No Church Revival: #AHS11

The plan came together at the start of my AHS Presentation.

I was lucky enough to be on the email distribution of the first emails that went out in 2009 about this great event. But when Brent and Aaron asked me to present, I asked why…what with Eaton, Cordain, Eades, Linberg, et al presenting; why a blogger like me?

“Richard, we need a blogger who’s non-controversial.”

Well, owing to the fact that most of the attendees had read enough of this blog, I got a good roar of laughter that really put the rest of the presentation at total ease for me. So thank y’all for your healthy diaphragms and sense of humor.

So, being as non-controversial as I am [cough cough, bullshit bullshit], who better to get on a podcast with Angelo Coppola, Latest in Paleo (the full collection at 5by5)? He already did a podcast last week covering #AHS11 from his podcast studio, so I emailed and asked if he might want to do another one with me, but about “The Controversies of #AHS11?” Within 5 minutes we had a deal and will record tomorrow morning. Preparations are in earnest.

It should “air” sometime Sunday or Monday and I’ll be sure to let you know.

So far and tentatively, we’ll be covering these controversies:

  • Gary Taubes, author of Good Calories, Bad Calories and Why We Get Fat vs. Dr. Stephan Guyenet, PhD of Whole Health Source.
  • Dr. Richard Feinman, MD vs. Dr. Robert Lustig, MD.
  • Why so many low-carbers?
  • Dr. Boyd Eaton’s presentation.

I was there for the Taubes/Guyenet dustup, have spoken with both of them, and there’s more, which I’m going to hold close for now, in order to shamelessly build irresistible suspense for actually listening to the podcast upon release. I also have a clear vision and opinion on “why all the low carbers?” Unfortunately, I was not on hand for Eaton’s presentation and while I’ve cobbled together some idea of it from blog posts and getting several earfuls from folks who were, insights about what went down in comments would help. And, I’m a bit lost on the Feinman/Lustig dispute. I know it’s about fructose vs. glucose, but again, any insight in comments would be greatly appreciated.

Any other controversies you’d like us to comment on and analyze? Go for it.

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  1. Chris Tamme on August 12, 2011 at 21:02

    I haven’t heard or seen any more info on Don Matesz. Just curious what the general consensus is on the shift in ideology.

    After seeing Lustig’s presentation all I can say is that I think I am in love. Amazing insight into so pretty complex mecahnisms. I have already watched it 3 times and wish I could have an edited version with some of the graphics so that I can even pretend that I can understand what he is saying.

    I can’t wait to hear the podcast.

  2. Lindsay on August 12, 2011 at 10:45

    There was a teeninesy kerfuffle about women wearing heels. Of which I was one. Mainly to rouse the rabble. But we all noticed the chic, stilt-wearing Denise Minger. Recognition of the damaging nature of high heels vs. signaling to potential mates vs. just being an ass.

    • Richard Nikoley on August 12, 2011 at 11:02

      Oh, yea, now I remember. I also remember when I met Her Cuteness, that she was fully prepared!

    • Michael on August 12, 2011 at 12:04

      I seem to recall several studies debunking the idea that high heels are damaging but checking it out is not at the top of my priority list, especially given that I like the look. :-)

      When I was in Eastern Europe just recently high heels were the norm, even in the dead of winter when there was plenty of ice on the ground.

      • rob on August 12, 2011 at 13:07

        I think wearing heels is a silly thing to do but I am in favor of women wearing them.

        Especially pumps. Red or black pumps.

  3. Aaron Blaisdell on August 12, 2011 at 11:38

    Any plans to discuss Don Matesz?

    Having talks to Richard Feinman about his friendly/gentle (in his words) disagreement with Lustig, Richard says he mostly supports what Lustig says. Feinman has been teaching biochemistry for decades and says that Lustig’s treatment of fructose and ethonal metabolism as being virtually identical is not quite right. Lustig, in his talk, claims that he has learned enough of fructose/ethanol metabolism to understand that they are very similar. I don’t have the background to comment on this mild debate. The other point of contention, and greater one according to Richard, is what to do (or not do) in terms of policy. Lustig is a big advocate (as probably you are, Richard) for backing government policy to reduce sugar (esp. fructose) consumption in America. Richard is more skeptical and libertarian in his stance, which I’m sure ruffles your feathers, Richard.

    • Richard Nikoley on August 12, 2011 at 11:49

      “Lustig is a big advocate (as probably you are, Richard) for backing government policy to reduce sugar (esp. fructose) consumption in America.”

      Aaron. :)

    • Richard Nikoley on August 12, 2011 at 11:50

      “Richard is more skeptical and libertarian in his stance, which I’m sure ruffles your feathers, Richard.”

