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Archive for July, 2011

Looks like gastro-esophogeal reflux disease (GERD) may join the list of common health problems that can be solved by eating better.


 While I was doing research on variations in gastric acidity, I came across an interesting paper: Diet, reflux and the development of squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus in Africa. It's interesting that a lot of conventional dietary advice on digestion is based on studies done in Africa that found that African agrarian cultures eating low-fat high-fiber diets had low rates of common Western digestive issues like hemorrhoids and colon cancer. Unfortunately they forgot to mention that there are a host of similarly bad digestive issues that are MORE common in such cultures, such as sigmoid volvulus and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) of the esophagus. The latter they have tried to blame on everything from pickled vegetables to malnutrition to alcohol, with none of those hypotheses holding up very well. 

A promising villain is linoleic acid, AKA omega-6 fatty acids, well known for their harmful effects in the ancestral health/paleo/primal communities. The epidemic of SCC tracks the widespread adoption of linoleic acid-rich corn as a staple, not just in Africa, but in regions of Europe as well. 

I bet you are wondering why Americans don’t have SCC. I think there are two factors, one is that higher levels of fat in the diet are protective, but I think another is that it’s possible that a precursor to it is heartburn, which is widely treated in the US with proton-pump inhibitors. Those have some seriously bad effects, but they might prevent some types of cancer. I think it's better to remove the cause, but if you are going to continue to eat garbage, a PPI might save your life. 

Linoleic acid may be causing heartburn by increasing levels of prostaglandin E2 (PGE2). In animal models, high levels of linoleic acid, particularly in combination with low levels of other fatty acids, lead to elevated PGE2. Other micronutrient deficiencies, such as riboflavin deficiency, might make it worse. PGE2 then inhibits gastric acid production and reduces the tone of reduces of the pyloric and lower esophageal sphincters, causing heartburn. If you thought heartburn was a Western disease, consider that 60% of people in Transkei, South Africa suffer from it. Untreated heartburn exposes the esophagus to damage from the acid, in the long-term this can lead to the development of abnormal cancerous cells. Trypsin can possibly squelch the growth of such cells, but the paper notes that the South African diet is also rich in vegetables that are trypsin inhibitors, such as beans and pumpkin. They also eat the very very bad for you vegetable known as Black Nightshade, which is a pepsin inhibitor. And a lot of people smoke. A bad combination leading to a cancer epidemic. 

Since I have gotten rid of my GERD, I’ve wondered and wondered how I did it. I started eating a high-fat nutrient-dense diet, which was low in grains and free of vegetable oils, but not completely gluten or grain free. So that ruled out a gluten allergy as a major culprit. Wheat tracks as a cause of SCC too, but rather than an allergy as work, it seems like a complex inflammatory process is at play. We need to look at omega-6 as one of the true causes of GERD. It’s also a possible connection between omega-6 and skin issues via the gut-brain-skin axis.  

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This question seems to come up all the time, so here's a nice article from RobbWolf.com to help you decide if that borderline food is okay to eat or not:

“If you have to ask, you probably can’t afford it.”  This little piece of wisdom comes in quite handy when buying high-end merchandise and dining in fancy restaurants whose menu lists -‘market price’ as the cost.  Now, many of you have probably been in situations where you or someone with you did the unthinkable and actually asked.  The result – rude looks, perhaps chuckles from those that may have overheard, and in the end no fancy diamond necklace or $1000 bottle of wine ends up getting bought.  What does this have to do with Paleo?

Now that Paleo eating is becoming ‘cool’ everyone seems to have their own version and opinion of what is and isn’t allowed.  You see it on paleo forums and blogs and hear it at the gym.  If you are a working as a trainer or nutrition coach the emails and questions are never ending…  “Is (insert food item here) paleo?  Options include: soy milk, oatmeal, agave, honey, quinoa, vinegar, tamari, Italian dressing, canola oil, chocolate, wine, hard alcohol, potatoes, coffee, Splenda, coconut ice cream…  These questions are asked over and over again until finally, someone, somewhere, in their very own version of paleo considers the item fair game.  This makes the asker of the question happy and all is well; until… “Paleo stops working” for them.  What’s next?  The questions start again -usually with a new food victim this time.

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2010heifer3

This weeks Paleo Rodeo link round-up is now live at http://blog.modernpaleo.com/2011/07/paleo-rodeo-070.html . It includes a disturbing but thought provoking piece on why eating local, pasture-raised meat matters, which everyone should probably read, though no one will enjoy (contains graphic video of factory animal conditions). Not only do our meat choices have ethical repercussions… they have health repercussions as well. Paleo diet adherents understand better than most people the truth contained within the old chestnut, "You are what you eat". This article shows you exactly what it is that you are eating, and it's very frightening.

