Food For Thought and Discussion: Root Cause of the Obesity Epidemic, with J. Stanton

J. Stanton of touched off a dispute in the comments of a previous post that I think merits further thought and discussion. As background, J and I are friends. Here’s photographic proof: J and I at the dinner table at my vacation home. The next day, just a couple of months in advance of his and my own AHS12 presentation, we sat down for a video interview that was quite well received. And this last July we got together at his place at Lake Tahoe for a bit, and then again just last month right before holidays, though no pics of that. So, this is all in good clean fun, just in case you had any doubts.

I guess J and I disagree on the root cause of the obesity epidemic. My position is that it’s a perfect storm of palatability/reward, eating too much, too often, and most particularly: the relative decrease in the cost of a “calorie.” Further, now that we are understanding more about the gut biome and its role in hormonal signaling, I speculate that there’s some sort of “vicious circle” or “positive feedback” going on, up to a point.

I’ll let J state his own case, here in the comments he’s already put up that I’ve pasted below, anything he wishes me to add, or that he puts below in this post’s comments.

Robb Wolf (from the Facebook post):

Gotcha. What I’m still intrigued by however is WHY people overeat. I’d throw my hat largely in the “hyper palatable food + neuroregulation of appetite” camp.

J. Stanton:

I don’t believe the evidence supports this hypothesis…or, at least, this isn’t the beginning of the causal chain.

Let’s recall the graph of obesity in America, which was basically flat before 1979, at which point it takes a dramatic upturn. As I pointed out in my AHS2012 presentation, food didn’t suddenly become tasty in 1979. (And people didn’t suddenly become gluttonous and lazy in 1979, either.) Your brain doesn’t just break one day because you put too many spices on a potato, or ate too many chocolate truffles, or whatever. It takes long-sustained hyperglycemia to damage the VMH…and if we claim that was caused by too much “hyperpalatable” food, we’ve just created a circular, self-justifying hypothesis.

Adele Hite’s wonderful “As The Calories Churn” series at eathropology is instructive, because any hypothesis of the nature of obesity must start with the question “What did we eat differently, starting around 1979?”. Most hypotheses, while intellectually plausible, fail trivially against the data.

Alas, the video of my AHS2013 presentation on metabolic flexibility is lost, along with everyone else’s (my bibliography is here) but it’s becoming more and more clear that empirically measurable defects of energy production at the cellular level are, if not the proximate cause, at least farther up the causal chain. The brain is usually just attempting (and, eventually, failing) to maintain homeostasis of an already-broken system.

To use an analogy: you can make a car stop running by disconnecting the spark plug wires, but that doesn’t mean the reason for most car trouble is disconnected spark plug wires. (And yes, I believe obesity and MetS are strongly multifactorial. Nor are they the same thing.)

And John ^^^ is correct: appetite is strongly influenced by nutrient content. Reward is not an intrinsic property of food: it is a property we assign to food based on our nutritional and metabolic state. This is well-understood by anyone familiar with the extensive scientific literature on hunger.

Richard Nikoley:

I use the whole “reward” thing very loosely, not the technical definition, whatever it is.

I think what happened in the 70s is that food got cheap, fast food became ubiquitous, people began eating away from home more often, one could buy a 32 oz soda for the price that a 12 oz used to cost.

So I think fundamentally, the cause of the obesity epidemic is cheap food energy. The palatability comes into play because people perceive they are getting a great deal, such satisfying stuff for a relatively small portion of their disposable income.

I forget the exact figure, but since 2000 the number of restaurants per capita are up about 15%, and what do all those chain restaurants specialize in? Large portions as a tradeoff for good service.

So, follow the money, I guess.

J. Stanton:

The interesting question is: which way around is that causality?

The classic narrative is basically religious: evil corporations tempting us into sin with their giant servings of cheap calories. However, I believe the evidence points to the narrative being the other way around: corporations created these larger-sized portions in response to consumer demand.

Again, I have to start with the data. Spending on “food away from home” increased dramatically through the 1960s and 1970s, while obesity was flat: the trend flattened right around 1980, right when obesity took off. (The graph is in my AHS 2012 presentation.) I can’t bring myself to blame the availability of cheap fast food when the data doesn’t support that interpretation.

For instance, McDonald’s didn’t start selling Super Size meals until 1994 — and other chains didn’t follow suit until even later. Did the fast food industry just not realize, for decades, that they could tempt people into consuming so much? Or, perhaps, was there insufficient demand for such giant portions in 1960, or even 1970?

I have to question the data J references in that last comment because it does not match my own clear recollection and experience at all. I was born in 1961. Fast food was a rare deal. Sure, there might be a Dairy Queen, Foster’s Freeze, maybe an A&W drive-in complete with roller skates in town, or a couple. It was a treat, drive throughs didn’t exist, and there wasn’t one—or three—on every street corner. TV advertising had not become ubiquitous for cheap food. My very first recollection of advertising of food for kids, beyond perhaps candy commercials during cartoons on Saturday morning, was the McDonald’s commercials of the 70s with Ronald, Hamburglar and all the other characters. I also recall the first marketing campaign based upon value for little money with that jingle over getting change back from your dollar—or four dollars, for a family of four.

In those days, there were basically hamburgers and cheeseburgers—very small by today’s standards—and the Big Mac was seen as a huge burger; whereas, now, it’s a small fry or, a “fillet-o-fish.” Fries came in a paper sac and a regular soda was today’s “small,” 12oz. …In some theaters, now, they require that you order “child size” in order to get a normal, 12oz drink.

Here’s the first Big Mac commercial, circa 1968.

I can still recall from the early 70s what a “phenomenon” the Big Mac was. It was like some silly excitement over the indulgent gluttony of it, combined with the low price. Here’s the caloric content of various burgers, starting from the first mass marketed burger, the McDonald’s Mark 1, Mod A Hamburger (see for a list of all)

  1. Plain McD’s Hamburger: 250 kcal (you can still get it; how many limit themselves to that?)
  2. Plain McD’s Double Hamburger: 390 kcal
  3. McD’s Big Mac: 540 kcal (it about doubled)
  4. Burger King Whopper: 650 kcal (had my first in about 1976 or 7 at their first establishment opened in Reno, NV; they have a Double Whopper too)
  5. McD’s Quarter Pounder: 510 kcal (this solidifies McD’s in offering burgers at twice the caloric intake of their original flagship)
  6. Wendy’s Double: 800 kcal (but they have a triple, too)
  7. Wendy’s Triple: 1060 kcal (my first biggest burger, about 1978, Sparks, NV, Fist Wendy’s opening in the region)
  8. Carl’s Junior Six Dollar Burger: 900 kcal (and yep, you can get a double)

I can’t see how any honest assessment of both what you saw with your own eyes in the 70s—as this ramped up—and heard with your own ears doesn’t equal simply more and more calories for less and less real dollars (as relative to your overall budget; i.e., accounting for inflation). What else?

  • Pizza delivery was unknown as the ubiquitous thing it is now. Perhaps it was pioneered by some mom & pop, somewhere.
  • Inexpensive eateries were independent cafes that served comfort food, maybe Denny’s; but Denny’s has never been particularly known for enormous portions. Now, there’e Applebees, Chilis, and all manner of others vying for that profitable market in enormous portions of cheep food served up by a largely entry-level, unskilled cook and wait staff. Yes, the business model is huge portions as a tradeoff for excellent service.
  • Have you noticed the platters of food served in some of these places as a plate of food? I see portion sizes that are clearly in excess of the entire daily energy requirement of the recipient.

My argument is not corporate greed. I well understand that capitalism and business is about delivering what people want to buy, and it’s a push-pull. Sometimes, you just know what people want and set about to give them more of it for less and less because if you don’t, your competition will. Economics and business 101. Other times—and this is the harder problem—people don’t know what they “want,” and so it is to you to come up with an idea and then convince them they want it via marketing/advertising. Superstars like Henry Ford, Ray Kroc, Steve Jobs and others were masters of the latter and why they’re remembered. They dind’t just serve existing markets, they expanded existing markets and created whole new ones.

It’s both. People didn’t want a Big Mac. It was created and marketed to them and once over their audacity, they tried it. It’s still a damn tasty burger, in my view. A Billions of Dollars idea, with competent marketing to back it up…and that latter is always the part seemingly not well seen or understood. This is how quasi free-enterprise works. But, my point has been: human bodies are not cars, flat screen TVs, bedroom sets, entertainment centers, smart phones or any of the other things we love to be delighted with in receiving a little more and more value of, for a little less and less relative disposable income.

And so I conclude the following, in reverse order of causal chain:

  1. People gain obesity levels of excess fat by eating too much food, too often, too long term.
  2. People eat to excess because they perceive they are hungry. Hunger is an urge, while need of food is a rational calculation. In H-G times these were roughly aligned. The former served the latter.
  3. In modern times, the former—the hunger urge—has been short circuited because of the ubiquity of food, its relative cheapness, food engineering to plug into that urge…and potentially, a downward spiral effect where a compromised gut biome results in adverse hormonal regulation (that last possibly being a multi-factoral thing in itself, from pathogenic blooms to want of vitamins and minerals).

It’s the economics, the cheapness of food, that I just don’t see discussed with any rigor. Moreover, I think the obesity epidemic got its foothold in the post WWII era of live it up, and only began showing up in the data where you could see it on a chart in around the late 70s. I certainly noticed a girth trend as I was going between 0 and 18 years old in the 60s and 70s. The curve, or trend, was there in the 60s and 70s, but not at the resolution needed to see it clearly in retrospect, while looking at data supposedly collected with a 2014 perspective on obesity, in 1970.

So basically, over my life I’ve seen fast food become ubiquitous to the extent that when sitting in any fast food joint, you can look out the window and see a few other joints. In that same time, the caloric intake for an average order has doubled or tripled while the cost in real dollars has gone down by half and more.

Add to that all the chain restaurants from Chili’s to Olive Garden, that specialize in enormous portions for cheap.

Add to that the average shopping cart you see in the supermarket, filled with all manner of sugar water and sports drinks, frozen pizzas, wings, Eggo’s, Hot Pockets and on and on—and you don’t think economics is a huge part of the equation? Take half the volume of that same cart in meats, fish, fowl, fresh vegetables and fruits—that require “processing” at home for meals, plus planning—and other needed things like stock, spices, herbs, substrates like rice, noodles, or grains—compared with no other required processing beyond pushing buttons on the microwave. That “half basket” of Reeal Food costs lots more money and lots more trouble to make a meal of. Do the math.

Or, just have it your way.

…But, one more thing to consider. It seems to me that y-axis obesity plotted against x-axis poverty to wealth on country or environment scales would be U-shaped. At the extreme end of poverty you will often find cheap white flour, refined sugar and vegetable oils as staples and essentially everything. Perhaps the Pima Indians are a good example of the havoc that might ensue. On the opposite side, the wealthy side, you have America: people that can eat all manner of enticing goodies cheap and get as fat as they want.

…Ever been to the Mediterranean region? They have all manner of enticing things, but they’re all mom & pop joints and a nice sandwich jambon beurre on a fresh crunchy baguette will set you back as much as the price of a Big Mac meal complete with fries and a “regular” sugar water drink, with quadruple the calories.

…Perhaps at the bottom of the ‘U’ are countries like Bolivia, where Mc Donald’s closed its last restaurant for lack of interest and profits, and where traditional foods and care and preparation and social familia are still upheld as core values; as yet, impervious to marketing and food engineering. Give ’em time and they’ll come around, I’m sure.

McDonald’s restaurants operated in Bolivia for 14 years, according to Hispanically Speaking. In 2002, they had to shutter their final remaining 8 stores because they simply couldn’t turn a profit—and if you know fast food companies, you know it’s not because they didn’t try.

The Golden Arches sunk plenty of money into marketing and campaigning—trying to get the food-loving Bolivians to warm to their French fries and burgers, but it simply wasn’t happening.

Some 60 percent of Bolivians are indigenous. “Fast” and processed foods are simply a foreign concept to them. Why would you pay someone to provide you with a less-than-delicious and unhealthy alternative to real food? This attitude is one that the U.S. fast food nation could learn a thing or two from.

Opposition to McDonald’s in Bolivia didn’t have to be super organized; they didn’t have to protest or use petitions. Instead, they simply made healthy choices and the company couldn’t drum up enough business as a result.

To come full circle, I think that the root fundamental cause of obesity is a shift in priorities. But, it’s not like anyone specifically decided that. It’s an opportunistic shift because in the context of a wild human, just like any wild animal, chief concerns are food and reproduction. And even though H-Gs practice a division of labor implicit in the very name we have for them, it’s still a chore. They still always have to be focussed on food, and if you’ve looked at National Geographic over the decades, food is more important than clothing.

It’s been a long time since the average person had to make choices between the time and efforts spent relatively between food, clothing, and shelter. We spend a lot of time, attention, and money on the latter two, to this day; but almost no one need spend much time, attention, or even money on the former when they have “better things to do;” and these days, who doesn’t? And that’s why we’re fat, in a nutshell. Better things to do.

We haven’t realized that we’re not flat screen TVs, or new cars. We’re organic. They’re inorganic. We don’t need McDonald’s to go away. It’s already here and you can’t put the cat back in the bag. But, you can keep it all in context.

You can will a change in your priorities; and someday, it might become re-naturally reborn; by which I mean a nostalgic embrace of what we know at our core makes more sense. That’s the social part. The science part could be the gentle reverse nudging, a slow pendulum swing the other way, when a better understanding of the gut biome gives us a lot of clues as to why this whole thing got so out of hand.

And potentially a healthy gut will turn us all into the equivalent of Bolivians who eschew McDonald’s.

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  1. Sean on January 24, 2014 at 12:19

    I use the whole “reward” thing very loosely, not the technical definition, whatever it is.

