The Physical

“I don’t have time for this. I have other patients to see.” Said my doctor, clearly indicating that I had used up all my allocated time for my yearly physical – or had finally pushed enough of his buttons. One or the other. It was awfully late and I thought I was his last patient. Perhaps it was true that he had other patients to see, or maybe it would have been more truthful for him to say: “I’ve had enough of arguing with you. I’m hungry and tired and want to go home and see my wife and kids.”

Either way I wasn’t offended. I am an exasperating patient. I am exasperating human in general, always questioning the obvious, asking questions that generate cow-stares or mild shock from those within earshot, or saying what I believe to be the unvarnished truth when it might be more prudent to just shut the fuck up.

In this particular instance of exasperating another human being, it was because my doctor, assessing my spectacular weight gain of 40 pounds since my last visit and a crappy total cholesterol count in the 260s, wanted to put me on statins – cholesterol-lowering drugs.

He showed me a worksheet from the American Heart Association that, when my crappy blood work numbers were plugged in, said I had a 14% chance of a heart attack in the next 5 years. He had done his homework probably because he knew I was a hard sell. We had the ‘statin talk’ last year when I was about 207 pounds and my total cholesterol was only a little elevated. I told him ‘no’ then.

And 40 pounds heavier and with really shitty blood work – the worst ever, I told him ‘no’ again.

I told him: “I have to be honest with you: I’m not a big fan of statins. They have not been shown to reduce all-cause mortality in patients like me and they also have a curious side effect, little discussed, of increasing the risk of violent death and suicide.”

My doc is a chill guy. I like him, though we don’t agree on a lot of things. I’ve mentioned this to people and they say: “Why don’t you change doctors?”

“Why? I’m not looking for somebody to always agree with me.” He’s smart and has a good 15 years of experience as a clinician. I also think he cares. He took the time to prep for me coming in by running that American Heart Association risk assessment. I think that counts as ‘going the extra mile’. He genuinely thought that he had the evidence to convince me – a seemingly rational and  medically knowledgeable layperson – to comply with his recommendation.

And I exasperated him by still saying ‘no’.

So I suppose I like him because, with nearly every relationship I have, there is a certain aspect to it where the other person has to put up with me.

People in their professional roles sometime turn into caricatures – and I suppose doctors are probably more guilty of this than most professions. In a line of business where on any given day your job might be to tell a seemingly young and healthy parent who came in with what they thought to be some minor ill that they need to ‘get their affairs in order’ because they are going to die soon, I can’t judge them harshly for perhaps putting up a wall of sorts between their patients and themselves.

But I am fascinated with these walls we put up as part of our daily interactions – and I love to break through them. Being exasperating frequently causes people’s walls to unexpectedly crumble – and what’s behind them is usually interesting.

So when I mentioned the statin research showing no benefit in all-cause mortality for patients without active cardiac vascular disease – and the crack about the increased risk of suicide and violent death, my doc’s usual chill turned less chill. He seemed slightly taken aback by the all-cause mortality, violent death and suicide bit and said with reserved force: “I challenge you to produce the evidence on these.”

I could easily find these mentioned in respected journals like the Oxford University Press, Pubmed, and the Lancet sitting in my car on my smart phone before leaving the parking lot of his office. I’ll be printing out whatever isn’t paywalled before my next visit.

Here’s one link: http://www.thennt.com/nnt/statins-for-heart-disease-prevention-without-prior-heart-disease/

It says – and backs it up with a boatload of legitimate citations – that after 5 years of statin use in patients without known cardiac vascular disease:

  • None were helped (life saved)
  • 1 in 104 were helped (preventing heart attack)
  • 1 in 154 were helped (preventing stroke)
  • 1 in 50 were harmed (develop diabetes)
  • 1 in 10 were harmed (muscle damage)

Here’s another: http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/content/97/4/229 – you might have heard of Oxford, it is the world’s second oldest university, having been around since 1167. 16 Nobel prizes in medicine were awarded to alumni. It’s not a citation from some jackass with a blog and an axe to grind.

The study was small and warrants further investigation, surely, but a few people put on statins got really grumpy afterward. The link notes:

Manifestations of severe irritability included homicidal impulses, threats to others, road rage, generation of fear in family members, and damage to property.

Now – don’t get me wrong – statins have their place. In people with CVD it is a lifesaver (http://www.thennt.com/nnt/statins-for-heart-disease-prevention-with-known-heart-disease/). However, I come from a family with no predisposition toward heart disease even though my father’s side of my family ate and drank with abandon and all had potbellies and ruddy faces from all the beer they drank. A good part of my heredity ate whatever the hell they wanted and lived well past 80 – with 80 being the point where the dodginess from the family predisposition toward Alzheimer’s began to take full effect.

I don’t have known heart disease, nor do I have diabetes though my brother, sister, father, and mother all had it – with my siblings getting it way before the age I currently am. I don’t have a family history of CVD. I see nothing in my medical history nor my heredity that makes me a good candidate for statins and have to put up with the potential to develop diabetes, the potential for muscle damage, or the potential for negative psychological effects.

Before the ‘statin talk’ I had already parried with him on diet. As I sat in my underwear, an unpleasant sight except perhaps to a clinician who has trained themselves to be detached and doesn’t really give a shit as a protection mechanism from going insane, he mentioned in what in retrospect was carefully chosen language that “I was a much larger patient” than when he last saw me – and he hoped I had a plan.

“Yeah. My plan is to go on a low carb diet.” I said.

“Do you mean below 100 grams of carbs or below 50 grams?” He asked.

