Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Baby It’s Cold….Er…Absolutely Freezing Outside!

The theme of this week is definitely warmth! We are having our coldest day so far, and it is so cold that my sensitive teeth hurt when I smile! Mazen and I had hot chocolate by the fire. Marshmallows and all! I make it in my Nespresso milk frother, which turns out perfectly warm and mixed hot chocolate in about 30 seconds. (You can use the non-froth spinner to mix without froth.)

Almond butter, banana, and honey toast FTW!

I live in the sauna this time of year. I call it my warm-up before my warm-up! It just feels so darn good to walk into 90 degrees when you are chilled to the bone. Try it!

Sarah and I went to Rocksalt for my birthday lunch today! Yes, my birthday is in October, but we have a tradition of giving each other lunches for our birthdays and then scheduling them two months later. So HBday to me! We each had fresh fish and a simple salad on the side. Love me some cornmeal catfish!

Something else hot – the inside of our Big Green Egg! Thomas tried out a pizza last night (at 600 degrees) and it was perfect! The crust was very crispy (no floppy pizza here), and the flavor was great.

On Sunday he made ribs and wings for some of our friends while we watched football. We had those with grits and collards on Monday night. I made my favorite form of collard greens – with blue cheese, bacon, and dates. Speaking of football, I finished at second place of twelve in my fantasy league this year! Now it’s time for the playoffs!

Guess who finally got a visit with Santa?! After sharing some of his wish list, I was able to get Santa to confirm that we ARE FRIENDS. Mazen still doesn’t believe me. Ha.

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No, Drinking More Water is NOT Going To Improve Your Health

Ah…the beginning of an article. How to make it click-baity enough to get some eyeballs, yet actually offer value to the reader? Due to old-age or just lack of inspiration I’ve got nothing in this regard, so I’ll get to the story at hand:

A few weeks ago I had a sit-down with the dietetics staff at a medium sized, rural hospital. Super nice folks, very sincere. They deal with a population that is enormously overweight and which suffers from type 2 diabetes and all the related problems. This was a VERY interesting meeting as the folks who OWN the hospital are fully on-board with the Ancestral Health template and are huge advocates of things like the paleo and keto diets. The owners know this stuff works, they wanted to have a sit-down with their dietitians to try to get them on-board with the notion that eating strategies like paleo or keto “might” be helpful for their very sick (and expensive to treat) population. Everyone went around the table giving a bit of a bio and when it came to me I could see the eyes of the poor dietitians grow wide when they learned I’d written some paleo diet books and was a fan of low carb (for the right situations…you know, like fat loss and type 2 diabetes.)

Things got a bit…fidgety after my bio but our moderator did a great job of smoothing things over and asked the dietetics staff to go through what their process is in working with these obese and or type 2 diabetic patients. Again, I do not want to paint these folks as anything other than sincere and well meaning, but here is what they shared:

1-The MAIN item they focus on is getting folks to “drink more water.” This was mentioned and reiterated at least a dozen times.

2-Their avant garde initiative was to have families eat together, but a point was made that they “should not in any way criticize or second guess what they were eating” and yes, that IS a direct quote.

I want to unpack the second point first: I cannot think of a better basic recommendation that families should share meals together. Life is short, family is everything. Turning off the TV, putting away the smart-phones and other distractions and “talking” is a lost art these days.

THAT is awesome.

But…

In what was at least a 15 minute presentation, food-quality was not mentioned once. And upon inspection of the literature which supports this program, the claim was made that this mindful family eating was THE route to reversing weight and health issues that are dietary in nature.

Community IS one of the four pillars of health (along with sleep, movement and….food) but what was related to me is the vast majority of meals taken by these families were fast food, desserts, and what would generally be termed “highly processed snacks.”

Now, I do think far too much emphasis is placed on “diet.” For example, most people citing the upsides of Blue Zones focus almost exclusively on diet and pay little attention to the extended communities which are clearly a major factor in the health and well-being of these populations.

But the folks in the Blue Zones are NOT eating fast food. Ever. Not yet.

