?Norm! Do you have a good article on your blog about cholesterol? My co-worker is afraid of cheese because of it??
~Text message received Wednesday from my buddy from high school (we call each other Norm, which we used to shout at each other depending on who was more late to first period ? like the show Cheers ? no, we weren’t really the cool kids).
In honor of Norm, and continuing with our discussion of the work of Ray Peat, today we discuss the evil and villainous cholesterol!!! How do we keep this villain from jumping all up in our arteries, clogging them off, shutting down the flow of blood, and giving us heart disease, stroke, and heart attacks?
Ah yes, about that. Well, that’s what we hear about how heart disease works. It’s like a clog in a drain. It makes sense. We can visualize it. We’ve also been told that saturated fat, which is solid at room temperature (but liquid at body temperature), makes our arteries clogged like that, with a bunch of white, grisly fat. We can visualize that too. This has all been very powerful propaganda against cholesterol and saturated fat. But in actuality, cholesterol and saturated fat have nothing significant to do with heart disease. In fact, in the right context, saturated fat can have a protective role against it. Cholesterol in food has basically nothing to do with anything, unless you are one of those that are phobic about oxidized cholesterol from cooked foods and powdered milk (which I can’t imagine having much significance).
The associations between total cholesterol, HDL (good cholesterol, lol) and LDL (bad cholesterol, lol) and heart disease are also pathetically weak, with endless contradictions and exceptions. For example, perhaps the world’s highest rate of heart disease belongs to Australian Aboriginal men, who have ?perfect? weight (BMI ? 23.2), and total, HDL, and LDL ?cholesterol? levels all in the ideal ranges.
Hell, even clogged arteries in the traditional sense aren’t the cause of heart disease. In fact, it’s been reported that arteries that are more occluded (blocked) tend to have more stable plaques than arteries that aren’t as clogged, that instead tend to have raised lesions that break free more easily (causing actual coronary thrombosis, which is a sudden, acute event). And yes, in coronary thrombosis (blood clot ? one of the most common types of fatal heart disease), the blood clot blocks the artery ? not cholesterol!
Anyway, I could go off on that tangent for days.
What I like about Ray Peat’s work is that it takes an intelligent look into human physiology. Even the most basic glance into it reveals how dumbed down the heart disease/cholesterol story that we are spoon-fed really is. I mean, good cholesterol and bad cholesterol aren’t even cholesterol! They are lipoproteins! That right there should send shivers down your spine (Oh, they don’t need to know that. Let’s not confuse them. Let’s just tell them that the type of lipoprotein this medication lowers (LDL) without increasing life expectancy by a single day ? even in studies funded by drug companies, is ?bad? cholesterol. That’ll work great. They already think cholesterol is bad. Bad cholesterol is like, whoa man, totally EVIL!).
In terms of diet and lifestyle, cutting saturated fat and cholesterol out of your diet, doing lots of ?cardio,? and taking cholesterol-lowering medications is akin to stopping the bleeding on a head laceration (from say, head-butting your physician like Johnny Lawrence recently did during one of his volleyball games with Jimmy) by having a bowl of Cheerios with low-fat milk, distorting your genitals into an animal-like shape with your hands, and doing an Acai berry fiber-smoothie belly blast cleanse (This cleanse is fictional. Any likeness to an actual product or program is purely coincidental). This is actually a bad analogy, as there aren’t billions of dollars worth of studies already showing that those lifestyle modification don’t work ? in the case of genital distortion there is actually a chance it could have a pro-thrombotic effect, we just haven’t studied that yet to find out.
Billions of dollars spent unsuccessfully trying to establish saturated fat and cholesterol?ingestion as the cause of heart disease?? Epic Fail.
The biggest study of course, the Framingham Massachusetts study, didn’t necessarily come to the conclusion that we should be a bunch of salad-slaying cheese phobes?
?In Framingham, Mass., the more saturated fat one ate, the more cholesterol one ate, the more calories one ate, the lower the person’s serum cholesterol? we found that the people who ate the most cholesterol, ate the most saturated fat, and ate the most calories, weighed the least…
-William Castelli, director of Framingham, MA heart disease study, the largest saturated fat/cholesterol heart disease study ever conducted, 1992 (excerpt taken from Mary Enig’s Know Your Fats; 2000).
Actually, let’s look at that quote in terms of Ray Peat, as this allows us to explain how such findings are plausible, and tell the real physiological story of cholesterol.
If Ray Peat, a wealth of knowledge about human physiology is correct ? and I have no reason to think he is not because it ties lots of pieces of the puzzle together for me, cholesterol is a precursor to our steroid class of hormones. According to Peat, the LDL molecule, which contains cholesterol, is first converted into pregnenolone. The hormone pregnenolone is then converted into hormones like DHEA, testosterone, and progesterone for example, as well as others.
Of course, DHEA, testosterone, and progesterone are some of the most well-known anti-aging, anti-heart disease substances in the human body. These hormones all decline as we age, which is one of the reasons why we become increasingly susceptible to heart disease as we age (and diabetes, stroke, cancer, Alzheimer’s, yada yada) ? not to mention sex drive falls, ability to reproduce plummets, muscle mass evaporates, body fat is stored more readily, the skin loses its elasticity, and we cannot run and jump and lift like we can in our youth when these hormones are peaking.