“Oh, I want to do a ketogenic diet. I’ve been on one on and off for a decade and I find it works quite well for me. It even seems to make me calmer.”

“What is recommended is a calorie-restricted diets with legumes, whole grains, and lean meat, along with vigorous exercise most days of the week.”

“Well, a ketogenic diet has worked for me in the past.”

His tone changed. He was going into his ‘learned clinician schtick’. It became more patronizing. “Well you know, a ketogenic diet puts your body into a mode similar to starving. You body can’t live without glucose. What is most important is that a diet be sustainable – and a low carb diet isn’t sustainable.”

OK – a decade of sustained weight loss shows it isn’t ‘sustainable’ – he’s right – I gained weight after a decade. Got it.

I did counter on the glucose thing, though: “Um…but your body can create the glucose it needs from a moderate protein diet and converts the protein into glucose through gluconeogenesis – right?”

He didn’t say anything for a bit – frankly, I don’t recall a direct response at all. Perhaps he had busied himself with the next part of the examination – the part that included the snap of a latex glove and ‘bend over’.

Given the asymmetry of the situation – he fully clothed and I in my skivvies – I wasn’t about to tell him that my lack of exercise is almost a badge of honor for me. I follow the advice of a quote I once read: ‘Whenever I get the urge to exercise, I lie down until the feeling passes.’ I have a sneaking suspicion that the relentless advocation of ‘exercise for everyone’ is not so much for the health of individuals but rather the health of the economy: every gym membership, every Thighmaster, every pair of running shoes raises the GDP – and so do the attendant sports injuries: muscle pulls and torn ligaments provide physical therapists gainful employment; injections of steroids provide income to doctors as well as relief to the patients who have exercised their way to worn out joints, and finally the people who thrive on a steady stream of former exercise enthusiasts who, instead of choosing the next pair of running shoes to buy, now have a choice between a hip replacement or a walker and constant pain.

I also feel that above a given weight, it is smart to start losing weight without the exercise (it can be done – I did it) – and with an increasingly lighter body comes more energy and the freedom of movement that can make you *want* to exercise.

And I haven’t even begun with my feelings about what constitutes ‘healthy eating’. If my differences with the standard accepted notions on exercise were a flaming match head, my differences on nutrition from most people were a nuclear bomb.

As I left I mentioned he should check out the book ‘The Big Fat Suprise‘ – a masterfully written work that clearly explains just how we ended up vilifying fat as a nutrient because of bad science, big egos, and politics. He just snorted. It was only a:

  • A New York Times bestseller
  • Named one of The Economist’s Books of the Year 2014
  • Named one of The Wall Street Journal’s Top Ten Best Nonfiction Books of 2014
  • Kirkus Reviews Best Nonfiction Books of 2014
  • Forbes’s Most Memorable Healthcare Book of 2014
  • Named a Best Food Book of 2014 by Mother Jones
  • Named one of Library Journal’s Best Books of 2014

Kinda what I expected. 

For those of you unfamiliar with my backstory, in 2003 I lost 80 pounds on a low carb diet. Unlike most people who would have reveled in their success, bought new clothes and left it at that, I needed to know why. How could I eat like I did and lose weight? I had only read the Atkins book, and learned about ketosis: a chemical transformation to your body that allows you to run your body on ketones – the product of burning fat – instead of glucose – which comes from sugars and starches and is what the vast majority of human beings run on these days. In fact, running your body on ketones is so rare that one way of measuring your ketones to track your progress – urine strips – are actually manufactured for people with severe diabetes to manage a severe side effect called ‘ketoacidosis’.

Being slightly obsessive – or maybe a tad more than ‘slight’ – I spent the next 10 years reading books, research, blogs, and articles and all aspects of diet nutrition, the history of diets and dieting, how diet has changed over the centuries, the psychology and sociology of food and eating, as well as a myriad of odd little detours into admittedly wacky material produced by people with dubious credibility as well as my own hare-brained ideas.

All that obsession spilled out into a blog on low carb which I started on a whim and then wrote and published over 500 articles over 7 years. I sort of abandoned writing on low carb and shuttered the blog at the end of 2014 for reasons not entirely clear to me. Perhaps I had grown tired of it all. Perhaps I had said all that I had to say on the subject.

Perhaps I was just paying lip-service to my low carb lifestyle and writing about it – as I gained weight – seemed disingenuous.

Perhaps I needed to regain enough weight to give a shit again.

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Can You Be Allergic to Red Meat?

There’s an old saying in journalism: if a headline is stated as a question, the answer is ‘no’.

This might be an exception.

I stumbled across this article in the New Yorker – Can Ticks Make You Allergic to Red Meat? – and figured that while the New Yorker is a perfectly cromulent publication, it isn’t where I would go for science news. So while intrigued, at first I dismissed it as bad science. There’s a lot of it (you’ll find plenty on my own blog).

The gist of the story was that when these ticks bite you, they excrete a substance found in red meat into your bloodstream that your body can develop an immune response to. This results in getting hives and even a tightening throat similar to anaphylactic shock symptoms some unfortunate people get from peanuts or bee stings.

Hoping the editors were asleep at the switch, I began to Google this. I had never heard of this and figured this must be some urban legend.

I wish.

WebMD is certainly a better place to find health information and I found it mentioned there.

I also found it mentioned on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amblyomma_americanum#Meat_allergy

Don’t trust either of them? You can also find it here: http://acaai.org/allergies/types/food-allergies/types-food-allergy/meat-allergy

Being in New Jersey, I selfishly thought this might be confined to Texas – the poor bastards – being it’s called the ‘Lone Star Tick’.

