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Is There Really Any Such Thing As Low-Fat Eating?

Low-fatters are fooling themselves -- especially vegans, vegetarians, and high-fiber advocates

This should be fun.

Ok, I'm going to call stupid right off the bat. No; just ignorant, and this includes some top names. Why? I figure it like this: if Dean Ornish, Joel Fuhrman, John McDougall, T. Collin Campbell and others are ignorant about this when little ole' layman-me can find this info 'cause I look, then what? Do they prefer pricks & crooks?

This shouldn't take long. I'm going to give you a single word: Butyrate. The highest source of it in the diet is butter, particularly rancid butter. And guess what else? It's a short-chain saturated fatty acid. It's saturated fat (OMG!). ...Whew, the vegans, veggies & high-fiber priests can take a breather. Is that all? Finished now? Was it just a disjointed, out-of context rant, or what? Well, no; but I'll get to that later.

First, let's realize that much of the veggie, vegan, high-fiber (there's your BIG CLUE) catechism is designed to appeal to those who want to loose weight. How many commenters here have you read who tried the veg / vegan approach to fat loss before they went paleo? Lots. Experiences ranges from added weight gain to weight loss -- but with diminished well being. (I realize those who get good results don't typically comment here; so, yea, selection bias.)

Alright, so on that score, let's address fat loss first -- in keeping with the title & theme. I have previously blogged that for fat loss, there's no such thing as a "low-fat" diet, and this is irrefutable. It's simple math. My previous posts.

In the first post, I show how that if you want to lose 50 pounds in six months, then 1,000 calories per day is going to come in the form of your own released fat stores and that if you're following a "low-fat" diet to the tune of 20% kcal from fat, then your total fat metabolized is going to be 50% of your total energy metabolized. Watch out: you'll clog your arteries just by the process of losing weight!

...Uhhhh...too many ignoramuses, to little time...

The second post serves to tell you that it's even worse; because, your own body is trying to kill you: 35% of those 1,000 kcals per day are arterycloggingsaturatedfat, and that's added to the saturated fat you're eating via diet.

So now what? What about those many human skeletons following a high-fiber vegetarian or vegan diet? They consume almost no arterycloggingsaturatedfat, so what's my point? Ignorance and an unwillingness to research reality vis-a-vis humans as wild animals who evolved eating copious saturated fat -- just as all other carnivorous and omnivorous animals do -- that's my point.

Let's return to the topic of butyric acid, and for those of you who like, you can jump ahead, because it's Dr. Stephan Guyenet who came up with this monumental find.

Turns out that fiber in the diet gets digested by gut bacteria into butyrate, i.e., saturated fat.

In most animals, the highest concentration of butyrate is found in the gut. That's because it's produced by intestinal bacteria from carbohydrate that the host cannot digest, such as cellulose and pectin. Indigestible carbohydrate is the main form of dietary fiber.

...Excuse me while I effin laugh right out loud...

...Ok, continuing on -- and there's really not a lot to add because Stephan has all the goods and you should read his post.

But first, one more thing:

In industrialized countries, fiber may contribute 5 to 10 percent of total calorie intake, due to its conversion to short-chain fatty acids like butyrate in the large intestine (free full text). This figure is probably at least twice as high in cultures consuming high-fiber diets. It's interesting to think that "high-carbohydrate" cultures may be getting easily 15 percent of their calories from short-chain fats. Since that isn't recorded in dietary surveys, they may appear more dependent on carbohydrate than they actually are. The Kitavans may be getting more than 30 percent of their total calories from fat, despite the fact that their food is only 21 percent fat when it passes their lips. Their calorie intake may be underestimated as well.

Would that also include the high-carb, high-fiber veggies & vegans? OK, now you get to laugh your asses off!

Comments

  1. I just want to say that I am from a rather large vegan community, and none of us became vegan for health reasons. Blanket statements on vegans and vegetarians may be a bit misguided. True there are a few uneducated vegans that look like skeletons as you say, but educated vegans look like everyone else.
    Just one point though, if you think it is natural to eat meat, you should eat meat like nature intended you to, raw. Just like EVERY other carnivore and omnivore.

