January 26, 2015

Label Madness Monday

It’s been a while since we took a look at a food label and had ourselves a laugh. And lest this blog become nothing but book reviews, rants, and super-nerdy posts about cancer, I figured now might be a good time to resurrect good ol’ Label Madness Monday. So here goes.

Today’s an easy one. For those of you in the U.S., it’ll probably just make you chuckle. To those of you outside the U.S., let this be a lesson in the complete and total ridiculousness that rules food labeling laws in our whacked-out country. Land of the free, home of the brave, and slave to the almighty marketing dollar preying upon the complete idiocy of the majority of the population.

Here goes: Fat-free, sugar-free, non-dairy coffee creamer.

January 18, 2015

Alzheimer's Follow-up: Q&A (a.k.a. World's Longest Blog Post)


Anyone out there watch Ancient Aliens? If so, you are probably cracking up right now. If not, you’re scratching your head, because you have no idea why this is funny. (Trust me, though, it’s hilarious.)

Seriously, though, the answer is not aliens. I might not know for sure what the answers are, but I’ll provide my best guesses/hunches.

What are the questions? Here goes:

It’s no secret that I am trying to get the word out about Alzheimer’s disease as a “disease of civilization” – that is, a condition that results from the mismatch between our physiology and the modern Western diet (refined carbohydrate-heavy, vegetable oil-heavy, low in micronutrients), and the modern Western lifestyle (inadequate sleep, inadequate physical movement, too much psychological stress, loss of human emotional connections). As of 1/18/2015, the post I wrote pointing folks toward the article I wrote for the Weston A. Price Foundation, has 1470 views. Not all that many, considering the one on Vitamin J has 13,512. (If I could get Mark Sisson to include the Alzheimer’s post in one of his Sunday Weekend Link Loves, maybe it would have more, since, thanks to a reader and friend who alerted the MDA people to it, that is where the vast majority of hits came from on Vitamin J.)

But word is spreading, if slowly. (In fact, someone is launching a Kickstarter campaign to fund a documentary about preventing Alzheimer’s, called Bread Head.) More people here and there are stumbling onto my blog, and finding the Alzheimer’s article, which is nice. One such newcomer left some very good questions in the comments section. They were good enough—and my answers complex enough—that I thought it would benefit more people if I answered in the form of a blog post, where everyone would see it, versus responding in the comments section, where almost no one would.

January 13, 2015

Fat Tuesday: World's Simplest Tallow

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you’ve probably realized by now that there are few things I like talking about more than fat. Especially delicious animal fat, and even more especially, that of ruminant animals, such as cows and sheep. These fats are predominantly saturated and monounsaturated, which makes them stable for high-heat cooking, and of course, there’s the most important point: they’re delicious!

I have written in detail about beef tallow before. To people who are new to the traditional food scene—and sometimes even to us old hands—rendering tallow and lard at home can seem like a daunting prospect. The good news is, you don’t have to do it all that often to get a supply that will last you a while. If you make a big batch of stock, depending on the types of bones you use, you could end up with lots and lots of tallow, which you can store in the freezer for a long time. (In addition to the “boney bones,” you’ll want some meaty bits, too. They’ll give the stock more flavor, and if you choose fatty shanks, maybe some short ribs, and other fatty pieces, all that gorgeous fat will render out during the simmering process and you’ll be left with lots of golden delicious fat. And you thought that phrase was only for apples!)

And the even better news is, if you’re not of a mind to do it yourself, more and more small, family-owned, grass-based farms are selling lard and tallow on the farmstead and also at farmers’ markets. (With more and more people getting into this kind of thing these days, you can even order the good stuff online now.) So being skittish about the DIY process is no excuse to keep cooking with soybean or corn oil.

But here’s the best news of all: getting your hands on good ruminant tallow is as simple as cooking some gound beef or lamb in a skillet, and reserving the fat in a separate container, rather than throwing it away, the way fifty years of “fat-is-bad” propaganda have conditioned us to do. (Remember: fat isn’t bat. Not even saturated fat.)

I’m not kidding! It really is that simple. Here’s how it works:

January 8, 2015

Metabolic Theory of Cancer: Aerobic Fermentation (a.k.a. "The Warburg Effect")

Did I blow your mind with that mutated hexokinase stuff in the previous post? (To be honest, it blew my mind, when I first read about it. Still does, actually.)

