Flex-Fuel Humans

This is a guest post by Tom Murphy. Tom is an associate professor of physics at the University of California, San Diego. This post originally appeared on Tom's blog Do the Math.

If you’re one of those humans who actually eats food, like I am, then a non-negligible part of your energy allocation goes into food production. As an approximate rule-of-thumb, each kilocalorie ingested by Americans consumes 10 kilocalories of fossil fuel energy to plant, fertilize, harvest, transport, and prepare. The energy investment can easily exceed a person’s household energy usage—as is the case for me. But much like household energy, we control what we stick in our mouths, and can make energy-conscious choices that result in substantial reductions of energy consumption. I now call myself a flexitarian, a term acknowledging that my body is a flex-fuel vehicle, but also that I need not be rigid about my food choices in order to still make a substantial impact on the energy front.

An earlier post on how many miles per gallon a human gets while walking or biking touched on the fact that fossil fuels undergird our food supply. As a result, walking to the grocery store effectively uses as much fossil fuel as would a typical sedan. The lesson is not to walk less, but to change that 10:1 ratio for the better by eating more smartly. Once upon a time, we put less than one kilocalorie of energy into food production per kilocalorie obtained (or else we and our draft animals would have starved to death). So the 10:1 ratio is not at all inescapable, and depends strongly on the foods we choose to eat.

My Flex Transition

Several years back, I engaged in a broad spectrum of energy reduction strategies. I had learned enough to know that our energy future was not likely to follow an ever-growing trajectory. The back-side of the fossil fuel age could bring with it challenges unimagined by our many-generation boom society. Technology can play an important role over the long term. But tech solutions generally do not hold a candle to voluntary reduction when it comes to having enormous short-term impacts. I was curious to know how life would be if I reduced energy use by something like a factor-of-two across-the-board. As a result, I not only have the personal satisfaction of knowing that it can be done without drastic changes in lifestyle, but I am also much better-prepared to adapt to a world where energy reduction may not be as much a choice as an imposition foisted on us by failing supply.

I had heard from multiple sources that eating meat carried a large energy tax, amounting to as much as 8× for beef, 5× for pork, and something like 2× for chicken and fish. I have not been able to track down this original source, but the sentiment was almost certainly correct if not the numerical factors. In any case, I switched to a primarily meat-free diet.

That’s not to say I don’t enjoy eating meat products. I personally have no ethical problems with eating meat, and still enjoy meat on special occasions or even by accident. I imagine many vegetarians feel sullied when a piece of beef slips into their otherwise vegetarian burrito. Not me. Meat treat! Accidental/unexpected bits of bacon happen surprisingly often, but do not go unappreciated. When I go to someone’s house for dinner, I’ll happily eat whatever is being served. On holidays I enjoy the traditional fare: Thanksgiving turkey (for which I am thankful), July 4th hot dog or hamburger, etc. And sometimes it can be hard to hew to the plan when traveling, so sometimes I switch over to meat when that’s the only reasonable option.

My approach is to not let my no-meat preferences become an undue impediment to myself or to others. When I have control over the situation, and have good vegetarian options available (almost always), I’ll go meatless. Otherwise I’ll go with the flow. One trick I’ve learned in meat-centric restaurants is that I can often order a few side dishes that result in generous portions at a lower price than a “normal” meal.

Being semi-quantitative about it, although based on questionable numbers, I figured that maybe I got a quarter of my food energy from meat, which probably averaged 4× the energy impact of vegetarian fare. Playing this game, let’s say that 75 units of energy went into my 75% vegetable-based diet, and another 100 units for the 25% meat portion. Going full-veggie would require 100 units rather than 175. So roughly speaking, I figured I was having about a factor-of-two impact. The occasional meat treat might constitute 1% of my dietary intake, and at 4× the impact, this turns 100 units of energy into 103 (99% vegetarian plus 4×1% meat). Not a big deal for the occasional deviation.

I have to admit that I have never been a big fan of vegetables themselves. But somehow I really like being a flexitarian. It feels like a responsible choice, and between pasta, bread, rice, beans, cereals, dairy products, and nuts, I do not spend my days feeling deprived of good things to eat. An alternate approach of moderation is to use meat as an accent, or garnish in a meal—constituting a very small portion of the caloric value.

An Aside About Protein

Somewhere along the way, our culture developed something of a fixation on protein. It’s not as important to a healthy diet as many assume. In fact, read The China Study for a fascinating and compelling story recounting mountains of evidence to the contrary—especially exposing the deleterious effects of animal protein. It’s not hard to get plenty of protein from plant matter. You don’t really even have to be vigilant—rice and beans will do you well. Unless you’re a body builder or actively increasing muscle mass, maintaining your physique requires just 10% of your calories in protein form. Billions test the idea daily, without shriveling up from lack of protein.

Other Considerations

Energy is not the only component to the story, even though it’s the one I focus on here. Livestock practices in the U.S. have become ever-more industrialized, packing animals into giant feedlots, raising chickens too top-heavy to walk properly, and feeding grains to naturally grass-eating cows resulting in chronic stomach pain. Genetic engineering, waste pools, rampant antibiotics, heavy water use, and wholly unnatural lives of animals all make the modern meat industry a twisted enterprise. Although it’s not a primary motivation for me, I am relieved to bear less personal responsibility for this mode of feeding ourselves.

Digging Deeper: Energetics of Food Choices

Eventually, I felt I should learn more about the impacts my choices were having. Was I fooling myself? Was I making poor choices based on erroneous information? How reliable were these 8×, 5×, etc. factors? I was pretty sure that my diet was at least going in the right direction with regard to energy, but should I fine-tune it based on more solid analysis?

I ran across a fascinating work by Gidon Eshel and Pamela Martin that consolidates a variety of research inputs into an assessment of the energy requirements of various diets. Much of the data comes from a book edited by Pimentel and Pimentel called Food, Energy, and Society, which has seen editions in 1996, 2005, and 2008.

First, a few numbers to lay the groundwork. Excluding exports, the U.S. produces 3774 kcal of food energy per person in the U.S. Not all of this is eaten: 2100 kcal is a more typical diet. Yes, food is wasted in the U.S. The total share of national energy devoted to food production, distribution, and preparation ranges from 10% to 17%, depending on what is included in the summation (see Heller, DoE, and Horrigan references in the Eshel & Martin work referenced above, and this USDA report). Ignoring the household portion (refrigeration, cooking), food tends to end up consuming around 11% of our energy inputs. Using the handy—if not alarming—number that each American’s total energy share zips by at a rate of 10,000 W, this means 240 kWh/day is expended per person, so that food comes out to about 27 kWh/day per person in the U.S. Meanwhile, we typically metabolize 2100 kcal/day, which turns into 2.44 kWh/day. There’s our 10:1 ratio: put in 27 kWh of energy, eat 2.44 kWh in exchange. (We can also get to 10:1 quickly by realizing that 11% of 10,000 W is 1100 W, while the human metabolism runs at about 100 W.)

Next, the typical American diet is broken down (calorically) as 72% plant-based, 11.5% dairy, 9% red meat, 5% poultry, 1.5% eggs, and 1% fish, in round-ish numbers.

Now for the magic part. What is the output-to-input energy ratio for producing various types of food? The following table is excerpted from the Eshel & Martin paper, much of which derives from the Pimentel & Pimentel work. One caution: don’t take these numbers as absolutely authoritative. I suspect the uncertainties are quite large, but they nonetheless convey a general sense.

Even if the uncertainties are sizable, the obvious trend is that plants and grains tend to produce more energy than is contained in the fossil fuel inputs. These numbers are for U.S. production practices, and tend to be larger by factors of two or three when manual techniques are employed.

How can eggs cost more energy than the whole chicken? Well, how long must a chicken live and be fed before it produces the equivalent of its edible body weight in eggs? Apparently longer than it needs to live and be fed to find its way to the frying pan.

Having laid some groundwork, we can now have some fun imagining various diet scenarios and computing the production energy of each set of choices. Let’s use an energy factor of 2 as representative of plant-based food. Obviously then, a strict vegan (no animal products) can get by with only 1.2 kWh of fossil fuel investment to produce a day’s worth of food (2.4 kWh)—becoming 2.2 kWh if we allow the typical U.S. ratio of produced/consumed food. At present, we’re only talking about production and processing—later we’ll address other required energy inputs for distribution, refrigeration, preparation, etc.

Meanwhile, the typical American diet has a weighted energy expenditure of 0.72/2.0 (plant) + 0.115/0.206 (milk) + 0.09/0.05 (red meat) + 0.05/0.181 (chicken) + 0.015/0.112 (eggs) + 0.01/0.05 (fish), amounting to 3.3 times as much fossil energy as food energy. In case you are confused about where these numbers come from, the dietary fraction of any particular intake is in the numerator of each term (e.g., 11.5% from milk/dairy), and the factor of energy output/input is in the denominator (sometimes approximating a mix of inputs from the table). The vegan calculation by the same method is 1.0/2.0 (100% of food from plants, at a 2:1 output:input ratio), for a factor of 0.5×.

So from a pure production point of view, the vegan uses one-sixth the energy resources that the typical American does to grow/raise food. What about someone like me who has not given up dairy/eggs? I’m not replacing all of the normal 28% animal product with dairy/eggs: I make up a good deal of the difference via grains, etc. Let’s say that I am 15% dairy and 2% eggs, just for the sake of getting some numbers down. My math looks like 0.83/2.0 (plant) + 0.15/0.206 (dairy) + 0.02/0.112 (eggs) for a production energy requirement of 1.3 times the fossil fuel input. So I’m not below the magic 1:1, but more than a factor of two less than the typical diet. I would drop to 1.15× if giving up eggs, or all the way to 0.5× if I dropped all animal products.

The Rest of the Energy

There is more to the food energy story than production and processing alone. We also have transportation (actually not that large), packaging, refrigeration, retail operations, and preparation. If the average American diet uses a production energy input that is 3.3 times the metabolic energy output of the food, and total energy inputs amount to ten times the metabolic energy, then production/processing accounts for one-third of the total expenditure. We’ll call the non-production aspects “overhead,” and assess this at 6.7 times the metabolic energy, so that the average American diet—consuming 3.3 times the metabolic energy for production—adds to the familiar 10× total.

If the overhead costs are the same for all types of food, then the vegan diet comes to 0.5× for production, plus 6.7× for overhead, in the end only managing to shave 30% off the energy requirements of the average American diet.

But this is likely not true. Vegan-friendly foods, for example, tend to require less packaging (see produce section of grocery store), and less refrigeration (grains, etc.). If we make a crude guess that vegan diets require half the energy in the overhead sectors, the net effect is 0.5× for production, plus 3.3× for overhead, amounting to about 40% as much energy going into food delivery as for the typical diet. It’s just a rough guess, but it looks like roughly a factor-of-two in any case.

The sort of diet I’m on (allowing eggs and dairy) will likely fall in between vegan and average American on the energy overhead front. If my diet requires 75% of the overhead that a typical diet would, then I’m at 1.3× for production, plus 5× for overhead. In this case, my diet choices result in 63% of the energy that the average American consumes. Given that I tend to waste little food, perhaps I am operating below 60% on the energy scale. I am less sure of the food being wasted on my account before it ever makes it to my hands: otherwise I would claim a bigger share of savings in this sector—after all, using 2100 out of every 3774 kcal corresponds to a 44% waste.

The Net Effect & Perspective

Put in more familiar terms, we saw before that the food enterprise in the U.S. consumes 27 kWh/day per person—turning into about 75 kWh per household. Compare this to American household average daily consumption of 30 kWh of electricity (typically demanding ~90 kWh of thermal energy in power plants), 37 kWh of natural gas consumption, and 2.9 gallons of gasoline amounting to 105 kWh. Dietary choices can obviously have a sizable effect on our total energy budget.

As with many such adaptations, it is easy to make the claim that the change is too inconsequential to make a difference: that if the U.S. spends 10–15% on food practices, no game-changers are possible on the food front. “So I’ll keep eating beef, thank you very much.” In truth, our energy use is diverse, so game changers are only possible in across-the-board reduction strategies.

In other Do the Math posts, I have described cuts to our household energy amounting to about 20 kWh/day in natural gas, about 8 kWh/day in utility electricity (becomes > 20 kWh/day in source energy), and comparable cuts in gasoline use. Add to this the savings from two people each consuming 60% of the average 27 kWh of food energy, and our household saves another 22 kWh of energy per day. Clearly, our dietary choices represent a substantial component of our total energy reduction strategy.

Operating at about 60% of the typical food-energy allocation isn’t quite the factor-of two cut that I typically like to achieve, but it’s still pretty significant (and may in fact reach 50% given the large uncertainties in my crude calculation). I could go the vegan route and be more assured of making a factor-of-two difference, but this feels too restrictive given prevalent choices in today’s society. Plus, I have the unfortunate pleasure of being essentially a vegetarian who doesn’t actually like vegetables very much. It’s not as dire as it sounds: bread, beans, rice, pasta, polenta, etc. form the foundation of my diet, and I don’t struggle through life yearning for better.

Flexitarian Reflections

I try to strike a balance: mindfulness without rigidity; disciplined minus judgment; sacrifice without dismal deprivation; flexibility without wanton rationalization.

The main idea is what a nerd-type might call establishing a low duty-cycle for eating energy-intensive foods. If 2% of my meals share the profile of an average American diet (about right for my habits), then my computed 63% energy impact turns into a trivially-different 64%. At one normal American diet day per week (14% duty-cycle), it would turn into a 68% impact. I like the “Meatless Monday” movement, but would like the inverted situation of “Meat Treat Monday” even more.

The numbers sketched above indicate that big reductions are not seriously jeopardized by the occasional allowance. The biggest impact stems from changing the “normal” behavior. Even though the numbers are a little fuzzy, the approximate magnitude (and direction) of the impact is obvious enough.

This is an evolving process for me. I would like to take a deeper look at the numbers, if I get the chance. I certainly no longer view tuna and chicken as equivalent. I may need to evaluate whether or not to drop eggs (small impact, given the small share of my diet), or whether to cut back on dairy products. Should I get some chickens and feed them scraps to get my eggs for “free”—in the process learning what it really means/takes to enjoy eggs? We’re growing vegetables this year. Should we expand this operation and try to get a greater fraction of our diet from home-grown food (assisted by my rainwater catchment system)?

I want to have a greater awareness of the energy cost of my food, and take a greater responsibility for the choices I make. A growing number of people are doing the same, and it will be very interesting to see where the movement leads.

It's an interesting idea presented here. Unfortunately, some of the options Tom presents are just not healthy for humans.

After learning about the paleo diet because I wanted to lose some weight, I have immersed myself in the research to see if the new field of Ancestral Health (http://ancestryfoundation.org) could be substantiated and found that their recommendations made for the healthiest diet for humans. Some people can get away with eating items not on the diet but often not for very long before it catches up to them. For most of us it means a constant (losing) battle to keep the weight off year after year.

The paleo diet presumes that 10,000 years, the advent of the neolithic period and agriculture, has not allowed the human species to adapt fully to the foods it is now primarily eating. What we eat now disrupts the insulin and leptin signaling (in simple terms insulin pushes sugar into fat cells, leptin tells the brain that it has enough fat and more food is not required).

The paleo diet recommends:

  • all meats (preferably grass-fed) and especially organ meats
  • all fish
  • some nuts and vegetables, including a few tubers here and there
  • plenty of saturated fat
  • no grains of any sort, or starches from rice (depending on individual tolerance)

I am preparing a special supplement to the UnCrash Course that discusses what the healthiest diet is and have concluded that — by far — it is one that avoids carbohydrates (unless from fibrous and colorful vegetables) and one that especially avoids grains and refined sugar. Grains, it turns out are causing massive intestinal damage worldwide, are being investigated for causing cognitive disfunction (in the minimum foggy thinking but all the way to ADHD and schizophrenia), and more — in addition to making us fat via bread and pasta. Sugar is being increasingly linked to Alzheimer's, another disease that is rapidly increasing in prevalence.

Before I begin, let's start with the likeliest reason we are getting so fat as a country (the U.S.) and globally.

Obesity and Carbohydrates Gross et al

Notice the sudden rise in obesity approx. mid-way through the 80's (grey bars). Notice how it is tracking carbohydrate intake. Hypothesis: we are getting fatter because we are eating more carbohydrates and we now know how they disrupt insulin and leptin signaling. The result is that even a few carbohydrates have a magnified effect on the body.

Obesity Tracks Carbs

Why did we start eating more carbs? Because we were told to.

In 1977 the first dietary guidelines for the U.S. were issued. Despite strenuous objections that declaring saturated fat as the cause of heart disease was unproven, the guidelines (written by Senate staffers, btw) were issued nonetheless. We went on the low-fat craze and, almost 40 years later, we are reaping the damage. We aren't getting fat and dying in droves from CHD and other diseases of civilization because we are suddenly more sedentary after 1977. It's because we have replaced healthy fat with carbohydrates, particularly refined ones like sugar and wheat flour.

It's fine to be a flex fuel person, but make sure you are eating plenty of fat and adequate animal protein (very high nutrient density). Fat and protein have higher satiety indexes so you will stop eating sooner and will not crave food two hours after your last meal, which is what subsisting on carbohydrates does to most people.

Low carbohydrate diets always either best or equal other diets when placed in clinical trials. See this presentation by the Stanford School of Medicine for just one of many examples, in which low carb diets were compared with low fat diets. Out of 311 eleven participants for over a year, the women on low carb diets lost the most weight and improved every marker for health (triglycerides, etc.) more than any of the other diets.

Battle of the Diets:Is Anyone Winning at Losing?

Oh, and the China Study has two really big problems with it:
1. It is an observational study, thus is has no causal information in it. Campbell made completely unfounded conclusions from his data. All he should have done is generate hypotheses then get funding for proper (randomized, clinical) studies to test them. Now that we have these studies (40 years too late, alas) his conclusions are failing left and right.

What is happening here with meat is exactly what happened with hormone replacement therapy a decade ago. Observational studies indicated that hormone replacement lowered women's risks for a variety of diseases. When two large clinical trials were made, the exact opposite was discovered. Do not make decisions on observational studies, they will more often than not guide you in the wrong direction. Never forget that correlation does not equal causation — and the China Study is all correlation.

2. It was very sloppy. See Denise Minger's thorough dissection of the study and Campbell's extremely poor rebuttals:

For those interested in learning why grains are so bad, see:
Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health, Dr. William David

or research the effects of gluten and gliadin and phytic acid.

For those interested in learning why saturated fat is good for humans (after all, we evolved eating it over the past 2.6 million years as hunter-gatherers), read:
Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It, Gary Taubes

Carbohydrates make humans fat (bread, pasta, cereals, sugar, fructose, etc.), not fat.

Those interested in learning why the China Study got it so wrong (saying meat was bad for humans), watch:
Science for Smart People

For those interested in what the latest data shows about cholesterol, study this graph from WHO data:
Cholesterol WHO Data

You'll notice that there is no (as in none at all) correlation between high cholesterol and CHD.

As our medical establishment falters (along with other societal structures), eating meat and fat and healthy fibrous vegetables is your best bet to avoiding the doctor. Avoid carbohydrates unless they are fibrous vegetables. Carbohydrates are tasty (I love my thin crust pizza just like the next person) but they aren't necessary for human functioning (there is no such thing as an essential carbohydrate, unlike protein and fat). It will take about three weeks for your body to turn back into a fat-burning machine from being a sugar-burning machine but you will help your body avoid the onslaught of civilizational diseases that is engulfing the world.

Interesting, though I don't think paleos had much access to saturated fats - grass fed ruminants, especially those who have to run for their lives daily, don't have much fat on them.

Certainly simple carbohydrates at anything other than miniscule levels are unhealthy. However, complex carbohydrates tend to be absorbed slowly, so the grain -> fat connection you refer to above is not applicable to whole grains (in reasonable quantities).

Hi, Will

Hunter-gatherers did have access to saturated fat. It is contained with the meat itself plus in various parts of the animal. There is also evidence from current HG groups that they would go after the fattest animals. Fat was so highly prized that our own local indigenous cultures had wars over pemmican (http://www.nativeamericannetroots.net/diary/863/the-pemmican-war).

Cordain has done excellent work understanding this area:

Plant-animal subsistence ratios and macronutrient energy estimations in worldwide hunter-gatherer diets

From the abstract:
Our analysis showed that whenever and wherever it was ecologically possible, hunter-gatherers consumed high amounts (45–65% of energy) of animal food. Most (73%) of the worldwide hunter-gatherer societies derived > 50% (≥ 56–65% of energy) of their subsistence from animal foods, whereas only 14% of these societies derived >50% (≥ 56–65% of energy) of their subsistence from gathered plant foods. This high reliance on animal-based foods coupled with the relatively low carbohydrate content of wild plant foods produces universally characteristic macronutrient consumption ratios in which protein is elevated (19–35% of energy) at the expense of carbohydrates (22–40% of energy).

And here is a very good summary article by Cordain:

Paleolithic nutrition: what did our ancestors eat?

Also, whole grains are not sufficiently different from simple carbs to warrant special dispensation, as they have now. They are comprised of starch, which is a polymer of glucose molecules. In the case of wheat flours, the breaking down of starch into glucose begins in the mouth and is finished rather quickly in the gut. In other words, after a few reactions, it is sugar (glucose).

Here is the glucose molecule:

Here is the molecule for amylose, one of the starches in wheat:

You'll notice that starch is, in fact, sugar.

It's actually a little worse. The glycemic index for whole wheat bread is 71 or 77, depending on whose database you use. Sugar is 65.

Most people get their "whole grains" in the form of "whole wheat bread" and this is clearly making matters much, much worse.

As for other grains, using the University of Sydney's database (http://www.glycemicindex.com), an oatmeal muffin is 65 (same as table sugar) and instant oatmeal is 83. Steal cut oats are still 57, still considered "high glycemic."

Which grains are you referring to that are digested so slowly in their whole form?

Let's not miss the role of fibre in moderating both fat and carbohydrate absorbtion rates. This is extremely well established in dietary research.


whole grains and other slowly digested carbohydrates smooth out the peaks and troughs of blood sugar and insulin. They also deliver much-needed fiber, unsaturated fats, vitamins, minerals, and other phytonutrients.

There are many very healthy grain choices, such as rolled oats (as the basis of Muesli,for example), barley (glycemic index of 22), wheat bread made with 75% cracked wheat kernels has a glycemic index of 48,

With regard to the 1977 guidelines you mention, I assume they are the Dietary Goals for the United States by the Senate
Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs. They didn't distinguish between simple and complex carbohydrates, however, and simple carbohydrates put on pounds in fat. Highly processed complex carbohydrates are often stripped of their complex status.

Beans are also a low glycemic way to obtain protein and combine well with grains to form complete proteins.

First off, it's good to see that HMS has moderated their stance on fat. They still aren't fully sold on saturated fat yet, but it's a start.

Let's not miss the role of fibre in moderating both fat and carbohydrate absorbtion rates.

whole grains and other slowly digested carbohydrates smooth out the peaks and troughs of blood sugar and insulin.

As for fiber, the GI takes that into account because it measures the blood sugar response of the body after ingesting the food.

Again, using numbers from the University of Sydney database:

1a. "Porridge, made from rolled oats": GI of 58 (virtually indistinguishable from table sugar at 65)
1b. "Traditional rolled oats": GI of 57 (again, no different from table sugar)
1c. "Muesli" (three different entries) range from 64 to 86 — all high.

So oats are out.

Barley varies from 22 (intact kernel) to 66 (rolled, ie. husked and crushed). Thus, if we soak the barley or cook it perhaps it's not so bad from a sugar perspective.

Adding the cracked wheat seems to make bread a bit better, too, but not great. Certainly would make a diabetic do more work monitoring their insulin than if they just had a steak and some veggies.

In any case, the vast majority of carbohydrates that people eat aren't intact barley and cracked wheat bread. Most people are eating pasta, white and "whole wheat" bread, corn flakes, muesli (not low GI, unless you know something I missed) and so on.

The result is that, over time, they are exhausting their islet cells and disrupting their insulin and leptin signaling. The obesity epidemic as largely caused by this widespread disruption of this signaling, I assert.

But there is even a bit more to the story of wheat. From the author of Wheat Belly:

Modern wheat is an opiate.

And, of course, I don’t mean that wheat is an opiate in the sense that you like it so much that you feel you are addicted. Wheat is truly addictive.

Wheat is addictive in the sense that it comes to dominate thoughts and behaviors. Wheat is addictive in the sense that, if you don’t have any for several hours, you start to get nervous, foggy, tremulous, and start desperately seeking out another “hit” of crackers, bagels, or bread, even if it’s the few stale 3-month old crackers at the bottom of the box. Wheat is addictive in the sense that there is a distinct withdrawal syndrome characterized by overwhelming fatigue, mental “fog,” inability to exercise, even depression that lasts several days, occasionally several weeks. Wheat is addictive in the sense that the withdrawal process can be provoked by administering an opiate-blocking drug such as naloxone or naltrexone.

But the “high” of wheat is not like the high of heroine, morphine, or Oxycontin. This opiate, while it binds to the opiate receptors of the brain, doesn’t make us high. It makes us hungry.

This is the effect exerted by gliadin, the protein in wheat that was inadvertently altered by geneticists in the 1970s during efforts to increase yield. Just a few shifts in amino acids and gliadin in modern high-yield, semi-dwarf wheat became a potent appetite stimulant.


Other grains are less bad but still far from healthy.

I think an important concept that is just now being introduced is the idea of carbohydrate intolerance.

Given a normal distribution, some people are very intolerant and are born unable to eat much carbohydrate without it going straight to fat; others will have no trouble for their entire life and seem to be able to eat any slice of pizza within their gaze. Most of us are somewhere in the middle and the more we eat the more intolerant we become.

The constant spikes of blood sugar that come from carbohydrates, over time, exhaust our insulin and leptin machinery. That's why it can take decades before someone becomes diabetic. The problem is getting worse with every meal that contains non-fibrous carbohydrates like potatoes and (almost all) grains.

Currently, 25 million people in the U.S. have diabetes and another 79 million are pre-diabetic. In other words, if they keep eating the carbs, they are going to become diabetic.

Dr. Ron Rosedale (http://drrosedale.com) makes the case that, since every carbohydrate causes glycation and thus is toxic to the human body, there is no safe amount. It sounds like an extreme position to take but the chemistry seems to bear this out.

Sugar toxicity

Paul Jaminet acknowledges that carbohydrates are toxic but argues that there seems to be a threshold above which the problems occur, specifically above 140mg/dl. In other words, the poison is in the dose.

Sugar U Curve

Rosedale then points to studies that show that the ill effects of glycation occur much lower than at 140mg/dl.

I'm persuaded by Rosedale and think he is probably correct on the science but that Jaminet's position, that some carbohydrates that come from so-called "safe starches" (sweet potatoes, potatoes, rice, tar row, plantains and a few others) can be tolerated by some people. I know people who can't touch a "safe starch" or they gain weight again.

In the case of carbohydrates, it seems to be a matter of making a determination of how much damage one wants to perform. Personally, I think the benefits of fibrous vegetables and the occasional glass (or two) of wine are worth it. I haven't yet experimented with a safe starch now that I am ketoadapted (i.e. I run primarily off fat; I eat less than 50g of carbs per day, all in fresh vegetables, and perhaps 100g of protein).

But I want to keep off the weight I lost so pizza and bread are still off the menu! And sugar, oi, don't get me started, I'll let Dr. Lustig's now famous lecture do that:
Sugar: The Bitter Truth

You need to identify the specifics of the processed foods you mention. For example, unsweetened Muesli only has a glycemic index of 46, with oatmeal at 49. The Muesli we make is basically oatmeal with added milk and nuts.

Don't simply use sources that tend to support your thesis, as that leaves you vulnerable to confirmation bias.

it's good to see that HMS has moderated their stance on fat. They still aren't fully sold on saturated fat yet, but it's a start.

They have been a proponent of healthy fats for decades (never embraced the 'low fat' craze). And they've been critical of the USDA Food Pyramid.


the vast majority of carbohydrates that people eat aren't intact barley and cracked wheat bread. Most people are eating pasta, white and "whole wheat" bread, corn flakes

Obviously, with a 66% overweight ratio in the US, most people are clearly not eating healthy. But the point of order concerns what foods are healthy.

Other grains are less bad but still far from healthy.

Sorry, but I cannot embrace such an extreme statement.

I want to keep off the weight I lost so pizza and bread are still off the menu! And sugar, oi, don't get me started

That sounds like an excellent start. You haven't mentioned exercise, sleep habits, and other significant weight/health factors, though.

I've done adequate research to satisfy myself about grains. You'll have to make your own call. I essentially think like Mark Sisson describes here:

I mention exercise elsewhere and have started to go to bed earlier and let myself get adequate sleep by waking up without an alarm clock. I also have made my bedroom extremely dark. I've probably made other changes I can't remember at the moment.

I just read the the HMS page and it is MUCH better than what we've been generally told. I think they will modify their stance on grains once they incorporate the latest on them but eating according to their recommendations is already 100x better than the conventional wisdom.

However, they also make the mistake between whole grains and intact grains that you make.

Don't assume 'whole grains' automatically means highly processed grains. I mentioned above partially cracked wheat, which food like tabbouleh are made of.

The HMS page generally describes conventional wisdom among dieticians these days, so don't fall for the "us versus them" mentality that authors selling books (or bloggers selling ads) tend to cling to.

Don't assume 'whole grains' automatically means highly processed grains. I mentioned above partially cracked wheat, which food like tabbouleh are made of.

Well, most people don't make the distinction of "whole" vs. "intact" and I suspect that in some of your comments you were failing to make it, too.

generally describes conventional wisdom among dieticians these days

That hasn't been my experience at all.

That hasn't been my experience at all.

Which of the leading dieticians are you referring to?

Sorry, to be precise I am referring to Ornish, Oz, Esselstyn, Campbell (many people use him as a reference not to eat meat), McDougall, etc. To a one they all claim meat and saturated fat are bad for people.

To their credit, they also have people remove refined carbohydrates from their diet. They then confuse their diet's success on removing meat when in fact it was the removal of carbohydrates. People would do even better if they cut out the grains (i.e. sugar/starch) they are eating, with the possible exception of some rice and some tubers.

If the are already suffering from metabolic syndrome, hands down the most effective diet is the low carbohydrate one. In a sense, the doctors above actually prescribe a form of low carb diet because they very smartly advise people to stop eating at least refined carbs.

The subject was the HMS article. The recommendations of Ornish, Oz, etc do *not* go against its content - reread if you desire clarification.

"they very smartly advise people to stop eating at least refined carbs"

You must mean 'most' instead of 'least'.

Oh my ... all this brings up the never-ending battle of the carbs, here I have to agree w/ Aangel as the carbs are insidious.

You eat as much of them as you can and you are still hungry. They make you hungry and sleepy (and fat).

This means no (less) beer, no crackers or bread, no pasta, no cornstarch or flour, no rice or potatoes. No grass seed, in other words.

A big prob besides dietary monotony (I refuse to eat meat) the issue becomes where does one get food that is not ruined by farm chemicals. antibiotics, hormones, run-off toxins, parasites and disease pathogens, radiation ... all of which are found in abundance (maybe not radiation) in both fish and meat?

I used to know a chef in a New York restaurant and she complained bitterly that the food service companies -- that provide meat and fish to all the best restaurants in the city -- could not deliver food that wasn't defective (with a lot of rejects). And ... the situation becomes worse as the 'farm' is a machine 1000 miles away with zero-accountability.

Thanks for bringing this up: what we eat is more than numbers.

Esselstyn says not to eat any meat, dairy or oils of any kind.

Oz allows meat but discourages red meat (going by memory here).

Ornish recommends avoiding red meat because he doesn't understand that observational studies aren't evidence (thus thinks meat is bad for people).

Campbell says meat is bad because the he somehow found that correlation in the 8000 variables he collected in China. (Hint: with that many variables you can find any correlation you go looking for.)

McDougall says starch is the solution to every thing and uses "disease-causing animal foods" every chance he gets.

Take a look at Dr. Oz's food list:

Dr. Oz food list

That's more healthy than what the paleo diet recommends, which is to prepare and eat foods as close to their natural state as possible i.e. no processed foods at all? Are you positive that he isn't working for the Processed Food Association of America?

For once I am glad I don't watch TV, that looks like a list for the masses that will get someone a lot of braowie points for the big box stores and not for the farmer's around him.

As a Chef myself I pick foods and eat them that day or prepare them for long term storage over a few picking days. We don't eat a lot of beef, but we do have chicken, and I like pork, so I buy pork products outside of the main food buying scope of the household. But half the food I eat never even gets a chance to get inside some days, I eat sometimes like a bird. Lots of things from lots of different plants, or maybe that is a Goat, or a bear. The other day the salad had fresh greens, rose petals, tender radish seed pods, some off the tree mulberries, and a few other things from the store that we don't have growing or aren't in season yet, like peppers and avocado, I think I'd need a big greenhouse to grow them here. ( goes to look up the info on that, thinks of where to put up a big greenhouse yet again. ).

