Friday, May 24, 2019

Cancer can use sugar, fat, and protein as fuel

What? Everyone knows cancer uses sugar as fuel. 

As a reminder, the three sources our bodies can use as fuel are the three "macros" carbs, fats, and proteins. Under normal circumstances all three sources are available to the body at all times. Under those circumstances the body primarily uses glucose for fuel, if glucose becomes depleted the body begins to use fat for fuel (ketosis), and if glucose and fat are both depleted the body begins using protein for fuel, which is the onset of starvation, and a fairly rapid progression toward starvation death.

BTW, even the average "lean" person has enough fat to go 2 months on water before starvation begins.

Cancer researchers have been seeing for some time cancers can "switch" fuel the absence of one another is used. So while this is not "news" to cancer researchers, it really hasn't filtered into the collective mind yet. Jane McLelland is a health care professional who contracted cancer and began researching the literature for answers. She has written a book called "How to Starve Cancer with Off-Label Drugs", and in this clip talks about the problem with the overly simplistic idea "sugar fuels cancer".

Chris Wark, the interviewer, also mentions a blog post he wrote:

The low carb high fat approach to diet has a lot of curb appeal because it allows us to continue consuming an animal product based diet.

Being grounded in familiar territory can be a "sticky" condition, meaning it can be very difficult to change course even in the face of convincing evidence "familiar ground" may not be the best place for us. I try to elucidate this problem in a previous blog "Thoughts on the prevalence of addiction".

The low carb "keto" diet keeps us on familiar ground, and has the benefit of weight loss. "I can eat bacon AND lose weight?" is a tremendously appealing "familiar ground" solution. The problem is bacon is a known carcinogen.

There are simply piles of evidence that optimal health is attained with a whole foods plant based diet. There are intervention programs that teach how to make the change.

Intervention can easily be the difference between success and failure when trying to adopt healthier patterns.

Here's a good one:
10-Day Live-in Program

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Now I'm going to say something really crazy

Like I've never said anything crazy in my blog. Right?

OK, here it is...if you are worried about too much sugar (and who isn't?) then you should be eating more...fruit.

Yep. And here's something even crazier...if you have diabetes, and you want to dramatically reduce (and even eliminate) the amount of insulin you have to take, eat more...fruit.

OK now you think I'm totally off my bonk. Boy's done gone craazy.

I'm not even going to try to explain this. Robby Barbaro of Mastering Diabetes, and Chris Wark of Chris Beat Cancer will do it so much better than I can.

This clip starts right at the good part...gofer it.

An example of how nutrition studies are used to disseminate misinformation

Pam Popper is expert in analyzing nutrition studies for quality, or lack thereof. A study is done, it is published in a journal, and news media goes to press with it. They may be particularly interested in publishing if the study is sure to attract a lot of attention, as was the case with this 2015 study on cholesterol that Popper has a look at for the benefit of us non-experts. She shows us how a study is analysed for quality in an 11 minute presentation:

I'd like to add a few other points about why we the public do not realize these sort of "studies" are misrepresentation, and why we find them so compelling.

1) We do not know, and have no way of knowing, that the "weight of the evidence" lies exactly in the opposite direction. Only legitimate nutrition scientists would happen to know this sort of thing off hand, along with a relatively small number of medical doctors (the study geeks).

What is "weight of the evidence"? It's the aggregate conclusion of all quality studies on one specific topic, after filtering out low quality where study authors are shown to have pre-existing bias, or where honest mistakes have been made in the design of the "model under test".

2) We have our own biases, and one thing that's true about biases is we like to have them confirmed. In the case of health and nutrition studies "we love to hear good things about our bad habits". All things in moderation sounds reasonable until we consider it can mean almost anything depending on the biases of the individual professing that sentiment.

3) Media, where we learn of such studies, has approximately the same biases as the general population. An overweight editor wants to hear "bacon is back" as much as the rest of us.

