Friday, January 30, 2009

You, the Smart Patient

Chapter One: Getting to Know You Let's Discover the Juicy Secrets About the Person Who Controls Your Health: You

Most people think they communicate with their doctors just fine. Better than fine, in fact. Fantastic. Given that most of the communication consists of nodding or a request for antibiotics, there's little to find fault with. That's the problem, of course. Most patients don't do a great job of communicating with their doctors because patients often give us too little pertinent information to go on (remember, just like the detective, we're looking for the facts). At the same time, they may also give us too many distracting or off-topic details. It reminds us a little bit of what a mechanic must think when we try to explain a noise in our car. We're not sure when it started, we're not sure what makes it worse, we think it's a whining sound but aren't sure...We bet this becomes a tedious monologue for those earnest professionals trying to help us.

An almost identical conversation goes on in doctors' offices every day. To be accurate, the parallel exchanges often concern befuddled male patients. There's a reason that women aged thirty to sixty are the prime decision makers about health care in the United States. Most of the guys they love either have no clue about their health needs or wouldn't see a doctor unless they had blood shooting out of both ears.

The goal of this chapter is to make sure you know the details and numbers in your health profile that you really need to know -- those stats and specifics that are crucial to you and your doctor. We always see health books and well-intentioned magazine articles that tell you to compile somuch stuff, we get winded just reading the list. The average person would have to take a week off from work and probably hire a bounty hunter to get everything recommended. You don't need to do that, but you do need to assemble a thorough health history so that you'll have a body of evidence to use when working with your doctor. A big part of being a Smart Patient is knowing how to compare new evidence (such as new test results) against the old. Like Sherlock Holmes, even though something may seem elementary to everyone else and not worth asking about, you need to press on with your questions and your investigation.

We'll make compiling your health history simple enough to do, but we won't oversimplify the tasks so you lose accuracy. It's a small time investment that could save your life, so get started right away.

You Love Us? Ditto

The first sign of a Smart Patient is that telltale document they produce during their first visit, or even their fiftieth. It's a portent of a beautiful partnership -- that is, when it's not a form they need signed for their job, or a note asking one of our office assistants about their dinner plans. If we're lucky, it'll be their health profile. It's the sign of a patient who means business, one who will challenge us to be at our absolute best and who won't waste time and money on redundant and unnecessary efforts (which can lead to errors). To create the perfect health profile, circa early twenty-first century, flip ahead to appendix 2, Sample Forms, and find the forms labeled Your Health Journal. Make copies of them, or rip them out if that's handier. The forms are also online at and

Fill them out.

Finished? Everything? You're done. That is, if you don't have any questions, and you're sure it's all correct. Just bring those forms to your doctor along with a baggie filled with every medication, vitamin, herb, or whatever else you take regularly (in their original bottles). Store copies of the forms in a fireproof safe, and update them yearly or whenever a piece of key info changes. Everyone's happy.

What's that? It wasn't that simple? You don't know all the info by heart or have it filed neatly in your credenza? Now, that's woefully human of you. If you're like most of our patients, you've never compiled your important health info before, and you may not have the foggiest notion of where to find much of it -- or even if it exists at all. Even with using the forms as guides, your records may be so scattered that you don't know where to start.

Let's take it from the beginning.

Start in Top Form

Fill out all the easy stuff on the forms labeled Your Health Journal, such as your birth date, address, your doctor's contact info, your pharmacy, your insurance info, and everything else listed. As you may suspect, this will be your master form, the one you perhaps store on your computer, and give out whenever necessary, including when you visit a new medical professional or step foot in a hospital. (Take at least two copies, and always give one to the admitting nurse who welcomes you to your bed.)

This form won't just make your life easier, it'll prevent a severe case of hand cramps from rewriting half of this info dozens of times in the future. And bypassing twenty occasions that require you to blearily check boxes before you've had your morning coffee (and having another fallible person decipher that scrawl) is a no-brainer way of reducing errors.

Under the section entitled Your Health Now, write down every significant ailment or condition that you have right now. This would be the place to list ongoing conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, psoriasis, depression, back pain, and the like. Don't include anything you had years ago but don't have now; that goes in a different place. Be certain to include anything that you're taking medication for, even if the specific symptoms are gone; for example, if you're controlling your high blood pressure with medication, list high blood pressure. Next to each condition, list when you were diagnosed, what medication you're taking for it, if any, and any other relevant info. If you're not sure if it's relevant, jot it down. That's why your doctor's office assistant has Wite-Out.

In addition to those mentioned above, here are a few more examples of conditions that are significant:

  • Anemia
  • Heart disease
  • Heart murmur, or any other
  • heart irregularity
  • HIV
  • Herpes
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Nerve paralysis
  • Cancer of any form
  • Diabetes
  • Gingivitis (gum or periodontal disease)
  • Hemophilia
  • Kleptomania (just making sure you're paying attention)
  • Epilepsy
  • Gulf War syndrome
  • Alcohol or other addictions
  • Vertigo
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Paraplegia or quadriplegia
  • Sleep apnea
  • Vision or hearing loss
  • Glaucoma
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Amputation
  • Liver disease
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Dementia or frequent memory loss (for example, can't recall name of close friend or relative)
  • Multicythemia veragis (just kidding)
  • Here are some that are probably not significant:
  • Astigmatism
  • Dental cavities
  • Sore lower back after shoveling heavy snow
  • Rosacea
  • Varicose veins
  • Toenail fungus infection or athlete's foot
  • Forgetfulness (for example, can't remember where keys are, or where you were when Luke and Laura married on General Hospital)
  • Sunburn prone or can't tan
  • Insomnia before job interviews or court sentencings
  • Cat allergy
  • Hangover
  • Irritability
  • Disorganization
  • C-SPAN addiction
  • Turkey neck
  • Repeatedly date or marry losers

Now list your past significant ailments and conditions in the next section, noting when you were diagnosed and what happened. Then list all the details about the medications you're taking (all pills or tablets or anything that you regularly ingest, inject, insert, or otherwise consume regularly, whether it's prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, herbal supplements, vitamins, etc.). We'll say this again, but in addition to having this form handy when you see your doctor (in your pocket or the office file cabinet), always bring the actual bottles of all those medicinal consumables, too. It's important.

Checklist: We Ask, You Answer

For any condition or ailment you include on your list that you're still dealing with, write down and be prepared to tell the doc the following:

  • What caused this?

  • When was it diagnosed?

  • How are you treating it?

  • Has it gotten better or worse?

  • When did it first begin to noticeably improve or worsen?

  • What makes it better?

  • What makes it worse?

Don't Know Much about Genealogy

On pages 52 and 53, you'll also find the Smart Patient Family Tree. Flip to it and sharpen a pencil. This Smart Patient Family Tree is designed to bring joy (and longevity) to your life. The solid lines sprouting outward from you to your siblings, and downward to your parents, aunts and uncles, and grandparents represent blood-relative connections (not by marriage). You'll notice a dashed line going to your spouse, which represents a non-blood relationship. The reason you need to include your spouse is that he or she lives with you (at least we hope so). That means you share the same environmental exposures and, likely, similar risks. You serve as each other's personal coal-mine canary. One of you may get nauseous from the toxic waste buried under your house years before the other one. (Just kidding! You'd likely be afflicted simultaneously.) Also, even though you don't share DNA (at least not on most school nights, anyway), your spouse influences your health far more than your aunt Sadie in Perth Amboy. Auntie may have a cholesterol count that would bring a Guinness World Records rep to her door, but she isn't filling your day-to-day life with cigarette smoke, bacon, Pabst Blue Ribbon, and lost-sock arguments. The only thing worse for your health and longevity than having a spouse is not having one, in fact. No one likes being nagged, but being nagged into eating broccoli pays dividends.

Start filling out the Smart Patient Family Tree by adding your spouse's info, if you have one. You'll notice that the tree reaches only to your grandparents, not back to your Viking ancestors like some other family trees you may have seen. Why? Of course you recall the genetic Mendel grid from biology class, and how a fruit fly's ability to pass his tiny wings to his great-grandson was so genetically diluted, it was practically nil. Alas, the apple never falls far from the tree, but the fruit fly must at least be in the orchard -- that is, at least as genetically close as a grandparent -- before you go blaming him for any shortcomings.

Are there any exceptions? Sure. It's biology. None of us would be our particularly unique and endearing selves if not for a whole gang of exceptions. Include great-gramps and any other distant forebear if they had a disease or condition that is especially rare and deadly (even a small risk may warrant vigilance or gene testing). For example, Baron von Munchausen VI is still at extreme risk, but he knows that.

Thicken your family tree with all the info you know offhand. You want to record each relative's birth date and (if applicable) death date, the jobs they performed (as certain occupations can strongly affect health), and -- most important -- any diseases they had that may have a genetic link. Your doctor can clarify this if you aren't certain about the disease or if it was never diagnosed. Just list the symptoms the person had (memory loss, for example). While you're at it, you might as well jot down any other interesting tidbits in case the kids get curious about their roots one day. If you're like most people, it'll be about 14 percent complete when your brain is tapped. You'll need to do some investigating, Columbo style (Remember? Smart cop?), so see the checklist (on page 54) for the family interrogation protocol.