My dad had a heart scare a few weeks ago and has started really watching his diet, but at 76 and generally healthy too, he has a shorter walk than some people. Me I eat what I eat, I do watch the sugar's or limit them, but I am on the low blood sugar side of hte scale and always have been. Maybe it is that I like the tarter fruits and like to eat off the trees as they ripen up and aren't fat and juicy and sweet yet. Or that I eat so many different things that I can't really list them all and they mostly aren't bought in stores, but grow in my wilderness off a city lot( yes we still grow grass but it is filled with all sorts of so called weeds that most people would faint at the thought of it being called a grassy lawn. )

I did not get to grow chinese cabbage as I am fond of kimchi and eat it like a meal, mild not hot thanks. But cabbage, and all the other cole crops never seem to make it into people's discussions these days, or gourds and melons and squashes, which are big in the african/asian diets. It stems back again to the fact that everything seems to be listed around endo-european diets, heavy on the wheat, oats, and nothing like the seed crops that aren't grains, not all seeds are bad for you, and not all grains are made the same way. Industrialized food is still industrialized food, even if you have been growing it for 25 to 50 years, more than a handfull of things to eat.

Maybe the challenge should be eat 3 new plants a week, eat from 200 to 300 plants a year and that does not count herbs and spices.

We were just talking that the people of the hunter gatherer groups eat a lot of things, but we only listed what we have seen on the TV shows or video's, we don't know what all they ate, and likely unless you know a few of them or have lived with them, you wouldn't know all the plants they ate. There are a dozen "Weeds" in my personal diet that anyone else wouldn't even have in their's unless they ate like I do, I don't hunt, I do let other's kill my cows and pigs and fish for me, but I gather a lot of things that just aren't on the store shelves and likely aren't even listed outside of botany books.

I have sampled things that people wouldn't even touch much less eat, you should go hiking with me sometime and get into the " Ohhh look I haven't seen one of those in a while, ( picks leaf off and eats it, or berry ). Someone askes me what it was and I tell them I don't know, but it is good for this and that and tastes like this and that and could be... and the list goes like that, I do try to keep a journal, but I know a lot of plants by sight and not be name." The Joke amoung some of my friends is that I wouldn't be the one starving even in a snow storm, as I know where to get food even then.

But for the people that have to get their foods from store shelves, pick whole fresh produce as much as possible and eat as many things as you can handle, try new fruits and veggies as often as possible and learn what you local area grows in the wild and go from there. If you have a space with a window, try growing things in small pots and look at growing in a local area's garden spot, saving water as much as you can from the sky to water it. and go from there.

BioWebScape Designs, Not just a grass yard.

Keep fighting the good fight, Charles! Glad to see you!


Yeah, he sure has a lot of 'Productized' foods in there.

I'm about to start my waffles.. the flour presoaked overnight in (local) yogurt to predigest the Phytates in the flour, local Butter, Milk and Eggs. And Local Syrup, of course, drawn from the 5 gal jug in an undisclosed subterranean location..

It's funny, we generally acknowledge that we have widely varied cultures and ecosystems and body-types, but these diets keep trying to find Silver Bullet answers to what you should and shouldn't eat.

Life as omnivores, I guess.. the constant battle between Simplicity and Complexity.

Well, out of that lot of [redacted] the following are the only ones that have a chance of getting on my list
He can keep the rest. The next gringo that asks where the instant meals or TV dinners are is going to be given an Avocado and a Jitomate then left to figure out what comes next.


Fat was so highly prized that our own local indigenous cultures had wars over pemmican

To me, that's an indication that fat was scarce. Just as the sweet tooth that most people have was evolved to spur people to take advantage of fruit when it was available (and noting that until relatively recently, individual pieces of fruit were much smaller than today).

Finally, I'd like to know how the researchers got the idea that so much meat was eaten when we were evolving as hunter-gatherers. Certainly we were omnivores, but I suspect that the balance was more towards gathering of plants than hunting of animals. It's the sexual division of labour - women did the gathering while men did the hunting and my instincts tell me the women did most of the work.

Fat was highly prized, and I agree it should tend to indicate scarcity, but see Cordain's work (cited above) and you'll get likely the best feel for how we ate.

Seasonal scarcity was the norm for most of our ancestry, and forced fasting as well, to some degree. Early humans weren't endowed with three 'balanced' meals per day. When a kill was available (often remnants of a predator's kill), I'm sure that humans gorged the same way lions did, on leftovers, bone marrow, etc.. They may not see meat and fat again for days or weeks. I'm curious how feast and famine, eating what was available when available, affected our bodys' nutritional utilization. We no longer eat in season as much. Did seasonal constraints purge our bodies of fats, free radicals, and other possibly detrimental substances aquired during times of plenty? Our feeding patterns have changed dramatically, especially since the adoption of agriculture.

Many questions...

That is very interesting, I agree.

For one thing, humans who were unable to store away some fat likely died during the famine periods and we are left with the machinery from those who survived. If the migration out of Africa was just a couple thousand people at best we were on thin ice for a while, for sure.

And then we travelled far enough north that animals would have had to be our prime source of calories because of snow on the ground during winter. As someone else mentioned, animals were the storehouses for calories during the winter. We then just had to hunt them...and very likely we were pretty good hunters so when we were close to a herd I think we ate rather well.

How did moving to a colder climate, and the ability to store food for longer periods, especially meat, affect us? A change not unlike the advent of agriculture, being able to preserve foods for weeks or months. Then there's fire; smoking and drying. Did early humans on the African savannah have this technology?

For extremes of successful human diet start out with the northern coastal peoples. Nothing like a whale (or any other sea mammal) for a bit of fat and permafrost for a year round meat locker. Then look at diets of the indigenous peoples as you travel south region by region. One thing that will impress anyone is that humans are amazingly adaptable flex fuel machines.

And we are great rationalizers--I feel much better about the local source of my diet after reading this post, much less worry about all that distance most of my food is shipped. Why? 600,000 barrels a day of crude oil passes within a quarter mile of my porch every day. The way the numbers gel few Americans eat any more local than that?-)

I do wonder about the assumptions of the paleolithic diet.

Consider the yam of the genus Dioscorea. Pantropic distribution, unknown domestication date, with domestication apparently native across Africa, Latin America and Asia. If we assume that agriculture evolved out of paleolithic forest-gardening and tending patches of trees or bushes in open prarie, could the yam, which can be stored for up to 6 months, have played a role in paleolithic man's diet at least during eras of food scarcity? Certainly, tuber-eating was common in all our primate ancestors, as evidenced by the Sagittal crest, the necessary anchor for the massive jaw muscles needed by tuber-munching arboreal primates. Why would hunter-gatherers have suddenly abandoned this food-source? I think we do our ancestors a disservice in assuming that they only ate what was visible with their eyes.

Grain cultivation. If we assume that the typical anthropological story that our arboreal ancestors were forced into the open grasslands by some climatic shift that destroyed our native forests, it's likely that we would have encountered wild grains. Are we certain that early man, who was familiar with the value of seed and nut, did not utilize these grass seeds in some capacity? Consider that grains native to Africa: millet, teff, and sorghum, are easily made into a kind of porridge simply by extended soaking in water; it would not have been necessary to go through the process of cultivation, threshing, winnowing, grinding, mixing, and baking. All you would need is a little pounding between a few rocks and a good long soak. I posit that, just as our paleolithic ancestors probably practiced forest-gardening of berry and vegetable practices, they may have done the same with grassy fields of wild grains.

Something for consideration. I think we're so domesticated that we underestimate the ability of paleolithic man to scratch together a meal, or figure out which foods store better than meat, fruits, and veggies.

And keep in mind that many cultures have been vegetarian or near-vegetarian for a very long time. Think of Buddhist and Christian monastic traditions. Most serfs and peasants in every society had very little meat in their diet, and in the East at least essentially no dairy, either. I'm not saying that these folks were all the epitome of health, but they didn't all either whither away or blow up like the blimp man, either.

I have been something like a flexitarian most of my life. I do have weight issues, but I chalk that up more to my sedentary lifestyle and love of beer than to grains in general.

I do think that unprocessed, whole grains are a good way to go, though outside of rice I don't often follow my own advise here. I do recommend whole oat groats soaked over night then boiled briefly, as a very nice breakfast food.

I do think that it is a good idea for those who do eat a lot of meat to go grass fed. The high corn diet and CAFO conditions are bad for all involved--personal health, cow well being, the local environment, the planet, the farmer, probably even the economy.

Note that the study aangel cited said that traditional societies at high levels of animal protein whenever it was available. The next question is how often was it available. We now have very fatty meat and other sources of calories available to us all the time. Meanwhile, our traditions of cutting back on various foods versus special times (Lent, Ramadan...) have been eroded by our consume-lots-of-everything-all-the-time culture.

It is impossible to replicate the paleo-situation, and in any case, we have doubtless been changed genetically by our grain-eating habits over the past few thousand years. I would never condemn people for eating grain-fed, wild and self-raised meats. I hope we can agree that, whatever else people eat, they should avoid industrial meat for all sorts of reasons.

No human being was born into a world without cooking. Our digestive system and behavioural technology is optimised in many ways for the handling of starch. Including the saliva in our mouth which prepares food for digestion in a fairly unique intestinal system that benefits from the break down of starch from cooking..

it is VERY likely Homo erectus cooked. An "animal" we evolved from?

I am completely unsold on the paleo-diet theories which are built around some ideal mythical menu. Our success even pre the Neolithic revolution is in great part based on the adaptability that cooking offers..this is not to say that to much of this or that food has detrimental effects, but remember we are talking about a threshold of survival and perhaps population expansion. Some practices may curtail health but are offset by their advantages. Which is why pseudo arguments that start with observations on the negative impact of various foods as the only consideration leave me rolling my eyes

this also raise the question of our original EROI of greater than 1:1.. how much of Palaeolithic diet was subsidised by burning wood? I suspect it may be surprisingly high even if the EROI of Palaeolithic diet was greater than 1:1

Good points. And interesting reminder about wood for cooking. Since dry wood has about the same energy content as carbohydrates (4 kcal/g), we can just compare the weight of wood to the weight of food. In this context, it is easy to believe that wood energy is at least comparable to food energy. So yes, this could reduce the ratio to less than 1:1.

If we take cooking out of the story today, the 1:10 goes to something like 1:8 or 1:9. So the fact remains that the production of food once had to be greater than 1: for survival, but is now way off in the other direction.

Burnt wood was a major soil input in Amazon region agriculture for thousands of years if I recall. How does that figure in to the energy out/in ratio? At the very least it freed up time by reducing the foraging range. Does energy saved by living in a shelter constructed of plant material and absorbing some heat from a fire alter the ratio necessary--I'm not clear on that?

Of course there is no reason to believe we will totally lose the ability to gather energy other than food energy in the future, 1:1 not going to be necessary though 1:10 is likely a bit steep. No doubt some things will have to change as fossil fuel becomes more and more dear. I'm not banking of cheap satellite solar coming to the rescue.

We aren't moose (who by the way can have a long season where their food gives them less than the 1:1 ratio and can suffer dramatically for that). We have the ability grab energy from elsewhere and put it into our food system. If the food we produce frees up enough time by being energy dense (in a time/space sort of way) we can spend more time (and more space) gathering other energy to put into our food. Better than 1:1 is required for our whole energy gathering system of which food is only a part.

Yes the firewood is a big factor. Definitely not >1:1 when you count that.

That's a great point about energy allowing for cheap/dense food, and lack of energy affecting food/energy ratio. I always tell people that cheap energy will get them cheap water and cheap food; not so much the other ways around. And that's why I'm in the energy business.

Can someone convert kwh's to calories for me? A 240 watt solar panel sitting in CenCal will produce 385 kwh/yr of electricity. How much food is that? How many calories? What's the annual cost for those calories over say 30 years if it cost you $250 today for the panel?

Hey Aangel! I'm doing it with the no carb thing! So far so good!

And as well as your PV>Calories consideration, we might look at the energy implications of Solar Cooking, which offers a new Energy balance for food prep, given the inputs of common surplus materials like Glass and Mirrors that can be carried to your home once, effectively, and can facilitate the heating of countless meals. (as well as warming your washwater and your living spaces, too.)

Thanks Bob, good points.

I think I was thinking about the 10 calories of FF in every calorie of our food, and how this was another way to show the value of solar PV: We're looking at 9 million calorie equivalents produced over 30 years... with only the FF required to produce the 1 solar panel!

Before a specific answer, I'll point you to a page of useful energy relations.

Specifically, 1 kWh is 3.6e6 J, and 1 kcal is 4184 J. So 1 kwh is 860 kcal.

Your example panel makes a little over 1 kWh per day, so approaching half the dietary need of a single person, in straight energy terms.

Thanks Tom!

Like I told Bob, is this a useful way to show the value of solar produced kilowatt-hours? 9 million calorie equivalents of energy over 30 years!

got2surf, excellent!

Don't be afraid of animal fats to fill you up; they are very satisfying. If you eat too much protein (far beyond 0.7g per kilo of lean body mass) it will turn to glucose and stifle your efforts.

My guess is that you are male. If that's true (and this may sound crazy) but make sure you eat enough. You'll see what I mean soon.

And throw out any industrial vegetable oils...they are terrible for human consumption.

The Definitive Guide to Oils

Thanks Aangel!

When I see you're around in the future I'll keep you updated. I appreciate your efforts and the information.

Interesting discussion Andre. I was going to comment about the energy input to the production system in relation to veggies, grains and meats, which interesting suggests to me that a low energy future may mean maintaining a high proportion of the diet in meats (ruminants especially) and horticultural crops, e.g., veggies, fruits and nuts.

The reason agronomically for this possible shift has to do with the potential for low-energy meat and horticultural production systems.

Low energy input meat systems require perennial pastures that may take as much energy to establish a field of corn or wheat, but persist without many inputs for several years to decades capturing solar energy year-round, not just for a growing season. So the net energy may be very good when amortized over many years, and labor inputs may be fairly low too (think kids herding sheep). This is an area extensive way to make meat, but no more so than growing grains to make meat.

Now the nifty thing about perennial pasture is that it sequesters soil organic matter, which is much more than carbon. All living beings need 20 essential minerals and all dead organic matter contains these elements. When soil organic matter is high it is like having a large bank account balance. Annual crops draw down the principle by using up the minerals in the account. If we do this draw down with grains we deplete large areas rapidly--essentially what America has done to praire soils (long-term studies showed that for the first few decades the native soils needed no inputs to get constant outputs of wheat, for example). But if we instead focus on horticultural crops we are going to cultivate much smaller areas and this would be more amenable to higher labor inputs.

Grains are fantastic to feed large populations, ship calories anywhere, and store calories without much spoilage risk. But they are very soil intensive to produce. About one-third of the energy input to on-farm grain production is for fertilizers, tractor work the other third, and pesticides, seeds, irrigation, etc. the remainder. If we do keep growing a lot of grains, which I expect we will do for a long time now as they are needed with today's population levels, we will do well to reduce the area devoted to them substantially and build the soil fertility using pasture in rotation.

Hi, Jason, I was wondering if you were going to chime in here. Nice to see you :-)

Your points about perennial pastures are excellent. It appears to be more costly to feed cattle grains. We have in the last few decades preferred "grain finished" cattle because it, well, makes them fat. The intramuscular fat that we call marbling is directly due to their grain consumption.

A friend of my GF's bought a cow and had to make every decision as it was raised around its health and upbringing. He was asked if he wanted it grain finished for three months and he agreed, because he wanted the extra fat. It raised the price of the cow by several hundred dollars.

So, anecdotally, growing grain then feeding it to cows is more expensive than pasture raising them. I can't attest to that in a CAFO operation where economies of scale might mitigate or even eliminate that cost difference. Haven't looked into it.

In any case, our food system needs to get away from CAFOs, the meat is not what we were evolved to eat (omega 3/omega 6 imbalance, hormone injections, etc.).

I'm buying grass fed beef almost exclusively now.

I totally agree with the comments on pasture fed livestock. Something missed in the conversation is that much of the pasture land used is low to no quality for tillage. You get out in the western US, you have 'range' fed livestock, which utilizes the natural plants and grasses and is 100% non tillable under any circumstance. Then the last issue with livestock is that tend to produce high quality 'fertilizer' that can be added back to the areas that are tillable (or left to enhance the pasture land). It takes much more plant matter over longer time to create the same benefits to the soil as manure. I think as we get closer to the coming era of scarcity, ignoring animal based or animal associated food sources is just plain silly.

This is certainly true of some Eastern Kansas grassland with which I am familiar. There are energy requirements related to fencing, water, trucking cattle etc. Being a city boy I have no clue as to the relative magnitude of these inputs.

I was going to comment about the energy input to the production system in relation to veggies, grains and meats, which interesting suggests to me that a low energy future may mean maintaining a high proportion of the diet in meats (ruminants especially) and horticultural crops, e.g., veggies, fruits and nuts.

Hi Jason, good to see you commenting here! I happen to like a spicy pigmy goat shish kabob with couscous and tabouli salad as much as the next guy... though my gut, (pun intended) tells me that we should be looking at some non traditional, (at least for our culture) alternatives to protein production as well.

Just curious, what is your opinion regarding the possibility of raising insects for food? To me it seems like a no brainer as far as space requirements, cost, energy, water and nutrient inputs are concerned. http://insectsarefood.com/

Do you think that the 'ICK' factor would be too much of a cultural barrier for J6PK?

Yair . . . as regards the grazing thing. Millions of acres of Australia are unsuitable for any thing but grazing and a lot of it is marginal even for that.

Much of the channel country in SW Qld though can claim their beef is "organic" because they don't need any inputs apart from regular floods.

All this beef goes to market in road trains but as fossil fuel depletes the country will remain in production because the shitters have feet and they can be walked to market as we used to do.

That country out there is probably the most sustainable protein production area on earth and will serve us well in future.


I've heard an alternative theory to the carb v. fat argument that many of the diseases of civilization are rooted more in wheat flour and added sugar.

The argument goes something to the affect that wheat flour, specifically gluten, triggers autoimmune inflammatory responses in ALL humans, not just Ceoliacs, when gliadin is liberated. The sugar is pretty much as you describe, it shifts our metabolism into a different "gear".

Anecdotally speaking, we keep no wheat products in the house on account of my wife, who is mildly Ceoliac (no anaphylaxis, just GI distress). We've replaced our once wheat-heavy grain consumption with a grain base composed entirely of brown rice, whole corn grits, and quinoa. We both lost weight as a result, making no other changes and engaging in no additional exercise, though we generally tend to also use more steamed green vegetables, root veggies, legumes, and leafy greens as filler, where in the past we would use bread.

I should add that it's really hard not to eat wheat because most of the center-of-store stuff, the processed foods, contain wheat gluten masquerading as "modified food starch." Can't even have Rice-A-Roni because, curiously enough, theres more in there than just rice and seasoning.

Prior to this, eight years ago I lost 30 pounds just by quitting my sweet tooth. I still can't keep sweets in the house or else I eat them at a totally irrational pace, but there it is.

So here's my point:

I tend to agree that the paleo-diet is probably healthier in general, but it's also difficult for us urban dwellers not to have to eat some grains. I also think about rice and corn-eating cultures, which tended to be much healthier until sugars and processed foods made their way into the diet (along with more meat-eating, but, as you pointed out, this doesn't seem to correlate).

So what are your thoughts on the premise that it isn't so much grains per se that are responsible for the diseases of civilization, but the heavy dependence on wheat and white sugar specifically?

I've heard an alternative theory to the carb v. fat argument that many of the diseases of civilization are rooted more in wheat flour and added sugar.

That's actually the same thing.

When we took fat out of various processed foods, it had to get replaced with sugar or it became tasteless. Millions of people think no-fat and low-fat yogurt is healthy for them...couldn't be further from the truth because of the added fructose. A single serving of yogurt might have no fat but often has 30 grams of sugar.

When we stopped eating the chicken skin (fat) we need something to fill us up so we ate bread or pasta. We were told to get 60% of our calories from carbohydrates.

Now, it's possible that some grains (see my other post comparing various grains) have a lower glycemic index — but not many and the second they are processed in any way (even just rolling) they become high GI foods.

And, to be entirely strict about it, most fibrous vegetables, which are carbohydrates, are fine for unlimited consumption.

"A single serving of yogurt might have no fat but often has 30 grams of sugar."

One 12 oz. Coca-Cola has 39 grams of HFCS. Years ago, when I found out that my son was drinking four or more Cokes per day, I took out our digital scale and had him shovel on 156 grams of sugar. The pile was huge. He kept saying it couldn't be right. We added in another 100 or so grams to show what was in some other junk he was eating (mostly at school), just to make the point. Try it sometime; a real eye opener. I admit that I still haven't eliminated a few grams of processed sugar from my morning coffee; bad on me...

...and a pork filet without some salt in the gravy just ain't right, but who wants to live forever ;-/

Yes, it's eye opening. And it goes further than that once one realizes that starch is sugar. I've started to look at this:


as this:

Bowl of Sugar

because they are the same thing once the digestive system has a chance to break the covalent bonds holding the glucose together.

Of course, eventually everything is digested down to sugar. The key is how fast with respect to peak in the body's blood sugar. Whole grains slow down absorption significantly.

Well, we seem to be going round and round here.

Whole intact grains slow down absorption but any amount of processing that I've investigated raises their GI significantly.

Most people do not eat intact grains. They think that "whole grains," which contain the bran, are healthy and even you seem to be confusing "whole wheat" with "intact wheat."

Wheat Kernal

We haven't even begun to talk about gluten, gliadin, phytic acid, lectins or any of the other protection mechanisms that wheat uses so that it isn't eaten by hungry insects and animals. The reason we removed the bran is because it isn't healthy for humans — that's where the anti nutrients are located in wheat.


Whole wheat is NOT healthy. It is ripping up people's intestines by interfering with zonulin, the protein that regulates intestinal permeability.

See The Dark Side of Wheat:

Or any of the 9000 articles on PubMed that investigate what the hell is happening to our digestive systems:

For more, see Wheat Belly:

I'd love to entertain this topic, but you haven't provided a reference to a single peer reviewed medical research paper (the 9000 you alluded to are all over the map and the Wiki did not mention wheat).

Whole intact grains slow down absorption but any amount of processing that I've investigated raises their GI significantly.

I have not seen peer reviewed literature on this subject that supports your position, so will reserve judgement, especially when the overwhelming majority of research comes to a somewhat different conclusion. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=whole%20grain%20absorption

Processing wheat into flour raises its GI. Rolling oats raises its GI. Why do you need a peer-reviewed paper for that? Just look at the GI database.

I'm talking about the difference between "intact" and "whole" — they are not the same thing. Allowing a grain to remain "whole" simply means not removing the bran. That may in fact slightly reduce the absorption rate but that's not the factor that makes the most difference. Whether we process the wheat makes the most difference.

That's why "whole wheat bread" has a GI of 71 or 77 and your partially cracked wheat bread has a lower GI.

The term "whole" is confusing to people. "Whole" wheat bread is, in the form most people eat it, not nearly as good as "intact" wheat — but neither are great because the bran contains the antinutrients wheat uses to defend itself (namely phytic acid but there are others; see previous posts).

You don't seem to understand the difference between cracked grains and fine flour. You said any amount of processing raises the GI significantly, but provide nothing to support your claim.

No, I believe it is you who aren't understanding. I'm the one drawing the distinction between intact and refined grains.

You said any amount of processing raises the GI significantly, but provide nothing to support your claim.

I certainly did, turning intact wheat into flour raises its GI and rolling oats raises its GI. In fact, you made the point first that intact ("cracked") wheat has a lower GI than whole wheat flour. in both cases, the processing makes digestion easier and thus the starch is accessed more quickly.

I have no doubt that eating the whole wheat grain (if that were remotely digestible) would have a lower GI than eating it cracked for exactly the same reason.

This is a bit surreal. Are you truly arguing that refining doesn't help our digestive system access the starch in grains more easily (one of the exact purposes of refining them in the first place, by the way)? Or am I missing something?

You still haven't supported your claim, but appear to be refining it to mean any processing assumes it becomes flour. I've said otherwise several times (e.g. cracked grains).

No I haven't. But you keep reading it that way and I'm not sure why. Rolling, for instance, does not turn oats into flour and I never said it did. Can you please point out where I say rolling turns oats into flour?

You are still dancing around; here's your statement I take exception with;

Whole intact grains slow down absorption but any amount of processing that I've investigated raises their GI significantly.

You have not shown that cracked grains (or even steel cut oats, for that matter) have their GI raised substantially.

The evidence is all there.

A. Whole Groat GI = ??
B. 75% cracked wheat bread (some processing) has a GI = 48 (your number)
C. Whole wheat flour (a lot more processing, all material is in flour form) has a GI of 71 or 77

There aren't GI numbers for whole groats/intact wheat at glycemicindex.com (perhaps because they are inedible to humans with no adulteration?) but doesn't it stand to reason that the more intact the grain the harder it will be to digest? Why ever would the number in A above be higher than the number in C?

Ok, I'll accept that you retract your statement.

lol. I do no such thing. Processing grains in every instance I've looked at increases their GI for example cracking to making flour.

The purpose of processing is to remove the indigestible portions of the grain and make the remaining more digestible. I'm sorry you don't understand what's happening here but let's move on.

The purpose of processing is to remove the indigestible portions of the grain and make the remaining more digestible.

Only for white flour. Cracked wheat (and even whole wheat flour) keeps the undigestible fiber, which slows absorbtion of the endosperm, as well as other ingested food.

From the National Academy of Sciences;

Dietary Fiber consists of nondigestible carbohydrates and lignin that
are intrinsic and intact in plants. Functional Fiber consists of isolated,
nondigestible carbohydrates that have beneficial physiological effects
in humans. Total Fiber is the sum of Dietary Fiber and Functional
Fiber. Fibers have different properties that result in different
physiological effects. For example, viscous fibers may delay the
gastric emptying of ingested foods into the small intestine, resulting
in a sensation of fullness, which may contribute to weight control.
Delayed gastric emptying may also reduce postprandial blood
glucose concentrations and potentially have a beneficial effect on
insulin sensitivity. Viscous fibers can interfere with the absorption
of dietary fat and cholesterol, as well as with the enterohepatic
recirculation of cholesterol and bile acids, which may result in
reduced blood cholesterol concentrations. Consumption of Dietary
and certain Functional Fibers, particularly those that are poorly
fermented, is known to improve fecal bulk and laxation and
ameliorate constipation. The relationship of fiber intake to colon
cancer is the subject of ongoing investigation and is currently
unresolved. An Adequate Intake (AI) for Total Fiber in foods is set
at 38 and 25 g/d for young men and women, respectively, based
on the intake level observed to protect against coronary heart disease.

Forgot to mention something. Everything is not digested down to sugar, another very common misconception.

There is no metabolic pathway from fat to sugar. If you'd like to learn how fat is metabolized, see:
Dietary lipid Metabolism

Here is the bottom line if you don't want to trudge through the biochem:

The result is a single free fatty acid, and a "free" glycerol backbone. The free fatty acids are now able to pass through the intestinal wall into circulation for use.

About 5% of the original fat turns to glycerol. The remainder is still fat in the form of a single free fatty acid.

Millions of people think no-fat and low-fat yogurt is healthy for them...couldn't be further from the truth because of the added fructose. A single serving of yogurt might have no fat but often has 30 grams of sugar.

Yes, yes, yes! This is the real "health" problem facing most Westerners today, especially Americans. The idea that dietary fat is "bad" and carbs (grains) are "good" is so thoroughly ingrained in the collective consciousness, it will be VERY hard to dislodge it. And then you get to contend with pro-carb Atkins-hating fanatics like Dean Ornish and the food industry itself (high-carb highly refined junk foods are *enormously* profitable).

The fog of disinformation can be an immensely hard to penetrate, and the inertia of public attitudes extremely hard to move.

I tend to be suspect about food science because it's not lab based and does not operate under controlled conditions, much of it is based on human reporting, conjectures and surveys which tend to conflict each other all the time. It's also evolving and yet to be established. Okinawans consume a lot of rice, at least a lot compared to past hunter gatherers but still have a very long lifespan. Same with some of the other blue zone areas in the world.

I think it's as much about the lifestyle, environment and genes as it is about food. To just say that you should eat this and not take into account other factors would sound arrogant and misleading. In my own country vegetarianism has been practiced for thousands of years and people who do it also live long lives so there's some evidence right there that it's not 'necessary' to eat meat.

There is a difference between "subsisting" and "thriving" and before you think I am claiming that all Indians subsist, I'm not. But I am looking for the optimal human diet in which a person maintains their weight with no effort, avoids diseases of civilization, has healthy bones and muscles and doesn't have to get hungry every two hours like most sugar burners have to.

I believe the science and my personal experience point to the paleo diet. Some people for sure will be able to get by on other diets and, depending on their genetic makeup and their epigenetic programming, might even thrive.

However, on the whole, the manner we are eating in the West and our ideas of cholesterol and fat are very poor and are causing an explosion in the diseases of civilization.

Well vegetarians don't subsist, vegetarians belong to the top tier of society here because as logic would say, people who subsist have little choice in food. They eat whatever they can get their hands on. By the same logic vegetarians are also the ones who get least amount of exercise but far more compared to what the modern lifestyle provides for.

Some people for sure will be able to get by on other diets and, depending on their genetic makeup and their epigenetic programming, might even thrive.

This is what I was looking for, caveats are important in science. You should put them when you make suggestions. I am sure that paleo diet is advantageous but it may not apply to everybody.

Edit : IMO we need a more disciplined approach to diet science. It should span all continents and encompass all kinds of diet from all cultures, I have seen many 'studies' which just take take the food habits of people living north of the tropics and extrapolate it to everyone else. That is not hard 'science'. So claiming it as one would be incorrect.

As a kid I had candy everytime the holiday made it available, and that was generally the only time there was much candy in the house. Easter, christmas and holloween were the big days as there were those stuffed bags of candy that we'd get. I was able to make the candy last for weeks months in fact once when the holloween crop was rather large, I had candy left over still when it rolled around again. Most of the hoard was just the hard candies as they were the hardest to eat in my style of eating candy. My favorite were vanilla tootsie rolls and bit of honeys. You can roll them into a string and pinch off bits of them and eat one piece of candy in about 12 hours, taking just a tiny bit every so often and never letting yourself get any until the 15 to 20 minutes were up. Strangly enough that is how I still eat candy, it is almost always just a nibble, never a whole anything, and it lasts for hours or days.

My dad has candy in the house, in jars, ( the same jars he uses for nuts and bolts and other mechanical things, used peanut butter jars, mostly low fat Jif jars, he has hundreds of them, We even have a glass and metal lidded Jif jar from the dawn of time. But the candy is bought and takes months to get eaten, it is not a snack, but a treat or something when somewhere our sugar gets low and we are thinking about it, but even now I still roll the bit of honey into little bits and eat it over the course of an hour or so, even when I could just bite and chew and it'd be gone, as I could get it anytime I wanted. I just don't want it.

The last time I ate bread was 3 days ago, I have several bread recipes I like to bake, but the heat in the summer time wastes the cool of the house, so I don't do them that often and even though it is spring, here abouts it is feeling like summer.

Somewhere in the dawn of time, my genes got hit with a dose of save the good things till last, I do it with almost any set in front of me meal, the best bite is always the last one. I do it so much so that I don't even think of it, unless someone askes why I have been sorting my food the way I do. Picky eaters maybe, but I eat loads of kinds of foods, as some of my other posts today have mentioned.

Some times we have to work at changing our own habits in such a way as to make seem like we are forcing ourselves to change, other times it seems less like a force, and more like we were heading that way and just got sidetracked. If not having candy in the house works, then so be it, somewhere along the way we should be teaching folks these good habits and stemming the bad ones from the gene pool.

Or else maybe we let the bad habits just kill off all the bad genes and hope for the best in the long run. But we never know what genes that were good that might die with the bad habits, so going that route is a bit of a hit or miss kind of game.

I have a story about how some one has to start the whole human race all over again, but with only one male human as the template, and I am still working on the genetic issues of the fictional part of the story tied into the real issues of facts, wanting the story to have a feel of science along with the fiction, without getting too technical and putting to many people to sleep reading it. One thing I know is that today, we just do not know enough about ourselves, and what all ours genes and other pieces parts do for us, to randomly go mucking about with things. But we are in the middle of the biggest uncontroled experiment known to mankind, and we had best be watching out for things to sneak up on us.

Food for thought anyway ( pun intended ).

Charles, BioWebScape Designs, and other things.

Really appreciate the work of the OP author.


Great work as usual Aangel!

Somewhat in keeping with the theme of the title of this post I like to talk about livestock as a great solar storage unit or battery and as we all know with solar it's all about storage.

Another great book, perhaps the bible on the subject of fats is;

"Fats that Heal-Fats that Kill" by Udo Erasmus


We talk about carry capacity of the planet and our ability to feed the worlds population here on TOD. Well I would posit that we are not able to FEED the planet right now. We can keep the population alive but far from healthy and what rancher would calculate CC based on how many sickly, unhealthy units he can force into a given area? It might be great for the healthcare industry but it seems like a sick joke to me.

That said I do believe we can include some grains and legumes in the diet we just need to ferment them make them more user friendly. This can be as simple as soaking for a bit in vinegar.

"The Whole Grain Scam: How to Make Grains Fit to Eat"

Learn more: http://www.naturalnews.com/024508_grains_gluten_WHO.html#ixzz1t9R5nutN


This hits on a critical point. At some level it doesn't matter much what the paleo diet might have been. We have 7 billion people on the planet now. We have no means to adapt such a population to a paleo diet. The hunting stock is all but disappeared.

