• 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.


Interview: J. Stanton on the LLVLC show with Jimmy Moore

I think I may have set a record for how long one can be active at the forefront of the ancestral health community without being interviewed by Jimmy Moore. Well, that record might still stand…but at least it’s beatable now!

The podcast is available in a bunch of different formats, from iTunes to MP3 download—so instead of trying to link them all directly , I’ll just point you to Jimmy’s website:

The LLVLC Show (Episode 745): J. Stanton From GNOLLS.ORG On Metabolic Flexibility, Hunger, Calories

This show covers three of my major research subjects: metabolic flexibility (the subject of my 2013 AHS presentation), hunger (my 2012 presentation), and calories. We had fun, and a few good one-liners sneaked in: my favorite is probably “Yes, calories count—but they don’t all count the same.” The interview clocks in under 39 minutes.

Live in freedom, live in beauty.


Calorie Cage Match! Sugar (Sucrose) Vs. Protein And Honey (There Is No Such Thing As A “Calorie”, Part VI)

Caution: contains SCIENCE!

We’ve already proven the following in Part II, Part III, and Part IV:

  • A calorie is not a calorie when you eat it at a different time of day.
  • A calorie is not a calorie when you eat it in a differently processed form.
  • A calorie is not a calorie when you eat it as a wholly different food.
  • A calorie is not a calorie when you eat it as protein, instead of carbohydrate or fat.
  • Controlled weight-loss studies do not produce results consistent with “calorie math”.

Next, we’ve proven the following in Part V:

  • Calorie counts on food eaten away from home are off by over 10%, with the lowest-calorie and most “healthy” items most likely to be underreported.
  • Even when cooking at home, our estimates of portion size and calorie content, both immediate and retrospective, are wildly inaccurate: the average error exceeds 50%.
  • Therefore, even if all calories were equal (and we’ve proven they’re not), the errors in estimating our true “calorie” intake exceed the changes calculated by the 3500-calorie rule (“calorie math”) by approximately two orders of magnitude.

And we’re not done yet!

Empirical Evidence: A Calorie Is Not A Calorie When You Substitute Protein For Sugar

(Hat tip to George Henderson for the next three studies. They’re fascinating, and there’s far more to discuss than the side effect of dismantling CICO and “calorie math”—but for now I’ll stick to the subject at hand.)

J Biol Chem. 2008 Mar 14;283(11):7196-205. Epub 2007 Dec 10.
cAMP-dependent signaling regulates the adipogenic effect of n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Madsen L, Pedersen LM, Liaset B, Ma T, Petersen RK, van den Berg S, Pan J, Müller-Decker K, Dülsner ED, Kleemann R, Kooistra T, Døskeland SO, Kristiansen K.
(Full text)

“We show that n-6 PUFAs were pro-adipogenic when combined with a high carbohydrate diet, but non-adipogenic when combined with a high protein diet in mice.”

Both diets were purified lab chemicals, containing 25% corn and soybean oil by weight, and both were exactly the same, with one exception: the “high-carbohydrate” diet contained 20% casein (milk protein) and 43% sucrose (sugar) by weight, whereas the “high-protein” diet contained 54% protein and 9% sugar by weight.

Note that the mice were pair-fed by weight, not calories—so the high protein+corn oil group was eating 10% more “calories” than the high sucrose+corn oil group…and 33% more “calories” than the chow diet group. Therefore, according to the self-appointed “guardians of science”, they should have gained 33% more weight.

Figure 2B, Madsen 2008

Meanwhile, back in reality, the high-sucrose group gained over six times as much weight as the high-protein group, despite consuming fewer “calories”…

…and the chow group gained exactly the same amount of weight as the high-protein group, despite consuming 1/3 fewer “calories”.

