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Why Humans Crave Fat
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June 17, 2011
8:55 pm
gollum
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If I remember correctly, the lack of enzymes was more due to "neglect" than "optimization" [Spelling: "cats do not" of course, or "the cat does not"], i.e. they fell into disrepair because external sources were always available, sort of like vitamin C that humans cannot make while most other animals can.

I had read a great PDF file that explained it all, but I cannot seem to find it again - it probably had some ingenious name like p_ben_2008_rev.pdf ("paper from Ben 2008 revised").

There seems to be an analogous movement in pet foods; raw feeders and BARFers usually nave nice information.
Though evolution only cares about making the next generation, not quality of life, kitty seems to be better off with that than with the usual starch and sugar byproducts sold as "cat food".

June 19, 2011
8:16 pm
Ray
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A couple of interesting studies regarding Vitamin c .

Unlike the more than 4,000 other species of mammals who manufacture vitamin C, and lots of it, the red blood cells of the handful of vitamin C-defective species are specially equipped to suck up the vitamin's oxidized form, so-called L-dehydroascorbic acid (DHA), the researchers report in the March21st issue of Cell, a publication of Cell Press. Once inside the blood cells, that DHA--which is immediately transformed back into ascorbic acid (a.k.a. vitamin C)--can be efficiently carried through the bloodstream to the rest of the body, the researchers suggest.

Came across a study during the past months on low carb and weight reduction , most interesting was the conclusion comment .... "Surprisingly there was an increase of plasma vitamin c in the high fat diet group " ... or words very close to that .

June 20, 2011
12:47 am
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gollum:

Evolution works on a "use it or lose it" basis: random mutations tend to mess things up rather than improve them, and if there is no positive selection pressure to retain a trait, it tends to rot away over time.

I suspect the rising incidence of pet diabetes has a lot to do with feeding grains to carnivores.

Ray:

I found an abstract of a paper that details the Vitamin C recycling pathway, but I'll have to dig some more to figure out what dietary relevance it might have.

JS

June 21, 2011
4:50 pm
Keegan
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I agree with the negative affects associated with grains, as we now consume them. But when soaked or fermented the anti nutrient present in them is no longer a problem. I am currently trying the paleo diet and testing to see how it affects me, becuase that is what I have done with all diets, constantly seeking.. But I wonder if you are takeing into account the differences between a traditional sourdough bread, and a mondern day version of bread? A soaked grain or nut, vs and unsoaked one? Also eating fats with grains such as bread and butter or olive oil helps absorb the nutrients as well as slow down the insulin spike, which is a benefit to milk and cookies (which i am not advocating 🙂
Also one of the most intriguing dietary philosophy I have looked into is ayurveda. A key principle is eating with the seasons, more fat and protien in the winter, more bitter herbs and cleansing foods in spring, and more carbohydrates in the summer for the longer days and more intense activity. Now being that eskimos live in a "wintery region" year around it would make sense that they would do well on a diet consisting soley of fat and protien. Where as a person living in a tropical enviroment might do well on a diet consisting of alot of fruit. So depending on the seasons and the regions and the lifestyle, a person could require vastly different diets.
I am not trying to argue just merely learning and applying to see what works, I would like your thoughts, thanks.

June 22, 2011
4:23 am
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Naturally, geography and climiate have a huge influence on the diet the diet that was available to and eaten by paleolithic man. That said, we should not underestimate just how far people may have hunted and gathered, nor how far migratory herds would have travelled, perhaps followed by tribes.

Scandinavians following the reindeer would have had an entirely different diet to central Africans - both would have chased down meat, but the vegetation available to either would be entirely different. There are also freak occurrences, like coconuts turning up in Scotland because of the way that tides move. And so, the final thing worth considering is plate tectonics - the landmass was an entirely different shape.

It is something that requires more thought and could be fleshed out a little, but the principle remains the same - meat, fish, eggs and veggies; in abundance.

Today, we have much better access to variety. The notion of seasonality is something which I try to follow. I certainly know what is new and in season where I live. Afterall, once the food giants have killed off food through engineering, we will have to fall back on nature and having an understanding of what is seasonal will give some people an upper hand.