Test: Just How Likely Are You to Inherit This Relative's Condition?

To better assess your risk, answer these questions for each relative who has (or had) a disease that might be genetically transmissible to you:

Y / N Is this an immediate, full-blood relative? Circle yes if it is your mother or father or a sibling (if a stepsibling, circle no)

Y / N Did this relative get the disease with a suspected genetic link before age sixty-five?

Y / N Did this relative die from this disease before age sixty-five?

Y / N Was this disease likely caused by a genetic link, and not caused by environmental or lifestyle factors? (If the relative was a heavy smoker, a heavy drinker, or had a toxic or hazardous exposure at work, and these likely caused or contributed to the disease, circle no)

Y / N Is there at least one other blood relative who also has or had any of these same diseases?

Y / N Do you look like this relative, either inside or out? Meaning, do you have the same body type, same cholesterol problem, same bad temper, etc.?

If you circled one or two Ys, you may be at risk for inheriting this condition, so monitor it with your doctor. You circled three or more Ys? You're likely at very high risk of inheriting the disease, so keep a watchful eye on it.

Hopefully, you won't have to interrogate more than a handful of relatives in the above manner. If you hail from a litter of fourteen and have more aunts than a cartoon picnic, however, just remember to keep your radar sharp for two factors: serious illness or death before age sixty-five, and potentially fatal conditions. Either can be more important than how close you and your relative are in the bloodline. For example, your uncle's pancreatic cancer at age fifty-three would likely be more alarming to us than your mother's heart fibrillations at age seventy. At a bare minimum, you need to know why your parents and grandparents died, if they're now gone. And your bottom-line question to your doctor is always the same: If there's a genetic link associated with this condition, how can I prevent it?

Checklist: Gastritis, Aunt Gertrude?

Shaking down family for health details needn't always be a horribly awkward task. Remember that half will always talk about the other half, so go the gossip route if easier. If you want to be direct, just grab your reporter's pad and pen, dial the phone or meet the relative at the early-bird diner, and repeat this checklist (feel free to ad-lib). You might consider an opener like this:

"Hello, [relative]. I know you haven't heard from me since [year], but I'm putting my family health history together to see if I'm at risk for anything genetic, and I thought you could tell me a few things I just can't find anywhere else. [Another relative he or she dislikes] said you probably wouldn't help me or wouldn't be able to remember, but I thought I'd try anyway."

  • When were you born? (Or "Who was the first president you remember?" if the relative won't say. If it's Franklin Delano Roosevelt, ask if he or she voted for him.)

  • Have you been diagnosed with any diseases? When?

  • What kind of treatment did you get?

  • Any cancers? Diabetes? Heart problems? High blood pressure? Do you take any drugs (not those kind) or supplements? If so, why?

  • Any surgeries? When, and for what?

  • Ever have a bout of depression, anxiety, or other emotional health problems? (Ask relative this family member dislikes for immediate answer.)

  • Any miscarriages, stillbirths, or infant deaths?

  • Any heart attacks or strokes? (Pretend you suddenly remember and ask if the flowers made it.)

  • How's your hearing? (Whispered.)

  • Do you or did you smoke or drink?

  • What jobs did you have?

  • Still lead in the pencil?

  • Has your memory deteriorated? Do you still remember my name?

  • So, that thing growing on [another relative] -- is that skin cancer or what?

A Day in Your Life

Woke up, fell out of bed...

Dragged a comb across your head. Then you found your way downstairs and dra...all right, you get it. One of the most time-intensive but valuable parts of your health profile is to get a detailed description of your typical day. We start by asking what time you generally wake up in the morning (and how, whether you're roused by dawn's gentle light, a rooster, an amorous mate, a lapping cat, morning smoker's cough, and so on) and how refreshed you typically feel. Next we ask about morning chores, the length and stress of the work commute, the first task (or taskmaster) to greet you at the office, and the sordid toils and pleasures of the entire A.M. journey. Then we discuss your typical lunch. You can see why this takes a while. But it's valuable in getting a full picture of your life and an accurate depiction of the suspects and scenes that affect your health, as demonstrated in these illustrations. Hopefully, this home setting won't look too much like yours.

We Double Trouble

We know you bend the truth a little when telling us the good and bad you do to yourself. That's why we at least double, up or down, the most fudged claims. For example:

Patient Says -- We Hear

I have two drinks a day. I might drink a case a week.

I exercise about twice a week. I rarely exercise.

I smoke a few cigarettes a day. I'm a pack-a-day-er.

I smoked for five years. I smoked for ten years and off and on for a few more.

My job is stressful. This job's going to give me a coronary if I don't quit or learn how to deal with it.

I hardly ever have unsafe sex. I use condoms about half the time.

I get short of breath if I run. Five porch steps leave me gasping.

I eat about two hamburgers a week. I eat cheeseburgers most of the other days.

I forget to take my medication about once a week. I remember to take my medication about twice a week.

I'll follow up with you; I won't forget. I'll stop back in when the kids are grown.

The Adopted Plan

Logging your genetic propensities is enough of a job when you have your blood relatives close at hand or accessible in your address book. But what if you're adopted? Or if you've adopted a child? Thousands face this hurdle each year in compiling a health history. Luckily, it's becoming a bit less difficult to get the information you need.

There's a trend in domestic adoptions toward openness -- in other words, the adoptee, birth parent (one or both), and adoptive family all have a degree of contact with one another and share relevant information, including health histories. Recent laws have helped unseal files too. Of course, there are still many adoptees and adoptive parents who have no such contact or any records whatsoever, for a host of different reasons, and have come up empty even after checking with the adoption agency (always the first place to contact on this mission). In this case, they should contact their state Department of Health and Human Services to see if any birth records exist, and also examine the various registries that attempt to link birth families and adopted persons. A great all-around source is the government's National Adoption Information Clearinghouse Web site at You can search by state for info and availability of records. Remember that there's no need for a tearful, emotional reunion if that's not wanted: these registries often connect adoptees and birth parents for the sole purpose of gathering health information.

What about international adoptions? Some countries are just beginning to open their records, and the adoption agency and country consulate's office can be a starting point for investigation.

A Ghoulish Notion?

If your parents will consent to it, consider having an autopsy performed on them when they die. Few autopsies are done today as compared with decades ago, as it's rarely thought necessary when a cause of death is clear, such as a heart attack. But there's much value in knowing if your eighty-two-year-old father had undiagnosed prostate cancer that had been advancing since his fifties, or heart disease, even though it was a stroke that did him in. This is especially useful if the death was due to an accident, of course. Reassure your living parent that this doesn't mean foul play is suspected, or that the body will be shipped to a CSI soundstage, or that there can't be an open casket.

Tip: Have a Tattle Plan

Bring your spouse to your doctor's appointment when you're giving your health history; there are a lot of questions that only he or she can answer (how many times an hour do you stop breathing while asleep?). But, please, before coming in to the office together, make sure you discuss which fibs you're going to tell the doctor. Why? Because when you tell us that you rarely tear into the Pringles after 8:00 P.M. or that you've been taking your cholesterol-lowering drugs with the discipline of a marine, your spouse will shoot you -- or us -- an involuntary look that communicates something close to Are you kidding me? We never miss it. And, hey, sometimes your spouse wants to blow your cover. It's called love -- why do you think she booked the appointment?

If you try to snow us, remember that we might try to trip you up by asking about specific dates. As in when you last did something. For example, we'll ask you if you're fit enough to climb three flights of stairs. You'll say yes, unless you're older than eighty-five or bedbound. Then we'll ask, "When was the last time you climbed three flights of stairs?" You'll think, and start to say, "Maybe a month, or..." and your spouse will shoot that never-fails look. The one that says, You haven't climbed three flights of stairs since we voted for Ike.

How embarrassing.

So please, rehearse beforehand.

Click Access to Your Health Info

There are several Web sites that allow you to store your health records online, so you, your doctor, or any person given permission can tap them on the Internet, from any location. Some are free, and others have monthly fees that range from $30 to $80. To check out a few examples, click into the Web sites at,,, and the Joint Commission Resources' own We'll update this list at the personal-health site at Each site has security safeguards to protect the confidentiality of your info. Aside from the convenience factor, using these sites could make it easier to you keep your files current, because you'll have a one-stop, central place to update your info.