I was wrong – here’s a map of where the ‘Lone Star’ tick can be found.

Lone-star-tick-map-cdcSeems to me to be a very misnamed creature.

I happened to tell this to my 8-year-old daughter and her response was: “Aauugh! That would mean I couldn’t eat bacon!”

I did mention to her that it was an allergy from ‘mammalian non-primate meat’ only, so monkey-meat bacon would be just fine.

She didn’t even grace my nonsense with an answer.

The good news is this particular tick isn’t likely to carry Lyme Disease – just a bushel-basket full of other diseases to fuck you up.

Yet another reason for us to stay inside our hermitically-sealed, climate-controlled houses as far away from nature as possible.

Want ‘nature’? Find a documentary on Netflix!

 

What Does Gaining 50 Pounds Feel Like?

It might be worthwhile at this point to spend some time detailing how it feels to gain 50 pounds. It can be summarized as ‘it sucks!’ but beneath that lies a litany of things that ought to be detailed in case I forget.

My newfound shortness of breath. Wearing a 50-pound bodysuit every day makes me winded easily. My disdain for exercise doesn’t help here, but I’ve certainly noticed that climbing a flight of stairs can leave me winded to a point where I need a minute or two to catch my breath. Just the normal exertions in life – like rummaging through a low cabinet for some cooking gizmo – can do it.

A rekindled relationship with massive amounts of Tums. If you follow the stock market and see the stock of the company that makes Tums go up unexpectedly – that’s me. It seems nearly *any* carb-laden food that ‘normals’ regularly eat quickly turns into a fire-bomb in the pit of my stomach soon after. Only a handful of Tums can extinguish this.

The resurfacing of GERD symptoms. Waking at night choking. Coughing, sometimes for a good part of the day. It’s connected.

The lack of accessibility to body parts. My feet seem further away and putting on socks has become bit of a challenge. This ain’t cool. I don’t like to think of myself as handicapped nor incapacitated, but being close to not being able to get my own damn socks on is one of those things that is really pissing me off. I wrote a review of mobility scooters as snark – it’s beginning to seem my fate if the current trend keeps up.

The snoring. Apparently quite loud according to innocent bystanders. Might involve sleep apnea, which at the worst isn’t good for your health long-term – oxygen being somewhat important to we humans – but it also ensures a crappy sleep, which is going to contribute to…

The total lack of energy. While there are bursts of energy here and there, the default state is ‘tired’. I wasn’t exactly a ball of energy to begin with given my love of sloth, but I could rise to the occasion when needed. Now I am more or less exhausted by the time I *get* to work, revived by coffee, then go home completely spent. I’m pretty much worthless in the evenings – a pile of protoplasm in sweatpants with butt affixed firmly to couch until I drag said butt to bed.

Joint pain. Especially my knees. I’ve known a number of people who’ve had their joints sawed out and replace with spiffy titanium substitutes, but I’m the kind of guy who’d like to make due with the knee joints I was born with. This dovetails nicely with my plan to use this as an excuse to not exercise until I’ve done some serious debulking, but this is a topic for another post.

My diminishing wardrobe. My clothing choices are becoming less and less, and the few items that still fit are comically tight. The button of my khakis is about to come off so I need to get out the sewing kit – and I’ve become more fond of the riveting used in jeans as it can better hold back the boatload of blubber attempting to burst from its constriction within garments to small. I haven’t even gone into how uncomfortable I feel in my clothes.

My crappy blood work. Bad cholesterol high. Triglycerides high. Blood sugar elevated. A doctor warning of a 17% potential for a heart attack within 5 years and pushing statins. My blood work was always pretty good when I kept the carbs to a minimum and swam in fat.

People telling me I’m not fat. I’m not sensitive about my weight. I’ve gotten fat – and I’ll come right out and say it. When I hear people say: “Oh, you’re not fat.” despite the evidence in front of them as well as my forthright admission, I translate this to: “Oh. My. God. You’re. Fat. You’re so fat my prefrontal cortex has shut down and I’m sputtering lies because I don’t know how to deal with how fat you are.”

All of this I attribute to eating like a ‘normal’: don’t get all hung up on this ‘carb’ thing – just eat what you like in moderation and you’ll be fine.

Plenty of people pull this off. I can’t. I have to accept this.

Confirmation Bias News for Low Carbers

Confirmation bias is the psychological term for believing information that supports your beliefs while ignoring or challenging information that contradicts your beliefs. We all do it: it’s the way our minds are wired. It’s also fun and simple to do:

  1. Find an article that supports your beliefs.
  2. Cherry-pick the point of the article that most strongly support your position
  3. Leave out any nuances in the article. If there’s a section about disagreement with the conclusions drawn, ignore that.
  4. Don’t research who did the research, what they measured, nor who paid for the research. If they believe what you believe they must be people of intelligence and integrity funded by organizations dedicated to only pure science and free of any conflicts or agendas. No need to check.
  5. Any comments contradicting the conclusions are made only by people with agendas, the misinformed, or by those who lack integrity

Following these fun and simple rules allow you to wrap yourself in a warm cocoon of self-validating information. It’s a wonderful state to be in: you are confident and self-assured. No self-doubt permeates your cranium. You might have a world-view that is neat, simple and wrong – but two out of three ain’t bad. The warm glow of certainty is certainly less burdensome than trying to weigh all the evidence without bias – that takes thinking and risks your preconceived notions becoming frayed and tattered – who needs that?

Let’s see an example, shall we? You’re going to love this.