“The mice fed corn oil in combination with sucrose gained an average of 11.3 g of body weight and became visibly obese (Fig. 2, B and C, and Table 1). The mice fed corn oil in combination with protein gained on average less than 1.8 g of body weight during the 56 days of feeding and had small amounts of white adipose tissue (Table 2 and Fig. 2, B and C). In fact, the weight gain and amount of body fat in mice fed a high corn oil diet supplemented with protein was comparable with the body weight gain and adipose tissue mass in mice fed an energy-restricted low fat chow diet (Fig. 2, B and C, and Table 1). “

Fortunately, this study also addressed a couple common canards. The authors measured the digestibility of each diet, which didn’t vary significantly. (It was slightly larger in the high-protein group.) And apparently high-protein diets don’t cause mice to exercise, either: the study measured both energy expenditure (which was actually smaller in the high-protein group) and oxygen consumption (roughly equal).

Conclusion: A calorie is not a calorie when you substitute protein for sugar.

Empirical Evidence: A Calorie Is Not A Calorie When You Substitute Protein For Sugar (Again)

Here’s a similar experiment, again done by the Madsen group:

PLoS ONE 6(6): e21647 (2011)
Sucrose Counteracts the Anti-Inflammatory Effect of Fish Oil in Adipose Tissue and Increases Obesity Development in Mice
Tao Ma, Bjørn Liaset, Qin Hao, Rasmus Koefoed Petersen, Even Fjære, Ha Thi Ngo, Haldis Haukås Lillefosse, Stine Ringholm, Si Brask Sonne, Jonas Thue Treebak, Henriette Pilegaard, Livar Frøyland, Karsten Kristiansen, Lise Madsen

I’ll skip to the punchline. In this case, the pair-fed diets were isocaloric (contained the same number of “calories”):

Figure 4, Ma 2011

Yet the fish oil+sucrose group gained about five times as much weight as the fish oil+protein group.

As a bonus, when fed ad libitum (science-ese for “food was freely available 24/7”):

Mice fed a fish oil-enriched diet in combination with sucrose had markedly higher feed efficiency and required less than 50% of the calories to achieve the same weight gain as mice fed a fish oil-enriched diet in combination with protein. (Hao 2012, referencing Ma 2011)

Conclusion: A calorie is not a calorie when you substitute protein for sugar (again).

Empirical Evidence: A Calorie Is Not A Calorie When You Change The Type Of Fat Or Substitute It For Sugar

Here’s yet another paper exploring the relationships between linoleic acid, EPA and DHA, and carbohydrate content:

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2012 Oct;20(10):1984-94. doi: 10.1038/oby.2012.38. Epub 2012 Feb 15.
Dietary linoleic acid elevates endogenous 2-AG and anandamide and induces obesity.
Alvheim AR, Malde MK, Osei-Hyiaman D, Lin YH, Pawlosky RJ, Madsen L, Kristiansen K, Frøyland L, Hibbeln JR.
(Full text)

This time, all diets contained 20% protein by calories. “Medium-fat” diets contained 35% fat and 45% carbohydrate: “high-fat” diets contained 60% fat and 20% carbohydrate…and though this study (like the others) contains much fascinating data, I’ll skip straight to the graphs.

“Feed efficiency” is the amount of weight gained per mouse, per dietary “calorie” consumed. Note that it varies by over 30%, depending on the total fat percentage (higher fat diets were, on average, less efficient) and the proportion of linoleic acid (higher LA diets were, on average, more efficient).

Figure 2B, Alvheim 2012

Conclusion: A calorie is not a calorie when you change the type of fat, or when you substitute it for sugar.

Empirical Evidence: A Calorie Is Not A Calorie When You Substitute Protein For Sugar (Yet Again)

Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2012 May 15;302(9):E1097-112. doi: 10.1152/ajpendo.00524.2011. Epub 2012 Feb 14.
High-glycemic index carbohydrates abrogate the antiobesity effect of fish oil in mice.
Hao Q, Lillefosse HH, Fjaere E, Myrmel LS, Midtbø LK, Jarlsby RH, Ma T, Jia B, Petersen RK, Sonne SB, Chwalibog A, Frøyland L, Liaset B, Kristiansen
(Full text)

“…Increasing amounts of sucrose in the diets dose-dependently increased energy efficiency and white adipose tissue (WAT) mass.”

