#AHS12 – Day 3 recap

The third and final day of the 2012 Ancestral Health Symposium started (for me) with a talk from the original caveman himself, Dr. Boyd Eaton.  His 1985 piece in the New England Journal of Medicine: “Paleolithic nutrition. A consideration of its nature and current implications” opened the gates for the movement we see here today. Eaton himself has been eating and living a paleo lifestyle for 30 years now, so his talk focused on his own 30-year n=1 paleo “experiment”.  He appears to be in impressive health for a 75-y.o. man, and he presented some basic bloodwork and coronary CT scans that verified these assumptions.  Interestingly, Eaton’s take on “paleo” appears to have been formed in the 80′s and, unlike others in the community, he does not appear to have evolved his thinking since then.  For example, he views legumes and shredded wheat as reasonable foods for someone new to the diet because they lack sugar and salt.  This simplistic and seemingly uninformed viewpoint garnered much shock from an audience that focuses more on intestinal permeability, gut flora and hormonal regulation.  That said, even for a guy that eats lean meats and does isolation exercises, there is no doubt he is in phenomenal health, so even if Eaton’s paleo isn’t the same as Sisson’s, Wolf’s or anyone else’s, it is working from him so who are we to judge?  I give tremendous credit to Eaton for publishing his landmark paper in NEJM, and I commend him on his great health.

Boyd Eaton

The next presentation was from Mike Mew, a British orthodontist.  (Oh, the irony.)  He discussed craniofacial dysrtophy, also known as melting faces, and the factors causing them.  As could be expected, Mew discussed the work of Dr. Weston A. Price, a dentist who traveled the world and studied tribal civilizations to determine what foods provide optimal health and dental structure, two factors that he found went hand-in-hand.  Price found that consumption of nutrient-dense foods, specifically consumption of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K2 and avoidance of Western foods such as refined grains and sugars, led to the most robust and optimal health for populations worldwide.  Mew’s presentation seemed to align with Price’s conclusions, noting that orthodontists don’t know the cause of malocclusions and they blame it on being “multifactorial” (i.e. they haven’t a clue), but Mew brought up an additional hypothesis for the cause.  He blames the current soft foods we eat as making us lazy and weak-jawed.  He believes we need to have “lips together, teeth together, tongue on the roof of your mouth” for best craniofacial posture.  He even called out Keith Norris for having a phenomenal physique yet very poor dental health.  That orthodontist has got some brass balls!  Though I’m not sure I agree with his assessment that entire civilizations have poor dental structure because “they’re lazy”, I like that he is an orthodontist challenging the mainstream approach and trying to focus on prevention rather than just slapping on braces.  I’m sure his recommendations for better dental posture are good ones, but having read Dr. Price’s book “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, I am more convinced that it is a factor of poor nutrition rather than plain old laziness.

Mike Mew

Dr. Robert Lustig gave the next presentation I sat in on. (It was Day 3… my ability to sit through consecutive sessions was at an all-time low, so apologies if I missed presenters).  He discussed, you guessed it, sugar.  For those who are unaware of Lustig’s crusade against all things fructose, I recommend you watch his infamous presentation Sugar: The Bitter Truth.  Although he was speaking to a crowd that needs no convincing on the dangers of sugar consumption, he presented some rather compelling arguments and interesting facts.  Here are a few notable ones:

  • Malaysia and Saudia Arabia have the highest rates of Type 2 Diabetes.  Why?  They don’t have alcohol, so citizens look to sugary drinks for their fix instead.
  • There is no HFCS in Australia, yet they are the 3rd fattest country in the world and they suffer from the same diseases we do.  This disproves the notion that HFCS is the culprit and regular table sugar is fine and dandy.  ALL sugar is equally problematic.
  • Obese people and cocaine addicts show the same downregulation of D2 receptors (dopamine tolerance), thus showing similar addictive qualities of sugar and cocaine.

He also presented some unpublished data demonstrating some striking findings about excess calories when coming from soda, but we were told not to blog about that and I may have already said too much, so we’ll just have to wait for the publication hopefully later this year.  Ultimately, Lustig advocated for intervention to reduce soda consumption.  He doesn’t want to ban it, but he discussed how education about the dangers of a product is ineffective (e.g. the war on drugs) and how taxation is the only solution he believes will be effective.  He notes how taxation on cigarettes has shown to be effective, and that for taxation to affect someone’s buying decisions the price of the product has to double.  The libertarians in the room **cough*RobbWolf*cough** didn’t really like this governmental intervention, but his argument appears to have some points.  Guess we’ll see how things pan out with Bloomberg’s plan in NYC…

Robert Lustig

Up next was Dr. Terry Wahls who (sorry to link to another long video) has basically reversed her multiple sclerosis (MS) through a paleo diet.  It’s quite a remarkable story.  I highly recommend watching it.  Specific to her diet, she eats 9 cups of green veggies per day and she advocates foods like liver and fish.  Seems to be the going message in paleo these days, so I think we’re all on the right track.  She also recommends not cooking food too much so as to preserve nutrient content.  She ended her talk noting that “The doctor of the future will give no medicine. You are the doctors of the future. I salute you.”  Right back at ya, Terry.

