Episode 166: Probiotic beer and gut health (and other fun things) with Jared’s Probiotics

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On today’s show we welcome Jared Toay, owner of Jared’s Probiotics. Jared is an expert on probiotics and gut health and he’s as passionate about teaching people as he is about experimenting with new and tasty fermented products. He likes to come up with new ways to give you both, by making probiotic drinks and snacks like granola, kombucha, probiotic soda, and even probiotic beer.

In today’s interview, we talk about gut bacteria, probiotics, prebiotics, what kefir is, how it’s possible to make a soda that’s actually pretty healthy and a lot more. Jared is a digestion expert, an authority on fermented foods and he owns a company offering this delicious fermented drinks and food.

CLICK HERE for the full transcript.

On today’s show we discuss:

  • Jared’s health journey and what sparked his interest in fermented foods.
  • What probiotics are and why they are so important.
  • Probiotics in food versus probiotic pills and supplements.
  • The foods probiotics eat, called prebiotics.
  • How probiotics work for paleo diets that are low in sugar and starch.
  • The steps to help heal a problem gut.
  • Whether you can overdo it on probiotics.
  • Things to look out for that are good quality and naturally probiotic.
  • The difference between water kefir and kombucha.
  • How probiotic granola and other foods are made.
  • New upcoming products you can look forward to.
  • And much more!

“It’s very important to have a very strong working, healthy gut.” — @jaredsprobiotic [0:07:31.1]

“Not all probiotic foods are created equal.” — @jaredsprobiotic [0:27:42.9]

“The key to better health is really focusing on better digestion.” — @jaredsprobiotic [0:47:05.1]

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The post Episode 166: Probiotic beer and gut health (and other fun things) with Jared’s Probiotics appeared first on Paleo Magazine.

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PMR #169: All About Beef Jerky and Starting Your Own Business With The New Primal’s Jason Burke

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On today’s show we’re talking to the founder of The New Primal, Jason Burke. Jason started making his own jerky because he needed a healthy option and it went well, and the rest is history. Now he’s offering that healthy option to all of us, at more than 6,000 locations around the US as well as online. This company makes grass fed, grass finished beef jerky as well as marinades, meat sticks and even cute, perfectly proportioned snack mates for the kiddie’s lunch boxes.

This company has helped change the public’s perception of jerky from an aggressive salted and sugared trucker treat that you pick up at the gas station to a healthful, nourishing snack that really anyone can enjoy. In today’s episode, we talk about his product, the growing pains of running a company as well as having a life and a lot more.

CLICK HERE for the full transcript.

On today’s show we discuss:

  • Jason’s background and how he came to be where he is now.
  • How he continues to differentiate and set himself apart from new jerky companies.
  • What Jason’s jerky recipe consists of.
  • The kid specific products that are available at The New Primal.
  • How Jason has entered new market segments with his healthy jerky.
  • How the packaging is inclusive and not classic meathead kind style.
  • What product is the most popular product from The New Primal.
  • How Jason found and developed a relationship with his suppliers.
  • How the local market is starting to make steps into the direction of grass fed cows.
  • The challenges of sourcing poultry.
  • How he and his family maintain a healthy lifestyle and find a balance.
  • The new products that The New Primal has and what to look out for..
  • And much more!

“Paleo or not, we’re among the cleanest that you’ll get and we don’t skimp on animal welfare practices at all.” — @thenewprimal [0:08:38.1]

Listen Now!


Its easy, simply post a review of PMR on iTunes and fill out our quick Registration Form and you’ll be entered to win your choice of 4 great books and a Paleo Magazine vinyl decal!
One winner will be randomly chosen each week.

The post PMR #169: All About Beef Jerky and Starting Your Own Business With The New Primal’s Jason Burke appeared first on Paleo Magazine.

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What The Health: A Wolf’s Eye Review

So…I’ve had a lot of folks ask me for my thoughts on the Netflix documentary film “What The Health.” I’ll be honest, I drug my feet in doing this as these postmortems tend to be fairly painful, but the requests for some commentary has reached a bit of a fever pitch, so, here it is, with my usual preambles and caveats.

Some of my hesitation in digging into this is also that I’m just not sure if it matters. People generally make their decisions early and are seldom swayed by any future information. But, like that uplifting story about the person who throws starfish back into the ocean, if it matters to you, helps even a few people make better sense of all this, then it was likely worth it. Another not insignificant slice of my hesitation is that this is going to get me on the radar of the cranky (read crazy) vegan folks. One of the people featured in the movie did prison time for harassment and was the founder of an animal rights group that is known to have done everything from physical intimidation of people they disagree with, to firebombing houses of employees of the same.

Charming folks.

Not sure if you’ve noticed, but people are fucking crazy these days, so again, stoking the ire of the religiously militant vegans is not really an appealing thing to do. No one reading or commenting on this will have the degree of scrutiny and crosshairs (real or metaphorical) brought to bare on them that I will. I don’t want a big outpouring of emotion about this but I would appreciate some understanding that “you” get to read this, “I” get to deal with the aftermath of writing it.

I started this off attempting to be as professional as I could be, similar to this piece that I did.

In that piece I managed to largely keep it together until near the end of the presentation when I felt like the whole thing was a sham and I was just being messed with. With “What The Health” I did not make it very far before I came metaphorically unstitched and my professionalism fled me. I apologize in advance for that, this review would likely be taken more seriously if I’d managed to maintain a more clinical tone…but yea, even though I strive to have the emotional complexity of a Vulcan, I too can get squirrley at times. Some of the claims and tactics employed in the movie are just…well, I’ll let you decide what they are.

What I did-My Process man

I watched the movie and provided a time index for the various portions that I felt were particularly important to comment on. The time refers to the duration of the movie remaining. There are some things that I know I missed as there are sections of the movie in which claims are made in a rapid fire fashion and it would have made this already long piece literally 5x longer. Despite this I think you will notice that a lot IS covered and the way the “facts” are handled is remarkable. In some cases I just provide a name and time index, in other cases I dig into quite a lot of detail.

I introduce people as they appear and upon their first appearance I will generally mention a bit about their background and I also go out of my way to mention if they are vegan or not. Almost NO ONE featured in this film is not vegan. There is zero attempt to seek out contradictory views, this is a monochrome of political, nutritional and ecological ideology. That said, the film is remarkably well done and the folks producing it have spent a lot of time thinking about how to address the common counterpoints and concerns raised around the material they present. Without further ado, here is my review of “What The Health.”

First Spark Media– A film company focusing on activist related projects. Most of the material they have produced to date is vegan/animal liberation in nature.

1:31:23 Dr. Robert Ratner American Diabetes Assoc- Provides a long list of diabetes related problems. Asked what the relationship is between diet and diabetes. Response “I’m not going to get into that.” This section pops up later in the film.

Executive Producer: Joaquin Phoenix- Vegan, Filmmaker, Actor, Activist.

Directors Kip Andersen, Keegan Kuhn- Kip and Keegan produced an earlier film “Cowspiracy” which apparently had some input/backing from Leonardo DiCaprio. Both Kip and Keegan are Vegan.

1:30:06 Kip relates a story of his “previous hypochondriac past”  Made a point that he diligently followed all the major health org’s recs.

1:29:33 Kip shares ABC news report: “New information, meat causes cancer”

Soundbite: “Processed meat is clearly linked to an increase in cancer”. No mention of absolute vs relative risk. “Just as dangerous as smoking cigarettes.” 1:29:22 This all made the circuit a few years ago and was pretty soundly debunked. The takeaway from the “research” was that if one consumes processed meats, everyday, for one’s whole life, the absolute risk for developing say, colon cancer was estimated to be 6%. The background risk for colon cancer is 5%. Now, I talk about the massive limitations of the type of study mentioned here a bit later (not sure we can trust ANY element of these types of studies), but what biassed researchers, and the media do is then look at the change in relative risk. The difference between 5 and 6 percent is clearly 1 percent. But 1 is 20% of 5. So, this get’s reported as a “20% increase in cancer risk.” One need not be a statistician to see how shady this type of information handling is. The next photo provides a concise breakdown of relative vs. absolute risk. I do not know who put this together originally, but it’s outstanding.

1:28:47 Processed meats a Group 1 Carcinogen, just like cigarettes and Plutonium!! They then shift to some great imagery of moms cooking breakfasts of scrambled cigarettes for the kids. YUM! I get into the details of the carcinogen claims later.

1:26:30 Kip is in route to talk to an American Cancer Society Rep. When the rep understands the interview will be about diet and cancer, she cancels the interview.

1:26:00 Dr. Allan GoldHamer (Vegan), Founder TrueNorth Health Clinic-Relates statistic on poor health.

1:25:47 Dr. Joel Kahn (Vegan), Kahn Center for Cardiac Longevity relates a story of poor national health, largely lifestyle related and preventable. Yep.