Even if we turned out the cows to rangeland, etc., I don' think we would be able to support 7 billion people on a meat-rich diet. Our ability to switch to grains (and grain-fed livestock) has been key in expanding our population to today's levels.

Perhaps it was a big mistake to go so far down the grains road. But the question for us to address isn't so much: "what are humans ideally adapted to eat," but "given the state of the world today, how do we plot a path forward—especially in light of energy scarcity."

The answer to this question is to lower the energy investment in food, which is tilted toward meat. Forget about optimizing diet for the human animal. That ship has sailed—at least for now. Maybe someday we can stabilize into a perfect diet feeding all the (likely fewer) people on the planet. For today, it seems prudent to focus on energy first, and worry about the perfect balance later.

Well, that's a valid point of view, but I for one have no intention of going on statins, or gaining back the weight I lost, getting diabetes or pre-diabetes or suffering from early dementia because I'm eating grains and sugar. I've cleaned up my diet and am doing "to failure" resistance training once per week and am looking into crossfit next.

The real truth is that we are in gross overshoot anyway and have to get down to under 1 billion people pronto. Any tweaking you may want to do is just that — tweaking — until that is addressed. And, we might just find that free range animals, as Jason points out, are energetically the best bet, anyway. Once we are down a couple billion people, we should have lots of extra open space for the remainder to move to the healthiest diet.

In the meantime, I will make sure that the community I will live in has access to meat and fat. You are of course free to do whatever your conscience tells you given this pretty dire predicament.

What might not get spoken of is the deaths needed to get to the 1 billion to 2 billion mark of population. Think of it another way.

We are given 25 years to drop 5 billion people, if the drop is even, and steady we will shed, 547,000 people everyday for a solid 25 years. That does not take into account any births during that time.

So in 2037 there will be 2 billion people on earth, but everyone buried at least 3 people each during the last 25 years.

We are at this point that we have to really think about what we are saying when we tell people that we have to reduce population or else!! The scope never seems to sink in unless you start plugging in the numbers.

And even though we have a heavy industrial food supply chain and have fished all the big stocks of fish out of the world's oceans and other things, we have many ways to feed ourselves, that aren't the way we are doing it now.

But can still sustain us, if we were to change habits of living like kings in the land of plenty, and burning down the feeding systems like there is no tomorrow. The news is full of killings and death and if you start to add them up, you get no where the amounts you have to get to, to have 5 billion less people on earth in say 25 years.

Now the solutions we have, and the energy we get from the sun and the resources we have that aren't turned into dust and can be resorted into usable things again, as nothing is burnt up and wasted on Earth, just moved to a different form, IE Plastic waste to a deep seavent and turned into gases in a volcano burp. We have done a lot of damage to say the least, but advocating radical population decreases isn't our only solution!!!

We got ourselves in this mess and we can, and literally have too, get ourselves out of it, unless you want to Call on God to help us, or the nearest firey rock from the outer solar system to come wipe out 2,000 million so we can start from ashes for a few thousand years.

Food Forests have a way of being more than just hobby ideas, and neato thinking that might help 2 billion people live well. They could with a lot of work on our parts, feed the people we have living today and in a sensible way we could reduce our population, without killing off in whatever method that will work out in the wash no less than 547,000 people everyday for 25 years. Have we gotten so far in the doom and gloom that we can't see other solutions to this puzzle?

Nothing is easy, getting up when you want to sleep in is not easy, but thinking that you can make enough right answers so that 7 billion people working together in a form that isn't always stressed that their next meal is only going to get to them via a box with UM lettering on it, might help you get up in the morning. And go get some more work done on ideas that help people and how they see the world about them.

I don't trust the elected officals to do this, I don't think most systems that we have on earth, really want this to happen. It would mean to many people out of their control, living without fear and without worry about the food and the hands that now control their lives. Control is the thing we are talking about, to many simple minded control freaks want what is best for themselves and not what is best for the most people. Not something that is easy on the ears of the world leaders, even the ones that really want the same things that I want, might not be willing to take the risk of doing this, as it won't be good for their 20 minutes of fame today, and might get them shot tomorrow by the next guy that wants to be world leader/king/despot.

It is one of the things that others on this Forum have best hopes to have happen, and even though we might not be as smart as yeast, we can still make the dish we live in, and throw away the old one we just stepped out of, unlike those yeast cells that had to die because they didn't have thumbs.

We aren't going to get there easy, but I refuse to think that it will take the death of 5 billion people just to be sustainable. There is over 190 million Square miles of earth surface, albeit 70% of that is water and about 10% of the land is to high or to cold to live on. But we have within our means the ability to live just about anywhere we like on the rest of the surface and even above it and below it. Why can't we see that there is plenty of room, where we could make things grow and eat things from our small plots of space and still have plenty of wild lands full of the widest range of animals and plants as still live on the planet currently??

For more than 30 years I have wondered why roof tops were bare and were not filled with plants and animals, all of living in hobbit holes as it were if you looked down from above, you'd see green and green and couldn't find the houses people lived in. Why do we need 200 million Cars in the USA? Why did we ever think we had to have an acre of green turf grass as the yards, and seas and seas of paved roads and parking lots as far as the eye could see? WE got ourselves here, but we can get ourselves back out again, unless we really just want to crawl in the holes and die.

Not something I am willing to do just yet thanks, but no thanks, I will try to help as many people see that they can still live on earth and get along, and not have to live like they have been for 50 years. There are things we can do to go a different path from here to the Future.

BioWebScape Designs, we aren't dead yet.

"This hits on a critical point. At some level it doesn't matter much what the paleo diet might have been. We have 7 billion people on the planet now. We have no means to adapt such a population to a paleo diet. "

I've pretty much given up on the other 7 billion... What matters and what I can control are two different things. I agree that it's soon going to be impossible to provide all living humans anything close to a balanced diet, much less a healthy hunter/gatherer menu. That said, I stopped paying much attention to what everyone else is doing; how they aquire and utilize energy, food, etc. makes little sense to me. I suggest others position themselves similarly; watch things unfold from the cheap seats.

"The hunting stock is all but disappeared.. "

Gosh, I woke up to 14 fat deer in the front yard this morning, only part of the local herd. Needs to be culled a bit, actually, and the turkeys and cottontails are everywhere this year. Blackberries, dandilions, wild onions, ramps, all in abundance. I guess it depends on one's point of view (location is everything), and things will surely change, even here.

"Gosh, I woke up to 14 fat deer in the front yard this morning."

Turn off the drive thru and see how long those deer last, and rabbits, turkeys, squirrels, etc. I don't think you'd agree that the wild animal population is sufficient for us to switch onto a hunting scheme for food—even if there are local populations of fat deer.

Turn off the drive thru and see how long those deer last, and rabbits, turkeys, squirrels, etc.

I have a hunch the denizens of the drive thru world will starve to death right there in the drive through lanes.

OK, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration...

But seriously do you really think they will have the wherewithal to get out of their SUVs and hike out to someplace where there are still a few fat deer left, shoot and dress the deer and then eat it? Most people can't walk 3 miles to the supermarket.

More likely the people like Ghung who already live out there, know about the deer first hand and know how to kill and properly dress them will probably have first dibs. Who knows by then they will even have an extra solar powered freezer to store the meat in.

Drive thru,, must be a golf thing...

No doubt, but sustaining the billions is a different point from the statement, "the hunting stock is all but disappeared". Certainly this is true for many species like the bison, but estimates are that the N. American deer population exceeds that of the pre-Columbian period, as alluded to by Ghung's post. I guess that's true for several other species, like Canadian geese.

We have many Canada Geese as well, but I hear they're a bit stringy and tough. Ours don't migrate, so maybe they're plump and tastey. I'll be glad to share them with the golfers poachers when the time comes, especially if they'll help in the garden. They're also welcome to shoot the groundhogs. I've heard they taste like possum pork, at least that's what the poodles tell me.

All fun aside, as I mentioned above, I expect folks will have fewer selections from the menu and will be back to the human norm; eating what's available and in season. It'll likely be a nutrtional improvement for many, at least for a while.. For 7 billion of us? Not a chance. I have no idea what countries that import most of their food will do; better have something important to trade, and reduce their numbers dramatically. This has the makings of the mother of all bottlenecks. Storm comin'.

BTW: Take care of your teeth. I had a crown come off earlier and the dog just ate it (ISYN). Not sure what to do :-0

I had a crown come off earlier and the dog just ate it (ISYN). Not sure what to do :-0

As a bush doctor, my suggestion is to retrieve it from the dog,(you figure out how...) sterilize it and purchase some temporary dental adhesive from the drugstore and put it back on yourself. Either that or take a vacation and visit a dentist in the Dominican Republic!

I did this myself about 10 years ago and the crown is still there. Umm not the part about the dog >;^)

I'm sorry Ghung, not to minimize your misfortune but I just can't stop laughing!

Be well my friend!

It gets worse. I figure it's at least a $400 dollar crown (2nd molar), it's raining, and she (the bitch) is so well trained, she'll die before she poops goes indoors. I would have to kennel her for days. That said:

Keeping one's teeth functional will be a huge advantage as food selections become constrained. Soup and gruell may be your only choices, or worms...

What do you think about Lustig's stance that it is the fructose (excessive and fiber free) that is the real problem.


That is, it's the fructose component of the sugar that is the issue and that some starch, assuming that is not over processed or engineered, in our diet is not so bad.

I think the science entirely supports Lustig's stance that fructose is really messing up our metabolic machinery.

And yes, some starches (very few) as long as they aren't processed at all seem to be tolerated by many people. But I know people that can't tolerate any starch. That's where individual testing comes in.

Thank you. A very powerful 90 minutes.

Fantastic post, aangel --thank you!

I was over 100 lbs overweight myself before I was introduced to the Atkins diet (a precursor to the "Paleo" diet). I was amazed at how well it actually worked. All those foods we have been told are "bad" by the FDA and AMA for 35 years (meat, butter, eggs, vegetable oils) turn out to be amazingly well suited to helping us to keep trim by telling our brains we are full (leptin signaling) and preventing insulin spikes. All those foods they have told us are "bad" (sugar, HFCS, grains, carbs, bread, pasta, etc.) cause massive insulin spikes and disrupt leptin from sending the 'full' signal to our brains.

Unfortunately, to get this information to the general public, you first have to combat the fog of disinformation out there as well as quite a few virulent Atkins-haters, like Dean Ornish (who advises President Obama among many other influential government officials). The level of visceral hatred out there among professional dietary "experts" for even the *idea* of a low-carg high protein diet is astonishing.

Hi, Harm. You're welcome.

We have been telling people exactly the wrong thing for the past forty years. The science is in...it's just not well-known yet.

EDIT: Oh, and congratulations on the weight loss...even though you and I know that losing weight is easy once the carbs are dramatically cut down... ;-)

No Aangel, you have it all wrong. Carbohydrates do not cause people to get fat, refined carbohydrates cause people to get fat. Complex carbohydrates are the healthiest of foods (fruits and vegetables) as well as grains, but nonrefined grains. But the healthiest way to eat these foods is raw. For the grains, you need to sprout them. In fact, sprouts are the superfoods.

Sorry, meat is just not healthy for people, for a variety of reasons. They are a lot better if you eat them raw when you don't oxidize the cholesterol - which causes heart disease. In today's world, all meat has high concentrations of toxics such as mercury in fish and dioxin in all meat (including that found on the North and South Pole), which is a potent T-cell inhibitor. I have not reviewed the actual studies conducted by The China Study, but the lab studies were sufficient to indicate the cancer promoting qualities of animal protein, including dairy. The Seventh Day Adventists diet studies also highlight the disease causing qualities of meat. Meat can be eaten in very small quantities and not cause much disease.

I've included more than enough information on this page to make my case, including drawing distinctions between various grains.

Read carefully and you'll see that there is some overlap with what you are saying. The exceptions are that I think you are unaware of the problems with modern wheat and are still stuck in the "meat is unhealthy" paradigm. Yes, there are toxins in the fish, so some limitation on that is valid if one eats the larger species that tend to accumulate them.

Aangel explained the difference between high-fiber vegetables and high-carb grains, but also presented evidence indicating that some (but not all) complex carbs are metabolized like sugar in the body. And as you say, anything --even grains-- are healthiest in their raw, unprocessed form.

Re: "meat", well that's a pretty broad category --everything from wild grouse you hunt yourself to factory bred, hormone pumped, corn and offal-fed beef. Lots of protein is plenty healthy, others not as much. Regardless, Aangel's point is that carbs and sugar have basically gotten a free pass for the last 35 years, while meat & dietary fat has been turned into the enemy. Which is wrong and very counterproductive to people's health (but not to Monsanto's profit margins).

Keep in mind, though, that all meat concentrates whatever toxins were in the food they ate.

Those industrial toxins did not exist in the paleo-world, so making such comparisons is rather irrelevant.

Google or wiki "bio-accumulation" for all the fun facts you want on how much more concentrated toxins are in meat (and to a somewhat lesser extent, in dairy) than in the foods they ate.

We can't avoid toxins, but why emphasize the foods that are guaranteed to have the highest levels of them?

In any case, I certainly agree with aa that if you're going to go the meat route, you want to get it grass fed, not corn/CFAO finished.

And of course the less processing, the better for you, for the planet, and for our energy future.

Sugar is not bad for you, in fact, sugar is healthy for you. Howover, when we consume virtually only high fructose corn syrup as part of a refined food diet, it is bad. Sugar forms part of the chain of molecules on the cell wall of white blood cells which allow the white blood cells to detect pathogens and cancer. Sugar is important in our diets to allow the immune system to work effectively, particularly natural killer cells which is natures way to combat cancer. Only fruits and vegetables have the variety of sugars in them which allow the immune system to function as it was designed. People on a high meat diet have an excess of omega 6 fatty acids which also compromises the immune system and promotes cancer growth.

Sugar is bad when it is concentrated, particularly without a lot of fiber in the diet which tempers its absorption and leads to spikes in blood sugar.

Meat protein reduces endurance. Studies have shown that people on a vegetarian diet have more endurance than people on a meat diet.

Vegetables are loaded with phytochemicals which reduce all forms of disease - meat has none.

Finally, raw fruits and vegetables have "life force," which one can sense when consuming them. You don't need to rely on coffee when on a raw food vegetarian diet. The life force is particularly noticably when one is consuming sprouted foods.

An excellent book which highlights proper diet, low in the consumption of meat, is Concious Eating by Gabriel Cousins.

I've presented lots of evidence that this fear of meat is completely unfounded and you've presented no evidence, just assertions.

So I'll just mention that sugar in (very) small concentrations appears to be fine.

Sugar in medium concentrations and above is toxic to the human body. See my graphs elsewhere showing sugar toxicity.

Fructose, what is found in fruits and in massive quantities in fruit juice, is the most toxic.


Sugar: The Bitter Truth, Dr. Lustig

The Skinny on Obesity (University of California TV) (Excellent!)

Episode 1: An Epidemic for Every Body
Episode 2: Sickeningly Sweet
Episode 3: Hunger and Hormones

Dr. Lustig's message is that sugar is bad because fructose is bad (being glucose + fructose). The carbohydrates in grains do not metabolize the same as sugar because they are comprised of almost exclusively glucose.

Foods Highest in Fructose

If you however contend that whole grains are bad for you based on something besides how the carbs within are directly metabolized (such as gluten issues), I am more amenable to that idea. My wife can no longer eat wheat, and so I now eat somewhat less (but more rice and other more weird grains).

Now we are rehashing ground that has already been covered. But, in a nutshell, wheat flour in particular has an extremely high glycemic index (a slice of whole wheat bread has a GI of 71 or 77, depending on the database). The starch contained in that bread breaks down very quickly into sugar, causing a high sugar spike (hence the high GI).

Most of the values for WW bread I've seen are lower than that still, such as:


and corresponding values for pasta are lower still. And certain foods eaten at the same time (e.g. olive oil on pasta or wine with dinner) will lower it even more due to slowed absorption from the intestine. Glycemic index is a single metric pertaining to an acute condition which may or may not have relevance long-term for people who are not diabetic. In light of Dr. Lustig's work, it is interesting to see many books on GI state that sugar (sucrose) isn't all that bad because it has a moderate GI. Of course not, since almost half by weight is fructose. But that really isn't a good thing after all.

Anyway, thanks for bringing this up, as I think it is important and interesting. But I think you have prematurely wrapped your mind around a limited part of the picture.

The value I see for whole wheat bread is 69, not materially different from the 71 value I cite. What are you referring to?

Also, pasta depending on how it's cooked can have lower or higher GI values...but what some people miss is that it's still sugar going through the system. A lower GI just means that the body doesn't have to react quite so quickly but its overall throughput of insulin will still be the same. A bowl of pasta is still a bowl of sugar once it gets to the gut.

I do happen to think that we are living through a nutrition paradigm shift, so I am challenging lots of cherished beliefs that people thought were beyond reasonable doubt, like the meat-saturated fat-cholesterol-CHD hypothesis and that "a calorie is a calorie is a calorie." I didn't even address statins, which have many terrible side effects and people are taking them because they think that 60% of their diet should be sugar.

It's really quite crazy if you stand back and reflect a moment. Many doctors came to this new science because they said to themselves, "Well, if this person is diabetic, I shouldn't be telling them to eat sugar no matter what the (old) food pyramid says." (The bottom layer of the old food pyramid was all grains. BTW, the food pyramid was released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, not the Surgeon General's office. Big difference and might explain a lot.)

Once the doctors see how effective low carb diets are, they investigate and see that other professionals thought the same thing.

I also think I'm reasonably nuanced within this new paradigm i.e. I acknowledge the difference between types of carbs, how they are processed, and I address why some cultures seem to be ok with rice and (some) tubers.

I'm open to what you think I'm missing. What am I missing and what evidence do you think is missing that I haven't presented?

(And I'm glad you got value out of the discussion...I know there are people reading this who, if they take action, will get off their insulin injections, save themselves from early dementia and lower their risk of all sorts of other diseases.)

What are the "fibrous vegetables" ?

Just about every vegetable, and some fruits, have some fiber.

I moved towards a higher fat diet - but fat from olive oil, avocados and fish/shrimp/crawfish - for reasons of satiety. Very little meat in my diet (1 lb of chicken/turkey per month ?) and limited fish servings. *LOTS* of vegetables & beans and a fair amount of brown rice and some potatoes (mainly sweet, some white

Any critique ?


Here is a good list of vegetables:

They won't be the starchy ones, like potatoes, and leaves are good, too.

Are you looking to lose weight or are you interested in general health?

Obviously, this whole paleodiet thing is all a Yankee plot !

Okra is *NOT* a fibrous vegetable ???

Beyond that,

I accept that there are different metabolism pathways for fat & sugars/starches and "we" are grossly overusing the insulin dependent one.

However, I am less sure that the balance has to be swung 90+% the other way. Particularly in the morning when glucose is naturally depleted.

I do not accept that dietary fiber is an "anti-nutrient". I consider that it is useful for proper bile removal as well as less constipation. If fiber binds some nutrients - well I ingest far more than enough.

It also makes intuitive sense that moving larger volumes of largely inert fecal matter by quickly will reduce colon cancer - versus slow movement of low level carcinogens (grilled meat & bacon for example).

However, colon cancer is not my primary concern.

I consider eating as one of the primal joys of life - along with laughing, sex, friendship and appreciating beauty.

Any changes need to fit into what I enjoy - and any "diet" has to be sustainable for decades. I "evolve" changes that I enjoy, trying out shifts in eating patterns to see what I like - and how I feel, and not radical changes. For example, I found that I wanted more fat in my diet for satiety and well being - so I use olive oil liberally and eat 4 to 5 avocados/week. And I eat some northern fish for their higher fat content (fresh fish are good for only a few days - swimming Friday, still good Monday, marginal Tuesday - frozen northern fish after that till next Saturday unless I drive to the Tuesday Farmers & Fishers Market).

OTOH, Bacon & fried eggs for breakfast appalls me. Particularly the bacon & fried part. Soft boiled eggs (I buy the high Omega 3 type) are an occasional snack or even desert for me, with a few drops of hot sauce to bring out the flavor.

Weight loss comes not from diet, but more exercise.

More exercise is an undoubtedly good thing - and more motivation to exercise is also good.

So I will add a bit more fat (mainly good fat, mono-saturated) to my diet, and reduce starches on the margin and evolve from there.

I eat vegetables more or less randomly, and in large volumes. Add some more oil when preparing them and shift the balance some. But okra will remain !!

Best Hopes,


Hi, Alan.

I do not accept that dietary fiber is an "anti-nutrient". I consider that it is useful for proper bile removal as well as less constipation. If fiber binds some nutrients - well I ingest far more than enough.

I wasn't referring to the fiber. That has a whole other set of issues (http://www.fibermenace.com). The anitnutrients are in the bran.

Living things generally do not want to be consumed by other living things. To avoid said consumption, living things employ various self defense mechanisms.
Plants, though, are passive organisms without the ability to move, think, and react (for the most part). They must employ different tactics to ensure propagation, and they generally have to rely on outside forces to spread their seed. And so various methods are “devised” to dissuade consumption long enough for the seed to get to where it’s going. Nuts have those tough shells, and grains have the toxic anti-nutrients, lectins, gluten, and phytates.

Why Grains Are Unhealthy

Grains lead to a whole host of trouble for people. The article enumerates some of them, including accelerating leptin resistance. Without clear leptin signaling, we over eat. Add the exorphins wheat also contains (causing an addition-like effect) that are released during processing and you'll see quickly that it's not a good food for us to ingest. They have nothing we can't get from other foods that we were eating before agriculture.

Weight loss comes not from diet, but more exercise.

I strongly, strongly disagree. That's another prevalent myth. 90% of weight loss is from diet. Stop disrupting the insulin and leptin signaling and people will naturally return to their genetic fat "set point" — without any sort of calorie restriction. People on Atkins or Paleo or Low-carb diets are told to "eat until full". They don't have to count calories to lose the weight.

Your diet sounds pretty healthy to me :-)

Exercise, rather than restricting my diet, is how I lose weight. Eating is a primal joy to me :-)

Walking to a more distant grocery store today - 1.5 miles. (Back with 21 lbs of food, 0.9 mile, I caught a rare Sunday bus for one leg). Guzzled over a quart of unsweetened sun tea when I got home :-0

Your influence - I bought two bananas instead of the 4 or 5 I would have otherwise, I bought 1% fat milk instead of 0% and see how my consumption & satiety varies, and 2 lb of sharp cheddar cheese for occasional snacks (this will last me for a while - sharp & extra sharp cheddar have the lowest sugar of any cheese I think). As I said, I evolve my diet slowly.

Best Hopes,


Great news...as always, do your research and come to your own conclusions. It's a whole new world that's (re-)opening up. Just remember that your body has two fuels it runs on. Many people seem to think it's only carbohydrates when that's just not true.

Low fat is a fad diet.

And high saturated fat is a fad diet.

Nonsense. Go show me the RCT's that demonstrate that. And please make sure they don't count a meat meal as "pizza with pepperoni" on top. Or do what the last one did that I read: it included 80 grams of fiber. Fiber isn't digested but they still counted it in their calculations. I'm not normally suspicious but since no one I know eats 80 grams of fiber a day it seemed almost rigged to make the high carb diet look good.

You're trapped in the "fat is bad for you" paradigm. Trans fats are but saturated fat has been demonized for no good reason. The initial science seemed to indicate it was a problem but we now know it isn't.

As I've already pointed out, the body has TWO fuel systems. And the fat we store is SATURATED FAT.

Since "trans" refers to a particular arrangement of substituents on double-bonded carbon atoms, trans fat is by definition "unsaturated".

Not a lot of trans fat eaten by paleo humans. You really going down the path of defending that stuff?

You have read my comment incorrectly. I am definitely saying that trans fats are bad for humans. Saturated fats are not.

Well, your comment didn't make sense as written. And trans fats do not derive from saturated fats, but rather from unsaturated fats which have been partially hydrogenated. Unless the hydrogenation goes to completion (a fully saturated hydrocarbon), the catalyst will do some non-selective dehydrogenation.

He just missed a comma or a bit more clarification, it still only took me a second look to realize what he was saying..

"Trans fats are (bad for you), but saturated fat has been demonized for no good reason." He's been pretty clear about NOT supporting Hydrogenated Fats..

Thank you, jokuhl. Anyone who has been reading from the beginning would know that I've been consistent on this score.

And I eat some northern fish for their higher fat content (fresh fish are good for only a few days - swimming Friday, still good Monday, marginal Tuesday - frozen northern fish after that till next Saturday unless I drive to the Tuesday Farmers & Fishers Market).i>


I'm not going to figure the gallons of oil burned per fish either. Our household is limited to 35 red salmon personal use dipnet caught fish per season and we catch and use somewhat less than that. A few fillets frozen in water (by sealing a 1 quart freezer bag under water-a method my family prefers to vacuum packing) makes a fine meal in April even though we caught the fish in July. It is a bit of drive to get to the Kasilov and Kenai rivers from our house--but the whole outing, which includes camping on the beach with a mob of fisherman, is one of the summer high points--and has been for thousands of years up here...even back when the 1:1 energy out/in ratio Tom refers to was a bare minimum.

Chasing and being chased back and forth over the mudflats by the cold North Pacific tide is real exercise. I chose physically demanding livelihoods (commercial fishing, logging, construction) all my life in part because I like burn energy and then to eat and in part because I hate working indoors any length of time. The transition to sort of retired at this point is a bit tricky to navigate on that point, especially after cross country ski season ends (about ten days ago), but I live on a rocky hill so there are always nearby outdoor activity options. Seems a critical part of the 'paleo thing' was hunting and scavenging the meat and gathering the rest of the fare--the exercise part!!! And I do miss my Montana deer hunting right out the back door, just haven't wanted to deal with a thousand pounds of moose at once up here.

Your approach is my favored one Alan--there has to be fun in it if possible. Many of the arguments here from the key post on down are tainted by religious fervor which puts me into the barely skim reading mode. I won't be too hard on Tom as this key post taken with his 'do the math' post on human 'mileage' were readable and informative, but the 1:1 ratio he refers to as 'magic' has to be extended to include the whole of societies energy gathering activities not simply applied to the procuring food portion.

Yes :-)

Like arguing that Kama Sutra position #138 is best because it is more hygienic :-)

Folks - that ain't the only reason to have sex, or to eat :-)

Best Hopes for Enjoying Life, while living long & healthy lives :-)


Participating in food - connecting with it in some way - adds a different level and more meaning to it.

Participating in food - connecting with it in some way - adds a different level and more meaning to it.

No doubt, that goes for other basics as well. Sad to say I've always been a weak gardiner, but I'm a builder and have built a couple of my own homes. I believe having such a major part of my life--it's were we keep and cook the food ?-)--designed by my own mind and built by my own hands has added a great deal to my personal well being.

frozen in water (by sealing a 1 quart freezer bag under water

I wonder if you would share a few more details of this method.


It's pretty simple. The red salmon are six pounds give or take in the round so we cut the fillets in half and put three pieces into a 1 quart zip lock bag. Put a clean basin of cold water in the kitchen sink. Fill the bag containing the fish from the tap then submerge it in the basin. Carefully work any air bubbles out and seal the bag while it is still submerged. It is cold on the hands, gloves could help but they would make getting a good air free seal a bit trickier. Change the basin water periodically if you are doing a lot--when two or three families get working together it can be quite an operation.

Dry the sealed bags and seperate each layer of bags in the freezer with a thin piece of cardboard--makes for nice uniform bags. Once frozen you can remove the cardboard and stack the bags tightly. It's best if the frozen bags don't get jostled around much as damage will allow air in an shorten their freezer life.

Low and behold we have one package left. I thought we used freezer bags but it looks to be a plain old 'smart seal.' Salmon paties on the horizon, yum!

Thanks, I wasn't sure if you had water in the bag or just used it to squeeze the air out, that clarifies it. I may try it for some things. I use zip locks for things like chilli con carne and stews. It is easy to squeeze the liquid, closing the seal except for a small gap at one end, to eliminate air then freeze flat for good stacking and fast defrosting.


A bowl of pasta is still a bowl of sugar once it gets to the gut.

You seem to keep saying that, but it is not true. A bowl of "sugar" is a bowl of the disaccharide comprised of glucose and fructose. As per Dr. Lustig, the fructose causes big problems in the body. The glucose? Its presence is natural in your bloodstream. It's your brain's primary fuel. Too high a level causes a multitude of problems and might eventually kill you. Too little will kill you. But sugar (sucrose) only has a lower glycemic index because half of it is dead weight as far as increasing blood glucose level (it is instead converted directly into fat).

You seem to be arguing both that low glycemic carbs are better because they are absorbed and broken down more slowly, resulting in a lower blood glucose spike, but nevertheless still bad because every glucose is a bad glucose, "wearing out your islets".

The result is that, over time, they are exhausting their islet cells and disrupting their insulin and leptin signaling. The obesity epidemic as largely caused by this widespread disruption of this signaling, I assert.

The trend is rather increased increased insulin resistance and type-II diabetes, as opposed to exhausted islet cells, being potentially related to too much sugar consumption. And the problem is fructose, not glucose:

Consuming fructose-sweetened, not glucose-sweetened, beverages increases visceral adiposity and lipids and decreases insulin sensitivity in overweight/obese humans

Fructose consumption: recent results and their potential implications

It's true that pasta and table sugar are not exactly the same thing — but they are both still considered sugars. Glucose, the constituent of starch, is a sugar. It may not have the extra fructose attached to it but that's not necessary. We often say, "what's the glucose level?" when referring to the blood sugar level — because that's what's in our blood and in starch.

Place a wheat cracker on your tongue and leave it there for your saliva to do its job. In a while it will start to taste sweet.

There is a debate right now about which is worse: the spikes in blood sugar or the overall amount of sugar moving through the system. But both are bad, just in different ways. So, yes, the spikes and overall quantity are both important.

Dr. Rosedale puts it this way. "Your overall health is in large part determined by how much sugar vs. fat you burn over your lifetime." In other words, the more sugar you burn, the more likely you are to damage your bodily systems.

And recall that the human blood contains about only 80 calories or about a teaspoon of sugar in the entire volume of blood. That's miniscule. It doesn't matter as much in this case that some amount of it is supposed to be there. What we are doing is inundating our bodies with sugar in its various forms. Insulin responds because the sugar levels must be brought down quickly before too much damage occurs. The range of acceptable sugar in the blood is very narrow.

Don't get too attached to Lustig's view of fructose in one sense: fructose is certainly a notch worse than glucose but glucose in sudden spurts or in large quantities is still bad, too.

And yes, I could have specifically said "insulin resistance" to be clearer...that's to what I was referring when I wrote "disrupting their insulin and leptin signaling."

Well, I'll try to stay less attached to fructose if you try to stay less attached to glucose. It comes down to which doctor you believe more (although the recent research seems to support fructose as a much worse actor).

But here is what settles it for me:

  • When you consume glucose, 80% of it is allowed to go directly to the cells in your body where, after insulin unlocks the door, it feeds into the Krebs cycle to make ATP for the cell (same as for fat). Of the 20% which hits the liver, some is metabolized as above, and the excess is turned into glycogen. All good.
  • When you consume fructose, ALL OF IT is metabolized by the liver - and the results aren't pretty. This is not a subtle distinction.
  • Aside from humans, many critters eat all or mostly starches - and not because the government told them to.

It's one thing to argue that eating meat in high proportions is natural. It is quite another to argue that eating carbohydrates is unnatural when the body seems designed to do it. I believe that human digestion achieves the ability to process a lot of different foods with many compromises, and weaknesses are exposed when you eat too much of one thing - or if you eat much differently than what your genetic heritage has settled into. And remember also that, from a genetic standpoint, all that really matters is you surviving long enough to procreate. There isn't a lot of genetic pressure from something that gives you diabetes or heart disease at age 60.

But fructose seems to be in another class altogether: something which does much harm and only provides transient benefit (taste). The plants which produced the fruit benefit, since animals are induced to eat it and spread the seeds around. And now, the food industry takes advantage of that as well.

And circling back to Dr. Murphy, there is no way that even a billion people are going to be able to subsist solely on grass-fed livestock; the energy and water needs are just too high. So even if current strains of wheat etc. have problems, we better find something similar that doesn't have those problems.

Your view is quite common. However, glucose is not the benign molecule you assert it is for weight management — it is after all contributing to the diabetes epidemic, it's not just fructose doing all the damage. Again, it's the throughput of all sugar that over time interferes with insulin and leptin signaling. Sure, fructose is measurably worse but don't make the mistake that you can eat all the glucose you want. If you happen to be one of those genetically gifted individuals you can get away with it, possibly even for decades, but there is evidence that it catches up to all of us eventually.

Here is Dr. Lindeberg describing the situation on his web page describing low-carb high-fat diets (LCHF):

The problem of sugar and starch

All digestible carbohydrates are broken down to simple sugars in the intestines. The sugar is absorbed into the blood, raising the blood glucose. This increases the production of the hormone insulin. And insulin is our fat storing hormone.

Insulin is produced in the pancreas (pictured to the right). In large amounts insulin prevents fat burning and stores surplus nutrients in the fat cells. After some time (a few hours or less) this may result in a shortage of nutrients in the blood, creating feelings of hunger and cravings for something sweet. Usually at that point people eat some more. That starts the process again, a vicious cycle leading to weight gain.

