How Wheat Went From Superfood To Liability

This latest from The Duck Dodgers is not a call to go back to eating Hot Pockets, Pop Tarts, Twinkies...or ordering up pizza and Subway on alternate days.

Rather, we aim to reveal what's tantamount to a lost and forgotten history. There are two principle elements to it. First, it does not serve industry or institutions well to shed any light on how things used to be in terms of wheat (and other grain) growing, harvesting, milling and food preparation practices—and especially, how they were observed to promote rather than compromise health, back then. Second, some dietary narratives—The Paleo Diet and derivatives being most prominent—have over simplified and conflated things.

With that in mind, sit back and enjoy the rich history of wheat as a one-time acknowledged superfood—one that was first rendered a liability and because of that, misrepresented in the whole by means and memes of good sounding—but easy to understand—"evolutionary" narratives, that, nonetheless, appear on close critical examination, to be false.

In the second episode of the Netflix Documentary Series Chef's Table, Dan Barber, winner of the James Beard Award for excellence in cuisine, culinary writing, and culinary education in the United States, says:

When we think of Western civilization, you start to realize it was built from wheat. Grains represent 65% of our agriculture. Vegetables and fruits are about 6%. We eat more wheat than just about anything. The problem is that we don't eat true whole wheat. We eat wheat that's dead and denuded, so it will last—it's shelf stable. Part of the reason that it has absolutely no flavor is because agribusiness is looking for crops that last a long time and can travel, or last a long time in the refrigerator and they're not looking for flavor or not looking for nutrition. The real disaster in all of this is that we lost the taste of wheat and we lost all the health benefits. And for something that we eat so much of it's really a true disaster...If we're going to change the food system, we have to change how we grow and consume wheat.

In a previous article, we took Barber's statement a step further and showed that the countries that fortify their wheat with iron appear to have significantly more chronic health issues. We also suggested that it's probably not a coincidence that low carb diets and gluten avoidance are more popular in iron fortified countries. Now we're digging a bit deeper. Did pre-modern civilizations actually thrive on true whole wheat or did they just tolerate it?

If what Barber is saying is true, then it should be relatively easy to find evidence that true whole wheat was in fact nourishing for pre-modern cultures. After all, unlike our Paleolithic ancestors, our more recent ancestors actually wrote about their foods and what effects they had on their health. From Hippocrates to Aristotle, and Avicenna to Paracelsus, all were preoccupied with the digestive processes. Secondly, we figured that we should be able to find evidence of Barber's hypothesis as we transitioned to modern milling practices.

The first breads appeared about 30,000 years ago. It's not difficult to find evidence that wheat was highly regarded in the Ancient world. The word cereal comes from the name for the ancient Roman goddess, Ceres—the goddess of grains and agriculture. Ceres was said to have discovered wheat, and given the gift of agriculture to humankind. According to the mythology, prior to agriculture, man had subsisted on acorns, and wandered without settlement or laws. Indeed, our ancient ancestors worshiped their wheat and believed that it was responsible for the rise of civilization. Perhaps this isn't surprising; never before was there a food that could grow human populations exponentially.

Emmer was the dominant wheat through the Neolithic, while barley was an early companion cereal. Einkhorn wheat was a weedy cultivar—a minor admixture, that was adopted much later—and was said to make a miserable bread. It was best consumed as a porridge. Later came common bread wheat, which the Romans adopted after having long relied on Emmer. The origin of spelt wheat is unknown, but appears to have entered much later as a naturally occurring hybrid of early wheats. Rye was a wild minor admixture that later became cultivated in its own right.

So, how did cultures regard wheat and whole grains before the industrial revolution? According to the historical literature, wheat was not some kind of sub-par caloric filler or cheap energy. Every culture had its superfood and wheat was, hands down, the superfood of Western civilization. Whole wheat is not just calories and nutrients. It contains of all sorts of phenolics, carotenoids, sterols, β-glucan, resistant starch, inulin, oligosaccharides, lignans, and other phytonutrients (see Table III, here). Much of the health benefits of wheat are beleived to come from these phytonutrients.

Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine, not only recommended bread as a health-promoting staple, but he was keenly interested in experimenting with different preparations of wheat. Hippocrates wrote:

I know, too, that the body is affected differently by bread according to the manner in which it is prepared. It differs according as it is made from pure flour or meal with bran, whether it is prepared from winnowed or unwinnowed wheat, whether it is mixed with much water or little, whether well mixed or poorly mixed, over-baked or under-baked, and countless other points besides. The same is true of the preparation of barley meal. The influence of each process is considerable and each is a totally different effect from another. How can anyone who has not considered such matters and come to understand them possibly know anything of the diseases that afflict mankind? Each one of the substances of a man's diet acts upon his body and changes it in some way and upon these changes his whole life depends.

If wheat was so deleterious, you'd think that Hippocrates would have noticed it and warned against its consumption instead of recommending it for the prevention of disease.