…then came the power-hitters of AHS.

Chris Kresser presented on the dangers of hemochromatosis (aka iron overload), a disorder that many clinicians do not fully understand but is starting to become more widely acknowledged and properly diagnosed.  HC generally results from a genetic mutation that occurs in a few different forms.  Essentially, if iron accumulates in the body, individuals are at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease, cancer, early mortality, gout, metabolic diseases, thyroid problems, arthritis… and the list keeps going .  This is due to the fact that iron enhances oxidation of lipids, stimulating gluconeogenisis and inducing insulin resistance.  Signs of HC include fatigue, joint pain, impotence, skin bronzing, palpitations, depression and abdominal pain.  Men, especially older men and those of northern European descent, are more susceptible.  Treatment includes either regular blood donations or drug chelation.  For those unable to donate blood, Chris recommends chelation by apolactoferrin 300mg 2x/day between meals.  For additional information, including dietary recommendations, Chris has uploaded a few select slides from his presentation at chriskresser.com/ahs12.

Chris Kresser and Stephan Guyenet

Now that our brains were warmed up, we had the pleasure of listening to Stephan Guyenet‘s presentation on digestive health, inflammation and metabolic syndrome.  He gave overviews of trials that showed 1) visceral fat (and not subcutaneous fat) having a causal role in insulin resistance and 2) gut flora having a causal role in obesity. He showed how altering gut bacteria and intestinal permeability can cause metabolic syndrome in mice, and how fermentable fiber (i.e. from whole foods) prevents this metabolic syndrome development.  In addition, he showed that through the Hypothalmus-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis, stress combined with poor diet leads to accumulation of visceral fat and then metabolic syndrome.  Ultimately, Stephan’s talk played in nicely with MasterJ’s talk the day before.  They both showed mechanisms that can have causal roles in insulin resistance, oxidative stress and metabolic syndrome, mechanisms different from the run-of-the-mill “you ate too much of this or that”.  These two are at the forefront of bringing to light the real causes of our current obesity epidemic.

Up next was Dr. Grayson Wheatley, a vascular surgeon from the Arizona Heart Institute who presented a discussion on the evolving healthcare environment and how to best facilitate communications between patients and physicians.  His approach focused on a different kind of “farm-to-table” approach, one that brings ancestral health practices to the operating table.  Wheatley notes that it takes roughly 10 years for anything innovative in the literature to become available for medical professionals.  With this lag in innovation availability, even if a substantial amount of evidence comes out supporting ancestral nutrition, there will be a grace period before physicians begin adopting it as standard-of-care.  For this reason, it is important for us as patients to bring peer-reviewed literature to our physicians, discuss with them what we know, and let it all sink in.  It took all of us a period of time to dismiss the heart-lipid hypothesis and let go of our precious bagels and pasta, so we can’t expect physicians to “get it” immediately either.

The final presentation of the conference was the ever-hysterical and far-too-brilliant Denise Minger.  After last year’s How to Win an Argument with a Vegetarian presentation, this year she extolled the superior health benefits of organ meats over muscle meats… a surefire way to immediately end any conversation with a veg.  Denise presented a slew of awesomely grotesque but strangely appetizing photos including chicken foot soup, goat’s head and a deranged Easter Bunny (ok, maybe the Easter Bunny wasn’t appetizing, but it was funny nonetheless).  She compared the nutritional value of organ meats versus muscle meats and came away with the same conclusions that Mat Lalonde had done on Day 1 – organ meats are where it’s at.  She noted that regular consumption of red muscle meat can lead to hemochromatosis (similar to Chris Kresser’s presentation just a few hours prior) and she added in one additional method for reducing iron accumulation that Kresser had forgot to mention, blood-letting via Mike Tyson ear removal.  The most surprising part of her talk was, surprisingly, not when she admitted to having eaten a raw goat testicle (awesome), but when she admitted to not liking the taste of bacon – gasps and then silence all around!  Despite this betrayal of our delicious meat candy, Denise has been an invaluable wealth of information to our community, so I think we’ll find it in our hearts to forgive her.  Thanks for everything, Denise!

After Denise’s talk, the AHS organizers gave their thanks and spoke a little about the future of the Ancestral Health Society.  From a recent email: “The Ancestral Health Society will be rolling out membership very, very soon. Benefits of membership include reduced Symposium registration fees, involvement in society governance and operations, volunteer opportunities, advance access to society publications and literature (with the Journal of Evolution and Health, and more, in the works) as well as access to the online member directory and forums for social networking and business connections. Details on how to become a member will be made available before September 1.”

That about wraps up my coverage of the 2012 Ancestral Health Symposium.  It was a pleasure getting down and nerdy with you!

All of my #AHS12 links: