Episode 88: Is Fat Good?

On today’s show, we tackle the big question about fat by taking a look at recent worldwide reporting and media coverage of dietary fat. First, Nick Offerman offers his prose on the beauty of bacon. Then, we bounce from The Dr. Oz show and CBS News in America to the BBC in the UK to ABC’s Catalyst in Australia — they’re all chiming in about fat. Sweden’s government is making some changes to their dietary recommendations. And, we’ll wrap up the show with 13 Nutritional Lies that have made people sick and overweight. After the Bell it’s Dr. Aseem Malhotra and Arthur Haines.

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Episode 89: Criminals

This week’s show is full of hard-hitting information about the pharmaceutical industry, including coverage of the ABC’s Heart of the Matter, Part 2, which focuses on statin drugs. Also, DNA barcoding shows that many herbal supplements are not what they seem. We also cover the updated Nordic Dietary Recommendations. The Moment of Paleo covers rigid versus intuitive approaches. After the Bell: Alan Watts; Herbal Supplements; and the Nordic Dietary Recommendations press conference.

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Can Pro-Inflammatory Gut Bacteria Cause Obesity?

The microbiome and the brain are the chief regulators of adiposity and eating behavior in humans. In many respects, the microbiome is even more influential than the brain. While the many processes occurring in the brain ultimately shape our thoughts and behavior, they are in turn heavily influenced by signals issuing from other areas—like the gastrointestinal microbiome and adipose tissue.

Some experts even characterize the brain as a puppet controlled by the body’s microbial colonists. This is obviously a stretching the truth a bit. Still, it does reinforce the important point that the brain is not an isolated organ; it’s significantly affected by what goes on in the rest of the body.

This fact is unfortunately under-recognized within conventional medical circles, including among mental- and behavioral-health specialists. Over the past decade, as the research on the gut-brain axis has taken off, this has gradually started to change; however, an astonishingly large number of medical professionals still seem to perceive the brain as an independent actor.

My intention here is not to take an in-depth look at the science on the gut-brain axis. Instead, I want to address the implications of a single study published a few years back that has lingered in the back of my mind since I first discovered it. This study makes a potent statement about the influence wielded by our bacterial inhabitants.

Microbes: More Powerful Than Most People Think

The study to which I refer was fairly simple. During clinical research, the two authors discovered—via gut-microbiome testing—that a morbidly obese, diabetic man harbored significant dysbiosis: a bacterial community rich in Enterobacter, a microbial genus rife with opportunistic, endotoxin-producing pathogens. At the start of the experiment, Enterobacter comprised 35 percent of the man’s gut bacteria.

When the man was put on a whole-foods diet rich in whole grains, traditional Chinese medical foods, and prebiotics, his body started to change. Various metabolic and inflammatory variables gradually tapered down to normal levels, and the man lost 30.1 kg (66.22 lb) in 9 weeks—and 51.4 kg (113.08 lb) in 23 weeks. Even more interestingly, at 9 weeks, the Enterobacter population of the subject’s gut had shrunk markedly. It now made up only 1.8 percent of his total gut bacteria. Moving forward, it kept shrinking. At 23 weeks, it was completely undetectable.

Now, it would be irresponsible to conclude from this that the gradual disappearance of Enterobacter from the participant’s gut caused his weight loss and improved health markers. Correlation does not equal causation; many factors are at play here. It is unclear which occurred first: the metabolic improvements and weight loss, or the loss of Enterobacter from the gut. Perhaps there is no causal link at all.

Still, it’s well-established that our gut bugs greatly affect our immunity, circulating endotoxin levels, metabolism, and appetite, among other markers.Hence, it seems highly plausible that the dietary intervention exerted such strong health effects because it altered the man’s gut microbiota, which mediated some of the various effects.

In order to assess whether this had indeed been the case, the researchers isolated a bacterial strain, Enterobacter cloacae, from the Enterobacter population found in the study participant’s gut. They then transferred this strain into the guts of germ-free mice.