Hippocrates was not alone. Avicenna recommended bread as a key staple of the diet. Paracelsus believed that wheat had mystical properties, and Aristotle thought foods made from wheat suits our bodies best. And, what we see over and over again in the historical literature is that wheat was once considered to be the most nutritious and most important edible plant in the entire vegetable kingdom. Bread was known as the Staff of life—it was the de facto superfood for agriculturalists.

Over 250 years ago, Swedish biologist Carl von Linné, the father of modern taxonomy and modern ecology, wrote two texts—Ceres noverca arctoum and De pane diaetetico—that were wholly devoted to bread and bread-making. Citing his own observations as well as those of the greatest medical authorities of antiquity, he wrote:

From: De pane diaetetico, by Carl von Linné (1757)

Of all foods bread is in truth the most noble. It is a food that is so necessary that we usually describe a true pauper with the words "he has not even a crumb of bread". It is served on the tables of both the rich and the poor, is beneficial in all diseases and suitable for all temperaments and it imparts a pleasant taste to food that is of itself tasteless. Therefore, since bread is so widespread and strengthens us and pleases our taste, I beg you distinguished reader, to not feel disturbed by paying attention to a dietetic investigation of bread.

Von Linné also provided examples of how bread could prevent or cure specific diseases. Although rye was popular in his home country of Sweden, von Linné considered wheat bread to be "the most excellent of all." We can see that even during the 18th century, when tubers and a wide array of vegetables were available as staples, bread was still considered to be the most important article of food.

In 1782, the Finnish botanist, Carl Niclas Hellenius, wrote in his dissertation:

From: Om finska allmogens nödbröd, by Carl Niclas Hellenius (1782)

Of the many ways humankind has invented to make use of the rich resources of the vegetable kingdom, that of preparing wholesome and tasty bread is without doubt the most profitable. Bread contains in the smallest volume the greatest mass of the nourishing elements obtainable from plants; in all seasons and at all occasions it gives equally good and useful food; it can be stored for long periods without any loss; it heightens the taste of many of our dishes, and even more, it often changes a food which is inedible due to its kind or condition, into one which people can consume without any risk and with benefit. Therefore, it is not to be wondered if its consumption has become so common that hardly anyone, except the most savage Nations, can get along without it. Since ancient times the so-called Cerelia have been considered as the most noble plants which generous Nature has us provided.

In the 19th century, Thomas Hodgkin, the prominent English physician and first to observe Hodgkin's disease, wrote:

The means of promoting and preserving health. Lecture II, on the Articles of food, solid and fluid, by Thomas Hodgkin (1841)

The farinaceous seeds are unquestionably the most important of [alimentary vegetable substances]. Their introduction has been marked amongst the earliest steps in the progress of civilization, and may be noticed amongst the first historical traditions of the most ancient nations of the Eastern and Western hemispheres. Thus the Greeks paid divine honours to Ceres, as the introducer and cultivator of wheat and other grains; and the ancient Peruvians paid similar honours to Manco Capae, who gave them maize or Indian-corn, and taught them how to cultivate and use it.

Of Wheat.—This appears to be the oldest and most valuable grain with which we are acquainted; but we know not the country to which we are indebted for it. It contains a large quantity of starch; a highly nutritive principle; and a larger quantity of gluten, the most nutritious of all the vegetable principles, than any other grain.(1) It likewise contains sugar; and a small portion of phosphate of lime, the essential constituent of bones, on which their firmness depends. It is far superior to every other kind of grain, for the formation of bread, which is emphatically termed the "staff of life" and, in all civilized countries, forms so large and considerable a part of our diet, that the word "bread" is become almost equivalent with that of "food."

Seeing, then, that wheat, in the form of bread, is of so great importance as an article of diet, it will be worth while for us to dwell a little upon the varieties of bread, and on some points connected with its use…

It may be surprising to us that gluten was once believed to be the most nutritious vegetable compound. And if that doesn't surprise you, there was even a time when "gluten bread" became popular for diabetics.

So, how did we go from a time when wheat was the most important "vegetable," with nary anything but praise heaped upon it, to when it promoted chronic disease? Here's where the history books, along with a little understanding of the gut, helps explain what led to dyspepsia.

Dyspepsia was a condition that arose as America entered the industrial revolution, and is what amounted to a national stomach ache and chronic constipation. Today we call it Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). At the time, people knew that true whole wheat could not have been responsible for dyspepsia, since people were quite healthy eating mainly wheat before the dyspepsia epidemic even began. Furthermore, people knew that avoiding white flour, while eating more brown breads and fibrous foods helped to cure dyspepsia. Even the short term "potato diet" cured dyspepsia.

As much as we'd like to think that we only recently figured out the links between the gut, probiotics, dietary fiber and gut issues, the dietetic gurus of the 19th and early 20th centuries had already figured out the links between refined foods, the microbiota and dyspepsia. Of course, they also promoted some very bizarre theories. The dyspepsia epidemic is chronicled in the fascinating book, Inner Hygiene: Constipation and the Pursuit of Health in Modern Society, by James C. Whorton.