A low intake of carbohydrates gives you a lower and more stable blood glucose, and lower amounts of insulin. This increases the release of fat from your fat stores and increases the fat burning. This usually gives fat loss, especially around the tummy in abdominally obese individuals.

Weight loss without hunger

LCHF makes it easier for the body to use its fat stores, as their release is no longer blocked by high insulin levels. This may be a reason why intake of fat gives a longer feeling of satiety than carbohydrates. Caloric intake usually drops in studies when the participants eat all they want on a low carb diet.

So, no counting or weighing of the food is required. You can forget about the calories and trust your feelings of hunger and satiety. Most people don’t need to count or weigh their food any more than they need to count their breathing. If you don´t believe it, just try a couple of weeks and see for yourself.

I recommend scrolling down and watching his talk at last year's Ancestral Health Symposium.

Dr. Rosedale is even more assertive about the ill effects of glucose and I think he's right on the money, biochemically speaking. Any sugar causes glycation; more sugar equals more glycation.

Also, start investigating what excessive glucose does to cognitive function and you may be surprised. That's an entire area I've just mentioned in passing in this conversation.

You seemed very concerned about blood sugar, probably due to its potential to cause diabetes. Here is an article which states the relationship between eating meat, even relatively small amounts of meat, and diabetes.


You clearly have gathered the information that you need to justify your diet, however, you need to open your eyes to all the facts. Do you by chance work for the meat industry? That would explain your very heavy bias...

I know the Lustig piece very well as I am a toxicologist. Fructose is unhealthy because it is in EVERYTHING processed, especially soda drinks. He points out that eating fruit is OK because of the fiber which is contained in the fruit, thus eat the whole fruit, do not drink fruit juices. However, one should balance fruit consumption with vegetable consumption so that one is not overeating sugars and neglecting the phytochemicals contained in vegetables.

I noticed that you passed right over the fact that meat contains large concentrations of dioxin which suppresses T-cell function. Apparently you have no answer for that one....

How about Mad Cow disease? If I were eating meat and lived in the US, I would be very concerned about the impact of prions (the protein that causes mad cow disease) on brain function. In the US, we only test about 0.1% of the cows for Mad Cow disease - we have no idea whether we are being exposed to prions or not.

(laughing) No I don't work for the meat industry. I run www.postpeakliving.com and I went looking for the optimum diet for humans.

That study you point to is an observational study. The clinical studies, the experiments, have demonstrated no such link.

As for your other points, our food system is increasingly being contaminated, I agree. That's why I'm doing my best to eat pasture-fed animals.

Pasture-fed may reduce your exposure to dioxin compared to an animal which is fed rendered feed, you are still being exposed to large quantities (large, not because of the dose, but because of your exposure relative to the health effects) of dioxin. When dioxin is formed by combusion, it lands on everything, including plants. When we eat plants, we are exposed to the dioxin which has contaminated the plant. However, when we eat meat, we are exposed to all the dioxin that the cow or other animal ingested over its entire life. Dioxin levels are about an order of magnitude higher in meat than in plant food, hence the reason why in meat-eaters the body burden of dioxin exceeds the levels that cause health effects in humans. By consuming a lot of meat, you are making your body a toxic waste dump.

You run the postpeakliving web site and you are arguing for a meat-based diet? This makes no sense since meat consumes more energy to produce compare to plants, and takes up a lot more land. Of course, land will be more scarce as the decline in fossil fuels will be offset by renewable fuels which will compete with the same land. Unless if your are wealthy, most people will be priced out of a meat-based diet. Why are you advocating for something which is in direct contradiction to the future??? This seems like backward thinking.

You're overgeneralizing his position.

Let's try not to boil everyone's argument down to stereotypes, eh? (Even the English seem to have gotten beyond boiling EVERYTHING they eat.. there IS a little hope! Oops, another stereotype!! Shanda!)

Meat plays an important role, I would argue, and apparently so does AA. Pasture-raised animals certainly ARE vulnerable to pollution, but they also can be very Low-Energy food supplies, that are in permanent fresh storage as long as they are alive and healthy.. and they can help you to restore a healthy grassland that works with a complementary range of animals and plants.

Where Dioxin is the problem, let's make sure we're keeping our sights aimed at the source at least as much as the vectors. That stuff is in all of us now.

Sorry.. that's a bizarre set of correlations, as it pointed towards the parallel stereotypes, that Red Meat Eaters were more likely to smoke, be sedentary and make poor dietary choices. You REALLY have ask which of these are the subset of one of the others?

The Closing line about French Fries was the clincher. If this is all predicated on the assumption of 'Red Meat' being Bacon and Burgers.. then are we also to assume they are eating Rolls, Bread and Bagels with these foods pretty much to a meal? How about Orange Juice, Syrup, Jelly and Cake? There is another finding lately tying Phthalates with elder-onset diabetes, which could be very easily incriminating the wrappings, plastic plates, Containers food is nuked in.. all these things being simply Ubiquitous in the American Food Pallette today.

The fats in meat are going to be great carriers of many of the toxins that we've poured out over our landscape, no less than the fats in our own bodies have been soaking up these poisons, and the fats in fish, and in all other oils. BUT, if you can keep your body and your Cow's body well-nourished and operating optimally, then our filtering and immune systems at least have the chance to clean out the junk as much as possible. One of the greatest harms of all the JUNK food is the shortcuts in the ingredients, packaging, preserving and processing that help these foods challenge our bodies' basic functioning even further, so we and our feed animals and plants all are increasingly immune-deficient.

As far as BSE, this points to the need to get out of not only the industrial Big Beef Supplies, but also as many of the other Industrial Big Food systems as well. I have far less to be worried about with the Grass-fed Local meats we buy up here, and these farmers can't hide behind a conglomerate if they sell poor product to us. It's those big faceless cross-country deals that are making us so sick and them so rich.

So I have also done a reasonably large amount of digging into both the paleo diet and low-carb diets, and my conclusions are not quite the same as yours.

First, these diets are not the same. The data you use to justify the paleo diet has more to do with justifying a low carb diet. For instance, here are some differences:

Some key differences between low-carb and paleo:
- most nuts are fantastic, high protein, low carb (chesnuts are not low carb though, for instance of a counterexample)
- some vegetables are fantastic, low carb, high nutritional value, plenty of fiber
- low-carb (specifically low-GI) grains are not that bad
- many fruits are awful due to water soluble simple sugars (apples, oranges, peaches, etc)

Really, the low-carb argument is that it all boils down to glycemic index, and our ancient diet is irrelevant. The paleo diet has more to do with the extent of food processing.

Thus, the low-carb argument allows for a vegan diet that is perfectly healthy. For instance, a diet primarily fed by:

- Nuts (protein, fats, fullness, nutrients)
- Leafy greens (fiber, protein, nutrients)
- Limited grains (quinoa, for instance, for complete proteins, but not wheat or corn)
- Low GI fruits (blueberries, among others)

and for vegetarians:

- Eggs (complete proteins with lower GI than quinoa)
- Cheese (proteins, fats, low GI)

But if you look at what Paleo has to say about it, quinoa, eggs, cheese, and domesticated nuts would all be eliminated. Why? They don't seem to have an answer that is not purely anthropological (instead of nutritional).

I neglected to also add in beans, and by extension tofu and lentils as sources of fiber, protein, and fats that are disallowed by the paleo diet but fantastic according to the low-carb diet.

Sorry, oversight on my part.

In my experience, the paleo community very much considers itself low-carb PLUS it is committed to "just eating real food." The difference — again, in my experience with the people I track and here in San Francisco — is that when someone uses the word paleo, they are implicitly also indicating low carb.

The big discussion right now is about so-called "safe starches." These would raise carbohydrate intake somewhat but generally even that would rarely bring someone to the level of carbs many people eat regularly (300g and up — and sometimes almost all calories consumed in a day).

Here again is Mark Sisson's graph. He very much advocates paleo/primal eating and within the following carb intake guidelines. He is pretty representative of, again, the people who I track. But the world is a big place and there are definitely people who draw the distinction you are pointing to.

Primal Blueprint Carb Curve

And here is Mark's food pyramid:
Primal Food Pyramid

As for dairy and lentils and so on, the science behind them is very much discussed. In the case of diary the protein casein is often not tolerated well, lactose isn't tolerated by many people and milk and yogurts (but not pure cream) have lots of carbs making insulin control difficult. It's definitely a grey area. I like occasional cheese and cream in my coffee but other people don't have any dairy at all.

As for lentils, being a legume, they may not spike insulin quickly but they still contribute to the overall throughput of sugar going through the body.

I am going to jump in at the top of the thread for what at this late date it will be worth.

We have forgotten more food that we used to eat than we know about, Today's diet is literally the one that is limited not the diets of the past.

Millets are not even mentioned in most of the talk about grains given below/above. They are a dry country crop, mostly in africa and though they aren't as high in protien as wheat, they grow where wheat does not, and produce a lot of seed, but aren't limited to just being eaten, as they also are used in alcoholic drinks.

On my blog findable by hunting for "BioWebscape Designs" on your search engines, I just today/yesterday made a post mentioning the fact that humans today don't eat nearly the numbers of edibles that were available to people 200 years ago in other parts of the world. Something of a food desert appears in our food chain these days and we think it is full of food, when really it is not. When we only eat maybe 12 different varities of potato, and there are over 3,000 that were cultivated in the Andes before the europeans got there. ( it was the example I had handy and know the most about, information was gotten out of an old article in a National Geographic. )

We fool ourselves all the time this way, and it seems this way in the posts on this thread that we are only looking at the limited things that we wee today on the grocery store shelf or even in the better farmer's markets, which get into truck farming and old world and old school foods that the people farming want to grow to sell to like minded taste buds. We don't eat a lot of foods mainly because they don't fit well into our industrial food plans, they have to be eaten within days of being picked or stored in ways that we have mostly forgotten or never even knew about.

I am also a Chef, I really love to try new foods and cook things without knowing what I have till I try it. I make my own recipes up and though I have 20 to 50 cookbooks in my library I don't follow them, I like the cooking information more than the recipes, oh and don't forget the pictures, always cool things that never much look like that when you make them at home, unless you try really hard, or luck out with a slice of slight of hand, a good sharp knife helps with that one.

I have been looking into the things that I can grow on my own 1/6th of an acre things that aren't normally thought of for my region, but that would make my little hunk of land very productive, and I plan to only use the water from the sky as a method of doing that, so that if the years ahead get harsher than they were in the past I have something to gain by knowing how to use only the sky water and not the tap water that some people would be using if they were trying the same thing. I will admit that last year we ran out of sky water even though I had stored about 350 gallons of it while it was raining good, but 3 months with out much rain did a big hit on the stored water bit and my dad started using tap water. Best laid plans that fail only mean you need to plan better next time and take into account the extremes we will see in the future. Not all my goals can be done in one year or in 5, as I don't have total control over the land. I'd want to put in several water features and have chickens and other critters that even though some of the laws around here allow chickens the water features might have set backs on. But I can tell you just from the experience of growing food on this land for over 30 years off and on, the 1/6th an acre can give me all the food I can eat, so 1/6th of an acre in the center of arkansas in a small city without using tap water, ( I only collect water off one side of a big shed, and about 20 feet of the house, I could if I had the storage have all the water I would ever need here, just don't have the storage yet. ) be just fine. Seed saving and trading and plants that span as many food needs as possible, stretch our possibilites further than the grocery stores or industrial food production lead you to believe.

Others have done it, and if I can and hone my ideas into a better plan and action, then the world of energy wasteful food production can be changed and we don't have to live the lifes we seem to have gotten ourselves into these days. There will still be trade even if everything comes in by sailing ships and draft animals, even if some of them ride bikes and call themselves local traders/farmers/tinkers.

The farmer of today is hooked on a losing battle in the monoculture his bankers and industrial world seems to tell him is the only way to go about growing food and that is just plain wrong, and though it will be a hard road to get from where we are to where we could be, standing here looking at gloom and doom and sighing just won't get you and those that come after you to a better part of the world.

It will not be easy and even though I can see the end result and know that it can be done, likely several billion people will be in for a big let down as our systems as we know them slowly fail all around us. Only people that can see the future with bright eyes will want to hang on for the ride I guess. Though you are all welcome to join along the way and see if things can be better than they could be if we continue things as usual.

Charles, Biowebscape Designs, a way to live better today, looking into the future.

Your chart which shows no apparent association between cholesterol levels and heart disease is only a population based statistics. I find it hilarious that you chastise the China Study which used very sound observational studies to show the link between eating meat and developing cancer, yet you poo poo the relationship between cholesterol and heart disease based on a chart based on population data. I think that this qualifies you as a hypocrit - again a very strong bias....

Here is an outstanding study (10 year progressive observational study), which shows very high odds ratio between higher blood cholesterol levels and increased mortality from heart disease.


In the very outstanding Framingham study (which followed the town of Framingham, MA for many, many years), no person with a blood cholesterol level above 140 was ever attributed to having died from a heart attack.

But what causes heart disease is not choleserol consumption, but oxidized cholesterol (see Russian lab study using rabbits back in the early 70s). Thus, if you WERE to consume meat, then ONLY consume it in very small quantities and consume meat which is the least processed and therefore the least exposed to air (such as ground beef, or egg noodles), and prepared at the lowest temperatures (stews of whole beef is a LOT better than BBQ, pan frying, jerky...).

Observational studies can do one thing reasonably well: they can disprove hypotheses.

That's because if I want to test the proposition "all sheep are white" all I need to do is find a black sheep and I've done my job disproving the assertion. But I can enumerate every sheep on the planet (or think I did) and still not prove that all sheep are white because there is still a chance I just haven't found the black sheep.

Similarly, there is no way with observational studies to prove causation. But they can disprove causation, in this case the hypothesis that cholesterol causes heart disease. Hell, that graph demonstrates that there is not even a correlation between cholesterol and heart disease.

The internet is full of explanations of how we got to this place but it all started with Taube's excellent scientific sleuthing in Good Calories, Bad Calories. I suggest that you read it.

Or don't. You can keep chasing the non-existent fat-cholesteral-CHD hypothesis if you'd like but other people are seeing the evidence that I've presented and are moving on.

As for the China Study, it's a royal mess. For one thing, Campbell's meat correlation disappears once you take out the data for Tuoli County. They did not eat regularly like he observed; they were trying to impress him so they increased their meat consumption. The links I've provided show plenty of other errors he made.

Last, the randomized controlled studies, including the 27 studies and 10,000 people that the Cochrane Collaboration used for their highly rigorous meta study, show no absolutely no correlation between meat eating and CHD or mortality. Neither did the other two metastudies. And the Surgeon General's office gave up after taking 11 years and spending hundreds of millions of dollars.

You may not be convinced that there's nothing there, but I and many others are ready to learn what's actually happening (I've posted the link several times) that causes heart disease. It's not meat. It's not saturated fat.

Here it is again:
Lipoproteins – The Real Cause of Heart Disease

You may not have seen this:


Dr. Lustig questions Taubes after the latter's talk, and Taubes concedes that fructose may be the main problem (3:30 into the video -- and as the commenters point out, the title is idiotic)

Yes, I've seen that.

However, the reason I've cautioned against Lustig is because he has himself been taken to task for some basic errors in his presentation:

I think the person who gets it right in most respects is Dr. Rosedale in that he recognizes the basic science best:

But at this level now you're talking about "who is righter" among a group who is saying that carbohydrates are the cause of the problems we are seeing, not fat. Every one of them will tell you that a low carbohydrate diet is healthiest and that if you replace the carbs with (saturated and monounsaturated) fat, you will lose weight and improve all your health markers.

And within the fats discussion is also the question of the effects of Rancidification in otherwise 'approved' cooking oils.

In my house, we have been eating more things with butter and (local, healthy) bacon fat, lard, whole milk, cheeses, etc.. and also use good olive oil, but we don't keep any of the heat-processed seed oils in our kitchen any more, or very very few, because of the likelihood of oxidation and the cell-damage and systemic inflammation it causes. (My LDL and overall Chol. numbers are consistent, and not rising after 3 to 4 years of this type of diet. TotChol./HDL Ratio 4.9, for those who think that is a significant number.. I don't. )

Sorry for no link, but I have seen reports of Autopsies looking at MI (Heart Attack) corpses, and the fat content in the blocked arteries was NOT from saturated animal fats, but from rancidified vegetable oils, AMMENDED by the body's cholesterol, which works I believe as a Healing, Scabbing and Tissue growth agent in compromised Tissues. (Aangel, I looked at the Lipoprotien article you linked.. adding it to my spotty biochemical knowledgebase, thanks.)

You're welcome.

Make sure the next blood panel you get measures the LDL particle pattern. See Gary Taube's panel for how that will look.

If you have lots of small, dense LDL particles, the damage caused by inflammation (from carbs) will "trap" the small particles while the large buoyant ones will float by. The result is a buildup of plaque.

Yes, these particles contain cholesterol which is why researchers went down the "cholesterol causes heart disease" path for so long. But the cholesterol "is at the scene of the crime" but it's not the criminal. It's the small, dense LDL particles that are committing the crime.

Protein and natural fats do not cause inflammation, or at least much, much less of it.

taken to task for some basic errors in his presentation

It's interesting that his biggest quibble is Lustig saying that ethanol is a carbohydrate. Should this taint his message? I've been doing some reading in Rosedale's book, and got to the part where he discusses polyunsaturated fats:

The downside of all polyunsaturated fats is that they are unstable, that is, the are easily oxidized, which can promote the formation of potentially toxic chemicals called free radicals.
If you eat a diet high in polyunsaturated fat, you may end up loading your body with free radicals

To a chemist, this would be rather surprising. A free radical, one of the most reactive beasts around, is somehow going to survive long enough to make it into your mouth, across your tongue, through your stomach, into your intestine, deesterified, transported, resterified, making it to your cells. Sorry. The instability problem of polyunsaturates is rather one of taste: oxidation of the double bond (with a possible transitory formation of free radicals) can lead to the formation of aldehydes with unpleasant odor and taste.

Beyond that, one should take note that -- although you have elsewhere said:

And the fat we store is SATURATED FAT.

that actually your body stores energy as more than 55% UNSATURATED FAT (excluding the glycogen) with a fair amount of
polyunsaturates as well. Do seed oils have more of the latter? Sure. Is that a problem? I don't know, but it is probably not going to be as simple as matching the composition of fatty acids in your diet with that in your body. And if that were the case, you probably wouldn't want to cook with lard or tallow, as those are rather enhanced in the saturates relative to your waist.

I'm all for tossing out the CW on fat vs. carbs, and I'll probably cut way back on sugar and carbs overall because of this discussion, but it's best to remain a skeptic and keep learning.

You might consider this explanation.. it jibes with my family's diet, but I can't vouch for the source any more than that.


...What’s wrong with vegetable oils? The main problem is that polyunsaturated oils contain long-chain fatty acids, which are extremely fragile and unstable. “The unsaturated oils in some cooked foods become rancid in just a few hours even when refrigerated,” says Peat, “and that’s responsible for the stale taste of leftover foods. Eating slightly stale food with polyunsaturated oils isn’t more harmful than eating the same oils when fresh, since the oils will oxidize at a much higher rate once they are in the body. As soon as a polyunsaturated vegetable oil enters the body, it is exposed to temperatures high enough to cause its toxic decomposition, especially when combined with a continuous supply of oxygen and catalysts such as iron.”

Even if you stop eating them, polyunsaturated fatty acids remain stored in tissue, only to be released during times of stress or fasting—including the middle of the night, when one is asleep.

Although PUFAs damage every part of the body, the endocrine system, especially the thyroid, is particularly vulnerable. A slow metabolism, low energy, and sluggish thyroid often accompany the consumption of vegetable oils. .."

(This Author cites source as "Ray Peat, Ph.D., a physiologist who has studied hormones and dietary fats since 1968" )

Another source,


"While the nutritional content of cooking oils is usually considered, the rancidity of oils is actually of greater importance. Whenever an oil is heated, it undergoes a partial or complete chemical breakdown, which leads to it becoming somewhat rancid. This heat-induced process transforms formerly healthy oils into dangerous oils, which are most often carcinogens. This happens regardless of their original nutrient content.

Each oil has a smoke point, which is the point at which the nutritional content of an oil begins to rapidly degrade. The smoke point is when oils become undisputedly harmful, and when they begin emitting smoke (which is more toxic). Every time an oil is reused, its smoke point temperature is lowered, which is one of the reasons why eating at restaurants should be discouraged.

Canola oil is the worst choice, because it becomes toxic long before it reaches its smoke point. This is information that has been somewhat obscured from public view, so we are outraged about the situation with canola, and its wide scale promotion by Whole Food's Market. It is also worth noting that Whole Food's Market promotes hormone-destroying soy as well. The high rates of lung cancer in China are due in large part to the use of canola oil and rapeseed oil, despite a low cigarette smoking rate. If you plan on cooking with canola oil and breathing its fumes, then it would be healthier to smoke several cigars instead. 'Vegetable oil' once referred to corn oil, but now it usually refers to soybean or canola oil; so beware when you see "vegetable oil" on a label.

Those blurbs are packed with so much misinformation, it just boggles the mind.

The high rates of lung cancer in China are due in large part to the use of canola oil and rapeseed oil, despite a low cigarette smoking rate.

The writer has obviously never eaten in or been to China. Or had a coherent thought.

If you look at what various oils and fats are made of, you will find that they are all remarkably similar (C16 or C18 with 0-3 double bonds). More than half of the fatty acids in oils/fats have one double bond (monounsaturated). And ones with 2 and 3 are required in your diet. The differences between various fats and oils are of relative proportion. There is no "smoking gun" in vegetable oils which you can point to and say "aha, this one will kill you".

Don't rely on "The Scream Online" or "Healthwyze" for food chemistry enlightenment or nutritional guidance.

And if that were the case, you probably wouldn't want to cook with lard or tallow, as those are rather enhanced in the saturates relative to your waist.

Again, that's the current "anti-fat" paradigm talking with no scientific evidence to back it up. Lard and tallow are perfectly fine for human consumption and are in fact best for human consumption if you want to reduce your fat around the waist:


Generally, it's not the fat per se that allows you to lose around the waist. It's simply that when you eat a healthy diet high in healthy fats you will lose weight. Since the body preferentially stores fat around the abdomen (particularly for males), that's also the first place for it to go.

The 6-Week Cure for the Middle-Aged Middle: The Simple Plan to Flatten Your Belly Fast!

If you haven't come across the Ancel Keys story, it's good for you to read to understand how we got to this place:

(Note: I do not endorse the site that hosts the above article. The Mercola site is not responding and the above site has a copy of the article I wanted.)

Keep inquiring with skepticism; I'm confident that the more research you perform the more you will see that the conventional wisdom (low fat, high carb and vegetable oils instead of animal fat) is exactly backwards.

Stop pointing to various writings on the web and calling it "evidence". Start looking for actual scientists who are publishing real research. Agreed, it is time consuming. But those insisting upon building up a new paradigm based on what they assume the paleo diet was need to build more than just a tidy story. Metabolism is a hugely complex mess of competing interactions involving nutrients and enzymes.

My "tallow and lard" point was only that you can't justify eating it based on the mistaken assumption that our bodies store energy as primarily saturated fat - because it isn't true.

I am not arguing in favor of the low-fat high-carb paradigm. I'm not arguing that saturated fat is bad, or that high carb is good. Your paradigm seems to be "all carbs are the same (bad), whereas there are good fats (animal) and bad fats (vegetable).I'm just suggesting that you check into what the various fats and oils are actually comprised of. Tell me which fatty acids are good and which are bad, and point to actual data which backs that up. This is interesting:


Fat build-up is determined by the balance between lipogenesis and lipolysis/fatty acid oxidation. In the past few years, our understanding of the nutritional, hormonal and particularly transcriptional regulation of lipogenesis has expanded greatly. Lipogenesis is stimulated by a high carbohydrate diet, whereas it is inhibited by polyunsaturated fatty acids and by fasting. These effects are partly mediated by hormones, which inhibit (growth hormone, leptin) or stimulate (insulin) lipogenesis.

Low fat high carb is probably wrong, but that doesn't justify swinging to a new extreme.

If I don't have the papers handy, I'm not necessarily going to go searching for you, I've spent already enough time on this post.

Those "writings" aren't evidence but they do a credible job of introducing the basic ideas and give a decent balance of detail...now it's up to you to go deeper as you like to learn what I've learned when reading the papers.

Interesting. I don't think us Americans would face “Meat Treat Monday” with any enthusiasm. Having said that I can see a lot more veggies and grains in our diet - not due to health but poverty.

Good work, Tom - the numbers seem reasonable, with the obvious +/- ranges as qualifiers.

One wonders what the energy cost of grass-fed beef/lamb watered with windmills (or streams) is compared to grain fed beef where water is drawn from a deep aquifer.

Ditto on the energy required to grow garden vegetables fertilized from a composting toilet. And pastured pork and chicken, especially when insect lures are used to draw insects into the chicken enclosure (I employ both Japanese Beetle and Stink bug traps in my chicken tractor). Some pastured pork farmers fatten their hogs on acorns in the fall, though I realize that is not applicable everywhere.

Had been growing our own small grains here, but that's too attractive to deer and mice in this Lyme infested area.

I didn't see tree nuts on the list. We have Chestnuts, Filberts, English Walnuts, Northern Pecans, and Heartnuts. I mulch them with 'fertilizer' and straw from the barn where our grass-fed sheep sleep.

Ditto on the energy required to grow garden vegetables fertilized from a composting toilet.

Yes, I was surprised to see how energy-intensive tomatoes were. I'd like to see a break-down of the components contributing to the 0.6 factor, compared to other vegetables. My immediate thought on seeing the Energy In/Energy Out table was that it was a brilliant argument for home-grown tomatoes. Although, from my experience, you get a lot fewer pests when you grow a bit of everything.

Who eats tomatos (or lettuce) for the calories?

Nice to see you commenting Will.

Our sheep follow-up as we seem to be set up much the same, just on the other coast. A cougar took most of our Katahdin brood stock. Cougar shot but they are proliferating in our area. I have concluded that chicken meat and layer production is a far easier source of protein with our salmon (eaten twice per week). I am reevaluating the sheep and lamb option due to predators (we have wolves, too). Might try the grass fed beef option, but unless you have a herd, you can get pretty attached to livestock singles.

Looking at local grain to augment huge potato crop + veggies, but would cut off an arm before we quit eating home made bread.

Thanks for your interesting comments, all.


Sounds like you may need a couple of LGDs. Anatolian Shephards work well in pairs, with one investigating while the other stays with the flock/herd. Coyotes in these parts will split up, with one group drawing off a single Maremma/GreatPyrenees/etc while the other group sneaks around to make a kill. A cougar is larger and deadlier, but Anatolians have been used to keep them away.

Komondor are large and fierce with a heavy coat that acts protects from bites and claw swipes. The white coat allows the dog to mingle unnoticed among the sheep while allowing the shepherd to see him at night (so as not to shoot it during a fight, if the shepherd is around).

Raising a LGD is completely different from a herding dog.

I didn't see tree nuts on the list. We have Chestnuts, Filberts, English Walnuts, Northern Pecans, and Heartnuts.

Sounds like you grow all the same nut trees I do. In my woods I also have some hickories and black walnuts that produce some very good nuts, although the squirrels get most of the nuts on my best shellbark tree. Don't forget acorns. I have some white and bur oak trees that produce some really sweet ones and require minimal leaching. As to the sheep, what type do you raise? I've been looking into hair sheep to raise for meat.

We are going with Finnsheep, as they are easy to keep (small, docile, and friendly), prolific (triplets, quads, quints), have much better than average wool, and deliver a lean, delicious carcass. Plus, they are gaining popularity, and breeders are getting top dollar.

Hey hey Bruce,

I am curious about sweet acorns. Sweet acorns are rare, don't come true from seed, and take decades before bearing fruit. I am interested in cultivating/domesticating sweet acorns but I've never actually met anyone who knew where one grew.

I would like to know if you can graft an acorn to produce sweet acorns like you can graft an apple to produce Granny Smiths. Could I prevail upon you, oh wise and hansom internet stranger, to graft a sweet acorn branch onto another tree and see what results? If you do would you please send me an email it's my username at yahoo dot com.


I was very lucky to have some sweet acorn oaks on my property when I bought it. I also have been planting hybrid oaks that are producers of good sweetb acorn harvests and produce quite fast for an oak. Oikos tree crops, http://oikostreecrops.com/store/home.asp ,is one of the best sites for for "sweet" acorn oak varieties, and they do sell scion wood for grafting. Northern nut growers association also lists various nurseries such as Rhoras, http://www.nuttrees.com/hybrid.htm , which carry "sweet" acorn producing oaks.

It's an interesting discussion, in that, the vast majority of humans that ever lived didn't have much choice in what they ate. That the Inuit lived for thousands of years eating mostly fish and seal blubber has little to do with equatorial tribes who ate fish, breadfruit and papaya. Humans have always eaten what was available. I expect that that's where we're headed. This discussion is an artifact of an age of choice; likely a blip on our timeline. As most of our ancestors did, we'll be more focused on obtaining the most calories while expending the least. EROEI applys over time, even to human nutrition.

I think you're right...and my interest as an educator is to:

1. steer people into diets that avoid the diseases of civilization. These appear to be the traditional diets high in fat, moderate in protein, and low in carbohydrates. If you are doing a lot of manual labor, like all the Chinese were a few decades ago, rice will get burned up quickly and should not cause long-term problems. But if your day isn't hard labor, most people will find their health deteriorate the more carbs they eat, especially simple and "complex" carbohydrates. Very complex carbs are better.

2. people should absolutely attempt to keep meat in their diet. I strongly disagree with the idea that a vegetarian diet is healthy for most people — and I think only a very few people can do a vegan diet long term. Read vegan forums and they are often full of ex-vegans whose health deteriorated dramatically when they stopped eating meat then regained it when they started eating it again. They try to warn the new vegans but veganism is as much a belief/ethical system as a nutrition system so it does not seem to make a difference.

The last 2.6 million years we have evolved to eat nutrient dense meat with a few tubers and occasional fruit when it was in season. Deviations from this diet should be viewed suspiciously.

So, of the daily caloric intake, what percentage from fat, from protein, and from carbohydrates? Or what range anyway?

Generally, eat 0.7 grams of protein per kg of lean weight (muscle weight; calculate here: www.healthstatus.com/calculate/lean-body-mass). Any more than that can't be used and will be converted to glucose. Protein is the only one of the three macronutrients that the body can't easily store between meals. So split up your protein evenly through the day. Eat more protein if working hard or building muscle via resistance training.

Then eat 150 grams or less of carbohydrates, more on days you are intensely exercising. Some people need to restrict to 100g not to gain weight. 50g or less will start ketoadapting your body even more quickly, but even 150g of carbs will begin to reform metabolic pathways to turn you into a fat burner instead of a sugar burner. Of course, if you want to lose weight, you want to become a fat burner.

The rest fill up with fat. Cook with butter, coconut oil, ghee and olive oil but avoid trans fats and industrial oils. I save my bacon fat and use it to cook up subsequent meals (just like my grandmother used to do).

The majority of people will find the markers for their health will all improve when they leave the conventional diet that recommends 55% carbohydrates and supposedly "hearth healthy grains" (they are the exact opposite).

The key is not to worry about the fat. Here is what the Cochrane Collaboration metastudy, the platinum standard for metastudies, found. After analyzing the 27 studies that met their stringent criteria (they accept only really well designed studies):

no significant effect on total mortality or cardiovascular mortality was found between the intervention and control groups.

(emphasis added)

From 1988 to 1999, after 11 years and hundreds of millions of dollars, the U.S. Surgeon General’s office gave up looking for evidence that saturated fat caused heart disease.

Here is a good way to look at it:
Primal Blueprint Carb Curve

Many, many conventional dietitians would strongly disagree with the above graph but I think the science supports it. They will tell you to eat six times a day, which is necessary as a sugar burner because glucose is burned preferentially by the body...but then you crash. Much better to be a fat burner. I sometimes have to remind myself to eat lunch because my morning breakfast allows me to work so long before hunger appears.


Your recommendation seems to be (approximately) about 30% of calories from carbs, 10% protein, and 60% fat. Is this about right for adults at healthy weights?

That's the upper bound for carbs, in my opinion, and they should all be nutrient-dense vegetables. Personally, I'm at 75% fat by calories but people need to understand the science and make their own choices.

You will not get certain nutrients from the wheat, but meat more than makes up for them.

The key is not to worry about the fat.

I basically agree but would make one small correction: The key is not to worry about natural forms of fat. Trans-fats (hydrogentated fats) are a different matter entirely. Those do not easily metabolize and are as unhealthy (or worse) for you than sugar.

Thank you for adding that. The trans fats are horrible and I should be more rigorous when discussing fat.

I went to a couple of lectures by Gary Null and followed him on television when he was on PBS, who arguably is the most scientifically educated nutritionist of our time. He compiled the results of over 11,000 peer review studies which links nutrition/supplements and health. Early on when he was doing this work, he compiled summaries of the peer review studies that he had reviewed into a summary book entitled "The Clinicians Handbook to Natural Healing."