Looking at micro-diets is a really interesting one. Not necessarily ancient man, but the likes of Innuits or Tarahumara who have very specialised diets give us "the exception the proves the rule". Food for thought.

Living in the Ice Age
http://livingintheiceage.pjgh.co.uk

June 22, 2011
1:47 pm
Sandy Soto
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I'm trying to wrap my head around that calculation Bill did on blood sugar and some things are not connecting.

I take it's based on fasting blood sugar levels? Lab ranges are not equal to optimal ranges, so 70 may not be the ideal number.

That number is a snapshot of the blood sugar levels for a given moment rather than a daily total. Are you saying that 1 tsp of glucose PER DAY is enough to maintain it all day long? Or that it takes 1 tsp of glucose to bring your levels up to this number? Not quite sure what you're saying.

Also this does not take into account fluctuations in glucose requirement, such as during increased stress, or someone with a damaged metabolism - as I found out the hard way.

Thanks for clarifying.

June 23, 2011
12:58 am
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Keegan:

"No longer a problem" is perhaps an exaggeration.  Soaking and sprouting definitely reduces the anti-nutrient and toxin load, but it doesn't eliminate it -- and I find it simpler just to avoid the stuff in the first place.

I agree that there may be benefit to seasonality in diet: eating the same thing year-round seems limited to tropical people living off of coconuts and fish.  It's cheaper anyway, and it's better to eat locally produced foods for many different reasons.  I'm not sure how much racial variation there is, though: for instance, the Maasai get atherosclerosis just like everyone else when they eat a normal Western diet.

Paul:

Plate tectonics is slow, and things were mostly in the same place 3 million years ago.

What changed a lot, due to climactic fluctuations that became severe enough to cause ice ages, was (and is) sea level.  For instance, every time it dropped far enough, North America would be joined to Russia via "Beringia", and during warm periods (like now), that land bridge would disappear.

As far as Tarahumara, diet isn't the only factor in health.  It just seems like it when you (and I) live in a Western nation with unlimited access to any kind of food.

Sandy:

Two teaspoons is what's in your blood circulation at any given moment.  Your body is always using glucose (your brain requires it) and your liver releases it into the bloodstream to maintain safe levels when it's not being directly absorbed by your intestine.  So it's an interesting fact, but not totally relevant to glucose intake or use.

AFAIK a human body not in ketosis requires about 15-20% of maintenance calories as glucose, more under intense physical effort.  If you don't ingest it, your liver has to make it from amino acids...which is why low carb AND low protein are a dangerous combination.  

JS

July 17, 2011
7:25 pm
AmyNVegas
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J.- If this is how we function best (which I totally agree with)why then can a high fat meal cause an un-needed release of insulin from the pancreas even when almost no carbohydrate is present in the meal- like an omelet with cheese and bacon with about 3-4 gm carb? Any links that might help me understand this phenomena?

July 18, 2011
3:31 pm
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AmyNVegas:

Fat by itself doesn't cause insulin release AFAIK, but protein most certainly does.  Basically our body only has the one storage hormone -- insulin -- which causes both carbohydrate and protein to be stored.  

When we eat protein without carbs, our body also pumps out some glucagon to keep our blood sugar up -- otherwise the insulin would make our blood sugar plummet dangerously.  Insulin isn't unhealthy, and it's just doing its job of forcing nutrients into cells: it's when we overload ourselves with carbs and have no place to store them that insulin becomes chronically elevated.

JS

August 22, 2011
5:38 am
JimC
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It's a quirky one but has stuck in my mind: in the book "across the empty quarter" by Wilfred Thessiger which describes the author's experiences in the sahara (?) desert in the earlyish part of the 20th century (i.e. as one of the first westerners to go there) he talks about a kind of feast he and his 'native'/ nomadic guides had after days of starvation whilst travelling in the desert with supplies having run out - he clearly observes/ comments on the fact that that whilst he was overwhelmed with cravings for carb type foods and was drawn to these (mainly dates I think) his companions were much more interested in fat (butter, ghee I think) which they apparently ate until it was running down their chins!