In the early 19th century, Sylvester Graham invented Graham bread, which was high in fibers and free of toxic additives such alum and chlorine, which were commonly being added to flours during the Industrial Revolution. These additives were used to make bread whiter in color and more appealing. Refined bread was a status symbol of the middle class because of its purity in color. Grahamites believed that avoiding those additives and favoring foods that scratched or rasped the inner lining of the alimentary canal helped keep the gut regular and healthy. Graham died at the age of 57, leaving many unsure about the validity of his theories.

In the late 19th century, Elie Metchnikoff developed a theory that aging is caused by toxic bacteria in the gut and that lactic acid could prolong life. He surmised this by observing exceptionally old age in Bulgarians who drank sour milk. Based on this theory, he drank sour milk every day and he espoused the potential life-lengthening properties of lactic acid bacteria and discovered Lactobacillus bulgaricus (named after the Bulgarians). Unfortunately, he died in 1916 at the age of 71, of heart failure.

John Harvey Kellogg believed that while Metchnikoff had made some good points, a key to gut health was to replace the fiber that had become lost due to modern milling practices. Among other things, Kellogg promoted the isolated bran fraction into food products. And the practice became the inspiration for the Kellogg Company, eventually popularized by his brother, Will Keith Kellogg.

In 1892 Erastus Wiman wrote an open letter advocating old-fashioned, whole wheat to solve the growing dyspepsia and health problems.

The Flour of the Future, by Erastus Wiman (1892)

In civilized Germany, the man who should venture to adulterate or even dilute beer goes to prison, followed by disgrace and the imprecations of his fellow citizens. The man who should take it into his head to adulterate bread might do so with impunity, as long as he avoids introducing poisonous substances.

The demand has been made for white bread; fashion calls for it; the millers have complied. Mechanical skill has come to their assistance, and every part of the wheat which would tend to darken the flour is being removed with a precision and thoroughness which are simply wonderful. But does this tend to make the bread better? Does it give the workingman a greater return for his hard-earned loaf? Does this refined milling process give to the convalescing invalid, to the growing child, more strength and nutriment than did the old-fashioned dark bread? The answer to the fore going questions is decidedly in the negative. Indeed, on the other hand, it is impossible to estimate the injury done by the elimination of the most valuable constituents of the grain. A prominent English physician, when discussing this question, has recently said:

"Wheat and water contain all the elements necessary for man, and for the hard working man, too. Where is the man that can exist on our present white bread and water? There is an old joke about doctors being in league with undertakers; it would rather appear as if the millers and bakers were in the doctors' pay, as if, were it not for them, and for the white bread they are so zealous in producing, the doctors would have less to do. Separating the bran from the flour became fashionable at the beginning of the present century. This fashion created the dental profession, which, with its large manufacturing industries, has grown up within the last two generations. It has reached its present magnitude only because our food is systematically deprived of lime, of salts and phosphoric acid, the creators of nerve bone, and tissue, which especially are so signally absent from our modern white bread."

What we need is a reversal of the opinion which demands a white, starchy flour…

A recent episode of 99% Invisible explored how the preference for white flour was often fueled by racist ideologies. White bread was known as a "chaste loaf" and whole wheat as the "defiled loaf." Wiman was even ridiculed by the very food reformists that were promoting flours that were free of "natural impurities."

A perusal of milling publications at the time show they were filled with a plethora of milling innovations. Everything from quick-rise yeasts, fast roller mills, new ovens, equipment to sift white flours to have fewer "impurities." As more people consumed highly "purified" flours, the dyspepsia epidemic only got worse.

It's interesting that Wiman noted that dental issues worsened with the refinement of flour. Decades later, Dr. Weston A. Price—a dentist—had noticed this as well. In Chapter 3 of his book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, Price noted that the isolated Swiss villages he visited had excellent dental health eating mainly whole rye breads, dairy and only one serving of meat per week. It's also interesting to note that dental attrition—due to the wearing down of teeth from grit and sand debris left by early millstones—was the main cause of tooth decay in Ancient Egypt.

In 1931, Sir Robert McCarrison gave a series of lectures, at the Royal College of Surgeons, where he reported his observations on the Hunza people after having been their physician for seven years. He remarked:

In conformity with the constitution of their dietaries they are the finest races of India, so far as physique is concerned, and amongst the finest races of mankind. Familiar as I am with the [wheat]-fed races of northern India, I have little patience with those who would have us believe that 'white flour' is as good an article of diet as 'whole wheat flour'.

McCarrison also performed a series of experiments on rats comparing the effects of refined versus whole flours, which confirmed the health-promoting effects of whole wheat as well as the degenerative effects of white flour. McCarrison's findings are summarized in the excellent 1938 book, The Wheel of Health, by Guy Wrench.

As seems obvious by now, the major aspects of nutrition and gut health—including some primitive understanding of the microbiome—have been known for well over a century. People knew that the wheat our ancestors once thrived on had become denuded and purified to the point that it had became a liability. New additives became common, including various bleaches and toxic bromides. Metabolic issues were seen in the poor eating white flour during the Great Depression, and so it was with the discovery and isolation of individual micronutrients that the government set out to replace a few of those micronutrients lost to flour refinement with artificial fortification. Never mind that there is a long list of beneficial micronutrients, phytonutrients and phenolics found in whole grains. The government picked out a few micronutrients that could easily be isolated and mandated their addition to all white flour.