1:25:32 Dr. Michael Greger (Vegan) Runs nutritionfacts.org I’m not sure if there has ever been a less accurate URL vs site content in the history of the interwebz.

1:25:22 Dr. Milton Mills-Vegan

1:25:12 Dr. Michelle McMacken-Vegan- contends dietary choices trumps smoking for health. Maybe a stretch, but not too preposterous when we consider the Kitavans who smoke like chimneys, eat well and appear to suffer little if any ill effects.

1:23:54 Kip makes the point that the government blames lack of exercise and “sugary foods.” No source cited, is this really the message? The government has certainly pushed the exercise as medicine idea, in which one should not need to worry AT ALL about the food one consumes, one need only exercise more. https://therussells.crossfit.com/2016/03/24/inside-the-acsms-exercise-is-medicine/ This is a remarkable bit of cherry-picking and or telling a half truth which is a common theme throughout the movie. At a point later, it is stated that a focus on sugar has steered the story away from the real baddies, meat and animal fat. So, while the ACSM colludes to ban CrossFit (if this is news to you, read the aforementioned link) and make it largely illegal to say that diet matters (at all), we just need to exercise more, the real focus (According to Kip)  is that the blame should have “always” been on meat and animal fat.

1:23:44 Dr. Neal Barnard PCRM-Vegan, “Diabetes Expert” Diabetes is not caused by high-carb diet…with an exasperated lilt. Caused by accumulation of fat in the blood, like typical meat based diet” Insulin resistance is a build-up of fat, yes…but is that the whole story? And how best to fix this? Time and again low carb diets have proven superior in this regard. Many, many people have unpacked the insulin resistance story in remarkable detail elsewhere, so I’m not going to devote a ton of space to that here. I will mention that the low carb approach has proven to be incredibly powerful in reversing insulin resistance and the related co-morbidities. BUT…despite consistent positive results on low carb approaches like Atkins, there has still been a lot of handwringing about “all that fat and animal products.” The solution? EcoAtkins. This is an attempt to eat low carb, but with largely vegan foods. If this is how someone wants to roll, that’s fine, but when studied against the original Atkins plan it was no better, and in some ways worse with regards to improving various biomarkers. This really IS an inconvenient truth, as the film completely ignores the low carb approach, even when built from “plant based” sources. Let me say that again, in a different way: Low carb diets have consistently proven to reverse insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes better than high-carb, low fat approaches. There IS a “plant base” low carb approach which works well…this gets no airplay.

1:23:00 Dr. Garth Davis- Bariatric surgeon, vegan, author of Proteinaholic. Garth is a genuinely nice guy, and although a staunch vegan, he and I have had some decent interactions over the years. That said, Garth is being presented as an expert, but the critiques on his work, specifically his book, are pretty severe. Denise Minger’s thoughts on his book.

Garth’s reply…which spends the opening salvo largely trying to discredit Denise due to “lack of credential” (that’s what we generally call a Straw Man attack) while also playing the game of somehow acknowledging her brilliance?? It’s odd. Really odd. If you notice my interaction with people I have NEVER raised the question of “qualifications.” Does the person know the material, yes or no? In this day where there is easy access to any topic, I am not only un-impressed by the Appeal To Authority, I get immediately suspicious. This is a way of shutting down the heretics without ever addressing their message or content.

1:21:55 Dr. Neal Barnard- Talks about a cookie…sugar lures you in, but it’s the fat that “gets you.” Reasonably truthful, but really misses the point. Hyperpalatable foods are the issue. It’s the flavor combos at issue. No one would be fired up to eat sugar, flour, or butter in plain forms. Ok, I could nosh on a stick of butter, but mix those ingredients into a cookie? That’s pretty damn tasty. Tasty to a point there is no “off switch.” This is a remarkably unsophisticated handling of what is a highly complex process, the neuroregulation of appetite.

1:21:29 Dr. Garth Davis – “Sugar is not great, low in nutrients, but it “does not cause inflammation, can be stored as glycogen.” “The focus on sugar has taken the focus off meat, dairy, eggs, pork, turkey, chicken…”  I’m not even sure how to comment on this as the science is not remotely supportive of his dismissal of sugar:  Now, that is looking specifically at fructose, but table sugar is 50% fructose.

1:20:52 Related this paper: Unprocessed red and processed Meats and risk of coronary artery disease and type 2 diabetes—An updated review

From the abstract: “In meta-analyses of prospective cohorts, higher risk of CHD is seen with processed meat consumption (RR per 50 g: 1.42, 95 %CI = 1.07-1.89), but a smaller increase or no risk is seen with unprocessed meat consumption. Differences in sodium content (~400 % higher in processed meat) appear to account for about two-thirds of this risk difference. In similar analyses, both unprocessed red and processed meat consumption are associated with incident diabetes, with higher risk per g of processed (RR per 50 g: 1.51, 95 %CI = 1.25-1.83) versus unprocessed (RR per 100 g: 1.19, 95 % CI = 1.04-1.37) meats.”

Let’s unpack that:

1-Prospective cohort studies were the sole source of information. What the heck is that? From our good friend Wikipedia: “A prospective cohort study is a longitudinal cohort study that follows over time a group of similar individuals (cohorts) who differ with respect to certain factors under study, to determine how these factors affect rates of a certain outcome.“

Here is a short but interesting paper that looks at the limitations of cohort studies, in this case looking at OPIUM USERS and the risk of death. Arguably, opium use and risk of death is a much simpler story to unpack relative to complex dietary interactions…I don’t think anyone would argue that point. Despite this, the study is incredibly shaky due to:

Recall bias. Did people actually report what really happened (opium consumption in this case, meat consumption in the context of the papers being cited by What The Health). Recall bias is such an issue many people have called for the abolishment of this type of stuff entirely. http://www.ejcancer.com/article/S0959-8049(06)00846-X/abstract  This due in no small part to the fact one cannot assign causation, just correlation, but correlation with perhaps more noise than signal. What I mean by that is that the data being looked at may be so fraught with error (noise) that any attempt at gain insight (signal) is literally impossible. The main study cited in the film is from a food frequency questionnaire, which again, have been found to be so fraught with error that many are calling for their abandonment.

Now, it might be worth asking, why are these folks relying on a dodgy methodology (A prospective cohort study, built entirely from a food frequency questionnaire). Here is an interesting snippet from the Red meat/processed meat paper: “ Similar to most other lifestyle risk factors (e.g., smoking, physical activity, obesity, consumption of salt, dietary cholesterol, fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains), the effects of meat consumption on cardiometabolic endpoints have not, to our knowledge, been investigated in any RCTs.”

Despite a complete lack of GOLD STANDARD testing (Randomized, Controlled Trials–RCT’s), public policy, bad documentaries and a never ending slew of media pieces are built from studies which are known, from the outset, to be incapable of showing causation. I cannot emphasize this enough, as the film presents this material as “proof” in the same way that a physicist would describe the properties of gravity.

2- Nearly 2/3 of the “risk” associated with processed meats is ascribed to the sodium content. There is SOME mechanistic plausibility here, particularly in the case of CVD, as a hyperinsulinemic individual tends to disproportionately retain sodium, and a high sodium intake MIGHT exacerbate this. But interestingly, trying to lower sodium intake in these folks also tends to do almost nothing, as the problem is upstream and due primarily to insulin.  Here is a great line from the abstract of that paper: “Similar to other areas in prevention, the controversy is likely to remain unresolved until large-scale definitive randomized controlled trials are conducted to determine the effect of low sodium intake (compared to moderate intake) on CVD incidence.” Seems to be a theme emerging here…Huge amounts of money and an iron-clad public healthy policy is being promulgated by “research” that is incapable of addressing causation, and that may have more signal than noise. Finally, the whole discussion of sodium is likely flawed, again from poor mechanistic understandings. I’ll be talking to the author of The Salt Fix in a future episode of the podcast, but this story looks remarkably like that we have seen for fat, animal products etc.

3-Based on the paper and the arguably flawed data, there appears to be little if any association between unprocessed meat intake and CVD, and only a modest relationship between unprocessed meat intake and type 2 diabetes. Now, I’m being pretty generous even mentioning this point as the whole paper, the whole investigative process, is built on “data” that as I said previously, likely has more error than signal. (Sorry to be redundant, but if you come away with ANYTHING I hope it’s an understanding of what is being claimed vs what this material can actually support.)

An important point to take away from all this is the What The Health documentary is building a story first that processed meat is bad (which is highly debatable, and the notion it’s “as bad as cigarettes is just preposterous). That is a monumental claim and the facts behind this claim fall flat. Which should then make one suspicious about ANY of the information shared by folks promulgating information like this. I’m working on a post to follow this that will look at the epidemiology of smoking and compare/contrast that with what happens in “nutritional science.”

