• Your life and health are your own responsibility.
• Your decisions to act (or not act) based on information or advice anyone provides you—including me—are your own responsibility.


What Is Hunger, and Why Are We Hungry?
J. Stanton’s AHS 2012 Presentation, Including Slides

The response to the written version of my 2013 AHS presentation has been overwhelmingly positive. Based on page views, the number of people willing to read my work greatly exceeds the number of people willing to watch it in video form!

Therefore, I present to you the full text of my presentation to the 2012 Ancestral Health Symposium—including slides. (The original video can be found here.)

This is some of my finest work. It provides a theoretical and practical framework for understanding hunger—an understanding sadly obscured by oversimplification and moralizing, from both scientists and policymakers. This is doubly unfortunate because the science of hunger is well-established, uncomplicated, and consonant with real-world experience.

I’ll leave you with the “Learning Objectives” from the program:

Upon completion of the session, participants will be able to:

  • Enumerate and understand the mental and physical processes which interact to produce hunger.
  • Describe how evolutionarily discordant diet and behavior can cause inappropriate hunger signals.
  • Address some of their own hunger issues, and/or further investigate the subject in their own research.

Note: You may wish to bring up the bibliography in another browser window in order to follow along with the references.


Hello. I’m J. Stanton, gnolls.org.

People aren’t obese because they enjoy being obese, and diets don’t fail because people dislike being slim and healthy! Diets fail because hunger overrides our other motivations.

There is an inflection point somewhere around 1980. What happened? The standard explanation is that fat people are just gluttonous and lazy, so:

Well…maybe not.

It’s also popular to blame junk food…

So much for that idea.

Lately it’s become popular to blame fast food…

But the data doesn’t support that either. (The blue line is food eaten away from home, the red line is fast food…and we can see that the increase in fast food actually slowed down in the mid-1970s, just before obesity began skyrocketing.)

Note from JS: I have been specifically accused of misrepresenting this data. This is a very serious charge—so let me demonstrate that my interpretation is correct. Let’s compare the time periods from 1962 (the first year for which we have obesity data) to 1979, and from 1980 to 2008 (the last year for which we have obesity data).


  • 0.51% per year increase in fast food, as % of total food dollars
  • 0.09% per year increase in adult obesity
  • 0.03% per year increase in extreme obesity
  • 0.08% per year increase in child obesity
        (Child data begins in 1966, and is adjusted for the shorter timespan.)


  • 0.23% per year increase in fast food as % of total food dollars—less than half the rate during 1962-1979
  • 0.67% per year increase in adult obesity—7.4x the rate during 1962-1979
  • 0.16% per year increase in extreme obesity—5.3x the rate during 1962-1979
  • 0.39% per year increase in child obesity—4.9x the rate during 1962-1979

My interpretation of the data stands.

Why We Can’t Just Blame “Palatability” or “Reward”

Now before I explain the science of hunger, there is a very simple and seductive model which is wrong—and if we fall into it, we’ve made a logical error from which we can never, ever recover. That error is: food has a property called “palatability”, or “reward”, which causes us to eat it. So if a food has too much palatability—it’s “hyperpalatable”—we overeat it and get fat.

First, as we’ve already discussed, this hypothesis doesn’t fit the data.

The second problem is that palatability is like pornography. We all know it when we see it—but we just can’t seem to give it a rigorous definition.

For instance, why do different people like different foods? Hundreds of millions of people around the world find these foods delicious. Why can I get twelve different sauces for my chicken wings? 31 flavors of ice cream? And that is because, just like pornography, palatability is subjective. It is a property we assign to food.

The second problem is: why do we ever stop eating? All Oreos taste exactly the same…yet at some point, we don’t want any more. The Oreo didn’t change: we did.

The third problem is that the foods we overeat often aren’t the foods that taste the best—the classic conundrum being “I like prime rib much more than I like Pringles…but I can’t stop eating the Pringles. Why not?” Low-carbers get this all the time: “Your food isn’t really rewarding…it just tastes like it.”

So: what happens now is that the naive model does a little shuffle step. It redefines palatability as “that which we can’t stop eating”. (Or, it substitutes the generic term “rewarding”.)

In other words, “We overeat that which we overeat…because it’s overeatable.”

Of course, if we’re writing a grant proposal, we’ll use the term “obesogenic”. And with that little shuffle step, we’ve just bypassed the entire science of hunger.

Now. I’m beating this dead horse for a very good reason, which is that like phlogiston, spontaneous generation, and the luminiferous ether, this very simple and very seductive error absolutely prevents us from understanding hunger. Once again:

Palatability and reward are subjective properties we assign to food based on our past experience, and our current nutritional and metabolic state.

What Is Hunger?

So: what is hunger?

It turns out there is a large body of established science. I could easily teach a semester-long class, I asked for forty minutes, and they gave me twenty—so I’ll do my best.

Hunger is not a singular motivation. It is the interaction of four different clinically measurable, provably distinct biochemical processes:

  • Satiety: Our body’s nutritional and metabolic state. It includes both our biochemical response to the absorption of nutrients, and our access to stored nutrients.
  • Satiation: An estimate of future satiety, based on the sensory and cognitive experience of eating.
  • Hedonic impact (“likes”): The pleasure we experience from an action. “Palatability” is the hedonic impact of food.
  • Incentive salience (“wants”): Our actual motivation to obtain something we “like”. It is largely, but not exclusively, a product of the other three motivations.

Two more factors interact with hunger to modulate our food intake:

  • Availability: How difficult it is to get something we want.
  • Willpower: The conscious overriding action of the forebrain, known as “executive function”.

Availability and Willpower

Let’s talk about availability for a moment. Even though we might want prime rib much more than leftovers, we eat the leftovers because they’re what’s available to us. If I want prime rib, that’s three hours and a trip to the store, or 40 dollars and a trip to the restaurant. In contrast, we don’t have to want processed snack foods much at all, because all we have to do is open the bag.

They’re not hyperpalatable — they’re hyperavailable.

The Reward System—Hedonic Impact (“Likes”) and Incentive Salience (“Wants”)

Time doesn’t permit me to explore the biochemistry and neuroscience of the reward system—so for the details, I’ll point you to the pioneering work of Dr. Kent Berridge, whose work I was proud to introduce to the community last July. [In this article series, starting with the very first installment. References are also linked in my bibliography. -JS] A couple quick notes:

It’s important to note that likes and wants are not limited to food. Any experience we “like” — that has hedonic impact—is capable of producing a “want” for more—incentive salience.

It is also very important to note that what is colloquially called “reward” is a mashing together of hedonic impact and incentive salience. Both vary independently, and both are subjective properties—so the term “food reward”, which implies a singular property of the food itself, is intrinsically misleading—because it drops us right back into the cognitive trap of the naive model.

But if liking and wanting are subjective, what determines them? Yes, taste is one part of it, but the interesting question isn’t why we eat: it’s why we can’t stop eating.

And so we move on to satiation and satiety.

Satiation and Satiety

Two quick examples: You’ve just left the all-you-can-eat Brazilian steakhouse. What tastes good to you right now?

Almost nothing.

Now: you’ve just hiked seventeen miles over three mountain passes with a 40-pound pack, and that dehydrated lasagna is the best thing you’ve ever tasted.

Again, the food didn’t change—but somehow its hedonic impact, how much we like it — and, therefore, its incentive salience, how much we want it—did change.

Now. Satiation and satiety are synonyms in common usage: so why do we distinguish them? The answer lies in gastrointestinal transit time: it takes hours for the nutrients in food to be digested and absorbed, which means that the satiety response is not a useful signal to stop eating.

(I deleted this passage from the speech as given, because I was concerned about running out of time. However, I think the concepts are valuable, so I’ll reprint it here.)

Furthermore, we must distinguish two types of satiation: positive and negative. When we eat real food, we are rewarded twice: once by the pleasure of eating, and again by the pleasures of positive satiation and satiety.

In contrast, negative satiation is that sick feeling we get when we’ve eaten too many empty calories. It’s our body’s way of telling us “We can’t dispose of any more of that.” So we receive that quick hit of pleasure, or hedonic impact, from eating tasty but nutritionally empty non-food—but it’s over the moment that candy slides down our throat, and we never receive the hedonic impact of positive satiation and satiety that tells us “You’re done, you can stop eating now.”

And with each bite of empty calories, we not only receive less and less pleasure—we make it more and more difficult to achieve the pleasures of positive satiation and satiety.

Furthermore, because satiation is the sensory experience of eating, it can be fooled. It’s well known that:

  • People eat more in groups than when eating alone
  • People eat more when they’re able to eat more quickly
  • Hidden calorie preloads are never completely compensated for

However, the failure of dietary fiber to affect body weight or fat mass in controlled interventions (Papathanasopoulos 2010) suggests that faking satiation with indigestible bulk is not a useful long-term strategy for weight loss. You can fool satiation, but you can’t fool satiety.


And satiety is the key to understanding hunger, because, as we’ve seen:

  • Satiation is just an estimate of future satiety based on the sensory and cognitive experience of eating.
  • Both our likes and our wants are very strongly modulated by satiation and satiety.

If we do an experiment where we sit teenagers down at the mall food court and let them have all the food they want for an hour, we find that the lean kids eat a huge amount of food—nearly as much as the obese kids. (Ebbeling 2004) In other words, both groups want the same amount of food. The difference is that the lean kids compensate for that over the rest of the day, but the obese kids do not. And this strongly suggests that obesity is primarily a failure of satiety.

So: we are clearly converging on a primarily nutritional model of hunger, because that’s the definition of satiety. Let’s explore some of the evidence.

We can begin by asking the obvious question: “What else could hunger possibly be for?” Any animal whose faulty perceptions and motivations caused it to become obese, emaciated, malnourished, or poisoned by excess would have been strongly selected against.

Moving on to the science: taste receptors are not just located on our tongues—they’re located throughout our bodies. (Steinert 2011, Iwatsuki 2012) In our intestines, they modulate the release of satiety hormones like CCK, NPY, VIP, and GLP-1. In the pancreas, they modulate the release of insulin, among other systems…and these effects are so powerful that:

“…The postabsorptive effects of glucose are sufficient for the postingestive behavioral and dopaminergic reward-related responses that result from sugar consumption.” (Oliveira-Maia 2011)

[In other words, you can inject sugar into a rat and get the “food reward” response…even though the rat never tasted the sugar. Also see de Araujo 2008, Ren 2010, Oliveira-Maia 2012. -JS]

Yes, satiety is rewarding in itself…so by eating food that doesn’t produce satiety, you’re chasing a reward that never comes. Does this sound familiar?

Our taste buds both produce and respond to satiety hormones (Shin 2010)…which directly alter the perception of taste. So it might not be your imagination that food doesn’t taste as good when you’re sated.

There are opioid receptors in the walls of your portal vein (Duraffourd 2012)…and they’re not there because your liver wants to get high. They’re a protein sensor—they bond to freshly digested protein fragments.

So, now that I’ve convinced you a nutrient-driven model of satiety and hunger is both biologically and evolutionarily plausible, let’s review some of the experimental evidence.

  • The obese tend to be deficient in many different micronutrients: iron, calcium, zinc, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin K, B1, B2, B12, folate. (Leão 2012, García 2009, Xanthakos 2009, Kaidar-Person 2009)

But that’s associative data, so let’s talk about some interventions:

  • Protein leverage. Animals from rats to people tend to eat until they’ve ingested a sufficient amount of complete protein to meet their daily needs.
  • Women given multivitamins lose weight and fat mass: women given placebo do not. (Li 2010)
  • If calories are held constant, weight and fat remain the same, but the placebo group experiences greater hunger than the multivitamin group. (Major 2008)
  • Calcium and vitamin D supplementation alone can decrease body weight and fat mass, but ONLY if you are calcium-deficient. (Major 2009)

And here’s the blockbuster, courtesy of nutrition pioneers Dr. Donald Davis and Dr. Roger Williams:

Feed rats a plausible human diet. Not the “cafeteria diet”, not a “high-fat” diet, a real food diet. Meat, flour, eggs, vegetables, and fruit, all ground up together so it’s uniform. Split them in two groups, supplement one group with a very comprehensive list of vitamins, minerals, and other micronutrients, and let them feed freely.