    I think it’s beholden for anyone who is serious and wants to implicate food reward to read JS’s excellent series on the subject (starting with Stephan).

    At least familiarize yourself with the concepts before you make such sweeping judgements, and there is no other place better to do this than reading what JS wrote about the subject. I will admit I’m biased as I’m with JS on the arrow of causation.

    It’s the economics, the cheapness of food, that I just don’t see discussed with any rigor.

    I don’t know about rigor, but the idea that cheap calories caused the obesity epidemic goes right back to the beginning of the discussion of the obesity epidemic itself and has always gone hand in glove with the diet-heart hypothesis, dietary cholesterol hypothesis and other such canards. Plenty of ink has been spilled and will continue to be spilled on the subject. In fact this lady thinks WWII food rationing made people healthier and some sort of similar system ought to be implemented. She even claims it contributed to healthier babies and live births which is clearly BS.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 24, 2014 at 12:37

      “and has always gone hand in glove with the diet-heart hypothesis, dietary cholesterol hypothesis and other such canards.”

      I saw what you did there.

      “In fact this lady thinks WWII food rationing made people healthier and some sort of similar system ought to be implemented. ”

      There too.

      Baseless associations, non-sequitur references, and guilt by association.

      Perhaps you should blog more and keep your brain from melting away, Sean.

      Fucking pathetic.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 24, 2014 at 12:46

      And BTW, I have read every post J has ever posted and I don’t understand why you would assume otherwise when I plainly stated I disagree.

      Does it comfort your vagina to assume that because you agree, I simply haven’t read it?

    • bornagain on January 24, 2014 at 14:30

      @Sean. Give us an update on the new ass hole Richard kindly provided you with. Thanks.

    • Sean on January 24, 2014 at 15:27

      And BTW, I have read every post J has ever posted and I don’t understand why you would assume otherwise when I plainly stated I disagree.

      What I was referring to was this, specifically, “I use the whole “reward” thing very loosely, not the technical definition, whatever it is.”

      I thought it odd for so flippant about the definition of FR since JS made kind of a big deal about the definitions from Berridge specifically and from addiction/reward generally, ie the three components:

      Liking or hedonic impact, often referred to as palatability in food.
      Wanting or incentive salience.

      But you had to turn into a little bombastic girl, as is your wont when things aren’t echo chambery enough to suit your ego.

      Does it comfort your vagina to assume that because you agree, I simply haven’t read it?

      I don’t have actually have a vagina, Richard, but it does comfort me to know that you made the wise decision to make yourself a genetic dead end.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 24, 2014 at 15:41

      “What I was referring to was this”

      So? When I feel it’s necessary to quote, I do so. When I feel a summary is called for, I do that too. If I’m in disagreement, I’ll sometimes, though not always invite my interlocutor to restate his own summary, which is exactly what I did.

      I fully understand that J likes to be very precise on the palatability/reward thing. I purposefully_ avoid that and do you know why? I’m not interested in nit-picking over definitions. There is something intuitive about palatability/reward and that’s all I’m interested in and no, I by no means think it’s all of the sorry, as I outlines above.

      “But you had to turn into a little bombastic girl”

      Sean, we both know we’re both cunts, so just drop it.

      “it does comfort me to know that you made the wise decision to make yourself a genetic dead end.”

      Laf. So what the fuck are you doing here, and what have you been doing for a few years on & off? You were the first to make sure to read and comment on this genetic dead end’s blog for this post.

      By my estimation, the time I have been able to spend writing will have greater influence on other minds over time than having devoted that same time to one or two children, though that’s debatable, and I understand why.

      It is an eternal curiosity to me. I never expected to ever get shit over my wife & I, married for the first time for both of us at 40+, to decide not to have kids. And yet, I get it every now & then, always from people who have them.

      I chalk it up to closeted envy, never ever explicitly expressed.

    • Sean on January 24, 2014 at 16:26

      Sean, we both know we’re both cuts, so just drop it.

      I assume you meant to write cunts. No actually, you are the cunt here, Richard. All I did was suggest you not play fast and loose with FR and you had to launch into your typical vicious ad hom bitch mode.

      I chalk it up to closeted envy, never ever explicitly expressed.

      It was a rather cheap shot, I admit, but well deserved.

      Ok, I admit it, it was from closeted envy. If I could trade my son for a hugely successful (never forget, Richard’s blog is huge!) blog and a free-wheeling existence in the Socialist Republic of Kalifornia I would in a heartbeat. Also, I hate the Lakers because I really love the Lakers.

      Laf. So what the fuck are you doing here, and what have you been doing for a few years on & off?

      For the last couple years it’s been almost entirely off, for reasons you just aptly demonstrated. Something which you’ve brought up in email and Twitter. And now I deeply regret jumping in on this thread in the first place. Laf indeed.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 24, 2014 at 17:31

      “I assume you meant to write cunts.”

      And I assume, since we’ve called each other that numerous times in comments and emails that you somehow feel a need to point out a goof, only pretending to “assume.” In other words, you just lied. You knew exactly. But you didn’t say that you knew, though it would have been as easy to type. So, you lied instead.

      Let me explain to your mind why I don’t engage the technical definitions of reward/palatability. It’s a conscious thing. I’ve read all of Stephan’s stuff, all of J’s, talked with both, Googled here & there. To me, it’s an argument over precision of definition. What does “palatability” really mean, and does that hypothesis warrant the proposed definition in every conceivable way? And “reward,” even more, because it takes people out of context, doesn’t fully integrate the milieu in which they are influenced and by which, eventually make choices for better or worse—from integrating nothing, to everything they can.

      Sean, I am in this to speak to the most number of people possible very long term and Ive proven my resolve with an average of a post per day over 10 years. I give a runny shit, ultimately, about an ex-pat in Prague, what he happens to think about me (it’s none of my business), always though happy for friendship that has been rewarding for me in the large.

      The essential problem in my view is one of specialization.

      E.g., will Stephan ever talk about the economics, the buying power, the measurable increase in average disposable income vs. the relative way less flush people have to pay for food, and how that effects their sense of reward?

      What’s the difference, in terms of reward, between a $5 Cinnabon and a $1 Cinnabon? I’m assuming both are palatable. Both are not equally rewarding, and especially not on a quotidien basis. And Starbucks is now Jamba Juice with brewing.

      All Stephan can say is “reward.” He’s a neuroscientist obesity researcher. It’s like a damn union. He doesn’t get to integrate everything because there’s a code and they’d have to get the economist union involved.

      Or, the crux of the problem, as I’m trying to explain, is out of Stephan’s purview, and I’d like for J to get that—and everyone else—too.

    • gabriella kadar on January 24, 2014 at 19:00

      The only thing that improved from rationing in Great Britain was dental health. The English used to be the world’s number one consumers of sugar. During the war they were severely rationed and their teeth didn’t rot as fast. Last time I checked, the world’s biggest consumers of sugar are the Cubans.

      The starvation foisted on the Dutch, did not prevent babies from being born whole, and apparently did not adversely affect their intelligence, had a huge impact on chronic disease in middle age. It’s the Barker Hypothesis in action. The baby boomers have done much better and with all the dairy consumption, has resulted in the Dutch being among the tallest people in the world.

  2. kxmoore on January 24, 2014 at 20:52

    The number of obese people is close to being double the estimated number of persons going hungry to bed, over 800 million.

    Maybe we should be sending sacks of potato starch to the “third world” instead of mutant high-gluten wheat.

  3. Charlie on January 24, 2014 at 12:16

    In the 1950s our treat was Skippy’s Burgers – a Golden Arches look-a-like – they had 15 cent burgers and 10 cent fries. They had multiple serving windows with a dozen cooks sliding burgers down a stainless steel ramp as fast as they could to the server/cashiers at the serving windows. When McDonalds came to town, they were just another Skippy’s – just not as entertaining.

  4. kayumochi on January 24, 2014 at 12:18

    McDonald’s Japan recently shut 74 stores. Other Japanese fast food outlets aren’t doing so well either. Certainly the Japanese market was developed by introducing foods that have no history in Japan’s ancient food culture. At the end of the day a strong Japanese food culture still holds sway yet you do see obese children and adults where once there were none because, as Richard mentioned, you can’t put the cat back in the box: 7-11, no longer an American company, is now ubiquitous in Japan and serves not only traditional Japanese foods albeit precooked but also sugar-laden crap kids can’t resist. I think what might spare Japan is that Japanese women are reluctant to go into the workplace and so have the time to spend on a proper home cooked meal whereas American women are too busy working to take the time to cook for their families.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 24, 2014 at 12:31


      My reference for seeing one fast food joint from another was actually mostly from Tokyo. In 1984-89 when I was there, McD was a force in major urban. It was literally as ubiquitous as Starbucks in some areas of Tokyo like Shinjuku and the like. And yes, almost all 20something Japanese women were thin, nice. The fat ones were the young teenagers and it was talked about a lot even then.

      I was 20 something myself. If I went out with a young girl, we might end up at a fast food or a Shakey’s Pizza Yea, that was there, too). If a 25 yr old, she’d cook me dinner or take me someplace with traditional fare.

      It’s good to see things are changing. I don’t want the government to do it by force. Look what the Bolivians and now Japanese have done. And, I would always like to get a Big Mac too, when I want.

    • kayumochi on January 24, 2014 at 12:49

      You were there during the Bubble. That time is looked at with fondness now for a number of reasons but most of all not only was it the end of the Showa Era but it was the end of the “good old days” (in the minds of Japanese) – that Golden era that began the mid-1950s. People will often say “Showa wa ii ne,” meaning “The Showa Era was really good, wasn’t it.” I think Japanese are turning inwards again and part of that turning is the lack of interest in fast food.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 24, 2014 at 16:11

      Yea, Kayu, that was indeed a golden era that I enjoyed.

      For a time, it was hypothesized that Japan would overtake the US in economic prowess. I read books at the time. America panicked and devalued the dollar against the yen by 50%. My beach house on Hayama beach went from $400 per month in 1984 to over $800 per month by 1986 in dollar terms, though the yen I gave to my landlord was exactly the same (I was being paid in dollars).

      What sticks with me though was how they spent their money. Not on 2 huge cars or McMansions. They spent it on having a class of a time. I loved the Japanese sense of class and style and learned a lot about how to do it right.

    • DuckDodgers on January 24, 2014 at 16:49

      Personally, I was a fan of the burgers, and Vanilla shakes, at Homework’s back then.

    • kayumochi on January 25, 2014 at 08:27

      You can expand what your said regarding to how Japanese spend their money to food as well: quality over volume. But you see, the Japanese have a culture and a context that allows people to live well but simply. That does not exist in the USA. There is also egalitarianism, something else that doesn’t really exist in the States. But you do find it in Australia and New Zealand I noticed. Why there and not here, I don’t understand.

  5. Michael on January 24, 2014 at 12:21

    Sure, food is cheaper now. But for rich people, food was always cheap (for them). So, back in the 40s, say, was there an epidemic of obesity among rich people? Answer (I believe but may be wrong): Not in any way approaching the levels of obesity among people of all income levels now.

    I’m eagerly awaiting more discussion, but to me it still seems to be a question of food quality over mere cheap availability, though both may play a role.

    Oh, and I can afford to eat as much as I might reasonably want. Since I went Paleo, I’ve been able to lower and then maintain my weight despite the availability of food. My hunger has decreased now that I eat more healthfully. Oh, and when I was 40lbs heavier, I didn’t go out to restaurants any more or less than I do now. My home-cooked meals and restaurant choices have changed, and I think that’s what has allowed me to eat less without hunger.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 24, 2014 at 12:39

      “Sure, food is cheaper now. But for rich people, food was always cheap”

      Your confounding variable is baked in your cake.

    • Rob on January 29, 2014 at 23:09

      “But for rich people, food was always cheap.”

      If you look at the history of monarchs there were quite a few of them were overweight: .

      They were probably the first people to have readily available and palatable food.

      Their rate of obesity is probably lower than the US and UK today but much higher than the average back then.

    • Dr. Curmudgeon Gee on January 29, 2014 at 08:42


      FR is so elusive that i agree w/ JS that reward & palatability not an intrinsic property.

      + there’s an ascetic & puritanical aspect that i detest.

      pointless discussion. just eat real food should work for most.


  6. Patrick Rochon on January 24, 2014 at 12:33

    It is still about the quality of food vs quantities of cheap calories. You can put billions in advertising “steamed McBroccoli” and offer people whole broccoli stack for 49 cents they won’t get obese because nobody can overeat broccoli. And it is pretty hard for people to overeat lean fish with a dripped of olive oil or lean grass fed steak.

    put someone on the mcGrassfed 8 oz steak + McBroccoli stalk for 2.49$ 3 times a day / 7 days per week and they will not become obese I can garantee you.

    Slim it down to 3oz of fatty meat, add two white flour buns and some omega-6 rich dressing for the exact same amount of calories .. and people will double their orders because they won’t be satisfied and won’t be well nourished.

    Yes it’s all about calories, but you simply can’t overeat real food calories as much as junk food calories.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 24, 2014 at 12:42

      “It is still about the quality of food vs quantities of cheap calories. You can put billions in advertising “steamed McBroccoli” and offer people whole broccoli stack for 49 cents they won’t get obese because nobody can overeat broccoli. And it is pretty hard for people to overeat lean fish with a dripped of olive oil or lean grass fed steak.”

      Again, baked in the cake. Fast food and cheap food in general is a consequence of agriculture, economies of scale, and the technology to engineer a vast array of different seeming foods from the same basic ingredients. Just add some protein and you’re set.

    • Patrick Rochon on January 24, 2014 at 12:53

      so your reply is baked in the cake. Remove foods from post agriculture and you won’t be able to easily overeat. It does not matter if it’s because of a biological/hormonal problem caused by the post agriculture food or simply because it is cheap calories that people love and overeat. If you remove those foods you solve the problem.