Over the course of a week, the Enterobacter cloacae strain was transferred into the guts of two groups of mice, one eating a high-fat diet (HFD) and the other eating a normal mouse-chow diet (NCD). Following this inoculation period, the mice in the HFD group started gaining a lot of weight, along with various other unfavorable metabolic shifts. Among other effects, the infected mice eating the HFD expressed an insulin- and leptin-resistant phenotype. The mice eating the NCD, on the other hand, remained lean throughout the experiment.  

The researchers also tested whether another bacterium, Bifidobacterium animalis, would induce the same obese phenotype as the Enterobacter cloacae strain in mice eating a HFD. It didn’t. Mice that were inoculated with Bifidobacterium animalis gained significantly less weight than mice inoculated with Enterobacter cloacae. This seems to suggest that obesity can’t be produced by just any bacterium.

Normal mice fed a HFD tend to become obese. Germ-free mice, on the other hand, have been shown to be resistant to HFD-induced obesity. This observation, and the aforementioned study, clearly suggest that microbes are involved in body-fat regulation processes in mice. They also highlight the fact that some types of bacteria are uniquely problematic in the context of obesity and body-fat regulation.

Reflections and Caveats

We must remember that the human gut microbiome is an extremely complex ecosystem, comprised of a wide variety of different microbes. In other words, no human gut is composed entirely of Bifidobacterium animalis, Enterobacter cloacae, or any other individual strain. Additionally, humans differ strikingly from mice in several important physiological aspects, and are not confined to standardized, high-fat diets designed for research.

Still, it seems we can learn a lot from the above study—which is only one among many indicating that microbes play a critical role in human body-fat regulation. I have little doubt that the current obesity epidemic is largely due to the fact that a lot of people harbor a gut terrain rich in proinflammatory bugs.

Diet is a major determinant of gut-microbial composition. This is clearly highlighted by the aforementioned study. If you eat a markedly different type of diet from that which we evolved to eat, you will promote a gut microbiome that differs markedly from that with which we evolved to corexist. This can encourage fat accumulation and metabolic derangement, in part because certain gut microbes will drive you to eat more of the food that they need to thrive (e.g., processed carbohydrates).

Many overweight and obese people may be able to “fix” their microbiomes simply by changing their diets; not everyone can, though. A person with severe gut dysbiosis may find that they have to incorporate additional microbiome-restoration strategies into their health regimen to reduce the levels of inflammatory mediators circulating in their blood. Eating fermented vegetables, undergoing fecal microbial transfer (FMT), and other interventions can be valuable in this regard. With time and care, they can cultivate a more weight-friendly gut terrain.

References:

1 Alcock J, Maley CC, Aktipis CA. “Is Eating Behavior Manipulated by the Gastrointestinal Microbiota? Evolutionary Pressures and Potential Mechanisms.” Bioessays 36.10 (Oct 2014): 940-9.

2 Bradlow HL. “Obesity and the Gut Microbiome: Pathophysiological Aspects.” Horm Mol Biol Clin Investig 17.1 (Jan 2014): 53-61.

3 Cani PD, Amar J, Iglesias, MA, Poggi M, Knauf C, Bastelica D, Neyrinck AM, Fava F, Tuohy KM, Chabo C, Waget A, Delmee E, Cousin B, Sulpice T, Chamontin B, Ferrieres J, Tanti, JF, Gibson GR, Casteilla L, Delzenne NM, Alessi MC, Burcelin R. “Metabolic Endotoxemia Initiates Obesity and Insulin Resistance.” Diabetes 56.7 (Jul 2007): 1761-72.

4 Fei N, Zhao L. “An Opportunistic Pathogen Isolated from the Gut of an Obese Human Causes Obesity in Germ-free Mice.” Isme J 7.4 (Apr 2013): 880-4.

5 Fetissov SO. “Role of the Gut Microbiota in Host Appetite Control: Bacterial Growth to Animal Feeding Behaviour.” Nat Rev Endocrinol 13.1 (Jan 2017): 11-25.

6 Hartstra AV, Bouter KE, Backhed F, Nieuwdorp M. “Insights into the Role of the Microbiome in Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes.” Diabetes Care 38.1 (Jan 2015): 159-65.  

7 Neves AL, Coelho J, Couto L, Leite-Moreira A, Roncon-Albuquerque Jr. R. “Metabolic Endotoxemia: A Molecular Link between Obesity and Cardiovascular Risk.” J Mol Endocrinol 51.2 (11 Sep 2013): R51-64.

8 Norris V, Molina F, Gewirtz AT. “Hypothesis: Bacteria Control Host Appetites.” J Bacteriol 195.3 (Feb 2013): 411-6.

9 Ridaura VK, Faith JJ, Rey FE, Cheng J, Duncan AE, Kau AL, Griffin NW, Lombard V, Henrissat B, Bain JR, Muehlbauer MJ, Ilkayeva O, Semenkovich CF, Funai K, Hayashi DK, Lyle BJ, Martini MC, Ursell LK, Clemente JC, Van Treuren W, Walters WA, Knight R, Newgard CB, Heath AC, Gordon JI. “Gut Microbiota from Twins Discordant for Obesity Modulate Metabolism in Mice.” Science 341.6150 (6 Sep 2013): 1241214.     

10 Vrieze A, Van Nood E, Holleman F, Salojarvi J, Kootte RS, Bartelsman JF, Dallinga-Thie GM, Ackermans MT, erlie MJ, Oozeer R, Derrien M, Druesne A, Van Hylckama Vlieg JE, Bloks VW, Groen AK, Heilig HG, Zoetendal EG, Stroes ES, Vos WM, Hoekstra JB, Nieuwdorp M. “Transfer of Intestinal Microbiota from Lean Donors Increases Insulin Sensitivity in Individuals with Metabolic Syndrome.” Gastroenterology 143.4 (Oct 2012): 913-6.e7.   

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Vegetable Stew

Serves 4
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes

Ingredients

2 TBSP coconut oil
12 baby onions, peeled but kept whole
1/2 medium red pepper, cut into large chunks
1/2 medium green pepper, cut into large chunks
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 small butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Sea salt, to taste
1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 TBSP tomato paste
1 (14 oz) can vegetable stock
1 large zucchini, cut into large chunks
1/2 small head savoy cabbage, cored and sliced lengthways
2 TBSP coconut cream
2 TBSP fresh cilantro, chopped, for garnish
1 lime, cut into wedges, for garnish

The Method

  1. Heat the coconut oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté for 5 minutes, or until they start to soften and turn brown in spots.
  2. Add the red and green peppers. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 minutes.
  3. Add the sweet potato, butternut squash, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, and a heaping pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes
  4. Add the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, and vegetable stock. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 30 minutes.
  5. Add the zucchini and cabbage. Cook, uncovered, an additional 10 minutes.
  6. Remove pot from heat and stir in the coconut cream. Season with additional salt, if desired. Spoon soup into serving bowls and garnish with chopped cilantro and lime wedges.

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Episode 90: Statins for Everyone!

On today’s show: Find out why I’m annoyed by the lack of journalistic excellence in reporting the new guidelines on statins; transfats may be banned all together; health benefits of vegetable oils questioned; red meat consumption linked to diabetes; and how saying no to McDonald’s can be dangerous. Sriracha lessons in the Moment of Paleo. After the Bell includes clips from Statin Nation, a sales rep turns Whistleblower, and the Triumphs of Experience from the TakeAway.

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Easy Spaghetti Squash Breakfast Scramble

Serves 1

Ingredients

1 TBSP butter, ghee, or olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 cup cooked spaghetti squash
2 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/2 cup fresh arugula or spinach leaves
1 egg, poached or fried
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste

The Method

  1. In a medium skillet set over medium heat, melt the butter.
  2. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute, or until fragrant.
  3. Add the spaghetti squash and bacon. Sauté until heated through, 2-3 minutes.
  4. Remove pan from heat and stir in the arugula. Spoon into a serving dish and top with the cooked egg. Season with salt and pepper and enjoy.

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Seasonal Eating

There’s nothing more nourishing than consuming foods in their freshest forms, and that means eating seasonally.

Perhaps you’ve heard “health experts” or news reports, or read claims on local restaurant menus, about the importance of eating seasonally—that is, including foods in your diet that are grown at the same time of year you eat them. But these sources never really tell you why this is so important.

The idea of eating seasonally is something most of us overlook due to the luxury provided by our current farming, shipping, and agricultural practices. We can go to the grocery store at any time of the year and get practically any food, fruit, or vegetable we want, and eating seasonally has become merely a nice idea, and we have little to no real appreciation of the benefits.

So what’s the primary benefit of eating seasonally? Nutrition!

Eating healthy goes far beyond the number of calories you consume, the macronutrient ratio, the claim on a label (“packed with vitamins and minerals” or “heart healthy”) or the notion that you and I should be eating lots of fruits and veggies.

Eating healthy means more than just eating Paleo. Nutrient density is important—and  those the most nutrient-dense foods just so happen to be the in-season varieties available only  at particular times of the year. Just like there is a difference in the quality of a McDonald’s hamburger and that of a homemade grass-fed beef burger, there is a big difference in the nutrient bang we get from the same fruits and veggies in different seasons.

As soon as a fruit or vegetable is harvested, nutritional breakdown begins. In fact, many vitamins present in the fruit or vegetable before harvest are highly unstable and are largely depleted after only a few days. This is why out-of-season produce—shipped from miles and miles away, spending many days in transit and the back of 18-wheelers—is less nutrient dense.

It’s easy to tell which foods are fresher—and which ones are less fresh—based on appearance, taste, and price. Walk into a grocery store at any time of year, and the special sales, as well as the colors of the fruits and veggies in the produce section, will tell you what’s in season and what’s not.

During a weekly grocery store run in late February, I wanted strawberries. But the strawberries on display were mushy and dull-red, and they even showed a hint of hairy mold.

I decided that $5.99 a pound for those fuzzy, pale-red berries was not worth it. February isn’t quite berry season. Come mid-spring through the summer months, though, when those berries are a rich, red, juicy color and on sale for $1.99 to $2.99 per pound, you can bet I will be noshing!

A study in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition investigated the vitamin C content of organic, conventional and seasonally grown broccoli to determine whether organic is really more nutritious than conventional produce. In addition, researchers wanted to see whether the time of year changed the the produce’s nutritional content. The results found that the vitamin C content of organically and conventionally labeled broccoli was not significantly different; however, they observed significant seasonal changes. The fall values for vitamin C were almost twice as high as those for spring for both organic and non-organic broccoli.

Another study on the nutrition quality of fresh versus frozen vegetables found that vegetables picked and frozen when in season are higher in nutrients than those “fresh” vegetables out of season.

One more study found that, due to the fresh greens cows eat in the summer, their milk contains higher levels of the vitamin folate during that season than in wintertime.

In addition to consuming more nutrients, eating a seasonally based diet with lots of variety throughout the year is a “cornerstone of preventive medicine,” according to Dr. Preston Maring of Kaiser Permanente’s Oakland Medical Center in California. Dr. Maring is even writing prescriptions for his patients to buy fresh food from the hospital’s on-site farmers market, complete with suggestions for how to prepare it. He was inspired by a study documenting the benefits of eating an in-season, plant-focused diet, which touted reduced risks of cancer and heart disease, increased longevity, improved cholesterol, improved vascular health, and increased bone density and weight loss.

So how do you know if you are eating the best fruits and veggies for a particular time of year? Take a quick look around the produce section of your grocery store. Pay attention to the way prices are trending—in-season items are usually cheaper. Have you noticed that berries, peaches, and nectarines get really expensive at the end of fall? And that the berries and peaches and nectarines on the shelves just don’t look as good as the ones during the spring or summer? That’s a good clue. Also, if you notice that there’s an abundance of something specific, and they’re on sale (like potatoes or pumpkins in fall, for example), that’s another good hint.

