Saturday, April 30, 2011

Estimated macronutrient and fatty acid intakes from an East African Paleolithic diet: Part 1


I haven’t seen any primal/paleo bloggers discuss this paper written by seven leaders in paleo diet research: Remko S. Kuipers, Martine F. Luxwolda, D. A. Janneke Dijck-Brouwer, and Frits A. J. Muskiet  from University of Groningen, the Netherlands; S. Boyd Eaton (co-author of The Paleolithic Prescription), Loren Cordain (The Paleo Diet), and Michael Crawford, co-author of Nutrition and Evolution (one of my favorite books on evolutionary nutrition).

I think that might be because the data given in and conclusions made by the authors of this article don’t necessarily or strongly support the dietary direction that the popular primal community has taken.

Using a database of the nutritional composition of wild, predominantly East African foods, the team estimated the macronutrient and fatty acid profile of multiple possible Paleolithic diets.  They created all models based on the most common known hunter-gatherer plant/animal subsistence ratios, ranging from 30% of energy from plants and 70% of energy from animal products, to 70% of energy from plants and 30% of energy from animal products. 

The team excluded the possibility of evolutionary diets consisting of more than 70% of energy from animal foods for two main reasons.  First, during the main part of human evolution our ancestors did not have the technology required for hunting the largest, fattest game animals, or being top carnivores, and more likely depended on scavenging for most land animal meat.  Scavenging does not often supply large amounts of meat or fat simply because obligate carnivores eat those parts before humans get to them (something I will discuss in the next post).  Secondly, as they put it:

“….in contrast to common belief, hunting probably played a less dominant role from a nutritional point of view compared with gathering, and on average, it makes up 35% of the subsistence base for present-day worldwide hunter–gatherers, independent of latitude or environment (27,37). For example, hunting by some surviving hunter–gatherers is still not very successful: the probability for a kill in !Kung bushmen is only 23% (37), and the subsistence of Hadzabe, as described by Woodburn (39), consists of 80% plant foods. In the Paleolithic, however, hunting might have been more productive, due to both higher animal biomass and hunter–gatherers not being displaced to marginal environments, unattractive for crop cultivation or cattle.”

In other words, despite having more advanced technology than had by human ancestors 100, 000 years ago, modern hunter-gatherers typically do not obtain more than 35% of their food from hunting.  Thus, the authors are actually quite generous in allowing for the small possibility that ancient people (prior to 50, 000 years ago) obtained twice as much of their food from animals as do current hunter-gatherers. 

This perspective may cast doubt on the currently popular idea among primal/paleo bloggers, in which I myself have gotten a bit caught up, that modern humans are primarily adapted to a diet consisting almost entirely of land animal meat, particularly fatty meats, with little or no adaptation to plants: anti-vegan, as some have put it.   It may even suggest that the primal human diet contained more plants than animal products (though certainly omnivorous), or perhaps more fish than meat. 

I have the impression that the Kitavans have better health and longevity, on average, than Inuit.  For example, Kitavans have no recorded osteoporosis, which appears to have occurred among isolated Inuit (see here and here). Could this suggest that, compared to the Inuit diet,  the Kitavan diet more closely resembles the ancestral African diet? 

Also, Japanese, particularly Okinawans, and residents of Hong Kong, have better health and longevity, on average, than any other modern nation, due largely to lower rates of obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and dementia.  Further, looking at international comparisons of average IQ, the top five nations are:

1) Hong Kong
2) South Korea
3) Japan
4) Taiwan
5) Singapore 

Could this suggest that, compared to the Austrian, German, Italian, or Swedish diets, in terms of brain nutrition, these Asian diets more closely resemble the ancestral African diet?  Would that make sense?  That would certainly shake things up, eh? 

Or, perhaps during the main part of human evolution, our ancestors on average ate something in between the extremes of the Inuit and the Kitavan diets, thus producing an animal primarily adapted to a mixed paleofoods diet, that also can adapt, with variable success, to both extremes.  Would that make sense?  Let's see. 