Study: Vegetarians Less Healthy, Lower Quality Of Life Than Meat-Eaters

ATLANTA (CBS ATLANTA) – Vegetarians may have a lower BMI and drink alcohol sparingly, but vegetarian diets are tied to generally poorer health, poorer quality of life and a higher need for health care than their meat-eating counterparts.

A new study from the Medical University of Graz in Austria finds that vegetarians are more physically active, drink less alcohol and smoke less tobacco than those who consume meat in their diets. Vegetarians also have a higher socioeconomic status and a lower body mass index. But the vegetarian diet — characterized by a low consumption of saturated fats and cholesterol that includes increased intake of fruits, vegetables and whole-grain products — carries elevated risks of cancer, allergies and mental health disorders.

Vegetarians were twice as likely to have allergies, a 50 percent increase in heart attacks and a 50 percent increase in incidences of cancer.

Now – ignore reading the following – it’s called ‘balance’ and it’s a journalistic convention – they have to say this to make the research and the article appear balanced.

the researchers do caution that continuing studies will be needed to substantiate some of the rather broad dietary distinctions, associations presented in this current research.

So fat, booze-guzzling meat-eaters are healthier – yay!

I feel so much better – don’t you?

 

Does Fluoride In Your Water and Toothpaste Make You Fat and Screw With Your Brain?

[Update: I got one comment: “What does this have to with low carb??? Do NOT send this crap. And… I disagree with your logic.”]

I am old enough to remember the 60s when crackpots were labeled as such because they thought water fluoridation was some sort of government conspiracy. I don’t consider myself a crackpot, though your opinion might differ.

What I AM doing is taking the tack that modern science, particularly when it comes to our complex biological processes, really has little clue what is good for us and what only appears to be good for us, so my only defense is to minimize the number of ‘modern marvels’ – processed foods, man-made chemicals and the like, and try to eat as little of them as possible. For me, that means eating organic as much as I can afford it, avoiding the household cleaner aisle – or at least staying away from the nastier stuff that lies there and using more old-fashioned cleaners, using glass containers for food rather than plastic, not drinking bottled water that comes in plastic, and putting a water filter on my tap water to remove the God-Knows-What that is contained therein.

It is not that I am convinced beyond a doubt that these things matter – it more that I believe the jury is still out on, say, if the plastic in plastic water bottles leaches into the water and screws up our internal chemistry.

I don’t know – so I’ll avoid it as much as I can.

So I went to purchase a new replacement cartridge for my Pur water filter the other day. When I got it home, I just happened to read the box, which listed it’s features. One jumped out at me (here it is on their website – search for ‘fluoride’):

  • Removes 95% of mercury, while leaving beneficial fluoride in the water.

Beneficial flouride. Hmmm… I did a little digging, and came across a website named Flouridealert.org. I found this on their page ‘50-Reasons to Oppose Flouridation‘:

In the first half of the 20th century, fluoride was prescribed by a number of European doctors to reduce the activity of the thyroid gland for those suffering from hyperthyroidism (over active thyroid) (Stecher 1960; Waldbott 1978). With water fluoridation, we are forcing people to drink a thyroid-depressing medication which could, in turn, serve to promote higher levels of hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) in the population, and all the subsequent problems related to this disorder. Such problems include depression, fatigue, weight gain, muscle and joint pains, increased cholesterol levels, and heart disease. It bears noting that according to the Department of Health and Human Services (1991) fluoride exposure in fluoridated communities is estimated to range from 1.6 to 6.6 mg/day, which is a range that actually overlaps the dose (2.3 – 4.5 mg/day) shown to decrease the functioning of the human thyroid (Galletti & Joyet 1958). This is a remarkable fact, particularly considering the rampant and increasing problem of hypothyroidism in the United States (in 1999, the second most prescribed drug of the year was Synthroid, which is a hormone replacement drug used to treat an underactive thyroid). In Russia, Bachinskii (1985) found a lowering of thyroid function, among otherwise healthy people, at 2.3 ppm fluoride in water.

The above was written by a Paul Connett, PhD – a Professor of Chemistry at St. Lawrence University. He appears to be a legitimate professor (at least he was when I first wrote this 6 years ago – it appears he has since retired).

Oh, Jeez – here’s another thing I know nothing about. Another thing to make me seem even crackpottier than I already am. There is a huge crackpot element that opposes fluoridation. Here’s a comment from Yahoo Answers that shows the kind of nuttiness that gravitates to this subject:

Fluoride is accumulated in your pineal gland. This gland absorbs more fluoride than any body part and in very large quantities; it is now thought it has a lot to do with many of our health problems like early onset puberty in girls. As i have been able to awaken my pineal gland in the past thus access the crown chakra I will use my own self for the control. I do not know another person who has accessed the crown chakra or achieved christos. The feeling of oneness with the Creator and of travelling as if in deep space is gorgeous. The feeling of unconditional love and of peace makes me want to be able to do it or go there more often. Once awoken it is always awoken but you can fine tune it.