August 23, 2011
4:10 pm
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JimC:

I wonder what Thessiger's build was like?  If he still had some extra bodyfat, he would probably crave carbs to replete glycogen, because he'd only been starving for days...whereas his native guides would likely be rail-thin and crave the densest calorie source, e.g. fat.

Thanks for the reference!  I've been reading some interesting books about deserts, so I may have to add that one to the list.

JS

August 23, 2011
4:59 pm
Steven
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Hello. I read the article, Why humans crave fat, and also somehow an article I think was linked there about the rabbit syndrome or something like that. I have a question about the rabbit or lean meat diet. The guy ate only lean meat and said it lead to weakness and even death. I can't see how this could be. I don't see any reason given, physiologically. Fat provides calories only, and lean meat provides this. I don't recall if the guy ate carbs or not, but it is universally agreed we don't need carbs. We may "crave" fat, but I just don't see why lean meat would not be sufficient. If the avoidance of fat were so deleterious than how would one explain the multitudes on low-fat diets, who are not dropping dead due to lack of fat? Why would this explorer say that lean meat is an unsustainable diet, while whole multitudes subscribe to low-fat diets, eating close to no fat whatsoever.

August 24, 2011
1:50 pm
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Steven:

Actually, lean meat doesn't provide calories directly.

Unlike fat, which our cells use directly for energy, our cells can't burn amino acids (the building blocks of protein) for fuel.  Our livers have to convert the protein into glucose first...and as I explain in the article, the liver's ability to do that is limited to a rate far below our daily energy needs.

As far as others surviving on low-fat diets, those diets are all very high in carbohydrate, which (like fat) our cells can burn directly for fuel.

JS

August 26, 2011
4:17 pm
steven
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I would like to thank you for this great website! I really think you are on to the truth here! The obesity problem has only gotten vastly worse with the low-fat, high-carb diets; meanwhile one day the gov may tax fatty foods, which is of course precisely the opposite of what ought be done. I remain fearful of fatty meats, I admit. We have been told that only olive oil is acceptable universally. Yet you make a case for eating animal fat. Do you also think people should not take fat-lowering drugs, like trilipix? And, are you concerned about the high omega 6 in meat fat and coconut oil?

Finally, I think you might call this the Neitzschean Diet, because he, in late 1800's as I recall, was critical of the grazing we do, as well as the decadence of French pastries. He felt the digestion was best with three solid meals and no snacks, to turn it on or off, but not Mr. Inbetween. I don't think he was specific as to what to eat, but if he was I am sure he would have blasted the Kellogg's concept of stripping one's instinctual energies. I happen to think your idea of eating like a primitive has the power to turn around the obesity epidemic as well as to empower individuals.
Do you have specific recommendations for blood sugar issues and DM? And, wouldn't the high-caloric value of fat lead to gaining weight also? Fat does have a lot of calories.
Please forgive me, but I have only read a limited amount of your writings so far so you may have answered these points. I am continuing to read and I feel somehow very sure that I am going to take this up for real. The idea of eating and exercising like a predator is powerful and empowering. I think Neitzsche would bless you, if he believed in God.

August 28, 2011
2:51 pm
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steven:

I'm not a fan of cholesterol-lowering drugs in general, because cholesterol doesn't cause heart disease.  ("Cholesterol" isn't even what's being measured by a "cholesterol test": lipoproteins are being measured, and lipoproteins carry all sorts of things around.) 

If you really want to get geeky with the science, try Chris Masterjohn:

http://blog.cholesterol-and-health.com/2011/03/genes-ldl-cholesterol-levels-and.html

And, of course, low cholesterol is associated with less heart disease...but more deaths from infectious disease and other killers.  See the graph at the top of this article:

http://perfecthealthdiet.com/?p=3836

200-240 TC is the range of lowest all-cause mortality.  It's frankly criminal that we're told to medicate ourselves outside that range.

Meanwhile, here's the classic meta-study on saturated fat:

Patty W Siri-Tarino, Qi Sun, Frank B Hu, and Ronald M Krauss. Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease. Am J Clin Nutr Jan 2010

“A meta-analysis of prospective epidemiologic studies showed that there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD or CVD.

