Just checked in with Don's Primal Wisdom blog and it seems he is disavowing himself of, well, everything. Fat now makes you fat. The lines of evidence being, apparently, a figurine depicting a fat woman, a rat study from 1946, and, of course, "The Kitavans."
I'm open to debate on any number of topics, but it just seems weird to throw the baby out with the bathwater on what amounts to be such oddly uncompelling evidence.
Has he lost his marbles or am I missing something? I always respected the guy so no snark intended. What the hell am I missing here?
asked bywjones3044 (8878)
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on May 11, 2011
at 09:22 AM
Thanks, I've been waiting for an excuse to discuss the Venus posts.
The basic argument of the posts seems to be that:
- It only takes a couple of spoons of extra fat a day to become obese.
- Eating an extra couple of spoons of fat is easy.
- Therefore, becoming obese eating just fat (and protein) is easy.
But this line of argument completely ignores all the discussions in the paleosphere about caloric intake/expenditure regulation. For any-one who's heard of leptin (and I'm sure Don has), this argument just doesn't seem compelling at all. Why don't animals (or human animals) in the wild, commonly become obese without access to scales and a calorie count, if all it requires is half a mouthful of extra fat per day? (Notably, modern people living a pre-industrial lifestyle, don't seem to be afflicted by such obesity, so the very data that Don seems to be trying to explain seems dubious). The idea that becoming obese is easy, over a long period of time, because all you need to do is eat slightly more than you need regularly assumes that eating slightly more than you need all the time, even as you gain substantial amount of body fat, is easy. This in itself assumes that our bodies don't naturally respond to increased fat mass, making it harder to eat more (which in healthy circumstances they do). The interesting question then (complete ignored) is whether meat and fat are likely to fundamentally disorder your energy regulation, which seems implausible.
As for Don's comparison of fat-based to carb-based meals. I have to report the precise opposite to his claim. In an immediately obvious sense, over-eating low carb, high fat foods seems far harder than over-eating carbs, in my experience. Fat might be 'tasty,' but in my experience it doesn't have the moreish quality that carbs do. However nice a stick of butter might taste, most people find it difficult to eat a lot of it, whereas most people have experienced an urge to eat lots of carbs, once they've started, even if they aren't particularly intrinsically tasty. I'm open, incidentally, to the possibility that some safe paleo carbs, like plain boiled potatoes or white rice, don't have the appetite stimulating effect of bread/pasta- but suffice to say the claim that fat is tastier, doesn't suggest that it's easier to eat a lot of it.
Don's specific arguments for it being easier to overeat fat than carbs also seem astonishingly weak.
???Which do you enjoy more, one 4-ounce boiled potato (about 100 kcal), or two tablespoons of cream (also about 100 kcal).???
Sure, but it also seems that the cream is far more satisfying than the equal quantity of potato. I know that I was hungrier eating lots of potatoes (the bulk of virtually every family meal), than I was eating a smaller amount of fat.
???Its obvious which has the higher caloric density.???
I've always been struck by how people (typically mainstream obesity researchers) can cite caloric density as though it's actually meaningful, without exploration. Yes, there's evidence that caloric density is a factor in appetite control, (sheer bulk filling you up, for one), but no reason to think that caloric density is intrinsically important. No-one sits down to a fixed meal of '100g of food' (whatever the caloric density). If this were an over-riding factor, then the obesity problem would be solved by handing out fibre supplements and glasses of water. There are also importantly different sorts of hunger. Eating non-caloric bulk can stop one sort of hunger (probably ghrelin-related), but can't stop sheer my-cells-have-got-no-energy hunger. Back when I was eating lots of plants and few calories, I was full all the time, but over the long term the body isn't fooled and you want to actually consume some macronutrients.