      So laf.

    • Michael on August 12, 2011 at 12:15

      In his exchange with Karen DeCoster on Facebook, I certainly didn’t walk way with the idea the Feinman was even remotely a libertarian. Maybe I missed something.

      • Aaron Blaisdell on August 12, 2011 at 13:39

        Personal communication with Feinman. I think he’s just a bit of a libertarian-leaning democrat (anti-regulation).

    • Mountain on August 12, 2011 at 16:52

      I second a discussion of Don’s talk and its controversy…or lack thereof.

      P.S. Great event, Aaron. Richard, it was a pleasure meeting you and I’ll get you a pair of Primal Professionals as soon as they’re ready!

  4. Primal Toad on August 12, 2011 at 11:40

    We will never all agree on the exact same thing. I like what Gary Taubes has to say. I also like what Stephen Guyenet has to say.

    I’ve never agreed with people eating less than 50 grams of carbs a day but an average person whom is not an athlete should NOT consume the 300 grams of carbs a day that the government recommends.

    If one wants super quick weight loss then fine – eat less than 50 grams of carbs a day. Or, for the select few, you may truly thrive at this level.

    I continue to experiment to find my thrive zone. To be honest, I just think it depends on all our environmental factors…

    Where are you living? How much sleep do you get? Sunlight? Are you an athlete or do you enjoy relaxing most of the day? What do you enjoy more of? Plants or animals? What is your budget like? What is the quality of food that you buy? How do the people around you eat? How do you feel after a high carb meal? How do you feel after a low carb meal?

    The factors are unlimited.

    Experiment on yourself folks!

    • Richard Nikoley on August 12, 2011 at 11:54

      PT, sounds like a prescription for individual self experimentation.

      The implicit is that this is so multi-factoral there will never be a TOE for obesity. That’s really at the crux. It would be so damn profitable. Never going to happen short of genetic engineering, i.e., basically engineering some northern European’s genes to handle carbs like a Kitavan.

      • Emily Deans on August 13, 2011 at 13:23

        I don’t buy that whole Kitavans are genetically engineered for “high carb diets” in the context of the macronutrient debates- especially when other Pacific Islanders are obviously very sensitive to sugar/flour diets – more so than most northern europeans, who seem, if anything, better able to handle the fruits of agriculture, diabetes and obesity speaking.

      • Richard Nikoley on August 13, 2011 at 14:56

        Emily, I had a conversation w Stephan about fat Pcific Islanders. He believes it was more cultural, i.e., basically leaders or affluent being overfed by their adoring subjects or subordinates. Sounds plausible to me.

      • Richard Nikoley on August 13, 2011 at 14:59

        Also, in what sense were the Kitavans Linberg studdied eating sugar and flour diets?

  5. Sean on August 12, 2011 at 12:10

    I really like how the Taubes/Guyenet thing has stirred the waters, it has actually revived my interest (and apparently that of other much more eminent bloggers) in the science aspect which had been seriously flagging. I’m planning on writing about this myself, mostly because it will help clarify my thoughts and track down loose ends.

    I’m a huge, huge fan of Taubes and I have tons of respect for Stephan, and I like to think I keep an open mind. So there’s some cognitive dissonance to be sorted out which I find pretty intellectually stimulating. I think that Paul Jaminet is highly acknowledged to be on the same heavyweight level as Taubes and Stephan, even if he wasn’t invited as a speaker, an oversight I hope won’t be repeated next year. And I noticed you commented on his ‘third perspective’ in this little dust-up, so perhaps you could expand on that?

    • Richard Nikoley on August 12, 2011 at 12:24


      Paul’s perspective came out before Stephan’s latest, but is still at or near the top of his blog. You can’t miss it.

      • Sean on August 12, 2011 at 12:41

        I know, dude, and I noticed you commented on it. That’s what I meant by ‘third perspective’. You were asking for things to comment on in the upcoming interview so I thought you might want to mention Jaminet and his take on things.

        And instead of tiptoeing around the subject, I’m just going to come out and say, “Why the fuck wasn’t Paul invited as an AHS speaker?!?!”

      • Aaron Blaisdell on August 12, 2011 at 13:41

        Sean, we would have loved to have him (and his better half, the beautiful Shou Ching) speak. He so deserves a spot! But our roster was full at least 6 months BEFORE I even heard of the Perfect Health Diet. We’ve since become good friends. He’ll be at #AHS12 for sure!

      • Richard Nikoley on August 12, 2011 at 14:15

        And Ned Koch, hopefully.