In producing their estimates, the team left out of their final estimates any model that either 1) supplied more than 35% of energy from protein, because such a diet followed long term would cause protein poisoning, or 2) supplied less than 1% of energy from linoleic acid, because such a diet would lead to essential fatty acid deficiency that would likely impair reproductive fitness. 

They did all calculations assuming ‘optimal foraging,’ i.e. people choosing more energy-rich over less energy-rich foods whenever possible.  In their calculations, they varied the fat contents (measured by weight, i.e. g/100g) of plants from 2.5 to 5.0% fat, of meat from 5.0 to 30%, and of fish from 2.5 to 10%.   Meat that has a 30% fat content by weight (30g fat per 100g meat) has a fat:protein ratio equivalent to bacon or sausages.

Their basic models included foraging in either a savannah, a land-water ecosystem, or both.   Each model had carefully chosen and justified parameters.  I will discuss these in my next post. 


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Conventional Meat May Contain MAR Bacteria: What To Do About It

7/13/11 update:  I decided that I don't want to endorse or appear to endorse the use of any meat produced by conventional methods of feeding the livestock grains, primarily corn and soybeans.  Since animals consume 80% of the grain and soy produced by U.S. agriculture, this system drives the ongoing destruction of our topsoil both through crops and through grazing.  Animal food production consumes 87% of all freshwater used in the U.S. each year, and thus is the primary driver of depletion of water reserves.  This system also produces most of the water pollution occurring in the U.S.  Our conventional livestock production system has enormous costs detailed in this article from Cornell University.  Since I have known of these costs for more than 20 years, I feel embarrassed and remorseful that I wrote this series and other articles that endorsed the use of conventional animal products.
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When I wrote my guides to conventional beef (One, Two, and Three), I  looked at data reporting on residues of hormones, antibiotics, chemicals, and pesticides in conventional beef, but I did not find any information about microbial counts in meat from animals raised in conventional confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs).

Now it looks like I have to add multiple-antibiotic resistant (MAR) bacteria to the list of likely contaminants of conventional supermarket meats.   Reuters reports that researchers have found that conventional grocery meat frequently has significant levels of bacteria resistant to antibiotics. 

The Arizona-based Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGRI) tested 136 meat samples from 26 grocery stores in Illinois, Florida, California, Arizona and Washington D.C..  They found that the meat had high levels of Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus), and more than half of the bacteria tested had resistance to multiple antibiotics.

"The study found that in 96 percent of the meats with staph bacteria the bacteria were resistant to at least one type of antibiotic, and 52 percent were resistant to three or more types. "
"Of all the types of meats where bacteria was resistant to three or more antibiotics in the study, turkey was the most resistant, followed by pork, beef and then chicken. "
While you can kill these bacteria easily by cooking the meat properly,  you also can spread these bacteria by handling the meat then other foods or objects.  You can prevent the spread of these microbes by washing hands and counters before and after handling meat and keeping other foods away from uncooked meat.

Apparently the FDA knows about this:

A spokeswoman for the Food and Drug Administration said that the agency was aware of the TGRI findings, and similar studies of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in meats, and was working with the U.S. Agriculture Department and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the causes and effects.

"FDA has been monitoring the situation. The TGRI study points out that the public health relevance of the findings is unclear. FDA continues to work with CDC and USDA to better understand this issue," the FDA spokeswoman said.
To give the foot-dragging bureaucrats a leg-up on this problem, I can think of two well-documented main sources for these bacteria: 1) treated (drinking) water containing multiple-antibiotic resistant (MAR) bacteria may be used to wash meat products in meat-processing facilities, and 2) confined animal feeding operations.  When you confine animals and hold large numbers in close quarters, while feeding them a grain-based, inappropriate diet, you create a breeding ground for infectious microbes. 