What controls the rate of conversion of LDL into these youthful hormones? The metabolic rate does ? or more precisely, the level of active thyroid hormone production and utilization. When we are young, metabolic rate tends to be higher ? and we produce more of the youth hormones. As it falls, we produce less of the youth hormones. This is a bummer. In fact, progesterone, produced in much larger quantities in women than in men, is so powerful that pre-menopausal women, unlike men, are almost completely protected from this disease during middle-age.
Cholesterol levels tend to rise as we age (in particular the level of LDL ?bad cholesterol”), not in proportion to our dietary intakes of saturated fat or dietary cholesterol. Duh! In fact, total calorie consumption, cholesterol consumption, and saturated fat consumption all falls as we age while cholesterol tends to keep rising. Why? Because it is no longer being converted into the youth hormones.
So when you see someone eating more cholesterol, more saturated fat, and more calories (like a young person vs. the elderly), you see a correlation to greater leanness, more physical activity, lower cholesterol levels, and less heart disease. And this is NOT because cholesterol levels are lowered because cholesterol has no causative role in heart disease. Rather, those who eat more and move more have HIGHER METABOLIC RATES per pound of body weight. The cause for the reduction in heart disease incidence is the same as the cause for lowered cholesterol ? a higher metabolic rate yields greater production of the protective hormones of youth (age is always the top risk factor for almost any degenerative disease). This clears the LDL, turning it into something else.
This is why, still to this day, by far the most successful physician in preventing heart disease was Broda Barnes. He reduced heart disease incidence by over 90% compared to the heart disease rate seen in the famous Framingham study. His success came as a result of keeping the metabolic rate of his patients elevated. His conclusions about diet weren’t necessarily on par with today’s saturated fat paranoia?
?It will be hard to ignore the propaganda that the saturated fats cause heart disease. That propaganda will stop abruptly when the housewife passes up the unsaturated fats and fills her basket with cream, butter, eggs, lard, fat meat, and the other goodies which the family has been craving. The propaganda for unsaturates is perpetuated only by the vested interest of the manufacturers? If the polyunsaturated fats are safe, let the manufacturers prove it on animals before a new plague develops from the false statements that unsaturated fats will prevent heart attacks.
Looking further into Peat, with a desire to keep the metabolic rate elevated, you see two diverging effects of the unsaturated fats recommended for ?heart health? and the saturated fats labeled as ?bad fats. The polyunsaturated fats, like those found in peanut butter and vegetable oil (grapeseed, canola, soy, corn, cottonseed, sunflower, safflower) lower thyroid/metabolism, primarily through interfering with the conversion of active thyroid hormone T3 and entry of T3 into the mitochondrion where it stimulates metabolic activity at the cellular level.
On the other hand, many saturated fats perform the opposite service. Butyric acid, a short-chain fatty acid found in greatest abundance in butter, whole milk, full-fat cheeses, and cream ? is the most metabolically-stimulating fatty acid of ?em all?
?The active fraction of the thyroid hormone, triiodothyronine, or liothyronine (T3), is essential for the conversion of cholesterol to pregnenolone, as is the retinol form of vitamin A. Butyric acid is known to facilitate the entry of T3 into the mitochondrion.
The best source of this fat is not ingested at all, but manufactured from the fermentation of starches and indigestible fibers in the digestive tract. I’m talking about fiber of course. Fiber typically performs very well in clinical study, with many studies showing far-reaching pro-metabolic effects of fiber. The question is why would fiber do that? It’s not even digested. It’s obvious it has nothing to do with slowing down glucose absorption or some of the common supposed virtues of fiber. The irony is that the reason that fiber is healthy ? the stuff all those people are telling you to eat while reducing your saturated fat intake, is the fact that it is converted to saturated fat! (Although, this isn’t just any saturated fat ? there are dozens of types of saturated fat, and butyric acid is just one of them).
Still, there’s no question that saturated fat is not the enemy. It does not raise cholesterol on a long-term basis. I mean sure, if you have a low metabolic rate and you throw a bunch of saturated fat into it, you might see a temporary rise in cholesterol levels. But over the long-haul the metabolic stimulation it provides (although I’d say carbs do it better, generally-speaking) is likely to cancel that out and maybe even lower your cholesterol as you convert more of it into powerful anti-aging hormones like Martin did.
The cause of heart disease is the cause of many diseases of old age. Peat would say it is caused primarily from a reduced production of protective youthful hormones and an increased production of stress hormones and inflammation. This is governed, in large part, by the amount of thyroid hormone and stress hormones you produce. Stress hormones lower thyroid hormone and lowers progesterone, testosterone, and DHEA ? the hormones of optimal human functionality and disease resistance. By the same token, thyroid lowers the stress hormones and increases the youth hormones. It’s a two-way street.