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Check out Mark Sisson’s fascinating article on UV skin protection! This is completely anecdotal, of course, but I only just realized while reading it that I have not had a single sunburn that persisted for more than twelve hours this summer– and I manage a small farm. (I started eating Paleo in mid-April, btw.) Make of that what you will.

via Mark's Daily Apple by Mark Sisson on 7/19/11


beachAs summer descends upon the world, a young Primal eater’s fancy turns to playful frolicking in the sunshine. And when you’re frolicking, the last thing you want to do is slather a bunch of horrible-smelling, greasy, overpriced sunblock all over your body. It makes you slippery and imbues your countenance with a deathly pallor that is very unbecoming. If you could, you’d love to avoid the nasty practice altogether. You’d love to use more alternative methods. Methods that may not have the support of the medical community, but for which supportive research does exist. Seeing as how a common refrain throughout the newly Primal is that sunburns seem fewer and further between than ever before, I’m guessing that there’s something to it. Dietary? Supplementary?

I’ve noticed the same thing in myself and my family, so I got to wondering: what about going Primal, exactly, might be having this effect? And if something is protecting us from the sun, and it’s not just in everyone’s heads, what else can we do to bolster our natural sunblock? What can we recommend to friends and family who aren’t quite on board with the whole deal but still want protection from the sun? Let’s take a look at some potential supplements and dietary strategies. I’ll reference research as often as possible, but I’ll also draw on anecdotal experience, both personal and from the community at large.

Eat Some Lycopene

Lycopene, that famous carotenoid found in tomatoes, has been shown in a recent in vivo RCT to protect humans against sun damage. Healthy women, aged 21-47, who ate 55 g of tomato paste containing 16 mg of lycopene every day for 12 weeks experienced significant protection against acute – and potentially long term – sun damage. Remember that cooked tomatoes, and tomato products like paste and sauce, offer far more bioavailable lycopene than raw tomatoes. If you’re counting, 55 grams of tomato paste is a hair over 3 tablespoons worth.

Get Some Astaxanthin

The super-antioxidant astaxanthin is found in algae, the organisms that eat it, and the organisms that eat those organisms (like salmon, shrimp, and pink flamingo – the pink/red color gives it away). It has been getting some attention as an “internal sunscreen.” Does it stack up? Well, here’s a study on isolated human skin cells, in which astaxanthin definitely protects against UVA damage. And here’s another study on isolated skin cells showing its protective effects. But those are limited. Does the effect persist in real life settings? In other words, does ingesting astaxanthin supplements or food that contains astaxanthin offer protection from UVA? This hairless mouse study suggests that it might; astaxanthin was more effective than even retinol. I’d say it looks promising, and I’m always interested in an excuse to dine on pink flamingo thigh.

Get Some Vitamin D

A common anecdotal report is that supplementing vitamin D increases sun tolerance and protection against sun damage, and a recent study seems to confirm this. Various forms of the vitamin D prohormone offered various protections against UV damage in a mouse model: reduced sunburn, lowered incidence of tumor development. Huh, imagine that! Getting sun gives you vitamin D, which in turn protects you from too much sun. It’s funny how these things work out. Nature can be very elegant.

Get Your Long-Chain Omega-3s and Ditch the Omega-6s

A recent study out of Australia found that adults with the highest serum concentrations of DHA and EPA had the least “cutaneous p53 expression.” What’s the significance of cutaneous p53 expression? When your skin is in danger of damage from the sun, p53 expression is upregulated to protect it, and high p53 immunoreactivity can lead to melanoma. The fact that high DHA/EPA meant low p53 immunoreactivity suggests that the omega-3s were protecting the skin. And although the study’s authors noted that high serum omega-6 content didn’t seem to correlate with high p53 activity, I think a likelier explanation is this: omega-6 is so prevalent in the modern Australian diet, that even “low” levels are still above the threshold for increased susceptibility to sunburn. Going higher than that threshold won’t make things any worse, and it won’t show up in the statistics. Drop that omega-6 intake to 2% of calories, though, while getting an equal amount of omega-3s? I bet you’d see some incredible UV-resistance.