Based on what he learned he regularly counseled people on their diets, and he conducted antiaging studies. One of the studies which he conducted put balding people on raw food, vegan diets and monitored the regrowth of new hair, and published the results. The diets that people left behind to regrow their hair include the type of diet that you are advocating. Perhaps anticdotal, but when he was being aired on NPR to raise money for NPR by selling his books, there were many testimonials by people who reported remarkable improvements in health by adopting vegan diets rich in fruits and vegetables.

During one of his lectures, he reported that when he told people that he needs to cut his hair every week (because it was growing about 1/4 inch per day), people were sceptical. So he cut all his hair off and about two months later, his hair had regrown to the point that his hair was almost down to his shoulders. Gary consumes a very rich diet in fruits and vegetables - he reported that he consumes the equivalent of 130 pounds per day of raw fruits and vegetables, their fresh juices and powders from fresh juices. The reason why his hair grows back so quickly is that he is consuming a tremendous amount of nutrition, which includes phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals - not empty calories.

Your diet rich in fats is comprised of empty calories. Fats contain a lot of calories, but not much else. Yes we need a small amount of essential fatty acids every day, but after that, we should concentrate on nutrient-dense foods, which are fruits and vegetables, and especially sprouts of vegetables and grains - the superfoods.

Sorry, your diet does not cut it. I agree with everything that you said about avoiding refined carbohydrates. But where you fail is lumping the healthiest of foods, complex carbohydrates in with them. What you are advocating for is trading one unhealthy diet with another (meat and fat diet, with only a small amount of vegetables). What people need to be doing is consuming a lot more fruits and vegetables and sprouted vegetables and grains. This is certainly my experience. I have a friend who eats a meat based diet. His remarks about me is that I am the only person he knows who has a proceeding hairline. Of course, my hair is not "proceeding," but probably all the males he knows in his age group have receeding hairlines. He also comments that I don't have any grey hair. Of course I do, but many people in our age group are mostly grey, while I am mostly nongrey. Gary Null is an extreme example. He was in his 60s, and he had only a few grey hairs (he does not dye his hair). He eats such a healthy diet, that his aging process is progressing a lot, lot slower than the average American.

I don't think that it is as simple as you present it, there is countless study to show that saturated fats are unhealthy.

1st of all, this story of paleo-diet is a joke, what do we know about the diet our ancestors from the ice age? as said above, the meat they were eating was extremely lean, because wild animals are not fat. 2nd it is absolutely wrong that hunter gatherers were not eating carbs or grains, they were eating roots, tubercles, fruits, sweet grass en grains that you can find in mother nature, and probably more than meat because meat is not that easy to get. What was the life expectancy of a gatherer hunter ? 30 years at best so all of the diseases associated with bad diet habit didn't have the time to develop anyway. So stating that gatherer hunters had the perfect diet is just not true. Last but not least all carbs are not equal, fast carbs like fructose or sucrose are bad but slowly digested carbs like brown rice or hard wheat don't produce overshoot of sugar in our blood.

The problem of our life time is not carbs, it is the excess of empty calories from processed food compounded with lack of exercise including carbs and particularly fast sugar but also saturated fats.

Also if you do a bit of research you will find that the body cannot burn efficiently fat tissues without carb. I am cyclist you know and if I burn all my glucose, my ability to produce effort drops considerably if I run on fat only, when you run on fat only you can only produce 60% of the power that you can develop when you run on carbs and fat.

All the fuss about the Atkin diet went away by itself because it was not supported by facts.
As for vegan, in the Indian subcontinent half a billion people are vegan, and the life expectancy is comparable to life expectancy of more developed country so your argument doesn't hold much water. I don't think there is any health benefit in removing all meat from your diet but I don't think there is any problem in doing it contrary to what you assert.

Asides there is more an more studies showing that eating too much meat as a negative impact on life expectancy and for reason that are not clearly understood

I don't think that it is as simple as you present it, there is countless study to show that saturated fats are unhealthy.

There are countless observational studies that link saturated fat to CHD.

However, clinical studies uniformly see low carb diets as the best performing. (See the Stanford study, above.) As for saturated fats being unhealthy, then why did the Cochrane Collaboration meta study (that looked only at clinical studies) I mentioned above find no link at all after examining 27 experiments?

Observational studies are just data gathering. They are good for generating a hypothesis. Then one needs to perform an experiment; that's a randomized clinical study.

Your meat study is a perfect example. IIRC, they divided the data into quintiles according to the amount of meat eaten. The second through fourth quintile actually showed that eating meat improved every health marker. Then the last quintile showed the opposite. But who was also in the in the last quintile? Smokers, people who exercised irregularly and people with high stress. The ones who ate the least meat already thought it was bad and also tended to be "health conscious people" who didn't smoke, exercised and went to the doctor sooner when faced with an illness.

That's why these studies are barely worth the paper they are printed on. They aren't randomized. The researchers say that they can tease out causes by applying corrections but the reality is that observational studies contain no causal information — at all. Heck, they can't even organize the data properly. If a person eats anything with meat on it, including pizza, they classify that meal as meat.

Read Denise Minger's analysis of the study you cited:

To get a better understanding of what's going on with these studies, watch this (funny) video:
Science for Smart People

BTW, CHD is the leading cause of death in India:

The ones who ate the least meat already thought it was bad and also tended to be "health conscious people" who didn't smoke, exercised and went to the doctor sooner when faced with an illness.

? And the basis of you claim for this is ... ? You guessed?

And on observational vs. clinical studies, gathering empirical data about dietary habits and their results are hardly "are barely worth the paper they are printed on". You seem to be mimicking these pro-meat/fat bloggers. The Denise Minger you referred to has no background in health besides "I typically spend about seven hours a day reading and writing about nutrition". So your request for clinical studies seems to be a ruse to cover up for the very low amount of real medical expertise in this fad.

True clinical studies are extremely expensive when trying to assess.actual long term health impacts from radical dietary changes. Let me when your people have actually acquired anything near what Dr. Agatston has acquired directly.

? And the basis of you claim for this is ... ? You guessed?

No, the healthy participant bias is a big problem for all these studies. You're not familiar with it? The researchers try to correct for it but that's impossible.

As for Denise, she found real problems with the China Study; are you one of those people who thinks only the "experts in the field" can do quality work?

True clinical studies are extremely expensive

Let me [know] when your people have actually acquired anything near what Dr. Agatston has acquired directly.

I have no idea who Dr. Agatston is but, sure, here are some meta studies:

Mente A, et al. A systematic review of the evidence supporting a causal link between dietary factors and coronary heart disease. Arch Intern Med. 2009 Apr 13;169(7):659-69.
"There were no clear effects of dietary fat changes on total mortality or cardiovascular mortality…"

Hooper L, et al. Reduced or modified dietary fat for preventing cardiovascular disease. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011 Jul 6;(7):CD002137.
"…no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD or CVD."

Siri-Tarino PW, et al. Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Mar;91(3):535-46.

According to Dr. Lindeberg, "This means that the scientific foundation of todays low fat dietary advice has fallen. The reasons today are mainly political and economical, combined with old-fashioned prestige and inertia."

Weight loss

Here are some randomized controlled trials (RCT) that demonstrate significantly more weight loss on low-carb diets:

1. Shai I, et al. Weight loss with a low-carbohydrate, mediterranean, or low-fat diet. N Engl J Med 2008;359(3);229–41.
2. Gardner CD, et al. Comparison of the Atkins, Zone, Ornish, and learn Diets for Change in Weight and Related Risk Factors Among Overweight Premenopausal Women. The a to z 3. Weight Loss Study: A Randomized Trial. JAMA. 2007;297:969–977.
4. Brehm BJ, et al. A Randomized Trial Comparing a Very Low Carbohydrate Diet and a Calorie-Restricted Low Fat Diet on Body Weight and Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Healthy Women. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2003;88:1617–1623.
5. Samaha FF, et al. A Low-Carbohydrate as Compared with a Low-Fat Diet in Severe Obesity. N Engl J Med 2003;348:2074–81.
6. Sondike SB, et al. Effects of a low-carbohydrate diet on weight loss and cardiovascular risk factor in overweight adolescents. J Pediatr. 2003 Mar;142(3):253–8.
7. Aude YW, et al. The National Cholesterol Education Program Diet vs a Diet Lower in Carbohydrates and Higher in Protein and Monounsaturated Fat. A Randomized Trial. Arch Intern Med. 2004;164:2141–2146.
8. Volek JS, et al. Comparison of energy-restricted very low-carbohydrate and low-fat diets on weight loss and body composition in overweight men and women. Nutrition & Metabolism 2004, 1:13.
9. Yancy WS Jr, et al. A Low-Carbohydrate, Ketogenic Diet versus a Low-Fat Diet To Treat Obesity and Hyperlipidemia. A Randomized, Controlled Trial. Ann Intern Med. 2004;140:769–777.
10. Nichols-Richardsson SM, et al. Perceived Hunger Is Lower and Weight Loss Is Greater in Overweight Premenopausal Women Consuming a Low-Carbohydrate/High- Protein vs High-Carbohydrate/Low-Fat Diet. J Am Diet Assoc. 2005;105:1433–1437.
11. Krebs NF, et al. Efficacy and Safety of a High Protein, Low Carbohydrate Diet for Weight Loss in Severely Obese Adolescents. J Pediatr 2010;157:252-8.
12. Summer SS, et al. Adiponectin Changes in Relation to the Macronutrient Composition of a Weight-Loss Diet. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2011 Mar 31. [Epub ahead of print]
13. Halyburton AK, et al. Low- and high-carbohydrate weight-loss diets have similar effects on mood but not cognitive performance. Am J Clin Nutr 2007;86:580–7.
14. Dyson PA, et al. A low-carbohydrate diet is more effective in reducing body weight than healthy eating in both diabetic and non-diabetic subjects. Diabet Med. 2007 Dec;24(12):1430-5.
15. Keogh JB, et al. Effects of weight loss from a very-low-carbohydrate diet on endothelial function and markers of cardiovascular disease risk in subjects with abdominal obesity. Am J Clin Nutr 2008;87:567–76.
16. Volek JS, et al. Carbohydrate Restriction has a More Favorable Impact on the Metabolic Syndrome than a Low Fat Diet. Lipids 2009;44:297–309.
17. Daly ME, et al. Short-term effects of severe dietary carbohydrate-restriction advice in Type 2 diabetes–a randomized controlled trial. Diabet Med. 2006 Jan;23(1):15–20.
18. Westman EC, et al. The effect of a low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet versus a low- glycemic index diet on glycemic control in type 2 diabetes mellitus. Nutr. Metab (Lond.)2008 Dec 19;5:36.

The nutrition world is changing...but you are welcome to ignore the clinical trials all you want. Other people will see the evidence I've presented and realize that we made a huge mistake.

No, the healthy participant bias is a big problem for all these studies. You're not familiar with it? The researchers try to correct for it but that's impossible.

You are making assumptions and providing your own anecdotal guess, especially where the data interferes with your hypothesis.

I have no idea who Dr. Agatston is

A cardiologist who ran clinical studies with a dietician on his heart patients for decades. He wrote the book "The South Beach Diet".

I have no doubt that low carb diets can have people lose weight - I was on one myself and understand the basics. What I don't follow is that a high saturated fat diet is healthy in the long run. And the long list of studies you have presented did not touch on that subject from a clinical perspective.

You are making assumptions and providing your own anecdotal guess, especially where the data interferes with your hypothesis.

No, this is a well understood feature of these sorts of studies. Just because you have never heard of it doesn't make it a figment of my imagination.

The healthy user bias is a bias that can damage the validity of epidemiologic studies testing the efficacy of particular therapies or interventions. Specifically, it is a sampling bias: the kind of subjects that voluntarily enroll in a clinical trial and actually follow the experimental regimen are not representative of the general population. They can be expected to on average be healthier as they are concerned for their health and are predisposed to follow medical advice, both factors that would aid one's health. In a sense, being healthy/active about one's health is a precondition for becoming a subject of the study, an effect that can appear under other conditions such as studying particular groups of workers (ie. someone in ill-health is unlikely to have a job as manual laborer).


I have no doubt that low carb diets can have people lose weight - I was on one myself and understand the basics.

At last, something we agree on!

What I don't follow is that a high saturated fat diet is healthy in the long run. And the long list of studies you have presented did not touch on that subject from a clinical perspective.

That's correct. The individual RCTs focused on weight loss, but the metastudies demonstrated that there was no evidence — none — that saturated fat increased mortality.

It would be great to run a clinical trial for twenty years but no one but God has the money to do that. So we work with the biochemistry, which we now know better than ever, and run RCTs as long as possible Both of those tell us that we made a huge mistake.

Much of Sweden seems to be moving to the LCHF (low carbohydrate high fat) diet, with the help of Dr. Stefan Lindeberg, so as they progress we should have long-term data soon.


Then you are saying that you fall back on observational studies that don't actually examine diets with high amounts of saturated fats, which should be ringing alarm bells.

At some point the RCTs get too expensive to run more than a few years. So you study the diets in the short term and put in the effort to understanding the science of why animal fat is perfectly fine for humans. Both have been done. No evidence that animal fat is harmful (just observational studies, which aren't evidence). And people's health improves the most when they start eating them when compared to every other diet.

There are no long term RCTs for low fat diets, either. Eating low (animal) fat is a fad diet that started forty years ago and is starting to wane because this high carb, low fat diet is killing us.

If you want to find people who are healthy eating meat and fat over the long term, just look at virtually any hunter-gatherer that hasn't been introduced to sugar and grains. The Inuit, the Masai of Africa, the indigenous people of North America, etc. As Cordain shows in his work, very few HG societies subsist primarily on plant matter.

Account after account by researchers tells us how healthy there were, with extremely rare instances of obesity (the occasional genetic abberation), perfect teeth (no cavities and no need to remove molars) and no instances of dementia.

One researcher took Austalian aboriginals back to the bush to eat and live for six months as they used to and their bodies lost the weight they had gained and their general health improved.

Here are the accounts of one researcher who did excellent work in this area:

Nutrition and Physical Degeneration


The evidence is clear to me...we took a very wrong turn 40 years ago.

Again, you fall back on observational studies, though you deride them as a whole because most don't support your hypothesis.

And you seem to separate all diets into , and the paleo diet. In actuality, there are many diets that are low (or at least modest) carb, lean protein, and good fats (i.e, other than saturated). You've avoided discussing these completely, though they are the diets that are the most widely followed now.

Considering what is being talked about (what diet will promote health & longevity, compared to what will promote ill health and early death), the stakes are pretty high. Therefore, what we need is a proper radomised controlled trial to settle the argument. That means:

1. It needs to be designed in a way that both the advocates of a low-carb diet and the advocates of a low-fat diet agree will test the comparative merits of their theories;

2. It needs to be independently funded, so that the drug and food companies don't get their dirty hands on it; and

3. It needs to be large enough, and run for long enough, to ensure that the results are beyond doubt.

This adds up to the need for public funding - and it could be done through international arrangements, so as to spread the burden of the cost, while simultaneously looking for regional effects.

What's wrong with the ones that have already been done that I listed? I haven't checked but I'm sure some if to all meet your requirements.

In any case, people will say (like Will did), even after a three year RCT that conclusively shows that the HFLC (high fat, low carb) diet is the optimal diet for humans that "eating that much saturated fat isn't healthy over the long term and it's too dangerous to try."

This is despite the numerous cultures that live exactly with this sort of diet (Inuit, Masai, etc.) and the balance of evidence indicates that most HG groups before agriculture lived this way for millions of years.

The low-fat paradigm is very strong (and very, very incorrect).

What's wrong with the ones that have already been done that I listed?

What I'm talking about is something that will shift the entire medical profession except the shills and the cranks. For that, the big guns on both sides of the debate in the medical and dietary fraternity need to have buy-in, and that means getting them in on the ground floor with the trial design and then running it big enough & long enough for the results to be unambiguous. If that means running it for 20 years, then that's what you do - though you'd publish interim data every couple of years along the way.

But I think, for myself, I'll chase up a couple of the studies that Aangel listed so I can make up my own mind.

You'll likely never get an RCT that runs 20 years. Do you have $300 million dollars to spend?

The shift is happening. You're just one of the first to hear about it.

And, of course, do your own research.

Here is another good roundup:

Do you have $300 million dollars to spend?

No, but given the amount that governments around the world spend on their health budgets, $300m would be peanuts if that's what it took finally to get dietary advice right. You'll never get the cranks to agree (even with each other), but at the moment there is genuine disagreement amongst real scientists. The amount of money that could be saved, and the benefit to human health, from the entire medical profession finally being able to say "OK, we've sorted it out and this is what a healthy diet looks like" would be vastly more than $300m - annually. And, to labour vital point, as essential aspect is that both camps are fully involved in the trial design, so they know in advance that they can have confidence in the result.

Oh, and Bill Gates has a few quid up his sleeve for spending on worthy projects. Maybe he can run the ruler over the concept.

Well this is why such studies either don't get done right, or get hushed up by the influential who will lose out on profits when good science reveals their products to be addictive and dangerous.

(PS, Obey your thirst..)

Hi aangel can you quote where you got your information "The last 2.6 million years we have evolved to eat nutrient dense meat with a few tubers and occasional fruit when it was in season." At least in my part of the world(asia), in the past red and white meat are a luxury for only a few times a year and most of the food are vegetables, brown rice, sweet potato and occasionally some fish. So i am doubtful if your claim is true at least for my part of the world. Moreover, there is a reason why the western lifestyle is not that suitable for vegetarian or vegan because the pasta and pizza and other refined products contain too much sugar and salt which counter any good benefits from switching to vegetarian or vegan. Moreover, exercise is a critical component for a vegetarian to maintain a healthy lifestyle and i highly doubt many of the so called ex-vegans really go to exercise. There are a reason why monks that combine exercise and vegetarian lifestyle can live a long life.

Most importantly, in an energy scare society, what i foresee at least for asia is a revert back to the ancient days with more people back to agriculture thus needing more carbo and eating meat only a luxury for the rich. There is simply too many people and too few productive land to support both meat and vegetable/rice/wheat production even with improvement in agricultual yields.

Yes, see Cordain's published papers to get a handle on how long humans have been eating meat:

There are some people who argue that humans are not naturally meat eaters but I think the evidence is quite clear that we are omnivorous.

My understanding is something like:
- from 4 to 2.6 million years ago we were frugavores and scavengers
- from 2.6 million years until about 100,000 years ago we were hunter gatherers
- from 100,000 to now we used fire to cook

These numbers are in dispute but are likely not too far off.

As for your part of the world, there are many confounding variables to consider.

Generally, if a populace performs manual labor, it can get away with eating more rice and tubers — to a point. Then, once wheat flour and refined sugar are introduced, fatness increases dramatically.


- 10,000 BCE to now we have been using agriculture to produce most of our food*

12,000 of years of agriculture / 2.5 million years of the Homo genus's existence = 0.5% of our evolution. Less if you expand the timeline to include other hominins.

*Sorry Creationists and "Intelligent Designers" (40% of my fellow Americans). The geological, fossil and DNA evidence strongly indicates we have been around a lot longer than the Biblical 6,000 years! http://www.gallup.com/poll/145286/four-americans-believe-strict-creation...

But in that amount of time or shorter, most Europeans and some others grew to be lactose tolerant into maturity, Tibetans became able to thrive on much smaller amounts of oxygen than their lowland cousins and forebearers, skin pigment of many groups has shifted as they moved further from or closer to the equator, and I'm sure there are many other major and minor genetic adaptations that I don't know about or can't come up with off the top of my head right now (but I invite others to pitch in).

I have to assume that we have also made some accommodation to grain eating during that period, also. That doesn't mean, by any stretch, that modern American industrial diet is remotely healthy--it ain't.

I have to assume that we have also made some accommodation to grain eating during that period, also.

Perhaps but I haven't come across it yet. Our blood sugar has the equivalent of a teaspoon of sugar in the entire volume (about 80 calories) and it must stay within a very narrow range.

It's possible that our guts, which currently are being damaged intensively by wheat, have changed in that period but it's hard to see a significant change in how we handle blood sugar. Not impossible, I'd imagine.

Fire is in all likelihood pre Homo sapiens sapiens going back a million yrs or more to Homo erectus

"Read vegan forums and they are often full of ex-vegans whose health deteriorated dramatically when they stopped eating meat"

Yeah, Andre, it seems Kunstler has reached the same conclusion:


Cholesterol and his doctor be damned; gotta eat meat. As I touched on above, I expect that an optimum diet varies somewhat with racial and ethnic ancestory. It'll be interesting to see how recently introduced delicacies such as KFC and McDonalds affect the Chinese over time. Hopefully they'll fair better than westerners :-0

The recent green revolution has brought into play many unknowns: How many necessary minerals and micro-nutrients are no longer available in our diets due to overfarming and processing? We've been trying to eat more wild stuff at home, including game (primarily venison and wild pork), I like to even add wild starches, such as cat tail tubers, to recipes; they ain't your daddy's potatoes. Comparing the factory farmed foods of today to what was available to our ancient ancestors likely isn't useful. The wild blackberrys we harvest have a very different flavour than store bought, as does the wild pork we trap (raised on acorns, roots and such). Even the genetics of these foods are likely very different.

Studies show that free range eggs, especially from non-commercial breeds, are much higher in beneficial fatty acids, etc., and grass fed meats have been mentioned, above. While whole/multigrain breads are certainly better than Wonderbread, one wonders about the source and genetics of these whole grains, if they even compare to the wild grains of the past, nutritionally.

Haven't heard JHK's podcast but started it in the background.

I don't think whole/multigrain bread is better than wonder bread — it seems to be a tradeoff. By including the bran the bread is now packed with anti-nutrients. And it's still a shot of sugar with a glycemic index above 70.

The best treatment of grains I've found so far is Primal Body Primal Mind. It discusses the intestinal and cognitive impacts of grain very thoroughly.


Got to the part where JHK is talking about cholesterol. He is correct. Cholesterol is not the enemy we have been told it was. Personally, I've decided that the whole cholesterol theory has failed after 40 years of testing on humans. (So did the U.S. Surgeon General, as it happens.)

Kendrick treats it best:

JHK also notes that human health dramatically decreased when we started eating grains at the advent of agriculture (worse teeth, smaller bone structure).

JHK also notes that human health dramatically decreased when we started eating grains at the advent of agriculture (worse teeth, smaller bone structure).

However that may have been more to do with "why" we changed to an agricultural lifestyle. Also I wouldn't expect the first agriculture systems to be particularly brilliant.

The hunter gatherer diet sounds interesting but i'd say cleaning up your diet in general and cutting out fast food and sugar is going to do far more than any specific diet plan based on evolution. I've seen too many evolution "just so" stories to get too excited.

People should absolutely attempt to keep meat in their diet. I strongly disagree with the idea that a vegetarian diet is healthy for most people — and I think only a very few people can do a vegan diet long term. Read vegan forums and they are often full of ex-vegans whose health deteriorated dramatically when they stopped eating meat then regained it when they started eating it again. They try to warn the new vegans but veganism is as much a belief/ethical system as a nutrition system so it does not seem to make a difference.

I completely disagree. Though I am a meat eater and so is my ethnic community there are many around me who are lacto-vegetarians and have been so for thousands of years. Nothing wrong with their health, they suffer no special diseases and have no unusual afflictions.

What? Surely you are not seriously suggesting fewer of those brightly lit supermarket aisles with shiny stainless steel and glass vertical freezers, stocked with frozen pizza and ice cream are you?! Next thing you know you will be disparaging the entire concept of economic growth...

There have been previous TOD discussions of the 1971 book Diet for a Small Planet by Francis Moore Lappe and her friends' book, Recipes for a Small Planet. Energy requirements for beef, chicken and bean/corn combinations were outlined in 1971. Lappe emphasized complementary proteins but later partially backed away from a somewhat extreme position on essential amino acids. She also had an interesting feud with Garrett Hardin and his followers. She continues to write, speak and garner controversy. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/frances-moore-lappe/whats-the-difference-b...

A microbrewer commissioned a study (http://www.newbelgium.com/Files/the-carbon-footprint-of-fat-tire-amber-a...) that found open beer coolers in stores were the largest energy consumers in the whole process, with glass making a close second. That won't change at today's energy prices, but will at much higher prices. I suspect the miles driven by the consumer to buy food or eat out are another large bundle of low-hanging fruit. Add in things like more efficient drying of crops and the factor of two improvement is easy.

The comment about eating more carbohydrates is why Americans are now more obese that in 1977 also suffers from correlation does not imply causality. There are many other issues. For one, Americans basically do not exercise! They sit on their butts all day, and complain about walking an extra 100 feet to the entrance of a fast food restaurant, so they sit in cars in the drive-thru. They also eat too many calories for their gross lack of output. The laws of thermodynamic and physics applies to humans too. Eat more calories that you expend and you gain weight in the form of stored fat. East less, you lose weight of stored fat. Somehow everyone seems to forget this fact!

Also, look at where all the carbohydrate calories come from; high fructose corn syrup (IE soft drink), which contain no protein, fat or anything else useful. Whereas whole grain breads contain significant fat and protein, and some breads are like 20% protein and 20% fat or more. The problem is not just grains in general; it’s what is done with them to produce the final food product.

Personally, back in Feb 1992, I was at 175 lbs and well over 20% body fat. I dropped to 138 by Dec 1992, by actually getting off my butt and exercising! And I slowly cut out more and more of the meat, dairy, and other high fat foods. In the next 2 years I gained weight to 148 lbs (muscle mass) but lower my body fat down to 4% training for a mountaineering expedition by doing lots of bicycling, rock climbing, back packing and caving. Now 20 years later following a high carbohydrate diet, mostly plant based, I’m running around 150 to 155 lbs, fit, healthy and I’m bicycling farther than ever before. I figured out last 2 years (thanks to using a hub based power meter on the bicycles) that I’m expending an extra 1000 Kcals a day just for all the bicycling I do. That’s certainly overkill for general aerobic fitness, but it’s what I enjoy doing. And I’ve known for decades too that by eating mostly plant based food (and also not wasting it), I use far less fossil fuel input for my food than an average American.

Ultimately with the inevitable decline in fossil fuels, we will not be able to argue about whether diets high in plant based food is healthy or not, we simply will be forced to eat more and more of it, because otherwise we will stave!

Willie Hunt


The OP should have included the wasted food in the calculation of reduction from the 10:1 ratio. Cutting all the waste yields a 46% reduction in fossil fuel input. Obviously not obtainable, but we could do far better.

It's not just the lack of exercise that is making the world fat. I'm glad you were successful with your weight loss with exercise but for most people that doesn't work because they don't change their diet sufficiently. And if they do, exercise has the nasty habit of working up an appetite.

I perfectly understand thermodynamics but that's not the only thing going on here. We now have the science of what's happening biochemically.

As I said, all carbohydrates, including HFCS, as you point out, will over time mess up the insulin and leptin signaling. In the case of leptin, which is secreted by fat and some other organs (but primarily by fat), when the brain no longer gets the signal that the body has enough fat, it maintains an appetite and the person eats too much. That extra energy goes into fat and and we become obese.

We have to put that extra energy somewhere. We have nowhere to put it except in fat. The liver can store only about 100g of glycogen (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glycogen). The muscles generally won't take any unless they have recently exercised and thus become glycogen depleted. But they store about 400g or 1600 calories when full. The blood carries another 80 calories (not much, we must maintain a very tight blood sugar level).

Watch the Stanford video then do your own research. Low carbohydrate diets are much healthier than other diets (and I don't mean diet just in the sense of a temporary phase to lose weight).

And if you are overweight, you will lose weight using calorie restriction or some other diets but they aren't, in my view, sustainable long term. When we eat what we are designed to eat (meat and fat with occasional carbs), our weight stays even without effort (assuming you haven't already damaged your metabolic system beyond the repairable point).

aangel said, "...exercise has the nasty habit of working up an appetite."

Perhaps surprisingly, this isn't the whole story for many of us. Our bodies evolved to operate at higher levels of physical activity than most of us achieve. To a point, food intake DECREASES as activity increases.

Past that point, machines are much better at providing mechanical energy than the human body. So, ride a utility bike about five miles daily, and then ride the slipperiest vehicle possible. If that's an electric bike and you are hardy enough to survive the elements, you might even be able to take your car out of service and save serious $.

You are correct, the research shows that moderate exercise moderates the appetite.


Or drive a Velomobile and get the best of both worlds:


And you can order this technology now and have it shipped to you doorstep! Adding electric assist can also be done for longer trips, big hill climbs, or if you just want to get there faster.

Willie Hunt

Looks easy in the flats. Watch this guy smoke the Mount Mitchell hill climb, not far from here. Not a velo, electric assist, but he's burning the calories, none the less.

Found the BlueVelo site. Nice, but a bit pricey...

Ouuu! Daddy LIIIIKE that...

I've seen this human powered vs. electric or gasoline powered debate over and over. And every time the authors fail to see that if you exercise much more by bicycle, you will not be eating the same mix of foods that a sedentary person would eat. Thus the 10:1 fossil fuel input to food calorie ratio is not valid for comparison. Ideally you would compare ONLY the additional food and its makeup compared with electric or gasoline power. The basal food is not relevant in using human muscles as heat engines, because humans must eat a certain amount just to survive regardless of work output. I can tell you with all the research and personal experience I have over 2 decades that when you commute 4000 mile a year on a bicycle, you will eat a LOT more carbohydrates, and these will most certainly come from grains. And many of these grains are on the EROEI scale of near or more than unit (meaning that there is more energy in the grains than the fossil fuel input to produce them; oats came in at 5:1, soy 4:1, wheat 2:1). Even if that additional human food input requires about parity in system fossil fuel input, then you can see that a human on a bicycle is amazingly efficient. A typical cyclist moving at 15 to 18 MPH average speeds uses approximate 100 KiloJoule per mile compare with a Prius using 3 MegaJoules per mile. That’s a 30 to 1 ratio! And if you use oats at 5:1 EROEI in the human engine, then you have a 150:1 ratio of miles traveled per fossil fuel input Joule compared with a Prius. At car would have to over 6750 miles per gallon to beat that!

Willie Hunt

To a point, food intake DECREASES as activity increases.

The only people who pile on after an exercise are people who aren't used to regular workouts. They are like, Oh! I walked 2 km's today so let me eat a double cheese burger to replenish that. The human body is very efficient at movement and once people take to regular workouts they are surprised at how much mileage they can get out of their regular food.

I've been noticing that. I am taking longer and harder bike rides and am finding, that when I get back, I am just not hungry. Seemed odd but you guys seem to explain it.


I did not say that lack of exercise is the only reason American are fat. However, the lack of exercise causes many other problems which cannot be fixed with diet or drugs. Poor insulin response is a direct result of being badly out of aerobic shape. Humans did not survive 100,000 years by sitting on their butts day in and day out. They were hunter gatherers, and we guess they had to exercise about 2 hours a day just to feed themselves. If they did not exercise, they got real hungry, because the food did not come to them. Instead they had to walk, run, dig, climb to get to fruits, vegetables, berries, nuts, etc. Hunting certainly was a challenge without guns. How much work do you think it takes to hunt down game with a spear? Have you ever chased down a chicken in the wild and killed it with your bare hands?

Carbohydrates directly do not mess up insulin response. Excess carbohydrate intake and lack of aerobic training is the problem. Even a totally sedentary human needs some carbohydrate intake for optimum muscle and brain function. The brain uses glycogen all the time and actually quite a bit of it. Starved for glycogen the brain cognitive functions are impaired. Muscles use a mix of fats and carbohydrates, with the mix being roughly half fats during light exercise (walking) and too 100% carbohydrates at VO2 max (maximum possible cardio vascular uptake of oxygen ) and above the anaerobic threshold (sprinting). Thus the more and harder you exercise, the more carbohydrate intake you need for performance. For the aerobically fit person, the carbohydrate intake need is substantial. And for the ultra endurance athlete, the carbohydrate intake is mind boggling to us now, because nearly all of us are totally out of shape. BTW, our pre-historic ancestors were all ultra endurance athletes by today’s standards. Yet, these people have / had very healthy lives to ripe old ages. Carbohydrates are not the enemy, but they do need to be eaten as needed.

All of this has strayed way off the topic of eating more plant based food instead of animal based food as a way to reduce fossil fuel input to the food supply. Since, we eat highly processed and selected food anyway, the argument about plant based diets being unhealthy from a macro nutrient makeup is ridiculous. Plants make carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Animals use proteins, make fats, but cannot make carbohydrates. Sure you can refine plants and have nothing but sugar (HFCS for example). You can also refine plants and have nothing but fat (any vegetable oil, IE corn or soybean oil). You similarly can refine plants and have almost nothing but protein (gluten, TVP etc.):
You can combine the refined plants into a mix of fats, carbohydrates and protein to make up whatever macro nutrient makeup you desire. However, refining is unnecessary because there are plenty of raw plants that have wide range of macro nutrient mix. All you have to do is be selective. For example, soybeans fall right in the middle:
Walnuts are nearly all fat:
or Peanuts being high in fat:
The point being that you do not need animal based food to get any reasonable diet makeup.

Willie Hunt

I've run out of time for today so just one point.

There are many, many people who exercise their pettuties off and still gain weight or at least fail to lose it. Carbohydrates are the source of this phenomenon. When they cut out the carbohydrates, their bodies begin to change into fat burners away from being a sugar burner. As long as the body is given sugar to burn, it will preferentially do so. But when reducing dietary sugar the body must up-regulate its fat oxidation mechanisms. In other words, to obtain the energy the body needs, the body start metabolizing it's own fat and that's how we lose fat.