      • Aaron Blaisdell on August 12, 2011 at 15:33

        For sure! I think we may need a “The Real China Study” panel with Minger, Koch, and Masterjohn. Would be good to have Campbell or another supporter of TCS to *balance* it out.

      • Sean on August 12, 2011 at 14:34

        Aaron, I was just engaging in a little off-the-cuff bombastism, but I’m glad to hear it. I’m not sure how much I even agree with Paul, to be honest, but he’s an intellectual heavyweight and he’s staked out a very concrete and interesting position.

        This latest symposium has really stirred the waters, congratulations on a job well done. Now if you can just get Kurt Harris to attend next year…

      • Aaron Blaisdell on August 12, 2011 at 15:34

        Yeah, Kurt had to pull out late in the game, despite being in from the beginning. Same with De Vany, Taleb, and Lierre Keith. Unlike the typical wedding, we had very little attrition!

  6. Erika on August 12, 2011 at 14:56

    ‘Why so many low-carbers?’

    Amen to that. Will be waiting breathlessly.

  7. Peggy The Primal Parent on August 12, 2011 at 20:10

    Sweet new pic in the side bar. Dirt and men are a good combo.

    Hey and screw you all about low carb! Some of just don’t have a choice. Some of us are jacked up and that’s the only road to peace and happiness. Just had to get the out while I eat meat for the fourth time today.

    • Erika on August 12, 2011 at 20:36

      But low carb just makes people more jacked – and the lower they go, the more jacked they get. Just my 2 cents. I know, screw me. :)

      • Peggy The Primal Parent on August 13, 2011 at 01:48

        Explain please? Have you any experience with being jacked up? with low carb? with watching years and years of mental and physical problems resolve after switching to low carb (responsibly. I don’t eat just ground beef btw)? Sounds to me like you don’t. I cannot digest any carb other than table sugar, which I don’t choose to load up on. Adding starch, adding fruit impairs my digestion such that I cannot absorb nutrients and I become what I like to call a mutant. But I am healthy, happy, and beautiful when I avoid those things. Is that jacked?

        Maybe I’ll die early, but at least I’ll die feeling good, which is something I could have never done before…

        I wouldn’t say that low carb is right for every human being. Certainly doesn’t seem to be necessary for everyone I know, but it is, without a doubt, for many of us who have been poisoned by a SAD the only cure. Thank god for low carb, for zero starch, for zero fruit. Thankfully, I’ve found a way to be healthy and to get shit done without worrying about how shitty I feel.

      • Erin on August 13, 2011 at 11:05

        Here here Peggy. While I don’t have to be quite as low carb as you, I am with you on carbs having a direct correlation with my health. SO many folks go paleo due to health problems with the lower carb side of paleo seeming to work best for many of those cases. Fruit for me is 10 times worse then dairy or table sugar. I don’t have to be as strict as I used to be, but a week on vacation were I relax for a bit, I spend the next month trying to kill the craving monster and balance my gut. This all goes back to the one size does NOT fit all.

  8. M. on August 12, 2011 at 20:53

    My take on the” “why so many low-carbers” is that Ancestral Health principles improve on any “way of eating” (low-carb or vegetarian or whatever) while low-carb and vegetarian does not really “add” anything to Ancestral Health. It really doesn’t have much to do whether anybody personally does better on low carb; it is whether the demonization of an entire class of macronutrients is the direction Ancestral Health should be going.

    The Neolithic Agents of Disease are more refined and specific than “carbs”, so “carbs” as an NAD is a step backwards. It doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with following a low carb diet if it works for you, it is just that the ideology behind it really doesn’t add much to the Ancestral Health movement. Low-carb diets can remove certain NADs “by accident” as KGH says, but low starch diets may not be optimal or that easy to comply with for everybody.

    “Low-NAD” is just more in-line with the direction of the movement than demonizing an entire class of macronutrient, especially when many healthy ancestral cultures ate diets high in this macronutrient. There is a certain dissonance in promoting that all “carbs” are bad when a fair amount of Ancestral cultures thrived upon higher-carb diets.

    The other problematic aspect of low-carbers (advocates, not adherents) is this resilient belief and advocacy of a mythology that is not supported well by science. Low-carb adherents and semi-vegetarian adherents and whatever-other-diet adherents can easily fit under the Ancestral Health tent and improve their way of eating with Ancestral principles, but I think it would be beneficial for the core of Ancestral Health advocacy to be supported by solid attempts at scientific rationale.