By 1953, Newfoundland had enacted mandatory fortification of white flour. By 1954, Canada and a number of US states had enacted the Newfoundland Law. Southern states in particular were eager to enact the law, to reduce pellagra, that had become prevalent during the Great Depression. These states typically mandated fortification of flour, bread, pasta, rice and corn grits.

Food Enrichment ObesityDiabetes

In 1983, the FDA significantly increased the mandated fortification levels—coinciding with the beginning of the obesity epidemic. 1994 was the first year that obesity and diabetes statistics were available for all 50 states. Notice a pattern?

obesity diabetes 1994

Fortifying flour may have ended the deficiencies of the Great Depression, but it appears to have significantly worsened chronic diseases.

Furthermore, wheat flour fortification may explain the popularity of non-celiac gluten sensitivity we see today in fortified countries (it was extremely rare prior to fortification). As it turns out, iron fortificants have been shown to promote significant gastric distress, even at low doses and pathogenic gut profiles in developing countries. Non-celiac gluten sensitivity is virtually unheard of in unfortified countries, like France, which consume 40% more wheat than Americans.

In his book, Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health, Dr. William Davis claimed that modern hybrids of wheat are to blame for all modern health issues. However, this is not supported by the scientific literature—nor is it supported by France's lower levels of chronic diseases despite considerably higher wheat intakes. Nor does Dr. David Perlmutter's book, Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar--Your Brain's Silent Killers, explain how humanity enjoyed its highest levels of intellectual achievement while largely eating wheat and other grains as staple foods—enjoying unprecedented population growth and longevity as well. In a recent lecture, Dan Barber more reasonably explains that the main problem with modern wheat hybrids is that they lack taste and have less nutrition, particularly due to poor industrial growing practices.

So, when did wheat go from being the most important vegetable to the cause of all modern diseases? The historical evidence clearly suggests that it first started when wheat became "purified," i.e., tainted, during the early 19th century—well before wheat was hybridized by Norman Borlaug in the 1960s. Put simply, the more we departed from whole foods and whole wheat, the worse dyspepsia and chronic disease became.

With this in mind, we are now able to explain how Sir Robert McCarrison and Dr. Weston A. Price once observed extraordinarily healthy cultures, free of chronic disease, thriving on traditionally milled grains. Finally, we can make sense of these seemingly confounding observations and leave behind the cognitive dissonance that comes with certain incomplete narratives, such as The Paleo Diet.

Industrial flours are not whole foods. Rather, they are highly processed, far beyond simple grinding, and are often adulterated with additives, many of them nefarious. Slowly, things are starting to change. Organic flours are available without fortification and some historical grist mills have been revived across the country. Some bakeries are demanding real flour and some, like Berlin Natural Bakery, grind their own flour daily, as was once the common old world tradition. It's also encouraging to note that high-end bakers, like France's Eric Kayser and Austria's Josef Weghaupt, have found tremendous success by reinventing ancestral baking traditions.

According to some sources, 95% of the flour consumed in the United States is fortified white flour—making it little more than a source of empty calories and unbalanced micronutrients for most people. Our superfood has become a liability. Dan Barber argues that part of the problem is that the modern hybrid of whole wheat lacks flavor and nutrition—we've lost the taste of wheat and refined away all of the benefits to make it more "appealing." However, Barber doesn't believe the solution is to rely on ancient wheat varieties. He's been working with wheat breeder Steve Jones to cross-pollinate a better tasting and more nutritious whole wheat. In 2013, Barber remarked, "If we could talk to the people a hundred years ago who bred the heirloom tomato varieties we love, they'd wonder, 'Why all the effort to preserve these? Why not keep going, keep breeding new varieties?'"

So where do you go from here? Well, hopefully not out to your local supermarket for a plastic-wrapped loaf of "whole wheat bread." And, it must be added that all of the foregoing is not intended to make the consumption of even artisanal, freshly ground, true whole grain—even sprouted and/or fermented—any sort of imperative for anyone. We're now fortunate to live in circumstances where vast variety in diets is possible because with just a little care, most people can easily source adequate nutrition through any number of dietary paradigms, from vegetarian to high-fat low-carb.

We simply wish to give those of you who may enjoy whole grains in their various forms—in terms of taste, texture and convenience—good reasons to see if they can enhance your well being.

You can look around and find increasingly more sources of careful whole grain bread making, even places that grind their grain fresh, daily. You can even do it yourself by purchasing a grain mill. That's a very top-of-the-line one, and beautiful to boot, but there are many options—though you might stay away from anything that uses iron to do the milling, or high-speed blades that impart too much heat. And then, you could have fun experimenting with different grains and blends, sprouting, fermenting, etc.

We do not think that any fear is called for. They may enhance your well being in various ways, they may not, but in either case, you'll be free to move forward on either path; but hopefully, on one that's free from any sort of dietary dogma—where it's more important what narrative you believe than how you feel and how you enjoy your life.