1:17:41 Michael Greger Nutritionfact.org Claims “dead meat bacteria toxins” immediately damage the endothelial lining of the circulatory system. There is no doubt endotoxemia is a huge issue, an overlooked issue. But Dr. Gregor is unique in assigning this only to animal products. There is abundant literature showing processed foods, with added processed oils increase endotoxemia (which can worsen insulin resistance and CVD risk) but if you ask Dr. Gregor and his ilk for any research showing whole foods doing the same thing, you will be waiting quite a long time. The main citation Dr. Gregor provides is an in vitro (petri dish style) study: In vitro studies should not be dismissed out of hand but they absolutely CANNOT be used as in vivo (in a living body) evidence. They are at best suggestive of potential mechanisms of causation and can inform future research. I can only describe tactics like this as “ham-handed” which is ironic given Dr. Gregor’s disdain for “the other white meat.”

Here is the post Dr. Gregor has produced to support his thoughts: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/dead-meat-bacteria-endotoxemia/

I agree with much of what Dr. Gregor is saying here with regards to intestinal permeability and health. I do not agree with his complete analysis of the cause (animal products) nor the best solution (a grain based vegan diet). And again, it is fascinating what is being left out of this discussion. This paper makes the mechanistic case for dense, processed carbs being the root cause for endotoxemia. Now, we can get in and debate the merits of one theory vs the other, but to completely ignore this contradictory information implies what can only be construed to be dodgy motives on the part of the filmmaker.

Worth a mention: some degree of inflammation and arterial stiffening occur after eating ANYTHING. Dr. Gregor does not mention this fairly important fact. If one reads between the lines, some kind of intermittent feeding vs grazing schedule is likely a good idea due to the inflammatory nature of just eating.

1:17:15 Dr. Michael Klaper

1:16:54 Dr. Caldwell Essltyn “It’s really quite clear that from the standpoint of cancer and CVD that animal protein plays an enormous role…” Question from Director: “is chicken better?” Dr. Essltyn’s response: “It’s a question of if you want to be shot or hung…”

Cancer rates are increasing, but due mainly to population increases and aging:

Meat consumption over time:

Total meat consumption in the US:

We seem to have largely swapped chicken for beef, and we appear to be overall below our previous historical highs in consumption. One could argue meat consumption has, over all, increased, yet cancer rates appear to be increasing largely as a factor of an aging population and an overall increase in population. That’s one part of the original claim that meat causes cancer, the other claim was that meat is at the heart of CVD. Take a look at this:

Despite a clearly sicker population with regards to obesity and type 2 diabetes, heart disease rates are declining, due mainly to decreased smoking (the smoking decrease is powerful enough to offset even the increases in diabetes, at least to some extent). If the claims about meat consumption contributing to heart disease and cancer were true we would NOT see trends like those depicted above. It is difficult to say whether Dr. Essltyn is outright lying or is just terrible at interpreting science. Either way, his claims are not supported by the evidence. I’ll have a few more thoughts on this at the end of this review.

1:16:13 Neal Barnard: “Heterocyclic amines are clear cut carcinogens and they can form when meat is cooked or heated.” True, but high temp cooking of ANYTHING produces a variety of potentially carcinogenic substances. Cooking at lower temps reduces all of these processes, and marinades with antioxidants dramatically reduces HCA formation https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10068-011-0022-9

But wait, there is more.

Remember that study I mentioned above that looked at In vitro (not in vivo) effects? It appears the microbiome bioconverts substances such as HCA’s to largely benign substances. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25707896 From the paper: “In conclusion, even if one would assume that 100% of the daily amount of PhIP ingested by a human being is converted into PhIP-M1 in the colon, this concentration most probably would not lead to cytotoxicity and/or carcinogenicity in the colorectal mucosa.” Some of the confusion in this arena stems from clear cytotoxicity and mutagenicity in animals fed HCA’s. What might be a problem with this? Yes, animals are not people, but more specifically, animals do not eat cooked food. Humans do, and have for perhaps 500 thousand years. Possibly longer. Famed evolutionary biologist Richard Wrangam makes the case in his book that humans are neither carnivore, herbivore or even omnivore, but rather “cookivore.” Give the book a read as this thing is turning into a monster and I do not have time to unpack all the details there, but I will make the point that if the medical and research community had even a bit of influence by the Ancestral Health/Evolutionary Medicine model, much of this goofy research and blind alleys would have never happened. http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2009/06/invention-of-cooking-drove-evolution-of-the-human-species-new-book-argues/

The take away form all this is despite the boogeyman Dr. Barnard tries to create with regards to HCA’s, he ignores entirely that there are mitigating steps one can take when prepping food, and those mitigating steps may in fact not matter all that much when one considers that these substances are largely inactivated by the action of the gut flora. NOW…I can make a case that if the gut flora is disturbed, if the gut is unhealthy, this could be a problem, but that’s a topic for another day. One final note: Barnard really goes after chicken as the main culprit in the HCA story. He cites research which I was unable to find or verify, but I do know this: people are eating, on average, more chicken than previously. The agenda here appears to be to tackle that shift and shut it down. Interestingly, I’d like to see folks eat much less chicken, but this is due to sustainability issues, not health.

1:15:03 Kip mentions a study (does not provide it) that eating one egg per day was equivalent to smoking 5 cigarettes. I can’t actually unpack this one as there is no citation for this claim, which spurred me to search “Research citations What The Health.” The best I can find is this, which is not remotely up to snuff for a works cited: http://www.whatthehealthfilm.com/facts/  Again, these are remarkable claims, with at best paltry support.

1:14:31 Michael Greger “You know these saturated fat studies that are trying to vindicate saturated fat…they are all just funded by the dairy industry.” He has a point, some of these studies are indeed funded by the dairy or egg industry…but the story is a bit more complex than that. This just replays the tape on all the old Ancel keys stuff, not the least of which was the recent unearthing of research data that was “forgotten.” The research looked at mental patients fed two diets: One high and one low in saturated fat. The low saturated fat diet was enriched with corn oil…cholesterol levels were consistently lower in the low SF group, but cardiac death and all cause mortality were WORSE. This is a remarkable study in that we’d never get this past an ethical review board today AND it was close to metabolic ward standards. The rigor of a study like this as compared to cohort studies is difficult to properly describe. They are not on the same planet. The point being, the claims about saturated fat and cholesterol made in this movie are highly inconsistent with the best science we have, populations and history, yet these claims are regurgitated again and again with no regard for what the facts actually support. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/records-found-in-dusty-basement-undermine-decades-of-dietary-advice/

1:12:18 A good section on epigenetics and that our genes are not our destiny…but clearly I’m not aligned with many of the recommendations being made.

1:10:41 Dr. Ken Williams president of the American college of cardiology: Paraphrasing: “ It is clear that increasing meat intake causes increased rates of CVD.” Kip asks “what about fish” to which Dr. Williams responds with the “4 worries,” PCB’s, mercury, saturated fat, cholesterol.” I think the first two concerns can be reasonably valid and are why it’s a good idea to eat fish that are lower down the food chain. As to the saturated fat and cholesterol “issues”…I think we’ve covered that.

Side Note:

This is a slick process overall. What the Health starts off with a fairly credible position (in most people’s eyes) of raising the question of the safety of processed meats and red meat in particular. Lots of people buy that, even if they still eat them. Then chicken, eggs and dairy are thrown in, all with the same specious claims of cancer, CVD, and diabetes being solely due to the consumption of animal products. But then they add fish. That gate-way product for vegans shifting back to animal products. Slick.

1:08:55 Mike Ewall, Energy Justice network “dioxins are the most toxic substances known to science.” Dioxins are nasty, no doubt about it, but Chris Masterjohn did a thorough unpacking of this topic here: https://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/environmental-toxins/dioxins-in-animal-foods-a-case-for-vegetarianism/

The movie goes on to make the point that the main input for dioxins is the grass that cows eat! But again, there is more to the story (said another way, this claim is patently false). From Chris’ article “A review published in 1995 suggested that pastured animal products would probably contain higher dioxin concentrations because of a higher rate of soil ingestion;3however, newer research has revealed the fact that the primary sources of above-average dioxin concentration in beef samples are feeding troughs constructed with pentachlorophenol-treated wood and the inclusion of incinerator waste as a feed additive.6 Grass-fed beef is not exposed to these sources of dioxins.” Mr. Ewal appears to be either very sloppy in his fact finding or he maybe, has an agenda. If I were not trying to be professional I’d say the man is “A Damn Liar.”

Again, I have to tip my hat to the What The Health folks, as one of the thorniest topics they deal with is the use of grazing animals in not just food production, but also habitat restoration, carbon sequestration…you know, “save the planet” stuff. The push for decentralized, grass centric processes is in direct opposition to the CAFO meat production just about anyone can hate. But, if a healthy, not-so-nasty alternative (pastured meat) were to gain traction (which it has) that could pose a problem for the folks who approach veganism as a religion. Is dioxin a concern? Yes. Is it a concern as presented in this documentary? Well, I’ll leave that up to you to decide. I do have to give them yet further props for wrapping up this section by relating the story that moms can pass dioxins to their offspring, both in utero and via breast feeding. This is true, but the whole context of this piece is at best questionable.

1:04:43 A section on the problems of dairy, many of which I agree with. There are interesting associations between dairy and autoimmune disease. But again, there is a lot of nuance and unpacking to get the full picture on that story.

1:02:29 Dr. Barnard comments that there is zero evidence that milk builds strong bones. Again, I largely agree with this. I have always put most dairy products into a “grey area” in that if you do not suffer any type of immunogenic reaction to dairy, fine, dig in. I do not handle bovine dairy, but do great with sheep and goat. This is one area of overlap between the vegan and paleo camps.

The movie goes on to cite research links between dairy consumption and cancer…again, this is all correlational work, BUT. There are some proposed mechanisms that could offer some insight in all this. Dairy is loaded with various growth factors, and promotes the production and release of growth factors from the liver. In the context of a chronically overfed westernized society, this could pose a problem. And in general, dairy consumption increases with industrialization. The only pesky problem here is traditional societies ranging from the Mongols to the Masai have consumed prodigious amounts of dairy but have been largely free of modern degenerative disease. This too is “anecdotal” but it’s interesting how the filmmakers appear to go out of their way to avoid mentioning any of these confounders.

1:00:38 Kip contacts the Susan Komen organization (the pink ribbon folks, whom I have serious issues, but again, topic for another day) and asks why they do not warn against dairy consumption, citing this paper which looks at high and low fat dairy consumption and cancer recurrence and mortality in breast cancer patients.  This was a food frequency questionnaire (garbage) but check this out from the paper: “Intake of high-fat dairy, but not low-fat dairy, was related to a higher risk of mortality after breast cancer diagnosis.”

Let’s unpack that:

1-As I said earlier, food frequency questionnaires are recognized to be so fraught with problems and inaccuracies that many researchers have called for their abandonment. This is unlikely to happen as a massive amount of infrastructure and funding is wrapped up in this hopelessly flawed process. This whole paper and it’s findings are questionable, but let’s put that fact aside for a moment and consider this:

2-How on earth does Kip ignore that lowfat dairy (according to the study) is NOT associated with increased cancer recurrence? I clearly have my own agenda here, I’m the “paleo guy”, right? But how many times can a filmmaker do stuff like ignoring what is simply in the abstract, lying directly or by omission, and still be taken seriously? I know a lot of folks reading this do not have science backgrounds…so you are taking things largely on faith whether you believe me or the folks in this film, but if this is an error on Kips part one must really question his ability to analyze information in this sphere. If it’s not an error it’s a manipulative lie by omission, which should call into question any and all claims and motives with this whole project. But, we will not drop the ball at this point with still an hour to go in this film, we will slog through.

3-As flawed as the basic research is, let’s look at how the confounders can add up in something like this. Now, why do folks choose lowfat dairy? In general, low fat is still perceived to be a healthier option. People who make one healthy lifestyle choice tend to make multiple lifestyle choices which are arguably, healthier. People who do not eat meat (for perceived health reasons) also tend not to smoke. Although researchers claim they can adjust for all these variables, critical analysis of this type of research makes a pretty strong case this is by and large false. These murky cofounders are difficult if not impossible to adjust for and are fantastic opportunities to offer up statistically hatched lies. So, despite the limitations of the research due to the food frequency piece, one could make a case that the low fat dairy folks DID in fact see benefits with regards to cancer recurrence, but this may have nothing to do with what dairy option they chose and everything to do with the overall mindset and choices that would drive these folks to make generally healthier choices in all aspects of their lives.

58:05 Christina Stella Center for Food Safety, staff attorney. Section on the drugs, particularly antibiotics, fed to feedlot animals. I agree with most all of this, it’s dangerous and appalling. But this is also all an outgrowth of the industrial food system. Options like Polyface Farms, holistic management, mobile slaughter can make CAFO food lots a thing of the past, which would essentially remove the need for the vast majority of the meds fed to these animals and the potential problems which will come from this method of food production.

54:42 Larry Baldwin Water Keeper Alliance Talks about the number of pigs raised in north Carolina (more than 10 million…approximately equal to the human population). The film makes a solid case about how damaging this centralization is to the environment, and also the disease potential of things like the H1N1 flu virus. This is all accurate and concerning information. This whole story would also change entirely with decentralized food production which effectively managed the waste products of this process. Consider this:

That’s the total amount of nitrogen fertilizer used in the us, 1965-2010. Although a small amount of this is used for backyard gardening, a main portion goes towards row crops and industrial agriculture. What is somewhat humorous about the vegan agenda of this film (stop eating/using animals in any way) is that the primary option for fertilizing the corn, wheat and rice that these folks recommend will fall in petrochemical derived nitrogen fertilizers produced by the Haber process. Various beans and legumes ARE nitrogen fixers and can and should play a role in better managing this whole mess, but what if we effectively used the waste from animal production to fertilize our agricultural crops instead of letting it poison water systems? What would this mean for antibiotic use in animals? Watershed contamination? A frustrating element to this film is that one solution and one solution only is being presented. Are all of the environmental, social and medical issues concerning? Yes, they are. But Planet of the Vegans is not the only way to address these issues, but it is the only solution offered in the film.

48:45 Dr. Robert Ratner chief Science officer, American Diabetes Assoc. Kip interviews Dr. Ratner (he finally gets his sit-down with the ADA) and Ratner describes the mission statement of the ADA, and mentions that there is no way to prevent type 2 diabetes in all people. Not sure how Dr. Ratner has missed all the anthropological data showing populations without DM2, but I guess we will let that pass. To Kips’ credit he mentions a study comparing a low fat vegan diet vs the ADA recommendations and how the vegan diet performed better. Dr. Ratner gets pissed and closes out the interview, and is visibly pretty cranky. Dr. Ratner makes the point that many dietary approaches can reverse type 2 diabetes, there are many studies showing this. The problem is getting people to comply. Kip does not mention that a low carb diet beat both the ADA and conventional low fat diets, but hey, details. http://caloriesproper.com/diet-study-american-diabetes-association-vs-low-carb-ketogenic/

Low fat can work, so can low carb. I think LC works better (SEE MY ECOATKINS POINT ABOVE) and more consistently, but the important thing is “everything in moderation” is absolute bullocks when viewed through the lens of the neuroregulation of appetite and our modern world of hyperpalatable foods. Maybe I should write a book on that…wait…I did.

44:38 Kip mentions that dairy avoidance is associated with reduced incidence of type 1 diabetes. True, but also true for wheat, which again, he somehow neglects to mention: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4185872/

Important points: Not everyone who eats dairy and wheat develop type 1 diabetes. Not everyone who avoids these foods will be spared development of type 1 diabetes. But it may be that eliminating/avoiding allergenic foods such as these will reduce the POTENTIAL for developing the condition. This is perhaps one of the most infuriating and potentially injurious features of the film: Information is presented in black/white absolutes.

43:36 Kip discovers, in the wee hours of the night, that the American Diabetes Association is sponsored by a bunch of multinational food conglomerates. He lists a number of products like Dannon yogurt (which I can find on the sponsor page) and a number of entities that I cannot FIND, like bumblebee tuna. There is also a long list a pharmaceutical companies and even those bastards at Wonderful Pistachios.

Just kidding, pistachios are amazing.

Yes, corporate money has despoiled the whole medical industry…this is why I push for decentralization and I’d love to see 5 American medical associations, not just one. Kip goes on to do this same search for entities like the American Cancer Society…he highlights the meat oriented sponsors, yet somehow neglects to mention the folks who produce refined grain products who are also sponsors. The selection bias here is remarkable.

41:10 Steve-O. Yes, the “comedian” quasi-famous for such cinematic masterpieces as helping his friends put Hot Wheels cars up their bum, mentions an American Diabetes Assoc event he attended that had BBQ chicken. He left. The horrors. The gravitas.

(Ok, yea, I’m getting pretty punchy)

40:01 Kip beats the dead horse of the governmental bodies tasked with stewarding our health being funded by food producers. Yep, that’s a problem.

38:48 Mark Kennedy, Lawyer, PCRM- Mark describes the “check off program” which is effectively a government backed program that aids fast food producers (and others) in figuring out ways of increasing the consumption of fast food. As usual, they focus only on the meat and dairy inputs, ignore the refined grains and sugar. I’m not sure what else to say other than “and why do people want MORE government at every level of their lives?” I have an answer for that: So long as “my” perceived political ideology is in office, yea baby, bring on ‘Das Gubmnt’. Then, when the political pendulum swings it’s “OH SHIT!! How did that lunatic make it into office?! The government has too much power!” I promise, that’ll likely be the only political rant I do in this thing. Probably.