Then, after several weeks, give both groups free access to granulated sugar for an entire day.

The non-supplemented rats—eating a plausible whole-foods diet of meat, flour, eggs, vegetables, and fruit—consumed 67% more sugar than the supplemented rats. (Davis 1976)


And this is something we absolutely cannot explain via the palatability model. The sugar didn’t change…the diet didn’t change. The only difference is micronutrient content.

So: satiety modulates reward

…and junk food is self-reinforcing. The more empty calories you eat, the more you’ll crave empty calories.

Why It’s Critically Important To Understand Hunger

The problem with popularizing for mass consumption is that it’s easy to simplify a concept until it’s no longer true. In the process of oversimplification, concepts also become politicized—and the naive model, in which palatability is a property of food that causes obesity, is being used to resurrect the diet-heart hypothesis.

The story goes like this:

You have not become fat, sick, and diabetic because we’ve been telling you to eat the wrong foods for 35 years! These massive surpluses of corn, soy, and wheat we’ve created by an agricultural policy that subsidizes the destructive chemically-based monocropping of genetically modified birdseed by giant multinational corporations are completely a coincidence. And our dietary edicts, from the original Dietary Guidelines for Americans to the Food Pyramid to the Food Plate are not just excuses to turn you into passively compliant grain disposal units—which consequently require heroic doses of highly profitable, patented pharmaceuticals to keep you alive. No, no, no.

That is NOT the problem. Pay no attention to the 500 billion dollar income stream behind the curtain.

You are the problem, because YOU DID IT WRONG.

You didn’t eat those hard, dense, bitter whole grain breads we told you to. You’ve been putting salt and butter on your vegetables. You’ve been putting dressing on your salad. You’ve been eating food that tastes good, not the dry, tasteless, low-fat whole grains we told you to.

But that’s okay. It’s not really your fault. We know you’re weak and stupid and can’t be trusted to make your own decisions. The fault lies with those evil corporations who have been making food that tastes too darn good, and you just can’t resist it. So we’re going to save you.

We’re going to tax sugar! Because just like liquor taxes have stopped us from drinking, sugar taxes will stop us from drinking soda and eating candy.

That is the new narrative. And there are people here playing footsie with it.

And THAT is why we must understand the real science of hunger.

First, because we quite literally can’t afford not to. 35 more years of the obesity epidemic will bankrupt Medicare, our government, our health care system, and us.

But far more important is that the cost in human lives and human suffering will be incalculable. Millions will suffer terribly and die needlessly. Been to a cheap nursing home lately? It’s an ugly reality.

However! There is good news, which is that the real science of hunger is not complicated—and if I’ve done my job here, you now have enough of a handle on the concepts to figure out for yourself how the science of hunger applies to your own research, and your own issues around food. And I challenge each one of you—individually and collectively—to follow the path of science, not the path of politics.

So I’ll close with some takeaways.


  • Hunger does not exist to make us fat. It exists to keep us alive.
  • Hunger is the interaction of four biochemically and neurologically distinct motivations: likes, wants, satiation, and satiety.
  • Our resulting desire to consume is modulated by availability and willpower.
  • Cells and organs throughout our bodies are full of taste and nutrient receptors that sense their external and internal environment. In response, they issue hormonal and neural signals in order to maintain an environment which keeps them alive and functional. These homeostases define our current nutritional and metabolic state—our “satiety”.
  • “Palatability” and “reward” are not properties of food. Our likes and wants are subjective properties we assign to food based on our past experiences, and our current state of satiation and satiety. (Remember the rats.)
  • Our food consumption is primarily determined by its ability to produce satiation and satiety, not its hedonic impact.


  • Obesity is primarily a failure of satiety.
  • Your mother was right. The problem isn’t “hyperpalatability”: it’s empty calories.

I’m J. Stanton, gnolls.org. Thank you.

(My bibliography is available at this link.)

Let me be clear. This is the best theoretical and empirical framework we currently have for understanding hunger. Any concept or phenomenon we’re having difficulty with can be reduced to its effect on the four motivations (likes, wants, satiation, and satiety) and two modifying factors (availability and willpower)…and any hypotheses that conflate, bypass, or oversimplify them (e.g. treating “reward” as a property of food) will inevitably produce contradiction, confusion, and a lack of progress towards our goal of better health.

I invite my readers to analyze their own observations about hunger using this framework!

Live in freedom, live in beauty.


gnolls.org is all about information density. You can support my continued efforts to bring you deeply researched, objective analysis with empirical takeaways by buying a copy of the novel that’s “Raw, powerful and brilliant,” “A cry of joy and terrifying beauty,” and “More life-changing than Fight Club…”

The Gnoll Credo.

You can also support me by making your Amazon purchases through this link…it costs you nothing, and I get a small spiff.

Bookmark and Share


Permalink: What Is Hunger, and Why Are We Hungry?
J. Stanton’s AHS 2012 Presentation, Including Slides
  • […] / Posted on: January 01, 1970GNOLLS.ORG – The response to the written version of my 2013 AHS presentation has been overwhelmingly […]

  • anand

    I am not sure how you show the slide 3 data from your theory.

    It was only used to discard the others.

    Also junk food relate to empty calories your main result.

    So I am not sure how you say that its not junk food.


    In the palatability model, junk food has an excess of an intrinsic property called “food reward” that causes us to overeat it.  As the table shows, junk food was not invented in 1979, so that hypothesis fails.  

    However, you raise an excellent point, which is “Did junk food consumption increase after 1979?  If so, why?”  Data on this is somewhat squishy, but let's assume it's true — at which point we must invoke the present model of hunger in order to explain it!  Otherwise there's no way to explain why Twinkies had less “food reward” before 1979 than afterward.

    Yes there is a 20 years delay, but the graphs look remarkably similar in slide 7.

    Couldn't it be that it takes 20years for the system to get metabolically damaged to start gaining fat.

    Perhaps — but then we're back to the present model of hunger, because you have to explain why McDonalds food was both fattening and “rewarding” in 1990, but not in 1970.  (Note that the Super Size meal didn't exist until perhaps 1994…long after rising obesity was an established problem.  And 1994 was when year-over-year spending on fast food actually decreased for the first time in decades!)  

    This is indeed possible under the present model — but I prefer to begin with hypotheses that don't require a 10+ year delay between behavior and results.  I'll be exploring some of these in the future.


    [Note: I'm experimenting with the Tom Naughton style of responding within the individual comment, instead of in a block later on.  Let me know what you think!]

  • neal matheson

    Yes this was superb! Thanks J.


    Thank you! I'm glad you find it helpful.


  • tess

    J, in less than a half-hour you managed to tell laypeople, in clear concise language, what most MDs fail to understand. your contribution to the nutrition field is outstanding. thank you! [dashing off to post a link on facebook….]


    The “sloth and gluttony” model of hunger is extremely seductive — especially for people who are naturally skinny, a property naturally common to the social class and personality type of people who tend to get MDs.  

    And CICO is also seductive because IT'S PHYSICS!!!11!!1!, but it's also unhelpful.  Telling fat people “All you need to do is eat less and move more, fatty” is like telling a losing sports team “All you need to do is score more points, losers.”


  • tam

    So the question is, are the rats eating the sugar in a blind attempt to get more micronutrients, or do the rats actually get something they need from the sugar because the lack of micronutrients causes something.


    Great question!  I suspect it's a combination of factors.  

    First, the rats probably have less efficient energy metabolism at some level due to lack of micronutrient(s), and eating more sugar compensates for that.  

    Second, the rats might not be getting anything they need from the sugar — but refined sugar is evolutionarily novel, so the rat “thinks” it's getting fruit or some other naturally sweet substance that does contain the nutrients they need.


  • Cornelius

    I've said for years that the reason we have “a sweet tooth” is that our bodies are craving the vitamins that are in fruit. The trouble is we've reprogrammed ourselves into thinking that when we want something sweet, it is empty sugar calories we should have. Our bodies are craving Vitamin C, for example, but we end up eating orange candies instead of oranges, because when we saw them at the store, for some reason that orange flavor just sounded really good.

    I think this is the same thing when it comes to the rats; not enough vitamins in their diet, so they crave sweets, and eat whatever sort of sweet is available.


    Great to see you again!  It's been a long time.  (Cornelius is one of my OG readers and commenters.)

    I agree with your point about fruit, btw.  As I said to tam, refined sugar is evolutionarily novel…and you'll note that plain sugar actually doesn't taste all that good!  Candy and soda is almost inevitably fruit-flavored.  

    I think it was Paul Jaminet who noted that sugar and starch (particularly sugar) were probably rare during the Paleolithic because we don't seem to have an “off switch” for their consumption: they don't satiate us the way that meat does, even though consuming them to excess is definitely harmful.  (In a time without toothbrushes and dentistry, high-fruit and high-starch diets rot the teeth, which is a massive survival disadvantage.)  

    The implication is that we couldn't have had access to them in excess, or the ability of sugar and starch to satiate would have been selected for — just as it was with meat.


  • Larry Clapp

    So what *did* happen in 1980 to cause those inflection points?


    I'll be exploring that question in future articles.

    Note that it's taken me years of research to get to the point where I'm comfortable advancing my own hypotheses!  It's a complicated problem, and a monumental amount of “big picture” knowledge is required to avoid the typical pitfall, which is attempting to explain the entire system in terms of the small part you understand.  


  • Everyone:

    I'm experimenting with the Tom Naughton style of responding to my readers, where I add my reply at the end of each comment instead of aggregating them in a new comment.  Let me know what you think!


  • Alex

    The Tom Naughton commenting style is fine for a moderated blog, where the comment and response are posted at the same time. But, editing people's posts, after they've already been posted, is really annoying. That means people reading on the website have to keep going back to see if you have added any responses. And, on RSS readers, your responses don't show up at all because all that shows up is the original post, without the added comment. For someone who just shows up to visit and read, long after stuff has been posted, your responses flow beautifully. But, for regulars who are active here and try to follow along chronologically as it unfolds, it absolutely and completely screws up the flow of the conversation.


    Point taken. The only other way I can think of to make it work both ways is if I go to threaded comments, which have their own issues.  I'm still seeing how this shakes out, as opinions are divided.


  • ValerieD

    Well, the theory is compelling. Unfortunately, most of the time, eating better does not lead to (substantial) weight loss. I believe that is a well-established reality.

    I have heard of a few people who used to eat junk food and drink beer 24/7, and lost their surplus weight when they just started eating reasonably. However, those are the exceptions. Most obese people eating healthy food to satiety (well, satiation I guess) will stay fat. For instance, people who embark on the 100-mile challenge (eating locally for one year, thereby eliminating all junk food) do not become slim as a result. It seems that as soon as you start dipping below your highest established weight, hunger seriously picks up, and you end up eating enough (non-junk) food to maintain if not regain weight.


    You've touched on something very important which I mentioned several times in the talk, but didn't have time to explore in-depth due to the 20 minute limit.  Recall this quote:

    Satiety: Our body’s nutritional and metabolic state. It includes both our biochemical response to the absorption of nutrients, and our access to stored nutrients.”

    The “access to stored nutrients” part is where this ties in with your experience, and that of many others.