4) Nutrition is confusing for most of us because interest groups use low quality studies to make their case (and protect their profits) in the media. The studies that are sensational, and confirm public biases, attract the attention of the media. And we have no way of knowing there are frequently dozens (or more) quality studies saying the exact opposite. These are the studies that are rarely published outside of scientific journals.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Ezra Stevenson, FoodNSport, and Doug Graham

I first met Ezra at a Doug Graham "FoodNSport" event in Washington state, about an hour north of Seattle at a retreat center. Doug's retreats are some combination of a sports training boot camp, profound nutrition education, and the best time ever. This particular event was a 12 day water only fast, followed by 6 days of "refeeding" combined with increasing levels of physical activity (during the actual fast we rested).

Ezra was to be my roommate, but I was informed just before bedtime on the day of arrival he was coming in on a late flight, and wouldn't arrive until 2am. Oh...and he was bringing a dog.

Wait. A dog? On a 12 day water fast, in a small room with a small window? I was imagining a large odoriferous canine, and a lot of shedding. I thought to myself "I'll deal with this in the morning" before rolling over and going to sleep.

I opened my eyes the next morning to see a gorgeous border collie sitting by my bed looking at me...and smiling. Then Ez said "that's Luna", I looked over at sturdy a young man as Luna was beautiful.

OK, welcome Ezra and Luna! We became fast friends (no pun intended), and remain so to this day.

So why am I writing about Ez? He has undergone a pretty amazing personal transformation since I met him, and I think it makes an interesting post for a few reasons. The lead reason is a little myth busting: "we need animal protein for good health, physical performance, and especially if we want to put on muscle".

But Ezra has been 100% vegan for years. And he began strength training only about 6 months ago.

Here's a pic of Ez about the time we met at the retreat, healthy and slim:

And here's a recent pic of Ez, a few years later:

And here's Ez hitting it at the gym a few days ago:

One of Ezra's older brothers was a bodybuilder, and the young Ez would go with him to the gym. Apparently he learned a lot from his brother, because Ez knows a lot about bodybuilding! Combined with what he learned from Doug Graham about nutrition and athletic training and et voilĂ !

I'm lucky that Ez likes company at the gym, because when I'm in town he asks me to go with him. If I were here (in the Palm Beaches) all the time I would be way more fit than I am, but Ezra has educated me in strength training, and he inspires me to do better. Ezra has been as good a model for motivation and consistency as I could hope for.

Thank you Ez! And thank you Doug Graham for all you have done, and continue to do, for so many.

the importance of strength training

This blog post touches on something we all know, the importance of physical activity. But it's going to go a little further and talk specifically about strength training. I do not know US stats on percent of population consistently engaged in strength training, but a pretty safe guess is it's very low. This does not mean you shouldn't do it!

Strength training also gains in importance as we grow older. Seniors will benefit more in terms of increases to overall health levels than any other age group. A big part of the reason for that is a reduction or reversal in rate of progression in two of the conditions that make the difference between "youthful" and "old", sarcopenia (loss of muscle density) and osteoporosis (loss of bone density). If you have either of these conditions you also have the other.

Study: "Osteoporosis and sarcopenia: two diseases or one?" at the link:
Loss of bone and muscle with advancing age represents a huge threat to loss of independence in later life

So what is strength training specifically? An anecdote from Doug Graham nicely illustrates the conditions of strength training. (Doug, among other things, is a professional athletic trainer and author of the book "Nutrition and Athletic Performance: A Handbook for Athletes and Fitness Enthusiasts".)

the anecdote:
The twenty-eight year old had been going to the gym for four years before he finally went to a personal trainer and said, “Your machines don’t work. I’m no stronger than I was four years ago when I started training in this gym.” The personal trainer agreed to review the young man’s training regimen and found the following:
1. He went to the gym three times per week, usually, though sometimes there were gaps in his training.
2. He performed stretching exercises every time he went to the gym.
3. He spent the bulk of his time each visit on some type of cardio machine.
4. Once per week he performed 100 “air” squats.
5. Twice per week he performed a set of 100 incline pushups
6. On every visit to the gym, he would use at least one of the different strength machines, doing 3 sets of 100 reps.