And yes, there is a slight metabolic advantage, in the sense he discusses, from eating carbohydrate. The interesting question therefore is whether there are any other factors advantaging fat intake- for example, slower digestion, lower insulin. My general suspicion is that our bodies aren't so easily I fooled. Knowing that carbs have this 10% advantage, it seems implausible that our bodies haven't evolved to take this into account in deciding how much food we need. If so, we should not expect that people find it intrinsically easier to overeat fat than carbs.
???I've never met a person who binges on boiled potatoes.???
Actually, I thought it was widely acknowledged that carbs were the primary binge food. I don't know any-one who binges on tallow either. I'm sure boiled potatoes specifically aren't a common binge food, but see no reason to think that people wouldn't binge on plain carbs, rather than carbs+fat.
I'm not interested in contesting Don's denial that ???carbohydrates make people fat,??? since no-one, not even Taubes, claims that carbohydrates necessarily make people fat. What is being contested here, is the idea that it's very difficult to get substantially fat eating just meat and fat.
Of course, the other major assumption of Don's post is that the Venus actually represents an obese, solely meat-eating woman, who needs to be explained. It seems perfectly plausible that the sculpture serves some other purpose- the sculpture just looks like an exaggeration rather than an attempt to accurately capture an actual woman's body shape.
on May 11, 2011
at 11:11 AM
He seems to extrapolate heavily from the shape of the Venus of Willendorf, but there is a danger that in doing so, based upon Egyption art, you could make a case for cat-headed people roaming around Cairo 3000 years ago.
A few thoughts:
1) I have read that some cultures revere fat women. We have no idea how exaggerated these Venus figures actually are. Maybe they are exaggerated the way modern Warcraft novels exaggerate muscularity in men. It is 'Art' after all.
2) If we are to believe that very fat individuals existed all those years ago, can we attribute the obesity to the consumption of fat and protein or could it be that wild honey, fruits, and milk (where available from a kill), were not preferentially given to revered women within a tribe?
3) One thing ADV makes a point of is the importance of hormonal 'signalling'. Our body seems to pick up signals as to what season it for example by exposure to light and from macronutrient composition - particularly carbohydrates and fructose (hence the idea from TS Wiley's 'Light Out' that our bodies believe we exist in an eternal summer, preparing for a winter that never comes').
'Signalling' is manifest from fasting. HGs would likely have experienced periods of fasting over the course of a week, and over the course of a year, so when Don Matesz says the following:
"Let's say she ate only 100 excess fat calories every day...about two teaspoons of pure fat."
I'd question whether HGs actually ate every day particularly over the course of a year. The signalling from fasting seems to express leaness.
on May 11, 2011
at 12:02 AM
I've always wondered about the conclusions people come to when trying to interpret the meaning of artifacts from an ancient culture. My guess is that when they find the dozens of buried soup bones in my side yard, they will assume the people that lived here slaughtered cows and cut up the legs bones in some sort of religious ritual. Fact is that my dog likes to bury his bones there. That simple. Maybe the Venus is just a representation of the tribe's fat lady and nothing else. Maybe she gluttoned out on local roots and fruits and because she was different, someone made an image of her. Maybe she had a thyroid issue. I've seen tall skinny images as well. Can we derive dietary preferences from either of these types? Probably not. My guess is that someone made an image of them because they were unusual or different and that is all.
on May 10, 2011
at 10:20 PM
No, not crazy. I don't think he's really saying that fat makes you fat, just that it's easy to overeat fat if there's a lot of it around.
Although...I don't see the point in his last two posts. Paleo often helps with weight loss because it restricts the number of energy dense super-palatable foods you can eat. Very few of us are at risk of eating jars of coconut oil (well, maybe some of us), but a bag of Doritos is a sitting duck for an overeater. He seems to be throwing around some pretty weak-sauce correlations (Japan having low obesity rates). Nor does he touch on the umpteen reasons that restricting carbs can curb overeating.
on May 10, 2011
at 10:58 PM
It did confuse me when these came right after a post where he basically says that meat/fat could not have been a large part of the "real" paleolithic diet. He then goes on to say that a figurine from the period means that fat makes you fat. That provoked some cognitive dissonance for me. Then I read he came to question his previous ideas because he had a bad allergy season right when he was consuming more fat, which is when I thought "he's gone off the rails". I mean, maybe his neighbors planted more flowers this Spring and there's more pollen around? Like him, I also live in the Phoenix AZ area, and yeah, I've seen around me quite a few people suffering allergies but, anecdotally and thankfully, they haven't affected me, high fat and all, and it's been a lot better for my wife who normally has bad allergies and not so much this time around, when she's starting to eat paleo.
