Looking at the link between red meat, eggs, and heart disease

Two recent papers about heart disease from the Cleveland Clinic are making the rounds. The studies report that red meat and eggs cause heart disease because our gut bacteria converts carnitine and choline into Trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO), a heart disease trigger.

At Huffington Post, Chris Kresser has questions about the papers:

[W]hile at first glance the papers from Dr. Hazen's group might appear to be the final nail in the coffin for the omnivorous among us, a closer inspection of their data reveals some troubling questions. First, a study back in 1999 found that seafood generates much higher levels of TMAO than red meat, eggs, or any of the other 46 foods tested. One species of fish, halibut, produced 107 times as much TMAO as beef, and 53 times as much TMAO as eggs. If high TMAO levels cause cardiovascular disease, and eating fish increases TMAO more than any other food, we'd expect to see high rates of heart disease in people who eat the most fish. Yet that is the opposite of what research shows. In fact, some studies have found eating more fish (particularly cold-water, fatty fish like salmon) reduces the risk of heart attack by a greater margin than statin drugs!
In fact, whole grains could play a role in elevating TMAO levels:
In their second paper, Dr. Hazen's team raises the possibility that the foods we eat aren't the primary driving force behind our TMAO levels, because most people are able to excrete excess TMAO that accumulates in the blood via the urine. This suggests that something else may be to blame for high TMAO. What could that be? One possibility, which the researchers themselves demonstrated in the first paper, is that differences in our gut bacteria could account for the higher TMAO levels observed in some people. They showed that those with greater amounts of a type of bacteria called Prevotella in their gut generated more TMAO after eating carnitine. And what might lead to a higher concentration of Prevotella in the gut? Ironically, previous research has shown that the people who eat large amounts of whole grains are the most likely to fit this pattern. This would suggest that a diet high in whole grains -- and not red meat or eggs -- could increase the risk of heart disease by elevating TMAO in the blood.
Red Meat and Eggs on Trial Again, But Jury Is Still Out

Paleo author reviews anti-paleo book

The new book, Paleofantasy: What Evolution Really Tells Us about Sex, Diet, and How We Live, is billed as an "exposé of pseudoscientific myths about our evolutionary past and how we should live today." It was written by Marlene Zuk, a professor of ecology, evolution, and behavior at the University of Minnesota.

Many people who follow the paleo regimen have reviewed the book on their blogs, but my favorite review so far is by Mark Sisson, author of The Primal Blueprint (my favorite paleo book). He says the problem with the book is that no one who follows paleo believes any of the straw man premises she sets up. In other words, Zuk's idea of Paleo is the real paleofantasy and her arguments against her own straw man version of paleo were explored and accepted years ago by the Paleo community.

After reading the book, John Durant tweeted “Paleofantasy shouldn’t have been a book in 2013, it should have been a blog post in 2010,” and that’s as good a description as I can think of.

It’s all very uncontroversial:

There is no one paleo diet.

Who’s saying that? Humans have spanned the globe for millennia, surviving and even thriving in environments ranging from tropical to temperate, from arctic to near-aquatic, all the while subsisting on the wild foods available to those regions. Same basic diet of animals and plants, different configurations.

Evolution doesn’t just stop and humans didn’t just reach a state of perfect adaptation back before agriculture from which we’ve never progressed.

Sure. I talked about how we’re still “evolving” last year, even mentioning Zuk’s favorite topics – lactase persistence (35% worldwide, which is far from 100%) and amylase production. She discusses a few more recent changes, like malaria resistance, adaptation to high altitude, and earwax differentiation, but that’s it. If she wanted to, I’m sure she “could keep adding to the list” and mount an overwhelming case for widespread genetic adaptations to grain consumption, chronic stress tolerance, and sedentary living, but she’s saving up material for the next book. Or something. Either way, I’m not very convinced by her “list” of rapid evolutionary changes, especially considering most of them have little to do with the mismatches we discuss in this community and none of them are even present in a majority of humans.

Zuk is also quick to misrepresent “our” arguments so she can swoop in and take the sensible position – positions the ancestral health community has long occupied!

Is It All Just a “Paleofantasy”

The fabulous french fry and hash brown diet

Richard Nikoley of Free the Animal started eating fried potatoes earlier this week and has lost five pounds so far.

This is the "magic" of potatoes. You can literally live off them, and some people have and do. Of course, you don't want to, nor do I, but it's a useful tool when you understand what's going on, which is one hell of a lot of things as I'm learning. Let me give you the very basics, though, for review.

--Potato fills you up and it's difficult to eat enough to maintain body weight.

--Eaten plain, it's pretty unpalatable and so even if you can eat enough to maintain body weight, you're going to have to get over that.

--Adding a little fat (1 tsp per medium potato) and spices will make them more palatable, but you will still have a difficult time eating enough.

--They have quality amino acids, meaning you will tend to guard lean muscle (and I supplement with branch chain aminos and liver tablets).

--Calories count, i.e., not eating enough equals weight loss; having sufficient aminos equals fat loss preferentially.

--And as UK Veterinarian Peter has also hypothesized, there may be a cute little trick that helps this along. Now while Peter—as a species agnostic veterinarian—is difficult for mere mortals to understand, things begin to sink in upon 2-3 readings of a post. The gist as this mortal understands: very, very low fat is essential. Pancreatic beta cells require fat to produce the insulin necessary to regulate blood glucose. Ahha! Lets load up on glucose, no or very little fat, and where does that fat to produce the insulin necessary to deal with the glucose have to come from? Your fat ass, that's where.

Yes, as I said, 5 pounds in 3.5 days. It's 1:43pm and I'm still not hungry and have had nothing since the plate I ate last night, recipe to follow. So let's get to the hash browns, just in case you get tired of french fries.

Caloric restriction for long life? The results are mixed.

A new, 25-year study of rhesus monkeys is muddying the waters around the theory that heavily limiting the number of calories you eat can prolong your life. You've probably heard about the studies with worms, and mice, and rats, showing that those animals live longer, healthier lives when they eat significantly less food than control animals. But, as Nature News points out, those results aren't always consistent from study-to-study—a fact which suggests we don't really understand all the factors in play just yet. In fact, the new rhesus study flatly contradicts a previous rhesus study. But that previous experiment could have been flawed because control monkeys were fed high-sugar foods in unlimited quantities, rather than a reasonable, healthy diet. Basically, if animals really do live longer on super-low calorie diets, there's probably more going on there than just super-low calorie diets.