Sunday, August 26, 2012

Let's talk about eggs

   There is so much conflicting information about eggs from the medical community, no wonder the general populace is always scared or confused to consume eggs. One day the eggs are in the other day the eggs are out. There are studies demonizing eggs, and there are studies telling us the virtues of eggs. But no matter what the source of the study, the ugly cholesterol is always mentioned as one of the negatives for eating eggs. A friend of mine recently sent me a study that he saw on CNN (source of world's most accurate news...wink. wink.) about egg yolks being equally as bad as smoking. Apparently Dr. J. David Spence, a professor of neurology at Western University in Canada found a strong correlation between eating egg yolks and hardening of the carotid artery (atherosclerosis). The study surveyed 1200 men and women with pr-existing heart condition and asked them questions about their diet. The more egg yolks they consume, the higher the build up of the plaque in their carotid artery. The study did not take into account the overall diet and many other lifestyle factors of the participating subjects. In other words the researchers had no idea how the subjects developed atherosclerosis to begin with. They simply asked them questions about how many egg yolks the subject consumed?, how much they smoked?, and physical activity of the subject. Once again this is a survey, the subject can say whatever they want. I usually don't remember what I consumed for lunch yesterday. I immediately Googled and there was plenty of newspapers and television coverage that picked up the study as news worthy, and every single media outlet sensationalized the news by making statements like you may want to think twice before consuming eggs. This is the sad power of the media. CNN even had an expert doctor commenting on the study with the same hum drum message of cholesterol is bad and the hardening of the arteries is bad and will eventually lead to a stroke or a heart attack. The expert doctor even goes on to say you should consume egg substitutes or only egg whites. You can watch the CNN coverage here. The study is too recent and probably has not been reviewed by a peer group but was picked up the media. The bad science in the nutritional field coupled with sensationalized media is a sure recipe for a confused public.

   So Let's talk about eggs and see how bad they actually are? The nutritional chart of a jumbo egg (63 grams) is listed below (chart taken from

   As you can observe that the biggest percentage staring at you is from, once again that ugly word cholesterol. Yes, there is 266mg of cholesterol, and if you are like me who consumes about 3 eggs per day on the average, you have just consumed a whopping 798mg of cholesterol. There is no room to consume another iota of cholesterol for the rest of the day, let alone next couple of days. Three eggs will blow away your recommended daily allowance (RDA) on a normal 2000 calorie based diet. But, there is more to eggs than what the above simplified nutritional chart shows. Eggs are full of lot more essential nutrients. If you eat an egg or multiple eggs per day, there is no need to take any vitamin supplements. Here is why:

   As you can see from the above table that an egg is packed with an abundant of essential nutrients. If you eat an egg per day there is no need to take that multivitamin one a day centrum tablet. It makes perfect sense, because a new life will be created from this tiny package, the necessary nutrients to create a living, breathing life form are ingeniously packaged in this small delicate orb. So still why such animosity towards these delicious edible packages that make pretty much everything taste good? Once again the hang up is on the high cholesterol content of an egg. I consume on the average 2-3 eggs per day. I have done this for the past year. Yet my triglycerides and LDL went down and HDL went up. How is this to be explained? Perhaps the culprit is something else? 