Copyright © 2006 by Michael F. Roizen, M.D., and Oz Works LLC, f/s/o Mehmet C. Oz, M.D., and Joint Commission Resources

Excerpted from:

You, the Smart Patient: An Insider's Handbook for Getting the Best Treatment

by Michael F. Roizen, Mehmet C. Oz

Buy this book at Barnes & Noble

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Paleo Diet

The Paleo Diet: Lose Weight and Get Healthy by Eating the Food You Were Designed to Eat
by Loren Cordain

"The Paleo Diet is at once revolutionary and intuitive. . . . Its prescription provides without a doubt the most nutritious diet on the planet. Beautifully written, The Paleo Diet takes us from the theory to the day-to-day practice of the native human diet."
– Jennie Brand-Miller, Ph.D., coauthor of the bestselling
The Glucose Revolution and The Glucose Revolution Life Plan,
Professor of Human Nutrition, University of Sydney

"Dr. Loren Cordain’s approach to nutrition is logically compelling, readily understood, and at the cutting edge of health science. Not all scientists can translate their concepts into a straightforward, accessible format, but Cordain has accomplished this feat brilliantly."
–S. Boyd Eaton, M.D., Clinical Assistant Professor, Emory University,
coauthor of The Paleolithic Prescription; former Medical Director,
Olympic Village Polyclinic, 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games

"Finally, someone has figured out the best diet for people–a modern version of the diet the human race grew up eating. Dr. Loren Cordain’s easy-to-follow diet plan cuts right to the chase and reminds us that the healthiest foods are the simplest ones."
– Jack Challem, coauthor of Syndrome X: The Complete Nutritional
Program to Prevent and Reverse Insulin Resistance

"The Paleo Diet is a landmark book, written by one of the most brilliant and respected nutritionists in America today. It could save your life. Read it, live it, and buy a copy for everyone you love."
–Robert Crayhon, M.S., author of The Carnitine Miracle

"The Paleo Diet not only lays outthe basic nutrition plan for weight loss and good health, but also for peak performance in athletic competition. It works."
–Joe Friel, author of The Triathlete’s Training Bible and endurance coach

"In a world where we’re surrounded with an information overload on dieting, this is a commonsense and effective weight-control approach that’s easy to follow."
– Fred Pescatore, M.D., author of Thin for Good and Feed Your Kids Well

"If you want the real lowdown on why the protein-rich diet of early man is the best diet for modern man, this is the book for you. We found Dr. Cordain’s scientific writings indispensable in the writing of The Protein Power LifePlan. Filled with delicious recipes and meal plans, The Paleo Diet will open your eyes, trim your waistline, and improve your overall health."
– Michael R. Eades, M.D., and Mary Dan Eades, M.D., authors of Protein Power

Red an excerpt:

Chapter 1

Not Just Another Low-Carb Diet

What's the diet craze this week? You name it, there's a book selling it—and people buying it, hoping for a "magic bullet" to help them shed excess pounds. But how can everybody be right? More to the point, is anybody right? What are we supposed to eat? How can we lose weight, keep it off—and not feel hungry all the time? What's the best diet for our health and well-being?

For more than twenty years, as an avid researcher of health, nutrition, and fitness, I have been working to answer these questions. I started this quest because I wanted to get past all the hype, confusion, and political posturing swirling around dietary opinion. I was looking for facts; the simple, unadulterated truth. The answer, I found, was hidden back in time—way back, with ancient humans who survived by hunting wild animals and fish and gathering wild fruits and vegetables. These people were known as "hunter-gatherers," and my research team and I recently published our analysis of what many of them (more than 200 separate societies) ate in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. We were astonished at the diversity of their diet. We were also amazed at what they did not eat—which we'll get to in a minute and which may surprise you.

Health Secrets of Our Ancestors

What do Paleolithic people have to do with us? Actually, quite a lot: DNA evidence shows that genetically, humans have hardly changed at all (to be specific, the human genome has changed less than 0.02 percent) in 40,000 years. This means that the genetic makeup ofPaleolithic people is virtually identical to our own. Literally, we are Stone Agers living in the Space Age; our dietary needs are the same as theirs. Our genes are well adapted to a world in which all the food eaten daily had to be hunted, fished, or gathered from the natural environment—a world that no longer exists. Nature determined what our bodies needed thousands of years before civilization developed, before people started farming and raising domesticated livestock.

In other words, built into our genes is a blueprint for optimal nutrition—a plan that spells out the foods that make us healthy, lean, and fit. Whether you believe the architect of that blueprint is God, or God acting through evolution by natural selection, or by evolution alone, the end result is still the same: We need to give our bodies the foods we were originally designed to eat.

Your car is designed to run on gasoline. When you put diesel fuel into its tank, the results are disastrous for the engine. The same principle is true for us: We are designed to run best on the wild plant and animal foods that all humans gathered and hunted just 500 generations ago. The staples of today's diet—cereals, dairy products, refined sugars, fatty meats, and salted, processed foods—are like diesel fuel to our body's metabolic machinery. These foods clog our engines, make us fat, and cause disease and ill health.

Sadly, with all of our progress, we have strayed from the path designed for us by nature. For instance:

  • Paleolithic people ate no dairy food. Imagine how difficult it would be to milk a wild animal, even if you could somehow manage to catch one.
  • Paleolithic people hardly ever ate cereal grains. This sounds shocking to us today, but for most ancient people, grains were considered starvation food at best.
  • Paleolithic people didn't salt their food.
  • The only refined sugar Paleolithic people ate was honey, when they were lucky enough to find it.
  • Wild, lean animal foods dominated Paleolithic diets, so their protein intake was quite high by modern standards, while their carbohydrate consumption was much lower.
  • Virtually all of the carbohydrates Paleolithic people ate came from nonstarchy, wild fruits and vegetables. Consequently, their carbohydrate intake was much lower and their fiber intake much higher than those obtained by eating the typical modern diet.
  • The major fats in the Paleolithic diets were healthful, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and omega 3 fats—not the saturated fats that dominate modern diets.

With this book, we are returning to the diet we were genetically programmed to eat. The Paleo Diet is more than a blast from the past. It's the key to speedy weight loss, effective weight control, and, above all, lifelong health. The Paleo Diet enlists the body's own mechanisms, evolved over millions of years, to put the brakes on weight gain and the development of the chronic diseases of civilization. It is the closest approximation we can make, given the current scientific knowledge, to humanity's original, universal diet—the easy-to-follow, cravings-checking, satisfying program that nature itself has devised.

The Problems with Most Low-Carb Diets

The Paleo Diet is a low-carbohydrate diet—but that's where any resemblance to the current glut of low-carbohydrate fad diets ends. Remember, the Paleo Diet is the only diet based on millions of years of nutritional facts—the one ideally suited to our biological needs and makeup and the one that most closely resembles hunter-gatherer diets. How does the Paleo Diet compare with the low-carb fad diets and the average U.S. diet?

Diet Protein Carbohydrate Fat
The Paleo diet 19-35% 22-40% 28-47%
Typical U.S. diet 15.5% 49% 34%
Low-carb fad diets 18-23% 4-26% 51-78%

Modern low-carbohydrate weight-loss diets are really high-fat diets that contain moderate levels of protein. They don't have the high levels of protein that our ancestors ate—the levels found in the Paleo Diet. Actually, compared with what our ancestors ate, the carbohydrate content of these modern weight-loss diets is far too low. Even worse, almost all of these low-carbohydrate diets permit unlimited consumption of fatty, salty meats (such as bacon, sausage, fatty ribs, and lamb chops) and dairy products (cheeses, cream, and butter) while restricting the consumption of fruits and vegetables. Cancer-fighting fruits and vegetables! This dietary pattern is drastically different from that of our ancestors.

And although low-carbohydrate diets may be successful in promoting weight loss, many dieters are achieving short-term weight loss at the expense of long-term health and well-being. Here's what the sellers of these diet plans don't want you to know: When low-carbohydrate diets cause weight loss in the short term, it's because they deplete the body's reserves of muscle and liver glycogen (carbohydrate), and the weight you're losing rapidly is mostly water weight.

When low-carbohydrate diets cause weight loss in the long run (weeks or months), it's because more calories are being burned than consumed, plain and simple. Low-carbohydrate diets tend to normalize insulin metabolism in many people, particularly in those who are seriously overweight. This normalization prevents swings in blood sugar that, in turn, may cause some people to eat less and lose weight. It is the cutback in total calories that lowers total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) levels. Also, reductions in dietary carbohydrates (whether calories are cut or not) almost always cause a decline in blood triglycerides and an increase in blood high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (the good cholesterol).

So, if low-carbohydrate diets cause someone to consume fewer calories, they may help produce weight loss and improvements in blood chemistry, at least over the short haul. However, dieters beware: When low-carbohydrate, high-fat diets are followed without a decrease in the daily consumption of calories, they are, according to the American Dietetic Association, "a nightmare." Let's see why.

Low Carb Doesn't Mean Low Cholesterol

Despite what anybody tells you—despite the outrageous claims of the low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet doctors—if you eat a lot of the saturated fats found in cheeses, butter, and bacon and don't cut your overall calorie intake, your cholesterol will go up. The medical community has known this for more than fifty years. It's been demonstrated in hundreds of clinical trials, including metabolic ward studies, in which people are locked into a hospital wing and only allowed to eat foods that have been carefully weighed and analyzed. Many of the low-carbohydrate diet doctors claim that these clinical trials are invalid because none of them reduced the carbohydrate content sufficiently. These doctors should know better; low carbohydrates don't guarantee low cholesterol.