      (by the way excuse my english, it is not my native language)

    • Richard Nikoley on January 24, 2014 at 13:32

      “Remove foods from post agriculture and you won’t be able to easily overeat. It does not matter if it’s because of a biological/hormonal problem caused by the post agriculture food or simply because it is cheap calories that people love and overeat. If you remove those foods you solve the problem.”

      Did you read the post or are you? ignoring what it’s about?

      The cat is out of the bag.

  7. tatertot on January 24, 2014 at 12:47

    My childhood recollections are identical to yours Richard. There was one McDonald’s in a 4 county area where there now must be dozens. And, you can go to that original McDonald’s now and look out the window to see Arby’s, Wendy’s, Pizza Hut and several other fast-food places.

    I was in Wal-Mart the other day, and overheard a very obese couple arguing the merits of buying some bacon, eggs, bread, and OJ or going to McDonald’s…guess which won? Fast food is just too convenient. I know lots of people that don’t even keep food in their homes except for snacks. I remember my Mom being chastised for feeding us TV Dinners (which we LOVED–It was like being an astronaut, eating out of tin-foil).

    • Richard Nikoley on January 24, 2014 at 12:52

      Tim: Oh, God. TV dinners. Salisbury Steak. Hungry Man! The mashed taters were pretty awful, but the cherry crumble was divine!

    • gabriella kadar on January 24, 2014 at 19:11

      I ate Swanson TV dinners for lunch every day in Grade 9. I was skinny to the point of anorexic. In grade 10 I ate a chocolate covered cream filled donut, a sandwich, glass of milk and a fruit. Gained 15 pounds!! It was insidious. Quit the donuts and lost the weight. In those days, living in downtown, there weren’t any fast food joints.

  8. Mr Dave on January 24, 2014 at 13:21

    I’d just throw in people working different kinds of jobs these days. More people in cubicles and less people working assembly lines. Office work lends itself to eating and sitting. That’s how people get fat. Too much fast food or even foodie -food can get you fat. Eating has become recreation at both ends of the spectrum, rich or poor. I agree with the easy cheap calorie thesis. But also eating for fun and recreation.

    But it is a bunch of things driving up the obesity numbers. Video games for the kids… we used to be on bikes or playing kick ball on the street all day. Maybe an hour or two of tv a day. But now some kids camp out all day on their asses.

    I eat out with co-workers sometimes. Almost always, the real heavy ones eat more than the skinny ones.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 24, 2014 at 13:36

      “I’d just throw in people working different kinds of jobs these days. More people in cubicles and less people working assembly lines. Office work lends itself to eating and sitting. That’s how people get fat. Too much fast food or even foodie -food can get you fat. Eating has become recreation at both ends of the spectrum, rich or poor. I agree with the easy cheap calorie thesis. But also eating for fun and recreation.”

      Observe the photos of the enormous floor of secretaries typing away in black and white. All thin. They brought their own lunch from food they got at the store and fixed, even if it was a sandwich on gluten bread. Now, it’s take out, the caf, any number of eateries a short walk away and above all….

      It’s within the budget of huge numbers now to eat out ever single day in some part.

    • Woodchuck Pirate on January 26, 2014 at 11:11

      The cube-farm/gymnasium replacement of the real-farm/real-work topology, is a wound society will never recover from, until they take the minimal step of admitting the magnitude of dysfunction inherent in this “achievement” of civilization.

      Woodchuck Pirate
      aka Raymond J Raupers Jr USA

    • Woodchuck Pirate on January 26, 2014 at 11:25

      Consider how difficult (and dumb) it is to eat donuts while running a chainsaw. Real work always diminishes my appetite for the entire time I’m balls to the wall getting something done. It doesn’t matter if I’m 12 hours into pulling stumps, I don’t care to stop for food. When I finish work it doesn’t matter what or how much I eat. Eating real food in diversity nourishes the body. Isolate and degrade either element can only lead to dysfunction, no matter how “good” someone looks in the mirror. Good looking people drop dead everyday. Not on my list of goals.

      Woodchuck Pirate
      aka Raymond J Raupers Jr USA

  9. Art on January 24, 2014 at 13:31

    Fast food in the home in addition to the street: microwaves and gadgets and processed fare. When the time cost of production is low, why not have another while you catch up on Starsky and Hutch on your Betamax, having spent an oh so exhausting day wearing a suit and talking to folk?

    Comfort eating, fractured living, and kiddie bribing too:

  10. Kate on January 24, 2014 at 13:41

    Totally with Richard on this one. I believe that never in the history of humanity has so much food been so easily obtained with so little relative expenditure of effort or wealth. Add to that a cultural tendency in this country to favor bigger is better. I’m 55 so I remember what a big deal going to McDonalds or Dairy Queen used to be. Not only was it less convenient but I suspect it was relatively more expensive then it is today. But the big portion thing was already getting started in the 70s. We used to go to Fenten’s (an ice cream joint) in Oakland after swim workouts sometimes, and the portions where obscene. And you were a wimp if you didn’t finish. We thought it was such a cool place.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 24, 2014 at 13:45


      I’m beginning to believe that there’s a band of folks aged about 48-55+ who really get this.

      We saw the changes live action in the very years we were paying the closest of attentions.

    • gabriella kadar on January 24, 2014 at 19:26

      Agreed. I was 10 years old when I ate my first meal in a ‘real’ restaurant. Until then, the soggy margarined toast in a foil/paper bag from the greasy spoon joint along the highway was THE treat. (We never had white bread or margarine at home. Unsalted butter and European style rye bread. So even this lousy stupid garbage was ‘different’ and for some reason ‘delicious’.)

      French fries was a rare treat.

      Food was cooked at home. If we went out for the whole day on a trip, we took food with us. We were poor.

      I think all this going to fastfood restaurants initially made people feel special that they didn’t have to cook their own food but could still afford ‘restaurant’ food. There was always a certain cache to dining out but the real dining out was outside of the price range of working folks. Fastfood joints provided the opportunity to get out of the ‘dreary’ kitchen……..sort of like the appeal of that soggy toast to me. But oddly enough, when women were interviewed about what they enjoyed doing at home, it was cooking meals for their families. I think there was a subtle social pressure to go out for pizza and burgers and whatnot because there was a strongly advertised undercurrent that cooking was a waste of time. Remember the Kraft commercials? Betty Crocker, Duncan Hines, Jello…Everthing as easy as possible at home but even better to go out. I remember the ExLax commercials too. It seemed that Americans were obsessed with ”regularity” as well.

    • Katie on January 27, 2014 at 11:55

      I’m only 31, and I fully agree with you. What really resonated for me, Richard, was when you mentioned how it cost the same in Europe for a single high-quality sandwich as it costs for a Super Value Meal likely with three times the calories here. There is SO much food available all the time here, and much of it is the kind that you eat and eat and are left wanting more. If you want to see what we’ve become, take a look at the online nutrition information for most major fast food joints and “casual” restaurants. Realistically, a 1000 calorie meal is still probably too much on a regular basis for most sedentary Americans, but most of the meals you see probably will be bigger especially if taken with a 32 oz. soda. I do think that everything we’re learning about gut bacteria and RS plays a role–perhaps what is missing from our hyper-processed diets as Americans is as important as the extra calories contained.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 27, 2014 at 18:57


      Bless you. Cool how you get it.

  11. Gene on January 24, 2014 at 14:21

    This is interesting:

    Victorian era folks eating twice the calories we do? They did more manual labour, however.

  12. marie on January 24, 2014 at 14:22

    Mediterraneans are getting obese too lately, but the phenomenon is still relatively new so you might notice something interesting when walking on the street : there’s a completely bimodal distribution, the significantly overweight/obese on one side and the slim on the other. Slim folk invariably are eating traditionally even when they go out, you see them populating the home-cooking tavernas, bistros or trattorias, while the overweight can be found hanging out at McDs and holding american-style popcorn at the movie theaters as opposed to the traditional ‘passe-a-tempo’ (roasted sunflower seeds in Greece and southern Italy).

    What’s driving part of the population away from the good stuff? I can’t begin to speculate, but it seems a perfect situation for getting some questions answered, these cultures are right in the middle of transition. There hasn’t been a generation or two or three that grew up with this fast-food everywhere, so it’s not yet a chicken-egg situation. Maybe someone will think to ask them, rather than just count them….

  13. bornagain on January 24, 2014 at 14:26

    Richard, I wonder if increased marijuana use has led to increased appetites and therefore obesity? I’ve seen plenty of people eat way more than they usually would and far crappier too because they have the “munchies”.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 24, 2014 at 15:06


      Do you smoke dope? Seriously?

      Feel free to so a study, but _chronic_ users are by and large lean and showing lean loss.

      Acute munchies are no more pronounced that other munchies and are short lived.

      I’ve smoked since about 1981. Now, very intermittently. Many periods were I had zero for years. I can assure everyone that my own problem with fat had zero to do with it.

    • bornagain on January 24, 2014 at 20:06

      I do not ‘smoke’. Never have. Can’t say that I ever will.

      I’m somewhat interested by those that do however. I gleaned many good ideas for myself from their ‘altered’ thinking.

      After a little Googling on the subject it appears I may have been a little off the mark anyway. Amsterdam is the perfect example to prove that my original idea was wrong – nothing more need be said.

    • rs711 on January 24, 2014 at 23:36

      @bornagain –

      More people smoke in France than they do in the Netherlands, regardless of availability. Actually, France is one of the most conservative countries regarding drug use but still manages to have the highest numbers of smokers. The law very little effect on reducing availability.

      Staying “away from drugs” is like trying to breathe less to age slower. You have one mind – use it. Be careful with it, but above all, but use it.

  14. Steve G on January 24, 2014 at 14:54

    “Historically, farm bills have provided financial support for commodity crops (such as wheat, corn and soybeans) and no financial support for fruits and vegetables. Two types of subsidies given to commodity crop producers come in the form of direct and counter-cyclical payments. ”

    Nothing like good ol’ government intervention to make the least optimal foods the cheapest to buy.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 24, 2014 at 15:03

      That’s right, Steve G (Was that Bolivia’s problem? Don’t know.). I didn’t address that aspect directly because it’s implicit in the economics.

      Or, to put it another way, a subsidized agricultural Bic Mac on all levels is more palatable and more cents per calorie will be paid than for a loaf of subsidized agricultural bread, subsidized process and packaged lunch meat, subsidized vegetables, and subsidized mayo made from subsidized industrial eggs and subsidized machinery lubricant.

  15. Ken Lawler on January 24, 2014 at 15:04

    I’m betting the unifying theory here (and there has to be one) is that the gut bacteria are the things being acted upon by food (fast food) and in turn are the mechanism in charge of weight regulation among other things.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 25, 2014 at 08:13

      Ken, that’s my hope because that would explain why some with plenty of money to buy and consume all the crap they want, don’t.

      So, I think the palatability/reward science is interesting but incomplete because it lacks the integration of economics, at least so far as I’m aware. But it’s still incomplete because it doesn’t explain why those of similar relative means as concerns food don’t all dive in head first and get fat. The gut bugs could unify this.

  16. Todd on January 24, 2014 at 15:06

    I think this is accurate for the majority of people’s weight issues combined with inactivity. People don’t cook anymore. Time consuming, expensive and Pizza Hut is only a phone call away after a long day’s work. Pizza Hut is a lot more palatable than some home-cooking I’ve had by people who don’t know how to cook, too.

    I’m fortunate enough to have grown up in a household that ate pretty much all home-cooked meals except for Friday night’s dinner out. It was a treat then and I still treat it as such as an adult.

  17. kxmoore on January 24, 2014 at 16:01
  18. Rob on January 24, 2014 at 16:08

    “Fist Wendy’s opening in the region” Yeah, she used to like it in that region, she got around then.

    BTW my wife hates you and your fart powder.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 24, 2014 at 16:39

      “BTW my wife hates you and your fart powder.”

      I love feedback. Sincerely. This makes me dayz.

  19. Art on January 24, 2014 at 16:20
  20. Dan on January 24, 2014 at 17:52

    Richard, I think you’re missing one major point about people overeating at fast food joints and other restaurants…they’re not eating food! They’re eating incredibly high carb processed crap devoid of vitamins and minerals with some chemicals thrown in for seasoning. People eat this same crap at home nowadays too. So what happens when you eat incredibly high carb crap with no real nutrition in it? You get a sugar high, then a crash, then your body tells you that you need nutrients. Repeat. Empty calories will never satiate anyone which is why people keep eating and eating and can’t stop, even when they’re disgusted by how they look in the mirror. They’re still hungry, so they go to McDonald’s again.

    I also think it’s worth mentioning the amazing drop in the amount of GOOD fats that people consume over the past few decades. Your body needs good fat for satiety and people just aren’t getting enough, instead they’re eating vegetable fats that your body can’t process. I think Jaminet put it together very well here

    • gabriella kadar on January 24, 2014 at 20:06

      Dan, I’m not sure if those people even recognize satiety. They recognize ‘stuffed’ and these are different things. If people consume the mega sized portions, then it’s because they don’t stop when they have had enough and continue until they can’t get anymore food down.

      I watched the youtube video about that poor 1000 pound woman in Texas who had been falsely accused of killing her young nephew. She was bedbound so her husband loved her to death: you should see what she was eating!! No problem downing 2 large pizzas and at least one cheesecake as a chaser. 10 hamburgers. Etc. That’s not eating to satiety. That’s eating until food is coming up the esophagus. I think she’s down to about 175 pounds now. So long as he husband doesn’t get back into loving her the way he loved her before, she’s got a chance to keep it off.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 25, 2014 at 08:48

      “Richard, I think you’re missing one major point about people overeating at fast food joints and other restaurants…they’re not eating food! They’re eating incredibly high carb processed crap devoid of vitamins and minerals with some chemicals thrown in for seasoning.”