Support The Troops; Or, Is It Really Patronizing The Troops?

I grew up in the 60s. I was only 9 years old in 1970, and I recall trying to understand what I was seeing on the TEEVEE concerning Viet Nam and such. I remember my dad watching the election results earlier, in 1968, between Humphrey and Nixon.

I vividly remember the 1969 moon landing; though, my most vivid in than 1-day-scene is of my mom, that July—a 28-year old—walking across the living room with a cold towel compress on her forehead. It was hot, I guess. Funny, the silly shit we remember....

Combine that with what was arguably a complete World War—even as touted—in the 1940's, that my own dad almost starved from, in Germany, in the aftermath. The churning, high-risk geopolitics in play—with recently-utilzed nukes in play (Cuban deal already old), and diplomatic cold shoulders—likely out of fear of what we could actually do...already manifest in the lives of 100,000+ Japanese cooked in an instant...

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Sunday Miscellany: Off-Grid, Facebook Socio-Political Posts, All Pills Are Antibiotics, and Whole Grains I’ve Been Eating

...The RV off-grid experience is going pretty well. The two, 6-volt golf-cart batteries are really fantastic. The solar panels I have—equalling only 38 watts charging capacity—have proven insufficient. Since I was going to need a backup generator anyway (for eventual inclement weather over days), I got the Ryobi 2200-Watt Digital Inverter Generator. It's about as quiet as the super-expensive Honda at about half the price. In two weeks, I've only had to run it for up to an hour or two every 2-3 days, and have burned only 1.5 gallons of gas so far.

But, I just got two 100-watt solar panels, and should have the 30-amp charge controller by tomorrow. That should limit generator usage down to only seriously inclement weather over multiple days. And, if I need, I can add two more batteries and two more panels, for 460 amp-hours of battery, and 400 watts of charge. It's very fun fiddling with this stuff.

Tomorrow I get Internet installed, finally. Sunk the 8', 2"-diameter chain-link fence-post yesterday, in order to mount the dish that will hit the tower on the top of Mt. Umunhum, about 20 miles away. It should substantially increase my Internet activities here.

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Did Paleo (and Loren Cordain) Get It Wrong On Carbohydrates? Of Course, But We Knew That Already.

The great thing about icons is that sooner or later, they always fall. It's the job of general iconoclasts, like me, to laf and ridicule (sometimes at myself, even)—to hasten the process—all the while folks are busy holding on for dear life: banking on, , life styling, worshiping, and making livings off their iconic idols. The strong survive, though, so it's just really a process of evolutionary natural selection. Nothing to be afraid of. Adapt, or face scorn and dismissal.

Recent jaunts into this area have been the posts on iron "enrichment" (here and here), Paleo getting it wrong on grains, and a brief history of the astounding popularity and abuse of bloodletting (that's highly related to the iron posts). A forthcoming post will expand on Paleo getting it completely wrong on grains, by means of serious conflation—that's tantamount to holding a position against eating eggs because so many people eat just the whites.

Recently a new study came out: The Importance of Dietary Carbohydrate in Human Evolution.

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“To Serve And Protect” Update: Firemen, Forrest Rangers, Paramedics. The Police Do Disservice, and Brutality.

I won't yet talk details, because of info and sensitivities I'm not at liberty to publish, but what I can tell you is that I've had lots of interactions with firefighters lately; and I use that term rather than "firemen," or "fireperson," because mostly important: it's perfectly descriptive and doesn't come with gender baggage to bunch the panties of silly people who're as ubiquitous, now, as were Dead People in The Sixth Sense.

So there was a big fire. In the aftermath, I've had the joy of interacting with a few firefighter groups who came back to the scene of the destruction for self-schooling, lessons, learned, etc. It was a large conflagration, exacerbated by a problem of water supply. Anyways, not to divulge further details before I'm in rights to do so, the point is that these folks are consummate To Serve and Protect professionals, and nobody has any qualms about that.

I was even able to go into my Richard, baiting-for-conversation mode with them:

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General Fucktardism: doGs, anGels, Socialism, Bernie Sanders, Freedom, and I don’t give a shit about the troops

 I wrote this yesterday on Facebook:

For true progress to happen on human evolutionary scales, everyone ought be insulting the knowledge and intelligence of all others always.

People hate that. Why? because they live in bubbles of regurgitated "knowledge" and "wisdom" that's not even a bit different from the attached photo at the bottom of this post.

How many of you have truly questioned the very base things you were indoctrinated with as children, defenseless as you were, against bullshit; more often than not, accompanied by lashings and other punishments "to make you 'think?'"

You don't need to blame your parents for their ignorance and failure to use an evolutionarily given mind. Sky doGs and anGels are so comforting and witch-doctor sure—and everybody gets to live in the delusion that in doGs plan, there are no losses. Yep, life is one big bed of roses if you only sacrifice your independent mind to that of the collective one—which does not exist, but is rather a complete fraud conjured up by authorities and rulers you pay and vote for: to whisper sweet lies in your tender ears.

There are many conceptions of this pathetic phenomenon. Bernie Sanders is one and I laf laf laf at all the Merkans, so ignorant of history and how deep socialism laid Europe to waste so many times. I wrote this in a Facebook comment:

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The Fall of Bloodletting and The Rise of Iron

I'm truly at a point where I love doing this blog more than I ever have. No longer a lone voice that's hit & miss, I have a group of wonderful collaborators who somehow manage to put up with me—perhaps, because I truly strive to promote the fruits of their collaborative efforts as best as I can, and without the over-the-top marketing hype that's become so common everywhere.

Here's the entire bank of my knowledge on bloodletting, up until a couple of months ago: primitive, superstitious practice that killed George Washington, the first president of these united states (may not even be true). I always love being wrong because then, minimally, I'm less wrong than before.

I love slaying dragons or, in this context, questioning icons, bromides, and slogans of "truth."

I once again give you The Duck Dodgers.

In our previous article, Iron, Food Enrichment and The Theory of Everything, we hypothesized the link between the rise in modern chronic disease and the rise in iron intakes during the 20th century, through both food fortification and increased meat consumption.

Careful readers are well aware that chronic diseases of civilization began to rise well before iron fortification entered the food supply. When we investigated this further, we found to our surprise that our not so distant ancestors were bloodletting far, far more than we ever imagined.

From the time of antiquity to the late 19th century—for at least 2,000 years—bloodletting was extremely common. In fact, it became so common during the 19th century that its abuse ultimately led to its downfall—along with it being discredited by prominent physicians.

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I’m Hooked On Living Off The Grid

IMG 3407

Looking down at the rat maze...scurrying for cheese...

The events and circumstances leading up to this are a story for another day. Shortly after returning from off-grid living in Mexico for two months, Beatrice was presented with an opportunity to look after a 5-acre property in the east hills of San Jose, 3 miles from her work for some period of time that could be a year or more. There are no services: electricity, water, waste, gas, or internet.

So I rented a ~30' self-contained trailer and proceeded to sort electrical.

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A Few Words About Donald Trump

Thursday morning I took off from San Jose, CA, about 11am, destination Placerville. Next morning, left my X5 and took my brother's new Ford F-250 northeast on Hwy 50 towards Tahoe and after the descent from Echo Summit, cut east and then southeast on Hwy 89 over Monitor Pass, intersecting Hwy 395 just south of Topaz Lake.

From that point, it's mostly south by southeast, then after lots of hours, a cut southwest on Hwy 14, then northwest on 58, ending up late in the late afternoon in Tehachapi, not far from Mojave, to pick up a 6,500 lb. package from another brother. This morning, I headed west to Bakersfield, then northwest on Interstate 5, back to San Jose for the delivery. 17-hour, drive-time loop.

...The truck was equipped with satellite radio, so I found myself on the part of the dial comprising NPR, BBC, and a few commie and fascist talk channels—lafing my ass off about all of it.

Yep: Donald Trump.

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Did The Paleo Diet Get It Wrong On Grains?

Many are already convinced that the original take on the Paleo Diet got it wrong on starchy tubers (and starch in general), legumes, honey, and perhaps a few other the idea one is best suited to a high fat, high protein, and low carb, or even ketogenic, diet.

There's many posts here on all of that stuff and in terms of potatoes, going back to 2009 even. Curiosity gets the best of me and I'm never comfortable or satisfied with pat, just-so answers to anything.

Moreover, way back, the science of the gut microbiome was a gaping hole in terms of integration into the diet. That's perhaps the most understandable, since it's only in the last few years that the science has skyrocketed. There is no shame in ignorance, only in refusing to correct it when new facts present themselves.

Before I delve into why I think Paleo may have gotten it wrong on grains, let me post an email I got yesterday from a long-time reader and commenter, Steven.

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Recognizing Ignorance Requires Quality Knowledge: Paleo Epistemology and Sociology…and a Juxtaposition of Daves

I'm gearing up for more posts on the iron enrichment hypothesis to explain dietary "paradoxes" (debunk please). More researchers are weighing in. There are a couple posts in the works, and believe it or not, the most delicious of the two is the history of bloodletting (in barber shops) and how people flocked to get bled regularly (bleeding reduces stored serum iron—like pre-menopausal women do every month). Some people are hooked on donating blood regularly—which some chalk up exclusively to social conscience—but might it really be a selfish endeavor, even beyond the selfishness inherent in feeling like you're a community value?

On a practical level? My just-begun experiment with making artisanal whole grain breads and cereals a dietary staple, combined with lowish fat and lowish protein, with protein being accounted for by sardines, clams, mussels, oysters, and various liver pâté—and otherwise small portions of meat and fowl. Simple tasty mini-meal-esque stuff.

In the meantime, another post on the list is my individual take on the non-aggression principle, 25 years in the chewing. My two most recent Zac posts (here and here) about living in a largely American community on the tip of Baja California for 2 months had comment threads that in a couple of cases gave me the impression I was dealing with toddlers that will eventually raise their hand to hit you after you've been explaining algebra to them for a while. It's a perfectly common reaction from a toddler. When dealing with adults, what's going on is that they're ignorant to such an extent that they don't recognize that they're ignorant. They lash out like toddlers.