In addition, beyond your grocery, farmers markets are renowned for carrying the freshest in-season produce, as is your local community-supported agriculture (CSA). You can find a CSA near you at localharvest.org/csa/.

Here’s a partial list of what’s in season each month of the year.

December, January, February

Beets
Broccoli
Brussels Sprouts
Carrots
Clementines
Fennel
Grapefruit
Horseradish
Kale
Kiwis
Kumquats
Oranges
Parsnips
Tangerines
Turnips
Winter Squash

March, April, May

Apricots
Artichokes
Asparagus
Broccoli
Collard greens
Green beans
Honeydew
Mango
Mustard greens
Oranges
Spinach
Snow peas
Strawberries
Swiss chard

June, July, August

Apricots
Beets
Bell peppers
Blackberries
Blueberries
Cherries
Cucumbers
Eggplant
Endive
Grape tomatoes
Grapes
Grapefruit
Green beans
Peaches
Raspberries
Strawberries
Tomatoes
Watermelon
Yukon Gold potatoes
Zucchini

September, October, November

Apples
Artichokes
Arugula
Beets
Endive
Broccoli
Brussels sprouts
Cabbage
Carrots
Cauliflower
Celery
Chard
Figs
Garlic
Grapes
Limes
Okra
Pumpkin
Spinach

Here’s a recipe for some inspiration for how to cook summer’s good tidings!

Slow Cooker Apricot Chicken

Ingredients

2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts and/or thighs
3/4 cup unsweetened dried apricots, halved
1 TBSP coconut oil
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (2-inch) piece ginger, grated
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp allspice
1 tomato, diced, or 1 (14.5-oz) can diced tomatoes (no salt added)
1 cup chicken broth, preferably homemade
Himalayan sea salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Melt 1/2 tablespoon of the coconut oil in a pan on medium heat.
  2. Season the chicken with sea salt and pepper, and add to the pan.
  3. Brown on both sides for a couple of minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  4. In the same pan, melt the remaining coconut oil. Sauté the diced onion until it becomes translucent. Stir in the ginger, garlic, cinnamon and allspice.
  5. Cook and stir for 30–60 seconds.
  6. Add the tomatoes and chicken broth.
  7. Cook a few more minutes, until heated through.
  8. Pour the mixture into the slow cooker and add the dried apricots.
  9. Place the chicken on top of the mixture and cover.
  10. Cook on low for 5–6 hours or on high for 3–4 hours.
  11. Shred the chicken with two forks and mix together. Serve atop mixed greens, a sweet potato or roasted asparagus spears.

Resources

  1. Wunderlich SM, Feldman C, Kane S, Hazhin T. “Nutritional quality of organic, conventional, and seasonally grown broccoli using vitamin C as a marker.” International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition. 59.1 (2008): 34–45. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17852499
  2. “Frozen veg ‘healthier than fresh’.” BBC News. 31 Mar 2003. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/2902223.stm.
  3. Boullosa N. “Eat seasonal: it’s the new black.” *faircompanies. Feb 2007. http://faircompanies.com/news/view/eat-seasonal-its-new-black/.
  4. Alterman T. “The Benefits of Eating Locally Grown, Seasonal Food.” Mother Earth Living. Nov/Dec 2012. http://www.motherearthliving.com/food-and-recipes/sustainable-food/locally-grown-seasonal-food-zmoz12ndzmel.aspx?PageId=2#ArticleContent

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Episode 91: Impala Belly

On this week’s show we discuss the GMO labeling vote, the statin controversy follow-up, athleticism and diabetes, prolonging life with nuts, The Ritz Cracker Deficiency, human food and the microbiomes of hunter gatherers. There is a Moment of Paleo that touches on the ideas of trust in corporations and others. After the Bell there are 4 excellent clips for your enjoyment.

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