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.

I'll certainly need to go back and watch Stephan's presentation again to really take in the information (once they get the lectures online, that is).  But as I recall, the most interesting part to me was about gut bacteria and obesity.  He talked about a few studies in rats, in which they performed fecal transplants to transfer gut bacteria from one rat to another.  Yes, that means taking the poop from one rat and sticking it up the butt of another rat.  We do it in humans too.  But the basic idea was that the gut flora differed between lean and obese mice.  But when the gut bacteria from the obese rat was transferred to a lean rat, that lean rat then became obese.  There was much more to it than this, but as I said, I need to go back and watch it again and take notes.  But it's very intriguing to me that simply changing the gut flora of an animal could make them become obese.  It sounds like this area has a lot of potential for future study, and it's definitely something I'll be following.

On another note, on the last night of the conference I was able to meet Stephan and chat a little bit.  He was super nice and down-to-earth.  We talked about beer and other manly things, apparently he brews beer.  But I also talked with him about probiotics.  Probiotics can be found in either food or in supplement form, but they are essentially healthy bacteria for your gut.  The idea is that they make it to your large intestine, set up shop there, and do good things for your digestion and your body.  But according to Stephan, and I suspected this to be true, probiotics don't significantly change your gut bacteria, and they don't really have any effect at all.  Most of the bacteria get killed on the way to the large intestine, and the few that are left just don't make a dent in the billions of bacteria that are already there.  I'll be sure to look into this more in the future as well.

Maybe the best part of Stephan's talk though... the opening.  "Hi, I'm Stephan Guyenet, and I'm not going to talk about carbs."  Loved it.

Lustig and His New Research
Dr. Robert Lustig gave one of the better talks at AHS as well, about sugar (as if he ever talks about anything else).  It was really great though.  Even though I've seen his lecture Sugar: The Bitter Truth, and I've seen his 60 Minutes special on sugar, I still learned something.  He discussed the danger of fructose overconsumption, per the usual, but one thing he stressed this time was that fructose is only toxic if it is consumed in the context of a hypercaloric diet.  Translation:  if you're in caloric balance, or caloric deficit, fructose doesn't exhibit the same dangerous effects on insulin sensitivity, weight gain, etc.  Only if you are overconsuming calories will it exhibit these toxic effects.  I had read this on Stephan's blog as a criticism of Lustig's work, so I was happy to see Lustig evolve his information.  In a real life situation though, it seems as though many people who consume a lot of sugar would be in caloric excess, especially those who consume a lot of sugar-sweetened beverages.  High-sugar foods typically aren't satiating and can lead to overconsumption.

Dr. Lustig also revealed some data on a new sugar/fructose/metabolic syndrome study that he's working on getting published.  He asked the audience not to take any pictures of his slides since this study isn't published yet, and as a result, I have no way of remembering any of the details.  However, he was very pleased with the results, and as you can guess, it made sugar look pretty shitty.  Can't wait for that one to be published.

Okay, that's it for this edition of my AHS review.  I've still got much more to talk about, so come on back for part 3 tomorrow!

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