I asked these folks how they felt the program was working…as in, did they see decreasing rates of death and disease, were medical costs going down. These folks mentioned “evidence based medicine” quite frequently and I asked what one would consider to be a reasonable question about the efficacy (evidence of results) of this mindful-eating initiative. What I got was a pretty defensive back-pedaling as the unfortunate reality is the costs of dealing with all these diet and lifestyle related problems has continued its upward trend, which by the way is exponential in nature (understanding the implications of exponentials in this scenario might be worth unpacking in a future article.)

So, despite good intentions, this mindful eating program is not producing results that really matter.

You may think I’m being a big meanie here, but I’ll share an example of how this thinking is failing the population these folks are entrusted to serve. I asked for an example of one of their most challenging and expensive situations. This turned out to be a middle-aged male who is type 2 diabetic, on dialysis and he is now effectively a trunk. ONLY a trunk. Both arms have been amputated at the shoulder, both legs amputated at the hips, all due to diabetic complications. This poor guy has suffered a slew of surgeries (those limbs come off in pieces, not at once…toes, then foot, then lower leg…you get the picture) and must be medically transported multiple times per week for dialysis…then you have his medication costs and the fact he is no longer able to work and needs a full-time care provider. I won’t even relate how much this one individual has cost this system (and continues to cost) as you’d think I’m making the number up.

Fifty years ago this scenario was UNHEARD of. It did not happen. It is now  commonplace…and the best “evidence based medicine” recommendations these healthcare providers can offer is “mindful eating” and an insistence that folks should not worry about their food quality. They do not want people to feel shame about what’s on their plate. Before you are Triggered and put words in my mouth, I am not advocating these people should be shamed in any way. But I do think this is an epic failure on the part of the folks tasked to educate and help these folks. Pushing for food quality is the only way this story is going to change and even doing that is going to be tough to implement when we consider the nature of our modern, hectic lives and hyper-palatable foods. Our best efforts are likely to produce lackluster results, but this is not remotely our “best efforts.”

Ok, now to point #1 from above: Drink more water.

These folks were absolutely starry eyed at this suggestion, and they did say they have seen improvements in this area. Often, “water” is interpreted as “soft-drinks” but to the point above, there is a nervousness around suggesting there may be better and worse options as it might make someone feel bad to suggest sodas, although tasty, may not be all that healthy. I asked these folks what they felt, from a medical and physiological perspective, drinking more water would do for folks.

The responses fell into two camps:

1-People are “chronically dehydrated” and this is a major health concern.

2-Drinking water “fills people up.”

To point #2 I will simply say “no, drinking more water does not cause people to spontaneously reduce caloric intake.” I’ll let you practice your Google-fu in digging up the citations on that. On point #1 I’ll refer you to this article and pull out a few highlights on heat related deaths/illness, particularly in athletic populations. Why am I using this information? People who are active tend to require more water. People in warm settings require more water. So, exercising in the heat….man, we should really see the dangerous effects of dehydration, right? Well, from the article:

The Myths of Dehydration and Heat Illnesses

  • -The primary cause of hyponatremia in athletes is drinking too much water.
  • -The incidence of hyponatremia appears to be between 13% and 15% among endurance athletes.
    -Sodium supplementation has no effect on the occurrence of hyponatremia.
  • There seems to not be a single case of death resulting from sports-related dehydration in the medical literature.

 

I bolded that last line and I should mention that hyponatremia is low blood salt…which is usually accomplished by consuming too much water, not too little salt.

Now, each year there are a not insignificant number of deaths/hospitalizations in the military, sporting events, hiking etc, and it is absolutely related to water…but it is generally due to TOO MUCH. I looked and looked, and what I consistently come back with is that last bolded line: One is hard pressed to find ANY examples of people dying from dehydration, even in remarkably challenging settings. People do not die and in fact do not become ill due to dehydration in the most extreme of physical activities, even in the heat…so how can one make “drink more water” the go-to recommendation for a sedentary population that spends an inordinate amount of time indoors, under near perfect temperature control?

About 700 people die each year in the US due to heat stroke. These tend to be infants, the elderly and the obese. These are populations with impaired ability to sweat and regulate body temperature. I’m not making light of that, nor am I saying that is not an important issue, but what I am saying is the focus on “drink more water” does not really address the challenges in these heat stroke examples, and appear to be not only be unhelpful, but injurious to the general athletic population.