The personal trainer set him straight, saying, “Strength is measured as a “one rep maximum exertion,” and is trained using a very low rep range against a relatively (for your strength) very high resistance. You have done no strength training, therefore your strength has not improved.”

Coaches, guides, gurus, trainers, teachers, supervisors, advisors, mentors, and related job positions exist for the very good reason that people need and benefit from such services. We cannot all be specialists in everything. Without some guidance, we will all too often fail in our endeavor, and that failure may at times be dangerous, and even deadly.
In other words we need to work right up to the limits of our strength, with consistency, to increase strength. It does not matter what that individual limit is. And it is not difficult to find it, it's the point where you simply can't do another "rep". How many reps? That's up to you, but many serious strength trainers use 5 reps (either on strength machines or free weights), when they can get 6 reps they up the weight one increment.

And this is the process that "proves" you are actually getting stronger. When one trains with consistency, 3-4 times a week, in the beginning strength will increase relatively quickly, and then at some point rate of progress will slow. That is normal and perfectly OK, you are then maintaining a much higher level of strength than when you started, and your body and mind will thank you.

Proper technique is essential to avoid injury, so work with a trainer in the beginning. Quoting Doug Graham again:

Lifting at somewhere close to eighty percent of your maximum seems to be the ideal weight for developing great technique. At this weight, the lifter can usually perform four to six repetitions before becoming too tired to lift any further. The first few repetitions are relatively easy, while the final one or two will be quite challenging. Performing multiple reps is a great way to learn and “lock in” good technique, but the weight must be heavy enough that good technique is required. At eighty percent, doing only five reps, the lifter will still be developing strength while also refining technique. As strength and technique improve, maximal exertions will result in heavier lifts. The trick to strength development is to lift, and to always lift with great technique.

And here's Doug on the misconception "it takes too much time":

Of all the types of training in existence, strength training takes the least time of them all. A reasonable strength training program can easily be completed in less than one hour per week, in two or three short sessions. Time is certainly a factor for all of us, but if you wish to excel at your sport, or you want to reap the benefits of being even moderately fit, strength training needs to be part of your fitness package. Remember, your fitness cannot be better than its weakest link. If you are not training to get stronger, it is highly likely that you are becoming progressively weaker.

Doug's website:

Friday, May 17, 2019

Fascinating discussion on the coming AI revolution

From the stage Of Davos World Economic Forum 2018, featuring Prof. Yuval Noah Harari, Prof. Daniel C. Dennett, and Prof. Jodi Halpern.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Thoughts on the prevalence of addiction

From an offering to a loved one suffering with high blood pressure (hypertension), the most common form of post-industrial disease, and the most deadly:


May I gently suggest there are mountains, yes mountains, of evidence of every type that matters (studies and experiences of real people) that demonstrate a (salt oil sugar) "SOS free" plant based diet reverses hypertension with relative ease and speed.

A lot of people are swayed by the "dietary cholesterol isn't bad" idea, but IMHO it is critical to come to terms with the fact it's misinformation propagated by industry groups facing a collapse in profit, using "science" with deliberately flawed "models under test", and welcomed by good folks who don't want to have to forgo familiar foods and diets.

This actually falls into the category of addiction, which I know a little something about. And food is a particularly pernicious form of addiction because it's, well, food. But all addictions have certain things in common. And the term is misused frequently: "I'm addicted to walking 5 miles a day". That is not addiction, that is healthy practice.

Addiction: patterns of self destructive behaviors that fall into the category of "repetition compulsion" (one can't stop doing it easily). "Healthy addiction" is a misnomer, a contradiction in terms...there is no such thing.

Using the word addiction to denote healthy patterns robs it of its power. Why do we do that? To make ourselves feel better?

The key thing I learned about addiction came from quitting smoking, which I did several times, but once while I was in analysis, and could begin to "see" the mechanism that makes it so pernicious: we associate addictions with survival on an unconscious level. Read that again.