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The Right Probiotic Could Change Your Life

You hear stuff about the gut microbiome all the time, and probiotics have been a rage for even longer. Then someone comes along and applies new science and technology to do something really revolutionary in terms of mega-high dose for a short regimen that's actually designed to get to your colon quickly. That would be my biomedical engineering buddy Karl Seddon, in the UK, who developed Elixa Probiotic. Here's the posting history on it and you can see many testimonials of great things at all of them:

Now, just like with most everything your mileage may vary, but I can say that the vast majority of reported results have been very positive and that I can't recall any negative, only no effect noticed. Here's the most recent testimonial, from Pam.

Thank you for your post mentioning Elixa probiotic. I have suffered from chronic diarrhea for over a year and endured a series of "cures" including colonoscopy, antibiotics, anti-fungals, restrictive diets, various probiotic and prebiotic concoctions... I elected to give Elixa a try and took two 6 day rounds back-to-back... on day 11....."normalcy" returned.....spectacular...... I have not yet experimented with resistant starch but it is "on my list" thanks to your info,... love "free-the-animal"....!!

You can try it yourself by clicking here and placing an order.

Update: Amongst other anecdotes in comments, here's one with some particular authority behind it, from Jake.

Have done two rounds.

Karl and I have communicated a fair bit over this product and his professionalism is second to none.

I know degrees don’t = expertise, but I’ve got an MSc in Sports Nutrition, and I personally am a sub-elite athlete and coach elite and Olympic athletes every day so have a decent idea of what it looks like when the human body does or does not work…

…and this stuff is the real deal!!!!

Everybody gets to go to hell in their own go-cart, but I left Los Zacatitos anyway.

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The final chapter.

It may come as a surprise to many Zacatitans, but I really don't think Zac is a problem to be fixed. Read the post title again. Just wasn't my cup of tea, that's all, and that's life. Adults understand and accept that life is a far cry from that of a big one-for-all and all-for-one Kumbaya circle-jerk. Sure, I could have toughed it out to see how it would be like in "winter" with full occupancy, as I was advised to do. But I think I got taste enough of that via the 500 member Facebook group.

I found Zac far too tightly nit, high-school clique like, and intransigent—reminiscent of some Sovietesque zeitgeist born of diasporatic origins; but modernized...dominated by various forms of politically correct and progressive thought, adjudicated by uppity white connected women with plenty of husband money...where dissension is not tolerated from outsiders, with bromides like "community" tossed about as endless admonitions—such that insiders get to evade the fact that they're really being chided and chilled into conformity with what's expected; a cage of their own design. Or, they don't get invited into pretty cages, euphemistically called parties.

I have no need of solidarity or conformity in my life. I associate with whom I please; don't much care about others...until I do—because they've become meaningful to me. There's no such thing as a group, community, or social "conscience." Only individuals possess that faculty, exercised individually; and in terms of reason, the individual mind is a reality integrating organ, not a reality creating device.

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Tribalism, Equivocation and Moral Ambivalence in the Lost American Suburb of Los Cabos


N'est-ce pas magnifique?

They call it Los Zacatitos and for the time being, I live here. But it's really just an American suburb in Mexico, operating exactly the same as any uppity white suburb in any upper-crusty part of the U.S., Facebook Group and all.

I'll save all the reasons for my imminent departure for a subsequent and final post on this life-chapter; but for this installment, it's simply time to shine a light on hypocrisy. In a discussion with a fellow intellectual traveler the other day, discussing various means of bringing social pressure to bear, he wrote very succinctly:

The universe is about the message, not the messenger.

So, to be intellectually consistent, unwilling to live in cognitive dissonance, one ought strive to discern the true message emanating from messengers, rather than focus on the messengers. One way to focus on messages rather than messengers is to identify what principle or set thereof are implied or explicit in messages. In that way, one understands that it matters not a whit whether it's Charles Manson or President Obama that says it's wrong to kill young blond movie stars in Hollywood's Hills by means of personality cult. The message is that murder is wrong, the operative principle being non-initiation of violence.

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Thank You, Mr. President. Let Our People Go.

There, I said it.

It was November of 2007 where I titled a post Fuck Obama and His Stupid Bitch, that by now, has been read a few hundreds of thousands of times. I've had innumerable occasions to reiterate. But I'm a sucker for redemption, even careful, party-political measured ones.

I've been blogging this shit from time-to-time since 2005; and finally, Mr. President, AKA Choom Master, gets on board at the end of his 2nd term and calls it "mistakes" and "doing something stupid"—which of course is the usual standard political lying excused by people who feel empowered in getting a 1/300 millionth say in their own affairs at a curtained social masturbation chamber, AKA voting booth.

These are like a minute each, all you time-crunched people who spend hours reading blogs.

Now, I have many quibbles, but I'll just quote my post to Facebook once I saw the second video.