Simply put, we could stop directly or indirectly subsidizing pharmaceutical houses and corn-based animal feeding operations, which would save taxpayers money, reduce federal deficit spending, and make drug-laced CAFOs uneconomical compared to drug-free pasture-based operations.  This would encourage the growth of pasture-based animal operations, which when properly managed can reverse desertification and produce animal products of superior nutritional value in terms of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals.  The land, animals, and people will all be healthier as a result.

While the FDA et al go about taking their time "to better understanding this issue," it appears you can reduce your exposure to these microbes by implementing these strategies:


1.  If eating conventional meats, eat less turkey and pork compared to beef and chicken.  Previously I have recommended pork over chicken because pork has a better fatty acid profile than chicken (less omega-6), but now appears that pork presents a greater microbial hazard.  Hence you may want to choose chicken over pork, and remove the chicken skin to minimize omega-6 intake.
2.  Consider buying meat frozen or freezing it after purchase, because freezing can reduce microbial concentrations by up to 97-99%.
3.  Eat more whole cuts of meat and less ground meat, since ground meats may have bacteria in them whereas whole cuts will generally only have bacteria on the outside surfaces.
4. Wash your hands and counters after handling uncooked conventional meats.
5.  Cook conventional meat adequately.
6.  Whenever possible, get grain-fed meats from animals raised without antibiotics. You can get them from local farmers, butcher shops, and some 'natural' markets.  In Arizona, Sprouts Market and Sunflower Market both sell grain-fed meats from animals raised without antibiotics.  Animals raised without antibiotics very likely have lower counts of antibiotic-resistant microbes. 
7.  When economically practical, buy meat directly from farmers who raise their animals without antibiotics on pasture or species-appropriate diets.   

Friday, April 15, 2011

Epistemology: Percepts, Concepts, and Conceptual Frameworks

Epistemology is the study of how we know and how and why we generate knowledge.   I am going to summarize here part of what I know about it.  Most of this I learned from my mentor in philosophy, Dr. Ramakrishna Puligandla, Ph.D., who is not only a philosopher, but also a top notch theoretical physicist.

So, let us ask first, why do we pursue and generate knowledge?

You have no doubt noticed that when you question someone's knowledge, the individual will often react quite defensively or aggressively. Often, people go to war to defend systems of knowledge (i.e. what they believe is true).  This tells us that some primal emotions drive the pursuit of knowledge.

People look at the vast and unpredictable universe around them, feel fear of the unknown, and particularly, of death.  To reduce this fear, they seek knowledge, through which they hope to control the unknown and stave off death.  Hence, fear or dis-ease motivates all striving for knowledge.  Knowledge is sought as a balm for dis-ease. 

People believe that if they know (are "right") they are protected from the unknown, and if they don't know (are "wrong"), they lack protection, are vulnerable.  Hence, knowing/not knowing is a life-or-death situation.

Consequently, when you question someone's knowledge, you question their security.  This is why questioning is not well tolerated by many individuals, and they may react violently to any questioning of their "knowledge."  If you question someone's knowledge, you are (often) questioning their very security of being.

Everyone agrees that reality exists.  However, descriptions of reality vary from person to person, culture to culture. Why?

Knowledge consists of systems of percepts ("data") and concepts (names, categories, and explanations).   Disputes can be factual (about data) or theoretical (about explanations).  Solving disputes about data involves simply producing the data or evidence.  Disputes about explanation are a whole other ball game.

Percepts

We can only know what our perceptual and conceptual apparatus allows us to know.  Thus, humans can only see what our eyes allow us to see, hear what our ears allow us to hear, taste what our tongues can taste, and so on.

Without doubt, if we had different perceptual apparatus we would describe the world quite differently from the way we presently describe it.  For example, if, like most carnivores, we did not have color vision, we would not have colors in our description of the world.

For another example, other species appear to hear noises, or see things, which we do not see.  Certainly the cat perceives things (e.g. sounds, odors) we do not, and we perceive things (e.g. colors) that cats do not.