    If you look at the “scientific heavyweights” in Ancestral Health (Guyenet, Harris, Jaminet, Masterjohn, et al), they just don’t buy the talk of “insulin spikes” and Taubes’ whole Carbohydrate Hypothesis. I just question how solid the movement can be if a significant portion of people within the movement choose to advocate principals that are rejected by the scientific heavyweights. What is the movement without the scientific heavyweights? Is it just Taubes, declaring that “carbs” are the one and only NAD and blowing off any talk of omega-6s, wheat, food reward, choline deficiency, etc…? (And saying that some people need to be careful of the carbs in green leafy vegetables…as he did in the Jimmy Moore interview.)

    I think real scientists like Lustig and Feinman can add to the discussion at AHS, but instead of including a group of low-carb *advocates*, maybe more low-carb scientists and more varied voices (vegan, semi-vegetarian, Zone, etc…) would maybe be more interesting than listening to a comedian explain “good science” and “bad science” to a bunch of PhDs.

    (sorry for the long comment – I’m pretty drunk on Ancestral Canadian Whiskey, not as good as Ancestral Scottish Whiskey, but cheaper)

    • rob on August 13, 2011 at 09:42

      I think it’s because “Paleo” sounds way hipper than “Low-carb”

  9. Danny on August 12, 2011 at 22:20

    Mat Lalonde’s smack down of the paleo ideology and the lack of credible science was pretty interesting. I’m sure his talk stirred the pot pretty well amongst orthodox paleos. I’d love to hear you touch on that.

  10. Alissa Friedman on August 12, 2011 at 22:36

    Here’s my take on a couple of your questions.

    Low-carb in the house: Both Robb Wolf’s The Paleo Solution and Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint advocate a lowish carb approach. They’re the guys whose books I read and whose approaches I tried, and it made a huge difference for me, physically and mentally. The points they make about adapting your body to burn fat make sense both from the standpoint of thriving on an irregular feeding schedule (ancestral health side of things) and in terms of losing excess visceral fat (low-carb weight loss side of things).

    Boyd Eaton’s talk: I didn’t realize it was controversial until after I read the blogs. He believes in taking a paleo approach to planetary problems, not just to the optimization of personal health. He identifies five planetary problems that he points out violate the “reference modules” we developed over our many years as hunter-gatherers: the devaluation of women; racial, ethnic and religious differences leading to violence; overpopulation; degradation of the environment; and wealth inequality. He seemed optimistic that the fact that these violate our reference modules will help exert pressure toward their solution. The one point that he acknowledged as controversial is that he believes the solution to racial, ethnic and religious violence is the melting pot rather than a quilt of different groups that can live together peacefully. He doesn’t believe the quilt will really satisfy our inherent reference module.

    I look forward to hearing you and Angelo on Latest in Paleo!

  11. Rick on August 12, 2011 at 23:01

    Peter at Hyperlipid : heavy duty science and success as a low carber, required attendance in 2012.

    • Joe on August 13, 2011 at 19:58

      Peter at Hyperlipid

      Yes, please…I think Peter would be an incredible addition (as would the Jaminets.)

      • Erika on August 14, 2011 at 14:02

        CarbSane (the blogger). As one of Gary Taubes’ most vocal (and most well-read) critics from the low-carb end of the spectrum, she would make an excellent attendee. Lierre Keith would be interesting as well.

  12. Paleo Garden on August 13, 2011 at 21:50

    Richard (and piggybacking on comments by Aaron),

    I have been purposely silent on my blog and in comments sections to not insert myself into the Ancestral Health Symposium’s success because in reality I had nothing to do with it other than Aaron’s and Brent’s graciousness in allowing me to volunteer and consider a couple of my recommendations regarding speakers. So, I don’t want this comment/post to be taken as me taking credit for anything other than to make the following observation.

    One of those recommendations regarding potential AHS speakers was Feinman, whom I met in NYC and have developed a very appreciated friendship. Over the last year and a half I (along with others I’m sure) was able to explain to Feinman that Nutrition and Metabolism Society objectives would be well served by him representing NMS at the AHS. I did not read the exchange between him and Karen that Michael noted on Facebook, but I spoke to Karen personally about this exchange. Feinman is indeed libertarian leaning given he is obligated to fund his lowcarb research outside of the typical governmental funding that a lowfat researcher typically takes for “granted”, no pun intended. Feinman may not be a Hayekian, but a Keynesian he is not. I humbly recommended to Karen that she communicates with Feinman to teach him for though Feinman has a lot to teach us, he has a bit to learn about Austrian business cycle theory, for example.

    In short, disregard this Facebook exchange, the important take-way here is that Feinman is on the same side of the barricades with us regarding disagreeing with Lustig’s proposed nannystate solutions recommending mandating government fat taxes on HFCS laden foods and subsidizing healthy vegetables and fruits. Now, of course, Lustig has a lot to learn regarding understanding how government intervention got us into this mess, and it’s NOT going to be government intervention that will get us out of it. Bottom line with Lustig, I respect his work in highlighting the problems associated with fructose, but his nannystate solutions… NO.