    • ~B

      i eat raw meat every day, as do many paleo eaters. its a lust.

      the point Richard is trying to make (rather colourfully) is that, by default, vegans eat a highly saturated fat diet via carb consuming, fat producing animals (gut bacteria).

      there is no benefit from eating a low saturated fat diet, if that is one of the vegans’ health premises.

      • Heather says:

        It’s not, that wouldn’t make any sense.
        Avocados, coconuts and nuts as well as other plant based foods contain fairly high levels of saturated fats. There is a difference in the length of the fatty acid chain though, and as a result are not stored in the body as cholesterol but used as energy.

    • Cooking food dates back at least 250,000 years, and our own species dates back 190,000 years. So, cooking food has always been part of our natural evolutionary milieu.

    • “Just one point though, if you think it is natural to eat meat, you should eat meat like nature intended you to, raw. Just like EVERY other carnivore and omnivore.”

      Nice reasoning (sarcasm). Try this on for size:

      Just one point though, if you think it is natural to eat grains and legumes, you should eat grains and legumes like ‘nature intended you to,’ raw. Just like EVERY other gramnivore, e.g. birds.

      Joke’s on you. Humans can and do eat raw meat; but can’t eat grains raw.

      A whole culture built on eating mostly raw reindeer meat: Where Home Cooking Gets the Cold Shoulder at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/story/2008/05/13/ST2008051302252.html

      Quote follows:

      “The Nenets, the indigenous reindeer-herding people of this part of Siberia, have a menu that sounds like just the opposite of what the doctor ordered: They eat reindeer meat, most of it raw and frozen. From September to May they eat very little else, apart from the odd piece of raw, preferably frozen, fish. One would think that this extreme protein- and fat-driven diet would lead to a lot of health problems — obesity, cardiovascular diseases — but the opposite is true.

      “It is my experience that the further away you come from the city centers of the Arctic, the healthier people look,” says Lars Kullerud, president of the University of the Arctic, a network of more than 100 universities and colleges.”

      End quote
      ——-

      BTW, nature doesn’t intend anything.

      • Don Matesz,
        First, I am sorry for my English.
        Second… I was struck by your article «Dr. McDougall on B-12: A study in vegan thinking?». How can you defend meat-eaters – killers of animals?! How can you call yourself PHILOSOFER?! This means a WISE person – you are not wise!!! You are a killer of humanism and wisdom! … You absolutely don’t understand what veganism is (try and read about it on the Internet or better watch any film about killing of animals).
        I am sorry for saying all this but it hurts me a lot. Yes, maybe humans are omnivores or maybe even we would live less without meat but only through reject from meat we make a step for creating best world.
        I want to every creature in the world never NEVER feel pain… not only people, animals but and plants and … I want to… Best you can do is to look for the ways to correct the world but you are destroying all good in it. How it hurts…
        I’m sorry…
        Jane

      • Jane,

        “How can you defend meat-eaters – killers of animals?!”

        Ask yourself this question:

        What happened to the animals/insects/bacteria/plants (all “living creatures”) that lived on the farmland where your vegan food now grows?

        In a handful of soil there are more living organisms than there are human beings on the planet. Did anyone stop them from feeling pain before the ground (their ecosystem) was dug up and planted with vegan crops?

        You need to read Lierre Keith’s book The Vegetarian Myth.

        The answer you’re looking for is simple – we live in a circle of life.

        Some people try to respect this ideal, choosing our food from sources which also have this ideal in mind. Others, unfortunately, do not.

      • Maxwell ,
        Ok, we grow food for vegans, but how about all the food we grow for animals. And then we eat THE animals… so anyway, we cause pain the food for the animals. Here we see even more pain! Just think how many grains you need for one pig… I’m sure you would bring much less pain in the world if you eat plants directly. And you need less farmlands. We are able to reduce the pain we do.

      • Jane,

        Some animals eat other animals, some animals eat plants, some plants eat insects and animals (yes, the pitcher plant is one!) You see, it is a circle of life.

        I would like to know how you plan to stop all this pain you talk about.

        If you were to separate meat-eating animals (like lions) from a plant-eating ones (like wildebeest) please tell me:

        1) how the lion will continue to live without meat? (hint: they cannot digest cellulose from plants)

        2) what will happen when the wildebeest population grows so large (no predators) that they devour the grasslands and have nothing left to feed on? (hint: they cannot hunt food like lions)

        Can you see that it is all supposed to be in balance?