After the first two sentences, utter and complete New Age nonsense. But because whack-jobs gravitate to it, does that mean that it’s untrue? So now I’m led to the question: how did the notion that fluoride was so good for us that it should be put in most water supplies in the US come about? Think about it – that’s a massive health experiment – making everyone, young and old, with a vast spectrum of health concerns, all take a mandatory medication – that’s essentially what it is, isn’t it? So a visit to Wikipedia gave me an answer:

Community water fluoridation in the United States is partly due to the research of Dr. Frederick McKay, who pressed the dental community for an investigation into what was then known as “Colorado Brown Stain.”[8] The condition, now known as dental fluorosis, when in its severe form is characterized by cracking and pitting of the teeth.[9][10][11] Of 2,945 children examined in 1909 by Dr. McKay, 87.5% had some degree of stain or mottling. All the affected children were from the Pikes Peak region. Despite the negative impact on the physical appearance of their teeth, the children with stained, mottled and pitted teeth also had fewer cavities than other children. McKay brought this to the attention of Dr. G.V. Black, and Black’s interest was followed by greater interest within the dental profession. Initial hypotheses for the staining included poor nutrition, overconsumption of pork or milk, radium exposure, childhood diseases, or a calcium deficiency in the local drinking water.[8] In 1931, researchers from the Aluminum Company of America (ALCOA) concluded that the cause of the Colorado stain was a high concentration of fluoride ions in the region’s drinking water (ranging from 2 to 13.7 mg/L) and areas with lower concentrations had no staining (1 mg/L or less).[12] Pikes Peak’s rock formations contained the mineral cryolite, one of whose constituents is fluorine. As the rain and snow fell, the resulting runoff water dissolved fluoride which made its way into the water supply. Dental and aluminum researchers then moved toward determining a relatively safe level of fluoride chemicals to be added to water supplies. The research had two goals: (1) to warn communities with a high concentration of fluoride of the danger, initiating a reduction of the fluoride levels in order to reduce incidences of fluorosis, and (2) to encourage communities with a low concentration of fluoride in drinking water to add fluoride chemicals in order to help prevent tooth decay. By 2006, 69.2% of the U.S. population on public water systems were receiving fluoridated water, amounting to 61.5% of the total U.S. population; 3.0% of the population on public water systems were receiving naturally occurring fluoride.[3]

So it seems that dentists and an aluminum company thought it would be a good idea for everyone to take unmeasured and varying amounts of a toxic element because it appeared to prevent tooth decay. I have nothing against dentists, but they are tooth-centric, and aren’t exactly the health professionals I want to advise me about a substance that might impact other parts of my body. And why ALCOA, the aluminum company, would be involved is beyond me. This question puzzled me, so I thought to look at who supplies the fluoride. I found this page on the CDC website, which talks about shortages of fluoride, though it mentions. If you read the CDC page, it makes it appear that lack of fluoride is an immediate health crisis – enough to make you panic:

Adjusting the fluoride content of water is a safe and healthy practice that provides significant oral health benefits for a community. For the greatest benefits to occur, it is important to consistently maintain optimum fluoride levels. The three fluoride additives used for water fluoridation are derived principally from phosphate fertilizer production. Although shortages of fluoride additives for water fluoridation are infrequent, they do sometimes occur.

[You will note that some of the links referenced above don’t lead anywhere. Perhaps the CDC has quietly had a change of heart on the ‘safe and healthy’ practice?]

I wrote the above maybe six years ago and never published it. I thought it a bit too crackpot – but during that time I’ve eliminated as much fluoride as possible from my diet and my family’s diet. We still get dosed with the stuff – I still use the water filter that lets through the ‘beneficial fluoride’ but I don’t get fluoride treatments from the dentist for my kids and don’t buy fluoride toothpaste.

Then an article hit the news cycle  about common everyday chemicals that are affecting our brains – and fluoride was one of them.

I don’t consider The Atlantic to be a crackpot site, so I thought maybe I can be comfortable in letting this post see the light of day.

Here’s a link to the article – The Toxins That Threaten Our Brains.

And here is a recent bit of writing I did on the topic. It interweaves with the first part and a good writer would integrate the two to craft a single, coherent article.

But since I don’t have the time nor inclination to do so – nor do I feel the burden of wanting to be seen as a ‘good writer’ – I’m just going to put this out there:

Imagine this. Allergists, in conjunction with a technology company, find that a poisonous industrial waste, when given in very very small quantity, prevent people from developing allergies. Sometimes even severe allergies. What these groups decide to do is lobby the government to have this chemical put into the water supply so that everyone can benefit from the allergy eliminating effects of this substance. Now it is known that it does not work 100% of the time. It is also known to have some side effects. Additionally, depending on how much water you drink you might get a lot or a little so dosing would vary across different people. Children, adults the elderly, the very big, the very petite would all be getting essentially random doses of this chemical. It is also known that not everyone has allergies and so people who have no need for this chemical would also be getting it.

Would you think this is a good idea?

Believe it or not this more or less has already happened. The only difference is instead of allergies its cavities and the chemical is fluorideFluoride has a bizarre story. In the early 1900s a group of people were discovered to have spots on their teeth. These people also had no cavities. Investigations show that the water that they drank had a very high level of fluoride. This caused the speckles on their teeth as well as their lack of cavities. Then the story seems to get a bit murky. Somehow we went from a situation where it was found that a particular chemical could prevent cavities to putting a unregulated dose of a chemical that essentially is like a medicine with side effects and indications and potentially contraindications for people who shouldn’t be taking it and putting it into the water supply. How the hell did that happen?

My understanding of the events in so far as I feel like researching it at the moment has to do with World War II. During the draft of World War II so many potential soldiers were rejected for service because of bad teeth that a decision was made to add fluoride to the water.

This is also a time where we decided to take American citizens of Japanese nationality and lock them up in prison camps. Not every decision that we made because of World War II was a smart one.

The problem with labeling fluoride as somehow bad for you or the results of poor thinking suffers from one big problem: crackpots love this. Dissing fluoride has become a sure fire way to label yourself a crackpot fool. You can’t even question this without people immediately labeling you as slightly unhinged. Why is that? Why can’t we revisit this without being labeled a crockpot? We know a lot more now than we did then and we even know things now that were known then that but weren’t brought up as part of the discussion.