    I first mentioned this as an important driver of satiety all the way back in 2011, with Part IV of the original article series, but I've expanded on it at great length: my entire AHS 2013 presentation is about metabolic flexibility, which includes access to your own fat stores as well as ingested dietary fat.  (To that equation we can add leptin dynamics, which also impede access to stored energy.)  These two dynamics explain the reduced metabolic rate in the weight-reduced obese, as well as their continual hunger.

    Also recall that many obese people are still gaining weight…so simply becoming weight-stable via improving one's diet is a dramatic improvement.  And for those who aren't already obese, even small improvements in nutrition can have very dramatic effects, because they're not fighting leptin dynamics.

    (An aside: a relative of mine is counting calories for the first time because he just went through surgery, lost a lot of lean mass, and needs to gain weight — and he's said many times “It's really difficult to eat 2000 calories a day without eating bread or junk food!”)

    So yes, nutrient content is not the only factor at play.  Access to stored nutrients is the other major factor — but given time constraints, I had to wait until 2013 to talk about it!


  • Bob

    Funny. I was just watching the video of this a few days ago. I probably watched it the first time about a year ago. Definitely better the second time around. It was quite a surprise to see this headlining your blog tonight.

    The main advantage of the video is the Q&A afterward. Seth Roberts and Stephan Guyenet and a woman I don't recognize (nor know if I should).

    In your response to Larry you mention the years of research that precede a presentation like this. It's got to be a bit frustrating to know you have a nice coherent 20-minute summation of what you've learned while there was probably nothing coherent about the learning. It looks deceptively simple, as though anyone could spend a few hours at the library and knock something like this out.

    A bit like the Gnoll Credo: “We all know this…”

    I think I like your new approach to comments. I don't have to scroll up and see what you're responding about. I just hope you don't fall into the trap of thinking you have to respond to every comment (like this one, for example).

    Good job!


    The third questioner is Melissa Hartwig, of Whole 30 and “It Starts With Food” fame.

    It's difficult to think on one's feet!  What I should have said to Stephan was “Yes, palatability drives consumption to some degree — but as the presentation proves, it's a subjective property, and therefore a second-order effect.  So the interesting question is 'What's driving palatability?'” 

    Thank you for noticing the work I do.  In general, the better someone's understanding and communication ability, the less impressive their discoveries sound.  “Of course, it's so simple.”  Well, it wasn't simple until I explained it! 

    And thank you for tying this in with The Gnoll Credo.  The book itself speaks far more eloquently than anything I can say about it.


  • ChrisM

    Thanks for posting this. There were things in this article that I don't remember from the video or from your earlier series on the subject. Which either means my memory is faulty (likely) or that you have added new material, or you've simply presented it in a slightly different manner that resonated with me more.

    So, referencing an earlier article you wrote, it seems we have two distinct problems. One: how we got fat. And secondly: how do we lose the weight. I' m not sure this article adequately adresses the first problem, but, if I understood correctly, the answer to the second problem is to eat a nutrient dense diet which will produce satiety and end incessant cravings and hunger.

    In regards to the first problem of how we got fat I wonder if there is a tiping point. I seem to remember that Weston Price did experiments on cats where they could eat up to 20% junk food and still remain healthy but beyond that all kinds of bad things happened. Maybe we didn't get metabolically broken and obese during the 60's and 70's because we were still eating enough real food to protect us from harm.


    The article is exactly as I gave the speech — with the exception of a few notes to the reader, enclosed in braces [], and the note on positive vs. negative satiation, which I removed due to fear of the time limit.  It's much easier to remember lists when they're presented visually, not verbally!

    You are correct: “how we got fat” is not necessarily the same problem as “how can we get slim again?”  And as I pointed out to Valerie above, our body's access to stored nutrients via metabolic flexibility is just as important as the nutrient content of our diet…but there was no way to cover both topics in 20 minutes, so met flex became my 2013 presentation.

    My current research suggests that several things need to happen in order to 1. cause weight gain and 2. leave us unable to lose the weight we've gained.  Having one isn't enough.  And yes, nutrient deficiency is one part of that puzzle.


  • Thanks, everyone, for your support and comments!  I'm now caught up.


  • anand srivastava

    Thanks for your response.

    But my crucial question still stands. How do you explain the data of slide 3, with your theory.

    I maybe missing it in the slides. Could you point it out.



    By slide 3, I think you mean the graph of obesity over time…so if your question is “So what caused the obesity epidemic?” I have to repeat that I'll be exploring that question in future articles.

    What I'm presenting here is the best model we have for thinking about these sorts of questions.  So my thought process goes something like this:

    The data says that our food consumption increased roughly in parallel with our weight, both starting around 1980 (see this article).  Why is that? 

    Well, according to this model of hunger and consumption, one or more of the six factors I enumerated must have changed.  

    I see no evidence for a nationwide failure of willpower, and incentive salience is mostly a product of the other three hunger factors, so we're looking at some combination of hedonic impact, satiation, satiety, and the modifier of availability.

    I don't see good evidence that hedonic impact has changed dramatically, because all the classic junk foods and fast foods were well-known and widely advertised before 1980. (See Slide 5, “Junk Food Invention Dates”)  It may be that we're consuming more of them, but that still begs the question of “Why?” — so we must turn to satiation, satiety, and availability.

    And once we recall that satiety is “Our body’s nutritional and metabolic state. It includes both our biochemical response to the absorption of nutrients, and our access to stored nutrients,” we have a theoretical and logical framework by which to attack the problem.  To wit, how did the changes in our dietary and life patterns since 1980 affect these factors? 

    As I said to Larry (and to Seth Roberts in the Q&A), it's taken me years of research to get to the point where I feel comfortable advancing any hypotheses.  If obesity were a simple problem amenable to solutions beginning with the word “Just” (e.g. “Just eat less and move more”) we'd have solved it by now!


  • tam

    So is Stephan Guyenet saying the opposite?



    No, he's opposing the specific contention that micronutrient status can affect food intake.  

    Let me be clear: that isn't the sole point of this presentation!  I used it as one specific application of the modern framework for understanding hunger in terms of the four motivations — satiation, satiety, hedonic impact, incentive salience — and the two modifying factors of availability and willpower.  

    However, I'm not impressed with the scholarship in his article.  (All linked references are from my bibliography.)

    1. Stephan handwaves away the results of Li 2010 by saying “I found this result difficult to accept uncritically,” strongly implying that there are dozens of studies disproving it — while failing to present any of them.

    2. I presented the results of Major 2008 as follows: “If calories are held constant, weight and fat remain the same, but the placebo group experiences greater hunger than the multivitamin group.”  This is exactly the result you'd expect if micronutrient status affects appetite, because calories were held constant!  

    Also, Stephan stated that only fasting appetite was affected.  Quote: “Fasting and postprandial appetite ratings were significantly reduced in multivitamin and mineral-supplemented women (P < 0.05).” 

    3. Stephan conveniently “forgets” to discuss Major 2009, which I'll quote here for emphasis: “The calcium+D supplementation induced no statistically significant increase in fat mass loss in response to the programme. However, when analyses were limited to very low-calcium consumers only (initial calcium intake < or =600 mg/d, n 7 for calcium+D, n 6 for placebo), a significant decrease in body weight and fat mass (P < 0.01) and in spontaneous dietary lipid intake (P < 0.05) was observed in the calcium+D but not in the placebo group.”

    4. Stephan also fails to discuss Davis 1976 — the rat study that showed greatly decreased voluntary sugar intake from supplemented rats.

    5. Stephan states flatly that “Another problem with this hypothesis as an explanation for obesity is that modern Americans have relatively good micronutrient status by global and recent historical standards.  Although we may not eat an optimal amount of all micronutrients, frank deficiency is uncommon, in large part because much of our food is fortified.”   

    This statement is incorrect.  I cite several papers showing that the obese are indeed deficient in micronutrients, including Kaidar-Person 2009, Xanthakos 2009, Garcia 2009, and Leão 2012.

    However, Stephan does bring up a point I discussed long ago in 2011: our sensing of nutrients is usually indirect.  We don't taste complete protein: we taste free glutamate.  We don't taste Vitamin C: we taste fruit-flavored sugar.  And so on.  So it's quite possible to fool our “nutrient sensors” with modern, processed foods that taste as if they ought to fulfill our nutrient needs — but do not.

    He seems to believe this disproves that micronutrients can drive hunger, but a moment's thought will show the opposite.  If we didn't have a strong need for the nutrients in those foods, we wouldn't crave the foods that taste like them (but aren't).  For instance, almost all candy is fruit-flavored: plain sugar isn't actually that tasty.  


    As Cornelius points out above, fruit has several interesting nutrients in it (particularly Vitamin C) as well as sugar calories…therefore we prefer fruit-flavored sugar to plain sugar.  Our tastes and instincts don't know about allyl hexanoate: they only know about pineapple.

    Result: My points stand.

    In closing, let me reiterate something I've said several times before: this is not a personal conflict, and I would appreciate people not making it into one.


  • eddie watts

    personally i love the answering queries in the question block: often if you don't get on the blog for 2 days there have been 30+ comments and then i have to scan up and down all the comments to see what your response is actually to/about.

    as to the rats/humans eating sugar is this simply because part of breaking met flex that we cannot access stored fat and also using fat for fuel, even dietary fat, is just harder.


    The rat/micronutrient experiment is extremely interesting, and it poses many more questions than it answers.  I don't know if the smaller supply of micronutrients impairs the utilization of fat, increases obligate glucose demand, directly affects incentive salience in the brain, or what's going on. More experiments along these lines are clearly needed…but vitamin research is all but dead because there's no profit in it.  You can't patent vitamins.  

    glucose is a simple fuel that the entire body can use all of the time, so we eat it if we're metabolically broken because it can (but not definitely does) become the only fuel we can use.
    (we always have some level of fatty acid oxidation, but it becomes harder? just to be clear for knee jerk reactionaries)

    Metabolic inflexibility means that you're stuck burning some of both regardless of conditions.  When you're fasting, you have a big obligate glucose demand, so you get hungry more quickly: when you eat starch or sugar, you can't control your blood sugar as well because you can't increase glucose oxidation to help dispose of it.

    this makes sense to me. i have some friends i've offered advice to about weight loss. including starting the day with no carbs (starch/sugar) to upregulate fatty acid oxidation and help with insulin/leptin dynamics. but they've always said they just don' feel full, but eating some carbs makes them full for longer: is this just because the fat they eat isn't accessible even though it is dietary and not stored?

    Remember, it's not that the fat isn't accessible: it's that they've got a continual demand for glucose they have to meet.

    even big names in bodybuilding and sports performance now are leaning towards red meat, vegetables and nuts for breakfast (charles poliquin, ben pakulski, ultimate performance gym to name a few i follow) even in fact for performance, not just fat loss.

    Those guys aren't afraid to experiment.  And performance is easy to quantify in the fitness field: you lifted X and/or did Y reps, so you get good feedback on the impact of your choices.

    also “Telling fat people “All you need to do is eat less and move more, fatty” is like telling a losing sports team “All you need to do is score more points, losers.” “
    had me in stitches, may in fact be a facebook update i think!

    Readers are always encouraged to help make more gnolls.


  • Adam

    I liked this a lot. Clear, concise-ish and included a small rant on the usual suspects, which I personally enjoy.



    Being limited to a 20-minute presentation enforces a certain economy of phrase and style. 

    I usually don't cut loose like that — but AHS2012 had a big public policy focus, and I wanted to make it clear that paying farmers to grow grains and then taxing the artificially cheap products of the resulting grain surplus is a) crazy, b) ineffective, and c) tinkering around the edges of the real problem.  

    Besides, I love the phrase “passively compliant grain disposal units”!


  • Robert

    Wonderful. You may be the best nutrition writer working today.