How did this meeting wrap up? I cannot say it was a “high note.” We agreed to flesh out some common goals of educating folks about “eat whole foods” but even this seemingly benign angle on my part was met with near panic on the part of the dietetics staff.

There is a remarkable amount of energy being put into various healthcare debates, particularly in the US. These debates focus mainly on “who is going to pay” with some advocating for a system like auto insurance in which one largely pays as one goes and has a catastrophic plan for accidents, vs something folks familiar with the NHS, Canadian or Northern European models would be familiar with. I do think it’s important how we set up incentives in situations like this, but debating about who will pay for a system in which the costs of dealing with diabesity related problems are increasing exponentially and are on track to bankrupt the developed world is at best rearranging deck-chairs on the Titanic.

I will release an article on exponential costs in a  week or two to provide some context here.

We face an incredibly complex problem of having a set of genetics wired for a different time, and a modern industrial food system that is a master at producing what is effectively addictive, hyper-palatable food.

If I could wave a magic wand and have every healthcare provider on the planet fully bought-in on the ancestral health model, if all these folks recognized a low carb diet can work miracles for diabesity…we’d STILL have a monumental challenge ahead of us.

We have none of that.

We have gate-keepers that are afraid to tell people “food quality matters” and the best our healthcare providers have to offer (drink more water) appears to be at best a waste of time, at worst, it may be making the problem worse.

What to do?

When I think about this two terms keep coming up: Grassroots, Trench Warfare. Grassroots means we are unlikely to see effective solutions offered up from on-high. There is too much money, inertia, ego and confusion in the dominant paradigm to just do an about-face. Grassroots means starting locally and this is where we transition to Trench Warfare: We gain ground anywhere the opportunity arises.

Although information is not generally THE thing that makes people enact significant change, if we do not have at least decent information, it’s tough to get things oriented in a way that we have any hope of success. “Drink more water” is not going to cut it. Where Grassroots meets Trench Warfare is the growing number of  health practitioners who are steeped in this Ancestral Health/functional medicine model. If you’d like to learn more about this movement check out my podcast with Chris Kresser as we talk about his recently released book, Unconventional Medicine.



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Will Saturated Fat Kill Your Cells?

Inline_Saturated_Fat_CellsNo matter what kind of evidence comes out to the contrary, the anti-saturated fat sect won’t relinquish its dogma. Whenever its advance is rebuffed—perhaps by an observational study showing the lack of relations between saturated fat intake and heart disease, or a study showing the beneficial effects of saturated fat on multiple health markers—they regroup and try another route. The latest is a study that several readers sent to me, worried that the attack had finally made it through the defenses. In it, researchers purport to show that saturated fat increases the solidity and rigidity of cellular membranes, reducing membrane fluidity and eventually leading to cell death.

Is it true? Have we finally lost? What was this study all about?

First, there’s this. They weren’t dealing with live humans or even whole animals fed butter or coconut oil. They extracted living cells and bathed them in solutions of different fatty acid concentrations to see how it would affect the lipid concentration of the cell membranes.

This study focused on the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), which takes up about half of the cell membrane and has high metabolic activity. The ER produces lipids and hormones and contains ribosomes that synthesize proteins. It’s an important part of the cell, and it needs the right amount of fluidity to perform its tasks. Not too rigid, not too liquid.

The setup sounds a bit silly—are our cells really “bathed” in fatty acids?

Before you claim certain victory, this wasn’t an entirely convoluted scenario that would never happen in nature. They weren’t just brute forcing saturated fat into the membranes. They actually found that exposing the cells to different fats had different effects on cellular lipid synthesis—the creation of fats—in the membranes. With more saturated fat (palmitic acid, in this case), for example, the cells synthesized more saturated fat and incorporated it into the membranes.

What happened?

The more palmitic acid a cell was exposed to, and the longer the exposure persisted, the more saturated and less fluid the cell membrane became. This wasn’t good. A cell membrane needs to be fluid for it to perform its functions. Solid membranes will eventually kill the cell.

So, saturated fat is bad again?