This means that while we have only one reality, we have multiple perceptual worlds:  human world, cat world, bird world, etc.  These worlds all overlap, but they differ due to the different constitutions of each species.

Moreover, if we alter our own physiology, for example, using psychotropic drugs, we will perceive things not perceptible when in 'normal' physiology.  

All this indicates that knowledge is inextricably bound up with our psychophysiological constitution, and that what we perceive is as much a function of our equipment as of reality.

Some may believe that what we perceive in the 'normal' physiological state is 'real' and anything perceived in an 'abnormal' or 'nonordinary' physiological state is 'unreal.'  This view suffers from a glaring problem, namely that nothing we perceive comes stamped with any mark identifying it as 'real' or 'unreal.'

Some people (let's say, most psychiatrists) will put visions obtained under the influence of mescalin into the category 'unreal,' while others (let's say, shamans) will put them in the category 'real.' This is sufficient to demonstrate that 'real' and 'unreal' are concepts, not percepts.

I would argue that we have no reason to put any experience in the category 'unreal.'  If you experience it, it is a part of reality.  This is true whether you experience it in a 'normal' physiological state, or an 'abnormal' physiological state.  We have no evidence showing that what is 'normal' is more real than what is 'abnormal.'  Whether any individual can discern meaning in any particular 'abnormal' percept depends on her conceptual framework.  

We have no a priori reason to believe that any particular perceptual apparatus (say, human) is more accurately tuned to reality than any other (say, cat), or that only one particular state of the human apparatus (rested, tired, fed, unfed, awake, dreaming, without drugs, with drugs) provides the only correct information about reality, but we can say that particular states may not provide correct information about the world

Let me explain.  Reality consists of all existence; it includes all possible experiences, such as, for example, waking experience and dreaming experience, cat-experience and human-experience.  We know that these experiences differ, but they overlap.  If any experience occurs, it perforce belongs to reality.  So, for example, if you trip out on mescalin, this experience will give you accurate information about reality, namely, about what happens to a person's experience when he takes mescalin in a large enough dose.

Our world consists of all the experiences we have as individuals.  Because of inevitable individual variations in perceptual apparatus, each individual lives in a slightly different world than others.  We know this to be true because, for example, color-blind individuals live in a color-free world, as do cats, while those of us who can see colors live in a colored world, as do other primates.  The worlds of individuals of the same species overlap almost completely, but as perceptual apparatus varies among species, we have good reason to believe that the worlds of different species are quite different.  For example, we have evidence that the worlds of some species may not include what we call pain,  or at least, that their experience of stimuli that cause us pain is significantly different (simply, they don't have the types of nervous systems that appear necessary to have the experience of pain as wee know it).

We can measure the value of states of consciousness by their survival value in our shared world, although only on the assumption that survival, or avoidance of premature death, is 'better' than non-survival.  Thus, if someone drives off a cliff while driving under the influence of alcohol, because the alcohol altered their perceptions, we may say that the alcohol-induced state provided the person with incorrect information about the world, but not about reality.  It gave them accurate information about reality, i.e. that taking alcohol will provide perceptual variations of a certain type, but due to this influence of alcohol on their perceptual functions, alcohol gave them innaccurate information about the world

We all naturally value survival over non-survival, but do we really know that survival is 'better' than non-survival?   One of the most unnerving aspects of our world is death.  It appears that nature has decided that death, or non-survival, is a requirement of life.  Under these circumstances, we can only judge survival as 'good' from our human perspective; Nature appears to consider death as 'good' as life, or more accurately, death of many beings (foods) is essential for the survival of one being (you).  Therefore, your survival is 'good' for you, but 'bad' for those that you eat.

Our knowledge is inevitably conditioned by the limits of our perceptual apparatus.

Concepts

The human mind perceives things not perceptible by the five senses, such as relationships, patterns, mathematical entities, and meaning in general.  Your eyes perceive these marks known as letters, and your mind perceives the meaning of these marks.