      I don’t really buy that. McDonald’s beef is pretty decent in the big scheme of things and they keep it safe in spite of billions sold worldwide. Tom Naughton and others have shown that you can lose weight and improve all your blood makers on an exclusive FF diet. All you have to do is have “a functioning brain” as Tom says in Fat Head. It’s on Hulu and Netflix if you haven’t seen it.

      Then, there’s this guy, Don Gorske, who looks pretty damn lean, healthy and vibrant to me, eats an average of about 2 Bic Macs per day and has been doing so for 40 years. He’s had over 25,000 of them.

    • Dan on January 28, 2014 at 13:16

      “I don’t really buy that. McDonald’s beef is pretty decent in the big scheme of things and they keep it safe in spite of billions sold worldwide.”

      I have to disagree with that one Richard…keeping people safe in the short term isn’t really much of a quality bar. Remember pink slime? I’m curious what else McD’s puts in their “beef”.

      Regarding Tom Naughton, I see a parallel with my Aunt who’s vegan. All of her blood markers have improved since going vegan, but she’s constantly hungry and will likely have serious health issues the longer she’s vegan due to vitamin and mineral deficiencies. I’d like to see a long-term (20 year) experiment with someone eating exclusively fast food, anything else is too short. Humans have never eaten anything like fast food in our entire history, it’s going to take a lot to convince me it qualifies as real food.

      Don Gorske has OCD which means brain and body hormones/chemistry are quite different than the average person, I don’t know that I’d extrapolate his experience to everyone. Interesting that he’s been able to eat that many big macs, but I’m not confident it would work for the general public. I hesitate to let exceptions invalidate a general rule, but I do agree exceptions should make you at least examine the rule.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 28, 2014 at 20:31


      Lose the tin foil hat. McDonald’s burger patties are 100% beef with some salt & pepper.

      This is what I have always loathed about both Paleo and WAPF. Capital L.

    • Dan on February 6, 2014 at 17:30

      I don’t really buy it Richard, and here’s another great example:

    • Richard Nikoley on February 6, 2014 at 18:01

      I guess you never heard about the guy who lost over 100 pounds eating nothing but Subway. Any idea how he did it?

      Laf. You people make me laf.

    • Richard Nikoley on February 6, 2014 at 18:04

      Oh, and don’t think I didn’t notice that you diverted the thing from your erroneous BS about Mcds to Subway, which has subsequently been rendered erroneous.

      Eat all the clean food you want. ….Well, no, because you’ll probably get fat if you’re 40 and over.

      Eat whatever you want and hopefully you have some sense, and have sense about how much, take some walks, do some hikes, be active and vibrant, you’ll probably do OK, even if you may pack 10-30 pounds more that you would like.

    • Dan on February 7, 2014 at 09:39

      Since I also love to argue things into the ground ;) … finding one exception to a general rule doesn’t mean that rule is invalidated. We’re not talking math or physics, we’re talking about how the American public generally eats. There’s no disputing Jared lost a ton of weight, and that a lot of other obese people could lose weight on his same diet. However, most people who eat fast food (which is why I lump McDonald’s and Subway into the same category, it’s all fake food) don’t eat how Jared or Don Gorske or the guy from Fat Head do. They get addicted to the food cocktail which is designed for addition, eat too much of it, and don’t have enough time or knowledge or willpower to break that cycle and eat a reasonable amount. How many people don’t overeat fast food and carby crap you buy in the grocery store? Compare that with how many people overeat a meal of very high quality food.

  21. steve g on January 24, 2014 at 20:09

    Richard knows about the quality of fast food. What he is saying is that its cheap, and therefore more rewarding. People are not ignorant of that fact either, however, if you raised the price of said cheap food, people would stop buying it or reduce their consumption. Richard is including cost with palatability, whereas Stephan only looks at the food and its effects in isolation. The food landscape might be quite different if the government had never subsidized grains and corn since most processed foods are made from them.

  22. steve W on January 24, 2014 at 20:19

    “In modern times, the former—the hunger urge—has been short circuited because “…

    Because indeed!

    Richard, your analysis is good but it’s missing the primary component – namely that contemporary Western people are unapologetic pleasure-seekers. Every moment of every day is serotonin hit after serotonin hit. The deferred-gratification / self-restraint of previous generations is no more. Facebook likes (for women), internet porn (for men) and junk food for us all.

  23. steve W on January 24, 2014 at 20:21

    Forgot to add – because Feminism.

  24. George @ the High Fat Hep C Diet on January 24, 2014 at 20:47

    I’m putting my money, when I get some, on this explanation, and I pretty much consider it applies equally to epidemics of obesity, diabetes, and NAFLD
    interpret it as if omega 3 = normal energy regulation, leptin sensitivity, appropriate appetite, and so on.

    • kxmoore on January 24, 2014 at 21:40

      Wow nice link George. Never knew that pollutants can contribute to obesity. Poultry is high in both omega 6 (with skin) AND POPs (persistent organic pollutants) both associated with obesity. And lookie here:

    • kxmoore on January 24, 2014 at 21:52

      and the chart for omega 6 consumption:

      our government and “health experts” through policy and propaganda have been promoting poultry, vegetable oil and non-resistent carb consumption for decades.

    • George @ the High Fat Hep C Diet on January 25, 2014 at 12:21

      There are some nice charts in the papers linked to Of Mice and Men. While omega 6 has multiplied – in the relevant time frame – omega 3 has remained constant through history.
      But it’s an interesting aside in one of those papers that extra omega 6 will actually promote fat-burning like omega3 if the diet is high in protein and low in carbohydrate, but have the opposite effect if protein is normal or sugar, high-GI starch are added.

  25. Kit Perkins on January 24, 2014 at 21:09

    First – Richard, you know I’ve been reading every post for years and only rarely comment.

    Second – JS, thanks for a plug in the comments of gnolls years ago I never thanked you for. I’m a huge fan of yours, and I’m more likely to hand The Gnoll Credo to a friend than say, The Primal Blueprint. The more important, fundamental, thing here is the evolutionary discordance – inconsistency as I refer to it. And narratives are most powerful.

    In this case, I think JS is wrong (well, right but too incomplete), and RN is more right (but still incomplete).

    In my mind, overeating can’t be pinned purely on hyperpalatable food, a point JS makes well (“food didn’t suddenly become tasty in 1979”).

    RN adds a microbiome angle, which I consider important, but still not complete.

    The fact (as I see it) is, the human is robust and durable. You need lots of effort to fuck the whole thing up (a feat we’ve clearly achieved).

    Availability of tasty food is not enough.

    Destroying the microbiome is not enough.

    Environmental persuasion to eat garbage is not enough.

    Taken all together, that all appears to be enough (though 5 years ago I didn’t know about hyperpalatibilty, so there’s always the possibility for more).

    In other words, it doesn’t break until it does. And then it’s broken. And you have to go back plenty far to fix it (gyms aren’t evil, but MovNat is necessary).

    I think that these “diseases of affluence” can’t be dismissed merely as a cause of affluence – instead they may be proximal to (or even necessary for?) affluence. This is a point Keoni Galt recently made in “Cubicle Farming and the Desk Jockeys”.

    We all know a solution (or rather, a few similar solutions with slightly different emphases). So it seems the question here is the cause.

    You can argue that debating the cause is fruitless.

    But if we will argue the cause (it’s fun, besides), it comes down to this for me:
    -Poisonous Food
    -Gut Biome
    -Direct Environment (advertising and peer pressure)
    -Indirect Environment (8-hour workday and “convenience culture” that KG addressed)

    Carbs aren’t on that list, and for that, the agents of justice and truth can rejoice. But the fact remains that we know how to fix this (low-carb included as a solution, albeit a majorly flawed one) – so only semantics care how we got here.

    • Kit Perkins on January 24, 2014 at 22:52

      Incorporating KG’s take is essentially running with RN’s “To come full circle, I think that the root fundamental cause of obesity is a shift in priorities.”

      It’s an attempt to explain the shift in priorities.

      And it also explains why “And potentially a healthy gut will turn us all into the equivalent of Bolivians who eschew McDonald’s” is rather hopeless (although if you can get people to care that much about gut biome, they’re probably willing to eschew McDonald’s.)

      Americans aren’t Bolivians for a host of reasons, all of which may be important here.

    • Kit Perkins on January 24, 2014 at 22:54

      One more.

      KG isn’t just attempting to explain the shift in priorities – he’s suggesting that shift may be required for such an economy.

  26. Resurgent on January 24, 2014 at 21:15

    Richard – We are forgetting one crucial thing. Eating out more (less cooking at home) because of changing lifestyles has been happening even before 1970. But what is preventing the food provider from using good ingredients, like the ones used at home.? What is preventing Mcdonald or anyone else from providing home like cooked meals – which they can provide even cheaper because of the economies of scale and still make plenty of money.
    Someone in the comments mentioned farm subsidies – I think it goes deeper, when any organization morphs beyond a certain size, whether it is state or religion, (read Govt. or church and so on) it produces distortions and never in history has it benefitted society for which was initially created.
    Our current obesity epidemic is one of the many manifestations of this.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 25, 2014 at 09:32


      Oh, I definitely think it’s a perfect storm of a variety of factors and the first contributors got going in the post WW-II era. Perhaps because so many women worked during the war effort, they got used to it, liked having the added money, more variety in life by being out of the home, etc, and many stayed working when the troops came home, or had to for the ones that didn’t.

      So, it changed the landscape. Food engineering and economies of scale kicked in and by the 70s the “tropical storm” had plenty of sustaining energy to launch an obesity storm that quickly began to show in the data.

    • gabriella kadar on January 25, 2014 at 15:15

      Maybe suburbia had something to do with it as well. People who live, work and shop in a close geographical radius, tend to not buy groceries en masse. They buy fresh for what they are making that day. There’s a lot of stockpiling of food going on in North American homes. What with the freezer, packaged foods etc. people can have weeks worth of food at hand at all times.

      I have zero junk food in my kitchen but my freezer has enough ingredients along with the various spices, bottled and jarred flavouring adjuncts, that except for fresh vegetables, I have enough to last for about 3 weeks. Supermarkets are too far away for convenient walking so I stock up to spare too many trips back and forth.

      It’s not just supersized portions at McDonald’s. It’s supermarket packaging that results in way too much food stored at home too. Even with regards to vegetables, it’s a multiday effort to consume a head of cauliflower or a bunch of asparagus.

      There’s also way too much variety and choice. It’s also easy to eat too much even home cooked food if it tastes bloody good. Being tired at the end of the day distorts appetite.

  27. Goaltender on January 25, 2014 at 06:21

    I have a question. I see no mention of HFCS.
    Introduced basically in that 79-80 timeframe. The obesity epidemic appears to mirror the metric tonnage used in food. Added to more and different foods until today it’s in just about everything.
    I just started reading your website after seeing the resistant starch posts so forgive me if I have missed any HFCS debates.

    • Nick on January 25, 2014 at 08:40
    • Richard Nikoley on January 25, 2014 at 10:24


      The only argument I buy regarding HFCS is that it got more sugar into processed foods because it’s cheaper than cane sugar. Otherwise, I don’t buy any of the HFCS hype.

    • Goaltender on January 25, 2014 at 12:24

      But that’s kinda my point. The “more” part. I don’t think the form matters as much as the quantity.
      Sucrose, potatoes, fruit, HFCS or plain white bread. All sugar seems to be universally bad.
      The quantity keeps inching up each year. Some years obviously have less but the trend continues upward almost unabated.
      Quickly looking at some tables from 2000 to 2013 show the increased production anyways.

    • Charles A. Richardson on January 26, 2014 at 19:16

      I tend to agree with this. And this seems like an appropriate place to add another comment I’ve wanted to make.
      I was at the University of Minnesota in the late 60s early 70s. This was Minnesota, a big turkey producing state, so they needed to find ways to sell more turkey year ’round, not just for one Thursday a year.

      The university was a hotbed of the newly emerging field of Food Science. And I remember being basically enraged by a major guy in that field who talked about how they were starting to put sugar in turkey (processed or otherwise) so that more people would eat more turkey other than in November. Well, and sugar of course, but that couldn’t do any harm, right?

      That’s always been kind of an iconic moment for me. I had gone low carb a few years earlier, when I was 15 or 16, and I think it was around 1972, I had read Yudkin (“Pure, White and Deadly) by that time, so I had a pretty good sense that this was a really, really bad idea.

      So there is really no argument that companies are spending billions of dollars to figure out ways around our natural instincts. Turkey and sugar? What they hell do I do with that, your body says…I know we used to find honey, but that was only once in a while. Now we are finding it every day?

      But I also think there is damage to those natural instincts, and like RS said above, they aren’t responding to satiation signals. But all the signals are fucked up if the gut biome is fucked up.

      And I still think there’s a parallel to alcoholism. I used to work with a treatment center, and we could turn off alcohol cravings in a lot of individuals just by adding L-Glutamine supplements to their diets. But not all of course.

      I think it’s a perfect storm of people trying to fuck up our signaling mechanisms (and they don’t hide that desire), and our signaling systems (probably strongly affected by our gut biome) not being strong enough to resist. It’s biochemical, neurochemical and behavioral.

    • Sol Orwell on January 27, 2014 at 09:17

      How is sugar universally bad?

    • Richard Nikoley on January 27, 2014 at 11:10

      “How is sugar universally bad?”

      Ever looked up in the sky on a very, very dark night, without city lights obscuring?

      Sugar. And it looks like they are all headed our way.

  28. Bill on January 25, 2014 at 06:23

    Wasn’t this about the same time high fructose corn syrup was introduced into the US?