In some respects, stress (the broader definition ? as in, anything that can induce stress hormone production and inflammatory processes? from allergies to chemical pollutants to nutrient deficiency to being poor) is the unified cause of disease, especially heart disease. Eating well ? plenty of calories, plenty of carbohydrates, and favoring saturated over unsaturated fats, sleeping well, moderate exercise with ample recovery, ?meaningful work? ? those are the keys to keeping metabolism high and stress hormones low. It’s not rocket science. And it’s certainly not what is masquerading as science to make a buck off of the erroneous cholesterol scare. Health enhancement and preservation comes from small but significant changes, not drastic and dangerous ones.
Don’t fear the cheese. The only way it could increase your risk of heart disease would be if you were allergic to it and ate tons of it on a daily basis ? a potent form of stress (but even that is not a root cause, as you can most likely overcome such allergies by restoring the health of your metabolism as a whole).
Oh and dietary cholesterol? Ha. That doesn’t have any significant effect on your cholesterol levels or heart disease risk at all. That can certainly be removed from the ?Nutrition Facts? labels on all the food-like products we buy.
To live the longest and most disease-free life you are capable of living, restore, maximize, and defend your metabolic rate. You can learn some great tips on how to do that with diet and lifestyle manipulation alone by reading this book on how to raise your metabolism.
?To my mind, the true underlying cause of heart disease is ‘stress? and it’s standing right in front of everyone, jumping up and down, going ?Hello, look here, it’s me!… Will you please ignore LDL levels? I SAID LOOK OVER HERE! Oh forget it???
?Wherever you look, you will find that hundreds, even thousands of studies have been done. They all show exactly the same thing. Stress causes heart disease. It can be long term, it can be short term, it can be physical or psychological. It doesn’t matter, the HPA-axis converts all types of stress into the same deadly mix.
~Malcolm Kendrick; The Great Cholesterol Con (a must-read for anyone with cholesterophobia)
?Stress is the greatest accelerator of atherosclerosis, have respect for it.
~Broda Barnes; Solved: The Riddle of Heart Attacks
P.S. ? Before the development of the cholesterol theory of heart disease, high cholesterol levels in the blood signified hypothyroidism, and was used as a diagnostic tool for the condition. If you have high cholesterol, it makes more sense to first try to maximize thyroid hormone production ? using the cholesterol to make hormones instead of having it pile up in the bloodstream. The worst thing you can do is starve yourself of fats like saturated fat, used to make cholesterol, and thus forcing your cholesterol level down. Low metabolism + low cholesterol = no youth hormone production, an acceleration of the aging process, and increased chances of becoming ill.
P.P.S. – Welcome to Jessie, the newest member of the 180 Hot Chicks Club, who sent me the following photo. She likes 80’s references, so be thinking of alternate lyrics to “I wish that I had Jessie’s girl…”? Like, I don’t know, I with that I had Jessie’s pits, or temps, or glands or something.
Peat says that he sees cholesterol as a protective factor, and cites Yudkin's contention that sugar increases cholesterol levels as evidence of sugar's beneficence.
Sounds like, though, elevated cholesterol is itself not protective, unless you have a fully-functioning thyroid to turn that cholesterol into testosterone, progesterone, DHEA, etc. Am I understanding that right?
And why then is a cholesterol level under 150 said to 'heart-attack proof' you if you can also drop it by reducing the metabolism and thereby increasing your risk of disease? Is it just that, with a low metabolism and low cholesterol level, you are more likely to get illnesses like cancer, rather than heart attacks?
Also, you've on several occasions referred to short chain fatty acids, especially those converted from fiber, are like super versions of medium chain fatty acids, in terms of their metabolically stimulating qualities. Can you elaborate? What do they do specifically, and what do they do that MCFAs don't?
I think you mentioned that butyric acid is insulin sensitizing and in this article that it facilitates T3's use by cells. Is that it's primary quality?
One more- what about retinol, mentioned here, high in Cod Liver Oil and lots of the other WAPF foods? If butyric acid is important, sounds like Vitamin A may be too. Perhaps that's why Chris Masterjohn claims its the 'forgotten bodybuilding nutrient' in the article here? http://tinyurl.com/68enq2n
Retinol probably is important. How much is needed it's hard to say – probably not extreme amounts.
Whether you can make yourself "heart attack proof" with a cholesterol level below 150 is probably false. Even if it is true, there's a much stronger connection between stroke and cancer and low cholesterol than there is high cholesterol and heart disease. This is where the whole cholesterol theory of atheroscleroris gers really muddy, as low cholesterol predisposes one to having "clogged" arteries in the brain.
I think what Peat is saying is that having a low metabolism and high cholesterol is better than having a low metabolism and low cholesterol. Which would make sense. With that combo, you wouldn't be making many steroid hormones at all, and would age and degenerate much more quickly.
Cholesterol levels tell a story. The levels are not something to freak out about and focus on, especially in your youth when you have less proneness to heart disease.
Continuing discussion re: hyper-palatable food, from the last post:
@Matt — You got me to order "End to Overeating". Looking forward to it.