Dr. Stephen Phinney and colleagues from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology conducted a normal caloric intake metabolic ward trial involving nine healthy, lean men. These men consumed nothing but meat, fish, eggs, cheese, and cream for thirty-five days. They had a low carbohydrate intake—less than 20 grams a day—but it didn't matter. Their blood cholesterol levels still went up, from 159 to 208 on average in just thirty-five days. This study and others prove beyond a doubt that diets high in saturated fats—no matter how low the carbohydrate content—will raise blood cholesterol levels when caloric intake levels are normal. What does this mean for the people on these diets? Possibly, serious health risks. Eventually, even the most obese subjects stop losing weight on low-carbohydrate diets. Eventually, they must return to a normal caloric intake (otherwise, they would die of starvation)—and when they do, watch out. Their high-saturated-fat diets will raise their blood cholesterol levels and increase their risk of heart disease.

So, at best, low-carbohydrate, high-fat diets are a temporary fix. At worse, they can cause big trouble in the long run.

Healthy Fats, Not Lethal Fats

One major difference between the Paleo Diet and the low-carbohydrate, high-fat diets we just talked about is the fats. In most modern low-carbohydrate weight-loss diets, no distinction is made between good fats and bad fats. All fats are generally lumped together; the goal is simply to reduce carbohydrates and not worry about fats.

But you should worry about fats. Not all fats are created equal, and the impact of fat on blood cholesterol—and the odds of developing heart disease—is enormous. The problem is, fats are confusing for many people trying to make good dietary decisions. For one thing, many of them sound alike. How are saturated fats different from monounsaturated—or even polyunsaturated—fats? How are omega 6 fats different from the omega 3 variety?

  • Monounsaturated fats are good. They're found in olive oil, nuts, and avocados, are known to lower blood cholesterol, and help prevent artery clogging or atherosclerosis.
  • Saturated fats are mostly bad. They're found in meats and whole dairy products; most of them are known to raise cholesterol.
  • Polyunsaturated fats are a mixed bag—some are more beneficial than others. For example, omega 3 polyunsaturated fats (the kind found in fish oils) are healthy fats, which can improve blood chemistry and reduce your risk of many chronic diseases. But omega 6 polyunsaturated fats (found in vegetable oils, many baked goods, and snack foods) are not good when you eat too much of them at the expense of omega 3 fats.

People in the Paleolithic age ate a lot of monounsaturated fats; they had saturated and polyunsaturated fats in moderation—but when they did have polyunsaturated fats, they had a proper balance of the omega 3 and omega 6 fats. They consumed far fewer omega 6 polyunsaturated fats than we do today.

How important are fats in the diet? Here's a modern example: People who live in Mediterranean countries, who consume lots of olive oil, are much less likely to die of heart disease than Americans or northern Europeans, who don't consume as much olive oil. Instead, our Western diet is burdened by high levels of saturated and omega 6 fats and sadly lacking in heart-healthy, artery-protecting omega 3 fats.

Our studies of hunter-gatherers suggest that they had very low blood cholesterol and relatively little heart disease. Our research team believes that dietary fats were a major reason for their freedom from heart disease.

Disease-Fighting Fruits and Vegetables

A major problem with low-carbohydrate weight-loss diets is what they do to health-promoting fruits and vegetables—they nearly eliminate them. Because of a technicality—a blanket restriction of all types of carbohydrates, even beneficial ones, to between 30 and 100 grams per day—fruits and veggies are largely off-limits. This is a mistake. Fruits and vegetables—with their antioxidants, phytochemicals, and fiber—are some of our most powerful allies in the war against heart disease, cancer, and osteoporosis. Yet just one papaya (59 grams of carbohydrate) would blow the daily limit for two of the most popular low-carbohydrate diets. Eating an orange, an apple, and a cup of broccoli and carrots (73 grams of carbohydrate)—just a drop in the bucket to hunter-gatherers, whose diets were rich in fruits and vegetables—would wreck all but the most liberal low-carbohydrate diets.

Humanity's original carbohydrate sources—the foods we survived on for millions of years—didn't come from starchy grains and potatoes, which have high glycemic indices that can rapidly cause blood sugar to spike. Instead, they came from wild fruits and vegetables with low glycemic indices that produced minimal, gradual rises in blood sugar. These are the carbohydrates that you'll be eating on the Paleo Diet. These nonstarchy carbohydrates normalize your blood glucose and insulin levels, promote weight loss, and make you feel energized all day long.

The Osteoporosis Connection

One of the greatest—and least recognized—benefits of fruits and vegetables is their ability to slow or prevent the loss of bone density, called "osteoporosis," that so often comes with aging. Recently, Dr. Katherine Tucker and colleagues at Tufts University examined the bone mineral status of a large group of elderly men and women. These scientists found that the people who ate the most fruits and vegetables had the greatest bone mineral densities and the strongest bones.

But what about calcium? Surely eating a lot of cheese can help prevent osteoporosis? The answer is a bit more complicated. One of the great ironies of the low-carbohydrate, high-fat diets is that even though they allow unlimited consumption of high-calcium cheeses, they almost certainly will be found to promote bone loss and osteoporosis in the long run. How can this be? Because getting a lot of dietary calcium from cheese, by itself, isn't enough to offset the lack of fruits and vegetables.

Nutrition scientists use the term "calcium balance" to describe this process. It's the difference between how much calcium you take in and how much you excrete. Most of us have gotten the message about consuming calcium. But the other part of the equation—how much calcium you excrete—is just as important. It is quite possible for you to be in calcium balance on a low calcium intake if your calcium excretion is also low. On the other hand, it's easy for you to fall out of calcium balance—even if you load up on cheese at every meal—if you lose more calcium than you take in.

The main factor that determines calcium loss is yet another kind of balance—the acid-base balance. If your diet has high levels of acid, you'll lose more calcium in your urine; if you eat more alkaline foods, you'll retain more calcium. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine by my colleague Dr. Anthony Sebastian and his research group at the University of California at San Francisco showed that simply taking potassium bicarbonate (an alkaline base) neutralized the body's internal acid production, reduced urinary calcium losses, and increased the rate of bone formation. In a follow-up report in the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Lawrence Appel at Johns Hopkins University reported that diets rich in fruits and vegetables (these are alkaline foods) significantly reduced urinary calcium loss in 459 men and women.

See Appendix A for a list of common foods and their acid-base values.

Cereals, dairy products, legumes, meat, fish, and eggs produce net acid loads in the body. By far the worst offenders on this list are the hard cheeses, which are rich sources of calcium. Again, unless you get enough fruits and vegetables, eating these acid-rich foods will actually promote bone loss and osteoporosis.

Virtually all fruits and vegetables produce alkaline loads in the body. When you adopt the Paleo Diet, you won't have to worry about excessive dietary acid causing bone loss—because you'll be getting 35 percent or more of your daily calories as healthful alkaline fruits and vegetables that will neutralize the dietary acid you get when you eat meat and seafood.

Toxic Salt

Most low-carbohydrate, high-fat diets don't address the dangers of salt; some even encourage its use. And yet there is a ton of medical evidence linking salt to high blood pressure, stroke, osteoporosis, kidney stones, asthma, and even certain forms of cancer. Salt is also implicated as a factor in insomnia, air and motion sickness, Ménière's syndrome (an agonizing ear ringing), and the pre-eclampsia of pregnancy.

Salt is made up of sodium and chloride. Although most people think that the sodium portion of salt is entirely responsible for most of its unhealthful effects, chloride is just as guilty, if not more so. The average American eats about 10 grams of salt a day (this turns out to be about 4 grams of sodium and 6 grams of chloride). Chloride, like cereals, dairy products, legumes, and meats, yields a net acid load to the kidneys after it is digested. Because of its high chloride content, salt is one of the worst offenders in making your diet more acid.

Paleolithic people hardly ever used salt and never ate anything like today's salty cheeses, processed meats, and canned fish advocated by most of the low-carbohydrate weight-loss diets. Do your body a favor and throw out your salt shaker along with all the highly salted, processed, packaged, and canned foods in your pantry.

Lean Meat Helps You Lose Weight

It's taken half a century, but scientists have finally realized that when they stigmatized red meat, they threw out the proverbial baby with the bath water. Meat is a mixture of fat and protein. Lean meat—such as that found in wild game and seafood—is about 80 percent protein and about 20 percent fat. But fatty meats like lamb chops can pack a whopping 75 percent of their calories as fat and only 25 percent as protein. What should have been obvious—that it was the high level of saturated fat, not the protein, that caused health problems—was essentially ignored. Meat protein had unfairly become a villain.

Here again, there's a major lesson to be learned from looking at the distant past: For more than 2 million years, our ancestors ate a diet rich in lean protein. It gave them energy and, combined with fruits and vegetables, helped them stay healthy.