Remember: World War II was a war like no other. Hitler’s plans for America was to essentially turn us into a slave colony. There was a real potential that this could happen. We haven’t had a war since that mobilized the entire country to focus like we did then. We can be excused for the excesses of that war because it truly was a war of good and evil. Studs Terkel the famous author wrote a wonderful book about World War II with that exact thesis: The Good War.

Perhaps almost 70 years later it’s time for us to revisit some of the assumptions without being labeled a crackpot.

Fat, Dumb, & Happy: Day 8 – Solanine

Monday, March 17, 2014 – 225.8

6am

Nice jump in the scale. I attribute it to a lot of bulk and water from yesterday’s meal, as well as less fat overall. I’m not concerned. I think I’ve shown my actual weight, minus the water I am retaining, is maybe 219. If the scale does not follow a smooth path downward I won’t be worried – you need to give your body time to adapt to the new regime. The scale is a handy tool when it doesn’t become an emotional rollercoaster that dictates your mood for the day.

What jazzes me is the ketones. Both yesterday and today they are running dark – great. Every day in ketosis means another day of my body adapting to it – and another day where I did not given in to carbs. You can’t fake this test, and while imprecise, it does tell you you’re in the zone.

While I might have been better off to switch to roast beef and butter, I want to finish off that great soup I made yesterday. It’s not bad to add some variety of quality vegetables into the mix also – even if the number on the scale doesn’t show what you’d like it to show.

This isn’t entirely about the scale. If it was, I could go on the ‘Walter White Blue Meth’ diet and be slim and trim in no time – but *how you get thin* is important.

8pm – 223.0

Today was the worst I’ve felt so far. Extremely tired, sore knees, achy legs, couldn’t wake up no matter how much coffee I drank, head not clear. It was a struggle to get through the day. And I was way more hungry than last week. I had more of the soup for lunch and *again* it did not satisfy but left me hungry. For the first time since I started this I was fantasizing about going out and getting a sandwich.

Instead I hit the bag of macadamia nuts hard. I even found my last Atkins bar left over from a business trip in November hidden in my bag and ate that.

Let’s pull back a moment and try to analyze the situation.

First, I’m going to assume for analysis that psychology is irrelevant. I’m not saying it isn’t – I’m assuming it isn’t and see where it takes me.

The crock pot of beef and veggies was very tasty – but more so than any meal I’ve had so far, I was hungry after it – 3 bowls worth in fact.

What’s with that?

A few things come to mind.

– it was the least fatty meal I’ve e had in a week. While low carb for the vast majority of humanity, it probably had, per bowl, maybe 10 grams net carbs. It was also the most fiber I had in a week. Sounds great – right? Low carb, high fiber – where’s the problem? The hunger afterward was the problem.

So what was it about the soup? I had 2 ingredients in large quantity: artichoke hearts and tomatoes. Of lesser quantity were the sweet peppers and 1/2 onion at most for the entire pot.

Was it the high fiber, the overall higher carb count or one of the ingredients that got me?

I’m going to give the stuff I ate and drank afterward a free pass at present. I’m also going to remove the onion because of the small quantity.

I’m going to focus on the artichokes, peppers and tomatoes.

I did a little research as I lay in bed, ready to hit the sack right after I came home. Before that, still ravenously hungry and talking myself out of stopping at one of the half-dozen fast-food joints on my way home by reminding myself I’d ruin the ketosis, I made 4 eggs with a lot of butter and cheese and ate that for dinner. This was after eating lunch, the Atkins bar and a half bag of macadamias so it wasn’t like I needed to eat more.

This meal – nothing but fat and protein – satisfied.

The research came up with this: solanine. It’s a toxic compound found in some plants that supposedly exist to prevent insects and animals from eating them. They are found in nightshade plants as well as a few other plant types.

Here’s some examples of plants containing solanine: tomatoes, peppers and artichokes.

What are some of the symptoms?

From one website:

An enzyme present in the body called Cholinesterase originates in the brain where its responsible for flexibility of muscle movement. Solanine, present in nightshades, is a powerful inhibitor of cholinesterase. In other words, its presence can interfere with muscle function – the cause of stiffness experienced after consuming nightshades. All people are not sensitive to nightshades in the same degree. Research has proved that when an inflammatory condition exists, consuming nightshades is like adding “fuel to the fire”. That said, there is no scientific evidence that for those not afflicted with inflammation that nightshades will cause it.

http://haydeninstitute.com/additional-resources/additional-resources-diet-and-nutrition/inflammatory-foods-nightshades

I also found some evidence, though much less, that solanine might cause hunger in sensitive individuals, but so little it seems tenuous at best. I’ll be the first to say that it’s a bit of a reach to say there’s a cause and effect here without lots of testing – but it’s a worthy hypothesis to pursue. What if I avoid plants with solanine and notice this doesn’t happen again? Outside of a slightly more restrictive approach – what do I have to lose?

From the same link above, here’s a list of the offending foods:

Nightshades – Avoid in order to decrease inflammation:

  • Potatoes, all varieties (sweet potatoes and yams are NOT nightshades. Beware of potato starch used in many seasonings and as a thickening agent)

  • Peppers (red, green, yellow, orange, jalapeno, chili, cayenne, pimento)

  • Tomatoes, all varieties (including Tomatillos)

  • Paprika

  • Eggplant

  Foods that contain solanine although not directly in the nightshade family:

  • Blueberries & Huckleberries

  • Okra

  • Artichokes

  Other Substances to Avoid:

  • Homeopathic remedies containing Belladonna (known as deadly nightshade)

  • Prescription and over-the-counter medications containing potato starch as a filler (especially prevalent in sleeping and muscle relaxing medications)

  • Edible flowers: petunia, chalice vine, day jasmine, angel and devil’s trumpets.