@Ela — I don't think that weight gain is the only possible symptom of eating highly palatable food.
In fact, I'm less interested in the ability of hyper-palatable food to make us overeat and get fat, and more interested in its potential to disrupt normal brain activity.
If it does, then all sorts of classic modern society problems could, in theory, result, including anxiety, depression, inflammation, weight gain, etc.
I'm going to continue my bland diet for another couple of weeks and see where it goes. I can say that after about 2 weeks, unseasoned food is already starting to taste better to me. So the old 'truth' that taste buds get less sensitive as we age might at least partially be that our brains down-regulate flavor perception when eating overly-seasoned food. It would be interesting to run an analysis study comparing taste sensitivity to health among older people.
I was just trying a "head spike" and missed. It was an honest mistake.
That "genital distortion" paragraph is something. I'm glad to have read it.
This seems like a good place to talk about my vegetarian RRARFing, which is one million percent higher in cholesterol than the vegan diet I had been eating. I've been having no trouble eating large amounts – today included lots o' eggs, milk, a whole box of whole wheat pasta, taters and vegetables in myriad forms – but I have been way behind on sleep, I think. Catching up on that and quitting coffee is going to be the hard part of this. I haven't been wanting to force anything, but still.
By the way, the stroke thing is why vegan gurus like Fuhrman and Novick stress low sodium so much. They say that vegans will have low cholesterol and that while is this is good overall, etc etc, it creates the problem of weakened blood vessels in the brain which creates risk of stroke. Therefore vegans need to do anything they can to reduce blood pressure.
I'm not sure if this chain of reasoning checks out, but I do remember it from their writings because of the unusual level of candor – they both "admit" that stroke risk is a danger of a vegan diet and that going low in sodium is a way to patch that hole.
zogby–yes, that's an interesting point re weight gain not being the only effect.
I'm trying a 'bland' diet myself right now (although my 'regular' diet isn't very flavor enhanced anyway, and only by high-antioxidant spices (for what that's worth) rather than ketchup, etc. On the taste desensitization as we age–what about the stereotype that old people need very bland food and don't like much spice?
@Matt–wish you had a picture for that genitalia manipulation concept, but great visual anyway.
I wish I understood why cholesterol is such a 'big deal' to the mainstream, when this rebuttal makes so much sense. My husband's is high, but even his mainstream dr isn't pushing the statins, saying that there isn't that great evidence that they help.
Zogby, I enjoyed that book, it made me understand Doritos better. (Poor, misunderstood Doritos…and the evil geniuses who spray on that nacho goodness…)
As for mental health, processed food, and brain chemistry, I have recenlty started a supplement program that is kicking my OCD in the butt. I think it's the copper supplements that are helping (but I sadly started everything at once and cannot say for sure). Anyway, this experience makes me wonder about mineral deficiency in general, because of poor soil and processed foods, and mental health. (I have an ADHD shorty in the house, too, so this is all top priority for me.)
My comments on the last post were deleted, but one point I raised still applies here: If thyroid is the key to so much, why aren't we healing people like Broda Barnes supposedly did? Also, did Broda Barnes use T3 or dessicated thyroid (mostly T4, so I've heard)? Could it be that the unsaturated fats, which are supposedly stored in our systems and can take years replace, are blocking the T3 from entering mitochondria?
Also, regarding cholesterol, the best way to wake people out of the media-created delusion is to say that Ancel Keys himself found out early on that dietary cholesterol had no effect on blood cholesterol, and never claimed that it did when presenting the Lipid Hypothesis. In 1997, he said: "There’s no connection whatsoever between cholesterol in food and cholesterol in blood. And we’ve known that all along. Cholesterol in the diet doesn’t matter unless you happen to be a chicken or a rabbit."
I'd like to be first just for once! um urrr ashfeoaineas
Hey! I just twisted it into a poodle!
Jared, Broda Barnes used dessicated, he was a big pusher of Armour. I think this made people a little suspicious of his work, because it sounded like he was just writing a lot of marketing propaganda for the company. Kind of like the modern supplement business does with the newest latest thing that everyone needs to take. i was a little suspicious of this as well, but I dont know if he had any financial ties to the company. Maybe it is all legit, I dont have any reason to think he was an huckster.
That thermometer is SOOOOOOO freakin hot….. ummmm…… I'm my underwear is just SOAKING……..with.. SWEAT…just like my CHEST….. ummmm…. and my pits and forehead and stuff……
I'm boiling over…
oh yeah, babe….. give me some of that JUICE…..
ALL…. DAY…. LONG……
I've actualy been to a Pupptry of the Penis show about 10 years ago. It was started by Aussie guys. My 'friends' yelled out it was my birthday, so I got dragged up onto the stage and got a picture taken of me staring directly into the eye of the tiger! ;} Eeek! It was not his best angle! haha It's not a photo I could stick on the fridge!
I just realised my comment seems out of the blue. My above comment was in regards to the "genital distortion" remark. It brought back memories of men twisting their genitals into origami.
