions comes in: simply read as much as you can about the topic of sugar. This not only allows you to respond to any questions and concerns you’re presented with, but will further strengthen your resolve towards quitting. Whatever reasons you had for quitting sugar initially, you’ll have much more reasons to quit the more you read about what it does in your body.

(Oh and By the way it’s the Fiber that makes fruit OK.)

A properly done atkins diet works and a properly done plant based vegan diet works, but one is high carb low fat and another is high fat low carb. The traditional Japanese diet, the Mediterranean diet, the Ornish diet and the Paleo diet all work, but the first three are high carb and the Paleo diet is low carb. What all of these have in common is that they restrict processed foods and refined sugars. All the data points to restricting processed foods and especially restricting refined sugars being conducive to good health and proper weight management. This is the fight that is worth fighting and high carb versus low carb can take a backseat for now.

If you liked this, make sure to subscribe and check me out on Patreon. I’m putting out videos on all kinds of topics as frequently as I can.

Categories
Health

Why Sugar is as Bad as Alcohol (Fructose, the Liver Toxin) [Transcript]

We’re all familiar with the dangers of alcohol and the fact that frequent alcohol consumption can fry your liver. Anyone who has had alcohol before will not doubt that it is a toxin, even if they are not familiar with what it specifically does inside your body. This is because you can experience the immediate or “acute” effects of alcohol exposure in a single night after just a few drinks. You might not notice your heart rate becoming irregular, your blood vessels dilating, or your loss of fine motor control, but you will notice something is different as you become “drunk” or “intoxicated”. Then if the pleasant feeling of being drunk had you doubting whether or not alcohol is a toxin, the hangover that comes the next day will surely confirm that it is. So you don’t really need much education or convincing about whether or not frequent consumption of alcohol has some potentially serious effects on your health.

The reason you can feel the effects of alcohol right away and get “drunk” is because a little bit of the alcohol is metabolized by the brain. Actually what goes to the brain is less than 10% of the alcohol. The majority of it- about 80% gets metabolized by the liver. This is why you can develop all sorts of serious liver issues quite quickly if you’re drinking on a daily basis. However, your liver is a very powerful organ that can handle various toxins relatively well, so one night of celebrating your birthday at the bar isn’t going to have you trying to get on the liver transplant list.

But what if we could make an alcoholic drink with a special type of alcohol that didn’t get metabolized in the brain, so you wouldn’t experience the acute effects of alcohol toxicity? You could have several beers at lunch and still be sharp as a tack during the company meeting at 2PM. Maybe you’d even be allowed to drink and drive because it wouldn’t impair your motor skills. Companies might even get away with marketing this special alcohol to kids. “I present to you… kid beer” Hey I mean if the kid isn’t slurring his words and falling down, it should be OK right? …Of course not, no parent in their right mind would give their kid alcohol simply because they don’t appear drunk.

So here are the immediate health effects, and the long term health effects that come with alcohol consumption. How would you feel about a substance that doesn’t get metabolized in the brain, so you get none of these and you only have to worry about 8 of these 12 problems from frequent consumption? …Still not OK that, I’m guessing.

Well we already have a substance like this that is consumed on a daily basis. Like alcohol, it’s not necessary for any biochemical reaction in the body, you don’t need it to survive. It’s not metabolized in the brain so it doesn’t get you drunk, but like alcohol and other toxins, it’s processed primarily in the liver. And frequent consumption of it leads to all sorts of health problems. This substance is fructose. Table sugar, sucrose, is made up of one molecule of glucose and one molecule of fructose. Fructose is in honey, it’s in fruit juice, it’s in high fructose corn syrup – it’s what makes the really sweet stuff sweet.
“Okay, now you wouldn’t think twice about not giving your kid a budweiser. But you don’t think twice about giving your kid a can of coke. But they’re the same.”
This is Robert Lustig, he is one of the biggest factor in bringing the detrimental effects of sugar to light. At first, he can sound a bit over the top when talking about sugar- “Sugar is a poison, it is a chronic, dose dependent hepato- liver toxin.” However, he can back all his statements up with more than 16 years of medical research, academic discourse, policy analysis, data analysis, a whole lot of patient care and maybe most important: the biochemistry of how sugar is processed in the body.