34:53 Film talks about “cheeseburger laws” which are designed to prevent litigation on the part of people who feel certain foods have caused them health problems. Only meat and cheese are mentioned. No mention of grains and or sugar.

Ryan Shapiro, Historian of National Security, MIT- Ryan describes how the American Egg board produced internal documents describing the vegan mayonase alternative, Hampton Creek as a “Crisis and major threat to the future of the American egg industry.” Too bad the American Egg Council did not just sit back and wait for Hampton Creek to be exposed as shysters and frauds: https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2016-hampton-creek-just-mayo/?MPA_Daily_News_Roundup

Clearly there are plenty of dirtbags who are also meat eaters, this is not a uniquely vegan thing, but when you consider the games played at Hampton Creek as well as the wunder gal Elizabeth Holmes (vegan), founder of the zero to $9billion valuation to zero Theranos, you kinda have to wonder. http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2016/09/elizabeth-holmes-theranos-exclusive 

I’ve done my best to keep this as factual as I can, but at some point the annoyance with this stuff bubbles over. The tech scene is so enamored with crap like Theranos, Soylent and vertical farming that it’s almost maddening. The whole vegan schtick is sexy in that “I’m morally superior…l’m woke…” it just sickens me at this point.

32:55 (or there about) The film shifts to the massive influence of the pharmaceutical industry, how those folks do not want to see stints and statins go away. Yep agree with the analysis, just not the solution.

30:09 Jake Conroy, Formerly Imprisoned Activist- At this point in the film Kip is making the case that the pharmaceutical industry effectively gets its own legislation passed and then claims that they are so powerful they have imprisoned activists. Jake is introduced as if he was imprisoned “fighting big pharma” but was in fact part of an animals rights group called Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC).” Huntingdon Life Science is an animal testing facility (which I think a MASSIVE amount of animal testing is both unnecessary and unethical). SHAC (from Wikipedia) “used tactics ranging from non-violent protest to the alleged firebombing of houses owned by executives associated with HLS’s clients and investors. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which monitors US domestic extremism, has described SHAC’s modus operandi as “frankly terroristic tactics similar to those of anti-abortion extremists,” Jake was imprisoned in 2006 after being found guilty of harassment.

I thought the lies by omission detailed above were bad…this…I’m not sure how to even couch the degree of bait and switch bullshit here. Yes, the guy was imprisoned. For harassment of the HLS employees. And the guy is the organizer of the SHAC which has responsibility for things perhaps as severe as firebombing houses. Who firebombs anything? I can think of religious zealots and drug dealers. It’s people like this guy and DurianRider that might ensure that veganism never goes mainstream. Thanks for that guys.

26:43 Dr. Milton Mills- Kip asks if we need to eat meat to get complete protein. There is a long list of docs that come on mentioning how if you eat 2,000 cals of brown rice and broccoli, you will be “fine”. I’m not really going to unpack this as this topic has been beat to death. A vegan diet is likely better than a SAD junk food diet, at least for a while. One can reasonably easily supplement and get the things missing in a vegan diet (DHA/EPA, choline, etc) but it’s not optimum.

23:40-Dr. Michale Klaper- Mentions that “all these Paleo people are going to die from heart attacks and diabetes.” Ok. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11965522

22:19 Kip gets into some comparative anatomy, specifically of the teeth and makes the point that since we do not have large canines, we are not designed to eat meat.It’s fascinating to me that Kip manages to ignore nearly 2 million years of human stone tool use, the role these tools played in our evolution, and how this all led to a massive die of of megafauna (big critters) at the hands of our ancient and more contemporary ancestors. Some people just dismiss this material out of hand…it’s the history of humanity! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quaternary_extinction_event

There are a lot of claims that come from Vegan Land, but the “Humans evolved to be herbivore/frugivorous and “never ate meat” is on par with insisting the earth is flat. One can certainly believe these fairytales if one chooses, but it’s interesting what a disadvantage people experience when they insist on using an operating system or world view that is fundamentally flawed. The notion that humans did not hunt significant quantities of both large and small game is not supported by any of the evidence from anthropology and calls into question how humans could have lived in any pre-agriculture environment that is above the 40* latitude line. My own story around this is possibly valuable: I participated in a Discovery Channel show called “I-Cave Man” in which we were instructed on the basic use of stone tools and then tasked with living in a harsh, alpine environment in late spring. I was provided some basic instruction ins stone tool knapping, dead-fall traps and snares a few weeks before the show and I practiced like a madman. I also made and practiced with an atlatl (a hand thrown spear, in which the throwing velocity is increased using a wooden launcher) for hours every day. I was still a relative novice, but by the time of the show I could make cutting tools that worked better than surgical steel. I managed to take down a 650lb elk with this Atlatl and between myself and castmates, we butchered the whole animal and brought it back to camp. Although Billy Berger (one of the castmates) is considered to be an expert in stone tool manufacture, he has related that his skills are likely on par with that of a 4-5 year old CHILD who would have been raised in a hunter gatherer troupe. My point here is humans were very good at hunting, stone tools make up for a lack of horns, claws and ripping/tearing teeth.

Somewhat related: With a few weeks of practice I managed to develop the skills to make a fire kit and actually make a fire with a hand drill. It was a bastard, and we barely pulled off the fire as part of the show, but again, it illustrates that although many of these skills are quite complex, a relative amateur can attain enough technique to pull this off in fairly demanding situations. As I mentioned above with regards to Ricahrd Wrangham, fire was a critical part of human evolution, particularly as it relates to our nutrition:

19:47 Dr. Caldwell Esseltyn- Relates research showing improvements in patients consuming a plant based diet. Yes, any shift away from a hyperpalatable, highly processed diet is going to be a win.

The final 15 minutes of the film is a mix of rapid fire medical claims about veganism, several before and after transformations, interviews with vegan athletes and heartstring tugging cinematography. This is a slick, well done film and the whole vegan story is incredibly compelling: eat to be healthy for yourself, your world, and be a kind, spiritually superior person. Who doesn’t want that? The problem(s) arise when we ignore a few things: Veganism is not the only healthy way to eat. It’s arguable if veganism is actually healthy long term, but I’m all about folks experimenting, just be rational and honest about your experience. Some of the most compelling elements involve the notion that veganism is going to “save the planet” and it is morally superior. It’s outside the scope of this already long piece to unpack those topics properly, but myself and others are working to have a concise, well researched accounting of those topics. I will say this: the vegans are kicking our collective asses. It’s a religion, it’s a community, and identity. I’m not sure how to deal with that other than creating an alternate food religion, which honestly sounds horrifying to me. The problem is these folks are well organized, well-funded and they get massive traction in producing films like What The Health, Cowspiracy etc. Cowspiracy was crowd funded and raised more than $600K in 48 hours. We have no similar analog (with regards to scale and reach) for “ethical omnivores” that are working to address many of the issues raised in the film, including animal husbandry practices, environmental damage etc. As a movement we are remarkably fragmented and in general I’d say most folks are more concerned with getting abs than thinking about the knock-on effects of an industrial food system. Not slamming folks, just stating an observation.

Unpacking a topic like this involves shades of grey, and if I’ve learned anything about human behavior, it’s that we, as a species, do not do well in the grey. Black/White, Left/Right, Vegan/animal murderer.


Kip and Dr. Garth Davis have reached out to me and we are working to set up a conference where folks can present and debate theses complex topics. I’ll keep y’all updated as that progresses.


I hope you found this analysis helpful. Again, I tried to generally remain professional in my tone but clearly at some points became pretty frustrated. Now, I’d like to ask you a favor: If you do in fact care about this topic, please become a member of the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund. These folks fight the legal battles that small farmers find themselves in when they end up in the crosshairs of a local health department, or a multinational like Monsanto. The FTCLDF is interesting in that they will help just about any farmer, at any time. One of my favorite people in the world, Joel Salatin, had an interesting response when asked how vegans could get along in a world that worked along his model of food production (which includes, but is not exclusively based on animal products). His (paraphrased) response “If the vegans will let me raise the food my family wants to eat, I’ll make sure to raise the food their family wants to eat.” We could all likely learn a lot from some contemplation on that sentiment.

I’ll close with a question of sorts: Based on my average site traffic this post will get far more than 6,000 readers who would identify as “ethical omnivores.” Way more. If someone (not me) were to produce a GOOD movie based around the practices of regenerative agriculture and the Ancestral Health model, how many of you would donate $100? $50? If you are game to help, please say “yes” in the comments (along with any other observations you care to share. If your answer is “no” I’d appreciate you tell me why you’d be unwilling to support a project like this.



Interesting film, The Magic Pill,  looking at the ancestral health/sustainability story. It’s been released in Oz and NZ, coming to the rest of the world in January.

THE MAGIC PILL – final trailer from Robert S Tate on Vimeo.