I've got to salute the man and I'll just go ahead and call him Mr. President as a show of respect for once. This is an act of statesmanship. Sure, I could quibble, in that he's doing this near end of term, where hundreds of thousands have entered incarceration and hundreds of thousands endured it over the last seven years.

And, it's not "mistakes" and "stupid things." The stupid law is a mistake. But it's something, not nothing, and babies ought never be tossed out with bath water.

Well I'll be dammed. The choom master is going to go down in history as the President that turned the insanity of the Nixonian War on Drugs around.

Golf clap.

And so there you have it.

It’s the most important political thing on the radar. Currently, there are millions of people in prison who harmed no one. Millions of families have been destroyed to the delight of Christian Conservative Republicans who also delight in the idea that people who don’t believe in their sky doG will get eternal torture in some fantasy Hell.

So while stupid knows no bounds and hell hath no material furry at all, there are hundreds of thousands unjustly sitting in a hell of Christian Conservative making, and families have been devastated for decades.

For The Record: My Blindsided Assault and Battery in Los Zacatitos, Baja Sur, Mexico

This post is a testimony of my recollections surrounding what took place in a local bar & grill on the evening of July 14, 2015, when a resident named Tim "Herb" Mullen—in the company of fiancée Michelle Suderman—approached me surreptitiously from behind and delivered a roundhouse forearm to my throat, knocking me backwards to the concrete floor from the height of a barstool.

Injuries sustained were a bruised windpipe and bruised ribs on the upper back. While initially—the first day following—the windpipe inflammation and phlegm production were the most difficult, making breathing labored and swallowing painful, it's morphed into where the bruised ribs are now the chief discomfort. Every cough to clear a sore throat is met with stabbing pain, many movements are similarly painful, and sleep is less than restful. Indications are that this will run a 3-week course or so, until the ribs have healed.

I recorded a video testimony at 6 a.m. the following morning. There's a number of Zacatitans who're just certain they know all about me, never having met me or exchanged any values with me, so I thought it important to put it in a video.

There's one material element I hadn't recollected at the time and will outline below the video. I'll also explain what transpired prior to the assault. But keep in mind, this post is primarily the video. If you make any judgment or comment without watching it, you're doing so on a small bit of the info and risk being called on it.. For example, how come I didn't retaliate? How about my awareness? How about Presence of Mind?

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The Tyranny of Assets

In 1979, when I graduated high school in June of that year and moved with my parents to the Portland, OR area, then drove across country diagonally to Chattanooga, TN in August to begin college at the Born-Again Christian enclave of Tennessee Temple University, everything I owned needed fit easily into the back of the 1974 Mazda RX-3 wagon I'd bought from my dad for $1,000 worth of work in his painting company. I didn't even have to put the rear seats down.

How did I possibly survive with no collection of assets? Perhaps, not being weighed down, I focussed on other things; like: observing the world around me, asking questions, discovering the joy of Very Bad Things-so-called, and even engaging in some study now and then to collect grade assets...and maybe, with nothing better to do than thrive by working in fast-food joints and auto-parts stores, paid the lion's share of the cost of acquiring a college diploma-asset. Eventually.

That stint lasted only a freshman year, and when I returned to Troutdale, OR that late spring, not only did all my assets still fit in the back, but there was room for the stuff of two other guys from the same Born-Again church, sharing the ride and drive.

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Justin Blok, cali420king on Facebook, Threatens to Have Me Killed and Buried in the Baja Desert

"Never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel." — Mark Twain

Let me introduce you to Justin Blok, cali420king on Facebook. Apparently, he wishes it to be known that he's the king of potheads in California; and since he's in Cabo San Lucas, we're talking the whole damn thing—from the Oregon border to the tip of Baja Sur. Pictures...well, you know how many words.

Justin Blok
Justin Blok, cali420king on Facebook

Here's the brief history.

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Non-Intansigence, via Alanis Morissette

 One could do a lot worse for a life theme song. You Learn.

I recommend getting your heart trampled on, to anyone
I recommend walking around naked in your living room
Swallow it down (what a jagged little pill)
It feels so good (swimming in your stomach)
Wait until the dust settles

You live you learn
You love you learn
You cry you learn
You lose you learn
You bleed you learn
You scream you learn

I recommend biting off more then you can chew to anyone
I certainly do

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Adapting to Challenges —> Embracing Challenges (A Zacatitos Baja Sur Live Log)

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It's a tough sell anymore

Comfy and convenience are double-edged swords, because I can get to any of two Walmarts, a Costco, and a Home Depot within an hour—the only negative feedback being lots of miles of dirt roads with trucks kicking up dust, potholes, and washboard.

I suppose the big difference for me is that I don't use any of them to fill a line of pantries and box freezers—or fill a house with stuff I don't need (everything I need fits in the back of my car). To me, this is about challenging myself to live more minimally, see how it goes, figure out management, and end up embracing it as the better, more humane way to live...for me. So in that way, I'm simply reporting on my experiences as I endeavor to learn. It's been just over 5 weeks, now. I've learned a lot.

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