There’s all sorts of compelling statistics we could talk about, but the actual mechanisms that cause sugar to have such bad effects on the body paint a much clearer picture. Once you understand how it is processed in the body, it leaves very little debate as to whether or not sugar could be considered a toxin, and you start to see how a lot of modern health issues are caused by sugar.

Let’s look at how sugar is metabolised,But first we’ll look at glucose or “starch” to see how a non-toxic carbohydrate is metabolized.

By the way, it’s not necessary to remember all these specific terms that come up. Just pay attention to how glucose flows through the cell so we can see how it’s different from alcohol and sugar.

So here is what’s happening in your liver when you eat something like a slice of white bread. First off, only 20% of the glucose you ate will actually hit the liver because the other 80% is metabolised by all the other cells in your body. Before glucose can get into the liver cell, it needs to stimulate the pancreas to make insulin. The insulin will stimulate this insulin receptor IRS-1, which causes a series of reactions to then stimulate SREBP1 and activate this enzyme called glucokinase. Glucokinase takes glucose to Glucose 6-Phosphate which mostly gets stored in the liver as Glycogen. Glycogen is a good thing because it acts as a reserve tank of energy that your body can access when necessary. This is why runners will “carb load” before a race- to completely fill up their glycogen stores and have more energy during the race than what is just sitting in their gut.

What doesn’t go to glycogen gets metabolized down to pyruvate. Pyruvate enters the mitochondria, Mitochondria is like the coal furnace of your cell because it converts the Pyruvate to Acetyl-CoA then burns that in the TCA cycle to produce a bunch of energy in the form of ATP. Not all of this is gonna get burned off so a little bit may be left over as citrate. The SREBP1 from before activates these three enzymes start a process called de novo lipogenesis. De novo “new” lipo “fat” genesis “making”. So the cell is taking this leftover citrate and converting it into fat. The liver really doesn’t want the fat sitting around inside it, so it gets converted down to something called VLDL which is stored in your fat tissue. Not only can this make you fat, but VLDL is actually a big contributor to heart disease.

While this might sound bad, it’s actually not that big of a deal because remember: only 20% of the glucose made it to the liver, then half of that went to glycogen, then alot of that is burned off for energy, so maybe 1/50th of what you ate will actually turn into VLDL. So could a farmer whose eating rice and vegetables at every meal die of a heart attack? Maybe. But it’s gonna happen when they’re about age 90, so that’s not too bad.

So now let’s look at ethanol, which is “drinking alcohol” to see what makes it so different from glucose. Here’s what happens in the liver when you have an alcoholic drink.

As you can guess, ethanol is not necessary for any biological process, so a majority of is processed like a toxin in the liver. 10% will get processed in the stomach and intestines and another 10% gets processed by the kidneys, muscle and the brain. This is the first big difference between glucose and ethanol, the liver has to work 4 times as hard because it processes 80% of the ethanol that comes in. Ethanol doesn’t need insulin to get into the cell, it just diffuses in there and is converted to acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde generates something called reactive oxygen species. Reactive oxygen species damage proteins in the body, can cause cancer and are thought to be the key factor in aging. This is how anti oxidants are supposed to combat aging, because they deal with these ROS’s.

The acetaldehyde then gets converted to acetate and goes into the mitochondria like last time. With glucose, only 20% of the substrate went to the liver and then maybe half of that went to the liver mitochondria because the rest went to glycogen. So what alcohol is doing is overloading your mitochondria.

So A bunch of acetate comes in, goes through the TCA cycle and you’re left with a ton of citrate. The same three enzymes start “new fat making” are stimulated and you end up with a lot of bad fat. This will go to your fat stores, primarily your visceral fat. This is the stuff that causes a lot of health issues and surrounds your organs, giving you a big gut. This is why people get “beer bellies” because that’s the area that gets filled with the fat produced by alcohol.