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Clean Eating vs Flexible Dieting: Putting the Argument to Bed

Written by: Sarah Strange


So you’re looking to lose a little weight, tone up, and see some abs or lose a handful of dimples. You do what most of us do nowadays- you fire up the Google machine and try to find someone with an answer.

If you know a little bit about diet, hopefully you won’t fall prey to the landslide of gimmicks, tricks, and pills. You’ll keep looking until you find a more sensible approach. Various Clean Eating approaches dominate the search. Some are essentially the same thing with different names- and most go with their own branding, like Paleo. Some of these groups leave each other alone, or link arms, while others fight great battles over single food items or groups and define themselves along these differences. All of them seem to have strong opinions, come across as well informed, have great before & afters, and pages of health turn-around testimonials.

Your head starts spinning.

Then you may stumble upon the growing movement of Flexible Dieting/IIFYM (If it Fits Your Macros) proponents- especially if you got there via web stalking figure competitors. Their concept seems pretty legit too- same make-up of opinions, education, pictures, and stories. You might also notice that they rather vocally disagree with the practice of Clean Eating.

Now you start to get frustrated that this endeavor will likely take way longer than you had hoped. Who is right? You realize that you may need to consult with Google several more times before this diet you had hoped to find in an hour will make itself known to you. Tomorrow’s diet becomes next week’s diet.

(Ok, is she going to give me an answer here or what? – It’s coming, hold on.)

So Which is Better for Weight Loss and Why: Clean Eating or Flexible Dieting?

Most of us won’t bother to spend two to five years weeding through Pub Med to get to the bottom of it, so it all comes down to the diets’ closing arguments. The arguments for these diets can seem so strong on both sides, there’s lots of good information and linked research (which you probably won’t read beyond an abstract at best, but hey- it makes you feel a whole lot better knowing it’s there).

Unfortunately the arguments against tend to say, “Pick me!! The other guy’s an idiot”. These statements are often generated by misinformation and lack of fundamental understanding of the opponent. Many times, simple comments like “show me the research” or “there are no studies showing ___” really mean this person has just not bothered to look for- or read, the volumes of supportive research that do indeed exist.

The saddest part of the bickering is that we seem to lose sight of the bigger picture mid argument: that we clinicians, nutritionists, and trainers are here to help people. Helping people requires that we take a look at the individual and find them an appropriate solution they can run with successfully.

Which of the two are best depends on the individual, and can only be answered on an individual basis. Why this is even an argument for the entire population as a whole totally perplexes me.

When considering which to go with, the answer to the question depends on the individual’s personality, health status, current lifestyle, history, and goals. The answer must solve the problem in both short and long term: which protocol will both produce results and be sustainable enough to make lifelong changes and keep them off the diet yo-yo wagon?

These variables differ significantly person to person, so why would the answer be the same for everyone, regardless of these factors?

Your personal answer to this either/or dilemma should seem easy, once you strip away the complicated layers of fluff from both arguments and get to the basic root of each.

In short…

Flexible Dieting = FOOD TRACKING that allows the flexible incorporation of anything you could ever hope to eat or drink in whatever amounts your fixed macro tally allows

Clean Eating = NOT TRACKING, just avoid shitty food in favor of real food (as defined by your chosen sect), up quality protein, plant, and real-food fats- worry more about what you’re eating and how your body feels than precisely how much

In case those synopses didn’t clear the fog…

Flexible Dieting IS food tracking: you will weigh, measure, plan, and track every single thing you put in your mouth. Theoretically forever, since the only way to know whether or not something “fits” is with math, and to do math you need numbers.

It is flexible with irony, because what you eat is relatively flexible, but the counting system itself is rigid as F@#$. But that may be a great, great thing for people who are willing to keep their eyes on the details but hate the notion of having to eliminate entire food groups from their diets in order to succeed. If food tracking won’t bug you but eliminating foods or food groups WILL, then boy let me tell you, THIS IS YOUR SHIT!

If you’ve never tracked your food before, you should give it a shot. It is, hands down, the only way you’ll ever really know what’s going on… or should I say going in? It greatly simplifies your clinician’s life too because they have hard data to work with, as do you- if you know what you’re doing. It can be an extremely eye-opening tool for those of us struggling with excess weight and failed diet attempts. You might be surprised to find how much, or how little, you actually eat.

Food tracking can also provide a layer of self-monitored accountability that some people do really well with.

Food tracking may be the only simple way one could hope to successfully embark on a metabolic rebuild post diet without gaining your weight back. By “metabolic rebuild”, I’m talking about getting your metabolism back up to speed after you slow it down with dieting. This is a very slow process of incrementally adding back very tiny amounts of calories that is next to impossible to do without tracking. That is one massive bonus touted by IIFYM/Flexible Dieting.

Please keep in mind, the figure competitors who most likely led you to Flexible Dieting make their bodies their #1 job. If you are THAT committed to making your shit look THAT nice, you’re probably more than ok with food tracking for a few decades on end because data simplifies the perfecting process. A pound of water will cost these people titles. Just be realistic with yourself before embarking on this process- can you easily plan, weigh, measure, and track every single one of your meals for any reasonable length of time?

To Track, or Not to Track- That is the Question.

As great and effective as food tracking can be, it’s not necessarily something everyone is willing or able to do, especially long term. Therefore recommending a Flexible Dieting approach is completely useless concerning anyone who can’t or won’t food track, regardless of how good it looks on paper.

As a personal trainer working with a largely “regular dude/dudette” population, I have to say that less than 10% of the clients I see are willing to track their food. It sounds extreme to normal folks. If they think it’s a bad idea but give it try, they often fail and may never come back. And then some of these people do well for a while but then wind up getting neurotic and obsessive and it becomes an unhealthy recommendation for them. People who have had eating disorders usually don’t do well with this level of control and you’re likely to send them into a tailspin that you’ll both feel terrible about.

Is it worth it when there’s a better option for these people?

Despite this very low buy-in rate, I still promote it to my clients if they’re game, (and I REALLY make sure they’re game) because like I said- it works and it makes my job of monitoring and adjusting SO much easier than trying to figure out what’s not working with general descriptions as data. Regardless of my efforts, most people say “no thank you” to food tracking. Actually they usually just make a funny little sound with their mouths and throw me a look that questions my connection to reality.

So food tracking is the #1 landmine for Flexible Dieting.

And “trigger foods” are landmine #2 for Flexible Dieting.

Not everybody has trigger foods or can even really relate to the concept. Some of us are “Moderators”, a term coined by Gretchen Rubin. Moderators don’t really get triggered. They can buy a bag of chips or box of donuts or pint of ice cream and have their sanctioned bit, and put the rest away. Let it get freezer burn even. Natural born Flexible Dieters. These folks look at those of us that have wiped out entire food groups for years as unhappy zealots worshiping a false God.

Because they just don’t understand those of us that make up the other category (which I fall into), known as the “Abstainers”. Abstainers get triggered. Abstainers are all or nothing. They actually do well with abstinence. Trigger foods lead to binges and guilt. Binges and guilt lead to the collapse of Hope Dam and a flood of F@#K IT, which can be really hard to reign back in. One exposure to a trigger can derail months of progress. Abstainers all know who they are. Why, in a million years, would you insist that this person would do better with Flexible Dieting when they self-admittedly do better in culinary quarantine?

It may be hard for you well-meaning Moderators to acknowledge our existence, but keep us in mind when recommending your shtick. We want people to succeed without feeling tortured, right, which is kind of the whole basis of your argument? Recommending a tiny dose of a trigger food to an Abstainer is like asking Tyrone Biggums to hold your crack rock for you while you go run some errands. Having 1 goddamn scoop of ice cream or a paltry 4oz pour of wine is legitimate torture for an Abstainer. I shudder at the thought.

If you’re an Abstainer type, plus or minus control issues, or an average Joe that won’t ever use a food scale and get really good at using My Fitness Pal, Flexible Dieting can be a rigid and possibly daunting cage, and food tracking can be a one way ticket to Cuckoosville.

So what do you do with all of these people that can’t hang with food tracking or having regular exposure to trigger foods? Clean Eating and a little education. You work with them on eliminating the classically offending and easy to overeat foods, stuff like processed food, sugar, booze, packaged snack food, and foods made from flours. You have them avoid any other foods that tend to cause them to overeat or binge or go off the rails and completely give up on their diet. You bump up their protein and other satiating foods. You teach them to be mindful of the extra calorie load that comes from eating fat in high quantities. You bump up the veggie consumption. You steer them towards nutrient density (which everyone should be doing, regardless). You run them through Robb’s 7 day carb test and make recommendations to suit the individual.

I know this is about weight loss, but sometimes un-wellness inhibits weight loss, so unfortunately the #3 landmine for Flexible Dieting is that it will not help many of the SICK by just paying attention to macros and calorie load. A perfect calorie deficit just simply won’t work 100% of the time. If you have an individual with immune, autoimmune, or gut issues- whether they track or not, pulling out inflammatory foods, gut irritating foods and substances is a must. Even if they are willing to track and follow macros, they will need to do so in a hyper clean eating fashion if they would like to start feeling better and eventually lose some weight.