Not quite. We must keep in mind that more fluidity isn’t always desirable. In some Alzheimer’s patients, for example, platelets and brain cells are excessively fluid.

And finally, this wasn’t a diet study. They weren’t feeding fat sources to animals or humans and studying the effects of cell membrane fluidity. There’s no indication that the cellular environments they created bear any relation to the cellular environments we create by eating different fats. When you do that in actual humans, the fluidity of the dietary fatty acids consumed has no relationship to stroke or heart attack risk. The fluidity of the plasma, which is a more similar scenario to the one examined in this study, does. The next phase of this study would need to look at how the foods we eat affect the fluidity of our membranes.

I don’t think it will show what they expect.

All that said, it’s a good idea to eat a mix of fatty acids. Many studies show that the incorporation of monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats into saturated fat-rich cellular membranes normalizes their function. We need both. We need them all. Hell, the study featured in this post got the same results by adding a little oleic acid or DHA to the palmitic acid soup. It completely normalized membrane fluidity and, in their words, was able to “rescue the cytotoxicity” of palmitic acid.

We see this pop up in other studies. Isolated palmitic acid has a number of dastardly effects on health, while adding different fats changes the game entirely:

  • One example is that pure palmitic acid reduces LDL receptor activity, which can increase the concentration of LDL particles in the blood and increase the chance that they’ll become oxidized and damage the endothelial walls. But if you add a little bit of oleic acid, the LDL receptor activity normalizes.
  • Another is that palmitic acid is toxic to muscle cells, impairing glucose uptake and increasing insulin resistance. But if you add a little arachidonic acid (an omega-6 found in most animal foods), the lipotoxicity goes away.
  • Pure palmitic acid also triggers an inflammatory cascade that disrupts insulin signaling and looks an awful lot like pre-diabetes. Good thing that adding a little oleic acid blocks the inflammation.

That’s a more realistic situation for our cell membranes. And while it’s easy to get caught up in scary research results, we have to understand that the situations they contrive are not representative of waking, eating, walking reality. We don’t eat pure palmitic acid. We eat food containing dozens of different fatty acids. About the only time we get a huge influx of pure palmitic acid is when we eat too many carbohydrates and our liver converts the excess into palmitic acid. Thus, olive oil isn’t “rescuing” us from the palmitic acid we eat. It’s all just food. The “rescuing” comes built in, as long as you’re eating food.

Unless you’ve got a fatty acid fractionator for isolating your own palmitic acid which you then inject directly into your blood, don’t worry about this one. Not yet, anyway.

Just keep eating your food:

Your avocado oil and olive oil.

Your butter and cheese and yogurt.

Your red palm oil.

Your meat, your eggs, your fish.

All will be well.

Thanks for reading, everyone. What do you think? Still worried? Share your thoughts down below.

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Hot In Heere

If you’ve caught wind on Instagram, we recently put in a gas fireplace! OMG I LOVE IT! I am cold pretty much from December to March, and I love that I now have a place where I can go heat up quickly. (I have been known to put my hairdryer in my shirt in the past!)

My first apartment had a gas fireplace and it heated all 700 square feet up to 90 degrees in the winter. Our new insert isn’t heating the living room that much, but it has definitely made a big difference. It’s also so nice to look at! We got it through Wooden Sun here in Cville, and we had a great experience. I was nervous to see how they would bring gas to the middle of the room, but they did some fancy move inside the guest room closet to get it there.

We spent the past week decorating for Christmas, ending with our tree over the weekend.

Recall last January when I went on a crazy decluttering spree after the holiday season ended. I don’t do well with the extra decor! (I think Sherry and I are on the same page!)

So, this year, I actually decluttered before I brought down the Christmas boxes. The red and green is “instead of” rather than “in addition to” our regular decor. I tucked away or relocated some of the knick knacks in the room, on the mantle, and on the book shelves.

When it was time to put things out, I had a blank slate! I moved the lanterns that had been in the fireplace out to the buffet table, along with the little gold trees I bought at Target a few years ago.