Eat Plenty of Saturated Fat

This is slightly redundant in light of the last suggestion – after all, if you’re limiting PUFAs, you gotta eat some saturated fat – but I think it’s worth mentioning. I hear about people bumping up their saturated fat intake and improving their UV-resistance all over the place, and I’ve experienced the same thing myself, but I’d never seen it mentioned in the literature. Well, here’s a cool rodent study in which mice were either given a saturated fat-enriched diet or a PUFA-enriched diet. No word on the exact composition of the two diets. When both groups of mice were injected with melanoma cells, “the initiation time required for visible tumor growth in mice receiving the polyunsaturated fat diet was significantly less than that in mice receiving the saturated fat diet.” A higher-saturated fat diet was protective, while a higher-PUFA diet was not. If you’re gonna be out in the sun, better eat your butter, palm oil, and coconut oil, eh?

Drink Tea

Tea, especially green tea, offers a complex arsenal of antioxidant compounds. How it works and what’s doing it isn’t fully understood, but it’s generally accepted that drinking green tea is a smart move and a mainstay of many healthy traditional cultures. Unsurprisingly, there’s also evidence that dietary green tea, specifically its polyphenols, inhibit the development of skin tumors by controlling inflammation and preventing DNA damage. Topical green tea extracts applied directly to the skin also offer photoprotection.

Get Some Proanthocyanidins

Proanthocyanidins, which can be found in wine and grape seeds, berries like blueberries and chokeberries, nuts like hazelnuts and pistachios, and certain niche grains like sorghum and barley, have been efficacious in preventing UV damage in hairless rodents. Whether it works for hairless apes remains to be seen, but drinking wine and eating berries sound like fine ideas regardless of their photoprotective efficacy. Actually, score one for the hairless apes who quaff wine: a recent study found that people who supplemented with grape seed extract (high in anthocyanidins) had a significantly lower risk of skin cancer. It sounds promising.

Consider Resveratrol

Resveratrol gets a lot of publicity for its possible anti-cancer, cardioprotective, and lifespan enhancing qualities, but it’s also gaining steam as a potential photoprotective agent. This study found that once incorporated into skin cells, resveratrol protected them from UV damage. Topical resveratrol seems viable, too, but I can imagine rubbing resveratrol into your sun-exposed skin would get expensive rather quickly.

Well, that’s what I came up with. I think the first four appear to be the most effective, but if you have a real problem with burning, it might be worth checking out all the strategies I mentioned. I’m also interested in what’s worked for you. Have you tried the above methods? Did they work? Fill us in and thanks for reading!

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The #Paleo Rodeo

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Don't miss this week's Paleo Rodeo, featuring a broad selection of articles covering health, fitness, recipes, meal plans, and philosophical musings. Of particular interest is Amy Kubal's excellent piece on gluten, lectins, and grain. If you've ever wondered why gluten intolerance and celiac disease seems to be so much in the public eye these days, read this.

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1154344_53812667

Salon.com has an excellent article on the economics of cheap food. Ever wondered why it's so much more expensive to grow an acre of cauliflower than an acre of wheat? Blame the government. From the article:

As with most issues in this new Gilded Age, the tale of the American diet is a story of the worst form of corporatism — the kind whereby the government uses public monies to protect private profit.

In this chapter of that larger tragicomedy, lawmakers whose campaigns are underwritten by agribusinesses have used billions of taxpayer dollars to subsidize those agribusinesses' specific commodities (corn, soybeans, wheat, etc.) that are the key ingredients of unhealthy food. Not surprisingly, the subsidies have manufactured a price inequality that helps junk food undersell nutritious-but-unsubsidized foodstuffs like fruits and vegetables. The end result is that recession-battered consumers are increasingly forced by economic circumstance to "choose" the lower-priced junk food that their taxes support.

Read Full Post »

1154344_53812667

Salon.com has an excellent article on the economics of cheap food. Ever wondered why it's so much more expensive to grow an acre of cauliflower than an acre of wheat? Blame the government. From the article:

As with most issues in this new Gilded Age, the tale of the American diet is a story of the worst form of corporatism — the kind whereby the government uses public monies to protect private profit.

In this chapter of that larger tragicomedy, lawmakers whose campaigns are underwritten by agribusinesses have used billions of taxpayer dollars to subsidize those agribusinesses' specific commodities (corn, soybeans, wheat, etc.) that are the key ingredients of unhealthy food. Not surprisingly, the subsidies have manufactured a price inequality that helps junk food undersell nutritious-but-unsubsidized foodstuffs like fruits and vegetables. The end result is that recession-battered consumers are increasingly forced by economic circumstance to "choose" the lower-priced junk food that their taxes support.

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