    And count me as another vote for the integrated (“Naughton-style”) comments. They work incredibly well for me.

    (And I suspect your html audience is at least 10 or 20x the size of your RSS one.)


    Thank you!  It means a lot to know that I've successfully communicated my insights to others.

    The best thing you can do in return (aside from buying a copy of TGC, if you haven't already) is to let more people know about gnolls.org by forwarding my articles to other people.


  • Lynda O

    Yes, this style of commenting is better. I think it's better for everyone else, too.


    Thanks for the feedback!


  • Michael

    “It's really difficult to eat 2000 calories a day without eating bread or junk food!”

    I'm always surprised when I hear this. I find it extremely easy to eat thousands of calories worth of fat daily, especially in the form of cream/butter (in coffee and tea) or say peanut butter (a whole jar straight, no problem). Not sure if that counts as junk food (peanut butter is high-oleic so minimal o6). Btw, I'm sedentary and do gain rapid weight eating SAD, but not so much with the above mentioned foods. My mainstay is fatty meat, so I habitually eat perhaps double the amount of calories that would see me gain weight eating high carb SAD.


    I didn't know you could even get high-oleic peanuts!  I looked into it, and apparently they do exist.  They're not GMO either: they're the product of conventional breeding.  I don't eat them, though, as they're legumes and off the Paleo template — though a high-oleic version would make them less of a cheat.  (Actually, high-oleic peanut oil would be nice to have, for occasional Asian cooking.)

    First, the person I'm talking about is well along in years, so their average daily energy needs are likely quite a bit less than yours.  2000 kcal is a substantial step up from their usual food intake.

    Second, I would have to add “bread, or junk food…or guzzling isolated fats.”  I can easily drink a half-gallon of half-and-half in a day (~2300 kcal, if I recall correctly).  Um, yeah, don't do that!  Many people find, as do you, that it's almost impossible to gain weight on keto (see my calorie series, Part VII) — but as I noted in Part V of my original hunger series, eating more quickly often causes one to eat more, period.  And one can drink much faster than one can eat, so why tempt fate?  Unless you're going to be exploring the Arctic and need the extra thermogenesis…


  • anand srivastava

    I think the problem is simply that metabolic system got impaired. It took 20 years for that to happen. This 20years thing you will also notice when you read the historical accounts of white mans food getting into native's diet.

    Also its not a switch. The damage was already there since the start of agriculture. It was just lesser than before the start of the junk food culture. The graph shows that there was a slow increase in damage even before 1980.

    Also this metabolic damage has been getting into our nucleus (via epigenetic factors), and causing the damage to occur earlier and earlier. And now we have damaged children.

    And since this system is impaired, there is nothing much that can be done, except hope that you help your progeny get progressively healthier. In this life we can only work around it, with various methods. We can't get back to where we could have been.


    I agree that the “metabolically broken” concept is indeed part of the picture, and my 2013 met flex presentation tells us what “metabolically broken” means.  (And I, too share your concerns: if your mitochondrial DNA is completely hosed, there's not much to do but work around the damage.) 

    However, I don't attribute 100% of the change to that particular issue, in part because it's better at explaining why we can't lose weight than why we gained it in the first place!  As I've said, there are multiple pieces to this particular puzzle.


  • eddie watts

    Sorry J i meant the cells cannot use fats for fuel as easily so demand glucose instead.

    the micronutrient requirements to use fats for fuel due to its being more complicated is an interesting idea and was where i was going with my thoughts in fact but i forgot before posting the comment!

  • John

    Peanut butter IS junk food. It’s an incredibly toxic mix of sugar, hydrogenated cottonseed, soybean and rapeseed oil and salt in a peanut base. Garbage!

  • John

    The garbage is also why people can eat a whole jar at one sitting. If it were just ground peanuts and MCT oil, they'd stop after two spoonfuls.

    Not that pulverized food is necessarily that good for us anyway. But if he had to eat a whole peanut in a spoonful of coconut oil, he'd stop at one.


    There is peanut butter and peanut butter.  Sure, Skippy, Jif, and other big brands are usually industrial products — but as hammock said, there are plenty of peanut butters that are just peanuts and salt.

    However, I agree with you that it's very difficult to eat a lot of the peanuts-and-salt kind, whereas it's easy to sock down a boatload of the industrial kind — because, what with all the added sugar and hydrogenated oils, they're basically peanut-flavored cake frosting. 

    Note that peanut protein isn't good quality (like other legumes, it's strongly deficient in lysine, with a PDCAAS of 0.5), and the oil (unless you can find one of the extremely rare high-oleic varieties) is at least half n-6. 

    Result: the nutritional argument for being able to overconsume industrial peanut butter stands.


  • hammock

    There are p.butters made from peanuts and salt. Adams for example.


    True: I used to eat plenty of Adams back in the day.  They even had the salted and unsalted version, if I recall correctly!

    As I mentioned above, they're harder to overconsume, though…and now that I'm paleo, I don't like to consume them anyway, due to the aforementioned n-6 and protein quality issues.


  • Everyone:

    I'm caught up.  See the individual comments for my responses.  Thank you for an interesting and productive discussion!  (No, it's not over…as with all my comments, I'll continue to respond as time permits.)


  • v

    hi js. i'm trying the PHD diet for 3 days with the special anti-glucos spike advice that paul jaminet says will result in blood sugar never reaching 140, even perhaps in diabetics. i am chronicling what i am eating and my bg levels. at this point i don't care about weight. i am seeing if i get a downward trend in spikes. i already got a spike eating 150 grams of rice with fat, fibrous veggies, meat, a little cheese. i am not expecting to get low numbers right away, since my body is used to low carb. but at the end of 3 days, i should see trends downward, i would think. if i don't, i will abandon the experiment. my blog is paleoexperiments.blogspot.com


    I'll be interested to see the results!  We don't know how many people are metabolically broken, how much function they can recover, or what is necessary to recover it…and since the medical community is still mostly stuck in the brain-centric model, I suspect we'll be hypothesizing based on individual data for quite a while.


  • Fmgd

    J, I like the new style of answers. Sure if you're frequently peeking at the site and the answers are coming fast this means you might have to scroll back up a bit to find out whether there are new answers. But whenever it takes a while for answers to come you'd need to scroll up either way, trying to find the comment your answer relates to, and I think that's more of a hassle. The only real downside I see is with the RSS feed, based on what was said here, but I don't really know how that works.

    On the presentation, I like it, and I like it in it's new form. Sure having read your series on why are we hungry there's not a lot of new info here, but it's pretty concise without oversimplifying.

    As an anecdote on “food reward”, I find bone marrow to be the absolutely more “palatable” food ever, and by far. If I've eaten enough already though then the mere thought of stuffing some more on my mouth kinda makes me wanna puke.


    Exactly.  Marrow is delicious — it has high hedonic impact (this is the correct term for “palatability”) — but it's also very nutritious, and it's nutritious in an evolutionarily concordant form.  Therefore, it correctly produces satiation as we eat, causing its incentive salience (how much we “want” it) to decrease until we don't want any more.

    In contrast, Wheat Thins don't taste nearly as good as marrow — they have lower hedonic impact — but as they're made of wheat flour and seed oil, they're not nutritious.  Therefore, they produce far less satiation as we eat them, so we end up eating more — even though they have less incentive salience (we don't “want” them nearly as much) as the marrow!

    That is why it's important to understand this model of hunger — it has real-world explanatory power. 


  • Fmgd

    Btw, J, you telling us you’re caught up certainly helps knowing when to look for new answers under this new style.

  • anand srivastava


    I didn't mean only the mitochondrial DNA problem, when I said Metabolically broken. Obviously there are many aspects to it.

    And yes it does explain both the gain in fat and inability to lose fat, as they are both two aspects of the same damage.

    What I am saying is that the 20years is a very important number in this metabolic damage thing.

    I read about it first in the Good Calories Bad Calories. It is a very good book, but I guess Taubes got side tracked from the real implications of his research and got into glucose is bad. It only becomes bad when you become metabolically challenged. And yes many people today are metabolically challenged. But its not any where near universal.


    What do you think some of the other aspects to “metabolically broken” are?  I have my own suspicions, but I'm always looking for new facts and ideas I may have missed.


  • Amy B.

    Your last section (Why It’s Critically Important To Understand Hunger) is incredibly powerful and ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT. It should be required reading for every doctor, dietitian, and nutritionist who's ever berated an overweight person for being lazy, gluttonous, greedy, or weak-willed, and who's ever accused a diabetic of lying about their food intake when their blood glucose is still all over the place when they're “supposedly” following the dietary guidelines provided to them.


    The McGovern committee, the CSPI, the PCRM, and all the other do-gooders who push the current low-fat, whole-grain agenda have, quite literally, killed millions of people. 

    These are not quick, merciful deaths.  The amount of needless suffering is incomprehensible.

    And I'm serious about the bankruptcy.  I read recently that as of now, one in four hospital admissions in New York City is for diabetes or diabetes-related complications.  


  • Amy B.

    “And CICO is also seductive because IT'S PHYSICS!!!11!!1!, but it's also unhelpful. Telling fat people “All you need to do is eat less and move more, fatty” is like telling a losing sports team “All you need to do is score more points, losers.”

    I think I might be in love…


    Thank you for appreciating my knowledge and wit, and not just my dashing good looks ;)


  • The next round of replies is up!  


  • anand srivastava


    I am only a lay person. I have no idea what these could be. I have read about the damaged mitochondria. It is inconceivable to me that there are not similar damages in the nucleus as well. Which get transferred to children.


    There is a plausible argument that humans, due to a combination of a highly mutagenic environment created by industrial toxins and the lack of natural selection, are in the early stages of a mutational meltdown — and that the increasing prevalence of autism is one manifestation of this.  (See Christopherson 2012.)


  • Alex

    J, I second Fmgd in that announcing your replies is very helpful. I do get the gnolls forum in RSS, and every post has the post's URL. So, all I have to do is click the URL and scroll up to see the latest replies.

  • v

    i am done my PHD experiment. eating my safe starch with fats, lemon juice, fibrous vegetables, none of that worked to help lower my spikes. this diet is not appropriate for people who have issues processing glucose.

    people who have not been diagnosed as diabetic but have a diabetic parent(s), like me, should only experiment with this diet with the knowledge of how to use a glucose meter and what constitutes good bg numbers.

    i think the jaminets are arrogant and reckless to recommend their diet to diabetics, let alone not even consider people like me who may have undiagnosed glucose processing problems, but clearly are at risk because of having a diabetic parent (s).


    I would have liked to see peak glucose numbers: 120 two hours after a meal isn't unreasonable, and the point of (for instance) eating fat with a meal is that it slows down absorption and therefore blunts the BG spike.  120 for 2-3 hours is much better than 180 for an hour and 100 at 2 hours…

    However, I certainly won't talk you out of whatever approach you find sustainable over the long run — and I stand by my previous statement that people should trust their meter over what anyone tells them, including myself.


  • eddie watts

    v: i don't think all diabetics are the same, you might not be able to handle that diet, but there may be plenty of other diabetics who can.

    not meaning to have a go at you specifically but a quick story if i may.
    my family have a quite strong history of gluten issues: my 2 sisters, my mother and i all suffer if we eat it.
    my mother was diabetes type 2 before she knew she had issues with gluten/wheat.
    when my sister went travelling and found out she was wheat intolerant (in countries with no wheat in food she was fine, move 5 miles into a country where wheat is a staple and suddenly she had issues, this is how she found this out) she told my mother about this who decided to stop eating wheat too.

    now when she stopped eating wheat she did not go low carb, she ate wheat replacements, potatoes etc just wheat free.
    her diabetes went away entirely.

    what is the point to this story?
    i doubt very much that anyone else would have their diabetes go away from stopping eating wheat: for my mother (and possibly only her specifically) the wheat in some way or another seems to have caused her to be diabetic.

    shorter version: we are all different and what works for one person will not necessarily work for another.

    just as an aside i have no bone in the PHD/jaminets situation, i don't read their blog and i have not got their book.