The human mind also generates concepts to organize its percepts into systems of knowledge.  All systems of knowledge are therefore conceptual frameworks.  Thus, we can talk about the Aristotelian conceptual framework, the Newtonian, the Darwinian, the shamanistic, the Christian, the Hindu, etc., etc.

To restate, conceptual frameworks are systems of concepts used to organize and explain the occurrence and behavior of phenomena detected by our limited perceptual apparatus. 

Concepts of certain aspects of the world can and do vary from framework to framework.  For example, according to the Newtonian conceptual framework, space and time exist independently of each other and the observer, but according to the Einsteinian framework, space and time exist as a spacetime continuum, and relatively to the observer.

Theoretical Entities

We have two basic types of concepts:  empirical and theoretical.  Empirical concepts refer to entities that we experience through the five senses, such as colors, textures, velocity, mass, direction, and so on. 

These entities are not self-explanatory; if they were, we would not do science to create explanations.

In its attempt to explain phenomena (perceptual data), the mind generates a class of entities called theoretical entities.  

Gravity is an example of a theoretical entity invented by Isaac Newton to explain the universally observed fact that objects will drop to the earth if released into free fall from a position above the earth.

It is of utmost importance to realize that Newton did not discover gravity while rummaging around the countryside looking for a 'force' to explain why things fall to the earth.  You can't open the earth and find gravity there.  You can't put a piece of gravity on your table. Gravity is an idea, not a physical entity.  Newton did not discover gravity, he invented it. 

To drive this home:  Gravitational force has no shape, color, flavor, sound, or texture, no perceptual characteristics. You just won't find it anywhere among the physical furniture of the world. 

Some will protest:  "Well, if you think gravity only exists in the mind, why don't you jump out of a 20 story window?"  These people mistakenly think that the fact that things fall toward the earth proves that gravity exists the same way that trees and computers exist.  Not so.

I don't jump out 20 story windows because I will fall to the ground and probably kill myself if I do so.  It makes absolutely no difference to me what causes this fall.  I don't have to believe in any invisible gremlins or gravity to know that if I fall 20 stories to some pavement, I will die.

This would occur regardless of whether this fall is a result of the action of a theoretical force called gravity, or a result of my body being composed primarily of the earth element which naturally moves toward the earth, as opposed to the  fire element and air element which naturally rise away from the earth.

You see, before Newton invented the idea of gravity, people didn't know that gravity caused things to fall to the earth, but they didn't jump out windows either.  Previous to Newton, in the Western world, scientists explained things using Aristotle's physics.  According to Aristotle, if a thing falls toward the earth, this indicates that it is composed primarily of the earth element.  In other words, Aristotle had a different explanation for what happens.  He proposed a theoretical entity called earth element to explain why some things fall toward the earth and also the fire and air elements to explain why some things rise away from the earth.

Recall also that people did engineer buildings and bridges, not only in the West, but also in ancient China,  without having any grasp of Newtonian physics, i.e. without any idea that objects fall to the earth because gravity acts upon them.

Someone will protest, "But we can measure gravity."    Really?

In physics, no one measures forces like gravity directly.  We don't have gravitometers.  To "measure" gravitational force, we go indirectly, by measuring mass and acceleration of physical bodies, from which we calculate the force using the following equation:

Force = mass x acceleration

We measure mass in grams and acceleration in meters per second per second.  We can only know the magnitude of the force by measuring the mass and the rate of acceleration, then performing this calculation.

But then when you consult Einstein, gravitation is not a force anyway, it is a function of spacetime curvature.

So if gravity is like rocks, a purely physical phenomenon, how is it that Newton can say it is a force, and Einstein can say it is a curvature of space-time?  Think about it.  Did Einstein dispute Newton by producing a bit of gravity, and saying "Come on, just take a look, its obvious that gravity is a curvature of spacetime.  How could you have ever believed that it was a force?"

The perceptive reader will realize that everything I say here about gravity applies to all forces invoked in modern science.