So the liver has all this fat being produced that it doesn’t want sitting around inside it so it will also export some of the fat out in the form of free fatty acids. These can get into the muscle, causing muscle insulin resistance which is very problematic. Some of it won’t even be able to get out, so you have a fat droplet sitting around in the liver and now you have your alcoholic fatty liver disease.

So the excess of Acyl-CoA, the ethanol and the ROS species activate an enzyme called JNK1 which is the bridge between metabolism and inflammation. This ends up further damaging the liver and it promotes insulin resistance within the liver by inactivating IRS-1, that insulin receptor from before. This means your pancreas has to work a lot harder and pump more insulin out to do its job.

Now let’s look at sugar. Sugar is made up of equal parts glucose and fructose. Fructose is what causes the problems so let’s see how it’s metabolized very similarly to ethanol. Here’s what’s going on in the liver when you have a glass of something sweet like orange juice.

So first off – like Ethanol, Fructose is not necessary to the body so it’s treated like a foreign substance and almost 100% of it is processed in the liver. It comes in, gets metabolized down to pyruvate and enters the mitochondria. Now we have the same situation where everything goes straight to the liver, does not get stored in glycogen and overloads your liver cell’s mitochondria. The pyruvate goes through TCA cycle, produces a bunch of citrate and that gets converted down to VLDL. This leads to increased risk of heart disease and visceral fat accumulation. Now you’ve got a “soda belly”. Like before, it exits the cell as free fatty acids leading to muscle insulin resistance. Not all of the fat can get out of the cell so fat accumulates in the liver and you get non alcoholic fatty liver disease. The same JNK1 gets stimulated which promotes inflammation and JNK1 acts on the same IRS-1 insulin receptor causing insulin resistance in the liver.

All of this is actually illustrated really well in the movie “That Sugar Film.” Damon Gameau goes on a diet with plenty of low fat and so called “healthy” foods like yogurt, whole grain cereals, fruit juice and fruit smoothies. The aim is to eat foods marketed as “healthy” while reaching the average sugar intake of a typical Australian which is about 40 teaspoons. His results demonstrate all of these biochemical processes we just talked about. He gained 8.5kg and an extra 7% total body fat mainly in the form of visceral fat, his heart disease risk went up, he’s developed insulin resistance and after only 18 days he developed non alcoholic fatty liver disease. What I thought was interesting was that he didn’t change the amount of calories he was consuming yet he packed on such a significant amount of fat.

Actually there’s another element to fructose metabolism that makes it generate so much fat. Fructose forms something called Xylulose 5-Phosphate, and this further stimulates the de novo lipogenesis enzymes, leading to even more fat making. That explains the obesity epidemic.

Also, when it’s getting converted to Fructose 1-Phosphate it produces Uric Acid. Uric Acid raises your blood pressure and now you get hypertension too.

Oh and Coca Cola still wants to pretend that obesity is all about calories and a calorie is just a calorie no matter where it comes from.

One thing I should mention is that fiber helps prevent the sugar in fruit from becoming a problem. Fiber reduces the rate of intestinal absorption meaning your liver can easily handle the steady stream of sugar from a piece of fruit. The fiber will also fill you up. So 4 apples might be actually a lot of food to take in in one sitting, but you can get 4 whole apple’s worth of sugar delivered to your liver in a few seconds from one glass of apple juice.

One night of tequila shots isn’t going to cause your liver to explode, but having a shot of whiskey with every meal and for a snack would do some serious damage. By the same token, having a big piece of cake with ice cream at a birthday party isn’t that big of a deal, but most of us are loading up on sugar all throughout the day without noticing it. We’ll have a breakfast of cereal and juice, then a starbucks pseudo-milkshake thing on the way to work, have a sandwich with low fat yogurt for lunch, a granola bar for a snack, then some pasta with a salad for dinner. But we’re not realizing that that the yogurt has as much sugar as candy, the granola bar has as much sugar as a package of oreos, and even your pasta sauce and salad dressing has sugar pumped into it. 80% of the 600,000 packaged food items on the market have added sugar in them. By the way, they’re not gonna have any of that protective fiber you find in whole fruits or vegetables. The fiber has been removed to improve shelf life of the products.

The average American child sees 30,000 TV commercials a year advertising fast food or candy. While something like kid beer sounds joke-ish-ly evil, maybe it’s not all that different from these fun, colorful sugar packed items kids have access to wherever they go.

“Alright, I’m hanging up.”
“You know what’s the most destructive force in the universe?”
“Sugar?”

Categories
Health

Why sugar is addictive and in 80% of foods [Transcript]

You might have read something lately about Sugar being 8 times as addictive as cocaine. This piece of information probably didn’t do too much for you unless you are already anti sugar. Considering everyone has eaten sugar at some point, how could this be alarming? I mean, logically if Sugar was 8 times as addictive as cocaine, this statement would feel either entirely obvious or totally unrealistic. That is- for most of us it sounds unrealistic, but If you’ve stabbed someone in the past 6 months for a piece of cake, then the information comes with little surprise.
And what does that mean 8 times as addictive? Do you get hooked 8 times faster? Are the withdrawal symptoms 8 times worse? Would you kill 8 people to get some sugar, but only kill 1 person to get cocaine?
Well, a study from 2007 presented rats with the chance to choose either a sweetened water solution or a cocaine water solution 8 times a day. They almost always picked the sweetened water. Other studies have shown that Rats, even when already addicted to cocaine, will quickly forget about the cocaine and work much harder to get sugar, even when it means walking over a panel that will repeatedly shock them.
But what are the implications for humans? And should you even care? If you were experiencing sugar addiction, you’d surely know it by now, right?
Several recreational substances exist in nature without needing much processing, like dried tobacco leaves, beer from fermented barley, or even the sap from the opium poppy plant. The closer you remain to the natural state of these things, the less dangerous and problematic they are. While smoking tobacco in any form is of course harmful to your health, it usually takes continuous use over a long period of time for it to truly damage you. It’s very rare that someone would drink beer or wine to the point that they get alcohol poisoning or become seriously addicted to alcohol. You could even argue that opium was never a problem in human populations until it was conceived of as a problem by british colonial policy makers. Italian aristocrat and actor Dado Ruspoli had supposedly smoked opium for over 45 years without it having severe repercussions on his life.
Substances like this only become truly hazardous to your health and terribly addictive when you extensively refine them. Around 1810, morphine was derived from opium and was available in the US from the mid 1850’s to be used as a painkiller by doctors. Due to injuries sustained during the Civil War, many soldiers were exposed to morphine, and suddenly you had tens of thousands of morphine addicts. Then in 1874, Heroin which is derived from morphine, was marketed as morphine’s non addictive substitute and since then, the heroin addict has been ever present in American culture.

Another example is the very dangerous and very addictive cocaine, which is also a product of refinement. The refinement of coca leaves. These leaves had been chewed by farmers in the Andes for hundreds of years for a boost in energy, and the worst they got from constant chewing of the leaves was maybe bad teeth.
Alcohol too doesn’t get that bad until you refine it, or distill it. People who have become alcoholics will skip the weaker fermented alcohols like beer, wine or cider and stick to the hard distilled stuff like Whiskey, Gin and Vodka. Have a couple beers and you might be kind of a jerk, but for most people it’s not until they start doing shots that they’ll make a real ass of themselves, black out or end up in the hospital.
In each of these examples, the result of refinement is a higher concentration of a particular ingredient that will have an effect on your brain’s reward system. What happens is the substance either occupies your dopamine receptors or causes dopamine to be released and it makes you feel good. That is- you get more bang for your buck. Distilled alcohol means you get drunker for a lot less liquid, and cocaine and heroin give you way more of the feel good effects from just a tiny bit of the substance.
This brings us to sugar, another substance which also affects your brain’s dopamine system, and is also the result of a refining process. With sugar, you’re getting more sweet for your buck. And compared to other tastes, sweet activates your reward center even more- that is, evolution programmed us to seek sweet foods in particular. One of the reasons is that sweet foods in nature are very rarely poisonous.
Another fun thing about sugar is that it actually has a small opiate like effect. When newborns are to be circumcised, they are given a pacifier dipped in something called “sweet ease”- which is just a concentrated sugar solution. The sugar activates the endogenous opioid system, providing enough analgesia for the baby that the procedure can be completed without too much fuss.
And then, how much something is refined should give you an idea of how intense you can expect the effects to be. For example, 100 kilograms of coca leaves will get you about 300 – 1200 grams of cocaine. That is – the resulting material is about 100 times stronger than what you started with. When it comes to sugar, for a good yielding sugarcane, about half the weight of one stalk is juice, and 20% of that juice is actual sugar. So the result of the refinement process is a material that’s around 10 times sweeter than what you started with.
The average American consumes about 82 grams of sugar per day. To naturally consume this much sugar, they would have to chew through about 2 lbs of sugarcane. This is 2 lbs of fiber rich plant material that our bodies would normally expect to come along with all that sweetness. The fiber in there slows the rate at which the sugar is released into your system, so without the fiber the sugar is absorbed very rapidly. This is another parallel to cocaine.
Your body could probably handle chewing through a 100 grams of coca leaves because the active ingredient is released very slowly into your system… However if you slam that amount of active ingredient instantaneously via your right nostril then it’s gonna be a shock to your body.
OK, so sugar has some parallels to narcotics, but how is it actually addictive? In animals at least, sugar addiction has been thoroughly proven. However, establishing addiction in people is a little different. According to the APA Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 3 of the following 7 criteria need to be met.
5 of these criteria are considered psychological and they are: Bingeing on the substance, a desire to quit using the substance, craving or seeking the substance, the substance interfering with your daily life, and continued use of the substance despite negative consequences. The other two criteria are considered physiological, which makes them the most important in establishing addiction. They are Tolerance and Withdrawal.
Tolerance is easier to establish objectively since you can use neuro imaging to actually see it. What’s happening in the brain when you become tolerant to something is that the dopamine receptors in your brain get downregulated, so more dopamine is necessary to get the same effect – essentially you need more of the substance to get the same amount of pleasure. If you take a look at a cocaine addicts brain, you can see that the cocaine has clearly downregulated their dopamine receptors. Then, if you look at the brain of someone who frequently over consumes sugar, you see the exact same thing in their brain. This is tolerance.

And what about withdrawal? People who try to quit sugar consistently report symptoms like lightheadedness, headaches, anxiety, mood swings, muscle aches, general fatigue, and physical tremors or “the shakes”. If you’ve seen Morgan Spurlock’s “Supersize me!” you may remember this scene: “I was feeling bad, in the car. Feeling like shit. Started eating – feel great. Feel really good now. I feel so good it’s crazy.” So what’s happening here is he’s having withdrawal symptoms until he gets the food again. And what is almost every one of McDonald’s products loaded with? Sugar, or High fructose corn syrup which is chemically almost identical to sugar. In this documentary “That Sugar Film” Australian filmmaker Damon Gameau goes on an experimental high sugar diet for 30 days. Despite consuming the same amount of calories and just upping his sugar intake, in these 30 days alone he gained 8.5 kilograms (19 lbs) And by the 18th day he already had developed fatty liver disease. When he finally goes off the diet, he talks about his withdrawal symptoms: “Frankly, it didn’t feel that different from giving up cigarettes. I had headaches, I was moody, and my sleep patterns were terrible. Woke up, very early, and as soon as I was awake I kind of.. I’m craving sugar.”
As paracelsus said, “the dose makes the poison.” So if you’re not someone who’s eating candy or drinking soda on a regular basis, you might not be worried about all of this. However, the real issue is that a lot of people could be over dosing on sugar without even realizing it. Ever since the low fat craze, our food supply has become more and more overrun with added sugars and now 80% of our food has sugar added to it. One of the reasons is that if you take the fat out of something, it tastes like garbage. If you’re a food company looking to maximize your profit, your product needs to appeal health conscious consumers and it needs to taste good. So, you take the fat out of the product so you can market it as low fat and then you put sugar in where the fat was so it still tastes good.
In fact, food companies found out that you can make almost anything taste better by putting some sugar in it. The “Bliss Point” is a term the food industry uses to describe the point at which a product is most likeable for the majority of consumers. And the majority of consumers like more sugar than less. So the Bliss Point is going to be the point at which the maximum amount of sugar has been added before the product becomes too sweet. This includes anything from bread to pizza sauce to salad dressing.
Sugar used to be way more expensive than it is nowadays – way back in 1319 it sold for about 50 dollars a pound, but as sugar cane and sugar beet cultivation improved and the refinement process became more advanced, sugar became significantly cheaper. Then things got really cheap with the advent of high fructose corn syrup, which again is almost identical to sugar. Because of the way subsidies are managed in the United States, we end up with a massive amount of corn. In 2010, 32 percent of the world’s corn supply, 63.9 billion dollars worth, came from US farmers. That’s a lot of corn. No wonder this corn derived sweetener is in almost everything.
High fructose corn syrup and sugar have built up a bad reputation over time, but there’s 54 other names for sugar that the food industry can use to have us feeling better about their products while keeping the sugar in.
This is how even the more health conscious people can end up consuming more than twice the daily recommended intake of sugar without even knowing it.
And now we have the question: are you addicted to sugar? If you’re like most people, you’re fulfilling your cravings at almost every meal without even knowing it, so how could you tell? With something like caffeine, you can take a pretty good guess about whether or not you have some dependence on it. You can just go without a coffee for a while and see how you feel. However, with sugar, it will take some deliberation and careful label reading to properly cut it out from your diet.
But I really recommend you do trying cutting it out so you can know how you feel without it. It’s important to know whether or not you are dependent on this stuff, because as I’ll discuss in my next video, sugar has some particularly negative effects on your health.
“Disease doesn’t happen with one meal, but it happens with a thousand. But that’s what we have because now sugar is with EVERY meal.”

Categories
Health

Why your Body makes you Fat AND Hungry [Transcript]

This is the bare transcript for my youtube video of the same title

Growing up in Texas, I thought that the weight gain of people around me was just something that naturally happened. Though, I didn’t realize how big us Texans were getting until I saw Morgan Spurlock’s “Supersize Me!” and he mentioned how 5 of the fattest cities in America were in Texas. This was surprising, but I was chubby when I was younger and then in high school I exercised and slimmed up. I thought what to do to lose weight was obvious, so I unfairly figured people in Texas were just lazy. Then in 2010 I went to Japan, and when I came back 3 years later I realized people were significantly bigger compared to when I was young – If there was an obesity epidemic then I was looking at it. At this point, I started to think it couldn’t be just a matter of not trying hard enough. Because that would suggest that we really have an epidemic of is not caring.

Maybe what actually happened is that the advice we’d been given for losing weight doesn’t work. This may be hard to believe considering 80% of the USDA’s $140 billion budget goes to the Food and Nutrition Service program, but hear me out.

In my previous video, I talked about how weight regulation isn’t just calories in calories out, which is justified mainly by bad Physics. As Dr. Blake Donaldson suggests in his 1962 book “Strong Medicine,” : Continuous success in any line of endeavor, including weight reduction, demands rigid adherence to biological laws.”
It is Biology, not Physics that will help us to understand the human body, and that when your body is properly fed, it will not choose to store fat in excess nor make you hungry all the time.