 

I bought these pillows at Target two years ago, and I’m not so much in love with them anymore. When I was there last week I didn’t let myself buy anything new, but I might when it all goes on sale soon! I love how they have the holiday decor sorted by style category. I think my style is Fireside and Merriment & Silver. What is yours? I think I am more into neutral and natural than red and green. I am obviously obsessed with the new Magnolia Hearth & Hand line!

I did just buy ridiculously soft and ridiculously inexpensive flannel sheets last week, though. They are so cozy!

Mazen was super excited to help with the decorating this year – especially all of the beads! He got quite mad when they kept sliding down, so I had to help him to get them to stay up.

He decorated his bedroom windowsill with a few kiddo toys.

He insisted on calling this pillow his!

Last but not least, my very favorite item to put up is our door wreath. I bought the reindeer hanger at Target a few  years ago and it works so well! Our wreath (from Grand in Road) is on a timer and lights up at night! Thomas also put icicle lights on our front porch!

What is your favorite (or least favorite) holiday item to get out every year?

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Holiday Gift Guide for Fitness & Athleisure Lovers

I’ve patterned with Nike to bring you this holiday gift guide. As always, thank you for supporting CNC! 

As you guys know, I’m a huge fan of online shopping, especially when it comes to the holidays. Dealing with the craziness of shopping in-store is just not my cup of tea, so I put together a little gift guide for fitness and athleisure lovers – a subject that I know quite well – that you can use to shop right from the coziness of your living room. Most of these items are intended for health and fitness-enthusiasts, but a number of them would be enjoyed by just about anyone who loves a casual, but fashionable style. I hope this round-up makes your holiday shopping a piece of cake!

1. Nike Metcon 3 Women’s Training Shoe – These babies are a new favorite for sure! I’ve loved Nanos for as long as I can remember, but, recently, the Nike Metcons have become super popular at my CrossFit gym, so I was curious to see what they’re all about. They’re quite similar to the Reebok Grace, but the soles are a bit more firm, so they offer a bit more stability for weight lifting. The soles are flexible enough for running workouts though! The Metcons are definitely a nice balance between the two. Guy CrossFitter in your life? Check out the Nike Metcon 3 Men’s Training Shoe. Mal has worn them for years and loves them!

2. Nike Sculpt Lux Women’s Training Tights – The most important thing about these tights: They come in short sizes! Hooray! Just about all of my leggings are capris because the full length ones are always too long for me. I love that these ones come in different lengths. The Nike Sculpt Lux Women’s Training Tights feature sweat-wicking, compressive fabric to help you feel dry, comfortable and supported. Basically, they’re cute and functional. Big fan! The Nike Power Hyper Women’s Training Tights also come in short sizes.

3Nike Pro HyperWarm Women’s Long Sleeve Training Top – How awesome is this training top? I love the look, and it comes in blue and pink too. It is made with stretchy fabric that holds in heat to help keep you warm before a winter workout.

4Nike Sportswear Women’s Hoodie (I’m also wearing it above) – I haven’t taken off this hoodie since I got it. It goes everywhere with me – to the gym, running errands, and just lounging around the house. It’s super cozy, but not too casual that you can’t sport it out in public or hanging out with friends. It also comes in dark gray, and the Women’s Knit Jacket is the full zip version of this hoodie and super cute too!

5. Nike Therma Men’s Training Jacket – Early Christmas present for Mal! He loves this jacket and wears it all the time, especially to and from the gym. It’s the perfect warm-up jacket as well as a quick something to throw on after a workout.

Nike Sportswear Tech Fleece Jogger Men’s Pants (pictured above and below) – Mal owns these joggers and wears them all the time. They’re great for traveling to and from the gym as well as laid-back weekend activities. They feature multiple pockets and breathable, lightweight fabric.

6. The Nike Sportswear Tech Fleece Windrunner Men’s Full-Zip Hoodie is redesigned for cooler weather with smooth, engineered fleece that offers lightweight warmth. Bonded seams lend a modern update to the classic chevron design. The Nike Sportswear Legacy Men’s Full-Zip Hoodie is a close second for awesome guy’s hoodies (and it’s on sale)!

P.S. Still want a few more ideas? Nike has an awesome gift guide with all sorts of great recommendations for men, women, boys, and girls!

 

 

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