Please don't think I'm weird for bringing it up! I think I've been permanantly scarred! haha
i would think that fiber has great benefits up to a point and then the body just eliminates the rest. i doubt there is any advantage eating beans over potatoes for more fiber.
and pearl barley has as much fiber as beans but much easier to digest. soaks up flavour like nothing else
On eating bland food: I don't think people are going to get very far long-term eating a bland whole foods diet vs. a flavorful whole foods diet. Yes, you'll probably some lose weight in the short-term because you won't enjoy eating, but you won't be very happy in the process and it will not be sustainable.
It's not flavorful whole foods (spices, salt. etc.) that cause issues. It's the chemical concoctions and "natural" and artificial flavors formulated by processed food companies, combined with devitalized food, that messes with our brains and causes issues.
This is also where quality of life comes in. I'd rather maintain a higher set-point than eat bland food all day. Food is a major source of joy in life, and I don't think we should dismiss its importance in overall happiness in life. The French and Italians, who are quite thin, fully understand this concept.
"This is also where quality of life comes in. I'd rather maintain a higher set-point than eat bland food all day. Food is a major source of joy in life, and I don't think we should dismiss its importance in overall happiness in life."
There are two things here I want to comment on.
First, let me repeat that I don't think the only tradeoff for eating palatable food is weight gain. In fact, I've always been thin, so I don't really care about that. My interest is whether eating palatable food can *decrease* the quality of life by altering brain chemistry, similar to how drugs can.
Second, while food is a major source of joy in life for many people, I am not sure that that is terribly healthy. Heroin is a major source of joy in the life of a junkie. What if delicious food has a similar effect — you enjoy the food tremendously, but overall your quality of life suffers because your brain function is altered? Clearly tasty food isn't in the same league as heroin, but that doesn't mean it doesn't have the same underlying mechanisms, and in fact research shows that it does.
I don't mean to say that all flavor is unhealthy, and I would never suggest that one must eat utterly flavorless food their entire life. But I am curious to see how a bland diet affects me.
Here are some testable hypotheses:
– I will initially suffer on a bland diet, as my brain chemistry is currently altered by my recent past of highly palatable food. So far, this appears to be true. I have felt dysphoric and quite apathetic the past 2 weeks while eating bland. It is actually pretty remarkable how profoundly different I feel just by eating blander food.
– My relationship with food will change. Instead of craving food and looking forward to it, I will eat for sustenance. This seems more healthy to me. If you watch healthy kids, they typically view dinner as something to get through (so that they can go back to playing), and not something to savor and enjoy — though sugar does seem to be an exception, which is interesting. So far, I still look forward to eating, even knowing that it will be blander than in the past.
– My taste sensitivity will increase. This has already happened to some degree, in that mostly unseasoned food tastes pretty good now.
– Eventually, I will start to feel better and more motivated all the time, as my brain chemistry normalizes. This has not happened yet.
Note that I also plan to eat normally (i.e. palatable food) socially. That may or may not make the experiment take longer to see results.
My current guess is that it's perfectly fine to eat highly palatable food, but not consistently. Not as a staple. We shall see.
Yeah, I don't really know why older people revert to liking very bland foods. If it's really true, then let's consider the stereotypical response to spicy food as we age: heartburn and digestive 'issues.' That's pretty good negative reinforcement. But really, I dunno. It's a good question.
I haven't finished the book yet, but it was eye-opening to me to see the extent of the body of research that draws parallels between drugs and palatable food. Of course, most diet books paint a pretty convincing picture of why their theory is correct.
I can believe mineral deficiency is a component of our country's health ills, but I've tried a bunch of supplements, and none of them ever made a substantial change for me. Hope your results are better. I still take Vit-C, D, and the occasional selenium tab.
@Zogby, we have different viewpoints, but thanks for sharing your take. I see where you're coming from. I'll be interested to see how it goes.
I've always loved food. When I was a kid I definitely had heightened interest in food and ate everything (I was a skinny kid, too). It brought me joy, and I think in a good way. I love to cook, too. The one time I shunned food for purposes of enjoyment was during the years of my eating disorder, and I never want to return to that mindset, so that's what I associate with failure to view food with joy. I now think about food far less than during that time, but view it with much more happiness. For me that's a positive.
I also should note that I have what many people on the SAD might view as a bland diet. Adding just ghee and a little salt to my dishes makes them delicious to me (although I use spices when called for). I don't eat dessert much because I don't crave it, but I very much enjoy it when I do. Usually, though, I prefer fruit. The key is, I only eat things with high-quality ingredients so they all have natural flavor. I only like to eat things that are delicious. I think my homecooked foods (pretty much all organic or local) taste much better than what restaurants make. It's those little nuances of flavor and using the best ingredients that make a difference, IMO.
I definitely get cravings, but usually for stuff like rice with ghee or a certain type of veggie or fruit, or meat. I think that's healthy. I'm not craving doritos and other junk.
At the end of the day, though, for my quality of life it's important to view food with joy and be able to socialize with friends, etc. and eat anything I want. I can see that someone might come from a different place.
Zogby, FWIW I'm on the Perfect Health Diet supplement recommendations. So far, something is working.