After all, wasn't it all more about what not to eat? rather than macro-nutrient ratios?
on May 10, 2011
at 10:52 PM
Heh, well I don't want to comment on the science except that I think fat accumulation is a more complex issue than he is making it out to be. Thermogenic effect, pff. Uncoupling proteins burn excess fat in the absence of leptin resistance. Venus stuff and whatnot is also odd. I think there might be some arguments in favor of -some- more carbs than very low carb diets but not to the degree he wishes to take it. Also the stuff about Japan and Kitava is invalid too, since they demonstrate a lack of omega 6 over-abundance. We can really only take that argument as far as "some carbs don't necessarily make you fat".
My first observation was that Don is a philosopher which could mean either 1. He is playing devil's advocate, stirring the pot and challenging the general common belief in the spirit of skepticism and progress. 2. He has gone waaaaaaaaaay off the deep end.
I have no definitive answers at this time.
on May 10, 2011
at 11:10 PM
He's making some rather odd assertions in the comments.
I forward the rather radical idea that if you don't eat enough carbohydrate, your brain will drive you to continue eating protein and fat until you either 1) ingest enough carbohydrate, 2) ingest enough protein to meet the carbohydrate drive, or 3) max out your ability to metabolize protein and fat, EVEN if this lead to excessive energy intake.
This seems contradicted by most anecdotal evidence. Certainly there might be some people out there who manage to zero-carb themselves into obesity, but zero-carb seems to generate chronic undereating more than anything else (at least going by anecdotes available online and my own personal experience)
He seems to have an anti-zero carb bias which leads him into weird overreaction. If anyone credible were asserting the things he's seeking to debunk, then maybe his blog posts would make more sense, but he seems to be setting himself up as a crusader against a movement which isn't big enough to matter.
edit: Reading some more, he seems to have a pretty confrontational tone and writing style. He's really trying to pick a fight with someone here, but I just can't figure out who.
on May 11, 2011
at 12:41 PM
No matter the intent of his post,I find it very hard to believe that someone can reach that level of obesity in the absence of refined/processed foods without extraordinary effort(over feeding ritual)....a couple hundred extra calories of fat a day aint gonna do it IMHO
on May 10, 2011
at 11:17 PM
"I've never met a person who binges on boiled potatoes."
i remember some times i binged on boiled potatos cause they were so sweet and delicous.
If carbohydrates make people fat, then why does Japan have an obesity rate of only 3.2%, in comparison to the Grecian 22%? Seven times more obesity in Greece, than in Japan.
Grecian diet: About 40% energy from fat, 45% from carbohydrate Japanese diet: About 60% energy from carbohydrate (mostly white rice), 25% from fat
I simply do not find compelling any attempt to explain Venus by force-feeding rituals, potato or honey binges, or similar scenarios. People do not get obese like this in a month, and ice age Europe most likely did not supply any carbohydrate-rich foods in quantities necessary to make them responsible for this level of obesity.
true point....no nasty fruits... :( sweet delicous fruits:)
i think he does a good mind game. In the brain you have a part which reward you. so far i know it dopamin release. So people feel reward when eating fatty foods. Cause in famine and extreme tie it was surival to find fatty foods. today we dont have closely the stressfull life of a caveman in iceage in europe. Still we feel the reward. That can lead to obesity. And thats not a worse thing its good cause it shows that you surive hard iceages. this are my thoughts. We still have this part in our brain which reward us. So to dont get in this trap we have to reward us for non food thing to be more free from binges. To the why japanese are less obesity than greek. Don shows the the data that japanese eat more carbs in form of rice and other vegetables. In greek there is fatty cheeses, olive oil in mass, fish, animalfat, dairy sheep(5%fat). The japanese have fish rice seafood, some sweetpotatos or other excotic vegetables, seaweed, sake.