  29. Dr Charlie - a biochemist on January 25, 2014 at 07:15

    As a biochemist, to me the simple answer is that due to the McGovern Committee’s recommendations and subsequent 10 reports of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, the USA’s dietary advice changed in the 1970s/80s and has remained faulty due to the imposition of the food pyramid and food plate with the over emphasis on starchy grains. This, in turn, has led to the recent explosive rise in the levels of obesity and diabetes. This dietary advice was also changed a few years later in the UK with exactly the same results. It should be added that this change (basically the consumption of carbohydrate at the expense of fat) was introduced without the slightest shredded of scientific evidence in both countries. Please visit Tom Naughton’s site and search for a recent blog entitled “Speech: Diet, Health and the Wisdom of Crowds”.

    As a biochemist, I am always amazed that the medical industry (medics and dieticians) makes so many elementary errors because they do not understand basic biochemistry.

    Firstly, the most common flour, wheat flour, is digested even more quickly than table sugar (sucrose) to yield glucose – the blood sugar. So this idea that you should be worried about the small amount of sucrose that most of us eat whilst happily devouring large amounts of starch in bread, pasta, pastry, cereals, and potatoes – is frankly silly. Although I do realise that here in Britain with its much cooler climate, we do not drink as many sugary, fizzy drinks as Americans.

    Secondly, when you eat bread, cereals etc because of the large amount of glucose released, you secrete a large amount of the storage hormone, insulin, which then directs the fat cells in your adipose tissue to take in any passing fat and just as importantly, to retain the fat in the adipose tissue.

    Thirdly, the insulin instructs the liver to convert the large dose of glucose into our major storage material – saturated fat. This is then released into the blood stream in the form of vLDL particles.

    Fourthly, the content (fat) of the vLDL particles is taken up by the adipose tissue at the behest of insulin and is not released until the level of blood insulin drops. (Please note – LDL is formed from the vLDL particles on the release of fat.)

    Fifthly, the bulk of our tissues, including muscle and heart muscle utilise fat as a source of energy – often in preference to glucose. (In other words, fat is a major provider of energy within the body and it is broken down in the power houses of the cell – the mitochondria by a process called, beta – oxidation.)

    Sixthly, we are designed to eat and store excess nutrients in the form of fat in the adipose tissue and then after a couple of hours, to release the fat and use it for energy to drive the heart, other muscles, and cellular processes until the next meal comes along. So, if you prevent fat from being released from your adipose tissue you will feel hungry very quickly and need a snack.

    So, if you eat the recommended diet, high in carbohydrate, you constantly trigger insulin which leads to fat creation and storage and you feel hungry because you cannot retrieve the fuel that has been laid down.
    We are now told to eat carbohydrate for breakfast, elevenses, lunch, tea, dinner and supper.

    This dietary change was only introduced in the 1980s and before then medics in Britain used to tell their patients that if they wished to slim they should cut out bread, potatoes etc. However, since the 80s, the number of people who are obese and suffer from diabetes has gone sharply up and is continuing to go up. Until the dietary advice is changed it will continue to go up.

    Two last pieces of biochemistry – firstly, although protein and fat are essential parts of our diet since we are unable to make say certain amino acids and fatty acids, the consumption of carbohydrate, however, is not required at all. We can make all the glucose we need from the bulk of the amino acids that are present in the proteins we eat. This biochemical process is called gluconeogenesis. The beauty of this system though is that the production of glucose is controlled and thus you do not see the large spikes of blood glucose that are seen after a carb based meal. (It may be though that our bacterial friends in our gut do need some carbohydrate in the form of soluble fibre so that they can produce the short chain fatty acids that keep our gut cells healthy – but that is another story.) Secondly, fat itself does not stimulate the hormone insulin so if you eat fat without carbohydrate then the cells use it for energy but if you eat it with lots of carbohydrate you get a double whammy – since the rise in blood glucose causes a rise in insulin which tells the adipose tissue to take up the fat – and, in addition, the insulin directs the liver to convert the excess glucose to fat that is again stored and retained by the adipose tissue.

    On a last non-biochemical note, here in Britain it is not the richer but the poorer members of society who tend to be the most overweight.

    • rs711 on January 25, 2014 at 07:50

      I agree with the gist of your explanations.

      Maybe you can provide a hint or some speculation as to why some people see their apoB numbers increase substantially after going low-carb on a real foods diet (and in my case, calculated LDL cholesterol as well). This happened to me, even though my fasting BG levels are excellent, as are my trigs, HDL, insulin, thyroid (rT3/4 & fT3/4), my mood, exercise capacity, focus etc.

      Dr. Dominic d’Agostino said that this might be a simple up-regulation of a fat transport lipoprotein to handle the extra dietary fat intake and that this is likely not pathological. What say you?

      Thanks for the insight!

    • Dr Charlie - a biochemist on January 25, 2014 at 09:12


      An interesting question – why should you’re apoBs increase?

      A few initial thoughts come to mind. Perhaps the rise is made of two components. Firstly, if you now consume more fat then you should now produce many more chylomicrons in your intestines and one of the proteins incorporated into these particles is an apoB – so your apoB will rise significantly. Secondly, Westman et al, The Effect of a Low-Carbohydrate, Ketogenic Diet Versus a Low-Glycemic Index Diet on Glycemic Control in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. Nutr Metab (Lond) 2008, 5(36)) showed that a high fat/low carb diet led to a massive decrease in triglycerides, a rise in HDLs and a small increase in LDLs – so again since the LDLs rise slightly, your apoBs will also rise slightly. So put together, your apoBs should rise!

    • rs711 on January 25, 2014 at 09:34

      What I’m trying to reconcile is the immense variation in how TC cholesterol/apoB levels change following adherence to a Paleo or Paleo/LC diet – I’m basing this observation mostly on anecdotal blogosphere evidence, my own n=1 and a handful of studies.

      Peter Attia convincingly demonstrated that it’d be clever to aim for ‘low’ apoB numbers (but not low cholesterol necessarily). Is this a case of: apoB is a risk marker for a SAD diet population but not in a ‘real foods’ population? Or is me trying to have my cake and eat it too?

      Something tells me that if 1 marker that should ‘improve’ actually ‘worsens’ even though a ton of other markers improve significantly, then maybe that marker wasn’t properly evaluated in the first place.
      I’m pretty sure there is insufficient data to conclude anything strongly, but maybe there’s something I haven’t noticed/heard/intuited? Any suggestions? Any resources you think are worth checking out?

      PS: I’m currently following an Msc in Molecular Biology so please don’t hesitate to go all geeky & technical :)

    • Dr Charlie - a biochemist on January 25, 2014 at 09:53


      It is saturday evening here in England – so hopefully you will not mind if I respond tomorrow when the effect of the hop will allow a more considered response!

    • Richard Nikoley on January 25, 2014 at 11:32

      I dunno, Charlie:

      This is essentially the same basic explanation I understood and believed going back to 2007 when I got into all this. Thing is, it doesn’t explain why high carbohydrate traditional cultures that consume rice, legumes, potatoes, sweet potatoes) don’t typically fat on their traditional diets. One population in PNG literally exists on sweet potato exclusively (meat like once per year in a fewest). Their carb intake is 95% and they are healthy.

      It also doesn’t explain all the people who eat the SAD right up. They have their bagels, burgers, sub sandwiches and sugar drinks every day, live health and lean lives. And there are a LOT of these people.

      What does explain why neither in the two paragraphs above don’t become obese is that they tend to eat less total energy, eat less often, and do it as a lifestyle.

      Why is still an open question but I think the state of the gut biome will give s clues.

      “We can make all the glucose we need from the bulk of the amino acids that are present in the proteins we eat. This biochemical process is called gluconeogenesis. The beauty of this system though is that the production of glucose is controlled and thus you do not see the large spikes of blood glucose that are seen after a carb based meal. (It may be though that our bacterial friends in our gut do need some carbohydrate in the form of soluble fibre so that they can produce the short chain fatty acids that keep our gut cells healthy – but that is another story.)”

      Google “Intestinal Gluconeogenesis,” just another thing that tosses a monkey wrench into the LC-insulin-hypothesis, I think.

    • gabriella kadar on January 25, 2014 at 15:24

      Dr. Charlie, if rs711 is not consuming soluble fibre, then his gut microbes are not producing adequate butyrate, propionate, and acetate. The last two are important liver anti-inflammatories. Butyrate is an important gut anti-inflammatory. High LDL levels are an indicator of inflammation.

    • George @ the High Fat Hep C Diet on January 25, 2014 at 17:57

      If NAFLD is not just associated with, but in part driving other pathologies, we might need to factor in the choline-deficient nature of a junk food diet. There’s choline in butter and eggs but not in oils and spreads, choline in wholegrains, nuts and legumes, but not in sugar or refined flours.

      Searching for evidence of this connection led me to a Paul Jaminet post I hadn’t seen before. He lays it all out very clearly. (Note, relating to the “dangers of low carb diets” theme of the past, that ketogenic diets are often protein restricted and methionine from protein is one source of choline).

    • Dr Charlie - a biochemist on January 26, 2014 at 08:49

      Well, a lot of things to consider here, so I mostly go on my memory – perhaps not a good idea.

      Firstly, each individual possesses a unique biochemistry due to small changes in our DNA. So, some of these changes do not affect the primary function of say a particular protein, ie they do not affect say the substrate binding site or receptor binding site – a silent mutation. On the other hand, they may totally destroy the function if they are present at one of these sites – a lethal mutation. But many, perhaps because the change occurs near the functional site lead to impaired activity – on a small or large scale – a leaky mutation.

      So expecting everyone in a population to behave in exactly the same manner, may be expecting too much. There will be individuals who can consume the Standard American Diet without gaining weight over long periods of time because one or more set of functions may be impaired (or in some specific cases even enhanced), for example, gut amylases, gut transport mechanisms, stimulus of the pancreatic release of insulin, the induction/activation of the lipase responsible for adipose fat intake, the deactivation of the lipase responsible for fat release from the adipose tissue, the binding of insulin to cells leading to the appearance of the glucose transporters on the surface of cells, the production of leptin and other hormones and their binding to appropriate receptor sites etc, etc.
      So it is possible to imagine scenarios in which individuals have a very poor uptake of released glucose from the gut (thus reduced insulin secretion) or people who have very robust satiation mechanisms being somewhat immune from our present diet.

      This does not mean that the bulk of the population will not be susceptible to the new diet and some poor souls, of course, will be extremely susceptible.

      You mentioned a group of people in PNG which literally exists on sweet potato almost exclusively. I’ve two thoughts initially. Firstly, the carbohydrate present in sweet potato, inulin is a far more complex polymer than starch and one that does not resemble our own storage carbohydrate, glycogen. So glycogen and the amylopectin component of wheat starch are very similar, basically a polymer of glucose with the same linkages – it is therefore unsurprising that our enzymes can convert wheat starch into glucose very rapidly. Secondly, inulin is mainly a polymer of fructose and the linkages are different – so in fact our enzymes are unable to attack inulin, and we rely on the slow release of sugars caused by the microbial enzymes in our gut. So, in this case, we have the slow release of sugars and, in addition, I believe, fructose does not stimulate insulin release. These people are fortunate in that sweet potato is a very rich source of vitamins and minerals – unlike wheat flour.
      I do not know the details of this group in PNG, for example, how separate an existence do they lead. If they are isolated and do not mix, and were formed originally from a very small number of people, it is possible that they have a unique set of mutations that allows them to flourish.

      Do you know if any of these individuals in PNG have taken up our high starch diet and what was the result?

      In the same way, do you know if any “normal” westerners have tried the 95% sweet potato diet?

      Rice was commonly consumed in countries where the population could only afford sufficient to get by. Again what happens now in western countries?

      I’m not convinced that you are correct re potatoes. I don’t think in the good times, people were thin. On a personal note, and a n=1 experiment, potatoes certainly added about 50 pounds to my weight.

      I realise that the cells of the intestines and kidney (as well as those of the liver) can release glucose into the blood stream because they have the necessary enzyme to cleave the phosphate group off G6P, but I’m unable to see how this invalidates the LC/HF hypothesis. Could you please let me know or give a specific reference?

      It seems to me that gluconeogenesis is going to be tightly controlled and only the amount of glucose necessary for homeostasis will be released into the blood stream, otherwise, the body could go in for wholesale protein (muscle) breakdown to provide spikes of glucose that would trigger insulin secretion , leading to conversion to and storage of fat ie the body would convert muscle into fat – not a good idea for an animal that until very recently needed muscle to go out, run after and capture the next meal. On the other hand, if we now consume a high starch meal, large amounts of glucose are easily formed and must be dealt with by insulin production and fat storage.

      Would appreciate info on intestinal gluconeogenesis.

    • Dr Charlie - a biochemist on January 26, 2014 at 08:51

      Sorry -my reply to you seems to have been added to George@the High Fat Hep C Diet!

    • Dr Charlie - a biochemist on January 26, 2014 at 08:55


      I’m not suggesting a carbohydrate free diet because of the dangers you mentioned. But I do think the current SAD diet is not without its dangers to the bulk of the population.

    • rs711 on January 26, 2014 at 09:21

      I consume loads of vegetables and a few tubers and fruit here and there.

      A high-fat diet is quite energy dense and so quite friendly to a high volume of leafy greens and tubers which end up occupying a good half of the plate. I fail to understand the association of a high-fat diet to a low-fiber one.

    • rs711 on January 26, 2014 at 09:26

      Richard I read the “Intestinal Gluconeogenesis” paper you mentioned and failed to see the wrench.

      What sections or mechanisms have I missed?

      If anything, it seems to seems to suggest yet another reason to ensure adequate protein intake and that our body has really cares about keeping blood sugar within a certain range, employing > 1 mechanisms to do this.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 26, 2014 at 09:43


      In terms of potatoes, not just sweets, but regular white potatoes. Every single person I know of who has tried Chris Voight’s experiment of an all-potato diet lost significant weight, up to a pound per day, and the weight loss tends to accelerate over time.

      We had a whole series on the blog about it, called the ‘potato hack’. You can find the post by using the search function. I hear there are women on various forums, even LC forums that love it, getting installed on their weight loss by going very high carb.

      Here’s a couple of things on IGN:

    • gabriella kadar on January 26, 2014 at 09:50

      The reason I piped up on this is because one of my patients went to see a doctor who put her on a low carb diet. She lost weight but at the point where she’d lost about 25 pounds her LDL spiked. She was alarmed and asked me what I think happened. She no longer had a fatty liver, her other enzymes were well within normal range but she did have bowel function problems. I’ve suggested she try the raw potato starch to see if this helps to normalize gut function. I can’t watch and control what people eat so there is always a huge potential for confounders to anything in regards to any one person. I can only respond to what they report which can be notoriously inadequate to the point of blatant dishonesty.

    • marie on January 26, 2014 at 09:53

      Richard, Dr.Charlie, Gabriella, rs711 (btw, what/any association to ncbi?)….
      Intestinal gluconeogenesis has only been studied relatively lately but given that liver gluconeogenesis works ‘in-between meals’ on a glucose-based diet and that it’s really a stop-gap measure for a day or so when ‘starving’ until ketones ramp up enough (it does go on afterwards but at a low rate), do you have any ideas whether the intestinal version works the same way?
      I can imagine rationales for both decreased/absent intestinal gluconeogenesis in ketosis and the exact opposite, increased intestinal gluconeogenesis.

      So, anyone know of any evidence of intestinal gluconeogenesis in ketosis?
      The length of time in ketosis would possibly be a determining factor, it would take some time for the gut biome to change.
      Heh, could that be the two week ‘keto-adaptation’ that’s bandied about?! It always puzzled me since I drop into ketosis comfortably in less than 24hrs. with no ‘carb-flu’ or tiredness from the start, let alone for two weeks.

      Musings on a snowed-in sunday….

    • Richard Nikoley on January 26, 2014 at 10:07

      The wrench is simply that gluconeogenesis is a revered and sacred word for the LC community. So it makes me laugh that there’s another kind that’s done with starchy carbs.

    • marie on January 26, 2014 at 11:16

      “…another kind that’s done with starchy carbs” – is confusing, that would be plain glucogenesis, nothing ‘neo’ about it if it actually used starchy carbs as the immediate substrate, which it doesn’t of course, it uses propionate and butyrate. Hence the ‘first time’ proof provided by the french team that it’s gluconeogenesis by gut bugs that provides the glucose detected in the portal vein (and their downstream completion of the mechanism leading to better insulin sensitivity).

      But that bit of casual writing made me look at mine and I’m worse :) , let me rephrase : anyone know of any evidence that could indicate that intestinal gluconeogenesis is operational in ketosis?
      This would be indirect, so I’m looking for any paper that shows glucose in the portal vein in ketosis or shows better BG regulation in ketosis (which I too noted in ketosis to some small degree after long-term RS use).

    • rs711 on January 26, 2014 at 12:35

      “The liver was indeed able to adapt in diminishing its own glucose release as a response to portal glucose appearance”

      I damn well hope so – another negative feedback loop in the body, no surprise there.

      “glucose infusion [via the peripheral vein] had no effect on food intake”

      Translation: we function better with real foods than hospital-infusion-type nutrient sludge coursing through our veins – again, no surprise there.

      “These data strongly suggest that IGNG and its portal sensing may constitute a key mechanistic link in the central effects of SATIETY induced by food PROTEIN”

      “We showed that, associated with a redistribution of EGP to the kidney and the intestine, an improved suppression of EGP by insulin took place in these rats, notably explained by enhanced glycogen storage in the liver. This suggested that IGNG may also have a key regulatory role in glucose homeostasis.”

      GNG is a fantastically evolved glucose regulating process, enabling us to be more responsive – with > 1 substrate – and to not rely solely on dietary intake of sugars at all times….Amazing. We use it constantly whether we’re Kitavans or zero-carbers.

      Thanks for linking to that paper it was great – but again, I don’t see how this ‘trips up’ LC…

    • Dr Charlie - a biochemist on January 27, 2014 at 09:23

      rs711 and Gabriella

      Sorry for delay in getting back to you re TC/ apoB and Gabriella’s concern over a patient who had a blip in her LDL readings. In a way I’m glad that I did because just by chance I watched again the Wisdom of Clouds speech by Tom Naughton and the lecture by Prof Tim Noakes on YouTube, entitled “The Great Diet Controversy: UCT taught me to Challenge Beliefs”.

      Although we could discuss the size and shape of the cholesterol bearing particles and whether it’s the number or total quantity that should be considered, I think that it is more important to consider whether the whole concept of the cholesterol hypothesis is correct. In the early days of the hypothesis many trials attempted but failed to establish a clear link between cholesterol and CHD – yet the medical profession were eventually persuaded that there was a very positive relationship.

      I would agree with Noakes’ response to a question concerning cholesterol levels and say that women should not pay any attention to them – no work has shown any link for them and for men over 50, high cholesterol levels have been shown to be protective. For example, many studies, including the famous Framingham study begun in 1948, have shown that in people over 50/60, higher levels of cholesterol are protective (ie the death rate comes down with higher cholesterol). I just happen to have to hand the results of a recent Scandinavian study. This study published recently in the Scandinavian Journal of Health Care looked at the levels of cholesterol and risk of death in almost 120,000 adults living in Denmark.

      The researchers found that having higher than recommended levels of total cholesterol was associated with a reduced risk of death. So they looked at the death rates amongst men who had a total cholesterol level of less than 5 mmol/l and compared that figure with the death rates of men who had total cholesterol levels between 5 and 5.99, and those between 6 and 7.99, and those with levels of 8 and above.

      They found that in men aged 60-70 when compared to those who had a total cholesterol level of less than 5:
      those with levels of 5.00-5.99 had a 32% reduced risk of death; and
      those with levels 6.0-7.99 had a 33% reduced risk of death.

      Even in individuals with levels of 8.00 mmol/l and above, the risk of death was no higher than it was for those with levels less than 5.0 mmol/l.

      The results were similar for women too. In women aged 60-70, levels of 5.0-5.99 and 6.0-7.99 were associated with a 43 and 41 per cent reduced risk of death respectively.

      In individuals aged 70 and over, the results were similar, except here, levels of total cholesterol of 8.00 mmol/l or more were associated with a reduced risk of death too (in both men and women).

      Together, these findings suggest that the current total cholesterol recommended by medics and other health professionals are way off beam. And the authors of this study suggested –rather meekly that – these associations indicate that high lipoprotein levels do not seem to be harmful to the general population.

      So I hope you appreciate that for me the minutiae of particles may be of academic interest but not of medical interest – apart from the fact that higher levels are protective!

    • Richard Nikoley on January 27, 2014 at 10:14


      Link to the damn scandinavian study? Their journal’s search function is brainless.

    • Dr Charlie - a biochemist on January 27, 2014 at 15:19


      Apologies for you having to find the study, I had simply listed the findings that I had found so intriguing on a trusted site and had not included the reference.

      The other finding that death rates correlate with triglyceride (TG), I think is very significant since the concentration in fasting blood of TG is related to carbohydrate consumed since the liver converts the excess blood glucose into TG, parcels it up and then excretes it into the blood stream in the form of vLDLs. As you will know, Westman et al, The Effect of a Low-Carbohydrate, Ketogenic Diet Versus a Low-Glycemic Index Diet on Glycemic Control in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. Nutr Metab (Lond) 2008, 5(36)) found that individuals on a LC/HF diet had around 1/3 of the blood TG concentration of those people on a SAD diet.

  30. Keith Bell on January 25, 2014 at 07:23

    Obesity is hardly just about food. Children are born with imbalanced flora from imbalanced mothers, a matter of microbial predisposition driving obesity. The obesity epidemic is about pollution in the form of poor dietary, medical and industrial choices. It’s no accident the most obese nations are also least sanitary, shifting flora in the wrong direction.

  31. Ken on January 25, 2014 at 07:35

    Glyphosate, the active chemical in Monsantos Roundup, was introduced in the 1970’s. It is thought to also disrupt the gut microbiome negatively. Stephanie Senef from MIT believes the increase in its usage correlates strongly with autism. Im guessing it maya lso correlate with the increase in obesity as it made its way into our food supply.

    This is one of thousands of write ups on the relationship between certain types of gut microbes and body fat. Its just too hard to ignore all of this and place the blame on calories, macronutrients, cost, taste, etc. – at least it is for me

    • Ken on January 26, 2014 at 04:13

      I found the link I had wanted to share on glyphosate earlier

      Give it a read and consider it within the context of increased use of anti biotics after WWII. keep in mind both the effect a parents use of antibiotics would have on the fetus as well as the epigenetic effects we don’t yet understand on future generations and you might come to the conclusion that the 1970’s was ground zero for an unseen war on our micro biomes.

      The change to our food supply could simply have been just a really unlucky coincidence that further compounded the obesity issue but may not have actually been its cause.

      All interesting things to think about. Thanks for the blog Richard.

  32. George @ the High Fat Hep C Diet on January 25, 2014 at 12:13

    When people cooked at home, a significant number were VERY bad cooks. Overdone meat, watery vegetables, lumpy gravy and so on litter the available memoirs. The middle and upper classes kept cooks, but only as good as they could afford.
    Another reason to prioritize eating out, TV dinners, and so on.

    • GTR on January 25, 2014 at 14:48

      @George – right now we have much more automated kitchen equipment available. Including processor-controlled “multicookers”. As well as cookboos on smartphones. Basically you can cook without much thinking, just follow simple instructions.

    • George @ the High Fat Hep C Diet on January 25, 2014 at 17:47

      And really, if you bake up something with vegetable shortening, flour, sugar, icing etc. at home, is it that different from buying it? Why do we assume home food preparation is the virtuous option? There are good restaurants, bad home kitchens. Many people take pride in their ability to mimic junk food at home.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 25, 2014 at 17:53

      Devil is in the details.

      Good thing you survived human evolution on your own private island, George. Congrats.

    • George @ the High Fat Hep C Diet on January 25, 2014 at 19:06

      Cheers, Richard – that’s pretty much how I feel about it all.

      Yes microbiome is extremely important, and immunology trumps metabolism more often than we like to admit.

  33. Richard Nikoley on January 25, 2014 at 14:35

    Note to bornagain:

    While I’m sure you’re all excited and up in arms about yet another dispute between Sean and I (can’t count), I can assure you I’m not and I would be very surprised if he is, either.

    You might channel your energy elsewhere and see how things shake out organically in the fullness of time.

    • marie on January 25, 2014 at 18:49

      Ah. So Sean earlier just wet our appetite and you are looking for round two, while baiting Wooo at the same time?
      You are in rare form tonight chéri!

      But as it’s the wee hours of pre-dawn in Prague, I’ll sneak-in a question here : How could you resist that allure, now that it comes with Anarchy? :D

    • bornagain on January 25, 2014 at 16:24

      You are more optimistic than I. My diagnosis is that this one is terminal.

      I hope I am wrong of course. Sean’s blog bores the shit out of me and I only find him interesting to read in the comment section of your blog. I’d hate to see him gone from here.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 25, 2014 at 16:56

      Sean hasn’t commented regularly in months.

      Last I saw, he couldn’t stop tweeting with Wooo. While I do understand the affliction and have succumbed myself, I never thought of Wooo as anything but a very broken bitch.

      I got over Sean’s irresistible allure months ago. He simply doesn’t put out. Either be it, or don’t. He doesn’t, so he should probably take down his blog and stop pretending.

  34. marie on January 25, 2014 at 15:02

    I dunno, but it sounds to me like people are debating Two questions, not one :
    there’s the question “how does overweight/obesity Start?” and there’s the question “why can’t many people Stop gaining weight?”
    For the first question, looking at environmental/social/economic factors and all the epidemiological data and statistics might be useful.
    For the second question it seems to me to be all about biochemistry (unless anyone thinks fat people “can’t help themselves”, the weak-willed, lazy slobs)…. and there’s a typical genetic distribution to that biochemistry, likely gaussian, which explains why roughly 2/3 of the NA population has an overweight-obese problem when 1/3 doesn’t have a problem (still a significant number, so “there are a LOT of these people”). That distribution similarly explains why there are some populations that thrive on carbs.
    Those numbers and type of distribution make sense evolution-wise as well.
    Too simple?

    • Richard Nikoley on January 25, 2014 at 15:08

      “how does overweight/obesity Start?””

      Eating too much, too often, long term.

      “why can’t many people Stop gaining weight?”

      Yes, because if they can just stop, and I mean REALLY stop—and I don’t mean at morbid—then the solution to slowly bring it back to normal ought to be pretty obvious.

  35. marie on January 25, 2014 at 15:24

    yes, exactly.
    “eating too much, too often, long term” – yes, the question is then why did some 2/3 suddenly start doing that, and so that’s where all the social/economic/marketing etc. comes into play.

    “because if they can just stop, and I mean REALLY stop…” – that’s where I believe biochemistry rules. It’s as simple as “oops, I’m getting fat, better cut back” if you are well suited to your food supply, so apparently for only 1/3 of us, and it’s damned hard to rectify for the other 2/3.

    • gabriella kadar on January 25, 2014 at 15:32

      marie, it seems to me that there are people who are just not that ‘into’ eating. It’s not that they restrict themselves. It’s like they have no particular attraction or taste for food. They do not seek out hedonic pleasures from food.