An extreme example is the fellow who lost 275 lbs by not eating for a full year:

Features of a successful therapeutic fast of 382 days' duration

IMHO no lifestyle choice factors are enough to explain the difference between fat suburban America and skinny Europe. I have spent time in both places and I think there must be something happening that we aren't adequately understanding yet. Maybe it's something about the American food supply that is beyond the choices individual people make. Maybe it's epigenetics. Maybe something else. But IMHO it is definitely something.

I have seen too much junkfood being consumed in too many areas of Europe where people still have half the body mass of the average midwestern American town. I see too many Americans living totally pedestrian lifestyles in places like NYC who still remain fat. I see Europeans walking more in daily life, but it's not a whole lot more IMHO. (You couldn't take a fat American, add that difference in exercise level, and come back in a few years to find him shaped like the European.)

I also see a fair number of Americans exercising HARD year after year and still not getting thin. Go to Europe and you just don't see many people daily exercising for its own sake like you do in the USA. You don't see gyms all over the place. You don't see people out in the public areas jogging & biking almost every day of the year. Etc. Only after spending time outside the USA did I appreciate that for as fat as we are, we are also individually busting our asses a lot harder to fight it than the fat American stereotype reflects. Yeah I know a lot of Americans don't exercise at all, but a lot of them also do too.

I have gradually become convinced that for some reason modern-day Americans are not getting the same "return on investment" that Europeans are getting when we attempt to clean up our lifestyles and get thinner. IMHO some other factor is at work. My guess is something in the American food supply. Maybe the fact that it's ridiculously heavy on corn product usage.

Furthermore, the extreme level of obesity in the more obese Americans is something hard to explain IMHO. It's way too normal to see Americans weighing 250+ lbs for lifestyle choices to be the only factor. I understand how people can gradually get to that point through years of bad habits, but I am not satisfied that it normally happens so often in the USA and so much more rarely in most other places.

(BTW: weight management has never been a major problem for me personally so I don't think that is affecting my perceptions too much. I'm six feet tall, 170 lbs, living in midwestern American suburbia.)

Aangel, you don't have a clue. I have studied about diets for over 30 years now. I have both visited and stayed at places which place people on raw food diets (fruits and vegetables, with a preponderance of sprouts) and have heard the stories how these raw foods (vegan) have allowed people to beat cancer and reverse heart disease that they acquired by eating meat-based diets. These places reverse blood sugar anomolies and get people off of insulin within two weeks.

I eat almost perhaps 60% of my calories as raw fruits and vegetables (two smoothies per day, one vegetable and one fruit, no dairy), and I eat some cooked rice as well. I very rarely eat refined carbohydrates and I eat fish perhaps once per month, but no red meat, no pork and no chicken. I do not eat any dairy, except very rarely. I am VERY healthy. I do exercise including weightlifting, running and biking. However, when I am injured and cannot exercise, I lose weight, not gain weight. I need to exercise to maintain my muscle mass and my body weight. I do supplement my vegetable and fruit smoothies with a small amount of vegetable protein, but only because I exercise regularly.

One can use iridology to find out the health of individuals. Iridology studies the quality of the colored part of the eyes. After I transitioned to a vegan diet, it took a while for my eyes to improve, but they improved immensely. When I started out, the iridologest stated that it looked like someone had cobbled me together with spare parts, as my eyes were filled with potholes. Now my eyes are outstanding as my the "spokes" of my eyes are parallel with almost no aberations.

Do yourself a favor and visit an iridologist...

If you had the grains that are swept away with the straw and stalks, land on the ground and don't make it to the grain tank on a combine, one could retire after one growing season. From Alberta to Texas, Ohio to California, it is staggering the amount that doesn't make it to the elevator then to the millers.

You have to adjust the settings on a combine to reduce the number of bushels per acre that are lost. 3 to 4 bushels per acre out the back end of the machine adds up fast. There are corn and bean combines and there are small grain combines.

In the old days, farmers would dump the grain on the ground if the truck wasn't there to load and keep on going. When it's time to harvest, you go from 8 am to 2 am daily.

As far as food being wasted, you will lose 1000 lbs of tomatoes for each 500 lbs harvested for market. Waste is rampant if you want to eat. $4.00 per lb for organic fresh tomatoes is right in line for prices. Price out San Marzanos in a can.

The critters in the wild always get first pick, so humans always are second in line. Deer, voles, raccoons, geese, ducks, pheasant, blackbirds, etc. are there to eat you out of house and home. Three or four high powered rifle shots at a thousand geese in your barley field does the trick.

An elderly woman who immigrated from the former Soviet Union walked into a grocery store here, looked at all of the food on the shelves and began to cry.

Don't take it all for granted.

In Australia some US originated fast food franchises have kilojoule counters on the display menu. They state the average adult daily allowance is 8,700 kJ which is 8.7 MJ = 8.7/3.6 = 2.42 kwh thermal.

I think looming shortages of farm diesel and NPK fertiliser will make grain fed meat too expensive. Same goes for more direct grain based foods such as bread. There is no way you can farm millions of hectares of prairie or rangeland with horse driven equipment and using compost for fertiliser. Ironically some grass fed beef may have a niche as it requires less tending of the land. I think future food has to come from root and legume crops grown in raised beds close to the cities using human waste for nutrients.

With this in mind I've been experimenting with bean burgers, temaya and felafel type meat substitutes. I can't say I've got the perfect recipe yet. I've blown out the motor on an electric blender so ironically I think a meat grinder might be the way to go. I aim to cook a delicious meal with legume burgers, potatoes and green veg, all home grown and cooked on a wood fire using twigs from a nearby tree. Ideally this meal should taste good enough to want it 2-3 times a week. I'm working on it.

Living in a country that has been dependent on food imports for over a century (and my parents went through strict food rationing during and after the second world war) the issue going forward is going to be making the most food available from the agricultural land we have, since we will have both far less fossil fuel inputs into food production, and much less money to pay for expensive imports.

We currently import about 40% of our food by value, somewhat less by calorific value. We have good fertile land in the south, in the north and west we have higher ground, thin, uneven soils with low fertility, mostly open grassland good only for sheep or goat grazing. The east has wide flat land, rich peat based soil, ideal for grains and roots. However, this is largely fenland drained two centuries ago, and this peat has been effectively mined (land levels have fallen by 5 -10 metres in some areas) and fertility will be gone in a decade or two. Our coastal waters have been overfished for centuries, and now fish is largely farmed, or comes from distant oceans.

Over the last 30-40 years food production has been driven by European policy , which was initially to industrialise and maximise production with large subsidies. This lead to huge food surplices and degraded landscape and massive loss of wildlife habitat. Recent policy has been to reinstate habit loss as far as possible, and to cut pollution from over-application of fertilisers, weedkiller, etc.

Farming now is a high tech and energy intensive process, there are very few professional farmers, average age 58 (or higher?) but a lot of the grunt work of harvesting vegetables and fruit is performed by cheap imported Eastern European labour.

The last decade has seen a steady decline in pig, beef and dairy production. The subsidies have largely gone, and production is now market based. Food inflation in the UK is much higher than the official inflation figures, as food becomes once more a larger part of people's disposable income. It is still very low by world standards! Farmers as a whole are well aware of ever rising energy costs and the need provide a larger fraction of the UK food supply. Many are even PO aware. The question is whether to become more intensive and mechanised, or to move back to lower fossil inputs, and building up the fertility of the land through organic methods on much smaller scales. It is a question of using the method most appropriate to the local conditions. Animal welfare regulations are much stricter than in the US, making meat more expensive, but inflicting less suffering on the animals.

Lamb has become much less popular in recent decades, and much of our production is exported. The public in general have low awareness of our food insecurity and even less of how to eat healthily or lower down the energy intensity scale. Food production is now largely dictated by the supermarket chains (Tesco, Sainsbury, etc.) who are ruthless in driving down prices and importing the cheapest food their customers will buy. The customers are easily swayed on animal welfare issues by pressure groups, so middle class customers have effectively driven out methods like genetically modified foods ( even when there is little sceintific evidence to back the fears). The name Monsanto is equated with the devil, even among intelligent, educated biochemists I count as my friends.

I have been vegetarian for about 15 years. I am healthy, but my biggest weakness is sugar. It is almost impossible to avoid in an urban, processed food diet, and whilst I do eat as much whole grain food and nuts and beans as is practical in my lifestyle, the overwhelming majority of food provided by the local supermarkets is over processed and sugar laden. Obesity is a well known issue and rapidly approaching US levels, but diabetes from too much sugar and processed carbohydrates is rapidly catching up as the disease de jour.

I sometimes wonder how we would manage now if we were forced to eat only what Britain alone could produce, but using modern technology. I expect that, even allowing for the increase in population of around fifeen millon since the war, we would survive, and far more healthily. However, if we had to rely on animals and natural fertilizers, pesticides and rotation systems for production, as were still common during the war, and also not have access to other contemporary methods of processing and preservation; then I would imagine we'd go hungry. We came close at times during the war and during the first world war, without rationing, there was real hunger.

I always lose weight on holidays, which I take in southern Europe and north Africa, because I don't eat bread much, and have no milk, sweets, or 'treats'(except gallons of sweet mint tea), just delicious smallish but satisfying meals at regular times, with nothing in between. And I walk a lot. There's a message in there somewhere.

Your Krebs cycle must operate at a fully functional capacity or you begin to wither.

Eat food, it is a remarkable medicine.

Forget about diets, the birds don't worry about what they eat, nor should you.

40 acres for animals, 40 acres for wheat, 40 acres for barley, 20 acres for cash crops, 20 acres for farmstead and headlands.

2 lbs of barley are needed for each gallon of beer brewed, so barley is malted big time.

160 acres will keep you busy year round, so the worry of what to eat disappears, believe me.

Google Arnold Ehret if you want to learn about vegan diets.


Arnold Ehret---a name from out of the past. Was on the "Arnold Ehret Mucusless-Diet Healing System" diet for over a year around 1970. Combined with meditation and fasting as a spiritual discipline. Seemed to work well in a location (Southern California) that had year round access to fresh produce.

Hey wardpierce, thanks for for adding a reality check based on science and a little biochemistry to this entire discussion.
For the record my BMI is about 20.9 and I don't eat poorly. Right now I had a large cheese pizza with my son and am sipping a nice Malbec... My Krebs cycles are doing just fine tks!

Citric acid cycle
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The citric acid cycle — also known as the tricarboxylic acid cycle (TCA cycle), the Krebs cycle, or the Szent-Györgyi–Krebs cycle[1][2] — is a series of chemical reactions used by all aerobic organisms to generate energy through the oxidization of acetate derived from carbohydrates, fats and proteins into carbon dioxide and water. In addition, the cycle provides precursors[which?] for the biosynthesis of compounds including certain amino acids as well as the reducing agent NADH that is used in numerous biochemical reactions. Its central importance to many biochemical pathways suggests that it was one of the earliest established components of cellular metabolism and may have originated abiogenically.[3]

The name of this metabolic pathway is derived from citric acid (a type of tricarboxylic acid) that is first consumed and then regenerated by this sequence of reactions to complete the cycle. In addition, the cycle consumes acetate in the form of acetyl-CoA, reduces NAD+ to NADH, and produces carbon dioxide. The NADH generated by the TCA cycle is fed into the oxidative phosphorylation pathway. The net result of these two closely linked pathways is the oxidation of nutrients to produce energy in the form of ATP.

Emphasis mine, btw to say that a bowl of pasta is equivalent to a bowl of refined sugar just doesn't pass scientific muster, sorry!

I think you hit on a really good general axiom to live by for those of us lacking discipline:

"An alternate approach of moderation is to use meat as an accent, or garnish in a meal constituting a very small portion of the caloric value."

Apart from just learning to cook rather than heat a slab of meat and serve it up with a carb, there are also lower-energy alternatives in general. For example, I've replaced cow milk in my diet with almond milk for this reason, as well as a desire to lower my cholesterol intake. We pay a fairly high price for the free-to-roam, local chickens we get from the farmers' market, but damn if they aren't the most chicken-est chicken you've ever roasted! I swear they're actually more filling. We also eat lots of fish, much of it also locally caught; being from Louisiana, I like to cook with a lot of crawfish and often just use this as both meat and flavoring in a meal otherwise mostly vegetables, brown rice or quinoa and millet are pretty much my bread since my wife is ceoliac, and we reserve the right to have a Sunday lamb roast and rehash it in our weekday meals.

I think in the American reckoning we tend not to think of it as a meal unless there's a gigantic hunk of meat that makes up the majority of the meal. It's complete overkill and, frankly, it's culinarily lazy.

Which brings me to my next point: spice. It's a bit of common wisdom in the Delta that if you eat spicy foods, you eat less, and nobody here was surprised when scientific research supported the notion that spicier foods are more satisfying, even if they aren't as energy-dense as other meals.

I think the important thing to do is just reconsider how you classify a meal. When I think of all my comfort-food favorites; jambalaya, red beans and rice, stir-fried anything, etouffees, okra gumbo, I start to realize that they're really just poverty food. Meat is a garnish in them and the beans, vegetables, and spices are the real stars: done right they're all served up screaming hot with loads of rice!

I really don't have a point to all this other than to say that I think if others really want to do as you say, moderate rather than phase-out, then it would serve them well to consider the dishes their grandma made: a lot of her cooking was probably built around stretching out a little bit of meat to feed the whole family.

'An earlier post on how many miles per gallon a human gets while walking or biking touched on the fact that fossil fuels undergird our food supply. As a result, walking to the grocery store effectively uses as much fossil fuel as would a typical sedan.'

Surely you didn't mean to write that? Surely you understand that the average American's food intake is almost completely divorced from his or her activity level. That he or she is going to eat those ding dongs and ho ho's whether he or she is sitting in front of the TV all day long or if he or she is walking to the store. A certain level of food intake is required simply to sustain life. And although it is true that you burn calories by being active, the data would suggest that you are simply more fit if you are active not that you consume significantly more food. Therefore suggesting that the fossil fuel that is necessary for the production of that food is now the source of one's transportation if he or she were to forgo the car and instead walk is a seriously flawed argument.

It's not so much an argument as a realisation that there is an entire and deleterous food system supporting us, and life changes that look large to us will sometimes have only small positive, or even negative effects when evaluated within those systems.

Still wrong. If you were going to eat the food anyway, and now you don't drive the car, you really have saved the gas that the car was going to burn. I appreciate the focus on wringing the waste out of the food distribution system and looking towards lower impact diets. But still, that point has little or no merit in my view.

People are all different, but I never gain weight no matter what I eat, and on days that I bike to work (about 2 days per week in the warmer half of the year, 9 somewhat hilly miles each way, with electric assist), I find that I need to bring two sandwiches. Depending on how what is in the extra sandwich was grown and processed, that may use more fossil fuels than I directly saved by not driving.

But I do it anyway, for a number of reasons. Exercise is good for me. Food _could_ be grown in less energy-intensive ways. And the gasoline to fuel the car is only the tip of the true cost of driving: there is the making of the cars, road building and maintenance, wars in the middle east...

Similar calculations for biking (at this post) indicate that biking is likely in the clear: 130 miles per gallon of fossil fuel inputs. This is under standard American diet. Could you wreck it by loading up your sandwiches with extra-energy-intensive stuff? Maybe, but it would be hard to make it worse than driving on the fossil fuel front.

You may want to read the referenced post. I calculate the amount of food energy for the marginal activity of walking: above and beyond the base metabolism. Are there side benefits? Sure. Do people who tend to walk and exercise likely also exercise more control of their food intake? Likely. So it may be hard to tease out the energy cost from profiles of people. That's where physics comes in, which can tell you how much additional energy it takes to walk. The surprising answer is that it takes a gallon of fossil fuel to provide the American with enough food energy to walk 34 miles.

Would I still think it's worth walking to the store? Sure. Lots of other benefits involved. But on the narrow question of energy, I certainly meant what I said.

The variance in "34 mpg" walking is staggering !

Is that for fruit air-freighted in from Chile ?

Corn and tomatoes grown in the garden ?

Brown rice from a local farmer ? Packaged in a 25 lb sack.

WalMart baked "goods" trucked in 1,200 miles from the bakery (in New Orleans, I have seen WalMart baked goods "Product of Canada"). And then put inside a disposable plastic bag when checking out.

Or a bakery 7 blocks away that used wheat barged or railed to our port and milled locally ? delivered in a thin paper bag.

As noted in my other comment, transportation and packaging are major elements in food energy consumption, an item you largely overlooked.


My number is for the average American diet, under aggregate energy practices in the food industry. Part of my thrust is that it is in our control to change our habits/inputs—along the lines you suggest. Hunter-gatherers use effectively zero fossil fuel input to support their diets, so could claim arbitrarily large MPG, when the G is interpreted as gallons of fossil fuel. There is certainly nothing hard and fast about 34 MPG(FF) for walking. It's just where America is today, sadly.

It's all about assumptions. I would suggest a little field work. Go to your nearest Hungry Heffer all you can eat buffet and watch who eats what. The size and shape of the patrons who load up plate after plate of energy intensive agraproducts. Then watch how they get home. Invariably they will waddle into a large vehicle driven by an internal combustion engine. It isn't the leaner patrons who might have cycled in or walked who seem to consume the most. Again, in the real world there doesn't seem to be any correlation between physical activity and consumption. Similarly those who are concerned about health exercise etc are more likely to also be concerned about nutrition and locally grown foods etc. I just think the argument is too clever by half. It is an academic exercise that sounds reasonable on the surface but it doesn't hold water. Not when measured against the way real people actually behave.

What if you just say half the people get 17 MPG and the other half get 51 MPG?

That's more like the real world.

The staggering variance may plot out as bimodal. Half the people drive SUV's, half the people drive Prii. Half the people eat fried chicken and donuts, the other half eat tofu and sprouts. On Sunday, half the people sit and watch football, the other half go for a hike.

As pointed out above, it's all about assumptions- or more precisely about the model. When the sticker on a new sedan's window says '34mpg', the derisively-labeled 'consumer' can be expected to believe it more or less, and may of course make relevant decisions based on Kahneman's famous availability heuristic- invoking that 34mpg sticker. The arithmetic may be right in Tom Murphy's post, but the mathematical model is unfortunately inadequate.

At least half of the energy expended in a vehicle's lifetime including a ~150-200K mile road life, was expended before it ever hit the dealer showroom. Sedans don't grow on trees. Furthermore, the amount of energy consumed and wasted providing asphalt and storage/parking for automobiles, the costs to society of large police highway and road patrolling services, emergency services to deal with the violence wrought by automobiles, the time wasted in traffic in automobiles, distances needlessly traveled, wars fought to extract/steal/provide raw materials for autos, health and lives lost, permanent damage to the necessary conditions for, you know, life's existence (the ecosystem and climate) and on and on, in no particular order. For detailed evaluations of these costs, see sources such as 'Asphalt Nation', UC Press by Jane Holtz Kay, 'Fighting Traffic', MIT Press, by Peter Norton, and 'Stop Signs', Femwood Publishing, by Mugyenyi/Engler, and of course 'Collapse' by Jared Diamond (though this last book does not address automobiles directly, the relevance is all there), and several other books dealing with embodied energy (like Odum) etc.

A more simple hypothetical to consider, in light of the original thought experiment, is urban sprawl and traffic engineering. Just think, for example, that if one is to walk, how much farther it is to get to one's local grocery store because one must first saunter to the closest 'pedestrian crossing bridge' or whatever, traversing the four-lane highway dividing the neighborhood in half...

Bottom line is, the embodied energy of the vehicle and its attendant infrastructure must be accounted for, before we make dangerous statements equating walking to driving. This is especially important given Dr. Murphy's credibility as a physicist.

Michael Dawson- where are you on this one?

A veryy good point you make is that if our cities were largey car free, everything would be much closer together. Sadly, I can just imagine the pedestrian/bike haters who would resist the restructuring of our cities by picking this largely meaningless comparison of walking vs sedan out of the air. No doubt a fun, mathematical exercise but probably dangerous taken out of the entire, complicated context.

Truly there is a larger context to consider. There are loads of other ways we could have designed our society for a lower energy footprint (fewer cars, roads, etc.). But we didn't. Hopefully we turn in that direction.

Given that there is a car already in the driveway, a road connecting to the grocery store, a parking lot there, etc., then the marginal energy cost of driving vs. walking is not the no-brainer it should be (it should be the case that walking is better than driving). I use this absurdity as a way to highlight the craziness of our 10:1 energy-in:energy-eat performance. Change that just by a factor of two, and cars can't touch walking, even in this limited, marginal basis.

So speaking of context, be careful not to take my walking/driving comparison too far out of context: the alarming result does not mean that I advocate cars over walking! I would rather that we design our world so that walking becomes a clear winner over getting in a car for a trip to the store, and part of that is producing food with less fossil fuel input.

I should also point out that biking is well in the clear, always coming out better than driving, even in the limited, marginal context and given the unfortunate 10:1 food predicament.

Tom, sorry to quibble but I feel this is important, especially given your growing readership, and the relative weight of your statements due to the salient nature of your posts up to this point. Not everyone is going to read the statement in question the way you intend, obviously, but the stakes in this particular case are rather high because this culture is currently embattled over the very issue of automobile domination.

Qualifying the thought experiment by employing only the marginal energy consumed in walking does not eliminate the inadequacy of the mental-model used here, to compare walking to driving. In fact, the model is inconsistent.

If your whole point is to quantify the hidden sea of energy inputs behind the foods people eat- to supply themselves with energy to get to the grocery store on foot- then you must also address the hidden ocean of energy behind the production, marketing, social provision for, acquisition of, and ecological damage (impedance of ultimate supply of food) by the automobile, before you can make anything close to an accurate comparison of the two transportation modes.*

After all, if we're going to 'assume there's a car in every driveway', why not assume there's already food in every cupboard, and on every grocery store shelf (only requiring the added effort of hungrily stuffing one's face?), or fertile soil on every piece of arable land there ever was (prior to paving or browning of course), etc?

*This is not the same as accounting for the cost of the birth, rearing, and raising of the human being (and their feet) who is choosing either means of transport, as I think we can all agree the human is the 'given' in this experiment.

Very good points, and I find it odd that I should spend time defending the "drive" solution at all, since that strikes me as a perverse outcome. It's easy enough to get lost in the weeds of complexity here, considering that we would also have to account for the equipment and infrastructure (including the same roads) for food.

Perhaps a more productive path would be to acknowledge that the scale at which we use and depend on energy has gotten out of hand, and we should deliberately reign in those activities wherever possible. In other words, we need to think AND rather than OR. Rather than ask whether to walk OR drive to the store, perhaps we should consider walking AND eating a lower-energy-intensive diet AND de-emphasizing travel by car (and all the associated embodied energies), etc.

Confronting energy scarcity will no doubt involve a huge series of changes, given the diverse nature of energy usage in our society. Simple either/or choices will be rare. Across-the-board changes are more likely needed.

have to account for the equipment and infrastructure (including the same roads) for food

Single lane, bi-directional roads could deliver the food required - and other essential services (fire trucks, ambulances, moving vans, etc.) One lane (and some places to pull over) is all that is required for essential transportation. The rest of the infrastructure is optional.


BTW, some older streets in New Orleans are one lane, bi-directional.

Another issue is that it is beneficial to exercise daily which provides health benefits in addition to helping one keep one's weight down. Walking or running or biking to the store is a twofer; you need to do it anyway and in many cases people drive their auto to the store or work and drive their auto to the gym.

If you drive to the store and then exercise separately, you are using the fuel to drive plus the food to run your body. If you get your exercise by walking or biking to the store or work, you will just incur the marginal energy costs once.

Of course there are other energy costs that have not been considered such as the energy costs associated with additional medical costs incurred because of the diseases associated with a sedentary lifestyle.

Looking at the situation holistically in terms of one's total energy consumption, it may be that the walking vs sedan comparison is misleading in terms of what is the least energy intensive form of getting around.

I don't think we have even scratched the surface here in fully examining the energy impacts, including the reductions in embodied energy savings from a society where the auto was the alternative form of transport vs walking/biking/running. Plus the full marginal maintenance costs of driving to the store have not been considered.

I have taken a similar attitude but a different path.

Much of the energy, and environmental impact, is in packaging and transportation.

A point that your article does not emphasize enough.

Thus my Farmers & Fishers market (0.7 mile walk away)

Buy 25 lb sack of brown rice from local farmer - freeze most of it to prevent spoilage. Note: I buy very little else the Saturday I restock on rice.

Seasonal fruits & vegetables (almost always something this far south). Farmers 15 to 100+ miles away (seasons vary with latitude).

Buy blueberries in season in bulk (5 lb cartons) and fill freezer section of refrigerator with 20 lb or so (plus gorge during season) and stretch out till 1 month before new blueberries. Farmer is about 60 miles away.

Local honey (5 miles away in Lower Algiers from 89 y/o).

Shrimp and fish filets from local fisherman. He fishes inshore swamps in Orleans & St. Bernand Parishes. He helped fish out Lake Pontchartrain during BP spill (many fishermen went there then - we knew it was too much fishing, but it was the only clean area).

He fishes an area that most commercial fishermen avoid - small boats required, local knowledge too. One man operation. He still avoids areas that got oil during BP spill.

He puts his catch into a holding pond. The afternoon before the market, his wife goes out and nets enough to filet for the market the next morning. I eat perhaps three to five roughly four ounce filets/week and shrimp zero to twice/week on average.

His shrimp are never sorted - you get the sizes that came in the net. Often $3/lb for regular customers.

I also eat boiled crawfish - but I let someone else boil them (larger pots are more energy efficient :-P $2.19/lb on last batch.

And occasionally oysters - on the half shell, or prepared in a variety of ways (charbroiled is my favorite).

The rest is from the grocery store. Olive oil, no butter.

Best Hopes for Sustainable Eating,



This is surprising, didn't you always tout the plethora and excellence of New Orleans restaurants, how you couldn't stay away? So a recent change?

Freezing your own or local produce has much to recommend. Yrs ago here, I had discussions on the relative energy cost between home canning and freezing. Never did get a definitive answer.

Yes, two causes.

In an otherwise pretty healthy lifestyle, I was gaining weight. Too much. When I was a couple of pounds away from morbid obesity - I called a halt. Too many negatives down that road !

And I have learned to cook better at home. Just substitute olive oil for lard in the recipe and it still tastes pretty good :-)

And I decided to devote more time to mitigating Peak Oil and less to making $$$, so some limitations there as well.

I still eat out - but not as much.

Best Hopes for Fine Dining - and corner grocery stores - in New Orleans :-)


PS: I have an energy efficient refrigerator at home. A kWh or two to freeze blueberries, but to keep them cold, no marginal energy cost. Perhaps a saving - less cold air out when I open the freezer door.

I guess that I do open the door more often. I tend to defrost in my refrigerator. With blueberries, I might take out a pint and defrost and consume a few at a time.

After the Nazis invaded Norway and stole all of the livestock, Norwegian farmers were forced back to a plant based diet.

The incidence of heart disease fell dramatically.

I don't have a link for you but various authors address that point and it's not the loss of meat.

And, I trust the Cochrane Collaboration — their work is the best in the world. They looked at clinical studies not observational ones:

Finally, in 2001, the Cochrane Collaboration sought to answer the low-fat diet question once and for all when it published a systematic review of the world’s best quality trials that had randomly assigned healthy adults to go on a “reduced or modified dietary fat” diet or continue eating as usual. The 27 trials that met the predetermined high-quality criteria had a combined total of about 10,000 participants. The trials lasted an average of three years. The Cochrane reviewers found that the low-fat or cholesterol-lowering diets had no effect on longevity and “no significant effect on cardiovascular events.”


People say to eat less meat because it isn't healthy because they think that fat, particularly saturated fat, is bad for humans. If that were true, both the Cochrane Collaboration, the U.S. Surgeon General and the Stanford Study (among many others) would have found some evidence for this. In fact, they find no evidence or even the opposite.

Meat is bad for you was scared up in part by a researcher (Campbell, see the China Study) who would have been accurate if he simply made some hypotheses and left it at that. Instead, he drew completely unfounded conclusions from observations rather than experiments.

Again, see:

Science for Smart People

Eat your meat and fat, it's good for you.

Personally I don't trust any study made in US on food, even when made by high reputation hospital or university, all of them are sponsored by big food industry. According to these studies taking vitamin supplement is good for you, the truth is that taking vitamin supplement does absolutely no good to you it is even the opposite and it has been demonstrated by several large scale studies in Europe, still in US they stick to the same idea based on US studies that vitamin supplement are good for you, guess why ?

Same story for the meat, the meat industry is so powerful in US that I doubt that any university or hospital if they find negative result will dare to publish it.

the problem is that you take an over simplifying view on the topic, so your opinion is totally biased.

The problem of overweight in US is due to excess of calories compounded with lack of exercise, period! a calorie is a calorie no matter if it comes from sugar, protein or fat

excess of red meat consumption has bad effects on your life expectancy but we don't know why

the idea that carbs are the evil is just as ridiculous as to say that meat is the evil

The problem of overweight in US is due to excess of calories compounded with lack of exercise, period! a calorie is a calorie no matter if it comes from sugar, protein or fat

Incorrect. I suggest that you learn the latest biochemistry that deals with insulin and leptin signaling. I've given you plenty of places to look. Here is another one for you:

excess of red meat consumption has bad effects on your life expectancy but we don't know why

Complete nonsense. Find me a well-designed clinical trial that demonstrates this. I've presented an abundance of evidence that the meat scare is completely unfounded, from the Cochrane Collaboration to the U.S. Surgeon General to the Stanford trial. There are many many more. The diet-cholesterol hypothesis has failed and is incorrect. Now the pharmaceutical companies want to start people on statins even sooner because they are operating in the wrong paradigm.

There is no "French Paradox" (which might as well be called the French-Spanish-Italian-Swiss Paradox) when the proper paradigm is used. Understand that cholesterol has been incorrectly blamed for CHD and the paradox goes way. See the graph from the WHO data I included up top. There is no correlation between cholesterol levels and CHD — none whatsoever.

the idea that carbs are the evil is just as ridiculous as to say that meat is the evil

I never said that all carbs are evil — please don't put words in my mouth.

I said:

  • sugar and (almost all) grains, especially processed grains mess up the insulin and leptin signaling in the human body
  • starch is, absolutely and unequivocally, sugar
  • people fall on a spectrum for carbohydrate intolerance and over time, in general, we become more intolerant. This is simply another way of saying that Type 2 diabetes take time to manifest because each meal high in the "bad" carbohydrates damages the human body
  • some people can tolerate some tubers, plantains and some rice, depending on other factors and their genetic makeup, without seeing terrible ill effects, at least in the short and medium term
  • carbohydrates from fibrous, colorful vegetables can be eaten in unlimited quantities as long as essential fats and proteins are taken care of

carbohydrates from fibrous, colorful vegetables can be eaten in unlimited quantities

But that is sugar. All converted to glucose which, over time (according to you), damages the human body. Not consistent with your opinion of wheat.

A few items with this:
1. The sugar in vegetables releases *really* slowly so the danger of a glucose spike is small (non-starchy veggies).
2. It's hard to get that much sugar from vegetables (again, non-starchy) without eating a bushel-full at a time
3. I agree with Jaminet that there is a some amount of damage that is acceptable to get the nutrients from veggies.

By the way, you should look at japan, the longest life expectancy on the planet they eat rice every single day, and have a very low fat diet almost no meat
so your theory is just shaky

No the theory is very solid. Rice, if everything else is done correctly, seems to be much better than other grains when eaten in small quantities by someone who is still insulin and leptin sensitive, even every day. When eaten by someone in our culture who has damaged their metabolism, it isn't so benign.

Mark Sisson does a very good job rounding up what we know about rice:

Added to that is the fact a traditional Japanese diet is also rich in seafood (protein & fat) and fibrous vegetables, while low in sugar. Again, there really is no "paradox" here.

I would further add that wild and brown rice are much better for you than the processed (and nutrient starved) white rice that is so common in the U.S.

You are saying the Japanese diet is low in carbs like white rice? What do you consider your source of facts to be?

White rice is a significant part of the Japanese diet, much like the aforementioned pasta is for Italians. White rice is of course very starchy and not very nutritious by itself. However, this isn't the only thing they eat, however, and just like the Italian pasta example, it by itself does not prove that the Japanese eat a "high carb" diet relative to Americans. Before drawing any broad conclusions, we need to look at *everything* they are eating and how much vs. countries with relatively high rates of obesity and diabetes (like the U.S.), what % of their daily calories are sugar/refined carbs, what% are proteins, fats, vegetables, fruit, other...?

Any Japanese diet experts out there with some data?

Re: Mark Sisson

A single seed of its patriarch, wheat, can punch holes in gut linings with ease, and cousin oat has managed to obtain official recognition as being good for the heart even as it doses you with gluten. As healthy whole grains, they hide their armaments in plain sight; they cloak their puny bodies in the very poisons for which they are lauded and applauded. We Primals have got a heated feud going with the family as a whole, but should we paint all its members with the same brush?

If you really believe (and highlight) the pseudo-science penned by this guy, then your skepticism dial is set at "1".