You can see that as we gather more pieces of this puzzle, cancer cells’ voracious appetite for glucose is starting to reveal itself. So is—for lack of a better term— the intelligence of cancer cells. These little buggers are good at doing whatever they need to in order to stay alive, aren’t they? I mean, their mitochondria are broken. But they need fuel. And because the mitochondria are broken, the only fuel they can use successfully is glucose. So they start using this variation of hexokinase in order to make sure that glycolytic metabolism will never stop. Crazy! (Yet ingenious, no?)

As an aside, I have to mention here that cancer seems to be a metabolic condition every bit as much as Alzheimer’s disease is, but they are opposite sides of the same coin: In both conditions, the mitochondria have lost the ability to effectively generate ATP. In Alzheimer’s, the protective mechanism involves cells shutting off the glucose spigot, whereas in cancer, the spigot is turned on full blast and never shuts off.

Last time, we discussed cancer cells ramping up glycolysis in order to feed themselves. And we left off saying that, as a result of this abnormal amount of glycolysis, we have a ton of pyruvate building up. And the fate of this pyruvate, as I’ve mentioned in past posts, is fermentation—an anaerobic process. But cancer cells do something interesting that most healthy cells don’t: they perform incredible amounts of fermentation even in the presence of oxygen.

January 2, 2015

Metabolic Theory of Cancer: Glycolysis Run Amok & Mutant Hexokinase

“The ability to sustain an enhanced glycolytic rate represents one of the most consistent and profound biochemical phenotypes of many cancer cells.
                                            -Mathupala et al, 1997.

Through the previous posts in this series, we have woven a path through an introduction to the metabolic origins theory of cancer, some basic facts about cancer cells, cellular energy generation, mitochondrial structure & function, and potential causes of mitochondrial dysfunction. We have also established that there is a large degree of mitochondrial abnormality in cancer cells. We ended things last time by saying that we would explore cancer's next two most striking calling cards. So here we go. More of the metabolic hallmarks of cancer cells. (And finally, you will start to see why all my blabbing on and on about glycolysis and the Krebs cycle were necessary. I promise!)

Before we get into things today, I’d like to thank anyone who’s still along for the ride. I genuinely believe the metabolic theory of cancer holds an incredible amount of promise, and I consider it a privilege to be able to share with you my understanding—however rudimentary—of the science involved. It has occurred to me that, for the purpose of this series, my blog has become a free course in biochem & physiology, rather than the popular stuff with sensationalist, attention-grabbing headlines about adrenal fatigue, digestion, and women’s hormones. I may be getting far fewer page hits than the big boys and various “gurus” out there, but I sincerely think this could be life-saving information. (And frankly, between you and me…just us friends here…I’m kinda tired of all that adrenal/thyroid/digestion stuff, even if I do find it fascinating most of the time.) Based on the number of page hits, not too many folks are interested in this deep dive into the metabolic origins of cancer. Oh well. Their loss. I like writing about this, and I know there are at least one or two of you out there who value it, so I'll keep going. (And I will try not to be discouraged that other people's posts about Paleo chocolate chip banana bread and such generate more buzz than this supremely critical information.)

So to anyone out there whos still with me, thank you. I hope you continue to find it worth your time.

December 29, 2014

Book Review: The Big Fat Surprise

“It would be hard to imagine a greater set of unintended consequences than those resulting from the vast, uncontrolled experiment that the United States and the entire Western world have undergone by adopting a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet over the past half-century.” (p.333)

“Measured just by death and disease, and not including the millions of lives derailed by excess weight and obesity, it’s very possible that the course of nutrition advice over the past sixty years has taken an unparalleled toll on human history.” (p.330)

“It now appears that since 1961, the entire American population has…been subjected to a mass experiment, and the results have clearly been a failure.” (p.330)

Since the earliest days of this blog (back when I had just three readers, as opposed to the five I have now), I have been talking about dietary fat. Specifically, I have been trying to shed some light on the chemistry of fats and oils, so that we, as buyers, home cooks, and maybe most important—eaters—of these things, can make informed choices.

More than just fats and oils overall, I have been trying to provide a little non-scary education regarding saturated fats, in particular, because while we have been generally advised to follow a diet that’s low in total fat from all sources, saturated fats, specifically, have been targeted as being especially detrimental to good health.