First off let’s say you wanted to make an animal fat. What would you feed it? If you want your cows produce steaks with more fat on them, you feed them corn and grain instead of grass. To make Foie Gras, they force feed ducks primarily corn. In this study, they found the best way to fatten up rats was to give them a diet with ample amounts of cookies, cereals, chips, crackers as well as some processed cheese and meats.
Of course, Animals are not the same as humans, so let’s look at a population of humans that intentionally try to get fat. Japanese Sumo wrestlers pack on as many pounds as they can in order to be able to push their opponent out of the ring. According to the Sugahara Institutes’ examination of Sumo wrestler’s diet and lifestyle while in training camp, the wrestlers, as expected are eating massive amounts of food. Some days they are hitting as much as 15,000 calories. But what macronutrient do they rely on to pack on the pounds? They’re getting more than twice as much carbohydrates as they are fat or protein.

It may not be surprising that carbohydrates drive fat accumulation, considering low-carb has been a pretty big thing since 2002, when the New York Times Magazine published a cover story entitled “What if Fat Doesn’t Make You Fat?” What may be surprising is that “low carb” is not new in the least. For almost 200 years, reducing carbohydrates for weight loss was a common practice.

In 1797 the Scottish Military surgeon John Rollo successfully treated a diabetes patient with a low carbohydrate diet. Jean Savarin published a book in 1825 called “the Physiology of taste” in which he talks about his patients not being happy that they need to reduce tasty things like flour, sugar, bread, and potatoes and cookies in order to lose weight. In 1844 Jean Dancel published a book called “Obesity, or Excessive Corpulence: The Various Causes and Rational Means of a cure” that recommended to avoid carbohydrates and eat meat in order to “cure” obesity. There are dozens more examples I could list going up to the late 1900’s, but let’s jump to 1971. This is when Charlotte Young released a study showing that “With fewer carbohydrates and more fat in the diet, greater weight loss and fat loss would be observed in subjects”

So for a while obesity was relatively under control, if people needed to lose weight they knew what to do. That was until around 1977, when something interesting happens. Any graph you pull up on the obesity trends, you can see a very noticeable change around that year which shows a clear increase in weight gain which leads ultimately to our current obesity epidemic. 1977 is the year when the USDA put out the new dietary recommendations to cut fat and replace it with “heart healthy” starches, bread, pasta and other carbohydrates. I guess it’s not that big of a surprise that when you bury a method that worked for 200 years for reversing obesity and controlling diabetes, that you get an obesity and diabetes epidemic.

The history paints a pretty good picture, but it’s important that we understand the biological mechanisms behind this. To save you the suspense, it’s not total calories, but your hormones that cause weight gain. Particularly one called insulin, which you’ve surely heard of. It’s known as the fat storage hormone. Where there’s insulin, there’s fat. And When people have to routinely inject insulin in themselves, they experience something called lipohypertrophy – the site at which insulin is injected has a clear accumulation of fat.
So how does insulin work in the body?
As you know, your blood glucose or blood sugar rises when you eat carbohydrates, particularly ones low in fiber. This then causes insulin to be released so the insulin can carry the glucose into the cells that have an insulin receptor, which then allows the cells to break down the glucose and produce energy in the form of phosphates. So far so good.

However this process can only happen at a certain rate, so glucose needs to be put somewhere else. In the form of glycogen, you can store about 200 grams of glucose in the muscle and 70 grams in the liver. When those are filled up, insulin receptors decrease on those cells so glucose can’t go in. But the glucose still needs to go somewhere because if it sits in the blood stream it will bind to proteins in a damaging process called glycation.

Glycation is a process where sugar in the bloodstream mucks onto proteins, creating something called advanced glycation end products or AGE’s for short. It’s the cellular equivalent of pouring maple syrup on your keyboard. One example is a banana. As it gets more ripe, you see some brown spots on the peel and if you peel the banana you can see some dark spots which are particularly sweet. The same thing happens to your skin over time: proteins in your bloodstream get sugar stuck on them and the resulting AGE’s damage your skin internally, creating age spots. You also see these spots from external damage from the sun. Where these things become a real problem is in diabetics who have trouble controlling their blood sugar, and end up with a large amount of AGE’s. This is why diabetics can lose sight in their eyes and may even end up having to amputate their toes because these are the places with very small capillaries where it’s easy for these AGE’s to get stuck and cause serious damage.