You bring alot of good material to the discussion, and find myself agreeing with most all. Grains achieved their predominance in human diets primarily due to storage and keeping qualities. They truly are, and have been, the currency of nations. Grain supplies have long defined winners and losers.

In a post on energy, one of the most important aspects has been neglected. From just beyond our paleo-lithic diet, should that ever be defined, to todays agribusiness, farming is first and foremost mining. Not mining of the type we associate today, but mining none the less. And perhaps some of the most efficient, in terms of percent target material returned vs disturbed. The extraction is done by plants, livestock provide the least energy means of securing the minerals and nutrients. As you show, it's the form we're adapted to.

I meant to write more on grass fed livestock, on watching those nutrients return to the barn each evening, of the labor saved in not growing or moving feed, of the labor/energy in haying, and ways to reduce it, and pasture based systems and rotational grazing, but a monster toothache is just destroying thoughts. One where it's no longer a tooth that hurts, it's the side of your face. Oh, those carbs.

Thanks, Doug. And I think your observations are spot on.

I'm sorry to hear about your toothache, those truly are terrible. :-(

I hope you can write about grass fed livestock energy inputs. I'd be interested in reading it.

You've only referenced studies that looked at low fat diets (e.g, replacing all fats with food like white flour pasta), not diets that simply lowered meat consumption. Replacement of protein with legumes, and replacement of saturated fats with unprocessed mono-saturated and essential fatty acids is something different altogether.

It is clear that you are completely sold on the paleo diet. I was once completely sold on the South Beach diet, and am still favoring it along with related ones. There is far more clinical research available that supports this diet than the Paleo diet, by the way, so while enthusiasm can be a good thing, one must be on one's guard not to become entrenched with only one possible solution when superior solutions likely exist.

I understand being wary. I think the difference this time is that we have a conceptual framework that makes sense to me.

Research on Ancestral Health provides a good test when considering new information. Does it make sense that meat is bad for humans given that the our DNA has adapted to it over millions of years? That doesn't make sense to me and the science is now in.

Could animal fat possibly be bad since our bodies are designed to store it (portable energy storage during famines or even just overnight)? Again, doesn't make sense to me. The science indicates to me that industrial seed oils are terrible but animals fats are good.

Is it possible that we have not yet adapted to the newer foods (i.e. grains) since we've had only 100 generations since their introduction? I would say yes. It doesn't mean that they are completely indigestible or that we'll drop dead eating them. It just means that we haven't fully adapted to them and there are significant side effects to eating them over time.

Ultimately, I recommend that people JERF — Just Eat Real Food. Cut out the processed food, eat plenty of fibrous vegetables, moderate amounts of pastured animals and lots of animal fat.

The current recommendation from the American Diabetic Association that diabetics eat plenty of "healthy whole grains" is killing people. Why on earth would we feed sugar to people that have deranged sugar metabolisms? It makes absolutely no sense. This is the power of a paradigm in action.

And here is the American Heart Association:

“Eating foods that contain saturated fats raises the level of cholesterol in your blood. High levels of blood cholesterol increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. Be aware, too, that many foods high in saturated fats are also high in cholesterol – which raises your blood cholesterol even higher.”

Where to start with that? Do we start with the idea that after forty years the evidence shows no correlation between cholesterol and increased mortality? (See the WHO graph I posted and the Cochrane Collaboration metastudy.)

Do we discuss that cholesterol is a vital hormone and doesn't even change according to dietary intake anyway? (The body manufactures it to be sure there is always enough.) There is a reason an egg has so much cholesterol — it is a fundamental building block for the proper development of a growing chick. Same for us.

It's really astonishing how we've gotten to this place, but there you have it.

Almost everything we've been told over the last forty years is wrong.

"Does it make sense that meat is bad for humans given that the our DNA has adapted to it over millions of years?"

The habit of eating meat daily has only been possible through the very, very recent (in evolutionary terms) innovation of refrigeration, so I'd say it makes sense.

Yes, there was likely gorging and fasting from a meat perspective, but that's exactly why our fat stores were created.

What you are pointing out helps make the case that we do not need to eat constantly (i.e. six times a day) just to keep our energy up. Once you've converted your system (back) to being fat burning, missed meals are no big deal (from experience).

For more information on IF (intermittent fasting) and why we can do it so well, read:

And this recent study means what?


Red Meat Consumption and Mortality

Results From 2 Prospective Cohort Studies

An Pan, PhD; Qi Sun, MD, ScD; Adam M. Bernstein, MD, ScD; Matthias B. Schulze, DrPH; JoAnn E. Manson, MD, DrPH; Meir J. Stampfer, MD, DrPH; Walter C. Willett, MD, DrPH; Frank B. Hu, MD, PhD

Arch Intern Med. 2012;172(7):555-563. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2011.2287

Background Red meat consumption has been associated with an increased risk of chronic diseases. However, its relationship with mortality remains uncertain.

Methods We prospectively observed 37 698 men from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (1986-2008) and 83 644 women from the Nurses' Health Study (1980-2008) who were free of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancer at baseline. Diet was assessed by validated food frequency questionnaires and updated every 4 years.

Results We documented 23 926 deaths (including 5910 CVD and 9464 cancer deaths) during 2.96 million person-years of follow-up. After multivariate adjustment for major lifestyle and dietary risk factors, the pooled hazard ratio (HR) (95% CI) of total mortality for a 1-serving-per-day increase was 1.13 (1.07-1.20) for unprocessed red meat and 1.20 (1.15-1.24) for processed red meat. The corresponding HRs (95% CIs) were 1.18 (1.13-1.23) and 1.21 (1.13-1.31) for CVD mortality and 1.10 (1.06-1.14) and 1.16 (1.09-1.23) for cancer mortality. We estimated that substitutions of 1 serving per day of other foods (including fish, poultry, nuts, legumes, low-fat dairy, and whole grains) for 1 serving per day of red meat were associated with a 7% to 19% lower mortality risk. We also estimated that 9.3% of deaths in men and 7.6% in women in these cohorts could be prevented at the end of follow-up if all the individuals consumed fewer than 0.5 servings per day (approximately 42 g/d) of red meat.

Conclusions Red meat consumption is associated with an increased risk of total, CVD, and cancer mortality. Substitution of other healthy protein sources for red meat is associated with a lower mortality risk.

It means absolutely nothing because observational studies contain no causal information -- at all. This is despite what the researchers will tell you.

Here is the scientific method:
1. Observe some phenomenon
2. Gather data
3. Create hypothesis based on correlations.
4. Test hypothesis
5. Draw conclusion (or start again)

Observational studies stop at #2 and pretend that they have evidence when all they've done is gather the data from which to create a hypothesis.

Randomized, clinical studies are #4...they tell you what's really going on.

Taubes has an excellent article on this problem of epidemiological studies and how they are making a mess of things:

Do We Really Know What Makes Us Healthy?

He addresses the current silly study over meat, too:

Science, Pseudoscience, Nutritional Epidemiology, and Meat

For a funnier version of the problem with observational studies, watch:

Science for Smart People

It means absolutely nothing because observational studies contain no causal information -- at all. This is despite what the researchers will tell you.

But you are asking us to read what persons "who read and write health topics 7 hours a day" try to tell us, and watch youtube videos about science. There is no way a reasoning person is going to discard numerous, disciplined, extensive studies for what some person with a keyboard decides to write about that day.

And just because a study that shows that some low fat diets didn't work the way they were promised doesn't that high fat diets are healthy for you. Even the Atkins groups backed off of recommending high levels of saturated fats, choosing to allow them only "when balanced with mono and poly-unsaturated fats in a controlled carbohydrate dietary environment". Less than 1/3 of the fats they recommend in the Induction Period are saturated, and the percentage drops after that.

To many play loose and fast with references to studies, and too many people are persuaded of scams or false promises;


The evidence I've presented is solid. I'm sorry that you can't see that.

If you want more traditional RCTs, see my other post.

The evidence I've presented is solid.

Let's just say we have a signficant difference of opinion and leave it at that.

You are fooling yourself. You have provided no evidence whatsoever which withstands the scientific rigor to which you claim. All you have provided here is a theory which makes sense to you. That doesn't make it solid.

Choosing people at random and having them do one or the other isn't sufficient for drug testing, due to the placebo effect and more. People know what they are eating (e.g. eat normal or "low fat"), and it is certainly the case that people will not act independently based on that knowledge. "I'm on a low fat diet? Well, I guess I can have a bit more".

I'm not totally dismissive of the role that excessive carbohydrates may play in screwing up things, or the idea that fat is as bad as has been assumed. But the data ain't all in. Genetic factors? Activity levels? Right now, we have enough for an infomercial and a lot of books. But that is all.

This study, putting it simply, means that a lot of bad science gets done in the area of nutritional research. There are a number of well done critiques of this study
http://garytaubes.com/ is one and several others are there for the googling. I've become more and more amazed at how the food paradigm that we have currently in the US has become so imbedded in popular consciousness seeing how mis-informed it is.

Gary Taubes is a science *writer*, not a scientist. The difference is substantive....

Now you're willfully ignoring new ideas and evidence. That's fine. Hopefully other people reading this will not do what you are doing.

"you're willfully ignoring new ideas and evidence"

One has to acertain sources of information, especially when making rather wild claims. Some guy with a keyboard does not automatically translate into an expert in my book.

Well, then why the hell are you wasting your time with me? I'm an engineer trained in math, not a "nutrition expert."

And what are your credentials to have this conversation?

I was referring to the people you referenced who only have blogs but no real foundation in nutrition, biochemistry, etc.

I understand that. But I have no credentials and, apparently, neither do you — but you seem to want to discount evidence from just certain people who have no credentials.

In this case it's by a person who did top notch statistical analysis of Campbell's raw data. Yes, she went back to the raw data and took months doing it. She loves statistics and studied it in college. She discovered all sorts of errors by Campbell, including the astonishing one that he continued to include the Tuoli County data, thus skewing all the numbers, despite being later told that they were eating as though it were a feast to impress him.

Remove that county's data and watch his meat correlations disappear.

Have you even looked at her work?

When I lived with some indigenous tribes in the Amazon. I was surprised that they didn't eat any vegtables at all. There diet consisted of Manioc a native root crop similar to potatoes. Plantains a type of green Banana that is cooked and eaten. Whatever animals they could kill exept for prohibited animals. The prohibited animals varied from tribe to tribe.

They all ate white nosed pecaries and monkeys to variuse extents. The pigs and Tapir was very much saught after because they had fat and more meat than a monkey. I was in a Huarani village when a Tapir was brought in. The carcase was devided between the hunters and immediately cut up and cooked. They didn't clean out the intestines but ate the intestines with the last meal of the tapir still inside. They just took it out of the stomach and put it on the grill. (The grill was made from large pipes and rebar from an oil drilling site. There are no stones in this part of the Amazon)

The indigenous diet consisted of starches manioc and plantains, meat and as much fruit as they could collect. Some of the fruit was high in fats like the Ungharawa, and Chonta palms the fruit of which had a high oil content. The Unghrawa fruits all year and the Chonta all fruit at once in April - March.

When the Chonta fruits they had a month long party and run around smearing orange chonta oil on everyone. Chonta is a palm tree with eight inch long needle thin thorns all over the trunk. They evolved the thorns to keep from getting pushed over by Mastadons. The Mastastadons are gone but the chonta palm still has spines.
Anyway the chonta looks like a persimon in a big grape cluster weiging 20 lbs. They are boiled and taste like sweet potatoes with a hint of peppermint. Each Chonta Palm can produce over a half dozen 20 lbs clusters. When the chonta was fruiting it was eaten almost exlusively.

Thanks for sharing that story! I love hearing travelers' stories.

It seems that your tribe was pretty typical of HGs. To be sure, there is a lot of regional variation (see Cordain's work). Some tribes won't have tropical fruit and make do without it. Others seem to eat just small game and not the larger, others have only meat and fat (the Inuit) and live long healthy lives — until they are introduced to sugar and grains.

I think it's a fair bet to say that we've eaten meat for very, very long and that we are designed to work best with it and fat and the occasional carbohydrate. More carbohydrates are tolerable if more manual labor is involved.

But it's interesting the experiments that are going on now with completely fat burners. See Dr. Peter Attia who is exclusively a fat burner and his athletic performance seems to be just fine:

He also happens to have a good article on cholesterol now:

As he points out:

By the end of this series, should you choose to internalize this content (and pick up a few homework assignments along the way), you will understand the field of lipidology and advanced lipid testing better than 95% of physicians in the United States. I am not being hyperbolic.

You only hear the stories you want to hear

your conclusion are biased, whole grain to give diabetes there is 2 billions people in asia to prove that and that is a better evidence that your over-simplified

animal fat and lack of exercise does clog your arteries over time not carbs

In europe we eat plenty of carb and we are not obese like US people , because we exercise more

excess of red meat is detrimental to longevity

and you didn't answer my question about Japan

Your information is way out of date.

Lipoproteins clog arteries, not cholesterol. Cholesterol is "at the scene of the crime" (has to be, it's such a vital hormone) but it does not cause the crime. The evidence is in and it does not support the cholesterol hypothesis, otherwise, as noted below, the 50% of people getting heart attacks wouldn't have normal cholesterol, would they?

I know it's difficult and goes against everything you've been told for decades but the cholesterol hypothesis has failed. Study this graph again:

Cholesterol WHO Data

There is absolutely no correlation between cholesterol levels and cardiovascular heart disease — none.

The populations with high cholesterol, France, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, etc. have some of the lowest rates of CHD. In contrast, modern day Australian aboriginals have the lowest cholesterol and have the highest rates of CHD of any population I've seen in the world.

By extension, red meat is not the killer you've been told it is. That hypothesis has failed, too. Time to move on and start looking at what is really happening.

If you want to know what causes heart disease, start learning about inflammation. Here's something to start you off:

Lipoproteins – The Real Cause of Heart Disease
Over 50% of people with “normal cholesterol” still develop heart attacks.
Lipoproteins, not cholesterol, cause heart disease. Lipoproteins are the carriers that transport cholesterol through the blood. Some lipoproteins cause cholesterol to penetrate
the artery wall more easily, causing the artery to clog. These lipoprotein plaques become inflamed and rupture, causing a heart attack. Lipoproteins come in different sizes and types.
Three types of lipoproteins carry cholesterol:
HDL (high density lipoproteins)
LDL (low density lipoproteins)
VLDL (very low density lipoproteins)
HDL particles, especially large ones, are considered the good cholesterol, or lipoprotein.
They help clean out the artery wall, reverse the blockages and carry cholesterol back to the liver. The liver then places the cholesterol into the bile, and it flushes out with the bowel movement. Large HDL particles are your arteries vacuum cleaner. If all of your HDL particles are small, it is a sign that your artery vacuum cleaner is not working. Therefore, your artery continues to build up plaque and becomes more diseased.


Read the whole post because it does a good job explaining what's happening.

Next, you haven't proved your assertion that meat is unhealthy for humans. You just keep repeating it. I've given you clinical trials and the biochemistry and other evidence why that's false. So go crazy trying to prove it. The U.S. Surgeon General took 11 years and hundreds of millions of dollars and gave up. You should to, because it's not true.

Last, I haven't answered you directly about Japan but I have several times to other people: people with undamaged metabolisms, who perform a lot of manual labor and who have other environmental or dietary factors going for them can tolerate increased carbohydrate consumption, in particular if they eat rice. Wheat and other grains are mostly damaging, especially if they are refined, which is how most people in the world eat them. (In the form of bread, pasta, cake, etc.)

We evolved as omnivores, and most of us have only added grain recently, with questionable results.
The problem is we cannot feed 7 billion people without ecologically and nutritionally devestating results.
I do not have an answer.

Th answer is simple: we do not TRY to feed 7+ billion people. We get the population down to a far more sustainable 500 million or less.

Exactly *how* we get there when overpopulation is basically taboo politically and culturally, I have no idea.

Exactly. We can spend our lifetime trying to figure out how to feed 7 billion people, to no avail.

In my view (not the truth, but a valid point of view) is that it's an impossible task we have set for ourselves. We are already in overshoot. Let's get down to under 1 billion and then we have some flexibility but even a couple billion less will help, most likely. Right now nothing will work and this will become clear over the next few decades.

Scenario 1

There is no doubt we are in overshoot in terms of human population. But worry not, as war, famine and desease will cull the population in the coming decades as the fossil fuel inputs fade.

Willie Hunt

But worry not, as war, famine and desease will cull the population

If 'war, famine and disease' are the solution, then why worry about anything, ever?

Work on having your little part of the world as safe and free of famine and disease as you can. The trajectory of the world as a whole was determined long ago.

The trajectory of the world as a whole was determined long ago.

Well one can embrace 'seer' viewpoints like that, or one can embrace the well defined scientific method you posted elsewhere. One can not sincerely do both at once.

no answer? every one of those 7 billion is made of meat!

Well again you bias against wheat is not supported by fact, the chineses of the north mainly eat wheat and they have a longer life expectancy that the chinese of the south who eat rice. And the Japanese don't do a lot of manual work.

*deep sigh*

This is all very interesting, providing you have the means to pay for all this stuff. (or the property to grow it on)

For most of the population of most of the world (the US included), the fuel embodiment of food is utterly meaningless. All that matters is: money available, price per pound, and calories per pound.

A. "John has one dollar. He is homeless, so he can't get Food Stamps because only people with a physical address can get government assistance. If John wraps up in a blanket and stays very still, he can survive from one day to the next on 1200 calories. There is a Walmart nearby. Here are John's options:
1200 calories ramen- 60 cents
1200 calories factory meat-pink slime hot dogs- 72 cents
1200 calories potatoes- 1 dollar
1200 calories broccoli- 17 dollars

What should John do?"

B. "John has a small child to feed also. He still only has one dollar. The options are the same. Now what should he do?"

This is how it works for most of the 7 billion people on this planet.

We eat lots of factory meat around here, including a large fraction of pink slime. Hurray for pink slime! I love pink slime, tasteeeeey!


Now last year I spent some time with my cousins in the Philippines. I ate mainly fish, rice and various stewed veggie dishes in the burbs of Manila. A household of 8 people in one house with two employed people. Most of the day to day expenses covered by them and the goodies provided by the overseas family.

In a small agricultural town inland I had fish, coconut, goat, mango ect.. Mostly unprocessed except for condensed milk for coffee.

I did not overeat and we had to walk a lot of places. I think it evened out - with more physical activity I could eat dense foods in smaller portions. I just hope our future is somewhere in that kind of lifestyle.

This is how it works for most of the 7 billion people on this planet.

Yes, unfortunately everyone practicing a "Paleo" or "Atkins" style diet is basically out of the question for a planet with 7+ billion inhabitants. One with 500 million or less = do-able. oh, and reducing the population to sustainable levels also solves or mitigates many other massive, intractable problems: pollution, deforestation, anthropogenic extinctions, energy/water scarcity, starvation, wars over dwindling resources, etc.

Do you think a population of 500 million is enough of a population to maintain a level of civilization that can have specialized crews who are able to clean up melted down nuclear reactors and clean up the mess that will be caused by all that spent fuel which should have been kept cool an isolated for the next 100,000 years?

The future could have a very hostile environment not very conducive to specialized diets, they might be lucky to have some nonradioactive roots and tubers...

How does the Paleo diet explain Italy's low obesity rate, high life expectancy, and high consumption of wheat (i.e. pasta)?

Italy has the third lowest obesity rate in the OECD, is in the top 10 for life expectancy, and has the highest pasta consumption per capita of the world.

Pasta consumption

...nobody else even close

Obesity rates

Heart disease deaths

Must be Verdi.

Knowing that pasta consumption in Italy, by itself, is higher than anywhere else is interesting but hardly conclusive. What % of their total daily caloric intake is pasta vs. everything else? Do they also consume massive quantities of sugar, HFCS, and processed junk food like most Americans? Do Italians also eat *other* foods that might offset/mitigate the negative effects of carbohydrate-rich pasta (sausages, cheese, etc.)?

Again, correlation in isolation does not prove causation.

Actually, they have a point that you cannot ignore so blithely. Italians DO eat large amounts of pasta. Since is has a like glycemic ratio to sugar, as pointed out earlier, one doesnt' need to ask if they also eat sugar, since you said carbs are the problem.

And offsetting carbs with meat or cheeses means that carbs are ok. Your argument has so many holes in it you should consider abandoning ship.

I guess I didn't make my point very clear. If Italians eat "a lot" of pasta relative to other people, but that pasta still does not add up to a significant % of their overall daily diet, it's still irrelevant. 5% may be enough to make them "world's #1 pasta eaters", and yet pasta would still only represent a small fraction of their daily caloric intake. We need to know more about their overall diet before drawing conclusions.

Now... if it's soomething like 50% of their total calories *and* they are not suffering from relatively high levels of obesity/diabetes, then you may have a point.

Reading that link, it seems that Italians eat on average 26 kgs of pasta per year, (57.2 lbs), which works out to roughly 2.5 ounces of pasta per day. That's only about 100 calories. If Italians eat somewhere in the typical 1500-3000 calories per day range (variying based on height, sex, age, etc.), that is not a huge % of their total intake.

I haven't studied Italy closely so I'm not sure I can give you a definitive answer other than they eat a lot of saturated fat (rich cheeses in particular) and fatty sausage, which as I've shown in the WHO data, protects their heart. This is why I said the "French" Paradox should be called the "French-Italian-Spanish-Swiss" Paradox — they all eat rich foods and have better health markers than we do. We skimp on animal fats, load up on carbohydrates to a greater degree and suffer more CHD and other diseases.

However, they are suffering from terrible problems with wheat gluten, with estimates of 3 million being intolerant and no longer able to eat wheat. So even if the cheese is protecting then, the gluten in wheat is getting them.

Can you actually provide factual evidence about the amount of fats versus carbs in Italian diets? Their gluten intolerance is 1 in 250, which is far below your estimate of 3 million people.

Let's face it - Italians eat enormous amounts of pasta, which by your definition would mean they should be dead or at least dying. What you haven't brought up is the effect of red wine...

The number you cited (1 in 250) is for Coeliac Disease, not wheat intolerance (they aren't the same thing).

As for fats vs. carbs, as I said, I haven't studied Italy so I gave you my best guess.

In other words, you don't know, so you can't answer the question about the Italian's success with a high carb diet.

Do your own digging for numbers since you're the one interested in Italy. You haven't provided evidence that they eat a high carb diet. All you've done is shown that they eat more of one particular food type than anyone else. So? A big slab of cheese can easily sway the numbers.

I did the math, based on JulesBurns' link:

Italians eat on average 26 kgs of pasta per year, (57.2 lbs), which works out to roughly 2.5 ounces of pasta per day. That's only about 100 calories. If Italians eat somewhere in the typical 1500-3000 calories per day range (variying based on height, sex, age, etc.), that is not a huge % of their total intake.

Italians do NOT have a "high carb diet", especially not as compared to Americans, unless you consider 3-7% "high".

Thats only their pasta intake though, you will have to check their other sources of carbs.

They probably do eat less carbs than americans, but that's because americans have a generally crappy and unbalanced diet and carbs are cheap. I'm holding to a "balanced diet and exercise" rather than any specific diet-plan until i see better research. Diets are too high in fads for me ;)

That's fine if your diet is working for you including effortless weight maintenance because the body adjusts naturally to its fat "set point." That's what happens when people stop messing up their insulin and leptin machinery with excessive carbs.

Just ponder for a moment the notion that, given how we have eaten for the last couple million years, it is the current low fat diet that is, in fact, the fad diet.

If by "low fat" you mean "high sugar but a little label telling you it's low fat" then i agree with you.

I think we are all talking cross purposes here but generally agree. My main gist is that there is too much sugar and excessive carbs in our diet (Something blindingly obvious). Once you reduce carbs to a sensible level and lose the unnatural obsession with sugar, any tweaking via some special diet is probably going to have a very minor effect unless you have a particular problem with certain foods. I certainly think going from excessive carbs to excessive fat is not going to do anyone any good, but I doubt you believe that either.

Well, there certainly are some people who still think there is evidence against meat because they believe the observational studies that "link" meat consumption to colon cancer, or heart disease or, apparently, poor athletic performance, according to someone else who just posted. I've done my best to show that the evidence isn't there for any of those assertions and in fact the opposite is true.

As for:

I certainly think going from excessive carbs to excessive fat is not going to do anyone any good, but I doubt you believe that either.

That's your (unfounded) fear of animal fat drilled into you for several decades speaking. I eat approx. 75% saturated fat (bacon fat, coconut oil, butter, etc.) every day to maintain my weight. I lost the weight using traditional calorie restriction (and was hungry all the time) along with cutting out refined carbohydrates.

Humans have two fuel sources. For immediate needs we rely on glucose and thus store it directly in our muscles. This is for fight or flight responses. But there isn't that much fuel there, less than a day's worth with medium activity (including in the liver).

The second fuel source is fat that we store on our body for medium and long term use.

Most people have been eating so many carbohydrates their whole life that their metabolic pathways are tuned ("upregulated") for sugar burning.

Removing excessive sugar from the diet will down-regulate sugar burning and up-regulate fat burning. This is exactly what happens, in part, when we lose weight. The body doesn't have enough of its usual fuel (sugar) to operate so it starts oxidizing fat and we lose fat around our belly, etc.

Most people go back to the high-sugar (i.e. carbohydrate) diet after losing their weight and that turns the metabolic machinery back to sugar burning. Plus they continue to mess up their insulin and leptin signaling by eating too many carbs, which increases fat creation unnaturally and prevents sufficient leptin to be acknowledged. Leptin tells the brain to stop eating. In both cases, insulin and leptin have to "yell louder and louder" to get their job done. This is similar in effect to how the body responds to addictive substances in that over time more of the substance is required to get the high. (But it's a completely different mechanism.) In the meantime, we keep getting fatter.

Yes, some cultures can eat relatively high carbohydrates when other factors are at play (see: http://www.dietdoctor.com/why-are-asian-rice-eaters-thin) — but that's not us anymore. Only a few genetically "gifted" people in our culture can eat that diet and not gain weight over the long term. Most of us gain weight year after year after year insidiously and think it's "just natural to gain weight as we get older." Some of us fight it by running ever more miles (which I did) trying to keep the weight down but to no avail.

The reason is because of what we're doing with insulin and leptin by eating more than just non-fibrous vegetable carbohydrates, which have low quantities of fast-digesting sugar and lots of fiber.

Ultimately, I believe fat is the better fuel source for humans and that's why I've ketoadapted myself. At the beginning, during the adaption phase, I was peeing ketones (tested using ketostix) but not anymore because my body uses them for fuel.

By the way, it is incorrect when people say that "carbohydrates are necessary." These people are in the grip of the carbohydrate paradigm currently prevalent. By all means, eat a few more carbs when working hard or exercising but to keep the weight off effortlessly, turn your body into a fat burning machine and eat what we were designed to eat. Stop messing up your insulin and leptin machinery by cutting out the carbs.

And for lord's sake, if you are diabetic, stop eating "heart healthy whole grains" — that sugar is killing you. Most patients who do stop eating carbs come off their insulin injections, as long as they haven't damaged their machinery beyond the point of no return.

That's your (unfounded) fear of animal fat drilled into you for several decades speaking. I eat approx. 75% saturated fat (bacon fat, coconut oil, butter, etc.) every day to maintain my weight.

Not really, my diet horrifies most people. It's more to do with the general concept that a calorie is (generally) a calorie so swapping one calorie for another won't change the underlying problem that people take in more calories than they need.

Is that 75% of your calories coming from saturated fat or some other 75%, it's a little unclear as written so i thought i'd check? and are you now eating less calories than you were before but feeling fuller?

Most of that 75% is saturated fat (butter, ghee, coconut oil, bacon fat, fat in red meat, chicken skin). Some of it is monounsaturated, like in olive oil, avocados, macadamia nuts and fish like sardines. I've thrown away all the industrial oil I had in the pantry (canola, safflower, etc.) and cook with ghee, butter, olive oil and coconut oil.

I haven't kept a food log for a while but my suspicion is that I am eating less calories. This is one of the big debates in the paleo community right now: aren't we eating less calories and that's what's having us lose (or maintain) our weight rather than all that stuff about insulin and leptin? I think that both are true. I used to get hungry rather quickly after eating a bowl of sugar, er, cereal in the morning. With an omelet or fried eggs and ham or bacon I often have to remind myself to eat when lunchtime arrives. Protein and fat provide much higher satiety than carbohydrates.

I eat less protein than does Gary Taubes but otherwise we are similar:

eat three eggs with cheese, bacon and sausage for breakfast every morning, typically a couple of cheeseburgers (no bun) or a roast chicken for lunch, and more often than not, a ribeye or New York steak (grass fed) for dinner, usually in the neighborhood of a pound of meat. I cook with butter and, occasionally, olive oil (the sausages). My snacks run to cheese and almonds. So lots of fat and saturated fat and very little carbohydrates. A deadly diet, according to Dr. Oz. Without further ado, here are my numbers...

His lab panel is excellent (click for larger view):

Taubes Lab Panels

Taubes Lab Panels

Taubes Lab Panels

Notice that he got the blood panel that measures the size of his LDL particles and he is well inside Pattern A, which are the large, fluffy particles. These do not form arterial plaque.

I haven't done mine recently but I expect them to be equally excellent.

His experiment data is over a year old - how long has he been on the diet he mentioned?

His VLDL is a bit high;


Because it contains a high level of triglyceride, having a high VLDL level means you may have an increased risk of coronary artery disease, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

He's been eating that way for years. His book Good Calories, Bad Calories, came out in 2007.

He posted his lab because Dr. Oz challenged him to do so on his show.

Or at least he *claims* to have been eating that way...

Oh, please. He's been writing about this for a decade. That's just when his book came out.

Examine any of the 17 randomized, controlled trials that I posted and you'll find that removing carbohydrates improves health markers better than any other diet.

The evidence is there, regardless of the people, like you, who are attached to the current paradigm that is killing people in droves.

Ok, I went and did some research. I recommend FAOSTAT food balance sheets. All the food data you could dream of going back to 1961, by country, for free.

Here's what I found, Italy vs USA:

Food group shares in total food supply [%] - 2007

ITALY (%, does not add to 100%, it's 84%)
Cereals (excl. beer) 31.2
Roots 1.9
Meat 11.2
Veg. oils and animal fats 22.7
Sugars and honey 8.3
Milk (excl. butter) and eggs 8.7

USA (%, does not add to 100%, it's 84%)
Cereals (excl. beer) 22.1
Roots 2.5
Meat 12
Veg. oils and animal fats 20.5
Sugars and honey 16.8
Milk (excl. butter) and eggs 11.4

You can already see one big difference: Americans consume twice as much the amount of sugars as Italians. But Italians consume one third more cereals then Americans. Meat, interestingly, is at the same level.

Some trends (not this are only three data points as FAOSTAT does not allow to download more than one year at a time)

Share of total caloric intake

                       1961	1980	2007
Vegetal products	40%	40%	43%
Animal products	        16%	23%	26%
Cereals	                45%	36%	31%


                       1961	1980	2007
Vegetal products	43%	49%	50%
Animal products	        35%	30%	27%
Cereals	                22%	20%	22%

Some food for thought! Italy is moving towards an American diet (and we [I'm Italian] ARE getting fatter, and the increased consumption of animal products and abandoment of the Mediterranean diet is being blamed), while America is moving towards an Italian diet! Note that "vegetal products" includes oils and sugar. Actual fruit and vegetables is a fraction of that.

Final data points:

Kcal consumption per capita

	1961	1980	2007
Italy	2956	3598	3646
USA	2881	3188	3749

Increasing food intake. Coupled with increased sedentariety, how wonder how much of the fattening is explained by this?

Thanks for doing that legwork, though there just isn't enough detail to draw more than tentative hypotheses (and hypotheses are all that is possible with this sort of data). Also, the FAOSTAT food balance sheets have noted problems that make them unsuitable for serious nutrition work. They are a starting point and that's all.

That being said, the consumption of sugar, if it is accurate in their data gathering, is definitely a big red flag. Sugar seems to mess up the metabolism the worst of any kind of carbohydrate (well, flour is right up there, but we know that's just sugar (starch) in powdered form).

Thanks for the research. Too bad there's no historical break-down on "vegetal products" (oils and sugar), as it would probably reveal an increase in sugar intake, as you say. I would agree that a 23% increase in caloric intake + sedentary lifestyle is also a big factor in Italian obesity, just as it is in the U.S.

However, as aangel has tried to explain, not all calories are created equally --sugar and refined carbs produce a very different insulin/leptin response in the body and are metabolized differently. So, while eating too much and not exercising is clearly bad for you too, the *type* of calories we eat also greatly matters. Both factors are important, but the American public in general is not being given the right information to do anything positive about the sugar/carb problem.

Do you think a population of 500 million is enough of a population to maintain a level of civilization that can have specialized crews who are able to clean up melted down nuclear reactors and clean up the mess...

Yes, however with a population that low, there's a lot less need to use fission power. Renewables + FFs for whatever renewables can't do as easily (plane fuel) might be all we need.

I also think it's a mistake to assume that technology and population levels are directly related. Let's not forget that the world's population did not pass 500 million until the 16th century, and that much of today's 7+ billion still live under conditions that resemble the 16th century. Only the 1 billion or so citizens of First World nations really inhabit a truly "high tech" world. So, just because the population falls to 16th century levels doesn't mean that we all have to revert to 16th century technology. How many people does it take to maintain the Library of Congress? How many does it take to maintain a digital library? Not really that many.