My ADHD son is now on True Hope Empower Plus, after I read about a study with adults with ADHD who found relief – and it even helped a couple of the participants with OCD. He's about one month on, and he is much less moody, plus he had been developing a couple tics that are now gone, but he is still pretty hyper. (He's also seven, so much of this he may grow out of.)
Don't know whether you or yours are struggling with any of these issues, but just passing on…
Also, Zogby, have you ever read The Shangri La diet? Some of what you are saying about flavor reminds me of that approach. If you can get it cheap or at the library, I highly recommend it – I found it fascinatng.
Primal is boss. I abandoned the whole no fruit aspect, though. I once weighed 117 lbs. for 5'8" on weston price low carb, even after months with lots of fat, plenty of broth, salt, etc. Went primal. Got up to 139 on low carb primal. Now, a month after that weigh in, I'm still gaining on higher carb version, at about 141.5 today. Aajonus ain't so bad, Chuck! Give him a break. Give him a break. Break him off a piece of that awesomeness bar.
Write! Damn it! Write! I'm so mentalogically malnourished and in need of Ray Peat and 80s references! Arrrgghhrrrrrr!
The conversation between Amy and Zogby about bland vs palatable foods is so interesting. It sounds like there are some differences of definition too, though (in my head, for sure). I think Amy is pointing out the difference between highly flavor-enhanced foods (lots of free glutamate, etc) on the one hand and antioxidant-rich spices on the other.
For me, the latter is the only kind of spicy that I get into (a lot of the typical restaurant fare I just hate, can't get addicted to, kinda like tobacco). I love spicy in general, but I feel like there have been times when I've benefited from eliminating it and just seeing how things stand without them.
When I started trying this 'very restricted/few staples' diet, my initial intent was to keep it very low fat but use spices ad lib. It's interesting that I've found that I don't even want to bother with the spices once I'm keeping it so simple already.
Zogby, it sounds like you're coming from a slightly different place than me, but I'd be interested to compare notes on how things change with this experiment.
Still hope someone can answer my question about cholesterol groupthink too.
Actually, the way you describe it, I don't think we're all that far away from each other.
I don't mean to imply that food should be tasteless. Rather, I think that hyperpalatable food may desensitize us so that we can't enjoy 'normal' food, and need highly flavored food to taste good. And as a side effect, it disrupts our brain chemistry in other ways, similar, but to a lesser degree, to how a junkie's life is affected by drugs.
It's not tasty food. It's consistently eating *overly* tasty food.
The reason I'm trying excessively bland food for my experiment is that a) I don't really mind doing it, and b) it'll be much easier to see if it actually makes any difference. If I go a month or two eating minimally flavored food with no effect, I can say pretty definitively that flavor isn't a big thing for me. If it does make a difference, I'll be able to establish a baseline to how good I should feel on very bland food, so that if I start eating more flavored food, I'll be to tell when it's affecting me again.
I haven't read The Shangri La diet, though I'm a huge fan of Seth Roberts in general. In fact, the whole bland-food experiment I'd doing is really patterned after his Self Experimentation ideas, which I could not agree more with (except that I currently don't have the motivation to graph my results :) ). I'll pick it up. Thanks for the tip!
Yeah, I don't know how different flavors affect the brain. It's entirely possible that the problem really is in a subset of flavors. Maybe it really is just free glutamate, or salt, or HFCS, or whatever. I'm a little skeptical of that just because if it were so simple I think we'd have figured it out by now — lots of people have done elimination diets. I'm going to eliminate most flavors for my experiment, as that's the only way to be sure you're including any problems, and it's also possible that it is in fact 'flavor' itself, regardless of the source. As I said, if it does work, I'd try reintroducing some types flavors to see which cause problems.
So, you've been eating simpler/blander food? Indeed, I'd love to hear how it's gone for you! How long have you been doing it? Noticed any effects?
Zogby, yes–it's hard to know what is implicated. So far, I'm liking the bland foods (mostly yams and carrots) and liking how I feel with them. Less tendency to bloating, reduction in appetite (but mine was pretty small already, so not necessarily a good thing). Sometimes slightly harder time falling asleep at night, but I also recently quit taking my 5htp (per Peat!) and I suspect that that has more to do with it.
I'm only a few days into it and nixing spices has coincided with cutting fat way low (I'm pretty sure there's a huge correlation there too, btw: if I'm not using any fat, spices suddenly become much less appealing)–it'll be interesting to keep each other posted on whether this (tanget?) is helpful and revealing.
Whoops, one last thing: like terpol and I think someone else too were saying, I'm thinking that having one 'cheat day' per week is really important (especially for me: if I can do a cheat day, it means that I'm less likely to allow this to lead me back into anorexia behavior) and since I did an insane amount of exercise today (my chronic fatigue seems to be melting away in direct proportion to my increasing carb intake), today was my 'cheat day' (which meant a smoothie with cooked yam,a little cacao and a little coconut fat plus some peppermint flavor, so not super decadent by any stretch)!