    That's fascinating!

    I suspect that, if they have other intolerance issues with wheat, they're strongly susceptible to its zonulin-mimicking effects, and their intestinal permeability goes way up when they eat wheat.  This would cause a highly inflammatory environment, and most likely lots of sugar getting into the bloodstream more quickly than it should.  Result: poor BG control and hyperinsulinemia in order to deal with the spikes.  That's my working hypothesis…

    …but whether it's true or not, I'm glad they've found a path to better health.


  • v

    eddie said:

    “i don’t think all diabetics are the same, you might not be able to handle that diet, but there may be plenty of other diabetics who can.”

    yes, you are right. i need to edit the title. my point is this: if you ARE diabetic and you try the PHD, your meter will give you feedback. If you are pre diabetic or you have a parent(s) with diabetes, you probably are NOT testing your blood sugar. my simple recommendation is for the pre diabetic and genetically predisposed to diabetes people to buy a cheap wal-mart relion meter and learn how to test their sugar if they try this diet. you might think that these type of people will automatically get fatter if their blood sugars run high, and once they get fatter on the diet, they will stop it with no need for glucose testing. the problem is that there are people who run high blood sugars who don't automatically get fatter when their blood sugar spikes. i was thinner at an A1c of 5.6 (a good number i know), than i was at 5.3. there are thin diabetics.

    do you think there is any problem with my suggestion? don't you think it is something that should be included in the PHD book? For example, if you were advocating a very high fat diet, wouldn't you suggest that readers should not skimp on yearly bloodwork to see how they reacted to the diet? i believe certain people genetically cannot handle a high fat diet. that would not be calling the diet dangerous in general, but it would be dangerous to a subset of people. so i recommend that people trying out a new diet need to be aware of their unique genetics. they need to test out if the diet is working, and not just by looking in the mirror.


    I agree that anyone with a family history of diabetes, or with any indications that they might themselves be diabetic or so predisposed, should get one of those cheap Relion meters and a box of strips, and test how they react to their customary diet…or any big change in diet.  It's much cheaper than even a single doctor visit.

    A T1 relative of mine (by marriage, not blood), for instance, gets monumental BG spikes from beans.  Every source says that beans are low-glycemic, slowly digested, and good for you, and the veg*an doctors all claim great success for bean-based diets…but when the meter reads 300, you can't argue with that.


  • Everyone:

    I'm caught up again.


  • v

    JS said re my PHD experiment at Paleoexperiments.blogspot.com:

    I would have liked to see peak glucose numbers: 120 two hours after a meal isn’t unreasonable, and the point of (for instance) eating fat with a meal is that it slows down absorption and therefore blunts the BG spike. 120 for 2-3 hours is much better than 180 for an hour and 100 at 2 hours…”

    On the first day of my PHD diet experiment:
    At 3:18 pm I wasn’t really that hungry, but I thought it was time to test out a PHD meal. My bg before i ate was 100. I didn’t want a half pound of white rice because I wasn’t that hungry. I had about 150 grams of white rice with a spoonful of kerrygold butter on top- yum. i could eat that all day. i also had boiled asparagus with butter and salt and 5 hot wings. processed food, i know, but my husband refuses to be the food purist that i am. i will take my bg again at 4:18. I’m also having another cup of coffee with cream and sugar-free sweetener. i am very full- i probably should have eaten a little less. at 4:18 my bg is: 157/160
    2nd day of experiment:when i got home at 4:30 my bg was 89- again my normal reading when i was eating lower carb for this time of day. for dinner at 4:45 i had 75 grams of white rice again, with a little butter, a burger with salsa on it, and some broccoli. one hour later my bg was 134/133. this is an improvement from yesterday.
    3rd day of experiment:I don’t know what happened, but I had the worst sleep i have had in months. very hot and then cold. and my blood sugar was 109/110 this morning. i felt like my throat was getting sore at night, but this morning it’s gone. this is my last day to see downward trends in bg. i know i am going to feel like crap all day because of not sleeping well.
    (later on on the 3rd day)my bg at 4:45 was 95. not as good as the 89 i had at this time yesterday, but ok. at 4:45 i had ground beef, pepper, celery chile, to which i added the 75 grams of rice. i also had small chunks of cheese and i cup of coffee with cream and artificial sweetener. then I didn’t take my bg at 5:45 because my husband and I went out for a leisurely one hour walk. when I got back I took my bg and it was 121. I thought it would have been lower after one hour of walking and two hours after eating.

    after the experiment my comment is that having a reading of 121 TWO hours after eating only 75 grams of white rice with an otherwise LC meal plus fat (burger) and acidic elements (such as vinegar in the salsa) AND after ONE hour of walking- 121 is a very problematic number and one much higher than I would normally see under the same circumstance eating the same food minus the rice but with the walking. the PHD recommend 1 pound of safe starches a day. i was only shooting for HALF A POUND a day PLUS i was doing a lot of exercise-way above the norm- and i still put up a number 121 after two hours- that is the BARE minimum for safety. similar to the 140 cut off at one hour.

    we are in agreement about who should use the relion meters, so i am not going to mention that.

    i think i feel the PHD diet could be problematic for people with glucose processing issues to the point where I think it is advisable to put some kind of caveat and guidance in the actual PHD book about the meters and all we wrote about that.

    do you think there should be guidance in any diet book, such as the comments about the relion meter, to help people customize a diet plan? or do you think people need to find out how to customize a diet plan for themselves? they have to seek out the info with no help from the author?

  • v

    from richard nickoley:
    “So anyway, that was my breakfast and Bea had just a little less starch, with one egg. Nothing else, we both drank water. At the 1hr point, I measured 149 and at the 2hr point, 129, and at 3 hours: 95. When I first got a meter and began paying attention, I’d sometimes see 160s.”

    he is putting up organ-damaging numbers, but is claiming that he is improving because his numbers used to be worse. how long has he been at this and he still isn
    ‘t putting up healthy numbers?! meanwhile i went from pre diabetic to normal numbers with LC. he is a big proponent of the PHD, but not a very good example if you ask me. how long do you predict it will take him to put up health bg numbers (i.e. below 140 at all times)? he is following the PHD. do you think it will take a year? two years?

  • Bea


    AGREE, AGREE, AGREE. Tried the PHD recommendations of ” safe starches”. White rice is a straight ass bolus of glucose directly into the the veins. Dextrose is also recommended if you can’t eat starch. Why eat the rice. Dextrose is a rush of glucose without any nutrients exactly like the rice. 1/4 cup of white rice and 120 BS readings faster than I could ready the meter . 1/2 cup I would have been white knuckling it while the BS was crashing back down. Give me an apple or berries any day. I am not diabetic but probably have a lower tolerance since being low Carb so long. I’m good with that. When I had a high tolerance for the CR@p food I was 40 lbs heavier and not living the full active life I am now. I bought into the ” if you don’t eat starch your gonna dry up from the inside out” and messed with my way of eating that has been working well. That said I eat Paul’s recommended 3 eggs a day guilt free.

  • Bea


    Just to be clear I am not RN’s Bea:-). I would never be with a man that calls women c*nts . Never liked men with foul mouths or ask you to pull their finger. Call me old fashion but my man has never called me a derogatory word in 22 years. He’s my Marlboro Man on his steed sans the cigs .

  • Mick Thornton

    Presented well and very informative. I would like to overlay the same concepts with job fulfillment or life fulfillment, possibly a satiety of job. I could see those with a feeling of economic security making decisions to educate theirself and consume foods that are rich in both macronutrients and micronutrients, along with supplements.

  • v

    Bea, Jaminet is speaking at an online event called ‘the Diabetes Summit’. thank god jenny ruhl will also be speaking to balance out his theories with her real life experience helping many many diabetics, people with impaired glucose tolerance, of many different causes.

  • Bea


    I was really interested in all the PS/RS hacking going on. But RN has been at it for about a year and only brought his post # down 10 points and only with certain foods. Still in the damaging range. Sometimes you have to accept the damage done and adjust. Or just say I dig this food and I want to eat rice, beans, biscuits, tortillas. I enjoy it and will except the consequences. Don’t tell people to drink potato starch and eat high gi foods now. He said he likes the food of his wife’s Mexican Heritage. He also said the Father in law has diabetes. My Mexican stepfather has diabetes. Loves rice, beans, tortillas. He has had 2 major heart attacks. He refuses to eat eggs when I offer it to him. His cholesteral is kept low with satins after the first. Just had the second. My mom and me have high cholesterol. She is in her 80′ s. No heart issues. She has normal blood sugar. That is the key.

  • v


    if you look at RN’s post called sunday starch breakfast, you’ll see two posters ann and adrienne keep asking him about how to tell if they have hyperinsulemia. they seem to be worried that they may be showing good bg numbers on their meter with starch, but at the expense of producing lots of insulin and burning out their beta cells. look carefully at RN’s response- he has none. his latest stance is for people to stop testing and weighing themselves. this guy is dangerous- not least of all to himself. people with family members who suffered from diabetes and the complications that come with high blood sugar no that this is straight out serious stuff. i left a comment asking him how many years it would take him to reach normal blood sugars and he deleted it. this guy can’t even help himself. maybe his friends tatertot and dr. bg can actually help people with their knowledge. but it would be nice if they tried to help their friend and number one cheer leader first.

  • Bea


    I have posed the question to Dr. G if she thinks those #s are healthy. Her and Tim seem like great people. But I too think that it is dangerous to make people feel that the rs will allow them to eat foods that spike your blood sugar beyond 120. As a therapy to nurture your gut bugs .YES. You can’t unbreak yourself with rs. A little better Numbers maybe. Rice, beans, potatoes for breakfast and post BS # of 150 NO. He is to old and broken. Takes one to know one. Did 1 tsp of PS. Racing heart, stiff neck most of the day and no sleep. J. Staton is right . Over 120 no bueno.

  • v

    steve cooksey seems to have integrity-the diabetes warrior guy. i looked at his site and his last RS post was in February. i wonder what’s happened with that.

  • v

    oops! steve cooksey put up a recipe recently using potato starch. i asked him whether he gets better numbers pre or post RS. Waiting for reply.

  • v

    posted this at freetheanimal because commenters were asking about RS and insulin secretion. wonder if it will be deleted as some on my other comments have been.
    RN said: “Re insulin, I’ll try to sort my ideas out in the upcoming post, probably tomorrow at this point.”

    still waiting. in the meantime:

    From Bill Lagakos at caloriesproper.com
    “As to the Raben study you cited: I have no doubt that PS ALONE won’t cause a spike in glucose, similar to your experience and that of the T1 you mentioned, especially because Raben showed the digestible starch in their raw PS to be only ~27% (w/w) and people aren’t taking 200 grams of PS at a time.
    There’s also no effect of type IV RS alone on blood glucose as per Haub’s study (PMID: 22655177).
    As to the effects PS has on insulin LONG-term: one of the ways RS is thought to improve glucose control is by enhancing the incretin response, which will IMPROVE insulin secretion. This is kind of like what they saw in the Bodinham study (PMID: 22815837) and in the one by MacNeil (PMID: 24195618). Also, in this rodent study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pu….”

    “improve insulin secretion” means you will feel insulin levels increase- that is how you get lower blood glucose numbers. except i don’t secrete enough insulin as it is, so i don’t want to ingest anything that pushes my beta cells to secrete. that is a recipe for beta cell burn out.