Again, these are isocalorically pair-fed mice:

Figure 1A, Hao 2012

“…An increase in insulin secretion alone was insufficient to promote obesity development because mice receiving glybenclamide in combination with proteins and fish oil did not become obese. This finding is in keeping with the observation that a high-fat diet is unable to increase adipose tissue mass in the absence of carbohydrates (47, 50).

“Obviously, increased adipose tissue mass is related to energy intake. However, macronutrient composition can influence energy efficiency in such a way that mice consuming the same amount of calories end up with quite different amounts of adipose tissue. Thus, increasing the amount of sucrose in the feed from 13 to 43% led to approximately fivefold higher energy efficiency.”

Conclusion: A calorie is not a calorie when you substitute protein for sugar (yet again).

Empirical Evidence: A Calorie Is Not A Calorie When You Substitute Honey For Table Sugar

This one speaks for itself:

J Food Sci. 2007 Apr;72(3):S224-9.
The effect of honey compared to sucrose, mixed sugars, and a sugar-free diet on weight gain in young rats.
Chepulis LM.

“Overall percentage weight gain was significantly lower in honey-fed rats than those fed sucrose or mixed sugars, despite a similar food intake.”


“Weight gains were comparable for rats fed honey and a sugar free diet although food intake was significantly higher in honey-fed rats.”

Conclusion: A calorie is not a calorie when…you know the rest.

Conclusion: Protein and Honey Beat Sucrose

In this article, we’ve demonstrated the following:

  • A calorie is not a calorie when you substitute protein for sugar.
  • A calorie is not a calorie when you change the type of fat, or when you substitute it for sugar.
  • A calorie is not a calorie when you substitute honey for sugar.

The weight of the evidence points towards the following hypothesis: adding refined sucrose (“table sugar”) to a diet in exchange for protein, or even honey, makes it more fattening—per calorie. (There is also evidence for sucrose making a high-fat diet more fattening per calorie, but I need to do more reading first.)

This effect is in addition to the usual effect of refined sucrose causing greater food consumption…and since the experiments used purified ingredient diets, it’s not a matter of unprocessed food vs. refined sugar.

Note that I’m not going to defend this hypothesis too strongly, because these experiments involve mice and rats, not people…but it’s worth further investigation.

Continue to Part VII, “Carbohydrates Matter, At Least At The Low End.”

(Or, you can refresh your memory by going back to Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, or Part V.

Live in freedom, live in beauty.


Book Review: “The Paleo Manifesto,” by John Durant

Fame is often accidental.

Some people grind away for years or decades, gaining fans a few at a time through a combination of talent and relentless self-promotion in the face of continual bafflement and rejection, until the media are forced to take notice. And some people get a lucky break.

John Durant got that break. Paleo had been around for a while, including at least one best-selling book…but media people don’t like to leave New York City, so when he started a Paleo meetup group there, he instantly became its unofficial media representative. Coverage in the New York Times, the Colbert Report, and the New Yorker ensued.

Fortunately for the Paleo movement and its variants (e.g. the Primal Blueprint, the Perfect Health Diet), John is an educated and articulate spokesman who has resisted repeated attempts to pigeonhole Paleo as “the caveman diet”, while playing just enough footsie with the stereotypes to keep the media entertained—and who also manages the difficult task of rocking long hair and a beard (giving him the necessary caveman cred) without looking like a stoner, hobo, or record store clerk.

What Is The Paleo Manifesto About?

There are dozens of “how-to” Paleo books in the wild. I haven’t read all of them—but I don’t need to be told yet again that gluten and seed oils are bad, and my own explorations of human evolutionary history and the biochemistry of hunger have already gone far deeper into the science than most books intended for a general audience.

Fortunately, instead of yet another diet guide, Durant offers an overview of the entire spectrum of evolutionary discordance—including chapters on fasting, movement, and circadian rhythms. It’s not a reference book (though he provides quite a few references in the Notes and Bibliography): he provides most of the information through a combination of history, interviews, and personal anecdotes.