For an example relevant to the field of biology, including nutrition, it also applies to the concept of energy.   Like gravity, energy has no shape, color, sound, odor, or texture.  If you think otherwise, I invite you to show me a bit of energy.

As with gravity, we "measure" energy by calculating work.   In physics, we define work as the product of force and distance.  So what do we actually measure?  Mass, distance, and movement speed of objects.  From this we calculate the energy involved.

In chemistry and nutrition, we "measure" energy in units called calories.  We define a calorie as the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one gram of water one degree centigrade.  Again, we never measure calories directly.  We measure the movement of matter (e.g. the movement of mercury in a thermometer).

By the way, have you ever seen a calorie?

Theoretical Entities Presupposed in Ordinary Science

Modern scientists use the ideas of gravity and energy as central parts of their conceptual framework.  Most scientists actually assume that gravity and energy are phenomena (part of the furniture of the external world).  If you think scientists are actively engaged in trying to falsify the idea that gravity causes things to fall to the earth, or that energy exists, you don't understand how science works.

Few scientists question the very foundational concepts of the science in which they operate.  Most accept the foundational ideas like gravity and energy and use them to conduct 'normal' science.  Only now and then do we see some unusual individual (Newton, Einstein, Darwin, etc.) who questions the foundational concepts of any particular scientific enterprise (physics, chemistry, biology, etc.) and revises old concepts or creates new concepts to organize and explain the data in a new fashion.

In fact, in order to pursue conventional Western science one has to accept gravity as a given.  If you start to question whether gravity exists or causes the convergence of matter, you are no longer practicing Western science, you are undertaking a revision of Western science.  And to take this position, you would have to be looking at Western science as just one of many possible ways of understanding how things work, not accepting it as 'the way things REALLY work.'

Most people can't tolerate free-fall of conceptual understanding, so they won't question a basic assumption like gravity unless they already have an alternative foundation on which to stand.  Since most people accept gravity as the only reasonable explanation for why things fall, they will never question it.

Probably you never heard of the Aristotelian explanation until you read this blog, and almost certainly you never heard that the Aristotelian explanation was well supported by data at the time it was accepted.

Realize that when you were taught about gravity or energy, no one offered you a variety of alternative explanations for why things fall or move around, leaving you to decide which of those made the most sense.   You were involuntarily indoctrinated to make you a member of the gravity and energy cult.   No one even pointed out to you what I have just pointed out in this article.  This applies whether you are a layman or a trained scientist. 

Alternative Theoretical Entities

Unfortunately, many people, including many scientists are not aware of the fact that modern science is full of  theoretical entities, like gravity, quarks, positive charges, negative charges, electromagnetic waves, energy, and so on.  These people assume that quarks exist the same way that rocks exist, and will summarily dismiss as absurd any theoretical entity proposed by alternative conceptual frameworks.

As an example, shamans the world over use the concept of nature spirits to explain certain phenomena.  People unaware of the difference between perceptual entities and theoretical entities will often dismiss the idea of spirits on the basis that "Western science has searched far and wide and never discovered any nature spirits."  

The problem here is that nature spirits are theoretical entities.  You don't confirm or disconfirm their existence by rummaging around the forest, just as you can't confirm or disconfirm the existence of gravity by looking for it in the English countryside.

Suppose I said:  "Well, at long last I have proven that gravity doesn't exist since I have searched far and wide, near and deep, and I haven't seen any gravity anywhere."  [Substitute energy for gravity with the same result.]  Do you think the physicist would accept my refutation?  Or course not.  Yet he turns and believes that he can refute theoretical entities proposed in other knowledge systems by the same device.

You don't discover theoretical entities, you invent the concepts as part of an attempt to explain the perceived activities of phenomena.  You don't confirm the existence of theoretical entities by direct perception, you confirm their existence by observing and interpreting the activities of phenomena generated by experiments conducted in the context of the conceptual framework to which the theoretical entities belong.