   Of course story of eggs is not complete if you don't talk about cholesterol. So let's talk briefly about cholesterol. For the last several years cholesterol has been blamed for all heart related issues. The problem is that when doctors perform open heart surgeries and examine other heart related complications, they find cholesterol stuck in the arteries forming plaque. The forming of the plaque eventually constrict the passage of the arteries and hence reducing the blood flow and eventually leading to a blood clot that causes a stroke. Of course, if you happen to be on the crime scene all the time people eventually will begin to give you funny looks and few eye brows will be raised. This is where cholesterol is today. Yet cholesterol is a useful entity, it is responsible for maintaining and building cell membranes. Cell membranes are kind of important to our well being. Cell membranes hold the structure of the cells together. Because of this function the cholesterol has to be circulated throughout the body by blood plasma. Since cholesterol has to travel throughout the body to build and maintain existing cell membranes then why is it getting stuck in the arteries and causing all kinds of coronary related issues? If nature intended the cholesterol to be circulated throughout the body, then why does it get stuck in the arteries? We are talking about LDL (low density lipoprotein). This is the cholesterol that manages to get itself trapped in the arteries. The problem is something different altogether. The actual culprit is the inflammation of the arteries due to consumption of grains. The problematic proteins contained in grains (lectin and gluten) end up escaping into our bodies undigested. Once inside the body, these proteins are confused by the immune system as foreign bodies. The immune system dutifully launches an attack to eliminate the foreign objects. The end result is a body in a state of autoimmunity. Which simply means, that body's immune system is on all the time. The autoimmunity causes the organs and arteries to inflame. The inflammation ends up narrowing the passage of the arteries and poor cholesterol whose responsibility is to travel the arteries and rebuild cell membranes ends up getting stuck in these shrunken arteries. 

   If you eliminate grains and simple carbs from your diet, the body eventually returns to its natural state,  the immune system is throttled down and eventually shuts off and only turns on when there is a legitimate foreign body object present in the body. In the absence of grains the internal inflammation simply goes away and the arteries and other blood vessels return to their normal size. The cholesterol is able to travel all over the body and performs its job of rebuilding cell membranes. In this condition, the dietary cholesterol is used up the body and body does not produce extra cholesterol. A diet high in cholesterol is perfectly acceptable because there is no danger of cholesterol forming plaque inside the arteries. Most often a diet high in cholesterol intake still improves the overall lipid profile. 

   The recommendation of course is to eat eggs from chickens raised in free range farms. The eggs from free range chickens not fed a constant diet of grains naturally have high content of omega 3 fats. These eggs and chicken meat is much better than commercially raised chickens, who are fed a constan diet of grains, have no room to move about freely, and are given copious amounts of antibiotics. Few eggs consumed per day on a grain free diet are perfectly healthy, satisfying, and provide many essential nutrients. On the flip side few eggs eaten per day on a high grain diet are bad and will eventually give you a coronary. This is what the researchers, medical community, government, and large corporations making grain products are not willing to acknowledge. So it is time to stop blaming the eggs for all coronary ills of the society. There are other culprits, disguised under health food label that are far worse than eggs. I think it is about time we looked at grains standing on the side as the perfectly behaved child with a halo on his head.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Putting Things In Perspective

   The exact or approximate date of the big bang may not be the common ground in the cosmological circles, but the scientific community agrees that indeed an event took place about 15 billion years ago called "big bang". Well, this is the event that started everything. At time zero the entire mass of the universe was compacted into a very dense ball. This dense ball of mass exploded with a big bang, and as mass moved away from the source of the original explosion it cooled and formed stars and galaxies. Was it the hand of God or a pure accident?, debate for another time. Well, what is all this has to do with Paleo? I promise I will bring this discussion back to Paleo somehow...just wait. First let's do some math and create a new measuring scale setting big bang as a reference starting point and applying few important events that took place on our home planet earth. See tables below:

   The human history compared to the age of the Cosmos is very insignificant. The interesting fact is that around 9:30 P.M., which equates to about 15 million years ago the first hominids appeared. These hominids were very similar to the apes and chimpanzees. But around 10:30 P.M. which equates to about 2.5 million years ago, some of these primates began to evolve differently than the rest of the apes. The genetic difference between a modern human and a chimpanzee is about 2%, but humans are far different than the chimpanzees that we observe today. Chimpanzees have smaller brains but larger stomach and hairy bodies, whereas humans have smaller stomachs and larger brains. If humans and chimpanzees are almost genetically identical, then what caused this huge disparity? Why the humans took a different evolution course than the chimpanzees? The answer may lie in our diet. To be exact the Paleo Diet. About 2.5 million years ago, humans took a different evolution route than the other primates. The modern humans traded in their larger stomachs for larger brains by eating calorie dense foods, which are fats, animal meats, nuts, wild fruits, and vegetables. By eating energy dense foods, gradually the size of human stomach decreased and the size of the brain became large. Whereas, the chimpanzees continued on their way to consume large amounts of vegetation to satisfy their caloric needs. The vegetation, low in calories caused the chimpanzees to have larger stomachs and most of their body's energy was expended in digesting the large amount of vegetation they consumed. This caused most of the metabolic activity to take place around the stomach and hence, the chimpanzees developed large stomachs. On the other hand, humans began to eat animal fat and proteins from their hunts. Quantity of food consumed was less, but it was dense in calories. This less quantity caused the stomach to shrink, but caused the brain to enlarge. Simply put humans traded their large stomachs for large brains. The human brain is basically composed of fat, the complex parts of the brains that contain, speech, emotions, and higher thoughts along with human genetics were developed in the Paleolithic period of 2.5 million years. During the Paleolithic period the humans lived as hunter-gatherers. They did not develop permanent settlements and walked several miles per day to hunt and gather foods. The male members of the pack usually hunted,  while the female members of the pack gathered berries, nuts, wild fruits, and vegetables.

   This all changed about 20 seconds ago in the cosmic scale, when about 10,000 years ago agriculture was invented. The wild prairie grasses like wheat, oats, barley, and various other grains were domesticated and were incorporated into the human diet. The grains allowed the foods to be stored for a longer periods of time and this practice slowly replaced the hunter-gatherer societies. The humans traded their active hunter-gatherer life style with more sedentary life style. The chronic diseases began to appear as humanity moved away from a hunter-gatherer mode of life to more domesticated life style. About 130 years ago when the invention of flour mills and the industrial revolution came on the scene, the modern human health took a nose dive and has been on the decline since then. Milling the wheat produced the refined flour that broke down the complex starches and the proteins in the grains. The complex starches along with bad proteins like gluten and lectin became easy to digest in the form of refined flour. The commercial farming and mass production made these products readily available and ready to feed the masses. Some how the fats and proteins were demonized and became health public enemy number one, while carbohydrates from breads and pastas became the staple of modern diet. These days a box of Cheerios proudly displays a healthy heart on its sugar loaded refined flour box and is considered a healthy breakfast choice. Hundreds of low fat product manufacturers remove the fat and load it with sugars or simple carbs to make up the calories and market it as a healthy product. There are literally hundreds of products on the market geared towards every age group made from grains, corn syrup, and high fructose.

   Simply put human genetics is designed to thrive on fats and lean animal proteins. Human genetic blue print was developed in the Paleolithic age over a period of 2.5 million years. Refined flours were never part of the human diet equation, while our brains were becoming larger due to consumption of animal fats and proteins. Unfortunately, this all happened in the first second of the great cosmic scale. Now that's really putting things in perspective...

Friday, August 3, 2012


   The practice of fasting has existed since the time immemorial. The act of fasting exists in all major world religions and cultures alike. The practice may vary from culture to culture but the central idea that fasting is good for you (physically and spiritually) exists in all religions and cultures. In Islam, the institution of fasting is formalized, and the act of fasting during the month of Ramadan is an obligatory pillar of Islamic faith. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. The lunar based Islamic calendar causes the month of Ramadan to appear about ten days earlier each year. Hence, Ramadan occurring on different parts of the solar based calendar. The Islamic fast entails abstaining from food and water from dawn to dusk. From the Islamic perspective, when physical needs are given up, to fill that void spiritual senses are elevated. The ultimate goal is to increase in individual spirituality. I think spirituality is something that is personal and everyone experiences it in different form. That is why I will leave the religious and spiritual discussion here and describe in the remaining post the physical benefits of fasting.
   I have been fasting in the Islamic fashion for the last twenty years. One complete month of fasting each year. You figure with each passing year it would get easier, but on the contrary, each year it gets harder. It is always a painful and hard month, but at the end of the month, there are many benefits to my body and these benefits pay their dividends through out the year. This is my first Ramadan since I started my Paleo journey almost a year ago. In the morning I am eating few pieces of dates and 3-5 eggs and one potato. I usually drink a glass of water and half a cup of tea. Some mornings I consume fresh fruit. This food pretty much holds me up all day. I do not feel hungry, and my energy levels remain decent. In the late afternoon, the lack of water and the hot August days cause me to slow down a bit but no big deal. The lethargic feeling is temporary. Bottom line the fasting has not slowed me down a bit, I even played golf this past weekend.