Protein Increases Your Metabolism and Slows Your Appetite

When scientists actually studied how lean protein influences health, well-being, and body weight regulation—and this has occurred only in the last decade—they found that our ancestors were right all along. It turns out that lean protein is perhaps our most powerful ally in the battle of the bulge. It has twice the "thermic effect" of either fats or carbohydrates, which means it revs up your metabolism. In other words: Protein's thermic effect increases our metabolism and causes us to burn more calories than if we ate an equal caloric serving of either fat or carbohydrate. Also, more than fats, more than carbohydrates, protein has the highest "satiating value"—that is, it does the best job of making us feel full.

The principles I have laid out in the Paleo Diet—all based on decades of scientific research and proven over millions of years by our ancestors—will make your metabolism soar, your appetite shrink, and extra pounds begin to melt away as you include more and more lean protein in your meals.

Lean Protein and Heart Disease

But this diet gives you much more than a slimmer figure. Unlike other low-carbohydrate diets, it's good for your heart. High-protein diets have been shown by Dr. Bernard Wolfe at the University of Western Ontario in Canada to be more effective than low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets in lowering total and bad LDL cholesterol and triglycerides while simultaneously increasing the good HDL cholesterol. My colleague Neil Mann at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Australia, has recently demonstrated that people who eat a lot of lean meat have lower blood levels of homocysteine (a toxic substance in the blood that damages the arteries and predisposes them to atherosclerosis) than vegan vegetarians. The net result is that high-protein diets produce beneficial changes in your blood chemistry that, in turn, reduce your overall risk of heart disease.

High-protein diets have been shown to improve insulin metabolism, help lower blood pressure, and reduce the risk of stroke. They have even prolonged survival in women with breast cancer.

Some people have been told that high-protein diets damage the kidneys. They don't. Scientists at the Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University in Copenhagen effectively put this myth to rest. Dr. Arne Astrup and colleagues put sixty-five overweight people on a high-protein diet for six months and found that their kidneys easily adapted to increased protein levels. Furthermore, kidney function remained perfect at the end of the experiment.

Isn't it time you got protein on your side? Eating lean meat and fish at every meal, just as your Paleolithic ancestors did, could be the healthiest decision you ever made.

Compared to the faddish low-carbohydrate weight-loss diets, the Paleo Diet includes all the nutritional elements needed to encourage weight loss while promoting health and well-being. The Paleo Diet is designed to imitate the healthful diets of our pre-agricultural ancestors. It contains the proper balance of plant and animal foods—and the correct ratios of protein, fat, and carbohydrate required for weight loss and excellent health.

So, don't be fooled by the low-carbohydrate fad diets. The Paleo Diet gives you the same weight-loss benefits, but it's also a delicious, healthy diet you can maintain for a lifetime.

© Copyright by Loren Cordain
Buy this book at Barnes & Noble

Thursday, January 22, 2009

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

5 Food Ingredients to Never Eat

Live healthier! Dr. Mehmet Oz, Oprah Winfrey's favorite doctor, says the best way to make your diet healthier is to remember his "rule of five": If you see one or more of these five ingredients listed in the first five items on a food's nutrition label don't eat it!

Five ingredients you should never eat:

1. High fructose corn syrup
This inexpensive sugar is added to many foods, but it's most commonly found in soft drinks.

2. Sugar
Your brain is smarter than your sweet tooth. When you eat food packed with sugar, your brain realizes your body has received calories but not nutrients, so it keeps your body craving food until it gets those nutrients.

3. "Enriched"
When products, such as flour and some cereals, are "enriched," it means the manufacturer removed the important vitamins and had to put some back in.

4. Trans fat
Trans fats, also called hydrogenated fat, are fats that were once in liquid form but have hydrogen added to make them solid at room temperature. "It extends the shelf life of the product," Dr. Oz said on "But it shortens the human life."

5. Saturated fats
Saturated fats are animal fats found in such foods as pork and beef.

Five ingredients to add to your diet:

1. Fresh fruits and vegetables
The foods that have no labels are the best for you. Eat at least five servings a day.

2. Antioxidants
Antioxidants are nutrients in food that prevent or slow oxidative damage to the body and are found in foods with deep colors, such as tomatoes, broccoli, kidney beans, blueberries, artichokes and prunes. Eat five to seven servings a day.

3. Omega-3 fats
Eat three grams of omega-3 fats daily to feed your brain so it is most resilient to stress and can learn the fastest. Good sources include flaxseeds, walnuts, salmon, scallops, soybeans and squash.

4. Fiber
The recommended amount of fiber is 24 grams a day, but the average person gets just 12 grams. Good sources are oatmeal, 100 percent whole grain bread, lentils, pine nuts, peas and raspberries.

5. Olive Oil
Eat one tablespoon of virgin or extra-virgin olive oil a day. And, no, you don't have to slurp it off a spoon. Add it to tomatoes or pasta sauce.
--From the Editors at Netscape

MEHMET C. OZ, M.D., is a New York Times #1 bestselling author and the health expert of The Oprah Winfrey Show. He is professor and vice chairman of surgery at New York Presbyterian Columbia University and the medical director of the Integrated Medicine Center and the director of the Heart Institute. He's the author of various bestsellers, among which we suggest:

Healing from the Heart: Leading Surgeon Combines Eastern Western Traditions Create Medn Future

Thursday, January 15, 2009

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Protein Power Life Plan

Protein Power Life Plan: A New Comprehensive Blueprint for Optimal Health

by Michael R. Eades, Mary Dan Eades

A New York Times bestseller for over a year, Protein Power sparked provocative debate with its assertion that our mainly carbohydrate-based diet-and not one rich in protein-is responsible for rampant obesity and heart disease among Americans. Now the authors of this exciting guide expand both their theory and their nutritional program, and show how The Protein Power LifePlan can combat diabetes, high blood pressure, auto-immune disorder, and more. Whether you're a Protein Power veteran looking to fine-tune your dietary lifestyle or increase your success, or a newcomer to the plan, astonishing health benefits can be yours with...The Protein Power LifePlan.

Good health is our birthright. Contrary to popular belief, our bodies were designed by nature to metabolize and thrive on protein and fat, and simply weren't built to handle today's typical diet of carbohydrates and processed foods. The authors have linked the rise in disease to our increasing reliance on the low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet that first appeared at the dinner table relatively late in human history. The keys to good health can be found by understanding how we evolved and by eating a diet typical of our ancestors', rich in protein and good fats and full of fruits and vegetables for their antioxidant and cancer-fighting abilities.

The Protein Power LifePlan offers:

* A Three-Tiered Nutrition Plan designed for your level of commitment: the Hedonist, the Dilettante, or the Purist

* The latest findings on Insulin Resistance: what it is, how to correct it, and why, once it is corrected, you will lose weight and avoid health problems associated with it

* Important information on supplements: vitamin E, alpha-lipoic acid, vitamin C, magnesium, chromium, and coenzyme Q10

* Tips for obtaining the optimum health benefits of natural sunlight

* A look at the dangers of excess iron storage and how to determine if it is a problem for you

* A primer on fat: learn which good-quality fats can reduce elevated cholesterol, lower triglycerides, and reduce the risk of heart disease-without medication

* Meal plans, recipes, kitchen stocking advice, and more.

The Protein Power LifePlan gives you a blueprint for not only losing weight and feeling fit, but one designed to restore your body's innate sytematic approach to good health. Comprehensive, thorough, and written for results, this book will help you look and feel better than you ever have in your life.

Which is better for you:

1. Whole wheat or red meat?
2. Magnesium supplements or vitamins with added iron?
3. UV-protection sunglasses or spinach and broccoli?
4. A salad with fat-free dressing or one with olive oil?
5. Sunscreen on a daily basis or light sunbathing without protection?

The truth may surprise you. The authors who defied conventional wisdom, turned the food pyramid upside down, and helped to vastly improve personal health continue to break the rules...The Protein Power LifePlan.

Red the first chapter:

Man the Hunter

The deviation of man from the state in which he was originally placed by nature seems to have proved to him a prolific source of diseases.

—Edward Jenner (1749-1823)

In our living room on the coffee table sits one of our most prized possessions, a fifteen-to-twenty-thousand-year-old cave-bear skull that we got from Russia. From back of the head to snout the skull measures almost two feet in length and sports canine teeth that are three inches long. The entire animal would have been about seven to eight feet tall and weighed close to a thousand pounds. Examination of this skull shows a huge ridge running along the top, where the muscles that worked the jaws were connected. From here they ran along the face and attached to bony protrusions (called the mandibular ramis) on the lower jaw. The larger the mandibular ramus, the greater the mass of the muscle attached to it and the greater the closing force of the jaws. The mandibular rami of our cave bear are about the size of a child's hand, and when you compare them to the size of the rami of a human jaw, or even a dog's jaw, which are both about the size of a dime, you can imagine the crushing strength in the jaws of this creature.

