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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Scleroderma: Is Food the Cause?

An acquaintance of mine has scleroderma, and she asked me whether scleroderma has anything to do with diet. The answer to that question seems to depend on whom you ask.

People who haven’t bothered to study the scientific literature on nutrition insist that food has nothing to do with scleroderma. Such idiots deserve to be swatted on the snout with a rolled-up medical journal, because they are spreading dangerous nonsense. On the other hand, the scientists who have dedicated their scientific careers to studying the relationship between food and diet say that the autoimmune diseases, including scleroderma, are strongly related to diet.

The rules for avoiding autoimmune disease are simple: don’t eat your relatives, don’t eat too much fat, and make sure you get plenty of vitamin D. If you get an autoimmune disease anyway, get tested for celiac disease and ask a registered dietitian to help you plan an exclusion diet to see if something you are eating is triggering your problem.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

High-Fat Diet Causes Alzheimer's Disease

Even Late in Life, a Low-Fat Diet Helps

The more fat you eat, the more likely you are to lose your marbles in your old age.  

This graph came from an article that explains why it's reasonable to conclude that the fat in the diet is the culprit. It also explains that even late in life, a change to a better diet is beneficial.

The article mentions that in Europe and North America, higher fish consumption seemed to provide some reduction in risk. That may be because the fish were simply replacing foods that were even more dangerous. It doesn't mean that a health-optimizing diet for a human being would include fish.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Humans and Gorillas Can Get Gout, But We Can Both Get By With Very Little Salt!

People who eat a lot of meat are at risk for gout—one of the most painful conditions known to medical science. Gout results when crystals of a uric acid salt build up in the joints. These crystals can also build up in the urinary system, producing kidney stones—another of the most painful conditions known to medical science. A recent theory suggests that our high risk for gout is a side effect of an adaptation that enabled human beings, gorillas, and the other great apes to survive a shortage of sodium.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Gout Hurts!

Gout is one of the most painful conditions known to medical science. Here’s how cartoonist James Gillray, a gout sufferer, depicted the disease in the year 1799:

Back then, gout was a disease of the rich, who could afford to eat lots of meat and drink lots of booze:

Gout results from the buildup of crystals of uric acid in the joints. Sometimes, this buildup can be very severe. If you want to see how bad it can get, click here.

The good news is that gout can be prevented and treated by proper diet. Scientists have known for centuries that gout results from eating too much meat. Gout is common in the United States but is virtually unknown in societies where people eat a starchy, plant-based diet. The best way to prevent and control gout is to correct the diet. One word of caution: rapid weight loss, even from a switch to a healthy diet, can trigger an attack of gout, because of the sudden release of uric acid resulting from the loss of body fat.

In an upcoming post, I’ll explain why people get gout, why gorillas could but don’t get gout, and why real carnivores like dogs and cats and real omnivores like rats can’t get it.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

If the Guest Is Too Tall for the Guest Bed, Cut Off His Feet!

According to ancient Greek mythology, there was once a man named Procrustes who was the world’s worst host. He had an inn by the side of a road, and he offered hospitality to passing strangers. Unfortunately, if you were too short to fit his iron guest bed, he would stretch you to make you fit. If you were too tall, he’d chop your feet off. Obviously, a better solution would be to find a bed that fits the guest.

Whenever I hear about someone getting their stomach stapled, I think of Procrustes. Are people obese because their stomach is too large? I doubt it. Maybe the solution to obesity isn’t to surgically reduce the size of the stomach, but to reduce the calorie density of the food. If people ate as much as they want of low-fat, high-fiber, plant-based foods, they can control their weight naturally without counting calories or feeling hungry. In other words, they could go ape, go wild, and eat plants instead of submitting to expensive and dangerous surgery. Here are a bunch of people who have done just that:

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Where Do Gorillas Get Their Vitamin B12?

Termites: The Other, Other White Meat

Vitamin B12 is one of the two nutrients that are essential for human beings but aren’t available from a purely plant-based diet. The other is vitamin D, which isn’t truly a vitamin but is a hormone that your body can make for itself if you get some bright sunshine on your skin. Gorillas live in Africa, where there's no shortage of sunshine. The interesting question is where do they get their vitamin B12? Evidently, they get it from the insects and other creepy crawlies that they eat. Their favorites are termites--the other, other white meat.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Stupid Nutrition Quiz From LiveScience!

I just saw this "nutrition quiz" from LiveScience:

Most of the questions are misleading, and some of the answers are downright dangerous!

Gorillas Are Nice!

In 1986, a small boy fell into the gorilla enclosure at the zoo on the British Channel Island of Jersey. You can see the dramatic footage of the event here.

Ten years later, a gorilla in a zoo in Chicago carried a small boy who had fallen into the gorilla exhibit to safety. Read about it here.