   In a fasted state human body is all about conserving energy and using its remaining fuel supply wisely. The newer cars these days have a fuel economy feature that automatically shuts down few cylinders to preserve fuel in a cruising state. These intelligent decisions to conserve fuel and provide maximum miles per gallon are made by the on board computer system in the car.  If technology can mimic nature to a very crude degree then the greatest machine ever built (human body) is expected to perform a lot more. There are many important physiological changes that occur in your body while in the fasted state. The human body is an efficient machine that makes adjustment to its fuel supply and uses the available nutrients wisely to prolong life as long as possible. Let's examine more closely how different nutrients are broken down and used by the body in a fasted state.

   In a fasted state the dietary carbs are taken to liver and stored as glycogen. The liver can only hold about 100 grams of glycogen and the muscles can hold about 400 grams of glycogen. Like an efficient machine, body becomes very stingy with this limited supply of glycogen and uses it to provide glucose for certain parts of the brain and the red blood cells that can only operate on glucose. The muscles and organs also like to run on glucose but they forego their share for keeping the blood and the brain alive and shift to burning fat as their primary source of fuel.

   Once few hours pass and no nutrients are ingested, this kicks the body into an elevated concerned state. Alarms begin to sound. Mainly hormonal activity increases and the proteins are called up to bat. At this point dietary proteins which take few hours to break down in your small intestine are available as amino acids and they are hauled away to the liver and converted to glycogen. The body is concerned about avoiding a glucose crash. The newly converted glycogen from amino acids is converted as glucose and the vital brain tissues and red blood cells continue to function. If no dietary proteins are available then body will convert your muscle into glycogen and into glucose. But this process only happens in a long starvation period. The fat is used before body converts muscles into glucose. Of course, this is not a problem in Paleo Diet, plenty of proteins are eaten and once glycogen from the dietary carbs runs out then glycogen from the amino acids is used to sustain the body for many more hours.

   In a fasted state, the stored body fat and the dietary fat is used as fuel for most muscles and organs. This is where intelligent fuel economy takes place. The fats are converted to ketones and the body begins to use ketones as the source of fuel. This state is called ketosis. Being on a Paleo Diet for a period of time conditions the body to burn fat as the primary source of fuel. This happens instantly for people who are on the Paleo Diet for a while, but may take few days or weeks for folks who have not given up loading up their bodies with carbs. The folks who are not on Paleo Diet may never train their bodies to go into the ketosis state unless they experience hunger for several days. The human body has enough stored fat to go on for months. The state of ketosis stops the muscle from being converted into glucose. The glycerol component of fat can make glucose and body can literally run without food for an extended period of time. However, that is not the case these days. During the month of Ramadan, I eat in the morning at dawn and then do not eat food for about 14 hours. This fasting period is very short compared to the fat supply the body has. On top of it I am consuming enough proteins and fats for breakfast and dinner, so my fat and protein supply is replenished constantly. This is the reason enduring a fast for 14 hours is not a big problem.

   The physical benefit of fasting is that it conditions the body to burn fat as the primary source of fuel. This is exactly what our ancestors did for 2.5 million years during the Paleolithic era. They ate proteins and fats, energy dense foods and then fasted, because hunting was not always successful. While wild game hunting was not available, they gathered berries, wild fruits, nuts, eggs and seeds to make up the calories. This prolonged behavior over the period called Paleolithic (old stone age) made up our genetic programming. The old stone age ended 10,000 years ago when the agrarian societies began to appear in the Middle East. By that time our genetic programming was completed and was designed to burn fat, proteins and carbs from vegetables, fruits,and nuts. Simply put we were designed to consumes and thrive on the Paleo Diet. Fasting simply tries to re-establish the lost connection with our true genetic programming.