Although I’m not really getting into it here, the winner from a health based standpoint is definitely Clean Eating… unless the flexible team is willing to change their slogan to: If it Fits Your Macros, If it Over-Performs on Your Micros, and Doesn’t Bug You Gut or Immune System. Definitely not as enticing, nor does it roll off the tongue quite so easily as Flexible Dieting.

There are 2 potential weight loss landmines for Clean Eating and #1 touches on what I mentioned before with client monitoring: Clean Eating does not automatically solve the problem of excess or insufficient calorie intake.

I know, I know, it’s not all super straightforward calories in, calories out. I get it. I too have taken a beating by that very stick. But at the end of the day, if you are simply overeating, you will also be simply not losing any weight. Maybe a 5-pound water teaser in the beginning, if you’re lucky.

It’s generally harder to overeat when you pull out hyper-palatable foods… unless you so happen to have a thing for nuts by the feedbag full and recipes featuring cans of coconut milk. Yet it’s not anywhere close to impossible to consume huge amounts of protein, carbs, and fat (which all equate to calories) on a Clean Eating plan. And as such, people that post memes about not being able to get “jacked” on a Clean Eating protocol are very well steeped… in horseshit.

So yes, Clean Eating food can be delicious and very high calorie. There are a bevy of wonderful cookbooks out there with delicious recipes to keep you happy on your Clean Eating quest, but a good number of those recipes are outright disasters for weight loss. Sorry guys. Sometimes, when left on your own to make this Clean Eating thing work, it can wind up NOT working, and if you’re not down with simple, lower calorie foods, and have not been blessed in the creative cooking department, it can wind up feeling rather Spartan. Let’s be honest, sweet potatoes can get boring with the quickness if you live in an area that doesn’t stock the more exotic clean carbs.

On the unsuspecting flip side of that coin, kind of like the dark side of the moon, is the group that has stopped losing weight because they are too low calorie. It’s also a lot easier to do than you would think, especially when you pull out those hyper-palatable items. Some people naturally opt for smaller portions of lean meats, large portions of low calorie vegetables, and a cute little amount of healthy fats. They might not give much thought to carbs. Maybe they skip meals here and there? Maybe a decent dinner portion to them is my idea of a waste of time? They start off with a sub-1000 calorie/ day diet and can’t imagine eating more and don’t have much of an appetite. They lose weight initially, but then everything grinds to a halt. You can’t continue to eat less to lose weight at this point. You’re stuck. This is a bummer and takes some work- maybe even some help, to get out of.

Landmine #2 is that is does have to potential to torture the Moderators who really like to have regular exposure to their controlled “substances”.

Some of us just CANNOT succeed without a regular, albeit small, dose of comfort food and drink. Really committed flexible dieters who have gone through a really successful round or two of metabolic rebuilds love to post pictures of their allowable naughty food feasts to Instagram. You too can have this pleasure and brag about it, if the flexible thing really works for you… after a number of cycles. But you have to be a Moderator who is totally fine with food tracking long term in order for flexible dieting to even be a viable option. Don’t be fooled- if you’re considering Flexible Dieting for weight loss today, you most likely won’t be posting pictures of sanctioned donut castles and kitchen sink sundaes for a few years at best. Unless your name is The Mountain.

It’s also important to note that by embarking on a Clean Eating protocol, you are not marked by a sniper if you incorporate some comfort food and drink… some “dirty” food. We just usually call it “cheating”- or whatever safe word we feel comfortable with, rather than writing ourselves a prescription for daily donut micro dosing.

Bottom line

Both Clean Eating and Flexible Dieting can and will produce weight loss. There are perks and downsides to both, depending on your personality, goals, and history. You can find foolproof meal plans and shopping lists for either approach. You can receive expert counsel in either system. But ease of strict adherence to either depends completely on the individual. How these approaches translate to long term success and lifestyle changes depends on the individual. Which one feels freeing, which one feels rigid, which one causes guilty binges, which one feels flexible, which one feels do-able, and which one addresses potential underlying health issues- totally depends on the person.

This has to stop being carried out as an argument as to which weight loss diet of the two reigns supreme for all humans- there is no possible way to answer that. We need to put the argument to bed and turn it back into a question for the individual so that we can make the best call for the person in front of us or in the mirror.

The only legitimate answer to the question, which is better for weight loss- Clean Eating or Flexible Dieting, is “it depends”. And when we have the details, for most of us the answer is easy.


Afterward: More About Me

If it helps anybody make further choices, I lost 25 pounds using a mash-up of Clean Eating and IIFYM and it was simple, straightforward, and worry free. I plugged in the numbers, stuck to my plan, and watched the weight move consistently in the right direction until I wanted to stop losing weight. I tried tracking because things weren’t working initially and I wanted data. I decided to mix it with clean eating because of the trigger foods you’re “allowed” in a flexible approach. Those items will throw me off my course 100% of the time in disappointing micro doses, so I always do better without them because I AM an Abstainer and as such, I can’t really be too flexible with any success.

However, prior to that, my personal history NEEDED clean eating- specifically the Paleo diet, to make it even possible for me to try food tracking. I was a ballet dancer for 13 years and while I won’t say I had a full-blown eating disorder, I was definitely not well with eating at the time. I needed to institute such a high level of control with my diet to stay in line with “the look” they were going for, which took a ton of effort. Dancing 3-6 hours a day will tend to make a person hungry. The control eventually broke me mentally and for years I couldn’t even think about a diet. The very thought process would trigger bingeing, it was like the anti-diet. I had completely written off ever being able to embark on a weight loss plan again.

The focus of Clean Eating for me was to get healthy and be my best. I felt better than I ever had, my appetite found its way out of the 3 hour roller coaster for the first time in my life. My body composition saw huge improvements although that was not my primary goal. Focusing on eating for health in this way for a few years, even with trigger food indulgences here and there, brought me to a good place with it all. It kind of freed me up and I’m good now!

That 25 pound weight loss story was a huge success for me, not because of the goal attainment, but because I was able to do it without spinning out whatsoever, for the first time in nearly 20 years. Before even trying it, I just knew I was in a place that it wouldn’t bother me whatsoever or I never would have tried it.

I’ve given up all hope of ever becoming a Moderator personality type, but having the freedom to make choices for myself again without the psychological backlash, I owe all to the primary focus of Clean Eating- adopting a healthy lifestyle. If you look at Clean Eating from my perspective, it is inherently and ironically flexible- you can do it for looks, for performance, for wellness, or for feels. It doesn’t have to feel like a diet whereas food tracking- to me, kind of always does.



SarahS bioSarah is the director of programming at Norcal Strength & Conditioning. Her athletic and coaching background includes Olympic Weightlifting, CrossFit, Pilates, martial arts, yoga, triathlon, and a pretty long stint as a ballet dancer.


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Episode 369 – Christopher Kelly – Using Machine Learning For Health

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This week we have guest Christopher Kelly of Nourish Balance Thrive here to talk with us about using machine learning to analyze health, functional medicine, diet, and more. Check it out!

Download Episode Here (MP3)
Download a transcript of this episode here (PDF)

Website: http://www.nourishbalancethrive.com/

Be sure to take the free assessment questionnaire:
Click Here To Take The 7-Minute Assessment

Click Here To Take The 7-Minute Assessment


Mike T. Nelson talks about metabolic flexibility (as Christopher mentioned in the podcast):
Article: https://www.t-nation.com/diet-fat-loss/metabolic-flexibility
Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6gxvx2IF6KU



30 Day Guide to the Paleo Diet

Want some extra help? Have you been trying Paleo for a while but have questions or aren’t sure what the right exercise program is for you? Or maybe you just want a 30-day meal plan and shopping list to make things easier? We’ve created a getting started guide to help you through your first 30 days.

Buy the book


Wired-to-Eat-RenderDon’t forget, Wired to Eat is now available!

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, iBooks

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Episode 165: Outsourcing Your Motivation

Meredith Rhodes and Roland Denzel join us to discuss News & Views. Stories include: the effectiveness of wearable fitness and diet trackers, what the gut microbiomes of obese kids tell us, whether stress erases the benefits of a healthy diet, and what we can learn from a new Blue Zone identified in southern Italy. The Moment of Paleo segment throws around ideas about working to get ahead. After the Bell features Dan Ariely, professor of economics, discussing whether we are really in control of our own decisions.

Links for this episode:

Visit PuraKai to shop for eco-friendly clothing and stand-up paddle boards. Be sure to use coupon code “latest in paleo” for 15% off all clothing purchases.

