meme Log

May 24, 2014

Death by Food Pyramid (8.0)

Filed under: Books — Lynn Fikstad @ 15:04

By Denise Minger

It all began with the Dietary Goals for the United States, what I think is a typical overreach by a meddlesome government. I get the distinct impression that Denise Minger is a progressive at heart, not the typical Libertarian one finds among paleo-like dietary iconoclasts. I don’t know exactly where in the book this impression was formed, but it seemed to be underlying her discussions about government involvement in nutrition. She was far too optimistic that government could be a great help for us if only corporations didn’t muck things up.

Her optimism in government was interesting but had little to do with the real substance of the book. She knows a lot more about nutrition, and I was reading the book to gain insight into that, not the political economy.

She was fair when criticizing the nemeses of the pro-fat groups (macronutrient fat) including Keys. She noted Keys had some good points, but they were distorted as are some of the pro-fat heroes like the nemesis of sugar, Yudkin.

The fasting in Crete (Mediterranean diet) was overlooked by Keys, and obviously by a lot of people writing about Keys and the famous diet. I found it to be great news, mostly because it confirms my own bias that occasional fasting is probably a healthy practice. I don’t like doing it all that much and only do it once a week. It becomes much easier after about 6 weeks and that probably means fasting makes some kind of changes with fat metabolism.

There are no easy answers to the cholesterol issue, but I would bet Denise Minger has it right. It’s probably not a good idea to push an anti-fat message, but if you’re genetically pre-disposed to not being able to handle a lot of carbs (ApoE4, the Alzheimer’s gene! or even the AMY1 amylase gene for saliva (more amylase the better)), maybe you should choose between carbs or fat. You can’t have both without risking your health.

Gary Taubes covers the Framingham observation study best. Minger left a lot out about HDL, LDL, A type, B type, triglycerides, and VHDL. Taubes has a short YouTube interview which beautifully summarizes the cholesterol misconceptions. Minger claims Framingham showed no relationship between diet and cholesterol. No relationship is a judgment call from the data, and I have no idea what the data was, but she’s probably right because she mines the data. Most people that keep up on these things now realize that a high saturated fat diet increases your HDL, even among women, who Denise singled out especially immune from diet changes and cholesterol. Many people know red wine and exercise will increase the “good” HDL cholesterol, but few know saturated fat will likely raise it much more.

She hits vegetable oils hard, starting with Crisco in the early 1900’s. Makes perfect sense. Avoid Omega-6 fats and don’t try to make up for eating them by supplementing Omega-3’s. PUFA’s wreak havoc. Trans fats are worse. Everyone knows about trans fats and it’s about time people started being a little concerned about PUFA’s, possibly including the much praised fish oil, which is still an unstable PUFA.

But the muscle meat issue was the most fascinating part of the book. Eat the brains, eyes, kidneys, liver, thymus gland, pancreas, tails, tendons, hooves, bones, and other offal (awful?). Isn’t there just a glycine supplement? Muscle meat has too much methionine – not good, causes early death. Glycine, on the other hand, seems to extend life (in rats only?). Methionine increases your need for B12, B6, folate, choline, and betaine – all help neutralize homocysteine, methionine’s noxious byproduct. How about eating Jell-O for your health since gelatin definitely has high amount of glycine? Maybe that’s why Mormons are noted for their longevity, despite not drinking wine and coffee. Like the Omega-6/Omega-3 ratios, you need a good ratio of methionine/glycine.

The solution is to eat organ meats (liver, heart, etc.), cook (and probably eat) the skin and tendons or connective tissues. Bone marrow? I’ve tried beef liver and heart. You would think the heart would taste like muscle meat. It doesn’t. It tastes more like liver, and the taste stays with you. Yuck!

It would be nice if hotdogs and sausages still included all this stuff. In addition, the much pilloried pink slime could have had some benefits since all that bone scraping probably got some cartilage. Little did we know cleaning up things would make our food less healthy. Eating all this offal in a hotdog or sausage sure sounds more appealing.

She convinced me (again) to avoid harsh (high heat) cooking. Heterocyclic amines (HA’s) are compounds formed when amino acids, sugar, and creatine react to high temperatures (>300 degrees). Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are from grilling, when meat juices drip on fire below. Any food that has been charred or smoked has PAHs (smoked salmon?, hotdogs?).

People’s ability to metabolize HA’s and PAHs differ. Some people can do it well. You won’t know if your one of the unlucky ones until you die from an HA or PAH related disease like cancer. She claims HA’s and PAHs are in the water, cigarette smoke, diesel exhaust, and air pollution.

So just in case you don’t have this gene, avoid exposing meat to fire or temperatures above 300 degrees. Use marinates including lemon juice, onions, garlic or wine beer (cuts HA’s). Pre-cook in the microwave before grilling. Turn often.

Bivalves, clams, oysters, scallops, and mussels are nutrient dense, kind of between a plant and animal – no central nervous system. They also taste great. I wonder if lobster is kind of like an advanced bivalve.

Of course, dark green plants are always praised in any nutrition book and this one is no exception.

Many of us are born with bad food karma. For this reason, Weston Price is a hero. Traditional diets are likely healthy diets just because of the very long trial and error they go through. Price found there is no perfect diet, but there are many great ones. I suspect there are a lot of bad diets, even possibly traditional ones, but they are almost assuredly all bad if they are new and untried. If you’re going to eat the tasty new stuff, be sure it is at least somewhat related to a tradition or some real evidence aside from the sloppy observation studies. It certainly explains why the traditional Mediterranean diet is so often praised. It’s traditional. A traditional German diet could be just as healthy.

People throw up their hands because it all sounds so complicated. It’s really not. Be reasonable, eat traditional, real food and don’t become an annoying nutrition crank.



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