      Other non-overweight people are self disciplined and practice various dietary restrictions. The Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic calendar contain 180 to 190 fasting days per year. Anyone adhering to this would probably not be overweight. (I don’t think fasting = starving. Just not eating calorie dense foods on those days.)

    • Richard Nikoley on January 25, 2014 at 15:52

      “that’s where all the social/economic/marketing etc. comes into play.”

      Yes. It’s a perfect storm of things aligning.

      This is why I care not debate about all the intricacies of the definition of palatability and reward, so that Sean can have an easy time of it.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 25, 2014 at 15:58

      “marie, it seems to me that there are people who are just not that ‘into’ eating.”

      I experienced someone like that as a kid and never forgot. It’s like there was buzz about it in advance of some family/friend function. “He doesn’t really like any food.” He was lean, looked perfectly fine to me, but he just didn’t care much for any food and simply struggled to eat anything.

      Certainly the other side of the spectrum.

    • marie on January 25, 2014 at 16:22

      “It’s like there was buzz about it in advance of some family/friend function” .
      Oh yeah, we’ve got one of those in the family too, my mother! Very lean. Thing is, while she has no interest in most foods and makes a conscious effort to eat enough, she does take real pleasure in some things, chocolate truffles, marrons glacés and honey-cream tarts, so it’s not a total lack of hedonic pleasure from food either. Yet those same things cause revulsion if in any quantity. There’s a natural “off switch”. Marvelous to watch.

    • Charles on January 26, 2014 at 19:27

      I think that’s pretty clearly related to neurochemistry or even structure. Pretty much all pleasure-related responses are.

      And if the gut biome significantly affects, if not largely controls, neurochemistry…or CAN affect it…changing the gut biome could change people’s response to food. Yeah, I know, duh.

  36. marie on January 25, 2014 at 15:30

    Nature loves a Gaussian as much as she abhors a vacuum. You knew it was all physics in the end, eh? :D

    • gabriella kadar on January 25, 2014 at 15:35

      A bell curve, Marie?

    • marie on January 25, 2014 at 15:38

      évidemment! ;)

    • gabriella kadar on January 25, 2014 at 16:12

      Using them high falutin’ words Marie. I had to look up Gaussian…………oh lordie.

    • marie on January 25, 2014 at 16:28

      Oh gabriella, you’ve no idea the self-control even that required! Why, it was all I could do to hold back on referring to FWHM. It’s a darn good thing there are some geeks around these here parts…

    • gabriella kadar on January 25, 2014 at 16:33

      Marie, I am reassured by the fact that I still remember my levers and pulleys.

      Now you are going to be sending me to Google so I can find out what FWHM means………

    • marie on January 25, 2014 at 16:50

      Doncha just love Google?!
      And…I may be needing some levers and pulleys to get doors open in the morning, we have a deluge of snow and something like -12C at the moment on the south shore of your lake. We’ve hunkered down, on a Saturday night! Sad. How are you up there?

      PS> all this cocooning with a blizzard outside is Not causing any cravings for wine and cheese, or hot chocolate and cheesecake, or….. nope, ugh uh, I’m stronger than that (must keep repeating, must keep repeating…). Now someone tell me the latitude doesn’t have something to do with the tendency to put on fat. :D

  37. gabriella kadar on January 25, 2014 at 15:57

    Watching those ads reminds me of how these fastfoods are actually bland.

    You know how the body doesn’t recognize liquid calories? Maybe it has trouble with bland ones too. I shared a fish burrito last week. It was very easily ingested mush. But I bet it had about 1,000 kcals.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 25, 2014 at 16:11

      I find the ads comfortingly nostalgic.

    • gabriella kadar on January 25, 2014 at 16:36

      That’s ’cause your parents let you eat McD’s. My first McDonald’s hamburger was only experienced after I had my own children who were influenced by a barrage of advertising on television. I was coerced into buying them Chicken ‘Nucnuggets’…… and all the toys, of course.

  38. marie on January 25, 2014 at 16:08

    As for the fasting, you know I was raised in one of those traditional ‘disciplines’, but actually I don’t consider it requires discipline or will-power because frankly, theres a schedule of gradual reductions in certain food groups that leads-in to a major fast and makes it easy to do. I bet for people who follow the calendar ‘religiously’ (o.k., I couldn’t resist :) they never get the chance to get addicted to any food type or get on a BG roller-coaster even if they have the propensity for it.

    Typically, in the weeks leading up to Easter for example, in the Greek Orthodox calendar you gradually cut sugars, most baked goods, tubers, reduce grains and legumes, cut certain meats (the very last to go is fish), cut spices (hmmm…palatability redux) and finally IF healthy you don’t eat at all on Good Friday (‘in mourning’) and on Saturday until midnight. At that point you break the fast after the resurrection with boiled eggs and a traditional offal soup. On easter Sunday you feast on everything like there’s no tomorrow, with lamb the centerpiece.

    • gabriella kadar on January 25, 2014 at 16:16

      That’s the thing, Marie. Protestants don’t do all this fasting, for example. Roman Catholics are lapsed. This all occurred to me when I was reading one of Ken Follet’s books, the one set during the black death and now some of the big shot monks cheated eating rich foods all the time while the lower status monks were all skinny.

    • marie on January 25, 2014 at 16:39

      Protestants were originally poor? Just a guess, I don’t know much about western religious schisms.
      Did you know that ‘the poor and destitute’ are one exempted group from the greek fasting calendar? I only found out recently when looking at all the exemptions (there are several, at different times). I figure if health actually drove most of the religious prescriptions regarding food, then if you’re already at subsistence eating or below there’s no point in fasting.
      And I think I see your point, without the fasting traditions, there’s no self-correction built-into any modern life of plenty.

    • gabriella kadar on January 25, 2014 at 17:22

      That’s it: no self correction without fasting traditions. One year I did Ramadan. It was summer. Not like the most recent one where day length was atrociously short. That fasting tradition is not easily adaptable to high latitudes.

  39. Kate on January 25, 2014 at 16:56

    Great discussion so far. No doubt the causes of obesity if multifactorial. With regard to the gut microbiome disfunction, my suspiscion is the ubiquitous use of antibiotics which I suspect really took of in the 7os has been the greatest culprit. A two edged sword to be sure. My two year old neice just recovered from a serious bout with pnuemonia which could easliy have killed her in the pre antibiotic era.

    I’ve been thinking about Bolivians. I’ve taught many Bolivian immigrants in the last few year in evening ESL classes. Very hard working on the margins economically, working in construction, cleaning, landscaping etc. Many gain substantial weight here. From what they have told me, I get the impression that in their home villages they were much closer to their food sources. Home gardens, local produce etc. What is expensive here, ie. produce, was relatively cheap there. And what is cheap here, sugary processed food, was expensive there. Limited income, limited time, cheap crappy food choices results in pounds gained.

    • Nick Lo on January 25, 2014 at 19:45

      Not that you need help Googling Richard, but I was interested in this idea and thought I’d pass these along:

      And an interesting timeline graph of the introduction of new antibiotics:

      Presuming of course that the development of new antibiotics correlates with demand.

      Oh and I’m with Rob above except my whole family would like to have words with you about your “fart powder” ;)

      I’ve been curious about it as I’m one of those ex-vegetarians (long time ago now) who never seemed to “adjust” to eating legumes, which always resulted in, as per your most brilliant description, “clouds of despair”. I’ve been curious ever since if the removal of my appendix and the possibility that lacking what is suggested to be a little microbiome storage area, would have reduced my large intestinal powers. Kate’s point also has me considering how many antibiotics I was given during the same period (late 70’s in UK), both before (for tonsilitis, etc) and after I had appendicitis. Anyway, you will catch me having a bit of jest about all this on Twitter (not surprising considering the backdoor theatrics!) but I’m actually finding the experimentation, research that many are now doing on this pretty fascinating so thanks for your time on it.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 25, 2014 at 17:29

      Wow Kate.

      Good hypothesis IRT the ubiquitous antibiotic use. Serious had not thought go that in such a pronounced, discreet way.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 26, 2014 at 08:31

      It’s an interesting hypothesis, Nick. Indeed, if a proper gut biome is necessary for proper hormonal signaling as regards hunger, satiation, etc., then one might predict that heavy antibiotic use would compromise that and one effect one would expect to see is an increase in obesity.

    • Charles on January 26, 2014 at 19:34

      I was just trying to Google that when I read this. I think we might want to look at two things: increased antibiotic prescriptions, but also when did they really start to add antibiotics to cow/pig/turkey feed, us being a beef-eating people and such? I’d like to see that curve laid over the obesity curve.

    • Charles on January 26, 2014 at 19:36

      It might not even need heavy antibiotic use. How about a constant trickle of antibiotic residues in every bit of meat we eat, in every hamburger, hot dog, turkey sandwich over years? And that attacking an already damaged/weakened gut biome.

    • marie on January 27, 2014 at 20:59

      Charles, I think you have something huge there with the antibiotics-in-food angle.

      Also, maybe it’s not only the antibiotic residues affecting our gut biome, possibly leading to obesity among other problems. Do you think perhaps what also can affect our biome are the whacked-out compositions of the actual bacteria themselves that grow on the meat of those antibiotic-treated animals ? It seems to me that they are wildly different from what we’d normally encounter. Cooking kills most, but there’s always some degree of cross-contamination in even the most hygienically-managed kitchen, no kitchen is antiseptic.

      An inkling of this population change can be had from noticing the bloom of antibiotic-resistant strains on meat and poultry :

      Aside: I’m afraid the bacterial populations in the food supply are only going to get even More fubar :

  40. gabriella kadar on January 25, 2014 at 17:27

    Kate, also children from different food cultures are under severe peer group pressure at school. They truly ‘arrive’ when they eat the same junk food as their classmates. I think children are the biggest driver to food change in immigrant homes. Parents want their kids to fit in and be accepted.

  41. Adrian on January 25, 2014 at 19:06

    What do you think of Chris Kresser’s articles on Diabetes?

    Excerpt from

    includes Fourth, inflammation of the brain (specifically the hypothalamus) causes leptin resistance, which often precedes and accompanies insulin resistance and T2DM. Leptin is a hormone that regulates appetite and metabolism. It does this through its effect on the hypothalamus. When the hypothalamus becomes resistant to leptin, glucose and fat metabolism are impaired and weight gain and insulin resistance result.

    Finally, inflammation of the gut causes leptin and insulin resistance. This may occur via an increase in lipopolysaccharide (LPS), an endotoxin produced by Gram-negative bacteria in the gut. LPS has been shown to cause inflammation, insulin resistance in the liver and weight gain.

    • gabriella kadar on January 26, 2014 at 06:54

      MY lake? Ha Marie, you can’t pass responsibility to me…uh uh.

      As per the usual, you get the snow, we are just getting the cold and wind. Disgusting.

      Your latitude is like what? Napoli, Italia. We’re at Roma. Not reassuring though. No comparison.

    • GTR on January 26, 2014 at 10:07

      Spirulina protect against the negative effects of LPS.

    • marie on January 26, 2014 at 10:08

      Gabriella, I see it here (though Adrian might be a bit confused…)

      O.k., our lake Ontario , you canadian socialist you!

      And you’re right about latitude, the weather doesn’t necessarily follow for Europe due to that golf stream and the moderating Med sea. I’ll stick to “freakin cold, snowy weather” for my metabolic musings from now on ;)

    • gabriella kadar on January 26, 2014 at 12:59

      Marie, if the hypothalamus gets damaged and is less sensitive to leptin, then that would be the hypothesis for set point. Prolonged overweight makes it harder to lose weight past a certain point. Don’t know if this set point business is really valid though.

      What about ‘calorie creep’?

      Italy etc. gets the Scirocco in winter. Not sure that’s too pleasant either. The cote d’azure in winter is somewhat dire too.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 26, 2014 at 13:18

      Le Mistral and yea, it can be brutal.

    • marie on January 26, 2014 at 13:35

      Ha, sarcasm I like. No latitude comparison, το Μαιστράλι causes people to smile. After the brief storm, there’s lovely clear weather and the air is fresh. Plus, they look at you like an alien when you mention -20C to people along the Med coast.

    • gabriella kadar on January 26, 2014 at 19:32

      Yeah, I thought I got it wrong. It’s confusion with the Volkswagon and the wind………

  42. Jessica K on January 25, 2014 at 20:37

    Well said, or should I say, hypothisized. My theory is similar. However, not so much emphesis on The Man. It has a lot to do with The WOMan, too. Cheap processed food, microwaves, even refrigerators, made the chore of feeding the family less a burden. More women were stepping into the work force and were attracted to the easier modern foods. This started in the post WWII generation and really took off during the 70’s, when for the first time we had more two income households then single family incomes.. I call my theory The Sliced Bread Theory. “The best thing since sliced bread.”

    • gabriella kadar on January 26, 2014 at 13:17

      Jessica, your hypothesis assumes that men are reliant on women to feed them.

      From the census data:

      The 2011 Census counted more one-person households (3,673,305) than couple households with children (3,524,915) for the first time. Between 2001 and 2011, the proportion of one-person households increased from 25.7% to 27.6% of all households, continuing an upward trend that has existed for many decades.

      Some other countries had larger shares of one-person households than Canada. About 4 in 10 households in Finland (41.0% in 2010),Footnote 3 Norway (39.7% in 2011)Footnote 4 and the Netherlands (36.9% in 2011)Footnote 5 were one-person households. The proportions in the United States (26.7% in 2010)Footnote 6 and the United Kingdom (29.4% in 2011)Footnote 7 were similar to that in Canada

      I think we need to take this into consideration as well.

    • Jessica K on January 27, 2014 at 09:42

      Gabriella, I don’t think I stated my point clearly. Maybe it should say, “In the 1970’s, in two adult households, the majority were two income producing.” Meaning, households containing stay at home parents (the majority being mothers) was no longer the majority. It goes without saying that a one adult household is most likely to be employed.