Moving on: Nietzsche was an intriguing person, and despite (like all other pre-Darwinian philosophers) fumbling around in the dark, managed to come up with some startling insights, apparently completely by instinct.  I suspect you're correct and that he would agree with the concept!

As far as fat having lots of calories: it also slows gastric emptying and absorption, leaving you full (and not hungry) for much longer than if you avoid it.  See this article.

"Do I have specific recommendations for blood sugar issues and DM?"

Absolutely: eat like a predator. 

It's simple.  Are you healthy?  Eat right.  Are you unhealthy?  Eat right.  It's rare to suffer any sort of special condition that requires a diet unhealthy for most.

JS

September 1, 2011
9:24 am
Steven
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Thanks, JS, for this reply. I have read more from the site by now. Yet, still I have some unclarity.

You admit that most body cells need glucose. So, the cavemen needed root starches, as meat contains none. Thus, carbs are needed for energy, as protein and fat are inefficient energy sources for glucose (fat does not convert at all to glucose). Carbs are the most efficient source of energy then. If root veggies were not available then how did they get energy, glucose, which is so badly needed? They got energy from fats, but where's the glucose? Does your diet advocate carbs and if so, how much?

If one is not to gain weight from eating fat, then the satiety caused by the fat has to exceed that which one would have eaten otherwise, but I am not sure that this would happen. Fat is so high in calories that people seeking to lose wt avoid it and go lean. They may then eat carbs, but you agree that cavemen also needed carbs, not just animal meat and fat, because of the need for glucose, so I don't see how no-carb is justified, if that is your argument.

On exercise: wouldn't walking on treadmill burn fat better than sprinting? I think at low intensity one burns fat, and high intensity you burn carbs, since carbs are better and more efficient sources? Isn't that an argument for low intensity to burn fat stores?

It is still difficult to get past the intuitive notion that we don't need fat; we may crave it, but if we are too fat as it is, it seems to suggest eating lean meat, maybe with some fat. but, to add fat to the diet only adds calories, which would seem to negate the savings from snacking. I am not convinced the body needs fats, at all, and not more than in the "lean" meats most eat. The body converts carbs to fat anyhow so we always have access to fat.
PLease don't misunderstand. I am excited and impressed with the paleo diet, but I don't understand enough of it. I think it is right somehow and that these processed carbs and grain in general is effeminate. I am not sure that the slower gi time, and greater satiety would balance the extreme high caloric density of fat, including meat and milk fat. And if the lengua franca of the body is glucose, I don't see how this works, in that protein converts inefficiently and fat not at all.
Thanks for reading this.

September 1, 2011
1:05 pm
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Steven:

Either I haven't been clear in my writing, or you've misunderstood something.  This is excusable, since vegetarian propaganda is full of trivially false statements like "Nothing can be burned for energy without first being converted to carbs," which is on the order of "The earth is flat, and if you try to sail to India you'll fall off."  I've had published authors of nutrition books tell me that with a straight face.  It's madness!

The overwhelming majority of cells in our bodies, including our muscles, can run completely on fat, and are more efficient when doing so. 

Aside from a few small random tissues here and there, the only organ that absolutely requires glucose is our brain.  If I recall correctly, this is because fats are too big to cross the blood-brain barrier, while glucose isn't.  And if you stay in ketosis for a while, the brain's needs for glucose decrease (by about half AFAIK) because it switches over to running partially on ketones, which are also small enough to cross the BBB.

Unfortunately the brain is very, very important, so we need to maintain some level of blood glucose in order to supply it.  This is why low blood sugar makes us tired and confused, and if it goes too low, we pass out and die.

Also, fat is a far more efficient source of energy than carbs.  Fat oxidation ("beta-oxidation") produces far more ATP per unit weight of substrate than glucose oxidation ("glycolysis"), which is why fat has ~9 calories per gram while carbs have only ~4.  Furthermore, beta-oxidation produces less byproducts to dispose of.

A healthy person, at rest, is burning over 90% fat and less than 10% glucose.  Our muscles only increase their glucose usage during periods of intense physical effort (over 50% of VO2max), because we can only store a relatively small amount of glycogen in our muscles.  High fasting glucose usage at rest is a product of mitochondrial dysfunction: more on this subject here, in Part IV of "Why Are We Hungry".