Its up to everyone to make his her point.
Lso in greek are different people. There is a monestary where people live vegan and vegetarian and they are very healthy. also cause they dont eat much and work asnd praise the whole day in community. Also tere is one bluezone in greece.
They didn't eat grain-based diets, and they didn't have refined grains, high fructose corn syrup, refined sugar, or omega-6 rich seed oils. Thus, we couldn't blame it on so-called neolithic agents of disease, could we?
this is a good point.just immagine you kill a bluewhale or two big hales. it so nutrucious such things we cant imagine. Espacially whales had nutrient which are high nourishing. Probably Mamut was similiar. Maybe it was like binges on ben and jerry icecreams. Just to imagine high fat . Realy special fat. i remember when i first had wildboar fat. it was so special and i was this time in the norwegian mountains with people together. you can look at wildmoon.eu >>immages. It was so different how i digested this animal stuff than usual. actually i have been vegetarian before(with high raw vegan precentage, not strict!). Its different being in a flat doing a diet and being outdoors in surival real setting and having a diet. the body craves and reward different. In the civilisation you always have to force youself to train. in wilderness and cold you need to move and train to keep alive and comfort. in civilisation its comfort without moving.
According to the Pleistocene Overkill hypothesis, during this time that, possibly, humans in Eurasia were intensively killing the very large, fat wild game animals, like mammoths, rhinos, and enormous elk, possibly contributing to the Quarternary Extinctions.
on May 10, 2011
at 10:45 PM
For what it's worth, I've got around 30-40 pounds of extra fat. I tried going high fat, low carb for a while. My favorite meal was a "butter burger". I'd cook a grassfed burger up in about 5 tablespoons of grassfed butter, pour the butter over the burger, and eat it all up. My favorite part was eating the leftover butter burger juice. I could eat that stuff all day - and did. Guess what, I didn't lose much fat, and I felt tired and sluggish. I did this for four or five weeks. I came to the conclusion that fat does not satiate me. I can overeat it very easily, especially delicious butter.
So, I switched to eating a fairly high protein, moderate carb (100 - 200 grams of mainly boiled potatoes), and moderate to low fat diet. On this diet (roughly 35% fat / 35% protein / 30% carb), I can EASILY restrict my calories pretty dramatically, without much hunger or fatigue. My strength is going up, and my weight is going down. Go figure.
I predict this is just the beginning of a swing away from the high fat, paleo diets. In the end, people are just going to have to figure out what macros work for them.
on May 11, 2011
at 01:27 PM
Fat is a dense form of calories, and if you are indiscriminately eating large quantities of oil and cream, you are eating a lot of calories. I don't understand some advice which suggests eating more calories to lose weight. You have to burn it off or eliminate it somehow or it's going to cause you to retain or gain weight.
Mark Sisson constantly talks about how much fat he is eating, but has also said that he eats 600-1000 calories less per day than he did on his non-Paleo diet. Calorie counts do matter even if it's a pain in the butt to count them. It might be fine to eat 80% of your calories in fat, but your overall calorie intake has to be lower or you won't lose weight.
Fat has more than 2x calories per gram than carbs and protein, so switching from low fat to high fat and reducing calories means you'll eat less than half the weight of food that you did. I think a lot of people don't realize how much smaller portions have to be in order to fit into this. If you're used to covering your plate with carbs, and you cover your plate with fat and protein, you're probably eating a lot more calories. This is one thing about "nutrient dense" foods on the paleo diet -- there isn't any "filler", so you can eat a much smaller volume of food and stay nourished.