Melt-downs are a lot less likely with Gen-IV MSR designs (passively self-shutdown w/out power). There's also no technical reason why said Gen-IV MSRs cannot "burn" long-lived highly radioactive waste from Gen I-III LWRs. However, even if we never disposed of the existing waste like that, burying it in remote desert locations would not pose much of a problem --aside from the politics of NIMBYism. Yucca Mountain, had it not been shut down by the NIMBYs could have easily handled the accumulated wastes of the entire U.S. with room to spare.


Maybe instead of relying on dubious and contradictory studies we should consider trusting our logical brain. All animals are designed to consume a certain foods- you can simply look at the body design of a cheetah and parrot and determine what they are designed to eat- this is not rocket science really. We have become so lost in studies that we lose faith in common sense.

Humans are in no way shaped to consume meat. We are ultimate fruit eaters. Our legs take us from tree to bush. Our color vision and binocular depth perception are excellent for locating colorful fruits from a distance and reaching for them with our wondrous grasping hands (sorry, we don’t have claws!). Our climbing legs and hands get us high in the tree.

The inside of out body also reveals what our bodies are optimized for. Our teeth are flat- perfect for grinding plant matter- not latching onto a running deer (which we couldn't catch anyway).We cannot eat raw meat well- that by itself should be a warning. Our stomachs are not high acid tanks for dissolving parasitic infested flesh like vultures but are optimized for fruit and vegetable digestion. In fact, we get diarrhea very easily from bad meat. Our energy hungry brains developed to crave the sweetness that only fruits provide. Yes, we also love the fats in nuts- which we can split with our hands (and a rock).

Psychologically we are not natural meat eaters either. Babies and children do not have the instinct to bite the neck of a live animal the way a puppy or kitten does. I do not look at a pig and want to bite it (but a leopard does). We usually crave meat only after it is salted or sweetened with sauce, etc. (you don’t have to do this to an apple!) We recoil at actually killing an animal and can be haunted by the screams it makes (so we hire others to do this).

The fact that our intelligence and omnivore ability has allowed us to broaden our palette doesn’t mean we are eating what is best for us. Our brain development is more recent than the development of the rest of our body. Our brains allow us to eat many foods but our bodies are still designed primarily for fruit- both brain and body did not change at the same speed. Nature evolves what is most important for survival the fastest.

The weight loss argument is not strong either. The rise of meat eating in America correlates with the rise in obesity. Any food can make you fat. The world is full of fat meat eaters- losing weight only has to do with calories.

You can lose yourself in study after study and pull out very technical sounding stuff and still be wrong. A fact may be true in itself but wrong when applied to a situation. I am not impressed with chemical bonds, etc. To paraphrase Disraeli: “there are lies, damn lies, and dietary studies”. That fact that so many studies and “experts” contradict each other inclines me to fall back on basic sense and a general knowledge of evolutionary body design. Eat the way you look like you were designed to eat. Trust your own logic- not convoluted data.

I will recommend the book 'Gluttons and Libertines' by Marsten Bates.

Every Judas Goat out there will prove you wrong.

Native Americans hunted buffalo for a reason. They were not going to starve.

1) We have incisors in our mouth.

2) Our closest relatives chipanzees and probably other relatives also eat meat.

3) Hunting is in our history as far back as we know.

If we were not psychologically meat eaters, then the smell of cooking meats would not interest us. Squeemishness doesn't last long when you are hungry.

The rise in obesity matches the rise in tv, cars, sugar intake, mega churches ...whatever you want. You will notice that the availablity of meat in other countries is just as prevalent, yet they have not turned out anywhere nearly as bad on the obesity scale.

Marston Bates also wrote The Prevalence of People 1955. I was once enthralled with Bates. I vaguely recall his claim that in regions where food is scarce and sex plentiful, individuals are inclined to dream and fantasize about food, not sex.
Other quotes: http://todayinsci.com/B/Bates_Marston/BatesMarston-Quotations.htm

Dust Jacket from Gluttons and Libertines
Examines "shibboleths about food and sex, feeding time and mating habits, insect-eating and cannibalism, incest, alcohol and narcotics, the use of clothing, the pursuit of gentility, human meanness and animal aggressiveness, the problem of being a crackpot, a phony or a square"

Also, the Woolly Mammoths were chomped on by humankind until they couldn't be found anymore, be it weather related, too tough to call; I dunno. It was a day to rue for our ancestors. Time to move on going west, as they say.

An Orangutan enjoyed lunch every day for a few days with a soldier deployed in Vietnam, an offering from the grunt. One day, the orangutan wanted all of his lunch, which the soldier refused to consent, but after the orangutan slapped the snot out of him, he relented.

Every living thing wants food and will do anything to get it.

Food? Gotta have it.

Running water? Want it real bad.

Electricity? Want it real bad!

Oil? Want it ... bad. We'll slap the snot out of anybody to get it.

"We recoil at actually killing an animal and can be haunted by the screams it makes (so we hire others to do this). Just because eating meat may be a learned behavior doesn't mean humans haven't been doing it for over a million years. Chances are, we wouldn't be us if we hadn't begun to eat more meat:

This idea — called the Expensive Tissue Hypothesis (ETH) in Aiello’s co-authored 1992 paper — argues that around 1.5 million years ago early humans began to eat more meat, a compact, high-energy source of calories that does not require a large intestinal system.

A second seminal idea posited by Aiello and another colleague is that increased brain size meant higher reproductive costs for females — who, over time, compensated in part by increasing in size at a greater rate than males of the genus Homo. (Homo erectus females had a 64 percent larger body mass than earlier hominids; males of the species — though still larger than females — were larger than their earlier male counterparts by only 45 percent.)...

...But for whatever reason, she said, “encephalization” — the tendency of some species to evolve larger brains — is the third stage that led humans to civilization. (One earlier stage is bipedalism. The oldest is “terrestriality,” the movement of early hominids from canopied forests — rich in lower-calorie foods — to savannahs, where small game, carrion, and insects supplemented a plant-based diet.)...

As for hiring someone else to do it, big kills were made by large predators and scavenged by humans; let someone else do the hard work. Plenty of examples of this in nature. And, much as chimps make tools to fish termites out of mounds, I'm sure our ancestors did the same thing, or used sticks to dig up and bop small rodents. No need for claws or fangs. We have omnivores' teeth and rocks to throw; fire to pre-digest.

Yes and No

Clearly our digestive system is not designed to eat raw food or contaminated food or raw meat or grass, but we are not fruit eater either. Fruit can not provide the proteins we need and that our body cannot synthesized, so we are not fruits eaters.

We come from ancestors that had a diet like chimps today (chimps mainly eat leaves but they never miss an opportunity to add fruits, nuts or even meat in their diet) Our digestive system evolved because we incorporated regular meat in our diet but also we started to cook, eating meat we lost the ability to synthesized all the proteins we need, cooking we lost our ability to digest cellulose. I was always struck by the fact that Apes can digest cellulose when we, human, cannot. Cellulose are sugars that are strongly interlocked and then hard to break down, you need the right bacteria to do that. We also cannot digest starch without cooking it, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't eat starch, sugars have always been part of our diet, and that is why our muscles are so efficient at running on it, when they are not using fat or protein, therefore it is utterly stupid to say that we shouldn't eat any sugar.

As human our diet is quite complex compared to other animals, we need to eat daily proteins that need to associate different variety of grain or vegetable, we lost our ability to digest cellulose that is so abundant in nature, we need to cook our meat and starch but then we still need to eat raw fruits or vegetable because the cooking destroy vitamins C.

Quite complicated indeed.

Now this idea that you necessarily need to eat meat to be healthy is absolutely ridiculous, and wrong, there is hundred of millions of people who live without eating any meat at all and they are perfectly healthy.

Also when I read that japanese can eat rice only because they exercise more than US people. They certainly drive less but they have also a sedentary life, the key is that they eat less and that their diet is very low in fat especially animal fat, so they don't have heart disease, yet they eat plenty of carbs every day...

as for feeding 7 billions people, the answer is plain and simple: eat less meat because it is not necessary, and eat less because we eat much more than we need in the sedentary lifestyle that is our.

Careful eating is required to avoid meat and still get all required nutrients. Even then it's very difficult to avoid "vegetarian brain fog."

One fellow put it this way: "Many vegetarians believe their diet makes them feel ‘spiritual’, when in fact their feeling of detachment is often a symptom of brain fog brought on by their diet or other factors."

I assert that a bit of animal protein, packed with nutrients that it is, is very beneficial to humans. That's likely why Cordain found meat-eating prevalent among HGs.


Researchers have long known that a strict vegetarian diet -- one that excludes all animal products -- can lead to vitamin B-12 deficiency, and possibly heart disease. Now, new research suggests that even those who follow a more lenient vegetarian diet are also at risk.

In the July issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, German researchers tracked 174 apparently healthy people living in Germany and the Netherlands.

They found that 92% of the vegans they studied -- those who ate the strictest vegetarian diet, which shuns all animal products, including milk and eggs -- had vitamin B12 deficiency. But two in three people who followed a vegetarian diet that included milk and eggs as their only animal foods also were deficient. Only 5% of those who consumed meats had vitamin B12 deficiency.

"As the number of vegetarians is increasing worldwide, we have special concerns about some health aspects of this diet," lead researcher Wolfgang Herrmann, MD, PhD, tells WebMD. "We have a particular concern over vitamin B12 status being regularly monitored in vegetarians -- most importantly, in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children of vegetarian mothers and on macrobiotic diets, elderly vegetarians, and people who already have atherosclerosis."


In my view — regardless of how many people are currently subsisting on suboptimal diets — mothers should always eat meat because it is even more important that they have adequate nutrients, not just B12.

"Many vegetarians believe their diet makes them feel ‘spiritual’, when in fact their feeling of detachment is often a symptom of brain fog brought on by their diet or other factors."

Who actually said that? We'd like to know if there is a scientific basis behind this or whether it was just another guy with a keyboard...

Sorry, the evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of humans being designed to eat meat and the evidence, including radioisotope testing of human bones, shows that we have eaten meat for millions of years.

I'll let Dr. Eades make the argument:

Are we meat eaters or vegetarians?

No it is not, we neither have the dentition nor the short intestine of carnivorous species, we also don't have the acid to kill the bacteria that often infest meat that species like cats or dogs can eat.
The fact that we find evidence in the bones of our ancestor that they where eating meat doesn't prove that it was their main food neither it proves that it was the best food for them. It is not because meat happens to contains necessary nutrients for us that in turns all it contains is good for us. Asides the autopsy of Otsi this Hunter gatherer whose frozen corpse was found in the snow of austria a few years ago, showed that he had big problem of arteries, he was killed violently but would have died anyway from his arteries problem. The food they found in his stomach and his bags was animal fat...

There are anthropological studies where the transition from hunter-gatherer to agricultural society was able to be studied and the hunter-gatherer remains showed more robust health, including taller people, stronger bones, etc. Not to say the early h&g people didn't have their problems. I just finished reading 'Anasazi America' which describes in some detail the agricultural society created by the Anasazi in Southwestern US. The people living on the periphery of the main agricultural areas, who still had access to viable hunting grounds, and had more meat in their diets were healthier and more robust than their 'vegan' counterparts who subsisted entirely on the corn, squash and other vegetables and grains that they grew.

Edit: It is disappointing, but not entirely surprising, to see the 'argument from authority' emerging here. If someone has objections to a non-lettered person providing an analysis of a particular study, let's hear the specifics. It is a real cop-out to use the ad-hominem of 'this person is not a certified expert therefore their analysis and opinion has no weight.'

The subject of 'Diseases of Civilization' strikes very close to home for me because 4 years ago I developed Parkinson's Disease symptoms. I'm lucky that the standard Levadopa/Carbidopa treatment is very effective. I have also noticed a big improvement by consuming 4 to 6 tablespoons of coconut oil a day (look up 'ketogenic diet') and about a teaspoon of mucuna pruriens (kaunch). Fortunately, I have a neurologist who is up on the literature and open minded enough to encourage my experimentation. If I waited for the 'experts' in the field to recommend treatments outside the strict medical paradigm, I'd be a lot worse off.

Ultimately, I'll eat whatever I damn well please and trust my own research over taking some 'expert' opinion on the subject. But the big problem is that the official government recommendations actually make it hard to eat what I consider a healthy diet. If someone has a child and wishes to keep them from eating too much sugar, good luck! It is ubiquitous and easily available and almost impossible to avoid. And try getting say dairy products that are not 'reduced fat' and so on.

I could rant for pages about this issue but I just want to say thanks to aangel for bringing up the argument and supporting data.

The problem of having a vegan diet in south and north america is that there were growing corn and not wheat, corn is very poor in protein compared to wheat and yes contains too much fast sugar. The problem of early farmers is that they were growing only one kind of crops so their diet was not diversified enough, in contrats hunter gatherer ad a more diversified diet because asides of lean meat they were eating nut, roots, grain from wild cereals, tubes, seafood, fruits, berries, leafy grass etc..

If I recall correctly, a major source of oil and protein for the early Anasazi was pine nuts. I presume that those at the periphery would continue to have more access to this source, as well as wild meat, while others ate grain. (Of course, at the very end, they seem to have turned on each other for a protein source.)

losing weight only has to do with calories

That may be true, but what Aangel and some others are saying is that some foods give your brain signals that "this is enough" (e.g. fats) and some don't (e.g. wheat). This then affects how much you eat and thus how many calories you consume.

For myself, I'm wondering. I think I'll have to read up some more. Science is a brilliant thing, but sometimes it takes a very long time to come up with the right answer and have everybody accept it.

"...it takes a very long time to come up with the right answer and have everybody accept it."

Maybe the only right answer is that there is no 'right' answer, though it's clear that some of the more passionate here will disagree. I'll agree that there are some 'wrong' answers (HFCS, etc.), but most of these are easy to spot. Since nutrition boils down to chemistry, there are likely infinite possibilities, humans will try as many of these combinations as they can, and time will tell which work and which don't. I expect that modern medicine slows this process, since it alters the results of this ongoing experiment on an ever-changing test subject.


Yes, I believe we now have a good handle on what's happening biochemically. See my response to Richard Eis, above.

No we don't

your lab experiments fail to explain the Italian and Japanese but also french paradoxes (yes french eat plenty of carbs in form of bread 3 times a day)

All the lab experiments you refer too are american, so can't be trusted

I've covered all this in my comments. There is no French Paradox once you use the correct paradigm, which is that there is no link between cholesterol, saturated fat and CHD. The reason the French (and Spanish, and Italians, and Swiss, and...) have some of the world's lowest rates of CHD and the highest levels of cholesterol is because cholesterol has been incorrectly fingered as the problem.

You don't seem to be getting this so I'll keep showing the World Health Organization data until you do:

Cholesterol WHO Data

There is no correlation between cholesterol and heart disease.

If you want to know how plaque is formed in human arteries, read:
Lipoproteins – The Real Cause of Heart Disease

...but I doubt you will. You seem to be set against learning the latest science and want to defend you current world view.

The dead giveaway that you are a "testa dura" (hard head in Italian) is this comment:
"All the lab experiments you refer too are american, so can't be trusted"

So you are a lost cause.

That's fine. I'm guessing that other people on this board are open to learning the latest science.

It may well be that there is no correlation between cholesterol and heart disease, but I respectfully submit that you can't possibly draw that conclusion from your graph.

First, it would be helpful if you would cite your data source.

Second, with the exception of Aboriginals (I don't know whether that refers to Australia or elsewhere) and Russia, the numbers shown are all European. The graph says nothing about Africans, Americans (in the broadest sense), most Asians, or most Australasians.

Third, the numbers shown are averages for each of the separate populations. They don't say anything about the relationship between cholesterol and death rate from CHD within populations, each of which has its own dietary, genetic and other factors.

Fourth, by (literally) connecting the dots, you've shown the two sets of values as if they belonged to continuous functions when they do not (they do not even have an implicit order); there is no 'x-axis' on your graph. Plotting each population's death rate vs. cholesterol level on a scatter plot would show any correlation, or lack of it.

Data source is WHO's MONI-CA Study. Tracks 26 countries, if I recall.

Data plotted by Dr. Kendrick, not me:
Cholesterol and Heart Disease

If cholesterol were really the cause of heart disease, there wouldn't be such strong evidence against it. The population with the lowest cholesterol has the worst rates of CHD and, as everyone has been scratching their heads over for decades, those populations with the highlight cholesterol have the lowest rates of CHD.

People are performing mental gymnastics to make their cholesterol theory fit with this data when the obvious answer is that the theory is wrong. We now know precisely why researchers were led down the path of thinking cholesterol was the problem and we now also know (or know better) what is really going on. So we have both theory and observation consistent with each other.

Lipoproteins – The Real Cause of Heart Disease

Recent experiments point that the signal to tell you enough is enough is given by "proteins". During many years we thought that the signal was given by "Lipids", but in fact lipids do exactly the opposite, according to the same studies. The more fat you put in your food, the more you eat, fat is a stimulant to eat more and that is why we put so much fat in our cooking. All modern diets for loosing weight incorporate more proteins to help people control their appetite.

Tom - Interesting article, and interesting comments to read. I wonder also if you should also include in your food/energy density analysis the production and distribution of protein available to humans in our ecosystem. Your energy efficiency calculations are based upon typical standards of our food on table at present yet we admit energy come from all sorts of production profiles. As a budget for humanity we need to consider conversion of protein from forms not palatable or digestible for us. Also food produced from lands that are too salty, rocky or arid for agriculture yet have photosynthetic capacity. Meat scores well in these two categories and by not using meat that is ecologically produces removes this protein from our collective diet.

Visiting a friend in Arizona I was treated to steaks cooked on a grill from a range reared steer. It was tough as nails and took long time just to chew down a few bites. This is error in cooking method and as a slow cooked roast would have made better bowl of chili or a taco

Thanks all for this great discussion

I appreciate the lively conversation on diet and health going on here. It gives me much to ruminate on (pun intended).

I would like to point out, though, that like many health markers, the relationship to individual habits such as diet, exercise, sleep, exposure to chemicals, and wealth are very difficult to tease out, perhaps as indicated by the back-and-forth between the references linked.

Based on what I've looked at recently, I would say that diet can only help so much at improving health markers. Socioeconomic inequality seems to be the most widespread determinant of health outcomes, at least those parochially considered to be "of affluence" (heart disease, post-adolescent mortality, cancer, diabetes, etc.). The thesis here is that stratified societies tend to increase the chronic stress levels of its members, save for those at the very top who have the fewest barriers to autonomy or goal-seeking.

To bring the topic back to the thread, I would consider the debate on diet to be less important than a debate on how to structure societies to focus on community priorities rather than personal satisfaction. The shift towards less energy-intensive foods in a world of increasing energy scarcity would be a HUGE part of that discussion.

Brave of you to bring the discussion back to the original topic. I thought I was having a bad dream.

I agree with your final point. We can be sure that we won't give up eating in the future. To the extent that energy becomes more difficult (scarce, expensive), it will be useful to understand which foods require a lot of energy and which don't. Prices may well do the work for us, but if we first appreciate the problem, then maybe we'll put some food systems in place that are deliberately low-energy and more sustainable. I for one would rather not rely on the market to tell me what to do and when: let's anticipate the trouble spots and adapt ahead of time...

I have chosen to focus less on the fossil fuel energy content by type of food, and more on the FF energy content of packaging and transportation of food.

However, the FF energy to grow much of my food is minimal.

The gasoline for the outboard to catch wild fish & shrimp. Half the crawfish on the market are a second crop with rice - the other half are wild caught.

Honey from a few miles away. A bit of driving from hive cluster to hive cluster (all within a couple of miles of his home) and a half dozen miles to market.

Buying brown rice from the farmer in 25 lb sacks. Grown about 45 miles away. I am sure he uses FF to grow his rice. But is rice an energy intensive crop ? My guess is not.

The blueberry farmer is buying a mechanical harvester this year, after paying workers for years to pick them. A few gallons to run through the fields.

On the diet side, I eat a fairly high fat diet at home - but the two largest sources of fat are olive oil (close to a liter/month) and 4 or 5 avocados/week.

Olive trees do not require much FF to grow, and minimal to harvest & press. Packaging in 3 liter bottles is not too bad. Ocean transport for high energy density food is not much FF/liter of olive oil.

Avocados may get a bit of fertilizer (I do NOT know) but harvesting takes minimal energy. And then trucking from Mexico or California to New Orleans (we grow some avocados here - but not the Hass type I like). Some energy there that I would like to see shifted to electrified rail.

I add some northern water frozen fish (all cold water fish have higher fat content than Gulf fish) to my diet (Gulf fish Saturday (day of F&F market), Sunday and usually Monday. I either drive to the Tuesday Farmer's & Fishers Market or eat frozen pollock, flounder, cod the rest of the week).

This frozen fish is MUCH higher in FF input, but ....

Fresh local vegetables in season, frozen the rest of the year (canned tomatoes) or trucked in fresh from different climate zones.

Cook at home, but try and use energy efficient means of doing so. Cook portions for several meals at once - use microwave where appropriate, etc.

I thought I was both eating fairly healthy - and fairly low energy.

Best Hopes for trying and learning,


After all, the topic here is "flex-fuel humans" who are evolved to derive food from many sources. It seems to me that the farther away from dietary balance that we get, the more uncertain the results. Economic contraction will require adjustments of the dietary as well as the population balance, but as a species we are designed to take such changes in stride.

People have been eating grains, vegetables, meat and dairy in their modern forms and in various established regional patterns for at least a thousand years. Obesity in the US was not a cultural issue until high-fructose corn syrup was developed in the 1980's. There has been little general concern about celiac disease or gluten intolerance outside of the past few decades. Is it just that we weren't previously paying attention or lacked the medical knowledge, or are there some very specific short-term conditions that have changed?


The problem of AAngel is that for him all carbs are equally bad, he makes no difference between fast carb like sucrose or fructose that go straight from you stomach to your blood and slow digested carbs like bulgour, brown rice, complete bread that takes 4 hours to be digested. That is the failure of his shaky theory

Are you reading what I'm writing or just imagining what you think I'm writing?

I've spent extensive time distinguishing between forms of carbohydrates AND how they are processed.

Yes to conclude that they are all killing us...

They can't go there-----

I know...he and Will are stuck. That's ok. I've introduced the idea to enough other people to have made it worthwhile.

Brave of you to bring the discussion back to the original topic. I thought I was having a bad dream.

Hehe, someone should probably have warned you that this ALWAYS happens in dietary discussions.

Me too. This is the last diet and nutrition thread I can take for six months. Human diet has been observed, scientifically observed, for 2500 years. Carbs vs fats is still up in the air? I shrug at the whole "science" of nutrition, which is obviously in complete disarray.

In terms of foods requiring the least energy, pasture based livestock has to be up at the top. Some of the difficulty is regional, even site, variation based on climate. Local temp and ppt patterns, esp snow depth, confound alot of plans. Two other of note are a preponderance of livestock bred to gain on feed, and rely on antibiotics for resistance to parasites and disease.

Historical estimates put the American bison at 50-60 million, with present day US cattle populations at 92 million. We are not off too far, esp considering present cattle range vs historical bison vs present cropland. Though I don't advocate bison. Present day whitetail deer pops are ~18 million, up from historical 3-4 million, and tho a browser, it gives an idea of what may be achieved with niche browsing and grazing.

Pasture based systems will not feed the present world population, but then most agree it can't be sustained anyway. I can't help but think that a change in status and recognition away from dollars amassed can shift priorities from an individual to more community based goals. Even today we see the motivation for work comes from title as much as salary. A teacher is/was respected, a professor more so, irrespective of pay.

Wild caught seafood (depending on where & how) - fish, shrimp, oysters, crabs - are competitive. As well as fresh water wild caught fish and crawfish (both wild caught & "second crop" with rice farming).

Fishing from the banks of a swamp or farm pond, with bait dug up or caught, is about as low energy as it gets - And fun too :-)


In terms of foods requiring the least energy, pasture based livestock has to be up at the top.

Plus, it sequesters carbon with its relationship with perennial grasses.


Grain production is biocide, depleting fossil aquifers and soil, causing dead zones in the ocean, and practicing ecocide on the environment.

During my freshman year at Baylor Medical School 1951-2 I took biochemistry and physiology. Biochemistry was mostly nutrition. We were taught that weight change depended on calories in vs calories out. Calories for water, indigestible fiber, carbohydrate, protein, alcohol and fat were given as 0, 0, 4, 4, 7 and 9. (fiber might actually be slightly negative). There was a theory that protein had a slightly higher satiety value. Protein sparing effect was also taught. Pathology was the main course the sophomore year. We covered among other things deficiency diseases and diabetes. Medicine rotations the junior and senior years included obesity and hypertension. Metabolic pathways such as the Krebs cycle were difficult to learn. Specializing in radiology I had no reason to keep up with nutrition except for my own personal reasons. I did wonder if barium sulfate could be used for dieting. I have suspected that there is far too much junk science in this field but have no expertise. Over the years I have noted that many primary care physicians stress maintaining a proper weight. Orthopedic specialists are concerned about the damage to joints. Some physicians tend to be discouraged by the recidivism. I have been moderately successful on low fat, high fiber artificial sweetener diets with low calorie vegetables and some gym visits. I briefly took phen-fen. It worked. If I let go I might easily exceed 300 pounds.

If you have an auto that can travel 32 miles and use one gallon of gas, one mile distance traveled will consume 4 ounces of gasoline. (The energy to build the car has already been expended, so it doesn't count.)

That has a cost of about 15 cents at 5 dollars per gallon. Your drive to the grocery store and back has a cost of 30 cents for the fuel.

If you walk to the grocery store, you'll have to have some liquid refreshment to fuel the loss of energy from the walk. If you buy a bottle of water, it might cost as much as $1.50, 5 times the cost of the gas and you'll be limited in the amount of groceries you can carry.

Drive your car, it will save energy and money. The cost of the bottle of water and the process to get it there is more energy intensive.

Just a better world with a car. BTW, you couldn't use water to add to your radiator from a trough that was reserved for horses to drink back in the early days of the automobile. Superstitions arise from nowhere.

Running down a chicken, grabbing its feet, chopping off the head and let it bounce around on the ground for a few minutes, dip the poor dead chicken into boiling water, pluck it, then dress it out is a better way; beats buying chicken at the grocery store. Probably what the happened for the last 100,000 years because that is what can be done.

Hard to eat a piece of chicken after butchering a 100 of them all day, everything smells like feathers, blood and guts all over your hands, stuff like that. Wait to have some the next day.

If you walk to the grocery store, you'll have to have some liquid refreshment to fuel the loss of energy from the walk. If you buy a bottle of water, it might cost as much as $1.50, 5 times the cost of the gas and you'll be limited in the amount of groceries you can carry.

Drive your car, it will save energy and money. The cost of the bottle of water and the process to get it there is more energy intensive.

The equation assumes that you're living on the minumum calorie allocation and already get all the exercise you need. We know that, in industrialised societies, neither assumption holds. In reality, the walk will burn off some of the excess calories from what you've eaten that day or the day before (thus helping your weight) and the exercise will improve your fitness.

Further, there is the finding that moderate exercise actually helps to suppress appetite. So your next meal will be a little smaller and that also will help with your weight.

Just a better world with a car.

Perhaps it's better for the individual driver involved, if everything else stays the same. But that car makes the world worse for everyone else in it, and to a greater extent than it improves it for the driver. Overall, cars are a blight on society and will have to be abolished in due course. It can't be done overnight, because the public transport systems aren't in place, but the price of oil will one day do the job anyway.

Longtime reader with a new username here (lost my old password after changing email addresses):

This is a fascinating discussion and one that seems, at this stage in our history and development, impossible to resolve. As many have already noted here, reality will probably resolve our eating dilemma for us sooner or later.

It is a strange comment on our times, as Michael Pollan said in his book ("The Omnivore's Dilemma"), that we even have to have a complicated discussion on how to eat. Most people throughout history didn't have that luxury, that's for sure.

The bottom line in the discussion here seems to be: Do we eat for sustainability (ie, low-energy), which we probably need to do from a societal perspective, or do we eat the way humans were evolved to eat, which is undoubtedly the most healthful for us from an individual perspective? Ten thousand years ago, this wasn't a problem, because the answer to both questions was the same. Today? Not so much.

I agree with JoulesBurn's point of view, but have recently also come to the conclusion that paleo is probably smartest for personal health, so I like a lot of where aangel is coming from too. In light of that, here are the things I've found myself thinking about:

  • Eating paleo based on an industrial agriculture/livestock system isn't sustainable because of the energy requirements alone to produce that much meat protein daily for 7 billion people.
  • Eating paleo today is most likely also unhealthy (and not at all paleo) for us personally because of all the pharmaceuticals and chemicals that are pumped into that system. (Just look at the results of the most recent study of what's been found in US poultry -- http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es203970e?prevSearch=[Title%3A%2BFeather%2BMeal]&searchHistoryKey= -- which includes the active ingredients of Tylenol, Viagra and Prozac, along with arsenic)
  • Eating paleo today also supports horrendous cruelty to animals on an industrial scale, something I prefer to have as little as possible to do with (yes, I'm a vegetarian -- mostly for this and the previous two reasons above -- though I've eaten my share of hamburgers, chicken and ribs in the past).
  • Even wild-caught meat/fish seems a poor choice from a health perspective today. While I gave up beef, pork and poultry years ago, I continued to eat fish and shellfish occasionally, especially fresh fish caught in the Gulf of Mexico (which I live near) ... until the latest revelations about wide-scale deformities being found in Gulf-caught sealife (http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2012/04/201241682318260912.html).
  • Even vegetarian paleo seems a pale version of real paleo, considering industrially raised and (often) genetically modified produce has been found to contain fewer nutrients than organic/heirloom varieties.

It really is, as Pollan called it, a dilemma ... and one that those of us with the resources to afford decent amounts of food are lucky to have. Inevitably, though, I believe future energy, climate and other trends will have a lot more to say about how we eat.

nice post tom, i'd recommend simon fairlies book: "Meat: A Benign Extravagance" for an in depth look at meat and some of the myths relating to energy use.

Known Knowns:

There are too many of us Capitas, and we use too much per capita
humans can exclusively eat meat, the inuit did so
humans can exclusively eat starches, or vegetables
we can run down and kill by hand most small ungulates
some of us are lactose intolerant
some of us are gluten intolerant

Known Unknowns:
humans eat meat because all the megafauna have gone (mammoth, mastodon, diprotodon, moa)
there are lots of butchering marks on 'fossil' carcasses
Humans don't lap water therefore are not carnivores.
we have short intestines so we are carnivores
we have molars so we are herbivores
we have canines so we are carnivores
we have scalp hair, subcutaneous fat & no hair; and can swim at birth so we are aquatic
we are bipedal for better reach in the trees
we are bipedal & have scalp hair for better cooling when hunting in the tropics
we have grasping feet so we are arboreal

The Paleolithic diet was guaranteed to give you a healthy life until age 30 if you were not eaten by a hip-hop-opotomus
The longest lived modern people tend to eat lots of rice & fish & oils

Unknown Unknowns:
There was a massive increase in obesity around 1980. this correlates with:
the use of HFCS
the popularization of the PC
radios and air conditioning in automobiles
paving of secondary roads
options and day trading
the popularization of jogging
hydrogenization of oils

Metabolic studies in the 1950's (I am still awe-inspired) showed we need carbohydrates to metabolize fats, but other than that can digest pretty much anything.
and of course that there are many ways to screw up insulin production to cause diabetes.

Frankly, it is the last two bits of science that give me the most useful information. Obviously humans have been surviving for a while on every conceivable edible or not (cycads, cheeky yams) item. Also obviously we are living longer than ever despite the industrialized crap we are eating.

Once the mud is lower than the top of my boots I'm planning on going outside and planting Emmer & Red Fife & Potatoes & tomatoes eg. whatever I can grow in this climate, so I can decide what poisons I'm applying & eating. Yes, some things are not metabolically perfect, but at least I will know exactly how much Round-Up is on them; and how much BT and Vancomycin are being produced.

There are two fat (in spring?) deer, a moose & 6 Canada geese standing looking at me right now. I know there is a lot of food there but I don't have the stomach to kill them when I don't have to. I admire those who do. I least admire those who go to the grocery store & buy packaged meat; with all the tastiness but none of the screaming and blood and that disturbing non-scientific change in their big brown (/little beady goose) eyes when they die. Which makes me a "vegetarian" (Dene word meaning 'crappy hunter').

And having a nut allergy certainly eliminates a lot on these "healthy diet" lists.

I'm also a ways from anything that might be called 'overpopulated'. So maybe that gives me a little more freedom than most.

So what's a guy to do? I figgur: Grow your own plants, kill your own meat, import a bit of spice, sugar and oil if it doesn't grow locally. And enjoy all the benefits of fuel while it's here - I suspect we'll miss it when it's gone.


New customers will readily jump in and consume the oil that you manage to spare.

This approach is useless in my view. The system will change only when it is forced to do so by lack of fossil fuels.

Increase your resilience by growing as much of your food as possible. (It is to increase resilience and not to reduce fossil fuel usage).
And then party like it's 1999. The sooner this thing collapses the better.

Mass-voluntary life-style change will not happen.