What do you of the work of Esselstyn, Ornish and McDougall? How come their patients, who were actually going to die within a year, didn't have any vascular incident after following a low cholesterol, low fat diet?
If you eat "bland" food, the "bland" food will become tasty after a while. You just need to have a the discipline not to stray, at least for some time. I'm experiencing this with lowering salt – at first I really missed it, but then I got used to it. Now I think that the "normal" food is too salty (most my Asian friends say the same, by the way) which is nice, because I have even less inclinations of eating crap. I'm big on spices though – turmeric, chili, black pepper and other curry spices – as anti-oxidants and to block iron absorption.
in my experience if you are having a cheat day/meal it should be when you really want it and not just a fixed time, and then you should eat all you want. as much fat and ice cream and whatever else as you want.
i can easily and happily eat bland food but when you are surrounded by junk food you can have an appetite that potatoes won't satisfy. by regularly eating as much junk food as i want i am not tempted by it the rest of the time. plus the big spike in calories, which you can't get just by adding some buuter to those potatoes, is important for metabolism and as long as you can go back to eating bland after it works well.
Your cheat day was a yam smoothie???!!!
Thats prolly the healthiest cheat day I ever heard…yesterday my cheat day consisted in mashed Baked plantains, homemade rice pudding ice cream, 2 lbs of mashed chestnuts, a huge plate of ricotta gnocchi(sans wheat) & 1.5 lbs of oven baked potato fries with goat cheese & a football size sweet potato for dessert.
sleep was amazing, 0 edema… my muscles now look really full,IMO cheat days are a blessing for your body & spirit.
BTW My body seems to respond much better with starch than sugars
So on Steph's advice (thanks Steph!) I read the Shangri La Diet. And indeed, it focuses on the association of taste with calories as the problem in weight gain. There really is a lot of fascinating research in there. My favorite is that rats who ate a dry bread mix stayed lean, while rats that ate the exact same mix with water added got fat. The second food was more palatable, even though the composition was identical.
That said, the SLD seems to focus on weight loss more than quality of life, and Seth talks about the metabolism-lowering effects of the SLD as a good thing. When he says that the diet lowered his metabolism, I don't know if he means this as a generic stand-in for the fact that his appetite was lowered and he lost weight, or he means the full gamut of things that may be associated with it, such as cold hands/feet, constipation, etc. Or maybe the lowered metabolism is a result of him using flaxseed oil for the oil, with all of its PUFA, rather than coconut oil.
But the really relevant thing is that many people claimed that doing SLD removed their food cravings. That is, somehow the diet seemed to break the association between food and reward in their brain. And that's really at the heart of what I'm trying to do.
I also think it's interesting that Seth claims that 'sweet' isn't a flavor. Or at least not one that is associated with calories, by itself. I dunno — maybe sweet foods can also be used to maintain a higher metabolism while doing the SLD.
So I think I'm going to try drinking a little refined coconut oil, SLD-style, once a day, while continuing to eat mostly bland, and see what shakes loose.
The Shangri La Diet has also been discussed here before. There should be a tag that is called Shangri La, in case some of you didn't know :-)
Zogby you are a man/woman after my own heart. (Sorry I'm new here, don't know everyone well enough to know everyone's sex.) A book is suggested, and two hours later it's read and analyzed.
Yes, the lowered metabolism would bother me, too – I did the Fast Five thing a few months ago and I was cold to the bone. The author says something like, "Well think how comfy you'll be in the summer!" Not OK.
Just FWIW, I'm now reading Intuitive Eating by Tribole and Resche. I've been trying to do the whole "eat what you want when you want" for almost a week now, with no weight fluctuation. Which is nice! As I wouldn't mind losing a little weight, I may work in the Shangri La set point fix at some point…but not if it's going to get me all obsessive again.
Thanks to Matt and others here who have been talking up intuitive eating here. It's nice to be off the crazy train for a bit…And as I'm 45 and have been on the crazy train since I was eight, that's no small thing.
Really interested in your experiment, particularly the psychological aspects. Keep us posted.
terpol, thanks so much for your input on the 'cheat day'–that makes a lot of sense.
Anton–your cheat day and mine, quite different lol! Yours sounds good, though. I have to say, I really don't crave most junk food. A lot of that stuff would make me feel so ill that there's no temptation there. I don't know if that brands me automatically as 'unhealthy,' but I do know that I'd rather eat rice pudding or mashed chestnuts than any french fries or whatever else.
zogby, will be interesting to see how the coconut oil addition helps. I've used a little piece of coconut oil to stave off hunger at times before too.
There's no question that drugs and food work via the exact same reward pathways in the brain. Both can be addictive. I have no doubts that dopamine can trump leptin, and that addiction can be the root cause of many, but not all people's weight problems. Addiction is different. It is not a negative feedback loop, but a positive feedback loop. Whereas leptin is a negative feedback loop that is designed to maintain a constant weight. Anyway, there's no doubt that changing the palatability of food can have far-reaching effects on any psychological element.