      And yes, in the American society, prior to mid 20th Century, the majority of men relied on women to feed them. Feeding a family was a chore not easily accomplished when working full time. I’m not debating whether a man must RELY on a woman to feed him, that is ridiculous of course. I am only making the point that the society changed at the same time the food industry changed. Advertisers have long since played to the fact that in most households, women make the majority of purchases for the home, including food. Take a look at some of the ads for post WWII regarding food: Notice the play on quickness and convenience? So they offered us convenience and we were all too eager to take it. Or is the inverse true? We demanded it so they supplied it? Either way, our attitudes (and societal norms) towards food and its role in our health has to be considered in the obesity epidemic, no?

      Just the other day my grandmother asked me, “Where have all the home gardens gone? Nobody has them anymore.” Indeed. Our societal priorities have changed and no one has (or makes) the time to tend one.

  43. marie on January 26, 2014 at 16:57

    Richard, tiens, more bad news re.the contribution of economy/availability to the ‘perfect storm’ that produced the obesity epidemic :
    “The bottom line is that – with so many existing and upstart players vying for the appetites of a bargain-attuned American consumer – cheap, fast meals will continue to abound in this land of plenty-to-eat.”

    (I actually thought it might be good news due to the title, but no).

  44. Ulfric Douglas on January 26, 2014 at 07:38

    Cooking oil started the rot,
    “low fat” has dug it in so deeply the population cannot escape.

    • marie on January 26, 2014 at 10:12

      Ulfric, I like it! Cryptic but accurate.

  45. kayumochi on January 26, 2014 at 10:02

    @ Dr Charlie,

    You asked about Western populations who eat mostly rice and sweet potatoes … they do exist and have for decades: devotees of Macrobiotics. Thin, dry (in all sense of the word), low sex drive (if it exists at all), tooth decay, numerous health complaints, “rice chest” (think Auschwitz) … it isn’t a pretty picture.

    • gabriella kadar on January 26, 2014 at 10:08

      Okay kaymochi, I googled ‘rice chest’ and only came up with a Korean prince who appeared to want to Houdini himself except after 8 days he suffocated to death in a rice chest.

      Care to share?

    • gabriella kadar on January 26, 2014 at 10:10

      Suffocated to death is redundant………………………arghhhhhhhhh.

    • kayumochi on January 26, 2014 at 10:18

      “rice chest” is a term used in Macrobiotic populations to describe men who eat too much brown rice, etc and have a bony, thin chest remininscent of Auschwitz prisoners.

    • Charles on January 26, 2014 at 19:39

      I did macrobiotics for six months in my late teens. I looked like I just got out of Auschwitz, and started having tooth decay when I had never had any in my life. It took me years to recover. Highly stupid.

    • Dr Charlie - a biochemist on January 27, 2014 at 15:39


      Many thanks for information – you don’t paint a glamorous picture . Could I ask for a few more details ie when you say thin – do you mean just the chest or chest and stomach area – and what the major health problems.

  46. bornagain on January 26, 2014 at 12:16

    @Richard. How about you and Sean thrash out your differences on a recorded Skype session and then post the video here? Don’t hold back.

    • gabriella kadar on January 26, 2014 at 13:24

      bornagain: Maybe you need some fresh air.

    • bornagain on January 26, 2014 at 19:22

      GK: perhaps. I have little reason to doubt your judgment.

      Nevertheless, I feel Paleo War II is about to come upon us. I must warn you that I feel Sean is a formidable opponent. I suggest the prize of this battle be ownership of the losers domain name. Should Sean win he will be given and should Richard win he will be given Prague Step child. Let the battle begin!

    • Richard Nikoley on January 27, 2014 at 12:25

      “I feel Paleo War II is about to come upon us.”

      Wow, does wishful thinking really run this deep?

      Don’t know why I’m bothering, but BA, I have no idea what leads you to think this, I am in such a different and better place on levels than before that it’s the furthest thing from my mind.

      Beyond that, even if I were to go to war, Sean Abbott? Seriously? The guy has a handful of readers and literally not 1 in 100 people in paleo have ever heard of him or likely will ever hear of him. Literally a nobody, in _that_ context.

      Sean and I had an affinity over political ideas. Other than that, he’s a high maintenance pain in the ass, always getting his nose bent out of shape over this and that. I still recall the first time, he didn’t comment or email for like a couple of months and I don’t know what kicked it off, but when we finally did email he was STILL upset about something. Like a woman.

      I’m done with him for good. I have no interest in what he thinks, his opinions, or anything else. I have enough women in my life.

  47. GTR on January 26, 2014 at 16:24

    In Poland – the obesity levels of 1988 were 5,7% in women, 9,3% in men, in 2002 it was 22% in women, 18% in men, in 2005 the gender equality was achieved – at about 20+% obesity for each gender.
    The potato consumption systematically drops from 223 kg/(person*year) in 60s, through 143 in 1990, to 112 in 2010.
    By twenty years the sugar consumption has doubled, peeking at 42 kg / (person*year) in 2011, since then it’s dropping.
    The bread (bakery) consumption is down – from around 97 kg / (person*year) in early 90s to 56 kg nowadays. Also there’s unfortunate restructuring of the grains with less usage and production of rye (which is thinning), being replaced by both wheat (fattening) and triticale (immediate). Corn is also up – another fattening grain.
    Fish and pasta are fluctuating year-to-year, but look very slowly growing long-term.
    When it comes to fat there was a reversal of proportions – in 80s fats consumed were animal fats, nowadays 69% of fats consumed are vegetable fats. Total fat consumption is also 30% up.
    The consumption of beef is at a historical low of 1,8kg / (person*year) now, from around 17 kg in 80s (EU average). It looks like being replaced by chicken which consumption more than doubled, while pork is up just 23%.
    Fast food grows +4% per 10 years, and is mostly used by people with low level of education.
    Strong alcoholic beverages (eg. vodkas) are down 2 times compared to 80s. They were mainly replaced by beers – another fattening, estrogenic product – consumption of which is up more than 1.5 times since 90s.
    Various groats including buckwheat and barley are up, but are popular mostly among over 55 year olds.
    What is not in the statistics is the prevalence of artificial flavors and taste enhancers – they seem to be everywhere now in popular products around Central to Eastern Europe. Strangely imported southern products, especially Italian or French, are still frequently made without MSG or other artificial flavors, according to traditional receipes.
    In general it’s more difficult to get product that are processed in the appropriate way, most processed food are either fake, results of cheating (eg. meats pumped up with water, vegetable oils used even if the recipe calls for animal fats, too little of more expansive ingridients), or too enhanced with chemicals for better taste and flavor.

    • kate on January 26, 2014 at 16:51

      GTR, very interesting. Having lived in Germany off and on from the late 70s through early 2000s, I noted the most popular bread, misch brot, is a sour rye and wheat mix. I used to really love it. Presumably it was a more healthy then wheat yeast leavened breads, if the sour fermentation was real. And Vodka? I’m on it.

  48. gabriella kadar on January 26, 2014 at 19:43

    Marie, when people are faced with a platter large enough for a family of 3 or 4, then there’s confusion as to how much is appropriate for 1. And people have been taught not to waste food or leave food on their plates because it’s rude. I think people don’t know what a normal sized portion is anymore.

    I’ve been guilty of that recently but it was real home cooked food. Now keeping it in mind that there’s no second helpings anymore. It’s easy to slip. Been doing well for the past 10 days after I noticed a significantly expansion of the belly due to mindless gorging on Orville Redenbacher’s popcorn (made by shake a shaking the pot, none of that microwave crap.) Every winter I find something stupid to temporarily alter my metabolism for the worse. :(

    • tatertot on January 26, 2014 at 21:47

      When i was a kid, whoever cleaned their plate completely was declared to have a ‘Victory Plate,’ a WWII thing I believe. I still find it hard not to clean my plate.

    • Judy on January 27, 2014 at 12:58


      “When i was a kid, whoever cleaned their plate completely was declared to have a ‘Victory Plate,’ a WWII thing I believe. I still find it hard not to clean my plate.”

      Some of us use salad plates and salad forks instead of big plates, and we don’t go back for seconds. It works if you’re mindful not to overload the little salad plate :) It’s one way to get used to smaller portions for those of us not wanting to “super-size.” [me!]

  49. Charles on January 26, 2014 at 19:47

    “In 1952, 2 million pounds of antibiotics were produced, by 1998 at least 50 million pounds were produced, about half of which was used for human treatment and about forty percent of which was used in animals, the “lion’s share” of which was mixed into feed to promote growth.[9] in 2011 80% of antibiotics went to livestock production.”

    “In 1950, a group of United States scientists found that adding antibiotics to animal feed increases the growth rate of livestock”

    So it started in the 50s. And if it started in the 50s, gut biomes started to be damaged in mothers, who then passed that damage onto their children. Who started growing up in the 70s.

    And again, there is a correlation between antibiotic usage and obesity.

    • Dr. Curmudgeon Gee on January 28, 2014 at 12:56


      interesting about mothers passing bad gut biome.

      a friend told me that his mom suffered constipation all her life. when he & his brother were infants.
      they’d get constipation from breast milk. & when they had formula, –> no constipation.


  50. ChocoTaco369 on January 28, 2014 at 09:50

    I just know how you love reading my posts, Richard.

    I actually disagree with a lot of what you have to say here. You touched on what I believe is the proper answer in the middle of your post, but I feel you can’t see the forest for the trees. Something major DID happen in 1979 that directly caused the obesity epidemic. And what was it?

    Sugary drinks?
    White flour?
    Fast food?

    All that stuff existed. What changed? Follow this image:

    Look at the lovely spike in soy oil that happened in the 1970’s. The 1970’s, Richard, was a pivotal time in American history because that was the decade margarines gained popularity and traditional animal fats were displaced by fats created by the seed oil industry. But in order to understand the effects, you have to understand what polyunsaturated fat does to the body.

    Ray Peat has written wonderful articles in the past describing why CAFO’s are run the way they are. Decades ago, in an attempt to fatten up pigs and promote faster-growing animals, coconut oil was added to feed. Coconut oil, decades ago, was an extremely popular and readily available plant fat and due to its cheapness and availability, it was chosen. But what happened? The pigs actually lost weight. The farmers later discovered from trial and error that when soybean oil was added to the same feed, the pigs rapidly gained weight. But why? Well, polyunsaturated fat is extremely anti-thyroid and saturated fat is extremely pro-thyroid.

    So many people talk about “metabolism.” The reality is, the more food you eat, the faster your metabolism gets. Your body always tries to seek out homeostasis. Yes, portions have increased along the American landscape, but why? It is REACTIONARY to obesity, not the cause. People in this country are strongly hypothyroid, and the body constantly seeks out nutrition and calories to boost the human metabolism back up. The end result is ravenous hunger because the fats we eat today are so drastically different. If all our food remained the same molecularly and just increased in portions, the body would be achieving some type of homeostasis to compensate. Would there be some weight gain? Yea, sure, but NOT LIKE THIS. The reason why there was such a rapid swing out of seemingly nowhere is because all the fats were switched at that time and we had, for the first time ever in the American landscape, food that DECREASED the metabolic rate. Typically, the more you eat, the faster your metabolism gets, but since the fats were switched to toxic anti-thyroid fats, the more you eat, the more your metabolism SLOWS.

    And that’s the bitch, Richard. The perfect storm. Increased portions of toxic fats that slow down the body’s metabolism. And since the availability of these toxic fats actually created what should be impossible – food that makes your metabolism HUNGRIER – you get the runaway freight train effect.

    Remove the toxic fats, fix most of the problem.

  51. RobertVE on February 1, 2014 at 02:56

    “, but when we finally did email he was STILL upset about something. Like a woman.”

    How true. :)

    Question, what still matter in diet?

    What we have learned, and correct me if I am wrong:
    1) There is no magic ratio of protein, carbs or fats, nor are any of them truly bad.
    2) Staying healthy is mostly about not eating too much.
    * in this context food reward is important, how good something tastes, how filling it is in relation to
    calories and the economics i.e. how plentiful is some food
    3) The only possible modifier that might offer benefits for some specific foods is how food affects the gutbiome and the gutbiome in turn effects food reward

    – Are there still foods that are truly bad?
    – Is there still something to be said for eating low glycemic index (GI) foods? (like colpo recommends)
    – What about grains, are they okay again or still off limits?
    – Also, is there some type of summary of these recent developments in the paleo sphere? (what blogs do you follow in this regard? or books?)

    Maybe this information is on your blogs, but it is difficult to piece it all together, I would like it if you could help me out with these questions.

    • Richard Nikoley on February 2, 2014 at 09:09


      Just my take/opinion, of course.

      1) No, but I think PHD gets it right, pattered after the ratios in mammal milk.
      2) Yes. Ever heard the ancient Asian ethic of only ever eating to 80% full? That said, target nutritional density, so toss in organ meats, oysters, mussels, clams, egg yolks, etc.
      3) This is where RS rich foods come in, and supp with PS in an abundance of caution, which also allows you to eat less food.

      – Yep: gluten grants, high refined sugar, crap in a box, vegetable/seed oils (machinery lubricant)
      – Low GI? Not really sure. Dose makes the poison but sure, lower GI is probably better, given equivalent energy.
      – Grans: see above. I think rice and corn get a pass, but not in processed foods except perhaps rice or corn based pastas, now & then.

      I think at this point, it’s mostly Wolf, Sisson and Jaminet for me. I think one will do quite ok on a PHD diet + properly prepared legumes (so less rice, potatoes, mix them up) + RS supplementation via your favorite source (potato starch, plantain flour, green banana flour, mung bean flour, tapioca flour, or a mixture)

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