    Now, any disagreement that Feinman may have regarding Lustig’s approach or accuracy in his research I cannot speak to, and certainly will not speak for Feinman. So, aside from that, I do know that Feinman’s concerns of Lustig’s overall messages revolve more around his nannystate solutions and how Lustig’s fructose scaremongering may be a Trojan horse for perpetuating the lowfat hypothesis. In other words, Feinman’s concern regarding Lustig’s work may be that people will think the take away is: “Saturated fat is still BAD!, you still need to eat lowfat, just limit your fructose consumption according to your lifestyle and everything will be alright!”

    With all that said/written by me… I do not speak for Feinman, but I have spoken to him directly about this and some of the folks that know/work with him closely, and feel that some of the above should be taken into account regarding analyzing how Lustig and Feinman communicated at the AHS.

    So, where to go from here? Lustig and Feinman need to go out to dinner with some charming chaperons like Richard, Michael, and me so we may help moderate over a few bottles of wine their actual slight disagreements, school them both in free market principles and demonstrate to us all that though we may be on different ends of the political spectrum we are all on the same side of the barricades.

    • Richard Nikoley on August 13, 2011 at 23:56

      Paleo Garden:

      First, thanks much for your great blog and contribution to what was a great event, AHS.

      Second, I hope you’ll be relieve to know that in my recording of the podcast this morning, I made very light of whatever metabolic disagreement the two have with other and focussed on state intervention. I then admitted that I come down on Feinman’s side on that.


      • Paleo Garden on August 14, 2011 at 11:54

        First, thanks for those words.

        Second, I second your stance on all, haven’t listened to this podcast show, looking forward to it. I thought Lustig was a gentleman scientist to all the attendees of AHS, I respect his outlook. I’d love to get Lustig out of San Francisco and on the Polyface farm owned by Joel Salatin. When these folks (I’d include Eaton in that company) get out of their fields and start talking about societal/governmental interventions, I cringe. I think Salatin, the gentleman farmer, could help Lustig, the gentleman scientist, on many things… if he’d only listen? I dare say I expect Lustig would at least listen…

  13. Lustig and Feinman, same side of the barricades « The Paleo Garden on August 13, 2011 at 21:51

    […] In response to the paleosphere’s recent comments regarding Dr. Robert Lustig’s and Dr. Richard Feinman’s communications and Free the Animal’s post “No Church Revival: #AHS11.” […]

  14. Michael on August 16, 2011 at 09:38

    Andreas Eenfeldt ( has reconcilied Guyenet’s & Taubes’ models. his reply to SG:

    I’m not jumping on the Guyenet bandwagon. He seems to have discovered a piece of the puzzle but it’s not the whole story.

    And as for intellectual heavyweights coming up with new/alternative theories there’s a simple explanation for that: it’s what they enjoy doing. A researcher likes to research and come up with explanations and he’s going to do that whether it has practical implications or not.

    • Michael on August 16, 2011 at 09:48

      I just listened to your explanation at 70:00, it makes sense.

  15. Michael on August 16, 2011 at 10:35

    Do the kitavans or other high-carb diet primitive people eat 3 times a day?

    I’m on a one-meal-a-day diet because I like the way it feels, I give myself a 3 hours feeding window at the end of the day and sometimes I eat a lot of potatoes. When I wake up the next day I don’t have 5 extra pounds. I have one insulin spike per day so I can afford not to be low carb all the time because it matters a lot less than if you eat 3 times a day.

    Meal frequency is a factor a lot of people seem to forget

    • Richard Nikoley on August 16, 2011 at 10:42

      Good point, Michael. I usually eat twice per day, and never snack. Given my 1-2 weekly fasts, probably puts me at 1.7 meals per day, but over an 8-12 hour window.

      • Michael on September 7, 2011 at 14:22

        here’s the answer to the question: the kitavans eat one big meal at the end of the day, which means the high carb content of their diet is less an issue compared to those culturally conditioned to eat 3 times a day. Total macronutrient ratio is an incomplete information, you need to add meal frequency in the equation.

        “The diet consists primarily of yams, taro, coconut, sugarcane, and bananas. The main and only cooked meal is at sunset, after the gardening has been completed, and generally consists of yams, taro, and occasionally fish, wild fowl, pork, or sea fowl eggs. During the day, mangoes, breadfruit, bananas, and green coconuts and their milk may be eaten while working.”

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