It gets a bit more complex. Everyone knows certain things are "bad for you" but are so addictive we cannot easily stop doing them. Smoking is an example, alcoholism and drug use is another. We "know" they are bad for us but we unconsciously associate them with survival. They are "food".  These unconscious "maladaptations" are formed primarily by family of origin, peer, and broad cultural influences, which we, again, unconsciously associate with survival. Individuals do this, entire cultures do this.

When we "know" something intellectually, but "believe" the opposite on an unconscious level, it sets up "unresolved inner conflict". We all have these, but too much of it is a disaster for emotional health. This is the reason we do "therapy" activities: when we "get ourselves on the same page", so to speak, life gets easier, and better.

Unresolved inner conflict resulting in addictive eating patterns are also a disaster for physical health.

When we have these unresolved inner conflicts on both the emotional health and physical health levels, which is not uncommon, we are in a tough situation and need help. I speak from personal experience. Be aware most forms of "therapy" deal with one of these two aspects, but give short shrift the other. We may need to avail ourselves of both modalities separately...they will "blend" internally, automagically.

Another important characteristic of addictive behaviors is "numbing of the senses". Heavy meals are numbing. This is "the fix" aspect of addictions. Other addictions involve stimulants that give quick bursts of energy, but longer term are a net reduction in energy. Any repetitive activities that alter consciousness but result in net reductions in health and vitality are addictions.

There are counter productive forms of physical activity, but they are relatively rare. An example might be "runners high", not an addiction for the majority of runners, but it can be. Is it a net gain or a net loss?

So addiction is complex, you have to discern the behavioral scale of it, a broad range, and where you are on it. This is a process that can take some time, but time very well spent. What is more important than your own well being?

Smokers can no longer "tell" smoking is bad for them, the signaling systems have been overwhelmed. Stop smoking for a year or two and then have a single cigarette. If you've never had this experience believe me it's a shock to think "I was doing this?" The good news is signaling systems are self repairing.

So in a way, it's all about repairing the signaling systems, and that is a process. It has stages, or can have, generally it's more efficient to take the bandage off quickly instead of one hair at a time. Cold turkey. But if gradual works better, do it that way.

The best way to change maladaptive behaviors is to change cultural groups to take advantage of a more functional set of conscious AND unconscious "survival messages". Intervention retreats introduce and reinforce the positive and are effective. They are the rough equivalent of "rehab" for addictions that are not broadly recognized as such.

These are the addictions that are even more difficult because they are not generally recognized as "bad for you". So then you are dealing with maladaptive survival associations on BOTH the conscious and unconscious level, a double whammy.

"Animal products are the highest quality source of protein" is a very stubborn one. This came from early but incorrect nutrition science, and it falls into the maladaptive unconscious pattern "if a little bit is good a lot is better", which is not true.

There is both too much and too little "nutrition", both are malnutrition, and then there is the correct amount. Broadly speaking science is still pretty clumsy with "correct amount", and there is way too much misinformation about something that is basically quite simple.

So how do we know how much is the correct amount? Eat a variety of whole plant foods until you are completely not worry about overeating. Done. Well it also includes stop consuming addiction "foods".

If you are overweight you will come down to your correct weight. If you are sick with post-industrial conditions you will get well.

BTW, "post-industrial conditions" is not a term you are likely to hear coming from your doctor. You have to be a little bit brave here, set out on your own adventure of health. If the man in the lab coat could save you he would have done it by now.

If you have a broken arm, by all means go see the man in the lab coat. If you have post-industrial health conditions eat plants, don't eat garbage.

"Malnutrition" is a huge problem in the developed world. How do we know? Why is "health care" so expensive? Why can't it fix us quickly and easily? Or even fix us at all?

Malnutrition in the developed world is caused by maladaptive thinking about what we consume as food. A serious problem that seems so complex (the forest of misinformation) is actually quite simple.

Here's a Google search on "low fat whole food plant based diets for blood pressure". There are intervention modalities when you need to put the pedal to the metal. Hypertension certainly qualifies.