  • Bea


    Potato starch did not raise my blood sugar but gave me weird side effects. Won’t do that again. It was just a lark anyway. Have good control with lc paleo type eating. Which is why I enjoy this blog. J.S doesn’t flip flop with the latest fads. If you have mood issues it could be worse with PS . I had very unsettling dreams the 1 or 2 hours sleep I got that night. Haunting and creepy.

  • v

    the thing that is scary for people who run high blood sugar but who don’t take insulin is will RS force your pancreas to work harder, thus giving you good bg numbers, but burning out the pancreas faster. as for me, i seem to be insulin deficient, so i will never get good bg numbers with starch- the glucose will just hang out in my blood until my second phase insulin response weakly kicks in.

  • Lots of conversation, so I'll reply collectively here.


    I can't answer for the Jaminets — and I know you've asked Paul yourself.


    Yes, 150 after a small meal is not so hot.  And everyone who reports positive effects from RS seems to see the same minor change: perhaps -7 points in FBG (e.g. Steve Cooksey), perhaps -10 in peak BG.

    I don't think it's a coincidence that this is the average improvement seen from vinegar in controlled studies.  (Vinegar, acetic acid, is the shortest SCFA.)  And I would be interested to see someone who has seen success with one try both: is the effect additive?  Synergistic?  Or does one not help if you're doing the other, because they're doing the same thing (supplying the intestine with energy substrate)?  I suspect the latter, but I'm very interested to see what actually happens.  

    (And I'll need more than one piece of self-reported data, from someone heavily invested in their own success, before I call the question settled.)



    “I would like to overlay the same concepts with job fulfillment or life fulfillment, possibly a satiety of job.”

    That's not unreasonable.  As I pointed out in Part VIII of the original article series which led to this presentation:

    • Any time we experience pleasure—any time we “like” something—that’s hedonic impact. (And it doesn’t require conscious appreciation of the fact.)
    • Any experience we “like” is capable of producing a “want” for more—incentive salience.

    Organizing the refrigerator. Petting a dog. A long shower after hard physical work. Greeting a friend or a lover. Being complimented. Successfully finishing a long, difficult task. Seeing wildlife outside your window. It doesn’t matter whether that pleasure is from a physical thrill, positive social interaction, the satisfaction of a job well done, or direct chemical stimulation…

    People want some amount of positive experiences — hedonic impact — in their life.  And while the concept that food has an intrinsic property called “reward” is obviously bankrupt, it's plausible that a difficult life, low in rewarding experiences, makes one more vulnerable to overconsuming whatever foods they subjectively find to have high hedonic impact, coupled with low nutritional value that does not produce satiation or satiety.



    “I was really interested in all the PS/RS hacking going on. But RN has been at it for about a year and only brought his post # down 10 points and only with certain foods. Still in the damaging range. Sometimes you have to accept the damage done and adjust.”

    As I mentioned above, that's the most anyone is getting from RS…and it's about what people get from vinegar in controlled studies.  I agree that there's a component of denial going on: carbs taste really darn good – particularly if your metabolic flexibility is poor and you've got high obligate demand for them at rest.  

    I like Paul Jaminet's argument that carbs were probably rare in evolutionary time because we don't really have an “off switch” for their consumption, whereas we very much have an “off switch” for meat.  Finding a bit of starch stuck in a dead guy's teeth only proves that they chewed on a few plants in the days before they died — meanwhile, one must overlook the giant piles of stone scrapers and cutmarked animal bones found nearby.



    As for myself, I don't get concerned about post-prandial numbers of 140 or less, and I don't yet see any evidence that they're harmful for healthy people.

    But then again, I am a slim, healthy person who has never been fat or had (to my knowledge) glycemic control issues.  Someone with a history of T2D or insulin resistance should probably be more cautious.



    I will still take a small amount of PS (1 tbs) occasionally, because it's like a sleeping pill.  However, if I take it consistently for several days, that effect wears off, and it seems to have bad effects on my mood.  I believe this to be serotonin excess, though that's just plausible speculation.  (Note: no less plausible than most of what's written as if it were “fact” about this stuff.)

    As I've said elsewhere:

    Yes, you can certainly experiment with the potato starch hack, because it's cheap and easy: I did, too!  But don't be surprised if it makes you fart, makes you fat, destroys your motivation (too much serotonin is just as bad as too little), stops working after days or weeks, or does nothing at all: these results have all been reported.  The flip side of “more gut bugs than cells in your body” is that the response of your gut biome to dietary changes is at least as individual, possibly more, than the response of your body to dietary changes.

    “J.S doesn't flip flop with the latest fads.”

    Thank you for noticing!  Humans have survived for millions of years without the benefit of the latest dietary rumors: I figure I can somehow survive for a few months more, or even a year or two, until I figure out whether there's anything substantial to them.  

    And no, anonymous blog comments from someone who calls themselves “DuckDodger”, making completely unsubstantiated claims that all of Dr. Bernstein's patients are dying of autoimmune disease, are not sufficient evidence on which to base any sane argument.



    AFAIK, no one is sure exactly how RS — or vinegar, for that matter — improves BG numbers.



  • Bea


    Very interesting about the vinegar. My new found delight is a cold vege medley with 2 tbsp of acv. and topped with some raw cashews. So convenient just cook for the week and eat cold out of the fridge. Glad to have found your site. Where sanity is still alive and well. Could care less what RN does but to tell people to Carb up to 200 grams and quit checking is crazy town. I know you like PHD but as I said on another site where someone started giving me the “Safe Starch” speech. That I must have unresolved issues if I can't consume the “Safe Starch”. It's starting to sound like Paul Jaminet has landed in his mother ship and is taking you away to a planet where all the starches are only “Safe”. It's sounding like brainwashing. Its STARCH. He can't declare it safe for all. Who gave him that power. And thank you for the duckdodger comment. Please! If this is what a glucose deficit state feels like. Bring it on!



    It's important to understand the context of Paul's concept of “safe starches”.  

    Most starches in the modern diet come from grains, and are accompanied by a substantial load of antinutrients that disrupt either digestion, absorption, or some other biological process in our bodies.  Paul's concept of “safe starches” refers to starch sources that are either very low in antinutrients, or can be easily processed to remove them (e.g. cassava), and therefore are not intrinsically biologically disruptive to consume. 

    From the original Perfect Health Diet, page 154: “Starchy foods, attractive to insects and herbivores due to their calorie content, often generate toxins.  However, some — the ones we call “safe starches” — become nearly toxin-free after proper preparation.”

    However, if you are insulin resistant, and your blood sugar consequently spikes to 150 after a small breakfast (let alone a large meal), starches are not “safe” for you even if they contain no antinutrients!

    Furthermore, I agree that advising diabetics to eat 200g+ of starch per day and not check their meters is dangerous and irresponsible.  


  • v

    bea, i will be headed off to spend more time at the forum tudiabetes. it was nice talking to you, and i will pop back in here occasionally to see what js puts out. thx js!

  • WalterB

    I very much like individual replies, as it makes understanding your response to other peoples questions much easier as their is no loss of context where I have to search back to see the question.



    It's easier to track individual replies, but it's harder to reply to a collective conversation.  I'm still trying to decide how to proceed going forward.


  • Dave

    I'm glad you've given us the text to your presentation, J. In the book The Stone Age Diet, the author said that it's because of hunger we have restaurants. But it's because of appetite, restaurants have menus. (paraphrased)

    I do have a problem with you posting pictures of Oreos, however. ;) It always reminds me of the 'goood old days' when I would sit down with a bag of sandwich cream cookies and a glass of milk… I just wish I had used a BG meter back then.

    Speaking of which, V's comments are quite good. It doesn't matter which health guru says what. Always do testing and use critical thinking skills. And be careful of personal biases. If all we ever do is search for that which confirms our beliefs, then we're likely to go through life with blinders on.

    On the matter (in the comments above) of diabetes and insulin resistance, I am reminded of an observation made by Peter at Hyperlipid: Weight gain is a protection against elevated blood glucose because it indicates that at least the lipid storage cells are still insulin sensitive. The pathology comes when even the fat cells become insulin resistant (on a standard diet). Woe be unto the person who becomes insulin resistant in all tissues while still thin. The thin diabetics often have little clue that major damage is being done. The flip side for low carbers is physiological insulin resistance, which is a necessary adaptation to preserve glucose.

    I've been testing my BG during the past month and it can vary between 70 and 120 depending on what I've eaten. The last few days have been 'zero carb' days, and this morning's BG was 80. This is physiological IR at work. If I had that bag of Oreos with some milk, I would probably see something like 180-200, two hours post prandial. Now someone living on a starch-based diet could become very insulin sensitive, and I believe that this is how McDougall's diet works for some people. Personally, I'm not convinced that this is optimal, and I know that low fat diets don't agree with my personality.

    This ability to turn insulin sensitivity on and off is probably what PHD (safe starches) counts on, but it may not be possible for many people with damaged metabolisms. And it may be that some people who have been on a ketogenic diet for a while may recover metabolic flexibility to a degree, at least compared to the damaged state that the standard American diet put them in, and be able to reintroduce carbohydrate to some extent.



    I like that Voegtlin quote!  And yes, blithely following the advice of some random person on the Internet is usually not a good idea, even if they have a degree in a theoretically-related field.  (I think back to my own education, and how little it meant once I had a few years of real-world work experience…)

    Yes, I invite my readers to test, verify, and double-check my work!  I'm not in this to promote myself or the career of my (nonexistent) employer.  I'm in this to increase my own understanding, and perhaps that of my readers. 

    Re: Petro, the key observation is “Getting fat is bad when you stop.”  Fat tissue accumulation is your body's defense against unmetabolizable energy.  Metabolic damage occurs when your fat cells are no longer able to dispose of the surplus.

    And the key observation about diabetic diets is this: All foods cure diabetes, so long as you don't eat very much of them.  You can “cure” Type 2 Diabetes with that silly macrobiotic diet as long as you're losing several pounds a week…but just as the graphs show, once weight loss slows down (let alone stops), your insulin and blood sugar start climbing back up.  

    That's because insulin sensitivity isn't a magical property: it's your cells saying “I can metabolize glucose at this time, so I'll express some GLUT4s.”


  • v

    thanks for kind words, dave. another wrinkle. some diabetics do not qualify as type 1, they still produce some insulin, just not at normal levels. sugar just likes to hang out in my veins for a while.

  • C Williams

    This is incredibly interesting. I’ve been much more aware of my diet and exercise since I moved to Florida and started living on my own. I’m really going to keep this article in mind next time I have a craving for something that have 0 nutritional value to my body.

  • Bea

    I just reread your comments here after perusing Jenny Ruhl’s site and they really
    became so much clearer. You are smart and fiesty. Banned from the kingdom is an honor. Remain a thorn!


    I have done sooo well lc paleo and sometimes wonder why when I hear people say they stalled or get high fbs. It seems my liver is not very good at gluconeogenisis. If I go zero or vvlc my BS just inches lower and lower. Into the 50’s and 60’s or possible 40’s. My body seems forced to flip over to fat burning immediately. Does my limp liver actually make it easier for me to lose and maintain on lc? I think it would be a detriment in a famine situation as I lose weight so fast without carbs. Do people with Inuit type livers that can supply endless glucose and thus insulin have a harder time? My head hurts.. I think it is what you were addressing in your Flexibility post. I think if you have lost your flexibility it’s better to be a fat burner like me. It’s a little easier when you can control your glucose needs not your rogue liver. Your current post also addresses reasons I wasn’t satiated for years. Always trying to reverse the feeling of metabolic derangement when my BS levels were heading back down and socialized eating fests. I hope something there made sense:-)



    Very low FBG on VLC could have multiple causes.  Your liver (and intestine…I’ll probably write about that sometime) might not be keeping up with the demand.  Alternatively, your muscles might not become physiologically insulin resistant.  Or both.  Or something else entirely…I don’t feel comfortable e-diagnosing that one!