The "lingua franca" of our body is fat, not glucose: otherwise our body would store all of its energy as glucose, and our fat cells would be full of sugar, not fat.

 

As far as "fat being high in calories", that is technically true but totally misleading.  Did you know that rice cakes are more calorically dense than prime rib?  Part V handily debunks that particulay myth.

I don't advocate zero-carb except as a temporary weight-loss tool, for people with severely broken metabolisms due to mitochondrial dysfunction (there are some), or to treat epilepsy, migraines, etc.  My current long-term recommendations are a Perfect Health Diet-ish 15-20% of calories from glucose for a normal, moderately sedentary person, and they increase somewhat for those who are regularly exercising intensely.

As I've explained above, yes, "jogging" burns fat directly vs. sprinting: however, since you're only burning ~100 calories per mile, you would have to jog 35 miles WITHOUT EATING ONE EXTRA CALORIE in order to lose a pound of fat.  Would jogging 35 miles make you hungry?  You bet.  What's most important in weight loss is to regain metabolic flexibility -- the ability to burn fat at rest, instead of carbs.  Then you're losing weight any time you're not eating or digesting food.  And the way to do that is short, intense exercise that depletes glycogen stores and allows us to store the glucose we eat as glycogen, instead of having to burn it for energy and store it as fat.  (See this article.)

I hope this clarifies some issues!

JS

September 2, 2011
7:32 am
Steven
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Thanks, J.S. I guess I am dense when it comes to this stuff. I need some time to review this, but I came across something last night which is disturbing and I wonder what you think of it. I stumbled on Ray Peat's site, and he makes a critique of fish oil, not on grounds of pollution, but on its own accord. He says that studies which show dangers have been suppressed. Now I don't know if I should continue taking it or not. It is the common wisdom that it is safe, but not to go overboard. I thought omega 3's were the way to go. Now, I don't know. In the comments section I see people arguing for flax seed oils, which you are against, saying it is safer than fish oil. Just when I thought there was rock solid certainty, someone comes along and unsettles it. At this point I think the best thing is just to do the opposite of whatever the medical/pharmaceutical establishment says; that seems the safest bet. Will they ever admit that their stupid diet is what caused the obesity epidemic? Can they revert to sat fat diet after all this, even if they knew the truth?

September 3, 2011
10:36 pm
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Steven:

No, you're not dense: there is a lot of conflicting information out there, much of it plausible even though it's wrong.  And I haven't written an article on every subject.

FYI, I don't agree with the idea that we need to take huge amounts of EPA/DHA (e.g. Dr. Davis): instead, we should absolutely minimize PUFA consumption by never consuming seed oils ("vegetable oil"), minimizing chicken intake, and maximizing red meat intake -- and during times where we're not getting meaningful amounts of n-3 via fatty fish, we should take perhaps ~1g each of EPA and DHA to make sure we're replete, which comes to well under 1% of calories.  I'm open to new data on this -- but given a modern diet that includes grain-fed meat and incidentally unavoidable seed oils and all the known benefits of EPA/DHA, my current thinking is that ensuring a low but steady intake is prudent.

The book that describes my own diet most closely, by the way, is the Perfect Health Diet...and their blog is also very much worth reading.

As far as "Will they ever admit...?"  No.  They'll slowly change their tune over time, without ever having admitted that they were flat wrong and killed millions of people.  Personally I expect coconut oil to be rehabilitated first, because it's a plant and they'll be able to say "Actually it's only animal saturated fats that are bad, plant fats are fine."  But even that will take years, by which time millions more will die.

JS

September 8, 2011
3:39 pm
Steven
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Hi, JS:

I perused all the indexed articles and nowhere have I seen your defense against the almost universally accepted association of red meat with colon cancer. I believe the world cancer association, and many medical associations make this argument. I guess they do not distinguish between deli meats and non-deli meats, which might be your defense, but I doubt they are that stupid. Where can I read your defense against that argument? The article on meat not rotting in gut seemed to be the closest, but it did not go into this point.
Thanks for helping me sort this out. I dread losing that part of my anatomy, and it has been drilled into the public that red meat is highly associated with colon cancer, I think, in men particularly.

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