  • Atropine and Scopolamine, used in sleeping pills

  • Topical medications for pain and inflammation containing capsicum (in cayenne pepper)

What’s relevant to me from that list is three of the items from my crockpot meal, as well as eggplant, blueberries and paprika. I’ve had okra and liked it, but I don’t eat it. I don’t take homeopathic remedies, nor do I eat flowers. I *have* used capsicum, but maybe once every few years, so I can avoid that.

So I’ll proceed from here under the assumption that I am sensitive to these compounds and see what happens – at least for a while. This sucks, of course, because I like these foods – and they are low carb.

But if I *do* find a stronger cause and effect link by experimenting along these lines, avoiding these foods might be worth it

Fat, Dumb, and Happy Day 5

Friday, March 14, 2014 – 1:30pm

I seem to be suffering from an excess of energy. Yes – excess. When you’re feeling sluggish most of the time it becomes the norm, but I’m feeling my energy increase and it is making me antsy as I sit behind a desk and stare at a computer all day.

For the unabashedly slothful, energy can be a nuisance.

I needed to take a walk to clear my head a bit, then came back and had another lettuce wrap. Having run out of the roast beef, I broke 2 small hamburgers in half, covered in low carb ketchup, and wrapped that in the swiss cheese. It was good, though the burgers were cold and not everybody is into that.

Did I mention I eat weird stuff?

I eat weird stuff.

I’ve been loathe to track my eating from the perspective of calories, carbs, protein, fat, and the percentages, net carb counts and the like. I mean – what’s the point? I’m in ketosis, I’m eating a small group of low carb-friendly foods, and losing weight: any extra tracking would be an unnecessary burden.

Instead, what I have been doing is tracking just *what* I eat. I keep a simple spreadsheet and if I eat a food, whatever the quantity, I just put an ‘X’ in the field. I also track my weight, if I’m in ketosis, and what my fasting blood glucose is if I remember to test it.

Here’s a screenshot if the above description makes no sense to you (entirely possible as I wrote it):

Screen Shot 2014-03-14 at 2.07.00 PM

When you’re not in the mood for obsessive tracking, this at least gives you a reasonable big picture of what you’re eating. While a bit light on the usual specifics, it does easily show the good, the bad, and the ugly. Also, since quantities are merely an ‘X’, a bite of bread still shows up as a new line – for me, this is some oddball incentive to avoid cheating: I’d have to list it.

Out of all the 24 eaten items above, four are somewhat bothersome:

  1. Mayonnaise

  2. Sucralose

  3. Almond milk

  4. Low carb ketchup

While all of these are low carb, each *does* have problems in my estimation.

Mayonnaise – I get a canola-based mayonnaise where the oil is expeller pressed (Whole Foods store brand). This means the oil isn’t heated to extract it – it’s squeezed out. That’s way better than the usual soybean oils used, which are usually extracted using a petroleum product hexane and possibly high temperatures. This process denatures the fat molecules and possibly contaminates the stuff with petroleum byproducts. Nasty stuff that I like to avoid.

Still, this mayo isn’t ‘good’, in my estimation, it just isn’t as bad as most of them. Canola oil is higher in omega-3 fats than most seed oils, but I believe you should try to avoid ALL seed oils. Other than a few very expensive oils, most seed oils are filled with omega-6, which, while necessary for health, the typical american gets way too much of. (By the way, olives are technically a ‘fruit’, so olive oil is NOT a seed oil, is somewhat unique because it is a quality source of monounsaturated fats which most believe are good for you, and is on my list of oils that are just fine).

Canola is also a food never eaten by humans until maybe 40 years ago. Canola has another name – rapeseed – not a particularly marketable name – and was only used an an industrial lubricant for machines and stuff like that because it had an ingredient that would make people sick. some clever plant breeders developed a version that virtually eliminated the offending compound – and because this was done in Canada, they renamed it ‘Can’ (Canada) ‘ola’ (oil). What this means is that nobody really know what kind of long-term effects Canola might have – possibly none. We don’t know.

Problem is – I love mayo. Yeah, you can make substitutes, use sour cream or something else, but nothing beats the real thing. I have made my own mayo with olive oil, but this can be tricky and any lack of patience in the creation can cause the creamy mayo to ‘break’ and turn into a useless speckled goo which I have to throw away.

Hopefully I can get up the courage to tempt fate and try this again in the near future . My recipe worked out well – when I didn’t screw it up.

Sucralose – are artificial sweeteners bad for you? All I know is that I lost 80 pounds using sucralose and probably kept the Atkins organization afloat during their lean years after the low carb bust of 2003 by drinking enormous amounts of their shakes. Their bars can be problematic and cause stalls, but their shakes never stalled me. Keep in mind – that was almost a decade ago and they have reformulated their product since then. My weight loss response to them might be very different today – a reformulated product and a decade older.

While I personally think artificial sweeteners do have an impact on me – i think it tends to stimulate my appetite – there’s a ‘quality of life’ issue going on here – if I become utterly miserable pining for sweets I am less apt to stay on the diet. So for me, I see it as the lesser of two evils. Yes – there are people who think it impacts your gut bacteria: yet again I think this is a very personal effect and I try to find my own answer by seeing what results I get.