Cave bears used to roam the fields and forests of prehistoric Europe, until they were hunted to extinction by early man. As we gaze at our skull and envision the eight-foot, thousand-pound beast with the three-inch teeth, the four-inch claws, and the jaw strength to snap a man in two, we can begin to appreciate how great our primeval ancestors' need for meat musthave been. To think of this creature, snarling and gnashing its teeth, slashing with giant claws, charging and roaring, it almost defies imagination that people just like us went after them with not much more than sharpened sticks. But they did, and did it so well that cave bears are no more. And we are still here and carry in our genes this same need for meat that drove our forebears to brave tooth and claw to get it.

Despite these facts, we still regularly receive letters that question exactly what kind of diet our ancient ancestors actually ate. Although in anthropological scientific circles, there's absolutely no debate about it—every respected authority will confirm that we were hunters—many people still believe in the "dangers" of meat eating in light of our supposed vegetarian past. We've had at least twenty people send us copies of the same table published in an anti-meat book from the 1970s showing how sundry parts of our anatomy or physiology are more like those of herbivores than of carnivores, thus "proving" our vegetarian inclinations. We are, of course, neither. We're omnivores, able to subsist on meat and plants—hence the intermediate size of our intestinal tracts. Recently we received a newsletter clipping quoting a well-known doctor on the subject of our vegetarian past, as well as an e-mail from a Protein Power devotee in Italy whose physician had forbidden him to eat meat because it was "a silent poison." We even had one indignant reader tell us in no uncertain terms that she was abandoning our program unless we could answer to her satisfaction the questions that were raised by the quote, boldly circled in red, in her church bulletin, which she enclosed. The little blurb pronounced with great authority that the human body was designed to eat only food of plant origin and that meat "putrefies" in the human colon, becoming a poison. The physician from the (as always) prestigious medical school who had made this statement was someone totally unknown to us, and after a diligent search, we discovered he had been dead for over a hundred years. Such are the myths and misconceptions about what we humans were designed to eat.

Our meat-eating heritage—a topic we thought we'd covered sufficiently in our previous book—is an inescapable fact. But to be certain that this time we leave no room for doubt, we will delve back into the issue more deeply and lay out the facts of the matter so that you'll be armed with the truth and prepared to defend your nutritional choice with authority.

You'll hear it said, usually by those espousing vegetarianism for ideological reasons, that primitive tribes that eat a mainly plant-based diet enjoy better health. For instance, such authorities frequently cite the lower-than-the-average-American cholesterol levels of a typical male of the !Kung tribe (a commonly studied, contemporary chiefly vegetarian hunter-gatherer society) as proof of the health benefits of meatless living. While it's true that some predominantly vegetarian hunter-gatherer groups (a minority of such groups, as we shall see later) have low rates of the "chronic diseases of affluence," it doesn't necessarily follow that this good fortune is a result of their diet. Consider the Masai, for example. The Masai, another intensively studied group of African pastoralists who subsist mainly on meat, milk, and the blood of the cattle they herd, are famous and famously studied because of their incredibly low cholesterol and blood pressure levels even into advanced age despite their enormous intake of fat. Here we've got two totally diverse diets—the !Kung and the Masai—and the followers of both have a low incidence of chronic diseases. Obviously there are other factors at play in the development of these diseases besides just diet, so let's take a closer look at the issue.

Anthropologists have known for decades that the health of humanity took a turn for the worse when our ancestors abandoned their hunter-gatherer means of subsistence in favor of the farm somewhere between eight-thousand and ten-thousand years ago. The fossil record leaves little doubt that compared to their farming successors, the hunters were more robust, had greater bone density, decreased infant mortality, a longer life span, a lower incidence of infectious diseases and iron-deficiency anemia, fewer enamel defects, and little or no tooth decay.

Humans have followed a Paleolithic diet for a few million years and a "modern" agricultural diet for only a few thousand years. The not too gentle forces of natural selection have spent millennia shaping and molding our evolving line, weeding out those offshoots and mutations that didn't thrive on the available fare, reinforcing those traits that improved our survival, until we emerged as modern humans some one-hundred-thousand years or so ago. Since our modern form and physiology today is the same as that of these one-hundred-thousand-year-old ancestors, it stands to reason that we should function best on the diet they—and we, their descendants—were designed to eat, not necessarily the "prudent" diet recommended by modern nutritionists, which is often composed primarily of foods that weren't even in existence for the vast majority of our time on earth. It is by turning to the vast amount of anthropological data that we can determine what our ancestors ate for the three to four million years that we have been recognizable as humans.

In a Word: Meat

In anthropological research if you follow the trail of meat consumption, you'll find the history of our earliest ancestors, because there is no real debate among anthropologists about early man's history as a meat eater and his evolution into a skilled hunter; the only debate is about when this hunting ability became fully developed.

Upon the discovery of the first fossils of our earliest upright ancestors anthropologists postulated that these creatures, the australopithecines, and those that followed until the advent of agriculture was "bloodthirsty, savage" hunters. As archeologists developed more technologically sophisticated means of analyzing their collections of bones and tools, thinking drifted from the idea of early man as hunter to that of early man as scavenger. Gone was the notion of groups of skilled hunters stalking, bringing down, and butchering large herbivores; in its place was the vision of groups of hominids coming upon the kills of large carnivores and stripping the remaining bits of flesh from the carcasses and using primitive tools to pummel and break into the cavities of the long bones and skulls to get at the marrow and brains within. The mainstream archeological and anthropological view posits that this scavenging lifestyle predominated until the last one-hundred-thousand years or so, coinciding with the arrival on the scene of anatomically modern humans. But, thanks to recent findings, this view is changing—and changing in almost flashback fashion to the ideas of the earlier anthropologists. Our ancestors from a long, long way back indeed appear to have been skilled hunters.

New excavations in Boxgrove, England, and Atapuerca, Spain, reveal that hominids as far back as five-hundred-thousand or more years ago were exquisitely skilled hunters. Archeologists at Boxgrove found evidence of numerous kill and/or butcher sites of extinct horses, rhinoceroses, bear, giant deer, and red deer—all large mammals requiring a great deal of skill and fortitude to bring down with primitive implements. Researchers know these animals were hunted and not just found and scavenged, not only because of the arrangement of bones at the butcher site, but through microscopic evidence as well. When analyzed under a microscope, the bones of scavenged carcasses typically show the cut marks from the tools of the scavengers lying over the tooth marks of the carnivores that actually made the kill, indicating that the scavenging came later. At Boxwood, archeologists found just the opposite. The cut marks from the flint tools on the bones show evidence that tendons and ligaments were severed to remove muscles from the bones. The cut marks compare to those produced by today's butchers using modern tools. In the words of Michael Pitts and Mark Roberts, two of the primary excavators at Boxgrove, "every animal for which there is any evidence of interference by the hominids has been carefully, almost delicately, butchered for the express purpose of consuming the meat."

Further evidence of hunting comes from several actual wooden spears found throughout Europe that have proven to be the oldest wooden objects of known use found anywhere in the world. Archeologists have dated an almost sixteen-inch-long spear tip carved of yew wood found in 1911 in Clacton, England, to be somewhere between 360,000 and 420,000 years old. Another spear, also made of yew, that is almost eight feet long and dated to 120,000 years old was found amid the ribs of an extinct elephant in Lehringen, Germany, in 1948. A few years ago excavators in a coal mine near Schöninger, Germany, found three spruce wood spears shaped like modern javelins, the longest of which measured over seven feet, that proved to be 300,000 to 400,000 years old. And at one of the butcher sites at Boxgrove, excavators actually found a fossilized horse scapula that shows what appears to be a spear wound.

The excavation at Boxgrove provided archeologists with another surprise. It had long been thought that such stone tools as arrowheads and hand axes, once fashioned, were carried around by their makers and used as needed, much as we do today with modern hunting knives and other camp tools. Researchers who have practiced making prehistoric tools and arrowheads from flint—flint knapping, as it's called—found the task tedious, difficult, and fraught with the constant risk that one wrong strike could destroy the tool in the making. As a result, the thinking was that the effort put into making quality stone tools was so great that the makers would surely value them and keep them as long as they could. Amazingly, it appears from the meticulous examination of these ancient sites that these hominid hunters were so adept at making flint tools for butchery that they knocked them off on the spot, used them to skillfully dismember their prey, and left them at the site rather than carry them around. And these weren't just crude flint chips; these were some of the finest flint hand axes ever found. Modern attempts to reproduce the quality of these tools have usually fallen far short of the mark. Obviously these ancient hominids were skilled enough to whip out a flawlessly made butchering tool at a moment's notice, a fact that implies a lifetime of hunting, butchering, and meat consumption.