So back to the glucose processing: Your muscles and liver have stored as much glucose as they can, and your body really does not want glucose overloading the cells, so it decreases the insulin receptors on most cells preventing the glucose from getting in. Then, glucose is broken down and stored as triglycerides in the only place where insulin receptors are actually increasing- your body fat.

So this is how carbohydrates and the insulin response cause you to get fat.

A couple years back before I learned about intermittent fasting and this low carb business, there was an all you can eat Yakiniku- Japanese barbecue place that I’d sometimes go to. It’s common to always have a bowl of rice to accompany the meat when you’re eating, but one day I decided to skip the rice and just focus on the meat. The next day I noticed something new: I felt stuffed the entire day and I didn’t want to eat until dinner. Whereas when I usually had the rice with my meat, I was already starving for breakfast by morning.

Now, I finally understand what was going on. To use the energy within our fat tissues, fatty acids are taken out of the tissue to be broken down for energy. Which obviously would make you shed fat. But when you have a high serum insulin level from eating too much carbohydrate, you cannot break down your fat tissue because the enzyme that allows that – hormone sensitive lipase, is sensitive to insulin, which will not allow the fat to be broken down.

So you then have this situation where insulin won’t let you use your fat for energy, so when you’re low on energy, you’re going to feel very lethargic and hungry until you get new glucose. This is how high blood sugar and insulin keeps you fat and keeps you hungry.

People don’t get fat because they want to eat all the time, they want to eat all the time because they’re getting fat. So then, are people staying fat because they don’t exercise, or do they not exercise because they don’t have any energy available to do so? I would argue the latter.

So the diet and exercise recommendations we’ve been getting the past several decades ignore basic endocrinology and something natural to all animals: the desire to keep their biological processes balanced and remain in homeostasis. For example: Your body always wants to stay at a constant temperature, so when it’s too hot, your metabolism slows down so you don’t overheat from the inside. When it’s cold, you start to shiver so the glycogen stored in your muscles breaks down and produces heat to maintain your body temperature. Your body will also auto regulate your blood pressure, as well as your sodium and other mineral levels.

Physiologist Edward F Adolph back in the 1940’s found that however he tried to trick his lab rats, he couldn’t get them to take in more nutrients than usual. He would dilute their food with water and they just drank more of it until they got the same amount of nutrients, and he would even pump food into their stomachs and they would then just eat less.

So why would we humans, the smartest and most evolutionarily successful creatures on the planet, have to expend willpower and consciously regulate how much we eat? The simple answer is that if you feed your body properly, it will regulate consumption for you.

In the 1960’s Ethan Sims conducted experiments where he took prisoners from the Vermont State prison and tried to overfeed them with either carbs or fat on top of their normal diet. He could get them to eat an excess of 7000 calories in carbs per day, yet getting them to eat 800 calories of fat, about 1 stick of butter, took a heroic amount of effort. It takes willpower to overeat if you are on the right diet, but it takes even more willpower to not overeat if you are on the wrong diet

This is the issue. Humans have not had time to adapt to the massive amount of low fiber carbohydrates recently introduced to our diet. The low fiber aspect is important because Fiber reduces the rate of intestinal carbohydrate absorption, reducing the insulin response, and essentially preventing all these problems I just talked about. Way back when we were hunting and gathering and before the cultivation of sweeter and juicier fruit, we were getting about 100 to 300 grams of fiber a day, whereas today the average is more like 15 grams.

So no, the people of Texas and others struggling with their weight are not just lazy, we’ve just had the wrong food and the wrong advice pushed on us the past 40 years. By the way, remember how I said I slimmed up by exercising when I was young? That wasn’t really me, it was my hormones. I went through a massive hormonal change called.. puberty, which slimmed me up and gave me the energy to exercise- not the other way around.

★Credit for some of the information in here goes to Albert Lehninger’s principles of Biochemistry textbook, Gary Taubes’ book “Good Calories Bad Calories,” his other book “Why we get fat”, Robert Lustig’s book “Fat Chance” and Johnathon Bailor’s book “The Calorie Myth”