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Episode 166: Fat Genes Skinny Jeans

Liam Bowler and Carrie Forrest join us to discuss News & Views. We start with three very interesting stories centering around genetics: anxiety’s link to metabolic disorder; the ‘fat gene’ and weight loss; and the latest research on the ‘thrifty gene hypothesis.’ The Moment of Paleo segment furthers some of the themes discussed during the news segment and revolves around boxing ourselves into various narratives. After the Bell features Jennifer Douden, one of the inventors of CRISPR, a genome editing tool.

Links for this episode:

Visit PuraKai to shop for eco-friendly clothing and stand-up paddle boards. Be sure to use coupon code “latest in paleo” for 15% off all clothing purchases.

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Episode 167: Dr. Joel Fuhrman

Joel Fuhrman, M.D. is our guest on today’s show. We talk about fat, protein, longevity, what foods should be eaten daily, why nuts and seeds are important, why he doesn’t recommend eating too much starch, and so much more. He’s written several best sellers, including Eat to Live and most recently The End of Dieting. He’s also appeared on several PBS specials, published research, and was once the number 3 pairs figure skater in the world. He calls his diet Nutritarian, with immense focus on nutrient density from whole foods. He doesn’t fit neatly into any of the popular diet camps. This episode is information-dense, as Dr. Fuhrman answers my many questions with great detail. Enjoy the show!

Links for this episode:

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Does Coconut Oil Really Cause Heart Attacks?

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Spoiler alert: No.

Recently, the American Heart Association (AHA) opened an attack on coconut oil.

The basis of AHA’s criticism is the claim that “randomized controlled trials that lowered intake of dietary saturated fat and replaced it with polyunsaturated vegetable oil reduced cardiovascular disease by around 30 percent,” as stated in the advisory’s abstract.

But this message from the AHA is not only false, it is dangerous.

False Claims—None of Cited Studies Involved Coconut Oil

The advisory cites four key clinical trials in support of their position. However, these four clinical trials do not in fact compare the health effects of coconut oil to vegetable oil—instead, the trials analyze certain health effects of standard diets of the 1960s and ’70s, which included large amounts of vegetable oil and margarine, along with butter, eggs, and other foods containing natural fats. As such, few—if any—of the study participants were actually eating coconut oil.

Why then do most doctors—who certainly believe science is an evidence-based practice—accept this argument against coconut oil, despite the lack of evidence?

This is because the advisory (and other organizations like it) conceals truth by misleading the public about the source of the saturated fats used in the studies they cite.

Coconut Oil Is Not a Saturated Fat

Saturated fat is not a food, it’s a kind of fatty acid. Therefore, coconut oil cannot be labeled as such. Coconut oil is, however, high in saturated fatty acids. It also contains monounsaturated fatty acids and even some polyunsaturated fatty acids (or PUFAs). Vegetable oils also contain a blend of all three, but they contain far lower quantities of saturated fatty acids.

Why does this subtle distinction matter? Because when the AHA says that “participants cut their intake of saturated fat,” they’re making a true statement. But what they imply is that participants cut foods that naturally contain saturated fatty acids, like butter and eggs. However, what the AHA fails to disclose is that participants also removed from their diets products like margarine and shortening—foods high in saturated fatty acids indeed, but also high in toxic trans fat.

Though saturated-fat-intake data used in these trials are absent from most of the publications, historical data do show that the average person’s diet was higher in margarine and shortening than it was in butter, lard, and tallow. One must consider that most, or possibly all, of the 1970s-era studies showing a supposed benefit of adding PUFAs are actually evidencing the benefit of cutting out trans fat.

A Dangerous, Nationwide Experiment With Vegetable Oil

Anyone who seriously studies nutrition and its connection to disease comes to the same conclusion: The modern diet is making us sick. Diseases like obesity, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and cancer were far less common in years past, not because we’re living longer now (just consider that what we thought were age-related diseases are now showing up in kids), but because we eat very different foods—that is, processed foods.

Few foods better fit the description of a processed food than does vegetable oil. It is a main ingredient in everything from Twinkies to “healthy” salad dressings. Since the 1950s, the AHA has steadily promoted vegetable oils over saturated fat. And in that time, according to the statistics on fat consumption, we have followed their orders. Soy-oil consumption—the most common vegetable oil—increased by roughly 600 percent. Canola did not exist in the 1950s, but is today the second-most commonly consumed vegetable oil after soy. Meanwhile lard, tallow, and butter consumption have all declined by half, or more.

At the subcellular level, the effects of vegetable oil are sobering. According to Dr. Sanjoy Ghosh at the University of British Columbia, Canada, our bodies cannot easily burn PUFAs. Meaning that when we eat as much vegetable oil as we now do, some of it gets deposited in our omental fat, some in our liver (where it eventually causes fatty liver), and some in our arteries (causing atherosclerosis). And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

This field of study is new, and it’s difficult for scientists to acquire funding to pursue it—still, we do have animal research clearly showing that eating these oils causes uncontrolled weight gains (exceeding the oils’ caloric content), promotes diabetes and fatty liver, and initiates a reluctance to exercise. Plus there is ample human research suggesting that getting off these oils reduces chronic pain, migraines, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis.

Our Answer Is Biochemistry, Not Statistics

Biochemistry is at play from one end of the food chain to the other: In the processing plants where the oils are refined, in the frying pans of restaurant chains and Big Food manufacturers, and eventually in our bodies where they deregulate our natural homeostasis.

Consumption of processed PUFAs leads to uncontrolled reactions between those polyunsaturated fats and oxygen in your body. One consequence of this disruption is inflammation, a factor causing arterial plaque and heart attacks.

The AHA claims that it is the saturated fat that is pro-inflammatory and as such is the cause of heart attacks, but there is no biochemically plausible explanation for their argument. Saturated fat is very stable, and will not react with oxygen the way PUFAs do.

Unfortunately, most people—including doctors—are not familiar enough with the biochemical issues at hand to confidently dismiss the rhetoric we’ve all heard about saturated fat clogging our arteries. The biochemistry involved in imputing PUFAs as the true cause is beyond the scope of this article, but not beyond the scope of a proper medical education.

Vegetable Oils Cause Oxidative Stress

One of the breakdown products of PUFA oxidation is 4-hydroxynonanol. This toxic compound forms inside vegetable-oil bottles during the refining process,surfaces in the oils when we cook with them,and once the oils are consumed, saturates every tissue inside our bodies.3The more we eat, the more our tissues experience oxidative stress, and effectively the sicker we get.

You could rightly dub oxidative stress the “great disease maker” of our time. We now know that the underlying cause of cardiovascular disease—along with just about every other chronic and degenerative disease under the sun—involves some form of oxidative stress. And because vegetable oil increases oxidative stress the more we consume it, you could rightly call canola, corn, cottonseed, soy, sunflower, safflower (and a few other oils) “death in a bottle.”

The link between PUFA consumption and oxidative stress is not esoteric science. It is a result of basic reactions between molecules. These well-documented molecular processes are as irrefutable and immutable as algebraic equations—just ask the next organic chemist you meet on the street.

Unfortunately, organic chemists do not frequently go on to medical school, so during our education we don’t learn that understanding the oxidation of PUFAs is critical to the practice of preventative and curative medicine.

Without this insight, during our years at medical school most of us do our best to completely forget the organic chemistry reactions that we worked so hard to memorize back in college, in an effort of clearing space in our brain for more relevant knowledge. The nutrition science we do learn involves nonbiochemistry-based strategies—statistical correlations, clinical trials, and physiologic mechanisms.
Since the bulk of these kinds of studies are flawed by some missing piece of biochemical knowledge, this leads to confounding by variables not controlled for, and the churning out of inconsistent and conflicting results.

That’s why one week you hear that eggs are part of a healthy breakfast, and the next week it’s back to the “eggs clog arteries” verdict. That is also why nutrition science has become a team sport, with one side flinging not-so-well-done studies at the other side. We can only settle the debate once and for all by bringing the discussion back to a place where there’s fundamental agreement—namely, basic science.

And when your head is spinning from all the conflicting headlines, news reports, and advisories, just remember: Nature doesn’t make bad fats—factories do.


  1. Hua, Hongying, et al. “Impact of refining on the levels of 4-hydroxy-trans-alkenals, parent and oxygenated polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in soybean and rapeseed oils.” Food Control 67 (2016): 82-9. Web: researchgate.net/publication/313880604_Impact_of_refining_on_the_levels_of_4-hydroxy-trans-alkenals_parent_and_oxygenated_polycyclic_aromatic_hydrocarbons_in_soybean_and_rapeseed_oils
  2. Wang, Lei, et al. “Kinetics of Forming Aldehydes in Frying Oils and Their Distribution in French Fries Revealed by LC–MS-Based Chemometrics.” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 64.19 (2016): 3881-9. Web: pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.jafc.6b01127?journalCode=jafcau

Web: science.gov/topicpages/p/peroxidation+product+4-hydroxynonenal.html.

The post Does Coconut Oil Really Cause Heart Attacks? appeared first on Paleo Magazine.

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