But note again End of Overeating's author's note about the "scientific" definition of palatability. Traditional food is designed to satisfy. Modern food is designed to "stimulate." There is a difference. I love all the food factors that have been studied to exert action on the reward centers though. Like the "dynamic contrast" between crisp wafer and the creamy filling in an Oreo cookie. Even packaging, lighting, mood, and aroma play roles in palatability. It's everything that could be considered sensory that factors in.
I do like eating just regular old non-stimulatory foods for a prolonged period though. It does, in fact, make food something you do for sustenance and fuel – not something you do as a form of entertainment or stimulation or pornography. I become less fixated on food, and freer to think about and do other things. This is a great thing as far as I'm concerned. But each situation is unique. I've also eaten bland food and developed massive cravings for highly stimulatory food – but this was due to eating below appetite due to insufficient food supplies – which is quite different. Anyway, we'll be discussing this in greater detail in June, along with a concept I've got going on a "triangle of healthy eating." Clearly "intuitive eating" is incomplete. It's just one aspect to consider.
Also, sugar or sweetness is just one factor in palatability. Remove the fat, or eat whole fruits with high water content and fiber… and it is not very addictive or fattening. Same with fat – remove the sugar and starch and it becomes incredibly yucky. Oil off of a spoon makes me gag. Oil mixed with crispy potatoes is one of my favorite foods.
Likewise, a study recently showed that hard candy consumption was associated with low weight, and liquid sugar and other sweets with high weight. I'd love to see how much ice cream one consumes or brownies when eating to appetite on an empty stomach vs. Skittles or Jolly Ranchers. I can easily sit down and eat 1,200 calories of ice cream. 1,200 calories of Skittles. Good lord no!
I have no doubts that the low-fat vegan guys have great results. There could be a long list of reasons why. Lowering protein intake probably really helps. In fact, was just watching a video today about how high levels of nitrogen in the body are a major factor in triggering heart attack, and how low protein diets can resolve this very quickly.
But I don't think it has much to do with the fats. Vegan diets probably need to be low in fat as these guys recommend because most plant fats are highly polyunsaturated.
Still, from what I hear most go on these McDougall-style diets, have great results, feel deprived, binge and gain tons of weight, lose on McDougall again, and repeat over and over. You can even hear that theme repeated in one of his testimonials.
Matt writes about metabolic rate and its effect on hormones. I’ve used RRARF (I always imagine a dog barking) to raise morning body temperature just a little?on average, about 0.4 degrees F increase. (Also, I’ve added a fourth meal as per Brock.) The result: much better energy with no nighttime drop-off–and even a tantalizing glimmer of l*bido. I used to assume that hormone production would be positively related to leanness and did a lot of fasting?all kinds of different schedules. I was probably a little ‘skinny fat? too. But now, even with too much body fat around the waist, hormone production may have improved a little. I don’t know how far I can improve, and might not be able to handle more than a glimmer, anyway, (until Matt writes a L*bido Control Manual); but the energy improvement is really important.
I see. In my opinion, the Mcdougall diet is unsustainable. And some of their statements make no sense whatsoever. Oatmeal is fine but 5g of overt fats would cayse relapse… They seem to forget that oatmeal is 15% fat compared to pasta.
The best diet as far as weight and palatabilty are concerned is 60% carb, 20 fat, 20 protein low pufa and unrefined, in my opinion. It provides satisfaction and energy.
I still wonder about PUFA. I tend to feel better when I eat some. I think it could be related to stress. Mayannaise was my primary fat (maybe like 50%) for years. Eating sandwiches with mayainnaise makes me feel good, relax, kinda like "I don't give a shit" feeling, which is a good one. But I think it's related to stress as high quality pufa makes me feel like shit (as I stress about quality, stress about whether I should, stress about food, etc.).
These last few days, I tried eating tons of sugar with my starches and I definitely put on weight. But I also seem to have more mental energy. I wonder which is best…
One more thought on processed food: while it's hyper-stimulating, it's also ultimately unsatisfying, and I wonder if that's part of the problem. After eating oreos or pringles or whatever, I'm left with a feeling of vague dis-satisfaction. Maybe because it's all refined, with added vegetable oils and chemicals. After eating a brownie made with real butter and stuff, I'm totally satisfied. Even though the processed stuff is formulated to stimulate cravings, at the end of the day its an ersatz version of the real thing and if you ate a real chocolate chip cookie, you'd never tear through a pack of chips ahoy. I think this is a really key part of the puzzle.
This thought came to me as I ate leftovers for lunch – cold boiled potatoes with caramelized onions (that I'd sauteed in a little ghee), herbs and lemon, with feta. Low-fat, healthy, whatever, but the flavor kicked the butt of almost anything I could have taken out in my neighborhood. On some primal level, it's more inherently satisfying.
Amy, I think that's absolutely right on. That's why I don't even want to go there with most 'junk' stuff: it doesn't just make me feel physically bad, but also that intense unsatisfied feeling is emotionally uncomfortable and overrides any associated pleasure. People must differ on that though–I can't relate to deriving pleasure from a package of oreos or pringles, or whatever, but see my husband eat the whole thing down with apparently just as much pleasure as for something more home made and good!
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