    “I think if you have lost your flexibility it’s better to be a fat burner like me.”

    As far as we know, complex I — the glucose-burning one — is what breaks in one’s mitochondria that causes met flex to be impaired.  I suspect this is why low-carb diets are so effective, particularly for the morbidly obese and those who became obese before adulthood…you’re bypassing the worst of the mitochondrial damage, and perhaps allowing the population to recover somewhat — which is why people often find they can tolerate carbs again after some period of time on LC.

    “Your current post also addresses reasons I wasn’t satiated for years.”

    Yep.  If you don't give your body what it needs to live, you're likely to stay hungry no matter what you eat.  (And re: my 2013 presentation, if you have a continual obligate demand for glucose, you’re always going to be hungry once your blood sugar drops.)


  • v

    i just skipped lunch with no problems at all (well, i got a little chilled), so i must have some kind of metabolic flexibility. part of my experiment in trying to sleep the whole night through without heating up/waking up, chilling down/waking up. is it hormones or is it nocturnal hypoglycemia? it is a mystery!!

    Bea, glad i don't rub you the wrong way. some people i do. oh well. i don't like overconfidence when it comes to giving other people health advice for money. everything is murky and we need to proceed with caution- some definitely more than others.



    Independence costs money.  

    I have been offered many opportunities to make money by lending my credibility to someone else's project, and I've lost some professional and personal relationships because I'm not willing to play the “give me a great review and I'll give you a great review” game.  

    That doesn't even count the direct income: most people are either employed or self-employed at selling their own dietary advice (or employed at a laboratory under a lead academic with established dogma), which puts them in an awkward situation when new knowledge comes to light.

    Ironically, my thoughts and recommendations have remained relatively constant, and though I am happy to revise them when necessary, I have found little reason to — and many reasons to keep moving the same direction.  I believe this is a sign that my paradigms are, in general, correct.

    In closing: I do this because I enjoy it.  However, for you or anyone else who wants to support my work, those of you who are US residents can do so at zero cost by making Amazon purchases through my referral links.  Those outside the US have no zero-cost options, but they can buy a copy of TGC.  And everyone can help spread the word by linking my articles for others who need them or appreciate them. 


  • Several new replies are up!


  • v

    i do this because i enjoy it and my health depends on it. maybe i could make a buck too. but some of us aren’t tempted that way and don’t see not acting evil as a sacrifice or costing money. there are too many things we don’t know about metabolism to act confident. research LADA alittle and see how it plays into your theories. i know jaminet knows nothing about it as per his admission in an email to me.

  • v

    ps the least harmful advice you can give would apply to somewhat metabolically normal people. the problem is the ones who are suffering have all sorts of different root causes for their suffering that you (and science in general) don’t understand. you need a little more humility. I admire terry wahls, but I had to laugh at one part of her interview on livinlavidalowcarb when she said ‘her’ insight that vitamins and minerals should be gotten from real food as opposed to supplements was a “stroke of genius”. when the young, astute interviewer asked her what sparked this insight, wahls said she couldn’t remember. I had to laugh. I heard the same thing- that there are probably lots of undiscovered nutrients in real food that probably work together synergistically- so it is foolish to just depend of supplements- I heard that from de vany and Bernstein YEARS ago. but wahsl feels she had a brilliant stroke of insight. LOL this example is too show the dearth of humility in the paleo/ancestral health etc. blogosphere. but I guess one has to have a lot of confidence as a personality trait (irrespective of innate intellect) to stand in front of a bunch of people who are suffering and say ‘I know what to do.’

  • v

    News flash! News flash!! long time paleo commenter (too lazy to have real blog) known as the mysterious ‘v’ (lower case to reflect mild cognitive impairment) is preparing a new- literally-ground-breaking coffee table book with lots of photos and lower reading comprehension level vocab to demystify the importance of ‘DIRT” in the ancestral paradigm!!! she will pretty much rip-off stuff other smart people have already said and make it accessible to dumbies. the working title of this future best-seller is: ‘DIRT for DUMMIES’ or “How to make sure your back yard garden dirt is clean enough to plant stuff in and get on your hands and digestive system so you will poop well”. She will elucidate how you cannot always trust that your back yard or your local farmer’s field is free of contaminants. before you eat lunch with your dirty unwashed hands, think- is their lead in this soil? mercury? coal ash? arsenic? you will be able to order from amazon dirt sterilizing kits! Import dirt for Tahiti! and many other thought-provoking and fun take-aways on DIRT (TM).

  • Bea


    Make sure you put your dirt in little capsules and call it Tahitian Soil Based Organisms. :-)

  • Dave

    v, interesting insights you have. While I’m always open to new ideas (which are only probably ‘new’ to me), I’ve learned to be more skeptical. While I admire the results that Terry Wahls has personally achieved, I’m also aware that the 20th century Natural Hygiene movement reported some success with multiple sclerosis by conducting water-only fasts. Given that no nutrients are taken during this time of fasting, the body’s ability to repair itself using stored reserves would seem to contra-indicate the need for plant nutrients that Terry seems to think are so necessary. Of course, what should one eat after the fast? That’s where I disagree with the NH movement and their plant worshiping tendencies. I tend to hold a similar view to Dr Georgia Ede (Diagnosis: Diet).

    About the only advice I ever give to friends and family anymore is to cut out the refined sugar and wheat from their diets. That is more than most are willing to do, unfortunately. And yet this basic information was know since the publication of Weston A. Price’s classic book.

  • v

    i can see how things affect my nuclear family from day to day, so i make suggestions to them. for others i just say what works for me, and they can do whatever. i am grateful for people who give out info for free. de vany once said that he can only guarantee that his advice will work for him alone. i added, we are all on our own and we need to be cautious. he admits to being ignorant of a lot of things. for example, he started taking glutathione around the same time he starting his brand of paleo. he isn’t sure of the relative impact of each on his health, and he doesn’t want to find out by stopping any part of what he is doing.

  • v:

    Are you sure someone isn't already selling Paleo Dirt?  Paleo Water is already a thing…

    Correct me if I'm wrong — but LADA is an autoimmune pathology that, as far as anyone knows, is basically a more slowly-developing version of Type 1 diabetes. 

    And as I said above, “Anyone with a major medical diagnosis — whether that be diabetes, anaphylaxis-level allergies, lupus, or anything else — would need to filter any of my recommendations for general health through the needs of their specific condition, let alone any second-hand recommendations from sources I've found valuable for myself.”

    Frankly, I'm baffled at your accusations of lack of humility.  I've been careful to credit my sources, both in my articles and in my AHS presentations — and as I said at the top of both presentations, “I don’t claim to have made a revolutionary new discovery. I’m bringing an existing field of research to light, and integrating it into our understanding.” 

    Anything beyond that would be false, because I'm quite sure that I have, by doing so, indeed made meaningful contributions to the community.  I'm not going to “aw, shucks” my way out of taking credit for the results of the years and years of hard work I've put in — including being the first one to introduce (let alone explain) the four components of hunger and the concept of metabolic flexibility.  If that offends you, you'll just have to remain offended.



    Fasting is therapeutic for many diseases.  Of course, the interesting question becomes “What should I eat when I start eating again?” because if you decide to fast for the rest of your life, your lifespan will be short indeed!


  • v

    i didn’t like when you said you weren’t making money, implying you should be with all you have produced. do why not make money then? something in the works? also, could you please tell me how to distinguish night time temp changes that wake me up as being hormone related as opposed to blood sugar related or a combination of both? what is your recommendation as to what diet would be most helpful in this case? my point- metabolism is much more complex that what you have uncovered. i thank you for all your hard work.

  • Bea

    I feel your frustration with your health situations but I don’t think JS presents his blog posts as the answer to all your problems. Unlike some. This way of eating within a L C frame work has worked best for me . I also like his well researched thoughtful posts. I don’t know that you can tell what someone is implying over the internet if you can’t hear the tone of their voice when they said it. You are just frustrated and looking for answers. I feel for you and only you can decide what’s best for you. I also have alot of sleep issues but on LC paleo seem to be able to function better on less sleep. Exercise helps the sleep for me. My major problem is all the starch pushers and LC bashers that have taken over so called Paleo. My only issue with The Gnolls is I want more posts but that’s the way it is when they are researched and thought out. Takes time.

  • Michael

    Thank you again for spending the time necessary to do the research instead of using your intellectual credit card to build a hypothesis and cling on to it.

  • v:

    “also, could you please tell me how to distinguish night time temp changes that wake me up as being hormone related as opposed to blood sugar related or a combination of both? what is your recommendation as to what diet would be most helpful in this case?”

    Given that I don't know your age, sex, medical or genetic background, or any pertinent information about you at all — and that I don't have specific medical training — I can't possibly diagnose that over the Internet!  

    Nor do I have enough experience with those specific issues to offer any useful ideas.  

    I know it's frustrating to be dealing with painful and/or debilitating issues, especially when the medical profession is of little help.  I've been there myself.  Unfortunately, in your specific case, I can't offer you anything but my prescriptions for general health and my best wishes.



    I'm in the middle of a giant chunk of research right now, and it'll be both interesting and extremely valuable to the community — but as you said, it takes time.

    And yes, the LC bashing is just provocation marketing.



    You're welcome!  The problem with using your intellectual credit card is that it's easy to max it out and hard to pay it back.  

    Ironically, my lack of traditional professional qualifications helps keep me honest: since I can't fall back on my day job, I'm only as good as my public body of work.  

    I'm glad you find it interesting and valuable.


  • bea


    I’m in the middle of a giant chunk of research right now, and it’ll be both interesting and extremely valuable to the community — but as you said, it takes time.

    And yes, the LC bashing is just provocation marketing.”

    Can’t wait!

    “Paleo” Is An Exclusive and Not Inclusive Diet: What Are You Eliminating Rather Than Including, Next?”

    That was the heading on FTA. He then proceeded to mock some poor woman’s diet and encouraged the disciples to do likewise.

  • bea:

    That's discouraging.

    Also, I'm puzzled why the people who have long ago abandoned paleo in favor of milk, corn tortillas, etc. feel the need to try and define it for everyone else.  There's a place for their diet — it's called the WAPF.  

    No amount of gymnastics will EVER make corn consumption “paleo”.  Period.  End of sentence.  Do I occasionally have street tacos?  Sure — but as I've said before, I don't claim they're anything but a cheat.  


  • LaFrite

    J, you said: “Do I occasionally have street tacos? Sure”

    Man, you did not eat enough meat that day, falling back on prey’s food!! :D :D

    Just kidding, I do buckwheat galettes and rice a couple of times a month myself :)

  • La Frite:

    When you're on a road trip, the supermarkets are closed, and the alternatives are Carl's Jr. or a microwave “burrito”, street tacos filled with cabeza, pico de gallo, salsa rojo, and a squeeze of lime start looking both tasty and healthy by comparison!


  • Dave

    All quiet on the posting front, eh? There’s been a lot of noise lately about resistant starch and safe starches. Some people do seem to be very concerned about colon health and the gut bacteria. All very interesting to be sure.

    My interest of late has become focused on the other side of the GI tract. I stumbled upon the work of Mike Mew and Orofacial Myology. Now, while most people in the whole foods movement, especially those familiar with Weston A Price, are concerned about tooth decay and good dental arches, I’ve not seen anyone else approach the subject of facial construction from the more physical perspective. Yes, nutrition has a big role to play, but what about those of us who have already suffered the damage caused by diet and lifestyle in our developing years?

    The fact is that our facial bone structure remains ‘plastic’ throughout our lives, and any neuromuscular disorder or poor lifestyle habit can cause our faces to ‘melt’ downward as we age. The conundrum for me is how nutrition works with skeletal musculature to deform civilized humans. I always assumed that it had something to do with lack of K2 and bone formation, but now I’m not so sure. The evidence seems to point to sinus inflammation that forces changed breathing and eating habits.