That last sentence means:  The concept of gravity is meaningless outside the context of the conceptual framework (Western science) to which it belongs; and the concept of nature spirits is meaningless outside the context of the conceptual framework (shamanism) to which it belongs. 

In the shamanistic conceptual framework, the concept of nature spirits serves as a key concept in explanations for certain types of phenomena, some of which are generated and perceived in 'normal' physiological states, and some of which are generated and perceived in experiments entailing 'altered' physiological states.

This analysis applies equally to many concepts found in non-Western sciences. 

For example, a key theoretical entity in traditional Chinese sciences is qi (Wade-Giles: ch'i).  Western medical people like to think that they can dismiss the concept by stating that Western science has never found any entity like qi in the human body. 

I would make the same error if I stated that I have proved that energy does not exist because no one have found any energy coursing through the body or in lurking in the depths of food.

These people have made the mistake of thinking that qi  is a phenomenon like blood or muscle tissue, or rocks for that matter.   Like energyqi  is a theoretical natural entity which traditional Chinese scientists used to explain a wide variety of phenomena, ranging from physiological to celestial, including the vast difference between a living and dead animal.

In Chinese medicine, qi is defined at that agent responsible for the phenomena of heat, movement, transformations, maintaining structural integrity, and providing protection from exterior influences.

One can readily see that this concept resembles the Western scientific concept of energy in some respects.  Namely, heat is thermal energy and movement is kinetic energy.  At some later point I will discuss how it differs from the concept of energy.

For now, I will close by recapping:

1.  People seek knowledge for emotional comfort, i.e. to relieve the dis-ease that arises from feeling small and powerless in a vast, unpredictable universe.
2.  Knowledge systems consist of percepts (sensory data) and concepts, along with rules about how to arrange concepts into explanations (i.e. logic), and procedures of experimentation the produce data that begs explanation.
3.  All knowledge systems are limited by our perceptual apparatus.
4.  Knowledge disputes can be about data, or about explanation.
5.  Explanatory concepts connect to empirical concepts, but they do not consist or even necessarily include empirical content (color, shape, odor, texture, sound, flavor).
6.  You can't refute an explanatory theoretical concept by searching in the physical world for the entity proposed by that concept, whether it is gravity, energy, nature spirits,  or qi.
7.  Theoretical concepts obtain their meaning from their explanatory power or utility in guiding action but only in the context of the conceptual framework (knowledge system) in which they occur.
8.  We can measure the value of a conceptual-perceptual framework by its ability to facilitate survival of the human species.  If the actions and technologies that arise from application of the framework promote survival of the individual, the species, and the resource base of the species, then we can judge it relatively 'good', and if they reduce the survival of the individual, etc, then we can judge it relatively 'bad,'  keeping in mind that this judgment is only true relative to humans, not an absolute truth.  

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Strength Training Equipment: Homemade Dip and Chin Belt

Chin ups are the king of upper body exercises.  They activate the muscles of the hands and forearms, triceps, biceps, deltoids, pectorals, upper back, and abdomen.  No other upper body movement taxes this much muscle mass.

By the way, Drew Baye has a great article on how and why to perform chin ups instead of kipping pull ups.

Parallel bar dips have similar utility.  They activate the muscles of the forearms, triceps, deltoids, pectorals, latissimus dorsi, and abdomen.

Men who train these exercises regularly will soon develop the ability to use more than body weight for multiple repetitions.  To add weight one can use a so-called dipping belt.

You can purchase a belt from numerous sources, spending anywhere from $20 to $100.  However, I use one I made myself for less than $10 using materials I purchased at a hardware store:  150 pound test chain, pipe insulation, 2 carabiners, and duct tape.

I followed the procedure in this video (BTW I did not make this video).  Do it yourself and save.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Intermittent Fasting Good, But Don't Do It Yet? The Expert Double-Bind Strikes Again

Science Daily saw fit to reprint a EurekAlert announcing that a "Study finds routine periodic fasting is good for your health, and your heart."  The article describes research done by a team apparently led by Dr. Benjamin Horne, PhD, MPH.  The team had some people fast for 24 hours and recorded the changes in the participants blood levels of cholesterol and hormones.  


They found that during the fasting period, blood levels of both LDL and HDL increased.   According to the article, Dr. Horne explains the findings this way:

"Fasting causes hunger or stress. In response, the body releases more cholesterol, allowing it to utilize fat as a source of fuel, instead of glucose. This decreases the number of fat cells in the body," says Dr. Horne. "This is important because the fewer fat cells a body has, the less likely it will experience insulin resistance, or diabetes."
I agree with the first sentence, but I doubt the second.  I know of no way that elevations of blood cholesterol influence cells' fuel use.  If what he says was true,  high serum cholesterol would indicate a metabolism that burns fat in preference to glucose, and raising cholesterol would treat obesity.

Assuming Dr. Horne actually said this, I think he has cause and effect confused.  When fasting, the body releases fat from adipose for use as fuel, and cholesterol gets released from those tissues at the same time.

Dr. Horne, I suggest that you get a copy of Eat Stop Eat by Brad Pilon if you want to learn how fasting works, or at least consult a standard physiology textbook.  ESE has an extensive bibliography referring to dozens of studies of the effects of fasting.  You will find that the textbooks and numerous research papers tell us that fasting lowers insulin, and the reduction of insulin allows the body to use greater amounts of fat as a fuel.

Next he says that this process "decreases the number of fat cells in the body."  Wow!  I have never seen any evidence that any method short of surgical excision (lipectomy) can reduce the number of fat cells in the body.  So far as I know, fasting or dieting can reduce the amount of fat stored in the fat cells we have, but not the number of fat cells.   Dr. Horne,  if you have evidence that fasting can reduce the number of fat cells, I sure would like to see it.

Horne's team also confirmed previous research showing that fasting has profound effects on human growth hormone (HGH) secretion.  Increased HGH protects muscle mass and increases fat metabolism.  Horne's research found that "During the 24-hour fasting periods, HGH increased an average of 1,300 percent in women, and nearly 2,000 percent in men."

So this fasting thing sounds pretty good, eh?  Don't get carried away:

While the results were surprising to researchers, it's not time to start a fasting diet just yet. It will take more studies like these to fully determine the body's reaction to fasting and its effect on human health. Dr. Horne believes that fasting could one day be prescribed as a treatment for preventing diabetes and coronary heart disease.
I suppose they want to cover their bases, but this kind of "disclaimer" gets my goat.  These people seem like hypercautious nannies wanting everyone to stay "safe," as if going without eating for 24 hours was some unprecedented adventure into dangerous, uncharted territory.  My cynical part read it this way:  "Look, this fasting thing could do awesome things for your health, even prevent diabetes or heart disease, but now that you know that, we want you to go back to sleep.  After all, we wouldn't want to discourage the use of drugs...." 

In nature, most carnivores or omnivores spend a lot of time without food.  Without refrigerators and convenience stores, if you want to eat, you have to hunt, and hunting takes time.  As a result, most non-human carnivores spend a far greater portion of their lives in the fasted than the fed state. 

Ethnographic records also indicate that most hunter-gatherer tribes have traditionally eat only one or at most two main meals daily, in late afternoon or early evening, which means that the people fast at least 16 hours and often 20-24 hours almost daily.  We can surmise that our paleolithic ancestors also spent far more time in the fasting than in the fed state.  Thus, rather than having to justify intermittent fasting,  which occurs as a matter of course in natural circumstances, advocates of eating more frequently need to prove the safety of frequent feeding, because it departs from the paleolithic default.

I fast 16-17 hours almost every day of the week and usually have at least one fast lasting at least 20 hours once weekly.  I almost always do my heavy and light training after at least 16 hours of fasting.  I've been doing this for more than two years with only  positive results.  I highly recommend it for weight management and health enhancement.  Don't let the nannies discourage you from doing something absolutely natural.