I have nothing to complain about at this stage of the game so will keep using it until I feel like not using it. Again, my only response to it is an increase in appetite and as I think I have not been overeating – what’s the issue?

Almond milk – I like this stuff. Heck, even my kid likes the stuff, but it is processed and I don’t know if I have any reaction to some of the ingredients – right now, given my progress, it appears not. This is also another food with omega-6 fats, though considerably lower than the calorie-packed mayonnaise. If it was the only one, perhaps it would be OK – or perhaps I can live healthy and happy with *both*. I can read the literature on this and come to an academic decision – or I can test myself and see what happens.

Low Carb Ketchup – More sucralose. Other dubious ingredients that might or might not cause mischief. Another quality of life issue. Lesser of two evils.

The Ides of March, 2014 – 219.6

It was a long week. I can’t begin to describe the level of brainwork I’ve been doing as of late – at least for *my* brain. It’s like doing heart surgery – and learning while you do so. There are also plenty of conference calls about ‘when I will be done’ – no pressure. The weekend will provide no respite – I have other things I need to brain through so I’m going to be doing a weekend of mental gymnastics.

In retrospect, my rather casual decision to start up an extreme low carb diet when I did might have been, accidentally, the best possible time to do so.

I’m under a lot of pressure but don’t ‘feel’ the pressure in a way that is in any way debilitating. I can perform without the emotions that might degrade my performance. My brain is sparkly clear and working at it’s peak capacity. Mine is not a top-quality brain by any means – but what brains I have are working at maximum efficiency.

I think I have to give a lot of credit to low carb for this. I remember first reading the Atkins book and his assertion that too many carbs can cause ‘brain fog’. When I read this I thought this the statement of a quack. When I started Atkins a decade ago I did so as a skeptic – I *never* thought it would work, and I ignored the ‘brain fog’ comment because I didn’t buy in to the whole low carb thing anyway.

And then when I started doing Atkins I suddenly understood what he meant by ‘brain fog’ – and saw the difference on only my second day doing it.

A decade ago, at 265 pounds, I would struggle through the afternoons as a powerful sleepiness would descend upon me after lunch. So do a lot of people – it’s almost considered natural. It’s hard to notice non-events sometimes, but I clearly remember this sleepiness in the afternoon disappeared on the second day of my first go at low carb.

I had tried the diet because I wanted to lose weight – never in my wildest dreams did I think it would have any psychological impact.

It did.

It can be explained easily enough by blood sugar: eat a big sandwich and a bag of chips at lunch and we insulin resistant folks ride a sugar-powered rollercoaster up the giant wooden mountain – then come tearing down again. Our blood sugar also affects our emotions: as a kid, my father’s sudden and uncharacteristic flares of extreme temper for no reason whatsoever brought him to the doctor – where it was determined that he had full blown type-II diabetes. This was after he acquired a month’s-long habit of having a big bowl of ice cream after dinner.

I remember being at the doctor’s office with him and my mom and the doctor stating with firm conviction: “Eating sugar had nothing to do with this.”

This was the late 70s – and that was the standard thinking at the time. Remember, Atkins was a nutritional apostate at the time – just another quack doctor regarded by the mainstream medical community as not unlike John Harvey Kellogg – brother of the cereal magnate – who used to remove large portions of people’s intestines and give them yogurt enemas to ‘cure’ them of ‘autointoxication’ – a popular imaginary disease from the late 1800s through the first third of the 1900s.

(I am *very* interested in the history of diets and have a bookshelf full of books on the subject though I write little about this – perhaps someday…)

Anywho, back to my main topic (if I had one).

I had mentioned previously the ‘energy problem’ – being antsy at work because of an excess of energy. This was put to good use after work as I efficiently went to Walmart and restocked my supply of pork rinds and Lindt 85% dark chocolate – two old goto foods in my low carb adventures, then hit Trader Joe’s for more of the Almond milk. Then I came home and made short work of a pile of mail that I had neglected to go through, making phone calls, questioning bills, and cleaning up a big mess of paperwork I simply could not bring myself to tackle.

When I had completed this, I was ready for whatever was going to be my dinner.

There was cake and pie downstairs, courtesy of my wife’s sweet tooth. I was as indifferent to them as I was indifferent to low carb fare only a few days ago and went for a few hard-boiled eggs wrapped in cheese splashed with low carb ketchup. I also had a healthy amount of peppered salami with more cheese – I wrapped these in romaine lettuce leaves and ate like a sandwich.

As I wake around 5am these days, I like to be in bed by 9:30, then read until I fall asleep – usually around 10pm or so – but I couldn’t sleep. Insomnia is not a problem I’ve suffered from for decades.

I remembered Dr. Mike Eades of Protein Power mentioning that sometimes ketones can cause insomnia, and the best cure for this? A little sugar. He stated a bit of the stuff won’t hurt and might help you get to sleep.

Sometime after 11pm I was hungry again and went downstairs. As I went down the stairs I saw one of the Lindt chocolate bars I bought. It occurred to me that I could kill 2 birds with one stone perhaps. I had 4 squares of the chocolate which is about 7 grams of carbs between the cocoa and the sugar (Great stuff, by the way. I was never a fan of dark chocolate but I’ve come to love this particular dark chocolate.)

I fell asleep within maybe 20 minutes.

When I woke this morning I was down to 219.6 – my lowest morning weight so far during this round of extreme low carb. My ketones were high – actually they aren’t usually high in the mornings – they are light for reasons that are unclear to me – it’s the afternoons when they are usually very high. It certainly shows the chocolate before bed had zero impact on ketosis.

I’ve a busy weekend ahead so I’ll stop here for now.