Wednesday, August 15, 2012

AHS 2012 Part 3: Nutritionism, Denise Minger on Organ Meats, and Terry Wahls' MS

And we're back for part 3 of the AHS talk.  Again, that's the Ancestral Health Symposium, not the American Hemerocallis Society, the American Helicopter Society, nor the American Headache Society, all of which come up ahead of Ancestral Health Symposium in a Google search.  That needs to change.  On to the discussion...

Two Ways of Looking at a Food: Nutritionism vs. A Whole Foods Perspective
This wasn't a topic that was covered specifically at the symposium, but some of the presentations touched on it, and that made it a frequent topic of discussion with my friends and I (Amanda at Inspired. and Matthew at  First there was Mat Lalonde's talk about his new system for measuring nutrient density, in which he made bacon look pretty darn nutritious.  Cool with me.  I liked it far more than the ANDI score system used at Whole Foods, or the NuVal system used at conventional grocery stores, but it was very apparent by the end of his talk that there is no perfect system to quantify the nutrient density of food.  Then there was Peter Ballerstedt's talk about grass-fed meat, his main point being that the nutritional differences between grass-fed and grain-fed meat are negligible.

So these two talks generated some discussion about this reductionist perspective of nutrition.  Or "nutritionism", if you will.  You can measure the nutrients in a food and try to rank its healthiness, but what ultimately matters is the effect this food has on your body as a whole.

A couple of examples... Firstly, I appreciated Dr. Ballerstedt's point, that the nutritional difference between grass-fed and grain-fed meat is insignificant.  He mainly focused on the difference in omega-3 fatty acids.  And he may be right, there isn't that much more omega-3 in grass-fed meat.  But does it matter?  A 2011 study, for example, found that eating grass-fed beef significantly increases the composition of omega-3 fatty acids in plasma and platelet, while eating grain-fed beef actually reduced their omega-3 content (1).

Then there's the whole grain thing, which I blogged about recently.  Despite being high in antioxidant nutrients (vitamin B6, folate, selenium, zinc, magnesium, and cysteine), whole grains have zero effect on your body's total antioxidant capacity (2). 

So, you can talk all day about a food being more nutritious or less nutritious than another, but at the end of the day you're guessing.  Okay, that's not quite fair.  It's an educated guess.  But nutrient composition isn't everything.  We don't really know how food acts in our bodies until we study it.  Nutrient density can be a great guide, but it's not the end-all-be-all.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

AHS 2012 Part 2: Mark and Robb, Gut Health and Obesity, and Lustig Talks Sugar. Again.

And I'm back for part 2 of my AHS 2012 review.  Read part 1 if you missed it.  And no, this blog is not about AHS, the leader among home warranty providers.  It's the Ancestral Health Symposium.  Only the biggest event in the paleo nutrition world, everyone knows that.  Now read......

Can you believe Mark Sisson is 60?  I guess this paleo thing works.
Mark Sisson and Robb Wolf Q&A
This was another highlight of the weekend, in which Mark and Robb took questions from the audience.  It was only a 40 minute session, but I could have listened to this for hours.  I honestly don't remember what any of the questions were, so I guess I don't have much to talk about here, but they were very engaging and hilarious.  Great stuff.  I would love to spend a night socializing with these guys over NorCal margaritas.

Gut Health and Obesity
Stephan Guyenet's talk on gut health and obesity was just fascinating.  He's been one of my favorite people in the paleo community for a while now, I've learned so much valuable information from his blog.  The gist of his talk, from what I can remember, was on how your intestinal health affects your propensity to gain weight.  And he made a major distinction between visceral fat and subcutaneous fat (visceral being the fat gained within the abdominal cavity, and subcutaneous fat being fat located under the skin).  There's a big difference.  A person with more visceral fat will be at much higher risk for metabolic abnormalities and chronic disease, while someone with mostly subcutaneous fat is likely to be metabolically healthy, regardless of the fact that they're obese.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

AHS 2012 Part 1: Safe Starches and LDL-C vs. LDL-P

So this past weekend, I was able to attend AHS 2012 in Cambridge, MA.  For those of you who don't know, the Ancestral Health Symposium is an annual event that began last year, and it brings together all of the most well-known people in the paleo community for a weekend full of lectures, debates, paleo food, and apparently, large amounts of free chocolate and coffee.  Or maybe it was only me who spent half the conference eating free dark chocolate samples and drinking americanos.  Oh well, coffee is life.

Caveman chocolate.

It was a great weekend, and I got to meet some great people who I've learned so much from over the past couple of years.  Stephan Guyenet, Chris Kresser, Mark Sisson, just to name a few.  Also got to meet Laura from Ancestralize Me, which was great because she's also on the RD track and I love bitching about My Plate.  I did NOT get to meet Robb Wolf, which I was really disappointed in since he's sort of the ring leader of this whole paleo movement.  Maybe next time.  I was so pleasantly surprised to learn how down to earth and approachable these people were.  Despite their status in the community, they were willing to socialize with everyone and blend in.  I really appreciated their everydayness.

Anyway, over the next few days I'll be discussing my thoughts on some of the main topics from AHS this year, and also talk about the event as a whole and what it means for the future of the paleo community. So without further ado...