    I know this is really off topic for this article, but maybe someone could objectively figure out the “chicken” and the “egg” about diet and facial construction. After all, who wouldn’t want to look better, relatively speaking, as he/she ages?

    I said one bite, cuss it!

    I’m trying! I have a different kind of
    teeth from you! I’m an opossum!

  • Dave:

    I've been busy with research, both for my AHS14 talk and in general, on topics much more far-reaching than RS.  

    Yes, it's important to have a healthy colon…just as it's important for all our organs to be healthy. (An unhealthy heart, lungs, liver, brain, etc. will kill you much faster than an unhealthy colon.)  However, what with all the provocation marketing and prima facie baloney, there is far more heat than light being generated at this time — to no one's benefit. 

    Remember: I called this one two years ago, in an article that is more relevant now than ever.


    Yes, I'm familiar with the work of Dr. Mew: he presented at AHS2012.  There is strong experimental evidence for K2 being crucial in the development of facial structure:

    Vitamin K — its essential role in craniofacial development

    A review of the literature regarding vitamin K and craniofacial development

    Andrew M. Howe, William S. Webster

    Australian Dental Journal Volume 39, Issue 2, pages 88–92, April 1994


    “The normal vitamin K status of the human embryo appears to be close to deficiency. Maternal dietary deficiency or use of a number of therapeutic drugs during pregnancy, may result in frank vitamin K deficiency in the embryo. First trimester deficiency results in maxillonasal hypoplasia in the neonate with subsequent facial and orthodontic implications.”

    I think Weston A. Price and Dr. Mew are both correct: K2 allows proper growth of bone structure in the neonate, which allows proper nasal breathing in infants and children, which (along with actually using our jaws to chew) allows proper growth and development as we age.


  • Dave

    Thanks, J. I’m seeing this as a feedback loop between diet and the condition of facial musculature (posture). As a child I suffered some ear, nose, and throat problems, more so than my siblings. I also had crooked teeth. During my mid teens some teeth were removed and I had braces. My siblings did not have this problem. Dr. Mew states in his presentations that teeth do not remain straightened, and this has been my experience over the past 20+ years. The underlying problem of maxillary development was never properly addressed.

    However, having cleaned up my diet over two years ago, I no longer have frequent sinus, throat, and ear problems. I’m now trying to follow Dr. Mew’s recommendations: Teeth together, lips together, tongue on the roof of the mouth. I never realized how little space for my tongue exists on my palate until I began putting his advice into practice. I’m considering this my own personal n=1 to see how things develop over the next few years. As Dr. Mew said in a 21 Convention presentation: “I know I look better now than I did ten years ago.”

    Thanks for the reminder about “novelty” and the search for “the next big thing.” Still, I suppose there’s no harm in trying out something “new,” and there are those who may discover some benefits from things like resistant starch. Personally, I’ve found out that there’s only so much starch that I actually want to eat, and then I just don’t want any more. The other day I deep fried French fries in some beef tallow I had rendered out previously in the slow cooker. They turned out great. But I didn’t binge on them. It’s certainly not something I would do every day, either.

    I guess that’s one of the benefits of becoming fat adapted and regaining my metabolic flexibility. I can eat some starch, but it doesn’t induce insatiable cravings for more starch. I don’t have to depend on “willpower” to stop eating. I’m looking forward to your next presentation. You’ll let us know when it goes online…

  • Dave:

    I absolutely encourage experimentation!  

    However, it's important to journal carefully and remain skeptical, as confirmation bias is extremely powerful and it's easy to convince ourselves of just about anything.

    See: Fan death.

    And yes, metabolic flexibility is absolutely fundamental.  Without it the starch and sugar cravings will continue, glycemic control will remain poor, and you're still on the slow but steady road towards T2D. even if you're skinny.


  • oxide from Mark'

    I know I’m late to the commenting party. What about a graph for exercise? Practically every stupid commenter for nutrition articles on news sites (like CNN) says that we got obese because, you know, “you piggies starting stuffing junk food into your faces instead of playing outside, especially you rotten kids who play computer games.” Can you look for a data chart for exercise to see if there’s an inflection point in 1980?

    Also, instead of mere hunger, what about the finger-food factor? At least for me, oreos and candy and potato chips are attractive because they are CLEAN — not crumbly or greasy — pre-prepared little packets of food you can pop in your mouth by hand on the go. No need for forks or dishes or napkins like messy steak and cooked veggies.

  • oxide:

    Unfortunately for the “sloth and gluttony” hypothesis, years of data clearly show that children get fat before they stop exercising, not the other way around — strongly suggesting that lack of exercise is a consequence of obesity, not a cause. Furthermore, I have found no data to suggest exercise decreased in 1980, and quite a bit of suggestive evidence to the contrary (the late 1970s and 1980s were the peak of the running boom).

    I believe the “finger-food factor” primarily results from two factors, both of which I discussed in the presentation. First, availability. All you have to do in order to snack is open the bag, whereas real food usually involves cooking and cleanup, and perhaps a trip to the store: therefore, you don’t have to want snack food nearly as much as real food in order to eat it! Second, snack foods are generally devoid of complete protein, which I also address above (see “protein targeting”).

    Again, I strongly believe this is the best framework we currently have to understand hunger and appetite, because it explains our real-world experiences so well!


  • Dave

    I have to agree with the “finger food” factor. Real food requires preparation and clean-up. Right now I’m getting a bit hungry for breakfast, so I’ll have to fry some ham and eggs pretty soon. Back in the day it would have been the cue to grab some cookies, ice cream, or Hot Pockets for convenience sake. It’s so easy to do if you’ve got that kind of stuff in the house. So, I just don’t buy it in the store anymore. As a result I often “suffer” from a bit of mild hunger before I get my lazy self in the kitchen to make some real food. :)

  • Dave:


    Stated in terms of the presentation: foods with high availability require less incentive salience to consume them, and therefore require more willpower to avoid consuming them.

    Foods with low availability require higher incentive salience to consume them, and therefore require less willpower to avoid consuming them.


  • VibeRadiant

    This might be a silly question, but seeing the subject is why we are hungry, what better place to ask.

    I have been following a lchf diet for nearly a year with some backsliding into eating more carbs and sometimes those processed carbage gluten-free foodstuffs to get me through a craving for the real stuff.

    I rededicated myself to following the food plan of paleo/primal/GF/keto/lchf or whatever you want to call it, I find that even after eating to satiation, I get hungry 2-4 hours afterwards. I know there are no grains, gluten, sugar, or other stuff in it because I made it myself and didn’t add these to my meal.

    My portion sizes are larger then some I’ve seen and they say they go 6-8 hours without needing to eat again on the paltry amount they eat.


  • Vibe:

    You may need to compare the calorie content of your paleo food to what you were eating before: Paleo foods tend to be much more satiating despite containing less energy, so you might just be eating a lot less!

    However, it’s also very likely that you need to work on your metabolic flexibility, particularly since you mention carb cravings. This is where exercise comes in: not to “burn calories” or “lose weight”, but to improve your met flex! Read my 2013 AHS presentation for more detail.

    Finally, a small spoonful of fat can help you get through fasts. MCT oil in particular can give a nice little energy boost without tossing you out of the fasting state…and consumption is generally self-limiting because it 1. tastes like nothing and 2. often causes TMI if you consume too much.

    I wish you the best!


  • VibeRadiant

    Thank you J. I’ll read that post.

  • WalterB

    RE: MCT oil

    Better have some Betatine HCL as MCT oil is likely to induce sever digestive tract upsets including loose stools at the most inconvenient times, as can coconut oil and any of it’s derivatives. Indeed for me, a high fat meal of any kind can do that for me.

    I don’t think that is to much information as to the result of MCT oil etcetera, people need to know the results rather than finding out by experience, one can ruin a few sets of pant if one doesn’t know what is likely to happen and the results.

  • WalterB:

    Most people have to consume a lot more than a spoonful of MCT oil before experiencing diarrhea, but I take your point. How does Betaine HCL help with that?


  • […] has a more robust theoretical framework for understanding hunger that you may find interesting: What Is Hunger, and Why Are We Hungry? J. Stanton Reply With […]

  • Eric

    I would like your feedback on this observation I made about my body. I’ve noticed that there is a 24 hour cycle so to speak. I don’t eat a lot of chocolate very often, so the taste of it is very strong and has a very lasting impression on my taste buds.
    So I will eat a piece of dark chocolate say 10 o’clock Monday night, and won’t talk to anymore for the rest of the night. Now the next day at 10 o’clock at night almost exactly 24 hours later I will taste on my taste buds in my mouth that exact taste of chocolate even though I didn’t have any.The taste buds in my mouth will be signaling to me that I just ate the chocolate even though I didn’t,24 hours earlier I ate the chocolate but not now. My body is causing a memory of that piece of chocolate to come back to me,hence craving an addiction starts. Are you familiar with this phenomena is this just in my body or other people experiencing it to. I would like to know your thoughts on this if you’ve heard of this,what is it and is this the beginnings of addictions and over eating cravings ?? Thanks Eric

  • Daniel Antinora

    …and junk food is self-reinforcing. The more empty calories you eat, the more you’ll crave empty calories.

    minor quibble. You aren’t craving empty calories but real, micro-nutritionally dense calories and protein/fat if you aren’t obtaining enough because you’re bypassing satiety with satiation.

    I suppose to some degree we can rewire our circuitry with carb addiction buy I think maybe you should consider clarifying the interaction of the concepts.

  • Daniel Antinora

    That is, is the life giving mechanism of hunger completely perverted into sugar addiction or is sugar addiction the overriding of satiety mechanisms by satiation mechanisms?

  • Robin H

    Really great article! One issue that is surely important here is digestion and gut biome. When the gut is compromised through whatever mechanism, we don’t get the micronutrients despite having a great diet and taking high quality supplements. I think that’s what has happened to me in the last couple of years. I’d been eating an ultra high nutrient density diet (mostly paleo), taking expensive vitamins, exercising, etc, but suddenly started feeling hungry constantly and gained some weight. I finally did some thorough testing that showed gut inflammation, poor digestion, depleted flora, etc. I’m hoping that focusing on this side of the coin will restore my satiety and keep me from eating those extra few hundred calories a day. I’ve just discovered this blog and am looking forward to exploring it more.

  • Robin H:

    I believe the whole “GUT FLORA!!111!1″ issue has been oversold: gut dysbiosis is just one of the dozens of possible failure points by which metabolism can be compromised. That being said, it’s a possibility, and I’ll be interested to hear what you find out!

    (Note that I can’t possibly understand or diagnose what your problems might be based on half a paragraph…you’ll pardon me if I don’t attempt to offer any insight!)


    “You aren’t craving empty calories but real, micro-nutritionally dense calories and protein/fat if you aren’t obtaining enough because you’re bypassing satiety with satiation.”

    You’re not so much bypassing satiety as failing to ever achieve it because of the absence of nutrition, but that’s basically true.

    As far as “sugar addiction”, I’m not sure that’s a real syndrome. The un-supplemented rats consumed substantially more sugar (67%) — but they didn’t suddenly turn into ravening addicts who did nothing but press a lever. (That 67% was based on unlimited access for 24 hours straight.) What seems to have happened is that the un-supplemented rats became, in all aspects, more hungry (and therefore less sated): they ate more food in general, as well as more sugar.


    That’s extremely interesting, and I confess I have absolutely no idea why it might be happening!


Add Comment Register

Leave a Reply




You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Subscribe me to the sporadic yet informative gnolls.org newsletter! (Your email will not be sold or distributed.)