John himself previews the book and the intention behind it here, so I won’t rehash it. Note this important point: “The paleosphere will read the book first, but is not the primary audience.” It’s a popular book, written for the mainstream, and I’m evaluating it as such.

What Is The Paleo Manifesto?

The book opens with its strength. Part 1 (“Origins”) touches on topics from the diets of zoo gorillas, to Mosaic law, to the first balloonists to reach the upper atmosphere, in an informal, conversational style. We’re left with explicit takeaways: yes, our modern environment differs dramatically from the Paleolithic environment to which we’ve adapted over millions of years (“evolutionary discordance”), and yes, addressing that discordance is likely to improve our mental and physical health. It’s fun to read without feeling dumbed down, and contains some interesting original research.

Part 2 (“Here and Now”) covers topics as diverse as the pathogen-fighting functions of fasting, the importance of sleep and circadian rhythms, and the social function of Crossfit, as well as the standard Paleo dietary prescription. It’s solid and reasonably well-referenced, and John can turn a memorable phrase, e.g.:

  • “By rejecting nutrient-dense herder diets in favor of a few stable cereal grains, the conventional advice to “eat low fat” actually means “Eat like a poor, malnourished farmer”…It’s a meal fit for a serf, sold for a princely sum to slavish Whole Foods shoppers.
  • Encouraging modern women to eat more fat is about as easy as selling them a makeup called Ugly. Better terms for dietary fat would have been “lipids,” “triglycerides,” or “sexy”—as in, “Each spoonful of lard contains 13 grams of sexy.”

On the other hand, I believe Part 2 suffers a bit from repeated changes in tone and technique. The writing ranges from breezy and anecdotal to factual and frankly prescriptive—sometimes within the same chapter—and the contrast can be a bit jarring, especially compared to the smooth flow of Part 1.

It’s worth noting that Durant’s long discussion of the possible adaptive value of Mosaic law, and his account of a multi-day fast undertaken in a Trappist monastery, makes The Paleo Manifesto both relevant to and respectful of religious faith…a difficult balancing act for a book about human evolutionary context.

Part 3 brings the Paleolithic prescription into present time. Again, while the content is strong and John’s writing is compelling, I find the contrast between accounts of personal experience (“Hunting”) and straight-up facts and advocacy (“Gathering”) a bit jarring.

Result: The Paleo Manifesto is a well-executed pop-science book that covers many topics overlooked by typical diet references, but which has incompletely digested a Paleo reference manual like the Primal Blueprint. It’s strongest as popular science, when telling its story through interviews, anecdotes, and historical accounts. Fortunately this comprises the majority of the book, and the remainder is well-executed: I just wish it went down more easily.

Who Should Read The Paleo Manifesto?

While all current sources seem to agree on the basics, their tone, presentation, and intended audience vary dramatically. Most Paleo and Primal books appeal most strongly to those who have already decided to make a substantive change in their lives, and are looking for a clearly-marked path forward: the Perfect Health Diet primarily targets the scientifically oriented, the Primal Blueprint targets the general public (as long as they accept evolution), It Starts With Food primarily targets those with food obsessions.

In contrast, The Paleo Manifesto gives us a view from the mountaintop. We can see all the elements of Paleo life, how they fit together, and how they affect the thoughts and lives of those who commit to it. As such, I can recommend it to those who are interested in learning more about Paleo but aren’t yet ready to commit to any radical change in their own lives, who are familiar with the dietary prescription but haven’t considered other important evolutionary discordances, or whose religious faith is likely to leave them unconvinced (or offended) by long discussions of human evolution. (In other words, most of the world outside the existing Paleo community.)

And if the reader does decide to commit, The Paleo Manifesto contains enough hard information to “go Paleo” without requiring another book.

US residents can help support gnolls.org (at no cost to yourself) by buying The Paleo Manifesto, or anything else, through this link.

(Legally mandated disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for free.)