All this is to say, fat doesn't make you fat and fat doesn't make you skinny, but I think fat is better to eat than carbs, but your overall calorie intake still has to be restricted if you're going to lose weight.
on May 11, 2011
at 05:40 AM
I always thought that all that dumping butter and coconut fat over everything is too much...i try to stick with lean meat, veggies and fruit...
on May 11, 2011
at 11:49 AM
Is there any question that fat can make you fat at this point? There's certainly people capable of putting away large quantities of it with no problem whatsoever, and it is stored very efficiently. I can't be the only one thats gone <50g of carbs a day, and averaged 3500+ calories a day from meat and butter, while never feeling very full (and while watching midsection softness develop). It seems totally plausible that if an ancient culture had access to a large surplus of food all the time, some might become overweight, regardless of what they were eating. I tried pretending that fat doesn't make me fat, which turned out to reverse some hard earned progress (8% bf jumped to 12% or so very quickly).
on May 11, 2011
at 07:59 PM
I read the responses here and then expected him to be making unequivocal claims, but he says "maybe" a bunch of times. He's presenting low-fat food for thought, which is in stark contrast to the characterizations made here. The statue inference is a huge stretch, but there certainly are a lot of paleo people with weight stalls. I see a lot of posts about it anywhere I see paleo.
Once again, I think we've glossed over the huge amount of nuance present and created a dietary fat monolith. We say that as long as it's not trans fat, PUFAs etc., eat as much of it as you want/can. In much the same way that individual fatty acids have markedly different effects on a person's lipid profile, different fats are transported/oxidized/stored with different preference based on type and other conditions present.
If you pull dairy fat (for example) out of your diet and replace it with an equivalent amount of coconut oil, you will be decreasing your ingestion of long chain triglycerides by almost 20%. Those are the ones taken up by chylomicrons and largely sent to adipocytes. If you keep eating dairy and then eat a ton of coconut oil on top of that, even though your MCFA intake has increased, your LCFA has also increased, so you're likely packing even more fat into your fat cells. You may have cut carbs down, so your mitochondria aren't forced into an energy substrate substitution as often, but it's really easy to overshoot with something so energy dense.
Calories in/out is overly simplistic and really a mess to talk about, but fatty acid lipolysis/reesterification in adipocytes is a particular accounting that obviously does matter. If you rarely utilize your muscles and thus don't oxidize fatty acids with your muscle mitochondria and eat a ton of LCFAs, you will be at best spinning your wheels. The fat never leaves the adipocytes but there is a steady stream of it being added. You can get fatter this way; I've done it myself. You may not be able to get obese this way, but you can get fatter and you can easily stop yourself from getting leaner.
I'm personally of the opinion that there is no obesity without fructose, but every obese person you see has packed dietary fat into their fat cells. That is largely why they are fat. Sure, their liver has converted fructose directly into fat and they've stored this, and they've also had a near-constant substrate change that has forced their mitochondria to burn glucose to try to keep them from being totally poisoned by it, but the actual tryglycerides in their adipocytes were from LCFAs in their food. The soda deranged them metabolically, the bread and frenchfries attenuated that substrate change, but it was the cooking oil on the fries and the fat in the burger that actually got shunted to the adipocytes. We paleo types have hopefully addressed the first part, but you can definitely eat enough fat to create the latter situation.
The other side of it is that dietary fat can be too low. For a male trying to get leaner, it's tempting to just go high protein/low fat, but the problem is that you end up rate-limiting testosterone production to whatever your saturated fat intake is. As you lower testosterone, you move the goal posts farther and farther away and your fat loss will stall. There's some threshold for everyone where they are maximizing testosterone production while minimizing LCFA ingestion. That would be the sweet spot. It's necessary to address any micronutrient deficiencies that might be interfering as well. If at that point you're not getting leaner, then it's time to get off the couch and be a lot more active.