We know from these European sites that hominids were actively hunting and eating meat as far back as five-hundred-thousand years ago, but what about before that? The earliest stone tools date to around 2.6 million years ago and have been found in association with extinct animals' bones from the same period. Some of these have cut marks with overlying carnivore teeth marks, indicating hunting, while others have carnivore teeth marks with overlying cut marks, implying scavenging. The most probable conclusion is that protohumans back at least 2.6 million years ago—a time corresponding to the appearance of the genus Homo—were engaged in the consumption of meat by either scavenging or hunting activities and probably a combination of the two.

Prior to 2.6 million years ago the human line was represented by australopithecines, which have been believed to be primarily fleshy fruit eaters. So, it was thought, the human line developed the taste for meat sometime between the plant-eating australopithecines and the appearance of Homo, but even that time frame has now been pushed back. Anthropologists Matt Sponheimer and Julia Lee-Thorp from Rutgers University and the University of Cape Town, respectively, performed an ingenious analysis on the remains of four three-million-year-old Australopithecus africanus specimens found in a cave in South Africa. Bones of this age are always fossilized, thus preventing researchers from extracting living material from them for analysis, but not so for the tooth enamel; tooth enamel persists relatively unchanged through the millenia and lends itself to testing for organic content. Whatever is incorporated into the developing enamel stays there—in this case for three million years. By testing for variations in the carbon atoms making up the tooth enamel researchers can determine what the owner of the tooth ate because different food sources contain specific carbon isotopes. When Sponheimer and Lee-Thorp analyzed the australopithecine enamel for the content of Carbon-13, a heavy isotope typically found in grasses and in the flesh of grass-eating animals, they found plentiful amounts, indicating that these hominids ate either a fair amount of grass or grass-eating animals or both. Analysis of the surfaces of the teeth, however, didn't show the specific scratches that are the telltale signs of grass eaters, leading the researchers to conclude that australopithecines at least as far back as three million years ate meat.

We have evidence tracking back three million years for meat eating by our ancestors and at least a five-hundred-thousand-year history of skillful hunting. In terms of generations this means that we modern humans are the result of one-hundred-fifty-thousand generations of meat eating, twenty-five-thousand generations of skilled hunting, but only a mere four-hundred to five-hundred generations of agriculture. Since geneticists calculate that it takes at least two-thousand generations for even minimal changes to be manifest, it should be apparent that eons of meat eating forged our physiology and metabolism to respond optimally on a diet containing significant amounts of meat. A low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet, the real fad diet in evolutionary terms, limits the consumption of the meat we were designed by nature to eat and replaces it with starchy foods that our bodies haven't had the time to adapt to. It's no wonder the low-fat diet wasn't what it was cracked up to be. It's far too new for our bodies to know what to do with.

Brain Food

Not only was meat a principal source of nutrition for developing man, it actually was the driving force allowing us to develop our large brains. For years anthropologists argued that we humans got our large brains because we had to develop them to learn hunting strategies to capture and kill game much larger, faster, and meaner than ourselves. Anthropologists Leslie Aiello and Peter Wheeler turned that idea on its head in a brilliant paper postulating that we were able to develop our large brains not to learn to hunt but because the fruits of our hunting—nutrient-dense meat—allowed us to decrease the size of our digestive tracts. The more nutrient dense the food, the less digestion it needs to extract the nutrients, and consequently the smaller the digestive tract required. (The human digestive tract, while longer than true carnivores, is the shortest of any of the primates.)

Is meat really that nutritionally dense? Let's take a look at a few examples of meat compared to plant foods and see. First, let's look at protein. Protein is the only true essential macronutrient. Fat is also essential, but you can go a lot longer without fat than you can without protein. (Carbohydrates, the third macronutrient, are totally unessential to human health.) So, if you are trying to get protein you could eat 8 ounces of elk meat, a small amount by Paleolithic standards, and get about 65 grams of it. Or you could eat almost 13 heads of lettuce to get the same amount. Or 56 bananas or 261 apples or even 33 slices of bread. If you're trying to get methionine, an essential amino acid that the body uses to make glutathione, its major antioxidant, you could eat the same 8 ounces of elk, or you could eat any of the following: 22 heads of lettuce, 127 bananas, 550 apples, or 46 slices of bread. In almost any nutrient category you want to look at, meat is going to come out a winner because of its incredible nutritional richness that doesn't require much digestive activity to get to.

Table 1.1 shows the difference between the digestive tract of a sheep, which is a true herbivore, and a dog, which is primarily a carnivore, and a human. Let's take a look and see where our species falls in the spectrum from carnivorous to vegetarian traits.

But What If I'm a Vegetarian?

A larger percentage of our patients than you might imagine are vegetarian to some degree. With some modifications, the Protein Power LifePlan works fine for vegetarians, but before we start patients on the vegetarian version we always inquire as to their rationale for following such a diet. If they are vegetarians because they believe it a more healthy way to eat, we disabuse them of that notion quickly. If, on the other hand, they are vegetarians for ideological reasons, we have no quarrel with that and we help them modify our program to solve their health problems within the limits of their ideology. We do, however, encourage them to read a fascinating little book entitled The Covenant of the Wild that goes a long way toward removing many of the inhibitions that some people have about using animals for food.

Were We Hunter-Gatherers or Gatherer-Hunters?

What about the gathering that went along with the hunting? Don't we have a history of a fair amount of plant consumption along with our meat eating? How about the ancient potatoes that went along with our mastodon steak? Until the advent of fire about five hundred thousand years ago, it was fairly difficult for our predecessors to get enough calories from plant foods because the plants themselves fought back by evolving anti-nutrients. Anti-nutrients are chemicals within the plants that bind with the nutrients, making them unavailable for absorption by potential herbivorous predators. (See chapter 6, "The Leaky Gut: Diet and the Autoimmune Response," for more details.) Often we lose sight of the fact that, like humans and other species, plants evolve, too. The inner goal of plants is to live long, prosper, and disseminate as many seeds as possible in order to propagate the species. If a particular plant is tasty and easy to harvest (we're talking about plants in the wild, not hybrid plants that we put in gardens today), it doesn't last long and certainly doesn't get much of a chance to spread its seeds. Plants, however, that develop (via natural selection) a means to keep from being eaten, whether by growing protective thorns or stickers, acquiring a particularly nasty taste, or producing anti-nutrients, survive to reproduce and multiply. The variety of plant foods available to the vast majority of evolving humans simply wasn't enough to nourish them without a generous amount of meat in the diet. In fact, Cambridge anthropologist Robert Foley says that hunter-gatherers "along with modern agriculturalists . . . are an evolutionarily derived form that appeared towards the end of the Pleistocene [ten thousand or so years ago] as a response to changing resource conditions." In other words, according to Dr. Foley, gathering, like agriculture, is a recent phenomenon, not a lifestyle that has its roots in several million years of evolution. That said, it's interesting to find, however, that hunter-gatherers (low-fat proponents always want to call them gatherer-hunters) are primarily meat eaters.

Most of the commonly accepted information about hunter-gatherers comes from a paper by R. B. Lee that was presented at a 1968 symposium in Chicago called, strangely enough considering the data presented, "Man the Hunter." Using the 1967 edition of Murdock's Ethnographic Atlas, a compilation of data about 862 of the world's societies, Lee concluded that the average hunter-gatherer got about 65 percent of his calories from plants and the remaining 35 percent from animals. This paper with its 65:35 plant-to-animal-food ratio has been quoted extensively in both the medical and the anthropological literature and used as the basis for the calculations of the prehistoric diet by innumerable authors who have promoted the idea that the diet of evolving man was mainly plant based. Unfortunately it is incorrect.

A colleague and good friend of ours, Loren Cordain, Ph.D., professor at Colorado State University, one of the world's experts on the Paleolithic diet, and one of the most industrious human beings we've ever known, sensed that there was something not quite right about Lee's paper and decided to investigate the data himself. Dr. Cordain's first clue that something was amiss was unbelievably basic and had been overlooked by all the researchers who had used Lee's paper as the basis of their own work. He simply ran a computerized nutritional analysis of a typical hunter-gatherer diet using the 65:35 plant-to-animal-food ratio. He discovered that for a human to get the calories needed to live on a diet of this nature using plants commonly available to a hunter-gatherer, he would have to gather approximately twelve pounds of vegetation daily, an unlikely scenario, to say the least.

After making this discovery, Dr. Cordain reviewed Lee's original paper and calculations and unearthed some startling facts. Lee only used 58 of the 181 hunter-gatherer societies listed, and he didn't include animal foods obtained from fishing in his calculations. Moreover, he classified the collection and consumption of shellfish as a gathering activity. The Ethnographic Atlas itself considers the collection and consumption of small land fauna (insects, invertebrates, small mammals, amphibians, and reptiles) gathering and categorizes them as such, in so doing ascribing many of the actual animal-derived calories to the plant category.