        Did you realise pigs are not supposed to eat grain? They are foragers of roots, insects, grubs, vegetation etc. The commercial farming sytem feeds them grains to bring them to a sellable weight faster.

        You really should be aiming your gun at the commercial farming system, not meat-eating in general.

        I agree we are able to reduce the pain, but only to those animals who are mistreated. Humans have only been able to overpopulate this planet to the current degree due to the amount of grain farming in operation. So think about all the land on which grain farms are built which meant destroying animal/plant/insect/soil habitats for human consumption.

        You only have to look down the middle aisles of every supermarket to see the amount of grain production in use today.

        Look up “Polyface Farm” you will see that there is a way to live in harmony with our animals without having to mistreat them or the land we live on.

        Best of luckx

      • Maxwell,

        >Some animals eat other animals, some animals
        >eat plants, some plants eat insects and animals
        >(yes, the pitcher plant is one!) You see, it is a circle of life.
        >I would like to know how you plan to stop all this pain you talk about.

        I have no plan. I just don’t like how the things go. I don’t like the essence of life: you can live only if you eat someone, make pain someone. But I think it is possible to change the circle of life by developing science, yourself. In the end of the development – I’m sure we will find the answer. Refusal from causing unnecessary pain to others around us is a step that makes us closer to the answer.

        >If you were to separate meat-eating animals (like lions)
        >from a plant-eating ones (like wildebeest)…

        Of course, it is impossible these days, but I can separate myself from eating animals right now.

        >how the lion will continue to live without meat?

        Difficult question – not because I don’t know the answer… I think I know but you will not accept it. So I just repeat – in the future we’ll find how to do it.

        >Can you see that it is all supposed to be in balance?

        Your right. But I hate the balance.

        >Did you realise pigs are not supposed to eat grain?

        When I lived in the village we fed them grains. Yes, it is not good feed for them but in winter it is the only thing we could give them.

        >Look up “Polyface Farm” you will see that there is a way to live in harmony with our animals >without having to mistreat them or the land we live on.

        But anyway in the end we kill them… I ask myself whether I want to live in harmony with someone but in the end to be killed by my friendly owner. Of course, it is better than what we see now days. But… my conscience isn’t peaceful. If you really honest before yourself and don’t feel remorse… I don’t know what to say.

        Thank you for polite conversation.

      • “I want to every creature in the world never NEVER feel pain… not only people, animals but and plants and”

        Here’s an idea. Get yourself about 3 months or so worth of fairy tale books, sit down with them and read until you starve to death.

        You will have then lived up to your ideal fantasy.

        In the meantime, I’ll take another HUGE steak.

      • Richard Nikoley,
        I repeat again : Best you can do is to look for the ways to correct the world but you even don’t TRY! Though, time will tell who right.

      • “Best you can do is to look for the ways to correct the world”

        I reject your premise. The best I can do is live my life for my own sake. I’d be happy to slit the throat of anyone who stands in my way.

        You’re welcome to be a sacrificial animal if you like. I won’t stand in YOUR way.

      • Richard Nikoley,
        Of course, you won’t. Did you really think that I had any hopes.:))) I love you because you are a living being and you just have rules in your brains that were built by your parents, ambient, genes… So you have no guilt. I love you… and goodbye.

      • Auggiedoggy says:

        Don,

        Good point about grains and legumes. We developed large brains and small guts. This type of digestive system isn’t conducive to consuming a high volume of plant foods but is conducive to eating smaller amounts of nutrient-dense foods like meat. I just love it when vegans and vegetarians try to play the taxonomy card to try and show that we more closely resemble herbivores than omnivores or carnivores. Even the australopithecines consumed some meat, insects, etc, to supplement their diet of course vegetation.

        Rob

  2. I’m not a prude or anything; I think “fuck” is just the right word sometimes. Situations certainly call for it. However, when seeing it in print/text it just gives off an air of impotent anger, and of ignorance in a sense, as if the writer couldn’t find strong enough words to express himself. But that aside, consider that you’re writing about a truth, a message, and you believe it’s a message that needs to get out. It could help a lot of people. Is it really the best thing, then, to alienate so many of your readers with your, as you put it, “potty mouth?” To rephrase, it’s as if you’re angry that a message isn’t getting out to people, and that it’s opposite is still considered the right thing, and yet you’re delivery method deliberately alienates a lot of the people that it would serve. Ah well, just thought I’d chime in on this, even though you probably don’t give a fuck..

    • Look Dave, I agree. But I think it’s pretty fucking pointless trying to influence Richard. He’s a libertarian and my experience with libertarians is they often feel the need to be offensive just prove the point that they aren’t beholden to anyone else’s morals/standards/rules/laws etc (esp. the ‘government’s’) and they’re here to satisfy only themselves. Take the good with the bad I say and get-the-fuck-over-it if you want to read Richard’s blog!

    • You speak of him alienating people with his potty mouth, but it’s what actually pulled me in to reading this page. Look, he obviously has a certain style, so you can’t fault him for having it. If you don’t think it works, then pick and choose what you read here, but I personally think it does work. I want to read the opinions of people who think, are charged up and lead the way to smash the current system and/or help those who are on this path. People with strong opinions are *interesting* . I personally believe that as soon as you start polishing the message to make it friendly for everyone it loses it’s strength and becomes fluffy. Grok and what he did ain’t fluffy!

    • Dave / Tin Tin / Natalie:

      You all make good points. I would say to dave that if this is ALL I did then you’d have a point about not being able to play it any other way.

      But so what? Is it the truth, or not?

      At any rate, after a night’s sleep I re-read and I wasn’t comfortable with it. Just like that. I can’t possibly leave it that way in that situation, so I toned it down.

      No guarantees for the future, but that’s how it plays today.

      Thanks, all.

  3. Jonathan Barnes says:

    As you no doubt know, I have a brother-in-law, deseased over 25 years ago before I came into the picture, who died after weeks or few months in a diabetic coma. I reasonably sure that I don’t really know the facts but, I believe diabetics who end up in a coma are the result of driving their blood sugar too low…thus starving the brain. Obviously he and his doctors didn’t manage his diabetes very well.

    My resent 3 day stay in a local hospital ICU, showed me that their system doesn’t do diet right. Processed sugar, here, there, and everywhere, is probably every bit as dangerous as tobacco. If the government is going to be involved, they should probably require sugar added products to be labeled… WARNING, SUGAR MAY BE HAZARDOUS TO YOUR HEALTH, It can contribute to obesity and diabetes. Jon :^)

    • “Obviously he and his doctors didn’t manage his diabetes very well.”

      A type 1 diabetic can be very, very well controlled until just before they go into a coma from a low blood sugar. It’s a day by day, hour by hour thing. Same with comas from high blood sugar, or DKA. Under some circumstances this can happen in hours.

      Just wanted to clear this up.

      Janancy

    • Jon:

      You might have intended to post this comment to the post on Steve Cooksey’s experience with the ADA. If so, feel free to copy/paste it over there.

      http://freetheanimal.com/2009/12/two-adas-same-awful-advice.html

  4. In the last two years my uncle and my wife’s mother and grandmother all died from diabetes (a gruesome process that took a number of years). In all cases the hospitals and doctors had them avoiding fat at all costs and shoveling bread and sugar in their mouths (you know, to keep their sugar up). And I thought assisted suicide was illegal in this country.

    “Fuck” is not a strong enough word to convey my contempt for the various “medical” associations and the whole government monopoly food-care system. It is, as Dr. Carlson puts it, genocide. http://drjamescarlson.com/

  5. Richard –

    You really should have a look at this: http://www.second-opinions.co.uk/should-all-animals-eat-a-high-fat-low-carb-diet.html

    Here’s the important part: “In a herbivore such as the gorilla, the caecum and colon harbour huge colonies of bacteria which ferment carbohydrates, particularly fibre, and use it to produce short chain fatty acids (SCFA) — principally acetic, proprionic and butyric acids. These are then absorbed into the body to be used as a source of energy.”

    We are really made to digest meat. Our system is set up to absorb most of it’s nutrients from the small intestine. Gorillas get most of theirs in the caecum and colon. We have a caecum, but it appears to be only a nuisance for us at our current evolution (the appendix).

    • Ah, good find, Nicole. Good ole’ Barry Groves. I have his recent book, Trick and Treat, but have yet t crack it open. I’ll get to it.

      In Lierre Keith’s book, The Vegetarian Myth, she talks about ruminants eating the cellulose, bacteria digest that and they digest the multiplied bacteria, but looks like there’s even more to it.

  6. We don’t have a hind-gut to convert cellulose into fat, though many other animals (gorilla, horse) do. Conversion of indigestible cellulose to fats is also what the cow’s foregut does through the rumen and the rechewing of cud.

    Unfortunately, our digestive flora can only do very limited conversion of starches into fats, so people who eat low fat really are eating low fat. Some vegans (the smart ones) are more aware than others of the need for fats and put some significant effort into getting it. Coconut oil and palm oil work quite well for them, and can serve as the fatty foundation to a better than usual vegan diet. They still have issues, but their joints and bones aren’t usually in a state of near collapse, unlike their low/no-fat bretheren.

    We are non-obligate carnivores. We are adapted so that we can survive and live to breeding age if there isn’t much/any meat around. It’s just not all that great of an idea.

    • Ross:

      Did you read Stephan’s post? Seems to me he’s claiming that humans indeed convert a lot of both soluabe and insoluble fiber to SCT. He clarifies the point on insoluble fiber in comments as I recall.

      • Interesting, though I find it a little frustrating that conversion was measured by butyrate in the feces (not in the bloodstream). I know that if you eat beans long enough, you stop farting as the bugs in your gut adapt (presumably doing a better job of converting to SCT’s). That’s what I was referring to, and what the other commenters are talking about WRT soluble fiber.

        But even after reading through his references and the articles mentioned in the discussion, it’s clear the debate is still out on how much conversion can happen in the human gut. We just don’t have the gut volume or latencies of herbivorous animals (gorillas, horses) that are known to convert most of the absorbed calories from cellulose into SCT’s via microbial fermentation in the hind gut.

      • anand srivastava says:

        I am not sure we can absorb much from the colon. If we could absorb much vegans and vegetarians wouldn’t have B12 deficiencies. A lot of B12 gets created in our Colon but does not get absorbed.

        I am pretty sure that we are creating a lot of Butyric acid in the colon, but I think that much of it is not going to be absorbed.

        We do need Butter ;-).

        I think anything above and including Palmitic acid is producible by our body, from Carbs. It is only the shorter chained fatty acids that we need to get from our diet. I think Ghee is great for that.

        Any carbs that do not get stored as glycogen is going to get converted into fat. Unless you exercise a lot you would not need more than 100gm of carbs. The rest will convert to fat. If you do exercise a lot, your energy requirement will still make it a low fat diet.

      • anand srivastava says:

        Oops. Should be high fat diet in the last line.

  7. Paul Verizzo says:

    Made me get right up and go eat a big spoonful of organic butter……….

    I was strongly paleo (90-95%) for five months and then had some blood work done. It’s too bad I don’t believe in the lipid hypothesis because my total cholesterol was 174, about 35-40 lower than years ago on SAD. My trig, HDL, LDL ratios were all good to excellent.

    Obviously, I am an anomaly because I eat a lot of heartcloggingsaturatedfats and red meat. Right?

  8. Processed sugar is the killer. It’s poison. Urge for sweets: as unprocessed a honey as you can find.

    One can take meat consumption down to about two or three times/week and feel quite fine if one eats lots of rich oils, natural hard cheese and some fish (can be either tuna in water or sushi: depends on your budget).

    Too much meat leads to aggressivity in men. And perhaps expletives. At least in this man.

  9. Hi Richard and all! There was no way I could read this Blog and all the comments and not make a comment myself. All I have to say is WOW! There is more eruditic comments on this particular Blog than I see in a whole month interacting with my physician colleagues.

    As far as the veggie fanfare, they are the sickest people in my practice and they give the most money to the drug companies. Congratulations! I have heard all the beliefs as put forth by the vegan commmunity and I will not delineate them here; the fact of the matter is that Homo sapiens are carnivores. As we evolved biochemically, there was selective pressure on our physiologies, so only those who thrived on red meat would survive. Why is this so? Because for a large part of our biochemical evolution we existed in an ice age. So what does everyone think we had available to eat during this time? That’s right—Fat animals! There were no apple,peach or pear trees, no grains (I love the comment about how we cannot eat raw grain–and,uh, yeah; why do you think we even have diseases like celiac sprue-IT’S BECAUSE WE SHOULDN’T BE EATING THAT STUFF IN THE FIRST PLACE!

    So for a large part of our biochemical evolution we ate fat animals. If you couldn’t survive on fat animals–you died–you didn’t procreate—end of your gene pool.

    The only reason we have a vegetarian belief system is because we have the ‘luxury’ of embarking and entertaining this belief. Back in the day, you either ate them or they ate you. That’s it. There was no time for the whole “Awww, look at how cute that deer is, I want to go up and hug them and become their friend.” No, not happening, no offense, but Bambi and a whole host of other cutesy animals kept our species alive to this day.

    I loved the direct correlation between increased aggressivity and consumption of meat. Uhh, what study was this? I’m really serious, I want to see the study. As I think about it though…evolutionarily speaking…one has to be aggressive to kill another animal. I know it’s a tautology, but it does make sense. You’re not going to kill an animal by just hoping and praying it’ll die when you’re the most hungry.

    I’ll end on my most favorite nursery rhyme;

    Mary had a little lamb…and I ate it!

    Dr Jim

    • Nice to have you drop by, Dr. Jim.

      Been a fan since I heard your very first podcast interview with Jimmy, then read your book.

      I’ve always appreciated your frank, no-nonsense approach towards the pervasive idiocy and….genocide.

    • DrShelton says:

      The fact is that human beings are carnivores? This is NOT a fact. There are several instances where our physiology is no where near a carnivore. It’s not even close! Physiology alone will show that human beings are closest to Chimpanzees, all the way down to the DNA. Chimpanzees have been studied in the wild and only eat meat when they are looking for sexual favors from females. In other words it’s not their natural instinct to eat meat but instead a sociological choice to show their masculinity.

      Chimpanzees are frugivores, getting over 60 percent of their daily intake of food from fruit. Just because a small percentage of human beings moved to cold climates did not change human beings into carnivores. This is completely untrue and you have no proof. If this was true we would see a large difference in the physiology between men and women living in cold climates versus those who have always lived in warm climates.

      The reason people who eat raw meat are much healthier than a majority of other people is simply that raw eating is more important than any other food factor. It’s not the meat making you healthier, it’s that you aren’t changing the original nature of the substance. Raw meat is healthier than cooked meats and processed grains. The reason is very simple, human beings digest cooked foods in a horrific way. It causes toxic stress on the body and leads to many symptoms of ill health. The process of cooking or changing any type of food from their original form breaks down the structure that nature intended to create in the first place. Human beings are the only species to alter the natural state of the food we consume. All of that being said to make the leap and say that a raw meat diet is healthiest for human beings is silly. If there were more people who had access to healthy fruits and vegetables grown in the proper soil then you would see people with radiant health as I have witnessed on all fruits and a small amount of vegetables. Vegetarians are mostly unhealthy because they do not eat mostly raw fruits and vegetables but instead focus on grains. We are not granivores. Here’s a nice website for understanding how far human beings are from being carnivorous. http://www.ecologos.org/omni.htm

    • Auggiedoggy says:

      Dr Carlson,

      Is there a correlation between low-fat diets and depression and suicidal tendencies? Oh and as far as aggression is concerned, I wonder what the vegans excuse is for their aggressive behavior? ;)

  10. peterlepaysan says:

    I think there is a small problem here.
    As I understand the standard texts all digestible nutrients have been absorbed by the time
    ingested food has passed the small intestine.

    Undigested intake is dealt to by resident microbial fauna and flora (fermentation is very good).
    Water is extracted. Undigested intake is then ready for excretion.

    Butyric acid (butyrate) is very likely produced. If you have ever been downwind of an incorrectly
    made silage pile you will know what I mean.
    The smell is unbelievable.

    What metabolic route do nutrients created in the lower gut follow to get into the food utilisation system?

    What other nutrients breach the lower gut boundary into the organism?

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  1. [...] wondering about the multi-faceted effect of losing fat. As I've blogged, no such thing as a low-fat diet; it's like eating lard. When you're losing weight, a lot of your energy is fat from your own body. [...]