Dr. Cordain turned to the 1997 update of the Ethnographic Atlas, which represents 1,267 of the world's societies, 229 of which are hunter-gatherers, and did his own calculations. Using all the hunter-gatherer societies listed and putting fishing and shellfish gathering into the appropriate hunter category, he found that the 65:35 values of Lee were flipped. Dr. Cordain calculated the actual plant-to-animal-food ratio to be 35 percent plant, 65 percent animal. He found that the majority of hunter-gatherers throughout the world get over half their subsistence from animal foods, while only 13.5 percent of the world's hunter-gatherers derive more than half their food from gathering plants. And these figures would lean even more in the direction of animal food were it not for the bias built into even the updated Ethnographic Atlas by the inclusion of small animals, reptiles, worms, grubs, etc., in the plant category.

Our primitive ancestors, whether hunters or hunter-gatherers, by all accounts lived fairly prosperous lives, at least by their standards. They lived in small, closely knit groups, and compared to the early farmers that followed them, they had much better health, greater stature, more children reaching maturity, and a longer life span. Turning to an agricultural existence forced the reliance on fewer numbers of foods, and since no single plant food provides a full complement of all the nutrients humans need, many people suffered nutritional deficiencies. And if the crop failed, famine set in—an experience foreign to most of the hunter-gatherer populations because they were always on the move, traveling to where there were plenty of game and fertile fields for gathering. A system in which large groups of people lived in close proximity, at least where early man was concerned, wasn't really all that advantageous. Most of the infectious diseases that have caused so much misery throughout history—smallpox, cholera, tuberculosis, and a host of other bacterial and viral infections—became problems only after the advent of the agriculture and the development of cities. All this begs the question, why did humans ever settle down and become civilized? Why did they leave their Garden of Eden, give up their hunting jobs requiring only a few hours of work per day, and submit to the backbreaking toil of an agricultural life? It just doesn't make sense.

This question has been pondered ever since anthropologists figured out that humans made this transition, and, as you might expect, almost as many hypotheses have been forwarded as there are anthropologists. Greg Wadley and Angus Martin, researchers at the University of Melbourne in Australia have put forth an engaging theory that makes a lot of sense to us. They point out that there exists a considerable amount of research establishing the fact that cereal grains, especially wheat, maize, and barley and, to a slight extent, dairy products contain opioid substances called exorphins. Opioid substances are those that have an opium-like effect, stimulate the opioid receptors in the brain, and are to varying degrees addictive. When bands of primitive people stumbled onto patches of wild grains and consumed them they discovered the reward from consuming "addictive" substances, i.e., comfort foods. People quickly developed ways of making these foods even more edible by grinding and cooking them. As the grains become more palatable through processing, the more they were consumed and the more important the exorphin reward became.

In the words of Wadley and Martin, "At first, patches of wild cereals were protected and harvested. Later, land was cleared and seeds were planted and tended, to increase quantity and reliability of supply. Exorphins attracted people to settle around cereal patches, abandoning their nomadic lifestyle, and allowed them to display tolerance instead of aggression as population densities rose in these new conditions." According to these researchers, then, grains were the first opiate of the masses!

Whether this theory is the correct one or not, there is no question in our minds that carbohydrate foods cause cravings and are, to a certain degree, addictive, particularly those of cereal grain origin. If you look at any list of the top ten foods consumed by Americans you will find bread, crackers, chips, breakfast cereals, and other high-carbohydrate, grain-based products. We have all experienced the addictive nature of carbohydrates and their ability to override the feeling of fullness. Think back to the last time you were at a restaurant or at someone's house for dinner and you ate until you were stuffed. If one of your dinner mates asked you to try just a bite of the delicious swordfish (or any other meat dish), you no doubt begged off, saying, "I'm just too full; I couldn't possibly eat another bite." But then, if your host or your waiter arrived bearing dessert, you probably said, "Oh, well, dessert, sure. I'll have some cake"—or ice cream, or tiramisu, or cobber, or whatever. You are able to eat the dessert, which is always rich in carbohydrates, because just the thought of the carbohydrates overrides your brain signals telling you that you're full. Carbohydrates seem to trigger no off switch. That's why people who binge always do so on carbohydrates. No one binges on steak or eggs or pork chops; they always binge on cookies and candies and other carbohydrate junk foods. Having taken care of as many carbohydrate junkies as we have over the past fifteen years, it is clear to us that cereal grains and products made from them have an allure that transcends the mere taste bud stimulation they provoke. As Wadley and Martin point out, "The ingestion of cereals and milk, in normal modern dietary amounts by normal humans, activates reward centres in the brain. Foods that were common in the diet before agriculture . . . do not have this pharmacological property. The effects of exorphins are qualitatively the same as those produced by other opioid . . . drugs, that is, reward, motivation, reduction of anxiety, a sense of well-being [i.e., comfort foods], and perhaps even addiction. Though the effects of a typical meal are quantitatively less than those of doses of those drugs, most modern humans experience them several times a day, every day of their adult lives."

It should be clear by now that whichever way you look at it, the majority of our time as humans or our sort-of-human predecessors on this earth has been spent eating meat. The adoption of agriculture with its dependence on a grain-based diet is a recent phenomenon, in fact just a second in evolutionary time. The forces of natural selection haven't yet had anywhere near the time necessary to mold us to function optimally on a grain-based diet. We are still operating with forty-thousand-to-one-hundred-thousand-year-old biochemistry and physiology. Geneticists have evaluated the DNA sequences of humans and our closest relatives, the chimpanzee, and found the difference to be a mere 1.6 percent of genes, meaning we have 98.4 percent of genes in common with chimpanzees. By determining the rate of genetic change since we split away from chimpanzees, scientists have been able to calculate the rate of genetic mutation in humans, which turns out to be on the order of about a half a percent per million years. That means that over the past ten thousand years—the time since the advent of agriculture—we have changed genetically to the tune of about 0.005 percent. That's not much at all. In fact, that means that we have 99.995 percent of our genes identical with those of our big game-hunting ancestors. We are they. We have Fred Flintstone bodies living in a George Jetson world. And therein lies the root of our problems.

In our medical/nutritional practice we view modern diseases in our patients through the lens of their Paleolithic ancestry and use the Paleolithic diet and lifestyle with some twentieth-century modifications as a template to restore their health. (Throughout this book, we'll hold up that lens to the Paleolithic world to give you a look at where and how your modern lifestyle and diet may conflict with it.) We care for patients who have heart disease, elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, gastroesophageal reflux, various autoimmune disorders, and a number of other problems by using a protein-based diet containing a fair amount of meat. Patients are constantly amazed at how quickly they improve and often believe that it is nothing short of miraculous. The reality is that we are just getting them to follow a diet they were intended to eat. We were designed to function optimally on a particular diet, we stray from this diet, we develop disease, we return to the correct diet, and the disease disappears. It's basically as simple as that.

One of the primary ways in which a Paleolithic nutritional regimen works to resolve these problems is by lowering insulin levels. Virtually every food our prehistoric ancestors had available (with the exception of honey) is one that doesn't stimulate the body to produce much insulin, whereas the vast majority of foods we eat in today's world do just the opposite and send insulin levels through the roof. In the next chapter we'll take a look at this most powerful of our metabolic hormones and learn the havoc it can wreak when we stray from our ancestral bill of fare.


The overwhelming mass of scientific evidence supports the notion that for most of our time on earth, humans and their pre-human ancestors have eaten meat. By all reputable scientific accounts, we've been hunting and gathering (with heavy reliance on the hunting) for the better part of three million years. Eons of natural selection and human development molded our metabolic machinery to succeed on this ancient dietary scheme that appears to have included about 65 percent foods of animal origin and about 35 percent foods of plant origin. Only about ten thousand years ago (at most) did we settle down to cultivate grains and begin to include them as food in our diets. The metabolic changes necessary for humans to adapt to this dietary change—in short, to be able to use these "new" foods well—would reasonably take a few thousand generations (or about forty thousand or fifty thousand years). We're simply not there yet—and won't be anytime soon.

Turning to the use of grains allowed humans to settle in large cooperative groups necessary to build great civilizations, but at a price to the individual members of the group. While we can subsist on grain-based diets, we don't as a species thrive on them; the fossil record shows that after the adoption of agriculture human health, stature, and longevity went into sharp decline. In the last century in the Western world, thanks to a general increase in dietary protein, we've begun to recover our stature, but because of our continued heavy reliance on cereal grains, metabolic health still lags. We're riddled as a society with epidemics of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity, all of which we inherited when our ancient ancestors abandoned their successful hunting-and-gathering lifestyle in favor of the addictive lure of grains (components of which indeed do stimulate the narcotic centers of the human brain).

In our medical/nutritional practice, we care for people with all components of this epidemic of modern diseases. To restore their health, we advocate a return to the basic nutritional principles of our ancestral hunting-gathering lifestyle by prescribing a diet of nutrient-dense foods—meat, fish, and poultry, rich in protein and good-quality essential fats; fruits, berries, and vegetables, rich in antioxidants and cancer-fighting substances—and limiting what early humans never knew existed—grains, refined sugars, and other concentrated starches.
© Copyright by Michael R. Eades, Mary Dan Eades. Buy this book at Barnes & Noble